Film : Belly Up with Drinking Buddies

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What happens when two couples go on a double date to a cabin in the woods, and it just seems like they might be paired up with the wrong mates? And what if they just so happen to drink excessive amounts of alcohol? It may sound like your standard rom com fare, but Drinking Buddies solidly rises above the predictability and schmaltz we’ve all come to expect from the genre.

Revolution Brewing in Chicago serves as the back drop for much of the film, where Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) work. As one might expect from a movie shot in a brewery, much of the story unfolds amidst drinking and hanging out. The film rides on the dialogue, and luckily, it’s pitch perfect. According to director Joe Swanberg the entire script was improvised.

During a Q&A with Indy Film Fest, Swanberg said it’s hard to raise money for a film with no script, but getting great actors helps. With the likes of Anna Kendrick and Ron Livingston joining Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson, I’d say he rounded up quite the cast. His idea of warming the actors up to each other and to the craft beer culture was to have them hang out in his basement for a little home-brewing, followed by a field trip to Three Floyds Brewing. I think these must have served him well, as there is a magnetic chemistry between the actors as they figure out who they really want to be with.

See it on the limited theatrical run if you can, as this looks and sounds great (I’d be remiss to not mention that the soundtrack is aces, courtesy of music supervisor Chris Swanson of Secretly Canadian fame) on the big screen. As of today, you can catch Drinking Buddies on iTunes and in select cities beginning 8/23/13.

View the Trailer:

Upcoming Screenings:

Brooklyn, NY: Nitehawk 3
Chicago, IL: Landmark’s Century Centre Cinema
New York, NY: Sunshine Cinema 5

Atlanta, GA: Midtown Art Cinemas 8
Austin, TX: Violet Crown Cinemas
Cambridge, MA: Kendall Square Cinema 9
Denver, CO: Mayan Theatre
Philadelphia, PA: Ritz at the Bourse
Portland, OR: Hollywood Theatre
San Diego, CA: Ken Cinema
San Francisco, CA: Roxie
Vancouver, WA: Kiggins
Washington, DC: E Street Cinema
West Los Angeles, CA: Nuart Theatre

Dallas, TX: Magnolia Theatre – Dallas
Seattle, WA: SIFF Cinema at the Uptown
Tempe, AZ: Valley Art 1 Theatre

Columbus, OH: Gateway Film Center 8
Palm Desert, CA: Cinemas Palme D’Or 7
Santa Fe, NM: CCA Cinematheque

North Charleston, SC: Park Circle Film Society

Gainesville, FL: Hippodrome – Gainesville

Lancaster, PA: Zoetropolis

Madison, WI: UW-Madison Cinematheque

Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Cinema

Follow @MOKBfilm on twitter.

[Win This!] : George Harrison : Living in the Material World CD + DVD

If the Fab Four were around today, you can be sure that George Harrison would be the one with the primo side project. Yeah, Rocky may have played second fiddle to his Liverpool mates back in the day, but America’s premiere filmmaker, Martin Scorsese, is among those who believe that Georgie deserves a long second look. To that end, he waded back into the music doc pool and fished up George Harrison: Living In The Material World, a choice cinematic look at The Quiet One’s life and music that will be getting its proper DVD release on May 1st. Circle that May 1st date, because May Day will also witness the release of some previously unreleased George Harrison music, Early Takes Volume 1.

Of course, I’m telling you this, not only because I think you might be interested, but because MOKB is in the business of hooking you up.

George Harrison Living in the Material World CD + DVD Giveaway: One lucky MOKB follower is going to land themselves a George Harrison double-whammy: George Harrison: Living In The Material World on DVD along with a copy of Early Takes Volume 1. Whatta deal, right? One slight catch, though. If you want to qualify, you need to LIKE the new MOKB page on Facebook and tell us your favorite George Harrison song (Beatles, solo or even Traveling Wilburys) by Friday. The winner will be chosen at random, so good luck.

Oh, and if you can’t name one of Georgie’s songs, or yer some who “never wins,” just pre-order the DVD, CD or box set.

Film : Searching for Sugar Man at TFF

The artist known as Rodriguez sold a half million albums in South Africa, so it’s no surprise some call him the “South African Elvis.” American music industry veterans put him on par with the likes of Bob Dylan as one of the greatest songwriters at the dawn of the 1970s. Meanwhile his folk rock music went largely snubbed by Americans at the time of its release.

Despite his mega-fame in South Africa, the fans there knew little about him. After his second album release, his quick disappearance fueled wild rumors. By most accounts, he committed suicide on stage at a concert that turned sour. Other things that add to his air of mystery: he recorded songs, even within the same album, under different names, including Sixto Rodriguez and Jesus Rodriguez. In every single photograph of him, he wore shades. He reportedly turned his back to audiences at his performances.

It was this mystery that sparked two fans to hunt down the story of Rodriguez. Searching for Sugar Man, directed by Mailk Benjelloul, follows their quest. I caught the Tribeca Film Festival screening Tuesday night, and the Q&A afterwards would read more like a love letter to Rodriguez than a series of questions about the film. The film, too, was a kind of love letter to the music that was almost lost. This film gives one last gasp to his albums, currently re-released on light in the attic records. Will Americans finally pay attention to Rodriguez? For those who see the film, I’m betting they will.

View the trailer:

Film : Tribeca Online Film Festival

Here’s a trend that can keep on coming: the online film festival. As my Amtrak hurtles toward NYC, where I’m headed to cover Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) in the flesh, I can warm up with with a few flicks thanks to their online fest and the modern marvel that is wifi on the train.

Four world premiere feature selections from the 2012 TFF are online now, streaming for free. These include my first viewing pick, Babygirl, directed and written by Macdara Vallely. (Ireland, USA). View the trailer:

Other streaming features include:
On The Mat, directed and written by Fredric Golding. (USA)
Achieving greatness in high school wrestling requires a level of devotion unmatched perhaps by any other sport. That greatness has become a yearly expectation at Lake Stevens High, winner of seven Washington state championships in the past 10 years. Narrated by Lake Stevens wrestling alum Chris Pratt (Moneyball), this riveting documentary follows the team over the course of a season as they fight through injuries and academic issues to maintain their school’s legacy.

The Russian Winter, directed by Petter Ringbom. (Russia)
Brooklyn-born John Forté was a Grammy-nominated musician in The Fugees at 21 and a federal prison inmate at 26. When his prison sentence was remarkably commuted in 2008, Forté was given a second chance to share his talents with the world. Chronicling his concert tour across Russia, this inspirational documentary takes us on Forté’s personal journey—one that’s as much about having his voice heard as having his music heard. In English, Russian with subtitles.

Town of Runners, directed by Jerry Rothwell. (UK)
Over the past two decades the small, rural Ethiopian town of Bekoji has been the unlikely home to numerous Olympic champion long-distance runners, whose athletic success has paved the way for a generation of young Ethiopians searching for a better future. With a keen artistic eye, TFF award winner Jerry Rothwell (Donor Unknown) follows two teenage track hopefuls who face the challenge of growing up and striving for greatness in a developing nation. In Amharic, Oromo with subtitles.

A handful of shorts will also be streaming, each with limited screening windows and capacity. Go forth and register for free at Tribeca Online Film Festival and have you very own mini Tribeca Film Fest in your living room. Let me know your favorite picks!

Film : Cadaver Feature Length in the Works

Here’s a story of love that hasn’t been told before. In “Cadaver,” a dead man makes a last gasp at life, convincing an unsuspecting med student to take him on a road trip to tell his wife once more that he loves her.

This 2D animated short features a poem filmmaker Jonah Ansell wrote for his own sister as she struggled with her early medical school jitters. If you can imagine Shel Silverstein whimsy and rhythm with an Edgar Allen Poe edge, you”ll be somewhere near the vibe of this unexpected, bittersweet tale.

CADAVER – The Film – Trailer from JAMS on Vimeo.

The star-studded cast includes Christopher Lloyd and Kathy Bates, with Tavi Gevinson of fashion blogger fame narrating the tale. Tavi is known for sweeping up the fashion world, having started her own fashion blog Rookie Style at the tender age of 11. Now 15, she endcaps the film with a rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.

Tavi Gevison Performs Heart of Gold at New York Fashion Week:

CADAVER NYFW 2012 Private Screening: from JAMS on Vimeo.

Currently, “Cadaver” is playing the festival circuit after opening at Santa Barbara Film Fest and holding a private screening at New York Fashion Week. The film will screen next at Cinequest Film Festival in San Jose on Friday 3/3/12, which will include a Q+A session with Ansell, one of the producers and some of the production crew.

In more recent news, Kathy Bates and Christopher Lloyd have signed on to return for the feature-length version of “Cadaver,” which Jonah Ansell will write and direct. No release date has been set.

Film : The Interrupters Review

Following the release of the Best Documentary Feature Oscar Shortlist, more than one voice shouted, wondering why “The Interrupters” wasn’t listed. While one might have guessed this film would catch the limelight in February for a certain awards show, instead it will be via PBS, who has picked it up to air on Valentine’s Day on Frontline.

As Chicago grew to symbolize violence in America, with words like “war zone” and “epidemic” describing some of the worst neighborhoods, Kartmequin Films followed CeaseFire and “The Violence Interrupters” as they worked for peace on the streets.

The Interrupters get ‘in’ because they’ve walked the walk – they’re former addicts, hustlers and gang members. Each uses their street cred and experience, putting themselves right at the heart of disputes (and harm’s way) as conflicts arise.

Get ready for a gut punch – families torn apart, young children shot and fatal beatings. But on the other side of despair stands the Interrupters and their mission to squash violence.

Directed by Steve James (“Hoop Dreams“) and produced by Alex Kotlowitz (author of “There are No Children Here“), the filmmakers gained access to these stories through steady persistence. It took four months of filming community meetings before they were invited to capture their first mediation in action.

With each encounter the Interrupters know if they can keep someone talking, there’s hope to calm the crisis. While the news covers the stories that end in violence, in this refreshing and intimate documentary, we see what never hits the papers – the stories about people who graduate and get jobs, the lives spared from violence interrupted.

In the middle of a mediation, senior Interrupter Ameena Matthews talks two boys out of conflict and into handshakes and embraces. She lets them know she gets where they’re coming from, “You gotta play it like a big man, I gotta play it like a big girl. When I get angry I can bring some noise.” As her words intensify, she he sucks the anger out of the air and the threat dissipates.

Check local listings to catch The Interrupters on PBS.

View the official trailer:

The Interrupters NEW Official Trailer from Kartemquin Films on Vimeo.

Follow @MOKBfilm on twitter.

Film : Two Adventures in Shorts

The nominees for the 84th Academy Awards were just announced and somewhere beneath the chatter of who swept and who got snubbed are a few handfuls of largely ignored shorts nominees.

Whatever it says about my attention span, I’m a big fan of the short film, but access can be problematic. Unless you’re a big film festival junkie, most of these shorts never surface elsewhere. When was the last time you watched the Oscars and had seen ANY of the shorts nominees? If your answer was never, this year you’re in luck.

As of this writing two of the films are available for free online viewing, both animated tales of adventure. Bookmark these dreamy little numbers for when you have a half hour to spare.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by Moonbot Studios:
If Willy Wonka had dabbled in books instead of chocolate, it might have looked something like this (with bits of Up and Wizard of Oz, which the filmmakers officially cite as an influence, thrown in for good measure). This imaginative world of flying books will deliver a little more Pop Goes the Weasel than you ever thought you’d enjoy in one sitting, but trust me it’s worth it.

Wild Life by Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby:

This tiny tall tale of the wild west follows an English chap trying to make a go of life on a ranch. Trouble is, he might not be tough enough for the new world. The film can be viewed here.

When you tune in to the Academy Awards action on Sunday, Feb. 26, or at least what everyone is saying about it on twitter, you can have a couple of shorts to rally around.

Follow @MOKBFilm on twitter.