Categories
Screen Reviews

Paul Williams Still Alive

Paul Williams Still Alive

directed by Stephen Kessler

starring Paul Williams

Admit it. When you saw this title, you thought “Paul Williams? I thought he died or something!” No, it turns out Mr. Williams is alive and well and still performing successfully. Back in the 1970s Williams wrote a stream of big hits, took to performing, and eventually became an all around “entertainer” who wrote, sang, and acted in TV Land classics like The Brady Bunch, Police Woman, The Tonight Show and nearly any awards show that would have him. Short and bit pudgy, he always exuded the aura of “I’m fabulous, and you’re blessed to be in my presence even though this is just crappy network television.” After a decade of success the inevitable drugs, rehabs, and obscurity engulfed him, but when he came back, he still had fans and he still entertained. Heck, they even love him in the Philippines.

So why this documentary, and why now? That’s the challenge of this entertaining but lightweight look at the “where is he now” genre. We see director Kessler approach Williams, who is initially reluctant, but he likes being the center of attention and soon Kessler is following him around looking for an angle. They bond over a mutual taste for squid, and after jetting around the country for a few months Kessler and Williams become good buddies. We see Williams’ hotel rooms, meet his wife and agent, chat with his musical director (who refuses to dish any dirt) and see dozens of clips from Williams’ personal archive, which is kept in a store-all unit somewhere in L.A.

While the fun of seeing Williams’ vintage performances makes this enjoyable, Kessler seems overly involved; he reads him travel warnings, and freaks out on a third world bus trip while Williams is perfectly happy to be the tourist. It never feels like Kessler has a story goal, rather he hangs around until he has enough footage and enough story arc to put together 90 minutes of low-keyed pop history. Williams’ continued popularity might be a little surprising, but he’s one of a large group of pop stars who has journeyed the same path of success, addiction, and then either death or rehab. Williams made his recovery gracefully. He’s an addiction counselor today, and while he didn’t find Jesus, he’s kept his good name and his family which is something. I’m entertained and moved, but this documentary is more interesting because of its star rather than its storytelling.

This film was presented as part of the 2012 Florida Film Festival.

Florida Film Festival: www.FloridaFilmFestival.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Wrinkle Neck Mules

Wrinkle Neck Mules

Apprentice to Ghosts

Lower 40 Records

If they made Heavy Country or Melodic Folk-Metal, it might sound like the Wrinkle Neck Mules. The steel guitar is Nashville 1968, the lyrics dead serious and so bluesy you’ll start drafting a suicide note, and afterwards they’ll help you spell check it. We open to gravel and alcohol-driven vocals: “When the Wheels Touch Down” builds slowly and ends at one of those wonderful musical climaxes where everyone in the band, everyone in the studio, and two guys delivering pizza join in. Singing and songwriting comes from Andy Stepanian and Chase Heard; I can’t tell who’s voice is whose but both are impressive. Title track “Apprentice to Ghosts” is square in the hard rock camp, and then it’s back to bluesy folk with “Stone Over My Head.” Like any good band, there’s a web of back story. They’ve played on national commercials and nearly died in fiery car wrecks, and after five albums I’m sure they have enough rock and roll stories to last a lifetime. Wrinkle Neck Mules are ascendant, and they’ve been working hard for years. I’m glad I finally found them.

Wrinkle Neck Mules: wrinkleneckmules.comfacebook.com/wrinkleneckmuleslower40records.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Carole King

Carole King

Pearls / Touch the Sky / Welcome Home / Simple Things

Rockingale Records / Concord Music

Once, when America was great, we built things on production lines. Automobiles, airplanes, movies, pop music, all had specialists that focused on a single aspect of the process, got it right, and got it done on schedule. In the music industry there were songwriters, composers, arrangers, singers, and DJs, all with well-defined roles. Carole King was one of the writers tucked in a microscopic office in the Brill Building with Neil Sedaka, Phil Spector, Leiber and Stoller, and a dozen other “names.” But Ms. King had aspirations and a voice, and soon she was singing and recording her own material, thus the singer/songwriter became the Next Big Thing. Her second album, 1971’s Tapestry blasted her to a solid number one position and multi-platinum rock icon status. Her next five albums all placed in the Top 10, but she then began a gradual decline in popularity. Perhaps the public tired of her voice, maybe her best ideas were recorded, and maybe even the nasty punk screamers took the public’s eye. Let’s take a look at four lesser known mid-career LP’s that Concord and Rockingale (King’s own label) has reissued.

Simple Things went gold, and while it didn’t spawn a major hit, there were two charting singles: “Simple Things” and “Hard Rock Cafe.” The first offers a harder backing sound reminiscent of the Eagles, and the second leans toward a Latin beat with that Jimmy Buffet beach slacker groove. There’s more good stuff here, “In the Name of Love” is a gentle ballad with powerful vocals, and “You’re the One Who Knows” mixes a generic ’70s power-pop backing with great lyrics. There’s a “Me, Too” aura here; King is chasing the stadium rockers sound of 1977.

Welcome Home debuted the very next year and King’s style hadn’t changed. Songs start with either a simple folk melody on piano or guitar, or a medium hard rock guitar influence. In either case they move quickly back to what King does best: pop love ballads that emphasize her vocal skills. While she’s clearly a gifted singer, there’s always a slight edge in her voice that telegraphs “pop rock” while excluding opera or classic show tunes. She takes a shot at a sitar-driven psychedelic number with “Venusian Diamond” but it feels forced and slightly wrong, as does “Disco Tech” with its generic funk bass line. The minor hit “Morning Sun” has a pleasant non-threatening vibe and a backing flute, but you can sense King is grasping, not sure if she should stick to her roots or try the Linda Ronstadt strategy of constantly chasing the next trend.

By Touch the Sky, chart success had permanently fled. This album charted at 104 and no singles caught the public’s ear. King was no longer weakly chasing the crowd, but she clearly had a loyal fan base and this album turns to please this core of record buyers. “Time Gone By” and “Move Lightly” sound like classics, and they are centered in her emotional and vocal sweet spot. Her vocals remain a constant and by now I can identify her voice on a Greatest Mix radio station in no more than three words. The styles are safe — the county sound for “Good Mountain People,” ballads for heartbreaker “You Still Want Her,” and early New Age mysticism for “Eagle.” Solid and enjoyable, Touch the Sky seems to step back from seeking a hit and Ms. King accepts her new lesser light status in the business.

The last disc, Pearls, reprises songs she co-wrote with Gerry Goffin. While not exactly a Greatest Hits collection, you will recognize all of these tracks even if they wander off the original style. Listen for the whitest “Do the Locomotion” ever recorded, the bouncy and rocking “One Fine Day” and some interesting vocal harmony on “Chains.” We are now in the relaxed phase of a mega star’s career — hits aren’t necessary to prove anything, but there is still a joy in making and recording music that you can share with those who appreciate your efforts. King remains a force in music, and one of the writing geniuses of the century.

Carole King: www.concordmusicgroup.comCaroleKing.com

Categories
Music Reviews

VVV

VVV

Across the Sea

Fortified Audio

When it comes to these obscure electronic bands, I often spend more time digging for a website than I do tracking the record. VVV is a good example. They seem to be listed on every music blog/ download/ fan page, but there’s precious little self-generated content, and I’m left with MySpace and Band Zone. That’s how much I love you; I dig for all these sites so you don’t have to. In this case, the result is a very pleasant surprise. VVV is a slick, smooth sounding electronic collective from the Czech Republic, and let’s see how well your browser renders Unicode: we have Honza Bernard VanÄ›Äek on vocals and bass, FrantiÅ¡ek Vácha backing on drums, and Mates VodiÄka helping on vocals and guitar.

While advertised as a dub step/ garage band by their publicist, I find them more electronic dance heading toward ambient. The weird doubled rhythm of dubstep is lurking, there’s a bit more auto-tune than absolutely necessary, but the strings are pleasantly full, full of reedy reverb and subtle rhythm. There’s an occasional drop, the female vocals echo through time and space, and that’s just on opener “Jade Mountain.” “Duration of Light” brings hip-hop to the table, and then plays with the rhythm like a cat batting a paper ball around. “Across the Sea” adds some ambient whistles and earthy organ chords but sticks to a bass and drum center. Lastly I’ll mention “Aisle Seat.” If there’s a dubstep love song, this is it. Overall, this album provides a solid, involving, sonic experience. Production values are clean and slick, the group knows what it’s about, and there’s never a point where you hope “OK, I get that beat. Let’s move on.” VVV might be obscure, but they sure don’t deserve it.

VVV: www.last.fm/music/vvvwww.myspace.com/thethreeveesbandzone.cz/vvv

Categories
Screen Reviews

An Affair of the Heart

An Affair of the Heart

directed by Sylvia Caminer

starring Rick Springfield

Yellow Rick Road Productions

I was shocked to learn that not only is Rick Springfield still touring and recording, but he has a huge fan base, played a Swedish metal fest, and still has women throwing themselves at his feet. What better subject for a rock and roll documentary can there be? Director Caminer gets into the heart of the Springfield machine, penetrating not only the backstage trailers but also the ultra fanatic fan base and the people who have to put up with them. Springfield comes across as a sincere entertainer who’s been through the mill, where the grinder has honed and matured him, and the fans range from the obsessive-compulsive collectors of concert experiences to those that treat him like more like a personal savior than a guy who writes guitar-oriented power pop.

Springfield had his first fame on early MTV. Ex VJ Mark Goodman describes him as “a pop lightweight, a pretty boy, and a bit of an ass.” Not pretty, but that’s industry shorthand and you have to keep track of all these star wanabees somehow. Rock and roll isn’t a good long-term career, and Springfield moved over to playing Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. A soap star gig is as good as a pop star gig and you have other people to worry about the writing. But after a decade of that he returned to the stage, and now he’s back on the road, cranking out albums and selling tickets. This doc visits the full spectrum of touring options: Midwestern fairs and fests, tropical cruise ships, a four-day stint in a Milwaukee Indian Casino, and my favorite, a Swedish heavy metal festival. He kisses babies, mentors young musicians, and gives middle-aged women a taste of the sexual fantasies he instigated in 1985. Yeah, there’s some dirt, but his wife stuck with him through thick and thin, and let’s face it, groupies are more interesting than faithful wives.

Of course, those groupies are married now and have their own children and long suffering husbands. We follow several of them; Mommy Time included driving hundreds of miles to see concerts, getting exclusive backstage access, and dodging embarrassing photographs that need to be explained. One woman spent her youth surviving heart surgery and sees Springfield as a guru, others are entranced when Springfield visits their hotel rooms, and the only one who seems somewhat normal is the kid Dustin, whom Springfield took up on stage at three and 10 years later is soloing for him on “Victoria’s Secret.” This guy is lucky he doesn’t have any really creepy stalkers, or if he does, Caminer carefully edits them out.

I agree “Jessie’s Girl” is a nearly perfect pop tune, but what notched him up in my book was a cover of Bowie’s “Suffragette City.” I’m not ready to quit my job and follow the tour, but I enjoyed seeing into his later life success. Too often we read about pop stars dead or addicted or starving and bitter, and it’s refreshing to see someone who did well and continues to enjoy living the dream. If you’re a Springfield fan, you’ll see this as soon as it’s released, and if not, remember what was printed on some guy’s tee-shirt: “Real Men go to Rick Springfield concerts… and get laid after the show.”

This film was presented as part of the 2012 Florida Film Festival Rick Springfield: rickspringfielddoc.comwww.filmstransit.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records

Strange Fruit: The Beatles’ Apple Records

starring The Beatles, The Iveys, Badfinger, Mary Hopkins, James Taylor

Sexy Intellectual

If you suddenly find yourself with more money than you know what to do with, you’re not likely to do anything terribly brilliant, and The Beatles proved that by founding Apple Records. Apple began with a thunderous barrage of smoke and fury but ultimately faded away as an embarrassing monument to what happens in a cutthroat business when no one is in charge and no one cares. By 1967 The Beatles had done most of their best work as a group, finished touring, and the money was rolling in so fast Inland Revenue couldn’t haul it all away. Apple was founded for tax reasons as much as artistic ones — a corporation could deduct lots of ordinary expenses that a private citizen could not. There were laudable intentions as well; Apple was to be an “artist’s label” free of meddling for guys in ill-fitting suits and with uncool tastes.

Too bad those suits were what made hits and made money and most of Apple’s non-Beatles releases were flops. When a promising band was signed, it rarely got the support and guidance it needed for success, and talent was selected at the whim of individual Beatles when they weren’t on holiday or working their own projects. James Taylor released one album on Apple and was then foolishly released to Warner. The Iveys felt like a retread of the early Beatles and languished until they became Badfinger and recorded some of McCartney’s material. Mary Hopkins had a few minor hits and faded away, and those successes were the recordings McCartney touched. Beyond that, the batting average is low. Acts like Elephant’s Memory, Jackie Lomax, Brute Force, Hot Chocolate Band, and Lon & Derrek Van Eaton are largely forgotten outside of the vinyl collecting universe, while stars like David Bowie and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young slipped by. Only Yoko Ono went on to renown, and not because she sold records or drew either popular or critical praise, but rather her look and promotion by John Lennon made her the Warhol-ish star she was. Eventually the label ran out of cash.

This is NOT an authorized documentary, and it dishes the dirt pretty well. A collection of Beatles experts, former label mates, and rock journalists provide commentary between archival footage, and early promotional films and still photos with annoying “Fakey Old Film Scratch Effects” tell the story. It’s well-written and researched, and at 160 minutes run time, it will keep you engaged for an entire evening. You don’t see much of The Beatles themselves; the focus is on The Iveys / Badfinger, Jackie Lomax, and Elephant’s Memory. A special feature interviews Brute Force, who recorded “The King of Fuh” which wasn’t released until the digital age. I’m not sure why…

While the Fab Four have little to say, you get a good look at what they focused on post breakup. McCartney comes across as the best writer and promoter; he gives a few brilliant songs to label artists which are the ones you might have actually heard. Badfinger’s “Come and Get It” was an uncredited McCartney number that themed the Peter Sellers / Ringo Star hit film Magic Christian. George Harrison generally looks stoned, and he walked away from Apple first. John Lennon moved to New York, took up with the radicals in Greenwich Village, and made politics instead of hits, losing even more money. Ringo seems lost in all this, and fades away after a few movies, under promoted, under financed and the lost boy of the band. The entire documentary is a metaphor for the transition from ’60s idealism to ’70s commercialism, and while the ’70s bands were more about the almighty pound sterling, they still made music that moved people. Idealism is fun while it lasts, but nowadays no one is talking to their old friends, and that’s kind of sad.

Chrome Dreams: www.chromedreams.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Deep Purple

Deep Purple

Total Abandon: Australia ’99

Thompson Music / Eagle Rock Entertainment

These guys really know how to milk a catalog. With arguably a dozen or so real hits, Deep Purple has popped out two dozen live albums, and while I’ve only heard a small sampling of that aspect of that oeuvre (“oeuvre” sounds sexier than “product”) I always gravitate back to those critical dozen hits. (See below). And that’s what sets this disc squarely in the middle of the Deep Purple live sets. While everything here’s cleanly played and recorded with a quality that makes me think the audience was dubbed in later, it’s rather workman-like and never takes your breath away as perhaps Live In London or In Concert 1970-1972 do. B side and C-side stuff like “Ted The Mechanic” and “Almost Human” and “Watching the Sky” sound interesting but are a warm up for the soaring “Pictures of Home,” “Fireball,” and the biggest chestnut of all, “Smoke on the Water.” What I’m saying is, you probably need a Deep Purple Live Album, but you don’t need all of them. Chose wisely, young record collector.

So if you’re shopping for DP live material, you could do worse. The lineup is Ian Paice, Roger Glover, John Lord, Ian Gillian, and not quite classic Steve Morse on guitar. The band is tight, stage patter is minimal, there’s not much audience sing along, and you have the very slight cool factor of “previously unreleased in North America.” This won’t impress many hardcore fans who own all the bootlegs, but it’s an angle that might impress anyone old enough to know what a tone arm is. I say rock on, Ians! And go look up “tone arm.”

The canonical hits are “Speed King,” “Child in Time,” “Fireball,” “Highway Star,” “Maybe I’m a Leo,” “Pictures of Home,” “Smoke on the Water,” “Lazy,” “Space Truckin’,” “My Woman from Tokyo,” “Burn,” and “Stormbringer.”

Deep Purple: www.eaglerockent.comwww.deeppurple.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Santana: Live at Montreux 2011

Santana: Live at Montreux 2011

directed by Chris Cowley

starring Carlos Santana

Eagle Rock Entertainment

Somewhere around “Black Magic Woman” Carlos Santana hits that classic chord we’ve all heard and I think “My God, he’s held that note since Woodstock!” With 25 albums under his belt, this guy is the poster boy for Latin rock and has never sounded better. This astonishing two-DVD concert from the 2010 Montreux jazz festival packs in over three hours of material, with pretty much all of it top caliber. Backing him up is a fluid sea of band members, guests, and fellow stars. Where to begin? Well, the first big surprise is a rocking cover of AC/DC’s “Back In Black.” Never mind the jarring cross-cultural high-concept hipness, this a GREAT cover of a song that just rolls out of left field and blows you away. Another great cover is Eric Clapton’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” This is less surprising, yet every bit as good as you might hope: one guitar god covers another, capturing the essence of the original while taking us deeper into the song with effortless ease. Naturally Santana’s big hits are here, besides “Black Magic Woman” you’ll groove to “Oye Como Va” (technically a Tito Puente cover itself), “Duende,” “Evil Ways,” and “Guajira.”

The fast cutting and steady stream of guests make it hard to identify the band members, much less count them. You can cheat and look inside the jewel box where I count 10 backing players, and they support at least three drum kits, a small armada of synthesizers, a bass, and a small but tight brass line. No rest for the wicked; if you’re not playing your main instrument pick up some bells or a tambourine or gourd and make some noise. The show is so long there are two drum solos, one by band regular Dennis Chambers and one by Cindy Blackman Santana. With her Angela Davis hairdo and scrunchy facial expressions, she’ll take you as close to the Sixties as we can get in these pre-time-travel days. Everyone looks cool, but Santana looks best of all in his white brocade vest, white hat, and third eye jewel. Everyone sticks to the music, occasionally a few words are muttered, and there’s a short speech about ending war and disbanding armies. Hope that goes well.

The emphasis is on the concert experience, besides some sound options there are just three featurettes: a rambling interview with Santana, a more coherent one with Ms. Santana and the de rigueur “making of” video. Read the booklet if you care, but crank the music — this sounded great on my giant three-inch “Insignia” brand speakers; with a real stereo I think you could do some serious ear damage.

Eagle Rock: www.eaglerockent.com

Categories
Music Reviews

Lords of Acid

Lords of Acid

Deep Chills

Metropolis Records

Some people think rock and roll is just code talk for sex and drugs, and if all they ever heard was Lords of Acid, how could you blame them? In the heyday of raves (say, 1991) The Lords splashed big with “I Sit on Acid,” whose hook is best printed here with excessive punctuations: “Come on dear, **** me in the ****.” I’m sure you can Google the rest. Well, lead singer and sex toy collector Praga Khan has returned with her first album since 2000’s Farstucker and while it plows no new fields, it’s a solid add-on to her oeuvre of oversexed dance music.

Opener “Little Mighty Rabbit” isn’t subtle; it’s more an infomercial for a personal massage device and not likely to get airplay on Clear Channel. The 14 tracks here thump thump through the Kama Sutra and the Fetish Map: “Long John” explores bikers cross dressing, “Sole Sucker” shows the erotic potential of Designer Shoe Warehouse, “Pop That Tooshie (featuring Alana Evans)” revisits the focus of most rap videos, and I’m sure there’s something here that will excite that little sliver of your brain you never told mama about.

Musically, the sound maps closely to what you would expect — throbbing beats, strong hooks and chorus power pop structures, and reasonably clear vocals. I love the cover; it features a little cartoon for each song from Karl Kotas and recalls Janis Joplin’s Cheap Thrills cover by Robert Crumb.

If Deep Chills departs from Khan’s earlier styles, I’d say her drift is toward The B52’s or The Bangles. This is Riot grrrl power pop, danceable and fun and you can sing along just so long as the kiddies can’t hear you.

Lords of Acid: www.metropolis-records.comwww.lordsofacid.com

Categories
Features

Florida Film Fest 2012

Florida Film Fest 2012

April 13 – 22, 2012

It’s time for another rocking Florida film festival, with this year’s 19th incarnation running from April 13 to 22nd at the Enzian Theater in Maitland as well as the Regal in Winter Park Village and the Garden Theatre way out in Winter Garden. I had a chance to take a look at a few of the offerings and here’s what I can advise:

Two things you can count on the Japanese to handle with panache – transforming mecha-robots, and kinky girl sex. Karate-Robo Zaborgar is a wonderfull mash up of Transformers, DynaMan, and Sailor Moon is one of the funniest films in this year’s festival. Yutaka Daimon (Itao / Furuhara as old / young Yutaka) grows up breast fed yet rejected by his widowed father (Naoto Takenaka). This might warp tougher children, but Yutaka builds himself a friend so he’s not alone, and Zaborgar is the best dirt bike machine gun mouthed ambiguous robo-friend a boy ever had. They fight the evil floating butt-island of the Sigma Gang helmed by Dr. Akunomiya (Akira Emoto) He and his sexy assistant Miss Borg ( Yamasaki) floats over Japan, stealing DNA from wishy-washy politicians by sucking them up into the ass of their island. While officially enemies, Yutaka and Miss Borg get it on and spawn a second generation of half human, half plot device children and the cycle of violence begins all over again. Oh, how can the Home Islands be saved? Here’s a hint – flatulence is not only flammable, it has a pretty decent thrust-to-weight ratio.

They might have missed a few minor tropes here, but this is a classic super hero vs. super villain fight with weird stream punk sex. It’s all very PG soft core, but you’ll find plenty of cartoon discipline, bondage, underage incest, and sweaty vinyl clad robot-sex here to pad the corny dialog and nicely animated fights. There’s enough one liners here to start a t-shirt web site, some of my favorites are “Hey! That bike has a face!”, “She has the best body, but the worst heart”, “Acid Spewing Diarrhea Robot” and “Boiling blood pumps through my veins!” Anime and Magna fans should love this, just as long as they don’t take themselves too seriously. After all, how many times haven’t we seen Tokyo set on fire by a 30 tall belching girl with the camera looking right up her skirt?

Life’s indignities pile pretty high in God Bless America (Directed by Bobcat Goldthwaite.) Frank (Joel Murray) has just about had it with reality shows and talk radio hosts and guys who take two parking spots or talk in the movies. Before he blows his own brains out, he decided to murder a snotty teen reality star and ends up on a platonic killing spree with her underage classmates Roxy (Tara Lynne Barr). Roxy’s pretty savvy, she advises “Stop killing people you know – that’s how you’ll get caught.” Wise words. The pair takes off on a scenic tour of America murdering in the name of “niceness” and assemble a stunning collection of vintage clothing before they die like Bonnie and Cycle. You might say they are as mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it any longer. Sometimes it gets preachy, sometimes it’s Jack Ass funny and if you think too hard, the murders are little more than disturbing thrill kills. This is the feel good mass murder film of the year.

In Kumaré filmmaker, director and star Vikram Gandhi loses his faith in faith while growing up. Hindi prayers brought his grandmother inner peace but he was more skeptical. An abortive documentary on Indian gurus leads him to a grand experiment: he grows out his hair, dresses in swami drag, and founds his own religion. Not everyone in Phoenix Arizona is sold, but he’s a hit in Tucson and enough join his Mediation on the Ball of Blue light to cause a minor sensation on the local yoga circuit. He proves what he set out to disprove: A belief in belief is what most people need to straighten out their lives. And now the hard part – he has to tell them he’s bamboozled his followers for the past months, and that’s a lot harder the than the bamboozling itself. While poking gentle fun at New Age mysticism and the exotic practices of Yoga, he demonstrates they can have a powerful, positive effect on people if they just believe sincerely. Wait a minute – that’s what the Lutherans told me…

If you don’t watch soap operas and outgrew 1980’s power pop, you might not realize Rick Springfield is alive and well and touring extensively. An Affair of the Heart (Directed by Sylvia Caminer) follows Mr. Springfield from a four night annual stint at the Potowami Bingo in Milwaukee to a heavy metal festival in Sweden to a special Rick Springfield Cruise on the world’s largest cruise ship. Springfield comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a knack for connecting with fans, while some of these fans seem way beyond obsessive in their efforts to follow Rick everywhere. He even seems to wield a supernatural power over some of them, but fortunalty uses it for good rather than evil. You’ll know “Jesse’s Girl” by heart by heart after this film.

A Cat in Paris / Une Vie de Chat (Directed by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol, French with subtitles) Here’s an animated thriller suitable for older children and art film loving adults. Police officer Jenna (voiced by Dominique Blanc) lost her husband to evil super villain Victor Costa (Jean Benguigui). He plans on stealing an important art work with his bumbling gang of loveable losers, but cat burglar Nico (Bruno Salomone) and Jean’s daughter Zoe’s (Oriane Zani) cat deflect them leading to a vertigo inducing chase across the roof tops and high rises of Paris. Offering a well balance mix of comedy, pathos and tension, this retro looking animation is a must see for film lovers who want cute felines, cartoonish villains, and an improbable police love story.

Turn Me On, Dammit! / Få meg på, for faen (Directed by Jannicke Systad Jacobsen, Norwegian with subtitles) Fifteen year old Alma has hit that crotch-on-fire age and runs up a thousand dollar bill on a phone sex line. She lives on the edge of a fantasy world and when she accuses popular boy Artur (Matias Myren) of a sexual act he may or may not have committed, she’s excluded from her small town community middle school set. A trip the big city (Oslo) helps clarify things but ultimately she moves back home and reconciles with the town. Mom is embarrassed, but it’s Artur who hangs his privates on the line for love, or at least hot teenage sex. It’s a great teenage coming of age tale but its strong erotic content will make this a hard sell to American distributors so I advise catching this while it’s on screen at the festival.

Lovely Molly (Directed by Eduardo Sánchez) Ever wonder what happened to the Blair Witch Project people? At least Mr. Sanchez is still plugging away, this is his latest shot at the creepy psychological horror genre. Lovely Molly offers similar tropes – the creepy old house, something weird in the basement, unseen demons pounding at the doors, and grainy camera work. Molly (Gretchen Lodge) and her new hubby Tim (Johnny Lewis) move into her dead father’s old house and are beset by rattling doors and tripped alarms. Reality, fantasy and Molly’s internal demons attack us from all angles. Was I scared? Not really, but then Blaire Witch didn’t scare me as much as it did my younger friends. But if you don’t jump out of your skin, Sánchez gives us a few decent sex scenes to make up for it.

Monsieur Lazhar (Directed by Philippe Falardeau, French Canadian with subtitles) When a faculty suicide devastates an elementary school, M. Lazhar (Mohamed Fellag) volunteers to fill the empty slot. Technically, he’s not a teacher but he does the students more good than the rule bound administration can tolerate, and when his past catches up with him we get one of the saddest and most poetic endings ever filmed. While the pacing is slow and deliberate, the story telling is a joy and the view into the strictures of modern education leaves you wondering – how do children learn anything these days? The children (including Émilien Néron and Sophie Nélisse) are painted as real people, never cloyingly cute or demonically possessed and Fellag’s portrayal of a gentle man cast adrift in a strange land is moving. Despite the darkness of the material, this is a real “feel good” film without the saccharine aftertaste.

Tickets, schedules and location information about the Florida Film Fest can be found at www.floridafilmfestival.com

Florida Film Festival: www.floridafilmfestival.com