Fantasia 2017: Tilt (2017)

Tilt (2017)

Tilt poster

Director & co-writer: Kasra Farahani

Cast: Joseph Cross, Alexia Rasmussen, Jessy Hodges, Kelvin Yu

An unemployed documentary filmmaker’s behavior becomes increasingly erratic in the months after his wife becomes pregnant. – IMDB

A mind’s control over a chaos. Tilt is a movie about exactly that. Also, it stems from possibly the main character, Joe’s first documentary called Tilt and its tagline about control and chaos and skill in regards to pinball which could easily be carried forward to how we watch him slowly spiral towards his urge of becoming someone that he doesn’t recognize. The best way to describe Tilt would be a slow-burn character study of a person who slowly changes as perhaps their subconscious desires take a path they try to resist.

Tilt is an interesting one. We love horror thrillers and slow-burn movies and honestly, those types of movies are possibly the hardest to get right. Tilt does a decent job at setting up the stage. The technicalities from sound design to production set to the cast were done very well. It was captivating in parts and intriguing in others. Tilt’s first and third act were all of these things, wrapped up in a lot of questions and slowly gives the audience pieces to put together and wonder whether our main character Joe, played by Joseph Cross, will eventually spiral to. Where the film may fall a little short is in the incredibly dragged out second act that we can understand the purpose of watching our character, his observations and his resistance come into full force however, it also was a grinding experience to get through falling into the tedious territory for a few brief moments. What does redeem this movie is the unknown and the unsaid. Things happen and we can only wonder and link and imagine some, (at times) disturbing ideas.

It is hard to do a film like Tilt where it combines the thriller genre with a character study. For all its intrigued and ideas executed well most of the time, perhaps one of the harder things to invest into would be the characters themselves. The cast did incredibly well with how these characters are scripted, particularly our main couple, Joe and Joanne. We see the stress and the sacrifices and the tears that the pregnancy and upcoming addition to their family has caused. Perhaps this is what causes these issues to arise subtly in Joe’s personality as he spends many hours by himself.  However, as impressive as Joseph Cross and Alexia Rasmussen portrayed their characters, it is hard to be rooting for any one of them in particular. Perhaps that isn’t the point because it does feel like these characters were created to not truly be likable as they struggle with this new stress that has entered their lives as they have to face a new reality.

With that said, Tilt does a lot of technical aspects right. The scenes, moods, atmosphere are done incredibly well. They help create that sense of fear and dread as well as danger and intrigue. The script itself tells just enough to make us wonder and link things but never truly know if our guess is correct or not. That is what makes a thriller fun as the finale pulls together masterfully. It has some disturbing scenes and ideas and all this is thanks to a great performance by Joseph Cross. However, the downfall of this film lies in characters we can’t seem to get behind and that make sit harder to truly feel invested into their outcome and also a second act that could’ve been perhaps executed a little better in various parts. Not a perfect thriller, however one that executes many things well enough to deserve a watch.

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.

Fantasia 2017: Abu (2017)

Kicking off the Fantasia Festival this year for myself surprisingly is a documentary called Abu. It screens on July 16th at 2pm at Theatre D.B. Clarke. You an find the Festival information HERE.

ABU : Father (2017)

Director/Writer/Producer: Arshad Khan

As a gay man, Filmmaker Arshad Khan examines his troubled relationship with his devout, Muslim father Abu. Using family archives and movies, Khan explores his struggle with his identity and compares it to his parents attempts to fit into Canada. – IMDB

Documentaries aim to educate, invoke thoughts about certain issues and tell its audience a true story which generally is the raw truth. Director, writer and producer of Abu takes us on a deeply personal journey of his life. While the movie Abu, meaning father, entails a heavy focus on his troubled relationship with his own father from values and views, his story dives into deeper issues of assimilation into Canada as a immigrant family, particularly as a Pakistani family. It also looks at his personal struggles and coming of age of being a gay man and in this also looks at the struggle between his family of modernism and traditionalism. Abu says quite a lot in its 80 minutes run-time.

No one can judge someone else’s life story, as we can’t judge Arshad Khan’s. This is his journey. For that, he exposes many truths and realizations from his youth to the present; starting his story from letting the audience understand where his parents came from and how they met and got married. His documentary laces together video clips from back in Pakistan and snippets of popular Bollywood movies (and performances, etc) and interviews with a few members of his family as he narrates his story step by step, bearing his observations, feelings and experiences. There is no doubt in our minds that this documentary shows us his hardships and it should relate to many people: immigrants, men, LGBT community, those growing up in Pakistan, those who relate to generation gap issues with parents, and the list goes on. Even if it doesn’t relate to it, this story tells truths about how he grew up and some very poignant issues ring up particular issues that are hidden away from other’s eyes, be it because of conservatism or religion. However, what is a downfall of this documentary is that while some events may seem to set a platform for various issues, there are mundane parts that make this documentary lose a bit of where it wants to take its audience. While it may seem necessary in his journey, some bits are extras that only serve to extend the running time and doesn’t serve to add to what this documentary is trying to portray.

The creativity of using real life video clips and interviews from family as well as adding in the modernization of cinema which addressed the issues he was talking about, helped create good supporting material to his narration. Plus, it is impressive to see the use of the once familiar VCR static fuzziness be used as a transition tool here. The documentary itself starts off with an animated sequence and these sequences do appear sporadically throughout this journey. The experiences he tells us about in this personal journey also resounds on many levels and highlights mostly hidden issues that many don’t talk about publicly. What Abu does well and truly deserves our attention is telling this poignant and emotional story, particularly in the last third (or second half) of the documentary as the issues truly come to light and Arshad Khan talks about dealing with issues such as anger, frustration and forgiveness as well as the change of dynamics not only with his father but his mother as well. Perhaps it takes a while to get into understanding why anyone would want to hear someone else’s story but give this documentary some time to get its ducks in a row and everything truly comes together in a meaningful, thought-provoking and educational way regarding religion, immigration and family.

***As a personal thought, most of you know that I’m not an immigrant but my parents are. I’m not part of the LGBTQ community. However, this documentary still managed to strike a chord especially in some of the later scenes. Its the family aspect that truly gets me. This goes to a point that in many ways, this film brings up many issues the relate in a multi-faceted way and that problems can transcend through different people because of similar instances. For that, there was one part that truly had me emotional.***

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

We’re somewhat back on track with the Goodreads challenge now. It shows that I’m a book ahead but then I can’t seem to fix the problem that it has the same book twice. Plus, I read a lot of short stories and comics so I’m not sure those really count as one book. Its slightly cheating. Although, with my TBR list somewhat mapped out, I feel like I’m most likely to go over at the current moment. Who knows, right? I could go into one of those lack of motivation phases and just not read for a month. Up next is a book review of All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. As I read this one, I couldn’t help but compare it to Thirteen Reasons Why, mostly because it also features youth and mental illness and how the two authors took a different angle and built different characters essentially.

Let’s check it out!

All the Bright Places
by: Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death. When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.  – Goodreads

Before I start the actual review, I’d like to start with this bit. I’m on record to not have enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why. You can check out the review HERE.  As I think back to it frequently, its mostly because of Hannah Baker and how I find her a manipulative character in general. I haven’t seen the series and I can’t comment on it if that is what you are basing any opinions on. I always get a little worried when I approach books about mental illness because its a very touchy subject and a lot of people who has these illnesses will become very defensive about it. So I’m going to say that while I didn’t enjoy Thirteen Reasons Why, I appreciate what it was trying to do and the issues it was trying to highlight. If the character resounded more to you, that’s great. I’m happy to hear that it did because it means that someone related to it and it did its job. Now we’re aren’t here to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why but All the Bright Places and with that said, I’d like to highlight why I think this book works better at highlighting youths and mental illness, while trying to bring forth the same issues.

All the Bright Places is about two young ones who meet on the sixth story roof of their school and for their own reasons, they both end up getting off. Who saves the other is unknown at that moment and its with this starting point that this unlikely friendship begins. First off, that descriptions says way too much, making the mystery of the story vanish because its so obvious what will happen. I really dislike stories that make descriptions who say too much. However, All the Bright Places is a page-turner. There is no doubt about it. While primarily their problems and their inner struggles make them intriguing to read, Violet and Theodore are compelling because of that. In many ways, both are learning to live in the present and remember that there is more to life than running away from the past or finding ways to escape the present. Not all people who suffer some form of mental illness can’t be saved, but sometimes, it takes someone with a careful eye to notice these little details and that is exactly what this story highlights, how a lot of people don’t know how to differentiate when someone needs help. They may not reach out or they may not be noticed and sometimes people will just label them with an excuse that describes who they are in an awkward or weird way. And sometimes, mental illness does become the world of the person who lives with it whether they like it or not. I’m speaking of this last part through personal experience of people I know and things that has happened to them and how various parts of how Theodore and Finch’s dialogue resounded to me.

These types of books are very personal experiences in some ways. However, All the Bright Places is very cleverly executed. It creates two characters and uses their search for the natural wonders around them to invoke the sense of discovery and how there is more to see and worth living for regardless of how big or small. It also emphasizes how while part of the fight is with support from others, in many ways, their inner struggles had to be overcame by themselves and with some good professional help. I’m not sure if this is trying to have a social statement about how schools don’t have a good enough psychiatric help or that there are lacking of resources and knowledge of these issues in teenagers. It might even be a statement about how parents (or family in general) sometimes don’t pay as much attention as they should to their children as they deal with their own issues. There might not even be a statement but just that sometimes, a little notice of the details of the people you see day in and out, whether its a friend or family could go a long way. All the Bright Places depicts it well that certain symptoms can be nudged off as a character trait, awkward or odd or just how that person is because its a familiar thing, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something that can alarm others to give a helpful nudge before its too late.

I’ve went off a tangent now. Overall, All the Bright Places is a great story that does very well in showing how mental illnesses can be misunderstood easily. It serves as a reminder to notice the ones we love more. It also serves to say that sometimes, those with mental illness might not even acknowledge that they have it and don’t know when to seek help and sometimes, there is nothing you can to stop their actions. Whatever it is that you relate to in this story or pick up, its a rather personal experience. In a more objective way, All the Bright Places brings out two characters that are very different and dealing with different issues, living in different realities and create a story where they search for wonders as they both search for the will to keep living and moving forward each day. Who says whom in the beginning, what is the reality of the situation, what are these individuals thinking of, what inner struggles are they truly dealing with, who are they and which part of their personality is because of their mental illnesses; these are all questions that it poses and will be swimming through your mind as you read it. Sometimes, it’ll make you smile a little as the characters find happiness and contentment in what they do and sometimes, you might feel a tug in your heartstrings as they go through their inner battles. Whatever it is, All the Bright Places is a well-executed and well-written young adult novel with compelling characters.

**As an after note, I have read some of the Goodreads reviews on why some people have changed their mind and rated this poorly, which made me think about the characterization of not only Violet and Theodore but also the people around them, I’d like to say that with my experiences, I feel like this book strikes a chord with me and does portray and highlight the mental illness issue very well in these characters. **

Archie, Volume 3 by Mark Waid

Next up in the reading adventures is back to the comic/graphic comic world. I still can’t decide which category I should call this one. Regardless, Archie Volume 3 was released just last month and there was a lovely online sale at Indigo so I ordered this one at a pretty awesome price. Its been a fun time reading these and is very cool to check out in between novels as a refresher to cleanse the palette before starting something new. However, this is one of the last new physical books for the year. I have a sizable TBR list and I really need to get cracking on a lot of them.

Let’s check this out! 🙂

Archie, Volume 3
By: Mark Waid
Illustrated by: Joe Eisma

Introducing… Cheryl Blossom! The fiery red-head takes center stage as Archie and Veronica’s worlds are torn apart as the two are living thousands of miles away from each other. What will happen to the rest of Archie’s friends in Riverdale? And just what kind of havoc will Cheryl Blossom wreak? – Goodreads

This renewed Archie world is great so far and this third book is no exception. I haven’t quite managed to get the TV Binge post put together for Riverdale but I love the character of Cheryl Blossom. She is a girl with a lot of motives but it is also with a character like this that has a hidden agenda that brings out the nature of some of our other characters. In this book, I am mostly referring to Veronica. It is always interesting how the book isn’t always about Archie and will turn its focus on the girls or the other feuds or situations with other characters. However, that sometimes still makes Archie the least appealing to watch grow (both in the comics or the show) because he always just literally stumbles clumsily into situations and tries to do everything with the best intentions and ends up with the worst results. It does warrant some funny moments. With that said, one of my fave parts of this one was when Archie wanted to be like Jughead and in turn, being his best friend, Jughead had to hold the fort and be Archie, making Betty point out why Archie wanted to be him and in a roundabout way, let us learn a little more about both of these guys. While there was a lack of Betty in this book, that one part made her presence be felt regardless.

Volume 3 truly picks up where the last volume ended and not only adds a new colorful character to challenge the group but also further develops the main players to make sure they remain interesting in this modernized version of Archie. While Betty is seen less in this book, the main focus was on Archie and Veronica and their fight for their romance. It brought forth changes in their characters that lead them to acknowledge who they are. Along with beautiful illustrations from Joe Eisma, Archie, Volume 3 is a great read.

Have you read this one? Did you read any of the modernized Archie comics?

TaleSpins (TaleSpins #1-3) by Michael Mullin

After a nice weekend off from mostly everything online, I’m happy to be back writing again. It was something that I needed a lot to just sit back and take some time to break out of the normal routine. Its a new week and time for more writing. Next up is a book review of TaleSpins which is technically three short stories put together into this one book.

Let’s check it out!

TaleSpins (TaleSpins #1-3)
by: Michael Mullin

TaleSpins

A trilogy of alternative fairytales and retellings. Discover the real Snow White story through the eyes of Creepy, the unknown 8th dwarf! Meet a teen princess who hires “The Frog Prince” witch to get revenge on a Mean Girl! And learn how the giant, boy thief and magic beans tale truly went down! – Goodreads

I love reading fairy tales and the retellings are usually so fun as well. Disney makes them suitable for all ages and in many ways, tells some of these stories without the true darkness it may have. However, perhaps its how innocent we know all these stories that when they retold, it turns into a darker affair. TaleSpins’ three story is set up in a deeper story, adding in characters and events while putting it into a sing song rhyme poetry sort of way. Because of this new approach, it is a refreshing take on how we read these unique stories.

The first story in this trilogy is a spin on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and its called The 8th Dwarf, an awkward dwarf that was punished to live in the basement of the dwarves home. This character intercepted the story really well and definitely was the best of the three stories here.  The second story is based on The Frog Prince and somehow was taken with bullying and a girl trying to get revenge on a classmate in an extreme way. Also an interesting take as the endeavor of it was for the girl to succeed however the Frog Prince character here takes a more conscience sort of role and teaches us a little lesson. The last story is a take on Jack and the Beanstalk which actually turns things around as we see the ogre being the centre of attentiom instead of Jack who really if you think about it is a thief.

TaleSpins is a collection of three short stories and they are pretty fast to get through. I like reading poetry and rhyming pieces out loud, so that worked for me and had me really invested. However, as the story gets into the longer sentences, I started wishing this was a physical book to really see the sentence structure better. The writing and language is very polished as well. Overall, a pretty good read. Mostly the last story fell flat for me a little in the middle but still a solid entry to the retellings of these three stories.

Have you read TaleSpins?

Flesh for the Zombies (short story) by Anthony Renfro

Reading has been a tad slow these days and I’m kind of feeling like I’m cheating on this Goodreads challenge because I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and comics/graphic novels but I guess this does work because its really been a whole new adventure. However, the world is much better in smaller doses especially when I finally got around to checking out Anthony Renfro’s new short story Flesh for the Zombies. For those who don’t know, Anthony is one of us bloggers and he is also a writer. You can find him at Haiku, Poetry and Occasional Hullabaloo and his newer blog, One Writer Ranting. Over the years, Anthony has been great and its always great to get a free copy of his book because I do love his writing a lot. Flesh for the Zombies continues with the story of Mike Beem which is a pretty cool character that has been around for a few short stories already.

Flesh for the Zombies
by: Anthony Renfro

flesh for the zombies

When Mike Beem’s community is savagely attacked, he must exact revenge on those who wronged him. He must put aside all the good he has ever accomplished in order to become someone else. A man without a moral compass. A man without right or wrong. A man who is a cold blooded killer. Will he get his justice or will he die trying? The answers lie within the pages of this short story. – Goodreads

What started with A Zombie Christmas turned into A Zombie Christmas 2 and now we have Flesh for the Zombies which follows a very cool bad-ass with quite a soft heart who makes the best out of a sudden zombie apocalypse. Mike Beem is a great character created by Anthony Renfro for these stories and despite these only being short stories, the events Mike Beem goes through and the way he talks and his actions truly allows the readers to see who he is. With Flesh for the Zombies, the story dives a little deeper as the community he built is not destroyed by a group of people who has taken the zombie apocalypse and gone the different direction of how he chose by making things a living hell and when they choose to destroy his community that he’s built with positivity and create a safe(r) haven for what is going on outside, it turns a side of Mike Beem and makes not only us but the character itself question the limits of his actions especially in the face of hard choices. Its not to say that in the face of a zombie apocalypse there won’t be hard choices even before but the tone of Flesh of the Zombies has matured quite a bit from when we first saw Mike Beem and his desire to bring Christmas from the survivors of his neighborhood. To me, that shows improvement and character depth all of which makes me happy to see that the author has chosen this new path. For those who have read A Zombie Christmas, we already know that the author likes to take a different approach to this zombie apocalypse business and its quite creative. The most impressive part for Flesh for the Zombies is it takes it down a very different path with very intriguing results making this a very fulfilling short story.

Overall, Flesh for the Zombies takes a turn down a deeper and darker path for an impressive character that gives it some character depth. Packed with vivid description and some hard choices for the protagonist to make, this short story is a page turner and one that stands together well with the Mike Beem stories from before, A Zombie Christmas 1 & 2 but also should stand well enough by itself as it is self-contained.

Links to buy the short story (if you are interested)