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


Final Girls Berlin (2022) review: ‘KNOCKING’ vibrates with tension.

KNOCKING

A woman (Molly) who has just experienced a traumatic incident is unnerved by a haunting knocking sound from upstairs in her new apartment building. As the noises become more desperate and increasingly sound like cries for help, she confronts her neighbours but it seems no one else can hear them. In an unsettling quest for truth, Molly soon realises that no one believes her and begins to question if she even believes herself – a realisation that is perhaps even more chilling.


Is this some extensive gaslighting or is Molly still experiencing PTSD from her previous loss? The marrying of these two concepts is here perfection. For Molly, the idea of sitting idly by will drive her mad. A slow-burn mystery with striking cinematography, Knocking will make your head spin. The use of a go-pro-style camera during a climactic confrontation puts you in the manic state of Molly’s brain. It’s a wildly effective choice. Cecilia Milocci‘s performance is truly compelling. You are right there with her on this tumultuous emotional journey. It’s absolutely award-worthy.

I first saw Knocking at Sundance 2021. The film still haunts me, as I continue to second guess the ending. To me, that ultimately makes it a success. It is genuinely unforgettable. Final Girl Berlin 2022 audiences are sure to eat up the tension that director Frida Kempff has curated in her feature-length debut. This can only mean the beginning of a long and successful genre career.



https://www.finalgirlsberlin.com/


Sundance (2022) capsule reviews: ‘The Dark Heart’ series & feature ‘Leonor Will Never Die’

THE DARK HEART

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.


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 series 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. Think Broadchurch and Mare of East Town vibes. Small town politics and mystery with enough breadcrumbs and insinuation to keep you guessing. You will not be able to look away.

Cast: Aliette Opheim, Clara Christiansson Drake, Gustav Lindh, Peter Andersson.

World Premiere. Fiction. 


LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE

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.


As a writer, this script is essentially a dream, pun intended. Leading lady, Sheila Francisco is an absolute joy to watch and her energetic narration/script reading is a blast. In her coma, she is living inside her story. The recreations of 80s action films are astounding from the perfectly hokey score to the fight sequences. The visual jumps from these, to real-life, to memories, keeps you on your toes. The semiautobiographical nature of Leonor’s writing makes for a haunting present circumstance. The nonchalance in which her son and ex-husband converse with their lost loved one is bizarre. But that’s only half of the wackiness that ensues. Leonor is weird meta fun. You cannot help but adore the heart behind it.

Cast: Sheila Francisco, Bong Cabrera, Rocky Salumbides, Anthony Falcon.

World Premiere.


For more information and the complete lineup for Sundance 2022 film, click here!


Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent’ is a family-friend monster mash.

NELLY RAPP- MONSTER AGENT

Director Amanda Adolfsson takes on the feature film adaptation of the Swedish children’s book series Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent. Nelly is a middle school outcast due to her love of monsters and mayhem. She spends her autumn break with her eccentric uncle Hannibal only to discover a family history filled with spooky surprises. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to this sweet horror- comedy’s North American Premiere. 

This cast is a delight. Matilda Gross plays Nelly with joyful innocence. Her curiosity and enthusiasm leap off the screen. She’s a wonderfully unique heroine joining the likes of Pippi Longstocking and Coraline. I could easily see Nelly Rapp costumes popping up for Halloween. 

The cinematography is gorgeous. The setting, the costumes, everything pops. The main set is magical. The walls adorned with landscape paintings, the massive rooms filled with antique furnishings, and the ceilings boast curious murals. The score is perfectly whimsical. The stunning fx makeup is never too terrifying for its intended audience. 

Nelly Rapp is a family-friendly monster mash. The script is bursting with charm and genuine giggles. A kid-friendly homage to the classic movie monsters Nelly Rapp introduces youngsters to the horror genre in a thoughtful and adventurous way. 

I wish I had this movie when I was younger. I was always fascinated by all things spooky, sometimes that made me feel like an outcast. Nelly Rapp addresses bullying, family tradition, and prejudice in a way that is digestible for children. It teaches them they don’t need to change themselves to fit it. It is their quirkiness that makes them special. Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the perfect combination of trick and treat. 


Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent (Official English Trailer) from Janson Media on Vimeo.


Stream on Amazon: amazon.com/Nelly-Rapp-Monster-Matilda-Gross/dp/B09HPM87N6/