ECLECTIC ARTS

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

THE VIRTUOSO Film Review April 28, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Virtuoso

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 4/28/2021
Rating: 2.5 / 5


(Lionsgate)



I think any movie fan will recognize talent in a cast when they see it. But, they also know that sometimes that talent listed is there to get you to rent/buy/watch the movie. Stars such as Anthony Hopkins can lend their talents to a film for only a few scenes and it will help the movie gain notice, distribution, and viewership. It’s been done for years.


But “The Virtuoso” has other notable talented actors. Anson Mount plays the lead (from AMC’s “Hell On Wheels” series) and when combined with Abbie Cornish and Anthony Hopkins, one would think the film would be at least decent, if not good or great.



(Anson Mount as The Virtuoso in the thriller/crime/action film, THE VIRTUOSO, a Lionsgate Release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.)



Unfortunately, “The Virtuoso” is really a snooze fest that doesn’t really go anywhere. How a film with such a talented cast could end up so blah is beyond me.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, April 26, 2021

GOLDEN ARM Film Review April 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Golden Arm

Utopia Distribution
Reviewed: 4/26/2021

Rating: 4 / 5





I love a good comedy and I don’t get too many sent my way to review in advance. But, my luck changed recently and the film, “Golden Arm” was available for review.


The film centers around a to-be divorced woman Melanie (played by Mary Holland) who runs a bakery that isn’t doing so well. Her old college friend Danny (played by Betsy Sodaro) shows up to convince her to leave her troubles behind and to try arm wrestling for money (as she used to be good in college).



(Director Maureen Bharoocha, behind-the-scenes in the comedy, “GOLDEN ARM,” a Utopia Distribution release. Photo courtesy of Zachary Burns.)
 


The film is lighthearted and absolutely funny. Betsy Sodaro reminded me of Jack Black back in the day. And the chemistry between Betsy and Mary is clearly evident. Their time together honing their comedy craft really carries over to the film. The tone reminded me of the comedies from the 80’s.


“Golden Arm” hits all the right notes and then some. I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud at a comedy so many times.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Exclusive Clip



ABOUT ENDLESSNESS Film Review April 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts



About Endlessness


Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 4/26/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


ABOUT ENDLESSNESS will open in theaters and on demand April 30th.  The film will open theatrically at the SIFF Film Center and Grand Illusion Cinema here in Seattle.



(Theatrical one-sheet for ABOUT ENDLESSNESS, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.)



I’ve said this a few times in past reviews but it needs to be repeated here for the film, “About Endlessness”. Sometimes I just don’t understand what I’m supposed to comprehend from certain films. It doesn’t mean they are bad films. It just means that by the end of the film, I’m at a loss as to what to think about it.


Perhaps I need more of an eye for films like, “About Endlessness”, that I would categorize as Art House. Perhaps I just need more film reviewing under my still-new belt. I don’t know.



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



But, I was completely baffled by this film. It’s like a joke without a punch line. I was just left grasping at straws, not really sure what to make of the film.


Perhaps you’ll have a better understanding of it than I did. And if you do - please enlighten me.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE PAPER TIGERS Film Review April 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Paper Tigers

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 4/26/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Well Go USA)



I had been looking forward to reviewing this film since last October when I conducted an interview with the director Tran Quoc Bao. Shot here in the greater Seattle, WA area, I did my best to approach the film as objectively as possible (which was difficult at times since I was born and raised here).


I remember watching the trailer months ago and thought this looks all over the place. A kung fu comedy can be very hit or miss in my opinion. I expected to get a throwback to the kung fu genre films of the 70’s and 80’s. Instead, the film is more of a modern day family drama with kung fu as the underlying cinematic theme.


The standout for me was Danny (played by Alain Uy). He carries the film well as the pseudo deadbeat dad who was once a great martial artist. In lesser hands, the dramatic scenes and dialogue would have fallen flat but Alain keeps everything believable and at times entertaining.


Hing (played by Ron Yuan) has done voice over work amongst his acting credentials. Having worked with voice talent before as an audio engineer in another life, Mr. Yuan should be booked to the moon and back with voice over work if you ask me. He also brings the comedy element to life easily as only a professional can.


(Well Go USA)



And let’s not forget Jim (played by Mykel Shannon Jenkins). He adds depth to the proceedings not to mention the physicality as well of the three tigers. I could have done without the N word being used in the empty pool scene. There are other ways to get someone’s goat. It seemed a bit out of touch considering the societal issues we all witnessed in 2020 and are still going through today in 2021. And yes the other character did apologize later for calling Jim that but it was already said and done at that point.


The film really had a magnificent scene when Danny is explaining to his young son over the phone how to make a fist and when to use it. I would have loved more of these scenes that added more emotional weight. The finale fight scene was done well and ended the film on a high note. Or kick.


I enjoyed seeing the Martial Club guys in the film. I would have liked to have seen them go off in a fight scene like they do in their YouTube movies more so than they did. And the cameo by Yuji Okumoto and his line about knowing karate was a nice touch as well.


Overall, I enjoyed “The Paper Tigers”. It was entertaining and at the end of the day that’s what matters most.

Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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TRAILER from WELL GO USA





Wednesday, April 21, 2021

WILDCAT Film Review April 21, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Wildcat

Saban Films
Reviewed: 4/21/2021

Rating: 3 / 5



WILDCAT Is In Theaters April 23, 2021 and On Digital and On Demand April 27, 2021.


(Saban Films)



The new film “Wildcat” tells the story of a journalist working in the Middle East who is captured by a militant group. She is locked in a room where her captors try to extract her real identity and purpose for being in their country.


The film basically takes place in one setting - the room where the lead character Kat (played by Georgina Campbell) is being held captive.


Ms.Campbell is the best part of this film. She delivers a solid performance and is basically in every scene.



(Georgina Campbell as Khadija Young in the thriller WILDCAT, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Saban Films.)
 


Unfortunately, beyond that, there isn’t really much to recommend about this film. The torture scenes were unnerving and definitely done well. But overall the film just didn’t resonate with me.


Perhaps you’ll think differently.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

SIFF 2021 Recap April 20, 2021 Eclectic Arts


SIFF 2021 Recap

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

4/20/2021








As a first time credentialed media member, I was grateful for the opportunity to participate in SIFF 2021 (the first time the festival went virtual). Below are just some of my observations from my festival experience.


The first word that comes to mind is overwhelming. Like many, I have several jobs that I juggle. My other media work didn’t stop due to SIFF. It was a case of “in addition to” not “instead of”. So, conducting live-stream interviews during that time, working a survival job, writing reviews of advance films outside of SIFF, etc. all kept moving along.


The programming is immense which I already knew. I purposely did not read too much into the recommendations and the other “must watch” lists I saw posted online. I went through the program on my own and selected films that stood out to me at that time on that particular day.


My first selection was the documentary, “Fruits of Labor”. I was really moved by the film which set me off on a grand course for the rest of the festival. I secured an interview live-stream with the director Dr. Emily Cohen Ibanez which was the only interview I conducted during the run of the festival (others are now pending after the fact).


What impressed me the most about the programming was just how vast it really was. And I didn’t even have the time to see as many films as some SIFF-aholics. Eclectic Arts is just that - eclectic. If I wanted horror, I found horror. If I wanted drama, I found drama. If I wanted a shorts package, I found a shorts package. It was almost endless which reminded me of the first time I ever walked into Scarecrow Video many, many years ago. It was just like “wow”!


I must also mention that every single link worked for me as press. There were zero technical issues. Major kudos to the tech team that got all of this together. That is a huge compliment that there were no issues from my end.


Another thing that crossed my mind is how in the world do some fans watch so many movies over the course of the festival? My mind starts to get a bit zombified after even two films in one sitting, let alone four or five like some fans were doing. And this was all from the comfort of my own home. When the in person festival returns, you have to add in travel time, parking, schedules as not all the films will be conveniently available when you want to see them/can see them, etc.


I understand the cinema experience in person. It’s just like live events. There is no replacing that. But, I do hope the SIFF organizers consider at least some sort of hybrid festival for 2022. Perhaps the majority is in person to help support the local theaters but another package is available virtually. Or maybe all the films are available virtually except for the “big” films that the committee decides to make theater only showings of. I don’t know. I see both sides of it. I think more people are apt to purchase a ticket package if they can watch what they want, when they want, from their own homes, especially if you don’t live in Seattle proper (I don’t). There’s also money to consider. The virtual option allows people from outside the area/state the opportunity to buy and view films (depending on the territory restrictions, etc). But that’s just my suggestion for next year. Bring it back in person but have some level of option for virtual as well if at all possible.


I still feel like SIFF is draining out of me in the most positive of ways. What an experience that at times felt like a test of cinematic endurance. How much can you take in before you crash and burn? I covered more than twice what I put on my application so that’s good enough for me. Well, as a start at least. I hope to have the privilege of being back in 2022.


Thank you to everyone at SIFF for the amazing experience. You put on one heck of a virtual festival for 2021!


FILM REVIEWS (all open in a new window):

















"Fruits of Labor" Interview Live-stream with Dr. Emily Cohen Ibanez



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TOO LATE Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Too Late

SIFF 2021
Rating: 3 / 5






The film, “Too Late” revolves around Violet who works for her veteran stand up comedian boss Bob. She helps Bob book guests for his show called Too Late.


Violet meets an up and coming stand up comic named Jimmy and they instantly relate to each other. Bob’s secret is revealed which may cause issues for everyone around him (to put it mildly).


“Too Late” was a part of the WTF section of SIFF this year (Wild Terrifying Fantastic). As a fan of the horror genre, it’s ironic that that’s the part of this film I liked the least. I was rather intrigued by the plot and what was going to happen to Violet. When Jimmy entered the picture it got even more interesting.


If the film had stayed a comedy with some drama (or the other way around) I may have liked it more. But, the horror element was my least favorite part of this film.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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WRITING WITH FIRE Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Writing With Fire

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5





The film, “Writing With Fire” was a tough but necessary film to watch. It is a documentary that follows the news media company in India that is composed of all women. Keep in mind the patriarchal society that is prevalent over there, not to mention the corruption and lawlessness, and you have a recipe for a film that is engaging while hard to watch at the same time.


Having said that, the film is also inspiring. To watch these women go against the odds - with their lives at risk any time they pursue a story, really hits home for anyone that does media work.


And the stories that they cover are just incredibly difficult to hear about. I don’t know how some of their subjects live in such circumstances.


Khabar Lahariya is the news outlet and they go from print to digital during the course of the film. You can follow their stories on their YouTube channel which has exploded in recent years.


They are making actual change one story at a time and more power to them.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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CONDUCTIVITY Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Conductivity

SIFF 2021
Rating: 3.5 / 5





As a musician and as someone that has interviewed one symphony maestro, I was intrigued by the documentary, “Conductivity”.


The film follows three students in Helsinki as they study to become music conductors.


While the journey is interesting after the first hour it starts to drag on (no pun intended). I think the drama within the story starts to get lost and that’s a shame as it starts off very well.


Still, the film does manage to show that it takes a heck of a lot of talent to conduct an orchestra. The conductor isn’t just “flailing around with their arms” as some people would think. There is so much more going on than meets the untrained eye.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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RITA MORENO - Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Rita Moreno - Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5





I viewed a good number of documentaries for SIFF this year. I was especially looking forward to this film.


Rita Moreno is a legend and pioneer in her field.


Rita narrates and is interviewed throughout the film and tells her story as only she can. There are the known topics of course but she also reveals a few non so known topics from her life as well.


The film is also timely for women and BIPOC. With all that has occurred in the last year (and is still going on right now as I type this), this documentary is one shining example of what one woman did when she decided to go for it.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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WAIKIKI Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Waikiki

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4 / 5





When people think of Hawaii, they of course think of the beaches, the clear water, the culture to an extent, and everything else that it has been portrayed as for years.


“Waikiki” shows us a different side of Oahu.


The story follows a hula dancer that accidentally runs into a homeless man after a violent incident with her boyfriend. She is working three jobs to survive but lives out of her van. The day to day struggle is more than real and the film shows the themes of humanity, domestic violence, homelessness, and other current issues incredibly well.


The film almost felt like a documentary as did a few other films I reviewed for SIFF. This is a compliment to the director, the actors, and the entire film team.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SUMMERTIME Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Summertime

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5





While I have an appreciation of almost anything that I consider artistic, the world of spoken poetry is rather removed from me. I can appreciate it but I really know next to nothing about it.


Enter “Summertime” and it’s brilliant use of spoken poetry to tell an interwoven story of multiple characters throughout the film.


I love it when scenes are tied into other scenes and it all comes together in the end. “Summertime” does a fantastic job of this.


It was powerful, thought provoking, relatable, and well worth the viewing.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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PHANTASMAGORIAS Film Reviews SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Phantasmagorias

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5






I always enjoy a shorts program, particularly horror, as they often give a glimpse into new talent that we will be hearing from in the future. The Phantasmagorias collection did not disappoint.


Nine short films that ranged from spooky and sinister to comedic and definitely frightening. I honestly enjoyed all of them with the only exception of one which shall remain nameless. It was just too bizarre for me where I was left scratching my head at the end of it.


But outside of that, there were some remarkable films in the bunch. “Inferno”, “Look What You Have Done!”, and “The Haunted Swordsman” were some of the standouts.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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I'M FINE (Thank You For Asking) Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


I’m Fine (Thank You For Asking)

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4 / 5





There were definitely a few films this year that were a slice of life. “I’m Fine (Thank You For Asking)” was one of them for sure.


Based around a mother and her daughter that are living out of a tent, after the father passes away, they are struggling in almost every sense of the word.


Kelley Kali plays the mother Danny and is credited as director and writer as well (with others contributing, too). She is fantastic in the role. The audience feels the stress and tough choices her character goes through in each scene. Just when things look like they may be going her way, life throws her another obstacle to overcome.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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UNDER THE OPEN SKY Film Review SIFF 2021 Eclectic Arts


Under The Open Sky

SIFF 2021
Rating: 4 / 5





The film “Under The Open Sky” tells the story of a former yakuza who is recently released from prison after doing a thirteen year stint. He finds life tough to adjust to and some of his old habits definitely die hard.


The film rises and falls on the shoulders of Isao Hashizume and he delivers a stellar performance. At one point I actually forgot I was watching a fictional film and thought I had ventured into the documentary arena.


His performance is incredibly nuanced and easily believable.


The pacing of the film is on the slow side and it does drag out at times but again the performance of Isao Hashizume keeps things together brilliantly.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

VANQUISH Film Review April 14, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Vanquish

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4 / 5


VANQUISH in select theaters on April 16, 2021, on Digital and On Demand on April 20, 2021 and on Blu-ray and DVD on April 27, 2021.


(Lionsgate)



The pandemic had basically put a halt on any movie productions for a long period of time. Some started up again only to be shut down, etc. or they had to pivot to figure out how to complete a project during quarantine.


The new film, “Vanquish” is a fun thrill ride that feels like it could have done big business during 2020. It’s now scheduled for release this week and hopefully, with things opening up again, it will find its audience around the world.


Morgan Freeman stars in the film and yes he is in the film from beginning to end. It isn’t one of those annoying cameo appearances that are done to help sell a film with a big star's name attached. Mr. Freeman plays a retired top cop that was injured and thus confined to a wheelchair. Victoria (played by Ruby Rose) is a former Russian courier that works for Damon (Freeman).



(Morgan Freeman as Damon in the action, crime, thriller, VANQUISH, a Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment Group, a Lionsgate Company release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.)
 


Damon has his hands in some dirty business and hides Victoria’s ill daughter from her in order to blackmail her to do his bidding one last time.


The film has plenty of action and Damon’s home has a bit of a Michael Mann feel to it. Ruby Rose carries the film well and I would like to see her in future action based films.


“Vanquish” reminds everyone that going to the movies for certain films (vs watching them at home) requires the big screen experience and is a missed and necessary pastime.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, April 12, 2021

SIFF 2021 Coverage Eclectic Arts



Seattle International Film Festival 2021
April 8 through April 18, 2021





My Eclectic Arts coverage of SIFF 2021 will be updated here (with an overall impression recap at the end of the festival). Reviews as they are completed will be added here from the first film reviewed to the most recently reviewed film at the bottom of the list.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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CHUCK CONNELLY: INTO THE LIGHT Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Chuck Connelly: Into The Light

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 5 / 5





I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into by watching “Chuck Connelly: Into The Light”. Having zero knowledge of who Chuck Connelly was in the art world, the trailer had me intrigued and I decided to give it a go Saturday night. Boy am I glad I did.


Once considered one of the leading neo-expressionist painters in the 80’s, Chuck fell into the trappings of alcoholism and rejection. He moved from New York to his home of Philadelphia and became a recluse.


But he still painted every day.


The documentary follows the day to day of Chuck and his paintings. And his philosophy. And his rants. And his art.


He initially comes across like a bitter old man who once had the world by the balls. But as the film unfolds, it becomes more that this artist is exactly that. An artist. He doesn’t play by the rules and is quite frankly misunderstood if I go by what this documentary revealed.


The art world wants to see certain things from its artists. Chuck Connelly didn’t fit that mold so they broke him. Or tried to.


But underneath the massive layers of confusion, anxiety, and agoraphobia, is an artist that enjoys teaching others. An artist that wants to connect with his work in a deeper way than what the rules say he must do.


“Chuck Connelly: Into The Light” was an inspiring piece of film making about an artist that eventually found himself in his work and in his life. On his terms.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SUPER FRENCHIE Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Super Frenchie

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4 / 5





The documentary “Super Frenchie” would not normally be a film I would review. Why? Not because of the film itself or the category, it’s because I have a fear of heights (in certain circumstances).


The film follows the career of one Matthis Giraud who is a ski base jumper. Throughout his life he went from extreme sport to extreme sport culminating in skiing down some of the most treacherous areas in the world and base jumping - all at the same time.


Matthias is a captivating personality. HIs passion for what he does is infectious and it helps because one might think you’d have to be insane to do what he does. His wife (and eventual son) understands this drive in him as she explains in the film. Once they become parents, her view on his career changes slightly but also she knows her husband well. And that ski base jumping is a part of who he is.


The footage is spectacular that they got for the film. It wasn’t nearly as cringy for someone like me as I thought it would be with only a few exceptions.


There is a dramatic turn in the film which you’ll have to watch as there are no spoilers here.


“Super Frenchy” was inspiring in terms of getting the most out of life no matter what your pursuits are. It also reminded me that some people are just wired differently and that’s not a bad thing at all.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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CENSOR Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Censor

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4.5 / 5






I know there was some buzz about this film and when I saw what it was about I was in. I love the fact that SIFF programs all genres of film, not just the predictable.


“Censor” is the feature length film that was spawned from the short film “Nasty” - both directed by Prano Bailey-Bond.


The film centers around Enid who works as a censor during the time of the “video nasties” in Britain in the early to mid 80’s. Due to the arrival of VHS back then, many films were deemed inappropriate (due to violence) and thus a censorship group was created to watch and censor such films.


In “Censor” Enid must deal with a murder that was blamed on a film she cleared for distribution and her sister who had been missing. Her parents want to consider her deceased since she was not found. There’s more to the plot but I don’t want to spoil anything.


The film has this really esthetic quality to it that I liked. It goes from grainy 80’s full frame ratio to a modern letterbox ratio and back and forth. At times the viewer feels like they are in the actual movie and other times we are observers from the outside.


The director really did a fine job walking the line between disturbing and interesting. You never quite know where the film is going and it captures a dream like state superbly.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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MOGUL MOWGLI Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Mogul Mowgli

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 3 / 5






After my first day of watching films to review for SIFF 2021, I decided to see what others were suggesting for folks to check out. The film “Mogul Mowgli” was one of them. So, instead of going on instinct, I went on recommendations this time around.


The film is about a rapper that is ready to get his big break opening for a tour in Europe. But, he is sidelined due to some unknown health issues, and reconnects with his family while in care.


I’ve said this before in some of my other reviews over the last year but every now and then I will come across a project that I don’t really understand. I get the sense that there is more that I’m supposed to be understanding on some other level but I just don’t.


This film fits the bill.


The dramatic turns with the lead character and his family I understand. Same with the issues with his girlfriend. But some of the other scenes were just confusing to me to the point where I didn’t know why they were in the film.


This doesn’t make the film bad in my opinion. It just leaves me perplexed and assuming I have more to learn about cinema is all (which I’m doing).


I will always enjoy seeing a diverse cast in a film from anywhere in the world so that’s a plus with “Mogul Mowgli”. I think it’s a film that I will need to re-watch at some point and see how it comes across once I have more film reviewing years under my belt.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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ALL SORTS Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


All Sorts

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4 / 5






A film with local ties, “All Sorts” is the first comedy that I watched this year for SIFF. It sets the quirky tone of the movie right from the start with the main character of Diego, his boss Vasquez, and his co-worker June.


The film is hard to describe even though the website says it’s a workplace comedy - which it is. As I watched it, I laughed at times, and could sense this film finding it’s audience amongst a cult following.


The main game that is played has to be seen to be believed. I won’t spoil it here. But it’s funny and done very, very well


“All Sorts” didn’t necessarily completely resonate with me but, again, it’s the type of film that will find its audience as many quirky, cult, films do.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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EAST OF THE MOUNTAINS Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


East Of The Mountains

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4 / 5






I approached my first year as press covering SIFF (Seattle International Film Festival) with my usual laser-like precision and intention. This is to say I was honestly overwhelmed and just went with my gut on what to start watching and reviewing.


“East Of The Mountains” was my second film choice to review. Based on the novel by David Guterson, the film tells the story of a retired doctor with a terminal illness that decides to go on a trip back to Eastern Washington state to call it a day.


Starring Tom Skerritt in the lead role as Ben Givens, with support from Mira Sorvino as his daughter, and Annie Gonzalez as the veterinarian, the film has a somber, searching tone to it which is perfect considering the trip Ben is on.


Ben encounters car trouble, dog trouble, and other assorted unplanned adventures as he comes to grips with his past.


The film is neatly compact in it’s runtime which I really appreciated. I’ve been reviewing too many films lately that tend to think longer is somehow better. If the story is told, end it. There is no need to pad a movie with filler.


Tom Skerritt is of course wonderful as Ben. Now in his eighties, Tom carries the film like only a veteran actor can. He makes the difficult look easy as all professionals do but Tom really feels perfect for this film.


I also must say that Annie Gonzalez had me asking myself “who is this actor”? She was very captivating in her scenes with Tom and I hope to see more of her work soon.


“East Of The Mountains” is a good one. I’m two for two with my SIFF selections. Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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FRUITS OF LABOR Film Review Seattle International Film Festival 2021 April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Fruits Of Labor

SIFF 2021
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 4.5  / 5






The documentary “Fruits of Labor” tells the story of a Mexican-American teenager who is working two jobs and trying to graduate from high school. She, along with her mother, are the main income sources for the family.


The film shows a distinct viewpoint on the immigration issues going on today directly from a family living within it (such as the threat of ICE raids, etc.).


While many of us can spout our armchair opinions from the comfort of our homes, the film reminds us that these are people’s lives we’re talking about. And in many cases, hard working people that have hopes and dreams just like the rest of us.


When it comes to the news though - we hear and see of criminals and children taking center stage in the immigration debate. We don’t see the average immigrant family that is working long hours, traveling extended distances on the bus to commute to work and school, and quite frankly contributing to society unlike so many others that the media would have you believe.


I may be biased as I used to work with undocumented students in a former life, but “Fruits of Labor” is truly a necessary viewing. Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE LAST ANIMALS Film Review April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Last Animals

1091 Pictures
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 5 / 5


AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE OR RENT ON APRIL 13, 2021


(1091 Pictures)


When a writer/director/producer with the background of award winning photojournalist Kate Brooks tackles a documentary, you can better believe it’s going to resonate with a gut wrenching feeling of sadness, anger, and disbelief.


The film centers around the poaching of rhinos and elephants in Africa. But it goes beyond just the grunts that are paid to harvest the horns and ivory. It shows the money makers abroad that fund these poaching expeditions and the syndicate that is indeed worldwide.


Director Kate Brooks has put herself in harm's way for decades capturing some of the most inspiring images by any photographer. Her handling of the material in “The Last Animals” takes the same no nonsense approach but she guides the film with a steady and understanding hand.



(1091 Pictures)



It would be easy to just show one side of the situation with the subject matter, to demonize the poachers and leave the viewer wanting justice. But Kate shows that like with many illegal operations, the poaching foot soldier isn’t the shot caller here. The head of the snake is in a position of power and there are many others that are profiting from the killing and eventual extinction of these magnificent animals.


“The Last Animals” is an important wake up call to everyone around the world. We are, indirectly and directly, eliminating species of animals from Earth and in many cases many people don’t seem to care until it’s too late. We should learn at a minimum to live with the land, not on it. And that goes the same for the creatures that were once plentiful and in the hundreds of thousands that have now become endangered species (or are already gone).


Think about that. We as human beings have gotten to a point where we have eliminated entire species from the planet.


“The Last Animals” is a must see film. Period.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY Film Review April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Marijuana Conspiracy

Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 3.5 / 5

THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY On Demand and Digital on April 20, 2021.


(Samuel Goldwyn Films)



The new film, “The Marijuana Conspiracy” is based on true events. Back in 1972 the government wanted to see what the effects of marijuana were on women. They recruited a group of women who were kept in isolation for nearly 100 days. They were given tasks to do (crochet) and different strengths of marijuana. They were compared to a non “smoking” group and oftentimes had higher production rates than the group that wasn’t high.


This is the basic premise of the film. There are of course other interesting subplots and an ending that I won’t spoil here.


The film is interesting and the acting is done well. The ensemble cast really created a bond that was believable which it needed to be considering the premise of the film.



(Brittany Bristow as Jane in the drama, THE MARIJUANA CONSPIRACY, a Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Photo courtesy of Samuel Goldwyn Films.)
 


I did find the film a bit long after a while. Even though its runtime is around two hours, I think it could have been trimmed down to 105 minutes, maybe even a little less to tighten up the pacing.


It’s interesting how far we’ve come in terms of understanding cannabis and legalizing its use. For so many years it was demonized and now its benefits can be seen by many.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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JAKOB'S WIFE Film Review April 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Jakob’s Wife

RLJE Films and Shudder
Reviewed: 4/11/2021
Rating: 3.5 / 5


JAKOB’S WIFE In Theaters, On Demand and Digital on April 16, 2021.



(RLJE Films and Shudder)



The new film, “Jakob’s Wife” starts off as an interesting “what’s going on” sort of thriller/horror film. Once things take a turn about half way through, the movie without giving anything away becomes somewhat campy and definitely cliche’.


The shining spotlight is definitely on horror legend Barbara Crampton. It’s easy to forget just how good many of these actors are that have been performing for so many years, especially those that work in the horror genre. But Barbara delivers the goods and really should be considered for more dramatic roles as she can carry the load any time she’s on screen.



(Barbara Crampton as Anne Fedder in the horror JAKOB’S WIFE, a RLJE Films and Shudder release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.)



While I enjoyed “Jakob’s Wife”, it was one of those films that with a bit more structure and vision, could have been solid from beginning to end. Instead it’s a good film that could have been great.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, April 8, 2021

IMAGINE VAN GOGH - TACOMA, WA! On Sale Friday April 9th, 2021!



IMAGINE VAN GOGH

THE ORIGINAL IMMERSIVE EXHIBITION IN IMAGE TOTALE©

OPENING IN TACOMA/SEATTLE ON DECEMBER 18th 2021



ON SALE ON FRIDAY, APRIL 9th, AT 10AM PST


(Photo by:  Laurence Labat)




Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale© featuring more than 200 of the Dutch artist’s paintings, is making its West Coast debut in Tacoma on December 18th, 2021, at the historic Tacoma Armory situated on South Yakima Avenue. Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale© was presented in Paris in 2017, sold more than 500,000 tickets across Canada this past year, has enchanted audiences everywhere, and is now ready to do the same across the USA. The exhibition will also open in Boston on December 21st at the SoWa Power Station.

Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron, renowned for their work at Cathédrale d’Images in Les Baux-de-Provence, South of France, are the Artistic Directors behind the creation of the Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale©. This unique exhibit brings Van Gogh’s canvases to life in a vivid, spectacular way using the concept of Image Totale© conceived by Albert Plécy. The audience enters the artist’s world of dreams, and visitors are surrounded by a total immersive experience; a journey to the heart of the artist’s work.


“Original canvasses are expanded and fragmented, then projected into unusual shapes to emphasize the mesmerizing exaggerations and distortions of Van Gogh’s work. Visitors experience their energy, emotion, and beauty like never before”. Annabelle Mauger, Vancouver Sun.

“In 2008, Annabelle Mauger created her first immersive Van Gogh exhibition, building off what she learned about immersive experiences from her husband’s grandfather (Albert Plécy), who created an early model known as Image Totale©. She has continued to adapt it, working with an art historian to present the last two years of the artist’s life. She wanted people to appreciate the details of Van Gogh’s artwork and his thick and sometimes violent-looking brush strokes without the barrier of a frame”. - Christina Morales, New York Times



With the safety of guests, employees, and the community as the highest priority, Imagine Van Gogh the Original Immersive Exhibition in Image Totale© will open this December in accordance with the public health guidelines of Pierce County and Washington State. The exhibition is a contactless experience spanning over 24,000 square feet with a limited number of guests that will be allowed on a timed-entry basis. Hand sanitizer will be provided, physical distancing of six feet will be required, and masks will be mandatory upon entering.


Tandem Expositions, in conjunction with Encore Productions (France) are excited to bring this spectacular production to Seattle-Tacoma for the very first time.

The exhibition will run December 18, 2021 – January 30, 2022 at the Tacoma Armory, 1001 S. Yakima Ave in Tacoma.

Tickets starting at $ 41.00 (including service fees) go on sale Friday, April 9th at 10:00 AM PDT, and are available online at www.imagine-vangogh.com

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE KILLER Film Review April 6, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Slaughterhouse Killer

Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 4/6/2021
Rating: 3 / 5

View The Movie Here:
https://www.bgpics.com/movies/the-slaughterhouse-killer/


(Breaking Glass Pictures)




I grew up with horror films so I’m always game to check out a new one. “The Slaughterhouse Killer” is released today via Breaking Glass Pictures.


The film centers around a man that works in a slaughterhouse in Australia (shot in Tasmania). He is a simple man that is pretty much a loner with no real friends not even at work. He befriends the new guy at work and through a certain set of circumstances things get violent.


When I first saw the title of this film I thought it was going to be a body count type of horror film. Like - how many kills did the lead character get sort of thing. It’s not really that at all which I was somewhat disappointed by.



(Breaking Glass Pictures)
 


The film has a decent story and the director spends quite a bit of time making sure the narrative is solid throughout the movie. Of course there are deaths in the film but nowhere near as many as you might think with a title like “The Slaughterhouse Killer”. The title is more literal - the lead character works at a slaughterhouse and kills a few people.


Overall the film was a decent viewing for horror fans that don’t mind story over kills.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, April 5, 2021

HONEYDEW Film Review April 5, 2021



Honeydew

Reviewed: 4/5/2021
Rating: 2 / 5


Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting will release HONEYDEW on VOD, Digital HD and DVD on April 13, 2021.





I am always up for reviewing a horror film. Having grown up on the genre, I’m always curious to see what filmmakers will do to make things new and interesting.


The film “Honeydew” explores the story of a couple that ends up taking refuge in a rural home with a farmer and her son.


Things of course go awry and the couple end up going down a rabbit hole of the horrific and just plain odd at times.


I was initially intrigued by “Honeydew” as the story was set up nicely. But once things ventured into the realm of hallucinations and just absurdity, it lost me. I know there is an audience for this type of horror film so some will enjoy this much more than I did.



(Barbara Kingsley as Karen in the horror film HONEYDEW, a Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting release. Photo courtesy of Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting.)



The mood and tone of the film is interesting and there is definitely a creepy factor to the proceedings which is always a plus in a horror film.


Overall, the film came up short for me. Perhaps it won’t for you, though.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SEATTLE OPERA "FLIGHT" Review Streaming April 23-25, 2021. Eclectic Arts


FLIGHT
Seattle Opera


McCaw Hall (virtual)
Seattle, WA
April 5, 2021

Subscriber Early Access Days Begin April 3.
Streaming April 23-25, 2021.




(Philip Newton Photo)


As we find ourselves marching into another year of this pandemic state due to Covid-19, “Flight” from the Seattle Opera is a timely production.


Set inside an airport terminal, and inspired by a real life event, the first thing that stands out is the way it was captured on film. Utilizing the Museum of Flight as a stage, one can get an idea of just how unusual yet stunning the performance looks. The Seattle Opera has been utilizing the digital realm to great effect with their virtual performances. Instead of merely filming the production, they have thought outside of the box this year and “Flight” is a perfect example.


The locations within the Museum of Flight lend themselves perfectly to create a rich atmosphere and staging for the performers to tell the story. A refugee has been living in an airport terminal, with other passengers stuck due to stormy weather.



(Philip Newton Photo)



The concept of being stuck in one place with no real timeline of when things will reopen (and air travel will resume) should hit home with just about everyone due to the pandemic. Even as we are seemingly moving toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, there will still be many question marks and unresolved issues for months, if not years, to come.


“Flight” tackles the characters issues with levity and even a surprise during the last act. The overall performances and music were engaging and easy to digest throughout the performance.


The Seattle Opera has produced an amazing show in “Flight - and during a pandemic no less. Make your reservation for this destination soon.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts
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PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET Rep 4 April 1st - 5th, 2021 Eclectic Arts



PACIFIC NORTHWEST BALLET

Rep 4

4/1/2021 - 4/5/2021

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE!


Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Elle Macy and principal dancer Dylan Wald in the world premiere of Alejandro Cerrudo’s Future Memory, which PNB is presenting as part of a triple-bill with a new work by Donald Byrd, and an encore performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, April 1 – 5, as part of PNB’s all-digital 2020/21 season. Photo © Angela Sterling Photo.



The Pacific Northwest Ballet recently released Rep 4 in their Dance Happens Everywhere 2020/2021 digital season. Consisting of two world premieres as well as an encore presentation, Rep 4 was a mixed bill.


Starting with And the sky is not cloudy all day with choreography by Spectrum Dance Theater artistic director Donald Byrd, the performance was set in the old west. The colorful lighting design and costumes immediately popped off the screen. The concept was creative but somehow odd at the same time. As the performance continued, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I had just interviewed a Lakota Native American actor/artist this weekend so the cowboys and Indians theme seemed off the mark based on the discussion we had just had.


Perhaps the juxtaposition of the old west meets ballet and the contradictions therein was a part of the point Mr. Byrd was trying to get across to the audience. For me, I liked the tone and the look of the piece but overall it came up short.



Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancer Dylan Wald in the world premiere of Donald Byrd’s And the sky is not cloudy all day, which PNB is presenting as part of a triple-bill with a new work by Alejandro Cerrudo, and an encore performance of Alexei Ratmansky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, April 1 – 5, as part of PNB’s all-digital 2020/21 season. Photo © Angela Sterling Photo.



Next up was Future Memory from resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. A stark contrast to the first piece, the ebb and flow of the performance was strikingly emotive and rich throughout. This piece would have greatly benefited from being seen in person on the McCaw Hall stage. The moodiness coupled with a live audience in attendance would have added to the emotional weight that the piece carried. I enjoyed this work.


And to round things out an encore performance from 2017 - Pictures at an Exhibition with choreography from Alexei Ratmansky. I enjoyed seeing this archival performance as it was recorded before I started reviewing the PNB. I recognized many of the dancers which in some ways brought back those feelings of going to McCaw Hall pre pandemic. Opening night, driving down to Seattle, meeting my friends, and just the event of it all. As a part of Rep 4 it fit as all three pieces were very different from each other - sort of the purpose of a mixed bill.


Rep 4 is available to purchase through Monday April 5th.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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