Archive for October, 2013


The Great Hip Hop Hoax is a look at two Scottish rappers who live a lie in order to achieve fame and fortune.  Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd created their alter egos Silibil N Brains after they were laughed out of a London audition by record label reps.  The main focus of the film is how they were able to maintain their lie before succumbing to the eventual band breakup that stops careers before they start.

By faking American accents and becoming these loud, obnoxious personalities, Bain and Boyd were stereotypical Americans who conned their way into a record deal.  There were many instances where the entire lie could have crashed down around.  But it seemed nothing would expose their fraud.

However, as with most bands, they imploded.  Bain was a perfectionist who micromanaged the record production process too long eventually stalling the release of their record.  Boyd with a wife back in Scotland decided to return home and pursue another career.

The underlying theme was how far they were willing to go to achieve their need for validation.  The initial thought was the group would proclaim their Scottish origins once they reached the top; however, they further they got into the industry, the fear of exposure and retaliation pushed that from their minds.

Unfortunately, I was robbed of the ending (the film started late and I had to leave).  I am not sure what type of resolution Bain or Boyd reached once they parted ways.



Rock the Casbah is a look at the Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip in 1989.  A young group of Israeli solders are to patrol the streets and keep peace in the area.  However, after an attack on the group which results in the tragic death, the young solders a forced to deal with reality of their situation.  They commandeer the roof of a Palestinian family.  The focus of the film is on Tomer, a young soldier who witnesses two teens drop a washing machine on the head of a fellow soldier.  He comes to question many of the actions that he sees throughout the family as he tries to hold on to his humanity and sanity.

The soldiers treat the Palestinian family with contempt constantly barging in and out of the home at will despite the protests that they presence leads to their disgrace in the community.  When Tomer is put in charge of delivering a prisoner to an integration facility, he loses the actual person and is forced to find a replacement.  There is only a brief

This is haunting movie that reminds me of Full Metal Jacket with young soldiers questioning their actions and the disillusionment of conflict.  The last scene of the film shows a new group of young soldiers being sent into the strip to face their own loss.

the_rocket_tribeca_film_still_a_lThe Rocket was an interesting look at a child’s perspective as his family is forced from their rural home and their difficult journey for a new home.  When Mali gives birth to twins (one survives and the other is stillborn), the local custom dictates that the living one must be killed as well since he is cursed.  However, Mali stands up to her mother and spares the child’s life, begging that no one finds out.  The grown child, Ahlo, lives in a lush jungle village with his parents and grandmother.  He has a fishing business selling to the local market.  One day, Ahlo travels with his father to nearby dam.  Ahlo’s village is in the path of the next dam and the whole village will be relocated to a new moden community.  During their journey, Ahlo’s curse starts to strike as Mali is killed when the family attempts to take Ahlo’s boat with them.  When the remaining family reaches their new village, they find a trash strewn wasteland.  The dam compnay has not completed the community where they are supposed to live.  Ahlo makes a new friend throguh Kia, a young orphaned girl who lives with her James Brown look alike uncle, known as Purple.  When Ahlo’s family is forced to leave, they start out of journey that only cements Ahlo’s curse with his father and grandmother.  Their last hope rests on the family winning a rocket contest or they will be forced to move to the city.

The displacement of Ahlo’s family from their village was shown in an interesting way.  When they first arrive at the camp site, the villagers are told not to panic and that construction has just been slowed down.  When ahlo is being shown around by Kia, you can see the difference between the two children.  Kia quickly points out that Ahlo should not attempt to drink from the stream with is covered in trash.  They have a small fight when she tells to move away due the mosquito.  While Ahlo is making friends and having fun exploring the campsite, you can see the worry and doubt on his father’s face.  The element of war quickly appears as Purple, a solider in the war, shows Ahlo an old warhead near the village.  When the group travels to Purple’s village in search of a new home, they are forced to leave when they find the ground covered in fruit shaped bombs. 

Ahlo is able to redeem himself in the end and his family finds a new home.

22nd PFF Review: All is Lost

all-is-lost-clip-05222013-170437A man will to live is tested in All is Lost.  Robert Redford stars in this captivating story of everything going wrong for a man travel alone at sea.  First his boat collides with a shipping container damaging most if not all of the electronic equipment on the boat.  Next he travels into a very large storm which further damages the boat and leads to its eventual sinking.  Now Redford’s character is truly tested as he drifts along on a life raft desperately trying to learn how to navigate using a sextant.  A glimmer of hope surfaces as he realizes that the raft is drifting towards the shipping lanes.  However, that hope is quickly extinguished as he releases that the ships are too large and cannot see him.

 All is Lost is a visual marvel.  The ocean vistas are breathtaking. An interesting fact is that the underwater cinematographer used to be a wildlife photographer.  The scenes of fish and sharks around the life raft were amazing.

There is virtually no dialogue and no character development outside the character gradual acceptance that he will not survive.  At one point, the character stores some fresh water in a container prior to moving the life raft.  However, when the water is needed, the character finds that the cap as come off and all the water are gone.  He quickly develops an alternate source for fresh water.  He tries to fish for additional food but is not quick enough to keep the sharks from making easy meals from the catch.  Nothing seems to go right for him during the entire film.  His last gambit to be recused even backfires.

I thought the film was decent but I am not sure this will be a mainstream success.  However, I believe All is Lost will be in running for a few awards this season.

Last night was the opening night for the 22nd Philadelphia Film Festival. The film shown was All is Lost that stars Robert Redford as a man who trying to survive being stranded at sea. It was a good film and I will post my review tomorrow.

The remaining 10 days of the festival will feature movies from 36 countries. There are several Oscar contenders being shown, especially in the foreign category.

A few highlights are screenings of 12 Years A Slave and August: Osage County which will be screened tomorrow. Director Alexander Payne and actor Will Forte are scheduled to attend the screening of Nebraska on Monday, October 21st at 7:30pm at the Prince Music Theater.

If you are interested in purchasing tickets, click on the following link: 22nd Philadelphia Film Festival Tickets

There is an opportunity for free tickets through “PFF ON US FREE” ticket program. More information can be found on the website.

I plan on seeing 50 films and will post my reviews the following day.  Hopefully any local followers will have a chance to see some of the great films that are being offered.



I have not seen the first movie in this possible trilogy, but if the original is anything like the sequel, I am in for a good time.  Machete Kills is not a serious movie; you are expected to leave your brain and reality in the lobby while you enjoy this cinematic runaway train.  Machete Kills starts with lovers Sartana Rivera (Jessica Alba) and Machete (Danny Trejo) following a rogue group of American soldiers trying to sell weapons to the Mexican cartel.  However after the soldiers and then the cartel are eliminated by a third rogue group, Sartana suspects that there are more than weapons being traded and finds a nuclear weapon.  This results in a bullet in her head and a very sad Machete.  Machete is then recruited by bad-ass president, played by Mr. Carlos Estevez.  Machete must sneak into Mexico to retrieve the missile from a Mexican revolutionary Mendez (Demián Bichir). He is aided in his mission by Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) who quickly helps him get over Sartana.  Along the way he encounters some killer prostitutes led by Madame Desdemona (Sofia Vergara).  When Machete finds Mendez, he learns that Mendez has hardwired the missile controls into his heart so now he must get Mendez to the US to have the controls removed.  A bounty is placed on both their heads and in steps El Chamaleón, a face changing bounty hunter, who pursues Machete long with Desdemona trying to avenge her dead daughter.  La Chamaleón  is played by Walton Goggins, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, and Cuba Gooding Jr.  As you can guess, the main baddie is an American industrialist, Luther Voz (Mel Gibson) who claims to have seen the future and sets out to destroy the earth and start his own society in space.

There are a several big names in the movie, which is pure fun.  The special effects are stolen from a SyFy channel movie and are definitely over the top.  But it will probably be the funniest movie you would see this weekend.

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There was a Q&A w/ Director Robert Rodriguez and Actors Danny Trejo & Alexa Vega after the screening.  It was awesome discussion.  Considering that all three stars have made several movies together, you can tell they were old friends.  My question was asked “What was your favorite death scene in the movie?”  The answer teams of people being killed with the blades of a helicopter and Machete jamming his machete in an electrical box and holding on to a bad guy.


There was a trailer for Machete Kills Again in Space before the movie that was awesome and sets up the possibility of another movie.  I would love to see another Machete adventure!

Populaire is a French period film set in the late 1950s, that follows a young French girl who dreams a bigger life beyond her small hometown. If you liked Down with Love, then you will love Populaire. Rose Pamphyle, Déborah François, is first seen in her father’s shop teaching herself how type with a display typewriter. Rose applies for a secretary position at an insurance company run by Louis Échard, Romain Duris. After she dazzles Louis with her typing skills and gets the ,job, Rose quickly proves that she is inept as a secretary but Louis realizes he can enter her in a regional typing competition.  After Rose loses her qualifying tournament, Louis kicks the training into overdrive.  He develops little tricks to help Rose develop: painting her nails to match the training keys, making her type novels, and building a cover for the typewriter so she learns to type without looking at the keys.  As the training intensifies, Rose slowly falls in love with Louis.  However, Louis fails to see that happening as he focuses on Rose’s training.  He is also still pining for his high-school sweetheart, Marie, who is now married to an American GI and Louis’ best friend, Bob Taylor.

I enjoyed Deborah Francois’ performance and her development of Rose from a naïve country girl to savvy champion.  She still retains a certain level of vulnerability as the love she desires eludes her.  I have seen many films with actor Romain Duris.  He is very charming as Louis and does not try to be a Mad Men stereotype that many actors have fallen into recently.  Shaun Benson’s Bob Taylor add a well timed comedic foil to Romain’s serious Louis.

The soundtrack is amazing!  It is a combination of French versions of American lounge music and light jazz.  I would recommend Le Tango Des Illusions – Jacqueline Boyer.


The one central element of the movie Prisoners that is downplayed in the trailer is the fact that Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) is an egotistical survivalist.  When the two youngest daughters of the Dover and Birch families go missing, Keller quickly loses confidence in the police and decides to take matters into his own hands.  The primary suspect, Alex Jones, is a mentally impaired young man with a drivers license who gives off a definite creepy vibe.  The devoted Detective Loki, smoothly played with a interesting combination of arrogance and cockiness by Jake Gyllenhaal, pursues every lead with the relentless of a bulldog.

Prisoners is a very good thriller, however, there are a few flaws in the characters that made me want to jump in the screen and slap a few people.  Flaw number one: the fact that Keller has to be the person to find the missing girls leads him to make some very bad decisions.  He kidnaps Alex and takes him to his father’s old rental apartment to do whatever is necessary to get Alex to confess.  Eventually Alex’s aunt would notice he was missing, file a report, and guess who would be the first suspect: Keller.  Now Detective Loki’s attention is divided between catching a kidnapper and figuring out what you up to Keller!  Flaw number two:  the overuse of the red herring technique of suspects.  First Alex is the character favored to be the kidnapping, then the mysterious man who sneaks into the houses of both families, and finally Keller himself before the final reveal of the actual kidnapper.  Normally this would just raise the suspense factor but it just made me madder and it was obvious who the kidnapper actually was half way through.  The final and biggest flaw: Keller figures out who the kidnapper is and decides, again, to handle it himself with no backup plan.  I mean the kidnapper is smart enough to have two kids abducted in broad daylight and keep them hidden from the police for weeks and this man goes to confront them with no backup.  This idiotic move makes the ending a little satisfying though.

There are many high caliber actors/actresses in this movie.  Viola Davis pretty much runs any movie she stars in and this was no exception.


Pulling Strings is another feature from the same distributors as Instructions Not Included.  This rom-com follows Alejandro, a Mariachi singer, who wants to take his daughter to live her grandparents in the US.  He tries to get a visa from the local consulate but is reject by Rachel for not having the appropriate documentation.  Alejandro is aided by his friend, Canicas, who secures their band a gig playing at Rachel’s farewell party.  Rachel gets very drunk during the party and Alejandro comes to her recuse when she passes out on a bus stop.  When Rachel wakes the morning, Alejandro takes advantage of her to try to secure a visa.  Rachel has been given her boss’ computer to watch while he is away.  Alejandro hides the computer and arranges through his friends an elaborate scavenger hunt through Mexico City to find it.  Along the way, Rachel falls in love with Alejandro and starts to reconsider her impending relocation as well as try to repair her relationship with her busy body mother who recently arrived to visit.

The film examines the relationships that parents have with their children.  Rachel has strived to follow in her father’s footsteps as a diplomat.  Throughout the movie, her convictions are tested as she learns to open up to people and learn more about them.  Rachel also learns to relate to her mother who does not approve of her career choice of being a diplomat.  The rough exterior Rachel wears eventually is worn down by the end of the movie.  Alejandro’s relationship with his daughter, Maria, is not a straightforward as it seems.  He is shown to go the extra mile for Maria but the self-doubt regarding his parenting skills sabotages him along the way.  Alejandro has been pushing Maria away by trying to send her away to her grandparents; he is indebted to the local loan shark as he tries to send Maria to a private school she does not like attending.

This is a light movie with many laughs and a satisfying ending that is not heavy-handed.  The soundtrack is worth a listen to if you can find it on i-tunes

This movie introduced me to Jaime Camil, a popular Mexican actor with an amazing voice, and Omar Chaparro, who basically stole the movie with his crazy antics.  This

Terraferma tackles the social responsibility and mortality of immigration for fisherman on the small island of Linosa in the Mediterranean Sea. Filippo is a young fisherman who works with his grandfather on his fishing boat. The fishing industry does not fare well on the Island which has started to focus more on tourism as the main source of income. One day the boat comes across a raft of refugees. They call into the Coast Guard as it is illegal to assist the refugees. However, several people jump into the water and start swimming towards the boat. When Filippo’s grandfather follows the code of the sea and lets them onto the boat, he sets Filippo down a path that tests everything he believes in. Since they bring the refugees to the mainland, the local police confiscate the family’s boat which was the only source of income. Filippo now works for his uncle, who is a savvy businessman with the tourists. He tries to stear Filippo away from his grandfather’s old school way of life. A side story involves Filippo’s family taking in a pregnant refugee woman and her child. Filippo’s mother, still dealing with the death of her husband, initially rude, bonds with the woman and tries to sneak her and her family to the mainland.

This movie is also a coming of age movie that focuses on mainly on Filippo as he changes quickly during the summer. You can tell Filippo has led a very sheltered life on the island and he is forced to deal with and learn from some very serious issues. The hardest scene comes after Filippo refuses to help several refugees while on a date at sea. Following this incident, several bodies of dead refugees are found lining the shore of the island. Filippo obviously feels guilty for not assisting them but is conflicted because of the persecution the local police place on his family. The guilt leads him to take matters into his own hands when the local police start inspecting the only ferry off the island for refugees.

Terraferma looks at the impact of immigration and willingness of people to help.  Because the legal constraints that the locals face, the ethical dilemma that they face is much harder.

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