Category Archives: Film

“A MONSTER WITH A THOUSAND HEADS”— Health Insurance

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“A Monster with a Thousand Heads” (“Un monstruo de mil cabezas”)

Health Insurance

Amos Lassen

“A Monster With A Thousand Heads” begins with a late night medical emergency. A father, Guillermo (Memo), is ill and in need of care. As the film moves from home to hospital and back, we understand that this middle-class Mexican family is struggling to obtain the best course of treatment. Standing in their way and of which they have no control is a faceless, compassionless insurance firm that is intent on burying their claim in red tape.

Guillermo’s wife Sonia (Jana Raluy) refuses to take no for an answer and went about forcing the company to reconsider the case. She finds herself having to take drastic, desperate and dangerous steps in order to try and secure approval for her husband’s treatment. The stakes balloon higher and higher and the tension become more intense as the action unfolds in near real time.

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We are very aware of the plight of the struggling family and its limited access to healthcare as well as how well the elite that run the health system live and the protections and access afforded them are well drawn. What we see is total and relentless.

Sonia refuses to tolerate a broken healthcare system that doesn’t allow life-saving medical care to be provided for her ailing husband, Memo (Daniel Cubillo). She’s is very, very angry and rightfully so. With a gun hidden in her purse, she drags along her teenage son, Dario (Sebastián Aguirre), to the hospital to try to confront Dr. Villalba (Hugo Albores) who’s been ignoring her phone calls. She even goes to his home to wait for him there before displaying the gun to him when he refuses to help her husband who can die at any minute without the much-needed treatment that her current health insurance doesn’t cover. All she needs is to have the treatment approved as part of the health coverage, but that takes more than one signature as it turns out, so she goes up through the chain of command in the healthcare system to get what she wants without being afraid to use her gun.

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It is easy for us to empathize with Sonia. We might not agree with the way she acts but we certainly agree with the principal. We feel her anger, pain and desperation. She is a woman pushed to the edge by bureaucracy and an indifferent society. Her husband has cancer but the insurance company refuses to provide the medicine that he needs to ease his pain and perhaps reduce the tumor. Having been unable to reach the doctor in charge on the telephone, she goes to the offices of the company with her teenage son Dario but no one is interested in her case.

The receptionist is obstructive; the doctor (Hugo Albores) doesn’t want to know and as a voiceover of a trial plays over the action and we understand that something has occurred, or is going to. On following the doctor to his home, Sonia pulls a gun on him and his wife. She is determined to see her husband’s case reviewed and she resolutely takes it up the chain to the higher echelons of the company all the way to the CEO, Dr. Sandoval (Emilio Echeverría). Sandoval looks for a way to quiet Sonia and reveals documents that show his company has purposefully denied care as a way of making money and have told doctors to reject claims and ignoring rules.

Sonia is well aware that she is going to jail for her actions but she persists in having the documents printed and a deal between her and the company signed which will see the medicine released to her husband in return for her not publishing the evidence of malfeasance.

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What we see is that everyone is a potential witness and we are all participants (the thousand heads of the monster) to a society that treats the vulnerable unjustly, but it won’t be that society which is on trial. Sonia appears in the margins of the screen as someone who needs to be holding a gun before she is noticed, or taken seriously. Raluy plays Sonia without hysterics but filled with pragmatic fury. She retains her humanity throughout her ordeal.

The title suggests a health insurance industry that has run amuck with bad faith and unstoppable corruption. However, it might also be about Sonia as a Medusa-like figure who sets off a change of events that is violent and involves her teenaged son. There are many sad stories about caregivers being given the runaround by health insurance companies whose goal is making money, not helping patients. This, however, revolves around a woman whose husband is dying and needs an expensive drug in order to survive. When she finds out that their insurance company will not cover the treatment, her righteous indignation is aroused, along with a zeal to move beyond her feelings of helplessness.

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The film is based on a novel by Laura Santullo who also wrote the screenplay. This is an engrossing and taut drama that should touch many with its critical portrait of corporate malfeasance in the health insurance business. Sonia is a very sympathetic character, which makes it possible for us to empathize with her plight and her determination to save her husband’s life, no matter what it takes. The film raises many important ethical questions about greed, incivility, lying, cover-ups, and indifference to human suffering.

“THE PROFESSOR: TAI CHI’S JOURNEY WEST”— A Tai Chi Master

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“THE PROFESSOR: TAI CHI’S JOURNEY WEST”

A Tai Chi Master

Amos Lassen

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of exercise that is practiced daily for relaxation, health, harmony, flexibility, and personal renewal. It is grounded in Chinese philosophy and culture and is both a spiritual practice and a way of life designed to achieve balance in mind, body and spirit.

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Barry Strugatz’s new documentary focuses on Cheng Man-Ching (1902 – 1975), a Tai Chi master who brought Tai Chi to America in 1962 when he was 60 and set up a Tai Chi school in New York City’s Chinatown. There he taught practitioners the slow, controlled movements to improve the flow of “chi” (the life energy which is the source of movement and vitality). Among his were Ed Young, an award-winning illustrator; Maggie Newman, a modern dancer; Stanley Israel, a prison guard and union president; Ken Van Sickle, a photographer and filmmaker; and Robert Chuckrow, a physicist and they share their feelings about Tai Chi. Many of Man- Ching”s followers had been hippies and countercultural American youth during the 1960s.

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Cheng Man-Ching taught a program lasting nine-months program that shortened Tai Chi practice from 108 to 37 essential postures. He was able to apply tai chi to calligraphy, brushwork, relationships, and the seasons.

Although members of New York’s Chinese community criticized Cheng Man-Ching for teaching the “secrets” of Tai Chi to Americans, this did not stop him and kept on sharing this practice until returning to Taiwan and working on a book. He died there in 1975 after teaching in the United States for 12 years. Included in the film is vintage footage of Cheng Man-Ching’s exercises and demonstrations of Tai Chi thus giving us a clear personal portrait of him.

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DVD Extras include Cheng Man-Ching performs his 37 Movement Form • The Origin of Tai Chi • Medical Science & Tai Chi: Interview with Peter M. Wayne, PhD, Harvard Medical School.

“How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”— A Documentary

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“How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change”

A Documentary

Amos Lassen

Documentarian Josh Fox travels all over the world to meet with global climate change “warriors” who are committed to reversing the tide of global warming. This documentary looks at the intricately woven forces that threaten the stability of the planet and the lives of its inhabitants. While Fox looks at the damage from possibly the greatest threat the world has ever faced, he also finds reasons for hope and we see how people around the world are taking action to protect their communities. Featured in the film are songs by The Beatles, Radiohead, Kate Bush, Angelique Kidjo and the Tune-Yards. Director Fox says that music is extremely important in all of his films, but especially so in this one. For Fox, music means love.

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Josh Fox happened to notice that his favorite Hemlock tree was dying from a parasite that has been advancing up the East Coast due to warmer winters because of human-induced climate change. That observation, together with the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, was Fox’s wake-up call and he knew that even if he could save his tree, a bigger war was yet to be fought against global warming.

Fox traveled to 12 countries on six continents and discovered that, while it may be too late to stop the worst consequences of climate change, there are sources of good news that must be strengthened and supported. We see him thinking intently about the

effects of continued global warming, such as rising sea levels, record droughts, super-storms, dying coral reefs, species extinction, food insecurity and increased conflicts over limited resources. He decides to begin a journey to visit both leaders and everyday citizens as he searches for meaning and the things worth fighting for. He interviews climate scientists, experts and activists including: environmental analyst Lester Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute; Ella Chou, an expert on energy in both China and the U.S.; attorney and environmental activist Van Jones; Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “The Sixth Extinction”; Michael Mann, a climatologist and geophysicist at Penn State University; Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org; and Petra Tschakert, a professor of earth and environment at the University of Western Australia. He was well aware of the

scientific predictions about negative impacts in the near future as well as the testimony of individuals in communities suffering from climate change today and as a result he asks, “What is it that climate change can’t destroy? What is so deep within us that no calamity can take it away?” He tells us that the ideals of resilience, innovation, democracy and community are among the ideals that we must work towards in order for us to deal with the challenges that are yet to come. People in such diverse places as China, Africa, the Amazon, the Pacific and the U.S. are relying on these very qualities and basic civic values in their ongoing battles to save the planet and those who live on it.

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The film is a poetic journey by Mr. Fox who has the air of a modern day missionary, spreading his teachings to grateful natives in five continents. Sometimes he even listened to the natives — no matter what nonsense they espoused. Fox listened to various peoples in various places and heard their stories. Some of the stories are quite wild—a tribe told him that they are descended from jaguars. Another believed that everything on the planet — every animal, every tree, and every leaf — has a spirit. Fox concluded that no amount of nonsense that comes from a colorfully dressed native should ever, ever be questioned. They are special. After all, what compelled Fox was the discovery that a tree he planted as a child was being destroyed by a beetle.

Fox takes us through a list of extreme weather caused by climate change including the polar vortex shift that had led to the “extremely cold” record-breaking winters in Boston and New York in 2010 and 2011. Climate change is causing both extremely mild and extremely cold winters in the same place. Throughout the film it was case of different continents and there were the same contradictions.

Even before the film starts, we are bombarded with doom before spending the following hour and half on an uneven and unconvincingly uplifting tour of those who are still trying to tackle climate change. This seems to be Fox’s personal crusade – this time sparked by a tree that he’d helped rear as a child being blighted by pests thriving in warmer winters – to speak to leading experts, capturing testimonies on a variety of cameras with the image quality shifting dramatically between one interview and the next, not to mention a barrage of news clippings and simulation videos that pop up between them to illustrate various ominous points. The film, in that aspect, is like a patchwork quilt. There are moments that the film is particularly moving like when we see and hear from those who were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Fox meets a group of representatives from various Pacific Islands who have banded together as the ‘Climate Warriors’ and attempt to disrupt coal transport from the Australian port of Newcastle by blocking the exit with flotilla of kayaks and dinghies led by a hard-carved wooden raft. These episodes however do not come together to form a cogent whole and there is little sense of what exactly Fox is aiming to achieve. He states his intention outright; to “find the people who’d found this place of despair and got back up” but the film loses that idea.

To save human life ad civilization we must first save our planet by making radical, wholesale changes to modern society in the next three to four years. However Fox does not mention this. Late on he is told a total societal collapse will perhaps be humanity’s chance to refocus something Fox should have done to his film. He has a lot of good things to say but we lose track of them with everything else going on.

We see explosive montages of devastation, intercut with terse warnings from environmentalists that drive home the agonizing truth that it’s too late and we are heading toward a nightmare. The journey takes him from Iceland to Samoa, into areas where “intoxicating beauty” is endangered, and idealists take pleasure in their battles.

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Fox’s discovery of “things climate can’t change,” from resilience and innovation to love, leads him to an epiphany and he gives us a hopeful resolution that not everybody will buy especially after sitting for two plus hours where we are told that there is really nothing that we can do.

At first, Fox was overwhelmed by the number of scientific studies on a wide range of intensely investigated environmental issues that predicted the end of time. He did give up and set out to understand all of this.

The timely documentary debuts MONDAY, JUNE 27 (9:00-11:10 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO. Other HBO playdates: June 30 (8:20 a.m., 5:15 p.m.). HBO2 playdates: June 29 (8:00 p.m.).

“DAWN’— Palestine, 1947

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“Dawn”

Palestine, 1947

Amos Lassen

Romed Wyder’s film, “Dawn” is a psychological thriller based on the novel by Elie Wiesel. The story takes place in Palestine in 1947, during the British mandate period as Zionists are fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state. When the British deny entry to the survivors of the concentration camps coming by boat to Palestine, they become “enemy number one” of the Zionist project. A member of the armed Jewish underground is sentenced to death by the British authorities and in return, the resistance kidnaps a British officer. The insurgents spend the night together, awaiting the outcome of the negotiation. If the British hang their friend at dawn, one of them will shoot the British officer held as a hostage.

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Four comrades in arms attempt to influence the young Elisha, to make him overcome his conflicts of conscience and fully commit to their cause. In the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “Dawn” sheds a new light on a key moment in history that allows for the resituating of the current political disputes. The film is a frightening and lucid journey into the mind of Elisha (Joel Basman), a young Zionist terrorist who is consumed by doubt and haunted by the ghosts of an ever-present past.

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Elie Wiesel wrote a story about the state of mind of a “trainee” terrorist, a man who chooses violence as his only weapon and escape. This ambiguity, the desire to put yourself in the shoes of the enemy, of a dark alter ego that spies on us relentlessly, characterizes the entire film, transforming it into a moment suspended between an abhorrent past and a future that is as enticing as it is uncertain.

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We go back to a moment in history that is too often forgotten— Palestine was under British mandate and the armed Zionist resistance fought the intruder with all its forces to accelerate the creation of the long yearned-for Jewish State. “Dawn” tells the story of Zionist terrorists whose mission it is to detain and kill a British official should the British army decide to ignore their demands and execute a member of their guerrilla gang who has, in turn, been taken prisoner. From the very beginning it seems clear that their chances of success in these negotiations are slim. Indeed, the central subject of the film shifts almost instantaneously from the narrative to the psychological. Confined in a small space, awaiting a verdict (which will be given at dawn), the protagonists start to reveal, against their will and with building and relentless tension, the deceptively small grey areas that fill their existence are considered.

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Beginning with an overview allegory, Wyder gradually focuses in on the state of mind of Elisha, who has survived imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp and been converted, perhaps against his will into a terrorist. Chosen as the one who must kill the British official, Elisha withdraws increasingly into the horrors of doubt, regret and rage that are in his mind. How can he think rationally when the world around him has lost all substance? What’s left to hold on to when his homeland, his family and his roots disappear? Is there a need to reinvent a future for himself so strong that it transforms him from a victim into a persecutor? These are the questions that are there throughout the film, which gradually changes from being the simple representation of a specific historical moment to a universal reflection.

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Wyder takes us into the intricacies of a situation that seems never-ending: where freedom and oppression are two sides of the same issue. We see Elisha as the young survivor of Wiesel’s “Night” and we are well aware of his moral conundrum of whether the end justifies the means.

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Romed Wyder has externalized the ethical debate with very convincing, charismatic, and strong characters. Joel Basman is amazing as the fragile and innocent Elisha (aka Elie Wiesel). Jason Isaacs demonstrates his force and charisma as the ambiguous prisoner. Sarah Adler is seductive, motherly, and sly rolled into one woman. Morris Cohen explodes and browbeats and we realize that this powerful movie is the result of a powerful cast. The opening scene sets the tone and places us inside the life of Elisha and we watch his training for a job that he really does not want.

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The members of the cast are subtle, disturbing, disturbed and refined. We do not often get this caliber of acting from an entire ensemble. Not every one knows that there were Jewish terrorists who were not only enemies of the British, but also of the Ben Gurion and the Haganah? The internal conflicts within Palestinian Zionists were really incredible and we see here what Hannah Arendt said—we are all just millimeters away from doing evil, and being murderers.

“GODS OF EGYPT”— An Epic Embarrassment

gods of egypt

“Gods Of Egypt”

An Epic Embarrassment

Amos Lassen

“Gods of Egypt” is a modern big budget epic blockbuster with bankable and up and coming stars and expensive special effects yet it is a mess. There is no depth, it is filled with clichés and stiff acting.

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The film’s director, Alex Proyas, is an ambitious yet taut master of tone and genre. He has had more misses in his career, he’s a filmmaker who always employs a specific and unified approach to each film. It seems that Proyas and his team set out to recreate one of those 1950s B-movie fantasies full of swashbuckling heroes battling monsters based on ancient myth without a hint of irony or an attempt at tinkering with the material to make it more palatable for a modern audience. It is neither an homage or a throwback to those films, it is one of those films but a bad one.

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The incredibly simple story follows the episodic structure of those old films, most of which set a basic goal for our hero, then spends a chunk of the story as the hero goes on a journey to find the magical items needed for that goal, only to quickly end the story with the goal is finished.

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The screenplay of “Gods of Egypt” has some attempts at contemporary banter between Horus (Nicholaj Coster-Waldau), a god who’s bent on revenge after his uncle Set (Gerard Butler) kills his father Osiris (Bryan Brown) in order to rule Egypt, and Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a lowly human thief who helps Horus on his journey in exchange for the possibility of his loved one coming back from the dead.

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They is a silly film about gods and mortals in ancient Egypt that sinks into sword and sorcery. Set, god of disorder wrests control of his kingdom from his brother, Horus in an opening hand-to-hand combat sequence where the siblings clang swords and beat on each other for a while, until they both assume the form of armored creatures that look like android warriors and leap through the air, knocking each other against pillars until Set finally tears Horus’s eyes out. At first, Set wants to kill Horus outright, but relents when the goddess Hathor (Elodie Yung) begs him to be merciful. Set then banishes the blind Horus to a crypt where he’s eventually set free by the intrepid mortal Bek, a resourceful thief whose beautiful young lover, Zaya (Courtney Eaton) died from an arrow wound and is now trekking through the underworld en route to her final judgment. According to lore, only the king of Egypt can free a dead person from the between-state and return them to the land of the living. That means Horus has only a few days to gain control of the kingdom from Set. If he doesn’t, Bek’s girlfriend will stay dead forever.

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“Gods of Egypt” is an adventure in what used to be called the “swords and sandals” genre. Every chest is waxed and every bosom heaves. The characters address crowds of thousands of extras, and run their enemies through with swords and spears and zap them with death rays and swear fealty to this and vengeance against that, and tromp around in metal tunics. The actors have great bodies but do not look Egyptian. Proyas sort-of-apologized last year for the casting, saying he would’ve hired more actors of color if it hadn’t made the movie so hard to finance at the budget level he needed. As is, the most prominent nonwhite actor is Chadwick Boseman who plays an incarnation of Thoth, the father of science, religion, philosophy and magic. Nevertheless, it’s a good cast. And there are extras galore:

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Storyboards: A series of animatics with CG that doesn’t look that different from the final product.

A Divine Vision: A fairly superficial look at the overall design of the film.

Of Gods and Mortals: A 10-minute EPK where the poor actors have to find anything good to say about the film. Truly cringe inducing.

Transformation: Another 10-minute EPK, this one about the costumes and make-up.

On Location: Footage of the shoot in Australia. Nothing really interesting here.

The Battle for Eternity: Another superficial, self-serving EPK, this one about the stunts.

A Window into Another World: Okay, now this is getting really sad. This is a 10-minute featurette where the visual effects artists talk about the “groundbreaking” CGI used in the film.

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If you like modern cheesy B-movies without any hint of irony or an attempt to modernize the episodic structure of those old films, you might love “Gods of Egypt”. However….

“THE DARK SIDE”— A Powerful Documentary

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“THE DARK SIDE” 

A Powerful Documentary

Amos Lassen

After World War Two, Moshe Knable begins a journey of revenge against the Nazis. He felt he had no choice other than to pursue cold-blooded revenge. He had kept his stories, as well as the “holocaust” period of his life, a top secret from his children, and for many years they have been living in the shadow of the untold past. Now, at age 85, he begins to talk. He wants to reveal his secrets, so his children can know their father’s past, even if it means dealing with open wounds. Now, the entire family prepares to go on a journey to the depth of the dark past— a place that influenced their lives without knowing it.

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This is a journey with a past, but most of all with a future. We see the future of a second generation struggling to break the vicious cycle imposed upon them before they were born.

Moshe Knabel, at 86, seemed to be a regular grandfather.. Moshe Knabel, however, is anything but ordinary. He took revenge. Today, years later, he decides to take his three children back to his village in Poland, and tell them his story, the one with the dark side. Moshe’s children have heard stories about their father all their lives— his family being murdered during the Holocaust, how Moshe’s friends and neighbors turned his family in to the Nazis and how he hid in the woods with the partisans and survived. However, they always knew not to ask too much about what happened next.

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After the war, Moshe went back to Poland and took revenge on those responsible for killing his family. He joined the UB, the Polish secret police, a group that operated in Poland after the war with the purpose to fight those opposing the Communist regime, yet in secret they avenged victims and killed Nazis and their collaborators. 

“I don’t remember the first man I killed….I just remember his shoes because they hurt my feet for months…” 

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Right after the war when he was just seventeen-years-old, Knabel returned to his hometown in Poland for vengeance. He killed all who harmed him and his loved ones during the war. Seventy years later he returned again to Poland but this time with his siblings, to reveal all. Moshe  Knabel is a survivor who dared to do what many dreamed of… Moshe took revenge.

“INSPIRED”— Basketball is Everything

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“INSPIRED”

Basketball is Everything

Amos Lassen

Maggie Kaszuba’s short film goes into a life of a high school basketball player trying to escape her own deep thoughts. Samantha Higgins (Tyler Kipp) is a talented basketball player who really has no discipline and whose personal life hurts her changes at success on the court. She is quickly distracted and really seems to hurt herself and any changes of success in the sport that she might get. Coach Stafford (Ariane M. Reinhart) pusher her hard and sets limits on her and actually is at the point of harassment regarding Samantha. At times she even seems to go a bit too far but on the other hand that is just what Samantha needs—firm direction so that she can become the best she can be.

Even as I titled my review saying that “Inspired” is about basketball, I realized that it is about so much more. As in any sport, cooperation and relationships are necessary if a team is to succeed and if a player is to succeed.

We have here the relationship between the coach and the athlete and this lets us know that life is made up of all kinds of relationships and that many of these are challenging. Samantha has problems with keeping issues. She is a loner and she is lonely. Her family is uncommunicative and her coach is a difficult woman who tries to teach into the young women the importance of respecting her teammates and herself.   Sam takes medication but we never know what it is or what it is for but we can guess that she suffers from depression. It comes across that she is dependent on and she is quite an unhappy person. She tells coach that basketball is the only thing she loves. It is hard to believe this when we see her simply get through the days and then be careless when it comes to the sport. She is unable to concentrate at practice and she is taken out for a talk with the assistant coach. When she is constantly late for practice, coach Stafford confronts her and Sam walks away and is angry… and hurt. Neither coach nor player were satisfied how this went down so Stafford makes the first move and goes to see Sam. That visit changed everything.

Stafford is a coach who takes no foolishness or nonsense; the kind of person that we do not like so much when we are with her but realize later that what she did was for us and our memories change. There is a lot that I am not sharing because I do not want to spoil a wonderful viewing experience but suffice to say that there are sad and tragic events that are essential and important to the story. While the subject matter is depressing, the film is uplifting.

In just twenty minutes, director Kaszuba says quite a lot and brings in the themes of life, death, adolescence and mortality. I especially love that she brings in those people who inspire us to do better and guide us to reach what we dream of. (I say that has a person who has logged many years in the classroom and nothing pleases me more than to see a child succeed or to put the hood on a PHD candidate. The film is a quiet one and there is beauty in its subtlety.

“HELL-BENT”— Working for a Promotion

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“Hell-Bent”

Working for a Promotion

Amos Lassen

Michael (Justin Andrew Davis) is a writer for Brimstone Magazine and when he gets a chance at a promotion, he sees this as a chance to prove that he is a good writer (and making more money is always a good thing). Michael’s boss, Bowers, (Timothy J. Cox) decides that he should make the promotion a competitive event with each candidate having to wrote a really good piece and then he will select which one he thinks as best. Beth (Ashley Kelley) is considered a shoo-in but Michael is determined. He loves his career and to write. Michael has an ally, Agatha, the office receptionist, (Leslie Lynn Meeker) and she really wants to see him win as much as he does. as Agatha, the receptionist and Michael’s ally in the competition. Foster Vernon directed this thirty minute film in which I see several themes— writing, producing articles, the mystery of Hell, working together and believing in oneself. Bowers would like to elevate the quality and the kind of stories in the magazine and therefore he holds the competition.

As soon as this is announced, Beth begins to size up her competition and works to get the right people to back her while Michael gets lucky via a chance meeting with Agatha and then getting to know Agatha’s friend Ricky (Steven Trolinger) who conveniently happens to be a demon. Ricky has reverence for nothing and no one and enjoys playing jokes on people. However, he wants to help Michael probably because he enjoys winning competitions and he cannot resist a challenge. Michael lacks confidence but with Ricky and Agatha on his side, he seems to be ok.

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Now we might wonder how Agatha had to chance to meet a demon and then continue to be friendly with him. After all, it is not as if demons are easy to find. We learn that there was a time in her life that she was very lonely so she summoned a demon and Ricky appeared and has been with her ever since. He actually seems to like her almost as much as he enjoys playing trips on others. Ricky is also moved (thanks to Agatha) to help Michael in his quest by the very idea of a competition. It seems that he cannot resist a challenge of any type. 

Michael sees a great story in Ricky but Ricky wanted nothing to do with it. Agatha sympathizes with Michael and convinces Ricky to let Michael interview him. Ricky enjoys being the subject of an article and now there is really only Beth for Michael to deal with. Michael is lucky that she is suffering from writer’s block until she decides that instead of working on a great article of her own that she will use her efforts to shoot down what Michael writes.

The best way I can describe how I feel about the film is simply to say that I had great fun watching it. All of us know that we do need a little fun in our lives every once in a while. I love the touch of the supernatural with the demon and the characters are well drawn. Everything is fine and I am putting that mildly. I understand that this is a student project and I certainly hope it received the “A+” that it deserves.

 

 

 

“TOUCH GLOVES”— A Human Story

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“TOUCH GLOVES”

A Human Story

Amos Lassen

Felipe Jorge’s “Touch Gloves” is a documentary about amateur boxing and the story it tells is very human. We follow several hopeful boxers in Haverhill, Massachusetts as they train. The boxers are not the only focus here; we also meet the adults who give their time to help those who come to the club in the hope that they will become good future citizens. While the emphasis might seem to be on boxing, we also realize that this is about community. Focus, hope and love are part of what we see here as we watch young men work to attain their dreams and deal with the hurdles of life.

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I understand that this was a film that was made with no budget and that it is a labor of love for director Felipe who received help from filmmaker Chris Esper (who I have also reviewed here).

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I have to mention that the film is incredible, We see Jorge’s shots that were taken as close to the boxers as possible but without disturbing their training. We also see interviews that totally back up what we see on the screen. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of the film is seeing how the young people and the benefits they reap from those who give them their time, knowledge and friendship. The young learn the importance of being on time, to listen to and to respect others. Bravo!!! A job well done,

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The film will premiere at Haverhill High Auditorium on Sunday, June 26.

“PRINCESS”— A Dark Journey

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“Princess”

A Dark Journey

Amos Lassen

Twelve-year-old Adar’s mother is a workaholic and when he mother is at work, she and her stepfather push their role-playing games into dangerous territory. Adar (Shira Haas) is a 12-year-old girl who’s reached puberty. Her mother (Keren Mor) is a doctor whose boyfriend, Michael (Ori Pfeffer) has recently lost his job. Adar detests going to school while her hormones rage, but it also becomes increasingly clear that life at home isn’t particularly healthy: Michael plays “games” with Adar that sits on the line between fun and molestation. Adar is well aware of the dynamic between her mother and Michael and this excited her. When she and Michael play together, there is a sexual tinge to the horseplay she enjoys with the handsome, affable Michael.

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Playing hooky as usual one day, Adar sees a vaguely androgynous Alan (Adar Zohar-Hanetz), a street boy who is her slightly older and taller male doppelganger. They immediately click, as if they were psychic as well as near-physical twins. As he’s apparently homeless, Adar invites him home — and he immediately slips right into the seductively easygoing household rhythms. His presence also raises the sexual tensions. Michael, who already has a curious tendency to address Adar by the male pronoun seems to be infatuated with her boy double. His playfulness takes on a more ominous, aggressive character until it crosses the line into assault. We become very aware of the erotic atmosphere and we begin to feel implicit when Michael is revealed as a sort of omnisexual monster. We should have been alarmed earlier but we had been coaxed instead into a tactile stupor. The three characters live in a bubble where desires rule and the exterior world is simply “out there”.

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Alma and Michael share a sensuous relationship, constantly grabbing and deep-kissing one another as if Adar wasn’t in the room, just several feet away from them. In their small apartment, their bedrooms separated only by a thin wall and they have enthusiastically loud sex that Adar covers her ears to block out their moaning.

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Michael who is always playful (one of his games with Adar is to refer to her as “Prince” or “boy”), takes an immense like to Alan, who loves the attention he’s getting. Michael becomes increasingly aggressive with his devotion, stroking both Alan and Adar with his hands and becoming more and more inappropriate, building to a terrible scene where he visits Adar in her room at night and forces himself upon her. Alan, meanwhile, seems to come and go from Adar’s bedroom like a phantom.

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The film strongly suggests that perhaps Alan is some kind of Adar surrogate, the boy Michael keeps insisting she is, someone who might take offense on her behalf. With her mother seemingly helpless to stop Michael, or even care much about what he’s doing, Adar is forced to take action on her own behalf. We watch as Adar’s sense of empowerment builds yet we also see that it comes at a terrible price Israeli director Tali Shalom Ezer’s debut film is an evocation of shameful desire, adolescent trauma and very bad parenting. The performances are brilliant but the ambiguity of the screenplay is sure to divide viewers. The conclusion is quite troubling and the rape scene is quite explicit.