Monday, August 31, 2020

Brief thoughts on Fugitive Dreams (2020) Fantasia 2020

I am uncertain about how to discuss FUGITIVE DREAMS. There is a bump in connection with the film that I kind of want to talk about but in order to do so it may sound like I don’t like the film, which I do. Perhaps it would be best to proceed as follows.

FUGITIVE DREAMS is the tale of two homeless people as they travel across a version of the United States. Along the way we are forced to ponder homelessness, race, mental illness and addiction. It is a well-made and well-acted tale that is worth seeing for anyone who is wanting to see an off the beaten trail film that will make you engage with its tale and characters.

The  “problem” with the film is that for all it’s opening up, it’s shots of fields and trains in transit, the film never shakes off the fact that this is based on Caridad Svich’s play Fugitive Pieces. This is a film full of dialog and monologues of the sort that you only see on stage. It’s not bad, actually much of the dialog is dynamite, the problem is that no one in real life speaks like that. I understand that the film is supposed be allegorical, but it takes a bit of the edge off things. Truthfully it’s great stuff and it will play that way on stage, but on the big screen, in the approximation of real life if feels slightly off.

Regardless I really liked FUGITIVE DREAMS and recommend it.

A Night of Horror : Nightmare Radio (2019)

Less feature film than a shorts collection A Night of Horror : Nightmare Radio is a film that on it’s face is Tales From The Crypt anthology film but in reality is just a collection of  10 short films linked together by a radio DJ “reading” horror tales on the air. The result is a very mixed bag.

To be honest I’m not sure what I think of this collection. I’m mixed on it, only in that I went in expecting a new horror film and I wasn’t really expecting to end up seeing a mix of shorts, some of which I had seen previously. While none of the films are bad the quality is all over the place, and none of them really stuck with me enough to right on them.

I think the reason I’m kind of torn about the film is that normally when you see a film like this you expect there to be some sort of connection, all the stories were from EC comics or by one author or something that ties into the wrap around story. Here everything is scattershot. If it was just a random collection of horror shorts I would have been okay but the packaging made it seem like it was going to be more than it was.

To be honest I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

Brief thoughts on ABRACADABRA (2020) Fantasia 2020

In a world of magic a magician makes a young boy disappear and then can't bring him back...

Hands down one of the most magical movies of the year. A stunning celebration of life, stories and the movies. This is a film that is a must see for anyone who loves the movies or story telling.

I don't want to say too much but I have to say that this is kind of like if Fellini made Tarsem Singh's THE FALL. Its a magical mix of reality and fiction that simply delights as it moves us deeply.(Some people have compared it to Wes Anderson as well, and I can happily throw that into the mix too- though truthfully ABRACADABRA is ultimately it's own wonderful dish)

And that dear friends is all I will say other than this is a must see.

Think of this as exactly the sort of wondrous films that made long time NYAFF attendees fall in love with the festival all those years ago.

Bao Tran answers questions on his wonderful PAPER TIGERS (2020) Fantasia 2020

I was curious about Bao Tran's great THE PAPER TIGERS from the instant I saw it listed in the Fantasia film list. I was curious about how the idea of a feel good martial arts film with older guys was going to go. It was a film I had to see and I asked for it weeks before Fantasia started.  

When I finally got the chance to see it I fell head over heels for the film. While the most basic thread is similar to other films writer director Tran makes it something absolutely unique by giving us a bunch of great characters operating in a very real way. The result is a film that transcends any notion of being cliche and ends up as a film that you'll want to watch over and over again (trust me having watched the film a couple of times I know you'll want to do the same thing.

I loved the film so much that I reached out to  Tran to tell him how much I loved his film and ask him if I could send him some questions. (I wanted to get in before he is swamped with interview requests). He said yes and the result is what you are about to read.

I want to thank Bao Tran for not only taking the time to answer my questions but also making a really great film.

As this posts THE PAPER TIGERS is going to be streaming tomorrow at Fantasia. Do yourself a favor and make an effort to watch it. And if you can't make the live stream catch it whenever you can.

STEVE: Where did the idea for THE PAPER TIGERS come from?

BAO: I started making films at a young age and it was something I pursued pretty relentlessly. But it came to a point where I was feeling burnt out by “the industry” so I thought that could be a good place to start with a story. The clash of growing distant and away from something that you once felt so passionately for. And it could be fun to put that into a martial arts story where our heroes when younger are so full of piss and vinegar and they aren’t aware of the cliff ahead.

STEVE: The casting of the film is a key to its success. How did you go about choosing the actors that you did? Had you worked with them before?

BAO:  Our producer Yuji Okumoto had known Ron Yuan, who plays Hing, for many years so he was an early addition. But we discovered the rest of our lead talent through casting. They all didn’t meet each other until our first day of rehearsals. And it was a miracle that they actually liked each other! Even on their days off they would hang out and study the scripts together, so I couldn’t ask for anything more, it was all thanks to their dedication to the craft.

STEVE: The actors all have a sense of friendship and family that bleeds off the screen, were the actors friends before or did they do anything to make the bonds seem real? Did the older and younger actors meet and work on their performances together so it all hung together.

BAO:  Back to the answer above. The older actors had a genuine affinity for each other, which doesn’t happen as often as you think. For the younger actors, we actually shot their scenes a few years earlier so we could pitch for more financing -- without knowing who would end up playing the older selves.

STEVE:This may be a slightly out there question- PAPER TIGERS is very much it’s own film. You can kind of say that it's like other films, but it really isn’t because you chose to truly focus on characters and to keep the action real. The only film I can remotely compare it to is Clement Sze-Kit Cheng and Chi-Kin Kwok‘s GALLANTS, which has a bunch of older martial arts guys defending their dojo. It also has the same sense of family among the characters. I was just wondering if you saw the film.

BAO: I really enjoyed GALLANTS, but I wouldn’t say we drew closely from it. Like you say, ours is less stylized because I was more interested in the grounded reality and finding the humor in the situation.

STEVE:You worked as an action director on a number of other films, however you didn’t do that here? Why did you change? Was it the fact it was a feature and it would be too much or was it because you wanted a certain style to the fighting?

BAO: I’ve worked on many projects with action director Ken Quitugua and it was a no-brainer to have him involved! He’s got a keen sense of classic Kung Fu styles and also how to shape it into a messier street fighting flavor that was right for our characters.

STEVE:The fights in the film are realistic, especially compared to most action and martial arts films. It’s a move that is wonderfully unexpected and works at building suspense. Why did you go for what amounts to strict realism instead of spicing things up?

BAO: Again, that’s a testament to Ken and his action team, Sam Looc and Kerry Wong. We wanted to go exactly for that kind of suspense and create some surprise. Our guys aren’t Marvel super-heroes where victory is a foregone conclusion. They're schlubs who are unsure they can even lift their legs above their waist anymore. The fun and the challenge for our action design was to get deeper into the premise and not shy away from it, because that’s where the good marrow is!

STEVE:All the films you have directed have directed have an element of crime or violence in them. However since your handling of the family sequences is so good and so touching I have to ask would you like to do a straight comedy or drama?

BAO: Thank you, because at this point, I’ll take any work! For me, the approach is all the same, to figure out what’s going on between the characters and find where the sparks are. I might be butchering the quote but I heard Lin Manuel Miranda once say ‘genre is just the clothes the story puts on.’ Trust in the story first and you can do all things.

STEVE:With Covid altering how films are released, how has the crisis affected your plans for the film? I know some filmmakers have been hesitant to start their runs via streaming fests, was there any hesitation? How are you going to release the film from here now that it has premiered?

BAO: Festivals always have their place in showcasing new voices and new stories. It takes real human thoughtfulness to program a selection. Fantasia has been an amazing event for us to launch our world premiere, virtual or otherwise, because you have a savvy audience that trusts what the fest has curated. Wider distribution and release is a different matter, because now you’re trying to get your film out there through existing channels to a wider paying audience. We do believe this is a great crowd film so a theatrical release would be wonderful. It may not be a traditional theater release for a while, but there’s a lot of successes around drive-ins that we can look to as an example.

STEVE: Since you’ve made a martial arts film I have to ask, who are your favorite martial arts actors? What are your favorite must see films?

BAO: So many! I’m very Hong Kong influenced so of course Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Donnie Yen are great. Max Zhang Jin is a more recent breakout that I really like. Must sees are: Fists of Fury, 8 Diagram Pole Fighter, Prodigal Son, Drunken Master II, Fong Sai Yuk, Ip Man.

STEVE:Now that the film is out among the film going public, what is next for you?

BAO: Sleep! I do have a few projects in mind, but I think we are all watching the world and how film production can get back into full gear. So a lot will depend on that. But I have faith that the world will heal and we can watch movies in a theater again!

Brief thoughts on Undergods (2020) Fantasia 2020

I honestly don't know what I think of UNDERGODS. I've seen it twice and I still have no idea what I really feel about it. I suspect that I think it's okay but not much more.

The film begins with two guys driving around a dystopian city collecting bodies and telling stories. We then follow the lives of three people they cross paths with. Their tales involve people intruding into the lives of others (An unhappy couple have tenant in their building intrude into their lives after being locked out of his home, a business man has his daughter kidnapped by a man he screwed over and a man returns home from prison to find he is an outsider in his family)

I love the opening minutes of the two drivers driving around collecting bodies. The trouble is I honestly don't know what I think about the stories themselves. They are bleak self important tales of an alternate modern life and they all strive to be about something important. All the characters, out side of the drivers, seemed to be variations on each other.  The stories felt empty and forced to a conclusion. Both times I watched the film my interest really began to wane about 20 minutes in. I stopped caring and some where before the end of the second go through I simply stopped watching.

While the rundown Eastern European city where the film was shot looked suitably decayed, it sadly, was the only thing keeping me watching.

A miss.

Thoughts on the wonderful THE PAPER TIGERS (2020) Fantasia 2020

Bao Tran’s THE PAPER TIGERS is not only a charmer, but also a heartwarming smile producer.

What is that you say- a martial arts film that is not only charming but heartwarming as well? Why yes, that’s it exactly.

The plot of the film has three middle aged guys who have given into the time and tide of life coming back together when their former kung fu teacher dies. Supposedly he died of a heart attack but they suspect it was something more. As they investigate they try to get back into something resembling shape, while at the same time desperately trying to deal with their lives, one of them is a divorced dad who needs to figure out how to split time with his son.

This film is an absolute blast. I was sent the film for review and then I decided to peek at the opening minutes because I was curious and I ended up watching straight to the end. I smiled and laughed all the way through.

I’ll talk about the action in a minute but first I have to say what I love about the film is that Tran has made a film about people. Everyone on screen are all people we not only like but people we know. Tran has crafted a film that is about the guys down the street… assuming they know kung fu. But even if they don't these are our friends and neighbors. The result is we click into their journey for redemption easily because ultimately they are us. They react as we do and say the things that we would say. They are delight.

As for the action, it’s great. The fight sequences are all perfectly modulated. They are scary when they have to be and funny when required. Best of all Tran and his action director Ken Quitugua manage to blend the hits and the humor perfectly. We laugh at some of the mismatches but we also wince because we see the impact. They understand for a film to truly resonate their has to be a cost in the hero’s journey- and we get that as we hear bones crack and bruises appear. Because the action is kept real the suspense is greater. Truth be told because of the realism and the cost the fights are some of the most satisfying in years. Yes, they aren’t flashy like a Jackie Chan or Donnie Yen fight- but that’s not this film. This is the fights older guys might have with a slight movie assist.

This is a great little film. However I am not going to waste the pronouncement about it being one of the best films of year on it. Best films get lost when the new year comes. Instead I want to say that this film is better than a best film- this is one of those films that is going to become one of the films you watch every time it shows up on cable. You know what I’m talking about- this is going to be one of those films you channel surf into and then you don’t leave until the end credits roll. Those are the sort of films I think are truly the best- those are the films that you’d take to desert island. Yea, a “Best Film of 2020” may stand out, but you won’t watch it every time it’s on. THE PAPER TIGERS is that sort of film- you'll watch it every damn time just because. THE PAPER TIGERS is cinematic comfort food that we will watch a thousand times and become part of our souls.

A must see at Fantasia or where ever it plays.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Radar Men From The Moon

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Wildland (2020) Fantasia 2020

After her mother is killed in a car crash Ida,a 17 year old girl is sent to live with her estranged aunt and her cousins. She quickly learns that despite the loving feeling between the family members they are nasty criminals.

Despite being extremely well made and beautifully acted Wildland (aka Kod & Blod) kind of just missed for me. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve seen the Australian Animal Kingdom (and it’s spin off American TV series) too many times, or it’s because coming at the tail end of my time covering Fantasia it seemed much too sedate. It’s so low key and matter of fact that it kind of feel like a film that wandered into the wrong festival, despite being a crime drama.

I know part of the problem with the film for me is that Ida is much to passive for much of the film. The character takes the notion of her being our eyes a little too seriously and while she steps in the end it’s a little too late to generate absolute excitement. The result this is a film I liked this more than I loved it.

Worth a look.

Kaiju Kim is on the loose

I'd like to take a moment to welcome Kaiju Kim to the Unseen Films family.

I met Kim through Chocko who has been talking about her for a couple of years now insisting he had a kaiju expert I just had to meet.  He was right, I did and now Unseen Films has it's official kaiju expert on staff... or around when she isn't working on her own YouTube Channel or struggling to keep Chocko in line.

Kim is a charming young lady with an encyclopedic knowledge of all things relating to giant monsters, which is good because I know a lot of Unseen readers love giant monsters. She is now our  go to person for all the giant things that squash cities.

All joking aside, Kim is a wonderful person and it is a pleasure to welcome her aboard.

I also want to point out that Kim has her own business, KH Edits doing video editing, as well as making promotional and music videos. Details can be had here.

And with that I'm going to leave you with some of Kim's You Tube videos dor you to enjoy.


I received access to the NYAFF library of films just as the festival was starting so I am wildly behind. In order to speed things up some of the reviews are going to be a bit shorter than the normal NYAFF reviews.

In Vietnam a homeless orphan who can see lucky numbers  acts a lottery runner for people. If his pick comes in  he gets a few dollars payment. kid sees lucky numbers. A show don occurs when a new kid muscles into his territory.

Good film is more of interest for the fact this is taking place in Vietnam, a place we haven't really seen in films before, than the story. The story, which the promotional material compares to SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is also similar to other stories we've seen over the years. On the other hand the images of Ho Chi Minh city are bursting with life, and most of the secondary characters are wonderfully unlike anything we've seen in most Western films.  I want to see the film again for the people and the scenery more than the story.

Dong Run-nian's GONE WITH THE LIGHT is a must see at NYAFF.

The plot of the film has people across the globe disappearing in a flash of light. No one knows why they are gone but speculation is rampant with some feeling that those who left were loved more than others or were in love.  The speculation as to why begins to make people crazy.

Needing a much longer review than I am capable of turning out right now GONE WITH THE LIGHT is a magnificent piece that manages to be a film that makes you think and feel and carry it with you past the ending. The great cast, headed by Huang Bo, who gives an Oscar worthy performance, manages to blend all everything together so that we don't think about what type of film we are seeing and we only concentrate on the human drama happening before us.

This is one you need to experience.


If you are looking for a throw back to the original days of the New York Asian Film Festival when wild and crazy was the norm and action was in every other film then this year's one throwback film seems to be the comic infused UNLEASHED.  Compared to the heavy dramas, comedies and other good for you explorations of far off lands this martial arts film is positively heathen.

Fok Kit teached martial arts by day and fights for cash at night. Just as love, in the form of an actress needing to learn to fight comes along, his master's school is threatened with shut down by a raiding of the rent and bad guys who want Fok Kit to fight their guy for big money.

While most assuredly we have been there before any number of times the sheer joy in the telling and the great cast sell this film from the first frame to the last. As the NYAFF write up says this is a popcorn film from top to bottom and in a festival full of social issues, killer kids, heavy tragedy and feel good dramas it's nice to have at least one film that just wants to entertain and not make point about anything.

A true old school crowd pleaser UNLEASHED is recommended

SAVAGE STATE (2019) Fantasia 2020

SAVAGE STATE is an art house feminist western that kind of left me scratching my head.

In Missouri in 1863 an American mercenary has a deal go bad. He is acting on behalf of a French official and transplanted French family to swap diamonds for perfume. It goes horribly wrong and the mercenary flees pursued by the surviving smugglers. When the mercenary shows up to talk to the head of the French Family he ends up tasked with taking his wife and daughters to a boat back to France. Unfortunately the smugglers are on their trail.

A gorgeous film to look at the film never really makes it clear what the story is that it wants to tell. Extremely feminist, or trying to be, most of the cast is female and the head smuggler is also a woman, the film seems to be trying to say something about the strength of women…or not. This film seems to think having a lot of women on screen makes it mean something. Subjects are broached as if they are shocking of meaningful, but moments like one of the women confessing to be love with another woman kind of fall flat since it never really connects up to anything.

Actually that is kind of the problem with the film much of it seems like this a series of long languid beautiful scenes that never really connect. I kept feeling that there was something I was missing. This is especially true in the early part of the film where we get to know the women and their lives in Missouri. Things get better once we are on the road but by that time our interest has kind of disappeared.

I’m also trying to sort out the supernatural element that infuses sections of the film. I’m not sure why it’s there. I think it’s got something about a woman’s means of taking control of their lives, but in a film that feels otherwise realistic it is a touch that provides moments but still feels out of place.

To be honest watching the film I keep wondering how this same tale and cast would have been with a slightly tweaked script and a female director. What would Lucrecia Martel or Kelly Reichardt or Kathryn Bigelow or even Lulu Wang have done with the material? I don’t know but I would think it would have played better (and I say this as someone who is not a big fan of Reichardt or Bigelow’s films but as a fan of their ability to make films that at the very least challenge me).

SAVAGE STATE disappointed.

Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Zorro's Fighting Legion

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Nate Hood on Bacurau ★★★★

By the late 1960s, the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement was exhausted and burnt out. Despite garnering critical success the world over, the films—defiant Leftist rebuttals of the apolitical Hollywood entertainments choking their domestic film market—couldn’t find an audience in their native Brazil. The proletariat, it seemed, would rather pay for American glamour and seedy São Paulo pornochanchadas than their philosophically bleak and intellectually esoteric art films. Whodathunkit? Partly out of frustration (and partially from the need to finally make some damn money), the Cinema Novo filmmakers changed course away from their previous work and embraced a “cannibal-tropicalist” aesthetic that reveled in gaudiness, bad taste, extreme violence, and kitsch. These films, collectively referred to as the “Third Phase” of Cinema Novo, represent some of the strangest and most unusual to ever emerge from Latin America.

Though Cinema Novo died out in the early 1970s, traces of it can still be found throughout modern Brazilian cinema, perhaps nowhere more than in Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ Bacurau, a film which doesn’t so much borrow from Novo’s Third Phase as present itself as its heir apparent. It has no interest in subtlety or nuance; it wants to offend and shock until you’re squirming in your seat, sweating and faintly nauseated. There are spasms of violence more graphic here than in many slashers, and the displays of human cruelty are positively grotesque. And it’s all in the service of one of the more creative and imaginative films of 2019, a chimera of Weird Western, magical realism, and science-fiction.

The film is set in the small town of Bacurau in the Brazilian sertão which, after the funeral of a local matriarch, begins to experience bizarre things: their community vanishes from maps, their cell service disappears, and strange flying saucers appear before townsfolk. Before long, families start getting brutally murdered in their homes, and with the appearance of odd out-of-towners we learn that Bacurau has been selected by a mysterious coterie of American and European thrill-seekers as the target for a Most Dangerous Game-style bloodsport.

There are entire books to be written about how Bacurau uses its narrative to confront capitalist exploitation of Brazil, as well as violent native resistance against internal corruption and international colonialism. But best leave them to the Brazilians to write. Perhaps the best thing we Westerners can do is watch and listen.

The Dark and The Wicked (2020) Fantasia 2020

This is going to be a two part review. The first part is a general non spoilery basic review and the second part will be a bit more detailed. Where the first part is a look at the film if you just watch it and don’t think about it the second part goes into a couple of things more deeply.

Part 1

THE DARK AND THE WICKED is a creepy little horror machine that is full of tension and unease. The story of a brother and sister who go home to say good bye to their dad and help their mom is scary . We are moments into the film when we the dark presence haunting the farm among the goats and it just gets darker from there. It has a twisted dream logic and some deeply disturbing scenes. It is, taken purely on face value a scary little film that is worth your time and money.

Part 2 (Spoilers)

As much as I really like THE DARK AND THE WICKED it is film you can not think about. A finely tuned a machine as it is, the plot makes zero sense and in one of the lulls I realized that the film was simply set up to scare you (which it does) but it’s really dopey.

Don’t get me wrong everything from the images to the sound design is geared to make you feel scared. This is great but the scares are uneven. Say what you will director Bryan Bertino knows how to make you feel ill at ease but almost every one of the scares involves a jump scare. I should add that it’s a jump scare that is telegraphed. Not once did I not know the jump was coming. I jumped but it wasn’t as big as it should have been. I think the only genuine scare came when a dead character is seen floating in the front yard.

Part of the problem is the script doesn’t make sense. Told in a series of chapters that match days events things play out if it was much longer amounts of time. One character is found hanging and then what seems to be days later we see them at a funeral parlor. It’s only after the police report comes in that they realize its wrong. Didn’t they talk to the cops? Emotions come and go ad needed. Having just lost my dad the way the pair reacts about the death of one of their parents is completely not right. Had they been cold and uncaring maybe but their lack of reaction just seemed wrong. (of course the constant music may have washed it away)

Things just happen. There is often no rhyme or reason. Watching how scenes play out I was amazed at how things just happened because we need a scare here or we have to have this bit happen there. Characters come and go at random. There is sense of any connection to the real world only the movie’s needs. The first appearance of the home health aide or nurse seemed off. How other characters interacted just seemed wrong. I kept wanting to know about where the cops were when some of this was going down.

The thing is as much as all of this is bothering me- I didn’t notice it at first. I just went along. I was getting scared and didn’t want to watch. And then things slowed for a minute and I started to ponder, and then the death of the parent thing just broke it apart. I started to see holes everywhere. Yea the film was still scary but the edge was dulled because I started to see the machine creating the illusion.

Yes I like the film, and yes I recommend it, but I am slightly disappointed I didn’t absolutely love it.

An aside:

There is a drinking game connected with this film certain to get you smashed- any time anyone asks “who’s out there” or “who’s there” take a drink. It seemed to happen in way too many scenes and it was making me laugh.

More NYAFF coverage is coming

This is a heads up to let you know that I have finally been in contact with the NYAFF offices and I now have access to the screening library for the festival. I will be posting as I see things and can write them up.

I have seen ROM and GONE WITH THE LIGHT (this is really good) so look for reviews soon.

Brief word on Bleed With Me (2020) Fantasia 2020

A young woman goes off to a cabin with a friend from work where they meet up the friend's boyfriend. Things begin to go off the rails almost immediately.

Slow burn thriller didn't work for me. To me this is a film that is far too constructed to feel natural or truly compelling. It's clear  from the get go that no one is who they seem and that there is going to be levels of shifting power games. It might have worked had the women  been a bit more compelling  or more real but they felt  too artificial...and the whole thing like we've been here before

A miss.

Stay AT Home Festival Bonus Film: Haunted Harbor

Friday, August 28, 2020

THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND (2020) Fantasia 2020

The title THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND is very deliberate. It is what the film is about a sound in the waters off Block Island. As a result I want to make sure to say right at the start that when you see this film, and you should, make sure you have good headphones or good speakers since the soundscape is a big part of the film.

The film concerns the weird goings on in the waters off the island. A fisherman has returned from a night of fishing and is acting oddly. As his family tries to suss out what happened to him strange things being to happen around the island. Animals go missing, hundreds of dead fish are showing up on the beaches, birds are crashing into cars. What could be behind it.

Creepy ever building horror film is going to make you shiver with each twist and turn. This is a film that gets more and more out there with every turn. What exactly is going on, and will anyone survive? We can’t be certain.

And you’ll forgive me if I don’t say more. The film’s puzzle box design makes it hard to discuss past a certain point. While we don’t get all of the answers I don’t want to give you any clues as to where this is going because the fun is not knowing and trying to work it out yourself.

I really like the film a great deal. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that managed to generate and sustain such as large amount of nasty unease.

THE BLOCK ISLAND SOUND world premiered at Fantasia and is worth a look


Best selling author agrees to stay at a haunted lighthouse as promotion of his book. Things happen.

Good but unremarkable supernatural thriller is well done, but suffers from being awfully similar to other films with similar films. While it doesn’t go into the & Keys To Baldplate territory, it still doesn’t really surprise, except there is a giant monster outside that window.

Make no mistake I enjoyed it but I should have seen this on a rainy Saturday night.

A gangster sent on one last job has to hook up with a museum curator to fight an ancient vampire who is out to enslave the world.

I was going to pass on this film but in desperation I put this film on during a lunch break at work and fell in love with it. This is a clever and bloody film that is just a great little fun. It isn’t high art but it is entertaining as all hell.

Highly recommended

Dances with Films 2020 Horror Capsules: REPOSSESSION and HAWK AND REV VAMPIRE HUNTERS

50 year old man forced out his job tries to maintain his place in the world and ends up unleashing an ancient evil that causes death and destruction across the city.

Slow burn, slow building horror film takes a while to get going but once it does its cold and kind of dispassionate take gets under you skin, especially once the mayhem starts. My initial reaction to the film was not to pay attention to some of the early bit, it was a little too slow for me, but then suddenly I found myself drawn in watching everything unfold and waiting for the next terrible thing to happen.

This is a good little film for anyone who can be a little patient.

Vampire obsessed security guard hooks up with a vegan landscaper to keep their home town free of vampire.

How you react to this film is going to entirely depend upon how you react to the humor in the film. If you can go with the two nudnicks at the center and the occasionally intentionally dumb things they do you are going to have a great time. If not you’ll have an okay time

Personally I would have like this film to have been played a little straighter. If it hadn’t been as goofy as it is I would have had no reservation in recommending it. The again this is going to be the perfect film to watch with friends and drinks.

THE 2020 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL announces line-up for 15th edition (September 10-13)

Lanie Zipoy’s THE SUBJECT is the Opening Night selection, with Craig Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL making the film’s world premiere on Closing Night

Gavin Guerra’s LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE will be the Friday Night Spotlight and Charles Mudede’s THIN SKIN Is the Centerpiece selection

New York, NY (August 28, 2020) – The 2020 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced official selections for its 15th edition taking place virtually September 10-13. The film festival opens with two films aimed squarely at current issues with Lanie Zipoy’s thriller about a documentarian haunted by the Harlem teen’s murder he caught on film in THE SUBJECT, set as the Opening Night selection, followed by Gavin Guerra’s documentary on voter suppression, LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE, selected for the Friday Night Spotlight. Saturday’s Centerpiece Screening selection will be Charles Mudede’s THIN SKIN, the film adaptation of Ahamefule Olue’s Off-Broadway musical hit play, with the film festival wrapping things up by celebrating the Centennial celebration of the Negro Leagues with the Closing Night selection of Craig Davidson’s documentary ISLAND OF BASEBALL.

The four-day film festival which has become an underrated showcase of relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent will put the NYC spotlight on 94 film presentations (32 features, 47 shorts, 9 webisodes, 5 music videos, and 2 VR/360 projects) representing over 25 countries. World premieres include Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL, as well as Rich Gold’s IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MAD DOG COLL, Daniel Gabriel’s MOSUL, Bahati Best’s THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE, Sakina Samo’s WAITING, and 5 short films as well.

Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “Like many film festivals, we have made the decision to present our slate of essential cinema virtually this year, but that decision has only intensified our desire to cull great world cinema that might have been otherwise overlooked, and deserves a spotlight, as well as to continue our efforts to truly showcase the filmmakers and the setting of our beloved home neighborhoods of Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, which we call the HUB”.

Zipoy’s THE SUBJECT opens the film festival with its tale of a successful white documentary filmmaker, played by Jason Biggs who is dealing with the aftermath of his last film, in which the filmmaker caught the murder of a black teen on camera. Now he is haunted by the death, and his possible role in the murder. The film also stars Emmy nominee Aunjanue Ellis and Anabelle Acosta. Guerra’s LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE could not be more timely, sharing first person accounts from participants in the Civil Rights Movement and looking at present day activists fighting to preserve the hard fought right to vote and battle the growing efforts to suppress that right.

Mudede’s THIN SKIN takes the Centerpiece slot with an adaptation of Ahamefule Olou’s Off-Broadway hit musical play Now I’m Fine, about a harrowing period in the comedian and musician’s real life. A fever dream of recollections of Oluo’s life’s experiences escaping a go-nowhere office life dominated by a proselytizing boss, a broken marriage and a wacky mother, with his two young daughters in tow, his ultimate challenge becomes an illness that literally causes his skin to dissolve. The Harlem International Film Festival will close with the world premiere of Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL. The film tells the almost forgotten story of how some of the greatest black U.S. ballplayers of all time became legends in Cuba playing integrated baseball there before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in the U.S.

Other films making their world premieres include three documentaries; Gold’s IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MAD DOG COLL about one of the Bronx’s infamous, most wanted mafia killers; Gabriel’s MOSUL follows several key individuals involved in reclaiming the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS); Best’s THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE details the history of the Bronx as told through the microcosm of the Patterson projects; and Samo’s Pakistani drama WAITING focuses on a young woman trapped by the progress of her mother’s dementia.

Once again, the Harlem International Film Festival will feature the work of local NYC talent, including a showcase of short films made by filmmakers from Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx. Films like: the experimental piece set in the Harlem Housing Projects (Christopher Seda’s COLORS), and with themes of de-gentrifying (Washington Kirk’s FREDERICK DOUGLASS BOULEVARD AKA FOOD & DRINK BOULEVARD AKA FDB), paying homage to Langston Hughes (Kenneth Sousie’s HOLD FAST TO DREAMS: GOODNIGHT, HARLEM), the struggles of being the sole woman of color in an office environment (Monique Lola Berkley’s I HATE THIS FKN’ JOB), and a look at the history of two notable buildings on Harlem’s Sugar Hill that housed influential individuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Louise Thompson-Patterson, Elizabeth Catlett, and Paul Robeson, among many others (Karen D. Taylor’s IN THE FACE OF WHAT WE REMEMBER: ORAL HISTORIES OF 409 AND 555 EDGECOMBE AVENUE) are among some of the films putting forward the work of those film artists, as well as celebrating the hub of the city that the film festival calls home.

For Film festival passes, tickets, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to

2020 Harlem International Film Festival official selections

Beauty Water (2020) NYAFF 2020

Yaeji is a heavy weight young woman which in South Korean society is the source of ridicule. Hoping to become beautiful and thus get ahead in life she attempts to use Beauty Water, a product which promises to make her exactly what she wished. Unfortunately it has horrible side effects.

Unpleasant and unnerving animated film is a trip into the body horror sub-genre that David Cronenberg used to mine so successfully. This is a chilling look at the things people will do to become loved. It’s a sad tale that not only horrifies us with what happens but makes us realize that just because we get what we want or what we think will make everything alright, things will not be better if we have other hidden problems.

Beauty Water is a stunner. It’s a neat poisoned confection that turns your stomach.

Recommended to those like who like their horror disturbing

The Unseen Films NYAFF 2020 Post

With NYAFF starting today I wanted to get Unseen Films’ coverage up so you at least had a little bit of guidance regarding the fest.

Our coverage this year is going to be sparse, consisting only of the a few films we saw through means outside of the festival. The reasons for this is due to a couple of factors, including the fact that the app the festival is using to screen the films is not something that is workable for my tech set up (you must use a cellphone or tablet).

Below you can find links to the films we covered either through the graciousness of the distributor or because the films played at this years Fantasia Fest. There is also notes on two films that we will be having reviews of in the next few days.

I will have a review up of the really good thriller LEGALLY DECLARED DEAD as soon as the Fantasia embargo lifts.

I will be running a review of BEAUTY WATER soon. I have a banked review from Fantasia. The feature version of the film was pulled from that festival and replaced by 20 minute short.  Since the feature is supposed to still be playing NYAFF I've repurposed the review.

Having  connected with the NYAFF offices I can finally say that there will be more coverage of the festival coming.

A Mermaid in Paris (2020) Fantasia 2020

Mathias Malzieu follows up his Jack and The Cuckoo-Clock Heart with a whimsical tale of singer who ends up rescuing an injured mermaid in the Seine. Romance ensues.

This is a sweet little film that takes a plot we've seen any number of time (man finds mermaid and takes her home) and wraps it up in some  utterly charming clothes, the result is a film that is going to absolutely delight many, while at the same time it is going to be too saccharine for others. You are either going to either love this film (I did) or hate it (I've since read a couple reviews that were full of scorn)

Make no mistake the film is very much an artificial creation,much like the pop up book that figures in the plot, but at the same time like the pop up book this delights our senses. Colors pop, songs are sung and delightful things happen. This is director Malzieu using all of the storytelling tools at his disposal in order to create the mood and feelings that he feels will get his story into our hearts. If you can accept the way the story is being told then you will find yourself in the presence of a charming and wonderful film.


Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Captain Midnight

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Alone (2020) Fantasia 2020

ALONE is the story of a woman named Jessica who packs up her belongings heads off to a new life. Along the way she meets a creepy guy who keeps showing up in in front of her. Eventually he kidnaps her and she has to fight for survival.

I’m not going to lie. For about 80 minutes ALONE is a well-acted, and well-made thriller that covers extremely familiar territory. We have been there any number of times to the point that you can pretty much write what is going to happen way in advance. While it’s not fatal, especially since the film has a first rate cast that holds our attention when the familiarity of the plot makes it seem like we could wander off to the bathroom without missing something…

…and then things shift around and in the final fifteen minutes or so. At that point the film kicks things up a notch or two. As we drift toward the final confrontation the film blossoms. There are a couple of turns that are wonderfully unexpected. Things happen and you wonder why no one did that before. Additionally there is finally a real weight to the battle. Perhaps it’s knowing that the finale is coming and that you know things have to conclude. Or perhaps it is because the final battle is shot with an intensity lacking in the rest of the film , but for what ever reason the ending of this film is so good it makes an otherwise okay film truly great.

Truthfully it is so good you need to see the film.

I also have to give the film points for doing something that many similar films don’t normally do and that is giving us a heroine who is a rounded person. Too many of these films treat the women as pieces of meat to be abused. The film HUNTED which is also playing Fantasia is so misogynistic that it is offensive. The woman at the center of that film and others doesn’t exist for any reason other than to be abused. You know this because there is nothing to the character other than the abuse in the film. In ALONE Jessica is so well drawn she is real and we care what happens to her. And because we care it makes the cellphone call a kind of grand fuck you moment to every filmmaker who has ever put a woman in peril. In the one simple act od stating her name she kicks down the door, destroys the genre and gives notice that characters really can’t be meat any more. It’s a wow moment that should change the way we view the movies, and these sort of movies in particular. As a result the film becomes something greater- and it also gives the finale a resonance that makes the film cathartic and a must see.

Festival of Cinema NYC to Present a Drive-In Movie Event For Its 4th Annual Edition at St. John’s University in Queens October 1st through 4th, 2020

Queens, NY, Aug. 26, 2020 - Festival of Cinema, Inc. proudly announces the 2020 Festival of Cinema NYC. After facing many challenges this year, the team at Festival of Cinema will finally be able to deliver a live film festival event to the borough of Queens, New York in the form of a Drive-In Movie Theater! The film festival, taking place from October 1 to October 4 at St. John’s University’s Queens Campus, will be screening six ‘blocks’ of movies featuring 28 independent films, specially curated from submissions received from around the world.

Opening night on Thursday, Oct. 1st will feature 11 short films from NYC filmmakers. On Saturday night, Oct. 3rd, Festival Of Cinema NYC invites the whole family as we’ll be presenting a night of animated films for all ages, which will include the New York Premiere of the animated feature film “Mosley,” directed by Kirby Atkins, featuring the voices of John Rhys-Davies, Lucy Lawless and Kirby Atkins. The Saturday late night block will feature seven international short films. Friday night will include the East Coast premiere of the feature thriller “Goodbye Honey” by director Max Strand. The festival will close on Sunday, Oct. 4th with the Queens Premiere of the powerful feature documentary “Higher Love” directed by Hasan Oswald. Screenings will begin every night at 7:00 p.m., with late night screenings on Friday, October 2nd and Saturday, October 3rd beginning at 10:00 p.m. All the films will be projected onto a majestic five-story screen inside the St. John’s University parking lot across Jack Kaiser Stadium.

Staying in compliance with New York City COVID-19 guidelines, the festival will be completely contactless. Attendees will have the option of buying their tickets online by visiting our website and having their tickets scanned at the entrance or they may purchase tickets at the event using our contactless technology.

Cars and SUVs will be able to enter through St. John’s University GATE 4 on Union Turnpike and 175th Street. Upon entering the lot, attendees will be treated to the opportunity of having their photo taken on the red carpet by being guided to our 20 ft. ‘Ride & Repeat’ where festival photographers will be taking pictures of guests in the safety of their own cars.

Tickets to this year’s event will be available for purchase beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 1st on our website and through our listing on The cost for each film ‘block’ will be $35.00 per car with a limit of 5 guests per vehicle.

For tickets and more information on the Festival, visit

For Sponsorship and advertising opportunities please email:

About Festival of Cinema, Inc.:

Festival of Cinema, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization. The festival was founded by local independent filmmakers with a passion to get movies made and to expand the reach of artists’ work. Recognizing the challenge of the visibility of independent film, the the festival's aim is to establish a presence in and spread awareness of cinematic creativity throughout Queens and its vibrant and culturally diverse communities.

Atlanta's Out on Film Announces Icon Award honoree and film lineup for 33rd edition of LGBTQIA+ fest

Out on Film presented by WarnerMedia announces film lineup and special events for this year’s 33rd edition of the film festival (September 24-October 4)

Cindy Abel’s SURVIVING THE SILENCE is the Opening Night selection, and Monica Zanetti’s ELLIE AND ABBIE (& ELLIE’S DEAD AUNT) gets the Closing Night nod

Margaret Cho will receive the Out on Film Icon Award, Kevin Williamson will take part in a “Conversation of Film,”and Del Shores and cast will participate in a 20th Anniversary screening of SORDID LIVES

Atlanta, GA (August 27, 2020) – Out on Film presented by WarnerMedia announced the lineup of films and events for the 33rd edition of the Atlanta-based LGBTQIA+ film festival today, its first as an Oscar ® qualifying film festival. One of the few film festivals on the regional circuit that has grown in recent years (expanding from an 8-day event to an 11-day event), this year’s film festival will be a virtual edition taking place September 24-October 4.

Highlights will include the Opening Night screening of Cindy Abel’s celebrated documentary SURVIVING THE SILENCE, the Closing Night screening of Monica Zanetti’s crowd-pleasing prom comedy ELLIE AND ABBIE (& ELLIE’S DEAD AUNT), special anniversary screenings, the presentation of Out on Film’s Icon Award to Margaret Cho, and a “Conversation of Film” with SCREAM and Dawson’s Creek scribe Kevin Williamson.

Out on Film will once again offer a rich selection of LGBTQIA+ films curated from around the world. 39 features (24 narrative films, 15 documentaries), 15 shorts programs with 82 films and a webseries representing 20 countries will be screened this year.

Out on Film Festival Director, Jim Farmer, said, “2020 has been a challenging journey thus far for all of us, so along with the films that we have found from world cinema titles to award-winners, and films that have been popular thus far at other film festivals, the theme of the journey struck us for our special events with Margaret Cho and Kevin Williamson. She is a certified LGBTQIA+ icon (thus the award we will present to her) and he shaped pop culture in a major way during a heady period writing for film and television. Both have had a fascinating journey leading up to the peak of their cultural influence and beyond. As one of the longest running LGBTQIA+ film festivals, we embrace connecting those dots through our history as well as celebrating and presenting the best of the new films and filmmakers today.”

Out on Film will screen Abel’s documentary SURVIVING THE SILENCE as its opening night selection on Thursday, September 24. The Atlanta resident’s latest film focuses on the landmark 1992 military review of Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Presiding over the military review board was Colonel Pat Thompson, a decorated army nurse, who, herself, was a closeted lesbian. The screening will be followed by a Q&A including Cindy Abel, and the documentary’s principal subjects, Colonel Pat Thompson, Barbara Brass and Margarethe "Greta" Cammermeyer.

The Closing Night selection is Monica Zanetti’s Australian comedy ELLIE AND ABBIE (& ELLIE’S DEAD AUNT) which follows 17-year-old Ellie, who struggles to find the courage to ask her classmate, Abbie, to the formal. Luckily her Aunt Tara, a lesbian who died in the 80's has shown up as a "Fairy Godmother" to dish out advice, whether Ellie wants it or not.

The recipient of this year’s Out on Film Icon Award, Margaret Cho has been an unstoppable entertainment force since she arrived on the comedy scene more than two decades ago. Cho’s stand up career began in the 90s and quickly reached the point where she had performed over 300 concerts within two years. Her groundbreaking, controversial, and short-lived ABC sitcom, All-American Girl (1994) soon followed. In 1999, her off Broadway one-woman show, I’m The One That I Want, toured the country to national acclaim and was made into a best-selling book and feature film of the same name. In 2001, she embarked on her Notorious C.H.O. smash-hit 37-city national tour that culminated in a sold-out concert at Carnegie Hall. In March of 2003, Revolution yielded a CD recording which was nominated for a Grammy for Comedy Album of the Year. 2007 brought about the True Colors Tour with Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry and Erasure and others, benefiting the Human Rights Campaign.

Cho returned to TV in 2008 with the VH1 series, The Cho Show. After an international tour with her show Beautiful, it subsequently aired as a special on Showtime in 2009, and then released as both a DVD and a book. In 2009 she starred in the comedy/drama series Drop Dead Diva, which aired for six seasons on the Lifetime network and was filmed in Atlanta. Next up was Dancing with the Stars, and then 2010 culminated with her second Grammy Award nomination for “Comedy Album of the Year” for Cho Dependent, her incredibly funny collection of music featuring collaborations with Fiona Apple, Andrew Bird, Grant Lee Phillips, Tegan & Sara, Ben Lee and more. In 2012, she received an Emmy nomination for “Best Guest Performance” on Thirty Rock. In 2015, Cho was one of the hosts of TLC’s All About SEX, and debuted her Showtime special/DVD psyCHO. 2016 included the release of her next studio album, American Myth, and she was named special co-host of E!’s Fashion Police. Most recently, she has been a frequent presence on TV with appearances on everything from The Masked Singer to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Known for its special events, Out on Film will again deliver on that front with a 20-year anniversary screening of Cho’s classic comedy concert film I’m The One That I Want (2000), followed by a virtual interview with Cho, touching on aspects of her career, activism, and relationship with the LBTQIA+ community, a 20-year anniversary look at acclaimed writer/director Del Shores’ beloved comedy SORDID LIVES (2000), including a post-screening Q&A with Shores and TBA cast members. Out On Film favorite Chad Darnell (BIRTHDAY CAKE, and the upcoming THE UNDERTAKER’S WIFE) directs an all-star cast reading of beloved Atlanta playwright Topher Payne’s award-winning “Perfect Arrangement,” benefiting Rainbow House Coalition in Atlanta.

Another highlight will be Out on Film’s presentation of a special “Conversation on Film” with Kevin Williamson. The writer and major creative force behind Dawson’s Creek, The Vampire Diaries, and the SCREAM films, among countless others will talk about growing up gay in the South, his career, the relationship the LGBTQIA+ community has with horror, and why he believes they have responded so favorably to his work through the years.

Additional film highlights include; former Atlantan Anthony Bawn’s AS I AM, about a young man who makes an unexpected discovery about himself while trying to run form his past; Mike Mosallam’s romantic comedy BREAKING FAST, about a practicing Muslim still reeling from heartbreak, who makes a unforeseen connection with an All-American guy; Matt Fifer and Kieran Mulcare’s CICADA about a man who comes out to the world after trying to suppress his reality and date women, who develops an intense relationship with a man of color struggling with deep wounds of his own; Todd Verow’s GOODBYE SEVENTIES, a drama about a young man experiencing the golden age of gay pornography in New York City will make its world premiere; and one of Out on Film’s favorite filmmakers, Lisa Donato, making her feature film directorial debut with GOSSAMER FOLDS, about a boy uprooted and unwillingly moved to the suburbs of Kansas City, who bonds with his transgender next door neighbor (played by Empire’s Alexandra Grey). Each screening will be followed by Q&As with the filmmakers and cast.

Among the featured documentaries that will include Q&As with their directors and the films’ subjects include; Jen Rainin and Rivkah Beth Meadow’s AHEAD OF THE CURVE about the beginnings and growth of Curve magazine and founder Franco Stevens; Asaf Galay’s ARMY OF LOVERS IN THE HOLY LAND, a Best Documentary winner at the Haifa International FF, about the transition and life change the queer disco-pop band Army of Lovers went through when frontman Jean-Pierre Barda uprooted his existence to move from Sweden to Israel Eammon Ashton-Atkinson’s STEELERS: THE WORLD’S FIRST GAY RUGBY CLUB, which looks at London’s first gay rugby club and its beginnings in the mid 90s; and Posy Dixon’s KEYBOARD FANTASIES: THE BEVERLY GLENN-COPELAND STORY, which follows the curious story of Keyboard Fantasies, a recording of folk-electronica hybrid music that decades since its creation in obscurity in the mid-80s has unearthed fans today interested in its creator.

For information on purchasing passes, tickets, and additional details on Out on Film, please go to:

The 2020 Out on Film official selections:

Opening Night Selection
Director: Cindy Abel
Country: US, Running Time: 94 min
In 1992, Colonel Pat Thompson was a decorated army nurse, only two years away from retirement. She was asked to preside over the military review board that eventually dismissed Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer for admitting she was a lesbian. Although Thompson had served her country with distinction for over thirty years—from conflict zones in Central America to working inside the Pentagon—that appointment was perhaps the hardest. In that moment, she had to protect her own life secret: that she too was a lesbian and living privately with her life partner Barbara Brass for many years.

Closing Night Selection
Director: Monica Zanetti
Country: Australia, Running Time: 80 min
In this buoyant feature, 17-year-old Ellie is struggling to find the courage to ask her classmate, Abbie, to the formal. Luckily her Aunt Tara, a lesbian who died in the 80's has shown up as a "Fairy Godmother" to dish out advice, whether Ellie wants it or not. This infectious comedy thrives with the chemistry between the two leading characters and has a surprising emotional depth.

Attack of The Unknown (2020)

Attack Of The Unknown is an old school drive-in style film. It’s the sort of thing that Roger Corman or his contemporaries would churn out regularly. It is also the sort of thing that Syfy normally would gobble up- namely a genre hybrid, in this case a crime film with an alien invasion tale.

The plot has a SWAT team taking down a notorious drug dealer. When the dealer is do to be moved the SWAT team acts as an escort- unfortunately the move is on the same day the aliens invade. It now becomes battle for survival with everyone having to work together.

A popcorn film, this is what you watch if you want to just relax for 100 minutes. Pure action with some rubber monsters, it is just a unpretentious fun. I had a blast watching this during a lunch break. Yes you will have to forgive the low budget a tiny bit, but it won’t be hard because the cast sells everything that is going on. They are in vested in what is happening so we are invested and it just makes everything better.

If I had any complaint it is that some of the SWAT guys are a bit too much scruffy to be SWAT guys- on the other hand once the shooting starts it doesn’t matter.


Epicentro (2020)

Hubert Sauper's EPICENTRO is a look at the history of Cuba since the bombing of the Maine, the use of cinema as propaganda, the people of Cuba (particularly the children) and the future of the island nation.

More a kind of free form essay mediation on the various subjects then straightforward narrative documentary EPICENTRO was a film that worked for me in moments more than as a whole. While nothing in the film is bad or out of place, I'm not certain that Sauper connects everything together emotionally. I kept waiting for an ah ha moment that never seemed to come. The result is a film that I really don't know how to describe or talk about.

In some ways not being able to talk about the film is good in that it forces me to say without reservation that you should see it and experience it for yourself, but at the same time I really can't tell you why. Yes it looks good. Yes it profiles some intriguing people. But beyond that I really can't explain why you should see the film, except, perhaps in that it does give you a real sense of the people and the physical place that is Cuba.

A one of a kind film EPICENTRO is worth a look.

Kriya (2020) Fantasia (2020)

A DJ meets a beautiful girl in a club. She takes him him to her home where her dying father is shackled and gagged,. Then things get weird...

Strange horror film is less scary than troubling for all of the transgressive bits that are in it. I found I kept watching it more to find out how far into ugliness this film was going to go...and it goes pretty damn far, to the point that I am bothered and don't want to see it again because it bothered me so.

As good as the pieces are I don't know if the pacing of the film really works. Sequences, such as the the opening scene in a club seem to go on longer than need be. There is also a sense of form or point over plot line with writer/director Sidharth Srinivasan manipulating things for his own ends. It's never fatal but we shouldn't be feeling the directors hands.

While I like the film I don't love it, with my reaction being I admire it more than anything.

Still if you want an horror film that is decidedly not Hollywood, and at times deeply disturbing,  this film is for you

MOLE AGENT (2020) hits virtual theaters and VOD Tuesday

I can’t believe this is a documentary. This looks more like a narrative fil rather documentary…. No matter MOLE AGENT is a sweet little stunner. It is a sweet little film about nice people.

Nominally set up as a thriller this is the story of Sergio who is hired by a detective to go undercover at a Catholic nursing home It seems a client thinks her mother is being abused. Sergio is hired to be a man on the inside. Despite not being as tech savvy as he said he was, and despite turning in reports that are more introspective than informative Sergio plods along becoming entwined with the residents he has been hired to watch.

Once you realize that this is not going to be your typical “spy” or “detective” film, there is no tension or grand revelations, only good people, MOLE AGENT opens up to become a charming film that will make you smile. The film is just good times with good people who are just going through their paces. It’s in its way a lovely celebration of life that reveals wonderful shading in unexpected ways.

I was at first confused by the film, it seemed more narrative than documentary. Then when I realized that there wasn’t going to be mysterious people I fell into it and ended up smiling from start to finish.


Stay At Home Festival Bonus Film: Five hours of Drive in Intermission Films

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Unearth (2020) Fantasia 2020

A farm family struggling to pay the bills turns to a local energy company and fracking to make ends meet. They do this despite being warned by a neighbor that they are making a deal with the devil. Once the deal is struck something is unleashed and everything begins to change.

Just miss film looks good, has a great cast but is way too intent on making a point about struggling farmers, the evils of big business and the dangers of fracking to ever generate thrills. To me, the film  seemed to be more interested in the human drama than the horror. I would have been fine with that had I walked into a drama and not a horror film.

Then again I might have liked this more had the horror been a little bit more up front. Things are in the corn fields, the distance or  shot in such a way as to be largely fleetingly glimpsed. I never got a sense of anything other than being a small farmer in financial trouble, even if the ending has some chills.

Wile not really bad there is nothing here to make it more than a noble miss.

Tezuka's Barbara (2019) Fantasia 2020

Yosuke Mikura is a novelist with everything it seems. He has rich friends hobnobs with the powerful and has met with great success. But there is a problem he isn't writing up to his old standards and can feel it slipping away.  Things change when he meets the seemingly homeless drunk Barbara. She sparks his creativity as he heads off in a new obsessive direction.

Driven by an excellent jazz score Makoto Tezuka's adaption of his father's 1974 adult manga is film were reality and unreality(or is it?) blur and blend. Very mannered in its construction, everything in every shot seems to be a clue to something (thank you Christopher Doyle). At the same time you can feel Tezuka's hand manipulating the actors.  The result is not so much a work of the heart but of the intellect with a result the film is something I admired much more than I liked.

To be honest while I am a fan of Osamu Tezuka's body of work, I never much cared for his sex infused stories such as BARBARA. It was not that they were bad, but more that of all his stories they seemed to be one one's that he was most clearly writing. I could feel him at his drawing board writing the story where everything else just seemed to be this great stories that simply existed.

Worth a look for the jazz score and because it's a good film, even if you are held at arms length

Oak Room (2020) Fantasia 2020

A drifter returns to an old bar at closing to settle up with the owner and collect somethings. But things spin off into dark tales that play similarly to the events transpiring. Stories feed on stories as the evening careens to a dark conclusion

I think how much you like this film is going to depend upon how you take RJ Mitte as Steve, the drifter who returns after several years away. Mitte's performance as the a failure young man is a kind of make or break since he spins Steve into someone who gets on your nerves. He's the sort of a guy who you kind of pity for a bit before you realize he's a jerk and you end up tossing him in the street. I never really liked him and I personally would have tossed his ass out regardless of whether I had his father's ashes or not. I really couldn't believe him enough to buy what he was saying or like him enough to car. While I don't think there is anything wrong with the role as written I just think Mitte was the wrong guy to try and pull it off.

Outside of Mitte's performance OAK ROOM is a pretty good thriller. I've always liked stories that involved well told stories and the film certainly has that in spades. Actually watching the film I had a sense that this would make a killer stage play. With the right lighting and a few changes of background props this tale of bars and the crimes that happen in them would be a something special when it was happening right in front of you.

I liked the Oak Room, more so when one of the leads wasn't on screen. Regardless it's worth a look at  Fantasia.

NOMAD: IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF BRUCE CHATWIN plays Film Forum's Virtual Theater starting today

Werner Herzog's NOMAD is love letter to his friend Bruce Chatwin who left Herzog his rucksack when he died.

One of Herzog's poetic documentaries, NOMAD is divided up into several parts that attempt to paint a portrait of his friend. Made up of Herzog's trips to various places Chatwin lived and visited, recordings of Chatwin's words as well as interviews with the people who knew loved and admired him it is a portrait of a man as a near god. It full of gorgeous images and wondrous sounds.

It is also not for all audiences. A mix of poetic and factual there are sequences which will delight fan of Herzog's documentaries that are often not fully tethered to reality (FATA MORGANA or BELLS FROM THE DEEP) but reach a higher truth,  but at the same time it may annoy those don't like lyric passages (some in the screening I saw struggled to remain awake).

As a life long fan of Herzog was in heaven.

Recommended for those who are adventurous or those who love Herzogian cinematic poetry.


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Brief thoughts on You Can Not Kill David Arquette (2020) Fantasia 2020

Portrait of actor David Arquette who in 2000 won the WCW Heavyweight Championship belt in connection with the film READY TO RUMBLE and potentially wrecked his career since so many people were offended by it and it kind of typecast him as a goofball. The trouble is Arquette genuinely loves wrestling and call of the ring haunted him. Almost two decades later he tries to get back into the ring as a real wrestler.

To be honest I'm not sure what I think of the film.  It's not a good or bad thing, I think it's a good film that could probably use a little trimming, it is more that at times it feels like the film is a kind of mockumentary. Forgive me I don't follow wrestling so I don't know how serious Arquette is, but there is this sense at times that at least some of this is a less than straight forward.... which makes it kind of like wrestling.

Regardless of my doubts this is a good little film. It may not rattle the pillars of heaven but it entertains. Probably even more if you are a fan of wrestling.

43rd Asian American International Film Festival Goes Online on October 1-11

AUGUST 24, 2020, NEW YORK – The 43rd Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF43), presented by Asian CineVision, will take place online on October 1-11 at The Limited Early Bird Gold Pass is currently on sale with limited quantity,
featuring priority admission to all screenings and exclusive virtual events with filmmakers and
industry professionals.

As a result of this unprecedented year, AAIFF43 will be the first edition to be hosted entirely
online to explore new and accessible ways to celebrate the power of cinema. As the first and
longest running Asian American film festival in the United States, AAIFF will continue its tradition
to serve as a platform to honor and support the community of Asian American and Pacific
Islander filmmakers and their stories.

The lineup of AAIFF43 will include 15+ feature films, special presentations, and 10+ shorts
blocks, which will be announced starting in early September. There will be 8 award categories,
with award winners receiving Final Draft software licenses. The festival will also include over 30
hours of livestream programming, 20+ Q&As, and 5+ panels and events. With Elevent as the
ticketing partner and Cinesend as the exhibition platform, audiences in the US and Canada will
be able to watch most of the titles on-demand with a 48-hour viewing window after they click
play right from their home. The panels, workshops, Q&As, and performances will be
livestreamed to the public on Facebook and Twitch.

Additionally, this year's festival will present a virtual Pop-Up Market, featuring curated products
from local and small businesses by Asian diaspora and BIPOC artisans impacted by COVID-19.
The Gold Pass grants priority admission to all AAIFF43 programs, access to exclusive VIP
virtual events, and discounted Gold Pass pricing for next year's festival. With a $150 value, the
Gold Pass is currently on sale for $80 with limited quantity at
Follow Asian CineVision on Facebook (, Twitch
(, and YouTube ( to receive up-to-date news and view the
livestream programming.

About the Asian American International Film Festival
The Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF), presented by Asian CineVision, is the
first and longest running festival in the country devoted to films by and about Asians and Asian

About Asian CineVision
Asian CineVision (ACV) is a media arts nonprofit devoted to the development, exhibition,
promotion, and preservation of Asian and Asian American experiences through storytelling. Our
mission is to nurture and grow the community of makers and lovers of independent diasporic
Asian film, television, and digital.

Thank You
The 43rd Asian American International Film Festival is made possible by support from the
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the Friends of ACV.