Short Film: Morning After (2017)

Morning After (2017)

Morning After

Director: Patricia Chica

Cast: Thomas Vallieres, Kristian Hodko, Jordana Lajoie, Joey Scarpellino, Zoe De Grand Maison

Michael is faced with a dilemma, when a night of drinking with friends, turns into a sensual exploration of sexual identity. – IMDB

Morning After is the prequel for a full length feature film that is currently in the works. In the fifteen minutes runtime of Morning After, there is so much to love. The shots are framed well and being from the beautiful city of Montreal, it makes for a great setting for the story it wants to tell as well. As for the story, Morning After aims to tell one that evolves into a sexual fluidity and have the freedom from having labels. Its quite an accomplishment to achieve that simply from a short film but this short film does it very well especially when centering around a friendly gathering that takes a turn for a much more sensual and eye-opening experience.

Morning After

I love watching films that explore these open-minded relationships. There is something about watching someone grow from learning/embrace their nature and their sexuality that is very intriguing. The best example is Spanish romance drama, The Sex of the Angels (review here) which takes a similar approach to the characters embracing or accepting a functional relationship with more than two people. We watch films to not only entertain but broaden our views of the world around us and films that break away from the norm offer unique feelings and angles to the traditional romance.

With that said, Morning After is a short film that carries its message very well. Other than some awkward monologues, the film itself shows off a liberating feeling. Perhaps a little simple in the sense of just friends talking and then it starts raining and they all dance in the rain but standing in the rain is a cooling experience and one that works well when people enjoy nature. An example from Morning After of how it does a truly liberating feeling. Its a journey for the main character here in this short film to acknowledge this new view and mindset. It will be interesting to see what the full feature will offer and the story they choose to tell.

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Daguerrotype (2016)

Daguerrotype (2016)

Daguerrotype

(original title: Le secret de la chambre noire)

Director (and screenplay): Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Constance Rousseau, Olivier Gourmet

When an assistant to a daguerreotypy photographer falls in love with the latter’s daughter the relationship mirrors the art form as love and pain combine. – IMDB

Even though I have only seen Pulse from Kiyoshi Kurosawa, its safe to say that he is a director who takes his time to build atmosphere. Daguerrotype takes on quite the same style as Pulse to be honest which is a good thing. For his first film outside of Japan, Daguerrotype is safe as it plays with a ghost story, slow pacing and builds on the atmosphere to create an uneasiness in this fantasy drama with horror elements. As an indie film, it does a lot of things right especially using a classic photography theme as its main focus. Some cultures believe that photography snaps away your soul and it uses this point as a centre of making his subject immortal, (at least that is what I make of it). Perhaps that is where the inspiration comes from. Classic photography and building the big contraption is definitely the eerier parts of Daguerrotype and adds this older style and mystery.

daguerrotype
The outstanding elements of Daguerrotype is its atmosphere and the setting. It uses a dark and gloomy setting. This matches well with its characters which seem torn in their will to each break free in their own way. The camera does a great job at panning out and zooming in whenever necessary to capture and reveal what it wants to show. There was especially one part where it follows a character that is particularly immersive. It uses lighting very well to create the uneasy moments. The soundtrack is used appropriately  with a beautiful orchestral piece in various parts however still uses a mix of subtle and abrupt sounds to immerse its viewers during quieter scenes. While it may seem a little cliche and overdone, Daguerrotype uses the classic creaky doors opening slowly to create uneasy moments.

daguerrotype
Daguerrotype also has a pretty decent cast. Tahar Rahim plays Jean, the young man here who gets the job as a photographer assistant because of his inexperience and a general interest for photography. He is the main character and the script writes him quite in depth as we see many personality qualities of his. The story only does have about six roles aside from the small cameos roles with three being the leads. Playing opposite Jean is his photography obsessed boss, Stephane who has an unusual love for Daguerrotype photography which requires its models to stand for a long time motionless and uses a contraption to aid them. Stephane is played by Olivier Gourmet and he does a great job at capturing the grumpy perfection seeking artist with his own secrets. Stephane’s only perfect subject is his daughter Marie, played by Constance Rouseeau, who is a shy and quiet girl with a love for botany and struggles between going to pursue her dreams or staying to accompany her father and being his model.

The bottomline is that Daguerrotype does many things right however it is for the most patient of viewers. At over two hours run time, the story moves very slowly and sometimes might feel like the plot is lost in the little details and sidetracks making it feel fragmented and doesn’t come together however, it is also these fragments that may give this story something to think about after its finished. For horror fans, this might not fit the bill as it doesn’t have a lot of scares but more uneasy atmospheres and is more of a fantasy drama. However, Kurosawa’s skills of atmosphere, setting and tone along with the decent cast here that carries their role well are all good reasons to give Daguerrotype a watch.

Opening on VOD Nationwide on Tuesday, November 7 on all major platforms including iTunes, Sony, Google Play, Amazon, Microsoft, Vudu, Comcast, Charter, Cox, Vimeo, and various other cable operators.

Blog Tour: Fender by Brent Jones [Promo & Giveaway]

R&R Book Tours hosts a blog tour for Fender by Brent Jones. First of all, let’s start off with the cover.

Fender
by: Brent Jones

Fender

Publication Date: August 21, 2017

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Drama

How far must we travel to find our way home?

Nothing could have prepared Brennan Glover for the car crash that claimed the lives of his wife and six-year-old daughter. Stricken with grief, the only things that get him through each day are breaking his sobriety and clinging to Fender—the family dog and the sole survivor of the crash.

Desperate to distance Brennan from tragedy, his two closest friends take him on the cross-country road trip they had always talked about. But what begins as an effort to mend his broken heart ends up unraveling a secret that changes everything he thought he knew about his family. Can a journey of six thousand miles lead Brennan to acceptance and new beginnings?

From finding the good in an often cruel world to learning to say goodbye to those we love most, this sophomore release from author Brent Jones is sure to leave readers longing for home, wherever that may be. – Goodreads

Excerpt of Chapter 1

Brennan sat on the living room floor staring at his polished shoes, his back pressed against the leather sofa, a bottle of Jim Beam in his left hand, a lit cigarette in his right. Traces of afternoon sun peeked through lush drapes, adding a hint of color to an otherwise dark and empty room. He tilted the bottle back and flicked ash in an empty drinking glass between his legs, trickles of silver smoke rising up past his face. He was too stricken with grief to hear the front door open.

“You here, Bee?” Rocco entered with Franky in tow. He lowered his head, taking in the scene before him. “We’re so sorry.” He offered Brennan a sympathetic frown, his forehead wrinkled with worry. “How’re you holding up?”

Brennan flicked more ash in the drinking glass without responding.

Rocco let out a deep breath, added, “It was a beautiful service.”

Brennan kept his head down, making no effort to suggest he had heard Rocco.

“Should we come back later?”

“It’s all right if you wanna be alone,” said Franky.

Brennan raised his eyes with pronounced difficulty. He was immediately turned off by their concern, which looked a lot to him like judgment and shame. Rocco, evidently concerned about his drinking, and Franky, concerned because Rocco was concerned. “Go ahead,” said Brennan. “Say it.”

“Say what?” asked Rocco, exchanging a glance with Franky.

Brennan dropped his cigarette in the glass, raised the Jim Beam to his lips. “Say I shouldn’t be drinking again.”

“What you’re going through right now, Bee, I understand—”

“Oh, you always understand, Rocco. Don’t you? Not thisss one, though. You fucking can’t. You didn’t loosh yer family.” Brennan could hear himself slurring.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“He’s saying he’d be fucked up, too,” Franky chimed in. “That’s all.”

Brennan hadn’t taken a drink since the day his daughter was born—hadn’t smoked a cigarette since that day, either—and he knew drinking himself senseless was no way to honor her memory. Just this one time, he had told himself. I need this today. But so far, it had brought him no peace. It only heightened his sense of hopelessness.

A faint jingle echoed down the hallway, getting closer, a senior beagle with a limp and fresh stitches emerging at last. Franky knelt down, extended his hands. “Fender,” he said in a singsong voice, scratching behind the dog’s ears. “Who’s a good boy, Fender? Who’s a good boy?”

Fender parked himself at Franky’s feet—not out of obedience or affection, but sheer exhaustion. He was normally playful and energetic—even at twelve years old—and never allowed anyone to enter the house without barking to alert his humans. But at that moment he whimpered, sullen and subdued, rubbing his snout against Franky’s leg.

“When’s the last time he ate?” Rocco asked.

Brennan shook his head.

Rocco motioned to Franky. “Why don’t you take Fender out for a bathroom break? Maybe fill up his food and water bowls, too.”

Franky nodded and Fender followed him out of the room.

Rocco sat on the floor next to Brennan. “Listen, Bee, I get that this is tough.”

Brennan rubbed his temples and said nothing. He was a sensitive man, emotional, fragile at times, and now near speechless. He could almost feel himself shutting down, giving in to the pain, letting go of the world. It felt like he was drowning in a sea of sorrow, violent waves of grief washing over him, and he was losing the will to keep his head above water.

Rocco touched Brennan’s shoulder. “Me and Franky want to take you away for a little bit. It’d do you good.”

“Now?”

“Yeah.” Rocco motioned to the Jim Beam. “I think now’s good. You’ve been outta work for a couple months. I’ve got vacation time saved up at the office, and Franky can walk away from roofing anytime. We were thinking of taking that trip to California we’d always talked about.”

“We talked ’bout ’at shit when wurrr kidsss.”

“Yeah, I get that, but we could still do it. We’d make a road trip out of it, just like you, me, Franky, and Colin—” Rocco winced, having unintentionally drudged up the past.

“My family was just kilt in a car crasssh,” said Brennan. “And you think the best place furr me ish out on the open road?”

Rocco nodded. “I do, Bee. You need to get away and clear your head.”

Brennan listened without speaking, his line of sight again lowered toward his shoes. Tears spilled down his cheeks.

“You can’t stay here by yourself. It’s—it’s too much. It’s too much for anyone to have to handle.” Rocco glanced at Brennan through narrowed and swollen eyes. “Our hearts are heavy, too, and we all need to grieve. But nothing good can come of you sitting here alone and drinking. You need something to take your mind off it.”

Franky returned a minute later. Fender hobbled behind him, his movements labored and graceless, his eyes wet and dark. He positioned himself near Brennan in slow motion. Fender was the last member of the Glover household to see Rosie and Abby alive, and the only survivor of the crash that killed them both.

“Did he eat?” asked Rocco, gesturing toward Fender.

“Not much.” Franky changed gears without blinking. “What’d he say?” He asked the question as if he and Rocco were alone in the room.

“Bee says he’s gonna think on it,” Rocco said, standing. He looked down at Brennan before walking out. “You will give it some thought, right? That’s all I’m asking.”

The house was quiet again, but Brennan was certain nothing could silence the storm in his heart. He ran his finger over the tattoo on his left shoulder through his shirt, as he often did during difficult times. He knew its intricacies by heart—the anniversary of Colin’s death inked in a simple script. He once thought losing his best friend had prepared him for anything life might throw his way, but now he knew better.

Where to buy Fender:  Amazon & Barnes and Noble

About the Author 

From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.

Jones writes from his home in Fort Erie, Canada. He’s happily married, a bearded cyclist, a mediocre guitarist, (sometimes) vegetarian, and the proud owner of two dogs with a God complex. Subscribe to his newsletter (AuthorBrentJones.com) or follow him on social media (@AuthorBrentJ) for updates.

Follow Brent Jones

Website/ Blog: http://authorbrentjones.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBrentJ/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorBrentJ

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorbrentj/

Newsletter: http://authorbrentjones.us15.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=25780171a7af1a527bbe46e27&id=27b15978b2

GIVEAWAY

3 digital copies of Fender (Mobi or Epub)

1 Print copy of Fender (Canadian/ U.S. Residents only)

1 Audio copy of Fender

*Note: Please be advised that all entries will be automatically subscribed to author’s newsletter

Link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0e7c6a8f18/?

The Colours Blogathon: Blue Jay (2016)

The Colours Blogathon

This is an entry for The Colours Blogathon hosted by Thoughts All Sorts.

Interesting that that original plan fell through with White Oleander as the DVD has vanished somewhere in my house. It will pop up when I don’t need it. Going back, looking at my too long Netflix to watch list, it felt right to finally give Blue Jay a watch, a 2016 indie romantic drama.

Blue Jay (2016)

Blue Jay

Director: Alex Lehmann

Cast: Mark Duplass (writer), Sarah Paulson, Clu Gulager

Meeting by chance when they return to their tiny California hometown, two former high-school sweethearts reflect on their shared past. – IMDB

Blue Jay is truly a unique experience. The way its presented is solely in black and white however it quickly becomes not so noticeable when the focus on the two characters, Jim and Amanda are so deep. Jim and Amanda both have returned to town and we quickly see the high school sweethearts go from the awkward meeting to revisiting their memories and from there the chemistry is feels incredibly authentic and we can’t help be wonder what split them apart. The film does answer that as well by the end. The film’s black and white doesn’t only focus on them but in between scenes will also switch over to the small town scenery: empty streets serene nature and the likes. This is a nice way to approach a transition as it takes us into simple natural beauty and lets us see the town and everything around them. They regard it once as a “shithole” when in fact it doesn’t quite seem that way.

Blue Jay

As aesthetically pleasing as Blue Jay is made, the true gem here is the telling of the story between Jim and Amanda. We see them find the pieces of their young romance over 20 years ago. The awkward and weird parts when they were very different than now. There is something very believable about Jim and Amanda’s relationship. Perhaps its their awkward re-encounter of a first love, possibly the first true love that many say is unforgettable and will always influence us. The script takes a careful step to learn about them between their nostalgia and getting into deeper conversation of how both Jim and Amanda’s current life dilemmas are. However, there is an undeniable chemistry between them that is so real to watch come to life that it sucks us into their story, wondering why this beautiful couple split up. It is obvious that even they envisioned themselves together till they were old, making this relationship very much different from a high school fling but something made of true love and possibly the rare high school sweetheart stories that make it. The script also treads carefully to find the perfect moment to reveal the pain that has broken them apart.

Blue Jay

Overall, Blue Jay is a rare gem in the romantic drama genre. It also happens to be a favorite setting of mine to be set in a one night period and very character-based. The black and white adds to the aesthetic and appeal of the film as well as the tone. It helps with the nostalgia that these two characters carry for their relationship. At the same time, these characters are deep and carry many layers. Blue Jay captures young love, memories, chemistry and loss so well and in a believable way. There are laughs and thought-provoking and emotional moments. Its definitely a must-see!

Thanks to Thoughts All Sorts for hosting this fantastic blogathon so that I could discover this wonderful movie!
Find more entries for this blogathon here!

Double Feature: Southpaw (2015) & Miss Sloane (2016)

Welcome to the next double feature. I rented Southpaw and Miss Sloane on discount on Play Store last month. Two very different films and two very different feelings about it however both heavily reliant on their main character.

Southpaw (2015)

Southpaw

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Forest Whitaker, Rachel McAdams, Oona Lawrence, 50 Cent, Naomie Harris

Boxer Billy Hope turns to trainer Tick Wills to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services. – IMDB

If there is one word to describe Southpaw, it would be disappointing. It isn’t particularly a bad film as the performances were great. Rachel McAdams did great for what it was. Jake Gyllenhaal was fantastic and I absolutely love Forest Whitaker who is an underrated actor. The girl who played the daughter was Oona Lawrence and that arc was decent.

However, the flaw lies in the fact that Southpaw is pretty much another Rocky story in many instances and we already had Creed recently that was much more engaging. It didn’t help that Southpaw was a little too dramatic at parts but never made it feel very exciting to watch. Seeing the stellar cast being in this uninspired script truly was a lackluster experience.

Miss Sloane (2016)

miss sloane

Director: John Madden

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Alison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, John Lithgow, Jake Lacy

In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price. – IMDB

Miss Sloane was a movie that I went in with no idea of what the premise is. I have heard good things about it and I have enjoyed Jessica Chastain. Miss Sloane is such a vibrant character wrapped up in a tough and ruthless shell. She is strong and strategic in all her plans and for all the reasons, it makes us wonder on what she has under her sleeve even in the most desperate of situations but it is what makes her compelling to watch.

Miss Sloane, just as the title implies, is truly based on Jessica Chastain and how she takes on the role and she did an outstanding job. As we navigate through her way of life and the little things, while she isn’t exactly a character you would cheer for because of her lack of ethics and morals in some of her decisions, every part whether planned or not comes into play and that gives full credit for the screenwriters doing a fine job at giving it a good pacing that keeps everything moving and finding a balance to learn just enough about Miss Sloane and keeping enough to make everything make sense and surprise when it falls into place.

While Miss Sloane isn’t typically the movie that I would watch, I’m glad that I did because it was absolutely awesome. Gripping, compelling and full of twists and turns around every corner. This one is a must see.

Have you seen Southpaw and/or Miss Sloane?

Fantasia Festival 2017: Free and Easy (2016)

Free and Easy (2016)
Director: Jun Geng

Director: Baohe Xue, Benbin Gu, Gang Xu, Liguo Yuan, Xun Zhang, Xuxu Wang, Zhiyong Zhang

When a traveling soap salesman arrives in a desolate Chinese town, a crime occurs, and sets the strange residents against each other with tragicomic results. –IMDB

A peddling monk, a soap salesman, a reforestation ranger: What do these three characters have in common? Add in a God-loving man who is seeking for his disappeared mother, a jack of all trades kung fu instructor and a tough landlady. Throw together two cops who really seem to be both careless and clueless and this creates the mix of a 99 minutes Chinese movie set in desolate area in Northeast China. Free and Easy is an odd piece altogether. Is it trying to be comedic with its dry  humor? Or is it a societal statement about the world we live in pushing those into paths they don’t really choose no matter how good or bad they are? Perhaps, its a crime story when one of the characters die. Just like the story its telling, maybe the genre also steps somewhere in a grey area.

Free and Easy is however an interesting piece of cinema to talk about. With so many characters on screen, we mostly focus on the soap salesman and the monk at the beginning. The cops are the other end of the spectrum as they truly feel useless in their positions or simply bored. They talk constantly about things they probably shouldn’t and then they also take antibiotics like its candy. Not the authorities that we’d imagine them to be. In a community like this one, desolate and forgotten, even the cops are useless, it is a statement on how everyone has their own way to fend for themselves and survive day to day. They are thrown into circumstances that we eventually realize aren’t quite them however, it is all a sense of digging out that part of them that they need to live. The soap salesman and monk eventually have some insightful conversations throughout the movie that truly point us into knowing them more. Just as the reforestation ranger obsesses over who cut down his trees and we start seeing his mellow character go through a myriad of reactions to the situation. However, with the amount of characters here, the focus moves quickly through them. Their personalities, their facades, their conversations, their tricks all come together as what defines this world because we never know any of them well enough to know their history or even their story. We only know what they are now and those few days in this desolate area.

While, Free and Easy slowly progresses its story and it feels disjointed throughout the majority of it and there isn’t really a character to bond with, one of the best aspects is its landscape and cinematography. The way that the director composes their shots, capturing the wide angles and pulled out space. It truly expands on the desolate and emptiness in this area. Perhaps, it also is done to create a parallel for these characters who each have their own issues and all don’t seem to keen about what life they are in now. No one truly seems happy. However, the scenes here truly capture so much atmosphere and is structured carefully to capture exactly what it wants and hides some of the details off screen. One of the best scenes do go to one of the cops confronting four of the characters as they keep moving on and off screen.

Honestly, there isn’t a lot to say concretely about Free and Easy. The story needs a little more work particularly for the pace they are going at. The sound design is nice and the cinematography captures so much of the atmosphere and the area despite it being desolate and empty. The characters are plentiful but never fleshed out. The dry humor definitely is there however, it never seemed to work enough although humor is rather subjective. Free and Easy is a statement piece about society, at least from the first watch, it definitely seems to be leaning the most in that direction. Its a lot of reading between the lines and listening to the dialogue and conversations. Its a movie for those that enjoy dry humor, slow-paced and reading between the lines.

Personally, this doesn’t feel like a movie that I was meant to like. I do think for its vagueness in many of the issues, it makes it more thought provoking to figure out what they are trying to say. What message is it all about? I’m honestly kind of in between with this one.

Fantasia Festival 2017: A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story (2017)

A Ghost Story 2017

Director and Writer: David Lowery

Cast: Casey Affleck, Rooney Mara, Will Oldham, Sonia Acevedo

In this singular exploration of legacy, love, loss, and the enormity of existence, a recently deceased, white-sheeted ghost returns to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his bereft wife. – IMDB

Perhaps one of the first things to start off is that A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It shouldn’t be expected to be one as it is a fantasy drama. David Lowery crafts up a passion project that brings to life an old perception of a ghost covered in a bedsheet who lingers for their loved one in the background. This character may seem like a goofy concept and the movie may have its quirky moment however it isn’t meant to be funny. A Ghost Story is a slow burn movie, more than possibly anything else you will encounter. It has lingering shots before it switches, teasing the audience perhaps to expect something to happen that often doesn’t. It has almost no dialogue but focuses heavily on its soundtrack and its subtle noises in the surroundings. It doesn’t give the characters any names which creates a world where we see only this ghost, a ghost of a husband who has come back to console his wife however not making contact but stirs up memories throughout. A Ghost Story is for those extremely patient because this movie may make you wait for things that won’t happen and answers that you might not get. It seeks to dig a little deeper and expands farther than its star-studded main characters, Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Whether the slow-burn works for you or not, this is an odd but unique experience. One that makes you question where the line falls for the audience between tedium and depth.

A Ghost Story is shot in an almost square aspect ratio. Its something that native moviegoers may notice right away. However, what the movie lacks in dialogue is greatly made up by the perfect cuts and transitions between scenes. The ghost moves at a slow pace and frequently shots are taken from his slow movement as he enters a new room or observes something different. He may simply turn and the scene will change. All this is done slowly and seamlessly. The first part of the film focuses on the husband and wife relationship and the love and loss as well as the moving forward and holding on in two people. Despite the silence, we feel the connection between these two characters in the pieces scattered as the time moves on after C (played by Casey Affleck) dies in a sudden accident. There is a great use of time moving forward particularly in the fluidity of creating a scene where M (played by Rooney Mara) goes day by day, carrying on with life.

This fluidity of transition shifts through time as the story turns to a second act of various future tenants. While the technical scenes work well, the second act moves forward and we can only wonder how David Lowery will wrap this story up and how do you end something as random as the scenes he has linked together. This question will lead the audience straight to the final act which unfolds what can only be described as a masterful story writing that somehow does lead this story to giving us a lot of the answers that we’ve been wondering with the bits and pieces.

A Ghost Story is not the conventional way to make a movie. In the final Q&A session of this movie, its apparent that this project turned out as he would like. The slow pace, the sound design and the voiceless and nameless man under the bedsheet all serves its purposes. However, this is an incredibly experimental piece that is definitely not for everyone. Its for those with incredible patience, especially when this movie requires a few minutes watching someone eat pie, as well as attaching to a bedsheet ghost, that will oddly seem to start feeling like they are emoting by just standing there and the camera angles.

For what this movie accomplished, it is one that gets better the more you think about it. It is also one that best seen with as little knowledge as possible. The best movies create discussion and it certainly feels like this one will have that kind of impact.