Short Film: STAR RUNNER, 2min., USA, Animation/Experimental

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Ran sheng star runner poster srgb

From the Stone Age to the Information Age, from fire to steel, from the Stonehenge to the International Space Station, what is the motive power behind us? This experimental film illustrates what drove us went through the long road of human history, and the evolution of civilization and technology. It also encourages people to think about the future of our civilization – where are we heading?

  • Film Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Fiction, Experimental
  • Runtime:
    2 minutes 15 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 15, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    7,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Film Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color

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Short Film: STAR RUNNER, 2min., USA, Animation/Experimental

FEEDBACK Animation Film & Screenplay Festival

Ran sheng star runner poster srgb

From the Stone Age to the Information Age, from fire to steel, from the Stonehenge to the International Space Station, what is the motive power behind us? This experimental film illustrates what drove us went through the long road of human history, and the evolution of civilization and technology. It also encourages people to think about the future of our civilization – where are we heading?

  • Film Type:
    Animation, Experimental, Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Fiction, Experimental
  • Runtime:
    2 minutes 15 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 15, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    7,500 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Film Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color

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Director BIO: Ran Sheng (STAR RUNNER)

FEEDBACK Animation Film & Screenplay Festival

Director Biography – Ran Sheng

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Ran Sheng was born and raised in Beijing, China. Before came to Portland in 2015, he had accumulated rich experience in multiple areas, including graphic design, video, animation, and photography. Currently, Sheng majoring in Animated Arts at Pacific Northwest College of Art, where he focuses on stop-motion and hybrid animation, works with both physical and digital puppets, and keep exploring the endless possibilities of animated arts.

Director Statement

The main goal of this film is to raise questions and encourage the audience to think about our unknown future. “What’s out there in the universe? What’s the ultimate goal of human civilization?” or even “Why are we live?” It is also an experiment of using physical textures as a college in digital animation, to create a non-traditional visual style.

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Film Review: DARKEN (Canada 2017) **

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Darken Poster
A nurse finds herself in a dark and mysterious world.

Director:

Audrey Cummings

Writer:

RJ Lackie

The words at the beginning of tho new Telefilm Canada horror film DARKEN tells the audience: DARKEN is the resting sanctuary for all souls – whatever that means.  Darken is set in a bizarre, mysterious, and violent unknown world supposedly set with danger and death around every corner.  

Mother Darken appears to be the God in some alternative universe or different dimension.  Her high priestess, Clarity (Christine Horne) and oddball looking and acting assistant, Martin (Ari Millen) accuse a member of their religious sect of betrayal.  When the betrayer admits her guilt, she is stabbed and pushed out a door out of this universe.

A nurse, Eve (Bea Santos) helps the wounded girl, but ends up entering DARKEN through a one-way door.

Eve finds a violent prison-like world of labyrinthine rooms, interconnected with no apparent rhyme or reason and no way of escape.  If all this sounds weird and unbelievable – it is! As she fights for survival within this brutal place, she finds allies who are rebelling against the rule of a self-appointed religious despot who demands allegiance to the all-powerful god called “Mother Darken.”  Eve and the exiles, as they are called must fight with everything they have if they are to have any hope of surviving the horrors Darken has in store for them.  The exiles are told that they have to keep moving.  But apparently, they are moving nowhere – and getting to nowhere fast.  And again when one exile is wounded, Eve (humorously) says:” We need to move her now.”  

The film plays like a children’s playground game adults that have forgotten to grow up indulge.  The fight scenes are executed for more gore and violence that excitement.  Lots of pain are inflicted on the wounded.

Olunike Adeliyi playing an exile, Kali deserves an acting award for the most over-acting performance in a movie this year.  She demonstrates how to act with her eyeballs, nose, lips and grimaces.   The dialogue is terribly silly: “Mother (Darken) is terribly upset!”  “Whenever I turn my back, they always disobey me.”  “Mother is so angry with us.”  – being a few examples.  The character Clarity is exceptionally good at giving orders and doing nothing.  The exiles use lighters that they somehow have, to light their way in the darkness though none of them smoke.

Prior to the film’s theatrical release, the producers Shaftesbury had released an 11-part digital prequel series, Darken: Before the Dark on YouTube, taking audiences deep inside the fantastic otherworld of DARKEN.  The audience is presented here with multiple points of entry on a range of platforms to build a world around the film. With DARKEN, audiences can watch the digital series, connect and discuss on social, immerse themselves via the VR experience, see the film on the big screen, or pre-order it to re-watch at home

DARKEN went on to win Best Science Fiction Feature at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival, Best Fantasy Feature at Motor City Nightmares International Film Festival, and won four awards at Blood In The Snow Festival including Best Director and Best Cinematography.  Whatever all these awards mean, DARKEN is not a very good horror film – overacted, overdone, unbelievable story – a textbook case of maximum effort and minimum results.  But DARKEN is recommended for its unintentional humour!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Itt-itaQZi0

 

 

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Film Review: WESTWOOD: Punk, Icon, Activist (UK 2018) ***

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Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist Poster
Trailer

The first film to encompass the remarkable story of one of the true icons of our time, as she fights to maintain her brand’s integrity, her principles – and her legacy.

Director:

Lorna Tucker

 

The Westwood mentioned here is Dame Vivienne Westwood, fashion’s notorious rebel.  Westwood defined the British Fashion scene for 40 years and she is responsible for creating many of the most distinctive looks of our time.  Her partner at the time was Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren.

The film begins with Westwood speaking freely to the camera.  Director Tuckers knows her subject’s quaint personality and instead of asking questions with her answering lets her do the talking. “I do not like to answer questions,” she confesses to the camera. “Terribly boring.”  But Tuckers does ask her tot all about the Sex Pistols, which she grumbles about, ‘but that makes uninteresting talk.”  By letting Westwood talk, Tuckers intersperses her words with archive footage and images that are obtained on the subject.  The film surprisingly, flows very smoothly as if all the images and words matching identically.  Amidst all this, the audience learns of the origin of her design, together with watching many of her originals, many weird yet fascinating.  It is more is insightful to watch a documentary about a subject when the subject is still alive and able to speak about herself and her work to the camera.  Vivienne’s son and her manager, Carlo (both of whom do not get along) also have their say in the film.  Pamela Anderson, Christina Hendricks and Kate Moss make welcome cameo interviewees.

Despite the fact that Westwood is a worldwide known celebrity designer, Tuckers brings her down to earth by devoting a fair amount of screen time to her personal and business problems.  Her breakup with then husband Malcolm, her relationship with Andreas from Austria as well as her business problems make her a more vulnerable person.

The second half of the doc reveals Westwood as an activist for the environment.  She works with Greenpeace and is concerned about the end of humanity that comes with a dying planet.

There film blends archival footage, beautifully crafted reconstruction, and insightful interviews with Vivienne’s fascinating network of collaborators.

Director Lorna Tuckers herself spent her 20’s working behind the camera and jumping on tour buses with bands creating tour videos and music promos.  She understands the problems that come with success.  The film emphasizes Westwood’s reluctance of expanding her brad too fast.

And what is Westwood the person like?  She is shown to be bossy, fond of uttering foul language like the frequent use of the ‘f’ word and also not afraid to come down on her employees.  On a more personal level, she is shown to be a caring mother and one who would not take any nonsense from her at times, jealous husband, Malcolm.

Tuckers’s film moves along at a good pace,and her documentary makes as compelling a watch as her subject Dame Vivienne Westwood is compelling.

WESTWOOD the documentary comes to Toronto June 29 for a one week engagement at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvYmFcAegH4

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Film Review: NORTH MOUNTAIN (Canada) ***

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North Mountain Poster
In the dead of winter a young aboriginal hunter falls in love with a fugitive ex-con and helps him fight off an army of crooked cops seeking revenge.

Director:

Bretten Hannam

 

Made in 2015, NORTH MOUNTAIN is an almost full indigenous film from its direction, actors, setting, story and script.  

NORTH MOUNTAIN is the film’s setting as well as the area where the film’s protagonist a 30-something Mi’kmaw hunter first discovers the wounded body of a man that changes his life, also providing him some coming-of-age maturity for good measure.

Wolf (Justin Rain)is a young Mi’kmaw hunter, spends his days hunting and trapping on the isolated North Mountain.  His simple routine is disturbed when he discovers Crane (Glen Gould), a wounded ex-con on the run from the law.  Wolf brings him to his home, where he lives with his grandmother, Nan, nurses Crane back to health, and an intimate bond forms between them.  Some excitement is introduced with the arrival of a dirty cop from Crane’s past sets into motion a series of dark events that tests their relationship and changes their lives forever.  There is a huge bag of money.  Crane tries his best to remain incognito to prevent the family helping him from getting into trouble with the killers hunting him down.

It is a good story (that could be se anywhere) made even more intriguing with an indigenous setting.  A few snags in the plot involve how easily the bad guys keep finding Crane.  Best these overlooked as many Hollywood thrillers contain plot holes.  Director Hanna is also unafraid to include some violence (finger breaking) and gore to add a bit of flavour to his thriller.  The film is initially vague about Wolf’s family though everything comes clear towards the middle of the film.

“It would not be Christian if I did not look after her.” the film has minimal dialogue and each one indicates more than one bit of information.  The line for example, tells of the shopkeeper’s religion, her kind and caring nature and her relationship to the person mentioned in the sentence.

A good blend of drama, emotions with some suspense and thrills, NORTH MOUNTAIN is a well made indigenous film that should both appeal and entertain mass audiences.  Wolf uses his native hunting skills yo get better of the villains who hunt down him and Wolf for the large amount of money stolen from them.  How Crane got the money is never dealt in detail.

North Mountain is the directorial feature debut from Bretten Hannam, a Nova Scotia filmmaker, himself  of Mi’kma, Ojibweorigin while having a bit of Scottish ancestry.  He is a Fellow of the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters, Outfest Screenwriting Lab, as well as an alumnus of the Canadian Film Centre’s Screenwriting Lab.  After a wildly successful festival run and racking up multiple awards, including the Screen Nova Scotia Award for Best Feature Film, North Mountain gets a week-long engagement at The Carlton Cinema, beginning on June 29.

Shot in Mi’kmaw and English with some subtitles.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQyhnIHEzx4&feature=youtu.be

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Film Review: AMERICAN ANIMALS (UK 2018) ***

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American Animals Poster
Trailer

Four young men mistake their lives for a movie and attempt one of the most audacious heists in U.S. history.

Director:

Bart Layton

Writer:

Bart Layton

 

Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan), Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) are four friends who live an ordinary existence in Kentucky.   They plan, from watching old crime movies, to to steal the rarest and most valuable books from the university’s library that are worth $12 million or so.   The film unfolds, documentary style with the real men (other actors) re-telling the stories in flashback.  Writer/director Bart Layton, redoes the similar style of his hit 2012 documentary THE IMPOSTER which had won him a BAFTA Award.

“We must suppose that AMERICAN ANIMALS  – slowly migrated by successive generations from the outer world to the deeper and deeper recesses of the Kentucky caves.”  These words inform the audience right at the start of the story.

One can tell from the film’s start AMERICAN ANIMALS is not going to be the ordinary run-of-the-mill heist film.  It begins with the word “Based not on a True Story” followed by the fading out of the words followed by the word ‘not’ faded out.  Which implies that this fictional tale cold very be a true one.  Or a true tale that could be fiction.

“There was nothing in that background that would suggest something like that might happen.  They were pretty good kids.”  says the teacher at the start of the film, as a teen puts up blue make-up around his eyes, for a disguise to commit a heist.

There is a segment in the film when the director demonstrates a textbook example on how to life the spirit of an audience.  This includes arousing music, dancing and other scenes involving throwing caution to the wind.

Well written with lots of movie references, the film’s best line after they discover the enormous value of their loot: “We need  a bigger boat.”   Another involves Eddie trying to convince his friend to decide whether to be in or out of the venture without disclosing any details of the it: “This is your red or blue pill moment.”   The RESERVOIR DOGS nod is also surprisingly funny.  Another well-written set-up involves Eddie being bright into the Dean’s office for a pep talk which turns around once Eddie turns the tables on the talk.

As one character, the professor talks about the robbers in his classroom, the chalk scribblings on the board in the background make intriguing details that might give some additional insight into the film.  These are the details and little nuances that make AMERICAN ANIMALS stand out from the many heist films.  Needless to say, the film is often smart, funny and fresh.

Barry Keoghan plays Spencer, one of the robbers.  Keoghan was discovered by director Yorgos Lanthimos in THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER and was last seen in Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK.  He has that special look of a disturbed youth.  I would see any film Keoghan is in, he being one of the brightest new presence in films.  Actor Udo Kier who is fond of playing odd characters has a cameo as a ‘fence’, the person who guys valuable questionable goods.

AMERICAN ANIMALS is funny, fresh, smart and original while still playing homage to classic films.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKvPVvy2Kn8

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