Sundance 2023 short film review: ‘TROY’ is a New York rite of passage with a twist.

TROY

Living in New York has its ups and downs. No matter how expensive your apartments are, the walls are always paper thin. You come to know your neighbors for better or for worse. Director Mike Donahue and writer Jen Silverman give Sundance 2023 audiences so much in their 15-minute short film TROY.

Thea and Charlie share a wall with Troy. He has very loud sex 24/7. When the moans turn to arguments and tears, Thea and Charlie’s emotional investment in their mysterious neighbor’s life takes on a life of its own.

Adina Verson, Michael Braun, and Florian Klein dazzle. Klein’s physicality speaks volumes. It could have easily wandered into a goofy territory but remained wholeheartedly sincere. Verson and Braun have a grounded chemistry that I bought instantly. I found myself in their delightful shenanigans again and again. The film also includes recognizable faces from television.

There is a visual gag with bleach that is perfection. Turning up the music and elevator run-ins become an all too familiar activity. Couples’ internet snooping is also an indulgent pastime. It’s funny because it is so relatable. In this city of over 8 million, most of us never meet. But we still protect our own with small gestures of kindness every once in a while. TROY is one of those stories you tell your friends back home during the holidays and a stellar proof of concept for an entire series of building-wide encounters.


TROY is screening in person at Sundance on January 20th, 21st, 23rd, and 25th.

Writer/director Mike Donahue is a graduate of Harvard University and the Yale School of Drama. Prior to making this, his debut film, he’s worked extensively as a theatre director in New York and Los Angeles. Just some of his extensive credits include the world premieres of Matthew Lopez’s The Legend of Georgia McBride (MCC, The Geffen and Denver Center, Joe A. Callaway Award, Outer Critics Circle Nomination, Ovation Award Nomination); Jen Silverman’s Collective Rage (MCC, Woolly Mammoth, Drama League Nomination); The Moors (Playwrights Realm – NYC premiere; Phoebe in Winter (Clubbed Thumb); Ana Nogueira’s Which Way To The Stage (MCC); Ethan Lipton’s Red-Handed Otter (Playwrights Realm); the LA premiere of Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance (Geffen Playhouse); and Little Shop of Horrors with MJ Rodriguez, George Salazar, and Amber Riley (Pasadina Playhouse).

Starring Adina Verson and Michael Braun as Thea and Charlie, the stellar cast also features Emmy Award winner Dana Delaney (Desperate Housewives, China Beach), Emmy Award nominee Dylan Baker (The Good Wife), Billy Carter (Apple + The Crowded Room, HBO’s The Plot Against America), Kristin Villanueva (Gossip Girl), Max Jenkins (High Maintenance + Special) and Samantha Sherman (Showtime’s Billions).



Short film review: John Stuart Wildman’s ‘SWEAT OF HIS COW’ is the sexy absurdity we all secretly desire.

SWEAT OF HIS COW

From the depths of someone’s lost VHS tapes is this story of an impossibly gorgeous doctor lawyer who runs out of gas next to a barn where an impossibly sweaty man is milking a cow. A sexy relationship ensues where they learn that gas is just the beginning, milk is always the end.


Thoughts I had while watching the award-winning short film, SWEAT OF HIS COW...

“Is this a lost VHS from someone’s basement? Oh, this score is very softcore porn goodness. Does this film star Milky White from Into The Woods?! Amazing. These hair flips are luscious, and now I’m laughing. Wow, this is a softcore porn videos inspired rom-com! And also, WOW! John is really sweaty and also a proper beefcake. Should I be watching this? Am I allowed to watch this? My god, this is hilarious wordplay.”

Celena Rea nails every line with total commitment. She has a commanding presence, accentuated by specific hair, make-up, and costume choices. Also, she does her own stunts. Her chemistry with writer-director John Stuart Wildman as Sweaty Man is electric. He knocks it out of the park. I knew John was charming, but, damn. Casting directors pay attention. John could easily carry leading roles in literally every genre. Shout out to Chris Gardner for his comic timing as Saxophone Player.

I couldn’t love this weird, little film anymore. There’s not a dull moment in its 5-minute runtime. Sweat Of His Cow is easily something you’d see produced by Funny Or Die or SNL, but better. I want a series of Sweaty Man shorts about his sexual encounters. And, I’m not sorry about it. This film is now burned into my brain forever.


You can watch Sweat of His Cow screening virtually at the Sarasota Film Festival now!

(And you should.)

https://www.sarasotafilmfestival.com/film/sweat-of-his-cow/


SXSW 2022 short film review: Is ‘RADICAL HONESTY’ merely an expression or a way of life?

Radical Honesty

At the tail end of a great date, Jack and Rachel bond over a shared interest in deconstructing traditional relationship structures. When Jack reveals the reality of his “radical” open relationship, things take a turn for the absurd in this short film about the co-option of the language of liberation for means of manipulation and control.


At 41, I cannot imagine navigating a new relationship at this precise moment in time. I remember when Match.com first became a thing and how weird I thought it sounded. Then I recall attending four weddings in the years that followed, each couple had met through Match. RADICAL HONESTY, a 7-minute short film, tackles the complexities that Gen Z and Millenials face day-to-day. Performances are natural and the opening camerawork is fun. It is no surprise that the idea of radical honesty is something we experience more and more now. With the push of social media platforms, everyone is encouraged to share an opinion. Yes, this leads to awareness, self-discovery, and connections across the globe, if we’re talking upsides, only. My Xennial self also understands this to be a potential trap. C’est la vie.

I am excited to see this short get an expansion into series form (which is currently in the works). I anticipate having further investment into the world of Jack and Rachel, and whomever they intend to take along on their “journey of truth.” It’s bound to be a hot mess, in the best way possible. Radical Honesty is a great pairing with Hannah Marks‘ film Mark, Mary, and Some Other People. Modern dating is complicated by a lot more than just email and actually showing up these days. Director Bianca Poletti, and actress and screenwriter Allison Goldfarb nail this idea.


Check out the teaser trailer for the film’s aesthetic.

To learn more about how you can watch Radical Honesty and SXSW22 in general, click here!


Director: Bianca Poletti

Screenwriter: Allison Goldfarb

Principal Cast: Allison Goldfarb, John Hein, Melanie Alexa Buenrostro

Executive Producers: Jacki Calleiro, Mindy Goldberg, Bianca Poletti

Producer: Shayna Gianelli

Cinematographer: Corey C. Waters

Editor: Nina Sacharow

Production By: Epoch Films, Disco Pants Inc

SXSW EDU 2022 review: ‘TOMORROW’S HOPE’ is a blueprint for success.

TOMORROW’S HOPE

In the SXSW22 short film Tomorrow’s Hope, filmmaker Thomas Morgan examines the effect of two foundations for early childhood education on its first-ever class. Educare and The Ounce of Prevention Fund are sound arguments for universal Pre-K. I’m a former preschool teacher who can attest to the impact these years have on the lives of children and their families. Working in a school in the River City Building in downtown Chicago, I taught predominantly Head Start children, giving me a new insight into the socioeconomic disparity in education, not something I had faced growing up in Connecticut. 

In Tomorrow’s Hope, we follow three high school seniors and hear their personal stories. We also hear from the administrators and teachers, from then and now. These determined women promised their community safety and a loving environment for their families. They made good on that promise, navigating through gang violence, demolition, and uncertainty. The unadulterated passion of these administrators and teachers pours off the screen. 

The graduation rate of the inaugural class at Educare tells you everything you need to know about the importance of early childhood education. It is an unheard-of rate of 100 percent. Every single participant reached high school graduation. Tomorrow’s Hope features families and educators from the school, allowing them to tell their stories in their own words. This film is a forty-minute blueprint for success. 



To find out more about this year’s SXSW22 click here!


SXSW 2021 reviews: ‘Nuevo Rico’ & ‘The Thing That Ate The Birds’

Nuevo Rico

A brother and sister stumble upon a celestial secret that propels them into Reggaetón stardom, but at what price?

This mixed media animation is a literal bright spot in the shorts program. It’s a little Adult Swim, a dash of video game, part music video, all drenched in neon-colored deliciousness. Twins Barbie and Vico find out about the trappings of fame and dismissing their culture the hard way. In 16 minutes it manages to touch on socio-economics, politics, and identity, just to name a few relevant issues. Writer-director Kristian Mercado uses voice-over, songs, and dialogue to communicate this unique short.  Angélica Agélviz‘s character designs are striking. I could easily watch an expanded series about these characters. There’s enough content to warrant more in-depth episodes. Plus, you won’t be able to get enough of the distinctive look of Nuevo Rico. It’s just plain cool.”


The Thing That Ate The Birds

Set on the North Yorkshire Moors, the film follows Abel, the Head Gamekeeper as he discovers the thing that is eating his grouse. His blunt and violent response brings the menace back home shattering his already crumbling relationship with his wife.

The short has its SXSW premiere from Gunpowder & Sky’s horror brand, ALTER – The Thing That Ate The Birds by writer and director duo Sophie Mair (Ella, And the Baby Screamed) and Dan Gitsham (Ella, And the Baby Screamed). If this is meant to be a treatment for a feature, I want to see that feature. The score is classic Hitchcock strings. The cinematography is gorgeous and that last shot is pure Ari Aster, unapologetic horror. It’s one hell of an introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Mair and Gitsham. Someone, please give them a huge budget and the freedom to scare the crap out of us in a longer form.

ABOUT ALTER

ALTER is a horror brand for novel and grounded stories exploring the human condition through warped perspectives.

Giving voice to emerging, diverse, and established filmmakers, ALTER’s owned and operated channel is distributed across YouTube and Facebook, with more than 15M monthly uniques,  where three short films or series are released each week. In addition to curating and distributing award-winning content, ALTER develops unique stories with some of the most innovative minds in the genre through its ALTER Studio projects – which are not bound to a particular platform or format.

In October, ALTER, along with Executive Producer Sam Raimi (Evil DeadSpider-Man), premiered Part 2 of the horror series “50 States of Fright”, starring Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Travis Fimmel (“Vikings”, Warcraft: The Beginning) and Christina Ricci (“Monster,” “Z: The Beginning of Everything”). In 2019, the BAFTA-nominated horror short, The Blue Door starring (Gemma Whelan – Game of ThronesThe End of the F***ing World) premiered on ALTER, and earlier this year it was also announced that “Moreau”, a sci-fi TV series that puts a modern spin on the classic novel, “The Island of Dr. Moreau” by H.G. Wells has gone into development and will be written by Zack Stentz (X-Men: First Class, Thor, Rim Of The World). In addition, the psychological thriller “Horror Accidental”, based on the Japanese TV drama series, ‘Horror Accidental 1&2’, will be brought to life by writer and director Evan Daugherty (‘Divergent,’ ‘Tomb Raider’).

Additional releases include the brand’s first unscripted podcast series, “ALTER Weekly”, which gives its audience a deep dive into the past, present, and future of the horror genre; short film La Noria, directed by Carlos Beana, that won best-animated film at The Webby Awards; CAM, winner of Best Screenplay at 2018’s Fantasia Festival and was acquired by Netflix; the official 2018 Sundance Film Festival selection, Summer of 84, the thriller directed by RKSS (Turbo Kid); and the  SXSW selection, Villains, starring Bill Skarsgard (It) and Maika Monroe (It Follows).

ABOUT GUNPOWDER & SKY

Gunpowder & Sky is an independent studio that creates and distributes feature films, series, short-form content, podcasts, and channels, bridging digital and traditional entertainment.

Since its inception in 2016, Gunpowder & Sky has released more than 30 feature films and series, more than 750 short films in theatres, on TVOD, and leading platforms such as HBO, Netflix, MTV, Hulu, Sky, Showtime, Spotify, Amazon, YouTube, Quibi, Audible and Discovery.

Notable films and series include 69: The Saga Of Danny Hernandez, Her Smell, Everybody’s Everything, Prospect, Sea Fever, The Little Hours, Cam, Hearts Beat Loud, Lords of Chaos, Tragedy Girls, Betting on Zero, Summer of 84, Villains, Survive, 50 States of Fright and Drawn & Recorded.

With a collective audience of more than 65M monthly unique viewers, Gunpowder & Sky also owns and operates content brands that include DUST, the number one free sci-fi channel; ALTER, a leading horror brand, and CUT, an unscripted & comedy brand that is home to the successful formats “Truth or Drink” and “Fear Pong”. DUST, ALTER, and CUT are distributed on all major streaming platforms including Apple, Amazon, Comcast, Facebook, Peacock, Roku, Samsung, Sinclair, Sling, Vizio, Xumo, and YouTube.

Gunpowder & Sky also recently launched its premium audio studio, and in less than one year has established a leading position in music and sci-fi, claiming #1 fiction podcast on Apple and the #1 podcast on Audible.

With offices in Los Angeles and New York, Gunpowder & Sky was founded by Van Toffler and Floris Bauer, in partnership with The Chernin Group and AT&T.

Review: ‘Gridlock’

Gridlock

Release Date: March 2016

Guest review from Reel Reviews Over Brews

Gridlock is an Irish spin on an American style thriller, set during a traffic jam on a narrow country road. When Eoin’s young daughter Emma goes missing from their car, he forms a desperate search party to find her, and soon everyone is a suspect.

The last of the short films we have been reviewing, Gridlock is another home run! Like Penalty and Lost Face, Gridlock is also up for an Oscar nomination. This short film is roughly 20 minutes long and we certainly wish it had been a feature length because it had us from the beginning. Trying to figure out what happened to Eoin’s daughter and thinking that each character was more suspect than the last. Gridlock is a thrill from start to finish. Like the last few, we don’t want to give away too much, but this is another MUST SEE! Good luck to whoever has to decide which shorts will receive Oscar nominations… because we believe all three could take the cake. Gridlock, however, was our favorite. It had us locked into our seat, causing us to leave work late on a Friday to see the end. So we watched a movie about a traffic jam which then caused us to be in a traffic jam… totally worth it!

Reel ROB Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Post Credits Scene: No

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

Review: ‘Lost Face’

Lost Face

Release Date: September 14, 2016

Guest review from Reel Reviews Over Brews

This award-winning short is based on Jack London’s short story.

In mid-1800’s Russian America, Subienkow finds himself the second-to-last survivor of a group of Russian fur-thieves who have just been defeated by liberators from the local tribe they have enslaved as forced labour. Now Subienkow faces a long, protracted and painful death unless he can come up with a plan for escape.

Subienkow calls over the tribe’s chief, Makamuk, and he begins to bargain…

Lost Face is another one of the shorts we’ve recently watched that is up for an Oscar nomination. This movie grabs you from the very beginning and doesn’t let go. We found ourselves wishing that it was a full length movie. Lost Face is about one survivor/prisoner trying to bargain for his life. We felt the whole time as though this could be the original con man. Now that we know this is based on a short story, you better believe we’ll be finding it to read on our next flight. Again, we don’t want to say too much and give away the whole movie, but we’ll be extremely surprised if Lost Face doesn’t get the Oscar nomination, yet alone win the whole thing. Another movie that if you have 15 minutes to spare and want to be on the edge of your seat the entire time, you need to go watch NOW!

Reel ROB Rating: 4.75 out of 5 stars

Post Credits Scene: No

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

Review: ‘Penalty’

Penalty

Release Date: September 23, 2016

Guest review from Reel Reviews Over Brews

Aldo Iuliano’s award winning drama Penalty has been making waves in the film world, as this wonderful film has received nearly thirty awards and has been selected for five Academy qualifying Film Festivals. Penalty shares the story of a group of guys playing football in the middle of nowhere. There is a much more than a simple victory at stake.

Penalty is one of three short movies we’ve recently watched that are up for Oscar nominations. It’s no surprise why they are all up for nominations either. Penalty starts off a little tough to follow with a bunch of guys playing soccer, but something seems to be a little different… and that is the only reason why we rated it a little lower than the other two shorts. About halfway through is when it all begins to make sense. It’s amazing that in just 15 minutes you can feel like a movie is so complete. There are movies that are two to three hours long that don’t do that. What is even more amazing is none of the actors in this movie were profession actors… they were just guys that the director got to know by living alongside of them. Makes it even more amazing that it turned out so well. We don’t want to give away too much from any of these movies so our reviews will be a little shorter than normal, but if you have 15 minutes to spare, you should absolutely see Penalty.

Reel ROB Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Post Credits Scene: No

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