Film Review: “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

  • WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE
  • Starring: Cate Blanchett, Billy Crudup
  • Directed by: Richard Linklater
  • Rated: Rated PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 10 mins
  • United Artists Releasing 

The question that has haunted America for decades now is where did Jimmy Hoffa go? Rumor had it once upon a time that he was buried in the end zone at the New York Giants old football stadium. If it were true, then it’s too bad that the much-delayed comedy/drama “Where’d You Go Bernadette” was not buried with him under a ton a concrete. Based upon the 2012 novel of the same name by American novelist Maria Semple, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” wanders aimlessly for over two hours and establishes no real emotional connection with the audience. Despite a talented cast, and a long list of cameo appearances and small roles by recognizable faces, it’s not enough to save its unremarkable script and direction by Richard Linklater (“A Scanner Darkly”). 

Bernadette Fox (Cate Blanchett) is an agoraphobic mother of a teenage daughter and was once a trailblazing architect in Los Angeles. Since moving to Seattle with her husband and tech entrepreneur Elgie Branch (Billy Crudup), Bernadette has isolated herself in their home, created from an abandoned church, and devoted all her time to their daughter, Bree (Emma Nelson in her feature film debut). Not only does she refuse to make friends with her closest neighbor, the nosey Audrey Griffin (Kristen Wiig), but she also does whatever she can to make Audrey’s life miserable. The only other interaction she has is with an unseen assistant named Manjula to whom she assigns all sorts of tasks via text messaging. 

We eventually learn more about her past successes, which is where cameos by Laurence Fishburne, Steve Zahn and Megan Mullally come into play, but by the time it does we don’t care. The greatest failure of any story is the inability to hook the audience within the first sentence/paragraph of a book or the first couple minutes of a film. If this doesn’t happen then it’s a monumental task indeed to get the audience to ever give two cents. This is exactly the case with “Where’d You Go, Bernadette,” which was originally supposed to be released in the spring of last year. There are brief glimmers of something serious going on with Bernadette’s character, and Blanchett is terrific at fleshing them out, but it’s all overwhelmed with one-dimensional characters around her, boring dialogue, and predictable, Disney-like comedy. 

With their marriage on the rocks because of her hatred of all things, including Seattle, and facing near-financial ruin thanks to a scam, Bernadette freaks out and instead of facing her problems flees to Antarctica where they were supposed to take a family trip. The question is – will the experience turn Bernadette back into being a creative force in the architect world, or will she disappear like so many doomed Antarctic explorers at the dawn of the 20th century? Truth be told, the answer doesn’t matter.

 In conclusion, if you want to be scratching your head wondering where this film is going, while also having to listen to needless and distracting voiceover narration by Nelson, then “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is the story for you. I think Mr. Hoffa would agree.

Film Review: “The Art of Racing in the Rain”

  • THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN
  • Starring:  Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried and Kevin Costner
  • Directed by: Simon Curtis
  • Rated:  PG
  • Running time:  1 hr 49 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

There are two kinds of people in this world.  Dog people (guilty) and cat people.  Dog people, please continue reading.

Meet Enzo.  He is an older dog that has lived an amazing life.  And, if you have a couple of hours to spare, he’ll share his story with you.  Enzo (voiced perfectly by Kevin Costner) is chosen as a pup by Denny Swift (Ventimiglia), a race car trainer who aspires to one day drive in Formula One races.  As the years progress, the two are inseparable, sharing adventures both behind the wheel and at home,   Things get complicated when Denny meets Eve (Seyfried) and even more so when they have a daughter, Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong).  Eve’s parents, played by Kathy Baker and Martin Donovan, are well off and not happy with their son-in-law’s profession.  Denny has begun to get some racing gigs, but they take him away from home for prolonged periods.  Things get worse when Eve becomes sick.  Can Enzo save the day?

An entertaining film that’s light on plot points, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is the kind of film Walt Disney would make in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s (think “The Shaggy Dog”), though without such a dramatic backdrop.  Ventimiglia – in the Disney version Denny would be played by Fred MacMurray – does his best with the material he’s given.  I must admit that I’m really only familiar with Ventimiglia as Rocky, Jr. in “Rocky Balboa” and “Creed II.”  I didn’t watch “Heroes” and, though my wife loves the show, I don’t watch “This is Us.”  Considering a lot of his role is playing off of what Enzo is doing, he does a good job portraying a man who loves both his family and the art of going fast.  Seyfried is fine in a very one-dimensional role, making the best out of what she’s been given.  But the true star here is Costner.  He’s always had the kind of voice that you wish your next “Book on Tape” comes with.  It’s his story and he tells it with panache! 

Film Review: “Blinded by the Light”

  • BLINDED BY THE LIGHT
  • Starring:  Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir and Meera Ganatra
  • Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 58 mins
  • Warner Bros.

I was introduced to Bruce Springsteen when I was 15-years old.  And I wasn’t introduced to the Boss by a school friend but rather by my father.  He had been out and seen Springsteen’s face on both the covers of TIME and Newsweek magazines so, intrigued, he bought me the “Born to Run” album.  When he handed it to me he said, “This guy is supposed to be pretty good.”  He was.

England in the 1980s.  As the decade begins we meet Javid and Matt – two young boys with different upbringings.  For his birthday, Matt got a new bicycle.  Javid’s parents got him a Rubik’s Cube.  Learning over fun.  They also share another difference.  Javid is Pakistani while Matt is white.  Their friendship is color-blind.  Sadly, their neighbors are not. 

We meet up with the two lads in 1987 as they prepare for pre-university schooling.  Javid (Kalra) wants to be a writer, though his father finds that occupation frivolous and wishes him to be a doctor.  Matt (Dean-Charles Chapman) is now a musician with his own band.  One day, after a day of bullying, Javid meets Roops (Aaron Phagura) a Sikh classmate who hands him a couple of cassettes and tells him that he needs “the Boss.”  After a few listenings he readily agrees.

An uplifting film with a serious back story, “Blinded by the Light,” like this year’s “Yesterday,” is an amazing combination of words and music that tells a story that is just as vital today as it was 30 years ago.  Javid is questioned by his father about why he is so enamored by this American and Jewish singer (for the record, Bruce Springsteen is NOT Jewish), unable to believe that this man’s words can have any meaning in his family’s life.  Yet Springsteen has always been a poet for the people, putting their daily struggles and triumphs into words that resonate with his listeners.

Director Chadha, whose best known film is probably “Bend it Like Beckham,” fills her lens with amazing images, often featuring Springsteen’s lyrics superimposed over the scenes, giving the songs and their message added meaning.  She has also assembled an amazing cast.  Kalra and Chapman have a great chemistry, facing the ups and downs of being friends.  Phagura is energetic as Roops, a young man who has discovered the music that comments on his life and is happy to share it.  Hayley Atwell has a nice turn as Javid’s instructor.  And I must give a proper mention to Kulvinder Ghir, who plays Javid’s father, Malik.  Malik is a proud man who is dealt a few setbacks yet never falters in his love for his family.  He only wants his children to succeed…to do better than he did…though he is reluctant to accept the paths they wish to take.

Even if you’ve never enjoyed the music of Bruce Springsteen (I guess there may be a few people out there that feel this way), you will be swept up in the way that music is celebrated here.  In this writer’s opinion, “Blinded by the Light” is pure inspiration!

Film Review: “Them That Follow”

  • THEM THAT FOLLOW
  • Starring: Alice Englert, Walton Goggins
  • Directed by: Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage
  • Rated: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 38 mins
  • 1091 Media 

If you are anything like Indiana Jones, then the Appalachian-set drama “Them That Follow” will at the very least make you squirm in your seat. The feature film directorial debut by co-directors/writers Britt Poulton and Dan Madison Savage, “Them That Follow” is an interesting yet not too in-depth look into a branch of the Pentecostal faith that believes handling venomous snakes will prove their devotion to God. With a pace that flows like the mountain streams in the film, this relatively short drama contains a standout supporting performance by Academy Award-winning actress Olivia Coleman, but nothing else much is all that memorable. 

A teenage boy named Augie (Thomas Mann, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”) is led into the woods by the girl of his affections, Mara Childs (Alice Englert, “Beautiful Creatures”), to a den of poisonous rattle snakes. It is perhaps not the greatest way to spend a date, but it quickly gives us an idea of what the people of an isolated mountain community are like. Snakes or no snakes, troubled times are brewing when we watch Mara steal a pregnancy test from a local convenience store run by Augie’s sour mother, Hope (Coleman). 

This leads into a brief depiction of a church service led by old school pastor, Lemuel Childs (Walton Goggins, “The Hateful Eight”), Mara’s father. Lemuel inspires his small, yet devoted congregation to uplift their arms and wail as he dances about with a rattlesnake in his hands preaching that serpents will not hurt them if they truly believe in God. It all serves to heighten the pressure that Mara feels as she prays for the stain on her soul to be removed thanks to her test turning positive. And while Augie may be the baby’s father, she is squeezed in a vice when she is pressured to marry Garret (Lewis Pullman, “Bad Times at the El Royale”), another local boy infatuated with her but with a seemingly stronger devotion to her father’s church. 

A pregnancy is obviously a difficult thing to hide for long and as such the stakes are raised when Hope discovers her secret as well as her blabber-mouth-of-a-best-friend, Dilly Picket (Kaitlyn Dever, “Booksmart”). The film falters with this storyline to be as tense as it could have been. It feels more like an after-school special on TV with the snakes being more dramatic than most of the actors. Goggins starts off well enough with his performance but his character is soon revealed as merely one dimensional. What could have energized the entire film, and is only barely alluded to, is the cultural struggle between the Pentecosts and the outsiders, especially law enforcement who seems to hound them. 

Colman, fresh off her win for “The Favourite,” is a shining light as she burns up the screen each moment she is in a scene. Her performance ranges from stoic to deeply emotional. Every actor around her is overshadowed by her presence, which is not hard to do as the rest of the cast delivers mundane performances. Overall, “Them That Follow” is predictable fair with nothing to keep our memory of watching it alive for too long.

Film Review: “A Score to Settle”

  • A SCORE TO SETTLE
  • Starring:  Nicolas Cage, Noah Le Gros and Benjamin Bratt
  • Directed by:  Shawn Ku
  • Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 43 mins
  • RLJE Films

Not many people know this, but Nicolas Cage made his film debut 37 years ago in the comedy “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”  He was one of Sean Penn’s stoner pals (along with fellow up and coming actors Eric Stoltz and Anthony Edwards).  He was also billed with his real name, Nicolas Coppola.  I didn’t really pay attention to him until the next year’s film “Valley Girl.”  There was something about him that struck me as interesting.  His career highlights include winning the Oscar for Best Actor in “Leaving Las Vegas” and such action hits as “The Rock” and “Con Air.”  I should also add that, when he was in Baltimore making the film “Guarding Tess” that he often ate at the restaurant my roommate worked at.  I was told he was very nice to talk to and a great tipper!

He hasn’t been in a lot of high profile films lately, but no matter what the film, he’s usually the best thing in it.  He certainly is in the new drama “A Score to Settle.”

Frank (Cage) has been looking forward to this day.  After 19 years he is being released from prison, where he was sentenced for a brutal murder.  On his way out he is informed by the prison doctor that he must do something for his insomnia or risk a life of hallucinations and, eventually, death.  But all Frank wants to do is spend some time with his son, Joey (Le Gros), hoping he can make up the time he lost with him.  Oh, and he also plans to take his revenge out on the people who put him in prison.

An entertaining and well-paced film, “A Score to Settle” is Nicolas Cage at his best – deeply intense with a little bit of crazy mixed in for good measure.  Carrying a duffel bag full of cash, as well as a bunch of prison-made baseball bats, Frank is trying to ease the guilt he feels from not being there for Joey, especially after his wife dies.  However, a fancy hotel, new clothes and even a new car are not what Joey wants.  Complicating things are Frank’s relationship with his former partner in crime, Q (Bratt) and his meeting of a female escort (Karolina Wydra) with her own problems.  As the film progresses it takes a twist that amps up the emotional impact of Frank’s mission. 

A well recommended action/thriller, “A Score to Settle” is currently available with Video on Demand. 

Film Review: “Ode to Joy”

ODE TO JOY
Starring:  Martin Freeman, Melissa Rauch and Jake Lacy
Directed by:  Jason Winer
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 37 mins
IFC Films

We are an emotional people.  The simplest things can set us off.  A puppy can make us smile while a flat tire can make us curse.  Pretty normal.  Unless you’re Charlie (Freeman).  He is one of the people that the term “his emotions really got the best of him” was coined for.  Charlie has cataplexy, and when he feels happy he passes out, which can’t be good for his love life.

A funny and well written film, “Ode to Joy” begins with Charlie serving as Best Man at a friend’s wedding.  Despite trying to keep neutral thoughts, he smiles at his friend’s good fortune and drops like a stone.  Charlie is a librarian – a great job for anyone that doesn’t want to deal with any emotions, since you basically have to stay quiet in a library – and one day meets Francesca (Morena Baccarin), a beautiful woman who has just broken up with her boyfriend.  Intrigued my Charlie, she agrees to go out with him.

Being with Francesca is a good thing for Charlie…until, of course, it becomes a bad thing.  Down he goes again.

Inspired by a true story – yes, cataplexy is very real – from events in co-writer Chris Higgins’ life, “Ode to Joy” is held together by an amazing performance by Freeman.  It would be so easy to play Charlie as another bumbling fool looking for love, but Mr. Freeman gives the character an emotional edge – a true heart that makes your own ache for his problem.  Ms. Baccarin is both funny and beautiful, a deadly combination for anyone.  Supporting work by Melissa Rauch and Jake Lacy is also strong.  And it’s always nice to see Jane Curtin, who should have been declared a National Treasure years ago, on the big screen.

Director Winer, an Emmy winner and frequent producer/director on television’s “Modern Family,” brings a light touch to the material, treating the situation as seriously as possible while still maintaining an undercurrent of humor.  He keeps the story movingbut allows the viewer to pause, when necessary, to assess the situations at hand. 

As summer comes to a close, take a chance on “Ode to Joy.”  And try not to pass out! 

Film Review: “Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood”

  • ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD
  • Starring:  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie
  • Directed by:  Quentin Tarantino
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  2 hrs 41 mins
  • Sony Pictures

THE 9th FILM FROM QUENTIN TARANTINO!! So read the ads for the filmmaker’s latest opus, a love story to old-time Hollywood, with a little Charles Manson thrown in for good measure, called “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood.”

1969.  As the New Year begins we find ourselves in the company of former western television star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his constant companion and stunt-double Cliff Booth (Pitt).  Rick’s career has waned since his turn on “Bounty Law.”  After a few action films, Rick has found himself appearing on episodic television, usually as the bad guy.  In fact, as he meets with the producer of an upcoming “Spaghetti” Western (a wasted Al Pacino), he can’t help but brag about his upcoming turn on “The F.B.I.”    Meanwhile Rick’s neighbors,  a pair of young newlyweds, return from Europe and make their way to their canyon home on Cielo Drive.  Their names:  Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate.

A love letter to the Hollywood he grew up watching, “Once Upon a Time…” is quite possibly the least “Tarantino” film the two-time Oscar winner has ever created.  I recently learned that this project was originally intended as a novel, and after watching the film I can understand why.  This is basically two individual stories, slowly woven together, that intersect occasionally before climaxing in a “what-if” explosion of fury and satisfaction. 

Story one is Rick and Cliff.  Their continued bonding, their obvious love (platonic) for each other and the way they each have the other’s back.  DiCaprio and Pitt have great chemistry together, and a bromance I haven’t seen since Paul Newman and Robert Redford worked together in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” which happens to be a film actually released in 1969.

Story two focuses on Sharon Tate (an excellent Robbie), who is portrayed her as a sweet, unassuming young woman whose idea of a good time was going to see one of her films at a theatre and smile at the audience’s acceptance of her work.  We accompany her and Roman as they attend parties with such celebs as Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliott and Steve McQueen. It’s heartbreaking to see the character so full of life, both figuratively and literally, when you know the tragic way that life ended.

The story begins to get intense when Cliff one day meets Pussycat (Margret Qualley), who hitches a ride from Cliff back to her commune, hoping to introduce him to her friend Charlie.  Yes, that Charlie.  The entire Manson family is represented, from wacky future would-be-presidential-assassin Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning) to “Tex” Watson (Austin Butler).  We even get Bruce Dern in senile “old-man” form as Spahn Ranch owner George Spahn.

At more than two and a half hours, the film does have its slow points.  I also had some issues with Tarantino’s use of occasional flashbacks.  At least they seem to be.  A scene where Cliff meets the show stunt coordinator, played by Kurt Russell.  In what appears to be the next moment, we find Cliff taking on Bruce Lee (Mike Moh) in what appears to be on the set of “The Green Hornet,” which left television in 1967.  Moh is solid in this small, but entertaining scene, and once again Tarantino has managed to attract an amazing cast, from regular players like Michael Madsen and Zoe Bell to newcomers like Pacino, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant and the late Luke Perry.  Heck, the cast even includes a group of second generation actors including Rumer Willis (daughter of Bruce), Harley Quinn Smith (daughter of Kevin) and Maya Hawke (daughter of Ethan and Uma Thurman).

Visually the film amazes.  Tarantino fills the screen with reminders of the good old days of Hollywood, from brightly lit marquees to oversize movie posters.  The script has some classic dialogue, though the almost near-absence of the “F” word – and the non-appearance of the “N” word – may surprise some of Tarantino’s fans.

Tarantino is on record as saying he only wanted to make ten films.  This is #9.  I’m curious if he will be true to his word and, if so, what that film would be.  I’ve read he’d like to do a “Star Trek” film, but I can’t imagine one of the most creative and influential filmmakers of all time ending his career as a gun-for-hire.  Whatever he does, it will be the book-end on an amazing career.

Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival VIP Platinum & Gold Festival Passes Are Available Now! + New Events Added

SLEEPY HOLLOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
OCTOBER 10-13 2019, SLEEPY HOLLOW & TARRYTOWN, NY

VIP PLATINUM & GOLD FEST PASSES AVAILABLE NOW!
at www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com and www.tarrytownmusichall.org

NEW SHIFF EVENTS ADDED
LIVE STAGE SCRIPT READING!: “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE” WITH DANA GOULD, BOBCAT GOLDTHWAIT & SURPRISE GUESTS

EAST COAST PREMIERE OF FEATURE-LENTGH DOC “MAKING APES,”

35th ANNIVERSARY SCREENINGS OF “FRIDAY THE 13th IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER,” “NEVERENDING STORY” and more to come!

Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival, (SHIFF), is a celebration of outstanding genre cinema in the historic cradle of the American Supernatural, showcasing NEW FEATURE FILM PREMIERES, SPECIAL ANNIVERSARY SCREENINGS, LIVE ON-STAGE EVENTS, IN-PERSON GUESTS AND MORE!  For more fest info and updates visit www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com

Full line-up and schedule will be announced soon but early VIP PLATINUM PASSES and GOLD PASSES, which include access to ALL of our Music Hall events (featuring the ones listed here and still many more to be announced), are available now.

Individual Tickets will be available in the future, but purchasing VIP PLATINUM and GOLD PASSES now is the best way to ensure you experience as much of the entire festival as possible.

VIP PLATINUM PASSES and GOLD PASSES also include free access to additional, to-be-announced films and live panel programming at our WARNER LIBRARY venue.

VIP PLATINUM PASS $375 – Limited Amount!
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events
Reserved section seating
1st Entry to all events
Attendance at Opening Night Reception
1st Free Access to Warner Library venue events
Limited Edition SHIFF Enamel Pin and T-Shirt
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
Festival Tote Bag

GOLD PASS $235 ($275 after Sept 10) 
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events
2nd Entry to all events
2nd Free Access to Warner Library venue events
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
Festival Tote Bag

CHILDREN’S PASS (Ages 13 and under) $95* 
Includes ALL Music Hall venue events (except NEVERMORE and PLAN 9)
Free Access to Warner Library programming
Official SHIFF 2019 poster
*Children with Children’s Pass must be accompanied by a VIP or GOLD pass-holding, adult guardian to all shows.

Tarrytown Music Hall SHIFF program includes these exciting events:
(NOTE: Opening and Closing Night Films and MORE – still to be announced)

SPECIAL SCREENING: D23 – The official Disney Fan Club celebrates the 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW. A rare, big-screen showing of the classic 1949 animated short, and more, with guest speakers.

LIVE STAGE EVENT! NEVERMORE: An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe
Renowned actor Jeffrey Combs (RE-ANIMATOR, STAR TREK, THE FRIGHTENERS) performs his acclaimed one man show on 10/12/19. Combs’ astounding portrayal of Poe has been hailed by The L.A. Times as “A landmark performance,” and NEVERMORE has enthralled audiences across North America, with critically heralded shows in Los Angeles, Montreal, Baltimore and NY’s  Lincoln Center. Directed by Stuart Gordon and written by Dennis Paoli.

U.S. PREMIERE SCREENING: PHANTOM OF WINNIPEG
A phantastic feature-length documentary chronicling the unique 40+ year obsession the inhabitants of Winnipeg, Canada, have had with the Brian DePalma cult film PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE. Wickedly entertaining and surprisingly heartfelt, this savvy doc features appearances by Winnipeg locals, original PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE stars Paul Williams and Gerrit Graham, producer Edward R. Pressman, filmmaker and pop culture guru Kevin Smith and more!  In-person Q&A with the filmmakers, producer Edward R. Pressman (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, THE CROW, WALL STREET, AMERICAN PSYCHO) and more to be announced. 

SPECIAL SCREENING
: PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE
The original, classic 1974 Brian DePalma cult film sensation, starring William Finley, Paul Williams, Jessica Harper and Gerrit Graham, rocks the Music Hall in all its explosive, rock-infused glory. In-person Q&A with producer Edward R. Pressman, make-up artist Tom Burman, and more to be announced. 

LIVE STAGE EVENT! DANA GOULD PRESENTS “PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE”
Legendary comic Dana Gould leads a knockout comedy cast, scheduled to include Bobcat Goldthwait and other comic all-stars, and surprise guests in a rollicking, one-of-a-kind, live reading of Ed Wood’s infamous “PLAN 9” screenplay.

20TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: TIM BURTON’S SLEEPY HOLLOW
A special screening of director Tim Burton’s wild, visually euphoric 1999 take on the immortal Washington Irving tale, starring Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Christopher Walken. In-person Q&A with guest to be announced.

EAST COAST PREMIERE SCREENING: MAKING APES: THE ARTISTS WHO CHANGED FILM 
An exciting, eye-opening feature length documentary about the Hollywood artists who created the iconic makeups seen in the original 1968 classic PLANET OF THE APES and their important impact on cinema. Features interviews with makeup artists and actors from the original film franchise, modern makeup artists and filmmakers, including Guillermo Del Toro, John Landis and Joe Dante, who were deeply influenced by the franchise. In-person Q&A with director William Conlin and original “Apes” make-up artist Tom Burman.

SPECIAL PRESENTATION: A SALUTE TO DARK SHADOWS – In 1970-71, Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown were original locations for the theatrical films HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS, with local Lyndhurst Estate doubling as the iconic Collinwood Mansion, home of TV’s first family of Goth. Jim Pierson, longtime curator of the franchise and producer of the documentary MASTER OF DARK SHADOWS, and other guests, dig deep into the private archives of Dan Curtis Productions to present a never-before-seen look behind the “screams” of the durable movies based on the iconic TV series.

35TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: THE NEVERENDING STORY 
A special screening of the beloved 1984 fantasy feature film directed by Wolfgang Petersen. Host Tim Greiving (NPR, THE NEW YORK TIMES), moderates a Q&A with the film’s empress herself, actress Tami Stronach.

25TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: THE CROW 
A special screening of the acclaimed and influential 1994 gothic cult hit directed by Alex Proyas, starring Brandon Lee and Ernie Hudson, based upon the the James O’Barr comic. In-person Q&A with co-screenwriter David J. Schow and renowned producer Edward R. Pressman

MIDNIGHT MADNESS! 35TH ANNIVERSARY SCREENING: FRIDAY THE 13TH PART IV – THE FINAL CHAPTER
A late-night screening of the infamous 1984 sequel within the immortal horror franchise that saw the iconic Jason Vorhees meeting his… end?  In-person Q&A with legendary FRIDAY THE 13TH composer Harry Manfredini

MORE MUSIC HALL VENUE FILMS and EVENTS to be announced! 
(All of which will be included, in addition to all currently listed above, with any VIP PLATINUM PASS and GOLD PASS purchases).

SHIFF is currently accepting film and script submissions, which can be entered via www.sleepyhollowfilmfest.com.

Visit Sleepy Hollow NY at www.visitsleepyhollow.com and follow SHIFF at @SHIFF2019 on Twitter, @sleepyhollowfilmfest on Instagram and on Facebook.

Film Review: “Shadow”

  • SHADOW
  • Starring: Chao Deng, Li Sun
  • Directed by: Zhang Yimou
  • Rated: Not Rated
  • Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
  • Well Go USA 

The Chinese action/drama “Shadow” is one the most unique-looking films you will ever see, yet underneath its beautiful veneer is a fairly unremarkable story with a “surprising” climax that is not all that surprising. Directed by Yimou Zhang (“House of Flying Daggers,” “Hero”), “Shadow” contains almost nothing but black-and-white imagery as all of its costumes and set designs are colorless. The only exceptions are skin pigment, blood (a lot of it) and muted greens. While there is a plethora of wonderfully choreographed fight sequences, albeit nothing we haven’t seen before, it is the story that proves to be what is truly colorless.

 We are told in the beginning that for decades, the fortified city of Jingzhou was at the center of a back-and-forth conflict between the kingdoms of Yang and Pei. The latter lost Jingzhou after its Commander Ziyu (Chao Deng) lost a three-round duel to the former’s commander. A peace has settled it, but it is now threatening to unravel because the stoic Commander Ziyu, who longs for Jingzhou to be under Pei control, has agreed to a rematch. This is much to the consternation of Pei’s juvenile-acting and cowardly king, Pei Liang (Ryan Zheng, “The Great Wall”) who wails like a baby when Ziyu calmly tells him that his odds of winning are three out of ten. 

What no one realizes, except for Ziyu’s wife, Xiao Ai (Li Sun, “Fearless”) is that Ziyu has been forced to live in a cave for many years because a wound he received during his duel has taken its toll on his health. To keep up appearances, he has been using his body double named Jing (Deng) to be his proxy or shadow in the king’s court. Through the self-doubting Jing, Ziyu plans to win back Jingzhou and even claim the Pei throne for himself. However, King Pei Laing is so desperate to avoid war that he agrees to a proposal that would make his own sister a concubine for the son of Yang’s commander and thus insure peace. It ends up becoming a well-choreographed game of chess as members of the court try to maneuver themselves into a winning strategy. 

Again, visually there isn’t anything not to like about “Shadow” as it is nothing short of being a beautiful work of art worthy of hanging in a museum. The dialogue, though, is less than remarkable and the acting in its entirety is at times campy and others is just as gray as the background. Chao has the difficult task of playing two parts at the same time, but he only pulls it off a little better than Jean Claude van Damme once did. Many critics have praised the fight sequences in “Shadow,” yet there isn’t anything here that hasn’t been done a million times before since “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which remains a far superior film, both visually and content-wise.

 “Shadow” could have redeemed itself with some sort of jaw dropping ending with an explosive climax. Unfortunately, it fails with this also as the supposed twist can be seen coming from a mile away, therefore causing it to explode with a thud rather than a bang.

Trafalgar Releasing Debuts Trailer for ‘Roger Waters Us + Them’ Film – in theaters worldwide Oct. 2 & 6

TRAILER UNVEILED FOR ROGER WATERS
US + THEM
FILM COMING TO CINEMAS AROUND THE WORLD
ON OCTOBER 2ND & 6TH
FEATURING SONGS FROM HIS LEGENDARY PINK FLOYD ALBUMS AND FROM HIS LAST ALBUM, IS THIS THE LIFE WE REALLY WANT?

TICKETS NOW ON SALE AT ROGERWATERSUSANDTHEM.COM

London, July 17: Trafalgar Releasing are excited to unveil the official film trailer for Roger Waters Us + Them, filmed in Amsterdam on the European leg of his highly successful and critically acclaimed 2017/2018 world tour, US + THEM. The film will be screened in 2500+ cinemas across 60+ countries around the world on October 2 and 6 only. Tickets to see the film are on sale now from rogerwatersusandthem.com.

Roger Waters, co-founder and creative force behind Pink Floyd, with visionary director, Sean Evans, brings to the screen the live story of Us + Them to inspire you with its powerful music and message of human rights, liberty and love.

The film features songs from Waters legendary Pink Floyd albums, The Dark Side of the Moon, The Wall, Animals, Wish You Were Here, as well as his last album, Is This The Life We Really Want?

The tour saw Waters perform a total of 156 shows to 2.3M people throughout North America, Australia & New Zealand, Europe, Russia, Latin America and Mexico.

“I’m so looking forward to the launch of the movie in October. US + THEM is not standard rock and roll fare, some in the audience may ‘yee haaaa!!!’ Which is ok, but many will weep. That is what I hope for. US + THEM is a call to action. Homo Sapiens stand at a crossroads, we can either pool our love, develop our capacity to empathise with others and act collectively for the good of our planet, or we can remain Comfortably Numb, and continue, like blind lemmings, on our current omnicidal death march towards extinction. US + THEM is a vote for love and life.”
Roger Waters, 11th July 2019

Director, Sean Evans added: “This is a great film – an amazing performance delivered with care, emotion and meaning. Didn’t think it was possible, but I believe we’ve outdone The Wall…”

The event will be screened in cinemas around the world on Wednesday, October 2 and Sunday, October 6 (in Dolby Atmos where available). More information can be found at rogerwatersusandthem.com, where fans

Hookup Geek Film Review “Hotel Mumbai”

November 26 – 29, 2008 India experienced several of the most dramatic days in its history – the attack of the terrorist organization “Lashkar-e-Tayyiba” on Mumbai. The objectives were Victoria Station, the Oberoi Hotel, the police station, and the culmination was hostage drama at the Taj Mahal Hotel. These events became the basis of the thriller “Hotel Mumbai” directed by Anthony Maras.

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The plot

On November 26th a group of young people on boats are ferried to India. Their goal is to die, but to die by performing jihad – and “to avenge the poverty and misery that the infidels doomed them to.” One group attacks the station, the second – a cafe, and eventually a wave of chaos carries them into the luxury Taj Mahal hotel. The plot gathers other heroes – waiter Arzhun, chef Hemant Oberoi, rich architect David Duncan with wife, Russian oligarch Vasiliy Archevskiy and other guests.

The first impression

The film is watched smoothly from the very beginning: the authors were able to show the “brilliance and poverty of India”, walking side by side. The waiter Arzhun comes to work from a poor apartment in a glittering luxury hotel, the terrorists jump in good suits to the shore of a dirty Ganges to begin their mission in the name of a fanatical idea.

Actually, the drama of the characters here does not set off the real facts of the assault, when special forces from Delhi had to wait all day, the red-hot drama of the fight – which is transmitted through excellent camera work and sound. It was almost impossible for the authors to show them human, to reveal the motives of even armed fanatics, as is usual in Hollywood movies. Also in this movie, there is no traditional image of a superhero – the hero is everyone who has shown restraint and the ability to support others. This movie has short inserts also used in a real documentary.

The characters

The characters are quite diverse – from the terrorists, who are shown more likely to be victims of fanaticism and their general social situation, to characters that change during the film. As an example, the Russian businessman Vasiliy Archevskiy, performed by Jason Isaacs, cynically sorting out the cards of elite “call girls” in a restaurant, and use his knowledge of psychology to return the self-control to the survivals. The waiter Arzhun, also appears from the unexpected side organizing a departure of the guests to the safe place.

Conclusion

Almost the only complaint to this film is the fact that the artistic performance will never accurately convey the drama of real people, but in terms of the intensity, “Hotel Mumbai” perfectly conveys those red-hot and dramatic events that took the lives of 175 people.

Film Review: 30 for 30 – “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry”

  • ESPN 30 for 30 – THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE HUNGRY
  • Starring: Joey Chestnut, Takeru Kobiyashi and George Shea
  • Directed by: Nicole Lucas Haimes
  • Running time: 1 hr 17 mins
  • ESPN Films

As the 4th of July approaches, many Americans will head to their backyards and throw some hot dogs on the grill. I know I am. And, if I’m particularly hungry that day, I might eat 3 of them. Which would in no way get me invited to Coney Island to participate in the Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest!

The contest has been going on since 1972, but it wasn’t until 2001, when a young Japanese man named Takeru Kobiyashi showed up and ate an amazing 50 hot dogs, with buns, in 12 minutes. He held the title for 5 years when, inspired by Kobiyashi’s success, a young man named Joey Chestnut took a chance at winning the coveted Championship Mustard Belt. He lost. Thus began an rivalry as intense as any in sports. And yes, Competitive Eating is a sport.

A very in-depth behind the scenes look at an event that draws 30,000 people annually, “The Good, the Bad, the Hungry” is another excellent film in ESPN’s 30 for 30 canon. Though I had certainly been aware of the annual Coney Island event, I was surprised to learn that competitive eating as a sport has long been recognized in Japan. We are introduced to early Kobiyashi gastronomic feats, like eating 19.6 pounds of food at one sitting. As the rivalry between Kobiyashi and Chestnut grows, so do the contests. I love me some Krystal hamburgers, but there is no way in hell I’m eating 97 of them. And their calorie intake isn’t the only thing that’s large. Chestnut has made six figures a year doing this.

In 2008, Kobiyashi and Chestnut tied, resulting in a 5-dog Overtime Period

What is amazing is that these two take their skill seriously. They train daily, everything from figuring out the right temperature of water to soak the buns in to training the various throat muscles to help swallow easier. We also learn about each one’s upbringing through conversations with their parents. While Chestnut’s parents are all for Joey’s achievements, Kobiyashi’s father is more subdued. Born after World War II, he notes that to him food is meant to be thankful for and appreciated. This doesn’t mean he isn’t proud of his son, of course,

Another thing noted are the cultural differences. Once Chestnut beats Kobiyashi, the Japanese man is shocked by the crowd’s sudden change. Where they had constantly cheered him, once defeated he is met with cheers of “USA! USA!” Not understanding American culture, his feelings are genuinely hurt.

I should add here that when he arrives in America, Kobiyashi is stunned at the size of some of the competitors. In Japan, most of the competitive eaters are thin. In fact, Kobiyashi only weighs 144 pounds and often celebrates his wins by pulling up his shirt and showing off his six-pack! If I won I’d be flashing a keg!

An entertaining film about an entertaining subject, grab a couple of hot dogs this week and pull up a seat in front of the television. Who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired enough to take Chestnut down nest year.

Film Review: “Ophelia”

  • OPHELIA
  • Starring: Daisy Ridley, Naomi Watts
  • Directed by: Claire McCarthy
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hr 54 mind
  • IFC 

There is nothing more spectacular, and scary than taking an epic work of theater, by Shakespeare no less, and turning it on its head by retelling it from a different perspective. This is the case with “Ophelia,” the doomed love interest of the equally doomed Danish prince, Hamlet. With a more modernesque musical score and friendly dialogue that lacks the thous and thees you would expect from Shakespeare, director Claire McCarthy (“The Waiting City”) takes us on a journey with an unexpected destination. 

As she floats with an eternal peace across face, our heroine Ophelia asks us in a voiceover if we know her story. Tired of no one knowing who she is, Ophelia tells us it is time we finally understand her. As such, she takes us back to when she was a dirty faced, rebellious little girl in Elsinore Castle who draws the fateful attention of Danish Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts). Turned into a lady-in-waiting, a grownup Ophelia (Daisy Ridley, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) enjoys the queen’s favor, but she is hen pecked mercilessly by the other ladies who all hold the distinction of being noble by birth. 

When Prince Hamlet (George MacKay, ’Where Hands Touch”) returns from school as a man, he is instantly smitten with Ophelia. However, “Ophelia” is still a Shakespearean tale despite the rewrite and the budding romance is complicated by the sudden death of King Hamlet and the subsequent quick marriage of Queen Gertrude and suspect number one, the deceased king’s brother, Claudius (Clive Owen) who ascends to Denmark’s throne. It proves to be too much for Prince Hamlet to bear and his wits begin to deteriorate. 

At the same time, Prince Hamlet becomes obsessed with Ophelia and the idea of marrying her, which comes to fruition but in secret. Secrets though are no stranger to her, who learns many from the witch Mechtild (Watts), Gertrude’s sister. Claudius comes to view Ophelia as dangerous while Prince Hamlet falls deeper into madness. And while it’s to be expected for people to die in droves, this enjoyable retelling of Shakespeare contains some delightful twists that makes it fresh and surprising. 

Based upon the 2008 novel of the same name by American author Lisa Klein (“Lady Macbeth’s Daughter”), “Ophelia” is a breath of fresh air. It’s daring. It’s imaginative. It doesn’t require Ridley to hold a light saber as she is given a chance to shine on the screen. While the depth of her emotional output is found wanting, she more than holds her own against a terrific dual performance by Watts. Owen is adequate as the diabolical Claudius and MacKay is just wide-eyed and stammers a lot with spittle spewing from his mouth. 

In the end, “Ophelia” is a definite must-see for anyone who loves Shakespeare or good theater in general.

Film Review: “Yesterday”

YESTERDAY

  • Starring:  Hirish Patel, Lily James and Ed Sheeran
  • Directed by:  Danny Boyle
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 56 mins
  • Universal

Dear Readers – If you would please indulge me:

AN OPEN LETTER TO RICHARD CURTIS – Sir, in the trailer for your 2003 film “Love Actually,” you include a scene of Andrew Lincoln holding up a card to Kiera Knightley which reads HELLO FATSO.  This scene is NOT in the film.  What did that mean?  I know her character liked sweets.  Did her husband complain she was getting a fat arse???  If Richard Curtis is reading this, or if anyone knows the answer, please reply to me via this website.  Thank you.  We now return to your scheduled review.

I’m 58 years old.  I grew up with the Beatles.  The very first record I ever purchased was “Hello/Goodbye.”   I wept when John Lennon died.  So to imagine a world where the Beatles and their music never existed would be horrible to me.  But it works out well for Jack Malik (Patel) an aspiring musician who, despite having some talent, cannot make it into the music business.  After a disappointing gig he announces to his manager Ellie (James) that he’s hanging up the guitar and going back to teaching.  Unable to talk him out of it, Ellie watches as Jack pedals his bicycle into the night.  However, soon their lives will change forever.

Directed by Oscar-winner Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”), “Yesterday” is a lot like the Beatles songs that fill the soundtrack – an emotional rollercoaster.  After an accident with a bus, Jack gets out of the hospital to discover that things are different.  When he asks for a Coke he is given quizzical looks.  When he plays the song “Yesterday” to Ellie and her friends, they are amazed by the song, asking him when he wrote it.  He tells them that it was a song by the Beatles, but only gets blank stares.  When he Googles “the Beatles” on the Internet, he is directed to the bugs.  Curious, he tries other bands and is relieved that the Rolling Stones are still around.  He is even more relieved when he learns that the band Oasis isn’t.  Realizing the situation, he begins performing Beatles songs and soon catches the ear of musician Ed Sheeran, who challenges Jack to a spontaneous song writing contest.  10 minutes later, Sheeran delivers a sweet song about love.  Jack counters with “The Long and Winding Road.”  Boom!  Mic drop!

Patel is very strong as Jack.  He has a pleasant enough voice and, when he sings from the Beatles catalog, he isn’t just covering the songs, he invests an emotional weight into them, as if he HAD written them.  When he performs “Help” in front of a huge crowd, he’s literally begging for someone to help him get off of the rollercoaster he has found himself on.  James and Sheeran are also quite good, with Sheeran having fun at his own expense, even going so far as to suggest that Jack rename “Hey Jude” as “Hey Dude,” which apparently he finds cooler.

The film also packs an emotion punch with a scene that had many in the audience, myself including, tearing up.  Boyle’s direction is brisk and screenwriter Curtis is at the top of his game.  And you can never go wrong with a soundtrack consisting of 17 of the Beatles’ greatest songs.  As John Lennon sang in Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite, “a splendid time is guaranteed for all!”

Film Review: “Loopers: the Caddie’s Long Walk”

  • LOOPERS: THE CADDIE’S LONG WALK
  • Narrated by: Bill Murray
  • Directed by: Jason Baffa
  • Rated: PG
  • Running time: 1 hr 16 mins
  • Gravitas Ventures

One of my many jobs as a teenager in Tampa involved getting up early on Saturdays and walking the few blocks to the Palma Ceia Country Club. The earlier the better. There those of us that assembled would hang out around the clubhouse and ask arriving golfers if we could carry their bags. On a good morning, you could end up with $10 (including tip) for four hours work. That’s right, I’ll admit it. I was a looper.

Full of interesting golf history and some fun interviews, “Loopers: The Caddie’s Long Walk” is an interesting take on what was once seen as a menial job that has blossomed into a handsome way to make a living for some. The film looks at golf, and it’s caddies, in both Scotland (the birthplace of the game) and here in the states. We visit the world famous St. Andrews course, founded in 1552! That’s right, golf has been around for over 400-years. The history of the caddie is also explored, running from the three basic caddie rules (Show Up, Keep Up, Shut Up) to the origins of the name looper (a round of 18 holes was called a loop). We also get a glimpse at some of the more famous caddies to ever carry a bag, including the caddies that worked at Augusta National, home of the Masters. I found it ironic that these young men were so vital to a golfer’s success, yet theirs were the only black faces on the course until Lee Elder played there in 1975 (blacks were not allowed to join the club until 1991).

A particularly poignant sequence examines the relationship between golfer and caddie. Living as I do in Kansas City, I was happy to see local boy made good Tom Watson talk about the two-plus decades he spent with his caddie, Bruce Edwards. The men remained friends until Edwards passed away in 2004 from ALS. We also meet other well known caddies, like Steve Williams (Tiger Woods’ ex-caddie) and Carl Jackson, who caddied for Ben Crenshaw in almost 40 tournaments in their partnership.

The film is narrated by former looper Bill Murray, who immortalized the caddie as Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack.” Murray relates some of his own experiences as well as narrates, lending his particular sense of humor to the film.

With the beginning of summer upon us, before you head out to the course give “Loopers” a look. And watch out for those kids hanging out in front of the clubhouse!