REWIND

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

Filmmaking and videography has become a family tradition in Sasha Joseph Neulinger's family for a few decades now. It began with Sasha's father Henry who has a career as a film producer/videographer. At home, Henry definitely bought into home video movement when he purchased his first personal camcorder and VCR. Through the years both Henry and Sasha fell in love with the idea of recording family events and making fun videos.

Sadly, though, making movies and videos was not the only tradition occurring in Sasha's family, and these traumatic experiences have left him forever changed. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel, however, as proven by the details shared by Sasha and the loving members of his immediate family in the documentary Rewind. Director Sasha Joseph Neulinger courageously shares his sad and horrific story by interviewing his parents, sisters, law enforcement, therapist and legal representation. These are the people who helped get Sasha through a grueling and disturbing childhood nearly destroyed by sexual abuse by multiple members of his extended family. Sasha also retraces his painful steps forward by revisting old home videos, the very personal video diaries he made, as well as therapy journals and artwork he made as a child.

This powerful and emotional documentary is a must see for parents or any adults considering parenthood. It serves as painful cautionary reminder that abuse more often than not begins in the home and gets committed by family. Rewind will be available on VOD starting May 7, 2020 and will also air on Independent Lens on PBS on May 11, 2020.

SXSW 2020 Review: I’M GONNA MAKE YOU LOVE ME

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Brian Belovitch has lived a rather fascinating life. Through his childhood, he endured physical and verbal abuse by his father, in addition to feeling uncomfortable in his own skin, and feeling completely unloved and out of place. Brian would later spend his young, adult years in New York City as a man transitioning to a woman. Two marriagesp, and several decades later, Brian has now been living as a man again, happily married to a loving and supportive husband. Director Karen Bernstein and Brian Belovitch himself tell his remarkable true story of a person struggling to define his own identity on his/her own terms and finding the courage and strength to explore gender fluidity to ultimately culminate in an amazing life.

Karen Bernstein has made an absorbing and moving documentary with I'm Gonna Make You Love Me. Brian Belovitch as well deserves high praise for courageously inviting audiences to experience his incredible life with all of its ups and downs, and candidly describing how his mind and heart took him on this amazing journey. Brian obviously is an intriguing individual, Karen Bernstein's skills as a director helps present Brian's story in some beautiful and enlightening ways. It is an uplifting film that I must highly recommend.

SXSW 2020 Review: GUNPOWDER HEART

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

From Guatemala comes this tremendously powerful film from writer/director Camila Urrutia who makes her feature film debut here. Urrutia tells the story of two girlfriends enjoying life and love in an impoverished country with few opportunities for prosperity. On one life-changing night, Claudia (Andrea Henry) and Maria (Vanessa Hernandez) get attacked and raped by a group of boys close to their age. Traumatized and hurting from this ugly violation, both ladies struggle with their new feelings and attempt to cope in very different ways. Maria feels much anger and wants revenge, but the more sensible Claudia is not sure a violent respomse is worth the further consequences.

I must say that I found Camila Urrutia's film.debut engrossing, heartbreaking and utterly tragic. Urrutia's film makes a bold and angry statement about the ways women can get treated in Guatemala and how violence often leads to more violence. It is an insightful and compelling film that realistically shows the psychological damage caused by rape and how these cases often get ignored. Both Andrea Henry and Vanessa Hernandez give riveting performances. Though it isn't feel great material, the film is essential in that it calls for better treatment of women in Latin American nations.

SELAH AND THE SPADES

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Available on April 17, 2020 for streaming through Amazon is an intriguing high school drama that features an assortment of new, young acting talent and marks the feature film debut of gifted filmmaker Tayarisha Poe. Selah and the Spades doesn't necessarily reinvent the high school drama, but gives audiences a fresher take on the genre and wonderfully features people of color in the lead roles. Poe's talents for filmmaking and storytelling are clearly evident, but I feel that audiences have yet to see the writer/director at her full potential. Nevertheless Selah and the Spades should serve as the key she needs to truly unlock that potential.

The movie takes place at a fictional Pennsylvania boarding school that is divided into various factions that serve a variety of the students' needs. Senior Selah Summers (Lovie Simone) has served as the leader of The Spades, a faction dedicated to selling the student body various drugs and alcoholic beverages. As Selah fearfully dreads her future collegiate life at a university she does not really want to attend, she must maintain a strong and confident facade to both her own faction and the other factions wanting a taste of her power. She must also find an appropriate successor worthy of the streses and responsibilities.

Enter underclassman Paloma Davis (Celeste O'Connor), a transfer student whom Selah nearly instantly takes under her wing. As Selah grooms and trains Paloma as the newest member of The Spades, she must also deal with the possibility that there is a traitor in her faction that could totally dismantle everything she worked so hard to earn. As Paloma gets to know Selah better, she also comes to the realization that her seemingly fearless leader might be a victim of her own power-hunger. Paloma begins to realize her own potential as the new leader of The Spades, but the current leader may not be so willing to relinquish her power when the time actually arrives.

Overall, I am quite impressed with Tayarisha Poe's debut in that she presents an intriguing story with compelling characters. I also was quite taken with her development of the Selah character. She takes a Heathers-like archetype and presents her as a real well-rounded person. Not only does the audience get to see the seemingly ruthless and over-confident faction leader, they also witness a vulnerable teenager that fears a big change in her life and an uncertain future. Of course, writing and direction are only a part of the formula. The rest must come from the actor portraying the character and Lovie Simone absolutely nails it beautifully.

The movie also features great performances by Jharrel Jerome, Anna Mulvoy-Ten, Gina Torres, and Jessie Williams. Actor Celeste O'Connor also shines brightly as Selah's new friend and leader-in-training Paloma Davis, a bright-eyed and ambitious newcomer to the boarding school looking to fit in. O'Connor brings much dimensionality to the character and offers a charismatic screen presence that not only wins over the audience, but also the characters in the film. She helps make Paloma a smart, admirable, but more impressionable and vulnerable character who needs to be more wary of Selah's weaknesses and the potential havoc those weaknesses can unleash.

My only complaint about the film concerns the somewhat weak climax and resolution that it delivers. I feel that Poe's examination of power and the drive that people in power have to maintain it needed a stronger and more disturbing finish. Nevertheless, I still admire Tayarisha Poe's work here and definitely see a bright future ahead for her in cinema. It is a film I must highly recommend as a rather stirring piece of modern cinema.

Austin Film Festival 2018: Interview: TEXAS COTTON

Austin Film Festival 2018: Interview: TEXAS COTTON

By Liz Lopez At last year’s Austin Film Festival (AFF) a short film entitled “Texas Cotton” featured actor George Hardy as a law enforcement officer. Hardy is not a full time actor and yet, he was willing and able to be the protagonist when the opportunity for the...

Austin Film Festival 2018: 2nd Film Wave Announcement

Austin Film Festival 2018: 2nd Film Wave Announcement

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL CONFIRMS JASON REITMAN’S THE FRONT RUNNER AS CLOSING NIGHT FILM, ANNOUNCES SECOND WAVE OF FILMS FOR 25TH ANNIVERSARY LINE-UP AFF ALSO HIGHLIGHTS EMERGING FEMALE VOICES COMING THROUGH ITS SHORT FILM COMPETITION Source: AFF Austin Film Festival...

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Austin Screening Pass Giveaway: 21 BRIDGES

Austin Screening Pass Giveaway: 21 BRIDGES

Source: STX Entertainment

TVR is giving away passes (good for two people) to an advance screening of this movie in Austin, TX, scheduled for Wednesday, November 20 at 7:00 p..m.  NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY. Must be 18 or older to enter. See this movie early and free of charge before it opens in theaters!

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SXSW 2020 Review: MY DARLING VIVIAN

SXSW 2020 Review: MY DARLING VIVIAN

By Mark Saldana

Rating 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

For multiple decades, much has been said about the oft romanticized relationship between Johnny Cash and June Carter. James Mangold’s Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line, portrays the love affair as a fairy tale romance. Even I have to admit that I became a sentimental “sucker” for that love story after first watching the movie. There is one major problem, however, and that problem has to do with the way Cash’s ex-wife, and mother of his four daughters, Vivian Liberto is portrayed in the film.

Directed by Matt Middlehoover, My Darling Vivian sets the record straight Vivian Liberto, and offers a thorough and poignant look at her life, her marriage to Johnny Cash (during both good times and bad), and the even lesser-known years after her divorce. The film features intimate interviews with Vivian’s four daughters Rosanne, Tara, Kathy, and Cindy Cash, the ladies who knew their mother the best. Middlehoover’s lovely and occasionally heartbreaking documentary serves as a heartfelt tribute to the wife who deserved better from her husband, the strong, but also vulnerable mother who struggled through stress, loneliness and sorrow to care for her four girls, and the private and humble lady who got her life together following her painful divorce from her husband.

This is a film I must highly recommend for fans of Johnny Cash and especially fans of the movie Walk the Line. That is not to say that My Darling Vivian totally disparages Mangold’s movie, but it does offer.a more accurate and fully realized portrait of Vivian Liberto. The film is currently available for streaming via Amazon and will remain as such until May 7, 2020. To find this documentary or any of the other SXSW 2020 titles available for viewing, somple do a search for the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection.

SXSW 2020 Review: CAT IN THE WALL

SXSW 2020 Review: CAT IN THE WALL

By Mark Saldana

Rating 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Among the few SXSW 2020 narrative features available for streaming now, this European import makes for an interesting, though not thoroughly satisfying, watch. Writers/directors Vezela Kazakova and Mina Milena hope to shed much light upon the Bulgarian immigration experience in London while presenting and critiquing the political and xenophobic climate. Though both filmmakers show proficiency when it comes to the visualization of real life scenarios, the lack of a more focused script takes much away from the overall impact.

Irina Atanasova stars as single mother Irina. She, her brother Vladimir (Angel Genov), and her young child Jojo (Orlin Asenov) have emigrated from Bulgaria to the U.K. seeking more employment opportunities and an overall better life. Though things are better in London, than they are back home, both Irina and Vladimir work very hard and struggle to make ends meet. In addition to their money troubles, the Bulgarian family slowly falls victim to the changes occurring in both their neighborhood and in their new country. And to make things even more stressful, strained relations with some of their neighbors reveal a prevalence of racism.

Though I found some moments of the film compelling, charming, and disturbing, I feel that Kazakova and Milena’s movie is a bit too chaotic and all over the place. The filmmakers use a cinema verite style that actually works well at times, while it dulls the intended effects in others. The actors perform mostly well throughout the movie, but the writing and lack of tighter direction often take away from their performances. The overall result is a mixed bag of monotony with some dramatic crescendos sprinkled throughout.

I will say that I did connect with the Irina character and identified with some of her troubles and that is the main reason I felt compelled to see this movie through to the end. Ultimately, I was disappointed as a whole and wanted more from it. I cannot strongly recommend this movie as a must-see selection, but if one still feels compelled to watch it, go to Amazon and do a search for the SXSW 2020 Film Festival Collection where Cat in the Wall will remain available for streaming until May 7, 2020.

SELAH AND THE SPADES

SELAH AND THE SPADES

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Available on April 17, 2020 for streaming through Amazon is an intriguing high school drama that features an assortment of new, young acting talent and marks the feature film debut of gifted filmmaker Tayarisha Poe. Selah and the Spades doesn’t necessarily reinvent the high school drama, but gives audiences a fresher take on the genre and wonderfully features people of color in the lead roles. Poe’s talents for filmmaking and storytelling are clearly evident, but I feel that audiences have yet to see the writer/director at her full potential. Nevertheless Selah and the Spades should serve as the key she needs to truly unlock that potential.

The movie takes place at a fictional Pennsylvania boarding school that is divided into various factions that serve a variety of the students’ needs. Senior Selah Summers (Lovie Simone) has served as the leader of The Spades, a faction dedicated to selling the student body various drugs and alcoholic beverages. As Selah fearfully dreads her future collegiate life at a university she does not really want to attend, she must maintain a strong and confident facade to both her own faction and the other factions wanting a taste of her power. She must also find an appropriate successor worthy of the streses and responsibilities.

Enter underclassman Paloma Davis (Celeste O’Connor), a transfer student whom Selah nearly instantly takes under her wing. As Selah grooms and trains Paloma as the newest member of The Spades, she must also deal with the possibility that there is a traitor in her faction that could totally dismantle everything she worked so hard to earn. As Paloma gets to know Selah better, she also comes to the realization that her seemingly fearless leader might be a victim of her own power-hunger. Paloma begins to realize her own potential as the new leader of The Spades, but the current leader may not be so willing to relinquish her power when the time actually arrives.

Overall, I am quite impressed with Tayarisha Poe’s debut in that she presents an intriguing story with compelling characters. I also was quite taken with her development of the Selah character. She takes a Heathers-like archetype and presents her as a real well-rounded person. Not only does the audience get to see the seemingly ruthless and over-confident faction leader, they also witness a vulnerable teenager that fears a big change in her life and an uncertain future. Of course, writing and direction are only a part of the formula. The rest must come from the actor portraying the character and Lovie Simone absolutely nails it beautifully.

The movie also features great performances by Jharrel Jerome, Anna Mulvoy-Ten, Gina Torres, and Jessie Williams. Actor Celeste O’Connor also shines brightly as Selah’s new friend and leader-in-training Paloma Davis, a bright-eyed and ambitious newcomer to the boarding school looking to fit in. O’Connor brings much dimensionality to the character and offers a charismatic screen presence that not only wins over the audience, but also the characters in the film. She helps make Paloma a smart, admirable, but more impressionable and vulnerable character who needs to be more wary of Selah’s weaknesses and the potential havoc those weaknesses can unleash.

My only complaint about the film concerns the somewhat weak climax and resolution that it delivers. I feel that Poe’s examination of power and the drive that people in power have to maintain it needed a stronger and more disturbing finish. Nevertheless, I still admire Tayarisha Poe’s work here and definitely see a bright future ahead for her in cinema. It is a film I must highly recommend as a rather stirring piece of modern cinema.

Blu-ray Giveaway: MINNIE: BOW BE MINE

Blu-ray Giveaway: MINNIE: BOW BE MINE

The Happy Helpers Shine a Spotlight on Adventure! Bring Home on Disney DVD February 5th Source: Disney Home Entertainment TVR is giving away Blu-Ray copies to randomly chosen winners.  NO PURCHASE IS NECESSARY. Must be 18 or older to enter.  As the Happy...

DVD Giveaway: DISNEY JUNIOR HOLIDAY

DVD Giveaway: DISNEY JUNIOR HOLIDAY

Celebrate the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!  Includes Six 22-minute Episodes from Disney Junior Favorites “Vampirina,” “Puppy Dog Pals,” “Mickey and the Roadster Racers” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!” Source: Disney Home Entertainment TVR is giving...

Digital Copy Review: INCREDIBLES 2

Digital Copy Review: INCREDIBLES 2

By Mark Saldana The long-awaited sequel to Disney/Pixar’s acclaimed and popular superhero movie is now available to own via digital, Blu-ray, DVD, and 4K Ultra HD.  I recently re-watched the equally lovable sequel and took a gander at some of the many extras...

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