Review: Be careful what you wish for in ‘The Djinn’.

The Djinn

THE DJINN follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

For as many times as children accidentally come upon The Book of Shadows (or any ancient text with a pentagram on the cover), I’m beginning to wonder if I should teach my 4 and 5-year-olds to stay away. Yet again, I don’t want to stifle their inevitable love of all things horror-centric. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I understand the importance of communication. The frustration and longing to be heard are endless. If we could change our circumstances, wouldn’t we try? David Charbonier and Justin Powell‘s new film The Djinn combines the themes of grief, trauma, and a mysterious legend to create a story that will both terrify and tear your heart out.

The score immediately reminded me of The Goonies. It is a perfect mix of ominous and whimsical. Dylan’s reading voice is costar Rob Brownstein’s voice.  As a mute boy, Dylan’s internal vocal reference would most certainly be that of his father. This moment of specificity from Charbonier and Powell is magic. The entire film’s sound design is award-worthy. Dylan’s hearing is likely acutely sharp due to developmental adaptation. The audio is jarring in a way that places the viewer in his constant state of hyper-awareness. His panic is our panic and it is palpable.

It’s a fresh take on the legend and more shudder-inducing than you’d expect. The pacing is perfection. All the tropes are there but with a hell of a twist. The Djinn‘s main conflict plays out within an hour, making the stakes feel higher as we count down the minutes alongside Dylan. Speaking of our leading young man, Ezra Dewey is a star. His chemistry with Rob Brownstein is charming and genuine. Dewey’s ability to own this entire film sans dialogue is the stuff of dreams. Mark my words, he will be everywhere. The Djinn is a very scary bedtime story warning us all to be careful what we wish for.

THE DJINN will be in THEATERS, DIGITAL, and VOD NEXT FRIDAY, MAY 14TH

Review: ’15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot’ brings big laughs and great filmmaking.

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot

In 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot, Brian and his producer/cameraman Zach want to get into the serious news business. Brian loathes his job and he’s jaded as hell. When he gets assigned a story about Bigfoot, things get weirder than anyone expected. Vice meets Netflix’s American Vandal, 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot is a larger-than-life, tongue-in-cheek satire about clickbait journalism. Listen, like millions of others, I love me some BuzzFeed, but I know why I’m ultimately there. It’s for the pop culture lists, cheap dupe clothing links, and videos of dudes trying “lady-centric” stuff. I am in no way there for actual news. In 15 Things, Brian feels trapped in covering the fluff pieces we love/hate click on daily. Begrudgingly, he and Zach follow a local Bigfoot expert, a lead that will put them in the path of a much larger and deadlier story.

The mockumentary style is unbelievably hilarious. Every single cast member is a damn laugh riot. I don’t know how much of this film is improvised and how much is scripted, either way, you will be entertained from start to finish. Handheld camera work and snarky voiceovers push 15 Things to some next-level hilarity, but also a legit gorgeous looking movie. The editing and cinematography are ridiculously stunning. If you put it on mute, you’d never know the difference between this and Vice. It’s scary good. Is this the first of a franchise for these guys? I would not be mad at that. 15 You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot is now available In Theaters + on VOD. 

Directed by Zach Lamplugh

Written by Brian Emond & Zach Lamplugh

Produced by Tim Reis, Zach Lamplugh, Brian Emond

Starring Brian Emond, Jeffrey Stephenson, Zach Lamplugh, Derick Marchel, Dexter Fugerson, Jenna Kannell, Tevin Williams, Chris Mayers, Virginia Kirby, Nick Gibbons

2021 · Paranormal Comedy · 84 MIN

Review: ‘Eat Wheaties!’ is deliciously charming.

Eat Wheaties!

Sid Straw (Tony Hale) leads a dull life until he accidentally stalks famous college friend, Elizabeth Banks, on social media. With each failed attempt to prove he knows her, he rediscovers more of himself and the true meaning of friendship.

In the new film  EAT WHEATIES!, Sid Straw is the co-worker, family member, or neighbor that means well but always seems to get on someone’s nerves. His well-intentioned messaging to Elizabeth Banks create a downward spiral in his life that goes from silly to devastating. Blow after blow, Sid knows that his authentic self is good enough. This film is deliciously charming. Social media is a monster that can easily swallow its users whole. Sid Straw is misunderstood. He’s smart, thoughtful, quirky, and technologically behind the times.

Tony Hale knocks it out of the park.  EAT WHEATIES! allows him to hit every emotional high and low. You will fall in love with him. We’ve all known those social media newbies. The signing off on posts with their names, the public messages meant to be private, always makes me giggle. This character just captures your heart as he faces an enormous uphill battle against the media. Hale breathes life into a role that could easily become a caricature of a person. Alongside an amazing cast of familiar faces, Hale is a joy to watch as he navigates the complexities and ripple effects of a social media misstep. EAT WHEATIES! will make you laugh, cringe, cry, and then some. It a delight. PS, Stick around for the credits. Trust me.

Directed by Scott Abramovitch, Screen Media will release EAT WHEATIES! in theaters and on-demand on April 30.

Starring Tony Hale, with Paul Walter Hauser, Danielle Brooks, Lamorne Morris, Robbie Amell, David Walton, Sarah Burns, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Chalke, Sarah Goldberg, and Alan Tudyk

Review: Glenn Close and Mila Kunis breathe life in ‘Four Good Days’

Four Good Days

Four Good Days

In an emotional journey based on a true story by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Eli Saslow, 31-year-old Molly begs her estranged mother Deb for help fighting a fierce battle against the demons that have derailed her life. Despite all she has learned over a decade of disappointment, grief, and rage, Deb throws herself into one last attempt to save her beloved daughter from the deadly and merciless grip of heroin addiction. Powerhouse performances from Glenn Close and Mila Kunis anchor director Rodrigo García’s poignant and unpredictable chronicle of mother and daughter fighting to regain the love and trust that once held them together.

Four Good Days takes on the devastating ripple effects of addiction. The script is inspired by a Washington Post article by Eli Saslow about a real mother-daughter relationship. This film, outside of addiction, is about the bond between a mother and her child. You can feel the anxiety and anguish from Deb. The small but specific details of a life ruined by a cycle that repeats itself. Behaviors that have become routine; hiding her wallet and keys under her pillow, alarming every door in the house, cell phone monitoring, all habits of defeat and inevitability. So many lives have been destroyed by unchecked prescriptions that easily went awry. As a parent, the line between caretaker and individual is completely blurred. Four Good Days is an honest and raw look at the complexities of it all.

Saslow and director Rodrigo Garcia‘s screenplay doesn’t give Deb a pass. She’s as flawed as the next person. Her backstory reveals a potential trigger for Molly’s addiction woes. The enabling we oftentimes see, the paranoia, and guarded behavior are all on display for Glenn Close to masterfully explore. She gives us a mirror image of her daughter in more ways than you might think. The nuance is captivating.

Mila Kunis is almost unrecognizable as Molly, down the oral prosthetic. She gives a spectacular performance. While the audience settles into the frenzy of Close’s role, Kunis creeps in and snatches the rug from under you. There is never a dull moment behind her eyes and once you finally see the entire picture you realize just how incredible she truly is. It’s something that deserves a repeat viewing. Casting directors, take note when grittier roles come across your desk. Kunis should be on your list.

 Four Good Days brilliantly surpasses cliche to show us humanity in a crisis we’ve come to know all too well. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the film.

Vertical Entertainment will release “Four Good Days” theatrically beginning April 30 and then release it on demand starting May 21.

 

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: “BLOODTHIRSTY’ overflows with music and metaphor.

BLOODTHIRSTY

Grey, an indie singer, whose first album was a smash hit, gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend/lover Charlie, they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins. But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and begins to discover the family she never knew. What will it take to become a great artist and at what cost to her humanity?

The music is not only a major plot point but a character of its own. Lauren Beatty brings Lowell’s songs to life with an honest folk/pop vibe. They are haunting. Combined with the string-heavy score, the soundtrack enters bone-chilling territory. Wow. Now that most of us have watched Framing Britney Spears we understand the mental health pressure of pop stardom. To see that explored in Bloodthirsty on a more literal level was incredibly intriguing. A controlling father figure, isolation, and a strict diet all enhanced by horror make this story ceaselessly engrossing. Separately, there is a family and loyalty dynamic. It’s a brilliant combination of genres.

Greg Bryk as Vaughn is scary. His manipulation skills are daunting. He’s very punchable and I do mean that as a compliment. He infuriated me and made me so uncomfortable. I guess that means he’s done his job well.  Lauren Beatty, who was phenomenal in Bleed With Me (also directed by Amelia Moses), gives us a vulnerability that is consuming, pun fully intended. She’s got genre darling potential in spades. Here, she is allowed to challenge the audience’s perception of reality. What would you sacrifice for your art? Bloodthirsty will have you questioning the creative process long after the credits roll. 

 

 

Website: http://www.brainmedia.com/films/bloodthirsty

Directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me), conceived and written by mother-daughter duo Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell, and featuring the original music of Lowell, BLOODTHIRSTY stars Lauren Beatty (Bleed With Me) and Greg Bryk (The Handmaid’s Tale). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and opens In Select Theaters and On-Demand on April 23.

 

Review: ‘STREET GANG: How We Got To Sesame Street’ is a nostalgic hug of legacy and love.

STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET

STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET reintroduces this visionary “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers, and educators that audaciously interpreted radical changes in society and created one of  the most influential and impactful television programs in history.

This eclectic documentary traverses from the inception to the nuance of programming this iconic television show. Everything from the production design to intimate interviews with the actors, from the musical guests to the writers’ room is in this film. It hits on the social, racial, and educational impact of the show. The show’s schedule was one of the most intense I’ve ever heard of. 100 episodes per year filled to the brim with original sketches (both muppet and street scenes), animation, and original songs, Sesame Street has changed the lives of countless families across the globe.

John Stone isn’t a household name in the way that Jim Henson and even Frank Oz are. Stone was the director chosen by television executive Joan Ganz Cooney. His passion and work ethic combined with an extraordinary group of artists made Sesame Street the beloved program we know today. Street Gang doesn’t sugarcoat the naysayers. It does not ignore the internal conflict. It’s an honest look at bringing it to life. The conversations between the curriculum creators and the writers were key to reaching the audience, making learning both fun and engaging.

Some of the most charming bits in the film are the blooper reels. The genius, off-the-cuff moments between cast members staying in muppet character will slay you. One very poignant time in the show’s history was anything but unscripted. The death of Mr. Hooper was a carefully curated scene. It sticks with me still today. In 1990, when Jim Henson passed at the age of 53, the world mourned alongside the cast and crew of Sesame Street. Caroll Spinney as Big Bird singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at Jim’s funeral is heartbreaking and eternal.

I grew up with this show. As a 40-year-old moth of a 4 and 5-year-old, my children are now growing up with this show. I’m not ashamed to say I sit and watch with them. I’m just as enthralled with Sesame Street as I ever was. Their ability to grow with the times is what keeps them relevant and brilliant. Each scene in Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street held me with its nostalgia as it peeked behind the curtain. It left me with the hope that the show will continue its legacy long after we’re gone.

THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY WILL OPEN IN THEATERS ON APRIL 23, 2021, AND ON-DEMAND MAY 7, 2021

Directed by Marilyn Agrelo (Mad Hot Ballroom) and produced by Trevor Crafts (Experimenter 2015) and Ellen Scherer Crafts, the documentary chronicles the improbable origins and expansion of the groundbreaking show that not only changed children’s television programming, but had real-world effects on equality, education, and representation worldwide. The film is inspired by Michael Davis’ New York Times best-selling book of the same name.

About Screen Media Ventures, LLC

Screen Media Ventures, LLC, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (Nasdaq: CSSE) company, acquires the rights to high-quality, independent television series and feature films. Screen Media Ventures acquires worldwide rights for distribution through theatrical, home video, pay-per-view, free, cable and pay television, video-on-demand, and new digital media platforms. The company acquires AVOD rights for third-party networks and is the main supplier of content for Crackle Plus and other Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment properties. With a library of over 1,500 television series and motion pictures, Screen Media Ventures is one of the largest independent suppliers of high-quality tv series and motion pictures to U.S. and international broadcast markets, cable networks, home video outlets, and new media venues. For more information, visit: www.screenmedia.net

About Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) operates streaming video-on-demand networks (VOD). The company owns Crackle Plus which owns and operates a variety of ad-supported and subscription-based VOD networks including Crackle, Popcornflix, Popcornflix Kids, Truli, Pivotshare, Españolflix, and FrightPix. The company also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media subsidiary and produces original long and short-form content through Landmark Studio Group, its Chicken Soup for the Soul Originals division, and APlus.com. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a subsidiary of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, which publishes the famous book series and produces super-premium pet food under the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name.

 About Macrocosm Entertainment

Trevor Crafts and Ellen Scherer Crafts created Macrocosm to bring dynamic engaging content to global audiences by building and showcasing unique worlds. Films include Sundance Film Festival World Premiere Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street (2021), 7 Splinters in Time (2018) Manson Family Vacation (Netflix, SXSW 2015 premier), and Experimenter (Magnolia, Sundance 2015 premier). In publishing, they created Lantern City, one of UPROXX Top Ten Comics of 2015, and The Not-So-Secret Society (2017) the first original children’s graphic novel for KaBOOM! an imprint of BOOM! Studios. For more information visit: www.macrocosm.tv.

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: ‘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: ‘HAPPILY’ is completely unexpected

 

HAPPILY

A happily married couple (Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé) discover their friends are resentful of their lustful relationship. When a visit from a mysterious stranger leads to a dead body, they begin to question the loyalty of their so-called friends.

As a 40-year-old woman who has always had her relationship categorized as Janet and Tom, this film spoke to me in a completely different way. I felt the animosity that they receive in a visceral way. The dialogue was genuinely funny in an adult way. The kind of dialogue that actually comes out of our mouths at a certain age and comfort level. The things we say when we just don’t GAF anymore, and honestly, I respect the hell out of it. The plot seems simple enough but the thriller aspect ramps up along with the funny. This cast is superb. They’re sexy, blunt, hilarious, weird, and the kind of eclectic personalities you need to pull this off. This set is cool as hell. I want to go to there. You think you know where this script is going but you really don’t. It’s much darker. It’s much twistier. Do. Not. Get. Comfortable. At the heart of it all, HAPPILY is about communication and trust. It’s about the facade of happiness we feel like we have to portray to the world. This interaction of that theme is told through terror and humor and a bit of WTF. Congrats to writer-director BenDavid Grabinski on a true standout film in 2021.

In Theaters, On Digital & On-Demand March 19th, 2021
BenDavid Grabinski’s Happily is a dark romantic comedy from producer Jack Black, with an all-star powerhouse cast including Joel McHaleKerry BishéStephen RootPaul Scheer, Breckin MeyerNatalie ZeaNatalie Morales, Jon Daly, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Charlyne Yi.

IFC Midnight review: ‘COME TRUE’

COME TRUE

High school student Sarah (Stone) is at her lowest point yet when she runs away from home and finds herself with no one to rely on and struggling with recurring nightmares. She chances upon a university sleep study that offers the promise of safety and money and brings her an unexpected friend and confidant in the overseeing scientist Jeremy (Liboiron). But there’s something curious about proceedings and being under observation seems to make Sarah’s disturbing dreams even worse. As the darkness begins to close in, it’s soon clear that Sarah has unknowingly become the conduit to a horrifying, new discovery…

Come True is best described as visceral nightmares. The wearer of all the hats, writer-director-DP-editor Anthony Scott Burns has given audiences a sci-fi head trip so stunningly beautiful it will overwhelm you. The film has a dark “Through the Looking Glass” feel. Visually akin to The Cell or What Dreams May Come, specifically the purgatory scenes. There’s a frightening beauty to Sarah’s dreams. This cast is amazing. The vulnerability of every single actor should be recognized. Our leading lady, Julia Sarah Stone is astonishing. Her physicality creates a false sense that her character is fragile. Stone owns each frame, sometimes with nothing but her eyes.

The visual progression of horrifying imagery is stunning. The sleep experiment costumes have a Tron meets Captain EO vibe and I really dig them. The script is solidly disturbing. In all honesty, I was locked in until the very final scene which for me stepped into “Huh?” territory. I’ve now watched this film twice. The second viewing was a lot more telling. I have new theories. That being said, the rest of the film is so powerful, Come True is completely worth your attention. Thoroughly engrossing original visuals and storytelling are ramped up by Electric Youth and Pilotpriest’s synth score. It manages to wrap itself around you and immerse you in fear. Each of these elements creates an experience making Come True its own entity. It may give you your own new set of nightmares.

COME TRUE will open in select theaters, digital platforms, and cable VOD on March 12, 2021.

Review: ‘Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know’ is a mind-blowing doc.

BLACK HOLES:

THE EDGE OF ALL WE KNOW

What can black holes teach us about the boundaries of knowledge? These holes in spacetime are the darkest objects and the brightest—the simplest and the most complex. With unprecedented access, Black Hole | The Edge of All We Know follows two powerhouse collaborations. Stephen Hawking anchors one, striving to show that black holes do not annihilate the past. Another group, working in the world’s highest-altitude observatories, creates an earth-sized telescope to capture the first-ever image of a black hole. Interwoven with other dimensions of exploring black holes, these stories bring us to the pinnacle of humanity’s quest to understand the universe.

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but the discoveries that have come from the study of Black Holes are actual science. Stephen Hawking has essentially told us that everything we know could be an illusion. Black Holes do not follow any laws of physics. That idea is mind-blowing. As humans, we year to understand the structure of the universe. The challenge continues to be that seeing is believing, even for scientists.

In Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know, a group of scientists called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) are collaborating around the globe. They have set up stations around the world to communicate with one another to act as one massive Earth-sized telescope in an attempt to capture the first image of a black hole. The amount of data is larger than any other experiment, ever. As the information finally gets developed into images in 2018, they were deemed top secret. They didn’t even share the images among the 4 EHT teams until they were finally in person. The final picture shared with the public in 2019 is simply breathtaking. This is when theory becomes reality.

Before his passing, Stephen Hawking and colleagues thought that information was not actually eaten by black holes but that some information makes an imprint and comes back. How much? That’s just another mystery they’re trying to figure out. They work tirelessly through equations on chalkboards, step back and wonder if anything they’ve just done makes sense. Stephen would enter the conversation and flip the work on its head. Watching them work through possibilities is like watching a tennis match of genius. Witnessing how each mind contributes is incredible. Sasha Haco, Malcolm J. Perry, and Andrew Strominger continue what the four began together. The work continues.

If you are someone who watched the most recent rover land on Mars and cried, as I did, you will be captivated by this film. With an effective score, beautiful black and white animation, and real-time tracking of their project, your heart is in your throat as you root for their success. You’ll learn things you never knew were possible. Black Holes: The Edge of All We Know is a fascinating look at the minds and circumstances pushing the boundaries of the unknown. This is the stuff of dreams, science, the human spirit, and a little bit of magic.

*Available on VOD March 2nd, 2021*

Directed by Peter Galison (Co-Founder, Black Hole Initiative at Harvard)
With a score by  Zoë Keating

Featuring
Shep Doeleman, Founding Director, Event Horizon Telescope
physicist Andrew Strominger,
theoretical physicist Malcolm Perry,
Co-Founder/CEO Unitary Sasha Haco  (Black Hole Entropy from Soft Hair)
and Stephen Hawking

 

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: ‘I BLAME SOCIETY’ is weird, smart, and dark as hell. I’m obsessed.

I BLAME SOCIETY

Synopsis
Gillian (Gillian Wallace Horvat) is one of those many struggling filmmakers in L.A. who just can’tseem to get the money for their first feature. Feeling like her friends and her partner (Keith Poulson) are losing faith in her abilities, she decides to resurrect her abandoned documentary based on a pseudo-compliment she once received that she would make a good murderer. But while she documents what makes “the perfect murder” a hitherto unseen dark side of Gillian emerges and grows. Furthermore the problem with being a successful serial killer, she discovers, is keeping the whole thing stealth, denying her the recognition that she craves… and that unhinges her even more. After accidentally-ish killing her best friend (Chase Williamson), Gillian goes on a killing spree culminating with a final bloody act that nobody would dare deny her credit for.

There is no female equivalent for the phrase “Ballsy”. What would that even look like? Lippy? I BLAME SOCIETY is extra lippy. Starring as a version of herself, filmmaker Gillian Wallace Horvat says all the quiet parts out loud. Then she acts on them just to make a point. And goddamnit, virtual high five from me. This script is unapologetic, bold, and genuinely hilarious. It’s the “die for your art” meets “tell me I can’t and see what happens” mashup I didn’t know I wanted. Highlighting the ridiculously misogynistic side of the industry in the smartest ways. When the phrases, “This is a really big opportunity for you!” “You’re like the female him!” “We need an ally on your side!” I died laughing and I died inside. But the film also tackles social media, communication, and ambition all inside a twisted presentation of Dexter-esque mayhem.

The pace leading to murderous activities works so well to build up a tense WTF feeling. It’s just so imaginative and absolutely terrifying. You get to a point where you stop thinking it’s funny and start genuinely worrying about everyone she encounters. Wallace Horvat is awesome. I wanna hang out with her in real-life and make fun of everything that she makes fun of in this film. She knows exactly what she’s doing even as she leads you to believe otherwise. She has an overtly narcissistic sociopath nuance to “Gillian” and nothing short of that would have worked as well. When she references makeover sequences, I laughed out loud and then immediately gasped exclaiming, “Holy Shit! That’s her actual hair!” When you see it you’ll fully understand.

The DIY look of the camerawork makes it even more relatable, especially after last week’s Twitter battle claiming “you can’t make a film with just an iPhone.” I BLAME SOCIETY is a giant middle finger to still male-dominated and faux #MeToo accountability in Hollywood. And not just the film industry. I’ve been on the other end of these conversations, yes in writing rooms and screening rooms, but also retail jobs, teaching jobs, do I need to go on? Even outside that theme, I BLAME SOCIETY is for every single person obsessed with true crime yelling at the TV, “The Husband did it,” or “You know what I would have done…” We get to sit back, relax, and watch someone else live out our darkest fantasies and that’s satisfying and entertaining.

I BLAME SOCIETY Debuts February 12th on VOD
For More Info Visit HERE

Review: ‘The Mimic’ is like nothing else you’ve seen or heard.

THE MIMIC

mimic: noun mim∙ic <\‘mi-mik \>

: a person who copies the behavior or speech of other people

: a person who mirrors other people

: an animal that naturally looks like something else

Based on a true story, this clever, intriguing, and hyperbolic comedy follows the main character – ‘the Narrator’ (Thomas Sadoski) who is befriended by his young new neighbor ‘the Kid’ (Jake Robinson), after he joins the local newspaper team.

Obsessed with the idea that the Kid may be a sociopath, the Narrator goes to extreme lengths to uncover the truth about him and his wife, a woman he ultimately begins to fancy. Between long walks down the street, a twisted dinner date, and a car drive gone terribly wrong, the Narrator gets closer and closer to the truth about the Kid. But the truth, as he finds, is anything but what he expected.

With a genuine laugh out loud, “Who’s On First?” meets  Adaptation (2002) energy, THE MIMIC so damn quirky you’re sort of hypnotized by its rhythm. It hums like a David Sedaris story that he’s narrating himself. The back and forth, rapid-fire dialogue is a bit dizzying but it certainly leaves you perched on the edge of your seat trying to keep up with the antics of these two gentlemen. You are so invested in them and their dynamic, you get swept up in this completely unexpected and magnetic film. I’m not exactly sure why there’s essentially a Febreze commercial halfway through the script but at that point you sort of just shrug and say, “Sure, why not.” We also experience a very meta scene, not including the moment when The Narrator turns to look straight into the camera. I was obsessed with it. Writer/Director Thomas F. Mazziotti’s screenplay has a rich theatrical feel. There is no doubt this could be an award-winning stage production. I would buy tickets to watch this live over and over just to feel the electricity between two actors up close and personal.

The ancillary cast of The Mimic is truly unreal. But the main focus is on our two leads; Thomas Sadoski and Jake Robinson. Sadoski’s mix of morose and obsessive behavior barrels the plot forward. Robinson’s overtly sunny disposition is so cringe-worthy (especially to this New Yorker critic) that you’re immediately placed in The Narrator’s (and Sadoski’s) mindset that something is off with The Kid. I first fell in love with Thomas Sadoski on The Newsroom. He’s just so goddamn good at what he does. He lives in a character’s skin with what looks like such ease. In The Mimic, you can see it all in his pained facial expressions. The Kid must be a sociopath. Jake Robinson looks like an ad for toothpaste from the 1950s. He’s got this classically handsome, old Hollywood charm that’s infectious, which is exactly why he was the perfect choice for this role. His comic timing is magic. The chemistry between these two men at odds is like a ticking time bomb. I was mesmerized by their report.

There is just something about this film that makes it special. I think it will garner a bit of a cult following. I can hear it being quoted in the same way Swingers still gets quoted among a certain age group of cinephiles. It’s got that same buzz about it. The Mimic will not be replicated and that’s what makes it so fantastic.

THE MIMIC will be screening in select theaters, and available on VOD beginning Friday, February 5, 2021.

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.