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Septembers of Shiraz | Review

If you are feeling a touch of summer sequelitis and looking for something powerful and thrilling to watch then SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ is an important must see movie.

Set during the 1979 revolution in Iran SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ is the harrowing story of a secular Jewish family as they fight for their lives in an attempt to escape what is going on around them.  Based on true events with poignant and affective performances by Academy Award® winner Adrien Brody, and Academy Award® nominees Salma Hayek-Pinault and Shohreh Aghdashloo, SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ illustrates the impact of political upheaval on ordinary people and gives us an incisive examination of a troubled moment in history.

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Expertly directed by Wayne Blair this movie brings droves of tension in what ultimately becomes an adrenalin charged cat-and-mouse battle of wills.  SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ is moving and both topical and relevant to current world events.  In revealing what many families sadly encountered over 35 years ago, the genius of this movie lies in its ability to relate the events of that time to experiences that are tragically being suffered by many in a number of countries around the globe today.

The movie cleverly reminds us that the victims of one political party’s agenda versus another are the very people who are promised their protection whilst the accompanying pollution of such communities who ultimately get divided by religion, class and economic factors often end up being the casualties of promised revolutions.

SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ is adapted by screenwriter Hanna Weg from Dalia Sofer’s bestselling novel.
SEPTEMBERS OF SHIRAZ opened in New York, Los Angeles, and additional cities on Friday, June 24, 2016.  please check local listings

Moonwalkers | Review

I LOVE conspiracy theories, Who killed JFK, Area 51 and of course one of my all time favorites The Apollo Moon Landing of 1969.

So what if Apollo 11 never actually made it and what if, in reality, Stanley Kubrick secretly shot the famous images of the moon landing in a studio, working for the US administration?

MOONWALKERS_Theatrical Poster

This is the premise of the totally plausible conspiracy theory movie MOONWALKERS written by Dean Craig and directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet that takes us to swinging sixties London, where a stubborn CIA agent played by the delightful Ron Perlman (HELLBOY) will never find Kubrick but instead is forced to team up with the ever adorable Rupert Grint’s (HARRY POTTER) lousy manager of a seedy rock band to develop the biggest con of all time, in this riotous, high-tempo action-comedy.

Of course It’s a strange set of circumstances that lead our protagonists to meet, including one of their idiot friends who has a tendency to royally screw things up but when they do, there is undeniable chemistry between the pair and a sweetness mainly with the introduction of Robert Sheehan (THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, KILLING BONO) as the idiot friend who is equally huggable and slappable at the same time that forms the foundation of this recreational drug-induced caper of unbelievable proportions.

From it’s innovative psychedelic titles to the groovy sixties production, MOONWALKERS is a really fun and enjoyable movie which is both silly and thought provoking at times with great action and comedy.  Full of 70s clichés and nuanced yet likable bad guys on every corner, our anti-heros (complete in funky and colorful costumes), lead us from one absurd scene to another on their journey to complete an equally bizarre yet extremely important task

“The film is an action/comedy that combines what I love: fights and stupidity. I enjoy situations where two opposite characters must join forces to accomplish a common goal as it leads to the most hilarious conflicts” states Bardou-Jacquet

As trippy as the era it’s representing, this comedy of errors reminds us of the unresolved question that still plagues many of us after all these decades; was the moon landing real?

“Why would an audience be interested in a movie like this?  Bardou-Jacquet continues “Google “moon landing,” and add up the viewers interested in the conspiracy theory about it, and you’ll find millions of hits. All these people deserve at last the true story of how we “never” landed on the moon”

Of course, it also had me thinking about who would actually win in a standoff between America’s supreme CIA agents and England’s finest thugs?

MOONWALKERS enjoyed it’s premier at SXSW 2015 and will be released on January 15th.  Check local listings

The Riot Club | Review

Riot Club is no Downton Abbey however, it cleverly explores class, gender and economics in a modern-day England where the existence of a privileged “Old Boy’s Network” is often under-estimated.

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Filthy. Rich. Spoiled. Rotten. A band of overprivileged rich boys run wild in this savagely funny satire of money, sex and power. In the elite realm of Oxford University, no society is more exclusive than The Riot Club, the ultra-selective fraternity for Britain’s most privileged sons. When he’s recruited to join, down-to-earth first-year student Miles (Max Irons) is at first amused—but he’s about to get a taste of upper-crust entitlement at its ugliest when a hedonistic night of drinking and drugs spins out of control. The Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin co-stars in this deliciously dark look at boys behaving badly from the Oscar(R)-nominated director of An Education Lone Scherfig.  The movie is adapted for the screen by Writer Laura Wade from her play of the same name citing: “I think we are fascinated by that class, those of us who aren’t of it and I think we love watching rich people behaving badly”.

When all over the world the British Monarchy are loved and the presence of them almost envied, Riot Club explores the “Haves” and “Have little” along with the politics of the one percent in a country where young affluent boys are the heirs to debauchery, power, excess and a consequence of who they are born to vs what they will or won’t achieve; where as a result of deep routed nepotism, your family name can open up a lifetime of doors and quickly bury any of your mistakes should you make them.

Entitlement and breeding are a key theme throughout the movie as it explores rich boys behaving badly and rich boys who want to do something more than be known for who their Fathers or brothers are.  Palpable tension is at work throughout as this group of would-be playboys work incredibly hard to have a good time and leave a legacy.

Riot Club starts as a smart satirical comedy but quickly gets dramatic as ideas about right and wrong are pushed to the limit.  Sometimes a little tonally inconsistent, this movie does do a good job of examining what it means to belong and the limits you go to in order to protect it.  A look at life behind the walls of an age-old institution with often strange rituals, ultimately what I took away from this movie is that there are no limits to entitlement and the fact that often it’s not what you know but who you know

Check local listings for show times

Riot Club Trailer

Summer of Blood | Review

Halloween is upon us and with it comes a slew of scary movies; “Annabelle” “Dracula Untold” and “Horns” just opened or are about to.  However, if you are not a die hard fan of having your adrenaline levels peak in the dark or find that a good nights sleep escapes you after getting the bejeezus scared out of you then this may just be the movie for you.  Welcome to Summer of Blood

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Writer/director Onur Tukel turns in a hilarious performance as the monumentally lazy, socially oblivious and commitment-shy Erik Sparrow, who is dumped by his career-woman girlfriend (Anna Margaret Hollyman, White Reindeer) when he rejects her rather charitable marriage proposal. Feeling lost, he turns to a disastrous string of online dates that successively eat away at his already-deteriorating confidence until a lanky vampire turns him into an undead ladykiller. Soon, Eric is prowling the streets of Brooklyn in search of anything to satisfy both his maniacal sex drive and his hunger for blood.

Despite the fact that Eric is such a misogynist loser, Tukel shows skill in making the main protagonist incredibly likable; I couldn’t help but be on his side.  Helped by the witty dry comedy which runs through the movie both Eric and the rather ridiculous plot had me smiling and chuckling for the entire movie including a few belly laughs thrown in here and there.  The dialogue is hammy in places but mostly clever and smart and there is an interesting narrative about the lives we lead if you look for it. Anna Margaret Hollyman who plays Eric’s love interest plays her role perfectly, equally lovable and annoying all at the same time and is impressive in her ability to detest Eric so convincingly.

Summer of Blood is by no means as polished as other undead offerings like “Twilight” or “True Blood”  in fact at times at times this movie looks rather amateurish and even homemade, but that doesn’t make it bad.  I believe this hard working movie could turn into an underground cult classic in due course and I will certainly be lining up to watch this one again

Described as a horror comedy horror, this is more comedy than horror and definitely not a horrible comedy by any means.A collision of absurd, self-deprecating wit and existential curiosity, Summer of Blood is a hilarious horror-comedy with a clever bite all its own that starts with one of the best break up scenes ever right at the beginning of the movie and is definitely worth a watch

The film is releasing this Friday October 17th in select theaters and VOD.  Check local listings for a screening near you

Art and Craft | Review

This documentary begins with the quote “Nothing is original under the sun” however this definitely does not apply to the person who quotes it.  Mark Landis is an artist; a con artist for all intents and purposes and has been called one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history. His impressive body of work spans thirty years, covering a wide range of painting styles and periods that includes 15th Century icons, Picasso and even Walt Disney.

Landis makes an interesting protagonist in the movie Art and Craft, described in his youth as a “bright little boy but prone to be mischievous”, the little boy never quite leaves the screen as you are mesmerized watching this genius copying incredibly complex works of art, a talent that he discovered in his youth after visiting museums with his parents and copying from museum catalogues.  And whilst you may think that Landis may be in it for the money, this is far from the truth. Instead, Landis derives much pleasure and purpose posing as a philanthropic donor, a grieving executor of a family member’s will, and most recently as a Jesuit priest and has given away hundreds of works over the years to a staggering list of institutions across the United States.

 

 

The caper begins to unravel after he dupes Matthew Leininger, a tenacious registrar who ultimately discovers the decades-long ruse and sets out to expose his philanthropic escapades to the art world, Landis must confront his own legacy and a chorus of museum professionals clamoring for him to stop.

What is most enjoyable about the movie is the equal obsession demonstrated by both the forger and the man determined to stop him, like any good Super hero story, the latter needs his arch nemesis and quickly we realize that this movie isn’t actually about the art in question but about the mania of two men each obsessed with their own purpose.  At the end of it all though, I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if this incredibly talented man did his own work?

ART AND CRAFT opens at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles this Friday, September 26th 
Check local listings for a screening near you

http://artandcraftfilm.com

The Infinite Man | SXSW 2014

What would you do if you could time travel? This is a question I have often asked myself and even fantasized about many times, so when an opportunity presents itself to watch a movie about the subject, of course I’m not only going to be excited about watching such a movie but I’m also going to have high expectations about it.

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Disappointment then is definitely not a word I will use to describe the movie The Infinite Man which is written and directed by Hugh Sullivan and stars Josh McConville, Hannah Marshall, Alex Dimitriades and is about a man’s attempts to construct the ultimate romantic weekend. However when his plans backfire his quest for perfection traps his lover in an infinite loop.

Like all memorable Sci fi movies, at it’s core, this is a love story…well sort of; what I mean to say is that all great Sci fi movies reach elevated heights because they eventually become about mundane things that we can all relate to in our everyday lives despite the fact that they are asking us to buy into a totally implausible idea or concept.Well written, brilliantly constructed and exceptionally acted, I laughed, empathized and cried at some point during this movie but I was always entertained and enthralled unable to predict how this mess would end. The Infinite Man captures perfectly the feeling of being in love and that of being consumed by another whilst taking us to the brink of hysteria and obsession all within the perfect rules of the time travel world that it creates.

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How life actually is vs. what we believe or wish it to be is examined in such a smart, quirky and sweet way. Borrowing cleverly from movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Groundhog Day, Hugh Sullivan has created something tragic, memorable and incredibly romantic in one package. I believe this movie will stay with me for a long time and hope that it quickly finds it’s way to a general release

 

Chef | SXSW 2014

SXSW 2014 is underway and this evening we were treated to the headline movie of the day Chef written, directed and starring the extremely talented Jon Favreau.

Chef tells the story of Carl Casper who suddenly quits his job at a prominent Los Angeles restaurant after refusing to compromise his creative integrity for its controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman). As a result, he is left to figure out what’s next. Finding himself in Miami, he teams up with his ex-wife (Sofia Vergara), his friend (John Leguizamo) and his son to launch a food truck. Taking to the road, Chef Carl goes back to his roots to reignite his passion for the kitchen and zest for life and love.

chef poster

With Food trucks ever popular these days, this is an interesting story about a disillusioned chef at the top of his game who takes to the road to find his mojo again and although the film is very sweet at times mainly due to the wonderful relationship and good acting by the youngest cast member Emjay Anthony who plays Favreau’s son, the flavor of this movie at times is rather confused and overdone. A good example of one too many ingredients that leaves you feeling like you couldn’t manage another spoonful.

Jon Favreau deserves props however for capturing the essence of the quintessential chef, tattooed arms, large frame and a brusque Emeril type character whose kitchen is a delight of plastic bottles filled with exciting colorful concoctions. This along with large amount of food porn that is amazing to watch for those of you who are food lovers keeps you entertained for most of the movie.

Short appearances which feel like amuse bouche by Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman and Oliver Platt are like visits with old friends that whet our appetites but it is a great performance (although not long enough) by the ever talented Robert Downey Junior which is the cherry on the cake in my opinion.

Overall the message of the movie is a worthy one that reminds us to be true to ourselves and that success will come to those of us that work hard and care about what we do. Unfortunately for me however, this didn’t satiate my appetite overall, and left me feeling like I’d chosen the wrong entree

Open Road will release Chef on May 16.

Downloaded | SXSW 2013

Back in the year 2000, when the rest of the world for worrying about the Y2K bug, we were making the decision to get a broadband connection to enable us faster access to the worldwide web.  A big driver of this decision was a new service we had discovered called Napster which enabled us to share music that we had purchased with our friends.  More importantly it gave us access to a world of music we had never been exposed to.  Imagine my delight then when at this year’s SXSW, the movie Downloaded was playing.   Welcome to one of my favorite films of the SXSW 2013 Film festival.

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Downloaded written and directed by Alex Winter (yes, that Alex Winter of Bill S Preston fame – Bill and Ted) focuses on the advent of digital media sharing, including the rise of game-changing company Napster and controversial pioneers Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. The digital revolution ultimately created a technology paradigm shift and upended the music industry.   This great documentary has insights from well known music artists and figures within the music industry including: The Beastie Boys’ Mike D, Noel Gallagher, Henry Rollins, former Sony Music Chairman, Don Ienner, former record producer and Island Records founder Chris Blackwell and Hilary Rosen, former CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America.

Alex Winter masterfully documents an account of a time and events that in my mind changed history.  More importantly he has shared the profile of a young Sean Fanning who has previously been portrayed as an anarchist as a thoughtful and rather lonely young boy who just wanted to push and understand the boundaries of the technology of the time.  In addition, we see a very different Sean Parker to the one portrayed in last years hit The Social Network.  What particularly resonated with me through the entire movie was the story of the genius young minds behind Napster and what motivated them and it’s not always what you may think it was.

Watching a group of brilliant young minds come together and create something that not only changed the public perception of what they were willing to pay for and which ultimately brought the music industry as it had been for years to it’s knees but also how these young men defend themselves against corporations is fascinating.  This is a David vs. Goliath story that is definitely worth a watch.

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The biggest treat for me came during the Q and A after the movie when we got to meet Alex, Winter and both the Seans in person.  The interaction between the three and especially the Seans just solidified how brilliantly Winter had captured the essence of these incredibly talented young men.  If you have any interest in music, entrepreneurialism, dot com or milestones in history, this is a must see documentary

 

 

Patang (The Kite) – A Film by Prashant Bhargarva | Review

Prashant Bhargava is clearly a talented director and writer to be able to bring together both actors and non-actors in this mockumentary style movie which very cleverly blends old Indian outlooks with a fresh non Bollywood storyline

Like its namesake, the movie is light at heart and mostly about the thrill and joy of flying kites during India’s largest kite festival where every year a million kites fill the skies above Ahmedabad-dueling, soaring, tumbling and flying high.  Look a little further however and it makes you realize that this is not only a brilliant narrative about general attitudes in India but also about families, relationships and what we hold important in our lives.  My heart soared during the highs and beat with anxiety during the lows when much tension is created through great direction, good storytelling and a moving and powerful score

PATANG weaves together the stories of six people transformed by the energy of the festival but centers mainly around a successful Delhi businessman (Jayesh) who takes his daughter (Priya) on a surprise trip back to his childhood home for the festival.  Despite the fact that he is an expert kite flyer, he does not count on his visit causing the entire family to confront its own fractured past and fragile dreams.  Jayesh and Priya are definitely “city mice” who discover the pleasures and difficulties faced by their “country mice” family.  Indeed Priya quickly learns that a mild flirtation can quickly lead to something undesirable when she spots an expert kite flyer in a young local hero called Bobby

Clearly one of the stars of this film is the amazing child star who is as adorable and captivating to watch as the children in “Slumdog Millionaire”.  It is hard to believe then that this and the other children in the film are untrained actors who are improvising.  It is very easy to watch the beautiful relationship between a young boy Hamid and his older man- friend Chakku a loser who seems to be unable to relate to anyone else especially his adorable and god fearing mother Sudha who only sees the good in every situation

It is difficult to think that a film about kites can really be this exciting and enthralling to watch.  Stick with the sometimes difficult to watch patchwork quilt of the storyline and I promise you will not be disappointed.

PATANG (THE KITE) will open Los Angeles exclusively at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills on July 20, 2012

In New York, PATANG THE KITE garnered a NY Times Critic Pick and is still playing in New York and Chicago – held over for another week.

The film will continue opening in approximately 18 cities across the US and Canada this summer.