The official Web site of the Cinebanter movie podcast.

Friday, May 30, 2014

SIFF Sighting: ONE CHANCE (Biography; United Kingdom)

Everyone has a dream, but not everyone pursues it.

Paul Potts (James Corden) works in a cellphone shop after nearly giving up on a singing career and takes a chance on auditioning for Britain's Got Talent.

The rest is history, and his journey getting there is played out beautifully in this crowd-pleaser that will leave you believing that nice guys can indeed finish first.

ONE CHANCE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

SIFF Sighting: DAMNATION (Documentary; USA)

Beginning in the 1930s, America began a love affair with the construction of dams. They brought power (one of America's favorite things), jobs and recreational opportunities, so they were generally hailed as positive developments.

But not by everyone...

Native American tribes that lived on land impacted by dam construction mourned the loss of nature's rhythms and those who fished those waters were devastated by the near-extinction of salmon that the dams caused.

Environmentalists, such as those who were part of the Earth First! movement, began taking action by way of elaborate stunts such as painting cracks down the dams. Decades later some of the dams are coming down, but not all of them.

This film definitely "takes sides" with the environmentalists, pointing out how wind power is wasted, wild salmon runs are in danger, and many of the existing dams aren't providing much for what the taxpayers are shelling out each year to keep them running.

It's hard not to get angry when you see that—yet again—Alaska residents are willing to risk their wildlife for presumed profit.

That said, I would have liked to see a little more balance and exploration of the (agreeably few) dams that have prevented floods, provided a sustainable method of power and helped the economy by employing citizens with long-term jobs.

It's a conversation worth having.

DAMNATION screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.


Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

SIFF Sighting: IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE (Drama; Norway)

Jenny (Silje Salomonsen) is pregnant with her daughter Merete (Iben Osten Hjelle) when she's caught in the middle of a robbery.

Forced to defend herself, she begins shooting and hits two people. Sentenced ten years for murder, her family raises Merete until she is freed.

Once she's out of prison, Jenny, like so many, has trouble acclimating back to normal life. Though all she desires is to make a solid home for her daughter, she can't help but get caught up in the lifestyle of drugs and criminal activity that she was once a part of, which puts both of them in dangerous situations.

There's nothing much that's new here, but the story does serve as a reminder of how vital it is to isolate those caught up in such a lifestyle from their former demons.

Though I tired of the melancholy music playing over scenes of longing, I did quite like the main character and her sweet, endearing daughter. I rooted for them, even though some of the dramatic conventions were a bit overdone.

IT'S ALL MAKE BELIEVE will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on June 5 and 6. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tassoula Got Schooled

This is a special announcement for Cinebanter fans: the audiobook that Tassoula narrated, Schooled by Christa Charter, is now available via Amazon and!

Click here for purchase link, and if you like it, please leave a positive rating on the purchase site.

Happy listening!


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 24, 2014

SIFF Sighting: A BRONY TALE (Documentary; USA)

When Ashleigh Ball got the job voicing a few of the characters in the television show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, she had no idea she'd become a cult heroine in the world of fandom.

The show, based on toys that were popular for young girls in the 80s, has oddly attracted a following of straight, adult males. Yes, males.

They have dubbed themselves "Bronies" and created an entire community centered around celebrating the program.

In this film, the crew travels to meet Bronies from all over the country as Ashleigh prepares for her first BronyCon in New York. We see the very definition of "masculine" in a Brony who builds motorcycles; the tender side of an Iraq veteran as he renews his love for art by drawing tributes to the show; an African-American DJ that specializes in Brony parties and a group of students from Northwestern who hold their own Brony meetups.

Though it may seem an odd thing to obsess over, nearly every Brony mentions that positivity is what draws them to the show and the community. These folks don't appear creepy or crazy; they're passionate and sincere. Above all, they're sweet.

Following Ashleigh's acclimation to the community throughout the film gives us a unique perspective of someone who is warming to the group's virtual embrace.

To paraphrase what director Brent Hodge said in the Q &A, it's nice to see a documentary that leaves you feeling good instead of bad.

He certainly achieved that with this fun, lighthearted look at one of our most unique subcultures.

A BRONY TALE screened at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Matt Smith was a Catholic kid growing up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. It was the Mid-60s and the world was changing around him, but his antics with neighborhood pals transformed into timeless memories.

He turned these experiences into a Wonder Years-like stage monologue, which was then re-purposed for this film, which feels like a documentary, though the disclaimer states the situations and people are composites.

Smith is naturally entertaining with a fantastic gift for comedic delivery and timing, and his stories are hilarious, but I would have preferred a little more dimension than just straight, talk-to-the-camera vignettes. The moments where he dresses up or returns to the "scene of the crime" to re-enact are the strongest and tease us for what could have been had they employed actors to re-live the stories.

There's also an awful lot of spit in this movie, and I'll admit, that sort of lost me.

All in all, those who have ties to this iconic Seattle neighborhood, or grew up as a Catholic boy will probably find the film very accessible and relatable. Others will chuckle and get grossed-out.

MY LAST YEAR WITH THE NUNS will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on May 26. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 18, 2014

SIFF Sighting: STILL LIFE (Drama; United Kingdom)

John May (Eddie Marsan) lives a solitary life, quietly going about his business as a government worker tasked with finding the loved ones of the recently deceased.

He takes great care to honor each of the dead: He plans funerals (though sometimes he's the only one in attendance); saves cremains longer than rules dictate just in case a friend or family member turns up; and keeps a book of photographs to memorialize those he has helped (though they'll never know).

John is a pleasant man, but doesn't appear to have any friends—and that may be why his compassion runs so deep for the loners he's helping.

When his new boss tells him that his work is too "slow," and they're downsizing him to provide a more efficient service, he just has one more case to solve before he departs.

His research leads him to meet Kelly Stoke (Joanne Froggatt), a next-of-kin who appreciates his kindness during a time of great shock and sadness. Their journey is a story in itself, twisting and turning with unexpected developments.

Eddie Marsan gives an Oscar-worthy performance as the heroic May, representing the ultimate professional in a career that not many would want. Downton Abbey's Froggatt is a welcome surprise late in the film, and their chemistry is delightful.

From the simplicity of the scenes to the hollow sets, the vibe of the film is masterfully executed by director Uberto Pasolini. The quiet pauses allow the audience time to digest the weight of confronting death while still keeping everyone engrossed in the story.

This one is not to be missed, folks.

STILL LIFE will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival (fittingly) on Memorial Day, May 26. For tickets, go here.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 16, 2014


Jack (Clive Owen) is a film cliché. He's an angry English teacher with a drinking problem and a troubled relationship with his son.

Dina (Juliette Binoche) is an artistic spitfire on a mission to ignite her students since her physical limitations prevent her from being what she used to be.

One would assume they're destined to be together, and one would probably be right.

The thing that saves this formulaic story from being too sugar-sweet predictable is the incredible appeal of the two lead actors. Owen, despite the drunkenness, has never been more charming (though I missed his British accent); Binoche is both delicate and demonic in equal measure. You simply can't help but root for them.

As a writer (and full disclosure: former English major), I appreciated the defense of words; as a sucker for teacher heroes, I relished in the inspirational classroom energy.

Go see this one to enjoy it and find forgiveness in your heart for its faults.

WORDS AND PICTURES will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on May 17. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 15, 2014

SIFF Sighting: BLIND DATES (Comedy; Georgia)

A coach and a teacher (both male) are still single at 40, so they decide to take a risk, agreeing to blind dates with women who traveled from out of town to meet them.

Needless to say, the encounter is awkward.

The whole tone of the film is somewhat awkward in fact, but acts as a perfect metaphor for the navigation of love and romance "later" in life. In fact, the blind dates at the beginning merely set the stage for a series of unconventional events that are both sad and sweet, despite their irony.

Many of the scenes are dark; most are quiet, but they're sprinkled with enough surprises and twists to keep the audience intrigued as feelings develop and relationships blossom where you least expect them.

BLIND DATES will screen at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival on June 4 and June 8. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

The Egyptian is Back, Thanks to SIFF

Creepy pic near my favorite seat at the Egyptian
Can we get a hallelujah?

It was just announced at the kickoff to the 40th Seattle International Film Festival that SIFF has signed a lease to keep the Egyptian Theatre in rotation as an event venue for film year-round. For those who have missed the destination on Capitol Hill since it's abrupt closure, this is welcome news.

In addition, the group has also purchased the Uptown (now known as SIFF Cinema Uptown), making it an all-around great night for the Seattle film community.


Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SIFF Sighting: FAMILY UNITED (Spain; Comedy)

When childhood sweethearts schedule their wedding during the 2010 World Cup Final, drama is bound to ensue.

The father of the groom falls ill; the friend-who-still-has-feelings-for-the-groom waits in the wings and a whole host of the groom's brothers descend on the "wedding ranch" to cause a healthy mix of havoc. Plus, everyone who is anyone just wants to watch the game.

Really, it's a lot of fun.

The film is shot in gorgeous pale hues and the cast is infinitely likeable. Despite silly traditional wedding-film plot devices (predictable affairs, lost rings, etc.), the story works; at times equally parts charming and tragic.

This is one nuptial event that viewers should look forward to attending.

FAMILY UNITED will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 30, June 2 and June 3. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

SIFF Sighting: 1,000 TIMES GOOD NIGHT (Drama; Norway)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that's definitely the case for war photographer Rebecca (Juliette Binoche), who has trouble tearing herself away from conflict to life a 'normal' life with her family.

This powerful, poignant drama, reminiscent of THE HURT LOCKER in the sense that the protagonist can't acclimate back to real life, examines not only the ramifications for those in the thick of the action, but also those left behind.

1,000 TIMES GOOD NIGHT will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 23 and 25. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 12, 2014


When we think of psychedelic drugs, most of our minds go directly to the acid-tripping 60s. Timothy Leary, The Beatles, the beat poets—the gang's all there in our instant perceptions of what drugs like LSD can do to the human body.

The doctors and scientists in this film want us to believe otherwise. They're on a mission to re-open the discussion around the potential medical benefits of such drugs.

Though "bad trips" can certainly be a consequence of abusing such substances, they argue that in a controlled environment with an appropriate dosage, great things can come of using them safely. They cite evidence from the jungles of the Amazon and other faraway places where the drugs are used to help alleviate human suffering.

Despite the powerful commentary, and the welcome archive footage, the interview presentation is somewhat cheesy, with psychedelic "effects" framing and interfering with the talking heads.

It would have been easier to take seriously without the theatrics.

FROM NEURONS TO NIRVANA: THE GREAT MEDICINES will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 24 and 25. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Modern-day Greece is struggling.

Amidst a game-changing financial crises, young citizens who are trying to make a life in larger cities are being forced to return home. This is the case for our main character, Antigone (Marina Symeou), who comes back to her depressed, coastal town to start over.

The pace is frustratingly slow as the film begins and we are introduced to the locals. What we soon learn is that this small community mirrors that of the American Wild West—violence and corruption dominate and everyone enduring it is either too tired or too scared to confront it.

Amidst abusive situations our heroine refuses to suppress her rage and accept that things will never change.

Having grown up in a male-dominated, Greek home, I both recognized the unbalanced strength and chauvinism of the men, and silently cheered as the strong women held their own.

It's not an uplifting look at what becomes of a society in ruin, but an honest one.

STANDING ASIDE, WATCHING will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 23 and 25. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

SIFF Sighting: BURT'S BUZZ (Documentary; Canada)

"It's important to separate one's wants from one's needs."

Those are the words the iconic co-founder of Burt's Bees, and he faithfully lives by them.

This film shows a man of contradiction: Burt is a hoarder who embraces simplicity; a gun enthusiast that hates war. He started his company by selling honey on the side of the highway; now he's merely the figurehead for the giant brand its become. And that's okay with him.

BURT'S BUZZ will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 26 and 27. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

SIFF Sighting: MIRAGE MEN (Documentary; United Kingdom)

In the late 1940s, residents in the U.S. began reporting sightings of flying saucers—what would a few years later be referred to as Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). Some were frightened by them; others fascinated.

A few decades later when World War II Veteran Paul Bennewitz began talking up the things he was seeing from his home in New Mexico, the NSA cruelly began messing with his mind. They sent him "encrypted" messages supposedly from aliens; planted "evidence" of spaceship crashes on land nearby his house and flat out told him that aircrafts which belonged to the military were really vehicles from other planets. Their games drove him crazy, making him such a laughing stock amongst his peers that no one would believe a word he said.

This was all justified because of a "counterintelligence" campaign meant to preserve secret technology that was in development nearby at the USAF base. And of course, the believers think it was an elaborate cover-up of actual alien evidence, but this documentary has several folks from all sides of the fence going on record to share their truths.

Though the presentation is engaging (archive footage spliced in with talking head interviews), the reality that one of our veterans (and who knows who else) was used as a sacrificial lamb in our government's counterintelligence ruse is hard to digest.

MIRAGE MEN will be shown at the 40th Seattle International Film Festival May 20 and 21. For tickets, go here.


Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2014

SIFF is Almost Here

The 40th Seattle International Film Festival begins two weeks from tonight.

Here's a sneak peek of some of the presentations I'm most excited about:

Niall Heery's Gold, playing May 20

And of course, I have a whole host of documentaries I'm thrilled to get the opportunity to see, so stay tuned for my most-anticipated list from that genre.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Powered by Blogger

Follow Michael on Twitter

Follow Tassoula on Twitter

Follow Cinebanter on Twitter

Podcast directory Feeds

Save This Page to