ECLECTIC ARTS

Friday, December 10, 2021

JAKE SHIMABUKURO Christmas In Hawaii Live Concert Review December 8, 2021 Eclectic Arts



Jake Shimbukuro
Christmas In Hawaii

Edmonds Center for the Arts
Edmonds, WA

Wednesday December 8, 2021



(All Photos - (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)



It was a welcome return to the greater Seattle area (Edmonds to be specific) for Jake Shimabukuro and his amazing group of musicians. Billed as “Christmas In Hawaii”, the show was a well rounded mix of old favorites, new songs from the recently released, “Jake & Friends”, as well as holiday classics.


The sold out show was abuzz with anticipation as this was Jake’s return to the area since 2019 AKA pre-pandemic times. Jake, like many other artists, went virtual during 2020 as a way to stay connected with his fanbase. Of course a virtual show doesn’t compare to an in-person concert experience.


The evening started off with a solid set from Thunderstorm Artis. A popular contestant from the television show, “The Voice”, and a native of Hawaii, Thunderstorm sang original and cover songs in his short but sweet set. His angelic voice really worked well in the venue and his set went over really well with the fans.


As soon as Thunderstorm’s set finished, Jake, along with Jackson Waldhoff (bass) and Taku Hirano (percussion), walked on stage and immediately went into a trio of songs (see the set-list photo - thank you to Brett for providing one after the show). The band sounded fantastic. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating - Jake’s live concerts are always better when he has other musicians to play off of. He’s learned to perform as a mix of full band, partial band, and solo and I hope this never changes. I’ve seen him in the past by himself, with a bassist (Nolan), and as a trio (with Dave and Nolan) - and, again, the concerts are more enjoyable in my opinion with other musicians joining in on the fun.


Thunderstorm Artis joined the band for a few songs which was another nice touch by adding vocals (Dave had sung during past shows). Thunderstorm’s voice really worked well with the music - not to mention his acoustic guitar playing.


Jake, of course, was the center of attention but he never hogged the spotlight. If you’ve ever met him, you know just how down to earth and humble he is as a musician and as a human being. He always shares the stage with the other musicians. But, perhaps it was the pandemic “break” or the fact that this was my first concert back as media since the pandemic but Jake sounded nearly flawless. His playing was effortless and he always brings endless joy and energy to his performances.


With a set of around twenty songs, and a brief venue intermission, the show was extremely satisfying. Every fan got a little something to make them happy. And, let’s face it, for many of us - just being back at a live concert was awesome enough. But being back at a sold out Jake Shimabukuro concert? Well, that was absolutely incredible.


Thank you so much to Jake, Jackson, Taku, Thunderstorm, Brett, and Nichole for a perfect experience.


Happy holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts here:  Social Media Links Here





(All Photos - (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)






(All Photos - (c) Mark Sugiyama for Eclectic Arts)


Monday, December 6, 2021

"GEORGE BALANCHINE'S THE NUTCRACKER" PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET 12/4/21 7:30pm Performance Eclectic Arts


George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker

Pacific Northwest Ballet
McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

Review: 12/4/21 7:30pm Performance





For many in the Pacific Northwest, the holidays mean an annual visit to McCaw Hall for the spectacle that is “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker”. There is no denying that upon entering the venue - seeing the gigantic Christmas tree, the festive holiday decor all throughout McCaw Hall, and many patrons dressed up in their holiday best - it is easy to get in the spirit of the season.


I tend to people watch to get a vibe on the audience for any given event at McCaw Hall. This year there was much more of a welcome anticipation of being back in-person after the Covid-19 induced absence that was 2020. Not just for myself (which was very true), but for the majority of the patrons that attended.


As I entered through the Covid-19 protocols outside, there was much laughter, giggles, eyes wide open by the children, and just a good buzz around the hall. This continued as more and more patrons came in. Attendees of all ages, more dressed up this year than previously, from a diverse demographic filtered in as the curtain call drew near.


This year’s performance followed the format that is Balanchine. Yes, a few things were altered/changed costume wise (to keep with the times) but the majority of the performance was still the same.


One striking difference of course were the masks on all of the younger performers (and one adult looking performer, too). Just another reminder of the trying times we’re living in.


This was my third time seeing this edition of “George Balanchine's The Nutcracker” in as many years. I still have my quibbles about the stiff choreography, the lighting design choices at times (especially the second act), etc. But this year the PNB company dancers really made things worthwhile. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I haven’t seen an in-person PNB performance in two years. Or perhaps it was because I recognized some of the familiar faces on stage Saturday night, somewhat like seeing old friends again. Perhaps most of all it was experiencing the high art that is ballet in a convivial atmosphere during the holidays. In other words, I enjoyed this experience fully.


For those annual return suspects, there has been much talk about which version is better - the current one or the previous PNB version that played for many, many years. My advice? Go see it for yourself and form your own opinion.


“George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” runs through December 28th. Click HERE! to purchase tickets.


Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

"INSPECTING CAROL" Performance Review - 12/3/21 7:30pm Show THE PHOENIX THEATRE Eclectic Arts


Inspecting Carol

The Phoenix Theatre
Edmonds, WA

Review: 12/3/21 7:30pm Performance





Back by popular demand (from the initial run in 2019), “Inspecting Carol” returns to The Phoenix Theatre this holiday season. A zany comedy that I personally loved two years ago, I was looking forward to seeing this new interpretation of the show.


With returning cast members and a few new faces, The Phoenix Theatre continues its vigilance by having a reduced capacity audience at each show due to the times we are living in. This means don’t snooze on tickets (it may be too late as of this review). Check out the link at the bottom to purchase any tickets that may be left.


The premise revolves around a down and out theatre company that needs to earn a grant through the National Endowment for The Arts to basically stay open. They stage a version of “A Christmas Carol” and then mayhem ensues.


There were standouts in the cast and definitely scenes that made the audience laugh out loud (myself included). A few changes were made to the narrative to reflect the times (2020) but overall the material was still intact from the first run two years ago.


My overall impression of the performance was that it was solid but it didn’t reach the heights of hilarity that happened in 2019. Perhaps it’s because I had seen it previously so I knew what to expect. Or perhaps it was due to a few changes in the cast and the creatives behind the scenes. In any event, it was still a fun and crazy show that I loved. I only think I enjoyed it a tad bit more the first time around if that makes any sense.


“Inspecting Carol” runs through December 19th. Tickets are limited so don’t wait. Check here for availability:  PURCHASE TICKETS


Happy Holidays,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

Thursday, December 2, 2021

SILENT NIGHT Film Review December 2, 2021 Eclectic Arts


SILENT NIGHT

RLJE Films
Reviewed: 12/2/2021

Rating: 2 / 5


AMC+ and RLJE Films will release SILENT NIGHT in Theaters and streaming exclusively on AMC+ on December 3, 2021.


(RLJE Films and AMC+)



The new film “Silent Night” is a holiday film wrapped up in, well, something else (no spoilers here).


The film starts off like what you might expect. A family gathering for the Christmas holiday in England. The usual family drama that comes with such events is explored. All status quo here.


Then the film takes a decidedly different turn. Again without spoiling things let’s just say the turn made didn’t improve the film much.


When entering certain genres, it is imperative that the creatives go all in, so to speak. No half measures otherwise it comes off as such. Being a long time fan and now a film critic of one of these genres, the film just flat out missed the mark.


Perhaps you'll feel differently after viewing "Silent Night".  


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

ADRIENNE Film Review December 1, 2021 Eclectic Arts


ADRIENNE

HBO and HBO Max
Reviewed: 12/1/2021

Rating: 5 / 5





(HBO MAX)



The new documentary film “Adrienne” is a compelling tale of love, loss, inspiration, tragedy, and so much more. Directed by Andy Ostroy (husband of Adrienne Shelly) and featuring interviews with friends, cast mates, and family members, “Adrienne” follows the story of Adrienne Shelly’s career. Her unique sensibility and the bullshit she encountered during the formative years of her career.


Her “can do” attitude and incredible talent was on the way up with a little film she wrote, directed, and co-starred in called, “Waitress”. Adrienne never got to see the reaction to the film nor the massive Broadway hit it would inspire of the same name.


What works so well in the film is the sheer scope of what director Andy Ostroy manages to pull from the interviews, the old footage of Adrienne, and the current events that unfold (no spoilers here). One can’t help but be moved by the scope of what happened to Adrienne and the ramifications all these years later.


I wish this film never had been made in the way that it had to be - a tribute - to a talent taken from us far, far too soon.


“Adrienne” is highly recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


OFFICIAL TRAILER

Monday, November 29, 2021

7 SHORT FILMS ABOUT (OUR) MARRIAGE Film Review November 29, 2021 Eclectic Arts


7 Short Films About (Our) Marriage

Reviewed: 11/29/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


Available Now On Digital






The new film “7 Short Films About (Our) Marriage” is a drama split into seven chapters or short films. Spanning the life of a young couple who have artistic dreams in film and dance only to watch life have its way with their dreams.


Chynna Walker and Drez Ryan play the married couple and both do a masterful job of taking the audience on a journey that many of us are all too familiar with in our own lives. Dreams versus reality, and all of the nuances that come along with both.


Written and directed by Chris Hansen, the film really comes across like a play. As a matter of fact, I would love to see this taken to the live theatre stage as I think it would work well on so many levels.


Everything is subdued so the focus falls on the two main characters on the screen. Even the soundtrack music is absent during much of the film and sparingly used to enhance only certain scenes.


The direction and the performances make this film stand out in a big way. I’m looking forward to seeing more work from all three artists.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

"THE MUSTANGS: America's Wild Horses" Film Review November 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


THE MUSTANGS: AMERICA'S WILD HORSES

Virgil Films Entertainment
Reviewed: 11/23/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


Available on TV On Demand via Apple TV and Amazon Prime Video





The new documentary film “The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses” is a look at the history of mustangs as wild horses throughout America leading up to the present day. The issues with federal corrals and horses still in the wild are also addressed.


The film is interesting and informative. I would have liked to have seen more from the other points of view - such as those that want to see the horses roam free completely. The lack of resources to sustain the thousands of horses currently is an interesting one. It begs the question of what would have happened if humans had never existed. Would the mustangs and every other species of animal on the planet thrived or would they have run into the same issues currently facing them?


Don’t get me wrong - the efforts to conserve and to assist veterans are admirable ones. But, any time I see animals in peril, I can’t help but wonder what if ….


“The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses” is available as TVOD (TV on demand) November 23rd.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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BABETTE'S FEAST Show Review November 20, 2021 Eclectic Arts


BABETTE’S FEAST

Taproot Theatre
Seattle, WA

Review: 11/20/21 Performance


Performances run through December 30th, 2021


(Matthew Posner, Nolan Palmer, Jenny Vaughn Hall, Pam Nolte, and April Poland in Babette's Feast at Taproot Theatre.  Photo by Eric Stuhaug.)



Taproot Theatre has been putting on consistently high quality productions ever since I first started reviewing their shows back in 2018. Just like everyone else involved in the arts community, 2020 and part of 2021 has been one of the most difficult times in recent memory. The absence of live events has really exposed the old adage of “you don’t know what you miss until it’s gone” to a proverbial T. Thankfully, the show must go on and Taproot Theatre is back in action with their play, “Babette’s Feast”.


The Covid-19 protocols were being followed at the east door, with concessions in the Isaac Studio. The performance I attended was nearly full save a few seats here and there (some of which may have been to protect patrons and the actors due to proximity).


How wonderful it was to be back at the Taproot Theatre on Saturday evening!


The play was approximately 90 minutes long with no intermission. Again, this may have been a deliberate decision due to Covid-19 to get patrons in and out of the theatre.


The trademarks that I’ve come to know and love about any Taproot Theatre production were clearly evident in, “Babette’s Feast”. Top-notch casting, professional performances, and solid storytelling were all on display during the play.


The narrative was a little all over the place during the first ten minutes or so of the first act. But, eventually the characterizations became more clear and the show went to another level.


As much as I enjoyed the performances and the execution of the show, I just didn’t find it resonating with me. This will happen from time to time with live theatre. Again, it had really nothing to do with the show as it was an extremely solid production.


I’m ecstatic that live theatre is back on stage at the Taproot Theatre and I’m looking forward to their upcoming new season.


“Babette’s Feast” runs through December 30th. Tickets are available here:  TICKETS!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

ZEROS AND ONES Film Review November 17, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Zeros and Ones

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 11/17/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


(Lionsgate)



ZEROS AND ONES will be Available in Select Theaters, on Apple TV and Everywhere You Rent Movies on November 19th! Available on Blu-ray and DVD on January 4th!



The new film “Zeros and Ones” looks promising on paper. Ethan Hawke (playing two characters) as directed by Abel Ferrara. With a long standing career as a director, Abel Ferrara presents a film that is a mix of confusion and artistry shaped by the pandemic (is my guess).


As a thriller, the film comes up short. As an interesting piece of cinema, the film excels. But, if you’re looking for a straight forward film with action and thrills, this isn’t the movie for you. It definitely leans into Ferrara’s artistic style, a bit too much at times, and that takes away from the impact of the narrative.


“Zeros and Ones” was an interesting start to a collaboration that may yield stronger results should there be a follow up film.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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MEAN GIRLS Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount Seattle, WA 11/16/21 Eclectic Arts


MEAN GIRLS

Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount
Seattle, WA

Opening Night Review: 11/16/21


From November 16 – 21, 2021


Mean Girls  Book by Tina Fey, Music by Jeff Richmond, Lyrics by Nell Benjamin, Directed &Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw  Credit: © 2019 Jenny Anderson



It was with great anticipation that I and my guest ventured into Seattle for the first time since the pandemic began in early 2020. The second show in the 2021/2022 Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount’s return to the in-person stage Tuesday evening was “Mean Girls” which is based on the popular comedic film of the same name.


This was only my third in-person event back since the pandemic so it was both nostalgic (which is weird to type) and exciting to get back to the Paramount Theater. Kudos to the event staff for getting the patrons through the Covid-19 protocols as quickly as they could. We were amongst the line of people waiting to get in twenty minutes before show time but for us the line moved quickly, the early hand stamp after having your credentials checked (card or negative test and ID) before reaching the tent really helped, and the line went by super fast.


The show itself was visually stunning to watch. I loved the use of the screens to depict the various classrooms, homes, and other sets. The lighting design was also worth noting which added the extra emphasis to each scene and musical number.


The story followed the film for the most part with a few changes or additions for 2021. Having seen the film recently, I can say that I was surprised to see/hear just how many songs were in this touring musical. I really expected more dialogue than numbers - yet we got the opposite. The songs just kept on coming with plenty of choreography as well. I enjoyed the early number with the lunch trays but after a while I started to yearn for more storytelling.


The performances from the entire cast were strong throughout which is no surprise for a touring musical. The characters portrayed are high school age so the singing voices needed to match. This was a bit grating to my ears after the first few numbers. Others were eating it up though so I think it just depends on what you like to listen to.


Fans of the film will most likely enjoy this musical. They’ll identify with the characters and the themes. I was somewhat surprised to see that not much of the themes were updated for 2021. They did change a few things but much of it was just left as is much like a time capsule of the film.


If you’re not familiar with the film, I honestly don’t know what you will think of this show. Again, it was a top notch production with a cast and behind the scenes crew that put on a bang up show. But the songs, the pitches of the performers, and the overall tone of the show (which was light) may be a hit or a miss for theatre goers. You’ll have to see for yourself.


Oh - and tsk tsk to the patron that had their phone out during Act II for several minutes. Such bad form.


Having said that, being back at an in-person Premera Blue Cross Broadway At The Paramount performance was amazing!  I knew I had missed attending the performances but last night really emphasized just how much I had missed them.  From that respect, it was a fantastic evening.    


“Mean Girls” runs through Sunday November 21st. Tickets are still available here:  BUY TICKETS!


See you at the theatre,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

Monday, November 15, 2021

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND Film Review November 15, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Prisoners Of The Ghostland

Streaming Exclusively on AMC+ and Shudder on November 19th
Reviewed: 11/15/2021

Rating: 2 / 5


(Shudder)



The new film “Prisoners Of The Ghostland” is a Nicolas Cage film. Just that sentence alone will get some people/fans excited and make others raise their “is it any good” eyebrow. In this case, the eyebrow is the correct response.


Nicolas Cage has developed a cult following for any film that he is a part of. The issue is that the quality of those films has been suspect for, honestly, years now.



(Nicolas Cage as Hero in the action/adventure film, PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND. Photo courtesy of AMC+ and Shudder.)
 


This film is so all over the place that I actually laughed at certain scenes that weren’t designed to be funny. That says a lot.


“Prisoners Of The Ghostland” is a pass. For many, a hard pass.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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BOILING POINT Film Review November 15, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Boiling Point


Saban Films
Reviewed: 11/15/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


"Boiling Point" will be in theaters on November 19 and on VOD and Digital Nov. 23.



(Saban Films)



The new film “Boiling Point” is the perfect marriage of daring filmmaking and personal storytelling. Utilizing a single camera, no edit approach, making a film about a drama in a busy restaurant absolutely worked with this method.


The craziness, pressure to perform, falling off the rails feel of working in a restaurant comes through in spades. I reviewed one other film that utilized a one camera approach and it came up short. But, here, again, the marriage of subject matter and filmmaking method works so well.



(Stephen Graham as Andy Jones in the drama/thriller, BOILING POINT, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.)




The storylines are many, including societal issue commentary, and my understanding is that the actors improvised their dialogue working from bullet points in rehearsal. This makes sense to me and also makes me applaud the team that much more in bringing “Boiling Point” to the silver screen.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here




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Friday, November 12, 2021

ASCENSION Film Review November 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Ascension

MTV Documentary Films
Reviewed: 11/12/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(MTV Documentary Films)



The new documentary film “Ascension” is an interesting look at the world of business and work in modern day China. From the warehouses offering $3 an hour to manufacture everything under the sun to the courses on butlery, manners, and how to be an influencer, the film really digs into the world that may seem foreign to a Western audience.


What stuck out to me was the overall message from many of the companies that everything must put China in the best possible light. How you look, how you dress, your work ethic, etc. Having watched a few films about Japanese business culture, there were similarities that I don’t think you’d ever see adopted by an American company.



(Employees working on a rooftop infinity pool in Chengdu, China, as seen in Ascension, directed by Jessica Kingdon. Image courtesy of MTV Documentary Films.)



Some of the mentality during the workshop courses was almost laughable and at times seemed like a scam. But, this is perhaps a difference in culture and a difference in business models.


“Ascension” is a documentary worth viewing.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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NIGHT RAIDERS Film Review November 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Night Raiders

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed: 11/12/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


(Samuel Goldwyn Films)



The new film “Night Raiders” is a departure science fiction film that touches on societal issues that have been around for centuries.


A post-apocalyptic world where a mother Niska (played by Elle-Maija Tailfeathers) and her daughter Waseese (played by Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) are struggling to survive. Children in this new world are sent to institutions when discovered, which happens to Waseese. This sends Niska on a journey to rescue her daughter.



([L-R] Brooklyn Letexier-Hart as Waseese and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers as Niskain theSci-Fi/Drama/Thriller film,“NIGHT RAIDERS,”a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.)



The Indiginous aspect of the film really creates a refreshing atmosphere on what could have been a more typical sci-fi film. Instead, “Night Raiders” explores the world of injustice through a very specific and much needed lens.


The story is compelling and the cast is spot on with their performances.


“Night Raiders” is definitely a film worth checking out.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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DOUBLE WALKER Film Review November 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Double Walker

Cranked Up
Reviewed: 11/12/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5





The new film “Double Walker” is a compelling yet surreal take on the modern day ghost story. The plot focuses on a ghost who comes back to investigate the details of her own demise. While that aspect reminded me just a wee bit of “The Crow”, “Double Walker” isn’t a gothic dark tale.


Sylvie Mix (co-producer, co-writer, and star) plays the lead role to perfection. She is vulnerable, intense, curious, and interesting. She handles the layers within the storyline with ease. I would love to see another film that is perhaps a continuation of this storyline or even in this fictional universe.






“Double Walker” is a refreshing new independent film.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Monday, November 8, 2021

THE EMPEROR'S SWORD Film Review November 8, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Emperor’s Sword

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 11/8/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


(Well Go USA)



The new film “The Emperor’s Sword” is another release from Well Go USA and Hi YAH! The plot is confusing from the start which is sometimes typical of these period dramas. At times the film really shows promise and then either the narrative or sometimes the special effects knock it back down a peg (or two).


But when it works, it works really well.



(Well Go USA)

 

I will always be a sucker for period films from Asia. They remind me of my first foray into the sub-genre many decades ago. When the aesthetic matches the story, that’s when things really become something special.


The cast is hit and miss with this film and that’s another area in need of improvement.


Overall, “The Emperor’s Sword” is an entertaining film but it shows so much more promise than it delivers.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Friday, November 5, 2021

HELL HATH NO FURY Film Review November 5, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Hell Hath No Fury

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 11/5/2021

Rating: 3.5  / 5


(Well Go USA)



The new film “Hell Hath No Fury” is an interesting take on the action genre. At times a bit of a throwback to the grindhouse style films of yesteryear mixed in with modern day technology. The sum of its parts, however, comes up short.


The story is really secondary to the action which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, with the cast and talent involved, I was expecting a higher combination of the two areas.



(Well Go USA)
 

Nina Bergman and Daniel Bernhardt did a fine job in their respective roles. I was only familiar with Nina from her short stint with a now defunct rock band so it was good to see her in the film world as I had heard she had an array of artistic talents. Daniel is such an underrated performer. He needs more vehicles like this where he can really shine.


Overall, “Hell Hath No Fury” is a violent, action film. It could have been more, though.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Thursday, November 4, 2021

IDA RED Film Review November 4, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Ida Red

Saban Films
Reviewed: 11/4/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


(Saban Films)



The new film “Ida Red” is a fascinating and well done thriller about a lawless family in a small town, rural setting. Josh Hartnett and Frank Grillo play brothers who are conducting “family business” for their ailing mother who is in prison.


The narrative is compelling and the whole feeling of the sands of time shifting definitely plays a part in how this movie comes across. The viewer knows that eventually the bad guys will run out of time, there will be a shoot out of some sort, and then there will be a finale.


The performances by the entire cast are top notch and there wasn’t a weak link in the bunch. “Ida Red” is arguably the best film Saban Films has put out in a long time.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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Saturday, October 23, 2021

2021 INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL Review Recap October 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL 2021

October 20 through October 25th


Purchase Passes Here:
https://www.indiememphis.org/2021-festival-home






The 24th Indie Memphis Film Festival kicked off on October 20th (and goes through October 25th).  The programming is varied and dynamic.  Below are a few of the film reviews from the festival thus far.


“ALIEN ON STAGE”
3 out of 5



Being a fan of the first three “Alien” franchise films, I was intrigued to see what this documentary was about. A British tongue in cheek production of the first Alien film - steeped in British tradition. It is not a straight interpretation of the classic Ridley Scott film. Instead, the bare boned production uses their creativity to bring laughter and insight to the stage.


While it was an interesting and fun film, I didn’t really find the production itself to be something I would want to see. Perhaps if I saw the production in person, I would sing a different tune.



“BUNKER”
3 out of 5



This documentary was very odd in the subject matter. It follows several different former military members as they build bunkers in many different formats. There isn’t any dialogue for the first twenty minutes or so. Eventually, some of the men that make the bunkers start to talk about their creations and their idea of what the future holds (and why they’ve built the bunkers).


Some of the bunkers were inspired creations and the creators deserve a lot of credit. But, in the end, “Bunker” was an overall strange documentary. Perhaps you’ll feel different.



“POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE’ “
4 out of 5



A music documentary about Poly Styrene (X Ray Specs and her solo work), a bi racial punk pioneer, the film was interesting and absolutely educational. Her mental health battles as well as her inspiring music as narrated by her daughter were something I was not aware of before. The documentary flowed nicely and definitely kept my interest.



“REZ METAL”
5 out of 5



I am a metal-head. I saw a different mini documentary a few years back about metal on the Rez and it was an interesting watch. This film was a no-brainer for me to check out. And I’m glad I did.


The documentary follows one band I Don’t Konform around as they fight to get known. They manage to get Flemming Rassumusen (well known Danish producer of the early Metallica albums) interested in their project and that’s really the crux of the film. The other storylines revolve around life on the Rez, the impact that the Rez life has had on the musicians living there (either country or metal it seems), and what lies ahead.


You do not need to be a metal fan to enjoy “Rez Metal”. The human interest and historical perspective will educate any cinephile.



"LISTENING TO KENNY G"
5 out of 5



Being from Seattle, I’ve known about Kenny G for decades. I saw him live at the height of his popularity when the Kenny G “Live” album came out.


What I really liked about the film is that it showed both sides - the fans and the detractors. The jazz-heads that can’t stand him and the fans that got married to his music. The dichotomy really makes for an interesting documentary.


Kenny is interviewed throughout the film. He is self-deprecating, hard working, and goal driven. He also comes off a little full of himself at times too but I believe it’s really unintentional. It reminds me of the nerd in class that finishes an assignment first and tells everyone so. They don’t necessarily mean to brag, they are just proud of themselves for finishing the assignment first. They don’t really understand how it might rub some people the wrong way.


There is a great basketball analogy in the film by one of the jazz critics. I won’t paraphrase it here but let’s just say it’s spot on about why jazz heads don’t like Kenny G’s music.


I happen to like Kenny G’s music in moderation. Even at his show back in the day, I could only take so much instrumental music. And holding a note for ten minutes doesn’t impress me, it’s rather annoying, actually.


But at the end of the day, “Listening To Kenny G” is a great documentary by all involved and is worth checking out.



"A BALLET SEASON"
4 out of 5


The documentary “A Ballet Season” is basically a day in the life of Ballet Memphis. As a credentialed reviewer of the Pacific Northwest Ballet here in Seattle, I really enjoyed seeing the work behind the scenes of the company.


There have been numerous documentaries about ballet as a high art form or following dancers as they enter various competitions around the world. I much prefer what “A Ballet Season” offered, which was very candid footage of a professional ballet company. In fact, I would have loved to have seen a longer version of the film.


The focus on diversity and representation as a company core value was great to see put into action. Many companies in the arts world are sharing similar visions which bodes well for a future full of dancers from all walks of life.



"REEL ROCK: BLACK ICE"
5 out of 5


I loved this film!


If you have ever worked in, lived in, or consider yourself in tune with anyone from the ‘hood, then this film will at least be your flavor and possibly a mix of your favorite things all rolled into one.


Memphis Rox is a non profit organization based in Memphis that offers rock climbing (and all its subdivisions) to anyone that wants to learn. Fees are only set as donations so it is a pay what you can situation. They do not discriminate nor do they turn anyone away that wants to learn. Pretty cool stuff, right?


Well, the film ‘Black Ice” takes a group of Memphis Rox students and teachers and sends them off to Montana to go ice climbing with established climbers in the field. The fish is very out of water in this scenario.


What I liked about the film was that at its core, it speaks to many social issues while also showing teen issues, state differences, and so many more things. And - it’s entertaining.


Another kudo for this film is the length. While I loved it and would have loved to have seen more, in reality the message was sent loud and clear. Mic drop. So many filmmakers and/or their editors haven’t mastered that concept yet. If your story is told in 45 minutes, don’t add more footage just to lengthen the narrative. It takes away from the power and focus of your film. Just leave it be. Please.


I ended my run with this year’s Indie Memphis Film Festival with this film and I couldn’t have picked a better one.


I already ordered a t-shirt to show my support for what they are doing at Memphis Rox. Check them out and the film. You won’t be disappointed.


***


Thank you so much to the Indie Memphis Film Festival for having me virtually this year to cover the festival.  I really wish I had more time (an unexpected move from my home of 24 years put a huge stress on my time this month) as the festival had a lot of wonderful films to offer - both feature and short.

Thank you to Caitlin for setting up this year with everything.  I sincerely appreciate it!

See you virtually at the movies!

Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

SEATTLE OPERA LA BOHEME October 16, 2021 Performance (Opening Night) Eclectic Arts

Seattle Opera
LA BOHEME

McCaw Hall
Seattle, WA

October 16, 2021


RODOLFO: Yosep Kang. MIMÌ: Karen Vuong.
Photo credit: Sunny Martini



It’s hard to put into words the feeling of being back at the Seattle Opera at McCaw Hall this past Saturday evening. Collectively there was a very understandable electricity in the air as patrons, musicians, artisans, and performers alike anxiously awaited the triumphant return to the live in-person stage of the Seattle Opera.


Who knew that in January of 2020 as the cast was taking their final bows from the production of “Eugene Onegin” that this would be the last in-person performance for twenty months and some change.


Traveling down to the event was much like returning to a favorite vacation spot. Some things had changed along the way (for better or worse) while familiar landmarks stood out even more so than previously.


Of course COVID-19 protocols were in place for those not on the stage. Vaccination status/negative tests before entry, masks at all times, drinks only in certain areas (none were allowed in the hall itself), no press room, etc. None of this really mattered to those in attendance. What mattered was that the Seattle Opera was back and the new season was about to begin at McCaw Hall, not at the respective homes of the patrons in front of a television set or computer.


“La Boheme” was a solid choice to welcome back the old guard and the unfamiliar first time opera goer. Its simplistic love story was easy to digest and of course Puccinni’s music has become one of the most beloved for decades.



MUSETTA: Ginger Costa-Jackson. MARCELLO: John Moore.
Photo credit: Sunny Martini



The cast on Saturday evening lived up to the mission of the Seattle Opera recognizing the lands of the indiginous tribes and the inclusion of all people from all races. They have been putting a focus on this well before the pandemic and the societal movement from 2020. Seeing Asian leads as well as other races in the cast really created an opera production for 2021. It was a pleasure to see.


Having never seen any other version of “La Boheme”, I left the performance feeling that the production was good but not necessarily great. It’s difficult to not let the emotional aspect impact my review but if I had witnessed this performance pre-pandemic, I would have said the same thing.


Having said that, I do have to say Ginger Costa-Jackson is a marvel and she always commands the stage when she is on it - regardless of the role. She is a treasure and a talent of infinite possibilities.


There were other familiar faces in the cast which brought emotional memories back as the show unfolded. This actually happened throughout the performance for this reviewer. It was so good to be back at the Seattle Opera.


My one observation that I do want to note was the lighting design work in Act II, specifically the last scenes (15 minutes or so). I really felt a dramatic turn of the lighting could have added so much more emotional impact to the storyline and performances. Instead it stayed one note for the most part which I found peculiar. Typically, the lighting has been stellar at all of the Seattle Opera performances I’ve attended. But Saturday night this portion, at least, was lacking. Perhaps it was budget or just a bit of rust from the long layoff. In any event, it was something I noticed in a small way.


Overall, “La Boheme” was a good production but the other intangibles of the night made it almost a great production.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Purchase tickets here:  TICKETS!

2021 INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL KICKS OFF OCTOBER 20th!



INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL 2021

October 20 through October 25th




The 24th annual Indie Memphis Film Festival kicks off in grand style October 20th. For those not local to the festival, you’re in virtual luck as you can purchase passes for the virtual version of the festival.


https://www.indiememphis.org/2021-festival-home


With an inspired programming lineup, there is sure to be something for every indie film lover in your household.


See you virtually at the movies!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

FOUND Film Review October 19, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Found

Netflix
Reviewed: 10/19/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


***Launching Globally on Netflix October 20th***


(Netflix)



The new documentary film “Found” is a compelling look at adoption, cross cultural identity, and the human spirit.


Three adopted girls who live in different parts of the United States connect with each other virtually once they find out they are cousins. That alone is an interesting narrative that the film explores.


In addition, two of the three girls are interested in finding/meeting their birth families from China, it adds another layer of drama and intrigue to the proceedings.



(Netflix)



The film does a fantastic job exploring the feelings and experiences of each of the girls and their families. The subject of loss comes up - both on the girls side and their (potential) biological parents side. I believe it's one of those issues where if you’re not adopted, you really can’t understand what it's actually like.


There is also the cultural aspect as all three Chinese girls are adopted by caucasian families (one is a single mother). There is the religious aspect of Christianity and Judaism as well.


The girls' stories are intriguing and their visit to China is also another aspect of the film that broadens its scope.


“Found” is a very memorable film and highly recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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NETFLIX OFFICIAL SITE




ESCAPE FROM MOGADISHU Film Review October 19, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Escape From Mogadishu

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 10/19/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


(Well Go USA)



The new film “Escape From Mogadishu” is a period thriller based on a true story. Government diplomats from both North and South Korea find themselves trapped in the middle of a civil war in Mogadishu.


The cast is formidable if you follow South Korean cinema and the film has been nominated for several awards in its home country.



(Well Go USA)



The story is compelling to a point but it does lose its focus from time to time. I really wanted to care about the characters and the outcome but I found myself not emotionally invested at the end.


“Escape From Mogadishu” is a solid film but I wouldn’t consider it award winning material ala the Oscars.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, October 11, 2021

PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET Singularly Cerrudo (Digital Performance Review) October 11, 2021 Eclectic Arts



PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET

Singularly Cerrudo

10/7/2021 - 10/11/2021 (Digital)






The Pacific Northwest Ballet took the stage for in-person performances once again in late September 2021. After mounting a successful digital season during the earlier parts of the pandemic in 2020/2021, the PNB kicked off their season with “Singularly Cerrudo” - three pieces by PNB’s resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo.


While I would have loved to have been there in person on opening night, my schedule just couldn’t accommodate another event. I’ll be back at McCaw Hall soon enough to take in the splendor of the PNB live and in person. The next best thing was to view the digital program.


Featuring Silent Ghost, an excerpt from One Thousand Pieces, and finishing with Little mortal jump, the program was a bit of the familiar and the new.


Silent Ghost was a moody, mesmerizing way to start the program. The visuals, coupled with the ever flowing choreography, provided a strong statement that the PNB was indeed back.


The excerpt from One Thousand Pieces brought me back to the dress rehearsal that PNB offered right at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. How strange it was to watch something that I had already seen before (different performance and cast) but granted in a very different state of mind of course. The excerpt from One Thousand Pieces is still a daring and beautiful piece that reminded me of the beauty and high art that is ballet.


Little moral jump was a contrasting piece that was whimsical at times and had a completely different flavor which allowed the viewer (and audience) to finish the program on a positive, upbeat note. Cerrudo’s choreography is very daring and the PNB cast pulled it off with stunning results. I had forgotten just how immersive the world of ballet can be when all of the pieces work together.


Just like everyone else, my world has changed in the last year and a half and some change. It’s honestly going to take me a while to meld the worlds that I was a part of pre-pandemic and the worlds I developed during the pandemic. But, rest assured, both worlds compliment each other and I’m looking forward to the day when I can set foot back in McCaw Hall to witness the beauty and power of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in person.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here