BOX OF RAIN (USA 2021) ***
Directed by Lonnie Frazier
BOX OF RAIN is a very personal film centred on a woman’s past experience with one of the most adored bands of the decade - The Grateful Dead. The film opens with the definition of what a home is and going on to the fact that a home offers comfort and a safe place. The film’s subject is a woman, Lonnie Frazier, now a filmmaker and director of this documentary film about the experiences of the diehard fans of The Grateful Dead.
Lonnie was raped in a corn field by a group of boys she knew since elementary school. She was offered a ride home after a party and the rape resulted in a trauma that haunted Lonnie for the rest of her life. She was depressed, suicidal and lost hope in mankind. So, as the film poster says: What do you do when you’re seventeen, suicidal, and believe that the only thing the world has to offer you is violence and pain? You get in your car and drive across the United States to go see the Grateful Dead, of course. At least, that’s what you do if you’re lucky. And without a doubt, Lonnie Frazier was very lucky. Through a twist of fate she found healing in an unexpected place: the Deadhead community. It all started with a road trip and free tickets to see the Grateful Dead at Red Rocks in Colorado.
BOX OF RAIN is about Lonnie and her two friends who reminisce about the experience The doc also talks about other fans - known as the Deadheads. The Deadheads are fans of the American rock band the Grateful Dead. In the 1970s, a number of fans began travelling to see the band in as many shows or festival venues as they could. With large numbers of people thus attending strings of shows, a community developed. Deadheads developed their own idioms and slang. The Deadheads are made up of spinners, dancers, listers and tapers as explained in the latter part of the film.
Twenty five years after the road trip that started it all, Lonnie returns to Red Rocks in her quest to complete this film. On this journey, she discovers healing, and the power to write her own story.
The doc unfolds in 4 chapters entitled: The Trip; The Parking Lot Scene; Memories and finally; Change. One of the interviews includes one of the Grateful Dead’s sound technicians, a disabled but enthusiastic fan himself, wheelchair-bound James LeBrecht.
Though one wishes that the doc would include archive footage of the band’s concerts or performances of their songs, the doc is noticeably absent of such. Instead the doc concentrates on the fans, the band’s influence and the community of love, respect and affection fans have for each other. The result is an extremely sweet little caring film that embraces kindness that is missing so much in today’s communities.
BOX OF RAIN opens on Vimeo Tuesday May the 24th. A memorable sweet and charming little doc about the fans of the Grateful Dead that is quite a wonderful experience!
CHIP ’N DALE: RESCUE RANGERS (USA 2022) ***
Directed by Akiva Schaffer
A comeback 30 years in the making, CHIP ’N DALE: RESCUE RANGERS catches up with the former Disney Afternoon television stars in modern-day Los Angeles. Chip and Dale (also spelled Chip 'n' Dale) are a cartoon duo of anthropomorphic chipmunk brothers created in 1943 by Disney Studios. A hybrid live-action/CG animated action-comedy, there is also a portion that combines 2D and 3D animation. Chip in order to be modern in show business undergoes a 3D facelift.
The film boasts a host of actor celebrities doing the voice characterizations. A lot of cameo voices as well. The film stars John Mulaney (“Saturday Night Live”) as Chip, Andy Samberg (“Palm Springs”) as Dale and KiKi Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), Will Arnett (“Arrested Development”), Eric Bana (“Dirty John”), Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect 2”), Dennis Haysbert (“24”), Keegan-Michael Key (“Schmigadoon!”), Tress MacNeille (“The Simpsons”), Tim Robinson (“I Think You Should Leave”), Seth Rogen (“Pam and Tommy”), J.K. Simmons (“Being the Ricardos”).
The film is directed with sufficient spirit by Akiva Schaffer (“Saturday Night Live”) and written by Dan Gregor and Doug Mand (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”).
Like Alin and the Chipmunks, the animated feature about chipmunk caters mainly to children with jokes and human values like friendship, though cliched, doused into the cript. The main human or animal value here is the friendship of the two friends Chip and Dale that goes into trial when their act together runs into trouble with cancellation of the series. Egos are another issue examined here, especially Dale’s who wants to venture out on his own, for the fact that Chip hogs the limelight.
Of the two, Chip is portrayed as being safe, focused, and having a mind for logical scheming. Dale, by contrast, is more laid-back, dim-witted, and impulsive, and has a stronger sense of humour. Though very similar in appearance, Chip has a small black nose and two centered protruding teeth, whereas Dale has a large dark red nose and a prominent gap between his buck teeth. Chip is also depicted as having smooth hair on top of his head while Dale's tends to be ruffled.
The film catered more to kids than adults could do with a bit more goofiness and funnier humour like the gophers Mack and Tosh in the Looney Tunes cartoons. The CHIP ’N DALE short animated feature was nominated for an Academy Award three times in four years but in one year lost to Warner Bros’ TWEETY PIE.
CHIP ’N DALE: RESCUE RANGERS premieres May 20, 2022, exclusively on Disney+.
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA (UK 2022) ***
Directed by Simon Curtis
DOWNTON ABBEY: A NEW ERA is the second full length feature of the celebrated British TV series. Downton Abbey has received acclaim from television critics and won numerous accolades, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film and a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie. It was recognized by Guinness World Records as the most critically acclaimed English-language television series of 2011. As the title implies, this is a new era with milestones in the plot that will change the series in terms of almost everything.
Most of the stars of the series and first film appear in this latest entry including heavyweights like Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern, among others. Most noticeably missing are the young new stars like Lily James, Dan Stevens and Matthew Goode.
The season series and films rely on some major incident or event to propel interest in the story - be it the first world war, the Irish war of independence or eve the sinking of the Titanic. The first film featured the visit of royalty and the preparation of the house as the main event. This one is as the tile implies, the revelation of a new era that includes at its climax the passing on, on her deathbed, with much sorrow and a little wit of Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham (Oscar Winner (THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE) Dame Maggie Smith). A welcome addition to the cast is French star, Nathalie Baye who plays Madame Montmirail, an angry French Lady having her villa stolen from her by the Crawleys.
The film is written by Julian Fellowes, the creator and writer of the television series of the same name and the first film, with the sequel being directed by Simon Curtis. moving his film surely by firmly at the same slow pace as his hit, GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN.
The film opens in 1928, the church filled with guests for the wedding of Tom Branson. His new wife has been written into the will by her mother Maud, Lady Bagshaw, to become the heiress of her mother's extensive estate. Following the wedding, with Violet's consent, Mr Murray, the family solicitor, informs the Crawley family that Violet has inherited a villa in the south of France from a gentleman she knew from the 1860s. He has died, and his son has invited members of the family to visit. Violet is not well enough to travel, but Robert, Cora, Tom and Lucy, together with Edith and Bertie decide to go. Violet is particularly anxious for Tom and Lucy to go, as she has decided to transfer ownership of the villa to her great-granddaughter Sybbie (Tom's daughter by his first wife, Lady Sybil Crawley). They cross the Channel with Carson, who suffers from sea-sickness during the crossing. Meanwhile, a film crew wishes to make a film at Downton, and Lady Mary remains behind to supervise. The staff at Downton are intrigued by the chance to see the stars of the film appear and to watch them rehearse. Lady Mary appears to make an impression on the director. The completion of the filming goes well. Violet becomes ill during the conclusion of the filming, and the family gathers by her bedside. She passes away, with Robert holding her hand. The household assembles for the funeral, where Lady Mary confides in Carson about her loss. She asks him to return to Downton to help manage the house and train Andy for the role of butler.
The film is done all prim and proper as expected from a DOWNTON ABBEY film with nothing happening that is surprising nor out of the ordinary. Fans will not be disappointed but the 2 hour and 10 minute running time can be trying for others.
IP MAN: THE AWAKENING (Hong Kong 2021) ***
Directed by Li Xi Jie
There have been so many sequels, all successful in the IP franchise, that it is not surprising that one may lose count. IP MAN: THE AWAKENING (not numbered), I believe is the 5th instalment of the martial-arts action film featuring the titular hero. The title is to be actually pronounced as ‘Yip” man as that is the surname of the film’s hero and protagonist. Ip is an actual person, best known in real life, as the teacher of the famous Bruce Lee.
Ip Man, also known as Yip Man, (Chinese: 葉問 / 叶问;) was a Chinese martial artist and a grandmaster of the martial art Wing Chun when he was 20. He had several students who later became martial arts masters in their own right, the most famous among them being Bruce Lee.
The premise of the latest film is Ip’s fight against a British kidnapping ring. While visiting Hong Kong, a young Master Ip intervenes in a kidnapping attempt, unintentionally igniting a turf war with a ruthless human trafficking ring. In retaliation, the gang kidnaps one of Ip Man's close friends, Feng, leaving him with no choice but to challenge the group's notoriously brutal boxing champion head-on.
There are plenty of martial-arts action set pieces all well choreographed that should satisfy action fans. The fight choreography can be observed to be similar to those found in the Bruce Lee films, as this is the identical fighting style known as Wing Chun. The best action piece is the intense fight amidst a trolley bus where he, all dressed in white, as always, perhaps to symbolize purity, saves a girl and her mother from ruthless thieves. The use of the prop like the car railings, the poles and glass windows of the enclosed vehicle are put to good and effective use. Ip beats the shit out of the three robbers, with camera close ups of the mother gasping in fright from the fighting, all a bit funny. The villains in the piece are the British, and they use Bartitsu. Bartitsu is an eclectic martial art and self-defence method originally developed in England in 1898–1902, combining elements of boxing, jujitsu, cane fighting, and French kickboxing. The climactic fight between the two arts (Wing Chun and Bartsitsu) make this action film standout among other films in the genre.
In addition, the film has a credible romance between Ip and the girl he had saved from the bus. The film also stresses family values and the importance of old friends and family. The script contains wise ancient Chinese sayings, which might sound sometimes too cliched.
The title role of Ip Man, previously taken by DonnieYen is taken over the younger and very handsome (the excuse being given is that Ip in this film is in his youthful days) and likely soon to be just as famous, Miu Tse.
For the relatively low budget film, the production values are impressive. The old Chinese attire worn, the vintage vehicles, pigtail hair styles and props all contribute to the period atmosphere.
IP MAN: THE AWAKENING, the Action-Packed Martial Arts Drama debuts exclusively on the Streaming Service Hi-YAH! May 20 and is released on Digital, Blu-ray™ & DVD June 2.