Review: Shudder and RLJE release ‘CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS’ – sex, gore, and rock ‘n roll for the gods.

When Tori closes her record shop on Christmas Eve, her plans include getting drunk with coworker Robbie. After the news breaks that repurposed military AI dressed as Satanta Claus reverted back to its aggressive state, things do not go as planned. So much for a silent night. CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS is neon-soaked rock ‘n roll merry mayhem.

The gruesome kills are juxtaposed with a sick soundtrack (and one brilliant oral sex scene), top that off with a particularly shocking choice of violence. When Tori witnesses the act, our killer Santa goes ham on the house. The words, “Oh! That’s fucking nuts,” poured out of my mouth as he breached the threshold. I would be surprised if you didn’t end up saying the same.

Riley Dandy and Sam Delich give spectacular performances. Given writer-director Joe Begos‘ meaty fandom-laced dialogue, they look like they loved every minute. The discussion about horror sequel superiority had me cheering out loud.

Delich brings that eager nice-guy energy to their will- they-won’t-they dynamic. Abraham Benrubi is unstoppable as our killer Santa. Simply put, he slays it. Dandy is fiery and punk rock in a tangible way. You want to be her best friend but probably cannot keep up. Once shit goes sideways, Dandy has the chance to champion her final girl realness and nails it. This performance kicks all the ass.

Steve Moore‘s original music is bitchin’. The practical fx are a gift. The pyrotechnic work keeps things merry and bright. The special makeup and Animatronic robot effects from Josh and Sienna Russell are a Christmas miracle. Will everyone compare it to Silent Night Deadly Night meets Terminator? Probably but who cares. CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS is a holiday horror treat. So, spike your eggnog, get as lit as your tree, and rock the hell out of this film.


Shudder and RLJE Films will release CHRISTMAS BLOODY CHRISTMAS in Theaters and it will stream exclusively on Shudder on December 9, 2022.

Starring Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Abe Benrubi, Jeff Daniel Phillips

Directed by Joe Begos


Starring Riley Dandy, Sam Delich, Abe Benrubi, Jeff Daniel Phillips Directed by Joe Begos It’s Christmas Eve and fiery record store owner Tori Tooms just wants to get drunk and party, until the robotic Santa Claus at a nearby toy store goes haywire and makes her night more than a little complicated. Santa Claus begins a rampant killing spree through the neon drenched snowscape against a backdrop of drugs, sex, metal and violence, ultimately forcing Tori into a blood splattered battle for survival against the ruthless heavy metal Saint Nick himself.


 

Review: Blake Jenner shines alongside Bruce Willis in ‘Paradise City’

PARADISE CITY

SYNOPSIS:

Movie icons and Pulp Fiction costars Bruce Willis and John Travolta face off in this action-packed thriller. When bounty hunter Ian Swan (Willis) is shot and presumed dead after disappearing in Maui waters, Swan’s son, Ryan (Blake Jenner), his ex-partner (Stephen Dorff), and a local detective (Praya Lundberg) set out to find his killers. After being threatened by a ruthless power broker (Travolta), it appears Ryan and his team are out of options — until an excursion to the closely guarded island community of Paradise City unites them with an unforeseen ally.

John Travolta plays island crime boss Buckley. His eccentricity is evident through costume choices and dialogue. Thank goodness he is who he is because the character leans heavily into caricature territory. He is at his best in high-stakes action sequences.

Stephen Dorff is Ian Swan’s former bounty-hunting partner. He has a bit of an ambulance-chaser energy to him. He vibes well with Jenner, and his chemistry with Willis is chef’s kiss.

Bruce Willis plays Ian Swan with that legendary, effortless swagger we love. He is funny, charismatic, and a total badass. He is everything you want him to be.

I’ve been a fan of Blake Jenner since his turn on GLEE. He stands out from the crowd in every role. In PARADISE CITY, he plays Willis’s son, Ryan Swan. He possesses a natural fearlessness. No matter who is his opposite onscreen, your eyes stay on Jenner. He deserves more leading roles. Frankly, he has the charm of a young Bruce Willis. It was spectacular casting. He is magnificent.

Somehow, PARADISE CITY makes Jenner’s character impervious to automatic rifle bullets and, somehow, possesses the ability to survive a 10th-floor header into a shallow koi pond. It is unbelievable. No, literally, even for an action film, it is far-fetched. And this pains me to say that every female performance is downright atrocious, except for Mary Ann Perreira as Auntie Kona. She is a treasure. The dialogue from director Chuck Russell and co-writers Corey Large, and Edward John Drake, is mostly eye-roll-inducing. The already sped-through, convoluted plot also jumps in time, but not enough. It is messy.

Here is what works. The fight choreography is undeniably entertaining. (Extra points for having Savannah kick off her heels for brawling.) Overall, the tightest scenes occur when Savannah and Ryan arrive in Paradise City proper. There is genuine yet surprising humor and a grounded backstory. That’s all I’ll say to avoid spoilers. I could see this story maybe working better in serial form. But that’s a big maybe. Jenner is the only one that sustains authenticity. He deserves better, and so does Bruce Willis’s legacy.

**Stick around for the credits**


In Theaters, on Digital, and On Demand November 11, 2022

DIRECTED BY:

Chuck Russell

WRITTEN BY:

Corey Large, Edward Drake and Chuck Russell

STARRING:

John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Blake Jenner, Praya Lundberg, with Stephen Dorff

RATING:

R for violence and language

RUN TIME:

94 minutes

GENRE:

Action


 

Oscar Qualifying Short film review: Jordyn Romero’s ‘We Are Like Waves’ drowns out patriarchal norms.

WE ARE LIKE WAVES

Sanu Sandeepani‘s passion lies in the Sri Lankan ocean she has lived on her entire life. When the waters enticed her, society said, ‘Sri Lankan girls don’t surf.” Sanu tests the waters of traditional gender roles by shirking familial expectations. She works at a surfing camp, admiring the many Western tourists who ride the waves. With the eventual encouragement from her instructor brother, Sanu’s goal of equality and empowerment of other girls to conquer the waves drives her life force.

Director Jordyn Romero bonded with Sanu over their love of surfing, a predominantly male-dominated sport. Sanu’s fearless pursuit of wanting to become the first female surf instructor from Sri Lanka lies beyond the horizon. In Sanu’s words, “We Are Like Waves. You cannot stop us.” This simple act of rebellion is certain to have a ripple effect. Romero brings audiences a relatable story told with grace. Boasting a beautifully encompassing score, WE ARE LIKE WAVES sees Romero and Sanu carve a path for the next generation.

We are like Waves Teaser from Jordyn Romero on Vimeo.

About the Director:
Jordyn is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, storyteller, and creative. She grew up in the Rocky Mountains of Santa Fe, NM where she spent most weekends racing down the Rio Grande or hiking for fresh powder. From this innate need for exploration, her passion for filmmaking was born. She’s created work for brands including Specialized Bikes, GoPro, and Sierra Nevada. Her most recent film, We Are Like Waves, was released with The Los Angeles Times. Her films have premiered at Oscar-qualifying festivals, won jury and audience awards, and played in over 20 countries around the world. Through her creative endeavors, she aims to amplify the voices of diverse women in the outdoor industry.


 

In theaters and on VOD today, Andy Mitton’s ‘The Harbinger’ is a waking nightmare.

THE HARBINGER

Mo is taking every precaution possible in lockdown with her father and brother. When summoned to the city by an old friend, Mo’s loyalty takes precedence over her protesting family. She arrives to find a strung-out Mavis claiming something is controlling her dreams. When Mo then begins to have her dreams invaded by a hooded figure in a plague mask, things go from bad to downright terrifying. Writer-director Andy Mitton, who brought The Witch In The Window to Fantasia in 2018, dives headfirst into his new supernatural horror and extra creepy Fantasia 2022 entry, The Harbinger

The script slickly combines historic iconography from the plague to mirror current events and builds upon the concept of mass hysteria and mental health. Mitton introduces demonology and then mixes in the idea of viral internet posts, an issue directly addressed in Jane Schoenbrun‘s brilliant film, We’re All Going To The World’s Fair. Combined with the rapid spread of misinformation, internet challenges like Momo, and urban legends like Slenderman, the spread of evil becomes exponential. But this is really simplifying the fear in The Harbinger

Gabby Beans gives us every ounce of herself as Mo. She is the heartbeat of this plot. Beans brings a grounded vulnerability, and I cannot imagine any other performer in this role. The film has everything and then some. Jarring imagery, thoughtful camera work, cool-as-hell production design, and meticulously placed jump scares keep your pulse pounding as this story unfolds. On top of the authentic terror we all experienced at the beginning of the covid lockdown, The Harbinger is a masterfully crafted, waking nightmare. 


Andy Mitton’s THE HARBINGER opens in cinemas and on VOD today from XYZ Films


DIRECTOR

Andy Mitton

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER

Cassidy Freeman, Clark Freeman

PRODUCER

Jay Dunn, Richard W. King

WRITER

Andy Mitton

CAST

Gabby Beans, Cody Braverman, Emily Davis, Ray Anthony Thomas, Myles Walker

CINEMATOGRAPHER

Ludovica Isidori

COMPOSER

Andy Mitton

EDITOR

Andy Mitton

Netflix Documentary review: Jonah Hill bares his soul by introducing us to friend and therapist in ‘STUTZ’



STUTZ

World-renowned psychiatrist Phil Stutz sits down for an unorthodox, heartfelt session with friend and patient Jonah Hill, bringing to life Stutz’s visualization exercises, called The Tools, and sharing how to apply them while having unconventionally deep conversations on both sides.


Jonah Hill and Dr. Phil Stutz have an awe-inspiring relationship. After recently taking a step back from doing press for the good of his mental health, Hill wanted to make a documentary to share his friend’s therapy method, The Tools, with the world. In STUTZ, Jonah explains why he began therapy at thirty-three. Fame exacerbated his hurt, but with Phil’s help, his self-love grows daily. Admittedly it is not without struggle. That’s not the point. It is a lifelong process, day to day, making it through the next twenty-four hours.

“The Tools,” a phrase writers and actors use often, made complete sense. Dr. Stutz uses hand-drawn visual notecards to explain each one. A simple and concise way to relate the exercises that anyone could carry in their pockets. Life Force, Part X, String of Pearls, The Shadow, The Snapshot, The Maze, Radical Acceptance, and Loss Processing comprise The Tools.
Both Jonah and Phil talk through each one. For example, Hill explains, “Part X would be the villain in the story of being a person.” Stutz describes it as a primal fear of overcoming negative forces. But without Part X, we don’t grow. During the course of their conversations, I found myself closing my eyes when Phil requested it from Jonah. It was as if I were “on the couch” with him.

Phil and Jonah take jabs at one another. They are goofy, loving, and brutally honest. Delving into Phil’s turbulent childhood, it is easy to see why he became a therapist. Jonah asks questions that put him on the spot. We learn how Parkinson’s diagnosis informs his therapy methods and personal life. There are moments you’ll ask yourself, “which one is the therapist here,” as the questions bounce back and forth. Their trust is mesmerizing.

I learned so much about my behavior, generational trauma, concise ways to dig into my parenting methods, and how to forgive the hurt from my childhood. STUTZ is surprisingly hilarious, making it an insightful and simultaneously breezy watch. Hill’s thoughtfulness in crafting this film makes for a deep revelatory experience. It’s the oddest warm hug in a documentary form I can imagine. I highly recommend STUTZ.

Now streaming on Netflix  


 

Oscar qualifying short film review: ‘AFTER SKID ROW’ is an intimate portrait of post-housing existence.

AFTER SKID ROW

They call her Gangster Granni. Filmmaker Lindsey Hagen finds Barbie Carter at a turning point; two weeks after she gets her keys to a proper apartment and ten years of living on Skid Row. Granni dons cowboy boots and denim jeans, bespangled in Western-inspired jewelry and a flair-enhanced hat. She is a character. Through her intimate narration, we learn how her childhood continues to inform her existence. But the everpresent trauma of her life on Skid Row punches you in the gut. Granni keeps all of her possessions next to her mattress, explaining they remain there in case of an emergency. It is an undeniably eye-opening statement.

Despite all she has endured, the genuine joy emanating from Granni is an example to all of us. Her positive and loving spirit as she visits the new Skid Row arrivals speaks volumes about her soul, making us acutely aware that she is an exception to the rule. In 20 minutes, the audience begins to understand the complexity of what happens after someone gains public housing. The buck stops there. Granni only has appliances because she receives help from friends and family. This inside look changes the political conversation. AFTER SKID ROW humanizes the experience of homelessness. It is a gift to those of us still navigating our privilege.


https://www.afterskidrow.com/

For more than a decade, Gangster Granni was among the 5,000-8,000 individuals living homeless in Skid Row. After getting approved for Section 8 housing, she forged a strong bond with a mutual aid worker and together they set to the task of getting her and keeping her in a home.


 

Night At The Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again | Official Trailer | Disney+

In “Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again,” Nick Daley is following in his father’s footsteps as night watchman at the American Museum of Natural History, so he knows what happens when the sun goes down. But when the maniacal ruler Kahmunrah escapes, it is up to Nick to save the museum once and for all.

“Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again” to Stream December 9th only on Disney+


Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again” features the voices of Joshua Bassett, Jamie Demetriou, Alice Isaaz, Gillian Jacobs, Joseph Kamal, Thomas Lennon, Zachary Levi, Akmal Saleh, Kieran Sequoia, Jack Whitehall, Bowen Yang, and Steve Zahn. The film is directed by Matt Danner, the writers are Ray DeLaurentis & Will Schifrin, the producer is Shawn Levy, and the executive producers are Emily Morris, Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe, and Michael Barnathan, with music by John Paesano. The Original Movie is about the mischief that takes place every night at the American Museum of Natural History when the sun goes down. Nick Daley’s summer gig as night watchman at the museum is a challenging job for a high school student, but he is following in his father’s footsteps and is determined not to let him down. Luckily, he is familiar with the museum’s ancient tablet that brings everything to life when the sun goes down and is happy to see his old friends, including Jedediah, Octavius, and Sacagawea, when he arrives. But when the maniacal ruler Kahmunrah escapes with plans to unlock the Egyptian underworld and free its Army of the Dead, it is up to Nick to stop the demented overlord and save the museum once and for all.


 

Netflix review: Rian Johnson’s ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ is an immensely satisfying sequel.

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

The biggest mystery facing the Glass Onion is not the true identity of a murderer. You don’t have to peel the layers of this proverbial onion to know there’s a far broader question being asked: would Netflix somehow screw this sequel up? I’m delighted to report that Rian Johnson’s follow-up to Knives Out will make the transition to streaming without so much as a scratch. The central mystery remains gripping, the pacing taut, and the cast suitably stellar. This whodunnit is fresh, smart, and most importantly fun.

Daniel Craig returns as Benoit Blanc, the debonair southern detective. This time around, Blanc is invited to an isolated Greek island by billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton, giving Elon Musk post-burning man vibes.) Bron has invited several of his closest friends for a weekend getaway that just happens so happens to include a murder-mystery game. Things go wrong faster than you can say “bad idea.”

I was worried that Glass Onion would suffer from an overreliance on Craig’s detective. Knives Out benefited immensely from a core focus on Ana de Armas’ fish-out-of-water character. The film smartly employs him as a foil for its many new cast members. The new faces are stellar across the board. Janelle Monae shows incredible versatility. Leslie Odom Jr. and Kathryn Hahn have the tough job of playing the respective sticks in the mud while the rest of the cast gets to have fun. Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista really let it rip. We’re used to this from Bautista, but it is a particularly welcome departure for Hudson. As I reflect back on the past years of the pandemic, her character provides particular hilarious relief. There are also several delightful cameos. I won’t spoil them for you, but suffice it to say it seems like nearly everybody wanted in on this thing.

Whodunit films seem to be light work for Rian Johnson. His 2005 debut, Brick, was an exceptionally hard-boiled film noir that just happened to be set in a high school. Despite their common director, Brick and Glass Onion could not be more different. Where Brick was pitch black noir down to its very bones (even down to the dialogue), Glass Onion is a sun-drenched delight inspired by holiday mysteries such as Evil Under the Sun and The Last of Sheila. It provides necessary effervescent support as we head into the cold winter months. I can’t wait for the next chapter!


Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

Theatrical: The film released in select US theaters on November 23rd, 2022

Film releasing on Netflix (US) on December 23rd, 2022 at 3:00 AM EST


 

DOC NYC 2022 world premiere review: ‘1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE’ ponders the global impact of a single mistake.

1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE

In 8th grade, I stood on a chair and declared I was “done with religion.” Eight years in Catholic school, my teacher had just told me that if I went to my mother and told her I was gay, it would be the equivalent of me telling her that I had murdered someone. It was quite the sight in my classroom of 18 students. I was appalled. My conflict with religion has been fraught with pushback ever since. Then I saw a film that took my breath away. Sharon “Rocky” Roggio‘s urgent and eye-opening documentary 1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE features the philosophical battle between the biblical text and sexual orientation as a distortion of language. The film explores the linguistic integrity and worldwide implications of the word “homosexual.” 1946 is nothing short of captivating.

Roggio’s father is a pastor with stringent beliefs. In his view, The Bible is the word of God. Sharon knew she was gay early on and understood the familial implications immediately. Following a breach of trust leading to Sharon leaving her childhood home, she and her father, Sal, have a public battle in the early 2000s. Thus beginning her path of advocacy. Enter Kathy Baldock, stage left. 

Baldock was about as Christian as one person could be until her impending divorce led her to take up hiking. After learning fellow walker Netto is a lesbian and coming to terms with the fact that her religion would ostracise her new friend, Kathy refuses to accept this is what God teaches. She began her lifelong path to understanding why the word “homosexual” did not appear in biblical text until 1946. How did it get there?

Ed Oxford (now MDiv) was a finance guy, a Christian, and a gay man. But, because the church told him his existence was an “abomination,” his suicidal ideations began as a child. He began collecting every biblical text he could get his hands on, and after meeting Kathy, the two formed an unstoppable team. Together, they travel down the rabbit hole of linguistics to unlock the original meaning of the biblical text, and Sharon “Rocky’ Roggio captures it all. 

Yale University’s meticulous record-keeping in the Sterling library proves invaluable. After scanning 60, 000 pages in the microform media room, the aha moment appears; a 1959 letter between Dr. Luther Allan Weigle, one of the translation committee members, and a mysterious seminary student offering his knowledge of New Testament Greek. That discovery changes everything we think we know about the term “homosexual” and its translation in theologic history. This avalanche of miscommunication has disrupted millions of lives. When religion meets politics in the Reagan era, all hell breaks loose. Gay people are a propagandist prop for the Republican party. It has only gotten worse with the rise of social media.

Pencil-drawn animation and timeline graphics mixed with video clips of influential religious leaders and sit-down interviews with theologists comprise the visual and fact-finding journey in 1946. Historical scholars break down weaponized verses or “clobber passages” used to target the LGBTQ+ community. Kathy and Ed buckle down, never wavering in their search for the truth. Simultaneously, Sharon tries to share the ever-evolving findings with her dad. Roggio’s patience is incomprehensible. Witnessing her composure with her father as they engage in debate is exemplary. The fact that her father, while vehemently fixed in his beliefs, still wants to connect and support his daughter is, for lack of a better word, a miracle. 

To think of the impact that one mistake has made on the world, especially as the LGBTQ+ community struggles to survive the vitriolic rhetoric and now physical threats, is shocking and disheartening. This single word and an abhorrent culture have put innumerable lives at risk. If 1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE proves anything, it is this: we do better by respecting one another and by educating ourselves. I hope audiences go in with an open mind because the film deserves your full attention.


1946: THE MISTRANSLATION THAT SHIFTED CULTURE — Directed by Sharon “Rocky” Roggio

World Premiere — US Competition — Acquisition

Produced by Sharon “Rocky” Roggio, Jena Serbu

Executive Produced by Daniel Karslake, Teresa and Todd Silver, Sabrina Merage Niam

Original Music by Mary Lambert

Featuring Kathy Baldock and Ed Oxford

Synopsis: 1946:The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture is thrilled to announce its World Premiere at DOC NYC 2022. Produced and Directed by Sharon ‘Rocky’ Roggio, 1946 is a feature documentary that follows the story of tireless researchers who trace the origins of the anti-gay movement among Christians to a grave mistranslation of the Bible in 1946. It chronicles the discovery of never-before-seen archives at Yale University which unveil astonishing new revelations, and casts significant doubt on any biblical basis for LGBTQIA+ prejudice. Featuring Commentary from prominent scholars as well as opposing pastors, including the personal stories of the film’s creators, and original music by Grammy winning artist Mary Lambert, 1946 is at once challenging, enlightening, and inspiring.

www.1946themovie.com

Instagram: @1946themovie

TikTok @1946themovie

Twitter @1946themovie


 

Grand Jury Prize/ Int’l competition WINNER @ DOC NYC: ‘HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND’ is a final love letter spread across 12 years of filming.

HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND

The monster that is depression roars silently because, in Russia, depression is not allowed to have a voice. Putin has seen to that. In HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND, filmmaker Marusya Syroechkovskaya chronicles over a decade of her emotional roller coaster in life, love, and deep-seated despair.

Kimi was a history major with a brilliant mind, a great sense of humor, and a penchant for drug use. Marusya’s childhood was a bit more idyllic, but that didn’t stop her suicidal ideation. The two bonded over music, beliefs, and self-destructive ideas. They also filmed every waking moment.

Kimi’s traumatic childhood and Russia’s national political upheaval created the perfect ticking time bomb of existence. He and Marusya needed each other to stay alive, but unresolved trauma is a killer lying in wait. Through marriage, rehab, divorce, and Kimi on a headlong downward spiral, Marusya must find other ways to dull the inner chaos. She had to decide, make a plan to live, or join her innumerable friends in suicide.

Marusya Syroechkovskaya’s dedication and fearless openness make it easy to understand why this film won Grand Jury Prize/ Int’l competition at DOC NYC 2022. HOW TO SAVE A DEAD FRIEND is an intimate and unfiltered look at addiction, love, and attempts to survive one more day. It is a must-see film.



Saturday, November 12 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Director: Marusya Syroechkovskaya
Producer: Ksenia Gapchenko, Mario Adamson, Co-Producers Anita Norfolk, Alexandre Cornu
Cinematographers: Kimi Morev and Marusya Syroechkovskaya
Editor: Qutaiba Barhamji
Language: Russian
Country: Sweden, Norway, France, Germany
Year: 2022


Netflix documentary review: A family’s mission, ‘I AM VANESSA GUILLEN’ is more than a hashtag, it is a movement.

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN

Netflix presents I AM VANESSA GUILLEN, a film about one family’s relentless push for justice and exposing the toxic culture that permeates the military, specifically Fort Hood. Director Christy Wegener brings us the story that sparked a social media frenzy, a race to pass new legislation, and the family that would not stay quiet.

The systemic failure at Fort Hood will leave you seething. After two months of desperate outcry, the Army finally makes a statement and begins to search, but it is too little too late. With the pro bono help of maverick lawyer Natalie Khawam, The Guillen family takes their fight to Capital Hill.

I remember this story. I remember feeling so angry when I heard how long Vanessa had been missing before I heard about it on the news. Then, when the details emerged of her murder and subsequent failure at Fort Hood, I was disgusted. Those feelings returned and multiplied as I watched this film. Understanding the extent of their coverup will blow your mind. The military justice system allows for secrecy and discretion to sweep everything under the rug. It is beyond broken.

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN proves the saying, “No justice. No peace.” The Guillen family never backed down. The military counted on their silence, and they got the exact opposite. I AM VANESSA GUILLEN has been in the top 10 since the film’s release last Friday. It is easy to understand why.


I Am Vanessa Guillen | Official Trailer | Netflix https://youtube.com/Netflix

I AM VANESSA GUILLEN is now streaming on NETFLIX


 

Shudder Original review: ‘BLOOD RELATIVES’ is a quirky vampire family comedy you can sink your teeth into. I already want a sequel.

BLOOD RELATIVES

After her mother’s death, Jane tracks down her elusive dad to avoid foster care. When Jane unearths the truth about her father’s past, she demands a relationship, leading the estranged father-daughter team to take a road trip like no other. Oh, also, he’s a vampire. A unique take on the monster genre combined with a family road trip drama makes BLOOD RELATIVES one of a kind.

Victoria Moroles is Jane. Her precociousness is spot a delight. Segan gives her dialogue deliciously reminiscent of Dawson’s Creek, i.e., she is far too eloquent for fifteen. Her chemistry with Segan is comfortable and endlessly amusing. Her takedown of the film’s misogynist energy is chef’s kiss.

Josh Ruben (who also produces) plays Roger Fieldner. A patient who distinctly resembles Bram Stoker‘s Renfield. Kudos to Segan for the character name scramble. It is a role only Ruben could own. After witnessing his sycophantic behavior, I cannot imagine anyone else doing Roger justice. There is a reason he has become a scream king in the past few years. He is the best.

Writer-director-star Noah Segan plays Francis as a Yiddish-spewing loaner. His penchant for a happy-go-lucky attitude is more function over form. We learn about his deep-seated loneliness and unresolved trauma, which creates an equally funny and tragic persona. Segan gives a star-making performance.

The film occurs predominantly at night for obvious reasons. The use of moonlight, dusk, dawn, dashboard, and neon light gives the film a slick overall tone. The comedy shenanigans are balanced beautifully with dramatic growing pains.

BLOOD RELATIVES is an undeniably fun vampire coming-of-age family film. Heartwarming, silly, and intimate, it is easy to see why it garnered so much attention in the festival circuit. Shudder is the perfect platform for Segan’s madcap creation. I formally request a sequel when Jane gets to college. I have to know where this family unit ends up. Don’t forget to bring Fieldner along.


CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:  

Shudder will exclusively stream BLOOD RELATIVES on Shudder on November 22, 2022.

 

BLOOD RELATIVES stars Noah Segan (Knives Out) and Victoria Moroles (“Teen Wolf,” “Never Have I Ever”). It was written and directed by Segan. 

SYNOPSIS: In BLOOD RELATIVES, Francis, a 115-year-old Yiddish vampire, still looks 35. He’s been roaming American backroads in his beat-up muscle car for decades, keeping to himself, and liking it that way. One day, a teenage kid, Jane, shows up. She says she’s his daughter, and she’s got the fangs to prove it. They go on the road, deciding whether to sink their teeth into family life.


 

Review: In Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson’s ‘Manifest West,’ Milo Gibson goes off-grid to escape family turmoil.

MANIFEST WEST

Dave moves his wife, Alice, and two young daughters, Riley and Mary, to a remote cabin in the American wilderness. Where guns and boredom meet the desire to push society away, MANIFEST WEST sees tensions rise when Dave’s new way of living shirks the norms.

Tim Heidecker plays against type as gun-wielding hyper-conservative neighbor Steve Danik. Michael Cudlitz counters Heidecker with his performance as neighbor Eric Lind. He is kind and thoughtful with his actions and words.

Annet Mahendru gives Alice palpable manic desperation. Her ability to jump from one emotion to another in the same breath is impressive. It is one hell of a turn. Milo Gibson is Dave Hayes. His character arc almost feels like the audience is witnessing a slow-motion car crash. Gibson brings not-so-subtle anger and protective alpha energy.

Lexy Kolker plays Riley with perfect corruptable innocence. She gives a performance that is nothing short of captivating. Kolker takes in each beat with precision. Her slow burn of resentment is a ticking time bomb.

MANIFEST WEST addresses a myriad of current and alarming themes in America. The score is melancholy and ominous. Writer-directors Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson use the girls’ history text as a smart foreshadowing device. Antigovernment sentiment compounds the simmering chaos. Add Alice’s deteriorating bipolar disorder, and you have a powder keg. Children learn from their parents, for better or for worse. MANIFEST WEST runs head-on with its relevance to a shocking conclusion.


Trailer: 

Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Release Date:  The film is now in theaters and VOD/Digital!
Writer/Directors: Joe Dietsch, Louie Gibson
Starring: Annet Mahendru, Milo Gibson, Lexy Kolker, Tim Heidecker, Michael Cudlitz




Disney+ documentary review: ‘Mickey: The Story of a Mouse’ is a nostalgic warm hug reminding us why we love the global icon.

Mickey: The Story of a Mouse

Disney+ has a brand new doc as delightfully imaginative as you’d expect. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a darling dive into the making of an internationally beloved icon. It all started with a mouse, and his evolution is a fascinating journey for fans everywhere.

We peek into the minds of fans, young and old, visit the Disney Archives, chat with animators and historians, and hear directly from Walt Disney in classic interviews from our childhood. The work that went into creating Disney’s empire will astound audiences and yet never destroy the magic. We delve into Walt’s unrelenting sense of adventure and fearless attitude about expansion and risk.

The doc also discusses Mainstream Mickey and counterculture Mickey and how his image became synonymous with cultural change through the years. They touch upon copyright infringement and the complexities that grew out of Walt’s loss of Oswald the Rabbit. Filmmakers and interviewees do not shy away from the negative stereotypes appearing in certain cartoons and how Mickey became a corporate symbol. It’s an honest take.

I don’t think I’ve fully understood the impact of Mickey’s image until now. I refuse to dress my five and 6-year-olds in clothing that has characters branded on them, except for Mickey. There is a deeply ingrained subconscious reason that I’m only now realizing. It was a real aha moment for me.

I was lucky enough to have been a performer at Disneyland in 2000. For the insiders, I’ll say I had the magical title of “pageant helper,” which carries more weight than it suggests. I thought perhaps working at the parks would kill a little bit of the joy, as technically, I had peeked behind the curtain, quite literally. Nothing could be further from the truth. Anytime I stepped onto the grounds out from backstage (the areas no guest ever sees), I would be a giant kid all over again. On one unforgettable day, I had the unprecedented honor of meeting the actor Walt hired to wear the first Mickey costume on Disneyland’s opening day. There I am, a sweaty mess, in half a costume smiling like a fangirl. It was a part of history most people would never get to touch.

Visually, Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a cinematic dream. From hand-drawn frame-by-frame cell animation to chemist-mixed paint to the collaborations we see today as animation and technology shift by the day. We experience the sheer artistry involved in Mickey as animators recreate some of his most iconic roles throughout history. In a sort of meta moment, these creators work on the newest Mickey short, “Mickey In A Minute,” during the doc, one hand-drawn scene at a time. The final product is Disney perfection.

Mickey Mouse is the most famous character in all of history. Three simple circles have made an indelible mark on humanity. Mickey: The Story of a Mouse overflowed with nostalgia and had me giggling and grinning from ear to ear. I could not have loved it anymore.


Mickey: The Story of a Mouse 

premieres today on Disney+

Short Synopsis
One of the world’s most beloved icons, Mickey Mouse is recognized as a symbol of joy and childhood innocence in virtually every corner of the globe. Dreamed up at a low point in Walt Disney’s burgeoning career, Mickey became an overnight sensation when he starred in the first synch-sound animated short, Steamboat Willie. Through the decades that followed, the character evolved into strikingly different versions of himself that reflect both his creator’s remarkable career and dramatic societal shifts in the nation he came to represent. In the fascinating documentary Mickey: The Story of a Mouse, director Jeff Malmberg and Oscar ® -winning producer Morgan Neville (who previously teamed up together for Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) examine the cultural significance of the nearly 100-year-old cartoon mouse.


 

DOC NYC review: David Siev’s ‘BAD AXE’ features hope pushing past hate. IFC will release one of the year’s best docs in theaters and on digital tomorrow!

BAD AXE

Synopsis: ​​After leaving NYC for his rural hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan, at the start of the pandemic, Asian American filmmaker David Siev documents his family’s struggles to keep their restaurant afloat. As fears of the virus grow, deep generational scars dating back to Cambodia’s bloody “killing fields” come to the fore, straining the relationship between the family’s patriarch, Chun, and his daughter, Jaclyn. When the BLM movement takes center stage in America, the family uses its collective voice to speak out in their conservative community. What unfolds is a real-time portrait of 2020 through the lens of one multicultural family’s fight stay in business, stay involved, and stay alive.


The Siev family patriarch Chun is a Cambodian refugee who came to the US to attain the American Dream. He and his wife Rachel opened a donut shop named Baker’s Dozen. Times were hard, and money was tight, but the Siev family stuck together and thrived. In 2000 they opened Rachel’s, a family restaurant in their hometown of Bad Axe, Michigan.

Director and only son in the Siev pack, David had the foresight to capture the upheaval of his family and their community beginning in March 2020. Like many families, the Sievs found their adult children moving back into their homes to help their vulnerable parents. Bad Axe is a small, tight-knit town with two stoplights. It’s a nice place to raise a family. When lockdown begins, local tension boils over, and the Siev family becomes targets of racism and conspiracy theories.

The eldest daughter, Jaclyn, has palpable anxiety. She tries her hardest to protect her father. The tension and stakes are higher than they’ve ever been. The family’s livelihood, quite literally, is on the line. Siblings, Michelle and Raquel, joined by Jaclyn’s husband Mike, Rachel’s boyfriend Austin, and a small handful of Rachel’s loyal employees, work day and night to feed the community and maintain a sense of normalcy while facing political and racial upheaval.

The intimate nature of Bad Axe is visceral. The Siev family could be anyone’s neighbors. They are friendly, hardworking, and respectful members of their community. They bug each other as much as they love each other. They remind me of my holidays when all four siblings invade our childhood home with inside jokes, arguments, and an unconditional adoration for one another.

Chun is a fascinating member of the family. He is a proud man. An opinionated individual, a responsible gun owner, and a survivor of the Cambodian killing fields, Chun’s unresolved trauma reveals itself in harsh words toward Jaclyn. He knows it and owns it. His emotional journey is everything.

The footage of the Black Lives Matter confrontation made my palms sweat. The aftermath of ignorant racist attacks will undoubtedly infuriate you. You will not believe the sheer terror these people have to endure. The courage of the Siev family makes my heart swell. Their bravery to move forward in the face of chaos is astounding. David’s commitment to telling their story gives audiences a peek inside the hatred stirred up by those in politics and the media that I refuse to give fuel by naming them. We all know who is responsible for the uptick of hate. May he lose again and again.

While we witness the many trials and tribulations alongside the Siev family, in the end, BAD AXE is a love letter to an ever-evolving community and an ode to a family that believes love conquers all. I can easily say Bad Axe is one of the year’s best documentaries.


BAD AXE — Directed by David Siev

New York Premiere — Winner’s Circle — IFC Films Release on Nov 18, 2022

Produced by ​​Jude Harris, Diane Quon, Kat Vasquez, David Siev 

Executive Produced by Daniel Dae Kim, Jeff Tremaine

Featuring Chun Siev, Rachel Siev, Jaclyn Siev, Skylar Janssen, Michael Meinhold

 

Screenings:

Online Screening Window – Sunday, November 13, 2022 12am through Sunday, November 27, 2022 at 11:59pm

Run Time: 102 minutes


 

Review: Emotional trauma and a sinister spirit board a luxury yacht in Christian Schultz’s ‘PRESENCE’ on VOD today.

PRESENCE

Business partners Jennifer and Samantha are invited on a weeklong yachting voyage with a potential investor. Jennifer begins to have strange dreams, and it becomes clear that she may have brought something else with her.


I’ve been sitting on my thoughts about this film for two days now. If I’m being completely honest, I think PRESENCE plays like a rushed prequel to a horror franchise. All the elements are in place for some seriously scary storytelling. Yet somehow, I was left with more questions than answers.

Writer-director Christain Schultz gives us a damaged lead in Jennifer. She has emotional trauma that feels unresolved, even in the final moments. I wanted specifics, other than everyone around her referencing a “breakdown in New York.” Jenna Lyng Adams has moments of badassery, but they are few and far between (no fault of her own). I was also slightly confused about the dynamic of Jennifer and Sam’s relationship. At first, I thought they were lovers. It was a bit messy. Schultz and co-writer Peter Ambrosio ultimately make Jennifer a victim, even though I believe the intention was a reclamation of power through supernatural forces. I’m unclear whether this was an editing issue or a script issue.

I must say that the performance of Dave Davis is my favorite part of the film. Davis gives depth to the building mystery, in some moments with nothing but a panicked stare. His intensity immediately reeled me in, calming me during my desperation to make sense of the plot. I would watch an entire film about his journey with the Presence. That’s the story that hooked me instantly.

Overall, PRESENCE got me revved up with slick visuals but never satisfied me with its overall arc. I don’t need it spelled out because the bones are there. I was looking for a further explanation of “why” all around.


XYZ Films is proud to announce that Christian Schultz’s PRESENCE will land on North American VOD on November 17th, following a thrilling festival run that included Popcorn Frights and Panic Fest.

 

DOC NYC (2022) review: ‘MY SISTER LIV’- one family’s story that speaks to millions.

MY SISTER LIV

Director Alan Hicks brings audiences the intimate story of sisters Tess and Liv through a letter from one the other. MY SISTER LIV is a tale of one family’s relentless journey to save their loved one by diving deep into the all-consuming chaos and shocking prevalence of depression. 

Liv’s personality explodes off the screen. Her bright-eyed energy catches you off guard and makes you smile. Her musical talents are an impressive saving grace. But, her thoughts of self-harm are a relentless monster exacerbated by sexual assault and body dysmorphia. Tess’ guilt is palpable. She and her mother did everything right. They researched medications and therapy and checked in on Liv. Ultimately social media and the need for acceptance lead to dark thoughts and self-medicating with alcohol.

Home videos, Tess’ narration, and Liv’s diary entries comprise a narrative that looks and sounds like so many young people. The doc plays out in two distinct halves; before and after. My Sister Liv begins with Tess telling the audience Liv’s story. The second is Tess and their mother’s emotional devastation and how the pandemic rolled into their already heavy grief, with videos of Liv replaced by videos of Tess. Then zoom discussions of Tess speaking with young people Liv’s age and mental health professionals, expressing similar feelings, coping mechanisms, causes, and statistics. 

Having lost one of my best friends from suicide after years of reaching out and quite literally talking them off the ledge, again and again, I understand the approach to mental health is sacred. My Sister Liv also served as a wake-up call for me as a parent of a five-year-old with OCD and anxiety. Can I prevent their mental health struggles from becoming all-consuming in a world that bombards children with negative thoughts and images 24 hrs a day? I’ve never wanted to predict the future more in my entire life. DOC NYC 2022 audiences have something special at their fingertips. If My Sister Liv gets viewers to start a conversation about mental health, that’s already a hugely important win for everyone. 

 thelivproject.org


Online Dates

Friday, November 11 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Director: Alan Hicks
Executive Producer: David J. Cornfield, Linda A. Cornfield, Ross Kauffman, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Curtis Pesmen, Dan Braun, Josh Braun, Rob Galluzzo, Steve Carpenter, Amy Carpenter, Bob Birch, Genie Birch, William Campbell, Alice Fiori, Co-Executive Producers Amy Batchelor, Brad Feld
Producer: Paula DuPré Pesmen, Camilla Mazzaferro
Editor: Andrew McAllister, Michael Mahaffie, Jordan Swioklo
Language: English
Country: Australia, United States of America
Year: 2022


Review: Carlo Lavagna’s Post-Apocalyptic Thriller ‘SHADOWS’ Finds Mia Threapleton Living in Isolation

SHADOWS

Anxiety and paranoia seep from every pore of Carlo Lavagna’s Shadows. We follow sisters Alma and Alexis as they attempt to carve out a life in the post-apocalyptic countryside. They live in an abandoned hotel under the strict eye of their Mother (Saskia Reeves). Every activity they must undertake to survive (hunting, fishing) must be done at night – to venture out in the light risks the wrath of the dangerous SHADOWS.

We don’t know much more than that, and we don’t really need to. The film’s premise in many respects takes a backseat to the character dynamics and overall setting. Mia Threapleton brings a quiet, contemplative balance to the role of Alma. She is often tasked with being simultaneously curious, terrified, furious, and even somewhat maternal (kids are complex, even in an apocalypse!) Threapleton is up for the task, and I’m eager to see what roles she pursues in the future.  As younger sister Alex, I felt Lola Petticrew suffered from less screen time, which is remarkable in a film with only 3 characters. As Mother, Saskia Reeves dances on a razor wire stretched between empathy and lunacy.

Beyond strong characters, the film leverages its setting to its full effect in an impressive fashion. The hotel is decrepit and terrifying. The simplicity and restraint of the framing will stick with me – lingering shots of empty, silent halls convey an effective chill without excessive soundtracks or jump cuts. I also loved the way the film showcased the more mundane aspects of survival (collecting water, checking on greenhouses, hunting for food) Survival isn’t always about running and jumping.

Don’t come to SHADOWS expecting A Quiet Place, Part 3. The scares are more cerebral than visceral. But ultimately, it all felt appropriate to me. This is a film more concerned with motivations and relationships than the things that go bump in the dark.


Shadows: 102 minutes / Italy & Ireland / English

 Red Water Entertainment has announced the North American VOD debut of Carlo Lavagna’s Shadows. The Irish-Italian psychological thriller will be available on a number of digital and cable platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, iNDemand, and DISH, starting November 15th.


DOC NYC (2022) review: ‘ CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET’ is an awe-inspiring film about the importance of theater and the ability to create.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET

CENTERPIECE SELECTION

*WORLD PREMIERE*

Cirque du Soleil’s “O” is the top-grossing show in the world. Enter Covid19 and the subsequent and heartbreaking release of 3400 employees. The show was down for 400 days. In April 2021, restrictions finally loosening Cirque announced “O” would be back. Eight weeks to reopen among health and safety restrictions. The doc spotlights a handful of their performers. We learn how they got to Cirque and follow along as they retrain their minds and bodies after more than a year of uncertainty. We also see the tech and artistic crews rebuilding, sewing, and revamping as quickly as possible to meet the reopening deadline. It is an intricate dance of trust. One slight human or machine error could spell disaster for the artists.

The cinematography is breathtaking, from underwater shots of the artistic swimmers to areal views of acrobatic acts. Ultimately, the film reminds us of the power and importance of performance. It’s an undeniably visceral viewing experience.

As a performer, this documentary feels deeply personal. One particular quote early on struck me immediately. “It’s really difficult to live without purpose.” What is humanity without creation? What is an artist without the ability to access their craft? Speaking from personal experience and the confessions of fellow performers when the lockdown began, it physically pained us not to be onstage. Cirque du Soleil: Without A Net is a celebratory exploration of a performer’s purpose and the joyous return of the world of theatre.


CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET had its World Premiere at DOC NYC on November 13 @ 2:15pm.

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: WITHOUT A NET tells the story of when the world shut down, its greatest Circus went into freefall. Within 48 hours Cirque du Soleil closed all its 44 shows; within a week it let 95% of its workforce go. The show seemed over for the billion-dollar brand. Now, more than a year later, a group of world-class artists, athletes and crew at “O”, Cirque’s flagship production, face uncertainty as they prepare to bring their show back to life. With unprecedented access, this film documents their extraordinary journey as they attempt a return to stage after one of the world’s greatest crises.

Director: Dawn Porter
Executive Producer: Dawn Porter, Eli Holzman, Aaron Saidman, Richard Bedser, Ailsa Orr
Producer: Dawn Porter, Summer Damon, Sadie Bass, Mark Burnett, Barry Poznick
Cinematographer: Chris Hilleke, Bryant Fisher
Editor: Jessica Congdon, Dave Marcus
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Year: 2022

Online Dates

Monday, November 14 – Sunday, November 27, 2022

Venue

Online Screening

Review: Charming debut for writer- director Darren Le Gallo, ‘Sam & Kate’ opens in theaters today!

SAM & KATE

SYNOPSIS:

A life-affirming family dramedy starring Oscar®-winners Dustin Hoffman and Sissy Spacek, Sam & Kate takes place in a small town in the heart of the country. Hoffman plays Bill, the larger-than-life father to Sam (Jake Hoffman), who has returned home to take care of his ailing dad. While home, Sam falls for a local woman, Kate (Schuyler Fisk). And at the same time, Bill starts to fall for her mom, Tina (Spacek). But finding love is complicated and for these four, it is no different. They all must confront their past in order to make their new love work for the future. Truly a family affair, art imitates life with the father/son casting of Dustin & Jake and the mother/daughter casting of Sissy & Schuyler.


Charming and breezy, Sam & Kate is a lovely exploration of generational communication and the joy and complexities of newfound intimacy.

Dustin Hoffman plays two sides of a complex man. He’s a curmudgeon and old-school charmer. His vulnerability slowly reveals itself, and it’s a gloriously nuanced turn. Sissy Spacek plays Tina with the perfect balance of warmth and hesitancy. Her character’s fear stems from unresolved emotional trauma, and Spacek settles into that messiness like a master. Their chemistry makes me wonder if any of their dialogue is improvised. They are two legends making it look easy.

Jake Hoffman and Schuyler Fisk learned a lot from their parents because they are spectacular. Hoffman’s boy next door goodness is pitch-perfect. Fisk is effortlessly elegant. Together, they transfix the audience with their wounded imperfection.

The script from writer-director Darren Le Gallo feels like a comforting hug, yet fresh. I love that Sam and Kate aren’t 20-somethings. I respect the grown-up, lived-in realities of caring for aging parents while exploring their place in the world. Tina and Kate’s histories affect every beat. In the end, Sam & Kate boasts incredibly grounded dialogue and flawless pacing. It’s a gem and a notable debut for Darren Le Gallo.


In Theaters November 11, 2022

WRITTEN & DIRECTED BY:

Darren Le Gallo

STARRING:

Jake Hoffman, Schuyler Fisk, Dustin Hoffman, Sissy Spacek, Henry Thomas

RUN TIME:

RATING:

110 minutes

R