26th Annual San Diego Latino Film Festival

sdlff bannerThis year’s San Diego Latino Film Festival (SDLFF) from March 14 – 24, 2019 marks its 26th year. It will take place at the AMC 18 Fashion Valley theaters and Digital Gym CINEMA in North Park.

Started as a student film festival by Ethan van Thillo (SDLFF’s Executive Director), it is now one of the largest celebrations of Latino film in the world. It’s not rare to run into names like Edward James Olmos and Kate del Castillo. “I am confident that through the power of cinema and storytelling, we can continue to break down walls and create a more just and equitable world for future generations” said van Thillo. SDLFF was born out of a desire to challenge the negative stereotypes about the Latino experience in movies and to give Latino filmmakers a chance to show the world the realities and richness behind the Latino identity.

This year’s celebrations will include a special screening of the 15 finalists of the Migrant Voices FilmCompetition highlighting the current humanitarian crisis unfolding along the San Diego-Baja California Border. Also, a tribute to iconic Mexican actor Damián Alcázar, a 26th Annual ‘Classics Film Showcase’, 75 + guest filmmakers/celebrities, and the 26th Annual Awards Ceremony Gala to be held March 23rd at Music Box. Plus, over 160 films from Latin America, the United States, and Spain, celebrity appearances, live concerts & performances at the Sonido Latino stage, and the 4th Annual Sabor Latino – Food, Beer & Wine Fest.

Highlight films include:

Soccer documentary (Mexico) Chivas, La Película; romantic comedy (Mexico) La Boda De Mi Mejor Amigo; music documentary (Panamá / Argentina / Colombia) Yo No Me Llamo Rubén Blades; boxing drama (Mexico/Finland) Bayoneta; sports comedy (Spain) Campeones; drama(Paraguay / Germany / Brazil / Uruguay / Norway /France) Las Herederas; adventure drama (Mexico/Colombia) Cómprame Un Revólver; mystery drama (Mexico) Dos Veces Tú.

sdlffTickets and Festival Passes are now on sale. An all-access special *VIP Pass* can be purchased for $300. A Festival Pass; which includes Media Arts Membership can be purchased for $225 (includes over 160 films, front of the line access, entrance to Opening and Closing Night celebrations and more. Film Pass can be purchased for $120 (includes entrance to 11 films, + priority access). Passes are non-transferable. Individual ticket sale prices are: $12.00 General Audience, $10.00 Students/Seniors, $9.00 Members.

For festival and ticket information visit the festival’s website at www.sdlatinofilm.com or call 619-230-1938.

Mary Poppins Returns – Film Review

4stars

M2When the original Mary Poppinsfilm came out in 1964, it was a refreshing and light-hearted story that audiences ate up with a spoonful of sugar. The playful nanny and her chimney sweeper sidekick, provided the perfect distraction from the chaos and violence that was ripping through the outside world at the time, think the Vietnam war, race riots, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Disney catered to baby boomers, who were just children then, the opportunity to escape the news and dreadful events, and just focus on feeling good. I wondered, why revive a movie that is now over 50 years old and start anew? It is clear that what the world needs now, everyone from baby boomers to kids today, is an escape from the negative airwaves that are polluting our minds. The truth is we need a break, and who better to fly in through a gust of wind and help us, than the magical woman herself, Mary Poppins.

In the new film, Mary Poppins Returns, directed by Rob Marshall, Mary’s (Emily Blunt) former charges, Michael (Ben Whishaw) and Jane (Emily Mortimer) are now grown-up and live together with Michael’s three children. His wife just passed away and Michael is learning how to care for them with the help of his sister. He is still grief-stricken and trying to cope with the loss. On top of this, the bank has come to repossess their home, as Michael took out a large loan against the house and forgot to make the payments in his state of grief. The issue is he did not read the fine print and now the loan is due back in full. Michael’s father had shares in the bank and he learns that if he can find that certificate, then he can save the house. The problem is, he has no idea where that certificate was kept.

nullThis creates the perfect storm for Mary to step in and just as she did before, she comes through out of nowhere literally and steps in as their nanny. The older children remember her and the magic, but scoff, as they believe it was all in their imagination. She takes the children, who are in desperate need of some parental direction, and brings back their child-like wonder. The children had been so set on trying to put on the food table and take care of their father, that they forgot how to laugh and be free.

She takes them on wild adventures through bath tub, and into another world inside of their mother’s prized vase. Inside the vase, the children are transformed and enjoy a musical moment that is intertwined with animation on the screen. The animation was like that of the original film and was not revived to look like the Disney and Pixar movies that we know today. I enjoyed the fact that they kept it classical in nature and a throwback to a simpler time in movies.

Mary’s sidekick this time around is the scruffy and chummy lamplighter Jack, (Lin Manuel Miranda), who gives us most of the musical moments in the film. They redo the infamous chimney musical scene, but replace it with his lamplighter buddies and it turns out to be one of the most infectious displays of fun and dance in the film. Miranda stuns in the film, he imparts the child-like feeling of delight and joy in every scene that he is in and his musical numbers, especially the “A Cover is Not a Book” number.

The cast is rounded out by Colin Firth, who plays the evil bank-owner, and we get wonderful cameos by Dick Van Dyke and Angela Lansbury. The absolute best part of the film was seeing Van Dyke, I will not ruin the fun and tell you what happened but let me he does not disappoint. You could feel the entire audience clamor and clap like children when he arrived on the screen. A testament to the power that the original film had on people, it made us happy; and seeing him on screen again will make you smile.

Blunt was the best part of the entire film, she imparted on to the iconic role a subtle sense of charm and wit, and always delivered every line with a sly smile on her face. She does not try to act like Julie Andrews, but instead it infuses the role with her own no nonsense type of flair. She will leave an indelible memory on those who watch and will most likely garner an Oscar nomination for her role.

M4The colors used in the film were beautiful and saturated, and only added to giving this revival the jolt that it needed to have in order to succeed. The costumes were stunning and again this movie will get numerous Oscar nominations in many different categories, that is a fact. 

I have to say the children in the movie, Pixie Davies, Nathanael Saleh, and Joel Dawson, were the most delightful actors I have seen in a long time. Acting alongside such heavy-hitters they performed with ease and stole many of the scenes. I am sure they will be ones to watch.

I highly recommend this movie for both adults and children. This might just be the most supercalifragilistic movie of the year.

 

Dear Evan Hansen – You’re Not Alone

Dear Dear Evan Hansen Potential Theatre Patron,

You may cry some tears as the show deals with tough topics like suicide, depression, anxiety, and divorce. Multiple characters explore the feeling of not belonging regardless of their situation and the everyday persona they present to the world. A great show for parents to watch with their teenagers, if you can get them to be seen in public with you. That was a joke.

Dear Evan Hansen PhotoThe story centers around Evan Hansen (Ben Levi Ross), he has social anxiety and can’t help but act awkward around his peers. He’s from a single mom home and one of the feelings explored is his desire to spend more time with her. As young people, we often forget that our parents are human beings. They taught us all that we know so we expect them to be perfect sometimes, they’re not.

When Evan gets an assignment where he has to write a letter to himself, it’s full of feelings of isolation. It also introduces us to his crush, Zoe (Maggie McKenna), the thought of her is what keeps him going. He pins his hopes on her in this letter. Her brother Connor (Marrick Smith), who also has issues of his own that no one knows about, finds it and gets upset. Connor’s parents find Evan’s note after he commits suicide. This leads them to believe that Evan and Connor were friends. Evan sees how happy this makes them given that Connor was a loner, and the lie spirals out of control from there on out.

Dear Evan Hansen PhotoBesides dealing with feelings of isolation, it also delves into social media and the validation that people can become addicted to. It can never be enough since you’re still physically isolated. When things spread mouth to mouth, they often tone down after a week. With the internet, things can be explored further and spread to people outside of your zone. In this case, a lie spreads that brings good, but still, it’s a lie. Although, it can help prolong a cause, story, or provide someone with a few more minutes of recognition, it will also eventually be forgotten.  

It touches a lot of elements that will strike a chord with many. It also has a catchy soundtrack reminiscent of Rent. The stage set and how they present social media is intriguing. They have multiple screens representing different online networks with voice overs for posts that you will see scrolling through.

So, does Evan get found out for lying? You have until December 30th to find out. If you leave the show with anything, may it be knowing that no matter what you’re going through, you’re not alone.  You Will Be Found.

Sincerely,

Me

Details:

Where: Curran Theatre, 445 Geary St., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. most Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1 and 7 p.m. most Wednesdays and Sundays; 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; closes Dec. 30
Tickets: (415) 358-1220 or sfcurran.com

*There is a digital lottery offering fans the chance to purchase a limited number of $25 tickets. For details and to enter, go to: www.luckyseat.com/dearevanhansen. Good Luck!

Cirque Du Soleil’s Volta – Finding Freedom in You

AdcFv24gCirque Du Soleil’s Volta is the 17th show presented under the Big Top at AT&T park in San Francisco. This rendition has a more urban feel than previous shows due to its inclusion of stunts with BMX bikes and a game of double dutch. These are things that some of us have seen in our own neighborhoods and are always impressive. It triggered many in the audience to rise in applause.

The story revolves around Waz, a young blue-haired teenager who doesn’t seem to fit in with his peers. They walk around in unison with drab gray outfits, taking selfies, oblivious of their surroundings. Although, he also wears the same outfit, he can’t help but stick out because of his blue hair. 

After entering a contest where he shows off his bike skills, Waz ends up not only being mocked by them but also as a punchline in the newspaper. A critique in the lack of differentiation between mainstream media and viral content. He goes into a depression and we see him in his bedroom reminiscing of more innocent times with his mother, who encouraged and cultivated his free spirit.

Waz eventually breaks out of his funk when he meets a roller skater and her friends, bringing color to his drab life with their free spirits and human connection. He finds himself, that person he was with his mother, in them.

4WKREpRA

One of the things that stands out at each Cirque show is the sheer joy that emanates from the stage from the performers. This certainly contributes to their success beyond the incredible stunts and costumes, and a reflection of this show’s story line. Being around joy can cultivate joy within oneself. Another hit that’s great for the whole family with an important message about judgement and self-awareness.

Cirque du Soleil

VOLTA is Cirque du Soleil’s 41st original production since 1984, and its 18th show presented under the Big Top. The company has brought wonder and delight to more than 190 million spectators in more than 450 cities on six continents. Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group has close to 4,000 employees, including 1,400 performing artists from close to 60 different countries.

Performances are scheduled under the Big Top at AT&T Park in San Francisco from Thursday, November 15, 2018 through Sunday, February 3, 2019.

Tickets (starting at $54) by visiting cirquedusoleil.com/volta or calling 1-877-9CIRQUE (1-877-924-7783).

Men on Boats at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater

MOB_058“Men on Boats” tells the story of the 1869 expedition by one-armed ex-soldier John Wesley Powell. The playwright, Jaclyn Backhaus, was inspired by Powell’s published journals. The historic expedition to explore the lower reaches of the Colorado River, via the gorges of the Grand Canyon was the first sanctioned by the U.S. government, one of many tongue in cheek facts pointed out throughout the play. These aren’t unexplored waters, but those previous expeditions, weren’t government sanctioned ones! 

MOB_093_ePowell, a Civil War veteran, assembles ten men for the journey with varying skills and temperament. Represented by a cast of ten local racially diverse female identifying, trans-identifying, gender-fluid and/or non-gender conforming actors. Some may ponder on why a play called, “Men On Boat’s” included no male identifying actors while others, are laughing at the ridiculousness of the hyper masculinity of it all and thinking, that could only have been portrayed this way. There is chest bumping, exaggerated cheers over found whiskey, and a blind following of their leader.

There are also moments of bluntness about the countries past in which Native Americans and their knowledge of their land is dismissed unless the “brave” explorers needed help and/or food. One of the quirkier moments brought to stage involves the men naming areas after themselves. How about we name that after you moments followed by writing it down to make it official.

In the end, Powell and his crew of 5, 4 drop out early on, find the camp they were directed to. They are welcomed by one of the dwellers with a hysterical speech about MOB_020_ePowell’s future place in history. As for the other crew members, they went down in history nameless, and probably died in undesirable circumstances. We’ll never know what happened to them but, who cared, not the historians. Regardless, they stuck it out and helped their one armed leader survive and have his place in history, because that’s what men do, tough it out. Ahhh,, bromance. 

All the actors brought their A game in roles that required a macho bravado they would almost never get to play in other shows. They had good comedic timing, movements and great chemistry with one another. That and the minimalist set makes for an enjoyable theater experience full of laughs. 


WHERE:

A.C.T.’s Strand Theater (1127 Market St., San Francisco)

WHEN:

October 17–December 16, 2018

PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE:

Tuesdays–Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Sundays at 2 p.m.

TICKETS:

$15–$110

INFO:

415-749-2228 | act-sf.org/boats

3stars

BH2There are people who come into this world, this galaxy, and shine so bright that they were meant to be stars. These people they’re not like most of us, there is something so unique about them, that we can’t help but stare and sit there like addicts wanting more. Freddie Mercury or Farrokh Bulsara, was one of those people. He gave music fans around the world something special and just like that, in 45 years he was gone. The biopic film Bohemian Rhapsody directed by Brian Singer, tells the story of not only Mercury, but of the band. How they came into existence and how they were catapulted into fame with their iconic hit songs.

Mercury (Rami Malek) was a baggage handler at Heathrow airport who happens upon the band Smile. While he sips a pint, he looks around at the audience and is enthralled by the buzz of the concert. On his way to meet the band, he meets Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), and from there springs a love story that will last his entire lifetime. Call it kismet or good luck, the band’s lead singer ditches them, and they need a front man. When Mercury approaches them, he tells them he can sing. With his overbite and shaggy hair, he doesn’t appear to be the singer of their dreams, but when he belts out a tune they immediately hire him.

From there it happens fast, he goes from the shy Parsi boy from Zanzibar to the lead singer of one of the most iconic and enthralling bands of our time. The film showcases his gift for song writing and how the band’s different energies made the songs unique. Roger Taylor (Ben Hardy), the drummer, was the staunch critic who always put up a fight against a lyric or riff, then there is guitarist Brian May (Gwilym Lee), who has a knack and flair for knowing how to fit the melodies together (oh and he came up with the infamous clap-back idea for We Are The Champions), and the pacifist of the group bassist John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) who came up with many of the ingenious lyrics and chords of their songs.

BH4I don’t have to tell you what happened to the Titanic, same for the band Queen. Many know the songs, the lyrics, and what happened to Mercury. The film glosses over much of Mercury’s life as a gay man and as someone who contracted and died of AIDS, instead we get hazy scenes of gay clubs and truck stops, and the audience can seemingly understand what was going on in his life. This is not Dallas Buyers Club, you will not see Mercury go through a harrowing collapse or whittle down to 100 pounds. This is not that type of movie.

The focus instead is on his relationship with Austin, whom he loved from the day he met, married, and begged to never take off her wedding ring. She was there till the day he died. After he confesses to her that he is bisexual, she tells him that he is gay, and she knew it all along. She supported him through thick and thin and was always there to pick him back up.

BH6The movie showcases the band’s rise to stardom, how Mercury is thrown off base by manager Paul Prenter (Allen Leech), the dubious villain of the film, and how they come back together as a band. Just like any biopic, the film can only highlight so much, and under the tutelage of executive producers, Roger Taylor and Brian May, it is obvious that they had some input into how the movie was put together. This is their vision of the band, we don’t see a lot of down in the dumps moments, or Mercury on his deathbed, instead we see a story about a group of men bonded together for life by an experience that only they will ever understand.

What struck me the most about the film was Malek. He will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Mercury. He wears a set of teeth to mimic the singer’s and we see him as shy one minute and flamboyant and wild the next. The whole time we are watching it, we almost forget that it is not Mercury on stage, but Malek himself. This is the role he was meant to play and one that will be sealed in his acting repertoire forever.

DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey.

DF-10956_R – Gwilym Lee (Brian May) and Rami Malek (Freddie Mercury) star in Twentieth Century Fox’s BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY. Photo Credit: Alex Bailey.

I also couldn’t keep my eyes off of Lee, who portrayed May exactly as I have always envisioned him to be in real life. Calm, cool, and collected, yet able to wail on a guitar like no other. Also keep your eye out for Mike Meyers who funnily enough makes a cameo as music producer Ray Foster, who rejected Bohemian Rhapsodyfor being too long.

You will see a lot of mixed reviews about this movie. First, you need to understand that this was made for mainstream audiences, and they will love it. They will eat it up with a spoon and want to lick every edge of it off. The film delivers with the highlight reel of their most spectacular arena performances, but the true shining star of the film is Malek’s performance as the legendary singer.

 

rhapsody movie poster

 

Starring: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy,Joseph Mazzello, Aidan Gillen, Allen Leech, Tom Hollander, Mike Myers, Aaron McCusker
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Anthony McCarten…(story by) and Peter Morgan…(story by) Anthony McCarten…(screenplay by)
MPAA rating: PG-13
Running time: 2 Hours 14 Minutes
Rating: 3

 

Mid90s – Film Review

4stars

The film Mid90s accurately captured the adolescent sentiment that many people grow up with, the feeling that parents don’t understand our feelings, and the undeniable urge to seek out fun and excitement on our own terms, like I did when I was a teenager. I must have been 17 or 18 when I gave my 13-year-old cousin my World IndustriesWet Willy skateboard because to be totally honest, I sucked at skateboarding. From there he ran with it and fell in love with the sport. We would watch Shorty’s, Zero, Toy Machine, and Birdhouse videos on loop, to name a few. I would take him to our local community college, by trolley of course, to try to land some tricks and he failed most of the time, but it was still fun to go and mess around. Skateboarding is a rite of passage for a lot of people, especially those that don’t feel they fit in anywhere else. He was trying to find a niche or a tribe for himself, unfortunately he ended up giving up skateboarding and fell in with some other people and at 18, he was tragically killed. I will never forget those years we spent together, being young and free, bonding over skateboarding we became super close. Mid90s took me back to those days.

M905Jonah Hill makes his directorial debut and spent years working on making this film historically accurate in every way. He went straight to skateboard companies like Chocolate and Girl for old school 90’s gear and decks, and it worked. The film was also shot on Super 16 mm, which adds to the grittiness, giving it texture. The digital photoshopped feeling of recent movies isn’t felt here.

The film centers around Stevie (Sunny Suljic) or “Sunburn” as they call him, who is a regular lower-class kid living in Los Angeles with his single mom (Katherine Waterson) and older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). He happens into a skate shop and ends up bonding with all the guys, they give him a skateboard and he becomes part of their crew. There is an instant bond there for him and he is eager to fit in.

He drinks forties with ease and takes puffs of marijuana like a seasoned pro, but the reality is that he is not an expert, he is just pretending to be one. I guess like most young people are, when they are trying to fit in and be accepted by their peers. It would be mortifying to ever admit that you never smoked weed or cigarettes, or that you never even tasted beer. Stuff like that could get you ousted from a group, so Stevie does what he thinks every normal kid does, he pretends he knows what he’s doing and feels like he is part of something. He smiles shyly when he knows he got it right with them.

M904New actor and real life professional Supreme skater, Na-Kel Smith plays Ray, who appears to be the voice of reason in the group. He wants more to life than just smoking and drinking, he wants to be a professional skater. He watches over Stevie and we can feel that he wants to make good decisions, but doesn’t always know how. He is the soul of the film, and one to watch.

Mid90s is reminiscent of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine’s 1995 classic Kids, and I am sure Hill took cues from it. The rawness that we felt in Kids, can be seen in this film as well, except it is not at the same level, where the camera was in the faces of teenagers making out and bashing other guys heads into the pavement and hearing the skull crush. I used to have to turn my head every time that scene came on. But a similar sentiment is felt in this film. 

The skaters are chased by cops, disrespected by their parents, and even each other. When one of the other kids Ruben (Gio Galicia), starts to notice that Sunburn is being favored by the older skaters, he picks a fight with him, and Stevie gives him back equal hard punches.

At home Stevie must contend with his older brother, who is the opposite of a skater, but also a figure of the 90’s. Dressed in Polo and baggy jeans and stud earrings to match, he was most likely someone influenced by the rap culture of the time. He seems angry and pissed off, they are two boys without a father figure in their life, and Ian proceeds to constantly beat the living hell out of his younger brother. Hedges is impressive in this role of the bitter older brother, the one who had to watch guys go in and out of his mother’s bedroom growing up, while Stevie did not. I think we might be seeing a possible Oscar nomination for him in this role.

Hill stepped it up and did a remarkable job at directing his first movie. I think people will be impressed that he didn’t imbue his film with Superbad raunchy teenage jokes or his sarcastic humor. Instead this movie felt real and I think it will strike a chord with a lot of people. Especially those like myself who grew up in the era where iPhones and Google didn’t exist. We figured things out on our own and we didn’t stare at phone screens, and these kids do the same with their life. They are just trying to make sense of it all and find their place in the world. All while hanging out with friends and listening to good music; and isn’t that what ever teenager is always trying to do.

Mid90s posterStarring: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin, Alexa Demie
Directed by: Jonah Hill
Written by: Jonah Hill
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 85 minutes
Rating: 4

Beautiful Boy – Film Review

4stars

bb11What does the face of drug addiction look like in the United States? Are they young and white, living in an affluent neighborhood, or a person of color living in the projects? The truth is that drug addiction has no barriers; it can affect anyone who is susceptible to the lures of euphoria and escape. It doesn’t necessarily mean only depressed and lonely people use; no, it affects happy people who seem to have idyllic lives as well. Nic Sheff (Timothy Chalamet) had it all, he grew up in Marin County (an affluent area north of San Francisco), someone who was seemingly content, had an upbringing with loving parents and siblings, and all the opportunities that the world could offer, at his fingertips. In the film Beautiful Boy, we experience the journey of drug addiction and a father’s relentless fight to save his son’s life.

Set in the early 2000’s, David Sheff (Steve Carell), a prominent magazine writer, tries to help his son Nic conquer his addiction. He is constantly glued to his phone, waiting for that phone call from Nic or from someone who knows his whereabouts. He frantically searches on the internet for some shred of knowledge about methamphetamine addiction. He wants to understand how meth is affecting his son’s brain, how he can help restore his son’s failing nerve endings; he wants some information that will tell him what to do to help his son. Desperate to get his son help, he doesn’t even blink an eye when he is quoted forty thousand dollars for a drug rehab stay.

bb2This movie does not portray drug addiction like Requiem for a Dreamor Trainspotting, we do not see Nic downward spiral to that extent or take a joy ride through what drugs can feel like through the lens of Hollywood. You know when they show a person’s eyeballs dilate, all while psychedelic music plays in the background, none of that happens here.

Instead this film is the journey of what drug addiction really looks like; it’s one where a person gets clean, and they seem to be riding the high that is sobriety, and the person’s family believes wholeheartedly that the person will stay clean, but then they relapse. They get clean again, and they relapse again, the cycle continues ad nauseum to the point where the family who is trying to help the junkie feels defeated and crushed. Will they ever get better? Is my son, daughter, mom, dad (insert anyone), still inside there? And when the family sees a glimmer of their old self come through, that is what keeps them going to save that person.

I have experienced the ups and downs of drug addiction first hand, in my family. I’ve seen people get and stay clean, people trying to jump out of windows to fight the detox, festering heroin wounds, and how loving people turn into mean and monstrous people on drugs. I can never shake some of these memories. Many relapse again and again to this day falling back into old patterns. This is one of the few movies I have ever seen that has really shown that side of drug addiction. It isn’t cool, it isn’t funny, or hip, it takes a person’s soul day by day, but as a family we also hope for the best for our loved ones. We hope that they will get better, and deep down inside, we know that they can. David embodied that sentiment and Nic personified the charming addict.

BEAUTIFUL BOY Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

BEAUTIFUL BOY
Timothée Chalamet as Nic Sheff and Steve Carell as David Scheff

Chalamet was extraordinary, we felt compassion for him, and could see the moments when he was clean and probably thinking about drugs. You could see him coming out of his skin, without doing it literally. His acting showed layers of emotion and depth. One I haven’t seen in a long time, in fact I kept thinking throughout the film, that Nic Sheff would have been the role that young Leonardo DiCaprio would have wanted to play. But now we have Chamalet, a new guard of young actors is coming through, and he will be at the forefront for years to come.

Carell was phenomenal, and as an actor we see a different side of him. No longer the quirky Michael Scott persona that many people remember him as, here we see him as a multi-dimensional character. One minute he is fighting for his son’s life, another he makes a bold choice to tell him that he cannot enable him anymore. A father lost in his head, constantly thinking of his son, Carrell was able to portray that emotion with ease. At his younger children’s play, we see him look at their faces, relish in their innocence, and know that he has lost a part of his son.

Both Chamalet and Carrell gave Oscar-worthy performances and will be in the running for this year’s Oscars race. This is a movie you cannot miss, and one that will leave indelible mark on your psyche and make you appreciate your loved ones even more.

BB Poster

Starring: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Christian Convery, Oakley Bull, Kaitlyn Dever, Amy Ryan, Stefanie Scott, Julian Works
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Written by: Luke Davies (screenplay), Felix Van Groeningen (screenplay), David Sheff (based on the book “Beautiful Boy”) Nic Sheff (based on the book “Tweak”)
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 120 minutes
Rating: 4

Sweat at A.C.T.’s Geary Theatre

Sweat is a poignant story about a group of steel factory workers living in Reading, Pennsylvania, whose lives are transformed in the midst of a recession. Written by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, the play reveals the chaotic results that stem from insecurities among a group of once tight-knit co-workers, bringing to light their distrust, entitlement issues, prejudices, and their struggle to retain and define the American Dream.

sweat3The play begins at a parole office where two young adults have recently gotten out of prison and are now reflecting on how they got there – the story unfolds, flashing back to where it all began. The stage then switches over to a lively bar scene, we see billboards above the set with images of dates and video clips of events that run from 2000 through 2008.

The local watering hole depicted, is where we see the characters tell their raw stories of struggle and hopes and dreams for a better life. The bar is their second home, where they find refuge after work and celebrate life with one another, but it’s also a dark place where they are confronted with conflict, disagreements, and tough conversations.  

The play provides a lens for understanding unscrupulous government policies and their trickle down effect on people’s livelihood, relationships, and the choices they make. It’s a thought provoking insightful look at many of the issues Americans faced in the 2000’s and continue to face today such as, drug use, unemployment, worker safety, poverty, gender issues, discrimination, anti-union businesses, and racism to name a few.

sweat2The entire cast did a great job in their portrayals, however Lise Bruneau who plays Tracey and Tonye Patano, who plays Cynthia – stood out in their roles. Tracey couldn’t shake her entitlement beliefs stemming from the fact that her family had worked at the steel factory for generations. This makes it exceptionally hard for her to transition as factory work is all she’s ever known, it’s become part of her identity. And then there’s Cynthia, a black hard working woman dealing with her husband’s drug use while continuing to manage pressures at work in a new lead role. As the days slowly lead towards the end of their current livelihoods, they must each find the strength to move on.

Sweat does not disappoint, it’s filled with drama and candor embedded with humor. The script will resonate with many, especially since it doesn’t sugarcoat racial tensions, nor the complex human emotions it portrays. I really enjoyed the play and feel that it can spark integral conversations about race, gender, immigration, and politicians and their policies. I also appreciated the diverse cast, it didn’t erase or whitewash anyones experience. For those that lived through 2000 through 2008 and the current generation, it will have you contemplating how life has changed since then, if at all.

You can catch the show until October 21 at A.C.T.’s Geary Theatre (415 Geary St., San Francisco). Tickets range from $15-$110. The running time for Sweat is 2 hours 30 minutes, including one intermission.

For more details go to: act-sf.org

sweat4

The Sisters Brothers – Film Review

4stars

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release.
Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

The Sisters Brothers gives us a western film with a masculine heart. It includes many western movie tropes such as, gunslinging, whiskey drinking, and saloon entrance making men, but what sets this movie apart from others is that it shows us that there is more to these men, than just their wild ways. 

Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (john C. Reilly) Sister are bounty hunters who do the bidding and killing for a powerful man they call the Commodore. He dispatches orders and they comply; no questions asked doing whatever it takes to get paid. He orders them to find and bring him a gold-hunting chemist by the name of Hermann Kermit Worme (Riz Ahmed). Also, under the direction of the Commodore is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with finding Worme and bringing him to the Sisters brothers. 

Worme befriends Morris and finds out that he has a formula for finding gold. He created a chemical that when poured into the water, dissolves and illuminates where the gold is hiding. Morris is intrigued not only by his idea, but by who he is as a person. He exudes generosity and intelligence, something that we see is lacking in the outposts that are filled with crude and insolent men, whose only mission is to find a piece of gold. Which they will probably turn in and use to buy booze. Worme and Morris join forces and have a vision of collecting gold and using the funds to start their own utopia in Texas. 

SB3French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English film debut while adding his French aesthetic to the western motif. He provides audiences with gratuitous bloodshed, albeit only slightly, in no way shape or form can we even compare it to the blood count in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Nonetheless it delivers the western artistic vision of beautiful and lush landscapes, untouched yet by the industrialization that would soon come and take over. The horses stand in the foreground, and we understand that they are vital to these men.

The Sisters brothers continue their mission to find Worme and Morris and stop at nothing to find these men. Along the way, we learn that Eli is the more sensitive of the two, every night before he goes to bed he folds up a red scarf and touches it to his face. Who it belonged to, we don’t really know, but we see that he is sensitive to the world and yearning for something more. Charlie is a lewd drunk, drinking himself to the point of vomiting, but Eli is used to his shenanigans and knows how to deal with him. After all, it’s his brother and he will stand by him through thick and thin. 

By the end of the movie, we realize that it is Reilly who carries the film. I was not expecting that from him, but he executed it brilliantly. Although he was a brash man, and a sharp shooter, we see that he has a tender side. He makes sure his horses are safe and tends to them as if they were his children. When he encounters a prostitute, he talks to her, instead of doing anything else. I am sure unheard of in any western town of that era. 

We don’t ever see a feminine perspective throughout the film, instead we get a deeper interpretation into a male point of view. I thought the movie was well done, but the plot was somewhat lacking. Regardless, the actors gave good performances and it is worth a watch. 

SB1Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane

Directed by: Jacques Audiard

Written by: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (screenplay) 
Patrick DeWitt (book author)

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 121 minutes

Rating: 4