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REVIEW: The 2016 Cinetopia International Film Festival DAY ONE- Captain Fantastic and The Alchemist Cookbook

The 2016 Cinetopia International Film Festival kicked off this past Friday and MCB was there to take it in. 

Here's what we saw on DAY ONE...
Captain Fantastic
What THEY say:
Deep in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest, non-conformist Ben (VIGGO MORTENSEN) and his wife guide their six children toward exceptional adulthoods through rigorous outdoor activities and highly intellectual homeschooling. Capable of surviving in the wilderness, knowledgeable of the details of reproduction, and seasoned in the works of Noam Chomsky, the family seems ready for any challenges that come their way – any challenges except functioning in the outside world. When tragedy strikes, Ben and his brood are forced to leave their utopia and venture into a world that is simultaneously unfamiliar, terrifying, and exciting. Writer/director Matt Ross (28 Hotel Rooms) has molded a delightful story that is as poignant as it is funny, with Mortensen leading an outstanding cast including six brilliant young performers who each shine in their own way. Captain Fantastic is a heartfelt story about parenthood, conformity, and the joys and perils of finding your way.
What MCB says: 
The College for Creative Studies viewing room reached capacity for the Michigan premiere of Captain Fantastic this past Friday evening. It's always nice to see a packed house for a film as it adds a aura of excitement to the viewing experience. Nothing like a full room of laughs and emotion. And that's exactly what Captain Fantastic gave us during it's 118 minutes. The film was stellar. The writing and story are masterly crafted. A great movie should be able master of the art character development. Identifying with the cast of characters in a film is where the emotional investment comes from and once vested, and if the story is there, then you have yourself a winner. Captain Fantastic nails it with both and that's no easy task especially when the lead character has six children that all have sizable roles in the film. Viggo Mortensen may be the biggest "star" attached to the film, but the young cast playing his children act as his solar system who are always orbiting around him and scoring lots of laughs. Frank Langella, Steve Zahn, and Kathryn Hahn add to the film in their respective roles in the film as well. And yes ladies- There is a Viggo Mortensen full frontal scene to be enjoyed. Captain Fantastic is a quirky, character-driven and fun filled film. For these very reasons is why I can easily see the film being a success when it receives a wide release on July 8. 
Captain Fantastic still has a Cinetopia screening ahead and that takes place on Friday, June 10 at The Michigan Theatre Screening Room in Ann Arbor. Do yourself a favor and go see it!

The Alchemist Cookbook
What THEY Say:
Young outcast Sean has isolated himself in a trailer in the woods, setting out on alchemical pursuits, with his cat Kaspar as his sole companion. Filled with disdain for authority, he has fled the daily grind and holed up in the wilderness, escaping a society that has no place for him. But when he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature’s secrets, things go awry and he awakens something far more sinister and dangerous. Grand Rapids based director Joel Potrykus (Buzzard, Cinetopia 2014) marries the heady nature of isolation with the hard and fast realities that come along with being a hermit on the fringe. Potyrkus fills our lungs and brains with the same caustic elements that turn Sean inward, dragging the audience along for one of the trippiest rides in the entire festival.

What MCB says:
I wish some of the above plot statements above came across more in the film. For example- "a society that has no place for him" and "he turns from chemistry to black magic to crack nature’s secrets". There is nothing specifically in the film that would show that the world has no place for Sean (Ty Hickson). In fact, with his good taste in music I can easily see Sean being accepted in the music scene. Sean being a hermit is quite obvious in the film, but his reasons for being so and many other actions of his in the film are not so obvious. This is where the film lost me. I never felt a connection to the character and his alchemical ways. I didn't see Sean cracking any of natures secrets and didn't really see any point in including some scenes that basically led to nothing. Highlight of the film for me was the inclusion of music from Detroit's own Esham. I only wish the film itself stirred as much emotion in me as the opening song did.
Michigan director Joel Potrykus was in attendance for the screening and gave a intro to the film and took part in a Q&A with fellow crew members post screening. I enjoyed the Q&A and the candidness of everyone. Nice to hear stories about the making of the film from the actually people behind it.

The Alchemist Cookbook still has a Cinetopia screening ahead and that takes place on Wednesday, June 8 at The Michigan Theatre Screening Room in Ann Arbor. Director Joel Potrykus will once again be doing a Q&A after the film's screening.

The Cinetopia International Film Festival is running now till Sunday, June 12.
Visit for full film descriptions, trailers and dates/times/locations of all screenings and events.