Review: ‘Archive’ will make you question life and death decisions.

SYNOPSIS:2038: George Almore is working on a true human-equivalent AI. His latest prototype is almost ready. This sensitive phase is also the riskiest. Especially as he has a goal that must be hidden at all costs:being reunited with his dead wife.

Archive is a visual dream for fans of A.I. related storytelling. The production design team has taken pages from sci-fi films of old while also giving the audience a completely original aesthetic. It’s almost the birth of Westworld’s technology. You cannot miss the nods to Space Odessey, Alien, and Blade Runner.

Performances are incredibly grounded. The physical isolation mixed with grief makes for a somber and ominous setup. The nuanced relationships are brilliant to watch as they evolve. You will find yourself empathizing with all the A.I. entities. Theo James gives us every beat in total honesty. Stacy Martin is a superstar in 3 very different roles. Quite impressive.

There is a lot of intrigue in this script. Moral ambiguity is a huge part of the plot. Writer-director Gavin Rothery begs the question, “How far would you be willing to go for love?” There are clues dropped in the dialogue and recalls in scenes providing clever juxtaposition that will challenge the viewer. You cannot look away. Blink and you’ll miss something that might be more important than you realize. Brimming with emotional complexity, Archive challenges what life and death will continue to mean as technology upgrades in the future.

ARCHIVE is releasing on July 10, 2020 on Virtual Cinema Screenings, on Demand and Digital.

Review: ‘Banana Split’ is the sweet treat we all need right now.

SYNOPSIS: April (Hannah Marks) has spent the last two years of high school in a relationship with Nick (Dylan Sprouse), from first frantic make-out session to final tear-stained breakup. In the aimless summer between graduation and college, the newly single April mends her heartbreak by striking up an unexpected friendship with an unlikely candidate: Nick’s new girlfriend, Clara (Liana Liberato).

Writers Hannah Marks and Joey Power have treated us to a genuine and hilarious look at female relationships. Minus the obvious current technology, this is a story that easily spans any generational gap. The dialogue is quippy and whip-smart. Somewhere between Dawson’s Creek and any John Hughes film. (Clearly, I’m dating myself here.) It’s laugh out loud funny the entire time. It reminded me of last year’s Booksmart. Same intoxicating energy.

Dylan Sprouse is back, ladies and gentlemen. This role allows him to prove that he (and not just his brother Cole) is the teen heartthrob of the moment. His innate ability to both seduce you and put you at ease with his nonchalance is the stuff of gold. Luke Spencer Roberts as Ben is awesome. You might think he’s going to be the sidekick but he is the sanity seeker with a wicked sense of comic timing. More of him everywhere, please.

Liana Liberato as Clara is every cool, confident girl we wanted to be in high school, but really nice. Her free-spiritedness is an awesome foil for April’s darker, sardonic tendencies. But she is equally as sharp. Hannah Marks, as April, is the quirky, indie girl we also wanted to be or actually were but didn’t know it until now. Bravo for her ability to successfully tackle the trifecta of executive producer, star, and writer. I cannot wait to see what she does next.

The chemistry between Liberato and Marks is magic. It’s that feeling we all have with our best friend; that rapid-fire back and forth that is way funnier when brimming with inside jokes. The most interesting part of this script is watching the pure development of a female relationship that mirrors the ups and downs of a romantic one. The soundtrack is fantastic, mixed with some fun countdown animation, Banana Split is hands down one of the best comedies of 2020.

 

Vertical Entertainment will release the comedy, BANANA SPLIT in Theaters, On Digital and On-Demand on March 27, 2020.

  BANANA SPLIT stars Hannah Marks (After Everything, “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”), Liana Liberato (If I Stay, “Light As A Feather”), Dylan Sprouse (“The Suite Life of Zack & Cody,” Big Daddy) and Addison Riecke (Nickelodeon’s “The Thundermans,” The Beguiled). The film marks the feature directorial debut of indie cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke (Safety Not Guaranteed, Laggies.) Marks co-wrote the film alongside Joey Power (After Everything) who were both executive producers on the film as well.

Review: ‘Blood On Her Name’- a killer neo-noir brimming with tension.

SYNOPSIS: The dead body lies at her feet, its blood still draining onto the floor. It was an accident, borne of self-defense, but its discovery could have devastating consequences for local garage owner Leigh Tiller and her son.

Feat. Bethany Anne Lind (REPRISAL, OZARK), Will Patton, (REMEMBER THE TITANS, ARMAGEDDON) and Elizabeth Röhm (AMERICAN HUSTLE, JOY)

There is a heavy and devastating state of dread that occurs as you experience Blood On Her Name. The film occurs in what feels like real-time pacing making the tension truly palpable. As details of a haunting past slowly leak into view, karma’s long-arm feels destined to right the universe. This story is nothing short of tragic. Leigh simply wants to make a better life for her son but circumstances will not release her from childhood trauma and poor current choices. As a mother, I immediately put myself in her shoes. The fear and panic were overwhelming. It was an actual experience sitting through this film.

Bethany Anne Lind is a force to be reckoned with. She has an extraordinary ability to own the screen and pull you along her emotional journey. She is the heart of this film. Frankly, the other members of the cast could have been played by anyone. Don’t get me wrong, the chemistry among everyone else is spot on. What I mean is, Lind is so captivating that it’s her performance alone that remains seared into your psyche. Blood On Her Name is a triumphant feature debut for director Matthew Pope and co-writer and producer Don Thompson. It opens in select cinemas (Today) Feb. 28th and on VOD.

BLOOD ON HER NAME will expand nationwide in the coming weeks.

Review: Based on the children’s novel, ‘Waiting For Anya’ comes to theaters tomorrow.

Adapted from the novel by the author of War Horse, Waiting for Anya follows Jo Lalande (Noah Schnapp), a thirteen-year-old shepherd boy, and reclusive widow Horcada (Anjelica Huston), who come together with their village to help smuggle Jewish children into Spain during the harrows of WWII.

This powerhouse cast gives earnest performances. That being said, some things are amiss with Waiting For Anya. Something about the cinematography combined with this particular score gives the film a made for TV feel about it. It’s all in the details. The costumes, while beautiful, are a bit too clean for the time period and terrain.

The plot does delve into the nuances of humanity. I mean it is about Nazis after all. Noah Schnapp, whose breakout performance in Stranger Things is nothing less than award-worthy, feels off here. Knowing what he is capable of, I have to think this has something to do with direction choices. Same with the iconic Anjelica Huston. It’s as if I were watching a film on UP, where the actors are being told to mug for the camera intentionally. Waiting For Anya‘s running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes also does not help. Understanding that this film is based on a children’s novel of the same name (by Michael Morpurgo) does make the choices feel more appropriate. Although the tragic but completely telegraphed (and seemingly plucked right out of M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Village) death of an ancillary character near the end was incredibly difficult.  In truth, it is straight from the book itself. As a special needs mom, it hit a little too close to home, so take that opinion with a grain of salt.

The trailer looks absolutely gorgeous but the quality in the actual feature is inconsistent. Wide sweeping shots that are simply gorgeous are the undercut with a few poorly placed greenscreen shots. It has all the makings of a sweeping historical drama but lands in a holocaust family drama, if that’s even a thing. After all that nitpicking, I would still recommend this film as a mother. Certainly as a history lesson for my children when they reach middle school age. Until then, I believe I’ll start with the novel.

Vertical Entertainment will release WAITING FOR ANYA in theaters, on demand and digital February 7, 2020.

WAITING FOR ANYA stars Noah Schnapp (“Stranger Things”, The Peanuts Movie), Academy Award winner Anjelica Huston (The Witches, The Addams Family), Jean Reno (Leon: The Professional, The Big Blue). The film was written and directed by Ben Cookson (Almost Married).

Review: ‘The Operative’ deserves a pace that matches its performances.

SYNOPSIS:
“The Operative” is a taut psychological thriller about a young Western woman (Diane Kruger) recruited by the Mossad to go undercover in Tehran where she becomes entangled in a complex triangle with her handler (Martin Freeman) and her subject (Cas Anvar).
New thriller, based on Yiftach R. Atir‘s book, The English Teacher, The Operative shines when Martin Freeman‘s voiceovers guide the narrative along and when we actually see operations play out. You can feel the anxiety of the missions in real-time. Before I knew this was based upon the novel, the film brought a recognizably literary feel to its structure. Though you could easily cut 20 mins from this film’s first half without altering the intent or style. The story truly revolves around the protection of two people. Its emotional complexity is beguiling and that’s what keeps you watching.
Diane Kruger delivers a nuanced performance. The gears are turning in those quiet moments and you know there is much more going on from the very beginning. She is vulnerable and a bit mysterious. Martin Freeman is a star. He absolutely owns this role. A fan since Hitchhiker’s Guide and Sherlock, it’s incredible to see him in more and more lead roles that show is ever-expansive range. Cas Anvar is charming and powerful. He’s a real delight to watch. The Operative has a great overall plot. Intimately shot and superbly acted, it’s a solid spy thriller.

THE OPERATIVE
DISTRIBUTOR:
 Vertical Entertainment
THEATRICAL RELEASE DATE: August 2, 2019
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Yuval Adler
STARRING: Diane Kruger, Martin Freeman, and Cas Anvar
RUNNING TIME: 117 minutes
RATING: not yet rated

Review: ‘Astral’ is out of the normal realm.

Coming to terms with the explanation of his mother’s untimely death, Alex turns to spiritual contact after the relationship with his father breaks down. As a student of metaphysics, Alex learns of the “scientific” premise of astral projection—the ability to project your spirit into an unseen spatial dimension. Attempting to astral project, Alex becomes plagued by shadow spirits—malevolent entities vying to enter his body to access our world. Alex soon learns that he is not the only member of his family to have been besieged by such beings, as his mother’s dark past is brought to his attention.

The pace of the film is a mystery. By that I mean, it has the feel of a slow and steady burn but in reality, the time passes really quickly. Which is sort of ironic when you consider the editing of a few scenes. You’ll have to watch to see what I mean by that. I was fully engrossed the entire run. Admittedly, the plot went in an entirely different direction than I was expecting which is always refreshing. At first, I thought it was going to be a typical setup of students and professor engaging in some private and shady experiments outside of the classroom but it has none of that. Then you think, well maybe it will a bit Flatliners inspired. Wrong again. Bravo for not falling into any of those traps. With Astral, there is very specific CG and used rather sparingly throughout the majority of the film. The effectiveness of the CG is impactful and it’s all that’s needed to build up the suspense. The film’s believability rests solely with our leading man, Frank Dillane. He happens to be my favorite actor from Fear The Walking Dead and he does not disappoint here. His natural ability to make you feel comfortable is pretty astounding. You genuinely root for him. Astral does an amazing job at making you feel on edge. The ending is worth the wait and the familiar occult historical references give it nicely grounded feel. Is astral projection the new Ouija board? Maybe.

ASTRAL was co-written by Chris and Michael Mul and is Chris Mul’s directorial debut.  The film has a running time of 83 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

Vertical Entertainment will release ASTRAL in a multi-city theatrical release with markets including LA and NY among others on November 23. The film will also be made available on digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Fandango Now, Direct TV, Dish Network and through local cable providers