Review: ‘Salt In My Soul’ is inspiration through posthumous eloquence.

SALT IN MY SOUL

Based on the bestselling posthumously published memoir of the same name, SALT IN MY SOUL is a documentary and classic coming of age story about a young woman figuring out how to live while dying. Mallory Smith was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis at the age of three. In her twenty-five-year battle with the deadly disease, she carved out a life that most of us don’t come close to. Using Mallory’s posthumously published 2500-page secret diaries, hundreds of hours of newly discovered footage, and audio recordings, the film offers Mallory as the narrator of her own extraordinary chronicle.

 


Mallory Smith‘s physically and emotionally fraught journey is equal parts heartbreaking and extraordinary. How does a person come to terms with death a such a young age? That’s the ultimate question as we delve into the mind of Mallory in her own intimate, raw, and eloquent reflections. Mallory’s parents, Diane and Mark, her brother Micah, friends, and doctors tell stories in sit-down interviews. A mix of photographs, home movies, cellphone videos, online and handwritten journals tell Mallory’s story and of those around her. Diane and Mark tasked themselves with different end goals. Mom took to fundraising and awareness while Dad researched relentlessly for new treatments. Mallory lived her life with a vigor you don’t often see or feel from a person twice her age. Her drive and determination to be present is an inspiration. No one treated her like a fragile object. It was the opposite.

Be warned that the film does involve scenes of surgery. They can be a bit intense if you are squeamish. Salt In My Soul predominantly shows Mallory and her family teaching us to celebrate and fight for life. The timing of this doc is more impactful given the current state of the world. The importance of masks for the immunocompromised has never been more relevant. An unfathomable number of us have been closer to death in the past two years than we ever thought possible Mallory’s message of living each moment to its fullest could not resonate more than in this moment in time. Salt In My Soul is a unique film. Undeniably intimate and relentlessly moving, it’s a film that stays with you.


SALT IN MY SOUL

A Feature Documentary Film by Will Battersby
Run time: 96 Minutes (USA- Feature Documentary)

SALT IN MY SOUL will be released theatrically in New York (Cinema Village) and Los Angeles (Laemmle Royal) on January 21 followed by the VOD Release in the US, Canada, and UK & Ireland and key territories worldwide on January 25.

 

VOD Platforms: 

US- Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft/Xbox, Vudu
Canada- Apple TV/iTunes, Microsoft/Xbox
UK- Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Microsoft/Xbox
Ireland- Apple TV/iTunes, Google Play

Cable Platforms: 

US- InDemand TVOD (Comcast, Spectrum, Cox), DirectTV/AT&T, and more 



ABOUT THE BOOK

SALT IN MY SOUL: An Unfinished Life, by Mallory Smith, is a powerful, intimate, and inspiring portrait of a brave young woman living with chronic illness. Mallory understood that patient voices need to be amplified in order to improve healthcare, that the intersection of human behavior and nature is critical to environmental sustainability, and that love and friendship give life meaning. As Mallory’s body deteriorated, she sharpened her mind, crystallized her thinking, and honed her writing skills. In her 2500 pages of private journal entries, she created poetry out of prosaic experiences.  Beautifully written, provocative, and peppered with insights, SALT IN MY SOUL reminds us to follow Mallory’s mantra and “Live Happy.”  

For more information about the book SALT IN MY SOUL: An Unfinished Life please go to: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/607965/salt-in-my-soul-by-mallory-smith/


 

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

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

&

Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

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


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

 

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


Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

 

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


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


 

Review: From stage to screen, the verdict is in for ‘Who is Amos Otis?’

WHO IS AMOS OTIS?

SYNOPSIS

After assassinating the President, Amos Otis pleads self-defense and must convince the jury that America was not only under attack by its unhinged ruler – but that his actions saved the country and the world. The assassin’s provocative testimony and ingenious defense turns the proceedings upside down and puts our country on trial. 


A wow of a film, Who Is Amos Otis? is like a swift punch in the throat. Written, produced, and directed by Greg Newberry, the story has us follow the President’s assassin and his subsequent trial. If you think this is a mere courtroom drama, think again. You’re in for one of the year’s most surprising and controversial films. It’s a hell of a way to end the year. 

Rico Reid as Amos’ court-appointed attorney Jason, is confident and brave. He brings a levelheadedness that superbly matches the ever-evolving energy in the room. Josh Katawick, as Amos, has a presence reminiscent of the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman. He’s three steps ahead of everyone. It is an incredibly nuanced performance.

The script possesses inklings of The Life of David Gail and The Terminator. The writing is whip-smart. It keeps you guessing, all while prodding you with a steady stream of information. The script is thick with wordplay, snark, and wit. It dares to ask the questions many of us have been thinking over the past five years. You immediately recognize the theatricality of Newberry’s dialogue. The project moves from stage to screen, with Reid and Katawick starring in their original roles. It explains the perfect chemistry between them. I would have loved to feel that live energy in which the audience was the jury during its 2019 run. I am formally requesting a New York run. Everyone I know would vie for a chance to be a jury member.

Without spoiling anything, Who is Amos Otis? takes a sharp left turn roughly 45 minutes in, obliterating the genre you think you’re consuming. Compounding the political thriller are the hottest and most controversial topics front and center. It is a film that people will either love or hate, but the brightest viewers will respect it for its audacity and artistry. Who is Amos Otis? is a fearless and enthralling film. It’s not only a conversation starter. Who is Amos Otis? is a conversation igniter.


Official Trailer for Who is Amos Otis? on Vimeo.


WHO IS AMOS OTIS? a searing, mind-bending, SCI-FI political thriller based on the Pulitzer Prize nominated play from Cincinnati playwright and award-winning filmmaker GREG NEWBERRY (Beemer Baby, Homefree) will be released by Gravitas Ventures on Digital | VOD on December 28th.


Starring an ensemble cast of strong characters JOSH KATAWICK  (“Glengarry Glen Ross” “A Few Good Men”), RICO REID (ToleranceAll Wars),  MICHAEL G. BATH (Miles Ahead, Healing River, Notzilla)A.J. FORD (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice and Men, All The Way), CHRISTINE BRUNNER (The New Detectives, The Life Project), DEREK SNOW (The Shawshank Redemption, The Old Man & the Gun, Extremely Wicked, Shocking Evil and Vile), CHRISTINE JONES (Carol, Healing River, Promises to Keep)MIKE DENNIS (Carol, Miles Ahead, Surviving Compton), DONALD VOLPENHEIN (Gotti, “The Kill Point”), PEGGY ALLEN (Hourglass – A Smallville Story, Sphragida,  2 Mars), DENISE DAL VERA (Dark Waters, “Tell Me a Story”), CAROL BRAMMER (Hands Down).


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

SILENT NIGHT

 

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


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

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

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


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


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


DOC NYC (2021) short film reviews: ‘Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker ‘ & ‘Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma’

Coded: The Hidden Love of J.C. Leyendecker  

This is what most short films aspire to be– a brief 30 minutes that conveys a story so completely it feels like a much longer narrative. An exposition on the homoerotic imagery within the art of J.C. Leyendecker, Coded excels at blending what is essentially an art history lesson with its present-day significance and with a deeply romantic love story to boot. As someone who is always here for a story about true love, this one left an impression that is unlikely to fade.


Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma

Overflowing with cool-kid energy, this short film dazzles and delights. A tribute to the Black ABCs and growing up in New Jersey, Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma excels in quickly establishing a sense of place. This is a film about black people that is made for black people, i.e. Art that deeply respects its subject. The colors and angles of the shots are gripping, trippy, and mesmerizing. Viewing was akin to walking through an art exhibit: what do all the disparate clips mean? You get the sense of it but it’s mostly vibes.


For more info on DOC NYC 2021 click here!


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

WOODLAND GREY

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


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

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

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


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


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

FLEE THE LIGHT

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


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

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



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


Review: Ethan Hawke stars in ‘Zeroes and Ones,’ a creatively shot political thriller.

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ZEROES AND ONES

Called to Rome to stop an imminent terrorist bombing, a soldier desperately seeks news of his imprisoned brother — a rebel with knowledge that could thwart the attack. Navigating the capital’s darkened streets, he races to a series of ominous encounters to keep the Vatican from being blown to bits.


Zeros and Ones is a surrealistic mash-up from Abel Ferrara – a political and pandemic thriller that is simultaneously thoughtful and baffling. This is a film that invites the viewer in while still keeping them at a distance. The film is bookended by two videos featuring start Ethan Hawke, who speaks candidly to the audience about his excitement and experience relating to the film. Hawke freely admits that he didn’t understand Ferrara’s script when he received it, but that he really liked it. Having just finished “Zeros and Ones”, Hawke’s point resonated.

The film’s achievements are especially impressive given it was filmed in Rome during a rigid COVID lockdown. By nature of these restrictions, the majority of the action is restricted. The camera is limited to claustrophobic rooms and empty nighttime streets, but cinematographer Sean Price Williams makes the most of it. The outdoor scenes, in particular, are quite striking: sanitation workers clad in PPE decontaminating a subway car, mist mingling with the glow of the street lights.

Our protagonist (Ethan Hawke’s “J.J.”) is an enigmatic military man, his face hidden beneath a black mask even when he’s in plain sight. He’s on a journey through Rome, but his objectives (and destination) are murky. He’s trying to locate his twin brother (also Hawke), an imprisoned revolutionary who may hold the key to thwarting a terrorist plot on the Vatican. While this may sound like the plot of a multi-million dollar action film, Ferrara’s vision is wisely more conservative. He is more interested in backroom deals and shadowy government priorities than big explosions.

Hawke offers a game performance in the dual role – although he seems to have far more fun playing the revolutionary brother than the military one (after all, who doesn’t want to spit lines like, “Why is nobody setting themselves on fire?!”)

J.J.’s encounters with other characters throughout the film are always one layer removed – he’s always speaking to them through a phone screen, from behind a layer of glass, or filming them using his own camera. It’s a strong artistic choice, but also puts much more emphasis on the dialogue to drive the action of the film, and contributed to an overall lack of visceral connection to the material.

Ultimately, Zeros and Ones is a wonderful example of artistic vision flourishing under restrictive circumstances. One has to wonder how we will look back historically and evaluate these films against history once the pandemic finally recedes (fingers crossed.) I’m glad Hawke and Ferrara were still willing to act up despite having to mask up.


Zeros and Ones – In Select Theaters, On Demand and Digital on November 19, 2021. Ethan Hawke, Valerio Mastandrea, Cristina Chiriac.


Review: Marc Brener’s ‘The Rumperbutts’ is a musical comedy for the indie loving audience.

Selling Out… Isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A married couple and indie band duo, who never reached the success that they had always hoped, decides to stop pursuing their dream when a financial opportunity arises for them to perform on a new children’s program called “The Rumperbutts.” In spite of all the money and newfound success, the two of them are miserable and have spilt up. However, on one magical evening, a mysterious stranger comes into their lives and gives them a second chance.


Holy shit, it’s Mates of State starring in a musical rom-com! Filmed in 2013, 5 months after my husband and I left Yale, The Rumperbutts shot in downtown New Haven at the legendary Toad’s Place and the surrounding streets. The plot is amusing; married bandmates sell out to become the faces of a children’s show. They now fill arenas with children and parents dressed as the fictional creatures, The Rumperbutts. Also, they loathe each other. They are contractually stuck on a tour bus and jaded as hell. When a mysterious invitation appears, it offers to change their lives forever. 

Richie might be a modern-day, pot-smoking Puck/guardian angel? Josh Brenner‘s magical role is an in-your-face, witty character that will undoubtedly make you laugh out loud. His energy with Kori and Jason is wildly organic. I would watch a spinoff featuring Richie’s escapades in a hot minute. As for Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, Mates of State are huge on the indie scene. Their marital and musical chemistry translates perfectly onto the big screen. Their comic timing is delightful. If you’re already a fan of the band, you’ll undoubtedly enjoy the stoner comedy mixed with marital and money woes. If you’re unfamiliar, this is a brilliant, tongue-in-cheek, introduction to their whole vibe.  

Where has The Rumperbutts been hiding all these years? Be still my heart. It’s essentially an album wrapped in a rom-com. Frankly, I’m a sucker for a solid musical, so this ended up being right up my alley. Writer-Director Marc Brener has no direct link to Yale. None that I could find via Google, at least. Toad’s Place is such an iconic venue, and for those of us watching with the local connection, the choice was an added warm hug. (Especially because I’ve performed there.) The Rumperbutts speaks to the lengths we’ll go to become famous and remain famous at the cost of our relationships. But, all the dramatic undertones aside, the film is a good time with friggin amazing tunes and comfort comedy. I’d watch it again, and I might even buy Rumperbutts merch for my kids. 


Writer/director Marc Brener’s hilarious new comedy The Rumperbutts, featuring “Blue Bloods” star Vanessa Ray and Josh Brenner from “Silicon Valley”, premieres on Digital November 19 from Global Digital Releasing.


Starring Kori Gardner, Jason Hammel, Josh Brener, Arian Moayed and Vanessa Ray, and featuring music by “Mates of State”

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

GO HEAL YOURSELF

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


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

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

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

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


Online Dates

Sunday, November 14 – Sunday, November 28, 2021


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


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

THE PEBBLE AND THE BOY

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

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


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


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


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


 

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

MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS

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


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

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


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


Director: Maria Speth

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

Year: 2021


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


Review: ‘IDA RED’ – a family crime drama where performances rule all.

Crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Oscar® winner Melissa Leo*) turns to her son, Wyatt (Josh Hartnett), to pull off one last heist to get out of prison. But with the FBI closing in, Wyatt must choose between family and freedom in this high-octane thriller.


IDA RED opens up with honest to goodness tense action. Come to find out, half of it is a whole lot of bait and switch. The script has plenty of surprising revelations. It is undeniably engaging, from the shocking violence to the keen character building.

Frank Grillo, as Dallas Walker, is as epic and as he is evil, with an IDGAF aura. It’s one hell of a performance. Melissa Leo is Ida. Her uncanny ability to own the screen with nothing but a look gets me every time. This crime family matriarch rules from prison with an iron fist and favoritism. And, damnit, the fact that it’s a woman makes my heart skip a beat. More of this, please.

Sofia Hublitz, who is fantastic on Ozark, plays Darla Walker. She’s the youngest troublemaker of this family unit. Hublitz walks the perfect line between innocence and passionate anger. Josh Hartnett, as Wyatt Walker, is the unwaveringly loyal son. Hartnett’s multiple-year hiatus from the big screen was noticed, especially by those of us who grew up alongside him in movies like The Faculty, Pearl Harbor, and Sin City. Whenever I do see him nowadays, I am reminded immediately of his immense talent. He’s got a coolness to him that you can’t teach. As Wyatt, his familial devotion is palpable, to a fault. IDA RED allows him to play the full spectrum of emotions. 

The soundtrack boasts some of the coolest (and strangest) choices. I was obsessed. IDA RED could have been a limited series. As it stands, it’s a solidly done family crime drama, possessing fully fleshed-out, massively flawed characters with incredible actors breathing life into them. I recommend a watch.


Watch the trailer:

Saban Films will release the action/crime/thriller IDA RED in Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on November 5, 2021.


IDA RED is written and directed by John Swab (Body Brokers, Let Me Make You a Martyr) and stars Josh Hartnett (Wrath of Man, “Penny Dreadful”), Sofia Hublitz (“Ozark”), William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects, Raising Arizona), Deborah Ann Woll (“True Blood”), Frank Grillo (Boss Level, The Purge franchise), and Academy Award winning actress Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Prisoners, Frozen River).


 

Review: ‘Alice is Still Dead’ Grapples with the Limits of Justice

In an intimate and unflinching account dealing with grief, ‘Alice is Still Dead’ tells the story of a murdered loved one from the victim’s family perspective. From the detective’s notification to her family to facing the killer in court, we see the pain, anger, and heartbreak a family must endure while the nightmare is investigated.


In most true crime stories, the mystery of “what really happened” carries the narrative. Viewers are invited to reconstruct timelines and decipher motives, then try and solve the crime simultaneously with the professional investigators. Alice is Still Dead turns that formula on its head. For instance, what if there is a brutal murder, but the facts– while devastating– are relatively straightforward? What if the central protagonist is tragically incidental to the killer’s motive? What if the police and justice system function exactly as society intends them to do? This film illustrates that even without the standard narrative hooks of true crime, a shocking senseless death is still a story. There is still a family that must find a way to carry on despite their grief and try to find contentment with the limits of justice.  

 This documentary is a fascinating portrait of a family grappling with the shock and aftermath of the death of Alice Stevens, a young woman murdered in Thunderbolt, Georgia, in 2013. Through touching interviews with those that knew Alice best, Director Edwin P. Stevens (Alice’s older brother) tells the story of a murder from the perspective of the victim’s family. In this tribute, the filmmaker ultimately asks how and if it’s possible to move forward after such a traumatic event.

 Important viewing for true crime fans, this film explores angles that many projects in the genre leave unaddressed.


Alice is Still Dead will be available on Digital and VOD globally beginning November 5 from Global Digital Releasing.


Written by Meredith Mantik, Joe Raffa, and Edwin P. Stevens. Produced by Cory Pyke, Joe Raffa, and Edwin P. Stevens. Executive Produced by Edwin and Cecilia Stevens.


 

Review: ’13 Minutes’ is a pulse-quickening ensemble piece that will echo in every corner of America.

13 Minutes

Synopsis: The day starts out as usual for residents in the small Heartland town of Minninnewah. It’s springtime and big storms are just part of life. Nothing to get worked up about…until they are. Inhabitants will have just 13 Minutes to get to shelter before the largest tornado on record ravages the town, leaving the inhabitants searching for their loved ones and fighting for their lives. In the wake of total devastation, four families must overcome their differences and find strength in themselves and each other in order to survive.


This ensemble film is about a small town in the path of a brewing storm. Racism, homophobia, religion, and small-town politics swirl around the inhabitants as they prepare for anything. Stories collide, and relationships are put to the ultimate test. 

So, here is the breakdown of characters for 13 minutes: Trace Adkins and Anne Heche play a couple named Rick and Tammy, whose far is in dire financial straights. Tammy is also a local OB at the woman’s clinic. Their religion keeps their son Luke (Will Peltz) between a rock and a hard place. Adkins and Heche never fail to blow me out of the water with each beat.

Thora Birch, oh how I have missed you. Birch plays mechanic and single Mom, Jess. Sofia Vassilieva plays her 19-year-old daughter Maddie. Maddie’s future is in flux, and the decision she makes is one her mother understands all too well. These two women have a genuine report with each other. I adored their scenes.

Amy Smart is an ambitious Mom, Kim. She’s the regional emergency manager for the county. Husband Brad, played by Peter Facinelli, is the local tv weatherman. Their elementary school-aged daughter Peyton happens to be deaf. Shaylee Mansfield, as Peyton, is a highlight of this film. Her innocence shines off the screen.

Paz Vega plays Ana. She and her fiance, Carlos (Yancey Arias), are attempting to buy their own home as Ana works at the local motel as the maid. Carlos works on Rick’s farm as a newly hired mechanic. Vega is a hero in 13 minutes, in more ways than one. This character is carefully curated. Vega lives in her. 

Every single member of this cast is outstanding. They understood the assignment. This script is a snapshot of the country, plain and simple. It is just under an hour into the runtime when the tornado hits. These scenes have a visceral impact. They are pure terror. Writer-director Lindsay Gossling taps into the essence of human nature and the spirit of a small-town America. 13 minutes navigates different beliefs, prejudice, and fear, with flawed and fully fleshed-out characters. It’s not simply a disaster film, it is a reflection of the best and worst of humanity in crisis.


In THEATERS October 29th, on DIGITAL and ON-DEMAND, November 19th


Director: Lindsay Gossling

Writer: Lindsay Gossling

Cast: Trace Adkins, Thora Birch, Peter Facinelli, Anne Heche, Amy Smart, Sofia Vassilieva, Paz Vega, Will Peltz, Shaylee Mansfield

Producers: Travis Farncombe, Lindsay Gossling, Karen Harnisch

Cinematographer: Steve Mason ACS, ASC

Language:  English

Running Time: 108 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Review: ‘DASHCAM’ makes your palms sweat in anticipation.

DASHCAM

DASHCAM is a psychological thriller following Jake—a timid video editor at a local news channel who fantasizes about becoming a reporter. While editing a piece on a routine traffic stop that resulted in the death of a police officer and a major political official, Jake is inadvertently sent dashcam video evidence that tells a completely different story. Working alone from his small apartment in NYC, Jake uses his skills as an editor to analyze the footage and figure out the truth behind what actually happened. Has Jake uncovered a conspiracy that he can break on the morning news? Or is he seeing things that aren’t really there?


The film’s release comes in the tumultuous aftermath of a bloody year between citizens and police. A large number of incidents were either recorded by bystanders or bodycam footage. Some kept from the public for too long. We’ve all seen these tapes by now. They were impossible to avoid. In writer-director Christian Nilsson’s DASHCAM, we watch a young, ambitious editor become an armchair detective in real-time. Jake is intrigued by the information accidentally sent via email. Could he have uncovered a larger story? Could this be his big break? 

Larry Fessenden plays Former Attorney General Dan Lieberman. He’s a legend, so it’s no surprise that what is essentially equivalent to a radio play for him is an outstanding performance. Zachary Booth, as Jake, has fearless energy and an intoxicating excitement that passes through the screen to the viewer. I would watch him in anything.

Your pulse will be pounding watching this mystery unfold through live, minute-to-minute editing. If you didn’t respect the process of editing before now, DASHCAM changes that. Bow down to these gods. You can thank Terence Krey for this particular film. Nilsson nails the conspiracy theory vibes. DASHCAM plays on our innate need to discover the truth, whatever that means to each of us as individuals. It’s nothing short of riveting.


Dashcam, written and directed by Christian Nilsson, is available On Digital October 19 from Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures.

Review: ‘Smoke And Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini’ is an ode to a living legend.

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: The Story of Tom Savini

Special Makeup Effects legend, Actor, Director, Stuntman. Tom Savini has redefined the horror genre with his arsenal of talents. But who is the man behind the “King of Splatter?” From his childhood in Pittsburgh, PA; to his tour of duty during Vietnam, to his beginnings with George A. Romero and beyond. SMOKE AND MIRRORS is the defining documentary on the life and career of horror icon Tom Savini.

Featuring Tom Savini, Danny McBride, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Alice Cooper, Greg Nicotero, Tom Atkins, Corey Feldman, Doug Bradley, Bill Moseley, and more!


The first time I noticed Tom Savini on-screen was when I saw From Dusk Till Dawn in theaters. Little did I know, my love of horror was in large part due to his legendary work in all aspects of the industry. In Jason Baker‘s new documentary, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini, huge household names sit down and chat about Savini’s artistry. But mostly, we hear directly from Tom. His early influences came from each of his five older siblings. As we tag along with Savini, he shows us his old neighborhood, pictures from his childhood, and tells us stories about growing up with classic horror. That’s only the beginning of the mountains of information in this film. Savini’s time in Vietnam changed him. He talks about seeing human atrocities through his camera lens. Coming home from the war, he rediscovered his love of live theatre. After teaming up with George Romero, the two changed the face, in some ways quite literally, of horror. The entire genre suddenly became elevated and respected.
The doc stitches together interviews from across the years. While at times, this feels a bit chaotic, it gives us a plethora of tales. For example, Night of the Living Dead was a completely different experience for Tom than it was for fans. We get the chance to see all the things that he shot that were cut. He walks us through his original ending with side-by-side storyboards. We also get access to cut footage of his character Sex Machine, in From Dusk Till Dawn. The man was great at so many things! Watching his theatre work and the magic he instilled into his productions is astonishing.  Every talking head in Smoke and Mirrors explains that Tom is a genuine and gentle person. Hearing him talk about his work and family you get the sense that these aren’t just opinions.
Tom Savini‘s ingenuity and craftsmanship rightfully made him a household name. On a personal note, prior to this film, I didn’t have the faintest idea that it was Tom Savini who was responsible for traumatizing me in my youth. Creepshow changed my life. I cannot recall how many times I rented that video. Through my nightmares, some that remain to this day, I have come to adore the horror genre. It’s abundantly clear, Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini is special effects makeup and practical FX porn. It’s movie magic at its finest. Savini is a real-life magician.


From Wild Eye Releasing, director Jason Baker‘s SMOKE AND MIRRORS on Digital October 19.

Grimmfest (2021) review: ‘The Free Fall’ lands a win with unexpected storytelling.

THE FREE FALL

Sara wakes from a coma to a life she doesn’t remember; a fragile, slippery reality that spirals into a nightmare where nothing is as it seems.


Boasting a bloody good opening, Adam Stillwell‘s The Free Fall is brimming with sinister intent. The set is a genre fan’s funhouse. During the title sequence, the camera explores the rooms with sweeping POV shots, placing the viewer on a haunting tour of the space. The house is vast, dark wood from ceiling to floor, art, and jewel-toned furnishings create both a warm and eerie feel. You know this house, and you anticipate evil in its halls.

Shawn Ashmore and Andrea Londo have a chemistry that remains at arm’s length. Londo plays Sarah with an overwhelming sense of anxiety shared openly with the audience. She commands with her innocence. Shawn Ashmore, as Nick, is cocksure and manipulative. There’s something off about his behavior. Ashmore makes you just as uncomfortable as Sarah. His commitment to the arc of Nick’s character is awesome.

Screenwriter Kent Harper‘s use of gaslighting and genre tropes keeps the audience guessing. You’ll need to understand what the hell is happening. There is a dinner party scene that has a cultish overtone. The transitions in this scene, score in particular, change the dynamic of the entire film. From that moment on, theories will wrack your brain. You will not see where this is going. When all is said and done, The Free Fall is a twisty mindfuck.



[Available October 16, 2021, 1:30 – 11:30 PM] Watch now online…