Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

One of my favorite films from the 2010 edition of the Sundance Film Festival is finally making it to Tucson screens – Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. It’s not often that you see a blend of horror and comedy that works so well, maybe the era of torture porn is over, please? Directed by Eli Craig ,the film stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as two hapless “mountain people” who are just trying to get to their new “fixer-uper” cabin in the woods. Wrongly mistaken for killer hillbillies, by a group of dopey college kids, hilarity quickly ensues. A series of comedic, yet grotesque deaths occur with the innocent Tucker and Dale appearing to be the perpetrators of the crimes. An early scene with chainsaw is comedy gold that will stay with me for a long while.

Two odd bits of trivia related to the film are worth noting, first, director Craig is the son of flying nun actress Sally Field, an early advocate of her son’s directorial debut. And secondly, this film, following its Sundance Film Festival debut, became the most bootlegged film download from the internet, delaying its eventual release. One more tidbit – the original roles of Tucker and Dale were slotted for Bradley Cooper and Zack Galifianakis before the “Hangover” made them huge stars.

“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is playing the Loft Cinema starting October 7, 3233 East Speedway. For showtimes visits LoftCinema.com 795-7777.


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The 7th Annual Tucson Film and Music Festival

The 7th Annual Tucson Film and Music Festival is now underway. There are some great films and musical events all over town this weekend. Two films of note are reviewed below – “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” and “Kumare”….check them out! Go to TucsonFilmAndMusicFestival.com for more information.




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“The Ides of March”

We’re all about to be literally beaten to death with both quality films in search of an Academy Award, and then, shortly after that, by10 months straight of campaign ads for the upcoming presidential election. Neatly capturing both of these elements into one two- hour package is the excellent political thriller “the Ides of March.”

Closely tapping into the cynicism that has recently swept the nation, comes the latest George Clooney directed film that blends drama, intrigue and betrayal into a thoroughly enjoyable fable. Led by a strong cast that includes Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Evan Rachel Wood, the story moves at a rapid pace towards a somewhat predictable conclusion that is also full of red herrings and double crosses.

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Myers, an aide to a presidential candidate, and sitting Governor, Mike Morris (Clooney.) Blinded by his passion and belief in both Morris and the platform he helped construct, Myers faces several character defining moments and needs all of his wiles to navigate the resulting outcome. This film echoes the last election cycle mood, and foreshadows the current miasma many feel. With strong performances from several actors, this movie will most likely be in the hunt come February for several awards.

Gosling continues to impress with his range and delivery that seems beyond his years and Both Hoffman & Giamatti and spot-on perfect as creatures of habit inhabiting a system that cannot, and will not change.

“The Ides of March” is playing at Century 20 El Con Cinema at El Con Mall, 3601 East Broadway. 202-3358.

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Our definition of faith is both complex and frequently shifting. As human beings we often need to “believe” in something outside of our control. Few individuals don’t want to be led at some point in matters related to family, work or spiritual issues. When one man finds himself confused and unfulfilled spiritually, he embarks on a unique experiment to see if he can impersonate a spiritual leader and gather a flock. This sheppard does indeed find a flock, but what does he learn from them before he must reveal the illusion of his position? The new documentary film “Kumare” tackles this thorny issue deftly with genuine compassion.

Vikram Gandhi, the film’s director and “star” is of Indian descent, a man who grew up in New Jersey. Following a brief investigation of spirituality, hoping to understand what his grandmother and others felt, he is stunned by the hypocrisy of many of the guru’s he encounters both in India and in the United States. This set him on a grand social experiment to see if he could be more spiritual on his own, without a guide. When he found no great need for such a leader he decided to attempt to become a guru to see if he could then attract a following.

After developing the appropriate look; long hair and beard, robes and a deeper Indian accent, he relocated to Phoenix, AZ to start his charade. With the help of two assistants he begins to use made up Yoga and nonsensical chants to convey deep wisdom. Not surprisingly “Kumare,” as he is now called attracts a small devoted following. What happens next is both heartwarming and heartbreaking as we meet these very real, very familiar archetypes of our human experiences, for example a single mother dealing with an empty nest, a workaholic lawyer and a young woman aching to fit in.

What starts out as an elaborate experiment for Vikram, rapidly becomes a lie he cannot easily walk away from due to the faith and trust that has been given by his new “flock.” This film is a powerful examination of faith and trust, and the human condition on a micro level. Filmed in Phoenix and Tucson, the events that transpire could take place anywhere, and while there is a fairly neat and tidy ending, clearly the events of the experiment will continue to both haunt and feed the spiritual needs of all involved for years to come.

The film is showing once as part of the 7th annual Tucson Film and Music Festival on Sunday October 9 at 7:30pm at the Century 20 El Con cinema.

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“The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi”

Who knew? For those of us raised on the classic “Peanuts” holiday specials of the early 1970’s, the iconic music of Vince Guaraldi was just great music that stuck in your head. As it turns out, the musician who created those timeless tunes was in fact a giant in the jazz world. The new documentary film “The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi,” which will screen as part of the seventh annual Tucson Film and Music Festival, delves into the career of this fascinating San Francisco musician who was so much more than what we all thought.

Using recently discovered documentary footage from 1963 as a starting point, director Andrew Thomas weaves in commentary from other jazz giants such as Dave Brubeck, and George Winston, along with comedian Dick Gregory, who often shared the stage with Guaraldi in the early jazz/comedy club days. By the time film critic Leonard Maltin appears, to comment on the legacy of Guaraldi and his role in exposing generations of kids and their families to Jazz, it’s almost an afterthought, given the legacy that has been laid out. A tragic loss, when Guaraldi died in 1976, this film truly gives voice and memory to a true trailblazing musical genius.

“The Anatomy of Vince Guaraldi” is playing on Sunday October 8 at 11:30am at the El Con 20 Cinemark Theatres.

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“50/50” and “Restless”

Two current films that deal with life threatening illness approach the topic with unique and successful results. Both “50/50,” based on the true story of a man who faces split odds in a cancer fight, and “Restless” which tells the tale of a quirky couple who are both obsessed with death and deathly afraid of loss, are powerful stories that are both fresh and unique. While one film utilizes comedy to cut the somber mood, the other film utilizes a melancholy tone, complete with a ghost.

“50/50,” starring Joseph Gordon Levitt and Seth Rogen is based on the true story of a 27 year-old man who is suddenly facing an uncertain future with an odd combination of assets and liabilities – mainly his friends and family. Deftly mixing the serious with the comedic elements, director Jonathan Levine takes the story by Will Reiser through the motions and yet feels sincere and honest. What could easily have turned into a depressing tale is refreshingly sincere and heartfelt. While some characters obviously become two dimensional in the service of a story, this film gives us all pause to consider how we might face a similar situation.

“Restless” from director Gus Van Sant, stars Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper as a pair of unlikely lovers. Henry, as Enoch, a sad sack who crashes funerals for the emotional attachment, and Mia who plays, Annabel, a patient with a short time to live, make an unusual pair for any film. Adding to the mix is the excellent Ryo Kase as the teenage ghost kamikaze pilot, whom only Henry can see.  With somber paced dialog and a muted, fall color palette, the film is another feather in the cap of Van Sant who excels at telling a story with minimum dialog. A truly off-beat film that may have trouble finding an audience, “Restless” is quite the companion piece to “50/50” given their similar story of young people facing the spectre of mortality.

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Napa Valley Film Festival info…..

Check out the program guide for the 1st Napa Valley Film Festival….A great slate of films, food and more….November 9-13!



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