Review: Korak at the Earth’s Core

Author: Win Scott Eckert
306 Pages
Published: 4/2/2024 by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc

I was never a Tarzan fan growing up.

Let me correct that. As a kid I loved Tarzan movies, the TV shows, and the comics. I was an avid reader of just about everything Edgar Rice Burroughs had written, but was never motiviated to spend my reading time on Tarzan. I was more interested in heroes mysteriously transported to other worlds, facing strange monsterous animals, and meeting exotic and strange civilizations. As far as Tarzan went, I kinda felt like I knew it all already.

And of course, I was terribly wrong about that. It wasn’t until I was fully in my adult years that I began to actually read some of the Tarzan novels, finding Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a complex character with an unexpectedly broader background that most civilized folks, made sure he was extremely well traveled, and put hin into some of the most fantastic situations of any a pulp hero. Wow, I had been misssing out.

But as much as I had wrongly dismissed Tarzan, I would have to admit that Korak the Son of Tarzan, got even less of my interest.

I will blame this in part on the fact that Korak gets relatively little spotlight time in the Tarzan novels. And his background is both simple to read, and complex when you think about it. There was obviously more to Korak than Burroughs ever got around to writing.

Luckily, we have Win Scott Eckert.

Eckert is a pulp historian, analyst, and archeologist. His Crossovers books for example clock in at nearly 1000 pages of pulpy facts and revelations. His writings on the Burroughs’ Tarzan stories and history are exhaustive. And, a proven author of Burroughs connected stories and articles, and many other pulp series, he’s the perfect resource for ERB Inc. to tap for a continuation of the tales of House Greystoke. He proved that four years ago with his novel Tarzan: Battle for Pellucidar, and does again with Korak at the Earth’s Core.

When discussing this novel you have to wonder at the lifetime of research and thought that has gone into it. More than any other ERB related creation, the connections to that Universe both in location and history here are monumental. As an avid Burroughs reader I could write pages about the blatant and nuanced “Easter Eggs” Eckert has laid out among the jungle grasses awaiting discovery by excited fans. I will not speak long on these surprises, because finding them is most of the fun. And if you don’t discover them, they’ll still make sense and contribute to the pleasure of a rip roaring adventure.

I will make a few comments that fall short of being spoilers to help justify my recommendation of this book.

Korak is not Tarzan. Burroughs knew he already had a fully realized Tarzan, and didn’t need to create a “travel sized” Tarzan-2. With an origin unlike Tarzan, filled with singular trauma, Korak has to deal with his own personal demons. He fought in World War I and is an apparent victim of post tramatic stress disorder. With so much inherent conflict invested in a character, the meat of many great stories, it’s surprising Burroughs eventually spent relatively little time with Korak.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that 100 years ago we really didn’t try to understand mental disorders and the lasting effect of trauma. No doubt Burroughs was writing from experience, not from analysis. It’s encouraging that today we can read stories where the hero is struggling with such issues, heroically.

It is also worth discussing the writing, then and now. We have to acknowledge that not everyone has had an appreciation for Burroughs original writing style. It was true to it’s time, the original era of pulp fiction, and is undeniably a prose written purple.

For most fans, that’s really part of the fun. And it’s easy to see that Eckert is a fan, but is also a fine writer. I can’t put my finger on a specific passage or method here, but as I read Korak I kept flashing on my experiences reading prior Burroughs novels – there was just so much ERB here. That’s a pleasant surprise because when you’re trying to resurect old series for new readers it’s important to modernize the writing. People are expecting perhaps a bit more from their time spent with a book. Eckert has successfully kept a foot in both worlds. This is a finely crafted novel that shows his continued growth as a writer, with just enough of a purple umbra hanging around the prose for the long term fan. He’s a worthy inheritor.

Of course, everyone knows about the family of Tarzan and Jane. Up to a point, as far as the trope goes. However, these were not casts of characters frozen in time. (How old are the kids in Family Circus?) The Greystoke family tree had already grown a few new branches within Burroughs two dozen Tarzan novels. That tradition continues as Korak and his wife have an adult daughter now. (There is this thing about an elixir that keeps the family youthful over a hundred years later. Not a spoiler, that’s in the original series.)

The cast of the book includes almost every major character from the Pellucidar series. Thats an extensive crew as this stone-age world at the core of the Earth had already been featured in 10 prior novels. Eckert adds to that by drafting a few characters from stories not set in Pellucidar itself, human and otherwise, but again no spoilers.

As far as story connections go we are pleased to see characters and events from the recent authorized additions to the ERB Universe come delightfully into play. We don’t actually see Victory Harbin, the focus of the first Arc of new ERB Universe novels. But we do get a fun surprise in a short included novella Dawn of the Deathslayer, by Christopher Paul Carey, introduces Darva the Shadow another surprising addition to this growing Universe.

So, this is a big story. The novel does not end with a cliff-hanger, but there is definitley unfinished business. It’s just the beginning of a new trilogy; The Dead Moon Super-Arc.

And yes, I’ll be pre-ordering the sequels the moment they’re announced.

Highly recommended.

Ric Bretschneider
San Jose California
March 20, 2024

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Cinequest 2024 – Wrapup and Last Chance Reviews

Cinequest wrapped up on Sunday with the Maverick awards ceremony, recognizing the work of Mathew Modine, and a showing Hard Miles starring Modine. And although that was the only opportunity to see Hard Miles, many Cinequest features and shorts streaming online at the Cinejoy adjunct virtual festival. With that in mind, let’s spotlight a few items that we didn’t already cover over the last two weeks.

Future Date

In the distant future where the outside climate is unlivable and everyone is forced to spend their lives alone in tiny rooms, two people win the rare opportunity to go on a very unusual date… in person!

Combine a deadly future climate change that prohibits venturing outside, with a populace that has basically forgotten most everything that was once known about dating, much less cooking, and you’ve got an unlikely rom-com that actually delivers all the goods. Genuinely funny, a little disturbing, and just enough heart to make you cheer for Stanley Wong and Shuang Hu as the awkward couple. Recommended.


I covered a few shorts that were shown paired with live shows, but wanted to call Disarmed out specifically because this is a compelling gut-punch of a quick story that you should not miss. Timely and moodily manic, I won’t risk spoiling anything here except to say that what you’re expecting is not what you’re getting. Seriously, do I have to write multiple paragraphs dancinig around what a brilliant short this is? No, I don’t. No, I won’t. And you can watch it on Cinejoy for less than it costs for a comic book. So go watch it. Now!

The Island Between Tides

Six-year-old Lily vanishes. For two days and nights, no one can find the cheery girl who’d strayed onto a remote tidal island. Until she’s found at the exact spot she was last seen with no memory of being away. Unharmed but not unaltered. The changes start gradually. Lily develops prodigious musical abilities, sensing the world through a mysterious melody only she can hear. But she can’t shake her obsession with this island she can’t remember, and that her family won’t discuss.

At 20, the melody leads her back to it, and when she disappears again, this time it’s for good. Or so everyone believed. Decades later, Lily reappears. But impossibly, she looks just as she did the day she vanished. To her, no time passed at all. Still a young woman, the rest of the world has aged around her, her family now whittled down to her elderly father, middle- aged sister, and the troubled son she’d left as an infant. Her assimilation isn’t easy, testing even the strongest family’s bond. Because this time, Lily didn’t come back alone.

I gave you the whole synopsis from the Cinequest guide because this only played live once, and isn’t available through Cinejoy. Just be on the lookout for this film, because it’s so many things at once, and well worth seeking out. Again, you got a lot of it in the guide description, anything I could add would spoil some great storytelling.


Lera, a young Ukrainian refugee who recently arrived in Ireland, fears the worst and uses dark-web séance software (The Orb) to discover that her sister Maryna has died in the conflict back home. Through The Orb, she makes contact and discovers that her sister Maryna is disoriented and stuck in an after-death limbo, based around the beach they went to as children. The beach is in Berdyansk, an Azov Sea resort currently under Russian occupation. Together, the sisters must find a way to come to terms with what has happened and find a way for both of them to move on.

And finally, the last film I watched at Cinequest, but lucky you, it’s available on Cinejoy. Another amazing short, compact and moving filmmaking and storytelling. Again, at 15 minutes running length, you’re not expecting so much to be slipped onto the screen in front of you. Again, the Cinejoy screenings are so inexpensive you really can’t afford to let fine films like this pass you by.

And so…

Another great Cinequest has gone by, leaving us with a week to catch up to thing we missed, or even things that deserve a second viewing. Thanks to all the filmmakers who I got to chat with, the other viewers who shared their recommendations, and to founders Halfdan Hussey, Kathleen Powell, their amazing staff, and especially to Michael Rabehl, Christopher J. Garcia, and Gabriella Deyi for advice and tips throughout the festival.

One more time…

Ric Bretschneider
San Jose California
March 19, 2024

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Cinequest 2024 – Debbie’s Summary

The Cinequest Film and Creativity Festival started in 1990 in San Jose, California. It’s grown since then, so much so that this year, there were over 80 World Premieres programmed. And the silent cinema came back! The Mark of Zorro, which showed off the Wurlitzer organ in the beautiful California Theater.

The Mark of Zorro

Most Cinequest movies shown are truly independent films, without “name” actors and management. Cinequest does a great job of finding the best of the best, and this year was no exception. A great feature of Cinequest availablity of film creators in a low-key setting, you can actually sit down and talk about their movie, or movies in general. A new theme has been developing that a lot of the filmmakers do not expect to get a movie theater distribution. Instead, they look forward to moving the movie to streaming services like Tubi or Gravitas, and then hoping for Amazon or Netflix to come calling. And although we say goodby to this years filmmakers, many are going on the road to other film festivals.

Recommended: Eden

Among this year’s highlights was Ezra, which did have big stars like Robert De Niro and Whoopi Goldberg. A story of a family that was falling apart because of their differences in handling their child’s autism. Various adventures ensue, and the family comes back stronger than ever. It was an inspiring story, but not one as likely to make blockbuster money at a theater.

Recommended: And Cut!

Ric Bretschneider has been doing movie reviews for Cinequest since 2013, and joine him last year. It works out well because we typically gravitate to different genres. Generally, he does the science fiction, horror, dramatic, and suspense movies and I review the love and documentary films. We both love the comedies. This year Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox was a treat for us both. 

Recommended: Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox

Before I sign off for this year, let you remind you that Cinequest is the in-person festival that has just ended. But from March 21-31, 2024, the Cinejoy virtual movie experience is happening, and it’s very reasonable. Now you can revisit some of the films you already saw, or catch some you might have missed. Or make a movie night of it with some friends.

  Unfortunately, Tim Travers is not on Cinejoy, but several of the other movies we reviewed are available until the end of the month. Check it out!

Debbie Bretschneider
March 18, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – And Cut!

Set in the heart of the Indian Film Industry, a tiny new film production house in Mumbai navigates everyday challenges while struggling under the leadership of an eccentric director and a sharp-tongued, openly gay producer. All, while being filmed by a documentary crew.

Starring Akash Arora,Nitya Mathur,Riddhi Kumar,Aakash Ahuja,Girish Sharma

At 30 minutes long, And Cut! is an unexpectedly long “short” film for Cinequest. Most shorts are grouped in themed programs where a half-dozen are show under groups of comedies, thrillers, and other genre favorite categories. And Cut! led the smaller group of paradoxically longer shorts called Laughs, Thrills, The Past, and the Future. It’s unfortunate that shorts at Cinequest are not repeated during the live showings. But Cinequest’s streaming sibling, Cinejoy, gives you the opportunity to check out this fine comedy any time you like through the end of the month.

And I recommend you do exactly that.

And Cut! is a series pilot shot in the “fictionalized reality TV format” popularized in the UK by the original sitcom The Office by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais. That show was later reinvented in the US TV show of the same name. And since then the mocumentary has become a wildly popular storytelling method used by many sitcoms.

Aside from being the show’s title, And Cut! is the name of the fictional fledgling film production company in the pilot. This setup is brilliant. As a film production service they will face a wide variety of projects for hire. The stories that can be developed around the premise is almost limitless, as is the documentary framing. It gets meta fast and can go deep. Personally I hope for a Bollywood musical episode (as in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scrubs, and Star Trek Strange New Worlds to name a few) or an episode where the crew is hired to film a reality TV show, while continuing being filmed themselves.

Note: This is just me fanboying, I don’t have any insights into additional scripts. Let’s get back to the regularly scheduled review.

The real-life producers, actors and crew deserve additional credit as the format stays authentic. It helps smaller production houses that this style is very inexpensive to produce. The focus on story and character development is sharp. The actors and crew have excellent comedic timing, and create ‘heart’ through a number of empathetic situations. Everyone is flawed in different ways, and there’s a lot of potential for conflict and growth here. It helps that these are folks the audience can root for flaws and all.

This is also a great opportunity for audiences outside of Southern Asia to learn about a variety of cultures. The cast is quite diverse, coming from distinctly different areas and backgrounds, so it’s natural that they don’t always see eye-to-eye. Again, the potential for many years of stories is great. If it sounds like I’m making a pitch for a studio or network to pick this project up and fund it, well… yeah I guess I am. I do want to see more.

Avoiding spoilers I can say that the pilot episode stands solidly on it’s own. It is definitely a company just beginning to find it’s footing. The leader has big dreams that are solidly on the edge of impractical. The office manager wishes for a title with more status. The producer is constantly undermined by people who don’t take her as seriously as they should. The intern is probably the most competent while still dealing with self-doubt. Again, there’s so much potential here.

Yes, it’s subtitled, but the dialog is mostly English, occasionally sliding into Hindi. I did enjoy parsing the situations where discussing a western concept or product causes the shift in language, and emotional situations slip back into Hindi – it felt authentic from business interactions I’ve had. I really don’t want to see a fully dubbed version at all. Your mileage may vary of course, but it’s worth giving a chance even if you avoid subtitled films.

If you’re a fan of The Office, Parks and Recreation, or even movies like Best in Show or This is Spinal Tap, or just want to expose yourslef to a new cultural experience, you owe it to yourself to seek out And Cut! There’s a very good chance you’ll gain the bragging rights to say “I saw the original promo of that!”

We’re past the live screening of And Cut! but you can still watch it online through Cinejoy.

Ric Bretschneider
March 15, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – One Night in Tokyo

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

Sam arrives in Tokyo to visit his expat girlfriend Becca – only to be broken up with as soon as he finds his way to her apartment. Out on the streets of Tokyo alone, he decides to cut his trip short and return to America the next day.

Stuck for the night while he waits for his new flight, Sam makes an unlikely friend in Ayaka, who reluctantly takes him out with her friends.They both struggle to communicate due to their language barrier but are forced to rely on each other when betrayal sends their worlds crashing down. Walking through the streets of Tokyo together, they must not only overcome obstacles to understand each other, but must also break down their own walls to understand themselves.

What do you do when you arrive in Tokyo for a week and immediately your girlfriend breaks up with you?   If you are Sam, you rebook your flight, so you leave for New York the next day.   In the meantime, another friend of Sam’s, Jun, suggests that Sam hangs out with Jun’s friend, Ayaka. Sam does not speak Japanese and Ayaka knows very little English.

The movie spends too much time with Sam, Ayaka, and Ayaka’s friends hanging out in a restaurant. Ayaka and her friends are all speaking in Japanese, while Sam tries to fit in. One of the friends knows some English and tries to translate for Sam. The movie has subtitles, but you still get a feeling of isolation and unreality for Sam.

After leaving the restaurant, Ayaka and Sam make a startling discovery, and end up in a bar.  They finally figure out that their phone can translate for them and they start to become friends. They spend the rest of the night wandering around Tokyo sharing parts of themselves and having small adventures.  Tokyo seems to be another large City that never sleeps.

One Night in Tokyo is an interesting movie, and the actors did a great job of portraying these characters. Sam was played by Reza Emarmiyeh and Ayaka by Tokiko Kitagawa. The director/writer/producer, Joshua Woodcock, with Emarmiyeh, Kitagawa and cast attended the Cinequest screening. The movie was shot in 7 days in Tokyo, which I think gave the actors a reason to look tired!  Although in the movie, Sam does not speak Japanese, Emarmiyeh actually does.   

Unfortunately no additional live shows but you can watch One Night in Tokyo online through Cinejoy.

Debbie Bretschneider
March 12, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – Eden

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

A family that operates one of California’s most historic wineries struggles with succession in this hauntingly beautiful meditation on balancing personal and professional identities.

Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson have dedicated 40 years of their lives to one of California’s most historic wineries, Mount Eden Vineyards. As they prepare to pass the estate on to their children they are confronted with the challenges of mixing family and business.

The documentary Eden is a love story about the Mount Eden winery, which is located on a mountain top in Santa Clara County, California. The movie lovingly documents the beauty of the location and of the winery. The cinematographers, Isiah Flores and Christopher McGilvray (who is also the director), did fantastic work. Even the camera work of the workers in the fields were beautifully lit and fascinating. The views of the winery and the Santa Clara County valley were so beautiful that the story almost didn’t matter.

Christopher McGilvray began working on this film seven years ago and went back yearly to interview the family that are the managers, workers, and primary shareholder of Mount Eden winery. The Patterson family started at Mount Eden winery in the 1990’s and have lived there ever since.

Through the interviews you learn that the adult children left the isolated winery for college and their own lives before coming back to start taking over some of the responsibilities of the winery. There is some tension in the story of the family, but it never takes away from the beauty of the scenery.

I highly recommend seeing the movie, “Eden”  Unfortunately, it is not showing again at Cinequest 2024, but the director is taking the movie to other festivals and is hoping to get a distributor so watch for it!

Unfortunately no additional live shows but you can watch Eden online through Cinejoy.

Debbie Bretschneider
March 10, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – The Invisibles

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

In the midst of a crumbling marriage and a stalled career, Charlie (Tim Blake Nelson) feels increasingly invisible-until one day he literally disappears from the world. The Invisibles takes us on a visually arresting journey to a parallel dimension where the Disappeared co-exist, unnoticed by the real world.

When attending a film festival, you always need to think about the categorization of a film, and how that will affect the storytelling. The Invisibles appears in the Cinequest 2024 catalog under the dual category of Fantasy / Drama. And while both are correct, it sells the film short. But then, I’m hard pressed to find a category that would give the appropriate credit due here.

We’re faced with a common dramatic situation. Something has happened to Charlie (Tim Blake Nelson) and Hannah (Gretchen Mol) that’s putting a fatal level of stress on their relationship. At the same time, Charlie’s job situation is crumbling, out of his ability to control. Again, a starter situation for many dramas.

And then Charlie starts to disappear. Subtly done by screenwriter and director, he slips out of the consciousness of those around him. At first being passed over for promotion, people forgetting his name, not noticing him on his commute. And then, he’s totally invisible, intangible, and unable to interact with those around him.

I really don’t want to spoil much more than the promotional materials other than to say there’s a definite cause and effect happening here. The initially undescribed event that was breaking Charlie and Hanna’s relationship is somewhat responsible for the fantastic things that happen to Charlie. The use of invisibility and intangibility as a metaphor for the separation grief can cause works well, and then extends a bit past that.

The bulk of the film leads us along on a journey with Charlie. As we learn the new rules of his situation, a new take on a not uncommon trope, Charlie begins to investigate his new world and piece together what it’s all about. This is where the film becomes fantastic.

I must admit that as a fan of fantasy and science fiction films, I defaulted into puzzle mode. I was busy through a lot of the film piecing together the pieces of the puzzle. Elements added give hints, and there is a bit of satisfaction for the fannish mind here. But unlike a lot of other such films, it’s not just a matter of finding a way out, a special door, or password, or clicking of heels. This is a story of paralyzing grief, loss, and inability to deal with devastating sorrow. The answer isn’t a simple trick, and that’s all for the better.

I will say that I was unexpectedly grabbed by the film when I least expected it. Emotionally impacted, and for that I was grateful to the filmmakers, Andrew Currie and Colin Aussant, for their story. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for a deeper investigation into losing, loss, and becoming lost. While that might sound paradoxical, it is worth the trip.

March 10 at 2:15 PM
March 11 at 2:25 PM
More info and tickets here

If you miss the live shows of The Invisibles you can also watch it online through Cinejoy.

The Invisibles trailer

Ric Bretschneider
March 10, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

A scientist creates a time machine in order to kill their younger self, simply to see what would happen. And that self-obsessed, misanthrope, mad genius of a scientist is Tim Travers.

But, as is soon learned, the universe was bad enough with only one of him!!!

Samuel Dunning as Tim Travers

I love time travel stories. The dramatic ones, the action ones, and especially the comedic ones. And yes, jumping into our particular future, I loved Tim Travers and the Time Traveler’s Paradox. I mean, what’s not to love? You’ve got a completely whacked premise, a cast of genre fan favorites, and just enough budget visible in the film to make it carry the premise without a lot of stuff having to occur off-camera (which is a trademark of low-budget SF.)

So what makes it whacked? Well, our hero is not the most ethical person alive. Like good old Doc Brown, Tim (Samuel Dunning) is using dangerous radio-active materials that were acquired through shady dealings. He’s not quite sure what he’s trying to prove, hasn’t thought the whole experiment through; can paradoxes exist, or can you prove they don’t exist, or is it all about creating a paradox and then uncreating it. He’s not quite there on the scientific basics. But he’s nuts and fun to watch.

Fan Favorite Felicia Day

And about those genre fan favorites? Yeah, you’ve got Felicia Day (The Guild, Supernatural, Mystery Science Theatre 3000) who pulls double duty as a first date pulled into all this nonsense while serving as an executive producer for the film. Then there’s the annoyingly conspiracy-theory focused podcaster appropriately played by Joel McHale (Community, Animal Control) who does podcast occasionally in real life. Finally we drop OG small budget gagnsta Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk till Dawn, Spy Kids) to brighten up the crazy in the third act. Yeah, this is hitting on all fanboy cylinders.

Paradoxically, Danny Trejo is always a welcome addition.

And about that budget thing. We do live in the paradoxical world where larger effects budgets don’t always mean more convincing effects. Sure there’s a certain Adobe After Effects taste to much of what goes on here, but it’s still very well done. Inspired even. The effect that is most important, and is carried off almost flawlessly, is evident in scenes where the single Samuel Dunning has to act against a many versions of Tim Travers. Keeping the subtle nuances of them developing different personalities straight is roughly the equivalent of working a dozen films at once. To be sure, the hero of this film is the real-life Dunning playing the multiple Tim Travers.

Not going to spoil anything other than 1) you won’t guess how a throw-off joke early in the film becomes the most important aspect of the finale, so pay attention. And 2) yes, Chekhov’s Football did come from somewhere and don’t dash out of the film before the credits run through.

Time Travel… just that easy.

So, to summarize, when film festival entries advertise themselves as “science fiction” or “comedy” they typically tend to underperform on the finer aspects of both descriptions. It is wonderful to find a festival entry that exceeds expectations on both fronts. If you like SF, or like to laugh, this is a must-see for Cinequest.

March 9 at 7 PM
March 13 at 2:20 PM
More info and tickets here

Ric Bretschneider
March 8, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2024 – Human Resources

This one of a series of reviews from this year’s Cinequest film festival in San Jose, California. Read more about the festival here, and buy tickets for showings of this and other films here.

Update: 3/8/2024
I meant to add an endorsement of Holding on Forever, the short film that precedes Human Resources. It’s always nice to see a well made short that crafts a couple of neat twists and surprises against audience trained expectations. And it’s not often you find a 10 minute film that you actually want to sit down and discuss. Kudos to Lindsey Naves and Reynaldo Pacheco for understated and elegant performances under Chelsea Christer’s direction.

Gabriel, a resentful printing supervisor, decides to revolt against Constantino, the unskilled Floor Manager who got his position due to his influences. Oh, and Constantino happens to have stolen Lizbeth’s attention, the most popular woman in Human Resources and Gabriel’s ex-lover.

In this office, employers and employees live with reckless ups and downs, romances and infidelities, and who knows, a bomb might explode in the process.

List a few films or TV shows that deal with people in a business office and you are likely to name Office Space, The IT Crowd, 9 to 5, and the titular The Office. For the most part, we gravitate towards the insanity or oddities of office life, and are told these stories with a fair amount of humor. The Spanish film Human Resources (Recursos Humanos) does have it’s own flavor of dark humor, but really doesn’t follow the storytelling you might expect from the office films that preceded it.

And that’s a pretty good thing.

Shot in black and white, with English subtitles, this is the kind of movie I go to film festivals to seek out. Something different, fresh storytelling, characters that don’t, for the most part, follow the tropes. There’s something about black and white filmmaking in the modern age that fights back against distractions from the essentials of the plot. It’s not so much a gimick as it is an anti-gimick. It’s one of the reasons why so many surprise classics have come from beginning filmmakers on low budgets who surprise us with ingenuity over special effects. (There is one obvious special effect shot that really feels like a practical effect, except actors don’t do that.)

Gabriel has been repeatedly overlooked for promotion, and has decided to add guerrilla combat techniques in his efforts to climb the corporate ladder. He feels justified in this because the office seems to run on nepotism and toadyism, and he would actually be a better manager. No, seriously he would. OK, maybe.

Now in the days of Deadpool, Deadpool II, and the upcoming Deadpool & Wolverine we are pretty used to characters “breaking of the 4th wall.” Films where a character speaks directly to the audience have their own super powers of expression, and yeah it’s generally thought of as a cheat in filmmaking. Gabriel is the narrative voice here, so he’s halfway there as it is, but he regularly shares his feelings directly with the audience with a smirk, a fake gasp, or joyous silent giggle at the expense of another character’s misfortune. While we struggle to agree with Gabriel’s techniques because we’re not bad people, we are almost forcibly drawn into his schemes and their effects. We’re complicit in Gabriels actions, or at least he wants us to think so.

I should repeat that Human Resources is a Spanish film with English subtitles because some people just don’t like to read their movies. There’s a small amount of nudity and sex so be warned, or enjoy, as you will. I do recommend this film for some fresh looks at filmmaking and the whole office life trope.

Bring your red stapler along if you like.

March 8 at 5PM
March 10 at 9:30PM
More info and tickets here

Ric Bretschneider
March 6, 2024
San Jose, California

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How to Survive Cinequest 2024

An updated viewer’s guide to what USA Today readers voted the Best Film Festival.

It’s about to be Cinequest time, which means getting slightly ahead of the festival schedule so that I can provide you some idea about which films you should definitely check out. I’ve been able to screen a few of this years picks, so the starting gun has already been fired, the smoke is clearing, it’s time to start planning.

#DoudouChallenge from Shorts program

Before we get onto the first actual reviews, I want to give you a few pointers on maximizing your enjoyment of this singularly wonderful festival. This is an update to my 2022 article, so some parts may be familiar, but the reminders should still be useful.

This year’s opener is The Island Between Tides, a world premiere on March 7th. Based on Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie’s gothic bedtime story Mary Rose, a stunning sci-fi, mystery about a young woman who follows a mysterious melody onto a remote tidal island. When she crosses back over at the next low tide, she emerges into a world where 25 years have passed.

I haven’t seen it, but I’ll be there for the actual red carpet, the interview lines, and a packed California Theatre two nights from now!

The Mark of Zorro

This Friday night is the traditional Silent Cinema selection. This year it is The Mark of Zorro from 1920! Douglas Fairbanks, the original swashbuckler, plays Zorro, the masked hero who protects the poor citizens of Old California against their rapacious governor. Fairbanks is equally impressive as the dashing, athletic Zorro (performing his own stunts) and his alter ego, the foppish Don Diego. And the theatre experience is amazing because the film is accompanied by the legendary Wurlitzer Organist Dennis James playing an immense Wurlitzer organ that rises from the stage, and then decends playing. If you’ve never been to such a presentation, this is a must see!

Reservations and tickets are easy to get. Find a film on the Cinequest calendar, or follow any of the links in my articles, and click on the Buy button for each and every film. If you don’t want to bother with tickets, go to the Festival Pass page and find a pass that fits your needs.

For many, Cinequest is more about the indies; smaller independent films. Indies are a joy. Why? Because independent filmmakers and their crew are typically trying to tell stories they love and believe in, using a medium with which they’re similarly in love. And they do this without the interference of large corporate studios who answer to stockholders more often than their heart. And so you get some unique and memorable experiences, unlike what you’ll see in general release.

Aw. Isn’t that sweet.

Human Resources

But indies can be hard to find. Or rather, can be hard to find just the right ones for you.  There are hundreds of films being shown at Cinequest, you likely have not heard of most because they simply don’t have the backing money to advertise to you. So how do you decide what to see?

Well, you can browse the event guide, if you have the time. Note the ones that sound interesting. See anything you absolutely want to see? You can buy tickets online for specific showings direct from the web site. Uncertain? Just head down to the festival and discuss them with other film lovers, and sometimes just take a chance. It’s not uncommon for a long conversation between strangers at Cinequest to start with “what film are you looking forward to?” or “What’s the best film you’ve seen so far?” Because at its heart Cinequest is two weeks where a community of film lovers gathers, enjoys films and each other’s company, and occasionally makes a few new long-term friends.

Cinequest is also an opportunity for audience and creators to mingle. That guy sitting next to you might be the director of this film, or may give you a postcard advertising his film that’s showing later in the day. If you’re a film fan, the opportunity to discuss what went right and wrong, what you loved or didn’t, and to get feedback from the creators themselves, is a terrific experience, often for them as well. People involved in independent film are doing it all for the love of the subject matter and the art.

The Invisibles

So, from this we can wrap up with a few pointers on getting the most out of your time at Cinequest:

  • Look for World Premieres!  There are lots. And you get the “yes, great film! I was at the premiere back in 2024!” bragging rights.
  • Look for the names you recognize, this is often a chance to see actors stretching into roles we’re not accustomed to seeing them in. (Look carefully! I’ll never forgive myself for missing Grant “The Flash” Gustin playing a pot smoking artist in Krystal at the 2022 festival!)
  • But don’t ignore the films and actors you’ve never heard of. One of the real joys of cinema is going to a film where all the big beats haven’t already been spoiled by weeks of advertising trailers.  Again, think future bragging here. (Come on, you know you love that.)
#DoudouChallenge from Shorts Program

Most of all, for Bay Area / Silicon Valley folks, this is an opportunity to get out to an annual event that celebrates the love of creativity in Cinema, bringing to you unique and memorable experiences. You can put off the finale of Capote vs. The Swans on Hulu a couple of weeks. Now is time for something new and exciting.

Ric Bretschneider
March 6, 2024
San Jose, California

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Cinequest 2023 – Paul & Trisha The Art of Fluidity

This documentary introduces us to Paul Whithead, an artist who is well known for creating paintings for several Peter Gabriel Genesis albums. Paul is telling us about his life and experiences, including swinging London in 1967, creating art for albums, and discovering meditation for the quiet and peace it brings him.

But part of his experiences also transitions Paul to his alter ego, Trisha van Cleef. We get to see Paul become Trisha and even see some of the art that Trisha creates. Trisha’s art is very fluid and entirely different than Paul’s.

The documentary treats Paul and Trisha as just ordinary parts of life with no judgements about either. We get to see quite a bit of the art that they each make flashing between scenes, which breaks up the “talking head” of Paul talking. It is a very interesting movie about a lifestyle that not a lot of people understand.

As Paul says “not everybody gets you”. And Paul & Trisha are ok with that.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 27, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Danny Goes Aum

Danny is a burned-out video editor who is on vacation in India after a health scare. He is furiously rewriting scripts for a new movie that eventually gets turned down. After burning the scripts he worked on, he starts paying attention to other people around him and interacting with them. Eventually Danny moves to Goa, India and finds out that his parents met in the same area in the 1970’s. And a new screenplay is developed from his real life interactions.

The movie is very enjoyable in no small credit to the beautiful scenery in Goa. If you like seeing sunsets over the ocean, then you will like this movie! Danny meanders through the scenery, and nothing happens very quickly, but the happenings are important.

The joy of Cinequest is being able to meet and talk with filmmakers in a casual environment. I was able to speak with actors Andrew Sloman (Danny) and Marianne Borgo (Lucie). Unfortunately Director/Screenwriter Sandeep Mohan was not able to attend. Marianne has acted in several of Sandeep’s films and Danny Goes Aum is his fifth film. Filmed on location in Goa, and halfway through the Covid shutdown, tourists were virtually non-existant. The crews basically had a private beach for filming. The whole crew of five lived in one house and Marianne said they all became very close during production.

Andrew is also a singer/songwriter, and his music was used in the film as well as some previous films of Sandeep’s. Andrew sings and plays the guitar in the movie, and both are important to the story.

Danny Goes Aum is an inspirational movie without trying to teach us something, which is what makes it enjoyable. I recommend it.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 17, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Abruptio

The Uncanny Valley is a technical term that gives a label to the upsetting nature of images that are very close to being realistic, but somehow lack an aspect, a spark, a soul that would make them convincingly real. The term is typically used in critically analyzing computer generated faces that, while impressive in their anatomical detail, still fail to convey life in a disturbing fashion. 

“My name is Les Hackel and I have a bomb in my neck. Just like everyone else.”

Abruptio doesn’t just live in the uncanny valley, it bought prime real estate and built a mansion in the foothills with an incredible view.

Writer/director Evan Marlow has composed a dark and strange story where the characters are all played by extremely clever and grotesque puppets. Arguably a science fictional situation, the majority of players are convinced they must do violent and destructive acts or bombs that have been implanted in their necks will be remotely exploded. Each character’s survival depends on their completion of truly awful tasks set before them without opportunity to object or negotiate.

That in itself is not an uncommon plot device these days (looking at you Suicide Squad.) But the introduction of puppets as the physical actors in Abrupto makes it that much more awful, that much stranger. We should be able to emotionally remove ourselves from this dispaly violence and destruction. Most of it involves violently damaging the obviously rubber characters. Almost realistic bodies are shot, slashed, bashed and ground up, but we never mistake them for real. Films using flesh and blood actors suffering special effect wounds may make us gasp, but rarely affect the viewer as strongly. It’s a paradox that deserves examination beyond the scope of this review.

The absolute nebbish of an office worker, Les Hackel, voiced by Buffy vampire James Marsters, is our point of view character. We watch his conversion from numb office drone victim to numb violent operaitve as tasks go from merely violent to insanely gross. His puppet face doesn’t convey much in the way of subtle reaction. And this leaves Marsters the task of filling it all in with vocals as Les careens down a twisted road through the uncanny valley.

And we can’t ignore the idea that the characters who are forced to perform violent acts are certainly pawns of the puppet masters. Those hidden manipulators assigning those tasks are not shown specifically, their plans not revealed. It does appear that the ploys are not limited to Les and those he comes in contact with. The world does seem to be falling apart, that what we’re seeing is just a sampling of what is going on everywhere.

For the viewer, the paradox of having an unexpected and unsettling emotional reaction to watching puppet violence where we might similarly be numb to human actors recreating these scenes is not lost here. Watching puppet limbs and torsos ground to bits is something that the only the most daring, or self-destructive, producer might greenlight for a human-acted film. But in Abrupto the excuse that “they’re just hunks of rubber” is unsaid, but certainly in play. And in a very real way, even more disturbing.

So, I appreciated and to an odd extent enjoyed Abruptio. But I am left wondering who then is this film for? I would have to give this a cautionary recommendation. Arguably it’s for viewers who like entertainment that challenges their preconceptions of film, and of film realities. I find it similar in taste to the more extreme experimental films of David Lynch, but perhaps with more paradoxical normalcy than Lynch typically gave viewers of Inland Empire or Eraserhead.

In short, I would leave you with this advice: if after reading this review you’re curious, then by all means see Abruptio.

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See if you can pick out which characters are voiced by Jordan Peele and Robert Englund.

Ric Bretschneider
August 20, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Oliver and the Pool

Oliver and the Pool is a film from Mexico and is in Spanish. But do not let that put you off, because it has very nice English subtitles and an experience you’re not going to want to miss.

Oliver is a 13-year-old whose parents announce they’re getting a divorce during dinner one night. And then his father immediately dies. Oliver becomes isolated, not interacting with his mother. When they bring his cremated father’s urn hom, he grabs it and decides the both of them will just stay at the chaise lounge by the pool in their yard. Stay there. By the pool. With his father’s ashes. It’s a very simple story.


Various family members and friends come to visit Oliver at the pool. Some to talk (or yell) at him to get back in the house. Some to just hang out to keep him company. And many who just hope he will talk to them.

He refuses to go back to school and eventually the school sends a classmate to his house after school to go over schoolwork. The classmate and Oliver become friends, and we start to see Oliver returning to the real world, and all it’s complications.  

The movie was beautifully filmed and had a lot to say about grief and how we get through it. We all could use a chaise lounge by the pool to process our grief instead of immediately returning to the daily drudge of life.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 17, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Billion Dollar Babies

Billion Dollar Babies, the True Story of Cabbage Patch Kids, is a documentary about how the Cabbage Patch Kids became a phenomenal toy event in 1983. The director, Andrew Jenks, shows interviews with many of the main players, including the creator, Xavier Roberts, the distributor, Roger Schaifer, and the Coleco Industries producer, Al Kahn.

Xavier Roberts started creating “Little People” in 1977 under the Original Appalachian Artwork company. The Little People were soft, squishable sculpted dolls, each one was one of a kind, and they were “born” from a cabbage patch. He opened the Babyland General Hospital in Helen, Georgia where people could come adopt the Little People and receive adoption papers and birth certificates. At one point he had 400 people working for him on the Little People.

Roger Schaifer came to Xavier with the idea of distributing the rights to the Little People and having them mass produced. Al Kahn of Coleco Industries took this on and immediately changed the name to Cabbage Patch Kids. Coleco made the heads of the Kids in plastic and wanted to make them all the same.

Xavier pushed back and said each still had to one of a kind. Coleco conceded and did make the kids different. Each was a combination of different skins, eye colors, hair colors, clothes, and each had their own name on their adoption papers and birth certificates. In summer of 1983, Coleco started advertising Cabbage Patch Kids on TV under the new rules of being able to advertise toys during children’s programming.

By Christmas of 1983 Coleco couldn’t keep up with the demand for Cabbage Patch Kids. For the first time stores had to deal with people storming the doors and fighting over getting the box with the Cabbage Patch Kid in it. By the time the craze was over Coleco had sold a billion dollars in Cabbage Patch Kids.

But the documentary then takes a different turn. After spending a lot of time talking about how popular the Kids were, the film shifts to bring up a controversy that Xavier Roberts did not create the Little People. That he stole the idea from another soft sculpture artist, Martha Nelson Thomas. After showing video of interviews with Martha and her children, the documentary could not prove that Xavier stole the idea.

In full disclosure I do own two Cabbage Patch Kids (twins!) and was quite interested in the origin story because of that. It was a good documentary that could have used a little more editing. They also announce that Neil Patrick Harris is the narrator and I felt they didn’t use him enough. But those are minor quibbles about an interesting documentary.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 16, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Minnesota Mean

I was excited to see the documentary Minnesota Mean on the Cinequest lineup. I have fond memories of watching roller derby with my Dad in the 60’s, so I was anxious to revisit the sport.

And it didn’t let me down.

Minnesota Mean follows the Minnesota Roller Girls All Stars as they prepare for the 2017 Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships. Flat track roller derby was founded in 2004. It is a relatively new form of the game. Prior to 2004 roller derby required custom built banked wooden tracks. So the switch to a flat track means it can be played without the expense of a bulky track.

The film alternates between the fast-paced roller derby games and interviews with the players. We follow several key players through the games, learning how they got into the sport, their origin stories, and why they stay in such an aggressive and dangerous activity. Nicknames are used for players during the games and in many of the interviews we find out how they got that nickname. The Team got the nickname of “Minnesota Mean” through their aggressive playing style.

A large part of the film involves how the Team deals with the loss of Bricklayer, who is one of their top scorers. She gets seriously hurt 7 weeks before the championship games and has to sit out weeks of games to heal. But the team is a “found family” and they all rally to overcome this otherwise devastating blow.

I often find documentaries hard to watch, but this one was a joy. The filming and photography were excellent, they had obviously filmed roller derby before to get such great shots, and this added to the enjoyment of the movie.

One of my favorite quotes from one of the skaters was “I participate in roller derby so that I can be strong with other women.” In the year of Barbie, this is another movie about empowering women to be all that they can be.

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Debbie Bretschneider
August 14, 2023

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Cinequest 2023 – Star Wars Kid

If you were using the internet in the early 2000’s you probably had a first-hand experience in viewing the “Star Wars Kid.” The video portrayed a young teen boy going through vigorous motions with a rod, reproducing a lightsaber battle. It was likely the first “viral video” and certainly launched many remixings, imitations, and parodies. Even if you weren’t on the internet, you would likely have seen it on the news, late night shows.

It was a big thing, in more ways than one.

And so you should approach this documentary movie know that there is actually very little Star Wars content here. Admittedly, the subject of the video now claims he was not a fan. That this was just a test video, never meant to be shared. So not much about Star Wars pheonomena. This is a film about the advent of today’s internet. The origin of today’s memes and viral videos. But mostly about the damage that these things, even unintentionally, can have on the innocent.

It’s worth saying a second time, this is not a film about Star Wars fandom. It is a film about ramifications, damage, and dealing with unwanted notoriety. If you are looking for insights into the adventures of the Skywalker family, this isn’t going to scratch that itch.

It is, however a fine and thought provoking film. It details and personalizes the unexpected and uncontrolled violations of innocence that the new internet accidentally created. Using this singular event, it examines how and to what extent how we’ve adapted to this global connection. And to some extent lets us reflect on how some willingly, willfully, embrace this effect for their own benefit.

Like most documentaries, it’s promarily composed of interviews. People involved in the distribution and promotion of early internet videos bookend segments wtih the now-adult “Star Wars Kid”, and what effect the video had on them. We do start with Ghyslain Raza, the eponomous Star Wars Kid. He is a French Canadian who as a teen filmed himself to make some test video to debug a problem in a high school video project. That simple act accidentally made him an international celebrity. It also exposed him to bullying, the abuses of the press, and hardships for his parents. Now, years after, he’s still dealing with the effect all this had on his early life and the residual effects he still feels.

In a masterful stroke, director Mathieu Fournier set much of this in a school classroom where Raza was attending and shot his video. The interviewers here are current students of the school, people who never experienced a world without instantanious global communications. The juxtaposition, a quiet and thoughtful mingling of both worlds, is brilliant, and at times quite touching.

Overall, this film creates is a fine and quiet discussion of many issues we deal with today. Not quite cautionary, not hyperbolic, simply thoughtful and perhaps useful in its examination.

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Note: This film is in French (with subtitles) and English. Basically French Canadians speak French, except when speaking to English speakers.

Ric Bretschneider
August 10, 2023

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Cinequest 2023: Share?

In 1969 Canadian televison produceed a one hour teleplay by Jim Hensen called The Cube. It was only broadcast twice, and although you can find it on YouTube it isn’t terribly well known or noted. The Cube was certainly was my first exposure to the protagonist in a box” trope. And fifty years later it is still the bar against which I judge similar experiences.

And there has been occasion for judging similar films. The trope has recently been used in science fiction, highly metaphoric short tales, and especially in horror films and shorts. It’s so constrictively defined and so easily used that it’s rare to find a truly fresh example of the theme.

Share? has broken out of that “box.”


Writer/director Ira Rosensweig and writer Benjamin Sutor’s work has made Share? a rare exception. It takes the boxed protagonist trope and makes it essential in an entertaining yet serious examination of social media and influential or influencers in that realm.

With a very small cast the filmmakers create a world where people are in boxes, locations unknown. And they have locked us into a view of their world, our screens representing a fixed point in one set of four stark walls, and a the view that never deviates, never pans or zooms, giving us the illusion of being in our own box. In a unique way, we’re getting the same experience as anyone we meet in the film is getting. Each film prisoner can also use a keyboard to view to specifically select another habitant in their own cube.

There’s an economy as well, a brilliant part of Share?‘s overall interpretation of the trope, and fundamentally what locks this into our current advent of social media influencers. If someone viewing your cube likes what you’re doing, they can send you credits. Credits are a currency essential to life; needed to pay for water, food, clothing, even garbage collection. You can also use them to reward other people whose cells you choose to watch on your screen. It might feel a little too on-the-nose, especially if you work with or are aware of people trying to make money off producing content for the internet. But Share? takes the idea in to some not-so-obvious areas and works with some really interesting ideas.

Melvin Gregg and Bradley Whitford in Share?

Eventually it become obvious that cube inhabitants can use the system for selective communication, and that’s where things get good.

It’s this kind of petri-dish environment that the isolation of characters really excels. It’s almost brutal, but this is where the fine acting of the very small cast comes in to provide a realistic reaction. A humanizing of those caught in this machinery. With Melvin Gregg (The Blackening)and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing) getting the most “screen” time, lead the way. And the transformative and provocative performances of Alice Braga (The Suicide Squad) and Danielle Campbell (The Originals) elevate this even more. Again, avoiding details that would be spoilers here.

And that’s where I’ll draw this to a close. This is a standout film in the Cinequest ecosphere. If any of this sounds intriguing, go see this thought-provoking and inventive film.

Trailer on Cinequest

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Note: I suspect that you will be yelling a singular instruction to Gregg’s character near the end of the film, just as I was.

Let me know in the comments below.


Ric Bretschneider
August 9, 2023
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2023: Tomorrow

If I were to tell you that this movie is about someone who wakes up each morning in a different body, always yearning to go back “home,” you’d probably say “Oh yeah, Quantum Leap! I loved that show!”

But this isn’t Sam Beckett, and it isn’t a weekly show. There’s no overt reason for the traveler to make a history-rectifying change to each new situation in which they find themselves. It’s something much more personal, and oddly more realistic because of that.

Harper is a young girl who is having trouble at school. Sent home for fighting back against a bully, she is inconsolable because “the world is so unfair.” She rebukes her parents’ advice and love, and wishes she was someone else, anyone else.

So of course, that’s what happens. Over and over again. With no voice over, no “Ziggy,” there is no explanation why this is happening to her. Day after day she spends one waking day in a new body, and then goes to sleep to start things all over again.

Of course, without the puzzles and historical situations that prior works like Quantum Leap, Groundhog Day, or even Freaky Friday had going for them, you might expect this to be kind of tedious after a while. But because Tomorrow dwells on Harper’s emotional reactions, it is much more personal, believable. The film examines the progressive effect this situation has on the young unwilling traveler. There is unexpected character growth, and truly unexpected revelations of a different sort happening here. But I’m not here to spoil that for you, just encourage you to keep an open mind through her journey.

To further your appreciation of the film, you can’t help looking at the rather large cast and appreciate the job each has done in bringing their version of Harper to life. We are exposed to real slices of life, some momentary instances, some more fully developed days. All compound to a more interesting whole because in this world they’re relatable and bereft of fantastic complications. Harper even ends up on the receiving end of a young girl’s inconsolable attitudes towards her parents, and as much as we might have expected that ironic twist, it doesn’t become the focus. It’s just another day, not “the end” of the film.

This isn’t a film where we should be expecting the Hollywood ending, the Shyamalanian “twist.” What happens here is more direct, more believable in it’s own fantastic setting.

In all, there is a lot to consider in Tomorrow, and with each daily vignette we have the opportunity to learn something about the human condition, our own desires to “go home,” and even the need to enjoy our trip onto our final destination.

You will find Tomorrow is worth considering for another day, and another, and another…

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Note: Do NOT leave before the end of the credits. -RB

Ric Bretschneider
August 7, 2023
San Jose California

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Cinequest 2022: The Smoke Master

I wasn’t planning on any more Cinequest reviews this year as I prep for a week at Worldcon in Chicago, but the teaser for this film showed up in my mailbox this morning and I love the concept so much I feel the need to share. And there’s only one more showing scheduled for later tonight:Friday Aug 26 at 7pm at the Pruneyard Cinemas. So, take this for what you will.

I’m sure you have wondered, as I have, what would it be like if Cheech and Chong had produced a Drunken Master martial arts action film. No, well, perhaps you should start thinking about it.

Watch, as I have, the trailer for this and perhaps you’ll be similarly enthralled.

The Smoke Master

Comedy and action ensure, as two brothers rely on a handful of friends to face the fury of the Chinese Mafia. With the help of the Smoke Master and a fighting style based on the properties of marijuana, they will try to overcome this huge challenge.

In 1949, a Smoke Master refused to join Triad’s army, causing the Chinese Mafia to cast the feared “3 Generations Revenge” curse upon him: his firstborn child and firstborn grandchild, if any, will have to fight for their lives on their 27th birthday. When the curse reaches the third generation, his two grandsons escape to be raised by Abel, a Kung Fu master that grooms the older brother to face his destiny and train with the last Smoke Master.

In 2001, fights between the mafia and Abel’s group of students leave the eldest grandson hospitalized at the age of 26, a year before his final fight. Gabriel, his younger brother, discovers the truth about the family feud and set off to look for The Smoke Master himself. Without any training in the Smoke Style, Gabriel has to earn the trust of his new master and learn this controversial, all-time high, stoned martial art to be able to beat Caine, Triad’s deadly undefeated leader.

U.S. PREMIERE. Join the illustrious cast and filmmaking team for a special experience during the first Cinequest screening. Enjoy the electricity of being one of the first people to enjoy this fantastic artistic achievement and take your film experience to another level via the post screening Q&A session. Make sure to share your experience with others via social and the in-person Cinequest social experiences at our Beer/Wine Garden and Patrons & Artists Lounge. Cinequest is much more than a movie…it’s experiencing great films, artists, and community.

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Ric Bretschneider
August 20, 2022
San Jose California

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