Thursday, December 8, 2022

How Is That For A Monday? (2022)


Sripal Sama's multi-character drama is a hell of a good ride. It's the sort of film that on the face of it looks like it's one thing and reveals itself in the end to be something wonderfully different.

...MONDAY is nominally a caper/ crime film. I say nominally because the film is set up by a bunch of bumbling thieves breaking into a house and things not being as expected. Their target is gone as they try to complete their mission we, and they run across various people who figure into things, including Shyam Kumar who is the focus of the action and who is having a really bad day. While the criminal activities of the gang set everything in motion the real point of the film is not crime but human interaction on the best level.

One of the things that I really love about the film is that Sama doesn't follow the expected Hollywood path. Not only does the plot not bend as we expect it to, but he doesn't give us a typical Hollywood lead. Kaushik Ghantasala as Shyam is an Indian programmer trying to find his way in life and America. He is not all American but still tied to the land of his birth. Sama opens us up to the world, not just Hollywood idea of it. He uses Shyam as a main character to give us  new rhythms to experience as the film moves along in its own course and time, forcing us to fully engage since we are listening to the beats of a new voice in film.

I should say I'm not going to be saying much more about the film because this is a film thing that is very much the journey. This is about the hows and whys the characters crisscross so if I am to discuss how certain people meet up it will take some of the fun of you trying to sort out how everything ties together. Additionally I want you to take the journey of the characters  not knowing where their beats and rests are going to be.

I will add that the film scores many points with it ultimately being about the characters. This isn't a "caper film" where the characters all are out to get the Mcguffin, rather this is about the characters and how they are reacting to the things that are happening/crashing in their lives. Yes less about the robbers, and more about everyone else. This is a film where everyone is arcing not being one note.

If I am to quibble with the film it is with the opening scene. Introducing us to characters who will show up later in the film, it doesn't grab us in the right way. The billionaire who is at it's center is not someone we want to know. As a result its cliffhanger ending is not something we care to see resolved. The film should have started with the one after the opening credits which grabs us and pulls us instantly into the film. The early morning delivery, is funny and it's the point where we lean into the film and decide to take the ride (and you will want to take this ride)

This is a gem of a film that you will need to search out. Sripal Sama has made a wonderful little film that surprises at every turn. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Death of April (2022)


Megan moves into a new home. Using her web cam she keeps in touch with her family as she documents her life.  Things become complicated as Megan becomes obsessed with the "ghost" in her bedroom.

Found footage horror collides with a faux documentary with mixed results. As we watch Megan's friends and family talk about her undoing and we see the footage that documents what happened. 

As many of you know I am mixed on found footage films. I love when they work, but more times then not they tend to require the filmmakers to either fill time out with things that would never be filmed or they have to cook the books and show us things the conceit would never have captured. Worse so much of the found footage feels fake with everyone overly playing to the camera. 

THE DEATH OF APRIL gets around much of that by filling voids with interview footage. The interview material is very good. The problem is the found footage material is the cursed playing to the camera. It feels over done. It's not fatal but it reduces the tension.

Quibbles aside this is better than a large number of the recent VOD horror films and is worth a look.

What Remains (2022)


When the man who may have been responsible for the death of his wife returns to town, a minister has to look deep within himself in order to find a way to forgive him.

This deeply contemplative film with no easy answers is really good. A meditation on how we should treat those who have or might have wronged us is heady stuff, and WHAT REMAINS makes it deeply personal and heart felt. Unlike almost every other film on the subject things are not easily fixed. The world isn’t make right by the flick of the writers but through the anguish and uncertainty of the characters.  Brilliantly acted by all concerned, especially by Cress Williams, who hits it out of the park in performance that should be up for every award in the book. It’s not showy but it hits you hard since we truly see what it takes to do the right thing.

Equally good, and the reason the film is getting extra attention, is Anne Heche in her final performance. Showing  just how great she could be when given the right material, Heche rocks the pillars of heaven as the sheriff on the small town. Looking into a murder she is willing to go anywhere and do anything to do the right the thing. It’s a daring and masterful performance that will break your heart knowing that we could have had more of these performances had we only looked beyond the Hollywood bullshit she was forced to trudge through.

I really liked this movie a great deal and when it was done I was emailing friends to tell them to take a look. I highly recommend it for anyone wants a solid contemplative drama.

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

FIAF Announces Animation First 2023

 

New York, NY (December 6, 2022) — The French Institute Alliance Française announces the program for the sixth edition of Animation First, the only U.S. festival dedicated to showcasing the legacy and innovation of French animation. The 2023 festival will run from Friday, January 27 through Sunday, January 29 and will present six feature-length films (including three U.S. and three NY premieres), and six short film programs with over 65 new shorts (including eight U.S. and 12 NY premieres).

The complete Animation First program will comprise filmmaker conversations, "Work in Progress" presentations, a selection of video games and AR-VR experiences, and student shorts programs. Tickets are now on sale.
An early bird discount is available on festival passes through December 16. Animation First curators are Delphine Selles-Alvarez, FIAF Film Curator, and Chloé Dheu, FIAF Film Coordinator. Selles-Alvarez says, “Animation First is an international celebration of all forms of animation. FIAF takes pride in offering NY audiences the best of animated Francophone programs. This year, I’m thrilled that we will honor Anca Damian, one of the most creative filmmakers working today,”

Opening the festival on Friday, January 27 will be the NY premiere of Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre's Little Nicholas: Happy As Can BeLittle Nicholas is a charming rendition of artist Jean-Jacques Sempé’s and René Goscinny’s lives which co-exist within the fictitious adventures of Le Petit Nicolas, the beloved French children's character. The film is presented in conjunction with the FIAF Gallery exhibition: Signature Sempé.
The exhibition will consist of a selection of Sempé’s most iconic works, including quintessential drawings from Le Petit Nicolas and New Yorker cover designs. On Saturday, January 28 there will be a conversation with the Little Nicholas filmmakers, Martine Gossieaux (Sempé’s widow), and New Yorker artistic director Françoise Mouly examining the allure and longevity of Sempé and Le Petit Nicolas.

The Animation First 2023 Guest of Honor is award-winning screenwriter and director, Anca Damian. Damian will present the NY premiere of her mixed media animated film, The Island (The Island was an Animation First 2021 ‘Work in Progress’ presentation) on Sunday, January 29. Following the screening, there will be a conversation with Damian where she will discuss her new film and the augmented reality companion piece, In Search of Paradise.

The closing night film on Sunday, January 29 will be the U.S. premiere of Alain Ughetto's stop motion feature, No Dogs or Italians Allowed. Told as a fictional dialog between the filmmaker and his grandmother, the film details the lives of Italian immigrants who fled poverty and fascism. Other 2023 feature films include the NY premiere of Alberto Vázquez's Unicorn Wars, an anti-war allegory; the U.S. premiere of Michael Ocelot's The Black Pharaoh, the Savage and the Princess, three tales celebrating courage in the face of injustice; and the U.S. premiere of Pierre Földes' Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, based on short stories by Haruki Murakami. This year's festival will also include six short film programs: Best of AnnecyBest of Annecy KidsNew Francophone Shorts programs, Student Shorts Competition and RECA, the French Animation School Network.

There will be two ‘Work in Progress’ presentations for 2023. On Saturday, January 28, Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi will discuss her upcoming film
The Siren, which relays the story of a young boy living in Abadan. Farsi will elaborate on some of her artistic choices and inspiration for the film. On Sunday, January 29, artist Cédric Babouche and producer Aymeric Castaing will discuss the inception of Dordogne, a unique video game that utilizes over 150 watercolor paintings to immerse players in the Dordogne region of France.

Throughout the festival, the FIAF Library will be free and open to the public to experience video games and virtual reality films from French studios and distributors. This years video game selection includes a first look at the Dordogne prototype, a demonstration copy of Chants of Sennaar, and A Plague Tale: Requiem, amongst others. There will also be three VR experiences and an AR exhibit: The Starry Sand Beach (NY premiere), Seven GramsAll Unsaved Progress Will Be Lost (U.S. premiere), and the U.S premiere of augmented reality exhibit, In Search of Paradise, a companion piece to The Island.

The complete Animation First 2023 schedule can be found here.


 

About Animation First

Created in 2018, Animation First is the only film festival in the United States dedicated to French animation.

Today, France is Europe’s largest producer and the world’s third-largest exporter of animated film. Since its early beginnings in the late 19th century when Émile Reynaud projected his Pantomimes Lumineuses at the Musée Grevin in Paris, the French animation industry has inspired filmmakers and artists. Their resulting experiments with puppets, cutouts, and stop motion, have been instrumental in inventing important techniques in cinema. Renowned for its stylistic innovation and an approach that integrates artisanal methods with technological ingenuity, French animation continues to garner awards worldwide and spans a diversity of genres. It is responsible for a variety of films from independent art-house successes such as Sylvain Chomet’s The Triplets of Belleville and Michael Dudok de Wit’s The Red Turtle to those for mature audiences like Persepolis and I Lost My Body to the Franco-American Despicable Me franchise.

Beyond films, France has carved out an important space in animated TV programs, web series, video games, and the rapidly developing fields of virtual reality and new technologies.

LITTLE JEWEL (2022)


Catherine Corman, daughter of Roger, makes a beautiful film about upended reality as Jewel discovers the mother she thought had died when she was a child was alive. She then follows her across the city...

Using 8mm film to stunning effect Corman's film is a waking dream. This is a film that burns itself on your subconscious, bypassing all rational thought and it ends up some where in your heart. I finished the film and just said "wow".  My thought was that this is what movies are supposed to do.

I am in awe of this this film. I love that it feels like a throwback to the classic days of art films. This is the sort of film that her dad used to import to the US. 

I would love to see what Corman would do with a feature. 

This film is cinematic magic.

Highly recommended

I AM DB COOPER (2022)


Rodney Bonnefield claims to be DB Cooper and he enlists the aid of a couple bail bondsmen and a film crew to go and dig up the money he buried almost a half century ago.

One part recreation and one part documentary I AM DB COOPER is a hell of a ride. The story of a man who insists he was the notorious hijacker this is a tale with twists and turns and unexpected occurrences. I'm not sure how much of this is true, but it was one compelling time at the movies.

It helps that Bonnefield is a compelling chap. He sells his tale with an absolute certainty you don't often find. There are a lot of things he doesn't say that make me wonder if his tall tale is true, but the things he says, like having an affair with Rita Coolidge, made me want to lean in.

As you can tell I'm not buying the story, there is something wrong about it all, but that doesn't mean I'm no in love the story and it's telling. I think the reason the film works is that director T.J . Regan doesn't do anything special except let the story stand.  Yes he recreates portions of it, but at the same time he does so that we lean in to find out more.

While I have no idea if you're going to buy the tale as proven fact, I do think you'll love the story.

Recommended

INVICTA, A FILM BY BRETON TYNER-BRYAN (2022) Dances With Films NYC 2022


"Set in New York City amongst the mansions of Riverside Drive, 7 mafia wives from across the country convene at the request of an unknown blackmailer, only to see their united front quickly crumble, exposing romantic relationships, alliances, and ultimate betrayal."-
La Jolla International Fashion Film Festival

I am quoting the synopsis at the top because without it this film is just something that exists as a dance/fashion film that is pretty to look at, but doesn't fully come together.  However if you do read the synopsis you will love the film.

I watched INVICTA without reading the synopsis. If you know me you know I tend to do that with many since I want to see the films knowing as little as possible.  Yes I will try to have some idea but I don't want details that will give the plot away.

I watched the film the first time and I liked it as a dance/fashion film but I didn't fully appreciate it. Once I found out what the plot was everything clicked and it came together. Knowing the plot I loved the film even more. After ward I was talking to a friend who loves dance. She told me  with dance you can't go in blind, you need the synopsis to truly understand what was going on. My mistake.

This is a nifty little dance film. Recommended.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

The Scottish Play (2022)

 


Small scale gem about a young theatrical director who lures a well known actress to come and do his version of Macbeth. As actress and director begin a dalliance, the ghost of William Shakespeare comes to call.

This is a sweet little romantic drama. This is good times with great people. That the film works as well as it does is due entirely to the killer cast who sell it.  The cast is so good that even the ghost of Shakespeare works. 

If you want a lovely off Hollywood film that will move you more than most big budget films Give this film a shot. 

Guns of Eden (2022)


Still reeling from a robbery gone wrong, ex cop Meghan, is talked into going on a camping trip with some friends. No long after arriving they stumble upon a  group of sheriff's executing a drug dealer.  Now being hunted by the bad cops, Meghan and her friends must fight to survive.

While GUNS OF EDEN covers a lot of familiar territory, it lifts itself up by giving us some kick as action and good characters. That's a rave boys and girls, especially since this film covers similar territory of the half dozen or so MOST DANGEROUS GAME retreads we've seen in the last few years.  I was absolutely delighted to have one of these films make me pause the film go make a big bowl of popcorn and get lost in it.

While the low budget results in a couple of giggles(an arrow not going into the eye of a baddie) the film is pretty much devoid of missteps.

A delight.

Monday, December 5, 2022

After Skid Row (2022)


Portrait of Barbie Carter, a once homeless woman now in her own apartment after ten years. Though Carter now has a place the years without one have left their mark. 

Oscar short listed film (getting an Envelope Please screening on Thursday in LA) is going to rock your world. Not only is this a killer portrait of person you need to meet, but this is also an important portrait of what happens after you stop being homeless.  Most people would think that the world becomes skittles and beer but that isn't the case. Just because you stop being homeless doesn't mean that you leave that behind and director Lindsey Hagen shows us, clearly, why that is the case.

This film is a must see.  It's a film that has just a big a punch as a feature, and indeed I would love to see it expanded.

Having seen a good number of Oscar Long Listed Shorts (expect lots of short reviews over the next 4 weeks) I can honestly say that I think there is a good chance the film will end up with a nomination.

Recommended

Rise Of The Beast (2022)

 


Activists are sent into an animal experimental lab only to find that what is there is something much worse than they could ever imagine.

This mix of genres (action, horror, science fiction) is surprisingly really good. Blessed with a cast that doesn't phone things in and numerous set pieces that crank up the suspense. This is absolutely the sort of film that made me fall in love with B horror and science fiction films. This is the sort of film that would have been a drive-in staple back in the day.

If there is any hiccup in this small delight it's the CGI which is just okay. Yes the monster looks good, but the images of the beasts motion makes it clear that it isn't in the same place as the actors. Its in no ways fatal but it takes away from what should have been a four star popcorn film.

Quibble aside this film is recommended,

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums (2022) Hampton's Doc Fest


Omar Sosa started a percussionist before switching to the piano. Because a piano is essentially a percussion instrument he calls his piano his 88 well tuned drums.

Smashingly good biography of the man and his music. Telling the story of his life growing up in Cuba, where he listened to the forbidden music via radio from Miami that included Earth Wind and Fire, The Commodores, and Elton John, on through his life as an acclaimed musician this is a tale full of hope, joy and music. This glorious film is full of wall to wall music.

One of the things that I loved about this film is that we get to hear how Sosa fell in love with music. We see how being exposed to different types of sounds opened up doors. I think its grand that he talks about loving the jazz he was hearing despite not knowing what he was listening to. Way too often we hear stories of people falling in love with music and spouting off the names, but in my own life, myself and friends more often then not suddenly hear something and fall in love with it, only later finding out what we were hearing. That Sosa did the same thing made his story some how more relatable. He really is just this guy.

This film is a delight from start to finish. If you love music, especially Jazz or anything related to Cuba, this film is a must see.

Double Down South (2022) Dances With Films New York 2022


Diana blows into a small Southern town and is noticed at a run down plantation turned pool hall. Quickly showing that she can more than hold her own against the big guys, Diana convinces Nick that he should stake her. With Little Nick acting as her coach/confidant she begins to a run to a fortune playing keno pool.

Film noir collides with a caper film that is a hell of a ride.  This is a twisty turny film that has a great deal going on. There is so much going on I'm not going to really discuss the plot since I don't want to give anything away. 

I will say that the film is trying to be more than just a thriller. This is a film that wants to take on both racism and misogyny, being set in a world where anyone not a white man is a target. While the film gilds the lily  a bit to make it's point, the film does make a point, at times taking the piss out of the good ol boys.

If I have any quibbles with the film is that the film feels long at running just shy of two hours. While I wouldn't know what to trim, there is a moment somewhere where in the middle where I just wished it moved a tad faster.

Nit pick aside, this is a solid film you'll want to see when it plays near you

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Good Guy With A Gun (2022) Dances With Films NY


After his father is killed trying to stop a robbery, a young man and his mother move to the country. Falling in with some guys who like to shoot guns, both mother and son find their relationship strained. However things begin to take a darker turn and its not certain they will survive.

This is a really good drama/thriller. The reason the film works is that we are introduced to a number of atypical characters. Say what you will most of the people are not the sort of people we typically see in films and as a result the film is so much closer to real life. The small moments, outside of the main plot lines, carry atypical weight.

The film is being billed as a look at guns in our society from the stand point that things are not as cut and dry as the media would have us believe. I think the film succeeds in what it trying to do, this is a good drama that makes it clear that guns unto themselves are not bad. The problem is always the people handling them.  At a time when everyone is blaming guns for shootings, GOOD GUY WITH A GUN makes it clear that we need to really examine the issue beyond viewing it as a black or white matter.

On top of the message, and more importantly, this is a really good drama/thriller. Its not something we've seen a million times before.

Definitely worth a look.

BIG SONIA hits Ovid TV December 5



Leah Warshawski's portrait of her grand mother Sonia who survived the Holocaust and at  90 years old still is working as a tailor. Charming portrait of a woman who has seen much and refuses to slow down. As she recounts her life to the camera, to the radio and various groups she speaks before we come to understand what it means to be a survivor.  This is a completely charming film about a great lady. We should all be as lucky as she has been.

BIG SONIA plays Ovid.TV December 5


Friday, December 2, 2022

IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING (2022)

 


IN THE COURT OF THE CRIMSON KING is a blast.

While I am not any sort of King Crimson fan, I enjoyed the hell out of the film.

The film is meticulous look at the band and it’s head Robert Fripp. It’s a behind the scenes look at the groups 50th anniversary tour and it’s trip and a half.  Yes it looks good and yes it sounds good, but it also is film that doesn’t try to sugar coat anything, which in a weird way makes it kind of sugar coated, because despite Fripp being an ego centric perfectionist, he still comes off as strangely charming. He’s such a  charming SOB that Fripp acknowledges that the current line up of Crimson is the first one that has doesn’t include anyone who hates his guts.

I don’t know what to say more about the film other than I had a blast. I loved everything about it. Not only is is a great music documentary its just an entertaining film, which is rare accomplishment.

Highly recommended the film is currently playing in theaters across America and the globe.

Pivot Pals (2022) DANCES WITH FILMS NEW YORK 2022


Dax young boy has to spend the day with his mom's new boyfriend, Clay.  Clay wants to take the kid to a Steelers game but Dax hates football, so they have to pivot, and it all goes sideways

This is a hard film to write up and do it justice without things sounding negative. I say this because this because I really like the film.  There is one wrinkle however that I want to discuss. 

While the plot line of this film is similar to many others, the characters and shadings are colorful enough that the film remains interesting.  They are interesting enough that this should have been a feature film. I say this because while we get a sense of the characters, they are often reduced down to get us through the brief running time to get a point. I would have loved to see more between Clay and Dax's mom so there was more resonance for the ending. This is a too short version of a feature film.

In looking for a feature version I don't want this to stray into silliness, but I want it to stay close to reality like this film is,

Recommended

Last Film Show (2021) hits digital today

 


THE LAST FILM SHOW is one of the greatest love letters to the movies and the power of cinema that you will ever see.  It is one of the best films of 2021 and of the Tribeca Film Festival as well

The film follows a young boy whose family makes a rare trip to the movies. Falling under the spell of the flickering image he begins to return to the cinema almost daily, bribing the projectionist with the lunches his mother prepares for him. Things are going swimmingly until the switch to digital is coming and he is forced to figure out how he can make one more trip into the darkness.

Magical and wondrous beyond words, this is a film that is going to have any true lover of the movies squealing with delight or sobbing with the beauty of the image and story.

While the film echoes films such as CINEMA PARADISO, it is entirely it’s own beast. Yes it openly riffs dozens of films, but it’s all perfectly done and perfectly acceptable since it is never gratuitous or showy, rather it is perfectly placed. And lest you argue that a truly great film wouldn’t lift from other films I will say you are wrong. This is a film that is about the collective dream that we have. It is a film about how films invade our lives and become part of them. Of course there are riffs because over time we see life in terms of the movies.

I was moved to tears and then some.

I am so jealous of the people who got to see this on a big screen with an audience of like minded film fans.

This is a masterpiece.

I fully expect this to be in the running for the Oscars, not just the best foreign language  category, but for others as well.

Forgive me for not saying more but this is a film you need to see and experience. It is a film you need to have live in your heart and make you fall in love with the movies all over again.

Highly recommended.

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Amigo (2019) opens Friday


Best friends and occasional comedy partners Javier Botet and David Pareja go dark in a film that will make you look twice at your best friend. 

After Botet is badly injured in a horrible accident Pareja take him to his remote home to convalescence.  Things are okay at first but slowly the resentments and suspicions begin to rise to the surface and the pair  begin to act out against each other.

Bleak, black, cruel and containing s dash of humor too dark to not get caught in your throat AMIGO is a bold film that may echo other films (MISERY, BABY JANE) but is ultimately a poisoned confection of it's own bloody making. Containing two of the best performances I've seen in years in any film, AMIGO is a stark reminder that we don't need effects or scary music or other cinematic tricks to create absolute tension.  This is a film that, like the best magic, tricks you into thinking it isn't going to show you wondrous because there is nothing flashy on the surface but in reality  was a trick to have you put guard down. 

The casting of Botet and Pareja was brilliant. Not because they play against type (not having seen their comedy I wouldn't know their humor) but rather because being friends they can do things that random actors couldn't. There is a sense of closeness that isn't faked. Additionally because they are friends their is trust that allows them to push the envelope.

Shot in a week and partly ad-libed  the film isn't always perfect with some threads left hanging, the film still packs a punch. I know some will not like the slow burn build up but those that can click with the film and it's pacing will find  themselves in the middle of a deeply troubling film where everyone is a loser.

LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER (2022) opens tomorrow

I have been trying to write up LOWNDES COUNTY AND THE ROAD TO BLACK POWER since I first saw it, but I couldn’t get anything that did the film justice.  The film is a recounting of the struggle of the people of Lowndes County in Alabama to exercise their right to vote. Despite the fact they were allowed to vote, and outnumbered the whites 4 to 1,  the African American population never bothered try to register to vote since they didn’t want visits from the Klan and other small minded people in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until returning native returned to the county that things began to change. Suddenly people started to band together and make an effort to get registered enmass. That is a simplistic telling of the story, but it’s enough to get you going.

This film is a stunner. The film is a clear indication of the power of groups to effect change. The trick is always not to give up and to vote every chance you get. If you want to know why powerful people want to keep people stupid and away from the polls this film will show you

The power of the story is not in big names but in small people who refused to back down. Yes Stokley Carmichael wanders through the tale, he is not really the focus. The focus is on the people o Lowndes County. This was there fight and they fought it to the bitter end. It’s because  of them that the idea of Black Power and the Black Panthers came into being (though not a in the form we think of today)

This is a great film. It tells the story of a piece of history we all need to know.

Highly
recommended

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Merry And Gay (2022) hits VOD December 1


Two mothers attempt to bring their daughters back into each other's lives. The girls had been best friends and high school sweethearts but drifted apart when one went off to New York and Broadway.

This utterly charming romantic comedy is going to win you over. I know it won me over. This kind of by the numbers romance has charm to burn thanks to the great cast, which sells everything from the first frame.  I fell into it because I just started smiling at everyone going through their paces as they had a grand old time.

To be certain the mother's schtick can be a bit silly but the romance is spot on.  The two ladies at the heart of this tale, Dia Frampton and Andi Rene Chistiansen are a winning pair and I would love to see them paired again. What I love is that you genuinely like both of them, which isn't something you find in most romcoms where one of the lovers is much more interesting than the other. That's not the case here so we have an extra special romance.

What a wonderful Christmas present.

Recommended.

2nd Chance (2022) opens Friday


Portrait of Richard Davis who created the modern bulletproof vest and his company Second Chance. Davis is a man of contradictions with his actions putting just as many people in danger as he saved.

The legend is that Davis turnd to making bulletproof vests after several robberies and his pizza businesses went belly up. Developing a product that could stop a bullet and be light weight he sealed the deal by shooting himself repeatedly. However things turned dark as his crazier nature got him int trouble.

I don't particularly like Davis but I hav to admire his ability to keep going. Things happen and somehow he has largely been able to rise above the shit storm he creates. I was totally hooked by his tale and stared at the screen more intently than many other big titles at Sundance.  This is one of those films where you can't believe what you are seeing. Gtanted he got away with a lot of stuff because he was the big man in town but still...

You have to see this. Its a wild and crazy story that will keep you wondering how this guy isn't broke and in jail.

A must,

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

My Sister's Wedding (2022) The Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival

Kenneth R Frank's MY SISTER'S WEDDING both thrills me and makes me frustrated.  I think this is by far his best  film (both as writer and director). Its a funny film about a young woman trying to survive the titled event. Its a magnificently written film that has a lot of "ah ha" moments of recognition.  At the same time it's a hairs breadth from being a truly great film and that bothers me.

The film follows Allison on the day of her sister's wedding. Trying to sleep in, she finds that the landscaper is using power tools at 6am.  It seems the major domo is trying to get everything on track as early as possible because Allison's parents are so demanding. The day that follows is fraught with unexpected twists and turns as Allison tries to deal with the wedding, quit the family business and deal with all the members of her needy family who have their own agendas. 

MY SISTER'S WEDDING is a funny funny film. Its a film that takes a wedding and turns it into high comedy, while often keeping things close enough to reality that we see our own friends and family in the events playing out. I laughed and groaned at seeing how certain events mirrored ones in my own life. 

If I am to quibble, and I will, forgive me, I find the choice to lean a bit too much into the comedy a misstep.  As good as this film is it could have used a few moments where things were not being played for laughs. The choice is purely the director's since Frank has written a script that walks the the fine line where many sequences can be played as either comedy or drama depending upon how one chooses to shade it. Frank's script compares to Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing which I first read as serious drama and thought it was brilliant, only to see it a short time later on Broadway where is was played as a comedy to differing results. The same script could go either way. MY SISTER'S WEDDING screenplay feels the same way, it could be considered a comedy or a drama or both depending upon presentation. My feeling is that the film's presentation should have had a bit more seriousness because the subject matter ultimately, as all of Frank's scripts, has much more bite than it seems.

Honestly I think Kenneth R Frank needs to make a family drama... or perhaps not because he sense of family might make the film difficult to watch in the best possible way. Yes, I know that's an odd thing to say in the review of a comedy but this film and Frank's earlier FAMILY OBLIGATIONS shows he has finger on the pulse of the human condition in the way few writers ever manage.

My quibble about seriousness aside, MY SISTER'S WEDDING rocks. Its a film that will have you laughing from start to finish.

Recommended.

The film screens Friday, Dec 2 at 3:30 pm at the Port Richey Cinema 6. It’s kind of the second half of an In the Garage Double Feature, with the production company's award winning UFO CLUB playing before it in the same theater at 2:05pm. (Though there is a separate admission charge for UFO CLUB)

For tickets to MY SISTER'S WEDDING go here.

Tantura (2022) opens Friday

This is the review of TANTURA I ran when I saw the film at Sundance

Two weeks before the world premiere I saw the first great film of 2022 and this is it.

Destined to be argued about for years, I am hoping it plays the New York Film Festival in a post Covid world so I can watch the  fireworks of the post screening discussion. 

The film is the discussion of what happened in Tantura in Palestine during the Israeli War of Independence. Officially the Palestinians left of their on accord, though many people, including the people who committed the murders, say a massacre happened.

In an age of spin this is a tale that has been spinning for seven decades. This is the story of a lot of people knowing the truth and but pretending it isn't true. It is a tale where people will gladly tell you what they did  and saw and then say these things never happened. Graduate student Teddy Katz recorded over 140 hours of interviews of the stories and wrote a paper laying out what happened. He was then hounded, as academia and the courts tried to silence him.

The trouble is that in investigating the stories director Alon Schwarz found many of the people interviewed told him the same stories.

This film kicked me in the chest. Not just because its a hell of a story but also because I was trained with an eye toward being a historian. I wanted to do exactly what Teddy Katz did. I wanted to collect stories and tell them. I, unfortunately, went in another direction.

What I love about the film is that in addition to telling the story that Katz pieces together, Schwarz also attempts to explain  why the people of the town  and the Israeli establishment wants the story buried. While some of it has to do with shame, a large part of it  has to do with the fact that some of what was done to the Palestinians mirrored what was done to the Jews in Europe a short time before. As we see in the film, newspapers of the time bent over backwards to explain why this was different than what happened in Second World War.

Schwarz also talks to officials and academics who were against Katz telling his tale. They want a nice and neat past free of messiness.  In the process he introduces us to Yoav Gelber, a professor who has no good words for Katz. He was in the university where Katz was a student and wanted the story to go away. Gelber is hands down the absolute worst historian and academic I have ever run across.  Denying out right  that anything happened and laughing at the suggestion (no, really he finds this funny) he refuses to even look at the evidence.  Never mind that there are hundreds of hours of recorded interviews he totally dismisses all eyewitness testimony as unreliable. While eyewitness accounts can be suspect because of being in the moment, point of view and other factors, it is always vital since it is often only what you have to work with and can steer you toward the hard evidence. Gleber's uselessness as a man of learning completely falls off the table when he says that looking for a mass grave is pointless. Its at this point he goes from a bad historian to the worst. Worse than people who look at evidence and either dismiss it or misinterpret it since they at least looked things over Gelber won't even do that.

What gives this film weight is the clear illustration of the disconnect we humans have. Yes these things happened. Yes people are proud of them, but at the same time they deny they had any part in the events or that the events were as bad as they were. Watch the panel interview with the elderly members of the community who vaguely acknowledge something might have happened but shut down any talk of finding out for certain as if knowing the truth with destroy their reality.

By the time the film ended I was deeply troubled. TANTURA had given me food for thought about many things including our troubled present. If you need a modern parallel look no further than the events of January 6, 2021 when a coup was attempted and now people are trying to retrocon events of it being something else while at the same time telling how proud they were to be trying to over throw a democracy by force.

TANTURA is a great film and easily one destined to be one of the truly best films of 2022.

Monday, November 28, 2022

On the death of Albert Pyun


Albert Pyun has died and we are less for it.

Pyun made a swath of low budget films that delighted the generations who ran across  them in the 1980’s and 90’s who saw them on home video. Pyun’s reputation was made with THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER in 1982. Released to huge box office in 1982 the film  gave the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan a run for it’s money. A mix of old school swashbuckling, magic, breasts and WTF (a three bladed sword that could shoot two) the film was expected to be the start of a series that never materialized.

Pyun soon was making low budget action films, including CYBORG with Jean Claude Van Damme, that delighted audiences who ate up his brand of bone crushing violence, and annoyed the critics. He also made one of my favorite action films, the woefully under seen, NEMESIS about a cyborg cop chasing his ex-partner. It's proof you don't need big budgets and computer generated imagery to rock the pillars of heaven.

Pyun was one of the first directors of the MCU directing the 1990’s CAPTAIN AMERICA It’s a weird rewrite of the character that has great action at the start and end of the film and too much talk in the middle. And while it isn't the greatest film ever made, it helped keep comic book films alive until the MCU could start for real.

Over the years he turned in fifty four films, more than most "great" directors. While some of the films may not have been the best, they were always made with love,  which in this mercenary time is more than many filmmakers can managed. 

More importantly, and the thing that most people discussing the loss of Albert Pyun will not discuss, is that Pyun's film spawned several generation of filmmakers and dreamers.  Say what you will Pyun's work made people dream. Over the last 40 years countless people watched his films and began to dream. In his films they saw something they wanted to do. They formulated stories they wanted to tell and then they went out and gave us their dreams. From their dreams came more dreams and dreamers.  Yes Pyun entertained us, but he also gave us dreams to share, and the knowledge that we could do it too.

He was a one of a kind man and while he will be missed his waking dreams will live on

Dash (2022) hit home video tomorrow

 DASH is  a single take car ride where a ride share drive with lots of troubles has to navigate multiple customers,  many more lovers and some drugs he needs to sell.

I’m not going to say that DASH is the greatest thing since sliced bread but it’s a good little film that I’m glad I saw. I should probably apologize to the filmmakers with what may seem like a cavalier attitude but the truth is that’s what it is. It’s a neat little film.

Its also a film that’s kind of hard to really critique. The  reason is that the “one take” nature of the film makes the film that you either accept and go with or one that makes you crazy.  While I know some people will not like the entire film is shot looking into the car through the front window. There are other people, such as myself, who will be fascinated with  watching how it  all plays out. Wanting to know how they did it make me lean in and get hooked on everything that was transpiring before me.  While there is no doubt that some of it is contrived simply to allow for things to play out as they do and for plotlines to be resolved, I still got invested with the turns. I actually wished I had seen this in a theater where the huge screen would have improved the experience by making it close to sitting on the hood of a car.

While there are some bumps, particularly in that the performances can be uneven, this is still a film that’s worth a look.

Sam Kronish of Reel News Daily on Four Samosas (2022) opens Friday


Sam Kronish of Reel News Daily checks in with this review of a funny comedy.

The first hour of Ravi Kapoor’s Four Samosas is a cheerful, gorgeous delight. The film follows 4 wayward teens across a few days in Artesia, California. Vinny (Venk Potula), an unmotivated amateur rapper going nowhere fast, is the de-facto leader and protagonist. When his ex-girlfriend, Rina,  becomes engaged to his greatest rival (a game, but over the top Karan Soni), Vinny decides to spring into action. Unfortunately, his brilliant plan is to steal Rina’s wedding diamonds from her father’s grocery store, reasoning that the loss of dowry would dissolve the engagement (great plan, no notes!) To execute the heist, Vinny enlists his Bollywood-hopeful best friend, Zak (Nirvan Patnaik). Local reporter Anjali (Sharmita Bhattacharya) and snack-crazed safe cracker Paru (Sonal Shah), round out the squad.

Intentionally or not, there is quite a bit of inspiration from Wes Anderson on display here. Certainly in the absurdity of the plot. Think Rushmore meets Ocean’s Eleven vibes. This inspiration is even more present in the strength of the cinematography: color, camerawork, and framing are central to driving the film’s plot. This strength means that relatively few filming locations (a shop, a garage, a street on Pioneer Boulevard, a grassy park) can be leveraged into a true sense of place. These visuals bring Artesia, California, and the lives of the few residents who make up this story, to lush life. This is a film that nails so many of the little details.

The heist scenes particularly benefit from this and are worth the price of admission. Rather than take the Michael Bay approach, Four Samosas relies on characters’ expressions (vs explosions) to convey suspense and comedy. Kudos to the costume designer for some of the biggest laughs.

The script is where the Four Samosas comes up a little short. Every interaction feels like a mix of absurdity and broad exposition. In the early going, this balance holds up (the approach is particularly effective during the heist planning scenes.) After the first hour of the film, the rinse-and-repeat nature of these interactions begins to show through. The scenes between the heist and the film’s conclusion totally lack urgency. This is the rare 80-minute feature that drags.

Kapoor nevertheless manages to land the plane effectively with a sincere conclusion. Overall, Four Samosas is a charming ride. This is a warm, love letter to a community that will leave you smiling.

For more from Sam and Reel News Daily go here.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Emergency Declaration (2021) hits home video Tuesday


As the police are informed that some people think that their neighbor is the guy threatening to do something to an airplane, the same neighbor gets on a flight looking  to do something terrible. The police quickly learn that the man has done something with a horrible disease and have to race to try and find him...just as someone on the flight begins to die horribly.

This is a killer film. Planned to be made at the time that covid shut the world down the filmmakers took the time to tweak their script and production with an eye of making this as realistic as possible.  They wanted it all to be as close to what would happen as possible. It was a move that paid off with an absolute killer thriller. This is a film that is quite simply going to make some people not want to fly.

I was rocked. This film grabbed me from the opening moments and dragged me white knuckled to the end. Yes, I knew some of this was a bit too neat and too formulaic, but at the same time I was so invested  I didn't care. I was willing to follow this anywhere because the cast, which includes greats like Song Kang-ho, and Lee Byung-hung, sells it. You believe because they believe.

I had a blast watching this. I was so in love with this film that I wished I was sitting in a theater with a big bucket of popcorn and a grape Hi-C  and losing myself in the madness. 

What a delight.

Recommended for those who want to take a white knuckle flight.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

It's Nice In Here (2022)

 


Animated film about a police shooting and the aftermath as seen from various points of view.

This is a vitally important look at how everyone sees a tragedy differently. While it is specifically aimed around a police incident, the film is actually speaking to things on a larger level as we see how friends of the victims see them one way (as the friend/family member), the police see them another way (a potential threat in one moment in time) and media still another way (based on how the pundit wants to frame thing). I say this because with the recent shooting in Colorado we are seeing the events portrayed in different ways. 

 This is a moving film that gives us a great deal to think about. 

 Highly recommended

TRUSTED HANDS (2022)


A woman spends time alone listening to a relaxation tape.

This small confection gave me one of the biggest reactions of the year. A quiet tale of relaxation ends up being one of the most disturbing films of the year. I have no idea if that’s what Matthew Levine intended but this film kicked my ass. I have no idea why, but something about the marriage of sound and image is incredibly powerful.

This is brilliant filmmaking. Everything in this film is just masterful. Levine is operating at the highest cinematic levels. The look and feel of the film is similar to the best work of Lorcan Finnegan whose films FOXES, VIVARIUM and WITHOUT NAME are disturbing before anything spooky happens.

This is how you make a horror film.

I’ve seen other films from Levine and I’ve enjoyed them, but frankly TRUSTED HANDS pushes things into a new level. Give this man a seat at the feature film table.

An absolute must see.

Catching Spirits (2022)

 


A young dancer is unaware she has the ability to take in spirits and let them take over her.

Excellent dance film is beautiful marriage of mood and music. The film is an absolute kick in the pants with an ending that had me talking to the screen.

This film is an absolute gem and is highly recommended.

Friday, November 25, 2022

BLOOD IN THE SNOW 2022: Follow Her (2022), Consumer (2022) and Curse of AURORE

 


FOLLOW HER
An actress who live streams the weird encounters she has with people who reply to an ad ends up going to the country to help a writer finish a script for a thriller. However things are not as they seem and soon it all becomes a cat and mouse game.

Ever shifting film is at no point what you think it is. I got to the last frame of the film and I was still waiting for the next twist. Despite what you think this is not a film that you can second guess. One part comedy, several parts thriller and several more social commentary FOLLOW HER is a super film that's an absolute kick in the ass. While you may drift in and out regarding its tone, you will be glued to your seat as the film marches to its conclusion which will leave you rocked simply because its been such a rollercoaster ride of a trip

Recommended


CONSUMER
13 year old girl turns to new consumer product in the hopes of being liked. DArk satire short has a hell of a kick.


CURSE OF AUROUE
Found thumb drive has footage of a trio of filmmakers investigating the story of a dead little girl from the 1920's.

True case meets the found footage genre in a film that never really works. Blame the fact that not a hell of a lot happens over the course the the film. It's lots of talk with small scare attempts at making things creepy, but things don't really come together until the final moments. Blame the light attitude that much of the film has. Also blame the film  frequently subverting its own POV. It's clearly not found footage and it hurts the film.

Disappointing.

AATANK (19??) Thanksgiving Turkey

 


AATANK is a legendary Bollywood film that recently played Fantastic Fest in a restored version. While I’m all for restoring films, this is one I’m not sure this was a wise one that to spend money on.

This mess of a film is started filming in the 1980’s and then was eventually finished a decade plus later. Never mind that the actors aged we just had to go with it. The plot has something to do with gangsters in a small fishing village and it all comes down to a wild final fifteen or so minutes where the hero battles a killer shark who is threatening the livelihood of the village. The battle with the shark really has nothing to do with the rest of the film, but they bend the plot so it kind of does.

You won’t remember anything about the film except those final minutes which are so out in left field that that they are in another dimension. Bouncing between bad models and bad human performances these minutes are some of the most hysterical ever committed to celluloid. I have watched people get hurt from either laughing so hard they cramp up or fall out of their chairs and bang their heads.

I really dislike this film a great deal, and tend to only see the film’s final minutes every now and again when a discussion of truly bad films comes up. Being a masochist I decided to watch the film again for the Fantastic Fest screening and came close to plucking my eyes out of my head. Thankfully I had a cheese grater handy do I just shaved my legs with that to get my mind off the visual pain.

I can’t recommended this film except for the wacky ending.

Bad model work away

DARK NATURE (2022) and FISHBOWL (2022) Blood in the SNow 2022

 


DARK NATURE
Joy is a woman who is still reeling from being in an abusive relationship. Her friend takes her into the woods in order to help her heal by being part of therapy group. However it soon transpires that there is something in the woods hunting them.

This is a good, but probably not to the level it should be ,story story of women fighting an unknown force.  While the cast is game and the idea is very good the execution runs a little too close to some earlier films. The film looks like five or six other films , which I won't name lest I put suggestions in your head, and you keep seeing it follow along similar lines. It also doesn't help that the POV shots of the thing in the woods are standard issue horror movie.

While this may sound like I don't like the film, the truth is I do. This is a solid and entertaining film, that is good enough that you will want it to be better.


FISHBOWL
A rock star has to deal with a fan and his wife.

This is less a genre film than a straight  drama.  Its a good little film thats worth a look.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Polaris (2022) Blood in the Snow 2022


Polaris is a blast.

The film is female centric apocalyptic tale about a world shrouded in an eternal winter. The film follows a young girl who was raised by a polar bear. She is pursued by marauding warriors who like to kill.

A one of a kind film with it’s own vocabulary, this is a film firmly focused on the characters and we are better for it. This is a film we watch because we care about the people rather than just the plot. I say that because the plot line about a run to safety has been done before but it hasn’t been done with characters like this. They are people we like for reasons that are beyond just being heroic.

If you want to know how good this film is consider that its been kicking around genre festivals specializing in films full of blood and guts and gore. While the film does have action and suspense it’s not a typical hard edged film. It is rather just a super small scale dystopian tale that kicks ass.

Highly recommended

BITS 2022: THE DEVILS COMES AT NIGHT, MINDFUL MEDITATION and CRYO


DEVIL COMES AT NIGHT
This is the story of a boxer who is forced to fight a cult while he is stuck at his father's house.

I'm not going to do a full review for this film. I liked what I saw but the version I saw was unfinished. Sections were marked as temporary and the audio was uneven. 

What I saw was good enough I want to see the finished version. Tune in when the film plays The Super Channel


MINDFUL MEDITATION 
A short short about a woman meditating. Its good but a bit too short


CRYO
Five people wake up from a cryo sleep uncertain of where they are or how they got there. Someone or something begins to kill them.

Wildly over long scifi mystery thriller is long on talk and short on everything else. Actually that's not true the central idea of what is going on and which is revealed ear the end is really good, however there is a very good chance you'll have tuned out well before the end. Intentionally obtuse until it isn't this film would have been better streamlined  and about half it's length.

While not bad the pay off isn't worth two hours of your time.

Battle for Siapan (2022)


During the Battle of Siapan an American hospital is over run by the Japanese and a medic must fight to save the patients and staff.

Entertaining war film keeps things moving along at a nice clip. Sure it hits many of the expected plot points but at the same time the film has enough shading that war film and action fans are going to be delighted.

If anyone is going to bitch about the film they are going to go after the films lack of a budget. I can kind of understand that since trying to do justice to one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the Second World War on a budget is not the smartest idea (more so since the film ends with actual footage of the battle).  At the same time it's not really a fair thing to do since the cast and crew are game and they are doing the best they can.

Ultimately this is a solid popcorn film and recommended for those who want something small scale.