Review: ‘Game Changers’ Has Stiffer Acting Than Competition, But Still A Must See For Gamers

Game Changers

Available on DVD & Digital HD: July 11, 2017

Guest review from Reel Reviews Over Brews

Game Changers is about lifelong friends Bryan (Brian Bernys) and Scott (Jake Albarella). Bryan and Scott were legends in the professional gaming world. Winning MLG Halo tournaments across the country. Now pushing 30, Brian and Scott no longer have the same legend status and feel as though part of their identity is missing. While working for an IT company that is falling apart, Bryan sets out to regain his claim to fame as a professional gamer. Scott agrees to help Bryan fight his way back to the top, but at what cost will these two go, to reclaim their status as professional gamers!?

As gamers ourselves, we went into this movie with very high hopes. The flashback scenes of Bryan and Scott playing Halo brought us right back to when we were in our heyday and buying accounts from AussyELO and playing with the elite professionals. We found Game Changers very relatable. Especially since we are basically the same ages as the main characters and we literally used to play the same game. So if you are a “gamer” we think you’ll enjoy this movie and more so, ethershock. It made us want to pick the controllers back up and get into some of those intense matches we used to have. Going into this movie we had hoped for more gaming scenes, but we didn’t get them. The acting wasn’t terrible, but we did find it a bit… awkward? Maybe that’s what the director was going for though, considering it is a gaming movie. Either way, it was stiffer than the competition Bryan and Scott were up against. With better acting we would have given Game Changers a higher rating. Although we have a few critiques we recommend giving it a watch… especially if you are a “gamer!”

Reel ROB Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Post Credits Scene: No

We want to thank our friends at Reel News Daily for allowing us to do this guest review for them!

Review: ‘Oasis: Supersonic’- A look into one of Britain’s greatest rock bands

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From award-winning director Mat Whitecross (Amy), comes an in depth look into one of Britain’s greatest bands, Oasis, in their own words, raw and very much rock ‘n’ roll. The film, featuring never before scene footage of the band in their early years, charts the meteoric rise of Liam and Noel Gallagher, the driving force behind Oasis, whose relationship from the council estates of Manchester to the worlds biggest stage is part of the lore behind what makes this band one of the most talked about and analyzed bands of our lifetimes. Their journey from unknown act to headlining star in just three years is the framework for this exceptional documentary with new interviews with Noel and Liam, as well as, their mother Peggy Gallagher, founder of Creation Records, Alan McGee, and members of the band and road crew; each person providing insight into the formation of the band and how they attempted to control the juggernaut that became Oasis.

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Although the documentary is only a snapshot and not a complete picture of the career of the band, this doesn’t take away from how informative and important this documentary is to fans and music lovers alike. The two hour journey keeps you knee deep into the workings of a band determined to conquer the world and change the landscape of music forever and never takes it foot off the pedal. Noel and Liam, on the surface, are brothers by birth, their relationship has always been volatile and makes for great tabloid fodder, but it’s the music that keeps them connected on a completely different level. This film will give you a glimpse into each brother that is rarely seen in the public eye, it will give you clarity into what makes each brother tick and it will even have you forgive some of their more public outbursts, but most importantly it will have you love this band more than you ever thought possible.

Stars:

4 out of 5

Trailer:

Get your tickets for the one night only event at http://supersonic-movie.com/

Review: Wechsler’s Mind-Boggling Thriller ‘Altered Minds’

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Imagine a loving guardian; someone who cares for you as your soul protector. This person has supported you and your dreams for as long as you can remember. Then one day a memory surfaces into an eye-opening nightmare. A memory of a time when you were no longer protected. A time when you became altered. Michael Wechsler’s film Altered Minds shows how fragile the human psyche can be when it’s betrayed. So broken that it may never piece itself back together.

altered-minds-judd-hirsch-nathaniel-shellner-02-300dpi SMALLTommy Shellner (Ryan O’ Nan) is one of four children who return home to celebrate their father’s last birthday before he passes away from lung cancer.  Their father, Dr. Nathaniel Shellner (Judd Hirsch), is a retired psychologist of the CIA, who specialized in working with soldiers suffering from PTSD, and wants to be remembered for his patriotic achievements. With the knowledge that their father is approaching his final days, the children and their mother do what they can to make their night a pleasant one, however that is not Tommy’s main concern. Tommy, his sister Julie (Jaime Ray Newman), and their brother Harry (C.S Lee) were adopted into the family when they were kids while their other brother Leonard (Joseph Lyle Taylor) was their mother (Caroline Lagerfelt) and father’s biological son. For a while now, Tommy has felt that his father has been hiding something from his children, and after multiple sessions of therapy he has now reached the conclusion that his father had experimented on him and his adopted siblings when they were young. Over the course of the night, voices get raised and minds get rattled, while Tommy and his siblings trying to piece together what seems like a repressed memory of torture.

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Despite the overall production of the film being mostly contained within the Shellner’s home, Michael Wechsler did what he could with the intriguing plot and compelling performances by the cast, especially from C.S. Lee. Overall, the film was substantial, it didn’t leave me in awe, however it also did not leave me disappointed. Altered Minds will be available DVD on June 14th.

3 out of 5 Stars

Don’t forget to enter into the Altered Minds DVD giveaway! 

DVD Review: ‘THE SPOILS BEFORE DYING’ is another hit for Funny Or Die and IFC


THE SPOILS BEFORE DYING 

Starring Michael Kenneth Williams, Maya Rudolph 
and Kristen Wiig

Available on DVD as of June 7, 2016

The Spoils Before Dying” showcases an all-star cast including, Michael Kenneth Williams (12 Years a Slave, RoboCop, “The Wire”), Maya Rudolph (“Saturday Night Live,” Bridesmaids, Big Hero 6), Kristen Wiig (“Saturday Night Live,” Bridesmaids), and Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, Pay It Forward). Produced by Funny Or Die with executive producers Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Nate Young, Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, “The Spoils Before Dying” was written by Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont (who also directed). “The Spoils Before Dying” is the second book, based on fictional famous author Eric Jonrosh’s (Will Ferrell) first best-selling epic novel The Spoils of Babylon. Season two from the “Spoils” franchise premiered on IFC on July 8, 2015, and includes six half-hour episodes.
maya rudolph and michael KENNETH WILLIAMSThe series centers on Michael Kenneth Williams as Rock Banyon, who becomes the prime suspect in the double murder of his occasional lover Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph) who is found dead with another man. Panicked, Rock splits for Mexico where he reunites with his one-time big band singer Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig). With 72 hours to clear his name or fry in the electric chair, Rock and Delores embark on a dangerous quest for the truth that takes them into an abyss of sex, drugs, betrayal, and of course, jazz. While his world crumbles, Rock’s hard-charging manager Alistair St. Barnaby (Haley Joel Osment) pressures him to record a mainstream jazz album.

will ferrell TSBD stillFunny Or Die can pretty much do no wrong in my opinion. Following up on the 2014 The Spoils of Babylon, The Spoils Before Dying is another total win. If you haven’t seen the first season in IFC, imagine a Sin City narrative combined with the Rodriguez/Tarantino Grindhouse schlock and add in the compressed timing of an SNL Digital Short (sort of, each episode is 30 minutes). Tough in our age of binge-watching, you can happily run through the entire series in the time it would take you to watch any other film, half as fun. The mock commercials stuck into the episodes are as completely tongue-in-cheek as the rest of the production. kristen wiig TSBDThe performances are off the rails hilarious. Will Ferrell reprising his role as Eric Jonrosh is pure insanity. His oftentimes linear thinking combined with overindulgence and narcissism is pitch perfect. Michael Kenneth Williams is a breath of fresh air as he takes on his role with (almost) complete seriousness. We all knew Maya Rudolf has a set of pipes on her, but I had no idea that Kristen Wiig can sing. And when I say sing, I really mean SAAAANNNNNGGGG. The songs are unapologetically ridiculous AND maintain gorgeous melodies. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Haley Joel Osment, who steals each scene he appears in with total commitment and one over-the-top accent. With appearances by Tim Robbins, Kate McKinnon, Molly Shannon, Michael Sheen, Chris Parnell, Tim Meadows, to name a few,  you simply cannot go wrong with this series. The Spoils Before Dying is now available in DVD. Check out the trailer below!

Reel News Daily Exclusive Clip: Go Behind-the-scenes of the WAR & PEACE mini-series coming to Blu-Ray May 10th.

Anchor_Bay_Entertainment_logoWar & Peace blue ray box artBBC recently produced a spectacular new adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless novel, where three young people experience life, love and loss against the epic backdrop of Russia’s wars with Napoleon. The 6 episode mini-series was filled to the brim with talented actors that included Lily James, Paul Dano, James Norton, Tuppence Middleton, and Jim Broadbent to name a few. With breathtaking period costumes and sweeping cinematography, Director Tom Harper has successfully created a magical adaptation that is as heart-rending and exhilarating as Tolstoy’s original work. Take a look at our exclusive clip of Harper and the cast at the very first read-through of WAR & PEACE.

WAR & PEACE

will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on May 10th from Anchor Bay Entertainment

Lily James as Natasha Rostov

Lily James as Natasha Rostov

Paul Dano as Pierre Bezukhov

Paul Dano as Pierre Bezukhov

James Norton as Prince Andrei

James Norton as Prince Andrei

Two newly restored gems from AGNÈS VARDA and starring JANE BIRKIN now available on Amazon and on iTunes and Blu-Ray March 8th.

Cinelicious Pics Logo

CINELICIOUS PICS & CINE-TAMARIS PRESENT:

JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V.

and

KUNG-FU MASTER! 
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JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V.

“I’ll look at you, but not at the camera. It could be a trap,” whispers Jane Birkin shyly into Agnès Varda‘s ear at the start of JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V. The director of CLEO FROM 5 TO 7 and VAGABOND once again paints a portrait of a woman, this time in a marvelously Expressionistic way. “It’s like an imaginary bio-pic,” says Varda. Jane, of course, is the famed singer (“Je t’aime … Moi non plus”), actress (BLOW UP), fashion icon (the Hermes Birkin bag) and longtime muse to Serge Gainsbourg. As Varda implies, JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V. abandons the traditional bio-pic format, favoring instead a freewheeling mix of gorgeous and unexpected fantasy sequences.

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in Jane B. par Agnès V. © Cinelicious Pics

Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg in Jane B. par Agnès V.
© Cinelicious Pics

Newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative, overseen by director Varda herself. The film has a quirky appeal. With a blend of personal narrative juxtaposed with fine art and Greek history, Birkin speaks of her life, fears, future plans. Varda leads her through a wondering maze of musing. It’s an unusual and unique peak into the mind of  both women.

Kung-Fu Master

KUNG-FU MASTER!

A lovely, bittersweet companion piece to JANE B. PAR AGNÈS V., KUNG-FU MASTER! has nothing to do with martial arts – the film’s title comes from an arcade video game played obsessively in the film by a teenaged boy, Julien (played by Varda’s real-life son with husband Jaques Demy). Jane Birkin delivers one of her finest performances as a lonely 40-year old woman who finds herself falling in love with the 14-year old Julien – but is it romance, or a desperate attempt to turn back time in the face of middle age? A real family affair, Birkin’s daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon, her child with well-known filmmaker Jacques Doillon, also appear in the film.

Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Kung-Fu Master! © Cinelicious Pics

Jane Birkin and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Kung-Fu Master!
© Cinelicious Pics

Long unavailable in the US, the film has been newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative. The film is a perfect time capsule from 80’s French cinema. Addressing the AIDS crisis through nonchalance and jokes, capturing the effortless sensuality of Birkin, and highlighting the differences in the use of sexuality on screen in Europe Vs America. The performances are, as expected, top notch. The use of Birkin’s children is brilliant. The natural banter, even when the scenario might seem unnatural given the relation, is captivating. As a first time viewer of these pieces, I was glad to have watched KUNG-FU MASTER! first. The two should most definitely been seen back to back. Both titles are currently streaming on Amazon and will be available on Blu-Ray and iTunes March 8  (additional VOD platforms to be announced)

Jane Birkin and Mathieu Demy in Kung-Fu Master! © Cinelicious Pics

Jane Birkin and Mathieu Demy in Kung-Fu Master!
© Cinelicious Pics

 

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES INCLUDE:

 Video interview with Agnès Varda by Miranda July
 
Essay by Sandy Fitterman-Lewis

First Run Features’ “The New Rijksmuseum” Is Out Now on DVD

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Just in time for holiday shopping for those documentary lovers in your life, First Run Features have released their incredible documentary, The New Rijksmuseum. Feel free to re-read my review below to refresh your memory as to why this is worthy of adding to your collection. And for the next four days, all films are 50% off on First Run’s website.

Get there, people!

Review:

Just when I thought films about the inner workings of an art museum couldn’t get much better than Frederick Wiseman‘s National Gallery, along comes Oeke Hoogendijk‘s The New Rijskmuseum. Capturing the tumultuous journey of renovating the Rijskmuseum starting in 2003, I doubt the filmmakers, much less the administration of the venue knew that it would take 10 full years to complete the project. Think about that – one of the finest cultural institutions in the world, the home to many Rembrandts (including the famous The Night Watch) and four of only thirty-four of Johannes Vermeer‘s paintings in the world, was CLOSED, not open to the public, for 10 years.

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Director Hoogendijk has unfettered access to the process which is carefully laid out at the outset of the film in a voiceover by Queen Beatrix from 2001:

The accessibility of our cultural heritage for a wide audience calls for changes in the museological establishment. Government funds have been made available for the large-scale renovation of the Rijskmuseum of Amsterdam

Under General Director Ronald De Leeuw, the Rijksmuseum begins its transformation, which was to to take initially 3 years and happen with a budget of 134 million euros. But as I always say, construction is the biggest racket out there and no project ever comes in on time or on budget. So what unfolds is not so much a comedy of errors, but a comedy of bureaucracy. The architects, Cruz y Ortiz from Spain, won the bidding/contest with their design for the new grand entrance, but their design comes under fire when the local cyclist union fights back against the plan because it limits the space and access to the cyclists of Amsterdam who have come to appreciate and rely on the access to the passage under the Rijskmuseum. At all angles, the city council equivalent shoot down the Rijjskmuseum’s plans and force the architects to change their design which is no small task.

The New Rijjksmuseum-renovation

As the film trundles along, interweaving shots of the renovation with musings by museum staff or footage of missed opportunities at auction in an effort to secure new works for the opening, Hoogendijk easily builds the suspense that this project may never finish and it is that premise that keeps us wholly engrossed. De Leeuw ends up quitting, tired of fighting with the Cyclist Union and Wim Pijbes takes his place bringing with him his own ideas of how the space should look despite what the designers and curators think unlocking another level of bureaucratic interference. But the the folks who don’t get to go behind the curtain of an institution like this to see how it ticks, what unfolds is incredibly fascinating. That the placement of 6 or 7 cannons to be displayed can cause such a contentious argument between the principles at the museum is exasperating, even for us viewers. That this undertaking was so incredibly massive to begin with that it isn’t hard to believe the time it took to complete.

The New Rijjksmuseum-renovation2

Hoogendijk’s camera penetrates this process in a way that really captures so much of the essence of the human spirit and its thirst for artistic inspiration. The film itself is reflective of this very notion. Over the course of ten years, I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of footage that was shot. To cull it down to a 2-hour film must have been a gargantuan task (although rumor has it there was a 4+ hour cut at one point…which I would watch without hesitation). That she was able to make this film as engrossing as it is is really a testament to how dialed in Hoogendijk was throughout this process.

While you might not think that a film about the renovation of an art museum in Holland would be interesting, I’m here to assure you that assumption would be incorrect. I would happily slate this documentary in my top five faves in that arena for the year so far.

https://vimeo.com/111525993

Review: ‘Back in Time’- A Look Back at 30 Years of ‘Back to the Future’

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The Back to the Future trilogy is one of the most important film franchises in history and one that is near and dear to my heart. This year not only marks the 30th anniversary of the original film’s release, but it’s also the celebration of the day Marty arrived in the future (October 21st, 2015), a day many fans have been waiting to arrive. To mark the occasion, a new documentary entitled Back in Time, directed by Jason Aron, is arriving and it brings together cast, crew and fans of the films to discuss the trilogies impact on society and it’s legacy within the history of film.

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What started as a concept quickly gained steam when the film team decided to use a Kickstarter campaign to get the funds to make this film. Quickly, over 600 backers soon helped make Aron’s dream a reality and the team had their money to make the film. Much of the film focuses on the DeLorean time machine as the crew travels across America finding collectors and discussing the concept of being a Back to the Future collector. Discussions with some of the lucky DeLorean owners quickly turns from a discussion about the car itself, to an understanding of the impact the films have had on the collectors as well as their loved ones. Each story has a uniqueness from each other as the film team has collected super fans who use the cars not only as a way to satifsy a want in their life, but as a way to help raise awareness for the Michael J Fox foundation.

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Along with the collectors, the team was able to explore some of the ways that the fandom is taken to another level. A look at Secret Cinemas Back to the Future event, which took place in London in 2014, shows the sheer magnitude of what super fans will go to to recreate the world of their favorite movie. The event included a replica of Hill Valley along with a viewing of the film on the facade of the clock tower. The crew also spoke with people inspired by the proposed technology of Back to the Future II, one company in particular, Hendo Hoverboards, is working to and has created a real life Hoverboard! But the real treat of Back in Time was the interviews with the cast and crew.

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Robert Zemeckis, Steven Spielberg and Bob Gale discussed the struggles with getting Back to the Future made. From getting a studio to make the film to recasting the lead well into production, getting Back to the Future made was one tough task. One of the interesting tidbits to come from these talks was from Zemeckis who was adamant about his feelings of future sequels in the franchise. Dan Harmon (creator of “Community”) and Adam F. Goldberg (creator of “The Goldbergs”) discussed the films impact on their careers and the properties they created. Actors Donald FulliloveJames Tolkan, Claudia Wells and Lea Thompson spoke about their experiences making the films as well as their experiences with fan interaction, but it was the interviews with Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox that was really the show stealer. Hearing the two principle actors discuss the film and its production was a real treasure and one that makes Back in Time a must see film.

Back in Time is set to premier October 21, 2015 digitally, on Netlfix and at Los Angeles’ We’re Going Back celebration. The film will then travel across America from November 3 through November 24 with the 88MPH film and music tour. Event attendees will be able to enjoy the feature, a Q&A session, a concert by The Flux Capacitors, the DeLorean Time Machine, and meeting original  Back to the Future cast members. Visit Back in Time for more information.

Stars:

3 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scenes?

There are interviews throughout the credits.

Trailer:

Bluray Review: Bobcat Goldthwait’s documentary on comedian Barry Crimmins – ‘Call Me Lucky’

Call Me Lucky_DVD_AND_BLUERAY

For his first documentary, director Bobcat Goldthwait chose to profile the a man whom he met as an “angry teenager” and who is still one of his dearest friends. Call Me Lucky originally started out as a narrative, but it was his best friend, Robin Williams who suggested it be a documentary.

Call Me Lucky-Bob2Through interviews with fellow comedians, activists and friends, Barry Crimmins’ life story unravels slowly. He’s a comedian’s comedian having run a comedy club and cultivated many talents through hard work and a genuine passion as well as influencing a number of other comedians through his own stand up.

Call Me Lucky-Maron2The other side to Barry is his activism, but I’ll let you discover more on that by watching the film. In the commentary, Barry states, “Politics don’t mean shit if they’re not in your personal life.” A statement like this doesn’t leave room for interpretation and that sums up the activist as well as the comedian.

Call Me Lucky-OswaltThis may be about a comedian and is often quite funny, but it’s also got a very heavy element that cannot be ignored. There are several great stories that not only give you insight into Crimmins’ life, but also that period of time in comedy as well. Told in a delicate yet unapologetic way, Goldthwait handles every scene with care.

Call Me Lucky-CrossThis is an absolute must for the fans of David Cross, Patton Oswalt, Stephen Wright or Marc Maron, but everyone will relate to Barry’s story and can respect his passionate activism.

Available today to buy on DVD, Bluray and VOD.

Jeremy’s Review: Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus” a Nod to Indie Roots, But Ultimately Falls Short on Execution

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Spike Lee is a lot like Stanley Kubrick to me in that they are both hit or miss directors that can wow me with one film and completely lose me with another. I can’t think of two directors that can make my opinion of their work swing from liking to disliking as quickly. It’s been since Lee‘s 2002 film 25th Hour that I’ve felt he lived up to what he gave with his masterpiece Do the Right Thing. Since then, it’s been a series of misfires and almost-theres. So, when I had the chance to see Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, his remake of Bill Gunn‘s cult classic Ganja and Hess, I will admit I was curious. I had high hopes that his working independently of a studio would capture some of the lightning that was bottled back in the 90s. Unfortunately, this film fell more in the Oldboy (which was an absolute mess) camp than his He Got Game camp.

Da-Sweet-Blood-of-Jesus-Stephen Tyrone Williams

The story is as such: Dr. Hess Greene (Stephen Tyrone Williams), a foremost expert on African cultures, begins a new project with the help of a researcher Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco). After the two meet and have some in depth conversation at Hess’ beautiful Martha’s Vineyard estatel they adjourn for the evening. When an unidentified sound drags Hess out of his house, he finds Hightower wailing high in a tree with a rope around his neck, about to throw himself from the branch on which he sits and kill himself. He is clearly a troubled man and Hess does everything to convince him to keep from committing suicide and it works…for the time being. Later, after further discussing the events of the evening, Hess is convinced that this is a one time thing and that Hightower will recover. Short lived, Hess wakes up to Hightower trying to strangle him. As the two battle back and forth, Hightower grabs a recently unearthed Ashanti dagger (the Ashanti are the major culture in Ghana) and stabs Hess, killing him. Or so we think. Later, Hess wakes up, still alive and apparently well despite the wound from the dagger. However, he is a changed man with an insatiable lust for blood. When he confronts Hightower after rising from the dead, Hightower shoots himself and we see Hess lapping at the blood left behind, sealing his fate. What plays out after this is Hightower’s wife, Ganja (Zaraah Abrahams), arrives on the island looking for her husband as he owes her money. They are on the outs and she just wants to be rid of him. It’s fairly easy to tell what happens after this…Hess and Ganja fall in love, marry and Hess turns her into a bloodlusting fiend just like him. How does all of that play out…well, for that you will need to see the film.

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Tonally, this film is all over the place. It plays like the original (although I will confess I’ve not seen all of it) but with a higher class level of exploitation. The film’s thematic material also runs the gamut – colonialism, race, class. The way it was filmed reminded me so much of Fassbinder‘s Whity, although there is little other reference to it in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus aside from the racial aspects, which Lee has always had a knack for transcribing to the big screen. This is where Da Sweet Blood of Jesus is most successful, even though Lee isn’t terribly subtle with some of his references (e.g. Hightower trying to hang himself in a big tree). I really enjoyed Williams in the lead role, but the acting aside was spotty at best. I also really appreciated that this film didn’t devolve into some ridiculous vampire film. No one will ever do an understated vampire film better than Jim Jarmusch‘s Only Lovers Left Alive in my opinion so Lee was wise not to tread on that territory. The eroticism that was laced  throughout was well earned and avoided the trappings that befall other bloodsucking films. I love that Lee used Kickstarter to fund this film as no studio in their right minds would have funded it. This definitely allowed Lee the license to add content that would never have been allowed otherwise. I applaud his courage for that.

As a whole, this certainly is an interesting film and I may revisit it again. This film has been very hit or very miss with little wiggle room in between with other critics. I think this film is a near miss, but perhaps my opinion of it will change after finishing Gunn‘s film in its entirety. If you are a Spike Lee fan, this is worth a watch. If you want to see some off the beaten path, then I would suggest it. It may strike your fancy where it didn’t strike mine.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus was released this week on Blu-Ray and DVD.

Michael’s Review: ‘Echoes of War’

Echoes of War Movie Poster (1)Director Kane Senes’ western Echoes of War resurrects some very familiar themes as  we witness the homecoming of a man who has faced the brutalities of war and now finds himself struggling of adjust to life after battle.  James Badge Dale, Ethan Embry and William Forsythe lead the cast in this morally conflicted period piece which yearns to reminds us how wonderful the western genre is, but ultimately finds itself lost on the frontier.

112Wade (James Badge Dale) returns home to Texas after the end of the Civil War to his brother in law Seamus’ (Ethan Embry) farm to help mend his family after the passing of his sister. Seamus tends to his farm with his daughter Abigail (Maika Monroe) and his son Samuel (Owen Teague), both of whom idolize Wade and convince the weary farmer to allow their uncle to stay. Wade begins to settle in and Seamus puts him right to work assisting in the daily chores. During a run to check the traps for food, Wade and Samuel come across Dillard McCluskey (Ryan O’Nan), son of Randolph McCluskey (William Forsythe), neighbor to Seamus and cattle owner who has fallen on hard times stealing their catch. Feeling that he must takes it upon himself to put a stop to the McCluskey’s stealing his families food, Wade confronts the elder McCluskey, which sparks a battle between the families. With tensions running high, will anyone be left standing when the dust settles?

213Co-writers John Chriss and Kane Senes have provided a screenplay filled with way too many western cliche’s and not enough original content. Senes, in his feature film directorial debut, has an understanding of how the story should play out, but the sluggish pace of the film causes this film to spiral out of control. The acting in the film is also very hit or miss. James Badge Dale is very one dimensional in his role as the war veteran. The role seemed ripe for some intense scenes but never captured the true nature of a man returning from war. William Forsythe‘s role is also lost in interpretation. Acting as the antagonist in the film, you neither understand, nor do you care, why the events of his past have lead to the man he is now. The relationship between Ethan Embry‘s Seamus and Randolph really needed to be flushed out more in the telling. Maika Monroe, coming off the critically acclaimed film It Follows, is never truly given the opportunity to show off the acting skills in this film as her character plays out most of the film with the same somber delivery.

ct-echoes-of-war-review-20150514 Overall, Echoes of War is a film that struggles to resonate any true enjoyment for its viewers. A story that is not all that bad, but is destined to ride off into the sunset and out of our memories.

Stars:

2  out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

Michael’s Review: ‘Greatful Dead’- A Twisted Tale of Love and Obsession

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Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, in partnership with the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, will screen Greatful Dead on April 17th as the opening night film of the festival! As an added bonus, there will be a post-screening Q&A with director Eiji Uchida.

Click here for more info

Click here to buy tickets

Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering, each of whom play a crucial part in the telling of Eiji Uchida’s black comedy Greatful Dead. Nami (Kumi Takiuchi) is a young girl who has been lost most of her life. This emotionally neglected child became estranged from her parents an early age when her mother ran off and her father fell deep into a nervous breakdown leaving young Nami to seemingly fend for herself. After her father dies and leaves her an inheritance, she begins to spend her time looking through a pair of binoculars into the lives of every day people she comes in contact with. Nami has a real interest in finding lonely people, whom she calls Solitarians, and she begins to keep a daily diary of their activities and movements.

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One day, Nami spots an elderly gentleman named Mr Shiomi (Takashi Sasano) exiting a supermarket and decides to spy on him. The gentlemen offers much to observe, from his interest in porn to his heated relationship with his son, Nami has found her greatest subject, but all that changes when a young bible-reading volunteer enters Mr Shiomi’s life. Destined to make a difference, this volunteer begins to break into Mr Shiomi’s shell and help him reconnect with the outside world. This displeases Nami,  who wants this nuisance to leave her perfect subject alone. As Nami begins to transform  from voyeurism to full-fledged stalker, her desires turn blood thirsty and her actions have dire consequences that will impact not only her, but everyone around her, including Mr Shiomi.

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Greatful Dead is a very dark story blending both comedy and horror together to make one unforgettable film. Every step further into Nami’s life begins to feel like you are sitting quietly watching a time bomb tick down to zero with no way of stopping it. Kumi Takiuchi is haunting as the disturbed young Nami. Her frightening transformation from observer to stalker is mesmerizing. Takashi Sasano is wonderful as Mr. Shiomi. His progression from an angry old man to one more willing to forgive provides a glimmer of hope in a film soaked in darkness. Eiji Uchida’has created a smart, disturbing film worthy of standing next to some of the great films of Japanese cinema. A film that never allows the audience any mercy while it slowly spirals down the rabbit hole. Greatful Dead is a must see.

Stars:

3 1/2 out of 5

Trailer:

Michael’s Review: ‘The Squeeze’

The_Squeeze_Poster4_LRMoney is a powerful motivator, especially for a young man faced with caring for his family, but when you’re a young golf phenom presented with the proposal of easy money, well, that motivation is more than tempting; it calls to you. The Squeeze is a based on true events golf weather they were indoors or outdoors, dramedy directed and written by seven-time Emmy Award winner Terry Jastrow, which explores the temptation of gambling and the dangers which lie beneath the surface.

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Augie (Jeremy Sumpter) is a exceptional young golfer from a small town in Texas who dreams of becoming a professional golfer. After winning the City Golf Championship by an astounding 15 shots, Augie peaks the interest of a fast talking Southern gambler named Riverboat (Christopher McDonald) and his traveling companion Jessie (Katherine LaNasa) who are passing through the small town on their way to Las Vegas. Riverboat tries to convince Augie on abandon his dreams of qualifying for the PGA Tour to come play for him in high-stake gambling matches for big money, but Natalie (Jillian Murray), Augie’s girlfriend, tries to convince him otherwise. For young Augie, the temptation proves too tough to resist. 

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The money starts to roll in for the pair, but Riverboat is not satisfied. He begins to set his sights on bigger fish and convinces Augie to follow him to Las Vegas, where stakes are higher, but so are the risk. The two soon cross paths with known mob associate named Jimmy Diamonds (Michael Nouri), who enters into a million dollar bet with Riverboat. Augie is soon thrown into the middle where all bets are off in this a game of life or death. It’s sudden death and the stakes have never been higher young golfer. Can Augie find a way out of this no win situation or is he truly on his last hole? 

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The Squeeze is a wonderful movie and a true testament to the talent of director Terry Jastrow. The film is so carefully crafted with a captivating story and wonderfully portrayed characters that will leave you wanting more. Christopher McDonald and Jeremy Sumpter are a fantastic pair and the their chemistry on screen is very impressive. Jillian Murray brings such a wonderfully calming presence to her scenes and really shines as the voice of reason in a sea of temptation. Michael Nouri is brilliant as Jimmy Diamonds. Nouri has the voice, mannerisms and facial expressions of a true mobster and you truly believe that he means every word he says. 

Overall, The Squeeze is as close to a hole in one as you can get. Very reminiscent of great gambler movies of the past and worthy of being talked about in the same breath.

ARC Entertainment will be releasing THE SQUEEZE on VOD and in-theaters on April 17th. Check it out!

Stars:

3 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scenes?

No

Trailer:

Michael’s Review: ‘Roadside’

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Stop me if you’ve heard this before…man in the shadows targets an unsuspecting victim with a rifle and expects said victim to do his bidding. Yes we’ve seen this many times in the past, but those films actually had an objective and a conclusion. The problem with Roadside is that is suffers from being a been there, seen that, thriller with little payoff that will leave you scratching your head as to what the point of the film even was.

Dan Summers (Ace Marrero) and his pregnant wife, Mindy (Katie Stegeman) are on a road trip to Dan’s sisters for a family get together during Christmas time. Trying to get to their destination before the weather turns bad, the couple travel down a desolate mountain highway when they come across a dead tree trunk in the road. When Dan gets out of the SUV to remove the trunk, a voice out of nowhere instructs Dan not to move. Confused about the situation he finds himself in, Dan soon comes to realize that he and Mindy are being held hostage on the side of the road by a mysterious man with a gun. As the temperatures continue to plummet and the situation becoming dire, Dan must find a way to escape the impending doom the couple finds themselves in before this game of cat and mouse comes to a tragic end.

Roadside’s premise isn’t overly original, but the setting does add a different dimension to the overall telling of this play out concept. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter should add enough drama to keep the audience engaged while the story unfolds, except, there is no story, there is no point, there is absolutely no reason why this situation is happening! All we know is that there’s someone with a gun and he is pointing it at this couple, for some reason. Roadside is a frustrating film because you want to connect with the events and the characters, but neither are enjoyable. At no point do you care about what is happening to this couple because they are so unlikable. At no point can you take the gunman seriously because he sounds like a commercial spokesman trying to sell you fear. Director Eric England seems to have an idea as to where to take this film, but gets lost along the way. England reaches for the proverbial Hitchcock inspired ending but adds more confusion than awe. It’s a shame because there’s a template there for a great film, it’s just not this one.

Stars:

1 1/2 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

Hayden Christensen Is ‘Outcast’ Alongside A Horrendously Laughable Nicolas Cage

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This is how I felt watching the movie.

You never know. Sometimes you’ll stumble upon a movie that surprises you. Unfortunately, the only surprise I got watching Outcast was how terrible it was. Boring and bland, the only highlights are the parody of acting that is Nicolas Cage. He finally shows up about an hour in and steals each of his short scenes due to his absurd accent and silly hairstyle.

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The story is supposedly about a young son exiled after his older brother kills the emperor to take over the throne. However, it really just follows Jacob (Hayden Christensen) rescuing the son of the emperor and his sister in their return to get the throne back. I didn’t care. There’s zero character development. None. The best part is the stunts, but that’s to be expected as the first-time director, Nick Powell, has a heavy background in stunt coordination. There are also a shocking amount of slow-mos that are completely unecessary.

OUTCAST_9_Low+Res The directing is laughable. It’s all crazy angles and hand-held that’s really distracting. The score is a rip-off of a bad TV movie and causes constant eye rolls. (Complete with the Gladiator-type singing of battle scenes.)

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What is with Hayden’s hair? For a guy who never showers, it certainly looks clean and coiffed. He even has the same hair in flashbacks! Odd.OUTCAST_7_Low+Res

Can we also talk about how it’s all in English? That’s something that REALLY bugs me. This is supposed to be The Far East in the 12th Century. It’s just silly to hear all the Chinese speaking perfect English. This used to be par for the course, but it’s so nice how recently even TV shows embrace native languages. Subtitles are really not that big of a deal.OUTCAST_5_Low+Res

In between the bits of crazy sword fights and Hayden Christensen is lifeless and forgettable. Nicolas Cage, however, is in rare form with an over-acted performance that must be seen to be believed.
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Available on demand, digital and March 31st on Bluray and DVD.

Michael’s Review: ‘Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead’- A Fun New Twist on The Zombie Genre

wyrmwood-posterZombies are at the height of their popularity, but there is no genre more saturated and tiresome. It’s a genre that has become a parody of itself, so when a movie comes along with a fresh, new take on the undead, you take notice. This Raimi-esque zombie tale from Australian filmmakers Kiah and Tristan Roache-Turner is highly entertaining and stakes it’s claim for most innovative take on zombies in a long while. If you’re looking for a film to remind yourself why we love these films, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead might just be the film for you.

1_ARMOURED-UPFollowing a meteor shower over the Earth, a strange disease, which turns people into zombie has infected most mankind, leaving few survivors. Barry (Jay Gallagher) is one of those survivors who has lost his wife and child to the disease and now searches for a way to get to his sister Brooke (Bianca Bradley). Along the way, Barry meets Benny (Leon Burchill) and Frank (Keith Agius), two men looking to survive. The three men agree to set off together to look for Brooke, but after they discover that all existing fuel sources have been rendered unusable by the plague, they must find another way to escape the zombie hordes.

7_SOLDIERS_W_ZOMBIE_CAPTIVEMeanwhile, Brooke is kidnapped by military faction who bring her to a medical lab run by a psychotic doctor looking to experiment on the undead and the living alike. After a series of experiments, Brooke soon discovers that there is more to this disease than what’s on the surface. Brooke is determined to escape her captors and reunite with Barry, but can the siblings make it to one another before all is lost?

wyrmwood01Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead is a treat for lovers of off the wall zombie apocalypse movies. The slapstick nature of the surroundings and the overall storyline harken back to the Evil Dead franchise, all the way down to the comparisons between Ash and Barry, but Wyrmwood has a card up it’s sleeve with the payoff, which is as ridiculous as it is genius in its originality. Will Wyrmwood win any awards? Of course not, but it’s a good fun movie to watch on a cold night.

Stars:

3 out of 5

After Credit Scene?

No

Trailer:

Liz’s Review: ‘1971’ looks a lot like 2015

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In grade school we all read the George Orwell classic, 1984. “Big Brother Is Watching.” With technology as sophisticated as it is is now, we are not a far cry from constant surveillance, frankly, we’re already there. People still don’t understand that once “it” is on the internet, it’s there forever. And not just the internet, anything connected to a WiFi signal at this point. Our post 9-11 world is one of less freedom and more scrutiny. In 1971, the true story of a small burglary is the catalyst that kicked the FBI in its ass. Read More →

Jeremy’s Review: Mami Sunada’s ‘The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness’ Is an Incredible Look Inside Studio Ghibli and More Specifically How Hayao Miyazaki Creates

kingdom of dreams and madness posterNausicaä of the Valley of the WindCastle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. Recognize these films? Well, if you don’t, they happen to be the canonical Japanese animated films of the last 50 years. What do they all have in common? Well, they were written and directed by the same man, one who can and should only be referred to as a titan of modern cinema. That man is Hayao Miyazaki, founder of the famed Studio Ghibli

Enter to Win a DVD Copy of ‘The Kingdom of Dreams & Madness’

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Michael’s Review: ‘Americons’- The Price of Success is Sometimes Too High

Americons posterLike The Wolf of Wall Street and Boiler Room before it, Americons aims to take on the topic of greed in this country, but this time, the real estate fiasco which occurred during the Bush administration is the target. This “based on a true story” tale attempts to bring to light some of the shady goings on that transpired during the sub prime mortgage boom of 2008; an event that lead this country into an economic crisis that could have crippled this nation beyond repair. Americons is a social awareness piece that tries to cash in on its strengths but ultimately concedes to its weaknesses, which include its lackluster story and sub-par acting. Read More →

Retro Review: ‘Boyhood’- Growing Up is Hard to Do

boyhood-teaser-posterAll too many times Hollywood uses the phrase “Once in a Lifetime” to describe a film that we’ve encountered way too many times before, but finally, a director and film studio have come thru and brought us a film like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Boyhood is that film and it just might be the best movie you will see all year.  Directed by industry legend Richard Linklater, the film is a true labor of love.  The film, shot intermittently over a twelve-year period, follows a young  boy named Mason through his childhood from first grade (age 6) thru his high school graduation (age 18). It’s a documented journey that will most likely never be duplicated in our lifetime and one that will resonate with each viewer for decades to come. Read More →