ECLECTIC ARTS

Thursday, July 29, 2021

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



Fractal Universe
The Impassable Horizon - Alive - Livestream


Metal Blade Records
Reviewed: 7/29/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


TICKETS AVAILABLE TO VIEW THROUGH AUGUST 8th - 






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


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


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


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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

PRAY AWAY Film Review July 28, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Pray Away

Netflix
Reviewed: 7/28/2021

Rating: 5 / 5



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


(Netflix Original Film)



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


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


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






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


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


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


Recommended!


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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RIDE THE EAGLE Film Review July 28, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Ride The Eagle

Decal
Reviewed: 7/28/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


In Theaters, On Demand and Digital on July 30, 2021






The subject of death has been explored in many comedic films over the years. It can be part black humor and part emphathetic plotline, like nervous laughter. In the new comedy “Ride The Eagle”, the narrative tries to add a new layer to the formula.


The plot centers around Leif (played by Jake Johnson) who is told his estranged mother (played by Susan Sarandon) has passed on. She left him the cabin in the woods that was her home. In order for the transfer to become binding, he must complete a series of tasks that his mother left for him at the cabin. Thus starts the journey for Leif as he tackles oddball task after zany task.



(Jake Johnson as Leif in the comedy, RIDE THE EAGLE, a DECAL release. Photo courtesy of DECAL)



There is something endearing about Jake Johson’s portrayal of Leif. In lesser hands the film would've fallen flat on its face as the pacing is disjointed and the highs and lows in the storytelling is hit and miss at times. But Jake’s comedic timing and dramatic disbelief as he completes each task is what keeps the train from going off the rails.


Overall “Ride The Eagle” was a curious film with its fair share of laughs. But, beneath its comedic exterior, there was a stronger story waiting to be told.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE EVENING HOUR Film Review July 28, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Evening Hour

Strand Releasing
Reviewed: 7/28/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5



OPENS IN THEATERS JULY 30 IN NY AT THE IFC CENTER &

AUGUST 6 IN LA AT THE LAEMMLE







The opioid crisis has plagued the U.S. for many years now. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are not immune to the issue, even where this reviewer currently lives has seen its share of drug paraphernalia, labs, and arrests.


The new film “The Evening Hour” tells the tale that many probably wouldn’t think much about when mentioning the opioid crisis - rural towns across America - in this case in rural Appalachia.


Cole Freeman (brilliantly played by Philip Ettinger) works a normal job but his side gig is running a hustle of cash in exchange for excess painkillers from the local senior citizens. A pill pusher for the drug addicts in town.


Director Braden King lets the narrative develop ever so slowly over the course of the film. New characters are expertly folded into the screenplay as the balance of life in the town slowly unravels. Territory becomes the main issue of contention along with new dealers trying to get in on the action.


“The Evening Hour” is a slow burn of what rural America used to be and what it unfortunately has developed into (at least parts of it). The performances and the storytelling are top notch with not one weak link in the cast.


The drama in the film felt all too real at times which is one of the highest compliments I can give the creative team.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Wednesday, July 21, 2021

MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS Film Review July 21, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Midnight In The Switchgrass

Lionsgate
Reviewed: 7/21/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on July 23, 2021 and on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27, 2021.



(Lionsgate Films)



The new film “Midnight In The Switchgrass” from Lionsgate is a riveting thriller based on true events. Set in Florida (from the original real life location of Texas), the film follows a local law enforcement agent and the FBI as they track a notorious serial killer.


What I enjoyed about the film is that it doesn’t go for the surprise twists and turns that Hollywood tends to do with these kinds of films. It’s evident who the killer is, what he’s done, and who’s after him.



(Emile Hirsch as Byron Crawford in the thriller film, MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.)
 


Megan Fox and Bruce Willis star but it is really Emile Hirsch that steals the show as the local law enforcement agent. Looking like a younger Jack Black, his performance keeps the audience engaged and many times on the edge of their seats.


It was a welcome return to see Megan Fox back on the screen and in a role that required her to show layers of depth to her character which she did in fine form.



(Megan Fox as Rebecca Lombardi in the thriller film, MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS, a Lionsgate release. Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.)



The subject matter may be off putting to some (serial killer) but when a film is done as well as “Midnight In The Switchgrass”, the power of the storytelling should overcome any uneasiness of the narrative.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, July 19, 2021

HERE AFTER Film Review July 19, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Here After

Vertical Entertainment
Reviewed: 7/18/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


(Vertical Entertainment)



The new film “Here After” is an interesting drama with a light touch about the afterlife. Michael is a struggling actor who finds himself dead - but stuck in a purgatory where he can’t fully cross over to the other side.


He is told that he can only cross in pairs which means he has to find his soul mate amongst the other souls that are trapped like he is. However, in his case, he finds the woman of his dreams who happens to be alive.


The narrative is extremely dialogue heavy. I mean it seemed like non-stop talking throughout the film. There are humorous moments and definitely serious moments as well but overall the film didn’t really resonate with me.


Christina Ricci plays a supporting character in the film and I actually wish they had expanded her role. The interplay between her and the character of Michael was consistently good when they had scenes together.


“Here After” clocks in at just over the two hour mark. I think the story could have been condensed down to maybe ninety minutes or so and the end result would have been a stronger film.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Vertical Entertainment Official Site

Sunday, July 18, 2021

NO ORDINARY LIFE Film Review July 18, 2021 Eclectic Arts


No Ordinary Life

Array Films
Reviewed: 7/18/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


OFFICIAL SITE OF NO ORDINARY LIFE



(Array Films)



The new documentary “No Ordinary Life” is an extraordinary film. Five journalists/camera women that blazed a trail on the front lines of some of the most volatile wars and conflicts over the last forty years are featured in this incredible documentary.


Peabody award winning director Heather O’Neill interviews pioneers Mary Rogers, Jane Evans, Cynde Strand, Margaret Moth, and Maria Fleet as they discuss their respective careers in journalism while under fire on assignments around the world.


The film is intercut with footage from over the years showcasing the level of work (and risk) these journalists have dedicated themselves to in order to get to the truth. Some of the footage will stay with you long after the film is over.


The obstacles, the sexism, the road less travelled - all are explored through the interviews with each journalist. And all are fascinating in their own right.


I wasn’t sure what to expect from “No Ordinary Life” when I sat down to view it the other night. But damn if I wasn’t overwhelmed by the magnificent work these journalists have provided all of us citizens over the years. And, yes, they are female - and they are damn proud of it as they should be.


Highly recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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HYDRA Film Review July 18, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Hydra

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 7/18/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


Debuting on Digital, Blu-ray™ and DVD July 20!


(Well Go USA)



The new original film “Hydra” is a Japanese drama mixed with martial arts. The story is actually front and center which is a change of pace. A former assassin now working as a sushi chef is secretly protecting the daughter of a former associate.


Of course the audience already knows this won’t last long before he’s either propositioned to come out of “retirement” and/or something happens to the daughter he is watching over.



(Well Go USA)



“Hydra” certainly has its own flavor which was nice to see. The fight scenes are solid and the story is actually interesting. Many times in martial arts films the story is secondary to the fighting (which isn’t a bad thing) but with “Hydra” the audience gets some narrative substance before the action kicks in.


An enjoyable film from Well Go USA.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, July 12, 2021

GREAT WHITE Film Review July 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Great White

RLJE Films and Shudder
Reviewed: 7/10/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action-adventure/thriller film GREAT WHITE On Demand and Digital on July 16, 2021.



(RLJE Films and Shudder)



I am a sucker for almost any film related to sharks on the silver screen. The new film “Great White”, not to be confused with the 80’s film that was pulled from American theaters due to a lawsuit (which I managed to see before it went bye bye - now available on disc as “The Last Shark” though), is a fairly realistic take on the genre.


I was fully expecting a massive CGI’d shark terrorizing a group of people or a town but instead we get a chartered flight that goes awry. The antagonists are very realistic sized sharks.


No spoilers here but the story is decent but once the protagonists are left floating in an inflatable safety raft, the narrative starts to drag on. Some of that may be on purpose to give the viewer the feeling of being trapped on the open seas but at the same time, the interplay between the human characters started to wear thin.



((L-R) Katrina Bowden as Kaz and Aaron Jakubenko as Charlie in the action-adventure/thriller, GREAT WHITE, an RLJE Films and Shudder release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.)
 


Once the action picked up then things became interesting again.


“Great White” has its strong points (including a great performance from Katrina Bowden in the lead role) as well as keeping the sharks somewhat believable which was a nice change of pace.


A fun popcorn flick for 2021.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Saturday, July 10, 2021

DACHRA Film Review July 10, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Dachra

Dekanalog
Reviewed: 7/10/2021

Rating: 4 / 5

Available Now!



(Dekanalog Presents: "Dachra")



The new film from Tunisia, “Dachra” is an interesting mix of thriller and horror genres. While some of the material will seem familiar (journalists exploring a story that leads them into a perilous situation), the execution of the narrative is what drives this film forward.


Without giving too much away, there are scenes in the film that are extraordinarily creepy. The atmosphere and the uneasiness at times is a great selling point of the movie.



(Dekanalog Presents: "Dachra")



The characters are somewhat underdeveloped and at times aggravating but that only actually adds to the mystery of what is going on in the film.


There are more pros than cons to “Dachra” and I think with a few more films under his belt, first-time director Abdelhamid Bouchnak will hit his stride in no time.


Worth seeking out.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE BODY FIGHTS BACK Film Review July 10, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Body Fights Back

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 7/10/2021
Rating: 4 / 5


OPENING ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON JULY 13






The diet culture around the world is the centerpiece of the new documentary, “The Body Fights Back”. The film does a deep dive into the multi billion dollar diet industry and the toll it has been taking on all body types.


The narrative is similar to one of bullying. If you haven’t been bullied, you can’t really say what it’s like to be the center of that particular attack. If you’re considered out of the norm for your weight, your look, etc., it’s much too easy to just criticize (directly or indirectly) without knowing the other view point.






While I will be hard pressed to believe extra weight doesn’t affect the body (such as the joints - I know from personal experience), there are many factors explored in the film that make the viewer really do some thinking about what we think is “right” and what society and the diet industry has told us is right.


The film also explores the celebration of people of all kinds - not just through weight and size. People with disabilities for example are also embraced.


“The Body Fights Back” is a worthwhile viewing.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

NETFLIX "Cat People" and "Dogs (Season 2)" series review. July 6, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Cat People

Dogs (Season 2)



Netflix
Reviewed: 7/6/2021
Ratings: Cat People - 4, Dogs (Season 2) - 4.5


Available on Netflix starting July 7th, 2021 - NETFLIX OFFICIAL SITE



(Netflix)



The new documentary series “Cat People” from Netflix is a great mixture of pets and human interest. Creative and executive producer Glen Zipper has taken what he did with the “Dogs” series and applied it to the furry feline loving community.


The six episodes reviewed featured everything from a circus training cat lover to a Japanese 3-D cat art creator. What was most revealing about these creatures is just how trainable they can be. Cats tend to have the reputation of being independent animals that only do what they want, when they want. But more than once in the episodes available for review, the cats showed they are much more than that stereotype.


The human interest portion will capture and retain even the non pet loving community. So, if you’re saying to yourself I’m not a cat person - it doesn’t matter with this series. You will still find something that resonates with you in at least one of the episodes, if not more.



(Netflix)



“Dogs (Season 2)” returns with four episodes (to review). I will say I am biased as I am a dog person but the episodes are really strong in the human interest department. The Butler blue mascot, the astronaut, the priest, and the military veteran were well told stories that held my interest from the storylines alone, let alone the dogs that were included in their narratives.


I was most moved by the Butler blue episode. Butler University started a program where they had a bulldog mascot of course called Blue. The episode talks about the development of the program and the transfer of mascot from old to new (in this case Blue III to Blue IV). There is another storyline that I won’t spoil here but it definitely added to the emotional weight of the episode.


The other three episodes were equally good. I felt that the astronaut episode was a tad bit sad in that it felt like the astronaut in question never really seems at peace with himself. Perhaps it’s because he has yet to get closure (again no spoilers here) or perhaps for other reasons, I just found myself feeling sad for him at times.


The military veteran episode is really interesting in the lengths they go to to get a dog from the middle east back to america. And the ending isn’t what you would think but I’m glad it worked out that way.


My only very minor quibble about both series is that they each had one episode where the dialogue was dubbed in English instead of subtitled. I will always prefer hearing someone’s native language (and reading subtitles) over listening to a dubbed audio track. Again, minor quibble but I hope for future episodes they do away with the dubbing and go with subtitles.


Overall, both series “Cat People” and “Dogs (Season 2)” were fully entertaining documentary series from Netflix. Get your favorite snacks ready as once you start one episode of either series, you’ll be binging all of them just like I did.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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SILAT WARRIORS - Deed Of Death Film Review July 6, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Silat Warriors - Deed Of Death

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 7/6/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


(Well Go USA)



The film “Silat Warriors - Deed of Death” tells a martial arts story from Malaysia. A reckless young man who bets, street races (drifting), and gets into fights comes up against a criminal gang who forces him to protect his family.


As with most films that are advertised as action, “Silat Warriors” delivers on some old school martial arts fight scenes which I really appreciated. Instead of the more modern use of CGI and other trickery to enhance the fights, I will always prefer fight scenes that are choreographed, rehearsed, and then executed. Sure, there may be a bit of additional work done to some of the scenes but overall they are exciting and well done.



(Well Go USA)



The story isn’t anything to write home about but rarely are they in martial arts films (there are a few exceptions of course).


I would have preferred the film to just go for broke and add another fight scene or two and condense the runtime by editing down the storyline.


Overall “Silat Warriors” was worth watching with an emphasis on the action scenes.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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WELL GO USA OFFICIAL SITE

Thursday, July 1, 2021

LONG STORY SHORT Film Review July 1, 2021 Eclectic Arts

Long Story Short

Saban Films
Reviewed: 7/1/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


In Theaters, On Demand and Digital on July 2, 2021.



(Saban Films)



The new film “Long Story Short” mixes the beloved tales of “what if” (think “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol”) with a modern, relatable twist. If you were to wake up tomorrow and exactly one year had passed, what would you do?


Teddy (played by Rafe Spall) is always looking to make money and procrastinate. His favorite word is later. Through a chance encounter he wakes up on the day of his anniversary one year later. This keeps happening after minutes go by where he is another year into his future. He sees how his life has changed (mainly for the worse) and can’t understand what’s going on.



((L-R)Zahra Newman as Leanne and Rafe Spall as Teddy in the romantic comedy film, LONG STORY SHORT, a Saban Films release. Photo courtesy of Brook Rushton.)



Rafe Spall is in every scene in this film. His comedic and dramatic acting chops are amazing to watch. He is the reason this film works so well.


“Long Story Short” really surprised me. I thought it was going to be a typical romantic comedy but it had much more to it than that. After the pandemic lockdown year we’ve all gone through, everyone has had time to reflect on their life. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons this film is so relatable.


I also found it inspiring. Tomorrow may never come so you have to do things now in the present. Why put something off “until later” when you can start doing it today?


“Long Story Short” was thoroughly enjoyable.


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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