Shudder Original review: ‘HUNTED’ proves the big, bad wolf is real.

HUNTED

Directed by acclaimed French filmmaker and comic artist Vincent Paronnaud (co-director of Cannes Jury Prize and Academy Award nominee PERSEPOLIS), HUNTED is an exhilaratingly ferocious take on survival horror that blends primal violence with grindhouse pleasure in a predator-prey riff on Little Red Riding Hood. The film follows Eve (Lucie Debay), a woman who encounters a seemingly charming man at a bar, only to uncover his true sociopathic nature, sparking a dire, life-or-death chase through the wilderness. A Shudder Original Film.

Little Red Riding Hood becomes snuff film bait. HUNTED is a survival horror with a fairytale familiarity. The scariest part of this film is the fact that’s it’s completely plausible. There’s a reason women are told to park under street lights and carry their keys between their fingers. We are not allowed to lulled into a false sense of security because then we become targets. But buyer beware, when animal instinct drives survival, don’t f*ck with a woman. Writer/director Vincent Paronnaud understands this dynamic. This is made abundantly clear in the most glorious ways.

While being absolutely terrifying, HUNTED is beautiful to watch. Wooded landscapes look like a magical fairytale as they surround Eve in the quiet moments. That’s the false sense of security subconsciously. It’s pure genius. The visual juxtaposition throughout of wild and innocent animals alongside our leading lady, Eve, is a striking metaphor. Her wardrobe of an iconic red coat and hoodie says all you need to know as she is hunted by the biggest, baddest wolf I’ve ever seen. He is grossly manipulative emotionally and ceaselessly violent. He’s an incel with the balls to back it up. When we meet the classic Huntsman character we’re offered another twist in the plot. I literally went from exclaiming, “Oh, hell yes!” to, “Oh, shit,” in minutes. Performances from every single cast member are outstanding. The cinematography is nothing short of breathtaking. The last third of HUNTED is unhinged. It’s absolutely unpredictable and a complete WTF. SHUDDER’s audience is going to go nuts during the final scene. It’s a visceral satisfaction.

HUNTED premieres on Shudder January 14th in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand

Review: ‘Narratives Of Modern Genocide’ forces us to stop talking and start listening.

Narratives of Modern Genocide

After the holocaust, the world said, “never again,” yet genocide is happening in the world right now. The stories we forget to tell, of the survivors we never knew, will haunt us until we listen and act. Narratives of Modern Genocide challenges the audience to experience first-person accounts of survivors of genocide. Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye share how they escaped the killing fields of Cambodia and the massacre of school children in Burundi. Mixing haunting animation, and expert context the film confronts our notion that the holocaust was the last genocide.

Sichan’s Siv narrative is all too familiar. He suffered unimaginable losses at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, enduring forced labor and the eventual execution of his family. But for Sichan, it becomes a tale of bravery and audacity.  After a failed attempt to escape, he tries a second time, fleeing on foot for three days with only the sun and moon to guide him to Thailand. He is the epitome of “The American Dream”. After emigrating to CT then New York City, he would eventually end up working for President George H. W. Bush as a translator. Think about the gravity of his journey. He went from being persecuted by his native government to becoming a prominent figure in the American government. That’s extraordinary.

Gilbert Tuhabonye was just a schoolboy when he witnessed atrocities that will haunt any viewer. He was the fastest runner in his Burundi community and it served him well when escaping torture and the mass murder of his classmates and teachers. Now living in Austen, he is a motivational speaker, author, retired professional long-distance runner, and a cross-country and track coach. Gilbert also the co-founder of the Gazelle Foundation which provides clean drinking water in his homeland.

We think genocide isn’t as prevalent, but we must learn from our history. The release of this doc is eerily timed with the events of insurrection at the US capitol last week. We have to pay closer attention to the calls of violence. Our democracy is on the brink and vigilance is key. Narratives of Modern Genocide will undoubtedly punch you in the gut. Sichan and Gilbert’s stories are difficult to hear but they cannot be ignored. While this may seem like the story of two men, it is the history of too many. Combined with beautifully drawn animation and starkly contrasted news clips, this doc strikes a cord. It’s important. It must be shown to as wide an audience as possible. It must serve as a warning to future generations.

ON DVD AND DIGITAL
January 12, 2021

Review: ‘Go/Don’t Go’ consumes you with mystery.

GO/DON’T GO

Caught between a lost love story and inescapable paranoia, “Go / Don’t Go” is a genre-bending slow burn thriller that follows Adam, a wallflower who happens to be the last person left alive-or so he thinks.

Rarely do I stop a screening link every 5 to ten minutes and reiterate what is happening out loud to my husband. While viewing Alex Knapp‘s post-apocalyptic psychological thriller GO/DON’T GO, I did just that. I was so intrigued I had to share all of the subtle genius happening on screen from beat to beat, sometimes blink-and-you-miss-it imagery. The meticulous thought that went into this script is noteworthy. The breadcrumbs are laid out to entice your imagination with theories. Here is what I can glean from what I saw, stay with me; Agam and K are dating, an unknown world event happens, in a panic, they try to make their way to the mountains to better assess the situation. Something goes awry and K disappears, leaving Adam as the sole human left on Earth. What we and Adam are left with is to piece together disjointed information to try and escape what feels like a little bit of a purgatory-esque version of Memento. Yup. Until the final image, I wracked my brain as to the innumerable possibilities that this story presented me. Was Adam in hell? Was Adam in a parallel timeline? Was Adam insane? Is this an allegory for grief?

GO/DON’T GO could easily be developed into an entire series based on the flashes of information we receive in a 1 hour and 30-minute runtime. What’s with the lightbulb diary? How is all the food so fresh? Why is there still electricity at all? Where is his dog? *Silent scream* I want to know so much more, but completely respect the fact that a massive mystery still remains. If you want to run and tell people and/or ask them if they’ve seen this film while on the festival circuit, well I don’t know what a bigger compliment you could give a first-time filmmaker. Alex Knapp is not only captivating in the role of Adam, but he clearly understands how to effectively build suspense with his writing. He holds the viewer captive with questions and punctuates those moments with a superb soundtrack. The ever-changing lighting is haunting. GO/DON’T GO grabs you from the very first scene and keeps you guessing until the screen goes black. The thought that went into this film is palpable. While I still have so many things I want to know about the ending, I am a cheerleader for Knapp. Whatever’s coming next, I want it now.

GO/DON’T GO, from writer/director Alex Knapp, releases via Gravitas Ventures TUESDAY, January 12, 2021.

ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL
iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu,  Direct TV, Dish Network, and all major cable providers.

[my_mοvie_db id=669644]

Review: ‘The Reason I Jump’ is a megaphone for nonverbal autism.

The Reason I Jump

Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, translated into English by author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), The Reason I Jump is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into a sensory universe that guides audiences to Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.

Based on the book of the same name by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is an emotional rollercoaster. I was already welling up listening to the opening monologue. The echolalia, the sensory overstimulation, the hand flapping, and ear covering all punched me in the gut when presented on screen. I’m a lucky Mom. At 5 years old, my child is now very verbal, he’s hyperlexic which means he’s been reading since he was two. He loves hugs, sleep, and eats well. On the autism spectrum, he would be closer to Asperger’s, if that were a diagnosis recognized nowadays. None of these facts lessen the fear, frustration, exhaustion, and pure elation in raising an exceptional human being. The Reason I Jump is tailor-made from the words of a nonverbal 13-year-old boy’s experiences from the inside out. In film form, it’s simply triumphant.

In the doc, we are introduced to 5 unique young people with autism.

Amrit (India)
Her mother realized she was using art to communicate. Her paintings are extraordinary, some visually akin to continuous line drawings. It took time for everyone to realize they are snapshots of her day.

Joss -(UK)
His anxiety is palpable. His impulses and tendency to meltdown are understandably unpredictable. Joss’s ability to show unadulterated joy is magic. His parents break down their own existence in the most relatable ways, both the highs and the lows.

Ben & Emma – US
These two have learned to spell with letterboards and keyboards to communicate. Best friends since very early childhood, what they have to say will shock you.

Jestina – Sierra Leone
With Jestina, we tackle stimming and perception by others. Stimming a sensory-driven repetition of behavior like rocking or flapping to self soothe. Sometimes it’s a visual stim, sometimes watching wheels turn or glitter shine. Culturally, her mother and other parents in her autistic adjacent community are told their children are possessed. It destroys the spirits of entire families.

The narrated excerpts from the book directly correlate with whichever child is being highlighted at that time. Voiced by Jordan O’Donegan, they have a poetic feel to their profundity. Naoki writes, “Making sounds with your mouth isn’t the same as communication.” That quote did me in. When you hear that, truly hear it, you will be taken aback. Jestina, Ben, Emma, Joss, and Amrit all communicate in a different way, we just had to learn how to listen. The heightened sound design immerses you into the world of an autistic person. We do not understand what it is like to be utterly overwhelmed not being able to be fully understood. The cinematography is breathtaking. Quick cuts, predominantly in close-up form combined with a gorgeous soundtrack put you in an alternate headspace. The editing takes all these elements and blends them into a viscerally stunning documentary.

As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I feel like I can see I want to broadcast this film to the world so that neurotypical individuals can understand my son and every other person on the spectrum. The label of autism, whether people realize it or not, creates implicit bias. We are missing out on the potential and impact of an entire faction of our society. It is our duty to meet each other in the middle. The Reason I Jump is a captivating peek behind the autism curtain. Don’t look away now. Thank you Naoki Higashida for writing this book. Thank you David Mitchell for translating it for your son. Thank you Jerry Rothwell for directing such an important film. Thank you to the families that shared their lives. Watch this film, then choose to listen and learn in a new way.

The Reason I Jump will be in theaters and virtual cinemas Friday, Jan 8th

**WINNER – Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary –
Sundance Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – AFI Docs 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – BFI London Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Chicago International Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Hot Docs Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – WINNER’S CIRCLE – DOC NYC 2020**

‘Super Dark Times’ now available on Shudder!

Super Dark Times will stun Shudder audiences. Here is a flashback to our review from The Fantasia International Film Festival 2017…

SUPER DARK TIMES

Teenagers Zach and Josh have been best friends their whole lives, but when a gruesome accident leads to a cover-up, the secret drives a wedge between them and propels them down a rabbit hole of escalating paranoia and violence.

Set in the early ’90s, before Columbine was an event ingrained in history, a child’s innocence was not as easily spoiled as the kids in Super Dark Times. As someone who grew up at the same time as the main characters, I can attest to the typical dangers that surrounded our childhood. We were affected by the national news when a child was kidnapped, but that was about it. On the first evening of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival, audiences will see a film so brilliantly composed from the colors and textures of the costumes and cinematography to the incredibly disturbing storyline from screenwriters Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski. The power of an act of violence changes a person. Born from that awkward time in our lives comes the idea that fear can control the room, where the older/stronger kids ruled the proverbial schoolyards. Drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes made you popular and badass and oftentimes, intimidating. Super Dark Times taps into those ideals in that very specific time in history, and yet it has a creepy timeless factor once you understand the full plot. With elements of the surreal, you will find yourself asking who is showing us the truth at any given moment. Director Kevin Phillips takes us on a sickening journey, one that’s become all too familiar as the years have rolled by.

  • Directed by: Kevin Phillips
  • Written by: Ben Collins, Luke Piotrowski
  • Cast: Sawyer Barth, Owen Campbell, Elizabeth Cappuccino, Amy Hargreaves, Charlie Tahan, Max Talisman
  • Company: 1091

A Shudder Original review: ‘A Creepshow Holiday Special’ is on the naughty list (and that’s a good thing)

In the holiday themed, hour-long episode, “Shapeshifters Anonymous,” fearing he is a murderer, an anxious man searches for answers for his “unique condition” from an unusual support group. Starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect) and Adam Pally (The Mindy Project), the special is written and directed by Creepshow showrunner Greg Nicotero, based on a short story by J.A. Konrath (Last Call).

If you are not laughing your ass off when the breakdown of evil hits both biblical proportions and the origin story of Santa Claus, then you need to check yourself. It will make you suspect of any of Santa’s Helpers all over town. Written and directed by Shudder series showrunner Greg Nicotero, A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL  is a damn holiday horror treasure. Keeping in traditional Creepshow style, the striking comic book art by Kevin West and Michael Broom appears and dissolves when necessary making you take notice of the spectacular editing. Be sure to keep a sharp eye on the speech bubbles for added hilarity. Based on a story by J.A. Konrath, Nicotero’s episode is titled “Shapeshifters Anonymous”. When we discover that there is more to shapeshifting than the average Lycanthrope, a whole world of possibilities opens up to the viewer.

This cast’s chemistry is unreal. Adam Pally is mostly on the receiving end of tongue in cheek jokes when he’s usually the one dishing them out. Watching him volley with Anna Camp is pure Christmas magic. Accompanied by a phenomenal ensemble featuring Pete Burris, Frank Nicotero, Derek Russo, and perhaps the most spectacular of them all Candy McLellan. You will fall madly in love with her! Cast her in all the things immediately, please and thank you. Of course, the larger makeup FX are masterfully reminiscent of the original series; very 80’s campfest. The final twist gives up an epic showdown that only rings true in the Creepshow realm. While this episode is less frightening than funny, it’s an awesome holiday treat. I for one am looking forward to the release of Creepshow Season 2 in 2021.

A CREEPSHOW HOLIDAY SPECIAL will be available exclusively on Shudder on December 18, 2020. The episode will also be available on Shudder Canada, Shudder UK, and Shudder ANZ.

Review: IFC Midnight’s ‘Hunter Hunter’ is one of the most intense films of 2020.

HUNTER HUNTER

HUNTER HUNTER follows a family living in the remote wilderness earning a living as fur trappers. Joseph Mersault (Devon Sawa), his wife Anne (Camille Sullivan), and their daughter Renée (Summer H. Howell) struggle to make ends meet and think their traps are being hunted by the return of a rogue wolf. Determined to catch the predator in the act, Joseph leaves his family behind to track the wolf. Anne and Renée grow increasingly anxious during Joseph’s prolonged absence and struggle to survive without him.  When they hear a strange noise outside their cabin, Anne hopes it is Joseph but instead finds a man named Lou (Nick Stahl), who has been severely injured and left for dead. The longer Lou stays and Joseph is away, the more paranoid Anne becomes, and the idea of a mysterious predator in the woods slowly becomes a threat much closer to home.

The contentious relationship between Devon Sawa and Camille Sullivan is what makes the initial framework of this film so intriguing. With Anne longing for more traditional stability for her family, Joe thrives in the wilderness. Trapping is just not meeting their monetary needs any longer. With their daughter Renee to protect, they are in for a bigger surprise than running out of food and a rogue wolf on the prowl. Hunter Hunter goes to a place so dark, you won’t be able to get it out of your head.

The survivalist and tracker methods ring true. Sawa, who has been churning out films the past few years, once again holds the audience captive with his presence. I’ve stated before that his talent is often overlooked. His commitment to a role is stellar and he’s a lovely human in real life. Here his portrayal of Joe is steadfast and loyal, with a side of heroic intention. His chemistry with Summer H. Howell as daughter Renee is a touch reminiscent of Ben Foster and Thomasin McKenzie in Leave No Trace. Howell gives a “raised off the grid”, tough as nails, but thoroughly innocent age-appropriate performance. It’s just right. Nick Stahl and Devon Sawa in one movie together, have made my schoolgirl fantasies a reality… in the most satisfying, genre nerd girl way. Stahl is downright scary. You can read the unspoken backstory he’s given himself in his posture and gaze. It’s startling.

Camille Sullivan has been written as a fully nuanced woman, forced to activate her Mother Bear instincts. The power she brings to this film is unmatched. This cast has to not only contend with a terrifying script but the elements of filming in the wilderness. I have so many questions since the credits rolled but the mystery that remains isn’t even relevant when the screen goes black. You are simply left in shock.

That sharp turn in the plot blows up everything you think you know about how this story will end. Your heart will be in your throat for the final 3rd. Writer/director Shawn Linden has given us one of the most disturbing films of 2020. The utter carnage, both emotional and physical, inflicted on this cast is brutal. The visceral horror of that befalls the viewer is skin-crawling and nausea-inducing. Hunter Hunter is complex and precisely crafted. Camille Sullivan‘s performance will go down as one of the most iconic final girls, ever.

STARRING:

Devon Sawa – Nick Stahl – Camille Sullivan – Summer Howell

DIRECTED AND WRITTEN BY:

Shawn Linden

IN SELECT THEATERS, ON DIGITAL & ON DEMAND – DECEMBER 18, 2020

Review: ‘Stormchaser’ is electric with potential.

All Bonnie Blue ever wanted was to chase tornadoes with her Dad. But dreams die with time. Now, she’s become a different kind of storm chaser, hawking storm doors “door-to-door” for her charismatic boss, Flip Smyth: a cultish father figure who preaches Disaster Capitalism to Bonnie and his tribe of sales guys. As she realizes that Flip’s doctrine of “Flip the Switch!” is just a way to exploit customers, a different kind of switch flips inside Bonnie — unleashing an inner and outer storm of violence.

Breathtaking cinematography combined with Mary Birdsong‘s performance makes Stormchaser an awesome first episode into the world of Bonnie Blue. It was not what I was expecting at all. The toxic masculinity that she must battle is all too familiar but also genuinely hilarious. What fully transpires next is a little up to the interpretation of the viewer. Bonnie takes back her power and perhaps harnesses a bit from an incoming tornado. The potential here is massive. Writer/director Gretl Claggett has left this story with enough intrigue to go in any direction she wants. You can see why it’s won awards during its festival run. With an episodic series in the works, Stormchaser will easily blow you away.

Stormchaser writer/director Gretl Claggett

Gretl is currently developing STORMCHASER into an episodic anthology series, while writing/developing two other female-forward shows/films that also grapple with socio-political issues in entertaining, surprising ways.

Interview: Adam Eqypt Mortimer discusses his latest film ‘Archenemy’

Once again, our amazing colleague Matthew Schuchman brings great questions to one of the coolest filmmakers in the biz. Adam Eqypt Mortimer brought us Daniel Isn’t Real last year and now we’re jumping into the superhero genre in only a way Mortimer can. With brooding visual similarities and a fresh script, Archenemy (read my review here) is hella cool. Yes, I said it. Matt gets some awesome info from Adam. Wait until you find out who was originally in talks to play Max Fist! Joe Manganiello ultimately landed the role and is balls to wall amazing. The rest of this kick-ass cast combined with a screenplay that keeps you guessing will undoubtedly win you over. Can Archenemy save audiences during one of the weidrest movie viewing years in history? Find out for yourself. The film is now in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand. Check out Matt’s interview with writer/director  Adam Eqypt Mortimer below.

Did you always intend to show Max’s origin as animations?

That’s an interesting question. When I was first writing it I knew that that was always part of the story; that we were gonna see his stories that he’s telling about Chromium. But I wasn’t super certain how I was going to do it. I knew that I wanted there to be a big contrast between the present-tense story, and what we were seeing from the past. So it was kind of a confluence of– I understood how we were going to be shooting the present, but how different can we make the past? One of the issues I struggled with when I was writing the script was the scene where Max is falling out of a giant building and flying through the sky and punching his enemy and all this crazy stuff. If that was hyper realized or looks exactly the same as the rest of the movie, then it would only ever appear as truth. So ultimately, I thought I could do animation. Daniel Noah from SpectreVision and I talked a lot about what it should be and I really came around to animation in thinking about things like, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Watership Down, too. In ways that those film’s innovations can be very expressive and interact with reality and all of those kinds of things. Then it started to feel like the right move, as long as it didn’t feel like comic book pages or motion comics. It’s not supposed to be referencing comics, it’s supposed to be referencing more. The feeling of this sort of superhero world and how that might present itself in Max’s deranged mind. 

Well, I do also appreciate that the film doesn’t try to force-feed me everything through pointed exposition.

You know, there’s whole scenes of Max and his new friend Hamster walking down the street and Max is telling him all of this stuff about how he had the crystal fist, and the cosmic source, and all this stuff. But,I tended to think of all that, not like an exposition, because it’s not really there to set the stage to advance the story. I thought of it more like music, or decoration, or poetry. You can let all of this madness and all these strange world constructions flow over you and take it however you want. I said to Joe [Mangainello] when we started the process of building the character, “I don’t even care that much if I can understand what you say.” Joe and I are both metalheads and I told him to think about the way he talks as being like the guitar player from Slayer, Kerry King. Like, it’s sloppy and insane, loud and fast, and it’s really not about precise musical construction; it’s about getting some kind of point across through all this other stuff. So that was how I thought about things both in terms of how Max talks and about how he sees things. 

Joe was really amazing in the film, and I feel like no one else could have really been Max Fist. Was he always the first choice?

I’m glad it was him; I think he was amazing. There was a moment though when I was talking to Nicolas Cage about it. We had lunch and talked about it and he was interested in it. He seemed great for it also, because he is somebody who had once almost played Superman, but he had also been in Leaving Las Vegas and one of my ideas in this movie was always; it’s Superman in Leaving Las Vegas— but we couldn’t do it. It didn’t work out with him and so then I got Joe and like you say, Joe is absolutely the perfect person; and a long time ago, also, was up for the part of playing Superman. He was going to be Superman and it didn’t work out and, but you can just see how he is Superman. But it’s not just him as a physical actor. He has so much confidence that he can deconstruct himself into a tragic mess of a man and pull that off too, which is what’s wonderful about it. 

Why does Max care about Hamster so much? Is it just because Hamster is willing to listen to him?

I don’t know, I mean that that’s one of the emotional mysteries of the movie. When you meet Max, he’s somebody who doesn’t care about anybody. He lives this emotional life that he can’t get out of his own head. That’s the journey, and I hope it’s a believable one. I think you get this idea of him talking about how important it was to be a superhero. Then you increasingly see that imagery in terms of people’s love for him, they build statues to him. You start to go like, “wait a minute…” What does it mean to have been a hero and I think by defining things in this tiny relationship between him and hamster, there is a whole different way to look at why you would be a hero. 

I don’t know if it is just me– and this is kind of getting away from the point– but I started focusing on smaller things. There’s the henchman Finn, and he carries this book in his hand but I couldn’t see what the book was. Was it something like, “The Big Book of Zen?”

It’s called; Nihilism for Beginners. There is a frame or two where you can see it. And I’m glad that you are looking for details like that because I put a lot into thinking about the world and all of the characters. Even when they are just in a scene or two, they’re really building part of that universe. The idea with him is, he’s a guy who’s just started to think philosophically about the world and he’s like, “God I’m just a hired hitman goon, but the world is so much more complex.” There’s a scene where he’s interrogating Indigo about this other guy who died but you can see that there’s this incredible sort of sorrow or grief about what he is doing. That was all Joseph Reitman; super great actor. I will always want to do things where there’s tons of fucking violence and bleakness and it’s crazy, but there’s also the theme of empathy and who can have empathy and what does that feel like. There was a little patch of that in that character. 

It’s clear that–and especially from talking to you now– that you had a specific point of where you wanted this to end, but were there thoughts about deciding whether the ending would flip the other way, maybe?

I think it was more a question of how it would play out, or what the timing of it was. The question for me really was, “It’s going to be a story about a betrayal of some kind and a mistruth of some kind.” So where exactly does that play out? Does that play out in terms of everything he said is invented? Or is it that he’s telling the story differently than he should? It’s important to have a narrative twist or a narrative, revelation, but the emotional revelation around it is really the key.

Most movies do kind of give up the kitty a little too early. I love the fact that, as an audience member, just as you may start to believe Max, he’s doing a bump of coke on the stairwell before going in to punch a bunch of guys. 

There’s nothing that gives you superpowers better than amphetamines and that’s one thing I want people to take away from this [joking laughter]. If you’re gonna run into people who are shooting at you with uzis; you take meth. It’s gonna be bad, but it’ll be better that way. 

Has the casting process gotten easier for you, now that your stock is on the rise?

No doubt, Archenemy was so much easier to get done, than Daniel Isn’t Real. With this movie, I had all these people able to see my last movie. Glenn Howerton, Paul Scheer, and Joe; all saw my previous film, and they think, “I love that movie, I would work with this director.” That’s how I was able to get them in it and that’s the wonderful, wonderful aspect of starting to build up a body of work that you can point to. When I was making my first movie, nobody gave a fuck that I wanted to make a movie. None of my set ideals are real, it was like very few people gave a fuck to help stretch my vision. Now they’ve got my back and it’s sort of grown like that in a way. It’s wonderful because the most important thing to me is to be able to attract brilliant people to work with me and particularly get actors who are really good and can really do all of it. So to be able to point to other examples of what I’ve done is a blessing.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

Review: ‘Archenemy’ is not your average super hero tale.

Max Fist (Manganiello) claims to be a hero from another dimension who fell through time and space to Earth, where he has no powers. No one believes his stories except for a local teen named Hamster. Together, they take to the streets to wipe out the local drug syndicate and its vicious crime boss known as The Manager.

After hitting indie badass status with Daniel Isn’t Real, one of my top ten films of 2019, writer/director Adam Eqypt Mortimer has given us a new feast for the eyes. Enter Archenemy. If a script can keep you guessing until the very last scene that’s quality screenwriting and directing. Mortimer revamps the superhero genre. This is something that straddles the line between a classic comic book approach and an altogether fresh origin story… with a seriously kickass soundtrack. If you saw Daniel Isn’t Real, and dammit you should have by now, you’ll notice a penchant for saturated jewel tones and dark lighting…  and opening with a wormhole. With the heightened voiceovers from Skylan Brooks, you feel as if you’re watching a graphic novel playing out in real-time. Instead of using cartoony “BAM!” and “POW”, Brooks’ hyped narration does that for you. Add in some specifically stylized animation during Joe Manganiello’s dialogue, Archenemy challenges the audience to take in a larger picture and really use their brains. In my humble opinion, the character of Hamster is not-so-secretly a little slice of Adam. You get that genre fanboy brightness that makes Archenemy as cool as it is. Hamster is also a master storyteller, that’s his art. I don’t think this theory is such a stretch.

The underlying social commentary cannot be missed. Social media monsters and drugs are the newest and loudest villains ( besides this effing pandemic) around presently. All that aside, the story itself is complex in the best way possible. It builds a narrative in which you’re constantly asking questions like, “Is he who he says he is?”, “Is this a mental illness?”, “Does it even matter?!”. The answers are actually beside the point when you’ve got great acting to back up the script. Joe Manganiello is perfection in this role. Once you realize that he’s half hero half megalomaniac your mind explodes. It is in the flaws of these characters where we fall in love with them in earnest. Skylan Brooks brings this “kid in a candy store vibe” that never gets old. I cannot wait to see more of him and Zolee Griggs. She has this mature presence that makes you care for her and understand what a badass she already is.

Archenemy has all the makings of a franchise. I hope we see more of this crew! Amy Seimetz, Glenn Howerton, and Paul Sheer level up this film. Every single cast member gives a nuanced performance. It’s dark and complex and nothing like you think it’s going to be. How often do we genuinely get to say that? You can check out Archenemy today!

Stay tuned to Reel News Daily for interviews with Adam Eqypt Mortimer and Skylan Brooks by our awesome colleague Matthew Schuchman! In the meantime, you can check out the trailer below:

RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

 

Review: ‘Girl With No Mouth’ has so much to say.

GIRL WITH NO MOUTH

In Girl With No Mouth, a group of children who suffer from deformities due to a toxic explosion, embark on an adventure in a war-torn post-apocalyptic region. The Turkish production comes from Can Evrenol, director of the successful TIFF Midnight Madness selection Baskin, and the horror film Housewife (currently available on Shudder).

This beautifully shot film tells the tale of a ragtag group of deformed children running from the evil Corporation responsible for their plight. Each is missing a key feature on their face, making for creative ways to communicate with one another. Captain finds Peri (our titular character) after she has fled her corrupt uncle’s clutches. With her father murdered and her uncle tracking her down to kill her, she escapes alongside her newfound friends. Captain is without eyes, Yusuf is missing his nose, and little Badger has no ears. This band of “Pirates” protects each other in search of sanctuary. Peace is coming, which means The Corporation must find any remaining children and destroy “the evidence” of wrongdoing.

Each child brings a different strength to their journey. Captain is a master tracker and relies on his heightened hearing to map. Peri uses science. Yusuf cooks and Badger scavenges. They happen upon an adult who is not a complete psychopath. The widow of the man responsible for all the agony caused by The Corporation. With her help and Peri’s engineering, can our group reach safety in time? The script is carefully crafted by director Can Evrenol and Kutay Ucun. There is undoubtedly a Peter Pan and The Lost Boys vibe to it. Add the tragic post-apocalyptic aspect and it goes from enchanting to unbelievably thrilling. You would never think this is the kind of film that would come from the director of Baskin. I’m so happy this film is now on people’s radars. I think it truly extraordinary.

This cast is outstanding. Their chemistry is pure magic. The film’s cinematography is simply stunning combined with a fantastic script, Girl With No Mouth is a captivating take of resilience and guts. You will be rooting for these kids. Their ingenuity and spirit are what hold you tightly to your seat. The finale strikes a gorgeous balance between heartbreaking and triumphant. Girl With No Mouth speaks volumes in a year where death and capitalism reign supreme. This film will have you cheering out loud at your screen. Do not sleep on this one.

 Girl With No Mouth is due to release on Blu-Ray, DVD and VOD across North America on December 8th via Indiecan Entertainment

 

INDIECAN ENTERTAINMENT focuses on independent, low-budget films. As a distributor, Avi Federgreen follows the same principle that earned him his reputation as a filmmaker; bringing audiences films they want to watch. Aside from the traditional distribution route, INDIECAN leans heavily on digital delivery. INDIECAN helps films find more opportunities with audiences through TV, Netflix, iTunes, websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms. INDIECAN’s vision is to not only support Canadian production but to encourage the viewing of quality independent films by North American audiences. Indiecanent.com

Review: ‘Parallel’ is thrilling genre greatness.

A group of friends stumble upon a mirror that serves as a portal to a “multiverse”, but soon discover that importing knowledge from the other side in order to better their lives brings increasingly dangerous consequences.

Rarely, does a film get me to holler, “Oh, Shit!” in the first few minutes. Parallel had me on my toes from start to finish. The early dialogue is a framework for what’s the come. It’s a smart script that challenges the audience’s moral compass, easily asking, “What would you do?” As a Doctor Who superfan and Back to the Future franchise nerd, I’ve seen multiverse storylines again and again. Parallel sets itself apart in every way possible. What could possibly backfire by messing with an alternate timeline? Nothing is that easy. The action starts right away. You understand the dynamics of this group, each serving a purpose. Ambition, self-worth, regret, sadness, and sheer curiosity all drive our leads to do things they wouldn’t normally dream of. I loved that the focus is no solely on one person. It lends depth to this sci-fi screenplay. A genre that is often heavy-handed in cliche when it comes to an ensemble piece.

The camera work is decisively cool and the subtle lighting change when they enter the parallel world is key. The truly minimal CG is pretty spectacular. The visual reminder that the mirror is but a reflection of the outside is featured prominently throughout. The cast has genuine chemistry based on their backgrounds. They walk the perfect balance of guarded when necessary and enamored with their past dynamics. It feels like a choose your own adventure but with the highest of consequences. Director Isaac Ezban (who ingeniously slips in a nod to his brilliant film The Similars), teamed with writer Scott Blaszak, has curated a complex script that begs you to sit up and pay attention. If you don’t you’ll be lost in the chaos. The only thing missing is another film. I want an origin film. I need to know more. Parallel is easily the beginning of an entire sci-fi franchise. It’s a genre standout in a year filled with fantastic content. My heart was pumping from the very beginning and did not let up until it blacked out to roll credits. You’re constantly waiting for something to go awry. It’s phenomenally unnerving.

Available In Select Theaters & On Demand December 11, 2020

 

 

Review: ‘The Stand In’ pits Drew Barrymore against Drew Barrymore.

The Stand In

When ordered to serve a year in rehab, actress Candy (Drew Barrymore) hires her on-set stand-in to take her place. The unassuming woman flips the script and steals her identity, career and boyfriend in this hilarious comedy about trading places.

Drew Barrymore gets to play two polar opposite roles. Candy Black is character number one. For sure a nod to Drew’s vast collection of lovable characters over the years but with a seriously jaded mean streak. And perhaps also a not-so-hidden, tongue-in-cheek riff on Melissa McCarthy, who gets named dropped immediately in the best way possible. For Barrymore’s character Candy, 5 years after a breakdown on set, she is another person. Her sadness has consumed her. She is a recluse who is court-ordered to go to rehab for 90 days. Frankly, she has other plans. Her second character is the titular role. Paula is seemingly lovely, sweet, and bright, but now also out of a job until she gets an auspicious call to get back on the horse for Candy. Both women get the opportunity to reshape who they are… for better or for worse. You think you know where this story is going, but you’re in for a big surprise.

When they play the same scenes it’s an excellent dynamic. Watching Drew commit to these two women is really fun. You’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes for a heightened watch. It becomes unexpectedly dark. Drew is actually scary to watch. The marketing is doing a disservice to the film. There is so much more to The Stand In than the trailer offers viewers. I hope they can appreciate what comes their way.

It is definitely an interesting commentary on fame and notoriety. There are innumerable moments that will make you cringe but you have to ride them out. The Stand In makes fun of itself in a thoughtful way. The cameos are aplenty and each person is given the opportunity to highlight the trappings of Hollywood with their dialogue. I think that’s what I appreciated most. The dark honesty is what sticks with me as the credits rolled. The entire success hangs on Barrymore’s ability to play two characters we’ve never seen from her before. Congratulations to director Jaime Babbitt for helping a film that’s much deeper than an audience is expecting.

In Select Theaters, On Demand, and on Digital December 11, 2020

Review: ‘What Lies Below’ is a new breed of supernatural thriller.

In WHAT LIES BELOWLiberty, a socially awkward 16-year-old, returns from two months at camp to a blindsided introduction of her Mother’s fiancé, John Smith, whose charm, intelligence, and beauty paint the picture of a man too perfect to be human.
This script does an excellent job of presenting something that feels familiar but layering it with the lust of a teenage girl. Braden R. Duemmler gives us a nuanced look at relationship dynamics wrapped in an enigma of anxiety and fear. We get a fantastic balance of a real-life scenario with the understanding that something is indeed very off about John Smith. The cringeworthy moments are aplenty and that’s a compliment. The character of Liberty is fully fleshed out. I was that girl, in many ways, at 16. While my passion was writing and theatre, I understood the awkward encounters and the sensation of excitement at the thought of an attractive older man having an understanding of the things I liked.  Liberty ends up being a badass through her terror and she is a hero in my book. That’s the kind of female protagonist we need.
Mena Suvari plays Michelle, Liberty’s lovesick mother. She is an incredible foil for Ema Horvath. She plays a kinda lost, flaky mom with serious (albeit warranted) daddy issues. When she essentially chooses John over Liberty you cannot help but detest her. But, their dynamic is set from the very beginning and it is what drives Liberty until the end of the film. Trey Tucker strikes a great balance of charming, smart, slightly weird, and intense as hell. His performance and Horvath’s create the needed mystery and vibration that make What Lies Below such a success.
Ema Horvath is outstanding. Having just seen her in The Mortuary Collection, I was aware of her innate ability to slide into someone else’s skin (no pun intended), but this role fits her so well. She’s bright and self-aware and brings that careful insecurity to this performance. I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does next.
There are subtle classic sci-fi references throughout, leading you to think you know where this is headed. The ending smacked me hard in the face. I was not expecting it and to Duemmler’s credit, I say “Bravo”. It’s a bold choice and I think genre fans will love it. Check out the trailer for a taste of What Lies Below.

Vertical Entertainment will release the supernatural thriller WHAT LIES BELOW on Demand and Digital on December 4, 2020.

Written by Braden R. Duemmler, who is also making his directorial feature debut, the film stars Ema Horvath (“Don’t Look Deeper”), Trey Tucker (The Space Between Us), Mena Suvari (American Beauty), and Haskiri Velazsquez (“Saved by the Bell”).

Review: ‘Higher Love’ is in your face and important.

“That’s what happens in America.” When jobs depart, drugs arrive. That’s what happens in America. Nani and Daryl have a tumultuous relationship and drugs are to blame. Daryl is desperately trying to save both Nani and his infant son. Higher Love gets deep inside Nani’s addiction and those around her. We watch them get high while they enable one another.

They live in Camden, NJ. I remember driving home for Thanksgiving in my mid-20s. It was approaching 2 am and I was having trouble staying awake on my way to CT. I was about to turn off the highway when on the radio DJ says, “Murder capital in the U.S.? Camden, NJ.” I swerved and took the next exit. Higher Love does a fantastic job of highlighting the systemic disintegration of American cities. The police literally sit idly by as crackhouses act like revolving doors. Rehab, as we learned from American Relapse, is an economic boom. It comes down to people willing to help themselves or help each other. Daryl is an awesome father. He takes care of his children and adores them, wholeheartedly.

Nani just cannot kick her addiction. She claims she wants to be part of her son’s life, but chooses drugs over and over. Daryl is just guilty in the ways he facilitates her habits. It’s heartbreaking to watch him have so much confidence in a woman who will most likely overdose. When he snaps at her you don’t blame him one ounce. He’s doing his best and she’s doing crack. The emotional hold she has on him is stronger than almost anything, except the love of his children.

Higher Love tells the stories of the lives and deaths of so many locals. But the tragedy is everywhere. Iman, one of Nani’s associates, gets his path highlighted, as well. He explains that with a phone call, one can procure whatever they need whenever they need. His story is like so many others, he has a family that loves him and they only want his rehab stints to stick. He is the highest motivated individual we come to know. We could not be rooting for him any harder. The most engrossing aspect of the intimate conversations with these addicts is the fact that they are actually incredibly self-aware. They understand they are ultimately responsible for their behavior. It’s a cycle of sadness, confusion, trauma, and sickness. How do we, as a society, fix this? What can the government and the people do together to help this ever-growing population? I’m not sure what the answer is, but with the problems exacerbated by a pandemic, 2020 might be the worst year on record for drug deaths.

The doc could probably benefit from a trim in time, even at a tight hour and 17 minutes. One beautifully impactful moment occurs when we are treated to a slam poem presented over quick cuts of the city and it’s residents. If that does not move you, nothing will. Higher Love is honest and important. It’s not just Nani’s story, or Daryl’s story, or Iman’s story. It’s the story of the forgotten, the oppressed, the ones we find easier to gloss over. Don’t sleep on this film.

WATCH THE 7X FESTIVAL WINNER NOW ON VOD

HIGHER LOVE was directed by first-time filmmaker Hasan Oswald, executive produced by Stephen Nemeth (Rhino Records), and produced by Oswald, Alexander Spiess, & Derek Rubin. Oswald used a Robert Rodriguez-inspired zero-budget strategy to make the film, selling his blood-plasma, racking up no interest credit card bills, and learning all things films on youtube tutorials in lieu of film school.

Shudder Original review: ‘Anything for Jackson,’ the devil is in the details.

Anything For Jackson

After losing their only grandson in a car accident, grief-stricken Audrey and Henry, a doctor, kidnap his pregnant patient with the intentions of performing a “Reverse Exorcism”, putting Jackson inside her unborn child.

The energy that this film has from the get-go is outstanding. It’s dark and disturbing and throws your understanding of morality out of whack. But it’s the nonchalance of it all that will keep you watching. Unlike creepy couples like Mommy and Daddy from The People Under The Stairs or Mickey and Mallory in Natural Born Killers, Henry and Audrey are simply so casual about everything they are about to do it’s all the more bizarre. After they perform what they believe to be a soul transference, things really go off the rails. Something has gone awry. Their grandson is not the only thing to come into their home. The arrival of a gaggle of seriously disturbing ghosts throws all their confidence out the window. Things do not go well for Audrey and Henry going forward. The devil does not care to be used. The things that appear to everyone in the house are more and more terrifying as the fallout continues. It is ceaselessly upsetting.

Performances from our three leads are outstanding. Konstantina Mantelos as young mother Shannon is the final girl we need to balance out the insanity. Her ingenuity and believable vulnerability is sheer perfection. The terror she experiences is visceral. Helped along by the ghastly practical fx and brilliant performances by the actors playing these tortured souls. The contortionist stylings of one, in particular, gave me full-body chills. The chemistry between Sheila McCarthy and Julian Richings is simply magic. You believe they’ve been married for decades without a thought. They are charming in their sincerity even if their acts are atrocious.

The structure of the story roots you deep into the drama. You’re genuinely invested in everyone. Upon a second viewing, and as a Mom myself, I understand the lengths each character is going to protect their loved one. It makes the stakes so much higher. The writing and editing are top-notch. The complexity is unreal. This was a carefully crafted piece of work. If you can get me with a jump scare after 40 years of watching horror films, well done. Anything For Jackson got me… and held me down.

You will never see what’s coming from one beat to the next. Anything For Jackson will undoubtedly entertain the hell out of Shudder subscribers. They continue to kill it with their content. Anything For Jackson takes your heart and your head and mangles them both. It’s one of the year’s best genre films.

ANYTHING FOR JACKSON premieres on Shudder December 3rd in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand

Review: ’18 To Party’ spans generations and is one of the best of 2020.

It’s 1984 and outside a small-town nightclub, a group of 8th graders gather, grappling with a spate of recent suicides, UFO sightings, their absentee parents, and each other.

The eclectic personalities represented in 18 To Party put me right back in 8th grade. I knew or was all of these kids at one point or another. This ensemble cast is unreal. There is an incredible mix of nonchalance, awkwardness, boldness, and fear. All the hormones and adolescent rage are there in its purest form. It is impossible not to think of Richard Linklater‘s films. Writer/director Jeff Roda‘s dialogue touches on nothing and everything all at once and it is delicious. The pacing is brilliant. You’re fully into these kids and all that’s occurring in their small town circle. I remember when every little thing had the weight of the world because my world was only so large. 18 To Party has a familiarity that lets the viewer live in the film. It’s on real stand out in 2020. Any fellow Gen Xer will be fully in flashback mode, nodding and smiling and cringing along with these kids. It’s totally awesome but in an understated cool way. Wait until you hear the soundtrack. So yeah, Jeff Roda nails it. Watch it with your kids. Their reaction might surprise you. Catch 18 To Party on VOD platforms today.

VOD (December 1)
Platforms including: Apple TV, Prime Video, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango, and more to follow.

OFFICIAL SELECTION: WOODSTOCK FILM FESTIVAL, FLORIDA FILM FESTIVAL (Winner! Special Jury Award/ Ensemble Cast), BIG APPLE FILM FESTIVAL, LIVERPOOL FILM FESTIVAL, and more.

DIRECTOR/ SCREENWRITER: Jeff Roda

STARRING: Alivia Clark, Tanner Flood, James Freedson-Jackson, Oliver Gifford, Nolan Lyons, Sam McCarthy, Ivy Miller, Taylor Richardson, and Erich Schuett.

INCLUDING MUSIC BY: The Alarm, Big Audio Dynamite, Mick Jones, The Velvet Underground, and many more.

Review: ‘King Of Knives’ shines light on the dark side of family dynamics.

KING OF KNIVES

ONE BIG CRAPPY FAMILY

KING OF KNIVES tells the story of Frank and Kathy who are baby boomer parents and Sadie & Kaitlin, their millennial daughters. Frank is screaming towards a mid-life crisis. Kathy pretends she’s happy and doesn’t drink that much wine. Sadie is the good child; convinced her first and only boyfriend is the one to marry. Kaitlin is the rebel, the entertainer; the truth-teller who will not filter how she’s feeling.

Over three days, with much drama and humor, this crap-happy family careens and skids straight towards a fateful anniversary. On the way, they realize they are more alike than they know.

Family is complicated. Every generation trying to make life better for the next but ultimately failing in one way or another. You cannot do it all perfectly, that’s not a thing. It is in the mistakes and flaws we accept where we grow as individuals and as one family unit. King Of Knives is a raw and undeniably funny look at regret. It shines in its honesty. It allows its characters to feel relatable with great dialogue and effective editing as the full plot is revealed. It’s a beautifully balanced screenplay, allowing each of the four family members to come to terms with where they fit in and how that might affect the others.

The performances are really great. I have to call out the comic timing from everyone. It’s a natural back and forth I have with my family, like it or not. While we all think everyone is so very different, I reality we’re all just as messed up as the next person in line. Gene Pope, Mel Harris, Roxi Pope, and Emily Bennett do a fantastic job making you believe they are related. There is just enough connection and disconnection for you to buy it completely. They are coated in trauma they ignore and facing it one year later will finally break open family secrets and revelations that will change everyone. Lindsay Joy‘s script feels real from my perspective; the first of four (now adult) kids that all did different things and pretend to be too cool for school most of the time. But we know, deep down, we’re all floundering in one way or another. We’re still better together. King Of Knives hits home for any viewer. Sometimes you have to break it down to build it back up. It’s a “Go call you Dad” kind of film. It’s the perfect holiday film, once you watch it you’ll understand why. It releases today on VOD and Digital platforms. Get a taste from the trailer below.

This refreshing comedy is written by Lindsay Joy with story by Gene Pope and directed by Jon Delgado.  The film stars Gene Pope, Mel Harris, Roxi Pope, and Emily Bennett.  It was produced by Gene Pope, Daniel Sollinger, and Jenn Gomez. The film has a running time of 94 minutes and will not be rated by the MPAA.  Gravitas Ventures will release KING OF KNIVES on VOD and Digital platforms including iTunes, Amazon, Apple TV, Google Play, Fandango Now and all major cable/satellite platforms on Tuesday, December 1.

Review: ‘WEREWOLF’ is terrifying and profound.

In Werewolf, children liberated from a Nazi concentration camp have to overcome hunger, thirst, and vicious attack dogs in an abandoned mansion surround by the forest.

Werewolf is incredible from the very first frame. The fear is visceral in the visual presentation but especially in the performances from a cast of children. This is a new version of Lord Of The Flies as a group of Holocaust survivors lies in wait as they are stalked by attack dogs, and even one of their own. Hormones, trauma, hunger, and anger, all drive this riveting plot forward. It is easy to root for these kids. As a Mom, it made my heart race at every turn. I was sweating watching their ingenuity. Survival is not guaranteed especially when the threat comes from within. It was profound watching these young actors, at times, become as wild as the dogs they feared. Other scenes momentarily allowed them to be children again. This ensemble casts’ chemistry will blow you away. Adrian Panek has given us a thrilling gem. The writing is intelligent and enthralling. Your heart will be in your throat from beginning to end.

Adrian Panek’s intense WWII survival horror/thriller Werewolf is due to release on Blu-Ray, DVD, and VOD across North America on December 1st via Indiecan Entertainment.

ON BLU-RAY, DIGITAL AND DVD DECEMBER 1, 2020

The intense Polish film was an official selection of Fantastic Fest (where it was nominated for Best Picture) among many other fests, has won 11 festival awards worldwide, and been nominated for 14 more.

Fathom Events review: Movie musical ‘STAND!’ only in theaters tonight, December 1st.

STAND!

In Theaters Only on December 1, 2020

Directed by: Robert Adetuyi (Stomp The YardBring It On: Worldwide #Cheersmack)

1919. Stefan and his father Mike fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to reunite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca – but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be Romeo and Juliet. Returned soldiers, angry at the lack of jobs after the war, violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, the refugee from racist violence in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, AJ Anderson, a wealthy lawyer, pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand.

The potential in this story is obvious. Catchy numbers and an intriguing premise based on a true story. Unfortunately, it needs to stage to fully bloom. As someone who graduated from a musical theatre conservatory in Manhattan, I recognize the over-the-top gesture and intonation that is needed to reach the back row. But because the audience is experiencing it from a screen, it comes off as forced at times. The energy is lost in translation and it feels uneven. Theater broadcasting LIVE in a movie theater is different. Here, it’s actually the camera that ruins that genuine connection. Performances are outstanding so they deserve that give and take electric feeling. It also lacks in one major area where most musicals thrive; choreography. With a large and varied immigrant ensemble, this was a lost opportunity leading to momentary lulls in pacing. I kept hoping something was coming, some big number highlighting the different facets of people coming together. The moments definitely presented themselves over and over and not a single number. I think it could have pushed STAND! across the finish line.

The issues in the stage play turned screenplay is still incredibly relevant. This is the most successful aspect. Taking pages from Ragtime, Newsies, Parade, and Hamilton, stories of immigrants, race, religious persecution, classism, and the right to strike are all still ripe for vibrant storytelling in 2020. STAND! shines brightest when it sings. By far the best numbers belong to Lisa Bell. Get this girl on Broadway the minute it’s officially back. The Romeo and Juliet aspect between Rebecca and Stefan is charming enough but not as powerful as Emma or Mike Sokolowski’s emotional journey, whom the original stageplay STRIKE! is based upon. STAND! needs an Off-Broadway run and a workshop. But be the first movie theater audience to get chills while Lisa Bell belts out the theme in the final moments of the film, for sure. It’s worth the ticket price.

Music, Lyrics and Score: Danny Schur (Made In Winnipeg: The Terry Sawchuk Origin Story)

Featuring Lisa Bell’s show-stopping performance of the protest song Stand!

Starring:
Marshall Williams (“Glee”, “How to Build a Better Boy”)
Laura Wiggins (“Shameless”, 20th Century Women)
Lisa Bell (No Time Like Christmas, “Canadian Idol”)
Gregg Henry (“Guardians of the Galaxy”, “Scandal”)
Erik Athavale (Fractured, Breakthrough)
Paul Essiembre (“Covert Affairs”, “Silver Surfer”)
Hayley Sales (Deadpool 2, “The Good Doctor”)

Tickets and a list of participating theater locations will be available at www.FathomEvents.com.

RT: 110 Minutes