Review: Latvian film ‘SQUEAL’ is one twisted tale.

SQUEAL

Told through the lens of a man searching for his father, a small village with a medieval mindset, and a pig, the Latvian film SQUEAL is a wild blend of storytelling elements. One part fairytale and one part romanticized Stockholm Syndrome, trust me, you have never seen anything quite like this. Alongside co-writer Aleksandr Rodionov, writer-director Aik Karapetian brings to life a story of belonging under the strangest circumstances.

In search of his father in rural Eastern Europe, Samual is far from home and does not speak the language. After getting lost on his journey, he gets into a car accident. Sidelined by the local farmer’s daughter, he finds himself chained in a pigsty, forced to work as a farmhand. As jealousy and misogyny cause a rift among family members and the locals, Sam must use everything at his disposal to escape or adapt.

The cast is magnificent. Knowing full well of the bizarre nature of this twisted tale, they amazed me. The script is an ever-evolving, emotional rollercoaster. Your feelings about each character change from scene to scene as the screenplay progresses. The narration from Uldis Verners Brūns is delicious. His voice is like a warm hug. The soundtrack is a sumptuous mix of classical pieces from Handel to Vivaldi. Squeal is undoubtedly a unique story that will have you questioning your morality. With an ending that leads to more questions than answers, you’ll leave thinking about this film long after the credits roll.




Official Selection: FANTASTIC FEST 2021 and many more.

SQUEAL will be released in the US theatrically in New York and Los Angeles and on VOD in the US and CANADA on August 19.

Theaters Include (August 19):
Lumiere Music Hall – Los Angeles
Alamo Manhattan- New York

VOD Platforms Include (August 19):
US: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, Xfinity Cable, and more.
Canada: Apple TV/iTunes, Amazon, Google Play

Director: Aik Karapetian

Scriptwriter: Aik Karapetian,Aleksandr Rodionov

Cast: Kevin Janssens,Laura Siliņa,Aigars Vilims,Normunds Griestiņš,Juris Bartkevičs,Guntis Pilsums


Filmmaker Aik Karapetian’s dark fairy tale SQUEAL  centers on Samuel (Kevin Janssens), who is far from home, searching for his father. Lost in remotest Eastern Europe, on the edges of a mythical forest, a minor road accident leads to a chance meeting with a pig farmer’s daughter Kirke (Laura Siliņa). Sam soon learns that his priorities must change if he wants to survive. Her initial hospitality is a smoke screen to capture him and make him a forced laborer on the farm. Alone, unable to speak the language, and chained up 24/7 with the pigs, he learns to adapt. Fortunately, a seemingly magical piglet gains Sam’s confidence and shows him the way to freedom and true love. 

Filmmaker Aik Karapetian is a graduate of the Latvian Academy of Culture and has a master’s degree in film direction from the Académie Internationale des Arts – ESEC (Paris). His first feature film, PEOPLE OUT THERE gained international acclaim after its premiere at the Karlovy Vary film festival in competition in 2012. After the successful horror feature THE MAN IN THE ORANGE JACKET (Fantastic Fest 2014, BFI London Film Festival), Aik released the thriller FIRSTBORN (Sitges, Fantastic Fest, Paris International Film Festival 2017). 

Aik has also staged two successful opera productions at the Latvian National Opera house, THE BARBER OF SEVILLE, which was awarded as the Best stage production of the season in 2011 and FAUST, which premiered in September 2016. His version of Bizet’s CARMEN premiered at the Opera National de Montpellier (France) in 2018 followed by Gounod’s FAUST at the Trondheim Symfoniorkester & Opera (Norway) in 2019.


ABOUT GOOD DEED ENTERTAINMENT
Good Deed Entertainment (GDE) is an Ohio-based independent studio dedicated to producing, financing, and distributing quality entertainment for under-served audiences. Its distribution slate includes recent releases Summertime, Ma Belle, My Beauty, and Lucky Grandma, in addition to the Academy Award-nominated, Loving Vincent, and Spirit Award-nominated, To Dust.

Website: http://www.gooddeedentertainment.com/


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Review: Drag superstar Bebe Zahara Benet gets real in Emily Branham’s documentary ‘Being Bebe’

BEING BEBE

BEING BEBE intimately charts 15 years of drag performer Marshall Ngwa (aka BeBe Zahara Benet): An immigrant to America from homophobic Cameroon, first champion on now-iconic LGBTQ+ reality show phenomenon RuPaul’s Drag Race. Grounded by Marshall’s present-day narration, the film features vérité, interviews and performances illustrating his journey to Queer Black Excellence.


A cultural icon in the world of female illusion, BeBe Zahara Benet rose to international fame as the first winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But Marshal Kudi Ngwa‘s career was years in the making before the reality series. Director Emily Branham uses archival footage mixed with sit-down interviews during COVID. How does a star slowed down by a global pandemic remain relevant without a live audience’s love and energy? Being BeBe is a heartfelt and honest look at the artist pushing boundaries without pause.

The film addresses the criminality of queerness in Cameroon. Branham respectfully blurs the faces of the participants not only for their physical safety but to give them the freedom to express themselves fully on camera. These young men explain the constant fear of being discovered by family or friends. The isolation takes a toll. The slip of a gesture could mean putting their existence at risk. BeBe has become a role model for those in Cameroon. She uses her platform to support the queer community and give a face to black excellence.

Marshall has a personable and glorious nature. You long to be in his presence as he radiates kindness, humor, grace, and an intensely inspiring work ethic. The film is an unfiltered look at the industry’s ups and downs. That unpredictability causes Marshall to push his ego aside, emotional breakthroughs, and unapologetic admissions. Being BeBe is infectious. If you weren’t a fan before, get ready for newfound respect and adoration for BeBe Zahara Benet because, honey, she continues giving us Face, Face, Face, no matter what.


BEING BEBE // Festival Teaser from Emily Branham on Vimeo.

BEING BEBE, roars into Pride Month on June 7th on major Transactional Video on Demand (TVOD) platforms via digital distributor Giant Pictures
(Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu – Pre-Order at https://geni.us/BeingBeBe).
The film will also make its Broadcast Premiere on Fuse on June 21st.


21 eclectic films featuring a rabbit… ya know, for Easter.

Could we put together a cuddly list of family-friendly Easter films? Probably. But where’s the fun in that? Here is a list of films where a rabbit is featured in one way or another. Most are straightforward. A few, well, I guess you’ll have to watch them and figure out why they’re there. Happy Easter, and happy hunting for those pesky wabbits.


Space Jam

Swackhammer (Danny DeVito), an evil alien theme park owner, needs a new attraction at Moron Mountain. When his gang, the Nerdlucks, heads to Earth to kidnap Bugs Bunny (Billy West) and the Looney Tunes, Bugs challenges them to a basketball game to determine their fate. The aliens agree, but they steal the powers of NBA basketball players, including Larry Bird (Larry Bird) and Charles Barkley (Charles Barkley) — so Bugs gets some help from superstar Michael Jordan (Michael Jordan).


Fantastic Mr. Fox

After 12 years of bucolic bliss, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) breaks a promise to his wife (Meryl Streep) and raids the farms of their human neighbors, Boggis, Bunce and Bean. Giving in to his animal instincts endangers not only his marriage but also the lives of his family and their animal friends. When the farmers force Mr. Fox and company deep underground, he has to resort to his natural craftiness to rise above the opposition.


The Matrix

Neo (Keanu Reeves) believes that Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an elusive figure considered to be the most dangerous man alive, can answer his question — What is the Matrix? Neo is contacted by Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), a beautiful stranger who leads him into an underworld where he meets Morpheus. They fight a brutal battle for their lives against a cadre of viciously intelligent secret agents. It is a truth that could cost Neo something more precious than his life.


Us

Accompanied by her husband, son and daughter, Adelaide Wilson returns to the beachfront home where she grew up as a child. Haunted by a traumatic experience from the past, Adelaide grows increasingly concerned that something bad is going to happen. Her worst fears soon become a reality when four masked strangers descend upon the house, forcing the Wilsons into a fight for survival. When the masks come off, the family is horrified to learn that each attacker takes the appearance of one of them.


Peter Rabbit

Peter Rabbit and his three sisters — Flopsy, Mopsy and Cotton-Tail — enjoy spending their days in Mr. McGregor’s vegetable garden. When one of McGregor’s relatives suddenly moves in, he’s less than thrilled to discover a family of rabbits in his new home. A battle of wills soon breaks out as the new owner hatches scheme after scheme to get rid of Peter — a resourceful rabbit who proves to be a worthy and wily opponent.


WATERSHIP DOWN

When a young rabbit named Fiver (Richard Briers) has a prophetic vision that the end of his warren is near, he persuades seven other rabbits to leave with him in search of a new home. Several obstacles impede their progress, including predators, a rat-filled cemetery, and a speeding river. Upon arriving at their final destination, a hill dubbed Watership Down, the rabbits find that their journey is still far from over. Realistically drawn, this British animated film carries an emotional weight.


Donnie Darko

During the presidential election of 1988, a teenager named Donnie Darko sleepwalks out of his house one night and sees a giant, demonic-looking rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world will end in 28 days. When Donnie returns home, he finds that a jet engine has crashed into his bedroom. Is Donnie living in a parallel universe, is he suffering from mental illness – or will the world really end?


Miss Potter

Based on the life of early 20th-century author Beatrix Potter, creator of Peter Rabbit. As a young woman Potter rails against her parents’ wishes for her to marry and settle down. Instead, she continues to write about and draw the animals she has adored since childhood. Her early attempts to find a publisher for her children’s stories are unsuccessful, but an offer from a small firm will turn her into a literary phenomenon.


Night of the Lepus (1972)

Arizona rancher Cole Hillman (Rory Calhoun), dealing with massive rabbit overpopulation on his land, calls on a local college president, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley), to help him. In order to humanely resolve the matter, Elgin brings in researchers Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry Bennett (Janet Leigh), who inject the rabbits with chemicals. However, they fail to anticipate the consequences of their actions. A breed of giant mutant rabbits emerges and starts killing every human in sight.


Harvey

Elwood P. Dowd (James Stewart) is a wealthy drunk who starts having visions of a giant rabbit named Harvey. Elwood lives with his sister Veta (Josephine Hull) and her daughter (Victoria Horne), and Veta worries that Elwood has gone insane. In the process of trying to have him committed, Veta admits that she occasionally sees Harvey herself. The director of the mental home, Dr. Chumley (Cecil Kellaway), tries to reconcile his duty to help Elwood with his own growing experiences with Harvey.


Zootopia

From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder.


Fatal Attraction

For Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), life is good. He is on the rise at his New York law firm, is happily married to his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and has a loving daughter. But, after a casual fling with a sultry book editor named Alex (Glenn Close), everything changes. Jilted by Dan, Alex becomes unstable, her behavior escalating from aggressive pursuit to obsessive stalking. Dan realizes that his main problem is not hiding his affair, but rather saving himself and his family.


Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Down-on-his-luck private eye Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) gets hired by cartoon producer R.K. Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to investigate an adultery scandal involving Jessica Rabbit (Kathleen Turner), the sultry wife of Maroon’s biggest star, Roger Rabbit (Charles Fleischer). But when Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye), Jessica’s alleged paramour and the owner of Toontown, is found murdered, the villainous Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) vows to catch and destroy Roger.


Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

The plucky characters from a series of animated shorts, Wallace (Peter Sallis) and his dog, Gromit, make their feature debut here. After starting a pest control business just like this exterminator in Orlando, the duo soon lands a job from the alluring Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) to stop a giant rabbit from destroying the town‘s crops. Both Wallace and the stuffy Victor (Ralph Fiennes) vie for the lady’s affections. If Wallace wants to please his pretty client, and best Victor, he needs to capture that pesky bunny.

The Favourite

In the early 18th century, England is at war with the French. Nevertheless, duck racing and pineapple eating are thriving. A frail Queen Anne occupies the throne, and her close friend, Lady Sarah, governs the country in her stead while tending to Anne’s ill health and mercurial temper. When a new servant, Abigail, arrives, her charm endears her to Sarah. Sarah takes Abigail under her wing, and Abigail sees a chance to return to her aristocratic roots.


Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll’s beloved fantasy tale is brought to life in this Disney animated classic. When Alice (Kathryn Beaumont), a restless young British girl, falls down a rabbit hole, she enters a magical world. There she encounters an odd assortment of characters, including the grinning Cheshire Cat (Sterling Holloway) and the goofy Mad Hatter (Ed Wynn). When Alice ends up in the court of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts (Verna Felton), she must stay on the ruler’s good side — or risk losing her head.


Jojo Rabbit

Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his single mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.


Caveat

A desperate drifter suffering from partial memory loss agrees to look after his landlord’s psychologically troubled niece in an isolated island mansion.


HOP

Beneath Easter Island, in a giant factory that manufactures the world’s Easter candy, the popular rabbit is preparing to pass the mantle to his son, E.B. (Russell Brand). But E.B. has no interest in the job and would rather be a drummer. He runs away to Los Angeles, where an unemployed slacker named Fred O’Hare (James Marsden) accidentally runs into him. Feigning injury, E.B. tricks Fred into giving him shelter, but an oversized chick is planning a coup back on Easter Island.


Monty Python and The Holy Grail

A comedic send-up of the grim circumstances of the Middle Ages as told through the story of King Arthur and framed by a modern-day murder investigation. When the mythical king of the Britons leads his knights on a quest for the Holy Grail, they face a wide array of horrors, including a persistent Black Knight, a three-headed giant, a cadre of shrubbery-challenged knights, the perilous Castle Anthrax, a killer rabbit, a house of virgins, and a handful of rude Frenchmen.


A Christmas A Story

(Don’t argue with me, this film 100% falls under this odd list. In fact, it’s the second film with a hideous bunny suit.)

Based on the humorous writings of author Jean Shepherd, this beloved holiday movie follows the wintry exploits of youngster Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley), who spends most of his time dodging a bully (Zack Ward) and dreaming of his ideal Christmas gift, a “Red Ryder air rifle.” Frequently at odds with his cranky dad (Darren McGavin) but comforted by his doting mother (Melinda Dillon), Ralphie struggles to make it to Christmas Day with his glasses and his hopes intact.


HOPPY EASTER


Valentine’s Day Special: Our favorite films about love and loss, make-outs and breakups. Here’s a few movies to binge this weekend…

Valentine’s Day Special 2022

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is coming. Whether you expect to get roses and chocolates, booze and pizza, spend it with a significant other, or all by your beautiful self, Valentine’s Day brings up A LOT of emotions. So, to ease you into whatever kind of weekend you’re planning (or not planning) on having, here are a handful of our suggestions for films that highlight the greatest make-outs and hideous breakups from years gone by.


Liz’s Picks:

Can’t Buy Me Love

Nerdy high schooler Ronald Miller (Patrick Dempsey) rescues cheerleader Cindy Mancini (Amanda Peterson) from parental punishment after she accidentally destroys her mother’s designer clothes. Ronald agrees to pay for the $1,000 outfit on one condition: that she will act as though they’re a couple for an entire month. As the days pass, however, Cindy grows fond of Ronald, making him popular. But when Ronald’s former best friend gets left behind, he realizes that social success isn’t everything.

I saw this film at my very first teenage sleepover for which they got an snoring seeping aid at https://theislandnow.com/blog-112/best-anti-snoring-devices/. I was 13 and the night consisted of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Life of Brian, and Can’t Buy Me Love. Before McDreamy was on millions of small screens, he was Ronald Miller to me. This was a twist on the classic girl gets makeover lands boy plot I’d been pumped with. It was a pivotal moment in my continued adoration for the nerdy guy.


Only Lovers Left Alive

Artistic, sophisticated and centuries old, two vampire lovers (Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston) ponder their ultimate place in modern society.

Jim Jarmusch, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, (the late and eternally extraordinary) Anton Yelchin. The names alone should get you to run to this film. Gloriously shot and deliciously acted, why wouldn’t you watch a film about a depressed rockstar vamp and his ultra-cool wife getting disrupted in their centuries-long affair by her younger sister’s shenanigans? This film is sexy and romantic. Trust me when I say it will be on the list of top films you force your friends to watch.


The Notebook

A poor yet passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman, giving her a sense of freedom, but they are soon separated because of their social differences.

“If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.” Noah and Allie’s complicated and oftentimes volatile love story is one that has become a household name. In fact, it was my husband’s first pick when it came to Valentine’s Day films. We watched the onscreen couple become real-life couple Ryan Goslin and Rachel McAdams and followed along as they dated, broke up, became engaged, and finally parted ways. I’m not going to lie, I still pine for those two to end up together, however irrational it might be.


Marriage Story

A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.

If you’re looking for an award-worthy performance from Adam Driver, look no further than Marriage Story. The complexities of this script are far beyond anything you’re prepared for. I was lucky enough to speak with writer-director Noah Baumbach and the cast in 2019 when the film premiered at NYFF. If you’re a Broadway buff, you’ll find the gravity of the numbers from COMPANY particularly poignant. Marriage Story is a Netflix film.


Fatal Attraction

For Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), life is good. He is on the rise at his New York law firm, is happily married to his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), and has a loving daughter. But, after a casual fling with a sultry book editor named Alex (Glenn Close), everything changes. Jilted by Dan, Alex becomes unstable, her behavior escalating from aggressive pursuit to obsessive stalking. Dan realizes that his main problem is not hiding his affair, but rather saving himself and his family.

This film has inspired so many copycats since it premiered in 1987. A woman spurned is taken to new heights in one of the scariest and most intense reactions from being ignored. If you haven’t seen this classic breakup film, a little warning; Don’t get too attached to the family rabbit.


Blue Is The Warmest Color

A French teen (Adèle Exarchopoulos) forms a deep emotional and sexual connection with an older art student (Léa Seydoux) she met in a lesbian bar.

Fearless, sexy, raw, captivating, in 2013 I sat in the fullest theatre at NYFF and experienced this film with a hushed audience. While there has since been much controversy surrounding the sex scenes and the treatment of the leading ladies during filming, there is no denying the life they breathe into this film. Know your audience. Do Not Watch with children or your parents in the room.



Melissa’s Picks:

War of the Roses

After 17 years of marriage, Barbara (Kathleen Turner) and Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) want out. The trouble is, neither one wants to part with their opulent home. So begins a long war between husband and wife, reaching farcical heights that leave much of the house — not to mention their lives — in shambles. The couple’s children (Sean Astin, Heather Fairfield) watch in horror while lawyer Gavin D’Amato (Danny DeVito) tries his best to stem the bloodshed.

Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas were an “it” couple of the 80s which was great on its own, but then once you add in Danny DeVito, you get something special. The three of them blended well in Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile, but by War of the Roses, Danny DeVito started directing and had just finished Matilda. His style is subtle but unbelievably purposeful. From camera angles thanks to technology like the drones from Droneuncover to choreography, he toes the line of comedy/drama/horror with a story where you yearn for them to get back together while at the same time anxiously looking forward to the bigger jab.


She-Devil

A surprisingly resourceful housewife vows revenge on her husband when he begins an affair with a wealthy romance novelist.

“Don’t get mad, get revenge” is taken to new levels when Ruth (Roseanne Barr) decides to turn the tables on her husband (Ed Begley, Jr) when he leaves her after an affair (Meryl Streep). This time capsule of a movie gives you “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,” Sally Jesse Raphael, and stories in People magazine, all following this love train. At times, grotesque, you’ll get lost in the 80s clothes, decor, and the slang. Like, totally.


Presumed Innocent

Prosecuting attorney Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy) assigns his chief deputy, the taciturn Rusty Sabitch (Harrison Ford), to investigate the rape and murder of colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi), unaware of their torrid affair. When evidence implicates Rusty, Horgan’s political enemies demand his arrest, devastating Rusty’s wife, Barbara (Bonnie Bedelia). In desperation, Rusty turns to crafty defense attorney Sandy Stein (Raul Julia), only to be stunned by his trial’s revelations.

This made an impression on me as the first movie I saw with Harrison Ford in a dramatic role. I was so thrown and hanging on every moment. It’s classic crime and trial drama ala Law & Order. It’s so full of twists and turns, it was easy to get lost and get that pow of the final twist. Love. It’s quite something.


Britni’s Picks:

The Best Man

After writing a soon-to-be bestselling novel, writer and committed bachelor Harper Stewart (Taye Diggs) attempts to hide the fact that his saucy new book is loosely based on the lives and loves of his tight-knit group of friends. Harper is set to be best man at his friend Lance’s (Morris Chestnut) wedding, and all his friends will be in attendance. When an advance copy of the book makes its way into the hands of his ex-flame, Jordan Armstrong (Nia Long), Harper attempts to keep it under wraps.

  • The Best Man + Best Man Holiday – 5 stars for both


You’ve Got Mail

Struggling boutique bookseller Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) hates Joe Fox (Tom Hanks), the owner of a corporate Foxbooks chain store that just moved in across the street. When they meet online, however, they begin an intense and anonymous Internet romance, oblivious of each other’s true identity. Eventually Joe learns that the enchanting woman he’s involved with is actually his business rival. He must now struggle to reconcile his real-life dislike for her with the cyber love he’s come to feel.

Perfect rom-com! Meg Ryan is honestly living my best life with her cute independent book store and also gigantic Manhattan apartment.


What Lies Beneath

It had been a year since Dr. Norman Spencer (Harrison Ford) betrayed his beautiful wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer). But with Claire oblivious to the truth, Norman’s life and marriage seem so perfect that when Claire tells him of hearing mysterious voices and seeing a young woman’s image in their home, he dismisses her terror as delusion. Claire moves closer to the truth and it becomes clear that this apparition will not be dismissed, and has come back for Dr. Spencer and his beautiful wife.

A bit of a wild card, but I think we can categorize it as a breakup!


The First Wives Club

Despondent over the marriage of her ex-husband to a younger woman, a middle-aged divorcée plunges to her death from her penthouse. At the woman’s funeral, her former college friends (Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton) reunite for the first time in nearly 30 years. When the three discover the reason for their friend’s suicide, they realize that all of their ex-husbands have taken them for granted — and deciding it’s time for revenge, they make a pact to get back at their exes.

Ultimate breakup film.


Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Struggling musician Peter Bretter (Jason Segel) is better-known as the boyfriend of TV star Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). After she unceremoniously dumps him, he feels lost and alone but makes a last-ditch bid to get over it by going to Hawaii. However, she and her new boyfriend (Russell Brand) are there in the same hotel.

I feel like this should be a classic but no one talks about it!


 

 

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

SALT IN MY SOUL

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

 


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

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


SALT IN MY SOUL

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

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

 

VOD Platforms: 

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

Cable Platforms: 

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



ABOUT THE BOOK

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

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


 

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

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

&

Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

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


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

 

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


Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die

 

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


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


 

Review: ‘THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL’ is my newest holiday tradition.

THE JINKX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL

Created by and starring drag superstars BenDeLaCreme & Jinkx Monsoon, “The Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special” is the story of two queens who set out to create a classic Christmas TV variety show, but just can’t agree on how.


If you like involuntary fits of maniacal laughter, look no further than The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special this December. Listen, Christmas and camp go together like eggnog and arguing with your crazy uncle over dinner. Ah, the holidays.

These two magnificent drag stars are the perfect pairing in personality and visual aesthetic. BenDelaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon are two of my favorite performers. If you know the drag world, they are household names. DeLa is perky sunshine personified while Jinkx is more dark, tawdry, and sardonic. Their comic timing is a thing of the gods. The overall mid-century vibe that these two carry with their brand works in tandem with the classic holiday specials from Bing Crosby and friends. As someone who grew up in Connecticut, the regional-specific jokes are spot on. Everything just works in spectacular fashion.

The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special is a celebration of inclusivity, told through the destruction of the ridiculousness that is Christianity, and damnit, it is chef’s kiss. The musical numbers are friggin bops. These ladies have the pipes to back them up. The lyrics are snarky, innuendo-filled treats. And, my god, the decadent costumes are delicious. Does The Jinkx and DeLa’s Holiday Special make me want to host a booze-soaked watch party shindig? You bet your sweet ass it does. I found my new holiday tradition.


JINX AND DELA HOLIDAY SPECIAL is available :

In theaters from December 13 (North America): Showing in Alamo Drafthouse theaters across the country. Click here for participating cities.

On Digital Globally: Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu

On DVD and Blu-ray: Available from the official site


 

Brooklyn Horror Film Festival (2021) review: ‘Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent’ is a family-friend monster mash.

NELLY RAPP- MONSTER AGENT

Director Amanda Adolfsson takes on the feature film adaptation of the Swedish children’s book series Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent. Nelly is a middle school outcast due to her love of monsters and mayhem. She spends her autumn break with her eccentric uncle Hannibal only to discover a family history filled with spooky surprises. Brooklyn Horror Film Festival 2021 audiences were treated to this sweet horror- comedy’s North American Premiere. 

This cast is a delight. Matilda Gross plays Nelly with joyful innocence. Her curiosity and enthusiasm leap off the screen. She’s a wonderfully unique heroine joining the likes of Pippi Longstocking and Coraline. I could easily see Nelly Rapp costumes popping up for Halloween. 

The cinematography is gorgeous. The setting, the costumes, everything pops. The main set is magical. The walls adorned with landscape paintings, the massive rooms filled with antique furnishings, and the ceilings boast curious murals. The score is perfectly whimsical. The stunning fx makeup is never too terrifying for its intended audience. 

Nelly Rapp is a family-friendly monster mash. The script is bursting with charm and genuine giggles. A kid-friendly homage to the classic movie monsters Nelly Rapp introduces youngsters to the horror genre in a thoughtful and adventurous way. 

I wish I had this movie when I was younger. I was always fascinated by all things spooky, sometimes that made me feel like an outcast. Nelly Rapp addresses bullying, family tradition, and prejudice in a way that is digestible for children. It teaches them they don’t need to change themselves to fit it. It is their quirkiness that makes them special. Nelly Rapp – Monster Agent is now available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the perfect combination of trick and treat. 


Nelly Rapp: Monster Agent (Official English Trailer) from Janson Media on Vimeo.


Stream on Amazon: amazon.com/Nelly-Rapp-Monster-Matilda-Gross/dp/B09HPM87N6/


Review: ‘VAL’ takes a long, complicated look in the mirror.

presents

Val Kilmer, one of Hollywood’s most mercurial actors has been documenting his life and craft through film. He has amassed thousands of hours of footage, from home movies made with his brothers, to time spent in iconic roles for blockbuster films like Top Gun & Batman. This raw and wildly original documentary reveals a life lived to extremes and a heart-filled look at what it means to be an artist.


Let’s start with a confession – I’ll always think of Val Kilmer as my Batman. 1995’s Batman Forever was the first superhero film I ever saw, and that impression was deep and lasting. The car! The suit! Nicole Kidman! That is not to indicate that I am incapable of evaluating Kilmer fairly, but only to say this image of him at the likely mountain-top of his fame has left a lasting impression.

Kilmer’s legacy is evaluated and deepened in Ting Poo and Leo Scott’s new documentary Val (in theaters and streaming on Amazon Prime) which showcases Kilmer’s life, legacy, and his ongoing recovery after a battle with throat cancer. Kilmer’s contribution to the film is quite intimate: the narrative relies heavily on his collection of home videos and memorabilia. The quality and comprehensiveness of these past archives are shocking – there really seemed to be a behind-the-scenes moment for every milestone of his life. We see everything from home movies of Kilmer and his late brother all the way up to behind-the-scenes footage from Top Gun and (yes) Batman Forever. Kilmer’s energy and enthusiasm, tangible even when he’s behind the camera, is the common thread through it all, conveying if nothing else an authentic love for one’s craft.

Due to Kilmer’s condition, his son Jack provides the film’s narration. This is the film’s strongest choice, and it provides nuance and momentum across the entire narrative. It provides special poignance during moments of self-evaluation, such as when Kilmer must decide whether to financially support his father after a costly real estate venture.

VAL, Val Kilmer, 2021. © Amazon Studios /Courtesy Everett Collection

While Val has extensive insight into Kilmer’s personal archives, it is also uninterested in interrogating these vignettes from a critical lens. The film is not positioned as a confessional device. Kilmer’s reputation as a “difficult actor” is hinted at, but never fully challenged or justified. Nor is his deep religious commitment as a Christian Scientist fully explored, along with any influence this may have had in his cancer treatment and journey.

Rather, the thorough picture of the past serves as a mirror to better understand Kilmer’s present. Speaking through a tracheostomy tube, Kilmer’s voice is raspy and thin, and he moves wearily across the screen. We can see the frustration in his face when he has to take a lengthy pause – he has more to say, but his body won’t cooperate. This appears to be Kilmer’s core struggle: he resists defining himself solely by his past work, but his present limitations pull him towards an endless cycle of replaying his greatest hits.

Val reminded me of the 2014 documentary Life Itselfwhich chronicled the legacy of film critic Roger Ebert, as well as his struggles after losing his lower jaw to cancer. Both films showcase subjects whose brilliance and intellect remain sharp, but are otherwise challenged by physical limitations. Both subjects were energetic, frantic collaborators in their respective projects –conveying the urgency of being understood, of seizing the opportunity to fully articulate one’s legacy. While Ebert tragically perished before his film could be completed, Kilmer has the opportunity to carry on. Val left me not only with an appreciation for Kilmer’s complicated journey but also excited to hopefully see him press forward and continue the next chapter.


Steaming now on Prime Video and showing in select theaters


Forty years of never-before-seen footage chronicling the life of Val Kilmer.
Release date: July 23, 2021 (USA)
Directors: Ting Poo, Leo Scott
Distributed by: Amazon Studios
Music composed by: Garth Stevenson
Producers: Val Kilmer, Ting Poo, Leo Scott, Andrew Fried, Jordan Wynn, Brad Koepenick, Dane Lillegard, Ali Alborzi


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

Painkiller

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

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

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

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

Review: 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

Amazon Prime series: Twisted and dark ‘Tell Me Your Secrets’ Season 1 is available today!

TELL ME YOUR SECRETS

An intense, morally complex thriller revolving around a trio of characters, each with a mysterious and troubling past: Emma (Rabe) is a young woman who once looked into the eyes of a dangerous killer, John (Linklater) is a former serial predator desperate to find redemption, and Mary (Brenneman) is a grieving mother obsessed with finding her missing daughter, Theresa (Baker). As each of them is pushed to the edge, the truth about their pasts and motives grows ever murkier, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator.

Emma Hall is a new woman, or at least she hopes to be. Recently released from prison, she is the former girlfriend of a notorious serial rapist and murderer. With a new identity and the help of a mysterious man, she attempts to start over in a small Louisiana town where no one knows who she is or what she’s done, including Emma. All we know is that she claims to have memory gaps when it comes to her boyfriend’s crimes. Mary lost her daughter 7 years ago and is convinced Emma holds the key to her disappearance. When reformed rapist John is denied a volunteer position at her foundation, Mary emotionally blackmails into tracking Emma down. The audience is in for one hell of a mystery.

With multiple timelines, you aren’t sure what to believe. Tell Me Your Secrets is loaded and dizzying. The end of episode one had me catching my breath. I need to know what happened to Theresa and how Emma is connected. I can tell as a Mother, this story intrigues me. As a true crime fan, I’m invested. As a critic, I am impressed at the storytelling style. If this is just the introduction to this series, I’m hooked.

The cast is top-notch. Amy Breneman‘s woman in the edge performance is terrifying. Hamish Linklater‘s anxiety-driven reformed act gives me pause. I’m dying to see more from him already. Lily Rabe‘s perfect balancing act of darkness and trauma makes Tell Me Your Secrets as captivating as it is. If you’re a fan of The Killing or True Detective, this could be your new binge.

All 10 episodes of Season 1 of TELL ME YOUR SECRETS are now available on Prime Video