Monday, August 26, 2019

CROSSCURRENT 长江图 comes to DVD and Blu-Ray on 8/30/2019

Cinematic love poem to thethe Yangtze river and to China itself CROSSCURRENT is a film that must be seen and seen on the big screen.

The film follows a sailor traveling up the river from where it spills out to where it begins.  Along the way he continually encounters women (or is it just one woman) all named An Lu who all look the same but are all slightly different.

Yang Chao had been working on the film for ten years before finally completing it. This is a film where it is all image. Very little is said and much of that has a mystical bend to it. The story is driven by the images and by the performances of the actors who manage say volumes more than any of the words could. This is a film where the actors act, not just recite words but actually act, whole bodied to create their characters. Its something that may annoy some people who don't want to have to pay strict attention to what is going on, but for those of us who liked to be drawn into a film by more than words it's a godsend. This is what great acting should be- an entire body performing.

As much as one says a film is the work of a director, here the the work of the cinematographer is just as much an author. Mark Lee Ping-Bing DOP on Wong Kar-wai’s IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE won an award in Berlin for his cinematography for CROSSCURRENT and it would be a hard choice to argue since when the film done it is the images that will hang with you. In Ping-Bing's hands the entire world is a character. We are not just traveling up a river but exploring the hidden psyche of the landscape. We feel it shift and change and become a living person as we travel through and upon it. Rarely has the imagery in a film been so vital to a story. If you had someone else shoot the film, or if you changed any of the images the entire film would be radically different or would collapse completely. I can not imagine  this film looking any other way.

I loved the film, however if you want action and explanation you are going to have a tough time. This is a film that requires the viewer to engage with it 100%. You have to give yourself over to it and let it direct you. You can't be passive rather you have to be active. You literally have to buy a ticket and take the ride up the river. If you can't handle a mystical travelogue stay away. It is a film that is going to be best viewed on the big screen in a theater where you are going have few distractions. I'm not going lie and say it will be rapturous from start to finish, it's not but the weight of the images and the mysticism will, I think move you.

Strongly recommended for anyone wanting to go up river and willing to let a film do what it is going to do. (This truly is an art film)

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Villiers Diamond (1938)

When a convicted jewel thief gets out of prison he heads to the home of the man who paid him to steal the jewel. Not happy to see him, and not having the money to pay him (he didn't yet sell the titled jewel), the rich man puts the convict on his staff as a butler until he can sell it. Things get complicated when guests arrive for a weekend house party.

Short British mystery it runs a fast 50 minutes is a breezy entertainment. This is everything you would expect from a mystery film of the period  and it does it to near perfection. While the talky middle isn't up to the set up and the conclusion, it entertains enough to make it worth your time.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Flashman

Oddball Italian superhero film has a British noble masquerading as Flashman, a superhero taking on counterfeiters, invisible gangsters and other baddies.

While knowingly silly, the film still manages to be somewhat serious with the performances never going over the top even if the situations occasionally are. There are some good action sequences as well. As good a time as I had watching it I would have had a blast if I had seen it with friends so we could riff it.

Recommended

Friday, August 23, 2019

London Fright Fest - Till Your Last Death Film Review


Miriam Dekalb (Dani Lennon), an activist for P.A.N.A.C (Peace and Non Violence Action Committee, must take on her abusive father, Cyrus, (Ray Wise) owner of Dekalb Industries. He and his accomplice known simply as Gamemaster (Morena Baccarin) are known for putting the lives of humans in jeopardy to satisfy their blood lust. In order to save her siblings, Miriam must outsmart them both and beat them at their own game.

To Your Last Death artist Carl Frank (Magic: The Gathering) uses an impressive combination of both comic book art and 2-D animation which are meant to create a graphic novel appearance. The visuals are spectacular, with the artwork being similar to what you’d find in the adult animated series Archer.


The choice of having William Shatner lend his voice to this project as The Overseer was a brilliant choice that really ties the entire film together. I found myself being enthralled with this story. Although the characters are animated there’s a human type quality to them that makes them relatable.

Gamemaster and Miriam are my favorite characters. They each create a unique balance between good and evil. The action sequences and high powered gore scenes work so well within this medium. If this were a live action film I don’t think the quick paced atmosphere would work nearly as well.




I love a story that keeps you on your toes and this one certainly does. Within the first 25 minutes of the film there are so many surprising twists that I wasn’t prepared for. If you aren’t a fan of slow burn films, and you want something that grabs your attention immediately, this film should definitely be on the top of your must watch list.

I’d recommend To Your Last Death to anyone who is a fan of horror and animation. This is such a strong and unique story that I think it deserves a 10/10 rating. The amount work that went into creating this movie is incredible. There was so much drive and determination by everyone involved. Writers Jim Cirile, Tanya C. Klein and Director Jason Axinn did a fantastic job and I look forwarding to seeing more from them.

The world premiere of To Your Last Death will take place at FrightFest London on Friday, August 23, 2019 at 3:50pm.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

COLOSSUS OF THE ARENA (1962)

Maciste is back in action helping a young queen battle the forces who want her throne. The bad guys are a band of gladiators hired for their skills.

One of the more enjoyable Maciste  film has the right balance of action, comedy and intrigue. While we know everything is going to be alright- Maciste is Maciste after all, we can't be certain what is going to happen to him before the final fade out.

The film benefits from a serious production tat keeps the sets reasonable real and doesn't allow the proceedings to drift into the realm of outright silliness. The action is also really well done with the muscle man nonsense never getting out of control.

I really like this film and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Finale (2019) Scary Movies 12

Two part horror film begins with two girls working at a truck stop being watched by something or someone sinister. The second follows what happens when the girls are kidnapped and tortured in some sort of weird "show".

How you react to this well made film will ultimately be determined by the the switch in the story. For me the creepy first half was lost to a by the numbers torture porn second. I am not a fan of the sub-genre unless there is a really good reason for the nastiness.  Here the reason has something to do with voyeurism and  spectatorship, which would be all well and good if that sort of thing hadn't been done a few dozen times before just this year.

Very well done this is for fans of nastiness only.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Leslie Melville on Demon Squad

Demon Squad tells the story of Nick Moon, a P.I. (Paranormal Investigator). Nick is in charge of dealing with the cities growing demon population. If a Museum offers you an ancient artifact at a ridiculously low price that should probably be your first clue that something just isn’t right.

Nick is hired by Lilah Fontaine to help find her missing father, Professor Fontaine. Together with his assistant Daisy O’Reilly, the trio arrives at Professor Fontaine’s home only to discover that the ancient artifact has been stolen. With no clues as to who stole the artifact of the whereabouts of Lila’s father, Nick and Daisy embark on a quest to find the truth. Not everything is as it seems and some things are worth killing for.

I really enjoyed this film. Some of the acting is a little rough at times but I think that this adds to the movies charm. Demon Squad is funny, has likable characters, and a solid plot. The story builds momentum quickly but is easy to follow. The ending of the film isn’t what I expected but somehow it feels right.

There is one object in the film that reminds me of a contraption Ichabod Crane used in the 1999 film Sleepy Hollow. I’m not sure if that’s what they were going for but I thought it was a great addition.

The character Nick Moon is a very likable guy, and I really enjoyed the performance of actress Erin Lilley who played Daisy O’Reilly. I highly recommend watching Demon Squad if you don’t mind a little cheesiness in your films. This film doesn’t take itself seriously and in this case it works. Overall I give the film a B+. I look forward to seeing more from Director Thomas Smith, and Writers Erin Lilley and Thomas Smith.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Camden International Film Festival 2019: CIFF Announces Film Slate and Storyforms Immersive Lineup for 15th Edition

CIFF celebrates its 15th Edition with an international showcase of films that interrogate Story & Power.
Showtime Documentary Films is the 2019 Headlining Sponsor  

CAMDEN, Maine, August 19, 2019 – The Camden International Film Festival (CIFF) has announced the slate of feature and short films for its 15th edition, which will take place September 12-15, 2019 throughout Camden, Rockport and Rockland, Maine.
A program of the Points North Institute, CIFF is one of the top documentary film festivals in the world. This year the festival will present 38 features, 50 short films, and 16 virtual reality and immersive experiences from over 35 countries. More than half of the feature films are presented as major premieres, including the US Premiere of Alex Gibney’s Citizen K.
The festival’s 2019 edition aims to advance industry-wide conversations about Story & Power -- examining the ways in which power structures deeply embedded in society have continued to shape the documentary field, including which stories are told, by whom and for whom. 
“Our 2019 slate celebrates documentary as a reimagining of the ways we engage with stories from both near and far,” says Ben Fowlie, Executive and Artistic Director of the Points North Institute, and Founder of the Camden International Film Festival. “As programmers, we have been transformed by these films. They take us beyond the headlines and into the hearts of people and their stories, while also engaging us with the creative, political, and ethical decisions that went into these unforgettable films.”
CIFF will present eight World Premieres by award-winning filmmakers, including BAFTA winner Dan Vernon’s Changin’ Times of Ike White, Martha Shane’s Narrowsburg, Vytautas Puidokas’s El Padre Médico, and Michel Negroponte’s My Autonomous Neighbor, all films that set out to tell a story one way, only to uncover countless unexpected turns.
“We’ve been thinking a lot about how power is inherently embedded in the way films are made, in the stories we uphold about ourselves, our values, our places,” says Senior Programmer Samara Chadwick. “As a way of normalising the questioning of that power, we have curated constellations of works within the program that, together, offer varying approaches to common narratives.” For example, a trio of films present very different angles on the interwoven histories of the US and the Philippines. The world premiere of Alexander A. Mora’s The Nightcrawlers offers a harrowing undercover look into the Duterte regime’s brutal war on drugs. Sung-A Yoon’s Overseas, a study of filipina domestic workers training to work abroad, is set in sharp contrast to Lauren Greenfield’s The Kingmaker, which tells the story of Imelda Marcos, exposing her family’s long history of corruption, extravagance, and brutality.
The conflict in Syria will be represented in a kaleidoscope of films, including the US Premiere of Feras Fayyad’s The Cave about a women-led underground hospital, Locarno title Copper Notes of a Dream in which director Reza Farahmand explores the indomitable spirits of children staging a concert in the rubble, and Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts’s multiple award winning film, For Sama, documenting a journalist mother’s love letter to her war-born daughter.
As a leading showcase of international works, CIFF welcomes the North American premieres of nine films, including the works of several emerging filmmakers, such as The Giverny Document (Single Channel) by Ja'Tovia Gary, Lovemobil by Elke Margarete Lehrenkrauss, Progress In The Valley of the People Who Don’t Know by Florian Kunert, Sankara is not Dead by Lucie Viver, and La Vida en Común by Ezequiel Yanco.
The festival will present new work by documentary luminaries including Agnès Varda, Brett Story, Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Nanfu Wang, Steve Bognar, Julia Reichart, Juan Pablo González, and Ian Cheney. Each of these films, in their own way, finds creative ways of asserting the filmmakers’ role within the story being told. Nearly all screenings will be attended by the filmmakers, with creators from Argentina, Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Korea, Lithuania, Mexico, Norway, Peru, the Philippines, South Africa, and Syria, as well as creators from over over a dozen indigenous tribes, all converging on the coast of Maine.
The Festival will also feature two award-winning alumni of the Points North Fellowship program: Midnight Family and Midnight Traveler. The filmmakers selected for this year’s Points North Institute’s Artist Programs at CIFF will be announced in the coming weeks.
A complete list of the program’s selected feature films can be found below.
Storyforms: Remixing Reality is CIFF’s growing exhibition of immersive documentary experiences and installations. This year the program will feature four room-scale VR and AR installations, nine works of 360° cinema, and a series of large-scale projections that explicitly interrogate representations of race in America, including Garrett Bradley’s award-winning America and Whitney Dow’s The Whiteness Project.
“For the 4th edition of our Storyforms exhibition, we’re showcasing how immersive media can create new spaces for reflection and interrogation of the invisible forces that shape our world,” said Program Director Sean Flynn. Highlighted works include the World Premiere of Alex Suber’s virtual reality documentary, Lux Sine, Lisa Jackson’s Biidaaban: First Light, Common Ground by Darren Emerson and Home with América by Alvaro Morales.
The Points North Institute announced that SHOWTIME® Documentary Films will serve as the Presenting Sponsor for the 2019 Points North Fellowship and a Headlining Sponsor for the 2019 Camden International Film Festival.
The Points North Forum’s lineup of masterclasses, roundtables, panels, and industry delegates will be announced in the coming week. The Forum’s centerpiece this year is the Agora: a daylong series of conversations and panels that explore how each facet of the nonfiction community - from filmmakers, to critics, to gatekeepers and even audiences - can take an active role in building and enjoying a more equitable, inclusive field that celebrates the art and craft of documentary filmmaking. The full Forum announcement and schedule will be released in the coming weeks. 
Festival passes and a complete festival lineup can be found on the Points North Institute website www.pointsnorthinstitute.org
The 15th Camden International Film Festival is a program of the Points North Institute. Building on CIFF’s long-established role in the nonfiction film community, the Points North Institute’s filmmaker programs provide a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers.

  
2019 Camden International Film Festival Features 

AFTER PARKLAND
Emily Taguchi | USA | 2019 
In the immediate aftermath of the devastating 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, filmmakers embedded with students and parents whose lives were forever changed—from quiet hours of grief and reflection to those of political awakening. 
 

Tigers Are not Afraid (2018) hit theaters Friday

I am at a loss as to how TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID was  playing smaller festivals such as Boston Underground and even Fantasia but not in the bigger fests like New York or Tribeca or any of the other huge festivals. The fact that films by Guillermo del Toro are lauded there but gems from filmmakers like Issa López, who has made a film that is probably more powerful than most of del Toro's films, is just wrong.

TIGER follows young Estrella whose mother has been carried off by the drug cartels in Mexico. She is left to fend for herself and falls in with a band of boys who have similar stories. They work together to get food and stay safe. They tell each other fairy tales to pass the time. However fate has other plans for the group and they are soon on a collision course with the cartels.

Realistic, but with supernatural overtones, Estrella sees ghosts and a traveling line of blood, this is a real world fairy tale. I should add that this is not a Disney sort of fairy tale but something more akin to the original Grimm's tales where truly bad things happen.

Shocking yet deeply human and moving. TIGERS is a film that is light years above and beyond most other "genre" films out there in that it gets the blend of real and fantastic elements exactly right. Nothing is over done or unbelievable. We buy everything that happens, even the fantastic stuff because we believe in the characters.

At the same time the film is very much a fairy tale with monsters, ghosts, magic, wishes, princes,a princess and any number of fairy tale tropes wandering through the film. However the film is so well done that you'll never think of it as a fairy tale, rather simply as a solid drama.

This film is amazing and get better the more you ponder it. One of the best films of 2018.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Extra Ordinary (2019) Scary Movies 12

When the ghost of his deceased wife, a man hires a well known paranormal investigator to exorcise the spirit. Unfortunately for all concerned the investigator has other plans for the girl who maybe a key to opening the door way to hell.

Love it or loath it horror comedy (yea this is a comedy) is either going to thrill you or have you shaking your head. While everything is here in spades, from cast to effects, the comedy is a mix of knowing and over the top which doesn't always blend together. Personally I chuckled a few times but mostly I just groaned, the humor not working its magic on me.

If you like broad knowing comedy give this a shot other wise skip it

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Thoughts on Villains (2019) Scary Movies 12

When I finished watching VILLAINS, which played last night at Lincoln Centers Scary Movies 12, I popped on line to see what everyone else thought. Intriguingly I found that most of the reviews were almost identical (to the point they all seem to have been written by the same person) saying that the reviewers liked the mix of comedy and horror. Only a very few were not in love with the film, feeling, as I do, that the film never quite gets the mix of laughs and chills right.

Normally I don’t look at reviews for a film until after I finish a piece, but this time out I wanted to see if other people felt like I did. I shouldn’t have cared but since VILLAINS was the opening film of this year’s Scary Movies I wanted to know if I was missing something. Apparently I didn’t miss anything I just didn’t click with it.

VILLAINS has a couple of sweet kids (Bill Skarsgård and Maika Monroe) robbing their way to Florida where they hope to set up a business selling sea shells. After hitting a gas station they quickly run out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Seeing a nearby house they head off in the hope of wither getting gas or another car. Instead they find themselves in the home of a weird couple (Jeffry Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick) who have a young girl chained in the basement. Humor mixes with growing tension as the couple are found to be not only weird but deadly.

How you react to the film is going to depend on how you react to the humor. A full on comedy that grows darker over time you have to connect with it over the top craziness at the start or you’re going to be locked out of the film. I was amused but thought they were trying too hard to be rib tickling.The trying too hard continued with some of the ghoulish twists and turns which chilled but seemed more forcing the hand then natural. It created a disconnect on my end which made me notice some plot turns which had me wondering why the couple didn’t just walk away when they had the chance.

And while I am not in love with the film, I am in like with it. It does have both laughs and chills, something most recent horror comedies fail to achieve. I like the film enough that I did the rooting around to try and find the answer as to why I wasn’t loving it.

Is it worth seeing? If you like ghoulish confections, absolutely. However at the same time I do warn you that your mileage may vary.

VILLAINS opens in theaters September 20

Friday, August 16, 2019

Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, from GKIDS

Luis Buñuel is easily the most important surrealist in cinema history. You could also say he was one of the early pioneers of the true-in-spirit hybrid-documentary. Just like his previous films, the 27-minute Las Hurdes: Tierra Sin Pan or Land Without Bread immediately stirred controversy and was duly banned for years. Truth and artistic license jostle each other while witnessing the depths of Spanish poverty in Salvador Simo Busom’s animated making-of feature, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles, which opens today in New York, courtesy of GKIDS.

When Buñuel started developing the documentary that would become Land Without Bread, his reputation as a filmmaker essentially rested on two films, Un Chien Andalou, the short film that commenced his collaboration with Salvador Dali and L’Age d’Or, the hour-long satire that pointedly ended it. Both works generated explosive outrage as well as reverence within avant-garde circles. There are frequent references to Buñuel’s frosty relationship with Dali throughout the film, but the psychological influence of his distant and domineering father will be more significant.

Despite his baggage, Buñuel can be charming, at least at this early stage of his career, but also maddening. Just ask his anarchist friend, Ramón Acín Aquilué, who jokingly promised to fund Buñuel’s proposed documentary exposing the desperate living conditions in the Las Hurdes region—and kept his word when it came to pass. However, Acín was most definitely not made of money, which inevitably led to conflict with the not-so practical auteur.

Although most of the film is animated, Simo periodically inserts archival footage from Land Without Bread, cutting back and forth to show us what was happening on both sides of the camera. The way he and editor Jose Manuel Jimenez marry the two styles of footage together is enormously clever and visually striking.

Clearly, Simo has a great deal of sympathy for Buñuel, but the film is not a starry-eyed exercise in hagiography. Instead, he provides a complete portrait of the artist, including his tendencies to be a bit of a user and a flake. Even though Simo takes us pretty extensively into Buñuel’s head, it is still hard to decide what to make of him. Look, geniuses are complicated.

Regardless, Labyrinth of the Turtles (a reference to Las Hurdes’ tortoise shell-like roofs) is an entertaining and erudite primer on Buñuel’s early development as an artist. Simo’s animation is quite elegant, in a style befitting the 1930s, but he mixes in some wild, Freudian flights of fancy that are quite in keeping with the Buñuelian spirit.

In fact, Simo and co-screenwriter Eligio R. Montero will probably motivate a lot of intrigued viewers to take a deep dive into the Buñuel filmography. Yet, they avoid getting bogged down in problematic politics of the era. Altogether, it is probably the most fitting big-screen treatment of the larger-than-life auteur you could ever hope for. Highly recommended for fans of sophisticated animation, Buñuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles opens today (8/16) in New York, at the Quad.

Black Circle (2018) Scary Movies 12

Two sisters listen to a record album to help them relax, however it's talk of magnetic hypnosis rips open doorways to other dimensions.

 Scary and disturbing horror film begins by putting us in a weird place from the opening narration and then refusing to let us go until the final fade out. Full of dark disturbing images and ideas this is a film that left me scrambling to find a means of getting it out of my head.

This is a film that puts us into a unique world with unique rules and we can't escape. As the sisters slide from our world to the next we are with them, which means we are just as lost as they are. Reality becomes malleable and the monsters are coming...and we are so much better for it.

What I love about this film is it feels like any number of strange inde  or Euro films that appeared in the late 1970's and early 1980's with stark colors and electronic music. This film is a kind of cousin to the recent  BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW. The feel brings me back to all the films I was hunting in the early days of home video.

The best thing I can say about the film is I want to not only see it again I want to inflict it on my friends.

Highly recommended.

BLACK CIRCLE plays August 19 . For more information and tickets go here.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Divine Fury

No matter how lapsed they think they are, lapsed Catholics are still Catholics. MMA champion Park Yong-hu denies it, but he is a perfect case in point. For years, he claimed he did not believe in God, but he was really just angry over his father’s death. He would still seem like an unlikely candidate to carry the stigmata, but there it is anyway. Despite his skepticism, Park gets pulled into an epic battle of G vs. E in Kim Joo-hwan’s The Divine Fury, the closing film of the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival, which opens this Friday in New York.

Park’s father was a devout policeman, who was killed by a demonically possessed motorist during a routine traffic stop. Alas, Park’s prayers were not enough to save him. Subsequently, Park turned against God and allowed his heart to harden against the rest of humanity. Then one day, his palm starts bleeding from a wound that refuses to close. Starting with doctors and proceeding to shamans, Park is mysteriously directed to Father Ahn, a grizzled Vatican exorcist.

The good Father has returned to Korea to hunt for the Dark Bishop, a powerful servant of demonic powers. He has been responsible for a wave of frighteningly severe possessions, like the one Park walks in on, saving Father Ahn with the power of his stigmata. Much to his surprise, he does not dislike Father Ahn. In fact, he almost feels compelled to help him, but the forces of evil, led by Ji-sin, the Dark Bishop himself, will be relentless and vicious.

Relentless is indeed the word. Divine Fury has some of the most intense and exhausting exorcism scenes since the mother of all exorcism films, Friedkin’s The Exorcist. Arguably, Jang Jae-hyun’s The Priests is even more frightening, because it leans into the Catholic imagery and demonic archetypes to a greater extent, but Divine is still all kinds of scary and intense.

There is no question veteran thesp Ahn Sung-ki is the rock on which Divine Fury is built. He is absolutely terrific as the weary Father Ahn. We are used to seeing movie exorcists who are either blind believers or mired in a crisis of faith, but Father Ahn is particularly compelling, because he has faith as well as self-doubts, making him acutely human. For the better part of the film, Park Seo-joon is rather standoffish as Park Yong-hu, but he humanizes the fighter when the film really needs him to. In contrast, Woo Do-hwan is never less than coldly, clammily sinister as the Dark Bishop.

This is scary stuff, but the best news is Kim avoids nearly all the clichés we usually get from horror movie conclusions. However, the film flat out promises a spin-off sequel featuring a minor supporting character. Based on the quality of everything proceeding it, that qualifies as good news. Indeed, Divine Fury is definitely A-list K-horror, along with The Priests and The Wailing. Very highly recommended for fans of demonic horror, The Divine Fury opens tomorrow (8/16) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

All the Gods in The Sky (2018) Scary Movies 12

Profoundly disturbing film will have you wondering what pit of hell director Quarxx crawled out of. By turns ugly, shocking , WTF and "you have got to be out of your f-ing mind", ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY will have you talking to the screen early and often.

It begins when a man heads home to take care of his sister. Injured years before in an accident she is bed ridden and has a terrible scar on the side of her face. He seems to be doing the best he can but all is not right. He is on heavy anti-psychotics himself and he is waiting for the coming of some visitors from elsewhere who may be able to help his sister.

All I can say is buy a ticket and take the right- just be prepared to be deeply deeply disturbed.  Full of dream logic and nightmare imagery this is a film you just need to see because this is a cinematic gem. To be certain it's a gem forged in hell, but it's a gem none the less.

I know you want me to actually talk about the film but I'm not going to do that- I had to walk into this haunted forest with outany sort of warning so you should to. I am not going to warn you about the body blows because taking the shots is what this film is all about.

ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY is probably the best film at this year's Scary Movies and as such is highly recommended.

For tickets and more information go here.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Thoughts on Olivia (1951)

Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Dorothy Bussy OLIVIA is the story of Olivia, a young woman who is sent off to boarding school. There she finds herself in the middle the tensions of the head mistresses Miss Julie, a family friend and Miss Cara. Over time Olivia begins to fall for Miss Julie as the tension between the teachers grows.

You will forgive me if I simply discuss the film as a film and not as lesbian film, which is the selling point the press material and all of the other recent reviews I've read on the film. While the film is historically important as one of the first films to have any sort of lesbian characters on the big screen,  and while I went into the the film out of curiosity about how the film would handle them,  I ultimately stopped caring, nay even thinking about the fact that everyone on screen was a woman about five minutes in.  For me the film is good enough that I simply fell into the  story and was carried along.

Beautifully acted by all concerned, and looking spectacular, OLIVIA is a wonderful drama on it's own terms. It doesn't need to be sold as anything other than that. Frankly if the film wasn't as good as it is and speaking volumes beyond the fact that all of the characters are women this film would not have survived almost 70 years as much more than a footnote in a book. The fact that it has been lovingly restored proves that.

Like  the earlier and similar MADCHEN IN UNIFORM, it really does transcend being pigeon holed and works because the story of human interactions is very real. We care about the characters  and can relate to their feelings regardless of or sexual orientation. Human emotion is the same regardless of who we love.

OLIVIA is a solid drama on on any terms and is recommended.

The film was originally released in a severely cut version in the US entitled THE PIT OF LONELINESS. The film is finally getting a restored release in the US starting Friday where it will play at the Quad Cinemas in New York.

Los Reyes (2019) opens in theaters today

Observational documentary about a skate park in Chile where two dogs wander about and skaters skate.

Focusing more on the dogs than the skaters, we see the skaters as they skate and hang out around the dogs, this is a quiet look at the life of man’s best friend. If you love dogs then you might want to consider seeing this because the two dogs will worm their way into your heart—and then break it since it becomes clear that one of them isn’t long for the world. (bring tissues)

I liked the film, but to be honest if I hadn’t said I’d cover the film I would have walked away. There simply isn’t enough here to really support the films 70 minutes. While the film did break my heart I was kind of left wondering what I got out of it beyond that.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Feral (2019) Scary Movies 12

The story of a priest who finds feral child and decides to raise him, it is told in found footage and new interview footage that tells the story of what happened and how it all went wrong.

One of the best of the recent found footage films I've seen, FERAL does everything exactly right. Using the medium to tell the story rather than to hide the short comings of the story, FERAL plays exactly like any number of documentaries. It is so good at copying the form that you could probably submitted this to a film festival as doc and have it picked up as the genuine article. The sheen of reality adds greatly to the creepiness.

More disturbing and haunting than out right scary FERAL is a real gem. This is a film that quietly gets under your skin and makes you wonder why you are watching this when it is just bothering you so much. Think of it as what would have happened if the Truffaut film WILD CHILD went really wrong.  I was looking at this film late at night and I had to do something to clear it from my head before turning in for the evening.

One of my favorite films  at this year's Scary Movies. Recommended.

FERAL plays Friday at 9:30 PM For tickets and more information go here.

Anonymous (2019) Chain Film Festival


A member of an AA type group is out with his friend and sponsor and lamenting the loss of his girlfriend when they happen upon a another member in trouble...things spiral out in unexpected ways from there.

I am so tempted to tell you what is going on but that would ruin an excellent little thriller. Beautifully told in 16 minutes ANONYMOUS goes off in all sorts of unexpected directions and thus ends up keeping the tension extremely tight. Trust me on this you want to see this film- and you want to go in as blindly as possible.

An absolute gem I expect to storm the festival circuit.

For tickets and ore information go here.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Echoes of You (2019)


I'm not going to say a great deal about ECHOES OF YOU because the film is above and you can just see it for yourself.

The film is the story of a hopeful pianist looking for a break while he works as janitor. Along the way he finds his greatest fulfillment in an unexpected place.

This is a stunning piece of filmmaking. Perfectly timed out for maximum effect this is a film that could nor survive being expanded into a feature, which seems to be the hope of most shorts these days, nor could it work any shorter since the climax comes at a perfectly placed moment to give us maximum effect.

That the film works as well as it does is thanks to Laurence Fuller's stunning performance in the lead. Literally a full bodied performance, the film has very little dialog, Fuller doesn't so much play the lead as have the lead in habit him. Every move, every gesture gives us so much more than words could ever do, with the result that when the ends come we are reaching not just a tissue but a whole box. This is the sort of performance that makes it a sin that Oscar doesn't recognize the work actors and actresses do in short films because Fuller is so good he should be in the running for an Oscar.

Beyond that there is nothing else to say other than WOW.

Highly recommended ECHOES OF YOU is one of the great finds of the year and Laurence Fuller's is one of the best performances in any film of any length I've seen in 2019.

Do yourself a favor and take 20 minutes and watch the film.

Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy

You could say the Line Walker feature films are to deep cover operations what the Overheard films are to surveillance details. They do not share the same characters or a continuing narrative, but they address similar themes and feature the same actors. However, in this case, it is the bad guys who have gone deep undercover in Jazz Boon’s Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy, which opens this Friday in New York.

A shadowy international criminal organization is kidnapping children in the Philippines to be groomed and programmed to act as moles in police forces around the world. Apparently, the Hong Kong police force has been compromised, making it rather difficult to solve the mystery of a rash of suicide attacks plaguing the city. However, there might be a big break in the case when Inspector Ching To saves the wary freelance journalist-hacker Yiu Ho-yee from an assassin. Yet, just as he wins her trust, Cheng Chun-yin from the Security Wing sweeps in, claiming jurisdiction over the case and his witness.

Apparently, Yiu’s partner in Burma downloaded a hard drive full of sensitive intel from the conspiratorial organization, so a team will be dispatched to retrieve it. Rather awkwardly, both Cheng and Ching will be under the operational command of Superintendent Yip Kwok-fan, Ching’s current boss and Cheng’s former mentor. Unfortunately, the mission will go down spectacularly badly, in a way that will cast suspicions on both Ching and Cheng, but in very different ways.

Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, and Francis Ng are all back from the original Line Walker film, even though not all of their characters made it through the first feature alive. Although the first feature maintained some tenuous connections to the Line Walker television series, Boon basically shakes the Etch-a-Sketch clear for the sequel. What he keeps, besides the all-star trio, is an abiding interest in the psychological ramifications of operating undercover with an assumed identity. He also continues to stage some adrenaline-charged action sequences, but this time he goes bigger—way bigger. An unforgettable case in point is the final extended smash-up sequence, involving the running of the bulls in Spain, which Boon and action director Chin Ka-lok make the absolute most of.

Yet, perhaps the biggest surprise is Louis Koo. He has certainly played his share of steely gangsters before, notably in Johnnie To films like Election and Drug War, but as Cheng, he projects existential anguish and inner turmoil truly impressive range. Of course, Cheung continues to be one of the hardest hard-nosed action leads in the business, so Inspector Ching To is totally in his wheelhouse. Ng is also perfectly cast as the upright and conscientious Yip, while Zhang Yichi makes quite a creepy (and athletic) heavy as “Demon,” the henchman who becomes the primary antagonist down the stretch.

Admittedly, some of the over-the-top action will have the audience guffawing in disbelief, but you have to give Boon and company credit for their determination to entertain. In fact, the climatic sequences in Spain even rival the noise and fury of Hobbs & Shaw. Recommended for fans of HK action and the three big name stars, Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy opens this Friday (8/16) in New York, at the AMC Empire.

One of the best films you will see this year-What You Gonna Do When The World's On Fire? -opens Friday

This is slightly modified  repost of the review I ran when this film played last year at the New York Film Festival.  Sadly it did not garner the attention it deserved, largely because the festival did not press screen the film and one had to make an effort to get a screener to see the film.  Forgive me if that sounds snide, it is suppose to because what could be argued was the best and most important film at the festival was shunted to a side bar where the people who should see it, the rich and powerful who fund the festival would never ever see it. (Yes I have a lot of pent up anger concerning this film and NYFF. Forgive me the rich blue hairs need to see this film- as do you.) It was on my Best of 2018 list and I'm going to bet that if you take the time to see it it will be on the your best of 2019 list.

It begins and ends with the preparation for Mardi Gras. We begin and end kind in the same place where some things have changed but not a lot, and little of it for good. And in between we spend a stark year with a group of people trying desperately to not only get by but also stay alive.

One of the opening images is of brothers Ronoldo and Titus in haunted house trying to convince themselves not to be afraid. It is an image of the boys where their masks slip and the make believe horrors over take their ability to remain stoic. It is the sort of image that many will claim is kind of cliche and obvious, and it is, but at the same time there are times when "cliches" are so perfect that you have to use them because they carry a great deal of weight. Here it speaks volumes about what we are going to see.

WHAT YOU GONNA TO DO WHEN THE WORLD IS ON FIRE? is the story of several people in New Orleans trying to not just survive but thrive in a world where people are dying and the system seems/clearly is rigged against them. There are the two teen brothers and their mom who are trying to stay alive in a neighborhood where shootings are regular and as the film starts five people were shot just down the block. There is Judy, who is trying to keep her family afloat and save her bar before it’s snapped up by the creditors who have it in for her. Kevin, who is trying to keep the traditions of the Mardi Gras Indians alive. And there is the local Black Panthers, trying to fight the rampant racism and turn the community around.

Getting better as it goes on, WHAT YOU GONNA TO DO.... is rude wake up call for anyone who isn't living the life depicted...which is going to be the vast majority of the people seeing this film (especially at the New York Film Festival where this film played last year, which had a much too expensive ticket for anyone in the film to see). If you are not person of color living in financially desperate circumstance this film is going to be a jarring because you really don't know what it's like-- no matter how many TV news stories you've watched, New Yorker think pieces you've read or previous documentaries you've seen.

Five minutes in to the film it was clear we are nowhere near any sort of look at race and poverty in America that has come out previously. Yes, there have been other films, some observational, some political,but there have been very few as immersive and as powerful as this. We are in the lives of these people for better and worse. There are no grand triumphs just the endless fight to remain safe.

Truthfully I am beyond words. Partly because of the films power and largely because I don't feel that I have any right to say anything about the film. I am a white male, thus part of the problem. What right do I have to say anything about what is in the film?  Even saying I am a film writer does not give me the sort of credibility to say anything other than "Just see this film".

See this film not just because it is good but because if you are a caring human being you need to know how wrong things really are.

One of the most important films you will see in this or any other year.

WHAT YOU GONNA DO WHEN THE WORLD'S ON FIRE? opens on 8/16 at Film at Lincoln Center, 8/23 at the Maysles Documentary Film Center and 9/6 in LA (Laemmle Glendale) followed by a national release via KimStim

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Scary Movies 12 starts Friday

Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies starts this week and we are so much better for it. Over the last 12 plus years the series has brought us some of the best horror films from around the world. The choices are so good that I still discuss films like Village of Shadows or Stakeland a decade on. In all honesty Scary Movies may now be the absolute best programmed festival at Lincoln Center for the last three or four years running. I don’t say that lightly, since Lincoln Center is the home of the New York Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival and New Directors New Films. However where those other fests have ups and downs, every year I walk out of Scary Movies completely happy with everything I’ve seen….

And this year no exception. I’ve seen most of the new films and I’ve really liked all of them. There are some genuine scares here and if you can you should make an effort to see them all- on the other hand if you need a cheat sheet might a recommend:

ALL THE GODS IN THE SKY is a fucked up film. This tale of a brother taking care of his injured sister while waiting for the aliens to come starts off kilter and then goes to disturbing places. Its horror will mess you up.

FERAL is one of the best found footage films out there. The story of a man who adopts a wild child only to have it go wrong is so good at aiming the documentary form there is a chance it could have fooled a documentary festival programmer.

BLACK CIRCLE has two sisters listen to a hypnosis record and open up the doors between dimensions. A solid throwback to early 1980’s Euro-horror it’s a disturbing ride to the dark side.

The festival is also playing some retro films which I am not going to get around to reviewing in full so here are some capsules:

COPYCAT starts Sigourney Weaver as a psychologist who refuses to go outside helping to catch a serial killer who copies other killers. It’s a film that has divided audiences over the last 25 years with people loving it or hating it. In today’s world the fact that the two leads are women (Holly Hunter is the lead detective) might cause some to consider if that is a reason as to it’s worth, but for me the question has always been is the mystery compelling. I’m not so sure. But if you’ve never seen the film you should take a look.

The fest is running a giant bears on the rampage double feature which unfortunately I have to miss.

PROPHECY is an environmental nightmare film about pollution turning bears into mutants and attacking a family on vacation. Pushed like mad before it came out it opened to scathing reviews (one called the bears walking canned hams) and it drifted in to a kind of cinematic infamy. Despite the reputation as a turkey the film is, if taken on its own terms, a pretty good monster thriller. High art? No but entertaining in a popcorn movie sort of a way.

GRIZZLY is a great deal of fun. It’s a rip off of Jaws but with a grizzly bear. The only way to review this is to say-If that intrigues you buy a ticket, if not stay away.

Scary Movies runs from August 16 to 21. For more tickets and information go here

Millennium Actress is playing August 13th and 19th as a Fathom Event

This piece was written days after  anime director Satoshi Kon died of pancreatic cancer at age 46. While his filmography isn't extensive, the quality of what he left behind is powerful and all worth watching. With MILLENNIUM ACTRESS playing in theaters on August 13th and 19th as a Fathom Event I'm reposting the review.
Documentary filmmaker Genya Tachibana and his cameraman Kyoji Ida meet up with legendary actress Fujiwara Chiyoko. When Chiyoko was a teenager, two things happened: she was courted by a movie studio and met a young man who was on the run from the law. These two events set the rest of Chiyoko's life's course. As the movie progresses, the filmmakers begin to find themselves interacting with scenes from both Chiyoko's life and her movies.

Millennium Actress, in some ways, feels like Satoshi Kon's most personal film. It's the only of his full-length films to not be based on any pre-existing material (while Tokyo Godfathers is his story, it's still recalling the Western The Three Godfathers). It's a love-letter to cinema -- especially Japanese cinema -- and how movies allow someone to live on after their death.

So watching it now is especially poignant.

One of the things I love about this movie how fluid the reality is. Satoshi Kon never felt the need to explain just when and where everyone was, but just let it happen. There is something of dream logic to the movie, but it's more like how one memory will lead to another. In a tragic scene from World War II, the young cameraman asks "Is this science fiction?" believing it to be a scene from one of Chiyoko's movies. Likewise, moments from Chiyoko's real life -- interactions with her husband and mother -- are interpreted as movie scenes.

As things change from moment to moment, it becomes less about what is happening and more about what it means. For Chiyoko, she's been chasing after a man for her whole life, but she understands it's more she was chasing herself. For Tachibana, it's about how he wanted to reach out to the woman he'd always admired -- and loved -- from a distance. For the audience, it's a beautiful meditation on growing older, on cinema and art, and on Japan itself.

Kon was often asked why he worked in animation when his movies could just as easily be live-action. I always thought that was a silly question. Watching his movies -- especially this one -- make it clear that animation is the perfect choice for what he was doing. It's more immediate and more personal. It allows him to jump from time to time without it being jarring, and allows the audience to get lost in what Kon is conveying.

It's impossible to know what Satoshi Kon would've done had he lived, but we can be thankful for what he has done. Even though his catalog isn't extensive, it's deep and influential for what it is. Millennium Actress seems to be the one of his films that tends to get overlooked, and undoubtedly, it's his most quiet and calm. I do find it to be his most beautiful and the one I want to revisit the most. I found myself unexpectedly crying when I watched it tonight -- not just for what could have been, but for what it is.

Satoshi Kon will be missed, but we were lucky to have what he's left behind.

Exit 0 (2019) Chain Film Festival

Billy and Lisa are a couple traveling back to toward his old home town in the hope of mending a broken relationship. Stopping at a nearby inn things begin to go a little weird for Billy as the place brings back odd feelings. Things really go wonky when discovers video tape of a kidnapping and rape...

Disappointing thriller never quite works. Yes the performances are good and the film has great small town feel but the script is derailed from the start by making Billy a character that never works. Beginning right at the start with some left field behavior (Did you tell your mother I said hi? Text your mother I said hi) and then getting worse we never have any sense of him as a normal person. Who was he before the trip? We don’t know. As a result he is weird to begin with and only gets worse with the result we never really like him. More importantly we never really understand why Lisa is with him. She seems so normal that you don’t know why she is with this crazy guy. Worse the film then moves through some twists and turns that touch on cliché.

While neither particularly bad, nor really good, the overriding feeling while watching the film is “this just isn’t working and it should”.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Last Witness (2019) Chain Film Festival

You would have thought the British government would have learned their lesson on appeasement, but apparently not. It has only been a few short years since the end of WWII, but the new Labour government is determined to avoid embarrassing the Soviets. The last thing they want to do is open a formal inquiry into the 1940 mass murder of 22,000 Polish prisoners of war, police officers, community leaders, and clergy in the Katyn Forest. However, a disillusioned journalist will try to force their hand when he discovers a fugitive dissident who saw enough to set the historical record straight in Piotr Szkopiak’s The Last Witness, which August 13th at the Chain Film Festival.

Stephen Underwood did not serve in the war, due to a childhood injury that left him blind in one eye. His brother John rose up through the ranks, becoming a captain, but he still feels guilty, because he caused the accident. Captain Underwood is assigned to a Polish displaced person’s camp. The mood there is quite bad, since the British government no longer recognizes the Polish government in exile. Despite the respect accorded to Col. Janusz Pietrowski of the Polish Home Army, the British government would much prefer to see the Polish asylum seekers return home, where they would surely be imprisoned or worse.

This is especially true of Mason Mitchell, a young, fast-tracked British Home Office official. Underwood does not think very much of him. The reporter happens to be engaged in an affair with his wife, Jeanette, who is also serving at the Polish camp. Her husband does not much care about such things, but he would never divorce her, for social and professional reasons. One day, Underwood spies a Russian trying to pass for a Polish refugee. Intrigued, he discovers that man was a farmer outside of Smolensk, who witnessed uniformed Polish soldiers executed by NKVD and Russian military personnel, rather than the Germans, as the Soviets claimed until 2010. Unfortunately, his interest also draws the attention of Soviet agents.

Szkopiak’s film strictly focuses on the cover-up rather than the war crime, unlike Andrzej Wajda’s Katyn, which encompasses both. However, it is important to keep in mind both filmmakers had direct connections to the massacre. Wajda’s father was murdered by the Soviets, whereas for Szkopiak, it was his grandfather. Arguably, Katyn was Wajda’s final masterwork, whereas Last Witness is essentially a dark but largely conventional thriller.

Yet, Szkopiak’s screenplay, co-written with Paul Szambowski, is bursting at the seams with fascinating political nuggets that are true to the historical record. The so-called “O’Malley Report” really exists and the British government most definitely did its best to suppress it. Even more provocative are the hints that Mr. Mitchell is perhaps a contemporary of the Cambridge Five and their treasonous ilk. Frankly, there are aspects of this film that will be too smart for some viewers and too honest for others.

Alex Pettyfer’s performance as the civilian Underwood is grimly reserved and tightly disciplined. It is impressive in its way, but it probably would have better served the film in a supporting role rather than the primary lead. Henry Lloyd-Hughes makes Mitchell unambiguously slimy, while keeping viewers guessing on several other points. Will Thorp gives the film steely gravitas as Col. Pietrowski (perhaps his best work to date), while Robert Wieckiewicz is terrific as the man who knew too much (a more complicated role than one might assume).

Periodically, we give lip service to the truth as a higher ideal when it helps grind our political axes, but too often, the commitment is disingenuous and short-lived. Katyn is a case in point. Putin is doing his best to walk back the Russian government’s official declaration of guilt, to the complete disinterest of our factionalized media. This is therefore a timely and much needed film in many ways, but it also functions as a gripping (and galling) historical thriller. Highly recommended, The Last Witness plays August 13th at the Chain Film Festival.

Motherland (2019) Chain Film Festival

Motherland is a portrait of various people who were or are still living in the city of Pripyat, the city outside of Chernobyl. They relate their stories of what happened when the reactor exploded and their lives now.

A much too large a tale to be told in only half an hour, Motherland cries out for a feature. (That’s a rave ladies and gentlemen)

I say this since the film is so full of great stories that seemed rushed that you’ll want to contact director Colby Blackwill and ask him about all the stories outside of the women who are still living in the containment zone. I want to know more about the kindergarten teacher who fled early when he friend realized they had to go after he witnessed the explosion while fishing or about the woman who works on containing the reactor and trains back and forth to work. These are tales outside of the typical ones we hear and as a result we gain a greater insight to what happened via the same old tales.

I loved this film a great deal and highly recommend it- and hope there is a longer version down the road.

For tickets and more information go here

Friday, August 9, 2019

Chain Film Festival Capsule reviews TIGHT SPOT, LIMBS, and CLEAN ICE

These three films are playing together in the Shorts Block playing Sunday at 415pm at the Chain Film Festival, so I've grouped them together.

TIGHT SPOT
While his customer is on the phone a shoe shine guy discovers his customers secret.
I can't say more because this is a quick tale that's all about where it goes. Definitely worth a look.

LIMBS
A puppeteer who has spent years playing an arm finds out she is not going to be going along when the show moves. Good little drama makes me wonder what happens next.

CLEAN ICE
Handy man at a run down ice rink ponders what his future is.
Excellent little drama is nicely impossible to describe. I could tell you what happens but then you'd miss the ride. I'm not being coy in saying that, rather I'm expressing the fact that the whole film hinges on the closing moments and I can't discuss it without giving it away and I really can't do that.
Worth a look


For tickets and more information go here

J CITY HEIGHTS: BEAR AND BITCOIN (2019) Chain Film Festival

Third episode of an internet series J CITY HEIGHTS about a guy and his best friend, who is a bear, who trying to get some stolen bit coin back only to find out that there is some sort of alien conspiracy involved... maybe.

Amusing comedy is funny in fits and starts, but is the sort of thing you really need to see as part of a sequence (I should have seen the previous episodes first). There are things going on that I know are supposed to be jokes but because they seem to be situational assume I've seen the previous episodes in the series. I have not, and I suspect my lack of love for the film is a result of that.

Reservations aside this is worth a look, but this is going to play better of you see the other J CITY HEIGHTS  episodes first.

For tickets and more information go here

Ghost In The Graveyard (2019) Festival of Cinema NYC

Lush looking horror film concerns a teenage girl who returns home and is seeming haunted by the ghost of her young friend who died a decade earlier when she fell in an open grave a during a late night game of ghost in the grave yard. Her return also coincides with a series of murders that may or may not be connected.

Beautifully shot horror film has images worthy of being hung on the wall. This is a stunning looking film whose images create a wonderful sense of life in a small town.

Unfortunately the film never generates any scares. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the story, it’s more a collection of technical choices that work against it such as the lush visuals which make the town and graveyard inviting, a too intrusive score and an over reliance on shock scares that are too telegraphed (often by the intrusive score) to work.

I was disappointed.

Ghost in The Graveyard plays at the Festival Cinema NYC tonight. For tickets and more information go here

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Super short review: Horror Anonymous (2019) Chain Film Festival

Horror Anonymous
Wickedly funny horror comedy about a Horror Anonymous group that goes side ways.
Short sweet and wickedly funny - especially if you are or know obsessive horror fans.

Playing with the excellent MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY on Sunday tickets and more information can be had here

Percht (2019) Chain Film Festival 2019

Two travelers end up in a bar on a night when the men of a village dress up as Krampus and go through the village looking to scare children. The pair ends up in a drinking game with one of the revelers and things take a turn…

Good drama/thriller that is kind of hard to discuss without spoiling anything since the whole film hinges on the end bits which color what went before.

I can say the film is fantastically acted and gorgeously shot. All hings considered, the technical aspects and the storytelling, make me chomping at the bit to see what the director could do with a feature, especially something similar to this winning little confection

For tickets and ore information go here

My Soul To Keep (2019) Festival of Cinema NYC

Young boy thinks there is a monster in the basement that is trying to steal his soul so he begins to make preparations for a fight. When his parents leave him with a baby sitter the monster comes to call.

Destined to scar generations of kids into never going into the basement My Soul To Keep is best described as a Home Alone like horror film where the hero fights a shadowy demon. It is going to play best with the younger crowd. Expertly made the film generates suspense but no real scares with a plot that at times seems more interested in being like the aforementioned Home Alone or Goonies than a balls to the wall horror film. While there is nothing wrong with this, and while I was completely entertained by the film, I would have liked a chill or two.

Recommended for adults with a nostalgic sweet tooth or kids who want to dip their toe into the pool of horror.

MY SOUL TO KEEP plays the Festival of Cinema tomorrow (8/9). For tickets and more information go here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Super 8 Time Machine (2019) Chain Film Festival

This 40 minute "short" is a collection of the compiler's super 8 shorts from when he was a teenager and young adult.  In one film dolls and toys amount a take over of the world, another is a spoof of a cooking show, another is fake documentary about New York, another is a film made for a friend and the final one are the remaining bits of a spoof of Shaft called Shift.

An interesting collection of films is ultimately a hit or miss affair with some being better (the dolls film and fake documentary) than the rest. Its kind of hard to really critique the films since they were probably never intended for mass consumption. On the other hand there is something here at times and had the filmmakers not been so goofy they may have made some truly great films beyond the dolls story.

As a former super 8 filmmaker I was intrigued and was tempted to pull out my fils and see if they hold up as well as these.

While not for all tastes it is an interesting look at a time gone by when amateur filmmakers had to do more than pull out their cellphone.

For tickets and more information go here

My Comic Shop Country (2019) Chain Film Festival

If you love comics or if you’ve ever hung out in a comic shop then you really need to see Anthony Desiato‘s MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY. The film is a glorious celebration of not so much comic books, but the people and community that they bring together. It follows director and podcast host Desiato as he travels across the country to visit 20 different comic shops to talk to owners, shoppers, and comic creators about everything that makes comic book shops so cool.

I love this film.

Part of the love comes from the fact the film made me reconnect with a whole bunch of my comic loving crazies. Right after I started the film I was stopping the film to make a long distance call to my friend Ken to find out if the Las Vegas shop was his shop. And then not long after that I was calling John and Randi to tell them that their favorite comics shop Escape Pod in Huntington NY was in the film. As more shops were visited more calls happened as I called up friends to say “hey remember when we went to ----? Well it’s in this movie”

A good part of the film involves a discussion of the economics of the comic industry. As someone who has danced in and around comics all my life I finally got a peak into what it takes to run a comics shop beyond being just plain crazy. It was something I was always curious about and now I know. If you ever wanted to understand what it takes to run a shop and do it well, this film will tell you. While it may be too much for some for others it will be a reason to go in and hug your comics person for making it all work.

Mostly what I love about the film is that the film beautifully shows us what the comics community is at its best. I love how we get a sense of a place that people can go and hang out. As someone explains it was a place where he could go and hang out and be with people and the older kids would talk to them about something they loved. I love that the film shows us that what makes the comic shops work  which is a sense of family. Desiato gets it right.

And I have to give Desiato a hand for including a discussion of women in comics shops. While part of me wants to ask him why he didn't go into a bigger discussion, I realize that ultimately that a discussion of the comics shops and women needs to be an entire film. For now I will happily take his discussion as part of the bigger picture of acceptance of everyone.

While I love this film and its reflection of comics culture, I’m not going to assume how this will play for people who are not comically inclined.(The films one real flaw is that it can be a tad insidery at times).  That is not a knock but more a statement that I am too far into comics to be able to adequately judge how someone who is on the outside will react. Hopefully this will bring more people to the fold, or at least give a greater understanding to those who are don’t know what to make of us crazies who love comics.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves comics. Definitely suggested for everyone else.

This is one of the best comics docs I’ve run across.

MY COMIC SHOP COUNTRY plays Sunday at the Chain Film Festival. For tickets and more information go here.