Category Archives: Film Festival

“Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” – 32nd Annual MIFF – 2015

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Writer / Director:  Brett Morgen

With:  Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love

IMDb Logline:  The authorized documentary on late Guitar/lead singer Kurt Cobain from his early days in Aberdeen Washington to his success and downfall with Grunge band Nirvana.

Pros:

  1. Personal videos from Kurt’s childhood and marriage to Courtney Love
  2. Animation to dramatize certain episodes of his life
  3. Use of his personal notes to show Kurt’s creative process
  4. Choice to play Nirvana music on children’s musical instruments while showing early family videos
  5. Present day Courtney Love interviews

Cons:

  1. Lack of present day Dave Grohl interviews
  2. Follow-up with the girlfriend who supported him before he was famous on how she reacted to his success, and if he ever said thank you.
  3. His suicide is told as a title card at the end of the documentary with no commentary  from Love or his family

Review:  Kurt Cobain:  Montage of Heck does an excellent job showcasing Kurt Cobain’s talent and creativity, but ultimately misses out on getting key information from important people in his life.  Simple questions such as if he seeked mental help once he was able to afford it after his success; how soon after Frances was born did he get back on heroin;  did Courtney think he would ever go through with killing himself are not asked nor shown.

Rating = C

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“Being Evel” – 32nd Annual MIFF – 2015

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Director:  Daniel Judge

Writers:  Davis Coombe and Daniel Judge

With:  Evel Knievel, Johnny Knoxville, George Hamilton

IMDb Logline:  The real story behind the myth of American icon Robert ‘Evel’ Knievel and his legacy.

Pros:

  1. Definite must for Evel Knievel fans
  2. Never before seen footage from the Snake River Canyon Jump
  3. ABC Wide World of Sports sportscaster interviews
  4. 70s setting, 70s characters, 70s fashions, and only in the 70s stories
  5. Evel Knievel stunt cycle toy

Cons:  

  1. Not enough information from the wilderness years after Evel’s fall from grace and before his redemption

Review:  Though not groundbreaking in terms of documentary style, Being Evel more than delivers on letting you know who Robert “Evel” Knievel was and his importance on American culture.  You don’t have to be a fan of the man or the times to appreciate the story being told.  What you walk away with is an appreciation for a driven and ultimately flawed man, who initially created and then became a prisoner of a persona that he could–in the end–not live up to.

Rating = A-

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Click on image to view Sundance Spotlight


“Only Lovers Left Alive” (2013) – Review

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Click on image to view artist work

Writer / Director:  Jim Jarmusch

Stars:  Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston

IMDb LogLine:  A depressed musician reunites with his lover, though their romance – which has already endured several centuries – is disrupted by the arrival of uncontrollable younger sister.

Pros:

  1. Tilda Swinton & Tom Hiddleston as vampires
  2. Set design and use of Detroit
  3. Sticks with basic vampire mythology

Cons:

  1. Glacial pacing
  2. Uninteresting dialogue
  3. Superfluous sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowaska), and Marlowe (John Hurt) characters

Review:  By the end of Only Lovers Left Alive, you ask yourself what the point of it was.  The premise is good, but the execution fails.  How does a vampire exist in a time when humans pollute their own bodies and you cannot easily dispose of bodies without an investigation?  How does an artistic, gifted, and undying vampire get his voice heard?  And what happens when he no longer cares?  For such heady questions and two such long-lived and intellectual characters, Eve (Tilda Swinton) and Adam’s (Tom Hiddleston’s) dialogue is amazingly vapid.  Though the film looks good, it does not stay with you.

Grade = C

Bonus:  If The Sandman project is an actual thing and not a pipe-dream, then the filmmakers should use Tom Hiddleston as Morpheus.  His performance of Adam is basically channeling the Dream of the Endless character.

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Finding Vivian Maier” (2013) – Review

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Writers / Directors:  John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

With:  Vivian Maier

IMDb Logline:  A documentary on the late Vivian Maier, a nanny whose previously unknown cache of 100,000 photographs earned her a posthumous reputation as one the most accomplished street photographers.

Pros:

  1. John Maloof”s compulsive need to find Vivian Maier and his detective process is infectious.
  2. Beautiful photography
  3. The interesting character that is Vivian Maier

Cons:

  1. Would have liked to know the following:  How she died?  Did she continue making photos in her old age?  How did the three boxes of negatives that started the search for Vivian Maier end up for auction, and how did the auction house know she was the photographer?  Why did the brothers she nanny’d take care of her at the end of her life?

Review:  The two great characters in Finding Vivian Maier are Vivian and filmmaker John Maloof who took us on this obsessive compulsive journey.  The two are in many ways soul mates.  Maloof”s journey through Vivian’s things, interviews with former clients & charges, and even her voice in recordings brings to life a great unknown talent, and an equally great private detective.

Grade = A-

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Boy Meets Girl” (2014) – Review – MGLFF

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Writer / Director:  Eric Schaeffer

Stars:  Michael Welch and Michelle Hendley

IMDb Logline:  Boy Meets Girl is a funny, tender, sex positive romantic comedy that explores what it means to be a real man or woman, and how important it is to live a courageous life not letting fear stand in the way of going after your dreams.

Pros:  

  1. Southern town setting with, for the most part, accepting residents
  2. Actual transgender actress (Michelle Hendley)
  3. Uplifting story

Cons:

  1. Michelle Hendley’s inexperience acting is noticable on occasion
  2. The ending wraps everything in a nice bow

Review:  It’s not often you get a transgender feature film, let alone a well made one.  Boy Meets Girl is a very familiar story told in a modern way, with genuine performances and people you grow to care about.  Eric Schaeffer does a good job fleshing out all the characters and making them all humane.

Grade = B

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“Kidnapped for Christ” (2014) – Review – MGLFF

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Director:  Kate Logan

Writers:  Kate Logan and Yada Zamora

With:  David, Ty, and Kate Logan

IMDb Summary:  A young evangelical filmmaker is granted unprecedented access inside a controversial Christian behavior modification program for teens, where she discovers shocking secrets and young students that change her life.

Pros:  

  1. Incredible access inside the camp
  2. Numerous story arcs developing at the same time
  3. Fully developed story with no loose ends

Cons:  

  1. Minimal; inexperience of the director sometimes shows

Review:  A multilayered documentary where friendly relationships turn antagonistic, friends become enemies, people become damaged and need to be heeled; and a documentary that clearly shows how much hurt someone can cause when they truly believe they are doing good.

Grade = A

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer


“Snails in the Rain” (2013) – Review MGLFF

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Director:  Yariv Mozer

Writers:  Yossi Avni Levy, Yariv Mozer

Stars:  Yoav Reuvini, Moran Rosenblatt, and Yariv Mozer

IMDb Logline:  Tel Aviv, Summer 1989. Boaz, a beautiful and alluring linguistics student, receives anonymous, male written love letters,that undermines his sexual identity and interfere his peaceful life with his beloved girlfriend.

Pros:

  1. Honestly shows the emotional damage trying to live your life as others want you to be instead of living our life as you want it to be
  2. The interplay of the relationship between Boaz (Yoav Reuvini) and his fiancé Noa (Moran Rosenblatt)
  3. Yoav Reuvini

Cons:

  1. Unfortunate title
  2. Boaz’s paranoia about his unknown admirer smirks out of control a little too soon.

Review:  A deliberately paced character study about one man trying to discover who he really is, and whether he will sacrifice his own nature to be the man everyone expects him to be.  The emotional damage a closeted life is laid bare in one particularly brutal scene between Boaz and Noa, made more intense by Noa’s later reaction and strength of character.  But by journey’s end, no one is left undamaged.

Grade = A-

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Der Samurai (The Samurai)” (2014) – Review MGLFF

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Writer / Director:  Till Kleinert

Stars:  Michel Diercks and Pit Bukowski

IMDb Log Line:  A wolf strives through the woods around an isolated German village. Jakob the young local police officer is onto him, but scents something more in the darkness. What he finds is a man, it seems, wild-eyed, of wiry build, in a dress. He carries a katana, a Samurai sword. When the Samurai invites Jakob to follow him on his crusade towards the village, it becomes Jakob’s mission to pursue the lunatic to end this wanton destruction. At the end of the night Jakob has experienced too much, is too far from whom he once was. Something hidden has been unleashed to meet the first rays of daylight.

Pros:

  1. German Gothic Horror
  2. Voice and cadence of Pit Bukowski as the Samurai
  3. Unique story and point of view that pays homage to old monster tales such as the werewolf

Cons:

  1. German Gothic Horror
  2. Unfortunately and unwittingly makes you sympathize with the NRA–an easily accessible gun would have definitely helped

Reviews:  Till Kleinert crafts a well paced horror story that starts as a psychological drama, and then quickens to all out gore before the final confrontation between Officer Jakob (Michel Diercks) and the feral Samurai (Pit Bukowski).  The story is neither predictable nor obvious.  Both actors handle themselves well in their roles, with Pit Bukowski’s stays in your memory.

Grade = B+

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Tom à la Ferme (Tom at the Farm)” (2013) – Review MGLFF

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Writer / Director:  Xavier Dolan

Stars:  Xavier Dolan, Pierre-Yves Cardinal, ans Lise Roy

IMDb Logline:  A grieving man meets his lover’s family, who were not aware of their son’s sexual orientation.

Pros:

  1. Isolated setting adds to the tension
  2. Overall acting quality
  3. Cinematography

Cons: 

  1. Stockholm syndrome kicks in a little too soon

Review:  Xavier Dolan delivers a suspense film that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  His Tom will do anything to survive once he discovers how truly in danger he is from the repressed and violent Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal) and the manipulative Agathe (Lise Roy).  Dolan’s pacing and scene setup–especially the dance in the barn–is reminiscent of Brian de Palma at his most proficient.  Tom at the Farm is not your typical Gay Film Festival offering.

Grade = B+

Click on image to view trailer.

Click on image to view trailer.


“Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho (The Way He Looks)” (2014) – Review – MGLFF

 

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Writer/Director:  Daniel Ribeiro

Stars:  Ghilherme Lobo, Fabio Audi, and Tess Amorim

IMDb Logline:  Leonardo is a blind teenager searching for independence. His everyday life, the relationship with his best friend, Giovana, and the way he sees the world change completely with the arrival of Gabriel.

Pros:

  1. Chemistry between the three leads
  2. Coming-of-age story from a unique perspective of a blind person
  3. Honest–by which I mean sometimes cruel–depiction of high school life

Cons:

  1. Minimal.  In comparison to the Short film the feature is based on, sometimes the pacing is a little off.

Review:  Not your standard high school story.  At an age when hormones kick in, you start to discover who you are, and you naturally chafe against your parents, blind Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) also has to deal with Giovana’s (Tess Amorim) attraction towards him as he discovers he is attracted to new boy in school, Gabriel (Fabio Audi).  The best part of the story is treating Leonardo as any other high school student–he is teased, made fun of, and gets into arguments with his friends where they storm off and just leave him somewhere by himself.  Also, the filmmakers and performers pay attention to small details.  The first time Leonardo kisses someone he keeps his eyes open; in his room he has wood blocks with his name in braille on them.

Grade = A-

Bonus:  The Way He Looks is an expansion of an earlier Short film from 2010, Eu Nao Quero Voltar Sozinho (I Don’t Want to Go Back Alone).  You can watch the Short here.  I consider the Short almost perfect.  Daniel Ribeiro did an excellent job expanding the story while not making the feature flabby and staying honest to the principal storyline.

Click on image to view trailer

Click on image to view trailer