The Death of Dick Long (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): One goofy attempt of cover-up


“The Death Of Dick Long” is as silly and hilarious as you can expect from its very title. As an offbeat black comedy film about one goofy attempt of cover-up, the movie cheerfully strolls from one humorous moment to another while its two main characters keep making unwise choices, and it certainly gets funnier as the situation becomes more complicated for them as a result.

Set in some rural town of Alabama, the movie opens with three guys having a fun time together at one night. They are Ezekiel “Zeke” Olsen (Michael Abbott Jr.), Earl Wyeth (Andre Hyland), and Dick Long (Daniel Scheinert, who is the director of the film), and the opening montage scene shows them playing music together in the garage of Zeke’s house for a while and then going outside for having more fun and excitement. After drinking some beer and playing with a bunch of firecrackers on the field, they all go inside a nearby barn, but then something quite serious happens, and we soon see Zeke and Earl hurriedly taking Dick’s badly injured body to a local hospital.

Because they do not want to get themselves associated with whatever happened to Dick at that time, Zeke and Earl just leave Dick’s unconscious body in front of a local hospital and then leave immediately before anyone sees them, but, in the next morning, they belatedly come to realize how bad their situation really is. Shortly after being taken into the hospital, Dick unfortunately died, and, because Zeke and Earl took his wallet in advance, his body remains unidentified while also drawing the attention of the local police led by Sherriff Spenser (Janelle Cochrane), who assigns the case to Officer Dudley (Sarah Baker), a young female police officer eager to prove herself to her superior.


Earl instantly decides to quit his job and then leave the town as quick as possible, but Zeke cannot do that at all because of his family. His wife Lydia (Virginia Newcomb) does not suspect anything yet even though her husband was absent throughout that night, but Zeke is soon thrown into panic due to a big problem involved with the backseat of his car, and things get more problematic when he has to take his little daughter to her school by his car.

And that is just the beginning of a series of small and big troubles for Zeke and Earl, who, to our amusement, are not so good at making decisions. At one point, Zeke manages to avoid being suspected by a couple of polices officers whom he and his daughter encounter at a local gas station, but then he has to take care of his daughter’s clothes quickly, which becomes an incriminating evidence just like his car. Once Earl takes her to her school, Zeke and Earl embark on cleaning the car, but they only come to realize later that there is a better solution for this problem of theirs.

Meanwhile, Dick’s death causes quite a stir in the town. The bizarre cause of his death baffles the Sherriff and Officer Dudley as well as the doctor who examines his body, and it does not take much time for many people in the town including Lydia to learn of the odd details of the case. Seeing how much his wife is disturbed by the case, Zeke only comes to lie to her about his car and several other things, and he feels more guilt as Dick’s wife is baffled by her husband’s inexplicable disappearance.

After slowly building up its comic momentum, the screenplay by Billy Chew eventually arrives at the point where we come to learn of what really happened to Dick, and I assure you that you will get a big laugh as rolling your eyes for a good reason. Of course, I will not go into details for not spoiling your entertainment, but I can tell you instead that I was considerably tickled by how the movie firmly sticks to its usual deadpan attitude even at that point.


During the last act, the movie becomes funnier as cornering Zeke and Earl more than before, and everything culminates to a climactic scene where Zeke needs to keep his appearance straight as much as possible in front of several other characters in the scene. While subtly accumulating tension below the screen, the movie also lets us sense the sheer absurdity surrounding Zeke and the other characters in the scene, and their utterly serious attitude certainly generates extra laugh for us as their situation is heading toward its eventual resolution.

The main cast members of the movie play straight to their characters’ increasingly outrageous circumstance. While Michael Abbott Jr. is alternatively pathetic and sympathetic as a guy desperately trying to deal with the situation way over his head, Andre Hyland has his own small amusing moments as Zeke’s dim friend, and Virginia Newcomb is particularly wonderful during a crucial scene between her and Abbott later in the film. As two different policewomen working on the case, Sarah Baker and Janelle Cochrane effectively complement each other, and their characters become more endearing to us as they turn out to be more practical and sensible than they seem at first.

“The Death of Dick Long” is the second feature film directed by Daniel Scheinert, who previous made “Swiss Army Man” (2016) along with Daniel Kwan. Compared to “Swiss Army Man”, which surely gave me many weird moments to remember via a decaying corpse played Daniel Radcliffe, “The Death of Dick Long” is less nutty and whimsical, but it is still a fairly enjoyable movie on the whole, and you will not be disappointed if you have some morbid sense of humor like me.


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Harpoon (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): Friendship of Survival


“Harpoon” is a little entertaining film which often strikes us with nasty plot turns generated between a few characters stuck in a small limited setting. The main pleasure of the movie comes from how deftly it pulls out a number of good moments of shock and surprise, and I recommend you not to read the following paragraphs, especially if you are already interested in watching it and want to enjoy it as much as possible.

When we are introduced to its three main characters at the beginning, they are going through a problematic circumstance, and the narration by Brett Gelman sarcastically explains to us their respective current statuses one by one. While Jonah (Munro Chambers) is having a difficult time after his parents recently died due to an unfortunate car accident and only left him in a financial mess, his rich friend Richard (Christopher Gray) is quite angry as suspecting that something is going on between Jonah and Sasha (Emily Tyra), who is Richard’s girlfriend in addition to being a sort of mediator between Jonah and Richard.

When Sasha arrives at Jonah’s house to take care of the situation, Richard has already beaten Jonah pretty hard as furiously accusing Jonah of having sex with Sasha, but then Jonah and Sasha tell Richard that the seemingly suspicious text messages exchanged between them were just about a surprise present for Richard’s upcoming birthday. Richard quickly regrets his impulsive act of violence on Jonah, and he subsequently takes Jonah and Sasha to his big boat and then tries to have some nice time along with them on the sea, but Jonah and Sasha demand that Richard should do more than that for compensating for what he did to them.


Richard reluctantly follows Jonah and Sasha’s demand for making them feel a bit better, and we accordingly get some good laughs from that, but the mood still remains to be tense while the boat is now quietly floating somewhere far from the land. The birthday present for Richard happens to be a harpoon, and we instantly sense a trouble as Richard casually wields his birthday present in front of his two friends. It looks like he is still suspecting them, and then….

I will not go into details here on what happens next, but it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that the three main characters of the film subsequently find themselves in a circumstance far worse than they thought at first. As they become more and more desperate, a certain idea gradually comes upon them, and the movie has a wry little fun when a couple of grisly tales of survival are mentioned at one point. It seems they should be ready to do anything in the name of survival, but they understandably hesitate in front of that dire possibility, and then the situation becomes more urgent as one of them comes to suffer a serious medical condition.

While pushing its main characters into more despair and desperation as required, the screenplay by director/writer Rob Grant, who also did the editing for the film, keeps engaging us via the increasingly unstable relationship dynamics among its three main characters, and we accordingly get a series of darkly funny moments, which mainly come from the constantly shifting allegiance among them. There is an absurd and hilarious moment as they come to be a bit more honest to each other thank to a bottle of booze, and then there is also an unnerving moment when a certain inconvenient fact is brought up while they happen to argue with each other for petty reasons. As observing their unpleasant sides from the distance, we do not care that much about them, but we still pay attention to what is being at stake among them, and we wonder about what will eventually happen at the end of the story.


Thanks to its succinct and efficient storytelling, the movie maintains its narrative pacing fairly well during its short running time (83 minutes), and it smoothly moves from one situation to another until it arrives at the eventual finale, which fits well with the sardonic overall tone of the film despite a rather distracting plot contrivance. While mostly confined in its small limited space, the movie seldom feels stuffy thanks to the good efforts of Grant’s crew members including cinematographer Charles Hamilton, and its competent technical aspects are commendable on the whole considering its small production budget.

Like any other good thriller films driven by characters, the movie relies a lot on its main cast members, who are all effective in their respective roles and really feel like three different people who have known each other for years. While Christopher Gray is relatively showier as your average rich jerk, Munro Chambers and Emily Tyra are equally fine as ably conveying to us how much Jonah and Sasha have tolerated Richard just because of what they respectively need from him, and they and Gray are particularly excellent when their characters eventually arrive at a dreaded moment of hard decision, which is pretty intense for the grim logic of their situation.

Overall, “Harpoon” is a modest but competent genre piece which does its job as well as intended, and it is worthwhile to watch for its skillful handling of mood and narrative. Yes, its story idea is simple and familiar to the core, but Grant and his crew and cast members succeeds in keeping their film floating on the water from the beginning to the end, and I certainly had a fun time while alternatively amused and jolted by its naughty plot turns.


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3 From Hell (2019) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4): They’re back…


Rob Zombie’s latest work “3 From Hell” is morbid, violent, and humorous as your average seedy exploitation horror film. Although it is relatively less enjoyable than its predecessor “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005) for a number of reasons, I will not deny that I alternatively cringed and chuckled while entertained by its bold attitude as well as its wry, vicious sense of humor to some degree.

As many of you know, Zombie made a feature film debut with “House of 1000 Corpses” (2003), which is a loony comic variation of Tobe Hopper’s infamous horror film “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” (1974). Although I did not like that film much for its thin narrative and characterization, I found myself amused a lot by its sequel “The Devil’s Rejects”, which is certainly better than its predecessor in terms of plot and characters while giving several hilariously naughty moments such as when a movie critic is invited for providing some background information on Captain Spaulding (Sig Haig) and his murderous family members, whose names are incidentally derived from the movie characters played by Groucho Max.

At the end of “The Devil’s Rejects”, Captain Spaulding and his two surviving family members, Otis B. Driftwood (Billy Moseley) and Vera-Ellen “Baby” Firefly (Sheri Moon Zombie, who is Zombie’s wife), are gunned down by the police in a spectacularly violent way no so far from the finale of “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), and it looks like they are all dead as a result, but the prologue part of “3 From Hell” shows that they actually manage to survive and then are brought to their trial once they get recovered enough for that. Just like that homicidal couple of “Natural Born Killers” (1994), they receive lots of attention from the media and the public during the trial, and they remain pretty infamous even after they are sent to a prison where they are going to be incarcerated for the rest of their life.


Several years after Captain Spaulding was executed (Zombie had to reduce Haig’s role considerably because of the deteriorating medical condition of Haig, who sadly passed away shortly after the movie was released in US in last month), Otis comes to escape from the prison with the assistance from his half-brother Winslow Foxworth “Foxy” Coltrane (Richard Brake), who is as deranged and dangerous as Otis and Baby. When Otis and Foxy happen to come across a pair of redneck hunters at one point, it does not take much time for them to turn the tables to their advantage, and we accordingly get a brief but gruesome moment which will surely make you wince a lot for a good reason.

Meanwhile, Baby is still incarcerated in the prison, and she keeps sticking to her crazy and cheerful remorselessness as often drawing the ire and spite from a sadistic prison guard who seems to be obsessed with her in a rather unhealthy way. When she has Baby attacked by two nasty prisoners for punishment, Baby surely shows the guard how lethal she is, and that certainly makes the guard upset more than before.

In case of the warden of the prison, he is quite determined to catch Otis and Foxy as soon as possible, but, of course, he seriously underestimates how bold and insane they are, and he belatedly comes to realize that when he comes back to his residence as usual during one evening. As Otis and Foxy hold several people including his wife as hostages, the warden has no choice but to follow their demand, and Zombie does not disappoint us during the following sequence, which is wryly and violently presented in non-chronological order.

And then the movie shifts itself onto a relatively milder mode as its three lead characters go south for crossing the Mexico-US border. At some shabby cantina, they become a bit more relaxed while throwing themselves into booze and sex, and it looks like they are finally free and happy, but, of course, they soon find themselves in another dangerous situation.


While serving us more blood and violence during the following climactic part, Zombie’s screenplay does not generate enough tension to engage us for several reasons. For example, it does not have any strong opponent to clash with its three protagonists, and I must say that, compared to a fanatically zealous sheriff played by William Forsythe in “The Devil’s Rejects”, those several supporting characters pitted against the three protagonists of “3 From Hell” are mostly flat and bland on the whole. In addition, the understandable absence of Captain Spaulding, who is definitely the most memorable character in both “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects”, remains to be a glaring flaw, and that makes us miss more the gleefully over-the-top performance of Haig, who did his reduced part as much as he could with a dental condition which looks quite improved compared to the one he had in “The Devil’s Rejects”.

Anyway, Bill Moseley and Sheri Moon Zombie have lots of twisted fun with their respective roles as before, and Richard Brake did a fairly good job as holding his own spot well between Moseley and Zombie. Among the other notable main cast members in the film, Dee Wallace is the definite standout, and she certainly gives us a few juicy moments to be savored.

I give 2.5 stars to “3 From Hell” because it is less successful than “The Devil’s Rejects”, but, in my humble opinion, it has more attitude, personality, and guts in its presentation of evil and violence compared to “Joker” (2019), which is merely dark and disturbing without much substance or personality. Sure, it is mean, brutal, and unpleasant to the core, but it has some style and personality to be appreciated, and I sort of admire that even as still flinching from its many savage moments.


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The Parts You Lose (2019) ☆☆☆(3/4): His loss of innocence


“The Parts You Lose” is a simple but haunting coming-of-age drama revolving around a young deaf boy who happens to be involved in one very tricky circumstance. While its melancholic presentation of his gradual loss of innocence is familiar to the core, the movie still holds our attention via its mood, details, performances to be appreciated, and it is poignant to observe what he comes to lose as opening his eyes more to the world surrounding him.

In the beginning, the movie slowly establishes the mundane wintry daily life of Wesley (Danny Murphy), a lonely 10-year-old deaf boy who lives in a small rural town of North Dakota. While he attends a local school for deaf children, he is not particularly close to any student in the school, and he has also often been bullied by one of his schoolmates. At his home, his mother Gail (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) genuinely cares about him, but she is often occupied with the family’s current financial problems, and his father Ronnie (Scoot McNairy) does not show much affection to him while frequently absent for working or drinking.

And then there comes an unexpected happening. Not long after some big incident occurs in the middle of the town, Wesley happens to encounter an unconscious man lying on a remote snowy road while he is returning from his school. When he comes back along with his father, that man in question is somehow gone, but he subsequently finds the man at some other spot during the following night, and he takes the man to an abandoned barn not so far from his home.


While frequently sticking to its young hero’s viewpoint, the movie gradually lets us gather what is going on. The man (Aaron Paul) is one of several fugitives who has been chased by the police, and he managed to escape alive during a disastrous shootout between the police and his criminal group, though he got seriously injured at that time. Once he regains his consciousness in the barn, he demands Wesley to help him, and Wesley innocently follows his demand without any hesitation. Besides helping the man taking care of his injury, he also provides the man some food, and the man comes to depend more on Wesley as the police continues to search for the man. Although he has a plan for escape, he needs to stay low for several days at least, and Wesley does not mind at all as regarding the man as a friend.

It is clear to us from the beginning that survival is the main priority for the man, but he gives Wesley some kindness and friendship as they come to spend more time with each other. Besides playing checkers with Wesley, he teaches Wesley how to deal with his school bully, and we accordingly a small tense scene where Wesley applies what he learned from the man to his bully.

Meanwhile, the situation around them becomes more serious than before. At one point, Gail and Wesley are visited by a federal agent, who seems to sense something odd from Wesley and gives him what can be interpreted as an indirect warning. As getting exasperated frustrated more and more with how his current life is going nowhere without any bright prospect, Ronnie drinks more than before, and there is a frightening moment when he becomes suspicious of his son while quite inebriated as usual.

Around that point, we can clearly sense where the story is going, but the movie keeps holding our attention as diligently building up narrative momentum along the plot. The screenplay by Darren Lemki is plain but efficient in its economic storytelling, and director Christopher Cantwell and his crew members including cinematographer Evans Brown did a commendable job of filling the screen with an palpable sense of bleakness and loneliness, which is often accentuated by the occasional shots of wide and snowy landscapes.


Above all, the movie depends a lot on the good natural performance of Danny Murphy, a young British deaf performer who did not have much acting experience before appearing here in this film. In addition to bringing considerable authenticity to his role as expected, Murphy ably handles several key scenes where he has to convey to us his character’s thoughts and feelings without expressing much on the surface, and that is why it is heartbreaking to see when his character suddenly becomes a little more active than usual at a certain narrative point later in the movie.

In case of a few notable main cast members surrounding Murphy, they all give fine performance while never overshadowing him. While Aaron Paul, who is mainly known for his Emmy-winning supporting turn in TV drama series “Breaking Bad”, is alternative sympathetic and menacing, Elizabeth Mary Winstead, an ever-reliable but criminally overlooked veteran actress who incidentally appeared along with Paul in “Smashed” (2012), brings some warmth to the movie as a mother trying her best for her son, and Scoot McNairy, who has been quite ubiquitous since his memorable lead performance in “Monsters” (2010), is sour and bitter as required.

Although it looks rather modest on the whole, “The Parts You Lose” is admirable for its competent aspects, and its several quiet but strong emotional moments will linger on you for a while when it is over. Our young hero indeed grows up in the end, but, as shown from the final scene of the movie, things will never be the same for him – and he has no choice but to move on for himself.


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White Rabbit (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Meet Vivian Bang


“White Rabbit” is basically another plain tale of youth in confusion and uncertainty, but it distinguishes itself to some degree although it is not so far from other similar recent films such as Lena Dunham’s “Tiny Furniture” (2010). Through its Korean American heroine, the movie often makes some interesting points on racial and cultural identity, and, above all, it is supported well by the solid performance from its lead actress who is talented and charming enough to carry the whole film.

The movie mainly consists of a series of episodes in the daily life of Sophia (Vivian Bang), a young Korean American woman who has been struggling to find her own artistic voice in LA since her art school graduation. In the opening scene, she is giving her latest act of performance in a local supermarket, and she tries to make a social/political statement as playing an immigrant speaking about her hardships in broken English, but, to her disappointment, she does not get much attention from others passing by her, no matter how much she tries.

When Sophia comes back to her cozy and luxurious residence where she has lived alone (I guess her parents are affluent enough to support her financially), she does another act of performance. This time, she simply puts her face into a heap of snack in front of her smartphone, and she promptly posts the resulting video on YouTube, but, alas, this does not get lots of attention either, probably because, well, her video clip is not particularly sensational enough compared to those popular ‘Mukbang’ video clips out there, which usually show eating lots of food in front of camera (I still do not wholly understand why they are so popular on the Internet, by the way).


We also see how she earns her living day by day. Once she contacts with a client through an online application called TaskRabbit, she goes to the client’s residence, and she is requested to do some menial household tasks such as sorting out toys in drawers. To be frank with you, this online service looks rather ridiculous to me, but I guess some people are really willing to pay for a little more convenience in their life.

On one day, Sophia is approached by a young Caucasian male filmmaker interested in casting her in a supporting role of a film he is planning to make. During their first meeting, he keeps emphasizing how impressive she was in her performance in public as well as how suitable she is for playing a strong Asian female character, but it does not take much time for her and (us) to see through his condescending words and attitude, and there later comes an amusingly awkward scene where he eventually comes to reveal his bias and prejudice in front of her.

Meanwhile, Sophia keeps performing in public as usual. At one point, she performs in a Korean restaurant, and, as a South Korean audience, I was a little amused to notice a number of small details which look very familiar to me. When she later tries to make a very serious statement on what many Korean Americans in LA suffered during that infamous riot of 1992, most of her few audiences happen to be African Americans, and it goes without saying that they are not that pleased to hear her words.

And then she is approached by Victoria (Nana Ghana), an African American female photographer whom she previously encountered under a rather disagreeable circumstance. As they come to talk with each other a lot about race and culture, something seems to click between them, and Sophia subsequently finds herself attracted to Victoria although she recently had a painful breakup with her ex-girlfriend.


The mood later becomes a little tense when Sophia gets emotionally attached too much to Victoria, but the movie maintains its lightweight tone as strolling from one episodic moment to another. I enjoyed a few brief scenes which reflect well the cultural background of our heroine, and I smiled a bit as observing how an old-fashioned Korean pop song is humorously utilized around the ending of the film.

Above all, Vivian Bang, a Korean American actress who recently drew my attention for her quirky supporting performance in “Always Be My Maybe” (2019), is simply wonderful whenever she is demanded to hold our attention by herself. I have no idea on how much she exactly contributed to the story written by her and director Daryl Wein, but I can tell you at least that she did a commendable job of imbuing her character with considerable spirit and personality, and she is especially terrific when her character wildly lets out her feelings after an expected moment of heartbreak. While most of a few supporting performers surrounding Bang merely fill their respective small parts as required, Nana Ghana, who also participated in the production of the movie along with Wein and Bang, gives a fine performance to remember, and her effortless interaction with Bang on the screen is one of the strong aspects of the film.

Like Wein’s previous work “Lola Versus” (2012), “White Rabbit” suffers from its thin narrative at times, but it is fairly likable while mostly working well as the showcase of Bang’s undeniable talent and presence. She is indeed a good actress who deserves more opportunities to show more of her acting ability, and I sincerely hope that this movie and “Always Be My Maybe” will lead her to more good things in the future.


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Maiden (2018) ☆☆☆1/2(3.5/4): Sailing Away


Documentary film “Maiden” presents a fascinating real-life story about a group of brave and strong women who attempted to show the world that girls can do anything. Although they naturally faced many troubles and obstacles including sexism from the very beginning, they kept trying to reach for their goal nonetheless, and it is often quite moving to see how they firmly stuck together during their hard and difficult journey, which surely gave them the best and worst moments of their lives.

The documentary initially focuses on the early years of Tracy Edwards, a British woman who was the initiator of their ambitious attempt in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1989. While Edwards’ childhood years were mostly fine and wonderful, she subsequently became a problematic adolescent girl full of anger and rebellion, and, not so surprisingly, she left her family and then wandered around here and there outside UK when she entered adulthood.

While she worked at a bar in some rural region of Greece, Edwards got accidentally hired as a stewardess of a big yacht, and that was how she got a chance to encounter Hussein bin Talal, who was the King of Jordan at that time. He encouraged her to follow her dream, and Edwards, who already got quite interested in sailing before her chance encounter with the King of Jordan, came to try to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race in any possible way. Although she was rejected at first just because everyone thought that women could not do as well as males in the race, she persisted nevertheless, and she eventually got hired a cook on one of the yachts participating in the race, while also being one of a very few female crew members in the race (Among 290 participants, there were only 4 women including her).


After proving that she could endure and prevail during those arduous sailing journeys on the oceans, Edwards decided to move onto the next step. She gathered a number of young able-bodied women including her close friend Jo Gooding, and they tried to participate in the Whitbread Round the World Race as the first ever all-female crew to enter the race, but nobody was particularly willing to help and support them. While their yacht was designed at first, there was not anyone to provide them around 6 million dollars for building the yacht and participating in the race, and we hear a lot about how much Edwards and her colleagues struggled during that time. After she eventually decided to get some fund through mortgaging her own house, they managed to buy a secondhand yacht which was apparently in the need of lots of repair, but, due to the continuing financial problem, their dream still seemed out of their reach even when they finally finished fixing and renovating their yacht, which was named Great Britain Maiden.

Fortunately, the King of Jordan came to rescue when Edwards decided to reach for help from him in the end, so she and her colleagues could be allowed to participate in the race a few days before it began, but then they found themselves receiving heaps of unpleasant comments and ridicules while surely getting lots of attention from the media and public as expected. They were casually disregarded by many experts and reporters, and it was commonly expected that Edwards and her colleagues would not even complete the first leg of the race.

Besides these and other external problems, Edwards and her colleagues also had to deal with a number of internal problems as preparing for the race within a few days. During a short race which is sort of a test drive before the Whitbread Round the World Race, Gooding got seriously injured, and Edwards had to fire her skipper after clashing with her. Because there was no time for getting a new skipper, Edwards had no choice but to work as both the skipper and navigator of her yacht, and that certainly put a lot more pressure on her as the first day of the race was approaching hour by hour.


I will not go more into details on what would happen next for not spoiling your entertainment, but I guess it is not much of a spoiler to tell you that Edwards and her colleagues came to surprise not only others but also themselves, and the documentary is often riveting whenever it shows how risky and demanding the race was for them as well as other teams. Via a series of archival video clips shot during the race, it vividly reminds us of that unforgiving side of the sea, and, as a matter of fact, I came to muse a bit on why I did not like sailing much for several reasons besides seasick.

Although she did not regard herself as a feminist at that time, Edwards gradually came to realize she and her colleagues were doing something far more than following their dream, and they kept sticking together as going through the good and bad times of their sailing journey. While often frankly admitting her flaws and foibles in front of the camera, Edwards comes to us as a compelling figure to watch, and so do her colleagues, who are as honest and forthright as Edwards in their reminiscence of the sailing journey of their lifetime.

Overall, “Maiden” presents well its extraordinary real-life story whose feministic aspects certainly feel more relevant in our time, and its uplifting spirit will surely linger on you for a while after it is over. In other words, this is one of more interesting and entertaining documentary films I saw during this year, so I recommend it to you without any reservation.


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Knife+Heart (2018) ☆☆☆(3/4): Who’s killing her gay porn actors?


French film “Knife+Heart” is a cheerfully gaudy and goofy mix of cheap gay porn flicks and campy giallo horror movies of the 1970s. Although it is a bit shame that the movie does not try to be something more than a mere pastiche of its two different genres, the movie is still fairly amusing for moods and details to be savored and appreciated, and it is actually poignant at times even though it frequently swings around different emotional modes with sheer preposterousness.

Set in the summer of 1979, the movie mainly revolves around Anne (Vanessa Paradis), a female movie producer who has made several cheap gay porn flicks along with her small but reliable cast and crew members for many years. Around the beginning of the film, we see a part of her latest product, and its nostalgic quality reminds us that there was a time when lots of cheap pornography films were shot on 16mm film and then released in a certain type of movie theaters.

It looks like Anne will get another modest success through this latest product of hers, but she has been feeling quite bad and depressed since her recent breakup with Lois (Kate Moran), who has been her lover and also worked as the editor of her gay porn flicks. While Lois firmly sticks to her professionalism, Anne cannot help but miss being with Lois, and everyone around her on the set is understandably concerned even though Anne tries to keep her appearance straight in front of her cast and crew members including Archibald (Nicolas Maury), a flamboyant dude who has frequently worked in front of the camera several times besides being your average gay friend for Anne.


And then there comes a very bad news. One of those good-looking actors working for Anne was brutally murdered, and Anne is annoyed when she has to meet and then talk to a couple of cops at a local police station, but that does not stop her at all from getting some inspiration for what she and her cast and crew members will shoot next. I will not go into details here for not spoiling your fun, and I must tell you that I was quite tickled by the demonstration of a rather outrageous typing method. Compared to what I saw from a number of modern gay porn flicks which are mostly concerned about sex and body parts, this feels, uh, more imaginative in my humble opinion.

Of course, another actor working for Anne gets killed not long after that, and the mood accordingly becomes a lot more nervous on the set, so Anne eventually decides to delve into the case for herself, though the police are not so cooperative to say the least and her mind is frequently occupied with getting Lois back in her arms. Thanks to one seemingly insubstantial clue, she gets closer to the identity of the killer, and that eventually prompts her to make another product whose making will definitely attracts the attention of the killer.

Anyway, we already know how the killer in question looks. In addition to wearing a black mask and dark clothes, this figure also wears a pair of black gloves just like many of those homicidal maniacs in giallo horror films, and the movie gives us some twisted fun through an outrageously Freudian murder weapon used by this figure.

Now everything seems to be set for more thrill and excitement, but the screenplay by director Yann Gonzalez and his co-writer Cristiano Mangione leisurely strolls along the plot instead while occasionally providing us stylish glimpses into a small world inhabited by Anne and other characters in the film. We are introduced to various sexual minority figures who are free and happy as being themselves, and that surely reminds us of how things were lively and exciting for people like them before the era of AIDS began in the very next decade.


Although it starts to stumble as its plot becomes more implausible and preposterous, the movie does not lose its sense of fun at least, and we are subsequently served with two main sequences which are engaging in each own way. While the sequence unfolded at Anne’s workplace is bold and overblown as required, the other one unfolded at a squalid movie theater where Anne’s latest product is shown to a number of naughty audiences is somehow touching at times, and the movie comes to show affection to its main characters in a way not so far from François Truffaut’s “Day for Night“ (1974), which is one of the greatest movies about filmmaking.

The main cast members of the film mostly play straight on the screen as required, and they surely have some fun with that behind their back. As the center of the film, Vanessa Paradis gives a solid performance balanced well between campiness and seriousness, and Kate Moran is a solid emotional counterpart to Paradis. In case of the other main cast members including Nicolas Maury, Félix Maritaud, and Khaled Alouach, they imbue their broad but colorful supporting characters with life and personality, and I particularly enjoyed Maury’s scene-stealing supporting performance.

Although it may not be for everyone considering its story subjects and elements, “Knife+Heart” is a competent genre piece packed with style and mood, and you will be entertained especially if you are familiar with what it tries to emulate. Yes, it could be more fun and exciting, but it did its job as well as intended, so I will not grumble for now.


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