Review: ‘The Artist’s Wife’ creates drama through truth.

 

Claire (Lena Olin) lives a domestic life in the Hamptons as the wife of celebrated artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern). Once a promising painter herself, Claire now lives in the shadow of her husband’s illustrious career. While preparing work for his final show, Richard’s moods become increasingly erratic, and he is diagnosed with dementia. As his memory and behavior deteriorate, she shields his condition from the art community while trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson from a previous marriage. Challenged by the loss of her world as she knew it, Claire must now decide whether to stand with Richard on the sidelines or step into the spotlight herself.

Lena Olin and Bruce Dern star in Tom Dolby‘s newest film The Artist’s Wife. While Olin plays the wife of a world-renowned artist, the film is centered on her. She has clearly given her entire life to serve and care and nourish her husband’s talent, but her emotional patience has finally run out, and rightfully so. Olin’s performance is like watching a masterclass in acting because it is not “acting”, she is living in this role. Her effortless grace and honesty explode off the screen. Dern, ever the master himself, brings precision and sadness to his character’s circumstance that you will love and hate him all at once. It is captivating.

The screenplay by Dolby, Nicole Branding, and Andi Nazemian about is a woman’s reawakening and the pressures of a caretaker. It skillfully highlights perceived gender roles. At some points actually taking an ax to them. The exploration of the ripple effects of dementia on a family unit certainly rings true. The manic behavior, the confusion, the disdain, and anger all come to a head. It’s tragic and very real.

The cinematography is beautiful. The soundtrack is a spectacular collection of indie hits. I especially adored the placement of Us by Regina Spektor. It’s joyful and perfect. The Artist’s Wife is about loss. But it is also about self-care. It is about sacrifice. Tom Dolby has presented us with a complex look at the human spirit through art and love. You will be entranced from every perspective.

September 25 release date in select theaters and on VOD.

**Official Selection **
Palm Springs International Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival Hamptons Film Festival
Whistler Film Festival

RT: 95 min

Review: ‘The Dark End Of The Street’ will capture your attention.

Set in an idyllic, suburban community where someone is killing other residents’ pets, The Dark End of the Street focuses on several characters over the course of one long night: a lonely woman mourning her dog, the culprit committing the violent acts, an overly concerned family man, and restless teenagers. And over this night, their worlds will intertwine in ways none of them ever could have expected.

Even though made on a micro-budget, talent looms large in The Dark End of the Street. In a cool 70 minutes, this film tackles paranoia, generational differences, hard life choices, typical suburban teen life, family dynamics, all against the backdrop of an unknown neighborhood sociopath. The screenplay feels reminiscent of other great vignette films like Playing By Heart and GO. Performances, a few from faces you will recognize from various projects big and small, are all wonderful. There is a beautiful level of intimacy woven into the scenes. You are instantly drawn into the lives of each character. These are conversations, or some form of them, that we’ve experienced. They discuss safety, the longing for recaptured youth, boredom, impending parenthood, and the death of a life once lived.  Despite the implicated (never actually shown) violence, The Dark End Of The Street is universally relatable. Coupled with interesting cinematography that shows an eye for detail, Kevin Tran’s little indie drama is incredibly impactful.

Gravitas Venture is releasing The Dark End of the Street nationwide on VOD today, August 11th.

The Dark End of the Street stars Scott Friend, Lindsay Burdge, Brooke Bloom, Jim Parrack, Michael Cyril Creighton, Jennifer Kim, Daniel K. Isaac, Anthony Chisholm, and Rod Luzzi.
It is written and directed by Kevin TRAN.
Color
English Language
70 minutes
Not Rated

Review: ‘The Sunlit Night’ glows from every angle.

Synopsis: The Sunlit Night follows an aspiring painter (Slate) from New York City to the farthest reaches of Arctic Norway for an assignment she hopes will invigorate her work and expand her horizons. In a remote village, among the locals, she meets a fellow New Yorker (Sharp), who has come in search of a proper Viking funeral only to find that the Chief (Galifianakis) is but a re-enactor from Cincinnati. The eclectic crew ranges from “home” to “lost,” within the extreme and dazzling landscape of the Far North. Under a sun that never quite sets, and the high standards of an unforgiving mentor, Frances must navigate between ambition, desire, obligation, and risk in order to find a way forward.

If you grew up with an art teacher mother as I did, this film will resonate with you immediately. I was given my own portfolio at the age of six. To be fair, I was drawing scale recreations from the 3 foot Georgia O’Keefe book that came with it. The birthday prior my parents got divorced. The Sunlit Night is a film made or me.

Through art references and voiceover we are privy to Frances’ inner thoughts. These moments are like diary entries. Color is like its own character. Frances is always wearing red. The barn is entirely different shades of yellow. The landscape is lush green. Viking reenactments are jewel and earth-toned while Yasha is in black. Specific paintings mirror each character, according to Frances. The film is a cinephile and art lover’s dream. Everyone that arrives is there to find something or perhaps, truly, to find themselves. The relationship between all the eccentric inhabitants of this small Norwegian town is what makes this film extra charming. Every shot in the film seems to glow. It’s simply breathtaking.

Jenny Slate is extraordinary. She always shines through her humor but here she has the opportunity to explore an even more nuanced vulnerability. Alex Sharp is tender and open. More and more of him everywhere, please. Fridtjov Såheim as Nils is a perfect balance of obstinate and passionate. He’s a great foil for Slate. While Zach Galifianakis is his adorably funny self in this, I wish we had more of him. As for Gillian Anderson, her appearance is brief but I’ll never turn down a chance to watch her effortlessness. The Sunlit Night has a glorious grace to it. It’s not a loud film, by any means, but what it does it does extremely well. Take a peek at the trailer below and watch the film on VOD starting tomorrow.

THE SUNLIT NIGHT will be released on VOD on July 17th from Quiver Distribution.

Review: ‘Sometimes Always Never’ is as charming as its leading man, Bill Nighy.


Alan (Bill Nighy) is a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits. He has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son Michael who stormed out over a game of Scrabble. With a body to identify and his family torn apart, Alan must repair the relationship with his youngest son Peter (Sam Riley) and solve the mystery of an online player who he thinks could be Michael, so he can finally move on and reunite his family.

Bill Nighy is his nonchalant, charming self as an eccentric, and brilliant Scrabble obsessed tailor. This gem of a film shows how family rubs off on you even when you don’t want them to. Sometimes Always Never is a film about communication. The cast’s chemistry is ideal. That perfect push and pull you need in a complex and loaded family dynamic. The beautiful and deliberate visual moments add to the quirky nature and balance out the underlying sadness. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. The final act will feel like an emotional homecoming. The writing is spectacular.

Sometimes Always Never is not a flashy film. It’s about multigenerational relationships. It’s about living in the present. You can watch the film in virtual cinemas Friday June 12th and on On Demand  July 10th.

Full list of virtual cinemas HERE!

Directed by: Carl Hunter
Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cast: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter, Tim McInnerny

Review: ‘Endings, Beginnings’ is the emotional roller coaster we didn’t know we needed.

In present-day Los Angeles, Daphne (Woodley), a thirty-something woman, navigates love and heartbreak over the course of one year. Daphne becomes intertwined with friends Jack (Dornan) and Frank (Stan) after meeting them at a party. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places. 

There’s something emotionally tangible about the editing and performances in Endings, Beginnings. Woodley is easily the representation of every viewer after an adult relationship comes to an end. There is a grounded, vulnerability that feels familiar. But out of context that could sound boring. What you’re getting with this script’s progression is all the aspects of the human experience; passion, volatility, depression, exhaustion, excitement, lust, self-loathing, hope, and everything in between.

Shailene Woodley has earned this script. It’s an awesome platform for her abilities. The dynamic between Woodley and Dornan vs Woodley and Stan is like night and day. This is a joy to watch because as the plot rolls along you begin to realize this isn’t truly a film about the two relationships. They are the springboard. Sebastian Stan and Jaime Dornan are brilliant, beautiful foils for one another in every single way. Both equal parts passionate and sexy but for very different reasons. While this lets Woodley showcase her ability to play both a light and dark side of her personality, it’s merely the beginning of this story. At the heart of it, the film is about self-actualization. It’s about forgiveness and growth through your mistakes and the mistakes of others. The script is complex and rewarding. I highly recommend Endings, Beginnings for everything that it represents, which is a lot. At the end of the film, you’ll easily take a huge breath in and exhale any expectations you had at the start of the movie. Drake Doremus has given us a perfect watch right now.

Samuel Goldwyn Films will release the romantic drama,ENDINGS, BEGINNINGSin On Digital April 17, and On-Demand May 1, 2020.

ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS is directed by Drake Doremus (Equals, Like Crazy) who co-wrote the script with Jardine Libaire, who makes her feature screenwriting debut.  The film stars Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent franchise), Jamie Dornan (50 Shades franchise, A Private War), Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise, “Gossip Girl”), Matthew Gray Gubler(500 Days of Summer, “Criminal Minds”), Lindsay Sloane (Bring It On, She’s Out of My League) and Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer,” Singles). 

 

Review: ‘International Falls’ explores the fine line between comedy and tragedy.

A woman stuck in a small, snowbound border town has dreams of doing comedy when she meets a washed-up, burned-out comedian with dreams of doing anything else.

International Falls is funny from the very first scene. The jokes are witty and rapid-fire. But you can feel a sense of sadness lingering over the comedy. Rachael Harris and Rob Huebel experience feelings of remorse and betrayal, all while making jokes. This script is a nuanced look into depression, ambition, and longing. It’s about choices, both right and wrong. The cool, sometimes awkward, sometimes heartwarming chemistry is awesome to see. I don’t know how much if any, of the dialogue was improvised but Harris and Huebel were perfect casting choices. The location adds to the plot in a massive way. The snow-covered and isolated, smalltown feel, impacts not only the characters and audience. Whether directly or indirectly, the viewer feels as trapped by International Falls as our two leads. There are essentially three main sets, the hotel (predominantly the room), the quaint downtown exteriors, and the stage. The later is intercut throughout the film with Tim’s stand up routines. The combination of Amber McGinnis’ directorial debut and writer Thomas Ward’s screenplay makes for an insightful, laugh-out-loud, dramedy.  There is so much more than meets the eye with this film. Its authenticity will stick with you.

INTERNATIONAL FALLS stars Rachel Harris (Lucifer, Suits), Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital, Transparent), and Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan, Weeds)

The film has been an official selection at 22 film festivals across the country and has won multiple awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at 5 different festivals. The film festivals giving the film their highest honor, include the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Naples International Film Festival, the New York No Limits Film Series, the Seattle International Film Festival, and the Tallgrass International Film Festival in Wichita.

The award-winning film opens Friday, March 20 in Austin,
Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston,
Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle

 

Review: ‘The Postcard Killings’ keeps things twisted.

In The Postcard Killings, based on the James Patterson and Liza Marklund #1 New York Times bestselling novel, NY Detective Jacob Kanon’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) world is destroyed when his daughter and son-in-law are brutally murdered in London. Unable to sit idly by and do nothing, Jacob travels to London get the answers he needs. As he learns of similar heinous murders happening across Europe – each preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist – Jacob is in a race against time to stop the killings and find justice for his little girl.

Famke Janssen becomes more relevant as Jacob’s ex-wife Val in the second half. She is his eyes and ears on a lead back in the States. Her ever dark, brooding, and strong presence was the perfect casting choice. Denis O’Hare‘s startling appearance is awesome. He can essentially do no wrong and is one of the most sought after character actors working, just ask Ryan Murphy. Jeffery Dean Morgan, who I have adored since his Supernatural days, has superstar range. Not only does he have a booming voice but truly dashing good looks. He owns the entire screen whenever he appears. Here, he plays NYPD detective thrust into the honeymoon murder investigation of his own daughter and son-in-law in London. When the details seem familiar, he makes it his mission to find the killer on an international chase. Morgan has the ability to say very little but expresses so much simply through a glance. He is undeniably fantastic. I hope we see more big-screen appearances once The Walking Dead comes to an end.

Opening with some gruesome imagery, The Postcard Killings immediately captures your interest. The script is thoroughly engrossing. It has a bit of a Se7en feel with a body horror aspect. Just when you think you know what’s going on, think again. As bodies pile up, clues are revealed that will both intrigue and shock. You will place yourself in Jacob ‘s shoes. One hour in, you will be thrown so much information and the tonal shift will knock you down. You will never be bored. The international locations are stunning, mixed with the light orchestral score, The Postcard Killings is an entertaining thriller.

RLJE Films will release THE POSTCARD KILLINGS in theaters and On Demand and Digital on March 13, 2020. The film is based on the #1 New York Times bestselling novel “The Postcard Killers” by James Patterson and Liza Marklund.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( “The Walking Dead”), Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise), Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”), Joachim Król (Run Lola Run), Steven Mackintosh (Rocketman), and Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story”). Written by Andrew Stern (Disconnect), Ellen Furman (The Infiltrator), Liza Marklund and Tove Alsterdal, the film was directed by Academy Award Winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land).

Review: ‘Three Christs’ brings heavenly performances.

In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men—Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford)—each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them, Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved—including Dr. Stone himself—profoundly changed. Based on a remarkable true story, Three Christs is a fascinating and moving look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.

This impeccable cast leaves their hearts on the screen. Gere, Dinklage, Goggins, Whitford, and Pollak are at their best. Based on true events in the 1950’s, when shock therapy was the most common treatment for a schizophrenic outburst, Dr. Stone introduces psychotherapy as a means of potentially curing this diagnosis.

Gere as Dr. Stone is as reliable as ever. It’s a solid and compassionate performance. Peter Dinklage as Joseph (or Jesus #1) has all the elegance of an eccentric European professor. An opera aria and letter writing are his means of self-expression. Dinklage is nothing short of riveting. Bradley Whitford plays Clyde (#2). Carrying a tattered cardboard box and responding in oxymoronic rhetoric, he is charming and genuine.

Walton Goggins is Leon (JC #3). Intuitive and emotionally stunning, his performance is truly award-worthy. Charlotte Hope as Dr. Stone’s research assistant gives an innocent and inquisitive tone to her character Becky. Kevin Pollak is Dr. Orbus. He is a power-wielding man whose true nature is slow to emerge. Unscrupulous in his selfishness, Pollak plays him in such a way that while you loathe him, he is essential as a foil for Gere. I would be remiss if I did not mention James Monroe Iglehart as Benny, the group’s orderly. He is the perfect balance between professional and personal. He could be the very representation of the film’s viewer.

The film has highs and lows in pacing. It’s simple but precisely shot. Ultimately, this film shines in its high caliber performances. Three Christs is an important story in the larger scheme of discussing mental illness across the spectrum. Not labeling individuals but treating them with compassion. It tackles healing through human connection and not the for-profit approach to medicine.

IFC Films will release THREE CHRISTS in theaters, On Digital and On Demand on Friday, January 10, 2020.

THREE CHRISTS is directed by award-winning filmmaker Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) from a script co-written by Avnet and Eric Nazarian.  The film is based on Milton Rokeach’s groundbreaking and controversial experiment chronicled in his book The Three Christs Of YpsilantiTHREE CHRISTS features an all-star cast including Richard Gere (Chicago, Pretty Woman), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Walton Goggins (“Justified,” Them That Follow), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” Get Out), Charlotte Hope(Allied, Les Miserables), and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “ER”).

Review: ‘After Class’ pits generational activism against itself with thoughtful writing and a lot of laughs.

Synopsis:
AFTER CLASS follows a New York City professor (Long) as he spends a week reconnecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.

After Class is one hell of a film. Lead by Justin Long as an adjunct professor of creative writing, the plot revolves around a moment in class that triggers his students. While the script deals head-on with the MeToo movement, it’s complexity must be experienced first hand. It’s about loyalty and family and standing up for what you believe in with some goddamn conviction. While Long leads the way, this feels like an ensemble cast because of the amount of talent stacked up. There is not a loose thread in this film. I’ve never seen Fran Drescher in a role so opposite her iconic days on The Nanny. Cast this fabulous lady in all the things. Richard Schiff is excellent in his attempt to keep the peace with families old and new. Watching him keep it together (or not) is a delight. Kate Berlant is perfection as Long’s feisty sister. She feels like she’s been doing this for ages. She easily steals the attention in every scene she’s in. And now to Long. As far as I’m concerned, Juston Long can do no wrong. His eclectic body of work always catches me off guard. While we get to see his quirky comedy, we also get some serious drama and vulnerability I didn’t know would affect me as much as it did. I was particularly amused by the fact the Berlant’s character has a podcast since Long’s newest venture (and fun as hell to listen to I might add) is a podcast with his brother titled Life Is Short. Drescher appeared on an episode I have not listened to yet and now I know why. He is undeniably charming as ever in After Class, but incredibly nuanced making it easy to remember how he is able to helm so many films. The script is constantly challenging your thought process, perhaps even making you roll your eyes, depending on what generation you relate most to. That’s kind of the beauty of this film. It’s got a lot going on in all the best ways possible. Congrats to the cast as well as a big round of applause for writer-director Daniel Schechter for a sincerely heartfelt indie. Everyone should be proud.

**Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Rome Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Traverse City Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Fort Lauderdale Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Greenwich Film Festival**
**Official Selection – San Francisco Jewish Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Boston Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Nantucket Film Festival**

—————————————–

Gravitas Ventures is set to release Daniel Schechter’s smart comedy/drama AFTER CLASS (formerly SAFE SPACES) in theaters and on VOD beginning December 6, 2019. The film stars Justin Long, Fran Drescher, Richard Schiff, and Kate Berlant.

The film is a compelling study of a well-intentioned millennial-aged teacher overstepping the line in class in the MeToo era and dealing with the repercussions. This comes in the middle of a family emergency when his grandmother requires hospice care, and family chaos begins to consume his life. The film provides raw moments of emotional turmoil that switches between loss, comedy, and drama, providing glimpses of beautiful and awkward moments that happen in life.

Release Date:                     December 6, 2019 – In the theaters below and on digital/VOD nationwide:
Los Angeles – Arena Cinelounge and Galaxy Mission Grove
Orlando – Old Mill Playhouse
Cleveland – Tower City Cinemas
Boston – Entertainment Cinemas Leominster
Minneapolis – Emagine Rogers 18, East Bethel 10 and Lakeville
Seattle – Galaxy Monroe
Dallas – La Gran Plaza 8
Reno – Galaxy Victorian
Las Vegas – Galaxy Theaters Luxury and Galaxy Cannery
San Francisco – 4 Star Theater
Santa Barbara – Galaxy Colony Square
Directed by:                        Daniel Schechter
Written by:                          Daniel Schechter 
Cast:                                    Justin LongKate BerlantLynn CohenBecky Ann BakerFran Drescher &
Richard Schiff
Genre:                                 Comedy, Drama
Specs:                                 93 min
Distributor:                         Gravitas Ventures

Review: ‘Cold Brook’ is charming directorial debut from William Fitchner.

COLD BROOK is the story of Ted & Hilde, two ordinary guys in a small town who embark on an extraordinary adventure and risk everything for a stranger in need. It’s a story about coming home; something everyone, everywhere has an innate desire to do.

Cold Brooks shines both in its incredible casting and genuine script. This is a story about connecting to loved ones. It’s about reconciling the past with the future. With intriguing paranormal elements, writer-director William Fitchner (also starring at Ted) gives a little indie gem that feels comfortable and homey. Kim Coates stars as Fitchner’s best buddy (and coworker) with lovely ease. You believe these two have been friends for a lifetime. His scenes with Mary Lynn Rajskub are gold. That marriage is an entire story waiting to be written. Harold Perrineau as Gil Le Deux id sincere and mysterious. His delicate approach and wide-eyed sense of wonder are a gorgeous foil for Coates and Fitchner’s working-class do-gooders. Fitchner is charming and nuanced. His emotional journey is extremely well-charted through writing and performance. While this script is not overly-complicated, that does not make it any less complex in character development. That is a real key to this film. The relationship dynamics from work to play to home are what keep you watching and smiling. Cold Brook is nothing short of great family entertainment and I look forward to seeing what might come next from Fitchner’s imagination and hard work.

COLD BROOK will be in theaters and On Demand and Digital on November 8, 2019.

COLD BROOK is the directorial debut of William Fichtner (“Mom,” “Prison Break”) who not only stars in the film but co-wrote it with Cain DeVore (Mitzi & Joe). The film also stars Kim Coates (Goon series, “Sons of Anarchy”) and Harold Perrineau (“Lost,” Romeo + Juliet).

 

Review: ‘Adopt A Highway’ sees Ethan Hawke challenging societal stigmas.

ADOPT A HIGHWAY

Starring Academy Award Nominee Ethan Hawke

Russ Millings has just been released from prison after serving 21 years for a 3rd strike conviction for possessing an ounce of marijuana. As he tries to adapt to a world he doesn’t recognize – including trying to learn how to use the internet – he finds an abandoned baby in a dumpster behind the fast food restaurant where he works as a dishwasher. Unsure of what to do, and caught between impulses of kindness and panic, Russ soon realizes this could be his chance at redemption.

Ethan Hawke is someone I can easily describe as versatile and earnest. The man works so often I think we really take him for granted. His resume is profoundly eclectic. His latest work in Adopt A Highway is no exception.

Writer-director Logan Marshall-Green has given us a poignant gem of a film. This story is charming and heartfelt. How can we, as a society, look beyond the labels of someone that has served prison time. How do we reintegrate them into our lives? What can we do to make them feel like they won’t be shunned? Nonviolent offenders, especially those who have been ostracized from the outside world for long periods of time just need a little compassion. Hawke’s portrayal of Russell is as complex and soulful as I would hope for. You root for him the entire film. He is endearing and heartbreaking. This is a beautiful role for Hawke. You will be buying what he’s selling, I promise. Elaine Hendrix makes an appearance as Di. She is a breath of fresh air in the short time she’s on-screen, proving that giving a stranger a chance can change your entire outlook on life.

The most surprising is that Adopt A Highway is produced by Jason Blum. This is not a film I would have expected to be in Blum’s wheelhouse as I have become so accustomed to his brilliant horror fare. I am very glad he took a chance on this. The cinematography has an intimacy that feels childlike and joyful. It is reflective of both rediscovery and the harsh realities of re-entering society. The pacing is wonderful. The script is much more nuanced than at first glance. It is ultimately about love. Adopt A Highway is a well acted, thoughtfully crafted debut film. It deserves your attention.

RLJE Films will release ADOPT A HIGHWAY in theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on Friday, November 1, 2019.

ADOPT A HIGHWAY stars Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Training Day), Elaine Hendrix (“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”), Diane Gaeta (Other People’s Children), Mo McRae (“Empire,” The First Purge), Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us,” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Betty Gabriel (“Westworld,” Get Out).  The film is written and directed by Logan Marshall-Green (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Invitation) in his feature filmmaking debut.

Review: ‘Depraved’ reminds us who the real monsters are.

The legend of Frankenstein gets a provocative modern update in the stylishly disturbing new film from indie horror master Larry Fessenden. Suffering from PTSD following his stint as an army medic, Henry (David Call) now works feverishly in his Brooklyn laboratory to forget the death he witnessed overseas by creating life in the form of a man cobbled together from body parts. After procuring a brain from an unwitting victim, his creation—Adam (Alex Breaux)—is born. But it soon seems that giving life to Adam was the easy part; teaching him how to live in a dark and troubled world may be perilous. A complex, emotionally shattering tale about what it means to be human, Depraved brings Mary Shelley’s immortal fable fully into the 21st century.

 

Like Mary Shelley‘s novel, as you watch Depraved, you immediately realize that our Dr. Frankenstein character is the monster and not his creation. The emotional connection in this script is what engrosses you from the very beginning. It explores the good, the bad, and definitely the ugly of the human condition.

Performances are out of this world. David Call as Henry is exceedingly ambitious. He easily flips from hopeful excitement to an underlying irrational rage, fueled by military PTSD. As a mother, it’s like watching myself teaching my toddlers, especially when I’ve reached my mental and emotional limits. Joshua Leonard as Polidori is the diabolical shit starter that propels the insanity to the next level. Alex Breaux as Adam is captivating. His vulnerability is literally a head to toe performance. These men give us a complex dynamic that is undeniably intense and brilliant. Director Larry Fessenden has created something spectacular in every way. Depraved is easily one of my favorite films of 2019.

The overall editing of Depraved is a masterclass unto itself. Utilization of flashbacks fills in the backstory gaps. The visual overlays of synapses firing are truly effective. We become Adam. It is damn near perfect. The special effects make-up is striking. The sound editing is hypnotizing and the score is breathtaking. Fessenden has given us a complex character study that subtly shines a light on issues from big pharma to the treatment of our veterans and beyond. It is a story about moral corruptibility at its finest. You will be left in awe. Depraved is a modern-day, movie monster masterpiece.

 In Theaters September 13

Directed and Written by Larry Fessenden (The Last Winter, Until Dawn, Habit)
Starring David Call (“The Sinner”), Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project), Alex Breaux (“When They See Us”), Addison Timlin (Odd Thomas, Fallen), Maria Dizzia (“Orange Is The New Black,” “13 Reasons Why”)

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: ‘The Incredible Shrinking Wknd’ is insightful genre bender.

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING WKND

Alba is losing time. A mysterious place in the woods has caused her days to take a true Groundhog Day turn but with an added twist. Each repetitive day during an overnight trip with her friends is one less hour than the day before. The only consistent thing is the clothing she ends her day with is the clothing she restarts in… and any bodily damage such as injuries or hangovers. Alba must decide how she’ll handle each repetition. How will she change her fate and those of her fellow cabin mates before the final hour runs out? This film doesn’t immediately reveal its deeper meaning. It takes it time and in a smart fashion. It’s much more introspective than at first glance. Abla takes risks to challenge her surroundings and presumptions about her predicament. All while finding buried childhood treasures around the property. Oh, that’s the only other thing that carries through. The film is not only a scavenger hunt for her past but her present as well. Iria del Río as Alba is amazing. She is raw and untethered. The Incredible Shrinking Wknd keeps the audience on its toes with its ” what would you do” scenario. It challenges the viewer to think about how selfish we are and how little we actually care for the people in our circle. The writing is truly engrossing and the performances are all extraordinarily solid. The very specific visual framing is a trick that I didn’t even catch until about midway through the film. Brilliance. Huge congrats to writer-director Jon Mikel Caballero. Fantasia International Film Festival is a delightful venue for this feature that is a relationship film wrapped in science fiction.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 review: DREADOUT plays well on the big screen.

Jessica, Beni, Dian, Alex, Erik, and Linda want to increase their popularity through recording their adventures to upload to their social media accounts. They chose to go to an abandoned apartment famous for its awesomeness. Linda manages to persuade Kang Heri, security guard, to enter the apartment. Linda and friends found one apartment unit which is given a police line. Encouraged by curiosity, they brake down the door of the apartment unit. When they are researching the room, they find an old parchment, which only Linda could read. After Linda reads the writing on the parchment, suddenly a portal open. Inadvertently Linda and her friends have opened the door to the magical world and anger the portal guardian supernatural creatures.

Those crazy teenagers. Always opening the gates to other worlds. DREADOUT had its North American premiere last night at Fantasia International Film Festival 2019 and audiences were not disappointed. The film begins with all the buildup of suspense and visual feel of playing the DreadOut video games. The framing feels sharp and the character dynamics are as fresh as Cabin In The Woods. As the audience peers through the cell phone lense of the group’s live stream, it has an amazing effect on how the lighting is filtered and you find yourself glancing at the viewership every so often. But mostly, it forces your attention to the mysterious surroundings even more intensely. This is simply the introduction to this film’s plot. 30 mins in, some creative and fresh hell awaits our ingenue Linda (Caitlin Halderman). She must explore her new otherworldly environment and figure out why she’s there and how to escape. The film’s location bounces between realms keeping the audience on its toes and the pace moving. The sets are incredibly intricate and the film really never ceases to entertain. Now, I’ve never played the game but it is reminiscent of Silent Hill and I have played that for years. The best shots recall first player gameplay with pointed POV camera work that’s impossible to miss. I do wish that had not completely disappeared. If I’m being honest, I could have used a bit more otherworldly background, perhaps flashes just as the gang is discovering the storyline. As someone who has not played the game, I feel like this was a missed opportunity.  As a whole, I was fully engrossed. DREADOUT has all the elements of a great horror adventure. Genre fans should be nothing but pleased.

DREADOUT

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Bunker Burger’ and ‘The Neighbor’s Window’, two shorts that keep you watching.

Bunker Burger

The members of an underground, post-apocalyptic bunker invite a psychologist from the radioactive and chaotic surface to audition for a place to live among them.

This short has everything you’re looking for in any film; suspense, distinct style, consuming plot, brilliant performances. There is not a hair out of place with this dark comedy. It is the perfect proof-of-concept piece. I am delighted to hear that writer/director Adam Yorke is developing it into a feature. I’m already there.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Adam Yorke is a writer/director/producer and head of development at Wildling Pictures, a ProdCo. in Toronto. He’s made two previous shorts and has had two feature scripts optioned. He’s currently writing the feature version of Bunker Burger.


The Neighbor’s Window

The Neighbors’ Window tells the true story of a middle aged woman (Maria Dizzia) with small children whose life is shaken up when two free-spirited twenty-somethings (Juliana Canfield and Bret Lada) move in across the street.

This film is absolute perfection for anyone thinking the grass is always greener. A married New York City couple watching the progression of a neighboring couples’ lives play out over the course of about a year is simply captivating. In the city, personal space lines are thinly drawn. It can feel as if no one here owns curtains. But we make too many assumptions and cannot fully appreciate what we have until tragedy strikes. The Neighbor’s Window is about people. With stunning performances, a lovely score, it’s pure and wonderful.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR(S)

Marshall Curry is a three-time Academy Award® -nominated documentary filmmaker. Many of his films have premiered at Tribeca and include the Academy Award®- and Emmy® -nominated documentary Street Fight, as well as A Night At The GardenRacing DreamsPoint And Shoot, and If A Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front.

 

 

 

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Charlie Says’ flips the script on the Manson girls.

 

Charlie Says

Charlie Says, directed by masterful filmmaker Mary Harron and written by Guinevere Turner, tells the familiar story through fresh eyes—those of Manson’s most devoted girls, van Houten (Game of Thrones’ Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon), and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendón). Thanks to a devoted prison educator who slowly draws the women out from years of a madman’s mesmerizing and abusive spell (Matt Smith), the women’s story is told in eerily detailed flashbacks, forcing them to reflect on the path that leads them to such unforgivable crimes.

This is not a story about Charles Manson. This is a story about three women who were manipulated by a mentally ill man who convinced them they were loved. Patricia Krenwinkel, Susan Atkins, and Leslie Van Houten, all came to be followers of Charles Manson because they were lost and looking for someone to make them feel important. It’s the performance from Hannah Murray, Sosie Bacon, and Merritt Wever that catapult this story forward. Wever, in particular, is the heartbeat that guides these broken girls into reality. Bacon represents every girl that needed Manson (played by Matt Smith with a quiet but fiercely alarming power) to be their father figure. Murray, as Leslie, is the audience. You feel for these ladies through intercut flashbacks and prison scenes. Each like a peek behind the curtain and into the insanity of a man who thought the Beatles were speaking to him through the ‘White Album”. These women were brainwashed sex slaves. It wasn’t until a feminist teacher Karlene Faith, with enough empathy to teach these women, did anyone begin to realize that they too were victims alongside those murdered. The film is chilling. The structure is disturbingly effective. You end up caring about these women who history has taught us to loathe. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. I’ll say it again. Charlie Says is not about Charles Manson. It is about the victims he kept closest to him.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR

Mary Harron is the writer and director of films including American PsychoThe Moth DiariesI Shot Andy Warhol, and The Notorious Bettie Page. Her television credits include episodes of The L WordSix Feet UnderBig Love, and Oz, and, most recently, The Following (FOX), Constantine (NBC), and Graceland (USA).

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘ONLY’ in an emotional gut punch worth waiting for.

ONLY

Will (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and Eva (Freida Pinto) seem destined for a storybook life together, so pure and supportive is their mutual love. But their alone time is suddenly interrupted when Eva’s roommate, Carolyn (Tia Hendricks), bursts through the door and collapses as torrents of mysterious ash fall from the sky. During a chaotic trip to the hospital, Will learns what he needs to do, quickly covering Eva in a hazmat suit, then rushing home with her and hermetically sealing the doors and windows. Weeks become months become years and, after Eva makes a desperate move, the couple is forced to run for their lives.

Only is a mysterious, dreamy post-apocalyptic love story told elegantly and in non-sequential order by director Takashi Doscher. Tony Award-winner Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) and Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) play the doomed couple whose fear that their secret will be revealed unveils the layers of pain and longing between them. As Will and Eva struggle to reach a beloved waterfall from their past, the couple attempts to survive in a new world where she is a commodity of unparalleled worth.

While watching Only, I was furiously taking notes because I wanted to remember every little nuance I was experiencing. From the opening scene, the imagery is haunting and a sense of doom and urgency sit in the pit of your stomach. The phenomenally edited film builds its intensity through non-linear storytelling. While it can be a challenge to follow at times, it is an effective way to make sure you are paying full attention. At every turn in the script, I was surprised. Its dark premise will take you down a rabbit hole of needing to find answers. Once the puzzle is solved and all the pieces are in place, your stomach will drop and your soul will weep. The captivating performances from Frieda Pinto and Leslie Odom, Jr. help Only stand apart from Tribeca’s other selections this year. Their chemistry is electrifying. With subtly suggested elements of Handmaids Tale weaved into the narrative, this post-apocalyptic tale has an eerie patriarchal theme that makes it all the more upsetting. Only is easily one of the best of the fest this year.

Remaining screenings:
2:45 PM – SAT 5/4

Review: ‘CLARA’ has an appeal that is written in the stars.

Starring: Troian Bellisario (“Pretty Little Liars”) and Patrick J. Adams (“Suits”)
Written & Directed by Akash Sherman (The Rocket List)

CLARA tells the story of Isaac Bruno (Patrick J. Adams), an astronomer consumed by the search for life beyond Earth. Convinced that the universe is a dark and lonely place, Isaac meets Clara (Troian Bellisario), an artist who shares his fascination for the wonders of space. Their unlikely collaboration leads to a deep connection, and a profound astronomical discovery.”

The intellectual dialogue is so overwhelming intriguing from the very first scene, you cannot help but feel compelled to give your entire attention to Clara‘s unique premise. Can logic and love coexist? This is a film about loneliness and loss but also wonder and imagination, science, and faith. It’s a profound look at the universe as it pertains to intimate relationships. Seemingly an oxymoron, how could the vast beyond of space apply to two people? Clara delves into the idea of letting go to let the universe do its proverbial thing. Real-life husband and wife play astronomer and newly hired assistant attempting to find a new planet with life. Their backstories are incredibly nuanced. Patrick J. Adams is captivating in his sadness and determination. Seeing him outside of Suits in a completely different role further cements his strong presence and pull on-screen. The arch of Issac is something to behold. Troian Bellisario as Clara is simply magic. The full complexity of her character won’t be fully realized until the film’s final scenes. She owns this role.

Just when you think the script couldn’t get any better, it does. The film is hauntingly scored and beautifully edited. The stakes are high and the emotional hold Clara has on you is undeniable. It has an ending that is otherworldly. Human connection is one of the most important things on this planet. Clara explores ideas we all contemplate as we gaze into the night sky and pushes them over the edge.

In Theaters and On Demand This Friday!

New York Theater: Cinema Village
Los Angeles Theater: Arena Cinelounge

RT: 105 Minutes

*2018 Toronto International Film Festival*
*Narrative Feature Jury Award – 2018 Austin Film Festival*
*2019 Canada Now*

Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Review: ‘Something Else’ is aptly named.

SOMETHING ELSE

The Midnight section at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival gives us Something Else. A story about Hank, whose longtime girlfriend Abby abruptly leaves him, but with a lot of extra flair in the plot. The editing is spectacular. Crisp still camera images set against a bleakly lit Hank, make for a perfect early jump scare. Then you catch on that’s it’s a repeated theme. Abby equals brightness. No Abby equals darkness… and a monster at the front door. The music has a heavily Gen X quality. The daytime dialogue (once Abby is absent) feels reminiscent of early Kevin Smith, particularly from everyone around Hank. This gives teeth to the naturalistic performances from a small cast. Classic tropes weave into the darker scenes and then the film becomes something altogether different. Something Else is exactly that. It’s like two films in one. It’s a monster movie and a serious relationship drama which incidentally includes a 15-minute single camera take of dialogue. Something Else is aptly named and unexpected on all fronts.

SOMETHING ELSE

For small-town bar owner Hank (Jeremy Gardner), his 10-year relationship with Abby (Brea Grant) has been storybook-quality. Abby, however, wants more: marriage, to be exact, which Hank doesn’t seem ready to initiate anytime soon. As a result, she leaves him without so much as a note or any subsequent communication. Hank is crushed. Even worse, Abby’s departure seemingly triggers the arrival of an unseen monster that claws at Hank’s front door at night. As the nocturnal threat intensifies, Hank must figure out how to not only save his relationship but also himself.

Review: ‘GALVESTON’ impresses with its story and star, Ben Foster.

SYNOPSIS: Roy (Foster) is a heavy-drinking criminal enforcer and mob hit man whose boss set him up in a double-cross scheme. After killing his would-be assassins before they could kill him, Roy discovers Rocky (Fanning), a young woman being held captive, and reluctantly takes her with him on his escape. Determined to find safety and sanctuary in Galveston, Roy must find a way to stop his boss from pursuing them while trying to outrun the demons from his and Rocky’s pasts.

Just when I think Ben Foster can’t get better, well, I should know better by now. His fearless choices in roles continue in the new film Galveston. A man double-crossed and doing a good deed for a captive young girl (played spectacularly by Elle Tanning), Foster once again transforms voice, physicality, and persona to become a hero. His powerful on-screen presence is undeniable and one day, sooner rather than later, we will see him with a much deserved Oscar in his hands. His chemistry with Fanning is delicate and honest as the reality of their dilemma unfolds. The film is a tour de force of intensity from the get-go. It only becomes darker as the story rolls on. Galveston is as heartbreaking as it is triumphant.

RLJE Films will release the thriller / drama GALVESTON in theaters and On Demand / Digital HD on October 19, 2018.

Based on the novel by the creator of “True Detective,” GALVESTON stars Ben Foster (Hell or High Water), Elle Fanning (The Beguiled), Beau Bridges (The Mountain Between Us), Lili Reinhart (“Riverdale”), and Robert Aramayo (Nocturnal Animals). The film made its world premiere at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival and was directed by Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) from a script by Jim Hammett.