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Wheels

“We work during the day. We dream at night.”

Max (Arnstar) is a Brooklyn DJ who dreams of making it big. But for now, he’s working at the local grocery store and relegated to playing music at kids’ birthday parties.  When he’s not working, Max is taking care of his grandma (Dorothi Fox) and trying to keep out of trouble. The latter is difficult to do when his brother Terry (Joshua Boone), fresh out of prison, gets caught up with a local gang. Max meets Liza (Shyrley Rodriguez), a dance teacher, and the two are drawn to each other. They both have the talent and the drive to make things happen but something is holding Max back.

Directed by Paul Starkman, Wheels is a sensitive portrayal of an artist’s struggle to survive and thrive despite his circumstances. The film has a decidedly classic sensibility with its black and white cinematography and ’70s TV style intro. It has a great sense of place with many beautiful shots of Brooklyn’s urban landscape. The music in the film is infectious and hooks you in. Arnstar and Rodriguez have playful chemistry on screen and Boone and Arnstar play well off each other as brothers who don’t see eye-to-eye but care for each other deeply. DJ Max is sincere and earnest and Arnstar brings an authenticity to the character that makes these elements shine through.

Wheels is available on iTunes, Vudu, Tubi, Amazon Prime and other streaming/rental services. Find out more information about the film on the official website.

Love is Not Love

Review by Ale Turdó

RATING: 7/10

Something wants us together.

Writer, actor, producer and first-time director Stephen Keep Mills takes us on a surreal and thought-provoking journey through the ups and downs of contemporary relationships, its roots and meanings in Love is Not Love.

Frank (Mills) is an elderly man trapped in what seems to be a crumbling relationship with his increasingly estranged wife, Paula. In the midst of a never ending break up, Frank meets Reyna, an interesting fling that seems to understand him and connect in a way he hasn’t with anyone in ages… but is this meant to last? Is love, in any of its many forms, meant to last at all?

Love is Not Love tries to answer this everlasting conundrum with a particular mix of Woody Allen’s vibe and a stripped flare for the theatrics, over a solemn black and white palette that concentrates all of our attention on the human drama in order to keep us from getting distracted with any other vain and superfluous stimulus.

The introductory New York scenario works as a first course that tries to set the rules for things to come. Different characters chatting, giving insights about what their take is on love and relationships. In spite of its short time on screen, the urban landscape instinctively becomes an extra player and not just plain and simple background for a parade of multicultural characters. People looking for love and affection, every day people lost in the labyrinth of their own traumas, fetishes and neurosis.

Once the timing is right, these multiple approaches clear the stage for Frank’s tribulations. The chronological order of the story challenges us as an audience, and sometimes it is simply up to us to determine what happens after what, or before. The non-linear structure favors the enigma behind Frank’s romantic misadventures. There is some wry humor scattered around, especially near the beginning and the end of the film which , if sustained evenly all across the story, might have given the whole thing a more dynamic and fresher outcome.

There is an interesting combination of techniques and visual motifs: theatrical interludes, ethereal recreations and intimate moments happening in daily spaces. Such spaces keep the surreal imagery from taking absolute control. They balance it all.

Most of the scenes work pretty much as a stage play, with two characters confronting in a minimalistic surrounding, with a hard light upon them, almost soliloquizing about their feelings and their take on the whole situation. It is as if Mills is trying his best to make amends between man’s and women’s psyche.

Saying that Love is Not Love plays like an essay on such feeling would be the ultimate understatement. It takes us on a metaphorical journey and makes a worthy effort trying to deeply understand, and express on film, human desires, temptations and its sometimes self-destructive nature.

Foto Ale TN_2018 Ale Turdó —Based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Alejandro is a film critic and movie enthusiast that has been writing about movies for the past 7 years, covering everything from blockbusters to indie gems and all in between. He majored in Sound Design and Cinematography in college and is a full time digital content producer. He’s the kind of guy that thinks that even the worst movie can have something interesting to write about. Additionally, he writes for Escribiendo Cine and A Sala Llena. Twitter: @aleturdo and IG: @hoysalecine

SXSW: I Will Make You Mine

Rachel (Lynn Chen), Erika (Ayako Fujitani) and Yea-Ming (Yea-Ming Chen) have one thing in common: Goh Nakamura. All three women have romantic ties to the singer-songwriter. Rachel lives a cushy life with her wealthy caucasian husband. His marital indiscretions sour the relationship and Rachel rekindles her feelings for her childhood friend. Erika is a professor and Goh’s ex-wife. They have a daughter together, Sachiko (Ayami Riley Tomine), and the two are reunited when Erika makes arrangements for her father’s funeral. Yea-Ming is a free spirit. Like Goh, she’s a singer-songwriter. She’s been trying for years to make it in the music business and she gets some inspiration from Goh when he’s back in town.

I Will Make You Mine is a beautifully sensitive and lyrical film. It explores the deep emotional bonds of the past and how they can be reignited years later. The film was written, produced and directed by Lynn Chen who also stars as Rachel. It was shot in black-and-white and is Chen’s debut as a screenwriter and director of a feature film. Music is an important part of the film and both Goh Nakamura and Yea-Ming Chen (who play versions of themselves) perform. Yea-Ming sings a beautiful rendition of the title song and the credits roll with Goh performing a touching acoustic number.

“The feeling I most want to share with I Will Make You Mine is hope. Hope that it’s not too late to be the person you dreamed you would be.”

Lynn Chen

I Will Make You Mine was set to have its world premiere at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival. Gravitas Ventures is releasing the film on demand and digital on May 26th. You can pre-order the film on iTunes.

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