Friday, March 31, 2023

GODLESS: THE EASTFIELD EXORCISM (2023) Overlook Film Festival

This is a deceptive (and in a good way) and frightening film.

Nominally based on a true incident GODLESS tells the story of a married couple in crisis. She is having mental health issues. She is having visions and hearing voices. Their doctor is trying to treat her but the medical solution is not a quick fix. She will have to be on the meds for an extended period before they really show signs of working. Her husband is beside himself and fears that she is possessed and in need of an exorcism. The thing is the priest he wants to bring her to won’t look at her unless the doctor signs off. However things happen and not in a good way.

What I love about the film is that it wickedly structured. Looking at first like a straight forward drama or a standard horror  film, things slowly change over time. We get the intrusion of real horror. Reality turns on its head as we go deeper into the psychosis.  What we thought was real is going on changes. Maybe it isn’t mental. From there the film grabs us by the hair and drags us down the garden path smashing us into every rock, bush and tree along the way.  It batters us do by the end we are left exhausted.

What we thought at the beginning is not what we thought at the end.

I had a great time. I loved that the film turns the exorcism sub-genre, which I never really liked, on it’s head. When I got to the end of the film I wanted to turn around and go again.(that’s a rave)

Go see this.

Highly recommended.

Raised Up West Side (2022)

Where the news is filled with short sensational pieces about the shooting and terrible thing happening, RAISED UP WEST SIDE is a good alternate look at life on the West Side of Chicago. The film is a hopeful look at people who are trying not to be a statistic and beat the odds.

Focusing on the people fighting the segregation, food insecurity, and mass incarceration that is rampant in the neighborhood, the film paints a picture of a city that is suffering from a lack of funds but not a lack of heart. The people we meet are not the bad guys that the media says inhabit the city, but instead people trying to make a difference and change their lives for the better. For many, the past is the past and they are looking for a brighter future.

I was moved.

Definitely worth a look, more so if you are tired of the media spinning it all as place of death and destruction.

Disco Boy (2023) NDNF 2023

DISCO BOY is not so much a narrative as a calling card for director Franz Rogowski. The film is a the story of two soldiers, one who travels across Europe to join the French Foreign Legion and the other  a Nigerian villager fighting an insurgency. They then have their paths cross at a disco. I’m not sure what the point of it all is. Yes it looks good, but beyond the craft of the film the film left me pondering : Why are you telling me this story? I’m not certain.

Not bad  but it doesn’t add up to much.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Acidman (2022)

ACIDMAN is the nickname the locals have given Thomas Hayden Church. He’s a crazy old guy living by himself and chasing UFOs. One day his daughter shows up to check on him. It’s been years since they spoke.  She hopes to find out if he’s able to be there alone.

Sweet little two hander packs a punch. To be certain the film is like any number of similar films but rarely have films like this been cast as well as this. Dianna Agron is wonderful as the daughter in search for more than she can express and Thomas Hayden Church kicks it out of the box. His final shot wrecked me as the image went from a typical “I know what this” to “oh shit” when Church pulls out a small detail that speaks louder than a heavy metal sound system.

Beyond that there is nothing to say except that this film will move you.

See it.



From dusk to dawn in Maputo the capital city of Mozambique

One part narrative and one part documentary MAPUTO NAKUZANDZA is the course of a day compressed into an hour. It’s a film largely without dialog with the only sounds being that of the actual settings and the non-stop stream of a local radio station. The narrative threads are loose as we watch several people go through their day.

This is a very nice little film. .While it doesn’t break any new ground it is a wonderful window into a place most of us have never been and probably never go. I was intrigued. Actually when the film was done I wanted to go back in and see the arc of everyone’s lives again knowing the where and hows of all that transpired.

If you like quiet meditations on life this film is for you

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Severing (2022) is getting special screenings 3/31(NYC) and 4/6(LA)

Mark Pellington's THE SEVERING is a 70 minute gut punch.  A dance film for those that like disturbing things it is a film I wish I had seen on a big screen where it's images wold have been all encompasing and inescapable.

The film is a series of dances usually by a single dancer moving to an electronic soundtrack. Its like watching some one convulse from a nightmare for an hour. There were things where I wondered how they did that only to realize that it was all the twisting body of one woman. I know that ay sound like a no duh statement, but at the same time in an age where everything is computer altered its atypical to see something as troubling as some of these images that isn't computer enhanced.

While I readily admit the film probably a little bit too long I still wouldn't cut a thing even if I knew how you can trim a dance.

Before you go vaulting into this film be aware there is a chance this may not work for you. The style of the dance has been likened to Pina Bausch who I know isn't for everyone. This is people who who want to connect with the darker side and be troubled by things other than blood and guts.

Highly recommended for those who like the experimental, dance or off Hollywood.

Screening March 31 in NYC at Alamo Drafthouse Lower Manhattan **Mark Pellington in attendance for Q&A **

Screening April 6 in LA at Brain Dead Studios,Followed by a Dance Performance by Nina McNeely **Mark Pellington in attendance for Q&A **

The film will also play at various Laemmle locations in LA on 4/17 and 4/18

Giraffe (2020) Opens Friday

This is a repost of a review that ran in 2020 when GIRAFFE played New Directors New Films

As a tunnel between Europe and Scandinavia is being prepared to be built, a ethnologist wanders around meeting various people in the town that is going to be altered by the tunnel. As she charts their lives and the places that will b lost or changed forever we get to know the people. She also falls in love with a younger man.

Some good time with some interesting people kind of washed over me without making much of an impression. You can partly blame that on the fact that I'm not sure what I'm ultimately supposed to get out of the film other than pondering the ever changing nature of existence. Outside of recording the lives of the characters it didn't seem particularly meaningful to me. Its not bad but nothing deep enough to touch my heart and soul.

You can also blame my lack of deep thoughts on the film in that in covering 2020's New Directors New Films there are several similar films with similar ideas. The notions of a changing world and forced migrations were covered in other films that touched me more. This is not a knock at the film, which I will revisit down the road, but more a danger that occurs in festivals such as NDNF which tend to program a lot of films of a type.

Ultimately my quibbles aside this is worth a look if you are interested.

Astrakan (2022) NDNF 2023

This is the story of Samuel who is taken in by a foster family. They have taken him in because doing so gives them extra money. Samuel is a broken child. His mother is gone to an uncertain fate and his father was killed by the police. He is prone to violent outbursts. There are some bright spots, such as the girl next door who seems attracted to him. But things are not always smooth and there is no certainty for the stoic young man.

An allegorical and at times cold tale ASTRAKAN is a tough film to love. It's a film that dwells in the same cruel world of Todd Solondz's films. While I like the characters and the craft, the narrative is at times much too obtuse for its own good. For example, there is little sense of any time frame. The film is also very coy about what happens at times. Things are not said for a chunk of the film and then in a ten-minute sequence set to classical music at the end of the film fills in some details. It’s a sequence that in some ways I liked and in others I didn’t because we didn’t need to know some of what we are shown.(we didn’t need to have the abuse more concretely spelled out).

While exceedingly well made and beautifully acted I never fully warmed to the film. To me the film was trying too hard to be about something with the result it never felt alive.

Worth a look for the craft but expect to be chilled.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

On the Edge (2023) CPH:DOX

ON THE EDGE is a great film. An observational documentary it follows a doctor named Jamal as he makes his rounds at the understaffed Paris hospital he works at. Jamalis the only psychiatrist on staff and since the hospital doesn’t have a psyche ward people are not being treated as they should.

Going into the film I wasn’t sure what I was going to make of the film. The film doesn’t begin with Jamal but with another doctor who does he rounds insisting that Jamal will be there shortly. Eventually Jamal shows up and we watch as he does what he can to help the people in his care.

This is an emotional trip. It’s a film that slowly gets under your skin and packs a big punch on the end. It’s desperate plea for proper staffing of hospitals with good people since we see what Jamal accomplishes, but at a great cost to his soul. We see the toll being the only guy is taking on his psyche.

I was moved.

I was so moved that when the film was done I mentioned the film to several friends who work in hospitals and with people with mental issues since what I was seeing in this film mirrored some of the stories I had been told.

A vital and important film ON THE EDGE is recommended

PETROL (2022)New Directors New Films 2023

Eva is a film student working on her latest film meets a performance artist and becomes intrigued. They eventually move in together but what exactly is going on?

If you want answers to what is going on stay away from PETROL. Not only doesn’t it give any answers, it also defies genre. At times it looks like a drama. At other times it’s a horror film. It uses the tropes of a lot of different genres but doesn’t fit into any of them.  This is a head trip of a film that will haunt you for days afterward as the kinks in the tale of two women force you to reconsider what you thought you saw over and over again in the days after you see it.

All of the reviews I read after seeing the film in the hope of finding clarity mentioned the back of the head mirror shot, but the truth is that’s the showiest moment in the film. The truth of the matter is the whole things is just off in the best sort of a way. The film looks like a Euro thriller from the 1970’s but clearly isn’t. You have shots that in a different film would signify horror or something else, but here within the narrative they have no easily assignable meaning. PETROL is like looking at a world like our own but two steps to the left. There isn’t anything specifically wrong but we know we aren’t home.

I can't explain it, and I'm not going to try. You just have to buy a ticket and take a ride.

What a joy it is to watch a film that treats its audience like an adult and refuse to dumb down its tale. This is the best sort of cinematic storytelling because it stays with you and opens up new ways of seeing the world.

Three weeks since I saw the film I still don’t have answers, only a burning desire to see the film yet again in order to make another go at sorting out the deeper meaning of it all.

Easily one of the best and most enjoyable films at this year’s New Directors New Films and 2023 as well.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Overlook Film Festival Curtain Raiser

The Overlook Film Festival starts this week and we are better for it. 

One of the great genre festivals of the year this year it has two coups book ending the festival with the World Premiere of Renfield opening the fest and an early screening of the new Evil Dead film closing the festivities. In between there will be films, Podcasts, Parties, Music, Magic, Live Shows, Immersive Theater pieces and more films. It's a wild time in New Orleans.

I'm wading into the fray as this posts so expect lots of coverage along the way.

And having seen a good number of films I highly recommend you just jump and buy as many tickets as you can manage because it's pretty much all good. And that includes shorts-they shorts are rocking this year.

Four films are playing at other festivals this past weekend and next. All four kick serious ass and are going to be some of the best films you see all year. I highly recommend the quartet (click on the title to get taken to the full reviews).


The festival is running some oldies and I recommend them as well

DEAD ZONE-David Cronenberg does Stephen King with Christopher Walken in the lead. It's atypical Cronenberg in that it's a mainstream film

MATINEE-Joe Dante's nostalgic tale of showman John Goodman having a preview screening of his new film called MANT. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis it's a look at film over a half century ago.

TINGLER-William Castle (the inspiration for Goodman's character in MATINEE) classic about the creature that makes us feel afraid. When it was originally screened the seats were wired to shock the audience.

THE LODGER- Alfred Hitchcock's tale of Jack the Ripper. It's the closest Hitch ever got to making a full on horror film.

And there are tons of other films which I will be reviewing as soon as I can sit down and write them up.

Do yourself a favor and buy tickets (Including the shorts collections there are some truly great shorts).  Details can be found here.

POUNDCAKE (2023) Make Believe Seattle

Onur Turkel returns with the story of a serial killer wandering the streets and subway platforms of Brooklyn.

POUNDCAKE is being listed in the promo material as a slasher film, except it not really. Aside from the fact that the killer carries a chain, the sequences are done more for humor than scares, which to my mind removes any thoughts of horror.

Turkel’s films are an acquired taste. You either go with his off kilter look at the lives of hipsters in NYC or you don’t. I find his films frustrating with great bits being hampered by nonsense.

The nonsense overwhelms any good stuff here. Nominally the story of a serial killer, the film bogs down in to the lives of various hipsters and podcasters. I know that this is supposed to be a humorous but to me the humor is forced, and while I laughed at some of it Turkel tends to push the point past the point of being funny, or is simply making jokes that are uncomfortable just because. More often than not I found myself questioning why Turkel  was showing us the thing he’s showing or making the jokes he is. 

I know that makes me sound like a stick in the mud, but I’m not. I don’t mind stupid jokes or being poked in the cinematic eye, but I want to know that there is something there, even if its that there is no point. Turkel always seems to be trying to make a point of some kind, but from my POV he’s always missing the mark because there is too much nonsense around his themes.

For fans of the director only

Smoking Causes Coughing (2022) opens Friday and plays The Overlook Film Festival 2023, MAKE BELIEVE SEATTLE 2023, Boston Underground 2023

Quentin-Dupieuxis at it again with his wildly all over the place SMOKING CAUSES COUGHING, nominally a spoof of shows like Power Rangers and comics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The film has a group of superheroes being sent on a weeklong retreat to get their teamwork back after their latest battle against a mansized turtle takes longer than expected. As they camp they begin to tell ghost stories, with the result the superhero film morphs into Tales From The Crypt.

This is both one of Dupieux's best films and his least satisfying The best part comes via some of the most wickedly funny bits the director has ever put on film. The jokes and riffs here are pretty much all on target with the result you will be constantly laughing. The worst part is from the fact that ultimately most of this either doesn’t end or goes now where. Only one horror story about a helmet and the story told by the little girl end. Everything else, even the film itself just sort of stops (as the post credit sequence hammers home)

I really liked the bit here but I really wish there was an ending. This feels like --- had a whole closetful of ideas and just put them into a film because he could. Think THE BALLAD OF BISTER SCRUGGS from the Cohen Brothers.

It’s definitely worth a look because the ride is so good, but just be ready to be disappointed when the film flames out in the end.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

The New Directors New Films 2023 Curtain Raiser

New Directors New Films (NDNF) the annual merging of The Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center starts this week and any film lover worth their salt must make an effort to go.  Highlighting the work of new and up and coming filmmakers the festival is the place to get in on people who in a year or two are going to be huge in world cinema.

I have been going to the festival for longer than I have been doing Unseen Films and it’s always been an eye opener. What I love about the festival is it shows a large number of films that you may not get to have a chance to see for a while if you don’t go now. I wade in and try and see as many as I can simply because I don’t know when I’ll get to see them again. This is not a knock it’s more that with the craziness of film distribution it may take several months or more before the films circle back. Also sometimes people don’t notice the gem that is sitting right in front of them until a filmmakers next film hits and suddenly everyone is scrambling to circle back. I don’t want to circle back, I want to be in on the ground floor which is why I aim to see everything, it never happens but I try.

I should point out that the festival  tends to  run more towards the more serious, arty films then mainstream hits, but then again it has been known to throw in a curve ball or two over the years, RAID 2, the classic martial arts film made it’s NYC debut here.  While there are no films as crazy as that this year, there are plenty of good ones. I mention this because you shouldn’t be going into the festival to see the next Hollywood hit, but instead really good, really diverse films that are not typical.

As this posts I’ve seen almost 20 of the features.  I hope to have a few more under my belt before I’m done. This being NDNF I liked some more than others, but as I say every year I’m thrilled by getting to chance to see such unHollywood films in concentration. My advice is that if something looks interesting based on the write up go see it. Odds are you will like what looks great to you.

For me the best of the films I’ve seen so far are the following:
MUTT- the Closing Night film is 24 hours in the life of a trans man leading up to his father flying into town. Outside of it being too neat in sorting many things out it still is a great film.
CHILE 76-political thriller about a hidden dissident is a dire warning about not keeping your eyes open.
PETROL- magnificent cinematic film that refuses to give answers about a woman and her roommate
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WOMAN - Ksenija Marinkovic gives a performance for the ages as woman who experiences 3 different realities. Oscar needs to give this performance a nomination.

 Seriously go check the schedule and buy some tickets you won’t be disappointed. For the schedule, list of films and such go here.

SICK OF MYSELF (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival

Narcissistic woman insists on one uping her equally self-absorbed and on the rise artist boyfriend in an effort to get more attention. As the game of one upmanship escalates to takes some unexpected and disturbing turns.

Pitch black comedy is going to be a laugh right for anyone who likes uncomfortable humor or who takes delight at the pain of others. However while this film has characters you really dislike at its center, you kind of feel bad for the boneheads since what happens to them is really unpleasant.

A pitch perfect commentary on the YouTube and Tic Tok generation particularly those whose lives are so incredibly empty that they do stupid stuff just to get noticed and feel loved by people who wouldn’t piss on them if they were on fire (They’d just film them), SICK OF MYSELF is a film for today.

I liked the film but honestly, I was done about half way in. There is only so much pain and unlikable people I can take.

Worth a look for those who enjoy that  sort of a thing.

Dozens of Norths (2021)


Kōji Yamamura‘s DOZENS OF NORTHS is a masterpiece that is several decades from when it should have come out. This glorious animated film should have come out in the 1970’s and 80’s when it’s dream like imagery would have made it a midnight movie favorite. Yea back then it was Rocky Horror, Eraserhead, Pink Flamingos and others like Fantastic Planet. Now imagine Eraserhead spawning with Fantastic Planet and you have a vague idea of what this is.

The film is a visualization of the journal of a man who visited various norths. However because time has addled his mind the various norths are jumbled and the film is trip through his broken memory.

While the images above and below give you an idea of what the film looks like it doesn’t really give you any clue what its like to watch this.  This is a trip into another universe. I was awestruck by the images and left staring when the film was done.

What had I just seen?

I don’t know but god damn I wanted to see it again as big as possible.

Seeing DOZENS OF NORTHS was one of the cinematic experience of the last few years.


Track this down and see it.


There are a couple of tricks to watching these films.

Watch V first then 1. Try and watch them together. Also remember that the films are send ups of long running series from the 1980’s and 90’s.

The idea behind the films was that V was the only surviving film in a series that spun off from a 1980’s horror film about a serial killer who survived his execution and then sought to get revenge.  The film is a note perfect comedy horror film in the style of  series like Friday the 13th or Slumber Party Massacre. Watching it it feels like coin into the middle of series. After the filmmakers finished the film they went back and made what the first film would have been if had actually existed.

I liked these films, but to be perfectly honest these are not films to sit at home and watch. The two THIRD SATURDAY films should be seen in a theater with like mined people who get the jokes and the references. Sitting at home watching this for the review my thoughts constantly shifted to how much greater this would have been being able to listen to everyone around me react and comment on the film. Sure I could have invited friends over, but at the same time a living room full of people is not the same as being in a darkened theater.

If you are a horror movie fan these films are recommended, If you are at a festival or some place where they are playing together with a real live audience they are a must.

Saturday, March 25, 2023


After the death of her father a young woman starts to investigate her mother’s new boyfriend, but she makes a mistake and connects with a serial killer with the same name.

Pursued is a good but unremarkable throw back to similar films from the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  Hitting a lot of the expected notes the film expertly tells a story we’ve seen before. While it’s entertaining, the film suffers because in addition to riffing on the films of the 80’s and 90’s it is a bit slackly paced.  If you removed 15 minutes this would be a lean mean killing machine.

I feel bad for seeming to pick on the film but the truth is there is a lot of good stuff here, particularly the lead performances, that make me wish this was a bit tighter.

Worth a look for horror fans.

Spaghetti Junction (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival

The title of the film refers to the nick name of a section of Atlanta Georgia.

The film is the story of a  teen girl whose life was recently upset by losing her leg in an accident. It’s a complication that has made being an awkward teen with a social butterfly and a sometimes difficult father even more challenging. When she investigates a glowing light outside her window she finds that a young man from another dimension has become stranded in our world.

Good but kind of all over the place film doesn’t seem to know what it really wants to be. Is this a heartfelt coming of age film or a science fiction tale? The pieces are good but they never fully mesh since the film never really gives itself into being one thing. The result is a coming of age tale that is genuinely good (the performances are excellent) if a bit to slow, and a science fiction tale that only builds up momentum in the final sections of the film.

Don’t take my words as indicating that the film is in anyway bad, but rather that it’s a diamond in the rough where things two excellent pieces  don’t quite mesh. We  can see the seams.

That said for a patient and forgiving audience this film is worth a look because the two pieces reveal that director Kirby McClure is going to be doing some great things down the road.

Crawlspace (2022)


It’s not really relevant but I was directed to CRAWLSPACE by C. Ernst Harth who stars in the film. We were discussing films that didn’t didn’t get talked about enough in 2022 when he mentioned the film. He was reluctant to do so because he was in it, but I didn’t care because I love it when people effectively press a film into my hands and say “you need to see this”.  More so when the love a filmmaker is there not because they are part of the project, but because they absolutely love it.

Crawlspace is the story of a plumber who is sent to a remote cabin to deal with a plumbing issue.  As he is working in the crawlspace with his headphones on, some bad guys drag a in a hostage and  begin to interrogate him. The plumber is oblivious to it all until  he gets splashed with blood  from above. Its at this point he realizes he’s trapped in a bad spot with no way to get out.

Get some popcorn and a drink or two and sit down and watch because this film is a great deal of fun.

Is it high art? Oh hell no but it is frequently funny and always suspenseful. It’s a film where we are dragged along hoping and fearing what is going to happen next. What an absolute joy.

I completely understand why Harth loves this film. It is an absolute blast and a half.

What I love about the film is you can feel the love with which the film was made. Everyone knew they weren’t making an Oscar winning film but they didn’t care because they knew they were making a film that was going to entertain generations of people who want to chill out on a Saturday night. Basically the exact sort of film I love to discover because assures me I have another film I can curl up with.

Highly recommended

Moon Garden (2022) Boston Underground 2023

Moon Garden is a masterpiece.

The story of a little girl who goes to dark magical place after falling down a flight of stairs is pure movie magic. It has wonders the likes of which you have never seen.

The film is a purely visceral trip, the result of largely being the story of the mind space the little girl finds herself as she lays in a coma. Any notion of a plot falls away in favor of recounting what the child is experiencing. Because she is young the reference are emotional and more visceral than they might be for an adult. The result is a fantasy that is in many ways more intense than the vast majority of horror films you’ll run across. The images and events are dredged up from the darkness of a child’s frightened soul.

I love this film.  I can’t wait to see it again when I can see it on a big screen when I won’t be able to look away and have to take it all in.

Highly recommended.

This maybe one of the most magical films you’ll see this year

Friday, March 24, 2023

Aliens Abducted My Parents and Now I Feel Kinda Left Out (2022) Make Believe Seattle

When a high school girl moves with her parents to a new town in the middle of nowhere she makes the acquaintance of one her fellow students, a young man who believes his parents were abducted by aliens ten years before.

Looking and behaving like a 1990's attempt at riffing a Spielberg film, ALIENS ABDUCTED is better than 95% of the Spielberg riffs that were cranked out in the 80's and 90's in an effort to catch the wave that was ET, GOONIES, GREMLINS and related Amblin films. Funny for the right reasons it is certain to put your smile on your face. 

While the film hits all of the expected plot points and thematic notes ALIENS ABDUCTED still manages us to suck us in and drag us along. This is a film you will fall for, though if you are like me you will spend the first 15 or 20 minutes groaning at how cliche it is until the cast of characters win you over and you just go with it.

If there is anything wrong with the film its in the final minutes when the film's effects go intentionally retro and it somehow loses the  magic as things stop being "real" and become a movie.

That said the film will make you feel warm and fuzzy and as such is recommended.

Code of the Assassins (2022) is on HI YA! and on DVD and Blu Ray Tuesday


CODE OF ASSASSINS is the latest from director Danny Lee (14 Blades, Dragon Blade, Black Mask, Three Kingdoms). It’s a spectacular computer enhanced tale of a young assassin.

The story is the tale of an assassin who is a member of the brotherhood of assassins. He was taken in years earlier after his father made a map to a vast fortune and was killed for his efforts. The map disappeared and no some years later the map is said to have been resurfaced. As everyone scrambles for the map our hero is set up to take a fall. It seems someone is shooting to not only get the map but also take down the brotherhood.  Armed with his withs and the fantastic mechanical hand he was given years earlier he has to fight to remain alive ad save is brothers.

Overly convoluted tale is the pretext for lots and lots of enhanced CGI action. This is a film with so many characters fleetingly introduced that I was lost early. As much as I appreciate --- and his crew trying to tell a big story there is simply too much going on in too many locations and too many characters for this ever to fully emotionally resonate.

One the other hand the action here is truly spectacular and I found I was talking to the screen about most of the action sequence. Sure it’s all computer enhanced, but I really didn’t care since what we were seeing was so damn cool. I wish I had seen this big, and perhaps in 3D.

If you love action and don’t mind a messy plot line CODE OF ASSASSINS is recommended.

Rhino (2021)

The rise and fall of a gangster in Ukraine in the wild and crazy days of the 1990's. Unable to get anywhere he takes a job an an enforcer for the criminal elements, however the longer he is in the life the darker things get and the more damaged he becomes.

Bleak and black tale if life in the former Soviet Union. Based on a friend of the director, it's a tale of people who exist largely just to cause pain and take what they want. It's a  scary portrait of a life and time I would not like to see for myself. It's a film that reveals the mindset of a society that warped by the brutal Soviet regime and its disappearance. There is a sadness to it all because there seems to really be no hope.

This is a good portrait of a young man in a bad situation. You pretty' much know this isn't going to end well, the question is how bad is it going to get. I'm not going to tell you how bad it gets but I will say this is a violent  and bloody tale that may just curl your toes. While we don't get to know our hero to the depths of his very soul, as we would in other films,it's okay because I don't think he knows the depths himself.

While the film falters in that we know how this is going to go, this is still a wild crime drama and a must see for fans of the genre

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Five Devils (2022) opens this week in New York, plays MAKE BELIEVE SEATTLE this weekend and the Overlook FIlm Festival next week

Young Vicky has a supernatural sense of smell. She can smell anything. She makes jars full of smalls that bring back memory. When her aunt returns to town it sets the already tense relationship between her parents on edge. Things become complicated when her aunt brings with her something that sends Vicky back in time to around the time all of the tension started.

Intriguing science fiction or magical realism tinged tale is mostly a kick in the pants. Setting up all sorts of intriguing plot threads we end up hooked early as we want to know what is going on and where this is going.  For most of its running time FIVE DEVILS is its own wonderful beast brough to life by a killer cast (Adèle Exarchopoulos, Moustapha Mbengue, Swala Emati and in a star making debut Sally Dramé) who make it all perfectly believable. More importantly while the films wrestles with the big themes of homophobia and racism, the film never loses sight of the human tale and the emotion between the complicated triangle of adults is never lost.

If the film has any real flaw it’s that it doesn’t quite stick the landing. It’s nothing terrible  but in a film largely unlike  anything else we’ve seen the film suddenly becomes a tad predictable. I would have loved a conclusion that wasn’t one that I had kind of eyed a few minutes from the end.

Quibbles about the ending aside this is a film you’ll want to see, especially for young Ms Drame.

Mr Organ (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival 2023 Overlook Film Festival 2023 MAKE BELIEVE SEATTLE 2023


Mr Organ will chill you to the core. The film is the story of grand manipulator and son of a bitch who lives to fuck over people. He’s a man who is described as being so evil that if he went to hell Satan would go to Heaven just to get away from him.

The film is the story of filmmaker David Farrier interactions with Michael Organ. He is a manipulator, con man and sick bastard who loves to destroy people mentally. Farrier ran into Organ when he was booting cars that parked in a private car park after hours and then it went from there. If you saw Farrier's earlier TICKLED you know that any story he has to tell doesn’t go remotely as expected and that’s the case here. The twists and turns will knot your stomach as Organ digs deeper and deeper intoFarrier's life in order to ruin it because he can.

This film scared me more than any horror film of the last five years because what happened here could happen anywhere. There are dozens of Michael Organ’s out there looking to get sick thrills out of people’s pain.

If you notice that I’m not telling you anything about what happens and that’s intentional. I want you to see the film as I did, knowing as little as possible. I want you to get punched in the face and kicked in the gut as this just goes weirder and weirder.

This is a real life nightmare.

I can’t recommend this enough.

If you are up for it this is a must see.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Sadness and Joy in the Life of Giraffes (2019)

THE SADNESS AND JOY IN THE LIFE OF THE GIRAFFES is nominally the report an rather tall young girl gives to her class. It is also the story of the young lady as she goes on an adventure with a foul mouthed teddy bear in order to get the Discovery Channel. It’s a wild and unexpected ride.

The film is a labor of love for writer Tiago Rodrigues who has turned his play into a trip across the city. It’s a very funny one that had me smiling from ear to ear. The dialog is incredibly clever to the point that you don’t really mind that it has been crafted to be impossibly perfect. However considering that one of the main characters is a guy in a bear suit you end up forgiving a great deal in the name of it all being entertaining.

I loved this film a great deal. It made me smile and think… and smile.


Nightsiren (2022) Boston Underground Film Festival 2023

A woman returns home after many years after the death of her mother. The towns folk don’t know what to make of her and are wary of her after she takes up residence in the abandoned home of the local witch.

Nominally this is supposed to be a film about witches and things that go bump in the night. The reality is that this is less horror film than a look at superstition and how our pasts affect us and the choices we made.  This is more a drama with a supernatural tinge and we are so much better for it.

NIGHTSIRENS is one of the great surprises of the 2022 film year. It’s a “genre” film that really isn’t, even if it hits all the marks. It’s a wonderful character study of a young woman haunted by her past. It is also a killer thriller from literally the first minute when something happens that makes you sit up and go “hello”. It was at that moment I had to see where the film was going because it was clear that nothing was off the table.

I love this film.

What I love about this film is that it has a great deal going on. Its film that has a great deal on its mind. It’s a look at life in a backwoods town, a look at a the male female dynamic, a look at motherhood (and the loss of it), at superstition, and how we view all of that.  Several weeks on and numerous discussions I’m still turning the film over in my mind and still trying to sell the film to anyone who is willing to  listen to me talk about its wonders.

This film is a must.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Stand By for Failure: A Negativland Documentary (2023) Boston Underground Film Festival


If you know the group of people known as Negativland then you know that their albums  and videos consist of a collage method of construction. They pull things all together from a wide variety of places that they weave together to kind of form a new whole. Some times if fails but a lot more times it soars which is why the Over The Edge radio show has been running for decades in California. (Though my understanding its now repeats)

I discovered them decades ago when they were featured in books and magazines on Fringe subjects and then really noticed them where some of their work, a single called U2 in particular,  got them sued by a certain rock group who thought they were infringing on them. It was a clear example that Bono and the boys never heard the piece, and not understanding that they  were doing,  what not leaving them alone would ever do, which is give them an international attention.  People sought them out just to see what the fuss was.

In the early days of the internet I started listening off an on to the Over The Edge Radio show they did every week a for 3 to 6 hours before drifting away. Though recently I fell back into OTE and I listen to episodes almost every night. SO when I saw Boston Underground was running a new documentary on them I had to see it.

If you don’t know the group this film is going to seem to be all over the place. If you do know them the film is going to be the perfect portrait. The film is a collage of old video and audio pieces mixed with new ones. It’s up to date covering the death of some of the founding members. It’s a film that has a through line, lots of seeming digressions that all come together in the end.  I absolutely loved the film.  If perhaps I didn’t get to really know all of the guys in the band, that’s okay because what’s here is choice.

Sonically this film blew me away. Containing one of the most aggressive audio tracks I’ve ever run across the audio seemed to be dancing around my laptop as I was watching the film, and I say that since the sound was coming out of the tiny speakers built in- I shouldn’t have felt like I was in a Dolby theater.

This film is an absolute trip. It is a beautiful tribute to a bunch of friends who spent the better part of the last five decades making mischief and making their audiences think. Its a film, like their "music" and their radio show that you have to experience rather than read about- so go see it.

While the nature of the film and the group at its center isn’t for everyone, for those who are open minded and willing to take a ride, this is going to be something glorious.

The Lost King (2022)

This is the story of how Philippa Langly put the pieces together and figured out where the body of Richard III lay in rest and him exhumed and re buried with the pomp and circumstance deserving of a king.

This is a great story given an okay presentation. The reason to see this film is the always wonderful Sally Hawkins who is utterly charming as Phillippa. She holds our attention as the film simply drives head long in telling its story.

The problem here is either Steve Coogan’s script which is much too brief to cover the subject or the editing which reduced the story down way too much. Yes the film tells us everything we need to know about what happened but it strips everyone on screen to being simply fonts of information. No one interacts, everyone simply says something to move the plot along. Actually the only character development is between Phillipa and the specter of Richard. Everyone else is not developed except for what the actors can get across in their brief time on screen. Its so odd that I’m left to wonder if the film had an hour or so removed.

Despite the lack of characters, I liked the film. Anything Sally Hawkins is in is instantly worth seeing and there is enough to the story that when Richard is finally uncovered I got misty.

While not the great film it should have been THE LOST KING is still a good one thanks to Hawkins and a hell of a tale and as such its worth a look

Monday, March 20, 2023

What the Hell Happened To Blood Sweat AndTears (2023)


This is the story of the group Blood Sweat and Tears (BS&T) and their State Department sponsored trip behind the Iron Curtain to Yugoslavia, Romania and Poland.

BS&T was originally formed by Al Kooper who wanted to bring horns fully into rock music.  While the first album was a critical success it didn’t sell and Kooper left the group and was replace by David Clayton Thomas whose personality and vocals made the band one of the biggest in the world. As part of Nixon’s efforts to cool the Cold War the band was sent to Eastern Europe to play music. The tour would be filmed and released as a documentary.  The tour did not go as expected with walk out in Yugoslavia and the police turning dogs on the crazed audience in Romania.

BS&T changed rock as we know it as they made the use of horns and other instruments part of the rock band for more than just a song. You could play rock and have big band arrangements.

This is a crazy tale  about a moment in time for one of rock’s most influential bands. It’s a look at what happened and how the trip ended up changing their trajectory (some people called them sell outs). It’s a tale with unexpected twists and turns that don’t end until the final fade out.

While I enjoyed the hell out of the film, I think the material could be better organized. For example we are 40 minutes into the film before we get a history of the band. AndI know it’s a nine piece band, but we never get any sense of the members as people at all. The film also doesn’t say much about the group beyond the end of the trip and the “collapse” of the full documentary.

Quibbles aside this is a hell of a story and if you love classic rock or history this film is a must see.

REFUGE releases Friday

At the opening of Refuge the film looks like it’s going to follow the typical tale of a white supremacist and a member of a group he professes to hate becoming friends. It’s the sort of thing that we’ve seen in numerous films over the years. It looks like  it’s going to follow the typical track. However the film begins to bend relatively early on as we get to know Chris Buckley and Heaval Kelli.  We really like the two gentlemen. We can see them as friends. Actually what begins the film bending is the story of Clarkston a small city in Georgia not far from where Buckley lives.  This is a where Kelli lives. The city has been welcoming refugees and immigrants for decades and as a result it has grown and prospered into a place where everyone is welcome. It’s ground zero for the story since it is through visits to the town that Buckley begins to change his mind.

This is a super little film. While the film doesn’t chart any new ground, it does give us a great deal of hope since the film shows us clearly what can happen if we don’t choose hate.  That the film works as well as it does it thanks to  Buckley and Kelli as well as Mama Amina who charms our pants off. We see what not going into darkness will bring us. Literally choosing love, Buckley‘s wife tells him change or she would divorce him and take their kids, can change our lives for the better.

What a wonderful film.


Sunday, March 19, 2023

Nightcap 3/19/23 Angry- A PR person crosses the line, small films need shout outs, Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean anything and more

I'm pissed right now. 

Granted, this isn't my fight, but I'm still pissed off because over the years I've had people try this on me.

While I know there is a lot of talk about how critics shouldn't be mean in their reviews, recently a certain PR person savaged a friend both personally and professionally for being "mean: and "the only negative" review of a film they were handling. The PR person told the outlet that if they didn't take the review down they wouldn't work with them again and then work to see that they have their credentials pulled from a festival.

This is wildly over over the line and complete and utter bullshit. 

Reviews are opinion and everyone has the right to their own. If the reviewer didn't like the film too bad, you can't make someone like a film. 

The PR person lost the argument when they said the review was the only negative review as if that means something. It means nothing only that someone person didn't like the film. (And if it was the only bad review why care? The weight of the good reviews will win out.)

Having read the review in question it wasn't mean, it simply stated what the reviewer didn't like about the film (which was a great deal). 

The PR person claimed that publishing the review was out of line and the reviewer should have declined to review  if they didn't like the film. No, out of line was was attempting to blackmail the outlet into removing the review by having their credentials pulled and withholding other films. 

I have been doing film coverage for over 13 years now and I have never gotten an offer that said "Could you please cover this film... but only write something if you have nice to say." All the offers were for coverage, good bad or indifferent. Reviews are supposed to be honest opinions not something written at gun point or from one point.

If you send out a film, or put anything out for people to see, you run the risk of not getting a good reaction. It's a roll of the dice. I know I've been savaged for some of the things I've written. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. You do not threaten anyone to pull a bad review. Ultimately it will backfire since in the end the films you handle will not get coverage from any outlets.  This is mafia tactics and who wants to put up with that crap? 

As numerous PR people have said any coverage is good, particularly since so many films simply do not get any coverage. If a filmmaker wants a good review they must make a good film, but filmmakers and PR people have to understand that sometimes people just don't like a film. 

Honestly, I'm considering not working with that PR person because I am so disgusted.


This wasn't an isolated incident.


Speaking of films not getting coverage...

I want to know what my fellow film writers are doing regarding coverage of inde films and shorts. 

I asked this because while doing a couple of recent film fests I got emails filmmakers and PR people were shocked when I asked for art to run with the review. I noticed it because I got 3 or 4 shocked emails during my coverage of Santa Barbara, and a couple more since then.

Apparently some filmmakers didn't think I would actually cover the films.  But unless I truly don't have anything to say or there was a technical issue I cover whatever I ask for.

I know it isn't always possible for other writers because editors at some outlets don't want coverage of small films or shorts because they think they won't get clicks (they will when people know your outlet covers them) but please, please, please do make an effort to cover the small films you run across. The filmmakers busted their asses to make the film and word needs to get out.

I'm very serious about this. getting any sort of coverage is vital. If one person/outlet can cover a film very often that can get more people to cover the film since one noticed  it so other people will want to take a look. Filmmakers have told me repeatedly that if I can get something up they can get into festivals and more reviews. 

Too many filmmakers that no one or very few people will look at their films and then say something. Trust me, thinking you have no audience hurts. See these small gems and talk about them.

And even if you can't review it, and you see it say something to the filmmaker, or on social media so they know they have been seen


A reminder- just because some of us aren't on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean we aren't worth having us cover your film. We are. 

This is in reaction to being told multiple times this week (and few more in the weeks before) that I would not be getting screeners because the studio/producer only wanted  RT accredited sites to cover a film.

Actually this is something not directed at the PR people as such since the people telling me "no" were people I have been dealing with for years, so they know I'm good, and I know the orders were not from them. This is more directed at the producers. 

RT is a false indicator of quality and worthiness. 

Yes I would like to be on it but truthfully my interest in being accredited is purely related to the "you can't cover you aren't on the site" problem.

(And for the record RT will not accredit me because Unseen is my site and you can not be accredited for your own site. Which is why some of the other writers here can have their work put up at RT)


I have seen the BAFTA/Oscar winning IRISH GOODBYE and while it's good I think the other films its up against for the Oscar are better.

I also saw the Oscar shortlisted, but not nominated BAZIGAGA and that too was very good.

Apologies to the filmmakers for both but despite my best effort over the last few weeks I have no words  for a review.


If the studios want to keep theaters in business they have to do something so the theaters don't have to charge 10 bucks for a popcorn and 8 bucks for a soda. The prices are out of control. 


Coverage is coming of Boston Underground, Overlook, New Directors New Films and other fests. Plus look for a bunch of new releases.


Lastly people have asked me if I really like the films I rave about. 

Yes I do.

I write what I feel. And while I will try to find something good in something bad, if I like something, I say so. If you need proof go to lunch with me and ask me about some of films I like.  I won't shut up, so much so my lunch will be cold and you will be done.

The Lake (2022)

What happens when you mash Korean monster film THE HOST with GORGO (or GAPPA or…) and films where victims connect with killers and filter it through the Thai film industry? THE LAKE is a good idea.

Wild and crazy, and at times all over the place, THE LAKE is the story of giant monsters coming out of lake and causing all sorts of problems after an egg is found by a little girl. It also raises questions about the destruction of the environment and how its coming back to haunt us...assuming you want to look for something deeper than monsters eat people.

What can I say, but the monsters come early and stay to the closing credits. As a monster fan I love that we didn't have to wait to get to the good stuff. This is a film of amazing set pieces and uneven linking material. Basically it's an old school monster film and a delight.

This is a film where over 60% was achieved with practical effects, including man in suits, making it a delightful giant monster movie. It's so well done I wasn't always sure what was done practical and what was computer generated.

Yes the film riffs on other better films, but at the same time the film is stealing from the best and coloring the mayhem in it’s own unique way. You really won't care, just smile at the nods.

I had an absolute blast. Honestly I was having such a great time I was pissed that I missed the film when it played very briefly in theaters.

High Art? Are you kidding?

Entertaining? Absolutely. This is the perfect film to keep us happy until the next Godzilla project hits.

For details on where to see THE LAKE go here



Knowing her time is short Mrs Wu has her granddaughter and friends spring her from the nursing home for a wild ride up the California coast, her daughter in hot pursuit. Its a grand game to repair the fractures in the family before time runs out.

Good drama hits all the right notes in an entertaining way. To be honest the film doesn't hit break any new ground, but it doesn't have to since what is here is good enough.

Definitely worth a look

Late thoughts on the revamped LIRR schedules

This isn’t movie related but a screw up this big has to be mentioned

Recently the Long Island Rail Road announced a new schedule to take into account the opening of train service to Grand Central Station  on the east side of Manhattan. The idea is to make it easier for every one to get there because “so many people” use it.  

In order to accommodate the roughly 30% of their riders they cut service to Penn Station by, I’m told, 50%, and they shortened trains by up to a third in order to make more trains so everyone could get where they wanted to go. They radically rewrote their schedules essentially removing some of the most used trains. In the case of my line (Oyster Bay) they put of signs saying more trains and more to Mineola where the line connects to the main one, they completely rewrote making it nigh unusable with all the trains coming in clumps too early or too late.

They completely screwed over Brooklyn (and thus lower Manhattan) by making all train service to Atlantic Terminal via shuttle you have to change to and runs whenever.

This is the stupidest thing I’ve seen in decades. The LIRR essentially fucked over their entire ridership. No one is happy

I don’t understand what they are doing or why. They are making changes but it's more like putting out fires.

The new Grand Central LIRR terminal is a long walk from anywhere. It’s not so much that the distance to the tracks are three  or more blocks from the nearest subways, rather the station is deep (it’s several stories under the lowest levels of Grand Station) so you spend a lot of time on escalators going up and down. It will take you at least ten minutes to traverse the station just to go from the subway to the trains. (And god help us if the escalators go down)

Grand Central feeds into the over crowded Green Line (4,5,6) which is a nightmare during rush hour as is or the Shuttle to Times Square. However because of the concourses location you are actually farther away from most subway lines than you are at Penn Station. 

I know it’s a good idea in principle but the LIRR shouldn’t be banking on it being the solution. Especially since unless you need to go to the upper east side Penn Station is better- as I said the other subway lines are closer. Certainly Penn station is better if you are doing Broadway, MSG or most of the big theaters.

The truth is the LIRR  screwed up not in the building of the station, but in the revamping of the whole schedule. It was done without thinking.

First they promised more  trains and there kind of are but they chopped them all down. They shortened trains to make new trains so some rush hour trains were shorted by a third thus creating trains that are packed from the get go. 

This was compounded by the revamping of the schedule. Trains from Penn station where 70% of the people want to go was reduced. Times where radically changed. Non-mainline lines were savaged. My line, which I use to go from stops on the line, went from one train every half hour to one an hour.  This means I either get to work an hour early or 15 minutes late. Going home there is only on train an hour so I have to leave work early or  get home two hours after I clock out.

This from the railroad that wants us to take it instead of driving.

I have no idea whose idea it was but the LIRR is now transfer happy. If you want to get somewhere, especially Brooklyn, you have to transfer.  Since trains are coming from Grand Central you may have to connect to the trains in Jamaica.  They are touting direct service, but the truth seems to be you have to transfer for a lot of trains.  WORSE, when last I looked, and as I was told by several conductors, the LIRR no longer wants to post what trains connect to out of Pen or Grand Central. You either have to ask or use the app to find out what train will get you to a connection in Jamaica or Woodside.

And if you want to go to Brooklyn you MUST transfer.  Why? Because Brooklyn apparently doesn’t count.

This is insane since the Barclays center was built where it in part  because of the train was there. The Atlantic Terminal station is used by any number of people I know who work in lower Manhattan because it gets them to work sooner than going into Penn and subwaying to lower Manhattan (There are less stops)

It’s clear that the schedule revamp was done by people who did no research on the railroad and its usage. How did anyone not know this was going to be a disaster. Who ever did this should be fired and whom ever approved it should be hung out to dry.

They promised more and better service but this has been a nightmare.

ADDENDUM- additions after the fact (and potentially just hearsay)
While the railroad is making incremental changes to put out the fires they are still gung ho-and they have to be because of the money they spent.

The first thing I need to say is every employee I've spoken with said write letters to the railroad and the commuter council to express your displeasure. If they get letters they will change things faster.

Next in talking to railroad employees over the last few weeks I heard tales that you may want to know.

Apparently a good chunk of the people running the railroad and everyone involved with the scheduling debacle have no railroad experience. They come from other industries, but have no concept of what a service like a railroad does. They haven't spoken with anyone they just felt their knowledge of their industries would carry over.

I've been told the schedule nightmare is the result of of number crunching and battles. The schedulers used some sort of data to rejigger everything based on something unconnected to the real world. What I was told was that the original plan was to have a different schedule for the railroads for every day of the week. Coming from other industries they wanted to craft schedules for every day. Wars broke out because what made sense to the schedulers made no practical sense it wouldn't take into account say events, weather changes and holidays.  Apparently they were talked out of it by making them see the problems it would cause.

No one is happy. 

No one. 

Last apparently there is speculation about when the whole management/scheduling staff are going to be removed. No one seriously thinks they can last to years end-except when they realize it is the LIRR and stupid tends to win out.

Saturday, March 18, 2023


Please help CHESSBOXER get made.

Albin Pepe is friend of mine is trying to get his project CHESSBOXER made and he needs some financial help to get it done the way it should be done.

I see your eyes glazing over- actually what I’m seeing you wondering what the hell the title means. I’ll explain. Chessboxing is a sport where players alternate rounds of chess and boxing. You win by getting a knockout or checkmate. Here’s the wikipage

The film is getting traction in the Chess Boxing community and one of the champion Chess Boxers. One of the champions Mat Thomas, is involved with the production and will be appearing in the film.

I know you get a lot of requests to help films but this one is worth it, It’s going to be great.

And if you want to know if Albin can do it consider that the films he’s worked on have played in festivals around the world.

Every little bit helps so please give.

Details on how and more details on the film can be found here