ECLECTIC ARTS

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

LADY OF THE MANOR Film Review September 15, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Lady Of The Manor

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 9/15/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


“Available in Select Theaters, on Digital and On Demand September 17th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD September 21st!”


(Lionsgate)



The new comedy film “Lady Of The Manor” has one thing going for it - the performance of the lead actor Melanie Lynskey. She is funny, quirky, and engaging. Luckily she is in nearly every scene in the movie. Without her presence on screen, there wouldn’t be much to write about.


Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth - an aristocrat who once lived in the home that Hannah is now giving tours in. Hannah is a stoner and a mess so the tours don’t exactly go as the heirs wanted them to. The ghost of Lady Wadsworth herself (played by Judy Greer) teaches Hannah how to be more like her.



((L-R) Judy Greer as Lady Wadsworth and Melanie Lynskey as Hannah in the comedy film, LADY OF THE MANOR, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.)



The film goes back and forth with the initial fish out of water concept, then the we’re friends concept, and ends with the we're buddies now concept.


There isn’t really anything new in “Lady Of The Manor” but it is a light and high spirited comedy. If you’re in the mood for a nice distraction from your day, “Lady Of The Manor” will hit all the right notes.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021

CRAZY FIST Film Review September 14, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Crazy Fist

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 9/14/2021

Rating: 2.5 / 5


On Digital & Blu-ray September 14!


(Well Go USA)



The new film “Crazy Fist” does it’s best to be a sleek, stylish, and action packed film (MMA style to be precise) but it’s clear from the onset that, while it achieves the surface nature of those attributes, the substance is sorely missing.


An original film from Hi-YAH!, this movie has plenty of eye candy for everyone to enjoy. The fights are quick edits with some occasional inspired parts but it just tries too hard to be a mix of one of the Fast and Furious films and a modern Donnie Yen film.


Cinema demands style and substance, not just style. “Crazy Fist” could have been so much more if they had added in the substance to back up the glitz.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, September 13, 2021

SHELTER IN PLACE Film Review September 13, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Shelter In Place

1091 Pictures
Reviewed: 9/13/2021

Rating: 2.5 / 5


On VOD and Digital on September 14th!


(1091 Pictures)



The new horror film “Shelter In Place” takes last year’s start of the pandemic and turns it into the plot of the movie. A couple are on their honeymoon at a hotel in Hollywood where they are basically stuck due to the pandemic.


The film starts out with a scare and then plods along with not much going on other than the couple interacting with some of the hotel staff. The movie strives for uneasiness and cabin fever but it doesn’t really succeed in that regard.



(1091 Pictures)



In the second act, the film picks up a bit, especially toward the finale, but at that point I was already frustrated that more of the horror aspect wasn’t spread earlier throughout the film.


I will always be a fan of the horror genre. But, lately there have been more misses than hits when it comes to what brought me to the genre in the first place decades ago - to be scared.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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LAST NIGHT IN ROZZIE Film Review September 13, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Last Night In Rozzie

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 9/13/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


(Gravitas Ventures)




The new film “Last Night In Rozzie” follows two childhood best friends into the present day. One is a lawyer with his own personal issues while the other is facing his last days from a hospital bed. His dying wish is to reconcile with his 10-year old son.


The film is clunky in places. It certainly has it’s bright moments, particularly those scenes between Ronnie (Neil Brown, Jr.) and Pattie (Nicky Whelan), but other times it seems to lose its focus surrounding the dramatic narrative.



(Gravitas Ventures)



The finale from yesteryear (no spoilers) is well done but by the time it’s revealed, the overall impact is diminished by the up and down of the film thus far.


“Last Night In Rozzie” was like a cinematic rollercoaster but not necessarily on purpose.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Saturday, September 11, 2021

FAUCI Film Review September 11, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Fauci

National Geographic Documentary Films with Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 9/11/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


Opens locally at the Grand Cinema in Tacoma, WA on 9/10



(National Geographic Documentary Films)



The new documentary film “Fauci” is a fascinating look at arguably the most well known doctor in the United States currently. Whether you agree with him or his findings is really immaterial if you look at the history of what Dr. Fauci has accomplished over his immense career.


I liked that the film showed footage from the detractors. This was not a love fest by any means. But it also shows how, in the case of AIDS/HIV and Ebola, Dr. Fauci took criticism and used it to actually change the way he continued his pioneering work in both of those historical disease outbreaks.


Of course they show modern day footage from the current COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Fauci is interviewed at length throughout the film and it’s interesting hearing his take on what has transpired over the last 19 months or so.



(Dr. Anthony Fauci in seated interview in his office at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. (National Geographic for Disney+))



Again, you are entitled to your opinion about Dr. Fauci and his work. But, make sure you’re looking at his entire career and also this film before slamming the scientist that has given us more hours of his life than, frankly, any of us deserve.


I, for one, am glad he pursued medicine. And even more thankful that his work, while influenced over the years (it can’t be helped when you’re the go to infectious disease guy for the leaders of the free world to be affected by the politics in DC), has created a strong think tank of scientists that are doing what they can to eradicate the infectious diseases of the world.



Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, September 6, 2021

AZOR Film Review September 6, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Azor

Mubi 
Reviewed: 9/6/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


Azor will open 9/10 in New York at the IFC Center and 9/17 at the Laemmle Royal and Playhouse in Los Angeles.



(MUBI Presents:  "Azor")



The new film “Azor” is a political thriller based in Argentina in the 1970’s. The plot revolves around a private Swiss banker Yvan (Fabrizio Rongione) and his partner who has mysteriously disappeared.


The film takes it’s time setting up the plot, the characters, and eventually the finale.


Fabrizio Rongione was a delight to watch throughout the film. His portrayal of Yvan was both nuanced and sophisticated.


The plot as a whole though started to wear thin for me as the movie plodded along. The pacing never really picked up. I thought with all the clues being dropped throughout the first part of the movie, the second act would have picked up the pace a bit. But, it didn’t.


“Azor” was an interesting film but it seems like the director (first timer Andreas Fontana) was still finding his way throughout the filmmaking process. It was a good, solid, directorial debut that really could have been great.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE INFLUENCER Film Review September 6, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Influencer

Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 9/6/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Breaking Glass Pictures)




The new film “The Influencer” is a present day look at the social media influencer phenomenon. And in this case, how it can go very wrong. If you’re not familiar with influencers, they are basically modern day pitch people. Their large social media following can catch the interest of companies that then hire them to promote their products/business/etc.


As someone that has a love/hate relationship with social media right now, “The Influencer” was a fun yet dark look at what’s behind some (not all) of the influencers out there, taken to a thrilling extreme of course.



(Breaking Glass Pictures)



Abbie Rose (played by Kasia Szarek) is a popular social media influencer that is as shallow as they come. She is the center of a home invasion by five criminals (actually numbered - initially led by Yasmine "Yaz" Abeydeera") that tears her world apart and shows what her life is really like.


The world of social media and it’s own influence on modern society is something that will continue to evolve and develop over time. For those of us that remember a time when none of this existed, it will be very interesting to see how all of this affects the future generations that are growing up with social media as a normal part of their culture.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Saturday, September 4, 2021

DEAR IKE Film Review September 4, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Dear Ike : Lost Letters To A Teen Idol

Reviewed: 9/4/2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5


West Coast Premiere at Dances With Films on Sunday, September 5th at 2:30PM PST at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood, CA.


("Dear Ike")


The new film “Dear Ike” is a really wonderful documentary about a man finding solace in an entertainer’s work and doing everything in his power to connect with him for his own artistic projects as a school age fan. This never happens in those teenage years but through a stroke of random coincidence, forty some odd years later, the dream becomes a reality.


I’ve said many times during my own livestream interviews how life can be so random at times. Sometimes life just hands you one. I’ve also been asked about networking and how do I manage to secure some of the guests that I have over the years. The way a young Dion went about writing letters to Ike and never really giving up resonated with me and my own pursuits.


Many people will recognize Ike Eisenmann from his work in the 70’s and 80’s. I didn’t know the name but I certainly knew who he was as soon as the clips from his TV work were shown during the film. “Escape From Witch Mountain” arguably being his best known work.



(Ike Eisenmann headshot from his teen years)



“Dear Ike” without spoiling it too much is really an amazing film with both a beginning and an ending bookend. In the majority of cases, when someone is a fan of an artist at an early age, the chances of them meeting, let alone working with that artist, are very slim. But, in life, there are always exceptions.  And in this case - a glorious exception.


This is one documentary that anyone can relate to. You don’t have to be a creative minded person nor do you have to be a genre geek. The full circle moment that happens in this film will remind anyone not to give up on their dreams.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, September 3, 2021

STAGE MANAGED TV Pilot Review September 3, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Stage Managed

TV Pilot
Reviewed: 9/3/2021

Rating: 4 / 5



Premieres at Dances With Films TV Group Block Saturday, September 4th at 5pm.





The new TV pilot mockumentary “Stage Managed” is a funny look at a theatre company at the end of their rope. They’re given one last chance to stage a successful production of “My Fair Lady” (which becomes “My Fair Lassy”) before the plug gets pulled on the theatre company.


The pilot sets up the open call process, the behind the scenes drama, and what could happen if the pilot is picked up for a season of episodes.


There could be much to explore if a distributor/studio/company decides to greenlight “Stage Managed” for more episodes. The whole process of getting “My Fair Lassy” ready for opening night could take either several episodes or the entire season with the actual opening being the season finale.


I liked what I saw and I hope someone out there does the right thing and picks this pilot up!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SAVING PARADISE Film Review September 3, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Saving Paradise

Vertical Entertainment
Reviewed: 9/3/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


Available today!


(Vertical Entertainment)




The new film “Saving Paradise” is a feel good film that crosses through familiar territory. A small town (now) lawyer named Michael (William Moseley), now living in the big city, goes back home to handle the affairs of his family’s dying business.


The pencil factory business is one of the last big companies left in the small town, meaning if it closes hundreds will be without a job. The guilt complex is big here as Michael did everything he could to “escape” from the small town. But, he finds himself at a crossroads about the future of the company and his own life choices.


“Saving Paradise” is an enjoyable film. The long lost love interest Charlie (Johanna Braddy) really shines in her role as the local administrator at the company that won’t go down without a fight.


I wish the lead Michael Moseley would have shown more heart toward the second half of the film. His performance is very muted and one note. For the first half, it makes sense as he is portraying the cold hearted lawyer who doesn’t want to deal with his family’s small town business. But when things take a turn in the second half, I found it hard to believe his character was genuinely fighting for the business. A small quibble.


Overall, “Saving Paradise” is a worthwhile viewing and it certainly shows how David can overcome Goliath.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

YAKUZA PRINCESS Film Review September 1, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Yakuza Princess

Magnet Releasing/Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 9/1/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Magnet Releasing)



The new film “Yakuza Princess” is based on a popular graphic novel. Don’t let that fool you, though. While the source material may be from comic books, the film adaptation isn’t nearly as comic book in presentation as one might guess.


Akemi (played by MASUMI - pop songstress) who grew up an orphan later in life discovers she is the inheritor of nearly half of the Yakuza crime syndicate. Of course many don’t want her to inherit such power and wealth which sets the narrative for crime, action, and drama.



(MASUMI in YAKUZA PRINCESS, a Magnet release. Photo courtesy of Magnet Releasing.)



The film is very gritty with a dark overtone that never dissipates. The fights are realistic and my understanding is MASUMI did her own stunts for this film which is impressive. Her acting skills could use some work but given enough time, I believe her future roles will be big improvements in that department.


Overall, “Yakuza Princess” is a worthy title in the Magnet/Magnolia Pictures canon of genre films (and that’s saying something considering how many top quality films they already have to their credit).


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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MAGNET RELEASING OFFICIAL SITE

THE GATEWAY Film Review September 1, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Gateway

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 9/1/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


(Lionsgate Movies)




The new film “The Gateway” starts with a predictable premise other than the background of the lead character Parker (played by Shea Whigham). If they had made him a burnt out detective or a vigilante that had grown tired of that lifestyle, it would have made more sense. But, Parker is a social worker who uses drugs and has a “lived in” background shall we say.


This aspect of the narrative really detracted from the overall impact of the film. Having been someone that’s worked alongside many social workers over the years, it just seemed rather silly to me.


Other than that, the movie is dark, gritty, and very watchable. The subplot with Olivia Munn's character was also interesting.  I would have like to have seen that explored a bit more.  



(Shea Whigham as Parker in the crime/thriller film, THE GATEWAY, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Antony Platt.)



It’s not going to win many points in the originality department but when you watch the trailer, you’ll know what you’re getting.


Again, a minor quibble about the background of Parker but outside of that, a good crime story thriller.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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LIONSGATE OFFICIAL SITE

Monday, August 30, 2021

STEEL SONG Film Review August 30, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Steel Song

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 8/30/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


On DIGITAL | VOD platforms by GRAVITAS VENTURES on TUESDAY, AUGUST 31st, 2021



(Gravitas Ventures)



The new documentary film “Steel Song” focuses on a topic I honestly never knew existed - competitive medieval armored combat. Many of us are familiar with the reenactment troupes around the world that stage historical battles and such. But, I had no clue that there were groups of men and women that competed on a national and international scale bashing each other while wearing armor.


For this reason alone the film is interesting. Once it starts showing what many of the individuals around the U.S. do to prepare for these competitions, that’s when things get really compelling. Of course the human interest aspect is there (one gal is on the Autism Spectrum, one gal is a high level educator, etc.) but it’s the practice and the actual tournament footage that I found the most enjoyable.


Who knew that not only are there Nationals but the winners go on to do battle in the Worlds competition as well. Wearing 80 pounds of armor while wielding a weapon at your opponent looks as dangerous as it sounds. Competitors definitely got their bells rung a time or two throughout the tournament footage.


“Steel Song” did a great job of shining a light on a sport that is fascinating to watch and learn about.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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A WAKE Film Review August 30, 2021 Eclectic Arts


A Wake

Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 8/30/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


Arrives on DVD/VOD on August 31st!


(Breaking Glass Pictures)



The new film “A Wake” is a compelling drama based around a family who hold a wake for their recently deceased son.


The plot revolves around the secret the son kept from some (not all) of his family and friends. One of two identical twin boys, Mitchel, was gay. His twin brother Mason tries to make sense of his death when Mitchel’s love interest Jameson arrives for the wake.



(Breaking Glass Pictures)



There are other family issues brought up with the parents, the older sister, and the younger sister as well.


The storyline and the performances are strong throughout the film. The youngest sister does get a tad annoying at times but that is the purpose of the character. The interplay between Mitchel, Mason and Jameson is where the heart of the film really lays. Their screen time is what makes “A Wake” a worthwhile viewing in my eyes.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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BREAKING GLASS PICTURES OFFICIAL SITE

Thursday, August 26, 2021

KINGSWAY Film Review August 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Kingsway

Level 33 Entertainment
Reviewed: 8/26/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Level 33 Entertainment)



The new film “Kingsway” is a slice of life drama about a dysfunctional family that tackles the subjects of mental health, suicide ideation, and life.


The movie wastes no time dropping the viewer right into the world of the characters. Matt and Lori are a couple whose relationship is on the rocks. Matt’s sister Jess confronts Lori about her infidelity and things spiral out of control from there.


The tone of the film is not as heavy as one would think considering the subject matter. There is definitely a feeling of love and misunderstanding that creates a unique air of believability with the narrative.


Where the film really shines is the cast. There are absolutely no weak links with this cast. They play off of each other incredibly well, reminiscent of a play. I found myself engaged throughout the movie and wanted to see where things went with the story.


My only minor question is why was this film made? Again, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it and it’s very well done. But it left me wondering what the message was. It was like watching a family and their struggles without a distinct beginning or end. It’s a slice of life.


“Kingsway” is available now.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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CRYPTOZOO Film Review August 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Cryptozoo

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 8/26/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5





(Magnolia Pictures)




The new animated film “Cryptozoo” is a unique look at animals, real and mythical, as well as confinement issues that have been at the forefront of the animal rights movement for decades.


The animation is a mix of mediums and it is not your typical 3-D release. Instead, the visuals are incredibly artistic and the overall aesthetic is one of imagination.



(A scene from CRYPTOZOO, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)



With the plot centering around a mythical creature and whether or not it should be captured or left alone to its mysterious ways, the narrative starts to wander as the film progresses.


For fans of animated films, “Cryptozoo” will prove a unique departure to the mainstream releases in 2021.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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(A scene from CRYPTOZOO, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)
 

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

NO MAN OF GOD Film Review August 24,2021 Eclectic Arts


No Man Of God

RLJE Films
Reviewed: 8/24/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


In Theaters, On Demand and Digital August 27, 2021



(RLJE Films)




The new film “No Man Of God” is a fascinating look into the history of the FBI profiler detectives and their subjects - in this case infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.


The story is based on some of the actual interviews and conversations from the real life FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier (played expertedly by Elijah Wood) and Ted Bundy (played convincingly by Luke Kirby).


The majority of the film centers around the one-on-one interviews between Hamaier and Bundy. Much of this was so the FBI could crack other murder/serial murder cases but some of it was also to help them understand the mind of a killer for future cases.



(Elijah Wood as Bill Hagmaier and Luke Kirby as Ted Bundy in the drama/thriller, NO MANOF GOD, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.)



In a film like this it rises and falls on the performances of its two lead actors. Elijah Wood and Luke Kirby go toe to toe throughout the film and the end product yields mesmerizing results.


“No Man Of God” isn’t overly graphic. It is much more about the psychology of a twisted mind gone out of control.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, August 23, 2021

THE LAST MATINEE Film Review August 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Last Matinee

Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting
Reviewed: 8/23/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


On VOD, Digital and DVD on August 24, 2021!






The new film “The Last Matinee” is a throwback horror film from Uruguay-Argentina. Even though it takes place in the 90’s, it really feels more like something from the 80’s.


The theater that it was filmed in is perfect for the occasion. A duel level large old school theater, a madman is inside stalking and killing the patrons.


It reminded me of a film you would have rented from the horror section of your favorite video store back in the day. Sometimes you found decent films that you had never heard of while other times you wished you had picked something else.


In the case of “The Last Matinee” I think you will be pleased with your selection if you like old school horror.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE FATAL RAID Film Review August 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Fatal Raid

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/23/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


Debuts on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD August 24th!



(Well Go USA)




The new film “The Fatal Raid” is a stylistic action film that looks good visually. From the way it was shot to the cast, there is a lot of eye candy.


However, the plot and narrative are shallow at best and unfortunately the visuals in a film will only do so much to engage an audience.


It was a nice touch to see somewhat of a throwback to the female led action films of the 80’s and 90’s. The fact that veteran Jade Leung returns is yet another contributing factor to this sentiment. But, again, the lack of a solid story really hurt the overall impact of this movie.



(Well Go USA)



It’s a shame that many Hong Kong films are strong in some areas, but weak in others. If they could put both the visual and story together in a strong package, they would be releasing blockbusters on a regular basis.


“The Fatal Raid” is a missed opportunity.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

MIDNIGHT DINER Film Review August 17, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Midnight Diner

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/17/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Well Go USA)



The source material for any film can leave things up to a debate amongst the fans. With the new film “Midnight Diner”, depending on your background with the source material, you may enjoy it like I did or you may take exception to it.


Based on a Japanese manga as well as a very popular adapted for television series that ran five seasons in Japan, “Midnight Diner” is a really engaging storyline.


A head chef of a midnight diner in China only referred to as “Master” serves his food creations to his regular customers and new ones that wander into his small diner. The film then dives into the backgrounds of the various characters and their unique narratives.



(Well Go USA)



There are some minor similarities to classic shows like “Cheers” in terms of the overall plot but “Midnight Diner” is definitely it’s own story.


Since I had no background when I viewed the film, I had nothing to compare it to. I found it enjoyable and the directorial debut of actor/director Tony Leung Ka Fai was a strong one.


If you’re a fan of the Japanese TV show (or the Korean one), again, your opinion may differ. But for those that are new to the concept, “Midnight Diner” is a compelling film.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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LITTLE Q Film Review August 17, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Little Q

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/17/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


(Well Go USA)




There have been many, many films that have featured animals over the years. Some of them are considered classics of the genre, while others have fallen short. The new film “Little Q” is somewhere in between.


The plot revolves around a head chef that loses his sight. A guide dog is then trained by a family and then assigned to the chef (played by Simon Yam). The chef is mad at the world about his situation and at first doesn’t want the dog around. Over time he grows to enjoy the dog and his new found freedom with her.


The film could have been a repeat viewing sort of movie. Instead, we get a disjointed, sappy, and dramatic film that just doesn’t live up to its potential.



(Well Go USA)



Simon Yam always delivers and it’s interesting how he has moved into the leading man category when back in the 80’s and 90’s he was a support player in many HK films.


While the HK equivalent of PETA was on set to make sure the animals weren’t harmed or abused in any way, there is at least one scene that most likely would never have made it into a US production.


Overall, “Little Q” is a film that could have been much better.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

UNDER THE VOLCANO Film Review August 15, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Under The Volcano

Universal Pictures Content Group
Reviewed: 8/15/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


On Demand and Digital on August 17, 2021.




The new film “Under The Volcano” is a fascinating look at the recording studio Sir George Martin built in 1979 - AIR Studio Montserrat.


The tropical island setting of Montserrat provided a paradise of sorts for every musical artist that flew there to record their albums. From Sir Paul McCartney to The Rolling Stones to Elton John to many major 1980’s hit makers, the studio became a go to destination due to its track record and its location.


There are interviews with many of the major artists (Sting/Andy/Stuart from The Police, Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits just to name a few) but also the studio crew and other locals that worked there as well. The film does a really amazing job of telling the story of the studio, the artists, and the people of Montserrat.


It’s a shame that a hurricane in 1989 and eventually a volcano eruption in 1995 put an end to AIR Studios Montserrat. But for the time it existed, the studio was a goldmine for capturing some of music's future iconic recordings.


If you’re a music fan and you enjoy documentaries, the new film “Under The Volcano” will strike all the right chords.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, August 13, 2021

USEDOM: A Clear View Of The Sea Film Review August 13, 2021 Eclectic Arts


USEDOM: A Clear View Of The Sea

Big World Pictures
Reviewed: 8/13/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


In U.S. theatres and virtual cinemas August 13th!


(Big World Pictures)



The new film “USEDOM: A Clear View Of The Sea” is an interesting documentary about an island community on the Baltic Sea. Split between German and Polish descendants, the film explores the history of the island, the culture, and what makes it a special place for its local residents.


The film starts off interesting enough in the modern day talking to a variety of locals about their unique stories of how they came to the island. At times the narrative starts to feel a bit like an infomercial from the tourist board for the island, though.


(Bergstrasse in Bansin, as seen in the late Heinz Brinkmann’s USEDOM: A CLEARVIEW OF THE SEA, Photo by Thomas Plenert, Courtesy of Big World Pictures.)



The historical significance later in the film is also worthwhile but at the point it loses its impact as the emotional connection just wasn’t there. Any documentary has to connect with the human interest aspect and in this respect, the film falls a bit short.


Overall, if you have an interest in learning more about Usedom, this film will serve you well. As entertainment, a little less so.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

RAGING FIRE Film Review August 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Raging Fire

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/12/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


In Theaters Friday August 13th!


(Well Go USA)



I’ve been a fan of Hong Kong cinema for many years so Donnie Yen was a star I was already familiar with back in the 90’s. Of course he rose to leading man status in more recent years and has remained there ever since.


Donnie’s track record has been hit or miss in my opinion. He’ll put out a stellar film like the first, “Ip Man” and then follow it up with one of the martial art comedies or period pieces that just don’t live up to the name Donnie Yen.


His new film “Raging Fire” lives up to the hype I’m glad to say!



(Well Go USA)



Directed by the late Benny Chan, the modern day tale of crime, police, and right vs wrong works on many levels. The story for the most part is cohesive with a few missteps here and there but nothing major like many HK films.


Donnie works well as the leader of an ensemble cast against his adversary Nicholas Tse. A well balanced film with plenty of modern day action make “Raging Fire” a very worthwhile viewing and a great addition to the Donnie Yen cinema legacy.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here



Saturday, August 7, 2021

2021 BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL August 7, 2021 Eclectic Arts



BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL

August 2 - August 8th, 2021



As soon as I read the intention behind the 7th Annual Bentonville Film Festival, I knew I wanted to participate. With a focus on women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ creatives, it stands for everything Eclectic Arts also believes in.


Here in no particular order are the films I viewed and capsule reviews of each.



“CRUTCH”
4 out of 5


My first film of the festival was a fascinating documentary about an artist who, through a condition (a severe hip issue), turned his handicap into a social and artistic experiment. As a dancer, skateboarder, and performance artist, he noticed how people in society reacted to his crutches. Based on these reactions, he started to set up scenarios around town where he could film the genuine reactions to people watching him, for example, trying to reach for a bottle of water while on crutches. He wrote a theatre show that also explored the artistic expression of his life which was very intriguing.



“THE FIRST STEP”
5 out of 5



I wasn’t sure if I wanted to view this documentary. The film explores Van Jones and his life in and out of politics. The criminal justice reform bill being the center of attention, it was interesting to see how Mr. Jones really couldn’t win. He was criticized by both sides of the issue as well as those in the African American community. The film was compelling and very well done. It goes to show that sometimes you have to do what you believe to be right, no matter how popular, or in this case, unpopular, it may be. Recommended.



“AT THE READY”
3 out of 5



The premise of this documentary sounded promising. A high school on the US/Mexico border that offers both classes and an after school program to train students to become border patrol (and similar) officers. Yes, high school students.


The individual stories of the teens were interesting at times but overall the film grew tiresome as it went on. I think if it had been edited down to less than an hour it would have made more of an impact.


“THE NOVICE”
5 out of 5



This film was highly touted at the Tribeca Festival and rightfully so. It is a unique and compelling look at a college age competitive canoe rower that becomes obsessed with the sport and ultimately herself.


Without spoiling the plot, the performances and the whole approach to the film was absolutely stunning. I was not surprised in the least to hear this film was already picked up for distribution. Recommended.



“WORKHORSE QUEEN”
4 out of 5


This documentary follows the life of Ed Popil who had appeared on Ru Paul’s “Drag Race”. The ups and downs of fame and how fleeting it really is made for an above average film viewing. Ed came out in the end looking really good as a person with integrity and with a caring heart. Time well spent with this Queen.




“YOUTH VS GOV”
5 out of 5



This documentary was very well done as it focused on climate change and how it is affecting the youth of America (and the world). If you believe in science, then you’ll be glued to your screen as you watch a group of young adults take on the federal government. Recommended.



“SHORTS BLOCK 4”
5 out of 5


The plus of watching a shorts block is if a film isn’t resonating with you, you don’t have to wait long before the next short film starts. The con is that if you like the film, it will end sooner than you’d like. In the case of these short films, all, and I mean all, were jaw droppingly good.


I can’t really single out any of them because they truly were creative and unique in their own ways. But, having said that, I have to say, “I’m A Vampire” that rounded out this block of six short films was so creative, fun, and clever. This block was extremely well done. Recommended.




“SHORTS BLOCK 1”
5 out of 5



I watched a few of the shorts blocks out of order but man they did not disappoint. Usually there are a lot of good ones, a few great ones, and a few not so good ones. But Bentonville really found a great group of short films to present here. Amazing quality. I hope some of these titles move to feature length versions in the future.



***


I thoroughly enjoyed the 2021 Bentonville Film Festival. It was refreshing to see a body of films that really lived up to the intention behind them this year. Based on what I viewed, there are so many talented filmmakers out there and perhaps more importantly, unique stories and narratives that need to be told by the groups that lived them.

There were other quality films in the lineup such as "Catch The Fair One", "Beans", and others but I had reviewed them for other festivals thus their absence from my reviews here.   

Thank you so much to the organization for allowing me to partake in the festival virtually. I hope to be involved next year in 2022!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


Monday, August 2, 2021

A SAVAGE NATURE Film Review August 2, 2021 Eclectic Arts


A Savage Nature

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 8/2/2021

Rating: 4 / 5




CHECK OUT THE
LIVESTREAM INTERVIEW WITH STAR JOANNA WHICKER!


The new film “A Savage Nature” is inspired by true events revolving around a home burglary/invasion that goes awry. Set in a small rural town, the film wastes no time setting up the narrative in which a couple who are having marital problems have drifted apart and they are trying to figure out where things went wrong. One night they are approached by two men at their home who say they need to report an accident but their phones have no service out there.


No spoilers here but the film takes a turn or two after that point and is really engaging. The film firmly sits in the true crime/thriller genre if that helps any readers out.


“A Savage Nature” was entertaining, if a little bit predictable at times. The lead actor Joanna Whicker does a fantastic job of playing the wife who yearns for more in her life. Her performance kept the story moving along at a believable pace.


Overall, an enjoyable film for those into the thriller genre.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

FIREBOYS Film Review August 2, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Fireboys

1091 Pictures
Reviewed: 7/29/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE OR RENT ON AUGUST 3, 2021



(1091 Pictures)



The gap between the haves and have not's has been widening greatly over the last decade. One could argue that the chaos of the last year has contributed to furthering that divide as well. We still haven’t even seen the pinnacle of the after effect of the pandemic - yet.


The new documentary “Fireboys” reminded me of the societal issues we have been facing recently as well as my own past experiences with a demographic most don’t want to even talk about.


Here in western Washington state we have been seeing the smoke from many of the California wildfires during the summertime since 2018. This was unheard of back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I honestly had no clue that some of the brave folks fighting those fires have been from the criminal justice system.



(1091 Pictures)



“Fireboys” focuses on one facility, Pine Grove, that is a training ground for the younger adult inmate population who are interested in becoming firefighters. They have to earn their way to Pine Grove. Once accepted, they then go through intense training to then pass rigorous tests to advance to the next stage (which may be going out on a hand crew and fighting fires).


If an inmate gets out of line (and one does in the film), they are immediately sent back to their correctional facility. The filmmakers do a wonderful job of immersing the viewer in the experience of the inmates and the process to becoming a firefighter.


They also show the disparity of work to pay as well as opportunity for those with California Fire and those inmates that hope to one day have a career as a firefighter once they are free.


“Fireboys” is inspirational but also a call to action to reform the qualifications for those inmates that want to pursue firefighting as a career once their sentence is up. There are always two sides (sometimes three) to any criminal offense. But if we are truly trying to reform former criminals into being contributing members of society upon their release, then certain steps need to be in place to bridge the gap between corrections and mainstream society.


Highly recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, July 29, 2021

FRACTAL UNIVERSE - "The Impassable Horizon - Alive" Live-stream Review July 29, 2021 Eclectic Arts



Fractal Universe
The Impassable Horizon - Alive - Livestream


Metal Blade Records
Reviewed: 7/29/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


TICKETS AVAILABLE TO VIEW THROUGH AUGUST 8th - 






The progressive technical metal band from France - Fractal Universe - performed their latest release in its entirety for a new livestream event. Debuting on Sunday July 25th (the concert is available to purchase tickets through August 8th so you didn’t miss out), the band rented out a venue and utilized multi-cameras to capture the band at their ferocious best.


For those like myself new to the band's music, their latest album “The Impassable Horizon” is a wide mix of styles rooted in progressive metal. The members are equally skilled on their instruments so all the music nerds will most definitely find something of interest here.


When vocalist/guitarist Vince pulled out the saxophone the first time, I was thinking to myself “wait - what”? Just that act alone gives you an idea of what you’re in for with this band.


They are heavy when they want to be, technical basically at all times, with great mood and structure throughout their songs.


They added a few additional favorites from their catalog to round out the show. The overall presentation of the concert was well done. I still prefer to not see the camera crew in shots on stage but I know it can’t be helped most of the time as they’re trying to get all the angles that they can during the performance.


Hopefully things get to the point in the world where Fractal Universe can hit the road and perform some of these new songs to their fans around the world.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here




Wednesday, July 28, 2021

PRAY AWAY Film Review July 28, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Pray Away

Netflix
Reviewed: 7/28/2021

Rating: 5 / 5



***Launching Globally on Netflix August 3rd***
And in Theaters on July 30 in NYC at the IFC Center


(Netflix Original Film)



It is the job of any reviewer to remain as objective as possible when reviewing any film. There have certainly been times when I had to check myself as my own personal views on a subject were clouding the film presented to me.


The new original film for Netflix “Pray Away” focuses on a subject that has irked me for many, many years. I’ll just be up front about that right now at the beginning of this review.


The idea that someone that identifies as LGBTQIA+ can be saved or their orientation can be “prayed” away is not only ridiculous but it’s downright dangerous.






This fascinating yet angering documentary focuses on a group of religious people that created a huge movement to enlist and pray away those who identified as LGBTQIA+. The fascinating part is that it tells the story of more than one (former) member of this religious group who came out, then joined the religious group, then left the group and came out “again”. Their stories from the inside during their time working for the religious group are compelling to the core.


The film also shows a recent convert who left the trans “lifestyle” and found Jesus who cured him. But the main focus is on the religious group over the years. Their power and influence was clearly evident and it is still here today.


Without this turning into a soapbox speech, whether you agree or disagree about the subject matter, “Pray Away” is a must view as it is one of the most powerful documentaries I’ve reviewed this year (and that’s saying something).


Recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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