Review: Christina Ricci stars in ‘MONSTROUS,’ a visually spectacular story of unresolved trauma.

MONSTROUS

***Official Selection – 2022 Glasgow FrightFest***

A terrifying new horror awaits Laura (Christina Ricci) and her seven-year-old son Cody when they flee her abusive ex-husband and try to settle into a new life in an idyllic and remote lakeside farmhouse. Still traumatized, their physical and mental well-being are pushed to the limit as their fragile existence is threatened.


The pastel-soaked costumes from Morgan DeGroff contrast perfectly with the thoughtful set and production design from Mars Feehery and Taylor Jean. The house has an era-perfect look, simultaneously possessing an eerieness that is hard to describe. The entire film is a genre lover’s dream.

Santino Barnard plays Cody with maturity beyond his years. Ultimately, Monstrous belongs to Christina Ricci. She is glorious as Laura. Navigating sexism, motherhood, and abuse, Ricci rides the emotional nuances of deep-seated trauma and grief. As a mother, her performance had my heart in my throat.

Assisted by clever editing, the final twist makes the script’s build-up more powerful. Monstrous morphs genres instantly, jolting the audience alongside Laura. This device results in a creative spin on loss and acceptance. It speaks to our coping mechanisms and unresolved trauma we all try desperately to hide.


In Theaters and On Demand May 13, 2022

Directed by Chris Sivertson (I Know Who Killed Me, All Cheerleaders Die)

Written by Carol Chrest (The Prophet’s Game)


Starring

Christina Ricci (“Yellowjackets,” The Matrix Resurrections, Buffalo ’66, Casper)

Colleen Camp (SliverClueDie Hard With a Vengeance)

Santino Bernard (8-Bit ChristmasPenny Dreadful: City of Angels, “Bing”)

Don Baldaramos (Suburbicon, “Castle”)

Nick Vallelonga (Green BookThe Many Saints of Newark, The Birthday Cake)

RT: 89 minutes


Netflix Review: ‘OUR FATHER’ is a disturbing and infuriating true story of one fertility doctor’s mission.

Synopsis: Jacoba Ballard was an only child, conceived via donor sperm, who always dreamed of having a brother or sister. An at-home DNA test led her to the discovery of not one but seven half-siblings – a number that defied best practices in fertility medicine. As the group set out to learn more about their curious family tree, they soon discovered the sickening truth: Their parents’ fertility doctor had been inseminating his patients with his own sperm – without their knowledge or consent. As Ballard and her newfound siblings realized they’ve barely begun to untangle his dark web of deceit, their pursuit of justice lies at the heart of this profoundly unsettling story about an unimaginable breach of trust.


Real audio, sit-down interviews, and recreations tell the shocking story of one fertility doctor’s sinister plans. Dr. Donald Cline assisted innumerable women in becoming mothers. What those mothers didn’t know would change lives forever. DNA test “23 and Me” blew this story wide open.

Having worked for Dr. Cline for 13 years, Jan Shore candidly speaks about the entire process. The initial moral ambiguity in the voice of Cline’s partner, Dr. Colver, is cringeworthy as he expresses gratitude and awe for Dr. Cline’s innovative science. And yet, as a woman who recalls the monthly tears and disappointment when I couldn’t get pregnant for months on end, listening to these women retell their experiences feels visceral. The most joyous gifts come with an unimaginable caveat.

The emotional trauma in each sibling is palpable, and as the number of newly discovered individuals involved climbs, a chill reruns down your spine. Led by Jacoba Ballard, this unique group of now adults goes through every high and low imaginable. Their strength is beyond admirable. The violation doesn’t end with the initial deception. When the identified siblings push back, a barrage of madness in the form of various threats rains down upon them.

OUR FATHER gets increasingly more disturbing by the minute. The religious aspect is simultaneously eerie and infuriating. Once expanded upon, it’s almost unsurprising. We’ve seen this time and time again. We’re experiencing it as we speak nationally. When the Supreme Court leak used the phrase, “domestic supply of infants,” make no mistake, this is a larger problem than we could possibly understand. OUR FATHER brings forth a string of white men telling women they have no body autonomy, over and over. Not only Dr. Cline but the Indiana Attorney General and even the lawyer for the siblings. While this documentary seems unique, the intent behind the actions, and the far-reaching legal ramifications, could haunt this country for literal generations. Get ready to be nauseated and enraged.


Releasing Globally on Netflix on May 11, 2022


The upcoming documentary feature, OUR FATHER tells the story of one of the most shocking and horrific cases of fertility fraud, catching nationwide attention with coverage in the New York Times and The Atlantic.

Directed by: Lucie Jourdan
Produced by: Jason Blum, Lucie Jourdan, Michael Petrella and Amanda Spain
Executive Produced by: Chris McCumber, Jeremy Gold and Mary Lisio


Review: ‘BALONEY’- Joshua Guerci’s documentary about San Francisco’s only Gay All-Male burlesque troupe is magnetic, intimate, and hilarious.

Baloney follows San Francisco’s wildly popular Gay All-Male Burlesque show over 18 months as the group rehearses for New Year’s Eve 2020. Told through the eyes of the group’s co-founders, as well as the larger ensemble, the film contemplates the struggles that come with being a performing artist in San Francisco, the most expensive city in North America. Through a mix of interviews, rehearsal footage, and filmed performances, Baloney captures the group’s unique combination of humor, confession, and sex positivity in ways that directly reflect the private fantasies of people who come to the show. It’s also a story of the people who choose to perform in Baloney who, like their audience, find themselves in a world that constantly silences kinky, queer, and gender non-conforming people. Finally, it spotlights that real failure in life is often not doing that thing you know you need to do or being the person you know you need to be. Even if that thing is daring to be an artist!


Equal parts sincerity, sexuality, and soul – Baloney takes a deep look behind the scenes of San Francisco’s only Gay All-Male burlesque troupe. Joshua Guerci’s documentary follows this scrappy team as they plan, practice, and perform. Led by co-creators and real-life partners Michael Phillis and Rory Davis, the troop crafts performances that delight their audiences while offering insights across the wide spectrum that is the gay and queer male experience.

I marveled at the editing of this documentary (75 minutes!) Guerci’s team seamlessly transitions from practice to performance in a way that energizes the audience while still giving a deep appreciation for the vision and artists involved.

This documentary leaves you asking a lot of questions. Some are likely to be practical and hilarious (like, how do you wash beans out of your hair, or, did you maybe miss all the queer innuendos in Star Trek?) But others are more serious. I left Baloney with one question at the forefront of my mind: what does it mean to really suffer for your art?

Nearly every member of Baloney has a substantial day job. Everyone talks about their passion for the arts and the power of this burlesque troupe and wishes that they could make Baloney their sole focus, if only they could afford it. Now, plenty of people want to quit their day jobs and take off for Broadway or the hills of Hollywood. The context here is important. Baloney’s performance venues are shown to be sold-out, sure, but always humble in size and scale. They even have a great song poking fun at themselves on this. The energy and community of the shows seem to draw the performers back, just as much as it does for the audience members. 

The performers making up the troupe are magnetic. Guerci’s candid style further breaks down walls and makes the interviews feel intimate and informal. He speaks with them as they prepare breakfast or while they lounge together in bed. I particularly loved Andrew Slade, who leverages his past education in animation and video game design to hilarious burlesque effect.

Michael and Rory, who on paper have captured that elusive dream-job as day-job balance, are still shown to wobble. They are, at once, a producer, casting expert, director, and performer. They even provide rehearsal space out of their San Francisco apartment. There is a tragic irony that San Francisco proudly celebrates its queer and artistic legacy while simultaneously making it nearly impossible for those communities to endure and thrive within its borders.

Watch Baloney, and you’ll see some flat-out great burlesque numbers. But there’s much more here that will keep you thinking long after the final curtain call.


Baloney (2021) – Official Trailer from Joshua Guerci on Vimeo.

Baloney debuts June 7 across North America and will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Spectrum, and inDemand.


Los Angeles, CA – 13th Gen and Gravitas Ventures are proud to present Baloney, Joshua Guerci’s no-holds-barred documentary chronicling 18 months in the life of Baloney, a mostly male, mostly naked, very erotic San Francisco burlesque troupe. The clothing-optional documentary made its world premiere at Frameline and went on to inspire audiences at Outfest Los Angeles, Seattle Queer Film Festival, Cinema Diverse Palm Springs, Winnipeg Reel Pride Film Festival, TLVFest: Tel Aviv LGBT Film Festival, Boston Wicked Queer LGBTQ+ Film Festival, and Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. At RuPaul’s DragCon Los Angeles, the film is nominated for Best Documentary.


 

HBO Max Season 1 review: ‘JULIA’ cooks up drama and delight.

JULIA

JULIA is inspired by Julia Child’s extraordinary life and her long-running television series, “The French Chef,” which pioneered the modern cooking show. Through Julia’s life and her singular joie de vivre, the series explores a pivotal time in American history – the emergence of public television as a new social institution, feminism and the women’s movement, the nature of celebrity and America’s cultural evolution. At its heart, the series is a portrait of a loving marriage with a shifting power dynamic.


Before finishing the screeners, I told friends they had to start the new HBO series “Julia.” The most common response I received was, “Didn’t they do a movie on this?” To be honest, the answer is “kind of!” Have we seen this story before? Yes. Do I care? NO! 

Witty and full of complex cultural commentary, HBO’s “Julia” is an absolute joy. Exploring Julia Child‘s iconic rise with a sharp eye on how it fits into the rapid societal change of the midcentury period, “Julia” succeeds in presenting complex ideas while keeping the show fun. The series is a visual feast of charming period settings, costumes, and sumptuous footage of Julia’s home cooking, recipe creation, and inspirational fine dining. An example is a luxe scene where Julia and her editor Judith strategize in a crowded Boston bar — the only women in sight– dirty martinis in one hand and casually finishing a dozen icy oysters each with the other. Ultimately the chef brings out two whole Maine lobsters served on a large plate accompanied only by ramekins of melted golden butter just at the resolution of their brainstorming– perfection. 

 While the series naturally focuses on Julia’s story and the unique power dynamics shifting within her marriage,  I  found the character studies on the tribe of women that made up her inner circle most fascinating. Fiona Glascott, Brittany Bradford, and Bebe Neuwirth shine in showcasing their own stories as they build the iconic culinary brand together. 

While “Julia” doesn’t shy away from issues you expect for a series set in this period (i.e. egregious workplace sexism), I was intrigued when they also made room to explore more complex ideas about what Julia Child’s success means within the feminist agenda. Despite her own accomplishments, what does it mean to build an empire by motivating homemakers to prepare more elaborate home-cooked meals than ever and raising the bar for what it means to be an ideal wife? Late-breaking cameos from iconic figures of the time play a unique role in bringing many of these factors to light in a way that is bold to incorporate into essentially a tribute piece. 

 My recommendation: Mix yourself a proper cocktail, add a flourish whether the drink deserves one or not, and watch this series.

The eight-episode Max Original comedy series, JULIA is now available to stream in full.


Cast: The eight-episode series stars Sarah Lancashire as Julia, David Hyde Pierce, Bebe Neuwirth, Brittany Bradford, Fran Kranz, and Fiona Glascott. Guest stars include Isabella Rossellini, Judith Light, Robert Joy, Erin Neufer, Jefferson Mays, James Cromwell, and Adriane Lenox.


About HBO Max:

HBO Max is WarnerMedia’s direct-to-consumer offering with 10,000 hours of curated premium content. HBO Max offers powerhouse programming for everyone in the home, bringing together HBO, a robust slate of new original series, key third-party licensed programs, and movies, and fan favorites from WarnerMedia’s rich library including Warner Bros., New Line, DC, CNN, TNT, TBS, truTV, Turner Classic Movies, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Crunchyroll, Rooster Teeth, Looney Tunes and more. #HBOMax #WarnerMedia

SUBSCRIBE TO HBO MAX http://bit.ly/HBOMaxYouTube

GET HBO MAX https://itsh.bo/ways-to-get


 

Review: Inconsistencies aside, ‘ESCAPE THE FIELD’ is a solid horror maze of madness.

ESCAPE THE FIELD

The fear is inescapable in Emerson Moore’s horror-thriller about six strangers who suddenly awaken in a remote, endless cornfield. Stripped of their possessions, they are left with only six items: a gun with a single bullet, matches, a lantern, a knife, a compass, and a flask of water. As mysterious sirens blare in the distance and traps appear at every turn, the group realizes it’s been plunged into a cat-and-mouse game with an unseen evil, and survival depends upon solving a diabolical — and deadly — puzzle.


With reminiscent aspects of the cult favorite The CubeEscape the Field is an intriguing foray into the escape room genre. A cornfield is our game board, making for an entirely different dynamic in a scenario we’ve seen for years. An eclectic group of people comprises this cast. Writer-director  Emerson Moore, alongside screenwriter Joshua Dobkin and Sean Wathen, take a different approach, mixing ideas from past films to brand new and exciting elements. There’s a lot to chew on in Escape The Field. 

Shane West plays Ryan with intimidation and alpha male toxicity. West ups the anty with emotional unpredictability elevated by a clever script device. Theo Rossi plays Tyler. If you haven’t been paying attention to indie cinema or mainstream television series, Rossi has become a familiar face and a damn fine actor. Escape the Field is no exception. Rossi has this undeniably accessible aura about him. Jordan Claire Robbins plays Sam, a doctor whose skills are pertinent to the group’s survival. Robbins’ neighborly energy brings trustworthiness and ease to the viewers. You’re rooting for her. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Tahirah Sharif. Her presence drastically improves Escape The Field every second she’s onscreen. 

The solutions to the puzzles evolve from difficult to unchallenging and back again. This inconsistency is forgivable from someone who is an avid winner of ‘Escape The Room’ experiences. (*Nerd alert)  Escape The Field has all the raw elements of a spectacular franchise. I’d watch a prequel and a sequel, as long as the next film’s evolution takes notes from its incarnation. Make sure you stick around after the credits begin to roll. You don’t want to miss one final moment of goodness. 


U.S. Release Date: In Select Theaters, On Digital and On Demand on May 6, 2022.


Cities:                                    New York (Cinema Village), Los Angeles (Lumiere Cinema), and key cities nationwide.           

Cast:                                      Jordan Claire Robbins, Theo Rossi, Tahirah Sharif, Julian Feder, Elena Juatco, and Shane West

Directed by:                           Emerson Moore         

Written by:                             Emerson Moore and Joshua Dobkin & Sean Wathen

Produced by:                        Andrew Davies Gans, Michael Philip, Jason Moring and Emerson Moore

Genre:                                    Thriller            

Rating:                                   R

Running Time:                      88 minutes


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

presents

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

BLACK BOX

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


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

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

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

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

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


Directed by
Yann Gozlan

 

Cast
Pierre Niney, Lou de Laâge, André Dussollier

Opening

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

LA – Laemmle Glendale – 5/6/2022


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


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

THE AVIARY

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


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

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

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

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


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


WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY: Chris Cullari & Jennifer Raite

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

RUN TIME: 96 minutes

RATING: Rated R for language and some violent content.

GENRE: Thriller


OPENING THEATERS INCLUDE:

NEW YORK CITY – Cinema Village

LOS ANGELES – Lumiere Cinema

 

ATLANTA – Studio Movie Grill Marietta

CLEVELAND – Atlas Diamond Center

DETROIT – Emagine Royal Oak

HOUSTON – Studio Movie Grill Pearland

MINNEAPOLIS – Emagine Eagan

ORLANDO – Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk

PHILADELPHIA – Westown Movies

TAMPA – Studio Movie Grill Seminole


Review: Family-friendly folklore ‘Jesse and The Elf Boy’ is available now.

A teenager becomes a renowned hairstylist with the help of an unexpected friend – a forest elf.

Inspired by Scottish legend, this feel-good comedy follows the antics of the solitary forest elf Ghillie Dhu who becomes friends with a girl lost in the woods. When she is unexpectedly whisked away by her mother, a forlorn Ghillie sets out on a quest to find his lost companion. Years later, in the city, Ghillie meets Jessie Macrae, a plucky teenager determined to win favor with her high-flying mother by becoming a renowned hairstylist. When Jessie discovers that Ghillie has a gift for hairstyling, they strike up a unique partnership which causes chaos for the manager of the chic hair salon and catapults Jessie to fame. Thanks to Ghillie, Jessie’s dreams are within reach, but will this meeting of two worlds be enough to overcome the deep hurts of broken relationships through the generations?


A spirited, family-friendly film with notes of Peter Pan whimsy, Jesse and the Elf Boy brings laughter and unexpected depth. The script is a sweet story of friendship, loyalty, family dynamics, and a bit of magic. 

While perhaps a tad random, with the premise that Jesse is a hairstylist, the film has a similar vibe to Edward Scissorhands with a touch of Rumplestiltskin. Performances illicit genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. The script teems with kooky, larger-than-life characters that will make audiences, young and old, giggle. The score from David Shaw is lovely. The standout costume belongs to Ghillie Dhu. It perfectly evokes a childlike wonder, if not a bit noisy for the sound editing. Whittle dons it with an ease that makes it believable.  

Julia Brown is phenomenally charming as Jesse. Her chemistry with Whittle makes for an easy watch. Speaking of our other titular character, Huck Whittle plays Ghillie with a darling innocence. Reminiscent of Jeremy Sumpter in Peter Pan (2003), Whittle is a star.

Getting to the main plot of a mother-daughter reconnection is a bit convoluted, as there are a handful of subplots. But, if you let that go, you’ll be completely charmed. The final reveal makes any inconsistencies worth the watch. 


https://fellowshipfilm.com/


Review: ‘STANLEYVILLE’ is so weird it works.

An exercise in the absurd, the hit indie STANLEYVILLE opens with Maria (Susanne Wuest) walking away from her life on a moment’s whim. Found lounging aimlessly on an airport chair, an odd man named Homunculus (the absolute legend Julian Richings) informs her of her selection to participate in an exclusive competition. The prize is an orange compact SUV.

Without hesitating, Maria arrives at an apartment alongside four other contestants. In a series of eight individual challenges, the first being balloon blowing, Maria, Felicia, Manny, Bofill, and Andrew battle to be the victor. The Master of ceremonies appears equal parts confused and confident in his role. As the stakes get higher and the games get weirder, chaos ensues. Five opposite archetypes collide in one of the most bizarre films I’ve ever witnessed. 

STANLEYVILLE is so odd it works. The film’s pacing is intentionally erratic, and the personalities are strong. That is, all except Maria. She is content to play the game fairly and with an abundance of reverence. The performances of our six cast members are outstanding. This eclectic mix of actors pours their heart into a script that must have seemed outrageous when they first read it. Full disclosure, I’m not sure I walked away understanding what I watched either, but I’ll tell you this, I cannot stop thinking or talking about STANLEYVILLE.

The finale is equally enigmatic, occurring offscreen. It’s a keenly written full-circle moment that makes you think. STANLEYVILLE is like nothing you’ve seen before. Some will assume writer-director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos was making it all up as he went along. I cannot be the first to salivate at the idea of turning this into a stage play without intermission. The story is a conversation starter. What that conversation consists of is determined entirely by each viewer’s experience. It’s a one-of-a-kind film. 


Oscilloscope Laboratories is proud to release STANLEYVILLE — the quirky, dark feature debut from writer/director Maxwell McCabe-Lokos that has won festival accolades across the globe — exclusively at New York City’s Metrograph on April 22nd, with a wider rollout to follow.


Color
English Language
88 minutes
Not Rated


The pitch-black comedy, which critics lovingly call “a strange movie for strange people” and “an episode of Survivor for sociopathic miscreants”, stars Susanne Wuest (GOODNIGHT MOMMY), Cara Ricketts (FOX’s The Resident), Christian Serritiello, George Tchortov (Amazon’s The Expanse), Adam Brown (Peter Jackson’s THE HOBBIT trilogy), and genre legend Julian Richings (CUBE).


Review: ‘Marevelous and The Black Hole’ is a family film with heart and pizzazz.

MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE

A teenage delinquent (Miya Cech, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE) befriends a surly magician (Rhea Perlman, “Cheers,” MATILDA) who helps her navigate her inner demons and dysfunctional family with sleight of hand magic. A coming-of-age comedy that touches on unlikely friendships, grief, and finding hope in the darkest moments.


After losing her mother, Sammy lashes out physically and emotionally. When her dad forces her to take a business class in summer school, she encounters a magician by happenstance. Under the guise of a final project, Sammy trades anger for magic. 

The score heightens the film’s charm. Cartoon animation and black & white fantasy sequences create playful transitions whenever Sammy feels rage. The costumes are meaningful. Sammy is in black the entire film, while Margot dons lush colors adorned with embroidery or applique. 

Rhea Perlman plays Margot, AKA The Marvelous. Perlman’s cheery disposition is a brilliant foil for Miya Cech‘s Sammy. She brings a motherly quality that Sammy so desperately needs. Cech is outstanding. She possesses a fierce attitude that’s relatable. Cech levels up the typical teenage angst with grounded sass and genuine vulnerability underneath. Together, their chemistry is like a warm hug. If I’m being honest, I would gladly watch an entire series about these two characters.

Marvelous and The Black Hole is nothing short of darling. This family-friendly flick is about navigating grief. Writer-director Kate Tsang gives audiences a sweet ode to storytelling and healing. 


MARVELOUS AND THE BLACK HOLE
Opens in Select Theaters on April 22, 2022


Written + Directed by: Kate Tsang
Produced by: Carolyn Mao
Co-Producers: Allison Avery Jordan, Christa Boarini
Director of Photography: Nanu Segal, BSC
Production Designer: Yong Ok Lee
Edited by: Cyndi Trissel, Ryan Denmark
Costume Designer: Amanda Bujak

TRT: 81 minutes


 

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

DECEIT Official Synopsis:

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


Review: ‘WYRMWOOD APOCALYPSE’ screams franchise potential.

WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE

Synopsis: Rhys lives in the zombie-infested wasteland. His job is to capture civilians and deliver them to what’s left of the military. When Rhys captures a half-zombie-half-human named Grace, he comes to believe she is the key to ending the apocalypse.


*Let me begin their review by stating that I have not seen the original Wyrmwood. I can only comment on Wyrmwood: Apocalypse as a stand-alone film.*

I was immediately drawn into the film hearing Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds‘ track “Red Right Hand,” alongside the quick-cut editing. Equal parts quirky and cool, I was committed. The costumes and sets are elaborate eye candy. The special effects makeup and practical FX are deliciously gruesome. The score, combined with the red lighting, makes for the perfect touch of camp. Wyrmwood: Apocalypse has legit legs for a franchise reboot. 

This cast is gold. The commitment to these characters is commendable. The fight sequences and choreography are damn entertaining. These actors go hard into the action. Bravo, to Luke McKensie, Shantae Barnes-Cowan, Jake Ryan, Bianca Brady, Tasia Zalar, Jay Gallagher, and Nick Boshier for their phenomenal chemistry.

The plot possesses a similar concept as Zydrate from one of my all-time favorite films, Repo! The Genetic Opera. There’s revenge, cognisant zombies, mind control, harvesting, and family dynamics. You name it, and it’s in Wyrmwood: Apocalypse. There’s enough meat in this storyline to justify a series development. I could easily see this doing well on the SyFy network. It has to be from writer-director Kiah Roache-Turner and co-writer Tristan Roache-Turner. Consistency is key to maintaining a fandom. The bottom line is Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is a new beginning.


Zombie Action-Horror WYRMWOOD: APOCALYPSE — OUT DIGITALLY IN THE U.S. APRIL 14!


Genre: Horror

Country: Australia

Runtime: 90 mins

Year: 2022

Language: English

Rated: NA


Review: HBO Documentary Film: ‘TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF’

TONY HAWK: UNTIL THE WHEELS FALL OFF

Centering around intimate new interviews with Tony Hawk himself, the film is an all-encompassing look at the skateboarder’s life, legendary career, and relationship with the sport with which he’s been synonymous for decades. Hawk, a pioneer of modern vertical skating who is still pushing his limits at the age of 53, remains one of the most influential skateboarders of all time.


Tony Hawk kicks off his big HBO documentary by falling down. A lot. Like, 5 solid minutes of eating it all over the ramp. It’s a bold, remarkably human way to start a documentary about a 53-year-old icon who many in the non-skating community would still consider the most famous skateboarder of all time (this reviewer raises his hand). Heck, my wife knows more about Tony Hawk than I do.

The complete list of things I knew about Tony Hawk before watching this documentary:

  • He was (probably) the most prominent skater in the world
  • He was the first skater to land a 900 (a crazy trick where you shoot off a ramp and spin 2.5 times in the air before landing)  I also learned this from his video game series, Tony Hawk Pro Skater
  • He has a hilarious Twitter feed

And yet, I left Sam Jones’ Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall Off feeling pretty invested in skateboarding. Jones’ documentary benefits not only from extensive access to Hawk and his skating peers but also from a wealth of archival footage and clips that help these interview recollections resonate. Sure, you learn about Hawk’s upbringing in San Diego, and his dynamic with his strict father – but what really resonates is the sense of purpose uniting these passionate young skateboarders. You really get the spirit of the community. Tricks and success in this sport are the product of individual inspiration, yes, but also due to watching and learning from both your rivals and teammates. Hawks’ contemporaries are real unique characters, too. I particularly loved hearing from Rodney Mullen, who applies the principles of Nietzsche to the act of launching yourself off a skate ramp without a hint of irony.

I also appreciated the documentary’s balanced romanticism surrounding skateboarding. There are the obligatory skating montages, but there’s also a blunt assessment of the risks (and honestly, the near foolishness) of Hawk refusing to set aside his board at 53 years old. We’re talking about guys for whom broken bones and near-constant concussions seem to always be part of the deal – it takes a lot to make these folks nervous. Hawks’ peers speak frankly and graphically about the risks he’s taking on. Given Hawks’ prominent association with this documentary, I was surprised he didn’t push to edit some of those comments out of the final product. I appreciated that Jones included them.

Ultimately, this feels to be an honest portrait of a complicated legend who became a pro athlete before he had his learner’s permit. It strives to connect viewers to the deep connection skaters have with their art, it clues you in on Tony Hawk’s countless contributions to the sport, and acknowledges that most guys in their 50s shouldn’t be on fast-moving, narrow objects.

You see Tony Hawk falling down a lot. But he also executes tricks that seem to scratch the surface of immortality. Unless you’ve skated a mile in his shoes, can you really pass judgment? One thing’s for sure – after seeing this documentary, I’ll be firing up my wife’s copy of Pro Skater.


Debuts Tuesday, April 5 on HBO and will be available

to stream on HBO Max

Director: Sam Jones

Executive Producers: Mel Eslyn, Jay Duplass, and Mark Duplass


ABOUT SAM JONES
Sam Jones is a director of documentary films and narrative television. He most recently directed an episode of “Ted Lasso” and a film in post-production: “Running With Our Eyes Closed, A Film about Jason Isbell,” which is being co-produced by the Duplass Brothers and Jones.

Jones is the creator and host of the documentary series “Off Camera with Sam Jones,” which had a 219 episode run on DirecTV’s Audience Network from 2013-2020. Jones is also an acclaimed commercial director and recently wrote and directed a series of commercials for OnePlus featuring Robert Downey Jr. He directed the Showtime series “Roadies,” created by Cameron Crowe, and also directed and produced the feature-length Showtime documentary “Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued,” a film that reexamines Bob Dylan’s “The Basement Tapes.” In 2002, Jones started his documentary career with “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart,” which chronicles beloved indie-rock band Wilco’s tumultuous recording of their acclaimed fourth album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” Rolling Stone named “I Am Trying To Break Your Heart” one of the best rock films of all time.

Jones began his career as a photographer and quickly gained acclaim for his seminal portraits of cultural icons. His work has appeared on the covers of Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Time, and many others, and he has had several books published. Jones lives in Los Angeles with his daughters and still loves to skateboard.


 

Review: Mayim Bialik’s directorial debut ‘As They Made Us’ is relatable in its drama.

AS THEY MADE US

As They Made Us follows Abigail (Agron), a divorced mother of two, who is struggling to find sanity in her dysfunctional family as she attempts to cultivate new love. Her father, Eugene (Hoffman), has a degenerative condition that he and his wife, Barbara (Bergen), refuse to accept. Her brother Nathan (Helberg) has been estranged from the family for decades. A self-appointed fixer, Abigail attempts to mend her complicated family before it’s too late.


Mayim Bialik‘s feature debut packs an emotional punch. As They Made Us feels like a fresh wound for anyone with childhood trauma. Brilliantly structured with flashbacks and present-day chaos, Bialik weaves a portrait of a family existing in turmoil. 

Simon Helberg plays the son who escaped the weight of negativity. Estranged from the family, he leaves Abigail (Agron) behind to take the brunt of the aggression. Helberg plays a vastly different role from Bialik’s costar on The Big Bang Theory, and her script allows Helberg to show his range. Dustin Hoffman is patriarch Eugene. Navigating his cognitive decline, Hoffman plays dual roles in a way. At times, happy go lucky and defiant, others violent and loud. His journey is the most outwardly complex. Candace Bergen is the epitome of Jewish mother cliches, with a real mean streak. She lands somewhere in between abrasive and meddling. Still managing to be charming, Bergen brings heightened energy to the film. 

Dianna Agron is the default child, the emotional packhorse. Taking on caregiver roles that ought to belong to Bergen’s Barbara, Agron must shift between daughter, nurse, and wife roles to ease Eugene’s suffering. These are all at her own cost as she carries these scars. Agron is the star of this film. Even with Hoffman and Bergen, she steals the show. Her exhaustion is palpable. 

The family’s Jewish faith is a significant plot point. It becomes a large part of Abigail’s coping mechanisms, parenting, and healing. The character reminds me a lot of my Mother. Replace Judaism with Catholicism, and I’ve witnessed this same story play out a generation before. As They Made Us speaks volumes in roughly 90 minutes. Tackling forgiveness, acceptance, and mortality, Bialik’s voice as a filmmaker is pretty striking for her first time out. I am eager to see what comes next.



OPENS APRIL 8, 2022
IN THEATERS AND DIGITAL / VOD


Writer & Director: Mayim Bialik

Cast: Dianna Agron and Simon Helberg, with Candice Bergen, Dustin Hoffman, Justin Chu Cary, Charlie Weber, and Julian Gant

Producers:  Jordan Beckerman, Ash Christian, Anne Clements, Michael Day, Jordan Yale Levine, Mark Maxey

Runtime Time: 96 minutes

Rated: R for language


 

Official Trailer Drop: ‘The Bob’s Burgers Movie’ is getting served up in May. #BobsBurgersMovie

The Bob’s Burgers Movie

A ruptured water main creates an enormous sinkhole right in front of Bob’s Burgers, blocking the entrance indefinitely and ruining the Belchers’ plans for a successful summer. While Bob and Linda struggle to keep the business afloat, the kids try to solve a mystery that could save their family’s restaurant. As the dangers mount, these underdogs help each other find hope as they try to get back behind the counter.


 The Bob’s Burgers Movie
Only in Theaters on May 27


Release date: May 27, 2022 (USA)
Directors: Loren Bouchard, Bernard Derriman
Adapted from: Bob’s Burgers

#BobsBurgersMovie

Review: ‘Inventions that Changed History’ is a Palette Cleansing Delight’ streaming on discovery+

Inventions that Changed HistoryInventions That Changed History reveals the wild and often unbelievable stories behind many of pop culture’s most impactful inventions. Historians, Scientists, Pop Culture Experts and Hollywood Celebrities take us on this wild ride full of information and incredible tales.


Ready to dominate at the next Trivia Night? “Inventions that Changed History” is a light, silly romp that is likely to help your team win a free round. With a mix of historical exposition on familiar inventions– Mr. Potato Head and waterbeds make silly and fascinating segments– it is the perfect palette cleansing alternative to more serious documentaries (or the news). 

Filled with surprising celebrity cameos from fan favorites like Guillermo from “What we do in the Shadows,” Meredith from “The Office,” and Amanda Seals from “Insecure” candidly riffing on a nostalgic parade of core memories for Gen X/ Millennials, the show is a good time all around. In particular, I was locked in learning the origins of the Easy-Bake Oven while simultaneously trying to remember if and how severely I  burned myself– not enough to stop it from being one of my favorite toys. Oh, the 90s! 

A fun concept with plenty of options to explore, this could quickly become a niche favorite. What a treat!


Episodes 1 & 2 Streaming on discovery+ on March 31st

Two episodes premiering weekly through April 14


Executive Producers: Tom Forman, Chuck Dalaklis, Jenny Daly, and Jon Beyer

For Discovery, Wyatt Channell and Howard Swartz serve as executive producers

Scores of Hollywood celebrities like Richard Kind (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), Lance Reddick (“The Wire”), Nicole Sullivan (MADtv), Haskiri Velazquez (“Saved By The Bell”), Amanda Seales (“Insecure”), Flula Borg (Suicide Squad), Yeardly Smith (“The Simpsons”), Jeff Ross (Comedian), Eric Griffin (Actor/Comedian), Harvey Guillen (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and Rachael Harris (The Hangover), join in on the fun as they take a hysterical and insightful hands-on approach to the inventions that molded their youth and stayed with them into adulthood.


Episode 2 Inventions:

Mr. Potato Head 

Pop Rocks

Corn Cob Holders

Easy Bake Oven 

Box Wine

Rubber Chicken

Listerine

Vending Machines

 

Episode 1 Inventions:

Waterbeds

Barf Bags

Big Mouth Billy Bass

Flushing Toilet

Super Soaker 

Sea-Monkeys

Pool Noodle

Slip ‘N Slide 


 

Shudder Original review: ‘Night’s End’ is a creepy and campy crowd-pleaser.

NIGHT’S END

An anxious shut-in moves into a haunted apartment, hiring a stranger to perform an exorcism which quickly takes a horrific turn.


Director Jennifer Reeder and screenwriter Brett Neveu bring us the Shudder Original Night’s End. Anxiety-ridden Ken is apartment-bound and attempting to get his life back on track. In doing so, he accidentally records a strange occurrence while filming his amateur YouTube videos. Things get weirder when he’s encouraged to pursue the building’s history and provoke whatever entity might be lurking in his domain. Night’s End is the perfect marriage of creepy and campy. Shudder audiences will love it. 

Every single performance adds to the overall arc of Night’s End. Dark Corners host Daniel Kyrie, and Lyden Knight, played by Theo Germaine, give that YouTube clout appearance. Their distinct personalities up the anty for the finale. The camp enters the arena officially with the introduction of author Colin Albertson, played by Lawrence Grimm, a famous paranormal expert guiding Ken on his journey. Grimm, whose name evokes perfect casting, represents every talking head in any SyFy channel show. He will make you smirk with familiarity. 

Comic relief comes in the form of Michael Shannon. Yes, Michael Shannon! He plays Isaac, Ken’s marital replacement. Donning Hawaiian shirts and giving us an honest-to-goodness stepdad goofiness, Shannon is effortlessly hilarious.

Felonious Munk is Ken’s best friend, Terry. He’s encouraging and genuinely interested in getting Ken well. Walker and Munk’s banter is essential to Jen’s backstory. Kate Arrington, as ex-wife Kelsey, is down-to-earth and loveable. The chemistry with Walker has a closeness that feels grounded. Keep in mind, every single interaction Ken experiences is through Zoom. Bravo to the editor Mike OlenikGeno Walker plays Ken with a super natural (two words) energy. His paranoia is palpable as frustration and confusion pour off the screen. Walker is a commanding lead. 

Night’s End uses horror tropes to tackle mental health uniquely. Fran Bittakis‘ set dressing, cleverly disguised in draped plastic, serves a dual purpose. The apartment appears amid repair, but it also allows for some ghostly apparition moments. Zoom works perfectly, considering Ken suffers from crippling anxiety and agoraphobia throughout the film. The significance hits home in the finale. The creepy factor will turn your knuckles white, even if the film’s climax begets an eye roll. Know what you’re going into with Night’s End, and you’ll undoubtedly have a good time. I still think there is sequel potential. That’s a character journey I want to explore. 


Premieres March 31 on Shudder


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

NITRAM

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


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

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


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

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


 

Review: Chris Pine helmed action thriller ‘The Contractor’ has franchise potential.

THE CONTRACTOR

SYNOPSIS: Chris Pine stars in the action-packed thriller as Special Forces Sergeant James Harper, who is involuntarily discharged from the Army and cut-off from his pension. In debt, out of options and desperate to provide for his family, Harper contracts with a private underground military force. When the very first assignment goes awry, the elite soldier finds himself hunted and on the run, caught in a dangerous conspiracy and fighting to stay alive long enough to get home and uncover the true motives of those who betrayed him. Also starring Kiefer Sutherland, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs and Eddie Marsan.


If you’re a fan of hit franchise films like The Bourne Identity and TakenTarik Saleh’s new film The Contractor is right in your wheelhouse. J. P. Davis’ script gives us a top-tier espionage and black ops storyline, creating an emotionally taut thriller with Chris Pine as our hero.

Keifer Sutherland does his effortless badass thing, and you’ll be on your toes every second he’s on screen. Ben Foster, who I attended Interlochen Arts Camp with when we were young, is a star yet again. Ben has that “it” factor. I knew it the second I met him. As Mike, Pines’ former Sargent and best friend, he’s charming and funny. He, too, handles the physical aspects of the film like an expert. You cannot help but focus on Foster when he appears onscreen. His presence is undeniable. 

Chris Pine gives James Harper all the qualities we need. Harper is a fully fleshed-out, flawed human being. He’s layered and complex, and Pine gives him life. The action sequences are just as hard-hitting as the emotional ones. It should come as no surprise, given Pine’s natural ability to pull you into any role. I’d love to see The Contractor become its own franchise. Pine has the chops. 

The film’s plot comes at an auspicious time in history. To give any more detail would be spoiling it for the audience. The fight choreography is enthralling. The twists and turns and emotional impact glue you to your seat. The Contractor is a solid action thriller with the heart to back it up. You can catch the film in theaters, Digital, and On-Demand on April 1st.

IN THEATERS, ON DIGITAL AND ON DEMAND: April 1, 2022
DIRECTOR: Tarik Saleh
WRITER: J.P. Davis
CAST: Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gillian Jacobs, Eddie Marsan, JD Pardo, Florian Munteanu and Kiefer Sutherland
RUN TIME: 103 minutes
RATING: R for violence and language
GENRE: Action, Thriller

DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures