Review: ‘OLD HENRY’ is a stunningly performed western.

OLD HENRY

Old Henry is an action-Western about a widowed farmer and his son who warily take in a mysterious, injured man with a satchel of cash. When a posse of men claiming to be the law come for the money, the farmer must decide whom to trust. Defending against a siege of his homestead, he reveals a talent for gunslinging that surprises everyone, calling his true identity into question.


Writer-director Potsy Ponciroli‘s screenplay harkens back to classic westerns. There’s plenty of gunslinging, horseback, and trouble, for genre fans. It’s ceaselessly engaging, overflowing with slick writing, striking natural lighting, and insanely fantastic performances. There’s an underlying complexity that history fans will fawn over. Ponciroli has given audiences something special.

Trace Adkins, as Henry’s brother-in-law, Al, is a wonderful balance of welcoming and spitfire. He owned every moment of screen time. Stephen Dorff is an unmistakable villain. You’ll loathe him. That’s a compliment to the work he does. Scott Haze plays Curry with confidence that counters Nelson to a tee. He shared the screen with Nelson in his breakthrough role in Child Of God. Here, he’s just as intense. Tim Blake Nelson gives a seemingly effortless and pitch-perfect performance. His unflappable conviction at every turn is award-worthy stuff. The scenes between Haze and Nelson are like watching a chess match. You’ll be mesmerized.

There is a smartly laid-out trail of clues, so keep a sharp eye out. Old Henry has a climax so legendary you’ll want to watch it again. It’s destined to be a classic. You can find Old Henry in theaters, beginning today. And, if you’re in the New York City area, our colleague, Joey Magidson at Awards Radar, will be hosting a few Q&As with Tim Blake Nelson! You can find all the details below.



Coming to Theaters on October 1

Written and Directed by Potsy Ponciroli

Starring:
Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou, The Ballard of Buster Scruggs)
Scott Haze (Jurassic World: Dominion, Venom)
Gavin Lewis (“Little Fires Everywhere”, “NCIS: Los Angeles”)
Trace Adkins (Deep Water Horizon, The Lincoln Lawyer)
Stephen Dorff (Blade, Immortals)

RT: 99 minutes


Review: ‘BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER’ – a legendary and inspiring enigma.


BORIS KARLOFF: THE MAN BEHIND THE MONSTER


Beginning just before his debut as Frankenstein’s creation, “Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster” compellingly explores the life and legacy of a cinema legend, presenting a perceptive history of the genre he personified. His films were long derided as hokum and attacked by censors. But his phenomenal popularity and pervasive influence endures, inspiring some of our greatest actors and directors into the 21st Century – among them Guillermo Del Toro, Ron Perlman, Roger Corman & John Landis all of whom and many more contribute their personal insights and anecdotes.


Boris Karloff: The Man Behind the Monster ultimately provides a compelling, yet frustrating dive into the life of the man forever associated with the Frankenstein mythology. This iconic role and Karloff’s 60-year career in the film is explored in-depth across Thomas Hamilton’s loving and thorough documentary. I left Hamilton’s film with a clear appreciation for two things: the vastness of Karloff’s legacy, and how difficult it must have been to assemble the disparate pieces of this documentary.

Karloff is one of the few stars who successfully built momentum and success from the silent film era into the “talkies”. He brought such understated emotion and gravity to his portrayal of Frankenstein’s Monster that his performance remains the gold standard 90 years later. I remember Karloff well from Universal Horror classics such as “Frankenstein” and “The Mummy”, but Hamilton’s film moves quickly, but comprehensively through some of the lesser-known slots on Karloff’s resume.

Featured clips span generations, directors, and co-stars. Karloff’s prodigious work ethic seemed to rival Alexander Hamilton’s, only they weren’t all winners worthy of a musical.  It sure felt like a stretch to watch contemporary directors compliment Karloff’s 1932 portrayal of Fu Manchu, a deeply racist film I’ve only run into at the $5 bin at Target. But there are gems to be found even in these lesser-known films – I was stunned and a little charmed to see a young Jack Nicholson co-starring with Karloff in 1963’s “The Terror” (all of Karloff’s scenes were filmed in 2 days).

I wish the same thorough approach had been applied to Karloff’s personal life. I was surprised a film titled The Man Behind the Monster didn’t feature more detail on, well, Boris Karloff. Interviews with Karloff’s daughter were insightful but sparse. The complexities of his racial background are hinted at, but never explored in detail. Sadly, there are no juicy stories from his many marriages (six!)

Ultimately, this film was successful in that I left with a deeper understanding of Karloff, and a strong desire to revisit more of his films. I just wish I had gotten a longer peek at who was under all that monster makeup.


Shout! Studios will be released theatrically by Abramorama on September 17th and features the original song “Frankenstein’s Lament” by famed jazz bassist Jay Leonhart.


Directed by: Thomas Hamilton (Leslie Howard: The Man Who Gave A Damn)

Co-Written by: Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey

Co-Produced by: Thomas Hamilton, Ron MacCloskey

Featuring interviews with:

 Guillermo Del Toro

John Landis

Roger Corman

 Ron Perlman

Sara Karloff

Peter Bogdanovich

Christopher Plummer

Stefanie Powers

Lee Grant

Sir Christopher Frayling

And

 Kevin Brownlow


Review: ‘Standing Up, Falling Down’ a Bona Fide Winner

It seems strange that Ben Schwartz (of Jean-Ralphio Saperstein from Parks & Recreation fame) had two films that opened on back-to-back weekends and they couldn’t be more different. The first, the much maligned Sonic the Hedgehog opened HUGE and took home the box office crown the past two weekends. The other, Standing Up, Falling Down, opened to much less fanfare but is the far more interesting of the two.

The film gives us the story of Scott Rollins (Schwartz), a down on his luck comedian living in LA who gives up on his dream of making it big the comedy world and comes home to Long Island to reset his life. Of course, like many who set off in the way of Horatio Alger and head west, Scott hangs his head in shame as the prodigal son returns home broken. He’s greeted half-heartedly by his father (Kevin Dunn) and enthusiastically by his mother (Debra Monk) who is happy to have him home. Scott settles into his childhood room that appears no different than when he lived there as a child. Of course, the girl he left behind brokenhearted, Becky (Eloise Mumford), has since married and looms large in the whole scenario. Adrift and unsure of what to do with himself, he meets up with his friend Murph (Leonard Ouzts) at a bar and sees what his life would have been like if he played it like most do – wife, kids, house and all that comes with it. While in the bathroom, he runs into Marty (Billy Crystal), an alcoholic dermatologist who pisses in the sink then tells Scott he’s got a skin issue and he should come by his office to have it checked out.

After meeting up again at a wake, the two form a quick bond and open up to one another about the various things they’ve screwed up in their lives. Marty acts as a guide of sorts, helping Scott navigate the shit situation he’s steered himself into. Likewise, connecting with Scott helps Marty work through his own shit although it happens a little more circuitously.

What unfolds is not all that surprising, but it is a ride worth taking. I found myself incredibly invested in both characters. I know that if I had made a few different decisions in my life, I could easily have been Scott, aimlessly wandering hoping to latch onto that one thing that will make me whole. I’m sure we’ve all had those thoughts.

What really drives this film is the performances of both Schwartz and Crystal. Both have larger than life personalities that can be overwhelming (in a good way, of course). While I lament that there was no running over by a Lexus, Schwartz especially surprised me with his standout performance – subdued but charming and funny with spot on timing and delivery. I hope to see much more of this type of role for Schwartz. Crystal is a legend and he didn’t disappoint. Always able to balance humor and drama, he gives a performance that stands up with his best. Both actors were so relatable and they played perfectly off of one another that kudos are necessary to whomever cast them together.

This is a very satisfying film experience and well crafted by director Matt Ratner with a solid script written by Peter Hoare. Grace Gummer, Caitlin McGee, Nate Corddry and David Castañeda round out the great cast.

I would highly suggest catching this one if you can. It is still in theaters and available through various streaming sources.

Review: ‘Big Fish & Begonia’ is a luscious Chinese fairy tale.

BIG FISH & BEGONIA

From ancient Chinese legends comes a beautiful tale of love and sacrifice. There is a mystical race of beings that control the tide and the changing of the seasons. But one of these beings, a young girl named Chun, wants to experience the human world, not simply observe it. When she turns sixteen, Chun is allowed to transform into a dolphin and explore the human world. However, she soon learns this world is a dangerous place. Chun is nearly killed in a vortex, but saved by a human boy at the cost of his own life. Moved by his kindness and courage, she decides to give the boy life again, but this power comes at a price. Chun will have to face adventure and sacrifice in order to protect the boy’s soul until it is ready to return to the human world.

Big Fish & Begonia is part love story, part fable, and all elegant Chinese animation. This visually luscious film follows in the steps of Studio Ghibli delights in both wonder and overall feel of the storytelling. While you do feel the entire 105 minute run of the film that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story has enough going on to engage an age-appropriate audience. With a PG-13 rating, some themes will go over the heads of younger viewers. It is the perfect film to enjoy, just sitting back, listening, and watching the vivid colors and curious characters that pop up along the way. It has a bit of a Hans Christain Anderson’s Little Mermaid feel but most definitely has more going on. And without a doubt, it deserves to be viewed on the largest screen possible. Big Fish & Begonia opens today. Check out the trailer below for a taste of the film.

Shout! Studios will release the film in New York and major cities across the country starting April 6th with a national rollout to follow on April 11th.

 

Big Fish & Begonia made its international debut at the prestigious Annecy International Animation Film Festival and BFI London Film Festival. Already a great box-office success overseas, the film is China’s foremost animated feature film