THE POLKA KING (Movie Review)

PolkaKing
*** out of ****
Rated TV-14

(for language, sexuality, and adult themes)
Released: January 19, 2018
Runtime: 95 minutes
Directed by: Maya Forbes
Starring: Jack Black, Jenny Slate, Jason Schwartzman, Jacki Weaver,  J.B. Smoove, Vanessa Bayer, Willie Garson

Streaming exclusively on Netflix

My review of The Polka King, for The Tulsa Voice. Starring Jack Black, it’s the crazy true story of a Polish immigrant who turned his dream of building a polka empire into a Ponzi scheme.

Purchased by Netflix following a positive reception at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, The Polka King is the “gonzo account of Jan Lewan’s rise and fall…one of those whoppers in which truth is stranger than fiction.”

To read my full review, click here.

12 STRONG (Movie Review)

12strong
**1/2 out of ****
Rated R
(for war violence and strong language throughout)
Released: January 18, 2018
Runtime: 130 minutes
Directed by: Nicolai Fuglsig
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña, Navid Nagahban, William Fichtner, Rob Riggle, Geoff Stults, Trevante Rhodes, Thad Luckinbill, Austin Stowell

My review of 12 Strong, for Crosswalk.com. It’s based on the true story of the very first U.S. soldiers to go into battle after 9/11.

Produced by action-movie legend Jerry Bruckheimer, 12 Strong is sort of “Top Gun without the cocky swagger…(and) a clear reverence for the American military.”

Though similar to most other war films of the past decade, including stock characters, 12 Strong has “three intriguing hooks that separate it from other war movies.”

To read my full review, click here.

MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER (Movie Review)

MATWF_broomstick
***1/2 out of ****
Rated PG
(for some action and thematic elements)
Released: January 19, 2018
Runtime: 102 minutes
Directed by: Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Starring: the voices of Ruby Barnhill, Kate Winselt, Jim Broadbent, Lynda Baron, Ewan Bremner, Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Morwenna Banks

My review of Mary and the Witch’s Flower, for The Tulsa Voice. It’s the first feature-length anime from Japan’s Studio Ponoc, founded by former artists from Hayao Miyazaki‘s famed Studio Ghibli.

Based on a popular children’s book, this family-friendly story of a girl whisked off to a Witch’s College is “conjured from an LSD-laced imagination, a trippy gonzo vision on par with the Ghibli aesthetic.”

“Visually and tonally, Mary and the Witch’s Flower is Ghibli through and through, but thematically it sets its own postmodern course.”

To read my full review, click here.

First Look Clip Of Mr. Rogers Documentary (VIDEO)

We could really use a patron saint of pop culture, one who could steer us toward a virtuous north star and away from our crass impulses and divisive toxicity. My choice would be for Mr. Rogers.

A new documentary about Fred Rogers life and work is about to debut at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s called Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and it’s from Oscar-winning documentarian Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom).

In this first look clip (above) we see how, even in his time, Mr. Rogers’ sweet and loving tone was in direct contrast to conventional norms.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opens in theaters this summer on June 8, 2018.

MrRogers

WINGFEATHER SAGA: Sneak Peak Of New Animated Adventure (VIDEO/IMAGES)

The Lord of the Rings meets The Princess Bride. That’s the pitch for the new animated adventure The Wingfeather Saga.

Based on the best-selling fantasy novels by  author and singer-songwriter Andrew Peterson, it follows the quests of a boy, his two younger siblings, and the map that could lead to treasure.

The trailer above previews the longer 15-minute short that’s available to watch now at outlets like Amazon Prime, YouTube, and more.

The Wingfeather Saga 
Amazon Prime
YouTube Channel
YouTube Short Film
Vimeo

Still in the development stages, the 15-minute short is a pilot prototype, but the style and vision is impressive for a treatment produced on a limited Kickstarter budget.

Directed by Tom Owens (Head of Story – How to Train Your Dragon 2), producer J. Chris Wall (VeggieTales) says of the project’s aesthetic approach, “We thought it would be really cool to create something visually that felt handcrafted and with a unique blend of CGI and traditional 2D. Something that felt closer to a moving painting or stop-motion.”

Below you’ll also see a gallery of Wingfeather production stills.

Other creative contributors include Director of CGI Keith Lango (Portal – Valve Corp) and Production Designer Nicholas Kole (Hasbro, Disney).

Produced by Magnetic Dreams in Nashville, TN, The Wingfeather Saga is being developed as a feature film, with further plans to launch as a multi-season mini-series.

If you enjoy what you see and what to help the project gain momentum, just Watch It, Like It and Share It. You can also learn more about at the official website.

Click on any still for larger image gallery.

On The Set Of SELMA: Filmmaker Conversations (FEATURE)

David Oyelowo Ava DuVernay

“I felt God tell me that I was going to play Dr. King – and in Selma.” – David Oyelowo 

In the summer of 2014, I was able to visit the set of Selma during its final days of shooting in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. There, I was able to talk with star David Oyelowo, director Ava DuVernay, and others. Here is a link to the feature story I wrote for Crosswalk.com in 2014.

SELMA (Movie Review)

selma
***1/2 out of ****
Rated PG-13
(for disturbing thematic material, violence, a suggestive moment, and some strong language)
Released: December 25, 2014
Runtime: 125 minutes
Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Starring: David Oyelowo, Tom Wilkinson, Carmen Ejogo, Colman Domingo, Giovanni Ribisi, Stephan James, Wendell Pierce, Andre Holland, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth, Dylan Baker

My 2014 review of Selma, for Crosswalk.com. It “examines the three-month period in 1965 (which included the tragic event known as Bloody Sunday) when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. organized a march for equal voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.”

Directed by Ava DuVernay, Selma “combines the provocative anger of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing with the righteous conviction of Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront…in virtually every respect, Selma is a triumph.”

To read my full review, click here.