Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Report (2019)

Portrait of Daniel J Jones (Adam Driver) and his uncovering of the failure of CIA enhanced interrogation techniques (aka torture) to get information from detainees.

Bleak black and vaguely hopeful film about the evil the United State intelligence agencies did in the wake of 9/11 and how one man's dogged determination revealed it to the world. This is a kind of modern day All The President's Men tale as Jones is dropped into the lion's den and forced to cope with changes to the playing field as politics removes most of his staff, results in hacking of his computers and forces him to do end runs to make sure the report doesn't get buried. It a wonderful tale that gives hope in that we realize that some people don't give a damn.

At the same time the film doesn't shy away at showing Washington for what it is, which is a place where everyone moves toward what is politically expedient. Everyone is worrying about pleasing the powers that be either a boss or general public. And we also see that everyone is concerned with covering up their own ass as we see that some decisions regarding torture were never run past President Bush or other high level people because they might get cold feet. Most damning of all is the discussion that the CIA knew before 1979 that torture doesn't work, but went ahead with anyway because they were desperate and some new minds convinced them otherwise.

This is a deeply disturbing movie. Even knowing the story watching it play out before our eyes is a chilling affair. While the film can seem a tad dry at the start, it is firmly focused on the report and nothing else, the weight of events and the performances of the cast particularly Driver and Annnette Bening as Dianne Feinstein drag us along with their urgency.

Highly recommended. THE REPORT is now available on Amazon Prime

Thanksgiving Turkey: Specter of the Rose (1946)

Ben Hecht's major off the rails story about the possible murder of a ballet's star's first wife.

It's a very deliberate film full of beyond purple prose and performances that are way to over the top to be anything but deadly serious. Laughably bad, I sat staring at the screen for fifteen minutes wondering what the heck I was watching, unsure if I should be laughing or not- finally I just started to laugh and went with it...

I had no clue why anyone would chose to do this deliberately- especially when its some one who should know better. It was painfully awful in a way that only films that are supposed to be works of art can be. It's a film to make you go- you have got to be f-ing kidding me over and over again

Friday, November 29, 2019

The Connection (2019)

Cinematographer Troy Campione along with Jennifer Simon directs a script by his wife in the story of two women who meet in an airport by a row of massage chairs. An empty nester (writer Jill Campione) is harried and trying to make a flight when she is noticed by relaxing flight attendant (Debra Miller) who tells her to take a load off and relax a couple of minutes. As the massaging chairs work their magic the pair sort out growing older, being parents and life in general.

Small gem of a film is a real delight. While the film at first seems to be a a little too staged in the set up, the once the two women begin to talk any concerns about the start falls away and we have a marvelous little discussion by two world weary women who share some of their secrets of life. While the script most assuredly contains some nuggets of wisdom, it is the performances of the two leads that make this film work. They interplay between the women feels real and genuine with the result we fall into their conversation and by the end we are disappointed that the talk doesn't go on longer. The pairing of Campione and Miller is perfect and deserves a longer outing (perhaps in a feature?).

Helping a make this film shine is the excellent camera work by director Troy Campione. Normally it takes a great deal for me to pick up the work of a cinematographer but I’ve seen his work in several films and it is so good (in the right sort of way) that I've noticed his work. 

Campione's and Simon's direction is nicely unobtrusive. More often than not when faced with a simple tale of two people simply talking often results in directors over compensating, but here the the pair stays focused on that matters, the women at the center. As a result we fall into the discussion and are not distracted by the airport around them.

As a said above this is a small gem. Definitely worth seeing as the film makes its way across the festival circuit.

Enthusiastic Sinners

Enthusiastic Sinners is 24 hours in the life of a married cop who meets a widow on a call, feels an attraction and begins an affair that starts out lustful and which becomes something else by the end.

A frank slice of life this is a film that looks and feels like the way that two adults behave when they are crashing together. Long talks are interrupted by passionate sex. This is a film that feels more like a documentary about the people next door rather than a fictional tale. It’s so real that the while I was watching it I had to wonder why I was bothering because I was just watching the lives of two people play out over 90 minute… and then I would come to my senses and remember that that was the purpose, to see life as it is lived and not as Hollywood or writers tell us it should be shown.

This is a beautifully acted film . As is should be clear, it feels more lived in than acted. The couple is completely unaware of the camera (warning to the prudes this means full on nudity of both sexes and sex) and behave as if no one is watching. All acting should be like this.

The film is all stunningly beautiful with cinematographer squeezing visual works of art out of every shot. As much as this this film is real life on the screen the images are in fact something else entirely and belong on a museum wall.

Enthusiastic Sinners is a small gem and a must for anyone looking for a realistic love story and slice of life.

It is now available on iTunes.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Gideon of Scotland Yard (1958)

Seemingly odd choice John Ford film about a Scotland Yard detective over the course of a day. It's odd familial comedy bookending a day in the life.

Feeling very much like a John Ford film, it's a not particularly memorable film that feels more a construction than anything else, with all of the events set up so that something would happen for Gideon to do-and as for the finale- how could you not see that coming.

I can't really recommend it. It's not bad but I felt like I had kind of wasted the time it took to see it, partly because the film insists on tying everything up.

John Ford should have done better- if nothing else he should have been more interesting instead of just workmanlike and bland.

For John Ford completists or those who stumble upon it only.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thanksgiving Turkey: Robo Vampire (1988)

Another Godfrey Ho cut an paste job taking a Chinese hopping vampire movie and melding it with new footage about a drug enforcement agent brought back from the dead and sent to rescue some one- or something.

Beyond badly dubbed this is funny for all the wrong reasons. As happens with some of Ho's the cut up film at its center is strong enough to make amusing viewing.

I can't believe I said that about a Godfrey Ho film- but miracles do happen occasionally... unfortunately for me its never 350 million dollar lottery prizes.

For bad movie lovers only.

Thanksgiving Turkey: House of Horrors

Rondo Hatton as the Creeper in a story that was repeated so often that it's lost all its power (assuming it had any). Sculptor on the outs with critics rescues a drowning man (Hatton) who just happens to be a mad killer. He sends the killer off to kill the critics, but suspicion falls on another artist.

Its a lousy movie that seems more like a parody of itself. Sure it's nice to see Hatton, and while he pretty much played the same role in everything, this is probably his weakest attempt at it. It was so bad I shut it off half way in.

Avoid this one

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

People of the Wasteland (2019)

People of the Wasteland, Official Trailer, Jouzour Film Production UG & Cinema Group Production, directed by Heba Khaled from Talal Derki on Vimeo.
How you react to People of the Wasteland is going to rest entirely with how you react to the was way the film is shot- namely as a first person trek through the wilds of Syria. The wide lens film is entirely from the POV of fighters who travels across the Syrian landscape. If you ever wanted to know what it was like in a war zone this film will give you a good idea.

To be honest the first person perspective was a mixed blessing for me. While the POV gave me a strong sense of being in the places we see, there were times when it also came me a headache with the jittery image messing with my head. I occasionally looked away simply because the imagery bothered me. While I completely understand why the film looks as it does, I also understand that has problems. While I think the film is very good I think this would have been better as a VR film where it would have been even more environmental.

While it probably isn’t fair to discuss the look of the film before the film itself, it is unavoidable since with this film the look, the perspective is what sets the film apart.

As a film divorced of the look, People of the Wasteland is quite good. Its  "you are there" and in your face look at what it takes to travel in a war torn country this film can’t be beat. I say this because while what we see is edited, there is less manipulation of the footage than might be in a typical documentary. What  we see is  happening before us and not assembled from various shots. Wee see the good and the bad and we are better for it.

Worth a look.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Whispering Smith vs. Scotland Yard (1952)

Richard Carlson plays Steve Smith, a well known detective who goes to London for a vacation. He is harassed by a lovely lady to look into what appears to be an open and shut case of suicide, however he refuses to look into the matter until some one makes an effort to run the girl down in his presence. Smith then finds himself dropped down the rabbit hole as he tries to find out what is really going on.

Odd mix of romance and mystery has a great cast that includes Herbert Lom and other British stalwarts. The problem is that as good as they are and as menacing as they seem the plot implodes about 40 minutes in as it paints itself into a corner and then tries to get out. The writers unfortunately made some really odd choices that seem to be there only to keep the plot moving, for example we never know what one character looks like until the final dash to the end. Surely someone, anyone would have had a photo-say the police? It makes no sense.

Also not making a great deal of sense is the person behind it all who is revealed to be as insane as they come complete with a lip smacking eye rolling performance. We were suppose to buy this? I painfully limped to the ending vowing never to watch this film again.

(The running time of the print I saw was about 85 minutes long not the 77 listed in most reference material)

I suggest you avoid this.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Brief thoughts on Z (2019) Blood in The Snow

I really don't know what I think of Z. The film is the story of a family that is possibly being terrorized by the son's imaginary friend it gets very convoluted at times and I wasn't certain what was seeing so I don't know I thought.

For the most part the film holds our attention thanks to a cast that sells the story of a family in crisis. The trouble is there is a point where things start to become unclear. For better or worse there is moment where events stop flowing naturally and instead begin to be moved by the hands behind the camera. We can feel that we are being moved toward the chosen conclusion and it lessens the tension.

The end result is that Z is a film I liked but didn't love.

For more information and tickets go here.


Big budget swords and sandals comedy is a mess. A good looking film where they spent a good amount of money, that falls flat with jokes that don't land but crash through the pavement and land in the sub-basement. The plot has something to do with Colossus and his buddy (a slumming Rod Taylor) going on a voyage and ending up in the land of amazons. After much intrigue something happens. Yea I love the sword and sandal genre but some films, like this just stinks to high heaven

Held by some to be the worst sword and sandal film, this film is damn close. It has something to do with a city of women enslaving men to work in the mines and fight for their amusement. They also kidnap women to train as warriors. In to the mix comes Thor who upsets it all. Cheap sets, weak action and 1960's style dress mix for a film that really just doesn't work. I put this film on one night and ended up riffing it more mercilessly than than the guys on MST3k ever would have.

Blood in the Snow 2019 Shorts: Le otto dita della morte, ROMI, UTUKKE, TO NO MOAN'S LAND, SHE MUST VANISH and NEW WOMAN

A woman's life is made hellish when her virtual assistant dredges up a past tragedy. An interesting idea kind of goes off the rails at some point as the line between not explaining too much and not explaining enough get crossed in the wrong direction. I've watched the short a couple of times to see why the film didn't click with me and while I understand what happens and why there doesn't seem to be enough back story to justify what happens, with the very end not quite working on an emotional level.

Bullied girl in high school uses voodoo to exact revenge. The first thing I should say is that this is not a bloody ugly revenge tale but something else. Yea its a revenge tale but how it goes and where it ends up is not what I expected...and as a result I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that I immediately watched it a second time so I cold take it in on its own terms. Those terms make for something low key and special, and containing a great deal of suspense. Recommended.

Pilot episode for a prospective series about an intergalactic troubleshooter who gets mixed up in political intrigue. There is a reason I loath to review pilot episodes with nothing to follow and that is situations like this where they give us a good set up with lots of potential and then it just stops. I have no idea how this will play out long term but I want to see what happens next.

A witch comes to a small sea side town. Form over content horror film has some stunning imagery (the ending is haunting) and some genuine chills but the shortness of the film doesn't fully allow for the story to breath the way it should. We need to know more if this is to be fully satisfying.  I would love to see a longer version with a few more details...

A woman who traveled from Europe in 1888 to North America meets a man on the road and takes him home... and to say more would be telling. Good looking film, with riffs a couple of classic films, is a nifty little mood piece. While I could quibble about the pacing, I will not quibble about anything else other than to say I would love to see this expanded into a feature because I want to see more of this story. There is a great story and killer central character here and I would love to see it fully explored. As it is it is a sweet little film

Le otto dita della morte
Four minute long giallo done in the style of a giallo trailer. What can I say except its a perfect homage to the form.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Joe Bendel on AWAY which opens Friday in theaters

Beautiful but forbidding, this island exists somewhere between the natural world and your subconscious. To survive, a young boy must survive the elements and an archetypal monster that could be real or a product of his own unconscious fears—or both. It is only seventy-five minutes, but animator-director-screenwriter-producer-editor-composer Gints Zilbalodis’s Away will likely be one of the most memorable (and possibly divisive) films that has premiered at the 2019 Fantasia International Film Festival.

The boy wakes hanging from a tree, dangling by his parachute, when suddenly he comes face to face with the monster. He extricates himself in the nick of time, but the monster follows and follows. Despite his best efforts, he cannot shake the silent hulk, even with the help of the timely warnings provided by the yellow canary, who becomes his traveling companion. At least the scenery is beautiful to behold.

Whether you love it or hate it, give Zilbalodis credit for crafting a remarkably distinctive piece of animated cinema. There is no question, some people will not love it, given its complete lack of dialogue and heavy symbolic weightiness. We never really get to know the boy as a character, but that hardly matters. It is all about the journey and the spectacle (the sight of the giant is especially haunting). Many of have already compared Away to Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle, which is apt, but try to imagine a teaspoon of A Monster Calls thrown into the mix.

If you buy into Away, it becomes a hypnotic cinematic experience. Visually, it is a true stunner. The details of the island’s environment look as if they could be of our Earth, yet somehow the way they are put together feels alien and exotic. Even if you can only engage with Away on a surface level, you should still appreciate Zilbalodis’s artistry.

Away looks awesome, but it also sounds quite striking, thanks to Zilbalodis’s minimalist soundtrack, which could pass for the work of Philip Glass. It is an amazing work of auteurist animation in the truest sense, given how many roles Zilbalodis played. Away really is its own cinematic island. Very highly recommended, Away should be on GKIDS radar following its North American premiere at this year’s Fantasia.

Thanksgiving Turkey: The Reincarnation of Isabel (aka Rites, Black Magic and Secret Orgies in the Fourteenth Century) 1973

Odd softcore mix of horror, sex and psychedelia as a people taking possession of an ancient mansion – unaware that there is a group of ancient vampire living in the catacombs underneath looking to resurrect their queen.

More interested in trippy and sexy images than narrative thrust the film presents a steady parade of eye popping images that while initially delightful become less intriguing as the film goes. It’s not because they are bad but because every time they begin to come together in a hypnotic journey the film stops for some sort of narrative scene. At the same time the narrative never comes together because the film is constantly stopping to show either the trippy images or naked women. I’m sure back in the 1970’s this softcore approach was eatn up by anyone who didn’t want to go to a porno palace but 40 years on it’s tiring.

In the film’s defense the images are often striking unfortunately the film just never gels enough to amount to anything.

Brief word on DEEP SIX Blood in the Snow 2019

Astronauts on a deep space mission discover they are not alone.

Running at Blood in the Snow  as a single seventy minute block DEEP SIX is web/ TV series that echoes several other classic science fiction series. Consisting of  six episode that together run about the length of an extended TV episode the series throws a great deal at us. I'm not sure what I think of it all since I have the feeling that longer episodes would have allowed the events to play better. I know that I would have liked time to get to know the characters a bit more rather than having them race through events in ten minute chunks.

As it stands now it feels more like this is a pilot to something larger. Should that happen sign me up because there is something here that is definitely worth exploring more fully and not in small bite size pieces.

Sunday, November 24, 2019


Animated proof of concept for a web series about a ghost hunter with a TV series who discovers that .ghosts are real. This could be something but I'm not sure because the 5 minute episode I was given to review doesn't give us enough to go on as to whether this will work for more than these 5 minutes. What here is good but I'm not sure if it' a series.

Friends go off to tour the Arctic tundra only to have their van break down and a polar bear attack. A good idea that needs to be fleshed out.With no set up and the quick pace (this who film is under 5 minutes) there is no time for suspense to be created. We are just thrown into the terror with no idea who anyone is. I would love to see a longer version of this.

The story of a motorist in need of help who brings back a long repressed event for a mechanic. Supernatural tinged thriller is a nifty little confection which I can't really discuss lest I spoil it.

A superhero's vital interrogation of a bad guy goes horribly wrong when the sidekick trainee shows up. Funny for all the right reasons, and a whole lot of wrong ones (some of this is just wrong),  this is exactly the sort of superhero nightmare the comics never show us. A must for any superhero junkie.


A woman makes sure the man who fills her mind never bothers her again. Okay short suffers in comparison to the other shorts at BITS.

A maid at a hotel runs into a another group of people working the location but with a darker purpose. A good creepy film doesn't stick the landing and kind of wastes a good idea. On the other hand the sense of dread that fill most of the film can't be beat.

Two girls at a video store deal with a snide customer. An interesting idea goes out of control with larger implications that the short run time can't quite handle successfully (This should have been longer)

An exorcist who is actually devil spawn fights for humanity. This is actually a long web series should be cut together into a feature film and not a series of five minute episodes. Forgive me for complaining but the story is good enough that the the episodes work against it  and don't allow it to build momentum. I went through the episodes on line and was delighted. This is a really good feature film  broken up into parts.

In order to cheer up her brother after the death of their mother a young woman throws a Halloween Party  and it all goes wrong when uninvited guests show up.  Gruesome horror film scores points by moving like the wind and giving us a chance to do more than scream repeatedly. I am tempted to say expand it but frankly the pacing here is so dead on perfect it would be a sin to ruin it. One of my favorites at Blood in the Snow.

Blood in the Snow 2019 Shorts 4: SKY SO BLUE, LADY IN THE SHOWER, REMNANT and ONE LAST HEIST

A man breaks into the home of the creator of an audio file that kills those who hear it. Well made film with a great idea is hurt by the miscasting of Jeff Sinasac as the man strapped to the chair. While not bad his expressions of terror look more often that he is on the verge of laughing. If you can get past that this is a killer little film

Form over content story of a woman in a hotel room taking a shower and what happens. A well made show reel this is more a kick ass sequence that belongs in a larger film. What here is great but I want to see more....and you will too when you see this.

A team of parapsychologists investigate a haunting...
Good little horror tale surprises at several turns and ends up being a satisfying little thriller

A heist has unexpected romantic complications. A wonderfully charming heist film has me wondering what it is doing at a horror fest-but then again its just so damn good who the hell cares since it is such an absolute blast.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Ernie and Joe and Jenifer talk about ERNIE AND JOE: CRISIS COPS

I saw ERNIE AND JOE: CRISIS COPS when the film played at South by South West and was blown away. The work that Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro with the San Antonio Police Department's Mental Health Unit was staggering.  Here were two guys who were going out and dealing with the public and actually making a difference. They weren't just locking people up, but truly helping them get out of bad situations. It was a breath of fresh air after seeing so many smartphone videos of cops behaving badly. Here were cops who were people interacting with other people.

Beyond the two men at the center of the documentary, the reason that the film is much more than a straight portrait of cops on the beat but instead the story of kindness and humanity  is because director Jenifer McShane took three years to get to know Ernie and Joe and figure out the best way to show the wonderful things that they are doing. I was and still am in awe of the film that she has created.

Since South By Southwest I had been looking for a chance to meet Ernie and Joe and when the pair, along with Jenifer McShane came to New York to promote the theatrical release and the HBO screenings I knew I had my chance to talk to everyone involved in the film.

They say you should never meet your heroes but Ernie and Joe were way greater than I could ever have imagined.  We talked and laughed and carried on for much longer than was planned simply because we got lost in conversation. I completely understood why the preceding interview had gone long, no one wanted the conversation to stop.

What follows is more or less the entire talk I had with Ernie and Joe and Jenifer on November 14th. There is some slight editing in that I removed some brief cross talk at the start, moved one part from the end to a better place and I edited our animated conversation about food in San Antonio not because it wasn't informative, rather because while the conversation sounds good on the audio it read very badly since everyone was talking over everyone else. I have tried to leave the transcription so that it sounds like you are listening in on a conversation of people just talking, which we were, instead of being a strict question and answer sort of interview

I want to thank Vince Johnson of David Magdael & Associates for setting this up, HBO for the use of their offices and mostly Ernie,Joe and Jenifer for not only making a wonderful film but taking the time to sit down and talk with me. You all were a jot and you have a standing invitation to go on a walking food tour of New York anytime.

The conversation picks up after brief introductions and some off topic talk as I ask about the endless cycle of festivals and interviews since the film premiered.

Ernie, Joe and Jenifer

Steve: You've just been doing this since South by Southwest.

Ernie:  It's an opportunity to talk to people and start a conversation about the film, and get perspective.

Steve: Are you at least getting to see New York and the cities you're visiting?

Ernie: It's coming. [laughs] Yeah, it's coming. Saturday, I think we have a free day

Steve: It's just been crazy. Every time  I look at festival you're there. You're there. [laughs]

Ernie: Yeah.

Steve: Do you guys doing any work other than promoting the film?

Jenifer: Uh, yeah.

Ernie: I try not to.

Jenifer: Well, they're taking a whole lot of vacation days for, for this film.

Steve: That was one of the things I was going to ask you...How are doing  the promotion on this? Because I know you guys have a day job, do you schedule your work Monday to Thursday and then do the film festivals on the weekend?

Ernie: We try to accommodate.

Jennifer:  No, they've been great about taking time off.

Ernie: Yeah, we just use our own vacation, and luckily, we have it to use.

Steve: How does  the police department feel about you guys doing all this?

Jenifer: It's  a pretty positive story, so my hope is that they can appreciate the value in it, and the guys are taking their own time

Joe: I think we'll know for sure in the next few months, because 99 percent of them haven't seen it. So, because it's just been festival-ridden. Once it releases next week, and then it's streamable. Next year we're teaching in-service every Tuesday, so we'll see the entire department so I'll know what the feedback is. Which, again, to Jen's point, it, it I tell her, I'm like, "I'm still waiting for someone to come up after me and be like, 'I hate this.'"


Joe: Like, 'You guys suck.'" Because everyone is really, really, over-the-top positive. And in my cynical mind, I'm like, "Well, but these are festival goers." Like, "Who, who is really is miserable that goes to festivals?"

Steve: I think you'd be surprised.

Joe:  Anyway, uh, but the...uh yeah, so we'll...I, I think we'll know more in the next couple months.

Jenifer: But the audience reaction at the festival has been uniformly unbelievable.

Joe: Yeah. I'll say this, so, as far as SAPD goes, not too sure yet. Every other police agency we've met with, because wherever we've gone, there's been law enforcement invited, or show up, or we'll do a co-panel, absolutely phenomenal.From a law enforcement perspective, they are incredibly relieved that this story's being told. Uh, because one of the secondary beneficiaries, if we can call it that, is the humanizing within law enforcement. And so many people are seeing police officers as people for the first time in their life.

Jenifer: Yeah.

Joe: Which, you know it's like what do that blows my mind. But this is a real thing for them.

Jenifer: Oh yeah.

Joe: And we've had some incredibly powerful moments, like with Bruce Franks, the St. Louis Superman, and just bridging some of these gaps, that, that are there. And, you know, we can't pretend they're not there. And so, I think as a secondary benefit to what the actual story is and the movie is, people are starting to see cops as people who maybe never would  have otherwise.

Steve: My office for my day job is two doors down from the police liaison office for the courts. So, I see cops coming in all the time. And what what was one of the things I loved about the film is that while you're watching it, you're like, "Yes. This is the way guys are." You see that there is more than just the various YouTube videos of something terrible happening.

Ernie: Right.

Steve: It's  the way you guys really are...

Joe: The on-duty, the off-duty, the force, the family, the downs, the ups, yeah. It's normal. It's life.

Hunter's Moon (2019) Blood in the Snow 2019

At the launch of a werewolf inspired video game someone begins to be killing all of the guests...and it appears that the killer is a werewolf.

Old school murder mystery ala Agatha Christie or some of the great program thrillers of the 1930's and 40's but with monsters, HUNTER'S MOON entertains. Part of the reason is we haven't really seen this structure used much in the last couple of decades. We don't really get films where the hero, and the audience, has to deduce who the killer is at the same time. Nowadays filmmakers can't wait to reveal who the bad guy and what is going on. That isn't the case here and we are close to the end before we get a reveal.

I like that the cast works to sell the mayhem on screen. More often than not in inde horror films the cast performs with nods and winks and completely wrecks the tension and mood. That isn't the case here and as a result we are dragged all the way to the end . The cast also makes us like all the characters to the point we groan when someone dies.

If there is any complaint on my part it is that the pacing is slightly off. It isn't fatal but while the film takes it's time setting everything up, it kind of races to the conclusion. It's almost as if the filmmakers suddenly realized that they had to move things along a little quicker and it did so a little too fast. Again it isn't anything that hurts the film other than I would have liked a bit more time with the characters before they are taken from us.

This is an enjoyable little film and worth your time.

For tickets and more information on the Blood in the Snow screening go here

M.A.J.I.C. (2019) Blood in the Snow 2019

The MAJIC of the title refers to the alleged MJ-12 documents which say that the US government was in contact with aliens following a UFO crash in Roswell New Mexico.

The film is the story of an anti-conspiatorial podcaster who ends up dropped down the rabbit hole when she meets a supposed member of MJ-12 and begins to see things that are or aren't there. Worse she begins to doubt what she knows because history seems to be changing around her.

I am really torn about MAJIC. I mean really torn. On the one had it is a killer story with some wicked twists and turns. I think that for the most part this is a super science fiction conspiracy tale that is fun to settle into and watch with a bucket of popcorn...

...and I think it is completely derailed by Paula Brancati in the lead role. Fast talking, at all times, and seemingly above it all, at all times, see seems to have been dropped in from another movie (which considering where this movie goes is a possibility). It's not that Brancati is bad, rather she is just completely wrong for the part. Knowing a couple of podcasters, and even regular human beings, I know people can be unconnected to reality, and I was willing to let it go but there is a point where reality came crashing in where her performance should have changed, she should have modulated things, she should have been in the shit instead of still thinking she was above it...especially since the dialog says she should have been.

On the other hand Brancati may work for you and you'll love the film.

Worth a shot when it plays at Blood in the Snow. For more information and tickets go here.

After the Murder of Albert Lima (2019) DOC NYC 2019

13 years ago Albert Lima was killed while in Honduras. The killer was tried but he walked and remained free despite being sentenced to jail for a long sentence. Thirteen years on his son, Paul, manages to track the man down and along with a couple of bounty hunters goes to get him…but there are complications.

It’s the complications that are what make this film something special. Honestly this look at one man’s quest for justice for his father could have been just a typical documentary but the fact that we are in the hunt for the murderer with Paul and the others lifts this film up and makes it a compelling film. What also makes this all so compelling is the fact that this doesn’t go smoothly. Twists and turns, serious questions about whether what they are trying to do is even legal keep the trip interesting and make us wonder how this is all going to come out. I suspected that things weren’t going to go too far south since had something terrible happened it no doubt would have made the news (and been used in the promotional material) but the actual twists and turns are not what typical or expected.

I really like AFTER THE MURDER OF ALBERT LIMA. To be honest at the start I wasn’t sure what I was going to but once it’s all set up and in motion I was thrilled to be along for the ride. I was so thrilled that when it was done I started to email people that they need to see it.

That’s a rave.


 The reanactment of a murder doesn't quite go as planned. Low key gem is a fine French thriller with mood to burn.

Inter-dimensional orphan has to decide whether to leave the safety of her home in order to help a wounded boy at her door. Part fantasy, part scifi, all wonderful. Gorgeous to look at short needs to be expanded into a feature film. There is great possibilities here that I would love to see explored.

Why are the children in a small town disappearing. An okay idea doesn't quite come together despite a wicked looking monster. Too short a run time collides with a bit too little being said.

Millie gets her friends over, again, because something in her room is trying to kill her. no one believes her because she keeps saying this... creepy tale sets the mood perfectly and then pays off in the right way. One to see.

Survivor of a stalkers attack is stalked again. Okay idea doesn't work in execution

A lone camper makes a chilling discovery. I can't say more. And while  I have one reservation about the film- which I can't tell you what it is lest it wreck  the film for you- this is still worth a look

Babysitter meets a little monster- and no its not what you think...and that's why this is so damn good. a must.

Friday, November 22, 2019

EEGAH (1962) has been given a 4K restoration and it hits home video Tuesday

EEGAH (which is some times EEGAH!! and some times with the subtitle THE NAME WRITTEN IN BLOOD), the name sends chills up and down the spine of any movie lover on the planet. Good movies lovers hate it’s creaky low budget quality while bad movie lovers love it for the same reason. It is a legendary bad film that Mystery Science Theater 3000 riffed in the original run of the show and which the live version of the most recent incarnation took on the road. Now the film has been lovingly restored in 4K and put out on Blu-ray and DVD by Film Detective who has guaranteed ticket sales by including the original MST3K show plus some neat extras.

The film is the story of some a young woman and her father who run across and are kidnapped by a caveman wandering in the desert.  Instead of being frightened by him she cleans him up, shaves his beard and cuts his hair. Her "boyfriend" tries to find and rescuer and mayhem results.

The film was made by Arch Hall Sr, a man legendary in some film circles as a man of mixed talent. He produced and wrote the films under fake names. His films, which he largely produced via his own production company were all drive-in fare. They were often starred his son Arch Hall Jr, who was, given the right role better than the material. By no means are the films the Halls turned out great works of art, but all are better than the “bad” movie labels they have been saddled with in some circles. Films such as THE SADIST,  are nasty pieces of work that are much better than you would think or their mainstream reputation (assuming the mainstream writers even know about them). They have a kick that mainstream Hollywood films don’t have, which explains why the films are still being discussed while other bigger budgeted and heavily promoted films from the same period are now on histories trash heap.

As I said above normally Hall Sr only produced, wrote and acted in his films but he was forced to step in with EEGAH and take the reins and the result is an okay little film. Admittedly it isn’t the best, and seems downright awful when seen by an audience of one seated at home. However when seen in a car full of people at a drive in or in a crowded theater where the audience can be part of the fun it’s quality increases. Presently the main reason the film known is a legendary episode of  MST3K where the interplay of Joel and the bots helps the reach its maximum potential. I say this as someone who has seen the film any number of times over the years and I find it always plays best when seen with an audience or riffed.

To be completely honest I don’t know why anyone would want to restore the film with 4K restoration but it takes all kinds. Nothing against the people involved but 4K is the sort of expensive restoration that big huge Hollywood legends like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA  or BEN HUR  get, EEGAH is not in that league.  That said the transfer itself is absolutely stunning and having seen it now both as part of the live MST3K show from a couple years back and on the disc I can’t imagine the film ever looking this good even in its original run. I love that the Blu-ray includes the MST3K episode which is an absolute blast.

The Blu-ray also has a couple of great extras. The first is Joel Hodgeson talking about the film(it runs runs 7 minutes). While I am mixed on Joel’s time as host of MST3K (some episodes are great, some are okay) I have always loved listening to Joel talk about the bad films he loves. Listening to him over the years I’ve always gotten a better sense of the deep feelings of respect that allowed him to chide the films he and his fellows riffed. The other extra is Arch Hall Jr talking about the film for about fifteen minutes and is equally good.

The new restoration hits stores on November 26th and is a must for either fans of the movie or for MST3Kies who are always watching out for snakes.

Dead Dicks (2019) Blood in The Snow (2019)

When a young woman gets a frantic message from her brother she rushes to his apartment to find him alive and well and the place filled with dead copies of himself.

Strange trippy film that, while very good, would probably  have been better as a short or TV show. This is exactly the sort of thing that would be perfect on Creepshow or Tales From the Darkside  or any of the hour long anthology shows. As good as the central idea is, the way it spins out here goes on a bit too long (even at about 75 minutes) and it could have used a bit of trimming or a sped up pace.

This is not to say the film is bad, it's not. It nicely acted, funny in the right places, its wonderfully philosophical and compelling to the end. It simply needs to move faster.

Quibble aside this is recommended when it plays Blood in the Snow.

For tickets and more information go here

The Nights Before Christmas (2019) Blood in the Snow 2019

The FBI is on the trail of a serial killer and are shocked to learn that a couple of mental paients who now think they are Santa and Mrs Claus are behind the killings...

If you ever wanted to know what the Joker and Harley Quinn would be like as reimagined as Santa and Mrs Claus this film is for you.  The wicked leads, played to near perfection by Simon Phillips and Sayla de Goede are demonic Clauses by way of the big bad of the DC comic universe. Frankly they are much more engaging than Joaquin Phoenix in the current major studio release and their mania is much more understandable.

That the film is as enjoyable as it is due entirely to the fact that the leads are engaging. Actually I should back that up and include the whole cast who sell the story of killer Clauses in a story that in the wrong hands could have been just okay. It is the cast that makes you not care that we are in familiar territory (no seriously how many killer Santa films are there?) and want to stay to the end. Best of all it has you thinking that as lame as most sequels are maybe this time that might be a good idea.

This is a small little treasure of a holiday horror film.

See it at Blood in the Snow. For more information and tickets go here