Review: ‘Halloween Kills’ is all slice and no soul.

HALLOWEEN KILLS

Minutes after Laurie Strode (Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) left masked monster Michael Myers caged and burning in Laurie’s basement, Laurie is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, believing she finally killed her lifelong tormentor. But when Michael manages to free himself from Laurie’s trap, his ritual bloodbath resumes. As Laurie fights her pain and prepares to defend herself against him, she inspires all of Haddonfield to rise up against their unstoppable monster. The Strode women join a group of other survivors of Michael’s first rampage who decide to take matters into their own hands, forming a vigilante mob that sets out to hunt Michael down, once and for all. Evil dies tonight.


*Warning – this review contains light spoilers*

 

Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Jason Voorhees are foundational to the horror genre – when it comes to recipes for other killer movies, they are basically salt, pepper, and butter. It’s interesting that in this age of reboots and resets, there hasn’t been a new Freddy movie since 2010, or a Jason one since 2009. But while Freddy and Jason have stayed home sharpening their weapons, Michael’s kept slashing right through the decade.

In 2018, David Gordon Green’s quasi-reboot Halloween executed a welcome return to form for the series. 2018’s Halloween represented a direct sequel to John Carpenter’s original classic – it cut out bloated plot details and re-framed the film around the core battle between Myers and Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis). It brilliantly merged classic slasher tropes with new twists and underscored it all with a thoughtful feminist attitude anchored by Curtis’ full-throttle performance. The final images of the film were nearly perfect: Myers is cleverly caged within a burning house and the 3 generations of Strode women who disarmed and defeated him ride into the sunrise united and triumphant. They’ve literally taken away his knife, and figuratively taken back their lives.

Woof. That finale would have been tough for any sequel to top, but I was comforted by the fact that many of the same players that made 2018’s entry so successful had returned for 2021’s Halloween Kills (the 2nd entry in a planned trilogy, with Halloween Ends already penciled in for next year.) And, for the first 15 minutes, Halloween Kills is up to the challenge. It doesn’t take us back to Michael in that burning building but instead flashes back to the original night of carnage back in 1978. Here, Green mirrors much of the visual norms of Carpenter’s original film to great effect. It’s a shot of nostalgic adrenaline.

But the film eventually has to come back to that burning building, and Michael, of course, has to somehow escape and get back to killing. So, what’s the problem? Like my high-school physics teacher always told me, the problem’s not what you did, but more the way you did it.

To begin with, this film is grotesquely violent. I’m no shrinking violet (and the 2018 film is far from clean), but Halloween Kills goes to such an extreme that it appears out of character for Myers. Across 10 films, Michael Myers sure has sliced and diced, but he’s never truly been sadistic. In Halloween Kills, Green seems newly obsessed with the trauma the human body can take before it expires. Heads are smashed relentlessly into walls, eyes are constantly gouged out, and blood flows like water.  If I had a quarter for every shot of glass or wood impaling a character’s throat in Halloween Kills, I could buy myself a nice sandwich.

What I don’t understand about this tone shift is why Green would abandon the core tenants of what made his previous film so successful. Maybe he was bored by the previous film’s pacing? Maybe he fell victim to studio pressures to continue to amp things up for a sequel. Whatever the rationale, it was a mistake.

The second, more critical issue, is the framing. Laurie is hospitalized for nearly this entire film, and she and Michael don’t even interact throughout this entry. I can’t help but feel that this film is just treading water until we get to Laurie and Michael’s final confrontation in next year’s Halloween Ends. With Laurie on the sidelines, her daughter Karen (the always magnificent Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) have to do more of the plot’s heavy lifting. I’m always happy for Greer to get more screen-time, but this narrative choice splinters the power of that feminist trinity from the 2018 entry. You miss it, and I hope there’s a chance to get that back in 2022.

Halloween Kills has some good moments but ultimately fails to meaningfully advance the plot (or the stakes) of the franchise. Worse, it wastes the goodwill it so carefully built in 2018. I’ll still be first in line for Halloween Ends, but I’ll be scared sitting in that seat – and not for the right reasons.


 

Halloween Kills is now in theaters and on Paramount+

Universal Pictures, Miramax, Blumhouse Productions and Trancas International Films present Halloween Kills, co-starring Will Patton as Officer Frank Hawkins, Thomas Mann (Kong: Skull Island) and Anthony Michael Hall (The Dark Knight). From the returning filmmaking team responsible for the 2018 global phenomenon, Halloween Kills is written by Scott Teems (SundanceTV’s Rectify) and Danny McBride and David Gordon Green based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill. The film is directed by David Gordon Green and produced by Malek Akkad, Jason Blum and Bill Block. The executive producers are John Carpenter, Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny McBride, David Gordon Green, and Ryan Freimann.


Here are 8 films at Indie Memphis Film Festival 2021 that we’re looking forward to before it’s hybrid addition arrives October 20th-25th!

INDIE MEMPHIS FILM FESTIVAL 2021

So much to see we have to plan out our schedule now! Here are 8 wildly different films we’re looking forward to seeing and why…

JUJU STORIES (Dirs. Abba Makama, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua) – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
A three-part anthology film exploring juju (magical) stories rooted in Nigerian folklore and urban legend, written and directed by the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16.
2021, 84 min, Drama/Fantasy/Horror

Give me horror based on folklore, any day. Written and directed by C.J. Obasi, Abba Makama, and Michael Omonua. The film features three stories: “Love Potion” by Omonua, “YAM” by Makama, and “Suffer The Witch” by Obasi. Anthologies as a horror subgenre definitely continue to be successful. Watching the teaser alone gave me chills.


THE PILL (Dir. Franco Clarke) 
An African-American family indulges in the use of a secret pill that helps them cope with their day-to-day stressors of racism outside of their home.
2021, 81 min, Comedy, Theater/Virtual

A story that is, perhaps, hundreds of years in the making, The Pill might not be so hard to swallow. What if this pill existed in the real world? Would families of color indulge in such an option? This seemingly small idea amounts to something much bigger than most of us can imagine.


WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Dir. Jane Schoenbrun) 
Reality and fantasy begin to blur when a teen immerses herself in a role-playing horror game online.
2021, 86 min, Drama/Horror, Theater/Virtual

This has been making the rounds at festivals for the past year. I have not stopped hearing about it. As someone who grew up when the internet and chatrooms first became a thing, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair has an eerie hold on my psyche. Anna Cobb commands the screen in her first-ever feature. This will continue to Wow audiences when it hits theaters and streams on HBOMax next year. Indie Memphis audiences can be “in the know” way beforehand.


QUEEN OF GLORY (Dir. Nana Mensah) 
Ghanaian-American Sarah is all set to abandon her Ivy League doctoral program to follow her married lover across the country. Her plans are derailed, however, when her mother’s sudden death leaves her the owner of a neighborhood bookshop in the Bronx.
2021, 75 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater

We do strange things for love. Take it from someone who moved from NYC to India for 6 months with my boyfriend (now my husband). The sacrifices we make, the people we leave behind, are all tricky choices when it comes to matters of the heart.


I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (Dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi) 
As Masao (Steve Iwamoto) gets sicker, he is visited by ghosts of his past, including his wife, Grace (Constance Wu), who helps shepherd him into the beyond. Merging dream, family history, romantic period piece, all bridged by gently psychedelic observations of nature.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Virtual

Facing our mortality puts things into perspective. You cannot help but assess your life and whether or not it had any impact. I Was A Simple Man plays with time and memory in a beautifully eclectic manner. While writer-director Christopher Makoto Yogi’s second feature thoughtfully tackles death, it is simultaneously an homage to Hawaii.


BUNKER (Dir. Jenny Perlin) – WORLD PREMIERE
The debut feature film of renowned filmmaker Jenny Perlin investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.
2021, 92 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

As a child playing in my grandparents’ home, I stumbled upon a small room that was normally locked. I came to learn that it was a fallout shelter. This perplexed and fascinated me. As a genre film fan, I have often thought about the number of narrative fictions that involved these bunkers. As an adult who has a relative that is a “Prepper” this doc intrigues me to no end.


LISTENING TO KENNY G (Dir. Penny Lane) 
Penny Lane’s documentary takes a witty and provocative look at the easy-listening saxophonist’s story while asking: what makes music good or bad?
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

If you’re not a Kenny G fan, the mere mention of his name can be satire. His record sales tell you another story with over 52 million albums sold. Being the butt of the joke is a double-edged sword for G, over his 40-year career he’s changed musical culture, whether we “get it” or not. Penny Lane gives us an intimate insight into Kenny G. He’s going to slay you with his charm. Good luck.


KILLER (Dir. A.D. Smith, 90 min) 
After a pandemic strikes the nation, ten friends decide to quarantine under the same roof. Unfortunately, one of them is a killer.
2021, Horror, Theater/Virtual

The longer you’re in close quarters with someone, the more likely you want to kill them. That’s simply human nature, right? I laugh, in hindsight, thinking that lockdown was only going to be two weeks. Lucky for me, I didn’t have an actual killer in my house. But, I did have two toddlers, and that’s sort of the same thing. A.D. Smith takes a group of college friends and places them in a game of life or death. High stakes for pandemic films right now. Fingers crossed for some creative kills, because what else can a genre fan hope for?


More information on tickets and virtual screenings for
Indie Memphis Fim Festival 2021
HERE

 

 


 The 24th Annual Indie Memphis Film Festival, Ft. Sean Baker’s RED ROCKET as Opening Night Film, World Premieres of FERNY & LUCA and BUNKER, and More

Image from Andrew Infante’s IMFF2021 World Premiere, FERNY & LUCA

 Indie Memphis Film Festival, presented by Duncan Williams, Inc., for its 2021 incarnation runs from October 20th – 25th. This year’s festival promises to be a very exciting and wildly varied one, featuring films ranging from new discoveries to beloved classics, from festival hits to experimental wonders, and everything in-between.

“I am incredibly excited by what we are offering this year with the festival,“ says Indie Memphis Executive Director Knox Shelton, “The programming is stellar and, in terms of how we’ve planned the festival, we hope that we have found ways for people to celebrate independent filmmaking based on their comfort level. We understand that there is no perfect way to do this, but we’ve taken steps to ensure the health and safety of our filmmakers, attendees, volunteers, and staff.”

In the quest to reach a large audience while taking staunch COVID-19 precautions, this year’s festival will be a hybrid of online and in-person screenings and events. For in-person Memphis screenings and events, proof of COVID-19 vaccine is required for all staff, volunteers, contractors, and attendees, and masks are required at all times indoors. Venues for screenings are now focused on larger theaters to better accommodate social-distanced seating; these include Crosstown Theater, The Block Party will be delayed until a year in which we can better protect the health of our attendees, partners, and staff. Circuit Playhouse, Playhouse on the Square, and the Malco Summer Drive-In. Festival parties will be limited to outdoor celebrations on Opening and Closing Night.

The 2021 festival features work from up-and-coming filmmakers, as well as festival hits such as Jonas Carpignano’s A CHIARA, Jane Schoenbrun’s WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR, Penny Lane’s LISTENING TO KENNY G, Céline Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN, and many more.

The festival also features exciting premieres, such as the World Premiere of Andrew Infante’s FERNY & LUCA. The film is a look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys. There’s also the World Premiere of Jenny Perlin’s BUNKER, a documentary that investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.

The Opening Night film is Sean Baker’s Cannes favorite RED ROCKET, starring Simon Rex as a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him, the Centerpiece Presentation is Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s DRIVE MY CAR, and the Closing Night is Pablo Larrain’s SPENCER. Some additional standout titles include Robert Greene’s PROCESSION, a documentary about a group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice, and Rhayne Vermette’s STE. ANNE, a drama that traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic, and historical sites.

“We’re honored to be introducing these titles to Memphis audiences,” said Indie Memphis Artistic Director Miriam Bale. “I’m confident many of these are classics that will be talked about for a long time to come. We aim to have a collection of films that is winnowed down to the best of year, and I think this line-up reflects that.”

The festival continues to feature live music performed in the theaters before every screening. The Black Creators Forum also returns for a fourth year, this time in a hybrid format, both online and with an outdoor in-person component. This festival programming continues to reflect diversity in all areas, with a special focus on films from the African Diaspora and Africa. Indie Memphis is privileged to present the North American premiere of JUJU STORIES, an anthology film from the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16, after its World Premiere at Locarno.

Additional upcoming announcements will include the Black Creators Forum program, virtual IndieTalks Panels, Live Music Lineup, and more.


2021 Indie Memphis Film Festival Slate
Alphabetical by Category

OPENING NIGHT

RED ROCKET (Dir. Sean Baker)

In a magnetic, live-wire performance, Simon Rex plays a pornstar who returns to his Texas hometown that barely tolerates him.

2021, 128 min, Drama, Theater


CENTERPIECE

DRIVE MY CAR (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

Adapted from a Haruki Murakami short story in which an aging actor can no longer drive, so he hires a quiet 20-year-old girl as his chauffeur.
2021, 179 min, Drama, Theater


CLOSING NIGHT

SPENCER (Dir. Pablo Larraín)

An imagining of one weekend in the life of Princess Diana (Kristen Stewart), as she spends the Christmas holiday with the royal family at the Sandringham estate in Norfolk, and decides to leave her marriage to Prince Charles.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Theater


NARRATIVE COMPETITION

FERNY & LUCA (Dir. Andrew Infante) – WORLD PREMIERE

A look into the on-and-off relationship between Ferny, a sweet and naive pretty boy, and Luca, a rough and tumble disco queen, who is more concerned with chasing her dreams than chasing boys… mostly.
2021, 70 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

JUJU STORIES (Dirs. Abba Makama, C.J. ‘Fiery’ Obasi, Michael Omonua) – NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE
A three-part anthology film exploring juju (magical) stories rooted in Nigerian folklore and urban legend, written and directed by the Nigerian new wave cinema collective known as Surreal16.
2021, 84 min, Drama/Fantasy/Horror

THE PILL (Dir. Franco Clarke) 
An African-American family indulges in the use of a secret pill that helps them cope with their day-to-day stressors of racism outside of their home.
2021, 81 min, Comedy, Theater/Virtual

WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Dir. Jane Schoenbrun) 
Reality and fantasy begin to blur when a teen immerses herself in a role-playing horror game online.
2021, 86 min, Drama/Horror, Theater/Virtual

QUEEN OF GLORY (Dir. Nana Mensah) 
Ghanaian-American Sarah is all set to abandon her Ivy League doctoral program to follow her married lover across the country. Her plans are derailed, however, when her mother’s sudden death leaves her the owner of a neighborhood bookshop in the Bronx.
2021, 75 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater


DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

LARRY FLYNT FOR PRESIDENT (Dir. Nadia Szold) 

Assembled from never before seen footage shot in 1983, this film documents controversial Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt’s unlikely bid for the White House after a gunman’s bullet left him partially paralyzed.
2021, 90 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

ONE OF OURS (Dir. Yasmine Mathurin) 
After a Haitian-born youth is racially profiled at an Indigenous basketball tournament, he wrestles with his shaken sense of belonging in his Indigenous adoptive family while attempting to heal from his past.
2021, 88 min, Documentary, Virtual/Theater

WE STILL HERE (Dir. Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi) 
An introduction to the incredible youth activists of Comerío, Puerto Rico, who navigate the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, a disaster that brought an unprecedented level of devastation to an island already in economic and political crisis.
2021, 100 min, Documentary, Virtual

YOU DON’T KNOW ME (Dir. Jon Kent) 
A documentary film about Tennessee death row inmate Abu-Ali ‘Abdur Rahman and the celebrated attorney and justice system that failed him following one of Nashville’s most notorious crimes.
2020, 100 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual


NARRATIVE SPOTLIGHT

A CHIARA (Dir. Jonas Carpignano)

A 15-year-old girl doggedly searches for the truth behind her adored father’s sudden abandonment in Calabria.
2021, 121 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

C’MON C’MON (Dir. Mike Mills) 
Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his young nephew (Woody Norman) forge a tenuous but transformational relationship when they are unexpectedly thrown together in this delicate and deeply moving story about the connections between adults and children, the past and the future.
2021, 108 min, Drama, Theater

MEMORIA (Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethaku) 
From the extraordinary mind of Palme D’or winning director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and starring Academy Award-winner Tilda Swinton, comes a meditative mystery about a Scottish woman who begins experiencing a mysterious sensory syndrome while traversing the jungles of Colombia.
2021, 136 min, Drama, Theater

PETITE MAMAN (Dir. Céline Sciamma) 
8-year-old Nelly has just lost her beloved grandmother and is helping her parents clean out her mother’s childhood home. While exploring the surrounding woods where her mother used to play, she meets another little girl who seems eerily familiar. Nelly’s new friend takes her to a house that is a mirror of her own.
2021, 72 min, Drama, Theater/Virtual

I WAS A SIMPLE MAN (Dir. Christopher Makoto Yogi) 
As Masao (Steve Iwamoto) gets sicker, he is visited by ghosts of his past, including his wife, Grace (Constance Wu), who helps shepherd him into the beyond. Merging dream, family history, romantic period piece, all bridged by gently psychedelic observations of nature.
2021, 101 min, Drama, Virtual

SECRET SCREENING
One of the most daring and moving films of the year! You won’t want to miss this.
2021, 142 min, Theater


DOCUMENTARY SPOTLIGHT

ALIEN ON STAGE (Dirs. Danielle Kummer and Lucy Harvey) 

Bus Drivers from Dorset, England stage a homemade homage of Ridley Scott’s ALIEN, with special effects needing “more luck than judgement.”
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

FLEE  (Dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen) 
Recounted mostly through animation to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Amin Nawabi tells of his extraordinary journey as a child refugee from Afghanistan.
2021, 90 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

MAURICE HINES: BRING THEM BACK (Dir. John Carluccio) 
An intimate portrait of an outspoken showman who with humor and grace navigates the highs and lows of a seven-decade career, and a complex relationship with his superstar brother, Gregory Hines.
2021, 95 min, Documentary, Virtual

THE MUSHROOM SPEAKS (Dir. Marion Neumann) 
A film about the fungal reign explores the theme of renewal, and questions what connects us when the world seems to be falling apart.
2021, 89 min, Documentary, English, VirtuaL

SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS (Dir. Lisa Rovner)
Beautifully narrated by Laurie Anderson, this documentary is about electronic music’s women pioneers, including Clara Rockmore, Daphne Oram, Bebe Barron, Pauline Oliveros, Delia Derbyshire, Maryanne Amacher, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani, and Laurie Spiegel.
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Virtual


DEPARTURES
Films That Depart from Expectations

BUNKER (Dir. Jenny Perlin) – WORLD PREMIERE

The debut feature film of renowned filmmaker Jenny Perlin investigates the lonely lives of American men who have decided to live in decommissioned military bunkers and nuclear missile silos, and follows the process of building and selling these structures to the wealthy and not-so-wealthy alike.
2021, 92 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

MANY FIRES THIS TIME WE THE 100 MILLION (Dir. Jason R.A. Foster)
A poetic docudrama about the 1 in 3 Americans living in economic insecurity. It follows the journey of poet and activist A Scribe Called Quess? as he connects with fellow activist poets and the communities they represent from Oakland to Chicago to Kentucky to his hometown of New Orleans.
2021, 70 min, Documentary, Virtual

NORTH BY CURRENT (Dir. Angelo Madsen Minax)
A family death spurs a first-person study on the nature of grief, time, and origins.
2021, 86 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

PROCESSION (Dir. Robert Greene)
A group of survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests battle for justice.
2021, 119 min, Documentary, Theater

STE. ANNE (Dir. Rhayne Vermette)
Shot over the course of two years, Ste. Anne traces an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites all across Treaty 1 Territory, heartland of the Métis Nation.
2021, 80 min, Drama, Virtual


SOUNDS
Films That Celebrate Music

ELDER’S CORNER (Dir. Siji Awoyinka)

ELDER’S CORNER is a historical music documentary showcasing the lives and work of Nigeria’s pioneering musicians.
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/VirtuaL

LISTENING TO KENNY G (Dir. Penny Lane) 
Penny Lane’s documentary takes a witty and provocative look at the easy-listening saxophonist’s story while asking: what makes music good or bad?
2021, 97 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE (Dirs. Celeste Bell and Paul Sng)
The life and work of X-Ray Spex singer-songwriter and punk icon Poly Styrene is explored by her daughter in this dynamic yet delicate personal film. There are also explorations of Styrene’s identity as a half-Somali woman in the largely white punk scene.
2021, 96 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

REZ METAL (Dir. Ashkan Soltani Stone)
A documentary about the metal band I Don’t Konform and the vibrant heavy metal scene throughout the Navajo reservation.
2021, 75 min, Documentary, Virtual


HOMETOWNER FEATURES
Films From Memphis Filmmakers

A BALLET SEASON (Dirs. David Goodman, Steven J. Ross)

A year in the life of Ballet Memphis, a southern dance organization dedicated to putting diversity on the stage while challenging preconceptions about regional ballet. This predominantly observational documentary follows the many individuals and artists who collaborate together as a community over the course of a dizzying pre-pandemic season (2018-2019).
2021, 56 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

THE LUCKY ELEVEN (Dir. George Tillman)
A group of eleven young men from the south side of Memphis began their journey in Jr High and made their way to the NFL.
2021, 66 min, Documentary, Theater/Virtual

KILLER (Dir. A.D. Smith, 90 min)
After a pandemic strikes the nation, ten friends decide to quarantine under the same roof. Unfortunately, one of them is a killer.
2021, Horror, Theater/Virtual

LIFE AIN’T LIKE THE MOVIES (Dir. Robert Butler)
An awkward 16 year old black teen comes of age and learns about love, bullying, tragedy and how to connect to his father who he’s extremely different from.
2021, Drama, Theater/Virtual

REEL ROCK: BLACK ICE (Dirs. Peter Mortimer & Zachary Barr)
A crew of aspiring ice climbers from the Memphis Rox gym travels to the frozen wilds of Montana, where mentors Manoah Ainuu, Conrad Anker and Fred Campbell share their love of winter adventure in the mountains.
2021, 45 min, Virtual/Theater


REVIVALS/ RESTORATIONS

CHAMELEON STREET (Dir. Wendell B. Harris Jr.)

In this seminal work in African-American independent film, William Douglas Street is bored with his life. Working for his father is getting to him, his wife wants more money, and he’s had enough. His solution is to re-invent himself. He becomes a chameleon, taking on whatever role suits the situation.
1989, 94 min, Comedy/Drama, Theater 

DEEP BLUES (Dir. Robert Mugge)
Music critic Robert Palmer narrates the insightful story of Delta blues and North Mississippi hill country blues.
1992, 91 min, Documentary, Theater

RADIO ON (Dir. Chris Petit)
Set in 1970’s Britain, a man drives from London to Bristol to investigate his brother’s death. The purpose of his trip is offset by his encounters with a series of odd people.
1979, 104 min, Drama, Theater


SPECIAL SCREENING
Don Meyers Memorial Retrospective

A collection of some of the notable films by actor, filmmaker, artist, and Memphis legend, Don Meyers.
2021, 180 min, Theater

Review: ‘South of Heaven’ showcases Jason Sudeikis in a new way.

SOUTH OF HEAVEN

SYNOPSIS: After serving twelve years for armed robbery, Jimmy gets an early parole. Upon his release from prison he vows to give Annie, his childhood love, now dying from cancer, the best year of her life. The best last year of her life. If only life were that simple.


South Of Heaven is a film that takes many unexpected turns from drama to crime thriller. Newly released from prison, Jimmy makes good on a promise to long time girlfriend, Annie. He wants to marry her before she passes from cancer, live a clean life, and then figure it out from there. Obstacles get in his way at every turn. South Of Heaven proves the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Frankly, that’s only half of it.

Mike Colter, known to me as the glorious Luke Cage, is as commanding as ever. He plays Whit Price with an even amount of villain and softness. Evangeline Lilly plays Annie with a grace and ease that is beautiful to watch. She’s got a sass that slowly reveals itself. She’s truly wonderful. The chemistry between Lilly and Sudeikis is overflowing with genuine adoration.

Jason Sudeikis‘s work in Tumbledown led me to realize the extent of his talent. I’d been so used to seeing him make me laugh on SNL that I never expected for him to make me cry in such a drastically different role. As Jimmy Ray, his earnest and quiet charm reel you in and make you feel incredibly comfortable. What we learn along the way is what a badass he is. Not in a showy, John Wick kind of way, but as a man desperate to keep a lifelong, and literal, blood oath to Annie. It’s a surprising performance.

The film, as a whole, is uneven. Part of me believes this would fair far better in series form. The beginning is a slow-burn relationship story. The upside of that is our genuine investment in the love between Jimmy and Annie. When the crime element appears, you think you know where this is going. Suddenly, we are thrown an extreme curveball halfway through. The final 30 minutes is another entirely new act. It’s a darkness I did not see coming. If you can get comfortable being uncomfortable, South Of Heaven will be right up your alley.


RLJE Films will release SOUTH OF HEAVEN in theaters and on VOD and Digital on Oct. 8, 2021.


Directed by Aharon Keshales (Big Bad Wolves), he co-wrote the film with Kai Mark and Navot Papushado (Gunpowder Milkshake). The film stars Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso,” Colossal”), Evangeline Lilly (Ant-Man, Avengers: Endgame), Mike Colter (Extinction, Girls Trip), and Shea Whigham (Joker, F9).


SCREAM official trailer (2022)- “What’s you favorite scary movie?” #ScreamMovie #Scream #Ghostface

Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town’s deadly past.


We’re officially booking our trip to Woodsboro in January, and we could not be more freaking excited. Scream is one of the great horror franchises. It revitalized the genre in the 90s. I gasped and cried during the death of an iconic main character in Scream 2. If you’re already a fan, I don’t need to tell you who I’m talking about because you probably did the same. Neve Campell is in an elite group of final girls. Sidney Prescott is a household name. This trailer pulls no punches, and that’s what we’ve come to expect from the franchise. We’re already guessing who is behind Ghostface. But, we’ve never been right.

Check out the first official trailer for the 5th installment of SCREAM.

Do you like scary movies? Watch the NEW trailer for #ScreamMovie, only in theatres on January 14, 2022.

 Neve Campbell (“Sidney Prescott”), Courteney Cox (“Gale Weathers”) and David Arquette (“Dewey Riley”) return to their iconic roles in Scream alongside Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Sonia Ammar. #ScreamMovie #Scream #Ghostface


Review: ‘MASS’ is a stunning master class in writing and performance.

MASS

Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) agree to talk privately in an attempt to move forward. In Fran Kranz’s writing and directing debut, he thoughtfully examines their journey of grief, anger and acceptance by coming face-to-face with the ones who have been left behind.


In Mass, indie genre actor Fran Kranz steps into the writer-director role with an ease that is mind-boggling. It’s one of the most stunning feature debuts I’ve ever witnessed. The script is impeccably researched. As a mother who shakes each time a breaking news headline pops up on my phone, as a senior in high school when Columbine occurred, Mass hits on an entirely different level. Kranz helps us see the unseeable. He carefully weaves small pieces of information into a quilt so heavy we are left breathless. There is nothing sugarcoated about Mass. It’s one of the most intimate and emotionally accosting films I’ve ever experienced.

Jason Isaacs takes a logical approach as Jay. The arc of Kranz’s writing allows Isaacs to break this role wide open. It was akin to watching a teapot slowly come to a boil. Ann Dowd plays Linda. She is gentle, hesitant, and genuine in her grief and guilt. It feels like she’s trying too hard to appease and remain compassionate. Dowd’s best moments are when she’s in tune with Reed Birney. As Richard, Birney counters Dowd’s apologetic energy. He is defensive at every turn, to the point of unlikability. It’s his survival mechanism. Birney wears an air of toxic masculinity like a badge of honor. Martha Plimpton plays Gail with thoroughly justifiable guarded anger. She is seeking ownership and responsibility from Linda and Richard. Her pointed line of questioning makes her intentions clear as day. Plimpton owns every glance, sigh, and raw syllable uttered in Mass. It’s an entire emotional journey right before our eyes. It’s a performance that captivates. The chemistry between these four actors is something so rare. They understood the assignment, as they say.

The quiet, lingering moments in the first 20 minutes of the film are meticulously crafted to keep you stewing in anticipation of the inevitable storm to come. The entire film has a low registering hum and a palpable heaviness. As the plot is slowly revealed, politics seep into the conversation. The aftermath of trauma and grief are front and center. The discussion of mental health will echo in many households. The included social pleasantries on either end establish a grounded aspect, but it is that final unexpected 10 minutes that hit hardest. It’s a visceral catharsis. This is a master class in writing and performance. I would watch this on stage in a heartbeat. Mass is a portrait of four parents dealing with unthinkable loss. The most powerful aspect is the understanding that this conversation could be happening any day of the week nowadays. This is an emotional rollercoaster you cannot be prepared for. Mass brilliantly challenges the perspectives of cause and effect, blame, acceptance, forgiveness, life and death, and what parenthood means, deep in your soul. You will walk away changed.


Written & Directed by: Fran Kranz
Starring: Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton


Mass is currently playing in select cities.

Hulu original series review: ‘Baker’s Dozen’ – Not a new recipe but still a tasty treat.

BAKER’S DOZEN

Passionate amateur bakers will go head-to-head with seasoned professionals in each episode of “Baker’s Dozen”. Join hosts Tamera Mowry-Housley (Emmy-award winning host of “The Real,” FOX’s “The Masked Singer” and Hallmark’s “Christmas Comes Twice”) and Bill Yosses (Author and former White House Pastry Chef) for this fast-paced competition series that will determine the best baker of all! Which of the 13 bakers has what it takes to create the next viral baking sensation, win the golden rolling pin and take home the cash prize?


Hulu has a brand new, delicious baking competition series titled Baker’s Dozen. Each episode sees you guessed it, 13 baker’s battle it out in the kitchen. The competition happens in three rounds. Round One criteria are judged on creativity, presentation, and execution. Only 5 winners from the one-hour first round proceed into the bakeshop to compete again. The talent pool is all over the place, but that is the charm of the series. You’re rooting for everyone for different reasons. The creativity is off the charts because the contestants don’t have a choice. If they want to move ahead in the competition, they must stand out.

Round Two kicks it up a knotch. In three hours, the remaining bakers must tackle a themed challenge, but their creation is finally put to the taste and uniformity test. Round Three, the final round, gives the round two victor a huge advantage; help from a special guest. The ultimate prize is not only the title, but cash and the elusive golden rolling pin. The chemistry between judges Tamara Mowrey-Housley and former Whitehouse chef Bill Mosses is delicious. They are honest, kind, and informative. It’s a nice give and take, and they are pro hosts. Baker’s Dozen utilizes an open-air kitchen that we’ve become familiar with. It’s bright, colorful, and equipped with everything a contestant could desire. That final round is what differentiates each episode. It’s a major feat to accomplish in 5 hours. Baker’s Dozen is a bingble, sweet treat for Hulu audiences. Your mouth will water, your eyes will be delighted, and it just might inspire you to get baking.


The HULU original
Baker’s Dozen is streaming now!

Shudder Original Review: ‘V/H/S/94’ is another fantastic gore-soaked addition to the franchise with a killer nostalgic twist.

V/H/S/94

Synopsis

A Shudder Original Film, V/H/S/94 is the fourth installment in the hit horror anthology franchise and marks the return of the infamous found footage anthology with segments from franchise alumni Simon Barrett (Séance) and Timo Tjahjanto (May the Devil Take You Too) in addition to acclaimed directors Jennifer Reeder (Knives & Skin), Ryan Prows (Lowlife) and Chloe Okuno (Slut). In V/H/S/94, after the discovery of a mysterious VHS tape, a brutish police swat team launch a high-intensity raid on a remote warehouse, only to discover a sinister cult compound whose collection of pre-recorded material uncovers a nightmarish conspiracy.


Boasting unbelievable practical FX, the scares in V/H/S/94 are brilliant. I’m talking legitimate, meticulously timed jump scares from every single director. The quality of the film forces you to sit up and pay closer attention, sometimes squinting over the tracking adjustments as they crowd the screen. The V/H/S franchise has been able to capture something glorious beyond the found footage genre. It’s the mystery behind the overall arch that keeps you creeped out and engaged on top of the fantastic individual stories. It’s a double whammy of horror goodness. You’ll shiver and gag and think, “Damn, this is good shit.”

The grand scheme of V/H/S 94, or “Holy Hell,” has the audience following a SWAT team into an industrial building filled with monitors and plenty of body parts. They don’t know who or what they’re searching for, exactly. As they sweep the rooms a new tape begins to play. Each one is completely different and spectacularly twisted. Tape 1, titled “Storm Drain” features a local legend of Ratman. An ambitious reporter and her cameraman get in over their heads. Tape 2, “The Empty Wake,” sees a young woman left to record the wake of a recently deceased man. Alone with a dead body during a storm? No thanks. This segment was my personal favorite. It’s old-school scary meets nuts visuals. I couldn’t help but yell NOPE at the screen, again and again.

Tape 3 “The Subject,” tells the tale of a mad doctor attempting to improve humans with technology. If you ever wanted a live first-person shooter game experience, now you’ve got one. Tape 4 “Terror” takes aim at domestic terrorism with a group of militiamen planning to cleanse America with s monstrous weapon. I also have to mention, director Steven Kostanski’s infomercial “The Veggie Masher.” It’s totally maniacal and random as hell. But at the same time, perfectly harkens back to those 3 am hour-long commercials for ridiculous kitchen gadgets. The finale actually gives you answers. As the 4th installment of the franchise, V/H/S94 makes it clear that these films are alive and well and ready to fuck you up.


V/H/S/94 WILL BE RELEASED

EXCLUSIVELY ON SHUDDER ON OCTOBER 6TH

Available on Shudder US, Shudder CA, Shudder UK, and Shudder ANZ


Directed by Chloe Okuno, Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto,

Ryan Prows & Jennifer Reeder


Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: U.S. / Indonesia

Language: English / Indonesian

Review: The Extended version of ‘CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS’ is a franchise fan’s dream.

CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN:
REMEMBERING GHOSTBUSTERS

CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters is the definitive documentary charting the making of the iconic film that inadvertently changed the film industry forever. Featuring interviews with Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Bill Murray, and Ernie Hudson and including never-before-seen footage. The documentary hallmarks the extraordinary achievements made for the era, and emphasizes just how ambitious an undertaking the making of Ghostbusters really was.


Born in 1980, my entire childhood revolved around Ghostbusters. Ecto-cooler was in my lunchbox. Ghost traps were created from tissue boxes. When I received the elusive Ecto 1 for Christmas, I was the envy of the neighborhood. The extended version of Anthony Bueno’s documentary Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters takes you into the minds and personalities that created the iconic film. It is overflowing with behind-the-scenes footage and stories, and it’s all to die for. When you find out who the original cast was meant to be, your head will spin.

The film utilizes animation to illustrate what these first ideas and meetings looked like. The sketches of the ghosts are insanely impressive. We’ve got the standard talking-head interviews, but it’s a franchise fan’s dream. The late, great Harold Ramis is included, in all his glory. Ghostbusters was made with a group of the most elite talents of the time. The photos of the team building the technology to create the film are pretty amazing. The FX from Steve Johnson gave us the iconic characters of The Librarian, Slimer, and The Stay Puft Marshmellow Man.

When Sigourney Weaver landed the role of Dana, it changed everything. She pushed the boys to not only be better actors, but she is also responsible for a huge aspect of Dana’s arch. Weaver and Ivan Reitman discuss her audition, which will forever remain unseen by the public. Ernie Hudson’s role looked very different from the original script to the final incarnation. He talks about the dynamics of the entire cast. Even with a runtime of 2 hrs, you won’t want the film to end. It’s a cinephile’s dream. The wealth of information, the access to cast and crew, and the sheer love that emanates from everyone involved make Cleanin’ Up The Town: Remembering The Ghostbusters a nostalgic joyride.


Extended Version In Theaters &
On-Demand Today


Directed by Anthony Bueno (Beware the Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf in London)
Produced by Claire Bueno


Featuring the cast and crew of the original Ghostbusters including
Dan AykroydHarold Ramis, Ernie Hudson, and Annie Potts
Director Ivan Reitman
Producers Joe Medjuck and Michael C. Gross
Visual Effects Crew Members Richard Edlund and John Bruno
Creature Design Consultant Terry Windell
Editor Sheldon Kahn


Review: In ‘Pharma Bro’ Martin Shkreli Lives Up to His Reputation as “The Most Hated Man in America”

PHARMA BRO

Martin Shkreli, the 38-year-old financial entrepreneur and pharmaceutical tycoon from Brooklyn, New York, was dubbed “the most hated man in America” by the media after he rose to infamy in 2015 for price gouging the prescription drug Daraprim by 5500% overnight depriving patients of the life-saving medication. That same year, Shkreli purchased the Wu-Tang Clan’s single copy of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” for 2 million dollars, and was arrested for securities fraud, eventually resulting in the subsequent forfeiture of the album and recent reselling of it by the U.S. government to an anonymous buyer to pay off Shkreli’s debt. He has gained notoriety for his unchecked online presence, which was ultimately his downfall and sent him to prison, where he continues to provoke the public with bombastic declarations about finding a cure for the virus which has upended the world, Covid-19.


This was hard to watch. The documentary PharmaBro: An In-Depth Look at “The Most Hated Man in America” is exactly what it sounds like– an approximately 90 minute deep dive into a man so profoundly unlikeable that despite filmmaker Brent Hodge’s best efforts to develop a nuanced character study, Martin Shkreli remains a nihilistic cartoon until the end. Shkreli is the rare kind of person that is who you think he is: a prolific online troll that thrives off of controversy, leans into his worst impulses, and utilizes notoriety as a springboard to fame. 

Martin Shkreli – AKA Pharma Bro
Credit: Nigel Parry

Martin Shkreli’s utter lack of redeeming qualities, unfortunately, makes the rest of the film fall flat. It is impossible to care that his Livestream fans think he’s the victim of a witch hunt, particularly because the same community aided and abetted such severe harassment of Teen Vogue journalist Lauren Duca that Shkreli became one of the first high profile accounts permanently banned from Twitter. Trump-era horror show Milo Yiannopoulos, a personal friend of Shkreli’s, has multiple confessionals in a bizarre and distasteful addition. Somehow, even the feud with the Wu-Tang clan misses the mark.

The most interesting parts of this film confront and analyze what Shkreli did. While renowned for his ethically vapid pharmaceutical drug pricing, ultimately, he was convicted of securities fraud stemming from multiple Ponzi schemes. I would love to know more about the actual crime that caught up to him at last, and I am fascinated by the concept of an “orphan drug” hedge fund market. What under-the-radar mad capitalist is leading that industry now? Has the government conducted subsequent investigations or drafted new regulations? Is there an activist movement? Alas, those questions are left unanswered.


Available On Digital Platforms For Rent or Purchase Tomorrow, October 5, 2021


Directed by Brent Hodge (A Brony Tale, I Am Chris Farley, Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary)
Produced by Blumhouse Television and Hodgee Films

Featuring:
Martin Shkreli

Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah
Musical artist and friend of Shkreli, Billy The Fridge 
Journalist Christie Smythe
Shkreli Defense Attorney Ben Brafman

Review: Go home, ‘American Night’, you’re drunk.

AMERICAN NIGHT

Art and life collide in this stylish and wildly entertaining neo-noir thriller. When a highly coveted Andy Warhol painting suddenly surfaces, it triggers a chain reaction of danger-filled events for a colorful group of characters including: a forger turned art dealer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers); a mobster and painter (Emile Hirsch) with a penchant for scorpions; a seductive museum conservator (Paz Vega); and a stuntman and wannabe ninja (Jeremy Piven). Filled with daring double-crosses and surprising twists and turns, the race for the painting comes to an explosive conclusion…one American Night.


Playing like a graphic novel, with characters’ names scrawled next to their introduction, the gunfire is chaotic and aplenty. I watched this a 2-hour film a second time to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. I think I still am. Even after my second viewing, American Night remains confusing in its non-linear storytelling. Listen, I wanted to love this film. The potential is there.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers does his best to make American Night engaging. His character, John, attempts to make amends in love and begin an honest career. He’s strong as ever, in true neo-noir fashion. Though try as he might, he cannot hold up an uneven narrative that relies on cliché over concept. Jeremy Piven steals the show. The seriousness in which his character desires to be a ninja becomes the much-needed levity in all these convoluted shenanigans. I would happily watch an entire film about him. Emile Hirsch is the son of a New York City Mafia boss Michael Rubino, whose love of art plays above all else. That, and perhaps, his ego and an incredibly random love for scorpions. The performance goes from levelheaded to absurd based on the script. Hirsch takes it all in strive with 100% commitment.

Here’s what doesn’t work for me; it takes 1 hour and 25 minutes for the stories to finally overlap after living them from different perspectives. The runtime would benefit from a 20-minute shave. Some of the delivery from ancillary characters reads as hokey. Okay, a lot of the dialogue does. The film includes one of the most ridiculous sex scenes ever. It seems like a laughable excuse to have Paz Vega appear naked onscreen.

Here’s what’s great; the framing of scenes, the use of neon, and the main cast. The final reveal occurs 5 seconds before the credits. Oh, the credits. If the visual continuity of the rest of the film was as snappy as this, American Night would have made a slicker impact. This is the pop art-inspired, cool factor that could have punched up the film into cult status. It’s got a real Pulp Fiction energy, but a lot has to be done for this to be a cinematic work of art.


In Theaters, on VOD, and Digital October 1, 2021


Directed by: Alessio Della Valle

Written by: Alessio Della Valle

Starring: Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Emile Hirsch, Jeremy Piven, Paz Vega, Michael Madsen

Run Time: 123 minutes

Rating: R

Genre: Thriller, Action


 

Review: ‘OLD HENRY’ is a stunningly performed western.

OLD HENRY

Old Henry is an action-Western about a widowed farmer and his son who warily take in a mysterious, injured man with a satchel of cash. When a posse of men claiming to be the law come for the money, the farmer must decide whom to trust. Defending against a siege of his homestead, he reveals a talent for gunslinging that surprises everyone, calling his true identity into question.


Writer-director Potsy Ponciroli‘s screenplay harkens back to classic westerns. There’s plenty of gunslinging, horseback, and trouble, for genre fans. It’s ceaselessly engaging, overflowing with slick writing, striking natural lighting, and insanely fantastic performances. There’s an underlying complexity that history fans will fawn over. Ponciroli has given audiences something special.

Trace Adkins, as Henry’s brother-in-law, Al, is a wonderful balance of welcoming and spitfire. He owned every moment of screen time. Stephen Dorff is an unmistakable villain. You’ll loathe him. That’s a compliment to the work he does. Scott Haze plays Curry with confidence that counters Nelson to a tee. He shared the screen with Nelson in his breakthrough role in Child Of God. Here, he’s just as intense. Tim Blake Nelson gives a seemingly effortless and pitch-perfect performance. His unflappable conviction at every turn is award-worthy stuff. The scenes between Haze and Nelson are like watching a chess match. You’ll be mesmerized.

There is a smartly laid-out trail of clues, so keep a sharp eye out. Old Henry has a climax so legendary you’ll want to watch it again. It’s destined to be a classic. You can find Old Henry in theaters, beginning today. And, if you’re in the New York City area, our colleague, Joey Magidson at Awards Radar, will be hosting a few Q&As with Tim Blake Nelson! You can find all the details below.



Coming to Theaters on October 1

Written and Directed by Potsy Ponciroli

Starring:
Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Ballard of Buster Scruggs)
Scott Haze (Jurassic World: Dominion, Venom)
Gavin Lewis (“Little Fires Everywhere”, “NCIS: Los Angeles”)
Trace Adkins (Deep Water Horizon, The Lincoln Lawyer)
Stephen Dorff (Blade, Immortals)

RT: 99 minutes


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


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.


 

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

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