Trailers

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

 

Girl Most Likely | Review

What lengths would you go to in order to get a boyfriend/girlfriend back?  This is one of the central questions faced by thirty-something Imogene (Kristen Wiig), who was once a promising young New York playwright but whose promise has fizzled, thanks to a crisis of confidence in the comedy Girl Most Likely. 

Heavily in denial about being dumped by her society boyfriend, Imogene uses her skill for drama to stage an elaborate fake suicide as an appeal for his sympathy. However when her attempt backfires, she is put into the custody of Zelda, her estranged gambling addict mother (Annette Bening), and must return home with her to the Jersey shore. Desperate to get back to her Manhattan circle of so- called friends, Imogene must finally deal with her family, including her unique crab obsessed brother (Christopher Fitzgerald), Zelda’s new shady CIA boyfriend The Bousche (Matt Dillon) and a cute young lodger and wannabe singer (Darren Criss), who together help Imogene sort out her place in the world.

Directed by Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (“The Nanny Diaries”), Girl most likely also attempts to explore the mother-and-child relationship and the length that parents go to in order to protect their children.

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This is a frothy sweet and rather light movie that leaves you wishing it had a little more depth and flavor. Wiig’s demonstration yet again of her impeccable comedic timing and her portrayal of a desperate imploding woman, which is more than adequate, was enjoyable to watch, however it felt like this character was another version of the one she played in her breakout hit from last year Bridesmaids.

 The story is a little too implausible and lacked consistency in tone.  The film seems to have trouble deciding whether it wants to be an all out family comedy or tender drama about the trials and tribulations of class, single parenting and ambition.

Even with a great cast in Benning, Dhillon and Fitzgerald, this movie didn’t convince me to join it on it’s journey and so I ended up not quite caring for our main protagonist.  That’s not to say that there aren’t a few really funny and tender moments which make this movie an easy watch.

Overall, despite another great performance from Kristen Wiig, a complicated back-story and a few too many quirky characters made this otherwise potentially interesting character story come across a little over-cooked.

Girl Most Likely by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions is released this Friday July 19th. Check local listings for showtimes

 

Sightseers I Review

Being a child of the Eighties, any film that opens with the classic Soft Cell song “Tainted Love” is one to get my attention immediately and I’m happy to say that this movie not only got my attention but managed to keep it throughout the entire duration.

 Sightseers tells the story of Chris (Steve Oram) who wants to show Tina (Alice Lowe) his world and he wants to do it his way – on a journey through the British Isles in his beloved Abbey Oxford Caravan. Tina’s led a sheltered life and there are things that Chris needs her to see – the Crich Tramway Museum, the Ribblehead Viaduct, the Keswick Pencil Museum and the rolling countryside that separates these wonders in his life. But it doesn’t take long for the dream to fade. Litterbugs, noisy teenagers and pre-booked caravan sites, not to mention Tina’s meddling mother, soon conspire to shatter Chris’s dreams and send him, and anyone who rubs him the wrong way

over a very jagged edge.

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This is a strange and rather unexpected English movie that goes to a place that you just don’t expect it to by turning the seemingly quiet and sometimes rather boring countryside on its head.  Competently directed by Ben Wheatley (Down Terrace, Kill List), this is sweet, horrific and enjoyable all at the same time and that’s not an easy feat to pull off in my mind.  This movie will have you laughing and grimacing within seconds of each other and if you are a fan of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg movies, this will definitely appeal to you.

As all good movies teach us, it is often not the subject matter itself but the relationship between those involved that pulls us in and keeps us throughout the journey, Sightseers showcases two delightful actors Alice Lowe and Steve Oram who play the central characters of Tina and Chris.  Both at times are sweet and endearing and you can’t help but like them and their ever stranger behavior as the movie progresses.  The chemistry between the two is a joy to watch and it feels like the characters have been fully developed and realized

Anyone who is English or an Englishphile will really enjoy this movie and even if you are not, you will enjoy the great 80s score (even though it’s not set in that time).   A modern day English country side Bonny and Clyde Horror love story (well sort of)

http://blog.sightseersmovie.com/

Sightseers opens on  Friday, May 10, 2013 at Landmark’s Sunshine Cinema in New York and at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre in West L.A.  Check local Listing for screen times in other cities

 

 **OFFICIAL SELECTION – Directors’ Fortnight: CANNES FILM FESTIVAL 2012**

**OFFICIAL SELECTION: SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013**

**OFFICIAL SELECTION: TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012**

** LONDON CRITICS CIRCLE FILM AWARDS 2013 (WON- BREAKTHROUGH BRITISH FILMMAKER) **

 **EVENING STANDARD BRITISH FILM AWARDS 2013 (WON- PETER SELLERS AWARD FOR COMEDY)**

  **BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM AWARDS 2012 (WON- BEST SCREENPLAY)**

  **MAR DEL PLATA FILM FESTIVAL 2012 (WON- BEST SCREENPLAY) **

 **STIGES- CATALONIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012

 (WON- BEST ACTRESS, BEST SCREENPLAY)**

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

 

 

We Cause Scenes | SXSW 2013

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I don’t think that we have discussed it on the show, but all three Moviewallas have been doing a bit of Improv lately. So it was rather serendipitous that upon arriving at SXSW 2013 today, a young man walked up to me and stuffed a flyer into my hand for the world premiere of We Cause Scenes on opening night of the film festival.

Needless to say, Rashmi and I are very excited and will be sure to post back with thoughts after the movie.

Downloaded – An exclusive clip | SXSW 2013

One of the highlights of this year’s SXSW festival in Austin is going to be the movie Downloaded.

DOWNLOADED is directed and produced by Alex Winter and co-produced by Maggie Malina.

Several years in the making, DOWNLOADED focuses on the advent of digital file sharing, including the rise of game-changing company Napster and its controversial pioneers Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker. The digital revolution ultimately created a technology paradigm shift, upended the music business and musical artists and changed the world.

Winter filmed many participants in this saga besides Fanning and Parker, including artists such as Noel Gallagher, DJ Spooky (who also did the music for the film), Mike D from the Beastie Boys and Henry Rollins to name a few; label heads including Don Ienner, Chris Blackwell, Seymour Stein and other industry executives, government officials and leaders in the world of civil and digital rights, such as Grateful Dead lyricist, poet and essayist and “cyberlibertarian” activist JP Barlow and Harvard law professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig.

Backwards I Review

I am not a fan of sports movies per se but with Olympic fever just starting to die down Backwards written, starring and produced by Sarah Megan Thomas and starring James VanderBeek  amongst others comes to cinemas at a perfect time.

Abigail Brooks played by Thomas has spent her lifetime trying to win an Olympic rowing medal, sacrificing friendship, love and a “normal life” along the way. When she is named an alternate on the Olympic team she quits in haste. Defeated, Abi moves back home with her widowed, workaholic mother played by the adorable Margaret Colin. Tension builds as Abi’s mother urges her to “move on” from the rowing life that Abi’s father, a coach, introduced her to. Unable to do so, but needing an immediate job, Abi seizes an open crew coach position at her alma mater, Union High. There, the head of athletics is her old boyfriend, Geoff (James Van Der Beek). Abi trains her high school rowers in an obsessive fashion, taking two girls, Hannah (Alexandra Metz) and Susan (Meredith Apfelbaum) under her wing. After the girls lose an important regional race, Abi reinvents herself as a coach, and in the process, learns to have fun again both on the water and off.

This film boasts great rowing footage and is clearly made with love and care.  The attention to detail leads me to believe that input from someone who is extremely passionate about rowing has been sought.  The cinematography on the water is breathtaking at times and enables us to become one with the racers and experience the fight to the end.  This film also does a fine job of showing us the sacrifices that hopeful Olympians make on a daily basis when they are faced with complex choices.  Where the film falters a little is in the shallow subplots which get introduced and resolved rather quickly and often in one scene.  A little less subplot with more time spent on them may have made for a more powerful experience.

Thomas has written a sweet and heartfelt inaugural movie that may have benefited from someone a little feistier in the lead role.  Her laid back style which allows us to get onboard in the first half of the movie doesn’t make for such a character arc in the second half and I found myself not quite being able to make it over the finish line with her.   The romance is predictable which isn’t a problem however, I think the film could just have done with more tension overall.  Despite that, it is great to see James VanderBeek with his puppy dog eyes.  He reminds us why the perennial teenager in us still years for a date with Dawson.

Backwards opens Friday 21 September in Los Angeles at Laemmle’s Music Hall 3.  Check local listings for show times

The Ambassador | Review

Picture this – secret meetings, corruption and the business of selling diplomatic titles in one of the most dangerous places on the planet: the Central African Republic (CAR).  How many of you would be tempted to enter this danger zone for the sake of your art?  Not so may I think – enter Filmmaker/journalist/provocateur Mads Brügger (Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for The Red Chapel) who has developed a new documentary style that he calls “Performative Journalism” in which he creates an absurd caricature of a corrupt diplomat and arms himself with a phalanx of hidden cameras, black-market credentials and razor-sharp wit.  It’s part performance art and part investigative journalism resulting in humor, shocking revelations and above all a tragic picture of a failed and corrupt state.

“I want to show an Africa stripped of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), Bono, child soldiers and kids with bloated bellies, to show the kind of people you never see in the documentaries: white businessmen and diplomats, the fat cats in the urban centers, all the people who are in post-colonial Francafrique (French Africa) having a great time.”

The Ambassador is less fly on the wall and more immersive journalism as Brügger disguises himself as a rich white business man with diplomatic credentials pursuing all the perks that follows this title (reckless diamond hunt, practicing power misuse etc.), and became a respected member of their society.

This is a dark, intriguing and very funny documentary that has you on the edge of your seat as you watch Brügger go from one absurdly terrifying and hilarious situation to the next as he pulls back the curtain on ongoing corrupt practices that infiltrate many countries and levels of power.  At times you could be mistaken for thinking that you are watching a seventies era Bond movie.

Overall, I found myself oscillating between scared for Brügger as the walls often close in on him to shock as he uncovers the craziness of what is going on in war torn Africa.  One thing is for sure; I was definitely entertained and even educated.

The Ambassador is now playing VOD and out in theaters 29 August.  Check local listings:

 

 

Rent-a-Cat / Rentaneko (レンタネコ) | Review

I am sure that not many of us look forward to flying these days (me included), the endless security, fluid confiscation shenanigans, shoes off, laptops out, strip-searches etc. can become all too tiresome especially when it feels like you spend less time in the air than at the airport.

In recent times, and especially on long haul flights, one of my favorite pastimes has become trying to seek out movies that I would not normally get a chance to watch or foreign language movies that have not (and may never) get a US release.

Fellow movie lovers, there are some hidden treasures buried in the back of the seat in front of you (and I am not just talking about what has fallen out of the pocket of the supersized passenger).  On a recent flight from Tokyo, I was lucky enough to catch just such a gem. “Rentaneko” or “Rent-a-cat” (written and directed by USC film school alumni Naoko Ogigami) is a beautiful movie about a young lady called Sayoko who rents out cats to help lonely people fill the emptiness in their hearts. She walks along the banks of the river with a megaphone promoting her service and her animals in a handcart.   This stars Mikako Ichikawa as Sayoko with support from Reiko Kusamura, Ken Mitsuishi, Maho Yamada and Kei Tanaka.

Japanese cinema can often be about extremes, yet in this gentle sweet dramedy, we are delighted, moved and often tickled in the same scene.  Much of this is down to some careful direction and elegant cinematography, and many of the scenes are so beautifully composed that they could be frozen to create photographs.

All of this beauty is augmented by a touching and genuine performance from Ichikawa.  Her human portrayal of a single thirty-something coming to terms with the death of her grandmother (whom she considered to be ‘her rock’) is poignant.  Added to this is her biggest goal in life – to get married.  On the surface there is an air of light heartedness and comedy throughout the movie and yet, when this is scratched, belies a depth that touches your heart and warms you to your central core.  The story meanders a little towards the end, but at those times, the kitty-cat action is more than enough to keep you glued to your screen.

This is a quirky engaging movie that will amuse and enchant everyone – and if you are a cat lover, this movie is a special treat.  Of course being the crazy cat lady that I am, the scenes or outtakes with all of the well-trained moggies were like icing on this near perfect cake.

Rentaneko has been shown at a number of international film festivals through 2012 including Sundance and Edinburgh.  Unfortunately it seems that your best chance of catching it right now is to fly ANA between Los Angeles and Tokyo.  My only hope is that enough people hear about this movie and it get the chance of at least a limited US release.

Official Home Page (Japanese only) – http://rentaneko.com

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.