Review: ‘PIGGY’ tests morality with bloody brilliant performances and writing.

PIGGY


Morally ambiguous and brilliant, PIGGY has been making the festival rounds this year to much acclaim. Writer-director Carlota Pereda uses the backdrop of teenage bullying and dials it up to the nth degree with murder, mayhem, and lies.

The script is relentlessly chilling. Because the audience has more information than anyone else, it feels as though the characters are sitting ducks. We are right alongside Sara as she witnesses her tormentors thrown into the back of a serial killer’s van. She says nothing, both out of fear and perhaps relief. Those that have ever been on the receiving end of horrible words and despicable actions will undoubtedly wince throughout the film.

PIGGY also speaks to the weight of parental support. We find Sara’s mother to be a nagging, uncaring shrew, while her father pays attention to her with genuine love. Her woes are exacerbated by her parents owning the local butcher shop, leading vile peers to dub her “Piggy.” One of the girls, Claudia, has a deeper connection to Sara based on her delay tactics in teasing and a matching bracelet with Sara.

The stakes in the film get higher and higher as the police, the chatty locals, and Sara’s conscience drives her to the breaking point. But that’s not all that weighs on Sara’s mind. PIGGY keeps you on your toes, constantly challenging your morality. Lead actress Laura Galán gives a star-making performance. You can see the wheels turning in each deliberate beat. Raw and thoroughly vulnerable, it is one hell of a turn. PIGGY had my heart in my throat from start to finish. Audiences are in for some hard questions and emotional torture.


Release Dates: 
October 7, 2022 (Exclusively in Alamo Drafthouse Theaters)
October 14, 2022 (Theatrical/VOD)

Directed by Carlota Pereda
Cast: Laura Galán, Richard Holmes, Carmen Machi, Irene Ferreiro, Camille Aguilar, Claudia Salas, Pilar Castro
Runtime: 90 mins
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Distributor: Magnet Releasing


Review: IFC film ‘VESPER’ is an exquisite sci-fi tale of morality and mortality.

VESPER

Alone in a cruel near-future world, 13-year-old Vesper experiments with what’s left of her surroundings to nourish her and her paralyzed father. Abandoned by her mother, Vesper keeps Darius’ body alive with her bio-hacking skills and uploads his full consciousness into a small droid. While she and others suffer immensely, the wealthy exist in private, enclosed spaces called “Citadels.” They produce seeds that the remaining poor vie for to survive in the harsh environment. After someone sabotages their generator, she reaches out to her Uncle, the leader of a group that cultivates children’s blood for seed trade. When Vesper discovers a young woman from the nearby Citadel passed out in the woods, she imagines a way out. VESPER is a gorgeous film about control and climate change wrapped in a glorious sci-fi narrative.

Richard Brake‘s performance is predominantly a voiceover. The enveloping tone of his vocals is perfection. But, the expression in his eyes speaks volumes. Eddie Marsan as Uncle Jonas is spectacularly vile. As his “survival at all costs” attitude becomes increasingly disturbing, Marsan nails the villain role.

Rosy McEwan plays Camellia with a complex mix of yearning and practicality. She is a slick foil for Vesper. McEwan’s grace and control are all the more stunning when given the opportunity to break. Our titular role comes to life with the sensational performance of Raffiella Chapman. Her raw vulnerability jumps off the screen. There is no denying she is a star. Her ability to carry this film from beginning to end is a wonder.

Captivating production design from Ramūnas Rastaukas and Raimondas Dicius lures you into a bleak but visually curious existence. The costumes are unlike anything I’ve seen before. Dan Levy‘s score is ethereal and hypnotic. The script by Brian Clark and directors Bruno Samper and Kristina Buozyte is endlessly intriguing. There is never a dull moment in Vesper’s nearly 2-hour run. Each scene provides an opportunity to expand the canon of this story. The metaphor of Vesper’s creations and her place in the world is beautiful. I could easily see this developed into an entire franchise. Overflowing with nuance, it is a mesmerizing sci-fi film that grabs you by the conscience. A stark and endlessly creative warning about Earth’s near-future mortality, Vesper is easily one of the best films of the year.


 

US Release Date: September 30, 2022

Starring: Eddie Marsan, Raffiella Chapman, Rosy McEwen

Director: Bruno Samper

Fantastic Fest 2022 review: ‘MISSING (Sagasu /さがす)’ is one of the year’s best genre films.

MISSING

This wild multiple narrative film tells the story of Kaede, her father’s disappearance, and the serial killer she’s determined to hunt down. MISSING is one story told from three different angles.

Performances from the entire cast are spectacular. There is not a loose thread in the bunch. Here is where things get tricky. To tell you more about the plot defeats the purpose. You need to go into with as little information as possible. The complexity of MISSING is relentless. Do not get comfortable with what you think you know. Writer-director Shinzô Katayama and co-writers Kazuhisa Kodera and Ryô Takada bring twist after twist. I stopped counting at a certain point. The final scene is a mindblowing metaphor for everything we witness in two hours. Wow doesn’t even begin to cover it. Fantastic Fest 2022 audiences are in for one of the year’s best features.


Dark Star and Bloody Disgusting plan a US theatrical release for MISSING on November 4, 2022, an On Demand release on November 18, 2022, and the Blu Ray release for the film to follow on December 6, 2022.

(US Premiere, 124 min)

Directed by: Shinzô Katayama

Starring: Aoi Ito, Hiroya Shimizu, Misato Morita, Jirô Satô 

Japan, 2021 (In Japanese with English Subtitles)

 

FF 2022 OFFICIAL SCREENINGS

All screenings are at The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, South Lamar, Austin.

Location: 1120 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704

 

Thu, Sep 22nd, 8:30 PM @ Theater 2

Thu, Sep 22nd, 8:30 PM @ Theater 3

Wed, Sep 28th, 11:00 AM @ Theater 5

Wed, Sep 28th, 11:00 AM @ Theater 6

FF 2022 PAGE:

https://2022.fantasticfest.com/films/62fbbf1dd0f21300854b372b


After working as an assistant director for Japanese films, including Nobuhiro Yamashita’s works, filmmaker ShinzôKatayama crossed paths with Bong Joon-Ho while shooting “TOKYO!” (2008) and served as his assistant director on “Mother” (2009). In 2019, his debut feature, “Siblings of the Cape” was selected by numerous domestic and international film festivals. He now is one of the most promising, emerging directors in Japan, and his second feature, MISSING (“Sagasu /さがす”) will be his commercial film debut.


 

Review: Writer-director Valerie Buhagiar brings the enchanting tale of ‘CARMEN’ to life with help from Natascha McElhone.

CARMEN

In a small Mediterranean village, Carmen has looked after her brother, the local priest, for her entire life. When the Church abandons Carmen, she is mistaken for the new priest. Carmen begins to see the world, and herself, in a new light.


A tongue-in-cheek story of sacrifice and reward inspired by actual events, CARMEN finds Natascha McElhone recapturing the youth she lost to familial duty and heartache. After a life spent taking care of her brother, the local priest in Malta, his death pushes Carmen, quite literally, out the door.

Carmen’s years of demure nature allow her to become a ghost, eavesdropping on the townsfolk that ignored her. With the unlikely help of a pigeon, Carmen takes control of the very church that kicked her to the curb, fooling the locals for personal entertainment. But, her mischievous advice from the confessional booth changes everything.

Natascha McElhone is elegant and effortlessly charming. CARMEN is essentially a later coming-of-age tale. McElhone’s wide-eyed exploration of life is enchanting, funny, and honest. Shot on the beautiful island of Malta, which if you’ve never been, I suggest you visit. The script’s structure utilizes flashbacks of Carmen’s elusive backstory. Writer-director Valerie Buhagiar brings unbridled joy and hidden complexity to audiences. CARMEN is a delight.


CARMEN will be released in the US Theatrically in major cities and on VOD in the US and Canada on Friday, September 23.

Director: Valerie Buhagiar

Starring: Natascha McElhone, Michaela Farrugia, Steven Love.

 

Theaters include:

NEW YORK – Cinema Village

LOS ANGELES – Laemmle Monica

With exclusive engagements in Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco (Bay Area), Columbus and more.

 

VOD Platforms include:

US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, XFinity Cable, and more.


 

Review: ‘The Justice of Bunny King’ is a tale of morality, redemption, and unconditional love.

Bunny King (Essie Davis, THE BABADOOK), a headstrong mother of two with a sketchy past, earns her keep by washing windows at traffic lights. Using her razor-sharp wit to charm money from gridlocked motorists, she saves every cent to get back the custody of her kids. After promising her daughter a birthday party, Bunny must fight the social services and break the rules to keep her word, but in doing so risks losing her children altogether. Accompanied by her niece Tonya (Thomasin McKenzie, Film Independent Spirit Award nominee, LEAVE NO TRACE, LAST NIGHT IN SOHO), a fierce teenager running away from home, Bunny is in a race against the clock and headed towards an epic showdown with the authorities.


Essie Davis helms this tale of morality, redemption, and love. Davis’ no holds bar performance of raw reactive emotion will have you on your feet. You cannot help but root for Bunny. Every opportunity comes with an unexpected challenge, but Davis’ slick attitude and ingenuity keep the audience in the palm of her hand. Bunny’s backstory is heartbreaking. The weight of her unresolved trauma is in every breath. It’s a stunning turn.

The Justice of Bunny King pits a broken system against a desperate mother. Boasting a heart-pounding climax, The Justice of Bunny King is an intriguing dive into survival and unrelenting determination.

Opens in Theaters September 23rd

Director: Gaysorn Thavat
Story By: Gregory David King, Gaysorn Thavat, Sophie Henderson
Writer: Sophie Henderson
Producer: Emma Slade
Director of Photography: Ginny Loane
Editor: Cushla Dillon

Country: New Zealand
Genre: Drama
TRT: 101 minutes


 

Based on a true story about CIA mind-control experiments, see the trailer for ‘MK ULTRA,’ coming to theaters and On Demand October 7th.

MK ULTRA

Based on the infamous CIA drug experiments from the early 1960s, this psychological thriller follows a brilliant psychiatrist (Anson Mount) who unknowingly becomes entangled with a dangerous government entity fixated on mind control.

Under Project MK Ultra, the CIA ran an illegal human experimentation program intended to develop procedures and identify drugs such as LSD that could be used in interrogations to weaken individuals and force confessions through brainwashing and psychological torture.

Starring Anson Mount, Jaime Ray Newman, Jason Patric, Jen Richards
Alon Aboutboul and David Jensen

Written and Directed by Ex-Intelligence Officer Joseph Sorrentino

Cinedigm To Release The Mind-Bending Thriller,
MK ULTRA
In Theaters & On Demand October 7 


Documentary Review: ‘WE ARE ART – Through the Eyes of Annalaura’ finds emotional catharsis in creation.

We Are Art – Through the Eyes of Annalaura

Filmed on location in Naples, Italy, We Are Art Through the Eyes of Annalaura was written, produced and directed by acclaimed artist Annalaura di Luggo, in collaboration with production supervisor and creative consultant Stanley Isaacs, and is an inspirational story of creativity, second chances and new beginnings. The documentary feature depicts Annalaura’s journey as she undertakes her most artistic challenge, creating Colloculi, an immersive, multi-media, interactive art installation constructed in the shape of a Giant Eye made of recycled aluminum, symbolizing environmental rebirth and recycling. She incorporates her artistic visualization of the lives of four young people who, in their own way, found a spiritual path out of the darkness into the light and reclaimed their self-esteem and found new value in life.


From concept to fruition, Italian artist Annalaura di Luggo takes inspiration for a multimedia art installation from the Bruegel painting, “The Blind Leading The Blind.” She intends to not only is to inspire but include the viewer in the experience of the piece. They are the fourth layer. WE ARE ART- Through The Eyes of Annalaura is a whirlwind journey through redemption and creation.

The casting process for the four individuals Annalaura wants to include in the project gives the audience a taste of the local Naples community. Each person has a story, a work of art unto themselves. Pino grew up surrounded by drugs, violence, and neglect. His future goal is to avoid a similar path as his parents and thrive through education. Noemi approaches the world through experiences, sports, and animals. Born blind, she longs to break any preconceived notion the world might have about her and to live as fully as any sighted person. Her description of what color is to her is awe-inspiring.

Youssouf arrived on the shores of Naples in a rubber dinghy from the Ivory Coast in 2016. Alone and with nothing to his name, he endured discrimination, educated himself, and began to work. Engaged and with a child, his goal is to be present for her. Adopted at the age of five from Moscow, Larissa found herself bullied for her appearance, leading her to abuse alcohol. Resiliency and self-love push her forward in life.

Like any artist, Annalaura possesses eccentric energy. Her mind is in constant creative mode. Each media artist she approaches finds themselves immediately sucked into her vortex of ideas and enthusiasm. Beyond that first impression, her genuine care for Pino, Noemi, Youssouf, and Karissa is clear as day. Their work together becomes a therapy session melded into Annalaura’s final creation. Her profound words for her subjects will take the viewer aback.

WE ARE ART escapes pretentiousness by keeping the audience involved in each intimate and intentional step. There are a staggering amount of minds and hands touching this project. “Colloculi,” the final work of art, is dazzling, simultaneously speaking to the uniqueness of each life and the universal nature of humanity. Annalaura di Luggo should be proud. Bravo.


Opening At The Laemmle Monica In Los Angeles On September 16
And The Village East In New York September 23

 

Q&A to follow after both Opening Nights

Written & Directed By

Annalaura di Luggo


Review: ‘THE SILENT TWINS’ is an imaginative interpretation of The Gibbons’ sisters haunting history.

THE SILENT TWINS

The real-life story of twin sisters June and Jennifer Gibbons continuously confounds psychologists and curious onlookers alike. As young girls from Barbados whose father transferred for work, they were the only Black family in their Wales neighborhood. The girls experienced insurmountable isolation and bullying. As a result, they turned inward, refusing to speak to anyone other than each other, and exhibited succinct behavior, almost catatonic at times. With each passing year, The Gibbons sisters enigmatic relationship wreaked havoc on their families, communities, and each other. The Silent Twins creatively illustrate their experiences. Theirs is a story that baffles the world.

The only time they spoke aloud was in their bedroom, as they created magnificent plays, poems, and short stories. The Silent Twins utilizes mixed media stop motion animation to illustrate the girls’ elaborate writing. When you hear their diary entries, you soon realize their astonishing level of intellect.

Following their dismissal from school, the girls enter a specialized education program (which later proved useless), followed by separate residential schools. June struggles to adjust due to the separation, becoming despondent. Once reunited, things regress to the status quo in their childhood bedroom for the next few years.

The dynamic between the two is clear; Jennifer exerts all power over June. Adolescent jealousy brings a new level of vengeful animosity to Jennifer and June’s relationship. Jennifer’s infatuation with an influential bad boy brings drugs and pyromania into their lives. The consequences of these behaviors lead them to their eleven-year admission to Broadmoor Hospital. The publication of June’s book further drives their competitive nature.

*SPOILER ALERT* If you’d like to stay in the dark about the story, skip the following paragraph!!

The Gibbons made a pact in childhood stating that if one of them died, the other should begin to speak and live a “normal life.” On the day of their release from Broadmoor, Jennifer passes away in the transport van. While the circumstances did not sit well with anyone, her autopsy would later reveal a case of undiagnosed myocarditis. Rather than sink into grief, the death of Jennifer frees June from a lifelong emotional and physical prison.

** Continue below…

Performances from Letitia Wright and Tamara Larance will blow you away. Their vocal specificity is imperative to understanding the real-life twins’ dialect and speech patterns. Their volatile chemistry jumps off the screen. Each actress has their time to shine.

Prior knowledge of this bizarre case proved to be a blessing and a curse. A few things felt stylistically superfluous, especially a runtime of nearly 2 hours. I almost wish this haunting tale were a touch more straightforward. The stop-motion sequences are such a powerful device that the added songs and whimsical choreography appear overkill. I’m unsure if The Silent Twins works as a whole. Perhaps, a viewer with zero previous understanding of The Gibbons’ strange existence might come to a different conclusion. If you fall into that category, I recommend going into the film blind. Either way, director Agnieszka Smoczynska displays a unique vision of two mind-boggling women.


Silence was their bond. Imagination set them free.

Letitia Wright and Tamara Lawrance star in #TheSilentTwins, only in theaters September 16.


A version of this review first appeared on AWFJ.org. To read more insights from the amazing women in the alliance, click here!


 

Review: Vicky Krieps captivates in ‘HOLD ME TIGHT’

HOLD ME TIGHT


Hold Me Tight is the newest film from French actor-director Mathieu Amalric. It centers around the emotional and physical break between a mother, her two children, and her husband. The film is a gripping narrative with your heart in your throat from beginning to end. You are constantly questioning reality. Grief is a monster known only to those who live it. Hold Me Tight journeys through regret with gusto. The editing is an absolute triumph, using fractured storytelling and poetic voiceovers. The dizzying pace is warranted by Amalric’s screenplay structure of time hopping.

The entire cast is breathtaking. Our leading lady, Vicky Krieps, gives a mesmerizing performance as a woman unraveling. Each beat is carefully curated, mired in sadness and pure love. Krieps’ unadulterated vulnerability demands your attention. It is an award-worthy turn. Hold Me Tight is an extraordinary study of grief and moving forward. You cannot walk away from this film unchanged.


Opens September 9 in NY at
Film at Lincoln Center & Angelika Film Center
 
Opens September 16 in LA at Laemmle Royal

 

France | 2021 | 97 min | Color | 1.85:1 | In French and German with English subtitles
 
Directed by Mathieu Amalric. Screenplay by Mathieu Amalric, based on the play by Claudine Galéa, Je reviens de loin. Cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne. Editing by François Gedigier. Production Design by Laurent Baude. Produced by Laetitia Gonzales and Yaël Fogiel with Félix Von Boehm (Les Films du Poisson). A Kino Lorber release.

New Trailer: In ‘TO LESLIE,’ Andrea Riseburough stars as a woman desperate for a second chance. Coming to theaters and on VOD October 7th.

TO LESLIE

Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a West Texas single mother struggling to provide for her son (Owen Teague) when she wins the lottery and a chance at a good life. But a few short years later the money is gone and Leslie is on her own, living hard and fast at the bottom of a bottle as she runs from the world of heartbreak she left behind.

With her charm running out and with nowhere to go, Leslie is forced to return home to her former friends Nancy and Dutch (Allison Janney, Stephen Root). Unwelcome and unwanted by those she wronged, it’s a lonely motel clerk named Sweeney (Marc Maron) who takes a chance when no one else will. With his support, Leslie comes face to face with the consequences of her actions, a life of regret, and a second chance to make a good life for her and her son.


IN THEATERS AND ON VOD OCTOBER 7, 2022

STARRING Andrea Riseborough, Allison Janney, Marc Maron, Andre Royo, Owen Teague, Stephen Root, James Landry Hebert, Matt Lauria, Catfish Jean

DIRECTED BY Michael Morris

WRITTEN BY Ryan Binaco

PRODUCED BY Claude Dal Farra, Brian Keady, Kelsey Law, Ceci Cleary, Philip Waley, Jason Shuman, Eduardo Cisneros

*2022 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL – WORLD PREMIERE*

Run Time: 119 Minutes | Distributor: Momentum Pictures  | Rating: R


Review:’Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul’ is In Theaters and streaming only on Peacock now!

HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL.

To overcome a scandal, a viral pastor and his wife hire an up-and-coming festival filmmaker to revamp their image with a cinema verité documentary. Their goal is to refill their megachurch with its previous 25000 parishioners. But, it quickly becomes evident that Lee-Curtis and Trinitie are out of touch with reality. Based on writer-director-producer Adamma Ebo’s short film of the same name, Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. is gloriously biting satire to the nth degree.

As revelations of the allegations against Lee-Curtis come to light, the complex nature of the story gets stickier. The dialogue is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Ebo makes full use of righteous indignation to excuse/cover sins. The script mirrors real life so accurately it is shocking. The hidden shame, faux outrage, and especially the hypocrisy, every character in Honk For Jesus is lying to themselves.

Regina Hall plays Trinitie Childs. Doing her best dutiful wife with a plastered smile, Hall is perfection. Each beat jumps off the screen. But there are cracks beneath the surface, waiting for the precise moment to break free. Sterling K. Brown as Lee-Curtis Childs is an explosive ball of energy. It’s a powerful and physical performance. Brown’s relentless commitment to the absurd makes this film as intriguing as it is funny. The chemistry between Hall and Brown is spectacular. It is an equal partnership of fierceness. The support they give to one another in every scene is palpable.

Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a fight for the Childs’ last remaining shred of dignity. The balance of over-the-top farce and deep-seated issues creates a hell of a story. Blind faith is a dangerous thing. Adamma Ebo knows it, and so too shall audiences.


Written and Directed by Adamma Ebo

Produced by Adanne Ebo, Daniel Kaluuya, Rowan Riley, Amandla Crichlow, Jesse Burgum, Matthew Cooper

Starring Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown


For more coverage of Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul from AWFJ members, click here!

Review: Opening in Japanese cinemas today, writer-director Yoshiki Takahashi’s ‘RAGEAHOLIC’ mixes searing social commentary and vengeful storytelling.

RAGEAHOLIC

Visually sumptuous, from the popping color schemes to the sharp cinematography, Rageaholic is a feast for the eyes. With a screenplay that begs your attention between redemption and revenge.

Rageaholic has a distinct three-act storytelling structure. Act one finds Detective Fukama in a drug and alcohol-assisted haze of aggression. When his behavior makes for negative PR for the force and the local community of Fujimi, he is shipped off to the United States for some unique rehabilitation.

Act two reinstates Fukama as a semi-detective into a state-monitored Fujimi. Acclimating to this new environment proves to be a challenge. The visual shift is noticeable as the neon lights are replaced by signs and banners reminding everyone that Big Brother is watching. The community watch is drunk with power.

Act three; those driven from society now reside in squalid tent cities but thrive in their kinship. Confronted with how he ultimately fits into the grander scheme of control, Fukama must find the balance between good and evil to set things right. The depraved violence that ensues feels right. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to wincing and a lot of cheering.

Performances are impressive, and the score ranges from jarring to amusing. Each tonal shift reinvigorates the audience’s interest in the story. There is no time to become complacent. American audiences will immediately draw parallels to capitalism and surveillance issues. A film about abuse, power, and retribution, I have never seen anything quite like Rageaholic. The finale is straight-up bananas.


 

The drama/action film RAGEAHOLIC opens today (August 26th) in Japanese cinemas.

RAGEAHOLIC is written and directed by Yoshiki Takahashi, and based on a story by Yuki Kobayashi (DEATH ROW FAMILY). The picture stars Yohta Kawase (SHIN GODZILLA), Aya Saiki, Ryuju Kobayashi, and Eita Okuno. It is produced by Interfilm.


 

Review: ‘Get Away If You Can’ provides a sea-side meditation on gender and love.

GET AWAY IF YOU CAN


Hopeful that an open-ocean sail might relight the spark of their passion, a troubled married couple (played by filmmakers Terrence Martin and Dominique Braun) hits a breaking point when one’s refusal to explore a foreboding deserted island sends them on a deep internal journey that will require drastic decisions in order to survive.


With a title like Get Away if You Can, I sat down expecting a 90-minute sea-set thriller with the potential for a high body count. Instead, I was treated to a thoughtful meditation on love, purpose, and gender.

Co-directors (and real-life spouses) Dominique Braun and Terrence Martin star as a married couple on a solo sailing trip. The journey is long, and the destination is unknown, but Martin’s TJ is in a hurry to get them there. When he resists his wife’s request to take a few days to explore a deserted island, things quickly spiral out of control.

The filming locations are stunning – the filmmakers deftly navigate the cramped interiors and deck of the sailing yacht, giving a sense of scale and place at all times. The island drawing Domi’s (Dominique Braun) attention might be part of the “islands of despair”, but it is truly gorgeous. As in, I can understand having a fight with your spouse over an island like this. If despair looks like this, sign me up. Scenes away from the boat and island are purposeful, and further our associations with the two leads. Through flashbacks and phone calls, Domi’s world is shown to be lush, green, and free. TJ’s flashbacks, on the other hand, are grounded in steel, machinery, and work. The settings smartly reinforce the opposing dynamics pulling at the two lovers.

Since much of the film’s plot finds TJ and Domi in conflict, we don’t get to see much direct chemistry between the two leads. Braun’s Domi has a heavy load to carry, and we feel her appetites and frustrations. Martin’s TJ is given less to work with, expressing his frustrations by guzzling red wine and gorging himself on saltines. Ed Harris gives a compelling supporting turn as Alan, the father of Martin’s character. Alan is a stern man from a military background. But, more than this, he seems to embody toxic masculinity itself. Harris’ restrained physical performance speaks volumes – this is a man who can make chewing a piece of steak simultaneously hilarious, intimidating, and hostile. Harris’ energy lurks even in scenes where is physically absent.

I found the film’s climax to be brave and thoughtful. You may not agree with the choices the characters make, but you can understand the journey that has brought them to that moment. Despite some choppy waves, there’s ultimately a lot to like about this boat trip.


IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DIGITAL
Friday, August 19 

Los Angeles, CA // Laemmle Monica
Colorado Springs, CO // Icon 14
Middletown, DE // Westown Movies
Rogers, MN // Emagine Rogers 18
Chicago, IL // Cinema 14 Chatham
Birmingham, MI // Emagine Palladium 15

WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Terrence Martin and Dominique Braun
STARRING: Terrence Martin, Dominique Braun, Ed Harris, Riley Smith, Martina Gusman 
EXECUTIVE PROUCED BY: Andrew Davies Gans, Cary Wayne Moore
PRODUCED BY: Terrence Martin and Dominique Braun
CINEMATOGRAPHY BY: Lucio Bonelli, Michael Lockridge, Guillermo Nieto
EDITING BY: Russell Lichter, Andrés Quaranta


 

Review: ‘Spin Me Round’ is a film that’s tough to swallow, but the cast is chef’s kiss.

SPIN ME ROUND

Alison Brie is Amber, a manager of an Olive Garden-Esque restaurant chosen to attend an elite training week at the Italian villa of the company’s founder. Hoping to find love and epic adventure, she joins a rather eclectic group of folks. But the trip isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when the idea of romance turns into some no one saw coming.

This insanely talented ensemble gets thrown into a blender of bizarre. Writer-director Jeff Baena co-writes with Brie. I cannot figure out if Spin Me Round means to be a modern take on Office Space or just a misstep into empowerment. It all feels rather icky whenever Nick (Alessandro Nivola) comes on screen. With an abundance of genuinely hilarious dynamics between cast members, those moments often become overshadowed by inconsistent storytelling, leaving you cringing.

Molly Shannon is Deb, and she is perfectly Molly Shannon. Her unpredictability makes her one of the highlights of the entire film. Zach Woods brings a fantastic arc to the character of Dana. He transforms from fanboy to puppy love to man on a mission and effortlessly captivates. Ben Sinclair lands somewhere between villainous sidekick and smarmy eccentric, and I loved it. Tim Heidecker, Ayden Mayeri, and Fred Armisen provide plenty of memorable moments.

Aubrey Plaza makes every film she appears in exponentially better. She is the most intriguing character in this film. You cannot ignore the comparisons to Ghislaine Maxwell, whether intentional or not. I want to see an entire movie on her backstory. Alison Brie is wonderful in everything. Her performance as Amber is no exception. She possesses simultaneous versatility and familiarity for audiences. Ultimately, the cast prevents Spin Me Round from leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Show up for the acting, and you can’t go wrong.


IN THEATERS, ON-DEMAND, AND STREAMING ON AMC+
August 19, 2022

SPIN ME ROUND, stars Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Zach Woods, Ayden Mayeri, Ben Sinclair, Tim Heidecker, Debby Ryan, and Lil Rey Howery.


Review: Latvian film ‘SQUEAL’ is one twisted tale.

SQUEAL

Told through the lens of a man searching for his father, a small village with a medieval mindset, and a pig, the Latvian film SQUEAL is a wild blend of storytelling elements. One part fairytale and one part romanticized Stockholm Syndrome, trust me, you have never seen anything quite like this. Alongside co-writer Aleksandr Rodionov, writer-director Aik Karapetian brings to life a story of belonging under the strangest circumstances.

In search of his father in rural Eastern Europe, Samual is far from home and does not speak the language. After getting lost on his journey, he gets into a car accident. Sidelined by the local farmer’s daughter, he finds himself chained in a pigsty, forced to work as a farmhand. As jealousy and misogyny cause a rift among family members and the locals, Sam must use everything at his disposal to escape or adapt.

The cast is magnificent. Knowing full well of the bizarre nature of this twisted tale, they amazed me. The script is an ever-evolving, emotional rollercoaster. Your feelings about each character change from scene to scene as the screenplay progresses. The narration from Uldis Verners Brūns is delicious. His voice is like a warm hug. The soundtrack is a sumptuous mix of classical pieces from Handel to Vivaldi. Squeal is undoubtedly a unique story that will have you questioning your morality. With an ending that leads to more questions than answers, you’ll leave thinking about this film long after the credits roll.




Official Selection: FANTASTIC FEST 2021 and many more.

SQUEAL will be released in the US theatrically in New York and Los Angeles and on VOD in the US and CANADA on August 19.

Theaters Include (August 19):
Lumiere Music Hall – Los Angeles
Alamo Manhattan- New York

VOD Platforms Include (August 19):
US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Xfinity Cable, and more.
Canada: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play

Director: Aik Karapetian

Scriptwriter: Aik Karapetian,Aleksandr Rodionov

Cast: Kevin Janssens,Laura Siliņa,Aigars Vilims,Normunds Griestiņš,Juris Bartkevičs,Guntis Pilsums


Filmmaker Aik Karapetian’s dark fairy tale SQUEAL  centers on Samuel (Kevin Janssens), who is far from home, searching for his father. Lost in remotest Eastern Europe, on the edges of a mythical forest, a minor road accident leads to a chance meeting with a pig farmer’s daughter Kirke (Laura Siliņa). Sam soon learns that his priorities must change if he wants to survive. Her initial hospitality is a smoke screen to capture him and make him a forced laborer on the farm. Alone, unable to speak the language, and chained up 24/7 with the pigs, he learns to adapt. Fortunately, a seemingly magical piglet gains Sam’s confidence and shows him the way to freedom and true love. 

Filmmaker Aik Karapetian is a graduate of the Latvian Academy of Culture and has a master’s degree in film direction from the Académie Internationale des Arts – ESEC (Paris). His first feature film, PEOPLE OUT THERE gained international acclaim after its premiere at the Karlovy Vary film festival in competition in 2012. After the successful horror feature THE MAN IN THE ORANGE JACKET (Fantastic Fest 2014, BFI London Film Festival), Aik released the thriller FIRSTBORN (Sitges, Fantastic Fest, Paris International Film Festival 2017). 

Aik has also staged two successful opera productions at the Latvian National Opera house, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, which was awarded as the Best stage production of the season in 2011 and FAUST, which premiered in September 2016. His version of Bizet’s CARMEN premiered at the Opera National de Montpellier (France) in 2018 followed by Gounod’s FAUST at the Trondheim Symfoniorkester & Opera (Norway) in 2019.


ABOUT GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT
Good Deed Entertainment (GDE) is an Ohio-based independent studio dedicated to producing, financing, and distributing quality entertainment for under-served audiences. Its distribution slate includes recent releases Summertime, Ma Belle, My Beauty, and Lucky Grandma, in addition to the Academy Award-nominated, Loving Vincent, and Spirit Award-nominated, To Dust.

Website: http://www.gooddeedentertainment.com/


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Review: ‘The Immaculate Room’ is a thoughtful and dark locked-room story.

The Immaculate Room is a sleek and thoughtful feature, a great example of doing more with less. Due to COVID restrictions these past few years, there has been a distinctive uplift in what I would call “locked-room” movies – films with relatively few characters who remain in a single setting for the entire run-time. Many other plots have faltered or crumbled under this weight. The Immaculate Room leans into these restrictions by making themes of isolation, alienation, and the human psyche central to the film’s plot.

Kate Bosworth and Emilie Hirsch star as Kate and Mike, a couple competing in a psychological experiment. If they can last 50 days isolated within a blank white room, they win 5 million dollars. If either one of them leaves the room, the prize instantly drops to 1 million. If they both leave, they get nothing. No possessions are allowed into the room, and there is nearly zero contact with the outside world (other than the disembodied voice of the room itself, which chimes in to remind them of the rules) Food (if you can call it that) is dispensed via a slot in the wall. The whole thing looks a little like IKEA’s marketing department designed a prison.

Both leads deliver strong performances. Hirsch’s Mike is an artist. While he wants the prize money, his easygoing demeanor hints at a more privileged background. Hirsch gives a grounded performance – his career has taken some strange turns since his bravura turn in 2007’s Into the Wild. Here he again proves he will excel when given roles where he can use physicality to convey emotion. Bosworth’s Kate is more guarded and driven – she recites mantras to herself every morning in the bathroom mirror. I loved the versatility of Bosworth’s performance – keep an eye on the techniques Kate employs to motivate and keep Mike focused on the prize throughout the film.

Writer-director Mukunda Michael Dewil’s script deserves a lot of credit for the success of the film. The simplicity of the challenge alone is not very exciting, and the audience is braced for twists and turns. They come at the right intervals and build slowly from the familiar to the inevitably more disturbing. The rules set for the room are simultaneously simple and incredibly clever. Each participant has access to two “treats” they can access at any time. The catch? A treat deducts 100k from the prize fund. A “treat” for Mike might be pretty different from Kate’s. Some are innocent, and some are dangerous.

The film’s conclusion lands awkwardly and feels a bit divorced from the rest of the plot. I’m not sure I fully believed the resolution. The concept of the film naturally lends itself to bigger questions (how far would you go for money, how well do you know yourself, etc.) I appreciated that Dewil doesn’t allow the film to become a black and white morality tale. If any of us was stuck in a room for this long, I’m sure we’d all have our off-days.


In Theaters & On Demand August 19th

 

*Best Feature & Best Actor Award – Mammoth Film Festival*
*Best Feature Award – London Independent Film Awards*


Review: ‘Orphan: First Kill’ is shocking and twisted prequel.

Leena, a murderous sociopath who looks like a child due to a medical condition, escapes from an Estonian psychiatric facility. Leena impersonates the missing daughter of a wealthy family but becomes pitted against a determined mother.


Performances sell this film. Matthew Finlan at Gunnar with a slimy rich kid flair that makes him supremely punchable. Rossif Sutherland‘s genuine vulnerability in grounds the chaos. With the audience’s knowledge, his performance is one of the most important in the film. Julia Stiles is mind-blowing as Tricia. I’ll only reveal that the rollercoaster of this role is delicious, and I did not see it coming.

Isabelle Fuhrman plays the audience like a fiddle in what might seem like a tricky undertaking years later. The final reveal in Orphan was a game-changing moment that sticks in genre fans’ minds. For Fuhrman to nail this performance, knowing the audience is in on the secret this time speaks volumes about her skills. The use of body doubles ensured that she remained in the role. Had she been recast, we might have had a very different conversation about this franchise.

The use of mirrors is a noticeable and effective trope. Growing up in Connecticut, I can attest that the costume department gets an A+ for their work. Now, we need to discuss the screenplay. A total WTF twist keeps Orphan: First Kill fresh and engaging. The terror tables overturn with an unexpected villainous turn from multiple characters in the film. The unpredictability of this prequel manages to be creepy and cringe all at once. There’s a deliberate white privilege that is chef’s kiss. I wasn’t sure whom to root for. It was a ping-pong match of vile behavior. That made me all the more invested in the madness. When I tell you that I reveled in a particular kill, you’d be hard-pressed to disagree upon viewing. Orphan: First Kill is a wild ride genre fans will happily stay on if only to see how this chapter plays out.


Paramount Pictures will release the horror/thriller film ORPHAN: FIRST KILL in Theaters, on Digital, and streaming on Paramount+ on August 19, 2022. The film is the highly anticipated prequel to the 2009 horror classic film ORPHAN.

ORPHAN: FIRST KILL stars Isabelle Fuhrman (Orphan), Rossif Sutherland (Possessor) and Golden Globe Nominee Julia Stiles (10 Things I Hate About You). The film was written by David Coggeshall (Prey) and directed by William Brent Bell (The Boy).


Review: Diane Keaton stars in ‘Mack & Rita,’ a coming-of-age story that’s as heartfelt as it is hilarious.

MACK & RITA

The most unexpected coming-of-age film, quite literally. 70 is the new 30 as far as writer Mack is concerned. She’d rather stay home and nap than suffer through any Gen Z activity. While attending her best friend Carla’s bachelorette party, Mack reaches her introvert wit’s end. Seeking respite, she wanders into the tent of a past life “guru” only to bring her inner maturity to life. Enter Aunt Rita. Now, unexpectedly hip on the internet, Mack must navigate between influencer status and her true self.

Simon Rex brings a brilliant eccentricity to Luca. Patti Harrison is hilarious as Mack’s agent, Stephanie, especially since 75% of her role happens via facetime. Sharp-eared cinephiles will catch a voice cameo from Martin Short, bringing Father Of The Bride costars back together for a trippy encounter.

Elizabeth Lail, as Mack, shows us her range. It’s a far cry from her time as Beck in YOU. She’s a sweet delight I can relate with as the mother hen of my group of friends. Taylour Paige plays best friend Carla, and she is darling. Her genuine chemistry with every cast member makes her deliciously watchable.

Dustin Milligan is Jack, Mack’s cute neighbor, with a surprisingly down-to-earth attitude. He’s kind of a dork, and I loved his authenticity. He is the personification of the plot. Milligan’s comfort level with Keaton is beyond charming. Diane Keaton, ladies, and gentlemen. The icon brings all her quirky glory to the role of Aunt Rita. Would I watch her do pilates every day? Yes. Keaton’s physical comedic ability makes Mack and Rita engaging and a breezy watch. It’s a fun film that will undoubtedly connect with audiences of any age and stage.


WIDE THEATRICAL RELEASE ON AUGUST 12, 2022

When 30-year-old self-proclaimed homebody Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail) reluctantly joins a Palm Springs bachelorette trip for her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige), her inner 70-year-old is released — literally. The frustrated writer and influencer magically transforms into her future self: “Aunt Rita” (Oscar®-winner Diane Keaton). Freed from the constraints of other people’s expectations, Rita comes into her own, becoming an unlikely social media sensation and sparks a tentative romance with Mack’s adorable dog-sitter, Jack (Dustin Milligan). A sparkling comedy with a magical twist, Mack & Rita celebrates being true to yourself at any age.

Directed By: Katie Aselton

Written By: Paul Welsh & Madeline Walter

Starring: Diane Keaton, Taylour Paige, Elizabeth Lail, Loretta Devine, Simon Rex, Dustin Milligan, Amy Hill, Lois Smith, Wendie Malick, Patti Harrison, Martin Short, Addie Weyrich, Aimee Carrero, and Nicole Byer

Produced By: Alex Saks, Diane Keaton, Stephanie Heaton-Harris, Jina Panebianco, and Dori A. Rath

Executive Produced By: Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Jean-Luc De Fanti, R. Wesley Sierk III, Joseph Panebianco, John D. Straley, Jojo Ryder, Lauren Beveridge, Brett Beveridge, Jackie Shenoo, Joseph Restaino


Review: Heart-stopping thriller ‘FALL’ opens in theaters this Friday. Hold on tight.

FALL

What could possibly go wrong attempting to traverse a rusty 2000-foot tower in the middle of nowhere? Only everything. In Scott Mann‘s FALL, Becky is a year out from watching her husband plummet from a climbing mishap before her very eyes. Mired in grief, best friend and climbing partner Hunter convinces her to do the unthinkable to heal. The two plan on climbing the 4th tallest structure in the US while Hunter films it for her budding YouTube channel. One loose screw at a time, and the entire plan goes to hell. FALL will take your breath away. 

The seemingly simple premise becomes one of the most intense and harrowing films I’ve ever seen. I didn’t have a fear of heights before Fall. I sure as hell do now. Every second of this film is a goddamn horror. If there was a moment’s lull, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. (No pun intended.) My heart was in my throat. I was sweating uncontrollably. I went weak in the knees over and over again. FALL is a nonstop cinematic panic attack.

The screenplay by Mann and Jonathan Frank does an impeccable job of wrapping the action in grief, unresolved trauma, forgiveness, and authenticity. The relationship between Becky and Hunter feels like a level playing field until secrets cause additional emotional conflict. It’s a carefully crafted script, many of its moments foreshadowed in the earlier dialogue. Virginia Gardner, who was spectacular in Starfish, plays Hunter with fearless energy. She’s the perfect foil for Grace Caroline Currey. As Becky, she sits in an entirely different headspace. Gardner and Currey’s chemistry is key to the film’s believability. 

The sometimes sparse, menacing score by Tim Despic combined with Alex Joseph and David Barber‘s sharply executed sound editing ramps up the inevitable impending doom we came to experience. The cinematography by MacGregor is a wonder. The juxtaposition of tight close-ups and wide landscape shots fills you with fear, placing you inside the bodies of Becky and Hunter. I cannot stress this enough, FALL deserves a viewing on the widest and tallest screen possible, but even on a laptop, the terror is paralyzing. FALL will take your breath away. Hold on tight.


Lionsgate’s FALL will open on 1200+ screens across the country on Friday, August 12.

This includes all key regional cities including: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, Houston, Austin, Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Orlando, Tampa, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Sacramento and more.

Find a theater near you: https://fandan.co/3cYz8zu

OFFICIAL SITE:  http://www.lionsgate.com/movies/fall

FOLLOW FALL ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
https://www.instagram.com/fallmovie/
https://twitter.com/fallmovie
Hashtag: #FallMovie


Review: ‘Bullet Train’ delivers satisfying summer thrills.

BULLET TRAIN

David Leitch’s Bullet Train is not high art, but it’s a damn fine way to spend 126 minutes. There are times in life when you might order a side salad with your meal, but we all know what your heart really wants is the fries. Well, Bullet Train is what happens when the fries are the centerpiece of the meal. It won’t inspire deep revelations about the human condition, but it is a flashy and fun journey that satisfies (just don’t pretend it’s something it’s not.)

 

The plot concerns 5 assassins whose objectives and fates converge on a bullet train speeding from Tokyo to Kyoto. Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, a hitman in a serious career funk, convinced he’s cursed with bad luck (don’t worry, he’s getting some therapy for it.) Pitt, fresh off his first career Oscar win (Best Supporting Actor, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) seems to be having an absolute blast. Ladybug gets to indulge in more physical comedy than any other character and delivers some of the film’s best lines (“Hurt people hurt people“) The speed with which Pitt can develop easy chemistry with a new co-star is foundational to the success of Bullet Train‘s ensemble.

The rest of the ensemble is stacked with talent (there are also some amazing cameos I won’t spoil.) Zazie Beetz and Bad Bunny hop on for a brief stop or two, to hilarious effect.  Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor Johnson are excellent as killer brothers, Lemon and Tangerine. Although Lemon’s obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine wears thin at times, his easygoing rapport with Tangerine is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Joey King is less successful as the steely and sociopathic Prince, but she’s not given much to do other than glower and explain her devious plans. Hiroyuki Sanada brings a much-needed seriousness that somewhat balances the otherwise gonzo atmosphere of the film.

Despite the film’s comedic tone, it’s important to acknowledge that is also extremely violent. Barely 5 minutes go by without somebody being shot, stabbed, bitten, gored, or otherwise demolished. The overall comedic attitude of the film does lessen the impact of the violence itself, but nobody would call this a family-friendly movie. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those willing to take the trip,  Bullet Train is an absolutely worthwhile thrill ride. Sometimes it feels good to just order the damn fries.


Release date: August 5, 2022 (USA)
Director: David Leitch
Adapted from: Bullet Train
Cinematography: Jonathan Sela