Narrative Features Capsule Reviews From the 2018 Florida Film Festival

By Leslie C. Halpern

The 27th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and held throughout Central Florida from April 6-15, 2018, offers nearly 200 narrative features and documentary short films from countries around the world, in addition to celebrity guests, special events, film forums, film sidebars, parties, and the American Independent Competition. A sampling of narrative features capsule reviews appears below.

Back to Burgundy. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Back to Burgundy

In the Food Films Sidebar. In French, Spanish, and English with English subtitles. Narrative Feature. Screens April 7, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village.

This heartfelt narrative drama captures the intoxicating ambiance of the French vineyard where most of the film was shot. Jean’s father drove him away from home with his cold criticism, and now 10 years later his father draws him back. The return visit has far more significance than the departure, because his father is dying. As his father’s life ends, Jean’s new life begins. The oldest of three children – all bequeathed the house and vineyard equally – Jean must decide if he wants to stay, rent, or sell his stake in the long-time family business. Using this time to sort out his feelings for his siblings, his relationship to his father, and the separation from his wife and their child, Jean is faced with important decisions, and this time he can’t just run away. Lush, rich, and layered, this film features beautiful cinematography, delightful performances, and a story worth telling. Enjoy it with a glass of wine.

  • Directed by Cedric Klapisch
  • Stars Pio Marmai, Ana Girardot, Francois Civil, Jean-March Roulot, Maria Valverde
  • Run time: 113 minutes
  • MPAA rating: Not Rated
  • 4 / 5

Borg McEnroe. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Borg McEnroe

In Spotlight Films. Narrative Feature. In English and Swedish. Screens April 8, 2018 at 8:30 p.m. and April 15, 2018 at 3:00 p.m., both at Regal Winter Park Village.

This sports drama begins as a character study of Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason), the cool controlled tennis phenomenon from Sweden. Flashbacks reveal how he learned to suppress his emotions, which now threaten to undermine his 1980 attempt to maintain his place as the top-ranked tennis player in the world. Ultimately pitted against the hot-tempered American tennis sensation, John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf), both men need to keep their emotions in check to master their opponent. The two actors seem perfectly suited for their roles – both emotionally and physically, they fully embody their volatile and athletic characters. The background story on Borg is interesting, as is his troubled relationship with his girlfriend, and McEnroe’s explosive temper tantrums establish his personality. However, by far the most engrossing part of this film is the Wimbledon championship as Borg attempts to achieve a record-breaking fifth-straight win.

  • Directed by Janus Metz
  • Stars Shia LaBeouf, Sverrir Gudnason, Stellan Skarsgard
  • Run time: 107 minutes
  • MPAA Rating R
  • 3.5 / 5

The Feels. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

The Feels

In the American Independent Competition. Narrative Feature. Screens April 9, 2018 at 8:45 p.m. and April 13, 2018 at 1:30 p.m., both at Regal Winter Park Village.

Although sexual feelings – particularly same-sex feelings – are the obvious focus of this film, deeper problems surface as the story slowly progresses. Set in a secluded house for a weekend-long bachelorette party, this film starts out as a low-budget lesbian version of Bridesmaids, (complete with the coarse Melissa McCarthy character, only this time played by Ever Mainard). There’s jealousy, tension, doubt, lies, and hurt feelings among the entire wedding party, including the token male (Josh Fadem), a platonic friend who longs for more. Brief “interviews” with each character shed some light on the early sexual experiences that shaped their current status. Several improvised scenes combined with a slow-moving script delay the important discussions until the final third of the movie. Until then, it’s mostly scenes of sexual innuendo, alcohol consumption, and drugs intended to be comical, but not quite hitting the mark.

  • Directed by Jenee LaMarque
  • Stars  Constance Wu, Josh Fadem, Jenee LaMarque, Angela Trimbur, Ever Mainard
  • Run time: 90 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • 2.5 / 5

For a complete list of films and to learn more about the Florida Film Festival, visit the official website.

 

Isle of Dogs – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

Fur will fly, snouts will sneeze, and drums will pound in Wes Anderson’s newest feature film, an animated adventure about a Japanese boy’s attempts to reunite with his beloved dog.

It’s an alternate reality – a futuristic version of Japan in which corrupt mayor Kobayashi (Kunichi Nomura) exiles all dogs (strays, house pets, and therapy dogs alike) because of a canine flu that causes odd behavior. To set an example, the mayor sends his 12-year-old ward’s dog, Spots, to Trash Island as the first exiled animal. But young Atari (Koyu Rankin) misses Spots too much and steals a plane to go search for him.

The Little Pilot

Atari crash lands on the isle of dogs to find a civilization of scavenger canines. Four former house pets (the voices of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, and Jeff Goldblum) and one stray (Bryan Cranston) come to his aid in finding Spots. Other dogs around Trash Island also agree to help the boy. Known among the talking dogs as “the little pilot,” Atari must be reunited with his dog because as the former show-dog, Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson), proclaims: “He’s a 12-year-old boy. Dogs love those.”

Back in Japan, Kobayashi and his feline-loving regime do whatever it takes to stop a team of scientists working on a dog flu vaccine. An American exchange student studying journalism (voiced by Greta Gerwig) delves deep into a suspected conspiracy about the dog exile and the research team working on the cure. When she learns about Atari’s brave rescue attempt, she develops a crush on the boy even though they’ve never met. Despite its darker elements, the story contains plenty of humor in various forms, from throwaway lines to sight gags, and even the occasional pun.

An Assortment of Talent

The look and sound of this film are its strongest assets. The animation includes depth and texture that makes the dogs look cuddly enough to pet their fur or pat their heads as they stare with puppy eyes in their canine anticipation. Likewise, the humans appear soft enough to touch or embrace. Anderson’s films often have a painterly feel to them, and Isle of Dogs is no exception. Filled with perfectly placed refuse from its previous usage, the island makes a distastefully artful background for Atari’s planned search and rescue mission.

The voice talents are exceptionally good, including many frequent Anderson collaborators, such as Bill Murray and Edward Norton. The music creates a decidedly Asian ambiance that adds to the authenticity and excitement. Some of the Japanese is translated into English by Interpreter Nelson (Frances McDormand), though much of it is spoken without translation or subtitles. Curiously, the dogs speak English, but can’t understand Japanese. These quirks are part of the overall package that viewers can embrace as delightful or discard as unrealistic.

And the story – well, that may be the weakest element of all. Is it a respectful tribute to Japanese culture and a testament to the unconditional love that dogs have for humans or is it a tasteless display of ethnic stereotyping where the only white American character (a child at that) is able to see the truth and fight for it? Yes, it’s all of those things and more. It’s an animated collage of humor, music, voices, language, race, species, science, technology, corruption, and love. It’s a Wes Anderson film.

Isle of Dogs

  • When the dogs of Japan develop a dangerous canine flu, they are exiled to an island full of trash.
  • Stars the voices of: Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bab Balaban, Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono
  • Director: Wes Anderson
  • Genre: Animation/Adventure
  • Run Time: 101 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for thematic elements and some violent images)
  • Additional Information: Watch a trailer for this film.

Other Films Directed by Wes Anderson Include:

2018 Florida Film Festival Food Sidebar and Tasting Events

By Leslie C. Halpern

The 27th Annual Florida Film Festival, produced by Enzian Theater and running from April 6 through April 15 throughout Central Florida, includes 10 days of films, parties, forums, and food. There’s also a Food Sidebar with two appetizing feature films and food-oriented events hosted by Enzian Theater, Eden Bar, and other Central Florida eateries.

Here’s a taste of the Festival’s food-related programming that is open to the public.

Food Film Sidebar

Back to Burgundy. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Back to Burgundy

In the Food Films Sidebar. In French, Spanish, and English with English subtitles. Narrative Feature. Florida Premiere. Screens April 7, 1:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village.

This heartfelt narrative drama captures the intoxicating ambiance of the French vineyard where most of the film was shot. Jean’s father drove him away from home with his cold criticism, and now ten years later his father draws him back. The return visit has far more significance than the departure, because his father is dying. As his father’s life end, Jean’s new life begins. The oldest of three children – all bequeathed the house and vineyard equally – Jean must decide if he wants to stay, rent, or sell his stake in the long-time family business. Using this time to sort out his feelings for his siblings, his relationship to his father, and the separation from his wife and their child, Jean is faced with important decisions, and this time he can’t just run away. Lush, rich, and layered, this film features beautiful cinematography, delightful performances, and a story worth telling. Enjoy with a glass of wine.

  • Directed by Cedric Klapisch
  • Stars Pio Marmai, Ana Girardot, Francois Civil, Jean-March Roulot, Maria Valverde
  • Run time: 113 minutes
  • MPAA rating: Not Rated
  • 4 / 5

Ramen Heads. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Ramen Heads

In the Food Films Sidebar; In Japanese with English subtitles. Documentary Feature. Florida Premiere. Screens April 8, 1:45 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village.

This mouth-watering documentary presents ramen noodles in an entirely new way for those not living in Japan, where a fanatical culture exists for the slurpable noodles found in this everyday treat. The story centers mainly on Tomito Osamu, a chef who keeps winning Best Ramen awards for his unique broth that stews for three full days before serving. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of his tiny restaurant, he enlists the aid of two other well-known ramen chefs to help him prepare something special for that day. Just as his ramen combines a “witch’s brew” of ingredients, the doc includes a little bit of this and that. In addition to Tomito’s professional and personal life, the film peeks inside other ramen restaurant for tips from their chefs, provides an animated history of ramen noodles, visits a ramen festival, and then returns to the 10-year restaurant anniversary party. It’s a strange brew of ideas that ultimately satisfies.

  • Directed by Koki Shigeno
  • Stars Tomito Osamu
  • Run time: 93 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: Not Rated
  • 3.5 / 5

Food Events

Block Party. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Festival Block Party

  • Sponsored by Winter Park Village
  • Saturday, April 7, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Regal Winter Park Village
  • 510 North Orlando Avenue
  • Winter Park, FL 32789
  • Free for all Festival ticket and pass holders

There’s a block party celebration with live entertainment that meets at the Winter Park Village fountain across from the Regal Cinema. Individual ticket holders and pass holders receive free drinks and appetizers from select Winter Park Village restaurants. Space is limited.

Locally Fresh! Scrumptious Cinema

  • Sponsored by Orlando Weekly
  • Sunday, April 8, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. at Enzian Theater
  • 1300 South Orlando Avenue
  • Maitland, FL 32751
  • $12

Central Florida foodies partner with local filmmakers at this unique event. Watch their documentaries, accompanied by cooking demonstrations and food samples.

Locally Fresh! Farmers Market

  • Sponsored by Orlando Weekly
  • Sunday, April 8, Noon – 2:30 p.m. on the lawn at Eden Bar
  • 1300 South Orlando Avenue
  • Maitland, FL 32751
  • Free

After Locally Fresh! Scrumptious Cinema, the lawn at Eden Bar becomes a Farmers Market filled with fresh local products for purchase.

Sunday Brunch. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

Sunday Brunch Buffet

  • Sunday, April 8, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Enzian Theater and Eden Bar
  • Sunday, April 15, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. at Enzian Theater and Eden Bar
  • 1300 South Orlando Avenue
  • Maitland, FL 32751
  • $13.99

This pre-movie brunch requires no advance ticket purchase.

Sip and Savor: Cocktail Tasting

  • Sponsored by Diageo
  • Wednesday, April 11, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. at Eden Bar
  • 1300 South Orlando Avenue
  • Maitland, FL 32751
  • Free and open to the public

Sample a selection of craft cocktails provided by Diageo.

Visit the Florida Film Festival website for full movie listings, a full schedule of events, and ticket information.

 

 

2018 Florida Film Festival Music Sidebar

By Leslie C. Halpern

As in previous years, the 27th annual Florida Film Festival offers a music sidebar in addition to its other programming. This sidebar includes non-competing documentaries related to music, musicians, and musical instruments. In addition to this sidebar, the Festival also features live music at Eden Bar. Produced by Enzian Theater and held from April 6 – 15, 2018 throughout Central Florida, the Festival features parties, forums, and more than 180 independent narrative features, documentaries, and shorts on a variety of unusual subjects.

Music Sidebar Selections for 2018

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie

Hardcore hippies in the 1970s, the band Magic Music never produced an album nor achieved the widespread fame many felt it deserved.  Emmy-nominated sitcom writer-producer, Lee Aronsohn decided it was finally time to reunite the former members from his favorite band that played back when he was a student at the University of Colorado. Not only that, but he talked them into one more gig and a documentary.

40 Years in the Making: The Magic Music Movie. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

  • Director: Lee Aronsohn
  • Run Time: 99 minutes
  • Screenings: Sunday, April 8, 4:00 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village); Sunday April 15, 12:30 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village)
  • Southeast Premiere
  • Talent in Attendance

The Godfathers of Hardcore

New York City hardcore legend Agnostic Front has survived 35 years of personal and professional challenges among its members. In addition to the music, this documentary explores friendship, family, drug problems, health issues, and, of course, the music. From film and music video director, Ian McFarland, this film looks at the two leaders in New York Hardcore and how they defined, shaped, and inspired the musical movement.

The Godfathers of Hardcore. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

  • Director: Ian McFarland
  • Stars: Roger Miret, Vinnie Stigma
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Screenings: Saturday, April 7, 9:00 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village); Friday, April 13, 8:00 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village)
  • Florida Premiere
  • Talent in Attendance on April 7

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

Forsaking traditional documentary-style storytelling, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami provides viewers with a blend of bold concert performances and unscripted candid moments. There’s Jones the performer on stage singing in enormous high heels and an extraordinarily large hat and not much else. There’s Jones the businesswoman yelling at her promoter over the telephone. There’s Jones at home with her parents and other family members in Jamaica, all talking over each other at mealtime. Rather than the usual story arc, this doc presents different sides of the eccentric singer and lets the audience come to its own conclusions.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami. Photo courtesy of Florida Film Festival.

  • Director: Sophie Fiennes
  • Stars: Grace Jones, Jean-Paul Gourde
  • Run Time: 115 minutes
  • Screenings: Thursday, April 12, 6:30 p.m. (Regal Winter Park Village); Saturday, April 14, 9:00 p.m.
  • East Coast Premiere

Live Music at Florida Film Festival

Local musicians perform outside Eden Bar (located at Enzian Theater in Maitland) to enhance the atmosphere during the Festival. Free and open to the public.

  • Weekday Performances: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Weekend Performances: 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Visit the official Florida Film Festival website for full movie listings and ticket information.

 

Finding Your Feet – Movie Review

By Leslie C. Halpern

Though comparisons to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are inevitable, Finding Your Feet is more like Quartet, except with dancing instead of singing. Filled with charming British actors and actresses in their 60s and 70s, the story is not the best and is less than exotic, and instead leans toward the predictable and stereotypical.

Imelda Staunton and Timothy Spall star in Finding Your Feet. Photo copyright 2018 Roadside Attractions.

Lady Sandra (Imelda Staunton) lives her pampered life as the wife of a highly regarded, retired Scotland Yard police chief. They live in a glorious mansion and associate with other highbrows, many of whom have gathered for Sandra’s and Mike’s (John Sessions) 40th anniversary party. It’s during this party that Sandra discovers Mike’s long-term affair with her best friend.

Dance Lessons

Forsaking her wealthy friends who may have been aware of the affair or even conspired against her, Sandra takes refuge with her older sister, Bif (Celia Imrie), in her cluttered London apartment. Bif’s irresponsible, fun-loving lifestyle, which includes dance lessons at her local senior center, is the opposite of Sandra’s rigidly structured daily routine.

Likewise, Bif’s free-wheeling sexuality conflicts with Sandra’s only-been-with-her-husband mentality. The unsubtle stage is set for mutual compromise, and that’s exactly what happens. Compromise doesn’t come easily though. Both women manage circumstances beyond their control.

Acclaimed British Actors

Bif’s friend, Charlie (Timothy Spall, after tremendous weight loss), is not only her frequent dance partner, but her closest friend. Anticipating the future when Sandra will be divorced and Charlie will be a widower (his wife is living in a treatment facility) and they will need each other’s support, Bif fixes them up on a date that the audience knows is coming long before Charlie and Sandra do.

With a cast comprised of so much established talent (and including David Hayman and Joanna Lumley), the movie doesn’t totally miss the mark. However, overused story elements and movie cliches make this feel-good film about aging and the rejuvenating powers of romance and dance feel more tired than anything else. There’s isn’t much new material here, but fans of Staunton, Spall, and Imrie will enjoy watching these stars delivering performances that excel beyond the script.

Finding Your Feet

  • When a snooty titled English woman learn her husband of 40 years is having an affair with her best friend, she takes off for London to live with her estranged free-spirited older sister.
  • Stars: Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, John Sessions, Joanna Lumley
  • Director: Richard Loncraine
  • Genre: Romantic Drama
  • Run Time: 111 minutes
  • MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for suggestive material, brief drug use, and brief strong language)
  • Additional Information: Watch a trailer for this film.