Netflix documentary review: A family’s mission, ‘I AM VANESSA GUILLEN’ is more than a hashtag, it is a movement.

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN

Netflix presents I AM VANESSA GUILLEN, a film about one family’s relentless push for justice and exposing the toxic culture that permeates the military, specifically Fort Hood. Director Christy Wegener brings us the story that sparked a social media frenzy, a race to pass new legislation, and the family that would not stay quiet.

The systemic failure at Fort Hood will leave you seething. After two months of desperate outcry, the Army finally makes a statement and begins to search, but it is too little too late. With the pro bono help of maverick lawyer Natalie Khawam, The Guillen family takes their fight to Capital Hill.

I remember this story. I remember feeling so angry when I heard how long Vanessa had been missing before I heard about it on the news. Then, when the details emerged of her murder and subsequent failure at Fort Hood, I was disgusted. Those feelings returned and multiplied as I watched this film. Understanding the extent of their coverup will blow your mind. The military justice system allows for secrecy and discretion to sweep everything under the rug. It is beyond broken.

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN proves the saying, “No justice. No peace.” The Guillen family never backed down. The military counted on their silence, and they got the exact opposite. I AM VANESSA GUILLEN has been in the top 10 since the film’s release last Friday. It is easy to understand why.


I Am Vanessa Guillen | Official Trailer | Netflix https://youtube.com/Netflix

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN is now streaming on NETFLIX


 

Shudder Original review: ‘BLOOD RELATIVES’ is a quirky vampire family comedy you can sink your teeth into. I already want a sequel.

BLOOD RELATIVES

After her mother’s death, Jane tracks down her elusive dad to avoid foster care. When Jane unearths the truth about her father’s past, she demands a relationship, leading the estranged father-daughter team to take a road trip like no other. Oh, also, he’s a vampire. A unique take on the monster genre combined with a family road trip drama makes BLOOD RELATIVES one of a kind.

Victoria Moroles is Jane. Her precociousness is spot a delight. Segan gives her dialogue deliciously reminiscent of Dawson’s Creek, i.e., she is far too eloquent for fifteen. Her chemistry with Segan is comfortable and endlessly amusing. Her takedown of the film’s misogynist energy is chef’s kiss.

Josh Ruben (who also produces) plays Roger Fieldner. A patient who distinctly resembles Bram Stoker‘s Renfield. Kudos to Segan for the character name scramble. It is a role only Ruben could own. After witnessing his sycophantic behavior, I cannot imagine anyone else doing Roger justice. There is a reason he has become a scream king in the past few years. He is the best.

Writer-director-star Noah Segan plays Francis as a Yiddish-spewing loaner. His penchant for a happy-go-lucky attitude is more function over form. We learn about his deep-seated loneliness and unresolved trauma, which creates an equally funny and tragic persona. Segan gives a star-making performance.

The film occurs predominantly at night for obvious reasons. The use of moonlight, dusk, dawn, dashboard, and neon light gives the film a slick overall tone. The comedy shenanigans are balanced beautifully with dramatic growing pains.

BLOOD RELATIVES is an undeniably fun vampire coming-of-age family film. Heartwarming, silly, and intimate, it is easy to see why it garnered so much attention in the festival circuit. Shudder is the perfect platform for Segan’s madcap creation. I formally request a sequel when Jane gets to college. I have to know where this family unit ends up. Don’t forget to bring Fieldner along.


CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:  

Shudder will exclusively stream BLOOD RELATIVES on Shudder on November 22, 2022.

 

BLOOD RELATIVES stars Noah Segan (Knives Out) and Victoria Moroles (“Teen Wolf,” “Never Have I Ever”). It was written and directed by Segan. 

SYNOPSIS: In BLOOD RELATIVES, Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire, still looks 35. He’s been roaming American backroads in his beat-up muscle car for decades, keeping to himself, and liking it that way. One day, a teenage kid, Jane, shows up. She says she’s his daughter, and she’s got the fangs to prove it. They go on the road, deciding whether to sink their teeth into family life.


 

Review: In Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson’s ‘Manifest West,’ Milo Gibson goes off-grid to escape family turmoil.

MANIFEST WEST

Dave moves his wife, Alice, and two young daughters, Riley and Mary, to a remote cabin in the American wilderness. Where guns and boredom meet the desire to push society away, MANIFEST WEST sees tensions rise when Dave’s new way of living shirks the norms.

Tim Heidecker plays against type as gun-wielding hyper-conservative neighbor Steve Danik. Michael Cudlitz counters Heidecker with his performance as neighbor Eric Lind. He is kind and thoughtful with his actions and words.

Annet Mahendru gives Alice palpable manic desperation. Her ability to jump from one emotion to another in the same breath is impressive. It is one hell of a turn. Milo Gibson is Dave Hayes. His character arc almost feels like the audience is witnessing a slow-motion car crash. Gibson brings not-so-subtle anger and protective alpha energy.

Lexy Kolker plays Riley with perfect corruptable innocence. She gives a performance that is nothing short of captivating. Kolker takes in each beat with precision. Her slow burn of resentment is a ticking time bomb.

MANIFEST WEST addresses a myriad of current and alarming themes in America. The score is melancholy and ominous. Writer-directors Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson use the girls’ history text as a smart foreshadowing device. Antigovernment sentiment compounds the simmering chaos. Add Alice’s deteriorating bipolar disorder, and you have a powder keg. Children learn from their parents, for better or for worse. MANIFEST WEST runs head-on with its relevance to a shocking conclusion.


Trailer: 

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release Date:  The film is now in theaters and VOD/Digital!
Writer/Directors: Joe Dietsch, Louie Gibson
Starring: Annet Mahendru, Milo Gibson, Lexy Kolker, Tim Heidecker, Michael Cudlitz




Disney+ documentary review: ‘Mickey: The Story of a Mouse’ is a nostalgic warm hug reminding us why we love the global icon.

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Disney+ has a brand new doc as delightfully imaginative as you’d expect. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a darling dive into the making of an internationally beloved icon. It all started with a mouse, and his evolution is a fascinating journey for fans everywhere.

We peek into the minds of fans, young and old, visit the Disney Archives, chat with animators and historians, and hear directly from Walt Disney in classic interviews from our childhood. The work that went into creating Disney’s empire will astound audiences and yet never destroy the magic. We delve into Walt’s unrelenting sense of adventure and fearless attitude about expansion and risk.

The doc also discusses Mainstream Mickey and counterculture Mickey and how his image became synonymous with cultural change through the years. They touch upon copyright infringement and the complexities that grew out of Walt’s loss of Oswald the Rabbit. Filmmakers and interviewees do not shy away from the negative stereotypes appearing in certain cartoons and how Mickey became a corporate symbol. It’s an honest take.

I don’t think I’ve fully understood the impact of Mickey’s image until now. I refuse to dress my five and 6-year-olds in clothing that has characters branded on them, except for Mickey. There is a deeply ingrained subconscious reason that I’m only now realizing. It was a real aha moment for me.

I was lucky enough to have been a performer at Disneyland in 2000. For the insiders, I’ll say I had the magical title of “pageant helper,” which carries more weight than it suggests. I thought perhaps working at the parks would kill a little bit of the joy, as technically, I had peeked behind the curtain, quite literally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anytime I stepped onto the grounds out from backstage (the areas no guest ever sees), I would be a giant kid all over again. On one unforgettable day, I had the unprecedented honor of meeting the actor Walt hired to wear the first Mickey costume on Disneyland’s opening day. There I am, a sweaty mess, in half a costume smiling like a fangirl. It was a part of history most people would never get to touch.

Visually, Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a cinematic dream. From hand-drawn frame-by-frame cell animation to chemist-mixed paint to the collaborations we see today as animation and technology shift by the day. We experience the sheer artistry involved in Mickey as animators recreate some of his most iconic roles throughout history. In a sort of meta moment, these creators work on the newest Mickey short, “Mickey In A Minute,” during the doc, one hand-drawn scene at a time. The final product is Disney perfection.

Mickey Mouse is the most famous character in all of history. Three simple circles have made an indelible mark on humanity. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse overflowed with nostalgia and had me giggling and grinning from ear to ear. I could not have loved it anymore.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse 

premieres today on Disney+

Short Synopsis
One of the world’s most beloved icons, Mickey Mouse is recognized as a symbol of joy and childhood innocence in virtually every corner of the globe. Dreamed up at a low point in Walt Disney’s burgeoning career, Mickey became an overnight sensation when he starred in the first synch-sound animated short, Steamboat Willie. Through the decades that followed, the character evolved into strikingly different versions of himself that reflect both his creator’s remarkable career and dramatic societal shifts in the nation he came to represent. In the fascinating documentary Mickey: The Story of a Mouse, director Jeff Malmberg and Oscar ® -winning producer Morgan Neville (who previously teamed up together for Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) examine the cultural significance of the nearly 100-year-old cartoon mouse.


 

DOC NYC review: David Siev’s ‘BAD AXE’ features hope pushing past hate. IFC will release one of the year’s best docs in theaters and on digital tomorrow!

BAD AXE

Synopsis: ​​After leaving NYC for his rural hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, at the start of the pandemic, Asian American filmmaker David Siev documents his family’s struggles to keep their restaurant afloat. As fears of the virus grow, deep generational scars dating back to Cambodia’s bloody “killing fields” come to the fore, straining the relationship between the family’s patriarch, Chun, and his daughter, Jaclyn. When the BLM movement takes center stage in America, the family uses its collective voice to speak out in their conservative community. What unfolds is a real-time portrait of 2020 through the lens of one multicultural family’s fight stay in business, stay involved, and stay alive.


The Siev family patriarch Chun is a Cambodian refugee who came to the US to attain the American Dream. He and his wife Rachel opened a donut shop named Baker’s Dozen. Times were hard, and money was tight, but the Siev family stuck together and thrived. In 2000 they opened Rachel’s, a family restaurant in their hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan.

Director and only son in the Siev pack, David had the foresight to capture the upheaval of his family and their community beginning in March 2020. Like many families, the Sievs found their adult children moving back into their homes to help their vulnerable parents. Bad Axe is a small, tight-knit town with two stoplights. It’s a nice place to raise a family. When lockdown begins, local tension boils over, and the Siev family becomes targets of racism and conspiracy theories.

The eldest daughter, Jaclyn, has palpable anxiety. She tries her hardest to protect her father. The tension and stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The family’s livelihood, quite literally, is on the line. Siblings, Michelle and Raquel, joined by Jaclyn’s husband Mike, Rachel’s boyfriend Austin, and a small handful of Rachel’s loyal employees, work day and night to feed the community and maintain a sense of normalcy while facing political and racial upheaval.

The intimate nature of Bad Axe is visceral. The Siev family could be anyone’s neighbors. They are friendly, hardworking, and respectful members of their community. They bug each other as much as they love each other. They remind me of my holidays when all four siblings invade our childhood home with inside jokes, arguments, and an unconditional adoration for one another.

Chun is a fascinating member of the family. He is a proud man. An opinionated individual, a responsible gun owner, and a survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, Chun’s unresolved trauma reveals itself in harsh words toward Jaclyn. He knows it and owns it. His emotional journey is everything.

The footage of the Black Lives Matter confrontation made my palms sweat. The aftermath of ignorant racist attacks will undoubtedly infuriate you. You will not believe the sheer terror these people have to endure. The courage of the Siev family makes my heart swell. Their bravery to move forward in the face of chaos is astounding. David’s commitment to telling their story gives audiences a peek inside the hatred stirred up by those in politics and the media that I refuse to give fuel by naming them. We all know who is responsible for the uptick of hate. May he lose again and again.

While we witness the many trials and tribulations alongside the Siev family, in the end, BAD AXE is a love letter to an ever-evolving community and an ode to a family that believes love conquers all. I can easily say Bad Axe is one of the year’s best documentaries.


BAD AXE — Directed by David Siev

New York Premiere — Winner’s Circle — IFC Films Release on Nov 18, 2022

Produced by ​​Jude Harris, Diane Quon, Kat Vasquez, David Siev 

Executive Produced by Daniel Dae Kim, Jeff Tremaine

Featuring Chun Siev, Rachel Siev, Jaclyn Siev, Skylar Janssen, Michael Meinhold

 

Screenings:

Online Screening Window – Sunday, November 13, 2022 12am through Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 11:59pm

Run Time: 102 minutes


 

Review: Emotional trauma and a sinister spirit board a luxury yacht in Christian Schultz’s ‘PRESENCE’ on VOD today.

PRESENCE

Business partners Jennifer and Samantha are invited on a weeklong yachting voyage with a potential investor. Jennifer begins to have strange dreams, and it becomes clear that she may have brought something else with her.


I’ve been sitting on my thoughts about this film for two days now. If I’m being completely honest, I think PRESENCE plays like a rushed prequel to a horror franchise. All the elements are in place for some seriously scary storytelling. Yet somehow, I was left with more questions than answers.

Writer-director Christain Schultz gives us a damaged lead in Jennifer. She has emotional trauma that feels unresolved, even in the final moments. I wanted specifics, other than everyone around her referencing a “breakdown in New York.” Jenna Lyng Adams has moments of badassery, but they are few and far between (no fault of her own). I was also slightly confused about the dynamic of Jennifer and Sam’s relationship. At first, I thought they were lovers. It was a bit messy. Schultz and co-writer Peter Ambrosio ultimately make Jennifer a victim, even though I believe the intention was a reclamation of power through supernatural forces. I’m unclear whether this was an editing issue or a script issue.

I must say that the performance of Dave Davis is my favorite part of the film. Davis gives depth to the building mystery, in some moments with nothing but a panicked stare. His intensity immediately reeled me in, calming me during my desperation to make sense of the plot. I would watch an entire film about his journey with the Presence. That’s the story that hooked me instantly.

Overall, PRESENCE got me revved up with slick visuals but never satisfied me with its overall arc. I don’t need it spelled out because the bones are there. I was looking for a further explanation of “why” all around.


XYZ Films is proud to announce that Christian Schultz’s PRESENCE will land on North American VOD on November 17th, following a thrilling festival run that included Popcorn Frights and Panic Fest.

 

Review: Charming debut for writer- director Darren Le Gallo, ‘Sam & Kate’ opens in theaters today!

SAM & KATE

SYNOPSIS:

A life-affirming family dramedy starring Oscar®-winners Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek, Sam & Kate takes place in a small town in the heart of the country. Hoffman plays Bill, the larger-than-life father to Sam (Jake Hoffman), who has returned home to take care of his ailing dad. While home, Sam falls for a local woman, Kate (Schuyler Fisk). And at the same time, Bill starts to fall for her mom, Tina (Spacek). But finding love is complicated and for these four, it is no different. They all must confront their past in order to make their new love work for the future. Truly a family affair, art imitates life with the father/son casting of Dustin & Jake and the mother/daughter casting of Sissy & Schuyler.


Charming and breezy, Sam & Kate is a lovely exploration of generational communication and the joy and complexities of newfound intimacy.

Dustin Hoffman plays two sides of a complex man. He’s a curmudgeon and old-school charmer. His vulnerability slowly reveals itself, and it’s a gloriously nuanced turn. Sissy Spacek plays Tina with the perfect balance of warmth and hesitancy. Her character’s fear stems from unresolved emotional trauma, and Spacek settles into that messiness like a master. Their chemistry makes me wonder if any of their dialogue is improvised. They are two legends making it look easy.

Jake Hoffman and Schuyler Fisk learned a lot from their parents because they are spectacular. Hoffman’s boy next door goodness is pitch-perfect. Fisk is effortlessly elegant. Together, they transfix the audience with their wounded imperfection.

The script from writer-director Darren Le Gallo feels like a comforting hug, yet fresh. I love that Sam and Kate aren’t 20-somethings. I respect the grown-up, lived-in realities of caring for aging parents while exploring their place in the world. Tina and Kate’s histories affect every beat. In the end, Sam & Kate boasts incredibly grounded dialogue and flawless pacing. It’s a gem and a notable debut for Darren Le Gallo.


In Theaters November 11, 2022

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY:

Darren Le Gallo

STARRING:

Jake Hoffman, Schuyler Fisk, Dustin Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, Henry Thomas

RUN TIME:

RATING:

110 minutes

R

 

 

Review: ‘The Friendship Game’ explores the dangers of our deepest and darkest desires

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME

From the Producer of THE WITCH and the Writer of “The OA”

Four best friends play a mysterious game procured at a tag sale, testing their relationship in unpredictable and terrifying ways. Glitchy body doubles and piecemeal memories are only the beginning of the nightmare-fueled film.

Performances from our five leads are exceptional. Dylan Schombing plays Kyle, a young webcam hacker essential to the audience following any trace of sense. Schombing’s eyes speak volumes. Kelcey Mawema is Court. She has a party-girl spirit with a drinking problem that hides an inferiority complex. Mawema gives us a solid performance, never letting herself become a third wheel as the story progresses. Peyton List plays Zooza. This role is a departure for List, even with her darker character of Cobra Kai. You cannot help but focus on her turmoil.

Brendan Meyer (who I loved in OA, and am still bitter we didn’t get our ending…) plays Rob with a trustworthy boy-next-door aura. But, Ober’s script allows him to explore a nuance that Meyer owns. Kaitlyn Santa Juana‘s turn as Cotton is enthralling. She is the thread we follow through the film as we unravel the game. There’s an “it” quality about her I cannot pin down, but I’m dying to see her in whatever she does next.

The script had me hanging on every word, every visual, and mind-ending twist. Writer Damien Ober and director Scooter Corkle hypnotize audiences with dizzying editing combined with slowly leaking reveals. It’s a ceaselessly engrossing marriage of devices. Add on the notable red/ blue lighting and jarring soundscape, and The Friendship Game holds you captive from the very first frame. It is emotional manipulation at its finest.

RLJE Films will release the thriller/horror film THE FRIENDSHIP GAME in theaters, on-demand, and digital on November 11, 2022.

SYNOPSIS: The Friendship Game follows a group of teens as they come across a strange object that tests their loyalties to each other and has increasingly destructive consequences the deeper into the game they go.

THE FRIENDSHIP GAME stars Peyton List (“Cobra Kai”), Brendan Meyer (“The OA”), Kelcey Mawema (To All the Boys I’ve Loved franchise), Kaitlyn Santa Juana (“The Flash”) and Dylan Schombing (“Watchmen”). The film was written by Damien Ober (“The OA”) and directed by Scooter Corkle (Hollow in the Land).


 

Review: In theaters today, Eva Green and Chai Fonacia star in ‘NOCEBO,’ a mysterious revenge horror mixing ethics and folk healing.

NOCEBO

In NOCEBO, a fashion designer (Eva Green) suffers from a mysterious illness that confounds her doctors and frustrates her husband (Mark Strong) – until help arrives in the form of a Filipino nanny (Chai Fonacier) who uses traditional folk healing to reveal a horrifying truth.


After a mysterious phone call and a simultaneous encounter with a mangy dog riddled with ticks, Christine’s physical and mental health rapidly declines. Suffering from sleep apnea, nightmares, forgetfulness, and sharp, debilitating pains at any given moment, her already vulnerable marriage and successful fashion design career teeter on the edge of destruction. When Filipina Nanny Diana arrives at her door, Christine does not recall sending for her, but the extra set of hands proves life-changing, for better or worse.

Diana’s integration into the family lands somewhere between awkward and essential. Husband Felix and young daughter Roberta (they call her Bobs) are caught in the middle, allowing for gaslighting from Felix and growing distrust from Bobs. Add in the class distinction with Christine and her family living in a lavish mansion, while Diana arrives with nothing but a single suitcase, mostly filled not with clothing. Writer-director Lorcan Finnegan utilizes flashbacks of Diana’s life to illustrate the glaring contrast. Little by little, the audience begins to piece things together, but not before being disturbed by the effects of Diana’s folk healing methods.

Finnegan uses the color red in many specific instances; lipstick, curtains, and, most impactfully, Christine’s lucky shoes. The color is a sumptuous visual punch set against the mostly jewel-toned house. Finnegan understands the assignment.

As the story progresses and the truth reveals itself, your view of each character shifts. Eva Green plays Chrissy with both a manic and ruthless angle. She is a master at living inside the skin of a character, and Christine is no exception. Chai Fonacier is Diana. This juicy role allows us to see Fonacier’s massive range. I would watch her in all the things, as they say.

Radek Ladczuk‘s cinematography, which I loved in Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and The Nightingale, is just as emotionally jarring in both overt and subtle forms. The closeups of hands, small objects, and facial features pull the audience into the overall mystery of Christine’s ailment and the impact of her family.

*********The next paragraph has a bit of a spoiler. Skip it to keep the mystery intact!*********

*******SPOILER ALERT*******

In the credits, just after the music tracks, I noticed bold text reading, “Justice for all Kentex workers.” A quick Google search led me to a story from 2015 in Manila in which a factory fire killed 72 factory workers after they were trapped on the second floor. Metal grates on the windows prevented them from escaping a horrifying death. We have heard so many of these same stories of unsafe sweatshop conditions. NOCEBO I pulls directly from the 2015 tragedy, making the film all the more terrorizing.

****** End Of Spoiler Info******

NOCEBO boasts a jaw-dropping and shockingly dark finale. Mixing folklore and revenge horror never miss. The term “nocebo” comes from the Latin to harm. The Oxford definition reads: “a detrimental effect on health produced by psychological or psychosomatic factors such as negative expectations of treatment or prognosis.” Finnegan slickly lulls you into one genre, then pulls the rug out from underneath us. The truth will either set you free or destroy you. NOCEBO is here to remind us all.


RLJE Films will release NOCEBO in theaters on Nov. 4, 2022 and on Demand and Digital on Nov. 22, 2022. The film will stream on Shudder at a later date.



Directed by Lorcan Finnegan (Vivarium) and written by Garret Shanley (Without Name), NOCEBO stars Eva Green (Casino Royale), Mark Strong (1917), Chai Fonacier (Jesus Is Dead) and Billie Gadsdon (Cruella).





Review: ‘Something In The Dirt’ is the latest mindf*ck from the filmmaking team Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.

SOMETHING IN THE DIRT

I’ve been waving my arms and shouting their names from the rooftops for years, pushing their films on fellow indie genre fans. Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson are unquestionably one of the most intriguing filmmaking teams. It is impossible to predict their endgame. They thrive on the unexpected. Their latest film killing it on the festival circuit, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, is no exception. Welcome to one of the weirdest head trips in cinematic history.

Levi and John form a fast friendship when a strange occurrence in their LA apartment building inspires them to make a documentary. Walking a fine line of admiration and distrust, the two get deeper into the mystery and the lies they tell one another.

Benson and Moorhead’s use of science is a running theme in their films. It is always clever. In SOMETHING IN THE DIRT, history and math (specifically the Pythagorean theory) are quite literally written on the walls. The quick-take editing holds your attention like a vice with a mix of home videos, documentary-style sit-down interviews, visuals of whatever topic Levi and John reference, and handheld cinematography allow the audience to teeter on the edge of doc and sci-fi narrative. This is what Benson and Moorhead do; keep you on your toes from start to finish.

The sound editing is a character. Audiences might suddenly find themselves imitating Levi’s stillness and neck craning to get the full effect. Justin Benson wrote the script, while Moorhead tackles the eclectic cinematography. Directing side by side, Benson and Moorhead share a chemistry that is something of the gods. They cannot escape likeability. The dialogue sounds so natural it could be improvised around the main outline. I constantly smirked as they effortlessly bounced between science, humor, casual conspiracy theories, and the idea that nothing is a coincidence. A meta film within a film, SOMETHING IN THE DIRT is here to mess you up and keep you guessing. I need to watch it again. I need to.


SOMETHING IN THE DIRT
The Fifth Mind-Melting Feature from Filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (THE ENDLESS, “Moon Knight”) 
Opens in Theaters November 4 via XYZ

Netflix review: ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’ is a breathtaking epic.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

17-year-old Paul and his young comrades enthusiastically join the Western Front in 1918 under the guise that they will return to a hero’s welcome. The reality they are about to enter is far from ticker tape parades and medals. It is the unforgiving and bloody trench warfare of WWI. German director Edward Berger’s All Quiet on the Western Front is a breathtaking retelling of the classic 1928 novel by Erich Maria Remarque.

The unfiltered brutality of war, shocking imagery, nothing is sugarcoated. Felix Kammerer stars as our young lead Paul. The film follows his journey from enlisting by lying about his age to the day the war officially ended. Fear is the dominant feeling that runs through the narrative. The class and rank of soldiers is a striking contrast, highlighted by scenes of prideful general sitting safe in high mansions while young men and boys get slaughtered. The film opens with some of the bluntest scenes of warfare that left my jaw on the floor.

In its nearly two-and-a-half-hour runtime, the film has little dialogue. Not a wasted word in the trenches with shouted orders, a kind word of encouragement shared for survival, and the cast genuinely connects on a personal level. Of course, once you become attached to anyone, they are just as quickly ripped away. Kammerer is the star of this film, no doubt about that. His ability to fully embrace the chaos grabs you by the throat. His eyes speak volumes.

James Friend‘s exquisite cinematography encompasses stunning framing, detailed close-ups, and natural lighting. The choice to do hand-held places the audience on the ground with the cast. It’s dizzying at times, but that’s the point. In the still moments, I found myself saying out loud, “Wow, this is beautiful.” The score is its own entity. Jarring, often electronic-sounding horn melodies and sharp state drum rhythms usher impending menace. It will be a travesty if it doesn’t get noticed during awards season.

All Quiet On The Western Front may be the most extensive war epic ever filmed. The fight choreography made my palms sweat. I don’t care how hard you think you are. This story will break you. The cyclical nature of war will crush your soul. There is a reason All Quiet On The Western Front is Germany’s Oscar entry. It’s essential viewing for any history buff or cinema lover and a stark warning to men in power.


Streaming Now on NETFLIX


 

Review: Amanda Kramer’s ‘PLEASE BABY PLEASE’ is the next cult midnight movie queer obsession.

When newlyweds Arthur and Suze become the object of obsession for a dangerous street gang called The Young Gents, their lives get turned upside down. Amanda Kramer‘s PLEASE BABY PLEASE puts identity and love to the test in this sexy queer musical.

Demi Moore plays upstairs neighbor Maureen. She’s a hot pink and animal print-drenched eccentric woman and the perfect influence on Suze, giving her permission to let go of her inhibitions. Karl Glusman is Teddy, a member of The Young Gents with an eye for Arthur. Glusman nails the classic greaser role, adding a relentless sensuality to his words. He is fantastic. 

Harry Melling plays Arthur with brooding intellectual turmoil, his gentleness waiting to burst at the seams with desire. Melling oozes charm and surprising elegance. It is a marvelous turn.  Andrea Riseborough is Suze. Her fiery energy explodes off the screen. Brimming with sass, dramatic flair, and pent-up rage, Riseborough dives deep into Suze’s fantasies of sadism and masculinity. They are perfect foils for one another, each hungering for something more. They are, simply put, magnificent. 

The score is brilliant, with a mix of bass plucking, bongo drums, and saxophone wails. Short bursts of choreography smartly encapsulate the mood and era. The sets are deliciously accentuated with neon-colored everyday objects, black light hues, and engulfing blues and magenta. Everything sort of glows like a live-action comic book.

The dialogue openly discusses the foolish nature of traditional gender stereotypes. It invites exploration at every level. PLEASE BABY PLEASE would make a fabulous stage production. It’s over-the-top perfection. I loved everything about this fearless, campy, one-of-a-kind film about self-discovery. 


Opens In Theaters October 28

https://www.pleasebabypleasemovie.com/


 

 

Review: Based on one of the greatest warriors in history, ‘MEDIEVAL’ is yet another star vehicle for Ben Foster.

MEDIEVAL

 ARRIVES ON DIGITAL OCTOBER 25th AND ON DVD & BLU-RAY DECEMBER 6th

Synopsis: Ben Foster (Hell or High Water) and Academy Award® Winner Michael Caine* (The Cider House Rules) star in the action-packed historical epic inspired by the true story of daring mercenary leader Jan Žižka, one of greatest warriors in history. After the death of its emperor, the Holy Roman Empire plummets into chaos while corrupt kings battle for control of the empty throne. To battle the tyranny and greed of those clawing for power, Jan must lead a rebel army in this sweeping saga of war and betrayal.


1402 and politics and religion clash in the new historical epic Medieval. This wickedly violent retelling of arguably the greatest warrior to ever live, Jan Žižka. With Europe in turmoil and freedom at stake, one man leads a rebel army against all odds.

Michael Caine gives a memorable performance even if his screen time is brief. Matthew Goode is positively vile. He is slyly punchable, and if that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. Sophie Lowe, who I adored in Blow The Man Down, holds her own against the predominantly male cast. Her chemistry with Foster feels natural. I found myself pulled into their dynamic more and more.

I met Ben Foster when we both attended Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan in 1994. Within minutes, I knew he’d be a star. Few actors can disappear into a character. Foster is unstoppable in his pursuit to perfect his craft. In Medieval, he possesses compelling and quiet strength as Žižka. Foster makes everything look effortless, from the fight choreography to the passionate drama. He is magnificent. If you need further proof that he’s the leading man you’ve been waiting for, look no further than Medieval.

The film boasts massive and elaborate fight sequences. The cinematography is beautiful, and the score is luscious. Overall the film is reminiscent of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), and I mean that as a compliment. It deserves the best-quality screen you can find. The script is a lot. Keep your ears sharp to keep track of the ever-evolving chaos. MEDIEVAL is undeniably entertaining at every turn. If for no other reason than to witness a masterclass in acting from Ben Foster. He earns and then demands your full attention.


 Official Trailer:

On Digital October 25th and On DVD & Blu-ray December 6th

 

Website: www.medieval.film

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/medievalmovieus/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Medieval-Movie-109224965060431

Twitter: https://twitter.com/theavenue_film

Starring:                                              

Ben Foster, Sophie Lowe, Til Schweiger, Matthew Goode and Michael Caine*

Written and Directed By:                     

Petr Jákl

Story By:                                             

Peter Bok & Petr Jákl Sr.

Based on the previous screenplay by:  

Marek Dobeš and Michal Petruš

  

*2000/Best Actor in a Supporting Role/The Cider House Rules

‘ACADEMY AWARD®’ is the registered trademark and service mark of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences


Genre:                                                 

Action

Run Time:                                            

125 minutes

Rating:                                                

Rated R for strong and grisly violent content throughout, and some nudity.

Distributor:                                         

Paramount Pictures


Short film review: ‘Shepherd’s Song’ – Quietly healing nature with nurture.

Shepherd’s Song

When Jenya Schneider lost both her parents by age 18, she was pushed to find meaning and hope in her life. That came in the form of a flock of sheep.

Abigail Fuller’s short film Shepherd’s Song contemplates Earth’s interconnectedness through the eyes of California grazier Jenya Schneider. Climate change threats in the west frequently come in the form of severe droughts and wildfires. Jenya and her partner Jack have chosen a cyclically beneficial lifestyle for the Earth, their clients, and themselves. Four hundred ewes, recycled fencing, and unrelenting passion comprise their venture. Grazing becomes a service to the land, and the sheep produce wool and lanolin. The science behind grazing done right shows the value to the ecosystems it serves. It’s healing the land.

A beautiful score by Serena Goransson moves from subtle to soaring as the film progresses. It feels perfect. Carmen Delaney’s mix of handheld and drone cinematography gives the audience an idea of the landscape scale against Jenya and Jack’s figures through the mountainous grasslands. It is stunning. SHEPHERD’S SONG is part climate film, part nature film, and all heart. We can all learn a whole lot from Jenya and Jack. They are showing the world how to repair the damage we’ve done, one area of grassland at a time.


SHEPHERD’S SONG is now available to view on The North Face’s Youtube channel 
Genre: Eco, nature climate Documentary

The North Face is partnering to release the film on their YouTube channel on October 13th. The film’s director Abigail Fuller was the recipient of The North Face’s “Move Mountains Filmmaker Grant” for women filmmakers.


 

Review: Executive produced by Snoop Dogg, ‘BROMATES’ is an over-the-top buddy comedy, chock full of hilarious performances.

BROMATES

Two best friends go through breakups and decide to move in together. Total opposites, Sid and Jonesie, make great buddies but not-so-great roomies. To help Sid move on from his ex, Jonesie revs up Sid’s confidence leading to a journey that’s the most random path to healing ever. BROMATES boasts a ton of laughs and cameos. Part road movie, part buddy comedy, and a bit of climate change activism, it’s funny as hell.

Jessica Lowe is positively loathsome as influencer girlfriend Sadie. You cannot help but laugh at her ridiculously aloof behavior. Brendan Scannell as Runway Dave and Asif Ali as Angry Mike provide the added laughs to round out our group of guys. They give unforgettable performances.

Josh Brener plays Sid, a whipped Instagram boyfriend, and solar energy employee. His downer straight man act perfectly counters Howery’s positive energy. Lil Rel Howery is Jonesie, and he is the best thing in BROMATES. Laugh out loud hysterical. His relentless optimism is infectious. Joke after joke, the delivery is so natural I could not tell you if any of his lines were improvised. He is that good.

The script has honest Hangover vibes. While I wish the film focused more on actual roommate scenarios and less on the wacky road trip aspect, I still laughed my ass off. The climate change aspect is subtle and pitch-perfect. Kudos to the writers for using it effectively. The numerous cameos and ancillary characters no doubt strengthen the film, from beginning to end. Rob Riggle, Flula Borg, and Parvesh Cheena leave lasting impressions. In the end, raunchy and over-the-top, BROMATES is undeniably goofy as hell. You’ll laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all.


Available in THEATERS, on DIGITAL and ON DEMAND, OCTOBER 7th, 2022

 

Genre: buddy comedy with a focus on clean energy
Opens: Oct 7 in Theaters, Oct 28 on VOD from Quiver
Directed by: Court Crandall (writer of classic comedy Old School)
Executive Produced by: Chris Kemper and Snoop Dogg
Starring: Josh Brener (“Silicon Valley”), Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), Brendan Scannell (“Heathers”), Asif Ali (“Don’t Worry Darling”, “WandaVision”), Jessica Lowe (“Minx,” “The Righteous Gemstones”), Flula Borg (Pitch Perfect), Ken Davitian (Borat), Taryn Manning (“Orange Is the New Black”), Marla Gibbs (“The Jeffersons”), Rob Riggle (The Hangover), with a cameo from Snoop Dogg

GRIMMFEST 2022 review: Ramiro Blas wins Best Actor for ‘THE PASSENGER’

THE PASSENGER

Notable framing and beautiful aerial shots get us settled into an eclectic mix of folks on a journey in Blasco’s vintage van he calls Nessa. Young Marta, her mother Lidia, and religious but progressive Mariela are not exactly enjoying the ride. Blasco is a brash misogynistic conspiracy theorist. After spotting something strange on the side of the road, an accident transforms the group quite literally. What stalks them is gruesome and otherworldly.

The camera work from Ignacio Aguilar gets exponentially cooler as the chaos ensues. Fantastic editing and sound design add to the gloriously gory SFX makeup. It must have been one of the most gag-worthy sets to work on. I almost lost my lunch during one closeup.

The Passenger’s cast blew me away. Each actor brings something unique to the film. Actress Cristina Akcázar launches an outrageous physical performance filled with violent movements and wild energy.

Paula Gallego plays Marta and brings everything we need from sass to “final girl” greatness. Her chemistry with Ramiro Blas takes you by surprise. It is one hell of a pairing. Speaking of Ramiro Blas, as Blasco, he manages to be slimy and loveable all at once. There’s a reason he won The Grimm Reaper award for Best Actor. You’ll love to hate him and hate and love him.

The Passenger brings the best tropes of creature feature films. The final shot is slow-clap-worthy goodness. GRIMMFEST 2022 audiences and beyond will lap this up while simultaneously gagging.


NYFF60 review: ‘SHE SAID’ is retraumatizing and revitalizing. It’s a must-see.

SHE SAID

Sex, lies, power, and scandal, SHE SAID wowed audiences into silence at NYFF60. We all think we know the story behind the takedown of Harvey Weinstein. This new film, based on the explosive investigative reporting from New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, gives us an inside look at the delicate process of relationship building and the truth. She Said is directed by Maria Schrader, with a screenplay from Rebecca Lenkiewicz based on the 2019 book by Kantor and Twohey of the same name. The film depicts two colleagues coming from two different places in their personal life; Kantor, the mother of three children, and Twohey enduring PPD after the birth of her first child. The film opens brilliantly, with Twohey addressing the infamous Access Hollywood tape. We all know what happened after that, and any sane human can agree it was a disaster for women and the entire world. Once payouts for sexual allegations became a headline, and after the firing of Bill O’Reilly, the NYT floor was abuzz with thinking. How far does this problem go?

The legwork done by these women is mindblowing. The all-hours phone calls, the messages, the threats, and the intimate and honest way they approached anyone connected with Miramax and The Weinstein Company. The film conveys the emotional exhaustion of it all. Story after story of similar allegations and subsequent NDAs sucker punch you, over and over. As these cases now play out in real-time, it is fascinating to witness how to reach a victim and what compels an enabler. One particular detail I found interesting was Weinstein’s obsession with whether the team had spoken to Gwenyth Paltrow. It comes up three to four times at Harvey’s behest. I am dying to know what that story entails because it was clear from the voice reenactments Harvey feared her in a way he did not fear others. Seeing Ashley Judd play herself was undeniably powerful. I can only imagine the feelings of catharsis that must come with that decision. 

Andre Braugher as NTY executive editor Dean Baquet gives a standout performance. He is a no-nonsense fighter, and the entire audience loved him. Braugher represents what every female employer needs in their corner daily. He is spectacular. Jennifer Ehle is heartbreaking as Laura Madden, one of the first women to agree to go on the record. Samantha Morton is an absolute ass-kicker playing Zelda Perkins, who handed over the negotiations from her NDA. She brings the fiery energy that skewers Miramax.

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan play Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor, respectively. Chasing down uncooperative leads and racing against Ronan Farrow, while balancing personal turmoil and home life, Mulligan and Kazan perfectly balance one another. Mulligan brings a similar edge that we saw in Promising Young Woman. Do not for a minute think this is a one-note performance. Never doubt Carey Mulligan’s ability to be soft and vulnerable. Kazan plays Kantor with an elegant passion and determination to reveal the truth. Together, they support one another from scene to scene. Some of my favorite moments occurred when only the two of them played opposite one another. While these were generally brief, believe it or not, they were magnetic together. I would watch seven more films about Twohey and Kantor’s work as long as Mulligan and Kazan do them justice. 

Ultimately, SHE SAID is both retraumatizing and revitalizing. The work continues. We can thank two brave and tirelessly devoted women for letting us into a world we did not want to admit ruled supreme for far too long. SHE SAID will undoubtedly be on everyone’s lips as we keep our fingers crossed that men like Harvey Weinstein, and anyone who enabled his behavior, are held accountable. Survivors demand it, and allies demand it. Something has got to give. Let the dominoes fall, and let them rot in jail.

She Said – Only In Theaters November 18.

Social Handles

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shesaidfilm

Twitter: https://twitter.com/shesaidfilm

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shesaidfilm

Website: https://www.shesaidmovie.com

#SheSaidMovie


 

NYFF60 review from Unseen Films: ‘NO BEARS’

NO BEARS

Jafar Panahi travels to a border town in order to direct a movie remotely. The actors and film crew are across the border and are taking directions via Zoom.  As Panahi struggles to get the film finished he becomes involved with two sets of lovers, two of the actors, and two people in the village where he is staying. Both pairs want to flee to somewhere safe, something that might not be possible

Panahi is not loved by the Iranian government. As this film was hitting the festival circuit the director was being put into prison. Prior to that, they had tried to restrict his ability to make films but he managed to work around the obstructions. The result has been a unique series of films where the filmmaker is the subject and the films transcend the notion of autobiographical cinema.
This time out Panahi has made one of his most affecting films. Forget his personal situation, this story of life in a small town and in a repressive country will leave you shattered at the end. Panahi is juggling a lot of balls in the air and manages to manipulate them perfectly. First, we have his situation which is basically hiding out in a small town to make a movie he shouldn’t be making. In showing us what it takes to make his film we see how the small minds of the village express an openness that really isn’t. there This ties into the story of one of the couples, a doomed romance Panahi captures in a photo, that everyone wants to see, but which he deletes and denies having. It seems the young woman has been promised since birth to someone she doesn’t love and that someone needs proof to hurt the girl’s true love.  At the same time, the lead couple in Pahani’s film is making a film based on their lives and their efforts to flee to the West. However, the need for official documents complicates things. All of the threads end in darkness for the characters and soul-searching for the audience.
I love Panahi’s films. I make every effort to see everyone I can because he always speaks a truth that needs to be heard. I also find that how he is forced to make films ends up making films that are much more real than if he were making just a straight narrative.  They are so much more interesting because we have to think about how he did what is up on the screen. His are films that are alive and in the moment.
I was rocked by this film. I did not expect the turns, and yet every one is perfectly placed.
One of the best films I saw at this year’s New York Film Festival, it is a must for anyone who loves humanity.

 

For more of Steve’s NYFF60 coverage and all the rest of the movies in the world, (because the man is a machine) head to Unseen Films.


NYFF60 capsule review: ‘Will-o’-the-Wisp’ has one great dance scene.

Will-o’-the-Wisp

With roughly a 60-minute runtime, I was bewildered by this film. NYFF60 got an eyeful with Will-o’-the-Wisp, a Portuguese musical romcom that exploded with themes from climate change, colonialism, and an LGBTQ love story, all wrapped in an unapologetically erotic package. As a man lay on his deathbed in 2062, he reminisces about his love affair with a fire brigade colleague in 2022. The film begins with sold humor in its historical tableaus, garnering laughs in breaking the fourth wall in Shakespearian aside style. Our lead is the reluctant crown Prince Alfredo, whose passion for the environment and his fellow fire brigade members takes precedence over his royal duties. With long takes and genre-jumping comes an uneven pace as we bounce through time, from theme to theme. The film features a pornographic mutual masturbation scene and numerous projected images of penises. One particular scene stands out above all else. To call it a musical feels untruthful were it not for one singularly spectacular choreographed number. This lengthy scene manages to be beautiful and funny all at once. I was longing for more of this. I was mesmerized. Once finished, I was heartily disappointed with the remaining narrative.

NYFF60 review: ‘BONES AND ALL’ is a cult classic in the making, boasting stellar performances, morbid humor, and visceral visuals.

BONES AND ALL

Lucky audiences at NYFF60 had the chance to experience BONES AND ALL, one of the buzziest films to come out of the Venice Film Festival, with its eight-and-a-half-minute standing ovation. At this point, it is hard to imagine that you haven’t heard about it. It is thoroughly accurate to describe it as the following: “A coming-of-age romantic cannibal road film” Directed by Luca Guadagnino, Bones and All comes from a screenplay by David Kajganich, based on the 2015 novel of the same name by Camille DeAngelis. It centers on Maren’s father abandoning her at age eighteen, leaving behind an audio tape as her only guidance and explanation. This narration is an overarching theme during Maren’s journey. Left to fend for herself after years of life on the run with her father, she stumbles across another “eater” named Sully. When he makes her uneasy, she runs again, only to bump into Lee on the road. The two form a bond based on survival and their need to consume flesh. As they travel cross country, the menace from other eaters proves to be the most spine-chilling aspect of their relationship. 

Part of this story features Maren tracking down the mother she’s never met. In what would essentially prove to be a brilliant monologue, Chloë Sevigny‘s brief screentime makes you sweat. Michael Stuhlbarg is incredibly unsettling as fellow drifter Jake. When you discover that he’s teaching a non-eater how to do what they do, it feels wrong and so very right. Stuhlbarg crushes every role. Here, it took me a few minutes to realize it was him. Jake is a dirty, overalls-wearing backwoods soul and proud of it. It’s scary good.

Mark Rylance, who I have had the privilege of seeing on Broadway in Twelfth Night (yes, I had the coveted seats onstage), is hands down the most uncomfortable aspect of Bones and All. His performance borders on caricature and yet somehow works like gangbusters. From his straggly ponytail and fedora to his flair-spangled jacket, Rylance will have you eating out of the palm of his hand, whether you want to or not. Pun intended.

Timothée Chalamet as Lee is nothing but charming. He oozes casual suave. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows his work. Bones and All reconnects Chalamet with Luca Guadagnino. One could argue that Call Me By Your Name was Chalamet’s star vehicle at NYFFF55. Bones and All is just as bold. Chalamet brings a punk edge and a caring nature opposite Taylor Russell. As Maren, she’s measured and soft. Her approach to adults shows a curated maturity. It’s a perfect balance to Chalamet. Together, they capture the innocence of young love, even if they’re pulling the wool over people’s eyes for a meal.

Bones and All is one of the most visceral films in history. As a horror fan (one might even call me a fanatic), I have seen and heard it all. Bones and All had me squirming and gagging and utterly entranced. It gives new meaning to “a visual feast for the eyes.” It will not be a film for everyone. It is best to go into your viewing experience with little to no knowledge, but that may feel like a bait and switch to some viewers. You can find out if you have the stomach for BONES AND ALL when A24 releases it on November 18th. Bring an open mind, and leave the snacks at home.