Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Avatar - Movie Review

By Purple

When you first plug into "Avatar", it's hard not to feel the bliss as the camera soars through the lush electroluminescent black-light jungles of an alien planet all rendered before you on a three story tall screen in glorious IMAX 3D. Even the grim and gritty, super industrial, mega military machines have an appeal when the precision of the spinning gears can be heard swirling through the theater in super-high resolution surround sound. And these grandiose layers that "Avatar" is built upon, the best that big ticket studio dollars can buy, come with a cost of a predictable plot and story that most won't even notice or care about until long after the house lights come back on and audiences are safely on their way home.

With reportedly a well over 400 million dollar production budget at stake, it's a solid bet that there weren't likely to be any surprises from the "Avatar" story department. It's like a "Barton Fink" wrestling picture, give the people what they expect. Or at least what they're told to expect. Military mercenaries for hire bad, scientists for hire good. So of course all of the ex-army guys have no conscience except for Michelle Rodriquez who we know is one of the 'good guys' by the tighty-white form fitting tank top she wears in every scene. This is lazy and it just it sort gives the ex-army guys a bad rap. And as gleefully despicable as Giovanni Ribisi is as the corporate weasel in charge of the mining mission for the 'unobtanium', he can't possibly be paying the ex-military army for hire enough for everyone in it to completely lose their moral compasses. And it's these kind of 'easy way out' elements that keeps "Avatar" just being good, but not truly great.

Director James Cameron smartly played it safe by being sure to put his ace into the game and luring Sigourney Weaver back onto the screen for him again. "Aliens" fans have been waiting for over two decades for these two to work together on a film again and won't be disappointed with her smoking scientist character who we know is tragically flawed because despite being the smartest person on two planets she still smokes cigarettes. And to be sure the "Aliens" reinforcement is complete Cameron even threw in a souped-up version of a power-loader like machine for old-school Space Marine fans to gawk at and seek out plastic resin model kits to build.

And these new mech warrior machines are one of the many fun things to soak up while sitting through the "Avatar" ride. The future vision of the tech displayed is so darned cool at times, with the translucent wraparound touch screen monitors and digital clipboards that I can't wait until I can order some of this stuff online. And so despite that "Avatar" is vaguely reminiscent of 1985's "Emerald Forest" and plays like a supercharged version of this years' "Battle for Terra" about another race of rainbow colored doe-eyed aliens who come to realize that square jawed humans ruin everything, "Avatar" gets a pass for being what it is. Big and visually awesome in every way. Is there going to be a "Braveheart" like moment rallying the troops? Is there going to be a kiss at the end? Do I even need to ask? So check your expectations at the door, and go ahead and take an extra bite of that special brownie mix and tune into the mind meld ride that is "Avatar". So even knowing its predictable nature, I'm actually looking forward to plugging into the "Avatar" ride again, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 12/23/09
Movie Magazine International

The Princess and the Frog - Movie Review

By Purple

Years before a single frame made it to the screen, Disney's latest movie, "The Princess and the Frog" generated a lot of talk and controversy about it being the first in the mega successful line of 'Princess' movies, to feature an African American princess. With airbags bemoaning that the mouse was once more trying to brainwash a generation of youth with some kind of politically correct message that never materializes in the new feature length film. Or as my friend put it, sometimes grown ups over think things. What "The Princess and the Frog" brings is a welcome return of the deliciously hand-drawn Disney animation style in a modern classic fairy tale that is sure to capture the hearts and minds of children of all ages.

"The Princess and the Frog" is also the first 2D feature film with Pixar's John Lasseter as Executive Producer and head of Disney Animation, and he didn't take any chances and wisely returned to the Disney talent pool to fish out the creative directorial team of Ron Clements and John Musker that brought the modern Princesses phenomenon to life with films like "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin". And so while "The Princess and the Frog" does follow the modern Princess movie formula they established in the early 90's, like any classic recipe, when prepared properly, it's a flavor that tastes great and in this case has been gleefully re-imagined with all new characters, songs and settings to enjoy.

Anika Noni Rose who busted out in the 2006 film "Dreamgirls" shines as Tiana especially during her stirring song of hard work and determination "Almost There" a sequence animated using a cut-out, and very hip and Flash friendly animation style that helps make it stand apart the rest of the film. However like the previous Princesses films, while the lead characters are fun to watch, it's the sets and supporting cast of heroes, villains and their songs that really make the magic sing.

New Orleans is as enchanting and dreamy as it could be set in the idealized era of the 1920's, streetcars, gumbo, and jazz music fills the air as the story of voodoo and dreams unfolds. Along the way we meet some friendly faces such as Raymond the Cajun firefly and his family and their songs of the cheerful spirit of the bayou keeps a toe tapping zydeco tempo but there's more to Ray who has a soft spot and everlasting love for his dear Evangeline. And then there's the trumpet playing Louis, who is part Armstrong, and all Alligator and who desperately wants his chance to play with a jazz band.

The villain is a smooth talking voodoo charlatan named Dr. Facilier with some so called friends on the other side that offer a lot of promises that never quite turn out to be as full as they sound. And with some Tarot card tricks is able to lure in the chump-like prince Naveen and his chumpier assistant Lawrence and gets them wrapped up in the evil plot that sets the story in motion. If there's a downside to "The Princess and the Frog", it's that we never get enough screen time with this terrific villain (as always!) and regardless of how cool it would be, we're not likely to see any plush versions of the stuffed voodoo dolls that come to life from the other side. "The Princess and the Frog" is a welcome return to the old-school Disney traditions that I hope will continue for years to come.

Wishing for more time with that gorgeous golden and blue top down shot of Louis, Tiana and Naveen as they first float across the Bayou just before they meet up with Ray. For Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 12/16/09
Movie Magazine International

Fantastic Mr. Fox - Movie Review

By Purple

At first it may seem like an odd choice for Wes Anderson, to pick an obscure Roald Dahl story to adapt using archaic stop motion animation techniques, however, it only takes sitting through the first fifteen minutes of the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" movie to realize that it fits perfectly with everything else that Wes Anderson has done to date.

Structurally the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is similar to all of Anderson's previous films such as "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" or "The Royal Tenenbaums", with the conflict revolving around a charismatic yet eccentric family member whose passion leads the larger clan on an ill-advised course of off kilter crazy adventure. In this case, this role is filled by the dashing Mr. Fox properly voiced by George Clooney whose "Ocean's 11" chatty charm is a perfect match for Mr. Fox's ambitions and his smooth delivery compels his animal cohorts along. Thankfully Meryl Streep's worrisome voice blends into the background as Mrs. Fox, while the rest of Wes Anderson's regular ensemble stands out. The usual roll call includes a recognizable Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson as assorted furry friends and family.

On the villain's side, the all-star lineup continues with a southern sounding William Dafoe delivering the creepy lines of the security Rat, but its Michael Gambon's performance as the obsessed human hard-cider farmer who is hell bent on destroying the foxes, that really keeps the pulse of the story alive.

Of course the choice to use stop motion animation makes this yet another feature film this year that celebrates this painstakingly practiced craft. Having seen an example of the school room set on display at a theater in Los Angeles I can say no detail was spared even for the scene that appears only moments on screen. The extreme long shots, particularly those of the family tunneling are full of rich appeal, and the low-fi cellophane smoke and fire effects fill the frames with a kind of folksy fun found missing in a lot of computer animated fare.

After riding off the rails with the hugely disappointing "Darjeeling Limited", it's good to see Wes Anderson back on track again with the "Fantastic Mr. Fox". Perhaps it's because Anderson decided to pair himself up with his old writing partner the notable Noah Baumbach, who has written and directed such films as the "Squid and the Whale" and "Margot at the Wedding", as well as collaborating with Anderson on the "Life Aquatic", but whatever the reason, this blend of talent works well together and makes for a great movie experience. Whereas the "Darjeeling Limited" seemed like a self-indulgent vacation that went nowhere, the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" takes all the elements we've come to love in a Wes Anderson production and serves it up in enchanting animated way, which is destined to become a Thanksgiving holiday favorite.

Looking forward to digging up the original Roald Dahl story the "Fantastic Mr. Fox" is based on, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 12/02/09
Movie Magazine International

2012 - Movie Review

By Purple

Combine some uncertain details about Maya calendars, along with vague prophecies about the end of the world, insert a team of Indian scientists studying some solar flares, and then wheel it out a few years ahead of its impending doom date, and you've got the basic premise of "2012" a disastrous end of the world movie, just in time for the holidays.

And while the world currently struggles to get through tough social and economic times, more and more people have gone off the deep end and seem all too ready for the world to end. I suppose that's what movies like "2012" are for, a release valve of sorts that let people indulge that inner fantasy that gets them off the hook by having the world end instead of having to face the realities of where we are at as a people as we struggle to survive.

Roland Emererich, director of films like "Independence Day" is no stranger to serving up big screen spectacles for the masses, however with "2012" Emererich outdoes himself and establishes a completely new genre of film, apocalypse porn. And never before has the end of the world looked so good. Seemingly every possible disaster cliche in the book was used in the making of "2012". Earthquakes, check, Fireballs in the sky, check, avalanches, check, tidal waves, check, and the list goes on and on. The filmmakers get carried away and are so whipped up in their self-indulgent, destroy everything on the planet in the worst way possible, I have to wonder about what was going on in the story discussion rooms that came up with the sequence that hurtles the John F. Kennedy air craft carrier into the White House via tsunami, or has the dome of the Vatican come crushing down upon the hapless followers below. Lap it up you end of the world fiends, lap it up.

At least Woody Harrelson has the sense to play the part of the hippie dippy conspiracy radio host character who not only turns out to have been right all along but embraces his fate and stands ready for the first money shot of this apocalypse before he cashes his check, and gets himself off screen before the first third of the film is done.

"2012" is based on the book "Fingerprints of the Gods", and sets up the hero as a struggling science fiction author that saves humanity (imagine that!). John Cusack is cast in this part and the only thing more cynical than having the actor who once played roles like Lloyd Dobler become this schlump, is watching how quickly his estranged ex-wife character gets over her plastic surgeon boyfriend to reattach herself to Cusack when she see's which way the wind is blowing. Yes even in the apocalypse the survival instincts for some people don't change.

So if the shopping frenzy of holiday season puts you into a foul mood, where you hope those Mayan calendars are right, then go ahead and beat yourself up with "2012" for a while. But be sure and pack a lunch because this apocalypse porno is almost three hours long and you'll feel every minute of it. Glad that it's still only 2009, for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 11/25/09
Movie Magazine International

Pirate Radio - Movie Review

By Purple

"Pirate Radio" is a rock and roll music lover's fantasy that sets sail with power chords at sea. If you can imagine being sent off in a boat with a band of unruly crazy music lovers, with the sole purpose of playing the songs that defined a generation to defy the uptight establishment back at home, then you belong on-board "Pirate Radio". There was a time during the sixties in the UK, where rock and roll and music was almost all but banned from the national radio service, and as a response, boats rigged with transmitters shipped out into international waters, just out of jurisdiction but still within broadcasting range. These true events are the basis for the fictional tale seen in "Pirate Radio".

Originally titled the 'Boat that rocked the world' for its British release, "Pirate Radio" is another ensemble cast movie written and directed by Richard Curtis, who was the writer of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" and writer director of "Love Actually". And while there's love and romance, thankfully, there's no Hugh Grant and "Pirate Radio" is definitely not just a chick flick. If anything, "Pirate Radio" is a guys bonding on a boat movie, where the surly lot of rock and roll DJ's lock horns and learn to overcome their differences in the name of free speech and loud music.

When the young Carl played by Tom Sturridge is sent to live on the boat as a favor to his mother, he gets shown around by Bill Nighy who as Quentin is the stylish and sophisticated older but still cool leader of the crew. He drops Carl into the deep end and we are quickly swept up into a fast paced rhythm of scenes. At the core is the conflict between British society trying to keep the lid on the emerging rock and roll culture. The pot is stirred up by the belligerent American DJ, the Count played with delight by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who clashes with Ryhs Ifans character, Gavin, when he returns to the boat to reclaim his former glory as the most popular DJ at sea. The large cast that makes up the crew of "Pirate Radio" carries their weight and even though the movie runs two hours long, you wish you had more time to spend with each of the many story threads that get spun up. There are some stand out moments including one for "Mad Men" fans who can't get enough of January Jones as Mrs. Draper, who will be thrilled by her angelic arrival when she descends upon the "Pirate Radio" boat.

A fabulous looking Emma Thompson comes on board to stir things up just long enough to send the plot off into an unexpected direction. While her real life husband Kenneth Branagh is barely recognizable at first as the squirrelly British minister who is hell bent on shutting the radio station down. And while the contrast of high society versus the rock and roll lifestyles is especially well played during the holiday dinner montage, there's a slight disconnect with the villains on land and heroes at sea, who never meet face to face.

"Pirate Radio" delivers on its promise and provides an uplifting fun story that's worth tuning in, its main shortcoming being that you may want more time with its many characters and storylines before coming back ashore. Wishing for an evening show on the "Pirate Radio" boat myself, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 11/11/09
Movie Magazine International

San Francisco International Animation Festival preview - Special Report

By Purple

Mark your calendars animation fans because next week the San Francisco Film Society presents the fourth annual San Francisco International Animation Festival. And while it's great to live in the bay area surrounded by the talented artists and animators that fill up the animation studios we're fortunate enough to have based here, the International film festival gives us a window to be able to see what's being done outside of this fertile crescent of technology we live in.

The festival kicks off with a party at Mezzanine on Wednesday November 11, which leads to opening night on next Thursday November 12 with the bay area premiere of the latest Wes Anderson movie, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox". Based on the story by Roald Dahl. Anderson's regular cast list of Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are joined by George Clooney and Meryl Streep as the voice talent for this stop motion animated feature. The Festival continues on Friday with a free seminar led by information designer Joy Mountford at the downtown San Francisco Apple store. And then a selection of animated films will be featured throughout next weekend at the Embarcadero Center cinema.

Here's a preview of a couple of films from the festival schedule. In case you didn't make it to the southeast corner of France this summer, you can still enjoy the line up of animated material that was celebrated at one of Europe's longest running animation festivals at a screening of "The Best of Annecy". "The Best of Annecy" includes works from several different countries where artists use multiple mediums to express themselves. The collection includes light hearted works like the weird and wacky pants free world of "The Man in the Blue Gordini" and the simple fun of the "Log Jam" forest critters along with the Internet favorite "Western Spaghetti". And "The Best of Annecy" also has a serious side, as it presents the striking short film "Slaves", which brings startling imagery to illustrate the horrors described by a pair of Sudanese children who were abducted and then rescued and interviewed on audio tape shortly after their ordeal. "The Best of Annecy" screens at 5:45 on Saturday the 14th and again at noon on Sunday.

The Festival closes on Sunday, November 15th, with the west coast premiere of "Metropia", a bleak yet beautiful tale of paranoia and passion in a dystopian future where Europe is united by a massive subway system called the Metro. While this sounds like a good thing, the overwhelming shades of gray of the world weighs heavily and it's not until the voices in the lead characters head as spoken by Vincent Gallo compels him to follow the mysterious women in red voiced by Juilliette Lewis does he start to become alive. "Metropia" may be dark but there's a lightness inside that's almost reminiscent of Terry Gilliam's "Brazil" and it will leave you thinking twice about watching the television and using your dandruff shampoo ever again.

So while the internet continues to be a fertile ground for aspiring animators to showcase their work, the communal experience of discovering and appreciating animation with a theater full of fellow fans can't be missed. For more information about The San Francisco International Animation Festival go to the web site at (www.sffs.org ). Looking forward to the US premiere of "Musashi: the dream of the Last Samurai" which appears Saturday night during the festival, for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 11/04/09
Movie Magazine International

Saint Misbhavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie - Movie Review

By Purple

If you've lived in the bay area for any length of time then you've probably had some kind of Wavy Gravy experience. You may have caught a glimpse of his red clown nose and bowler hat at a concert or a show, or maybe you looked twice at the man you saw walking his pet rubber fish on a leash down the street. So whether it's running into him in his tie-dyed clown suit while he pretends to surf your purple marbelized painted car like I did when I first arrived in San Francisco, or see him at one of the local Ben and Jerry's ice cream stores where as a person with a flavor named after him, he happily redeems his unlimited free ice cream for life to share with his friends and family. Wavy Gravy is a patron saint of the bay and this is formally recognized and celebrated in "Saint Misbhavin: The Wavy Gravy Movie".

The documentary is directed by Michelle Esrick, who spent over a decade creating the Wavy Gravy movie. She brings together a remarkable collection of archive footage from the 60's and the 70's as well as new interviews with the colorful cast of friends, family, and performers that form a collage of the life and times of Wavy Gravy. The movie tells his story and infuses its audiences with Wavy's contagious spirit to do good in the world.

The film goes way back to when a then Hugh Romney moves to New York City where he shared times in an apartment with a young Bob Dylan and became a pioneer in the beat poetry movement. After heading west, Romney fell in with the emerging psychedelic experience which would lead to living on the Hog Farm where he would become one of the spokesmen for a generation of hippies, taking their communal lifestyle out on the road on a tour of Middle America in the late sixties.

And after being the court jester and MC of the "Woodstock" generation, Romney would officially transform into Wavy Gravy, becoming the full time clown prince for peace on the planet earth. And while Wavy's delightful nature makes it easy to smile, it may also be surprising for some to discover how far reaching the efforts of he and his friends have gone to help make the world a better place. The film follows Wavy's fund-raising campaigns for the Seva foundation and its mission to help bring medical care and treatment so people in remote locations can see. As well as his active involvement with Camp Winna-rainbow, a northern California summer camp where kids learn performing arts and developing their better human nature.

Throughout the journeys, one aspect the documentary shines light on is the incredible relationship Wavy has with his wife whose love and understanding has kept the pair bonded together to this day. With this at his root, Wavy also reaches out to his extended network of the generations of Hog Farm families, and musician friends, and able is to stir up the people around him to support his many good causes. This includes coming together to create a song for the film called "Basic Human Needs" written by Wavy and performed by Jackson Browne, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, Bob Weir, Buffy Sainte Marie, Steve Earle, Maria Muldaur, Denise Kaufman, Emory Joseph and more.

"Saint Misbehavin': The Wavy Gravy Movie" was screened as part of the Mill Valley Film Festival and is expected to go into wide release in the spring time next year. Hoping members of congress tune in and get inspired by it when the Wavy Gravy movie gets shown to them on Capitol Hill at the end of this month, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 10/21/09
Movie Magazine International

Surrogates - Movie Review

By Purple

If you step back and look at the way "Surrogates" was released, it tells us everything that we need to know about what the studio and distributors think of it already. Sure this is a Bruce Willis action thriller movie, but it's being released in late September, almost as if they knew it wouldn't stand as the summer blockbuster it wants to be.

"Surrogates" is directed by Jonathan Mostow who was also the writer / director of the terrifically tense submarine thriller "U-571". Mostow followed this up by directing the misguided third installment in the "Terminator" film series and returns to the big screen with "Surrogates" which showed a lot of promise in the trailers but falls flat as the frames unspool onscreen.

It's not for a lack of budget or production values, and as a film that is used as an example of the 'Hollywood East' movement it's great to see the city of Boston featured so nicely in a polished up studio feature film. However the slick look of the production can't make up for a lack of chemistry between the script and the cast who all seem to be going through the motions on the way to a paycheck.

The creators clearly want to comment on the state of the world today with too many people plugged into their computers and not connected to actual people; however there's too many loose story threads that go nowhere and the whole thing plays like a TV movie of the week. In fact if you watched the pilot episode to "Flash Forward" which aired on television the night before "Surrogates" opened, the big payoff scene for both of them is so similar it will feel like a repeat when you see it in theaters. At least Bruce Willis is looking good at his age and in any of his silly hair configurations, whether its 'metrosexual Bruce' with smooth skin effects and a toupee or 'tough-guy Bruce' with a goatee. Now if only he can find a role that does more than take his face and name for the marquee.

"Surrogates" is based on a graphic novel that I haven't read, but I can tell that at some point the creators had a message they wanted to get out and a story that wants to be told. We sense that the authors have something to say with the estranged relationship between Willis' character and his wife, who's real world controller is a another pill-addicted, pajama-wearing, person that never leaves their house like everyone else in the world. But the movie doesn't explore what's really going on and what it means to be these people and the cast doesn't have time to make any impact before moving onto the next scene.

As a cautionary tale, the empty hollow experience left behind by the fake plastic people in "Surrogates" is shared by the audiences who watch it, so I suppose in some ways this film succeeds. Hoping this inspires some people to unplug and rejoin the real world for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 09/30/09
Movie Magazine International

Monday, December 28, 2009

9 - Movie Review

By Purple

There's something about numerology and the power of superstition and numbers that stirs the general population that high powered marketing machines like to latch onto and pump everything it can to make sure everyone remembers how important the current magic number is. So last week, on the eve of the calendar date 9, 9, 09 the new movie "9" was previewed to audiences at exactly 9:09pm. Carrying it further the movie's star voice talent was led by Elijah Wood, who is also most famous for leading the fellowship of nine and bears a tattoo of the number 9 from his run as Frodo in the "Lord of the Rings". The trouble with this kind of marketing campaign is that soon enough it is next week and as the earth still stands and without any outward signs that the cosmic alignment resulted anything more than the next day arriving as planned, we're left to consider the material the hype left behind.

By all rights and measures "9" should be my kind of film. Its computer animated, Tim Burton is a producer, and it features retro looking soviet versions of H.G. Wells tripod war machines. And at first glance, there are plenty of nice things to say about the film "9". It's beautiful. It's gorgeously rendered; it has an all-star voice cast, and is an inspiration to independent filmmakers everywhere. But as it feels like it runs long even with its short running time of 79 minutes, you find yourself asking midway through - sure it looks great, but do I really care about these burlap bag people?

Again, it's not to say that "9" isn't entertaining, the visual quality is matched by the top draw voice talent that includes mainstream hitters like Martin Landau and Jennifer Connelly to comic actors like John C. Reilly and cult celebrity Crispin Glover who all give their best playing the various numbers in the burlap bag people clan. But unless you're in a sequel to "Eight Legged Freaks", you know your science fiction fantasy movie is on shaky ground when your main villain is a giant mechanical spider. It just rarely works and speaks to cliche ridden laziness on the side of the storytellers.

And as the true nature of the story reveals itself, it becomes apparent that all of the events that lead up to the end of the world and its final conflict between the machines and the burlap bag people are centered on a lone misunderstood scientist type who is the source of it all. This isolated genius theme doesn't leave much room for any other humans and may be why I find it so hard to care about the characters in "9". But it clearly strikes a chord for Shane Acker who spent four years creating the original short film "9" entirely on his own in his basement. The short animated piece, which can be found on YouTube, is cool to watch and has tremendous production values and it's easy to see how Acker's talent caught Tim Burton's eye. Despite the shortcomings in story, Acker's accomplishments of getting his short film made into a feature film, like Neil Blomkamp did earlier this summer with another 'nine' movie "District 9", is an inspiration for indie movie makers everywhere.

Thinking maybe I'll give this "9" a second chance when it comes out on DVD later, for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 09/16/09
Movie Magazine International

District 9 - Movie Review

By Purple

After a summer of being assaulted by millions of dollars of Hollywood special effects budgets being blown on bloated yet unsatisfying science fiction fantasy flicks like the "Terminator" and "Transformer" sequels, "District 9" arrives and restores your faith and reminds you how good science fiction can be.

Shot for a fraction of the big budget blockbusters, "District 9" comes in under the radar with a cast of relatively unknown actors, and is the first feature film from director and co-writer Neil Blomkamp who previously was an animator and worked in advertising. In 2005 however, Blomkamp released a short movie called "Alive in Joburg" which after checking it out online (watch it on the 'SpyFilms' web site here) , it is clearly the origin of the "District 9" universe and appears to be the breakthrough piece that got the feature length movie off the ground.

Blomkamp's talent must have been recognized by Peter Jackson who helped develop "District 9" as a Producer, enabling the movie to be released under Jackson's Wingnut brand. Jackson also brought with him his army of "Lord of the Rings" computer wizards at Weta that work their magic to integrate the downtrodden aliens so they seamlessly fit into the frames of the handheld documentary / reality show style that "District 9" uses to convey its story.

And its District 9's disenfranchised alien story and the transformation of the lead character that makes the movie so compelling. Sharlto Copley, who was a producer on the 2005 short film, stars as Wikus, a spineless bureaucratic paper pusher, that thanks to some old fashioned nepotism is promoted to lead up a group of UN-like troops assigned to force the eviction and relocation of the alien population from their slum like conditions, to an even creepier government run concentration camp set up outside of the city limits. Copley's portrayal of Wikus is intense and award worthy and holds the movie's focus to the very end.

"District 9" is based in the director's hometown of Johannesburg South Africa and it's easy to make the connection between the movie's underlying politics, to that country struggles against apartheid. However the alien fantasy element allows the filmmakers to take audiences a step further and force us to face the horrible truth that we humans really are the ugliest creatures in the galaxy. The movie doesn't become heavy handed delivering its message and makes it point while still being a well paced action movie that uses the sci-fi to drive it all home.

And while "District 9" does have its gruesome moments, there are quite a few nice touches that add to the movie's charm. This includes the aliens being the obvious intergalactic cousins to H.P. Lovecraft's C'thulu mythos and the alien's obsession with cat food which acts as their means of currency on earth. Hoping that Neil Blomkamp gets his wish to make "District 10", for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 08/19/09
Movie Magazine International

$9.99 - Movie Review

By Purple

On the surface it may seem like the movie nine-dollar and ninety nine cents ($9.99) is another slice of life film, and watching the trailer (which you can find here) you may wonder why a movie that seems to be about everyday people was done using stop motion animation instead of live action. However within the first five minutes of the movie, we get a bloody red clay splattered wake up call that explains all. Nine ninety nine ($9.99) is animated so that the filmmakers can get away with their not so subtle sense of dark and twisted humor without grossing out the audience and send them running to the door. The movie's gruesome opening scene gets a pass because it happens to claymation characters and not real people.

The movie is based on a series of short stories by Etgar Keret who collaborated with director Tatia Rosenthal to translate his work into a screenplay for the film. The movie explores follows a number of characters who all live in an apartment building, each trying to find the meaning to their own lives. The nine dollar and ninety nine cent ($9.99) title refers to the price of a book that the main character named Dave, orders to find out the meaning of life. And while the character may have paid out just under ten bucks for the 'Meaning of Life' book, the paperback that seems to have the real life changing value is the book about 'How to Swim Like a Dolphin' for Dave and his Dad.

Some of the other stories involve encounters with a crass talking angel voiced by Geoffrey Rush who seems to have descended upon the apartment building to bum for cigarettes while helping guide a few of its citizens through to the next stage of development for their souls. Another story line features the figments of the imagination of a drug addicted resident, who struggles with leaving his bad habits behind him. While down the hall, a small boy learns that sometimes it's better to save the pig than break the bank for what's inside. All of these plots intertwine with a pair of brothers that work as furniture repo men while their father struggles to find some happiness in his desperate life.

Nine dollars and ninety nine cents ($9.99) is at its best when it offers a warped "Twilight Zone"-like perspective on just how far a guy will go to change themselves just so they can earn the affections of the super model that moves in upstairs. The outcome is as funny as it is disturbing and helps wrap up the film which runs short at just under eighty minutes long.

While it's fun to see an animated movie aimed at adults, and the use of the clay stop motion characters is a nice alternative to the endless computer generated movies out there, nine dollars and ninety nine cents ($9.99) does suffer from some pacing issues as it jumps from story to story and has such an awkward title that makes it difficult to talk about, and will have the audience wondering if the eleven bucks they spent at the movie theater to watch it is worth it.

Waiting for my 'How to Swim Like a Dolphin' book to show up in the mail, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 07/15/09
Movie Magazine International

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs - Movie Review

By Purple

As the third installment in the series, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" may seem long in the tooth at times, but it knows what it is and excels at it, and the movie is a reliable choice for some silly family entertainment on a hot summer day.

"Ice Age 3" is at its best when Blue Sky Studios continues to carry on the traditions of Looney Toons into the computer age, picking up where Wile Coyote and the Road Runner left off, with the desperate Scrat, the squirrel-like creature and his never ending pursuit of happiness for the almighty nut that is perpetually just out of reach. This time around the Scrat's universe expands after he rubs noses with the girl squirrel of his dreams, and like a Chuck Jones classic, much silliness ensues as he tries to have it all.

There are times however when the third "Ice Age" movie seems like the franchise may have run its course like watching the Wooly Mammoths voiced by Queen Latifah and Ray Romano, try to pull expectant parent plotline along. And while it makes sense to try and connect with the parents who will take their minivans full of kids through the drive-through windows to pick up the "Ice Age" toys inside the happy meals, the family centric gushiness of it all gets a bit too sweet at times and you end up feeling like Denis Leary's sour saber-toothed tiger character Diego and agree that it might be time to hit the road.

Thankfully, the rest of the movie offers a 'Raiders of the Lost Weasel' story thread to follow when we're introduced to Simon Pegg as the voice of Buck, an erratic and insane, adventure critter that helps the "Ice Age" gang through their dinosaur encounters. While slightly annoying at first, Buck's arrival turns out to be just strange enough to keep the mammals and the story moving along.

This third "Ice Age" movie is the first in the series to be developed with the latest 3D technology in mind. There are scenes where the artists at Blue Sky really take advantage of the dimensionality and place the action into the 3D space. Like when the Scrat lands himself in some floating tar bubbles, the slapstick punch lines pop inside the theater. It's a cool effect and worth seeking out a theater showing the 3D version for sure.

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" may not have a lot of ground breaking material, but it has enough gut splitting funny bits to make it a worthwhile Saturday matinee. Here's hoping that Blue Sky continues to render more 3D slapstick inspired by the golden age of cartoons, for Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 07/08/09
Movie Magazine International

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen - Movie Review

By Purple

If Michael Bay knows how to do anything, he knows how to give the people what they want. If you want to rattle your skull with something that's a few stories tall and full of enough metallic eye-candy to pop your eyes out, seek out an IMAX theater showing "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen". It's big, it's loud, it's dumb and it's filled with enough incredibly expensive effects that it blinded audiences worldwide this weekend and made back its 200 million dollar production budget in its first five days.

Sure the "Transformers" sequel is a jumbled mess of story threads that go nowhere, but it runs on the sure winning formula of when in doubt, blow something up and the effects laden haze will distract the audience from the gaping plot holes left behind. As the second "Transformers" is basically two and half hours of loosely strung together corporate advertising for Hasbro toys, GM cars and trucks, and a recruiting video for the US military, I don't think the filmmakers and audiences alike expect much from the story department.

What is surprising about the new "Transformers" movie was seeing the level of ultra-violent, robot-on-robot carnage the "Transformers" dish out to each other. Hero and villains alike serving up the sort of over the top splattering fatality finishing moves you'd expect to see a "Mortal Kombat" mature rated videogame than a PG-13 film. Some of the more gruesome mechanical moves include seeing one robot pulling the spine from the skin of a robotic beast and an eye-ball popping skull crushing moment that would make this movie an R-rating if it were blood instead of motor oil spewing forth.

I guess its all part of the cinematic meat and potatoes stew that's core to the "Transformers" franchise. And what better side dishes to some robotic ultra violence than a healthy portion of pervy camera shots that linger on Megan Fox's curves on the sweet side, and then sour by forcing us to glimpse of more of John Turturro than we want to see on an IMAX screen.

Michael Bay has said he's done with working on the "Transformers" brand and he won't be back for the inevitable third movie. Instead Bay has expressed interest in working on something without explosions in them for a change. And while we can hardly believe it and can't wait to see how that turns out, in the meantime this could be an excellent opportunity to take the "Transformers" into a new direction. Perhaps something more timely like having the "Transformers" step in and save the day for the failing GM auto maker by introducing them to a new best selling car that becomes the first 'green' Autobot, running on a hybrid engine that uses solar panels, recycled wind power, and all of the digital magic that ILM can muster to gloss over any nagging details the actual auto industry has yet to solve.

It may not help out the real GM, but as Michael Bay knows, as long as stuff blows up at the end, the people won't care. For Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 07/01/09
Movie Magazine International

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Up - Movie Review

By Purple

In a ye
ar filled with so many low points, it's nice to have something to look forward to. And as always, the geniuses at Pixar come through and give us "Up", their latest computer animated feature film filled with some of my favorite things including zeppelins, a cameo of the legendary Fenton's, the East Bay ice cream emporium and a cranky old man whose sour appearance hides how sweet everything actually is.

Pixar continues to recognize that their success is built by the talented people who work there, and rotates through its roster of directorial ringers. This time it's Peter Doctor's turn, who led the charge on previous Pixar features like "
Monsters Inc.", and he co-directs "Up" with w
riter Bob Peterson, who also steps in as the voice of Dug, the lovable puppy that thanks to a pretty funny collar gimmick, can speak his mind. "Squirrel!"

Pixar continues to raise the bar on themselves, and beyond the fantastic animation skills displayed, "
Up" is filled with a lot of heart and lifts its audience to experience new emotional highs and lows. So much so, that at times, I speculate that some parents may have to do some serious hand-holding with sensitive kids who may be spooked by the emotionally charged scenes. And while the tradition of plunging the depths of the hopes and fears of children has been part of the Disney repertoire since Bambi's mother died in the forest fire, "Up" presents in an elegant and caring way several deeply human themes. In one montage we see a subtle yet effective retelling of the main characters lives and the difficulties they endured covering real life issues such as financial burdens, unable to conceive children of their own, and having to contend with the loss of a spouse. And while these themes sound pretty heavy handed for a kids movie, in Pixar's hands these hardships are used to frame the heart of gold that lives inside. Up's true message lies directly in the center of love conquers all, and with some determination, planning, and the help of your wacky friends and thousands of helium filled balloons you can achieve your life long goals and learn what's really important along the way.

After seeing the early Pixar short film '
Knick Knack' receive the 3D technology treatment when it was featured in the re-release of the Nightmare Before Christmas a few years ago, I longed to see the Pixar people apply their powers toward creating an original full length movie that is meant to be seen in 3D. "Up" is the first Pixar movie to get the new 3D glasses treatment, and they exceed the standards by seamlessly integrating the technology and choosing the perfect blend of elements to focus on, so that the 3D effect is woven into their storytelling tapestry. And perhaps it's the custom glasses that resemble the thick black rim frames of Up's lead character voiced by the awesome Ed Asner, the eyestrain from watching the 96 minute movie is barely noticeable compared to other 3D films.

Big thanks to everyone at Disney and Pixar for reminding us that even in the darkest times, there's always a good reason to look "
Up". For Movie Magazine this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 06/03/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Young Victoria - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Its hard to imagine that Queen Victoria was ever young, so austere was the matriarch that gave the Victorian Era its signature. But not only was Victoria young, but she was an independent and intelligent regent , at least that is the impression that is given to the recent release of The Young Victoria. The film directed by the Canadian Jean Marc Valée who entertained us with C.R.A.Z.Y three years ago a musical film about a family in Quebec during the 60's and 70's is now the successful director of a period piece that was two years in the making. The Young Victoria stars Emily Blunt as Victoria, probably one of the most talented young actresses of today. She brings to the role an insightful interpretation of the woman who was raised to be a regent, pushed to the side by older men and held back by her mother the Duchess of Kent played by Miranda Richardson and her abusive advisor Sir John Conroy. A young woman seems especially vulnerable and an object of prey and Blunt is able to convey this fragility well. Her mother and advisor are fortunately at odds with the reigning king William, played by James Broadbent who wants Victoria to be his successor. Everyone wants a piece of the crown, and suitors call on her as the crown princess but strangely enough she falls for a man that has the outstanding virtues of patience , sensibility and faith in her abilities, Albert of the Saxon Duchies, admirably played by Rupert Friend. Once installed Victoria puts her trust in Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) who eventually agrees that Albert who she later marries has a say in regal manners. The intrigues of the British crown and court are sufficiently explained so that the players are well introduced, and as such allow Victoria to blossom. Eventually Victoria shows that she has the skill and grace to be a leader despite becoming a regent at such a young age, though history has a few younger regents such as Queen Christina who ascended the thrown at the age of five in 17th century Sweden. Emily Blunt was the guest of the recent Mill Valley Film Festival in September and told the audience that she was surprised at how candid Victoria was about the details of her marriage to Albert and she devoured her diaries in preparation for the role. Of interest is the endurance of the royal marriage, and when Albert died at the early age of 42, Victoria mourned him for the rest of her life. Valée shows the vitality of the relationship and a realistic picture of the pressures of the young regent and her Prince consort in a well crafted film.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 12/23/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Christmas Carol - A Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Dickens's A Christmas Carol is time honored and countless renditions of it have been created year after year especially for the holiday season. Burney Mattison's Mickey's Christmas Carol was made in 1983 where Mickey Mouse plays Bob Cratchitt and Donald Duck is Scrooge. This year Disney has trotted out Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol. Dicken's story is of course ridden with moral lessons and warnings of doom, and to learn them Scrooge is taken to the present, past and the future to personally witness his glaring character defects. But it is nevertheless still entertaining to watch this story in 3D which is the best possible viewing condition, and sovereign if its an IMAX theater.
The voices of Scrooge at all ages is Jim Carrey, but he also is behing the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Still it is really difficult to identify his voice for so clever is the work. But when it comes to Bob Cratchet and Scrooge's only love Belle, both of the characters look like Gary Oldman and Robin Wright Penn who do the voices. The 3D experiences makes you feel like it is really snowing, and the catapults in time are invigorating. But although it is always interesting to find out what Scrooge was like before money ruined him, the different Ghosts are not at all enchanting. The Ghost of Christmas Past is the best of them all, a flickering flame that looks like a pencil head. less captivating is the Ghost of Christmas Present, an enormous Viking that laughs through most of his lines. It is therefore not hard to conjure up Jim Carrey at this point, laughing his head off. And the grim reaper Ghost of Christmas Future is the same old hooded goblin. The flow of the film is engaging, save for the period before Scrooge meets the Ghost of Christmas Present which is slow and uneventful. It is a real plus that Disney has updated this classic into today's state of the art movie magic and it is this reinvention that makes Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol a good cinema experience.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan- Air Date: 12/16/09
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Road - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Films with apocalyptic themes are showing up of late, so add The Road to the list. Based on a novel by Cormac McCarthy, we are taken to some distant future where the sun never shines. Kind of like Scandinavia during the winter. Those wall-to-wall grey clouds with no patchwork greet everyday, an everyday with rain and wind and the earth hurling up violently in some kind of repulsion to the poisons in the atmosphere. There are few survivors and with food scarce some revert to cannibalism. The Road shows how crime and greed develop from cataclysmic occurrences and the dark paths that some choose in order to survive. Viggo Mortensen plays "Man", Charlize Theron is "Woman" and Kodi Smit McPhee is "Boy". The breakup of the nuclear family is one of the consequences of a disaster that has no name, or explanation. Kinship takes on new meaning. The man and the boy and the woman try to survive and the woman gives up first for the story is about father and son, scavenging for food, for shelter, protection from the elements. In a cameo role Robert Duval plays "Old Man", hardly recognizable and showing how versatile he is as an actor. Though there are rougher edges to the novel it is still a difficult cinema experience. Viggo Mortensen is compelling as a father trying to shelter his boy, and who carries a gun with only a few bullets. And it is nothing you want to see a child experience but Kodi Smit McPhee endures and his bravery and optimism balances out his father’s diminishing faith. This is not a film where it gets worse and then better, it’s a film that gets worse with one question, how bad can it get? It is implied that we have destroyed the balance of nature and that the earth is in the throes of dying. It is something to think about with the environmental crisis that is real and immediate.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/25/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Scenes of Love and Murder: Renoir, Film and Philosophy - Book Review -

By Moira Sullivan

Colin Davis’s Scenes of Love and Murder: Renoir, Film and Philosophy combines the author’s interest in Jean Renoir’s greatest films from the 1930s such as Le Règle du Jeu - The Rules of the Game with some of the ideas of the American philosopher Stanley Cavell. Cavell’s philosophical reading of film is a current fashion in academic studies. But whether or not Renoir had philosophical ideas as a filmmaker is left up to the spectator. According to film theorist Peter Wollen, underlying structures such as philosophy is something that can be decoded in film. According to Davis, Renoir believed that the artist was the source of his or her creations, as he said so in Ma Vie et Mes Film, (My Life and My Films) “I dream of a craftsmen’s cinema in which the author could express himself as directly as the writer through his books or the painter through his pictures”. Even so, as Davis points out. a film has other influences, for example Renoir’s The Human Beast was adapted from a novel by Emile Zola and there are also actors, producers and technicians that contribute to film. It is a collaborative process.

The first chapter of Scenes of Love and Murder is devoted to different philosophical approaches to film, such as the work of Giles Deleuze, Wittgenstein and Aristotle. One of the main points of inquiry is whether or not film “thinks”, which is what Stanley Cavell believes. Subsequent chapters take up Renoir's greatest films: those previously mentioned and others such The Grand Illusion, and The Crime of Mr. Lange.

Stanley Cavell believes that film exists in a state of philosophy that it is “inherently self reflexive”. One of the examples used in the book comes from The Grand Illusion and the 15 minute scene where two escaped prisoners, Marechal and Rosenthal, take refuge in a farmhouse where a widow lives with her daughter Elsa. Despite the fact that Marechal does not understand German, he is able to communicate with Elsa. In this meeting Marechal and Elsa form a bound strong and blissful so much that they seem to reside in Eden, despite language difficulties. When they depart, Marechal says if he were to look back, he would not be able to leave. Davis calls this meeting with "the other" a comparison to how Lot’s wife looks back upon the destruction of Sodom. Another example that Davis studies is why Renoir’s famous film is called The Rules of the Game. What is obvious,according to Davis, is that society is dictated by a set of senseless rules that must be obeyed. As Cavell puts it, by “a rule intoxicated society”. But even so it is not clear in the film what the rules actually mean or what they are. This seems to be part of the philosophical terrain, inherent in Renoir films, according to Davis.
Scenes of Love and Murder is an interesting study for those interested in Stanley Cavell, but also thought provoking in terms of the examples taken from the films of Renoir.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/18
Movie Magazine International

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Italian Cinema at the San Francisco Film Society - Special Report

By Moira Sullivan

The San Francisco Film Society New Italian cinema program, now in its 13th year, will screen from November 15-22.
All of the directors of the films will be present for the screenings. There are four films by Marco Risi and his latest film will be presented on opening night - Fortapàsc. In English this means Fort Apache, a violent part of Naples. The film is about the life of the journalist Giancarlo Siani who was murdered for writing about mobsters such as Valentino Gionta and clashes between clans.
The Sicilian Girl by director Marco Amenta tells the story of a young girl who testifies against the mafia after her father and brother are executed. On closing night November 22, Vincere by Marco Belluchio will screen, a film in an innovative opera form with newsreel footage about Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), the mother of Benito Mussolini’s illegitimate child and her tragic love affair with the Fascist dictator (Filippo Timi). ( Note: a review of this film and an interview with one of the actors Francesca Picozza will be featured in an upcoming Movie Magazine show in January upon the theatrical release of the film.)
Sea Purple directed by Donatella Maiorca is the story of a woman who falls in love with her best friend Sara in 19th century Sicily and in Different from Whom? by Umberto Carteni, a gay-rights advocate campaigns to be mayor in a conservative town. PA-RA-DA by Marco Pontecorvo features non-professional child actors in a touching story about a French street clown who travels to Bucharest to bring cheer to orphanages, three years after the Ceausescu dictatorship is overthrown. And a provocative family drama is the subject of Claudio Giovannesi’s The House in the Clouds.
As a preview from the series, Lecture 21 by Alessandro Baricco is an enchanting music film to be screened on November 20. An Italian-English co production, it features John Hurt as Professor Mondrian Kilroy. A rebel lecturer beloved by students, a few recall one of his most memorable lectures about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. In the opening scene a coffin is being transported on ice by a group of skaters. The lecture is then brought to life where we follow the life of Anton Peters (played by Noah Taylor) who tries to convince a group of villagers of the importance of the symphony who think Beethoven was washed up as a musician. Barricco’s form provides us the opportunity to explore this great work of Beethoven with anecdotes of the piece, and details such as how the composer would bang the piano when composing music so that no one would steal the music he couldn’t hear, how the piece was received at the time, and various aspects of the composition. There are cuts back to the students who remember the lectures of Mondriano Kilroy and the professor himself at poignant moments of the lecture and in conversation with one of his students Marta. The fact that this lecture is so skillfully brought to life convinces us that it was indeed something one really missed, as the student Marta recalls, she heard it three times.
The San Francisco Film Society Italian cinema program truly promises an exciting lineup.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/11/09
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Visual Acoustics - Movie Review

(click any image to enlarge)

By Jonathan W. Wind

Narrated by Dustin Hoffman, Visual Acoustics is the story of Julius Shulman, the world’s greatest architectural photographer,who died in July of this year. Shulman photographed nearly every well known architect's creations, beginning in the early 1930s.

Such luminaries as Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra and Frank Gehry created the modernist architectural movement, centered in Southern California. In the 1950s and 1960s Shulman's iconic images showed the rest of the nation the mystique of Beverly Hills and the “Southern California lifestyle.”

Modernism draws on the formula that form follows function meaning that the form of a building or object should be foremost based upon the function or purpose for which it is intended. Interestingly, though this would seem to always makes good sense, often there are aesthetic issues, the form of an object and its intended purpose is not by itself a entire design solution. If only the film itself had followed this formula. Shulman is shown as shallow and doddering, vain about his accomplishments and connections.

Shulman's single point perspectives epitomized the pure beauty of Southern California's modernist movement and brought its iconic structures to the attention of the American public. Each image seems to command the light and shadow around it. A naturalist, educator, lifestyle propagandist and commentator on urban form he once said "every part of a persons life is based on an architect's presence." The movie features Shulman revisiting homes he photographed decades ago including the Kaufmann House by Richard Neutra, and an elegant angular glass house by Pierre Koenig perched high in the Hollywood Hills.

Shulman himself does come off well in this film. Depicted as hyper, narcissistic and dismissive, the director films only a shell of person. Early in the film there is a brisk stop-animation chronology of his influences, friends, relations, and students. It goes by quickly, explaining the roles of no less than 20 people in two minutes, it feels like padding for a movie that is unmistakably for the post modernist "in the know" crowd. Director Eric Bricker skims over Shulman's life, showing him as stubborn, but somehow free of discord, the ends don't match up.

Visual Acoustics won the Mercedes-Benz Audience Award for Best Documentary at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and several other film festival awards. Director Eric Bricker once turned his focus toward film and television production where he worked with such notable talent as Jerry Seinfeld, and his inspired "show about nothing," translating that ethic into full blown documentary style.

Even as a historical documentary I found this film unbearable. Poorly photographed and edited, with forgettable droning music, I needed to pinch myself to stay awake. If you are an architect, a photographer, or any combination thereof, this movie might educate you of your roots, but for me as a slice of entertainment or edification it left a dry aftertaste.

© 2009 - Jonathan W. Wind - Air Date: 11/04/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

21st Cineffable Film Festival, Paris - Special Report

By Moira Sullivan

The Cineffable Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival continues to excel in bringing to Paris an excellent program of international documentaries, features, and shorts, including experimental and animation. This year the audience awarded best feature to Rain, by Maria Govan of the UK and the Bahamas. The film is about a young girl who goes to live with her drug addicted mother after her grandmother dies, and sets her hopes on becoming a champion runner. Best documentary went to the U People, by Hanifah Walidah, an exceptional music video about 30 women and transmen of color in Brooklyn. Short films that won audience awards include Canadian Claudia Morgado Escanillas' No Bikini won best short about a young girl who experiences seven years of bliss posing as boy so that she can swim without a top. In Melanie McGraw’s Pitstop from the US a young girl is accidentally left behind at a gas station and becomes inspired by the woman who owns it who encourages her to take photographs.
Women gather for four days when Paris is on holiday for Toussaint, All Saints Day. To the story there was an attempt to bring Halloween to France several years agon, which never got off the ground. Attendees from all over the country and around the world are able to attend 73 screenings. A festival committee of 11 women chose the films this year from 0ver 200 applicants and provides a diversified program with various subjects that reflect lesbians around the world. The process is democratic and also highly tuned to the needs of women, even if women raise strong concerns about the images of the filmmakers.
But Cineffable tries to accommodate as many voices as possible, making a special effort to bring in low budget film by women who do not have commercial distribution. In an exclusive interview to Movie Magazine from two of the filmmakers present at the festival here now is Maria Galindo, director of the Bolivian documentary Amazones, and Elena Garcia- Oliveros director of experimental shorts from Spain including El Psicohospitalito.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 11/04/09
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

LunaFest - Special Report

By Moira Sullivan

I have seldom attended a film festival so well organized and in brilliant spirits as the 9th Lunafest, a traveling program of short films by women that were screened at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco last month. A VIP reception preceded the program and Lunabar, a sustainable health nutrition bar business, hosted the entire event. The networking and outreach that produced an amazing turnout allowed community leaders, activist and citizens alike the opportunity to gather for a good cause and see films which empower women and take up women’s issues such as learning to overcome cultural differences and living within your limitations at any age.
Lunabar sponsors screenings in over 100 US cities between October and May and provides materials and tools for the creation of successful fund raising events. The Lunafest event actually assists local non-profit fund raising, which in San Francisco is the Breast Cancer Fund. The films featured in the 2009-2010 Lunafest are multi-ethnic primarily stories from set primarily in the USA and the filmmakers received $1000 dollars each. Courteney Cox was one of them who makes her directorial debut in The Monday before Thanksgiving starring Laura Dern. The film is about a single woman whose mother has recently died. She is happy being single too but everyone wants to pair her up.

Another film by a San Francisco filmmaker is Roz (and Joshua), a 3-minute film by Charlene Music that she made as part of her MFA at Stanford. The film focuses is Roz, a homeless woman who is trying to get back her son Joshua. Music came up on the stage with Roz, who is now training to be a massage therapist and no longer homeless. She is still trying to get back her son. Music told the audience she was interested in making socially relevant films.

© 2009 - Your Name - Air Date: 10/28/09
Movie Magazine International

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Hair - Movie Review

(click any image to enlarge)

By Jonathan W. Wind

"Daddy, why don't I have good hair?"

So queries Chris Rock's daughter's after school one day, sending Chris upon a quest.

"Good Hair" is directed by established Hollywood comedy writer Jeff Stilson, and produced by Chris Rock for HBO Films. Now, Chris Rock is someone I watch with the remote in one hand, just in case I have to mute it right away or switch channels. He's funny in a mealy sort of way. But this time Chris Rock is a gentleman, a court jester with a research degree and an agenda, letting his subjects laugh at themselves and each other without rancor.

Without pandering he chats up everyday people asking their opinions, listening intently and relying on the irony in their own words. He cracks a few cultural jokes, but seems saddened by the spectacle of young African American women intent on beating the odds by by achieving the admired "good hair" through any means possible. The hair industry in black culture dominates the beauty scene even more than clothes. In conversations in barber shops and salons Chris eeks out the truth.

And what about my own hair you may ask. .When I was a youngster I had camel-length eyelashes and thick curly hair my mother's friends all loved. But my unpartable springy hair drew ire and spit from my smooth tressed friends. Steve could run his stumpy fingers through his hair, jack his head sharply to the right, and every strand would flutter perfectly into a rakish pompadour. Touching my hair merely pushed it into tufts, resistant to breezes and even gravity, there it would stall unflatteringly until pushed back into place. So I know something about wanting good hair.

"Good Hair" tells the story of the black hair industry, it's beneficiaries and victims. Starting in Atlanta, where, Chris suggests "all major black decisions are made, " he attends the Bronner Bros. Hair Show, where thousands of black hair products and all manner of hair dressers compete for the multibillion dollar black hair market. Chris points out that black hair products are used 100% by blacks, yet 80% of the black hair care companies are owned by white and Asian interests, go figure.

Unsurprisingly, money is at the core. First Chris concentrates on the hair relaxer industry. Pointing out that Oprah, Rianna, Whitney - some of our favorite stars undergo this straightening process to some degree, men too, how about Prince, and on some girls as young as 3. Michelle O, curiously, is not mentioned, perhaps somehow the cultural implications are too great for the scope of this movie. The relaxing process is smelly, dangerous and corrosive, the white cream can burn through a tin can in just hours; but the results are silken locks, that is until the roots show - then its cough up a few more Franklins. Then there's weaves. Chris jaunts off to India where hair is collected from women who donate their hair to the gods in colorful religious rites, estimated at as many as 10 million shaved heads a year. The hair is gathered and processed for sale to US markets, mostly in LA. A good weave can cost up to $4,000, and needs to be replaced three times a year. For too many black women and their families, the cost of good hair effects their relationships and their bottom line.

The movie running time is only 95 minutes, but it seems longer when Chris defers the focus to the Hair Show beautician finalists, contestants in a bizarre hair-cutting stage show. There are several short interviews with the likes of Maya Angelou, Ice-T and Nia Long. But it's hats off to Al Sharpton, smiling and witty he reminisces about hair care tips he got from James Brown. Al asserts with resignation that black women today awaken each morning and comb their exploitation from root to tip.

A comedy documentary with a courteous tone, Good Hair is fun and entertaining while shedding light on another odd, somewhat sad chapter of Americana. I say see it, but let Netflix pick up the tab.

© 2009 - Jonathan W. Wind - Air Date: 10/28/09
Movie Magazine International

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Tomb Of Ligeia - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

"The Tomb Of Ligeia", released on Inauguration Day 1965, returns us to the sort of Vincent Price fare most loved by horror movie buffs: Edgar Allan Poe as seen in color by Roger Corman. Price is Verden Fell, cursed by his dead wife, Ligeia and hoping to free himself with his new wife Rowena. Both are played by Elizabeth Shepherd, a good actress who had been hired to replace Honor Blackman on "The Avengers" and then fired before audiences saw her in action. Diana Rigg was then cast as Mrs. Emma Peel and many years later no one can imagine anyone else in the part. Certainly not Uma Thurman or Elizabeth Shepherd.

It is tricky to imagine Diana Rigg as Ligeia and Rowena, because for all her enormous talent as an actress she has never convincingly conveyed terror or vulnerability. Shepherd projects both, but she is not in the same league as her charismatic co-star. The presence of fine character actors like Richard Vernon, Frank Thornton, Denis Gilmore and a well trained black cat help, but we still miss Vincent Price during the long stretches dominated by Ligeia and Rowena. This was the eighth collaboration between Corman and Price, after which the director swore off Poe. It was everyone's loss.

© 2009 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 10/21/09
Movie Magazine International