Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Best and Most Beautiful Things (2016)

BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS is about a young woman named Michelle Smith. She is a charming young lady in her twenties who is looking to get on with her life and go out into the world on her own. The problem is that Ms Smith has Asperger’s Syndrome and is legally blind.

My initial feeling about the film was that this film is a bit too much like a good number of recent films I’ve seen over the last few years such as LIFE ANIMATED, AUTISM IN LOVE and many more. I couldn’t really understand why the film was getting a release and then it hit me that Ms Smith is absolutely a wonderful person and given the chance I’d love to meet her. She deserves success in everything she chooses to do, I just wish this film had more to it to make it as special as its subject.

On the other hand unless you are a film writer or someone who sees everything odds are you will not have seen all the other similar films to this so BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS will play fresh and new and will be a wonderful portrait of a great young woman. If you haven't seen either of the aforementioned films or any of the other similar films go see this film, because on it's own terms it's quite good.

Unfortunately because I did not see the film outside of a vacuum the film presents me with a problem in that I’m not sure why the film was really made. This has nothing to do with the quality of the film, which is good, or it’s subject, who is charming. Rather watching the film I got to a certain point where I suddenly had the feeling that the film was made not to highlight Ms Smith as such but because she could be used to sell a film to various demographics.

Producer Kevin Bright and Ms Smith met in class the director was teaching and I have this feeling that somewhere along the way the idea of making a film about a sex positive geek girl with Asperger’s was too good to pass up. I think that on some level neither he nor director Garrett Zevgetis didn’t strive to do more than just let Ms Smith carry the film and let her interests find the audience. They never came up with a hook beyond she's a charming blind woman ect ect to give us a reason to watch a 90 minute film.

Whats the hook? I don't know. As a short film I would have been fine but at 90 minutes it doesn't quite work, it goes on for too long not seeming to go anywhere or build to anything. The result is the film is kind of bland. The reason I’m bothered by the blandness is because there is something about Ms Smith and her desire to be seen as a positive role model. She is an extraordinary person and she deserves a film to match her.

Again this is not to say its a bad film, it isn't, it's a good film but it should have been a great one.

BEST AND MOST BEAUTIFUL THINGS opens Friday in theaters.

ARRIVAL (2016)

Amy Adams plays a linguist brought in by the military when 12 space ships land on earth and contact is made. How can we communicate with them? What do they want? Should we simply just destroy them?

Heady science fiction tale with the added element of a personal drama laid over it is one of the best science fiction films in years. Rarely has any science fiction film, especially one from the United Stated been so moving on both an intellectual and emotional level. I dare you to see this film and not be thinking about it for days afterward. I also dare you not to have a tear or two rolling down your cheek at its conclusion.

ARRIVAL is not going to get a long review or deep discussion from me at this point. While I highly recommend the film it is nigh impossible to discuss the intricacies of the film without revealing too much. What is going on and what we are seeing are revelations best discussed once more people have had a chance to see it. This is a review not a discussion and I would be doing a grave disservice to you and the film.

While have no qualm calling it one of the better films of the year, and while I know I will be thinking and pondering the film for a long while more, I am uncertain about what I feel about the film past certain point. Yes, the end had me tearing and I was moved deeply but little details in the plot, which I can't explain without ruining things, keep me from giving myself over to it completely. Though I think it will help if you realize the film is Amy Adams story not the aliens.

That said I can't wait to dive in again. I've already had one killer discussion with Huber Vigilla about the film and most of the audience at the theater I attended stopped in the lobby and was discussing the film in a very animated and excited manner.  I haven't seen that in a non festival/non press screening environment in years.

Highly recommended for anyone who wants a good film, especially one that is much more intelligent than 95% of American films.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Two Lottery Tickets (2016) Making Waves 2016

For many people the notion of a Romanian comedy is alien. This is because most people distributors and film festivals gravitate toward the deadly serious films from Romania, you know the ones that are full of sturm and drang and make you want to play in traffic. Seriously the cineastes who program the festivals need to at least borrow a sense of humor because there are funny films from Romania.

A good case in point is TWO LOTTERY TICKETS which has three loveable losers winning several million Euros in a lottery only to have to go on a mad hunt in order to find the wining ticket. Insanity results.

I know what you're saying we've been here before, and you are absolutely right. We have seen the basic plot used in cinema going all the way back to the silent days. You would think that the plot has been used up, and I would tend to agree. I mean I only half heartedly watched the film because I was dead certain this was not going to be anything I hadn't seen before...

...but the characters and the setting in Eastern Europe won me over and it wasn't long before I was laughing at our heroes dead pan and not so dead pan adventures. Basically despite my better judgement I found myself laughing at what was going on one screen.

And since this is a Romanian film there is a bit of social commentary as we get a good look at the way people who aren't so well off get by and how they have to struggle just to buy a drink.

I do have to apologize because I really don't have a great deal to say about the film. I enjoyed it a great deal - to the point that I stopped taking notes and just let the film wash over me, Anytime that happens the film gets a couple extra points and thats what happened here.

The film plays Saturday night at the Making Waves festival in Pleasantville New York and is recommended. For more information and tickets go here.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Joe Bendel on Ringo Lam's SKY ON FIRE (2016)

There is a great deal of deliberate confusion regarding non-controversial adult, amniotic, umbilical, and pluripotent stem cell treatments and the hot-button issue of embryonic stem cells. Ringo Lam is about to muddy the waters even further. “Ex-stem cells” (or super-stem cells, depending on the translation) are the Macguffin of his latest action film. What are Ex-stem cells? They are extra-special and can apparently cure cancer just by looking at it. Where do they come from? Essentially from the late Prof. Poon’s missing research journal. The private Sky One clinic is carrying on his work, but his protégés have very different goals in Lam’s Sky on Fire (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

After losing his wife to cancer, Chong Tin-po considers his work as chief of security for the Sky One clinic a personal calling. It is a big job protecting the Mainland skyscraper facility, but he is a hardnosed kind of guy. However, the events that follow the theft of a shipment of Ex-stem cells shakes his faith in the clinic director, Tong Wing-cheung, who sends along some suspiciously thuggish back-up for the recovery operation. Chong also cannot help feeling for Chia-chia and his step-sister Jen. They came from Taiwan seeking treatment at Sky One for her late-stage cancer, but threw their lot in with the hijackers when the clinic gave them the run around. At least Chong still trusts Gao Yu, Tong’s estranged wife and partner, who also studied under the murdered Prof. Poon.

Arguably, Sky is over-stuffed with supporting characters and the ending is supposed to be cathartic, but it is highly problematic from a moral-ethical perspective, if you think about it for more than two seconds. On the plus side, Daniel Wu pretty much puts the world on notice he can take all the steely cool-as-Elvis action protagonist gigs Andy Lau is aging out of, ever so disgustingly gracefully. As Chong, Ringo Wu broods, runs, and fights convincingly and looks good doing it.

Zhang Jingchu also adds some tragic grace as Gao Yu, even developing some tantalizingly ambiguous chemistry with Wu. Joseph Chang Hsiao-chuan and Amber Kuo are enormously likable as the Taiwanese step-siblings, but she really ought to look for a good action role (like fellow Tiny Times co-star Mi Yang throwing down in Wu Dang), or risk getting type-cast as a cute but passive victim.

Call me a hand-wringer, but it really seems like the conclusion holds massively conspicuous implications Lam just ignores. Yet he can get away with it, because deftly turned action sequences always trump pedantry—and Lam still proves he has the master’s touch. Recommended despite the nagging issues for fans of Lam and the popular cast, Sky on Fire opens this Friday (12/2) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

United States of Love (2016) Making Waves 2016

Shot by Romanian New Wave cinematographer Oleg Mutu UNITED STATES OF LOVE won the Silver Bear for Screenplay at the last Berlin Film Festival. The film is four loosely connected stories about women and their unrequited loves.

Playing more like four separate films joined together UNITED STATES OF LOVE is a heavy look at love lust and longing. Its a film where we look at the quiet and not so quiet desperation of four women in a country opening to the west (it's set in 1990ish) and going capitalistic. One woman lusts for a new priest. Another is having an affair with a married doctor. A third forms an attachment for a young woman. The fourth finds the downside of striving to be a model in a free economy.

Nicely acted by everyone concerned, this is a very good look at a world and lives in change. We have develop a real feeling for the women and their plight, though the obsession for the objects of their desire shown by some of them is more than a tad creepy. Logic and reason kind of get tossed aside by it but at the same time director Tomasz Wasilewski is juggling a lot of balls in the air making comments not only on the lives of the women but society in general.

I liked it a great deal.

United States of Love plays Friday at Making Waves New Romanian Film Festival. For more information and tickets go here

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Nightcap 11/27/16- There are 4 film festivals in New York this week (African Diaspora, Other Israel,SAIFF, Making Waves), Why I am not reviewing a film, and Randi's links

Baloon at this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
The march to the New Year is on and this year is going out with a bang with four festivals going on in New York at the same time....
The African Diaspora International Film Festival continues this week. With the holidays over I’m trying to arrange my schedule so that I can get to some films.

For tickets go here
The Other Israel Film Festival is a really cool festival. Highlighting the view from those not in the mainstream of Israeli society the festival brings together some great films that show you another side of life in Israel, for example the life of the Palestinian minority. I’ve covered the film for the last couple of years and I’ve been delighted by what I’ve seen.

I’ll be posting some reviews based on screeners I have and I’m going to be attempting to get to a few screenings. I suggest you check the schedule and buy tickets because there looks to be some great films.

I’ve seen a couple of films already and here are our reviews

Junction 48
Forever Pure
The South Asian Film Festival is a really cool. Film Director Ted Geogehagen got me into the festival when five or six years ago he asked me to cover the festival. I’ve been trying to do so ever since. The festival is a fantastic collection of films from India and the surrounding countries. It’s a festival that will open your eyes to the films of the region. I know it opened mine.

This year the festival is happening at Village East Cinemas. The festival has a great selection of films including the deeply disturbing AUTOHEAD which is playing next Saturday and will include a Q&A with the film’s director. I highly recommend the film and I’m hoping to get myself there.

For the complete schedule and tickets go here.
I discovered Making Waves: The New Romanian Film Festival when it had made its home at Lincoln Center. Unfortunately because things happen the festival has moved out of NYC proper and up to Pleasantville and the John Burns Film Center. However the fact that it’s moved 30 minutes north of the city shouldn’t deter you because this is a killer festival that shows more than the dark brooding Romanian dramas that the Film Society seems to love. Honestly it wasn’t until I went to the festival a few years ago I thought the country only turned out dark and brooding dramas. However that isn’t the case. There is in fact more to Romanian film than what we have been lead to believe and Making Waves shows us that.

The festival is playing to films that played at the New York FIlm Festival GRADUATION (which Nate Hood reviewed) and SIERANEVADA (which we all missed),I don't know any of the other films, but I have some screeners so expect reviews during the run of the festival.

For more information and tickets go here.
For the third time in seven years and about 5500 film I'm not going to review a film I've asked for. I'm not going to say what the film is other than to say it's a documentary biography.

The reason behind my not reviewing the film is that I don't know how to do it without pissing someone off. The film is an okay portrait of some one coming to terms with who they are and going out on their own. I'm not really sure why the film got made because it covers similar ground to 57 other recent films- except that there are a couple of twists that can used to sell the film but have no bearing on the central tale.  Explaining that is going to get me into a fight with someone who connects with the story on those levels so I'm stepping away.

Don't get me wrong I like the film, but I've also liked the other 57 versions I've seen in the last 2 years.
And Randi Links

The Radio City movie premieres
Most extreme motorcycles
How to mess with people's minds
Best Foreign film possibilities

Suburban Cowboy (2016) Austin Film Festival 2016

Suburban Cowboy premiered at The Austin Film Festival. It was not a film that was not on my radar even remotely. It was not a film I was planning on seeing and then word reached me that not only was the film good it, part of it was filmed near my house. Instantly it became a film I had to see and review.

The film follows Jay a low level drug dealer living the good life. Things however go wrong when a Serbian crime lord decides that he is liable for the money that a friend of his stole. This sends him on an escalating path of crime in order to get himself clear  of the debt.

A wonderful low key thriller the film relies on real characters and fear of violence to keep us on the edge of our seats. We like the people and we fear for their safety and the actors give their characters enough weight that we don’t need the explosion of violence to be hooked.

I really liked this film a great deal. Its exactly the sort of small scale gem that Unseen Films was set up to highlight.

Currently on the festival circuit this is a film that you’ll want to track down and see when it comes to a theater near you. As for me I want to see it again.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Red Turtle (2016)

I don't know if RED TURTLE is intellectually one of the best films of 2016, but emotionally its at the top of the pile. This fable about the cycle of life wrecked me emotionally and I was audibly and largely uncontrollably sobbing through the last third.

The plot is simple. A man washes ashore on an island. He attempts to leave but is thwarted. He encounters a giant red turtle and his life changes.

This is not a realistic film. A twist about a third of the way in makes it clear that this is something more. The plot after that is nothing earth shaking, it is the arc of a life. Its a fable. It is the up and downs of life. That's it.  Either you take it on it's own terms or you don't.

I did and by the time there was dance on the beach I was laid out with the beauty, with the hope, with the feeling that I was understanding life and all it's lessons. Its the sort of story that feels like you've known it all your life....

I can not and I will not tell you more than that because it not only is it so simple but because you have to see the rhythms of the film for themselves. I went in blind and that's how you should too.

A largely wordless film, the only word spoken, beside gibberish, is  "Hey", Otherwise the film is driven by the score by Laurent Perez Del Mar. Playing over the entire film the music acts as the dialog and inner monolog of the characters. Beautifully working in concert with the story and images it deepens everything we see. It connects us to the story and the characters in real and visceral ways. As good as the storytelling is it would be nothing without the score.

The film is a Belgian  co- production with Studio Ghibli is being compared to the work of that legendary studio,but that's shouldn't be the case. While some of the skies are Ghibli blue, the look is less Miyazaki than Chris Van Allsburg, Herge and Moebius (as well as other Heavy Metal artists). This is  the best book illustrations come to life. This is a film with designs familiar yet startling new. The look and feel of the film bleeds into your mind and washes over your consciousness because it feels as if it is part of you.

This is a European animated film more than a Japanese film. This is very much Michaël Dudok de Wit's work. Every frame, every sound, every emotional tug of the heart string is all his. Its all glorious. This feels like it was dredged up from the Grimm's Brothers lost tales. You completely understand why Studio Ghibli contacted de Wit to ask him if he wanted to make a film for them (a request which completely confused the hell out of him)

While there is no doubt that this is the work of Michaël Dudok de Wit it is also abundantly clear that Isao Takahata, the true master at Studio Ghibli, had a hand in it. I say this because the film shares a humanity and sense of life that I've only found in Takahata's films. I suspect that Takahata, listed as Artistic Advisor in the credits, simply tweaked the story for maximum emotional impact. And he knows emotion, since he is the only filmmaker who has reduced to be sobbing messes more than one time (this is the third time after PRINCESS KAGUYA and GRAVE OF FIREFLIES).

The result of the co-production is a masterpiece on a level rarely reached by any art. RED TURTLE transcends cinema to be a masterpiece of culture of any sort.

I LOVE this film. It is one of my favorite films of 2016 and one of the best of the year as well.

You have never seen anything like this though you think you have. It will make you feel things you've never felt in a movie.

RED TURTLE just finished it's Oscar qualifying run and opens in US theaters January 20th.

(And I should point out this is not a film for little kids. Yea there are turtles and crabs, but there isn't much to hold a kids attention. The film is deliberately paced, there are no songs and no dialog. There is only life. Leave the kids home and go feel like one.)

Joe Bendel on Patria o Muerte: The Fatherland, as it is

If there is one country that has less faith in the Communist Party than China, it would have to be Cuba. They have all of the social inequities associated with China’s extreme income disparity, but the exploitation is seemingly reserved exclusively for foreign tourists. Of course, it is not like Cubans haven’t had revolutionary theory explained to them. For decades, they have endured Fidel Castro’s interminable speeches. Those diatribes produced the hollow slogan adopted as the ironic title of Olatz López Garmendia’s revealing documentary Patria o Muerte, executive produced by Julian Schnabel, which premieres this coming Monday on HBO.

Strictly speaking, Garmendia (second wife of Schnabel, who directed her in Before Night Falls) takes the observational approach, observing many average Havanans in their homes and listening to their complaints. However, her desperately poor subjects have so much to say and their situations are so precarious, the film never feels like a Wisemanesque fly-on-the-wall experience. Very few of them even bothers talking about freedom anymore. That is long gone. Their thoughts are solely concerned with day-to-day, hour-to-hour survival.

We meet Mercedes, whose family risks their lives every day just by living in their (literally) crumbling building. They know it is only a matter of time before it collapses (her son was already hospitalized by a floor cave-in), but they have no other place to go. A thirty-eight-year-old street vendor would understand. He says he feels like a teenager because he still lives with his parents, but there is no chance he could find or afford his own apartment given his circumstances.

Occasionally, some Havanans express frustration with the lack of intellectual and artistic freedom, such as Yoani Sanchez and Renaldo Escobar, dissident bloggers in a country that forbids the internet. However, for average Cubans, it is more a matter of being denied one of the most convenient tools of the Twenty-First Century.

Anyone who stills thinks Obama’s overtures to the Castro regime will materially improve their lot should be quickly disabused by the work of Garmendia and her crew, particularly cinematographer Claudio Fuentes Madan, who is seen getting arrested (violently) for protesting on the day of Obama’s state visit. He also does nice work behind the camera, evocatively framing each interviewee and their [barely]-living spaces. Through his lens, we get a visceral sense of just how oppressive life in Cuba really is—for all but the Party pinnacle of privilege.

Patria o Muerte does not white-wash or sugar coat any of its subjects’ reality. Yet, it is not a spirit-crushing viewing experience, in part due to its eclectic but very upbeat Cuban soundtrack (even including old school Benny More). It just serves up one harsh dose of truth after another, but it washes it down with some rich Afro-Cuban derived or inspired rhythms. In fact, there is an elusive, haunted and decrepit beauty to the city and its people that comes out clearly in every frame of the one-hour film. Very highly recommended, Patria o Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death debuts this coming Monday (11/28) and hits HBO On Demand the next day.

A whole bunch of capsule reviews: Deadly Intent, Scared Topless, Krampus Unleashed, Blood Brothers, Hotel of the Damned, and It Watches

I have been seeing a whole bunch of low budget horror films that were sent to me. I've had mixed reactions to them and while I wanted to write them up I found I didn't have a lot to say so I wrote up a bunch of short reviews and put them together

Okay thriller about a family trying to move on after the death of the father in combat. The trouble is the son insists he is seeing his father. Okay horror film is done in by just okay staging and editing that lets the scenes run without really generating any tension.

So close to hardcore porn ghost story has little to recommend it since it is really just a collection of sex scenes with women with large breasts. While I have nothing against softcore films there is so little plot one has to wonder why they even bothered with the pretense of a plot and just made a pure sex film. Seriously I've seen actual porn films with more plot and characters.

 Desert set demon film that just sort of is. I lost interest pretty early despite hanging in to the end. I was hoping there was something of interest. Nope.

Some people really loved this story of crazy brothers doing terrible things to prove how smart they are (its a Leopold and Loeb retread) but some how it just missed for me.

Good film about people running afoul of cannibals around an old abandoned hotel. I don't think it makes any sense even internally but as far as a horror genre time passer go this isn't that bad and is something I would gladly watch again.

Okay found footage film about a guy left to house sit for a friend while his friend goes off to do a reality TV series where people are put into a house and scared. However it quickly becomes clear something is amiss in the house. Logic gaps and too twisty turns derail what might have been an okay "haunted house thriller"

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Search for Weng Weng (2014) hits DVD

The great SEARCH FOR WENG WENG has finally hit DVD and VOD.  I saw and loved the film at Fantasia. Here is a repost of my review:

Director Andrew Leavold went on a search for the real story behind Weng Weng, who is listed as the shortest leading man in movie history (2 foot 9 inches). The obsession was born as the result of director Andrew Leavold seeing For Your Height Only, a film where Weng Weng played a smaller version of James Bond. The search lasted 7 years (though at another point Leavold mentions looking for someone for ten years) and turned up things that no one expected to find.

Weng Weng was the product of the film industry in the Philippines in the late 1970's and 80's. During the peak years the industry was turning out over 300 films a year. Films came and went and Weng Weng worked for a small independent producer with the result that when the heyday was over he and his films faded into obscurity-except for the few that escaped the country, with the result that most people int the Philipines don't know who he was. He came and went despite becoming an international celebrity of sorts.

This is a great film. While on some level the film would seem to appeal only to those with in an interest in weird B-films, in reality a great deal more.Yes the life and times of Weng Weng are a blast and the search to find out about him is compelling but there is so much more here.

What makes this film so good is that despite being about the search for one man, the film encompasses so much more, the film is a cultural history of the Philippines and of the film industry. Starting with a look at freak shows and moving on to the history of films and filmmaking in the country, especially in the wake of
Apocalypse Now making the film a viable place to shoot a movie cheaply. It also acts as a kind of memorial to an industry where 80% of it's output has turned to vinegar or landfill.

Think of the film as a perfect companion to Machete Maidens Unleashed since it takes a look at things from a personal level.

A must see for any film lover who truly loves film.

American Chinatown Thanksgiving Turkey

I'm not sure what to say about this film that will be helpful to anyone who wants to know about it. Frankly the only thing that comes to mind is don't.

The story of two friends who's loyalty is tested when a woman comes between them is painful to watch. I've seen enough movies to know when there is a problem beyond the script, in this case its mainly the acting which is best categorized as bad. Its a combination of poor acting choices, characters posturing to look tough mixed with what can only be described in an overly generous mood as non-acting. Characters speak as if they are rehearsing rather than performing. Even Robert Z'Dar, of Maniac Cop fame, an actor you can always count on for a good performance comes across as phoning it in from three states away.

Its all very laughable.

Technically this film isn't much better. The sets feel like they were left over from a bad high school music video. The camera work seems more like the point and shoot variety. My guess is that this was made for almost no money and it shows. (An aside- while watching this movie I was struck by one thought over and over again, which might explain why the film is the way it is, and that is I'm not certain that this film was ever intended for an English language market. There is something about it that makes me think that this was made to be shipped over seas and dubbed in to Thai or Korean or Chinese. If thats the case I's suggest trying to find an import of this dubbed into a foreign language and subtitled back into English.-It's probably going to play better)

I really can't recommend this film to anyone unless they are trying to see every film with martial arts ever made. To put it another way I paid 99 cents for the DVD of this film and I feel ripped off.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

A look at Kammatipaadam (2016) Ithaca Fantastik 2016

Driven by a kick ass score by K, John P. Varkey and Vinayakan KAMMATIPAADAM is drama about friendship, corruption , crime and the state of the lower classes who are driven from their homes in a the town called Kammatti Padam.

Krishnan, a security guard in Mumbai gets a call from his friend Ganga saying that he is in trouble and needs his help. Picking up and heading home Krishnan ponders his days growing up and how he met Ganga and was involved in various criminal enterprises with his friend. Once he gets home he finds himself in a world of trouble.

Billed as a crime  thriller by the programmers at the Ithaca Fantastik it is something much more than that. While there is fighting and criminal activity the film is really more a drama about friendship, the lives we live, our inability to escape our past and how the rich will take whatever they want from us. How this ended up at a "fantastic" film festival kind of puzzles me since the film doesn't seem to fit the parameters. On the other hand this is a great film so it's not surprising anyone one would bend the rules. Though to be honest this is the sort of film that should have played in festivals such as Toronto, New York or similar ones because  it simply is that good.

Sitting here trying to write this film up I'm struck by the fact that I really don't have words to express what a great film this is. To be perfectly honest I'm staring at the wall wondering what the hell I just saw and I'm wondering why this film isn't on more people's radar. Going in I thought it would be more a crazy crime film and instead I got something more akin to ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA  mashed with the GANGS OF WASSEYPUR but still uniquely it's own thing. This is one of those films that you really can't full take in and talk about the first time through, you need multiple viewings because there is simply too going on.

While I really should see the film a few more times before I sit down and do a full write up of the films themes and charms I do have to point out two things to you before I begin work on a longer piece- namely the music and the performances.

K, John P. Varkey and Vinayakan have created an awesome score. Yes I know they worked on the songs and K did the rest, but it all blends perfectly together. From the opening song hooking us and pulling us in we are on a rollercoaster to the end. Granted we have a compelling script but its the music that grabs us from the first note/ frame and holds us until the final fade out at the last credit. It is the music that threads it all together. The script and everything else is wrapped in between the first note and the last. This is quite simply one of my favorite scores of year.

The other thing that sells the film is the performances. I'm not going to pretend to know who all the actors are, I don't. I just know that everyone is note perfect. Everyone comes together to create a perfect collection of characters that you don't mind spending time with even if they are killers, thieves or worse. Most importantly because the film covers decades of time you have multiple people playing the same characters. Everyone playing the various people blend together perfectly to the point you have no trouble believing who anyone is.

And yet again I'm wondering why aren't more people talking about this? This is a great film that bowls you over and makes you think and feel and go wow.

This is the sort of film I started Unseen Films to highlight.

KAMMATIPAADAM is currently  on the festival circuit. If it comes near you you must make an effort to see it. (There is also an extended edition coming soon that adds another hour of material to the story- I can't wait)

Assisgnment Terror (aka Dracula vs Frankenstein) Thanksgiving Turkey

Psychotronic mind warp comes from the mind of Paul Nashy writing under his real name Jacinto Molina Alvarez is the third of his appearances as Waldemar Daninsky better known as the man who turns into a werewolf.

The film has a bunch of aliens from a dying planet arriving on earth and inhabiting human bodies. They are looking to wipe out all of the humans so they may move everyone from their world to ours. Their plan involves reviving all of the world’s great monsters, the “Frankenstein” monster, the mummy, Naschy’s werewolf and Dracula stand in. The aliens don’t count on the monsters fighting back or the fact their human forms make them susceptible to emotion.

Oddball whiplash sort of film starts off kind of interesting, becomes a WTF bad film before becoming so bad it’s good film in the end, largely as a result of bludgeoning you into submission.

The problems with the film is summed simply by saying the film has way too much going on. You have the alien invasion story, the cop story, the romances, the monster story lines, the carryover story line from the last two films involving Naschy’s Waldemar Daninsky plus a couple of other plot points I’ve left out. Things happen and then are pushed aside for something else which feels like its just been picked up at random off the table. It all collides in the final minutes. And those minutes come much too fast, the film runs a breezy 87 minutes.

This is a Saturday night at the drive-in or rainy afternoon at the grindhouse sort of film. It’s the sort of thing is have on to have on just to have something on rather than because it’s a great film. Its not one I can really recommend. Its of interest for Michael Rennie completists (it’s his last film) or for fans of Naschy’s werewolf-though he spends a great deal of time off camera. (Naschy also plays the Frankenstein monster).

For fans of so bad its’s good films only

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Baden Baden (2016)

Ana, a young woman working as a driver on a film set is bombing badly. She's gotten the job, not because she is a good driver, but simply has a license. As the job goes away she decides to return home and ends up rebuilding her grandmother's bathroom. What follows are a series of episodes as she attempts to find a direction in life.

How do I do this film justice? How do I explain what the film is? Less conventional narrative then a kind of arc of a life over a certain period of time  BADEN BADEN is more like dropping in on someone's life over a period of time. We are left to fill the silences and the breaks and sort it all out for ourselves. We meet the various people in Ana's life and we watch how the loosely connected moments play out.

Its kind of bold way of doing things since it assumes the audience is going to fall into the pacing. On the other hand the film has enough winning characters that we'll follow them anywhere.

What can I say? Rachel Lang's BADEN BADEN will make most people smile. To be certain that some will appreciate it's off kilter sensibilities more than others but those willing to give themselves over to it's unique rhythms will find they have done more than merely killed time.

BADEN BADEN starts Friday in Theaters. It, along with other films by Rachel Lang, will play on Mubi in December.

One Dollar Too Many (1968) Thanksgiving Turkey

Alleged to be the first if not one of the first spaghetti western comedies I’m still waiting for any sign of a joke to actually indicate that. This is unfunny film that falls flat due to pacing and poor script.

The plot of the film has a crook masquerading as a preacher setting a bomb in a book. The idea is it will go off in a stage allow him to ride in and steal the money. However the mail bag with the bomb is stolen- killing some of the robbers and leaving one alive who becomes the partner of the baddie. The pair sets off to rob the bank but the money gets stolen from them and it then becomes a round robin affair as various combination of the characters get the cash and then lose it again.

A good cast (Antonio Sabato, Frank Wolff and in his only western of a spaghetti variety John Saxon) is game for the double and triple crosses, and had this been played straight (which is how the cast acts) and mined the inherent humor in the situation this would have been an excellent western caper. Instead the cast is saddled with a script and direction which tries to be funny which collapses everything into boredom and pain. Sabato’s loveable rogue is much too silly and Saxon and Wolff come off as stuffed shirts waiting to get a pie in the face which never comes.

Its awful.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Toshiro Mifune was one of the coolest guys ever to grace the screen. A bad ass actor the characters he created rocked the world in ways that are still being felt.Steven Okazaki turns his camera on those who knew him and were influenced by him to give us a man and his movies....

Or rather some of his movies since MIFUNE is largely focused on Mifune and the films he made with Akira Kurosawa and specifically his samurai movies. We get to know the man in connection to those films (and the Samurai Trilogy) in detail and the rest is reduced to breezy and enjoyable commentary .

And there is the rub, while the film is full of great stories and insight into the films it covers there is so much that isn't here. His personal life is reduced down to a few key moments and his non-Kurosawa films to stills or quick clips. And it's odd  because Mifune made over 180 films in his career, and even his non-samurai Kurosawa films are interesting enough that they could be discussed. There was a complexity to the man and his films that is only hinted at. I never really got the feeling that I knew the man except in the off fleeting moment.

Watching the film I'm left to ponder if my reaction to the lack of completeness a general unhappiness with the brevity of the film, it runs about 80 minutes, or is it because I have a sense of Mifune's larger body of work. While there is no doubt that Kurosawa is of key importance, and some would say they are the only films worth mentioning, but he did turn out a fine body of other  films even if they were just entertainments (RED LION, his Zatoichi film or even some of his American films). Hell I would have liked some more discussion of Kurosawa crime films like DRUNKEN ANGEL or STRAY DOG where the director and star first met and formed a relationship that would mark both of their careers.

In a weird way, as much as I liked the film I was kind of disappointed. Don't get me wrong I like the film. What is here is gangbusters, but there should be a hell of a lot more. Actually what this should have been is simply a film that was a biography of both Kurosawa and Mifune's relationship and then I could understand the brevity.

Recommended for fans of Mifune with the warning this is snack not a meal.

MIFUNE THE LAST SAMURAI opens in theaters Friday.

Naming the Horror: Lorcan Finnegan talks about WITHOUT NAME

Lorcan Finnegan
At the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival all of the talk was not about any of the features rather it was about a short horror film called FOXES. Anyone who had run across it would there after ask if anyone had seen it. I had several people insist that I see it.  It took a bit but once I did everything changed. I was now one of those guys who was asking everyone if they saw the film. It was a game changer for how we saw horror.  

I can't tell you what it was about the film that rattled us but it messed everyone up who saw it and it made all who saw it jones for the next film from it's director Lorcan Finnegan.

Four years passed and I saw that a film was playing at Toronto called WITHOUT NAME. I was going to pass it by when I saw the name of the director Lorcan Finnegan...and I immediately began emailing everyone who loved the film to tell them the film existed but I was also emailing, and tweeting at anyone connected to the film to get a copy for review. I even reached out to the man himself...

...and he graciously emailed me back and said that if I could wait a little bit he'd get me a screener. Plans to cover the film for the Brooklyn Horror Festival (where it won the Best Feature and Best Director awards) fell through. Eventually a screening was arranged and I sat down in a darkened room and I saw WITHOUT NAME. When it was done I was blown away. As I said in my review (read it here) the film is a masterpiece of slow burn horror and as good as horror films get.

After collecting my jaw from the floor I emailed Lorcan to ask if would he be willing to give me a brief interview. He said yes, and a couple of days later after another brief email exchange we had an interview. 

There are no  spoilers. As much as I wanted to ask detailed questions- I would love answers to some of the films mysteries- I stayed away from asking anything that would spoil the film for those who haven't seen it. This is one you all have to discover on your own.

Before I turn you over to the interview I need to thank Lorcan Finnegan for not only arranging a screening for me, but also taking the time to answer my questions. This was an absolute joy to do.

The horror of WITHOUT NAME

STEVE: How do you classify the film? Is it a psychological horror film? Would you call it an environmental horror film? Landscape horror? A ghost story, since very clearly Eric is haunted? Or would you just say that it's a horror film?

LORCAN : It's a tricky one to classify because classification brings so many pre-conceptions and expectations and as you know, it's a film about things beyond our understanding. It's sort of between genres, but I'd say it's both psychological and supernatural. I'm hoping audiences will classify it for me!

STEVE: You've made a film that is very much about the landscape- both internal and external. Its a film that is in its way about being outside even when one is inside. What is it that draws you to the land? I ask this because even your earlier film FOXES is tied to the land its set on.

LORCAN: I have always been interested in nature and natural surroundings and both Garret and I seem to have a preoccupation with man's place in the natural world. I grew up on a peninsula with forests and fields and surrounded by an ever changing sea. When I was a kid I'd go hunting and fishing and collecting wild mushrooms and generally immersing myself in the wild. Traditional faery stories also tend to be about the land and how we shouldn't mess with it. The Faery are really just a personification of the ineffable forces of nature. So I'm probably predisposed to nature or 'the land' as a muse.

STEVE: Both WITHOUT NAME and FOXES are constructed without any real jump scares. The tension in both is deeper and more visceral than in most conventional films as a result there isn't a release. Actually both films end in such away that we end up carrying the dread into the daylight. Do you think not releasing the dread by not resorting to jump scares results in a more realistic film since life doesn't have people jumping out and going "boo"? How do you feel about the reliance of modern horror films on jump scare over the creation of mood?

LORCAN: Jump scares often work like little pressure valves, so the tension in a scene builds and then there is a release with a jump, before it starts to build again. For WITHOUT NAME and FOXES I didn't feel the need to break the spell, I found it more interesting to gradually amp up the atmosphere and never fully release the pressure until the end. By creating an intense atmosphere without release, the audience don't have time to become self aware, which can happen when jump scares are used. Some great films have moments that make me jump, so I'm not against the idea, but it can also become a cheap trick that is used in a self conscious way. A 'boo!' jump scare is really just a reflex to the unexpected, it can be fun but for me it's not the same as genuinely unsettling anxiety or dread. Atmosphere and the use of visual language to engage with an audience on a psychological or even subconscious level is more intriguing to me.

STEVE: Another way that WITHOUT NAME breaks with most modern horror films is that there is no "gotcha" ending. The film builds to its conclusion and then ends where it should. How do you feel about films that add in a final gotcha on the end even when it isn't called for?

LORCAN: Like when a creature or ghost suddenly pounce towards the camera at the end? Maybe if the film is aimed for a younger audience they might enjoy something like that, but to me it can cheapen a film and has become cliché. If it's called for then cool, but I'm not a fan of adding things just for easily gained reactions.

STEVE:The film is full of silences. The sound is that or life or the location. What is it about silences that draws you to it? Do you find it hard not do go like most people and fill every quiet moment with sound or music?

LORCAN: We used a lot of various winds and natural sounds, so although it may seem quiet at times, it's never altogether silent. I work quite instinctively, so the choices to add music, sound design or quieter breezes were based on how Tony (the editor) and I felt the scene should be. Tony was cutting the film as we were shooting so I could see the scenes taking shape and get a sense of the vibe. The composers, Gav and Neil, had made lots of sound sketches based on the script, so when we were shooting I already had the score in my head and we could put the pictures to their music. So I was thinking about the hypnotic nature of quieter moments while shooting and then feeding that back into performance and images.

STEVE: In your films the horrors that we see are largely unexplained. We see what is happening, we are frightened by it, but ultimately there are no answers on the screen. When constructing the films do you have answers that the audience doesn't have or are you just as unaware as the audience as to what is happening?

LORCAN: I have all the answers! I have to have my version of what's happening so I can shoot what I need for the edit but then I like to give the audience just enough to piece it back together and draw their own conclusion. With a story like WITHOUT NAME you have to be a little abstract and use the elemental in an impressionistic way to create a feeling. I was trying to make a film that made sense in the way a dream makes sense to the dreamer. There had to be a satisfying conclusion but enough ambiguity for the audience to have their version of what exactly happened to Eric.

Because cinema is primarily a visual medium I was able to say much of what was in the script without dialogue, using images with sound design or music to convey information. On the other hand, the script had to be read by people. So the script had more dialogue and even a voiceover to let us know what Eric was reading in Devoy's book. These were necessary for the reader but we knew we'd probably ditch a lot of it in the edit and convey all of this information visually instead. Garret and I work on the basis that a script is for reading and a film is for watching, a lot can change in the process.

STEVE:  How do you work with Garrett Shanley who wrote the screenplay? Who came up with the idea for the film? And since so much of the film is in the silences and the internal acting of the performers do you find it more difficult to direct the script?

LORCAN: Garret and I talk a lot about ideas, themes and concepts then eventually we'll settle on something. With this film we decided that it would be a story about (spoiler alert!) a place that protected itself from human interference by developing an entity that could trap your soul to make it a guardian. If taken, the only way out is to trap a new guardian to replace you. That was basically it. I think that idea came about by filtering down lots of our preoccupations. Once we decided on that concept, Garret wrote a draft, which was full of great (and some crazy) ideas. Garret, Brunella (the producer and my wife!) and I knew where we wanted to take it, so he wrote a new draft. There were a couple more drafts before shooting but nothing major changes from the second draft. In terms of directing a quiet script, I don't find that any more difficult, it was very enjoyable. One of the themes in the film is communication, or lack of it. So allowing the actors to communicate without saying much felt right.

STEVE: Since so much of the film is action- did the screen play have places where the actors could improvise or did you have a tight control over what you wanted?

LORCAN: There wasn't much improvising really. We shot the script and sometimes reduced the dialogue or changed the delivery. We just played with the scenes and altered dialogue to make everything feel natural.

STEVE:With so much of the film is told in the expressions and body language of the actors, especially Alan McKenna,it's obvious that had the cast been even the slightest bit wrong the whole thing would have collapsed. (it was perfect which is why it works) I have to ask how did you cast the film? Was the script written for people you knew or did you have to audition people?

LORCAN: We cast in a pretty traditional way. We got a casting director involved and had casting sessions. Eric was always going to be a tough one to crack but we got lucky with Alan. The casting director was represented by United Talent, an agency in London who also represent lots of actors. She asked them if they could put forward some suggestions and Alan was one of them. I saw he was in (and wrote) a short film that wasn't available online yet. So I contacted the director via Vimeo and asked if I could see the film. He sent me the password and as I was watching the film I got a mail from Alan saying that he had recently watched my short film FOXES and loved it and hoped I enjoyed their short. I thought he was great so I asked him would he do a self tape audition for Eric and he agreed. He did some pretty difficult scenes, including having a full on breakdown and was brilliant. So we met in London for a chat, got on very well and I offered him the part. We saw a lot of people for Gus and Olivia. During one of the sessions James was meditating outside the audition room, then came in and explained that he had just come back from spending 6 months in India on his own. He was Gus already, so he nailed it and got the part. Niamh had actually mailed me a couple of years before saying that she had seen FOXES and wanted to work with me if something came up. She came in and auditioned. I thought she was a contender. Then, unprompted, she made a new self tape at home and mailed it to me, saying that she didn't think her first audition went well and wanted to go again. Her enthusiasm, and of course her talent, won me over so I cast her. I was looking for the right balance of looks and textures from the cast and I think we found a nice balance for the film.

STEVE: The images in the film are pretty much perfect. I can't remember when I saw a film, especially one shot on location where all of the images are perfect in construction so that they not only look good but create a mood beyond that. Did you plan each shot or did you luck into them?

LORCAN: A location brings so much to a film, it's going to take up a large percentage of the picture so it has to be carefully chosen. I spend a long time finding the right locations and then storyboarded everything. There was of course lots of luck involved also, as is always the case. And the very talented Piers McGrail behind the camera. The main woods that I wanted for 'Gan Ainm' was a national park area and had turned down many films in the past. So we were definitely lucky there, I didn't have a plan B.

STEVE: How did you do the light shifts in the woods? was it practical or did you do it with computers?

LORCAN: I wanted the lights moving through the trees to have a sentient feeling but still feel like natural. Piers and I initially thought that maybe we could put a big light source on tracks and move them through the trees, then paint out the light source and tracks, leaving behind only the effect of the light on the trees. It didn't work at all. So while shooting we asked our gaffer to keep an eye out for passing clouds. When it looked like something interesting was going to happen we'd point the camera into the trees and let it roll. The natural lighting in the location was very dramatic so we used it to our advantage.

STEVE: I have been asked by someone who saw the film at the Brooklyn Horror Festival to ask you about the book. How long did it take to create it?

LORCAN: We gave the book to Fergal Brennan, an artist and filmmaker friend of ours, to make. Garret wrote all sorts of ramblings and I included a list of things we'd need to see. I think it took him a couple of weeks to complete all the drawings and handwritten notes.
Lost in the woods

STEVE: When you emailed me before I saw the film you indicated that the film is a slow burn. Did you worry that you might lose people if you stretched things out too long? How did you work out how far you could go without the audience giving up on the film?

LORCAN: The film is all about tone and atmosphere so you really need to let yourself be hypnotised and drawn into the story, much like Eric is enchanted by the woods. Inevitably some people are not going to like that or be immune to it's effects whereas others will thoroughly enjoy the effects and have a great experience. When we were cutting it we just had to find a pace that we enjoyed and was working for the film. We could have ramped up the pace but I don't think the final act would have the same impact. As you know, it gets pretty crazy towards the end. Audiences seem to be enjoying the tension of the pace though, so we're happy.

STEVE: The film ideally should be seen as big as possible, in as dark a room as possible, with the best sound possible and no distractions. Do you worry that people who don't see it that way are not going to connect to it in the way that they should because they won't see it under optimal conditions? How do you feel about people watching films on phones or laps tops?

LORCAN: I designed the film as a 'cinematic experience' and it is definitely the best place to see it but I watch a lot of films at home on a big TV and still connect with them. With fewer and fewer good films getting general theatrical release more people are watching the films that they seek out on a TV screen, luckily TVs are pretty great now. WITHOUT NAME will still be enjoyable as VOD but the soundscape really adds to the intensity of the film so I just encourage people to view it on as large a screen as possible and with good sound. As for watching it on a laptop or phone, that's just not cool at all at all.

STEVE:  Did you have any trouble with money people insisting on you add in some blood and guts to make it more marketable? Did you have any interference or did you get to make the film you wanted to make?

LORCAN: We were very lucky on that front. The film was fully financed by the Irish Film Board under a scheme called the Catalyst Project. It was a competitive process whereby three films were funded, WITHOUT NAME was one of the winning films. The financiers were very supportive, they also financed FOXES so they knew the type of film I was planning on making and we were all on the same page from the beginning. We didn't have a big budget to make it, but we did have a lot of creative freedom.

STEVE:  I know it's a standard issue question but I find the answers chosen can be intriguing - so forgive me for asking what sort of films, horror and otherwise do you like?

LORCAN: I like all sorts of movies but I'm more drawn towards the strange. I love older films like 2001 SPACE ODYSSEY, WALKABOUT, THE TENANT, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, PERSONA, THE WOMAN IN THE DUNES, THE INNOCENTS, DON'T LOOK NOW, LEMMING, THE FLY and hundreds more. I also love some more recent films like UNDER THE SKIN, THE WITCH, DOG TOOTH, ANTICHRIST, ENEMY and UPSTREAM COLOUR to name a few. I tend to watch more older films while waiting for new films to be made or become available to watch. As you know, there are tons of great movies being made that just don't get decent distribution because the cast aren't famous or they aren't in English etc, which is something I'd like to see change. Mostly because I want to see more good films and am happy to pay for them!

STEVE: will you be returning to the forest for your next project or do you have something else in mind?

LORCAN: The complete opposite actually, we'll be going to a world devoid of all earthly nature in a sci-fi suburban nightmare. We're also working on a film that will heavily feature the sea and another set on a lake, so there's more nature to come.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Ariela cheers THE SWIM TEAM (2016) DOC NYC 2016

Swim Team is the story of 3 Autistic boys who belong on an autistic swim team called the Hammerheads in New Jersey.

NJ has highest rate of autism in the country. 1 out of 26 boys in New Jersey has autism.

Autism is characterized by difficulties in communication and socializing, as well as repetitive behaviors.

The Hammerheads was started by a husband and wife that have an autistic boy named Mikey. The father knew it wouldn’t be easy but wanted to give the kids something to do. He said many people don’t give autistic kids a chance, and this gives them something.

The three boys the documentary focuses on are Mikey, Robbie and Kelvin. Mikey knows he has autism and wonders why God made him different. He said he feels normal when he’s swimming. Robbie knows he’s a little different but doesn’t seem bothered by the fact. His mom more so worries about his future because she feels that school doesn’t prepare him for the future. They told him he could go to Walmart and learn how to stock, but that isn’t what he wants to do. He has dreams and passions. Kelvin has both autism and tourettes, and feels uncomfortable and upset with his ticks. He even feels uncomfortable on the swim team.

Swim Team is both a very moving and uplifting documentary. Many of the parents’ doctors told them their kids couldn’t speak, and here now they are swimming, socializing and some even wind up getting jobs or joining the regular high school swim team. It gives an inside look at autistic teens. All the teens have such different personalities. Swimming gave these teens confidence and taught them social skills for how to communicate in the world and with their peers. The film makes you hope for the best for them. I definitely recommend this one!

Lorcan Finnegan's WITHOUT NAME (2016)

I have to say up front when you decide to see Lorcan Finnegan's WITHOUT NAME you must WATCH the film all the way to the end. Ideally this should be seen in a movie theater. Turn off the cellphone. If you can't get to a theater and you're seeing it at home get the biggest TV in the house with the best sound you can muster, turn off all the lights and watch it all the way from first frame to last. Do not talk to your buddy or pet your cat - just focus on the film and let it wash over you. I was given this advice by a good friend who is absolutely in love with the film, as well as director Lorcan Finnegan who emailed me about the correct way to see the film. And they were both absolutely dead on about that. I'm sure the film will work fine anyway you want to see it after the first time- but that first time really should be on a big screen with big sound and as dark a place as possible...

Do that and when the end credits run it will scare the shit out of you and haunt you for days afterward.

The film concerns Eric, a surveyor sent to do a report on a vast forest for a shadowy corporation. They had picked up the land for a song during a financial downturn and they need a report to tell them if the land will suit their purposes (whatever that is).  As he waits for Olivia, his assistant to arrive, he begins his work and quickly find the woods are an eerie place. His equipment malfunctions and is knocked about. When Olivia finally arrives the weirdness increases the tension between them...

Trust me you have no clue where this is going. You don't, and you won't until it tells you what it is.

A deliberate slow burning film, the pace is going to piss off anyone who wants rapid fire scares and shock jump cuts from the get go. This is not that sort of a film. Its also not going to play well with the blood and body parts crowd who are going to storm off because there are none. On the other hand if you want a film that draws you in, throws clues at you that you don't realize are clues and will make you terrified of trees and the wind and everything else in the natural world then this is for you.

The film is such a beautiful marriage of image and sound that you're going to get chills ever after just from the sound of the wind. Looking at a beautiful fern I was wondering what sort of awful thing was lurking there. I won't talk about the trees or even the small hole left by a peg. Nothing is said directly Finnegan simply marries the right image with the right sound design and the right music and suddenly we're ready to jump out of our skins. Its kind of like how the opening sequences of JAWS which shows nothing just images of water with John Williams music them and it send shivers down your spine. Finnegan and his team of geniuses do the same thing- but for 90 freaking minutes.Your skin will crawl.

Actually we do see things and we hear stories and our brain puts it all together exactly in such a way as to quietly scare the bejesus out of us. What's worse is when we finally see where it all ends it chills us to the bone. We're very likely to sickly groan a "no" or an "Oh shit" as the horror hits us in the face. Best of all because of the way Finnegan has structured the film we end up carrying the horror into the night with us.  I'm sure if you live in a city the sense of dread will dissipate more quickly than if you live in the country. I for one had to go home to a house in the suburbs near a wooded area...and it was a dark and stormy night...

This is a great film from top to bottom. From the images that are perfectly composed, to the sound design that puts terror all around you, to the performances that are among the best I've seen all year (the facial expressions are frightening because they say so much beyond the words) this film should be an Oscar contender many times over. But sadly small gems such as this will never get recognized despite the fact that everything about them truly are the best of the year.

A couple of years back I saw Finnegan's FOXES and was blown away by it. Anyone I showed it to was blown away as well. We all have been waiting for the follow up and now it's here and all I can say is we were not disappointed. With WITHOUT NAME Lorcan Finnegan takes his place as a film director of high stature (he's on my Koolaid list of directors I'll follow anywhere). He has gone from one masterpiece to another and now all I can do is ask how long until the next one?

One of 2016's horror masterpieces.

(An interview with director Lorcan Finnegan will run tomorrow here at Unseen Films)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nightcap 11/20/16 The EMBERS soundtrack has been released, African Diaspora International Film Festival starts Friday, Monsterfest stars in Melbourne Thursday, Why I did not review LIGHTS OF ROME at DOC NYC plus Randi's links

Side of a building in Fort Green Brooklyn
The Embers Original Soundtrack by Kimberly Henninger and Shawn Parke was released November 11th by The Orchard and it was followed by "Kindling" a companion album of experimental material and outtakes from the score on November 18th. Its a super score  and I've been playing it over and over with head phones on.

EMBERS on iTunes
KINDLING on iTunes

I am not a music writer so my ability to discuss the score is limited, However I really like the score and if you like ambient/soundtrack style music give it a listen.

I also really love the film which is one of 2016's very best films. Its available streaming at Amazon and iTunes
The African Diaspora International Film Festival starts Friday and runs to the 11 of  December. Its almost 3 weeks of films highlighting the diaspora of Africans across the globe. It’s such a masterful mix of fiction films, documentaries and panels that several people have been desperately trying to get me to cover over the years.

The problem with my coverage has been that I’m usually reminded in the middle of the festival when I’m in the middle of things already. This year that isn’t the problem and it looks like I should be getting to a couple of films in the middle of the festival. Reports are coming.

To whet your appetite here are a couple of reviews for films we’ve already seen.

Death By a Thousand Cuts
A New Color The Art of Being Edythe Boone

For more information and tickets go to the festival website.
As Americans are sitting down to Thanksgiving those lucky enough to be in Australia are going to be treated to Monsterfest in Melbourne. Monsterfest is four days of thrills and chills of the best kind. If we at Unseen weren’t stuck at home doing family holiday things we’d have been on a plane to the fest.

For those of you who are able to go full details can be found here.

Those looking for word on the films screening here are links to reviews of the films we’ve seen:
Sympathy for the Devil

For more details and tickets go here
I know I promised to post the winner at various recent festivals here but because the pieces ended up very long I did individual posts earlier in the week:
I need to thank all the filmmakers who I spoke with in person, on twitter or via email during DOC NYC. You are all wonderful. This is why DOC NYC is so great- there is no wall between anyone.
I need to add one more film to the list of films I saw at DOC NYC- LIGHTS OF ROME about a soccer team from Abu Dabi going to the World Cup.

I did not review the film because in the state I saw it in, a work print, it was barely watchable.  I'm sure the subject is fine but the film was so badly edited I literally had no idea what I was seeing. While the run time of the screener was ten minutes shorter than the listed time for the festival cut the problems with the film were so much larger than that so I could not  review or mention the film during the festival and have lived with myself.
My brother texted me on a weak horror called film ABBY GRACE: Evil Dead meets The Shining meets The Big Bang Theory with a splash of cliche. Should win the award for the world's dullest axe.Why can the ghost move and lift everything but the axe
Randi's links

An interesting look at the Amanda Knox Case
North Korea's Subway
Paul Schrader the best bad director
Beauty talks about Beauty and the Beast
Groucho, Steve Allen and Carl Reiner talk comedy
Flaming Beauty
Filmed at Lincoln Center
Shipwrecks are disappearing

Entering TRIP HOUSE: Patrick Meaney on making horror movies

Patrick Meany, in the white shirt behind the camera, directs
(Please note TRIP HOUSE has been re-titled for its February 2018 release)

2016 is the year of Patrick Meaney. 

Earlier this year he released the critically acclaimed NEIL GAIMAN DREAM DANGEROUSLY a documentary about the bestselling author. I found it one of the best cinematic biographies I’ve ever seen (Here’s my review). Recently Patrick has shift gears and has begun sneak peaking his genre busting horror film TRIP HOUSE and again he’s hit it out of the park.

For those who are unaware Patrick Meaney is a filmmaker best known for his documentary work focused on comics and their creators. He's done films on Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, and Chris Claremont.  It’s one hell of a body of work, with most of films considered the source for information on their subjects. TRIP HOUSE his new feature and with it he moves away from documentaries into the realm of horror films. And again he has made a film that hits the ball out of the park.

TRIP HOUSE is the story of four old friends who meet up on the eve of the wedding of one of  one of their number. Wine is drunk, conversations are had and intruders arrive. Unexpected things happen and the horror genre is turned on its head in unexpected ways. 

I was blown away by TRIP HOUSE (my review is here). It marvelously didn't go where I thought it would. It scared me and delighted me and made me go "wow".  Best of all it made me think a great deal. And when it was done I did what I did after I saw DREAM DANGEROUSLY, I emailed Patrick to ask if I could send him some questions concerning the film. He said yes and what follows is out brief email conversation.

A couple of quick notes

First because the film is only beginning it’s journey to you I have intentionally not steered this into a deep discussion of the plot. I’ve tried to not be specific- despite my wanting to be. That said there is one spoilery exchange toward the end (the question begins with a mention of it being a spoiler). I know that may clue you into stuff but it was something I had to ask

I also want to say that because I spoke with with Patrick earlier this year I didn't cover the same ground as the first interview (the earlier interview is here).  This interview is much shorter. Yes there is some overlap but that was because the questions are referring to different films.

Before I give you over to our talk I want to thank, Patrick Meaney for letting me see his films and talk to him about them. I want to thank him for his unending patience. I also need to say that in all seriousness it has been one of the coolest things that happened all year. Getting to talk to a director twice is an extreme rarity, and to do so twice in one year on very different films is pretty much unheard of.

Patrick, the next time you're in New York I owe you dinner.
Steve Cleff's poster art
STEVE: The most obvious way to begin this is to ask since you are best known for directing documentaries, did you have any trouble going from doing films like DREAM DANGEROUSLY or TALKING WITH GODS to doing the narrative TRIP HOUSE?

PATRICK: I’ve always directed narrative stuff, from back when I was in high school, so I’m used to that form of storytelling. The biggest adjustment was just the challenge of getting the project going. Docs require a budget, but there’s a much lower barrier to entry. You can just get the camera and go, narrative, even at the absolute bare bones micro budget level that we were working with on this project, requires a lot more resources, prep and is a more intense process. It’s more about executing a clear plan than filming a bunch of stuff and seeing what happens. So, it was harder in that respect, and more challenging to raise the money for, but creatively, it was a pretty smooth transition.

STEVE: This leads me to ask the typical questions- what was the budget? How long did it take to out together? How long did you shoot...

PATRICK: The budget was micro budget, under $150K, and it took me about a year of talking to people and hunting around to find the financing. Not easy!

We shot the film for thirteen days, so it was on average seven pages a day. And when you have a bunch of action scenes, makeup effects and so many cast members, is pretty tricky. It’s not only hard on a logistical crew level, of setting up lighting and shots, but for actors, it can mean swerving between wildly different emotions and moments in the character journey in quick succession, so it’s not easy.

STEVE: How do you classify the film? The easiest thing to call the film is a horror film, but that is kind of lazy since the film straddles so many other genres. Are you okay with it probably ending up with a horror classification? Were you looking to upset the status quo and expectations by crossing genres?

PATRICK: I’d say it’s a horror film, but that’s partially for ease of marketing. Horror is an easier label to get people engaged with than “psychedelic head trip” or “magical realist thriller.” I wanted to have enough horror tropes in there to help us make the film viable to appeal to the kind of genre audience that is willing to watch micro budget movies like this. I’ve seen a bunch of really good low budget dramas or comedies at festivals that just don’t have a viable path to get out there. But the genre audience is supportive of lower budget and newer content, so it’s a nice place to be.

But, part of the goal was to do something different with the genre. I wanted to bring some of the more out there concepts and storytelling that are commonplace in comic books to the screen, and have the sort of ‘casual surrealism’ that comic book readers are used to, but can sometimes be hard to grasp for movie audiences.

STEVE: One of the things that sets the film apart from anything remotely similar is that the film has a weight to it. The characters all seem to have back stories and lives that bleed off the screen. There is weight to their choices and their lives that you don't find in most films never mind horror films. It's almost as if the film was a novel or was adapted from one. Was that intentional and how did you manage to achieve that?

PATRICK: It’s funny you say that since some elements of the film were inspired or based on a web series that I had created with co-producer Jordan Rennert years back. The process of doing that web series was shooting stuff over a way too long period of five years or so, and in doing that, it was fun to be able to write things based on what I saw the actors doing or new ideas popping up over time. So, the characters of Matthew and Katrina were heavily inspired by material created for the series. It was streamlined and changed a bit to fit into a film context, but the essence of the relationship came out of years of work and thought about those characters. The same is true for Spencer, whose story was drawn from the backstory for one of the major characters in the web series.

One of the things that I do when I write a script is write lengthy backstories for the characters, even minor ones, to try to figure out where they come from and why they behave the way they do. So the character of Gwen actually started out as a supporting character in another script I was working on, someone who was very sarcastic and cynical, and I started to write up a backstory for her, and came up with the idea that her father was a professor who’s slept with one of his students. Normally you’d take that story from the angle of the professor whose life is in upheaval or the student who is suddenly in an awkward situation, but I tried to think about what it would mean to have that legacy and live in a college town where everyone knew what happened.

So I really liked this character and felt like she would have a lot of interesting conflicts and personality. So, when I was coming up with the idea of Trip House, I wanted to bring these characters who I had developed and put them into a story that would largely delve into character rather than being plot centric. And, I had a lot of details in mind that didn’t necessarily make it into the script but informed how I saw the characters.

Then, the actors bring their own spin to it, and their own experience. I sent these backstories to some of the actors, but others preferred to create their own spin on it. But, it was rewarding to hear Chloe as Gwen’s mom echoing stuff from the backstory when we were improvising on set that wasn’t included in the final script.

STEVE: What is the web series? If we watched the series will we see the connections?

PATRICK: It’s called The Third Age. I’d consider it basically my film school, getting to shoot a lot of content and experiment and have fun just making stuff. You’ll definitely see the connections, and a few shared cast members, though it’s nowhere near as polished as Trip House. There, we were working with only a budget to buy the actors lunch, so having 12 crew members and a little bit of money on Trip House felt incredibly luxurious to me.

STEVE: I can sense that you were influenced by Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison and other writers but at the same time you don't play by any of their rules. You steadfastly and brilliantly go your own way-several times I thought you'd go left only to go right. Did you find it hard not to riff or borrow on material from people who are obviously important to you? The same question goes for the conventions of the horror genre did the story go as you wanted it or did you have to steer it away from being cliche?

PATRICK: I was definitely influenced by Grant and Neil’s work, but for me, it’s more about them staking out new territory in which to tell stories than looking at specific stories of theirs that I wanted to homage. So, having a more flexible reality, where time and space and fantasy and reality can all blur between each other is something I love in their storytelling, and wanted to do in the film.

I think the biggest influence for me from the two of them both as writers and in the context or interviewing them was hearing about how they pull stories from the world around them. Grant pulls so much from himself and Neil pulls from the things he sees in the world and I tried to similarly bring in the conflicts that I observe in the people that I know or the struggles that people have and make it relatable.

I think there’s some people who want to make horror movies, with blood and gore and just want enough character stuff in there to get the plot moving. And there’s other films that are more slice of life, think the new wave of TV comedies like Master of None, Girls, Love, etc. that are all about showing everyday life for a certain group of people. I’m equally interested in both aspects, I love the horror and weird elements, but I also love the simple character scenes, and finding a way to marry the two of them I think helps steer clear of horror cliche, because I’m not thinking how can I get another murder in this script, I’m more thinking what is true to the experience for this character.

STEVE: That's one of reasons I think the film is as strong as it is it is entirely character driven. I love that the fantastic element fits in perfectly and doesn't seem tacked on.

PATRICK: That goes back to one of the things that Grant told me, which was he tries to make stories that depict the way he feels about stuff, rather than the way it actually is. So, a grand cosmic Superman epic represents his inner turmoil when his father passed away. I like the idea that when thinking about a character, you use what’s possible in film to bring the emotion to the audience and immerse them in it. I don’t generally like movies that put a lot of distance between the character and the audience, I prefer getting immersed in someone’s subjectivity.

STEVE: Did you intend to structure the film as a "horror" film from the start or did the story just evolve that way? Do you think it could have worked any other way?

PATRICK: That was always the intent. I was looking at pretty limited resources and trying to figure out how to make a unique movie that was mostly in one location and be doable on a small budget. So, I liked the idea of a house that was a kind of crossroads in time/space, where strange things happened. I think you could make a movie with a similar story that doesn’t have the supernatural elements, but is more of a Big Chill vibe, where the characters all interact with each other and come to the same conclusions in a different way. With the actors we had, I think it would have been a good movie, but I think that’s been done before, and using the genre elements let me approach that same sort of story in a fresh way.

STEVE: Curse you for coming up with the Big Chill reference I wish I had thought of it.

PATRICK: I had actually never seen the movie when I wrote the script, but someone who read an early draft of the script was like “Oh, this is like The Big Chill meets The Shining.” So I checked out the movie and saw there was some structural similarity. It’s such a great structure as a writer because you have this inherent mystery and tense dynamic when people who were once very close but have drifted apart come together. Learning more about them makes you understand each person in different ways.

STEVE: Was the cult in the film based on any real group?

PATRICK: Once I had the idea for this house where strange things happen, I was always imagining it was due to a “reverse seance” where someone in the past opens up a gateway to the future. My original idea was that it would be people from the 1920s, which might have been too close to some of what Grant was doing in The Invisibles. But, I started reading a book about Charles Manson, and the opening of it had Manson on a dance floor and people saying they saw lightning coming off him.

So, I extrapolated the idea of what if someone like Manson really could do magic, and had these sort of powers he claimed to have. I was particularly fascinated reading about how Manson was able to manipulate people into following him, killing for him and doing whatever he wanted. I wanted to create a character who was charismatic and watch him break down the psyche of someone to the point where they would kill for him.

But, I also wanted to have Frazer be a bit more sympathetic than the real Manson, and developed the idea that was a scientist who got lost in his quest for power. It was a hard part to cast, and we read a bunch of people, but when Dove came in, he had this intensity and charisma that made you feel like “yeah, joining this cult is a good idea.”

STEVE: Where did you get the idea of how to cross the time barrier? That was something that has hung with me since I saw the film.

PATRICK: It all started with the idea I had of someone killing themselves, but smiling as they do it, because they’re just that much of a believer in what Frazer was trying to do. So, the original opening scene was someone slitting their throat and smiling as Frazer watched them die. I changed it to a drug since that fit better with the scientist idea and felt a little fresher and more thematically on point.

And there’s power in that sacrifice, it’s a classic magic or sorcery trope, a blood ritual to affect the world.

STEVE: I don't think the throat slitting would have been as effective because the shock is we don't know for certain what is happening. I think it’s perfect the way it is.

How much research did you do in to magik and sorcery? Did what you learn that make you change your script, of course that’s assuming you weren't well versed going into the writing.

PATRICK: I read a bunch of things about magick when working on the Grant doc, and just generally being interested in the occult and strange things. So, this is a mix of riffing on that, plus trying to imagine it from a scientific perspective, since that’s who the character is. He says when they’re doing the ritual “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed,” so it’s applying a scientific principle to this weird ritual.

But, as far as I know, no one is able to manipulate space-time like they do in the film, so you can’t make something like this too realistic.

STEVE: When you were shooting did you stick strictly to the script or did you allow things to play out and see how they went?

PATRICK: We changed things often on set. When you’re writing a script, there’s always a desire to “trim the fat,” so if a scene begins with someone saying “Hello, how are you?” you’ll probably hear a note of get right into it, and wind up with scenes that are very business oriented. But, that can be tricky for the actors since you have to jump in in the middle of something. So, in most scenes, we’d have the actors improv a bit before getting into the scene as written. In some cases, we didn’t use it, but a bunch of exchanges in the film do come out of that dialogue.

The biggest change was Chloe Dykstra’s character, who has barely any lines in the script. But, watching the scenes as we filmed them, it felt too fast and too impersonal. So, we came up with the idea of having her talk to Gwen quite a bit, and shot a lot of improvs of her trying to dig into Gwen’s insecurities. And it was a real product of collaboration, with the actors all thinking of what she could say to get under Gwen’s skin the most.

One of the great things about doing a movie as opposed to a book or a comic is you have a unique person whose only job is to be each character. They’re thinking about only one thing and it’s great to use their insight and personal perspective to bring something to a character that I might not have thought of.

STEVE: you budget time for the improv when planning the shoot?

PATRICK: The whole process of making a movie, on this budget, is figuring out the right compromises to make. Every person is looking at their specific element, be it lighting, production design, or whatever else. So, they’re going to want to take longer, and the director’s job is to figure out when something is “good enough” to move on because I’m always aware that having the perfect lighting or set design doesn’t mean anything if we have to rush through the time with the actors.

So, it’s a flexible thing. But my goal was always to light in a way where we didn’t need to switch lighting setups once we got going and could just focus on the acting. And I think it comes down to knowing when there’s a scene you need to spend a lot of time with and develop in more depth, but if it feels right from the start, just shoot on and move on and bank that time.

STEVE: The casting is damn near perfect, so I was did you write to the cast or cast to the script? Did you have to change things up?

PATRICK: There were a few people in the movie I knew I wanted to be in it right from the start of the script. I had met Amber Benson doing the Grant documentary, and I love her acting, so I’d always wanted to do a project together. I had just shot a short with Tiffany Smith and Chloe Dykstra so I had them in mind pretty early in the process.

In a lot of cases, there were people I had in mind who didn’t work out for whatever reason. But, I could not be happier with the cast we had. I did auditions with co-producer Jordan Byrne, and we saw a lot of people. I’m not sure how it is for other people, but when I’m casting, you get a lot of “I guess that person could work” auditions, then when it’s the right person, there’s no doubt. So, when Kaytlin Borgen auditioned for Gwen, everyone in the room instantly knew she was perfect. Same for Whitney Moore as Katrina.

I was so impressed with what everyone brought to their part, and it was just fun getting to work with people who knew their characters and were ready to bring this crazy script to life.

STEVE: Spoilery territory- How hard was it for you not to go for the gotcha ending that everyone expects? Also none of the main characters die. Did anyone try to talk you out of the happy ending?

PATRICK: I hadn’t even really thought about that until we started screening the movie for friends to get feedback and they were surprised that everyone lives. The movie, despite being a pretty rough ride for the characters, ultimately has an optimistic message. And I never thought about having any of the characters not make it to the end of that journey. I wanted them to overcome their issues, and it just felt right to have it end that way.

STEVE: How do you feel about the modern trend toward gotcha endings so you get that final scare/sequel opening? How do you feel about horror films seeming to always end pessimistically? Are you an optimist or pessimist?

PATRICK: I’m not a huge fan of that final zinger ending in most cases. Looking at a movie like The Guest, it has a really great, organic ending, then just tosses a final twist out there. It doesn’t feel true to the movie, but I also understand why and allow it since it doesn’t really negatively impact my opinion of the movie. It’s been happening since Carrie, and is sort of a trope of the genre.

But, that’s also where I didn’t see this in typical horror movie terms. I wouldn’t want to have an essentially optimistic ending, then have a twist that it was all a dream they had while dying or something like that.

While it’s certainly hard to stay optimistic on a week (ed. Note- This was done a day after the Trump election as President) like this, I think people are essentially good and things are getting better, but it’s not easy. And that’s what this movie is about, it’s about going through a lot of awful stuff to come out cleansed. So I think I’m an optimist, though it’s not easy.

STEVE: Did you have to change things to get financing or any other reason? Is this the film you intended to make?

PATRICK: I was very lucky because I had almost no oversight on the movie. I reached out to a contact I had met a while ago with information about the project to see if he’d want to invest. He called me and said “First off, I’m going to invest. Second, send me the script, I know you don’t want my feedback so I’m not going to give it to you. But I’m just curious.” So, that was great.

The thing I will say is that artists are often romanticized for having no oversight and total creative control. But, along with my producing team, particularly Jordan Byrne and Amanda Sonnenschein, we really put this movie through its punches in post. I got a lot of feedback from people and made many, many changes to try to make it the best movie that it could be. That meant shifting some scenes around chronologically from the script, changing voiceovers to clarify things and making all kinds of other changes.

It’s very hard to finish a cut of the movie, feel like you’ve nailed it 100%, then get feedback from people saying they’re confused or had problems with certain stuff. But, I always think of the fact that on Game of Thrones, their first pilot got a disastrous response. They retooled and now the show is a legend. So, I tried to figure out the way to make the best version of this movie, and one that is accessible to people without compromising the integrity of it. I know it’s not a movie for everyone, but I think that thanks to all that feedback, the movie turned out so much better, and is the best representation of what I set out to do.

STEVE: I have to applaud you for understanding that some people may not like the film. I know some filmmakers don't understand that, I had a PR person tell me recently that one of their clients can't understand why everyone doesn't love their film. Is this acceptance something that you've learned or always had? Do you read all your reviews?

PATRICK: It’s so hard in the test screening process because you’ve worked with a big team to create a movie that you feel is incredibly special. It takes so much time to make a movie and so much hardship, you have to believe in that story, and are incredibly invested in it. Plus, no matter when in the process, when you finish a cut you feel like “Wow, I nailed it. This movie is great!” So, to have someone come in and say “Yeah, but this is confusing and this just doesn’t quite work” is not easy to face. But, I always see it as the difference between the original Star Wars and the prequels. It’s not great to do exactly what you want without facing honest feedback from people.

When it comes to actual reviews of the finished film, I like to read them all, but what I keep in mind is that there are movies I absolutely love that were poorly received by critics and audiences. But, it’s the very thing that some people don’t like that makes me love it. So, a movie like Michael Mann’s Miami Vice is a good example. He could look at the critical response and feel disappointed that the movie didn’t resonate, but I loved it so much.

I just try to be realistic that even the best movies have people who don’t like them. I try to take lessons about why people might not respond to a movie, but trying to please everyone is insane. You’ll never do it.
Patrick Meaney and Neil Gaiman

STEVE: Because you've made films about Neil Gaiman and Grant Morrison I need to ask, have they seen the film?

PATRICK: Not yet, but I’m definitely going to be sending it to them to check out. I think it will be cool for them to see the influence of their work spreading out beyond comics and on to the screen.

STEVE: Where do your viewing tastes lie? Are you a big fan of horror and of the "cabin in the woods" genre that this riffs on?

PATRICK: I watch a lot of movies, and particularly here in awards season I’m freaking out and seeing three or four movies a week. I love really good genre movies. Something like It Follows or The Guest were a big inspiration in carving out the sort of sophisticated genre nitch I’m hoping to hit with this movie. But, I like all kinds of movies beyond genre stuff. Directors like Wong Kar-Wai or Terrence Malick are a huge inspiration in the way that they construct their films. They feel more like music than traditional narrative cinema, and that’s something that I tried to replicate.

In terms of the cabin in the woods genre, I loved Cabin in the Woods. I saw it opening night in the theater and it was such a crazy ride. Evil Dead 2 is also deservedly a legend. 10 Cloverfield Lane from earlier this year was also a fantastic riff on the one location horror genre. But, most of the horror that I like is more in the “elevated genre” realm, and I’m not someone who grew up watching every Friday the 13th or Halloween movie.

The most recent movie I saw that I really liked was 20th Century Women, which is beautifully constructed and features fantastic acting all around. Would definitely recommend it.

STEVE: Have you met some of the directors who have inspired you?

PATRICK: Living in LA, I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of the directors I like to talk, but I haven’t met too many of them in depth. The best moment for me was meeting Wong Kar-Wai at a party at comic-con. I was there with my DP Jordan, and we always talk about a shot we really like that Wong Kar-Wai does, so we asked him to recreate the shot with him and us in it. But, he was like “No, let’s do it different,” so he put my girlfriend in there, had a guy at the party use his hand to bounce light on to us then took an awesome photo.

STEVE: What are the release plans for the film?

PATRICK: We’re hoping to play some festivals early next year. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a sales team who sold several of my docs, and they’re going to be shopping the film. It’s hard to say now, but I’m hoping it will be available on VOD by Spring or Summer of next year. Keep an eye on my twitter (@patrickmeaney) or the Trip House twitter (@triphousemovie) for all the details. I can’t wait for the movie to get out there to an audience.

STEVE: What's next for you?

PATRICK: I’ve been busy working on three scripts that I’m going to work on developing and hopefully be shooting sometime in the not too distant future. One is a Western tinged noir thriller, one is a conspiracy thriller and the other a grounded fantasy. But I’m hoping to reteam with some of the Trip House cast and team to bring them to life.

I’m also working on a couple of documentary series pitches, which hopefully will be going forward next year. It’s so tough raising the money and setting up distribution for each project individually, being able to do a series would be fantastic because it would mean just focusing on making the best movie.
Patrick Meaney (to the right in the jacket) directs a scene