ECLECTIC ARTS

Monday, August 30, 2021

STEEL SONG Film Review August 30, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Steel Song

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 8/30/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


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



(Gravitas Ventures)



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


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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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A WAKE Film Review August 30, 2021 Eclectic Arts


A Wake

Breaking Glass Pictures
Reviewed: 8/30/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


Arrives on DVD/VOD on August 31st!


(Breaking Glass Pictures)



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


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



(Breaking Glass Pictures)



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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, August 26, 2021

KINGSWAY Film Review August 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Kingsway

Level 33 Entertainment
Reviewed: 8/26/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Level 33 Entertainment)



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


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


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


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


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


“Kingsway” is available now.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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CRYPTOZOO Film Review August 26, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Cryptozoo

Magnolia Pictures
Reviewed: 8/26/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5





(Magnolia Pictures)




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


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



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



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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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

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Tuesday, August 24, 2021

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


No Man Of God

RLJE Films
Reviewed: 8/24/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


In Theaters, On Demand and Digital August 27, 2021



(RLJE Films)




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


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


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



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



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


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


Recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, August 23, 2021

THE LAST MATINEE Film Review August 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Last Matinee

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

Rating: 4 / 5


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






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


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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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THE FATAL RAID Film Review August 23, 2021 Eclectic Arts


The Fatal Raid

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/23/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


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



(Well Go USA)




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


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


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



(Well Go USA)



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


“The Fatal Raid” is a missed opportunity.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Tuesday, August 17, 2021

MIDNIGHT DINER Film Review August 17, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Midnight Diner

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/17/2021

Rating: 4 / 5


(Well Go USA)



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


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


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



(Well Go USA)



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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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LITTLE Q Film Review August 17, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Little Q

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/17/2021

Rating: 3 / 5


(Well Go USA)




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


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


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



(Well Go USA)



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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Sunday, August 15, 2021

UNDER THE VOLCANO Film Review August 15, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Under The Volcano

Universal Pictures Content Group
Reviewed: 8/15/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


On Demand and Digital on August 17, 2021.




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


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


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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Friday, August 13, 2021

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


USEDOM: A Clear View Of The Sea

Big World Pictures
Reviewed: 8/13/2021

Rating: 3.5 / 5


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


(Big World Pictures)



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


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


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



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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Thursday, August 12, 2021

RAGING FIRE Film Review August 12, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Raging Fire

Well Go USA
Reviewed: 8/12/2021

Rating: 4.5 / 5


In Theaters Friday August 13th!


(Well Go USA)



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


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


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



(Well Go USA)



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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts


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Saturday, August 7, 2021

2021 BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL August 7, 2021 Eclectic Arts



BENTONVILLE FILM FESTIVAL

August 2 - August 8th, 2021



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


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



“CRUTCH”
4 out of 5


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



“THE FIRST STEP”
5 out of 5



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



“AT THE READY”
3 out of 5



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


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


“THE NOVICE”
5 out of 5



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


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



“WORKHORSE QUEEN”
4 out of 5


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




“YOUTH VS GOV”
5 out of 5



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



“SHORTS BLOCK 4”
5 out of 5


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


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




“SHORTS BLOCK 1”
5 out of 5



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



***


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

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

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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

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Monday, August 2, 2021

A SAVAGE NATURE Film Review August 2, 2021 Eclectic Arts


A Savage Nature

Gravitas Ventures
Reviewed: 8/2/2021

Rating: 4 / 5




CHECK OUT THE
LIVESTREAM INTERVIEW WITH STAR JOANNA WHICKER!


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


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


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


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


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here

FIREBOYS Film Review August 2, 2021 Eclectic Arts


Fireboys

1091 Pictures
Reviewed: 7/29/2021

Rating: 5 / 5


AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE OR RENT ON AUGUST 3, 2021



(1091 Pictures)



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


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


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



(1091 Pictures)



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


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


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


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


Highly recommended.


Best,
Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Connect with Eclectic Arts:  Social Media Links Here


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