Ninja Turtles for the Entire Family

Posted by Tim Posada On 2:44 AM 0 comments
So my roommates and I dressed up like the ninja turtles and went to see it on Friday night at the West Covina AMC. Our cast was as follows:
Jackson-Casey Jones
Matt-Foot soldier
Katie, Mellissa, and Kristen-themselves
We planned for the 9pm showing, but alas re arrived at the theatre at 8:30, thus the sold out showing forced us to wait an extra 1 and a half hours for the next show. We spent out time taking pictures with hundreds of jr. highers. Surprisingly, only three moderately adolescent boys gave into pathetic vocabulary with claims that we were gay. There were two bratty kids inside, but Master Splinter took care of those kids with his ancient words of wisdom about the ninja way. The majority of people loved it and wanted to take pictures with us. One such girl jumped and teared up like she had just met Justin Timberlake. Before the film began we all went to the bathroom, a teenager asked me what film we were going to see and I said, "Music and Lyrics," and walked away leaving the poor kid stumped. Everyone had a great time. The actual film was alright, it needed a better storyline. But the character chemistry was good-though Splinter's voice vaguely sounded like a New York godfather's. We all had a great time.

Year of the Fish (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:53 PM 0 comments
It’s Cinderella in New York’s Chinatown. But this Cinderella isn’t a daughter-in-law put to work for the evil stepsisters, she’s a immigrant from China that refused to do the usual work at a “massage” parlor, thus she was forced to do all the cleaning and cooking. Add to this a unique visual effect also found in Richard Linklater’s Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and this is a shoe-in for the “most indie film ever” award. Also, the fair godmother isn’t as much a nurturing figure as she is a creepy old witch that runs a sweatshop. Besides the intriguing visuals only, possible through painting over top of what was filmed, The Year of the Fish has a wonderful soundtrack created from within the film. The romantic interest is a professional accordion player, and his music becomes the music of the modern fairy tale. Just as the melody sung by Mercedes becomes the theme of Pan’s Labyrinth, the accordion consumes each scene’s mood and is then elevated when the full orchestra builds on what the accordion began. Unfortunately, this film does play on many stereotypes. All the Asian characters fall into the normal categories of bitch, slut, and innocent/ignorant/weak. While it may be argued that the leading lady defies these stereotypes because she is stronger, she begins from this stereotype and is really only elevated with the help of another man. And the conclusion does not defy the system of oppression that allowed Asian immigrants to be imprisoned in places like a “massage” parlor. It actually makes light of the system. However, it might be more appropriate to say that the film does not try to answer the question of oppression, but simply states that amidst such tragic circumstances people can still find love and happiness.

Padre Nuestro (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:53 PM 0 comments
Padre Nuestro won the Grand Jury Prize for Dramatic feature. This is the story of two Mexican illegal immigrants who sneak into New York. One is going to meet his father he hasn’t met, while the other is simply trying to get away from all the trouble he brings upon himself. The second boy then steals the identity of the first and poses as the son of someone that is not his father. The other boy survives on the street, befriending a homeless woman, and tries to find his father, while being forced to do low pay jobs and sexual favours to survive. What makes this film so unique is that it is a foreign language film set in New York. Unlike most films like this, the social oppression of illegal immigrants is in the backdrop of this film. The storyline takes a much larger role than any political statement. The end result is a compelling story about interlocking characters, leading to the climax with their final interaction.
Padre Nuestro was a very intriguing film, but it did not deserve to win best dramatic feature. There were several other films that were more deserving than this one. This film once because of its setting and story. Letters from Iwo Jima provided much the same response—telling the same story from a different perspective. And like Letters from Iwo Jima, Padre Nuestro was not a truly engaging and strong story but was just different enough to cause people to take notice.

Bugmaster (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:52 PM 0 comments
Bugmaster was the most difficult film to understand at Sundance. This film is one of director Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s (Akira and Steamboy) few live action features. It is a period piece set in a mystical Japan where people called “Bugmasters” travel and use their special herbs, potions, and powers to calm bugs that cause pain to humans. The film features two driving stories, one in the past and other in the present. The two stories are connected by the lead character. Unlike Ôtomo’s normal dose of anime, the special effects of this film are subtle. But like most anime, the storyline is thick. Many compared this film to those of Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke), this comparison is only made by people that do not know enough about Japanese cinema. The only commonality between the Bugmaster and Miyazaki’s films is the purity of nature. Bugmaster looks at the spiritual realm of creation and discusses a growing spirit that exists deep in the forest. Unfortunately, this film becomes hard to follow at this point and ends rather abruptly, thus to say more would require a second viewing.

Save Me (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:52 PM 0 comments
While For the Bible Tells Me So was very informational and well done, Save Me did a better job at presenting both sides of the “homosexuality” argument. The lead character Mark (Chad Allen) is put in a ministry meant to help gay men become straight. While there, he finds a community he loves and is able to kick drugs. But while there, Scott (Robert Gant) and him fall in love. While films like Saved portrays Christians as a completely irredeemable, dogmatic bunch, Save Me has a much healthier perspective. Once again, as opposed to Saved, which felt like it was made by a bitter person trying to get back at the private high school he or she went to, Save Me was made with the hope to bring people together. Many of those involved in making this film are Christians and gay (Chad Allen actually attends All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena). With this said, the Christians in the film that believe acting on homosexuality is wrong are portrayed as single-minded and evil but humans that, just like the gay Christians, have God in them as well. This is a powerful film because it does not answer any questions but simply concludes that God is with everyone. While the film did suffer from Lifetime channel production value, it remains a powerful piece of art that will bring about a conversation better than anything else.

Teethe (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:51 PM 0 comments
It’s hard to describe how bad this film was. The concept is great: a teenage girl, who runs a purity campaign, discovers that she has teethe in her vagina and begins to enjoy the power that comes with such a gift/curse. In a male dominated culture, it is easy to see the appeal of this film. It is summed up in the opening credits. The credits are a digital image of eggs and sperm swimming around. At key moments the music becomes very intense and several sperm attack one egg. This continually happens until the end the credits when one egg eats three of the sperm. Terms like “nail,” “penetrate,” and “prick” all reference the dominance of male masculinity. This rhetoric subtly works to keep women in subordinate roles. Thus, a film like Teethe becomes a powerful statement against male dominion over sex. It has the potential to reveal the power of women to “eat” men who do not see their sexual partner as an equal.
Alas, the end result was a very poor film. The acting was terrible. The music was overly dramatic. The plotline was weak. The character development was stereotypical at best. The only thing this film could do was make an audience laugh and convulse in the same breath. Three men were castrated and a gynecologist lost four fingers. Teethe was a film that did not know what it wanted to be, and the end result was mediocrity with a double-shot of shock value. Many women after the film laughed about how it redefines the term “chick-flick.” Unfortunately, this remains more true than most people will realize. This film is not a film about “girl-power.” It is a film that exploits girl, thus allowing women to enter the same game that men have been a part of for years. Thus, the same system this film may claim to go up against is actually the same system it is a part of. Thus, Teethe is just a like a “chick-flick” because it allows women to remain in their subordinate roles still playing the same game their supposed male rival is playing.

Banished (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:51 PM 0 comments
Racism is not a dead issue, and Banished is one of many documentaries that reminds people that it is not. This film focuses on the stories of several black families who try to trace their family roots back to their former family homes before their grandparents and/or great grandparents were run out of certain towns. The families found out that legal records could not justify the current ownership. One man tried to have his relative dug up to be given a proper burial, and upon requesting for the city to cover the burial costs, the city refused and tried to charge the man with stealing from the city.
While there are interesting parts to this documentary, it proves one of the classic flaws in many such films: too preachy. Michael Moore successfully ruined the documentary-director voiceover narration, and this film, like Moore’s, falls prey to the same awkward feel that leaves no room for dialogue. But this film does make incredibly sound points. In the hometown of the main leaders of the KKK, many people try to blame the KKK for creating a high image of racism. But the people do not want to admit that the KKK feels comfortable in this city for a reason. While some may argue that retribution for slavery is a dead issue, this film shows that it is not. The families interviewed in this film are not asking for reparations from slavery time but from 60 years ago. These are easily documented wrongs that only extreme denial can avoid. And the white people of the cities in this film do deny their responsibility.

The Island (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:50 PM 0 comments
The Island is a telling story about the pain of a saint. The story begins with a young crewmember who is forced to shoot his captain after they are captured by Nazis. The boat is then blown up and the young man is washed ashore near a monastery, where he would spend the rest of his life. The story then takes place when he is much older. People constantly visit him to receive healing. While he is a bit senile and eccentric, he heals everyone who comes to him and tells them what they need to hear. When he is not healing people or moving coal, he spends his time praying for forgiveness.
This is the story of a saint. Many ask questions about why certain people are blessed with such gifts while others are not, and this film does not bother to answer that but reveals the paradox. Many consider this monk crazy, but God chose him to be a healer, prophet, and servant. But for all his transcendent power, he has no peace. He is given this amazing gift, but his religion is so dogmatic that he can only obey and hope that God will see his redemption through his servant hood and grief. Yet there is hope in this film. Could someone evil truly do what God allows this man to do? The point comes through the implications of the story: God exists in people whether they realize he is there or not. This has profound implications for the rest of the world beyond the label “Christians.” I wonder if anyone will agree.

How could a first time director score interviews with Desmond Tutu and Mel White? Few films have been as moving as this one. To here the stories of Christians who can accept homosexuality as something blessed and not something to overcome is rare. Whether, I agree or not is irrelevant because these stories provide hope for people who would otherwise leave the church altogether. This film, by itself, it very bias, but so is the other side of the argument. If people can transcend their biases when watching this film, then they will be able to see a group of people that are still loved by God and, more importantly, can still remain part of the Christian community. Mel White has been a longtime hero of mine, and to hear what he had to say (and to meet him) was so encouraging. God is working through this man’s ability to bring about a more diverse community of God. Anyone should be able to watch this film and see what homosexual people have been mistreated and things must change. And the film is honest in its representation of Christian conservatives—who have caused much pain. I do not know if I believe homosexuality is acceptable or not, but I know that people can remain within the body of Christ in such a state. This documentary offers great insight into a growing trend in Christianity: people reinterpreting the Bible and finding out that they may be wrong and should change their approach to those they considered sinners.

This is one of those films that takes forever to simply explain. Director J.J. Lask is in the film as himself, an author of the book On the Road with Judas, and in the film he has created the screenplay for his book. There is a fantastical interview show, where the characters of the book and the screenplay actors meet. Each version of the characters tell the love story they are embarking on. While oddly complex, Lask does a decent job of making it easy to understand. This is truly one of the cliché indie films. In true postmodern form, this film is all about taking a seemingly ordinary love story and telling it in an extraordinary way. People’s inability to move past broken hearts drives this story, causing all those emotional, love-sick, anti-Valentine’s day people to be reminded, once again, that they are alone and it’s their own fault. The end of this film accents this nicely. While the story of the major characters in the novel and screenplay is happening, a subplot about Lask occurs where he tries to convince the novel’s romantic interest to allow him to write the book and eventually screenplay about her. In the final moments of the film he is sleeping with her and talking to her about how she was portrayed. But when the camera pans back to the bed, she is gone. It’s a powerful moment that reveals that the paralyzing nature of love cannot change without choice.

Black Snake Moan (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:49 PM 0 comments
From the director of Hustle and Flow, Black Snake Moan proved to be a great surprise. Finally, a film that is sexual with a purpose. It’s a story about a woman (Christina Ricci) who was sexually abused and has grown up constantly needing sex to survive. She comes in contact with a bitter farmer (Samuel L. Jackson) after a bad night of partying. This farmer suddenly feels the need to nurse her back to health. During the process, he finds out that she has a deeper pain going on. He then takes it upon himself to cure her of her “wicked ways.” He then chains her to his living room as a way to make her go “cold turkey” on her addiction to sex. What follows is a lot of hysterical dialogue and surprisingly engaging characters. There are two intriguing aspects of the film. First, Samuel L. Jackson sings several blues songs, and they are extremely well done. The music and the lyrics are well thought through. Second, the symbol of the chain is quite powerful. We are given the its literal when Jackson chains Ricci to his living room. We are then given its symbolic use when Ricci has a small golden chain wrapped around the waste of her wedding dress. In one of the final moments of the film, she must choose to use sex to solve her problems or change, and she grabs hold of the chain and decides to take a new path.

Hounddog (Sundance Film Review)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:48 PM 0 comments
Pre-viewing controversy surrounding Hounddog turned out to be more interesting than the film itself. Dakota Fanning is a very talented actor, but her ability to fascinate a crowd with her youthful performance could not deter the lack of intrigue built into the screenplay of Hounddog. Hounddog is about a little girl who is forced to grow up too quickly, lacking sufficient support from her family. Lewellen (Fanning) is able to be a playful youth until her father is struck by lightning and can no longer take care of himself. Add to this a stereotypically fire, brimstone, and whisky Christian grandmother, and Lewellen must forget about a happy life. Her only joy is in the music of Elvis—particularly his rendition of “Hounddog.” It is this redition that the stereotypically pimpled face milk boy sees Lewellen perform and halfway through the film rapes her. This was not an exploitive seen, and actually was not a strong enough event in the plot to matter—it should have occurred earlier in the film. And yet another stereotype (the black man as primitive witch doctor there to serve the interests of surrounding white), the neighbour and snake export helps Lewellen come to terms with her demons by singing the one song she feels caused her rape. But she sings “Hounddog” in its original context before Elvis redid it for a white audience. This is the only redeeming moment in this incredibly boring and over-dramatized film. The continually changing context of “Hounddog” creates an interesting look at the power of music to seduce and liberate. Unfortunately, the film is simply boring and relies on one-dimensional characters that have been created through far too many Deep South period pieces before this one.

Joshua (Sundance Film Reviews)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:47 PM 0 comments
If you’ve ever wondered what a boring thriller could look like, then watch Joshua. It was like watching The Omen, minus Satan, but add far too much predictability. Of course little Joshua was standing behind every door, waiting to scare his mom. Of course little Joshua was systematically driving his family insane. And of course he won. The film’s music embodied how dull this film was. The storyline revolves around the age of Joshua’s newborn sibling, and every time we are told how old this newborn is, a piano note or two is struck hard resonating into. While the idea may have been to create the tension Hitchcock or Palanski were masters of, it felt more like the soundtrack of The Firm. But hey, a John Grisham book adaptation would have been better than this not-so-thrilling “thriller.”
After this film ended, Fox Searchlight interviewed me about my thoughts on the film. I didn’t want to slam the film, so I said, “It was a slow thriller.” Unfortunately, someone at Fox Searchlight was stupid enough to buy this, which will be lucky it is makes over $15 million. I watch films like these and am given hope. I’m given hope because if that could make it into Sundance and get bought, then something actually good has a chance as well.

Strange Culture (Sundance Film Reviews)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:47 PM 0 comments
Strange Culture is a documentary about post 9/11 paranoia and the power of the government over artistic expression. It documents the story of Steve Kurtz who was arrested as a potential terrorist and is now being charged for mail fraud with a possible penalty of 20-years jail time. Kurtz originally called the police when his wife had heart failure. When the police arrived they saw Kurtz’s lab and chemicals. Considering them suspicious, they called the FBI who came into investigate. Kurtz was preparing for an art show that merged chemicals and art. Even though everything Kurtz had was legal, the FBI continued its investigation because of several things that seemed suspicious: a flyer for an art show that had Aramaic writing on it, the laboratory windows were covered with aluminum, Kurtz was a liberal professor, and many lab samples contained bacteria. It would later be learned that the bacteria was plant and fruit bacteria ordered online. Because of this online transaction, Kurtz is currently being charged with mail fraud—the only thing the FBI has been able to prove. While mail fraud is normally a civil matter, the FBI is trying to make it something more, thus making the penalty much worse than a fine.
Strange Culture is an interesting documentary to reveals something that many are currently very frustrated with. It reveals what happens when paranoia takes over logic in an age that is convinced that everyone is a terrorist—it’s Good Night and Good Luck for the current time. Unfortunately, the documentary was poorly made. The music felt like the soundtrack to a soft-core porno. The narrative flow of Strange Culture was unfortunately reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean 2: awkward, never-ending, and just lacking. With that said, it was an intriguing story poorly attempted.

Trade (Sundance Film Reviews)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:46 PM 0 comments
Trade will premiere nationwide come April. This film begins in Mexico and events are set in motion when a 13-year-old girl, Adriana (Paulina Gaitan) is kidnapped by Russian traffickers and smuggled across the U.S. border. This Adriana’s brother, Jorge (Cesar Ramos), tries to follow the smugglers with the help of an FBI agent Ray (Kevin Klein), who has been searching for his daughter who was kidnapped many years ago. Together the FBI agent and the boy follow the smugglers’ trail to New Jersey. Along the way, the world of underground sex trafficking is revealed in a harsh but not exploitive way. Scenes of prostitution and rape help to unfold these horrible events, but it is not scaring in a way that Requiem for a Dream and City of God are.
There are truly no big names in this film save Kevin Klein, who is moderately well-known but by no means an A-list actor. Yet the opening credits reveal a driving force behind the film: Ronald Emmerich, director of Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla, The Patriot, and The Day after Tomorrow. Emmerich originally hoped to direct this film, against the approval of studios that were used to his usual multimillion-dollar blockbusters. While Emmerich not be able to direct this film, it is a major statement that such a large name would take interest in such a production.

Fay Grim (Sundance Film Reviews)

Posted by Tim Posada On 4:45 PM 0 comments
Parker Posey is considered, by many, the queen of the indie film world, and Hal Hartley is considered, by fewer, the king of that same kingdom. They collided some years back with the film Henry Fool, and they are back again with the sequel. Fay Grim is an intelligent comedy with fast paced dialogue that takes a turn for the dark at the film’s final climax. The story begins with Fay (Posey) trying to survive as a single mother to her teenage son, whom has captured the sexual attention of too many girls at high school. Added to this, the FBI and Fay’s brother’s publisher have a newfound interest in what Fay could know about the whereabouts of her missing husband Henry’s journal—which they consider to be brilliant and possibly contain national secrets. The events that follow lead Fay into the European world of espionage and terrorism, causing her to fight her way through gunfire and far too much mistaken identity.
The first noticeable feature about Fay Grim is the comedia del arte style acting that Posey performed wonderfully. The film’s white comes through the speed of its dialogue. As Hartley said before the film premiered, it is impossible to catch every line of dialgue and that’s okay. This plays extremely well when Posey has her phone on vibrate and has it on her—in her new outfit that has no pockets. This is also one of the view films to portray a middle-eastern terrorist in a positive manner—also revealing this terrorist to be the voice of patience, wisdom, and tortured conviction. For the less film savvy viewer, Fay Grim could be described as an indie-dark comedy with Gilmore Girls-esque dialogue.