Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I Saw The Light
Released March 25, 2016 (Limited - US)
2 hr 3 mins
Rated R
Drama, Music


Director: Marc Abraham
Writer: Marc Abraham (based on Hank Williams: The Biography by Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen)

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams
Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Sheppard Williams
Cherry Jones as Lillie Skipper Williams
Bradley Whitford as Fred Rose
Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean
Wrenn Schmidt as Bobbie Jett
David Krumholtz as James Dolan
Josh Pais as Dore Schary
James DuMont as WB Nolan
Casey Bond as Jerry Rivers
Michael Rinne as Lum York
Joshua Brady as Sammy Pruett
Wes Langlois as Don Helms
Von Lewis as Ray Price
Fred Parker Jr. as Faron Young
Rob Boltin as Frank Walker

Review by Stephen M.

I Saw The Light which tells the story of country singer Hank Williams on his rise to stardom and sudden death at the age of 29.  Tom Hiddleston, yes, the British actor known for his role as Loki in the Marvel films plays a young southern country singer known for his tumultuous battles with alcohol, women and ultimately himself.  

Tom Hiddleston performs all the songs in the movie as Hank Williams is quite impressive, along with guitar skills to boot.  Does he capture the essence of Hank Williams?  I am not old enough to have seen him perform or watched any video recordings of Hank so I cannot say.  However, Tom's stage presence as Hank Williams is quite lackluster in itself that would have faced worse criticism than Hank's first wife Audrey did in their performing days.  And while the film addresses Hank's alcoholic problem and womanizing ways, there often seems to be a disconnect in Tom's character and the story with the audience in its message.  

While it is a valiant effort by Tom Hiddleston in getting out of his comfort box in this role, both his performance and the film itself is a bit of a letdown.  Country music fans may find this film interesting, but casual fans may want to skip this as there are better musical biopics available in recent years such as Straight Outta Compton.  One of the lone bright moments of the movie is Elizabeth Olson as Hank's first wife Audrey in a very good performance.  Audrey who struggles to raise Hank up and keep him out of trouble while carving a path of her own made more of an interesting story than Hank's in this film and there in lies the problem.

Rating: 2 Stars out of 5 Stars

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Ip Man 3
Released December 16, 2015 (Hong Kong) January 22nd 2016 (US - Limited)
1 hr 45 mins
Rated PG-13
Action/Adventure, Drama


Director: Wilson Yip
Writer: Edmond Wong, Chan Tai-lee, Jil Leung

Donnie Yen as Yip Man (葉問)
Zhang Jin as Cheung Tin-chi (張天志)
Lynn Hung as Cheung Wing-Sing (張永成)
Patrick Tam as Ma King-sang (馬鯨笙)
Karena Ng as Miss Wong (黃老師)
Kent Cheng as Fat Po (肥波)
Bryan Leung as Tin Ngo-san (田傲山)
Louis Cheung as Tsui Lik (徐力)
Danny Chan as Bruce Lee (李小龍)
Babyjohn Choi as Newspaper reporter
Mike Tyson as Frank
Tats Lau as Principal
Yu Kang as Master Tam
Lo Mang as Master Law
Leung Siu-hung as Master Lee
Chen Chao as Master Chan
Sarut Khanwilai as Thai Boxer

Review by Stephen M.

Ip Man 3 brings us a dream match up of Donnie Yen and Mike Tyson showing us that some realism can be thrown out the door for some Hollywood dollars.  Besides Mike Tyson as a mobster and Ip Man conspicuously missing a son in the movie, the fight scenes as expected are amazingly choreographed without the extravagance visuals of The Grandmaster.

Donnie Yen has never been known for his acting skills and his movies have always been carried by his action scenes and this movie is no different.  Ip Man 3, aside from the added element of Mike Tyson which is a big element, brings nothing new to the table from the other two Ip Man films.  The introduction and use of Bruce Lee as an adult is interesting but a wasted effort in the overall story.  The fight with Mike Tyson's character, which of course was inevitable was stylistically interesting but weird and too short.  The best fight scene?  The close combat against Muay Thai fighter Sarut Khanwilai in an elevator.

Overall, the film will be enjoyable for martial art fans and Donnie Yen fans, but passable for everyone else.  Zhang Jin as Cheung Tin-chi, who is also a Wing Chun practitioner challenging Ip Man puts on the best performance of the film and is worth keeping an eye on in future films for both his acting and martial art skills.  Given the sub par performances and lazy plot, hopefully this is the end of Ip Man as far as director Wilson Yip and actor Donnie Yen's go at it.

Rating: 2.5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice
Releases March 25, 2016
153 min.
Rated PG-13
Action, Adventure, Fantasy


Director: Zach Snyder
Writers: Chris Terrio, David S. Goyer, Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster

Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman
Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/Superman
Amy Adams as Lois Lane
Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor
Diane Lane as Martha Kent
Jeremy Irons as Alfred
Holly Hunter as Senator Finch
Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/ Wonder woman
Laurence Fishburne as Perry White

Review by Ashley S.

The battle between Superheroes is a fight that has been challenging mankind for decades. Since comics began printing, debates like whether the Flash or Green Lantern would reign victorious, or Spider-man vs. Iron Man is stronger have popped up all over the world. Many readers argue for days in person or over message boards, and now, one of those debates is being faced head on by the superheroes themselves.

That’s right! Batman vs. Superman is finally here and I was lucky enough to see it a week early. I’d like to preface by admitting that, while I do enjoy a good superhero movie from time to time, I am in no way a die-hard fan, nor did I have high expectations from this movie. But before you start throwing tomatoes at your computer screen or shooting hate mail, seeing it completely wiped that opinion to another planet.

The movie was completely captivating from the moment it began. The movie begins with a recap of Batman’s parents’ death, a scene which even this “non-super-fan” has witnessed many times, but with which I was completely enthralled. The camera work that captured his parents’ deaths, coupled with an adorable and heart-wrenching portrayal of young Bruce Wayne, made the scene feel fresh and alluring despite the repetition. They also managed to highlight key points that are relevant later in the movie, subliminally attaching certain moments to your memory without making its significance too obvious.

The next scene was a flawless interspersion with the last Superman movie. The genius idea to throw Bruce’s witness of Superman’s last battle and his reaction to the hero made us understand where this feud began and why he has such negative feelings toward a hero we have all grown to treasure.

The movie not only brings to light a superhero feud long in the making by fans, but its underlying messages were particularly strong. They bring to light the power of media and other factors in manipulating the thoughts of both men and super-men. The imagery of heaven and hell, angels and demons, light and dark is also incredibly strong and the movie itself leaves you with many thought-provoking moments that keep your mind running way past the credits. And the movie is anything but predictable as many moments leave even the strongest hero proponents wondering what is going through the characters’ minds and who deserves their support.

If there was any doubt in your mind as to whether Ben Affleck could handle the weight of Batman’s cape, let me lay that to rest right now. Affleck was on fleek as the eponymous Batman. Lending a perfect tone to his moody disposition, his deep voice (made deeper by Alfred’s voice-masking mechanism), and of course his physique. Wayne’s every move was calculated to the point where one would even suspend his Superman-backing, and believe Batman could actually defeat him.

On the other side of the superhero spectrum, Henry Cavill continued his Superman supremacy as the swoon-worthy Man of Steel and the equally justice-abiding Clark Kent. Amy Adams, as Lois Lane, gave a flawless performance, as we’ve come to expect from her. And as for our new Wonder Woman? Gal Gidot was equal parts alluring and mysterious, proving that women can take control of a situation and kick a** just as much as men. Speaking of women who kick a**, I would be remised if I didn’t mention Holly Hunter’s short-lived yet stellar performance as the senator.

But what would our superheroes be without a villain. Lex Luther is an arch-nemesis we have come to know and hate. And I’m sure many of you, like me, had your doubts about Jesse Eisenberg taking on the role. Well, let me tell you, he took on Lex’s fanaticism with Depp-like finesse. Verging on crazy, but actually making a modicum of sense in between, he brought life and dare I say likeability to the character. And before you ask, he doesn’t don the terrifying bald head until very late in the film, but that’s not to say it doesn’t befit him in an odd way.

Coupled with some great cameos by the likes of Neil Degrasse Tyson and Anderson Cooper, along with some choice Justice League characters, this movie is really the whole package. Those who doubt, should not go without. Trust me; you won’t be sorry you gave it a chance. You may even find yourself wanting to go again.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars (or should I say bat wings?)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The third year for the Socially Relevant Film Festival began yesterday with its opening film CAGED NO MORE having had its opening panel and party the night before.  Prior to the start of the film, the filmmakers for both Caged No More and the other films at the festival took their spot on the red carpet for photos and interviews.  Among the talented filmmakers and representatives in attendance included: Festival Curator Nora Armani, Fox News Gretchen Carlson, Actress Cynthia Gibbs, Director Lisa Arnold.  They each discussed their thoughts on human trafficking which was the subject of Caged No More.  The festival runs from March 14th to 20th.  For more info on the festival visit here.

Here is our interview with Caged No More Director Lisa Arnold discussing her film:

Here are the remainder of our photos of the red carpet event.  Look for our review of Caged No More shortly.

Director Lisa Arnold with film talent of Caged No More:

Filmmaker discussing human trafficking:

Actress from the short film BORDER.

Filmmakers for the short film HUNGRY.

Festival director Nora with film director Lisa:

Actress Cynthia Gibb for Caged No More:

Filmmakers from SENSE THE WIND:

Film Festival Jurists:

Director Lisa and actress Cynthia catching up:

Introduction of Caged No More before the start of the film:

Overall, a very enjoyable experience for a relatively young festival.  We hope to provide you coverage of some of the other events and movies this week.  

If you would like win a signed festival program by some of the talent that attended the red carpet, comment below your favorite film festival and why.  Also please share this review on Twitter with @Geekwithmak #CagedNoMore.  Contest ends March 26th midnight ET.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile
Released October 23rd 2015 (UK), March 4th 2016 (New York); March 21st 2016 (Los Angeles)
1 hr 45 mins
Not Rated


Director: Johanna Schwartz

Aliou Touré as Himself - lead singer, Songhoy Blues
Oumar Touré as Himself, guitar, Songhoy Blues
Garba Touré as Himself, guitar, Songhoy Blues
Nathanael Dembélé as Himself, drummer, Songhoy Blues
Khaira Arby as Herself, singer
Fadimata 'Disco' Walett Oumar as Herself - singer
Moussa Sidi as Himself, guitarist (as Moussa Ag Sidi)
Hassan Mehdi as Himself, former Mouvement National de Liberation de l'Azawad fighter
Marc-Antoine Moreau as Himself, music manager
Nick Zinner as Himself, guitarist, Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Fadi Fadi as Herself, Moussa Ag Sidi's wife
Tartit as Themselves

"What would you do? What would you do if your livelihood you loved with a passion since you were young was now against the law?" That's what the Director Johanna said to me when we discussed the film. I personally have been struggling to find the right words to describe the gravitas of this documentary. This is a week past my initial viewing of it and this will most probably go public after the documentary is released in New York [March 4th], {Don't Worry residents of Hell A, the film opens March 25 for you hella cool people.}. [I can't believe i just wrote "Hella". ]. 

  "Since 1963 the nomadic people of the Sahara, The Touregs, have been fighting for an independent state in the North of Mali"

  "During Recent Rebellions their cause has been led by the MNLA, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad."

What the studio wants you to know:
  They Will Have To Kill Us First begins with musicians on the run, reveals footage of the jihadists, captures life at refugee camps, follows perilous journeys home to battle scarred cities, and witnesses our two female characters perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban. The stories of these artists are told without gloss – they are sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes inspirational, and sometimes incredibly
frustrating as we watch musicians make tough choices about their futures. The situation in Mali forms part of an alarming trend: across the globe, extremists are attacking culture, art and freedom with increasing frequency and violence. They use religion to justify rampant destruction and murder. They Will Have To Kill Us First draws audiences into the human side of Mali’s conflict, watches events as they unfold and witnesses the impact on Mali’s musical community. With a specially commissioned soundtrack from Mali’s most exciting artists, a score written by the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Nick Zinner, They Will Have To Kill Us First leaps headfirst into a tale of courage in the face of conflict.  

Review by Dante H.

Imagine your government is being run by a oppressive ruler, The people form a coup and oust them. In the process the Mujaheddin offered their help, then you have the situation that is currently happening in Mali. Isis under the guise of help came in to the country and basically changed the country to Sharia law, where public playing or performing of music is now outlawed. 

  The documentary shows Mali in 2012 and follows four musicians Songhoy Blues, Khaira Arby, Moussa Ag Sidi, Fadimata 'Disco' Walett Oumar and their families while they are trying to either start a worldwide career (Songhoy Blues), and while they are trying to get the first concert in Mali since Sharia law went in to effect (every musician listed above). It's a story of how no matter what, willpower and heart will over come the worst situations. 

 I personally had no clue about the Malian music scene nor did I know Blues music originated in Mali. The documentary shows so much pain and suffering and how people misguided by religion are the most dangerous people on the planet.  The film is an amazing story of resilience and courage in the face of danger and shows the horrors of ISIS rule (caution there are scenes where people get their hands cut off and footage of blown up body parts just laying on the streets).  The usage of recorded footage with live interviews is brilliantly blended by the filmmakers.

I personally want this to be the greatest review I ever wrote due to the feelings of shame I had walking out of the theater after viewing it. People tend to use the phrase "F*** My Life" when things don't go their way but these musicians were fighting an oppressive government with nothing but their music. Kind of shows you how most people don't have it as hard as they think, compared to others in other parts of the world. Johanna Schwartz and her crew created a documentary that hopefully will make you want to do something to help, be it sending a donation to Red Cross, or just people getting their heads out of their butts and realizing we as a planet need to fix atrocities like this in the world.  This is how powerful an impact the documentary had at least on me.

If you are within a hundred miles of a theater playing this go see it and observe people fighting for what they believe in. This film was so great I rate this 5 out of 5 stars and hope you all at least give it a chance and after seeing it go out and buy the artists' albums shown in the film. 

If you are a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan Nick Zimmer has a cameo and for all you Blur/Gorrillaz/ Damon Albarn fans, Damon has a split second cameo in the film. It's a blink and you'll miss him type of thing. While I would recommend this to everyone who can stomach some gruesome scenes, fans of music will especially want to watch this film, The film is playing still in New York at Village Cinema East today (3/9) and tomorrow (3/10).  If you love it tell your friends, maybe you all can help create change in Mali if enough people knew the full story. 

Rating: 5 Stars out of 5 Stars

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Corpse of Anna Fritz
Releases on FlixFling.com on March 8th 2016
1 hr 16 mins
Not Rated
Language: Spanish (English Subtitles)


Director: Hèctor Hernández Vicens
Writers: Hèctor Hernández Vicens and Isaac P. Creus

Alba Ribas as Anna Fritz
Bernat Saumell as Javi
Cristian Valencia as Ivan
Albert Carbó as Pau
Nico Avila as the doctor

Review by Stephen M.

The Corpse of Anne Fritz is an interesting look into the uncharacteristic darker side of human nature when we think that no one is looking.  Three friends and one seemingly dead beautiful celebrity in a mogue together sounds like a great premise for a horror film.  And in some viewpoints it is, but the film is actually a riveting drama with good performances by the Spaniard cast.

While the film may draw comparisons to the American horror film Deadgirl from 2008, Director Hèctor Hernández Vicens does enough to make this film his own.  Aside from a seemingly dead woman sexually assaulted and held against her will, the similarities end right there.  The movie flows well keeping your attention for the full 76 mins even when some scenes are somewhat predictable.  

Overall, I would recommend that you watch the film if you have a chance.  There are strong adult situations including nudity and sex so it may be not be suitable for teens and below.  If you like films like Ex Machina or Gone Girl than you may enjoy this film.  Alba Ribas who has a role in the indie film Diary of a Nymphomaniac (2008) is great as Anna and I hope to see her on some projects on this side of the hemisphere.  The film will be available exclusively through FlixFling.com beginning tomorrow.

Rating: 3 Stars out of 5 Stars

Saturday, March 5, 2016

We Like it Like That
Released December 4th, 2015 (Chile), March 15th, 2015 (VOD, iTunes)
1 hr 18 mins
Not Rated
Documentary, History, Music


Director: Mathew Ramirez Warren
Writer: Mathew Ramirez Warren

As themselves...
Joe Bataan
Johnny Colon
Ricardo Ray
Pete Rodriguez
Joey Pastrana
Tito Ramos
Harvey Averne
Larry Harlow
Bobby Marin
Benny Bonilla
Felipe Luciano
Aurora Flores

Review by Anont C.

When it comes to the music genre the Latin Boogaloo has become one of the most iconic expression in the music culture. With this documentary 'We Like it Like That', we get to see the great rich history of this music culture, and the impact it has done for the Latin community. 

Directed by Mathew Ramirez Warren, we explore the film documentary that  gives us the insight to the Latin Boogaloo. Along with Latin soul artist Joe Bataan and Johnny Colon, giving their interview and thoughts on how the Latin soul music have revolutionize the culture, and create an impact movement on the music culture. As the Latin musics continue to influence, the documentary also explores the variety the Latin musics have implement in to its music, such as: Latin Soul, Boogaloo, and Salsa. Despite that it may be a Latin music, the music itself have become a great hit among other cultures, and influences its tune as well. As Joe Bataan explained, the music also inspire new Latin artists to create new music that was inspired by the Latin Boogaloo, and continue to be an important part of today's music culture. 

As a special treat, once the documentary was over, the audiences gets an opportunity for an Q&A with the legendary Latin soul artist himself, Joe Bataan; along with Director and writer of the documentary itself, Mathew Ramirez Warren. One of the interesting questions was bought up was about female Latin artists' impact through the genre, and it was explained that some female artists didn't give their full consent to be in the documentary; however, the film had shown clips of them to showcase their present in the Latin music culture. We also learn from Joe Bataan that it's important for oldie music to be preserve and be played on various radios and other media, but it's also important to allow new aspiring artists open to new opportunities for the genre itself -- and embrace it for new generations to come.

For anyone that's interested more about the documentary, or wanted to learn more about the film, you can visit: Latinboogaloo.com

As well as the soundtrack from the film will be available on iTunes on March 11th.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Images from the March 3rd New York Q&A:

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Automatic Hate
Releases March 11th 2016 (Limited - Los Angeles)
1 hr 37 mins
Not Rated


Director: Justin Lerner
Writer: Justin Lerner and Katherine O’Brien

Joseph Cross as Davis Green
Adelaide Clemens as Alexis Green
Deborah Ann Woll as Cassie
Richard Schiff as Dr. Ronald Green
Ricky Jay as Joshua Green
Yvonne Zima as Anne Green
Vanessa Zima as Amanda Green
Catherine Carlen as Sarah Green
Caitlin O’Connell as Dr. Marsha Green

Review by Ashley S.

Secrets are no fun. And secrets between family are even worse. The Automatic Hate is proof of that. However, while the overall plot is straightforward, the act of conveying the message is a little jumbled. It seems to work so hard at being artistic that it ruins an otherwise compelling plot line. The movie plays out more like a soap opera than the drama it claims to be. It does, however, achieve an enormous amount of discomfort, leading you to feel as if you are witnessing the action firsthand and not enjoying much of it.

Davis, a young member of a complicated family, is visited by a girl claiming to be his cousin while going through a difficult time with his girlfriend. He soon discovers that his father has a brother about whom he did not know. So he ventures out to see his family. He grows close with his cousin, Alexis, and with her help, amasses a ton of evidence as to the reason behind the family breakup. Simple enough. But in the midst of these simple details, there are some odd scenes that seem to just lengthen the movie for no reason. 

Cross does an uncomfortably good job at playing the star-crossed cousin. His instant connection with Alexis is so palpable from the get-go that you can see their romance a mile away. Adelaide, who plays Alexis, however, takes her acting to melodramatic heights, overplaying her feelings and making them unrelatable and more psychotic than I believe even the Director would have liked. Because of that, everything but the main secret is pretty predictable.

As tension grows, the family is forced to come together again to mourn the loss of their grandfather, the same grandfather who freaked out when Davis’ estranged uncle’s name came up. This makes for a seemingly inconsistent plot twist, wherein two brothers who seemed as if they were completely unwilling to come together, suddenly agree to see one another. It is even more inconsistent since the deceased seemed to dislike the brother in question.

Once together again, more than just old secrets come out, but by the time we find why the two brothers were fighting, another secret diminishes the shock value. Overall the movie was okay, but it feels like it’s trying too hard to be more artistic than it actually is, especially with its odd ending. Its inconsistencies ruin the overall entertainment factor. I wouldn’t recommend putting this on your pay-to-play list if you’re not a soap opera fan.  If you are, catch it in Los Angeles beginning March 11th, with a nationwide release to follow.

Rating: 2.5 Star out of 5 Stars