Thursday, October 31, 2019

Red Letter Day Film Review

After her divorce single mother Melanie Edwards (Dawn Van de Schoot) moves herself and her two teens, Madison (Hailey Foss) and Timothy (Kaeleb Zain Gartner) to a quant suburban town. One seemingly normal morning turns their lives upside down when the family receives three mysterious red letters in the mail instructing them to kill their neighbors or suffer the consequences.
The thought of an event such as Red Letter Day happening in real life is scary. Social media has an enormous amount of influence on people. If a company or an influencer says jump the general public says “how high?” That’s a lot of responsibility and control over people. This movie takes a look into what would happen if there was a case of mass hysteria in the world today. Technology can be our greatest asset but in wrong hands it can also lead us down the path of destruction.
I believe that Red Letter Day will soon be compared with the Univeral Studios film The Purge. Although I have seen the first film in the Purge series I wasn’t a fan and found that the entire movie seemed very forced and didn’t meet my expectations. Although Red Letter Day is similar in plot and tone I think it is far superior. This film takes the more realistic, psychological thriller route and that to me was a brilliant approach.
Generally speaking I tend to have bigger expectations for horror movies and psychological thrillers than any other genre. The reason for this is that these films have way more wiggle room when it comes to making an impression. If I’m watching a historical drama I want to feel the emotion of the characters. I want to feel as though I’m in that time period if only for a few hours. The same applies to horror except I want to be scared. I don’t need gore in a film to be frightened and this film is a great example of how a realistic situation can be scarier than horror classics such as Dawn of the Dead.
Red Letter day is a superior genre piece that dives deep into the human psyche. If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers I think you’ll love this movie. I give this film a 10/10. I was very impressed by Writer and Director Cameron Macgowan. Macgowan is known for his short films and this is his first full length feature. I have no doubt that with talent like his we will see more of his work in the future. Red Letter Day will be released by Epic Pictures under the label Dread on Blu-Ray and VOD November 5.

The Haunted Swordsman (2019)

After failing to stop a demon that killed his master a samurai is sent on a quest of vengeance with only a living severed head for company.

This puppet animated short film is one of the best horror films you'll see all year.  A stunning piece of cinematic story telling it puts  most live action films to shame. Creating a tactile world of monsters and men, everyone on screen feels like a fully formed character who are on a very real and suspenseful quest. Think of this as spiritual cousin to the Dark Crystal but with ghosts and samurai.

If there is any sort of flaw in the film it is that this is very clearly only a small portion of the tale. Beginning on a very real cliff that our hero is scaling in order to find the Black Monk, the film races along to a logical breaking point...which still leaves a huge portion of the tale untold.

I am in awe of this film. This is what the movies were supposed to do, take us to some place else and tell us wondrous stories. I just hope that director Kevin McTurk can be convinced to continue the tale... assuming he can find the financing to do so.

One of my favorite films THE HAUNTED SWORDSMAN is a must see.

The film is currently on the festival circuit so keep an eye out for it.

The Confirmation (2019)

Heartfelt short film takes place on the day of Mathias's confirmation. He just wants to be like any other teenage boy, however his mother is  aware that his being transgender may result in complications.It is about the struggles between mother and son that result when the mother tries to protect her child from the world. While it is something that is done out of love causes all sort of unexpected turns.

That the film doesn't spiral out into soap opera is due in large part to Ellen Hillingsø as the mother and Xean Peake as the son, who always mange to keep the relationship real and centered.  It is because of their bond that the film transcends being just a story to pass the time into something much deeper and richer that hangs with us well after the film has finished.

Currently on the festival circuit, it has qualified for Oscar short  film consideration and is worth your time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Ai WeiWei Yours Truly (2019) DOC NYC 2019

AI WEIWEI YOURS TRULY is a great film. It is a near perfect look at WeiWei’s art installation that took place on Alcatraz Island.

The exhibition was put together in the hope of highlighting the plight of 100 political prisoners and those of conscious across the globe. Spread around the island It consisted of a giant dragon kite center piece, around which it used the prison to highlight what it means to be a prisoner, as well as giving a place for the words of the various prisoners to be heard. Visitors could then write postcards to the prisoners, some of which we see delivered.

The film charts the course of Weiwei’s exhibition of initial inception through its creation, exhibition and beyond the film let’s us into Weiwei’s creative process unlike almost any other film. We are there at every step watching how it was made, listening to the discussions of what he and the organizers hoped to achieve and most importantly, and uniquely, the effect it had on the people who saw it and those highlighted.

I am kind of in awe of this film. It’s so good that I’ve been working on this piece for the better part of a week. Normally I can get a piece together in a day or so, but with YOURS TRULY there has been this need to make sure the words are all right. Weiwei did something special so I want my piece to at least be the best that I could do.

This is for the most part a super record of an Ai WeiWei project and how it affects both the people who see it and the people it is about. Watching WeiWei put the piece together long distance is something amazing. How he can manage to create such a magical piece of art when he is thousands of miles away is amazing. Equally amazing is watching his mental wheels spin coming up with a way to engage his audience. How do we draw in the young? Make portraits of the prisoners out of Lego. It may sound like something stupid, but when we see the family of one Arab Spring leader Ahmed Maher there are baskets of Lego in the house.

What makes this film truly magical is that not only do we get to see the words of the various prisoners of conscious move those in the exhibition, we also get to see the words of the visitors on the prisoners. The film very clearly shows us that they are moved that their actions have moved people across the globe. The fact that director Cheryl Haines takes the time to show us how words can move people and give hope is stunning. I got teary watching watch some of the most moving moments in any film all year

This is one of the great films of the year. A must see at DOC NYC.

AI WEIWEI YOUR TRULY plays November 10 at DOC NYC. For more information and tickets go here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Blood in the Snow 2019 Lineup!

The biggest celebration of Canadian horror is back with a fresh slate of northern chills! Blood in the Snow (BITS) 2019 takes place from November 21 to 26 at the Royal Cinema in Toronto.  With six nights of the best horror fare in the nation, including feature films, shorts, webseries, and the newly added podcast category, BITS 2019 is set to be our most exciting year yet.

The Festival opens with the comedy slasher PUPPET KILLER (dir. Lisa Ovies), featuring BITS alumni Gigi Saul Guerrero (The Purge, Culture Shock). A group of teenagers must discover if the psychotic killer stalking them is their emotionally damaged friend, or his murderous childhood toy.

BITS veteran Audrey Cummings (Darken, Berkshire County) returns with SHE NEVER DIED, the followup to 2015’s He Never Died staring Oluniké Adeliyi as the cannibalistic immortal Lacey, who must face her own inner demons while simultaneously finding her next meal.

Also returning is THE NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS (dir. Paul Tanter) where we revisit the killer couple of Santa and Mrs. Claus for another murderous rampage in this follow up to 2017’s Once Upon a Time at Christmas.

Montreal filmmakers Chris Bavota and Lee Paula Springer (Even the Darkness has Arms) make their feature BITS debut with DEAD DICKS, which took home the audience award for best Canadian feature for its world premiere at this year’s Fantasia Film Festival. 
Other feature debuts are the award winning HAPPY FACE (dir. Alexandre Franchi), UFO conspiracy film MAJIC (dir. Erin Berry) and the long-awaited werewolf thriller HUNTER'S MOON (dir. Matt Campagna). 
The Festival closes with Z (dir. Brandon Christiensen), starring Keegan Connor Tracy (Bates Motel), about a family terrorized by their son’s imaginary friend.
BITS 2019 features three new short film showcases:

FUNNY FRIGHTS sees the return of BITS alumni Ryan LaPlante (DON'T SNEEZE)Ryan Couldrey (THE TRAINEE), as well as debuts from Kelsey Bollig (ASKING FOR A FRIEND), Anik Jean (BE GOOD), and Nada Cosovic (VIDEO VENGENCE).

EMERGING SCREAMS features emerging Canadian filmmakers including the return of Kaw Tay Whee School (Frostbite) with SNACK TIME! We also see BITS’s first film from Newfoundland with NEW WOMAN directed by Benjamin Noah and the first from Nunavut with TRASH by Suzanne Ethridge.

DARK VISIONS takes a moodier tone with shorts including ROMI by Robert CuffleyABHORRENT directed by Davis ScottDREAMCATCHER from Michael Alexander Ucello, and FORET NOIRE by Jean-Marc E. Roy and Philippe David Gagné.

Our web series program returns as well as a newly introduced feature length web series program with the World Premiere of Sci-Fi series DEEP SIX (dir. Davin Lengyel), sponsored by the Independent Production Fund.

The festival closes with our yearly “Bloodies” awards show followed by the exclusive World Premiere of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD VR, both presented by Hollywood Suite. BITS fans will be able to try out this 360 degree virtual reality experience at our closing party at the Monarch Tavern. For the first time ever, fans will be able to interact inside the virtual version of the original house from the 1968 classic film by the late George A. Romero.

BITS 2019 is presented in partnership with Telefilm Canada and the Independent Production Fund and sponsored in part by McCam Insurance, Hollywood Suite, Spacefy, FlexDay, Henderson Brewing and the Peacock Public House and Pub.

Full Lineup and tickets available now at www.bloodinthesnow.ca

About Blood in the Snow
Now in its 8th year, the Blood in the Snow Film Festival (“BITS”) is a unique and imaginative showcase of contemporary Canadian horror, genre, and underground cinema, that exists to challenge social boundaries, explore artistic taboos, and support and exhibit independent Canadian genre media artists.

Badland (2019) opens Friday

The highest praise I can give BADLANDS is that fifteen minutes into the film I wanted stop watching it and start again with my dad. I wanted him to see this meaty western drama, and had I not been watching the film at 11pm at night I would have reconvened watching it in the living room. However since it was late enough that my dad had retired for the evening and because I wanted to see how it came out I pressed on and had a good time on my own.

Badland is the story of Matthias Breecher, a Pinkerton detective sent to track down several notorious Confederate war criminals who fled west after the Civil War. In the course of tracking down the wanted men he has run ins with his frenemy Wes Studi. Another bounty hunter, as well as several women, one of which maybe a reason to stop his endless wandering.

This is a big meaty film plays more like a western novel than a typical Hollywood film. Broken into four chapters the film clearly has more on it’s mind than just telling a rip roaring tale. Notions of friendship, crime and punishment, forgiveness and moving on all play a role. The film fills it’s almost 2 hour run time with characters and drama and not just action. While Beecher's quest is what drives the film, the goal of the film is not just revenge or justice but things more human and more apropos to every day life. We are all not going to be tracking down killers, but we are all struggling with what is important in life.

I liked BADLANDS a great deal. Actually I liked it so much that I watched it again with my dad. (That’s high praise folks so go watch it.)

Eminence Hill (2019)

A outlaw and his gang come upon a homestead, kill the husband and wife before riding off with their daughter.  They are chased by a US Marshal who springs a former member of the gang to help him track them down...

A good cast is lost in a badly made movie. Looking like any other low budget films that are quickly churned out for a profit the film has no sense of reality anywhere in it, only the sense that it was made fast and and with only profit on it's mind instead of love. Yea its competent, to a point, but never believable.

Worse the billing of the leads Lance Henriksen, Barry Corbin and Dominique Swain is largely misleading in that Henriksen only appears in a single scene an hour in, Corbin is pure support as a member of a cult the outlaws encounter and While Swain plays one of the outlaws, she is off screen for a chunk of the film and seems to be phoning it in when she is required to act.

What kills me is is that had a little love been shown the story this could have been a good film. The lot is pretty good, the twists far from cliche and most of the performers aren't bad. Sadly the producers and the directors cut their own legs off to get a couple of bucks out of an unsuspecting public.

Not recommended, EMINENCE HILL hits theaters Friday and home video next week. Do yourself a favor and don't waste your money on it.

Monday, October 28, 2019

One of the years very best films Gay Chorus Deep South starts in LA on Wednesday and Friday in New York

One of the truly great films of 2019 World premiered  at the Tribeca Film Festival, GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH is glorious celebration of the human spirit to build bridges and change minds and reconnect ourselves.

The film follows the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus as they make a tour of the Southern United States to the places that have the worst laws against LGBT people. They are joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The plan is build bridges between people through music.

I have no idea what to say. This film put me somewhere beyond words as tears streamed down my cheeks. The real raw motions of the men and women touched me deeply as they explained their pain, their fear of going back and the joy of reconnecting with families they thought might have been totally lost to them. No, things are not one hundred percent better but doors are cracked open.

Kudos to director David Charles Rodrigues for fashioning a film that is always emotionally perfect by letting us not only get to know the men in the chorus but the people in the towns and along the way such as the various men's family or the three young women, one of whom is afraid of fully coming out. By profiling all sides we get to see that perhaps there is a chance for change.

(And apologies for not discussing what happens but if I start to do so I will tell you everything and the film might seem a little less wondrous)

This film is an emotional masterpiece that must be seen- if for nothing else it will restore your sense of hope in the world.

One of 2019's best films

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Corpus Christi (2019)

Polish entry for the Oscars CORPUS CHRISTI packs a punch. The film is the story of a young man who has a spiritual  awakening while in prison and travels across the country when getting out. A lie suddenly has a small town believing that he is a newly ordained priest sent to their parish. As his heartfelt sermons attract more followers and begin to heal the town, his charade is in danger of being discovered.

Moving and heartfelt CORPUS CHRISTI is a stunner. A beautiful meditation on belief as well on life and how to live it the film sucks us in and drags us along. Full of wonderful characters director Jan Komasa and writer Mateusz Pacewicz give us people we can relate to as they spin out their tale. This is vital since in pondering the various themes running though the story, especially the notion of who gets to speak for god, we must  relate to the characters on the screen for it to have weight. The characters must be here on earth, sitting in in the seats around us and not on just be cardboard figures on the screen. Komasa and Pacewicz give us that in spades and we are so much better for it.

I will not speculate on the film's chance for Oscar gold other than to say if there is justice it will be in the mix. However, I will add that if Bartosz Bielenia is not in the running for a Best Actor statue then something is seriously wrong. Bielenia gives us his all and the result is a film of extreme intensity and life.  We not only see what he is going through but feel it because he forcibly grabs us by the throat and pulls us along making us feel every thing that he does so in the end we are just as bloody as he is. It is not just one of the great performances of 2019 but probably of the last decade as well.

CORPUS CHRISTI is a great film and a must see. I don't know what else to say beyond that.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

perfect getaway

Couple, Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, on their honeymoon in Hawaii run into trouble when they run across a couple of other couples deep in the jungle of the island. Something seems wrong with them and they begin feeling uneasy as a news report says that police are looking for the killers of couple that removed the teeth and fingerprints of their victims. Could one of the couples be responsible? David Twohy makes a good little thriller that has some nice twists and turns in it. Is it perfect? no, but it is a nifty little thriller that manages to generate a great seal of tension based on characters and situations. I was attracted to the film because I was told that the film had some good twists to it, twists that actually belonged in the film (as opposed to most films which have twists just to have twists even though they make no sense). I don't know if all of what happened surprised me, but at the same time what did happen felt right which helped.

Also helping is stunning photography which really makes you want to jump on a plane and go to the jungles yourself.

The cast is across the board great. I especially like that everyone plays it straight and real so you never feel that anyone is really hamming it up. I want to give this film points for giving Steve Zahn a role where he's not a complete nudnick.

If you like thrillers this is worth a shot. I don't know if its worth full movie prices to see but as a rental or on cable its worth the time and the effort.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Steve takes on Peshmerga (2016)

What if a philosopher made a war documentary? Bernard-Henri Levy has done just that and the result is Peshmerga about the Iraqi Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Iraq.

To be honest  Levy has made at least one other war doc, which I'm told is overly pretentious. Peshmerga does suffer from it's director's overly self indulgent navel gazing but at the same time the film does have an effect on it's audience.

The effect is due entirely to the you are there shooting of the film. Beginning with a POV shot of two men running in the desert which takes a sudden turn when one is blown up Peshmerga grabs it's audience by the throat and never lets you go.

I suspect at this point I should warn you that there are images in this film which will bother many. We see the war dead and some footage of the nastiness inflicted on people by ISIS. We see people die unpleasant deaths.

What makes the film stand out, and to some degree lessens the impact of the story is Levy's purple narration. Taking an intellectual stance that kind of puts him outside of the events in the film Levy spins the film in some intriguing ways that make you engage with the film with you brain and not just your gut. At the same time because some of the musings sound overly intellectual some of the connections to the heart are severed and we never completely engage on an emotional level. The upshot of which is that some of the raw visceral power that should cause us to act or react on what we are seeing. instead we look at the tale and nod to ourselves and say - oh isn't that terrible before moving on.

Of course that doesn't prevent the film from hanging around in your brain for several days forcing you to ponder it for a long time after.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Portals (2019) opens tomorrow

After man manages to make a black hole in a lab, there is a world wide blackout before the power goes back on. Soon after strange portals begin appearing everywhere with no one having any idea what they are or where they lead....

From that premise are spun four tales, the first that serves as bookends involving the scientists who created the black hole; the second concerns a family who chose to flee the chaos and end up hitting a portal with their car; the third concerns a 911 call center where the operators fear for loved ones, and then themselves when a portal appears in the room with them and lastly the events the occur in a parking garage in Thailand. The stories are all good to various degrees, with the best being the call center one which spins out before we know anything.

As things go this is one of the best portmanteau film in quite some time. While the stories are uneven to some degree, the tales that are best tell us the least, none of them are in anyway bad. The quality is simply a matter of personal preference. To be honest I found the more mysterious  one best because the mystery they create is so strong that whatever answers they provide can't live up to the expectation. That is not a knock, only a comment to explain why I love some parts more than others and why some parts are destined to be considered classic while others are just going to be liked.

Ultimately this is a scary little film and highly recommended.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Nate Hood's 400 Words on Parasite

In European folkore, there’s a race of fairies known as changelings who kidnap human babies and replace them with their own. These changelings might look human, but they're really monsters that steal the affections and attention of their unwittingly hostage parents as their real child disappears into the Land of Fey. Bong Joon-ho's Parasite wonders what would happen if a family of changelings moved into another unsuspecting family's home and one-by-one began to usurp them.

The film follows the Kims, an impoverished family of unemployed laborers who, through methods both clever and cruel, ingratiate themselves into the employ of the wealthy Park family: the son Ki-woo is hired to tutor the Park's teenage daughter, then convinces them to hire his "acquaintance" Ki-jeong (his sister) as an art tutor for their young son; Ki-jeong frames the Park's driver for sexual misconduct and "recommends" their father Ki-taek as a new chauffeur; the three then trick the impressionable Park mother into firing their housekeeper so their mother Moon-gwang can get hired in her stead. This is only the first act, and from there the plot twists and turns so unexpectedly that to even hint at what comes next would be cheating.

Joon-ho has long held a reputation for irreverent genre-blending, perhaps most notably with his kid’s-film/eco-thriller/tragedy Okja (2017). But here in Parasite the act of foiled and surprised expectations is itself central. It’s a film specifically about false surfaces (both figurative and literal), confidence games, and lies. But it’s also notable in its vision of class warfare, long one of Bong's causes célèbres. In his past films the line between rich and poor, powerful and powerless was demarcated by ruthless cruelty—consider Snowpiercer (2013) where the poor revolt against their bourgeois masters in a post-apocalyptic earth where their children are harvested as machine parts. But here the morality is muddled. Though impoverished, the Kims are wicked in their methods, hurting and even killing others for their own gain (even their fellow desperate proles!). Here Boon seems to channel fellow cinematic provocateur Luis Buñuel who always believed that, while the rich are bastards, the poor could be even bigger bastards. This film would make a perfect double feature with Buñuel's Viridiana (1961). Parasites have no morality, they must feed: on their hosts, on their world, and finally on themselves.

Rating: 8/10

Never Again is Now (2019) opens today on VOD

Never Again is Now is a look at the rise of anti-Semitism in world over the last few years the film follows filmmaker Evelyn Markus as she tries to find out what happened to bring about the hatred that fills so much of the world.

Once the film gets going, and focuses on the current feelings of anti-Semitism and it’s roots Never Again is Now fires on all cylinders. Taking the discussion into places that most other film haven’t gone the film finds that reasons behind the hatred are not as simple as many people would have us believe. For example notes that things began to change after the Arab Israeli wars of the 60’s and 70’s when Israel expanded it’s borders and the views of the country changed, and even the Liberal Left began to see the Israelis as something other than just good. As Markus notes the complex feelings that this created affected Jews all over the world as people instantly assumed they were Israeli in feeling. Markus also investigates the influx of Muslim immigrants as well as the fallout of 9/11. I love that a chunk of this film doesn’t follow the path so many other films have followed and that it broadens the discussion.

As good as the film is in places, in others the film seems to be spinning its wheels or going off the track. For example a good chunk of the first 20 to 30 minutes are filled with Markus family story in Germany and the soldiers who liberated them from the train to the gas chambers. Its definitely an interesting tale but it seems out of place in a film that is being billed as an exploration of the current state of the world. While I know that the story is the springboard for the tale, there is simply too much and until about the half hour mark I wasn’t sure what the focus was going to be.

However, as I said above once the film gets on track the film goes and as I said it takes the discussion into some places that we as an audience haven’t been before and as such is a compelling look at hatred in today’s world.

Recommended when the film hits Amazon streaming services

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The restored Downtown 81 opens Friday

Legendary painter Jean Michel Basquiat plays a just released painter who wanders across New York City, specifically the lower East Side trying to hawk his painting and running into interesting people.

Downtown 81 is a kind of curate’s egg of a film. As a “movie” a cinematic entertainment with a compelling full fledged narrative, the film is a mixed affair. Rambling scenes are interspersed with musical sequences where a band say Kid Creole and the Coconuts or DNA plays either in concert or in a recording studio. Some people just show up in semi-throwaway roles Debbie Harry appears as a fairy godmother. Jean, our hero is more often than not on the outside of things, he and a friend discuss trying to get into the Kid Creole concert while the Kid plays inside. The scenes are pretty much all amusing but they don’t really add up to much in a conventional narrative sense….

…on the other hand the film is stunning portrait of a time, 1981, and a place, the lower East Side. This is what the city was like and this is the arts scene that spawned groups like Blondie and the others that float through the film. No other work of fiction that I’ve run across has portrayed the city in all its tarnished glory. Yes there have been documentaries, but no work of fiction has so beautifully blended the trash strewn reality with the hopeful exuberance of the arts scene. People like Basquiat and all the performers were going to change the world with their art- and they did – and here they all are in their stunning hopefulness. It’s an absolute blast to watch.

I had a ball watching this film. Sure the film is flawed, but there is so much wondrous life living around the problems that you really don’t care. This is a film about life springing up in an unexpected place, a life that not only took root in New York in 1981, but in this film and ended up rooted so deeply that that its heart is not only flowering in this film but in all of our everyday lives.

Assuming you can take it on its own terms and as a time capsule it is highly recommended

A restored version of Filibus (1915) plays Anthology Film Archives Thursday10/24

I was intending on running a capsule review of FILIBUS in a couple of weeks with several other films but with a restored version playing Thursday in NYC I have decided to run it as a stand alone piece now. 

Italian serial about a  female super villain operating from a dirigible who takes on a  detective who is out to get her. She has multiple personalities and in one she courts the detectives sister. Grand adventure serial is more fluid and more action packed than many other films of the period. While there are moments that are patently odd the film still holds our attention with its wonderful sense that anything  is possible,

For tickets to the screening Thursday at the Anthology Film Archives go here

Monday, October 21, 2019

Human Lost: A Japanese Classic Becomes Dystopian Anime


Imagine Holden Caulfield living in a near-future science fiction world. Yozo Oba, the anti-hero of Osamu Dazai’s classic short novel No Longer Human is cut from similar cloth as Caulfield, but he also shares a kinship with some of Dostoyevsky’s angsty protagonists. To commemorate the Dazai’s centennial, some of Japan’s top anime filmmakers have transplanted Oba into the dystopian environment. He must contend with challenges that are far more dangerous than mere “phonies” in Human Lost, directed by Fuminori Kizaki & supervised by executive director Katsuyuki Motohiro, which Funimation will screen in select theaters nationwide this Tuesday and Wednesday.

In the future, human longevity has reached record lengths. Unfortunately, the quality of life has also hit an all-time low. Due to extraordinary advances in technology, the S.H.E.L.L. public health agency can patch up just about any injury or ailment. That means even suicide is no longer an escape from the toil must proles must endure. The only way out is the absolutely horrific phenomenon that afflicts the so-called “Lost,” who become disconnected from SHELL’s matrix and spontaneously transform into rampaging demons.

Yohiki Hiragi serves as both the PR face of SHELL and an agent of the sub-agency tasked with putting down the Lost. She is considered the second great evolutionary leaps forward, after the mad doctor who created SHELL in the first place. However, Oba, the neurotic, under-achieving artist, might just be the third. He will learn he has extraordinary powers when he joins his friend Takeichi, a non-conformist motorcycle gang member (and one of the few recognizable links to Dazai’s original novel) in a pointless and futile gesture of rebellion.

Human Lost will be particularly rewarding for viewers who have read Dazai and understand how it is being faithful to the spirit of his work and in what ways it completely lighting off into its own territory. The very concept seems impressively bold, because it is almost guaranteed to create controversy among purists. Pride and Prejudice with zombies is one thing, putting a character of Caulfield’s stature in a wildly over-the-top science fiction context is something else entirely.

Regardless, Kizaki and screenwriter Tou Ubukata build a richly complex world, especially in terms of social systems. It is to Ubukata’s credit that the Human Lost does not resemble the structure of Akira, Ghost in the Shell, or any of the many subsequent dystopian animes that followed them. However, the translation of many proper nouns sounds decidedly awkward. The third act climax also predictably crescendos with a maelstrom of cosmic energy crashing hither and yon.

Oba is indeed a fascinatingly complicated character. Hiragi is much more familiar archetype, especially to anime fans, but she has some genuinely poignant moments down the stretch. This is ambitious speculative fiction that never sugar-coats the implications of the sociological and scientific trends it posits. It also features some unusually good-looking CG-animation. Highly recommended for science fiction and anime fans, Human Lost screens across the country this Tuesday (10/22) with subtitles, and Wednesday (10/23) dubbed into English, including the AMC Empire in New York.

The Last Color (2019)

Chhoti is a young attorney wins the case of the widows who basically reduced to a living death where they are not allowed, according to tradition, to have any color in their lives. They want to be able to live life as they choose, and even partake in the Holi celebrations where colored powder is splashed around in celebration of the coming of spring. Taking news to the women she remembers back to her childhood when she made the acquaintance of  Noor, one such widow whose influence and friendship changed her life.

Stunningly beautiful, even in its occasional brutal scene, THE LAST COLOR is a visual stunner. Everything looks so spectacular that you really need to see this on a big screen where you can take in the visuals and truly get the sense of place. Honestly this is one of the best looking films I've seen in 2019 with several sequence and even more images burned into my brain.

That the film works as well as it does is due to the excellent cast. I don't think there is a bad performance anywhere in the film. However the whole film hinges on Neena Gupta as Noor and Aqsa Siddiqui as the young Chhoti. If you don't buy that they are deeply connected the whole film would collapse but they are spot on, and as a result form one of the great cinematic duos of the past decade or two. You can feel the love bleeding off the screen. The film is just okay but the film soars once the young Chhoti meets Noor. The bond between the pair is physical and when the young girl asks her friend if she can call her mother late in the proceedings there is a physical reaction in the audience that brings more than just a single tear.

The film while often playing like a heavy melodrama, is actually has a great deal on its mind It is a damning indictment of Indian society and the way tradition crushes the souls of the vast majority of people who are not male members of the patriarchy.Not only is the film dealing with the treatment of the widows the film also shows the ugliness faced by women in general, the homeless and transgender people.  It is a blow not only to the patriarchy but also by the police in general who are seen to be less than honorable in many cases.

This is a wonderful hidden gem that is worth your time and money.

THE LAST COLOR opens in theater in Los Angeles Friday.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Brooklyn Horror Fest - Koko-Di Koko-Da Film Review

After an unexpected tragedy Tobias (Leif Edlund) and his wife Elin (Ylva Gallon) embark on a trip together to try and rediscover their love for each other. Their time together doesn’t go according to plan after they are attacked by a strange man (Peter Belli) and his cohorts.
Koko-Di Koko-Da is an extremely artistic Swedish/ Danish film with English subtitles. Personally I absolutely loved this unexpected take on a commonly told story. A lot of films tell stories about couples who have endured tragedy and spend the rest of their lives trying to find their way back to each other. Most of these efforts tend to be rather bland and lack imagination. It is nice to see a film that sets itself apart from the genre.
It is my opinion that horror movies aren’t always about the monster under your bed or the haunted house in the neighborhood. Sometimes the scariest culprits are human. Imagine dreaming about what is going to happen to you and trying to change your fate. It’s a brilliant concept. Although this film is primarily horror there is a comedy element to it that is quite entertaining. It adds to the story without seeming forced or cheesy. When a story like this transforms itself it can come off as being quite messy. That is not the case here. Everything was very carefully thought out and planned. Each scene is a beautiful gateway that leads you to the next adventure.
One thing that I can tell you about Swedish culture is that the people are incredibly talented. They are natural born storytellers. When I first started watching this film I could tell right away it was by a Swedish filmmaker. I am a fan of the cinematography, music, and overall feel that Johannes was going for. It’s all perfect for the story it’s helping to create. Typically I like to give more information about a film when I’m reviewing it but because of this films artistic nature I didn’t want to give away too much of what makes this film so special. I loved this movie and I think if you enjoy Swedish cinema you will too. I give Koko-Di Koko-Da an 8/10. There were a few things I thought worked better than others but aside from that it’s a beautiful film that is done really well and I can’t wait for you to see it. Koko-Di Koko-Da is a part of Brooklyn Horror Fest 2019 and will premiere in New York and Los Angeles with a national release to follow this November.

Warriors Five (1962)

Five Italian soldiers run off into the country after Italy Surrenders to the Americans. The quintet run into an American soldier (played by Jack Palance) who was sent to blow up a bridge. Palance's men were killed when they landed in a minefield. When they run into a German held town where they are threatening to kill the men of the town if hidden American Soldiers aren't turned over the men decide to help Palance.

More war drama than war film is a nice change  of pace from the ordinary- that is assuming you don't go in looking for a balls to the wall action film. This is a film that shows what it must have been like when Italy was caught between warring parties. Recommended for those who want a change of pace with some action in the tail,

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Brooklyn Horror Fest Rock, Paper, and Scissors Film review

After the death of their father, Maria Jóse (Valeria Giorcelli) and her brother Jose (Pablo Sigal) receive an unexpected visit from Jose’s half sister Magdalena (Agustina Cerviño). Soon after her arrival Maria and Jose discover that She has plans to assist them by taking care of their fathers assets and property. Maria decides to take things into her own hands causing a chain of unfortunate events.
Rock, Paper, and Scissors is a very ambitious project from Argentina created by filmmakers Martín Blousson and Macarena García Lenzi. One of the films greatest assets is its actors. When the audience is first introduced to Maria and Jose they appear to be harmless. It isn’t until Magdalena’s arrival that we see a change in their behavior. There were a few scenes in this film that caught me off guard. When you are watching an film from Argentina the last thing you expect to see is Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz. Normally this type of reveal would never work in a film like this but because of the characters bizarre behavior it actually fits the story quite well.
It’s rare that you find a film that has a total of three characters without secondary characters to “beef up” the story line. Rock, Paper, and Scissors was created on a low budget. When you have a family that is going through hardships you need to have a certain type of atmosphere to make that believable. Adding too much of a budget to something like that would lessen the impact. People typically don’t think about how they would react in a crisis. You never know what you would truly be capable of unless you were put in a situation where your morals were tested. For many people, myself included, this is quite a scary realization.
Overall I think this film was pretty enjoyable. Some of the darker scenes reminded me of the Stephen King novel Misery, especially the scenes with Maria and Magdalena. I give Rock, Paper, and Scissors a 7/10. While I do think it had its fair share of problems it was still a great watch. I’d recommend this movie to anyone who is a fan of psychological thrillers and foreign cinema.