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

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Black Water Abyss hits VOD and select theater Friday

A group of friends go into exploring in a cave system in the Outback. As they get deep into the system a storm hits and the water in the tunnels begin to rise. Things wouldn’t be bad but with the water comes a some hungry crocodiles.

Yea we’ve been here before. Yea Black Water: Abyss hits some expected points, but it doesn’t matter since it still manages to ramp up the tension. Thank director Andrew Traucki and writer’s John Ridley and Sarah Smith who use the setting in such away that what should have been a familiar story seems to be bright and new. This is the perfect sort of film for a low key night on the covid couch.

Personally I couldn’t wait to see how it all came out. I was watching it during a lunch break at the day job and I had to sneak finishing it up.

Worth a look when it hits VOD on Friday

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: Punk in Africa

Tuesday, August 4, 2020


Incredibly lovely and loving portrait of comedian Julia Scotti, who was born as Rick. Rick had successful career as a stand up comic  but realized he still wasn't happy. Then  in her later 40's she realized what  was wrong with her life and decided to change from being Rick and become her true self, Julia.

JULIA SCOTTI: FUNNY THAT WAY came across my desk at exactly the wrong time. My father had passed a short time before, I was declining covering films left and right and really wasn't in the mood to see anything. For some reason I clicked on the link for the trailer and it made me smile. There was something warm and sweet about the film and about Julia which perked me up so I agreed to take a look at the film.

What an absolute joy. What an absolutely magnificent portrait of one woman trying to find her happiness and bringing everyone along with her. To be honest the road was hard, marriages broke up, Scotti was estranged from her children for years and things happened, but in the end it seems, that she has found a place  where she can be happy.

The  film opens with Julia talking about how her story doesn't really matter, but it really does. Julia's story matters because in watching her go from Rick to Julia we see a beautiful story of how, if we are lucky, we too can change ourselves and our worlds for the better by following our hearts. Watching the old video and film of Rick you can see how he was shlumphy and self deprecating. You can see the sadness behind his eyes. On the other hand watching Julia now, interacting with people and performing you can see how much better she is being herself. The sadness is gone, as is the self-eviscerating  humor and it is replaced with smiles and jokes that have a warmth to them. Say what you will Julia is so much funnier.

What I love about the film is it leaves me wanting more. Not just more of the story, but it makes me want to track Julia down and just hang out with her. I want some of her joy of life to come my way. I want to go to a diner and shoot the breeze and catch up on old times- despite never having met her before. That the film does this is a testament to not only Julia but director Susan Sandler who has made not so much a film  but a personal introduction via bear hug. It's as if she has invited us over for lunch with someone one we "just had to meet" because she knew we'd be great friends. She was right and after watching the film I feel as though I now have a great friend whom I've never met.

I absolutely love this film and it's subject to pieces.

Highly recommended on the level of this is going to be "one of your most cherished films of the year" level, JULIA SCOTTI is going to be continuing on the festival circuit with the film being an official selection at Austin’s AGLIFF 2020 (All Genders, Lifestyles, and Identities Film Festival) Aug. 6-16 and will play at the Bentonville Film Festival Aug.10-16.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films: Theme Park Docs

Monday, August 3, 2020

A Thousand Cuts (2020) hits virtual theaters Friday

A THOUSAND CUTS is a portrait of the current political and social situation in the Philippines through the trials and tribulations of journalist Maria Ressa and the organization she works for Rappler, the leading investigative news site in the country. Wanting to do more than tow the party line for demagogue Rodrigo Duterte, they have ended up in a never ending battle to report the high crimes against humanity that the the government's war on drugs  are committing.

I am going to be brief in regard to A THOUSAND CUTS. My brevity is not because there is anything wrong with it, but rather because the film is over stuffed with information regarding what is going on in the Philippines. Frankly I need to see this film another time or two to catch everything that is being thrown at us and to process it. There is a great deal to ponder here and I am not going to toss off a long review pretending that I have fully digested it.

Kudos to director Ramona S. Diaz who has turned in yet another excellent film. Refusing to tell the story simply she instead drops us into the middle of the battle for the soul of a nation.  While she primarily is tracking Maria Ressa's story we also get to see General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa the strong man who is holding public executions of addicts, Mocha Uson the pop star turned social media influencer for the dictator and numerous journalists who are struggling to cover the madness. Diaz is covering all the bases and by the time the film ends we feel like we have had a ten course meal.

This is both a heartbreaking and hopeful tale. It is heartbreaking in that we witness a country going slowly insane as respect for life and basic human dignity begin to ebb away under the control of a man who simply wants to remain and power by playing to human baseness. He really couldn't care less about stories such as the woman who had to crawl down an alley to get to he son who was killed by police violence. At the same time it is hopeful in that it is a tale that shows us that there are some good people in the world, like Ressa, who refuse to go down the dark path.

(I don't want to state the obvious echoes to the current American leadership, but I do have to mention that there is a sequence early on in the film where Maria Ressa explains the divide in how her country gets its news and how that split the country- which exactly parallels the split in the US groups.)

A THOUSAND CUTS is a great film.   It is a film you must see if you care about humanity and human rights. Highly recommended.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films: Rollercoaster troubles

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Coma (2020)

Hitting digital and Blu-Ray Tuesday is the Russian science fiction film COMA and if you love wicked visuals you must see this film.

The film has a young architect waking up in a weird world after an accident. It seems that he is in a coma and his consciousness is waiting is strange world made up of memories both fully remembered and party remembered. He quickly encounters other people who live in the world as well as the dark beings, reapers which feed on the inhabitants. Will he be able to learn to survive and more importantly will he find a way out?

The visuals are the thing here. The bent and twisted world where every which way is up and anything is possible is just wickedly cool. It is so cool that I am disappointed that I couldn't see this on a big screen.

The plot is nothing special. Suffering from being too close to any number of films like THE MATRIX or RE-CYCLE or any of their children COMA is something we've kind of seen before. That's not bad, after all this has wicked special effects and any number of cool sequences, but it keeps it from becoming great. As good as the bits are the whole just never stops reminding us of something we've already seen.

But before you slink off and think that there is no reason to watch this film consider that the visuals and the set pieces are strong enough on their own that they make the film worth seeing. Yea the plot is been their and done that, but at the same time the filmmakers spice it all up with some mind blowing pieces.

Definitely worth a look see for any one who likes science fiction, great visuals and mind blowing action set pieces, COMA hits Blu-ray and digital Tuesday and worth you time and money.

Senior Love Triangle(2020) starts August 4

Tom Bower give a great performance as a WW2 vet who begins affairs with two women in  retirement homes. He's struggling to find a place to live and to remain connected to the world (he keeps getting booted out of the places he calls home)

 This is a wonderful grand surprise of a film. To be honest I didn't expect to be moved as much as I was. I simply thought this was going to be a by the numbers film and surprisingly it never really went that way. Based on a true story, the real people were the subject of a photo documentary spread that we see during the end credits, this film feels real. Bower and the ladies, Anne Gee Byrd and Marlyn Manson create three of the most alive characters you'll see in any film all year. They are so good that you'll swear you are watching real life. This all feels messy and real. The scenes between the leads have a lived in quality most other films never seem to muster. 

To be honest the leads are so good that they seem to be in a completely different film than many of the supporting cast. While the rest of the cast would be fine in any other movie, putting them against Bower, Byrd and Manson they are sadly at sea.

If you want an atypical film that isn't regula Hollywood I highly recommend SENIOR LOVE TRIANGLE, a small gem of a film of the sort that Unseen Films was created to highlight.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Film: The Cinemascope Story

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Bundini (2020)

Patrick Green’s short bio BUNDINI was made to tie into the new book Bundini: Don’t Believe The Hype by Todd D Snyder about Drew Bundini Brown. The film  is so good that not only will you want to run out to buy the book you’ll want to track down director Green and plead with him to expand the film into a feature.

If you want to know who Drew "Bundini" Brown  just know that he was the man who coined the phrase "float like a butterfly and sting like a bee." He was a man who could motivate anyone to do the best they were capable of. He was introduced to Muhammad Ali by Sugar Ray Robinson as the only man who could out talk Ali. Bundini became a fixture in the corner of Ali as a trainer and living embodiment of will. On more than one occasion he he talked Ali into continuing a fight when he wanted to quit. . Bundini pushed Ali to be all he could be and when he passed away Ali said that Bundini was the man who made him The Greatest. (Green's film makes it clear that was the case)

Green’s film is a stunner. Giving the man his due the film finally puts the spotlight on a man who helped shape the Muhammad Ali we saw on TV and in the ring.  By making Ali all he could be he effectively changed the world. It reveals the life of the man from birth to death and makes you realize what an amazing  and influential life he lead. Is there anyone he didn't know at one time? Maybe not.

The only problem I have with the film is that there simply is too much to Bundini’s story to leave it at just over 20 minutes.This needs to be turned into a feature documentary. I understand that some may say hand the film over to Hollywood, but Hollywood would chop Bundini's life down to just his time with Ali, but his life was more than that, with a stint in the military at 13, love affairs with legendary singers, rubbing elbows with celebrities, making movies and plus his time by in the corner of two world champions there is too much for any one narrative feature to contain.

In all seriousness I really want a feature expansion of this film. I want to see the whole story. Mostly I want to hear more from all the voices that Green has marshalled to talk about Bundini. Mixing various contemporary interviews with new interviews with members of Bundini's family, people who knew him, as well as writer Todd Snyder Green gives us a well rounded portrait of one of the great unsung people of the last half century. Best of all the mix of voices, speaking with love, drive the film forward and makes you want to lean in close and hear all the stories.

Whether you like boxing or not.BUNDINI is a great film.  Its the story of a great man who did great things and and probably didn't get the attention he should have.

Certain to be on my best of the year list the film is very recommended.

For information on Todd D Snyder's book Bundini: Don't Believe The Hype go here.

Stay at Home Fest Bonus Films: Abandoned F1 race tracks


Friday, July 31, 2020

The Cuban, Featuring the Music of Hilario Duran

Afro-Cuban jazz exploded in late 1940s New York when Dizzy Gillespie collaborated with musicians like Mario Bauza and Chano Pozo. The fictional Luis Garcia was very much a part of the scene, but he had disappeared by the time of the second Afro-Cuban boom in the 1980s. Sadly, the years were not kind to Garcia, but a young care-giver at his long-term nursing facility reawakens some of his memories through good music and good food in Sergio Navarretta’s The Cuban, featuring the music of Hilario Duran, which opens virtually today.

The Canadian nursing home staff only knows him as “Mr. Garcia,” whom they consider “difficult.” He hardly ever eats and he will lash out from time to time. However, Mina Ayoub notices his Benny More poster, so she starts humming one of the Latin Jazz songs she learned from her grandfather, which seems to get a glimmer of recognition from Garcia. Soon she is sneaking him Cuban food (in violation of the head nurse’s strict rules) and letting him listen to Afro-Cuban jazz during meals.

Ironically, Mina’s sudden deep dive into Cuban culture leads her protective Aunt Bano to suspect she is getting carried away with a man. As it happens, Ayoub has started seeing Kris, a grad student, who has some expertise in vascular dementia and music therapy, but she hasn’t let it get serious yet. Since they still maintain social ties with friends and family from Kabul, it would be difficult for her to pursue a relationship with a non-Muslim, as her cousin’s recent arranged marriage awkwardly illustrates.

Navarretta and screenwriter Alessandra Piccione pull off a tricky balance, allowing Ayoab to make just enough of a connection with Garcia to justify the film’s enthusiasm for music therapy, without raising unrealistic expectations. Sadly, he will never be self-sufficient or even lucid by any meaningful standard, but he might just play again. Of course, Ayoab’s hazy resemblance to his great, lost love is an easy contrivance, but Navarretta and company try their best not to overplay it.

The best part is everyone involves understands the importance of the music itself. Duran composed, adapted, and performed a real-deal Afro-Cuban soundtrack. His opening theme captures the perfect tone of elegant melancholy, while tracks like “El Canonero,” “Mambo Rico,” and “Descarga En Changui” are exuberantly brassy and percussively rhythmic. Duran also puts his stamp on crowd-pleasing standards like “Guantanamera,” (one of the best versions recorded in quite a while, thanks one of several terrific trumpet solos from Alexis Baro). Plus, Alberto Alberto and lead actress Ana Golja contribute some soulful vocals.

The cast is pretty good too, starting with Oscar-winner Louis Gossett Jr., who resists the temptation of a big “acting moment,” portraying Garcia in a scrupulously realistic manner. Golja has good vocal chops, but also convincingly conveys Ayoub’s growing self-assurance as she comes out of her shell. Likewise, the great Shohreh Aghdashloo brings further depth and dignity to the film as Aunt Bano, who we come to understand survived great prejudice and disappointment in her native Afghanistan. Frankly, it is a little mind-blowing to see Lauren Holly playing the Nurse Ratched character, but she is as good as anyone could be in the thankless role.

There is not getting around it—getting old is a drag, but it is amazing how much good music helps. That is modest takeaway from
The Cuban, which Duran overwhelmingly proves. Honestly, it is so refreshing to see a film about jazz musicians that has confidence in the audience to appreciate the music they play. Very highly recommended, The Cuban opens virtually today (7/31).

Marley (2012) is released starting today

This is going to be short and sweet but if you've never seen Kevin Macdonald's documentary MARLEY about the late great Bob Marley you now can correct that wrong with the film hitting virtual and real theaters in honor of Marley's 75th birthday.

Macdonald's film is a staggering achievement. Running almost two and a half hours this is everything you ever wanted to know about the man, his music and his influence. Macdonald talks to everyone and through it all he weaves in interviews with the man himself  so that we get to hear about things from every perspective.

And of course there is the music. Filling the film from start to finish is not only Marley's music but also the music that influenced him. Its magical. It's so magical that I agreed to take yet another look at the film just so I could have an excuse to just sit and listen to the music.

I can't recommend this film enough. If you love Bob Marley's music and have never seen this film you must. If you don't know Marley and his music then you must see this because it will open your eyes as to how he changed the world.

MARLEY is in virtual theaters starting today and in select theaters and drive ins as well.

Stay At Home Fest Bonus Films: Samuel Beckett's Endgame

This is a great film- not just a great Beckett adaption but a great film on it's own.

Thursday, July 30, 2020


Charles and Maryanne Bailey run a long surviving accounting firm. They look back on three of their employees from the 1980's.

Mockumentary style short film is full of laughs and smiles. Inspired by actual stories told to director Chase Pearson by his grandparents the film plays very much like an actual documentary. That's due in part to Pearson keeping the story very close to reality. Nothing gets too far out of control. Mostly it's due to the fact that Pearson has cast this film dead nuts perfectly. Watching the initial section of the film I was a bit confused because I thought this was documentary. It wasn't until Timothy Cox showed up as the younger version of Charles Bailey that I was certain this was a comedy.

This is a solid little film that I kind of wish could be expanded into a feature film. I say this having no idea where it would go but only because I would like to spend more time with these characters.