HBO Original review: Heed the warning and relive the trauma as never before seen footage in Ed Perkins’ stunning doc ‘THE PRINCESS’ flags the danger of history repeating itself.

‘The HBO Original documentary film THE PRINCESS is an intimate and immersive look at the life of Princess Diana, directed by Academy Award® nominee Ed Perkins (“Black Sheep” “Tell Me Who I Am”) and produced by Lightbox, Academy Award®-winning Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire” “Searching for Sugar Man”) and Emmy®-winning Jonathan Chinn (“LA92” HBO’s “Tina”). The film debuts on SATURDAY, AUGUST 13 (8:00-9:50 p.m. ET/PT) on HBO, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s tragic death, and will be available to stream on HBO Max. THE PRINCESS had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. HBO Documentary Films presents THE PRINCESS, in association with SKY, produced by Lightbox. Directed by Ed Perkins; produced by Simon Chinn and Jonathan Chinn; editors, Jinx Godfrey and Daniel Lapira; co-producer, Vanessa Tovell. For HBO: coordinating producer, Anna Klein; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.


The precise moment I realized what was happening in the opening footage of The Princess, my blood ran cold. The tragedy of Diana, Princess of Wales is something I’ve always held close to my heart. I remember the morning of her death like it was yesterday. My mother entered my bedroom, speechless, holding up the headline on the front page. I had Princess Diana paper dolls as a child. The booklet contained a replica of the crown she wore at her wedding. I mourned her like so many across the globe, understanding her cultural impact even more as my father and I watched her funeral live. I’d never seen him weep before that day. 

The film chronicles Diana’s life in the media from the days before her engagement until her horrific death. There are no talking heads, no overarching narration, simply thousands of hours of archival footage edited together with care and great intention. Studying the body language of Diana, Charles, and the royal family is fascinating. The commentary comes in the form of media voiceovers that are equally adoring and scathing. Feeling as if we know Diana and understanding the revelations that have since come to light, I was seething as I witnessed the treatment of an uncaring husband and the fickle media. 

The score is breathtaking. The editing is an award-worthy triumph. Watching the downward spiral of a young woman thrown to the wolves is daunting. I found myself shaking my head, filled with sadness and anger at those who failed spectacularly to protect her. And therein lies the double-edged sword of this film. Our obsession with a woman so special and fascinating makes us accomplices. The Princess is a cautionary tale as relevant today as it was then. Maybe more so. Harry and Meghan deserve more respect than we ever showed his mother and equal parts adoration for the change they are trying desperately to implement in a family stuck in the dark ages. We, the audience and fellow human beings, must remind ourselves to take a step back and let them live their lives in peace. 

HBO ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY THE PRINCESS 
Debuting SATURDAY on HBO & HBO Max (8:00-9:50 p.m. ET/PT)

Review: Diane Keaton stars in ‘Mack & Rita,’ a coming-of-age story that’s as heartfelt as it is hilarious.

MACK & RITA

The most unexpected coming-of-age film, quite literally. 70 is the new 30 as far as writer Mack is concerned. She’d rather stay home and nap than suffer through any Gen Z activity. While attending her best friend Carla’s bachelorette party, Mack reaches her introvert wit’s end. Seeking respite, she wanders into the tent of a past life “guru” only to bring her inner maturity to life. Enter Aunt Rita. Now, unexpectedly hip on the internet, Mack must navigate between influencer status and her true self.

Simon Rex brings a brilliant eccentricity to Luca. Patti Harrison is hilarious as Mack’s agent, Stephanie, especially since 75% of her role happens via facetime. Sharp-eared cinephiles will catch a voice cameo from Martin Short, bringing Father Of The Bride costars back together for a trippy encounter.

Elizabeth Lail, as Mack, shows us her range. It’s a far cry from her time as Beck in YOU. She’s a sweet delight I can relate with as the mother hen of my group of friends. Taylour Paige plays best friend Carla, and she is darling. Her genuine chemistry with every cast member makes her deliciously watchable.

Dustin Milligan is Jack, Mack’s cute neighbor, with a surprisingly down-to-earth attitude. He’s kind of a dork, and I loved his authenticity. He is the personification of the plot. Milligan’s comfort level with Keaton is beyond charming. Diane Keaton, ladies, and gentlemen. The icon brings all her quirky glory to the role of Aunt Rita. Would I watch her do pilates every day? Yes. Keaton’s physical comedic ability makes Mack and Rita engaging and a breezy watch. It’s a fun film that will undoubtedly connect with audiences of any age and stage.


WIDE THEATRICAL RELEASE ON AUGUST 12, 2022

When 30-year-old self-proclaimed homebody Mack Martin (Elizabeth Lail) reluctantly joins a Palm Springs bachelorette trip for her best friend Carla (Taylour Paige), her inner 70-year-old is released — literally. The frustrated writer and influencer magically transforms into her future self: “Aunt Rita” (Oscar®-winner Diane Keaton). Freed from the constraints of other people’s expectations, Rita comes into her own, becoming an unlikely social media sensation and sparks a tentative romance with Mack’s adorable dog-sitter, Jack (Dustin Milligan). A sparkling comedy with a magical twist, Mack & Rita celebrates being true to yourself at any age.

Directed By: Katie Aselton

Written By: Paul Welsh & Madeline Walter

Starring: Diane Keaton, Taylour Paige, Elizabeth Lail, Loretta Devine, Simon Rex, Dustin Milligan, Amy Hill, Lois Smith, Wendie Malick, Patti Harrison, Martin Short, Addie Weyrich, Aimee Carrero, and Nicole Byer

Produced By: Alex Saks, Diane Keaton, Stephanie Heaton-Harris, Jina Panebianco, and Dori A. Rath

Executive Produced By: Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Terry Dougas, Jean-Luc De Fanti, R. Wesley Sierk III, Joseph Panebianco, John D. Straley, Jojo Ryder, Lauren Beveridge, Brett Beveridge, Jackie Shenoo, Joseph Restaino


Review: Heart-stopping thriller ‘FALL’ opens in theaters this Friday. Hold on tight.

FALL

What could possibly go wrong attempting to traverse a rusty 2000-foot tower in the middle of nowhere? Only everything. In Scott Mann‘s FALL, Becky is a year out from watching her husband plummet from a climbing mishap before her very eyes. Mired in grief, best friend and climbing partner Hunter convinces her to do the unthinkable to heal. The two plan on climbing the 4th tallest structure in the US while Hunter films it for her budding YouTube channel. One loose screw at a time, and the entire plan goes to hell. FALL will take your breath away. 

The seemingly simple premise becomes one of the most intense and harrowing films I’ve ever seen. I didn’t have a fear of heights before Fall. I sure as hell do now. Every second of this film is a goddamn horror. If there was a moment’s lull, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. (No pun intended.) My heart was in my throat. I was sweating uncontrollably. I went weak in the knees over and over again. FALL is a nonstop cinematic panic attack.

The screenplay by Mann and Jonathan Frank does an impeccable job of wrapping the action in grief, unresolved trauma, forgiveness, and authenticity. The relationship between Becky and Hunter feels like a level playing field until secrets cause additional emotional conflict. It’s a carefully crafted script, many of its moments foreshadowed in the earlier dialogue. Virginia Gardner, who was spectacular in Starfish, plays Hunter with fearless energy. She’s the perfect foil for Grace Caroline Currey. As Becky, she sits in an entirely different headspace. Gardner and Currey’s chemistry is key to the film’s believability. 

The sometimes sparse, menacing score by Tim Despic combined with Alex Joseph and David Barber‘s sharply executed sound editing ramps up the inevitable impending doom we came to experience. The cinematography by MacGregor is a wonder. The juxtaposition of tight close-ups and wide landscape shots fills you with fear, placing you inside the bodies of Becky and Hunter. I cannot stress this enough, FALL deserves a viewing on the widest and tallest screen possible, but even on a laptop, the terror is paralyzing. FALL will take your breath away. Hold on tight.


Lionsgate’s FALL will open on 1200+ screens across the country on Friday, August 12.

This includes all key regional cities including: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco, Washington DC, Houston, Austin, Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis, Miami, Denver, Orlando, Tampa, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Sacramento and more.

Find a theater near you: https://fandan.co/3cYz8zu

OFFICIAL SITE:  http://www.lionsgate.com/movies/fall

FOLLOW FALL ON SOCIAL MEDIA:
https://www.instagram.com/fallmovie/
https://twitter.com/fallmovie
Hashtag: #FallMovie


Review: ‘Bullet Train’ delivers satisfying summer thrills.

BULLET TRAIN

David Leitch’s Bullet Train is not high art, but it’s a damn fine way to spend 126 minutes. There are times in life when you might order a side salad with your meal, but we all know what your heart really wants is the fries. Well, Bullet Train is what happens when the fries are the centerpiece of the meal. It won’t inspire deep revelations about the human condition, but it is a flashy and fun journey that satisfies (just don’t pretend it’s something it’s not.)

 

The plot concerns 5 assassins whose objectives and fates converge on a bullet train speeding from Tokyo to Kyoto. Brad Pitt stars as Ladybug, a hitman in a serious career funk, convinced he’s cursed with bad luck (don’t worry, he’s getting some therapy for it.) Pitt, fresh off his first career Oscar win (Best Supporting Actor, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) seems to be having an absolute blast. Ladybug gets to indulge in more physical comedy than any other character and delivers some of the film’s best lines (“Hurt people hurt people“) The speed with which Pitt can develop easy chemistry with a new co-star is foundational to the success of Bullet Train‘s ensemble.

The rest of the ensemble is stacked with talent (there are also some amazing cameos I won’t spoil.) Zazie Beetz and Bad Bunny hop on for a brief stop or two, to hilarious effect.  Brian Tyree Henry and Aaron Taylor Johnson are excellent as killer brothers, Lemon and Tangerine. Although Lemon’s obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine wears thin at times, his easygoing rapport with Tangerine is one of the film’s greatest strengths. Joey King is less successful as the steely and sociopathic Prince, but she’s not given much to do other than glower and explain her devious plans. Hiroyuki Sanada brings a much-needed seriousness that somewhat balances the otherwise gonzo atmosphere of the film.

Despite the film’s comedic tone, it’s important to acknowledge that is also extremely violent. Barely 5 minutes go by without somebody being shot, stabbed, bitten, gored, or otherwise demolished. The overall comedic attitude of the film does lessen the impact of the violence itself, but nobody would call this a family-friendly movie. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those willing to take the trip,  Bullet Train is an absolutely worthwhile thrill ride. Sometimes it feels good to just order the damn fries.


Release date: August 5, 2022 (USA)
Director: David Leitch
Adapted from: Bullet Train
Cinematography: Jonathan Sela

Review: Rebecca Hall stars in ‘Resurrection,’ a terrifying portrait of trauma and control.

RESURRECTION

Written and directed by Andrew Semans, Resurrection is the story of one woman’s decades-long torment. When a man from Maggie’s past appears, her perfectly buttoned-up life turns upside down. Maggie’s hyper-structured existence hides severe unresolved trauma. Resurrection is a sick and twisted story of psychological damage and revenge.

Grace Kaufman is Abbie. As a college student, she possesses a casual abandon to her behavior. Her age-appropriate nonchalance is perfectly balanced with Hall’s ever-evolving intensity. Tim Roth is a master manipulator as David. He’s downright frightening. His backstory as a groomer is beyond upsetting. Roth gives off a slimy aura that makes the viewer’s full body cringe. Rebecca Hall‘s performance is immaculate. Hall’s idiosyncrasies are impeccable. Anyone familiar with PTSD will recognize the guarded physicality, the body at attention in a millisecond, and the sudden, sharp tone change in the voice. Panic attacks are all-consuming, and Hall lives inside them throughout the film. But it is her confessional monologue that will split your soul in two. It’s simultaneously heart-wrenching and matter-of-fact.

The heightened sound editing chills the senses. It’s a palpable stress-inducing choice that accosts the audience. You’ll have to remember to breathe while watching Resurrection. Andrew Semans‘ writing astounds me. He understands the fear and gaslighting so many women live with daily, then takes it to the nth degree. It’s also about telling your story. Resurrection is relentlessly terrifying and grossly relevant. Believe women.


RESURRECTION will be released by IFC Films in theaters on July 29th and on Demand on August 5th.  Shudder will be the exclusive streaming home in November 2022.

Screenwriter and director Andrew Semans’ jaw-dropping sophomore feature, RESURRECTION had its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. Margaret (Rebecca Hall) leads a successful and orderly life, perfectly balancing the demands of her busy career and single parenthood to her fiercely independent daughter Abbie. Everything is under control. But that careful balance is upended when an unwelcome shadow from her past, David (Tim Roth) returns, carrying with him the horrors of Margaret’s past. Battling her rising fear, Margaret must confront the monster she’s evaded for two decades who has come to conclude their unfinished business.


 

Fantasia 2022 review: ‘Moloch’ brings unique folklore horror to viewers.

MOLOCH

A sinister score from Ella Van Der Woude and sweeping cinematography by Emo Weemhoff immediately let us know we’re in for something truly frightening. Perhaps cyclical in nature, unresolved trauma rears its ugly head in the form of a supernatural creature and a celebrated legend. Moloch is a keenly written and beautifully performed horror.

Sallie Harmsen plays Betriek with an unbridled nuance. Existing in a caretaker role for her mother and young daughter, we are privy to childhood trauma that everyone in town seems to know more about than Betriek. Harmsen is raw and determined. She encapsulates a woman mired in distress.

It’s not an exaggeration to say my mouth was agape at the final reveal. So many seemingly minute details in the script came rushing into my brain. Writer-director Nico Van Den Brink and writer Daan Bakker have given Fantasia 2022 audiences a moody, atmospheric folklore horror. Lucky for Shudder fans, Moloch is now available to stream.


38-year-old Betriek lives at the edge of a peat bog in the North of the Netherlands. When she and her family are attacked by a random stranger one night, Betriek sets out to find an explanation. The more she digs, the more she becomes convinced that she is being hunted by something ancient.

Premieres July 21 on Shudder


Click here for more info on Fantasia 2022!


Review: ‘NOPE’ showcases sights just as much as frights.

NOPE

With Nope, Jordan Peele further solidifies his standing as the modern horror auteur. Who else is making movies like Peele right now? A better question might be, who else do the studios trust to make big budget, non-franchise films like this? (the list is very short.) With his third feature, Peele again delivers on that trust with another compelling narrative that pairs thrills with dazzling cinematography, as well as a willingness to subvert the expectations of his audience.

Siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer) Haywood are co-owners of Haywood’s Hollywood Horses, horse trainers serving the entertainment industry and descendants of a proud legacy. They are struggling to keep their heads above water in a competitive, dwindling industry (after all, a CGI horse is way easier to train, right?) They also have to contend with the long reputational shadow of their late father (Keith David), as well as the pressures of their family’s place in cinematic history (legend has it that they are direct decedents of the jockey featured in one of the very first motion pictures.)  When OJ thinks he may have discovered UFO on the edges of their family ranch, he seizes on an opportunity to capture (and profit from) photographic evidence of their discovery.

The cinematography and performances in this film are top-notch. Hoyte Van Hoytema will receive Oscar consideration for his enthralling cinematography. The visuals are equally inspired by westerns and classical blockbuster thrillers. They are the foundation upon which the film’s success is built – especially the last 20 minutes (an absolute white-knuckle thrill ride.)

Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer give tremendous lead performances. Working with Peele for the second time (after 2017’s prolific Get Out), Kaluuya gives a subtle showcase. I can’t get enough of this pairing – I hope they work together 20 more times. Kaluuya’s  OJ is quieter and more introverted than Palmer’s Emerald. Given his screen-time, he has minimal dialogue in the film – most of his performance comes from his eyes, his facial expressions, and his body language. I was reminded of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name character – someone who listened more than he spoke but was deliberate (and often lethal) in his action. Palmer’s Emerald is a ball of kinetic energy but also delivers poignant moments as well (especially in the film’s final act.) The two siblings have an easy, unfussy chemistry with each other.

Steven Yeun is phenomenal in the supporting role of former child star turned ranch/amusement park owner Ricky “Jupe” Park. When he was younger, Ricky was part of a TV sitcom co-starring a chimpanzee named Gordy. A tragedy occurred on set, and Ricky has spent his adulthood profiting off the memory of this trauma. While this incident fits with the film’s overall theme of spectacle (and the ways that humanity tries, and fail, to contain nature) it is an awkward fit. There are some haunting images associated with Ricky’s story (especially a moment where Gordy looks directly into the camera lens), but the resolution of this sub-plot doesn’t fit seamlessly with the action occurring on the Haywood ranch. Perhaps there is a larger intention here from Peele, but it just didn’t connect with me.

Ultimately, Nope showcases Peele delivering on another compelling and thoughtful entry. You’ll be staring at the sky when you walk out of the theater.


NOPE – Only in Theaters 7.22.22

https://www.nope.movie/

“What’s a bad miracle?”

Oscar® winner Jordan Peele disrupted and redefined modern horror with Get Out and then Us. Now, he reimagines the summer movie with a new pop nightmare: the expansive horror epic, Nope.

The film reunites Peele with Oscar® winner Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Judas and the Black Messiah), who is joined by Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Alice) and Oscar® nominee Steven Yeun (Minari, Okja) as residents in a lonely gulch of inland California who bear witness to an uncanny and chilling discovery.

Nope, which co-stars Michael Wincott (Hitchcock, Westworld) and Brandon Perea (The OA, American Insurrection), is written and directed by Jordan Peele and is produced by Ian Cooper (Us, Candyman) and Jordan Peele for Monkeypaw Productions. The film will be released by Universal Pictures worldwide.


Review: ‘The Nan Movie’ is a raunchy and rebellious road movie, with genuine heart and humor.

THE NAN MOVIE

Listen, if you’re a fan of Catherine Tate, you’ll constantly smirk while watching the feature version of her iconic character, Joanie Taylor, better known as Nan. After finding out her estranged sister is dying, nephew Jaimie offers to drive her to see her ailing sibling. During the journey, we learn about her childhood, her subsequent falling out with Nell, and the reason Nan’s personality exists in the first place.

Jaimie’s genuine intentions lead Nan to interactions with a varying pool of hilarious people and ridiculous scenarios. Her irreverent behavior never ends. Nan does shots with a rowdy rugby team, attends a rave, and runs from police, just for starters. The clever transitional handcrafted 2D animation sequences are a hilarious ode to Jaime’s occupation and Monty Python. Mathew Horne as Jaime is the perfect foil for Tate. He essentially sits in as the audience in his failed attempts to keep Nan in check, emotionally and politically. Horne is so watchable. He has a natural charm.

It is the first time we hear Nan’s history. And boy, it is quite telling. It also allows Tate to shine her stellar acting skills with varying impressions, accents, and plenty of acerbic wit. You have to wonder how much dialogue is actually written by Tate and Brett Goldstein and how much is Tate’s famous improv abilities.

I first fell in love with her as a Whovian. Anyone who knows Tate’s performance as Donna Noble and, like me, did a deep dive into her extensive career understands what a pure delight she is. If you’ve seen her portrayal of Beatrice alongside David Tennant in the stage version of Much Ado About Nothing in 2011, you know the depths of her talent. Nan allows her to let loose in the most inhibited ways possible. In long form, The Nan Movie is a raunchy and rebellious road movie, with a side genuine of heart and humor. It is an undeniably fun watch, so get ready to sit back, relax, and laugh.


In Theaters and On Demand
July 22

Written by: Catherine Tate and Brett Goldstein (“Ted Lasso”)

Starring:
Catherine Tate (“The Office”, “Doctor Who”)
Mathew Horne (“Agatha Raisin,” “Gavin & Stacey”)
Katherine Parkinson (The Boat That Rocked, “The IT Crowd”)
Parker Sawyers (Southside With YouWorld On Fire)
Tom Vaughn-Lawlor (Avengers: Infinity War, “Peaky Blinders”)
Jack Doolan (“The Boys,” “The Green Green Grass”)
Niky Wardley (“The Catherine Tate Show”)


Review: ‘She Will’ spells witchy revenge for Alice Krige.

SHE WILL

Dario Argento executive produces Charlotte Colbert‘s IFC Midnight title SHE WILL, starring Alice Krige is a role to die for. With the aid of her nurse, Krige plays an aging movie star seeking solitude post-surgery in the Scottish countryside. Following her arrival, spirits from the past take hold, intent on revenge.

Kota Eberhardt, as Desi, holds her own against Krige. Her presence is equally as fierce as her costar. Something about her performance demands your attention. Eberhardt could easily carry a film on her own. Alice Krige is the epitome of genius as Veronica Ghent. The nuance she radiates is breathtaking.

The film possesses a mesmerizing score from Clint Mansell. Something Argento would approve. Jaime Ramsay‘s camera work is dizzying and invasive. The juxtaposition of striking visuals and memory fragments represents unresolved trauma, new and ancient. She Will feels like a victory cry for the #MeToo movement. Slick editing heightens the film’s themes of nature, instinct, suppression of power, and interconnected female experience. Charlotte Colbert‘s debut with co-writer Kitty Percy is a rage-shedding catharsis. She Will is the witchy stuff of dreams.


*IN SELECT THEATERS AND ON DEMAND FRIDAY, JULY 15*
From Executive Producer Dario Argento
Directed by Charlotte Colbert
Written by Kitty Percy & Charlotte Colbert
Starring Alice Krige, Kota Eberhardt, Malcolm McDowell, Rupert Everett


Netflix review: Avi Nesher’s sweeping Israeli war drama based on true events, ‘Image of Victory,’ releases tomorrow.

IMAGE OF VICTORY

Synopsis:

 Inspired by true events. 1948: Hassanin, an Egyptian filmmaker, is tasked with documenting a raid on the isolated kibbutz Nitzanim. When the kibbutz learns of the impending army raid, Mira, a young but valiant mother, is forced to reckon with the true cost of war and make an impossible choice.


The two diverging stories give us perspectives on each end of the spectrum of war. One glamorized for the media. The other portrays the suffering and survival tactics of everyday existence in the kibbutz. Image of Victory is as relevant today as it was back in 1948, pitting religion, territorial disputes, and tradition against one another. 

The film overflows with fearless female characters, each unique and bold. Joy Rieger plays Mira with undeniable star quality. She is a woman confident in her skin, owning her sexual power. Like most women in Image of Victory, Mira shirks the patriarchal structure. She is an authentic feminist icon. 

Amir Khoury plays Hassanin with eccentric flair. As the sophisticate among soldiers, he is a “fish out of water.” His narration provides a stark contrast to each group’s reality. In truth, Image of Victory is a brilliant ensemble piece. The pure emotion of these characters will remain long after the credits roll. Knowing the film is based on actual events tears at your heart. 

The look of the film is beautiful. The attention to detail, lighting, costumes, and cinematic framing, right down to the closing credits, all scream period era, sweeping drama. The script has everything from war scenes to relationships in which you’re bound to feel invested. A lingering dread looms over the narrative, keeping the audience on their toes. But, the genuine portrayal of humanity at its most desperate keeps you in awe. Isreal’s most expensive production fits perfectly into Netflix’s awards season slate. Image of Victory is the kind of film they need to reel in cinephiles for the long haul. 


Please tune in to Netflix to watch IMAGE OF VICTORY
on Friday, July 15th!
Directed by Avi Nesher (Past Life, The Other Story)
Produced by Ehud Bleiberg (The Band’s Visit, The Iceman)
Screenplay by Avi Nesher
Inspired by true events and story by Liraz Brosh and Ehud Bleiberg
Starring:
Joy Rieger (Best Actress, Vierges, Tribeca 2018)
Amir Khoury (Fauda)
Ala Dakka (Fauda)

Review: Shannon Alexander’s candid covid dating doc ‘Sex, Love, Misery: New New York’ has a title that says it all.

Synopsis:
Swiping. Dating. Ghosting. Have you wondered what was really going on in your date’s head? “Sex, Love, Misery” reveals candid thoughts and encounters between singles looking to mingle or marry, from initial texts to hook ups and beyond.


Dating in the city was a complicated nightmare when I was in college. That was 20 years ago now. I do not envy Millenial/Gen Y’s attempts to find love nowadays. Certainly not with the complexities of COVID added into the mix. Filmmaker Shannon Alexander gives audiences a new documentary, SEX, LOVE, MISERY: NEW NEW YORK, in which he follows six people navigating relationships with one another during the pandemic. An up-close and personal confession booth through the lens of modern dating manages to be fresh and timeless all at once. 

The film follows Troy, Camilla, Jack, Izzie, Aisha, and our French transplant Emile. The openness these young people have with Shannon speaks to the power of his humanity. They feel comfortable sharing their most intimate thoughts and insecurities. They are totally unfiltered. It is their willingness to take chances that creates an engaging viewing experience. 

There are glaring differences in communication. Hearing each reaction to the exact same date is eye-opening. The assumptions made about one another by the forms of communication and interaction are like watching a modern-day version of the HBO docu-series Taxicab Confessions. If you don’t know what that is, let me explain. From 1995 to 2006, the cable network aired a show that featured hidden camera conversations from the back of a cab. Often sexual, it was a series that aired late at night and was one of a kind. SEX, LOVE, MISERY feels similar, except that our six subjects speak directly to Shannon in true cinéma vérité style.

What makes SEX, LOVE, MISERY so intriguing is even though these people are ten to fifteen years my junior, I know them. I was them. We all were. SEX, LOVE, MISERY: NEW NEW YORK is a fantastic proof of concept. I would watch this expanded into series form in a New York minute.


Sex, Love Misery: New New York is a light-hearted/comedic piece covering dating and relationships in NYC during the pandemic,
now streaming on TubiTV.

Review: ‘GIRL IN THE PICTURE’ is Netflix’s most heinous true crime documentary to date

One hell of a mystery! With clues and revelations spilling off the screen like Niagara Falls, Girl In The Picture is another phenomenal entry into Netflix’s true crime genre. The unusual death of a young mother named Tanya and the subsequent kidnapping of her son, what would unravel from those two events would be one of the craziest stories of abuse, fraud, and terror.

Filmmaker Skye Borgman sits down with Sharon Marshall‘s friends from high school. Intelligent, sweet, and determined, she had her life planned out. A promising future as an engineer with a full-ride scholarship, everything changed when she found out she was pregnant. Her father whisked her away on a journey that would lead investigators into a world of heinous crime and abuse.

Borgman delves into the mind of a serial killer. His crimes date back further than anyone expected. He’s a vile individual. But, like many criminals with a penchant for abuse, it’s cyclical. Hopes of discovering Sharon’s origins grew like gangbusters in the early 2000s with the publication of investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck‘s book “A Beautiful Child.” A break in 2005 broke open an entirely new mystery. The hits keep on coming.

With a mix of interviews, photographs, recreations, archival footage, and slick transitions, Girl In The Picture is a heart-pounding and nauseating watch. The how and why will blow your mind. You will have no idea where this story begins or ends. It is one of the most sinister stories I’ve ever heard. Watch as friends and the police unravel the chaos around Sharon, her son, and the man that made their lives a living nightmare. The amount of information in this film could have easily been an entire series. Trust me when I say you will be relieved it isn’t.


Girl in the Picture is only on Netflix on July 6th.

Directed by: Skye Borgman
Source Material: Matt Birkbeck
Produced by: Jimmy Fox
Executive Producers: Matt Birkbeck


The jaw-dropping true crime story of a search to solve a 30-year-old mystery: who was Sharon Marshall, and why was her real identity unknown to everyone – even her?

In his international bestseller A Beautiful Child and its follow-up, Finding Sharon, award-winning investigative journalist Matt Birkbeck told the heartbreaking story of a brilliant and beautiful teenager known as Sharon Marshall. Caught in the twisted web of the monster she called her father, Sharon wasn’t her real name.


Tribeca 2022 review from Unseen Films: ‘HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG’ is out now!

HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A JOURNEY, A SONG (2022)

One of the great films playing Tribeca this is a look at Leonard Cohen through the song Hallelujah. It took him seven years to finish it enough to record it and then it took a long path to discovery and rediscovery along a path that resulted in many versions (he wrote at least 180 verses) and many hits.

The audience I saw this with was crying. Yea it’s about a song, but it’s also about a man’s quest to find his place in the universe. It’s a moving tale of more than any one thing. It’s a film that reveals to us our lives as lived and sung by other people. Everyone saw themselves up there.

I was rocked to my core.

This film spoke to me on a deeply personal and spiritual level and I came out loving the song and it many versions even more. It also made me very sad I could never have sat down and talked to Cohen about life and his journey.

Go see it.

One of 2022’s best



Directed by: Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine Selections: Venice Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, and more Featuring: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, John Cale, Brandi Carlile, Eric Church, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Glen Hansard, Sharon Robinson, Rufus Wainwright, and many others Synopsis: HALLELUJAH: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song is a definitive exploration of singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen as seen through the prism of his internationally renowned hymn, “Hallelujah.” This feature-length documentary weaves together three creative strands: The songwriter and his times; the song’s dramatic journey from record label rejection to chart-topping hit, and moving testimonies from major recording artists for whom “Hallelujah” has become a personal touchstone. Approved for production by Leonard Cohen just before his 80th birthday in 2014, the film accesses a wealth of never-before-seen archival materials from the Cohen Trust including Cohen’s personal notebooks, journals and photographs, performance footage, and extremely rare audio recordings and interviews.


Review: ‘RUBIKON’ is an omen of epic proportions.

RUBIKON

Post environmental ruin on Earth, man has taken to space where corporations control who lives in hospitable domes. When a new crew arrives on a research station, they discover a mysterious and deadly toxic cloud consuming everything on Earth below them. When fear sets in, this unlikely team must challenge their morality. 

George Blagden plays Gavin with both skeptical and volatile energy. Mark Ivanir as Dimitri has a fatherly persona that balances Blagden and Ritcher’s chemistry. Julia Franz Richter is Hannah. She brings a balance of courage and vulnerability. Together they carry this lo-fi sci-fi warning of a film. 

The visuals are striking. From the sets to the ethereal space scenery, they are breathtaking. Combined with intimate camera work and meticulous sound editing, I felt like I was next to Hannah. The panic is palpable. Writer-director Magdalena Lauritsch and co-writers Elisabeth Schmied and Jessica Kind create a simmering discomfort centered around timely questions. RUBIKON had me in a constant state of anxiety from beginning to end. It is a unique entry into cinematic sci-fi storytelling. We should probably take heed from this one. 

Opening In Theaters and
Everywhere You Rent Movies This Friday, July 1st

Directed by Leni Lauritsch
Written by Jessica Lind & Leni Lauritsch

Starring Julia Franz Richter, George Blagden, Mark Ivanir


Review: ‘THE SUMMONED’ deals in the devil’s due diligence.

THE SUMMONED

Director Mark Meir and writer Yuri Baranovsky bring us a story of two high-profile couples invited to spend the weekend with a revolutionary therapist named Dr. Frost. But, a free ticket to an exclusive retreat sounds too good to be true. Nothing in life comes without a cost. 

The cast is super solid, but two performances, in particular, must be lauded. Angela Gulner plays Tara with a cliché Hollywood attitude that will grate on your nerves as you applaud her. But that’s only surface-level stuff. Gulner has the goods to headline a feature all her own. Think Sherie Zombie energy. Her confidence makes you a believer. 

J. Quinton Johnson plays Elijah with skepticism and a genuinely grounded sense of self. Johnson owns this role. He gets the chance to show off his singing voice, and we are eternally grateful recipients. 

The script fills you with anxiety from the very beginning. It is easy to see things aren’t going to be the easy breezy weekend anyone expected. There’s unmissable Get OutReady Or Not meets Faustian legend goodness. The editing made me suspicious of everyone and everything. The Summoned is a twisted psychological mindfuck of morality and mayhem. 


THE SUMMONED
Hits U.S. VOD This Thursday!

Directed by Meir with a script by Jewish-Ukrainian writer Yuri Baranovsky, THE SUMMONED’s powerful cast features Johnson (Hamilton on Broadway, AMC’s The Son), Emma Fitzpatrick (THE SOCIAL NETWORK), Salvador Chacon (FX’s Mayans M.C.), Angela Gulner (Netflix’s GLOW), and Freddy Douglas (Hallmark’s The Odyssey). A Wicked Myth and Happy Little Guillotine Studios co-production, the picture is Produced by Baranovsky, Meir, Gulner, Justin Mark Morrison, and Dashiell Reinhardt.


 About XYZ Films
XYZ Films is an independent studio whose mission is to empower visionary storytellers from every corner of the planet. XYZ was founded in 2008 by Nate Bolotin, Nick Spicer, and Aram Tertzakian and has expanded in recent years into documentary, talent management, and distribution. Some of the company’s classic titles include THE RAID franchise, 2017 Sundance winner I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE, and Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic revenge thriller MANDY.


Review: From scholarships to scandal, Dan Chen’s ‘ACCEPTED’ is explosive.

ACCEPTED

Accepted offers a unique and intriguing look at the world of Ivy League college admissions and the true cost of getting that first foothold into elite American society. In his first documentary feature, director Dan Chen grounds a broader look at the inequities in the American education system with unbelievable access to T.M. Landry and the deeply personal stories of four dynamic students looking to overcome countless obstacles to achieve their dreams.


TM Landry was a beacon of hope for the underserved community of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. In Dan Chen‘s ACCEPTED, the incoming senior class of 2019 gears up for the admissions process, chasing that elusive stat; 30% of Landry students who receive acceptance to an Ivy League school. But, that’s not all this documentary catches during the school year. An explosive New York Times expose sends shockwaves through the student body. ACCEPTED delves deep into the subsequent chaos. 

 There is a Montessori feeling to the day. Children of all ages break out in small groups in a nondescript warehouse/office building, tackling complex arithmetic and socially relevant discussion. Founder Mike Landry‘s enthusiasm and passion are infectious. He’s the ultimate hype man for his students. He takes calls from them after hours, assisting them with homework. As a former teacher, I am captivated by his fiery pep talks. 

When emotions run high and the stress piles on, our kids start to push back against Mike’s methods. They realize something is incredibly wrong. When media becomes more important than being in the classroom, everything backfires. Going into Accepted knowing nothing, you’d think he was the high school Messiah. Mike Landry is no Wizard. He is the man behind the curtain. 

Adia is an avid animal lover whose spirit almost collapses under Mike Landry. But, her spirit outshines the negativity, and she’s a soul that will undoubtedly achieve greatness. Isaac’s dream school is Stanford. His levelheaded approach to life and learning is something we should all aspire to be. Alicia is the new girl, admittedly baffled by the school’s structure when she arrived halfway through Junior year. When you hear her college essay, you’ll gasp in awe of her eloquence. Cathy would be the first member of her family to attend college. With two disabled older sisters and a widowed mother, a car accident payout allowed her to prepay for two years at Landry. Cathy is a powerful young woman, flipping the script on her narrative. For her, truth and integrity reign supreme. 

The deteriorating mental health of these kids is palpable. Their bravery cost them their potential future. Fear and shame should not be the motivating factor to succeed. You cannot help but walk from the film filled with anger and questions about the socioeconomics of higher education. ACCEPTED is an unexpected emotional rollercoaster. 

 

GREENWICH ENTERTAINMENT is releasing the timely documentary Accepted, from director Dan Chen in theaters and VOD on July 1st!


DIRECTOR:
Dan Chen
PRODUCERS:
Jason Y. Lee
Dan Chen
Jesse Einstein
Mark Monroe
GENRE:
Documentary
RUNTIME:

91m


FESTIVALS & AWARDS:
Tribeca Film Festival 2021
Official Selection
Sidewalk Film Festival 2021
Winner Audience Choice Award Best Black Lens Film
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival 2021
Official Selection
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Official Selection
Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival 2021
Official Selection
Cleveland International Film Festival 2022

Nominee Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Award


  Original New York Times article as referenced in the film linked HERE.


Topic series review: ‘Catching A Killer- Episode 2: The Wind in the Willows Murder’

Catching A Killer- Episode 2:

The Wind in the Willows Murder

Adrian Greenwood

Adrian Greenwood, a famous historian and antiquarian book dealer, is found inside his home brutally stabbed over 30 times. The scene is chaotic. Police make a seemingly surprising arrest. The suspect is a man plunged into depression and financial ruin after his divorce for which he end up being saved by a private money lender.

One intriguing aspect is the discussion officers have prior to and post questioning suspect Michael Danaher‘s family. The choice to send female officers into the home does not go unnoticed. The care with which the accused and family are treated feels in contrast to here in the United States. 

Michael Danaher selfie

As in episode 1, the access to family members is shocking. Michael’s fourteen-year-old son Ryan is their best witness. His levelheaded account to officers blew me away. He recounts a story his father told him of a random knife attack. We watch this tape of Ryan’s second interview, juxtaposed with Michael’s interrogation. The accounts are very different. Simultaneously, the forensics team searches the scene. The most expensive item that is missing from the murder scene is the first edition of The Wind in the Willows book. 

This episode also includes hours of footage of Adrian discussing his rare finds on various television programs. It’s both fascinating and unsettling. The amount of evidence amassed will astonish you. You will shake your head at the stupidity. Catching A Killer Episode 2 is just as fascinating as Episode 1. 

You can watch Catching A Killer exclusively on TOPIC.


Episode 1: “The Search for Natalie Hemming” – Directed by Anna Hall
Episode 2: “The Wind in the Willows Murder” – Directed by Jezza Neumann
Episode 3: “Bullet Through the Window” – Directed by Erica Gornall
Episode 4: “A Knock at the Door” – Directed by Jennifer Shaw
Episode 5: “A Diary From the Grave” – Directed by Jezza Neumann & Jess Stevenson

 

About TOPIC
Topic is the criminally good 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, Comcast and Comcast’s entertainment platforms, including 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.

 

Hit British Investigative Crime Docuseries review: ‘CATCHING A KILLER Episode 1: The Search for Natalie Hemming’ exclusively on Topic now!

CATCHING A KILLER

The Search for Natalie Hemming

Mother of three Natalie Hemming goes missing. Local police take the case with swift action and an in-depth, real-time investigation into her disappearance.

Catching A Killer: The Search for Natalie Hemming will airs exclusively on Topic.


The series’ score mimics a heartbeat and enhances the menacing atmosphere. The editing is a triumph, utilizing police video, interrogation tape, and the documentary teams footage of investigators chatting with Natalie’s family and friends. Listening to Natalie’s children recall the evening she went missing will chill you to your core. Her partner of ten years, and main suspect, Paul Hemming sits in jail as the investigation moves forward.

The police give the audience a play-by-play of tactics alongside the unprecedented access to the interviews with coworkers, family, and Paul, as well as the forensics team’s meticulous evidence collection. Episode 1 has a two-hour runtime and follows the case from beginning to end. With a plethora of true-crime series to choose from, the hour-by-hour tracking of the investigation makes Catching A Killer enthralling.

You can watch Catching A Killer Season 1 streaming exclusively on Topic now.

The season finale will air Thursday, June 30th.

http://topic.com

Tribeca Film Festival 2022 review: ‘VENGEANCE’ is an impressive directorial debut.

VENGEANCE

If you haven’t checked in on B.J. Novak since The Office, you’ll be surprised by the pitch-black tone of his directorial film debut, Vengeance. There are great laughs aplenty here, but the film presents an overall bleak view of humanity as it relates to our ability to connect and communicate. This is a stellar premier film.

Novak pulls triple duty as the film’s writer, director, and star. He brings the perfect mix of smug arrogance and bewildered empathy to Ben Manalowitz, a New York writer (and aspiring podcaster) who is coasting through every moment. Ben’s catchphrase is “100 percent”, but the audience quickly comes to see that Ben isn’t really giving 100 percent to anything. His life is all surface, no depth. He believes he’s having deep conversations about his work and the meaning of society, but he’s looking at his phone the whole time. His relationships are nothing but informal hookups.

Then Ben gets a fateful call from West Texas – his former girlfriend (well, they had hooked up a few times), Abilene Shaw, has died of a drug overdose. Abilene’s family are under the impression that she and Ben were a real couple, and invite him to the funeral. Ben shows up in West Texas out of pity, but quickly decides to stay for more selfish reasons: Abilene’s family suspects foul play, and Ben can’t turn down a chance to tackle the “holy grail” of podcasting: a dead white girl. Ben’s editor mails him some fancy podcasting equipment faster than you can say “true crime”, and he’s off to discover the truth about Abilene (and hopefully make himself famous in the process.)

I’m still in awe of this supporting cast. Boyd Holbrook somehow manages to balance sincerity and absurdity as Ty, Abilene’s revenge-crazed brother. Could this be Ashton Kutcher’s best work since Dude, Where’s My Car? (don’t get it twisted, I mean that as a sincere compliment!) Kutcher’s Quintin Sellers is complex and layered. As a small-town record producer, Quintin is equally opportunistic and charismatic. Quintin provides a twisted country-fried contrast to Novak’s Ben, and their few scenes together are some of the strongest of the film. The female characters are unfortunately more thinly written, and mostly function to help us better understand the men.

A film like this doesn’t work without a rock-solid script, and this one delivers. Good comedy writing ensures that the pace of the film is maintained; great comedy writing is concerned with showing us deeper truths about character that may produce a smile, but also a sting. The soundtrack is also self-aware – I’ve never laughed so hard at a Lana Del Rey song.

Vengeance is a dual threat – a legitimately funny comedy that also lands sincere dramatic moments. It left me excited for whatever Novak has coming next (hopefully a podcast.)


DIRECTOR
B.J. Novak
PRODUCER
Jason Blum, Adam Hendricks, Greg Gilreath
SCREENWRITER
B.J. Novak
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Lyn Moncrief
EDITOR
Andy Canny, Hilda Rasula, Plummy Tucker
CAST
B.J. Novak, Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, J. Smith-Cameron, Dove Cameron, Isabella Amara


Tribeca Film Festival 2022 reviews: ‘The Drop’ & ‘Don’t Make Me Go’ are two different films about parenting and identity.

THE DROP

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Adina Smith‘s work. Midnight Swim, Buster’s Mal Heart, and most recently Birds of Paradise are an eclectic group of films that show her imagination and vision are one of a kind. Her latest Tribeca 2022 film is no exception. In The Drop, Lex and Mani are a vivacious married couple trying to get pregnant. Lex does the unthinkable after they arrive at a friend’s destination wedding. She allows the bride’s infant daughter to slip from her grip. The fallout from this moment sends this group of close friends into a tailspin of pretentiousness, ego, judgment, confessions, and chaos. The Drop is a proper hard R-rated adult comedy. The laughs are endless. Huge quirky personalities clash in a way that doesn’t let anyone off the hook. The film centers on parenting styles, communication, and the facade we all put up to survive. Smith and co-writer Josh Leonard skewer Millenial culture in the most brilliant ways possible. Anna Konkle and Jermaine Fowle lead this ensemble cast of your dreams. There is not a weak link in the bunch. The Drop is a crowd pleaser you’ll want to see with your closest friends. Then you can all sit around and decide which asshole character most represents you. You’re welcome.


DIRECTOR
Sarah Adina Smith
PRODUCER
Jonako Donley, Mel Eslyn, Sarah Adina Smith, Joshua Leonard, Shuli Harel, Tim Headington, Lia Buman
SCREENWRITER
Sarah Adina Smith, Joshua Leonard
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Shaheen Seth
EDITOR
Daniel Garber, Sarah Adina Smith
COMPOSER
Ellen Reid
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass
CAST

Anna Konkle, Jermaine Fowle, Jillian Bell, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Elisha Henig, Jennifer Lafleur, Joshua Leonard, Aparna Nancherla, Robin Thede


DON’T MAKE ME GO

Hannah Marks is a damn gem. Her films have insight and heart for days. Her latest Tribeca 2022 film, Don’t Make Me Go, takes on a father-daughter relationship that will shake even the hardest of hearts. John Cho and Mia Isaac play Max and Wally. When Max discovers that his headaches are a brain tumor, he takes a reluctant Wally on a road trip to his college reunion. The journey serves a dual purpose; spending time with Wally and reconnecting with his ex-wife and Wally’s estranged mother. The screenplay by Vera Herbert is overflowing with coming-of-age moments, humor, and grounded conversations about mortality. It manages to be a story of redemption through creative means. We watch Wally make one bratty and irresponsible decision after another, yet her actions are ceaselessly relatable on the journey of finding your identity. Max is chasing the clock and lies to Wally for most of the film. With the purest intentions and all the love and emotional sacrifice a parent can muster, Don’t Make Me Go is a beautiful story about vulnerability and living life to the fullest every day.


DIRECTOR
Hannah Marks
PRODUCER
Donald De Line, Leah Holzer, Peter Saraf
SCREENWRITER
Vera Herbert
CINEMATOGRAPHER
Jaron Presant
EDITOR
Paul Frank
CAST

John Cho, Mia Isaac, Mitchell Hope, Jemaine Clement, Stefania LaVie Owen, Kaya Scodelario


US Release Date: July 15, 2022