Friday, October 20, 2017

26th Philadelphia Film Festival, Day 2: Film fest? More like snooze fest!

One of the most wonderful times of year is back: the Philadelphia Film Festival! With over 100 features playing in three theaters in Center City — the number of films and venues seems to be shrinking every year, doesn't it? —for 10 days there's never a shortfall of something new, or old, to see. This year I opted to stray for more below-the-line, less "flashy" titles that will get plenty of theatrical bookings in due time. And for an occasional film "critic" like myself, I know there will be plenty of free press screenings I could go to without paying $15 to $50 to see these titles at the festival. I wanted to seek out films that may not be seen in theaters again (for the most part).

With that said I skipped the opening night screenings of "I, Tonya". One, because I had class so I couldn't comfortably squeeze it in and two, it will be a big hit during its theatrical release late this year.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Movie Review: Unraveling the mystery of 'Blade Runner 2049'

Blade Runner 2049 (2017, directed by Denis Villeneuve. U.S.A., English, Color, 163 minutes) There's a lot I'm not allowed to say about the the long-awaited sequel to the acclaimed 1982 sci-fi staple "Blade Runner". Therefore, I will not. I can, however, talk about the film in broad strokes, and provide some notes about other random things related to the Blade Runner world.

First, this is a very attractive sci-fi film, perhaps more beautiful than the original. Set 30 years after the original the streets have been "cleaned up" a bit it seems, not so much the dingy apocalyptic setup we were accustomed to. Perhaps it's the advancement in technology that leads the original to have a really run down and dirty look when compared to this film. I did admire the production values of "Blade Runner 2049," it certainly made watching the film worthwhile.

'I, Tonya' and 'Three Billboards...' among films featured at 26th Philly Film Fest

Well over 100 films will play at the 26th Philadelphia Film Festival the Philadelphia Film Society announced Tuesday afternoon.

Craig Gillespi's "I, Tonya" will open the festival on Oct. 19 at the Prince Theater to kick off 11 days of marathon moviewatching for die-hard Philly cinephiles. The society also announced that Martin McDonagh’s "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" will close the festival on Oct. 27. The festival will showcase more than 110 feature length and short films. The festival line-up is curated by our programming committee who carefully selects each film from multiple international festivals throughout the year.

"Coming off our 25th anniversary, we entered this year with a certain amount of trepidation as to how we could match what was arguably our strongest Festival program ever built upon one of the best years for film in recent memory. After traveling the Festival circuit and watching a record number of submissions, we’re thrilled with this year’s line-up, which again represents the best of film from around the world,” said Executive Director, J. Andrew Greenblatt. 

“From crowd pleasers like our Opening Night film 'I, Tonya' to award contenders like Closing Night film 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'; from thought-provoking documentaries like The New Radical to cutting edge foreign films like 'The Square' and experimental indies like 'Flesh and Blood' from Philly-born director Mark Webber, there’s something for everyone in this year’s Philadelphia Film Festival.”

The film society had previously announced a retrospective called "Demme in Philly" featuring projects of recently-passed director Jonathan Demme which includes "Philadelphia" and "Beloved."

The festival runs from Oct. 19 to Oct. 29.

Here is the full festival line-up:

Opening Night Film
·         I, Tonya, Director Craig Gillespie. 2017, USA.

Closing Night Film
·         Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Director Martin McDonagh. 2017, USA.

Centerpiece Screenings
·         Darkest Hour, Director Joe Wright. 2017, UK.
·         The Florida Project, Director Sean Baker. 2017, USA.
·         Lady Bird, Director Greta Gerwig. 2017, USA.
·         Last Flag Flying, Director Richard Linklater. 2017, USA.

Movie Review: 'The Florida Project' is one of the year's best


The Florida Project (2017, directed by Sean Baker. U.S.A., English, Color, 115 minutes)
I went into "The Florida Project" completely blind. I had not read a single review, didn't watch any trailers, didn't even really know much on the story. The best perk about going into a movie blind is that you have no expectations about it. It's when the film is over and you realize you saw something great that makes it all worthwhile. "The Florida Project" surprised me immensely, and I loved it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Movie Review: 'Wonderstruck' left me wonderstruck

Julianne Moore portrays older Rose in "Wonderstruck". Roadside Attractions

(2017, directed by Todd Haynes. U.S.A., English, Color/B&W, 117 minutes) The misconception about children being the main focus of a film can be that it will be written off as a kids film. Well, that's not always true (e.g. "It"). Todd Haynes' "Wonderstruck" has two kids as the protagonists in a film that is a little more deep than what could be considered kid-friendly. Haynes brings as much love and compassion to his young lead actors as he did in the forbidden love story of his last feature, "Carol", without dumbing down the characters to draw in the "Despicable Me" audience.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Movie Review: Scary is not what 'It' is

Warner Bros.
It (2017, directed by Andy Muschietti. U.S.A., English, Color, 135 minutes) Imagine planning a party for someone. You get all of the close friends and family together for months to prepare for a great memory for everyone. It's been promoted all over social media while people gab with each other in special messaging sessions and event walls to get everything ready. The day of the event is here and everyone is waiting for that special honoree, the space overflowing with excitement in anticipation of the big "SURPRISE!" burst to greet them. When the honoree comes, they say "you took me away from my day for this shit?"

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie Review: 'Victoria & Abdul' keeps it short and sweet

Focus Features

Victoria & Abdul (2017, directed by Stephen Frears. England, English, Color, 112 minutes) It has been 20 years since Judi Dench last played Queen Victoria in "Mrs. Brown", and what a perfect way to return to the role that earned her her first Oscar nomination than with a story that takes place in about the same timeframe where that film left off? Like in "Mrs. Brown", the matriarch finds herself enamored with a younger man, but this time it's a young Indian, Muslim servant named Abdul. It's a timely story about cross-cultural interactions among people, but it never has that heft that makes it anything more than a lighthearted piece of social commentary.