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I reviewed the animated film, The Good Dinosaur.
Synopsis: Arlo is lost from his home and finds a best friend. Can they find their way home together?
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Café Society reviewed by Mike Fishman
Another year, another Woody Allen film. Apparently having few interests other than directing films and playing clarinet, Mr. Allen has continued churning out his signature comedies at a regular pace, marking this as his 47th feature film since 1966’s What’s Up, Tiger Lilly? (though perhaps it’s more accurate to reference 1969’s Take the Money and Run as his first film of wholly original material) and his 17th since 2000 ushered in Small Time Crooks. Whether he has in him another great film like 2013’s Blue Jasmine remains to be seen but there is no doubt that his latest offering, Café Society, belongs firmly in the category of the majority of his late period oeuvre: often clever, generally interesting, but occasionally feeling rushed or unpolished. And so for every witty line we get in Café Society (“When a Jew cooks something, it’s always overcooked, because they want to kill all the germs”) there is dialogue too on-the-nose or just pretentious proclamations that might have generated laughs in his early comedies but here are delivered with too little irony. A running voiceover narration by Mr. Allen is unnecessary and at times oddly recounts what just transpired on-screen or tells us what we already know. It’s almost as if Allen adapted the screenplay from a work of fiction and just couldn’t bear to toss out the narration because he’s in love with the sound of the words. And with Allen not appearing in the film, the nagging question might well be asked, who is this narrator anyway?
But the wondrous elements of Allen’s best work are here in this tale of an uncertain young man from the Bronx (Jesse Eisenberg) trying his luck in Hollywood with the help of his agent uncle (Steve Carell) but falling in love with his uncle’s mistress (Kristen Stewart): the period music, the energetic editing, the evocative photography by the legendary Vittorio Storaro, here working digitally but softening the images to a golden glow (for more on that see: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/behind-screen/cinematographer-vittorio-storaro-filming-cafe-911441). And the setting of 1930’s Hollywood with its cars and gangsters, furs and handshake deals, should prove catnip to fans of classic Hollywood.
The love triangle, too, is more involving than we’ve seen from Allen in some time, with all three characters portrayed at various points having to respond to a sudden revelation of the other’s complicating involvement. Kristen Stewart as Vonnie, the love interest, has come a long way since the ancient history of the Twilight films and the unintended absurdities of Snow White and the Huntsman, and Café Society gives her more to work with than last year’s Equals, though that moody sci-fi was certainly a more ambitious film. Blake Lively, on the other hand, is given a pitifully small role in which she not surprisingly shines and it’s unfortunate Allen did not make more use of her. Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby, now appearing in his second film with the director, does excellent work as the expected Woody Allen surrogate (as usual for Allen a curiously not very likable main character) and calls to mind Tony Roberts, the always-great supporting actor in several of Allen’s earlier comedies. Steve Carell as Uncle Phil, the third wheel in the love triangle, is reined in here and like so many great comedians who have dabbled in dramatic roles (Albert Brooks, Jerry Lewis, Don Rickles, Garry Shandling, Robin Williams to name a few), the more restrained, the better, the more power the funny man (not being funny) exudes.
The film ends on a refreshingly uncertain note with Vonnie and Bobby (did they really need to have rhyming names?) pining for each other while still committed to their marriages. Perhaps predictably, Bobby pines more than Vonnie, who seems perfectly fine with her marriage to the much older and wealthy Phil. As uncertainty exudes from Eisenberg’s puppy dog eyes, clearly not quite sure how much in love he still is with his wife, we might wonder if Allen is subconsciously (or otherwise) presenting his own view of women as more complacent creatures when it comes to marriages of convenience. In any case and despite its shortcomings, the film’s great period detail should transport viewers to an earlier time and help fill the gaps between the weak moments of the film and keep minds from wandering too far before the end.
Logline: A series of strange occurrences disrupt the life of young and eager, LA based actress Maya Rose. Her world is finally turned upside down when one day she finds herself waking up in an unknown place in a life that isn’t hers.
Short Synopsis: Reality takes a turn for young and eager actress Maya Rose when she auditions for the role of Ava in a screenplay titled “The reflection and the mirror”. It tells the story of Ava and Scott, two lovers trying to transcend time and space by means of a mirror. Maya is thrilled. The enigmatic character of Ava mesmerizes her. The bizarre audition sets off a series of strange occurrences that lure curious Maya onto a path deep into the life of Ava and a world that holds nothing familiar to her. Maya finds herself waking up in a house where doors and windows are locked and won’t open. She can feel the eerie presence of someone else in the house, a woman, a female shadow. Paranoia and desperation soon drive her to the edge of sanity and Maya loses herself between the worlds of captivation and the realm of dreams.
Reflections of Maya Rose, a feature length film, is completed and after a successful festival career it is now available on VOD.
Eggs and Soldiers: Christian, a single Irish father, forgets to buy the tree on Christmas Eve. Ned the older son’s humanity is challenged as he risks everything to have his younger brother Marco experience a real Irish Christmas. The script for Eggs and Soldiers has been short listed for Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab. The film will premier in August at FLICKERS: Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Mike Fishman for IndependentFilmNow: Where did the story first come from about an Irish man living with his two sons from different mothers in New York City? Can you tell us about Christian’s backstory and his inner conflict as a man who has the potential for violence while at the same time we see him complain to a friend that his youngest son’s mother was hitting her son?
O’Reilly: The inspiration for Eggs and Soldiers came from wanting to capture a silent explosion in the life of a teenage boy when finds himself in a moment of crisis where he has to make a difficult decision. Another inspiring image I had was of a teenage boy who couldn’t afford a tree on Christmas Eve. The third was stories I remember hearing as a child growing up in Ireland about people drinking too much at Christmas time causing family feuds to break out. The character of Christian is full of contradictions. I wanted to create a character that despite his flaws he still made the right moral decision when it came to being a father for his children. Christian has a violent rage that alternates with him playing the victim of his given circumstances and in rare moments he tries to be a loving father despite his failures. Yet his character also has this dark sense of humor. I also wanted to play around with the notion of an unreliable narrator, so when we hear Christian speak in the pub to his friend Mick the audience are unsure as to trust what he is saying about his younger son Marco’s mother. Christian is deeply wounded from his past and like a hungry wolf he searches the night for companionship or friends who will listen to his sob story. It is clear that Christian came from a broken home, and his deepest struggle is not to repeat the past and repeat the sins of his own father.
IndependentFilmNow: Color is obviously important to you. The palette of the film is muted favoring brown and grey until Ned, the older son, trades the gift he was going to give his girlfriend for a Christmas tree and things start to lift emotionally for Ned and we see Christmas lights, the tree seller sporting a red Santa cap, and even a red blanket draped over Christian, Ned’s father, asleep on a sofa at home. Can you tell us about your use of color and how that informs the viewer, on a conscious or subconscious level, about the emotional state of the characters?
Imelda O’Reilly: I wanted a gritty aesthetic for my film; Christian, the Dad, is scraping by a living ducking and diving social services, employment and also his apartment crisis. I wanted muted colors to show how their world is bleak, but also through the dialogue some humor is added intentionally which helps them pull through. The slow introduction of color as you artfully mention comes when Ned’s character manages to get a tree for the family toward the end of the film. By having the characters dress in muted colors helps give the film a visceral dimension to the characters making them more three dimensional as opposed to one dimensional. I am referencing the cinema of moral discontent and also the melodramatic tropes of realism. The internal world of the characters is communicated through the use of the camera as narrator.
IndependentFilmNow: Tell us about your choice of lenses and hand-held camera versus a mounted camera to give different scenes their urgency or a more observational feel.
O’Reilly: In filming Eggs & Soldiers I wanted to be able to create two different visual styles for the film that would correspond to the two contrasting worlds that Ned, the main character, is caught between. I have a long working relationship with my cinematographer Joe Foley so we discussed at length the world of the characters. The film depicts Ned with an easy and amiable relationship with his younger brother Marco and also in a more contentious relationship with his father Christian. In order to have the audience have a better understanding of how Ned is feeling we used longer lenses with a more stable camera to portray the stability and ease with which Ned and Marco relate to each other.
I choreographed with the cinematographer longer panning shots of Ned as he moves along the street or Marco within the apartment to indicate the mostly pleasant and congenial world that they have created together. In contrast to that we used a handheld camera and wider lenses to show the less stable environment that is created when the father Christian is in the scene. At the beginning of the film when the three of them are riding in the car and then unpacking all the Christmas presents the camera is always moving following Christian’s sometimes erratic actions. This was done to illustrate the unease and instability that Christian’s personality is creating for his sons. They are not brought into their apartment and cared for, instead they are dropped off on the street corner and left-holding bags full of unwrapped presents and headed into an apartment with an empty refrigerator.
Later in the film I discussed with the cinematographer the choice of using a handheld camera during the confrontation scene between Christian and Ned. We used a shutter effect that was set to 45 degrees in order to give the scene a more jarring, disturbing feel. This ‘Private Ryan‘ effect and the handheld camera help the audience feel more of Ned’s shock and terror at his father’s anger and violent outburst.
IndependentFilmNow: How long was the shot and how did you get the locations?
O’Reilly: The shoot was seven days. It was difficult enough to find the locations. However I decided to focus my locations around Inwood in Manhattan. Christian’s character is a super in a church but as he mentions briefly in the film he is being kicked out because the pastor is moving his daughter into his apartment. Again Christian’s character tends to play the victim. There is a Church on 181st on Bennet Avenue, which was a perfect location. At the time Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance had their offices there so I had to transform the space to look like an apartment where a family lived. I got a vanload of furniture through a connection that worked at Saturday Night Live, which was amazing. They gave us curtains, pictures and all the necessary pieces to build the set. Thank goodness for the New York community when it comes to indie filmmaking. The Christmas tree location was kindly given to us for free and they were very cordial in helping us make our film.
IndependentFilmNow: The film is set on Christmas Eve and unfolds over a few hours of time. How did you decide on the time frame and Christmas Eve?
O’Reilly: I wanted to use one central action to reveal character what Aristotle calls a “simple plot.” In Jaws the one central action is killing the shark and through this one central action the characters within the film are revealed. I wanted to depict a nuanced slice of life within a non-traditional family and this structure seemed to fit well for the film. I choose Christmas Eve because that is a time in Ireland when tension is high; there are a lot of expectations and usually a time when agro within the home or family feuds tend to break out. It seemed a good day to set the story of my film.
For more information visit: http://www.imeldaoreilly.com
The Untold Story of Camden and Its Youth
SYNOPSIS: Camden Love/Hate follows six teenagers from Camden, New Jersey as they document the story of their city from the glory days of the postwar boom to today’s violent and fraught reality. The teenagers learned film-making skills at a last chance high school, CCYD, and use their newfound skills to express complex feelings about one of the most dangerous cities in America. From a white minority left behind in the 60’s to rampant drug tourism, to active community leaders, we see both the beauty of Camden as well as the parts that feel abandoned. Through the lens, the students become aware of a history they never knew and a future that looks at turns hopeful and bleak.
CONTACT US at: CamdenLoveHatefilm@Gmail.com
WHO WE ARE
Camden Center for Youth Development
An independent, last chance High School providing an alternative academic environment for
students challenged by public education.
Shanell Nesmith, Tamysha Jackkson, Shamiera Andersen, Kimel Hadden, Anthony Williams & Ja’far Mohammad were all students at Camden Center for Youth Development when they took an active part in creating the film. This involved taking cameras into the community, shooting interviewing with the most interesting people they encountered and exploring the history of Camden.
An Israeli-American filmmaker. At 18 he won a prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival for his first short film. Some of his creative projects include Nowhere Else, a one-hour drama about Israelis in New York City, Xchess a reality web series that promotes chess and its scope as a game. Meirom also directed Green, TV series about teenagers in Jerusalem.
Spent much of his adult life in Israel, but who was born in Camden and has seen the city degrade before his very eyes. His grandfather was a rabbi in the city in the late 40’s, and Ron grew up viewing the city from the safe haven of Cherry Hill, or across the river from Philadelphia.
Visit the website: CamdenLoveHate.com
Based on the book by Lewis Carroll, Disney brings us Alice Through the Looking Glass directed by James Bobin and produced by Tim Burton. The story follows Alice who returns to the whimsical world of Wonderland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Clayton P. comments, “Disney’s Alice Through The Looking Glass is a magical fantasy adventure film in the great Tim Burton tradition. It is also a refreshing, feminist take on the classic Lewis Carroll story.” See his full review below.
Alice Through The Looking Glass
Review by Clayton Pickard, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 16
The Playground directed by Edreace Purmul
Film synopsis: A New-Ancient thought-provoking thriller: Five vastly separate inner-city lives struggle against their limitations in an interlocking story assembled by a dark orchestrator. All five characters play their hand in an obscure playground they find themselves in. As answers begin to unravel, so does their sanity…
Review written by Shirley Rodriguez
This film presents us with 5 characters and several themed chapters in which they are facing various struggles, and not all is what it seems. Although the movie opens with a scene in an actual school playground, the true playground we discover is the world itself and its inhabitants. Within this playground are humans destroying themselves and each other. The destructive elements include lying, cheating, murder and deception for evil gains without regard for others. Faith and religion are questioned when times are difficult, but that is when it is needed most for those who choose to believe.
There is a married couple struggling to maintain their marriage, a young priest questioning if he has what is necessary to fulfill his calling, a homeless man tempted by outward riches while searching for substance and faith within himself, and a blindly ambitious businessman looking to attain and display wealth at all costs regardless of how ill-gotten they are. Their stories are interwoven and there are secondary characters who influence the main characters further complicating their situations.
Each of them are tested and their choices like a domino effect ultimately lead them to their ends. We see unquestionably outright destructive behaviors, but the more frequent incremental and seemingly harmless actions lead to ultimately similar if not more dreadful consequences. They are caught up in fear, insecurity and doubts in faith.
There is a lot of running away physically and spiritually in this film, but no one can run away from themselves. The human struggle is universal and personal at once. We can identify with a spiritual force of choice guiding our actions but it does not exempt us from any responsibility. You believe what you choose to. If it changes something in you in either direction, reassess yourself and where you stand. No one else can make those decisions for you in anything, including your faith.
Khelna Bati (My Toy World) is a short animated film done in chuckimation genre Which is also India’s first chuckimation film on stop motion animation. Recently this film was Officially Selected in 6th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2016 in Delhi will screen on 30th April. Khelna Bati (My Toy World) is officially selected in Momentum Experimental Art Festival on 2nd April 2016 premiere at Kolkata in India. Festival details: http://littlei.in/momentum/
Direction & Story-Diganta Dey
Music & Sound-Kaushik Roy (Paw) & M.H.R
Edit & Effects-Smrijeet Ghosh
Film Synopsis- There was a country which had no name. All countrymen lived together happily.One Day a ‘Civilized Human’ country came to know about them & also about their petroleum power. They captured the place but another human country attacked on them for that petroleum.’Gollu’ a countryman appealed to stop the war but died by a bullet at last.
Director Biography – Diganta Dey was born on 9th May 1994 in a small villege ‘Tufanganj’ in Coochbehar district of West Bengal. From class 9 he started writing short stories. After schooling he came to Kolkata for pursuing higher studies at the age of 18. From this time he started film making without proper film training & made short films by his own student film production ‘Teammate Workers’.
Director Filmography- 3 Seeds of My Life (2014) Short Docu Fiction; The Silent Wheel (2014) Experimental Short
Based on the Popular Play Station Game, An Adventure Suitable For Younger Kids. Ratchet & Clank tells the story of two unlikely heroes as they struggle to stop a vile alien named Chairman Drek from destroying every planet in the Solana Galaxy. When the two stumble upon a dangerous weapon capable of destroying entire planets, they must join forces with a team of colorful heroes called The Galactic Rangers in order to save the galaxy. Along the way they’ll learn about heroism, friendship, and the importance of discovering one’s own identity.
KIDS FIRST! Film Critics Abigail Zoe L. and Ryan R. review the film.
Ratchet & Clank
By Abigail Zoe L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 8
Interviews with cast & crew:
Ratchet & Clank
Reviewed by Ryan R., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12