ECLECTIC ARTS

Friday, August 28, 2020

GHOST TROPIC Film Review August 28, 2020



Ghost Tropic

Reviewed: 8/28/2020
The Cinema Guild

Rating: 4 / 5

Opens August 28th in Virtual Cinemas Nationwide




(All assets courtesy of The Cinema Guild)



As a country filled with immigrants from all over the world, whether first generation or several generations, the U.S. has its own story regarding the history of immigration. In Bas Devos’ “Ghost Tropic” - the story revolves around the country of Belgium.


Khadija (played by Saadia Bentaïeb) is an immigrant woman that takes the subway after a long day at work. She falls asleep on the metro and wakes up at the end of the line late at night, far from her home.


She can’t reach anyone by phone to pick her up (daughter or son), so she embarks on a journey back home on foot. Along the way she encounters a security guard - who lets her into the mall to get cash to take a taxi home (insufficient funds), a midnight bus that is out of service, and several people along the way.






The film immerses the viewer in Khadija’s world quickly. From the slow time lapse opening scene in her home to the long shots on the subway, the story is told many times without dialogue or quick edits. The minutes feel long as the audience walks along the streets with Khadija. When she helps a homeless man and his dog, we feel the cold all around them. We feel her concern for tying the dog up overnight as well.


The interaction between the police, a gas station attendant, and a night nurse all echo what many of us are going through right now with the worldwide pandemic/lockdown. Missing human contact on a regular basis, we reach out to those we normally may have dismissed.






Saadia Bentaïeb as Khadija does a magnificent job of portraying this unassuming lead character that shows the world through her unique eyes. The day to day grind that is apparent on her face, the disappointment and concern over her daughter, her husband’s passing, all those years are evident every time she is on screen.


“Ghost Tropic” is an interesting look at immigrants in Belgium but the story is really universal.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!




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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

THE TERRIBLE ADVENTURE Film Review August 25, 2020



The Terrible Adventure

Reviewed: 8/25/2020
Rating: 3.5  / 5






I honestly can’t remember the last time I watched or reviewed a film considered a family film. I certainly saw my share growing up though and recall the elements that made me enjoy them as a child. Over the top characters, comedy, adventure, and things I liked at the time (skateboards, bikes, food, etc) all could win me over if done properly.


“The Terrible Adventure” is from director Kel Thompson. Olivia and Jackson (his children) star in this zany film. The kids attempt to win a contest with a prize of one million dollars to help their parents who are going through a divorce. The contest focuses on global climate issues but a pair of ice cream men attempt to spoil the proceedings.


The film uses several locations in Florida which gives it a much higher budget look than the bottom line probably was for an independent film. Olivia and Jackson are likeable and the ice cream men are over the top as needed in this type of film.


Would kids like this film? Most likely, yes. Will their parents? If they like family films in general, they’ll probably be entertained. This could fit the bill for a family movie night for sure.


“The Terrible Adventure” is screening virtually at this year's “Dances With Films”. 

Dances With Films Official Site 

Sunday, August 30th – 4PM
Sunday, September 6th – 11:30AM


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!




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ROBIN'S WISH Film Review August 25, 2020



Robin’s Wish

Reviewed: 8/18/2020
Vertical Entertainment
Rating: 5 / 5

ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL: September 1, 2020



(A Vertical Entertainment Release)



I had just mentioned Robin Williams name during a virtual interview I was conducting earlier this month. He brought so much joy and laughter (and tears) to people around the world. I know I am not the only one that misses his work and his presence.



He was known for helping out wherever he could. A giving person that overcame many obstacles and demons over the years. But he always found time to talk to the average person on the street. His work to entertain and lift the spirits of our Armed Forces was documented as well during his lifetime.




((L-R) Robin Williams and Susan Schneider Williams in the documentary, ROBIN’S WISH, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)


So, in 2014, when he left us, many were left numb, myself included.



“Robin’s Wish” is a documentary directed by Tylor Norwood. It centers around the narrative from Robin’s third wife Susan Schneider Williams leading up to his last days.



The film has wonderful interviews with friends of Robin’s, some going as far back as his college days at Julliard. Their insight into the man that entertained millions is fascinating. 




((Center) Robin Williams in the documentary, ROBIN’S WISH, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



Susan does an exemplary job explaining what Lewy Body Dementia - the incurable disease that ultimately took Robin’s life - is as most people, myself included, know nothing about it.



The film tells the story of the doctor’s visits, the misdiagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, and the knowing that Robin felt that something was wrong. As Susan stated - he wanted to reset his brain but couldn’t. Co-workers and friends also talk of their concern for him, that he wasn’t as sharp as he once was, but that they always assured him that things were fine such as on the set of his last projects.



“Robin’s Wish” clears the air for those that didn’t read up on the reports that were later revealed. Robin did not die of suicide. He died from Lewy Body Dementia. 




  (Image from the documentary, ROBIN’S WISH, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



Susan courageously carries on the fight to find a cure for this wretched disease. Let’s hope one day that cure is found. It’s robbed so many families of their loved ones in a debilitating and helpless manner. And it took one of the legends of entertainment from the world that loved him. Rest in Power, Robin.



Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!





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Wednesday, August 19, 2020

TROOP 491 - THE ADVENTURES OF THE MUDDY LIONS Film Review August 19, 2020



Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions

Reviewed: 8/18/2020
Praphetic Praductions

Rating: 4 / 5






Every now and then I will review a film that has already been released (not an advance screener). I virtually met the director/writer/producer of this film Praheme while working with the band AL1CE on their recent virtual tour. I saw the trailer and was intrigued. After reviewing two films from my publicists lists, this film was on deck last night.


As a first time feature for Praheme, this film has many, many good things going for it. First and foremost - it was entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the interactions of the young middle school aged Scout members throughout the film. Their scenes are what made this film work for me. Working with child actors is always considered a no-no, particularly for your first film, but if you know what you’re doing, and can embrace the energy of the youth, your film will be all the better for it. Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions is a clear example of this.


The juxtaposition between the dramatic elements involving Tristan and the Scout elements worked most of the time but not all. There were definitely scenes when the adult actors had soap box moments that didn’t sound natural to me. They were too forced. Having reviewed several dozen theatre productions now, I’m always looking at the actors performances in any given film with a more acute eye. The prison scenes for example - the dialogue was top notch - so I really wanted to see those lines carry the emotional weight that they needed and deserved. But, they came up short for me.


Having said that, the work of young Kimani Coleman was perfect for this film. Much was asked of this actor and for the most part he delivered. Not an easy task considering how much is going on in the screenplay.


The tone of the film overall, particularly with the Scout sequences and the young actors in any given scene, was really well done. It felt like a mix of films I had grown up watching in the 80’s and perhaps a more present day Disney film. The dark dramatic violent scenes were also real and authentic.


The subject matter of the Scouts was also refreshing. How many people out there think of Scout members that are Black? Instead of the token Black child actor we got the complete reverse in this film. It should also be noted that this film depicted many aspects of BIPOC - and did it in a very authentic way.


Troop 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions could easily be a great television series. Netflix if you’re reading this - jump on this concept now. It would be a game changer for you.


And for those reading this - check out the film as well. You’ll be entertained and educated all at the same time.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!


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HARD KILL Film Review August 19, 2020



Hard Kill

Reviewed: 8/17/2020
Vertical Entertainment - HARD KILL On Demand & Digital on August 25, 2020.

Rating: 3 / 5





Sometimes a good action film is just what the doctor ordered. Flimsy plot, over the top heroics, enough bullets to supply a war, these are all recommended aspects of any action film.


“Hard Kill” doesn’t do anything new in the action genre and that’s ok. The team concept is on display here led by Jesse Metcalfe. Bruce Willis plays a former military now mega billionaire character that has a job for Metcalfe’s crew. Natalie Eva Marie (former WWE star) is one part of said crew.



(Bruce Willis as Donavan Chalmers in Action/Sci-Fi, HARD KILL, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



I can easily overlook certain aspects of film-making when it comes to the action genre. Much like the horror genre, I want to see certain things. If I do, then I’m good. With action films, I want, well, lots of action. “Hard Kill” takes too long to deliver the action. Once everything is set up, plot wise, let the bullets fly I say. But we don’t get that until later in the film.


The acting, well, outside of Willis, wasn’t much to write home about - but again, that’s ok in this genre. But, goodness, some of the other actors really need to spend some time on their craft. 



((L-R) Jesse Metcalfe as Derek Miller in Action/Sci-Fi, HARD KILL, a Vertical Entertainment release. Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment.)



Bottom line - “Hard Kill” wasn’t as entertaining as it looked on paper. It could have been but it missed the mark for this action lover.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!



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THE PALE DOOR Film Review August 19, 2020



The Pale Door

Reviewed: 8/17/2020
Available in theaters, on Demand and Digital August 21, 2020.
Distributed by: RLJE Films / Shudder.

Rating: 3 / 5






A horror western is the basic description of, “The Pale Door”. As directed by Aaron B. Koontz, the film starts out with a good premise but soon fades into obscurity.


I try to keep things spoiler free with my reviews and this one is no exception. As a horror fan, there were definitely elements that worked in the film. My favorite scene involves a boot spur and I’ll leave it at that.



(Pat Healy as Wylie in the horror/western, “THE PALE DOOR,” a RLJE Films/Shudder release. Photo Courtesy of RLJE Films/Shudder)



The characters and the acting are solid throughout the film. Once the gang hits the brothel and things begin to unravel, the pacing starts to drag on. Of course the horror aspect kicks in big time but overall I struggled to get through the last remaining portions of the film.


The storyline flashbacks made sense with the present day story which was refreshing to see. Many times screenplays lately have been using flashbacks to fill in holes which actually lead to more questions than answers.



(Natasha Bassett as Pearl in the horror/western,“THE PALE DOOR,” a RLJE Films/Shudder release. Photo Courtesy of RLJE Films/Shudder)



“The Pale Door” showed promise that wasn’t quite fulfilled.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts: Social Media Links HERE!




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Thursday, August 13, 2020

PRETENDING I'M A SUPERMAN - THE TONY HAWK VIDEO GAME STORY Film Review August 13, 2020



Pretending I’m A Superman - The Tony Hawk Video Game Story

Wood Entertainment
Reviewed: 8/10/2020
US Release: 8/18/2020

Rating: 4.5 / 5





I owned a skateboard during the initial wave back in the late 70’s/early 80’s. I wasn’t very good at it at all. I had an Atari 2600 back in the day as well. It was fun but I never got hooked into the newer systems that eventually came out. So, would someone with my background enjoy this documentary about the video game series - Tony Hawk Pro Skater? Yes, absolutely.


The documentary gives some skateboarding background prior to the video game craze of the 90’s that continues today in 2020. There are multiple interviews with other professional skateboarders, including Tony himself.


The insight into the early days of skateboarding, the vertical craze, and then the street craze was interesting and definitely captured the human interest element for me. If you’re into anything that is considered non mainstream (music such as metal, punk, even rap) then you know that skateboarding was also initially underground and not mainstream in any way.


As it’s popularity grew, it always went in waves. Skateboarding would be the in thing one year, out of fashion the next. But when Activision worked with Tony Hawk on a skateboarding game, the popularity of that game spilled over into the skateboarding world and the mainstream world.


For some this became a bit of an issue - the “selling out” of skateboarding. Bands face it all the time - when they go from underground to mainstream. As one musician put it - if it’s good, it won’t stay underground for long.


The massive success of the video game series early on cemented Tony Hawk’s monetary peace of mind and kept skateboarding relevant for many years to come.


“Pretending I’m A Superman - The Tony Hawk Video Game Story” is a compelling documentary, whether you skate or play video games or not. I wish the film was a bit longer as I felt they could have delved more into the impact of the video game on the fans around the world. They touched on it but they kept most of the interviews with the skaters and the developers of the game.


There are sports where certain figures become the face of the sport - even if you don’t know the sport. Tony Hawk is synonymous with skateboarding. And for good reason. This documentary shows just one aspect of why he is the skateboarding icon that he is.

Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!


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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

SPREE Film Review August 11, 2020



Spree

RLJE Entertainment
Reviewed: 8/10/2020
US Release: 8/14/2020

Rating: 4 / 5



SPREE is available in select theaters, drive-ins, on demand and digital August 14th.



(All Assets Courtesy of RLJE Entertainment.)




I have a love hate relationship with social media. It is a tool that every media member must use these days to keep up with the ever changing entertainment landscape. On a personal level it can be quite beneficial to keep in contact with family and friends who live elsewhere. One can interact with artists directly which in my day was unheard of. So, there are definitely positives about social media.


The film, “Spree” takes a look at the negatives - in a very exaggerated way. Joe Keery (Stranger Things) plays Kurt from @KurtsWorld96. He has been putting content online for years with little success in developing a following like some of his favorite social media personalities. 



  (Joe Keery as Kurt Kunkle in the thriller SPREE,an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.)



Kurt is a rideshare driver for Spree. He uses his job as a means to create content that he hopes will gain him followers on his socials. He will go to any means necessary to wow the audience and watch the numbers grow on his social media accounts.


Without giving too much away, “Spree” is perfect for anyone that utilizes social media to the extent that Kurt does. If you go “live” on Instagram or Facebook on a regular basis, then you’ll relate to the often bizarre world of social media, followers, and the need to stay a step ahead to keep your monetized following.


At times, “Spree” becomes almost like a documentary gone wrong as it is shot in a style that utilizes layovers on the lens to replicate mobile phone usage, social media platform usage, etc. Joe Keery is compelling as Kurt. The viewer feels sympathy for Kurt and would like to see him succeed but once he takes it too far, then everyone realizes just how far gone Kurt is.



(Joe Keery as Kurt Kunklein the thriller SPREE,an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.)



I myself have been overly active on social media during the pandemic due to some opportunities that came my way. So, watching “Spree” made me laugh at times because it was too relatable. But, again, once the story took a dark horrific turn, that’s when the similarities ended.


“Spree” was an entertaining ride through the current state of the social media world.


#thelesson


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!



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Monday, August 10, 2020

THE SILENCING Film Review August 9, 2020



The Silencing

Saban Films
Reviewed: 8/9/2020
US Release: 8/14/2020

Rating: 4 / 5


(All Assets Provided by Saban Films)



When the plot of a film involves a serial killer, a small town, and a forest, you might think that is incredibly cliche’. However, in the case of, “The Silencing”, those facts are only a part of the grand story.


A reformed hunter (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who’s daughter went missing five years ago, overseas a wildlife sanctuary. Struggling to cope with the loss of his daughter, his alcoholic behavior has spun him into a state where he barely exists. Other than his trusty dog, he has isolated himself from his ex-wife and the majority of the world.


The new appointed sheriff in town (played by Annabelle Wallis) is on the hunt for a murderer of a young teenage girl. All roads lead toward a few different suspects and thus the chase begins.



(Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Rayburn Swanson in the thriller, “THE SILENCING,” a Saban Films release. Photo Courtesy of Saban Films.)



What I liked about, “The Silencing” is that it never veered into disgusting, disturbing territory. It kept up the sense of uneasiness throughout the film while making the audience wonder who did it. The all too obvious suspect and the surprise suspect worked well - so the clues that were presented early in the story paid off in the finale.


Nikolaj reminded me of Viggo Mortensen’s brother in looks and sometimes in acting choices. This is to say he did a commendable job in the lead role. Annabelle also played the character of the new sheriff who is out to prove herself quite well. She was believable to the point when things shifted for her character later in the film.



(Annabelle Wallis as Sheriff Alice Gustafson in the thriller, “THE SILENCING,” a Saban Films release.” Photo Courtesy of Saban Films.)



The locations reminded me of the Pacific Northwest - it wouldn’t surprise me if it was shot up in Vancouver, BC based on the scenery.


The title of the film reflects not only the victims but what happens to a family when a child goes missing.  “The Silencing” is worth renting or buying when it is released. And there’s no need to be quiet about that.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here!



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Sunday, August 9, 2020

COMPOUND FRACTURE Film Review (re-release) August 9, 2020

Greetings,

One of my favorite thrillers from the last decade - "Compound Fracture" is being re-released by Level 33 Entertainment on August 11th, 2020!

Read my review below of the screening tour they were originally doing for the film back in 2013!


Best,

Mark

EA


"Compound Fracture"
May 29th, 2013
Seattle, WA
The Varsity Theater - Screening Tour


"They're both in some film called "Compound Fracture" I read the other day."  This is what I said to my assistant while we were at Crypticon Seattle on Friday May 24th.  I'm referring to Tyler Mane ("Rob Zombie's Halloween I and II", "Troy", and "X-Men" fame) and Derek Mears (best known for portraying Jason Voorhees in the 2009 "Friday the 13th").  At this point, I sheepishly admit I didn't even know Renae Geerlings was also in the film (and wrote the screenplay).  She is Tyler Mane's real life wife (my apologies Renae for not doing my homework).

"Oh, that sounds cool," my assistant replied.

"Yeah, they're doing a panel at 7pm.  I want to hear more about this film."  And on that note, we went to the panel discussion, which started with footage from the film and ended with the trailer.

I was intrigued.

We found out that tickets were being sold in the Crypticon dealer room.  We bought two VIP black bands - I didn't spring for the top level orange VIP bands (I was considering it but a lack of funds made my decision for me).  I left Crypticon looking forward to Wednesday evening.

Upon arriving at The Varsity on "the Ave" in the U District, there was a distinct line of people waiting outside.  Inside, co-star Renae Geerlings checked off names from her list of ticket sales while star Tyler Mane stood at the entrance of the theater, greeting fans, taking photos, thanking them for coming to the screening and such.  I told Tyler I was there to review the film and that I would make sure I got it to them once it was done.   He gave my assistant a hug and we entered the theater to find a place to sit.

After a few introductions, a behind the scenes clip was shown to the audience.  Tyler had interviews with the cast, intercut with on the set footage.  I particularly liked the brief clip of craft services in the kitchen with Little Caesar's pizza boxes laying about.

Tyler and Renae then went through a few items for raffle.  If you bought a VIP level ticket, your name got put into a drawing for prizes, the grand prize being a poster signed by the entire cast.  Grand prize winners were then eligible for another prize once the screening tour was over.  Seven or so items including props from the film, were the prizes, with two unique prizes capturing the audiences attention:  a screen worn jumpsuit from "Halloween" and a walk on role in Mane Entertainment's next film "Penance Lane" where Tyler's character will kill you on screen.  How fucking cool is that?  My name didn’t get drawn for any prizes.  I was picturing how my death would play out on screen (something Tyler and Renae had fans do for one of the earlier prize drawings) but alas it was not to be.  I'm Asian so perhaps I can convince Tyler and Renae to add me as the token minority character in an upcoming film.  One that eats too much, never gets the girl, and dies a horrible death mid way through the film.  Pretty please?

Movie time.

I wasn't sure what to expect from "Compound Fracture".  With Tyler and Derek's credentials, one would assume it would be a slasher flick.  But that much I knew wasn't true after hearing their panel at Crypticon.  And sure enough, it wasn't even close to being a slasher flick.  I dare say it's not even really a horror film.  I've described to others that missed the screening that it was like a supernatural thriller with tones of horror weaved within it's storyline.

Instead of rehashing the plot, you can read the synopsis on the website (and purchase your tickets for upcoming screenings):


Shot in 18 days with a grand total of 180 hours of footage and being the first film out of the gate for the newly formed Mane Entertainment, I found myself immersed in the character development early on in the film.  And for any of you non horror genre nay sayers out there, let me tell you something; Tyler and Derek can act.  In their better known roles, they were physical actors, having to portray emotion through masks without dialogue.  In "Compound Fracture" they get to show what they can do as students of the craft.  Impressive stuff, really!

The story builds nicely toward the finale that pits Tyler and Derek's characters against each other.  For horror fans, it somewhat reminded me of the build up in Michael Mann's classic film "Heat", where the audience is waiting for the face to face between DeNiro and Pacino's characters, which they finally are rewarded in the end.

In all honesty, I was really hoping this wasn't going to be one of those films that I wanted to desperately like only to be disappointed.  I am happy to report this was not the case at all.  "Compound Fracture" harkens back to the earlier days of horror where storytelling was an integral part of setting up the mood, the creepy atmosphere, that made you slink deeper and deeper into your chair as you waited for the next surprise.

After the film finished, Tyler and Renae came back out to answer questions from the audience as well as finish the raffle prizes.  My assistant and I left the theater very impressed with the film, the people behind it, and were very glad we went.

If the "Compound Fracture" screening tour hits your town, do yourself a favor and check it out.  It's worth your time and money.  But, perhaps more importantly, it's worth spending an evening supporting a group of talented individuals who are passionate about making quality films.

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts 

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.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links HERE!








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Tuesday, August 4, 2020

CHRISTY ANNA WU Written Interview August 4, 2020



Greetings,

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!

Cheers!
Mark
EA

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. 



"ALVIN" OFFICIAL TRAILER








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 once 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.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!


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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.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!



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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.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!



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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.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  HERE!



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