This one is a killer-diller! Wow! The JayFlix person who recommended this one deserves a medal. "Hodejegerne," an R-rated Norwegian crime thriller (English captions), is exciting, involving, unpredictable and intel- ligent. It has relatable characters, a wonderful plot and is beautifully acted. We in the audience left the theater happily talking to ourselves.

A skilled art thief hears of a priceless Rubens, stolen during WWII and kept in a private collection all these years. He realizes this could be the deal that puts him and his wife on easy street for the rest of their lives. Thus begins our story.

We see:
  • Aksel Hennie ("Age of Heroes") is our pint-sized cat burglar, impeccably groomed, smart as a whip and always trying to improve his game as a thief of high-end art. His day job is to find and interview applicants for new executive positions.
  • Synnøve Macody Lund (TV roles) is his statuesque wife, blonde, successful and longing to have a baby. She owns an art gallery.
  • Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ("Game of Thrones") is a former hi-tech special ops guy who wants the job as CEO of a company our hero represents. He has come to Norway to settle his aunt's estate.
  • Eivind Sander ("Cupid's Balls") is our hero's fence and inside man for those pesky burglar alarms. Problem is, he rarely uses the brain in his big head. He and his libido entertain thousands on the Internet.
  • Reidar Sørensen ("Home for Christmas") is the brilliant and politically astute detective who gets involved in the situation.
This fast-moving plot sucks you in before you know it. There is tension, surprise, and impressive use of modern technology: GPS, cell phones and the Internet. Expect guns, knives, cars, trucks, attack dogs, and a farm tractor, plus a couple of really gross bits. There is little or no pro- fanity or blowie uppie stuff. The two antagonists are Norwegian versions of the Energizer Bunny: they just won't quit! And I LOVE watching smart people try to outwit other smart people.

Brace yourself!
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We see how the first mechanical vibrator was invented in the name of medical science. This is a sly R-rated in-crowd joke that becomes semi- militant when it launches into what was done to women in the latter 1800s (pre-Suffragette). If they were unhappy with their lives they were deemed "hysterical," sent to mental institutions, and, if they had the temerity to object, were subjected to mandatory hysterectomies. This was before Lister's ideas about sanitation were widely accepted by the medical community, so this often was a death sentence.

That being said, let's focus on the sly humor.
  • Jonathan Pryce ("Very Annie Mary") is Dr. Dalrymple, a charlatan who treats women suffering from hysteria through "manipulation" that results in "paroxysms," after which the women are "greatly relieved." His waiting room is jammed with "sufferers."
  • Hugh Dancy ("Adam") is Dr. Mortimer Granville, the physician who really DID develop the first vibrator, which remains the most popular "sex toy" in the world. After Dr. Dalrymple hires him, it's clear that our hero soon suffers from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, so he has to invent something! His treatment was for muscle aches, as masturbation was considered deviant.
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal ("Crazy Heart") is Dr. Dalrymple's progressive daughter Charlotte; she runs a soup kitchen, teaches children to read (and wash their hands), and then to cap it off, passes out literature that promotes women's right to vote. Hussy!
  • Rupert Everett ("Wild Target") has a blast as the tinkerer Edmund St. John-Smythe, Dr. Granville's good friend and collaborator. Edmund is always struggling with one invention or another and is constantly trying to get that new-fangled gadget, the telephone, to work: "Ahoy! Ahoy! Is anyone there?"
  • Felicity Jones ("Like Crazy") is Dr. Dalrymple's other (perfect) daughter Emily: acquiescent, cultured, well-groomed and lovely.
Hugh Dancy always impresses me, as does Maggie Gyllenhaal, so I was happy. This movie is near the end of its theatrical run but the (discount) venue where I saw it today had only a handful of empty seats, with the crowd happily munching on freshly popped popcorn, which is where theaters make their profits! Yippee!
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People Like Us

Surprise! Your father had a second family he failed to mention... Only now that he's dead, does this big, big secret come out. In early June, writer/director Alex Kurtzman ("Star Trek" 2009) told our 2012 Seattle International Film Festival audience that his heart-warming film is inspired by true events, so I'll bet he has a story to tell!

Imagine how you would feel. This is the dilemma our hero faces when his father's attorney gives him a box of money with instructions about where to deliver it.
  • Chris Pine ("Bottle Shock" and "Star Trek" 2009) is Sam, instructed by his father's will to deliver $150,000 to a sister he never knew he had. Sam is a wheeler-dealer who has hit a rough patch, so he could actually use that money himself! This is Pine's best work to date.
  • Elizabeth Banks ("The Hunger Games") is Frankie, who only knows her father dropped out of her life and she never knew why. As a result, she has a pretty checkered past that only settled down after she herself became a parent.
  • Olivia Wilde ("The Change-Up") is Hannah, the moral center to her husband Sam's world. She never loses sight of what is the best thing for him to do.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer ("Dark Shadows") is Lillian, Sam's mother, who protected her own child to the detriment of any other. It is wonder- ful to see Pfeiffer playing an age-appropriate role and playing it well. Good for you, Michelle!
When everyone in the cast turns in such a fine performance, we can look to the director. It seems to me that Mr. Kurtzman can direct both huge spectacles and intimate films. This one is touching, intelligent, and offers a full cast of characters for whom we come to care. No gunshots, no blowie uppie stuff, just decent people searching for a way to do the right thing. And the ending is a pleasant surprise.
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Mr. Popper's Penguins

Here is a harmless, diverting little PG-rated comedy that you can use to entertain some children who are "bored." Rent this one (I got mine from the city library) and park them in front of the tube some cold, dreary afternoon. They will enjoy it. (This one can't be rated "G" because it has a couple of penguin-poop jokes.)

Carrey is an über-successful real estate agent whose job consumes his every waking minute. His father was a scientist who traveled and was away for most of our hero's childhood. When his famous father dies and he inherits a penguin, the fun starts.

The little 'uns will see:
  • Jim Carrey ("I Love You Phillip Morris") is Mr. Popper, who is his own worst enemy. He lives alone in a palatial high-rise with visiting rights to his children. He is energetic, egotistical and eccentric.
  • Carla Gugino ("New Year's Eve") is the ex-Mrs. Popper who shares custody of their two children. She has started dating again, but her heart really isn't in it.
  • David Krumholtz ("Harold & Kumar") is a snoopy neighbor who suspects our hero of breaking the "No Pets" rule in the building.
  • Clark Gregg ("The Avengers"), is an animal control officer trying to capture those darling little Gentoo penguins "for their own good."
  • Angela Lansbury ("Nanny McPhee") is a wealthy dowager, Mrs. Van Gundy, whose decision to sell Central Park's Tavern on the Green triggers a bidding war which our hero has been ordered to win.
  • Ophelia Lovibond ("Nowhere Boy") is Pippi Peponopolis, Mr. Popper's assistant, whose alliteration with "P"s will entertain the older children (and maybe some adults).
Of course, we suspend disbelief because we see an elegant apartment converted to an Antarctic climate and watch as penguins traipse up and down New York City streets and slide on the revered ramps of the Gug- genheim. Awww... Who cares! They really ARE cute!

NOTE: Yes, the real Tavern on the Green has now been converted into a Visitor's Center...sob...
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Magic Mike

Woo hoo!!!! A professional stripper named Mike takes a newbie under his well-developed wing to teach him the ropes about being a man: how to pick up women, how to party hard and how to make easy money. The problem is, the newbie is 19, irresponsible and immature.

Director Steven Soderbergh got the idea for this story while talking with Channing Tatum during the filming of "Haywire." He discovered that Mr. C. had been a male stripper when he was 19 and was trying to write a script about his experiences. Soderbergh was very interested, so script- writer Reid Carolin was called in to do the honors.

Our theater was packed with young women who squealed and hooted through the first two-thirds of this movie. They LOVED the stripping, the production numbers, the choreography, the costumes and the actors! Had it been possible, they too, would have stuffed money into those thongs the men wore.

We saw a LOT of:
  • Channing Tatum ("21 Jump Street") is our hero, this guy really CAN dance. Tatum broke into Hollywood's B-list by gyrating in a few teenie-bopper flicks, e.g., "Step Up," with simple dance steps and no acting. He moved into action films like "G. I. Joe" based on his (noteworthy) physique, plus a couple of two-hankie chick flicks like "The Vow." Now an A-lister, Channing does reasonably good work with funny dialogue, gymnastics, great steps and respect- able stripping.
  • Matthew McConaunghey ("The Lincoln Lawyer") is the Adonis ...oops... business guy, who runs the show. Yes girls, he does strip! But he also has a business to run and a payroll to meet.
  • Alex Pettyfer ("Beastly") is our loose cannon, easily led down the primrose path...to his sister's alarm.
  • Cody Horn ("Occupant") is the frustrated sister trying to raise a 19 year old; she knows how erratic he is and has no idea how she can get his life under control...maybe Mike can help.
  • Matt Bomer ("White Collar"), Reid Carolin (usually on the pro- duction or writing end of things), Joe Manganiello ("True Blood") and Adam Rodriguez ("CSI Miami") round out the on-stage cast.
By the final credits, there were some disappointed audience members, in fact one woman said, "Why'd they have to go and put in a story, too!" However, Your's Truly was not overly disappointed; instead I was inter- ested in the steady growth of Channing Tatum's profile in Hollywood, as an actor, a personality and a guy who can do comic lines...and there were MANY comic lines. Yeah, the story is flimsy, but all that eye candy made it easy to forgive ("A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down...").

Kudos to the folks who spent the extra money to give us great final credits: the actor's name and a shot of the character. This is SO helpful and something we really appreciate!
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"It's not my fault!" We hear this familiar cry many times during the course of this exciting PG-rated film. A doughty red-haired girl and her faithful horse are up against an old curse that has turned one Scottish clan against another. Not only that, our willful and stubborn princess is in full revolt against her mother's attempts to turn her into a lady. She would much rather be in the forest with her bow and arrows, or climbing rocks to test her courage.

The combination of Pixar and Disney gives us wonderfully emoted animation, with the mother's subtle expressions that ring true, plus stunningly realistic animals: the horse in particular is amazing, although the bear is good, too. (I didn't like the dogs.)

Voiced by:
  • Kelly Macdonald ("Boardwalk Empire") is Merida, our tomboy princess, who has long curly red hair and blue eyes, the perfect Scots lass. Ms Macdonald was born in Scotland, but as an actress, she plays any nationality ("No Country For Old Men"); here we are treated to an authentic Scots' brogue.
  • Emma Thompson ("Men in Black III") is exquisite as a frustrated Queen Elinor, struggling with her rebellious daughter who does NOT want to be a lady!
  • Billy Connolly ("Gulliver's Travels") is King Fergus, rambunctious, brawling, and with one peg leg, due to an historic bout with a bear many years ago.
  • Julie Walters ("Momma Mia!") cackles her way around our heroine as The Witch, full of more trickery than teeth.
Animation gets better and better, plus the sound was outstanding. The horse's hoof-beats were clearly those of a massive Clydesdale rather than a regular-size riding horse. Don't ask me how I know....

Expect lots of brawling, chaotic chase scenes and a truly violent fight between two bears. Bloodless, but with lots of roaring, claws and teeth. Not a child in our packed screening audience moved a muscle.

Surprisingly, even though this is Disney, there is no Prince Charming to come to her rescue, she's pretty resourceful; and then, because this is Disney, our heroine finally owns up to her own mistakes and admits it when something IS her fault! Whew!

Oh! And be careful what you wish for!
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When a JayFlix.net person insists I see a movie...I GO! And once again, I'm glad I did. I had been hesitant about this one because I have never been a big fan of Jack Black ("The Big Year"), but he is so focused on playing a real person with no irony, no sarcasm and no snide under- tones, he won me over.

This is the strange but true story of a hateful, wealthy, old Texas woman who had alienated her friends, family, church, and community. A kind, thoughtful mortician wins her affections and remains her faithful com- panion and confidante up to the day he shoots her with the armadillo gun.

This odd mixture of actors features:
  • Jack Black ("Tropic Thunder") is sweet and believable as Bernie, the attentive new citizen of Carthage, Texas, who wins over the locals through his involvement in the church, in local theatre and by his good works. We hear him sing Beautiful Dreamer, Blessed Assurance, Seventy-Six Trombones, Love Lifted Me, What a Friend We Have in Jesus, He Touched Me, Amazing Grace and Just As I Am. These songs are done with sincerity (and no little skill) by Bernie.
  • Shirley MacLaine ("Valentine's Day") is terrific as "that ol' heifer" Marjorie Nugent, rich, demanding and possessive. No one in the entire town has a nice thing to say about her, alive or dead, and once we see her in action, we can understand why.
  • Matthew McConaughey ("Magic Mike") fits right in as District Attorney Danny Buck, a good ol' boy who shocks the courts by appealing for a change of venue because anyone who would have served on a local jury would refuse to convict their popular friend. McConaughey has worked with Writer/Director Richard Linklater before ("Dazed and Confused").
The rest of the actors who provide "candid" comments in documentary style, are so flawless in their delivery and so believable in their depiction of local townspeople, I had to come home and look them up to be sure they weren't the real people who lived in Carthage when this odd situa- tion became a national news sensation. The Linklater/Hollandsworth script is noteworthy because the language is so authentic and the story unfolds so naturally.

During the final credits there are photos of the real Bernie and Mrs. Nugent, along with an interesting one of Jack Black interviewing Bernie. We also had the special treat of credits that include the picture of each character, the actor's name and the character's name. I hope this is a growing trend: it's helpful and we really, really appreciate it!

I'll be sure to notify you when this becomes available on DVD!
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Rock of Ages

Tom Cruise is an authentic movie star. His roles have ranged from a virginal teenager ("Risky Business") and a cocky pilot ("Top Gun"), to a wheel-chair bound Viet Nam vet ("Born on the Fourth of July"); from an action hero ("Mission Impossible") and a German WWII Officer ("Valkyrie"), to a pudgy, profane movie producer ("Tropic Thunder"); he has nothing left to prove, so he can cut 'er loose and let 'er rip!

Scriptwriters Justin Theroux ("Tropic Thunder"), Allan Loeb ("The Dilemma"), and Chris D'Arienzo ("Barry Munday") bring to the screen the long-running stage hit that is unabashedly an old-fashioned musical: people sing in a Greyhound bus, on city streets, backstage in a theater, in a Tower Records (remember those?) and under the Hollywood sign. The music is mostly the same six notes, reconfigured over and over, while the PG-13 script is full of clichés, double entendres, and stereo- types, but we don't care.

We start in Los Angeles, 1987: post-Pill and pre-AIDS. Small-town starry- eyed girl/Big-city starry-eyed boy + Sunset Strip. Did I mention clichés?
  • Tom Cruise ("Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol") is Stacee Jaxx, a mega-rock star, who stalks through life half-stoned. Women swarm all over him and church ladies are in a snit!
  • Malin Akerman ("The Proposal") is Constance Sack, with Rolling Stone. When Jaxx hears that, he asks, "Where's Mick?" She has to explain she's with the magazine, not the band.
  • Julianne Hough ("Footloose") is Sherrie Christian, subtle, right? After being mugged her first night in L.A., she lands a job as a waitress in a rock club and falls for a singing bartender, but life goes downhill from there.
  • Diego Boneta ("Pretty Little Liars") is Drew Boley, who found that job for our heroine. After they break up and then suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, they meet on the street and compare sad stories. "I'm working as a stripper." "I'm in a boy band." "You win!"
  • Alec Baldwin ("It's Complicated") is Dennis Dupree, the owner of the club where most of the action takes place. (When Baldwin wears jeans, they look like dungarees, not Levis.)
  • Russell Brand ("Arthur" 2011) is Lonny, Dupree's homo-centric right-hand man and perennial M.C. for the club.
  • Mary J. Blige (Lots of TV and the soundtrack) as Justice Charlier, is the good-hearted gal who gives our heroine the job at the strip club because "the ones on stage make the money!"
  • Bryan Cranston ("Breaking Bad") is Mike Whitmore, a candidate for mayor. Cranston is, once again, exploiting his "bad boy" image.
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones ("No Reservations") is Patricia Whitmore, Mike's wife and a Community Organizer. She seems to have a secret past which goads her to fight Rock and Roll. It's great to see Zeta-Jones sing and dance again. Remember "Chicago?"
  • Paul Giamatti ("Sideways") is Paul Gill, the smarmy manager whose job it is to exploit and use up performers.
The finale reviews all the characters so we can see where the story has brought them. We followed their issues and want to see how they coped.

Kudos for the folks who made the decision about the final credits: Each character is pictured, along with the actor's name. I realize this costs extra, but it is soooo welcome, and I LOVE it! Thank you.
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Over half of this afternoon's audience wasn't even born when Ridley Scott ("Blade Runner") started making movies, but they are well versed in his work and reacted right on cue at certain hints of stories yet to come as offered in this prequel to his 1979 "Alien."

Producer/Director Scott does spectacular horror, slime, gore, slime, suspense, slime, tension, and slime, plus massive Computer Generated Images of planets, space ships, aliens and slime.

This cast certainly epitomizes the international nature of today's cinema:
  • Charlize Theron ("Snow White and the Huntsman") South Africa gave us this Academy Award winning actress, who holds our attention any time she appears on screen. Here, she's the leader of a scientific exploration that tries to identify the origins of the human race. This gal is tough, authoritative and pragmatic.
  • Michael Fassbender ("Haywire") This German import puts Mercedes-Benz to shame: He has played every nationality in every time period; heroes, villains, scientists, and this time he's a robot. David watches an old video of "Lawrence of Arabia" to mimic Peter O'Toole's hair, accent and speech. You've gotta see it!
  • Noomi Rapace ("Sherlock Holmes") This Swedish-born marvel was introduced to most of us in the U.S. as Lis Salander in the original "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" trilogy. In this latest outing, she seems to be a precursor to Sigourney Weaver's iron-jawed Ripley, because she manages her own self-induced abortion by Cesarean section when she discovers she's carrying an alien.
  • Idris Elba ("Takers") is a well-established star in the U.K. His breakout role in the U.S. was Stringer Bell in "The Wire." In this one, he's the no-nonsense captain of a space ship that has carried the scientists to this obscure planet in hopes they can solve the mystery of our origins. He has the best pick-up line. "Are you a robot?"
  • Guy Pearce ("Lockout") This British-born actor grew up in Australia, so he is a double threat. In his latest outing, he is virtually unrecognizable as the industrialist who finances this scientific expedition.
  • Kate Dickie ("Red Road") Scottish-born Dickie is an award-winning stage actress. In this film, her hard-edged character is courageous supportive...and doomed.
This horror-fest is Nirvana for lovers of CGI, but not so much for some of the rest of us. I appreciated the ambition and self-sufficiency of the three women but reached suspense overload after that long "Don't go in the dripping tunnel!" episode. Like any self-respecting R-rated film, we have profanity, gunfire and blowie uppie stuff, plus Ridley Scott can create more horrific ways to kill off characters than any other director I have ever watched.

YOYO (You're On Your Own)
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Your Sister's Sister

What a great kickoff film for the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival Opening Night Gala. Filmed in Seattle (and the San Juan Islands) with a Seattle crew and a Seattle director (Lynn Shelton), this heartwarming R- rated comedy was just the ticket. Local, smart, sweet and unpredictable.

The film starts with a memorial being held by friends to mark one year after the death of one of their group.
  • Emily Blunt ("Salmon Fishing in the Yemen") is Iris, the younger sister, still mourning the death of her lover.
  • Mark Duplass ("Safety Not Guaranteed") is Jack, her best friend and brother of the deceased.
  • Rosemarie DeWitt ("Rachel Getting Married"), is Hannah, Emily's adored older half-sister. Jack doesn't know her at all.
We become acquainted with Jack and Iris as they try to assuage their grief and move on. Part of this attempt includes some contemplative time at a get-away cabin in the San Juan Islands off the Northwest coast of Washington State.

This is a small three-person dramedy that defies description without spoilers, but riding a bike figures into the plot...a couple of times. Just believe me when I say it's charming and witty, has nice people to root for, and you are never bored. After a few unexpected twists and turns, the last frame elicited a unanimous roar from the audience. It was amazing!
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The Mirror Never Lies

Indonesia submitted this entry to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival (English captions). In my opinion, this should have been submitted by the National Geographic magazine, because this World Premier film takes place in the Indonesian Wakatobi archipelago and features a Bajo tribal community, so we see:
  • Local customs
  • Local religious rites
  • Local commerce
  • Local topography
  • Local food
  • Local family units
  • Local education
  • Great underwater photography
  • Long, long intervals where nothing happens.
This is a coming-of-age story about a young girl whose father has disappeared at sea. She is convinced that a local superstition and ceremony that involves a mirror will reveal him to her. Her fascination with the family mirror causes strife between her and her mother, whose face is painted white, per local custom.

Enter a handsome young man who has come to study the local dolphin population. We can see our young heroine develop a crush on him (she spies on him while he is showering), but we know long before she does, that her fixation is in vain.

This village is suspended over the tidelands, so all of the houses and pathways between them are elevated. The children play with boats like landlocked children play with bicycles. We watch with fascination, because there is nothing else to capture our attention. ...Yawn...


This 2012 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Israel/UK (English captions when necessary) started out with masterful dialogue which established distinct personalities. Even though the publicity says a "life-altering encounter with two Israeli soldiers" caused later problems, a flashback made it clear to me that both personalities of those two Palestinian girls were already established long before that encounter.

These are the main characters:
  • Clara Khoury ("Body of Lies") is Lara, quiet, shy and a bit in love with her brash friend; she has married well, has a lovely home in London and a son she adores. She also drinks.
  • Nataly Attiya ("Kavod (Honor)") is Inam, provocative, nosy, envious and promiscuous: after years apart, she barges into Lara's house, opens the refrigerator, takes whatever she wants and stuffs a small knickknack into her purse when Lara isn't looking.
  • Daniel Caltagirone ("The Pianist") is Michael, Lara's husband. He is successful, patient, understanding and a good father. He had first been interested in dating Inam.
  • Taliesin Knight in his first role, is James, the cherished son.
  • Zif Weiner plays the young Lara, always bewitched by her impetuous friend.
  • Moran Rosenblatt plays the young Inam and tied with Nataly Attiya for the Best Actress award at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
Flashbacks to their childhood in Ramallah show us what a wild child Inam has always been and how constrained and careful Lara will always be: Inam is always the spark plug and Lara always worries about the con- sequences, but follows her friend's irresistible lead, just the same.

Writer/Director Jonathan Sagall ("Urban Feel") was nominated for the Golden Berlin Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival.


Easton's Article

Another World Premier at the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival and this time I'm grasping at straws. Thumper's father said, "If you can't say sumpthin' nice, don't say nuthin' at all."

Okay, sumpthin' nice:
  • Chad Meyer ("A Chance in Hell") is Easton, a nice man who gets an e-mail from the future that contains an article from a newspa- per: his own obituary. Date of death is in a couple of days. What should he do?
  • Kristina Johnson ("Awaken the Dead") is Hayley Reed a nice friend from back in the day. She doesn't believe his story until she sees the picture. Now what?
  • Dan Flannery ("Contagion") is old pal Hextall's father. Will this nice man hold a grudge?
  • Predestination or control one's life? Nice topic for a relaxed evening's chat.
  • During two false starts and three false endings plus one "Don't Go In The Basement!" moment, we watch him work the problem... nicely.
  • If a nice person derails a suicide, how angry is the person who was "saved?"
This one had a minor Second Inning Creep, but not too many slipped out of the theater, so....that's nice, isn't it?

It would have been so much nicer if we cared....
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The Empty Home

Do you want to know what's empty? It's not a home. It's the space between the ears of all the principal characters! Pusdoy dom, a 2012 Seattle International Film Festival World Premier entry from Kyrgyzstan/Russia (English captions) subjected us to an endless and almost unbearable series of poor choices made by a long list of unlikeable characters.

We saw:
  • A young woman, slated to be the second wife of a drunken "Mr Big," longs for the bright lights of Moscow. She fakes her virginity, but runs off that night with some of the cash gifted to the couple.
  • A goat gets its throat cut in living color so our "heroine" would have blood for her wedding night.
  • A drunken father being trundled home in a wheelbarrow by his exasperated daughter.
  • Numerous cell phones are used but I never saw a charger....
  • A man gets his head bashed in with a rock because the other man didn't like him.
  • A plasma TV being traded for a young bride.
  • Another goat gets its throat cut.
  • An unwanted child is traded for cash but the adoptive mother is certifiably insane.
Senseless violence, poor choices, undependable people and amorality run amok, all conspired to leave us feeling vaguely superior because WE would never behave that way! (Sorta like watching Jerry Springer.)


My fellow 2012 Seattle International Film Festival audience members agreed that this was far better than the write-up in the catalog led us to expect. This is a fast-moving, involving film about a US National Guard unit and it doesn't contain ONE gunshot!

When National Guardsmen volunteered they were told to allocate one weekend per month to Guard duty, instead, after 9/11 they are being recalled for one-year full combat duty over and over again. We join a National Guard unit being recalled to Iraq with battle-weary guardsmen bracing themselves and their families for yet another tour of duty. The top medic in the unit has applied for, and been granted, family leave because his son has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer (the first diagnosis was asthma).

Here are the players:
  • Seth Gabel ("Jonah Hex") is a baby-faced Ivy Leaguer who is a First Lieutenant in the unit. His influential father has obtained a deferment so he doesn't have to deploy.
  • Bow Wow ("The Family Tree") is that top medic. His expertise is vital to the unit and the commander is determined to bring all of his boys home. Our medic really wants to see his son!
  • Pablo Schreiber ("Happythankyoumoreplease") is a returning Ranger. He is assigned the slot vacated by the First Lieutenant. He broke off his engagement because he didn't want to ask his girl to wait for over a year.
  • Dominic Fumusa ("One Fall") is the dedicated commander who has weighed the value of that medic to all the lives of his men, as opposed to a brief visit with one sick (and maybe doomed) child.
  • Aiden Quinn ("The Eclipse") is the Commanding Officer who is the final determiner of everyone's fate. He has to be pragmatic and fair, whether or not he likes it!
This has people to root for, a legitimate moral quandary, suspense, action, and a lesson in loyalty. It has some profanity but no vehicular mayhem, some fisticuffs but no gunfire, and no blowie uppie stuff. Imagine that!


Hunky Dory

Many folks in the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival audience likened this one to "Glee" which they have seen on television. As a "Glee" virgin, I can't say one way or the other, but this entry from the UK was interesting, involving and sported a few youngsters I'd like to see again. In addition it's directed by Marc Evans ("Snowcake" and "Patagonia"), and he's always someone to watch.

We are in 1976 Wales. The UK is in a decline, the Falklands are still in the future, and some high school students are in a funk. An enthusiastic young teacher is inspired to adapt current popular music (David Bowie and The Beach Boys) into an accompaniment for Shakespeare's "The Tempest," using school talent. Many of the students are low income and some of the teachers see that as a sure bet for failure.

Be sure to suspend disbelief before you see:
  • Minnie Driver ("Conviction") as a fairly non-traditional teacher. She runs a loose ship, but the students seem to learn, although some of us cringed when she shared a cigarette with one of her kids. Remember, it IS 1976 before smoking got such a bad name!
  • Aneurin Barnard ("Citadel") had me asking, "Who IS this guy?" Handsome, capable and talented (he sings), I can promise you, we will see more of this one! Oh yeah, he's one of the students and he plays the irresistible Ferdinand.
  • Robert Pugh ("Robin Hood") is the school principal, enlisted by our teacher to take on the role of Prospero.
  • Haydn Gwynne (Lots of TV) is the teacher we love to hate. She is venomously class conscious, teaches by the book, and hasn't a warm drop of blood in her veins. She brings out the worst in our heroine, AND her students.
  • Tomos Harries in his first role, is a tousle-haired blonde, cast as Ariel. His character has a sweet arc as a lad not quite sure of his sexuality.
  • Darren Evans ("Submarine") is the angry misfit student cast as the angry misfit Caliban. He is suspected of arson.
Driver is Great Britain's answer to Meryl Streep when it comes to accents. I've heard her speak like a native from Ireland, "Bahston," Appalachia, Detroit, and now Wales. There are many more, but I haven't the space.

To my great delight, at the end they provide "the rest of the story" much as they did in "American Graffiti," with history and a touch of humor.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Unit 7

Spain submitted this action/thriller (English captions) to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival. "Grupo 7" begins in Seville, 1987, as the city starts preparations for the 1992 World Expo. From archival footage we see bridges and many other projects under construction. We are in the middle of a police chase which looks for all the world like parkour, my favorite in-city sport. I'll take it over vehicular mayhem any day!

When the suspects are apprehended, the four-man police team handcuffs the criminals and gathers the evidence. One bag of heroin is secreted by one cop, although all four are complicit. After brutally beating a snitch, these four policemen find a perfect source of information and become the premiere law-enforcement team in the city, uncovering more drugs, arresting more crooks and solving more crimes than any other. Problem is, they are now victims of a creeping corruption that drives their ambi- tions, enhances their bankrolls and disturbs their sleep.

Each year leading up to the 1992 Expo, we watch the progress made by Seville via archival footage, while we also monitor the changing dyna- mics of our fearless foursome. As we may expect, internal strife starts to rear its ugly head, as does greed, affection for the ladies, plus the esca- lating diabetes suffered by one cop.

We know the criminal element in Seville is aware of the corruption because one cop's dog is set on fire as a warning; more importantly there is a scene where the cops are lured into the inner city that you won't soon forget.

The award-winning cinematography treats us to many Seville cityscapes both beautiful and crude while displaying a clear narrative by Director Alberto Rodriguez.


"419" is the number of the penal code in Nigeria that makes it illegal to scam someone using the Internet. Hmmm... Maybe you got the e-mail? The one about the million dollars you will receive if you help out this poor fellow who.... Oh, you know.....

This "documentary" submitted by South Africa/USA to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival has such an outrageous story to tell, it's a relief to hear that it isn't actually true. Instead this World Premier is designed to look like "found footage" a la "Blair Witch Project" or "Cloverfield."

Cameraman/Documentarian Ned Thorne, is one of three fellows who take off for South Africa in hopes they can retrieve $30,000.00 one of them sent to a "pal" he met while filming a commercial there the previous year.

The three Americans are:
  • Mike Ivers, an actor who was duped by an on-line scam. Now he's mad and wants to find the conman to try and recover some of the money he lost.
  • Scott Kerns is his best friend, a computer geek and loyal buddy. He foots the bill to take his pal to South Africa. His is the most level head and he is understandably skeptical about some of the plans that evolve.
  • Ned Thorne is asked to come along and film their exploits in hopes that a documentary might come out of this adventure.
Our friends are immediately befriended by Ezra Mabengeza, a silver-tongued local who promises them he can find the conman out in the townships. As we watch their efforts to find the villain, we have to laugh because everyone they ask always points down the road and says, "He'll know... That guy over there," as we go deeper and deeper into the story. In addition, your loyalties will switch and you will start to feel some aversions you didn't expect.

We also see interviewed for this "documentary," Scott's father, his fiancée, Ned's fiancée and Mike's agent.

Designed like a good documentary, the payoff is right near the end, so don't give up!


Sin Bin

We have a shy teenage boy who has "custody" of his older brother's van. He has converted it into a trysting place for his wealthier prep school classmates (he's on a scholarship) and his biggest job is to keep all the scheduling straight. His horny classmates are (sorta) raunchy but basically good kids. We don't have any gunfire, vehicular mayhem, sweaty bodies or blowie uppie stuff, just teenage issues with jealousy, shyness and inexperience...plus typical adolescent lust and greed...and a little nudity.

There are no doubt some up-and-coming young actors in this large cast of high-school students, but I did NOT like:
  • The incessant pot smoking.
  • The anatomical detail.
  • The lack of any concern about whether or not their behavior is okay. In fact, one girl says, "It isn't really about the sex. It just gives me something to do, ya know? An activity? Gets me out of the house."
Despite a lack of predictability, our 2012 Seattle International Film Festival audience found this inane coming-of-age comedy to be a resounding "Eh."


The Snows of Kilimanjaro

"Les neiges du Kilimandjaro" is another award-winning 2012 Seattle International Film Festival entry from France (English captions). And what a welcome entry it is!

We start with a much-dreaded downsizing at a waterfront plant in Marseilles. Twenty names are pulled from a box, one of which is the name of the fellow doing the drawing. His brother-in-law insists he didn't have to put his name in the box but our guy says it's only fair; and he has spent his entire working career as an active union member whose mission in life is fairness!

As a consolation prize and a 25th-wedding anniversary gift, their three grown children, plus friends and other family all chip in and give them tickets and money for a safari to Tanzania (where you find Mt. Kiliman- jaro). The 19 other fellows who were also downsized attend the party.

Here is part of the cast:
  • Jean-Pierre Darroussin ("Le Havre"), adjusting to unemployment, is playing cards with his wife, his sister-in-law and her husband when suddenly thieves burst in, knock him to the floor, break his collarbone and steal the tickets and the money.
  • Ariane Ascaride ("The Art of Love") is his wife. She works as a domestic and loves her family: husband, children and grand- children. Ascaride won a 2012 Cesar (French Academy Award) for this role.
  • Marilyne Canto ("Apres Vous") is the wife's sister, she is the most distressed by that armed robbery. She seems to be suffering from post-traumatic stress.
  • Gérard Maylan ("Le thanto") is the brother-in-law. He is furious about that violent robbery and forgets all about his socialist love for his fellow man. He wants revenge!
  • Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet ("Stranded") is one of the downsized fellows. He is angry, frightened and resentful. Plus there is more to his situation than anyone has guessed.
Our hero and his wife realize that one of the robbers is a fellow from the party; he just lost his job. Now their quandary: What is fair? Who needed the money more? Does the robber have a family? After both of these kind people, each unbeknown to the other, delves into the situation, their moral quagmire becomes really complicated.

This is a heart-warming drama with many humorous moments. The adult children display a natural self-interest as the story progresses, and they are still concerned about that trip to Tanzania. We just enjoy having so many people to root for!
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This trailer has English captions:
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"Shapito-shou" is a Russian entry (English captions) to the 2012 Seattle International Film Festival. We approached it with some trepidation because it is 207 minutes long, so we expected some early exits, but found ourselves engaged and challenged by this absurd telling of four interconnected short stories. The first episode ends at the Chapiteau- Show featuring a Marilyn Monroe look-alike doing I Wanna Be Loved By You in a tent which we can tell is dimensionally transcendental (larger on the inside that it is on the outside) before it burns to the ground.

As we began the next episode, we were intrigued to discover we were back at the beginning, only this time with a different set of characters. However, those characters had served as background in that first episode and we recognize them and some of the locations. By the time we enter that tent again and watch another ersatz performer, this time Michael Jackson with his iconic moves, we realize that each person is the star or central character in his or her own drama. And of course the tent burns down.

Now the background is even richer, because by the third time, we recognize even more characters on the street, on the beach, etc., and before the Chapiteau-Show tent burns, we enjoy a performance from an ersatz Elvis Presley. This time we are in the company of a group of deaf people, so there is a lot of sign language and we see some outrageous actors and meet some alpha-male issues head on.

We are ready for the fourth short story and find it only mildly perplexing to discover that the performer to be imitated this time, Tsoi, is best known in Russia, so we don't know how well his copy cat measures up to the original. There is a LOT of discussion about whether or not we are really us or just ersatz copies of us.

There were so many unusual things to admire I won't attempt to list them all, but I was particularly impressed by the locations (in Crimea, Ukraine), and the flawless continuity. This was a visual feast, even though it was a narrative famine: the quasi-intellectual discussions were right out of high school.

This goofy thing is almost worth the investment of time, simply to see such unusual characters and to admire the skill with which the four segments are interwoven.