CB Podcast Ep. 93 – “The Florida Project” Review

This week, the bros recorded a review of Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” while on vacation. Please forgive the mediocre audio quality. The conversation is sure to enlighten you on a very interesting film.
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  • Hosts: Josiah Wampfler, Sam Wampfler & Jake Wampfler
  • Produced by Josiah Wampfler
  • A Cinema Bros Network Podcast
  • Theme Music by Josiah Wampfler. Film clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders
  • Music clips used under fair use. All rights belong to their respective copyright holders.
  • Visit our website for show notes as well as articles covering film, television, video games, music & more!
  • Email us at cinemabrospod@gmail.com

“Queen Sugar” & “Atlanta” Reviews – Two Shows Brilliantly Tell Underserved Stories

The film industry, unfortunately, has been lagging behind television when it comes to diversity. Earlier this year, the Academy failed to nominate a single person of color in the acting categories while people of color make up nearly 25 percent of the acting nominations at this year’s Emmys. With shows like Fresh Off the BoatBlack-ishMaster of None and many others, television networks have shown there is a desire in audiences to see diverse casts and diverse stories being told. And now with the release of Donald Glover’s Atlanta and Ava Duvernay’s Queen Sugar, we are digging even deeper into unique perspectives that have long been ignored by mainstream entertainment and doing it all in an incredibly beautiful and cinematic ways.

Here Joe & Sam’s initial reactions to the first episodes of both Queen Sugar and Atlanta:

Queen Sugar

By Josiah Wampfler

From director Ava Duvernay, who was behind the superb SelmaQueen Sugar is absolutely magnificent. DuVernay, who also directed the first episode, brings all of the cinematic glitz of film to the small screen while also taking full advantage of long-form storytelling. This is a show that may not be for everyone. It is a slow burn family drama that is much more concerned with building connections with these characters than it is with pacing. But if you give Queen Sugar time, the emotional journey it will take you on is truly extraordinary.

And it isn’t that hard to give this show time. From the start, these characters light up the screen thanks to the actors behind them. This cast is refreshingly diverse and superbly talented, especially the main three: Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner and Kofi Siriboe. Every one of these actors seems to have a scene-stealing moment in this episode, but the one that really stood out for me was one of Siriboe’s scenes as Ralph Angel. Through a dialogue-less scene, we see three generations of men (Ralph Angel, his son and his father) have a profoundly emotional moment. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen and an extremely important moment, as it is far too rare to see intimacy and vulnerability between black men presented in film or television.

Backing up the incredible character work and wonderful narrative is the technical aspects of the show that DuVernay has said she is asked about far too little. On this technical level is where the show really cements itself as essential television and shows her incredible attention to detail. Every frame of the first episode is meticulously crafted by DuVernay so that the end result is a show that is so brilliantly beautiful, I could watch it on mute. But, that would also take away other great elements of the show like its sound design and particularly its soundtrack. The music of the show has been chosen as carefully as all of the other technical elements to create a flavor that is wholly unique and fits every second of footage like a glove.

I’ve only gotten through one episode of Queen Sugar but I can already tell this show is going to be something special. I was an emotional mess by the end of the episode, so I can’t imagine what else is in store for me throughout the rest of this season. Whatever it is, if it is done as well as this first episode, this will be a show that is sure to stand the test of time.

Queen Sugar airs on OWN Wednesdays at 10pm Eastern / 9pm Central. It is also available on iTunes & Google Play.


By Sam Wampfler

I have been a fan of Donald Glover for a long time. I have loved everything he has been a part of all the way back to his early days as a breakout YouTube star. He has always had a knack for making any situation hilarious, whether as himself in his amazing stand-ups or as Troy Barnes in the fantastic show Community. This is why I was so excited when I heard that he was being given the chance by FX to helm his own original show, Atlanta.

I’ll admit that, due to where I grew up and most definitely the color of my skin, I don’t always understand every reference in Atlanta, comedic or otherwise, but this in no way takes away from my immense enjoyment of the first two episodes. Atlanta manages to simultaneously bring laughs and oddly poignant moments of social commentary. It delves into tough topics facing America’s minority population with the gusto of a dramatic show, but uses the back drop of comedy to make these subjects easier to process. This is an absolutely unique and incredible use of the television medium.

Having witnessed Donald Glover’s ability to steal a scene in other movies and television shows, I wholeheartedly expected this to basically be The Donald Glover Show. The fact that I was proven wrong is what makes this show amazing. Each of the three main characters has a unique and interesting role in Atlanta.

Darius, played by Keith Stanfield, is the resident pothead of the trio. Despite my love for Glover, Darius might have actually taken the spot as my favorite character in the show so far. His marijuana induced ramblings are by far some of the major highlights of Atlanta. Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles, played by Brian Tyree Henry, is an aspiring rap artist whose overnight fame seems to be causing him more depression and anxiety than happiness. Glover plays Alfred’s cousin Earn, who figures he can make a little cash by helping to promote his cousin’s new career. Glover has an incredible ability to turn any phrase into a laugh out loud moment. Sometimes even just his reactions to Darius’ musings are comedy gold.

All in all, everything from the script, to the acting, all the way down to the choice of songs on the soundtrack are expertly accomplished. Atlanta is a fantastic show and even though I have only seen two episodes so far I guarantee that it will end in my top favorite shows at the end of the year.

Atlanta airs on FX Tuesdays at 10pm Eastern / 9pm Central. The first episode is available for free on YouTube and the full season is available on iTunes & Google Play.


CB Podcast Ep. 34 – “Green Room” Review

‘This week on the podcast, the bros talk about film news and lots of trailers as well as bring you their review of the bloody indie thriller ‘Green Room.”‘

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Indie Spotlight – “EVER” Review

By Josiah Wampfler

I will admit that I have always been a sucker for a good romantic film. I love a good rom-com like 13 Going on 30 and I think that Titanic is a beautiful masterpiece. Maybe I get it from my mother, who would agree with me on those points, but I think that we all can enjoy a good love story because most of us have been in love. So, when I heard about a small, little indie romance called EVER I simply had to check it out.

EVER is the story of a woman of the same name who lost her long-time boyfriend a year earlier in a car accident. She is deeply depressed and is moving through her life like a ghost. She can’t move past what happened. Then, in the midst of all this, she meets a woman named Emily, who she begins to develop romantic feelings towards.

Even though the romance involved in this film is between two women, it is unfair and untrue to categorize EVER as simply a “lesbian film.” What makes this film so powerful and so wonderful is that it is a typical romance in many ways, it just happens to be between two women. I loved this.

The film takes the best parts of the romance genre and the best parts of indie filmmaking and combines them to make a wonderfully touching story. It manages to perfectly walk the line between feeling heightened and completely down to Earth. While the situations the characters find themselves in are not exactly normal, they make for a compelling story. And while the performances by the cast are extremely real and the dialogue almost mundane, the film is never dull.

And it is these performances that made me love the film so much. Wendy McColm and Christina Elizabeth Smith play Ever and Emily, respectively, and are absolutely phenomenal. They have perfect chemistry and manage to portray the early stages of a romance in the most convincing, nuanced way. Through their performances, we see all the relationship’s rough edges. We see all the awkward, giddy, uncomfortable moments that are part of the beginning of any romantic relationship. All of these moments are what contribute to the authenticity of the film.

The stunning performances by McColm and Smith are supported by beautiful cinematography as well. Interestingly, director Josh Beck and his cinematographer Micah Van Hove decided to shoot EVER only using what light Los Angeles gave them, rarely bringing in additional lights. This makes much of the film fairly dark, but also extremely beautiful. Just as the romance we see on screen is raw and has its rough edges, so too does the look of the film have its own.

One of the most interesting aspects of the film though, is the way it was released. Because of an incredible soundtrack (That I have been listening to non-stop since I first saw the film) filled with many great indie artists, and the extremely low-budget the filmmakers had to work with, they were not able to legally sell the film. The music royalties they would have to pay were just too much. So instead, director Josh Beck released the film for free on Vimeo so people could see the film with this amazing soundtrack. I would encourage anyone to check it out and donate to the filmmakers’ PayPal as well.

Even though EVER is a free film on Vimeo made for $12,000 and stars actors you have never heard of, it is easily one of the best films I’ve seen in a while. If it had come out last year, it probably would have even made my Top Ten. It just goes to show you that you don’t need millions of dollars to make a beautiful, compelling film. Instead, great films come from having a great vision and the right actors to pull it off.

Watch EVER Here!

CB Podcast Ep. 18 – “Tangerine”

“Sam is absent, but Jake and Joe are joined by a special guest to discuss the start of awards season, a brand new trailer for ‘The Nice Guys,’ and the movie shot on an iPhone, ‘Tangerine.'”

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“Creep” Review

By Josiah Wampfler

The horror genre has long been plagued by two-bit actors, predictable plots and overall poor quality. Every time we get a new mainstream horror film at the theater I work, the first thing we think is, “oh, that’s probably going to suck,” or “did they need to make another one?…” Like what was discussed in Jake’s review of “It Follows” though, there is a indie horror Renaissance happening right now and Patrick Brice’s “Creep” is the newest and best of this exciting resurgence.

Since the film is so short and to give away to many plot details would be unfair to you, the reader, I will simply say this: “Creep” is a horror film about a videographer who takes a Craigslist job and goes to the client’s house to film… and it is disturbing as hell.

The film has only two cast members: the writer and director, Patrick Brice and the poster boy for indie filmmaking, Mark Duplass, both of whom are absolutely brilliant. Despite being a horror film, Duplass brings his signature awkward comedy into the mix to create a nice mix of light-hearted moments and terrifying uneasiness.

The film is shot in the found-footage style, but unlike many of these films, the technique is central to the plot and it is a benefit to the film. In fact, the ending of the film is made all the more disturbing because of the found-footage style.

One of the things I liked most about the film that many horror films get wrong was the perfect pacing it had. Throughout the film, Brice makes sure that each time the horror and tension get ramped-up it makes sense. The tension builds slowly, but just fast enough to keep you glued to the edge of your seat, until finally, the tension subsides as the true horror of the film is revealed in “Creep’s” superb ending.

What else can I say without spoiling it? “Creep” is a must-see movie for horror-enthusiasts and indie film-lovers alike. I can safely say that it is my favorite horror film I have ever seen and the ending absolutely blew me away. It is available on Netflix Instant right now and I would implore anyone to check it out.

“Kumiko The Treasure Hunter” Review

“This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

 – So begins 1996’s Fargo, the basis for the new film by the Zellner Brothers, Kumiko The Treasure Hunter.

Kumiko The Treasure Hunter tells the story of Japanese woman who is dissatisfied with her life. She has a job that bores her, no friends to be seen and a mother that keeps hounding her about getting married. Then one day she discovers a beaten up old VHS tape of Fargo. She takes the words at the beginning seriously and sets off on a journey to find the money buried by Carl Showalter at the end of film. These are the broad strokes of Kumiko, but the film is so much more than those.

At its core, the film is a psychological journey through Kumiko’s mind. Throughout the film you ask, is she simply ignorant or is she mentally-ill to believe that she can find this treasure? But then, a third option at times occurs to you that is even more interesting: What if she’s right? What if she does find this treasure?

That is not to say it is some mind-bending thriller though. Kumiko manages to stay fairly grounded, no matter how ridiculous the plot seems, and its pacing is closer to The Godfather than it is to Inception. While the pacing does pick up as the film moves along, toward the beginning, there are times where it is almost unbearably slow. The film was only 105 minutes, but it could have easily been 100 or 95 minutes just by tweaking the pacing a bit.

Still, in these slower moments, you also get fantastic glimpses into the mind of Kumiko through the incredible performance of Rinko Kikuchi. While the role asks for very little dialogue, Kikuchi wears her thoughts and emotions on her sleeve, letting you in just enough through her facial expressions and posture. It is fascinating to watch her display complete confidence in this far-fetched journey, even as those around her smirk at the thought of it.

The greatest aspect of the film though, is the cinematography by Sean Porter. Every frame of this movie looks like it belongs in an art museum. The way he uses Kumiko’s red hoodie as the focal point of most of the film, setting up perfectly contrasting backgrounds to put her against, is completely masterful.

There is one scene in particular though, that blew me away, both for its simplicity and its beauty. The scene has Kumiko start in a doorway talking on a phone. Behind her to the left, a mirror is placed in the corner so that when she moves out of the doorway and behind the wall, the audience can still see her in the mirror. Then she moves back to the doorway, creating a beautiful scene without ever having to change camera angles.

And Porter uses these kind of interesting shots throughout the film, never taking the easy way out. Every shot in Kumiko is meticulously thought out, making it one of the most gorgeous films I have ever seen. Really, even if the story would have been terrible, it would have been worth it just to watch this film for the visuals alone.

And the story isn’t terrible! Throughout Kumiko’s journey there are slightly comedic parts, sad moments and even times of complete wonder. Though most of the film is quite even-keeled and even melancholy, the Zellner Brothers brilliantly mix in these deeper moments that break the tension of some of the slower parts. The comedy especially is perfectly done, playing with Midwestern culture like Fargo does, just in a more down-to-earth, realistic way.

Overall, one of the few flaws I found in the film and one of the few things I could see that other people didn’t like about it was the pacing. It is true that Kumiko The Treasure Hunter is no Indiana Jones and at times it gets pretty slow. I mean, I watched this when I was tired and toward the beginning I had to fight to stay awake. So, yes, that could have been handled better but, Kumiko is such a brilliant film in so many other ways that you can’t help but keep watching (and the pacing does get better).

Kumiko The Treasure Hunter, in the end, is a slightly flawed masterpiece of a film. The performances, story, cinematography and the music (incredible score by The Octopus Project) all completely blew me away. And is there another modern film that looks and sounds so good? I really can’t think of one.