Category Archives: Reviews

The Young Kieslowki – Movie review

The Young Kieslowski” is the story of two virgin college students, who instantly fall in love and after one night faced with the life-changing event of parenthood. The movie features two strong lead performances from Ryan Malgarini (How to Eat Fried Worms) and Haley Lu Richardson (Awkward, Ravenswood) and a funny and heartwarming script from writer/director Kerem Sanga.

In the wrong hands, “The Young Kieslowski” could have been a bad after-school special about teenage pregnancy. Instead, the movie is a smartly written story about our inner turmoil when taking the fast track to parenthood.

The story follows two Cal Tech students, Brian Kieslowski (Ryan Malgarini) and Leslie Mallard (Haley Lu Richardson), who happen to be virgins—one by choice and the other by circumstance. They meet at a party and instantly attracted to each other. This encounter leads to a night of passion and an unexpected pregnancy with twins.

The Young Kieslowski” is inspired by writer/director Kerem Sanga’s parents, who had twins in college. Although, this is not a story of his parents, “The Young Kieslowski” is Sanga’s answer if faced with the same situation as his parents.

The two leads, Ryan Malgarini and Haley Lu Richardson, are the highlight of the movie. The movie opens with Ryan portraying the typical nerd with a horrible, horrible hairstyle. He could have played a typical over-the-top nerd character, but instead, Malgarini brings likable depth to his character that has you rooting for him to make the right choice throughout the movie.

Haley Lu Richardson performance as a girl, cynical with life but changed with the prospect of parenthood, is nothing but stellar. Her presence on screen has you instantly falling for this sometimes abrasive/cynical character.

Another smart move writer/director Kerem Sanga made was to surround you relative unknown leads with its quality supporting talent. Joshua Malina and Melora Walters plays Robert and Barbara Kieslowski. Barabara struggles with stage 4 cancer. James Le Gros plays Leslie’s father, Walter. He is a writer of historical novels. Le Gros is perfect as the reclusive writer, who is haunted by watching the mistake he made as a youth replayed in his daughter.

It hard to bring heart to a comedy, but writer/director Kerem Sanga pulls it off perfectly. Sanga manages to answer on-screen all the issues, young couples face when surprised with unplanned parenthood. He also sprinkles the film with truly laugh-out-loud moments.

The Young Kieslowski” is both a funny and heartwarming tale of young love and is currently on the film festival circuit at the Los Angeles Film Festival. “The Young Kieslowski” had its world premiere last night and will screen again this Tuesday, June 17 at 6:30 PM.

Missing Child – Beaten Path Film Festival – Movie Review

Missing Child” is a thriller by writer/director Luke Sabis and recently part of the Beyond the Beaten Path Film Festival. There is another opportunity to see this thriller at the upcoming, Dances With Films Festival on Thursday, June 5th at 2:45 pm at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

It is the story of a young woman, Gia (Kristen Ruhlin), who is finally able to move on with her life after being accepted to design school. Gia has had a troubled past. As a child, she was shuffled through the foster care system. She was physically and sexually abused and exploited by those who “cared” for her in the past.

Today, Gia finds herself at a point, where her life is the most stable than it has ever been. She has a job and close friends. A boyfriend, Joe (Luke Sabis), who protects her and the future as she prepares to pursue a career. Until Joe discovers an age-progressed photo of a missing girl that resembles Gia on a website from a couple, looking for the daughter taken from them at the age of three.

Gia and Joe decide to see if this couple could possibly be her parents. Upon arrival at a secluded farm, Gia and Joe meet the God-fearing widower Henry (Charles Gorgano), who is at times welcoming and distrustful of the couple. When Henry’s daughter, Elizabeth, went missing, many suspected Henry of being the perpetrator. Also, Gia has not been the first person claiming to be his daughter leading to Henry’s distrust.

Missing Child” is an independent film and you can tell by the quality of the production. It’s missing a little bit of the polish of the big studio productions. The acting by the three leads is fine but clunky at times. The lead, Kristen Ruhlin, who plays Gia does an admirable job playing an adult-abuse victim. As an adult, there is strength in her character, along with a level of fear and dissociation built over time.

The story, on the other hand, does what a thriller should do. It takes an idyllic situation and gives you the feeling that something is just not right, and all your main characters have secrets. “Missing Child” walks you down a path that slowly but surely, falls apart on you by the end. As with most stories involving adult children of abuse, trouble always seems to follow the victims.

If you have the opportunity, check out “Missing Child” as it rounds the festival circuit. The next Southern California screening will be at Dances With Films on Thursday, June 5th at 2:45 pm at the Mann Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

The Lego Movie – Movie Review

This original computer animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO mini-figure, who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.

Release Date: February 14, 2014
Rated PG – 1hr 40min
Director: Chris McCay
Cast: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman

When growing up, I remember walking down the aisle of the toy store, seeing a Lego model of a boat or plane and taking it home. Immediately I would rip into the box, lay out the pieces and then go through that instruction sheet step by step. Invariably over time, I would lose one piece, thus rendering this box of LEGOs ruined and into the general pile it would go.

The LEGO Movie explores this battle between people who insist that instructions be followed perfectly and those who are inspired to create the weird and wild from the piece bucket.

The LEGO Movie is about the evil Lord Business (Will Farrell), who turns the Lego world into a land of order and perfection. He steals a deadly weapon called the Kragle that will ensure everything remains perfect. This forces a group of creative Master Builders into hiding, only to wait for the one true savior to come in the form of a simple construction worker, Emmet (Chris Pratt).

The LEGO Movie is a movie that snuck up on me. I heard all the good reviews and thought that I would take my daughter to see it on a holiday weekend. By the end of the movie, I was blown away with the story and this makes the LEGO Movie one of the best movies so far this year. When the movie finished, my daughter exclaimed, “We’re buying this movie!”

First, The LEGO Movie is what you expect from a Lego movie. The style of animation is similar to the direct-to-Video Lego movies on the store shelves now. Two things make this movie truly great and it’s the characters and the story.

There are a lot of characters in this movie. Chris Pratt is the perfect lead as Emmet. His cheery disposition reminds you of his character, Andy, from Park and Recreation. He plays likable and naive perfectly. Elizabeth Banks brings the right amount of sassiness to Wildstyle. Will Arnett is the perfect choice for Batman. Morgan Freeman plays a “god”-like character to perfections and Liam Neeson as Bad Cop brings a level of silliness that you haven’t seen in a long time. Let’s not forget Will Farrell as Lord Business. His role gets bigger and bigger by the end of the movie.

Just having great characters is not enough. With good writing and good characters, you have a fun movie, but the LEGO Movie has an incredibly smart story behind it, which makes it a great movie. Getting into the details of the third act would spoil the movie, but it is the third act, that propels the movie into greatness. Robocop tried to be a smart and thoughtful film and that left us with a bland movie. The LEGO Movie, on the other hand, builds on the theme of the battle between structure and creativity and throws it on its head. In doing so, launches the movie into greatness.

Thor: The Dark World – Movie Review

Before the beginning of time, the universe was a dark place ruled by the Dark Elf, whose leader is Malekith. Light entered the universe, when the Asgardians, defeated the elves only to have Malekith swear he will exact his revenge. Soon the nine realms are going to line up and Malekith seizes his opportunity to seek his revenge.

Released: November 8, 2013
Studio: Marvel Studios
Rated: PG-13

Director: Alan Taylor
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo

Strange temporal anomalies are showing up on earth, where portals are appearing moving you from one place on earth to another in the other of the nine realms. When Jane Foster begins to investigate these anomalies, she inadvertently becomes host to a power essences that Malekith will use to restore the universe to darkness.

All-in-all this is a story of Thor coming to the rescue to defeat Malekith and prevent universal destruction. Overall, this was a fun movie. There is so much lore and mythology surrounding Thor and Asgard that a movie like this can get bogged down trying to explain these unfamiliar details and stories. Marvel Studios does what they do best, which is get you directly into the heart of the story. They spend just the right amount of time giving you the back story of Malekith. They introduce mystical elements, such as the nine realms, rainbow bridge, and convergence, in a way that you either understand what is going on or you trust the director, Alan Taylor, that these are just facts you need to accept and then power through the story.

The main story is saving the universe, the secondary story is Thor’s family: Odin (Dad), Frigga (Mom), Thor and Loki (Adopted Brother). After the events in Avengers, Loki is banish to a prison cell for all eternity by Odin. Loki feels no respect or honor for his father, Odin or for his brother Thor. Loki mentions that he went to earth so that he could rule over them as a God, just like his father. We also see his relationship with his mother (Rene Russo). It’s clear that if there was any love for Loki, it’s his mother, even if she is not his real mother. Thor, on the other hand, has always love Loki, but that love is damaged because of Loki’s constant betrayal.

The story now attempts to redeem Loki, if that’s possible, by enlisting him to help defeat Malekith. Why would Loki help? See the movie.

Thor: The Dark World does everything it needs to do to be an amazing movie. Fantastic visual effects, making mythology believable to the audience, continue to explain why these people are “gods” and an onslaught of action scenes and humor. The movie primarily takes place off earth, but the earth scenes are funny thanks to Kat Dennings and Stellan Skaarsgard.

It’s a good fun movie, if you go in without high expectations. Do not see it in 3D. Stay for the very end. There is a mid-credits scene setting up Guardians of the Galaxy and a humorous scene at the very end.

Also, pay attention to the new “Marvel Studios” opener. Now that they are tied solely with Disney and have dropped its association with Paramount, Marvel Studios has rewarded themselves with a new opening sequences with the flashing comic pages, but also a nice soundtrack to back it up.

Iron Man 3 – Movie Review

Iron Man 3 is just short of being the best Marvel Comics Movie, just behind Marvel’s the Avengers. That said, it’s one of the best movies produced by Marvel Studios and you should go out and see it now.

Review by: Alan Ng
Release Date: May 3, 2013
Official Website: marvel.com/ironman3
Director: Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Writer; Iron Man 2, Writer)

Cast:
Robert Downey Jr – Tony Stark
Gwyneth Paltrow – Virginia “Pepper” Potts
Don Cheadle – James “Rhodey” Rhodes
Guy Pearce – Aldrich Killian
Rebecca Hall – Dr. Maya Hansen
Jon Favreau – Happy Hogan
Ben Kingsley – Mandarin

Iron Man 3 takes place after the events of Marvel’s the Avengers. Tony Stark finds himself suffering from panic attacks after saving the earth from alien takeover. He is unable to sleep and is constantly working to improve his Iron Man armor. In the Avengers, we saw the 7th version of the armor. At the beginning of Iron Man 3, it’s the 42nd, which shows how obsessive he’s become about never being able to protect the one person he loves, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).

Also Tony has to live with the damage his playboy lifestyle and the people he’s used and ignored in the past. The villain is Iron Man 3 is a terrorist named the Mandarin. He’s created human bombs and is hitting targets in the United States. When Happy Hogan is his latest victim, Tony dedicates himself to avenging the attack on his friends. The threat is met with force when Tony’s Malibu Mansion is attacked.

Robert Downey Jr. is the best thing about Iron Man 3. Only an actor of his caliber could literally carry this movie. He can drop his playful one-liners, pull off panic attacks and keep us interested in the development of his character. Ben Kingsley made the perfect Mandarin. He really pulled off the terror aspect of a terrorist.

Ty Simpkins

Special attention to the kid who played Harley (Ty Simpkins). He had some unbelievable banter with Tony Stark.

I also like the tone that Shane Black brought to this movie. It was all about Tony and everything on screen touched on his weaknesses. The action scenes were amazing and the famous Air Force One rescue had my heart racing.

Iron Man 3 is a triology. Is this the end for Iron Man? Ending of Iron Man 3 is the same as other 3 movies, i.e. Dark Knight and Toy Story. The ending is something I didn’t see coming and not in a way of cliffhanger surprises, but with the emotions that you feel for Tony Stark. This third movie ties things up in the end and makes you wonder how will Tony be brought back to the Avengers.

There were a few things that stuck out at me such as the inconsistent way the bio-enhanced soldiers. I never had the sense of this is how you kill them, this is how you destroy them. They just kept coming back.

The Dr. Maya Hansen character was not well developed and I didn’t know how I should feel about her safety.

There were also points that things bordered on the extreme to extreme silliness. The fate of Pepper is what I’m thinking about here.

Overall, I loved the story. I liked the reality of Tony Stark as a person and not as an alien superhero. You will have fun and finally the ending credits are awesome. Not so much the scene at the end of the movie.

Follow Friday – Movie Review – Newport Beach Film Festival

‘Follow Friday The Film’ is a documentary from filmmaker, Erin Faulk (@erinscafe). It premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival. After an expected layoff from her law firm job, Faulk embarks on a social experiment and travels to 11,000 miles around the United States in 45-days to meet in person – for the first time – her friends on Twitter.

Faulk’s cross country journey starts in Los Angeles and ends at Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. This road trip consists of Faulk; her friends-cinematographer Matthew Sordello (@msordello), Evans Knight(@evansknight), Anna Schlegel (@annatschlegel), Hassan Khan (@hassankhan); a car donated by Audi; and stops in cities like Las Vegas, Austin, New Orleans, Newark, New York, Chicago and Denver. Her ultimate goal is to have her twitter followers sign a petition and present it at Twitter headquarters for a shot at her account being verified.

In ‘Follow Friday The Film,’ what starts off as a cross country road trip turns into an informative documentary on Twitter as a social media tool and its potential to do good in society. The film is divided into chapters about what Twitter is: community, politics, marketing a business, social causes and more.

There is a right way and a wrong way to use Twitter. Faulk shows that it is more than providing updates about your day and the food you eat. It should be a conversation between you and your followers. Her travels across the country are an attempt to meet her friends, even though she never met them in person. The danger is that her friends are not how they portray themselves on Twitter, and she finds that, for the most part, they are. She also takes us to Twitter gatherings of a circle of friends who occasionally meet at one another’s homes.

She also shows the amazing power of Twitter to raise money for a good cause. Along the way, Faulk knew that she wanted an interview with Newark Mayor Corey Booker. Because he personally runs his Twitter account, Faulk was able to ask him “personally.” Soon, one of her Twitter friends said that if Booker would do the interview, he would donate $250 to one of Booker’s charities being New Jersey charter school system, Uncommon Schools. Almost instantly Booker tweeted back and said he would match the donation. Soon, other friends of Faulk tweeted with their donations and Booker match their donations. Soon, Booker found himself committed to an interview with Faulk and committed to pay $17,000 to New Jersey Charter schools.

In a time of public tragedy, Twitter was a tool to bring the community together. Faulk’s crew arrives in Aurora just days after the shooting at a midnight screening of Batman in Aurora. The eerie tweets of the victims of the shooting leading up to the tragedy and the tweets of the victims’ friends and family leave a powerful impact on the timeline of events.

The movie ends at Twitter headquarters, where Faulk hopes to become verified by presenting her cross-country petition to the powers-that-be. As excited as she was about touring Twitter headquarters, Faulk learns the difference between the personable employees of Twitter and the cold, impersonal corporate gods of Twitter.

‘Follow Friday the Film’ is a great movie about Twitter and its potential in your life. It’s an inspiring tale about using Twitter to broaden your circle of friends and experience new things. It can be used to rally people around a cause such as support during hard times, to raise money in a Kickstarter campaign to complete your movie and show off the personal side of your business.

During a road trip portions of the movie, Erin Faulk comes off as funny and likable, and it shows as she meets with her friends for the first time. A problem with ‘Follow Friday the Film’ is that there is not much time spent with the actual interviews of friends along the way, which is the initial premise of the film. For example, the first friend she meets in Las Vegas, we are shown video footage of the meeting, but no interview. I get that maybe it’s the quality of the interviews and the difficult task of editing them in an interesting way may warrant its exclusion from the movie.

Also, this is a positive tale of the power of Twitter. Yes, Twitter has done amazing things in the world as a force for positive change. But Twitter has also been used as a tool for bullying and trolling. But I get that that’s not what this movie is about.

Erin Faulk’s ‘Follow Friday the Film’ is a great start of the Women and Film category of the Newport Beach Film Festival.