‘Black Mass’ ‘Everest’ and 33 Films at the Venice Film Festival

black mass

 VENICE, ITALY As most people know, Venice, Italy, is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The very first world cinema festival was held there in 1932, with Moscow, Cannes, Locarno and others following. The Venice “Biennale” missed the war years, reconvening in 1947. At that time, the very first of the now numerous independent juries was established: the International Catholic Organization for Cinema (O.C.I.C.), now called SIGNIS, the international Catholic organization for com … [Read more...]

Venice International Film Festival 2015 (Biennale) Part One


It's been a busy time here on the Lido island of Venice, Italy! I am a member of the SIGNIS jury for the third time - an honor and a privilege. The first time was in 2000, then 2009 (we gave "The Hurt Locker" our award) and now this year. We have a few more films to see before voting on the film to receive the SIGNIS Award.So far we have seen films in competition and several outside of competition, including EVEREST, SPOTLIGHT and Amy Berg's terrific documentary JANIS on the life of Janis … [Read more...]

“Ties that Bind” UP launches new cop & family drama


 The UP Network continues it's mission to "uplift" viewers with a new original dramatic series about cops and a family, "Ties that Bind."Kelli Williams ("The Practice") is Seattle detective Allison McLean who with her partner, Devin Stewart (Dion Johnstone), arrests her brother, played by Luke Perry, for aggravated assault. This means his two teenaged children will go into foster care. But Allison and her husband Matt (Jonathan Scarfe) decide to bring the kids into their home, … [Read more...]

“The 33″ story of Chilean miners coming to theaters


I received the following press release a couple of days ago. I've seen the film and my review will follow nearer the film's release date. "You can never lose your faith. Faith is nourishment ... Faith is life." - Jorge Galleguillos, Survivor, Copiapo Mine Collapse In 2010, a mine in Chile collapsed trapping 33 miners 2,300 feet underground with no way to escape. You may recall the news headlines as the entire world watched and banded together to help with rescue efforts.The miners had food … [Read more...]

Breaking News: “Vacation” receives DG (IWY) rating!


I was a little surprised to be invited to a press screening for "Vacation" - an downdating  or unbooting of the old Chevy Chase Griswold Family vacation comedies.From the opening lyrics of the soundtrack, laden with "f" bombs, well, it just got worse. If any family has a vacation like this, all I can say is: someone call the Department of Children Services. The film, too, is child abuse, adult abuse and elder abuse all in one. That song is not in my repertoire.If this is humor, why … [Read more...]

‘Phoenix’ is a haunting post-Holocaust mystery


In the still-growing canon Holocaust cinema, its victims and survivors, it's impact on history and humanity, there are fact-based stories such as “Schindler’s List” and fictional stories such as “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.” There are also searing documentaries such as “Memories of the Camps” filmed by the allied troops that liberated the death camps at the end of World War II.“Phoenix,” opening this weekend (July 24, 2015) in Los Angeles, is a fictional tale, though it could certainly ha … [Read more...]

‘Samba’ reminds viewers what it means to be human

From left, actor Omar Sy and directors Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano discuss a scene on the set of "Samba." (Broad Green Pictures/David Koskas)

While illegal immigration grabs political headlines in the United States, it is a major global human and social concern for those caught between borders while escaping war and poverty to seek a better life. The 2013 U.S. film "A Better Life" took a sensitive look at a Mexican father and son in Los Angeles. Now, French filmmakers turn a light on their county's reality in the thoroughly engaging film "Samba."Samba (Omar Sy) is an undocumented immigrant from Senegal who lives with his uncle in … [Read more...]

‘The Look of Silence’ exposes Indonesia’s present day legacy of genocide

Adi questions Commander Amir Siahaan, one of the death squad leaders responsible for his brother’s death during the Indonesian genocide, in Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary "The Look of Silence." (Courtesy of Drafthouse Films and Participant Media)

 Beginning in October 1965, an anti-Communist purge, rather conveniently instigated by a failed coup, led to the ousting of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. This was followed by the U.S.-supported presidency of Suharto, who held office for 31 years. It is estimated that the purge, that lasted into 1966, and carried out by local militias under the direction of local and regional leaders, resulted in the brutal torture and deaths of at least 500,000 people.Many of the people who c … [Read more...]

‘Mad Max: Fury Road” & “Tomorrowland” both prophecy and fantasy

Britt Robertson stars in a scene from the movie "Tomorrowland." (CNS/Disney)

This summer’s “Tomorrowland” from Disney and director Brad Bird and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” a “reboot” of the original Mad Max trilogy from the 1970s and ’80s from Australian director George Miller, go together better than you might think at first glance. Seeing them in tandem makes all the difference. “Mad Max: Fury Road” is the typical post-apocalyptic dystopian flick with themes of hope and redemption and regeneration. The lead characters are courageous, violent fighters and hope is a mirage. I … [Read more...]

‘The Gallows’ is a snooze fest


  Ok, props to the filmmakers Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff for getting the movie made and distributed. It's proficient. But it's "Blair With Project" hand-held camera style is as annoying as the guy whose hands hold the camera, Ryan Shoos as the bully classmate, well, Ryan Shoos. I only went to see it because my 14 year-old nephew, who is visiting, wanted to see it but I'm sorry we did. It was too graphic and I loathe bullying, especially when there's no redemption … [Read more...]