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Her – Review by MC

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ - low res image for review and educational purposes

Fair Use/Dealing rationale for image from Her http://www.herthemovie.com/ – low res image for review and educational purposes

I watched Spike Jonze’s film, Her, the other night. A few more points came to mind that weren’t covered here, mostly about different types of love (eros, agape, and so on). But this was my first shot at audio reviewing, so I was lucky to get as much in as I did. No notes or excessive thinking beforehand. Just first impressions…

I should add that I was somewhat inspired by the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham, who takes fashion photos on the streets of New York and talks about them every week at The Times’ website. If the documentary about Cunningham is accurate, it seems that he takes a quick look at his pics on a storyboard before taping his weekly commentary. I like that spontaneity, and tried to emulate it here.

Maybe with practice I’ll be half as good at this as he is!


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Rose – Review

Rose_300

Courtesy kemalyildirim.com

Title: Rose
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless (with Jack James)
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

Back in 2008, UK director Kemal Yildirim released an impressive sleeper film called Rosereview). The film was based on a true story about a young woman tragically hooked on drugs. In 2012 Yildirim retold the story with a revised cast and storyline. The reimagined Rose review) was a giant leap forward from the original film’s promising beginnings.

Today, we have a third Rose. To be honest, having reviewed the story twice, when asked to review the third incarnation I wondered if the director could really make it any better. Hadn’t Yildirim already made a bold statement with his 2012 remake? The critics seemed to think so.

Well, a couple of years have passed and Yildirim clearly hasn’t stood still. His artistic sense is sharper than in earlier versions of this film. This new Rose is about 30 minutes shorter than its predecessor. But the edits are so seamless that it’s hard to tell exactly what was altered. Nothing seems missing and everything comes off fluid and coherent.

Indeed, this version of Rose is cinematic proof that less can be more.

Although the basic storyline remains unchanged, there is a subliminal shift in emphasis—slightly less sex and violence and a more nuanced treatment of the relationship between Rose and her daughter Ellie. At least, this is how I saw it. For those, like me, who’ve already watched the second Rose, this new take presents an opportunity to reflect on how we’ve grown as viewers. Is our new understanding of the story based on changes within the film or on changes within ourselves?

Rose and Ellie

Rose and Ellie

Not to say that Rose is an ink blot. It definitely has a focused message, that of redemption against all odds. And a lot happens. But the film maintains a kind of soulful detachment that keeps it from falling into the genre of “action flick.” Several techniques are used to achieve this effect. Glide shots, ceiling shots, and steady sequences reminiscent of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, where dialogue is implied rather than heard.

No, Rose isn’t an action film. It’s arguably a meditation. And if viewed that way, we gain insight not only into another side of life, but maybe even into ourselves.

Strong leading performances and an enticing supportive cast ensure that this haunting film hits home. So if by chance you’ve seen earlier incarnations of Rose and think you’ve seen it all, think again. This rendering gets under our skin like no Rose before.

—MC


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Indo-Americans object to derogatory remarks in Jason Bateman movie

English: Jason Bateman at the 2007 Toronto Int...

Jason Bateman at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Special to Earthpages.org

Indo-Americans are upset over stereotyping their community in upcoming Jason Bateman comedy “Bad Words”.

Referring to Red Band trailer of the movie, Indo-American Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, said that addressing an Indo-American kid as “Hey Slumdog” and using the words “curry hole” for him smelled of xenophobia and racism.

Zed, who is Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation, stressed that Indo-Americans were for free speech as much anybody else if not more. But unnecessarily belittling a community with stereotyped remarks, even in a comedy, hurt the community. Filmmakers should be more responsible while handling race and faith related subjects, as cinema was a very powerful medium.

Moreover, talking to a young child that way was really inappropriate and disappointing, Rajan Zed argued.

Zed has urged the filmmaker to remove the words derogatory to Indo-American community in the movie and trailer and offer a formal apology.

Directed and starred by Golden Globe winner Jason Bateman (Arrested Development)  and rated R (Restricted), “Bad Words” is scheduled for release in USA in March next.

As indicated at the beginning of the trailer, don’t watch this if you don’t want to hear crude and vulgar language… (ed.)


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Mistified – Upcoming indie film about the Maori, self and spirit

mistified_edited-1

Courtesy mistifiedthemovie.com

We now have Part 2 of an interview about the upcoming indie film called Mistified, a story about the Maori living in New Zealand (Here’s Part 1, if you missed it).

Kathy Wilson, producer of the film, has spent much time among the tribes and has dived full-heartedly into making this project a success, not just for them, but for what they stand for; their relations to the earth and spirituality.

Why do you see Mistified as a movie and not a book?

Why a film: because there is no other media that provides the opportunity to immerse a group people into an experience. Words, sounds, and visuals can create an inspiring and sometimes transformational experience that an individual may carry with them for the rest of their life. Films are the quintessence of “sound” and “light,” the transformative frequencies we humans resonate with.

I believe Mistified will trigger ancient memories that will encourage viewers to embark on their own epic, magical journeys. Hopefully, the heroine and her journey will trigger you down the “yellow brick road” of your own creation.  What the movie has done for me, I believe it will do for others.

How have you changed spiritually after your time in New Zealand?

It is hard for me to evaluate my spiritual progress into words. I can still get overwhelmed with all the things I think I need to be accomplished each day, however, I do have more of an awareness that things seem to happen in their own divine order when I stop trying to control everything.

Did you experience a phenomenon while spending time with the Maori? If so, was it life changing?

Yes. On my first trip when I journeyed with my friend, Barry. I went to explore some rock formations by his home. There are three distinct groupings of very large boulders. When you enter there is a rock that resembles the Mother Mary. The legion is that each area represents a different lineage of tribe: the water, stone and air peoples. When we hiked into the area I had no idea where we were. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was enjoying the majesty of these huge boulders. I wondered off onto a ledge overlooking a valley. I sat on the edge totally engulfed in the beauty, the warmth of the sun and soft, gentle breeze were glorious. I’m not sure how long I stayed, as time seemed to stand still, but when I got up and turned to go back, all these beautiful giant boulders around me now looked very different. They appeared to be in the shapes of sea animals. Everyone I looked at resembled a different sea creature and the biggest shock was when I turned and looked at where I had been sitting. It was a huge whale and I had been sitting on the tail. I was then told I had been in the section of boulders that represented the water people. I don’t know what others see when they go there, but that was my experience and for me, a very awe-inspiring moment in my life.

How do you expect to be changed after working on this production?

I can’t say for now, however, I know it will be a grand adventure with possibilities beyond my wildest dreams.

Lastly, how can we follow the project?

There are five ways we would love you to connect with us:

  1. Join our mailing list at www.mistifiedthemovie.com
  2. Like our Facebook Page www.facebook.com/mistifiedthemovie
  3. Chat to us on Twitter (don’t have as yet)
  4. Donate at http://www.indigogo  (link coming soon)
  5. Read our blog at www.mistifiedthemovie.com/blog

Haere mai, welcome…..come on in and join us.


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Mistified – Upcoming indie film about the Maori, self discovery and the beyond

mistified_edited-1

Courtesy: mistifiedthemovie.com

Earthpages.org is happy to post Part 1 of a recent interview about the upcoming indie film called Mistified, a story about the Maori living in New Zealand.

Kathy Wilson, producer of the film, has spent much time among the tribes and has dived full-heartedly into making this project a success, not just for them, but for what they stand for; their relations to the earth and spirituality.

Are you excited about getting this campaign off the ground?

I am very excited about getting our Indiegogo campaign off the ground. It is our opportunity to start creating our community, to let people know about our project, and to create the initial funding needed to move the project forward.

Is this film only for the spiritually educated?

Not at all; it is a universal story. I believe we are all spiritually educated, yet some of us might not have learned how to listen to the part of us, the inner guidance, that speaks to us, whether we listen or not.

You seem to be dedicated to this project. How is this different from your past endeavors?

I am a very persistent person when it comes to seeing something through. In my corporate and business life, I have accomplished things I would have never deemed possible.  Although I have questioned my sanity on many occasions in regards to this undertaking, there is something within me that just won’t let it go. At times it seems if I were to listen to the experts and statistics, common sense would say “turn and run.” Yet, for whatever reason, logic is not what is driving this project. I’m not quite sure what it is, but I do know one thing: I will see it through to the end.

What can we learn from watching the film?

How life takes us on unexpected journeys that we could never have predicted. Whether you believe there is a guiding force in your life or not, each road you take can have a purpose for preparing you for the next fork in the road. That sometimes embracing the unknown and having a willingness to go down the rabbit hole just might result an experience beyond your wildest dreams. Life sometimes takes great leaps of faith. Those that learn how to take those leaps, start to find their way through the maze. The trick is not to get stuck in always having to know. Sometimes the power is in not knowing and being open to all possibilities.

How can we be a part of the Mistified community?

We would love for you to go to our website at www.mistifiedthemovie.com and join our community. Our blog will keep you updated on our progress. Please also check out our Indiegogo campaign which is running from Nov. 13th until the middle of Jan. 2014.  We have some amazing “Perks” and all donations are tax deductible.

» Go to Part 2 of the interview.


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Review – Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

The Genetic opera - original photo by Victor de la Fuente

Repo: The Genetic opera – original photo by Victor de la Fuente

It’s the new year and we’re going through some old stuff, weeding out articles that didn’t really go anywhere or which are no longer relevant. This review, however, still seems pretty fresh. First published on 11/27/2008, we thought we’d re-post it with a few stylistic updates.

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Darren Smith (screenplay), Terrance Zdunich (screenplay)
Stars: Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head and Alexa Vega
Full Cast and Crew at IMDb.com

Repo! The Genetic Opera draws on films like Blade Runner, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Phantom of the Paradise but carves out – no pun intended – its own unique, freakish landscape.

Basically we have a creepy, ethically infected future where a corporate giant, GenCo, does organ transplants for a price. Customers unable to pay the full markup go on an installment plan. And if they miss a payment, enter the Repo Man–a legal assassin who repossesses unpaid organs.The Repo Man isn’t a nice guy. He doesn’t even use anesthetic. He rips out guts in public or private.

But the film isn’t quite that simple. As dark, bloody and grotesque as it is, Repo! touches on several intelligent themes that demand attention in the 21st century.

The top Repo Man, expertly played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Stewart Head, is sort of a Jekyll and Hyde character. To his sheltered 17 year old daughter, Shilo, he’s a kind dad and family doctor. But donning his Repo headgear, he secretly transforms into a Nazi-like maniac.

To make matters worse, Shilo gets suspicious. She begins to see more to life than what dad tells her. But as a seemingly respectable doctor, the Repo Dad medicates her well and tells her she’s just “imagining things.”

The plot then gets increasingly complicated and cartoon panels flesh out the main characters to help keep things clear.

Repo Promoting in downtown Berkeley by shellEProductions

Repo Promoting in downtown Berkeley by shellEProductions

Building steadily to the grand finale of the Genetic Opera, here operagoers watch on-stage gore as Shilo chooses between killing her dad – she now knows everything – or the madman behind GeneCo, Rotti Largo, who first sent the Repo Man down the path of destruction.

Meanwhile, the film audience watches the watchers and the operatic gore (some of the Toronto audience got up and danced), which gives this movie a kind of triangular feel, a point that I imagine postmodern intellectuals could belabor for hours.

Musically, the film is fabulous. The score swings from Pavarotti-like arias to strains reminiscent of Jesus Christ Superstar, driven by throbbing Alice In Chains style guitars. Better yet, the lyrics are well enunciated, so one doesn’t have to try to guess what’s happening.

Chances are you’ll either despise or enjoy this film. Whatever the case may be, Repo! is an important social commentary just as Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange was once deemed edgy and monstrous but also respected by mature moviegoers.

In short, Repo! is a cult classic with something to say.

–MC

Cast:

Condensed from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Repo!_The_Genetic_Opera


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Review – Rose (DVD)

RoseRose (2012)
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

The feature film Rose is a giant step forward for the British filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim, whose 2008 short film Rose was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The short version was a difficult but redemptive tale based on a true story. A promising film, it was well received by several charities and proactive groups. But the latest incarnation of Rose takes the story to a whole new level.

This suspenseful, sophisticated drama stars Helen Clifford as Rose who, to quote from the film, is “a worn out hooker with a habit.” An otherwise girl next door type who also starred in the previous adaptation, Clifford manages to look godawful through most of the footage (with a little help from talented makeup artists). And totally in sync with Rose‘s stepped up production values, her performance is far more powerful and nuanced than it was in 2008.

Rose falls into deep trouble when her callous pimp, Blondie, (Mike Mitchell) gets word that she’s been taking customers on the side—“freelancing.” Blondie is handsome, wears fine suits, and imports sex slaves from southeast Europe.

Mike Mitchell, who appeared in Gladiator and Braveheart, plays this creepy kingpin to a tee. As the resident crime lord and club owner in Hellville (a metaphorical underworld with a bit of a comic strip feel), Blondie is one bad dude. If anyone crosses him, chances are they’ll get a knife at their throat (or worse) within 48 hours. It’s that bad. And Rose is trapped.

Like many of the main characters in other Yildirim films, the traumatized Rose longs for release. And her angelic young daughter, Ellie, (marvelously played by Chelsea Alcock) reminds us that tenderness, beauty and hope are always possible, even amid the worst kinds of tawdriness, violence and neglect. Rose’s love relationship with Tony (Patrick Regis) also calls to mind the importance of caring. One of my favorite scenes is when the troubled Rose, Tony and Ellie are at the beach, and Ellie is entranced by the sight of a well-to-do couple and their contented child.

Tony, himself, is a favored goon and washed up boxer who fights in backrooms for the amusement of Blondie and his jaded inner circle (these scenes reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes). But Tony is an enforcer with a conscience, and doesn’t like what he sees—especially when Blondie decides to teach Rose a hard lesson for moonlighting.

Regis’ compelling performance as the tough but puppy-eyed Tony is another nice surprise in Rose. After seeing how Blondie hurts Rose and, later, getting thrashed in another backroom brawl, Tony’s not going to kiss up to Blondie any longer. And so the film heads into its gripping climax.

No review of Rose would be complete without tipping one’s hat to actors Eileen Daly (Yondra, a retired prostitute), Lucy White (Magdelena, a statuesque heavy) and Rami Hilmi (Baldo, a mindless stooge), along with several relative unknowns who add texture and intrigue to Rose’s life story.

The impressive cast is augmented by Rose‘s innovative cinematography and minimalist soundtrack. Altogether, Yildirim creates the haunting ambiance that audiences have come to expect from his movies. But this one is different. The director’s considerable talents and influences have fused into a laser-sharp focus. And it shows.

—MC


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Super 8… Stupor 8?

Super 8mm film cartridge film. Kodak Eastman E...

Super 8mm film cartridge film. Kodak Eastman via Wikipedia

Yes, I saw it. And although I’m glad I did, Super 8 turned out to be a bit boring and disappointing.

The young actors were good, sometimes great (except for one who really didn’t cut it). And come to think of it, most of the adult lead actors were above average too. But oh, what cinematic cliches and obvious lead-ins to the many impending disasters.

(I’m keeping it general to avoid a spoiler).

I loved the TV show Alias. And the new Star Trek film wasn’t that bad either. But super-producer J. J. Abrams, IMHO, didn’t really come up with anything too memorable here.

The 70s scenes were unbelievable. Not good unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Sure they got the cars, clothes and hairstyles right. And that old electronic football game — I had one — looked and sounded just like the real thing. But the lingo was almost all 2011. (Also, Willow Tree figures were in the film, which weren’t around back then).

If you think I’m just being picky, well maybe I am. Or maybe this film is for the younger gen. To its credit, Super 8‘s special effects were impressive. And its treatment of young love was, well, adequate. But I found a complete lack of credibility in the plot line. I wasn’t expecting a comic book story. Had I known beforehand that all reasonable attempts to make this a convincing movie would be lacking, I might have enjoyed it more.

2½ stars outta 5.

—MC


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Review – The Turning (DVD)

jasonimpey.co.uk

Title: The Turning
Genre: Action Thriller, Horror, Urban Legend
Language: English
Director: Jason Impey

A monstrous murder and murderous monsters. That pretty well sums up The Turning, a new zombie thriller by British Indy filmmaker Jason Impey.

It took me a few weeks to get my head into watching this film. I’m not a huge fan of zombie flicks. I don’t even know if I’ve seen the Night of the Living Dead from start to finish.

But the deeper I got into this one, the more I enjoyed it. The acting is surprisingly strong. And the cinematography is quite creative.

Also noteworthy is the extensive use of black-and-white flashbacks. The reasons behind some stark and ugly situations are gradually explained as the story jumps, several times, between past and present. And the switch from color (for the present) to B/W (for flashbacks) makes the film a cinch to follow. This is good for folks (like me) who tend to pick up on a film’s atmosphere and environment, sometimes at the expense of remembering every storyline detail.

There are some graphic images of violence in this film (although the sex scenes are surprisingly tame). And its repeated use of the “F”-word didn’t do much for me. This kind of fare certainly is not for everyone. But, gruesome zombies aside, The Turning doesn’t conjure up anything that doesn’t already exist. So we could say that it merely points to some aspects of society that, for better or worse, are out there.

As for the stiff and twisted zombies, some are a bit more convincing than others but, on the whole, these scenes come off pretty well.

How can you tell a real zombie from a fake one? you might ask. Well, if zombies belong in the realms of urban legend, folklore and myth, some depictions just hit the nail on the head better than others.

Scholars of folklore and myth have written countless pages about the close connection between love and death. Joseph Campbell devotes an entire chapter of his The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology to what he calls “The Ritual Love-Death.”

Campbell talks about the same kind of mythic themes that crop up in The Turning–themes like love, infidelity, jealousy, violence, death and resurrection. The only difference is that this raw shocker flick brings to life what many ‘respectable’ researchers also delight in, but only under several layers of institutional varnish and, sometimes, shoddy obscurantism.

Now, being an open-minded person has its pros and cons. One pro is that you keep growing by not shutting out those things that could be upsetting. A con is that, well, sometimes you just get totally grossed out.

Toward the end of the movie, I instinctively threw up some psychological shields to guard against some icky props and abject imagery that I’ll never like. But, to be fair, the film treats these vile images responsibly. It’s just the images, themselves, that make me squirm.

An unexpected ending involves eugenics and reminds me of that warped, sadistic scientist played by William B. Davis in The Outer Limits episode “Worlds Within.” Only this time, the wacko is a woman.

Some may find this film unpleasantly dark and creepy. Others might take it as a bizarre freak show or, depending on your outlook, a tongue-in-cheek lark. Whatever you make of it, The Turning calls to mind Shane Carruth‘s sci-fi sleeper, Primer. Both films are proof positive that you don’t need a bloated production budget to push boundaries and, in so doing, make a statement.

–MC


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Review – Secrets: The Director’s Cut (DVD)

Image courtesty Knight Productions

Title: Secrets: The Director’s Cut
Genre: Drama
Language: English
Production Company: Knight Productions

Last November I reviewed Kemal Yildirim’s film, Secrets (review is here). Now, with The Director’s Cut I’ve been scratching my head over what to say. The two movies are strangely similar but somehow miles apart.

The closest analogy I can come up with is a stereo signal. Have you ever listened to a favorite song through just one stereo channel, with the other one muted? That might sound okay to most listeners. But to anyone loving that song, something’s not quite right (Try it with Sgt. Peppers and you’ll see what I mean).

Also, I’m not the same guy who wrote about Secrets last November. My perspective on life has evolved during the past three months, so my resonance with the film has likewise shifted.

This review, then, is something of a completion, sort of like the yin-yang symbol. I’ve seen both sides and, today, am coming from a different angle. You can look over my first review (here) before going any further. Otherwise, what follows probably won’t make much sense.

So… The Director’s Cut.

Well, to begin, some longer scenes are clipped for faster pacing, others are deleted. On the whole, these edits are a good move. The original film was provocative, partly because it challenged some of my cultural expectations about filmmaking. I was able to shift gears and appreciate Secrets for what it is (just as I did, for instance, with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey). But, again, The Director’s Cut moves faster. And since I’m to some extent a socially conditioned creature, this works better for me.

In addition, some new scenes – and snippets of scenes – are interspersed throughout The Director’s Cut, making this revamped Secrets feel a bit more fleshed out and humane than its predecessor.

Moving toward the close, a prominent part of the first film (where characters privately confess into a video cam) is completely axed. Quite a gutsy move, and an effective one.

My November review also says I couldn’t really identify with the characters. But for some reason, I was right “in there” this time around. Did I feel for the characters more because of the extensive editing, or was it more about me and my updated outlook?

I can’t be totally sure. And that’s okay. Because both versions of Secrets are all about ambiguity. The film’s twisting storyline leaves just as many questions as answers. And its character development takes place within a tight-knit circle of increasingly confused relationships, where friends become lovers and lovers friends.

The Directors Cut‘s portrays a curious mix of merrymaking, musing and mayhem. But among this, the timeless capacity for joy and sorrow stands out crystal clear. And this might be the keystone that connects this vibrant indie film to a larger audience.

–MC

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