Review: ‘SURGE’ is a portrait of human implosion and an awards vehicle for Ben Whishaw.

SURGE

Joseph (Ben Whishaw, PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER, the upcoming James Bond film NO TIME TO DIE) is trapped in a soulless job, living a life devoid of emotion and meaning. After an impulsive act of rebellion, Joseph unleashes a wilder version of himself. He is propelled on a reckless journey through London, ultimately experiencing what it feels like to be alive. Whishaw won the Special Jury Award for his role in the film at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.


SURGE feels like watching a powder keg about to explode. For a film that might seem to begin with inane tasks, the simmering tension becomes consuming. Once that fuse is lit, SURGE is a relentless display of emotional pyrotechnics. The handheld camera work is dizzying, placing the audience in Joseph’s physical frenzy. There are entire scenes without cuts. This is what a master class in performance looks like. Director Aneil Karia, cinematographer Stuart Bentley, and Ben Whishaw had to have established absolute trust to pull this off.

There is underlying violence that feels inevitable as Joseph begins to break. There may be a suggestion of hidden trauma. Ben Whishaw plays every beat with his whole body. His minute idiosyncrasies create an entire backstory. Compounding micro-aggressions lead to ticks, and then ultimately, a total breakdown in civilized behavior. He becomes manic. This is the epitome of base instinct. Whishaw will have you teetering on the brink of terror and awe. He is sensational.

Your heart will be your throat, unable to comprehend how this film could get any more intense. And yet, the stakes just keep getting higher. It felt like a panic attack. The end of the film is only cathartic in the physical sense. A mysterious sadness still hangs over Joseph’s fate. It’s such a bold choice. The combination of this script, Ben Whishaw’s performance, and Karia’s direction make SURGE an unstoppable force.


Debuts September 24th In Theaters
On-Demand Everywhere October 25th

Director: Aneil Karia
Written by: Rita Kalnejais, Rupert Jones
Story by: Rita Kalnejais, Aneil Karia, Rupert Jones
Produced by: Julia Godzinskaya, Sophie Vickers
Co-Producer: Scott O’Donnell
Director of Photography: Stuart Bentley, B.S.C.
Editor: Amanda James
Genre: Thriller
TRT: 105 minutes


 

Review: ‘BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER’ – a legendary and inspiring enigma.


BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER


Beginning just before his debut as Frankenstein’s creation, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” compellingly explores the life and legacy of a cinema legend, presenting a perceptive history of the genre he personified. His films were long derided as hokum and attacked by censors. But his phenomenal popularity and pervasive influence endures, inspiring some of our greatest actors and directors into the 21st Century – among them Guillermo Del Toro, Ron Perlman, Roger Corman & John Landis all of whom and many more contribute their personal insights and anecdotes.


Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster ultimately provides a compelling, yet frustrating dive into the life of the man forever associated with the Frankenstein mythology. This iconic role and Karloff’s 60-year career in the film is explored in-depth across Thomas Hamilton’s loving and thorough documentary. I left Hamilton’s film with a clear appreciation for two things: the vastness of Karloff’s legacy, and how difficult it must have been to assemble the disparate pieces of this documentary.

Karloff is one of the few stars who successfully built momentum and success from the silent film era into the “talkies”. He brought such understated emotion and gravity to his portrayal of Frankenstein’s Monster that his performance remains the gold standard 90 years later. I remember Karloff well from Universal Horror classics such as “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”, but Hamilton’s film moves quickly, but comprehensively through some of the lesser-known slots on Karloff’s resume.

Featured clips span generations, directors, and co-stars. Karloff’s prodigious work ethic seemed to rival Alexander Hamilton’s, only they weren’t all winners worthy of a musical.  It sure felt like a stretch to watch contemporary directors compliment Karloff’s 1932 portrayal of Fu Manchu, a deeply racist film I’ve only run into at the $5 bin at Target. But there are gems to be found even in these lesser-known films – I was stunned and a little charmed to see a young Jack Nicholson co-starring with Karloff in 1963’s “The Terror” (all of Karloff’s scenes were filmed in 2 days).

I wish the same thorough approach had been applied to Karloff’s personal life. I was surprised a film titled The Man Behind the Monster didn’t feature more detail on, well, Boris Karloff. Interviews with Karloff’s daughter were insightful but sparse. The complexities of his racial background are hinted at, but never explored in detail. Sadly, there are no juicy stories from his many marriages (six!)

Ultimately, this film was successful in that I left with a deeper understanding of Karloff, and a strong desire to revisit more of his films. I just wish I had gotten a longer peek at who was under all that monster makeup.


Shout! Studios will be released theatrically by Abramorama on September 17th and features the original song “Frankenstein’s Lament” by famed jazz bassist Jay Leonhart.


Directed by: Thomas Hamilton (Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave A Damn)

Co-Written by: Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey

Co-Produced by: Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey

Featuring interviews with:

 Guillermo Del Toro

John Landis

Roger Corman

 Ron Perlman

Sara Karloff

Peter Bogdanovich

Christopher Plummer

Stefanie Powers

Lee Grant

Sir Christopher Frayling

And

 Kevin Brownlow


TIFF 2021 review: ‘THE WHEEL’ is a raw portrait of devotion.

THE WHEEL

Synopsis: 

Albee and Walker, a young couple on the brink of divorce, rent a mountain getaway to save their fledgling marriage. Before long, their personal drama creates tension between their newly engaged AirBnB hosts — Ben & Carly — leaving us to wonder if either couples’ relationships will survive the weekend.


When you’re in love, real-world consequences and logic quickly fall by the wayside. Add in trauma to that sequence, and almost all bets are off. TIFF 2021 audiences got to ride an emotional rollercoaster, or perhaps, in this case, a literal Ferris Wheel. The film focuses on an attempt to repair the marriage of Albee and Walker. In doing so, Ben and Carly confront issues lurking within their impending nuptials. As secrets are revealed, reality comes knocking.

Nelson Lee, as Ben, gives us a slick, and a tad aloof, performance. He’s the backboard we need for Albee’s ceaseless attitude. Trent Atkinson‘s smart script allows Lee to play many sides of a perfectly flawed man. Bethany Anne Lind, as Carly, is the bright savior figure. Lind wears her heart on her sleeve in an attempt to get to the root of her guests’ issues. Perhaps, to her own relationship’s detriment. Amber Midthunder plays Albee with a fire that is accosting. Breaking through her wall is precarious and revealing. Midthunder walks a thin line between entitled Gen Zer and trauma survivor. You’ll be captivated by her interactions with every cast member. Taylor Gray breathes life into Walker. His vulnerability drives this story like a freight train. He’s so committed to making Albee and Walker’s relationship work. Their pain is palpable. Gray evokes a visceral response. I could not fathom someone being so unequivocally devoted to what appears to be a toxic relationship.

There’s an honesty to this script that will be a gut-punch for viewers. It will undoubtedly force you to confront your relationships. Atkinson wrote the characters of Albee and Ben to have more similarities than at first glance. He did the same with Carly and Walker, creating engrossing dynamics. There are some profound moments between these cast members. Their overall chemistry is the stuff of dreams. Ignoring all else in THE WHEEL, the final scene is one 10 plus minute take of raw emotion. It is the culmination of everything we think we know and we watch as Gray and Midthunder process those feelings in real-time. I hope people take notice of this feat. It’s a bold and beautiful choice by director Steve Pink. I think it pays off in spades as an extraordinary catharsis.


 

THE WHEEL — Directed by Steve Pink | Written by Trent Atkinson

Contemporary World Cinema — Acquisition

Produced by Amber Midthunder, Taylor Gray, Steve Pink, Josh Jason, Molly Gilula

Executive Produced by Josh Jason, Jeremy Hartman

Starring Amber Midthunder, Taylor Gray, Nelson Lee, Bethany Anne Lind, Kevin Pasdon


Review: Justin Long and Christian Long’s directorial debut, ‘LADY OF THE MANOR’ is a spirited good time.

Past and present collide in this supernaturally funny buddy comedy when stoner-slacker Hannah (Melanie Lynskey) is hired to portray Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer), a Southern belle who died in 1875, in a tour at Wadsworth Manor. Hannah, a hot mess, figures she can fake it —until the ghost of Lady Wadsworth appears! Lady Wadsworth tells Hannah it’s time to change her wild ways — and she’ll haunt her until she does — in this hilarious movie co-starring Justin Long and Ryan Phillippe.


Lady Of The Manor is devilishly fun. It’s an easy watch that never takes itself too seriously. The film is the directorial debut for brothers Justin Long and Christain Long, who also co-wrote the screenplay. You have to imagine that with a cast of this comedic caliber, there must have been a fair amount of improvisation on set. Ryan Phillippe is such a douche as Tanner Wadsworth. Also, how is it fair that he looks like he’s in his late 20s, after all this time? Although, I cannot be angry at strong genetics. He’s truly loathsome in this role. He’s the kind of rich kid that probably marched in Charlottesville. He’s got that kind of underlying energy, and it is perfect. Justin Long wears yet another hat playing Dr. Max Plum; Hannah’s accidental ghost expelling, history correcting, potential love connection. Long is always charming and effortlessly funny. I know he and Lynsky are friends, as with most of the cast. I’m a fan of his and Christian’s podcast Life Is Short, and I’m pretty sure they’ve all been guests. This mix of actors creates stellar chemistry.

Judy Greer, as Lady Elizabeth, is hilarious. The huffy delivery of her over-the-top dialogue is laugh-out-loud funny. The chemistry between her and Lynsky is magic. Her arch is increasingly delicious. Greer gives into the joy of the role. Melanie Lynskey, ladies, and gentlemen. This is a wildly fun performance. She will induce fits of giggles. She’s crass and sloppy and I loved every second. Justin and Christian’s script lets these two actresses be playful and ridiculous. I cannot imagine a better duo.

One of the funniest running gags has to be Hannah’s awkward run-ins with Marcus, another employee, and resident of Wadsworth Manor. This gives actor Wallace Jean solid moments to shine. You’ll remember those scenes. You get a little bit of everything in this script. It’s a stoner comedy, it’s a mystery, and it’s a unique relationship film. When I say relationship, I mean between our two female protagonists. They learn to cooperate and break down barriers in communication in silly and honest ways. Lady Of The Manor is goofy fun, and you can’t go wrong with it this weekend.


Lionsgate will release the comedy LADY OF THE MANOR in Select Theaters, on Apple TV and Everywhere You Rent Movies on September 17th!

Available on Blu-ray and DVD on September 21st!


 

LADY OF THE MANOR stars an ensemble cast of Melanie Lynskey (Heavenly Creatures), Judy Greer (Halloween Kills), Justin Long (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), Luis Guzmán (“Shameless”), and Ryan Phillippe (Cruel Intentions). The film is the feature directorial debut by Justin Long and Christian Long (A Case of You) which they also co-wrote.


Review: ‘BEST SELLERS’ shares the beauty between truth and fiction.

BEST SELLERS

Lucy Standbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her father’s publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier. In a last-ditch effort to save the company, Lucy and Harris release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect.


Aubrey Plaza plays against type as Lucy. She’s a type-A editor on the verge of bankruptcy. She’s got a lot to prove. On the surface, this is the least brooding role she’s ever played. Unsurprisingly, that’s all a rouse, and Plaza is up for the challenge. Lucy is given a beautiful arch. Her backstory, like Harris’, is slowly revealed. This allows us to fall in love with both of these characters. Sir Michael Caine gives one of his career’s best performances. As curmudgeonly and reclusive writer Hariss Shaw, he has settled into a lifetime of secrets and sadness. At times, Caine is raucous and crass. Others, he is docile and pensive. The chemistry between Plaza and Caine feels like an honest-to-God mentorship onscreen. This is generational genius, and we are the witnesses.

Voracious readers will connect with this script. The film flows like a novel with its complex characters and ever-evolving nuance. The screenplay unfolds in three distinct chapters, befitting the subjects and full story. Both Lucy and Harris straddle the line between saving face and redemption. The passages from Harris’ fictional work touched my soul. I could feel my chest well up hearing them read by average folks along the book tour. By the finale of Best Sellers, I was in full tears. The totality of Anthony Greico‘s award-winning script has so much heart. It’s incredibly cathartic. These two people were meant to change each other. The messaging of identity and grief are undeniable. In the words of Harris Shaw himself, “Be brief, be brave, be truthful. ” Director Lina Roessler has done just that. Best Sellers is not to be missed.


Available In Theaters & On-Demand
This Friday, September 17, 2021


Starring:
Sir Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, The Prestige)
Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, “Parks and Rec”)
Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, “GLOW”)
Scott Speedman (Underworld, The Strangers)
Cary Elwes (“Stranger Things”, The Princess Bride)

Directed by Lina Roessler (Little Whispers: The Vow, Mustard Seed)

Written by Anthony Greico the screenplay won a 2015 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting Award

Gala Presentation – 2021 Berlinale Film Festival


Review: ‘PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND’ sees Nic Cage paired up with director Sion Sono in some fantastic weirdness.

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND

PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND is set in the treacherous frontier city of Samurai Town where a ruthless bank robber (Cage) is sprung from jail by wealthy warlord The Governor (Moseley), whose adopted granddaughter Bernice (Boutella) has gone missing. The Governor offers the prisoner his freedom in exchange for retrieving the runaway. Strapped into a leather suit that will self-destruct within three days, the bandit sets off on a journey to find the young woman—and his own path to redemption.


Is this another out-of-this-world Nic Cage movie? Duh. Is it like watching a graphic novel and an episode of MST3K, all at once?! Yup. Overall, the screenplay features the smallest bit of backstory, and perhaps an homage to films like Return To Oz, Mad Max, and even The Wiz. There is so much happening in this wild story. I would not be angry if sequels popped up sooner rather than later. I have so many questions about this world that I’d even love a prequel! Give me all the whacked-out colorful silliness that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. I demand a franchise.

Bill Moseley is a genre giant. While my favorite role happens to be from Repo! The Genetic Opera, he’s undeniably awesome as The Governor. It is no surprise that his iconic voice makes for an entrancing watch. I love everything about this man. Sofia Boutella, who was fantastic in Settlers, absolutely holds her own against the chaos of the film and Cage. Her presence is glowing, and this performance is phenomenal. How is Nic Cage so effortlessly cool? This is one of life’s great mysteries. He’s in his element among the strange that is Prisoners of The Ghostland. This might as well be a double feature with Willy’s Wonderland. Hell, it could be the same character in an alternate dimension. You’re either a fan of Cage, or you’re wrong.

This film’s visual is all about vibrant color. Your eyes dart everywhere in an attempt to take in every detail. Joseph Trapanese’s score is gorgeous. You will not be able to ignore it. The costumes are wild, and the set dressing is bewildering. Prisoners of The Ghostland is a genre-defying spectacle. It’s captivating in its eccentricity. It deserves to be viewed on the largest possible screen. You’ve never seen anything like this film. The story is completely disjointed at times, but that’s not a reason to write this off. Will I watch this again because it’s destined to be a cult favorite? You know it.


RLJE Films will release PRISONERS OF THE GHOSTLAND on September 17, 2021, in theaters, on VOD, and Digital.

The film made its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.


Directed by the acclaimed Japanese director, Sion Sono (Why Don’t You Play in Hell), the film was written by Aaron Hendry and Rexa Sixo Safai (Western Wonderland).  The film stars Nicolas Cage (Mandy), Sofia Boutella (The Mummy), Nick Cassavetes (Face/Off), Bill Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Franchise), Tak Sakaguchi (Tokyo Tribe), and Yuzuka Nakaya (The Forest of Love). Joseph Trapanese (Tron: Legacy, The Raid: Redemption, The Greatest Showman) composed the original score.


vhjv bleeper

Review: ‘SHELTER IN PLACE’ is a slow burn lockdown horror.

SHELTER IN PLACE

SYNOPSIS: A honeymooning couple gets stranded at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel and learns that there is more to fear than just cabin fever.


“What’s out there, is scarier than what’s in here,” sound like famous last words. Shelter in Place has a relatable setup, especially considering the past 18 months. There’s an empty hotel, a newlywed couple, two hotel staff, and a whole lot of questions. Jonathan and Sara have an enormous chip on their shoulders as they are in quarantine in the beautiful Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Sara is an influencer and David moves money around. They fill their time wandering the halls of the hotel, taking advantage of the two staff members, and snooping in places they should not be. Consumed with the boredom and getting on one another’s nerves, Sara finally realizes something is amiss in this luxurious and lifeless hotel.

Ty is the general manager of the hotel, with the patience of a saint. Kevin Daniels plays him immaculately. I think he’s the most nuanced character. Daniels is a star. I’d watch him in anything. Adela is the overly attentive maid from Poland. There’s big Season 1 of American Horror Story energy coming from her. Actress Ola Kaminska gives it her all. She’s eerie as hell. Jonathan is played by Brendan Hines. He’s pretty punchable, super douche, and I do mean that as a compliment. Tatjana Marjanovic is Sara. She’s strong in her emotional journey and has all the makings of a scream queen.

The editing and cinematography are noticeably effective in allowing you to feel trapped and isolated. The use of red lighting is ominous and consuming. Directed and written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor Martin, the screenplay has Sara run out of the medication she’s taking, leading to panic attacks. The realism factor of a couple in lockdown allows Shelter in Place to push genre boundaries. It is anything but your typical genre film. There is some powerfully mean dialogue that will sound familiar to anyone in a relationship crisis. Just when you think the narrative hits a lull, you are reminded that something is very wrong here. While the final 15 minutes is heart-pounding, ultimately I haven’t a damn clue what Shelter In Place‘s ending really means. It’s a lot of successful, slow-burn build-up for a payoff that could have gone a million different directions. I’m not sure this was the right turn.


WATCH THE TRAILER: 

1091 Pictures will release the horror film SHELTER IN PLACE on VOD and Digital on September 14, 2021.

Directed and Written by Chris Beyrooty and Connor MartinSHELTER IN PLACE stars Brendan Hines (The Tick, Lie to Me), Tatjana Marjanovic (Great White, Purgatory), Kevin Daniels (Atypical, Modern Family, The Big Leap), Ola Kaminska (The Madness Within), and Jey Reynolds.


Review: ‘APARTMENT 413’ is a horror-filled heartbreaker.

APARTMENT 413


Marco spends his days applying for jobs online and waiting for Dana, his pregnant girlfriend, to get home. Strange post-it notes mysteriously appear around the apartment with cryptic warnings. A mechanic texts and calls him with menacing messages from an old non-functioning cell phone. The walls close in and tensions build between Marco and Dana’s relationship until all sense of safety dwindles as the lines between imagined and reality blur for both Marco and the audience. When Marco discovers the root of it all, his real problems begin.


Right as the screen faded to black, I realized how smart this script is. Apartment 413 starts with a bang. Slowly, we are introduced to the dynamic between the apartment’s newest tenants, Dana and Marco. With a baby on the way, Marco is desperately trying to find a job. Dana is gone all day, at work herself, but comes home with loving arms and encouragement for the future. As Marco continually fails to get interviews, strange notes begin to show up on their front door. A mysterious cellphone rings incessantly, sending Marco vile texts. No matter what he does, he cannot seem to escape the things he’s seeing or feeling. Can he keep his family and sanity intact?

One of my favorite scream queen-writer-directors, Brea Grant, plays Dana. Because of the ever-evolving nature of Marco’s predicament, Grant is allowed to play the entire emotional spectrum. Her nonchalant chemistry with Saenz is astounding. Nicholas Saenz is impeccably engaging. The film’s success hinges on his likability. Much like the script, his performance has more of an impact once the credits roll. The film takes place almost exclusively inside the small apartment. This set is a tight squeeze that the audience feels just as much as Marco. Saenz gives us his all. It’s a dizzying and heartbreaking performance. Screenwriter Ron Meade gives us all the breadcrumbs along the way. They’re so slyly distributed. Along with anxiety of job searching, feelings of inadequacy, and isolation, Apartment 413 is a slow burn psychological horror that punches you in the gut. As that final puzzle piece falls into place, it turns out this is one of the most disturbing films I’ve seen in a while.


Trailer
Terror Films presents APARTMENT 413 on Digital Download September 17

Nicholas Saenz (“American Crime”), Brea Grant (“Beyond the Gates”), and Dave Buckner star in Matt Patterson’s unnerving APARTMENT 413, premiering On Digital this September from Terror Films.


‘The Matrix Resurrections’ Official Trailer 1 is here, and we have chills!

The Matrix Resurrections – Official Trailer 1

This epic journey began in 1999. It’s been 18 years since the last installment. After watching the trailer, we’ve got A LOT of questions. The plot is currently unknown.

The Matrix Resurrections will be released on December 22nd, 2021. This is going to be one hell of a holiday surprise.

Which pill will you choose?


From visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski comes “The Matrix Resurrections,” the long-awaited fourth film in the groundbreaking franchise that redefined a genre. The new film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.

The film also stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (the “Aquaman” franchise) Jessica Henwick (TV’s “Iron Fist,” “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”), Jonathan Groff (“Hamilton,” TV’s “Mindhunter”), Neil Patrick Harris (“Gone Girl”), Priyanka Chopra Jonas (TV’s “Quantico,”), Christina Ricci (TV’s “Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story,” “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles”), Telma Hopkins (TV’s “Dead to Me,”), Eréndira Ibarra (series “Sense8,” “Ingobernable”), Toby Onwumere (TV’s “Empire”), Max Riemelt (series “Sense8”), Brian J. Smith (series “Sense8,” “Treadstone”), and Jada Pinkett Smith (“Angel Has Fallen,” TV’s “Gotham”).

Lana Wachowski directed from a screenplay by Wachowski & David Mitchell & Aleksander Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis. The film was produced by Grant Hill, James McTeigue and Lana Wachowski. The executive producers were Garrett Grant, Terry Needham, Michael Salven, Jesse Ehrman and Bruce Berman.

Wachowski’s creative team behind the scenes included “Sense8” collaborators: directors of photography Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll, production designers Hugh Bateup and Peter Walpole, editor Joseph Jett Sally, costume designer Lindsay Pugh, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, and composers Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer.

Warner Bros. Pictures Presents, In Association with Village Roadshow Pictures, In Association with Venus Castina Productions, “The Matrix Resurrections.” The film will be distributed by worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures. It will be in theaters nationwide and on HBO Max via the Ad-Free plan on December 22, 2021; it will be available on HBO Max for 31 days from theatrical release.


 

GRIMMFEST turns lucky 13 for this year’s hybrid addition. Here are some of the films we’re screaming about.

GRIMMFEST 2021

It’s no secret that the most buzz-worthy films come through only a handful of genre festivals. GRIMMFEST is on that shortlist. The festival turns a lucky 13 this year and it’s ready to rock audiences’ socks with a plethora of titles for every single viewer. After being completely virtual last year, a hybrid platform is back in action with a mix of in-person screenings from October 7th to 10th and online from October 14th to 17th. I can say that this year’s lineup is filled with everything from gore to absurdity, thrills to purest moments of wow. These are the films that will be on everyone’s lips. You can find out about tickets and schedules at https://grimmfest.com/

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now. There’s a lot to see.


THE BETA TEST

A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

This genre-shattering film takes aim at Hollywood, toxic masculinity, horror, satire, all with co-writer-director Jim Cummings playing a sharp lead. His last film, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, has a legit cult following now. Cummings has a distinct voice and I cannot wait to see if The Beta Test becomes another calling card on his resume.


THE RIGHTEOUS

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger…

There is something so striking about modern black & white cinematography. in The Righteous, writer-director Mark O’Brien also stars as the mysterious stranger in question. This horror film is filled with symbolism and will give any god-fearing viewer the vapers.


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

When the Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror mockumentary about an inept, aspiring serial killer at the beginning of his “career” and a fledgling filmmaker willing to do anything to achieve his ambition.

A little bit of Vicious Fun meets Satanic Panic, I cannot wait to laugh and gag. Horror and comedy pair so well together and since everyone is a true-crime connoisseur who thinks they could commit the perfect murder, I am delighted to consume this one.


THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.

Will this film be a little too close to home considering we’re still experiencing a global pandemic? I guess we’ll find out when we’re forced to look through the lens of writer-director D.M Cunningham.


HOTEL POSEIDON

Dave inherited the dingy and dilapidated Hotel Poseidon from his late father. He lives there and works as manager, and rarely seems to leave the place. The days and nights all bleed together. His existence is a hopeless one. When a young woman knocks at the hotel’s doors one night looking for a room, and his best friend shows up wanting to throw a party in the backroom, Dave’s world starts to spiral out of control, and his sense of reality starts to be shaken by recurring nightmares.

I have seen the title sequence for this film and it is hands down one of the coolest in all of cinematic history. I said what I said. If the rest of the film lives up to the initial visual, Hotel Poseidon will wow Grimmfest audiences.


ALONE WITH YOU

As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Listen, you tell me Barbara Crampton is in a film and I’m watching it. Add on Emily Bennett who was fantastic in King Of Knives last year and I’m sold. Not only does she star, but she co-wrote and co-directed the film. Give me an all-female horror film every day of the year.



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

● FATHER OF FLIES (Ben Charles-Edwards UK / USA)

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

● THE NIGHTS BELONG TO THE MONSTERS (Sebastian Perillo, Argentina)

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

● NIGHT AT THE EAGLE INN (Erik Bloomquist, USA)

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

● WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Jane Schoenbrun, USA)

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

● ON THE THIRD DAY (Daniel de la Vega, Argentina)

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

Passes and tickets can be purchased from www.grimmfest.com.

Review: ‘Small Engine Repair’ Explores Toxic Masculinity with Thrilling Effect.

Featured

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR

Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Wigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.


Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) are working-class men that share a friendship bond going back to childhood. That bond is strengthened further by their co-parenting of Frankie’s beloved daughter Crystal, who has spent a lifetime being raised by a loving– if raucous– male collective. This sets the scene for a fascinating character study of a group of men raised in a culture steeped in toxic masculinity who struggle to push back against it but often fall incredibly short. 

At first, Small Engine Repair seems like a dark family drama with a comedic edge. However, it is not until the second act that the viewer realizes that they are in the midst of a thriller. Complex performances by the entire cast gradually build tension through sharp looks, quick words, and complicated histories until the atmosphere on screen is so thick with menace that suddenly, every word and movement is a threat. It is hard to say more without giving away the shocking twists that a seemingly ordinary whiskey-fueled night in a garage would unleash. So instead, I will say that the tightly directed and brilliantly acted Small Engine Repair had me holding my breath through the finale.


In Theaters September 10, 2021


Written and Directed by

John Pollono

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House


Dances With Films LA short film review: ‘CLASS’ deserves a standing ovation.

CLASS

SYNOPSIS: New student Max attends his first ever acting class. He soon discovers that the lines between class and cult begin to blur as he and his fellow students are subjected to the bizarre but brilliant methods of their eccentric teacher, Adam (David Krumholtz).


Is it possible writing and directing team Enzo Cellucci and Ash McNair videotaped my college years and then made a short film from the footage? From the looks of CLASS, the answer has to be a firm Yes. If you’ve never experienced an acting class, this short film might seem completely absurd. If you paid a ton of money to earn a degree at a conservatory, as I did, CLASS is also completely absurd. This is the highest compliment I can pay this guffaw-inducing short. It is a literal blueprint for acting class. Cellucci and McNair nail the aha moments that arise from notorious acting games. They capture the frustration and joy of workshopping a monologue.


While the success of this film hinges on the commitment of the spectacular ensemble, I must specifically salute Enzo Cellucci and David Krumholtz. The majority of the film revolves around Max remaining an observer. It is not until he is forced to participate that we are fully consumed by the heat of embarrassment only actors know in their souls. Cellucci’s emotional and physical beatdown creates greatness. As Adam, David Krumholtz is a goddamn character study in CLASS. It is everything, from the slicked-back hair, the robe over silk pajamas, and the pièce de résistance, the accent. The impeccably precise bastardization of a British accent is a thing of glory. If your ear is sharp enough, you’ll notice how it changes from scene to scene. It is, as they say, the chef’s kiss. CLASS is easily one of the most honest and cringeworthy shorts I’ve ever watched. I lived inside every second, and I loved it just as much. I’m still laughing. I am dying to see this developed into something bigger. It certainly deserves the audience. To everyone involved, Bravo!


CLASS had its WEST COAST PREMIERE AT
THE DANCES WITH FILMS FESTIVAL
IN LOS ANGELES WAS AT TCL CHINESE THEATRES ON FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2021 AT 4:30 PM PT

CAST: David Krumholtz, Alina Carson, Enzo Cellucci, Amanda Centeno, Brendan Dalton, Kristin Friedlander, Carson Higgins, Joseph Huffman, and Ash McNair


DIRECTED & WRITTEN BY: Enzo Cellucci, Ash McNair


PRODUCED BY: Hank Azaria, Enzo Cellucci, Clea DeCrane, Karen Eisenbud, Srinivas Gopalan, Joseph Huffman, David Krumholtz, Jonny Marlow, Rob McGillivray, Ash McNair, Phillip Nguyen, Gayathri Segar, Ben Stranahan, Michel Tyabji

Telluride 2021 review: ‘JULIA’ is a mouthwatering doc about the cultural icon, Julia Child.

JULIA

At the 48th annual Telluride Film Festival, audiences were treated to a delicious documentary Friday with JULIA. Julia Child is one of the most well-known people on the planet when it comes to food. Who didn’t grow up with a copy of Mastering The Art Of French Cooking? It was on every kitchen shelf. In the new documentary, directed and produced by Julie Cohen and Betsy West, interviews with modern-day household names in the culinary world are interspersed with archival footage, personal photos, and clips from Julia’s cooking programs. Her distinctive voice is heard over glorious footage of cooking. If watching this doc does not make you salivate, I don’t know what will. We learn about Julia’s upbringing. After college, she breaks with conservative familial expectations to explore different paths. This would come to include WWII military service. She even confessed a desire to be a spy. During her travels, she meets the future love of her life, Paul. The film shares letters from Julia and Paul, as well as journal entries throughout the years. Paul captured her heart but it was food that sparked Julia’s lust for life. After moving to Paris, her very first meal would change the course of history.

Photo by Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock (6906383b)
Julia Child on the set of her cooking show, ‘The French Chef
Julia Child, Boston

JULIA exposes the toxic masculinity inside the culinary industry. She was a giant among men, often quite literally. Her physical stature would not be overshadowed by her boisterous personality. Julia Child was a feminist, even a board member of Planned Parenthood. She didn’t let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something. Julia made sure she stayed relevant. She was flirtatious, fearless, and ever-evolving as a human being. Some of the most beautiful aspects of the film come in friends and family doting on Julia and Pauls’s marriage. Their relationship is reminiscent of Ina and Jeffrey Garten‘s. Paul was her right-hand man, her biggest cheerleader, and he worshipped her. It’s a simple fact that Child paved the way for female chefs today.  She essentially gave them instructions as intricately written as her first cookbook. JULIA isn’t simply a documentary about a culinary icon. It’s a lesson in passion. It’s a love story. It’s a legacy on film.



Telluride Film Festival runs from September 2nd -6th, 2021


Review: IFCMidnight’s ‘WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING’ lets your imagination do a lot of the terrorizing.

WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING

After Melissa and her family seek shelter from a storm, they become trapped. With no sign of rescue, hours turn to days and Melissa comes to realize that she and her girlfriend Amy might have something to do with the horrors that threaten to tear her family – and the entire world, apart.


This is perhaps, one of the most batshit premises for a horror film I’ve seen in a very long time. That is one hell of a compliment. Innuendo sneaks in from the beginning, and while you can grasp Melissa’s guilt, never in a million years will you expect We Need To Do Something to unfold in the manner it does. That is the absolute genius of this script. Except for a handful of flashbacks, the entire film takes place inside the family bathroom. Terror arrives in many forms throughout this film. One of the most shocking is the progressive violence from Pat Healy‘s character, Robert. If you want to see a character study of epic proportions, Healy has got you covered. He begins as a disgruntled husband and selfish father, eventually succumbing to forces both inside and out. It’s a maniacal performance.
Sierra McCormick, who I believe was the best part of American Horror Stories, nails it again. Her anxiety is palpable, and she is unafraid to leave it all onscreen. If she isn’t the next genre darling, I’ll be shocked. The script does a great job of highlighting the awkwardness, the lack of privacy, and the growing tension under duress. Who wants to use the toilet in front of your family? Screenwriter Max Booth III provides us with a sharp left turn a third of the way in. The gasp and look of horror on my face must have been hideous. No matter how I assumed this story would play out, that one moment is so mind-blowing it will send chills down your spine. The film’s most impactful aspect is the sound. Man does this cast sell it. Your own imagination is your worst enemy while watching. The ambiguity lets every viewer come away with a different and twisted result. Director Sean King O’Grady has an undeniable hit with We Need To Do Something. Here’s hoping he and Booth team up again and again.

IN THEATERS, DIGITAL and VOD on FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 3RD

Review: The an action-packed, visual feast ‘YAKUZA PRINCESS’ is in theatres tomorrow!

YAKUZA PRINCESS

Based on the acclaimed graphic novel “Samurai Shiro” by Danilo Beyruth and set in the expansive Japanese community of Sao Paulo, Brazil — the largest Japanese diaspora in the world — YAKUZA PRINCESS follows orphan Akemi (played by pop star MASUMI), who, upon turning 21, discovers that she is the heiress to half of Japan’s expansive Yakuza crime syndicate. After forging an uneasy alliance with an amnesiac stranger (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, History Channel’s The Vikings) who believes an ancient sword binds their two fates, Akemi unleashes war against the other half of the syndicate who wants her dead.


Part girl power, part crime drama, all revenge thriller, Vicente Amorim‘s Yakuza Princess has something for everyone. Action-packed with spectacular fight choreography, the pacing is super satisfying. Yakuza Princess is just cool. This ensemble cast is phenomenal. I want to see more of every actor, but I’ll focus on our two primary leads. MASUMI as Akemi is a spitfire. Her nonchalant power is striking. Then there is Jonathan Rhys Meyers (who never seems to age) playing the mysterious Shiro. He is such a brilliant foil for MASUMI. His ability to own the screen with but a glance is always magic. Together, their chemistry is ripe for a franchise.

Visually speaking, it’s a neon-soaked feast for the eyes. The use of light in this film is hypnotizing. It’s insanely thoughtful. Films like this are the reason we go to the movies. A LOT is going on in Yakuza Princess. This story is an epic journey. A complex family dynamic, murder, amnesia, kidnapping, a mysterious ancient sword all come into play in major ways. I would also have been delighted to watch this as a limited series. The drama! The plot twists! I was there for it all! It makes me want to run out and buy the graphic novel that is its source material. I demand its sequel, immediately. Pretty, please?


YAKUZA PRINCESS opens in U.S. theatres and virtual cinemas on Friday, September 3rd.

Review: ‘A WAKE’ is a powerful conversation starter for many families.

A WAKE

The children in a religious family clash with their parents as they prepare for the wake of their brother, Mitchel.


Growing up Catholic didn’t honestly impact me until 8th-grade. I should say that attending Catholic School didn’t make me feel any different until one specific religion class. It was a moment that changed my entire life. It was explained to me, that telling my mother I was gay would be the equivalent of telling her I had committed murder. That was a defining moment. Today, my mother lovingly refers to one of my younger sisters and me as her “heathen children.” I begrudgingly attended Christmas and Easter Mass with my family throughout my college years. Then I put my foot down. I would no longer perpetuate the charade. To put this all in extra context, I am a straight woman. I grew up in the arts, surrounded by some of the most extraordinary humans on this planet. I continue to defend equal rights and acceptance, despite pushback from too many. Films like Scott Boswell’s A WAKE are important for families who may not even know they are in crisis. This story offers acceptance and unconditional love as lifesaving tools.

Noah Urrea plays twin brothers Mason and the recently deceased Mitchel. The youngest sibling Molly is planning a memorial wake for Mitchel. Invitations are sent to older sister Megan, their grandmother, their Baptist pastor, and Mitchel’s boyfriend, Jameson. The boys’ father and stepmother are typical religious conservatives, touting blasphemy, a stiff upper lip, and an extremely toxic, “man up” tone. The majority of the family is in the dark about Mitchel’s life, and Mason is left to deal with the guilt and trauma of losing his brother. Secrets and sadness have a poisoning effect on a family. A Wake addresses them in an accessible way.

The cast is amazing. Each actor brings the energy necessary to tell this story with truth and realism. Some moments are awkward, while others are rage-inducing. Megan Trout, as older sister Megan, is great. She’s the voice of reason in all of the chaos, whether the other family members are ready or not. Kolton Stewart, as Jameson, is lovely. His quiet strength brings a calm to the sadness. Bettina Devin as Grandmother is a gem. She’s elegant and understanding. Sofia Rosinsky‘s neurotic mentality is a story unto itself. Through flashbacks, we can see a clear progression of her personality, her growing manic tendencies, and genuine curiosity. She’s a spitfire.

Noah Urrea gives life to two equally intriguing characters, Mason and Mitchel. He has star quality. His narration, and the accompanying camerawork and score, push A Wake to the next level. If I had to nitpick, because that score is so good, you notice when it doesn’t appear. The film would have benefitted from more music. At times, that silence consumed whatever dialogue was occurring, landing it into a hokey category. When everything came together, the culmination of A Wake does exactly what it’s meant to do. It tells a story of a family coping with the loss of their brother, their son, and their grandson. There are honest moments where chills happen. It’s wonderful storytelling and impactful LGBTQ representation.


Available on DVD & VOD: August 31, 2021

Cast: Noah Urrea, Kolton Stewart, Sofia Rosinsky, Megan Trout, Bettina Devin

Directed by: Scott Boswell

Written by: Scott Boswell


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 reviews: ‘Baby, Don’t Cry’ & ‘Wonderful Paradise’


BABY, DON’T CRY

Baby, a withdrawn and sensitive 17-year-old Chinese immigrant from a troubled home, is living in the outskirts of Seattle. One day, she meets a 20-year-old delinquent named Fox. Together they embark on a twisted journey to escape their hopeless fate.


A story of cyclical abuse with a touch of magical realism, Baby, Don’t Cry was a completely unexpected journey. Fair warning for survivors of abuse, this film may be a trigger watching for you. The deeper you go into the story the more complex our leads are revealed to be. Two young people in hopes of escaping their sad circumstances, latch onto one another. It’s evidently unhealthy to the audience but entirely understandable. Lack of father figures is a running theme, as are racism and mental illness. The emotional burdens that Baby and Fox carry are unrelenting. Zita Bai, our leading lady, and creator of Baby, has given us a thoroughly nuanced character. Some moments will make you infuriated with her, while others provoke sympathy It’s an extraordinary culmination of emotions. Baby, Don’t Cry will make you cringe, shake your head, and fill you with a bit of wonder.


DIRECTOR

Jesse Dvorak

WRITER

Zita Bai

CAST

Zita Bai, Boni Mata, Vas Provatakis, Helen Sun


WONDERFUL PARADISE

The Sasayas are moving out, but not without a party! A demented spin on the unwanted-guest scenario from punk iconoclast Masashi Yamamoto.


Thanks to Twitter, an estranged and dysfunctional family throws an accidental party on their move-out day. A barrage of quirky characters show up to explore and wreak their own brand of havoc. Wonderful Paradise is an absurdist sideshow. I would genuinely recommend watching this high. The number of times I exclaimed, “Huh?”, “What?”, or, “Sure, why not?! ” I lost count quite frankly. I must applaud the cast for their absolute commitment to their craft. The cast grows exponentially as the film rolls on and every single performer gives it 110%. The slow and district progression of the set is wild. The practical FX combined with the wackiest of screenplays make Wonderful Paradise perfect for Fantasia audiences. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Do I understand the final result? Absolutely not. Would I watch it again? Don’t threaten me with a good time.


DIRECTOR

Masashi Yamamoto

WRITER

Suzuyuki Kaneko, Masashi Yamamoto

CAST

Akira Emoto, Seiko Ito, Kaho Minami, Miyu Ogawa, Soran Tamoto


 

 

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘MARTYRS LANE’ is one of this year’s best.

MARTYRS LANE

Leah, 10, lives in a large vicarage, full of lost souls and the needy. In the day the house is bustling with people; at night it is dark, empty, a space for Leah’s nightmares to creep into. A small, nightly visitor brings Leah comfort, but soon she will realize that her little visitor offers knowledge that might be very, very dangerous.


I feared this Martyrs Lane would be overlooked among the plethora of gore-filled content. That would have been the biggest shame to befall this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival. Writer-director Ruth Platt‘s carefully crafted tension and mystery should be celebrated. It has a quieter Babadook energy to it that is unmistakable. The film manages to be both a slow burn and a vice grip of tension. The editing puts your head in a spin in that you’re never sure what is real until the very final scene. Performances are outstanding. The fact that the entire premise mostly hinges on the work of two small girls will blow you away. It is no wonder young lead Sienna Sayer won the Special Jury Rising Star award. Martyrs Lane will hit harder for parents. Any story centered around children begets that internal ache from the very getgo and Martyrs Lane is no exception. It’s beautifully shot and elegantly lit. The exquisite progression in makeup heightens the overall dread. It speaks to the consuming power of grief and secrets. I cannot wait for Shudder audiences to experience this film in a few weeks. This one is special. Undoubtedly, one of my favorites from this year’s lineup.


Martyrs Lane Streams Exclusively on Shudder on Thursday, September 9th

North America, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand


Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘COMING HOME IN THE DARK’ will disturb you to no end.

COMING HOME IN THE DARK

Director/co-writer James Ashcroft introduced Fantasia 2021 audiences to a gutwrenching neo-noir. As a family attempts to enjoy a road trip, they are suddenly accosted by two men with an evil agenda. The complexities of COMING HOME IN THE DARK go far beyond a random encounter. This film was created to make you shudder. Redemption, revenge, cruelty, and shock all play huge parts in this journey. This is a film that will have you on the edge of your seat. Ashcroft’s feature debut deals directly with NZ ineptitude in their state-run facilities. This particular aspect of the script could be applied to any country. The abuse of children becomes an ironic twist that comes to haunt the viewer in more ways than one. The intensity that builds in this screenplay is unrelenting. The brutality is unforgiving. With a large amount of dialogue and action occurring under duress, and inside a car, the claustrophobia is palpable. The ability to build fully fleshed-out characters under the circumstances is truly astounding. Performances from this small cast will captivate you. The cinematography is incredibly thoughtful. It isn’t too often that I stop taking notes while watching a film. I didn’t write a single thing down during my viewing experience. I could not take my eyes off the screen. I cannot fully express how my entire body was shaking as I watched this film. I do feel compelled to warn viewers of the level of violence. Coming Home In The Dark is a traumatizing experience.



CAST:

  • Daniel Gillies
  • Erik Thomson
  • Miriama McDowell
  • Matthias Luafutu

Fantasia International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘When I Consume You’ is a haunting allegory.

WHEN I CONSUME YOU

A woman and her brother seek revenge against a mysterious stalker.


When I Consume You is a unique horror film that pulls you into the lives of Daphne and Wilson Shaw. Their past will not let them go. For better or for worse, we’re on their twisted journey for justice. The darkness of this story is palpable from the very beginning. Quite frankly, it never lets up. MacLeod Andrews, who most recently blew me away in A Ghost Waits, does it again. His energy swings from manic to terrifying. Libby Ewing, as Daphne, is both lead and narrator. Her voiceovers are soothing through the chaos. The chemistry with Dumouchel feels tangible. Evan Dumouchel playing Wilson is the real soul of this film. His emotional journey spills off the screen in a way that hypnotizes the viewer. I was captivated by every single one of his scenes, which are the majority of When I Consume You. This cast was perfect.

Perry Blackshear is the man with all the hats taking on directing, writing, cinematography, and producing. One of the best goosebumps-inducing moments occurs in the form of actress Libby Ewing’s hand appearing from nowhere. There is something so startling about this simple action. Its impact speaks volumes. There is a nice connection between the physical and metaphorical. The fight training scenes are a great representation of emotional preparedness. And without spoiling anything, the devil you know is sometimes a safer bet than the devil you don’t.  When I Consume You is an addiction allegory. Whether that is drugs or depression, the weight of trauma never quite leaves you. While the pacing of the film had some static moments, overall this is a fresh take on a haunting premise.