Curtis Duffy, one of the country’s most renowned chefs, is building his dream restaurant at the worst time of his personal life. Already the recipient of two coveted stars from the Michelin Guide, Duffy has ambitions for his Chicago restaurant Grace to become the best in the country. But his laser focus on his cooking career cost Duffy his marriage and two young daughters. ‘For Grace’ follows the building of Grace from concrete box to its opening night. It’s a story about food, family, balance and sacrifice. It also revisits Duffy’s turbulent childhood — How a teacher recognized talent in a troubled teenager, how an unimaginable family tragedy made Duffy seek refuge in the kitchen, and how cooking ultimately exacted a price.
Then there are the mouth-watering food shots of Duffy’s creations like the salmon meyer lemon red cabbage, oyster blueberry sea bean, scallop huckleberry liquorice and golden beet black garlic strawberry, among others. There are lots of talking head interviews with executive chefs from prestigious restaurants as well as journalist,Mark Caro. It is good to hear from Duffy’s former mentor, Grant Achatz from Alinea Restaurant (which has earned itself three Michelin stars). Achatz hopes Duffy will surpass his accolades and success, as the former believes this is the measure of a good teacher. If a complaint could be levied against “For Grace” it is that it waits far too long to hone its focus on its subject. The audience learns about his culinary career, the famous chefs he worked under and the difficulties in leaving a restaurant and opening a new one, but it takes a while to finally get into Duffy himself. There’s a turning point where Duffy opens up and talks about a tragic story involving his parents where the film immediately becomes more accessible. Even with that insight, it still seems there is so much about Duffy that remains uncovered.
It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, “For Grace” has on the interest in fine dining experiences to the general public. At $205 a person for the tasting menu, it is hard to imagine fans of the film rushing out to Duffy’s Grace restaurant for a taste of the chef’s world renowned cooking. Though the world of fine dining may be off-putting and hard to crack to the average eater, “For Grace” just skates by on its look into the inner workings of building a restaurant and the sacrifices chefs make to be the best in the world For Grace is all about a charismatic, type A personality’s love of cooking as well as a chronicle of a small town recalcitrant who went on to achieve success and Michelin stars at various Chicago eateries before his latest crescendo, his own restaurant. This documentary is inspiring and while it does contain some drama, it is ultimately uplifting. It’s a story about the ingredients to life and it should prove to be essential viewing for any self-respecting foodie.
Made in Japan is Josh Bishop’s debut feature documentary telling the story of Tomi Fujiyama, the first female Japanese country music star. Though I’m familiar with pop cultural East meets West occurrences, I have to admit Tomi is completely new to me. I’d imagine the filmmakers would agree that’s the best way to go into Made in Japan. It’s impossible not to fall in love with Tomi from the get-go. Picking up her story nearly a half century later, Fujiyama, who proves to be a very endearing person, would love to be able to relive her legendary moment and return to the Opry stage. Director Bishop tells her story while following her journey to relive past glory.
Her first performance at The Opry was in 1964, when Fujiyama was in her early 20s. A half-century later, she wants the chance to repeat the greatest moment of her career. Of course, so much has changed over the years. First, The Opry isn’t even located in the same building anymore. It’s moved from the legendary Ryman Auditorium — i.e., “The Mother Church of Country Music” — to become part of a major resort well away from downtown Nashville. It’s a tall task for someone outside of Music City’s inner circle to land a gig at The Opry these days, as Fujiyama soon finds out as she journeys from her native Japan to Nashville to try and make her dream come true. You truly get the sense that, despite her upbringing, she was meant to be a country singer. While she speaks, you can certainly detect her accent, but when she sings all you hear is what sounds like an American country singer. She’s very much like Journey frontman Arnel Pineda – whose accent you hear when he speaks; but when he sings, you only hear Steve Perry.
Bishop meets with many individuals from the country music world; unfortunately for non-fans, their significance is pretty much lost, as they share their thoughts on Fujiyama and her impact on helping make music multicultural. As the film progresses, we meet the group of individuals who hope to get the ball in motion to help Fujiyama make her dream come true. One highlight is her reuniting with Rollin “Oscar” Sullivan, 91 at the time of filming, of Lonzo & Oscar, the duo responsible for bringing her to Nashville.
The only difference between the original web series and this Blu-ray cut is that the five episodes have been edited together into one continuous film. So we will review it via that experience. The impact of that change is minimal, as there are no extra scenes inserted and the transitions between episodes are still pretty noticeable. Halo: Nightfall introduces a mostly new cast of characters never-before-seen in the Halo universe; yes, this means that Master Chief is not in this film. Some have claimed this is Nightfall’s greatest failure; in actuality, this is Nightfall’s greatest strength. By giving us entirely new characters, Nightfall calls upon the Halo universe’s unique quality to show that every human can make a difference, even if you don’t have the strength or fortitude of a Spartan supersoldier. This is what makes Jameson Locke such a compelling character; he is an ordinary soldier with an extraordinary ability to lead. Mike Colter does a fantastic job of conveying this sense of purpose. He plays Locke with intelligence and charisma. Steve Waddington is a tough yet endearing co-star as Colonel Aiken, and though she isn’t given much to work with, Christina Chong shines in the brief moments she is allowed to, as does Luke Neal. While the other characters aren’t given much development, this is forgivable considering, in Colter’s own words, this was always written to be a film, not a series.
It is important to go into this film with the knowledge that it is NOT an action movie; it is a sci-fi survival-horror film with action elements. The purpose of this film is to give context to the upcoming Halo 5: Guardians (I won’t say much more so as to avoid plot spoilers). This film accomplishes its purpose perfectly while providing an entertaining piece of fiction which combines the survival-horror and sci-fi of Pitch Black and Alien with the wonderfully-explored psychology of Storm of the Century (e.g. survivors turning on each other). Each character has his/her own motivations which ultimately lead to compelling tension.
There is a rather weak attempt to turn the show into a psychological study of people put in a difficult situation, but it doesn’t really work. The short format of the series, plus the sub-par writing and acting, only makes the characters annoying rather than interesting. Instead of tense drama, you end up with trite stereotypes and predictable scenes. The CGI isn’t brilliant, but it does the job, but, as I have already mentioned, mostly it is a tale of people slowly losing control whilst walking around a large quarry. Quite where the purported $70 million dollars it cost to make the show went is a bit of a mystery.
This film is kinda worth watching, whether you’re a Halo fan or not. It provides an incredibly engaging story the likes of which I haven’t seen since Pitch Black, Alien, and Storm of the Century. Overall, this is really worth checking out if you’re into any of the genres I described above. I myself am a Halo fan who has played most of the games, but I watched this with several friends who aren’t Halo fans (one of them has never even played a single Halo game), but they enjoyed it just as much as I did. Halo: Nightfall is definitely worth getting on Blu-ray. It comes with lots of cool special features, too. Who doesn’t love those?
On February 21, 2013, Samantha, an American actor living in Los Angeles, received a message via Facebook that would drastically change her life. It was from Anaïs, a French fashion design student living in London. Anaïs’ friends viewed a video on YouTube featuring Samantha. They were immediately blown away by the identical appearance of Samantha & Anaïs. After a few light Google stalking sessions, Anaïs & her friends discovered that both girls were born on November 19, 1987 and adopted shortly after. Anaïs knew immediately that it was possible for Samantha to be her biological twin sister and reached out to her through Twitter & Facebook. This sparked the beginning of the journey for Samantha and Anaïs.
It is entirely lighthearted and sweet and nearly impossible to not be wildly charmed by “Twinsters.” Moments such as when Samantha and Anais meet for the first time and adorably giggle uncontrollably while inspecting every facial feature of each other shows the surrealism of the experience through the eyes of its subjects. Though the audience finds out the truth about their relationship (and perhaps a smidge too early in the film), one gets the sense that it truly doesn’t matter if they are twins who were separated at birth or not. As we see the two walk through England holding hands and virtually inseparable, it is abundantly clear that Samantha and Anaïs are bonded for life. It is an absolute pleasure to watch their relationship blossom as “Twinsters’” giant, beating heart mirrors that of its subjects.
The film marks the directorial debuts of Futerman and cinematographer, Ryan Miyamoto. It is a promising and feel-good documentary that shows the power of family and the role of nature versus nurture. The two ladies seem to have quite effervescent personalities and are warm and natural on screen. The main negative is that there are some extended sequences that are filled with in-jokes and laughter, where some more explanation or dialogue would have proved more interesting and enlightening. Some more airtime could also have been dedicated to their respective back stories and information about the ladies in order to give a more comprehensive picture.
Twinsters is a real-life Parent Trap and bizarre tale that seems stranger than fiction. It’s an interesting and unusual story that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. These two adorable girls finally found each other andTwinsters is the poignant and pleasant document of this, which is guaranteed to make you smile.
Ktown Cowboys is a raunchy comedy that stars an all-Korean male cast. The movie focuses on fleshing out the supporting characters from the web series, giving each character a conflict they must overcome. Peter needs to learn how to control his temper so he can succeed at his job; Danny is trying to pursue a career in comedy; Robby is trying to decide if he should go teach abroad in South Korea; and Sunny has ambitions to run a liquor store with his best bud Jason. Each of these characters needs to get from point A to point. Raunchy “boys night out” comedies are a dime a dozen, but with enough new quirks, charms, and new customs these “cowboys” succeed at making the formula work.
Unlike the web series, the film stars Jason (Shane Yoon) as its lead. After his father’s business gets busted for foul play, he works with his friends to save the family business. Along the way returning web series vets Peter (Peter Jae), Danny (Danny Cho), Robby (Bobby Choy), and Sunny (Sunn Wee) grow a little along the way, attempting to leave behind their party-boy attitudes in the gutter. There’s a point at the half way mark where Ktown Cowboys feels all flash and no substance. The film utilizes text for pop and zazz, which grabs the viewer immediately, but becomes tiresome as the movie wears on. It’s fun when the characters are explaining Ktown lingo, but less so when it’s used to just emphasize quotes.
That being said, director Daniel Park and writer Danny Cho have certainly grown since their beginnings with the web series. Their cinematography is more stylish, their characters are properly fleshed out, and the movie feels less like a tutorial video and packs a better story. However, Park and Cho seem to have struggled making the jump from television format to film, because Ktown Cowboys feels more like a lengthy series finale rather than an actual film. There’s an epilogue vibe to the last act of the film that neatly wraps all the characters arcs up in a nice and tidy bow. It’s less coming-of-age and more moralistic, but Park still manages to make it work.
Ktown Cowboys has enough heart to get past the bumps along the way though. Furthermore, Park’s movie is an important film. There aren’t enough Asian American films like Ktown Cowboys out there, and its raunchy Hangover vibe gives it a unique spin that connects to a younger, wider audience. Filled with wit and charm, Ktown Cowboys might not be as polished as bigger budget comedies, but it transports us to a world that many of us have never been to; and for those who have they will be delighted to see something so familiar in a movie as funny and sweet as this.
I’ll start this of by proclaiming myself as an incredibly avid Dragonball Z fanboy, therefor I was dying for this fan film to come out, and was hoping beyond hope that It was going to be fantastic. After seeing the film I smiled a good bit. DBZ: Light of Hope – Pilot is a fan made live action web series of the Dragon Ball Z TV special “The History of Trunks”. Robot Underdog have created what I believe is the best live action adaptation of the Dragon Ball series. The Dragon Ball series includes some incredibly entertaining fast paced action and Light of Hope was able to replicate that beautifully. The creators were able to capture the ferocious action with excellent use of special effects and camera work. The costumes were spot on and didn’t look goofy, they suited the dark tone that this short was trying to achieve. The actors did a good job, there was some cheesy dialog but nothing that detracted from the experience.
The editing was excellent, as I said before, the action is fast and that’s all thanks to some excellent editing. The sound editing, however, did need some tweaking. Some sounds were out of place and other sounds were a bit exaggerated, nothing too awful but it was noticeable. Something has to be said about the soundtrack, it was awesome. There were some incredible edge-of-your-seat music and there was also some really touching music such as the one playing while Trunks was talking to Bulma. It’s some great stuff and I hope the soundtrack is released separately.
Dragon Ball Z: Light of Hope is a fantastic achievement and the creators should be proud of what they’ve made here. They were able to create a fantastic adaptation of Dragon Ball with a small budget, something that Dragon Ball Evolution couldn’t even do. As a hardcore DBZ fan I can completely understand whats going, who everybody is and why it’s happening, but those who are either no fans or even super fans may get lost in the story for the film tends to run very fast; it feels choppy as if someone just took highlights from a full length feature film. The film also suffered from sub par sound engineering, though the sound effects we hear sound great it feels as though half of them are missing with sounds such as explosion impacts and environmental noises often being omitted, which was really off putting and even made the visual effects feel quite weak, as though the blast from the fighters were little lasers instead of powerful beams of explosive ki. I enjoyed the film and would recommend it to any DBZ fan but to anyone outside the fandom it would just be a crazed mess.
The film does a fantastic job bringing an important social issue to light, abandoned babies. They cover the social work done by a doctor in Korea, whose vocation was discovered when he himself had a disfigured child born. Rather than killing or abandoning the child which is what I probably would have done, he fostered it with love, and realized that it was his calling.
Before I really didn’t feel connected to mentally disabled or handicapped people, I always saw them at a sort of sub-human level due to their lack of intellect or offensive disfigurements. But after this journey it actually made me tear up a little bit during a few scenes, and made me very thankful that there are people and programs out there which support the forgotten. I grew up Catholic but have a non-practicing sort of believer for a while – this movie actually renewed my faith a little bit.
That is until the interview at the end. I suspect they added it because without it the movie seemed like it was only around 1 hour or 1 hour 10 minutes long. It was very forced and ruined everything for me – it turned the movie into a commercial for their abandoned baby cause, repeatingly asking for donations, and the director sharing his Christian conversion story was disgusting because it was self righteous and sounded fake. What made me really hate it is that it was a terrible choice by the production team. They easily could have showed snippets of a one on one interview with the director throughout the movie, sharing his story from atheism to Christianity, without making it too denominational. I really got a “Born again Christian” fundamentalist vibe from the interview group, and as a gay person, I was really turned off. Even if they had to make the interview fake, it’s a movie, so they can do whatever they want to make the message more powerful.
Brian Ivie did an excellent job telling the story of Pastor Lee’s work and presenting facts about the issue of abandoned babies in South Korea. Some people complain that this is “not a movie,” and they are right. This is a documentary because the stories involve real people who are still living today.His style of directing is quirky, youthful, and upbeat. This contrasted the seriousness and gloominess of the topic being discussed, yet highlighted the hopefulness of these lives being saved.
The movie follows Edward Bloom, an old man with a gift for storytelling. He tells many fantastic tales about his adventures he had in his youth; about how he wouldn’t stop growing, his parachute landing in a circus in the war, and how he met the love of his life. His son, though, does not believe any of his tales, and sets out to prove them wrong. However, he does discover that his dad was telling great stories because that’s what he is- a storyteller. This film does a great job of creating its own identity and not being an exact copy of Forrest Gump, while keeping a similar tone. It paints a beautiful portrait of one man’s life and tells us that amazing things can happen to anybody. Ewan McGregor plays young Edward, and aside from the fact that I find him smoking hot, he does an awesome job capturing the essence of this character and playing him believably. His unending love for his girl and his sheer honesty are played great. Alfred Finney, another favorite actor of mine, plays older Edward, and once again is just fabulous. The best scene comes near the end, when Edward Bloom is dying. His son drives him in a shiny car to a lakeside and carries him to the water’s edge. Along the way, they are surrounded by all of the important people in Ed’s life, ending with a vision of his wife in the water.
A lovely, touching film that has only gotten better over time. Big Fish has many detractors, even among people who are normally big fans of Tim Burton. I wonder if these people expect that every film he does should look the same? Because by the time Big Fish came out, he was frankly in a rut. I think it’s his most unique film and certainly one of his best. The performances by the cast are all excellent, particularly the supporting players. As the present-day Edward and Sandra, Albert Finney and Jessica Lange are every bit as good as you would expect from these vets. As the younger Ed and Sandra, Ewan McGregor and Alison Lohman both hold their own, though Lohman gets little to do. McGregor’s Southern accent is a little over the top but this is a story about a man who was over the top so it doesn’t really hurt anything. The rest of the cast is great. The look of the film is superb. I do wish he could have made it without much CGI (the “big fish,” for example, looked extremely fake). But I realize that I’m fighting an uphill battle asking that of mainstream directors these days. Anyway, great film. Heartfelt and magical. A tribute to storytellers. It’s also the film debut of Miley Cyrus but we’ll forgive it for that.
The audience experiences the father and son story through the eyes of the son (a character about as nuanced as the defecating elephant that also stars in the film) who visits his moribund old man after not having talked to him for three years. Upon this foundation, Burton and screenwriter John August create myriads of fairy-tale flashbacks, but never explain why all of this should be told to begin with – if not for some lads in the visual effects department amusing themselves by designing all sorts of unreal creatures and objects. The story is almost entirely void of emotions while most of the life lessons spouted by the father consist of him not being your usual fellow and that one can achieve quite a bit if mythical things happen in your life.
I’m not expecting every children’s film to exhibit a life lesson or have a specified purpose for existing, seeing as two hours purely dedicated on entertaining can produce a wonderful time for cinema-goers. However, Tim Burton strikes me as being more driven to entertain himself than the people watching his films – something that isn’t inherently counterproductive for his work, but gives it a sense of being rich on the outside and empty on the inside all too often. Big Fish thoroughly matches that description, boasting elaborate designs and colors for various locations and creatures, captured in beautiful cinematography, yet quickly loses this appeal, as there isn’t any more added to it. To be fair, the romance at the center of it is lovely to watch and the story arc in the town of Spectre a highly amusing one. But even if all little branches that come sprawling from the film’s premise were that enjoyable and assembled more coherently, I’d remain underwhelmed by its premise. Introducing a fully new plot point on a five minute basis, Big Fish is quite the antithesis of a dull film and shows the occasional potential of becoming a remarkable film for young and old. However, it turns out to be for neither of them: too frightening and violent for one, too absurd for the other.
It’s hard to write about Kung Fu Elliot because its best to watch with zero expectations and as little information as possible. Elliot’s behavior changes drastically following his return from a school trip to China, and while initially the hero of the story, he quickly becomes vilified by those closest to him. What’s unique about the filmmakers (Matthew Bauckman and Jaret Belliveau) in King Fu Elliot is that they break the wall between camera and subject, yelling at Elliot from off camera (sort of poking the bear), and ultimately changing the flow of the documentary. It’s as if the filmmakers, fully equipped with hidden knowledge about Elliot, antagonize him in order to make the documentary more interesting. While this, in a way, may seem cruel on the part of the filmmakers, it feels justified because of Elliot’s disgusting and overtly-sexual behaviour, and awful treatment of Linda. The doc is disturbing in some parts, but offers an interesting perspective of one man’s psyche, and his warped views on reality.
And yet, Kung Fu Elliot is one of those films that catches you out in ways you can’t ever imagine it would. On the surface, it’s a doco about Elliot Smith, a Nova Scotia resident who wants to be the next big martial arts movie king. The Double’s study of fractured identity and personhood plays in a (heavily) diluted Bressonian way—perhaps unsurprising as Bresson adapted several Dostoevsky works himself. Ayoade’s major divergence is one of subtlety: where Bresson opts for economy and evenness, Ayoade underlines and underscores at every turn. He seems to have set all dials to full, playing with a range of handheld versus locked off shots and a confronting use of sound. Though I found myself at times wishing he’d dial back, his deft directorial hand manages to keep the balance of accounts in the positive, displaying an underlying sense of style and whimsy which is as much Gondry as Gilliam.
Kung Fu Elliot is the very definition of a whiplash turn and while the chaotically chronic early parts threaten to showcase an implosion, the emotional consequences of the reveal are quietly gripping. It’s a shame there’s no follow up to those complicit to Smith’s ways other than onscreen titles, because an epilogue on this lo fi high laughs film, while stopping a lot of the discussions once the lights go up, would go a long way to answering some big meaty questions from the cinematic curveball.