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Frame of Mind: Independent Film

by Kathryn Schroeder

'Index Zero'Italian Director/Screenwriter Lorenzo Sportiello has a very unique vision of the future, as seen in his debut feature film Index Zero. It is the year 2035, and gone are the European Countries we know so well; in their place is the United States of Europe. How this came to be we shall never know. It is accepted, as is the fact that the powers that be are not open and inviting to others. Nor is freedom an option any longer, or the ability to live your life as you wish. The new world order is bleak.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Richard Gere In 'Franny'If you have ever wanted to see Richard Gere (Pretty Woman, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) at his eccentric best, watch Franny. Gere stars as the title character Franny, a wealthy philanthropist who has always been a tad outlandish. His behavior becomes altogether erratic after he loses his best friends in a car crash and he is left ultimately alone. Five years later and a call from their daughter Olivia (Dakota Fanning from The Runaways), who Franny always referred to as Poodles, and he is suddenly drawn out of his reclusive state and hell-bent on helping her and her new husband build a life. The catch is of course that Franny has deep psychological wounds following the accident that claimed Olivia’s parents life but spared his and he does not exactly know how to acclimate himself into the young couple’s life.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Tim Roth as Hank Harris in '600 Millas'Simplicity. There a few films made today that act upon the word. They instead feel the need to fill space with the unnecessary, oftentimes to mask the problems that lie within the story being told. Mexican Director Gabriel Ripstein’s 600 Millas (600 Miles) takes the simplistic route to produce a film worthy of the art form. 600 Miles makes simplicity look like the best choice for a filmmaker, and viewers are sure to agree.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Wetlands PosterMeet Wetlands' Helen (Carla Juri). She is in her post-teen years, still lives at home, is quite pretty with her tomboy haircut that is juxtaposed with her liking for very short shirts. She is a tiny bit insecure, and extremely precocious; exhibiting a child-like sense in her very much young adult body. Helen is also extremely vulgar in everything that she does. Obsessed with sex, sexuality, and pushing the boundaries of appropriateness there is no end to what Helen will do. Or what those around her will be compelled to do by her influence. Helen is, in a word, amazing. Solely for the fact that she exhibits everything that is wrong for a girl of her age, and you instantly fall in love with her because of this fact.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Caterpillar, Koji WakamatsuOne of the most satisfying things about film festivals can be the sidebar of retrospectives or, in the case of the LA Film Festival, the intermittent "Films That Got Away". There was only one such this year, but it was a good one – Wakamatsu Kōji's follow-up to United Red Army (2007), and his penultimate completed feature before his accidental passing in 2012. Caterpillar played at Berlin and various other festivals – to generally favourable notices – and this did indeed disappear (from these shores at least) almost without trace, so it was a treat to have a chance to see it on the big screen.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Jimi: All Is By My SideJimi: All Is By My Side is a film with multiple problems serious enough that the couple of very good things it has going for it stand little chance of compensating. As written and directed by 12 Years A Slave scribe John Ridley, the narrative sets off down familiar musical biopic lane: musician discovered; gains success; deals with distractions and behaves badly; and that's it.. Perhaps because the production was denied the use of Hendrix's music by his estate (holding out for full control of the production), the story ends in mid-1967, with Jimi and his Experience trooping off to Monterey and international fame.

by Tom von Logue Newth

LA Film Festival: 'Frank' (d. Lenny Abrahamson)A provincial young man dreams of writing songs. He is not very good at it. A chance encounter with a touring American band with an unpronounceable name leads to his stepping in for their sectioned keyboard player, travelling to Ireland to spend a year of musical experiments and recording and, through slightly underhand methods, getting the band booked at a big-time US festival. But at what cost? Is he a weasely manipulator, or just blindly self-serving? Is art compatible with commerce? Is genius born from mental distress? Is it in fact essentially unfathomable? And why does the band's leader/singer/guru Frank never take off that large cartoon head?

by Tom von Logue Newth

LA Film Festival: 'The Great Museum' ('Das groβe Museum') (d. Johannes Holzhausen)Behind the scenes of the great Künsthistorisches Museum of Vienna, as a close pan up Breughal's Tower of Babel at the end of Das groβe Museum suggests, there are a lot of people doing a lot of work. This is in fact the only moment akin to commentary in this hands-off documentary – without talking heads, voiceover, or music – unless one counts also the gentle puncturing of the traditional sanctity of such grand repositories of fine art scattered through the opening sections: an employee gliding through the narrow passageways of the office/library on a scooter to pick up a photocopy; a workman violating the parquet floor and echoing silence of an empty gallery with a pickaxe; the dusting of the groin of some giant marble Greek dude (it's Theseus).

by Tom von Logue Newth

Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston in 'Only Lovers Left Alive'It seems to be of little concern to Jim Jarmusch, the common journalistic shorthand that labels him as some "high priest of hip." He seems actively to be courting the title in fact, with Only Lovers Left Alive, the most languorously cool movie of his career (amidst stiff competition). It is a love story, intrinsic to which is the fact that Adam and Eve (Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton) are vampires (their third wedding was 1868) whose relationship has strengthened and deepened to a near-mystical level over the years; as has their knowledge and appreciation of science, nature, and cultural figures and artifacts, allowing for the fetishisation of all kinds of musical instruments and equipment, books and literary figures: an impossible level of hipness attainable only via several times a normal human lifespan. And of course they dress to kill, and wear sunglasses at night.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Fruitvale StationReconstructing the last day in a man's life was the difficult task put to director Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station.  The events leading up to Oscar Grant's untimely death on New Year's Day 2009 is the basis for the story, the sensationalized media frenzy that came afterwards is left out of Fruitvale Station, giving the viewer an opportunity to know Oscar as the man he once was, and was trying to be for his family.  His death caused a media uproar, shook the San Francisco Bay Area, and continues to influence the politics of how police officers act, and react, in situations.  Oscar was unjustly killed by a Bart Officer coming home on New Year's Eve; a death that could have been avoided, as was seen by millions thanks to cell phone videos taken at the scene. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Europa ReportFound footage has a secure home in horror movies, and with Europa Report the science fiction genre gets its best found footage film to date.  From director Sebastián Cordero, his first English-language film Europa Report tells the story of a privately funded space mission to one of Jupiter's Moons.  The hope of the crew, and the company behind them, is to find signs of life--albeit at the molecular level in the ice or water; or nothing at all.  Europa Report takes place far in the future, where technology makes it possible to send astronauts into space for years at a time without the use of the sleeping pods the genre is so fond of, a la Alien

by Kathryn Schroeder

The ConjuringThere are scary movies, and then there are SCARY movies.  The Conjuring fits into the latter category as it will undoubtedly frighten you to the point of laughter, make you squirm in your seat, cover your eyes, and wish you had left the lights on in the house because you will be afraid of the dark when you get home.  The Conjuring is the horror movie we dream of, because its a hark back to an older style of horror filmmaking, before torture, excessive blood and guts, and the like took over cinema screens, and found-footage too. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

ConcussionThe unhappy, bored housewife dilemma is no longer confined to narrative storytelling about heterosexual couples thanks to Concussion, a movie that gets a great deal of things right with representation, but falters when it comes to the scandalous underbelly of its story. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

DeliveryThe blessed event of pregnancy, made unforgettably horrifying in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby, has found yet another outlet to promote birth control with first-time Director Brian Netto's Delivery.  Written by Netto and Adam Schindler, Delivery uses the found-footage motif to tell the story of Kyle and Rachel Massy's road to parenthood, as the stars of a new reality show, "Delivery." 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Soko as Augustine in AUGUSTINE. Courtesy of Music Box FilmsAugustine is one of the harder sorts of films to write about, being handsomely mounted, with appealing leads and an interesting story, a minimum of pandering or condescension towards the audience, and fully aware of the ramifications of its subject matter. The problem is, it’s just not very interesting.

by Kathryn Schroeder

RushlightsRushlights is a twisted tale of lies and deceit, with a host of characters that get more shady by the minute.  This is, of course, the extreme fun in watching Rushlights' story play out on screen.  The twists keep coming, the momentum never slows down, and the near-pulpiness of the movie only helps matters.

by Kathryn Schroeder

In Lieu Of Flowers. Courtesy of Patina Pictures. 2013Director William Savage creates a touching story of love, loss, and mourning with his first feature-length film In Lieu Of Flowers.  Premiering at the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival, audiences are sure to applaud the heartfelt sentiment found in the film.  As well as the never faltering feeling of hope for life after heartbreak that permeates the narrative.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Errors Of The Human Body posterThe subject of genetic mutations is enough to evoke fear in anyone.  The lack of control humans have over their genetic material, and what horrors may exist in its intricately woven thread, is a subject science fiction and horror cinema happily investigates.  In his feature-length film debut, director/co-writer Eron Sheean ventures into the territory of genetic research, that of bio-engineering, to deliver a fascinating and horrifying tale in Errors Of The Human Body.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Jim Sturgess as “Adam” and Kirsten Dunst as “Eden” in UPSIDE DOWN. Photo Courtesy of Millennium Entertainment.There is a great deal that can be inferred by writer-director Juan Solaris' Upside Down, depending on the context in which you view the film.  At the simplest level it is a love story about two people from different stations in life who desperately want to be together even though it is forbidden--a tale as old as time.  Another possibility is to see Upside Down as commentary on social politics, the have's and the have-nots constantly at odds with one another and the sole individual willing to risk it all to bring about equality.  There is one more route you can take, that of a historical recalling and a fantastical glimpse into post-war worlds--as the two worlds created in the movie resemble greatly historical photos of post-WWII Germany or Poland versus the untarnished industrialized and thriving West.  With so many possibilities Upside Down can easily please a variety of viewers, what it cannot do is uplift the viewer as it fails to delve deeply enough into any one theme, one idea, or one clear vision to warrant greatness, just mild amusement and a deep want for greater meaning that never comes.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BlancanievesAfter ten years of working on Blancanieves, writer-director Pablo Berger must have had mixed feelings about the appearance of The Artist last year. That film’s runaway success was undeniably a useful ice-breaker, however, for they are similar beasts, modern silent films made (largely) according to the conventions and constraints of the 1920s. Berger even gives Uggie a run for his money, with a perky rooster named Pepe.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAnother year has gone by at FilmFracture and it has been full of great movies, mediocre trips to the cinema, and some downright awful wastes of time.  With that said, here are the best and worst movies of 2012, based solely on their Production ratings (how they faired in other categories may have been better, or the same, click out on the titles to see for yourself).  I must warn you, our choices for the best movies may come as quite a shock--who would have thought a Troma picture would make a best of list? 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Deadfall PosterEric Bana once played the Hulk, in the forgettable 2003 film Hulk, directed by Life Of Pi's Ang Lee.   Charlie Hunnam currently stars as Jax Teller on the hugely popular television show "Sons of Anarchy," and Olivia Wilde is on her way to becoming box office poison with the lack of success her last starring role films have had, namely Tron: Legacy, The Words, and The Change-Up.  Kate Mara (10 Years), well, she is someone you always wished had a better agent, but she never seems to get one.  Throw in Sissy Spacek, Treat Williams, and Kris Kristofferson for good measure, or because you can given their schedules are quite free these days, and you have the surprisingly talented cast of Deadfall.

by Kathryn Schroeder

TOM HOLLAND stars in THE IMPOSSIBLE  Photo: Jose Haro  © 2012 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.Natural disasters are easy prey for filmmakers wherein the melodrama is grown organically out of the true story the film portrays.  This is usually their downfall, as the events and performances are so over-the-top and seeping with mushiness that they get thrown onto a Cable Network and forgotten--all for the best.  Then there is one that goes against the odds stacked up against it, a melodrama based on true events that takes place during a harrowing experience that is the entire film-worthy package, meant to be seen on a big screen.  The Impossible, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona of The Orphanage (2007), is that movie.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Post Tenebras LuxCarlos Reygadas burst on the scene as an unapologetically pretentious arthouse director with Japón [2002], and gained instant renown/notoriety in the circles that care. This was cemented with Battle In Heaven [2005], but the calmed down Silent Light [2007] won over many of the off-put. For Post Tenebras Lux, however, he returns to his first inclinations with a vengeance.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BarbaraBarbara’s elliptical beginning delivers the eponymous heroine, a doctor, to a provincial hospital in a seaside town. She is just released from some unspecified incarceration, and still under surveillance from the implacable secret police. Only gradually do we realize that this is East Germany in the early 80s, and only gradually do we warm to Barbara’s sour trout face and hard, defiant, watchful eyes.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Laurence AnywaysXavier Dolan stretches out with his third feature, not just in budget and length, but in matching his emotionally high-pitched material with an equally bravura style, and in tackling a subject less frequently seen on screen even than the tortured mother-son relationship of his début éclatant, I Killed My Mother [2009], or the MMF love triangle of Heartbeats [2010]. He remains for the first time behind the camera, ceding the demanding lead role to veteran French actor Melvil Poupard – he started aged 9 with Raúl Ruiz – who gives a subtly restrained and highly appealing performance in Laurence Anyways.

by Tom von Logue Newth

TabuThe rather lovely tone of Miguel Gomes’ Tabu is set from the beginning, in a poetic voiceover prologue about a widowed huntsman in Africa, accompanied by a beautiful, simple piano piece, and dripping in that peculiarly Portuguese saudade.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Caesar Must DieCaesar Must Die is apparently a small, simple film, with one straightforward aim: to remind the viewer that lifers in a maximum security prison in Rome, no matter their crimes, remain emotionally valid and susceptible human beings. Yet to achieve this, the veteran Taviani brothers take on one of the most nebulous issues of them all, the power of art, via that most enduring of artists, in the prison production of Julius Caesar.

by Tom von Logue Newth

PietaThis is really quite a silly film, Piéta, albeit played totally deadpan, from the portentous and only-just-relevant title on down, as a punky young loan enforcer goes around crippling the poor machinist clients who cannot pay their exorbitant interest. The appearance of a silent, nicely-dressed middle-aged lady amidst the fantastic detritus of the industrial tenement setting forces him out of his lonely, cold-blooded routine, and awakens suppressed mother issues that will leave him unable to do his job, and wide open for revenge.

by Tom von Logue Newth

LeviathanLeviathan is a fantastic audio-visual experiment, presented as by the Sensory Ethnography Lab. The emphasis is on the sensory, so to get the other out of the way, it is filmed entirely on and around a commercial fishing vessel and yes, it’s a hard life for these fishermen, with much of their work machinelike in its mindless repetition, and mostly at night (happily the fish-gutting is filmed with some discretion; the removal of ray wings less so).

by Tom von Logue Newth

WrongEven if one’s not seen Quentin Dupieux’s loopy telekinetic tire movie Rubber [2010] it’s quite clear from the start of Wrong – the wrong “A Film By” credit, followed by a nice if obvious gag on the hackneyed alarm clock shot – that this is going to be another surreal oddity.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Berberian Sound StudioThis is unashamedly unconventional, but in a fan rather than snooty way. Using (mostly) just diegetic sound from the post-production of a fictional mid-70s Italian horror movie, Peter Strickland has followed his superb debut, Katalin Varga [2009], with a largely non-narrative nightmare hymn both to the electronic soundtrack experiments of that time, and to the gorgeous analogue gear that made such arcane chantries of the era’s recording studios, with Berberian Sound Studio.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The Angel's ShareThere are pockets of whimsy in the Ken Loach filmography, but following 2009’s Looking for Eric, he seems more fully than ever to be embracing an Ealing-inflected lightheartedness. The Angel's Share starts off in reasonably familiar territory, as a succession of poor, unemployed Scots have their petty crimes recounted in court, and the community service sentences passed down. All crew cuts, tracksuits, and impenetrable Glasgow accents, the stage is set for some grubby grim-up-northness, but Loach’s film turns out to be anything but.

by Kathryn Schroeder

A Highjacking (Kapringen)Director Tobias Lindholm's first feature film R was a gritty prison drama that upheaved the generic genre conventions that came before.  His second feature takes a drastic look at a very topical subject, and one very much ignored in detail in the media--except for the sensationalizing of pirates sailing the open sea.  A Highjacking is the story of a group of crew members aboard a Danish ship headed to Mumbai, sailing in waters that are not common territory for water-bound highjacking.  Never say never is the shocking truth that A Highjacking brings to life, with as much intensity and claustrophobia possible.  

by Tom von Logue Newth

AntiviralIf nothing else, Brandon Cronenberg has been quite unafraid to make a film that could pass for an earlier one of his father’s. Antiviral boasts a fertile premise that ties biological interference to celebrity obsession, is very handsomely mounted, and features a fine, committed performance from Caleb Landry Jones in the lead. But the title rings hollow as an antidote to the modern woes depicted on screen, or as representative of any of the characters’ actions or motivations – like the film itself, catchy, but little more than superficially thought-provoking.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Something In The AirIt should be noted that the original title of Olivier Assayas’ well-received Something In The Air is Après Mai. For a film set in France in 1970, that inevitably means “after [the extensive riots of ] May 1968”. Let it be clear, however, that this is neither a political film, nor a film about politics. The Assayas surrogate takes part in high school revolutionary activity, and the context is being heavily used to sell the film of course, along with the implications of autobiography. But that title also means “after school got out in May”, because it’s basically Assayas’ “What I did in my summer vacation 1970” and it goes something like this:

by Tom von Logue Newth

Like Someone I LoveAbbas Kiarostami has gone to Japan, and why not? Like Someone In Love is less obviously tricksy than his last, and his first outside of Iran, Certified Copy [2010]; and it reveals a little more of what was obvious all along – that Kiarostami’s interests lie in people, identity, and communication (between characters, and with the audience), rather than in cultural specificity. This is no more a film about Japan than the last was a film about Tuscany, or the others – really – are about Iran.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Nairobi Half LifeIf you go to the AFI FEST website, and select Film Guide from the navigation menu, you will find all of the festival's sections laid out before you, with an image from one film highlighting each.  It should come as no surprise that Nairobi Half Life has been selected to represent the 'Breakthrough' section of the guide.  Not to discount the greatness of the other five films in the section but after viewing Nairobi Half Life it is hard to imagine any other film being as remarkable--although I am sure they all have their respective merits, and I will discover those when the festival runs November 1-8, much to my excitement.  For now I will share with you the fascinating and brilliant accomplishment in filmmaking that is Nairobi Half Life.

by Kathryn Schroeder

StarletThe 'Young Americans' section of the AFI FEST program is a place where emerging U.S. filmmakers showcase their recent works to the festival audience in the hopes that they will win the coveted audience award prize.  There are eleven films in the section for the 2012 festival, three of which have made an incredible impression on me during my pre-festival coverage--I have not seen all of the eleven, and I look forward to watching the rest during AFI FEST 2012 (November 1-8).  But for now, a preview of three sure contenders for the audience award, and they are undoubtedly going to please every festival goer who takes the time to see them--and I highly recommend you add them to your schedule--The International Sign For Choking, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and Starlet.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Édith Scob as In Leos Carax’s rather wonderful and fantastic new film Holy Motors, there are several points at which one may wonder what is real. The answer is none of it, and all of it. It begins explicitly as a dream, after all, in a cinema, with Carax the dreamer himself; but it is a dream of life, of possible lives, and a dream of the very process of cinema.

by Kathryn Schroeder

3,2,1...Frankie Go BoomSpending time with Charlie Hunnam and Lizzy Caplan together in an interview setting was anything but structured, cohesive, or lacking in humor.  Promoting their new film 3,2,1...Frankie Go Boom, it was a refreshing interview as the two actors had a great rapport with one another; they were constantly laughing, telling jokes, sparring with sarcasm, and for the most part making it extremely difficult to get a straight answer about anything.  It was one of the best times at an interview I have ever experienced, because it was unpredictable.  Here is a highlight reel of their best commentary.  Warning, it does not make much sense as a whole, and that is kind of the point, but please be aware that everything was said in jest, and should not be construed in any other way when/if possible.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The MasterWhen Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival the immediate reaction from critics in attendance was that of high praise.  The festival jury agreed, bestowing best actor awards to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix and best director to Paul Thomas Anderson; and, as is expected at the Venice Film Festival, a scandal erupted over whether the best picture Golden Lion went to The Master or Kim Ki-duk's Pieta [NY Times Artsbeat].  The admiration for filming on 65mm (to be seen on 70mm in theatres) also gave The Master an immediate boost is likability because in a dying world of film usage in lieu of the cheaper digital format a movie made on 65mm is rare beyond measure.  The usage pays off as The Master is breathtakingly beautiful with its expansive extreme wide shots and uncomfortable close-ups that last far too long and cause one to stir in his seat from the intrusive nature of the shot.  The trance inducing score with its methodical rhythm only further creates an almost ominous feeling surrounding the entire film, creating a place in time that is haunted by the ghosts of the characters.  The technical aspects of The Master are not what will have people talking after seeing it, and the scandal in Venice has since been forgotten, as the praise for The Master continues--but the worthiness of such praise is complicated, as The Master's success or failure resides in a viewer's own perception of the material, and the material presented is difficult to process.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The WordsA writer's words can project their soul onto the page, for the world to embrace, admonish, or when such words reveal a love story beyond measure to provoke a wealth of emotion.  Passing off another's work as your own is the cruelest act a writer can commit; in The Words, Bradley Cooper's character Rory Jansen does just that.  But the truth behind the motivation of Rory to use another man's story in order to become a published writer is not simple.  The complexity of Rory's tale tests morality, as it also reveals the truths behind the fact that having told a story may be more important than who actually wrote the story.  The Words is a complicated dialogue on morals, on truth, and most of all a love story that makes the aforementioned inconsequential.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The AmabassadorPolitically charged documentaries are a dime a dozen.  Documentaries of a satirical nature, that also say a great deal about world politics in an informative, engaging, and humorous way are less common.  Danish Director Mads Brugger  ventures into the territory of political documentary satire, or a political farce, with The Ambassador.  Mads opens The Ambassador by stating, "Here ends my life as a Danish journalist."  His new life venture is to become an African Diplomat, for bags of diamonds he claims he can smuggle out of his new found country as a Diplomat.  His country of choice, thanks to the ease of achieving Diplomat status with the right amount of money, is Liberia.  His target is the Central African Republic (CAR), a little known country to the rest of the world but a place full of what Mads wants most: blood diamonds.  Mads Brugger uses his style of documentary storytelling that he calls "performative journalism" to share his experience.  In performative journalism he creates an "absurd caricature of a corrupt diplomat, with hidden cameras, black-market credentials, and razor-sharp wit."  The experiment is a success, to say the least.

by Russell Espinosa

The Iran JobIn director Till Schauder's documentary, The Iran Job, American basketball player Kevin Sheppard travels to Iran in 2008 and joins the Iranian Super League, Iran's equivalent to America's National Basketball Association.  Although Kevin's professional career has been spent overseas playing in countries such as Brazil, Venezuela, Spain, China and Israel, living in Iran initially makes him very nervous.  His worry, shared by his parents and his girlfriend back home, is warranted considering Iran's reputation of being one of the world's most feared countries, a safe-haven for Islamic terrorists, and suspect of being in constant development of nuclear weapons.  From the very beginning of the film director Till Schauder establishes America's rocky relationship with the foreign country via old press conference footage of former President George W. Bush and Senator Hilary Clinton condemning president Ahmadinejad's calling for the destruction of Israel.  Schauder also films various Iranian neighborhoods with huge anti-American street art displayed upon their walls.  As if living in an "enemy" state isn't nerve-wracking enough, Kevin is being paid more than any other player to ensure the first year team, A.S. Shiraz, makes it to the playoffs.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Greed, blackmail, sex, and...butter.  These are the four components that make-up Director Jim Field Smith's quirky movie aptly titled Butter.  Set in the oh-so-americana State of Iowa, where State Fairs do indeed still exist, there is the royal family of butter carvers, the Picklers. Bob Pickler (Ty Burrell) has been the Iowa State champion of butter carvers for the past fifteen years, his crowning achievement's include 'The Last Supper' and 'T-Rex Eating Girl', plus the impressive 'Shindler's List'.  It is his wife Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) who has been by his side the entire time, making sure Bob achieves greatness, and doing her part to maintain the utmost of poise as the First Lady of butter carvers. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Robert Pattinson (left) stars as “Eric Packer” and Sarah Gadon stars as “Elise Shifrin” in the upcoming release of Entertainment One’s COSMOPOLISRobert Pattinson smells like sex...that is what director David Cronenberg makes clear in Cosmopolis, his new film starring Robert Pattinson as the paranoid corporate tycoon Eric Packer who is destined to fall prey to his own created schizoid demise.  Adapted from the highly acclaimed novel "Cosmopolis" by Paulo Branco, Cronenberg's screen adaptation pits Pattinson against his own known screen persona, the vampire, baiting him to come forth and prove he is more than a cool and distant undead male desperately seeking affection and empathy for his cruel deeds.  But Pattinson's Eric is exactly the same typographical character in Cosmopolis; the only difference being his thirst is not for blood but for money, security, and power.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The ImposterBritish filmmaker Bart Layton came across a story that appeared more fiction than truth.  A 23-year-old French-Algerian man had stolen the identity of a missing Texan boy, some three-and-a-half years after his disappearance.  A master con-man, Frédéric Bourdin was in need of a new identity, being wanted by Interpol for his crimes and finding himself without any options left in Linares, Spain.  A master manipulator, he posed as a missing teenager and was taken in by the Linares police after tourists phoned in their finding a scared and troubled boy.  The events that occurred afterwards are outwardly shocking, and the story Bart Layton creates on screen of this real-life happening is absolutely intoxicating to watch.

by David Gawkowski

Neil Young Photo by Declan Quinn, Courtesy of Sony Pictures ClassicsYou may want to bring some ear plugs for this, because Neil Young Journeys is a concert film shot in a style so loud and yet intimate that you may be taken with the fear of getting hit by some of the legendary rocker’s sweat and spittle. Filmed in May 2011 at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall, Young is in peak form, playing his classics and new material with passion and verve.

by Tom von Logue Newth

BestiaireDenis Côté, DP Vincent Biron, and producer Sylvain Corbeil have created a singular (beast of a) movie with Bestiaire. Offered the chance to shoot at a rather tired safari park in rural Quebec, Côté decided to make an experiment, to find new ways of making images of animals.

 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Neighboring SoundsThe sounds are heard around a burgeoning middle-class street in Brazil’s Recife, half of which used to be owned by silver-bearded patriarch Francisco, but which is now mostly tower blocks. First-time feature director Kleber Mendonça Filho reworks some of his shorts material to lay out a mosaic of life on this particular, present-day street, both aurally and visually, centered largely on the extended family who have always lived there. The camera wanders through a playground of kids, or spies on a kissing couple near a rooftop below. Other extras and kids pop up from time to time – the kissing girl even gets to answer to her called-out name later on – but the film concentrates on a relatively small handful of characters, following them through the inconsequential mundanities of everyday life.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Kim Kold as Dennis in Teddy BearAt every film festival there always seems to be one movie that strikes you as a viewer more so than any other.  For the 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival the honor goes to Director Mads Matthiesen's Teddy Bear.  The promotional image for Teddy Bear displays a hulking figure of a man, bodybuilder Dennis (real-life super-heavyweight bodybuilder Kim Kold), curling his biceps in front of a mirror with a barbell weighted far more than most people could carry with both hands.  Dennis is covered in tattoos, rippling with muscles, and looks nothing like the gentile man you come to know in Teddy Bear--a juxtaposition of a title if there ever was one to the striking figure of the man it refers.  But Dennis is all heart, a sweet-natured man who yearns for love but is painfully shy.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Matthew McConaughey as Joe and Emile Hirsch as Chris in Killer JoePresented by the Director himself, William Friedkin, Killer Joe played to a full house on the second night of the Los Angeles Film Festival 2012 and the entire room was laughing out loud, enjoying every minute of this dark and twisted tale.  As Friedkin puts it, "It's a comedy by the way, you must not freak out."

by Kathryn Schroeder

Quvenzhane Wallis as The advent of cinema created a world where artists could create moving portraits, an artistic medium not bound my any form of limitations.  Rarely a film is created that holds a transgressive quality, the ability to move you completely out of your comfort zone and violate the standard laws of filmmaking.  Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, who co-wrote the screenplay with Lucy Alibar, has done just that, and more.  Beasts of the Southern Wild may be classified as a magical realist film, wherein the real and the fantastic exist in the same place, simultaneously, and without pure distinction.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A Band Called DeathWhen Drag City announced a couple of years ago that they were releasing a long-lost early ‘70s album by a band you never heard of, named Death, comprising three black brothers from Detroit who made punk rock years before anyone else, the knee-jerk reaction was to assume this was just hipster bait. But your (my) knees should know better, for Drag City can be trusted by and large, and the band and their story are truly worthy of their unusual, if belated, place in the pantheon.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Wallander: The RevengeIt has taken over two years for Charlotte Brandstrom's Wallander: The Revenge to gain theatrical distribution in the U.S., and it has been worth the wait.  The film is a continuation of the highly successful novels written by Henning Mankell that feature the main character Kurt Wallander, a Swedish police detective.  Instead of merely adapting one of the published novels, a fete that has been done to nearly all of them, Mankell created thirteen new stories featuring Wallander, starting with The Revenge being released theatrically and the following twelve episodes will be released on VOD and DVD, all with a running time of 90 minutes. 

by Russell Espinosa

Hide AwayHide Away is the simple story of a man who buys an old ship and fixes it.  Even the main characters are simply named the Young Mariner (Josh Lucas), The Ancient Mariner (James Cromwell), and The Waitress (Ayelet Zuerer).  The movie is not so much concerned with complicated plot lines as it is with the straightforward metaphor of man as a broken down vessel.  The film relies on performance and mood to bring the myth to life, which unfortunately is not altogether successful.  The actors give their all in an attempt to salvage the shipwreck and Director of Photography, Elliot Davis, is able to find sadness in nature throughout all four seasons of the year, but none of it is enough to compensate for the bare-bones script.  Dialogue is replaced with silence, which would be fine if the rare conversations that did take place weren’t so wooden.  The actor who sells the boat to the Young Mariner could’ve been easily substituted with a robot.  The film also dwells too long in the territory of the vague.  The audience’s patience wears thin as we await any hint of the Young Mariner’s back-story.  When finally revealed it then turns out that the secrets should have stayed hidden as the scene is melodramatic and underwhelming.  Major turning points in the plot also feel overly convenient and unearned.

by Kathryn Schroeder

HysteriaTanya Wexler's Hysteria makes its point as a lighthearted comedy about the invention of the vibrator once a woman breaks out into an aria from “La Traviata" after receiving hands-on stimulation from her doctor.  Hysteria is not the average romantic comedy, nor is it a biographical account of how the vibrator was invented in London, circa 1880.  The Victorian prudeness is front and center in Hysteria; you will never hear the word orgasm spoken by any character, especially the prim and proper Dr. Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), who believes his method of curing hysteria in women is to "relieve tensions in the womb" by manual stimulation of the clitoris, another word unspoken of in the film.  It would be inappropriate to consider that women suffering from hysteria, a condition affecting the majority of women during the era that has them depressed, suffering nymphomania, anxious, or generally feeling malaise, is to in fact pleasure them sexually.  Their husbands would be mortified to think they were not pleasing their wives, or that they should.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Lovely MollyA hand-held camcorder accepts the task of portraying the first-person account of an event.  It records the action, and by doing so records to memory what happened on a specific day, at a specific time.  Lovely Molly's director Eduardo Sanchez pioneered the use of the first-person camera, commonly called found-footage, in his debut film alongside Daniel Myrick, The Blair Witch Project.  The found-footage technique is grossly overused in cinema today, and nearly every horror movie employs it now--the low-budget aesthetic is just that, made on the cheap and eaten up by audiences.  Sanchez uses his pioneering technique in Lovely Molly, taking the audience on a journey through Molly's lens over the course of a year.  The opening scene of the film starts at the beginning with newcomer Gretchen Lodge as Molly, distressed and shaken speaking into the camera on 10.16.11 stating "it wasn't me" and that she is "not in control anymore."  The initial performance by Lodge in this brief scene relates the fact that she is going to be the defining core of Lovely Molly, and you are immediately hooked.

by Russell Espinosa

Romeo and Juliet In YiddishAccording to Wikipedia, mumblecore is a term used to describe American independent films produced in the 2000s characterized by low budget production values and amateur actors.  Those looking for an example of the genre need not look any further as "amateur" can certainly be used to describe this particular interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy.  Everything from the cheesy kung-fu fight scenes to the cheap special effects to the Yiddish rip-off of Eminem’s "The Real Slim Shady" makes watching Romeo And Juliet in Yiddish almost unbearable.  It’s a fact that director Eve Annenberg employed non-professional actors and so credit must be given to her for molding her cast into acceptable performers.  It's thus a shame when sound difficulties often muffle the dialogue, an unwelcome distraction even when subtitles are present.  The film does sport a variety of excellent exterior shots, whether it be outside of JFK International Airport, walking the streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or hanging out at Coney Island.  Interior sets however, such as a scene set inside an airport security office scream for an art direction makeover.  With its obvious budgetary restraints, it’s safe to say that technical excellence is not the movie’s drawing point.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Luke Treadaway as Adam and Natalia Tena as Morello on the set of The rock music festival, a staple event in every culture, country, and a right of passage for many a youth yearning for days on end of unadulterated partying, live-music, and the possibility to connect with like-minded attendees.  There are a few such festivals that take place every year, made iconic over time for the spectacle they create.  One of the largest resides in Scotland, "T in The Park", over the course of 3-days during the Summer.  It was there, in the Summer of 2010, that Director David Mackenzie shot the film Tonight You're Mine; completely on location and with the full cooperation of festival director Geoff Ellis.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sound Of My VoiceFox Searchlight Pictures is releasing Sound Of My Voice in select cities beginning April 27, 2012.  Co-writers, plus star and director, respectively, Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij sat down to answer questions about the film in a roundtable interview setting.  For a film such as Sound Of My Voice it was a welcome opportunity as the perplexing nature of the story breeds analysis from the viewer, and for a science fiction fan (like me!) all sorts of questions dying to be answered.

by Tom von Logue Newth

DomainIt all sounds pretty French: teenage boy falls in love with his older aunt, attractive, smart, and been around the block a few times, as incarnated to perfection by Béatrice Dalle. The expected dynamic is subverted, however, even obliquely in the opening scene, and the well-worn elements of such a relationship are treated as though anew, with little interest in misplaced teenage priapism.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Since founding the COUM Transmissions collective in the late sixties, via Throbbing Gristle’s invention of industrial music, and numerous highly provocative music and art shows (sex, gender, physical alteration, domination and extremity being constant themes, with a smattering of black magic), Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has dedicated herself to exploring the (off-)limits and possibilities defined and denied by societal taboos.

by Russell Espinosa

Each year Russell Espinosa watches every film released in theatres; and each year he takes the time to write up an epic "best of" list.  Here it is for the year 2011, and while some of his choices may seem typical, others are an interesting surprise.  Enjoy!! - Kathryn Schroeder

by Tom von Logue Newth

The AFI FEST presented by Audi is fast approaching (3-10 November, 2011), and with much of the program already announced, a healthy number of interesting titles are already trailing good word of mouth from other North American and European fests. One such is Alex Ross Perry’s second feature The Color Wheel, winner of the Narrative Award in Chicago: following the oddball backwoods Pynchon riff Impolex (2009), he this time ditches surrealism and heads straight for mumblecore land.

by Tom von Logue Newth

After well-received stops at Cannes, Toronto and New York, the fourth feature from I’m Gonna Explode director Gerardo Naranjo is set to represent Mexico in fine style at AFI Fest presented by Audi, starting November 3, 2011.

Torn from the headlines, Miss Bala pitches beauty queen aspirant Laura into the murky world of the Tijuana drug cartels – it’s the title of Miss Baja California she’s going for, but bala means “bullet”, plenty of which are expended before the end of the film. The real-life Miss Sinaloa (also named Laura) was indeed arrested for her association with the Mexican drug gangs, but this is no docudrama. Laura here is an innocent, drawn into the underworld through being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and buffeted from dangerous situation to dangerous situation by the twin expediencies of self-preservation and having no other choice.

by Kathryn Schroeder

**Winners being updated, as the show airs, LIVE now!**

The Award Season has officially begun with The Golden Globes airing on Sunday, January 15, 2012.   The list of nominees is included below and come Sunday all of the winners updated as they are announced. 

by Tom von Logue Newth

Director/producer Athina Rachel Tsangari’s reluctance to be lumped in with some nebulous Greek New Wave is as understandable as the categorization is inevitable. She has been producing the work of Giorgos Lanthimos, and her second film as director shares with his Dogtooth (2009) and Alps (2011) not only strong tonal and thematic similarities, and an interest in linguistic distortion, but also the cool white light of Thimios Bakatakis’ camerawork on the former; Lanthimos even takes the supporting role of in cast’s quartet.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Emerging from the recent trend of independent horror in British cinema, Ben Wheatley’s small-scale gangster massacre Down Terrace made a bit of a splash last year. His latest, Kill List, ups the horror ante and finds a natural home in the AFI FEST’s Midnight Movies strand this week (festival runs November 3-10).

by Kathryn Schroeder

Earlier this year I received an email from an independent filmmaker, Joe McClean, asking if I would take a look at his short film How To Make A David Lynch Film before it premiered at the Dances With Films film festival in June 2011.  I do not usually watch short films, or review them for that matter.  I do always try and make time to watch as many non-distributed, festival bound (hopefully), independent feature length films I am asked to when approached by the filmmakers.  The title of Joe McClean's short intrigued me--how could I resist watching something called How To Make A David Lynch Film?  I watched Joe's short, and ended up writing a review of it because I absolutely loved it.  How To Make A David Lynch received an honorable mention award at the festival and to my happy surprise the success, and positive reviews, have led to Joe McClean's production company, Red & Tan Productions, to secure the financing for a feature-length film. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Shakespearian plays have been adapted for the screen time and time again.   "Othello", "Hamlet", "Romeo and Juliet", "The Tempest", the list goes on an on and the familiarity for a viewer with these stories is established before they ever enter the theatre.  "Coriolanus" is a lesser know, and lesser adapted, play Shakespeare wrote.  Well-known actor Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in Harry Potter) in his first directorial effort has adapted "Coriolanus", with a screenplay by John Logan into a modern-day political film, while maintaining the original shakespearian dialogue.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The 2012 Spirit Award Nominations are in, celebrating the best in Independent Film for the year 2011.  We have seen most of the films and could not agree more with the selections; some we must disagree with but that is the nature of the beast.  Here are all of the nominees; we can't wait to see who wins in February at the Awards Show.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It is a little alarming to hear people describe Takeshi Kitano’s latest, Outrage (Autoreiji), as a return to form, since it comes off the back of his masterpiece, Achilles and the Tortoise. What they means is that it’s a return to the straight Yakuza genre with which Kitano started his career, and into which he has injected some interesting elements at various subsequent points. Not so much here, which from anyone else would be fine, but from him is a disappointment. Nonetheless, it is a perfectly efficient gangster film, told at the usual slow-steady pace, laced with black humour, and boasting some particularly unpleasant moments of violence.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A rather appealing if throwaway cat and mouse thriller, Headhunters introduces us immediately to the forcefully charming persona and slick art-thievery methods of its protagonist, Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie). His criminal activities subsidize a career as über-successful corporate headhunter, but he makes no bones about having overextended himself for the sake of his Nordic model-beautiful wife, ostentatiously luxurious lifestyle, and 1m 68 height (5’6”).

by Tom von Logue Newth

An exquisite salmagundi of moral grey shades, A Separation explicitly hands off judgment to the audience in the opening scene, as Simin and Nader sit before a judge and address directly to camera their cases for and against divorce. She wants to emigrate, to raise their daughter, Temeh, away from the difficulties and repressions of Iran, whilst he does not want to leave his Alzheimer’s suffering father, but must provide consent for the daughter to travel. They agree to a temporary separation whilst this is worked out.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It’d be best to be prepared before going into this, for a long slow evening. Amongst the various aims of Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s new film is the conjuring of the strange all-night atmosphere experienced by a group of officials in search for a dead body, based on the experiences of his co-screenwriter, Ercan Kesel, a doctor who partook in a similar investigation when serving in the same remote village region as depicted in the film. Another of Ceylan’s aims is an explicitly Chekhovian tapestry of apparent banalities, everyday concerns, and the passing of time, that will bring various of the characters unhurriedly to life, and add up incrementally to a portrait of something like life itself.

by Tom von Logue Newth

This is really a one idea movie, but it’s a very good idea (taken from a short story by Tom Bissell). Nica and Alex are young travelers in Georgia, engaged to be married, who depart on a trek with mountain guide Dato. And then Something Happens. To explain the Something would be to spoil the impact of the film, but one of its major problems is that to create that impact, for the first half of the film virtually nothing happens at all. The second problem is that virtually nothing happens afterwards either.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Sokurov concludes his Moloch trilogy, on evil and power, with a loose adaptation of Faust. So loose, in fact that one would be hard-pressed to recognize anything of the original save the name of the protagonist. He’s still a doctor, but poor, neurotic, and, after a while, fixated with a very young girl named Margarete. It is for a night with her, rather than for unlimited knowledge, that he finally signs the Mephistophelean pact late on in the film, and rather than the smooth persuader who will inevitably triumph, this Mephistopheles is a vile, goatish moneylender named Mauricius who ends up buried beneath boulders in a place suggestively described as “far away and very high up”.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Giorgos Lanthimos’s Dogtooth caused quite a splash last year, so many were eager to see what queasy weirdness his latest would offer. Alps is barely less weird, somewhat less queasy, and just as opaque. Even more than his last film, it also teeters on the verge of being merely affected.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A real Hollywood oddity, this is a cracking carnival noir charting the rise and fall of hubristic mentalist Stanton Carlisle – Stanton the Great – from cheap clairvoyant-act barker to quasi-religious swarmi, to.. well, that’d be spoiling it, but by the look on Tyrone Power’s face, he knew it had to be.

by Tom von Logue Newth

This is most definitely a film, a wonderful, essential conjuring of something from nothing, a necessity for the film-maker, and the selfless defiance of a repressive regime. The Iranian government has banned director Jafar Panahi from film-making or from leaving the country for twenty years, and at the time of this film’s making, he was appealing a six-year prison sentence; it was smuggled to Cannes on a flashdrive hidden in a cake. For what can a film-maker do if not make a film?

by Tom von Logue Newth

In an alternate universe, a Turin Horse will become the name for a movie that turns out to have nothing to do with its title. Slow-cinema maestro Béla Tarr’s latest (last?) opens with a blank-screen voiceover relating the semi-apocryphal story of Nietzsche’s madness-inducing encounter with a mistreated carthorse, and declares that “of the horse, we know nothing”. Cut to a carthorse, trudging through a hellish swirl of mist. But this is not necessarily the same horse, we are clearly not in Italy, and the film soon lets the animal retreat to the background, in order to focus exclusively on the slow, hard, regular days of the old carter and his daughter. He has an apostle’s beard and a mop of grey curls, frequently backlight-haloed, and the use of only his left arm; she has a hard, handsome face, tight-mouthed and dead-eyed, beneath long wind-whipped hair; and they live a life of emptiness and hardship in a stone croft on a barren plain.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Every year at AFI FEST there are films placed in the Special Screenings section of the program.  They are films with distribution in place, and will become available for the general public to see in the coming weeks or months.  Jeff, Who Lives At Home was a part of this special screening section and will be opening in theatres in March of 2012 thanks to Paramount Vantage.  The newest film from The Duplass Brothers, who have been festival darlings in the past with The Puffy Chair, Baghead, and last year's Cyrus, is in the style of The Duplass Brothers who like to make movies about people and relationships, with an offbeat sly humor.  Jeff, Who Lives At Home keeps with their traditional themes, and continues to provide the more subtle, and not so subtle, humor we come to expect from them.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Making himself known as a man who enjoys making movies about damaged souls in uniform, Director Oren Moverman departs from the military of his 2009 film The Messenger to focus on a cop in the Los Angeles Police force in Rampart.  Taking place during the Rampart scandals of 1999, scandals that forever changed the Los Angeles Police Department, when police officers were implicated in acts of misconduct, including planting evidence, unprovoked beatings and shootings, perjury, and covering up evidence.  These were dark days in the city of Angels, and amidst all of the greater scandal Rampart takes a look at one officer's own personal struggles, on the force and at home.

by Kathryn Schroeder

As a feature film directing debut, Jean-Baptiste Léonetti's Carré Blanc is sure to make a strong impression on the filmmaking community, and the impressionable audience member who wanders into this dystopian view of the world's future.  Shown as part of the World Cinema section at the 2011 AFI FEST, Carré Blanc is a relatively short film by festival standards, at only 80 minutes, but the impact of the film, both stylistically and theoretically, will have you thinking about it for much longer.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Writer/director Alexandra-Therese Keining's With Every Heartbeat was presented at AFI FEST 2011 as part of the Breakthrough section.  Keeping in line with the excellence of Swedish films of the past, and present, Keining presents an intimate portrayal of love being found in the unlikeliest of places and at a time neither person expects--the two people in question just happen to be women, one openly gay and the other engaged to a man.  A true triumph for the LGBT cause, the film portrays love as love is in it's natural form, disregarding much of what could have been a proclamation for equal rights on gender issues that only makes its a stronger piece of filmmaking in the process.

by Tom von Logue Newth

The main draw of Hanaan is its ethnic exoticism: a Korean cop in the urban/industrial wasteland of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which is certainly not something you see every day (Stalin forcibly relocated thousands of Koreans to populate the USSR’s Asian republics). The story feels well-worn, however – like something from an American movie, as one character observes of a stakeout – with the ups and downs of drug addiction providing automatic pathos but few surprises.

by Tom von Logue Newth

What with the whole skin transplant element of Almodóvar’s latest, it was no great surprise that in his capacity as Guest Artistic Director of this year’s AFI Festival, he should pick as one of his personal screening choices, the wonderful medical horror film Eyes Without A Face.

It is a most unusual film, in story, tone and the inclusion of a remarkably unsettling face transplant – in part for the slow, tense, medical precision with which it is presented and conducted – which must have been goodness-knows how shocking in 1960 when the film was released.

by Tom von Logue Newth

AFI Festival-goers who caught Nacho Vigalonda’s Time Crimes a couple of years ago knew that it was a good bet to mark their diaries for this year’s screening of his second feature, Extraterrestrial. They were not disappointed.

The irrepressible Vigalonda explained in his introduction to the screening that he was stuck in a long pre-production process and wanted to make a quick little film. That’s just what he did, with even greater economy than Time Crimes, but with just as sure a control over the narrative logic of escalating complications. A man wakes up in the bed of a beautiful young woman, unable to remember a thing about the night before. The playing-out of a stock situation is handled with perfectly judged restraint and deadpan performance (they discover, amusingly, that they are named Julio and Julia, but she’s ditzy enough to forget his name more than once). The awkward morning after is derailed, however, when they notice that there’s no-one outside and that a 4-mile wide flying saucer is hovering over Madrid.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It boded so well. The credits play over a serene beam of moonlight on the water, while an excerpt of Tristan and Isolde tinkles gently; then we’re thrown into a noisy neon Malayan karaoke club/shack, where an unexpected, very public murder is followed by an even more unexpected, somnambulant Ave Maria. But Chantal Akerman, taking Joseph Conrad’s first novel, goes nowhere near such stylish flamboyance again and delivers much that is expected, and much that is unexpectedly unsuccessful.

by Tom von Logue Newth

There’s always some good weirdness to be found in the Midnight Movies strand at film festivals, and my top tip for the AFI FEST sponsored by Audi, starting this week, is the fantastically trippy Beyond the Black Rainbow. Let me be clear: this film has not been picking up fans at previous festivals, with complaints ranging from “deathly dull” and “unnecessarily lengthened student short” to “retro-hipster counterfeit” and “complete crapola”. It’s slow and derivative, with a jarringly misjudged ending, but far as I am from an ’80s nostalgist, I couldn’t help but fall a little bit in love with it.

by Tom von Logue Newth

A new film from the Dardennes brother is always cause for celebration, particularly in Cannes where they just keep being given prizes. This year it was the Grand Jury award for their latest, Le gamin au vélo, and it’s been a popular title at numerous festivals since, finally rolling into Hollywood for the AFI FEST this week (November 3-10).

by Kathryn Schroeder

In 2006, Director Chris Paine debuted a documentary, Who Killed The Electric Car?, with much acclaim.  The documentary focused on the destruction of electric cars, like the EV-1, by the major automobile companies.  Questioning the motivations behind the sudden extinction of electric vehicles, and the move back towards gas run automobiles and the dependence on foreign oil it was a harsh look into the reality of big business.  Now five years later the topic is examined once again, from a drastically different viewpoint.  In only five years the automobile industry has made electric vehicles a priority, and four are on the road today.  Chris Paine's Revenge of the Electric Car traces the steps three major car companies, GM, Nissan, and Tesla, as well as an underground environmentalist who is converting gasoline vehicles into electric ones.

by Tom von Logue Newth

Inspired by the life story of ethnomusicologist Louis Sarno, who has spent 25 years with the BiAka pygmies of Central Africa, Lavinia Currier’s film aims partly to parallel Sarno’s work: that is, to bring to world-wide attention the wonderful and complex music of the forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers. The BiAka’s music is as rich and well-practiced as any other such heritage in the world; possibly even more so, structured around an unusually long 64-beat cycle, and incorporating the natural sounds of the jungle as an integral part of the harmonious, pulsing music.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Earlier this year Film Independent announced a new screening series partnership with The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  For members of Film Independent, as well as frequent visitors to the LACMA year-round film program this new partnership was intriguing, and wanting to know more details on the partnership much desired.  With today came the first announcement of what the Film Independent at LACMA Film series first slate of events would contain.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The year is 1982 in Peru.  Cayetana (Fatima Buntinx) lives in a spacious home outside the city with caretakers.  Her mother, and stepfather, are returning home after a long while away and Cayetana is not interested in seeing either of them.  Buntinx makes the most disinterested, annoyed, and ultimately bothered facial expressions--this is an actress who does not need dialogue to convey emotion, it is written all over her face.  Now Cayetana is a bit of an odd-ball; some may call her sinister.  In reality, she is a child going through a great deal of emotional turmoil and unfortunately the good intentions she should have veer towards the bad. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

From Korea comes Director Kim Min-suk's Haunters.  A film centered around two men specifically who both harbor exceptional abilities.  Kyu-nam (Koo So) believes himself to be ordinary.  Having just lost his job at a junk yard he is seeking employment.  He finds work at a pawn shop, and believes this is the moment his life will take off and become great.  When an unknown man (Gang Dong-Won) walks into the shop one day and freezes everyone present, being Kyu-nam's two friends, and the owner, things begin to get weird.  Weird in that the only person who does not freeze is Kyu-nam.  He is not ordinary after all, but is the only person this unknown man has ever come into contact with who is not susceptible to his powers.  This of course causes great panic in our unknown antagonist, who has lived his entire life with the ability to freeze people, as well as control their actions with his eyes.

by Kathryn Schroeder

The dry humor that surrounds Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) is just that, dry--a lifeless, suburban enclave of Quebec where the most interesting amusement comes in the form of a giant blue inflatable something or other in front of a car dealership.  This is not to say the film isn't good, far from that actually.  It is very much internalized, leaving the characters to meander through their humdrum lives interacting with one another on such superficial and unemotional levels that the pure existence of the lifelessness becomes somewhat fascinating.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sgt. Gerry Boyle is an Irish Guard, aka policeman, in a small town in the West of Ireland.  As the man in charge he takes little, if anything, seriously.  When his newest recruit and he discover a dead body of a man they do not recognize it is with dark humor, and a general sense of not giving a --ck that Boyle cheekily investigates the crime.  This death is not so easily forgotten as the United States sends their own investigator, FBI Agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to team up with Boyle on the case.  For this is a case that is much bigger than Boyle thought, it involves drug trafficking, murder, and cover-ups.  For a lawman of a small town in Ireland this could be the case of a lifetime, for Gerry Boyle it is more of an inconvenience.

by Kristen Sales

Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend concerns Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two young British men who meet at a bar one Friday night and embark on a 48 hour affair. Haigh’s emotionally honest scripting and the pitch-perfect performances by Cullen and New lend poignancy and unexpected intimacy to this story of a brief but powerful affair.

by Kathryn Schroeder

While watching Another Earth is a completely enjoyable experience, thanks in part to the performances by the very talented William Mapother (John) and Brit Marling (Rhoda) it is a very routine and predictable film.  Rhoda is awash with grief and must reconcile with herself and the man she hurt; as she goes about doing this it is obvious where the film is going to take you.  The side-story of there being another Earth out there, and the upcoming launch of a group of civilians going to visit it, is important but obvious in the direction of the story.  The ending, completely expected and a tad redundant.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It is astonishing – incomprehensible, even – that local indie drama How to Cheat should have won the acting prize for its ensemble at this year’s LA Film Festival – the leads of Sawdust City, for example, were far more deserving. True, the acting is one of the least bad things about the film, and if star-acting is the trick of making the character become the actor as opposed to vice versa, then across the handful of films of his I have seen, indie everyman Kent Osborne is certainly a star, and one of the most charmless onscreen today.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Conception is a deeply intimate film.  It borders on the voyeuristic in many ways as you are privy to the inner workings, the feelings, the heartfelt sentiment, and often hilarious banter of couple's private matters.  The film holds nothing back as it develops, and the writing is exceptionally genuine joined with great talent by Director Josh Stolberg.  These are conversations people do have, circumstances many people face, and uncertain futures one can relate with completely.

Movie News | Trailers | Events | Goodies: Independent Film

by Kathryn Schroeder

Kelly & Cal PosterShe may not exactly be a punk rocker any longer, but being a mother post-punk is tough for Juliette Lewis' Kelly in the trailer debut for Kelly & Cal from IFC Films.  Cal, 17, is having a tough time at life as well. Enter the unlikely friendship of these two different people and the way they will each make everything just a little easier to manage for one another.

by Tom von Logue Newth

It's hard to believe that Los Angeles has had its own film festival for only two decades, but this year is indeed the 20th edition of the LAFF, running from Wednesday, June 11, to Thursday 19. As ever, the program boasts a mixture of local and regional independent films, a couple of big-ticket studio films (Eastwood’s Jersey Boys is the closer, 22 Jump Street is a “pre-festival” special screening ), a couple of big-ticket independents (Bong Joon-Ho’s Snowpiercer is the official opener), a respectable International Showcase, and countless documentaries, shorts and music videos.

by Kathryn Schroeder

'Wish I Was Here'Remember all of the fuss that was made when Zach Braff ("Scrubs," Garden State) used Kickstarter to fund a movie project?  I'll bet you do.  Many people cried out that is was unfair for a "celebrity" with access to money in the "Industry" to use a medium such as Kickstarter, notorious for being the method those without "access" use to get projects funded.  It even caused other Kickstarters to mention him when beginning their campaigns; for example, Crafty Shoddmanship Productions titled their campaign for June, Adrift as "June, Adrift: A Real Indie Feature (No Offense, Zach Braff)."  Funny, in its own way, yes?

by Kathryn Schroeder

Jayne Mansfield's Car PosterIt has been a long time coming for Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car to secure a theatrical release.  Anchor Bay Films will release the movie on VOD August 20th and in theatres September 13th, 2013.  A trailer for the film has been released, along with a new poster showing the wholesome Americana that is the backdrop of the movie, and that which will become unhinged with a death in the family. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Short Term 12 Fishbowl PosterIndie darling Short Term 12, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, has debuted four alternative posters, created by artist and illustrator Caitlin Craggs.  

by James Jay Edwards

The Crying DeadBusted Knuckles Productions has released an official trailer for director Hunter G. Williams’ upcoming feature The Crying Dead.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Home RunFour new clips have been released for the inspiring new movie Home Run, based on thousands of true stories and centered around a Baseball players second chance in life for redemption and transformation.  Watch them now, including the trailer. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Hitchcock (2012) PosterThe world premiere of Hitchcock took place at AFI FEST 2012 as the opening night film.  A highlight reel of the red carpet arrivals is available for your enjoyment.  So, enjoy!

by Kathryn Schroeder

AFI FEST 2012 presented by Audi

AFI FEST 2012 is nearly upon the filmmaking community and eager moviegoing audiences while the slate of films to be shown at the festival are slowly being announced.  It may be the anticipation over this year's, and every year's, AFI FEST that makes it seem like it takes so long to know what is playing, or maybe its just myself and Tom von Logue Newth whom are impatient to cover the festival this year. Either way, AFI FEST is always a great festival to attend, with films from around the world and premieres of some of the biggest films of the Fall/Winter Season--with more than one Oscar contender thrown in for good measure.


by Kathryn Schroeder

Fun SizeOn October 20, 2012, Fun Size stars Victoria Justice and Thomas Mann, along with special guest Carly Rae Jepsen, made a surprise appearance at Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America to celebrate the upcoming release of Fun Size on Friday, October 26, 2012. 

The event brought out thousands of fans, and the stars signed autographs, greeted everyone, and also debuted Carly Rae Jepsen's new video "This Kiss."  The video will also be seen this weekend ahead of all Fun Size screenings. 

Watch a Newswrap Video from the event and also check out pictures documenting all of the fun!

by Kathryn Schroeder

Barricade One SheetOn September 25, 2012 WWE Studios will release Barricade on DVD exclusively at Walmart
icon.  As part of their diversification, WWE Studios continues to release their films both theatrically and via direct-to-home premieres.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Dust Up PosterWhen a trailer is sent for an independent film I for one cannot resist posting it for our readers.  When the trailer is as crazy fun as Dust Up I get all sorts of excited.  Here it is, for your viewing pleasure, the trailer for Ward Roberts Dust Up.

by Kathryn Schroeder

PAH-FestChristopher Coppola may not be as well known as his uncle Francis Ford Coppola but his venture into supporting budding filmmakers, from all walks of life, with "Project Accessible Hollywood (PAH)" is worthy of great praise.  Taking place in Los Angeles at Los Angeles City College October 20-28, 2012, the sixth annual PAH-FEST:Hollywood will teach hands-on filmmaking over the course of 8 days.  The festival is held in conjunction with Los Angeles City College, Sony, Intel, Dell, and the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sam Kadi's The CitizenA film's synopsis can peak interest or destroy it altogether.  Director Sam Kadi's The Citizen does the former.  The story of an Arab immigrant named Ibrahim (Egyptian actor Khlaed Nabawy from Fair Game) who wins the American green card lottery only to arrive in New York City on September 10, 2001 definitely intrigues a cinephile.  The Citizen looks to delve into the American dream, as it is tarnished with the harsh reality of violence against everything it stands for in the form of terrorism, fear, and cultural misunderstanding.  The Citizen has me intrigued, as it will many others.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Should've Kissed - Film Stills - Courtesy of KAFFLANew York City has had the pleasure of hosting the Korean American Film Festival and now it is Los Angeles' turn.  The inaugural Korean American Film Festival Los Angeles (KAFFLA) kicks off on August 9th, 2012 and runs until the 11th at the Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles (5505 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90036).  The festival will feature 4 feature-length narrative and documentary films and 13 short films in non-competitive programs.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Moonrise Kingdom Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most eagerly awaited films of 2012, for those of us who need more in our popcorn bucket than superheros and Prometheus (shocking, but true).  The Director and Screenwriter behind such iconic films as The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Rushmore is reuniting with many of his go-to actors for Moonrise Kingdom, while introducing his style to some newbies as well...hello, Bruce Willis.  By taking a look at the trailer, the clips, and images from the film it is clear this is a Wes Anderson film, and hopefully, just as good as all of the other movies he has made during his career.  We will all find out on May 25, 2012.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Frieda Pinto in TrishnaThere have been adaptations of "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" on stage, film, television, and even an opera arranged.  The first film adaptation took place in 1913, directed by Adolph Zukor and starring Minnie Maddern Fiske; all copies of the silent picture have been lost.  In 2007 a musical version of the novel premiered in New York, "Tess: The New Musical", featuring a rock opera of lyrics, music, and Annie Pasqua.  Even acclaimed Director Roman Polanski took a turn at adapting "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" with his 1979 film Tess, starring Nastassja Kinski, Leigh Lawson, and Peter Firth.  The time has come again for a new film adaptation of Hardy's phenomenal novel to grace the screen; this time set in 21st Century India.  Trishna is directed by Michael Winterbottom (Welcome to Sarajevo, Wonderland, 24 Hour Party People) and stars Freida Pinto (Immortals, Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, Centurion). Trishna is a new take on the modern classic, but maintains the tensions between "ancient privilege and modern equality."  It is wonderful to see a modern Director taking on a beloved classic, and when Trishna is released in theatres on July 13, 2012 everyone will get to experience the adaptation for themselves. 

by Kathryn Schroeder

Penelope Cruz in Woody Allen's To Rome With LoveThe first trailer has arrived for Woody Allen's To Rome With Love.  Take a Look!

by Kathryn Schroeder

Director Mary Harron, the female director I love to mention when discussions over whether a woman can direct dark, edgy, and violent pictures--she directed Christian Bale in American Psycho, so yes, women can direct the aforementioned type film and do it well.  Harron has a new film releasing in theatres on April 20th, The Moth Diaries, starring Sarah Bolger ("The Tudors"), Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method, Dream House), Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus), and Scott Speedman (Underworld).  The Moth Diaries is adapted from the acclaimed novel by Rachel Klein, and is a tale of jealousy, infatuation, murder, and suspicion.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sound of NoiseBeginning on Friday, March 9th the sensational Swedish film Sound of Noise will have a one-week theatrical run at the Cinefamily movie theatre in Los Angeles, California.  The festivities will kick-off with a special opening night part that will feature a Q&A with the filmmakers and, much to a viewer's delight, a drum battle featuring the Melvin Drummers.  After watching the film beforehand you will be more than ready, and thoroughly excited, for the drum battle to begin.

by Kathryn Schroeder

Sound Of My VoiceFox Searchlight Pictures invites viewers to watch the first 12 minutes of their upcoming release, Sound of My Voice, starring Brit Marling (Another Earth), Christopher Denham, and Nicole Vicius.  The footage also includes special "hotspots" of interactive activity that hint at what will happen next in the story--as the first 12 minutes are considered "Chapter One."

by Kathryn Schroeder

A new short film competition was announced today, "Show Us The Way," created by the Levi’s® brand in alliance with AFI Fest and AFI Conservatory.   To enter the contest filmmakers will submit a story treatment for the chance to produce a five-minute short film about a better tomorrow.  This new contest was announced at the AFI Alumni Reception during the Sundance Film Festival.