Review

Review | Viceroy’s House

At no other point in history has it been more fitting or important to share a story about the dividing of a nation and its people; extreme and differing political views, nations ravished by arguments over religion and ethnic cleansing often feature front and center in the news – only this story is set in India in 1947.

Welcome to the stunning epic of VICEROY’S HOUSE; the true story of Lord Mountbatten (played by Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville) who is dispatched, along with his wife Edwina (played by Gillian Anderson), to New Delhi to oversee the country’s transition from British rule to independence.  Taking his place in the magnificent mansion known as the Viceroy’s House, Mountbatten arrives hopeful for a peaceful transference of power. Yet ending centuries of colonial rule in a country divided by deep religious and cultural differences proves no easy undertaking, setting off a seismic struggle that threatens to tear India apart.

The sumptuous period detail created by the director Gurinder Chadha (Bend It Like Beckham) brings to life a pivotal historical moment that re-shaped the world.  Indeed, the ramifications of decisions made seventy years ago have led to two nations (India and Pakistan) in a perpetual state of heightened tension with each other since their inception.

It would have been satisfying enough to watch this bygone event unfold through the lens of the Viceroy and his wife yet Chadha, ever an over-achiever, gives us a stirring love story that layers on top. Equally well acted, we experience the forbidden and complicated love story of Jeet a Hindu boy (played by the hundred Foot Journey’s Manish Dayal) and a Muslim girl, Aalia (played by Huma Qureshi) which perfectly demonstrates the impact that decisions made half a world away had on a people that had endured three centuries of colonization by the British.

An heir of this destiny herself, Chadha who describes herself as someone who “grew up in the shadow of partition” took her time to bring this project to fruition and in doing so uncovered some previously unseen documents, “I always got the impression that Partition was our fault, but the documents we found showed us there was already an agenda in place by the British”.

Chadha does a meticulous job of making this Every man’s partition story and as a result no one in this movie is portrayed as either a villain or a hero. Having been reminded by her own family to ensure that the “Mountbatten plan” was exposed, after doing her thorough research about this story, Chadha soon realized that India’s fate had already been sealed by Winston Churchill and that Mountbatten was merely a pawn led to the slaughter, the result of which would be a divided nation with millions of people getting slaughtered themselves in the process.  A tailor-made performance by Bonneville will certainly capture the audience’s empathy yet, when questioned about whether this was the desired outcome, Chadha reiterates her goal was to show just “how ill equipped he was to do such a huge task.”

It would be easy to think of this movie as just a political narrative but to do so would be an injustice.  Scattered with strong bold women like Edwina and Aalia who represent the heart and soul of the movie, we experience firsthand not only the exciting sights and sounds of India but also the heartache and trauma that many including the Viceroy himself experienced.  That along with an often heart wrenching last performance by the inimitable Om Puri makes this a must-see movie

One will easily be transported to another time and place when watching this movie yet when the credits run you can’t help but wonder whether we learned anything from history, given this was one of the largest movements of people from one place to another in the twentieth century.

THE VICEROY’S HOUSE opens on September 1 and is currently available on VOD – check local listings

 

 

Full Listing of 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage | #tribeca2017




So there we were, in New York City again, giddy and electric with excitement at the start of another Tribeca Film Festival. #tribeca2017 beckoned. Our annual pilgrimage was upon us.

Joe’s Top Three Picks – 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

After having set up base at the Battery Park area for the past several years, this year we made home in a tony Chelsea hotel. And a new ritual was set for the film festival. Get up early, get ready and dressed, grab caffeine and sunrise munchies at one of the neighbourhood establishments and head to the Chelsea Bowties cinemas (in the midst of transition to Cinepolis properties) for the 9 AM first press screening. After making agonizing decisions during the rest of the morning regarding which screenings to catch of the several that were concurrently showing, we typically made our way through four films. Then a bite to eat. Or an early dinner at a strongly recommended restaurant (Paowalla, how you filled us up!). Or a meet up with friends. Then a sundown film screening. After which we returned back sated with all manner of cinematic memories bouncing in our heads. And recorded a podcast in which we discussed all the films we had watched cumulatively amongst the three of us. And Joe, the good man, edited and published the podcast the same night.

After five days of this routine, we got bleary-eyed, as the accumulation of ever more films danced around in our brains. But it was the best kind of exhaustion for us, the kind that comes from watching too many films. As if there is such a thing as “too many movies”.

Rashmi’s Top Three Picks – 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the West Coast. With another deposit to our Tribeca Film Festival memory bank. And ready and eager to back for #tribeca2018. And this year, we had seen 34 films amongst the three of us! It is the most films we have covered at Tribeca to date, and hope to best that tally next year.

So herewith is a full listing of all 34 films we covered at #tribeca2017. These films were all discussed on our five ‘live from New York’ podcasts devoted to the festival. But before the full alphabetical listing of the films we covered, here are the top festival favourites from each of us:

 

Joe’s Top Three Films at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

ALPHAGO
A RIVER BELOW
ROCK’N ROLL

 

Rashmi’s Top Three Films at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

GET ME ROGER STONE
ROCK’N ROLL
KING OF PEKING

 

Yazdi’s Top Three Films from the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

PERMISSION
PILGRIMAGE
SWEET VIRGINIA

 

And here is a full alphabetical listing of the films we watched at #Tribeca2017 with links to the Tribeca film descriptions as well as to the specific podcast where each film was discussed:

 

  1. A RIVER BELOW, at 24:50 min, Day 3 podcast – Joe’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  2. ABUNDANT ACREAGE AVAILABLE, at 11:00 min, Day 1 podcast
  3. ACORN AND THE FIRESTORM, at 18:57 min, Day 4 podcast
  4. ALPHAGO, at 29:21 min, Day 2 podcast – Joe’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  5. BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY , at 29:09 min, Day 4 podcast
  6. COPWATCH, at 12:14 min, Day 4 podcast
  7. FLAMES, at 29:44 min, Day 1 podcast
  8. FLOWER, at 44:01 min, Day 1 podcast
  9. FRANK SERPICO, at 3:42 min, Day 4 podcast
  10. GENIUS (television pilot), at 15:58 min, Day 1 podcast
  11. GET ME ROGER STONE, at 7:45 min, Day 4 podcast– Rashmi’s Top Three Tribeca  Pick
  12. HOLY AIR, at 20:18 min, Day 1 podcast
  13. HOUSE OF Z, at 30:54  min, Day 3 podcast
  14. KEEP THE CHANGE, at 36:33 min, Day 1 podcast
  15. KING OF PEKING, at 25:42 min, Day 1 podcast – Rashmi’s Top Three Tribeca Pick 
  16. LITERALLY, RIGHT BEFORE AARON, at 20:14 min, Day 3 podcast
  17. MY FRIEND DAHMER, at 8:10 min, Day 2 podcast
  18. ONE PERCENT MORE HUMID, at 12:13 min, Day 2 podcast
  19. PERMISSION, at 4:43 min, Day 3 podcast – Yazdi’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  20. ROCK’N ROLL, at  44:51 min, Day 3 podcastJoe’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  21. PILGRIMAGE, at 38:53 min, Day 3 podcast – Yazdi’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  22. SHADOWMAN, at 23:57 min, Day 2 podcast
  23. SON OF SOFIA, at 46:25 min, Day 2 podcast
  24. SWEET VIRGINIA, at 17:31 min, Day 2 podcast – Yazdi’s Top Three Tribeca Pick
  25. THE BOY DOWNSTAIRS, at 24:24 min, Day 4 podcast
  26. THE CLAPPER, at 1:50 min, Day 4 podcast
  27. THE ENDLESS, at 41:09 min, Day 2 podcast
  28. THE HANDMAID’S TALE (television pilot), at 36:15 min, Day 2 podcast
  29. THE LAST ANIMALS, at 15:10 min, Day 3 podcast
  30. THE LOVERS, at 34:57  min, Day 3 podcast
  31. THIRST STREET, at 2:07 min, Day 2 podcast
  32. THUMPER, at 6:02 min, Day 1 podcast
  33. SAMBA, at 2:54 min, Day 1 podcast
  34. TILT, at 13:05 min, Day 3 podcast

 

Yazdi’s Top Three Picks – 2017 Tribeca Film Festival

 

Until next year, goodbye Tribeca!

Strike A Pose | Review

There are few pop songs that are as memorable as Madonna’s1990 hit VOGUE and along with it the iconic video that brought Voguing as a dance form into the mainstream conscience.  Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Extravaganza were the vogue dancers and choreographers from the Harlem “House Ball” community who introduced “Vogueing” to Madonna and who later would become her main choreographers for the video and the Truth or Dare tour.
 
If you grew up in the era of MTV, not only will the words STRIKE A POSE make you wave your arms in the air and perhaps stick out your butt but this is also the name of the acclaimed documentary directed by Ester Gould and Reijer Zwaag abut seven young male dancers  (including Jose and Luis) – six gay, one straight who joined Madonna on her most controversial tour.  On stage and in the iconic film TRUTH OR DARE – one of the highest-grossing documentaries ever – they showed the world how to “Express yourself”, now, twenty-five years later, they reveal the truth about life during and after the tour. 
 
STRIKE A POSE is a fabulously candid documentary that reunites these sleek and effervescent dancers, exploring their lives after the tour and legal battles with Madonna, their glamorous and largely inspirational impact upon society, the horrific effects of HIV/AIDS during and since the 90’s and what it meant to participate in one of the most iconic and controversial tours of pop history. The film also explores what it’s like to overcome shame and find the courage to be who you are.
 
Watching people age over time is always a luxury and so this movie does a wonderful job of showing the promise that was and where these incredible dancers ended up.  As important as the story of the star is the story of those who get to bask in the fairy dust for a short period of time; It is clear that Madonna made a huge difference in these men’s lives and the short intense formative period of time that they spent with her was extremely meaningful for these men that left a long lasting effect.
 
The movie isn’t just a “Where are they now”, at times, it manages to go deep and uncovers the realities of youth, disease and even what the dark aftermath of fame (by association) can feel like.  Watching the genuine love and respect that remains between this group of talent after all of these years is beautifully captured and of course THAT song in the background will have you tapping your toes and clicking your fingers if not striking your own pose.
Following critical acclaim and successful premieres in Berlin and Tribeca, STRIKE A POSE comes to New York for its theatrical release at IFC on January 18, 2017, followed by its broadcast premier, an exclusive VOD release, and a home video release later in June to celebrate LGBTQ Pride month.  Check local listings: http://madonnadancers.com/req.php?req=static.php&page=where-to-see
 
 

LEVEL UP | Review

Adam Randal’s debut feature LEVEL UP starring Josh Bowman (ABC’s Revenge)is an intriguing story about  a deadbeat gamer called Matt whose girlfriend gets kidnapped. This high concept British movie will make you question how real a gaming experience should or could become and shows a hidden, sometimes terrifying and often outright bizarre side of London as the kidnappers keep in touch with Matt by telephone issuing increasingly ludicrous and dangerous challenges that he must complete in order to keep his girlfriend alive.
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The movie’s blend of dark humor against the backdrop of a chase thriller keeps you guessing as to whether this is really happening or whether this is an extension of a gaming experience that Matt is having in response to his failing relationship with Anna. What it does well is question how one would react if awoken wearing a suicide vest with  a cell phone next to you set up to give instructions.  The lines of reality and game fantasy are cleverly blurred in this movie but at its core it questions the lengths that one is prepared to go to for someone that they love.
As we watch Matt attempt to complete the series of bizarre tasks to get his beloved back, we are acquainted with a bunch of colorful yet equally sinister characters. Although the dialogue is a little clunky at times  and the story unfolds a little slowly, Randall’s direction provides suitable tension and there is definitely unpredictability regarding what Matt’s fate will be; maybe like the man throwing himself off of a building in the opening sequence or will love prevail as he fights and realizes what he’s made of and how far he is prepared to go
Part THE GAME, part NERVE set in the gritty urban underground of the city you can be sure of one thing though, this is not your london of NOTTINGHILL
The action packed UK thriller hits nationwide VOD September 19th

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.

shiraz

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

Full listing of 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Coverage

 

Day 1, Tribeca 2016

Day One, 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

What joy it was to watch film after film at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival #Tribeca 2016. Sometimes five, six films in a day. We were happy as pigs in mud. Rolling around in the excellently curated selections at the festival. Our third consecutive year covering Tribeca proved a dizzying blast as between the three of us, we saw 27 films in four days at the festival. These films were all discussed on our five ‘live from New York’ podcasts devoted to the festival.

Day 2 Tribeca 2016

Day Two, 2016 Tribeca Film Festival

Day 3 Tribeca 2016

Day 3, 2016 Tribeca Film Festival 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a full alphabetical listing of the films we watched at #Tribeca2016, with links to the podcast where each film was discussed:

  1. AFTER SPRING, at 31:06 min, Day 2 podcast
  2. AWOL, at 12:38 min, Day 3 podcast
  3. BAD RAP, at 10:10 min, Day 5 podcast
  4. THE BANKSY JOB, at 2:03 min, Day 5 podcast
  5. DETOUR, at 5:45 min, Day 4 podcast
  6. THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, at 1:45 min, Day 2 podcast
  7. DO NOT RESIST, at 7:27 min, Day 2 podcast
  8. DON’T LOOK DOWN, at 25:20 min, Day 2 podcast
  9. ENLIGHTEN US: THE RISE AND FALL OF JAMES ARTHUR RAY, at 28:56 min, Day 5 podcast
  10. THE FAMILY FANG, at 14:40 min, Day 1 podcast
  11. THE FIRST MONDAY IN MAY at 4:30 min, Day 1 podcast
  12. HERE ALONE, at 30:17 min, Day 3 podcast
  13. HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM, at 11:14 min, Day 4 podcast
  14. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, at 27:59 min, Day 1 podcast
  15. I’LL SLEEP WHEN I’M DEAD, at 24:00 min, Day 3 podcast
  16. JEREMIAH TOWER: THE LAST MAGNIFICENT, at 24:54 min, Day 5 podcast
  17. KEEP QUIET, at 12:34 min, Day 2 podcast
  18. LITTLE BOXES, at 33:57 min, Day 3 podcast
  19. LIVE CARGO, at 9:16 min, Day 3 podcast
  20. THE LONER, at 17:20 min, Day 5 podcast
  21. THE MEDDLER, at 4:48 min, Day 1 podcast
  22. MOTHER (EMA), at 21:58 min, Day 1 podcast
  23. PARENTS (FORAELDRE), at 19:12 min, Day 3 podcast
  24. PISTOL SHRIMPS, at 18:45 min, Day 2 podcast
  25. SHADOW WORLD, at 15:24 min, Day 4 podcast
  26. WOMEN WHO KILL, at 2:00 min, Day 3 podcast
  27. YOUTH IN OREGON, at 1:20 min, Day 4 podcast
Day Four Tribeca 2016

Day Four, 2016 Tribeca Film Festival finds

Day 5 Tribeca 2016

Day Five, 2016 Tribeca Film Festival finds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until next year, goodbye Tribeca.

 

 

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

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

sdaff

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

WONDERFUL NIGHTMARE

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

the beauty inside

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.

riot club

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

The Way He Looks | Review

 

Of all the genres in all of cinema, my favorite is coming-of-age films. Because when done right, they can reflect on life just about better than any other art form.

 

THE WAY HE LOOKS, Brazil's entry to the Oscars

THE WAY HE LOOKS, Brazil’s submission to the Oscars

THE WAY HE LOOKS  (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) is Brazil’s submission to the Best Foreign Film category at the 2014 Academy Awards. By the third scene, I had decided that I had unreasonable love for this film, and from that point on, it did not once betray my judgment. Written and directed by Daniel Ribeiro, it tells the story of Leo (Ghilherme Lobo) a somewhat shy teenager. He is blind and aware of his place in school due to his disability. His parents want to protect him even as they struggle to let him be independent. Leo’s best friend since childhood has been Giovana (Tess Amorim) and the two are inseparable. In many ways he sees the world through Giovana’s eyes. One need only watch Giovana looking at Leo to know how she feels about him. Enter the unreasonably amiable new student at school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi), and Leo and Giovanna’s friendship may need to be redefined.

 

Nothing in this film is what we haven’t seen before. And yet, the film is written, acted and put together with such a matter of fact honesty and simplicity that it rises up to be one of the better films of the year. We have seen these young love triangles a hundred times before; Jules et Jim kicked off the entire French New Wave for crying out loud. But it is the assured control over this material that singularly elevates this film to something of a discovery. The refusal of the film to make a big deal about major developments is what is truly surprising, in comparison to say Blue Is The Warmest Color from last year, which carried an unbearably heavy agency to it. The Way He Looks makes its observations without fuss, without drama, and without prurience. So what if the lead character is blind. So what if he happens to fall for another guy. Without tilting into caricature, the film strikes authenticity while never submitting to melodrama. One The Way He Looks can do more good than a hundred after-school specials about tolerance.

 

MV5BMTQ5NjYxODk2NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTgyNTU4MjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Who hasn’t experienced the dynamics with a friend change due to the necessary introduction of a new person. Best friends get married. They move to other cities to be with other people. They follow other professional tracks in life. In recent years Frances Ha and Bridesmaids have dealt with these situations with some degree of depth. But see how this material is handled in The Way He Looks; the respect the script grants these characters, to be contrary and complex, to be hurt and to stumble, and to grow and find their footing, is something to behold. To watch a movie capture something universal without heavy chest-beating is a minor miracle.

 

Like the best films, this one is populated by characters who are all inherently good. Which is like life; people we interact with in the real world are seldom all out evil. Films that understand this – and refuse the easy out by creating conflict through a single malevolent character – are already leagues ahead of other movies. See how this first time feature filmmaker, Daniel Ribeiro, treats even the least likeable character, that of the school bully Fabio. He constantly taunts Leo. He is cruel, yes, but not necessarily because Leo is blind. It is because Leo is an easy target, a misfit, different because of his blindness. Fabio makes fun of Leo, first alone, and then when he is with Gabriel. And at some point the film asks the audience, do you want to be Fabio? Do you want to be this insecure person who is unable to accept anyone who is different? It is strikingly mature handling of this material, when it would have been so much easier for the film to simply paint Fabio as a villain.

 

If there were justice in the world, this script would get nominated for year-end awards. Watch this film if only for its writing, particularly with sly observations about how the world deals with someone who is visually impaired. And like much of the no-fuss aesthetic that defines this movie, the film does not linger on its dialog, as exacting and truthful as it is. When Gabriel is first making friends with Leo, he off-handedly asks Leo if he ever noticed something in a particular movie. And then realizes with a start that Leo couldn’t have seen that film since he is blind. Touches like this make you realize that this is the work of a gifted storyteller.

 

Any lover of good films should make plans to watch The Way He Looks because of all the things its gets right. It gets the acute hurt that a person with disabilities feels when they are made fun of. It gets the love of parents who are protective of their child and the horror they must feel to forfeit those small parts of their child’s environment they can safeguard from harm (another masterful film Margarita, With A Straw which screened at the Toronto International Film Festival this year also dealt with this situation with uncommon empathy).  The film gets the hesitation, the tentative thrill-and-despair dance of acknowledging first love, just right. It gets just about everything right. Most of all, The Way He Looks is worthy of veneration for how it makes a hero out of Giovana, because it understands that best friends, real friends, will eventually sacrifice their own thumping affections for the sake of their friend’s happiness.

 

Yes, The Way He Looks may nominally just be a Brazilian teenage love triangle. But it is the best example of its kind to make the case that sometimes a truthful story told with a good heart is all it takes. The hell with CGI. The hell with histrionics. The hell with unnecessarily complicated non-linear, non-narrative mumbo-jumbo. Give me something as simple and well-intentioned and humorous and kind as The Way He Looks any day of the year. When films these days are seemingly only interested in hipster posturing and cynicism, the most provocative thing of all may be a film that rewards viewers with genuine sweetness.

 

 [THE WAY HE LOOKS is playing in San Diego at the Landmark Ken Cinemas, November 14-20]