Film Review: PRESSING ON: THE LETTERPRESS FILM (USA 2016) ***

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Pressing On: The Letterpress Film Poster
Trailer

Why has letterpress printing survived? Irreplaceable knowledge of the historic craft is in danger of being lost as its caretakers age. Fascinating personalities intermix with wood, metal, …See full summary »

 

What is a letter press?  As explained in Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff’s documentary PRESSING ON:  THE LETTERPRESS FILM, it is a machine that presses letters on to paper using ink so as to make print.

The modern world was born on a printing press. Once essential to communication, the 500-year-old process is now in danger of being lost as its caretaker’s age. From self-proclaimed basement hoarders to the famed Hatch Show Print, PRESSING ON: THE LETTERPRESS FILM explores the question: why have 500 year old letterpresses survived in a digital age?

People are fascinated by the past.  As the old adage goes: the past helps humans understand the present and who they are.  With those thoughts come a film that provides insight on what the voiceover informs is an old art form.

Why has letterpress printing survived?  Irreplaceable knowledge of the historic craft is in danger of being lost as its caretakers age.  Fascinating personalities intermix with wood, metal, and type as young printers save a traditional process in PRESSING ON, a 4K feature length documentary exploring the remarkable community keeping letterpress alive.  The film begins with shots of presses at work.

It is hard to get people interested in letterpress machines or letter pressing – a thing of the past.  This remains therefore a dauntless task for directors Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff to get the audience interested less making a compelling documentary.  But maybe they can teach us a bit about history or about the technology of the invention.

The film introduces the audience to one letterpress maker who claims his lifelong task as the restorer of these machines, saying that he could only preserve 50 or so in the rest of his life time, adding that only a minuscule few new ones will be made.  “It is a fun machine to watch – to see all the parts moving around,” says he.  The film goes on with an enthusiastic graphics designer, Stephanie Carpenter who informs (as well as providing insight) of the 3 stages of letter pressing and how she learnt graphic design through this process.

Worlds of each character are portrayed as unusual narratives – in various states of human emotions of joyful, mournful, reflective and visionary stats, each punctuated with on-screen visual poetry, every shot meticulously composed.  Captivating personalities blend with wood, metal and type as young printers strive to save this historic process in a film created for the designer, type nerd, historian and collector in us all.

PRESSING ON ends up not too bad a documentary (yes, quite nostalgic, romantic and as oddly entertaining as its subjects) subject nor too bad a documentary either.  What can be more romantic than a married couple letter pressing in the garage together?  There are little messages imbued in the doc together with some light humour making it light entertainment and a good quiet watch on the smaller screen.

The doc is available On iTunes, DVD/Blu-ray and On Demand Tuesday, June 19 worldwide.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/269373025

 

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Italian Contemporary Film Festival: ROAD TO THE LEMON GROVE (Italy/Canada 2018)

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Road to the Lemon Grove Poster
A deceased Sicilian father, has one last outrageous mission in store for his son – spread his ashes in the lemon groves of Sicily, reunite two feuding families, discovering the heart and soul of who he really is.

Director:

Dale Hildebrand

 

The ad for the film goes “When life dishes you lemons…”  The film’s lead character is sure dished out a whole lot of lemons.  Guido (Nick Mancuso), a lecturer at the University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada is given one mission by his recent deceased father, who keeps appearing as a ghost speaking in broken English with an Italian accent. 

Guido is to spread his ashes in the lemon groves of Sicily, while reunite two feuding families.  Hopefully while doing the mission, he will also discover the heart and soul of who he really is and maybe win the heart of a beautiful Sicilian (Rosella Brescia).  If all this sounds like quite serious stuff, it isn’t as director Hildebrand is more interested in cheap clownish Italian humour.  Mancuso portrays Guido as quite the clown and even the ghost of the father is quite the goof.  

Lots of manic situations and Italian gestures.  A message here is to preserve old languages which is what the professor teaches to his sleepy and uninterested room of students.  Hildebrand does manage to get some good solid laughs from his comedic set-ups.  Any messages on preservation of language or doing good are lost in Hildebrand’s fondness for clownish humour.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHIp_1mZNJw

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Film Review: TAG (USA 2018)

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Tag Poster
Trailer

A small group of former classmates organize an elaborate, annual game of tag that requires some to travel all over the country.

Director:

 Jeff Tomsic

Writers:

Rob McKittrick (screenplay by), Mark Steilen (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

Writers:

Rob McKittrick (screenplay by), Mark Steilen (screenplay by) | 2 more credits »

TAG the film is based on the kids playground game “Tag”.  The comedy centres on a group of kids, now fully grown up with jobs who have been playing this game every year during  the month of May for 30 years.

Sounds unbelievable?  The ads and the film itself make sure that the audience is reminded of this fact.  Based on a True Story.  But this phrase can mean a lot of things and it seems that only the main fact that the men are still playing the game is true.  All else could have been made up for what Warner Bros. hopes to be a successful box-office male comedy to the likes of THE HANGOVER or HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.

The film is based on real-life friends from Spokane featured in a 2013 Wall Street Journal article, “It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It” by Russell Adams.  When the film opens, one of the friends, a CEO, Bob Callahan (Jon Hamm) is being interviewed by a Washington Post reporter (Annabelle Wallis) when he suddenly tagged by Hoagie (Ed Helms) who has sneaked into his office after gaining employment as a janitor.  The reporter decides to follow the men on the game to write her article on the friends playing tag.

The film goes downhill from this point and very fast.  The aim of the men is to tag Jerry (Jeremy Renner in Jason Bourne mode) who has never been it during all the many years.  Jerry is about to be wed to a high maintenance bride (Leslie Bibb) and this is the perfect opportunity to tag him as he has not much chance of getting away.

There is only so much one can do with this premise.  The chases get monotonous and one can only fall down in a limited number of ways when running away or banging into things.  Expensive ornaments get wrecked, windows broken, walls bashed in are what the audience is n for.  Director Tomsik (in his directorial debut, too and he is given this sorry script and story) even resorts to some inventive filming (example: the chases in a building are brought outside with the camera showing the chase as the men run past the windows) cannot lift the film from its mediocrity.  

The script by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen brings in the female element to expand the target audience with the characters of the bride and also Hoagie’s wife, Anna (Isla Fisher).  Anna is very eager to get into the game (gender equality?), helping her husband aggressively.  Unfortunately none of their antics evoke many laughs.  The script calls for Anna to scream lots of vulgarities that only serve to emphasize how desperate the film is in need of laughter.  Worse still, the script inserts a message (and a very  obvious and unbelievable one at that) towards the end when Hoagie is hospitalized.  There is one coloured character, Sable (Hannibal Buress) who is not given much to do.

The film runs an hour and 45 minutes.   This is one game that has run too long.  But the film’s budget comes under $30 millions which means that it should make a bit of cash for this male adult comedy.

TAG the film is really not it!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rQu77pgnpg

 

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Film Review: BEAST (UK 2017) ***

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Beast Poster
Trailer

A troubled woman living in an isolated community finds herself pulled between the control of her oppressive family and the allure of a secretive outsider suspected of a series of brutal murders.

Director:

Michael Pearce

 

BEAST is a British psychological thriver set in the small community of Jersey Island where the population are stuck and have nowhere to go unless they leave the island.

It is beneficial to know a bit about Jersey Island in order to appreciate writer/director Michael Pearce’s film.  The island is not part of the United Kingdom though the populace share a lot in common with the British including the currency of pound sterling  The island is self governing though protected by Britain’s Military.  The island lies between Britain and France close to Normandy.  The island’s landscape is stunning, especially the beaches and rocky cliffs, much like Wales, west of Britain.  Pearce’s plays his setting as a western, but a non-typical one.   There is a scene where the local folks line dance.

The film’s main actress is Irish and the actor South African.

The story revives around Moll (Jessie Buckley), who is 27 and still living at home, stifled by the small island community around her and too beholden to her family to break away.  Her over-bearing mother (Geraldine James) does not help Moll’s situation either.  When she meets Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a free-spirited stranger, a whole new world opens up to her and she begins to feel alive for the first time, falling madly in love.  Finally breaking free from her family, Moll moves in with Pascal to start a new life.  But when he is arrested as the key suspect in a series of brutal murders, she is left isolated and afraid.  Choosing to stand with him against the suspicions of the community, Moll finds herself forced to make choices that will impact her life forever.

So far so good and the film works extremely well up to this point.  It is the last third that Pearce’s film starts to fall apart, starting from the plot becoming too convoluted with a need for a plot twist, which does not take a genus to predict.  If the last 10 minutes were removed and the film ended there, BEAST would have resulted in a much better film.

The film benefits mainly from both the performances and chemistry between the two leads,  Buckley and Flynn.  Director Pearce makes good use of the film’s island setting with many of the key scenes shot on the beaches and cliffs.  Geraldine James is also excellent as the overbearing mother.  “Maybe I have been too soft on you.”  She says.  Or “Let’s be friends again,” after she gives Moll a good scolding.

It is clear that Pearce intends to show that a beast exists in every one of us, as in each of his characters.   Moll has a secret past involving her stabbing a classmate with a pair of scissors.  Pascal has quite the temper.  When he shouts at the top of his voice to Moll: “I love you.”, one can tell that is a sure sign of an abusive relationship leading to domestic violence.  Mother is beasty over-bearing and the cop who has a thing for Moll turns out quite nasty as well.  The woman cop interrogator in the film’s best scene shows her true colours suddenly coming down on Moll during a questioning: “Are you protecting the innocent or taking revenge on the world?”

Besides its flaws, BEAST is a gripping film from start to end aided by the fact that it is true that everyone (in the film and in the real world) has a hidden beast on their inside.

Trailer: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#search/beast/1634ad8adeacebc4?projector=1

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Italian Contemporary Film Festival: THE PLACE

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The Place Poster
Trailer

Director:

Paolo Genovese

Writers:

Christopher Kubasik (original story), Paolo Genovese (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

 

Arguably the most touted film of the ICFF and the film chosen to close the last Rome Film Festival, this high concept film has a setting in a bar called THE PLACE.  The neon sign brightly lights up the bar entrance in repeated scenes.  At a fixed table, a mysterious man meets up with 10 different strangers one at a time. 

 The man offers each stranger a chance to better him or herself on a certain condition to be met, which might not be an easy one.  A blind man gets a chance to regain his sight if he rapes a woman.  A nun who has lost her faith is given a chance to redeem it if she loses her virginity and gets pregnant.  As the film progresses, the man meets each stranger a repeated times.  Is this man the devil or an angel of God?   

The film investigates the beast inside every person just like the similar film BEASTS which also opens this week.  Director Genovese uses different camera tactics (different angle shots) to vary the monotony of the one idea film, but the film leads nowhere.  The film contains an all-star cast that Italians will more likely be familiar with.  A disappointment after hearing all the hype about this film.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQR1FESfKM

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Film Review: THE INCREDIBLES 2 (USA 2018) ***1/2

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Incredibles 2 Poster
Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) is left to care for Jack-Jack while Helen (Elastigirl) is out saving the world.

Director:

Brad Bird

Writer:

Brad Bird

 

If one is making an animated action hero movie for the family, it makes sense to make the family movie about an action hero family at that.   THE INCREDIBLES 2, the sequel to the successful THE INCREDIBLES is just that, keeping the spirit of the first one intact while introducing the new addition to the family, the tot, Jack-Jack for extra good cheer.  And of course, this baby has super powers too, not only unknown (and multiple ones) but unharnessed as yet, much to the chagrin of papa Incredible.

The super action hero family is comprised of Bob Parr aka Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and wife, Helen Parr aka Elastigirl (Helen Hunt) with their son, Dash (Huck Milner) who has superhuman speed and daughter, Violet (Sarah Vowell).  Father’s best friend is actually a robot, Frozone, Lucus Best (Samuel L. Jackson) who can turn humidity into ice.  This is probably the only film that Jackson never gets to say the ‘mother….The family have assorted super powers that they use to fight crime, only that there is one problem.  They are not allowed to as the government has established that more damage have been caused by the super heroes fighting come than the crimes themselves.  This is observed in the film’s opening sequence when the Incredibles chase after  the villain, Underminer (John Ratzenberger) as he flees in his drilling vehicle, stopping him before destroying City Hall. But the level of damage caused by the debacle is more than the authorities can handle. Rick Dicker (Jonathan Banks) informs the Parr family that his department in the Super Relocation presses most of the acts 

With so many action movies in the theatre (especially the marvel superhero Universe and the Star Wars films – last month saw three action hero movies HANS SOLO, DEADPOOL 2 and AVENGERS) , there is the need to differentiate THE INCREDIBLES 2 from other similar genre films.  The plot therefore does not include the saving of the planet or the universe as the main issue at hand.  The main issue here is the legalization back of the super heroes – to allow them to return to fight for humanity.

Most of the actors in the original INCREDIBLES reprise their roles with  Bob Odenkirk, Catherine Keener, Sophia Bush and Isabella Rossellini, voicing new characters.

THE INCREDIBLES 2 has an over convoluted plot involving the different villains and the hypnotic shields that will all prove too much for younger kids to understand and parents to follow if they are in the theatre controlling their kids.  The film runs a bit long at almost two hours, not counting the short animated featurette.

THE INCREDIBLES 2 ends brilliantly and spiritedly, keeping the spirit of both the need for action heroes and (also the need) of the family alive! 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5qOzqD9Rms

 

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Italian Contemporary Film Festival: THE GIRL IN THE FOG (Italy/France/Germany 2017)***1/2

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La ragazza nella nebbia Poster
Trailer

Special agent Vogel is sent to an isolated town in a remote mountain valley to investigate the case of a sixteen years old’s disappearance.

Director:

Donato Carrisi

Writers:

Donato Carrisi (novel), Donato Carrisi (screenplay)

 

Italian author Donato Carriso makes his film writing/directing debut with a top notch European-style mystery thriller set in a small mountain community of Avechot where a girl goes missing a few days before Christmas.

  She was last seen going into a fog.  The film opens with a meeting between the psychiatrist (the always excellent Jean Reno from the Luc Besson films) of Avechot, and police officer Vogel (Toni Servillo), famous for his inquiries and love of television appearances.   Then there’s a flashback: young Anna Lou Kastner, daughter of parents belonging to a fraternity of religious fanatics, leaves home two days before Christmas and disappears into the fog, allegedly abducted by a maniac assassin. Vogel arrives to investigate along with the television troupe, including hyenic journalist Stella Honer (Galatea Ranzi).

The first to be suspected is a mischievous kid, which then points the investigation towards a charming but well-behaved high school teacher (Alessio Boni).  But nothing is what it seems.  Carrisi accomplishes the task of keeping his audience glued to his well played out whodunit with his expert but flawed inspector.

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

 

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