Ladies and Gentlemen! Allow me to introduce to you, the first episode of my new series of video essays: Random Richards Reviews.
In the pilot episode, I search for the next Wilhelm Scream. See if you can guess my first test subject.
Northwestfest; Edmonton’s annual documentary and media arts festival.
From May 5-14th, movie goers previewed ground breaking and entertaining documentaries from around the world. This year presented the theme of Resistance is the Only Option, showcasing documentaries focusing on some form of resistance, whether it’s hockey star Theo Fluery lobbying for stricter laws against child molesters (Victor Walk) or Jane Jacobs’ battle for the soul of New York City (Citizen Jane). This festival even has a trilogy of documentaries centering around a Scottish homeowner’s battle against Donald Trump (You’ve Been Trumped, You’ve Been Trumped Too and A Dangerous Game). While not all the films follow this theme, it does serve a common theme.
After watching these films, I’ve decided to write a countdown of the 5 films I’d recommend the most.
 Among them the Academy Award Nominated Life, Animated.
In an Aviation museum far from downtown Edmonton, pinball wizards gathered for a weekend of fun and games and more games at the 2017 YEG PINBALL & ARCADE EXPO. Once you walk through those grand doors, you enter a trip down memory lane with pinball game upon pinball game stacked side by side, with a few arcade booths added in for good measure. With a grand variety of games for the whole family, any gamer is sure to have the grandest of times.
For a low price of $15/day, you are treated to pinball game after pinball game stacked side by side. All day, you get to play a wide range of classic pinball machines, a lot of them with scantily clad women This convention also features an array of tie ins to famous movies and TV shows, from T2: Judgement Day to The Walking Dead. There are even Pinball tie-ins to Metallica and KISS.
For film and anime fans, the release of a Studio Ghibli film is a major event. I’ve previously shouted praises for this studio’s dazzling animation and heartfelt storytelling in my review of Only Yesterday. When the studio went on hiatus, there was a fear this would be the end for Japan’s beloved studio. Now those fears are shut down with Hayao Miyazaki coming out of retirement for one more film. Until that film’s released, Ghibli’s distributing animation imports like The Red Turtle, a hypnotic survival story from the Netherlands.
The Red Turtle doesn’t waste any time jumping into the plot, starting with our hero already shipwrecked in the middle of a storm. After hanging onto a capsized lifeboat, the Man finds himself on a deserted island. There’s not even a volleyball to talk to, let alone a human being. So, he’s off to the sea on his makeshift boat. But every time he tries to set sail, a giant turtle comes and destroys it. The Man always returns, furious at his circumstances. When the turtle arrives on the island, he seizes the opportunity for revenge.
Last but not least is the little film that could. Moonlight seems to have come out of nowhere to become a sensation across film festivals. The few theatres that showed it took every opportunity to play it for audiences, at times playing it on two screens. What makes this film special enough to end up on nearly every top 10 movies of 2016 lists? Besides the lowkey yet powerful storytelling, excellent performances and themes of growing up, this coming of age tale of a boy growing up gay and black in Miami is beautiful in every way. With strong empathy, Director Barry Jenkins pulls us into this boy’s life, leading us on haunting journey.
When we first meet Little (Alex R. Hibbert), he’s a nine-year-old being chased by bullies, taking shelter in an abandoned apartment. That’s where he comes to meet Juan (Mahershala Ali, also in Hidden Figures), a kind, soft spoken drug dealer who slowly becomes Little’s father figure. His role in Little’s life get called into question when Juan is appalled to find Little’s mom Paula (Naomie Harris) smoking crack. At the same time, Little finds a friend in Kevin (Jaden Piner), a fellow classmate who encourages his friend to stand up for himself.
No film this year felt more like real life than Manchester By the Sea, a honest portrayal of family coping with grief. In director Kenneth Lonergan hands, everything about this film feels real, from the seaside town setting to every syllable of dialogue.
When we first meet Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), he’s happily fishing with his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) and his nephew Patrick. He was your average family man with two loving kids and a loving wife. Then a horrible set of circumstances took that away. Now’ he’s an entirely different person. Working as a janitor for a condominium, Lee has become a surly social shut in living alone in a one room basement. At the bar, when he’s either drowning himself in booze, he’s picking a fight with a random stranger just for looking at him. He has no connections with his fellow man that’s the way he’d like it.
You’d better bring some Kleenex cause this film takes a lot out of you. Based on The Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, Lion tells the true-life story of Brierley’s decades long search for his birth family after losing them as a child. For his directorial debut, Luke Davis takes us through the man’s real life journey from the streets of India to a suburban home in Australia and back. He earns every tear shed.
As a little boy, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) would help his brother Guddu (Abhishek Bharate) sell stolen coal so they can help their mother (Priyanka Bose) provide for the family. With this being set in India, we are treated to some beautiful imagery, especially in the opening scene of Saroo surrounded by butterflies in the desert. Just as beautiful is loving relationship between Saroo and Guddu. They seem inseparable. But then one night at a train station, Guddu leaves Saroo behind while he searches for work. That night, he doesn’t come back, and Saroo finds himself trapped on a train, headed to Calcutta. Now, he’s far away from home in a city whose language he doesn’t understand. You find yourself holding back your tears when Saroo calls for his brother.
And now we get to the head contender for the Best Picture Award. Since winning the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, La La Land come out of nowhere to become a beloved darling for critics and audiences alike. With its stunning visuals, catchy jazz numbers and engaging storytelling, it’s not hard to see why. Plus, with all the bad things that happened last year, now is the good time for a colourful, vibrant musical. Who better to deliver it than Damien Chazelle, the writer/director of the modern masterpiece Whiplash.
In modern Los Angeles cross the paths of two struggling artists. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) is a Jazz pianist obsessed with vintage Jazz styles. Mia (Emma Stone) is a struggling actress running through auditions between shifts at a studio coffee shop. Though their attempts to get ahead and/or forget about their problems, they keep bumping into each other. Of course, they got through the same song and dance of first hating each other only to eventually fall in love. They start inspiring each other to go further. Sebastian encourages Mia to write a one woman show, while Mia encourages Sebastian to reach his dream of opening a Jazz bar. But they find their both their dreams and relationship tested when one achieves success while the other deals with crushing failure.
Whoever said girls can’t do math have never met Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson. They were three amongst many women of colour whose math skills help bring America into space. They are finally getting their dues in Hidden Figures, a lighthearted biopic from Theodore Melfi, director of St. Vincent.
When we first meet Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) and Mary (Janelle Monae), they’re car is stalled. To make matters worse, a cop pulled over to give them a hard time. How does it end? With the cop escorting them to NASA. “Three Negro women chasing a white police officer down a highway in Hampton, Virginia.” As Mary would say; “That there is a God-ordained miracle!” It’s 1961 and the space race is on. Our lady trio are among many black women working as “Computers” for the program. From this position, each woman begins a push beyond what’s expected of them.
A Texas Ranger investigates a series of bank robberies committed by two brothers. It’s surprising what you can do with simple premise like that. Take Hell or High Water, a blend of thrilling crime western and thoughtful character study. Screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario) uses this to capture people’s frustrations during the recession and portray an aging expert who knows his days are numbered.
“I’ve been poor my whole life, like a disease passing from generation to generation.” That is how Toby Howard (Chris Pine) sees his life. It’s made even worst when the bank threatens to foreclose on the family ranch. With the land inherited to his son, he’s determined to break the cycle. After years of the banks robbing his family blind, it’s time to return the favour. So, he enlists the help of his firebrand ex-con to rob a series of banks across the county.