‘The Assassin’ is a stunning martial arts with a female hero

“Wuxia” is the name of the Chinese dramatic martial arts genre and Taiwan’s legendary filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest film “The Assassin” is a stunningly beautiful example of the art form. The film won “Best Director” for Hou Hsiao-hsien at Cannes earlier this year and musician/composer Giong Lim’s soundtrack was also awarded at Cannes. “The Assassin” is Taiwan’s official entry for the 2016 Academy Awards.The film opens in ninth century China where treachery and corruption are rife. Nie Yi … [Read more...]

‘Dukhtar’ showcases Pakistan’s fledgling independent film industry

First time Pakistan producer and director Afia Nathaniel tells a harrowing yet tender story of one woman’s journey to save her ten year-old daughter from marriage to an old man as part of a peace deal between opposing village leaders in Pakistan’s mountainous hinterland. Inspired by a true story “Dukhtar” illustrates primitive cultural practices of rigid patriarchy on the one hand and the growing empowerment of women who are willing to risk even life itself to become fully human and free. … [Read more...]

‘He Named Me Malala’ deserves an Oscar (see Stephen Colbert’s interview with Malala, too)

  There is a legend in Pakistan that goes something like this. During the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-80), a young woman named Malala (or Malalai) was tending to the injured when the Afghan army started to retreat. She called out to her husband to stand firm and, taking off her veil, she used it as a flag to rally the troops. They turned back and defeated the British that day, but the heroic Malala was killed.“He Named Me Malala” is Oscar-winning producer/director Dav … [Read more...]

‘Captive’ is a compelling, moving drama

 I've been traveling so I am just now able to post my review of CAPTIVE as it appears in the October 2015 issue of St. Anthony Messenger.But I want to add that this is an inspiring film. And it is gritty and does not hide the violence. It's a truthful film about something that really happened and the power of a book to make a huge difference in the choices the characters make. Inspiring films can be compelling - they do not have to be Sunday school lessons. The filmmakers did this … [Read more...]

’90 Minutes in Heaven’ cannot be saved

"90 Minutes in Heaven" is based on Dan Piper's 2004 New York Times best-selling real-life experience story.Director Michael Polish's new film, simply put, is no match for the book and is proof that some books should never, ever be made into films.Don Piper (Hayden Christensen) is on his way home from a Christian conference in Texas in 1989 when he's involved in a terrible accident on a bridge. He flatlines and by the time he is in the hospital and resuscitated, he has spent 90 minutes in … [Read more...]

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

 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...]