Review: Teachable moments and family friendly vibes in ‘DOLPHIN ISLAND’. Available now!

DOLPHIN ISLAND

DOLPHIN ISLAND invites us to experience an island paradise, where 14-year-old Annabel lives with her fisherman grandfather. She is surrounded by an extended family of loving but quirky neighbors and her best friend – a dolphin named Mitzy. Everything changes when her maternal grandparents arrive with a shifty lawyer to bring her back to New York. It’s up to Annabel and her friends to figure out how to save the day and prove that love conquers all!

If you’re looking for something wholesome to watch with the family, look no further than DOLPHIN ISLAND. Filmed in The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, the cast and crew are local and lovely. The film’s score is perfect for the story and the characters. It’s light and friendly and matches like a dream with mother nature’s gorgeous scenery. Mitzy the dolphin provides laughs and heart alongside the family drama. I watched this with my four-year-old daughter who is obsessed with sea creatures. She absolutely adored the scenes with Mitzy and the rest of the beautiful creatures on the island conservatory where our leads Jonah and Annabel live and work. The performances are charming. You’ll recognize a few faces and be introduced to some great new talent, as well. Tyler Jade Nixon is grounded and genuine as we need her to be. You know this young lady. Bob Bledsoe uses his comedy chops to be a slimy lawyer you’ll love to hate. Peter Woodward is the grandfather we all wish we could enjoy. His sense of responsibility, gumption, and adoration for Nixon‘s Annabel is captivating. The script tackles complex family dynamics, friendship, class warfare, grief, and climate change. It’s never preachy. DOLPHIN ISLAND is a film you’d find on the UP network or even Hallmark. It’s quaint with well-thought-out messaging. Family films are few and far between. Rest assured you can sit down with your entire family and enjoy.

 

https://dolphinislandmovie.com/watch-now/

What started as a mission to help victims of hurricane Dorian, ended up with an award-winning family movie. DOLPHIN ISLAND was filmed in the Grand Bahama island between hurricane Dorian and COVID. The goal was to stimulate their devastated economy and highlight their beautiful sites and culture. A portion of the profits goes to the local cast and crew in The Bahamas.

Directed by Mike Disa (SPACE DOGS, HOODWINKED TOO!)

Starring Peter Woodward (THE PATRIOT), Dionne Lea (NO BAD DAYS), Tyler Jade Nixon (DOLPHIN KICK), Bob Bledsoe (Parks & Recreation), David Raizor (YOU CAN’T TAKE MY DAUGHTER), and introducing Annette Duncan and Aaron Borrow.

 

 

Review: ‘Reefa’ is a film where art and life converge.

REEFA

REEFA is based on the true story of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez Jr., an 18-year-old Colombian immigrant and art prodigy, who is spending his last summer in Miami with friends, family and his new girl Frankie before moving to New York City on an art scholarship. While Israel and his friends skateboard the city streets and spray-paint the walls of Wynwood, Miami’s graffiti Mecca, anxieties emerge twofold: Israel and his family nervously await their Green Cards while he desperately seeks recognition for his art. When Israel decides to spray paint one last wall, a piece which would command immediate respect from his peers, a sudden encounter with a vengeful Miami police officer leaves his family and friends devastated, the Miami community outraged, and the country reeling from another case of police brutality.

Tyler Dean Flores plays the titular character. He’s a star. There is an ease to his performance that mixes charm and innocence. This film arrives at the tail-end of a murder trial for police brutality, and as we continue the complicated immigration policy debate. REEFA is not simply one family’s story but thousands. What is phenomenal about this script is its ability to tackle multiple subjects simultaneously, never entering the preachy territory. Not only is this a love story about two young people from very different backgrounds, but it’s also a dreamer’s story. REEFA tackles the immigration debate from a humanistic standpoint, The Hernandez family does everything right to obtain their green cards but their fear of stepping over any line is palpable. The conversations between Reefa and his parents highlight the sacrifices and innate understanding that the system is not just. Certainly, the film culminates with an explosive confrontation between Reefa and the police officer hellbent on making him an example. Having read about the effects of tasers on the human body, especially in teenagers, I knew this family would be forever changed as soon as it enters the scene. There is a lot to digest in REEFA, and every part of it is an ode to this young man’s beautiful life and art.

REEFA was written and directed by Jessica Kavana Dornbusch (Love and Debate). The film has a running time of 96 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. 

Vertical Entertainment will release REEFA on VOD / Digital Platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, On-Demand, FandangoNow, and all major cable/satellite platforms on April 16, 2021.

Review: ‘At Night Comes Wolves’ but not much sense.

AT NIGHT COMES WOLVES

A sheltered housewife abandons her marriage and her misogynistic husband, only to learn that he used to be the leader of a doomsday cult that she is about to join. In this unnerving tale about misogyny, fate, and sexism comes a story about a woman who is about to change the world forever. After Leah Shaffer finally leaves her emotionally manipulative husband, she finds a friend in a drifter with whom she quickly feels a deep connection. The drifter introduces Leah to a prodigal chemist, and Leah learns her new friends are all that is left of a doomsday cult that disbanded years earlier. Together, the new trio is about to change the world, but before they can reveal their secrets, they have to tie up loose ends with Leah’s husband– and their ex-leader.

The moment I realized At Night Comes Wolves was more than a woman escaping her trash marriage, I was genuinely intrigued! Time jumps must be executed with precision and clarity. If this were a big-budget film, I probably wouldn’t be second-guessing the structure. Unfortunately, everything that followed let me down. The acting leaves much to be desired. I must give credit where credit is due. Vladimir Noel as Davey is amazing. His commitment to this dialogue should be applauded. He’s your star.  Perhaps this story would benefit from expanding his character’s adventures into a miniseries? Perhaps not. His is a story unto itself.

The pacing lags in places, which is odd considering there’s a whole bunch of WTF going on. Leah’s character is way too nonchalant with literally everything that is being introduced to her. I began to shake my head, wondering if I was being inducted into a weird cult. There were far too many concepts in this script. It was a bit maddening, sometimes laughable. It’s never a positive sign when you’re constantly checking the runtime on a screener. The final reveal actually made me angry. I will not spoil it, but let’s just say there were a million different ways to rid the population of misogyny! These storylines need to be ripped apart because the “Future scenes” are on another level! Find a different way to use those cast members, Noel included, to get from point A to point B. That’s a film I would enjoy.

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON APRIL 20

Review: ‘HONEYDEW’ is unsettling to say the least.

HONEYDEW

HONEYDEW tells the story of a young couple (played by Spielberg and Barr) who are forced to seek shelter in the home of an aging farmer (Kingsley) and her peculiar son when they suddenly begin having strange cravings and hallucinations taking them down a rabbit hole of the bizarre.

I first heard about Honeydew after its virtual premiere at Nightstream Film Festival. It is a miracle that I was able to avoid spoilers. I am delighted to report the intense buzz was spot on. Honeydew is that good. The sound editing and score consumed me. Combined with some split-screen deliciousness, Honeydew was dizzying madness. Writer-director Devereaux Milburn has taken the most successful aspects of classic and modern horror to create something insanely scary. It gets under your skin in a truly chilling way. The film also boasted one of the weirdest cameos ever. I did a literal double-take.

Malin Barr as Riley is amazing. Sawyer Spielberg as Sam is fantastic. The chemistry between the two actors is electric. Milburn’s dialogue allows them to convey the small cracks that exist in every relationship. These are keenly exacerbated by their bizarre circumstances. Barr and Spielberg are a hell of a pair but are also allowed to shine on their own. You’re constantly worried about them all while fascinated by their individual needs. Jaime Bradley knocks it out of the park as Gunni. What amounts to almost an entirely physical performance, he will disturb you to no end. Bradley owns every frame. Barbara Kingsley is a genius.  As Karen, she walks an extremely fine line between sweet and horrifying, leaning heavily towards the latter. The way these characters are written and the care with which they are performed culminates in one of the most uneasy watches in 2021.

There is a bit of an Ari Aster feel to the film in more than one way. Both the sound and score are keys to ramping up the fear factor. A combination of music, sound effects, and made-made noises like breath and clapping grate your nerves from start to finish. The plot is cleverly laid out for the audience from the very beginning. That does not lessen its impact as the explosive finale arrives. Once that happens, forget everything you know. I was so unsettled I didn’t know which way was up. All I can do now is cringe. Those images are burned into my brain. I’ll be eternally scarred by Honeydew‘s sights and sounds. 

Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting will release the rural horror film HONEYDEW on VOD, Digital HD, and DVD on April 13, 2021.

HONEYDEW is written and directed by Devereux Milburn (shorts “Stayed For” and “Wade”) and stars Sawyer Spielberg in his feature acting debut, Malin Barr  (Skyscraper, First Love, CBS’s “Bull”), and Barbara Kingsley (The Straight Story, “Jessica Jones”).

Review: ‘Painkiller’ is the perfect Bill Oberst Jr. vehicle.

Painkiller

After a man loses his daughter to a drug overdose, he begins a vigilante campaign to bring down the white-collar criminals, including the doctors and pharmaceutical companies, behind the opioid epidemic.

PAINKILLER boasts gorgeous opening titles with 360-degree slow-motion character images surrounded by raining down multicolored pills. Combined with a truly magnificent score, it feels like the audience is being set up for a wild ride. Unfortunately, the overall experience is less thrilling. The premise is intriguing. It’s a revenge story that any parent could get behind. The film gets bogged down by amateur performances from the majority of the cast. I also scratched my head at the idea that a heart surgeon, whose wife is begging for his money in a divorce proceeding, didn’t reside in a more upscale home. This could have been easily addressed by filming those scenes in the same location used for our leading man. After seeing the clarity and effectiveness of the drone shots, this detail disappointed me.

The acting is either over-the-top or underwhelming, with three notable exceptions. Khalmimah Gaston as Detective Janet Simone is an awesome scene partner for Bill Oberst Jr. Their dialogues lays the emotional groundwork that drives the plot. I absolutely believe her as a cop. She’s even-keeled and always present with Bill. Tom Parnell, who also wrote and produced the film, is very strong as Dr. Thomas Mac. While I did think his character deserved better accommodations, his chemistry with his fellow cast members is solid. That final scene is some of the best written and performed in the film. Now onto our leading man Bill Oberst Jr. The tone of his voice is intoxicating. There’s a vulnerability to his portrayal of Bill that makes the audience root for him. His scenes, both as he interacts with callers on his radio show and as he seeks revenge on those who push opioids, are captivating. He is undeniably the number one reason to watch PAINKILLER.

*ON DEMAND/DIGITAL/DVD* MAY 4, 2021

Review: ‘Like A House On Fire’

LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE

Dara returns home to reconnect with her husband and her young daughter, whom she left two years earlier. When she arrives, she discovers that a woman who is seven months pregnant has taken her place and that her daughter no longer recognizes her. LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE tells the story of a woman’s struggle to regain the life she left behind.

It’s impossible to verbally express the complexities of Motherhood. It is a battle of extreme highs and lows. It arrives with ceaseless bouts of irrational fear and unsolicited advice. It is completely unpredictable. The singular constant is an innate, unconditional love you feel for another human being. Like A House On Fire is a film that engulfs the viewer all those emotional states at once.

Sarah Sutherland gives a nuanced performance as Dara. She is lost in guilt and confusion.  She is delicate and vulnerable. You will live in her anxiety. It radiates effortlessly from her pores. Writer/director Jesse Noah Klein affords Sutherland a coming-of-age story. It’s a breathtaking watch.

Like A House On Fire dives headfirst into fear, redemption, and self-actualization. With a quiet score, and intimate cinematography, including thoughtful close-ups, this film will burrow a hole into your heart. The script tackles forgiveness and cyclical parenting in smart ways. Everyone’s trauma is explored which is merely one of the shining aspects of this film. It’s the flaws that make the performances resonate. Like A House On Fire is an important film. It is your duty as an audience member to listen to Dara. This script can be a teachable moment.

LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE was written and directed by Jesse Noah Klein and was produced by Fanny Drew, Sarah Mannering, and William Woods.  The film stars Sarah Sutherland and Jared Abrahamson.  The film has a running time of 84 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

Game Theory Films will release LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE on March 30th on digital platforms including iTunes/Apple TV, Vimeo on Demand, and Amazon Direct.

For more information, go to: www.gametheoryfilms.com

Review: ‘The Toll’ plays upon familiar fears.

 

THE TOLL

Synopsis: Supernatural terror and spine-tingling suspense highlight this gripping journey into fear. When Cami orders a taxi service to take her to her father’s country home, she’s hoping for a quiet and uneventful ride. But a wrong turn by Spencer, her chatty driver, results in the car stalling on a dark and remote road. After several threatening and inexplicable occurrences, Cami and Spencer realize they are being watched—by an unseen presence that sees them as trespassers, and is ready to exact a deadly toll.
Writer-director Michael Nader sets up The Toll in a marvelous way. It plays upon the very real fears of ride-sharing. My heart was already in my throat minutes in. The writing is sharp and relatable. A woman alone in a car with a male driver, perhaps a tad too chatty for the hour and length of the drive. The pitch-black atmosphere, barely illuminated by headlights and dashboard glow adds to the fear factor. Ramp up the terror with a backwoods legend and this film settles into one extremely unsettling watch. Do your eyes a favor and watch it in the dark.
The first half and the finale of The Toll are hugely successful. My misgivings arrive in the middle of the film with a sudden tonal shift. It feels like Nader took a handful of horror DVDs, tossed them into the air, and used the plots/visuals from whichever films landed inside a circle on the ground. The trauma and the gaslighting aspect are the most intriguing. Credit where credit is due, the final twist is brilliant. While The Toll has a lot to explore with solid performances and a genuinely scary emotional build-up, I’m not sure if it works as a whole.
Saban Films’ THE TOLL opens In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on Friday, March 26.
Writer/Director: Michael Nader
Cast: Jordan Hayes, Max Topplin, James McGowan, Rosemary Dunsmore
Producers: Max Topplin, Jordan Hayes, William Day Frank
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Run Time: 80 mins
Rating: R for Language Throughout and Some Violence
Distributor: Saban Films

Review: ‘WRONG TURN’ is an incredibly smart reboot you won’t see coming.

WRONG TURN

SYNOPSIS: Backwoods terror and never-jangling suspense meet when Jen (Charlotte Vega) and a group of friends set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. Despite warnings to stick to the trail, the hikers stray off course—and cross into land inhabited by The Foundation, a hidden community of mountain dwellers who use deadly means to protect their way of life. Suddenly under siege, Jen and her friends seem headed to the point of no return— unless Jen’s father (Golden Globe® nominee Matthew Modine) can reach them in time.

The reboot (and the seventh installment of the franchise) of Wrong Turn starts with another group of successful 20 somethings hiking the Appalachian Trail. When the local Virginians get aggravated by their presence, and they veer from the trail, things get deadly but not for the reasons you think. This script is completely different than the original, which is the greatest bait and switch from the clever set-up in the beginning. That’s the difference between a remake and a reboot. This cast is diverse and cool. They get to take their initial instigators to task, at least verbally. All the tropes are there but they’re used smartly. The first kill is so brutal you’ll both gasp and respect the decision to go all-in so early. From that moment on, the violence and gore are used for shock value that is carefully intentional in forwarding the plot.

Matthew Modine plays Jennifer’s father who comes searching for her 6 weeks after she goes missing. He is great. He walks this fantastic balance between modern man and totally self-sufficient badass that just feels incredibly believable. This is the updated father figure that will resonate with a large genre audience. It’s yet another successful aspect of screenwriter Alan B. McElroy’s reboot of the franchise. Bill Sage is a nice familiar face. He always lives in whatever role he tackles. This is no exception. Even with a runtime of one hour and fifty minutes, I would have been pleased to see more of him on screen. Charlotte Vega as Jen is outstanding. She has a genuine presence that grows stronger with each scene. There is an unexplainable accessibility to her character. Hollywood should continue to take note of this talent. Also, audiences should keep an ear open for Modine’s daughter Ruby as she sings the film’s final song. Stunning performance.

The score is classic staccato string work. Combined with the handheld camerawork and quick-cut editing, the terror is firmly in high gear. This is a totally fresh take of new world versus the old. The complexity of the script will throw you off-kilter. It challenges the viewers’ sense of morality. Who are the true villains? It’s about intrusion and disrespect of cultural differences on a multitude of levels. It’s quite brilliant in a time a faux “wokeness”. The nuance will knock you off your feet. You will not know where this plot is going. It’s twist after twist. That. Ending. Pure perfection.

Saban Films will release the horror film On-Demand, Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD on February 23, 2021. 

THEATRICAL RELEASE: January 26, 2021

ON DEMAND, DIGITAL, DVD, and BLU-RAY: February 23, 2021

DIRECTOR: Mike P. Nelson

WRITER: Alan B. McElroy

CAST: Charlotte Vega, Adain Bradley, Bill Sage, Emma Dumont, Dylan McTee, Daisy Head, Tim DeZarn, and Matthew Modine.

RUN TIME: 109 minutes

RATING: R for strong bloody violence, grisly images, and pervasive language.

GENRE: Horror

DISTRIBUTOR:  Saban Films

Review: Watch with glee as Nicolas Cage battles evil animatronics in ‘Willy’s Wonderland’

WILLY’S WONDERLAND

When his car breaks down, a quiet loner agrees to clean an abandoned family fun center in exchange for repairs. He soon finds himself waging war against possessed animatronic mascots while trapped inside Willy’s Wonderland.

So we can all agree that Nicolas Cage is now firmly his own genre, right? I can’t believe this is the same guy from Raising Arizona and National Treasure. He is a force of nature. When you’ve reached this cool of a status you can pretty much pick whatever project you want. Bless Nic Cage for providing the masses with his particular set of skills on screen. WILLY’S WONDERLAND is the perfect place for us to experience this latest chapter of “Cage rage’ with some popcorn on our couches.  As “The Janitor”, Cage’s combination of nonchalance and violence is pure badass. This is a dude comprised of mystery and soda. But for a significant part of the film, we’re actually watching him clean this place. This Academy Award-winning actor clean urinals. It’s the weirdest bit of intrigue to witness but talk about commitment. Alongside a vat filled with horror tropes, all used masterfully, this film is sure to be a cult classic. Dare I say, even franchise potential for his character? With a ragtag group of teens, townspeople in on the rouse, evil possession a la Child’s Play, WILLY’S WONDERLAND is a damn good time. The cast is so committed to this story you just get to sit back and watch with giddy energy as the mayhem ensues. The final third of the film is relentless chaos, highlighted by a 3-minute interlude of Cage improvising at a pinball machine. It’s pure magic. This is why we watch movies.

G. O. Parsons‘ screenplay is so batshit it works. A possessed weasel, a fairy, a turtle, an alligator, a chameleon, a gorilla, a knight, and an Ostrich provide us with hilarious and gruesome kills and calamity. The Janitor’s mission of cleaning this damn place will not be deterred. There will undoubtedly be comparisons to the Five Nights at Freddy’s games and The Banana Splits movie but who cares. WILLY’S WONDERLAND has execution that is out of this world. The creature, set, and prop builds are wild. Attention to detail is award-worthy. My mother used to work at a Chuck E. Cheese. The atmosphere built for Cage and company to exist in is spot on. The handheld camerawork is dizzying and fantastic. The lighting is often enhanced with a black light hue that is simply delicious. It’s a funhouse of horrors. This is a genre fan’s dream watch. The practical FX are bloodsoaked and brutal. The soundtrack is epic. You will be singing Willy’s theme over and over because it balances on the edge of maniacal, weird, and wonderful. Where can I buy that and an official Willy’s Wonderland t-shirt? I’m as deadly serious as The Janitor.

WILLY’S WONDERLAND is now available on VOD platforms

Review: ‘The Reckoning’ – The good, the bad, and the terrifying.

The Reckoning

SYNOPSIS: Set against the backdrop of the Great Plague and subsequent witch-hunts against women, Grace Haverstock (Charlotte Kirk) must grapple with the tragic untimely death of her husband Joseph (Joe Anderson) in a society completely consumed by fear and death. Because she rejects her landlord Squire Pendleton’s (Steven Waddington) advances, she is falsely accused of being a witch and thrown in jail for a crime she didn’t commit. Grace must endure physical persecution at the hands of England’s most ruthless witch-hunter Judge Moorcroft (Sean Pertwee) and face her own inner demons as the Devil himself starts to work his way into her mind.

The Reckoning shines brightest in its performances and the attention to historic details. Firstly, without a doubt, the best aspect of this entire film is Sean Pertwee. His commitment to righteousness and torture without apology is what makes The Reckoning worth your time. Every second he is onscreen, he owns it. Watching him work is a masterclass. Charlotte Kirk does all the right things. But now for the bad… The amount of makeup on a person of her character’s social standing is completely unrealistic. It’s an unnatural amount for anyone outside of a royal court. It was genuinely distracting. This detail is a letdown considering the overall look of the film. One thing that is very clear is the amount of research that Kirk and Neil Marshall did to make The Reckoning as fact-based as possible. Kirk is stunning enough without a full face, so I am a bit baffled at the choice.

Now, the scary. This is a double-edged sword for me. While the creature makeup of The Devil is one of the most successful parts of the film visually, the ways in which he is utilized felt cheap. For me, it was a reason to exploit Kirk. It makes zero sense to have her fornicate (probably the first time I’ve used that word in earnest) with The Devil, without that being a major plot point that comes to fruition. It takes away from the overall feminist narrative of the film. I absolutely loved being terrified by the appearance of The Devil. Those moments stick in my head for their fright factor but make me cringe when used tom over sexual a character who is already sexually harrassed over and over for her appearance. This film might fair better if those scenes are cut altogether. The climax is most certainly unexpected and incredibly satisfying. Although with a runtime of 1 hour and 51 minutes, The Reckoning could lose a good 30 mins. Neil Marshall and Charlotte Kirk set out to highlight the atrocities committed against women in a time of fear, sickness, and paranoia. They are able to tell this story through the experiences of Grace and even a few ancillary characters associated with her. The real-life horrors are enough.

WATCH THE TRAILER:

RLJE Films and Shudder will release the action / horror THE RECKONING In Theaters, On Demand and Digital February 5, 2021. 

THE RECKONING stars Charlotte Kirk (Ocean’s 8, How To Be Single), Joe Anderson (Across The Universe, The Crazies), Steven Waddington (The Imitation Game, “The Tudors”) and Sean Pertwee (Dog SoldiersEquilibrium). The film was directed by Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), who co-wrote the film alongside Charlotte Kirk, making her feature screenwriting debut, and Edward Evers-Swindell (Dark Signal).

Review: ‘The Right One’ oozes with charm, laughs, and hidden complexity.

The Right One

 

SYNOPSIS: In this heartfelt and hilarious rom-com, Sara, a novelist struggling with writer’s block, needs inspiration — and finds it when she serendipitously meets Godfrey, a down-on-his-luck oddball who constantly changes personas and alter egos in order to cope with his past and avoid reality. Just as Godfrey begins to open up to Sara, he discovers that she’s been using him as inspiration for her next novel, and he vanishes from her life. Did Sara just lose the man of her dreams, or will she be able to find him and make things right?

Procrastinating romance novelist Sarah is attempting to finish her third book after breaking up with a longtime boyfriend. It’s not going well. Her agent Kelly forces her out into the dating scene causing her to repeatedly stumble upon a mystery man with many different personalities. Can she figure out who he is and in return also discover her true self? The Right One is laugh out loud funny from beginning to end. Though it’s not simply a rom-com, it’s much more complex. The script is rightfully presented in three clean acts. It allows the characters to develop naturally. 35 minutes in we get our first clue to Godfrey’s past and it is unexpectedly dark. While the funny doesn’t stop, it lets the cast explore the underlying messages in writer Ken Mok‘s directorial debut.

Iliza Shlesinger is basically playing her standup self and I mean that as a compliment. Her aggressive manner is pure magic for this role as Sarah’s literary agent. But don’t let her fool you, there’s a softer side hiding in there even if just a little bit. I can see her acting career turning out to be akin to Kathryn Hahn‘s. I would put money on it. Cleopatra Coleman as Sarah is exactly who we need. Solid romcom sweetness with an edge. I could watch an entire series of her being quirky. She’s a damn delight. Nick Thune has a total Bill Murray/ Steve Martin energy. It was like watching an incredibly curated improv show. He is charming as hell. His chemistry with Coleman is fun and natural. I was first introduced to his amazing abilities in the fantastically weird and wonderful indie, Dave Made A Maze. Can we please cast him in all the things?

The Right One taps into a lot of very real fears that dating and relationships bring. Opening up yourself to potential hurt but also actual love and acceptance. We see abandonment issues and self-doubt, jealousy, and trauma. . You’ll laugh and be forced to look at some of your own flaws along the way.

Lionsgate and Grindstone Entertainment Group, a Lionsgate Company, will release the romantic comedy film THE RIGHT ONE on Digital and On Demand on February 5, 2021 Worldwide and on Blu-Ray and DVD on February 9, 2021 in the U.S.

THE RIGHT ONE stars Nick Thune (Dave Made A Maze), Cleopatra Coleman (“The Last Man on Earth”), Iliza Shlesinger (Pieces of a Woman) and David Koechner (Anchorman series)The film is written and directed by Golden Globe and Emmy nominated Ken Mok making his feature film directorial debut. Mok is the Creator and Executive Producer of “America’s Next Top Model,” Producer of Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence and Invincible starring Mark Wahlberg.

Review: ‘The Funeral Home’ is a creepy place to live.

THE FUNERAL HOME

Bernardo is an undertaker. He and his dysfunctional family lives amongst coffins, wreaths and mischievous supernatural entities that visit daily. They attribute the paranormal manifestations to the dead bodies from their mortuary work. Finding the real source of all this madness will be their quest, but they might find a terrifying truth. Luis Machín, Celeste Gerez, Camila Vaccarini, Susana Varela, and Hugo Arana star.

 

The nonchalance of this tattered family living in a severely haunted funeral home is astounding. The audience goes in blind as we see a boundary of scorched earth not only in their yard but eventually, we discover it’s inside the house itself. The cinematography of The Funeral Home is eye-catching. The set dressing is filled with clues while the spectral lighting is just downright cool. The mood is heavy and frightening from the very first shot. That’s an uneasy feeling that never lets up. Performances from everyone are outstanding. There is a sadness and anger that hangs about each of the characters. The script is about betrayal and pure anguish. It has a Sinister-esque feel about it. The visual scares are jarring as hell. It’s clear that someone has made a deal with the devil, so to speak. I do mean that for more than one person. I have so many questions remaining, the revelations that do come our way are shocking and terrifying in a human way. There is so much potential in this film, I would love to see it developed into an entire series. There is a lot to unpack inside The Funeral Home and I desperately want to know more.

 

Mauro Iván Ojeda’s chilling supernatural thriller The Funeral Home comes to select virtual theaters on January 29 and digital on Feb 2.

Review: ‘The Wanting Mare’- more than just a pretty face?

The Wanting Mare

In the world of ANMAERE, north of the city of Whithren, wild horses run through the moorlands and up the coast.

These horses are the city’s most valuable export. They are are hunted and trapped, shipped and sold across the sea once a year.

In a small house just north of the city, a line of women pass a single dream through the generations. They inherit it from mother to daughter; a memory of a time where magic and myth were alive in the world.

This stunningly gorgeous sci-fi film has so much potential. What drags it down is the amount of information we’re missing. A lot of the backstory is buried inside writer/director Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s mind. It’s juicy, no doubt. Uniquely told. It would be glorious as a stage play. There’s enough intrigue in The Wanting Mare to indeed sustain a series of films, as is the intention. The audience has to commit themselves to what they are given. It’s a lot of trust to put in the viewer. What is abundantly clear is that there is a cyclical nature to the female characters and that these elusive tickets put a target on your back. This script is filled with people lying to each other, either to protect someone or keep them from leaving. It’s an interesting concept. The horses are treated similarly to unicorns in Legend. A commodity, yes, but also they must be protected at all costs.

Performances, across the board, are excellent. While there are a lot of characters to track, there is not a single actor who lets you down. Each beat is curated. This cast left it all on the screen. I want to know how these characters got here. What was it like in the constantly referenced “Before?” Frankly, I’m dying for a prequel. I think you need it. Having sat o the film for a day or two now, I think it would only benefit a potential Amnaere franchise. Visually, you are immersed in this mysterious land.  Would I continue to watch films made in this universe? Yes. Do I think a general audience will stick with an entire series? That remains to be seen. The one thing I do know for sure, The Wanting Mare is breathtaking to look at. People will be talking about this film in one way or another.

Nicholas Ashe Bateman’s THE WANTING MARE, which opens in select cinemas and on video-on-demand Friday, February 5th, from Gravitas Ventures.

 

Written & Directed by: Nicholas Ashe Bateman

Director of Photography: David A. Ross

Production Design: Cassandra Louise Baker

Gaffer: Z. Scott Schaefer

Art Direction: Duncan Bindbeutel

Review: ‘PVT CHAT’ is a raw look at sex and money.

PVT CHAT

 
Jack is a lonely internet gambler living in New York City. He quickly becomes fixated on Scarlet – a cam girl from San Francisco. As Jack learns more about Scarlet, he discovers her unrealized talent as a painter and begins to fall hard for her. His obsession reaches a boiling point when fantasy materializes in reality and Jack sees Scarlet on a rainy street in NYC Chinatown. While Scarlet is clearly hiding her whole truth, milking Jack’s wallet in the process, she also seems to develop genuine feelings for him. Jack has to find out – is their emotional connection real or is he just being taken for a ride?
This is a fearless film. There is nothing shy about it. Writer/director/editor/DP Ben Hozie has given us an unapologetic look at sexual impulse, gratification, and all the complex feelings that come along with it. It’s not often we see an actor do full-frontal nudity. Leading man Peter Vack is not just full-frontal but masturbates (a lot) in PVT CHAT. And so he should. His character Jack has zero stability in his life with the exception of his need to connect with other humans. This is mostly achieved through cam sessions. While sexual gratification is s short-term goal, he’s really looking for companionship. He’s a great online gambler, that’s how he survives monetarily. At the heart of it, he has fallen in love with a girl he doesn’t completely know is real. Vack is excellent. His vulnerability pours off the screen. His portrayal of a seriously flawed and real human being is stunning.
Scarlet, played beautifully by Julia Fox, gives an equally nuanced performance. She brings power and presence to the screen, especially in cam-girl mode. Slowly, Scarlet’s walls tumble to reveal a sad and used woman. Fox’s gives us everything we need from her. The role also required her to perform sexual acts. She does so with abandon. It’s bold of both our leads to take such a risk and I applaud them for it. The overall aesthetic of the film is very Clerks; gritty, low-budget, 90s feel, from the sets to the costumes. We get to focus on the dialogue and Scarlet and Jack and that’s exactly what this story needs. That final scene sums it all up. And while what happens after the screen goes black remains a bit ambiguous, that’s entirely the point. Love is messy and complicated and I respect that. The relationship between love, money, sex, and emotional abuse are fine lines. It’s all explored in PVT CHAT. It’s a film worthy of your time and intellect.
Darkstar Pictures will release the psycho-sexual thriller PVT CHAT in Theaters February 5, 2021 and On Demand & Digital on February 9, 2021.
PVT CHAT is written and directed by Ben Hozie (The Lion’s Den, Annunciation) and stars Peter Vack (HBO Max’s “Love Life”), Julia Fox (Uncut Gems, Puppet), Buddy Duress (Good Time, Beware of Dog), Keith Poulson (Mercury Plains, Little Sister), Kevin Moccia (Unbound, Snitches), David J. White (This Side of Heaven, Required Field).

Review: ‘#LIKE ‘ will shock you to your core.

Synopsis
Woodstock teen Rosie (Sarah Rich) is mourning the first anniversary of her younger sister Amelia’s death, when she discovers that the mysterious man (Marc Menchaca, ALONE, “The Outsider”) who sexploited and bullied her sister into committing suicide, is back online trolling for new victims. After the authorities refuse to get involved, Rosie discovers a darker side she never knew she had as she takes justice into her own hands.
Rosie is trying to figure out who is responsible for the death of her sister, Amelia. A year afterward, she is obsessed with watching her old YouTube diaries for any sort of clue. The darkest side of the internet comes to light in this unapologetically raw indie. We live in a world where a single tweet can incite violence. But since the beginning of the internet and chat rooms, pedophiles have stalked kids, acted like peers, and lured them into unsafe situations. People don’t seem to grasp the permanence of posting online. The consequences can be life-altering. #Like delves into all these things and in the #MeToo era. Writer/director Sarah Pirozek gives us a revenge thriller that will punch you in the gut.

Marc Menchaca stars in another unsettling role, post ALONE. Here, he is allowed to explore the nuances of his own fear. He is captivating to watch. Sarah Rich is outstanding. You are rooting for her every step of the way. You live in her anger and grief. She gives a fearless performance.

#Like a great companion piece for Promising Young Woman and Hard Candy. The writing is fantastic. The complexity of this screenplay will blow any expectations you have out of the water. The scenes with her closest friends allow them to discuss toxic masculinity in an approachable way. Rosie is balancing teenage life with a vigilante life. She does the police work that the adults have stopped doing. We follow along with her investigation and remain on pins and needles as she digs deeper. Her boldness steers the emotional journey of the viewer. You will not see the twists coming. And that spotlighted song choice? Let’s just say it perfection in its skin-crawling nature. #Like is shocking and brilliant. You’ll walk away slightly traumatized. People will be talking about this film for a long time.

#LIKE will be available on TVOD January 26, 2021 on iTunes,
Amazon Prime, Vudu, FandangoNow, and Microsoft Store
Running Time: 95 min
Country: USA
Language: English

Review: ‘PG: Psycho Goreman’ celebrates a genre-bending romp of relentlessly violent, gore-filled, sci-fi weirdness.

Siblings Mimi and Luke unwittingly resurrect an ancient alien overlord who was entombed on Earth millions of years ago after a failed attempt to destroy the universe. They nickname the evil creature Psycho Goreman (or PG for short) and use the magical amulet they discovered to force him to obey their childish whims. It isn’t long before PG’s reappearance draws the attention of intergalactic friends and foes from across the cosmos and a rogues’ gallery of alien combatants converges in small-town suburbia to battle for the fate of the galaxy.

Mimi is me as a kid; overly dramatic, kooky, aggressively brimming with sass. I played with all the boys, digging holes, making forts, playing with stick lightsabers. Am I obsessed with the fact that PG: Psycho Goreman is energized by a truculent little girl?! Hell yes. Do I love the fact that it’s over-the-top in every single way? You betcha. Is this one of the most fun viewing experiences I’ve had in lockdown? 100%.  It’s a genre-bending romp of relentlessly violent, gore-filled, sci-fi weirdness and I am here for it all.

Essentially, if you’ve ever been a genre nerd, you’ll love this film. Think Peter Jackson‘s splatstick trilogy, add a pinch of The Gate, with a side of Saturday morning cartoon realness and you can begin to comprehend what this film is. The costume and creature builds are out of this world fun. Every single detail of Psycho Goreman screams an homage to fans. It feels like it was tailormade for my 40-year-old self, and I will continue to tell myself this lie.

The chemistry between cast members is outstanding. The family dynamics are hilarious. I hope I talk to my kids that way when they get to be Mimi and Luke’s age. The dialogue is delivered with such commitment, it’s magical. The kids interacting with PG will force a grin that just won’t go away. Writer/director Steven Kostanski, who I already knew from his ABC’s of Death 2 segment, really gets it. You can tell from his extensive resume that he’s a fan that not only writes for an audience but for himself and I cannot wait to see what’s next.  PG: Psycho Goreman is destined for cult classic status. If I don’t see this costume pop up at a future Comic-Con, I will be shocked.

RLJE Films will release the Horror/Comedy PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN in Theaters, On Demand and Digital on January 22, 2021.

Written and directed by Steven Kostanski (The Void, The Divide, Father’s Day), PG: PSYCHO GOREMAN stars Matthew Ninaber (Transference), Nita-Josee Hanna (Books of Blood, 4teen), Owen Myre (NOS4A2”, Alternate Ground), Adam Brooks (The Return Father’s Day) and Steven Vlahos (“Alien House”, The Apprentice).

Review: ‘Narratives Of Modern Genocide’ forces us to stop talking and start listening.

Narratives of Modern Genocide

After the holocaust, the world said, “never again,” yet genocide is happening in the world right now. The stories we forget to tell, of the survivors we never knew, will haunt us until we listen and act. Narratives of Modern Genocide challenges the audience to experience first-person accounts of survivors of genocide. Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye share how they escaped the killing fields of Cambodia and the massacre of school children in Burundi. Mixing haunting animation, and expert context the film confronts our notion that the holocaust was the last genocide.

Sichan’s Siv narrative is all too familiar. He suffered unimaginable losses at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, enduring forced labor and the eventual execution of his family. But for Sichan, it becomes a tale of bravery and audacity.  After a failed attempt to escape, he tries a second time, fleeing on foot for three days with only the sun and moon to guide him to Thailand. He is the epitome of “The American Dream”. After emigrating to CT then New York City, he would eventually end up working for President George H. W. Bush as a translator. Think about the gravity of his journey. He went from being persecuted by his native government to becoming a prominent figure in the American government. That’s extraordinary.

Gilbert Tuhabonye was just a schoolboy when he witnessed atrocities that will haunt any viewer. He was the fastest runner in his Burundi community and it served him well when escaping torture and the mass murder of his classmates and teachers. Now living in Austen, he is a motivational speaker, author, retired professional long-distance runner, and a cross-country and track coach. Gilbert also the co-founder of the Gazelle Foundation which provides clean drinking water in his homeland.

We think genocide isn’t as prevalent, but we must learn from our history. The release of this doc is eerily timed with the events of insurrection at the US capitol last week. We have to pay closer attention to the calls of violence. Our democracy is on the brink and vigilance is key. Narratives of Modern Genocide will undoubtedly punch you in the gut. Sichan and Gilbert’s stories are difficult to hear but they cannot be ignored. While this may seem like the story of two men, it is the history of too many. Combined with beautifully drawn animation and starkly contrasted news clips, this doc strikes a cord. It’s important. It must be shown to as wide an audience as possible. It must serve as a warning to future generations.

ON DVD AND DIGITAL
January 12, 2021

Review: ‘The Reason I Jump’ is a megaphone for nonverbal autism.

The Reason I Jump

Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, translated into English by author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), The Reason I Jump is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into a sensory universe that guides audiences to Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.

Based on the book of the same name by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is an emotional rollercoaster. I was already welling up listening to the opening monologue. The echolalia, the sensory overstimulation, the hand flapping, and ear covering all punched me in the gut when presented on screen. I’m a lucky Mom. At 5 years old, my child is now very verbal, he’s hyperlexic which means he’s been reading since he was two. He loves hugs, sleep, and eats well. On the autism spectrum, he would be closer to Asperger’s, if that were a diagnosis recognized nowadays. None of these facts lessen the fear, frustration, exhaustion, and pure elation in raising an exceptional human being. The Reason I Jump is tailor-made from the words of a nonverbal 13-year-old boy’s experiences from the inside out. In film form, it’s simply triumphant.

In the doc, we are introduced to 5 unique young people with autism.

Amrit (India)
Her mother realized she was using art to communicate. Her paintings are extraordinary, some visually akin to continuous line drawings. It took time for everyone to realize they are snapshots of her day.

Joss -(UK)
His anxiety is palpable. His impulses and tendency to meltdown are understandably unpredictable. Joss’s ability to show unadulterated joy is magic. His parents break down their own existence in the most relatable ways, both the highs and the lows.

Ben & Emma – US
These two have learned to spell with letterboards and keyboards to communicate. Best friends since very early childhood, what they have to say will shock you.

Jestina – Sierra Leone
With Jestina, we tackle stimming and perception by others. Stimming a sensory-driven repetition of behavior like rocking or flapping to self soothe. Sometimes it’s a visual stim, sometimes watching wheels turn or glitter shine. Culturally, her mother and other parents in her autistic adjacent community are told their children are possessed. It destroys the spirits of entire families.

The narrated excerpts from the book directly correlate with whichever child is being highlighted at that time. Voiced by Jordan O’Donegan, they have a poetic feel to their profundity. Naoki writes, “Making sounds with your mouth isn’t the same as communication.” That quote did me in. When you hear that, truly hear it, you will be taken aback. Jestina, Ben, Emma, Joss, and Amrit all communicate in a different way, we just had to learn how to listen. The heightened sound design immerses you into the world of an autistic person. We do not understand what it is like to be utterly overwhelmed not being able to be fully understood. The cinematography is breathtaking. Quick cuts, predominantly in close-up form combined with a gorgeous soundtrack put you in an alternate headspace. The editing takes all these elements and blends them into a viscerally stunning documentary.

As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I feel like I can see I want to broadcast this film to the world so that neurotypical individuals can understand my son and every other person on the spectrum. The label of autism, whether people realize it or not, creates implicit bias. We are missing out on the potential and impact of an entire faction of our society. It is our duty to meet each other in the middle. The Reason I Jump is a captivating peek behind the autism curtain. Don’t look away now. Thank you Naoki Higashida for writing this book. Thank you David Mitchell for translating it for your son. Thank you Jerry Rothwell for directing such an important film. Thank you to the families that shared their lives. Watch this film, then choose to listen and learn in a new way.

The Reason I Jump will be in theaters and virtual cinemas Friday, Jan 8th

**WINNER – Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary –
Sundance Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – AFI Docs 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – BFI London Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Chicago International Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Hot Docs Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – WINNER’S CIRCLE – DOC NYC 2020**

Review: IFC Midnight’s ‘Hunter Hunter’ is one of the most intense films of 2020.

HUNTER HUNTER

HUNTER HUNTER follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) struggle to make ends meet and think their traps are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf. Determined to catch the predator in the act, Joseph leaves his family behind to track the wolf. Anne and Renée grow increasingly anxious during Joseph’s prolonged absence and struggle to survive without him.  When they hear a strange noise outside their cabin, Anne hopes it is Joseph but instead finds a man named Lou (Nick Stahl), who has been severely injured and left for dead. The longer Lou stays and Joseph is away, the more paranoid Anne becomes, and the idea of a mysterious predator in the woods slowly becomes a threat much closer to home.

The contentious relationship between Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan is what makes the initial framework of this film so intriguing. With Anne longing for more traditional stability for her family, Joe thrives in the wilderness. Trapping is just not meeting their monetary needs any longer. With their daughter Renee to protect, they are in for a bigger surprise than running out of food and a rogue wolf on the prowl. Hunter Hunter goes to a place so dark, you won’t be able to get it out of your head.

The survivalist and tracker methods ring true. Sawa, who has been churning out films the past few years, once again holds the audience captive with his presence. I’ve stated before that his talent is often overlooked. His commitment to a role is stellar and he’s a lovely human in real life. Here his portrayal of Joe is steadfast and loyal, with a side of heroic intention. His chemistry with Summer H. Howell as daughter Renee is a touch reminiscent of Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Howell gives a “raised off the grid”, tough as nails, but thoroughly innocent age-appropriate performance. It’s just right. Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in one movie together, have made my schoolgirl fantasies a reality… in the most satisfying, genre nerd girl way. Stahl is downright scary. You can read the unspoken backstory he’s given himself in his posture and gaze. It’s startling.

Camille Sullivan has been written as a fully nuanced woman, forced to activate her Mother Bear instincts. The power she brings to this film is unmatched. This cast has to not only contend with a terrifying script but the elements of filming in the wilderness. I have so many questions since the credits rolled but the mystery that remains isn’t even relevant when the screen goes black. You are simply left in shock.

That sharp turn in the plot blows up everything you think you know about how this story will end. Your heart will be in your throat for the final 3rd. Writer/director Shawn Linden has given us one of the most disturbing films of 2020. The utter carnage, both emotional and physical, inflicted on this cast is brutal. The visceral horror of that befalls the viewer is skin-crawling and nausea-inducing. Hunter Hunter is complex and precisely crafted. Camille Sullivan‘s performance will go down as one of the most iconic final girls, ever.

STARRING:

Devon Sawa – Nick Stahl – Camille Sullivan – Summer Howell

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY:

Shawn Linden

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND – DECEMBER 18, 2020

Interview: Adam Eqypt Mortimer discusses his latest film ‘Archenemy’

Once again, our amazing colleague Matthew Schuchman brings great questions to one of the coolest filmmakers in the biz. Adam Eqypt Mortimer brought us Daniel Isn’t Real last year and now we’re jumping into the superhero genre in only a way Mortimer can. With brooding visual similarities and a fresh script, Archenemy (read my review here) is hella cool. Yes, I said it. Matt gets some awesome info from Adam. Wait until you find out who was originally in talks to play Max Fist! Joe Manganiello ultimately landed the role and is balls to wall amazing. The rest of this kick-ass cast combined with a screenplay that keeps you guessing will undoubtedly win you over. Can Archenemy save audiences during one of the weidrest movie viewing years in history? Find out for yourself. The film is now in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand. Check out Matt’s interview with writer/director  Adam Eqypt Mortimer below.

Did you always intend to show Max’s origin as animations?

That’s an interesting question. When I was first writing it I knew that that was always part of the story; that we were gonna see his stories that he’s telling about Chromium. But I wasn’t super certain how I was going to do it. I knew that I wanted there to be a big contrast between the present-tense story, and what we were seeing from the past. So it was kind of a confluence of– I understood how we were going to be shooting the present, but how different can we make the past? One of the issues I struggled with when I was writing the script was the scene where Max is falling out of a giant building and flying through the sky and punching his enemy and all this crazy stuff. If that was hyper realized or looks exactly the same as the rest of the movie, then it would only ever appear as truth. So ultimately, I thought I could do animation. Daniel Noah from SpectreVision and I talked a lot about what it should be and I really came around to animation in thinking about things like, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Watership Down, too. In ways that those film’s innovations can be very expressive and interact with reality and all of those kinds of things. Then it started to feel like the right move, as long as it didn’t feel like comic book pages or motion comics. It’s not supposed to be referencing comics, it’s supposed to be referencing more. The feeling of this sort of superhero world and how that might present itself in Max’s deranged mind. 

Well, I do also appreciate that the film doesn’t try to force-feed me everything through pointed exposition.

You know, there’s whole scenes of Max and his new friend Hamster walking down the street and Max is telling him all of this stuff about how he had the crystal fist, and the cosmic source, and all this stuff. But,I tended to think of all that, not like an exposition, because it’s not really there to set the stage to advance the story. I thought of it more like music, or decoration, or poetry. You can let all of this madness and all these strange world constructions flow over you and take it however you want. I said to Joe [Mangainello] when we started the process of building the character, “I don’t even care that much if I can understand what you say.” Joe and I are both metalheads and I told him to think about the way he talks as being like the guitar player from Slayer, Kerry King. Like, it’s sloppy and insane, loud and fast, and it’s really not about precise musical construction; it’s about getting some kind of point across through all this other stuff. So that was how I thought about things both in terms of how Max talks and about how he sees things. 

Joe was really amazing in the film, and I feel like no one else could have really been Max Fist. Was he always the first choice?

I’m glad it was him; I think he was amazing. There was a moment though when I was talking to Nicolas Cage about it. We had lunch and talked about it and he was interested in it. He seemed great for it also, because he is somebody who had once almost played Superman, but he had also been in Leaving Las Vegas and one of my ideas in this movie was always; it’s Superman in Leaving Las Vegas— but we couldn’t do it. It didn’t work out with him and so then I got Joe and like you say, Joe is absolutely the perfect person; and a long time ago, also, was up for the part of playing Superman. He was going to be Superman and it didn’t work out and, but you can just see how he is Superman. But it’s not just him as a physical actor. He has so much confidence that he can deconstruct himself into a tragic mess of a man and pull that off too, which is what’s wonderful about it. 

Why does Max care about Hamster so much? Is it just because Hamster is willing to listen to him?

I don’t know, I mean that that’s one of the emotional mysteries of the movie. When you meet Max, he’s somebody who doesn’t care about anybody. He lives this emotional life that he can’t get out of his own head. That’s the journey, and I hope it’s a believable one. I think you get this idea of him talking about how important it was to be a superhero. Then you increasingly see that imagery in terms of people’s love for him, they build statues to him. You start to go like, “wait a minute…” What does it mean to have been a hero and I think by defining things in this tiny relationship between him and hamster, there is a whole different way to look at why you would be a hero. 

I don’t know if it is just me– and this is kind of getting away from the point– but I started focusing on smaller things. There’s the henchman Finn, and he carries this book in his hand but I couldn’t see what the book was. Was it something like, “The Big Book of Zen?”

It’s called; Nihilism for Beginners. There is a frame or two where you can see it. And I’m glad that you are looking for details like that because I put a lot into thinking about the world and all of the characters. Even when they are just in a scene or two, they’re really building part of that universe. The idea with him is, he’s a guy who’s just started to think philosophically about the world and he’s like, “God I’m just a hired hitman goon, but the world is so much more complex.” There’s a scene where he’s interrogating Indigo about this other guy who died but you can see that there’s this incredible sort of sorrow or grief about what he is doing. That was all Joseph Reitman; super great actor. I will always want to do things where there’s tons of fucking violence and bleakness and it’s crazy, but there’s also the theme of empathy and who can have empathy and what does that feel like. There was a little patch of that in that character. 

It’s clear that–and especially from talking to you now– that you had a specific point of where you wanted this to end, but were there thoughts about deciding whether the ending would flip the other way, maybe?

I think it was more a question of how it would play out, or what the timing of it was. The question for me really was, “It’s going to be a story about a betrayal of some kind and a mistruth of some kind.” So where exactly does that play out? Does that play out in terms of everything he said is invented? Or is it that he’s telling the story differently than he should? It’s important to have a narrative twist or a narrative, revelation, but the emotional revelation around it is really the key.

Most movies do kind of give up the kitty a little too early. I love the fact that, as an audience member, just as you may start to believe Max, he’s doing a bump of coke on the stairwell before going in to punch a bunch of guys. 

There’s nothing that gives you superpowers better than amphetamines and that’s one thing I want people to take away from this [joking laughter]. If you’re gonna run into people who are shooting at you with uzis; you take meth. It’s gonna be bad, but it’ll be better that way. 

Has the casting process gotten easier for you, now that your stock is on the rise?

No doubt, Archenemy was so much easier to get done, than Daniel Isn’t Real. With this movie, I had all these people able to see my last movie. Glenn Howerton, Paul Scheer, and Joe; all saw my previous film, and they think, “I love that movie, I would work with this director.” That’s how I was able to get them in it and that’s the wonderful, wonderful aspect of starting to build up a body of work that you can point to. When I was making my first movie, nobody gave a fuck that I wanted to make a movie. None of my set ideals are real, it was like very few people gave a fuck to help stretch my vision. Now they’ve got my back and it’s sort of grown like that in a way. It’s wonderful because the most important thing to me is to be able to attract brilliant people to work with me and particularly get actors who are really good and can really do all of it. So to be able to point to other examples of what I’ve done is a blessing.

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RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020.