Review: Be careful what you wish for in ‘The Djinn’.

The Djinn

THE DJINN follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

For as many times as children accidentally come upon The Book of Shadows (or any ancient text with a pentagram on the cover), I’m beginning to wonder if I should teach my 4 and 5-year-olds to stay away. Yet again, I don’t want to stifle their inevitable love of all things horror-centric. As a mother of a child on the spectrum, I understand the importance of communication. The frustration and longing to be heard are endless. If we could change our circumstances, wouldn’t we try? David Charbonier and Justin Powell‘s new film The Djinn combines the themes of grief, trauma, and a mysterious legend to create a story that will both terrify and tear your heart out.

The score immediately reminded me of The Goonies. It is a perfect mix of ominous and whimsical. Dylan’s reading voice is costar Rob Brownstein’s voice.  As a mute boy, Dylan’s internal vocal reference would most certainly be that of his father. This moment of specificity from Charbonier and Powell is magic. The entire film’s sound design is award-worthy. Dylan’s hearing is likely acutely sharp due to developmental adaptation. The audio is jarring in a way that places the viewer in his constant state of hyper-awareness. His panic is our panic and it is palpable.

It’s a fresh take on the legend and more shudder-inducing than you’d expect. The pacing is perfection. All the tropes are there but with a hell of a twist. The Djinn‘s main conflict plays out within an hour, making the stakes feel higher as we count down the minutes alongside Dylan. Speaking of our leading young man, Ezra Dewey is a star. His chemistry with Rob Brownstein is charming and genuine. Dewey’s ability to own this entire film sans dialogue is the stuff of dreams. Mark my words, he will be everywhere. The Djinn is a very scary bedtime story warning us all to be careful what we wish for.

THE DJINN will be in THEATERS, DIGITAL, and VOD NEXT FRIDAY, MAY 14TH

Harlem International Film Festival 2021 review: ‘My Fiona’

MY FIONA

 New York State Premiere
Director: Kelly Walker
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Following the suicide of her best friend, Jane finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife with their child. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Jeanette Maus‘s final feature role is impactful beyond words. She plays Jane, a woman whose best friend commits suicide and must address her own grief within the complexity of her newfound family dynamic. How close is too close when all are have left are the ones left behind? The cast’s chemistry is immaculate. Maus leaves it all on screen. Every moment is an emotional gut-punch. Suicide is a loaded subject. The script tackles its all-consuming confusion with a carefully crafted hand. In an attempt to discover Fiona’s “Why” and to find her place without Fiona, Jane must come to grips with the messy aftermath of loss. MY FIONA is an intimate look at grief from the perspective of a best friend. It’s a fresh take on something that is so relatable. It’s okay to not be okay. Writer-director Kelly Walker has given Harlem International Film Festival audiences a true gem. MY FIONA is a different kind of love story. Do not miss this film.

Audiences in New York can access the film now!

16th Edition
May 6-16, 2021 Extended Dates!

Review: ’15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot’ brings big laughs and great filmmaking.

15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot

In 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot, Brian and his producer/cameraman Zach want to get into the serious news business. Brian loathes his job and he’s jaded as hell. When he gets assigned a story about Bigfoot, things get weirder than anyone expected. Vice meets Netflix’s American Vandal, 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot is a larger-than-life, tongue-in-cheek satire about clickbait journalism. Listen, like millions of others, I love me some BuzzFeed, but I know why I’m ultimately there. It’s for the pop culture lists, cheap dupe clothing links, and videos of dudes trying “lady-centric” stuff. I am in no way there for actual news. In 15 Things, Brian feels trapped in covering the fluff pieces we love/hate click on daily. Begrudgingly, he and Zach follow a local Bigfoot expert, a lead that will put them in the path of a much larger and deadlier story.

The mockumentary style is unbelievably hilarious. Every single cast member is a damn laugh riot. I don’t know how much of this film is improvised and how much is scripted, either way, you will be entertained from start to finish. Handheld camera work and snarky voiceovers push 15 Things to some next-level hilarity, but also a legit gorgeous looking movie. The editing and cinematography are ridiculously stunning. If you put it on mute, you’d never know the difference between this and Vice. It’s scary good. Is this the first of a franchise for these guys? I would not be mad at that. 15 You Didn’t Know About Bigfoot is now available In Theaters + on VOD. 

Directed by Zach Lamplugh

Written by Brian Emond & Zach Lamplugh

Produced by Tim Reis, Zach Lamplugh, Brian Emond

Starring Brian Emond, Jeffrey Stephenson, Zach Lamplugh, Derick Marchel, Dexter Fugerson, Jenna Kannell, Tevin Williams, Chris Mayers, Virginia Kirby, Nick Gibbons

2021 · Paranormal Comedy · 84 MIN

Review: ‘SILO’ stunningly shines a light on everyday perils farmers face.

SILO

Inspired by true events, SILO follows a harrowing day in an American farm town. Disaster strikes when teenage Cody becomes the victim of a grain entrapment accident. Family, neighbors, and first responders must put aside their differences to rescue him from drowning in the 50-foot tall silo where corn quickly turns to quicksand.

SILO is a beautifully shot and ominously scored film that will have your heart racing. When a sudden accident occurs on a local farm, a community must set aside its personal grudges to rescue a teen trapped under literal tons of grain. Without his inhaler, Cody must rely on the help of an individual responsible for past personal trauma if he wants to survive. SILO is compelling from start to finish. Director Marshall Burnette presents Jason Williamson‘s authentic script with a carefully curated eye. As someone who grew up in a small farming town in Connecticut and worked in the family’s store and ice cream shop, SILO hits close to home. The blood, sweat, and tears that seep into the soil are very real.

While the action revolves around the accident, these characters are fully fleshed-out people we recognize. The remarkable performances in SILO might even suggest that this film was a documentary and not a narrative. The cast has a chemistry that genuine. It’s astounding. You won’t have a moment to breathe once things go awry. Even within a 76-minute runtime, the writing is so great that we have enough backstory for every person on the scene to feel the emotional pull. We understand why they’re there and how they’re connected. SILO doesn’t simply address farming safety but gives us a compelling drama about small-town dynamics. It is impossible to watch this and not be consumed by the relationships in this film. That’s what happens when you have the perfect storm of acting, writing, and directing. This is a film that will resonate with a massive audience, regardless of their background. It sheds a light on a culture that is often taken for granted and the very real dangers of farming. SILO is a harrowing film about safety and an undeniably important watch.

Arriving in Theaters and
Virtual Cinemas on May 7, 2021

Review: ‘Eat Wheaties!’ is deliciously charming.

Eat Wheaties!

Sid Straw (Tony Hale) leads a dull life until he accidentally stalks famous college friend, Elizabeth Banks, on social media. With each failed attempt to prove he knows her, he rediscovers more of himself and the true meaning of friendship.

In the new film  EAT WHEATIES!, Sid Straw is the co-worker, family member, or neighbor that means well but always seems to get on someone’s nerves. His well-intentioned messaging to Elizabeth Banks create a downward spiral in his life that goes from silly to devastating. Blow after blow, Sid knows that his authentic self is good enough. This film is deliciously charming. Social media is a monster that can easily swallow its users whole. Sid Straw is misunderstood. He’s smart, thoughtful, quirky, and technologically behind the times.

Tony Hale knocks it out of the park.  EAT WHEATIES! allows him to hit every emotional high and low. You will fall in love with him. We’ve all known those social media newbies. The signing off on posts with their names, the public messages meant to be private, always makes me giggle. This character just captures your heart as he faces an enormous uphill battle against the media. Hale breathes life into a role that could easily become a caricature of a person. Alongside an amazing cast of familiar faces, Hale is a joy to watch as he navigates the complexities and ripple effects of a social media misstep. EAT WHEATIES! will make you laugh, cringe, cry, and then some. It a delight. PS, Stick around for the credits. Trust me.

Directed by Scott Abramovitch, Screen Media will release EAT WHEATIES! in theaters and on-demand on April 30.

Starring Tony Hale, with Paul Walter Hauser, Danielle Brooks, Lamorne Morris, Robbie Amell, David Walton, Sarah Burns, Elisha Cuthbert, Sarah Chalke, Sarah Goldberg, and Alan Tudyk

Review: Glenn Close and Mila Kunis breathe life in ‘Four Good Days’

Four Good Days

Four Good Days

In an emotional journey based on a true story by Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post writer Eli Saslow, 31-year-old Molly begs her estranged mother Deb for help fighting a fierce battle against the demons that have derailed her life. Despite all she has learned over a decade of disappointment, grief, and rage, Deb throws herself into one last attempt to save her beloved daughter from the deadly and merciless grip of heroin addiction. Powerhouse performances from Glenn Close and Mila Kunis anchor director Rodrigo García’s poignant and unpredictable chronicle of mother and daughter fighting to regain the love and trust that once held them together.

Four Good Days takes on the devastating ripple effects of addiction. The script is inspired by a Washington Post article by Eli Saslow about a real mother-daughter relationship. This film, outside of addiction, is about the bond between a mother and her child. You can feel the anxiety and anguish from Deb. The small but specific details of a life ruined by a cycle that repeats itself. Behaviors that have become routine; hiding her wallet and keys under her pillow, alarming every door in the house, cell phone monitoring, all habits of defeat and inevitability. So many lives have been destroyed by unchecked prescriptions that easily went awry. As a parent, the line between caretaker and individual is completely blurred. Four Good Days is an honest and raw look at the complexities of it all.

Saslow and director Rodrigo Garcia‘s screenplay doesn’t give Deb a pass. She’s as flawed as the next person. Her backstory reveals a potential trigger for Molly’s addiction woes. The enabling we oftentimes see, the paranoia, and guarded behavior are all on display for Glenn Close to masterfully explore. She gives us a mirror image of her daughter in more ways than you might think. The nuance is captivating.

Mila Kunis is almost unrecognizable as Molly, down the oral prosthetic. She gives a spectacular performance. While the audience settles into the frenzy of Close’s role, Kunis creeps in and snatches the rug from under you. There is never a dull moment behind her eyes and once you finally see the entire picture you realize just how incredible she truly is. It’s something that deserves a repeat viewing. Casting directors, take note when grittier roles come across your desk. Kunis should be on your list.

 Four Good Days brilliantly surpasses cliche to show us humanity in a crisis we’ve come to know all too well. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the film.

Vertical Entertainment will release “Four Good Days” theatrically beginning April 30 and then release it on demand starting May 21.

 

Review: Political allegory ‘The County’ milks it for all it’s worth.

presents

The County

After the global success of his Un Certain Regard winner RAMS, director Grímur Hákonarson returns to his native Iceland with another humanist farmland fable. Bitterly funny and deeply affecting, THE COUNTY plays out a timely political allegory against a jaw-dropping natural landscape, aided by a brainy, tenacious anti-heroine and Hákonarson’s dry Nordic humor.

Inja is left in the lurch with a nearly bankrupt dairy farm after the sudden and suspicious death of her husband. Under the thumb of the local Co-op, she discovers the shady dealings of those in charge and the effects on her fellow farmers. As she pushes back on social media, life gets more complicated. Inja becomes the Co-op’s target. Once our leading lady has had enough of patriarchal monopoly, her response is so satisfying you’ll be unable to repress a smirk. She must convince her neighbors there’s a better way than living in fear. The County is cinematically stunning. The script is brimming with unexpected moments. It’s one we can cheer for.

What I loved about this film was watching the tenacity of a woman pushed past the breaking point. Using wit and pure gumption, Inga helps a community that’s being taken advantage of. Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir‘s performance is out of this world. She is funny, powerful, gutsy, and yet completely vulnerable and grounded. The film doesn’t simply rely on the natural cinematic landscape but smartly uses its scope to tell this story. The script has a beautiful flow to it.  The ending is celebratory in a refreshing way. The County perfectly portrays the passion of a woman in her pursuit of doing what’s right.

THE COUNTY is written and directed by Grímur Hákonarson, and stars Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir, Sigurður Sigurjónsson, and Sveinn Ólafur Gunnarsson.

THE COUNTY opens in theatres and virtual cinemas nationwide Friday, April 30th, 2021.

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘SUPERNOVA’ makes your heart race and your head spin.

SUPERNOVA

Three men, one place, and one event that will change the life of each one of them. A universal tale, kept in a realistic style, tells the story of a few hours in the life of a rural community. The film raises questions about the essence of chance and destiny. A bloody story, oscillating on the edge of drama, thriller, and disaster cinema.

Up close, hand-held camera work intensifies the manic energy that radiates from this cast. This tragic and explosive story stems from a hit-and-run. With the world in upheaval over police action, this film focuses on the reactions of a small town department. When the mysterious driver flees on foot, chaos reigns when the incident becomes personal. The performances are astonishing. The screenplay is genius. You’re getting multiple narrative stories by watching the reactions of family, coworkers, and onlookers all at once. A naive rookie, a Chief close to retirement, hooligans in the crowd, a female officer’s first day, those connected to the victims, and a villain so loathsome your head will spin. These characters simultaneously clash in Supernova as events play out in real-time. There is not a moment to breathe. The quietest moment is the opening shot. Once the actors enter the frame the energy ramps up and become increasingly intense. Writer-director Bartosz Kruhlik plays with empathy and power dynamics in such an intelligent way. The complexity of the story just keeps growing. Your heart will race, you’ll seethe with anger, Supernova is that good.

SUPERNOVA
Dir. Bartosz Kruhlik
2019, 78min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

BAM Kino Polska 2021 review: ‘NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN’ wows with mystery and misery.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 

On a gray, foggy morning outside a large Polish city, Zhenia (Alec Utgoff), a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the wealthy residents of a gated community. Using hypnotic, almost magical techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The attractive and mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and Zhenia’s eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, his Russian accent sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director Malgorzata Szumowska (ELLES, IN THE NAME OF) and her longtime collaborator Michal Englert is an unclassifiable meditation on class, immigration, and global warming with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor.

Simply beautiful cinematography and one hell of a leading performance consume the audience in BAM’s Kino Polska’s New York premiere of NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN. Alec Utgoff as Zhenia gives an intoxicating performance. There’s something about his gaze that puts you at ease. You’re fully aware there’s a complexity tied to his childhood in Chernobyl. The dialogue from his clients never lets you forget. The nuance of this role is enthralling. The darker mystery slowly makes its way to light as he does his massage and, unbeknownst to them, hypnosis on his clients. They reside in a wealthy, gated estate outside the city. From the outside, each house essentially a replica of the next. Inside, the residents gossip and confess their trauma and innermost thoughts. Sinister undertones always linger. Zhenia’s unique ability to connect with people is merely the beginning of his capabilities. That talent isn’t something that can be hidden indefinitely. The score is haunting and meaningful, heightening this carefully crafted film. Trust me when I say, this movie is special. You’ll be as hypnotized as Zhenia’s clients. NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN is bursting with endless intrigue. It’s a journey that you will never see coming.

NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN 
Dirs. Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
2020, 113min
Language: In Polish with English subtitles
With Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza

From Friday, April 30th through Thursday, May 6th BAM presents the fourth edition of *Kino Polska: New Polish Cinema*, bringing together the best new works from Poland’s boundary-pushing filmmakers. The series is presented in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute New York and co-programmed by Tomek Smolarski. Kino Polska features seven feature films, including the New York premiere of Poland’s Oscar submission *NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN* (2020). Director Malgorzata Szumowska (whose Berlinale prizewinner Mug screened in the 2018 iteration of *Kino Polska*) partners with longtime cinematographer and co-writer Michal Englert’s for this Venice Film Festival hit about an enigmatic healer (Alec Utgoff, “Stranger Things”) who casts a spell over a rich Polish community. This year’s series also includes Mariko Bobrik’s touching debut feature *THE TASTE OF PHO* (2019) about a Vietnamese father and
daughter dealing with grief and the immigrant experience in Warsaw; the bittersweet coming-of-age drama *I NEVER CRY* (2020) from Piotr Domalewski whose previous film SILENT NIGHT won major awards in Poland; Bartosz Kruhlik’s edge-of-your-seat thriller *SUPERNOVA* (2019); Piotr Adamski’s *EASTERN* (2019), a tale of revenge set in a dystopic Poland; Mariusz Wilczynski’s deeply personal, hand-drawn animated film *KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN* (2020)—winner of the Grand Prize for Feature Animation at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and a FIPRESCI Award at the 2020 Viennale; and Agnieszka Holland’s Soviet Union thriller *MR. JONES* (2019) starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, and Peter Sarsgaard.

*All films will screen April 30th – May 6th on BAM’s virtual streaming platform at BAM.org .

Review: Teachable moments and family friendly vibes in ‘DOLPHIN ISLAND’. Available now!

DOLPHIN ISLAND

DOLPHIN ISLAND invites us to experience an island paradise, where 14-year-old Annabel lives with her fisherman grandfather. She is surrounded by an extended family of loving but quirky neighbors and her best friend – a dolphin named Mitzy. Everything changes when her maternal grandparents arrive with a shifty lawyer to bring her back to New York. It’s up to Annabel and her friends to figure out how to save the day and prove that love conquers all!

If you’re looking for something wholesome to watch with the family, look no further than DOLPHIN ISLAND. Filmed in The Bahamas after the devastation of Hurricane Dorian, the cast and crew are local and lovely. The film’s score is perfect for the story and the characters. It’s light and friendly and matches like a dream with mother nature’s gorgeous scenery. Mitzy the dolphin provides laughs and heart alongside the family drama. I watched this with my four-year-old daughter who is obsessed with sea creatures. She absolutely adored the scenes with Mitzy and the rest of the beautiful creatures on the island conservatory where our leads Jonah and Annabel live and work. The performances are charming. You’ll recognize a few faces and be introduced to some great new talent, as well. Tyler Jade Nixon is grounded and genuine as we need her to be. You know this young lady. Bob Bledsoe uses his comedy chops to be a slimy lawyer you’ll love to hate. Peter Woodward is the grandfather we all wish we could enjoy. His sense of responsibility, gumption, and adoration for Nixon‘s Annabel is captivating. The script tackles complex family dynamics, friendship, class warfare, grief, and climate change. It’s never preachy. DOLPHIN ISLAND is a film you’d find on the UP network or even Hallmark. It’s quaint with well-thought-out messaging. Family films are few and far between. Rest assured you can sit down with your entire family and enjoy.

 

https://dolphinislandmovie.com/watch-now/

What started as a mission to help victims of hurricane Dorian, ended up with an award-winning family movie. DOLPHIN ISLAND was filmed in the Grand Bahama island between hurricane Dorian and COVID. The goal was to stimulate their devastated economy and highlight their beautiful sites and culture. A portion of the profits goes to the local cast and crew in The Bahamas.

Directed by Mike Disa (SPACE DOGS, HOODWINKED TOO!)

Starring Peter Woodward (THE PATRIOT), Dionne Lea (NO BAD DAYS), Tyler Jade Nixon (DOLPHIN KICK), Bob Bledsoe (Parks & Recreation), David Raizor (YOU CAN’T TAKE MY DAUGHTER), and introducing Annette Duncan and Aaron Borrow.

 

 

Review: ‘Reefa’ is a film where art and life converge.

REEFA

REEFA is based on the true story of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez Jr., an 18-year-old Colombian immigrant and art prodigy, who is spending his last summer in Miami with friends, family and his new girl Frankie before moving to New York City on an art scholarship. While Israel and his friends skateboard the city streets and spray-paint the walls of Wynwood, Miami’s graffiti Mecca, anxieties emerge twofold: Israel and his family nervously await their Green Cards while he desperately seeks recognition for his art. When Israel decides to spray paint one last wall, a piece which would command immediate respect from his peers, a sudden encounter with a vengeful Miami police officer leaves his family and friends devastated, the Miami community outraged, and the country reeling from another case of police brutality.

Tyler Dean Flores plays the titular character. He’s a star. There is an ease to his performance that mixes charm and innocence. This film arrives at the tail-end of a murder trial for police brutality, and as we continue the complicated immigration policy debate. REEFA is not simply one family’s story but thousands. What is phenomenal about this script is its ability to tackle multiple subjects simultaneously, never entering the preachy territory. Not only is this a love story about two young people from very different backgrounds, but it’s also a dreamer’s story. REEFA tackles the immigration debate from a humanistic standpoint, The Hernandez family does everything right to obtain their green cards but their fear of stepping over any line is palpable. The conversations between Reefa and his parents highlight the sacrifices and innate understanding that the system is not just. Certainly, the film culminates with an explosive confrontation between Reefa and the police officer hellbent on making him an example. Having read about the effects of tasers on the human body, especially in teenagers, I knew this family would be forever changed as soon as it enters the scene. There is a lot to digest in REEFA, and every part of it is an ode to this young man’s beautiful life and art.

REEFA was written and directed by Jessica Kavana Dornbusch (Love and Debate). The film has a running time of 96 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA. 

Vertical Entertainment will release REEFA on VOD / Digital Platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, On-Demand, FandangoNow, and all major cable/satellite platforms on April 16, 2021.

Shudder exclusive: ‘Boys From County Hell’ working hard or hardly working?

Strange events unfold in Six Mile Hill – a sleepy Irish town that claims to have been traveled by the famed author Bram Stoker – when construction on a new road disrupts the alleged grave of Abhartach, a legendary Irish vampire said to have inspired Dracula. Deadly and sinister forces terrorize the work crew led by Francie Moffat and his son Eugene, a free-spirited young man who prefers pints to pickaxes, and they’re forced to fight to survive the night while exposing the true horror that resides in the town’s local myth.

When anyone moves a relic, I can’t help but think of the words of Martha Plimpton in The Goonies, “Brand, God put that rock there for a purpose and um, I’m not so sure you should um move it.” She’s always right, of course. But then we might not have fun horror films like Boys From County Hell on Shudder. The opening scene is jarring as hell. With a plot that revolves around a legend and the locals that are tasked to bring the modern world into small-town life, starting with a bang was a perfect choice. The score is truly something. Mixed with ominous string and kickass local rock songs. The script is funny and has a bit of a Shawn of the Dead vibe minus the heavy-handed camp. Take your vampire tropes and shove them, because this is altogether new. The comic timing of this cast combined with the writing gives you equal belly laughs and fright. I would watch an entire series about this town! The makeup and practical fx are phenomenal. For me, the biggest visual impact was the blood CGI. There’s something so unsettling about this that creeps under your skin. It’s incredibly effective. Boys From County Hell also touches on community. Respecting where you come from and being unafraid to expand your horizons. It’s a rollicking good time.

BOYS FROM COUNTY HELL comes to Shudder in the US and Canada on April 22nd

Starring Jack Rowan (Peaky Blinders), Nigel O’Neill (The Bookshop), Louisa Harland (Derry Girls), Fra Fee (Animals, the upcoming Hawkeye series) and John Lynch (The Terror, The Banishing) and Michael Hough (the upcoming Chapelwaite series), and written and directed by Chris Baugh (Bad Day for the Cut).

Review: “BLOODTHIRSTY’ overflows with music and metaphor.

BLOODTHIRSTY

Grey, an indie singer, whose first album was a smash hit, gets an invitation to work with notorious music producer Vaughn Daniels at his remote studio in the woods. Together with her girlfriend/lover Charlie, they arrive at his mansion, and the work begins. But Grey is having visions that she is a wolf, and as her work with the emotionally demanding Vaughn deepens, the vegan singer begins to hunger for meat and the hunt. As Grey starts to transform into a werewolf, she begins to find out who she really is, and begins to discover the family she never knew. What will it take to become a great artist and at what cost to her humanity?

The music is not only a major plot point but a character of its own. Lauren Beatty brings Lowell’s songs to life with an honest folk/pop vibe. They are haunting. Combined with the string-heavy score, the soundtrack enters bone-chilling territory. Wow. Now that most of us have watched Framing Britney Spears we understand the mental health pressure of pop stardom. To see that explored in Bloodthirsty on a more literal level was incredibly intriguing. A controlling father figure, isolation, and a strict diet all enhanced by horror make this story ceaselessly engrossing. Separately, there is a family and loyalty dynamic. It’s a brilliant combination of genres.

Greg Bryk as Vaughn is scary. His manipulation skills are daunting. He’s very punchable and I do mean that as a compliment. He infuriated me and made me so uncomfortable. I guess that means he’s done his job well.  Lauren Beatty, who was phenomenal in Bleed With Me (also directed by Amelia Moses), gives us a vulnerability that is consuming, pun fully intended. She’s got genre darling potential in spades. Here, she is allowed to challenge the audience’s perception of reality. What would you sacrifice for your art? Bloodthirsty will have you questioning the creative process long after the credits roll. 

 

 

Website: http://www.brainmedia.com/films/bloodthirsty

Directed by Amelia Moses (Bleed With Me), conceived and written by mother-daughter duo Wendy Hill-Tout and singer-songwriter Lowell, and featuring the original music of Lowell, BLOODTHIRSTY stars Lauren Beatty (Bleed With Me) and Greg Bryk (The Handmaid’s Tale). The film premiered at Fantastic Fest 2020 and opens In Select Theaters and On-Demand on April 23.

 

Review: ‘STREET GANG: How We Got To Sesame Street’ is a nostalgic hug of legacy and love.

STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET

STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET reintroduces this visionary “gang” of mission-driven artists, writers, and educators that audaciously interpreted radical changes in society and created one of  the most influential and impactful television programs in history.

This eclectic documentary traverses from the inception to the nuance of programming this iconic television show. Everything from the production design to intimate interviews with the actors, from the musical guests to the writers’ room is in this film. It hits on the social, racial, and educational impact of the show. The show’s schedule was one of the most intense I’ve ever heard of. 100 episodes per year filled to the brim with original sketches (both muppet and street scenes), animation, and original songs, Sesame Street has changed the lives of countless families across the globe.

John Stone isn’t a household name in the way that Jim Henson and even Frank Oz are. Stone was the director chosen by television executive Joan Ganz Cooney. His passion and work ethic combined with an extraordinary group of artists made Sesame Street the beloved program we know today. Street Gang doesn’t sugarcoat the naysayers. It does not ignore the internal conflict. It’s an honest look at bringing it to life. The conversations between the curriculum creators and the writers were key to reaching the audience, making learning both fun and engaging.

Some of the most charming bits in the film are the blooper reels. The genius, off-the-cuff moments between cast members staying in muppet character will slay you. One very poignant time in the show’s history was anything but unscripted. The death of Mr. Hooper was a carefully curated scene. It sticks with me still today. In 1990, when Jim Henson passed at the age of 53, the world mourned alongside the cast and crew of Sesame Street. Caroll Spinney as Big Bird singing “It’s Not Easy Being Green” at Jim’s funeral is heartbreaking and eternal.

I grew up with this show. As a 40-year-old moth of a 4 and 5-year-old, my children are now growing up with this show. I’m not ashamed to say I sit and watch with them. I’m just as enthralled with Sesame Street as I ever was. Their ability to grow with the times is what keeps them relevant and brilliant. Each scene in Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street held me with its nostalgia as it peeked behind the curtain. It left me with the hope that the show will continue its legacy long after we’re gone.

THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY WILL OPEN IN THEATERS ON APRIL 23, 2021, AND ON-DEMAND MAY 7, 2021

Directed by Marilyn Agrelo (Mad Hot Ballroom) and produced by Trevor Crafts (Experimenter 2015) and Ellen Scherer Crafts, the documentary chronicles the improbable origins and expansion of the groundbreaking show that not only changed children’s television programming, but had real-world effects on equality, education, and representation worldwide. The film is inspired by Michael Davis’ New York Times best-selling book of the same name.

About Screen Media Ventures, LLC

Screen Media Ventures, LLC, a Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment (Nasdaq: CSSE) company, acquires the rights to high-quality, independent television series and feature films. Screen Media Ventures acquires worldwide rights for distribution through theatrical, home video, pay-per-view, free, cable and pay television, video-on-demand, and new digital media platforms. The company acquires AVOD rights for third-party networks and is the main supplier of content for Crackle Plus and other Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment properties. With a library of over 1,500 television series and motion pictures, Screen Media Ventures is one of the largest independent suppliers of high-quality tv series and motion pictures to U.S. and international broadcast markets, cable networks, home video outlets, and new media venues. For more information, visit: www.screenmedia.net

About Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment

Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Inc. (Nasdaq: CSSE) operates streaming video-on-demand networks (VOD). The company owns Crackle Plus which owns and operates a variety of ad-supported and subscription-based VOD networks including Crackle, Popcornflix, Popcornflix Kids, Truli, Pivotshare, Españolflix, and FrightPix. The company also acquires and distributes video content through its Screen Media subsidiary and produces original long and short-form content through Landmark Studio Group, its Chicken Soup for the Soul Originals division, and APlus.com. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment is a subsidiary of Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC, which publishes the famous book series and produces super-premium pet food under the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand name.

 About Macrocosm Entertainment

Trevor Crafts and Ellen Scherer Crafts created Macrocosm to bring dynamic engaging content to global audiences by building and showcasing unique worlds. Films include Sundance Film Festival World Premiere Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street (2021), 7 Splinters in Time (2018) Manson Family Vacation (Netflix, SXSW 2015 premier), and Experimenter (Magnolia, Sundance 2015 premier). In publishing, they created Lantern City, one of UPROXX Top Ten Comics of 2015, and The Not-So-Secret Society (2017) the first original children’s graphic novel for KaBOOM! an imprint of BOOM! Studios. For more information visit: www.macrocosm.tv.

Review: ‘At Night Comes Wolves’ but not much sense.

AT NIGHT COMES WOLVES

A sheltered housewife abandons her marriage and her misogynistic husband, only to learn that he used to be the leader of a doomsday cult that she is about to join. In this unnerving tale about misogyny, fate, and sexism comes a story about a woman who is about to change the world forever. After Leah Shaffer finally leaves her emotionally manipulative husband, she finds a friend in a drifter with whom she quickly feels a deep connection. The drifter introduces Leah to a prodigal chemist, and Leah learns her new friends are all that is left of a doomsday cult that disbanded years earlier. Together, the new trio is about to change the world, but before they can reveal their secrets, they have to tie up loose ends with Leah’s husband– and their ex-leader.

The moment I realized At Night Comes Wolves was more than a woman escaping her trash marriage, I was genuinely intrigued! Time jumps must be executed with precision and clarity. If this were a big-budget film, I probably wouldn’t be second-guessing the structure. Unfortunately, everything that followed let me down. The acting leaves much to be desired. I must give credit where credit is due. Vladimir Noel as Davey is amazing. His commitment to this dialogue should be applauded. He’s your star.  Perhaps this story would benefit from expanding his character’s adventures into a miniseries? Perhaps not. His is a story unto itself.

The pacing lags in places, which is odd considering there’s a whole bunch of WTF going on. Leah’s character is way too nonchalant with literally everything that is being introduced to her. I began to shake my head, wondering if I was being inducted into a weird cult. There were far too many concepts in this script. It was a bit maddening, sometimes laughable. It’s never a positive sign when you’re constantly checking the runtime on a screener. The final reveal actually made me angry. I will not spoil it, but let’s just say there were a million different ways to rid the population of misogyny! These storylines need to be ripped apart because the “Future scenes” are on another level! Find a different way to use those cast members, Noel included, to get from point A to point B. That’s a film I would enjoy.

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON APRIL 20

Fantaspoa 2021 review: ‘Röckët Stähr’s Death of a Rockstar’ vibrates with great music and message.

Fantaspoa 2021

Röckët Stähr’s Death of a Rockstar

In the year 2164, when rock n roll is banned, a group of underground rebels, lead by a mad scientist, attempt to start a non-violent revolution by waking up the docile masses via a cloned rockstar sent on a guerrilla tour to “rock n roll them free from the tyranny”. But they soon find out, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

Fantaspoa 2021 featured a massive lineup of great genre films. Röckët Stähr’s Death of a Rockstar is probably my favorite. Goosebumps immediately exploded up and down my arms as the soundtrack rocked me to my core. The colorful, throwback animation (reminiscent of The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine”) and subtitled lyrics scrawling across the screen in real-time, make your heart skip a beat. I had forgotten what it was like to experience the joy of a live concert. And even though this is a film, the energy feels alive. This is a rock opera for the ages.

It’s unafraid to “stick it to the man” as it overflows with social commentary. Set in a world where freedom of expression has been stifled by the marriage of religion and government. Sound familiar? Its messaging includes, “Art will save the world”, and “History is doomed to repeat itself.” But it’s also a love story, a commentary on mental health, violence, and the media. This film is a little bit of everything and it’s brilliant. I want to see this on Broadway. I want to see shadow casts perform this at midnight screenings. The music is eclectic. It’s got John Cameron Mitchell vibes, Rocky Horror sexiness, and even a touch of Monty Python humor. It deserves to be watched with an audience. It’s an epic animated rock concert bursting with pop culture references. This film kicks so much ass I need everyone to experience it so we can party together.  It will have you on your feet, dancing and grinning like a fool. Röckët Stähr’s Death of a Rockstar is destined for cult status.


Brazil’s long-running Fantaspoa Fantastic Film Festival celebrated its seventeenth edition online and completely free of charge. The 2021 edition of the beloved South American genre festival was supported by a special grant from the Brazilian government, which is offered to relevant cultural events amidst the pandemic. Running through April 18th, the seventeenth edition of Fantaspoa featured more than 100 shorts and 50 feature films from more than 35 countries. All festival screenings had a cap of 3,000 views, and all were geo-blocked to Brazilian viewers.

The film was part of Fantaspoa 2021, which ran for free on the streaming platform Darkflix, from April 9th through the 18th. All film screenings were geo-blocked to Brazil.

Additional details are available at www.fantaspoa.com.

Fantaspoa 2021 reviews: Two neon-soaked films about unresolved trauma in ‘Bloodshot Heart’ & ‘Playdurizm’

Fantaspoa 2021

BLOODSHOT HEART

At 44, Hans still lives with his mother. When Matilda, a tenant half his age, moves in, Hans relives old memories and is infatuated. To win her love, Hans comes up with a dangerous plan.

Writer-Director Parish Malfitano has given Fantaspoa audiences a hallucinatory, Giallo-inspired mindfuck with Bloodshot Heart. As if our leading man Hans (Richard James Allen) weren’t quirky enough, we learn that his mysterious ex and his domineering mother have the ultimate power over his perceived reality. When Matilda enters the picture, Hans hatches a plan to win her over that has dire and violent consequences for everyone involved. We’re never completely sure what we’re seeing is real or not. The bait and switch of characters are abundant. Color, score, and costumes become all-consuming. Richard James Allen‘s portrayal of Hans is something you must experience. His lovesick puppy act masks all the mysterious and deeply troubling emotions inside his head. The nuance he brings to Hans is astounding. Bloodshot Heart will leave you in a dizzied state. It is wild.


PLAYDURIZM

When a teenager finds himself caught in a glitchy-glitzy reality with his onscreen male idol, he does all he can to be possessed by this man and ignore the violent clues of how he got there.

I’m not going to lie. Playdurizm is extremely difficult to watch. You have no clue what the hell is going on until the finale. But damn it’s cool to look at. Eccentric costumes, neon-soaked production design, bright green vomit, all make your head spin. This is the perfect entry for the festival circuit. Brave Fantaspoa audiences will either eat it up or turn away and gag. With all the WTF that occurs in this film, it pays off in the end. Trigger warning: The amount of sexual violence in this film is jarring. Director Gem Deger (who also stars as D) definitely takes a colorful approach to PTSD. Playdurizm is a striking, LGBTQA+ foray into the genre realm.


Brazil’s long-running Fantaspoa Fantastic Film Festival is currently celebrating its seventeenth edition online and completely free of charge. The 2021 edition of the beloved South American genre festival is supported by a special grant from the Brazilian government, which is offered to relevant cultural events amidst the pandemic. Running through April 18th, the seventeenth edition of Fantaspoa features more than 100 shorts and 50 feature films from more than 35 countries. All festival screenings will have a cap of 3,000 views, and all will be geo-blocked to Brazilian viewers.

These films are part of Fantaspoa 2021, which runs for free on the streaming platform Darkflix, from April 9th through the 18th. All film screenings are geo-blocked to Brazil, with additional details available at www.fantaspoa.com.

Review: ‘The Knot’ is a battle between karma and pride.

THE KNOT

Shirish and Geeta, a middle-class couple, have a car accident one night. Their differing reactions to the fallout from the accident open up fissures in their relationship and puts to test their values and beliefs.

Before we were married, my husband and I lived in India for a year. We pretended to be married to avoid the social scrutiny. We purchased a scooter to get places on the weekends and took rickshaw rides as infrequently as possible because of Westerner price gouging. The streets were always overflowing with vehicles and people. Before I continue, I feel I must preface this review with the fact that my husband and I are white. We were born and raised on the east coast of the United States. Once we arrived in India, we dove headfirst into the culture, food, and local customs. It was all so new to us. We would be forever changed by our time there. The social structure in India is a caste system. The disparity between the upper class and the lower class is astounding. In the US, it’s easier to hide. There is a bit more visual nuance. In India, it’s much more black and white. In Ashish Pant‘s The Knot, a young, affluent couple is forced to confront that very social construct after a sudden accident. The foundation of their marriage begins to crack as the lies they tell one another and themselves will have dire consequences.

The Knot is a morality tale and a relationship movie. Geeta and Shirish are forced to confront their own flaws and the power dynamics in their marriage. Shirish’s obsession with status comes to a head with Geeta’s attempts to dissolve her guilt. Performances across the board are wonderful and the look of the film is lush. The Knot makes a point to show the realities of the country. This authenticity is key to the film’s success. The traffic is a chaotic free-for-all. We lived in Hyderabad. Drivers didn’t use their turn signals, instead, they would honk their horns. From the audio in the film, it sounds as if little has changed since 2009. It’s indescribably dangerous. We often wondered how many hit-and-run deaths were hidden due to the normalized practice of bribery. The film slyly grapples with the hierarchy at its worst. Pant uses subtle shifts in language, music, and dialect to illustrate caste. It’s such an intelligent and daring screenplay. The Knot boasts an explosive finale. The very last pan of the camera and the breaking of the fourth wall is chilling. Bravo to Ashish Pant for making such a fearless debut film.

THE KNOT WORLD PREMIERED ON MARCH 31, 2021 AT THE SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Shudder Original review: ‘The Banishing’ is overwhelming.

THE BANISHING

From acclaimed director Chris Smith comes THE BANISHING, which tells the true story of the most haunted house in England. A young reverend and his wife and daughter move into a manor with a horrifying secret. When a vengeful spirit haunts the little girl and threatens to tear the family apart, the reverend and his wife are forced to confront their beliefs. They must turn to black magic by seeking the help of a famous Occultist…or risk losing their daughter.

Portal mirror, dimensions, time loops of residual energy, religious mob, eccentric occultist, spirits with unfinished business… and Nazis? A doomed location and a church’s secret creates a perfect storm for a young family with skeletons of its own. Creepy dolls and things that go bump in the night fracture a fragile family dynamic. While British horror is a strong genre, The Banishing takes a familiar premise and cranks it beyond viability. You’ll be scratching your head as imagery rolls out… and rolls out, again.

The performances are brilliant. John Heffernan as Linus gives a fascinating and nuanced performance. Sexually repressed by choice and the church he is in denial of what is right in front of his eyes. Jealousy leads to rage and Heffernan is downright startling when it rears its ugly head. Sean Harris is a magical creature. Strawberry-dyed hair and a familiar eccentricity make Harris the only guiding light in making sense of this screenplay. I’d watch an entire series of his character’s adventures. That’s the franchise. Jessica Brown Findlay as Marianne is powerful. A palpable fear that only a mother knows seeps from her pores. Her feminist declarations will make you want to stand up and cheer.

The film’s final scene is so abrupt it’s actually irritating. This is clearly a massive plot point that is given but a moment, and that moment is the end of the film? That’s a ballsy way to, perhaps, set up a sequel. You must already have the audience on your side for that to succeed. The film is like taking every season of Ryan Murphy‘s American Horror Story and mashing them together with zero explanation. There is no consistency in the screenplay other than Marianne’s “take no shit”, anti-slut-shaming, mom-boss attitude, and Linus’ vile weakness. When you finally get to the supposed outcome with daughter Adelaide, it screams The Haunting of Bly Manor. The overall look of the film is undeniably gorgeous. Some scenes contain viscerally jarring imagery. Ultimately, Shudder subscribers can decide for themselves whether it’s overstuffed or if we’re more in a 13 Ghosts territory. You could give it a pass being that it’s based on the true story of the most haunted house in England. In my opinion, The Banishing deserves to be fleshed out as a series. Show up for the performances, the set, and the cinematography, and let me know what you think once the screen goes black for good.

THE BANISHING will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 15th in the US, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, as well as via the Shudder offering within the AMC+ bundle where available.

THE BANISHING

Genre: Horror

Country: United Kingdom

Runtime: 97 min

Year: 2021

Rated: NA

Starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey), Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible franchise), John Lynch (The Secret Garden, Black Death), and John Heffernan (Eye in the Sky) and directed by Christopher Smith (Creep, Severance, Triangle).

THE BANISHING is a WestEnd Films production.

ABOUT SHUDDER:

AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers, and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. For a 7-day, risk-free trial, visit www.shudder.com.

Review: ‘Welcome To The Show’ begs your attention and challenges your morality.

WELCOME TO THE SHOW

An invitation to a mysterious theatre piece, “The Show,” sends four best friends down a rabbit hole of mistrust and madness as they try to figure out who are the actors, who is the audience, who is doing this to them, and why.

One lie, 4 best friends, and a mysterious theatrical invitation lead to existential conversations and life-changing consequences in this unusual indie film. Relationships are pushed to their breaking points when the truth is impossible to escape. Welcome To The Show begs your attention and challenges your moral compass. Writer-director Dorie Barton, whose film Girl Flu is a must-see, gives audiences a whole lot to chew on in her sophomore feature.

A notable pattern in the dialogue sees the group using a word association device to both play and calm one another. At first, it feels quirky. This carefully curated choice becomes one of the most meaningful aspects of the script. You’ll be undoubtedly confused at times but as revelations spill into reality, the bigger picture is altogether shocking. Welcome To The Show is easily a double entendre for life. If you think you know where this film is going, think again. It veers from funny and relatable to dark and completely unexpected. The cast is extraordinary. Each of our four leads gives a distinct and powerful performance. Their emotional journeys are thoroughly surprising. Richard Follin, Dillon Douglasson, Keegan Garant, and Christopher Martin, bravo, gentleman. That final shot is physically jarring and brilliant. Welcome To The Show is the epitome of independent film in the best ways.