Often we review films that are in the theater, but this summer we want to highlight some films that may be more accessible for our readers. There were several films that I wanted to see this year but couldn’t because of the high prices of movie tickets. As a result I had to wait until they were available on DVD to check them out. There are a few summer film festivals coming and I may be able to see other films that way, but for the most part I’m getting DVDs from the library and through other rental spaces.
Here’s a list of films in alphabetical order that I waited to see and think VL readers may enjoy as well. This is not a full review of these films as we usually do, but there are a few comments as to what the films are about and what I found interesting. If there are others you’d like to share please do!
This film was only in theaters for a few weeks, as many international independent films are. I wanted to see it to support both the director Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu (Amores Perros, Babel) and cast which includes Javier Bardem. I only knew a little bit about the story: that Bardem’s character Uxbal worked in an “underground” street economy and was trying to save enough money to leave his children before he died. What I was not expecting was the part of the move that is connected to spirituality/magic/paranormal/some may even say magical realism. The film is in Spanish with various subtitles on the DVD.
Elvis & Madona
A film that I saw last year for the Tribeca Film Festival, Elvis & Madona is a film from Brazil. We follow Elvis, a lesbian who is working on becoming a photographer full time but must take a job as a pizza delivery person who meets Madona, a trans woman and drag performer who orders pizza that Elvis delivers. Their relationship begins as friends as Elvis photographs Madona for upcoming shows, yet it evolves into an intimate relationship that they both desire and find peace of mind. When Elvis becomes pregnant, her and Madona discuss their options and chose to parent the child. We watch as Elvis introduces Madona to her parents, explains the pregnancy, watch as they move in together, and struggle as new parents do to respect one another and create a safe environment for their child. This is a beautiful love story that I wish more folks would see. There were less than 20 people in the theater when I went to the screening. This film will make you realize how many stories are not being told and how thirsty we ALL are for more complex human narratives and representations!
Even The Rain
In NYC this film was only in one theater. This made it very unlikely that I could see it in the theater and that’s what happened. I had to wait what seemed like forever (but it was really only a few months) before the film was released on DVD. Described as a “film within a film” we follow Sebastian (Gael Garcia Bernal), a young director and screenwriter who is working on his first film: a depiction of what occurred when Columbus “arrived” in Puerto Rico. On location in Bolivia, where they can (cheaply) hire indigenous people to be in the film, the crew of the film find themselves in the middle of an uprising when the government decides to privatize the water supple, including rainwater. It’s not an easy film to watch, nor can it give you an accurate representation of what is actually occurring among indigenous communities in Bolivia, but it does provide an interesting look at what responsibility media makers and film makers have, if any.
Maegan and I have talked about doing a co-review of the film. We both watched it earlier this year (maybe late last year) and didn’t get around to it (maybe we’ll do that sometime soon!). We both had parts we loved and parts we critiqued of this film staring Benjamin Bratt. It follows Bratt who plays Che Rivera, a single father living in San Francisco, California. Released from prison and overcoming addition, he begins to rebuild his relationship with his son, Jes, who is gay. We watch as their relationship becomes strained because of Che’s homophobia and heterosexism and how he attempts to reach out to his son. My main love for this film is that it is basically a reunion of the cast from Blood In Blood Out (which if you haven’t seen, I’d suggest checking it out as it was one of the first films I remember that discusses Chican@s, race, identity, crime, incarceration, family, art, the “War On Drugs” (happy 40th birthday…), and community).
This film I caught last year at the Tribeca Film Festival. The screening I saw had the director, Thomas Ikimi, present and it was sold out! It remember really enjoying the film, but not completely remembering each and every part of the story so I watched it again. I remains an amazing psychological thriller! Starring Idris Elba (aka my CatDaddy) as Malcolm Grey, a Black Ops Operative who is back home in NYC after a failed mission in Eastern Europe. The entire film takes place in one Brooklyn hotel room and follows Malcolm as he struggles through remembering his experiences in Europe, and over the years. The mental toll his work takes on him intersects with his personal life, a brother who is in politics and a part of covering up many of the “jobs” he has done abroad, and his only love who marries his brother. By the end of the film you are just as exhausted as Malcolm, and the ending is one I was not prepared for at all!
This film is not a new release. However, it is a phenomenal film! This is Latin@ Sci-Fi that I love. Set in the future, we follow Memo, a young man living in Mexico whose family must now pay to have access to water that is government controlled (sound familiar BOLIVIA). Memo is what some may call a computer “hacker” but his work area is much more under-resourced than how we have often seen hackers in the film (think The Matrix). Instead Memo has created his own ways of accessing images and information online. The future has now been made up of closed borders, a global online/digital network, and virtually hired immigrant workers who become cyborgs. Their work is now in the form of robots that each person manipulates by plugging into a system. A worker must have the proper plugs implemented into their body to do such work (which of course costs lots of money and requires care and maintenance to stay employed). Instead of working in a field all day, workers are plugged into a network that sends them virtually to the space (construction site, factory, field, etc) where the robot they are responsible for does it’s assigned task by their demand (i.e. picking oranges, moving wood, etc.). There is a love story and a story of redemption and loss as well. Definitely a film I plan to watch again and again.
Films to Miss
This film by Rodrigo Cortes takes place in a coffin that has Paul (Ryan Reynolds), a civilian contractor working in the Middle East who is kidnapped and held hostage. It follows the two hours that Paul is held in the coffin and we watch as he struggles to use the cell phone, lighter, knife and candle. This is more a commentary on the current War(s) going on and how they impact all people (Paul being someone who took the job to get more income for his family even though his wife was against the decision). The film is very stressful, can trigger folks, and at the end of the film I felt exhausted. That’s not to say this film is terrible, it just isn’t what I think Cortes may have wanted it to be as a complete film.
The Human Centipede
I LOVE horror films and believe that I haven’t seen a really good one in a long time (I keep going back to classic Takashi Miike). But, when The Human Centipede was released last summer I wanted to go see it. Unfortunately, there were not too many folks who wanted to see it with me. So, when I got a chance to see it on DVD I was excited. However, it was not worth the wait, in my opinion. The film focuses more on gore than on horror for my taste (and I believe they are very different!). For those of you not familiar with this film it basically follows a retired doctor who wishes to create the first human centipede: connecting 3 people through their digestive tract. This seems to be part one of something that may have a sequel.