Review: Despite fantastic performances, ‘The Ravine’ takes a turn for the worse.

presents

In THE RAVINE, when an unspeakable crime rocks a peaceful community, family and friends are left to wonder if they overlooked the murderer among them or if there might be more to the story. Inspired by true events, this haunting thriller stars Eric Dane, Teri Polo, Peter Facinelli, and Leslie Uggams.


Based on a true story, The Ravine skillfully creates a tense atmosphere. The film opens to ominous phone messages, tight-knit relationships, and one pulse-pounding vignette. It’s a familiar panic for someone who has lost a friend in the prime of their life; the unanswered phone tag, the swirl of shock, and unadulterated, unfiltered emotion. Performances are heartbreaking from the children to the adults. They are raw and riveting. All these positive aspects cannot save the film from a failed ending.

Director Keoni Waxman writes the script based on Robert and Kelly Pascuzzi‘s novel of the same name. Its structure utilizes flashbacks and present-day fallout. Through police work, past regressions, and the unexpected introduction of a gifted and religious psychic, The Ravine takes a turn in genre and never fully recovers. The script leans on religious redemption in the end, but the audience does not expect the hard right turn in the narrative. As a choice in storytelling, regardless of how close these depictions are to true events, it doesn’t match with the repetitive scenes of violence. The final 20+ minutes of the moment-by-moment explanation felt rushed and overwhelming. For a film that begins like an episode of True DetectiveThe Ravine ends in a preachy manner. It soured the entire experience. 


Cinedigm will release THE RAVINE in theaters and on Demand and Digital on May 6, 2022.


 
The film stars Eric Dane (“Euphoria”), Teri Polo (Meet the Parents), Peter Facinelli (The Vanished), Byron Mann (The Big Short), Leslie Uggams (Deadpool), and Kyle Lowder (“Days of Our Live”).

THE RAVINE was written and directed by Keoni Waxman (The Hard Way). It was co-written with Kelly Pascuzzi and Robert Pascuzzi whose book “THE RAVINE” is the basis for the film.


Review: ‘BLACK BOX’ is one of the year’s most intense films.

BLACK BOX

Mathieu is a young and talented black box analyst on a mission to solve the reason behind the deadly crash of a brand new aircraft. Yet, when the case is closed by the authorities, Mathieu cannot help but sense there is something wrong with the evidence. As he listens to the tracks again, he starts detecting some seriously disturbing details. Could the tape have been modified? Going against his boss’ orders, Mathieu begins his own rogue investigation – an obsessional and dangerous quest for the truth that will quickly threaten far more than his career…


The first thing you’ll notice about Black Box is the sharp cinematography work. It’s unmissable as the film opens in one long take. The camera glides from inside the cockpit, down the aisles, into the rear of the aircraft, to land squarely on the titular object. It’s a stunning and terrifying beginning of a taut thriller. Mathieu is a gifted acoustic engineer tasked with transcribing the audio that leads up to the crash of Atrian 800, where 300 passengers and 16 crew members perished. When details begin to shift, Mathieu’s obsession with the truth spirals. 

Paired with the Netflix documentary Downfall: The Case Against BoeingBlack Box is even more frightening. Aviation insider politics adds an additional layer of suspense. My heart was in my throat every second of this film. Writer-director Yann Gozlan, alongside screenwriter Nicolas Bouvet-Levrard, and collaborator Jérémie Guez (The Night Eats The World, one of my favorite films), cleverly compounds conspiracy theories and intertwine them with raw emotion.

Watching the physical process of removing the voice recording apparatus is fascinating. To understand that such a small piece of equipment contains the key to such pertinent knowledge astounds. But ultimately, it’s a human being that leads to a conclusion. 

Pierre Niney as Matthieu gives a brilliant performance, luring you in with measured intensity. The nuance Niney presents hit differently for me as a mother of a neurodivergent child. Niney presents the physical aspects of an individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. Some people with neurotypical children don’t know that this can actually be a superpower. Ultra-sensitive auditory issues are both a blessing and a curse. Niney also brings emotional trauma, heightening Matthieu’s intention. Niney is, simply put, astonishing. 

The recreations of the crash circumstances and recovered wreckage have a visceral effect. The editing is award-worthy. In a narrative where the audience believes they have the entire picture, tweaking that understanding jars the brain. This evolving monster of a mystery slowly and relentlessly squeezes the air out of your lungs. After watching Black Box, I don’t know when I’ll be comfortable flying again. 


Directed by
Yann Gozlan

 

Cast
Pierre Niney, Lou de Laâge, André Dussollier

Opening

NYC – Village East by Angelika – 4/29/2022

LA – Laemmle Glendale – 5/6/2022


2022- France – Thriller – 129 mins
In French with English subtitles


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


Topic series review: ‘DECEIT’- a story of a real-life honey trap brings the drama.

DECEIT Official Synopsis:

Five months on from the brutal murder of Rachel Nickell on Wimbledon Common and the Met Police are still no closer to capturing the man they’re convinced is responsible. First identified through a television appeal, the evidence is stacked against Colin Stagg. The media feed a national obsession, covering every detail of the case and demanding justice. The police are determined to catch the man who, in their eyes, is guilty before he kills again. In desperation, the relatively young detective inspector leading the case, engages the nation’s most famous criminal profiler to devise a bold undercover operation which will see an attractive, young female officer start a relationship with Colin Stagg.


As each episode begins, the filmmakers behind the miniseries DECEIT make it abundantly clear that the show involved a plethora of research. In 1992, a woman named Rachel Nickell was brutally murdered in front of her two-year-old son. Police believed they found the guilty party based on an expert forensic profiler. After bringing top undercover officer Sadie Byrne into the mix, they devise an elaborate operation to obtain a confession. 

The series’ four episodes appear to jump in time as Sadie studies Colin’s interrogation tapes. She draws him into her web first with letters, then phone calls. DECEIT’s intrigue is relentless. It’s a fresh perspective from the typical detective plotlines involving female officers. The danger feels heightened. 

Eddie Marsan plays profiler Paul Britton with an unsettling intensity. His scenes with Algar are tense. Sion Young is Colin Stagg. He is both frightening and pathetic, creating a skin-crawling effect. 

Niamh Algar is captivating as a fictionalized version of a real-life undercover officer. It’s like meta method acting, watching her prepare for a role within a role. The deeper she gets into the character of Lizzie, the further she spirals. Her anxiety and fear are palpable. It’s a hell of a performance. 

DECEIT’s lighting has a heavyhanded neo-noir effect, especially when Algar plays “Lizzie.” The editing keeps your mind sharp. The story draws you in, and the characters hold your emotional attention. I appreciated the updates on our players during the finale. Separating truth from fiction reminded me that innumerable lives were ruined. It’s a final nail in the reality coffin for the viewer. DECEIT is a unique entry amongst the true-crime fare.


The 4-part miniseries DECEIT, streaming exclusively on Topic beginning April 14.

Based on a true story, this UK crime thriller follows Lizzie James, a female detective employed to obtain evidence against Collin Stagg, the prime suspect in the brutal murder of Rachel Nickell, which occurred in broad daylight in London’s Wimbledon Common. The case went on to become one of the most infamous entrapment cases in British law enforcement history.

Directed by Niall MacCormick and starring Niamh Algar (Raised by Wolves, Topic’s The Virtues), Eddie Marsan (Deadpool 2, Ray Donovan), and Harry Treadaway (Star Trek: Picard, The Crown), DECEIT has been hailed in the UK, with The Telegraph calling it “a gripping portrait of a real-life undercover operation,” and The Evening Standard declaring that the series “stand[s] out from the usual true crime fare.”


About TOPIC
Topic is the boundary-pushing streaming service from First Look Entertainment for thrillers, mysteries, dramas and documentaries from around the world, serving viewers who crave entertainment beyond the mainstream. Whether it’s a Nordic-noir crime thriller (The Killing), an Italian supernatural political drama (The Miracle), or a haunting true crime docu-series from the UK (The Missing Children), Topic expands your view of the world.

Featuring North American premieres, exclusive TV series and film, and programming from more than 40 countries, Topic showcases an unparalleled collection of creators, perspectives and experiences. Complemented by our Topic Originals, we prioritize bold storytelling and champion underrepresented voices. Topic Originals and exclusives include Oscar® nominee The Letter Room (starring Oscar Isaac), Lambs of God (starring Ann Dowd), BAFTA® nominee The Virtues (starring Stephen Graham), Emmy® nominee The Accidental Wolf (starring Kelli O’Hara), Dark Woods, Gotham Award winning Philly D.A., and Soul City (directed by Coodie & Chike).

Topic is available to US and Canadian audiences on topic.com, AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android & Android TV, Samsung, Apple TV Channels, Roku Premium Channels, Bell Fibe, Amazon Prime Video Channels, and Comcast (Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and XClass TV). Topic is part of First Look Entertainment which also includes Topic Studios, the award-winning entertainment studio which develops, finances, and produces content for all platforms.


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


 

Cleveland International Film Festival 2022 review: Anna Baumgarten’s ‘DISFLUENCY’ speaks volumes. #CIFF46

DISFLUENCY

SYNOPSIS:
After unexpectedly failing her final college class due to a traumatic personal event, Jane, an aspiring speech pathologist, retreats home to her parent’s lake house in the hometown she grew up in. Her older sister and friends, as well as an old high school crush, soften the burden of failure, inspiring her to embrace the carefree summer as she tries to sort out what to do next. She also rekindles an old friendship with her neighbor Amber, a single mother with a difficult toddler, utilizing her skills and knowledge to help her connect with her son. Jane, however, fights through PTSD and imposter syndrome as she attempts to piece together what exactly happened in order to unravel the emotional and psychological tangle that’s been haunting her as she finds a path forward toward the never-ending process of healing.


Writer-director Anna Baumgarten has a way with words. In her new film Disfluency, their weight is unfathomable. After flunking her final college course, aspiring speech therapist Jane navigates her next steps at her parent’s lake house. Struggling to reveal her motives for failure, she makes her friends and family her test subjects, studying how others use language. Jane slowly works her way to catharsis over the summer months, wearing every possible emotion on her sleeve. Disfluency is the perfect title for a film that’s bound to captivate a massive audience. Words have power and how we express them is life-changing.

Beautifully grounded performances make you fall for these characters. Discovering that actress Ariela Barer is Libe’s real-life sister makes so much sense now. As Lacy, she is hilarious, and I would be remiss not to mention her. Their chemistry is electric. Don’t assume for one second she only exists for comic relief. Lacy is a catalyst for healing.

PTSD is something that never truly leaves you. As a sexual assault survivor, I can attest to the flashbacks and how my trauma affected my relationships moving forward. It’s a permanent piece of my psyche. I understand why women don’t come forward, even to family. Not until #MeToo became mainstream did I reveal my hurt to family, and even that occurred via social media. Jane’s functionality in Disfluency mimics mine. PTSD is often an unseen burden.

Chelsea Alden‘s portrayal of Amber was also personal to me. From the sadness on her face to the eagerness to learn, I felt that performance and the care Alden brings to Amber. As a Mother of a neurodivergent son now in Kindergarten, his language delay was something I suspected early on. I remember the fear in my body when he failed his initial hearing test in the NICU. In the end, that wasn’t the issue after all. Lucky for us, his pediatrician flagged him at 18 months. Two weeks after his second birthday, he had five days a week of ABA and speech services. Now he’s a thriving, sweet, curious, and brilliant little boy. The screenplay utilizes sign language. Featured in an emotionally climactic scene that tears your heart out, it’s one of this year’s most impactful cinematic moments. 

Libe Barer, as Jane, nails every single beat, working through gaslighting, second-guessing, victim-shaming, depression, anger, and everything in between. The script gives Barer the space to explore all the complexities accompanying trauma. In a breathtaking monologue, Barer says it all, quite literally. It’s a wave of emotional nuance that packs one hell of a punch. 

With tight visual flashbacks and accidental therapy sessions in the form of slick dialogue, Baumgarten provides a conversation starter for many. It’s easy to see why it won Best Narrative Film at Oxford FF. Disfluency tackles the boundless intricacies of communication. It’s a must-see.


Screening information (VIRTUAL):
Sunday, April 10 at 11:00AM
Sunday, April 17 at 11:59PM

Ticketing information:
https://www.clevelandfilm.org/films/2022/disfluency?fbclid=IwAR0J0cyFMWDN56qzc0YXuzE-UtazQi9SWpwlxX_RmgDve9SJyMyxEZ3a6mU

ABOUT THE FILM:
Based on the 2018 award-winning short film, DISFLUENCY just won the 2022 Oxford Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, which followed last year’s 2021 Austin Film Festival Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature Film.

Director/Writer:                      Anna Baumgarten
Producers:                    Danny Mooney, Elaine Hastings Edell
Executive Producers:           Ben Wiessner, Jim Cummings, Alex Rudolph, Chicago Media Angels
Editor:                       Kevin Birou
Cinematographer:                 John Fisher
Music:                                     Nathan Alexander
Cast:                         Libe Barer, Ariela Barer, Chelsea Alden, Dylan Arnold,
Travis Tope, Kimiko Singer, Molly Hagan, Ricky Wayne,
Diana De La Cruz, Wayne David Parker
TRT:                                      95 min
Country:                      USA

Capsule review: Inspired by actual events, ‘NITRAM’ is a gripping tale of inevitable violence.

NITRAM

SYNOPSIS: Nitram (Caleb Landry Jones) lives with his mother (Judy Davis) and father (Anthony LaPaglia) in suburban Australia in the Mid 1990s. He lives a life of isolation and frustration at never being able to fit in. That is until he unexpectedly finds a close friend in a reclusive heiress, Helen (Essie Davis). However, when that relationship meets a tragic end, and Nitram’s loneliness and anger grow, he begins a slow descent that leads to disaster.


Witness the downward spiral of an already unwell young man as he slowly travels down the rabbit hole of complete darkness. When Nitram finally connects with a reclusive heiress named Helen, his world appears brighter. Helen provides the comfort and emotional shelter his parents could not. When the sadness becomes too much, his anger and anxiety manifest in violence and unfathomable tragedy. Inspired by actual events, NITRAM tells the story of one man’s undoing, changing Australia’s history forever. 

Caleb Landry Jones embodies the mentally fragile Nitram with his entire being. It’s no wonder he won Best Actor when the film premiered at Cannes last year. Jones’ uncanny ability to live in the skin of his character is something you don’t see often. He’s on another level, whether that be his voiceover work in Finch or his haunting performance in Antiviral. Alongside stellar performances from Judy Davis and Anthony LaPaglia as Nitram’s emotionally exhausted parents and a breathtaking turn from Essie DavisNITRAM is an eerie chronicling of inevitable implosion.


IFC Films will release the thriller/drama NITRAM in Theaters, on Digital Rental and AMC+ on March 30, 2022.

Directed by Justin Kurzel (TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, SNOWTOWN MURDERS, MACBETH) and written by Shaun Grant (TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG, BERLIN SYNDROME), NITRAM stars Caleb Landry Jones (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI, GET OUT, HEAVEN KNOWS WHAT), Essie Davis (THE BABADOOK, TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG), Oscar Nominee Judy Davis (HUSBANDS AND WIVES, BARTON FINK, NAKED LUNCH), and Anthony LaPaglia (EMPIRE RECORDS, WITHOUT A TRACE).


 

Review: ‘TOPSIDE’ asks ambitious questions about society and parenthood.

TOPSIDE

SYNOPSIS- Underneath the streets of New York City, a five-year-old girl and her mother live among a community that has claimed long-abandoned subway tunnels as home. When the pair is forced to flee above ground into a cold winter night, mother and daughter are plunged into a challenging world of chaos and tragedy that makes their uncertain underground life seem idyllic in comparison. TOPSIDE deftly weaves escalating suspense with sharp bursts of humanity in a nocturnal urban tangle.


TOPSIDE is a dark and dispiriting portal into the literal underbelly of New York City. The film follows a suburban community hidden amongst the subway tunnels of the city, and the struggles a mother and daughter face when they are suddenly evicted from this home. They are forced to venture up onto the city streets, but even there, there’s no real light to be found. Powerful but stomach-turning, this stuff is bleak with a capital B.

Logan George and Celine Held’s vision is unflinching and brutal. In addition to directing, Held also acts in the film as Nikki.  Zhaila Farmer (in an amazing, subdued performance) co-stars as her daughter, Little; the first half of the film is told largely from Little’s perspective. We know little about Nikki and the other adults in the tunnel, and we aren’t meant to.  Through Little’s eyes, life in the tunnels is magical. The first shot of the film lingers on particles of dust dancing in a sunbeam – the kind of simple beauty we all forget to appreciate as we age into job searches, mortgages, and all the other pleasures of adult life.

By contrast, Little’s first experience in the sunlight is traumatic and saturated with new noises and fears. The narrative moves behind Nikki, and here the film began to lose me.  Where Little’s view is full of naïve wonder, Nikki’s is laid low by the crushing reality of her circumstances. However wonderful life in the tunnels may seem to Little, there’s no romancing Nikki’s reality. But it also quickly becomes clear that those dark, dirty tunnels below Manhattan are in fact far safer than what lies ahead.

I couldn’t look away during the film’s final coda. TOPSIDE asks ambitious questions about society and parenthood. At times, I found it to be brutal and uncaring. I was repulsed by several of Nikki’s choices. But I am grateful to have watched it, and for the questions I’ve asked myself since.


RELEASE DATE
March 25, 2022

In Select Theaters and On Demand


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 short film review: ‘THE VOICE ACTRESS’ is an elegant ode to the unseen legends.

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.

Urara Takano plays Kingyo, a voice actress whose passion for her work is clear to the audience from the very beginning. In 15 minutes we get an emotional journey worth every second of screen time. Competing with a new generation proficient in self-promotion, how does a dedicated veteran compete? The Voice Actress gives us a peek behind the curtain that is the boys club of entertainment, while simultaneously putting us inside the mind of an accomplished performer. Writer-director Anna J. Takayama gives Takano space to bloom. I would happily watch a feature on this character. There is a purposeful beauty to the costumes, especially the use of the color red. The undeniable quirkiness from Takano makes you fall in love with her. It’s no wonder the short garnered SXSW22’s Mailchimp Support the Shorts Award.


 

Review: ‘MEASURE OF REVENGE’ is a genre-bending thriller with theatrical roots.

MEASURE OF REVENGE

“Measure of Revenge” is a taut throwback revenge thriller. This film is equal parts Shakespearian tragedy, family melodrama, and neo-noir mystery. Despite being set in modern-day New York, the themes of the film root it alongside the pulpy classics of the 70s. Through this lens, the city remains dark and dangerous even in the daylight.

Melissa Leo stars as Lillian Cooper, a veteran stage actress who happens to be the mother of a rock star. When her son, Curtis (“Animal Kingdom”’s Jake Weary), and his fiancé are found dead during Lillian’s final on-stage performance, she immediately suspects foul play. Despite the death being ruled an accidental overdose, she sets off to get her own answers. This journey draws her to the mysterious Taz (Bella Thorne), who happens to conveniently be both Curtis’ ex-lover as well as his drug dealer (don’t you hate it when that happens?). Lillian also increasingly relies on ghostly apparitions of her own previous Shakespearian roles. These visions (or are they merely hallucinations?) inspire and propel her forward in her quest for clarity and vengeance.

I appreciated the way the film leaned into its theater roots without becoming too highbrow. There’s clearly a linkage between Lilian’s decisions and her performances of Hamlet and Lady Macbeth, but you also don’t leave the film feeling like you need to get a Ph.D. in Shakespeare. Leo does justice to Lillian’s trauma and sorrow, but she also imbues her with a winking charm. This film features one of the best-planned alibis I’ve seen in a thriller, and some of the methods Lillian employs for revenge were positively refreshing in today’s age of shoot-em-up thrillers. When a gun goes off in this film, it means something.

Thorne is a welcome presence as Taz, but I wish she had been a little more utilized. She has good chemistry with Leo, but so much of this film hinges on her previous relationship with Curtis. I would have loved a flashback of their interaction, even if it provided the audience with more questions than answers.

Leo and Thorne are backed by an excellent supporting cast. Weary sure looks the part of a rock star, but I couldn’t get over how obviously dubbed his singing was during musical scenes. He and Leo have a beautiful soft dynamic together. I could watch Adrian Martinez in anything, and he provides a necessary bit of levity as the body count rises. I especially appreciated the way that Michael Potts’ Detective Eaton evolved over the course of the film. His final exchange with Leo sends the film off on a high note.

Shakespeare wrote in Merchant of Venice: “Truth will come to sight; murder cannot be hid long.” A simple statement, but it has generated countless stories over the years. Maybe “Measure of Revenge” is just another one of these stories, but Shakespeare would be happy to see they gave him his share of the credit.


In Theaters, on Digital and On Demand March 18th, 2022


DIRECTED BY: Peyfa

STARRING: Melissa Leo, Bella Thorne, Jake Weary

RUN TIME: 92 minutes

RATING: NR

GENRE: Thriller


 

SXSW 2022 review: Winner of Best Cinematography ‘A VANISHING FOG’ is spellbinding journey of whimsy and warning.

A VANISHING FOG

Facing the imminent return of an unnamed social and ecological violence, F – played by the emblematic and commanding newcomer Sebastián Pii in his debut cinematic role—yearns to overcome his human limitations and plan his escape, knowing all too well that his departure will come with a heartrending goodbye to the only world he has ever known.


It should be no surprise that A Vanishing Fog won the SXSW22 film festival award for Best Cinematography. This film not only speaks to the race against the climate crisis, but The Vanishing Fog also specifically tackles the helpless human aspect. The film follows a young man named F. He appears to be the last protector of an enormous and lush hidden landscape. As capitalist outsiders seek to buy his home, F’s internal struggle between escape and loyalty is palpable. Caring for his ailing father, attempting to communicate with any possible remaining ally by yelling out into the abyss, F understands the end is nigh, whatever that form may take. 

First-time cinematographer Gio Park shot A Vanishing Fog in the mysterious and formidable Páramo of Sumapaz—the largest swath of alpine moorland in the world. It is the first feature film to be shot in this location. You won’t believe such a place exists. It is so incredible that it looks to have been created on a soundstage or green screen. It will take your breath away. 

A Vanishing Fog is a film that deserves enormous screens. Imagine sitting in a room surrounded by IMAX-sized walls. The film begs this experience. I could easily see this becoming a staple at any museum. Lead actor Sebastián Pii leaves every ounce of himself in this role. He’s charming, innocent, desperate, endearing, and determined. You are right alongside his emotional journey. Visual grandeur aside, Pii captures your heart with his wonder and physical fearlessness. A Vanishing Fog is unlike anything you’ve experienced before. It’s a must-see.

 


A VANISHING FOG (Entre la niebla). Colombia/Czech Republic/Norway, 2021, 76 min. In English and Sunapakún with English subtitles. Director / Writer: Augusto Sandino; Producer: Augusto Sandino; Executive Producer: Alejandro Santo Domingo, Munir Falah and Nubia Stella Cubillos; Cinematography: Gio Park; Editor: Augusto Sandino; Production Designer: Constanza Romero; Sound Designer: Emil Nygård Olsen; Music: Emil Nygård Olsen; Principal Cast: Sebastián Pii, Mario de Jesús Viana, Christian Ballesteros; Worldwide Sales: Pluto Film.

About the director:

Augusto Sandino is one of the outstanding names in Colombian contemporary cinema. Winner of over 30 international accolades and the National Cinema Award 2000-2005 given by the Ministry of Culture of Colombia for his short Aniversario. His feature debut Gentle Breath (Suave el aliento) won the Special Jury prize and the FIPRESCI award at Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in 2016. Founding Director of the Auteur cinema symposium manifesto with Carlos Reygadas, Lisandro Alonso and Amat Escalante in 2014, Sandino has also been the producer of his films plus the works La forma del presente (The Shape of Now) at DOK Leipzig Next Masters 2018; La torre (The Tower) at IFFR Bright Future 2018; and Karen llora en un bus (Karen Cries on the Bus) at Berlinale Forum 2011. A Vanishing Fog (Entre la niebla) is his second feature film.


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SXSW 2022 review: Lily Gladstone stuns in reflective road movie, ‘THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY’

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.


THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY is a snapshot of all the people we pass on a journey; the waitress, the motel manager, or the convenience store clerk. It’s a picture of America. The sound editing is a flurry of sounds from a car radio, local and national news reports, music, and whatever Tanna stumbles upon on her way.

Lily Gladstone‘s ability to captivate an audience is something I first noticed in Certain Women. There’s an effortless, tangible quality about her presence that invites the audience. As Tanna, she allows us to join her anxiety and reflective thoughts. It’s a beautiful turn. Ancestral pull, traveling alone as a woman, and her place in the world all swirl around Gladstone, and the audience sits on her shoulder the entire ride.

A meditation on grief, familial roots, and perhaps unresolved trauma? From Gladstone’s raw state to the striking cinematography, the final moments are like a cathartic breath. THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY taps into the universal internal struggle to find our place in the world. The film shines in its humanity. After years of being bombarded with negative energy from politics, the environmental crisis, the pandemic, nationalism, war, social media, and everything in between, THE UNKNOWN COUNTRY gives us permission to grieve the life we thought we’d live and allows us to take a collective breath. SXSW 22 audiences will be talking about this film all year.


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Director:

Morrisa Maltz

Executive Producer:

Miranda Bailey, Rachel Crouch, Veronica Nickel, Natalie Whalen, Gill Holland, Matthew Mills, Steve Malouf

Producer:

Laura Heberton, Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux, Katherine Harper, Vanara Taing, Tommy Heitkamp

Screenwriter:

Written By Morrisa Maltz, Story By Lily Gladstone, Morrisa Maltz, Vanara Taing, Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux

Cinematographer:

Andrew Hajek

Editor:

Vanara Taing

Sound Designer:

Liz Marston/Skywalker Sound

Music:

Alexis & Sam (Alexis Marsh/Samuel Jones), Neil Halstead (Slowdive)

Principal Cast:

Lily Gladstone, Raymond Lee, Richard Ray Whitman, Lainey Bearkiller Shangreaux, Devin Shangreaux, Jasmine “Jazzy” Bearkiller Shangreaux, Pam Richter, Dale Leander Toller, Florence R. Perrin, Scott Stampe

Additional Credits:

Drone Cinematography: Will Graham, Production Coordinator: Will Malouf, Production Coordinator: Tracy Mailloux, Production Sound Mixer: Codi Putman, First Assistant Camera: Andrew Newton, Production Sound Recorder: Randal Iverson


 

SXSW 2022 review: Winona Ryder stars in ‘THE COW,’ a twisted thriller you won’t see coming.

THE COW

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.


A twisted moral mystery, Winona Ryder stars in SXSW22 narrative feature THE COW. Continuing Ed teacher Kath is dating one of her students. He is younger and on a different wavelength. Max suggests a surprise weekend away. When they arrive at a remote cabin, there’s another couple already there. After agreeing to share the space for the night, Max disappears with the other young woman; Kath is now left in the lurch. As she seeks closure, it turns out there’s more to the story. Where did Max go? Who is this mysterious woman? Welcome to the unreal journey that is THE COW.

John Gallagher Jr is charming and a fresh foil for a more level-headed Ryder. Brianne Tju plays Greta with a sharp edge that makes you want to punch her. When you watch, you’ll understand that this is a compliment. Owen Teague‘s performance is more nuanced than at first glance. His emo nature has a grounded backstory. Dermot Mulroney brings a rugged charm that is irresistible. His chemistry with Ryder feels pitch-perfect. 

Winona Ryder‘s journey feels just right. Blindsided at every turn, she keeps her cool for the most part. The way the script is structured we know more than Kath. This keeps Ryder relatable throughout. I know you’ll agree with me even as the screen goes black. Her final moments are pretty glorious. Fans of Ryder’s work, anything from Beetlejuice to Stranger Things, will love seeing her back on the big screen. We’ll take her wide-eyed wonder in any form.

THE COW is sure to intrigue any audience, thanks to director Eli Horowitz, who co-writes the screenplay with Matthew Derby. A great score from David Baldwin and solid editing back up this phenomenal script. HBO should tap these two for literally any upcoming series pitch. They are a hell of a team. A slow-burn plot holds you with tidbits of information in the form of flashbacks. Twist after twist glues you to your seat and the final 30 minutes had me yelling over and over, “What?!”


Director:

Eli Horowitz

Producer:

Raphael Margules, JD Lifshitz, Shaun Sanghani, Russ Posternak

Screenwriter:

Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby

Cinematographer:

David Bolen

Editor:

Arndt-Wulf Peemöller

Production Designer:

Susannah Honey

Music:

David Baldwin

Principal Cast:

Winona Ryder, Dermot Mulroney, John Gallagher Jr, Owen Teague, Brianne Tju


To learn more about SXSW22 click here!


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!


Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2022 review: Feeling leads to healing in Nicole Mejia’s brilliant directorial debut, ‘A PLACE IN THE FIELD.’

Unresolved trauma, redemption, and one big promise drives war veteran Gio’s epic road trip. The subtlety of the film’s opening moments tells us precisely who this man is. Taking life one day at a time since returning from war is a deliberate decision. As his journey continues on the open road, so does his perspective on life and others.

Khorri Ellis is the perfect foil for Don DiPetta. The nuance of this performance will stick with you. I want casting directors to take notice here. DiPetta as Gio plays the entire gambit of emotions. The resentment and simmering anger are hiding just under the surface. Surrounded by a strong supporting cast, DiPetta’s vulnerability captivates. Ellis and DiPetta have chemistry that makes A Place in the Field extraordinary.

The use of natural light gives the film life. You cannot ignore the cinematography. The pack symbolism is clever. The juxtaposition of coyotes and Gio’s fallen brothers is unmistakable. Alongside progressively artistic flashbacks from his time in the field, the screenplay is both poetic and cathartic. The emotional pull of A Place in the Field is indescribable. It creeps up on you in a way you won’t notice at first. You feel Gio’s grief and anxiety palpably. If nothing else, it will make you wonder how much we’re doing for soldiers who return from war. When we have police officers get a psych test after they discharge their firearms, it is clear we’re doing the bare minimum for our veterans. PTSD cannot be ignored. A Place in the Field is a real win for Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2022 and for the inevitable wider audiences to come.


For more information on Santa Barbara International Film Festival 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*


Review: Peter Dinklage takes your breath away in ‘CYRANO.’

Award-winning director Joe Wright envelops moviegoers in a symphony of emotions with music, romance, and beauty in Cyrano, re-imagining the timeless tale of a heartbreaking love triangle. A man ahead of his time, Cyrano de Bergerac (played by Peter Dinklage) dazzles whether with ferocious wordplay at a verbal joust or with brilliant swordplay in a duel. But, convinced that his appearance renders him unworthy of the love of a devoted friend, the luminous Roxanne (Haley Bennett), Cyrano has yet to declare his feelings for her — and Roxanne has fallen in love, at first sight, with Christian (Kelvin Harrison Jr.).


With films like AtonementPride & Prejudice, and Anna Karenina under his belt, Joe Wright was the perfect director for this delicious adaptation of Erica Schmidt‘s stage musical. From page to stage, and now to the big screen, CYRANO is a classic tale of a man hindered by pride. Unable to express his love for Roxanne, Cyrano becomes a pawn in a love triangle. Poetic maestro and prolific swordsman Cyrano has always been in love with childhood friend Roxanne. When she falls in love, at first sight, with the newly arrived Christian, Cyrano promises to protect him from harm. To further complicate matters, Cyrano agrees to write daily love letters to Roxanne, posing as Christian. Filled with catchy songs, delicious wordplay, and performances that will leave you in awe, CYRANO is a musical for the ages.

Kelvin Harrison Jr. plays Christian, a young soldier under Cyrano’s guide. His fresh energy is a superb foil to Dinklage’s worldliness. Ben Mendelsohn plays Duke De Guiche with a slimy foppish style that rubs you the wrong way from the beginning. He is manipulative and, (dare I say) dastardly. 

Haley Bennett, as Roxanne, has the voice of an angel. Effortless and aerie, the perfect ingenue. Her chemistry with Dinklage is electric as they are reprising their roles from Schmidt’s musical. They nail every single beat together. It’s cinematic magic. 

Peter Dinklage is mesmerizing in the titular role. Sometimes an actor comes along that captivates so thoroughly you find yourself lost in their words and presence. Dinklage hypnotizes the audience at every turn with humor, passion, and heartbreak. His confidence translates into an unadulterated sexiness. I found myself swooning as he navigated fight choreography, lyrics, and wit with ease. This performance is nothing less than award-worthy. (Shame on the Academy for no nomination.)

The choreography is spellbinding. The costumes and sets are lush. The cinematography and framing from Seamus McGarvey are characters unto themselves. Schmidt’s screenplay drips with wordplay and longing. With the music by Aaron and Bryce Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger and Carin Besser, Joe Wright has a brilliant film on his hands. CYRANO deserves a theatrical viewing. Even at two hours, I did not want it to end. It’s a glorious experience. 


The greatest love story ever told is in theaters everywhere on February 25th.


Cast: Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Joe Wright
Screenplay by: Erica Schmidt
Based on: The stage musical adapted and directed by Erica Schmidt, from “Cyrano de Bergerac” by Edmond Rostand, with music by Aaron & Bryce Dessner and lyrics by Matt Berninger & Carin Besser
Producers: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Guy Heeley
Executive Producers: Erica Schmidt, Sarah-Jane Robinson, Sheeraz Shah, Lucas Webb, Matt Berninger, Carin Besser, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Kevin Ulrich, Aaron L. Gilbert, Jason Cloth
Music by: Bryce Dessner & Aaron Dessner

Rated: PG-13 for some strong violence, thematic and suggestive material, brief language

Soundtrack Available on Decca Records

TOPIC series review: Nordic Noir miniseries ‘PIECE OF MY HEART’ grabs you from the very beginning.

PIECE OF MY HEART

(Pala sydämestäni)

In Helsinki, child protection agents, Rita and Laura, work tirelessly to protect children from recurrent trauma. A case becomes personal when it forces Rita to face her own disturbing childhood while Laura struggles to find work-life balance


Episodes 1 -3

Piece Of My Heart boasts a slick story structure. Laura is the newbie in Child Welfare Services and Rita is the old pro with serious baggage. Under a new director and with cases piling up, these two women must immediately pick up each other’s emotional slack to help the children and families under their care. As the plot progresses, clues as to what went wrong in Rita’s last case slowly reveal themselves to the audience. The nuance of performances, especially by women, in this series keeps you glued to your seat. We watch gaslighting, power struggles, intimacy issues, and the navigating of home life. You fully invested in each of them. Director Hanna Maylett and writing team Anna and Aino Lappalainen, masterfully plant the seeds of complexities. You’re kept on your toes in anticipation of something going awry. Leads Lotta Lehtikari and Niina Koponen are striking foils for one another, in every sense. Piece Of My Heart is a genre-bending series of mystery and drama. You’ll be sucked into the show from the very first episode.


***Golden Nymph Jury Special Prize Winner – 2021 Monte-Carlo TV Festival***
***Golden Nymph Television Nomination – 2021 Monte-Carlo TV Festival***

Streaming Exclusively on Topic Beginning February 17th
*Episodes 1-3 available on 2/17 followed by individual episodes each week*


 Directed by: Hanna Maylett (Sisters Apart, Suburban Virgin)
Produced by: Anita Kurvinen (Kotikatu, Tahdon asia)
Written by: Aino Lappalainen (Mersusta seuraava, Evä), Anna Lappalainen (The Spark, Tokio Baby)
Starring: Lotta Lehtikari (Seitsemän, On the Road to Emmaus), Niina Koponen (Urban Family, Rat King), Martin Bahne (The Border, Korso), Saimi Kahri (Täydellinen joulu, Pahan väri), Vilma Sippola (Flowers of Evil, Aktivistit), Manoel Pinto (Armi Aavikko – siinä välissä olin elossa)


About TOPIC
Topic is the boundary-pushing streaming service from First Look Entertainment for thrillers, mysteries, dramas, and documentaries from around the world, serving viewers who crave entertainment beyond the mainstream. Whether it’s a Nordic-noir crime thriller (The Killing), a back-stabbing, an Italian political drama (The Miracle), or a mind-blowing supernatural mystery from Russia (Dead Mountain), Topic expands your view of the world.

Featuring North American premieres, exclusive TV series and film, and programming from more than 40 countries, Topic showcases an unparalleled collection of creators, perspectives, and experiences. Complemented by our Topic Originals, we prioritize bold storytelling and champion underrepresented voices. Topic Originals and exclusives include Oscar® nominee The Letter Room (starring Oscar Isaac), Lambs of God (starring Ann Dowd), BAFTA® nominee The Virtues (starring Stephen Graham), Emmy® nominee The Accidental Wolf (starring Kelli O’Hara), Dark Woods, Gotham Award winning Philly D.A., and Soul City (directed by Chike & Coodie).

Topic is available to US and Canadian audiences on topic.com, AppleTV & iOS, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android & Android TV, Apple TV Channels, Roku Premium Channels, Bell Fibe, and Amazon Prime Video Channels. Topic is part of First Look Entertainment which also includes Topic Studios the award-winning entertainment studio which develops, finances, and produces content for all platforms.