Review: Drugs and double-crossing déjà vu ‘THE LAST DEAL’ slides by with solid performances.

THE LAST DEAL

A blackmarket cannabis dealer gets squeezed out of the business when marijuana becomes legal, and is forced to make one last deal with the people he should trust the least.


A strong fast-paced opening turns into a predictable script of double-crosses and drug debts. The score and transitional fade-outs feel generic and dated. Although, the handheld camerawork is a bright spot. I’ll give the script credit where credit is due, with one surprisingly violent scene halfway through.

An hour in, we briefly meet a round of new characters. One, in particular, provides a cringeworthy moment that is a complete waste of time. On the other hand, actress April Lang provides a tangible grounding for Vince as a character, but the glaring lack of a thick Boston accent matching her son made me roll my eyes. That’s not on Lang. Her performance is the most natural in the film, and I wanted to see her storyline more than anyone. Kenny Johnson also impressed me as Vince’s pilot Carter. That’s another story I’d like to explore.

Sala Baker plays The Boss with badass energy. He steals every second of attention when he appears onscreen. Mister Fitzgerald is Bobby. His confident demeanor makes him likable immediately. More of him everywhere. Anthony Molinari is strong enough as Vince to carry the film. His voiceover work sets a Narcos-level tone at the beginning and end of the film. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t keep up with his potential.


IN THEATERS NATIONWIDE FEB 3

ON DEMAND FEB 7

Directed by Jonathan Salemi, and also starring Anthony Molinari (Tenet), Mister Fitzgerald (“F.B.I.”), Jeffri Lauren (Inside & Out), Mike Ferguson (Ebola Rex), Conner Floyd (“The Young & The Restless”), and Gigi Gustin (The Retaliators), THE LAST DEAL is a Scatena & Rosner Films release.


Review: Character-driven zombie film ‘ALIVE’ is now available on Digital and VOD

ALIVE

Helen navigates a ravaged world with her boyfriend Kevin and her little brother Barney. Desperate to find help after Barney’s infection slowly turns him into a zombie, they come upon a house where lives Dan, a man harboring a heavy secret.

The film has a very BBC look to it. It is difficult, beyond the appearance of a smartphone, to tell what year the film occurs. A mix of religion, politics, and pure survival mode mix to keep the audience engaged in the narrative. The sound editing by Rob Pepper, especially the creepy sound of the virus progressively infecting young Barney, made my skin crawl.

Although the zombie makeup is not great, costumes and general makeup are thoughtfully aged and disheveled. Something that is usually a sticking point in low-budget apocalyptic films. I was equally impressed with the locations. It appears the filmmakers had a lot of options, and they used them to their advantage. Performances are strong all around. A large ancillary and featured extra cast makes for a more impressive final product.

While the drama is a touch overplayed, perhaps akin to a Lifetime drama hokeyness, that does not lessen the intriguing arc in a genre that is tricky to conquer with new ideas. So while we’ve seen the sentimental attachment aspect in the past, the surprising plot point surrounding the very badass Ellen Hillman was phenomenal. Alive‘s final reveal garnered an honest, approving nod from me. I applaud the passion and commitment of writer-director David Marantz. It undoubtedly has an audience.


THE INFECTION SPREADS ON JANUARY 31, 2023 ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND!

 

Review: Israel’s Official Submission to the 94th Academy Awards, ‘LET IT BE MORNING’ is a slick satirical dramedy with spectacular performances.

LET IT BE MORNING

Based on the Sayed Kashua novel, Eran Kolirin‘s sharp political satire LET IT BE MORNING hits theaters this Friday. Premiering at Canne in 2022, we find Sami returning to his childhood village to attend his younger brother’s wedding, only to find Israeli soldiers lock down the town without explanation.

On the surface, the film is an intimate character study of the growing tensions in a family and community in close quarters and the disruption of everyday life. Slyly mirroring the Israel-Palestine tensions in a darkly comedic way, LET IT BE MORNING tackles the status quo, the want for power, and the need for change in a superbly brilliant way.

Shai Goldman‘s cinematography captures both the beautiful landscape and the claustrophobic living conditions, smartly accentuated by natural light, soft candlelight, and lone street lamps. Music tracks like SIA‘s “Chandelier” break the tension in seemingly mundane moments. The script gets funnier and deeper under such dark circumstances as everyone approaches their physical and emotional breaking points.

Performances are undeniably fantastic. Most notably, Juna Sulieman as Mira, Ehab Salami as the ever-optimistic Abed, and Alex Bakri as an often indifferent Sami. They wade through politics, flailing relationships, and the facades we curate for survival. LET IT BE MORNING utilizes biting humor, metaphor, and reluctant honesty to tackle happiness and hope.


LET IT BE MORNING opens in theaters on February 3rd in New York City (QUAD Cinema) and LA (Laemmle Royal)

The film will then expand into select major cities on February 10th and nationwide on February 17th.


The film premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festivalthen went on to acclaim at other festivals around the world. It also won in nine of the eleven categories in which it was nominated at the Ophir Awards (Israel’s Academy Awards), including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Actress.

 
QUAD Cinema’s Retrospective Series Honoring Filmmaker Eran Kolirin
Quad Cinema in New York will also be presenting a four-day retrospective (Jan 30th-Feb 2nd) featuring select films from Eran Kolirin’s filmography, celebrating the director’s work leading up to the theatrical release of Let It Be Morning. Co-sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel in NY, the retrospective series will include the 2007 global phenomenon (and Kolirin’s feature directorial debut) The Band’s Visit on 35mm as well as the 2011 Venice-selected, quirky comedy The Exchange and soldier-returns-home drama Beyond the Mountains and Hills, which competed in the Un Certain Regard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Filmmaker Eran Kolirin will be present for Q&A discussions after select screenings throughout the retrospective and during the opening weekend of “Let It Be Morning” at the QUAD Cinema. 

 

About filmmaker Eran Kolirin:

Born in Tel Aviv in 1973, writer/director Eran Kolirin’s feature film debut THE BAND’S VISIT (2007) thrust him into the international spotlight, winning critical acclaim and over 50 prestigious awards from around the globe, including eight Israeli Academy awards, two awards and special mentions at the Cannes Film Festival and two European Film Awards. His second film THE EXCHANGE (2010) competed at the 68th Venice International Film Festival in 2011. In 2016, his third film BEYOND THE MOUNTAINS AND HILLS premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival. LET IT BE MORNING is his fourth feature film as writer/director.


 

Slamdance 2023 review: A psychological horror that gets under your skin in jury winner ‘THE UNDERBUG’

THE UNDERBUG

As India is ravaged by sectarian violence on the eve of its Independence Day, two rioters take refuge in an abandoned house. An eerie presence in the house, however, haunts the men to the edge of sanity.


Spectacular handheld camerawork amplifies the differences between the two men and places the viewer inside the house. The tense score closes in on the audience without them knowing. This skillfully crafted horror succeeds in visual implications of violence and the “blink-and-you-miss-it” terrifying background scares. 

Performances are astonishing. Hussain Dalal brings aggressive alpha energy balancing Ali Fazal‘s fearful submissive tone. This perfect mix of personas creates a manic atmosphere from the moment they meet. The script’s complexity reveals itself through pointed conversations where each man challenges the other’s manhood over a plate of biryani. It is a clever study and subtle dismantling of toxic masculinity, class, power, and sanity. 

Writer-director Shujaat Saudagar, alongside co-writers Abbas Dalal and Hussain Dalal, gives Slamdance 2023 audiences something atmospheric and entirely unique in the genre world. A wow of a feature debut, it is easy to see why it received The Grand Jury Award for Breakout Feature Film.

Boasting a finale you will never see coming, The Underbug is dizzying in the best way possible.


 

Slamdance 2023 Unseen Films review: The Breakouts Feature Grand Jury Prize winner, ‘The Underbug’

THE UNDERBUG

The Underbug is a moody thriller about two men on either side of sectarian violence in India stumbling into a strange house. The house is deserted or seems to be, except for the men who are soon faced with problems greater than themselves.

This is a great looking tense “horror” film about the things that go bump in the night and the evil that lurks in men’s hearts. It’s a film that you must see as big as possible and with as few distractions as you can manage (a darkened theater would be perfect.) I really loved much of this film. This is a perfectly made thriller with some genuine chills in it. Actually, it has more chills in its 68 minutes than most Hollywood thrillers that run twice its length.

The only flaw in the film is the politics. While there is nothing wrong with the inclusion of the references on the face of it, some of it seems to be a tad heavy-handed. No, the references aren’t constant, it’s more that a number of the references seem to be there to remind us that more is going on than scares.

That said, this is one of the moodiest horror films that I’ve seen in years. Every frame from the first to the last has chilling beauty to it.

A must-see for horror films, especially for anyone who wants one that isn’t your typical one.


For me of Steve’s amazing coverage, head to UnseenFilms.com

 

Slamdance 2023 Unseen Films review: ‘Where is the Lie?’

Where is the Lie?

WHERE IS THE LIE is a really good film. A look at love in the modern age it’s based on a true story film where a woman named Jazen breaks up with her boyfriend. Turning to a dating app she meets the perfect guy who ends up ghosting her. However, what is going on is something else entirely.

I don’t know all of the details of the actual events, and I don’t really care because what is on screen in WHERE IS THE LIE is really good. A look at life and dating in today’s world shines a light on a lot of places that we may not be contemplating, such as catfishing games set up by people with too much time on their hands. It’s the sort of thing that makes me glad I’m too old for those sorts of games.

I really liked WHERE IS THE LIE. The cast headed up by EJ Jallorina is super. We really like pretty much everyone and they pull us into all the mystery of what is going on. I was hooked early and when it was done I wanted to go back and take another ride.

One of the things that I loved was that this film which is very much tied to technology and apps actually manages to use the cinema screen to replicate what we the characters are seeing on their phones and devices. This may not sound like much but more and more in films, we are flashed visuals that are supposed to be a phone or tablet or computer screen, and more often than not the filmmakers don’t manage to make it movie friendly. Yes, we are seeing what the characters are doing but it’s not cinematic. It’s intrusive with a lot of stuff we don’t need. Here director Quark Henares designs the shots so that we both get a sense of what is on the screens the characters are looking at but we also get something that works cinematically. That may sound like a small thing but it’s not, because too often the technology shots simply don’t blend into the film as a whole.

This is a super film. I had a good time. It made me laugh and it made me think about love, the madness of these times, and the crazy things people do.

I want to say more but I don’t want to give anything away. There are a couple of turns I didn’t see coming and I don’t want to spoil anything.

This is a gem.


 

Sundance 2023 Unseen Films review: Roman Liubyi’s ‘Iron Butterflies’ exposes the roots of current conflict.

IRON BUTTERFLIES

This is a look at the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur which was shot down by Russian forces over eastern Ukraine in 2014 threw news video, reconstructions, trial footage, and intercepted recordings.

This is going to be the most low-key film you will see on the never-ending Ukraine conflict. There is no narration only text that gives us context. Director Roman Liubyi is letting the words and images speak for themselves. Yes, this is almost a decade before the current mess, but it is one of the key events in the run-up to now.

Full disclosure while I liked this film a great deal, seeing the film in the middle of a festival crush resulted in it not having the effect it should have. The film’s low-key nature is what I remember not the emotional nature of the story of lives lost through stupidity, lack of caring, and the evil nature of some parts of humanity.

If you want to understand the roots of the current conflict this film is a must-see.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 22 9:15PM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 23 3:30PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 12:00PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 6

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 26 9:00PM MST

    Prospector Square Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 27 3:30PM MST

    Holiday Village Cinemas – 2

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


     

Sundance 2023 Unseen Films capsule review: ‘Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)’

Squaring the Circle (The Story of Hipgnosis)

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey “Po” Powell, are the men behind the art design studio, Hipgnosis. Named by Syd Barrett when he scrolled the name across a door, the studio went on to create hundreds of record covers for all of the great bands and performers.

One of the great films of the year this is going to be an absolute delight to anyone who loves the great art that accompanies great music. Not only do we get to see how the art was created but we also get to hear all sorts of magnificent stories from the creators, but also the musicians themselves Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Dave Gilmour, Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, Peter Gabriel, and others are here telling stories.

I smiled from ear to ear for 100 minutes.

This is exactly what you hope the film will be except it’s even better.

I can’t say more than that except this is on my best-of-2023 list.

Highly recommended.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 20 8:30PM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 21 3:30PM MST

    Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 8/9

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 25 3:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 26 1:00PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 2

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 28 6:45PM MST

    Rose Wagner Center

    SALT LAKE CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


     

Review: Devotion and deceit go hand in hand in Liz Fania Werner and Carlos Montaner’s ‘WAKING KARMA’

WAKING KARMA

High school senior Karma and her mother Sunny are on the run from her father, an infamous cult leader. Trapped inside a remote wooded compound, her already complicated reality is about to crumble.

The film begins with intriguing flashbacks of a cult murder, newspaper clippings, and a hauntingly saccharine song. The setup immediately captured my attention. A sudden shift in style and time reveals Karma and Sunny living in fear and relying on the kindness of former cult members for protection. Small crumbs of cult life are just enough to keep you invested in Karma’s fate.

Michael Madsen is vile. His iconic voice serves him well as Paul, giving him an effortless presence. He could have been made more menacing with a few tighter shots overall. Kimberly Alexander plays Sunny with extraordinary nuance. This roller coaster ride of a role spans every emotion; adoration, cruelty, and unadulterated honesty. Alexander goes for it.

As Karma, Hannah Christine Shetler is the definition of wide-eyed vulnerability. She navigates chaos and confusion with equal parts innocence and fearlessness. Waking Karma is a terrific vehicle for her talents. 

It takes a solid 25 mins to get to any action, but then it is pretty much maniacal from there on out. The plot gets more sick and twisted as we roll along, both physically and psychologically. WAKING KARMA shines brightest in the scenes between mother and daughter. The shockingly devastating dialogue by director Liz Fania Werner with co-director Carlos Montaner‘s DP work almost demands an in-depth prequel. I have so many questions, and I’d love to see more about the beginnings of this cult. That’s the story we need now.


WAKING KARMA is now available on VOD

 

Sundance 2023 capsule review: Anna Hints’ profound documentary ‘SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD’ is a collective sigh of womanhood.

SMOKE SAUNA SISTERHOOD

The ancient Estonian ritual of sauna building is a physical and spiritual cleansing. Women gather to share everything from funny childhood stories to earthly, almost guttural chants to intimate confessions with unfiltered honesty. Anna Hints‘ Sundance 2023 documentary Smoke Sauna Sisterhood is a visceral and profoundly deep film.

Mesmerizing closeups of body parts beading with sweat captured with static and handheld camerawork beautifully complement the conversations and place the audience inside the room. Haunting vocals during transition moments captivate the audience. Images of south Estonian matriarchs are projected on the sauna smoke as their voices recall tales from their lives. It is another stunning addition to an already visually sumptuous film.

Topics like cancer, women’s rights, body shaming, unresolved trauma, sex, and sexuality swirl freely. It is a safe space I envy. Smoke Sauna Sisterhood brings a contagious joy. There is a raw elegance I think Sundance 2023 audiences, specifically female viewers, will welcome. This film is a celebration of our complexities, highlighting the tender care we take with one another. It is revelatory to rediscover the interconnectedness of women and our shared experiences, good and bad. It is an astonishingly rewarding emotional catharsis.


Screening Times
In Person
PREMIERE
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 22 6:00PM MST
Prospector Square Theatre

PARK CITY

SECOND SCREENING
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 23 8:30PM MST
Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 6

SALT LAKE CITY

SECOND SCREENING
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 25 11:45AM MST
Egyptian Theatre

PARK CITY

SECOND SCREENING
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 26 4:00PM MST
Redstone Cinemas – 2

PARK CITY

SECOND SCREENING
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 27 12:00PM MST
Screening Room

SUNDANCE MOUNTAIN RESORT

Online
SECOND SCREENING
AddFAVORITE
Jan. 24 8:00AM MST
Available Until Jan. 29 11:55PM MST


Anna Hints is an Estonian film director with a background in contemporary art and experimental folk music. Having deep roots in the distinct culture of South Estonia, Hints’ second home is in India. As an active dumpster diver, Hints’ short documentary For Tomorrow Paradise Arrives initiated public discussion and growth of new grassroot movements against food waste in Estonia.


 

Sundance 2023 capsule review: ‘BAD PRESS’ is a striking microcosm of tribal oppression and corruption.

BAD PRESS

Imagine a scenario, if you will, where the federal government controlled the entirety of the media. Ask North Korea and China’s citizens how well that works for them. Native American tribes are sovereign nations. They do not have freedom of the press. In the Sundance 2023 documentary from Rebecca Landsberry-Baker and Joe Peeler, BAD PRESS exposes the crushing actions of tribe leaders to remain in power. MVSKOKE MEDIA journalists are under attack while the Chief manipulates the Muscogee community with misinformation. Who will protect the truth?

Bad Press describes the hierarchy of tribal media. Money and politics rule, making a constitutional Free Press amendment vital to every nation. The film follows the journey to change, from new candidates for a new chief to election fraud allegations, and boy does it mirror national shenanigans. MVSKOKE MEDIA journalist Angel Ellis and her colleagues report everything in real-time, fighting against fear, false claims, threats, and connected politicians who wish to silence them.

The biggest question becomes, “What do you have to hide?” BAD PRESS is the perfect Sundance 2023 companion to watch with Fantastic Machine. It’s a heart-pounding, sweaty palm viewing experience. The emotional gravity of this story is shocking. BAD PRESS is a microcosm of tribal oppression and global journalistic reality. Those in the film are brave as hell for speaking out. National news, take note. Transparency is key.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE

    Jan. 22 8:40PM MST

    The Ray Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 24 3:30PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 25 12:00PM MST

    Screening Room

    SUNDANCE MOUNTAIN RESORT

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 26 12:40PM MST

    Holiday Village Cinemas – 2

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 27 9:45PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 3

    SALT LAKE CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


Sundance 2023 documentary review: ‘FANTASTIC MACHINE’ is a gasp-worthy watch.

FANTASTIC MACHINE

Memory preservation, emotional resonance, exploration, and exposure of truth, FANTASTIC MACHINE explores the history of capturing the first image to the deliberate curation of media content through the ages.

The swiftness of the manipulation of images shocked me. From the beginning, the film is ruthless in its takedown of perceived truth. It is what we don’t see changes everything. Fantastic Machine has outtakes from a 2017 ISIS propaganda video, Eurovision’s use of the green screen in their scoring reports, how-to YouTube videos, and viral video reactions. At one point, I exclaimed, “What The Fuck,” louder than I intended. 

The power of curated messaging in politics is something we know well. The film features a breathtaking 1993 interview with a filmmaker that changed the face of WW2 and modern-day filmmakers. In 1934, The Nazi Party hired Leni Reifenstahl to show the movement as powerful and attractive. She speaks about the entertainment factor, how a two-hour speech must be compressed to five minutes with a beginning, middle, and thrilling middle, despite the subject. As I witnessed the pride in her technical work, my mouth was agape. Juxtapose those images with the Sidney Bernstein footage from the final day of the war in 1945. Charged with proving the atrocities of war ever existed, Bernstein brings humanity, suffering, and truth. In the end, it is a product. In most cases, it is void of morality.

Maximilien Van Aertryck narrates with a profound statement: “A lack of perspective can distort what the world looks like.” There is such a fine line between propaganda and truth. We are all too familiar with this tactic. The results of media manipulation are monumentally dangerous but immensely lucrative. Instagram is rewiring young brains in a similar manner fashion magazines impacted our self-esteem in the 90s. It, quite literally, changes brain chemistry. The editing from Mikel Cee Karlsson and writer-directors Axel Danielson and Maximilien Van Aertryck is award-worthy. As the saying goes, they understood the assignment.

FANTASTIC MACHINE is ceaselessly fascinating and undeniably disturbing to experience. As a commentary on entertainment, it is both a celebration and a condemnation. Sundance 2023 audiences are in for something absolutely brilliant. 


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE

    Jan. 23 3:00PM MST

    Prospector Square Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 24 6:55PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 3

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 25 2:45PM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 26 3:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 27 9:30AM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING

    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


Slamdance 2023 review: ‘A Perfect Day for Caribou’ is a captivating character study.

A PERFECT DAY FOR CARIBOU

We find Herman with a tape recorder in hand, giving estranged son Nate life tips and recalling snippets of random stories from his past. When his phone rings, he finds Nat on the other end, requesting a visit. Nate arrives with his six-year-old son Ralph in tow. Three generations in the same place for the first time, Herman and Nate swap stories as they play catch-up with one another as Ralph explores the cemetery with his soccer ball. Midway through the film, Ralph goes missing. Father and son search the surrounding area far and wide, with Nate explaining this is a habit of Ralph’s. Their talk continues along the way, Herman toting a mysterious box with them and Nate chainsmoking as a coping mechanism. A Perfect Day for Caribou catches Slamdance 2023 audiences off-guard with honesty and reflection.

The film opens with Jeb Berrier and a glorious 10-plus minute monologue of stories and advice. His delivery lands somewhere between stoic and hypnotizing. It is an extraordinary turn. Charlie Plummer never ceases to amaze me with his grounded portrayals. It’s like watching a documentary. Plummer settles into Nate without missing a beat. His calming demeanor, similar to Berrier’s, grabs you instantly. Rutherford’s script allows Plummer to break free as the story progresses, and again, he nails it. There is a purity to the performance.

Cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo‘s work is beautiful. The combination of black-and-white and thoughtful framing captures your attention immediately. I adored the stationary swings. Long takes allow the audience to focus on the dialogue, heightening the emotional investment. The location is a cemetery and the surrounding open plains. Something about this choice speaks volumes on a metaphoric level. Short intercut scenes surprise and delight.

The film is a perfect fit for Slamdance 2023. Writer-director Jeff Rutherford offers an intimate portrait of attempted redemption and connection. Complete with full-circle moments, A Perfect Day for Caribou is a mesmerizing character study brimming with complexity.


A Perfect Day for Caribou – Festival Trailer from Jeff Rutherford on Vimeo.

A PERFECT DAY FOR CARIBOU, starring Charlie Plummer (Lean on Pete; Looking for Alaska) and Jeb Berrier (First Cow; Shrill), premieres at Slamdance Film Festival on Saturday, January 21. 

And from January 23-29, watch from anywhere with the Slamdance Channel.

A PERFECT DAY FOR CARIBOU follows an estranged father and son who spend the day ambling, wandering, searching, and stumbling through disharmony and heartache. This heartfelt yet unconventional narrative is filmed in the nostalgic 4:3 aspect ratio and evocative black and white by cinematographer Alfonso Herrera Salcedo.


 

Slamdance 2023 review: The weird and wonderful world of ‘Who’s Annie?’

Slamdance 2023 Premiere of

WHO’S ANNIE?

After jail-time, 12-step programs and five marriages, Annie begins her acting career in her mid-fifties with the help of a young director she met at a Burger King. In this show within a show, Annie tackles both her gigs as an actor and the role of herself in her own life story.


A farcical meta delight, Slamdance 2023 episodic WHO’S ANNIE skewers the absurdity of Hollywood, but that’s only the beginning. Annie Pisapia plays herself and doesn’t. Yup. You read that correctly. This “series within a series” is wildly entertaining and wholly bizarre. 

Writer-director Sophia Peer plays “herself,” a television director with awkward and quirky energy. Peer bears a striking resemblance to Rhea Pearlman. It’s a head-scratching role, and I could not look away. Sofia Dobrushin plays the “series” version of Peers. Wide-eyed and perfectly cast, Dobrushin appears both afraid and at home in coordinated chaos. I adored her. Annie Pisapia owns the screen, as her comic timing is something to behold. Her rough exterior feels part false flag, part true identity. She is so convincing it is genuinely tough to discern between Annie’s real life and the script. That is the entire point of the series, and Peer has succeeded with flying colors. Adding in Peer’s manic confidence and Dobrushin’s “yes, and” attitude, these three women exquisitely complement one another.

Because the show jumps in style, so does the cinematography. It is eye candy that never gets boring. It is pure silliness, and I’m dying for more. It’s Comedy Central meets Mad TV. There is a lot of meat on the bone for series development. Everyone has enough (or a lot) of backstory to expand upon and plenty of weirdness to start. WHO’S ANNIE is unique in this Slamdance 2023 episodic lineup.


WHO’S ANNIE? – 30 Minute Scripted Comedy Series – Trailer from sophia peer on Vimeo.


2 Screenings at Treasure Mountain Inn: 255 Main St, Park City, UT 84060
Sunday 1/22: 9:45pm- Ballroom 
Thursday, 1/26: 11:30am- Crescent Room
Ticket Link Here

 

CREDITS:

Creator/Director: Sophia Peer

Written by Sophia Peer & Annie Sicherman

EPs: Ryan Cunningham, Troy Thompson

Co-Executive Producer: Randy Stulberg

Produced by: Manon Carrié

Cinematographer: Adam Uhl

Production Designer: Erica Magrey

Editor: Matt Posey

Starring: Annie Pisapia, Sofia Dobrushin, Sophia Peer


BIOS:

Creator and Director: Sophia Peer (she/her) was born and raised in Flushing, Queens, where she began her career as filmmaker, directing her parents in scripted/doc hybrids before she knew that was even a thing. She was awarded the NY Foundation for the Arts ‘Made In NY’ grant, a finalist for the ScreenCraft Film Fund, accepted into The Gotham’s Episodic Lab, and invited to Gotham Week, for WHO’S ANNIE?, a series she’s creating, co-writing and directing. Sophia is currently pitching a doc/scripted hybrid series created in collaboration with Jigsaw Productions. After years of working on series for Nike, Super Deluxe, Nylon, Genius, and Pitchfork, Sophia is now also directing a surreal cooking show, DANNY’S FOOD CORNER, starring queer comedian Lily Marotta (Celebrity Book Club). Sophia’s work has been screened at the Whitney Museum of Art, Hauser & Wirth, Abrons Art Center, the Giphy Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Contemporary Arts Center, The Queens Museum, Indie Memphis Film Festival, and MoMA. She has directed music videos for artists such as Paramore, Julien Baker, Paramore, The National, Interpol, Yeasayer, and Junior Boys. 

Co-Writer: Annie Sicherman (she/her) is an award-winning queer screenwriter from Queens, NY.  She is the co-writer of WHO’S ANNIE?, a pilot that was awarded the NYFA “Made in NY” Grant, accepted into The Gotham’s Episodic Lab, and a finalist in the ScreenCraft Film Fund. Recently, Annie’s comedy pilot DOCTOR BABIES advanced in the Austin Film Festival.

Executive Producer: Ryan Cunningham (she/her) is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning producer who launched the development company Running Woman, with projects set up at FX, Party Over Here, and Swimsuit Edition. She has 20 years experience producing 25 different comedy TV series. TV producer credits include BROAD CITY, INSIDE AMY SCHUMER, SEARCH PARTY, THE LAST O.G., and stand-up specials for Comedy Central, Showtime, Amazon, Netflix, and HBO. Ryan was also the Director/EP on specials for Ilana Glazer, Alan Cumming, and the docuseries EXPECTING AMY.

Executive Producer: Troy Thompson (he/him) started Running Man in 2009 with his business partner Ryan Cunningham as a place to inspire creativity, and over the last 14 years has seen it turn into one of New York’s premiere post houses. He has been working in television and film for 25 years now as both an editor and colorist with an unending attention to detail. Credits include PATRIOT ACT with Hasan Minhaj, ZIWE, FLATBUSH MISDEMEANORS, AT HOME WITH AMY SEDARIS, BROAD CITY, IINSIDE AMY SCHUMER, SEARCH PARTY, THE DETOUR, and THE CHARACTERS. He has worked on stand-up specials for Chris Rock, Hasan Minhaj, Amy Schumer, Mike Birbiglia, Roy Wood Jr., Atsuko Okatsuka, Aida Rodriguez, Yvonne Orji, and music specials for Apple Live for Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. His work in feature films include the HBO documentary THE TRANS LIST; co-productions of 3RD STREET BLACKOUT, CLAIRE IN MOTION, KEEP THE CHANGE, winner of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival; and BECKS, winner of the US Fiction Prize at the LA Film Festival. Troy’s most recent goal is to be a part of content that will someday inspire his 11-year-old daughter. 

Co-Executive Producer: Randy Stulberg (she/her) is an award winning creative EP/ showrunner from New York. Most recently she has been working on episodic development for various clients in TV and digital including Jigsaw Productions, The New York Times,  Refinery29, Vice, Apple/ JV8inc. and VOX/New York Magazine. She was the showrunner for Viceland TV’s highest rated show Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia, helping reimagine the series from its original digital format for an international TV audience and executive produced 2022 Sports Emmy nominated series “Golden” featuring Olympic gold medalist Sunisa Lee for LeBron James’ SpringHill Company and Peacock streaming. 

Producer: Manon Carrié (she/her) is a French/Filipina-American writer and producer with a multitude of innovative work in docustyle branded content, television and narrative film for award-winning companies such as Vice, Hearst, Condé Nast, HBO Max, Freeform, Jigsaw, Hulu and The New York Times. Her projects playfully experiment with unexpected hybrids of form and genre, and aim to probe the peculiar nuances of characters, cultures and structural conflicts, which can be glimpsed in her 2020 mockumentary webseries ABROAD and bilingual dream-doc short OISEAUX DES ÎLES. She currently has three narrative scripts and several docu-projects in development, one of which plans to take place in her mother’s birth-village in the Philippines. She splits her time between Brooklyn, Los Angeles and Paris.

Cinematographer: Adam Uhl (he/him) is a cinematographer based out of New York. His first film MALA MALA, was produced by Christine Vachon and Killer Films and received an Audience Award at the 2014 TriBeCa Film Festival. In 2017, his second film, DINA, produced by Dan Cogan, Impact Partners, and Killer Films, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received the Grand Jury Prize. He has also lensed several series including UNTOLD and LOSERS, THE FIX, and PANIC for Netflix and HBO. 

Production Designer: Erica Magrey (she/her) is a Brooklyn-based production designer, prop stylist, and interdisciplinary artist with a particular interest in examining female tropes, high/low-brow culture blends, and the future of the past. Working with commercial and editorial clients on scripted series, music videos, and still life photography, she creates work that examines the performance of identity. Erica has had screenings, performances and exhibitions at art spaces such as Socrates Sculpture Park, The Sculpture Center, The Whitney Museum of American Art, Kaskadenkondensator (Basel), The Kitchen, 106 Green, Klaus von Nichtssagend, Magic Pictures, Freight + Volume, and Storefront for Art and Architecture. 

Editor: Matt Posey (he/him) is an editor based in NY and LA. In addition to features, shorts, and award-winning commercials, he has edited music videos for Depeche Mode, Metallica, Rob Thomas, and many others.

The Star and inspiration for the series: Annie Pisapia (she/her) is an award winning actor born and raised in Queens. She can be spotted in many of the big series you’ve seen for the past six years playing roles such as Inmate, Police Officer, Drug Addict, Bartender and Janitor. Annie was the recurring character “Smoking Woman” in HIGH FIDELITY, scene partners with Bobby Cannavale in THE WATCHER, and held the role of “Agitated Woman” on NEW AMSTERDAM. Other shows include INVENTING ANNA, BETTY, MANIFEST, BILLIONS, BLUE BLOODS, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, CRASHING and THE OA. Annie’s swagger, charm, and New York attitude make her very hard to miss, even when she’s playing a background role. There are more than ten projects that are about to premiere in which Annie plays a major role including “Senior Biker Chic” in AWKWAFINA IS NORA FROM QUEENS, “Sister Joseph” in Jennifer Esposito’s directorial debut FRESH KILLS, and “Cathy” in the Netflix A24 comedy series SURVIVAL OF THE THICKEST.

Co-Star: Sofia Dobrushin (she/they) is Bicoastal, Biracial and Bisexual. They love to be at the intersection of many things and we see that reflected in their craft as an actor, director, comedian and musician. Acting credits include HIGH MAINTENANCE, César Alvarez’ ELEMENTARY SPACETIME SHOW, and On the Rock’s EDELWEISS at Ars Nova. Sofia was recently in Apple TV’s WECRASHED where she yelled at Anne Hathaway and got to wear fake glasses.


 

Sundance 2023 doc review: ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’ is an unexpectedly badass victory cry

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

In search of someone else with the same physical condition, Ella Glendining takes us on a thoughtful journey in Sundance 2023 documentary IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?

The editing combined with the score creates a charming and deeply affecting quality. Confessional diary logs place us in Ella’s headspace. She uses home videos and sit-down chats with her Mum and Dad about what it was like to raise her. Seeking specialists and families with the same disability offers Ella more questions than answers. We follow Ella through an unexpected pregnancy. Her gorgeous son River and the Covid 19 pandemic change how she views potential surgery options. As she speaks to others via Zoom, she contemplates the appreciation of her body.

The discussion of ableism is paramount to understanding Ella’s life and any family with a differently abled member. I am the mother of a seven-year-old son with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I suspect that with his off-the-charts cognitive abilities, the more precise diagnosis is Aspergers. I appreciated Ella and her best friend Naomi’s honest discussions about her autism and the challenges of an invisible disability. Each admits they cannot fully understand the inner workings of one another’s feelings and worry they have inadvertently said horrible things to one another. Understanding the staring, judgment, and how it pierces the heart cannot be ignored. That is also why the conversations with Ella’s parents resonated with me. Like Ella seeking someone to connect to, her Mum and Dad were touchstones for me.

IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? tackles outdated stereotypes and deep-seated trauma, but also optimism. I hope Ella Glendining understands the gravity of her film. I have to thank her for sharing her life, and I look forward to sharing her story with my son when he is a bit older. IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE? celebrates individualism and isn’t that the ultimate goal?


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 22 3:00PM MST

    Prospector Square Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 3:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 25 12:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 26 5:30PM MST

    Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 6

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 27 2:30PM MST

    Holiday Village Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


     

Sundance 2023 review: ‘TALK TO ME’ is visually horrifying and ready for a franchise .

TALK TO ME

When an unusual object allows a group of teens to not only speak with the dead but allow them to enter their bodies, things get violent and personal when Mia’s mother reaches out from beyond the grave. The veil has lifted, and secrets will spill over the threshold, whether Mia and her friends like it or not. Directors Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou bring Sundance 2023 audiences TALK TO ME.

The thrill of taking the otherworldly hand becomes like a drug to the group. This shockingly dangerous behavior throws me back to my teen years, forcing this horror fan to wonder if I would suffer the same fate. A goody two shoes concerning drugs and alcohol does not negate my risky excursions in the New England woods in the pitch black of summer nights. As Mia and her friends battle the typical parental control and need to fit in, their heightened chase of danger spells nothing but doom. Writers Bill Hinzman and Daley Pearson, with concept by Danny Philippou, give us all the background we need to get sucked into this wild scenario, leaving just enough mystery to keep us salivating.

The practical fx are solid. The film’s special effects makeup team does a remarkable job of creeping the audience the fuck out. The work becomes more elaborate as the story progresses. It is spectacular.

This ensemble of young actors wowed with the complex task of playing “multiple roles” (without spoiling the action.) Sophia Wilde as Mia astounded me. The specificity of this performance rocked my world.

TALK TO ME almost demands a franchise. I have so many questions. I’d love a sequel and a prequel! TALK TO ME serves up Sundance 2023 audiences enough to chew on while filmmakers dig deeper into the film’s canon.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 21 11:55PM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 22 9:45PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 3

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 25 9:45PM MST

    Library Center Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 27 9:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 28 10:00PM MST

    Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 8/9

    SALT LAKE CITY

Online

THIS FILM IS NOT AVAILABLE ONLINE.


 

Sundance 2023 review: ‘MAMACRUZ’ is a bold reclamation of sensuality.

MAMACRUZ

In Patricia Ortega‘s Sundance 2023 film MAMACRUZ, devout seamstress Mari Cruz spends her days dutifully attending to the needs of her church community and caring for her grandchild while her daughter tours with a dance troupe. But, quite by accident, we discover her longing for touch. What begins as an accidental discovery of internet pornography and then unexpected sexual fantasies of a statue of Jesus lead her down a path of exploration.

After her husband shuns her advances, Mari Cruz is undeterred. Nor does the righteous gossip at church stop her. Pushing aside shame, with her sewing skills and newfound knowledge, she heals herself and those around her.

The film looks beautiful. Fran Fernández Pardo‘s cinematography highlights the rich colors in fabrics and paint and captures extraordinary angles in fantasy sequences. The commentary on religious oppression and desire is unmissable. The performances are outstanding. Kiti Mánve breathes vulnerability and quiet ferocity into the role of Mari Cruz. It is a stunning, award-worthy turn.

The film drips with visual innuendo and lust. The audience must leave judgment at the door. MAMACRUZ permits the audience to embrace intimacy, pleasure, and the complexities of womanhood. Life is short. Choose fearless happiness.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 20 9:15PM MST

    Library Center Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 21 12:00PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 6

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 22 12:30PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:30AM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 27 8:30AM MST

    Holiday Village Cinemas – 1

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


     

Sundance 2023 review: ‘PIANOFORTE’ earns a standing ovation for director Jakub Piatek.

PIANOFORTE

Four stages. 21 straight days. Since 1927, The Chopin Competition has been held in Warsaw. Featuring the most elite piano players in the world, Sundance’s 2023 documentary film PIANOFORTE follows a small group of contestants vying for the illustrious title.

The competition does not occur annually, making it all the more exclusive. Here is how it works: Stage One: 87 participants, Stage Two: 46, Stage Three: 23, Stage Four: 12. The film bounces from the competition to our pianists’ hometowns before competing. A peek beyond the bench, we witness rehearsals, family life, and personal confessions.

Eva (17) is an unsure but internationally acclaimed phenom. She is a sponge for the technical perfection demanded by her instructor. Marcin goes from a confident swagger to an anxious mess as the rounds progress. It is devastating. Alex utilizes yoga and meditation to focus, and his calm demeanor catches you off-guard. He has a surprising swagger as the ladies flock to him throughout the film. Hao (17) is quiet and intensely focused. In Stage Three, one moment of forgetfulness could be his last. Michelle is a delight, confessing her dog is her biggest fan. She also openly talks about the fear of competition and the reality of pursuing anything but piano. Leonora is a spitfire. She beams with each breath.

An undeniably shocking level of emotional investment comes with experiencing PIANOFORTE. The amount of pressure is unimaginable. The film’s final edit is a masterpiece. Undoubtedly, the audience may suddenly find themselves unexpected piano enthusiasts.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 20 2:30PM MST

    Egyptian Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 21 2:55PM MST

    Screening Room

    SUNDANCE MOUNTAIN RESORT

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 22 3:45PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 3

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 12:00PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 7

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 26 6:00PM MST

    Park Avenue Theatre

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24 8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST


    In 2021, Jakub Piatek’s feature fiction debut Prime Time premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. (Now available on Netflix in all regions.)


 

Sundance 2023 short film review: ‘AirHostess- 737’ is a delicious descent into chaos.

AIRHOSTESS-737

In AirHostess- 737, we meet Vanina, a 39-year-old flight attendant trying to hold it together. Self-conscious over her new braces, her anxiety rises as the film progresses, exacerbated by a passenger, the pilots, and strong turbulence. But there is far more on Vanina’s mind than her newfound hardware.

The choreography of the scenes is spectacular. The audience serves as pov, and Vanina speaks just over the shoulder of the camera lens the entire film. It takes your average walk-and-talk to another level as she juggles casual conversation with her duties down the aisle. Writer-director Thanasis Neofotistos and co-writer Grigoris Skarakis implement a subtle and perfectly placed visual gag in Vanina’s makeup. It is a physical manifestation of her turmoil.

As a frequent flyer, I instantly grinned at actress Lena Papaligoura‘s deadpan demonstration of safety protocols. Her performance hits every note. She is funny, manic, dedicated, and pitch-perfect.

AirHostess- 737 is a descent into the depths of unresolved trauma hidden inside a sharp comedy. I laughed, gasped, and marveled at this short film’s ability to surprise me in fifteen minutes. It is undeniably impressive work from everyone involved. Sundance 2023 audiences will love it.


Screening Times

In Person

  • PREMIERE
    Jan. 20  9:00AM MST

    Prospector Square Theatre

    PARK CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 21  3:45PM MST

    Broadway Centre Cinemas – 3

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 22  9:30PM MST

    Megaplex Theatres at The Gateway 8/9

    SALT LAKE CITY

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 25  12:00PM MST

    Redstone Cinemas – 7

    PARK CITY

Online

  • SECOND SCREENING
    Jan. 24  8:00AM MST

    Available Until Jan. 29  11:55PM MST




Synopsis:
AIRHOSTESS-737 completes Filmmaker Thanasis Neofotistos’s award-winning short film trilogy
(Patision Avenue, Route-3, AirHostess-737) about a road, a journey, a route – traveling this time in a
Boeing-737 with 39-year-old flight attendant, Vanina, accompanying her mother back to her hometown
while seeking, as one does, a reconciliation which her mother appears least able to provide.


 

Sundance 2023 short film review: ‘TROY’ is a New York rite of passage with a twist.

TROY

Living in New York has its ups and downs. No matter how expensive your apartments are, the walls are always paper thin. You come to know your neighbors for better or for worse. Director Mike Donahue and writer Jen Silverman give Sundance 2023 audiences so much in their 15-minute short film TROY.

Thea and Charlie share a wall with Troy. He has very loud sex 24/7. When the moans turn to arguments and tears, Thea and Charlie’s emotional investment in their mysterious neighbor’s life takes on a life of its own.

Adina Verson, Michael Braun, and Florian Klein dazzle. Klein’s physicality speaks volumes. It could have easily wandered into a goofy territory but remained wholeheartedly sincere. Verson and Braun have a grounded chemistry that I bought instantly. I found myself in their delightful shenanigans again and again. The film also includes recognizable faces from television.

There is a visual gag with bleach that is perfection. Turning up the music and elevator run-ins become an all too familiar activity. Couples’ internet snooping is also an indulgent pastime. It’s funny because it is so relatable. In this city of over 8 million, most of us never meet. But we still protect our own with small gestures of kindness every once in a while. TROY is one of those stories you tell your friends back home during the holidays and a stellar proof of concept for an entire series of building-wide encounters.


TROY is screening in person at Sundance on January 20th, 21st, 23rd, and 25th.

Writer/director Mike Donahue is a graduate of Harvard University and the Yale School of Drama. Prior to making this, his debut film, he’s worked extensively as a theatre director in New York and Los Angeles. Just some of his extensive credits include the world premieres of Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (MCC, The Geffen and Denver Center, Joe A. Callaway Award, Outer Critics Circle Nomination, Ovation Award Nomination); Jen Silverman’s Collective Rage (MCC, Woolly Mammoth, Drama League Nomination); The Moors (Playwrights Realm – NYC premiere; Phoebe in Winter (Clubbed Thumb); Ana Nogueira’s Which Way To The Stage (MCC); Ethan Lipton’s Red-Handed Otter (Playwrights Realm); the LA premiere of Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance (Geffen Playhouse); and Little Shop of Horrors with MJ Rodriguez, George Salazar, and Amber Riley (Pasadina Playhouse).

Starring Adina Verson and Michael Braun as Thea and Charlie, the stellar cast also features Emmy Award winner Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives, China Beach), Emmy Award nominee Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Billy Carter (Apple + The Crowded Room, HBO’s The Plot Against America), Kristin Villanueva (Gossip Girl), Max Jenkins (High Maintenance + Special) and Samantha Sherman (Showtime’s Billions).