Review : Pendulum 


“When Luther, the CEO of a major software company, realizes he has a stalker intent on doing him harm, he calls in Ryan, an old friend and former soldier. Ryan, who is battling with post-traumatic stress disorder, tracks down the stalker and is forced to kill him, but in so doing, makes a shocking discovery.”

Pendulum is a Trinidad made film, staring Jovon Browne, Stephen Hadeed Jr., and Anokha Baptiste. It’s directed by Michael Rochford, and was fully filmed in Trinidad and Tobago. If I had to describe this movie in one word, to quote a friend of mine from his wedding speech, “Problems!”. Visually and stylistically, Pendulum swings back and forth from well done, good looking shots, to really uninspired, seemingly lazy film making. There are even times when I would notice some pretty visible clipping of footage, or some mistakes that should have been noticed like a scene where one character is holding an empty beer of one brand, and when someone walks across the frame, he then has a full beer of a different brand in his hand. That seeming lack of attention to details plagues this entire film. Hadeed Jr. and De Lancey are good when they’re given enough to work with, but Browne who plays the title role here really lacks the on screen charisma, to make you connect with his character. And as we’re on the topic of problems, there are many, but I’m going to talk in-depth about the worst one. Now I’ve had this issue with local films before, the sound, sound editing, sound mixing, and to a lesser extent the score, are serious issues here. The entire movie seemed to have had its dialogue ADRed, but it’s done so poorly that it constantly is out of time with characters lips, there is no spatial awareness to it, it’s all flat, it comes and goes at points, there are even time where people say things, and you hear nothing. The rest of the audio here is also like this. Sound effects come and go, they don’t match up with to what we see on screen, they’re too loud or too soft, or they just don’t match with at they’re attached to. At more than one point in this movie, the audio simply cuts out, and abruptly pops back up a few seconds later. I don’t have any issues with the score musically, it just seemed underwhelming, which could be due to it’s often understated levels. The title sequence at the start of this movie is good, but it’s preceded by a random sequence of credits that are subsequently rendered useless by the actual title credits. The fight scenes are sloppy, the effects are barebones, and when the cinematography goes off, it goes way off. The story only becomes coherent (but never believable) when characters literally spell out everything that actually happened, in a narrative that tries to be too ckever for its own good. All in all, what Pendulum feels like, is a student movie that was meant to be done by a certain time, wasn’t, but had to be handed in anyway. I never want to be so negative on films from my home, but I feel like I have to hold them to the same standard I hold all movies.

Review Score : 2 out of 10

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TTFF 17 Review

Today we really got some good ones!

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Chocolate (Short\Dominican Republic 2016)

“Yan gets stood up by his date, and ends up meeting his friend at a local club. To get Yan out of his distress, his friend challenges him to talk to a girl who is standing across from them. Yan uses different tactics to try to lure her.”

Chocolate is one of those shorts, that gets inside you, and sticks with you. Its only 11 minutes long, but it has everything a great story needs. It has compelling characters (even with enough back story that you feel for them and where they are in life), it has beautiful story telling, its funny, its emotional, and it manages all this in just 11 minutes. I can’t say too much about it, as it is only 11 minutes and there is only so much of its story I could tell without telling it in its entirety, but this truly is a master class in telling  a story with no fat on it. There isn’t a wasted shot, frame, or sound here, and thats from the start to the very, very end. If you can see this short film anywhere at any time, please take the time and give it a look.

Review Score : 10 out of 10

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Nadie Nos Mira: Nobody’s Watching (Argentina 2017)

“Nico is a rising young actor in his native Argentina, but he wants to make it big in America —  and he’s running from some demons at home. He has some good friends in the US, and success dangles almost within reach as he makes some promising contacts. But unless those promises are fulfilled, he’s just another illegal immigrant struggling to make not only a living, but also to find a sense of home.”

Nadie Nos Mira or Nobody’s Watching is a hard film to watch. Its not that its not good, its very good, its just maybe a little too real. Like a short film I watched yesterday, this movie also has a big theme of “home”, and to a lesser extent family. It tells the story of a well known actor in his native Argentina, who for reasons I won’t spoil, leaves to pursue a greater career in New York. A big part of this movie is also the LGBT community, and the impact that still has on so many people across so many facets of life. This movie has a real, “real” feel to it, it really makes you feel like you’re right next to these characters in an almost voyeuristic way, which is part of the reason this movie is so hard to watch. There are some very intense scenes in this movie also, and they all fell warranted and earned, and not just done for shock value. This movie is very slow though, it almost trudges along, slowly pulling you through the snow to and ending you hope is better for these characters than the lives they currently live.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Cartel-de-Melocotones.

Melocotones: Peaches (Dominican Republic 2015)

“For their anniversary, Diego has planned a repeat of his first weekend with his girlfriend Laura. In fact he’s planned it too exactly, and Laura is bored by his lack of spontaneity. Luckily Diego, an inventor, can rejig his Sexotron machine, travel back in time and make everything different. Filmed in Technicolor hues, this sex/science-fiction comedy has a 1950s look, and the gadgets have a distinctly antiquated air. So Diego’s scientific experiments have some unexpected and hilarious outcomes.”

Honestly, Peaches (Melocotones), is one of those movies that you almost have to see to believe, and if you have any sense of humor at all, you will be so glad you did watch it. The film takes a lot of its inspiration from Technicolor, and 1980’s cinema, down to the wonderful synths throughout the entire score of this movie. From the jump, this movie shows you that it doesn’t take itself very seriously, and you shouldn’t either. Even though this movie is done is very serious way, its shot, edited, and everything else perfectly, and it knows everything its doing because its doing them on purpose. Even in the story itself, which takes what would be a very serious sci-fi- premise, and flips it on its head with a level of absurdity that juxtaposes the traditional tropes of such a genre. Peaches is one of those movies that doesn’t need to much to be said about it, it just needs to be seen, and I highly recommend seeing it.

Review Score : 9 out of 10

TTFF 17 Review


Salty Dog (Short\Trinidad 2017)

“When the rug is pulled from under his feet, a savvy old salt must navigate the stormy waters of his relationship with his estranged son. As tensions flare between the two, the son checks out retirement homes for his father”

Salty Dog is a short film written and directed by Oliver Milne, and features a cast, crew, and locations all related to the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. As a short, it’s actually quite ambitious in its intended scope, and the narrative it looks to tell. Deep down I think this movie is really about homes, and the things that make them such. We see through the rocky relationship between this father and son that home for each has become two separate worlds, even if they both might be more similar than either would like to admit. You get a great sense also for the difference in lives each man has been leading, even in this shortened form of story telling. By the end, you get the idea that home isn’t always to same to everyone, and that maybe and old dog can learn some new tricks. Salty Dog is nicely done bit of story telling, with enough heart and humor to fill a movie with a longer run time.

Review Score : 7.5 out of 10


King of Peking (China 2017)

“When home entertainment enters the market in 90s Beijing, a former projectionist ropes his young son into starting their own pirate movie company, but easy money comes with its own price tag.”

King of Peking is one of those movies made to make you feel warm inside. It plays on two major fronts, our love of movies, and our love for family. You feel for Big Wong and Little Wong throughout their ups and downs. They have a strong and great connection as father and son, and that connection is built on a mutual love of cinema. And we really do get to see that love, over the 5 chapters of the movie, and we really feel like we become part of the family. It reminds all of us that love film, that through right and wrong, through thick and thin, we will always have our favorite movies, and the connections we make from them. Shot with a real warmth, paced really nicely, and written super smartly, King of Peking is one of those movies that make you smile, and want to go home and hug your parents for all they’ve done for you.

Review Score : 8 out of 10

Review : Green Days by the River

A Trinidadian boy on the edge of adult responsibilities, Shellie moves to a new village and meets two girls. He is charmed by Rosalie but also attracted to the more cheerful and accessible Joan.

Green days by the River is an extremely popular and well received book from author Michael Anthony. It tells a classic coming of age story, but with some twists and turns that make it distinctly Trinidadian. This feature adaptation is directed by Michael Mooleedhar, with an adaption for the screen by Dawn Cumberbatch. There is definitely a lot to like here, but we have some problems to address also. The good here is that Sudai Tafari who is charged with the title role of Shellie, does a great job in his subtle and nuanced performance here. He does a great job anchoring the film, and keeping it grounded. The rest of the main cast here is also good, and the occasional bad delivery or over acted scene is balanced by Tafari’s performance. The score here also, while it could be a bit over bearing at times, definitely suited the material. The story of Green days is certainly a small one, but I felt like the film itself was made to feel a bit too small. It was as if a minimal amount of scenery was used to represent a much larger area. This leads into some of the movies main problems. To start, I’m not sure what the desired effect of the editing was, but it just served to chop up the movies pace, and maybe try and cover up a lack of content to provide a more flowing narrative. There is a lot of great scenery to be had here, but it felt like it was more opportunistic than planned, and in this story, Mayaro where this story takes place is a character in itself. Also it’s needs to be said that one of the most titular moments of the book, is over in a flash with little or the tension, pain, and despair of its novel counterpart. I don’t know if it was a budgetary issue, or a lack of the requisite tools, but I think any book fan would be disappointed with the movies version of those events. All in all, Green Days is a movie that gives us parts of the story we love, but lacks the authenticity of the novel it’s based on. I do think it’s worth seeing, but I wish I could recommend it more highly. (Also those big Tobago dogs were pretty skinny man).

Review Score: 6.5 out of 10

Review : The Cutlass

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“Inspired by true events, THE CUTLASS is a dramatic thriller set in the tropical wilderness of Trinidad and tells the story of a young woman who falls into the grasp of a dangerous sociopath. She finds herself isolated and musters the courage to emotionally battle the unsettled mind of her abductor.”

As the summary implies, this movie both takes place and was made by and in Trinidad and Tobago (so if you’re not from or in the Caribbean you might not be able to see this one). Its written by Teneille Newallo, and directed by Darisha Beresford, and it boasts a genuinely diverse cast across all levels. The movie itself is definitely more good than bad, but first, the good. Arnold Goindhan who plays the antagonist here, has the meatiest role, and the most heavy lifting, acting wise to do here, and he does a pretty good job. He does come across as sincere in his more vulnerable moments, and when he keeps his portrayal subtle, he really shines. He does this across from Lisa-Bel Hirschmann, who definitely keeps her acting as subtle as possible, but for the most part doesn’t have as much to play against. Her most emotional scene however, is done really well, and she does tug on the heart strings with her performance there. I do think some of the cinematography does lack a bit of imagination, as I think it would have allowed for some more powerful scenes with some better framing. I also did have some problems with the sound, not in that it was bad, or not done properly, there just were a few times when I felt in either the ADR, or straight audio mixing of the audio, that some dialogue didn’t feel like it was happening in the situation, but sounded more like a voice over. The score I also wasn’t too impressed with, for the most part it was very subdued and subtle, and thats fine, but I felt like when it really needed to swell and help impart some emotion or suspense, it came off a bit lack luster. And lack luster is how I would define the ending of this movie, for most of it, everything in the movie is building towards to a head, towards some kind of resolution, and you just never get it. There is an ending here, and there are definite resolutions in the script, but things don’t feel resolved, they feel like what we invested in before, was fully paid off. I know I probably sound like I really don’t like this film, but I did like it, the things that it did well, it genuinely did. There are some problems here yes, like any movie really, but this movie definitely shows the raising levels of Caribbean film making. Production wise this is one of the best local (local meaning Trinidadian) films I’ve seen. All in all, I do encourage anyone who has the opportunity to check this movie out to do so, supporting local industries is important for growth, and there is definitely enjoyment to be had in this movie.

Review Score : 7 out of 10

Review : Bazodee

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“A chance encounter between Anita and Lee, shakes up both of their worlds and leading to new sensations and a whole lot of bacchanal.”

Bazodee tries to blend the worlds of romantic comedy, Bollywood style musicals and a mix of acting and musical talent. Does it work? Kind of. So before I get to the things I like about this movie, I want to address the two biggest problems I have with it. The first I’m sorry to say, is that while Machel Montano is probably the greatest entertainer to ever come out of Trinidad and Tobago, he is no actor. The biggest issue with this is that there are occasions where the movie tries to build certain things up, but when they are put on his acting, they fall down. The second thing that held this movie back for me was the absolute lack of sympathy for the actual love story between the title characters here. Anita’s soon to be husband is portrayed literally as the perfect man in every manner from his looks, to his job, to his affection and attention to Anita, and as such, it is really hard to go with her and support a lot of the decisions she makes.The times when this movie does break out into song and dance, the movie switches over to a very obviously voiced over, studio sang audio track that keep taking me right out of the movie. It was the sound mixing in particular that was the issue, it keep making it feel like these character who are supposed to be in real life, were all of a sudden lip syncing to some track, as opposed to sounding like there were still in their environment and with those emotions. My problems aside, there is enjoyment to be had here. As expected the music in this movie is very good, and there are some nice change ups to songs we know and love to help fit the movie and make them a bit more relevant to the story. There are also a lot of laughs to be had, and some of them are pretty good ones too. All in all, Bazodee has some stand up and some fall down areas, and these falls do keep it back from being as fun and exciting as I think it could have been.

(Also, i don’t know if it was just me, but there was this one light that was over the table they would use in Shakers that annoyed me for some reason, no idea why, lol.)

Review Score : 6 out of 10