Friday, April 26, 2013

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

When 1992's "Strictly Ballroom" became an international hit, exhibitors were eager for MORE offbeat Australian movies that would do as well.  "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert" fit the bill.  Who would ever imagine Terence Stamp, the Oscar-nominated, impossibly gorgeous "Billy Budd" in Sir Peter Ustinov's superb 1962 film of the same name, would EVER play a drag queen named Bernadette?  And yet, Stamp, who initially resisted the idea, discovered that Bernadette was a role he was destined to play.  The camera is not overly kind to Stamp at 55, yet he invests the role of Bernadette with dignity, elegance, intrigue and mystery, all the qualities of a great diva.  Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, too, are terrific as fellow divas Mitzi A.K.A. Tick and Felicia A.K.A. Adam.  The three of them hit the road in the title character, an outdated bus.  Along the way, Bernadette discovers romance, Tick experiences fatherhood and Adam learns how not to behave with a gang of red-necked rowdies.

The soundtrack is a keeper, with songs galore by Alicia Bridges, Gloria Gaynor, Peaches & Herb, The Village People, Charlene, R.B. Greaves, Lena Horne, Paper Lace, Patti Page, CeCe Peniston, Trudy Richards, White Plains, Vanessa Williams and Abba.  Bill Hunter, who plays a charmer named Bob, and Terence Stamp had previously worked together in the 1985 Stephen Frears film, "The Hit."  Plans were ALREADY in the works for the 1995 Universal release, "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Love, Julie Newmar", starring Wesley Snipes, Patrick Swayze and John Leguizamo, but middle America's acceptance of drag queens, apparently, required squeaky clean Mary Worths who dedicate their lives to solving the straight world's problems.

© 2013 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 04/17/13
Movie Magazine International

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Udine Far East Film Festival honors Kim Dong-ho

By Moira Sullivan

The 15th Udine Far East Film Festival opened on April 19th with a great lineup of films from Southeast Asia. The Udine festival is the largest portal of films from South East Asia in Europe, and many of the films come directly from their premiere in their country or make their international debut at Udine and this year is no exception

This festival has a success formula written all over it, even if it feels the crunch of the economy and has to be frugal. The Autumn edition of the highly regarded Oxford journal Screen wrote about the Udine recipe for success in "Counter programming and the Udine Far East Film Festival". The authors regard the festival as a high quality festival because of how it programs festival films from Asia. The authors maintain that although a film from Asia is presented at an A-list festival such as Berlin, Cannes and Venice, it gets attention primarily because it comes from Asia, not because the film is popular and given critical attention in the country of origin. The article also emphasizes that vendors at A - list festival markets are not as informed about the DVDs or films shown in the Asian market as Udine. Udine's special talent, as noted in "Screen", is selecting members for their program committee specialized in a particular country in South East Asia.

Udine chooses film after the South Korean Busan International Film Festival in October and in the interim before Cannes and Venice through special contacts from their festival committee. This makes it a special niche market for new Asian films. They also have a partnership with Busan and Venice Film Festival regarding these choices. The former head of the Venice Film Festival, Marco MuĂ«ller, is a European expert in Chinese literature so the Veneto region of which Udine and Venice became a fertile source for new films from Asia for the European and North American markets.  Many films screened at Udine have not been shown before on the festival web.

The directors often come with their films to Udine and the festival has made directors such as John Woo, Johnny To,Tsui Hark, Takeshi Miike, and Miike Kitano known in Italy.

Screen points out that the Udine audience has become in fact good experts on films from Asia, which has been demonstrated through the DVD / book market at the festival where people can buy books on Asian cinema, and films that have been shown at previous festivals.

At the 65th Cannes (2012), a special "Thai Cinema Night" was arranged for Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, an established actress. There were many programmers and marketers interested in this event. Trailers from Thai films screened at Udine were present. An actress known in Udine, Penpak Sirikul ("It Gets Better" - 2012) was on the panel for the event and as well as director Tom Waller who made – “Mindfulness and Murder” from 2012. Most people who attended the event were not aware of these films, directors and actors, so the Udine portal is confirmed as an important threshold for Europe to see fresh films from Southeast Asia.

This year the European premiere of Ip Man The Final Fight closely follows its theatrical release in Hong Kong on March 28th The setting is in postwar Hong Kong, where the Wing Chun Grandmaster, Ip Man, teacher of Bruce Lee is challenged by rival kung fu styles and must fight one last time.

Anthony Wong Chau-Sang plays Ip Man and the film is directed by Herman Yau who did the first Ip Man, the legend is born.

This year there are also three wold premieres from Japan:

Maruyama, The Middle Schooler by Kudo Kankuro , Angel Home by Tsutsumi Yukihiko, and It's Me, It's Me by Miki Satoshi who guests the festival with super pop idol Kazuya Kamenashi otherwise known at Kame, a 27 year old Dancer, singer, actor, television personality,and radio host

Other highlights this year include A Story Of Yonosuke by Japanese director Okita Shuichi who made the brilliant Woodsman and the Rain (2011)  about a film crew and young director who asks a woodman to stop sawing down trees in order to finish their shoot. The Bullet Vanishes, is a Chinese detective story set in the late nineteenth century directed by Derek Yee with an all-star cast including Lau Ching-wan and Nicholas Tse. There is also the Hong Kong action Cold War by Longman Leung and Sunny Luk, and Lost In Thailand by actor/director Xu Zheng, who holds a box office record for Chinese cinema in mainland China 
This year Golden Mulberry for Lifetime Achievement goes to Kim Dong-ho,  the South Korean director of the Busan Film Festival held in South Korea, which is called the "Cannes of the East".

Kim Dong-ho also presents a short film this year that was featured at the Berlin Film Festival about a jury who deliberates about the best films for a festival, a subject close to home.

The Udine festival ends on Saturday April 27th. Long live Udine!

© 2013- Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 04/23/13
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Cliff House and Sutro Heights - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

For my 12th birthday, I was treated to a brunch at the Cliff House.  It was special and beautiful and even though I considered my childhood over by the age of five, I was convinced that no one else would consider me a kid in the sixth grade!  The attractions of the Cliff House and Playland at the Beach were always rooted in the past, though.  Not my past, the long ago past.  The Fun House and Laughing Sal and the Giant Slide were slipping away from me at a time I thought they would go on forever.

Director Tom Wyrsch's new film on The Cliff House and The Sutro Heights captures that sense of "Look close feel everything, this world will be gone before you know it."  The clever title cards remind us that we're not in the nineteenth or twentieth century.  Unfortunately for the first half of the feature two park rangers give us the facts as if we were on a guided tour. Then, suddenly, we arrive at 1903 when we see a batch of adorable children running towards the sea.  One of my ghostly ancestors would have been about seven that year: is she one of the sea sprites reveling in the sun and sea and sand?

The Cliff House was fated to burn down at least twice.  It looked great, but it was made of wood.  The Sutro Baths fire of 1966 was sneakier: arson was rumored.  But The Baths, unlike The Cliff House, were never resurrected.  You can see them in their incarnation as an ice rink in the 1958 film noir "The Line Up", along with the newly built and equally doomed Embarcadero Freeway.

The Cliff House was never just a place to eat.  It was an entrance to a wonderland of nature.  You could soak up the sun from your table, or watch storms splash against the picture windows, or pay a visit to the Musee Mechanique and time travel with toys and games.  "The Cliff House and Sutro Heights" opens at the Balboa Theatre in San Francisco on April 12.  It is not a perfect film, although there are many perfect moments in it.  It's well worth a look before you visit the real thing.

© 2013 -  Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 04/10/13
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Brother; The Devil

By Moira Sullivan
James Floyd and Fady Elsayed

Opening this week in San Francisco is Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil, which won the best debut feature, award at the Frameline LGBT film festival this summer. El Hosaini is an Egyptian Welsh director and her film was developed with the Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Labs in 2009. This was her first feature shot in Hackney London. 

The story takes up an Egyptian immigrant family, with two first generation English sons. The wife has a minor role, almost part of the furniture in her casting, and is always forgiving of her two sons. You can almost predict that there is going to be tension between the father and the older son. So, the older boy Rashid (James Floyd) has fallen out with his father, but there is still hope for the younger Mo (Fady Elsayed). Nevertheless Mo has managed to pick up a lot of conservative values and is homophobic. One of his best friends is a young woman who refuses to accept an expensive gift from him.

Rashid deals drugs to help his younger brother into college. Mo admires his older brother and wants to follow in his footsteps but Rashid is protective of him. Much of the film deals with the drug scene of a street gang, rival gangs, and eventually violence involving knives and gunfights.  There is nothing new about this scenario but then El Hosaini switches midstream, without any foreshadowing to chronicle Rashid and what seems a very covert growing attraction a photographer of Egyptian descent.  This is something that causes Rashid to withdraw from his life on the streets, and even more from his family. Mo finds out and would have preferred his brother to be a terrorist than a "homo".

For a debut film, the composition of the frame, the script and the editing is above average. El Hosaini shows us the concerns of a youth of subculture within London. The Hackney dialogue is a bit difficult to follow and the gritty reality of the film is somewhat "hackneyed" and has been done in other films. But no doubt this Egyptian Welch director shows promise for future productions.

© 2013 - Moira Sullivane - Air Date: 04/10/13
Movie Magazine International