Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2022 review: Feeling leads to healing in Nicole Mejia’s brilliant directorial debut, ‘A PLACE IN THE FIELD.’

Unresolved trauma, redemption, and one big promise drives war veteran Gio’s epic road trip. The subtlety of the film’s opening moments tells us precisely who this man is. Taking life one day at a time since returning from war is a deliberate decision. As his journey continues on the open road, so does his perspective on life and others.

Khorri Ellis is the perfect foil for Don DiPetta. The nuance of this performance will stick with you. I want casting directors to take notice here. DiPetta as Gio plays the entire gambit of emotions. The resentment and simmering anger are hiding just under the surface. Surrounded by a strong supporting cast, DiPetta’s vulnerability captivates. Ellis and DiPetta have chemistry that makes A Place in the Field extraordinary.

The use of natural light gives the film life. You cannot ignore the cinematography. The pack symbolism is clever. The juxtaposition of coyotes and Gio’s fallen brothers is unmistakable. Alongside progressively artistic flashbacks from his time in the field, the screenplay is both poetic and cathartic. The emotional pull of A Place in the Field is indescribable. It creeps up on you in a way you won’t notice at first. You feel Gio’s grief and anxiety palpably. If nothing else, it will make you wonder how much we’re doing for soldiers who return from war. When we have police officers get a psych test after they discharge their firearms, it is clear we’re doing the bare minimum for our veterans. PTSD cannot be ignored. A Place in the Field is a real win for Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2022 and for the inevitable wider audiences to come.


For more information on Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2022 click here!


IFC Midnight trailer debut: ‘A BANQUET’ dishes out family and fear this February.

A BANQUET

Directed by Ruth Paxton
Starring Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes,
and Lindsay Duncan

Synopsis
Widowed mother Holly (Sienna Guillory) is radically tested when her teenage daughter Betsey (Jessica Alexander) experiences a profound enlightenment and insists that her body is no longer her own, but in service to a higher power. Bound to her newfound faith, Betsey refuses to eat but loses no weight. In an agonizing dilemma, torn between love and fear, Holly is forced to confront the boundaries of her own beliefs.


Opens in Select Theaters, on Digital Platforms
and VOD on February 18th


About the Director
Ruth Paxton is a Scottish filmmaker who graduated in 2007 with an MA in Film and TV from Screen Academy Scotland having gained her honours degree at Edinburgh College of Art. Her award-winning shorts have been exhibited and nominated in competition at numerous international events and prominent film festivals. Winner of Best Woman Director at the 12th London Short Film Festival for her film PULSE, and nominated one of Canongate Books 40 Scottish Storytellers of The Future; artists anticipated to dominate the next 40 years of creative life in Scotland. In 2019 Screen Daily featured her as one of ‘Six emerging Scotland based Directors you need to know.’ A BANQUET is Ruth’s debut feature, a psychological horror produced by Tea Shop Productions and Riverstone Pictures. The film is represented by HanWay Films, and was recently acquired by IFC Films for North America. It was selected for the Great 8 showcase at Cannes Marche presented by BFI, BBC Films and the British Council, and will have its World Premiere at Toronto International Film Festival 2021, in the Discovery section.


Directed by: Ruth Paxton
Written by: Justin Bull
Produced by: Leonora Darby, Nik Bower, James Harris, Mark Lane, Laure Vaysse
Director of Photography: David Liddell
Edited by: Matyas Fekete
Starring: Sienna Guillory, Jessica Alexander, Ruby Stokes, Kaine Zajaz, Lindsay Duncan
Runtime: 97 mins


IFC MIDNIGHT
Official Site | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram
#ifcmidnight


Review: ‘That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes’ is genre-destroying madness.

Synopsis

Leonard is about to lose his girlfriend, home, and job. Upon that, he’s having strange hallucinations. Is it stress or an after effect of new technology installed all over the city? He must figure it out or he’ll be trapped in this nightmare forever.


I got the email and all I saw was the director’s name. You had me at Onur Tukel, send me the film. If you aren’t familiar with the genre of weird and wonderful that Tukel has put forth into the world of cinema, you’re seriously missing out. From titles like Applesauce to Black Magic for White Boys, if you ever think you know where one of his scripts is headed, you’re sorely mistaken. Enter his newest creation, That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes.

Leonard blew up his life by cheating on his girlfriend. She is kicking him out. In the meantime, her photographer father that she so clearly adores is visiting at an inopportune time, leaving Leonard to play an awkward host. Dennis is loathsome. He regards himself very highly and cares little for the opinion of others. He’s brash and his attitude seems to be contagious. Leonard is spiraling in every aspect of life. His cooking skills are garbage, he’s running out of money, what’s left of his personal space has been invaded. The entire film seems to be one bashing extravaganza of Leonard, or is it? There is a sadness that consumes him. Maybe it’s the strange new technology that begins appearing around the city. There’s a 5G joke in here, perhaps, and it isn’t subtle. 

Franck Raharinosy as Leonard is just as helpless as you need him to be. Put this man out of his misery in some form or fashion. That’s probably the oddest compliment I could give him. He plays such a convincing sad sack of a man, you feel bad for him. Alan Ceppos is magnificent in his ability to make you cringe. He just doesn’t give a f*ck, for lack of eloquence. This is a performance akin to watching a car crash. You want to look away but you cannot. You are transfixed by Ceppos’ nonchalance. He’s unreal.

The decision to use color for the past and black and white for the present threw me. It became a revelatory choice. Unsurprising for Tukel, whose films tend to center on relationships. You’ll always be taken aback by whatever comes out of his brain next. Tukel can make the mundane hilarious. In Cold Dead Look, we get everything from gaslighting to buffoonery, cruelty to madness, and depression with a side of hideous hallucinations. The film feels like one lengthy Twilight Zone episode in French. Do I have any inkling of what the hell happened once the credits rolled? No, I do not. But, That Cold Dead Look In Your Eyes is unlike anything you’ve seen before, while simultaneously, very obviously being an Onur Tukel film.


The newest film from acclaimed director Onur Tukel (Catfight, Summer of Blood), and featuring Nora Arnezeder (Army of the DeadUpcoming series “The Offer”) and Max Casella (“The Sopranos”, The Tender Bar), THAT COLD DEAD LOOK IN YOUR EYES will release On Demand 11/9.


Review: ‘IDA RED’ – a family crime drama where performances rule all.

Crime boss Ida “Red” Walker (Oscar® winner Melissa Leo*) turns to her son, Wyatt (Josh Hartnett), to pull off one last heist to get out of prison. But with the FBI closing in, Wyatt must choose between family and freedom in this high-octane thriller.


IDA RED opens up with honest to goodness tense action. Come to find out, half of it is a whole lot of bait and switch. The script has plenty of surprising revelations. It is undeniably engaging, from the shocking violence to the keen character building.

Frank Grillo, as Dallas Walker, is as epic and as he is evil, with an IDGAF aura. It’s one hell of a performance. Melissa Leo is Ida. Her uncanny ability to own the screen with nothing but a look gets me every time. This crime family matriarch rules from prison with an iron fist and favoritism. And, damnit, the fact that it’s a woman makes my heart skip a beat. More of this, please.

Sofia Hublitz, who is fantastic on Ozark, plays Darla Walker. She’s the youngest troublemaker of this family unit. Hublitz walks the perfect line between innocence and passionate anger. Josh Hartnett, as Wyatt Walker, is the unwaveringly loyal son. Hartnett’s multiple-year hiatus from the big screen was noticed, especially by those of us who grew up alongside him in movies like The Faculty, Pearl Harbor, and Sin City. Whenever I do see him nowadays, I am reminded immediately of his immense talent. He’s got a coolness to him that you can’t teach. As Wyatt, his familial devotion is palpable, to a fault. IDA RED allows him to play the full spectrum of emotions. 

The soundtrack boasts some of the coolest (and strangest) choices. I was obsessed. IDA RED could have been a limited series. As it stands, it’s a solidly done family crime drama, possessing fully fleshed-out, massively flawed characters with incredible actors breathing life into them. I recommend a watch.


Watch the trailer:

Saban Films will release the action/crime/thriller IDA RED in Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on November 5, 2021.


IDA RED is written and directed by John Swab (Body Brokers, Let Me Make You a Martyr) and stars Josh Hartnett (Wrath of Man, “Penny Dreadful”), Sofia Hublitz (“Ozark”), William Forsythe (The Devil’s Rejects, Raising Arizona), Deborah Ann Woll (“True Blood”), Frank Grillo (Boss Level, The Purge franchise), and Academy Award winning actress Melissa Leo (The Fighter, Prisoners, Frozen River).


 

Review: ‘MASS’ is a stunning master class in writing and performance.

MASS

Years after an unspeakable tragedy tore their lives apart, two sets of parents (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton, Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) agree to talk privately in an attempt to move forward. In Fran Kranz’s writing and directing debut, he thoughtfully examines their journey of grief, anger and acceptance by coming face-to-face with the ones who have been left behind.


In Mass, indie genre actor Fran Kranz steps into the writer-director role with an ease that is mind-boggling. It’s one of the most stunning feature debuts I’ve ever witnessed. The script is impeccably researched. As a mother who shakes each time a breaking news headline pops up on my phone, as a senior in high school when Columbine occurred, Mass hits on an entirely different level. Kranz helps us see the unseeable. He carefully weaves small pieces of information into a quilt so heavy we are left breathless. There is nothing sugarcoated about Mass. It’s one of the most intimate and emotionally accosting films I’ve ever experienced.

Jason Isaacs takes a logical approach as Jay. The arc of Kranz’s writing allows Isaacs to break this role wide open. It was akin to watching a teapot slowly come to a boil. Ann Dowd plays Linda. She is gentle, hesitant, and genuine in her grief and guilt. It feels like she’s trying too hard to appease and remain compassionate. Dowd’s best moments are when she’s in tune with Reed Birney. As Richard, Birney counters Dowd’s apologetic energy. He is defensive at every turn, to the point of unlikability. It’s his survival mechanism. Birney wears an air of toxic masculinity like a badge of honor. Martha Plimpton plays Gail with thoroughly justifiable guarded anger. She is seeking ownership and responsibility from Linda and Richard. Her pointed line of questioning makes her intentions clear as day. Plimpton owns every glance, sigh, and raw syllable uttered in Mass. It’s an entire emotional journey right before our eyes. It’s a performance that captivates. The chemistry between these four actors is something so rare. They understood the assignment, as they say.

The quiet, lingering moments in the first 20 minutes of the film are meticulously crafted to keep you stewing in anticipation of the inevitable storm to come. The entire film has a low registering hum and a palpable heaviness. As the plot is slowly revealed, politics seep into the conversation. The aftermath of trauma and grief are front and center. The discussion of mental health will echo in many households. The included social pleasantries on either end establish a grounded aspect, but it is that final unexpected 10 minutes that hit hardest. It’s a visceral catharsis. This is a master class in writing and performance. I would watch this on stage in a heartbeat. Mass is a portrait of four parents dealing with unthinkable loss. The most powerful aspect is the understanding that this conversation could be happening any day of the week nowadays. This is an emotional rollercoaster you cannot be prepared for. Mass brilliantly challenges the perspectives of cause and effect, blame, acceptance, forgiveness, life and death, and what parenthood means, deep in your soul. You will walk away changed.


Written & Directed by: Fran Kranz
Starring: Reed Birney, Ann Dowd, Jason Isaacs, and Martha Plimpton


Mass is currently playing in select cities.

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.

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. If you are looking to understand a new language, consider help from this experts in B2B transcriptions.

 

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