Friday, August 7, 2020

VALLEY OF THE GODS Film Review August 7, 2020

Valley Of The Gods

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/6/2020
US Release: 8/11/2020

Rating: 2.5 / 5

(All Assets Provided by WELL GO USA)

I consider myself an artistic type of person. I appreciate any form of artistic expression, from small to large. I would never say that I understand every form of art because I don’t. I am learning, however, and that is the most important thing.

“Valley Of The Gods”, as directed by Lech Majewski, is a confusing tale of the Navajo Nation, a trillionaire, and his biographer.

The film is stunning visually and some of the concepts (the opera scene where the performers were standing in the water at the palace) were absolutely inspired. The outdoor locations were rich with color and saturation while the indoor locations were at times grandiose and breathtaking.

But the screenplay was a jumbled mess that, for me, was nearly impossible to understand. Perhaps the art-house approach to the story kept me in the dark but I was basically confused for most of the film.

The performances by Josh Harnett and John Malkovich were exactly what you would expect from both actors. No issues there whatsoever. The supporting cast also added weight where needed to the various scenes throughout the film.

By the end of the film, I wasn’t sure what I had just sat through. It was pleasing visually but the substance in terms of the storyline was lacking.

“Valley Of The Gods” delivers on the visuals and performances but it comes up short in the story department. If the story had matched the visuals, this would have been an excellent film. However, as it stands, it is only average at best.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

CHRISTY ANNA WU Written Interview August 4, 2020


Below is the written interview that I was working on before I was invited on the virtual tour with AL1CE. She’s since been on the show three times. Get to know her better in written form - here’s Paper Nova singer Christy Anna Wu!


Connect with EA:  HERE!

(All Images and Assets Provided by Christy Anna Wu)

Eclectic Arts: Hi Christy Anna! How are you doing during this worldwide pandemic?

Christy Anna Wu: Hi Mark, thanks for having me! It’s been interesting following the many artists who’ve had to change their plans; it’s oftentimes relatable and inspirational. The pandemic hasn’t left me unscathed either. With each day, I’ve been trying to heal and re-discover creative routines, which I’ve been woefully lacking.

EA: Tell me about your background please. Where were you born, raised, school, early music involvement, etc,

CAW: I was born in South Seattle, raised in a suburb (Federal Way, WA), and attended the local grade schools there. I grew up learning classical piano since I was 6, and dabbled in the school orchestra as a violinist. I was used to recitals and talent shows, but that didn’t stop me from having sweaty-palms/heart-racing stagefright. Classical music and some oldies were all I knew up until my friends introduced me to basic mainstream music. I remember making a conscious effort to record songs off the radio on my cassette tapes, so that I could introduce myself to the different styles and branch out.

EA: I know you have your hands in many different artistic endeavors. Musician with Paper Nova, artist with Caveglow, movie set designer, screenwriter, producer, and director, etc. What started first? How do you balance all of these projects? What projects are your priority right now? Tell me everything.

CAW: Looking back, it was a solid mix of music, drawing, and writing. I enjoyed all three equally. I always rotated through the trifecta in my early years between the rest of my studies and activities. I do believe one of my early dreams at the time was to become a horror/thriller writer.

As I progressed through school, one of my weaknesses was in public speaking. To help combat that, I joined Speech & Debate in high school and participated in both dramatic and debate categories. I would say that those experiences significantly helped my articulation. I also gained an appreciation for those in performance arts.

Over the years, I felt inspired and compelled to bring the arts together. A great format for that is through filmmaking, which includes screenwriting, visual aesthetic, music, and performance -- storytelling through many mediums.

I find that each medium helps to inform and support each other. When I’m drawing, I’m feeling and listening to music. When I’m writing, I read my work outloud for flow and rhythm. When I watch a movie, I’m engrossed by the details, such as the sets and costuming.

It’s difficult to juggle multiple projects at a time. I’m limited by … well, time, skill, and oftentimes finances. I spend most of my off-hours working on art, so I guess you could still say I’m always on. It’s very exhausting. Music is fairly regimented in that we (used to) practice once a week and schedule gigs in advance. For film, after I’ve done a sprint (say I work on set every weekend for three weekends), I need to take a break or else burn out. Everything else like writing or visual art fills in the gaps if I have the energy for it. What keeps me going is the ultimate satisfaction of being creative.

And with each project, I hope to enjoy the process more as I drive it to completion. So what am I prioritizing right now? Currently, I’m working on my first feature-length screenplay. In parallel, I’m trying to navigate film festivals for my first short film, “Alvin”. In addition, I’ve been more experimental with music since we are unable to practice as a band right now.

EA: How is the music community in your area? Is it a supportive network of artists? Are there a lot of places to play music or show independent films (pre-pandemic)?

CAW: In Seattle, I would say the music community is mid-sized. We’re big and small enough to where certain touring acts will or won’t visit during a certain leg. And we have a ton of local musicians. Groups of musicians will get to know each other and build each other up as they gain a footing in the music industry. There are pockets of other musicians who tend to feel more comfortable within their smaller circles and local venues. I would say that the overall community is very supportive of new or veteran artists.

Unfortunately, we have a limited selection of venues for both music and film. I truly miss The Mix that used to be in Georgetown, and I just heard about Cinerama shutting down. It takes incredible dedication to break into either scene here. For music, if you don’t put yourself out there 3-5 times a week, people will hardly know who you are. For indie film, it’s all about connections.

EA: What have been some of the toughest parts of being a musician? Ditto a filmmaker, an artist, etc. Do your endeavors pay the bills or do you have a day job as well?

CAW: The toughest part of being a musician is that it’s secondary. Same thing with being a filmmaker. It’s difficult to find enough work full-time as an artist to pay the bills. We’ve made a little cash from certain gigs but it’s nowhere near enough to pay our expenses, especially in Greater Seattle. I work a day job to help fuel my artistic endeavors -- so do my bandmates. But we’re usually tapped out by the end of the day and put our outlets on the backburner. It’s a catch 22.

EA: There have always been issues with persons of color and lack of representation in the arts. What are your thoughts on persons of color in the arts?

CAW: I agree that there is a lack of BIPOC artists in the public eye. We certainly have supportive diasporas here and there, but it has been uncommon or uncomfortable to promote diversity for the sake of diversity. I’ve seen line-ups that are very homogenous. I’ve seen local shorts that frankly were racist or played to stereotypes. And this isn’t just locally, it’s internationally. With the recent turn of events, more of the disparities have been brought to light, and I think that’s a good thing. When we can clearly identify issues and maintain awareness, we can work to address them, even if progress is slow.

EA: Staying on the topic, how about female representation in the arts. What are your thoughts?

CAW: In relation to the previous question, I’ve seen gigs call for women musicians or crew, where the original poster was roasted for discriminating against men. I think that we are starting to see more women in male-dominated fields, but again, the percentage is disproportionate depending on the role. There’s even a smaller percentage of BIPOC women as well as non-binary people being represented. We often encounter bias and miss out on opportunities.

EA: When you look back on your artistic creations (all of them), what stands out - good and bad?

CAW: For one, I’m really proud of our latest EP, “V.V.V.” because it carries a different sort of energy than our previous EPs. This was recorded pre-pandemic and embodied more empowering and hopeful times. I still am proud of our other music though, as those were quite introspective. For another, I’ll mention “Alvin” again, because that was a culmination of a lot of emotions and experiences that were realized by professional cast and crew members. It was cathartic to produce that movie and nerve-wracking at the same time.

I won’t go too far into bad creations, but it’s usually when we’re underprepared. I tend to hide those from my online portfolio, haha. But, we’ve got to learn somehow right?

EA: Where do you see yourself in five years from now?

CAW: I’d ideally like to be surrounded by creativity and art. I want to work with all creatives whether they’re musicians, photographers, writers, choreographers, etc. I would hope that in five years, I will have had the opportunity to produce and release a feature film, release at least two music albums, and have a plethora of collaborations under my belt.

EA: Thank you so much for taking the time to do the interview!

CAW: Thank you again for asking these great questions. It’s helped to remind me of my trajectory -- that wherever I went, creativity was there to nurture my soul. 


OUT STEALING HORSES Film Review August 3, 2020

Out Stealing Horses

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 8/3/2020
US Release: 8/7/2020

Rating: 4 / 5

(All assets courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

It’s interesting how many films use flashback sequences to emphasize and explain the modern day portion of the story. In the case of, “Out Stealing Horses”, the majority of the film is delivered in flashback and to great dramatic effect.

Stellan Skarsgård ("Good Will Hunting") plays Trond, a 67-year old man who meets a neighbor Lars (played by Bjørn Floberg) whom he then realizes he knew many years ago as teenager. This realization forces Trond to replay the events from yesteryear in his head that ultimately changed his life forever.

(Stellan Skarsgaard and Bjoern Floberg in OUT STEALING HORSES, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)

“Out Stealing Horses” is unbelievably beautiful visually. The sequences throughout the film are mesmerizing, almost dream like at times. The natural scenery is breathtaking and it really creates an atmosphere of both small and large proportions. The backstory between Trond and his father, their relationship with their neighbors' family (which includes a very young Lars), and the urges of human desire, all come together in an intimate but believable way.

The story is subtlety sophisticated. I loved how the interplay between father, son, husband, and wife created an unusual dynamic that ultimately is heartbreaking for 15-year old Trond.

(Tobias Santelmann and Danica Curcic in OUT STEALING HORSES, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)

The loss of life at a single digit age is another subplot that really adds emotional weight to the proceedings. How any family deals with such a tragedy is beyond me.

Most viewers may not know Stellan Skarsgard by name but you will certainly recognize him one he appears on screen. He is a master actor and has been in some of the best films over the years. Here his performance is understated and complex. His narration of Trond’s past events just echoes how troubled he has been as an adult. 

  (Jon Ranes and Tobias Santelmann in OUT STEALING HORSES, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)

“Out Stealing Horses” is a compelling film that isn’t easy to digest at times. And it isn’t meant to be so. It deals with serious issues that are universal, regardless of the era, the country, or the people involved.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!


Monday, August 3, 2020

THE TAX COLLECTOR Film Review August 3, 2020

The Tax Collector

RLJE Films
Reviewed: 7/28/2020
US Release: 8/7/2020

Rating: 4 / 5

(RLJE Films)

I worked with what would be considered urban youth, street gang youth, etc. and their families for over ten years. So, when films depict the gangster life from the street, I’m always curious as to what they show and how right or wrong they get it.

“The Tax Collector” goes for more of the Hollywood version of gang families. The money, the influence, the power, and the consequences of course. Director David Ayer (writer of “Training Day”) knows how to write the subject matter but as a director his storytelling was up and down.

(L-R) Shia LaBeouf as Creeper and Bobby Soto as David in the action / thrillerTHE TAX COLLECTOR,an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Justin Lubin)

Bobby Soto plays David as the central character - a “tax collector” - who collects protection money from the local gangs for his big homie shot calling relative The Wizard who is locked up in prison (Jimmy Smits). Shia LaBeouf is the enforcer who works for the family. David’s uncle (played by George Lopez) is also in on the family business.

The first half of “The Tax Collector” is rather mundane. I think at least one action scene was needed here to hit home just how seriously deep David and his family are in the gang life. But in the second half a strong and dangerous protagonist is introduced and everything becomes a blood bath.

The action scenes in the second half are worth the price of admission. They are brutal, scary, and entertaining in this type of film. There is no mercy from either side of the fight and the film depicts just that.

((L-R) Shia LaBeouf as Creeper and Bobby Soto as Davidin the action / thrillerTHE TAX COLLECTOR,an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of Justin Lubin.)

I enjoyed Bobby Soto’s performance. I think he was cast perfectly as the lead. Shia LaBeouf does well as the enforcer but at times his character of “the Creeper” seemed a little out of place. I think if they had given Shia more to work with to develop some more layers to his character, things would have worked better.

Cinthya Carmona as Alexis Cuevas was a great addition to the cast. As David’s wife, she works in the family business but also knows that their immediate family of four is what comes first. She was very believable as a mom, wife, and someone stuck in the middle of the gang world.

“The Tax Collector” was entertaining and at the end of the day that’s what movies are supposed to do - entertain. The level of violence may be off putting to some - but if you enjoy modern day gang tales, “The Tax Collector” will hit all the right buttons.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!


DAY 13 Film Review August 3, 2020

Day 13

Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 7/22/2020
US Release: 8/4/2020

Rating: 3.5 / 5

View Here!

(All assets provided by Breaking Glass Pictures)

Horror, occult, thriller - these are all words that will grab my attention when I see a press release. “Day 13” is a modern day thriller/horror film that is reminiscent of a few films from the past.

Colton (played by Alex MacNicoll) is a high school student who is home babysitting his younger sister Rachel (played by Meyrick Murphy). A once abandoned old house across the street now has new neighbors. Colton meets the daughter Heather (played by G. Hannelius) as he is snooping around the property.

Heather’s father is very mysterious and Colton starts to spy on them to see what’s going on. This is the basic premise of the film without spoilers.

I couldn’t help but be reminded of 1985’s, “Fright Night” - one of my favorite genre films. Young Colton looking across the street just like Charlie did in the 80’s film, the nostalgia factor was actually a plus to “Day 13”

The film at times also reminded me of a more adult version of a young teen horror series of books. Again, this was not a bad thing at all.

The story flowed well and the actors kept things interesting. I would have liked more exploration of the Colton and Heather relationship but no spoilers here. G. Hannelius stood out in her role as Heather. She needs her own film spin-off. Alex MacNicoll did a solid job as the lead Colton as well. 


I for once had predicted the ending correctly of a horror movie. I really wish they had opted for practical effects instead of CGI as this was the only let down of the climax of the story. Having Martin Kove as Heather’s father was a nice casting decision - and no - he did not say sweep the leg at any time.

Overall, “Day 13” was a good popcorn thriller/horror film.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!


BEAST NO MORE Film Review August 3, 2020

Beast No More

Level 33 Entertainment
Reviewed: 7/28/2020
US Release: 8/7/2020

Rating: 3 / 5

(All assets provided by Level 33 Entertainment)

A horror thriller is the description for “Beast No More” an Australian film that caught my attention via Level 33 Entertainment.

A family experiences a traumatic event. The mother Mary Jane (MJ - played by Jessica Tovey) - works as a biologist and goes out in the backwoods bush by herself to conduct research and to escape reality.

Her husband (played by Dan Ewing) goes out to find her, along with MJ’s visually impaired sister (played by Taya Calder-Mason). The trio soon learn that someone is watching them.

Without giving too much away, the film treads the matriarchal line for MJ. Her loss and what she finds in the bush becomes a huge issue of transference and it runs throughout the remaining scenes in the film.

I love a good horror film and “Beast No More” has horror elements but I found it more of a thriller. Jessica Tovey was wonderful as MJ. I really enjoyed her performance and would love to see what she works on next. Dan was a bit harder to believe for me. He looks like a superhero so for him to be this distant family man that doesn’t support his wife or son didn’t quite work for me. Being a jerk to his family and the other characters did work, though.

The story line was also all over the place in the beginning. Once Dan and Taya’s characters showed up in the bush then things became more cohesive.

The finale was again a nod to the matriarchal struggle for MJ. What she knew she had to do was emotional but I thought there could have been more of an epilogue after that scene.

Overall “Beast No More” was entertaining to a point. Jessica Tovey’s performance was the best part of the film.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD Film Review 7/28/2020

House Of Hummingbird
Well Go USA
Reviewed: 7/28/2020
US Release: 8/4/2020

Rating: 4.5  / 5

(All assets provided by Well Go USA)

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing this film ever since it was mentioned to me a few months ago. “House Of Hummingbird” is a South Korean coming of age tale that is stark, bold, and compelling.

The main character is 14 year old Eun Hee. She wanders through her complicated life like an invisible woman. Her parents ignore her while they deal with their own problems (infidelity in a patriarchal society). Her brother physically abuses her when her parents aren’t home. And her other sister rebels against her parents wishes with the help of Eun Hee.

Eun Hee daydreams at school, flirts with her boyfriend, explores a lesbian relationship, and becomes infatuated with her calligraphy teacher. She is clearly looking for acceptance, love, support, and a healthy relationship from someone, anyone.

“House of Hummingbird” is a day to day drama that is hard to stop watching. It is evenly paced and it never really leads to a climax. It is a stark reality of a film that depicts life for the average South Korean teenager that doesn’t quite know what she wants from life.

Her parents are terrible role models - with their own assorted problems. Park Ji - Hoo gives one of the best performances from a young actor I’ve seen in a very long time. The audience lives Eun Hee’s life through the breathtaking performance by Park Ji - Hoo. She is lost and in need of attention one minute, determined and confrontative the next.

The drama level in “House of Hummingbird” isn’t as necessarily high as you might expect. It is depicted like a slice of a life in need of a major shot of positivity for this young teen. 


Director Kim Bora has crafted a film with a delicate but firm hand. She clearly has control over the vision of the film and she got the best out of her actors. In lesser hands the film could have become a snooze fest. Director Kim kept the pacing just believable enough to keep the audience entrenched in the world of Eun Hee and her hummingbird like exploits.

“House of Hummingbird” has garnered a lot of attention after it’s debut - rightfully so. It is a beautifully executed film that remains with you days after watching it.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts: