Review: ‘South of Heaven’ showcases Jason Sudeikis in a new way.

SOUTH OF HEAVEN

SYNOPSIS: After serving twelve years for armed robbery, Jimmy gets an early parole. Upon his release from prison he vows to give Annie, his childhood love, now dying from cancer, the best year of her life. The best last year of her life. If only life were that simple.


South Of Heaven is a film that takes many unexpected turns from drama to crime thriller. Newly released from prison, Jimmy makes good on a promise to long time girlfriend, Annie. He wants to marry her before she passes from cancer, live a clean life, and then figure it out from there. Obstacles get in his way at every turn. South Of Heaven proves the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Frankly, that’s only half of it.

Mike Colter, known to me as the glorious Luke Cage, is as commanding as ever. He plays Whit Price with an even amount of villain and softness. Evangeline Lilly plays Annie with a grace and ease that is beautiful to watch. She’s got a sass that slowly reveals itself. She’s truly wonderful. The chemistry between Lilly and Sudeikis is overflowing with genuine adoration.

Jason Sudeikis‘s work in Tumbledown led me to realize the extent of his talent. I’d been so used to seeing him make me laugh on SNL that I never expected for him to make me cry in such a drastically different role. As Jimmy Ray, his earnest and quiet charm reel you in and make you feel incredibly comfortable. What we learn along the way is what a badass he is. Not in a showy, John Wick kind of way, but as a man desperate to keep a lifelong, and literal, blood oath to Annie. It’s a surprising performance.

The film, as a whole, is uneven. Part of me believes this would fair far better in series form. The beginning is a slow-burn relationship story. The upside of that is our genuine investment in the love between Jimmy and Annie. When the crime element appears, you think you know where this is going. Suddenly, we are thrown an extreme curveball halfway through. The final 30 minutes is another entirely new act. It’s a darkness I did not see coming. If you can get comfortable being uncomfortable, South Of Heaven will be right up your alley.


RLJE Films will release SOUTH OF HEAVEN in theaters and on VOD and Digital on Oct. 8, 2021.


Directed by Aharon Keshales (Big Bad Wolves), he co-wrote the film with Kai Mark and Navot Papushado (Gunpowder Milkshake). The film stars Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso,” Colossal”), Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame), Mike Colter (Extinction, Girls Trip), and Shea Whigham (Joker, F9).


Review: The Extended version of ‘CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS’ is a franchise fan’s dream.

CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN:
REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS

CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters is the definitive documentary charting the making of the iconic film that inadvertently changed the film industry forever. Featuring interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson and including never-before-seen footage. The documentary hallmarks the extraordinary achievements made for the era, and emphasizes just how ambitious an undertaking the making of Ghostbusters really was.


Born in 1980, my entire childhood revolved around Ghostbusters. Ecto-cooler was in my lunchbox. Ghost traps were created from tissue boxes. When I received the elusive Ecto 1 for Christmas, I was the envy of the neighborhood. The extended version of Anthony Bueno’s documentary Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters takes you into the minds and personalities that created the iconic film. It is overflowing with behind-the-scenes footage and stories, and it’s all to die for. When you find out who the original cast was meant to be, your head will spin.

The film utilizes animation to illustrate what these first ideas and meetings looked like. The sketches of the ghosts are insanely impressive. We’ve got the standard talking-head interviews, but it’s a franchise fan’s dream. The late, great Harold Ramis is included, in all his glory. Ghostbusters was made with a group of the most elite talents of the time. The photos of the team building the technology to create the film are pretty amazing. The FX from Steve Johnson gave us the iconic characters of The Librarian, Slimer, and The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.

When Sigourney Weaver landed the role of Dana, it changed everything. She pushed the boys to not only be better actors, but she is also responsible for a huge aspect of Dana’s arch. Weaver and Ivan Reitman discuss her audition, which will forever remain unseen by the public. Ernie Hudson’s role looked very different from the original script to the final incarnation. He talks about the dynamics of the entire cast. Even with a runtime of 2 hrs, you won’t want the film to end. It’s a cinephile’s dream. The wealth of information, the access to cast and crew, and the sheer love that emanates from everyone involved make Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters a nostalgic joyride.


Extended Version In Theaters &
On-Demand Today


Directed by Anthony Bueno (Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London)
Produced by Claire Bueno


Featuring the cast and crew of the original Ghostbusters including
Dan AykroydHarold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts
Director Ivan Reitman
Producers Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross
Visual Effects Crew Members Richard Edlund and John Bruno
Creature Design Consultant Terry Windell
Editor Sheldon Kahn


Review: ‘SURGE’ is a portrait of human implosion and an awards vehicle for Ben Whishaw.

SURGE

Joseph (Ben Whishaw, PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, the upcoming James Bond film NO TIME TO DIE) is trapped in a soulless job, living a life devoid of emotion and meaning. After an impulsive act of rebellion, Joseph unleashes a wilder version of himself. He is propelled on a reckless journey through London, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Whishaw won the Special Jury Award for his role in the film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.


SURGE feels like watching a powder keg about to explode. For a film that might seem to begin with inane tasks, the simmering tension becomes consuming. Once that fuse is lit, SURGE is a relentless display of emotional pyrotechnics. The handheld camera work is dizzying, placing the audience in Joseph’s physical frenzy. There are entire scenes without cuts. This is what a master class in performance looks like. Director Aneil Karia, cinematographer Stuart Bentley, and Ben Whishaw had to have established absolute trust to pull this off.

There is underlying violence that feels inevitable as Joseph begins to break. There may be a suggestion of hidden trauma. Ben Whishaw plays every beat with his whole body. His minute idiosyncrasies create an entire backstory. Compounding micro-aggressions lead to ticks, and then ultimately, a total breakdown in civilized behavior. He becomes manic. This is the epitome of base instinct. Whishaw will have you teetering on the brink of terror and awe. He is sensational.

Your heart will be your throat, unable to comprehend how this film could get any more intense. And yet, the stakes just keep getting higher. It felt like a panic attack. The end of the film is only cathartic in the physical sense. A mysterious sadness still hangs over Joseph’s fate. It’s such a bold choice. The combination of this script, Ben Whishaw’s performance, and Karia’s direction make SURGE an unstoppable force.


Debuts September 24th In Theaters
On-Demand Everywhere October 25th

Director: Aneil Karia
Written by: Rita Kalnejais, Rupert Jones
Story by: Rita Kalnejais, Aneil Karia, Rupert Jones
Produced by: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers
Co-Producer: Scott O’Donnell
Director of Photography: Stuart Bentley, B.S.C.
Editor: Amanda James
Genre: Thriller
TRT: 105 minutes


 

Review: Justin Long and Christian Long’s directorial debut, ‘LADY OF THE MANOR’ is a spirited good time.

Past and present collide in this supernaturally funny buddy comedy when stoner-slacker Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer), a Southern belle who died in 1875, in a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah, a hot mess, figures she can fake it —until the ghost of Lady Wadsworth appears! Lady Wadsworth tells Hannah it’s time to change her wild ways — and she’ll haunt her until she does — in this hilarious movie co-starring Justin Long and Ryan Phillippe.


Lady Of The Manor is devilishly fun. It’s an easy watch that never takes itself too seriously. The film is the directorial debut for brothers Justin Long and Christain Long, who also co-wrote the screenplay. You have to imagine that with a cast of this comedic caliber, there must have been a fair amount of improvisation on set. Ryan Phillippe is such a douche as Tanner Wadsworth. Also, how is it fair that he looks like he’s in his late 20s, after all this time? Although, I cannot be angry at strong genetics. He’s truly loathsome in this role. He’s the kind of rich kid that probably marched in Charlottesville. He’s got that kind of underlying energy, and it is perfect. Justin Long wears yet another hat playing Dr. Max Plum; Hannah’s accidental ghost expelling, history correcting, potential love connection. Long is always charming and effortlessly funny. I know he and Lynsky are friends, as with most of the cast. I’m a fan of his and Christian’s podcast Life Is Short, and I’m pretty sure they’ve all been guests. This mix of actors creates stellar chemistry.

Judy Greer, as Lady Elizabeth, is hilarious. The huffy delivery of her over-the-top dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. The chemistry between her and Lynsky is magic. Her arch is increasingly delicious. Greer gives into the joy of the role. Melanie Lynskey, ladies, and gentlemen. This is a wildly fun performance. She will induce fits of giggles. She’s crass and sloppy and I loved every second. Justin and Christian’s script lets these two actresses be playful and ridiculous. I cannot imagine a better duo.

One of the funniest running gags has to be Hannah’s awkward run-ins with Marcus, another employee, and resident of Wadsworth Manor. This gives actor Wallace Jean solid moments to shine. You’ll remember those scenes. You get a little bit of everything in this script. It’s a stoner comedy, it’s a mystery, and it’s a unique relationship film. When I say relationship, I mean between our two female protagonists. They learn to cooperate and break down barriers in communication in silly and honest ways. Lady Of The Manor is goofy fun, and you can’t go wrong with it this weekend.


Lionsgate will release the comedy LADY OF THE MANOR in Select Theaters, on Apple TV and Everywhere You Rent Movies on September 17th!

Available on Blu-ray and DVD on September 21st!


 

LADY OF THE MANOR stars an ensemble cast of Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures), Judy Greer (Halloween Kills), Justin Long (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), Luis Guzmán (“Shameless”), and Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions). The film is the feature directorial debut by Justin Long and Christian Long (A Case of You) which they also co-wrote.


Review: ‘BEST SELLERS’ shares the beauty between truth and fiction.

BEST SELLERS

Lucy Standbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her father’s publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier. In a last-ditch effort to save the company, Lucy and Harris release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect.


Aubrey Plaza plays against type as Lucy. She’s a type-A editor on the verge of bankruptcy. She’s got a lot to prove. On the surface, this is the least brooding role she’s ever played. Unsurprisingly, that’s all a rouse, and Plaza is up for the challenge. Lucy is given a beautiful arch. Her backstory, like Harris’, is slowly revealed. This allows us to fall in love with both of these characters. Sir Michael Caine gives one of his career’s best performances. As curmudgeonly and reclusive writer Hariss Shaw, he has settled into a lifetime of secrets and sadness. At times, Caine is raucous and crass. Others, he is docile and pensive. The chemistry between Plaza and Caine feels like an honest-to-God mentorship onscreen. This is generational genius, and we are the witnesses.

Voracious readers will connect with this script. The film flows like a novel with its complex characters and ever-evolving nuance. The screenplay unfolds in three distinct chapters, befitting the subjects and full story. Both Lucy and Harris straddle the line between saving face and redemption. The passages from Harris’ fictional work touched my soul. I could feel my chest well up hearing them read by average folks along the book tour. By the finale of Best Sellers, I was in full tears. The totality of Anthony Greico‘s award-winning script has so much heart. It’s incredibly cathartic. These two people were meant to change each other. The messaging of identity and grief are undeniable. In the words of Harris Shaw himself, “Be brief, be brave, be truthful. ” Director Lina Roessler has done just that. Best Sellers is not to be missed.


Available In Theaters & On-Demand
This Friday, September 17, 2021


Starring:
Sir Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, The Prestige)
Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, “Parks and Rec”)
Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, “GLOW”)
Scott Speedman (Underworld, The Strangers)
Cary Elwes (“Stranger Things”, The Princess Bride)

Directed by Lina Roessler (Little Whispers: The Vow, Mustard Seed)

Written by Anthony Greico the screenplay won a 2015 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting Award

Gala Presentation – 2021 Berlinale Film Festival


Review: ‘PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND’ sees Nic Cage paired up with director Sion Sono in some fantastic weirdness.

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.


Is this another out-of-this-world Nic Cage movie? Duh. Is it like watching a graphic novel and an episode of MST3K, all at once?! Yup. Overall, the screenplay features the smallest bit of backstory, and perhaps an homage to films like Return To Oz, Mad Max, and even The Wiz. There is so much happening in this wild story. I would not be angry if sequels popped up sooner rather than later. I have so many questions about this world that I’d even love a prequel! Give me all the whacked-out colorful silliness that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. I demand a franchise.

Bill Moseley is a genre giant. While my favorite role happens to be from Repo! The Genetic Opera, he’s undeniably awesome as The Governor. It is no surprise that his iconic voice makes for an entrancing watch. I love everything about this man. Sofia Boutella, who was fantastic in Settlers, absolutely holds her own against the chaos of the film and Cage. Her presence is glowing, and this performance is phenomenal. How is Nic Cage so effortlessly cool? This is one of life’s great mysteries. He’s in his element among the strange that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. This might as well be a double feature with Willy’s Wonderland. Hell, it could be the same character in an alternate dimension. You’re either a fan of Cage, or you’re wrong.

This film’s visual is all about vibrant color. Your eyes dart everywhere in an attempt to take in every detail. Joseph Trapanese’s score is gorgeous. You will not be able to ignore it. The costumes are wild, and the set dressing is bewildering. Prisoners of The Ghostland is a genre-defying spectacle. It’s captivating in its eccentricity. It deserves to be viewed on the largest possible screen. You’ve never seen anything like this film. The story is completely disjointed at times, but that’s not a reason to write this off. Will I watch this again because it’s destined to be a cult favorite? You know it.


RLJE Films will release PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND on September 17, 2021, in theaters, on VOD, and Digital.

The film made its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Directed by the acclaimed Japanese director, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), the film was written by Aaron Hendry and Rexa Sixo Safai (Western Wonderland).  The film stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Franchise), Tak Sakaguchi (Tokyo Tribe), and Yuzuka Nakaya (The Forest of Love). Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy, The Raid: Redemption, The Greatest Showman) composed the original score.


vhjv bleeper

Review: ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ is a slow burn lockdown horror.

SHELTER IN PLACE

SYNOPSIS: A honeymooning couple gets stranded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and learns that there is more to fear than just cabin fever.


“What’s out there, is scarier than what’s in here,” sound like famous last words. Shelter in Place has a relatable setup, especially considering the past 18 months. There’s an empty hotel, a newlywed couple, two hotel staff, and a whole lot of questions. Jonathan and Sara have an enormous chip on their shoulders as they are in quarantine in the beautiful Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Sara is an influencer and David moves money around. They fill their time wandering the halls of the hotel, taking advantage of the two staff members, and snooping in places they should not be. Consumed with the boredom and getting on one another’s nerves, Sara finally realizes something is amiss in this luxurious and lifeless hotel.

Ty is the general manager of the hotel, with the patience of a saint. Kevin Daniels plays him immaculately. I think he’s the most nuanced character. Daniels is a star. I’d watch him in anything. Adela is the overly attentive maid from Poland. There’s big Season 1 of American Horror Story energy coming from her. Actress Ola Kaminska gives it her all. She’s eerie as hell. Jonathan is played by Brendan Hines. He’s pretty punchable, super douche, and I do mean that as a compliment. Tatjana Marjanovic is Sara. She’s strong in her emotional journey and has all the makings of a scream queen.

The editing and cinematography are noticeably effective in allowing you to feel trapped and isolated. The use of red lighting is ominous and consuming. Directed and written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor Martin, the screenplay has Sara run out of the medication she’s taking, leading to panic attacks. The realism factor of a couple in lockdown allows Shelter in Place to push genre boundaries. It is anything but your typical genre film. There is some powerfully mean dialogue that will sound familiar to anyone in a relationship crisis. Just when you think the narrative hits a lull, you are reminded that something is very wrong here. While the final 15 minutes is heart-pounding, ultimately I haven’t a damn clue what Shelter In Place‘s ending really means. It’s a lot of successful, slow-burn build-up for a payoff that could have gone a million different directions. I’m not sure this was the right turn.


WATCH THE TRAILER: 

1091 Pictures will release the horror film SHELTER IN PLACE on VOD and Digital on September 14, 2021.

Directed and Written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor MartinSHELTER IN PLACE stars Brendan Hines (The Tick, Lie to Me), Tatjana Marjanovic (Great White, Purgatory), Kevin Daniels (Atypical, Modern Family, The Big Leap), Ola Kaminska (The Madness Within), and Jey Reynolds.


Review: IFCMidnight’s ‘WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING’ lets your imagination do a lot of the terrorizing.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.


This is perhaps, one of the most batshit premises for a horror film I’ve seen in a very long time. That is one hell of a compliment. Innuendo sneaks in from the beginning, and while you can grasp Melissa’s guilt, never in a million years will you expect We Need To Do Something to unfold in the manner it does. That is the absolute genius of this script. Except for a handful of flashbacks, the entire film takes place inside the family bathroom. Terror arrives in many forms throughout this film. One of the most shocking is the progressive violence from Pat Healy‘s character, Robert. If you want to see a character study of epic proportions, Healy has got you covered. He begins as a disgruntled husband and selfish father, eventually succumbing to forces both inside and out. It’s a maniacal performance.
Sierra McCormick, who I believe was the best part of American Horror Stories, nails it again. Her anxiety is palpable, and she is unafraid to leave it all onscreen. If she isn’t the next genre darling, I’ll be shocked. The script does a great job of highlighting the awkwardness, the lack of privacy, and the growing tension under duress. Who wants to use the toilet in front of your family? Screenwriter Max Booth III provides us with a sharp left turn a third of the way in. The gasp and look of horror on my face must have been hideous. No matter how I assumed this story would play out, that one moment is so mind-blowing it will send chills down your spine. The film’s most impactful aspect is the sound. Man does this cast sell it. Your own imagination is your worst enemy while watching. The ambiguity lets every viewer come away with a different and twisted result. Director Sean King O’Grady has an undeniable hit with We Need To Do Something. Here’s hoping he and Booth team up again and again.

IN THEATERS, DIGITAL and VOD on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3RD

Review: ‘A WAKE’ is a powerful conversation starter for many families.

A WAKE

The children in a religious family clash with their parents as they prepare for the wake of their brother, Mitchel.


Growing up Catholic didn’t honestly impact me until 8th-grade. I should say that attending Catholic School didn’t make me feel any different until one specific religion class. It was a moment that changed my entire life. It was explained to me, that telling my mother I was gay would be the equivalent of telling her I had committed murder. That was a defining moment. Today, my mother lovingly refers to one of my younger sisters and me as her “heathen children.” I begrudgingly attended Christmas and Easter Mass with my family throughout my college years. Then I put my foot down. I would no longer perpetuate the charade. To put this all in extra context, I am a straight woman. I grew up in the arts, surrounded by some of the most extraordinary humans on this planet. I continue to defend equal rights and acceptance, despite pushback from too many. Films like Scott Boswell’s A WAKE are important for families who may not even know they are in crisis. This story offers acceptance and unconditional love as lifesaving tools.

Noah Urrea plays twin brothers Mason and the recently deceased Mitchel. The youngest sibling Molly is planning a memorial wake for Mitchel. Invitations are sent to older sister Megan, their grandmother, their Baptist pastor, and Mitchel’s boyfriend, Jameson. The boys’ father and stepmother are typical religious conservatives, touting blasphemy, a stiff upper lip, and an extremely toxic, “man up” tone. The majority of the family is in the dark about Mitchel’s life, and Mason is left to deal with the guilt and trauma of losing his brother. Secrets and sadness have a poisoning effect on a family. A Wake addresses them in an accessible way.

The cast is amazing. Each actor brings the energy necessary to tell this story with truth and realism. Some moments are awkward, while others are rage-inducing. Megan Trout, as older sister Megan, is great. She’s the voice of reason in all of the chaos, whether the other family members are ready or not. Kolton Stewart, as Jameson, is lovely. His quiet strength brings a calm to the sadness. Bettina Devin as Grandmother is a gem. She’s elegant and understanding. Sofia Rosinsky‘s neurotic mentality is a story unto itself. Through flashbacks, we can see a clear progression of her personality, her growing manic tendencies, and genuine curiosity. She’s a spitfire.

Noah Urrea gives life to two equally intriguing characters, Mason and Mitchel. He has star quality. His narration, and the accompanying camerawork and score, push A Wake to the next level. If I had to nitpick, because that score is so good, you notice when it doesn’t appear. The film would have benefitted from more music. At times, that silence consumed whatever dialogue was occurring, landing it into a hokey category. When everything came together, the culmination of A Wake does exactly what it’s meant to do. It tells a story of a family coping with the loss of their brother, their son, and their grandson. There are honest moments where chills happen. It’s wonderful storytelling and impactful LGBTQ representation.


Available on DVD & VOD: August 31, 2021

Cast: Noah Urrea, Kolton Stewart, Sofia Rosinsky, Megan Trout, Bettina Devin

Directed by: Scott Boswell

Written by: Scott Boswell


Review: ‘The Last Matinee’ is a bloodsoaked love letter to genre fans

The Last Matinee

SYNOPSIS: The audience attending the last showing of a horror film in a small downtown cinema are terrorized by a murderer who begins to pick them off, one by one. The only person to notice that something strange is going on is the projectionist’s daughter.


I had to Google the film while watching to make sure it wasn’t a restoration. Every single aspect, from the costumes to the sets, to the audio editing screams a genuine 80s slasher. The Last Matinee is created as the perfect piece of genre nostalgia. Horror fans should keep their eyes peeled for Easter eggs and cinematic homages. The kills get progressively more gruesome. I’m particularly fond of #2. Undoubtedly Giallo inspired from the black gloves, the faceless killer, to the candy-red lighting and gore, The Last Matinee is a goddamn bloody treat. Don’t get too attached to anyone. No one is safe. The practical FX are so good, I almost lost my lunch. That rarely happens to me. I’ve watched so much horror that I’ve become a bit numb. This got me looking away wondering if I need to press pause just in case. The synopsis pretty much tells you everything you need to know, so do yourself a solid with this one. Turn off your brain and turn on your love of horror. Make some popcorn and settle in for the night. I hope you survive.


The Uruguay-Argentinian horror film THE LAST MATINEE is available TODAY on VOD, Digital, and DVD courtesy of Dark Star Pictures and Bloody Disgusting.


Directed by Maxi Contenti (Muñeco viviente VNeptunia) from a script by Manuel Facal (High Five, Fiesta Nibiru) and Contenti, the film stars Luciana Grasso (El Secreto de Julia), Ricardo Islas (El Que No Corre VuelaBailiwick), Julieta SpinelliFranco Duran and Pedro Duarte.


Review: ‘Eye Without A Face’ is a twisted psychological thriller.

Eye Without A Face

Henry, an agoraphobic and anxious young man living in Los Angeles, hacks into the webcams of various selected young women who inhabit the city. He watches over them in their daily lives, seeing himself as their guardian angel. When his new charming roommate Eric, a Youtuber and struggling actor pushes him to get out into the real world, he unknowingly puts Henry in danger. And as Henry starts to suspect one of the women he watches, Laura, of being a killer, everything starts to spiral out of control.

 


Luke Cook as Erik is the perfect foil for Shapiro’s Henry. He’s narcissistic and raunchy but also genuinely a good friend. I could not take my eyes off of him. I found myself cringing and doubled over at his antics. Cook provides the much-needed lightness to the dark of this film. Dakota Shapiro as Henry is simply astounding. He lives in the skin of a trauma victim. His idiosyncracies are spot on. Shapiro’s vulnerability is the backbone of Eye Without A Face. The cinematography from Tara Violet Niami is striking. Thoughtful use of color and lighting make for some extraordinary close-ups, especially of Adam’s eyes.


It’s clear to see the Rear Window inspiration in writer-director Ramin Niami‘s screenplay. The tiny flashes of Henry’s backstory heighten the tension. So does Charlie Clouser‘s score. If you think you know where this is going, think again. There is a reason we’re told to put tape over our laptop cameras. We love online these days, much to our own detriment. The key to Eye Without A Face is Henry’s largely unaddressed trauma. It is the complexity of his nature that makes this film so killer.


ON-DEMAND AND DVD AUGUST 10


Featuring stunning cinematography by Tara Violet Niami, and a mesmerizing score by Charlie Clouser, Eye Without A Face is written and directed by Ramin Niami, director of the acclaimed films Somewhere in the City, Babe’s & Rickey’s Inn and Shirin in Love.

Starring hot young actors Dakota Shapiro (“The Affair”), Luke Cook (“Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, “Katy Keene”), and Vlada Verevko (“Beauty and the Beast”), Eye Without A Face will be available On Demand and Digital August 10 from Gravitas Ventures.


Review: ‘John and The Hole’ is a dark look at adolescence and parenting.

In this enigmatic and unsettling meditation on adolescent angst, 13-year-old John (Charlie Shotwell) discovers an unfinished bunker while exploring the neighboring woods — a deep hole in the ground. Seemingly without provocation, he drugs his affluent parents (Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and older sister (Taissa Farmiga), holding them captive within the bunker. As they anxiously wait for John to free them from the hole, the boy returns home, where he can finally enjoy and explore newfound independence.

As a former teacher and current parent, I am wondering if my reaction to John and The Hole is in any way different from my colleagues. This is a film I cannot shake. Brilliantly performed, tightly directed by Pascual Sisto, and with glorious cinematography, John and The Hole is not to be missed. Charlie Shotwell plays the psychopathic John. The performance falls somewhere between age-appropriate and terrifying. This role should make him a household name. Michael C. Hall plays John’s father. He’s doting in gifts and a touch too nonchalant in actual parenting. Jennifer Ehle is fantastic as Mom. The ability to reflect goes beyond motherly instinct. Taissa Farmiga‘s older sister role hits the nail on the head. Mostly minding her own business until John’s behavior annoys her is pretty synonymous with being an older sibling. She has some of the most profound moments in the film. The Children’s ISA helps parents to save money for their children so when they grow  they can use it for their studies or buying their first home.

Drugging his family and holding them captive in a bunker aside, toxic masculinity is smartly displayed throughout John’s journey. It appears in a spit fight, inappropriate conversations, and almost drowning a friend. The culmination of these moments keeps you tense and extremely uncomfortable. John and The Hole is unpredictable. I believe the most disturbing aspect of Nicolás Giacobone‘s screenplay is actually the final scene. Not wanting to spoil anything for the reader, I was horrified. The reasons are a complex mix of socioeconomics and Giacobone’s understanding our how the world functions. John and The Hole begs a larger conversation about aggression, pressure, and parenting. Do not miss this film.

IFC Films is pleased to present the psychological coming-of-age thriller JOHN AND THE HOLE, directed by visual artist Pascual Sisto — one of Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” of 2021 — in his feature debut. A selection of the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival and featured in the 2021 Sundance Film Festival (in competition), JOHN AND THE HOLE will open on Friday, August 6 in select theaters and everywhere films are rented.

Review: ‘RIDE THE EAGLE’ is endlessly charming, authentic, and funny.

RIDE THE EAGLE

When Leif’s (Jake Johnson) estranged mother Honey (Susan Sarandon) dies she leaves him a ‘conditional inheritance’. Before he can move into her picturesque Yosemite cabin, he has to complete her elaborate, and sometimes dubious, to-do list. Leif and Nora, his canine BFF, step into Honey’s wild world as she tries to make amends from beyond the grave in this hilarious and heartfelt comedy.


Ride The Eagle is a one-of-a-kind film. The script is written by director Trent O’Donnell and star Jake Johnson. Tackling regret, forgiveness, and everything in between, there’s an honesty that stings and inspires. Mostly, Ride The Eagle makes you smile.

The script is filled with quirky characters. J.K. Simmons is fantastic in his manic energy. His delivery makes you involuntarily grin. Susan Sarandon, who we only see in her videotape to Leif, gives us warmth, and wisdom, and a boatload of snark. Her dialogue is yet another example of the care taken by O’Donnell and Johnson in their writing. There is a specificity that allows us to sit in Leif’s emotional shoes.

I want D’arcy Carden to be my new best friend. The scenes between her and Johnson are pure gold. Their chemistry is off the charts. Made even more impressive by the fact that they speak exclusively over the phone. It’s like watching a masterclass in scene partnering. Their report nudges the script into rom-com territory. But, in truth, Ride The Eagle is consistently genre-defying. Jake Johnson owns every frame he appears in. He has this innate ability to put you at ease while simultaneously making you giggle. He keeps you on your toes, always making you wonder what is scripted and what might be improvised. He’s just that talented.

The score is vibrant and incredibly thoughtful. Ride the Eagle shines with heart and charm. It has a palpable vulnerability that makes it undeniably relatable. Of the nearly 200 films I’ve seen in 2021, Ride The Eagle easily soars onto my top 10 list.

DECAL will release comedy RIDE THE EAGLE In Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on July 30, 2021. 

RIDE THE EAGLE is directed by Trent O’Donnell (“New Girl,” “No Activity”) with a screenplay by O’Donnell and Jake Johnson (“New Girl,” Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse), who also stars alongside Susan Sarandon (Thelma & Louise, Dead Man Walking), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Juno) and D’Arcy Carden (“The Good Place,” “Barry”).


Review: ‘Enemies of the State’ takes the courtroom drama into the digital age.

ENEMIES OF THE STATE

ENEMIES OF THE STATE is a documentary thriller that investigates the strange case of Matt DeHart, an alleged hacker and whistleblower, and his former Cold War spy parents who believe they are at the center of a government conspiracy and are ready to do anything to save their son from prison. This stranger-than-fiction story takes audiences on a wild ride of unexpected plot twists and bizarre discoveries in an artistic and cinematic documentary that blurs the line between reality and paranoia. With extraordinary access to all lead characters and key sources, this film presents many contradicting viewpoints as it attempts to solve a mystery that has kept attorneys, activists and journalists occupied for over a decade.


If an innocent man was sitting in front of you, would you even know it? This is a question I asked myself several times throughout Enemies of the State, Sonia Kennebeck’s propulsive new documentary. Years ago, movies made these kinds of questions easy on us: there’s that old western stereotype of the gunslinging hero wearing the white hat, staring down a villain dressed in black. These days, our digital lives have complicated that confrontation. In a world where stories of hackers, deep fakes, and police corruption flood the headlines, who can truly be trusted?

Enemies of the State’s subject is Matt DeHart. Through one lens he is an online activist, presumed hacker, whistleblower, and WikiLeaks courier. Through another, he is a convicted felon, guilty of soliciting child pornography from multiple victims. We will meet Matt’s supporters – family, friends, and online activists who all suggest these charges amount to little more than a government cover-up. We also see the case from law enforcement and hear the testimonials of the alleged victims. Who to believe?  This is Law and Order meets Mr. Robot.

In a film where nothing is certain, Kennebeck’s balanced direction is welcomed. Pains are taken to give equal air time to protagonists on each side of the conflict, to keep the viewer in check. I naturally found myself empathizing with DeHart’s family early in the film. In the immediate next scene, the camera lingers on the variety of medals on Detective Brett Kniss’ walls – as if to say, “You don’t want to believe this guy? He’s an Eagle Scout!”

I found the re-enactment scenes, featuring actors supported by authentic audio clips, robotic and less compelling. While robotic may indeed have been Kennebeck’s intention, sections in which the audio played simply over a black background were more resonant and unsettling.

Ultimately, the question of DeHart’s guilt or innocence depends on trust. Do you trust Matt’s family, his friends, or the FBI? Enemies of the State doesn’t take it easy on you – that answer is probably going to change a few times over the course of 103 minutes. I won’t give away where I landed – I’ll just say the image of the empty chair at the end of this film stuck with me long after the screen faded to black. Don’t understand? Just trust me.


In Theaters and On-Demand
July 30, 2021

Directed by: Sonia Kennebeck (National BirdUnited States vs. Reality Winner)
Produced by: Ines Hofmann Kanna, Sonia Kennebeck
Executive Produced by: Errol Morris


*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2020 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL*
*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2020 DOC NYC*

*OFFICIAL SELECTION – 2021 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL*


Review: ‘The Exchange’ is hilarious and surprisingly heartfelt.

THE EXCHANGE

In THE EXCHANGE, a socially awkward but highly enterprising teenager decides to acquire a “mail order best friend”; a sophisticated exchange student from France. Instead, he ends up importing his personal nightmare, a cologne-soaked, chain-smoking, sex-obsessed youth who quickly becomes the hero of his new community.

A unique fish out of water story, The Exchange is much more than a face value, raunchy comedy. In reality, it’s a complex look at small-town small-mindedness. It just so happens to be hilarious. Being set in Canada in the 80s brings an added notch of funny and relevance, using era politics and humor. One big-hearted young man, with some serious panache, can affect everyone around him. But don’t get too conformable with the formula; this film will surprise you in the best way possible.

The entire cast induces belly laughs. But you’ll definitely hone in on a few specific players. Justin Hartley plays the epitome of a narcissistic misogynist. Gary is the gym teacher and part-time local law enforcement. He’s completely ridiculous and you’ll love him for it. Jayli Wolf plays Brenda. She’s spunky and downright lovable in her adoration for an oblivious Tim. Her biggest quirk is one I can relate to. She makes up songs about literally nothing and everything. It’s ceaselessly amusing. Ed Oxenbould as Tim is everything we need him to be. His outward detestation for his life is palpable. He’s a social outcast, loathed for his love of cinema and general lack of trying to fit in. Avan Jogia as Stephan is sheer perfection. He is so likable in his commitment to this over-the-top character. He oozes a genuine charm that makes you fall in love with him. He’s an absolute star.

The soundtrack is magic. The Cure, The Smiths, Run DMC, and Phil Collins, play around an upbeat synth score. The script, by the actual Tim Long, has honest John Hughes vibes. It’s immensely fun. The Exchange is universally entertaining in its messaging and its heart.


THE EXCHANGE releases In Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand July 30, 2021.

Written by Tim Long (“The Simpsons,” “Late Show with David Letterman”), the film was directed by Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa). THE EXCHANGE stars Ed Oxenbould (The Visit), Avan Jogia (Zombieland: Double Tap) and Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”).


Review: ‘HERE AFTER’ is lengthy but lovely soulmate story.

HERE AFTER

A struggling actor, Michael, dies right after a bad breakup, awakening to a singles Purgatory where he must find his soul mate in order to cross over to the other side. With limited time to find true love among other recently deceased single New Yorkers, Michael must navigate the new customs of a ghostly dating life…as if dating in New York wasn’t hard enough already. When he meets the woman of his dreams, who happens to be alive, Michael must figure out how to cheat the system to cross over with her.

Andy Karl stars as Michael, a recently deceased, narcissistic actor who takes the idea of love for granted. When forced to find his soulmate, things get more complicated than he ever imagined possible. Finding a woman he connects with that happens to be alive makes for quite the twist. There are a lot of dynamic ideas in Here After, but its runtime drags the film down. It has some GHOST similarities, including a surprisingly dark edge I was not expecting in the least. The brightest moments come in two forms. First, the genuine chemistry between Andy Karl and his love interest Nora Arnezeder. She will charm any viewer with a single glance. Her nonchalance and likeability are gold. Karl, who I adore from his work on Broadway, is equally strong. He is the perfect balance of tenacious, fumbling, and vulnerable. Arnezeder’s and his down-to-earth dialogue makes this relationship fun and relatable. These are winning scenes.
Christina Ricci is our other shining star. Each appearance puts a smile on your face. She has this innate presence about her. Ricci’s character could be a separate script, entirely. The mood changed drastically whenever she and Karl shared the screen. Writer-director Harry Greenberger had the opportunity to lighten the overall tone with a more upbeat score and tighter editing. I absolutely appreciate the risk in including an aspect of danger. It undoubtedly kept me on my toes. While the climax had a plot hole or two, I’ll give Here After a pass in this category for its beautiful message and authenticity.


Vertical Entertainment will release HERE AFTER On Demand everywhere on July 23, 2021.

HERE AFTER stars Christina Ricci, Andy Karl, Nora Arnezeder, Jackie Cruz, and Michael Rispoli. It was written and directed by Harry Greenberger and produced by Greenberger and Carmine Famiglietti. The film has a running time of 121 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. HERE AFTER features the brand new original song “Mysteries of Life” sung by Debbie Harry.


Review: ‘Midnight in the Switchgrass’ squandered series potential.

Two FBI agents cross paths with Crawford, a Florida cop who’s investigating a string of murders that appear to be related. When an undercover sting goes horribly wrong, Crawford soon finds himself in a twisted game of cat and mouse with the killer.

This story might have fared better as a miniseries. In fact, I know it would have. With all the makings of a True Detective style, cliffhanger-filled crime-thriller, nothing quite pans out in a completely satisfying manner. Even at just shy of an hour and 40-minute runtime, there is a ton of missed opportunity and information that would have pushed Midnight in the Switchgrass into greatness territory. As it stands, it’s a bit of a rushed and disconnected mess.

The soundtrack does not help. It feels forced and somehow creates a hokey feel. The editing, particularly surrounding Emile Hirsch‘s flashes, creates a perception that you’re missing some greater storyline. It’s simply unnecessary. There are moments when the acting is so over the top it’s nonsensical. Each character needed more time to develop. We hear about their pasts only briefly. This is yet another example of where further serial development would benefit the entire narrative.

Bruce Willis is underutilized. He could have been any actor playing that role. Megan Fox wavers between totally believable and taken for granted. It’s her stunts that read fake, which is a tad baffling because we know she’s capable of action stardom. I’m not sure who to blame here. In her most recent film, Till Death, 50% of the performance is based on physicality and she owned that role. Emile Hirsch is genuinely fantastic. This is the second time this month he’s played a cop, the first being Son. That role suits him well. Lukas Haas is as terrifying as we need him to be. He, too, deserved more backstory. This is a character that’s so disturbing, but we merely get glimpses of how his mind works. He’s so strong, I would watch an entirely separate prequel going through his origin story. Midnight in the Switchgrass succeeds in Hirsch and Haas.

Lionsgate will release the thriller MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS in Theaters, On Demand, and Digital on July 23, 2021, and on Blu-ray and DVD on July 27, 2021.

MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHGRASS stars Megan Fox (Transformers franchise), Bruce Willis (Glass), Emile Hirsch (Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood), Lukas Haas (Inception), Colson Baker (aka Machine Gun Kelly) (The Dirt), Caitlin Carmichael (Life Itself) and Sistine Stallone (47 Meters Down: Uncaged). The film is the directorial debut of Randall Emmett (Producer of The Irishman) and the screenwriting debut of writer Alan Horsnail.

Review: ‘DOWNEAST’ is wicked authentic.

Downeast dives into the often-ignored seedy underbelly of Maine, following Emma Maddox as she returns to her hometown, haunted by the mysterious death of her brother Mikey years ago. As she reconnects with his best friend Tommy, the two rekindle their flame and Emma begins to uncover the web of lies the town has been keeping. Will Emma get the closure she so desperately seeks, or fall victim to the town’s turbulent ways?

As a New Englander born and bred, I know where my loyalty lies. New England is comprised of small coastal town charm and great regional food. More importantly, it has an unmistakable attitude that lies somewhere between territorially standoffish and genuinely friendly. Like every small town, secrets can easily keep the locals at arm’s length or connected for life. DOWNEAST is a fantastic example of that very idea. While I grew up in Connecticut and now reside in NYC, Maine is in my blood on my father’s side. I’ve seen things, and as an adult, I understand more than I care to. DOWNEAST‘s success lies within its authenticity and smart writing. You can thank director Joe Raffa and lead actor Greg Finely for that. This crime drama has everything you want; murder, revenge, and redemption. The slow introduction of the history of each character makes for a beautiful build-up of suspense.

Performances are top-notch. Greg Finley as Tommy manages to be both powerful and sympathetic all at once. There is a familiarity to his entire being that puts the audience at ease. Dylan Silver as Emma has an inspired tenacity that makes her a gorgeous foil for Finley. DOWNEAST could almost be considered an ensemble film. While the entire cast is incredibly solid, I feel compelled to mention one actor in particular. Kirk Fox‘s performance as Marty provides the much-needed levity to a heavy-handed storyline. He’s a star.

Gravitas Ventures and APS Films have announced the Digital HD and cable VOD release of Joe Raffa’s DOWNEAST will be available July 13th on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Comcast, Spectrum, and Cox.

Downeast was produced by APS Films and directed by Joe Raffa, who wrote a script based on a story by Maine native Greg Finley. Finley produced alongside Cory Pyke.  Edwin Pendleton Stevens served as executive producer.

Downeast had its world premiere at the Garden State Film Festival in March, kicking off a screening tour across North America. The film has taken home a number of awards including Best Director and Best Actor at Worldfest Houston and Best Film, Best Director and Best Actor at the Montreal Independent Film Festival. Downeast screened at the Beverly Hills Film Festival, the Phoenix Film Festival, and the Show Low Film Festival.

Review: ‘Love Type D’ is charming and unexpected.

 

Bad news. Being unlucky in love is genetic.

 How can someone love you yesterday and not today? Shortly after her boyfriend sends his 12-year-old brother to break the news that she’s dumped, Frankie Browne discovers that she has a loser in love gene. Every man she goes out with will inevitably break up with her. Facing a lifetime of romantic failure, Frankie turns to the only genetics expert she knows: her former nemesis, Wilbur, a schoolboy science prodigy. Wilbur develops a maverick theory to reverse her romantic fortunes that sets into motion an unexpected and comic journey into Frankie’s past of questionable romantic choices.

Love Type D is a quirky and completely unexpected romcom. With a mixture of flashbacks and impressive ingenuity, Frankie figures she has nothing left to lose in love. Taking the advice of 12-year-old Wilbur throws her life into chaos. But it’s all in the name of finally understanding herself and the patterns of heartbreak. Wrangling in co-workers with similar relationship woes, Frankie becomes bolder than she ever thought possible. Love Type D is anything but the typical romcom. The script, by director Sasha Collington, is endlessly fun. Maeve Dermody skillfully plays upon Frankie’s eccentricities to make her genuinely loveable. This gives the film a solid Bridget Jone’s Diary vibe. But Love Type D easily stands on its own two left feet. Dermody is pure delight.  Even though Oliver Farnworth is on the poster with Dermody, it’s the performance from Rory Stroud as Wilbur that makes this film magic. His delivery of Collington’s dialogue is like watching a 45-year-old man inside a 12-year-old’s body. He is simply darling. If he’s not cast in every single upcoming British film, I’ll be flabbergasted. He’s a star.

OPENING ON-DEMAND EVERYWHERE

ON JULY 9, 2021

LOVE TYPE D stars Maeve Dermody, Rory Stroud, Oliver Farnworth, and Tovah Feldshuh.

It was written and directed by first-time filmmaker Sasha Collington.

The film has a running time of 94 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  Vertical Entertainment will release LOVE TYPE D On Demand everywhere on July 9, 2021.

Review: ‘Till Death’ kills it with the ball and chain metaphor.


Presents

TILL DEATH

Emma (Megan Fox) is stuck in a stale marriage to Mark and is surprised when he whisks her away to their secluded lake house for a romantic evening on their 10th anniversary. But everything soon changes, and Emma finds herself trapped and isolated in the dead of winter, the target of a plan that gets more sinister at every turn.

Till Death is a creative story about abuse, control, and reclaiming your voice. The film stars Megan Fox as Emma. She has been held emotionally captive by her abusive and powerful husband for 11 years. Their marital turmoil reaches new heights when a weekend getaway develops into physical captivity, with a side of heist and murder. Fox is great. The small moments of both recoil and challenge establish their dynamic, making for an uncomfortable watch. The physicality of this role is only half the battle. You cannot help but watch and yell at the screen alongside her. I think, “Son of a bitch!” came out of my mouth a lot. If I can be picky for a moment, I don’t think Fox’s character is given enough time to transition from submissive to badass, but that doesn’t lessen how enjoyable Till Death ultimately is. She gives a visceral performance.

It’s a harrowing script. The tension is constantly being ratcheted up. I was not expecting such a cat and mouse game when it first began. It’s the ingenuity that grabs you. I was genuinely surprised by Jason Carvey‘s screenplay. It’s undeniably clever, gruesome, infuriating, and fun. Till Death is essentially the worst anniversary scavenger hunt ever. (Which is actually the best compliment.)

Available In Theaters And On Demand July 2

Starring Megan Fox (Jennifer’s Body)
Co-staring Callan Mulvey (Russo Brothers’ upcoming The Gray Man), Eoin Macken (George RR Martin’s Nightflyers), Aml Ameen (HBO’s “I May Destroy You”)
and Jack Roth (Medici)
Directed by S.K. Dale 
Screenplay by Jason Carvey