Category Archives: Film

“IPHIGENIA”— The Gods and War

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“Iphigenia”

The Gods and War

Amos Lassen

With “Iphigenia”, director Michael Cacoyannis succeeds in giving the feel of Greek theater tragedy to the screen and it is said that he is the only director who has been able to do so. He has written his screenplay based upon the original by Euripdes is one of the most difficult of the tragedies to film. In order to film this, he had to deconstruct the original and find a way to present the tragedy in a logical and chronological order and thus having it play like modern movie goers are used to seeing.

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Cacoyannis also added some characters to his film that do not appear in Euripides’ tragedy: Odysseus, Calchas, and the army. He did so to make some of Euripides’ points regarding war, the Church, and Government clearer. The ending is somewhat more ambiguous than the ending of Euripides.

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Shot on location at Aulis, we see some beautiful shots of Greece. The harshness of the landscape fits the souls of the characters and reflects their torment. The performances led by Costa Kazakos (Agamemnon), Irene Papas (Clytemnestra), and Tatiana Papamoschou (Iphigenia) are absolutely beautiful. Kazakos and Papas embody the sublimity of the classical Greece tragedy. Agamemnon is extremely down-to-earth who looks very powerful when he looks into the camera. He needs no words to reveal the unbelievable torment he suffers. As Clytemnestra, Irene Papas is the modern quintessence of classic Greek plays. She is terrible in her anguish, and even more so for what we know will be her vengeance. Tatiana Papamoskou, in her first role on the screen, is outstanding in her portrayal of the innocent Iphigenia that contrasts with Kazakos’ austere depiction of her father, Agamemnon.

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We also have Odysseus, a sly, scheming politician, Achilles, a vain, narcissistic warrior, Menalaus, self centered, obsessed with his honor, eager to be avenged, and to have his wife and property restored. Everything is the height of realism and this is a film that does quite well without Hollywood touches and flourishes. The music of Mikis Theodorakis intensifies what we see on the screen.

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We gain considerable insight into the lost world of ancient Greek thought that was the crucible for so much of our modern civilization. We lean about ourselves as individuals and as social and political creatures. Euripides questions the value of war and patriotism when measured against the simple virtues of family and love, and reflects on woman’s vulnerable position in a world of manly violence. In his adaptation of Euripides’ tragedy, Cacoyannis revisits all of these themes and does so in a modern, clear and dramatic fashion.

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The relationships governing the political machinations are demonstrated with clarity and we certainly see that war corrupts and destroys the human soul to such an extent that neither the individual nor the group can function normally any longer. However, Menelaus, whose honor has been tarnished by his own wife’s elopement with her lover, is an exception to this —he is the only character whose reason for going to war has to do with his wife, Helen. Agamemnon is thirsty for power, Odysseus is greedy and Achilles wants glory.

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(the army, Odysseus), or glory (Achilles). Helen actually became the reason for the Trojan War and that war we see here has been stripped of the glamour that Homer added and there is no religious sanctioning. Here it is just an imperialist venture, caused primarily by the desire for material gain. Anything else is pretext.

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We also see the conflict between church and state with Calchas, representing the Church and feeling the challenge of his own priestly authority and using it to try to destroy Agamemnon for the insult to the Goddess he serves and he tells him to sacrifice his daughter. In consenting to the sacrifice, Agamemnon comes close to his moral undoing, however, in refusing, he loses his power over the masses (his army), who are brainwashed by religion. Agamemnon sees it as a game. But he must go along with the charade whether he honestly believes in the Gods or not, until he realizes, too late, that he has caused himself to commit a despicable crime.

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Was this a sacrifice or was it murder? Can we even tell the difference between the two? By focusing on the violent and primitive horror of a human sacrifice–and, worst of all, the sacrifice of one’s own child–Euripides/Cacoyannis have created a drama that is at once deeply political and agonizingly personal. It touches on a most complex and delicate ethical problem facing any society: the dire conflict between the needs of the individual versus those of the society. In the case of Iphigenia, however, as in the Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, the father is asked to kill his own child, by his own hand. We want to know what kind of God would insist on such an action? Can it be just or moral, even if divinely inspired? Does Iphigenia’s sacrificial death differ from the deaths of all the sons and daughters who are being sent to war? These are the questions raised by the film.

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Clytemnestra begged her husband not to go through with the sacrifice but he refuses to listen. Realizing that her death is inevitable, Iphigenia bravely walks up the hillside steps to the sacrificial altar dressed in her wedding dress, saying death will be a wedding, and forgives her father.

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The film brilliantly captures the stark tragic mood of the myth and shows this classic Greek theater production in a memorizing way that’s never before been realized on the screen as powerfully as it is here. 

“SALAM NEIGHBOR”— A Humanitarian Crisis

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“Salam Neighbor”

A Humanitarian Crisis

Amos Lassen

Four million Syrians have escaped war and we see by this that it is possible that we can be losing an entire generation of young people as well as destabilizing a region of the world and bringing about poverty and violence.

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This documentary takes us into the world of refugees. Seven miles from war, 85,000 Syrians struggle to restart their lives inside Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. For the first time in history, two filmmakers, Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, fully plant themselves in the camp, providing an intimate look at the world’s most dire humanitarian crisis.

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We meet Um Ali, a woman struggling to overcome personal loss and cultural barriers and 10-year-old Raouf, whose trauma is hidden beneath his smile and we hear inspiring stories of individuals rallying, against all odds, to rebuild their lives and those of their neighbors. This crisis should challenge us to become global citizens and neighbors to those who are suffering.

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When a truck pulls up to the Za’atari refugee camp, a place that is spread out across the Jordanian desert we see refugees carrying their bags of food rations, children playing in the sand. We also see Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple, two young Americans pitching their tent and preparing to film their newest documentary, “Salam Neighbor.” Za’atari is the world’s second largest refugee camp and the filmmakers have decided to live there for one month with Syrian refugees.

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We see Ingrasci and Temple collaborating with Mohab Khattab and Salam Darwaza, co-founders of 1001 MEDIA, a production company with roots in the United States and Bahrain that aims to tell stories about Arab communities. The four worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Jordanian government over a 10-month period. The film marks the first time the United Nations has allowed a group of filmmakers to be embedded in a refugee camp and officially registered with a tent.

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What made these young filmmakers so interested in this topic was when they began asking questions about what it is like to leave one’s country and attempt to rebuild after all has been lost. For most of us, we only know what we see on the news and what we see on the news is there because it sells. This means we never get the complete picture from the media. Zach and Chris wanted to know more about the personal aspects of what was happening and what it was like for those fleeing from war.

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We meet a 10-year-old Syrian boy who avoids school while struggling with severe shellshock, a grandmother who lost her sons in the war and now expresses her emotions by writing thoughts on her tent’s walls and weaving art out of old plastic bags, an international relief worker who advocates for women’s rights, a former university student and aspiring French teacher who now advocates for children’s education in the camp, and a single mother of three named Ghoussoon who lives outside Za’atari in the city of Mafraq.

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The stories we see and hear makes us want to stop whatever we are doing and find some way to help these poor people. Refugee camps are not new to me—I saw them in Israel and I then felt connected to the refugees brings you on a heart throbbing/ tear jerking journey but there was nothing I could do. In the media refugees are seen more of a burden than a situation that must be fixed. Here we feel a connection with people hundreds and thousands of miles away.

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By focusing on a few main characters, the documentary lets us develop a good sense of who these people are and realize that they are just like us. Unfortunately they had to deal with a terrible situation in their country. As we watch we get closer to the people we meet and feel what they feel as best we can from afar.

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The Syrians are a resilient people who have literally created “something out of nothing. They loving and generous people and take care of Chris and Zach as if they were their own sons. This is film that will stay with you and hopefully move you enough to make you want to do more to help our global neighbors.

“THE MEASURE OF A MAN”— The Banality of Modernity

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“THE MEASURE OF A MAN” (“Le Loi du marche”)

The Banality of Modernity

Amos Lassen

Stéphane Brizé’s “The Measure of a Man” is a realistic look at a middle-aged man’s experience with unemployment after he is laid off from his job. Thierry (Vincent Lindon) transitions from unemployment to security guard at a supermarket. He is in his fifties and life gets tougher and tougher. He was on unemployment for months and has done everything possible to find a job. His limited welfare benefits are based on him being seen to be active in his search for work, and this is one such way to do just this.

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His wife is silently supportive but they have a teenage child with special needs and the new school that he is about to transfer too is expensive and their welfare checks will not cover the fees. Thierry tries to sell their family vacation home to help the family get by  but is bullied into lowering the price by buyers who sense his desperation. He is patronized by a young bank manager who suggests that he raise funds by selling his home and buying life insurance.   Then suddenly he lands a job work as a security man in a large supermarket on what is called ‘loss prevention’ and he is under great pressure by his bosses looking to cut costs to carefully watch not just the shoppers but also his co-workers for any attempts, no matter how minor, at stealing from the store.  Because he has been a life-long committed Union man, Thierry finds spying on his colleagues, particularly difficult as like him, even with their jobs, they are barely making a living wage.

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Each of the sad small incidents of pilfering that he has to get involved in eat away at his conscience and he sees many and as a result people are fired or arrested.   The film politicizes the effects of economic slumps that have been created by large anonymous corporations and we see that the brunt of the effects are borne by the working population who are just helpless cogs in the wheel. It is therefore no surprise that he will eventually resist in order to keep a hold on to both his beliefs and his dignity. Veteran actor Linden is pitch perfect as the world-weary and laconic Thierry and his performance won him the best actor award at the Cannes Film Festival.  

 

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The film contemplates just how much an ordinary workingman will compromise his integrity in the name of making ends meet. Director Brize fashions compelling drama out of the most ordinary of circumstance. Basically this is about the life Thierry Taugourdeau (Lindon), a laid-off factory worker who has, when we first meet him, already been out of work for more than a year and is struggling to keep his family afloat on a monthly €500 unemployment check. By day he looks for a job and by night, he tries to be a good husband and father to his wife, Katherine (Karine de Mirbeck), and teenage son Mathieu (Matthieu Schaller), who’s developmentally disabled but bright, self-confident and the object of no one’s pity.

“I, ANNA”— The Divorcee and the Detective

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“I, ANNA”

The Divorcee and the Detective

Amos Lassen

Barnaby Southcombe’s “I ,Anna” is about the lives of a beautiful divorcee and a troubled detective that intersect during the investigation of a vicious murder on streets of London that brings about a tangled web of passion, intrigue and deceit. The story is told from the perspective of a woman who is a key suspect and who also becomes an obsession for the investigating detective.

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An absorbing film noir told from the perspective of an intriguing woman, a key suspect in a murder case, who becomes an obsession for the detective in charge of the investigation. I, Anna is a psychological film noir that not only stars veteran actor Charlotte Rampling, but is the directorial debut of her son, Barnaby Southcombe. Charlotte Rampling plays divorcee and mother Anna Welles, whom we see is living a comfortably middle-class life in a tiny apartment in London following the departure of her husband. Encouraged by her daughter Emmy (Hayley Atwell), she is trying her hand at singles party events in town. One night she meets the flamboyant and wealthy George Stone (Ralph Brown) and goes home with him.

We next see her, Anna is leaving his apartment block. Coming from the opposite direction is night owl Detective Bernie Reid (Gabriel Byrne). He has been called to the scene of a brutal murder that took place in the very apartment that Anna has left. Something clearly happened in that apartment, and it left Stone dead. It is not clear what went down, and how Anna is involved.

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Reid notices Anna leaving, and is curious so he follows her to a singles party night where finally they meet. At first, Bernie conceals that he sees her as being connected to the case. The mutual attraction is instant, perhaps unsurprising given their similar, lonely existences. Anna seems not to remember or acknowledge that she was ever at Stone’s apartment. But as clues start to point towards Anna’s involvement in the murder, Bernie finds himself more and more compromised, and Anna’s deeply buried memories start to surface and overwhelm her. As Anna’s mind begin to coalesce, the viewer begins to piece things together as does Bernie and we learn what happened that night and what else Anna might be hiding, or hiding from.

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Southcombe’s screenplay is based on the novel “I, Anna” by Elsa Lewin. a homage to film noirs where ambiguous and obsessive relationships are more of the concern than more technical procedural aspects. Noir stories tend to need cities as their playgrounds, and London is as much as star the film as are Byrne and Rampling. His camera movements, lighting and framing treat the city as if it were a neon-lit femme fatale too, coldly beautiful as the lens glides over her at night in glorious high definition. Southcombe has a sharp eye for intriguing locations that sometimes border on the outright gothic or expressionistic and the film is so that it is almost distracting.

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Memories of her evening with George start to come back to Anna; however, it seems that she has an even darker secret to face. The thriller aspect is more psychological than procedural with an emphasis on Anna’s psychosis. As a murder mystery, Anna’s secret and the murder seem thrown together in a muddled script; however, things seem better if we see this as a romantic thriller with the emphasis on the relationship between Anna and Bernie.

“BEYOND MY GRANDFATHER ALLENDE” — Chile’s First Democratic-Socialist President

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“BEYOND MY GRANDFATHER ALLENDE” (“ALLENDE, MI ABUELO ALLENDE”)
Chile’s First Democratic-Socialist President
Amos Lassen

Filmmaker Marcia Tambutti Allende is the granddaughter of Salvador Allende, the first democratic-socialist president elected in Chile. This is her tribute to him.

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On September 11, 1973 a right wing military coup seized Allende’s life and government, forced him and his family into exile and placed a repressive dictatorship in Chile for 17 years. Thirty-five years later, Marcia Allende returned to Chile to search for Chicho (her grandfather’s nickname). wishing to leave behind his iconic image and bring back images and memories of him and the family. For the family there are also many unresolved feelings associated with him. Through her journey, she felt reluctance and discomfort but she also began to understand the complexity of emotions for over 40 years. The paradox between public and private deepened her search and mirrors what Chilean society has become.

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Family members were exiled, supporters assassinated and the record expunged after Chilean president Salvador Allende was overthrown by a military coup d’état in 1973 and this left a hole in his country’s collective memory. More than 40 years later, Marcia Allende’s natural curiosity about the grandfather she never knew serves as a unique opportunity for contemporary Chileans — and outsiders, too to rediscover the deposed leader in this film documentary. Yet this is more of a diary than a documentary. The film tries to reconstruct some picture of Allende as a husband and father, featuring reluctant interviews with those who survived him, including his widow, and rare family photos that reveal a side of Allende only his inner circle might have seen before.
However, so little was found that the focus of the film shifts to the search and not the results.

Here, we see and hear plenty of the director, but she comes across more like a nosy child.
Allende died of apparent suicide in 1973, and his family didn’t seem especially willing to reopen that painful chapter.

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The director’s key witness is her grandmother, Hortensia Bussi de Allende, affectionately known as “Tencha” to her people. Allende realizes the limited time she has to document Tencha’s memories of being married to the region’s first democratically elected Marxist president. In some interviews, Tencha appears dressed up and dignified, while in others, the director brings the camera bedside and asks her personal questions about Allende’s extramarital affairs.

Even though the director’s cousins share her curiosity, the older generation seems determined to put this sordid past behind them, and we sense that divide as well as sensing how the country as a whole must feel: With enough distance, interest in Allende has returned among younger Chileans. In 2011, his coffin was exhumed and his corpse examined to determine an official cause of death, which had never previously been confirmed as suicide. These details interest Allende’s granddaughter, but for different reasons. She is still haunted by the death of her aunt Beatriz Allende, or “Tati,” who committed suicide four years after Allende’s ouster while in Cuba. It was traumatic to see the president overthrown and replaced with a 17-year fascist dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet.

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Still, while the film tactfully avoids politics we would have liked to see a more revealing portrait of the former president. Marcia Tambutti Allende, is a biologist with no previous film experience who felt there was still a very personal angle that had never been openly discussed, not even in her own family. As she discovered, he is practically a taboo subject for her grandmother, Allende’s widow, until the director’s patience coaxes out some buried emotions. While her labor of love has rendered a great service to historians, it is not clear what kind of audience the film can have outside of Chile.

The film is a bit too long and at times it slips away. Of more universal interest are the many previously unseen photos and even home movies unearthed during the shooting. The portrait of Allende-the-man that emerges is one of a loving and lovable patriarch who lived for politics more than for his family.We can understand how difficult it is to open old wounds, but most viewers will agree the director is right to insist on coaxing out the family truth, before it is too late to put the tale together.

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One of the aims of the film is to recover the everyday man, the one warmly nicknamed ‘Chicho’ by his family, to search for images (moving archive and photographs) and to look for personal gestures, to imagine the daily life of a family that was wrapped around his political causes. The other aim of the story is to invite my family to go into an intimate journey, to allow themselves to think about, reflect, wonder, to miss and to mourn – their father, husband and grandfather, and his daughter Beatriz (affectionately called Tati), who committed suicide four years after the coup. The attention is placed on details that until now have been invisible: those that that speak of memory, self-censorship, identity and the sense of family.

“THE NASTY TERRIBLE T-KID 170: Julius Cavero”— A Graffiti Legend

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“THE NASTY TERRIBLE T-KID 170: Julius Cavero”

A Graffiti Legend

Amos Lassen

Graffiti is one of the most misunderstood sub cultures in history. It is a culture not for the faint of heart. Up until now the story of T-Kid 170 has for the most part been kept within the sub culture of graffiti. Looking at nearly 30 years worth of archived footage and T-Kid’s never before seen home movies, a very rare glimpse into the world of subway graffiti. We follow T-Kid into train yards all over the world and through his trials and tribulations, arrests, addiction, violence, love & triumphs. This documentary is the story of one man’s rise to becoming a legend and witness the story of someone who came from the bottom to write his name on the top.

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T-Kid 170 is considered one of the best graffiti artists from New York City’s golden era of subway graffiti. Coming of age as a poor Latino from the 1970’s in the Bronx, a young boy named Julius was forced into New York gang life. With no way of escaping the violence. He embraced the violent lifestyle of being in a gang and began sticking up people for money at an early age. By the time he was 16. he was nearly shot to death by a rival gang. He barely survived the incident and while recovering in the hospital from the gun shot wounds, his brother brought him some markers and paper to draw with. One night in the hospital he drew out the name T-Kid 170 and from that point on he decided that the entire world needed to know his name.

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His canvas was subway cars and he would channel the anger and pain from being disregarded by society and even his family and spray it out onto the subway cars for the public to see the next day. Millions of people a day were riding to where ever they needed to get to in trains with his name exploding off the sides declaring that he had been there. It was not to become one of the king’s of subway graffiti. Not only did he have the Transit System, NYPD, and the Vandal Squad to go up against, the real enemy was other graffiti writers.

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Crews of writers staked their claim on New York’s subway cars and when rivals met it was almost always a violent affair. The tales from these encounters alone are worth telling alone yet T-Kid’s tale has many layers to it. Up until now the story of T-Kid 170 has for the most part been kept within the sub culture of graffiti. We get a very rare glimpse into the world of subway graffiti. It is a riveting account and an invaluable reference for those interested in what the world of graffiti is all about.

“ELSTREE 1976— The “Star Wars” Actors and Extras

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“ELSTREE 1976

The “Star Wars” Actors and Extras

Amos Lassen

The title “Elstree 1976” refers to the studio just outside London where George Lucas shot the original “Star Wars” but this documentary has very little about either the actual production or the principal cast. Director Jon Spira spotlights 10 of the film’s extras and supporting actors (including David Prowse, who inhabited Darth Vader’s famous black outfit throughout the original trilogy and Pam Rose, who played an extra in the first film’s Mos Eisley cantina sequence). Spira puts names to the masks that shrouded human faces and each bit part player’s first name is shown on the screen alongside the action figure that was made in his or her likeness.. Spira speaks to his interviewees through a series of talking-head interviews.

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The film seeks to commemorate these unsung heroes who were part of the universe of “Star Wars” and helped to make it a pop-cultural phenomenon. This is a study of fleeting fame and its aftermath. This is a bittersweet human-interest story. The film is bookended by extreme close-ups of Star Wars action figures and we meet the extras who are now in their sixties and seventies, mostly British and Canadians. They all share broadly positive but uneventful memories of working on the first movie.

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We hear from John Chapman, who had a wordless role as an X-Wing pilot, and Paul Blake, who played the green monster Greedo, blasted to death by Han Solo in the cantina scene and Jeremy Bulloch, who joined the franchise later as bounty hunter Boba Fett, among others.

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Now some forty years later, most of these characters have pretty unremarkable midlife stories. A few are still acting in small roles, others writing songs and children’s books. Several still use their Star Wars connections at fan conventions, where their place in the pecking order. Nobody appears to have experienced great triumph or tragedy since 1976, and this discounts any emotional feelings about the characters.

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The film’s star interviewee is Darth Vader himself, David Prowse, who traded a weightlifting career to work as an actor for major directors including Stanley Kubrick and Terry Gilliam. But after hanging up his costume, Prowse fell out with George Lucas over multiple issues, including claims that he was never paid his pre-agreed profit share. He is now banned from attending official fan conventions.

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Fans of ‘Star Wars” will get an interesting peek behind the scenes of the sci-fi epic in this new documentary that looks at the universal themes of people struggling to get by, experiencing the highs and lows that come with any profession, the importance of finding one’s voice. The subjects of ELSTREE 1976 are especially intriguing because they’re famous for incredibly brief moments in time, but they’re just people, of course. They just happen to sign autographs for a slew of fans a couple times a year.

“VAXXED: FROM COVER UP TO CATASTROPHE”— A Controversial Documentary

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“Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe”

A Controversial Documentary

Amos Lassen

“Vaxxed” is a controversial documentary about the CDC’s cover-up of data in a 2004 study that links MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella) vaccines to autism. The film will open your eyes to the corruption of a government agency whose job it is to protect public welfare. Dr. Andrew Wakefield, the film’s director, presents fair and balanced interviews with sources ranging from parents of autistic children who were harmed by MMR vaccines to politicians, doctors and a former pharmaceutical rep. We also see archival footage of congressional audio recordings of Dr. William Thompson, CDC whistleblower who called Dr. Brian Hooker, a biologist, to confess that the CDC had covered-up and even manipulated crucial data in the 2004 study.

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Dr. Wakefield was accused of fraud in his 1998 report on MMR vaccines and autism and we learn here that he was falsely accused. The interviews with the parents of children who have been injured by MMR vaccines and show clear signs of autism are emotionally hard to watch and the facts presented will enrage you because they show how the CDC knew that MMR vaccines are linked to autism, but did everything in their power to suppress that link. According to the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, pharmaceutical companies cannot be held liable for causing harm to consumers injured by MMR vaccines (they cannot be sued), and when it comes to scientific testing, MMR vaccines aren’t tested as rigorously and thoroughly as pharmaceutical drugs. There are no long-term studies that have tested MMR vaccines nor are there any studies that test unvaccinated children against vaccinated children. For the naysayers who might be in disbelief that the CDC would not conduct such tests you need to watch this film.

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Dr. Coleen Boyle, the Director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities at the CDC, admits at a congressional hearing that no vaccinated vs. unvaccinated studies to test the MMR vaccine safety have been conducted yet. We see (in an easy-to-understand way) precisely how the CDC covered-up and manipulated the data from the 2004 study, and what makes that data so crucial for the sake of public welfare. Even causing more rage are the revolving doors between government and Big Pharma. Dr. Julie Louise Gerberding who is the former director of the CDC during that study, now works for the pharmaceutical company Merck as President of Merck Vaccines. Merck has an exclusive license to manufacture MMR vaccines. Dr. Gerberding declined to be interviewed yet her silence speaks louder than words.

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American physician William Thompson, acting as whistle blower in secretly recorded phone calls to biologist Dr. Brian Hooker, accused the Center for Disease Control (CDC) of covering up data in a 2004 study of the triple-dose Measles-Mumps-Rubella vaccine, the result was that everything was put out there for the taking. We hear alarming statistics in the film that autism, once affecting as few as one in ten thousand children, had increased greatly following administration of the vaccine, with African-American kids disproportionally hurt.   Wakefield is now unable to practice medicine in the U.K. because his research could not be replicated by others.

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An anti-vaccination movement has convinced many parents to refuse to vaccinate their children, the law notwithstanding.  Measles and Mumps cases soared.  Vaccinations in general are now considered harmful by a minority of parents, who refuse to allow their kids to get any vaccines.

The most moving parts are the one-on-one chats with parents.  Some parents, in tears, describe how shortly after the administration of the MMR vaccine their children had seizures, banged their heads against the walls, and became non-communicative, avoiding eye contact and crying. 

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Wakefield has powerful anecdotal evidence. Scores and scores of families have been traumatized by the experience of living with perfectly normal children who suddenly turn abnormal after a year or so of life. It must be devastating. The stories are very moving.

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Today, one in 68 children are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum and one in every 42 males. There are no clear answers.

“BULLDOG”— Teen Angst

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“Bulldog”

Teen Angst

Amos Lassen

“Bulldog” is quite basically a look at how psychological abuse goes hand-in-hand neglect, alienation, and racism. It opens with Sean Kang moving into his new home in Bayside, Queens with his depressed and uncommunicative mother.

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Sean Kang (Vin Kridakorn) is a teen with a volatile personality. During his first day at a new school, he moves slowly and as the day passes we see him doing ordinary things like taking out the garbage. He also worries about his mother of whom he is especially protective.

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He seems to be an average “normal” kid until we see that he is filled with angst and frustration and this comes to us as the day passes (in just seventeen minutes). We soon understand that his father is not around and this has affected the family and caused the family’s seemingly constant moves from place to place.

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Since Sean is Asian he sometimes feels being discriminated against because of that and when that goes had in hand with the alienation that he feels and the pain from his father being gone, it is easy to understand how he has gotten to where he is. There is some hope seen at the end of the film but how this happens among all of the ill feelings is something of a surprise.

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This is not an easy subject to deal with and Benjamin Tran has made a fine filled that is filled with emotion. There is no sugarcoating here and we really see where Sean’s pain comes from.

There is no trailer available.

“HIRED TO KILL”— Not a Regular Fashion Shoot

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“Hired to Kill”

Not a Regular Fashion Shoot

Amos Lassen

 Quite basically, “Hired to Kill” is about a fashion photographer and seven models who travel to a South American island fortress, ostensibly to do a fashion shoot. In reality, the photographer is a mercenary and their job is to free an imprisoned rebel leader. Nico Mastorakis directed.

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Brian Thompson is Frank Ryan, a mercenary. One day, Thomas (George Kennedy) a government guy contacts him with a new mission: to free (or kill) an imprisoned rebel leader in order to create a revolution in the little republic of Cypra. The president of this banana republic is Michael Bartos (Oliver Reed), a guy with a big moustache and an even bigger appétit for women! Ryan goes under-cover as a gay fashion designer and his team of five female mercenaries is ready to kill.

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Mastorakis delivers a very stylish and slick production which has great cinematography by Andreas Bellis. Once it begins there is a lot of action. There are lots of slow-mo, explosions and a high body count (with lots of blood). Brian Thompson is wonderful with weapons and kills with charm and talent.

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The last half hour is the best, with all its action and mayhem and Oliver Reed is fun to see as the obese dictator. There is even a gay kiss between Ryan and Reed in order to prove that he is a gay man.

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As a mercenary, Frank Ryan he plays by his own rules. But when Thomas approaches him with a new assignment but he is wary. His assignment is to travel to the small country of Cypra and rescue a political prisoner named Rallis (Jose Ferrer). But in order to do this, he must pretend to be a gay fashion designer and have a retinue of seven fashion models. These aren’t ordinary women, they’re all specially trained in the fighting arts. The only real obstacle standing in their way is the president of Cypra, Michael Bartos and his boys.

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Co-written by Kirk Ellis, “Hired to Kill” is a well paced but very by-the-book thriller with few surprises, most of the twists would be quite easy to predict for anyone who has seen a few other genre films.. A few interesting themes do crop up during the storyline, particularly the idea that George Kennedy’s character is controlling revolutions for the highest bidder, but nothing is really developed here and even the one unpredicted twist late on that seems to pose quite a dilemma is left unresolved and simply forgotten by the rather simplistic ending.

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Brand new 2K restoration of the film, approved by writer-director Nico Mastorakis
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
Original Stereo audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Audio Commentary with editor Barry Zetlin
Hired to Direct – a brand new interview with director Nico Mastorakis on the making of Hired to Kill
Undercover Mercenary – a brand new interview with star Brian Thompson
Original Theatrical Trailer
Stills Gallery
Original Screenplay, entitled Freedom or Death (BD/DVD-ROM Content)
Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
Fully-illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic James Oliver