Fantaspoa 2022 review: ‘SUBJECT’ is a uniquely mesmerizing fantasy.

SUBJECT

A famous novelist moves into a house near an isolated, strange village in an attempt to break his writers block. Soon, ideas emerge – as do strange sightings and mysterious pages, seemingly written by the former resident of the house


Attempting to ward off writer’s block, Max’s agent rents him a house in a small, isolated village. When Max finds his words in an old notebook inside the writing desk, it’s the beginning of pure chaos. Mystery compounds as the enigmatic yet cheerful townspeople come into contact with Max. Everyone in this town is slightly off-kilter. Writer-director Leo Falcão has done a splendid job keeping you on your toes, playing with language and magical realism. 

Is Max experiencing madness like Jack Torrance in The Shining? Something strange haunts this town, and Max is the only one out of the loop. Performances across the board are wonderful. I felt as if I were attending a ping pong match as I watched these fully fleshed-out characters coexist with Max. I needed to solve the complexities of the story. Falcão understands how to hold the viewer in the palm of his hand.

The costumes are like eye candy. With colors that pop, they have a strategic effect akin to Beetlejuice. The cinematic framing draws you into the already engaging narrative. The camera leads you to clues placing you inside the mystery like a passerby on the street. It’s immersive and ceaselessly intriguing. With an ending I did not see coming, Fantaspoa 2022 audiences will find themselves scratching their heads but unable to take their eyes off the screen. SUBJECT completely enchanted me. 


SUBJECT screened as part of Fantaspoa 2022.

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


Review: Malin Akerman and Lorenza Izzo star in the taut thriller ‘THE AVIARY.’

THE AVIARY

SYNOPSIS: Malin Akerman and Chris Messina star in the twisted journey of two women’s desperate flee to escape the clutches of Skylight, an insidious cult. Lured in by the promise of “freedom” in the isolated desert campus called “The Aviary”, Jillian (Akerman) and Blair (Lorenzo Izzo) join forces to escape in hopes of real freedom. Consumed by fear and paranoia, they can’t shake the feeling that they are being followed by the cult’s leader, Seth (Messina), a man as seductive as he is controlling. The more distance the pair gains from the cult, the more Seth holds control of their minds. With supplies dwindling and their senses failing, Jillian and Blair are faced with a horrifying question: how do you run from an enemy who lives inside your head?


Two women attempt to escape a cult by hiking through the desert. When plans go awry, deception, confusion, and brainwashing pit them against one another. 

While we only see Chris Messina as cult leader Seth in brief moments, they are undoubtedly impactful. With his calm yet persuasive demeanor, it is easy to see why these characters fell under his spell from the very beginning. Lorenza Izzo plays Blair with unbridled, vibrating energy that is captivating. You clock every single beat in her eyes. Malin Akerman‘s confidence as Jillian makes her a perfect foil for Izzo. Akerman walks a fine line between vulnerable and secretive. She’s frighteningly good. 

The screenplay’s wordplay, score, and scene blocking heightened every moment. There was never a dull moment. The endless mindfuckery rubbed my nerves raw. I found I had left fingernail impressions on my palms without realizing it. The paranoia and tension in the dialogue had my head spinning. Are these women gaslighting one another, is one of them a villain and is this even real? These are some of the questions I had while sorting through the madness that is The Aviary

You cannot ignore the comparisons with Scientology and Rajneeshees. The final 20 minutes had me on the edge of my seat. If you think you know where this story is going, think again. The Aviary is a whirlwind of manipulative tactics. It’s fantastic. 


In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand April 29, 2022


WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite

STARRING: Malin Akerman, Lorenza Izzo, Chris Messina, Sandrine Holt

RUN TIME: 96 minutes

RATING: Rated R for language and some violent content.

GENRE: Thriller


OPENING THEATERS INCLUDE:

NEW YORK CITY – Cinema Village

LOS ANGELES – Lumiere Cinema

 

ATLANTA – Studio Movie Grill Marietta

CLEVELAND – Atlas Diamond Center

DETROIT – Emagine Royal Oak

HOUSTON – Studio Movie Grill Pearland

MINNEAPOLIS – Emagine Eagan

ORLANDO – Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk

PHILADELPHIA – Westown Movies

TAMPA – Studio Movie Grill Seminole


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: 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 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!


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.