Saigon Electric

This predictable little romance boasts some great street dancing. I would call it "Break dancing" but in "Saigon Electric," they call it "Hip hop." It's probably the same here; I honestly can't tell the difference. I suspect they are break dancing to hip hop music...smile... Either way, the dancing is terrific!

We have two possible love stories, plus one self-exiled old geezer, a failed dance audition, a recreation center that threatens to be closed by developers and...and... Enough clichés for you? Just remember what I always say about clichés: They became clichés because they WORK!

Now let me tell you what I liked:
  • The main characters were well-meaning young adults who avoided drugs and were careful about random sex.
  • The rare kisses were semi-chaste and respectful.
  • The adults weren't as arbitrary and one-dimensional as they are in American films. They seemed to listen to the youngsters better and were open to reason.
  • All of the principals were attractive and we were treated to countless closeups.
  • The dancers were impressive!
This film is harmless enough and a sweet would-be ballerina/ribbon dancer is the central character. The streets of Saigon weren't scrubbed and shiny, but on the other hand, it didn't seem as though danger lurked around every corner, either. That's a nice change of pace. No gunshots or blowie uppie stuff, I liked THAT, too.

Vietnam submitted this entry (English captions) to the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival.


Kung Fu Panda 2

Yup. Another silly, lively romp in cartoon land. The children loved it and people laughed out loud most of the way through. This time, along with other plot devices, Po is trying to discover if he's adopted. After all, his father IS a goose and Po is starting to get a little suspicious....

For me, part of its charm was the incredible voice actors:
  • Jack Black ("Kung Fu Panda") is back as Po; I like him better when I don't have to SEE him.
  • Dustin Hoffman ("Kung Fu Panda") is back as Shifu, the Yoda-like character who is Po's resident guru, although sentences inside out he does not speak.
  • Angelina Jolie ("Kung Fu Panda") is Tigress once again, gentle of voice with paws of steel.
  • Seth Rogan ("Kung Fu Panda") comes back as Mantis. He's another one I'd rather hear than see.
  • Jackie Chan ("Kung Fu Panda") voices Monkey again.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme ("JCVD") is new to this franchise. He's Master Croc.
  • Gary Oldman ("Red Riding Hood") is Lord Shen the evil peacock who seeks world domination. If movies didn't have villains, this guy would be unemployed.
The list goes on and on. The target audience, rug-rats all, don't give a rip who's supplying the voice, so I'll stop right here.

This is available in both 2D and 3D. I can't say I noticed anything that made that premium ticket price worthwhile, although I will admit that I ducked from an inbound spear during one battle...smile...

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The Rescuers

According to the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival Guide, this entry from the U.S. is a person-by-person retelling of the Holocaust, but this time it highlights the various (heroic!) diplomats from different countries and cultures who defied their superiors, broke many rules and saved countless desperate lives. Many paid a heavy price for their heroism up to and including their own lives and careers.

A young Rwandan human rights activist Stephanie Nyombayire is escorted around Europe by British writer Martin Gilbert and is introduced not only to Holocaust survivors, but also to family members of both the diplomats and the rescued families from WWII. One cannot fail to see the HUGE diplomatic failure with today's human rights catastrophes in both Rwanda and Darfur. This is only a half-hearted call to action; more should have been made of these egregious failures to help humankind.

When they broach the topic of diplomatic involvement in contemporary genocidal wars, one European diplomat waves his hands in a helpless fashion and says it is "simply against the rules." In my opinion they didn't come down hard enough on the diplomatic corps. They watch people die and "file a report." Shame on them!


This is another gay soft-porn flick that, to me, wasn't very effective. But then again, I may have missed the point. A good portion of my poor impression was caused by my lack of hearing. I heard only a dozen words in the entire movie and I distinctly heard the audience laugh two times, so I know I missed a couple of clever lines.

We see a semi-closeted gay man pick up a fellow in a dance club and take him home. This triggers a weekend of sex and drugs, drugs and sex. They seem to be pondering the merits of coming out versus staying closeted, and debating what constitutes "happy." I wasn't able to tell if they arrived at a consensus.

I've seen worse...smile...


Every Song is About Me

"Todas las canciones hablan de mi" is a little hard on the main character, an aimless young man. He has drifted out of a six-year relationship and moved back home with his mother and grandmother; despite his university degree, he continues to work at his uncle's bookstore; he starts numerous projects but fails to complete any of them. I kept trying to find something about him to sympathize with or admire. He isn't mean, just aimless.

In this 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Spain, I found the sound track to be jarring but could appreciate some universal truths:
  • Far too many people these days believe "it's all about me." Thus the title.
  • Young men get relationship advice from other (single) young men, just as they do in America.
  • College students tend to spout high-flying theories on a variety of topics.
  • Dance clubs with strobe lights and writhing bodies look the same, no matter where.
  • Quickie marriages to avoid deportation are common everywhere.
Oriol Vila, the nice-looking young man who plays the lead, is in another SIFF entry from Spain this year: He has a secondary (but pivotal) role in "Pájaros de papel" ("Paper Birds"), which I found far superior.


Perfect Sense

Does this bleak 2011 SIFF entry from the UK make "Perfect Sense?" I don't think so!

We watch as scientists try to discover why some people are overtaken with incontrollable fits of weeping. They can discover no cause and the epidemic eventually spreads throughout the world...until it also includes the scientists. When the weeping passes, the individual no longer has a sense of smell. This is a challenge to a successful chef who prides himself on preparing food that satisfies ALL the senses because his clientèle is left only with taste and sight.

Next we see moods of violent rage sweep the world. We watch the chef and one of the scientists (now lovers) as they are overtaken by fury, smashing everything within reach. Once this has passed, the individual is left with no sense of taste. Watch that chef kick into gear!

Can you tell where this is going? At least we enjoy the cast; the two leads are:
  • Ewen McGregor ("Amelia") is the chef, dealing with each challenge in a resourceful and ingenious way.
  • Eva Green ("Casino Royale") is the scientist, who mostly chirps at the lab mice and runs down hallways.
It was fun to see McGregor and Green eat a bar of soap and laugh at the incongruity. However, I tend to favor films that make "Perfect Sense." No such luck here.

The Future

An 81-year-old fellow audience member at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival said it best: "What a self-indulgent bunch of crap...with BAD acting!" A reader from the U.K. called it "Utter Bilge!"

Actor/Director/Producer Miranda July ("Me and You and Everyone We Know") has once again mystified me beyond belief: How does she get financing for these miserable projects? Boring scenes that creep by at a glacial pace are interspersed with an annoying little voice that is supposed to represent an injured cat.

Please join me in the hope that we are not plagued with another of Ms. July's atrocities in The Future!


This looks to me like an "anti-Chick Flick" because the main character, a lovely young woman, has NO redeeming qualities. She is petulant, impulsive, selfish and mean. Her would-be suitors are in turn, baffled, infuriated, hurt and sad. The program notes for the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival describe this enterprise from Hong Kong as a "mash-up of Desperately Seeking Susan, (500) Days of Summer and Singles." I disagree. Those movies boasted a main character to root for. In this one, I was mostly sympathetic to the old boyfriend and his new fiancée; he's a cutie and the actress is beautiful, subtle and sweet.

Our story starts with our "heroine" at an airport with her latest boyfriend. She suspects him of infidelity and their tiff is overheard by a couple at a nearby table. The female half of that couple is instantly sympathetic and her boyfriend is oddly hesitant; it's clear that he doesn't want to get involved.

The "Why" is the crux of the story, although we learn much more about this wench's character when her mother shows up. Remember that saying, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree..." It's certainly true here.

Every woman exiting the screening was exasperated with that destructive young woman.


Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Yep, this dependable money-printing machine is back for the fourth time. This time it's missing Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, but sporting a welcome new face or two.

Here's who's who:
  • Johnny Depp ("Rango") is the iconic Captain Jack Sparrow, still cowardly and resourceful, manipulated into a quest for the Fountain of Youth. This time we discover he has a past.
  • Keith Richards ("Pirates" franchise) appropriately returns once again as Captain Teague, Jack's father. I say appropriate because Depp patterned his character after the famous rock star.
  • Geoffrey Rush ("The King's Speech") continues as Barbossa, still locked in a never-ending rivalry with Sparrow. This time he's affiliated with the British crown.
  • Penélope Cruz ("Volver") shares a past with Depp: he derailed her plan to become a nun. She is Blackbeard's daughter Angelica, and can swing a sword with the best of them.
  • Ian McShane ("Deadwood") is Blackbeard, scourge of the high seas. He wants the map to the Fountain of Youth. McShane feels a good story always needs a good villain and he certainly fills that bill.
  • Sam Claflin ("Pillars of the Earth") is a saintly missionary. Sparrow accepts his neutrality simply as a "requirement for the clergy."
  • Dame Judi Dench has a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-her cameo with the funniest line.
Three groups compete in the quest for the Fountain of Youth: The Spanish, the English, the pirates. Even THEY have trouble figuring out who to fight during some of those mélées.

Sparrow is brimming with throwaway lines, e.g., "Did you see what I just did? Good, 'cause I shan't do it again," and Depp has brought him to us with a consistent accent and vocal quality since the beginning. He's good. (But why must he uglify himself?!)

This is a mindless romp full of action, color and good humor...not as gruesome as the previous two had become. To me, that is GOOD news.

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Paper Birds

I am a sucker for movies about people in show business. On the other hand, the era of Franco's Spain confuses me! This 2011 Seattle Inter- national Film Festival entry from Spain (English captions) is a mashup of the two. Don't be alarmed though, the central story of "Pájaros de papel" is never confusing and always involving.

In addition, it boasts a sterling cast:
  • Imanol Arias ("The Flower of my Secret") is wonderful as a grieving father, a vaudevillian and a revolutionary. I was struck by his resemblance to Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Michael Elich: he sings, dances and does comedy shtick. His character is heroic and tender, smart and resourceful.
  • Lluís Homar ("Broken Embraces") is terrific as his gay fellow vaudevillian, wary and afraid, but brave when the chips are down.
  • Roger Príncep ("Mil cretins") is winning as the desperate little boy who latches onto them and won't let go.
I could name other cast members but unless you are an avid aficionado of foreign films, it would waste our time. As you could tell by my opening line, I really liked this one.


This is a peek into the trials and tribulations of a young immigrant woman who is trying to pay off a refrigerator for her boyfriend's flower business. Seattle's 2011 International Film Festival showcases this movie from Spain where we see the young woman as she is hired to care for an elderly man named Amador, who inconveniently dies before she can pay off that loan.

We watch with mixed emotions as she continues to work there as though nothing has happened: some of her tactics are actually pretty funny, but as time passes the situation becomes horrific, too. (The neighbors start to complain about a bad odor.)

She finds unlikely allies and learns how to piece together bits of her life by mastering a jigsaw puzzle. Some of the plot twists caught me flat- footed and I'm still smiling over them!

This interesting character study won acclaim at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year; I can certainly see why.



This entry from the USA got split reactions from our 2011 Seattle Inter- national Film Festival audience. Some thought it slight and the rest of us liked it. To me, the film is contrived, but sensual and sweet. It isn't really predictable but we are invested enough to care what happens. John Ruby (lots of TV) is a mechanic whose wife objects to his oil-stained hands. He visits a young manicurist in hopes that she can make him more accept- able to his wife.

The manicurist, played by Porter Lynn in her screen debut, not only cleans up his hands, she offers him advise, much to the amusement of her lively coworkers, all of whom provide a generous supply of comic relief throughout the film.

A montage behind the opening credits amplified on the film's name: Each image offered something that relates to "Touch."
  • A manicurist
  • A dog groomer
  • A mechanic
  • A seamstress
  • A pizza maker
  • A masseuse
  • A hair stylist
  • A baker
  • A baby's parent
  • A myriad other images flash past and we identify and smile at each.
I confess my main reason for liking this one was the young man cast in the lead. If television is the only place I can see John Ruby, I may have to start watching it! He makes my socks roll up and down! Yum!!!

I know this movie isn't "Art," but I sure know what I like...smile...
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An African Election

The future of a new democracy rests squarely on the shoulders of its first president. The important thing is not that he is elected, it's how he behaves when his term of office has been fulfilled. Does he step down as mandated by law? Most of the quasi-democracies in Africa ended up with presidents who became dictators and still cling to power 30 and 40 years later. In Ghana, this is not the case.

Our Seattle International Film Festival screening crowd watched the 2008 Ghanaian election unfold in this 2011 documentary from Switzerland/ Ghana. We hear silver-tongued politicians (I'd have voted for every one of them!), watch weary election workers, join poll watchers and admire the way the principal players deal with a potentially damaging situation.

I sincerely pray this film is truthful! I came away with hope that at least one African nation will continue to govern itself with wisdom and free elections.


The Beaver

Clinical depression is not to be taken lightly. In this excellently acted film, we see this cursed tendency has been passed down from father to son, generation after generation. That being said, you know this is not going to be a romp in a sunny field, don't you.

I'd like to discuss the cast:
  • Jodie Foster ("The Brave One") not only anchors the cast as the long-suffering wife and mother, she also directed this piece. We have come to expect top-notch work from this classy professional, and she doesn't let us down.
  • Mel Gibson ("Edge of Darkness") proves again what a fine actor he is. Nothing I can say will change your mind about this guy on a personal level, so trust me when I say he is convincing as a clinically depressed man who has finally reached a point where his only means of communication is through a hand puppet, the eponymous beaver.
  • Anton Yelchin ("Terminator Salvation") is amazing as the son who is scared to death he is taking after his father. This boyish-looking actor has been impressing us since he was eleven years old! He plays high-school students, murder victims, teenage con men and of course, he is Chekov in the newly revamped "Star Trek" franchise; in THAT one his hilarious (indecipherable) Russian accent is pretty authentic, he was born in St. Petersburg.
  • Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone") is the class valedictorian who needs a speech writer. This is a lighter role than that earlier one but she is very good.
We see the way depression radiates throughout a family, causing confusion, stress and heartbreak. Again I emphasize, it is not something to be taken lightly and Director Foster keeps us rooting for the family all the way.


Something Ventured

This highly entertaining documentary is one of my favorites so far, at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. "Venture Capital" is a fairly recent term and they interview one of the fellows who helped coin it.

As you may know, Apple, Intel, Genentech, Atari, Google, Cisco, and countless other mind-boggling success stories may never have existed without backing and substantial investment from adventurous souls who believed in dreamers and their dreams...and took a chance.

Many of the risk takers (most of them millionaires now) are interviewed and their comments are wry, funny and insightful: for example, Steve Jobs couldn't find any backers until he met one who was willing to overlook the bad grooming, the bad body odor and the bad manners. Over time, Jobs modified his personal habits but he was fired anyway. We all know THAT story. Another guy tells about turning away a gold mine with gene splicing. He just couldn't see the applications. He's kicking himself now.

Venture capitalists, along with their financial investments and business acumen led to spectacular growth in microprocessors, personal computers and the web, plus they facilitated the birth of biotechnology, which has saved countless lives. Many of these businessmen were hopeful from the beginning, but were still startled by the overwhelming successes they enjoyed.

One of the funniest segments is about the ones that got away. Every one of those fellows owns up to making a poor judgment call at one time or another. Each is highly critical of his own action and ruefully recalls the moment.

YOU will enjoy every minute!

Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times

It's a brand new media world out there and The Gray Lady of New York City is sitting right in the middle of it! How does a paper and ink printed product like the New York Times compete with speed-of-light communications? How do boots-on-the-ground reporters compete with WikiPedia hackers? How does a New York based company compete with ubiquitous blogs, Twitter, Facebook, WikiLeaks and other news aggregating web- sites?

A larger question is, how will many of these acorns survive without the oak? Many news organizations either quote The Times, are based on information from The Times, or feature articles that respond to The Times; they don't initiate, as much as they reflect.

As advertising revenues fall and major newspapers declare bankruptcy all over the country, The New York Times granted unprecedented access to camera crews to document a year in the life...of an institution that will never be the same. The primary spokesman is a former drug addict and felon, now a single parent and successful reporter who has worked for The Times for decades. David Carr's comments are wry, pithy and quotable.

This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival documentary was engrossing and thought provoking as we witness a painful reduction in force. However, there are plenty of laughs and more than a few surprises. We get to observe a major quandary as they discover TV journalists have created fictitious "news" and we see them debate what The Times should do about it. I enjoyed this one very much.
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This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Egypt took a while to capture my attention, but then I was very much interested and involved.

The contemporary scene in Alexandria with well-educated young adults frustrated by menial jobs is exactly the problem throughout north Africa that is contributing to the Arab Spring of 2011 we read about in the morning paper. In addition, even though they kept saying those under- ground musicians were from "Metal" bands, I found the music more closely akin to 60s folk/protest songs. Yes, they assail their own govern- ment officials just like ours did "in the day." Skateboards are ever present, and graffiti artists show the same creativity we see on American streets: funny, profane and pertinent.

We see cell phones, IPods, video cameras, laptops, flash drives and other electronic gear as guerrilla film makers shoot the street scene for post-graduate degrees. The biggest difference is the ubiquity of the "Morality Police," along with the prayer rugs used regularly throughout the city.

I was completely swept away by a handsome and charismatic actor who played the central character. Khaled Abol Naga ("Heliopolis") is already a big star in Egypt and I can certainly see why! He plays an ex-patriot who returns to Egypt for his mother's funeral and decides to produce a concert which would feature street musicians. Naturally he is up against the establishment, so expect the unexpected. (But government officials are the same everywhere!)

I liked this one.



It had never occurred to me the sort of math skills necessary to be a successful trader at an Amsterdam brokerage, but I was impressed! Our astonishing hero is the wunderkind of his office.

We watch his meteoric rise during the international banking calamities and then a pause while his career path becomes uncertain. We meet some of his coworkers and enjoy their unique personalities, while at the same time we think we can see some potential tragedies.

Our humorous young man is an extremely sympathetic fellow and we are on his side the whole way. It is unfortunate that this same title was just used in an American film, but from THIS one, I finally learned how all those pairs of shoes come to dangle from overhead wires.

This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry is from the Netherlands.

How to Die in Oregon

What a wonderful documentary! I can see why it won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and I can only hope it does equally well at the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival.

This is a sensitive portrait of several Oregonians who are candidates for Death With Dignity, i.e., physician-assisted suicide. We are treated to the full spectrum of opinions, from funny, alert old geezers who have not only made the decision, they have embraced it; to one skinny fellow who has nothing nice to say about it...or anything else, for that matter!

Throughout the film, we keep touching base with a lovely woman who has been given six months to live because her liver cancer is terminal. She is a delight: forthright, loving, highly intelligent and clear-eyed about her prognosis. We follow her progress avidly because we come to care so much about her, her wonderful husband and her two loving adult children. AND we appreciate the dignity with which she is treated.

We also follow a recent widow from neighboring Washington State whose husband made her promise to get a law passed to spare others from the horrific death he had to endure (he wasn't eligible in Oregon), so she had to learn public speaking. At the time, only Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands had a similar law.

We all have to go some time, so having a modicum of choice is important. Do NOT miss this one!

Forks Over Knives

This beautifully organized and extremely interesting documentary deserves to be widely distributed and screened. It addresses the greatest health problems that plague (and bankrupt) our country, and in time will plague our world. As the world becomes more affluent, other countries adopt American eating habits; heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity soon follow.

The solution? "Forks Over Knives." In other words, whole food fruits and vegetables instead of meat-based proteins. The experts in this documentary offer compelling evidence that has been drawn in part, from the biggest health study ever conducted: By the time Zhou Enlai died of prostate cancer in China in 1976, he had launched a health study that covered the billion or so citizens who lived there. Pockets of certain types of diseases were identified and those localities were studied. Food, lifestyle, air quality, etc., all were examined. It was meticulously conducted and is the most comprehensive health study in the history of the world. It took years to analyze but the results are irrefutable.

In addition, other controlled tests in other countries have been under way for decades. They substantiate a claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or maybe even reversed, if we eliminate our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. This is not new, there are quotes that date back to ancient times which make similar claims about the importance of eating right as opposed to treating illnesses AFTER we get sick.

There are mind-boggling statistics and informative interviews. My favorite study offered charts from Norway that document the health benefits when Nazis confiscated all beef and pork and what happened to the citizens after they returned to their old dietary habits. Amazing!

There is so much more I'm tempted to sit here and blurt it all out, but believe me when I say, I have only touched the tip of this fascinating iceberg. Now I have to go to the grocery store to buy more fruits and vegetables...smile...


Hmmm... 105 minutes of disturbing violent content, graphic dialogue, pervasive language, drug use and all with a child present. I figure this R-rated movie averages out to one "F" word every 45 seconds. But did I like this mess? Take one guess! In my opinion, Director Spencer Susser could have continued doing shorts and television, feature films don't seem to be his forte.

Despite fine performances, particularly on the part of the little boy, the auxiliary characters were so repugnant I could NEVER recommend this movie to anyone.

We saw:
  • Devin Brochu ("Ghosts of Girlfriends Past") was excellent as the poor kid who is powerless in an unfeeling world. I despaired for him as his troubles mounted.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Inception") is vile as Hesher, rude, destructive, greedy, selfish and cruel. I can't begin to itemize the nasty things he did...and I guess they were supposed to be funny. At least some audience members were laughing...
  • Natalie Portman ("Thor") is the sweet grocery checker our little guy gets a crush on. Turns out she too, has feet of clay. At least she apologizes.
  • Piper Laurie ("Carrie") I know, I know. That was a long time ago. I was just surprised that she is still alive!
  • Rainn Wilson ("Super") is the boy's dad, semi-catatonic since the death of his wife. He neglects himself, his son and exploits his mother.
Even the resolution is lame. DON'T GO!

Black White and Blues

Did Director Mario Van Peebles attend the Tyler Perry School of Cinema? Everything in this well-meaning effort is overdrawn, is overly dramatic and is overwhelmed by predictable clichés. The boozy, bawdy, smoke-filled world of blues musicians never convinced me for one moment of its sincerity.

The cast does it best with the material it's given:
  • Michael Clarke Duncan ("The Slamin' Salmon") is the saintly Augy, with too-white teeth and a tragic secret.
  • Morgan Simpson ("Clear Lake, WI") is Jefferson Bailey, a repugnant loser much in need of redemption.
  • Tom Skerritt ("For Sale By Owner") is Santa, the owner of a blues club and a long-time member of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Billed as a comedy by the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival Guide, we failed to find anything funny....not once. But you can't argue with their rationale for attending Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you are a HUGE fan of Blues, you might find something special, but otherwise....

Red Eyes

"Ojos Rojos" or "Red Eyes" is a documentary about the lackluster Chilean soccer team that won the 2010 World Cup...the first time this has happened since 1962.

Unfortunately, this documentary from Chile struck our 2011 Seattle Film Festival Screening audience as little more than a badly edited home movie. The footage is rough, most of the interviews lack fervor (in fact, the fans had little expectation of success), and a big problem: lack of continuity.

There are too many choices to settle for this.

Crying Out

This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Quebec starts with a very effective and unsettling incidence of child molestation. We can hear intermittent voices, but all we can see are fish swimming in the boy's aquarium; the rest is left to our imagination. Aarghhh!

We become acquainted with three men, a father, a son and a grandfather; all three are abusive and alcoholic.
  • The grandfather, despite numerous one night stands over the years, now sorely misses his dead wife. He's hateful to the poor folks in the assisted living facility where he lives and convinces his grandson to take a road trip.
  • The dad has just lost his young wife. He had abandoned his first family in order to marry her and to father two more children, but she has just died of cancer. He is inconsolable, digs up her corpse and takes it on a drunken road trip.
  • The son has a job in a toilet paper/paper towel factory. He has an explosive temper and gets blotto every night. He fights in the alley while Grandpa sings "Among My Souvenirs" at a piano bar during their road trip.
Son and grandfather want to deliver a wake-up call to the recent widower and talk some sense into him. Would you believe this ends with a glimmer of hope? Yup. But just a glimmer....

A Barefoot Dream

Maybe I'm jaded, but this well-intentioned film, based on a true story I hasten to add, is another one of those sports stories about "The little guy who doesn't stand a chance, coming from behind at the big one..." You know....

This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry is from South Korea and, of course, it depicts a Korean fellow who coached a rag-tag soccer team from East Timor to an unexpected victory in Hiroshima, Japan. No, that isn't a spoiler. It is advertised that way!

My biggest problem was the personality of that coach: he was a big talker, a con man and a thief. He always had big plans but he owed money to everyone. He had played championship soccer at one time, but hadn't been willing to invest the extra effort to succeed.

Of course the heart of this story is watching him grow up, as he starts to care about these children and their dreams.

This is called "An inspirational David and Goliath tale," so you might want to decide for yourself.


Natural Selection

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival (Austin), this 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry is yet another road picture. This time the two mismatched folks are an escaped felon and a devout Christian housewife.

Due to a youthful indiscretion, the housewife has spent decades in unwilling celibacy. Her sanctimonious husband has figured out a way to relieve his sexual frustrations and still "do good." (You'll smile.)

The upshot is, she thinks she has found her husband's long-lost druggie son and is trying to take him "back home" to meet his daddy. The guy has other plans...

I liked it, but I would have liked it more if that young man hadn't been such an unwashed scuzz....

Jess + Moss

The 2011 Seattle International Film Festival screening guide said: Two lonely and damaged cousins challenge and comfort each other while escaping the suffocating summer heat of Kentucky, in this impressive debut.

Jay Lane says: This is the sort of boring balderdash that can give a film festival a bad name! Those kids hang out together in abandoned houses, silos, barns, sheds, and churches. They climb on abandoned farm machinery and play near abandoned wells. The only adults visible are one pair of grandparents in a brief appearance, and a father who talks on a phone then leaves.

This film starts in mostly abandoned rural Kentucky and goes nowhere s-l-o-w-l-y.


This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Turkey/Bulgaria was certainly different. One audience member who loved it said the main character was 'The Trickster' who took on whatever characteristics people needed. I saw NONE of that, instead I saw a miserable little village in a chronically cold wet terrain being dominated by some sort of militaristic organization that intimidates everyone.

These militants seem to be pursuing a stranger who, just as he arrives in town, rescues a little boy from the river and, to all appearances, restores him to life. He did not seem to be a trickster; he just drinks tea and eats sugar.

After he cures a schoolteacher of headaches, townspeople start to gather by his door for more faith healing while he tries to elude them. An attractive young woman periodically does a sort of scream/ululation that he finds very appealing. Their courtship ritual is unlike anything I've ever seen before, although it didn't make up for the rest of this dreary, confusing and ultimately downbeat film.

Did I like it? Don't ask...


This flimsy little romance is an entry from Germany for the 2011 Seattle International Film Festival. It features a handsome blonde stud muffin who is quite the Renaissance man: He is a successful doctor, sings in a choir, plays soccer on a neighborhood team, swims at a local club, has an ex wife and teenage son both of whom seem to think the world of him, and he is a highly successful swinger, swinging both ways.

In addition we have a long-term couple (20 years) who have finally inched their way into marriage. She is a scientist, he installs high-end art pieces for businesses. Each separately encounters our stud muffin and he becomes involved with both.

This has several things to recommend it. The film is beautifully shot, the characters are convincing, there is a lot of humor and the dialog sounds like it's from the New Yorker Magazine: lots of four- and five-syllable words and esoteric philosophies.

There are also some caveats: Be prepared to watch the surgical removal of a testicle in living color, AND you will see lots of nudity.


We join an eleven-year-old Polish boy who is petulant about being left out of a family holiday trip to Venice. He has memorized the main tourist attractions, the general layout of the canals and even speaks a little Italian. Problem is, WWII interferes and all family plans must be abandoned.

When his mother drops him off at his grandmother's country mansion, he refuses to see the advantages of living with her and his three aunts.

As time passes, he meets a saucy housemaid (who smokes cigarettes!), gets reacquainted with a cousin who leaves offerings for a saint in a little birdhouse-looking box on a tree, and plays with a Jewish boy his age who loves the violin.

To his delight, a water leak floods their basement and he is free to create his own personal Venice. As the Nazis march into Poland, we see atrocities begin to mount. My dread increased until the film became almost unwatchable.

This 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Poland has won numerous awards for photography, set design, costumes and sound. It is a beautiful art piece; it's just deucedly difficult to sit through!


This odd little piece is an autobiographical coming-of-age story from a 15-year-old boy's unique perspective. It is based on the best-selling novel by Joe Dunthome. Our hero's mother is bored and restless; his father is a clinically depressed college professor. The boy can see all the danger signs and does NOT want to see them divorce.

On the other hand, he is bullied and tormented at school. Knowing he will get no help from either parent, he develops a complicated series of events that may solve all his problems. They include attracting a female classmate to overcome the rumors he is gay, and derailing his mother's potential affair with a neighbor.

Unlike film artistes who went crazy for this one, I didn't love it and I didn't hate it. That's all I'm gonna say about this 2011 Seattle International Film Festival entry from the UK.

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The preview follows the brief ad:
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This one is great fun. I'm sorry it takes so much Computer Generated Imaging ("CGI") these days to recreate a comic book on film. Kenneth Branagh ("Hamlet" and "Sleuth") has done himself proud in the way he directed this lively romp, although I must say his humor and warmth shine best in the scenes that take place in New Mexico, particularly in that little one-horse town. He has a marvelous cast:
  • Chris Hemsworth ("Star Trek" - he was Captain Kirk's father!) is a blue-eyed Thor: brash, impetuous, hot-tempered and very funny.
  • Anthony Hopkins ("The Rite") is Odin, struggling with that age-old dilemma: is the son worthy of his throne?
  • Rene Russo ("Get Shorty") is Odin's wife Frigga. It's nice to see Rene working again!
  • Tom Hiddleston (lots of TV) is the trickster Loki: cunning, sly, ambitious.
  • Ray Stevenson ("Kill the Irishman") is Volstagg, one of Thor's loyal warrior gods. I recognized him despite the costume.
  • Idris Elba ("The Wire") is Heimdall, the guardian. I thought the voice was vaguely familiar; I'm sorry I missed him!
  • Natalie Portman ("Black Swan") is Jane Foster, a young astro- physicist. She is very earnest and appealing.
  • Stellan Skarsgård ("Angels and Demons") is Erik Selvig, a scientist trying to prevent Natalie from doing something she might regret. I've never seen him be funny before and he's terrific!
  • Clark Gregg ("Iron Man 2") once again plays a government agent. I guess it's because he does it better than anybody!
  • Kat Dennings ("Charlie Bartlett") is Darcy, who brings the con- temporary world to Thor: she tasers him (!) and later on snaps his picture for her Facebook page.
  • Jeremy Renner ("The Town") has the best line. He is a marksman with Thor in his sights; he says "You'd better hurry up and tell me to shoot him, I'm starting to like this guy!"
Naturally the art is pure comic book, fantastical scenes in other-worldly places and LOTS of blowie uppie stuff. I got sleepy during the CGI, but really enjoyed the folks in New Mexico!



Ya know all those tawdry comedies about foul-mouthed slackers who can't hold a job, who sleep around, insult everyone and generally exhaust the patience of everyone who cares about them? Well, this time the lead isn't Seth Rogan, it's a woman! I thought women had better sense...

My reaction?
  • Fed up, because each tasteless joke was beaten to death;
  • Put off by the lewd language of all of the characters;
  • Frustrated, I wanted to slap some sense into that selfish slacker;
  • Disgusted by destructive behavior which is passed off as comedy;
  • Recoiled from seeing one woman vomit into another woman's hair;
  • Repelled by the latest guaranteed laugh: Instead of a kick to the crotch, it's a slam to the breast;
  • Tired of self-centered, gross, petulant behavior;
  • Pitied John Hamm ("Mad Men"), once again typecast as a "hand- some scoundrel."
Kristen Wiig ("Paul") is the new comedienne du jour. This talented Saturday Night Live alum has been working steadily in Hollywood even as the cultural quality of her films slides steadily downhill. Producer Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up") has set the bar pretty low: raunchy but profit- able, so that seems to be what his fans expect.

Wiig's character is the BFF (Best Forever Friend) to the soon-to-be bride, played by Maya Rudolph ("Grown Ups"), another Saturday Night Live alum. She is jealous and resentful when her friend appears to have a new BFF, played by Rose Byrne ("Get Him to the Greek"). This pathetic movie is about our heroine's crass attempts to derail it.

Even though this atrocity passed the Bechdel Test (the female characters have names and they don't talk about men), there is only one person to root for: the cop played by Irish actor Chris O'Dowd ("Dinner for Schmucks"). That's a pretty sad commentary, isn't it....

Something Borrowed

What's borrowed? The Best Forever Friend's fiancé, that's what! This pleasant but predictable romantic comedy has only the actors to recommend it, so let's talk about them:
  • Kate Hudson ("Nine") proves that she's a much better villainess than heroine. She obviously relishes the opportunity to display her inner b**ch and does it very well.
  • Ginnifer Goodwin ("Big Love") is the reluctant borrower. Her secret love from law school has become engaged to her best friend; in fact, she introduced them! Now she's sorry....
  • Colin Egglesfield (lots of TV) is the yummy bone of contention between those two BFFs. I hope we see much more of this guy in the future. (He's into martial arts in real life!)
  • John Krazinski ("The Office") walks off with the movie. With his skilled delivery and sweet charm, he seems to have all the best lines, the best subplot and is certainly the most sympathetic and appealing. We actually care about him!
  • Ashley Williams (lots of TV) made a good first impression as the aggressive would-be girlfriend of a man who clearly doesn't want her.
  • Steve Howey (lots of TV) might have played a scuzzball a little too well; at least he convinced me. Ya think? Yuck!
Even though the plot creaked, we found the actors attractive and we enjoyed the clothes, the (pretend) Hamptons, and all the pretty people. We had characters to root for and there were no gunshots, car chases nor blowie uppie stuff. Whew!

Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog "Rescue Dawn," "Aguirre, Wrath of God" and "Grizzly Man" just gets stranger and stranger..... As a director, he certainly knows his stuff. As a writer, there were moments during this documentary when the screening audience laughed out loud at his purple prose. But as a narrator, he was wonderful: clear, articulate and informative.

The cave of the title (full title: "Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams") is one discovered in 1994 by a fellow named Chauvet in France; it is carefully controlled to avoid the damage caused by humid (human) exhalations that recently closed the more famous Lascaux caves which had caused such a sensation in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Excessive moisture from our lungs upsets the delicate balance in these living caves. I learned about that when I went through the airlock to Arizona's Kartchner Caverns in recent years. As a result, only a very limited number of people are allowed into Chauvet Cave at one time and then only for a limited number of minutes.

The paintings themselves have been carbon dated to approximately 35,000 years and have been untouched all this time. Animal bones and tracks that were there at the time of the avalanche that closed the cave are covered by a mineral growth that takes many millennia to form. We see pictures of mammoths, lions, and horses, plus bear and bison. I found the two most memorable to be two rhinos engaged in a fierce battle and a quartet of what appeared to me as Przewalski ("Sha val ski") horses. (Domestic horses are theorized to have descended from this stock.)

Three elements should be discussed:

1. This movie is in 3D; to me the benefits for the extra ticket price are marginal.
2. The musical score evidently is someone's idea of prehistoric: atonal and ultimately annoying.
3. We can only scan the paintings so many times. The slow panning over and over and over finally becomes wearisome. I longed for my remote so I could fast forward.

This is an fascinating documentary for people interested in paleontology and archeology. Kudos to the French for learning from their past mistakes with Lascaux. I was happy to see the meticulous care taken for the preservation of this priceless treasure.