Shudder Original review: ‘Anything for Jackson,’ the devil is in the details.

Anything For Jackson

After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnap his pregnant patient with the intentions of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.

The energy that this film has from the get-go is outstanding. It’s dark and disturbing and throws your understanding of morality out of whack. But it’s the nonchalance of it all that will keep you watching. Unlike creepy couples like Mommy and Daddy from The People Under The Stairs or Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Henry and Audrey are simply so casual about everything they are about to do it’s all the more bizarre. After they perform what they believe to be a soul transference, things really go off the rails. Something has gone awry. Their grandson is not the only thing to come into their home. The arrival of a gaggle of seriously disturbing ghosts throws all their confidence out the window. Things do not go well for Audrey and Henry going forward. The devil does not care to be used. The things that appear to everyone in the house are more and more terrifying as the fallout continues. It is ceaselessly upsetting.

Performances from our three leads are outstanding. Konstantina Mantelos as young mother Shannon is the final girl we need to balance out the insanity. Her ingenuity and believable vulnerability is sheer perfection. The terror she experiences is visceral. Helped along by the ghastly practical fx and brilliant performances by the actors playing these tortured souls. The contortionist stylings of one, in particular, gave me full-body chills. The chemistry between Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings is simply magic. You believe they’ve been married for decades without a thought. They are charming in their sincerity even if their acts are atrocious.

The structure of the story roots you deep into the drama. You’re genuinely invested in everyone. Upon a second viewing, and as a Mom myself, I understand the lengths each character is going to protect their loved one. It makes the stakes so much higher. The writing and editing are top-notch. The complexity is unreal. This was a carefully crafted piece of work. If you can get me with a jump scare after 40 years of watching horror films, well done. Anything For Jackson got me… and held me down.

You will never see what’s coming from one beat to the next. Anything For Jackson will undoubtedly entertain the hell out of Shudder subscribers. They continue to kill it with their content. Anything For Jackson takes your heart and your head and mangles them both. It’s one of the year’s best genre films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON premieres on Shudder December 3rd in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

Review: ’18 To Party’ spans generations and is one of the best of 2020.

It’s 1984 and outside a small-town nightclub, a group of 8th graders gather, grappling with a spate of recent suicides, UFO sightings, their absentee parents, and each other.

The eclectic personalities represented in 18 To Party put me right back in 8th grade. I knew or was all of these kids at one point or another. This ensemble cast is unreal. There is an incredible mix of nonchalance, awkwardness, boldness, and fear. All the hormones and adolescent rage are there in its purest form. It is impossible not to think of Richard Linklater‘s films. Writer/director Jeff Roda‘s dialogue touches on nothing and everything all at once and it is delicious. The pacing is brilliant. You’re fully into these kids and all that’s occurring in their small town circle. I remember when every little thing had the weight of the world because my world was only so large. 18 To Party has a familiarity that lets the viewer live in the film. It’s on real stand out in 2020. Any fellow Gen Xer will be fully in flashback mode, nodding and smiling and cringing along with these kids. It’s totally awesome but in an understated cool way. Wait until you hear the soundtrack. So yeah, Jeff Roda nails it. Watch it with your kids. Their reaction might surprise you. Catch 18 To Party on VOD platforms today.

VOD (December 1)
Platforms including: Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango, and more to follow.

OFFICIAL SELECTION: WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL, FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL (Winner! Special Jury Award/ Ensemble Cast), BIG APPLE FILM FESTIVAL, LIVERPOOL FILM FESTIVAL, and more.

DIRECTOR/ SCREENWRITER: Jeff Roda

STARRING: Alivia Clark, Tanner Flood, James Freedson-Jackson, Oliver Gifford, Nolan Lyons, Sam McCarthy, Ivy Miller, Taylor Richardson, and Erich Schuett.

INCLUDING MUSIC BY: The Alarm, Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jones, The Velvet Underground, and many more.

Review: ‘King Of Knives’ shines light on the dark side of family dynamics.

KING OF KNIVES

ONE BIG CRAPPY FAMILY

KING OF KNIVES tells the story of Frank and Kathy who are baby boomer parents and Sadie & Kaitlin, their millennial daughters. Frank is screaming towards a mid-life crisis. Kathy pretends she’s happy and doesn’t drink that much wine. Sadie is the good child; convinced her first and only boyfriend is the one to marry. Kaitlin is the rebel, the entertainer; the truth-teller who will not filter how she’s feeling.

Over three days, with much drama and humor, this crap-happy family careens and skids straight towards a fateful anniversary. On the way, they realize they are more alike than they know.

Family is complicated. Every generation trying to make life better for the next but ultimately failing in one way or another. You cannot do it all perfectly, that’s not a thing. It is in the mistakes and flaws we accept where we grow as individuals and as one family unit. King Of Knives is a raw and undeniably funny look at regret. It shines in its honesty. It allows its characters to feel relatable with great dialogue and effective editing as the full plot is revealed. It’s a beautifully balanced screenplay, allowing each of the four family members to come to terms with where they fit in and how that might affect the others.

The performances are really great. I have to call out the comic timing from everyone. It’s a natural back and forth I have with my family, like it or not. While we all think everyone is so very different, I reality we’re all just as messed up as the next person in line. Gene Pope, Mel Harris, Roxi Pope, and Emily Bennett do a fantastic job making you believe they are related. There is just enough connection and disconnection for you to buy it completely. They are coated in trauma they ignore and facing it one year later will finally break open family secrets and revelations that will change everyone. Lindsay Joy‘s script feels real from my perspective; the first of four (now adult) kids that all did different things and pretend to be too cool for school most of the time. But we know, deep down, we’re all floundering in one way or another. We’re still better together. King Of Knives hits home for any viewer. Sometimes you have to break it down to build it back up. It’s a “Go call you Dad” kind of film. It’s the perfect holiday film, once you watch it you’ll understand why. It releases today on VOD and Digital platforms. Get a taste from the trailer below.

This refreshing comedy is written by Lindsay Joy with story by Gene Pope and directed by Jon Delgado.  The film stars Gene Pope, Mel Harris, Roxi Pope, and Emily Bennett.  It was produced by Gene Pope, Daniel Sollinger, and Jenn Gomez. The film has a running time of 94 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  Gravitas Ventures will release KING OF KNIVES on VOD and Digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms on Tuesday, December 1.

Review: ‘WEREWOLF’ is terrifying and profound.

In Werewolf, children liberated from a Nazi concentration camp have to overcome hunger, thirst, and vicious attack dogs in an abandoned mansion surround by the forest.

Werewolf is incredible from the very first frame. The fear is visceral in the visual presentation but especially in the performances from a cast of children. This is a new version of Lord Of The Flies as a group of Holocaust survivors lies in wait as they are stalked by attack dogs, and even one of their own. Hormones, trauma, hunger, and anger, all drive this riveting plot forward. It is easy to root for these kids. As a Mom, it made my heart race at every turn. I was sweating watching their ingenuity. Survival is not guaranteed especially when the threat comes from within. It was profound watching these young actors, at times, become as wild as the dogs they feared. Other scenes momentarily allowed them to be children again. This ensemble casts’ chemistry will blow you away. Adrian Panek has given us a thrilling gem. The writing is intelligent and enthralling. Your heart will be in your throat from beginning to end.

Adrian Panek’s intense WWII survival horror/thriller Werewolf is due to release on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VOD across North America on December 1st via Indiecan Entertainment.

ON BLU-RAY, DIGITAL AND DVD DECEMBER 1, 2020

The intense Polish film was an official selection of Fantastic Fest (where it was nominated for Best Picture) among many other fests, has won 11 festival awards worldwide, and been nominated for 14 more.

Fathom Events review: Movie musical ‘STAND!’ only in theaters tonight, December 1st.

STAND!

In Theaters Only on December 1, 2020

Directed by: Robert Adetuyi (Stomp The YardBring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack)

1919. Stefan and his father Mike fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca – but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be Romeo and Juliet. Returned soldiers, angry at the lack of jobs after the war, violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, the refugee from racist violence in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, AJ Anderson, a wealthy lawyer, pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.

The potential in this story is obvious. Catchy numbers and an intriguing premise based on a true story. Unfortunately, it needs to stage to fully bloom. As someone who graduated from a musical theatre conservatory in Manhattan, I recognize the over-the-top gesture and intonation that is needed to reach the back row. But because the audience is experiencing it from a screen, it comes off as forced at times. The energy is lost in translation and it feels uneven. Theater broadcasting LIVE in a movie theater is different. Here, it’s actually the camera that ruins that genuine connection. Performances are outstanding so they deserve that give and take electric feeling. It also lacks in one major area where most musicals thrive; choreography. With a large and varied immigrant ensemble, this was a lost opportunity leading to momentary lulls in pacing. I kept hoping something was coming, some big number highlighting the different facets of people coming together. The moments definitely presented themselves over and over and not a single number. I think it could have pushed STAND! across the finish line.

The issues in the stage play turned screenplay is still incredibly relevant. This is the most successful aspect. Taking pages from Ragtime, Newsies, Parade, and Hamilton, stories of immigrants, race, religious persecution, classism, and the right to strike are all still ripe for vibrant storytelling in 2020. STAND! shines brightest when it sings. By far the best numbers belong to Lisa Bell. Get this girl on Broadway the minute it’s officially back. The Romeo and Juliet aspect between Rebecca and Stefan is charming enough but not as powerful as Emma or Mike Sokolowski’s emotional journey, whom the original stageplay STRIKE! is based upon. STAND! needs an Off-Broadway run and a workshop. But be the first movie theater audience to get chills while Lisa Bell belts out the theme in the final moments of the film, for sure. It’s worth the ticket price.

Music, Lyrics and Score: Danny Schur (Made In Winnipeg: The Terry Sawchuk Origin Story)

Featuring Lisa Bell’s show-stopping performance of the protest song Stand!

Starring:
Marshall Williams (“Glee”, “How to Build a Better Boy”)
Laura Wiggins (“Shameless”, 20th Century Women)
Lisa Bell (No Time Like Christmas, “Canadian Idol”)
Gregg Henry (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Scandal”)
Erik Athavale (Fractured, Breakthrough)
Paul Essiembre (“Covert Affairs”, “Silver Surfer”)
Hayley Sales (Deadpool 2, “The Good Doctor”)

Tickets and a list of participating theater locations will be available at www.FathomEvents.com.

RT: 110 Minutes

Review: ‘Thirst’ sinks its teeth into cult status.


The addict Hulda is arrested and accused of murdering her brother. After she is let go because of insufficient evidence, she meets Hjörtur, a thousand-year-old gay vampire. Together they fight a cult while being investigated by a rogue detective.

Gloriously gory and unapologetically in your face, vampire horror-comedy Thirst is a movie about a girl and her unlikely gay best friend. Poor Hulda just wants to stop being blamed for a bunch of murders and find someone to care about her for the right reasons. Poor Hjörtur just wants to play with his food, and as The Prince of Darkness, he can damn well do what he pleases. The performances are wildly funny and the chemistry between Hjörtur Sævar Steinason and Hulda Lind Kristinsdóttir is simply electric. The visual gags, quite literally, are unforgettable. The overt sexualization of the men is genius. If you know nothing going in, you know everything soon enough.

It could have been made by the same filmmakers as genre film fest favorite Fried Barry. The colors, the camera work, the visual mindfuckery. They are cut from the same weird and wonderful cloth. In Thirst, the amount of practical fx and blood are equal parts laughable and joyous. Genre fans will literally cheer. The relationship between Hulda and Hjörtur is what stays with me 12 hours after viewing. You could write an entire television series on their dynamic and I would be there to watch it. The climax of the film is nothing short of a spectacular splatterfest. Combined with the over the top power ballads(which I’m pretty sure is my favorite aspect), this is sure to reach cult status. Stick around once the credits start to roll. Your ears and eyes won’t be sorry.

Direct from a well-received festival run, where it played such fests as ScreamFest 2020, London FrightFest, and Out On Film, Thirst comes to DVD and Digital 12/1 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

From directors Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson, Gaukur Úlfars comes a high-energy thrill fest with some of the most creative films to grace a screen in years. Hjörtur Sævar Steinason, Jens Jensson, Hulda Lind Kristinsdóttir, Ester Sveinbjarnardóttir, Birgitta Sigursteinsdóttir, and Birna Halldórsdóttir star.

Direct from a well-received festival run, where it played such fests as ScreamFest 2020, London FrightFest, and Out On Film, Thirst comes to DVD and Digital 12/1 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

HBO Max original review: ‘Superintelligence’ reminds us to be grateful for Melissa McCarthy.

original
When an all-powerful Superintelligence (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), the fate of the world hangs in the balance. As the A.I. decides to enslave, save, or destroy humanity, it’s up to Carol to prove that people are worth saving.

75% of this film is Melissa McCarthy speaking directly into the camera and it’s brilliant. The social commentary is what grabs you. It’s presented in an accessible, funny, and genuine way. The script is straight-up hilarious. I mean ceaselessly laugh out loud hysterical. The timing of the release is frankly just what we needed in this dumpster fire of a year. McCarthy plays a woman who left big tech to do better. She is simply living her life when it is interrupted by an AI that doesn’t grasp the totality of humanity. And can you blame it? These days? Technology has caused a lot of drama, heartache, hatred, and sadness over the past few years in particular. Superintelligence tackles it all but makes it funny.

Bobby Cannavale is charming as ever. His chemistry with Melissa is enchanting. Jean Smart, clearly modeled after Hillary Clinton, is obviously incredible. Brian Tyree Henry as Dennis is magic. His comic timing is something a director dreams about. He is a delight. James Corden’s smart-alecky demeanor is the perfect foil for Melissa McCarthy. He pushes her buttons and her limits allowing the plot to barrel forward. As for McCarthy…You cannot help but adore the character of Carol. You will instantly connect with her. She is down-to-earth, anxiety-ridden, and sincere.  All of Melissa McCarthy‘s positive energy shines off the screen. She embodies all that is good. McCarthy proves, once again, she is a comic genius. But outside the laughs is a very human character that hits home, reminding us what a well-rounded actor she truly is.

At first glance, the script appears to focus on technology. At the heart of it, the story is about just the opposite. Superintelligence breaks down the human experience from the superficial to the profound. The small moments that become monumental in the grand scheme of life. It chooses kindness and self-sacrifice over hatred and selfishness. It will make you smile from ear to ear. It’s one of the year’s best family films. Superintelligence reminds us all of what we should be grateful for.

Premieres on HBO Max on November 26, 2020

 

DIRECTOR: Ben Falcone
WRITTEN BY: Steve Mallory
PRODUCED BY: Melissa McCarthy, Ben Falcone, and Rob Cowan
CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Bobby Cannavale, Brian Tyree Henry, and James Corden

Book Review: Filmmaker Steve Balderson’s ‘Filmmaking Confidential’ should be on your holiday shopping list.

Reel News Daily Holiday recommendation:

FILMMAKING CONFIDENTIAL

Steve Balderson gets back to the basics. You don’t need a fancy budget or a studio’s money to get your film made. This book is unpretentious and essentially a step-by-step guide for any age. With chapters like ‘Needs Stars?“, “Product Placement“, and “Marketing: You Vs The Big BoysFilmmaking Confidential is a down and dirty look into how Hollywood works and how you can get into the game. The chapters are short and concise, I’m talking 3-5 pages. It would make an awesome holiday gift for anyone in your life that wants to enter the industry. This is the perfect year as indie films are on top of everyone’s list. The more creative, the better. Balderson is actually the perfect person to write this book. His career is comprised of award-winning, risky, and visually striking films that have since become cult classics. He strips back the cliche and gets to the heart of it all. With Filmmaking Confidential you’re getting a guerilla-style film school class in 208 pages. It’s great.

I spoke with Steve in 2016 about three of his films. You can find our interview and the reviews of Hell Town, El Ganzo, and Firecracker here

Filmmaking Confidential

Review: ‘Getting To Know You’ is an emotional journey and you need to see it this holiday season.

Getting To Know You

It’s an unusual request.

Another guest at the small-town hotel where Abby Sorensen is staying asks her to pretend to be his wife. Just for a few minutes. He flew from New York to reignite the flame with his old high school girlfriend, the beautiful, impetuous Kayla, only to discover she’s now married with two kids. But Kayla decides she wants him after all, and has shown up at the hotel drunk and demanding sex. But Luke isn’t a homewrecker, so if Abby, a married woman in town for her estranged brother’s funeral, could just say she’s his wife the problem will be solved.

What could go wrong? It’s not like two strangers pretending to be husband and wife could possibly fall in love….

Starting off with a bang (literally, zero puns intended) this story about two people desperate to connect is enchanting. Encompassed by the worst hotel staff you’ll ever come across, Luke and Abby are marooned with their sadness and stories and one another. Until some unexpected high school friends reenter the scene. This small town is filled with secrets and some insanely intense locals. It’s completely unexpected and a total delight.

Sarah Blanchard holds nothing back as an unhappily married woman who comes back to take advantage of Luke’s profession of love. She is over the top. She is hilarious in her aggression. Her comedic timing is on fire once all three are in the same room. It’s magic. Rupert Penry-Jones as Luke is a wonderful foil for Natasha Little. Their chemistry is perfection. I cannot imagine anyone else in this role now that I’ve seen him. Isn’t that the ultimate compliment? Natasha Little is the true star of Getting To Know You. Her physical comedy, her delivery, simply everything about her genuinely grounded backstory is brilliant. She plays it close to the vest but the hurt is written in every glance. It’s lovely to watch pure talent.

The film takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s at times quite melancholy, undeniably laugh out loud hilarious, and completely breathtaking. You get a slice of everything in this screenplay spectacularly written and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin. It’s about loss and regret. It’s about kindness and feeling seen by another person. It’s about taking one crazy chance on happiness again.

 

GETTING TO KNOW YOU stars Natasha Little (War of the Worlds, Night Manager, Vanity Fair), Rupert Penry-Jones (M.I.5, Persuasion), Rachel Blanchard (You Me Her, Fargo), Linda Kash (Best In Show), and stand-up comedian Mark Forward, along with Duane Murray, Ace Hicks, Zach Smadu and Christopher Jacot.

The film was written and directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin (The Bet, If I Were You).

Gravitas Ventures will release GETTING TO KNOW YOU on VOD and Digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now, and all major cable/satellite platforms on Tuesday, November 24.  The film has a running time of 1:43:16 and will not be rated by the MPAA.

Coming out of DOC NYC 2020, ‘THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER’ will be available on VOD on November 24th, 2020

THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER

will be available on VOD on November 24th, 2020.

Synopsis:                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Phil Demers is a part-time mailman who lives in a bungalow across the creek from Marineland, the iconic amusement park in Niagara Falls, where he had his dream job as an animal trainer for over a decade. He swam with killer whales and ran the show, until he quit and blew the whistle, claiming animal abuse and calling for an end to the 60-year-old practice of keeping marine mammals in pools. Known as the ‘Walrus Whisperer’ on Twitter, with over 27,000 followers, Phil has appeared four times on the Joe Rogan show and is being sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal Smooshi, the walrus. Playing out in the swell of a paradigm shift in our relationship with animals, the film pierces the veneer of a media story and goes behind the battle lines of a stranger-than-fiction custody fight to #SaveSmooshi. At its heart are questions of compassion for others – humans and animals alike – the nuances of all our stories, and the hills we are willing to die on.

*Winner’s Circle – DOC NYC 2020*

Shudder original review: ‘LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST’

A lyrical and spiritual cinematic essay on The ExorcistLeap of Faith explores the uncharted depths of William Friedkin’s mind’s eye, the nuances of his filmmaking process, and the mysteries of faith and fate that have shaped his life and filmography. The film marks the sixth feature documentary from Philippe (78/52, Memory: The Origins of Alien), continuing his thoughtful analysis of iconic genre films. Starring William Friedkin. Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe. A SHUDDER ORIGINAL. (Also available on Shudder Canada, Shudder UK and Shudder ANZ

This is truly a peek behind the wizard’s curtain. The most shocking part of the in-depth conversation with William Friedkin is where he admits what was planned and, more strikingly, what wasn’t. He was often flying by the seat of his pants, but you can tell by the passionate way he describes his process that there was more planning than we can ever imagine. He uses music as a device in directing. In the doc, side by side juxtaposition from other iconic films and scores make his point perfectly. The editing makes you want to have The Exorcist on another screen to experience the full moments that are being referenced in snippets. The meticulously placed subconscious effects on the audience are profound. Once they’re explained, they will blow your mind.

Friedkin’s believes that every moment surrounding the creation of The Exorcist was fate. From getting the book to casting choices, to existing shooting circumstances in Iraq. He uses art to inspire the look of scenes. Discovering the painting that is responsible for the iconic cover art takes your breath away. The battle over the score is nothing short of epic. For someone who boasts about asking for one or two takes, his obsession with the minute details will astonish you. Friedkin is pretty much a mad genius. He explains how his faith had to be separated from the job. The philosophy behind the story is what solidifies the meaning for him. While this is solely Friedkin’s perspective, and we know the permanent physical and emotional damage on Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn, hearing so much detail from the director’s mouth, his creative process, and the effect the experience had on him is nothing short of fascinating. You don’t have to be a fan of The Exorcist to completely love this documentary. The insight on what goes into making a film come alive is gold unto itself.  For genre fans, in particular, it’s magic.

LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST is available today on Shudder

ABOUT SHUDDER:

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. To experience Shudder commitment-free for 7 days, visit ​www.shudder.com​.

 

Review: ‘The Twentieth Century’ is a satirical feast for the eyes.

Aspiring young politician Mackenzie King (Dan Beirne) dreams of becoming the Prime Minister of Canada. But his romantic vacillation between a British soldier and a French nurse, exacerbated by a fetishistic obsession, may well bring about his downfall. In his quest for power, King must gratify the expectations of his imperious Mother, the hawkish fantasies of a war-mongering Governor-General, and the utopian idealism of a Québécois mystic before facing one, final test of leadership. Culminating in an epic battle between good and evil, King learns that disappointment may be the defining characteristic of the twentieth century!

If you are a cinephile with any sense of humor, The Twentieth Century will delight you to no end. It’s Monty Python meets golden era Hollywood musical mixed-media delicious. (It’s basically the most appropriate mouthful I can begin with… nudge, nudge, wink, wink) It’s the wackiest and most wonderful way to jump headlong into the holiday season in 2020. It’s easy to see why it won three Screen Canada Awards and jury accolades at TIFF and Berlin. Writer, director, and editor Matthew Rankin gifts us with one of the most unique and visually lush cinematic experiences. The attention to detail is flawless and the writing will bedazzle you. While I find the plot difficult to properly describe, that’s all the more reason to watch. I guarantee you have never seen anything akin to The Twentieth Century, ever.

The complete and total commitment from these actors is to be applauded. The laugh out loud absurdity of the dialogue fraught with overt sexual innuendo is pushed gleefully further with a large percentage of the cast being performers in drag. The scenery often consists of sharp-angled, backlit, triangular towers sometimes wrapped with black & white political iconography. I fully expected a Fred Astaire dance number but was too distracted by the fetish shaming and the nationalist propaganda. It simply goes from weird to completely batshit. Performances across the board are magic. Fun fact: The film is (loosely) based on a true story! What, what, what?! While I know zero about the dynamics of the Canadian government and identity, I can say that The Twentieth Century stands out from a line of great indie films that arrived on the scene this year. Even without the national connection, the story screams a global political familiarity in your face all while making you merrily cringe in fits of laughter. It’s one of a kind.

Arriving in Virtual Cinemas on November 20, 2020!
Runtime: 90 Minutes
English Language
Color
Not Rated
🏆 Winner of the Best Canadian First Feature Film Award at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival
🏆 Winner of Best Film at the 2019 Los Cabos International Film Festival
🏆 Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival
🏆🏆🏆 Nominated for eight Canadian Screen Awards and Winner of three

DOC NYC 2020 review: ‘CRUTCH’

SACHI CUNNINGHAM and CHANDLER EVANS’ 

CRUTCH

AT DOC NYC

Two decades of exclusive access, plus a lifetime of archival footage depict Shannon from his early years to his rise as an award-winning dancer and cutting-edge performance artist. CRUTCH examines Shannon’s controversial street performances as he exposes a myriad of prejudices disabled people encounter in public on a daily basis.

Crutch is about Bill Shannon‘s extraordinary life. Shannon wants to be recognized as a performance artist, and rightfully so. As a dancer since the age of three, I can attest to how the physical and emotional energy toll performing can have. Like many dancers, my body is ravaged from the work I asked it to do when I was younger. But I wasn’t faced with the challenges that Bill Shannon faced from childhood. Bill Shannon is on another level from us all. He is a relentless artist and it’s magic.

He grew up making home movies, being a daredevil, skateboarding, and creating a new language for dance, all while having a rare degenerative hip condition. He is a provocateur. Exploring his own pain and emotional hurt by placing others into his realm. He essentially created “What Would You Do?” scenarios before it was mainstream. As a breakdancer and choreographer, he presented the world with evolutionary milestones in thinking and accepting. But this is only a sliver of what he deals with and tries to effect. This doc tackles ableism at its core. He uses his filmed setup moments to organically teach an audience about the human mind. It’s a refreshing perspective that will grab your attention. He never lets up. His innovation is astounding. That’s true artistry. Crutch pushes past cynicism to teach and entertain and delight.

www.docnyc.net

 

Review: ‘Dirty God’ has power in performances and writing.

In Dirty God, a young mother from London must pick up the pieces in the aftermath of an acid attack that leaves her with disastrous scarring. Living in a looks-obsessed world, and without that as her currency, Jane must move on with her new life, personal difficulties, and the unfortunate occurrences of everyday humiliation.

Vicky Knight as Jade is a revelation. Her expression of physical and emotional pain in all its nuance makes Dirty God as successful as it is. She just wants a bit of normalcy. From the fear her own daughter displays, to the reaction of peers, to confronting her ex and attacker in court, to feel loved, the daily battle screams from the screen. One of the most impactful scenes comes when she purchases a burka. Hiding the majority of her body gives her the confidence to act with freedom. It’s an exhilarating scene to experience with her. The emotional scars are as relevant as the physical ones. Knight, who was burnt as a child in real life, can represent the undercounted number of women that have been attacked in this manner.

Jade attempts to connect with others online. Those scenes are incredibly profound in the grand scheme of her arch. The most difficult thing is watching people treat Jade in a subhuman manner. It’s positively atrocious. The entire conversation around the importance of appearance in society, ableist behavior, and kindness, in general, is one for the ages. Dirty God is inspired and important viewing where the human divide and vitriol are so wide and prevalent. It’s an awesome statement on bullying and an even bigger one for self-esteem.

OPENING IN SELECT THEATERS ON NOVEMBER 13

 Laemmle link: https://linktr.ee/dirtygodfilm

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON DECEMBER 15th

Dark Star Pictures will release DIRTY GOD with a virtual release through Laemmle Theaters in LA, Gateway Film Center (Virtual) in Columbus, and more theaters to be announced on November 13, 2020. The film will also be made available on digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Fandango Now, Direct TV, and through local cable providers on December 15, 2020. The film has a running time of 104 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

 

HBO’s four-part Original docuseries review: ‘Murder on Middle Beach’ episode one airs tonight.

HBO Documentary Films’ MURDER ON MIDDLE BEACH, a four-part documentary series directed by first-time filmmaker Madison Hamburg, presents Hamburg’s complicated journey as a young man determined to solve an unspeakable crime and absolve the people he loves, while looking for answers within his fractured family and community.

 

On March 3, 2010, single mother Barbara Hamburg was found violently murdered near her home in the upper-middle-class enclave of Madison, Connecticut. Investigators speculated her murder appeared to be a crime of passion, but without enough evidence, the case grew cold.

Over the course of 8 years, Barbara’s son, Madison Hamburg, interviewed his family members and many others, longing to learn more about his mother and gathering evidence in hopes of solving her murder, sending him into a deep web of buried familial secrets, connections to shadowy criminal figures, and the uncovering of years-old resentments in his deceptively serene hometown. While Madison wrestles with troubling revelations about his mother, the most unsettling conflict comes from Madison’s obligation to bring into question those inside his community and members of his own family.

Madison Hamburg wants to know what happened to his mother in 2010. Growing up in an affluent Connecticut town myself, I found it shocking that I had not heard about this case. Who would want to kill a stay at home mother? What are the motives for such a brutal act? The theories seem straight forward until you’re steered down another road due to lack of evidence. The things that went wrong in this initial investigation will frustrate you to no end. You have to give Madison credit for having the courage and, for lack of a more eloquent way of putting it, balls for putting his entire childhood and now adulthood on the line to solve this mystery and deal with his trauma.

Creative editing places you inside the family dynamic of the Hamburgs. Not just Madison’s odd relationship with his estranged father, but his aunt’s and uncles, grandparents, and his sister Barbara, the 4th of that namesake on his mother’s side. Madison uses home videos and still photography to invite you into the years he had with his Mom. Some of the most unique moments come in the form of vintage voiceovers from what seems like those creepy 1950s classroom movies. It is eerily effective. Intimate sit-down interviews play the largest part as the mystery grows. There are constant hints of family secrets but we only get a tease in the final moments of episode one. You’re so invested in this story, it’s frightening. There is no doubt Madison Hamburg wants the truth. I know I’ll be watching the final 3 episodes on HBO to find out if he gets it. Murder on Middle Beach will air episode 1 tonight at 10:00-11:00pm ET/PT.

Stream on HBO Max: http://itsh.bo/hbo-max

MURDER ON MIDDLE BEACH debuts on November 15 on HBO and will be available to stream on HBO Max.

Review: ‘Echo Boomers’ pushes all the boundaries.

Two-time Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Knives Out) stars in this gripping crime-thriller filled with pulse-pounding twists and turns. A recent college graduate Lance Zutterland (Patrick Schwarzenegger) leaves school in debt, realizing everything he had worked towards was built on a lie. When he is pulled into a criminal underground operation, he finds his peers fighting the system by stealing from the rich and giving to… themselves. With nothing to lose, they leave behind a trail of destruction but with the cops closing in, tensions mount and Lance soon discovers he is in over his head with no way out.

With superb writing and slick editing, Echo Boomers is intoxicating. With Patrick Schwarzenegger’s voice-over narration the flow feels like a novel, and I do mean that as a compliment. This could easily be further developed into a long-running series. There is a lot to unpack in all the right ways. There’s a psychological subtext to each character that is carefully crafted. The cinematography is sharp, combined with the immersive score, you cannot help but love this crew.

Michael Shannon does what Michael Shannon does best. He lives and breathes every role. He is somehow terrifying and more approachable all at once. Patrick Schwarzenegger is amazing. He grabbed my attention in last year’s Daniel Isn’t Real. I recommend casting him in everything he has time for. He has the innate ability to connect with his castmates on a truly grounded level. He is comfortable in his own skin. You feel like you know him. He is undeniably magnetic. The nuanced dynamics in the screenplay let everyone have impactful moments. You can easily argue this is a true ensemble piece.

I cannot stress enough how fantastic the writing and directing is. This could have gone off the rails in a heartbeat or come off as an Ocean’s franchise ripoff but it holds its own and then some. It’s wildly entertaining. There’s something about Echo Boomers that makes it unique from any other film in 2020. It’s brimming with complexity, action, drama, suspense, and some unbelievable performances. The stakes keep getting higher and higher and even though you know it’s morally reprehensible, you’re all in. You can watch Echo Boomers now in Theaters, On Demand, and Digital from Saban Films.

ECHO BOOMERS stars Patrick Schwarzenegger (Daniel Isn’t Real, Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), Gilles Geary (“The I-Land”), Hayley Law (“Riverdale,” “Altered Carbon”), Jacob Alexander (I Don’t Know How She Does It), Oliver Cooper (Project X), Kate Linder (“The Young and the Restless”), Lesley Ann Warren (“In Plain Sight,” Victor Victoria), Alex Pettyfer (The Last Witness, I Am Number Four), and Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals, 99 Homes).  The film is directed by Seth Savoy (“Blood Brothers”) from a script by Kevin Bernhardt (Shiner, Peaceful Warrior), Jason Miller (“The Whisperers”) and Savoy.

DOCNYC 2020 review: ‘BARE’ is revealing in every sense.

SYNOPSIS
Eleven naked men audition, rehearse and perform for the premiere of master Belgian choreographer Thierry Smits’s new contemporary dance piece Anima Ardens. Mixing intimate rehearsal footage with extensive and breathtaking dance sequences, BARE follows the choreographer and his team as they work to explore difficult, often taboo subjects through nudity and dance. In this bold exploration of artistic conflict, gender, and sexuality the one constant is the conceit that the body is the last bastion of personal freedom.

Intimate and thoughtful cinematography makes BARE a stunning watch. As a dancer myself since the age of 3, this film was felt on a different level. I know the hours of rehearsal, the physical exhaustion, the emotional journey that comes with the creation of art. As a choreographer, I have had dancers drop out of a massive piece 48 hrs prior to opening. When one is out of step, it can become an avalanche. Director Aleksandr M. Vinogradov shows us everything it takes to make dance breathe. From the athleticism to the partner trust, the personalities and the repetition, the balance of strength and weakness, all of these things while the performers are completely nude. BARE breaks barriers in its boldness from every angle. Choreographer Thierry Smits does not initially reveal the purpose of the camera presence. Once the intention of the documentary is explained, there is trepidation. The audition process continues. When the final group of men is chosen there are 13 weeks to perfect this piece, to build relationships, and show the world more than they’ve ever seen before.

The editing is sharp. Millisecond takes of words and paintings are cut into the chronological storytelling. It keeps you on your toes (no pun intended). Not only does BARE give you an up-close and personal look at the performance world, but it tackles issues of masculinity and preconceived notions of male dancers. Moments of pure levity come in the acceptance that performers are cheeky attention seekers all the time. When the men become fully aware of the ever-present cameras, they mug for them ceaselessly. Experimental exercises are something magical to behold. If you pause any moment during the film when dance occurs, it’s a breathtaking tableau of life and movement. BARE eases a viewer not familiar with dance into a world brimming with discovery, raw emotions, organic yet precise planning, sometimes fraught with injury, but always filled with surprise.

DOC NYC 2020
Virtual Screening Information
Wednesday Nov 11
Start Time: 12:00pm EST
For Tickets, DOC NYC

DOC NYC 2020 review: ‘A Crime on the Bayou’ is required viewing.

 

A Crime on the Bayou

It’s 1966 in Plaquemines Parish, a swampy strip of land south of New Orleans. A young Black fisherman, Gary Duncan, tries to break up a fight between white and Black teenagers outside a newly integrated school. He gently lays his hand on a white boy’s arm and the boy recoils like a snake. That night, police arrested 19-year-old Gary Duncan for assault on a minor.

I wish I didn’t have to call a film timely, but I do. It’s only fitting in this case. A Crime on the Bayou highlights the enduring systemic racism in America. This is Gary Duncan‘s story. This is Richard Sobol‘s story. Duncan’s case is one of the most egregious to come to court. A simple touch of the elbow became a civil rights case that would blow up a small Louisiana town and make its way all the way to the Supreme Court. Civil rights lawyers worked hand-in-hand with the community to fight for fairness. They’re still trying. Local Plaquemines Parish leader Leander Perez was the epitome of white supremacy. When you discover the extent of his sick ideology, it will make your head explode. It sounds like what we’ve been hearing from The White House since 2016… A lot like it. The film is comprised mostly of footage from the 1960s, readings of court transcripts, and present-day sit-down interviews with almost all of the key players in this unprecedented case. But in truth, it’s the same old story; racist white men asserting control over the black population (and anyone that is their ally). In one particular interview with Lolis Eric Elie, son of famed civil rights lawyer Lolis Elie, he recalls never having “the talk” about how to handle being questioned by a police officer. “How often do you talk about humidity? Well, it’s always there.”

Has anything changed since then? It certainly doesn’t feel like it. A Crime on the Bayou might as well be titled “Sleeping in an Ivy League Common Room”, “Sitting in Starbucks”, or “Count My Vote”. This was revenge for Gary Duncan standing up for himself. Pure and simple. It’s infuriating and inspiring. It’s exhausting but important. Gary Duncan should be a household name. So should Richard Sobol’s. A Crime on the Bayou should be shown in every classroom in America.

You can get tickets for A Crime n the Bayou at DOC NYC 2020 here

Directed by: Nancy Buirski
Featuring: Gary Duncan, Richard Sobol, Leander Perez, Lolis Eric Elie, Armand Derfner
Executive Produced by: John Legend, Brenda Robinson (President of the IDA)

A Crime on the Bayou is the third film in director Nancy Buirski’s trilogy profiling brave individuals who fought for justice in and around the Civil Rights era, following The Loving Story and The Rape of Recy Taylor. Together this trilogy demonstrates that regular people standing up for their values are the root of progress. Mildred Loving, Recy Taylor and Gary Duncan did not set out to change history. But they remind us that anyone can.

Interview: André Øvredal for his latest film ‘Mortal’

From acclaimed filmmaker André Øvredal (The Autopsy Of Jane Doe, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark), MORTAL stars Nat Wolff (The Fault In Our Stars) as a young man discovering he has God-like powers based on ancient Norwegian mythology.

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Our amazing colleague and friend Matthew Schuchman had the opportunity to sit down with director André Øvredal to talk all things Mortal. Here is their interview. Find out how long André took to make the film, how Nat Wolff was cast, and what it’s like to compete with big-budget studio films like Marvel. If you’re a fan of his work, you’ll get a quick peek into André’s creative and humble energy.

Saban Films releases MORTAL today in theaters and On-Demand

WATCH THE TRAILER:

Release dateNovember 6, 2020 (USA)
NorwegianTorden
LanguagesNorwegian, English

 

Shudder exclusive: ‘Blood Vessel’ is a genre mashup with bite.

Blood Vessel

A life-raft lost at sea encounters an abandoned Nazi vessel. Boarding the ship, they find a far more daunting enemy.

Totally insane and gleefully brutal, Blood Vessel, a new Shudder exclusive, is the genre mashup that we’ve been waiting for. Nazis and vampires? Yes, please. What is it with Nazi’s and their penchant for screwing with the occult? It will never end well. This ragtag crew of survivors is rife with big personalities, different accents, and abilities. While a few have a shorter shelf life (pun intended) it gives us a ton to focus on as the plot reveals itself. The camera work is awesome, from drone shots of the ocean to maneuvering inside the tight confines of a ship. The costumes are cool and period-accurate. The set design, too, puts you back in time and makes you feel the claustrophobia of the space. Kudos to the makeup team for innumerable reasons.

Performances are badass. Nathan Phillips gives a really grounded portrayal of Sinclair. As much as one can be discovering that a family of vamps are trying to kill you. Alyssa Sutherland, as a nurse who lost her daughter and husband in the war, is the sensible, even-keeled figure and voice of reason. She is fearless and kind and a nice foil for the boat’s majority of overly masculine residents. Ruby Isobel Hall is phenomenal in her timing and perceived innocence. It’s some truly nuanced work. For me, the star of this film is Alex Cooke. Frankly, I could have watched an entirely separate film of the history of his character (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, writer-director Justin Dix and writer Jordan Prosser!) His totally nonchalant epicness deserves more screen time. Cooke kills it in this role.

The most unusual aspect of Dix‘s and Prosser‘s screenplay is that I found myself questioning who the real villains are? A family is kidnapped for profit. Then said family is punished for defending itself. Our crew is merely intervening after a tragedy and gets caught in the middle. I found myself relating to the vampires as a mother, which is both weird and wonderful. While there are definitely a few telegraphed plot points, the majority of the script is super original and wild as hell. Blood Vessel could easily become a franchise based on a very satisfying ending. You’ll undoubtedly hunger for more.

 Starring Nathan Phillips (Wolf Creek), Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings), Robert Taylor (Longmire), directed by Justin Dix (Crawlspace). A SHUDDER EXCLUSIVE. (Also available on Shudder Canada and Shudder UK)