Review: ‘BEST SELLERS’ shares the beauty between truth and fiction.

BEST SELLERS

Lucy Standbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her father’s publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing titles. She discovers she is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map decades earlier. In a last-ditch effort to save the company, Lucy and Harris release his new book and embark on a book tour from hell that changes them both in ways they didn’t expect.


Aubrey Plaza plays against type as Lucy. She’s a type-A editor on the verge of bankruptcy. She’s got a lot to prove. On the surface, this is the least brooding role she’s ever played. Unsurprisingly, that’s all a rouse, and Plaza is up for the challenge. Lucy is given a beautiful arch. Her backstory, like Harris’, is slowly revealed. This allows us to fall in love with both of these characters. Sir Michael Caine gives one of his career’s best performances. As curmudgeonly and reclusive writer Hariss Shaw, he has settled into a lifetime of secrets and sadness. At times, Caine is raucous and crass. Others, he is docile and pensive. The chemistry between Plaza and Caine feels like an honest-to-God mentorship onscreen. This is generational genius, and we are the witnesses.

Voracious readers will connect with this script. The film flows like a novel with its complex characters and ever-evolving nuance. The screenplay unfolds in three distinct chapters, befitting the subjects and full story. Both Lucy and Harris straddle the line between saving face and redemption. The passages from Harris’ fictional work touched my soul. I could feel my chest well up hearing them read by average folks along the book tour. By the finale of Best Sellers, I was in full tears. The totality of Anthony Greico‘s award-winning script has so much heart. It’s incredibly cathartic. These two people were meant to change each other. The messaging of identity and grief are undeniable. In the words of Harris Shaw himself, “Be brief, be brave, be truthful. ” Director Lina Roessler has done just that. Best Sellers is not to be missed.


Available In Theaters & On-Demand
This Friday, September 17, 2021


Starring:
Sir Michael Caine (The Dark Knight, The Prestige)
Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed, “Parks and Rec”)
Ellen Wong (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, “GLOW”)
Scott Speedman (Underworld, The Strangers)
Cary Elwes (“Stranger Things”, The Princess Bride)

Directed by Lina Roessler (Little Whispers: The Vow, Mustard Seed)

Written by Anthony Greico the screenplay won a 2015 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting Award

Gala Presentation – 2021 Berlinale Film Festival


GRIMMFEST turns lucky 13 for this year’s hybrid addition. Here are some of the films we’re screaming about.

GRIMMFEST 2021

It’s no secret that the most buzz-worthy films come through only a handful of genre festivals. GRIMMFEST is on that shortlist. The festival turns a lucky 13 this year and it’s ready to rock audiences’ socks with a plethora of titles for every single viewer. After being completely virtual last year, a hybrid platform is back in action with a mix of in-person screenings from October 7th to 10th and online from October 14th to 17th. I can say that this year’s lineup is filled with everything from gore to absurdity, thrills to purest moments of wow. These are the films that will be on everyone’s lips. You can find out about tickets and schedules at https://grimmfest.com/

Do yourself a favor and mark your calendars now. There’s a lot to see.


THE BETA TEST

A Hollywood agent, engaged to be married in a few weeks, receives a mysterious letter inviting him for an anonymous sexual encounter and thus becomes ensnared in a sinister world of lying, infidelity, and digital data.

This genre-shattering film takes aim at Hollywood, toxic masculinity, horror, satire, all with co-writer-director Jim Cummings playing a sharp lead. His last film, The Wolf Of Snow Hollow, has a legit cult following now. Cummings has a distinct voice and I cannot wait to see if The Beta Test becomes another calling card on his resume.


THE RIGHTEOUS

A burdened man feels the wrath of a vengeful God after he and his wife are visited by a mysterious stranger…

There is something so striking about modern black & white cinematography. in The Righteous, writer-director Mark O’Brien also stars as the mysterious stranger in question. This horror film is filled with symbolism and will give any god-fearing viewer the vapers.


WHEN THE SCREAMING STARTS

When the Screaming Starts is a comedy-horror mockumentary about an inept, aspiring serial killer at the beginning of his “career” and a fledgling filmmaker willing to do anything to achieve his ambition.

A little bit of Vicious Fun meets Satanic Panic, I cannot wait to laugh and gag. Horror and comedy pair so well together and since everyone is a true-crime connoisseur who thinks they could commit the perfect murder, I am delighted to consume this one.


THE SPORE

The lives of ten strangers intersect through a terrifying chain of events as a mutating fungus begins to spread through a small town wiping out everyone that comes into contact with it.

Will this film be a little too close to home considering we’re still experiencing a global pandemic? I guess we’ll find out when we’re forced to look through the lens of writer-director D.M Cunningham.


HOTEL POSEIDON

Dave inherited the dingy and dilapidated Hotel Poseidon from his late father. He lives there and works as manager, and rarely seems to leave the place. The days and nights all bleed together. His existence is a hopeless one. When a young woman knocks at the hotel’s doors one night looking for a room, and his best friend shows up wanting to throw a party in the backroom, Dave’s world starts to spiral out of control, and his sense of reality starts to be shaken by recurring nightmares.

I have seen the title sequence for this film and it is hands down one of the coolest in all of cinematic history. I said what I said. If the rest of the film lives up to the initial visual, Hotel Poseidon will wow Grimmfest audiences.


ALONE WITH YOU

As a young woman painstakingly prepares a romantic homecoming for her girlfriend, their apartment begins to feel more like a tomb when voices, shadows, and hallucinations reveal a truth she has been unwilling to face.

Listen, you tell me Barbara Crampton is in a film and I’m watching it. Add on Emily Bennett who was fantastic in King Of Knives last year and I’m sold. Not only does she star, but she co-wrote and co-directed the film. Give me an all-female horror film every day of the year.



FULL VIRTUAL FESTIVAL LINE UP:

● FOR ROGER (Aaron Bartuska, USA)

● FATHER OF FLIES (Ben Charles-Edwards UK / USA)

● SLAPFACE (Jeremiah Kipp, USA)

● THE NIGHTS BELONG TO THE MONSTERS (Sebastian Perillo, Argentina)

● HAPPY TIMES (Michael Mayer, Israel / USA)

● NIGHT AT THE EAGLE INN (Erik Bloomquist, USA)

● VAL (Aaron Fradkin, USA, 77 min)

● THE SPORE (D.M. Cunningham, USA)

● THE PIZZAGATE MASSACRE (John Valley, USA)

● MOTHERLY (Craig David Wallace, Canada)

● SHOT IN THE DARK (Keene McRae, USA)

● NIGHT DRIVE (Brad Baruh, USA)

● MIDNIGHT (Oh-seung Kwon, South Korea)

● FACELESS (Marcel Sarmiento, USA)

● WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR (Jane Schoenbrun, USA)

● THE FREE FALL (Adam Stillwell, USA)

● ON THE THIRD DAY (Daniel de la Vega, Argentina)

● THE GUEST ROOM (Stefano Lodovichi, Italy)

● HOTEL POSEIDON (Stefan Lernous, Belgium)

● FORGIVENESS (Alex Kahuam, Mexico)

● TWO WITCHES (Pierre Tsigaridis, USA)

● KING KNIGHT (Richard Bates Jnr, USA)

● TARUMAMA / LLANTO MALDITO (Andres Beltran, Colombia)

● THE RIGHTEOUS (Mark O’Brien, Canada)


 

Passes and tickets can be purchased from www.grimmfest.com.

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

Featured

SMALL ENGINE REPAIR

Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Wigham) are lifelong friends who share a love of the Red Sox, rowdy bars, and Frankie’s teenaged daughter Crystal (Ciara Bravo). But when Frankie invites his pals to a whiskey-fueled evening and asks them to do a favor on behalf of the brash young woman they all adore, events spin wildly out of control. Based on Pollono’s award-winning play, Small Engine Repair is a pitch-black comedic drama with a wicked twist and a powerful exploration of brotherhood, class struggle, and toxic masculinity.


Frankie (John Pollono), Swaino (Jon Bernthal), and Packie (Shea Whigham) are working-class men that share a friendship bond going back to childhood. That bond is strengthened further by their co-parenting of Frankie’s beloved daughter Crystal, who has spent a lifetime being raised by a loving– if raucous– male collective. This sets the scene for a fascinating character study of a group of men raised in a culture steeped in toxic masculinity who struggle to push back against it but often fall incredibly short. 

At first, Small Engine Repair seems like a dark family drama with a comedic edge. However, it is not until the second act that the viewer realizes that they are in the midst of a thriller. Complex performances by the entire cast gradually build tension through sharp looks, quick words, and complicated histories until the atmosphere on screen is so thick with menace that suddenly, every word and movement is a threat. It is hard to say more without giving away the shocking twists that a seemingly ordinary whiskey-fueled night in a garage would unleash. So instead, I will say that the tightly directed and brilliantly acted Small Engine Repair had me holding my breath through the finale.


In Theaters September 10, 2021


Written and Directed by

John Pollono

Starring: Jon Bernthal, Shea Whigham, Jordana Spiro, John Pollono, Ciara Bravo, Spencer House


Tribeca Festival 2021 capsule reviews: ‘Settlers’, ‘Glob Lessons’, and ‘7 Days’

Settlers

Mankind’s earliest settlers on the Martian frontier do what they must to survive the cosmic elements and each other.

Undeniably riveting, Settlers pits one family unit against another. Brooklynn Prince, who burst onto the scene in The Florida Project, captivates as a child whose survival depends on the lies she’s been fed by adults. Sofia Boutella skillfully plays her mother and ardent protector. As the reality of the situation of humanity is slowly revealed, the peril grows for everyone involved. Settlers is a film about trust, through and through. As time passes, Remmy’s role is taken over by Nell Tiger Free. She must navigate loneliness, and more importantly, the advances of the man who keeps her both alive and captive. Settlers’ unique script by director Wyatt Rockefeller allows us to question what we would do when faced with extreme circumstances. The landscape beautifully mimics the surface of Mars. Its desolate surroundings create palpable isolation and ceaseless desperation. The addition of a robotic character is the only thing that brings levity. Ismael Cruz Córdova as Jesses walks a precarious line between savior and villain. His beliefs steer the story into the darkest regions of human nature. Settlers is worth the watch for extraordinary performances and one hell of a feature debut from Rockefeller.

DIRECTOR
Wyatt Rockefeller
CAST

Sofia Boutella, Ismael Cruz Córdova, Brooklynn Prince, Nell Tiger Free, Jonny Lee Miller


Glob Lessons

Two mismatched strangers confront their fears of intimacy and inadequacy as they tour low-budget children’s theatre out of a minivan across the frozen Upper Midwest.

Nicole Rodenburg and Colin Froeber give us every emotion on screen. As a theater major, I know Jesse and Alan. But as a human being, everyone will know them. The concept of pouring your soul into your passion with little in return is universal, be it children’s theatre or any other occupation. There is a fine line between love and loathing. The laughs are plenty lying within awkward non-conversation and road movie tropes. Tension and tolerance levels eventually come to a head with creativity as their savior. In Glob Lessons, the moments of genuine intimacy between Froeber and Rodenburg grab hold of the viewer. Jesse and Alan are fleshed-out characters. At times they are pathetic, other times endearing. The chemistry between Froeber and Rodenburg is the stuff of movie magic. Glob Lessons isn’t flashy and that’s the point. Life is messy. Let’s own it. I am excited to see what comes next from a voice like Rodenburg’s. If Glob Lessons is any indication, we’ll be seeing more very soon.

 

DIRECTOR
Nicole Rodenburg
SCREENWRITER

Colin Froeber, Nicole Rodenburg


7 Days

As if their pre-arranged date, organized by their traditional Indian parents, wasn’t uncomfortable enough, Ravi and Rita are forced to shelter in place together as COVID-19’s reach intensifies.

This film snuck up on me. Filmed during lockdown and using COVID as a major plot point, 7 Days turns the concept of traditional arranged marriage on its head. Geraldine Viswanathan brings the laughs as Rita. Breaking the mold of the dutiful would-be bride, she begrudgingly comes to Ravi’s rescue with little to no hope of being his match. Karan Soni, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Roshan Sethi, plays straight-laced, Ravi.  As boredom sets in and guards are let down, a genuine connection slowly develops. The chemistry between Viswanathan and Karan feels grounded and made for some incredibly memorable moments. 7 Days is funny and heartfelt. I was not expecting the darker turn in the script. It was a bold move that paid off in spades. Filmed mostly in one room created the tension and awkwardness we needed to experience alongside Rita and Ravi. It takes the idea of close quarters to the extreme. 7 Days is a true gem from this year’s festival.

DIRECTOR
Roshan Sethi
SCREENWRITER
Karan Soni, Roshan Sethi
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Mark Duplass, Jay Duplass, Roshan Sethi, Karan Soni, Geraldine Viswanathan

Tribeca Festival 2021 review: ‘My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To’ proves blood is thicker than water.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To

Two mysterious siblings find themselves at odds over care for their frail and sickly younger brother.

Isolation, survival, depression, organized chaos. These are heavy-hitting words to describe a film with a blunt force trauma of an opening. My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To is a film that’s been on everyone’s lips for a year now. It’s been killing it on the festival circuit, and rightly so. This slow-burn horror puts three siblings at odds due to one’s unique affliction. Jesse has become the taskmaster Mamabird, driving the survival of her family. Dwight is stuck between resentment and loyalty as his patience is running out. Youngest brother Thomas just wants to break free of his physical and emotional prison. Stunted in every way possible, what would life look like without his elder siblings? Is blood thicker than water? My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To begs that very question, quite literally.

Patrick Fugit as Dwight is heartbreaking. The cracks are evident from the very beginning. His conscience weighs on him as his desire for normalcy and peace are all-consuming. Ingrid Sophie Schram as Jesse is everything we need her to be. Focused and utterly exhausted. The survival of this family unit is driven by her sense of duty and not necessarily by love this many years in. She and Fugit are brilliant scene partners. Owen Campbell as Thomas is a nuanced mix of childlike and monster. You simultaneously sympathize and loathe him. These are striking performances.

My Heart Can’t Beat Unless You Tell It To has a finale that will first crush you then slowly, you’ll start to breathe again. It’s the perfect catharsis. Writer-director Jonathan Cuartas gives us every single emotion in this script. It’s meticulously thought out. To think that this is a feature debut sends shivers down my spine in anticipation of what’s next. How this story manages to walk the line between horror and morality tale is simply genius. You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors. Some are better left closed.

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: ‘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

SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Language Lessons’ translates universally, and ‘Violet’ silences the voices that haunt us.

LANGUAGE LESSONS

A Spanish teacher and her student develop an unexpected friendship.

Unique, shocking, insightful, complex, beautiful, these are a few words that describe one of the best films from this year’s SXSW virtual festival. Two strangers become connected through chance and a gift of Spanish lessons. Cariño and Adam communicate through zoom, voicemail, genuine human connection. Mark Duplass plays Adam. Unsurprising that he is completely natural and down to earth. You’re instantly enamored with his performance. Natalie Morales is charming and honest. She’s funny and relatable. Their chemistry is the stuff of movie magic.  I would love to see them paired up again and again. They completely work around the entire subject of Covid. This could be happening at any point in time and that’s nice to feel right now. Ultimately, this screenplay is about the human spirit without a filter. Written by Morales and Duplass, and directed by Morales, Language Lessons is profound and revealing. It will touch you in ways you won’t expect.

 

VIOLET

A film development executive realizes that “guiding voice” inside her head has been lying to her about everything.

I don’t know if a film could be any more relatable to everyone. My husband used to point out how negatively I spoke about myself. Once I noticed the self-deprecating behavior, I started noticing my mother doing the same thing. It’s a learned behavior. One we permit to exist. Olivia Munn, who wowed me back in The Newsroom, represents so many of us. This issue is ageless, ingrained, suffocating. Her vulnerability and honesty shine and we’re better for it. Justin Theroux‘s voice acting is the dickheaded tone we all know too well. What a fantastic choice. The internal battle of never feeling like we’re enough is universal. In Violet, the visual juxtaposition of handwritten thoughts, like a right-brain/left-brain battle, and Theroux as “The Voice” is perfection. When you finally catch onto the overall picture, it’s really quite genius. It’s telegraphed without our knowledge early on. Writer-director Justine Bateman nails her feature debut. What a complex and carefully curated script. Women, in particular, are going to be locked into this film.

Review: ‘Dirty God’ has power in performances and writing.

In Dirty God, a young mother from London must pick up the pieces in the aftermath of an acid attack that leaves her with disastrous scarring. Living in a looks-obsessed world, and without that as her currency, Jane must move on with her new life, personal difficulties, and the unfortunate occurrences of everyday humiliation.

Vicky Knight as Jade is a revelation. Her expression of physical and emotional pain in all its nuance makes Dirty God as successful as it is. She just wants a bit of normalcy. From the fear her own daughter displays, to the reaction of peers, to confronting her ex and attacker in court, to feel loved, the daily battle screams from the screen. One of the most impactful scenes comes when she purchases a burka. Hiding the majority of her body gives her the confidence to act with freedom. It’s an exhilarating scene to experience with her. The emotional scars are as relevant as the physical ones. Knight, who was burnt as a child in real life, can represent the undercounted number of women that have been attacked in this manner.

Jade attempts to connect with others online. Those scenes are incredibly profound in the grand scheme of her arch. The most difficult thing is watching people treat Jade in a subhuman manner. It’s positively atrocious. The entire conversation around the importance of appearance in society, ableist behavior, and kindness, in general, is one for the ages. Dirty God is inspired and important viewing where the human divide and vitriol are so wide and prevalent. It’s an awesome statement on bullying and an even bigger one for self-esteem.

OPENING IN SELECT THEATERS ON NOVEMBER 13

 Laemmle link: https://linktr.ee/dirtygodfilm

AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS ON DECEMBER 15th

Dark Star Pictures will release DIRTY GOD with a virtual release through Laemmle Theaters in LA, Gateway Film Center (Virtual) in Columbus, and more theaters to be announced on November 13, 2020. The film will also be made available on digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Fandango Now, Direct TV, and through local cable providers on December 15, 2020. The film has a running time of 104 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.

 

Review: ‘The Artist’s Wife’ creates drama through truth.

 

Claire (Lena Olin) lives a domestic life in the Hamptons as the wife of celebrated artist Richard Smythson (Bruce Dern). Once a promising painter herself, Claire now lives in the shadow of her husband’s illustrious career. While preparing work for his final show, Richard’s moods become increasingly erratic, and he is diagnosed with dementia. As his memory and behavior deteriorate, she shields his condition from the art community while trying to reconnect him with his estranged daughter and grandson from a previous marriage. Challenged by the loss of her world as she knew it, Claire must now decide whether to stand with Richard on the sidelines or step into the spotlight herself.

Lena Olin and Bruce Dern star in Tom Dolby‘s newest film The Artist’s Wife. While Olin plays the wife of a world-renowned artist, the film is centered on her. She has clearly given her entire life to serve and care and nourish her husband’s talent, but her emotional patience has finally run out, and rightfully so. Olin’s performance is like watching a masterclass in acting because it is not “acting”, she is living in this role. Her effortless grace and honesty explode off the screen. Dern, ever the master himself, brings precision and sadness to his character’s circumstance that you will love and hate him all at once. It is captivating.

The screenplay by Dolby, Nicole Branding, and Andi Nazemian about is a woman’s reawakening and the pressures of a caretaker. It skillfully highlights perceived gender roles. At some points actually taking an ax to them. The exploration of the ripple effects of dementia on a family unit certainly rings true. The manic behavior, the confusion, the disdain, and anger all come to a head. It’s tragic and very real.

The cinematography is beautiful. The soundtrack is a spectacular collection of indie hits. I especially adored the placement of Us by Regina Spektor. It’s joyful and perfect. The Artist’s Wife is about loss. But it is also about self-care. It is about sacrifice. Tom Dolby has presented us with a complex look at the human spirit through art and love. You will be entranced from every perspective.

September 25 release date in select theaters and on VOD.

**Official Selection **
Palm Springs International Film Festival
Mill Valley Film Festival Hamptons Film Festival
Whistler Film Festival

RT: 95 min

Review: ‘The Dark End Of The Street’ will capture your attention.

Set in an idyllic, suburban community where someone is killing other residents’ pets, The Dark End of the Street focuses on several characters over the course of one long night: a lonely woman mourning her dog, the culprit committing the violent acts, an overly concerned family man, and restless teenagers. And over this night, their worlds will intertwine in ways none of them ever could have expected.

Even though made on a micro-budget, talent looms large in The Dark End of the Street. In a cool 70 minutes, this film tackles paranoia, generational differences, hard life choices, typical suburban teen life, family dynamics, all against the backdrop of an unknown neighborhood sociopath. The screenplay feels reminiscent of other great vignette films like Playing By Heart and GO. Performances, a few from faces you will recognize from various projects big and small, are all wonderful. There is a beautiful level of intimacy woven into the scenes. You are instantly drawn into the lives of each character. These are conversations, or some form of them, that we’ve experienced. They discuss safety, the longing for recaptured youth, boredom, impending parenthood, and the death of a life once lived.  Despite the implicated (never actually shown) violence, The Dark End Of The Street is universally relatable. Coupled with interesting cinematography that shows an eye for detail, Kevin Tran’s little indie drama is incredibly impactful.

Gravitas Venture is releasing The Dark End of the Street nationwide on VOD today, August 11th.

The Dark End of the Street stars Scott Friend, Lindsay Burdge, Brooke Bloom, Jim Parrack, Michael Cyril Creighton, Jennifer Kim, Daniel K. Isaac, Anthony Chisholm, and Rod Luzzi.
It is written and directed by Kevin TRAN.
Color
English Language
70 minutes
Not Rated

Review: ‘The Sunlit Night’ glows from every angle.

Synopsis: The Sunlit Night follows an aspiring painter (Slate) from New York City to the farthest reaches of Arctic Norway for an assignment she hopes will invigorate her work and expand her horizons. In a remote village, among the locals, she meets a fellow New Yorker (Sharp), who has come in search of a proper Viking funeral only to find that the Chief (Galifianakis) is but a re-enactor from Cincinnati. The eclectic crew ranges from “home” to “lost,” within the extreme and dazzling landscape of the Far North. Under a sun that never quite sets, and the high standards of an unforgiving mentor, Frances must navigate between ambition, desire, obligation, and risk in order to find a way forward.

If you grew up with an art teacher mother as I did, this film will resonate with you immediately. I was given my own portfolio at the age of six. To be fair, I was drawing scale recreations from the 3 foot Georgia O’Keefe book that came with it. The birthday prior my parents got divorced. The Sunlit Night is a film made or me.

Through art references and voiceover we are privy to Frances’ inner thoughts. These moments are like diary entries. Color is like its own character. Frances is always wearing red. The barn is entirely different shades of yellow. The landscape is lush green. Viking reenactments are jewel and earth-toned while Yasha is in black. Specific paintings mirror each character, according to Frances. The film is a cinephile and art lover’s dream. Everyone that arrives is there to find something or perhaps, truly, to find themselves. The relationship between all the eccentric inhabitants of this small Norwegian town is what makes this film extra charming. Every shot in the film seems to glow. It’s simply breathtaking.

Jenny Slate is extraordinary. She always shines through her humor but here she has the opportunity to explore an even more nuanced vulnerability. Alex Sharp is tender and open. More and more of him everywhere, please. Fridtjov Såheim as Nils is a perfect balance of obstinate and passionate. He’s a great foil for Slate. While Zach Galifianakis is his adorably funny self in this, I wish we had more of him. As for Gillian Anderson, her appearance is brief but I’ll never turn down a chance to watch her effortlessness. The Sunlit Night has a glorious grace to it. It’s not a loud film, by any means, but what it does it does extremely well. Take a peek at the trailer below and watch the film on VOD starting tomorrow.

THE SUNLIT NIGHT will be released on VOD on July 17th from Quiver Distribution.

Review: ‘Sometimes Always Never’ is as charming as its leading man, Bill Nighy.


Alan (Bill Nighy) is a stylish tailor with moves as sharp as his suits. He has spent years searching tirelessly for his missing son Michael who stormed out over a game of Scrabble. With a body to identify and his family torn apart, Alan must repair the relationship with his youngest son Peter (Sam Riley) and solve the mystery of an online player who he thinks could be Michael, so he can finally move on and reunite his family.

Bill Nighy is his nonchalant, charming self as an eccentric, and brilliant Scrabble obsessed tailor. This gem of a film shows how family rubs off on you even when you don’t want them to. Sometimes Always Never is a film about communication. The cast’s chemistry is ideal. That perfect push and pull you need in a complex and loaded family dynamic. The beautiful and deliberate visual moments add to the quirky nature and balance out the underlying sadness. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. The final act will feel like an emotional homecoming. The writing is spectacular.

Sometimes Always Never is not a flashy film. It’s about multigenerational relationships. It’s about living in the present. You can watch the film in virtual cinemas Friday June 12th and on On Demand  July 10th.

Full list of virtual cinemas HERE!

Directed by: Carl Hunter
Written by: Frank Cottrell Boyce
Cast: Bill Nighy, Sam Riley, Alice Lowe, Jenny Agutter, Tim McInnerny

Review: ‘Endings, Beginnings’ is the emotional roller coaster we didn’t know we needed.

In present-day Los Angeles, Daphne (Woodley), a thirty-something woman, navigates love and heartbreak over the course of one year. Daphne becomes intertwined with friends Jack (Dornan) and Frank (Stan) after meeting them at a party. During that time, she will unlock the secrets to her life in a sudden turn of events and in the most surprising of places. 

There’s something emotionally tangible about the editing and performances in Endings, Beginnings. Woodley is easily the representation of every viewer after an adult relationship comes to an end. There is a grounded, vulnerability that feels familiar. But out of context that could sound boring. What you’re getting with this script’s progression is all the aspects of the human experience; passion, volatility, depression, exhaustion, excitement, lust, self-loathing, hope, and everything in between.

Shailene Woodley has earned this script. It’s an awesome platform for her abilities. The dynamic between Woodley and Dornan vs Woodley and Stan is like night and day. This is a joy to watch because as the plot rolls along you begin to realize this isn’t truly a film about the two relationships. They are the springboard. Sebastian Stan and Jaime Dornan are brilliant, beautiful foils for one another in every single way. Both equal parts passionate and sexy but for very different reasons. While this lets Woodley showcase her ability to play both a light and dark side of her personality, it’s merely the beginning of this story. At the heart of it, the film is about self-actualization. It’s about forgiveness and growth through your mistakes and the mistakes of others. The script is complex and rewarding. I highly recommend Endings, Beginnings for everything that it represents, which is a lot. At the end of the film, you’ll easily take a huge breath in and exhale any expectations you had at the start of the movie. Drake Doremus has given us a perfect watch right now.

Samuel Goldwyn Films will release the romantic drama,ENDINGS, BEGINNINGSin On Digital April 17, and On-Demand May 1, 2020.

ENDINGS, BEGINNINGS is directed by Drake Doremus (Equals, Like Crazy) who co-wrote the script with Jardine Libaire, who makes her feature screenwriting debut.  The film stars Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent franchise), Jamie Dornan (50 Shades franchise, A Private War), Sebastian Stan (Captain America franchise, “Gossip Girl”), Matthew Gray Gubler(500 Days of Summer, “Criminal Minds”), Lindsay Sloane (Bring It On, She’s Out of My League) and Kyra Sedgwick (“The Closer,” Singles). 

 

Review: ‘International Falls’ explores the fine line between comedy and tragedy.

A woman stuck in a small, snowbound border town has dreams of doing comedy when she meets a washed-up, burned-out comedian with dreams of doing anything else.

International Falls is funny from the very first scene. The jokes are witty and rapid-fire. But you can feel a sense of sadness lingering over the comedy. Rachael Harris and Rob Huebel experience feelings of remorse and betrayal, all while making jokes. This script is a nuanced look into depression, ambition, and longing. It’s about choices, both right and wrong. The cool, sometimes awkward, sometimes heartwarming chemistry is awesome to see. I don’t know how much if any, of the dialogue was improvised but Harris and Huebel were perfect casting choices. The location adds to the plot in a massive way. The snow-covered and isolated, smalltown feel, impacts not only the characters and audience. Whether directly or indirectly, the viewer feels as trapped by International Falls as our two leads. There are essentially three main sets, the hotel (predominantly the room), the quaint downtown exteriors, and the stage. The later is intercut throughout the film with Tim’s stand up routines. The combination of Amber McGinnis’ directorial debut and writer Thomas Ward’s screenplay makes for an insightful, laugh-out-loud, dramedy.  There is so much more than meets the eye with this film. Its authenticity will stick with you.

INTERNATIONAL FALLS stars Rachel Harris (Lucifer, Suits), Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital, Transparent), and Kevin Nealon (Man with a Plan, Weeds)

The film has been an official selection at 22 film festivals across the country and has won multiple awards, including the Grand Jury Prize at 5 different festivals. The film festivals giving the film their highest honor, include the Ashland Independent Film Festival, the Naples International Film Festival, the New York No Limits Film Series, the Seattle International Film Festival, and the Tallgrass International Film Festival in Wichita.

The award-winning film opens Friday, March 20 in Austin,
Boston, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Detroit, Houston,
Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Seattle

 

Review: ‘The Postcard Killings’ keeps things twisted.

In The Postcard Killings, based on the James Patterson and Liza Marklund #1 New York Times bestselling novel, NY Detective Jacob Kanon’s (Jeffery Dean Morgan) world is destroyed when his daughter and son-in-law are brutally murdered in London. Unable to sit idly by and do nothing, Jacob travels to London get the answers he needs. As he learns of similar heinous murders happening across Europe – each preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist – Jacob is in a race against time to stop the killings and find justice for his little girl.

Famke Janssen becomes more relevant as Jacob’s ex-wife Val in the second half. She is his eyes and ears on a lead back in the States. Her ever dark, brooding, and strong presence was the perfect casting choice. Denis O’Hare‘s startling appearance is awesome. He can essentially do no wrong and is one of the most sought after character actors working, just ask Ryan Murphy. Jeffery Dean Morgan, who I have adored since his Supernatural days, has superstar range. Not only does he have a booming voice but truly dashing good looks. He owns the entire screen whenever he appears. Here, he plays NYPD detective thrust into the honeymoon murder investigation of his own daughter and son-in-law in London. When the details seem familiar, he makes it his mission to find the killer on an international chase. Morgan has the ability to say very little but expresses so much simply through a glance. He is undeniably fantastic. I hope we see more big-screen appearances once The Walking Dead comes to an end.

Opening with some gruesome imagery, The Postcard Killings immediately captures your interest. The script is thoroughly engrossing. It has a bit of a Se7en feel with a body horror aspect. Just when you think you know what’s going on, think again. As bodies pile up, clues are revealed that will both intrigue and shock. You will place yourself in Jacob ‘s shoes. One hour in, you will be thrown so much information and the tonal shift will knock you down. You will never be bored. The international locations are stunning, mixed with the light orchestral score, The Postcard Killings is an entertaining thriller.

RLJE Films will release THE POSTCARD KILLINGS in theaters and On Demand and Digital on March 13, 2020. The film is based on the #1 New York Times bestselling novel “The Postcard Killers” by James Patterson and Liza Marklund.

THE POSTCARD KILLINGS stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( “The Walking Dead”), Famke Janssen (X-Men franchise), Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”), Joachim Król (Run Lola Run), Steven Mackintosh (Rocketman), and Denis O’Hare (“American Horror Story”). Written by Andrew Stern (Disconnect), Ellen Furman (The Infiltrator), Liza Marklund and Tove Alsterdal, the film was directed by Academy Award Winner Danis Tanovic (No Man’s Land).

Review: ‘Three Christs’ brings heavenly performances.

In 1959, psychiatrist Dr. Alan Stone (Richard Gere) arrives at a mental hospital in Ypsilanti, Michigan armed with the radical belief that schizophrenic patients should be treated not with confinement and electroshock therapy but with empathy and understanding. As his first study, he takes on the particularly challenging case of three men—Joseph (Peter Dinklage), Leon (Walton Goggins), and Clyde (Bradley Whitford)—each of whom believes they are Jesus Christ. Hoping that by getting them together in the same room to confront their delusions he can break through to them, Dr. Stone begins a risky, unprecedented experiment that will push the boundaries of psychiatric medicine and leave everyone involved—including Dr. Stone himself—profoundly changed. Based on a remarkable true story, Three Christs is a fascinating and moving look at one man’s journey into the deepest mysteries of the human mind.

This impeccable cast leaves their hearts on the screen. Gere, Dinklage, Goggins, Whitford, and Pollak are at their best. Based on true events in the 1950’s, when shock therapy was the most common treatment for a schizophrenic outburst, Dr. Stone introduces psychotherapy as a means of potentially curing this diagnosis.

Gere as Dr. Stone is as reliable as ever. It’s a solid and compassionate performance. Peter Dinklage as Joseph (or Jesus #1) has all the elegance of an eccentric European professor. An opera aria and letter writing are his means of self-expression. Dinklage is nothing short of riveting. Bradley Whitford plays Clyde (#2). Carrying a tattered cardboard box and responding in oxymoronic rhetoric, he is charming and genuine.

Walton Goggins is Leon (JC #3). Intuitive and emotionally stunning, his performance is truly award-worthy. Charlotte Hope as Dr. Stone’s research assistant gives an innocent and inquisitive tone to her character Becky. Kevin Pollak is Dr. Orbus. He is a power-wielding man whose true nature is slow to emerge. Unscrupulous in his selfishness, Pollak plays him in such a way that while you loathe him, he is essential as a foil for Gere. I would be remiss if I did not mention James Monroe Iglehart as Benny, the group’s orderly. He is the perfect balance between professional and personal. He could be the very representation of the film’s viewer.

The film has highs and lows in pacing. It’s simple but precisely shot. Ultimately, this film shines in its high caliber performances. Three Christs is an important story in the larger scheme of discussing mental illness across the spectrum. Not labeling individuals but treating them with compassion. It tackles healing through human connection and not the for-profit approach to medicine.

IFC Films will release THREE CHRISTS in theaters, On Digital and On Demand on Friday, January 10, 2020.

THREE CHRISTS is directed by award-winning filmmaker Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes) from a script co-written by Avnet and Eric Nazarian.  The film is based on Milton Rokeach’s groundbreaking and controversial experiment chronicled in his book The Three Christs Of YpsilantiTHREE CHRISTS features an all-star cast including Richard Gere (Chicago, Pretty Woman), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones” Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Walton Goggins (“Justified,” Them That Follow), Bradley Whitford (“The West Wing,” Get Out), Charlotte Hope(Allied, Les Miserables), and Julianna Margulies (“The Good Wife,” “ER”).

Review: ‘After Class’ pits generational activism against itself with thoughtful writing and a lot of laughs.

Synopsis:
AFTER CLASS follows a New York City professor (Long) as he spends a week reconnecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.

After Class is one hell of a film. Lead by Justin Long as an adjunct professor of creative writing, the plot revolves around a moment in class that triggers his students. While the script deals head-on with the MeToo movement, it’s complexity must be experienced first hand. It’s about loyalty and family and standing up for what you believe in with some goddamn conviction. While Long leads the way, this feels like an ensemble cast because of the amount of talent stacked up. There is not a loose thread in this film. I’ve never seen Fran Drescher in a role so opposite her iconic days on The Nanny. Cast this fabulous lady in all the things. Richard Schiff is excellent in his attempt to keep the peace with families old and new. Watching him keep it together (or not) is a delight. Kate Berlant is perfection as Long’s feisty sister. She feels like she’s been doing this for ages. She easily steals the attention in every scene she’s in. And now to Long. As far as I’m concerned, Juston Long can do no wrong. His eclectic body of work always catches me off guard. While we get to see his quirky comedy, we also get some serious drama and vulnerability I didn’t know would affect me as much as it did. I was particularly amused by the fact the Berlant’s character has a podcast since Long’s newest venture (and fun as hell to listen to I might add) is a podcast with his brother titled Life Is Short. Drescher appeared on an episode I have not listened to yet and now I know why. He is undeniably charming as ever in After Class, but incredibly nuanced making it easy to remember how he is able to helm so many films. The script is constantly challenging your thought process, perhaps even making you roll your eyes, depending on what generation you relate most to. That’s kind of the beauty of this film. It’s got a lot going on in all the best ways possible. Congrats to the cast as well as a big round of applause for writer-director Daniel Schechter for a sincerely heartfelt indie. Everyone should be proud.

**Official Selection – Tribeca Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Rome Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Traverse City Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Fort Lauderdale Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Greenwich Film Festival**
**Official Selection – San Francisco Jewish Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Boston Film Festival**
**Official Selection – Nantucket Film Festival**

—————————————–

Gravitas Ventures is set to release Daniel Schechter’s smart comedy/drama AFTER CLASS (formerly SAFE SPACES) in theaters and on VOD beginning December 6, 2019. The film stars Justin Long, Fran Drescher, Richard Schiff, and Kate Berlant.

The film is a compelling study of a well-intentioned millennial-aged teacher overstepping the line in class in the MeToo era and dealing with the repercussions. This comes in the middle of a family emergency when his grandmother requires hospice care, and family chaos begins to consume his life. The film provides raw moments of emotional turmoil that switches between loss, comedy, and drama, providing glimpses of beautiful and awkward moments that happen in life.

Release Date:                     December 6, 2019 – In the theaters below and on digital/VOD nationwide:
Los Angeles – Arena Cinelounge and Galaxy Mission Grove
Orlando – Old Mill Playhouse
Cleveland – Tower City Cinemas
Boston – Entertainment Cinemas Leominster
Minneapolis – Emagine Rogers 18, East Bethel 10 and Lakeville
Seattle – Galaxy Monroe
Dallas – La Gran Plaza 8
Reno – Galaxy Victorian
Las Vegas – Galaxy Theaters Luxury and Galaxy Cannery
San Francisco – 4 Star Theater
Santa Barbara – Galaxy Colony Square
Directed by:                        Daniel Schechter
Written by:                          Daniel Schechter 
Cast:                                    Justin LongKate BerlantLynn CohenBecky Ann BakerFran Drescher &
Richard Schiff
Genre:                                 Comedy, Drama
Specs:                                 93 min
Distributor:                         Gravitas Ventures

Review: ‘Cold Brook’ is charming directorial debut from William Fitchner.

COLD BROOK is the story of Ted & Hilde, two ordinary guys in a small town who embark on an extraordinary adventure and risk everything for a stranger in need. It’s a story about coming home; something everyone, everywhere has an innate desire to do.

Cold Brooks shines both in its incredible casting and genuine script. This is a story about connecting to loved ones. It’s about reconciling the past with the future. With intriguing paranormal elements, writer-director William Fitchner (also starring at Ted) gives a little indie gem that feels comfortable and homey. Kim Coates stars as Fitchner’s best buddy (and coworker) with lovely ease. You believe these two have been friends for a lifetime. His scenes with Mary Lynn Rajskub are gold. That marriage is an entire story waiting to be written. Harold Perrineau as Gil Le Deux id sincere and mysterious. His delicate approach and wide-eyed sense of wonder are a gorgeous foil for Coates and Fitchner’s working-class do-gooders. Fitchner is charming and nuanced. His emotional journey is extremely well-charted through writing and performance. While this script is not overly-complicated, that does not make it any less complex in character development. That is a real key to this film. The relationship dynamics from work to play to home are what keep you watching and smiling. Cold Brook is nothing short of great family entertainment and I look forward to seeing what might come next from Fitchner’s imagination and hard work.

COLD BROOK will be in theaters and On Demand and Digital on November 8, 2019.

COLD BROOK is the directorial debut of William Fichtner (“Mom,” “Prison Break”) who not only stars in the film but co-wrote it with Cain DeVore (Mitzi & Joe). The film also stars Kim Coates (Goon series, “Sons of Anarchy”) and Harold Perrineau (“Lost,” Romeo + Juliet).

 

Review: ‘Adopt A Highway’ sees Ethan Hawke challenging societal stigmas.

ADOPT A HIGHWAY

Starring Academy Award Nominee Ethan Hawke

Russ Millings has just been released from prison after serving 21 years for a 3rd strike conviction for possessing an ounce of marijuana. As he tries to adapt to a world he doesn’t recognize – including trying to learn how to use the internet – he finds an abandoned baby in a dumpster behind the fast food restaurant where he works as a dishwasher. Unsure of what to do, and caught between impulses of kindness and panic, Russ soon realizes this could be his chance at redemption.

Ethan Hawke is someone I can easily describe as versatile and earnest. The man works so often I think we really take him for granted. His resume is profoundly eclectic. His latest work in Adopt A Highway is no exception.

Writer-director Logan Marshall-Green has given us a poignant gem of a film. This story is charming and heartfelt. How can we, as a society, look beyond the labels of someone that has served prison time. How do we reintegrate them into our lives? What can we do to make them feel like they won’t be shunned? Nonviolent offenders, especially those who have been ostracized from the outside world for long periods of time just need a little compassion. Hawke’s portrayal of Russell is as complex and soulful as I would hope for. You root for him the entire film. He is endearing and heartbreaking. This is a beautiful role for Hawke. You will be buying what he’s selling, I promise. Elaine Hendrix makes an appearance as Di. She is a breath of fresh air in the short time she’s on-screen, proving that giving a stranger a chance can change your entire outlook on life.

The most surprising is that Adopt A Highway is produced by Jason Blum. This is not a film I would have expected to be in Blum’s wheelhouse as I have become so accustomed to his brilliant horror fare. I am very glad he took a chance on this. The cinematography has an intimacy that feels childlike and joyful. It is reflective of both rediscovery and the harsh realities of re-entering society. The pacing is wonderful. The script is much more nuanced than at first glance. It is ultimately about love. Adopt A Highway is a well acted, thoughtfully crafted debut film. It deserves your attention.

RLJE Films will release ADOPT A HIGHWAY in theaters, on VOD and Digital HD on Friday, November 1, 2019.

ADOPT A HIGHWAY stars Academy Award nominee Ethan Hawke (Boyhood, Before Midnight, Training Day), Elaine Hendrix (“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll”), Diane Gaeta (Other People’s Children), Mo McRae (“Empire,” The First Purge), Chris Sullivan (“This Is Us,” Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), and Betty Gabriel (“Westworld,” Get Out).  The film is written and directed by Logan Marshall-Green (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Invitation) in his feature filmmaking debut.