Being Evel

As you can tell by the spelling, this award-winning documentary from the US to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, is about Evel Knievel a dare-devil who made a career out of being a dare-devil. Nominated at both the SXSW Film Festival (Audience Award) and Sundance (Grand Jury Prize), this film won Grand Prize at the Boulder International Film Festival.

Through Director Daniel Junge, we meet a motorcycle hotdogger named Robert "Evel" Knievel, a goofy guy from Butte, Montana. He is described by Johnny Carson as "the only man in history who has become very wealthy by trying to kill himself."

We enjoy humorous interviews with articulate friends, colleagues and family members who have witnessed the astonishing arc of his life. For example, in 37 years of broadcasting, the Wide, Wide World of Sports says out of their ten all-time top shows, seven of them feature Evel Knievel. That's quite a statistic, and it's only the beginning.

Junge takes us to Evel's iconic jumps: Caesar's Palace, Wimbledon, Snake River and many others you will recognize; but he also takes us through our hero's meltdown and decline. We also see the impact Knievel has on today's sports.

Jay says, "This is a funny, involving, informative and interesting documentary."

SIFF says, "Wear a helmet."
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This is trailer is from an unusual source:
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Not All is Vigil

"No todo es Vigilia" is an award-winning documentary from Spain (English captions). Director Hermes Paralluelo has filmed this homage to his elderly grandparents and submitted the result to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. The 2015 Palm Springs International Film Festival awarded Hermes Paralluelo the Cine Latino Award, Special Mention.

We see:
  • Antonia Paralluelo - married for what seems to be a lifetime, now he's worried that his frail wife will no longer be able to live independently.
  • Felisa Lou - always the helpmate, now this octogenarian has become fearful that they will be sent to a nursing home.
This turned into the biggest snooze of the day. We were startled from our naps when the alarm on their clock radio malfunctioned. Everything is in slow motion, with our elderly woman walking endless hospital corridors in solitude, then later her patient husband climbing in and out of bed in S-L-O-W motion to answer her summons during the night.

One of our screeners enjoyed it, saying "Consciousness is fluid..." but most of us were relieved when this glacial endurance test was over. I think this one is Artistic.

The Glamour & the Squalor

In this documentary submitted by the US to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, Director Marq Evans delivers a cautionary tale about (closeted) sex, drugs and Rock and Roll. Using a clever combination of archival clips, staged scenes and humorous animation, he guides us through Seattle DJ Marco Collins' up-and-down world of grunge, alternative rock, and electronic dance music. We follow his trajectory from a bullied little gay boy (son of a cop) in small-town Washington, through his exposure in radio stations, his unerring ear for the next hit, and his extraordinary appetite for controlled substances. (At the time of the movie, he has been through rehab seven times.)

We enjoy countless new and old shots of Seattle, including aerial, freeway and street level photos (the Comet, Pike Place Market, Ballard, etc.), plus interviews with and film clips of: Marco Collins, Shirley Manson, Macklemore, Ben Gibbard, Mike McCready, Carrie Brownstein, Eddie Vedder, and archival footage of Kurt Cobain.

You probably recognize some or all of those names. If not, how 'bout the names of these bands: Nirvana, Sound Garden, Sleater-Kinney, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Mudhoney, and Death Cab for Cutie, all of whom feel they owe Collins a debt of gratitude for offering them a timely assist.

This sort of music is NOT my cup of tea, but I enjoyed the story of his failed audition at VH1 and the interviews with his family members, particularly his homophobic father, who has had to embrace a seismic shift in attitude.


Cartel Land

In my opinion, the United States, with its insatiable appetite for drugs, is part and parcel of the misery we see playing out in Mexico. This award-winning documentary which examines these brutal drug wars, was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival by the USA.

Director Matthew Heineman (Directing and Cinematography Awards - Sundance) crafts a compelling (and surprising!) exposé from the front lines.

I'm not allowed to write a review of this outstanding documentary, but I DO want you to see when it opens.



This is a big handsome action-packed bundle of PG-rated entertainment with an upbeat ending. Part of the pleasure is who's involved, just look at the credits: Disney Studios; Brad Bird (Pixar's premier writer/director); George Clooney (everyone's favorite heartthrob), Hugh Laurie (one of the UK's finest actors); along with Tim McGraw (ask any Country/Western fan) as a classic dad.

This epic battle is not just between good and evil, but between optimism and pessimism. It incorporates many physical battles, high-tech weapons. space flight and blowie uppie stuff, but it works best when two capable girls are giving George Clooney a hard time for his bad attitude.

We begin with an enthusiastic boy whose jet pack doesn't "quite" work but is "recruited" by a little girl who tells him he is "different." He never looks back.

We enjoy:
  • Thomas Robinson ("The Switch") as Young Frank Walker, the dauntless little boy with the jet pack. He meets Athena at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. (An amazing set piece by the way!)
  • Raffey Cassidy ("Mr. Selfridge") is Athena, who entices our young hero into the adventure of a lifetime.
  • Hugh Laurie ("House") Nix is going back "home" after the World's Fair. He has plans...
  • Britt Robertson ("The Longest Ride") is Casey Newton, who has serious objections when her school teachers preach gloom and doom for the planet. She finds a mysterious coin that flips her into another world when she touches it.
  • Tim McGraw ("The Blind Side") is her father Eddie Newton, a space engineer who is resigned to being downsized.
  • George Clooney ("Gravity") is Grown-up Frank; this pessimistic curmudgeon just wants Casey to leave him alone. Wait until you see his house!
  • Kathryn Hahn and Keegan-Michael Key are the proprietors of a novelty shop where Casey tries to buy another one of those mysterious coins.
We enjoyed the humor throughout, the dazzling scenery and the high-tech gadgets, but we most particularly enjoyed the humans, their relationships and their challenges.

Warning: You will be on that ride and hear that annoying ear worm "It's a Small World, After All." Be advised! (...Now don't start!)
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Check it out:
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Senza Nessuna Pieta

Mimmo is the kind of guy you don't want to meet in a dark alley. We meet him when Director Michele Alhaique (nominated Best Film - Venice Film Festival) brings this award-winning entry from Italy for the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival (English captions).

We see a burly guy who provides "enforcement" for his boss. He is irreproachably loyal but things start to waver when a violent confrontation occurs as he defends a beautiful young "working girl."

Here is the cast:
  • Pierfrancesco Favino (The Pasinetti Award - Special Mention at the Venice Film Festival), is our tough guy, Mimmo. He rarely speaks, but his eyes tell us all we need to know.
  • Greta Scarano is Tania, the upbeat hooker called in to help his employer's son "party." She is more than willing until Manual starts to degrade her.
  • Claudio Gioè plays Roscio, Mimmo's loyal friend, but unfortunately that doesn't protect Tania!
  • Adriano Giannini is Manuel, who is a nasty, spoiled misogynist.
  • Iris Paynado is the loyal Pilar whom Mimmo can trust because this cleaning lady folds his towels v-e-r-y carefully...smile...
This plot unfolds with painful deliberation. Before too long, we know where we are going and are riveted by Mimmo's dilemma. We root for him all the way.

Sugarcane Shadows

"Lonbraz Kann" (English captions) is enjoying its North American Premier at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Submitted by Mauritius, we are treated to director David Constantin's first feature film.

Mauritius is suffering from a deluge of free-spending tourists and is in danger of losing its cultural identity. Director Constantin uses "local" people to tell his story, not "imported" talent.

We see Raj Bumma Put, David Bhowaneedin, Nalini Aubeeluck, Jean-Claude Cathey and Jérôme Boulle portray subsistence inhabitants whose main source of income is disappearing with the closure of the local sugar mill. Things become more complicated for our handsome hero when a new construction foreman moves into the area with his lovely wife.

A local man provides comic relief as he steals flowers from grave-sites to sell later at a local shop. He also has a delightful encounter with a bus-load of tourists.

We saw the rapacious attitude of corporate officials moving into the area who represent the main developer, so we even had villains to loathe.


Paper Tigers

This documentary chronicles a year in the lives of six Walla Walla, Washington students in Lincoln Alternative High School. Written and directed by James Redford, we follow these troubled students who are the subjects of an experiment in behavior modification.

This World Premier was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival from the United States. We follow six veterans of substance abuse, truancy and other behavior problems. Their high school principal had learned about ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and wants to do something about it. He feels these youngsters lack a stable adult relationship in their lives.

We see:
  • A girl who was raped on her way to school. She fears all men.
  • A boy whose mother left his father; he lashes out at everyone.
  • Another neglected boy who discovers that his mother suffers from porphyria (look it up).
  • A sweet girl thrown out of her mother's house with no place to go.
  • A cheery young gal with a disease who says isn't as bad as it could be, so she feels lucky.
  • A boy whose father abandoned him at an early age but he still sees him as a role model.
Their first lesson is to see pictures of their brains and understand that much of their behavior is beyond their control. Their second lesson is to learn how to trust this amazing staff, from the principal (who greets them by name at the front door with a handshake and a hug), and the school counsellors who create a health clinic for them right on campus. They understand that it's next to impossible for one of these youngsters to keep an appointment across town with no ride and no bus fare.

The contrast between the first day of school and Graduation Day is astonishing and the statistics are impressive. Our fingers are crossed.

Short Skin

Yikes! This is exactly what I was afraid it would be! And they made a MOVIE about it!

"Short Skin: I dolori del giovane Edo" (English captions) was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival from Italy. As as I feared, this comedy (?) addresses the misadventures of an unfortunate young man who has... you guessed it! (It's called phimosis, a malformation that makes an erection painful, correctable with circumcision.) The SIFF catalog calls this a "coming-of-age delight."

Written (with a host of other writers) and directed by award-winning Duccio Chiarini (Special Mention - Venice Film Festival), we watch the trials and tribulations of our young hero and his chum as they both strive to lose their virginity over summer vacation.

We see:
  • Matteo Creatini as Edoardo, our skinny, gawky hero in a Powell's Book Store t-shirt (it's in Portland, Oregon!), who is in a tight spot.
  • Franscesca Agostini as Bianca, Edoardo's long-time girlfriend.
  • Nicola Nocchi as Arturo, is so obsessed with losing HIS virginity, he's willing to pay. He wonders if Jesus was circumcised. (Of course he was, being Jewish and all.)
  • Marian Raschilla is Elizabetta the new girl in town.
  • Bianca Seravolo is Olivia, our hero's wacky younger sister who is audacious, adventuresome and eager to see her dog find a mate.
I am deliberately NOT mentioning the octopus, the parents' rift, the chum's advice about the fairer sex or the prostitute. Of course when a movie is about two teenagers burdened by their mutual virginity, it's an easy laugh. My only problem was that the solution was staring him in the face all along (he Googled it) and I couldn't understand everyone's hesitation. Is is cultural?

Oh well...

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

This prize-winning documentary (Audience Choice Award Best Documentary - RiverRun Film Festival; Special Jury Prize Documentary - Sundance Film Festival), based on a horrific incident on the day after Thanksgiving (Black Friday) in 2012, tells us about four boys coming from a mall where they bought sneakers. They stop at a gas station and one goes in to buy a soda and a pack of gum. A woman who dropped in to buy a bottle of wine inadvertently witnesses the melee. When it's over a 17-year-old boy is dead.

Director Marc Silver, through trial footage, surveillance film, interviews, news clips, and even phone calls from prison, dissects this tragedy that was triggered by an argument over rap music.

We see:
  • Jordan's mother, Lucia McBath, is hoping for closure.
  • His father, Ron Davis, still can't believe Jordan is dead.
  • His friend, Leland Brunson, was in the car when it happened.
  • Another friend, Tommie Stomes, saw the whole thing go down.
  • Circuit Court Judge Russell Healey is determined the court room will maintain decorum.
  • State Attorney Angela B. Corey, we hear her voice but I don't remember her face.
  • Assistant State Attorney John Guy had made an agreement with the Defense team that race would never once be mentioned. It wasn't!
  • Defense Attorney Cory Strolla insists that Jordan had a big mouth but he didn't have a weapon.
  • Neither the white defendant nor his fiancée are named in the roster for this movie at SIFF, nor on the IMDb page. Subtle clue as to bias....
I felt soiled watching this, like an avid ambulance chaser eager to see blood, tears and raw emotions. The paparazzi had set up a literal village outside the courthouse, complete with satellite dishes! Sensation Seekers, ALL!

Shame on every one!


Dreams Rewired

Archival film does not a treasure make. This soporific endurance test, billed as an interesting and entertaining documentary, is narrated by Tilda Swindon, better known as an actress. Submitted by Austria (in English) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, Directors Martin Reinhart, Thomas Tode and Manu Luksch try in vain to draw deep meaning from the development of electronic communications devices.

In the 1880s, telegraphs were supposed create total communication, annihilate distance and end war. Now we take an artsy, pseudo-intellectual look at what has happened since then. When this opened with clips from over 200 films and actors I was encouraged because I recognized many of them ("Battleship Potemkin," Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Lillian Gish); sadly, optimism doesn't keep a person awake...

Here are some of our impressions:
  • It was didactic without being intellectual.
  • It ended five times without having the decency to turn up the lights and let us exit the theater.
  • They tried to be profound but ended up shallow, repetitious and boring.
  • Examples of early telecommunications: telegraphs, radio, movies and television, have all been described in far more interesting ways.
  • I had a good nap.
Actually I DID enjoy our brief look at Lillian Galbraith (the mother of 12 in "Cheaper by the Dozen") who was a world-renowned time-and-motion efficiency expert. She used electronic devices to refine her theories.


This fantastical comedy was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival by France (English captions). It's about a quiet, unassuming construction worker who has super powers after he is exposed to water. This tends to isolate him.

Directed by Thomas Salvador (several short films) with a script from a collaboration of three writers, our press screeners were amused by the ways he uses his powers, e.g., a stubborn wall will NOT collapse no matter how hard they pound on it. After everyone has left for the evening, he gets himself soaked, then just pushes it down.

We enjoyed:
  • Thomas Salvador as our hero Vincent, who helps a co-worker in trouble by throwing a concrete mixer on his assailants' car. Is that illegal? In any event, this prompts the police to try to nab him.
  • Vimala Pons is Lucie, a friendly woman who gives him the world's longest caress. Looks like fun!
  • Youssef Hajdi is Driss, the man Vincent had to rescue from that beating. He in turn tries to help him elude those pesky police.
  • Nicolas Jaillet plays Lieutenant Le Brec, who is trying to figure out what the devil is going on. He has seen this guy porposing in the water and he has seen how powerful he can be, but he's not sure if Vincent is dangerous or not.
It's fun to watch Vincent swim. As his abilities grow, he swims faster and faster until he resembles a porpoise, arcing in and out of the water. And watch him come out of a swimming pool. Wow!


The 2015 Seattle International Film Festival press screeners enjoyed this harmless little comedy from the United States. Directed by Kris Swanberg and co-written by Swanberg and Megan Mercier, we watch as a high- school teacher and one of her students both discover that they are unexpectedly pregnant.

Our teacher is very concerned about the loss of opportunity for one of her most promising students, in the meantime she is trying to deal with her controlling mother and the bifurcation of her own life. She has to cope with the split between parenthood and a career.

We see:
  • Cobie Smulders ("Avengers") is Samantha Abbott, a teacher who wants what is best for her high-potential student; she wants her to have a college degree. We can see how she resembles her disappointed mother who wanted a fancy wedding for her.
  • Gail Bean ("Good Wood") Jasmine feels certain that she is on top of it, but she has school (with a 3.8 GPA), a job, and soon mother- hood.... She doesn't want to disappoint her teacher, but she has to be realistic.
  • Anders Holm ("Workaholics") John will never let Samantha down. He thinks the solution might be so send their infant daughter to work as soon as she is born. At least that makes Samantha laugh...
  • Elizabeth McGovern ("Downton Abbey") Carolyn wants to control everything about her daughter, including what she does with this baby. She had planned on a big wedding but now is focused on buying little girl clothes.
We are insulted to think the filmmakers are foisting off a two-month-old child with open eyes and a big grin as a newborn. However, we smile as we hear our two heroines express their goals: Samantha wants to design curriculum for high school science classes; Jasmine wants a job where she wears a suit to work. We enjoyed having two nice people to care about.
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Here's the trailer:
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Do I Sound Gay?

I remember being teased about my midwestern accent when we moved to Arizona. People make judgements about others based on what they hear, don't they!

This documentary from the US to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival features a fellow who sounds "too gay" according to his former boyfriend. Through interviews with numerous well-known spokespersons, director David Thorpe tries to sort it out. Personally, it's hard to see why. I've never worried about how people sound: gay or straight, as long as they speak up so I can hear them.

On the other hand, a vanity project like this generates a LOT of questions, but my main one is, How in the world did this find financing? Filmmaking isn't cheap and this fellow plus his film crew, visit major cities, among which are New York and London.

Our interviewees:
  • Margaret Cho is a veteran of speech therapy because her family didn't want her to sound Korean.
  • Tim Gunn was horrified the first time he heard his own voice. Now he doesn't care.
  • Dan Savage says the way gays walk and talk betrays them. This prompts bullying because of misogyny: Male bullies recoil from females and try to hurt anything that seems feminine.
  • David Sedaris is always mistaken for a woman when he calls room service, but he is so happy with his long-time husband, he doesn't care.
  • George Takei was never mistaken for gay but when California was stuck with DOMA legislation, he decided to step out of the closet. He has had the same (male) spouse for decades, so for him, it was a non-issue.
  • David Thorpe decides gays sound like braying ninnies and sets out to change the sound of his voice. He goes to speech therapists, speech pathologists and consults speech specialists before he fizzles out.
The film clips almost made this worthwhile: Paul Linde, Liberace, Clifton Webb, numerous Disney characters, etc., etc., etc... but we never seem to go anywhere, so again I ask, "Who paid for this?"


"Venecia" (English captions) is a low-budget look at the hopes and dreams of three terminally bored hairdressers who, on payday, enjoy a night on the town. Well, "enjoy" might be an overstatement....

Submitted by Cuba to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, this dreary dramedy is written by Claudia Muñiz and directed by Kiki Álvarez.

We come to (sorta) know the hopes and dreams of:
  • Claudia Muñiz who plays Violeta, the sleep-deprived hairdresser with the loser of a boyfriend.
  • Jazz Filá is Ada-Adelberto, the drag queen who talks some sense into her.
  • Marianela Pupo and Maribel Garcia Garzón are Mayelín and Mónica, Violeta's two companions, lurching around town in high heels that hurt their feet, fending off aggressive advances from drunks, regretting an unexpected pregnancy, visiting a bizarre discotheque, and making poor, poor choices in men.
  • Jorge Molina is Coco, who seems to be Violeta's brain-damaged brother.
Okay, I'm going to try to find something nice to say about this dissatisfying mess:
  • The captions are pretty good.
That's about all I can think of...sorry.

Sunshine Superman

Are you a thrill seeker? I think our hero was born one!

This white-knuckle documentary was submitted from the United States to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Directed by Marah Strauch, we follow the exciting life of the man who invented Base Jumping, a dare- devil sport that entails jumping from impossibly high places (buildings, aerials, spans and earth) with a parachute or a para-sail.

Through countless interviews and his own exceptional cinematography, we come to know:
  • Carl Boenish ("Bee' nish"), the good-natured fellow who INVENTED Base Jumping.We learn about the polio that struck him as a child and his determination to regain his strength. This hyper-intelligent and active boy became a piano player, an engineer, a skilled trampoline jumper, a filmmaker, an inventor, and then took up sky diving; but that still wasn't enough...
  • Jean Boenish, is the woman he married. Wait'll you hear what SHE has to say! Carl's friends said he was never interested in the women who flocked around him but when he met Jean, he never hesitated. This unlikely woman happily joined forces with him, became a skilled Base jumper and his soul mate.
She agreed with something he learned in college. "To wonder HOW is good. To wonder WHY will make you the boss." She is the perfect mate for this handsome, exuberant and charismatic man.

The filmmaking in the documentary is exceptional: we can't tell when a scene is staged and when it is from Carl's amazing library. In addition, the editing is so impressive I'm still thinking about it. As Base jumpers, Carl and his team visit Houston, Yosemite, Canyon de Chelly and other jaw-dropping jump sites. I've never seen mountain crags as jagged as the ones we see in Norway. Wow!

We enjoy interviews with Jean, fellow Base jumpers, tour guides, TV producers, family members and above all, Carl. Everything about this presentation is worth while. You'll be impressed.
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Enjoy his exuberance:


Mad Max: Fury Road

Of course this new Mad Max is waaaay over the top, which is exactly what all the young men in the jam-packed theater came to see. In my opinion George Miller's original 1979 "Mad Max" with Mel Gibson is a classic, so it's no surprise that our hero is still a loner, still on the move and still sort of a Lone Ranger.

Once again, Miller is depicting his home ground, so we are back in the Outback (actually Namibia) with its heat, desolation and dust, where gruesome violence is the norm and petroleum is the coin of the realm.

The cast:
  • Charlize Theron ("Hancock") Furiosa is trying to rescue the "breeders," young, leggy, scantily clad women who have been selected to service the leaders. She plans to relocate them to her childhood home and stop their exploitation (mothers' milk is "gathered" and distributed to the men).
  • Tom Hardy ("Locke") Max doesn't admit his name until near the end, even though we in the audience never had any doubt. He's troubled by nightmares which he explains are caused by unresolved issues. (Maybe he doesn't say it exactly that way...) Max is a fierce and resourceful guy.
  • Nicholas Hoult ("Warm Bodies") We first meet Nux as he is getting a transfusion of blood from captive Max. He is excited about "going to Valhalla" (dying for the cause) as he fights for his grotesque leader.
  • Hugh Keays-Byrne ("Mad Max" Toecutter in that one) is Immortan Joe, the rabidly insane leader of the cult from which our lovely "breeders" are in flight.
  • Rosie Huntington-Whiteley ("Transformers") The Splendid Anghard is almost six months pregnant when she flees with Furiosa and her fellow captives. Spoiler alert: Yeah, she goes into labor at the worst possible time....
  • Riley Keough ("Magic Mike") Capable is just that...capable. Elvis Presley's granddaughter has been a professional actress since 2010.
  • Zoë Kravitz ("Insurgent") Toast the Knowing turns out to be a pretty capable gal too, and ends up pulling her own weight in the huge melee that results from the "breeders'" flight.
Movies these days try to out-gross each other, and not just at the box office: we see hideous characters, outrageous vehicles, amazing stunt work from Cirque du Soleil daredevils, and LOTS of creative blowie uppie stuff. I've suspended disbelief, but I can't help but think "Traumatic Brain Injury" as I watch some of these scenes, but I check the audience around me and every young man is riveted by the non-stop action (and those scantily clad females). Obviously this movie does exactly what it is designed to do.

This is rated "R" so expect 120 looong minutes of post-apocalyptic battle (on moving vehicles) with over-the-top mayhem. You'll see plenty of blood (at one point a gout of blood splashes over the camera lens), hear lots of gunfire from a variety of weapons, and dodge pieces of scrap metal as vehicles explode; but no kisses and no sex. Whew!

By the way, that scrap metal is the only time I felt 3D was used properly, so don't $pend extra for the 3D upgrade!
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Here's what they do:
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Liza, the Fox-Fairy

There is a unique type of fantastical whimsy that we occasionally see from Europe: "Amélie" (2001) comes to mind, and more recently, "Mood Indigo" (2014). For the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, Hungary has submitted "Liza, a rókatündér" (English captions), an fantastical comedy in that same absurdest vein.

We meet a lonely young nurse who starts looking for love in all the wrong places with disastrous results. Problem is, the shade of a dead Japanese pop singer has fallen in love with her and has transformed her into a Fox-Fairy, whose lovers always die unless their love is pure and selfless. We giggle at the police captain who is determined to solve these crimes; he can only stand by in helpless frustration as he watches the mounting body count. He instructs one of his detectives to rent a room from her so he can get a closer look at this cold-blooded killer.

We start with Liza's employer/patient who accidentally kills herself. After Liza starts dating we see:
  • A widower who longs for his wife's fish prepared in maple syrup;
  • A handsome lady's man;
  • A shy fellow who hides in cabinets;
  • An eager young man who doesn't check traffic;
  • The list goes on and on until we have at least eight victims!
While she is upgrading her clothes, her hair, and her shoes, she is quietly doing things for her renter, like mend his socks. He, in turn, fixes her light switch, her flushing tank, and does numerous other little repairs.

Our screening audience can't help but start rooting for these sweet people and we left the theater with big silly smiles on our faces.
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No trailer yet...
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The Automatic Hate

Have you ever felt like you were being stalked? I think that's how our hero feels when a cousin he didn't know existed, tracks him down. This 2015 Seattle International Film Festival entry from the United States brings us a set of cousins, unacquainted, who meet and then start digging into their family history.

Director Justin Lerner, who collaborated with Katharine O'Brien on the script, has created situation where two young adults can't get any answers from their relatives, so they blunder into family secrets that might better be left alone.

The cast:
  • Joseph Cross ("Lincoln") Davis Green is a chef, his girlfriend is a ballet dancer, and his college professor father, is an only child.
  • Adelaide Clemens ("The Great Gatsby") Alexis Green never believed that her father had no relatives, so she unearths his brother's son, a cousin she finds REALLY appealing....
  • Deborah Ann Wolf ("True Blood") Cassie wants Davis to herself so they can work on their relationship before she goes back to her ballet.
  • Richard Schiff ("Kill the Messenger") Dr. Ronald Green is furious that his family secrets are in danger of being exposed, and he doesn't want to see his son tied down to anyone!
  • Ricky Jay (Lots of TV) Uncle Josh works crossword puzzles in ink, just like his brother!
Dr. Green and Uncle Josh are both played by well-established character actors. We appreciate the quality of their work, unlike some of the other cast members. We laughed about the many plot holes in the script: some are simple oversights and others are illogical choices made by either the scriptwriters or the production design.

In addition, many in our screening audience were concerned about the stalking aspect of the situation and didn't trust the ending. At least no one boiled a bunny!


City of Gold

In keeping with our "foodie" theme this year, we have another documentary, this time a scattered lightweight outing that features a Pulitzer Prize-winning food critic, Jonathan Gold.

Award-winning writer/director Laura Gabbert ("Sunset Story") has crafted this affectionate biography which tells Gold's unlikely story of a revolution inspired by his writing skills and driven by his taste buds. He is credited with "democratizing food" as he discovers little-known neighborhoods and shares his love for authentic ethnic foods. His research is endless, but he particularly loves food trucks, cafés, diners and otherwise overlooked (and esoteric) treasures.

We see:
  • Jonathan Gold in his green pickup truck as he explores Los Angeles neighborhoods, searching for his next delicious meal.
  • Greg Gold, Jonathan's brother, says he had to become an environmentalist because Jonathan eats everything that is endangered.
Somehow I didn't share Jonathan's enthusiasm in writing about eating a deer's penis or crunching those grasshoppers whole, but I smiled at his speech for a graduating college class. He says he's a failed cellist. We have learned about his happy childhood, his classical music phase, his hip-hop phase, his time spent as a copy editor and many other facets of a multi-faceted life. In a commencement speech he explains how failure generates success.

I'm happy for him...

The Boss: Anatomy of a Crime

Argentina submitted "El patron, radiografia de un crimen" (English captions) for the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Based on true events, this award-winning film brings us a humble peon who gets a job in a big-city butcher shop. Unfortunately, he more he sees, the more he knows about the meat industry, corruption and the exploitation of workers.

Director Sebastián Schindel (Audience Award - Pusan International Film Festival 2014) shows us how our hero is extorted and pressured into virtual slavery. As our horror grows, we understand his reaction which launches this compelling, and true, story.

The cast:
  • Germán de Silva is Armando, the butcher who teaches our poor hero the tricks of the trade: the chemicals and other additives routinely used in the meat we eat.
  • Joaquin Furriel is Hermogenes, too poor and too grateful for this job to be critical. He keeps his mouth shut and follows orders because he saw his predecessor beaten for not obeying fast enough. 
  • Victoria Raposo is Clara, Hermogenes' homesick (and pregnant) wife.
  • Guillermo Pfening is Marcelo Di Giovanni, the attorney railroaded into taking this case but who then risks his career after he sees how unfairly our poor hero has been treated.
  • Mónica Lairana is Gladys, the attorney's wife who overcomes her annoyance and pitches in to help.
  • Luis Liembrowski is Latuada, Hermogenes' despicable boss. No punishment could be harsh enough!
We learn how a butcher can disguise the odor of rotting meat, enhance the color of ground beef and prepare chicken carcasses for sale. You may be sure every person in the theater was invested in the outcome of this case!

My Summer in Provence

France submitted "Avis de mistral" (English captions) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. (The poster in IMDb looks like it's in German...) In our SIFF catalog, this film is called "an effervescent comedy." Jay Lane calls it "predictable and fun."

A trio of siblings are sent to the French hinterlands for the summer after their parents separate prior to a divorce. They'll be living with grand- parents they never knew because of an old family rift. As written and directed by award-winning Rose Bosch ("Animal"), we become acquainted with these reluctant youngsters and their even more reluctant grandfather, a farmer devoted to his olive trees (he talks to them).

We see:
  • Jean Reno ("Hector and the Search for Happiness") Grand- père Paul isn't quite sure what to expect from these virtual strangers but he DOES know he doesn't want the chance to find out.
  • Anna Galiena ("The Falcon and the Dove") is their grandmother Irêne. This wise woman never takes a wrong turn, but wait until the children learn about her youth!
  • Chloé Jouannet ("Lucky Luke") Léa, the teenage girl, is a vegan and an eco-conscious locavore, to her grandfather's outrage. At least she has a cellphone signal in her miserable little attic bedroom. Whew!
  • Hugo Dessioux ("Fonzy") Adrien, big brother to Théo, is faced with the possibility that he might have to be the man of the house when they move back with their mother. At least he's a lady-killer: check out the two Swedish girls, the two English girls and the two French girls.
  • Lukas Pélissier, in his first movie, has taken the role of Théo, a deaf boy (Lukas too, is deaf). His open-hearted attitude leaves Grand-père Paul no choice but to fall in love with him instantly.
  • Tom Leeb ("Paroles") is Tiago, the handsome young devil who takes our sweet teenage girl to the seaside for some pot and pills. We are as alarmed as Grand-père Paul.
After a rocky start, our trio of city mice starts to appreciate the countryside. The littlest one begins by watering the tomatoes, his older brother uses Facebook (and even surprises himself!), and the girl goes shopping with Grand-mère before she meets that really handsome fellow.

This is enjoyable from beginning to end, with delicious comic turns by Reno and Galiena, whose characters are former flower children. What a treat! And a hundred or so French students from local Seattle high schools who attended our press screening were very well behaved: no talking, and NO CELLPHONES!


Mr. Holmes

Not even Sherlock Holmes can withstand the ravages of time. Here we join him on a farm with his housekeeper and her bright little boy. One thing keeps nagging at our aging hero: an unresolved crime from 30 years ago.

The United Kingdom submitted this drama to the 2015 Seattle Inter- national Film Festival and hedged its bets by starring one of its most beloved British actors and an American actress closely associated with Masterpiece Theatre. This satisfyingly complex plot is directed by Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls"), with a screenplay by Mitch Cullin based on the story "A Slight Trick of the Mind" by Arthur Conan Doyle.

The cast:
  • Ian McKellen ("Lord of the Rings") is our eponymous legend, brilliance fading but still curious and observant. He knows his intellect has lost much of its edge, but he still has his moments and he hopes infusions of Prickly Ash will help. McKellen skillfully shows us the difference between elderly and doddering.
  • Laura Linney ("Hyde Park on Hudson") is Mrs. Munro, his fairly new housekeeper. She is unsure of Mr. Holmes and his effect on her son, so she's anxious to move on to another job.
  • Milo Parker ("Ghosthunters") is Roger, Mrs. Munro's fatherless son. He naturally gravitates to Mr. Holmes and is remarkably quick to learn about bee keeping and solving mysteries.
  • Roger Allam ("The Angels' Share") is Dr. Barrie, whose news is NOT welcome to our hero, nor is his solution.
  • Hiroyuki Sanada ("The Twilight Samurai") Tamiki Umezaki is Mr. Holmes' source for Prickly Ash; plus he and his mother have a long-standing link to our hero.
It isn't often we see a movie with "name brands" at a film festival and we certainly can appreciate WHY they have become name brands. Both McKellen and Linney prove their worth in their sensitive and fully developed portrayals. And of course England is THE place to produce a costume drama...

After the screening we had a lively discussion in the bus about young Milo Parker. He closely resembles little Thomas Brodie-Sanger (now Thomas Sanger), who played Liam Neesen's stepson so heartbreakingly in love in 2002's "Love Actually." I guess they aren't even related. Oh well....
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See what you think:

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Corn Island

This award-winning drama, "Simindis kundzuli" (English captions) was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival from Georgia. As directed by George Ovashvili, we watch the overwhelming rhythms of a river that control the lives of people who rely on its temporary islands for summer crops (these are created in the river as rocks, tree limbs and silt accumulate during flooding). The islands sit in a wide river between two countries, and "belong to the one who put them there."

This wonderful film has already been honored by numerous awards. They include 21 wins at film festivals all over the world, along with 6 more nominations. I wanted to list them, but it would take far too much space!

We see:
  • Ilyas Salman as The Old Man, and a harder-working fellow you will never see on screen. The amount of labor he and his grand- daughter must do is daunting!
  • Mariam Buturishvili as The Girl, who seems to mature before our very eyes. By the time she pulls a flirtatious little stunt, she is very much a young woman.
  • Irakli Samushia as The Soldier. Once you have saved someone's life, you feel a certain urge to protect that person....
All told, I doubt if 100 words are spoken in this entire film... Tops! And that includes when the military drops by for some wine. We go ten minutes at a time between one or two little exchanges. In fact, I was beginning to despair before a bit of story began to form. The key plot points are completely wordless.

I won't tell you how I think it ends. Discussions after the screening showed me that we all had our own interpretations and each of us was very happy with our own. You won't see another film like this for a long, long time.

Frame by Frame

When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan it was illegal to take photographs. This documentary, submitted by Afghanistan (English captions when necessary) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, shows us the frustrating efforts to resurrect a free press which have been made since then. It also asks the question: What will happen after foreign forces withdraw?

Co-directors Mo Scarpelli and Alexandria Bombach, working with photographers Farzana Wahidy, Massoud Hossaini, Wakil Kohsar and Najibullah Musafer show us the challenges they have encountered.

They include:
  • Interference - When Farzana (who photographs women) asks for permission to interview patients in the Self-Immolation Ward at the hospital, permission is denied...PERIOD. The doctor explains that the local Mullah is more powerful than the government agencies who have granted her permission; the doctor fears for himself and his family.
  • Grief - The family of The Girl in Green, whose picture in the aftermath of a suicide bombing won Massoud a Pulitzer Prize, is still coping with sorrow. They lost relatives, friends and neighbors in that bombing.
  • Fear - When a photographer witnesses a public slaughter the first instinct is to run. Trying to overcome that fear is hard.
  • Tradition - A bride trying to adjust to in-laws who beat her is burned over 60% of her body. The only way they will help put out the fire is for her to give up her child. She will never see her daughter again. The pictures of her scars are devastating.
  • Death - More photojournalists have died recently than at any time in history. And there is no single enemy, they have been killed by the Mullahs, the tribes and the Taliban.
  • Lack of Education - When the Taliban came into power in Afghanistan, all schooling for girls was stopped. Young women now look at photographs of college girls in Kabul before the Taliban. They see the stylish short skirts, the cute haircuts, the makeup and shoes, and they just marvel....
Believe it or not, I have only covered a fraction of the issues discussed in this award-winning documentary (Cleveland International Film Festival 2015 ReelWomenDirect Award for Directing).


The Golden Hill

Nepal (English captions) submitted "Serdhak," a World Premier family drama at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Directed by Rahan Kathet, we watch a young engineering student go back to his home in Mustang, a remote village in the Himalayas, and learn how badly his country needs to stop the flood of educated young adults who leave and never come back. This constitutes the entire plot for this mildly interesting film. The fascinating landscape and the spectacular towering peaks that surround Mustang however, are taken for granted by the locals but we couldn't take our eyes off them.

When our young man returns to the village of his birth, he encounters a young woman who turns out to be an old friend. She too, has had some higher education and agrees that stopping the brain drain is important. He shares his dreams and she seems to feel the same way. Reality strikes the village in many forms: Tradition, alcoholism, poverty and a provincial mindset.

We see how they raise their vegetables, irrigate their fields, thresh their grain, milk their cows, herd their sheep, mill their flour and entertain themselves. We join a singalong and watch them form a circle for a dance; I thought they were going to do the Hokey Pokey!

Many of us in the screening audience had an underlying question about whether or not this area was affected by the April 25th, 2015 earth- quake and the subsequent one on May 12th. I looked at my Atlas and am sad to say, it seems to be in that vicinity. The epicenter of the earthquake is about 50 miles northeast of Kathmandu and that is too close to Mustang for comfort! I've contributed aid money through an agency and hope you will too.

King Georges

In keeping with one of the themes of our 2015 Seattle International Film Festival, we have another "cooking" documentary. As written, directed and produced by Erika Frankel, this submission from the United States looks at a French chef who wants to keep his high rating for his world-renowned Philadelphia restaurant. It has been highly regarded for over 40 years but his age is beginning to catch up with him.

We watch:
  • Georges Perrier opened Le Bec-Fin in 1970. Through hard work, a brilliant palate and pit-bull tenacity, he has been highly rated all these years. This has cost him his marriage, his health and much of his peace of mind. (A chef who owns his own restaurant and does his own marketing doesn't get much sleep.) His mother said it's better to be a good chef than a bad doctor (he had wondered about medical school).
  • Nicholas Elmi is Perrier's right-hand man. This doesn't sound like much until you get a sample of Perrier's verbal abuse, his demanding nature and his perverse sense of humor. The staff at Le Bec-Fin has remarkable patience and self-control, particularly on a big night when there is a gas leak and their usual stove is out of commission.
Perrier decompresses after a busy night by sitting in the bar, drinking some wine and eating dinner. He watches the Philadelphia Eagles' football games but how much he actually "gets" is open to debate. He says, "Look! They already scored a touchdown and it's just the second inning!"

Even though this documentary shares Perrier's background and highlights his achievements, I found him to be abrasive, egotistical and cruel. His staff has rationalized that those are the very personality traits that have made him an outstanding restaurateur. This may very well be the case, but I certainly didn't LIKE the guy!

You will find the behind-the-scenes spectacle of a busy kitchen in a highly successful restaurant to be interesting and informative...and add more butter!

Snow on the Blades

"Zakurozaka no adauchi" is submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival by Japan. This action-filled historical drama follows the single-minded efforts of a swordsman who failed to protect the Shogun's top minister. He spends the next 13 years trying to rectify his error while Japan modernizes around him.

Award-winning director Setsurô Wakamatsu, working from a short story by Jirô Asada, brings us a hero who is stubborn to a fault, with a lovely wife whose life is linked to his for better or for worse.

We see:
  • Kiichi Nakai as Shimura Kingo, the samurai whose dogged determination is probably his biggest flaw. He is honor-bound to do what's right.
  • Ryôko Hirosue brings us Setsu (I liked her in "Departures"), Shimura's wife. She is trying to support the two of them as he continues his quest, but times are changing in the last half of the 1800s and not many women buy kimonos anymore.
  • Hiroshi Abe is Naokichi. Even before we get to know this handsome fellow we can tell he's a nice man because of the way he interacts with the neighbor's little girl.
The cinematography is subdued, with occasional snowflakes drifting into the frame. We are on muddy roads, with either rainy or snowy weather, or having tea in chilly homes. I know Japanese jackets are often padded and I found myself hoping everyone was warm enough. Brrr....

This is the second Samurai-based film I have seen which acknowledges the women whose fates are tied to the warriors'. "Twilight Samurai" was the first.

One minor caveat: Do not eat a big meal before you see this one because the pace is so deliberate, you just might doze off!


Far From the Madding Crowd

This was the second Thomas Hardy book I read as a teenager ("Return of the Native" was the first). Wessex, his fictitious part of England, was as real to me as Sussex or Dorset, and a headstrong woman as the protagonist was right down my alley.

Working from Hardy's novel, screenwriter David Nicholls has provided director Thomas Vinterberg ("The Hunt") with an elegant and accessible interpretation, which, along with cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensenan, gives us a luminous film with lovely, lovely scenes.

We watch:
  • Carey Mulligan ("The Great Gatsby") as Bathsheba Everdene; she is an intelligent, independent woman who has to choose among three suitors. This lovely actress is capable of gentle subtlety, so Bathsheba is both sincere and irresistible and we want the very best for her.
  • Michael Sheen ("Masters of Sex") is William Boldwood, a shy, well-established local businessman who becomes the target of an innocent prank.
  • Matthias Schoenaerts ("Lewis and Clark") Sturdy sheepfarmer Gabriel Oak is as steadfast as his name. We see how a playful young sheepdog can visit devastating financial ruin on a farmer.
  • Tom Sturridge ("On the Road") plays Sergeant Troy; there's something about a man in uniform....
  • Juno Temple ("Maleficent" she was Thistletwit) brings us Fanny Robin, an unfortunate young woman who misunderstands the name of a church.
The movie industry in England has period filmmaking down pat. Whole villages exist for filming so authenticity is never an issue. You can lose yourself in the story and not worry about minutiae. I DID appreciate that the soundtrack matched the sound of hoofbeats, to what we saw on screen. You'd be surprised how often that is overlooked! AND our characters didn't have a Hollywood-scale wardrobe. We see familiar articles of clothing several times. A tip of the hat to the production design and wardrobe teams.

Yes, Katniss Everdine of the "Hunger Games" trilogy was named after Bathsheba Everdene, even though the spelling is slightly different.

This PG-13 film is for people who don't often go to the movies. You'll see no sweaty bodies, hear no profanity, experience just one (justified) gunshot and have someone to root for. I just may own this DVD when it comes out, I'm such a fan of Mulligan.
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Note the cinematography in this preview:
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Hot Pursuit

This ridiculous road movie is frantic, predictable (then unpredictable), and sorta funny. Directed by Anne Fletcher ("The Proposal"), we explore the world of drugs and dirty cops, as a bungling police officer tries to protect the widow of a drug dealer. The widow is supposed to testify in court, so our dedicated cop has to keep her alive until the trial.

We see:
  • Reese Witherspoon ("Wild") is a copper named Cooper, she's very by-the-book and uptight. Cooper is determined to honor her father's name; he too, was a police officer.
  • Sofia Vergara ("Chef") Daniella flounces through this story in a skin-tight dress, stiletto heels and a suitcase on wheels. She is NOT impressed with her police guard so she derides her at every turn for being short, blonde and flat-chested. I am not amused by insult humor.
  • John Carroll Lynch (Lots of TV) Captain Emmett is trying to help our heroine get past her latest bungle (her Taser ignited a criminal's shirt) and keep her in uniform.
  • Robert Kazinsky ("Pacific Rim") In my opinion, Randy is the nicest character in the whole movie. I wish we had seen more of him (and we saw quite a bit!).
In addition, we saw our share of rifle-toting hillbillies, vehicular mayhem, Tasers and gunfire. This is PG-13, so the language was fairly ribald, the humor was anatomical, the sexual situations were only alluded to and the pretend lesbian scene was simply not funny.

I DID like their reactions to TV news clips as reporters kept making Cooper shorter and Daniella older than they really are but there was too much emphasis on Vergara's "chestal area."

We liked the trailer better....
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See what you think:
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So what was that about? It wasn't a comedy because it wasn't funny. It wasn't a drama because the script was too lame. It wasn't a tragedy because the ending was a copout. I know! It was about 81 minutes...and that is 81 minutes of my life I'll never get back!

This "quirky" comedy was submitted to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival by Canada. I would fear for any poor teenager who is subjected to this jerk's "guidance." But then again, I'm just an old poop! I am not amused by an adult in a position of authority who offers drugs and alcohol to teenagers.

Written and directed by Pat Mills ("Secondary High") we see what happens when a prospective employer doesn't check a résumé. A former child star, lost to bad decisions and overuse of controlled substances, is probably not a very good prospect.

The cast:
  • Pat Mills ("You Can't Do That on Television") is David Gold, the impossibly loose cannon who lies, cheats and steals. He copies a résumé off the Internet and gets a job as a high school guidance counselor.
  • Zahra Bentham ("Degrassi: The Next Generation") Lisa is one of the students who receives "guidance" from our hero. She clearly is more savvy than he, and hers is the only story worth following.
  • Kevin Hanchard ("Orphan Black") Principal Newman has no one to blame but himself.
David's litany of affirmations turned out to be amusing because we hear them against a backdrop of completely contradictory behavior on his part. In addition, I smiled at the crime spree: robbing tanning parlors in a bright yellow Prius, with a runaway teenage girl. That's hard core!

This "hero" is pathetic: he is chronically drunk, routinely high and terminally stupid. I do NOT recommend this movie.

The New Girlfriend

The 2015 Seattle International Film Festival welcomed this award-winning (Cesar Awards, 2015 for Actor, and Costume Design; San Sebastian Award, San Sebastian Film Festival) entry from France (English captions). Many of our members are familiar with writer/director François Ozon's work ("8 Women" and "Swimming Pool").

The film begins with a brief, wonderfully cast montage which provides the back story about a pair of inseparable friends who grew up together and were in each others lives up to and including marriage, childbirth and one's untimely death. The other, a grief-stricken young woman, learns something unexpected about her best friend's widower. "Une nouvelle amie" (English captions) takes us into a gender-blending drama which combines sexual tension with the devastating effects of losing a long-time friend.

The cast:
  • Romain Duris ("Mood Indigo") is David, a grieving young father. He has a secret (he says he was born in a cauliflower) and Claire can help him with it.
  • Anaïs Demoustier ("Caprice") is Claire. She can't help but intrude into his life because she had promised her dying friend she would be there for him and his baby girl.
  • Raphaël Personnaz ("Anna Karenina") Claire's husband Gilles has his own agenda: he wants a promotion at work and is ready to be a father at home.
I've liked Romain Duris ever since "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," so it's no surprise that he pulls off this challenging role with such aplomb. Although some of the screening audience had a problem with the French approach to on-screen sex, I liked this one very much.

Romeo is Bleeding

This documentary from the United States is featured at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Written and directed by Jason Zeldes ("Twenty Feet From Stardom") we follow a young man trying to use his artistic talent to save his home town. His original ambition had been "to be the biggest drug dealer EVER!"

Richmond, California has been the battlefield for senseless gang warfare that dates back to the 70s. The statistics are astounding; even young men in this documentary are not safe. There are shootings almost daily and the death toll is shocking. In addition, the petroleum refinery explodes every seven or eight years (they evacuated during the filming) and they have a staggering number of asthma sufferers among their young people. What a life!

We watch:
  • Donté Clark is from a large family whose father is in jail. His mother is overwhelmed and he vented his frustrations in a poem. This paved the way for him to be involved in a Poetry Slam where one of his teachers recognized his potential. He saw a balcony on the theater stage and the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet struck. The parallels between the long-standing feuds in Richmond and Verona are unmistakable.
  • D'Neise Robinson is Donté's Juliet, although they have renamed their characters and reworked the plot to fit this contemporary situation. Each student writes his or her own dialogue, keeping in mind the basic plot and the part each character plays.
  • Molly Raynor is the dedicated teacher who changed Donté's life.
My biggest problem is my inability to decipher Rap, so much of the dialogue went right over my head. We saw some of the students as they participated in the planning, then saw their death certificates as they were made out on screen. As Donté says, "I have lost a brother, a cousin, many friends, and now a student. We have to stop killing each other!"



Here is another US entry to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. This drama is directed by David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express") and is based on a screenplay by Paul Logan. It is about a locksmith who alienated the love of his life forty years ago and finally is faced with the prospect of possible change.

We see:
  • Al Pacino ("Danny Collins") as A.J. Manglehorn, a broken-hearted fellow who constantly writes letters to that absent woman. They always come back so he has a room filled with hundreds of them carefully filed away.
  • Holly Hunter ("Won't Back Down") is Dawn, a new friend in that small Texas town. She works at the local bank and discovers that they both love their pets. They meet for breakfast at the Pancake Jamboree.
  • Chris Messina ("The Newsroom") is his son Jacob, who appears to be financially successful, but there are issues....
This predictable/unpredictable mess left me with a few questions:
  • Why was that multi-vehicle wreck strewn with watermelon?
  • Who wants to see abdominal surgery on a cat?
  • Why were honey bees allowed to build their combs on the mailbox?
  • Whose idea was it to make us hear a badly rendered "Love Lifted Me?"
  • Why were Pacino's fingers bandaged?
  • Is garish lighting and garbled dialogue considered Artistic?
  • Why did Pacino sign on? Is this his version of Suffering for his Art?
Once again, I confess I'm NOT Artistic, so I found my patience taxed beyond bearing. Be advised....

Sleeping With Other People

Maybe the title gives some of the plot away, ya think?

If we have an irresistible force (a serial cheater) meet an immovable object (a womanizer), something's gotta give (Sorry, Johnny Mercer). Then after they develop a platonic friendship that lasts over the years through many failed relationships, do we even have to wonder what might happen? Nah...

This lightweight romance from the USA was featured at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Written and directed by Leslye Headland ("Bachelorette") this predictable bit of froth is engaging enough to enlist a top-tier cast willing to say all those anatomical terms that pass for dialogue in a romantic comedy these days. I know, I know, I sound like a stuffy old poop, but I really didn't need masturbation lessons demonstrated on an empty plastic beverage container. Based on scenes like this, I'm guessing this will be R-rated.

Featured are:
  • Alison Brie ("The Five-Year Engagement") as Lainey. She's just a gal who can't SAY "No." Her worst weakness is that married doctor with whom she has had a relationship since college.
  • Jason Sudeikis ("Horrible Bosses 2") Jake can't HEAR "No." As a result, he has earned quite the reputation as a successful lady's man.
  • Adam Scott ("Parks and Recreation") is Jake's nemesis: a loathsome classmate in college and the married agent of Lainey's misery.
  • Natasha Lyonne ("Orange is the New Black") Kara is Lainey's wing man, full of advice and concern for Lainey.
  • Amanda Peet ("Identity Thief") is Jake's confidant boss, casting admiring glances his way, until something slips.
I think you can see where this is going after we see our two lead characters meet in college and have a one-night stand, only to encounter one another again 15 years later. When they reconnect in a 12-step program for sexual issues, the story starts to gain a bit of traction.

I did NOT like the way the men consistently talked over the women, disregarding their opinions and their points of view; that felt too familiar. I DID like the performances, particularly Brie and Sudeikis; they made an appealing couple and we ended up rooting for them.

Only movie lovers with a high tolerance for sexual situations and anatomical language need apply.

Ciudad Delirio

Columbia and Spain (English captions) jointly submitted this deliriously upbeat film to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. Directed by Chus Guitiérrez, this happy outing features an up-tight Spanish doctor visiting Columbia, where he learns how to dance the salsa. Sound predictable? When he is told to "Trust your intuition, feel the music and let yourself go" we know The Force will be with him.

This is like an exuberant MGM musical with a kaleidoscopic touch of Busby Berkeley! It hits all its marks, with cliché stacked upon cliché, which we happily accept, because of the non-stop dance, terrific costumes and amazing choreography. To top it all off, the editing is brilliant.

The cast:
  • Jorge Herrera is Vaso de Leche ("Glass of Milk") who has many lessons to teach, not just about dancing. This old fellow has an awesome collection of vinyl records. He gets rid of his car because of FOA.
  • Carolina Ramirez is Angie, a single mother struggling to run a dance class. Problem is, her persistent ex is her best partner and her only choice for the upcoming contest. Of course she has a gay confidante. (Did I mention clichés?)
  • Julián Villagrán is Javier, an unhappily married doctor who comes to Columbia from Spain to speak at a medical conference. We watch Columbia (and Angie) get under his skin.
Be ready for a swirl of salsa! By the way, if you want to know what "FOA" stands for, you'll have to see this movie...smile...


I'll See You In My Dreams

Once your dog dies, it's time to find some new friends. This is the situation for our lovely heroine "of a certain age." This is also a satisfying look at the kind of support women offer one another. By the way, the late lamented dog's name was Hazel, but we saw his profile. He was definitely a boy!

Directed by Brett Haley and co-written with Marc Basch, we see a former singer, widowed for over twenty years, decide to start dating again...even though her first (and only) experience with Speed Dating is less than stellar!

Here is:
  • Blythe Danner ("The Lucky One") Carol sings Cry Me a River at a karaoke bar. It makes sense because she was, after all, a professional singer back in day.
  • Martin Starr ("Silicon Valley") Lloyd, the pool boy, worries about this lovely woman who has just encountered a pesky big rat living in the walls of her house. (The exterminator can't find it.)
  • Sam Elliott ("Justified") Bill is a laconic, appealing suitor who intends to live every last minute of his life exactly as he pleases.
  • Rhea Perlman ("The Mindy Project") Sally leads the charge as her coffee klatsch pushes the idea of Carol starting to date again. Speed Dating is HER idea.
  • June Squibb ("Nebraska") Katherine is part of the group; she insists she KNOWS how to smoke pot!
  • Mary Kay Place ("It's Complicated") Rona has the best comic scene as she sees the pool boy leaving Carol's house one morning, and then later that afternoon, that handsome bachelor from the country club.
  • Malin Akerman ("The Proposal") is her daughter Katherine; she wants to come visit, but Mom hasn't returned her calls.
Age has no effect on the heart's willingness to fall in love again, nor does it protect anyone from the pain that it sometimes brings.
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Take a look:
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Poland submitted "Jeziorak" (English captions) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. As is usually the case, at least it has been my experience with Polish films, this is a well-crafted, beautifully acted crime drama. It is unpredictable, with tension, suspense and a mystery all nicely woven together.

Written and directed by Michal Otlowski, we see unfamiliar faces in a fairly familiar quandary: A pregnant policewoman (shades of "Fargo"!) is searching for her missing fiance. He too, is a police officer and it looks like he is being framed. She is assigned a young assistant who sees the world in black and white, with no shades of "maybe." In addition, they are dealing with at least one female corpse.

The cast:
  • Jowita Budnik - Iza Deren is a policewoman investigating a crime that becomes more complex (and far more personal) the more closely she examines it. It was interesting to see how the actress became increasingly attractive as we learned to love her face.
  • Sebastian Fabijanski is her new assistant, Wojciech Marzec. It is obvious that he will be a big help because he is eager, smart and considerate.
  • Mariusz Bonaszewski is Wolski, our heroine's boss, taking flack from his superiors and anxious to put a lid on any possible scandal.
  • Lukasz Simlat is Wilhelm a reclusive bootlegger who lives across the lake from Jeziorak, a high-end lakeside resort that seems central to the crimes.
  • Agata Buzek is Wilhelmina, an inmate at a mental institution; she died decades ago.
This nail biter is shot in muted shades with no primary colors. There are shocking bits of violence, some brutal gunplay and at least one hanging. This is NOT a walk in the park, but it is involving and wonderfully done. I highly recommend it.

Seoul Searching

The 2015 Seattle International Film Festival welcomed this submission from South Korea (English captions when appropriate). Directed by Benson Lee, we were promised the influence of the John Hughes school of teenage dramedy, but Hughes' films weren't laden with profanity or alcohol. This has a LOT of both. Eek!

We are in a 1986 Korean summer camp for foreign-born teenagers whose parents left Korea after the war. They scattered to the four corners of the earth, so this is quite an assortment of teenagers, back "home" so Korean instructors can teach them about cultural identity and their motherland. This story is based on that experiment, which had to be canceled after three years because the defiant teenagers couldn't be controlled.

We see:
  • Justin Chon - Sid is an American rebel, prone to violence. He patterns himself after Sid Vicious, the punk rocker who died in the late 70s.
  • Rosalina Leigh - Kris was given up for adoption and has conflicted feelings about meeting her birth mother; she loves her adoptive parents.
  • Teo Yoo - Klaus was raised in Hamburg, Germany. He's studying finance and intends to prove to Germans that Koreans aren't just laborers.
  • Esteban Ahn - Sergio was raised in Mexico and fancies himself quite the Latin lover.
  • Jessika Van - Grace acts like the biggest slut there. The scene where she drinks too much and vomits is really repugnant!
  • Albert Kong - Mike wears his camouflage with militant pride. He was raised in Virginia at a military institution.
  • In-Pyo Cha - Mr. Kim is their instructor and chaperon. He has his own story to tell.
In my opinion, this film relied too much on stereotypes. We had rappers before Rap became a genre and cross-dressing at a time when this would have been impossible. There are other examples, but just be warned...


"Mandariinid" is part of the 2014 Seattle International Film Festival. It was submitted by Estonia/Georgia (English captions) and takes us to wartime Abkhazia in 1990. Written and directed by Zaza Urushadze, this award-winning drama (Urushadze won in the Mannheim-Heidelberg, Warsaw and Tallinn Film Festivals, and nominated at the Palm Springs International Film Festival) has finally gone into wide release. In it, we witness the fiercely held loathing between Chechnya and Georgia. It is partly religious (Christian vs Muslim) and partly political.

Most of the residents have returned to Estonia where their families originated decades earlier. Two fellows, Ivo and Margus, stayed behind; they are in the tangerine business: Margus raises, harvests and sells them, while Ivo builds crates for shipping. After hearing gunfire, they find one wounded mercenary from Chechnya and four dead near their gate (three Georgians and another mercenary from Chechnya). They bring the wounded man into Ivo's house, and as they bury the four combatants, one Georgian shows signs of life, so they bring him, gravely wounded, into Ivo's other bedroom.

Now our story begins. Here is the cast:
  • Mikheil Meskhi is Ivo, a hawk-faced older fellow, who never hesitates; he instantly helps others, regardless of their "side" in this misery.
  • Elmo Nüganen is Margus, the fellow with the tangerine orchard. He wants to make this sale so he can join his family in Estonia.
  • Giorgi Nakashidze is Ahmet, slightly wounded but eager to "kill that scumbag in the next room!" Ivo eventually gets him to promise not to kill Nika unless he steps outside the house.
  • Misha Meskhi is Nika, a Christian with shrapnel in his head. His hatred for Ahmet is every bit as venomous.
With war being waged in the neighborhood, these four men have to find a way to control their loathing as they heal, play checkers, cook, chop wood, and drink tea together. Slowly their prejudice seeps away even though they are unaware that it is happening.

This has shocking moments, military-type language (profane), gunfights and burial details. We come to care about each one, which is a vital element for me if I am to recommend a film. I recommend this one. Watch for it in your local art house cinema.
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This trailer has English captions:
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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

How's THAT for a provocative title? And NO, this does not resemble 2014's romantic tragedy "The Fault in Our Stars." It does however have something in common with another Shailene Woodley film, "The Spectacular Now": it has the longest single-take scene I have witnessed in contemporary filmmaking. I note that our lead actress is stage trained, but her costar seems to be a beginner. What a remarkable beginning!

This USA submission to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival says "A Little Friendship Never Killed Anyone." Directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, he has guided a pair of young actors to excel in their craft as they portray a couple of teenagers forced to visit with one another by their mothers.

The cast:
  • Thomas Mann ("It's Kind of a Funny Story") is Greg, a young would-be filmmaker. He makes low budget parodies of classic films; derivative, juvenile, and silly.
  • Connie Britton ("Nashville") is Greg's mother; she insists that Greg visit a classmate "because she has leukemia." He can't think of a worse reason to visit someone!
  • RJ Cyler ("Second Chances") is Earl, Greg's partner in crime. Neither of them fit in at school so they have created quite a library of movies.
  • Olivia Cooke ("The Signal") is Rachel, our eponymous dying girl. She is as wary as Greg about a visit. He finally tells her he agrees with her but his mother has threatened him, so she gives in.
The final segment displays a unique art form that I have only seen a couple of times. It is breathtaking and adds to the eloquence of the ending. In my opinion, it's films like this that make a film festival worth attending.
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Here is the official trailer:
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For Grace

Here we see how one Home Ec teacher transformed the life of a school boy. The 2015 Seattle International Film Festival welcomes this documentary from the United States. Directed by Mark Helenowski, we watch an ambitious chef prepare to open a new restaurant in Chicago.

Is he too ambitious? Is the daunting project too expensive? Is the floor space adequate? Are there too many delays? Will his partners stay with the project until completion?

We focus on:
  • Curtis Duffy, the charismatic young chef who is always well groomed, fit, calm, and organized. We visit the family crisis in his adolescence that could have derailed him. We appreciate his burgeoning career and share his shock when he learns that every chair in his new place will cost $1,000.00 apiece!
  • Michael Muser is the loyal and eloquent friend, advisor, investor and long-time partner who is on this journey with him. As time passes (the opening date is nine months late!) and they finally are training both kitchen and wait staff, he has become so fond of everyone he chokes up. All he can say is "Do good!"
  • Ruth Snider is the happy teacher who has provided moral support all these years. She knows the sacrifices Curtis has made and is absolutely bubbling over with pride at his accomplishments.
We learn a LOT about high-end restaurants, e.g., the loyal wait staff is prepped about who has reservations for the evening, where they will sit, their personal likes and dislikes, plus any allergies or personal quirks. The entire staff is focused on seeing Grace (the new restaurant's name) not only succeed, but prevail! It's so nice to have people to root for.


Spain submitted this award-winning drama (2015 Palm Springs Film Festival, Goya Awards 2015, and San Sebastian International Film Festival 2014) to the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. "Loreak" is in Spanish with English captions.

Directed by Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, we see the impact of a flower delivery when it happens on a regular basis AND is anonymous. We become acquainted with a variety of people who either work together or are related.

We see:
  • A construction crane operator, married to a woman with a young son.
  • His elderly mother, longing for him to father a child of his own.
  • His wife, a toll booth cashier; short tempered and impatient with her husband's family.
  • A woman who works in the construction office; she's the one who starts receiving a bouquet delivered anonymously to her home each Thursday. By the third Thursday, her fiance doesn't think it's funny anymore.
  • The fiance thinks these "malicious flowers" should be reported to the police, but what is the crime?
Most of the key plot points are unspoken but no lingering questions are left dangling by the final scene. The acting is convincing, the production design is authentic and the unpredictable story is engrossing. Most of our screening audience agreed that this one is terrific!


Cooking Up a Tribute

This 2015 Seattle International Film Festival entry from Spain has an audacious concept and there were aspects of this documentary that I enjoyed... We watch the Roca brothers in Barcelona who have one of the world's best restaurants. They decide they need a new challenge so they close down their restaurant and take their entire staff to a number of exotic locales, which include Mexico, Peru, Columbia, and Texas...smile...

Their objective is to find new ingredients, new flavors, new traditions and new menu items. They did six months of preparation, taste tests and discussions, then designed 57 new dishes, which included meticulous presentations, plating and descriptions for the highly trained wait staff. They presented the results in each of the cities with a black-tie event. (There were unexpected problems with metric versus American measurements in Texas!)

They would like their business model to be a spark for social change. Each culture is treated with the utmost respect, local products and local experts are involved; they even used inmates from a women's prison on their local staff in one place.

Eventually, after watching endless discussions on the texture of a sauce and similar minutiae, our patience wore thin. We would have liked more interviews with local folks. One fellow described how he prepared ceviche: He cooked grouper (fish) for two hours in lemon; it was inedible, but "it was ceviche!" Another was a tireless promoter of local wines: Any variety that was mentioned would trigger an enthusiastic essay on its history, the dates the Europeans brought it to this hemisphere and how it evolved once it arrived. We liked him!

I would have enjoyed knowing the staff better, too. After all, they left hearth and home to go abroad for their job. As it was, our screening audience felt pretty tepid about this one.

Time Out of Mind

Oh look! Richard Gere is playing a homeless man, with a $50 haircut and a tasteful stubble that never grows, plus a magic plastic bag (black or white, depending on the scene) that provides him with an endless wardrobe.

Award-winning (Toronto 2014 International Film Festival) director Oren Moverman ("Rampart") held his 2015 Seattle International Film Festival press screeners captive for 120 very looong minutes while we tried to ascertain if our "hero" was mentally ill or if that unexplained scar on the left side of his head signified an injury that affected his brain. Then we tried to care....

The cast:
  • Richard Gere ("Arbitrage") George evidently has a past but we couldn't make it out. All we could do was speculate, so we made up a past for him. We think it included music. At least we were able to enjoy his piano playing...eventually... Gere is an accomplished musician and we were grateful, even though, in my opinion it was too little, too late.
  • Jena Malone ("The Hunger Games: Mockingjay") Maggie is a bartender and for the longest time we worried for her safety because George seemed to be a stalker.
  • Ben Vereen ("Top Five") Dixon talks George's leg off and then keeps right on talking! He latches onto him at the homeless shelter and won't let go. We worry about HIM, too!
There were so many problems I'll only mention a few: the pillowcase that went from white to mattress ticking in the flick of eye; our homeless man has one shower and one indifferent bite out of one meal in several days; his bag is sometimes with him and other times...not; he has coins for a pay phone, an endless supply of coffee and vodka, plus bus and Metro tickets, but claims he is penniless; he urinates on the street but is completely nonchalant about it; he walks with a young man's swinging stride, even though.... Okay, okay, I'll stop.

These are all a director's choice and under his control, I do NOT blame Gere... Also irritating was the incessantly garbled soundtrack muddied by sirens, street sounds and overlapping conversations. We tried to follow the action but it was often just reflected in windows and blurred by people or vehicles passing between us and the "action."

This was an endless exercise in frustration. Some of our audience felt guilty for not liking it; not me. I wish I could recommend it, but I can't. Sorry...