Retablo is a beautifully-shot film from Peru that is undermined by the uglier parts of its narrative. The film’s title refers to the objects produced by master craftsman, Noé (Amiel Cayo), who is passing along the trade to his talented son, Segundo (Junior Béjar Roca). It was the promise of seeing these objects up close that lured me to this film, and in that respect, Retablo delivers. Peruvian retablos are intricate pieces of art that use colorful clay figurines to depict religious, historical, and everyday events.
Familiar struggles threaten to keep two women apart in this charming, queer coming-of-age tale set in Nairobi, Kenya. In the film, Kena (Samantha Mugatsia) is immediately taken with Kiki (Sheila Munyiva) when she spots her hanging out with friends, dancing in the streets. Right away, the two young women share a glance—the first of many as they subtly gauge one another and their own feelings.
Over the course of the next week or so, contributing writer Kate Blair and I will cover the festival through various capsule reviews of some of the featured films. There are a lot of great high-profile titles to look forward to as well. Here are just a few we will try to see though we will be writing up on a whole lot more!
BLUEPRINT is a film that keeps the bigger issues on more of a micro-level, focusing on one human being's plight as he struggles to be a better person. At the same time, Jerod Harris doesn't make his portrayal all that sympathetic. He cheats, drinks and even ignores his own child at certain points. But you sense the internal conflict within and the movie, which barely lasts 80 minutes, manages to pack a significant punch that serves as a wake-up call. This is the humanistic portrayal of what's going on in Chicago that I've been hoping for.
A Star is Born is a tale almost as old as Hollywood itself. Versions of the story have been released in 1937, 1954, and 1976, making us due for a 21st-century reboot. In fact, the roots of the narrative go back even further: George Cukor’s 1932 film What Price Hollywood? was similar enough that he passed up on the opportunity to direct the 1937 version, which eventually went to William A. Wellman. Cukor, of course, eventually signed on to direct Judy Garland in the 1954 version. Later, the 70s gave us the version which seems to have most directly inspired this movie.
Mobility is a challenge even in the day and age of recording music, spending time on a smartphone or reading the daily news on a laptop. Which is why I wanted to see a movie about the opposite of sitting still. 3100: RUN AND BECOME is a bit of breath of fresh air in the world of documentary filmmaking, even if it doesn’t instill a sense of awe that it aspires to. The film follows an unassuming Finnish paperboy, Ashprihanal Aalto in his determined attempt to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Miler, the world’s longest race, where he must run at least 60 miles per day for 52 days around a ½ mile sidewalk loop in New York City.
When sitting down to write a review, the last thing you want to implement is a cliche. However, once in awhile it is so apt that no better words or turns of phrase could be used. I’m of course referring to “style over substance,” in the case of MANDY which is the latest film from director Panos Cosmatos. Every so often, a viewer can settle in and accept the fact that a movie can simply be an experience of mood rather than a wholly original story. This would be the case for this particular film, in which I warmed up to its first hour only to find myself a bit distanced by the second, due to its familiarity of revenge movie tropes and gory screams of confrontation.
Sometimes movies take horror premises and than put more horror premises inside of them, like one of those Japanese Pizza Hut pizzas that has hot dogs inside the crust. In The Russian Bride, Nina (Oksana Orlan) plays a Russian woman in a desperate situation who is forced to become a mail-order bride for rich man Karl Frederick (Corbin Bensen). He seems kind enough but anyone who pays attention to the news knows there's no such thing as a kind rich man, all rich people are craven sadists looking to strip-mine the working class for parts. Her arrival in America (which looks suspiciously like the Eastern Europe she just left) gets more ominous with the appearance of a tongueless hunchback groundskeeper, a forbidden wing of the mansion, undiscussed children's rooms, stories of Karl's dark past and a ghost that may or may not be his former wife that won't leave Nina's daughter Dasha (Kristina Pimenova) alone.
Natalia (Sofia Del Tuffo) is a convent novice, fleeing some dark thing in her past. She has dark visions and sees auras circling the people around her. She has an unclear relationship with a young man there, an unresolved issue with her family, a tortured relationship with her sister. Some of these things will be answered by the end of Luciferina, a new possession horror film from Argentina, but very little will get more clear.
What a year for The Music Box Theatre with the Cinepocalypse film festival. Though I wasn't able to attend every screening, there were a couple of films I was able to view that truly were special. That's not to say everything was a home run. Despite having seen THE RANGER, I have very little to say about it aside from "yep, that was a slasher movie." Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. A genre film festival is supposed to present a little bit of everything, including something truly divisive and bizarre like the latest PUPPET MASTER film. Luckily, my cohort Patrick Ripoll and I were able to see a lot of interesting titles this year that were memorable and special. I know Patrick couldn't say enough good things about the latest from Joel Potrykus with RELAXER, and I found EMPATHY INC., to be right up my alley as well. The rep screenings were also marvelous with Lana Wachowski making an appearance for her debut noir thriller BOUND as well as the movie where Denis Leary got to play a gang leader, JUDGMENT NIGHT.