The Dallas Movie Screening Group

This is the homepage of the Dallas Movie Screening Group. To join our mailing list you must sign up at our group page on Yahoo. You will then be connected to receive notices on how to find passes to the local screenings in the DFW area. It's up to you to pickup or sign up for passes. You can also barter, trade or just giveaway passes you don't want, need or share with other members of the group. Please read the instructions on the Yahoo page very carefully before posting. This group is closely moderated so that your mail box is not full of spam or other unnecessary mail. We appreciate everyone's consideration and cooperation.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

(Review by Chase Lee)

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A Ghost Story

Some people are calling David Lowery's enigmatic "A Ghost Story" the best indie film of the year. Before you go, there are some things to know. It's not a traditional ghost or horror story, Filmed over 19 days in a house in Irving ( Lowery's town) that was slated for demolition, it has plenty of Texas tie ins in the way of prop placement ( yes, I spotted you Lakewood Temptress, Four Corners El Chingon, and Spiral Diner gluten free chocolate pie- was that you 903 out of Sherman?), it is more a story of love, loss, time and an earthly residence on a plot of ground, which our main characters are planning to leave. This ghost is trying to reconnect with his grieving wife but has no idea how. Our ghost walks along the Trinity River floodplain, crosses DFW fields and visits other Dallas locations. An official selection at Sundance ( it took Lowery 15 tries over the years to gain admission) , the film is distributed by A24 who brought us Moonlight last year. It was also screened at Oak Cliff Film Fest in June, for it's Texas premier, and was self financed from monies made on Pete's Dragon.

The pacing in torturous at times so don't be in a hurry. Paranormal activity is limited and very deliberate. Cue lights flickering, shadowy lights dancing on the wall, a picture smashing. In fact, there is precious little interaction between Casey Affleck, as C in a white sheet with black eye cut outs, and Rooney Mara as M, or the other residents that follow in the house. This ghost is a watcher. The actors have reunited again for Lowery, after doing "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" in 2013. Our ghost is a brooding observer, who has returned to the house, after dying in a car accident near by. We can best interpret his thoughts and moods by how the sheet fabric is draped and lays on his invisible frame. Time has no meaning to C but as it passes we sense an unhappiness, confusion and sense of urgency building. He perceives time very differently than the living do.

Super long camera takes and natural lighting set the tone for the overall feel, giving the viewer lots of time to take it all in and ponder the meaning of life. Rounded film edges suggest the audience is peering in, observers watching the observer. The storyline is straight, with a few time travel jags into the past and future, atop Museum Tower and the Tower at Cityplace in Dallas. All in all, our ghost is trapped, claustrophobically in one location (past and future), next door to a house with another silent ghost inhabitant in a floral printed sheet, who waits for someone or something to return. They chat via subtitles.

It appears that only one person can sense or see him, a young boy child, and our ghost tends to be resentful of the new family that has moved in. He is bored during the parties the next owners throw, despite a way cool existential soliloquy about the end of the universe and what man will leave behind (don't blink or you'll miss a Kesha cameo) by a Texas craft beer drinker ( Will Oldham) credited as Prognosticator. It's interesting that even our main characters do not have names. But we are reminded to leave something of ourselves behind "to make sure you're still around after you go." Realizing "we do what we can to endure". C had written a song for M and perhaps that's the type of legacy being referred to.

M places a note in a door jam before she moves out, as a memento and to "leave a piece of me there" after which C spends time trying to retrieve it. So much of the viewer's experiences will depend on how the long pauses are handled; at the hospital, on ghost walks and during the kitchen pie eating scene, as M consoles herself on the floor. Estimates range from five to nine minutes folks. I didn't time it but it is lengthy and emotionally painful. Empaths be forewarned. That's a lot of fork digging and pie-hole filling. Mara had never had pie before this scene and she did not like this one. But there is certain awards buzz for her heartstrings-pulling performance. Run time for the film is short at 90 some minutes but it packs a lot in that time.

With an Oscar caliber actor in a white bed sheet for the audience to project upon, the action levels are low and we are forced to witness the same events our specter is, and forced to think some really big thoughts. Affleck actually handled grief infinitely better in last year's multiple award winning "Manchester by the Sea". Perhaps watching "A Ghost Story" once, just to sort things out, and then perhaps viewing it a second time, like I'd like to do, to experience the ethereal beauty and resonance of the messages, would be good advise. Enjoy the music by Daniel Hart, for the emotional score adds so much to the film without distraction. The production company is called Scared Sheetless, and when the name appeared, it gave us all one of the few big laughs of the evening. Action fans will get one full on bored tantrum via C and a look at a double house demolition by some dozer drivers who have, undoubtedly, the best jobs on this film.
(Review by Cheryl Wurtz)

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This is not your typical war movie. It's an immersive visceral experience with a soundtrack by Hans Zimmer that vibrates your seat in the IMAX theater with an almost thrill ride experience. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema creates an up close and personal experience while following the foot soldiers waiting for evacuation while bombs hail down upon them, the cockpit of fighter pilots in their aerial maneuvers and the civilians on the small boats from England that were commissioned to help. This is by no doubt an Oscar worthy contender from writer/director Christopher Nolan who began writing this story some twenty five years ago.

The film begins with a small troop of soldiers moving towards the beach for the massive evacuation as the German army had pushed the Allied forces at the beginning of WWII. Some 400,000 men were basically stranded by the water waiting for escape. The actual evacuation happened over a couple of months, but this story occurs over a day. The camera follows one resourceful young man who tries in various ways to get on a ship, but with every effort is stymied by sinking ships. Destroyers and first aid vessels are bombed and destroyed while the waiting men in long lines on the shore and piers dive for cover. Most of the military resources at the time were dedicated to other battles, so there scant help in fighting the attacking planes. Tom Hardy plays one of the pilots of three Spitfires sent to defend. Kenneth Branagh is the commander in charge of the evacuation, and Mark Rylance is piloting one of the small vessels that had set sail across the English Channel for the 39 nautical miles to rescue the troops. Cillian Murphy plays a lone solider rescued from a sinking ship that is suffering from the trauma. Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles play the two main soldiers who do everything they can to survive.

The minimalist dialogue reinforces the intimate immediacy of the experience, the fear, isolation and desperation. Little is given in the historical background of this particular event, instead the focus is what the individuals involved have to endure to get home alive and well. You become hyper aware of the smallest sounds of waves lapping on the beach over rows of bodies, seagulls flying overhead, the distant sounds of aircraft slowing getting closer, then bombs dropping. The sight of the motley group small vessels approaching the beach brings the most heroic moment in the film. A small story of the big war that could be mostly forgotten. The technical achievement of Nolan's film will certainly bring rightful kudos as it should. But one should not forget the profoundly moral message about the effects of war.
(Review by reesa)

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A Ghost Story

(Review by Chase Lee)

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Valerian the the City of a Thousand Planets

I wanted goosebumps.

I wanted them so bad. All I I got was a mild case of the disappointment blues.

The concept for “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” has sat on the shelves for many a year. This is ecause technology had not yet evolved and technology had not caught up to the way viewers ingest their entertainment and want that secondary instant satisfaction.

I was not looking for a high, rather something that just dazzled me to no end. It comes down to a certain spark, kind of like when one hears the first notes of a John Williams score like either the first chords of the “Superman: the Movie” or the original “Star Wars: A New Hope” theme.
I was left with a shrug of the shoulders, and another one to debate and to friends and colleagues.

This title is misleading, because it is Alpha, not the lead character of Valerian played by Dane DeHaan, who the story centers on. His character of Valerian shares a certain kinship with Lauraeine (Cara Delevingne), his partner for many a year. The duo receive orders from a higher up played by Commander ArĂ¼n Filitt (Clive Owen), who wants "the situation" taken care of so that everything will revert back to the normal.

Also a minor part of the story is Bubble (Rihanna), a character brought in to seduce Valerian, who does nothing more than a couple of dances for the hero. She works for Ethan Hawke’s jerk of a human being Jolly the Pimp. Their appearance is brief, but filled with some amazing visual eye candy that works wonders in the latter part of act three in in the movie.

The plot twists are not in abundance here, but just enough to get by and not trick the viewer too much.

Honestly, I wanted more of a movie from “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets,” but America will just have to wait for the inevitable sequel years down the line.

Grade: B-
(Review by Ricky Miller)

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Disney Shorts (1989-2016)

Walt Disney shorts spread magic!

From the minds of Mickey Mouse, “Frozen,” and “Tangled,” comes a string of short films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios that will take you directly to the magical world of Disney. These shorts have contain full of slapstick, cartoonish gags, drama, chaos, and musical adventures. Eighteen unforgettable short films I have watched that will experience the histories of animation from past to present. (Randomly selected)

· Tummy Trouble (1989): First Roger Rabbit short about a rabbit named Roger is taking his baby friend, Herman, to a hospital after Herman accidentally swallowed a rattle. This was shown in front of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” (7:40)

· Roller Coaster Rabbit (1990):
Second Roger Rabbit short about Roger taking his baby through the country fair and ends up in a scariest, fiery roller coaster. This was shown in front of “Dick Tracy.” (7:50)

· Off His Rockers (1992): a rare short film about a wooden horse tries to gain affection from a video-game playing boy. This was shown in front of “Honey, I Blew Up the Kid.” (4:50)

· Trail-mix Up (1993): Third (and last) Roger Rabbit short about Roger rescuing his baby through the adventures of campgrounds, saw-mill, and watery rivers with cartoonish mishaps. This was shown in front of “A Far Off Place.” (8:50)

· Runway Brain (1995):
This short about Mickey Mouse trying to find a wonderful anniversary gift to Minnie Mouse, but finds himself wind up in a science lab to switch the brains from him to the 15-foot monster. This was shown in front “A Kid in King’s Arthur Court.” (Approximately 7 minutes)

· John Henry (2000): A short film based on the railway steel-worker and African American folk hero: John Henry. (10:20)

· Lorenzo (2004):
a short about a mean-spirited cat who cares for his tail until a mysterious black cat forced him to get of his tail desperately. This was shown in front of “Raising Helen.” (4:50)

· The Little Matchgirl (2006): a short about a lonely girl struggling to stay warm by using matches whilst remembering the memories with her grandmother. (6:40)

· How to Hook up Your Home Theater (2007):
A Goofy short about him buying lots of home theater equipment for his home to watch the football game. This was shown in front of “National Treasure: Book of Secrets.” (6:20)

· Tick Tock Tale (2010): A short a lifeless clock comes to life and stops the clock stealer after the owner leaves. (6:00)

· Prep & Landing-Operation: Secret Santa (2010):
a holiday short about the two elves who are on a mission to retrieve the secret box from Santa’s secret room. (6:55)

· The Ballad of Nessie (2011):
a short about a creature named Nessie who was forced to find a new home after the old one have turned into a mini-golf course. This was shown in front of “Winnie the Pooh.” (5:30)

· Tangled Ever After (2012): After the events of “Tangled,” the horse and the chameleon, Pascal and Maximus, have lost the wedding rings for the married couple, Rapunzel and Eugene, and must retrieve it through the series of chaos. This was shown in front of a 3D re-release of “Beauty and the Beast.” (6:30)

· Paperman (2012):
a short about a male worker tries to get an attention to a young woman using several flying paper airplanes. This was shown in front of “Wreck-It Ralph.” (6:35)

· Get A Horse! (2013): A Mickey Mouse short about him and his 1920s friends emerge from the movie theater and rescue Minnie from Pete. This was shown in front of “Frozen.” (6:00)

· Feast (2014): a short a food-loving dog enjoys eating food with his owner but finds his eating life even more when the owner falls in love with the waitress girl, who persuades him and his dog to take up on a healthier lifestyle. This was shown in front of “Big Hero 6.” (6:10)

· Frozen Fever (2015):
Another “Frozen” adventure about Elsa preparing a birthday party for Anna but gets into a cold fever. This was shown in front of Disney live-action film, “Cinderella.” (7:55)

· Inner Workings (2016):
a short about inner-working body parts control the average worker to perform a daily routine, which is a typical day at work, but gets fun-filled attentions on the way. This was shown in front of “Moana.” (6:25)

These short films are outstanding with some good usage of CGI, compared to Pixar, and got some unique story twist that fits the G-Rated genre and tradition of Disney. They put some raw energy, great focus, and main conflicts of each shorts with different backgrounds.
However, the only short film that is not G-Rated is Roller Coaster Rabbit, which had garnered a PG-Rating. This short film contain a little bit of the disturbing scenes that you should be on a lookout for your children or anyone. I don’t why they did it but they did just to add comedy in the background. It makes sense for this short.

Overall, all of the short films are outstanding with a great piece of work and mind to show the audience as a great showcase, especially some shorts that was screened in front of a Disney animated film (or live-action). Like the Pixar shorts, all of the short films would never disappoint you as these bring you the magic gift of adventure. You’ll love all the fun from the characters.

Grade: A+
(Review by Henry Pham)

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AFFD2017: Student Short Films

Asian Film Festival 2017: Student Shorts

I know it’s my first time here but I actually enjoyed some of the greatest, most emotional shorts ever in my experience for Asian Film traditions. I seen most of the student shorts but I can’t think which names for the short films I been tracking. Here are some of them I can remember I just watched.

· Ocean Waves: a documentary short about an Asian immigrant talks about his past of boating to the island, then to America, which was Dallas, TX.

· After Taste:
a short about an Asian girl who has relationship problems and issues with her boyfriend in five different taste (salty, sweet, spicy, bitter, and sour).

· The Return: A short about an ambitious artistic, violin-playing girl who seeks passion of been a great artistic through the abilities of drawing.

· Not Johnny: A short about a girl who was concern about her brother Johnny, which turn out to be imposter.

· The Red Eye: A short about a girl crushing a red gumball with a hammer.

· No Point:
A short about a circle who’s was bullied by sharp shapes (such as triangle) but finds a non-sharp shape friend: oval.

· Fast Hands:
A western short about a man looking for a wanted criminal.

· Not Made Up: A documentary short about girls talking about how make-up affects many occasions.

· Fish Cakes: A short about an insane man who believes the pills and water are “fish cakes.”

· The Other Brother: A short about a boy taking a test to get a perfect score in order to be accepted to a four-year institution.

· Grab a sip, Grab a sin:
A short about two girls taking a drink while playing with the toy cars before passing out.

· The Fall:
A short a girl developing sense of sight, hearing, and “hell.”

· Harper: A short about a teenage girl who tries to tell the truth and makes amends to her female friend who had not been in speaking terms with her ever since.

· The Classic:
A documentary short about teachers sharing their favorite book or classical novel to discuss about the books’ masterpieces.

These short films, including the ones I listed, are outstanding with some good discovering elements to know about based on reality. They put some good classical music on the background and the storytelling seems emotional, especially for those people who are in a relationship with friends and families. One short film, The Return, was favorite one as it was based on my life as a violinist but also a film student and film critic.
However, I have trouble with some shorts because some parts of the short are shocking and disturbing as some of them contain bloody images and mild strong language. Seems irrational, but a little too much on the PG-Rating or No-Rating films. I didn’t like the writing on few shorts with negative contents. Also, some short films don’t center on “Asian people” literally as they’re little more shorts have different people, but it was meant to be a showcase for cultural film festivals.

Overall, these short films are amazing as these produce from any schools, such as SMU, Garland High School, and other. They put all the hard work together in film classes and video editing sessions. One thing about this is to be careful about the warning on the short films with negative contents. These could be heard in several occasions whenever the characters talk in a non-happy mood. Nevertheless, all of them are amazing under one screening.

Grade: A
(Review by Henry Pham)

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