Monday, July 21, 2014

The Local Haps: July 21st - July 27th

Sorry for the week long break, guys. I was in Canada on vacation and my tiny buddy was busy busting out reviewing for the recently completed Asian Film Festival of Dallas. You can check out her coverage here. Also beginning this week, the column will have the PICK OF THE WEEK! which as the name implies is the event that's got us excited the most and will most likely be attending. Check out the events below.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Netflix Instant: Movie & TV Picks

So, now that we're at the point of the summer blockbuster saturation point (SBSP) so how about you stay in from the summer heat and check out a couple of classy movies and the third part in a pretty fun horror trilogy. Check them out after the break.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

AFFD 2014 Review: PRETTY ROSEBUD- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Oscar Torre
Written by Chuti Tiu 
Starring: Chuti Tiu, Kipp Shiotani, Dana Lee, Bel Hernandez, and Oscar Torre
Synopsis: A successful woman feels that her personal life isn't as great as she once thought. 

There's a balancing act that most adults tread at some point. After a few years of marriage and establishing a semi-successful career, it's easy to fall into a routine and become bored with your significant other, especially when they're not at the same level you're at. PRETTY ROSEBUD tells the story of such a woman whose career is taking off, but her personal life seems to be crumbling beneath her.

Sissy (Tiu) is strong-willed woman who works hard, and her bosses are beginning to take notice. But that's the only thing she has going for her. Her husband has been out of a job for two years and even though he gets potential leads, he's being picky and doesn't want to take a "lower" job. Sissy's parents are the typical, conservative types who just want her to have children. They believe that children will bring her the utmost satisfaction that she's missing in her life. 

With all the pressure around her, Sissy can't handle it, so she breaks. She has an affair and enjoys the attention she gets from other men in her life. Her journey is story we've seen over and over again. Every beat that happens is too stereotypical. There are no surprises in the plot, and it felt increasingly boring. Even the pinnacle of Sissy's frustration with her life is portrayed in such an obvious and cliched metaphor, it was difficult not to giggle at the cheesiness.

Tiu is the only redeemable part of the film. Her performance in subtle, and it's easy to see the struggles Sissy is feeling even when there's no dialogue. The same cannot be said about the rest of the cast. All the other performances feel forced and rigid. Any time the characters raise their voices or a scene is particularly emotional, it feels like you're watching a bad high school production.

This film suffers heavily from a boring plot. Sometimes a boring plot isn't as noticeable if there are interesting characters, but unfortunately, no such luck here. Even with a fairly strong lead performance, this film is totally skippable.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

AFFD 2014 Review: FUNNY MONEY- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Thien Do
Written by Thien Do
Starring: Van Trang and Khuong Ngoc
Synopsis: A man is in the search for a lost bill which is bringing bad luck to a local girl. 

It's funny how one person can see an object as good luck, while someone else only sees it as bad luck. When a person loses a valuable object, and all of a sudden a bunch of bad things happen, they connect the two occurrences, even if it's only a coincidence. FUNNY MONEY explores this idea of how an object could bring you luck or curse you.

Loc (Ngoc) is a entrepreneur of sorts. He creates fake products, like handbags, shoes, and "ghost money" for loved ones to use in the afterlife. He has had a string of good luck thanks to a bill that's been ripped. But now he's lost that bill, and it has fallen into the hands of Quyen (Trang), a local young woman who works at a flower shop. However, the ripped bill curses Quyen, or so she thinks. She lost her job, boyfriend, and has other strings of misfortune. Loc is enamored with Quyen, but she doesn't feel the same.

The strength in this film lies with the two leads. They're charming, quirky, and have fantastic chemistry. Trang is the perfect blend of energy and spunk as Quyen. Even though she is very upset when her boyfriend dumps her, she still comes across as an independent woman determined to pick up her life. It would have been easy for her character to be helpless and whiney, but she thankfully ends up being much more dynamic. Ngoc initially feels like an almost sleazy salesman. But as we follow him as he pursues Quyen, he becomes more and more sweet and charming. His sleaziness goes away, and we see his more lovable side, which Quyen is able to bring out of him.

In terms of plot, the story begins to drag a little in the middle. It's a little unclear of where exactly the film is taking us. Then, in the final act, the biggest plot development of the film happens. This brought some much needed life to the story, but it came a little too late. If this development had come a little earlier, it would have created some much needed tension because searching for a ripped bill can only be interesting for so long.

FUNNY MONEY has enough going for it with the two leads to keep the film sweet and entertaining. It has some funny moments, and even if it lulls a bit in the middle half, it's worth a viewing.

Friday, July 11, 2014

AFFD 2014 Review: BLACK BUTLER- Jonesy's Take

Directed by Kentaro Otani and Kelichi Sato
Starring: Hizo Mizushima and Ayame Goriki    
Synopsis: A demon butler makes a pact with a young aristocrat to help her seek revenge.

BLACK BUTLER plays again tonight at The Angelika Dallas at 9:45.

When a film is based on an existing property, such as a book or TV series, it's difficult to create a film that satisfies the fans and can draw in outsiders. BLACK BUTLER started off as a manga series in 2006, then became an anime series in 2008, and now, like most successful stories, has its own feature film. Set roughly 130 years after the manga series, the film follows the elusive butler, Sebastian (Mizushima), as he serves a young aristocrat as she tries to get revenge on the people who killed her parents.

Shiori (Goriki) witnessed her parents brutal murders when she was a young girl, but then she disappeared. A couple weeks after, she returned, but this time she disguised herself as a boy so she could take over the family business. She returned with a mysterious demon butler, with whom she has made a pact: he gets her soul once she meets her objective of getting revenge. She also has become one of the watchdogs for the Queen and has been charged with solving a strange string of murders where the victims turn into mummies.

The tone of the film is dark but also has some (albeit strange) comedic moments. Most of those moments stem from Mizushima's performance. As a demon butler, he doesn't show much emotion and has a piercing stare. He wields butter knives, talks to cats, but is the most devote servant that has ever existed. Goriki is also fantastic as Shiori. Her determination is palpable as her parents murders are always in the back of her mind. Goriki and Mizushima have great chemistry together, and even though their agreement is he will eventually take her soul, he seems to genuinely care for Shiori. He's intrigued by her human decisions, and there's some underlying tension that maybe he wouldn't be able to take her soul when he's supposed to.

The plot is a typical mystery of trying to figure out who's behind the murders, which end up escalating the political ladder. The mystery itself is intriguing enough to keep the film interesting. There are a couple of action sequences which are quite fun. The way the camera moves around and changes perspectives is one of the more innovative action scenes I've seen this year.

However, the film falls apart a bit during the last act. There's a typical confrontation between the good guys and bad guys, but the confrontation takes up so much time, and we're end up just being spoon fed endless exposition and explanations. After a while, it feels tedious, unnecessary, and kills the momentum the film had built up to this point.

BLACK BUTLER is an entertaining film which, from what I can gather, pays homage to the original material but can still be enjoyed by anyone who comes in blind. The performances by the two leads are strong, and even though there are problems towards the end, the story will still draw you in.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Netflix Instant: TV and Movie Picks

Well the temperature is finally reaching boiling points down here in Dallas, so that means it is time for me to stay inside in the cool air. I have a couple of documentaries (no surprise there) for you this week, plus a wonderful dramatic film.

Happy watching!

This documentary tells the story of one of John Waters's muse, a drag queen named Divine. It was a hit at last year's SXSW. I heard nothing but fantastic reviews from critics and friends. Then, I missed it when The Texas Theatre brought it to Dallas, but now it's finally made it's way to Netflix. 

The Michelin restaurant guide will rate restaurants from one to three stars. It's the goal of every chef to receive and keep a three star rating; however, it's very, very difficult to do. In the USA alone, there are only 12 three star restaurants. For any foodie, this is a fascinating documentary that follows chefs as they try to be as innovative as possible to earn this honor. 

A wonderful little drama that was overlooked by people last year. Brie Larson, in her best role to date,  is in charge of a home of troubled teenagers, and as she tries to help them have a life of normalcy, her personal life begins to interfere. It's one of the most emotional and heartfelt movies from last year. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Most Anticipated Asian Film Festival 2014 Picks From Javi & Jonesy

The 13th annual Asian Film Festival of Dallas is coming up July 10th - July 17th and as always we want to highlight a few films that look like they might be worth your time. Of special notice I (Javi) was asked to help judge their short films and hand out award. I can tell you that  you'll find something great in there, but I personally recommend the experimental and late night shorts blocks.

After the break, you can check out our feature film.