26 August, 2016

"Cheerleader" Review (****)

Catherine Blades stars in Irving Franco's "Cheerleader."

The title “Cheerleader,” without knowing much about the film beforehand, might encourage misplaced ideas or associations about New York writer-director Irving Franco’s small and beautifully deliberate debut feature. That word alone makes me think of films like “Bring It On” or “The Replacements,” or any movie of similar vanity and flippancy. “Cheerleader,” however, is another thing entirely. It's a film that moves in small waves. It's a film that moves almost in slow motion. It quietly works its way into your emotional subconscious—in the way that you might walk from the shallow end of a pool to its deeper, thicker parts, without realizing it, until you feel yourself being hugged by the water.

21 Films to See at the 2016 Sidewalk Film Festival

Sidewalk Film Festival turns 18-years-old and I am pleased as punch to be attending for my fourth year. This is easily one of the best festivals in the world, from the picture-perfect program to the intensely smooth operations that are stretched across 12 venues throughout Downtown Birmingham, Alabama.

I gush every year, and I'll continue to gush this year—do not miss this festival.

I've highlighted 21 films you should catch this weekend. I know, 21 is a high number, but don't blame me—blame the programming team led by Rachel Morgan and the filmmakers that hear great things every year and submit good works to this wonderful showcase.

Four films are marked as Can't Miss—"Cheerleader," "The Arbalest," "Contemporary Color" and "Fraud"—and once you see them, you'll know why. Check out the full list after the jump!

12 August, 2016

"Sausage Party" Review (***½)

Editor's note: Christopher Escobar is probably the busiest man in Georgia. In addition to his duties as Executive Director of the Atlanta Film Society, Executive Director of the Plaza Theatre Foundation, Filmmaker/Owner of Escobar Pictures and Vice President of Georgia Production Partnership—plus his roles as a father and husband—he is also making his film review debut here at Reel Georgia. We are lucky to have him on board to share his thoughts with us. -CM 

"Sausage Party" provides a thematic foil to the animated offerings of Pixar.

Until now, I haven't been—by any stretch—a film reviewer or someone who considers my opinion about films all that important. But I know that a lot of people are curious about "Sausage Party" and are on the fence about seeing it. To cut to the chase—yes, it's worth seeing if you can handle really crude humor. Should you see it in the theaters? I'll let you decide.

As for the film's chief strengths, there are some really funny puns, moments and character relationships. I laughed pretty hard quite a few times. There is a great cast and everyone does a fantastic job with their role.

06 August, 2016

"Suicide Squad" Review (*½)

Margot Robbie stars as Harley Quinn in "Suicide Squad."

"Suicide Squad," Warner Brothers’ latest attempt at furthering the DC Extended Universe, is the most profoundly disappointing film of 2016. Ever since we saw the first image of Jared Leto’s neon gangster Joker, we’ve been, at the very least, curious. Like many, I thought it was a strange choice but held out hope—hope that felt justified as soon as that amazing first trailer dropped. It seemed like Warner Brothers was willing to take creative risks and do something we haven’t yet seen in the rapidly expanding superhero space. Unfortunately what we ended up with is a convoluted, underwritten mess that, like too many blockbusters these days, basically boils down to giant CGI blobs fighting each other.

"Nerve" Review (****)

Dave Franco and Emma Roberts star in "Nerve."

Vee Delmonico (Emma Roberts), your average, quiet yearbook photographer from Staten Island, gets challenged by her adrenaline junkie BFF to play the hot-new thing: NERVE. Watcher or Player, Vee declines until insult is added to injury in front of a crush. Fast forward three minutes and Vee is logging in as a player, ready to accept her first dare and receive her first payment. An easy $100 for kissing a stranger; not bad for a down-on-her-luck girl trying to save money and go to college.

Though the dares start small, the risks take off and Vee finds herself in a whirlwind of life threatening challenges alongside the mysterious, tall, dark, and handsome Ian (Dave Franco). "Nerve" is a movie that questions what it means to live behind your computers, and how far people will go with an anonymous screen name. As Vee’s friends watch her new daredevil lifestyle from the comfort of a house party, the stakes are raised, jealousy ensues, and a hint of voyeurism settles on the audience.

Macon Film Festival: 2016 Award Winners

Seckeita Lewis' "Jerico" was crowned the Audience Award-winning Narrative
Feature at the 2016 Macon Film Festival.

The 2016 Macon Film Festival was a roaring success on all fronts. Kicking off with a Sundance Institute Short Film Master Class and a 30th anniversary screening of "Pretty in Pink" with special guest Andrew McCarthy, the 11th edition of the festival continued the trends of growth in attendance and maturity in programming.

The Jury and Audience Award winners have been released, with no film taking more than one prize. "Jasmine" won the Narrative Feature jury award, while Linda J. Brown's "You See Me" took home the Documentary jury prize. Georgia-lensed documentary "Hotel Clermont" was the audience's choice in the nonfiction lineup. "Jerico" won the Karen Black Audience Choice Award for Narrative Feature.

Check out the full list of winners after the jump.

"Manifest Destiny: The Lewis and Clark Musical Adventure" Review - Macon Film Festival (****)

Jeremy Hoffman and Kevin Abrams star in "Manifest Destiny:
The Lewis and Clark Musical Adventure."

Comedic gold shines from sea to shining sea in "Manifest Destiny: The Lewis and Clark Musical Adventure," and the mouthful title is worth the talk.

Opening on a classic leather-bound book entitled “Manifest Destiny,” you start to get a sense that the story will be wildly spun as the first song begins. President Thomas Jefferson starts off by appointing Meriwether Lewis (played by Kevin Abrams) and William Clark (played by Jeremy Hoffman) to explore and map the west. This talented duo set off to blaze the trail and set the pace for their masterfully created tale. Hoffman wrote most of the music and performed his fair share, as well.

26 July, 2016

Georgia Filmmakers Spotlight an Iconic Location and a Quirky Phenomenon in Documentaries "Hotel Clermont" (****) & "Eat White Dirt" (****½)

Tammy Wright, the primary subject of "Eat White Dirt."

One of the greatest appeals of a film festival is its ability to introduce audiences to stories from around the globe. And while I enjoy seeing the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong's nighttime streets and the breathtaking high-altitude views of the Himalayas on the big screen, there's something remarkably special about seeing a film that highlights the stories right in my backyard.

Two Georgia-lensed documentary shorts have been making waves among the southern film festival circuit: "Hotel Clermont" by Heather Hutson and "Eat White Dirt" by Adam Forrester. Both screened earlier this year at the Atlanta Film Festival and both came away with notable awards"Hotel Clermont" won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short and "Eat White Dirt" won the Seed&Spark Jury Award. Although I missed their screenings in Atlanta back in April, I made sure to catch them this weekend during the Macon Film Festival's "Southern Stories" shorts block, and I'm so glad I did.

23 July, 2016

"Jasmine" Review - Macon Film Festival (***)

Jason Tobin stars in "Jasmine."

First-time director Dax Phelan crafts a tense but often meandering mystery in "Jasmine." Phelan is more than capable of setting the tone for the increasingly unsettling thriller but the story lacks complexity.

Jason Tobin plays Leonard To, a grieving widower whose wife was murdered the previous year. Leonard is in pain. Walking the streets of Hong Kong at night, he is very much alone and very much in his own head. With blurred lights in the distance and bustling streets, the city is a character of its own. Hong Kong—and Phelan’s ability to capture it—lends a lot to the film. Tobin is fantastic as the miserable, confused and angry Leonard. His wife’s murder is still unsolved and while the police seem to have given up, the lack of closure haunts him.

22 July, 2016

Macon Film Festival: Recapping the Sundance Institute Master Class

The Macon Film Festival welcomed us with open arms and kicked off the weekend with a Sundance Institute Short Film Master Class with Mike Plante and James Ponsoldt.

Plante, Sundance Short Films Senior Programmer, wove his tale to an eager crowd. Beginning his festival journey in 1993, he is no stranger to the inner workings of getting films into festivals, and he started with rule number one—'Don’t be a dick.' Simple enough, just treat every single person you meet along the way well. The positivity will read through the work and more people will sign on to help you make a great film.