Sundance (2022) review: ‘Brian and Charles’ is a hilarious and heartwarming buddy comedy.

BRIAN AND CHARLES

After a particularly harsh winter Brian goes into a deep depression; completely isolated and with no one to talk to, Brian does what any sane person would do when faced with such a melancholic situation. He builds a robot.


Brian is an eccentric inventor of creative, if not completely useless, things. After accidentally inventing a robot, he experiences the gambit emotions, the likes of which both he and the audience are not prepared for.

You have to wonder how much of the dialogue is improvised based upon David Earl‘s genius timing and rhythm. You will fall in love with this character. Earl creates a man that’s loveable, kind, and hilarious. You laugh out loud at moments that perhaps should not be funny. Ultimately, it’s Brian’s earnest care and wonder for Charles that hits you in the heart.

Chris Hayward as Charles is absolutely darling. As he is a newly created being, he possesses the whole of knowledge and yet has the social-emotional intelligence of a toddler. His unpredictable nature makes the chemistry with Earl pure magic.

 The awkward juxtaposition of Charles’ massively disproportionate body with Brian makes for quite the visual gag at any given moment. Bravo to Earl and Hayward for this one-of-a-kind screenplay. The mockumentary structure adds an extra element of levity. If you’re not grinning from ear to ear, I suggest you get your head checked. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be one of the biggest hits out of Sundance 2022. Brian and Charles is bursting with charm.


To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) Midnight review: ‘SPEAK NO EVIL’ annihilates the notion of a gracious host.

SPEAK NO EVIL

A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness.


After meeting on an Italian holiday, two young families spend a weekend together in the Dutch countryside. Cultural misunderstanding and language barriers aren’t the only things creating tension, as guests become increasingly uncomfortable with their host family. 

The ominous score puts your frame of mind into peril immediately. Performances across the board will have you hanging on every word. The sly dialogue combined with increasingly cringe-worthy behavior keeps your skin crawling and your pulse elevated every second of the film. You are humming with anticipation of something terrible. Speak No Evil is the epitome of psychological horror. 

These people are not unfamiliar; the manipulation, the overly opinionated, the inappropriate, and overtly abusive. Boundaries are crossed and outright obliterated. As if that weren’t enough, the ultimate reveal of this odd couple will absolutely terrify you. Speak No Evil’s final third had me digging my nails into my palms so hard they almost drew blood. If that is not an endorsement, I don’t know what is.



To find out more about the entire Sundance 2022 lineup, click here!


Sundance (2022) short film review: ‘Warsha’ is pure cinematic joy.

WARSHA

Warsha follows Mohammad, a Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut. One morning he volunteers to take on one of the tallest and notoriously most dangerous cranes in Lebanon. Away from everyone’s eyes, he is able to live out his secret passion and find freedom.


Circumstance drowning out his authenticity, Mohammad takes a risk at his construction job in the short film Warsha. Handheld and tight cinematography force the viewer into the vibrating chaos. But it’s the wide shots that astound in their scale and shared panic and awe. You will not see where this short is going.

Khansa plays Mohammad with a captivating vulnerability. Warsha introduces the entire world to Khansa, a multi-disciplinary artist redefining masculinity in the Middle East. I had chills watching his transformation. What brilliant casting. Writer-director Dania Bdeir has given Sundance audiences a short film that defies gender stereotypes. Its celebratory nature will leave you breathless.


To find out more information on Sundance 2022, including screening times, click here!


Double Bill Review: Gonzalo Calzada’s ‘Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night’ & ‘Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die’ are where the theatrical and experimental meet.

Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

&

Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

“Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night” follows a nearly 100-year-old man who, on his final night on earth, fights for redemption from his life’s misdeeds. In “Nocturna: Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die,” Calzada embarks on an aesthetically opposite experimental twist of the same story.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night

 

Visual representations of grief, love, and regret make for a unique movie experience in the first of these two films. An extraordinarily haunting score adds to the emotional pull of the film. It’s a genre-defying film. There are brilliant clues along the way, but you have to stay sharp-eyed to notice them from the beginning. The added device of Alzheimer’s creates a perfect dance of deception and mystery. The cast is outstanding. Not a performance is out of place. Nocturna: Side A will break your heart as it inspires you to make peace with your shortcomings. Somewhere between memory and longing lies an enchanting storyline.


Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

 

This film has an entirely different approach and aesthetic. Audio and narration give it an almost accosting opening that prepares you for a drastically stylistic approach to more in-depth stories of the souls in the building. Nocturna: Side B is perhaps questionable as a stand-alone film. But it is undoubtedly a rich, nightmarish addition to the Nocturna: Side A.


Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die will be released January 18 on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Vimeo, DirecTv, local cable & satellite providers, and on DVD.


 

Sundance 2022: Some of what we’ll be watching at this year’s festival, and it’s a lot.

Having switched from in-person to completely virtual, audiences of Sundance 2022 will have the opportunity to see a plethora of entertainment that will terrify, tantalize, and remind you of why we love storytelling so much. From horror to drama, television series to shorts, documentaries to VR experiences, we’ll be watching as much as our eyes can consume from January 20-30th. Things are finding distribution left and right, with is always great news. That means even if you miss something during the festival, it will most likely be coming to a theater or streaming platform very soon.

There is something for everyone. Genre favorite filmmakers, writers, actors, and wearers of all the hats,  Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, are bringing their latest film Something In The Dirt. Cooper Raif‘s newest Cha Cha Real Smooth is one we’re stoked for. His debut feature Shithouse was one of the most accurate films about college life I’ve ever seen. The shorts lineup this year is bound to blow you away. Do not overlook them, I beg you. There are feature documentaries on Kanye West and Princess Diana, the rise of TikTok, and Slave to Sirens (the first and only all-woman thrash metal band in the Middle East).

Without further ado, here is a list of some of the amazing content we’re excited about this year.


 U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Cha Cha Real Smooth / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Cooper Raiff, Producers: Dakota Johnson, Ro Donnelly, Erik Feig, Jessica Switch, Cooper Raiff) — A directionless college graduate embarks on a relationship with a young mom and her teenage daughter while learning the boundaries of his new bar mitzvah party-starting gig. Cast: Dakota Johnson, Cooper Raiff, Vanessa Burghardt, Evan Assante, Brad Garrett, Leslie Mann. World Premiere.

Besides Raiff being an obvious phenom, I suspect this one will hit harder for those with children on the spectrum. I’m particularly excited for Vanessa Burghardt’s performance, as she is on the spectrum herself. Representation matters, across the board.

Dual / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Riley Stearns, Producers: Nate Bolotin, Aram Tertzakian, Lee Kim, Riley Stearns, Nick Spicer, Maxime Cottray) — After receiving a terminal diagnosis, Sarah commissions a clone of herself to ease the loss for her friends and family. When she makes a miraculous recovery, her attempt to have her clone decommissioned fails, and leads to a court-mandated duel to the death. Cast: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale. World Premiere.

This plot sounds like something out of West World and Doctor Who. Did I just mention those because of Paul and Gillan? Happy coincidence.


U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

I Didn’t See You There / U.S.A. (Director: Reid Davenport, Producer: Keith Wilson) — Spurred by the spectacle of a circus tent that goes up outside his Oakland apartment, a disabled filmmaker launches into an unflinching meditation on freakdom, (in)visibility, and the pursuit of individual agency. World Premiere.

I fell into advocacy for those with disabilities when my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. I have a feeling that this film will give me a deeper understanding of not only my son’s perspective on society but the ever-present need for awareness and empathy.


WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

Brian And CharlesU.K. (Director: Jim Archer, Screenwriters: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Producer: Rupert Majendie)  — A story of friendship, love, and letting go. And a 7ft tall robot that eats cabbages. A comedy shot in documentary format. Cast: David Earl, Chris Hayward, Louise Brealey, Jamie Michie, Lowri Izzard, Mari Izzard. World Premiere.

Prediction: Brian And Charles will be one of the most endearing films of the entire festival. This unlikely buddy comedy is sure to capture everyone’s heart.

 

Leonor Will Never DiePhilippines (Director and Screenwriter: Martika Ramirez Escobar, Producers: Monster Jimenez, Mario Cornejo)  — Fiction and reality blur when Leonor, a retired filmmaker, falls into a coma after a television lands on her head, compelling her to become the action hero of her unfinished screenplay. Cast: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon. World Premiere.

As a writer, I’m selfishly looking forward to this. There’s always a bit of myself in my fiction, and who wouldn’t want to become an action hero?


WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

Calendar GirlsSweden (Directors, Screenwriters, and Producers: Maria Loohufvud, Love Martinsen) — A coming-of-golden-age look at Florida’s most dedicated dance team for women over 60, shaking up the outdated image of “the little old lady,” and calling for everyone to dance their hearts out, while they still can. World Premiere.

Dancing since the age of three, this 41-year-old is looking for a few new role models.

 

Nothing Compares / Ireland, U.K. (Director: Kathryn Ferguson, Producers: Eleanor Emptage, Michael Mallie) — The story of Sinéad O’Connor’s phenomenal rise to worldwide fame and subsequent exile from the pop mainstream. Focusing on Sinéad’s prophetic words and deeds from 1987 to 1993, the film reflects on the legacy of this fearless trailblazer through a contemporary feminist lens. World Premiere.


NEXT

Something In The Dirt / U.S.A. (Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Screenwriter: Justin Benson, Producers: David Lawson, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson)  — When neighbors John and Levi witness supernatural events in their Los Angeles apartment building, they realize documenting the paranormal could inject some fame and fortune into their wasted lives. An ever-deeper, darker rabbit hole, their friendship frays as they uncover the dangers of the phenomena, the city, and each other. Cast: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead. World Premiere. Fiction.

Genre fans will recognize these household names for their spellbinding skills. I’ve yet to watch away from their films without chills or an audible “WTF.”

The Cathedral / Italy, U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Ricky D’Ambrose, Producer: Graham Swon) — An only child’s account of an American family’s rise and fall over two decades. Cast: Brian d’Arcy James, Monica Barbaro, Mark Zeisler, Geraldine Singer, William Bednar-Carter. North American Premiere. Fiction.


MIDNIGHT

Hatching / Finland (Director: Hanna Bergholm, Screenwriter: Ilja Rautsi, Producers: Mika Ritalahti, Nico Ritalahtit) — While desperately trying to please her demanding mother, a young gymnast discovers a strange egg. She tucks it away and keeps it warm, but when it hatches, what emerges shocks everyone. Cast: Jani Volanen, Siiri Solalinna, Sophia Heikkilä, Saija Lentonen, Reino Nordin, Oiva Ollila. World Premiere. Fiction.

 

PIGGY / Spain (Director and Screenwriter: Carlota Pereda, Producers: Merry Colomer, David Atlan-Jackson) — Sara deals with constant teasing from girls in her small town. But it comes to an end when a stranger kidnaps her tormentors. Sara knows more than she’s saying and must decide between speaking up and saving the girls or saying nothing to protect the strange man who spared her. Cast: Laura Galán. World Premiere. Fiction.

Speak No Evil / Denmark (Director and Screenwriter: Christian Tafdrup, Screenwriter: Mads Tafdrup, Producer: Jacob Jarek) — A Danish family visits a Dutch family they met on a holiday. What was supposed to be an idyllic weekend slowly starts unraveling as the Danes try to stay polite in the face of unpleasantness. Cast: Morten Burian, Sidsel Siem Koch, Fedja van Huêt, Karina Smulders, Liva Forsberg, Marius Damslev. World Premiere. Fiction.


KIDS

Maika / Vietnam (Director and Screenwriter: Ham Tran, Producers: Jenni Trang Le, Duy Ho, Anderson Le, Bao Nguyen) — After a meteor falls to earth, 8-year-old Hung meets an alien girl from the planet Maika, searching for her lost friend. As Hung helps her otherworldly friend search, the alien inadvertently helps Hung make new friends and heal a broken heart. But danger lurks everywhere… Cast: Phu Truong, Diep Anh Tru, Tin Tin, Ngoc Tuong, Kim Nha. World Premiere. Fiction.


INDIE EPISODIC PROGRAM

The Dark Heart / Sweden (Director: Gustav Möller, Screenwriter: Oskar Söderlund, Producers: Anna Carlsten, Caroline Landerberg) — Sweden: in a mythological landscape, search parties roam through forests of spruce, secret conversations are whispered in open fields, and verbal duels fought on narrow country roads. A story of family feuds, inheritances, and forbidden love. Cast: Aliette Opheim, Clara Christiansson Drake, Gustav Lindh, Peter Andersson. World Premiere. Fiction. 

Sweden’s true crime game is above and beyond. The US had already remade series like The Killing and The Bridge. Sundance 2022 audiences can dive headfirst into The Dark Heart. The series is a five-part psychological drama-thriller about how an old family feud clashes with a young, forbidden love story, leading to a tragedy with a deadly outcome, ultimately solved by a private investigator who gets obsessed with the case. The story is based on journalist Joakim Palmkvist’s book “The Dark Heart: A True Story of Greed, Murder, and an Unlikely Investigator”, which delves into the story about how a mysterious missing person’s case is investigated and solved by a local Missing People-volunteer involved in the searches.


INTERNATIONAL LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Warsha / France/Lebanon (Director and Screenwriter: Dania Bdeir, Producer: Coralie Dias) — A Syrian migrant working as a crane operator in Beirut volunteers to cover a shift on one of the most dangerous cranes, where he is able to find his freedom. Cast: Khansa. World Premiere.

Once in a blue moon, a short film takes your breath away and Warsha might be that film in 2022.


U.S LIVE ACTION SHORT FILMS

Huella / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Gabriela Ortega, Producers: Helena Sardinha, Rafael Thomaseto) — When the death of her grandmother unleashes a generational curse, a disenchanted flamenco dancer resigned to a desk job is forced to experience the five stages of grief through a visit from her female ancestors. Cast: Shakira Barrera, Denise Blasor, Carla Valentine. 


U.S. NONFICTION SHORT FILMS

Long Line of Ladies / United States (Directors: Rayka Zehtabchi, Shaandiin Tome, Producers: Garrett Schiff, Pimm Tripp-Allen, Rayka Zehtabchi, Sam Davis, Dana Kurth) — A girl and her community prepare for her Ihuk, the once-dormant coming of age ceremony of the Karuk and Yurok tribes of Northern California. World Premiere. DAY ONE


For Sundance 2022 full line-up, tickets, and more click here!


 

Review: ‘The Shepherdess and The Seven Songs’ screening at MoMA this week.

THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

Following an impressive global film festival run that began with the 70th annual Berlinale and included in MoMA’s 2020 New Directors/New Films festival, THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) returns to New York on January 12th, 2022 for a week-long run at The Museum of Modern Art, courtesy of Deaf Crocodile Films and theatrical partner Gratitude Films.

Laila Aur Satt Geet is part allegory, part ethnographic study, and part feminist fairy tale, using the narrative device of local folk songs – seven, to be exact – to describe the protagonist – Laila’s inner and outer worlds.


Laila uses her beauty as her weapon. While navigating misogyny, tradition, indifference, and desire, Laila embarks on a physical and spiritual journey. THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) is a genre-defying film. With dazzling cinematography, the camera tends to linger (sometimes stationary) and allows the viewer to experience a cinema verite effect during some scenes. Juxtaposed with sweeping shots of the lush locations and closeups of our leading lady’s face. The pensive moments are weightier when stillness consumes Laila. We watch a young woman reclaim her power through poetic song. Some selections are metaphorical and others literal. Writer-director Pushpendra Singh (The Honor Keeper, 2014; Ashwatthama, 2017; Pearl of the Desert, 2019) guides Navjot Randhawa along the emotional spectrum. She is a fully fleshed-out, flawed woman. It’s a brave performance that hit me in the gut. THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS (Laila aur satt geet) never fails to keep you engaged, culminating in a gorgeous cinematic gem.

Following the run at MoMA, THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

will be released on VOD in North America in spring 2022

from Deaf Crocodile, Gratitude Films, and Grasshopper Films.


THE SHEPHERDESS AND THE SEVEN SONGS

Original title: Laila aur satt geet

Genre: Drama

Country: India

Runtime: 96 min

Year: 2021

Languages: Gujari and Hindi; English subtitles

Rated: NA


IFC Midnight trailer debut: ‘A BANQUET’ dishes out family and fear this February.

A BANQUET

Directed by Ruth Paxton
Starring Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes,
and Lindsay Duncan

Synopsis
Widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith, Betsey refuses to eat but loses no weight. In an agonizing dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.


Opens in Select Theaters, on Digital Platforms
and VOD on February 18th


About the Director
Ruth Paxton is a Scottish filmmaker who graduated in 2007 with an MA in Film and TV from Screen Academy Scotland having gained her honours degree at Edinburgh College of Art. Her award-winning shorts have been exhibited and nominated in competition at numerous international events and prominent film festivals. Winner of Best Woman Director at the 12th London Short Film Festival for her film PULSE, and nominated one of Canongate Books 40 Scottish Storytellers of The Future; artists anticipated to dominate the next 40 years of creative life in Scotland. In 2019 Screen Daily featured her as one of ‘Six emerging Scotland based Directors you need to know.’ A BANQUET is Ruth’s debut feature, a psychological horror produced by Tea Shop Productions and Riverstone Pictures. The film is represented by HanWay Films, and was recently acquired by IFC Films for North America. It was selected for the Great 8 showcase at Cannes Marche presented by BFI, BBC Films and the British Council, and will have its World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2021, in the Discovery section.


Directed by: Ruth Paxton
Written by: Justin Bull
Produced by: Leonora Darby, Nik Bower, James Harris, Mark Lane, Laure Vaysse
Director of Photography: David Liddell
Edited by: Matyas Fekete
Starring: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Kaine Zajaz, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 97 mins


IFC MIDNIGHT
Official Site | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
#ifcmidnight


Review: ‘Keep it Secret’ Gives us a Glimpse but Maintains the Mystery

KEEP IT SECRET

Keep It A Secret recounts the inspiring true story of the dawn of Irish surfing and how the sport’s brave pioneers found the peace in the surf during the most violent years of The Troubles conflict.


Most people probably don’t even know about Irish surfacing culture, but perhaps that is exactly the point. In “Keep in Secret”, founding members of the Irish surfing community share a treasured history of bringing the ocean sport born and developed on the sunny shores of Hawai’i to the chilly white-tipped waters of the Irish coastline. A fascinating exploration into what was once just a curiosity sparked from 1960’s travel magazines, Irish surf culture grew into a close-knit community a continent and an ocean away. 

Anchored by charming first-person narratives from a crew you’ll wish you could keep up with, “Keep it Secret” is a total gem. Their tales of surf safaris around the Irish coastline are scrappy and steeped in the complex history of the 20th century. They crafted their first boards by hand and surfed the icy waters without wetsuits bolstered by a sense of exploration, camaraderie, and good Irish whiskey. 

The documentary hits the mark of gloriously showcasing a unique surf culture that should be celebrated but it also draws a line. Among local fears that these treasured surfing locations might soon be swamped with international tourists forcing the locals out, the documentary does keep some secrets close to the chest leaving the best of them for the insiders.



Short film review: ‘Shadow Bird (Sonsi)’ enchants from beginning to end.

SHADOW BIRD (SONSI)

Every morning, eight-year-old Nadi wanders somewhere between the conscious and the unconscious, to meet her dream-etched Shadow Bird. A second character unfailingly follows – the mysterious Timekeeper, who has a clock fitted inside his heart. Every day upon his arrival, the sleepy village would wake up. But one morning neither the Shadow Bird nor the Timekeeper arrive…and Nadi ventures alone into the deep, mysterious woods in search of them.


If you’re looking for something akin to the world of Guillermo Del Toro films, look no further than the Indian short film Shadow Bird (Sonsi). Boasting twenty-four minutes of extraordinary lighting, lush colors, and dazzling cinematic dynamics. These elements are carefully curated by writer/director/cinematographer Savita Singh. I was immediately consumed by Shadow Bird’s glorious sound editing from Ajit Singh Rathore and Anmol Bhave. The score from Tajdar Junaid tops off this elegant folklore tale. The cast is phenomenal. We’re plunged into this dreamlike world with the calming narration from Rasika Duggal. Young actress Aarohi Radhakrishnan portrays Nadi with the perfect amount of precociousness and innocence. Jameel Khan, as Time-Keeper, brings yet another magical element to Shadow Bird. There’s something so whimsical about his facial expressions and voice. What a stunning treatment for a feature. I could watch this over and over, it’s simply that enchanting. This is one of those films that reminds us of why we go to the cinema. It is art.


Shadow Bird, the latest film by groundbreaking director Savita Singh has qualified for the 2022 Academy Awards and is in consideration for nomination in the ‘Best Short Film’ category.

This builds on the National Award the film received in India for Best Cinematography (Non-Feature Film), the highest recognition for cinema in India. ‘Shadow Bird’ qualified for the Oscars by virtue of winning the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival, the only Oscar-qualifying film festival in India. It also won ‘Best Short Film’ at the Lady Filmmakers Festival in Beverly Hills, CA.


WINNER: BEST FILM

Bengaluru International Short Film Festival 2021

WINNER: BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

67th National Film Awards

WINNER: BEST SHORT FILM

Lady Filmmakers Festival 2021

 

NOMINEE: BEST SHORT FILM

NYIFF New York Indian Film Festival 2021

 

OFFICIAL SELECTION

Montecatini International Short Film Festival 2021

 

IFFSA Toronto 2021

Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival 2021

Dharamshala International Film Festival


Review: Survive holiday hell and hilarity in Camille Griffin’s ‘SILENT NIGHT’

SILENT NIGHT

 

SYNOPSIS: In true British fashion, (while the rest of the world faces impending doom), a group of old friends reunites to celebrate Christmas in the comfort of an idyllic country home. Burdened with the inconvenience of mankind’s imminent destruction, they adopt a stiff upper lip, crack open another bottle of prosecco and continue with their festivities. But no amount of stoicism can replace the courage needed for their last night on earth.


Writer/Director Camille Griffin gives audiences the gift of holiday hell and hilarity. Think The Big Chill meets Love Actually and sprinkles in Melancholia, as Silent Night finds us rocking around the Christmas tree for, perhaps, the last time. A group of friends makes a pact to spend their Christmas together, with one huge and horrifying caveat. The eclectic holiday soundtrack amps up the energy tenfold. But it’s all a bit of bait and switch. Therein lies the genius that is Silent Night. You think the film is one thing when suddenly BAM. This genre-destroying film will shock you.

Silent Night has an ensemble cast that’s to die for. Keira Knightley strikes the perfect balance of overly stressed host and mother, bringing that quirky charm we know so well. Lucy Punch has the innate ability to be funny without a single word and her talents are elevated by Griffin’s cheeky dialogue. Matthew Goode gives us the gambit of emotions. He’s a solid anchor amongst the spiraling chaos. A standout performance comes from Griffin’s real-life son, Roman Griffin Davis, as Art. After his incredible turn in JoJo Rabbit, it should come as no surprise that he knocks it out of the park here. His fearless honesty spills off the screen, and you will be unable to take your eyes off of him. He steals every scene. 

Even as these chic adults reminisce about what could have been, their children attempt to come to terms with impending doom. Every scene featuring a child is perfection. That is what kids are like, and thank you, Camille Griffin, for including these gems. If you didn’t know she was a parent beforehand, you would as you watched the film play out. The complexity of parenting lies within the overall arc of the film. In truth, this is one of the darkest films I’ve ever seen. If I said I wasn’t shaking from anxiety and crying in the end, I’d be lying. The writing is soaked in acerbic wit. It’s a punch to the face, over and over, all while it begs existential questions of privilege and morality. I could easily see a prequel, sequel, or series in which we follow other locations simultaneously. This is a formal request for such a creation.


AMC+ and RLJE Films will release the darkly comedic drama/horror SILENT NIGHT in Theaters and streaming exclusively on AMC+ on December 3, 2021.


Marking writer Camille Griffin’s feature directorial debut, SILENT NIGHT features an all-star ensemble cast including Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean Franchise), Matthew Goode (Downton Abbey), Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit), Annabelle Wallis (“Peaky Blinders”), Lily Rose-Depp (Voyagers)Ṣọpé Dìrísù (“Gangs of London”), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“The Good Place”), Lucy Punch (Into the Woods), Rufus Jones (”Flack”) and Trudie Styler (Filth, Moon).


Shudder original review: ‘THE ADVENT CALENDAR’ is the holiday horror gift that keeps on giving.

THE ADVENT CALENDAR

Eva (Eugénie Derouand, Paris Police 1900), an ex-dancer, is now using a wheelchair, unable to walk. When her friend Sophie (Honorine Magnier, Tomorrow is Ours) gives her an old wooden antique advent calendar before Christmas, she realizes each window contains a surprise that triggers repercussions in real life. Some of them are good, but most of them are bad, really bad. Now Eva will have to choose between getting rid of the calendar or walking again – even if it causes death and destruction to everyone she holds dear around her.


Writer/Director Patrick Ridremont gives Shudder audiences enough horror to rude into the holidays with The Advent Calendar. Think of it as a Christmas-themed Pandora’s box. Eva’s life is pretty sad. Isolated by the insensitivity of people who only see her wheelchair, combined with the declining health of her beloved father, Eva trudges through day-to-day life. When given a unique birthday gift, each day brings the unexpected. For better, and most certainly, for worse.

There’s an immediate and visceral Wow factor that occurs when the box first appears. The design is intricate. It’s simultaneously inviting and terrifying. It also allows for a brilliant screenplay structure as we know there are more surprises to come counting down the days with Eva. The Advent Calendar could have been an entire series on Shudder. 

Eugénie Derouand, as Eva, is outstanding. You can see the gears turning as her moral compass disintegrates. It’s an emotional rollercoaster. Derouand makes it look easy, and you cannot help but root for her. 

The practical fx and makeup are unsettling and grotesque. I found myself unable to look away, quite frankly. The tropes are consuming, and they’ll send a shiver down your spine. They are relentless. Overall, The Advent Calendar is a gift that keeps on giving, whether you like it or not. Add this one to your annual holiday horror lists immediately. 


Shudder, AMC Networks’ streamer for horror, thrillers and the supernatural will premiere writer/director Patrick Ridremont’s ornate and elegant French horror fantasy The Advent Calendar exclusively on Tuesday, December 2nd. Combining Faustian themes and allusions with European folklore and tense, chilling terror, the Shudder Original film provides some highly original holiday season horror.

The Advent Calendar world premiered earlier this year at London’s Frightfest and was produced by Alain Benguigui, Virginie Ogouz, Jean-Yves Roubin, and Cassandre Warnauts.


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘Woodland Grey’ is a mesmerising tale.

WOODLAND GREY

A man living alone in the deep woods finds Emily, a hiker, unconscious and laying on the forest floor. He brings her back to his home and helps her get back to health so she can leave the forest and get home. After a few tense days coexisting, Emily makes a discovery. She finds a crudely built shed behind the man’s home. When she opens it, she unleashes something truly haunting. As Emily and the man come to terms with what has been released, they also attempt to find a way out of the forest which isn’t exactly what it seems.


Writer-director Adam Reider establishes isolation beautifully in the opening of Woodland Grey. With the sensory engulfing rustling of fall-colored trees, we watch William empty his trapped food and cook it over a campfire in front of his trailer. What appears to be a solitary existence is interrupted when he discovers Emily unconscious in his woods. His attempts to keep a dark secret and his controlled environment are about to go to hell.

The tension between actors Jenny Raven and Ryan Blakely is palpable. Reider, alongside writer Jesse Toufexis, gives these actors opposite personalities to the extreme. But this device keeps things interesting. Each brings a fire and nuanced perspective to the story. When you see it, you’ll understand how meaningful that becomes. They are truly spectacular.

The score helps to build a simmering unease from the very beginning. The structure of the script does not let you get comfortable. You cannot miss the references, directly and indirectly, to “Hansel and Gretel”. It’s all a bit maddening in the most brilliant ways. Could this film be a metaphor for purgatory? Completely possible. Could it be about the emotional stronghold of regret? Easily. I have so many questions and I don’t even care about the answers. I was too mesmerized to care. Woodland Grey is one of the most unique horror films of the year.


For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘FLEE THE LIGHT’ understands the power of the past.

FLEE THE LIGHT

A mystical horror-thriller where reincarnation, demons and sorceresses intertwine to tell the story of a spiritual search gone wrong. A psychology student (Annie Tuma) delves into her sister’s (Ariana Marquis) psychosis, exposing herself to an ancient predator who hunts souls. Also stars Jane Siberry.


Blood in the Snow 2021 screened Flee The Light last night, a classicly structured folk horror where two sisters with a witchy lineage choose between good and evil. Delphi and Andra become consumed by visions that turn more sinister by the hour. Can they save one another from pure darkness? Flee The Light has an evolution that you won’t see coming. The Wicca research is clear, beautifully shot, and carefully intertwined. I would watch a prequel in a hot minute. Props to the set dressers and location scouts for doing their homework. There is an ethereal quality in certain scenes that grab your attention. 

Screenwriter Jennifer Mancini uses childhood flashbacks to establish the sisterly bond. These are precisely what the audience needed to feel emotionally invested in their relationship. Annie Tuma and Ariana Marquis give fully committed performances. You believe their chemistry. The final scene genuinely brings everything together. I would be remiss if I did not mention actress Jane Siberry for her beautiful turn. With glorious cadence changes, she knocks it out of the park. Flee The Light has a final shot that is a whole lot of Yes. Alexandra Senza gives us a solid B-movie. But the potential for Senza and Mancini to develop an entire franchise is magical.



For more info on Blood In The Snow 2021 click here!


Blood In The Snow (2021) review: ‘PEPPERGRASS’ is a compelling thriller.

During a pandemic, a pregnant restaurateur tries to rob a priceless truffle from a reclusive veteran.


Peppergrass is a slow-burn thriller that ultimately turns into a survival film. It builds a similar tension that Alone did. Not exactly the horror I was expecting from Blood in The Snow, but it is, nonetheless intriguing as hell. You must have patience for the first third is heavy character building. As our two protagonists botch their unusual robbery, the camera continues its handheld intimacy. Forced into the dark woods, Eula attempts to make it to the car in one piece. This becomes more complicated a task as the landscape is unkind to a pregnant person.

Chantelle Han gives it her all as Eula. As the plot roles out in a mostly real-time fashion, the audience watches her physically and emotionally tap out at certain points. But it is when she barrels through the cold, darkness, and imminent threat that makes her a total badass. Han is the driving force of Peppergrass.

At times, the score is this curious mix of ominous whimsy and borderline grating organ tones. It refuses to be ignored. Peppergrass is nothing like I expected. It places you inside the action because there is literally nowhere else to go. The danger and isolation are palpable. It’s a solid film.


For more info on BITS 2021 click here!


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘GO HEAL YOURSELF’ takes a deep dive into alternative medicine.

GO HEAL YOURSELF

Against the wishes of her family, Yasmin sets out to find a treatment for her
epilepsy via alternative medicine. Meeting inspiring people all around the
world, she learns that this route is not as easy as simply taking a pill.


My aunt has always used homeopathic remedies. She’s beaten breast cancer twice. As someone with chronic pain from a neck injury caused by a car accident, anxiety since childhood, severe dance injuries, and phantom pain and diastasis recti from two C-sections, I would love to find ways to heal myself. You hear testimonials constantly on the internet or get messages on social media from women in health and wellness, aka the newest pyramid scheme. In Go Heal Yourself, filmmaker Yasmin C. Rams goes on a mission to explore alternative medicine for her epilepsy and her father’s Parkinson’s. It is a journey fraught with emotion. 

The argument of western vs. eastern medicine will never fade. Alternative medicine is a rare topic in my house. We believe in science, but that never discounts the science we aren’t familiar with yet. Although, my neck injury was so painful that I did my first and only session of acupuncture. It did not move the needle (pun intended) on my pain scale. I’ve since watched two aunts go through breast cancer treatments. Neither of their stories is the norm. While one used homeopathic medicine, the other did chemotherapy but never got sick. I’ve never heard of that before. 

In Go Heal Yourself, Yasmin’s father is skeptical. Her attempts to change his diet or convince him that his medication isn’t helping fall of deaf ears. Her epilepsy seems to reach a point of no return as CBD and herbal supplements become too expensive. In her search for answers, Rams reaches out to those individuals across the globe who claim their sickness wained due to a drastic lifestyle change and not medication. You cannot help but become emotionally attached to the people featured in Go Heal Yourself. You’d be hardpressed not to know someone in your life that isn’t afflicted similarly. While some of them heal, others struggle. Each believes that holistic medicine will lessen their ailments in the end. It’s the mental aspect that seems the most powerful. With mindfulness becoming more mainstream, those who practice may feel vindication from this doc.

We are fully invested in Yasmin’s journey. It’s a personal, oftentimes dark, diary of sorts. Undoubtedly, we’re hoping to find our miracle cure as we watch. Go Heal Yourself is going to rattle people, and there’s no getting around it. But if it causes us to stop and think for a moment about what our health means in our souls, then it has succeeded wholeheartedly. At the very least it opens up the dialogue.


Online Dates

Sunday, November 14 – Sunday, November 28, 2021


Director: Yasmin C. Rams
Producer: Yasmin C. Rams, Rodney Charles
Cinematographer: Vita Spiess, Nic Smith
Editor: Kirsten Kieninger
Music: Patrick Puszko
Language: English, German, Spanish, Mandarin
Country: Germany
Year: 2021


DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘YOUNG PLATO’ dares kids (and audiences) to use their words.

YOUNG PLATO

An inspiring documentary from the filmmakers of School Life (Released by Magnolia Pictures), YOUNG PLATO charts the dream of Elvis-loving school headmaster Kevin McArevey – a maverick who is determined to change the fortunes of an inner-city community plagued by urban decay, sectarian aggression, poverty and drugs. YOUNG PLATO hums with the confidence of youth, a tribute to the power of the possible. 


Teaching is hard. It’s also perhaps one of the most underappreciated careers. You cannot fully comprehend the emotional and physical burdens if you’ve never been in a classroom. In Belfast, a headmaster named Mr. McArevey teaches Philosophy to his primary school students. He makes it approachable. He creatively breaks down ideas to facilitate communication and critical thinking. Holy Cross Boys’ Primary School could be a blueprint for schools all over the globe.

Dealing with their anger is a running theme. Considering the neighborhood’s history, this is vital for these boys’ survival. I’m 41 years old, and until watching Young Plato, I don’t think I truly understood the chaos of religious politics in Ireland. Directors Neasa Ní Chianáin and Declan McGrath juxtapose volatile footage from 2001 with present-day footage of those same streets, now lined with school-age children. It’s a chilling effect.

 Holy Cross’s methods of discipline, under the guidance of McArevey, are fantastic, as the students actively and knowingly utilize philosophical strategies. The social-emotional impact that this could have in every school would be mind-blowing. In an area where violence is so prevalent, using the power of words is priceless. These young boys, even during reprimand, are unafraid to express their feelings. The intimacy and care that Young Plato takes in showcasing the children are beautiful. As a former teacher, this is a school that has all the tools. As a mother of a Kindergartener on the spectrum, focused, individual attention can change a child’s life. Holy Cross is a shining example. 

As the kids learn about their area’s recent violent past, the profound thoughts of peace from these youngsters give me hope. McArevey makes kids accountable for their words and actions. The staff does not let them off the hook while simultaneously extending consistent praise. Watching these lads progress through the school year, seeing the unique brand of teaching should inspire us all to do and be better with one another. Young Plato is a guide to a better world. 


For tickets to see Young Plato click here!


Director: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Declan McGrath
Executive Producer: Lesley McKimm, Justin Binding, Andrew Reid, Catherine LeGoff, Grainne McAleer
Producer: David Rane, Co-Producer: Hanne Phlypo, Jackie Doyle, Céline Nusse, Declan McGrath
Writer: Neasa Ní Chianáin, Etienne Essery, Declan McGrath
Cinematographer: Neasa Ní Chianáin
Editor: Philippe Ravoet
Music: David Poltrock
Language: English
Country: Ireland, UK, France, Belgium

Year: 2021


Review: ‘The Pebble and the Boy’ is a sweet coming-of-age road movie.

THE PEBBLE AND THE BOY

Written and directed by Chris Green, The Pebble and the Boy is the story of a son attempting to honor his recently passed father. Riding from Manchester on his dad’s scooter to Mod mecca of Brighton, John gets more than he bargains for in his attempt to scatter his father’s ashes. The film is structured like a walk down memory lane for Phil’s mates and a history lesson for John. Ultimately, The Pebble and the Boy morphs into a way to navigate grief and regret.

Patrick McNamee as John is everything we need him to be; vulnerable and a little lost. I must give mention to John’s would-be sidekick, Nicki. Sacha Parkinson is funny, brash, and fills the screen with her vibrant presence. As the script progresses, the one character we never physically hear from becomes the most intriguing. Phil is an enigma for John. Unraveling the mystery of the man takes center stage and is undoubtedly the most successful aspect of the script. Filled with surprises, The Pebble and the Boy is like a warm hug. It’s a breezy, coming-of-age road movie with one hell of a soundtrack.


Inspired by Mod-culture, The Pebble And The Boy will be released on digital in the US and Canada on November 16.


The film was written and directed by Chris Green (Me, Myself and Di) and stars Patrick McNamee (Our Girl), Sacha Parkinson (Coronation Street), Max Boast (Sex Education), Patsy Kensit (Lethal Weapon 2, Shelter Island), Ricci Harnett (Rise of the Footsoldier) and Jesse Birdsall (Hollyoaks).


The film features tracks from Paul Weller, The Jam, The Style Council, Secret Affair, and The Chords. The title of the film is taken from the final track on Weller’s eighth studio album, As Is Now.


 

Review: Terrifying tots take aim at Mommy’s new boyfriend in ‘Ankle Biters’.

ANKLE BITERS

Sean, a pro hockey enforcer, has fallen in love with Laura, a widowed mother of four young daughters. When Laura’s children mistake an act of lovemaking as an attack, they plot to protect their mother at all costs and with horrific results.


Poor Sean and Laura just wanted a little bit of rough sex, but his soon-to-be stepkids are seriously killing the vibe. Thinking the bruises on their mother’s body are from abuse, four menacing little monsters take matters into their own hands.  Ankle Biters, a new Canadian horror-comedy, lands somewhere between The Bad Seed (1956) and The Crush (1993). “What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and everything nice; That’s what little girls are made of.” Maybe, not so much. 

Sean was an extremely violent hockey player, so perhaps this is merely a case of karma by kids? Zion Forrest Lee plays Sean with an overly friendly stepdad vibe. It falls somewhere between sweet and super creepy. The appearance from Colin Mochrie, as Detective Morton, made me laugh out loud. It makes the last third of the film brilliant.

Genre fans, let me introduce Rosalee, Violet, Lily Gail, and Dahlia Reid. These sinister sisters are bonafide stars. Their genetically boosted chemistry is the stuff of movie magic. They are downright frightening, giving us four fearless performances. They scared me, and I’m a mom and former teacher! Sheer perfection. 

The camera work often hovers on the girls’ level. Panning closeups in slow motion add to the eerie feeling you get from this gruesome foursome. It’s a carefully thought-out choice. While the pacing drags a touch, overall, it’s a dark and wild ride. The climax boasts some of the most gagworthy FX. I even screamed out loud at the same time as Sean. The final scenes completely caught me off guard. Well played, Ankle Biters. Well played. 


ON DEMAND/DVD NOVEMBER 16


Director: Bennet De Brabandere

Cast: Zion Forrest Lee, Marianthi Evans, Lily Gail Reid, Violet Reid, Rosalee Reid, Dahlia Reid


 

DOC NYC (2021) review: ‘MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS’ is a lesson in compassion and kindness.

MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS

Where does one feel at home? In Stadtallendorf, a German city with a complex history of both excluding and integrating foreigners, genial teacher Dieter Bachmann offers his pupils the key to at least feeling as if they are at home.


When children get caught in the crosshairs of sociopolitical complexities, it’s rarely a good thing. In one specialized German school, an extraordinary teacher treats his students like his own children. Through language, history, German, and music, Dieter Bachmann breaks down the walls of his classroom and the industrial landscape in which they reside. Their families mostly hail from Turkey, having left to find work at the local factories. They must learn to adapt to new languages and ideas, thus breaking a cycle for their generation.

Director Maria Speth immerses the audience in the cinema verite style, and the choice is perfection. As a former teacher, placing the camera inside the action gives the viewer a real sense of the minute-to-minute chaos of a classroom. Kids are laughing, rolling their eyes, struggling, learning, expressing opinions all at once. Their anxiety is palpable as we watch parent-teacher conferences. The heart of Bachmann is the purest. You are invested in these children as they navigate challenges in and outside of school. You get to experience the aha moments that are some of the most rewarding times as a teacher. The kids are bright and thoughtful. Their opinions often differ, but the conversations sparked from those differences are brilliant. Mr. Bachmann and His Class reminds us that the human spirit needs encouragement. We cannot do it alone. While it does take a village to raise a child, Stadtallendorf is lucky to have Dieter Bachmann. 


For Tickets to Mr. Bachmann and His Class click here!


Director: Maria Speth

Producer: Maria Speth
Cinematographer: Reinhold Vorschneider
Editor: Maria Speth
Music: Oliver Göbel
Language: German
Country: Germany

Year: 2021


DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, runs in-person November 10-18 at IFC Center, SVA Theatre, and Cinépolis Chelsea and continues online until November 28.


Blood In the Snow (2021) Shorts reviews from Super Channel weekend.

Here are some of the short films showing on Super Channel this weekend at  BITS 2021…


Giant Bear (*shown alongside Don’t Say Its Name)
Gorgeous animation of the desolate and snowy tundra. One man comes face to face with a legend. The Inuit vocal track will consume you. This one left me with a lot of emotions.


The Death Doula
A man’s past interferes with his ability to usher a client into the afterlife. This nuanced story presents questions of morality and anguish. Beautiful and costumes sets help ease the viewer into a lulled sense of safety. It is incredibly unique.


Watershed
The world’s water supply is poison. A soul survivor stumbles across a young Mandarin girl who may have figured out how to create clean water. Danger lurks off of every overhanging eve. With powerful visuals, Watershed is an awesome treatment for a feature or series. I need to know what happens next.


Part of A Series of Web Bites:

Creepy Bits- Chapter 1- “Baby Face”
Is a young Mom seeing things on the baby monitor? This is still a fear for me. Are those dust particles or spirits gliding across my screen?! This one goes much further. It’s unsettling.


Narcoleap: S2
Thanks to a “previously on Narcoleap” recap, we get the concept of the show, immediately. And it’s cool. Director Kate Green, who also created the series, gives us drama, complexity, and a ton of great characters. As you keep watching, the show gives you a genuine Quantum Leap feel, but you also catch a Dollhouse vibe through its humor and sci-fi aspects. This is a full-on production. How has this not been picked up by Syfy or CW already? This is my formal push. It deserves a wider audience.


GHOST- A Primitive Evolution
Radio signals connect two post-apocalyptic survivors. This is both a short film and a music video. I have to say, this song rocks. Loved the bridge. I would watch this in longer form. There are solid concepts here and a very cool final shot.


Midnight Lunch Break
Becka is a mouthy shock jock radio host who gets an in-studio visit from a masked listener on Halloween. This one is laugh-out-loud hilarious. At 5 minutes, it’s such a tease, I wanted to see more!


The Revenge of the Snowflakes
A woman’s success is spoiled by online trolls. She takes her boyfriend along in a tongue-in-cheek revenge moment turned violet. This short was great but it was clear there is so much more to the story that we don’t get to see. I wanted a feature to back up the 5 minutes… Which is a great thing.


We All Dream (*being shown with Motherly at 9 pm this evening)
A young girl’s apparent sleepwalking poses a constant danger to her family. All is not what it seems. This is wildly fun and creepy. It produced a slow grin I couldn’t wipe off. Give me more of this story ASAP.


Disquietude (screening with Tin Can Sunday night at 11:30 pm.)
Grab your headphones or crank up the audio for this one featuring a musician. It’s vital to the plot. Trapped inside an anechoic chamber with only her music and thoughts, each infinitesimal sound becomes exacerbated to the nth degree. This would drive anyone mad. It’s perfectly panic-inducing.


You can check out the second half of BLOOD IN THE SNOW (2021) in person

November 18-23 at The Royale Theatre

Tickets are on sale now!