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Sundance 2022: Fire of Love

January 27, 2022

 

Director Sara Dosa describes “Fire of Love” as a love story. That is exactly what it is, yet it is also about beauty in the world, two kinds to be specific – the beauty (and wonder) of the earth and the beauty (and connection) of two people finding each other and dying together. Utilizing an impressive amount of archival footage, the documentary invites us to travel back in time and learn about married Alsatian French volcanologists Maurice and Katia Krafft, without catching up to modern-day at any time. The combination of watching timeless majesty of the earth and discovering a passionate couple who are no longer here, allows viewers to consider the power and the fragility of life. Read more…

Sundance 2022: Riotsville, U.S.A.

January 23, 2022

 

Indirectly, “Riotsville, U.S.A.” explains quite a bit about our current insanity and everyone who has been feeling today (today defined as: March 2020 to present) should watch this documentary from director Sierra Pettengill. Those are the initial thoughts I had at the end of viewing a film that is composed of archival U.S. military footage and news coverage from the late 1960s. As the saying goes, “history repeats itself”, which is something we’re reminded of throughout the majority of the film. We’re shown how, in response to the Civil Rights uprisings that were occurring in cities across the nation, the military held riot training on bases wherein soldiers dressed as long-haired hippie protestors and looters and tasked with cutting loose on the constructed storefronts and turning over vehicles in pop-up towns (called Riotsville), while other soldiers were armed with weapons and charged with maintaining control of the situation. For a viewer like me, who had no idea such a thing existed, this is all sadly unsurprising considering the way we’ve seen both the military and militarized police respond react to riots in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and the national outcry in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Read more…

THE VELVET QUEEN (2021) review

January 21, 2022

 

written by: Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier
produced by: Vincent Gadelle, Bertrand Faivre and Olivier Père
directed by: Marie Amiguet and Vincent Munier
rated: not rated
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: December 21, 2021 (limited) and January 21, 2022

 

“The Velvet Queen” follows a pair of French adventurers who are completely enraptured by solitude and being away from humans (my kinda guys right there), but mostly sharing the pursuit for an elusive Tibetan snow leopard. The documentary from Marie Amiguet is culled from footage from 2018 in the Himalayan highlands and while the focus is certainly capturing serene and treacherous landscapes inhabited by luminous creatures, I found myself equally transfixed by the two passionate humans who are on location, capturing it all while enduring high altitudes, subzero temperatures, and possibly getting way too close to certain animals in their natural habitat. Read more…

Top Ten Films of 2021

January 17, 2022

 

What did film enthusiasts have to hold on to, to look forward to, during such tumultuous times? Cinema. Movies. Films. Whatever moniker you’re compelled to give a motion picture. Experiencing new films remained a constant in 2021, to hold on to when so many other things in life are uncertain. As the pandemic continued, theaters slowly opened back up, while many have turned to films they’ve watched hundreds of time for comfort; as they remain home, trying to stay safe and careful for themselves and others. Still, there’s nothing like walking into a dark theater and waiting to lose yourself in a story told on the big screen. I definitely was able to do that more this year, feeling better about it all after getting vaxxed and boosted. Read more…

SEE FOR ME (2022) review

January 16, 2022

 

written by: Adam Yorke and Tommy Gushue
produced by: Matt Code and Kristy Neville
directed by: Randall Okita
rated: not rated
runtime: 92 min.
U.S. release date: January 7, 2022 (Amazon Prime, Google Play, Apple TV & YouTube)

 

Movies that involve around home invasions have been around for quite some time. Some have been based on true events, while others have gradually developed their own sub-category in either the thriller or horror genre. While it’s rare, sometimes, the protagonist will be given a physical disability to make them potentially more vulnerable and increase the stakes. That’s what we have with “See for Me”, a home invasion thriller helmed by Canadian director Randall Okita, in which a young blind woman has to content with criminals during a breaking and entering scenario. What sets this apart from just about any other movie like it is that the role is played by Skyler Davenport, who is a visually-impaired actor, and that lends a certain degree of realism and believability that viewers would likely not get if someone was acting blind. Read more…

THE TENDER BAR (2022) review

January 13, 2022

 

written by: Willian Monahan (screenplay) and J.R. Moehringer (novel)
produced by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov & Ted Hope
directed by: George Clooney
rated: R (for language and sexual content)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: January 7, 2022 (Amazon Prime)

 

“The Tender Bar” is one of those films that sneaks up on you, while being one of those films that proceeds exactly as you’d expect. Directed by George Clooney, with a screenplay by William Monahan based on J.R. Moehringer’s 2005 memoir, I defy anyone to not know exactly what the ultimate emotional lynchpin will ultimately be within ten minutes. Read more…

THE 355 (2022) review

January 7, 2022

 

written by: Simon Kinberg and Theresa Rebeck
produced by: Jessica Chastain, Kelly Carmichael and Simon Kinberg
directed by: Simon Kinberg
rated: PG-13 (for sequences of strong violence, brief strong language, and suggestive material)
runtime: 124 min.
U.S. release date: January 7, 2022 (theaters) and February 19, 2022 (Peacock)

 

For his second crack and directing, Simon Kinberg is taking a break from IP fare and kick off a spy franchise with “The 355”. Kinberg teams up with Jessica Chastain (who serves as a producer), who had a bizarre role in his directorial debut, 2019’s “X-Men: Dark Phoenix”, which was his second failed attempt to adapt a seminal Chris Claremont story (the bloated “X-Men: The Last Stand” from 2006) with the intention of taking a stab at an amalgam of spy genre conventions with the fate of the world as we know it at stake. With two Oscar winners and one nominee, one could understand how such a collaboration would be an optimistic endeavor for all involved. Indeed the draw is seeing what kind of dramatic espionage thrills this talented female ensemble can deliver, but unfortunately they succumb to woefully unoriginal material with poorly written dialogue and action sequences that lack the visceral dynamism needed for such a production. Read more…

THE UNFORGIVABLE (2021) review

December 19, 2021

 

written by: Peter Craig, Hillary Seitz, and Courtenay Miles
produced by: Sandra Bullock, Veronica Ferres, and Graham King
directed by: Nora Fingscheidt
rated: R (for language and violence)
runtime: 114 minutes
U.S. release date: November 24, 2021 (limited release) and December 10, 2021 (Netflix)

 

Sandra Bullock hasn’t acted in a movie since 2018, which found her headlining the apocalyptic horror thriller “Bird Box” at the beginning of the year that became a megahit for Netflix, and then starring in the summer release, “Ocean’s 8”, a comedy heist which was generally positively received, managing to escape the gender-swap labeling with its stylish charm intact. She’s back on Netflix now with a lead role in “The Unforgivable”, a drama which offers the Oscar-winner a chance to explore some serious and dark territory as a parolee trying to navigate life outside of prison, with a stern and single-minded goal to piece her life back together. Read more…

THE BETA TEST (2021) review

November 16, 2021

 

written by: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe
produced by: Natalie Metzger, Matt Miller and Benjamin Wiessner
directed by: Jim Cummings and PJ McCabe
rated: not rated
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: November 5, 2021 (in select theatres and available for rent on Google Play, Apple TV, Vudu, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube)

 

There’s a sudden and gruesome murder that occurs within the first five minutes of “The Beta Test” that found me wondering just what kind of movie I was about to view. I came to it cold, knowing only that the independent film had recently been in the lineup at the Chicago International Film Festival and it starred Jim Cummings (who also wrote and directed with his costar PJ McCabe), a multi-talent who has been one to watch since “Thunder Road” his first full-length feature was released back in 2018. Based on that opening, one might expect a horror flick, but what unfolds is a manic comedy thriller with bi-polar tendencies. While it’s one of those L.A. movies about the bizz, it’s certainly not yet another movie about movie-making and has themes and concepts that wind up being as overextended and contorted as its main character’s mental state. However, “The Beta Test” isn’t a simple breakdown of the film-industry in an online, digitally-saturated world, it’s more like a nervous breakdown of today’s Hollywood environment. It’s a reminder that a movie with a deplorable and unsympathetic lead character can be entertaining and mesmerizing, even if doesn’t always work. Read more…

CIFF 2021 – Any Given Day

October 22, 2021

 

Documentarians can be brave and bold with their perspectives and presentations, but when someone offers a subject or a story with honesty and vulnerability, their film stands out. Such is the case with director Margaret Byrne’s latest work, “Any Given Sunday”, a film that stands out not just because it presents and raw and real look at mental illness, how it is perceived and treated, but because Byrne chose to place herself amid her three subjects. She is including herself one with a history of mental illness, one who struggles to navigate each day. “Any Given Day” becomes quite a heartfelt and moving film due to that decision, as viewers will clearly see that Byrne is someone who understands how mental illness can take such a stronghold in a person’s life and make any given day a challenge. Read more…