HBO Max Season 1 review: ‘JULIA’ cooks up drama and delight.

JULIA

JULIA is inspired by Julia Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, “The French Chef,” which pioneered the modern cooking show. Through Julia’s life and her singular joie de vivre, the series explores a pivotal time in American history – the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women’s movement, the nature of celebrity and America’s cultural evolution. At its heart, the series is a portrait of a loving marriage with a shifting power dynamic.


Before finishing the screeners, I told friends they had to start the new HBO series “Julia.” The most common response I received was, “Didn’t they do a movie on this?” To be honest, the answer is “kind of!” Have we seen this story before? Yes. Do I care? NO! 

Witty and full of complex cultural commentary, HBO’s “Julia” is an absolute joy. Exploring Julia Child‘s iconic rise with a sharp eye on how it fits into the rapid societal change of the midcentury period, “Julia” succeeds in presenting complex ideas while keeping the show fun. The series is a visual feast of charming period settings, costumes, and sumptuous footage of Julia’s home cooking, recipe creation, and inspirational fine dining. An example is a luxe scene where Julia and her editor Judith strategize in a crowded Boston bar — the only women in sight– dirty martinis in one hand and casually finishing a dozen icy oysters each with the other. Ultimately the chef brings out two whole Maine lobsters served on a large plate accompanied only by ramekins of melted golden butter just at the resolution of their brainstorming– perfection. 

 While the series naturally focuses on Julia’s story and the unique power dynamics shifting within her marriage,  I  found the character studies on the tribe of women that made up her inner circle most fascinating. Fiona Glascott, Brittany Bradford, and Bebe Neuwirth shine in showcasing their own stories as they build the iconic culinary brand together. 

While “Julia” doesn’t shy away from issues you expect for a series set in this period (i.e. egregious workplace sexism), I was intrigued when they also made room to explore more complex ideas about what Julia Child’s success means within the feminist agenda. Despite her own accomplishments, what does it mean to build an empire by motivating homemakers to prepare more elaborate home-cooked meals than ever and raising the bar for what it means to be an ideal wife? Late-breaking cameos from iconic figures of the time play a unique role in bringing many of these factors to light in a way that is bold to incorporate into essentially a tribute piece. 

 My recommendation: Mix yourself a proper cocktail, add a flourish whether the drink deserves one or not, and watch this series.

The eight-episode Max Original comedy series, JULIA is now available to stream in full.


Cast: The eight-episode series stars Sarah Lancashire as Julia, David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth, Brittany Bradford, Fran Kranz, and Fiona Glascott. Guest stars include Isabella Rossellini, Judith Light, Robert Joy, Erin Neufer, Jefferson Mays, James Cromwell, and Adriane Lenox.


About HBO Max:

HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering with 10,000 hours of curated premium content. HBO Max offers powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs, and movies, and fan favorites from WarnerMedia’s rich library including Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. #HBOMax #WarnerMedia

SUBSCRIBE TO HBO MAX http://bit.ly/HBOMaxYouTube

GET HBO MAX https://itsh.bo/ways-to-get


 

Fantaspoa 2022 review: ‘HOLY SHIT!’ is gag-worthy greatness.

HOLY SHIT!

A bloodied architect regains consciousness inside a locked portable toilet and soon realizes that he needs to find a way out of there or he’ll be blown up within the hour.


Ingenuity and one hell of a plot make Fantaspoa 2022 selection Holy Shit! one of the most fun films this year. Frank is locked in an overturned porta-potty, his forearm pierced by a thin piece of rebar. With only his wits about him, Frank must escape within 30 minutes to escape certain death by explosives outside of the four small, grotesque walls he finds himself trapped inside. Grasping anything at his disposal, Frank must MacGyver his way to safety, all while recollecting how he got in this predicament in the first place. 

The visceral tension created by writer-director Lukas Rinker is exacerbated by the superb performance of our leading man, Thomas Niehaus. He is nothing short of captivating. Together, they’ve made Holy Shit! a truly riveting story. You’ll yell at the screen in frustration, sweat as the minutes tick off, and cheer for the small victories along the way. Who would have thought a film about a man trapped inside a porta-potty would ignite that much emotion? It’s bizarrely brilliant.


HOLY SHIT! screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

For more information on the festival, please visit www.fantaspoa.com.


Review: ‘STANLEYVILLE’ is so weird it works.

An exercise in the absurd, the hit indie STANLEYVILLE opens with Maria (Susanne Wuest) walking away from her life on a moment’s whim. Found lounging aimlessly on an airport chair, an odd man named Homunculus (the absolute legend Julian Richings) informs her of her selection to participate in an exclusive competition. The prize is an orange compact SUV.

Without hesitating, Maria arrives at an apartment alongside four other contestants. In a series of eight individual challenges, the first being balloon blowing, Maria, Felicia, Manny, Bofill, and Andrew battle to be the victor. The Master of ceremonies appears equal parts confused and confident in his role. As the stakes get higher and the games get weirder, chaos ensues. Five opposite archetypes collide in one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever witnessed. 

STANLEYVILLE is so odd it works. The film’s pacing is intentionally erratic, and the personalities are strong. That is, all except Maria. She is content to play the game fairly and with an abundance of reverence. The performances of our six cast members are outstanding. This eclectic mix of actors pours their heart into a script that must have seemed outrageous when they first read it. Full disclosure, I’m not sure I walked away understanding what I watched either, but I’ll tell you this, I cannot stop thinking or talking about STANLEYVILLE.

The finale is equally enigmatic, occurring offscreen. It’s a keenly written full-circle moment that makes you think. STANLEYVILLE is like nothing you’ve seen before. Some will assume writer-director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos was making it all up as he went along. I cannot be the first to salivate at the idea of turning this into a stage play without intermission. The story is a conversation starter. What that conversation consists of is determined entirely by each viewer’s experience. It’s a one-of-a-kind film. 


Oscilloscope Laboratories is proud to release STANLEYVILLE — the quirky, dark feature debut from writer/director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos that has won festival accolades across the globe — exclusively at New York City’s Metrograph on April 22nd, with a wider rollout to follow.


Color
English Language
88 minutes
Not Rated


The pitch-black comedy, which critics lovingly call “a strange movie for strange people” and “an episode of Survivor for sociopathic miscreants”, stars Susanne Wuest (GOODNIGHT MOMMY), Cara Ricketts (FOX’s The Resident), Christian Serritiello, George Tchortov (Amazon’s The Expanse), Adam Brown (Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT trilogy), and genre legend Julian Richings (CUBE).


Review: ‘Marevelous and The Black Hole’ is a family film with heart and pizzazz.

MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE

A teenage delinquent (Miya Cech, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE) befriends a surly magician (Rhea Perlman, “Cheers,” MATILDA) who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. A coming-of-age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments.


After losing her mother, Sammy lashes out physically and emotionally. When her dad forces her to take a business class in summer school, she encounters a magician by happenstance. Under the guise of a final project, Sammy trades anger for magic. 

The score heightens the film’s charm. Cartoon animation and black & white fantasy sequences create playful transitions whenever Sammy feels rage. The costumes are meaningful. Sammy is in black the entire film, while Margot dons lush colors adorned with embroidery or applique. 

Rhea Perlman plays Margot, AKA The Marvelous. Perlman’s cheery disposition is a brilliant foil for Miya Cech‘s Sammy. She brings a motherly quality that Sammy so desperately needs. Cech is outstanding. She possesses a fierce attitude that’s relatable. Cech levels up the typical teenage angst with grounded sass and genuine vulnerability underneath. Together, their chemistry is like a warm hug. If I’m being honest, I would gladly watch an entire series about these two characters.

Marvelous and The Black Hole is nothing short of darling. This family-friendly flick is about navigating grief. Writer-director Kate Tsang gives audiences a sweet ode to storytelling and healing. 


MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
Opens in Select Theaters on April 22, 2022


Written + Directed by: Kate Tsang
Produced by: Carolyn Mao
Co-Producers: Allison Avery Jordan, Christa Boarini
Director of Photography: Nanu Segal, BSC
Production Designer: Yong Ok Lee
Edited by: Cyndi Trissel, Ryan Denmark
Costume Designer: Amanda Bujak

TRT: 81 minutes


 

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, 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


Review: ‘WYRMWOOD APOCALYPSE’ screams franchise potential.

WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE

Synopsis: Rhys lives in the zombie-infested wasteland. His job is to capture civilians and deliver them to what’s left of the military. When Rhys captures a half-zombie-half-human named Grace, he comes to believe she is the key to ending the apocalypse.


*Let me begin their review by stating that I have not seen the original Wyrmwood. I can only comment on Wyrmwood: Apocalypse as a stand-alone film.*

I was immediately drawn into the film hearing Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds‘ track “Red Right Hand,” alongside the quick-cut editing. Equal parts quirky and cool, I was committed. The costumes and sets are elaborate eye candy. The special effects makeup and practical FX are deliciously gruesome. The score, combined with the red lighting, makes for the perfect touch of camp. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has legit legs for a franchise reboot. 

This cast is gold. The commitment to these characters is commendable. The fight sequences and choreography are damn entertaining. These actors go hard into the action. Bravo, to Luke McKensie, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Jake Ryan, Bianca Brady, Tasia Zalar, Jay Gallagher, and Nick Boshier for their phenomenal chemistry.

The plot possesses a similar concept as Zydrate from one of my all-time favorite films, Repo! The Genetic Opera. There’s revenge, cognisant zombies, mind control, harvesting, and family dynamics. You name it, and it’s in Wyrmwood: Apocalypse. There’s enough meat in this storyline to justify a series development. I could easily see this doing well on the SyFy network. It has to be from writer-director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner. Consistency is key to maintaining a fandom. The bottom line is Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a new beginning.


Zombie Action-Horror WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE — OUT DIGITALLY IN THE U.S. APRIL 14!


Genre: Horror

Country: Australia

Runtime: 90 mins

Year: 2022

Language: English

Rated: NA


Review: Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut ‘As They Made Us’ is relatable in its drama.

AS THEY MADE US

As They Made Us follows Abigail (Agron), a divorced mother of two, who is struggling to find sanity in her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father, Eugene (Hoffman), has a degenerative condition that he and his wife, Barbara (Bergen), refuse to accept. Her brother Nathan (Helberg) has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail attempts to mend her complicated family before it’s too late.


Mayim Bialik‘s feature debut packs an emotional punch. As They Made Us feels like a fresh wound for anyone with childhood trauma. Brilliantly structured with flashbacks and present-day chaos, Bialik weaves a portrait of a family existing in turmoil. 

Simon Helberg plays the son who escaped the weight of negativity. Estranged from the family, he leaves Abigail (Agron) behind to take the brunt of the aggression. Helberg plays a vastly different role from Bialik’s costar on The Big Bang Theory, and her script allows Helberg to show his range. Dustin Hoffman is patriarch Eugene. Navigating his cognitive decline, Hoffman plays dual roles in a way. At times, happy go lucky and defiant, others violent and loud. His journey is the most outwardly complex. Candace Bergen is the epitome of Jewish mother cliches, with a real mean streak. She lands somewhere in between abrasive and meddling. Still managing to be charming, Bergen brings heightened energy to the film. 

Dianna Agron is the default child, the emotional packhorse. Taking on caregiver roles that ought to belong to Bergen’s Barbara, Agron must shift between daughter, nurse, and wife roles to ease Eugene’s suffering. These are all at her own cost as she carries these scars. Agron is the star of this film. Even with Hoffman and Bergen, she steals the show. Her exhaustion is palpable. 

The family’s Jewish faith is a significant plot point. It becomes a large part of Abigail’s coping mechanisms, parenting, and healing. The character reminds me a lot of my Mother. Replace Judaism with Catholicism, and I’ve witnessed this same story play out a generation before. As They Made Us speaks volumes in roughly 90 minutes. Tackling forgiveness, acceptance, and mortality, Bialik’s voice as a filmmaker is pretty striking for her first time out. I am eager to see what comes next.



OPENS APRIL 8, 2022
IN THEATERS AND DIGITAL / VOD


Writer & Director: Mayim Bialik

Cast: Dianna Agron and Simon Helberg, with Candice Bergen, Dustin Hoffman, Justin Chu Cary, Charlie Weber, and Julian Gant

Producers:  Jordan Beckerman, Ash Christian, Anne Clements, Michael Day, Jordan Yale Levine, Mark Maxey

Runtime Time: 96 minutes

Rated: R for language


 

Official Trailer Drop: ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ is getting served up in May. #BobsBurgersMovie

The Bob’s Burgers Movie

A ruptured water main creates an enormous sinkhole right in front of Bob’s Burgers, blocking the entrance indefinitely and ruining the Belchers’ plans for a successful summer. While Bob and Linda struggle to keep the business afloat, the kids try to solve a mystery that could save their family’s restaurant. As the dangers mount, these underdogs help each other find hope as they try to get back behind the counter.


 The Bob’s Burgers Movie
Only in Theaters on May 27


Release date: May 27, 2022 (USA)
Directors: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Adapted from: Bob’s Burgers

#BobsBurgersMovie

Review: ‘Inventions that Changed History’ is a Palette Cleansing Delight’ streaming on discovery+

Inventions that Changed HistoryInventions That Changed History reveals the wild and often unbelievable stories behind many of pop culture’s most impactful inventions. Historians, Scientists, Pop Culture Experts and Hollywood Celebrities take us on this wild ride full of information and incredible tales.


Ready to dominate at the next Trivia Night? “Inventions that Changed History” is a light, silly romp that is likely to help your team win a free round. With a mix of historical exposition on familiar inventions– Mr. Potato Head and waterbeds make silly and fascinating segments– it is the perfect palette cleansing alternative to more serious documentaries (or the news). 

Filled with surprising celebrity cameos from fan favorites like Guillermo from “What we do in the Shadows,” Meredith from “The Office,” and Amanda Seals from “Insecure” candidly riffing on a nostalgic parade of core memories for Gen X/ Millennials, the show is a good time all around. In particular, I was locked in learning the origins of the Easy-Bake Oven while simultaneously trying to remember if and how severely I  burned myself– not enough to stop it from being one of my favorite toys. Oh, the 90s! 

A fun concept with plenty of options to explore, this could quickly become a niche favorite. What a treat!


Episodes 1 & 2 Streaming on discovery+ on March 31st

Two episodes premiering weekly through April 14


Executive Producers: Tom Forman, Chuck Dalaklis, Jenny Daly, and Jon Beyer

For Discovery, Wyatt Channell and Howard Swartz serve as executive producers

Scores of Hollywood celebrities like Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lance Reddick (“The Wire”), Nicole Sullivan (MADtv), Haskiri Velazquez (“Saved By The Bell”), Amanda Seales (“Insecure”), Flula Borg (Suicide Squad), Yeardly Smith (“The Simpsons”), Jeff Ross (Comedian), Eric Griffin (Actor/Comedian), Harvey Guillen (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and Rachael Harris (The Hangover), join in on the fun as they take a hysterical and insightful hands-on approach to the inventions that molded their youth and stayed with them into adulthood.


Episode 2 Inventions:

Mr. Potato Head 

Pop Rocks

Corn Cob Holders

Easy Bake Oven 

Box Wine

Rubber Chicken

Listerine

Vending Machines

 

Episode 1 Inventions:

Waterbeds

Barf Bags

Big Mouth Billy Bass

Flushing Toilet

Super Soaker 

Sea-Monkeys

Pool Noodle

Slip ‘N Slide 


 

SXSW 2022 review: ‘JETHICA’ kills it with humor and uniqueness.

JETHICA

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.


JETHICA contains a unique screenplay structure. After the twist comes to light, we slowly realize certain aspects were in our faces from the very beginning. And while we’re dealing with the legit issue of stalking- viewers who’ve experienced any of this behavior will shudder- you’ll simultaneously find your moral compass in knots. This feeling is 100 percent due to the relentless energy of Will Madden. His longwinded, manic dialogue is like watching a tweaker come down from bath salts, sans the eating people’s faces. 

I love how badass Callie Hernandez and Ashley Denise Robinson are together. Their teamwork is all lady power. The relationship between Elena and Jessica is breezy and genuine. Not an ounce of judgy fuckery. As for Andy Faulkner, you’ll fall in love with him. The nonchalance from the entire cast made me guffaw. Writer-director Peter Ohs‘ decision to fully collaborate with his actors makes me love it even more, going so far as giving them writing credit. It speaks volumes to Ohs’ instincts. 

Jethica is difficult to describe in the sense that what I want to say is, “Just shut your stupid mouth and watch this brilliant piece of genre obliterating magic.” (*Insert Futurama Meme “Shut Up and Take My Money”) It’s a film that speaks for itself as it progresses. It’s weird and wonderful and has “cult classic” written all over it. So yeah, I liked it a lot.


Check out  a brand new clip from JETHICA:

A supernatural dark comedy like you’ve never seen, JETHICA was shot in New Mexico in January 2021, in the midst of the pandemic, and world premieres at SXSW in the Visions section. JETHICA boldly blends and bends genres, all at once shining as a sharp comedy and dire stalker thriller with an undead edge.

The third feature from Pete Ohs, one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 2013 ‘25 New Faces of Independent Film’ and co-director of the award-winning Julia Garner lead sci-fi fable Everything Beautiful Is Far Away, the film stars Austin-raised actress Callie Hernandez (The Flight Attendant, Blair Witch [2016]), Will Madden (Beast Beast, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow), Ashley Denise Robinson (Taking Stock), and Andy Faulkner (Youngstown).

Conceived and created through radical approaches to filmmaking, Pete Ohs continues to push the boundaries of indie film, collaborating with his four leads on the script and story of JETHICA, each of whom shares writing credits, and editing the feature live last year on Twitch.


To Learn More About SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: Gracie Otto and Krew Boylan take on Dolly Parton, big hair, and even bigger dreams in ‘Seriously Red’

SERIOUSLY RED

This infectious homage to tribute performers focuses on a quirky redheaded young woman whose passion in life has been the songs and personality of Miss Dolly Parton. While she’s has a patterned history of screwing up, Red is a bold, kind-hearted spirit determined to make it as a Dolly impersonator. As her star rises, so does her self-esteem, affecting her personal life, for better or worse. 

Flashy sequins and blonde wings aside, deep down, the film is about self-actualization. The things we try and disguise from others and ourselves. When I was younger, someone asked me why I performed. “Is it because you’re hiding behind those characters?” First, I was offended. Then I thought about it. It was the perfect opportunity to try on someone new. But, Seriously Red is also about having the bravery to do what you love. 

Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Celeste Barber, Daniel Webber, and Thomas Campbell give superb performances. Seriously Red lives and breathes in screenwriter and star Krew Boylan. She brings unbridled nuance to Red. Comedy timing from the gods, slapstick chops, and a voice for days, Boylan owns every scene. You can’t take your eyes off of her.

The energy never fades, with glorious musical numbers (live and choreographed fantasy sequences.) This film will resonate with an audience wider than Dolly fans. While we revel in the legend’s words throughout the script, the themes stand undoubtedly on their own. Seriously Red will make you smile from ear to ear.


To Learn More About SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘THE PRANK’ has Rita Moreno and revenge.

THE PRANK

We all had that teacher in high school that we loathed, either because they were a terrible teacher or just plain evil. In The Prank, two students sick of an AP Physics teacher terrorizing the school come up with a scheme to frame her for murder. Can Ben and Tanner shift the power dynamic? More importantly, how will Mrs. Wheeler react?

Ben is your typical overachiever, while his best friend Tanner is a slacker. Funny thing, neither is what they appear to be. Tanner is a hacker genius. When the infamous teacher from our nightmares, Mrs. Wheeler, discovers someone has cheated on her Physics midterm, she threatens to fail everyone. Fed up with the power she holds, Ben and Tanner make a plan to take her down. A handful of ridiculous memes and embarrassingly fake “evidence” spirals out of control. But that’s just the beginning of The Prank.

Connor Kalopsis plays Ben with visceral anxiety in his attempt at a scholarship. His quiet confidence is a solid foil for co-star Ramona Young. I would be remiss to mention Meredith Salinger as his Mom. She’s quickwitted and down-to-earth and would have loved to see more of here. She’s a charmer.

Ramona Young as Tanner is a spitfire. With excitable energy, she bounces off of Kalopsis without ever getting campy. Their chemistry is akin to any series regulars on The Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Kate Flannery plays the lunch lady with a sass that deserves a standing ovation. The scenes between her and Young, while short, are undeniably memorable.

Rita Moreno brings this Goosebumps-friendly film to life with her iconic character-building abilities. Her comic timing is legendary. Her presence onscreen and onstage is massive. She nails every beat of Mrs. Wheeler. Playing against Kalopsis and Young, her ability to outwit her scene partners is unmatched. Moreno captures the familiar sternness that made us shake in our boots when we were younger. Her acid-tongued delivery of screenwriters Becca Flinn-White & Zak White’s dialogue is chef’s kiss. You’ll love to hate her.

The Prank takes advantage of the classic rumor mill, updating it through social media. Without spoiling the film, the fallout that makes this film special. It was a surprising selection for SXSW22 but in a good way. The Prank is the most fun teen-centric comedy at this year’s festival. Stick around for the credits.


To Learn More About SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘DEADSTREAM’ is a horror-comedy fan’s dream.

DEADSTREAM

After a public controversy left him disgraced and demonetized, a washed up internet personality tries to win back his followers by livestreaming himself spending one night alone in an abandoned haunted house. When he accidentally pisses off a vengeful spirit, his big comeback event becomes a real-time fight for his life (and social relevance) as he faces off with the sinister spirit of the house and her own powerful following.


Joseph Winter plays Shawn, a delightful douchebag. Or, as we regularly refer to this type of personality, a YouTube star. He promises his audience he’ll spend the night in an infamously haunted location. As the evening unfolds, Shawn’s backstory slowly comes to light. Is this stunt an act of redemption or a money grab? Whichever it is, we win with Deadstream.

Shawn interacts with the livestream comments ranging from rude to fangirl, skeptical to genuinely helpful. Some of those comments come with videos making the narrative feel immersive for the audience. The Host was a huge indie hit in 2020. The plot occurs over a Zoom seance, where the audience is also a participant on that call. Dreadstream benefits from this similar format because it will feel like you’re part of the action. It’s only the second film I would recommend watching on a laptop.

The cinematography is a collection of Go Pro and infrared cameras, giving Deadstream a first-person gamer experience. While Shawn performs promised acts of silliness, he also tells the history of each room and its associated ghost. The majority of the set is lit from Shawn’s headlamp, enhancing the scares. I constantly anticipated a jump scare. But, it’s the brilliantly written buildup of tension that kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Joseph Winter abandons every ounce of his dignity in Shawn. He’s fearless in his slapstick and could not care less how absurd he looks. The way he screams is comedy gold. Winter nails that manic energy and the over-the-top vocal nuance of any YouTube star or influencer. I cannot imagine anyone but Winters doing Shawn justice. 

Deadstream is an ode to horror fans. It is a film Sam Raimi would be proud of. As for us genre nerds, don’t act like you didn’t watch Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters, or Ghost Adventures whenever Evil Dead wasn’t available to rent, again. Deadstream takes all the elements of those staples and melds them together with modern-day social media and cancel culture. If you’re not laughing out loud, check your pulse. Writing and directing team Vanessa Winter & Joseph Winter let SXSW22 audiences in on the joke. Deadstream gets me to hit “Like & Subscribe.” These filmmakers just earned a new fan. 


To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 short film capsule reviews: ‘Roommates,’ ‘Gay Haircut,’ & award winner ‘Glitter Ain’t Gold’

Roommates


Synopsis: Students Izzy and Sophia get placed as dorm-mates because they’re both disabled. They reach common ground via vodka shots and getting personal, christening their first day of college with a night of adventure.


Simultaneously awkward and natural, this is an awesome and important ten minutes about accessibility, perception, and power. Stay for the credits!

·      Writer/Director: Ashley Eakin

·      Writer: Kelsey Johnson

·      Cast: Kiera Allen (RUN), Kelsey Johnson


Gay Haircut

Synopsis: For a stand-up comic, a drastic life change can mean losing one’s entire act. Bisexual comedian Krista has decided her relationship with a trans woman is worth coming out over—but will she commit to an entire rebrand with one gay haircut?


A seemingly simple change with a lot of weight attached. In 7 minutes we get an entire journey about identity filled with some quirky weirdness.

·      Director/Producer: Jude Harris

·      Writer/Producer: Krista Fatka

·      Cast: Krista Fatka (Shaky Ground, Night of the Living Karens), Zach Holmes (JACKASS FOREVER, Too Stupid to Die, Tosh.0Ridiculousness)


GLITTER AIN’T GOLD

*Winner*

SXSW 22 Special Jury Recognition for Directing and Community Filmmaking

     Synopsis: Sixth-grader Jibril and his reluctant best friend Tawanda hustle up some cash and journey to the flea market to buy Jibril’s first chain, in hopes that it will catch the eye of his crush Marlana and divert her attention away from his sworn enemy Rashad.


Writer-director Christian Nolan Jones brings to life a coming-of-age short that dives into the universal feeling of acceptance. Set in the 90s, two best friends Jibril and Tawanda are on a mission to purchase an item that will catch the eye of his crush. Glitter Ain’t Gold perfectly captures middle-school angst. The costumes and overall aesthetic were spot on. Our two young leads Alfred R. Lewis III and Priah Ferguson are stellar. This might as well have been a documentary with their natural ability to captivate the audience. Each beat is authentic. Glitter Ain’t Gold is a tight treatment for s feature or series.

·      Writer/Director: Christian Nolan Jones

·      Executive Producers: Common, Corey Gamble

·      Cast: Priah Ferguson (Stranger Things, THE OATH, Atlanta), Alfred R. Lewis III (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Bunk’d)


 

SXSW 2022 short film review: Is ‘RADICAL HONESTY’ merely an expression or a way of life?

Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.


At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. Performances are natural and the opening camerawork is fun. It is no surprise that the idea of radical honesty is something we experience more and more now. With the push of social media platforms, everyone is encouraged to share an opinion. Yes, this leads to awareness, self-discovery, and connections across the globe, if we’re talking upsides, only. My Xennial self also understands this to be a potential trap. C’est la vie.

I am excited to see this short get an expansion into series form (which is currently in the works). I anticipate having further investment into the world of Jack and Rachel, and whomever they intend to take along on their “journey of truth.” It’s bound to be a hot mess, in the best way possible. Radical Honesty is a great pairing with Hannah Marks‘ film Mark, Mary, and Some Other People. Modern dating is complicated by a lot more than just email and actually showing up these days. Director Bianca Poletti, and actress and screenwriter Allison Goldfarb nail this idea.


Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

To learn more about how you can watch Radical Honesty and SXSW22 in general, click here!


Director: Bianca Poletti

Screenwriter: Allison Goldfarb

Principal Cast: Allison Goldfarb, John Hein, Melanie Alexa Buenrostro

Executive Producers: Jacki Calleiro, Mindy Goldberg, Bianca Poletti

Producer: Shayna Gianelli

Cinematographer: Corey C. Waters

Editor: Nina Sacharow

Production By: Epoch Films, Disco Pants Inc

SXSW 2022 review: A father-son catfishing story in ‘I LOVE MY DAD’ is one of this year’s funniest films.

I LOVE MY DAD

A story of attempted redemption gets complicated in this wildly personal and deliriously funny film. Chuck was not a great father. After his son Franklin gets released from a mental health facility, Chuck is determined to reconnect. Although he has the purest intentions, the way he goes about it could not be more wrong. Chuck decides to catfish him. Sounds like a foolproof plan, perhaps in some other universe. SXSW22 narrative feature I LOVE MY DAD will have you cackling and cringing from beginning to end.

Rachel Dratch provides further levity with her overt sexual intensity as Chucks’s girlfriend. Dratch and Oswalt have an outstanding dynamic. Claudia Sulewski is a spitfire. The way she can bounce off Morosini is magic. Put her in everything. Patton Oswalt as Chuck is a pure joy to watch. Each panged look on his face as he receives messages not meant for his eyes is visceral. He is charming as hell, and you can’t help but root for him. Writer-director and star James Morosini‘s personal story lands between heart-warming and cringeworthy, and every minute is wonderful. He is mesmerizing. Wearing his heart on his sleeve is one thing, but his willingness to embrace the slapstick comedy is on another level.

The script is super unique. Comedy aside, I LOVE MY DAD melds a story of mental health, self-worth, and connection. Including a particular track from The Cure has more weight than I first realized. The transitions when Becca/Patton begins to chat with Franklin (and vice versa) come out of left field, and they are gloriously creative. You will not be able to contain yourself. Either way you look at it, Morosini is pretty brave for putting this stuff out there. If this doesn’t get Hollywood’s attention, I’ll be shocked. As we bounce from sweet to outlandish, I LOVE MY DAD is one of the best films to come out of SXSW22.


Director:

James Morosini

Executive Producer:

Lauren Hantz, John Hantz, Jeremy Garelick, Dave Rath, David Bernon, Will Phelps, Paul Bernon

Producer:

Bill Stertz, Patton Oswalt, Sean O’Grady, Dane Eckerle, Phil Keefe, Daniel Brandt, Sam Slater

Screenwriter:

James Morosini

Cinematographer:

Steven Capitano Calitri

Editor:

Josh Crockett

Production Designer:

Bret August Tanzer

Principal Cast:

Patton Oswalt, James Morosini, Claudia Sulewski, Rachel Dratch, Ricky Velez, Lil Rel Howery, Amy Landecker

Additional Credits:

Line Producer: Billy Mulligan, Visual Effects: Patrick Longstreth, Casting: Eyde Belasco, Associate Producer: Jeffrey Penman


To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: Living your best life is triggering in ‘SISSY.’

SISSY

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered


Catty, protective, territorial; girls can be the worst. Mean girls made my life a living hell for years. Everyone I know has a story involving them. SXSW22 Midnighters world premiere SISSY addresses them head-on. 

Slow clap for the editing in SISSY. It is clever and engaging from the beginning. The tension in the script is a deliberate build, sort of like ascending a rollercoaster, knowing that that first drop is coming and will be one many. But there are moments of silliness that cut through the anticipation. Overall a slick structure that never lets up. Trust me when I say you will not see where this leads. The practical FX are so tight I exclaimed, “Oh, F*ck,” at one point. There is no better an endorsement than that. 

The chemistry between Aisha Dee and Hannah Barlow (who co-writes and directs with Kane Senes) is magic. You believe they were best friends when they were twelve. Fast forward 15 years or so, and things look very different in their relationship. But, best friends never really lose their groove. That is until someone comes between them. Aisha Dee is our true leading lady, and she friggin kills it. SISSY obliterates your moral compass. 

SISSY tackles unresolved childhood trauma most darkly. Combined with the influencer angle is pure genius. SXSW22 audiences are going to love this. You root for all the wrong things, and therein lies the brilliance.


SISSY – Midnighters (**World Premiere**)
Writers/Directors: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
Cast: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett


To find out more about SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2022 review: ‘PIRATES’ is a feelgood throwback filled with relatable shenanigans.

PIRATES

New Year’s Eve 1999. Cappo (ELLIOT EDUSAH), Two Tonne (JORDAN PETERS), and Kid (REDA ELAZOUAR) drive through London in their tiny Peugeot 205, pumping a live garage set from the stereo and arguing about their Avirex jackets and Naf Naf imports. As the eighteen-year-olds step into adulthood, they know their lives and friendships are on the brink of change. Determined to end the century on a bang they drive from place to place in a desperate search for tickets for the best millennium party EVER. In their efforts to end up somewhere, they end up closer together.


Let me begin my review of SXSW22 narrative spotlight feature PIRATES by stating that I was the same age as Kid, Cappo, and Two Tonne on the eve of Y2K. I can vividly remember that night and the pure excitement and energy exerted on that day was something I wish I could bottle now. What PIRATES gets right is just that. The feeling of invincibility and the idea that anything is possible. That and the sheer audacity of youth. 

Kid, played by Reda Elazouar, is pure unadulterated comic relief. He believes what he’s saying, lending the audience to smirk at every turn. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the future. 

Elliot Edusah is Cappo, the kid that wants more out of life than repeating high school shenanigans. He’s the down-to-earth friend with loyalty as his best quality. Edusah is an easy watch. His boy-next-door good looks and sincere attitude compel you to root for him.

Jordan Peters plays Two Tonne with underlying low self-esteem that he covers with over-the-top bravado. This intriguing dichotomy gives Peters the chance to play the entire emotional gambit as well as the comedy aspect. 

Ancillary cast members nail every beat. You remember scenes that only run for a few minutes because of the pure shenanigans the boys attempt to pull. The chemistry among the entire cast makes PIRATES a breezy and nostalgic watch. For an American audience, the film would benefit from closed captions. Heavy with slang and fast-paced quips, I know I missed a good deal of the definitively funny dialogue. A Google joke right off the bat? It got me. Kid carries around a Tamagochi, and it’s a solid running joke. From the costumes to the sets, audiences from that generation (myself included) will connect with PIRATES right away.


Section: Narrative Spotlight
Sales: Gunpowder & Sky
Run Time: 80 min
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Writer/Director: Reggie Yates
Cast: Elliot Edusah, Jordan Peters, Reda Elazouar, Kassius Nelson, Youssef Kerkour, Rebekkah Murrell, Shiloh Coke, Tosin Cole, Aaron Shosanya
Executive Producers: Rose Garnett, Farhana Bhula, Jim Reeve
Producers: Kate Norrish, Polly Leys
Cinematographer: Rachel Clark
Editor: Ash White


For more information on SXSW 2022 click here!


SXSW 2022 is coming. Here are some films to add to your watch list in this year’s hybrid festival.

It’s here and boy is it happening. This year’s hybrid edition of SXSW 2022 has it all. Here are a handful of films we’re excited about this year.


Linoleum

When a satellite falls from orbit and crashes into the home of a dysfunctional family in suburban Ohio, the father seizes the opportunity to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut by re-creating the machine as his own rocket ship. While his wife and daughter believe he is experiencing a midlife crisis, surreal events begin to unfold around him, forcing him to reconsider how interconnected their lives truly are…

We’ve been living through hell these past few years and could all use a bit of whimsy. Linoleum provides us the opportunity to reconnect with our inner child while simultaneously dissecting the family dynamics. Plus, I think a lot of people forget how incredibly talented Jim Gaffigan is as an actor. Look out for this one.


The Cellar

A woman must confront an ancient and powerful entity after her daughter mysteriously vanishes in the cellar of their new home.

Shudder has already picked this title up before its SXSW22 premiere. Becoming the best streaming platform for all things genre-related, when they see potential in a film they snap it up ASAP. An old mansion, a new family, a disappearance, The Cellar has my attention.


DIAMOND HANDS: THE LEGEND OF WALLSTREETBETS

It was the perfect storm. A global pandemic. An app aspiring to democratize trading. A group of Reddit users stuck at home with stimulus dollars to burn. And a video game company on its last legs. DIAMOND HANDS is the incredible true story of how an army of retail traders rallied around GameStop to rock our financial system. This is the legend of r/WallStreetBets.

Everyone watched in awe and confusion as GameStop stock began to skyrocket. The fallout was disastrous, but the idea that a bunch of dudes on Reddit were able to completely disrupt the market is pretty much my favorite (anti)capitalist giggle from 2020.

MSNBC Films and NBC News Studios will premiere “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets,” on MSNBC Sunday, April 10 at 10:00 p.m. ET, following the global premiere at SXSW on March 13. “Diamond Hands” is produced by NBC News Studios and ZCDC Films. The film is set to stream later this Spring on Peacock. 


Hypochondriac

A young potter’s life devolves into chaos as he loses function of his body while being haunted by the physical manifestation of his childhood trauma.

If you’re looking for some kick-ass casting, look no further than Zach Villa in Hypochondriac. Unrecognizable from his American Horror Story seasons, Villa plays the writer-director Addison Heimann‘s words with care. The film is based on Heiman’s own experience with mental health.


The Cow

Synopsis: Upon arriving at a remote cabin in the redwoods, Kath and her boyfriend find a mysterious younger couple already there — the rental has apparently been double-booked. With nowhere else to go, they decide to share the cabin with these strangers until the next morning. When her boyfriend disappears with the young woman, Kath becomes obsessed with finding an explanation for their sudden breakup— but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

If you go to IMDB the plot for the film is still under wraps, so SXSW22 fans are in for a treat. I’ve always been a Winona Ryder fan and with Stranger Things revamping her genre status, I cannot wait to see what is in store in this mysterious-sounding plot.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Mickey Mouse is one of the most enduring symbols in our history. Those three simple circles take on meaning for virtually everyone on the planet. So ubiquitous in our lives that he can seem invisible, Mickey is something we all share, with unique memories and feelings. Over the course of his nearly century-long history, Mickey functions like a mirror, reflecting our personal and cultural values back at us. “Mickey: The Story of a Mouse” explores Mickey’s significance, getting to the core of what Mickey’s cultural impact says about each of us and about our world.

When I was 19 years old, I moved to California on a whim in hopes of working at Disneyland. During my amazing time performing there (those details are top secret via the stack of NDA’s you sign as a cast member), I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting a special individual. When Walt Disney opened Disneyland he presented the world with Mickey Mouse, live and in person. I met that man backstage and had my photo taken with him. The impact Mickey Mouse has had on generations of children and adults is unfathomable. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse will undoubtedly touch a massive audience. As I share Mickey with my own small children now, I can still picture my first meeting with a character so magical I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement. He never gets old, pun most definitely intended.


The Prank

Synopsis: Ben is your typical high-school overachiever. He’s organized, careful, goal-oriented and extremely dedicated to school. His best friend, Tanner, couldn’t be more opposite. She is a lackadaisical, messy, slacker, who lives in the moment. They aren’t popular, but they don’t seem to care that much because they have each other. Ben has a stern, mean and cruel physics teacher, Mrs. Wheeler. She has been teaching at the school for decades and has a reputation for being the hardest, coldest, strictest faculty member. She fails Ben’s entire class unless a student who cheated comes forward. When no one does, Tanner and Ben hatch a plan to ruin he life and frame her for murder on social media.

Social media is such a catalyst for action, terror, and weirdness these days that anything is possible when it is involved. But, it’s this cast that caught my eye. Rita Moreno, Connor Kalopsis, Ramona Young, Keith David, Kate Flannery, and Meredith Salenger will get my butt in a seat. Also, who didn’t have a teacher in high school everyone loathed?


The Unknown Country

An unexpected invitation launches a grieving young woman on a solitary road trip through the American Midwest as she struggles to reconcile the losses of her past with the dreams of her future.

I was first introduced to Lily Gladstone in Certain Women. Her ability to captivate with but a glance is something that is rare. The Unknown Country tackles a beautiful mix of anxiety, grief, and identity, all in a unique road trip movie. It’s a film we’ll be talking about all year.


Sissy

**WORLD PREMIERE**

WRITERS/DIRECTORS: Hannah Barlow, Kane Senes
STARRING: Aisha Dee, Hannah Barlow, Emily De Margheriti, Daniel Monks, Yerin Ha, Lucy Barrett, Shaun Martindale, Amelia Lule, April Blasdall, Camille Cumpston

Synopsis: Cecilia and Emma were tween-age BFFs who were going to grow old together and never let anything come between them, until Alex arrived on the scene. Twelve years later, Cecilia is a successful social media influencer living the dream of an independent, modern millennial woman… until she runs into Emma for the first time in over a decade. Emma invites Cecilia away on her bachelorette weekend at a remote cabin in the mountains, where Alex proceeds to make Cecilia’s weekend a living hell. #triggered

Listen, girls are mean. We hold grudges and we play dirty, those are just the facts. When friendships are disrupted, those scars last a lifetime. With social media affecting the way we lead our daily lives, SISSY sounds like a perfect storm for great horror.


SOFT & QUIET

Playing out in real time, Soft and Quiet is a runaway train that follows a single afternoon in the life of a female white supremacist as she indoctrinates a group of alt-right women, and together they set out to harass two mixed-raced sisters.

Any film that has the audacity to play out in real time has my attention. I am hardwired to loathe these main characters so I am hoping that some horrible fate befalls them. The plot is socially relevant even if I wish it weren’t. I’ll be paying close attention to how writer-director Beth de Araújo brings her first feature-length film to life.


Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.

At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. I’ll be watching with popcorn in hand knowing that it’s one hell I don’t have to keep in check these days. (*knock on wood) Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

Radical Honesty Teaser from Bianca Poletti on Vimeo.


Slash/Back

Synopsis: Pangnirtung, Nunavut: A sleepy hamlet nestled in the majestic mountains of Baffin Island in the Arctic Ocean, wakes up to a typical summer day. No School, no cool boys (well… except one), and 24-hour sunlight. But for Maika and her ragtag friends, the usual summer is suddenly not in the cards when they discover an alien invasion threatening Pang. But these teenagers have been underestimated their whole lives, and using makeshift weapons and their horror movie knowledge, they show the aliens you don’t fuck with the girls from Pang.

Slash/Back is an unexpected coming-of-age film. With some Stranger Things vibes, it tackles tradition, boredom, boys, and aliens. Wait until you see this young cast kicking ass and taking names.


Pirates

New Year’s Eve 1999. Three life long friends drive through London in their tiny Peugeot 205, pumping a UK Garage set from the stereo and arguing about their Avirex jackets and Naf Naf imports. As the eighteen-year olds step into adulthood, they know their lives and friendships are on the brink of change. Determined to end the century on a bang, they drive from place to place in a desperate search for tickets for the best millennium party EVER. In their efforts to end up somewhere, they end up closer together.

I know I’m aging myself but I was 19 on New Year’s Eve 1999. I lived this chaos and hopefulness. Anything was possible during the course of one evening. I’m here for the nostalgia and some solid shenanigans.


Jethica

Hiding out in New Mexico after a freak accident, Elena runs into Jessica, an old friend from high school. When Jessica’s stalker suddenly shows up at their door, they must seek help from beyond the grave to get rid of him, for good.

Wild and collaborative filmmaker, Pete Ohs brings an exciting edge to the indie scene with Jethica. Shot during the pandemic in 2021 and edited live on Twitch, SXSW22 audiences are surely in for some unexpected twists and turns.


The Voice Actress

Kingyo, a veteran voice actress working in Tokyo, possesses a unique ability to see the soul in all things, living and inanimate. The voice acting world is changing and she must find a way to reconcile her way of living with the modern industry. As Kingyo prepares for an upcoming audition, she seeks inspiration from the world around her and from her pet goldfish, Asatte. In the face of professional and personal adversity, Kingyo looks decidedly inward for strength through empathy and kindness.

A peek inside the recording booth and inside the mind of a working voice actress. Urara Takano puts a face to the performers we don’t talk enough about. Written, directed, and edited by Anna J. Takayama, we are invited into the world of a veteran voice actress and how she copes with forces beyond her control.


For more information on this year’s SXSW Film Festival click here!

Stayed tuned for Reel News Daily coverage as well as guest posts from Steve Kopian at Unseen Films. We’re making our schedules and doing all we can to bring you everything we’ve got. Stayed tuned!


Review: Socially relevant ‘BUTTER’ takes on popularity, self-worth, and the internet.

BUTTER

A lonely obese boy everyone calls “Butter” is about to make history. He is going to eat himself to death-live on the Internet-and everyone is invited to watch.


Reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite films, Angus (1995), BUTTER is a relatable film about self-worth, being a teenager, and the internet. Marshall, aka Butter, is a musically inclined, obese teen battling bullying, a dismissive father, and an overwhelming feeling of isolation. While posing online as a sports phenom at a private school to catch the eye of his crush, he simultaneously vows to eat himself to death live online on New Year’s Eve. These conflicting plans further complicate his life. The audience gets a front-row seat to an emotional journey of confidence, self-respect, and loneliness, for better or for worse.

Ravi Patel as Butter’s doctor is hilarious. He’s so upbeat you’ll light up each time he appears. He is a solid stellar addition to the cast. Mykelti Williamson is Marshall’s music teacher Professor Dunn. Williamson boosts his confidence by reminding him of his immense talent, never coddling him. He is the dose of reality that guides this young man.

McKaley Miller plays Butter’s crush, Anna. Miller brings a girl next door energy that plays perfectly against Kersting’s Marshall. Mira Sorvino brings a gentleness as concerned and guilt-ridden mother Marian. As a Mom, I recognized the weight in her glance.

Alex Kersting nails it in the titular role. He effortlessly oozes charm and unironic confidence. Kersting is pure joy to watch in this film. I hope we see him in more leading roles because he owns each frame.

BUTTER doesn’t break the mold, but it will strike a chord with every viewer. The most important theme is mental health. The script confronts the darkness head-on, and it doesn’t make excuses. BUTTER also possesses all the fun and angst of classic teen films. It’s filled with heart. Writer-director Paul A. Kaufman has a solid family watch on his hands. 


IN THEATERS FEBRUARY 25th


Directed & Written by Paul A. Kaufman
Produced by Paul A. Kaufman, J. Todd Harris, Christina Sibul
Starring Alex Kersting, Mira Sorvino, Mykelti Willliamson, Brian Van Holt, Ravi Patel, Annabeth Gish, McKayley Miller, Jack Griffo, Adain Bradley, Natalie Valerin, Jake Austin Walker, Matthew Gold, Monte Markham and Jessie Rabideau 

*Official Winner – Socially Relevant Film Festival 2020*
*World Premiere – Cinequest Film Festival 2020*
*Official Selection – Portland Film Festival 2020*