Quick Review: "American Sniper"

"American Sniper"
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Finally got time to watch this film. It's been reigning as the top box office champ for two weeks now and it's because it's incredibly well-made and the story well-told. This is Clint Eastwood's best film since "Million Dollar Baby", Bradley Cooper's best performance to date, and the best American film (next to "Boyhood") among the best picture nominees at the Oscars.

Watch it! It's how movies based on heroic lives of real people are supposed to be made. This is Eastwood's crowning glory!

On Facebook, a friend is insisting that "But The Hurt Locker is still better. LOL,", to which i replied, "Both are masterpieces but Hurt Locker had a weightier subject matter although the filmmaking and storytelling in American Sniper is way, way better!

Another friend suggested that "Still can't excuse that fake rubber baby! LOL." I had a ready reply, too. I said, "Haha! Well, that's Economics of Filmmaking 101, i suppose."

Rating: 5 stars

Raymond Lo

SBIFF 2015: David Cronenberg's Cannes-winning "Maps to the Stars"

Julianne Moore's Cannes-winning performance will screen at 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival next week!

Theatrical and VOD opening on February 27th!

Meet the Weiss family, who are making their way in Hollywood rife with money, fame, envy, and relentless hauntings. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack) is a famed TV self-help therapist with an A-list celebrity clientele. Meanwhile, Cristina Weiss (Olivia Williams) has her work cut out managing the career of their disaffected child-star son, Benjie (Evan Bird), a fresh graduate of rehab at age 13.

Connecting the savage beauty of writer Bruce Wagner’s Los Angeles with the riveting filmmaking of director David Cronenberg and a stellar ensemble cast (Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, John Cusack, Carrie Fisher & Robert Pattinson) to take a tour into the darkly comic heart of a Hollywood family chasing celebrity, one another and the relentless ghosts of their pasts.

The result is a modern Hollywood Gothic at once about the ravenous 21st Century need for fame and validation - and the yearning, loss and fragility that lurk in the shadows underneath.

Focus World will release the film in theaters and VOD on February 27th.

Santa Barbara International Film Festival Screenings
All screenings will be at Metro 4, 618 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101

  • Thursday February 5 at 10:10PM - Metro 4 Theatre 2
  • Friday February 6 at 7:20PM - Metro 4 Theatre 2
  • Saturday February 7 at 1:20PM - Metro 4 Theatre 2

Slamdance 2015: Winners!

"Across the Sea", "Tired Moonlight", "Sweet Micky for President" are winners!
"Across the Sea"

"Sweet Micky for President"


  • Narrative Feature: Across the Sea, directed by Nisan Dağ & Esra Saydam
  • Documentary Feature: Sweet Micky for President by Ben Patterson


  • Narrative Feature: Tired Moonlight, directed by Britni West
  • Honorable Mention for Narrative Feature: They Look Like People, directed by Perry Blackshear
  • Honorable Mention for Narrative Feature: Across the Sea, directed by Nisan Dağ & Esra Saydam


  • Documentary Feature: Sweet Micky for President by Ben Patterson
  • Honorable Mention for Documentary Feature: 20 Years of Madness, directed by Jeremy Royce
  • Documentary Short: The Solitude of Memory, directed by Juan Pablo González
  • Honorable Mention for Documentary Short: Dolphin Lover, directed by Kareem Tabsch


  • Narrative Short: Stay Awake, directed by Jamie Sisley
  • Honorable Mention for Narrative Short: 09:55 - 11:05, Ingrid Ekman, Bergsgatan 4B, directed. by Christine Berglund & Sophie Vukovic
  • Animation Short: The Pride of Strathmoor, directed by Einar Baldvin
  • Honorable Mention for Animation Short: Hipopotamy, directed by Piotr Dumala
  • Experimental Short: Red Luck, directed by Mike Olenick
  • Anarchy Short: Deviance, directed by Aron Kantor
  • Anarchy Short: Sea Devil, directed by Dean C. Marcial and Brett Potter


  • Spirit of Slamdance Award: Think Ink, directed by Wally Chung
  • Digital Bolex Fearless Filmmaking Grand Prize: Coming To, directed by Lindsey Haun, DP Spencer Rollins, starring Jacob Demonte-Finn
  • Digital Bolex Fearless Filmmaking Honorable Mention: The Character Study, directed & DP Luke Pelizzari
  • Digital Bolex Fearless Filmmaking Honorable Mention: Isobel, directed by Marie Jamora, DP Jason McLagan
  • Kodak Director’s Prize: Detritus, directed by T.J. Misny

SBIFF 2015: Creative Forces: Women in the Biz panel announced!

The 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival, presented by UGG® Australia, is pleased to announce the participants of the wildly popular Creative Forces:  Women in the Biz panel, which takes place on Saturday, February 7.  Moderator Madelyn Hammond, President, Madelyn Hammond & Assoc., and Former Chief Marketing Officer for Variety, will guide this assembly of creative and powerful women discussing not only their own individual careers, but collectively what they have faced as women in the industry.

The panel will feature:

  • Bonnie Arnold  (producer of the Academy Award-nominated How to Train Your Dragon 2 and newly-crowned co-President of Dreamworks Animation)
  • Carolyn Blackwood (executive producer, Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)
  • Kristin Hahn (executive producer, Cake)
  • Rory Kennedy (director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary feature, Last Days in Vietnam)
  • Aneta Kopacz (director and writer of the nominated live-action short film, Joanna)
  • Joanna Natasegara (producer of Academy Award nominated documentary Virunga)
  • Kristina Reed (producer of the nominated animated short film Feast).   

The forum is sponsored by Brooks Institute. Click HERE for tickets.

SBIFF 2015: World Premiere of KANSAS Documentary "Miracles Out Of Nowhere"

World Premiere on Monday, February 2nd at the Lobero Theatre, 7PM

Theatrical release on March 24th, 2015!

"Miracles Out Of Nowhere" is a documentary film that chronicles the epic and inspiring career of KANSAS.

2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the release of KANSAS, the band's debut album. To commemorate the occasion, the classic KANSAS lineup reunited for the first time in over 30 years; at the place their memorable journey began, Topeka, Kansas.

The documentary features interviews from legendary Queen guitarist and former tour mate Brian May, acclaimed producer Brendan O'Brien, Rolling Stone/journalist icon David Wild, and more. Featured prominently is country icon Garth Brooks, who counts KANSAS, alongside The Beatles and the Eagles, as one of his greatest inspirations. These extraordinary new insights are coupled with rare and unseen footage, including live performances and candid, fan-shot footage of the band on the road. "Miracles Out of Nowhere" offers an unprecedented look at the incredible ascent of KANSAS, a story that will appeal to new fans and veteran enthusiasts alike.

Directed by Charley Randazzo (Grammy, Emmy, Ace and three-time MTV award winning director/editor). Projects include documentary films on artists such as Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, N'Sync, Prince, Backstreet Boys, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.

Produced by Budd Carr (Best known for his work with Academy Award winning director, Oliver Stone.) Represented acts such as The Cream, James Taylor, Carole King, Eric Clapton and Crosby-Stills-Nash and Young.

Film also includes commentary from KANSAS' classic line-up: Phil Ehart (drums), Dave Hope (bass), Kerry Livgren (guitar and keyboards), Robby Steinhardt (violin and vocals), Steve Walsh (vocals and keyboard), Richard Williams (guitar). First classic line-up reunion in more than 30 years.

David Wild (Rolling Stone), Garth Brooks, Brian May (Queen), Brendan O'Brien (acclaimed producer) all provide commentary and are featured prominently throughout the film.

News: Charo Santos-Concio is Fleur-de-lis Awardee!

Congratulations to ABS-CBN President and CEO Charo Santos-Concio after being named Outstanding Paulinian Alumna!

ABS-CBN President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Charo Santos-Concio was recently conferred the Fleur-de-lis Award, the highest form of honor given to outstanding graduates of St. Paul University Manila.

According to St. Paul University Manila President Sister Ma. Evangeline Anastacio, Santos-Concio was cited for her outstanding achievements in the field of television and unwavering loyalty to her alma mater.

“Charo is a true inspiration to the Paulinian community because of her exemplary achievement in her field and her commitment to uplift the human spirit through the creation of meaningful dramas and public service programs on television,” said Anastacio about Santos-Concio, who graduated with a degree in communication arts cum laude from St. Paul University Manila in 1976.

Santos-Concio said her love for and fascination with media started even when she was a young girl. And while studying at St. Paul, she worked part-time as a voice talent and a host of a noontime show at a radio station.
"My passion to get into the media industry never died.  I realized that I could actually serve my country through media," said Santos-Concio. "At ABS-CBN, I’m doing what I love to do and have always wanted to do, which is to tell stories that inspire, inform, and empower people. And this award means so much to me because more than anything, it is an affirmation that I have had success by simply doing what I love.”

Prior to her Fleur-de-lis Award, Santos-Concio bagged three international honors in 2014 for her outstanding leadership and accomplishments as the president and CEO of the country's largest multimedia conglomerate.

Santos Concio won the Gold Stevie Award in the Female Executive of the Year in Asia, Australia, or New Zealand category at the prestigious Stevie Awards for Women in Business; the Gold Stevie Award for the Woman of the Year category for all Asia-Pacific nations (except Australia and South Korea) at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Stevie Awards; and was named Asian Media Woman of the Year by ContentAsia, a premier information resource that covers the entertainment media industry across Asia-Pacific region.
Santos-Concio, who completed an Advanced Management Program at the Harvard University, was appointed CEO in January 2013. Prior to this, she was ABS-CBN’s president and chief operating officer since 2008. She was previously the head of Channel 2 Mega Manila Management.

Onscreen, Santos-Concio hosts ABS-CBN Channel 2’s longest-running drama anthology "Maalaala Mo Kaya." She began her career in the company as a television production consultant in 1987 after working as a line producer for BanCom, Audiovision, Vanguard Films, Regal Films, and Vision Exponents. She also worked as a film production manager for the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines.

Sundance 2015: The Orchard takes North American rights to Joe Swanberg's hit "Digging for Fire"

The Orchard announced yesterday that the company is acquiring North American rights to Joe Swanberg's DIGGING FOR FIRE. The film is co-written by Jake Johnson and Swanberg and it stars Jake Johnson, Rosemarie DeWitt, Orlando Bloom, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Anna Kendrick and Mike Birbiglia. DIGGING FOR FIRE was produced by Swanberg, Alicia Van Couvering and Jake Johnson. The film had its world premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

The film follows the discovery of a bone and a gun which sends a husband and wife - each full of doubts about their future and anxiety about the present - on separate adventures over the course of a weekend.  At the premiere's Q&A, Swanberg explained that the movie was about the realization that a marriage should be "two individuals agreeing to be in a relationship, rather than two people melting into one thing."    The picture was filmed in LA on 35mm film, with a sprawling ensemble cast that also includes Sam Elliot, Judith Light, Ron Livingston, Melanie Lynskey,  Jenny Slate, Tim Simons, and Jane Adams.

"After admiring Joe's films for a long time, it's a dream for us to have the opportunity to work with him," said The Orchard's SVP of Film & TV, Paul Davidson.  "We think audiences will flock to DIGGING FOR FIRE for its engaging and comedic look at adult relationships and we're excited to work with Joe, Jake and Alicia to make that a reality."   Said Swanberg, "I came to Sundance to find the company that loved my film the most, and would do the smartest and most aggressive job releasing it.  I have found that company in The Orchard and can't wait to start this new relationship."

This is Swanberg's second collaboration with Jake Johnson, following DRINKING BUDDIES, and his second film in two years at Sundance, following HAPPY CHRISTMAS. "I wanted to work on DIGGING FOR FIRE to get another opportunity to work with Joe Swanberg," said Jake Johnson. "He is a true collaborator. His movies are essentially written by the ensemble and he wants everyone at their best. As a director, he is a true artist, and I love having the chance to work with him."

The deal was negotiated by The Orchard Director of Acquisitions Danielle DiGiacomo and the filmmakers directly, with Andr é  Des Rochers of Gray Krauss Stratford Sander Des Rochers, LLP.

The Orchard also picked up North American rights to Patrick Brice's THE OVERNIGHT at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

SBIFF 2015: Darko Lungulov's "Monument to Michael Jackson" set to premiere this weekend!

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2015
Saturday, January 31, 2015, 7:20PM

In a dying town in Serbia, an old communist-era monument is removed from the Square. Marko, daydreamer, is on the verge of divorce from the love of his life, Ljubinka. She is disappointed in him and the life in Serbian small-town. Out of despair, he comes up with the idea to replace the communist-era statue with a monument to Michael Jackson in order to save his dying town and seduce his wife again. Marko convinces his close friends to help him. But the town’s mayor has his own plans and uses right-wing group “Clean Serbia” to crash Marko’s dream.

Desperate, Marko falsifies Michael Jackson’s letter and convinces the mayor and everybody else that Jackson will come to the monument’s unveiling. The town is now revitalized and its citizens full of hope while Marko regains the love of his wife. But on the big day, the death of real Michael Jackson’s is announced without him knowing it. The group “Clean Serbia” creates the chaos. The insane turn of events unexpectedly leads to the fulfillment of Marko’s plan, but in an absurd and darkly ironic fashion.

"Monument to Michael Jackson" had its world premiere at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in Czech Republic in 2014. It was Grand Prix winner for Best Film at the Montenegro Film Festival and has been screened at the following film festivals all over the world:

Pula Film Festival, Croatia
Film Festival Helsinki, Finland

Raindance Film Festival, UK
Filmfest Hamburg, Germany

LET'S CEE Film Festival, Vienna, Austria
Antalya Int. Film Festival, Turkey

Eastern Neighbours Film Festival, The Hague, Netherlands
Minsk International Film Festival, Belarus
Arras Film Festival, France

Black Nights Film Festival, Tallinn, Estonia

Goa International Film Festival, India

Bangalore International Film Festival, India

Chennai IFF, India

Pune International Film Festival, India

Trieste Film Festival, Italy
Göteborg International Film Festival, Sweden

About Darko Lungulov
His previous film, HERE & THERE, (67% rating on RT) won Tribeca's Best N.Y. Narrative Award in '09. It starred David Thornton, whose wife Cindy Lauper composed an original song, and also had a cameo in the movie.

You can watch the trailer below.


Opening Soon: "Ana Maria in Novela Land"

Opening in theaters February 27th! 

In "Ana Maria in Novela Land", twenty-something Ana Maria is so bored with her life she keeps sabotaging it without thinking. After she gets firedfrom her job, bails on her best friend, and blows off her sister’s bridal fitting, Ana Maria gets into a fight with her mom about her lack of purpose. At the end of this epically bad day, Ana Maria seeks solace by watching her favorite TV show, the Mexican telenovela Pasión Sin Limites (Passion Without Limits) which features a scheming seductress, Ariana Tomosa. In the novela, Ariana is also having a bad episode, having just been blackmailed by the evil lawyer Schmidt after being caught in a love triangle between the wealthy Eduardo and his sexy son Armando. When both Ana Maria and Ariana simultaneously complain about their crummy lives, lightning strikes and the two women switch places. As a terrified Ariana slaps her way through the real world, a liberated Ana Maria sleeps her way into big trouble. With the show hurtling towards its gripping finale, Ana Maria must figure out how she ended up in Novela Land before she is trapped inside her melodramatic fantasy forever.

Distributor: Fluency Studios
Director: Georgina Garcia Riedel
Writer: Georgina Garcia Riedel and Jose Nestor Marquez
Starring: Edy Ganem, Michael Steger, Luis Guzmán and Elizabeth Peña

Watch the trailer below.

In Photos: Cute "English Only, Please" Adverts!

"English Only, Please" opens February 20, 2015 in US and Canada theaters!

Saw this cute series of mini-adverts used in promoting the romantic-comedy "English Only, Please" during the Metro Manila Film Festival and after. These cute cardboard style infographics helped the movie achieve an unprecedented success bringing in almost Php200 million in box office gross on top of winning 7 awards!

Check back later for complete theater and city listings.


News: Two Filipino Box-Office Hits to Open in US and Canada!

"English Only, Please" opens February 20, 2015!

"English Only, Please" is a Filipino romantic-comedy film directed by Dan Villegas and starring Jennylyn Mercado and Derek Ramsay. Produced by Heaven's Best Entertainment and Quantum Films, it was an official entry to the 40th Metro Manila Film Festival and won 7 awards including Best Picture (2nd), Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director. The movie also grossed nearly Php200 million to date - making it the most successful Filipino movie in recent memory.

The movie tells the charming story of an American named Julian Parker who comes to Manila from New York with a very specific agenda: to write an angry letter in Tagalog to his ex-girlfriend with the help of a perky Filipino-English tutor he hired online. The tutor, Tere Madlansacay, a top-notch Filipino-English tutor is strict and feisty and takes pride in what she does even if her lovelife is in shambles as well. Their meeting would be the beginning of something new to both of them.

"The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin" opens January 30, 2015!

"The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin", the top-grossing Filipino film of all time (grossing Php435 million as of January 14, 2015) will open in over 40 theatres in U.S. and in Canada starting January 30.

A sequel to the 2011 hit, "The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin", this action-comedy returns with the dynamic actor-director duo of Wenn Deramas and Vice Ganda. In this installment, Praybeyt Benjamin is promoted to colonel and has become an international superstar after defeating terrorists and saving the world from a zombie attack.Once simple and humble, he allows success to get into his head and after making a fatal mistake in one mission by disobeying his new commanding officer, Benjamin is subjected to disciplinary action: A new mission to gain the confidence of the General's brat kid and extract from the General's estranged child information on the secret locations of three active terrorist bombs planted in the country.

Joining Vice Ganda in the cast are Richard Yap, James "Bimby" Aquino-Yap, Alex Gonzaga, Tom Rodriguez, Eddie Garcia, Al Tantay, Vandolph Quizon, Nikki Valdez, Kean Cipriano, Anja Aguilar, DJ Durano, Ricky Rivero, Dennis Padilla, Malou de Guzman, Abby Bautista, Rhed Bustamante and delightful surprise appearances by famous celebrities.

Note: Both movies will be shown with English subtitles. 

See you at the movies!

Raymond Lo

SBIFF 2015: Star-studded Galas, Tributes, Premieres! January 27 - February 7!

Jennifer Aniston, Michael Keaton, Kevin Costner, Eddie Redmayne, Patricia Arquette, Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, Steve Carell, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, J.K. Simmons to grace 30th Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

My interview with Gina Rodriguez

My interview with Gina Rodriguez, the star of the hit television series "Jane the Virgin" came out in The Philippine Star over the weekend. Link to the online story is HERE.

Interview with a virgin
by Raymond Lo

There are two breakout stars in 2015. One is a virgin and the other is a real person.

This writer is referring to the hit comedy-drama Jane the Virgin, which resumes airing on Sony Channel tonight at 8:50 after a brief winter break, and to actress Gina Rodriguez, who is portraying her in the highly-acclaimed new series that premiered earlier this season.

The show was recently named by the American Film Institute (AFI) as one of the AFI Television Programs of the Year.  The People’s Choice Awards also named it the Favorite New TV Comedy of the Year. It also won for Gina a Golden Globe for Best TV Comedy Actress.

The series resumes with episode 10 coinciding with the US. For those who’d want to catch up with the story, here’s a brief backgrounder. It is set in Miami and tells the story of Jane Villanueva, a virginal, would-be bride who discovers one morning that she has been artificially inseminated by mistake — and her religious and Latina roots would not permit her to eliminate the pregnancy. Her story takes a more melodramatic turn when it is revealed that the sperm that was used to inseminate her belongs to a guy that she had a teenage crush on and who happens to be her new boss and who also is unfortunately married to a socialite who may have ulterior motives in the marriage and may have evil designs against poor Jane.

Jane the Virgin is loosely based on a Venezuelan telenovela titled Juana la Virgen. It was adapted and developed by seasoned producer Jennie Snyder Urman. Joining Gina in the cast are Andrea Navedo, Yael Groblas, Justin Baldoni, Ivonne Coll, Brett Dier and Jaime Camill.

The cast met with international journalist in a series of press conferences in mid-November last year. Gina and Jennie were paired together. We asked them the origin of the series, their thoughts on the breakout success of the show and I think I even made Gina cry for a bit when I asked her if she has reflected on the show’s success and what impact, if ever, has it had to her personal life.

“Wow,” she responded immediately to my question but would later pause occasionally to wipe her tears. “So, a few years ago, I did a film that went to Sundance and I was younger obviously and I thought it was an awesome success. And it was a great journey and it was like, kind of, the beginnings of what this was or this has been. And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, Sundance! I’m going to be Jennifer Lawrence. Yeah! I’m going to be a superhero tomorrow.’ And that didn’t happen and life didn’t look like the way I thought and you know my favorite saying is to tell God your plan. You know, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

Gina, 29, is one of the sweetest and most grounded stars one would ever meet. I first met her when I was introduced to her after a screening of a movie during the Los Angeles Film Festival two years ago. In January 2012, she had a film at Sundance that received quite a good buzz. Filly Brown was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize and Gina received numerous awards for her performance in the film. But it wasn’t the breakout role she expected it to be. She had to return to doing auditions, failed TV pilots and all that until Jane the Virgin came — and another opportunity came knocking again.

“That is my favorite saying because you know in this industry you can get caught up as an actress,” she added. “I think when you’ve had a beautiful blessing like this, your life changes very quickly. I really thank God for that last experience helped me realize the kind of woman I wanted to be while being an actor or while being in this industry.”

Her initial experience has made her realize that in show business success can come and go as it pleases. She related that when she started working on her character she made sure that she would never allow herself to drown in the promise of having a successful show. “The posters will come down,” she remarked. “Jane, I love her and I want to be with her for life but she will end. And I think the best way to prepare for the future is to love and embrace the present. And so every day, I wake up thanking God for Jennie and Jane and my cast and being able to do what I love — there is not a day that goes by that I don’t. And so all of it is surreal and it’s that moment of like you’ve prayed about this since you were a kid, so really enjoy it, yeah. The best way to celebrate a miracle is to fall in love with it — and I’m in love with Jane, so thank you.”

But it was not all drama at the presscon. Like Jane the Virgin, where humor is key to navigating the hysterical melodrama that Jane’s life has become, our conversation with Gina and Jane has their share of lighter moments, too.

Gina was asked on what’s it like to become the most famous virgin on TV and just what sort of reactions she got. Did her boyfriend find it weird?

“Luckily, my boyfriend has a pregnancy fetish so I’m winning there,” was her quick reply. “So that’s really interesting I probably just put him on blast. My boyfriend is also very, very supportive and he’s an actor as well so he finds it endearing and he thinks it’s hysterical and sometimes, we get free bagels so he’s happy — it’s not a lie, we got free bagels the other day and we were very excited about it!”

She added, “I think I’m the only virgin on television right now. It is awesome, it is awesome to be able to play a character that I would want my daughter to look up to, you know.”

Is the show trying to set an example on how young women should treat their sexuality?

“I don’t think that there’s one right way or another, you know. I think taking care of yourself and being you know, protecting yourself and having right decisions is a good thing. So, I’m not saying like everybody should be a virgin until they get married. But I think Jane is really awesome to look up to. She’s strong, she’s confident, she’s not afraid to say no, she sticks up for her decisions in life.”

She does not consider her character a saint either “but she is somebody that I think is a great role model. And with images that we have nowadays, it’s nice to brighten it up once in a while and I think that Jane is somebody I would definitely hang out with and kind of wish I was a little bit more like.”

And as an actress who is already a household name not just in the US but also in other countries, including the Philippines, Gina cannot be grateful enough for the blessings that she’s received courtesy of Jane.

“I just love Jane. I love playing Jane. I hope I get to play her for… I thank God we got 22 episodes. I’m going to play the s--t out of those 22 episodes. So, like I’m going to give it my all in those 22 episodes. But yeah it’s awesome, I love being a virgin again.”

Two months after our interview, Jane the Virgin was renewed for another season. Gina will get to enjoy being a virgin far longer than she thought.

Raymond Lo

SFFLA 2015: Finnish film "Heart of a Lion (Leijonasydän)" Moves Audience!

On Sunday last week, this writer attended the screening of the gripping 2013 Finnish drama "Heart of a Lion" from director Dome Karukoski. The movie is about a Neo-Nazi man named Teppo who one day falls in love with woman who happens to have a biracial son from a previous relationship. This development would force him to examine his racist nature and would test his relationship with his half-brother Harri, who happens to be a hard-core Neo-Nazi.

The film offers a timely message on tolerance and acceptance at a time when Europe is under threat from the extremists of both ends. It does not romanticize the subject matter and it offers no clear-cut solution to the problem either. What it does is present the growing threat in small cities across Europe and allows the audience to act according to what side they are on the issue. Don't get me wrong, the movie is strongly against racism and intolerance but it does not totally demonize those who are in the wrong side but are willing to make a change for the better.

The screening was attended by director Dome Karukosi, actor Jasper Pääkkönen, who plays the half-brother Harri, and screenwriter Aleksi Bardy. The audience was so moved by the film that the post-screening Q&A lasted over 40 minutes and the photo-ops took so long that the screening for the next film had to be delayed for a couple of minutes to give some people time to have their pictures taken with the filmmakers.

Below are pictures from the screening. Of course, i had to be in some of them!

SFFLA Festival Director James Koenig (2nd from Right)
with (L-R, screenwriter Aleksi Bardy,
actor Jasper Paakkonen and director Dome Karukosi
Raymond Lo (center) with Jasper Paakkonen and Dome Karukosi
Raymond Lo

Sundance 2015: Oscar® Winner Julia Roberts to do a Feature Remake of Slamdance Doc Sensation "Batkid Begins..."

Friday, January 23, 2015 – Park City, UT - As the excitement revs up in Park City, Submarine announced today that Julia Roberts is attached to the remake rights to the new documentary BATKID BEGINS: THE WISH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – A DANA NACHMAN FILM on the eve of its world premiere at Slamdance Film Festival.

Roberts, who will produce with partners Lisa Gillan and Marisa Yeres Gill through their Red Om Films banner, is attached to star in the feature remake of the real life story about how a Make-A-Wish event for Miles – a 5 year old boy diagnosed with leukemia - wanting to be Batman for a day turned into not only a citywide spectacle with over 25,000 San Francisco residents coming out to participate, but a worldwide phenomenon on social media with nearly 2 billion participants thanks to Mashable, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and others.

The documentary’s director, Dana Nachman, will serve as Executive Producer along with Josh and Dan Braun of Submarine under Submarine’s new remake label Sub/Version that is launching at Sundance.  BATKID BEGINS: THE WISH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – A DANA NACHMAN FILM is Sub/Version’s first project.

"It's thrilling to me that Ms. Roberts and her team watched our film and were so moved by it that they want to dedicate their time and creative capital to make sure the widest audience possible will know and love Miles’ story and the spirit of this intimate special event that went global, as much as we do," says filmmaker Nachman.

CAA, which brought the project to Roberts, brokered the deal with Sub/Version and will represent the package.

BATKID BEGINS:  THE WISH HEARD AROUND THE WORLD – A DANA NACHMAN FILM will have its world premiere this Saturday, January 24 at noon in Park City at Slamdance Film Festival 2015, and all distribution rights for the documentary are currently available worldwide.  For more info: www.batkidbegins.com

Sundance 2015: "The Bronze", "The Witch", "A Walk in the Woods", "Wild Tales" are early audience favorites!

The 2015 Sundance Film Festival kicked off yesterday and based on the tweets that I have seen, the early sensations are "The Bronze" from director Bryan Buckley and screenwriters Melissa Rauch and Winston Rauch. Some tweets are calling it the best comedy in years while others are loving the sexual gymnastics that Melissa Rauch's and Sebastian Stan's characters performed in the film. Although one tweet cautioned, "The Bronze may re-launch Sebastian Stan as both a comedic actor and an old-school male sex symbol." She ended the tweet with "GOD SAVE US ALL"... Now am very curious with this film!

Other early favorite is the thriller "The Witch." One rave describes it as "One stylish gripping littler chiller." Another tweets reads, "My gods The Witch is terrifying." A tweet from Total Film calls it "effing terrifying."

The Robert Redford and Nick Nolte starrer "A Walk in the Clouds" has been been praised for the pairs "hearty chemistry." Another tweet mentioned Nolte's performance as "convincingly playing a man who looks and sounds like he could die at any second."

The one film that's generating a lot of buzz - and does not surprise me at all - is "Wild Tales", which is making its Park City stop on the way to the Oscars? I hope! I wish! I just so love this film and it's been having a great and sensational run since Cannes last year. One fan tweeted, "Yes. "Wild Tales" was gold. So funny and perfect." Another tweeted, "It's a great start to @sundancefest after seeing Wild Tales".

Here is a sampling of the tweets after two days of Sundance.

Raymond Lo