Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Exeter At Midnight (2020)

Christopher Di Nunzio returns with a film about an aging hitman who is "retired" and is starting losing his grip on reality who is forced to come back to the life.

This is a really good little film. A small mafia tinged tale about growing older and being beaten by life. The reason the film works so well is  David Graziano is masterful as Anthony our aging gunman. World weary and uncertain of anything, we can feel the pain  and sadness bleeding off him. We understand the things that are haunting him. It's an award caliber performance. Actually Graziano is so good that I would love to see this turned into a feature where we could get more into Anthony's head.

Heading out on to the festival circuit EXETER AT MIDNIGHT is a film you should keep an eye out for. It's a small jeweled bullet fragment of a film that is worth your time.

Apocalypse 45 (2020) hits theaters Friday before playing the Discovery Channel

I went into Apocalypse 45 figuring that it was going to be a typical Discovery/History Channel doc full of lots of talking heads and a mix of old and new footage. I was truly shocked when what I got was a wall to wall film full of footage I had never run across before which was supplemented by the recollections of the soldiers who survived the final months of the Second World War in the Pacific.

This is not your typical war documentary. Where most films focus on events this film is more focused on what it was like to be the thick of things as well as the cost both psychic and physical of all of the destruction. This is not a rah rah film, there is a constant stream of broken cities, equipment and bodies – there are lots and lots of burnt, bloodied and broken bodies. If there was ever a film that ran counter to the propaganda BS spewed either during the war to keep morale up or after to reassure the population that what they did was right this film is it. This is a haunting experience which reminds you every couple of minutes exactly what the cost in lives was (hundreds of thousands of civilians not to mention the soldiers)

I was rocked.

I can’t recommend this film enough. And while I know the film is going to be on Discovery  Labor Day weekend I highly suggest that if you can catch this in one of the big screen showings in the next two weeks you do so because not being able to look away will add additional power.

Stay At Home Bonus Film : The Master Key

A complete rip roaring movie serial - and one of the few I have never seen

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Yusuf Hawkins Storm over Brooklyn (2020)

Thirty years on HBO looks back at the Yusuf Hawkins killing which rocked New York City and the country.

On August 23rd 1989 young Yusuf Hawkins and three friends left their East New York Neighborhood and went into the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn in order to see about buying a used car that was for sale. Unfortunately they ended up in the wrong part of town and they were set upon by a gang of white men who were looking to beat up an unknown black man who was dating a white girl. All of the young men were beaten up and Hawkins was shot twice in the chest and died. The city exploded. Bensonhurst closed ranks and wouldn’t give up the shooter. The black community then began to march for justice and eventually those responsible for the attacks were turned over to the police and the racist underbelly of the city was exposed.

This excellent documentary is a beautifully made trip back in time. Watching the film I could feel myself being transported back 31 years to when this all went down. I remember seeing much of the footage that makes up the film. This is going to be a needed refresher for anyone who doesn’t know who Hawkins was or doesn’t really remember what happened and why his death rattled so many cages. What I love about the film is that without really trying the film connects up today’s events back to the Hawkins murder and we see little has really changed.

Highly recommended.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus FIlm: DIsney's craziest party

Monday, August 10, 2020


Eleven Day Annual Festival Kicks Off August 20 Outfest LA Comes to Where You Are For the First Time

LOS ANGELES, AUGUST 10, 2020 -- We're having a drive-in. Outfest debuts an outdoor program and streaming platform to bring 160+ films, including 35 world premieres, 10 North American premieres and 4 U.S. premieres to Los Angeles for 2020. This year's Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival will run August 20-30, and will be accessed via for one All-Access Pass, with new centerpiece films, premieres, and hand-curated programs debuting daily. Select packages of Festival Favorites will also be available for direct purchase. The festival is presented by WarnerMedia.

For the outdoor cinephiles, the “Outfest LA Under the Stars”, drive-in experience will take place at the stunning Calamigos Ranch in Malibu, where for two extended weekends the Festival will be hosting a series of drive-in screenings across six-nights on two lots, including both kick-off and closing events. Drive-in screenings will launch with a special, drive-in only Los Angeles premiere of Sundance 2020 title The Nowhere Inn, starring musicians Annie Clark and Carrie Brownstein in a reality-bending send-up of Clark’s musical persona, St. Vincent. Look out for the announcement of other “Outfest LA Under The Stars” drive-in experiences in the coming weeks.

The digital portion of the festival will be powered by the Vimeo OTT platform, making it accessible across all major platforms, viewers at home will also be able to customize their own festival experience, with a personalized watch list tool, on-demand viewing, and simple navigation that have become the standard for rich in-home entertainment experiences.

Outfest LA’s diverse 2020 slate - with over 70% of films directed by female, trans, and POC filmmakers - will include high-profile films originally scheduled for festivals disrupted by COVID-19 earlier in the year, including Tribeca selections P.S. Burn This Letter Please; Cowboys starring Steve Zahn, Jillian Bell, Ann Dowd, and young trans actor Sasha Knight; and musician Big Freedia’s anti-gun advocacy doc Freedia Got A Gun; with previous SXSW premiere titles including dark comedy The Carnivores and Outfest LA’s U.S. Centerpiece selection Shiva Baby, starring Rachel Sennott, Dianna Agron, and Fred Melamed.

Outfest LA’s other Centerpiece selections include Documentary Centerpiece Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverly Glenn-Copeland Story, which catalogs the career resurgence of the musician of trans experience well into his 70s; International Centerpiece Monsoon, directed by Sundance and Outfest alum Hong Khaou (Lilting) and starring Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians); and Breakthrough Centerpiece The Obituary of Tunde Johnson, the feature directing debut of Everybody Hates Chris co-creator Ali LeRoi.

Outfest’s Closing Film will be the world premiere of Outfest alum Travis Fine’s (Any Day Now) century-spanning triptych Two Eyes, in which queer and trans-identified people from three different time periods in the American West discover how their identities fall within a multitude of sexuality and gender expressions. The film’s ensemble includes Kiowa Gordon (The Twilight Saga), Benjamin Rigby (Alien: Covenant), Nakhane Toure (The Wound), musician Ryan Cassata, and non-binary activist and performer Kate Bornstein. The film will premiere both on the digital platform and as the final drive-in feature.

A mix of pre-recorded and live virtual Q&As are expected with cast and crew across all programs.

Program highlights also include the top Teddy Jury Award winners from the 2020 Berlinale: Faraz Shariat’s No Hard Feelings and Patric Chiha’s If It Were Love; a drive-in only screening of Sundance selection La Leyenda Negra; the North American premiere of Eric Steel’s Berlinale selection Minyan, Jen Rainin’s doc Ahead of the Curve about legendary Lesbian magazine Curve, Olivia Peace’s Slamdance selection Tahara, and the world premiere of documentary Cured, about the group of activists who successfully campaigned to remove homosexuality from the American Psychiatry Association’s list of mental illnesses. Cured was recently optioned for adaptation into a limited series by Pose co-creator Steven Canals, who will moderate the Q&A with the film’s directors and participants.

Outfest LA’s Platinum section will continue its tradition of highlighting the cutting-edge, avant-garde and experimental work coming from the queer community, with features including Toronto Film Festival selection The Twentieth Century, and a showcase of experimental short films guest curated by producer, performer, and actor Zackary Drucker.

Outfest’s Legacy Project will feature repertory films not currently available on streaming. The long-unavailable 1986 doc Lily Tomlin: The Film Behind the Show, which chronicles Lily Tomlin and her life partner Jane Wagner’s creation of their hit Broadway show “The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” will screen, with Tomlin, Wagner, and the film’s co-director Joan Churchill participating in a live virtual Q&A. An HBO Original Film, Cheryl Dunye’s Independent Spirit Award-nominated Stranger Inside (2001) will be available for free throughout the festival’s run, with Dunye and producer Effie Brown joining for a live virtual Q&A.

And in Special Events, bio-doc Three Chords and a Lie about gay country music artist Brandon Stansell’s return to his conservative hometown will screen, alongside a live, drive-in concert by Stansell. Outfest LA will also world premiere Emmy-nominated actor Scott Turner Schofield’s one-man show Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps, in which viewers can interactively choose which of Schofield’s 127 segments they can experience as they watch.

“In this brand new, uncharted territory of digital festivals, we are honored that so many wonderful films have entrusted Outfest LA to be their festival home,” said Mike Dougherty, Outfest Director of Festival Programming. “I’m incredibly excited that this stunning array of diverse talent - which represents Outfest’s continued mission to showcase the best work from LGBTQIA+ artists - will be more accessible than ever before.”

“This year’s film festival is not only a reflection of Outfest’s historic trajectory - mixing innovation with media to cast an ever-widening net of diverse and global stories - it is also a testament to Outfest’s commitment to thrive in a moment in which the future of live events, independent film, and our own rights are threatened. We must continue to create opportunities for our LGBTQIA+ storytellers to navigate the tumultuous environment of entertainment, media and communications, year round,” said Damien S. Navarro, Outfest Executive Director.

Films will be in competition for jury and audience awards. As part of their commitment to supporting the LGBTQIA+ filmmaking community, Panavision and its post-production company, Light Iron, have partnered with Outfest to present a camera and post-production package to the winner of this year’s Jury Award for Best Short Film, to be used on the filmmaker’s next project. Jurors confirmed for the competitive sections of Outfest Los Angeles include:

US Narrative Feature: James Sweeney, filmmaker (Straight Up); Ayo Kepher-Maat, Director of Acquisitions, NEON; Caden Mark Gardner, Film Critic.

International Narrative Feature: Jacqueline Lyanga, former Artistic Director of both AFI Fest and Film Independent; Andrew Murphy, Director of Programming, Inside Out Toronto and Isabel Sandoval, filmmaker (Lingua Franca).

Documentary: Sam Feder, filmmaker (Disclosure); Ben-Alex Dupris, filmmaker, (Sweetheart Dancers - winner of Best Short Doc jury award at Outfest LA 2019); Daresha Kyi, filmmaker (Chavela - winner of Best Documentary Jury and Audience Award at Outfest LA 2017).

International Narrative Shorts: Daniel Laabs, filmmaker, (Jules of Light and Dark - winner of Best U.S. Narrative Feature jury prize Outfest LA 2019), Lauren Wolkstein, filmmaker (The Strange Ones); Aurora Guerrero, filmmaker (Netflix's Gentefied, Mosquita Y Mari).

U.S. Narrative Short: Brian Michael Smith, Actor, (911: Lone Star); Gillian Horvat, filmmaker (I Blame Society) and Carly Usdin, filmmaker (Suicide Kale).

As a nonprofit organization, Outfest relies heavily on the Outfest Los Angeles Film Festival to support its year-round activities. This year it will offer a $59.99 Festival pass that will provide viewing access to all the films and panels as well as a subscription to Outfest’s new streaming platform for the next year.

The 2020 Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival is proudly presented by WarnerMedia, a partnership that has spanned over 20 years. The Grand Automotive Sponsor is Hyundai. Premiere Sponsors include Comcast NBCUniversal, The Fight Magazine, and Gilead. The Day Sponsors are Union Bank, West One Music, and Taiwan Academy. Media sponsors include: Clear Channel, MYFM, LA Times, Lesbian News, Queerty, and Variety. Outfest is also generously supported by the following government and foundation entities: Academy Foundation, David Bohnett Foundation, California Arts Council, California Community Foundation, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Ford Foundation, David Geffen Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, LA County Arts Commission, LA County Department of Arts & Culture, and the Sundance Institute. For more information about sponsorship,contact Director of Corporate Relations, Adam Goldberg at

Outfest Website:


OUTFEST®, est. 1982, is one of the only global LGBTQIA+ arts, media and entertainment organizations whose programs empower artists, communities and filmmakers to transform the world through their stories, while also supporting the entire lifecycle of their career. Outfest’s mission creates visibility to diverse LGBTQIA+ stories and empowers storytellers, building empathy to drive meaningful social change. Outfest programs give artists, filmmakers and entertainment professionals the opportunity to discover their voice, provide the pathways to the visibility of their work by all members of the public, and assure that their legacy will live on for generations to come.

Outfest’s tentpole film festival programs and digital channels include the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, Outfest Fusion (a festival dedicated to celebrating the lives and stories of LGBTQ people of color), Outfest Now. Its robust filmmaker and talent mentorship and education programs and courses include the Outfest Screenwriting Lab, Outfest InFusion studio days, Fusion Workshops, OutSet Young Filmmakers Project in partnership with The LGBT Center, and the Outfest Anthony Meindl Trans Acting Fellowship. The Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, a partnership with UCLA Film & Television Archive, is the only archive in the world exclusively dedicated to preserving LGBTQ moving images.

To discover more about Outfest membership, the Empathy Fund, alumni network, or for a calendar of events go to or connect to our social channels at @outfest.


WarnerMedia is a leading media and entertainment company that creates and distributes premium and popular content from a diverse array of talented storytellers and journalists to global audiences through its consumer brands including: HBO, HBO Now, HBO Max, Warner Bros., TNT, TBS, truTV, CNN, DC Entertainment, New Line, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Turner Classic Movies and others, as well as Xandr’s suite of advanced advertising solutions designed to help to improve advertising for brands, publishers, and consumers.

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LOS ANGELES, August 6, 2020 – The first virtual edition of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), now in its 24th year, will feature a robust slate of speakers including Stacey Abrams, Kenya Barris, Mary J. Blige, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union and Lena Waithe, as well as panels ranging from the business of Hollywood to spotlights on new films and television series. The festival will offer a mix of live and on demand content from August 21st to 30th at

Opening night will feature the HBO Short Film Competition, a platform which has been responsible for showcasing the early work of such industry notables as Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Ben Watkins (Hand of God) and Stephen Caple Jr. (Creed II) followed by a virtual version of ABFF’s legendary “White Party.” It will close with “The Best of American Black Film Festival Awards” Ceremony, hosted by Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker and simulcast on, followed by a post awards celebration. Presenters include: Lee Daniels (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Laz Alonso (The Boys), Bevy Smith (BEVELATIONS) Logan Browning (Dear White People) and Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods).

Jemele Hill will host a Cadillac sponsored one-on-one conversation with Blige, who is this year’s festival ambassador. In addition to “Conversations With” Blige and Abrams, Angela Rye will moderate a discussion with Barris. Evening programming will also include “Comics on Comedy” hosted by Yvonne Orji (Insecure) featuring Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), a screening of Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, presented by HBO, a first look at the highly anticipated Universal Pictures film, Candyman with director/co-writer Nia DaCosta, and a panel on the new animated series Woke from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Additional highlights include a conversation with directors Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard), Christine Swanson (The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel) and Jacqueline Olive (Always in Season). Amazon Studios presents a Hot at Amazon panel featuring Barry Jenkins, Lena Waithe and Tracy Oliver; a Garrett Bradley Time conversation as well as a discussion with Stacy Abrams. STARZ presents Power Book II: Ghost panel with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Michael Rainey Jr., Naturi Naughton, Mary J. Blige and Cliff “Method Man” Smith. Netflix brings a discussion with The 40-Year-Old Version writer/director Radha Blank.

There will be opportunities to meet the filmmakers from the competitive categories, panel discussions on “The Hollywood Executive Experience Through The Black Lens,“ ”Navigating the Network and Studio Process,” and ”Black Female Perspectives on Directing and Storytelling” among others. The 90 films featured during the program will be available on demand for the duration of the festival. The schedule is available here.

“We are gratified by the outpouring of industry support for this year’s ABFF, creating an opportunity for us to reach a global audience with a broad range of compelling content both live and on demand,” said Jeff Friday, founder and CEO ABFF Ventures. “Although we plan to be back in Miami for 2021, this year’s virtual festival enables us to engage with an audience that might never be able to attend a destination event. Thanks to our sponsors and everyone who participated, we are able to deliver provocative conversation and compelling entertainment when our community most needs it.”

Sponsors to date include WarnerMedia, HBO® (Founding), Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Presenting Sponsors); Comcast NBCUniversal, Amazon Studios (Premier Sponsors); Cadillac, Sony Pictures Entertainment, IMDb, Netflix, Motion Picture Association (MPA), Jeff Friday Media, Prudential Financial, Starz, a Lionsgate company UMC, Verizon Media (Official Sponsors); AspireTV, Facebook, Morgan Stanley, and Universal Production Music (Supporting Sponsors);, Film Independent, and Variety (Marketing Partners).

For more information on ABFF and up-to-date news, go to and follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook. Join in on the conversation by using #ABFF20 and #ABFF.


The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is an annual event dedicated to recognizing black talent and showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. Dedicated to the belief that diverse artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts, ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to strengthen the black entertainment community by fostering resource sharing, education and artistic collaboration.

After 24 years, the festival has become a cornerstone of diversity in Hollywood, providing a platform for emerging black artists – many of who have become today’s most successful actors, producers, writers, directors and stand-up comedians. The ABFF is the preeminent pipeline for black artists in front of and behind the camera, and has significantly expanded the range of talent working in the entertainment Industry. ABFF is the “the nation’s largest community of black film and television enthusiasts” attracting a broad audience of celebrity talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders.


ABFF Ventures, LLC (ABFFV) is a multifaceted entertainment company specializing in the production of live events and branded content. Its mission is to entertain and inspire communities of color while promoting diversity in Hollywood. Headquartered in Los Angeles, ABFFV was formed to stimulate business growth through expansion into other events and services. Its tent-pole properties are the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), cited by MovieMaker magazine as “One of the Coolest Festivals in the World;” and “ABFF Honors,” an annual awards gala saluting the top stars of film and television. In creating ABFF Ventures, CEO Jeff Friday channeled his passion for film and television, as well as his discomfort with the underrepresentation of people of color in Hollywood, into an organization with the ultimate goal of advocating for diversity within the entertainment industry. Through his vision and perseverance, ABFF Ventures has become a highly respected enterprise, generating goodwill throughout the Hollywood and corporate communities.


New York, NY (August 10, 2020) – The 19th edition will be a special virtual edition from August 28 to September 12, 2020.

Whether online or offline, the festival continues to highlight women both behind and in front of the camera, and features a specific FOCUS on women filmmakers: WOMEN TRANSFORMING FILM, starting with:

The OPENING FILM - the North American Premiere of The Girl and the Gun (Babae at Baril), directed by Rae Red, led by a superb performance by actress Janine Gutierrez, and produced by Iana Celest Bernardez (in a first-time producing role) and Bianca Balbuena.

The Festival’s programming team went the extra mile to spotlight female talent. There is much more to Asian cinema than the male-dominated films shown at Cannes and the Oscars. NYAFF is proud to spotlight an exciting lineup of titles directed and led by women:

Heavy Craving from Taiwan, Lucky Chan-sil and Kim Ji-young, Born 1982 from South Korea, My Prince Edward from Hong Kong, and Victim(s) from Malaysia, among others.

The CENTERPIECE film marks both a departure from genre as well as the festival’s embrace of an ever-expanding range of films: They Say Nothing Stays the Same by Odagiri Joe, one of Japan’s best-known actors, who makes a remarkable feature debut behind the camera. Odagiri is joined by a no less remarkable cast and crew: cinematographer Christopher Doyle; veteran actor Emoto Akira, who leads a star cast including Nagase Masatoshi, Asano Tadanobu and Aoi Yu, plus a rare appearance by musician Hosono Haruomi; Oscar-winning costume designer Wada Emi; and a fabulous score courtesy of Armenian jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan.

A generous share of the program is devoted to new filmmakers, including striking directorial debuts and sophomore efforts. Integral to NYAFF’s mission is showcasing the Asian cinema vanguard that emerges largely from new talent and fresh voices. This edition reflects today’s particularly kinetic innovations, much informed by social media and the hyper information highway. An impressive cross-section of work highlights new ideas in storytelling and tackles social mores and personal demons, including Philippines’ John Denver Trending, Korea’s Beauty Water and Taiwan’s Detention and IWeirDo, just to name a few.

In regional terms, South Korea is front and center in this year’s selection. Faithful to tradition, the Festival presents a balance of arthouse and genre titles with an emphasis on outstanding storytelling and accessibility: Secret Zoo, Hitman Agent Jun, Moving On.

As the boundaries between what is strictly film and TV blur, NYAFF has found, in its tireless search for exciting, new content, an extraordinary example of the convergence of both formats in SF8, a series of eight stand-alone 52-minute science fiction films that will make their International Premiere at this first virtual edition. Each film is directed by prominent Korean filmmakers, and the knowledgeable viewer will recognize the names of Min Kyu-dong, Jang cheol-su, Noh Deok.

The series, first shown on Korea’s version of Netflix, Wavve, has been praised locally and has drawn comparisons with Black Mirror.

The Festival continues to champion the work of new directors and filmmakers that have not yet received international recognition with its “Uncaged” Competition section, which includes five films by first and second-time directors: (IWeirDo, Moving On, Legally Declared Dead, Victim(s) and They Say Nothing Stays the Same.)

The Hong Kong Panorama, the point of origin of the Festival, has a specific emphasis on Cantonese-language stories and the new generation of filmmakers at a turning point in the history of the Special Administrative Region.The selection features the following: the World Premiere of Hell Bank Presents: Running Ghost, the North American premieres of Memories to Choke on, Drinks to Wash Them Down; The Grand Grandmaster, Legally Declared Dead, Unleashed, the East Coast premiere of the previously mentioned My Prince Edward, and Witness Out of the Blue, one of the few and best representatives of a genre that put Hong Kong cinema on the map: the crime thriller.

Keeping continuity with the festival’s roots, this year’s edition also features Chasing Dream, the latest by Johnnie To, Hong Kong cinema’s l’enfant terrible turned patron saint. NYAFF is notable as the first festival and institution to bring the wild cinematic stylings of To and his team to the US with the groundbreaking series, "Expect the Unexpected: Contemporary Urban Cinema from Milkyway Image Productions" back in 2000.

This year’s selection of films from Japan proves as eclectic as ever with a fascinating diversity of styles and themes, by emerging and established creators. There is salient cinematic sophistication in the resonant work of returning filmmakers: Naito Eisuke’s cause-for-alarm cautionary tale Forgiven Children; Otomo Keishi’s hypnotically enigmatic Beneath the Shadow. On the other end of the spectrum is the hilariously uncomfortable cringe-com Beloved Wife; and rounding things out are Sabu’s supernatural dramedy Dancing Mary, Mariko Tetsuya’s shocking manga adaptation Miyamoto, and more.

At a time when Hollywood and the new East Asian superpower go both head to head and hand in hand, the China selection continues to show a wide-ranging selection of titles that reflects the versatility of the mainland’s filmmaking, and puts the spotlight on new directors: Fresh off the massive success of last year’s White Snake, the programming slate includes a brand new title that shows the sudden rise of the Chinese animation sector with recent hit Mr. Miao, Li Lingxiao’s epic directorial debut. Produced by the team behind box office champion Ne Zha, the film, released in China on July 31, has drawn praise and comparisons with Studio Ghibli's productions. Also on the menu is an original take on the scifi genre: Gone with the Light, a strikingly original feature debut by Dong Runnian, who has made a name for himself as the scriptwriter of Mr Six and Crazy Alien. The film, powered by the performances of star actor Huang Bo and an all-star female cast (Bai Baihe, Song Chunli, Wen Qi , Huang Lu), artfully marries an empowering drama with genre tropes. In addition to highlighting new talent, the Chinese selection includes Sixth-Generation director Wang Rui’s most recent work by (and one of its best to date): Mongolian-language drama Chaogtu with Sarula.

“Since the very first day of our launch, our goal is to always promote and screen the latest quality Asian films to international audiences. So it is our great pleasure to work with NYAFF, one of the most prominent Asian film festivals in the world, for their 19th edition, following our successful partnerships with Shanghai International Film Festival and Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival. As a technology and data driven platform, we have created a unique, cutting-edge, virtual “Almighty Cinema” ecosystem to accommodate all the various demands from international festivals, distributors as well as traditional exhibitors.” said Jack Gao, founding partner and CEO of Smart Cinema.

“We are honored that NYAFF selected Smart Cinema USA to be their partner as they continue to showcase the best films from all over Asia during this global pandemic. Smart Cinema has become the premiere virtual cinema destination for movies in Asia and we are committed to replicating that success in North America.” said Doris Pfardrescher, President & CEO of Well Go USA and Board Member, Smart Cinema USA.

“At a time when the work of festivals might seem like a rearguard battle, I’m glad to take a leap into the unknown, and search east, not only for the films, but for new ways of exhibiting those films“, said Samuel Jamier, executive director and president of the New York Asian Film Festival & Foundation.

FULL LINEUP (51 films; program still subject to change)

Titles in bold are included in the Main Competition.


Sputnik (2020)

Originally slated to world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival SPUTNIK but with Covid wrecking the best laid plans it ended up opening in Russia and elsewhere in the world before it hits the US on Friday.  I'm cool with that simply because this sweet little scifi/horror film can now be seen by everyone.

The plot of the film is simple: in 1983 two cosmonauts are returning from space when something happens. One of them is dead and the other has an alien life form inside him which comes out when he sleeps. The Soviet officials need to figure out what the hell is going on so they grab a brilliant but troublesome doctor and spirit her away to their secret facility. Perhaps she can sort it all out....

What happens after that is the film and it's a really simple and incredibly tense little film. When I say the film is simple, I just mean that there are no big plot twists and turns, it is pretty much a straight forward telling of the story. There are no plot gotchas, its all right there before us and any twists beyond the stuff with the creature and its host are things we could have sussed out on our own. In away this is closer to the classic B science fiction films of the 1950's through the 70's instead of the more modern overly thought out films of recent years and we are better for it.

There is this moment early on where our heroine is sitting on the military chopper and asks when she will have to sign the paper that she can never talk about what she is about to see. It's this wicked little self referencial moment that lets you know that the filmmakers are aware of the games, and by having her aware of it it wipes away the need for complexity. That shifts things toward simplicity since it makes us think "oh this will be complex" and then director Egor Abramenko plays us by keeping it all front and center. This approach keeps us in the moment because we aren't trying to see the twist, we are just watching things unfold. It's brilliant and gives the film emotional resonances of a straight forward story that a twisty turny film never would have had.

It also allows the cast, and the creature, to take center stage. Because the plot isn't complicated the characters can shine. Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk, and Pyotr Fyodorov are all at the top of their game. They pull us in and make us care about what happens to them. I love that they don't use blacks and whites but give us a colorful palette to play with giving us more to think about than is someone is good or bad.

And the acting extends to the creature. It a creepy and icky thing but there is emotion in what it is doing.  There is a complexity to its reaction which makes us realize that as terrifying as it is there is something more going on than typical monster stuff.

I love this film.

To be certain the film isn't perfect, it's probably 20 minutes too long, but at the same time its creepy and scary and unexpectedly moving.

Highly recommended to anyone who wants a wonderful but atypical modern science fiction horror film.

SPUTNIK hits select theaters and VOD on Friday

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films: Pondering movies

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Pearl (2020) hits VOD Tuesday

After her step father kills her mother, 15 year old goes to live with one of her mother’s old lovers, and who just maybe her biological father.

The cast, Anthony LaPaglia in particular, is better than the material in this kind of by the numbers tale. The problem is not that anything is really bad, other than some soapy plotting, it’s more that the film doesn’t do anything new. We have been here before enough times that we can pretty much guess where it’s going. If that is okay with you then this film is for you (also if you are a fan of LaPaglia who really does shine and makes you realize he is an under used actor.

PEARL hits VOD on Tuesday

The Dark End Of The Street (2020)

Hitting VOD Tuesday is a small micro-budgeted gem that you really need to take a look at. Despite running a brief 70 minutes THE DARK END OF THE STREET packs a visceral punch larger than most films  coming out of Hollywood or the inde scene.

Set on one night in a small community the film focuses on the various interactions between residents many of whom are on edge since the police have revealed that someone seems to be breaking into their home and killing their pets. While that is the catalyst, of sorts, the real stories or stories revolve around life just happening and people talking about their lives.

Moving like the wind and possessing great insight Kevin Tran has fashioned a film for our time. Despite the film not being set in these Covid swampd times the films thematic thrust of people trying to find a human connection is more relevant today than when the film was made. We are all looking for sense of belonging to something greater. The question as to whether Tran's character's find what they are looking for is something you are going to have to watch the movie  to discover.

I really liked this film. Frankly I didn't really want to see the film because it didn't hit all the ticky boxes but I agreed to look at the film simply because of who offered it to me. His recommendations always tend to be worth the time even if I don't like the film itself. This time it as dead on and as a result I found a small gem I can recommend without reservation. It is exactly the sort of film that I started Unseen FIlms to highlight.

Hitting VOD on Tuesday I suggest you give THE DARK END OF THE STREET a shot. Its a beautifully acted ensemble piece with something to say and make you think.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Racing tragedies and farces

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Compound Fracture (2013) hits VOD on Tuesday

The first film released by Mane Entertainment, Tyler Mane's production company is finally getting a digital release starting Tuesday.

Tyler Mane plays a man returning to his family home with his fiance and nephew in order to help take care of his father. Mane had left years before because of the tension in the family unit. Things begin to heat up again not long after thy arrive, but then thins take a darker turn as it is revealed that something is trying to get into the house and kill the family.

Surprisingly good horror film is nice character driven film. This is a film where the people on screen matter and not the blood and guts. What a wonderful change of pace from the vast majority of  modern horror films.  Even better is the fact that the cast Tyler Mane,Derek Mears, Muse Watson, Renae Geerlings, and Leslie Easterbrook  not only capable of selling the material, but that they decide to do so.  They make it clear why this film has been kicking around for the better part of a decade and is now getting a VOD release.

If you want a good character driven horror film COMPOUND FRACTURE fits the bill.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films; Abandoned theme parks

Friday, August 7, 2020

Psychomagic: A Healing Art (2019)

I am going to be completely honest right up front and say I have no idea what to think of the latest film from Alejandro Jodorowsky. The film is a documentary on his psychomagic which he uses to heal people of their traumas so they can go on and lead healthy lives. It is a film where Jodorowsky talks about his process, which comes out of the theater, and which he has been refining for the last half century. The film is essentially an illustrated lecture by the director explains what he is doing and then showing us examples.

This film is kind of impossible to review. It is somewhere beyond a conventional film, it is not even a conventional documentary, running closer to a position paper on Jodorowsky's ideas. There is nothing counter to them, simply a discussion with illustrations. It isn't a movie, so much as an infomercial, except that there is no website or phone number to call in the next ten minutes.

As a writer on film I really don't know what I am supposed to do with this film. I cant really critique it as a piece of cinema because it isn't really a film as such. The film is simply one man and his followers talking about their process for healing themselves and others with examples. Does it work? I honestly don't know.

I do know that I find listening to Jodorowsky talk is interesting. I intellectually like the ideas he is putting forth. I have no ability to know if he is right, or would be right for everyone. I do know some of the demonstration sequences are almost embarrassingly intimate. Several times I felt like I was intruding. I also found several pieces a bit silly.

I have no idea who this is aimed at. As a long term Jodorowsky fan I was interested in his showing how his magic informs his films, but at the same time this really isn't a film I would watch a again, which is not something I would ever say about any of his other films.  To be frank I think this is going to confuse the hell out of a lot of people- I know it confused me.

I suspect that unless you are either extremely interested in mental health and emotional care or are the sort of Jodorowsky fan who wants to really know where his ideas come from  this is not going to be for you.

For me, I came I saw I'm going to go watch Magic Mountain again.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Legacy of Arrow Development

THis is a doc on the make of some of the world's best rollercoasters and amusement park rides

Thursday, August 6, 2020

A brief piece on BEAST NO MORE (2019) Hitting VOD tomorrow

This piece is going to be short out of necessity. It's not that the film is bad, it isn't, rather it's that the film takes some twists and turns that make talking about the plot nigh impossible without spoiling things.

The plot, or as much as I can say, has a young woman fleeing into the Australian Outback and her work studying moths and butterflies to get away from the loss of her child. She hopes the solitude will do her good, but she isn't alone and complications soon arise.

This is a good little film that holds our attention thanks to some carefully placed twists and turns. Motoring along at a good clip the film keeps flipping just as we think we are getting a handle on things, the result is a film that won't let us look away. This is exactly the sort of film we need during the Covid crisis, something good that isn't like everything else.


The deeply moving HOWARD (2019 )hits Disney + today

This is the review we ran at last years Tribeca where it wowed everyone. Below is the Q&A that followed the World Premiere

Loving and deeply deeply moving portrait of Howard Ashman who  along with Alan Menken wrote the musical LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS went on to help revitalize Disney animation in films such as ALADDIN, THE LITTLE MERMAID and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

Telling the story of Ashman's life from childhood to his death. The film pretty much covers it all making up shows for his little sister on through college, his starting his own theater company, the meeting with Menken, Broadway and eventually Disney. It is not only a portrait of the man but a very clear explanation a to why and how he changed popular culture forever.

This is a film that literally brought tears to many of the critics covering the Tribeca film festival. sitting in a crowded theater I could hear the sniffling and nose blowing around me during the more poignant moments. i'm not ashamed to say I cried at times, and amazingly I had several normally stoic critics admit to me that, yes they cried too. Apparently there is now a small secret society of people who cried during HOWARD. Having worked on some of our favorite films,Ashman's  work meant the world o us and his loss means something.

This is a great film and I can't believe that the film hasn't been snapped up by Disney because it is so good on so many levels.

Highly recommended

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Order of the Black Eagle