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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?

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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

San Diego Asian Film Festival 2015 (SDAFF 2015) – The Real Jewel in San Diego’s Crown

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Just over a month has passed since the annual San Diego Asian Film Festival closed it’s curtains and I’m still gobsmacked by all of the incredible movies that were screened.  For it’s sweet sixteenth session, the festival run by the Pacific Arts Movement screened over 130 films from 20 countries and many to record sell-out crowds. All of the beautifully and carefully curated movies had one thing in common – they were thought provoking, poignant and showed off the talents of diverse Asian filmmakers from across the world whilst showing us many of the cultural threads and different lives in the countries that make up the rich tapestry of the continent of Asia.

This is a recap of the coverage that we live tweeted and recorded on Facebook during the festival

If you live or find yourself in San Diego and enjoy movies, you owe it to yourself to get a ticket to the next festivalmiss india america

Some of Moviewallas favorites:

MISS INDIA AMERICA

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Directed by: Ravi Kapoor

Screenwriter:Ravi Kapoor and Meera Simhan

MISS INDIA AMERICA kicked off the festival and tells a story about Lily Prasad (Tiya Sirdar) who is a winner, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. Fresh off her valedictorian speech, Lily intends to continue living her storybook life according to “The Plan,” her meticulously-crafted scrapbook that ropes in her less-than-willing high school boyfriend Karim (Kunal Sharma). But when Karim is caught flirting with the reigning Miss India National, Lily is livid and takes aim at the crown to win Karim back, restore “The Plan” forever, and reaffirm her endless magnificence. Lily is appalled though when she finds that the path to glory is challenged by not just a drop-dead beauty of a nemesis (played by New Girl’s Hannah Simone), but also the internal nausea of having to win despite all consequences.

This is a smart and funny movie that transcends race and tells a story which is applicable to any nerdy girl who is threatened by the thought of losing her boyfriend to a model!  Most importantly  it is a feel good tale that reminds us that we are who we are, and deep inside there is a model waiting to get out in all of us.  Sassy and clever dialogue elevates the movie that crosses somewhere between Clueless and Legally Blonde, I can’t wait to see what this talented writing team brings us next

WONDERFUL NIGHTMARE

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Directed by: Hyo-jin Kang

Yeon-woo (played by Uhm Jung-Hwa, Dancing Queen, SDAFF ’12) has the complete bourgeoisie starter package. A slick new BMW. A mixed martial arts personal trainer. Rare red steaks and French wine for breakfast. And she is head legal counsel to the biggest, sleaziest company in town.

But if we know anything about Korean rom-coms, it’s that sudden shocking comas are attracted to the rich and bitchy as much as grizzly bears are attracted to salmon wearing nightgowns of honey.

An automobile accident lands Yeon-woo in heaven, but even death can’t keep her spirit down. Korean angels cut her a deal. Teleport down into the chores, credit limits, and complications of a shabby housewife for one month. Then she will be allowed to return to the glitz, glamour, and unscrupulousness of her old life.

There have been many movies that explore what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes or bodyswap  and most often these fit squarely in the comedy genre e.g. Freaky Friday, Heaven Can Wait and most recently The Change-Up.  However, there are few movies that elegantly explore the emotion that goes with waking up as somebody else with a life that isn’t yours and is everything you didn’t want.  Welcome to the WONDERFUL NIGHTMARE; this is a deep and thoughtful look at what happens when a woman who seems to have it all wakes up in a life that she truly never desired and doesn’t want to be a part of.  This is a delightful movie that will have you laughing whilst reflecting on what it means to be human and what’s really important in life.

THE BEAUTY INSIDE

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Directed by: Jong-Yeol Baek

Screenwriters:Seon-jeong Kim, Jeong-ye Park and Kyung-hee Noh

Woo-Jin wakes up every morning with a different body. At first, it was a shock. Now, years later, he’s used to looking in the mirror and discovering a stranger. With only the companionship of a supportive mother and a highly-entertained best friend, Woo-Jin’s been forced into anonymity, working as a furniture designer taking orders from online clients he never has to meet. Falling in love is of course off limits. That is, until he meets E-Soo, a furniture saleswoman who makes him never want to fall asleep again.

From there, THE BEAUTY INSIDE becomes a most unusual romance, the kind that pushes its protagonists into the ultimate tests of love: can Woo-Jin be in a relationship with somebody who doesn’t recognize him? Can E-Soo feel security from a man who starts every day as a stranger? With all the magic of a good fantasy, THE BEAUTY INSIDE has the audience seeing the romantic comedy anew, much as E-Soo and Woo-Jin treat every one of their encounters like a rediscovery.

THE BEAUTY INSIDE is one of the most unique movies that explores the true nature of who you are and how this changes if you physically don’t recognize who you are in the mirror.  Stunningly shot with elegant dialogue, this film will leave you feeling like love truly can conquer all.  The most impressive thing about the movie is it’s female lead Hyo-ju Han who effortlessly captures our hero’s heart.

IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG

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Directed by: Emily Ting

Screenwriter: Emily Ting

Josh struggles with his lucrative job in finance, his practical-minded girlfriend, and his desire to become a novelist. Ruby, content with her job designing toys, imagines what she could be doing had she pursued her love of fashion design. Both are young American expats who happen to be on the same Hong Kong street when Ruby gets lost and Josh decides to help her find her way.

Soon though, their serendipitous meeting and stroll through the city leads to the kind of expat fantasy that seems to allow for limitless possibilities – even infidelity. Together, they begin to see their desires come within reach, however stymied by impracticality and fear of the unknown.

IT’S ALREADY TOMORROW IN HONG KONG elegantly and wistfully captures what happens when a spark is ignited between two people with an ocean separating them and the questions that arise when we find ourselves in a situation that we shouldn’t be in.  The chemistry between real life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg as Ruby and Josh is electric and we find ourselves rooting for this would-be couple who have more than distance to potentially contend with.  Moviewallas caught a screening of this during LA Film Festival earlier in the year but the movie was so good that we couldn’t help ourselves watching a second time.

MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART

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Director: Zhangke Jia

Screen-writer: Zhangke Jia

At first, the latest from filmmaker Zhangke Jia appears deceptively simple, a step back perhaps, crude even. Why would the director of THE WORLD and STILL LIFE and most recently, the brutally unsparing Cannes winner A TOUCH OF SIN, want to make what seems a visually unkempt and thematically shallow love story. A girl in small-town China has to choose between the affections of her ambitious, pushy, city boss and her aggravatingly shy, local coworker. You wonder if the great Zhangke Jia has finally wandered into a genre – the romantic triangle – that is outside his grasp.

And then you spend the rest of the film realizing how wrong you were to doubt him in the first place. Because it is only after awhile that the ambitions of the movie become evident. And when they do, you sit back in awe. As this film jumps from the initial story set in 1999, to 2014, and then giddily to 2025! And here is why this film needs to be sought out by cinephiles, because even as the movie sprints 15 years ahead with each leap, it also literally opens up, with a widening aspect ratio. The screen widens with the passage of time!  And this was one of the most joyous surprises I witnessed in a cinema hall all year. And the widening is unqualified, as the film opens up thematically (it only lulled you at the start into thinking that this was a romantic melodrama), geographically (from rural China to Shanghai to Australia) and the scope of its reach (easily commenting on the big themes as the film progresses). The film also smartly avoids the rigors of traditional epic storytelling in which the very same characters are examined through a lifetime. Instead MOUNTAINS MIGHT DEPART concentrates, in the moment, on a specific character(s) during each time period. Yes, these characters are related, but the film has no interest in looping back to re-examine each of the original players from the first act.

The visionary filmmakers often tend to put all their cards on the table at once, aiming to dazzle you upfront, but they sometimes have a hard time sustaining that through the last act when things whimper to an end. I am more impressed by films which calculatedly build their fort and become increasingly more breathless on their way to the conclusion. MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART takes off in its last act, when it bravely somersaults into an unconventional (if not transgressive, for some) relationship between two new characters. How many filmmakers possess the bandwidth to grasp for so much.

In watching sons deal with the footprints of their fathers, and in its formal structure, this is like a smarter version of Derek Cianfrance’s THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES. But no matter how you cut it, this is the work of a master.

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

Why We Should Care About Award Shows

It’s 3pm on February 22nd and if you are a movie fan then you will know that we are only hours away from the Oscars commencing; the crown jewel, climax or mother of all award shows.

If you are not such a movie lover and even if you are these days, it’s easy to feel fatigued from the never ending news cycles of Who is wearing what, Who will be presenting and what is in this years swag bag. However by the time it gets to the end of February, most people are wondering why they should even care anymore especially when you realize that this year’s cycle of film festivals and early predictions of next year’s Oscar winners is already underway with the first of the larger film festivals Sundance already over by the beginning of February.

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Award shows are important though, not only because they support a huge number of jobs in a variety of industries but also because they have a direct impact on the films you will want to watch. There is a reason why the nominations occur in mid January a full almost six weeks prior to the ceremony. Often this gives movies released earlier in the year a second wind and allow those that only had smaller openings to go mainstream once they receive a nomination ala whiplash or The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Before starting Moviewallas, we often used to find ourselves waiting for the nominations so that we could check off any of the movies that we hadn’t seen that were deemed to be noteworthy by those who knew. We too found ourselves in a long line unlike anything I had ever seen in 2009 waiting to get into Slumdog Millionaire, a film I hadn’t even heard of up until the day of the nominations. 

In subsequent years since having had the privilege of doing Moviewallas, we love the fact that films that we have only been fortunate enough to watch through a film festival or a screener catch fire and gain momentum and become available for everyone to watch. The most frustrating thing as movie reviewer is that often films we love and get to watch don’t either get distribution or get such a small release and only in major cities.

There is a notion that over the last few years there has been a proliferation of award shows and well, that there are just too many these days. Is it so wrong though for each association such as The Director’s Guild, The Hollywood Foreign Press, The Producers Guild and many others to celebrate and reward/award good work and recognize their own?

One could say that that ultimately award shows are just for entertainment and that’s ok in my book too. Ultimately whether you enjoy a movie more or less because it was nominated is not important, long after the award season is over you wont even remember whether those movies that had a lasting impact on you were nominated or not. What does matter though is that good movies (studio or independent) keep getting made, that we find out what they are and we have a means to watch them and if award shows help, I say the more the merrier. Now who do you think will win Best Picture this year?

The Mule | SXSW 2014

What would make you carry twenty condoms full of narcotics in your stomach? My automatic answer to this question was “Nothing”, but what if your families’ life was at risk if you didn’t? Welcome to the movie The Mule.

the-mule-poster-404x600Written, directed and starring Angus Simpson with the help of a few others, The Mule set in an 80’s Australia is based on a true story that tells of an innocent rather stupid and simple man called Ray Jenkins (played by Angus Sampson) who gets caught up in a drug smuggling scheme after he wins a yearly award at his local football club

Swallowing around 20 condoms full of narcotics, Ray almost makes it home before he nervously loses his cool in front of security, landing him in a nearby motel so the drugs can flush out of his system. Under the watchful eyes of Detective Croft and Detective Paris, Ray struggles to keep his secret hidden, inflicting bodily harm by avoiding deification. Can Ray keep himself out of jail by swallowing more than his pride, or will the drugs make their appearance in the filthiest of ways?

Regular listeners of the Moviewallas podcast will know that some of my favorite movies are Australian; indeed I own my own copies of Strictly Ballroom and Muriel’s Wedding which are well worn by now. So it stands to reason that I was equally fascinated, disgusted and thoroughly entertained by the movie The Mule. Beware though; the toilet humor in this movie is like none that I have ever seen before and definitely not for the faint hearted.

Brilliant acting by an incredible cast including Hugo Weaving, Leigh Whannell (who also shares writing credits) and Ewen Leslie elevate this movie from a good black comedy to an incredibly smart and surprising dramedy which will have you sitting on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out how it will all end for poor Ray. The twists and turns are not predictable and the story is original, if it wasn’t based on a true story, I would think it was unbelievable. This mule is definitely worth a ride if you can get your hands on it. the-mule-slice

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.

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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.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year; Oscar Nominated Shorts | Review

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  No, I’m not talking about the holidays, I’m talking about the yearly ritual that us film lovers and movie geeks get to indulge in which requires taking a trip to watch the highly coveted series of Oscar Nominated Shorts at the local cinema.

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Oh I how I look forward to this annual treat where I go with my fellow Moviewallas and get to spend a delightful afternoon watching ten of the best shorts Animation and Live action Features; two separate programs with a short break in between.  This year a special pleasure for me, I got to watch five incredible documentaries too.

This collection of shorts representing filmmaking in 2013 is no different to any other year in that the Oscar nominated shorts is an opportunity to watch bite size nuggets of incredible film making from a variety of talented filmmakers from around the world.  Only I am shocked that year upon year the standard gets better and better.

In the live action category:

“Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)” (Director: Esteban Crespo, Spain/Spanish). Synopsis: Paula, a Spanish aid worker, has an encounter with an African child soldier named Kaney.

“Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything) (Directors: Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras, France/French). Synopsis: Miriam has left her abusive husband and taken refuge with her children in the local supermarket where she works.

Helium” (Directors Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson, Denmark/Danish). Synopsis: A dying boy finds comfort in the tales of a magical land called HELIUM, told to him by the hospital janitor.

“Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)” (Directors: Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari, Finland/Finnish). Synopsis: Sini tries frantically to get her family ready to leave for a wedding, but her husband and two children are interfering with her efforts.

“The Voorman Problem” (Directors: Mark Gill and Baldwin Li, UK/English). Synopsis: A psychiatrist is called to a prison to examine an inmate named Voorman, who is convinced he is a god.

This a rare occaision when I am glad I don’t have to vote for a winner since If I had to pick one, I couldn’t.  I was fascinated by That Wasn’t Me, sat on the edge of my seat as the riveting drama of Just Before Losing Everything played, laughed at Do I Have to Take care of Everything, pondered existential questions whilst watching The Voorman Problem and even shed a tear or two during Helium

 I could have spent way more time with any one of these five movies given the deep well rounded characters and back stories each presented that merit full movies of their own.

For the Animated shorts, this season brings us:

“Feral” (Directors Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden, USA/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: A wild boy who has grown up in the woods is found by a hunter and returned to civilization.

“Get a Horse!” (Directors: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim, USA/English). Synopsis: Mickey Mouse and his friends are enjoying a wagon ride until Peg-Leg Pete shows up with plans to ruin their day.

“Mr. Hublot” (Directors: Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares, Luxembourg/France/Non-dialogue). Synopsis: The eccentric, isolated Mr. Hublot finds his carefully ordered world disrupted by the arrival of Robot Pet.

“Possessions” (Director: Shuhei Morita, Japan/Non-dialogue).  Synopsis: A man seeking shelter from a storm in a dilapidated shrine encounters a series of household objects inhabited  by goblin spirits

“Room on the Broom” (Directors: Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, voices by Simon Pegg, Gillian Anderson, Rob Brydon in UK/English). Synopsis: A genial witch and her cat are joined on their broom by several friends as they set off on an adventure

The animation shorts for me represent a vast array of style, story and genre even.  Whilst watching we are reminded by those super smart and talented people at Disney that there is always room in your heart to let in a fresh Mickey Mouse Adventure. In Get a Horse, Mickey and his pals return in this old/new caper.  This time however our eyes get to feast on incredible technology that combines black and white with color and 2D with 3D type animation.  Room on a Broom is a sweet modern day fable told in verse that had me smiling from ear to ear; a special treat for animal lovers.  Atypical subject matter for a traditional cartoon, in Feral and Possessions which to me represent more adult type themes and style and finally a cute futuristic tale called Mr Hublot  which at it’s core is represents a beautiful tale of a man who rescues a dog but realizes in the end that it is he who has been rescued.

Again, a wonderful gaggle of talent collected under the umbrella of animation and if you weren’t  lucky enough to catch The Blue Umbrella when it played as an appetizer to last year’s Disney/Pixar’s Monster’s University, it plays in the  “highly commended section” in this program.  Despite the number of times I see The Blue Umbrella, I can’t help but marvel at the human like emotion that is generously created by Pixar and I always have a lump in my throat when the credits run.

 

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I love the action shorts and the animations, but I am a documentary lover at heart and so the documentary shorts were an absolute treat for me to watch.  This year’s entries:

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” (Directors: Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, Canada/USA/UK – English). Synopsis: At 109, Alice Herz Sommer is the world’s oldest pianist…and its oldest Holocaust survivor. At the heart of her remarkable story of courage and endurance is her passion for music.

“Karama Has No Walls” (Director: Sara Ishaq, UAE/UK/Yemen – Arabic). Synopsis: When protesters in Yemen added their voices to those of other nations during the Arab Spring, the government responded with an attack that left 53 people dead and inspired widespread sympathy throughout the country.

“Facing Fear” (Director: Jason Cohen, USA/English). Synopsis: As a gay 13-year-old, Matthew Boger endured a savage beating at the hands of a group of neo-Nazis. Twenty-five years later, he meets one of them again by chance.

“Cavedigger” (Director Jeffrey Karoff, USA/English). Synopsis: New Mexico environmental sculptor Ra Paulette carves elaborately designed and painstakingly executed sandstone caves, driven by an artistic vision that often brings him into conflict with his patrons.

 “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall” (Director: Edgar Barens, USA/English). Synopsis: In a maximum security prison, the terminally ill Jack Hall faces his final days with the assistance of hospice care provided by workers drawn from the prison population.

By far, the most difficult category to judge, I was incredibly moved and inspired by The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life.  Angered by an astonishing tale of the human spirit and the importance of revolution in Yemen’s account of the Arab Summer in Karama has no Walls, challenged and troubled by both Facing Fear and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall which made me question my own prejudices and preconceived ideas and intrigued by the account of the environmental sculptor Ra Paulette and his cave digging antics in the aptly titled Cavedigger

So there you have it.  If you have never seen an Oscar short program, I strongly urge you to rush out and watch and if you love movies and have seen a Short program, I urge you to rush out and see this year’s nominees, given the standard is exceptional, in either case, you will not be disappointed, I certainly wasn’t and look forward to next year’s most wonderful time of the year again with baited breath

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2014 open nationwide this Friday, January 31st

In San Diego, the Live Action and Animated programs will open at the Landmark Ken, In Los Angeles the Live Action and Animated programs will open at The Nuart in West L.A. and in Orange County at the Regency South Coast Village 3.

Please see local listings or the link below to find a cinema near you

http://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/dates-locations/

The Good Road | Review

Just what does it take to become India’s entry for the best foreign film category at the Academy Awards 2013?  Well, you have to beat out 21 other contenders as newcomer filmmaker Gyan Correa’s film The Good Road has done and in doing so is perhaps the first Gujarati film to have made it.  Produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) The Good Road albeit a little controversially has left behind strong films including “The Lunchbox”, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”, “English Vinglish”, “Vishwaroopam”, Malayalam film “Celluloid” and Bengali film “Shabdo”.

Correa’s debut movie is an interesting intertwining of three separate stories all set on a highway in Gujarat that come together in a thought provoking climax.  A truck driver called Pappu (Shamji Dhana Kerasia) and his side kick (Priyank Upadhyay) are given a task which is not so legal, a middle class family from Mumbai (Ajay Gehi and Sonali Kulkarni) are holidaying in Gujarat with their young son (Keval Katrodia) and a young girl (Poonam Rajput) who is on her way to meet her grandmother unfortunately loses her way and finds herself lured into a roadside brothel.

What the film lacks in depth, is totally compensated for by the Colorful and often breathtaking cinematography care of Amitabha Singh; gaily dressed village women contrasted against a white salt plain, gaudily painted trucks along the highways & vibrant life-filled rest stops and stunning sparse vistas of the Gujarat which are all set to hauntingly beautiful acoustic Gujarati folk music

What I admired most about the movie though was the social narrative that Correa manages to evoke; child prostitution, the class system and the struggles of an often-stressed working class.  In addition, the tension created throughout the movie is often intolerable as we watch the decisions of each of the characters play out hoping that nothing too bad will happen to them.  Correa who wrote and directed the film also chose to cast locals in the movie, a great decision in my opinion since they add to the authenticity of the movie

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The Good Road may not win the Oscars, however it is a journey that will stay with you for some time

The Good Road will be the closing film at The South Asian International Film Festival, presented by HBO running from December 3rd through the 8th

 

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

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing | SXSW 2013

Is it already time for yet another rendition of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing I hear you ask?  Well, when that version is a slick and stylish black and white contemporary one directed by Joss Whedon (yes, the same JW who just directed last year’s blockbuster The Avengers), one should take note and take note we did on day 2 of SXSW 2013. The lines were long for this one and despite the fact that there was a torrential downpour in Austin; we waited patiently in a line that wrapped multiple times outside the building and around a long corner.

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I wasn’t disappointed by this exquisitely directed light and frothy, bubbly and joyful movie, which at its core remains a romantic comedy that explores barriers that stand in the way of love.  Shot in 12 days at Whedon’s own house that was designed by his architect wife and co producer Kai Cole, (whilst he should have been on vacation with his family following the wrap of Avengers), I was drawn into the modern day world where Beatrice and Benedick hate, question and then fall in love with each other.

William Shakespeare’s words from yonder year come alive quickly and although I think one could be easily distracted by Ye Olde English and some may even find the juxtaposition between non-relevant language (anachronisms to the hilt) a little jarring and non believable, once you allow yourself to be immersed into the story and the great acting by a terrific cast, you will quickly see that this latest edition of Much Ado is a testament to the fact that the human condition stays the same even though time and technology move on.

My only criticism of the movie (and I had to dig deep for this mind you) is that at times, some scenes (especially those at the “Police station”) came across a little too much like an SNL skit and at times the movie felt a little precious and over stylized.

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Much ado About Nothing Panel at SXSW2013

Following the movie, we were treated to a Q and A with a panel of 13 of the cast members and Mr. Whedon himself.  As you can imagine, most of the audience were die hard Whedonites who asked questions about how the movie was cast and shot and how much they love his work and so on, but it was most touching when a young lady stood up and nervously stated that she had promised herself that if she ever got to talk to the man himself, she would tell him how thankful she was for all his work through the years and how much watching his movies through some hard times had helped and inspired her personally.  She really tried to hold it together but was extremely emotional and remarkably, even though I rolled my eyes to start with, I along with most of the room felt a little lump in my throat as she sat down having shared a very heartfelt and very personal outpouring; aahh, the power of film.  Yes, Joss Whedon, I too am thankful that a new generation of moviegoers will get to experience Shakespeare albeit in a non-conventional way and even if one of them is inspired to pick up an original version of this wonderful play, that would be an achievement.  PS I loved the women’s wardrobe so if you are reading this Joss, please let me know where it came from.

Much Ado About Nothing stars the talented Amy Acker and the very charming Alex Denisof in the lead roles with a superb supporting cast.  Release is planned for June 2013

Visit the official movie site  to watch the trailer