Category Archives: indie

Manchester by the Sea Featurette

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea follows the life of a solitary Boston janitor, played by Casey Affleck. He is transformed when he returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. The story of the Chandlers, a working-class family living in a Massachusetts fishing village for generations, is winning awards and with much anticipation for an Oscar nod.  The movie is a deeply poignant, unexpectedly funny exploration of the power of familial love, community, sacrifice and hope.

manchester-by-the-sea-postAfter the death of his older brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler, Chandler is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 15-year-old and is forced to deal with the past that separated him from his wife Randi, played by Michelle Williams, and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to the world without him.

In his first film since 2011’s acclaimed Margaret, Lonergan once again proves himself a powerful and visionary storyteller as he seamlessly weaves past and present together, crafting a tension-filled tale that deftly eschews sentimentality in favor of penetrating emotional insight and deeply affecting human relationships.

High-Rise

high-riseHigh-Rise, from genre-bending director Ben Wheatley, is an attempt to adapt the classic J.G. Ballard novel of the same name with a brilliant and talented cast including Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss. If you watch the movie knowing it is dark satire, then you might not have a problem watching this movie. It is boring at times because the pacing is off, but the acting is what saves the movie.

But the message is clear and just as poignant today as it follows the inevitable result of a breakdown of social strata and public decorum, known as class warfare. The classic book is a dystopia with a very strong message, but the movie doesn’t even come near to the heart of the book.

Dr. Robert Laing, played pretty solid by Hiddleston, recently moved into a luxury, high-rise apartment building designed by the enigmatic Mr. Royal, played by Irons. With a literal divide of the classes, the wealthiest residents live on the upper floors with the best amenities while residents on the lower floors experience routine blackouts and other disruptions of basic services. As additional flaws in the building begin to emerge, both physically and socially, the lower floor residents revolt, turning the building into a battlefield for an all-out class warfare.

I wanted the movie to be good and worth seeing because the Ballard’s book tells a great story and the actors are really good. Yet, the script and editing could be tighter. It just dragged on and on with no reason.

The Blu-ray comes with some bonus features that includes a commentary from Tom Hiddleston, Ben Wheatley and Producer Jeremy Thomas, an in-depth look at adapting the beloved novel from the page to the screen, a look at the acclaimed film’s 70s set design, special effects, and more.

My Golden Days

MGD Train Kiss SceneDirected by Arnaud Desplechin, My Golden Days is a French film that is a masterpiece.  The movie follows Paul Dedalus played by Mathieu Amalric, who is brilliant in The Grand Budapest Hotel and is best known for playing the villain in James Bond’s Quantum of Solace.

In My Golden Days, Amalric reprises the role from Desplechin’s My Sex Life…Or How I Got into an Argument to which he experiences a series of flashbacks – most notably on his first heart-wrenching love affair.

Desplechin next installment is a series of flashbacks as well as the story follows Paul’s flashbacks as a younger Paul, play innocently by Quentin Dolmaire, and Esther, played compellingly by Lou Roy-LeCollinet, who received a Cesar nomination. Both deliver stunning performances in their first film debut.

My Golden Days reflects on the seemingly unforgettable romance shared between the two young lovers as they attempt to salvage their relationship despite the distance that keeps them apart as Paul attends University with their shifting circles of friends and betrayal. Although an unlikely pair, both Esther and Paul compensate for one another. It is endearing to watch Esther deliver as the brutally honest, sometimes haughty counterpart, while Paul remains the understanding and forgiving sense of security she’s always sought after. As Paul reflects on his formative years, his emotions run rampant and prove that Esther has left a deep impression on his heart that not even time can erase.

The story is about the older Paul Dédalus, an anthropologist preparing to leave Tajikistan. Reflecting on his life, he has a series of flashbacks starting from his childhood in Roubaix—his mother’s attacks of madness, his father’s alienating depression. He remembers a student trip to the USSR, where a clandestine mission led him to offer up his own identity for a young Russian, whom he considered a phantom twin for the remainder of his life. He remembers University life and returning to his hometown to party with his sister and her best friend, his shifting circle of friends and their casual betrayals. And most of all he remembers Esther, the beautiful, rude, haughty soul, and love of his life.

The special features are worth mentioning and include a discussion with director Arnaud Desplechin, a behind-the-scenes look at the casting session for Paul and Esther, and a sit down with the cast.

International Kissing Day is every July 6th, and My Golden Days may prove to be the best movie to watch on this celebrated day.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity_RGB 3D DVD OCardWritten and directed by Jacob Gentry and earning the L’Écran Fantastique Award at the 2015 Fantasia Film Festival, Synchronicity is considered a stunning science fiction adventure. The movie stars Chad McKnight, Brianne Davis, and Michael Ironside.

It is a fascinating thriller that blends time travel and romance with corporate espionage. The musical score takes you even farther than the story itself. Compose Ben Lovett’s music is spellbinding.

The story follows physicist Jim Beale, played by McKnight, who invents the world’s first ever time machine. He quickly finds himself fighting to prevent a takeover from his largest benefactor, Klaus Meisner, played by Ironside. In order to keep the rights to his invention, he must journey back in time himself to prove that it works. On his travels, he soon meets a beautiful, yet dark and mysterious woman named Abby, played by Davis.  He believes she may be working with Klaus to gain control of his life’s work. What he discovers in the past brings the story to full fruition.

Gentry starts the story while it is already underway, which offers a voyeur perspective of what is happening to Beale.  At first, I felt like I was intruding, then I felt comfortable and understood what was happening in the movie.

The movie, in its own way, hooked me because I wanted to know what would happen next.

The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

the lady with the carDirected by Joann Sfar, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun reminds me of the 1960s European thrillers as an erotic, hazy story that spellbinds you because you can’t quite figure out what is going on with the femme fatal character. Is she good…is she bad? Still, she is the center of the movie, played by Scottish actress Freya Mavor.  Her luxuriant outfits, and cinematographer Manuel Dacosse leering camera offers the possibility of a good movie, yet the rambling mystery never fully takes shape.

Based on the 1970 remake starring Samantha Eggar and Oliver Reed, which I never saw, the story actually comes from Sebastien Japrisot’s convoluted 1966 novel.  The story follows apparently a normal French secretary Dany Doremus, played beautifully by Mavor.  She works for a shady boss, played by Benjamin Biolay. She arrives at his home to transcribe important documents. His wife, played by Stacy Martin, is at home, and she used to be friends with Dany. Now, they are uncomfortably distant. The couple asks her to drive them to the airport the next day.  They let her use his classic blue Ford Thunderbird. After dropping them off at the airport, Dany decides to take a joyride.

The movie is a bizarre journey, acid trip, and murder mystery. Nothing seems to add up as the story feels like an aimless road trip.  Situations happen to Dany, and she seems like she has a pipe in her head or a screw loose, but nothing is quite explained as to what is happening.

The story comes together, but by the time that happens, everything is lost. All except, Mavor as Dany. She is every man’s hot dream as well as Sfar, who films her at every and any angle to evocate what men want or can’t get enough of her.

The music haunts the film and crawls under the skin, especially with Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” pulling off a mind-blowing result.

All in all, the movie has some good merits, and some will enjoy it.

Full of Grace

full of graceUnderstanding the passion related to Christian stories has flocked our existence since the beginning of telling stories. Each biblical story brings an example to us while the parables offer a lesson, and here we have the Virgin Mary’s story, “It’s not about explaining things. It about living…”

Directed and written by Andrew Hyatt, Full of Grace captures the soul of the perfection of our Lord Jesus and his blessed Mother. Even though the movie was produced on an indie budget, it still shines with the Christian influences of heart and soul.

The movie is about the Virgin Mary played by Bahia Haifi with pure dignity, gravity, and the keen sense of maternity that is related to such a heroine.  We follow as she deals with the rising church after the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord. Mary spends her final days helping the church regain its original encounter with the Lord.

The movie is awe inspiring with a very fitting musical score composed by Sean Johnson. As the movie follows Mary, the story speaks from her heart to every angle for each generation. Hyatt wove a masterful message while sharing the love and understanding of a mother, particularly the Holy Mother of God. With that, Hyatt won the Reel Rose Award for Best Feature Length Screenplay at John Paul II International Film Festival.

The movie is indeed very Christian for all Christian beliefs from Protestants to Catholics and the ones in between.

I would not be surprised if this movie played at every church social night because it does educate.  It does reaffirm the gospel of Lord Jesus. Whether you are a true believer or just an interested bystander, the story is good to know since society has lost its idealism and social graces, and we need to be reminded how important religion is to our existence.

Meadowland

meadowlandHer directorial debut, Reed Morano’s Meadowland takes a brave look at two people who are in very deep pain.  They struggle with the darkness captivating one’s attention like crazy.

The first scene sets up the story and overall tone of the movie.  We meet a married couple, played brilliantly by Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson. They are on a family trip and lose their young son. Abduction is what everyone assumes happened to the child.  The story follows the aftermath of their loss, one year later. Two people who were once in love are now individually alone.  The marriage crumbles from the inside while starting at the edges.  The mother wanders in the middle of the night going to the subway as her maternal love feels empty.  The father is a New York City cop, who turns cold, trying to resolve his issues at a support group, but failing to even make that go right.  They live in the past with only memories barely keeping them awake from the tragedy.

This is a very sad movie and as a parent, a hard movie to watch.  Yet, the performances are beautifully executed and capture the melancholy and carelessness followed by the loss of a loved one. The supporting cast, including Elizabeth Moss, Giovanni Ribisi, and John Leguizamo, offer deep, rich colors of despair. Reed Morano, who is known in the industry as a cinematographer for such notable movies as Frozen River and The Magic of Belle Isle, takes the viewers on an unbelievable and unforgettable journey as she guides these tormented characters.

Meadowland is beautifully shot and an expertly crafted movie, yet it is sad. Your mindset needs to be ready for a downer because the subject matter will turn your stomach inside out with emotion and fear of losing your own children.

Mississippi Grind

missippgrindDirected and written by both Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Mississippi Grind follows two gamblers trying to hit is big. The movie opens with Gerry, played by Ben Mendelsohn, as he walks into a locally owned casino in Dubuque, Iowa. He is a regular because everyone knows him. Yet, a new face is at his standard poker table. He is a younger gambler named Curtis, played by Ryan Reynolds. Gerry is thoroughly down on his luck and professes he is in real estate. Curtis reeks of charisma and self-confidence. Both gamblers hit it off and at the spur of the moment decide to enter the “big game” in New Orleans.  The $25 thousand buy-in is worth the drive from Iowa. The movie plays out nicely as a road movie and character-driven independent film.

The movie deals with gambling as a subject of concern, and arrives at the point of addiction to gambling. Each gambler relies on superstition to pull off a win. Gerry is a likeable guy, who has a long list of failures. On the road trip he visits his ex-wife. The gut-wrenching sadness Mendelsohn portrays when he realizes she is remarried, and she didn’t even tell him is worth the watch. Curtis is a polarity of Gerry. He literally stinks of confidence. Gerry tells Curtis he is his lucky charm, and seeing them play off each other are good moments in the movie. The soundtrack by Scott Bomar is outstanding and features many of old blues artists and songs.

The movie is not your typical uplifting story, but it is not all that sad either. Clearly, the end is farfetched and the characters’ principles are non-existent. The movie should have ended a bit sooner, but continued with a happy ending, which isn’t bad. In real life, gambling is an unsuccessful venture. As a whole, people who gamble loose more than just money. They lose their dignity. Yet, I do like a Hollywood ending.

The Quiet Ones

thequietI am not a horror fan, but love movies like The Sixth Sense or The OthersThe Quiet Ones comes close to these two movies but is still a horror movie.  The movie is based on a true story and is entertaining.

Directed by Director John Pogue (The Skulls, Quarantine II) the movie lacked a strong storyline and character development.  Don’t get me wrong, the movie is worth seeing if you are into horror, but it’s not out of this world.

Based, sloppily, on a real experiment that took happen at Oxford in 1974, this film brings to light the deep notion of what the supernatural experience might manifestation in the minds of believers who have a few screws loose.

We follow Professor Coupland (Jared Harris), graduate students Krissy (Erin Richards) and Harry (Rory Fleck-Byrne and videographer Brian (Sam Claflin of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Mockingjay).  The group investigates the psychic phenomena produced by the suicidal young Jane (Olivia Cooke) with the justification of treating her. Like all psychiatric treatment, it’s barbaric and inhumane.

Coupland’s techniques are questions as Jane’s health is increasingly becoming at risk, and Coupland turns frenzied in his mania to treat her.  The drama of the story becomes intense when clearly Coupland and Brian share a bloodthirsty importance that skirts a sexual obsession in saving her.  Their actions cause conflicting measures.  Jared Harris’ acting is inspiring and committed while on the other hand Sam Claflin comprises the whole story with emotional weakness. Olivia Cooke directed her crazed, disturbed, unstable and sensitive angst well.

Like I said the movie is good and entertaining moments with gripping, shocking, scary and long scenes wound up in a ball about to spring out with a creep factor of 150 plus.  The movie turned into having to explain why all this horror stuff was happening, rather dull point, and there is a twist.

Where Hope Grows

wherehopegrowsWritten and directed by Chris Dowling, Where Hope Grows stars Kristoffer Polaha as Calvin Campbell, a former professional baseball player. He would rather spend his time drinking with his buddies than spend time with his troubled seventeen year old daughter named Katie. She is going out with an older guy, who is all hands and aching for a touch. Katie knows her father doesn’t approve of him, yet she runs to her boyfriend’s arms when her dad pays no heed to her wanting his attention.

Calvin goes to the local grocery store to pick up some food and alcohol. He meets an employee with Down syndrome named Produce, who just happens to work in the produce department. He a reliable employee, who knows all the produce SKU numbers by heart. Calvin is impressed with Produce because he works hard and recognition from management eludes him, but that doesn’t stop him from working just as hard. He makes lot of friends with the customers because he is so helpful. Even Calvin wants to be his friend for some obscure reason he thinks Produce can help him get his life back on track.

It is easy to see where the story goes from here as a Faith-based movie. There is a lesson learned through redemption and paying attention to the ones you love. The movie is predictable with fine acting. The movie’s message “not under-estimating people” or “not giving up on people” is clear and needs to be shared.

Bonus extras on the Blu-ray include deleted scenes, digital HD copy, audio commentary with Chris Dowling, and a feature about the casting of David DeSanctis, who does a fine job playing Produce.