Review: Family-friendly folklore ‘Jesse and The Elf Boy’ is available now.

A teenager becomes a renowned hairstylist with the help of an unexpected friend – a forest elf.

Inspired by Scottish legend, this feel-good comedy follows the antics of the solitary forest elf Ghillie Dhu who becomes friends with a girl lost in the woods. When she is unexpectedly whisked away by her mother, a forlorn Ghillie sets out on a quest to find his lost companion. Years later, in the city, Ghillie meets Jessie Macrae, a plucky teenager determined to win favor with her high-flying mother by becoming a renowned hairstylist. When Jessie discovers that Ghillie has a gift for hairstyling, they strike up a unique partnership which causes chaos for the manager of the chic hair salon and catapults Jessie to fame. Thanks to Ghillie, Jessie’s dreams are within reach, but will this meeting of two worlds be enough to overcome the deep hurts of broken relationships through the generations?


A spirited, family-friendly film with notes of Peter Pan whimsy, Jesse and the Elf Boy brings laughter and unexpected depth. The script is a sweet story of friendship, loyalty, family dynamics, and a bit of magic. 

While perhaps a tad random, with the premise that Jesse is a hairstylist, the film has a similar vibe to Edward Scissorhands with a touch of Rumplestiltskin. Performances illicit genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. The script teems with kooky, larger-than-life characters that will make audiences, young and old, giggle. The score from David Shaw is lovely. The standout costume belongs to Ghillie Dhu. It perfectly evokes a childlike wonder, if not a bit noisy for the sound editing. Whittle dons it with an ease that makes it believable.  

Julia Brown is phenomenally charming as Jesse. Her chemistry with Whittle makes for an easy watch. Speaking of our other titular character, Huck Whittle plays Ghillie with a darling innocence. Reminiscent of Jeremy Sumpter in Peter Pan (2003), Whittle is a star.

Getting to the main plot of a mother-daughter reconnection is a bit convoluted, as there are a handful of subplots. But, if you let that go, you’ll be completely charmed. The final reveal makes any inconsistencies worth the watch. 


https://fellowshipfilm.com/


Review: HBO Documentary Film: ‘TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF’

TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF

Centering around intimate new interviews with Tony Hawk himself, the film is an all-encompassing look at the skateboarder’s life, legendary career, and relationship with the sport with which he’s been synonymous for decades. Hawk, a pioneer of modern vertical skating who is still pushing his limits at the age of 53, remains one of the most influential skateboarders of all time.


Tony Hawk kicks off his big HBO documentary by falling down. A lot. Like, 5 solid minutes of eating it all over the ramp. It’s a bold, remarkably human way to start a documentary about a 53-year-old icon who many in the non-skating community would still consider the most famous skateboarder of all time (this reviewer raises his hand). Heck, my wife knows more about Tony Hawk than I do.

The complete list of things I knew about Tony Hawk before watching this documentary:

  • He was (probably) the most prominent skater in the world
  • He was the first skater to land a 900 (a crazy trick where you shoot off a ramp and spin 2.5 times in the air before landing)  I also learned this from his video game series, Tony Hawk Pro Skater
  • He has a hilarious Twitter feed

And yet, I left Sam Jones’ Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off feeling pretty invested in skateboarding. Jones’ documentary benefits not only from extensive access to Hawk and his skating peers but also from a wealth of archival footage and clips that help these interview recollections resonate. Sure, you learn about Hawk’s upbringing in San Diego, and his dynamic with his strict father – but what really resonates is the sense of purpose uniting these passionate young skateboarders. You really get the spirit of the community. Tricks and success in this sport are the product of individual inspiration, yes, but also due to watching and learning from both your rivals and teammates. Hawks’ contemporaries are real unique characters, too. I particularly loved hearing from Rodney Mullen, who applies the principles of Nietzsche to the act of launching yourself off a skate ramp without a hint of irony.

I also appreciated the documentary’s balanced romanticism surrounding skateboarding. There are the obligatory skating montages, but there’s also a blunt assessment of the risks (and honestly, the near foolishness) of Hawk refusing to set aside his board at 53 years old. We’re talking about guys for whom broken bones and near-constant concussions seem to always be part of the deal – it takes a lot to make these folks nervous. Hawks’ peers speak frankly and graphically about the risks he’s taking on. Given Hawks’ prominent association with this documentary, I was surprised he didn’t push to edit some of those comments out of the final product. I appreciated that Jones included them.

Ultimately, this feels to be an honest portrait of a complicated legend who became a pro athlete before he had his learner’s permit. It strives to connect viewers to the deep connection skaters have with their art, it clues you in on Tony Hawk’s countless contributions to the sport, and acknowledges that most guys in their 50s shouldn’t be on fast-moving, narrow objects.

You see Tony Hawk falling down a lot. But he also executes tricks that seem to scratch the surface of immortality. Unless you’ve skated a mile in his shoes, can you really pass judgment? One thing’s for sure – after seeing this documentary, I’ll be firing up my wife’s copy of Pro Skater.


Debuts Tuesday, April 5 on HBO and will be available

to stream on HBO Max

Director: Sam Jones

Executive Producers: Mel Eslyn, Jay Duplass, and Mark Duplass


ABOUT SAM JONES
Sam Jones is a director of documentary films and narrative television. He most recently directed an episode of “Ted Lasso” and a film in post-production: “Running With Our Eyes Closed, A Film about Jason Isbell,” which is being co-produced by the Duplass Brothers and Jones.

Jones is the creator and host of the documentary series “Off Camera with Sam Jones,” which had a 219 episode run on DirecTV’s Audience Network from 2013-2020. Jones is also an acclaimed commercial director and recently wrote and directed a series of commercials for OnePlus featuring Robert Downey Jr. He directed the Showtime series “Roadies,” created by Cameron Crowe, and also directed and produced the feature-length Showtime documentary “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued,” a film that reexamines Bob Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes.” In 2002, Jones started his documentary career with “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” which chronicles beloved indie-rock band Wilco’s tumultuous recording of their acclaimed fourth album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Rolling Stone named “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” one of the best rock films of all time.

Jones began his career as a photographer and quickly gained acclaim for his seminal portraits of cultural icons. His work has appeared on the covers of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Time, and many others, and he has had several books published. Jones lives in Los Angeles with his daughters and still loves to skateboard.


 

Review: ‘Inventions that Changed History’ is a Palette Cleansing Delight’ streaming on discovery+

Inventions that Changed HistoryInventions That Changed History reveals the wild and often unbelievable stories behind many of pop culture’s most impactful inventions. Historians, Scientists, Pop Culture Experts and Hollywood Celebrities take us on this wild ride full of information and incredible tales.


Ready to dominate at the next Trivia Night? “Inventions that Changed History” is a light, silly romp that is likely to help your team win a free round. With a mix of historical exposition on familiar inventions– Mr. Potato Head and waterbeds make silly and fascinating segments– it is the perfect palette cleansing alternative to more serious documentaries (or the news). 

Filled with surprising celebrity cameos from fan favorites like Guillermo from “What we do in the Shadows,” Meredith from “The Office,” and Amanda Seals from “Insecure” candidly riffing on a nostalgic parade of core memories for Gen X/ Millennials, the show is a good time all around. In particular, I was locked in learning the origins of the Easy-Bake Oven while simultaneously trying to remember if and how severely I  burned myself– not enough to stop it from being one of my favorite toys. Oh, the 90s! 

A fun concept with plenty of options to explore, this could quickly become a niche favorite. What a treat!


Episodes 1 & 2 Streaming on discovery+ on March 31st

Two episodes premiering weekly through April 14


Executive Producers: Tom Forman, Chuck Dalaklis, Jenny Daly, and Jon Beyer

For Discovery, Wyatt Channell and Howard Swartz serve as executive producers

Scores of Hollywood celebrities like Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lance Reddick (“The Wire”), Nicole Sullivan (MADtv), Haskiri Velazquez (“Saved By The Bell”), Amanda Seales (“Insecure”), Flula Borg (Suicide Squad), Yeardly Smith (“The Simpsons”), Jeff Ross (Comedian), Eric Griffin (Actor/Comedian), Harvey Guillen (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and Rachael Harris (The Hangover), join in on the fun as they take a hysterical and insightful hands-on approach to the inventions that molded their youth and stayed with them into adulthood.


Episode 2 Inventions:

Mr. Potato Head 

Pop Rocks

Corn Cob Holders

Easy Bake Oven 

Box Wine

Rubber Chicken

Listerine

Vending Machines

 

Episode 1 Inventions:

Waterbeds

Barf Bags

Big Mouth Billy Bass

Flushing Toilet

Super Soaker 

Sea-Monkeys

Pool Noodle

Slip ‘N Slide 


 

Review: English language version of animated charmer ‘POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN’ is coming to VOD, Digital, Blu-ray, & DVD in May.

POUPELLE OF CHIMNEY TOWN

Poupelle of Chimney Town is the story of young Lubicchi living among the thick smoke from the chimneys of his isolated town, yearning to see the “stars” — to know the truth — his father always told him about. One Halloween night he meets Poupelle, a man-made of garbage, and together they look to the sky as their adventure begins. Spectacularly beautiful, filled with inspiring performances and splendid music and sound effects, and produced at Tokyo’s famed STUDIO4ºC, Poupelle of Chimney Town brings laughter, tears, and joy.


Perfect for audiences that like their cartoons dramatic and dark, Poupelle of Chimney Town uses polished Japanese animation to tell a complex story of friendship, acceptance, environmentalism, and– the folly of authoritarian states? 

 While many American audiences are familiar with gripping emotional narratives in animation thanks to Pixar’s penchant for powerful tearjerkers, this film elicits a similar pathos but doesn’t pair that with anything cute or cuddly. Instead, the main character is a lonely, friendless child that befriends a foul-smelling creature literally made of trash. Together, the pair adventure around a smog-blanketed city on a mission to open the hearts and minds of Chimney Town and defy the dystopian mind police roving the neighborhoods and assassinating free thinkers. 

To be honest, I found these all to be heavy concepts for a kids’ movie! My most generous comparison is to the subgenre of dark cartoons from the 1980s like “The Secret of Nimh” or “All Dogs Go to Heaven” which– full disclosure– gave me nightmares for most of my childhood. Like those films, “Poupelle of Chimney Town” has many moments of lighthearted fun, comedic dialogue, friendship, and ultimately a ragtag group of kids fighting to do what’s right. The action sequences borrow visuals from beloved video games with nostalgic effects and are loads of fun in particular. Overall, more sophisticated kids and adults will probably find it all charming; I may be a wimp.


The rights in the U.S. and Canada are controlled by Eleven Arts which has appointed Shout! Factory to handle distribution. The film’s home entertainment release will kick off with a premium VOD outing on May 3, 2022,

Digital download availability from May 17,

and  Blu-ray and DVD combination from May 31.


The English-language voice cast of Tony Hale (“Being the Ricardos,” “Veep”), Antonio Raul Corbo (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Stephen Root (“Finding Nemo,” “King of the Hill”), Misty Lee (“Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” “Ultimate Spider-Man”), and Hasan Minhaj (“The Daily Show,” “The Morning Show”).


SXSW 2022 is coming. Here are some films to add to your watch list in this year’s hybrid festival.

It’s here and boy is it happening. This year’s hybrid edition of SXSW 2022 has it all. Here are a handful of films we’re excited about this year.


Linoleum

When a satellite falls from orbit and crashes into the home of a dysfunctional family in suburban Ohio, the father seizes the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by re-creating the machine as his own rocket ship. While his wife and daughter believe he is experiencing a midlife crisis, surreal events begin to unfold around him, forcing him to reconsider how interconnected their lives truly are…

We’ve been living through hell these past few years and could all use a bit of whimsy. Linoleum provides us the opportunity to reconnect with our inner child while simultaneously dissecting the family dynamics. Plus, I think a lot of people forget how incredibly talented Jim Gaffigan is as an actor. Look out for this one.


The Cellar

A woman must confront an ancient and powerful entity after her daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new home.

Shudder has already picked this title up before its SXSW22 premiere. Becoming the best streaming platform for all things genre-related, when they see potential in a film they snap it up ASAP. An old mansion, a new family, a disappearance, The Cellar has my attention.


DIAMOND HANDS: THE LEGEND OF WALLSTREETBETS

It was the perfect storm. A global pandemic. An app aspiring to democratize trading. A group of Reddit users stuck at home with stimulus dollars to burn. And a video game company on its last legs. DIAMOND HANDS is the incredible true story of how an army of retail traders rallied around GameStop to rock our financial system. This is the legend of r/WallStreetBets.

Everyone watched in awe and confusion as GameStop stock began to skyrocket. The fallout was disastrous, but the idea that a bunch of dudes on Reddit were able to completely disrupt the market is pretty much my favorite (anti)capitalist giggle from 2020.

MSNBC Films and NBC News Studios will premiere “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets,” on MSNBC Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET, following the global premiere at SXSW on March 13. “Diamond Hands” is produced by NBC News Studios and ZCDC Films. The film is set to stream later this Spring on Peacock. 


Hypochondriac

A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses function of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

If you’re looking for some kick-ass casting, look no further than Zach Villa in Hypochondriac. Unrecognizable from his American Horror Story seasons, Villa plays the writer-director Addison Heimann‘s words with care. The film is based on Heiman’s own experience with mental health.


The Cow

Synopsis: Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath and her boyfriend find a mysterious younger couple already there — the rental has apparently been double-booked. With nowhere else to go, they decide to share the cabin with these strangers until the next morning. When her boyfriend disappears with the young woman, Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation for their sudden breakup— but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

If you go to IMDB the plot for the film is still under wraps, so SXSW22 fans are in for a treat. I’ve always been a Winona Ryder fan and with Stranger Things revamping her genre status, I cannot wait to see what is in store in this mysterious-sounding plot.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Mickey Mouse is one of the most enduring symbols in our history. Those three simple circles take on meaning for virtually everyone on the planet. So ubiquitous in our lives that he can seem invisible, Mickey is something we all share, with unique memories and feelings. Over the course of his nearly century-long history, Mickey functions like a mirror, reflecting our personal and cultural values back at us. “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” explores Mickey’s significance, getting to the core of what Mickey’s cultural impact says about each of us and about our world.

When I was 19 years old, I moved to California on a whim in hopes of working at Disneyland. During my amazing time performing there (those details are top secret via the stack of NDA’s you sign as a cast member), I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a special individual. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland he presented the world with Mickey Mouse, live and in person. I met that man backstage and had my photo taken with him. The impact Mickey Mouse has had on generations of children and adults is unfathomable. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse will undoubtedly touch a massive audience. As I share Mickey with my own small children now, I can still picture my first meeting with a character so magical I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. He never gets old, pun most definitely intended.


The Prank

Synopsis: Ben is your typical high-school overachiever. He’s organized, careful, goal-oriented and extremely dedicated to school. His best friend, Tanner, couldn’t be more opposite. She is a lackadaisical, messy, slacker, who lives in the moment. They aren’t popular, but they don’t seem to care that much because they have each other. Ben has a stern, mean and cruel physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. She has been teaching at the school for decades and has a reputation for being the hardest, coldest, strictest faculty member. She fails Ben’s entire class unless a student who cheated comes forward. When no one does, Tanner and Ben hatch a plan to ruin he life and frame her for murder on social media.

Social media is such a catalyst for action, terror, and weirdness these days that anything is possible when it is involved. But, it’s this cast that caught my eye. Rita Moreno, Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Keith David, Kate Flannery, and Meredith Salenger will get my butt in a seat. Also, who didn’t have a teacher in high school everyone loathed?


The Unknown Country

An unexpected invitation launches a grieving young woman on a solitary road trip through the American Midwest as she struggles to reconcile the losses of her past with the dreams of her future.

I was first introduced to Lily Gladstone in Certain Women. Her ability to captivate with but a glance is something that is rare. The Unknown Country tackles a beautiful mix of anxiety, grief, and identity, all in a unique road trip movie. It’s a film we’ll be talking about all year.


Sissy

**WORLD PREMIERE**

WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
STARRING: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett, Shaun Martindale, Amelia Lule, April Blasdall, Camille Cumpston

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them, until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered

Listen, girls are mean. We hold grudges and we play dirty, those are just the facts. When friendships are disrupted, those scars last a lifetime. With social media affecting the way we lead our daily lives, SISSY sounds like a perfect storm for great horror.


SOFT & QUIET

Playing out in real time, Soft and Quiet is a runaway train that follows a single afternoon in the life of a female white supremacist as she indoctrinates a group of alt-right women, and together they set out to harass two mixed-raced sisters.

Any film that has the audacity to play out in real time has my attention. I am hardwired to loathe these main characters so I am hoping that some horrible fate befalls them. The plot is socially relevant even if I wish it weren’t. I’ll be paying close attention to how writer-director Beth de Araújo brings her first feature-length film to life.


Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.

At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. I’ll be watching with popcorn in hand knowing that it’s one hell I don’t have to keep in check these days. (*knock on wood) Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

Radical Honesty Teaser from Bianca Poletti on Vimeo.


Slash/Back

Synopsis: Pangnirtung, Nunavut: A sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, wakes up to a typical summer day. No School, no cool boys (well… except one), and 24-hour sunlight. But for Maika and her ragtag friends, the usual summer is suddenly not in the cards when they discover an alien invasion threatening Pang. But these teenagers have been underestimated their whole lives, and using makeshift weapons and their horror movie knowledge, they show the aliens you don’t fuck with the girls from Pang.

Slash/Back is an unexpected coming-of-age film. With some Stranger Things vibes, it tackles tradition, boredom, boys, and aliens. Wait until you see this young cast kicking ass and taking names.


Pirates

New Year’s Eve 1999. Three life long friends drive through London in their tiny Peugeot 205, pumping a UK Garage set from the stereo and arguing about their Avirex jackets and Naf Naf imports. As the eighteen-year olds step into adulthood, they know their lives and friendships are on the brink of change. Determined to end the century on a bang, they drive from place to place in a desperate search for tickets for the best millennium party EVER. In their efforts to end up somewhere, they end up closer together.

I know I’m aging myself but I was 19 on New Year’s Eve 1999. I lived this chaos and hopefulness. Anything was possible during the course of one evening. I’m here for the nostalgia and some solid shenanigans.


Jethica

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.

Wild and collaborative filmmaker, Pete Ohs brings an exciting edge to the indie scene with Jethica. Shot during the pandemic in 2021 and edited live on Twitch, SXSW22 audiences are surely in for some unexpected twists and turns.


The Voice Actress

Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. The voice acting world is changing and she must find a way to reconcile her way of living with the modern industry. As Kingyo prepares for an upcoming audition, she seeks inspiration from the world around her and from her pet goldfish, Asatte. In the face of professional and personal adversity, Kingyo looks decidedly inward for strength through empathy and kindness.

A peek inside the recording booth and inside the mind of a working voice actress. Urara Takano puts a face to the performers we don’t talk enough about. Written, directed, and edited by Anna J. Takayama, we are invited into the world of a veteran voice actress and how she copes with forces beyond her control.


For more information on this year’s SXSW Film Festival click here!

Stayed tuned for Reel News Daily coverage as well as guest posts from Steve Kopian at Unseen Films. We’re making our schedules and doing all we can to bring you everything we’ve got. Stayed tuned!


‘HELLBENDER’ begins streaming today on SHUDDER! It’s gonna rock you to your core.

HELLBENDER

In Hellbender, 16-year-old Izzy (Zelda Adams) suffers from a rare illness that has kept her isolated on a mountaintop with her mother (Toby Poser) her whole life. As Izzy begins to question her sickness, she pushes back against her confinement and secretly befriends Amber (Lulu Adams), another girl living on the mountain, but her newfound happiness is derailed after she eats a live worm as part of a juvenile game and finds an insatiable and violent hunger awakened within her. To understand the hunger, Izzy must learn the dark secrets of her family’s past and the ancient power in her bloodline.


*Originally posted during Fantasia 2021*

Honestly, if I could choose to grow up in another family, it would be the Adams family. I’m not talking about Morticia and Gomez. While I adore that lot, I’m talking about the indie horror filmmaking family. These industrious and smart people consist of Mom, Toby Poser, dad, John Adams, and daughters, Zelda and Lulu. Fantasia 2019 audiences got their first taste of spooky genius with The Deeper You Dig. It was scary, intense, unique, and then some. This year, Fantasia 2021 audiences got to experience a new tale of terror with Hellbender.

Their cinematography is stunning. They really understand how to fill a frame. Their writing feels collaborative. John Adams’ score is deliberate and insanely effective. The songs are so fantastic I would buy their album! Within the first three minutes of Hellbender, I gasped and rocked out. If that’s not a winning film, I don’t know what is.

Zelda Adams as Izzy is so intriguing in her innocence and curiosity. Her journey from child to adult occurs before our eyes, whether we like it or not. Toby Poser, as Mom, is a force of nature. Often telling an entirely emotional story without words. Their chemistry is never forced. This is not always the case when a family works together. In the case of the Adams family, it’s their biggest strength. Their work is dark and that takes trust and guts. And allow me to assure you both are teeming in Hellbender, quite literally. There is one special effect in particular that blew me away. When you see it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s a mother-daughter relationship film that just so happens to center around a witchy heritage. Predictably, deceit under the guise of protection is bound to backfire. Hellbender is about a secret and sacred family history. But, it’s also about the power of the feminine and a slick takedown of any sort of patriarchal structure. The social commentary between the treatment of witches and any female, ever, is glaringly obvious, but no less genius. Hellbender is undoubtedly one of the most kick-ass films from this year’s festival. It’s no wonder it won Best Score and Best Actress (Zelda) in the CHEVAL NOIR AWARD FOR FEATURE FILMS. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to join in their fandom.

*PS- The Adams’ have agreed to let me be part of their family via Instagram. I couldn’t possibly be more excited. I’ll run the camera and hold the boom next time. Also, not afraid to get covered in blood.*


Premieres February 24 on Shudder

Try Shudder Free for 7 Days: http://www.shudder.com

TOPIC series review: Nordic Noir miniseries ‘PIECE OF MY HEART’ grabs you from the very beginning.

PIECE OF MY HEART

(Pala sydämestäni)

In Helsinki, child protection agents, Rita and Laura, work tirelessly to protect children from recurrent trauma. A case becomes personal when it forces Rita to face her own disturbing childhood while Laura struggles to find work-life balance


Episodes 1 -3

Piece Of My Heart boasts a slick story structure. Laura is the newbie in Child Welfare Services and Rita is the old pro with serious baggage. Under a new director and with cases piling up, these two women must immediately pick up each other’s emotional slack to help the children and families under their care. As the plot progresses, clues as to what went wrong in Rita’s last case slowly reveal themselves to the audience. The nuance of performances, especially by women, in this series keeps you glued to your seat. We watch gaslighting, power struggles, intimacy issues, and the navigating of home life. You fully invested in each of them. Director Hanna Maylett and writing team Anna and Aino Lappalainen, masterfully plant the seeds of complexities. You’re kept on your toes in anticipation of something going awry. Leads Lotta Lehtikari and Niina Koponen are striking foils for one another, in every sense. Piece Of My Heart is a genre-bending series of mystery and drama. You’ll be sucked into the show from the very first episode.


***Golden Nymph Jury Special Prize Winner – 2021 Monte-Carlo TV Festival***
***Golden Nymph Television Nomination – 2021 Monte-Carlo TV Festival***

Streaming Exclusively on Topic Beginning February 17th
*Episodes 1-3 available on 2/17 followed by individual episodes each week*


 Directed by: Hanna Maylett (Sisters Apart, Suburban Virgin)
Produced by: Anita Kurvinen (Kotikatu, Tahdon asia)
Written by: Aino Lappalainen (Mersusta seuraava, Evä), Anna Lappalainen (The Spark, Tokio Baby)
Starring: Lotta Lehtikari (Seitsemän, On the Road to Emmaus), Niina Koponen (Urban Family, Rat King), Martin Bahne (The Border, Korso), Saimi Kahri (Täydellinen joulu, Pahan väri), Vilma Sippola (Flowers of Evil, Aktivistit), Manoel Pinto (Armi Aavikko – siinä välissä olin elossa)


About TOPIC
Topic is the boundary-pushing streaming service from First Look Entertainment for thrillers, mysteries, dramas, and documentaries from around the world, serving viewers who crave entertainment beyond the mainstream. Whether it’s a Nordic-noir crime thriller (The Killing), a back-stabbing, an Italian political drama (The Miracle), or a mind-blowing supernatural mystery from Russia (Dead Mountain), Topic expands your view of the world.

Featuring North American premieres, exclusive TV series and film, and programming from more than 40 countries, Topic showcases an unparalleled collection of creators, perspectives, and experiences. Complemented by our Topic Originals, we prioritize bold storytelling and champion underrepresented voices. Topic Originals and exclusives include Oscar® nominee The Letter Room (starring Oscar Isaac), Lambs of God (starring Ann Dowd), BAFTA® nominee The Virtues (starring Stephen Graham), Emmy® nominee The Accidental Wolf (starring Kelli O’Hara), Dark Woods, Gotham Award winning Philly D.A., and Soul City (directed by Chike & Coodie).

Topic is available to US and Canadian audiences on topic.com, AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android & Android TV, Apple TV Channels, Roku Premium Channels, Bell Fibe, and Amazon Prime Video Channels. Topic is part of First Look Entertainment which also includes Topic Studios the award-winning entertainment studio which develops, finances, and produces content for all platforms.


SHUDDER news: ‘THE SPINE OF NIGHT’ to premiere exclusively on SHUDDER on MARCH 24

Shudder, AMC Networks’ premium streaming service for horror, thriller, and the supernatural, announced that The Spine of Night will be available exclusively to stream on the platform starting on Thursday, March 24, 2022. As a Shudder exclusive, the platform will be the only subscription service that will carry the film in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

 The Spine of Night stars an all-star cast of Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Lucy Lawless (“Xena: Warrior Princess”), Patton Oswalt (Young Adult), Betty Gabriel (Get Out), and Joe Manganiello (“True Blood”). The film was co-written and co-directed by Philip Gelatt and Morgan Galen King.


 In The Spine of Night, an ultra-violent fantasy epic, ancient dark magic falls into sinister hands and unleashes ages of suffering onto mankind. A group of heroes from different eras and cultures must band together in order to defeat it at all costs.

THE SPINE OF NIGHT TO PREMIERE EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER ON MARCH 24


 ABOUT SHUDDER

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Unseen Films Sundance (2022) review: ‘NAVALNY’ (coming to CNN and HBOMax in the spring.)

NAVALNY

Follows the man who survived an assassination attempt by poisoning with a lethal nerve agent in August 2020. During his months-long recovery he makes shocking discoveries about the attempt on his life and decides to return home.


My final film for Sundance was  NAVALNY about the Russian opposition leader whom Putin had poisoned with a nerve toxin that if administered correctly shuts off all of your nerves, killing you in a way that looks like a natural death because it dissipates quickly from the body.  The film is an examination of the poisoning by various places including the excellent Bellingcat coupled with a look at Navalny’s career.

Coming into the film after several days of my friends talking it up, I was initially rather disappointed. The early part of the film was kind of dull and run-of-the-mill. The film wasn’t doing anything bad, rather it was hitting the typical points of a story like this. It wasn’t until the poisoning happened that the film clicked and we were off to the races as the story of trying to find a smoking gun link to Putin gave a serious shot of adrenaline into the proceedings. Suddenly there was not only a mystery to be solved but also there was a real danger to the proceedings because other than a stupid person can see clearly how evil Putin is.

I really liked this film a great deal. It’s a compelling story with a connection to current events (the Russian threatened invasion of Ukraine).  You really get a sense of how bad Putin is for his country and the world.

If I have any reservations is that watching the film doesn’t always give us an entirely clear-eyed picture of Navalny. The filmmakers clearly love him, and there’s is no denying he’s at least a seeming better choice than Putin, but there are still questions about his past (links to ultranationalists) and he is a bit too smooth for me to entirely take the word of one film.

Reservations aside the film is highly recommended, if for no other reason than it’s a hell of a story.



To read all of Steve Sundance 2022 coverage, head over to Unseen Films!


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!


Unseen Films reviews: Sundance (2022) Midnight feature ‘FRESH’

Fresh

(Spoilers Ahead)


I have to do this review in two pieces. The first is going to be a no-spoiler review and the second will have more details for those who don’t care about spoilers 

Part 1- No Spoilers

FRESH is the story of Noa, a young lady who is unlucky at love. She bemoans the fact to her friend that she can’t meet anyone nice online. She then meets Steve, a charming doctor in the supermarket. sparks fly and they are soon heading off to a quiet weekend getaway, where Steve reveals his appetites.

Without giving anything away this is a not bad little thriller that suffers from our having been here before and a pace that stretches things to almost two hours.

Part 2- Spoiler filled discussion

FRESH is a really well-made film with great performances, I just wish that the script and the pacing were up to everything else.

No, wait I wish going in the promotional material didn’t use the term “appetites” since it pretty much tells you someone is getting eaten. I suspect that the copywriter thought they were being clever, but the fact is it’s not, and coupled with the film’s love of food you know how this might go.

The real problem here is that after a leisurely first 35 minutes during which things are set up and we aren’t quite sure where this is going to go, the film turns and suddenly we’re in the “heroine is chained in a room genre” that has been done so many times that we can largely figure it out where it’s going. I mean the filmmakers gave Noa a plucky friend who wasn’t certin the trip was a good idea, so you know help is on the way. I felt no suspense while watching the film, other than curiosity about what condition the other trapped girl was going to be in.

It doesn’t help that the film runs almost two hours for no really good reason other than to have some sequences play out to 80’s songs in a “clever” way.  Despite what the film thinks it is not reinventing the wheel, and while entertaining it never really does anything to stand out from an overcrowded subgenre.

While I freely admit the fact that I see way too many films, especially horror/thrillers, every year influenced my feelings for the film, I can’t imagine anyone other than a non-horror film fan being over the moon about this film. (Additionally I also freely admit that the fact I had seen 30 Sundance films before I got to this did influence my feelings)

Then again the cast is so good that I could be wrong.

Ultimately worth a look for the curious.


Fresh will stream exclusively on Hulu starting on March 4.


To read all of Steve’s coverage of Sundance 2022, be sure to head over to Unseen Films!

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!


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: Explore a Riveting Doc with ‘Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery’ on Discovery+ tomorrow!

DEAD MAN’S SWITCH: A CRYPTO MYSTERY

$215 million dollars disappeared in 2018 when Gerry Cotten, CEO of one of North America’s largest crypto exchanges, died suddenly – or did he? Journalists, regulators and crypto enthusiasts are determined to discover what happened to Gerry and the fortunes of 115,000 creditors. Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery tracks a tantalizing unsolved story of deception, greed, corruption, and the potential of unregulated currency to be used for both good and evil.


A mysterious death abroad, $215 million missing, and a deep dive into the murky world of cryptocurrency– what else could you wish for? 

 Dead Man’s Switch is a captivating watch where viewers can’t be sure if they’re diving into the story of a heist, fraud, or perhaps even a murder mystery. Exploring the meteoric rise and dramatic fall of Quadriga CX, one of North America’s largest crypto exchanges, the documentary examines fascinating possibilities about what happened to its charismatic leader Gerry Cotten and– potentially more important for the many investors– where did all that money go? 

 A sharp group of journalists, crypto enthusiasts, and once-friends of Gerry provide detailed commentary on the allure of cryptocurrency and the tight-knit community that cultivated Cotten’s success. While the tales from the early years of Quadriga CX sound similar to many other tech startups– fun, fratty, communal– when the crypto markets start to slip, cracks in the facade begin to show. But it is not until Gerry Cotten dies suddenly in 2018 that the true mystery begins. 

 This doc is a fun watch for those intrigued by true crime or big tech, and also serves as an excellent primer for anyone itching to join in on fiery crypto-conspiracy Reddit boards.


Streaming on discovery+ on December 23rd


Written and Directed by Sheona McDonald (When Dreams Take Flight)

*Official Selection – Hot Docs 2021*
*Official Selection – Calgary International Film Festival*
*Official Selection –  DOXA*
*Official Selection – Melbourne Documentary Film Festival*
*Official Selection – Gimli Film Festival*


Review: ‘THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL’ is my newest holiday tradition.

THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL

Created by and starring drag superstars BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon, “The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special” is the story of two queens who set out to create a classic Christmas TV variety show, but just can’t agree on how.


If you like involuntary fits of maniacal laughter, look no further than The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special this December. Listen, Christmas and camp go together like eggnog and arguing with your crazy uncle over dinner. Ah, the holidays.

These two magnificent drag stars are the perfect pairing in personality and visual aesthetic. BenDelaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are two of my favorite performers. If you know the drag world, they are household names. DeLa is perky sunshine personified while Jinkx is more dark, tawdry, and sardonic. Their comic timing is a thing of the gods. The overall mid-century vibe that these two carry with their brand works in tandem with the classic holiday specials from Bing Crosby and friends. As someone who grew up in Connecticut, the regional-specific jokes are spot on. Everything just works in spectacular fashion.

The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special is a celebration of inclusivity, told through the destruction of the ridiculousness that is Christianity, and damnit, it is chef’s kiss. The musical numbers are friggin bops. These ladies have the pipes to back them up. The lyrics are snarky, innuendo-filled treats. And, my god, the decadent costumes are delicious. Does The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special make me want to host a booze-soaked watch party shindig? You bet your sweet ass it does. I found my new holiday tradition.


JINX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL is available :

In theaters from December 13 (North America): Showing in Alamo Drafthouse theaters across the country. Click here for participating cities.

On Digital Globally: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu

On DVD and Blu-ray: Available from the official site


 

Review: Family sci-fi ‘PORTAL RUNNERS’ is now Streaming & On Demand worldwide.

When 15-year-old Nolan (Siegel) discovers a secreted family legacy and a portal that enables him to travel to parallel worlds, it’s a young boy’s dream come true … until it becomes a nightmare when he realizes he’s being pursued across the ages by an evil force. When he becomes stranded on Christmas in an alternate timeline with his quirky family and a rebellious and petulant older sister he’s never met before, he realizes Mae (Eberle) may be the key to defeating his adversary and must enlist her help fast … before it’s too late for them all.


Science fiction and Christmas are an odd pair (more Machine Gun Kelly / Megan Fox than Meg Ryan / Tom Hanks), but Cornelia Duryée’s Portal Runner is out to prove they can be a match made in movie heaven. If you were a child of the 90s, this film has everything that could possibly be on your Christmas list: multiple dimensions, a plucky young hero pursued by a shadowy evil force, a missing father figure, and booby traps (can I get a “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal?”) There’s even sibling rivalry and some Y2K references for extra yuletide cheer. Mix it all together and you’ve got fun for the whole family.

Nolan (Sloane Morgan Siegel) is the Portal Runner, your average normal 15-year-old. Oh, except he can use mirrors to travel between dimensions. And he’s being chased by an otherworldly monster that murdered his whole family. Just in time for Christmas, Nolan finally finds what he believes to be a safe dimension. Only, in this dimension, Nolan suddenly has a sister (Elise Eberle).

At this point, you might be asking yourself… is this really a kid’s movie? Duryée wisely spoons out the action in small doses. Most of the narrative is wisely focused on Nolan adjusting to his new sibling dynamic with Eberle’s Mae. Their dynamic is fresh and easygoing, and by the end of the film, you believe the lengths they would go to protect each other.

The film also gets as much juice as possible out of its 1999 setting. I loved the infomercials playing in the background of many scenes, and the Y2K-fearing Uncle Boon (Brian Lewis) steals scene after scene. You’ll never take your dishwasher for granted again.

While moments of Portal Runner may indeed be too dark for younger children, its compelling themes of family and bravery make it well worth adding to your Christmas watching list.



  A nail-biting, action-packed, sci-fi adventure for the entire family, Portal Runner begins streaming and is available On Demand Dec. 10 from Kairos Productions and Terror Films.

Portal Runner can be seen worldwide on Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Kings of Horror, TubiTV, Roku, Film Freaks, Microsoft Movies & TV, and Jungo+.

Starring Elise Eberle (Mae), Shameless, Salem, The Last Tycoon, Tiger Eyes, Lemonade Mouth, The Astronaut Farmer; Sloane Morgan Siegel (Nolan), Dwight in Shining Armor, The Call, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, Partners and as the voice of Time Drake/Robin in the Gotham Knights video game; Carol Roscoe (Mom/Klara), Language Arts, If There’s a Hell Below, West of Redemption, The Dark Horse and Joanna in The Gamers trilogy; and Brian S. Lewis (Uncle Boon), The Gamers series, Dwight in Shining Armor, JourneyQuest.

Portal Runner was directed by Cornelia Duryée (Language Arts, West of Redemption, The Dark Horse, Camilla Dickinson) from a screenplay by Tallis Moore (JourneyQuest, The Gamers: Dorkness Rising), based on a story by J.D. Henning.


DOC NYC (2021) review: Questlove Flawlessly Mixes Music + History in ‘SUMMER PF SOUL’

SUMMER OF SOUL

In his acclaimed debut as a filmmaker, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson presents a powerful and transporting documentary—part music film, part historical record created around an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion. Over the course of six weeks in the summer of 1969, just one hundred miles south of Woodstock, The Harlem Cultural Festival was filmed in Mount Morris Park (now Marcus Garvey Park). The footage was largely forgotten–until now. SUMMER OF SOUL shines a light on the importance of history to our spiritual well-being and stands as a testament to the healing power of music during times of unrest, both past and present. The feature includes concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Mahalia Jackson, B.B. King, The 5th Dimension and more.


Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s directorial debut is simply brilliant. It might almost be a given that as a world-famous and beloved D.J., every musical and visual choice in Summer of Soul masterfully cultivates a vibe and maintains that dazzling energy for the length of the entire film. In addition to showcasing a great party, Summer of Soul provides viewers with the essential historical and cultural context to fully appreciate what they are witnessing. Through passionate first-person narratives from attendees, the film balances what in less experienced hands might have become merely a history lesson with one hell of a show. 

 Piecing together recently discovered footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, Summer of Soul is a celebration of black culture as it transitioned from the tumult of the 1960s into the black liberation movement of the 1970s. In a time of great uncertainty and political unrest, the concert series set in Mt. Morris Park was a time for black pride and celebration. The film includes never before seen live performances by a young Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Nina Simone, and many more. Every shot is colorful, powerful, and tells a story. The music is phenomenal. The costumes are dazzling– maybe men should reconsider brightly colored ruffle shirts?– the Black Panthers provided security in full regalia, including the berets. Each shot is a wonder and a visual feast. 

 Summer of Soul is a vital inclusion to narratives around the Summer of Love and essential addition to understanding the complete history of the era.


SUMMER OF SOUL premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award. It is streaming on Hulu in conjunction with Disney General Entertainment’s Onyx Collective; Searchlight Pictures released it theatrically.


Discovery + review: ‘SET!’ invites you to take a seat at one of the weirdest and most wonderful competitive sports you’ve never heard of.

Once a year, a group of feverishly determined table setters vie for the “Best of Show” ribbon at the Orange County Fair table setting competition. Often referred to as “The Olympics of Table Setting,” contestants can spend over 6 months preparing their table to compete and ultimately be judged. A merely misplaced soup spoon can mean the end for an otherwise perfect table. But like any competition, it is not without its dramatics. Old rivalries, controversy, and eccentric personalities come to a head as SET! explores topics far beyond the silverware.


Competitive tablescaping? Yes, you read that correctly. What, praytell, is competitive tablescaping? Well, it’s only the most amazing, strange, imaginative, cutthroat sport you’ve probably never heard of. Each year, under the guidance of a specific theme, competitors create place settings that will either wow or ward off a panel of judges and their fellow contestants. In SET!, director Scott Gawlik documents the six months leading up to the annual Orange County Fair table setting competition and its coveted “Best In Show” ribbon. 

Every inch and angle of cutlery and drinking glasses amounts to a point total. Scores are a cumulative system where one tiny mistake could cost you the top prize, which I think is bragging rights and not the 50 cent ribbon. What makes this sport so massively entertaining comes down to the interpretation of the theme and the competitors’ personalities. In SET!, featured competitors are not shy about sharing their opinions. More often than not, they’re downright catty. 

The judging is rigid. The rules are clear, but that doesn’t mean some of the comments aren’t questionable. Gawlik presents this aspect with glorious tongue-in-cheek energy through the film’s editing. But the drama pervades the entire process. A mostly female-dominated pastime, SET! also features a male competitor, Tim, who made his Dr. Suess-themed table on a literal dime. Others spend thousands on a single display. The snark, the tears, and the infighting make SET! something akin to Christopher Guest‘s Best In Show and The Real Housewives. The eccentricities of our featured contestants make SET! popcorn-worthy, high-stakes drama. The final displays vary in size, tone, and unconventionality. Some tables are complex, while others are simple and clean. But it’s the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of SET! that holds you captive. I never thought I’d be so invested in the placement of a water glass, and yet, here I am wondering what my holiday table will look like a month from now. 


Streaming on discovery+ on November 12th

Directed by Scott Gawlik

*Official Selection – Hot Docs 2021*
*Official Selection – Newport Beach Film Festival*


Soho International Film Festival short review: ‘KLUTZ.’ is a creative and thought-provoking meditation on grief.

Zowie lost her sister and is falling down on the job of life. Can’t love. Won’t go out. Refuses to work properly. But she stumbles upon an accidental superpower: when she falls, when she feels pain — gravity bends so that she can see her sister again. However, the space-time-continuum giveth, the space-time-continuum taketh away, and the next time she hurts, her sister is gone. Frustrated and depleted, Zowie is torn between moving on or withering on the vine. So, in a whiskey-fueled dream-state, she makes a choice: to fall one last time. On purpose.


Grief is a personal journey. When your person gets ripped from your orbit, all bets are off. “Coping” can mean destructive behavior in the form of alcohol, binge eating, even self-harm. Or, grief can manifest itself into the most creative outlets. In Zowie’s case, pain and darkness are where she’s become comfortable. It’s also where her sister appears to her, bringing her momentary joy. In Klutz, Zowie must learn to evolve within her preconceived notions of sadness.

Grief has no timeline. No one can tell you how to process it. It’s not their place. Klutz manages to pull you into Zowie’s emotional orbit. The dialogue is dynamic and thoughtful, at times mired in anguish, while others were playfully silly. I was lucky enough to watch Klutz three times, catching more and more cleverly repeated images each viewing. I adored this short on a personal level. As someone who has lost one of my people, I lived inside this narrative. Klutz is relatable and poetic. It’s a beautifully insightful little film.


Showings – select to order tickets:
  • Runtime:
    14 minutes
  • Language:
    English
  • Country:
    United States
  • Premiere:
    NEW YORK Premiere
  • Note:
    Death
  • Director:
    Michelle Bossy
  • Screenwriter:
    Elizabeth Narciso
  • Producer:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Howard Wallick & Freda Rosenfeld, David Selden & Julie Wallick, Elizabeth Narciso, Scott & Susan Shay
  • Cast:
    Malka Wallick, Mara Kassin, Sanjit De Silva, Geneva Carr, Angel Desai, Wai Ching Ho, Florencia Lozano, Geoffrey Owens



Apple Original Film review: Tom Hanks stars in ‘FINCH,’ a post-apocalyptic road film for the entire family. Premiering globally on Apple Tv+ on Friday, November 5th.

An Apple Original Film

FINCH

In “Finch,” a man, a robot and a dog form an unlikely family as Tom Hanks stars in a powerful and moving adventure of one man’s quest to ensure that his beloved canine companion will be cared for after he’s gone. Hanks stars as Finch, a robotics engineer and one of the few survivors of a cataclysmic solar event that has left the world a wasteland. But Finch, who has been living in an underground bunker for a decade, has built a world of his own that he shares with his dog, Goodyear. He creates a robot, played by Caleb Landry Jones (“Get Out,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”), to watch over Goodyear when he no longer can. As the trio embarks on a perilous journey into a desolate American West, Finch strives to show his creation, who names himself Jeff, the joy and wonder of what it means to be alive.


The environmental inevitability of our planet is the backdrop of Finch. Tom Hanks plays the titular role. He’s a scientist surviving with his dog and his rover pet Dewey. His goal is to create a robot with the capabilities of protecting Goodyear when he passes on. This rag-tag crew attempts to outrun a superstorm by escaping St. Louis to San Francisco in a 1980s RV. Finch becomes a hilarious and heartwarming road movie you never saw coming.

Tom Hanks has an undeniable ability to play grounded humor in the simplest moments. We all know his talent in the drama department. You’ll always get every last ounce of life from him. But it is his quiet hope that holds your heart captive. Hanks keeps getting better and better with every role. Finch is another notch in his brilliant career.

Caleb Landry Jones as Jeff is brilliant. His performance has a childlike quality that melts your heart. The script smartly allows Jones to explore every human emotion for the first time. The savant aspect combined with its innocence reminded me of my five-year-old autistic son. The linear and literal way of expression was something so familiar. Jones’s energy will undoubtedly speak to every single parent. His physical performance is through motion capture, and it alone is award-worthy. Hanks and Jones’ chemistry is the stuff of movie magic.

The visual grandeur of Finch places you in the desolate environment and squarely in the sadness of its isolated reality. The sets are astounding. Post-apocalyptic buildings covered in dust and graffiti, cars strewn across freeways, debris of all kinds scattered as far as the eye can see, the set dressing and visual FX teams nailed every inch of the landscape. The created technology is retrofuturistic. The design and personality of Jeff are comforting, lying somewhere between The Iron Giant and Big Bird. His intricate workings are impressive but never distract from the audience bonding with him.

Humanity, knowledge, legacy, and friendship, and family; these universal themes set Finch apart as a film. It encompasses the full spectrum of human experiences in just under two hours. Finch is an instant classic. You’ll feel good sitting down and viewing this with everyone in your family. It’s extraordinary.


Premieres globally on Apple TV+ on Friday, November 5

Cast:

Finch: Tom Hanks

Jeff: Caleb Landry Jones

 

Director: Miguel Sapochnik

Screenplay By: Craig Luck and Ivor Powell

Produced By: Kevin Misher, Jack Rapke, Jacqueline Levine, and Ivor Powell

Executive Producers: Robert Zemeckis, Craig Luck, Miguel Sapochnik, Andy Bermanand, and Adam Merims

 

ABOUT APPLE TV+

Apple TV+ is available on the Apple TV app in over 100 countries and regions, on over 1 billion screens, including iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, popular smart TVs from Samsung, LG, Sony, VIZIO, TCL and others, Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices, Chromecast with Google TV, PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles, and at tv.apple.com, for $4.99 per month with a seven-day free trial. For a limited time, customers who purchase and activate a new iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac or iPod touch can enjoy three months of Apple TV+ for free*.

 

For more information, visit apple.com/tvpr and see the full list of supported devices.