2020 Cinequest Film Festival review: ‘Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage’ has its world premiere tomorrow night!

 

A tempestuous romantic drama in seven vignettes that chronicles an interracial marriage, telling a story of turmoil and tenderness as two people try to make their relationship last.

The authenticity of this script is genuinely astounding. These words are coming from a place of experience, they have a lived-in feel that is palpable through the screen. Each vignette represents a major emotional turning point in the relationship between our two protagonists, Noah and Madison. These scenes are a beautiful mix of highs and lows but mostly honesty. Marriage is something that must be worked on every single day. This film tackles big issues; personal ambition, grief, racism, resentment, growth, adulthood myths, and gender-based communication dynamics. The physical transformation the actors go through as we cross over 10 years of their experiences is fantastic. Performances from Drez Ryan and Chynna Walker, are truly impressive. Writer-Director Chris Hansen has given the audience a carefully crafted piece of storytelling.

If I had to nit-pick, it was very clear that Walker is not a dancer in real-life. In Vignette II, there is a choreographed scene that is meant to establish her passion for her art. This could easily have been edited to cheat her abilities. As a dancer myself, it was actually distracting. That aside, every other aspect of this indie is glorious. Two scenes in particular feature close-ups of Madison. This specific choice was so effective in those moments. It had a visceral impact on me and isn’t that what every filmmaker is trying to achieve. It’s a film I cannot stop thinking about having lived many of the same experiences. It gives us permission to accept that it’s okay to not be okay. Seven Short Films About (Our) Marriage premieres tomorrow night at the 2020 Cinequest Films Festival. I highly recommend you get a ticket. This is one that will resonate with you for a long time.

SCREENINGS:

California Theatre, San Jose Mon, Mar 9 4:45 PM

Century 20 Redwood City – Screen 18 Wed, Mar 11 6:00 PM

 

Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2020 review: The world premiere of ‘The Night’ is as captivating as it is terrifying.

Kourosh Ahari’s THE NIGHT
The Iranian-American Ahari makes a startling feature directorial debut with a stylish psychological thriller about a young couple trapped in a mysterious hotel that hungers for their secrets and may not release them or their child back into the world. The film stars Shahab Hosseini (star of A SEPARATION and THE SALESMAN).

What a knock out world premiere for director Kourosh Ahari. Beautifully lush cinematography (including some early haunting POV shots) props up the richness of The Night. The score adds a layer or jarring dread that is simply gorgeous. While the script skillfully utilizes a number of classic tropes, it is also stacked with a multitude of original imagery that unnerves the viewer from the very beginning. I was thrown for a loop more times than I can count. The heightened sound editing also pushes The Night into next-level scary. The plot will have you questioning your own sanity. Is this a dispute between exhausted new parents? Is this an alcohol-induced hallucination? Or is this hotel housing unwanted guests?

Performances are so strong you will quickly forget that the film is predominantly in Farsi. As Parasite director Boon Jong-Ho so eloquently stated at this year’s Golden Globes, “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” This is the most important quote in cinema right now. Kourosh Ahari’s THE NIGHT is a heart-pounding and twisted watch. Santa Barbara International Film Festival is lucky to host its world premiere. This film should be on every genre fan’s radar this year.

WORLD PREMIERE – SATURDAY, JANUARY 18

Slamdance Film Festival Review: ‘A Great Lamp’ shines bright.

SYNOPSIS

Set in a small riverside town in North Carolina, two sad vandals and an unemployed loner long await for a fabled rocket launch.

A Great Lamp isn’t about what you think it’s about. Although, I’m not sure what I really thought it was about until the final 30 minutes. This film is like no other. Shot in black and white, at intrusive angles, with rudimentary line animation scattered over narratives, it’s whacky and wonderful and slightly reminiscent of MTV’s Liquid Television. Three men, each unique and yet totally suited to be friends await a mysterious rocket launch. But, as I said, that’s not really what the film is about. Underneath the twisty dialogue that may or may not be completely ad-libbed, there is a dark sadness. Each man has lost a parental figure, whether literally or emotionally. Dealing with depression and emptiness among surrounding quirkiness is just another aspect that makes A Great Lamp so intriguing. It is perfect for festival goers and cinephiles alike seeking something off the beaten path.

Showings – select to order tickets:
Fri, Jan 25th, 3:00 PM @ Ballroom
  • Runtime:
    77 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    USA
  • Premiere:
    World Premiere
  • Director:
    Saad Qureshi
  • Screenwriter:
    Saad Qureshi, Donald R. Monroe, Max Wilde, Spencer Bang, Steven Maier
  • Producer:
    Saad Qureshi, Donald R. Monroe, Alison Donohue
  • Cast:
    Max Wilde, Spencer Bang, Steven Maier, Julian Semilian, Laura Ingram Semilian, Netta Green, Connie Stewart, Smokey, Spaz
  • Cinematographer:
    Donald R. Monroe
  • Editor:
    Max Wilde

Fantasia International Film Festival 2018 starts this week! Here are 10 films that are getting us excited.

The Fantasia International Film Festival officially begins in two days. If you don’t already know about the fest, you are in for a cavalcade of horror, sci-fi, action and the out of this world twisted with the strange and unusual. How’s that for a description? Some of last year’s hits include LowlifeThe EndlessMohawkGood TimeSpoor, and Mayhem to name a few. If you haven’t seen any of these yet, do yourself a huge favor and seek them out. 2018’s lineup is no exception with films like Under The Silver Lake from David Robert Mitchell, which takes us into a neo-noir surreal romp and a complete 180 from It Follows. Nicholas Cage stars in Mandy, already being touted as a genre-bending blood fest of epic proportions. Hint, it’s already sold out. Let us not forget the enormously popular Fantasia Shorts Program. One, in particular, that was phenomenal last year was the Born of Woman section. As the title might suggest, these are shorts made exclusively by female filmmakers. They were as disturbing as they were profound and they are not to be missed. Fantasia has something for everyone. Cinephiles easily plan their year around this one festival and we don’t blame them. Here are a few titles we are stoked to check out over the next few weeks.
​​Blue My Mind
Blue. Of the bewildered spirit intermediating between child and sea. Blue is the colour of Mia (Luna Wedler), 15 years old, newly arrived in a town that looks like all the others. Breaking away from the sterile environment provided by her parents, she is drawn to the pack of popular kids, the ones who smoke, shoplift, mess around. Mia has everything, yet she suffocates. Then comes an odd thirst, an irresistible instinct that has her reaching out for air where there is none. In her head are the turbulent sounds of crashing water against the pebble beach. In her tortured flesh, the alienation of nature, the terrifying and unstoppable transformation of her body conflicting with the need for stillness, to press pause on the perfect breath.
Heavy Trip
Life has its downsides in a small, northern Finnish town. The local bros give long-haired, leather-clad Turo a tough time, and his job at the mental hospital is literally shitty. His crush on Miia at the flower shop is thwarted by the tacky lounge singer Jouni, and his band jams in the back of a reindeer slaughterhouse. In the plus column for Turo, well… there’s the band, even if these black-metal true-believers have never gigged in all their 12 years together (Turo’s concealed but crippling stage fright hasn’t helped). A miraculous crack at a major metal festival in Norway jumpstarts the quartet’s dreams, and Impaled Rektum set out on a metallic mission that will make them confront not only doubts, detours and difficulties, but also Vikings in longships (plus an elf), graverobbing, Swedish rocket launchers and wolverine-wrestling (dangerous… and awkward!).
Cold Skin
In the early years of the 20th century, a young man (David Oakes) takes over the responsibility of surveying the weather of a secluded island in the Antarctic. Hoping for isolation and time for self-reflection, he instead finds a crazed and weathered person named Gruner, played by genre favourite Ray Stevenson (DEXTERTHORDIVERGENT). Gruner quickly reveals that there is more to this island than meets the eye and that below the icy depths, a terrible scourge lurks. The extent of Gruner’s madness slowly becomes more and more pronounced as his bloodlust for the creatures becomes apparent. Struggling for survival, the surveyor must choose between a madman and a legion of creatures he does not fully understand.
Tokyo Vampire Hotel

Set in 2021 as the Dracula family and another family of vampires, the Corvins, prepare for the end of the world by getting into a massive rumble.

The Draculas wear billowy pirate blouses, are scared of crucifixes, and have retreated into an interdimensional salt mine beneath Transylvania. The Corvins are pop-idol hot and have retreated into a posh hotel located inside the interdimensional vagina of their leader. There, theyve invited a herd of humans they’ll force to breed at a “Special Coupling Party” to ensure an endless future supply of blood. Enter Manami (Ami Tomite), a girl looking to fit in someplace, who has special vampire blood, and suddenly everyone wants to shoot each other in the face to stash her in their apocalypse bunker first.

Tales from the Hood 2
Horror is back in the hood! The sequel to the groundbreaking original film TALES FROM THE HOOD reunites executive producer Spike Lee (Honorary Academy Award® winner) and writers/directors/producers Rusty Cundieff and Darin Scott for an all-new gripping, horrifying and oftentimes devilishly comical anthology. Keith David stars as a contemporary Mr. Simms to tell bloodcurdling stories about lust, greed, pride, and politics through tales with demonic dolls, possessed psychics, vengeful vixens, and historical ghosts. Mr. Simms’s haunting stories will make you laugh… while you scream.
Mega Time Squad
Johnny (Anton Tennet) lives an underwhelming life. He is a low-level drug dealer in Thames, New Zealand, he lives in his mother’s garage, his time is spent with a blundering friend Gaz (Arlo Gibson) at the local bowling alley and doing petty errands for the local kingpin Shelton (Johnny Brugh of WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS) and his henchmen (including Milo Cawthrone of DEATHGASM and ASH VS. EVIL DEAD). When a once-in-a-lifetime chance at a big score reveals itself, Johnny finds himself wondering, “Do I have what it takes to pull off a caper?” He quickly realizes no, he doesn’t. That is, not until he stumbles upon an ancient relic that allows him to travel across time. With the power to bend time in Johnny’s hands, a hodgepodge of hilarity ensues and the “bogans” (Kiwi for loser) sets his sights once again on the wealth just beyond his grasp. However, what are the consequences of this temporal insanity, and does Johnny have what it takes to face off against Shelton and his henchmen?
Nightmare Cinema
At a forgotten, haunted bijou, a group of strangers have assembled to watch a series of macabre vignettes unspooled by the mysterious Projectionist (Mickey Rourke). Like the best anthology films (DEAD OF NIGHTCREEPSHOWTRICK ‘R TREAT), the stories’ tones range from truly deep, dark, psychological, demented horror to ones with a lighter, satirical spin. Witness a ghost story that will chill you to the bone; an exorcism story guaranteed to make your head spin; a B&W descent into clinical madness; a plastic surgery gone horrifyingly awry; and a cabin-in-the-woods slasher ditty with a unique twist you’ll never see coming.
A Rough Draft
Over a mere handful of hours, successful Moscow video-game designer Kirill has watched his life vanish. There is no longer any official record of his existence. His colleagues, his loved ones, even his dog no longer recognize him. Homeless, heartbroken, battered and framed for murder, Kirill is at the mercy of a mysterious cabal, and they have a new life planned for him. He is now to reside in a dismal old tower near the Kremlin, and there he will serve as an interdimensional gatekeeper, opening the doors to a myriad of possible Moscows that could have been, would have been? or should never have been. Kirill discovers that he now has the power to manipulate the material world around him. But who is manipulating Kirill?
The Night Eats The World
Sam (Anders Danielsen Lie) is not legend, though he may be the last man on earth. After falling asleep in a back room of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, he wakes up to discover that the world, or at least Paris, has been overrun by a zombified populace. Barricading himself inside the building, he faces life as the sole survivor of the plague, gathering the supplies he can as the ghouls stagger and slaver outside. He can sustain his body, but can he sustain his mind as the days alone in a world gone to hell stretch out endlessly before him? He finds “companionship” and a sounding board in a zombie (Denis Lavant) trapped in an elevator, while facing an existential crisis: “Being dead is the norm now. I’m the one who’s not normal.”
Summer of ’84
“The suburbs are where the craziest shit happens,” 15-year-old Davey Armstrong (Graham Verchere) tells us at the beginning of SUMMER OF ’84,, and he should know. It’s June of the eponymous year in Ipswich, Oregon, and Davey is spending his days and nights hanging out, talking about sex and the finer points of STAR WARS sequels, and playing “manhunt” with best friends Eats (Judah Lewis), Woody (Caleb Emery) and Curtis (Cory Gruter-Andrew). The innocent fun ends when Davey begins to suspect that his next-door neighbour, outwardly friendly cop Wayne Mackey (Rich Sommer), is the Cape May Slayer who has been preying on kids his age in the area. Davey recruits his pals to help investigate and expose Mackey, initiating an adventure that threatens to turn dangerous and deadly for the boys at any moment.

We could keep naming films but that would be a bit overkill, don’t you think? But seriously, see whatever you can. We’ll be bringing you reviews of everything we’re able to catch. You can find out more info about the full program and tickets at fantasiafestival.com
​​
The Fantasia International Film Festival, North America’s largest and longest-running genre film fest, will be celebrating its 22nd year in Montreal this summer, taking place from July 12 through August 2.

 

Tribeca Film Festival Review/Interview: ‘DETOUR’ is a modern noir with two sides of one story.

Tribeca Film Festival logo 2016

detour, tye, emory, bel

Sometimes in life, a single instance, a momentary decision, is something we wish we could change. Thinking that if only you had said something else, gone the other way, chosen another path, your life might be completely different. These “what ifs” might haunt us but unless you’re a Time Lord there isn’t much you can do about them. That doesn’t stop us from wondering what life would be like. In a Tribeca Film Festival world premiere, DETOUR takes us on a ride that begs that very notion.

Harper, a seemingly naive law student, obsesses over the idea that his shifty stepfather is somehow involved in the devastating car crash that leaves his mother lying comatose in the hospital. He drowns his suspicions in whiskey and, with little forethought, finds himself suddenly entwined in conversation with a volatile grifter, Johnny, and his stripper companion, Cherry. As daylight breaks and the haziness of promises made becomes clearer, how will Harper handle the repercussions—and the violent duo—on his doorstep?

From director Christopher Smith (Creep, Black Death, Triangle), Detour is a stylized noir throwback with a trio of lead performances by of-the-moment actors: Tye Sheridan (Mud, The Tree of Life), Emory Cohen (Brooklyn) and Bel Powley (Diary of a Teenage Girl). Utilizing a unique split-narrative structure to tell his tale of deception and murder, Smith takes his audience on a twisty, thrilling ride, where it’s never quite clear what or whom can be trusted.

Detour-bel

The cast, comprised of Hollywood’s young up and comers Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, and Bel Powley, make this noir throwback as successful as it is. With suspicion and grief fueled motives and a $20,000 agreement, murder and mayhem are the goal. Powley, coming off her extraordinary breakout performance in Diary Of A Teenage Girl, is a stunning presence on screen. Caught somewhere between girl next door and Middle American white-trash, her quiet strength and sympathetic nature make the character of Cherry more intriguing than one might think. Emory Cohen, who was completely unrecognizable from his appearance in Brooklyn, takes on the role of Johnny with vigor. With a badass exterior, and hair trigger temper, Cohen’s  best moments are built in fear and protection. Tye Sheriden‘s Harper is whip smart and more cunning than at first glance. This young man is so incredibly comfortable in his own skin, he probably could have played Johnny had he and Cohen’s wardrobe’s been reversed. Detour-tye

Writer/Director Christopher Smith‘s script is sharp. While I knew about the multi-narrative plot going in, I wasn’t expecting to have to remain on my toes as much as I did. In fact, when I initially left the theater, I waxed poetic with a colleague for a good 25 minutes. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the glorious look of the film. Shot on wide-angle lenses in South Africa (which is skillfully made to look like a road trip from America to just across the border into Mexico), Smith’s choices of color and set dressing are key to the ever so slight differentiation in the two narratives. I completely agree with producer Julie Baines, who I was fortunate enough to run into during interviews, who backed up the notion that once you’ve seen the film for the first time, you’ll want to go back and follow the breadcrumbs knowing what you now know. That is exactly how I felt the morning after. I needed to see it again. Baines also reinforced the infectious chemistry between the three leads, both on and off the screen. Think a more complex version of Sliding Doors with a noir aspect. Detour is aptly named.

I was able to sit down with Tye, Emory and Chris over the weekend. You can listen to a spirited and totally down-to-earth interview below. Ladies and Gentleman, Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, and Christopher Smith on their new film DETOUR… (and other musings). Enjoy!

 

Remaining screenings at the fest are Rush only, but definitely worth trying to check out now!

4:00 PM – THU 4/21 BOW TIE CINEMAS CHELSEA 9Icon-fg-map RUSH
9:30 PM – FRI 4/22 REGAL CINEMAS BATTERY PARK 11-1Icon-fg-map RUSH

Review: ‘THE BOAT BUILDER’ set to open The 30th Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival

WORLD PREMIERE OF “THE BOAT BUILDER” FILM TO OPEN THE 30TH FT. LAUDERDALE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The Boat Builder poster
Christopher Lloyd stars as Abner, an embittered old mariner and widower living a solitary life. Withdrawn from his family and the tight-knit community of his small marine town, he is a grumpy and unsociable man who seems to live in the past – only finding comfort in the countless hours spent building a sailboat in his yard. When neglected young orphan Rick (Tekola Cornetet) wanders onto Abner’s property hiding from local bullies, the two find common ground and form an unlikely bond which changes their lives in unexpected ways.

The Boat Builder marks Arnold Grossman’s directorial debut on a narrative feature. At the age of 80, Grossman embarked on a venture to make “a film about the building of a dream.” Starting his journey as an indie filmmaker later in life “is the culmination of lessons learned from my life experiences and a long career in various creative fields” said Grossman. A sailor since childhood, Grossman scouted several coastal locations before deciding to shoot in the San Francisco Bay Area.The Boat Builder-7Christopher Lloyd is still a legend on screen. He does not disappoint as this curmudgenly fellow who just wants to be left alone. His voice is so amazing, there are moments in the film where you could drift off to dreamland and be so happy. Each moment of him on screen in gold and you simpy cannothelp but fall in love with this character. Newcomer Tekola Cornetet, is truly refreshing in his line delivery. His innocence spills off the screen and there is something so endearing about him. He and Lloyd are like old buddies or relatives that share a bond almost instantly. The chemistry is effortless. These two are most definitely the highlights of the entire movie.The Boat Builder-5That being said, on the whole, the film has a Hallmark channel feel about it. Think “after school special” with messages thrown in about bullying and acceptance. It’s a family film at heart. There is a beautiful fluidity to the writing. The scenery is gorgeous. The music is a lovely addition with it’s light and tempered balance underscoring the dialogue. The Boat Builder lets Christopher Lloyd shine at every turn. It’s a wonderful introduction for Tekola Cornetet. It’s certainly nothing revelatory but The Boat Builder is a nice family friendly film you won’t mind taking the kids to.


The Boat Builder-6Lead Actor Christopher Lloyd to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award as Part of the Festival’s Opening Night Celebrations

FLiFF banner
Ft. Lauderdale, FL  – The Boat Builder will celebrate its World Premiere on Friday, November 6, 8:00pm at Cinema Paradiso-Fort Lauderdale as part of the Opening Night events for the 30th edition of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival.
In a ceremony to precede the World Premiere screening, The Boat Builder lead actor Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Taxi) will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award celebrating his prolific career in film, television, and theater.
Written and directed by Arnold Grossman, a published novelist and nonfiction author, and produced by Richard J. Bosner (Fruitvale Station, The Wannabe), The Boat Builder tells the story of two people at opposite ends of life who find a bond in a shared dream.