Review: In Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson’s ‘Manifest West,’ Milo Gibson goes off-grid to escape family turmoil.

MANIFEST WEST

Dave moves his wife, Alice, and two young daughters, Riley and Mary, to a remote cabin in the American wilderness. Where guns and boredom meet the desire to push society away, MANIFEST WEST sees tensions rise when Dave’s new way of living shirks the norms.

Tim Heidecker plays against type as gun-wielding hyper-conservative neighbor Steve Danik. Michael Cudlitz counters Heidecker with his performance as neighbor Eric Lind. He is kind and thoughtful with his actions and words.

Annet Mahendru gives Alice palpable manic desperation. Her ability to jump from one emotion to another in the same breath is impressive. It is one hell of a turn. Milo Gibson is Dave Hayes. His character arc almost feels like the audience is witnessing a slow-motion car crash. Gibson brings not-so-subtle anger and protective alpha energy.

Lexy Kolker plays Riley with perfect corruptable innocence. She gives a performance that is nothing short of captivating. Kolker takes in each beat with precision. Her slow burn of resentment is a ticking time bomb.

MANIFEST WEST addresses a myriad of current and alarming themes in America. The score is melancholy and ominous. Writer-directors Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson use the girls’ history text as a smart foreshadowing device. Antigovernment sentiment compounds the simmering chaos. Add Alice’s deteriorating bipolar disorder, and you have a powder keg. Children learn from their parents, for better or for worse. MANIFEST WEST runs head-on with its relevance to a shocking conclusion.


Trailer: 

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release Date:  The film is now in theaters and VOD/Digital!
Writer/Directors: Joe Dietsch, Louie Gibson
Starring: Annet Mahendru, Milo Gibson, Lexy Kolker, Tim Heidecker, Michael Cudlitz




DOC NYC review: David Siev’s ‘BAD AXE’ features hope pushing past hate. IFC will release one of the year’s best docs in theaters and on digital tomorrow!

BAD AXE

Synopsis: ​​After leaving NYC for his rural hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, at the start of the pandemic, Asian American filmmaker David Siev documents his family’s struggles to keep their restaurant afloat. As fears of the virus grow, deep generational scars dating back to Cambodia’s bloody “killing fields” come to the fore, straining the relationship between the family’s patriarch, Chun, and his daughter, Jaclyn. When the BLM movement takes center stage in America, the family uses its collective voice to speak out in their conservative community. What unfolds is a real-time portrait of 2020 through the lens of one multicultural family’s fight stay in business, stay involved, and stay alive.


The Siev family patriarch Chun is a Cambodian refugee who came to the US to attain the American Dream. He and his wife Rachel opened a donut shop named Baker’s Dozen. Times were hard, and money was tight, but the Siev family stuck together and thrived. In 2000 they opened Rachel’s, a family restaurant in their hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan.

Director and only son in the Siev pack, David had the foresight to capture the upheaval of his family and their community beginning in March 2020. Like many families, the Sievs found their adult children moving back into their homes to help their vulnerable parents. Bad Axe is a small, tight-knit town with two stoplights. It’s a nice place to raise a family. When lockdown begins, local tension boils over, and the Siev family becomes targets of racism and conspiracy theories.

The eldest daughter, Jaclyn, has palpable anxiety. She tries her hardest to protect her father. The tension and stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The family’s livelihood, quite literally, is on the line. Siblings, Michelle and Raquel, joined by Jaclyn’s husband Mike, Rachel’s boyfriend Austin, and a small handful of Rachel’s loyal employees, work day and night to feed the community and maintain a sense of normalcy while facing political and racial upheaval.

The intimate nature of Bad Axe is visceral. The Siev family could be anyone’s neighbors. They are friendly, hardworking, and respectful members of their community. They bug each other as much as they love each other. They remind me of my holidays when all four siblings invade our childhood home with inside jokes, arguments, and an unconditional adoration for one another.

Chun is a fascinating member of the family. He is a proud man. An opinionated individual, a responsible gun owner, and a survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, Chun’s unresolved trauma reveals itself in harsh words toward Jaclyn. He knows it and owns it. His emotional journey is everything.

The footage of the Black Lives Matter confrontation made my palms sweat. The aftermath of ignorant racist attacks will undoubtedly infuriate you. You will not believe the sheer terror these people have to endure. The courage of the Siev family makes my heart swell. Their bravery to move forward in the face of chaos is astounding. David’s commitment to telling their story gives audiences a peek inside the hatred stirred up by those in politics and the media that I refuse to give fuel by naming them. We all know who is responsible for the uptick of hate. May he lose again and again.

While we witness the many trials and tribulations alongside the Siev family, in the end, BAD AXE is a love letter to an ever-evolving community and an ode to a family that believes love conquers all. I can easily say Bad Axe is one of the year’s best documentaries.


BAD AXE — Directed by David Siev

New York Premiere — Winner’s Circle — IFC Films Release on Nov 18, 2022

Produced by ​​Jude Harris, Diane Quon, Kat Vasquez, David Siev 

Executive Produced by Daniel Dae Kim, Jeff Tremaine

Featuring Chun Siev, Rachel Siev, Jaclyn Siev, Skylar Janssen, Michael Meinhold

 

Screenings:

Online Screening Window – Sunday, November 13, 2022 12am through Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 11:59pm

Run Time: 102 minutes


 

Review: ‘The Friendship Game’ explores the dangers of our deepest and darkest desires

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME

From the Producer of THE WITCH and the Writer of “The OA”

Four best friends play a mysterious game procured at a tag sale, testing their relationship in unpredictable and terrifying ways. Glitchy body doubles and piecemeal memories are only the beginning of the nightmare-fueled film.

Performances from our five leads are exceptional. Dylan Schombing plays Kyle, a young webcam hacker essential to the audience following any trace of sense. Schombing’s eyes speak volumes. Kelcey Mawema is Court. She has a party-girl spirit with a drinking problem that hides an inferiority complex. Mawema gives us a solid performance, never letting herself become a third wheel as the story progresses. Peyton List plays Zooza. This role is a departure for List, even with her darker character of Cobra Kai. You cannot help but focus on her turmoil.

Brendan Meyer (who I loved in OA, and am still bitter we didn’t get our ending…) plays Rob with a trustworthy boy-next-door aura. But, Ober’s script allows him to explore a nuance that Meyer owns. Kaitlyn Santa Juana‘s turn as Cotton is enthralling. She is the thread we follow through the film as we unravel the game. There’s an “it” quality about her I cannot pin down, but I’m dying to see her in whatever she does next.

The script had me hanging on every word, every visual, and mind-ending twist. Writer Damien Ober and director Scooter Corkle hypnotize audiences with dizzying editing combined with slowly leaking reveals. It’s a ceaselessly engrossing marriage of devices. Add on the notable red/ blue lighting and jarring soundscape, and The Friendship Game holds you captive from the very first frame. It is emotional manipulation at its finest.

RLJE Films will release the thriller/horror film THE FRIENDSHIP GAME in theaters, on-demand, and digital on November 11, 2022.

SYNOPSIS: The Friendship Game follows a group of teens as they come across a strange object that tests their loyalties to each other and has increasingly destructive consequences the deeper into the game they go.

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME stars Peyton List (“Cobra Kai”), Brendan Meyer (“The OA”), Kelcey Mawema (To All the Boys I’ve Loved franchise), Kaitlyn Santa Juana (“The Flash”) and Dylan Schombing (“Watchmen”). The film was written by Damien Ober (“The OA”) and directed by Scooter Corkle (Hollow in the Land).


 

Review: In theaters today, Eva Green and Chai Fonacia star in ‘NOCEBO,’ a mysterious revenge horror mixing ethics and folk healing.

NOCEBO

In NOCEBO, a fashion designer (Eva Green) suffers from a mysterious illness that confounds her doctors and frustrates her husband (Mark Strong) – until help arrives in the form of a Filipino nanny (Chai Fonacier) who uses traditional folk healing to reveal a horrifying truth.


After a mysterious phone call and a simultaneous encounter with a mangy dog riddled with ticks, Christine’s physical and mental health rapidly declines. Suffering from sleep apnea, nightmares, forgetfulness, and sharp, debilitating pains at any given moment, her already vulnerable marriage and successful fashion design career teeter on the edge of destruction. When Filipina Nanny Diana arrives at her door, Christine does not recall sending for her, but the extra set of hands proves life-changing, for better or worse.

Diana’s integration into the family lands somewhere between awkward and essential. Husband Felix and young daughter Roberta (they call her Bobs) are caught in the middle, allowing for gaslighting from Felix and growing distrust from Bobs. Add in the class distinction with Christine and her family living in a lavish mansion, while Diana arrives with nothing but a single suitcase, mostly filled not with clothing. Writer-director Lorcan Finnegan utilizes flashbacks of Diana’s life to illustrate the glaring contrast. Little by little, the audience begins to piece things together, but not before being disturbed by the effects of Diana’s folk healing methods.

Finnegan uses the color red in many specific instances; lipstick, curtains, and, most impactfully, Christine’s lucky shoes. The color is a sumptuous visual punch set against the mostly jewel-toned house. Finnegan understands the assignment.

As the story progresses and the truth reveals itself, your view of each character shifts. Eva Green plays Chrissy with both a manic and ruthless angle. She is a master at living inside the skin of a character, and Christine is no exception. Chai Fonacier is Diana. This juicy role allows us to see Fonacier’s massive range. I would watch her in all the things, as they say.

Radek Ladczuk‘s cinematography, which I loved in Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and The Nightingale, is just as emotionally jarring in both overt and subtle forms. The closeups of hands, small objects, and facial features pull the audience into the overall mystery of Christine’s ailment and the impact of her family.

*********The next paragraph has a bit of a spoiler. Skip it to keep the mystery intact!*********

*******SPOILER ALERT*******

In the credits, just after the music tracks, I noticed bold text reading, “Justice for all Kentex workers.” A quick Google search led me to a story from 2015 in Manila in which a factory fire killed 72 factory workers after they were trapped on the second floor. Metal grates on the windows prevented them from escaping a horrifying death. We have heard so many of these same stories of unsafe sweatshop conditions. NOCEBO I pulls directly from the 2015 tragedy, making the film all the more terrorizing.

****** End Of Spoiler Info******

NOCEBO boasts a jaw-dropping and shockingly dark finale. Mixing folklore and revenge horror never miss. The term “nocebo” comes from the Latin to harm. The Oxford definition reads: “a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative expectations of treatment or prognosis.” Finnegan slickly lulls you into one genre, then pulls the rug out from underneath us. The truth will either set you free or destroy you. NOCEBO is here to remind us all.


RLJE Films will release NOCEBO in theaters on Nov. 4, 2022 and on Demand and Digital on Nov. 22, 2022. The film will stream on Shudder at a later date.



Directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Vivarium) and written by Garret Shanley (Without Name), NOCEBO stars Eva Green (Casino Royale), Mark Strong (1917), Chai Fonacier (Jesus Is Dead) and Billie Gadsdon (Cruella).





Review: Based on one of the greatest warriors in history, ‘MEDIEVAL’ is yet another star vehicle for Ben Foster.

MEDIEVAL

 ARRIVES ON DIGITAL OCTOBER 25th AND ON DVD & BLU-RAY DECEMBER 6th

Synopsis: Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) and Academy Award® Winner Michael Caine* (The Cider House Rules) star in the action-packed historical epic inspired by the true story of daring mercenary leader Jan Žižka, one of greatest warriors in history. After the death of its emperor, the Holy Roman Empire plummets into chaos while corrupt kings battle for control of the empty throne. To battle the tyranny and greed of those clawing for power, Jan must lead a rebel army in this sweeping saga of war and betrayal.


1402 and politics and religion clash in the new historical epic Medieval. This wickedly violent retelling of arguably the greatest warrior to ever live, Jan Žižka. With Europe in turmoil and freedom at stake, one man leads a rebel army against all odds.

Michael Caine gives a memorable performance even if his screen time is brief. Matthew Goode is positively vile. He is slyly punchable, and if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. Sophie Lowe, who I adored in Blow The Man Down, holds her own against the predominantly male cast. Her chemistry with Foster feels natural. I found myself pulled into their dynamic more and more.

I met Ben Foster when we both attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan in 1994. Within minutes, I knew he’d be a star. Few actors can disappear into a character. Foster is unstoppable in his pursuit to perfect his craft. In Medieval, he possesses compelling and quiet strength as Žižka. Foster makes everything look effortless, from the fight choreography to the passionate drama. He is magnificent. If you need further proof that he’s the leading man you’ve been waiting for, look no further than Medieval.

The film boasts massive and elaborate fight sequences. The cinematography is beautiful, and the score is luscious. Overall the film is reminiscent of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), and I mean that as a compliment. It deserves the best-quality screen you can find. The script is a lot. Keep your ears sharp to keep track of the ever-evolving chaos. MEDIEVAL is undeniably entertaining at every turn. If for no other reason than to witness a masterclass in acting from Ben Foster. He earns and then demands your full attention.


 Official Trailer:

On Digital October 25th and On DVD & Blu-ray December 6th

 

Website: www.medieval.film

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/medievalmovieus/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Medieval-Movie-109224965060431

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theavenue_film

Starring:                                              

Ben Foster, Sophie Lowe, Til Schweiger, Matthew Goode and Michael Caine*

Written and Directed By:                     

Petr Jákl

Story By:                                             

Peter Bok & Petr Jákl Sr.

Based on the previous screenplay by:  

Marek Dobeš and Michal Petruš

  

*2000/Best Actor in a Supporting Role/The Cider House Rules

‘ACADEMY AWARD®’ is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


Genre:                                                 

Action

Run Time:                                            

125 minutes

Rating:                                                

Rated R for strong and grisly violent content throughout, and some nudity.

Distributor:                                         

Paramount Pictures


Review: Executive produced by Snoop Dogg, ‘BROMATES’ is an over-the-top buddy comedy, chock full of hilarious performances.

BROMATES

Two best friends go through breakups and decide to move in together. Total opposites, Sid and Jonesie, make great buddies but not-so-great roomies. To help Sid move on from his ex, Jonesie revs up Sid’s confidence leading to a journey that’s the most random path to healing ever. BROMATES boasts a ton of laughs and cameos. Part road movie, part buddy comedy, and a bit of climate change activism, it’s funny as hell.

Jessica Lowe is positively loathsome as influencer girlfriend Sadie. You cannot help but laugh at her ridiculously aloof behavior. Brendan Scannell as Runway Dave and Asif Ali as Angry Mike provide the added laughs to round out our group of guys. They give unforgettable performances.

Josh Brener plays Sid, a whipped Instagram boyfriend, and solar energy employee. His downer straight man act perfectly counters Howery’s positive energy. Lil Rel Howery is Jonesie, and he is the best thing in BROMATES. Laugh out loud hysterical. His relentless optimism is infectious. Joke after joke, the delivery is so natural I could not tell you if any of his lines were improvised. He is that good.

The script has honest Hangover vibes. While I wish the film focused more on actual roommate scenarios and less on the wacky road trip aspect, I still laughed my ass off. The climate change aspect is subtle and pitch-perfect. Kudos to the writers for using it effectively. The numerous cameos and ancillary characters no doubt strengthen the film, from beginning to end. Rob Riggle, Flula Borg, and Parvesh Cheena leave lasting impressions. In the end, raunchy and over-the-top, BROMATES is undeniably goofy as hell. You’ll laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.


Available in THEATERS, on DIGITAL and ON DEMAND, OCTOBER 7th, 2022

 

Genre: buddy comedy with a focus on clean energy
Opens: Oct 7 in Theaters, Oct 28 on VOD from Quiver
Directed by: Court Crandall (writer of classic comedy Old School)
Executive Produced by: Chris Kemper and Snoop Dogg
Starring: Josh Brener (“Silicon Valley”), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), Brendan Scannell (“Heathers”), Asif Ali (“Don’t Worry Darling”, “WandaVision”), Jessica Lowe (“Minx,” “The Righteous Gemstones”), Flula Borg (Pitch Perfect), Ken Davitian (Borat), Taryn Manning (“Orange Is the New Black”), Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”), Rob Riggle (The Hangover), with a cameo from Snoop Dogg

Review: THE VISITOR’s core mythology overcomes challenging script.

Have you ever heard that joke about the old man facing the end of days? He’s given multiple escalating opportunities to escape (in the version I’ve heard, potential rescuers come by first with a car, then a boat, then a helicopter) Through it all, the old man stays steadfast in his belief that God will save him. When he inevitably perishes, he confronts God and demands to know why his faith wasn’t rewarded. God laughs and says, “You idiot! I tried to send you a car, a boat, and a helicopter!”

Justin P. Lange‘s The Visitor is an immensely enjoyable horror film populated by a protagonist who has certainly never heard this joke. Things pretty quickly go amiss when Robert (Finn Jones) relocates from London to his wife’s small town. While settling into her childhood home, Robert finds a mysterious portrait in her attic. It is of a man referred to only as “The Visitor”, and he bears a striking resemblance to Robert.

While Maia (Jessica McNamee) laughs this off as a coincidence, this and other factors about town set Robert on edge. Jones does a good job of telegraphing Robert’s slowly deepening dread, but he’s fighting a losing battle against the film’s script. Things are obviously amiss in this town. Everyone is way too friendly, and certainly too grateful that Robert and Maia have moved back to town. I thought of Jordan Peele’s superb Get Out, where the protagonist similarly squirms against the discomfort of his circumstances. In that film, the audience was made to question their instinctual doubts and allegiances. Here, the red flags are far less subtle.

There is still much to like in The Visitor. The core performances are uniformly strong. Jones and McNamee have nice unforced chemistry, and I wished the film had given us more time with them. It is effectively paced (86 minutes!) and contains several genuinely frightful and inventive scares. I especially loved the way the film leveraged the biblical plagues without feeling the need for too much supporting exposition.

While I found some of The Visitor’s narrative beats obvious, I also found the core mythology of The Visitor somewhat irresistible. It could offer franchise potential. If someone is willing to paint another portrait, I’d be willing to take another look.


Paramount Home Entertainment will release the psychological horror/thriller filmTHE VISITOR on Digital and On Demand on October 7, 2022 and it will stream on EPIX in December 2022. The film is part of the Blumhouse Television and EPIX deal to produce eight original films together. Building on Blumhouse Television’s success with the Welcome to the Blumhouse movies slate for Amazon and Into the Dark anthology series for Hulu, the deal is the first-of-its-kind for EPIX, which is adding films to its growing slate of premium original content.

THE VISITOR stars Finn Jones (“Game of Thrones”), Jessica McNamee (Mortal Kombat), Dane Rhodes (Where the Crawdads Sing) and Donna Biscoe (“Saints & Sinners”). The film was written by Adam Mason (Songbird) & Simon Boyes (Songbird) and directed by Justin P. Lange (The Seventh Day). The film was Executive Produced by Bradley Pilz, Greg Gilreath, Adam Hendricks, Jeremy Gold, Chris McCumber, David Grove Churchill Viste and Jason Blum.


Official trailer drop: A bloody cool concept, ‘SAWED OFF’ arrives on digital and DVD October 11th.

SAWED OFF is coming to digital and DVD on October 11th. The synopsis reads as follows “In the vein of “THE EVIL DEAD meets GROUNDHOG DAY,” the movie centers on two hunters, friends for years and vying for the affections of the same woman, who find themselves on cursed land and keep killing each other and coming back to life.” From what I can make out from the trailer, the concept is really cool. Whether it translates into production remains to be seen. Color me intrigued. Stay tuned for coverage.

Uncork’d Entertainment has acquired SAWED OFF, a new supernatural horror feature based on a comic anthology story and starring Eva Hamilton (RUIN ME, DEATH KISS), Jody Barton (UGLY SWEATER PARTY), and Trae Ireland (13/13/13).

Hunter Johnson (IRRATIONAL FEAR) produces and directs.  The screenplay is by Barton, Johnson, and Chuck Wagner, based on Wagner’s Eclipse Comics story “Bag Limit,” published in TALES OF TERROR in 1986.

SAWED OFF will be released on digital platforms and on DVD on October 11.


Capsule Review: Henrika Kull’s ‘BLISS’ (Glück) is a raw and realistic depiction of love.

BLISS

An unconventional LGBTQ love story set in the world of sex workers, Bliss is set in a world where femininity is considered a commodity. Two sex workers fall in love with each other while working in a Berlin brothel. Together – and yet each on her own – they experience the one moment when happiness seems possible – but their love is threatened by different ideas of life and their own abysses.


In private, there is an uncomplicated intimacy between Maria and Sascha, but judgment bubbles to the surface once in mixed company. Self-loathing and regret are deep-seated, a deadly combination for sabotage. The script slowly but slickly reveals Sascha’s inner demons, putting Maria and the audience in an uncomfortable position. The second half of Bliss deals with the ripple of her emotional instability. It’s tricky but familiar. Performances from Katharina Behrens and Eva Collé are spectacular, fearless, and raw. It’s stylistically similar to a docu-drama, and I dug the energy of the entire film. Writer-director Henrika Kull gives audiences a gem.


Available On Digital August 16th

 

Directed by Henrika Kull

Starring Katharina Behrens, Eva Collé (as Adam Hoya), Nele Kayenberg, Jean-Luc Bubert


 

Review: Will ‘CAMPING TRIP’ leave you asking for s’more? (I had to.)

*Resisting the urge to title this review “camping is in tents.”*


Two couples escape the monotony of lockdown by journeying into the woods for a camping trip. When they inadvertently become entangled in a crime, secrets come to light, and things get more intense. What’s a little money and murder between friends?

Performances are fine. I wish I sensed more believable chemistry between our four protagonists. Michael D’ Amico and Jonathan Vanderzon fare better as our villains. Their presence elicited a genuinely visceral reaction.

Camping Trip would benefit from a 15 to 20-minute cut. While the climax is satisfying, by no means did it need that much slow-motion editing. What follows is a confusing shift in relationships that feels forced. Like much of their response to finding a body and a bag filled with money, their decisions are laughable, if not infuriating. If nothing else, it gives the audience a reason to keep watching and wondering how this bungling crew parts ways.

The camera work in the final ten minutes is quite literally dizzying. It also allows the audience to use their imaginations, rather than relying on mediocre fight choreography and the continued use of watered-down practical fx blood. Polly’s particular skill makes for a slick final moment. I had hoped it was featured more in the story. Michel DeMars’ score in this scene, in particular, is perfect. In the end, Camping Trip has an intriguing plot, even if the exposition lacks polish.


FAR FROM COVID FAR FROM SAFE

 

Debuting on Digital On Demand August 16

 

Fuica Film Pictures and 8Cube are delighted to share the new trailer and poster for their upcoming horror, Camping Trip. The sinister thriller will be available on Digital Download from 16th August.

Camping Trip stars Leo Zola (Leonardo Fuica), Caitlin Cameron, Hannah Forest Briand, and Alex Gravenstein and is directed by Leonardo and Demian Fuica, who both make their English language feature-length directorial debuts.


 

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: ‘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: Out on Digital tomorrow, ‘LUX ÆTERNA’ is pure Gaspar Noé chaos.

LUX ÆTERNA

LUX ÆTERNA takes place backstage of a French film production, often utilizing split-screens to follow two characters at once. Charlotte Gainsbourg, acting as herself, plays the film’s — and the film-within-a-film’s — leading role of an actress taking on the role of a witch burned at the stake while French actress Beatrice Dalle, playing a version of herself as well, takes on the on-screen role of director. The film progresses with mounting tension as the set descends into aggressive chaos— both in style, form, and plot. Actress and model Abbey Lee (The Neon Demon), Karl Glusman (Love), Claude-Emmanuelle Gajan-Maull (Climax), Félix Maritaud (Sauvage / Wild, Knife + Heart), and Clara Deshayes also appear as interpretations of themselves.


Narcissism, gaslighting, sexism, celebrity, the industry as a whole, everything is on the line in this 50 minutes of coordinated chaos. Toxicity and ass-kissing intermingled with personal drama, as each actor in LUX ÆTERNA plays a version of themselves. As the tension mounts, who and how will each player respond when “art” is on the line?

The lighting, which comes with a trigger warning before the film begins, is undeniably jarring. Combined with the incessant ringing of an alarm, it’s a visceral invasion. In tandem with the distress of Charlotte on screen, the viewer slowly finds themselves on sensory overload. 

Charlotte Gainsbourg can do no wrong in my book. She possesses a vulnerability that is unsurpassed. The amount of trust she has in Gaspar Noé astounds me with each additional project. Gainsbourg understood the assignment.

In true Gaspar Noé fashion, LUX ÆTERNA  pushes the boundaries of color, sound, and content. Few filmmakers have a style that screams their name, and Noé has cultivated that skill. In a short runtime, LUX ÆTERNA  has a lot to say. Welcome to one of the most unexpected and raw moments of exploitation.


Following a successful theatrical run across the United States from May into early June that put the film in the top 10 indies at the box office, Yellow Veil Pictures will release Gaspar Noe’s LUX ÆTERNA on digital platforms including Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, and more this Friday, June 10th in North America, followed by a 2-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray available summer 2022. LUX ÆTERNA is currently available for digital pre-order on Vimeo on Demand.


Review: ‘THE POLICEMAN’S LINEAGE’ sends ‘Parasite’ stars deep-undercover.

THE POLICEMAN’S LINEAGE

SYNOPSIS: Parasite’s Woo-sik Choi stars as Choi Min-Jae, a rookie police officer and a man of principle, who teams up with Park Gang-Yoon, the chief of an investigation team that has an unrivaled arrest record but includes corrupt methods. Together, the two very different policemen dive deep into a massive case that shakes the police force upside down.


The Policeman’s Lineage is a straightforward cop thriller that manages to keep its head above water despite a reliance on some overused genre themes. To be fair, there have been so many variations of the undercover cop film that innovation is practically impossible.  Director Kyu-mann Lee wisely leans into two key strengths: fresh-faced lead Choi Woo-shik (flush from the success and recognition of the brilliant Parasite), and the theme of paternal mentorship that drives the film’s best moments.

Choi Woo-shik stars as Choi Min Jae, a young, 3rd generation cop with strong morals. He is shown early on to prioritize what he believes to be right above all else, which does not endear him to his fellow officers. Facing bleak career prospects, he is given the opportunity to go (you guessed it) undercover to investigate a special unit touting a top arrest record. Sounds like a great promotion, right? Well, the Internal Affairs chief planning the operation (a steely, understated Park Hee-soon) believes the unit has crossed over the line in its pursuit of justice. It isn’t hard to be suspicious of the unit’s chief, Detective Park (Cho Jin-woong.) Park drives around in a shiny Mercedes, wears designer clothes, and flashes the cash at high-stakes poker tables. Must have a great financial planner!

Choi agrees to go undercover partly out of principle, and partly in exchange for information about his deceased father, who died years ago under mysterious circumstances while working with Detective Park. Detective Park’s team is surprisingly keen to welcome Choi into the fold despite his reputation as a straight-laced, scrupulous officer.

What follows is a mash-up of Point Break meets Platoon, as Choi’s resolve wobbles under the dueling influences of his two opposing supervisors.  Will he stick to his morals and Internal Affairs, or will he grow to sympathize and understand Detective Park’s take-no-prisoners approach to justice? All 3 leads bring compelling performances to the table. Choi Woo-shik is the film’s center of gravity, and he does admirable work digesting all of the necessary plot exposition on behalf of the audience. He continues to be a talent to watch.  Cho Jin-woong has the toughest job of the 3, shouldered with making Detective Park believably warm while simultaneously steely and terrifying. He mostly manages, but countless scenes of him gifting Choi clothes or taking the rookie for a ride on his big boat make it harder to buy in when he has to switch gears over to “bad cop”. I wish there had been more scenes between Detective Park and Internal Affairs.

The film drags a bit at nearly 2 hours in length – especially in the final 20 minutes, where too many twists are introduced too late. Ultimately, The Policeman’s Lineage represents an appropriate addition to the cop thriller genre, even if it doesn’t reinvent the wheel.


The Policeman’s Lineage will be on digital, VOD and cable* June 7, 2022 from Echelon Studios.


CAST: Woo-sik Choi (Parasite), Cho Jin-woong (The Handmaiden), Park Myeong-hoon (Parasite), and Hee-soon Park (Apple TV+’s Dr. Brain)

CREDIT: The Policeman’s Lineage is directed by Kyu-mann Lee (Wide Awake), produced by Han-seung Lee (The Tower), and executed produced by Hyun-joo Jung (The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil). The production team includes production designer Chae Kyoung-sun (Squid Game), editor Nam Na-young (Squid Game) costume designer Kyeong-mi Kim (Okja), composer Young-gyu Jang (Train to Busan), and makeup artists Hyo-kyun Hwang & Tae-Yong Kwak (Parasite)


The Policeman’s Lineage will be available on:

*Cable and Digital Transactional Video On Demand including:

Comcast

Charter-Spectrum

Directv

iTunes

Cox Cable

Dish Network

Sling TV

Google Play

Verizon Fios

Fandango / VUDU

InDemand

Vubiquity

Rogers

Vimeo on Demand


 

Review: ‘Tales From The Other Side’ is spooky fun for horror lovers.

I love a good horror anthology. With a classic Halloween trope of three kids getting pulled into the town legend’s Victorian mansion, Tales From The Other Side finds Scary Mary spinning tales of terror for her eager guests. Six separate stories send shivers down their spines and sweets into their bellies. 

“Petrified Boy”

A ringmaster takes advantage of a tragedy.

“Flicker”

An aspiring filmmaker takes a job making memorial videos for a funeral home. 

“Crystal Ball”

A couple in turmoil steals the coveted object of a fortune teller. 

“Either / Or”

Trae Ireland, Tonya Cornelisse, and James Duval pack a punch in a story about a mental facility patient claiming to be the prophet, Elijah. This segment is the epitome of masterful performance. The finale will blow you away. 

“Blood Red”

An artist’s triste gets bloody complicated. 

“Krampus Vs. Elf”

A visually jarring stop motion battle between good and evil. It’s pretty disgusting, but the ending is chef’s kiss. 

Our three young leads are fantastic. Brooklyn Anne Miller, in particular, is flawless. Get that girl a show on Nickelodeon ASAP. Roslyn Gentle, as Mary, is a superstar. I’d watch an entire franchise with her as the center. 

Tales From The Other Side has a solid “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” vibes. It’s tricky to stand out amongst hits like The Mortuary Collection and the VHS franchise, but Tales From The Other Side gives it an honest-to-goodness try. The filmmakers are clear classic genre fans working on a micro-budget. The makeup and scores are great additions. The opening title sequence from Sean Wyn is creative and disturbing. What more could you ask for setting up scary stories with anything but horrifying drawings from children? It’s not as if you don’t know where the overarching narrative around Scary Mary is going. Tales From The Other Side is still a gruesome delight.


ON DIGITAL AND DVD JUNE 7


Directors: Pablo Macho Maysonet IV, Jamaal Burden, Scotty Baker, Jacob Cooney, Lucas Heyne, Kern Saxton, Frank Merle

Cast: Ros Gentle, Michael Broderick, Rafael Delgado Jr., James Duval, Chelsea Vale, Vernon Wells, Andreas Rodriguez


Review: ‘A SEXPLANATION’ is the single most sex positive lesson of my entire life.

Just your typical queer, Asian American, comedic sex education documentary about the universal search for love, connection, and family acceptance.


Gloriously raw and unapologetic, A Sexplanation was the most informative lesson on sex I’ve ever seen. Like director Alex Liu, my parents never had “The Talk” with me. My Catholic school elementary sex-ed class was in 5th grade. Separating the boys and girls, we got the basics on menstrual health and body parts. That was it. I think I got that same lesson in my high school health class. Why are those classes always taught by gym teachers, anyway? Seriously, why don’t schools bring in experts? In A Sexplanation, Alex Liu does all the groundwork for those left to their own devices at slumber parties, sleep-away camps, and dial-up internet. 

Liu sits down with folks across the sexuality information spectrum; doctors, scientists, therapists, activists, a politician, and a priest! Some of the most intriguing moments happen when Alex speaks with his parents. They are honest, unfiltered, and make the viewer feel the need to talk to their parental figures to clear some shit up. The film also introduces us to programs like INclued, an LGBTQ-centered evidence-based sexual health education program for youth ages 14-19. I wish that existed when I was a teen!

Along with the interviews, visual gags featuring phallic objects and vibrant cartoon animation from Woodenmarker serves as quirky transitions. The biggest challenge in watching the film will be the same for everyone, and Liu understands this. Getting past our ingrained biases, owning each cringe at an image or word, and diving deep into the reasons those reactions occur in the first place. Tackling family dynamics, “The Talk” is so important and how we learn to talk about sex. Statistics do not lie. States teaching abstinence-only have higher teen pregnancy and STI rates. Families need to normalize open lines of communication. We need to step out of our comfort zones and embrace our own sex positivity to better the world. 

 Liu makes himself the guinea pig in a project that could actually save lives. The amount of information in the doc is mind-blowing. The lack of shame makes A Sexplanation a glorious watch and an honest-to-goodness celebration of sexual literacy.


Available on Digital Download from 6th June

Director’s Statement

Alex Liu, writer and director: “A Sexplanation follows my quest to confront my sex education — by finally getting a real one.

Growing up, sex felt shameful. My parents never brought it up. School focused on disease, pregnancy, and abstinence. By my 30s, I was surprised by how much shame I still carried. After talking with friends, I realized I wasn’t alone.

  The film documents my attempt to strip away this shame, no matter how awkward it might get — even masturbating in an MRI machine (for science!).

Through honest conversations with scientists, educators, and even my parents, I try to uncover some naked truths and hard facts that will get us to a healthier, sexier future.”

asexplanation.com

A Sexplanation will be available on Digital Download from 6th June on iTunes on GooglePlay.


Review: ‘Paulie Go!’ is a genre-bending, fish-out-of-water story.

After being rejected letter from the AI robotics program he’s worked his entire life towards, Paulie won’t take no for an answer. He steals his uncle’s van and drives to Minnesota in an attempt to track down one Professor Chuck Shikenjansk and change his mind. 

As Cheryl, Tracie Thoms is a joy, possessing aspects of Paulie and Avery’s personalities. Her character brings Paulie Go! to another level of storytelling. Madison Wolfe plays Avery with an effortless cool. She’s slick and savvy. Without even knowing it, she’s a role model. Ethan Dizon as Paulie is so much fun to watch. He’s a master of awkward social-emotional interaction and a victim of extreme overconfidence. Dizon’s energy is infectious. He and Wolfe have perfect chemistry. 

Director Andrew Nackman brings audiences a fish out of water road (or boat) movie that is relatable and family-friendly. In truth, it’s a genre-defying delight. That small-town Minnesota energy lends itself to genuine and funny dialogue. Paulie Go! is a film about two teens who have more in common than they realize. Jake Greene‘s script ( story also by Nackman and David J. Lee) subverts all expectations as it overflows with nuance. Paulie Go! deals with adolescence, loss, and self-discovery. Watch it with the entire family. 


Available to Rent or Own on Digital Platforms May 24, 2022


Directed by ANDREW NACKMAN

Written by JAKE GREENE

Produced by LAUREN TAIT HOGARTH, LAURA IVEY & JAKE GREENE

Starring ETHAN DIZON, MADISON WOLFE, DAVID THEUNE, BERNARD WHITE & TRACIE THOMS


Review: Inconsistencies aside, ‘ESCAPE THE FIELD’ is a solid horror maze of madness.

ESCAPE THE FIELD

The fear is inescapable in Emerson Moore’s horror-thriller about six strangers who suddenly awaken in a remote, endless cornfield. Stripped of their possessions, they are left with only six items: a gun with a single bullet, matches, a lantern, a knife, a compass, and a flask of water. As mysterious sirens blare in the distance and traps appear at every turn, the group realizes it’s been plunged into a cat-and-mouse game with an unseen evil, and survival depends upon solving a diabolical — and deadly — puzzle.


With reminiscent aspects of the cult favorite The CubeEscape the Field is an intriguing foray into the escape room genre. A cornfield is our game board, making for an entirely different dynamic in a scenario we’ve seen for years. An eclectic group of people comprises this cast. Writer-director  Emerson Moore, alongside screenwriter Joshua Dobkin and Sean Wathen, take a different approach, mixing ideas from past films to brand new and exciting elements. There’s a lot to chew on in Escape The Field. 

Shane West plays Ryan with intimidation and alpha male toxicity. West ups the anty with emotional unpredictability elevated by a clever script device. Theo Rossi plays Tyler. If you haven’t been paying attention to indie cinema or mainstream television series, Rossi has become a familiar face and a damn fine actor. Escape the Field is no exception. Rossi has this undeniably accessible aura about him. Jordan Claire Robbins plays Sam, a doctor whose skills are pertinent to the group’s survival. Robbins’ neighborly energy brings trustworthiness and ease to the viewers. You’re rooting for her. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tahirah Sharif. Her presence drastically improves Escape The Field every second she’s onscreen. 

The solutions to the puzzles evolve from difficult to unchallenging and back again. This inconsistency is forgivable from someone who is an avid winner of ‘Escape The Room’ experiences. (*Nerd alert)  Escape The Field has all the raw elements of a spectacular franchise. I’d watch a prequel and a sequel, as long as the next film’s evolution takes notes from its incarnation. Make sure you stick around after the credits begin to roll. You don’t want to miss one final moment of goodness. 


U.S. Release Date: In Select Theaters, On Digital and On Demand on May 6, 2022.


Cities:                                    New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Lumiere Cinema), and key cities nationwide.           

Cast:                                      Jordan Claire Robbins, Theo Rossi, Tahirah Sharif, Julian Feder, Elena Juatco, and Shane West

Directed by:                           Emerson Moore         

Written by:                             Emerson Moore and Joshua Dobkin & Sean Wathen

Produced by:                        Andrew Davies Gans, Michael Philip, Jason Moring and Emerson Moore

Genre:                                    Thriller            

Rating:                                   R

Running Time:                      88 minutes


Review: Despite fantastic performances, ‘The Ravine’ takes a turn for the worse.

presents

In THE RAVINE, when an unspeakable crime rocks a peaceful community, family and friends are left to wonder if they overlooked the murderer among them or if there might be more to the story. Inspired by true events, this haunting thriller stars Eric Dane, Teri Polo, Peter Facinelli, and Leslie Uggams.


Based on a true story, The Ravine skillfully creates a tense atmosphere. The film opens to ominous phone messages, tight-knit relationships, and one pulse-pounding vignette. It’s a familiar panic for someone who has lost a friend in the prime of their life; the unanswered phone tag, the swirl of shock, and unadulterated, unfiltered emotion. Performances are heartbreaking from the children to the adults. They are raw and riveting. All these positive aspects cannot save the film from a failed ending.

Director Keoni Waxman writes the script based on Robert and Kelly Pascuzzi‘s novel of the same name. Its structure utilizes flashbacks and present-day fallout. Through police work, past regressions, and the unexpected introduction of a gifted and religious psychic, The Ravine takes a turn in genre and never fully recovers. The script leans on religious redemption in the end, but the audience does not expect the hard right turn in the narrative. As a choice in storytelling, regardless of how close these depictions are to true events, it doesn’t match with the repetitive scenes of violence. The final 20+ minutes of the moment-by-moment explanation felt rushed and overwhelming. For a film that begins like an episode of True DetectiveThe Ravine ends in a preachy manner. It soured the entire experience. 


Cinedigm will release THE RAVINE in theaters and on Demand and Digital on May 6, 2022.


 
The film stars Eric Dane (“Euphoria”), Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Peter Facinelli (The Vanished), Byron Mann (The Big Short), Leslie Uggams (Deadpool), and Kyle Lowder (“Days of Our Live”).

THE RAVINE was written and directed by Keoni Waxman (The Hard Way). It was co-written with Kelly Pascuzzi and Robert Pascuzzi whose book “THE RAVINE” is the basis for the film.


Review: Malin Akerman and Lorenza Izzo star in the taut thriller ‘THE AVIARY.’

THE AVIARY

SYNOPSIS: Malin Akerman and Chris Messina star in the twisted journey of two women’s desperate flee to escape the clutches of Skylight, an insidious cult. Lured in by the promise of “freedom” in the isolated desert campus called “The Aviary”, Jillian (Akerman) and Blair (Lorenzo Izzo) join forces to escape in hopes of real freedom. Consumed by fear and paranoia, they can’t shake the feeling that they are being followed by the cult’s leader, Seth (Messina), a man as seductive as he is controlling. The more distance the pair gains from the cult, the more Seth holds control of their minds. With supplies dwindling and their senses failing, Jillian and Blair are faced with a horrifying question: how do you run from an enemy who lives inside your head?


Two women attempt to escape a cult by hiking through the desert. When plans go awry, deception, confusion, and brainwashing pit them against one another. 

While we only see Chris Messina as cult leader Seth in brief moments, they are undoubtedly impactful. With his calm yet persuasive demeanor, it is easy to see why these characters fell under his spell from the very beginning. Lorenza Izzo plays Blair with unbridled, vibrating energy that is captivating. You clock every single beat in her eyes. Malin Akerman‘s confidence as Jillian makes her a perfect foil for Izzo. Akerman walks a fine line between vulnerable and secretive. She’s frighteningly good. 

The screenplay’s wordplay, score, and scene blocking heightened every moment. There was never a dull moment. The endless mindfuckery rubbed my nerves raw. I found I had left fingernail impressions on my palms without realizing it. The paranoia and tension in the dialogue had my head spinning. Are these women gaslighting one another, is one of them a villain and is this even real? These are some of the questions I had while sorting through the madness that is The Aviary

You cannot ignore the comparisons with Scientology and Rajneeshees. The final 20 minutes had me on the edge of my seat. If you think you know where this story is going, think again. The Aviary is a whirlwind of manipulative tactics. It’s fantastic. 


In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand April 29, 2022


WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite

STARRING: Malin Akerman, Lorenza Izzo, Chris Messina, Sandrine Holt

RUN TIME: 96 minutes

RATING: Rated R for language and some violent content.

GENRE: Thriller


OPENING THEATERS INCLUDE:

NEW YORK CITY – Cinema Village

LOS ANGELES – Lumiere Cinema

 

ATLANTA – Studio Movie Grill Marietta

CLEVELAND – Atlas Diamond Center

DETROIT – Emagine Royal Oak

HOUSTON – Studio Movie Grill Pearland

MINNEAPOLIS – Emagine Eagan

ORLANDO – Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk

PHILADELPHIA – Westown Movies

TAMPA – Studio Movie Grill Seminole