Friday, September 25, 2020

I've Got Issues Review: A Movie-Length Sketch Comedy Show

Macon Blair		 Claire Titelman	Claire Titelman		 Maria Thayer	Maria Thayer		 Jim Gaffigan	Jim Gaffigan	...	Narrator John Merriman	John Merriman		 Randy E. Aguebor	Randy E. Aguebor		 Byron Brown	Byron Brown		 Courtney Davis	Courtney Davis		 Sam Eidson	Sam Eidson		 Paul Gordon	Paul Gordon

Release date: September 18, 2020
Running time: 88 minutes
Starring: Macon Blair, Claire Titelman, Maria Thayer

Self-loathing, loneliness, death, discrimination, injustice, oppression, and the atom bomb, I’ve Got Issues is a unique comic world inhabited by sensitive souls trying to survive the pain of living in a cruel world. In a dead-pan tone, the film asks the big questions: “What are we supposed to do with all the hurt?” “What’s the point?” The film builds an answer out of intertwining stories of characters swallowed in darkness, yet still finding light.

Comedy Drama Existential Humor Dry Funny Witty Upright Citizens Brigade
I've got issues has a dry, quirky vibe that evokes a style similar to Office Space.  Like office space, it has a muted acting style, with some funny because they are being serious scenarios.  There are quirky characters (who are recycled occasionally or take on other roles) throughout the film and their interactions and observations form a lot of what makes this film fun.  The characters all have muted dress, muted emotions, and an overly serious style that leads to some fun situations.  It also occasionally offers insights into individuality and spiritualism, as well as identity.  That seems to be the general thought with this film and some of the important questions it asks. 

However, I've Got Issues feels more like a long sketch comedy show and less a coherent story.  It feels like an hour and a half episode of Upright Citizens Brigade, but without the inherent craziness of that show.  Some of the ridiculousness builds, but it never gets too over the top.  And there are several funny moments and sequences, but they didn't approach laugh out loud for me.  And for a film whose tagline is "What's the point," I found myself asking this question frequently when watching this film.  I appreciated its style, some of its comedic bits, and the originality that went into it, but I also felt like the muted style hurt it in the end.  And the collection of sketches were funny, but didn't have the glue sticking them together that I wanted.  

I've Got Issues feels like a movie-length sketch comedy show, with a dry, muted comedic style, lots of characters, and serious, funny situations. 

Rent it.

Funny Comedy I've Got Issues Humor

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The Binge (Hulu Original Movie) Interview With Jeremy Garelick and Jordan VanDina (Spoiler Free)

Watch or Pass Interview with director Jeremy Garelick and writer Jordan VanDina, of Hulu's all new original movie The Binge. We discuss the movie's inspiration, making the movie, and working with Vince Vaughn. We also have an EXCLUSIVE reveal of a present that Jeremy gives to Jordan. So give it a watch and if you haven't already seen the film, it is available on Hulu on August 28. Stay tuned to this channel as the spoiler version of the interview will also go up on August 28! Please subscribe to be updated on the latest videos: https://bit.ly/3ajxSle The film stars Skyler Gisondo, Dexter Darden, Eduardo Franco, Vince Vaughn, Grace Van Dien, Tony Cavalero, Zainne Saleh , Marta Piekarz, Esteban Benito, Brittany Garms, Natalie Goldberg, Affion Crockett, Elon Gold, Jessica Kirson, Godfrey and Eileen Galindo. THE BINGE is directed by Jeremy Garelick and written by Jordan VanDina. The film is produced by Jeremy Garelick, Will Phelps, Mickey Liddell, Pete Shilaimon, Nicole Stojkovich, Ryan Bennett and Michael Schade. Chris Bongirne and Michael Glassman serve as executive producers. THE BINGE is produced by American High and LD Entertainment. Set in a time where all drugs and alcohol are illegal, the only day anyone can participate in the "fun" is on Binge day. Friends Griffin (Gisondo) and Hags (Darden) have been dreaming of their first Binge--which you are allowed to participate in if you are over 18--for years. Hags has been planning to make this an epic night, the best of their lives. He also wants the glory of winning "The Gauntlet," an event that takes place at a wild party involving a grueling series of challenges to test the drug tolerance of all involved. Griffin is also concerned with making sure his future isn't affected by this night, both because of his desire to go to Brown next year, and his desire to ask his longtime crush and friend to prom. The pair are joined by Andrew (Franco) out of necessity, and the trio start on a long adventure of drugs, escapades, and ridiculousness.

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Thursday, September 24, 2020

12 Days of Christmas Review: An Unplanned Holiday Adventure

Release date: September 18, 2020
Running time: 95 minutes
Starring: Annie Newton, Drew Petriello, Katee Shean

Childhood friends Amy (Newton) and Steve (Petriello) come home from their first semester of college for a relaxed winter break, but must navigate turbulent reunions, unspoken romance, and even an unplanned pregnancy.  And as they navigate this, they are also dealing with the changes that have happened since leaving and going to college.  Can their friendship or potentially more survive this nightmare twelve days? 

12 Days of Christmas focuses on two main characters Amy and Steve.  They are longtime friends that have a lot of history and shared experiences, and luckily Newton and Petriello have natural chemistry together.  Their scenes together are a lot of fun to watch and there are some really enjoyable ones early on, such as an improv scene where Amy is trying to help Steve plan for a shopping trip.  And these two throw themselves into their characters with some spirited acting that is very fun to see at times.  However, for a movie that was mostly billed as a comedy, the film was not as funny as I was hoping it would be.  There are definitely some funny parts, such as the aforementioned improv scene, but it felt like 12 Days of Christmas thought it was going to a funnier film than it ended up being.  The actors were doing their best, but the jokes just weren't hitting.  And especially some of the jokes and sequences with the other characters.  

However, the film is part comedy and part drama, and thankfully the dramatic moments are much better than the comedy.  The film gets more emotional and interesting as it goes on, and towards the end there are some powerful scenes that are spearheaded by Annie Newton's fantastic dramatic performance and the pair's natural chemistry.  The writing is so much more enjoyable and interesting in the second half of the movie and it makes me excited to see what else comes from writer / director Michael Boyle.  The dramatic aspects also help to elevate the story towards the end of the film to allow it to play with and knock down some tropes of romantic comedies and Christmas movies.  There were definitely times when I thought I knew where this film was going only to have it throw a curve ball.  And what this allows for is the film to pivot into what it should have been at the start, with an ending that feels fitting given where the movie has evolved to.  

12 Days of Christmas is conceived as a comedy but emerges as a fully formed drama thanks to Annie Newton's performance, solid writing, and some unconventional situations.

Rent it.

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Shortcut Review: A Creature Feature With Stranger Things Vibes

Jack Kane	...	Nolan Andrei Claude	Andrei Claude	...	Chris Zak Sutcliffe	Zak Sutcliffe	...	Reggie Terence Anderson	Terence Anderson	...	Joseph Sophie Jane Oliver	Sophie Jane Oliver	...	Bess David Keyes	David Keyes	...	Pedro Minghella Zander Emlano	Zander Emlano	...	Karl

Release date: September 25, 2020
Running time: 80 minutes
Starring: Jack Kane, Andrei Claude, Zak Sutcliffe

A group of five classmates is trapped inside their school bus after a mysterious creature invades the road.  Stuck with a dangerous creature just outside, they will have to work together to have any hope to survive.  Time runs and every passing minute decreases their survival chances against the constant threats of that unknown entity.

Jack Kane	...	Nolan Andrei Claude	Andrei Claude	...	Chris Zak Sutcliffe	Zak Sutcliffe	...	Reggie Terence Anderson	Terence Anderson	...	Joseph Sophie Jane Oliver	Sophie Jane Oliver	...	Bess David Keyes	David Keyes	...	Pedro Minghella Zander Emlano	Zander Emlano	...	Karl
Shortcut starts off amazingly with some really beautiful cinematography.  The shots are simple, yet have such a great sense of color and style that it basically pops off the screen.    The yellow leaves and countryside contrasted with the red buss was a very nice touch.  It is really a neat trick as the colors are generally muted but come together to form something beautiful.  And this also goes for the simple, understated but highly effective opening.  It uses old style pages and more foliage to really give you a sense of history and nature.  And all of this is complemented by some fantastic music that gets you in the horror mood early on.  Really, everything that this film does before we meet the creature will sink its claws into you and and drag you through this wonderfully done film, all before we see the claws of the creature itself!

The film mostly follows a group of five kids who end up being stuck inside their school bus.  And the kids are very entertaining to watch.  Often the risk of a young cast is that the acting itself can be noticeably off, but these kids feel natural with just the slightest hint of camp.  Their camaraderie is noticeable from the start and there are several funny little scenes to help highlight the connection between them.  I especially liked the dynamics of the groups when they were forced to split up, and seeing how the various kids react to danger and panic.  This movie has drawn comparisons to Stranger Things and it is definitely warranted.  From the type of film, to the style, to the music, and the young cast, this film definitely evokes that series.  

The story overall has a nice pace without getting boring.  Although the premise is that the kids are trapped in a bus, enough happens to move the story along that you never feel like the film, unlike the bus, is stalled.  It feels paced exactly right and the Shortcut is the perfect length for this genre.  And part of this pace lets the movie really highlight the sense of dread and tension.  Especially at the start, you get some heart thumping moments as the kids try to figure out what is going on.  These situations also provide an opportunity to highlight the fantastic sets and wonderful lighting in this film.  And the creature itself is very frightening early on, but can become less frightening as you get more exposure.  This is a normal aspect of creature features, but just know that this might happen.

Shortcut is a thoroughly enjoyable creature feature that gets its claws into you early with its wonderful cinematography, young talented cast, perfectly toned style, and Stranger Things vibes.

Watch it.

Movie horror thriller scary creature feature tension

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Kajillionaire Review: An Unconventional Quirky Con Adventure

Release date: September 25, 2020
Running time: 106 minutes
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Gina Rodriguez 

From writer/director Miranda July comes Kajillionaire, which follows con-artists Theresa (Debra Winger) and Robert (Richard Jenkins).  The couple have spent 26 years training their only daughter, Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood), to swindle, scam, and steal at every opportunity.  During a desperate, hastily conceived heist, they charm a stranger (Gina Rodriguez) into joining their next scam, only to have their entire world turned upside down.

The setting of Kajillionaire is definitely unique, and one that is set up perfectly through some really great characters.  The entire grifter family is interesting and fully committed to this unconventional and sometimes annoying role.  They try to scam at every opportunity, and look at any new situation through the lens of taking advantage of people.  When they receive some sort of small boon, they try to turn it around into something else.  And this commitment is accomplished through some stellar acting.  Evan Rachel Wood completely transforms into Old Dolio, changing her speech, mannerisms, gait, and pretty much everything in between.  She is almost unrecognizable as Old Dolio.  Winger and Jenkins do not transform as much as Wood, but they are nonetheless fully committed to their roles and add humor and awkwardness whenever they are scheming.  And the introduction of Rodriguez is a wonderful one, where her slight naivete and willingness to learn from the family is a fun dynamic.

On top of the quirky characters, there is a lot about Kajillionaire that July gets right.  The writing is well done, with some funny and awkward humor.  And the overall style is perfect as well.  The character's mannerisms feel like those of a grifter family that has spent far too much time together.  There is one scene where they are trying to avoid someone that they had grifted already where the entire family walks in such a ridiculous, but uniform way to avoid being seen that you can't help but smile. And the music in the film was really well done.  It added dread when it was needed, and turned dreamlike in other sequences.  But despite all this, there were some aspects of Kajillionaire that I did not love.  The first is that the family is not very sympathetic.  Despite them being fully committed to the role, I just didn't feel much sympathy for this family who were constantly swindling, lying, and cheating to get just a little bit more.  And when bad things happened to them, I just didn't feel that bad about it.  It was tough to feel invested in them due to this.  Additionally, the story is a slow burn, but one that felt slow.  It makes this normal length movie feel like a slog at times, despite everything else that the film got so right.

Kajillionaire is not a con, it is a quirky, funny movie with an unconventional story and leads that completely transform into an awkward grifter family looking for one additional score.

Rent it.

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Verotika Review: An Homage to Vintage Horror

Release date: September 21, 2020
Running time: 90 minutes
Starring: Ashley Wisdom, Rachel Alig, Alice Tate

Glenn Danzig's directorial debut, is a horror anthology that compiles stories from Danzig's line of comic books of the same name. Stories which focus on horror content that's often sexual and violent in nature, usually featuring scantily-clad female protagonists.  The film is broken up into three roughly half hour stories that each feature odd tales of horror and the macabre.  The three tales are titled: The Albino Spider of Dajette, Change of Face, Drukija Contessa of Blood.  Each is a very different but they all revolve around some similar plots and styles. 

Verotika feels like an homage to an older style of horror, one that lives and dies by how much you remember and enjoy those older films.  The movies are filled with these references: poor / overpowering colored lighting, corny and exaggerated acting, overdramatic lines, shots that linger for too long, strange camera angles, plenty of gore, some mediocre special effects, and a focus on scantily clad and nude female characters.  Your enjoyment of these tropes and of a different time in horror will directly relate to how much you like this movie.  And as it comes from Glenn Danzig, the film also has some really amazing music.  Danzig did the music for the film and it shows.  It has his same style and vocals, but also has little touches that relate it to the story.  For example, the first movie is set in France and a lot of the music sounds like it is in French. 

This film completely succeeds in being a love letter to vintage horror, with all the good and bad that comes from it.  And unfortunately, for me I felt more of the bad than the good.  The effects were hit or miss with some make up being very well done and other make up looking ridiculous and off.  The few CG scenes were very bad, but again this was tough to tell if this was intentional or not.  And the acting was over the top, again tough to tell if this was intentional or not.  A few times, characters that were supposed to be dead were still taking very small micro breaths.  But this movie also just feels like it was for a different time and should not have been brought forward.  The film has a lot of female characters, which is great, but then casts them as mostly eye candy.  Very few of the female costumes had more than a few scraps of cloth and pretty much all of them were meant to be revealing or taken off.  It felt exploitative and something that I believe the horror genre has moved away from.  And although there are a lot of female characters and a handful of non-white male characters, the film just felt like it lacked diversity.  And the characters that were diverse had little to no dialogue.  Additionally the stories themselves just felt weird.  Some of the build up didn't make sense and often the story just felt like a convenient way to show naked girls.  This is a film that highlights tropes that the horror community have long since moved on from for good reason, and it doesn't feel like there is a need for a film to bring those back.

Verotika is a love letter to vintage horror, with all the good and bad that comes with it.  Unfortunately, in this case the bad far outweighs the good as the film feels exploitative and dated in a way that the horror genre has moved on from long ago. 

Pass on it.

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Verotika is available now to stream on Shudder. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Kieron J. Walsh (Director) Interview for The Racer, starring Louis Talpe, Tara Lee, and Iain Glen

Cast includes: Louis Talpe	Louis Talpe	...	Dominique Chabol Matteo Simoni	Matteo Simoni	...	Lupo 'Tartare' Marino Tara Lee	Tara Lee	...	Dr. Lynn Brennan Iain Glen	Iain Glen	...	'Sonny' McElhone Karel Roden	Karel Roden	...	Viking Timo Wagner	Timo Wagner	...	Stefano Drago Sarah Carroll	Sarah Carroll	...	Stewardess

Kieron J. Walsh, director, co-writer, and executive producer of The Racer joins us for an insightful interview.  The Racer is a new sports drama that takes place during the 1998 Tour de France, when the race was held in Ireland.  It follows Dom, a domestique whose job is to support the main rider.  We discuss Kieron's fascination with the Tour de France, his first experience with it, and even ask about his own performance enhancers (spoilers, it's nothing illegal)!


So give it a watch (review here) and make sure to check out the film, which is available on all major digital distributors. 

The Racer stars Louis Talpe, Matteo Simoni, Tara Lee, Iain Glen

The Racer follows Dom (Talpe), a rider who is racing the Tour de France in a team managed by his long time friend Sonny (Glen).  Being However, Dom is what is known as a domestique, someone who will never win a leg but is there to make sure that the star of the team finishes first.  He takes care of the details and the team, ensures everyone is hydrated during the race, and leads the pack so that the star Tartare (Simoni) can have just that little bit extra to push through to victory.  However, Dom is tired from never winning the race, of being the adult in the room, and from the constant strain on his body.  But a new relationship with Lynn (Lee) and a plethora of personal challenges cause him to rethink his priorities and his life.    

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Iceland is Best Review: A Quirky Cast of Characters Take a Voyage of Discovery and Self Realization

Release date: September 22, 2020
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring: Judd Nelson, Helena Mattsson, Tom Maden, Kristín Auður Sophusdóttir

Iceland is Best tells the story of Sigga (Sophusdóttir), a 17 year-old girl trying to leave home in Iceland, and make her way to California.  She hopes to leave her home town for the bright, exciting world of Topanga California, where she hopes to be a poet. She begins the journey to the airport, confident in her move to California and accompanied by her three best friends, but along the way she meets people and has experiences that begin to change her perspective. 

Iceland is Best is an indie film through and through.  Sigga and her friends are fun and quirky, with each being different in their own way and contributing to the overall group.  Gunni (Atli Oskar Fjalarsson) is a devoted friend who is the most quirky.  He wears a winter hat the entire time, provides them with transportation, and carries around a canoe he named Topanga in honor of their journey.  Kati (Álfrún Laufeyjardóttir) is a good friend who is sad that Sigga is leaving but trying to be supportive.  And Benni (Mikael Kaaber) is trying to find his own love and confidence, while also trying to be taken seriously.  I loved Sigga's headstrong character, and how convinced she was of her path despite having little experience.  It was enough to make you a dreamer yourself.  And when she meets another wayfarer who seems to have both experience outside of Iceland and poetry, she only becomes more determined in her course.

The writing of Iceland is Best contributes to its overall quirky premise.  The dialogue is stark, blunt, dry, and very funny.  There are some great mixed emotions from Sigga and from those around her.  Her friends are generally supportive, and the older individuals are generally against her leaving.  This leads to some funny and slightly awkward situations where Sigga's will is tested.  And the music of this film is fantastic, with a wonderful soft, electronic style that really contributes to the overall dramatic feel of the film.  However, despite the really great setup for this film, the story goes off the rails after the initially great start.  Once some characters and plot threads are explored, the film goes off on some tangents that detract from the overall simple opening and fun message.  And although the ending does involve some character growth and realizations, it ultimately feels unsatisfying.  However, as the tagline of this film says, sometimes it is the journey that is important and Iceland is Best is definitely a fun journey.

Iceland is Best has a quirky cast of characters, a dry comedic style, and plenty of dreamers in this voyage of discovery and self realization.

Rent it.

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Foster Boy Review: An Emotional Legal Drama That Calls For Change

Shane Paul McGhie	...	Jamal Randolph Matthew Modine	Matthew Modine	...	Michael Trainer Michael Hyatt	Michael Hyatt	...	Shaina Randolph Michael Beach	Michael Beach	...	Bill Randolph Lex Scott Davis	Lex Scott Davis	...	Keisha James Anand Desai-Barochia	Anand Desai-Barochia	...	Sanjay Julie Benz	Julie Benz	...	Pamela Dupree Louis Gossett Jr.	Louis Gossett Jr.	...	Judge George Taylor Evan Handler	Evan Handler	...	Samuel Collins Dominic Burgess	Dominic Burgess	...	Dan Cohen Amy Brenneman	Amy Brenneman	...	Kim Trainer Jordan Belfi	Jordan Belfi	...	Jeff Krystian Alexander Lyttle	Krystian Alexander Lyttle	...	Young Jamal

Release date: September 25, 2020
Running time: 109 minutes
Starring:  Shane Paul McGhie, Matthew Modine, Michael Hyatt, Louis Gossett Jr., Julie Benz

Michael (Modine) is a high-powered lawyer and Jamal (McGhie) is a young man who has been imprisoned after years of abuse in the foster care system.  However, when Michael is assigned to defend Jamal in his civil lawsuit, he gets more than he bargained for.  Together they have to overcome their differences to find justice and expose the foster care system.

Foster Boy seeks to show injustice and disparity and it does this right from the very start. The film does a great job of highlighting the very different lives Michael and Jamal live with a simple juxtaposition that is highly effective.  There are lots of little touches in Foster Boy that are similarly effective.  The film has some really good writing that focuses on the language that we use.  It carefully picks words to highlight charged language in everyday conversation and it also does a good job of touching on the legal process and implicit bias.  Additionally, as a legal drama, there are some good examples of games and showmanship that can happen during a legal proceeding, although some of the more extreme examples would not fly in court.  But it does have some actual scenes that highlight legal procedure that I was pleasantly surprised to see.  

Shane Paul McGhie	...	Jamal Randolph Matthew Modine	Matthew Modine	...	Michael Trainer Michael Hyatt	Michael Hyatt	...	Shaina Randolph Michael Beach	Michael Beach	...	Bill Randolph Lex Scott Davis	Lex Scott Davis	...	Keisha James Anand Desai-Barochia	Anand Desai-Barochia	...	Sanjay Julie Benz	Julie Benz	...	Pamela Dupree Louis Gossett Jr.	Louis Gossett Jr.	...	Judge George Taylor Evan Handler	Evan Handler	...	Samuel Collins Dominic Burgess	Dominic Burgess	...	Dan Cohen Amy Brenneman	Amy Brenneman	...	Kim Trainer Jordan Belfi	Jordan Belfi	...	Jeff Krystian Alexander Lyttle	Krystian Alexander Lyttle	...	Young Jamal
And Foster Boy has some very good performances, notably from Shane Paul McGhie as Jamal.  He has to play a complicated, layered, and broken character and he does a good job of eliciting emotion and wearing his pain on his sleeve.  Matthew Modine as the high powered lawyer Michael is another strong performance, one that passes the eye test for a lawyer but also provides an entertaining and dramatic courtroom presence.  The remaining characters are all useful to the story, but tend to be good or evil depending on the side they represent.  Jamal and Michael are more complicated, but the remaining characters seem to be placed for the purposes of the story with little nuance.  And the most important name associated with this movie is Shaquille O'Neal, who gets executive producer credit.  I wish that the film would have had more of Shaq, like an intro message or an outro message from the big man.  But one thing that I suspect Shaq had influence on is the hard hitting subject matter and great music.  The film has really entertaining music with some hip-hop and rock thrown in to set the scene.  

And although the writing is generally good and emotional, there is some that goes over the top.  The story can have some very emotional scenes, but also go off the rails at other times with a tale of corporate greed and the ends that companies will go to protect the bottom line.  Foster Boy's desire to create drama and influence emotions leads it to craft a story that is merely inspired by true events.  There is plenty that is done here for the cameras and court scenarios that play out in ridiculous fashion.  For a movie that does so much right with writing and legal procedure at the start, it is a little disappointing that it doesn't stick to this and moves into a more made for Hollywood depiction of the law.  It feels like a two hour television legal drama, which isn't necessarily a bad thing but not what I was hoping for.  Those shows are definitely entertaining and touch on important issues, but with all the horror stories that exist in the foster care system, a movie that more closely followed a foster care child would have been more effective.  I wanted to see real examples of the injustices and an actual company that was responsible for them; what Foster Boy does is craft a convenient and dramatic story to highlight issues in the system.  Which again, is not necessarily a bad thing, it just could have been more powerful if it had a tighter factual basis.

Foster Boy uses its sympathetic protagonist, raw emotions, and dramatic moments to call for change for those little voices that cannot speak up.  

Rent it.

Legal drama movie foster foster care fostering kids children drama suspense law lawyers legal drama emotion emotional
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Monday, September 21, 2020

All Roads to Perla Review: A Beautiful and Tense Texas Noir

Release date: September 25, 2020
Running time: 108 minutes
Starring: Addison Timlin, Corin Nemec, Dash Mihok, Alex MacNicoll

A Texas town awakes when Brandon (MacNicoll) a high school wrestler gets entangled with a drifter named Pearla (Timlin) and her psychopathic lover Oz (Mihok).  Lives then intertwine and spiral violently out of control once he becomes her escort driver.  The two outcasts form a quick friendship, but the danger lurking around them closes in as they try to leave this small town.

All Roads Lead to Perla is an understated movie.  There are a lot of very small touches throughout that really help to contribute to the overall feel of this film.  First off, the cinematography is breathtaking.  As expected from a director who has a history in photography, the shots are framed perfectly and composed with absolute care.  There are a lot of small touches about the Texas landscape that shine through and really draw your eye to the natural beauty.  Even seemingly mundane shots are so well composed that they look stunning.  There is an early scene showcasing just a standard grocery store, but the lighting and sun shining above it make this seemingly mundane scene pop.  Another small touch is the absolutely beautiful music, which really helps to augment the dramatic scenes.  It is never overpowering and it softly starts up, but it is really touching and helps to push the audience's emotional buttons.  

ALL ROADS LEAD TO PEARLA had its world premiere at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. The crime thriller stars Alex MacNicoll (VICE, THE SOCIETY), Addison Timlin (LIKE ME, LITTLE SISTER), Corin Nemec (MARRIAGE OF LIES), Nick Chinlund (TRAINING DAY) and Dash Mihok (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, RAY DONOVAN).
The cast of All Roads to Pearla do a great job telling this multifaceted story.  Although there are several great performances in this film, Timlin definitely commands the viewer's attention with her portrayal of Pearla.  Pearla is a complicated character with many different layers: she is at times a bubbly friend with hopes and dreams, sometimes she is a defiant woman who is standing up against the forces against her, and other times she is a broken shell.  Timlin portrays all of these personas perfectly and breathes life into this character with her dramatic prowess.  That is not to say that the other actors are not standouts, and in particular Alex MacNicoll does a great job as a conflicted wrestler trying to leave his small town and dealing with far more than a high school kid should.  But Timlin outshines them all and in this case, all roads and all eyes lead to Pearla.

As with any good Noir film, the story in All Roads to Pearla has several intertwining and connected threads that wind together.  It is really an interesting contrast, seeing the lives of "normal" high school kids mixed with the complicated and dark world of this underground.  This is made even more stark by the small town aspect, where everyone knows everything but often don't talk about it.  But this does provide a great platform for showcasing a kid dealing with far more than he should, and a woman with dreams that were prematurely squashed trying to fight to get them back.  If there is a negative with this film, it is that the story leaves some things unsaid.  There are certain threads that are left up to the audience to connect so you sometimes don't know exactly what occurred.  And although the sound and music are generally very good, the film has a weak sounding gun.  However, don't let those dissuade you from seeing this dramatic, understated, and beautiful film.

All Roads to Pearla is a beautiful noir film fueled by Timlin's powerful, dramatic performance, beautiful cinematography and music, and a complicated story.

Watch it
ALL ROADS LEAD TO PEARLA had its world premiere at the 2019 Austin Film Festival. The crime thriller stars Alex MacNicoll (VICE, THE SOCIETY), Addison Timlin (LIKE ME, LITTLE SISTER), Corin Nemec (MARRIAGE OF LIES), Nick Chinlund (TRAINING DAY) and Dash Mihok (SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, RAY DONOVAN).
If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutubeFor additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.

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Also make sure to check out our interviews with Addison Timlin (who plays Pearla) and director / writer / producer Van Ditthavong!

Gutterbug Review: An Emotional Human Journey of Homelessness, Self Medication, and Rebellion

 

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Release date: September 9, 2020 (VOD)
Running time: 101 minutes
Starring: Andrew Yackel, Justin Pietropaolo, Hannah Mosqueda

A crust punk named Bug (Yackel) grapples with the realities of homelessness, mental health, drug use, and toxic friendships.  Bug and his friend Slim (Pietropaolo) spend most of their time scrounging for money, doing drugs, and going to rock shows.  However, on his 21st birthday he resolves to find his way home, a decision that leads him and his misfit crew down a dangerous path.  But getting to his home will be tough for Bug, Slim (Pietropaolo), and Jenny (Mosqueda) as it seems like every attempt to get there is met with societal issues, their own poor decisions, or wear that living on the streets has done to them.  

Gutterbug starts with a bang, filling you with some really amazing music that will get your blood flowing and set the stage for this film.  The music matches the style of the movie perfectly, with a rebellious nature that permeates the entire film.  And that energy and rebellion fuel a lot of the early part of Gutterbug.  Bug and Slim live on the streets, scrounge and do drugs, and try to live life as they can.  They are honest, tired, hungry, and downtrodden but also free.  And Bug is a good main character / narrator.  He narrates aspects of the film and provides insight into the overall happenings.  And it helps that his character is an interesting one.  Yackel puts on a great performance and really shows the conflicted parts of homelessness.  He highlights the camaraderie and the freedom, but also the constant worry for food and shelter, as well as the need to medicate through less than legal means.  And when Bug is joined by Slim and Jenny, then the film really starts to open up.  All these characters are wonderfully acted and their interactions are funny and heartfelt.  The three really do become a family, with the ups and downs associated with that.

And these characters don't just come alive due to the acting.  The costumes and make up transform these actors into their homeless counterparts perfectly.  Their hair looks greasy; their clothes are a mishmash, dirty, and scream youth in rebellion; and when they are under the effects of various substances, it shows through.  The story of Gutterbug definitely highlights a path that can lead to homelessness and the effects of poor decision making.  Bug left home years ago and has chosen to live on the streets, and the film does a good job of highlighting aspects of his youth and of the effect that his decision has had on his family.  And after the initial intense and high energy parts, the story builds slowly, with a solid introduction to the characters before progressing into the overall journey of the film.  The film is also told out of order so you get hints of different time periods that eventually coalesce.  And although the film does devolve into craziness towards the end, the ending really pulls you back in and focuses on the characters.  It is a satisfying end to an interesting, thoughtful, and very human story about mental illness, love, and survival.

Gutterbug tells a very human story, with complicated characters, plenty of youthful rebellion, and a satisfying conclusion. 

Watch it.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend - The Racer, Political Dramas and Documentaries, Antebellum, Spiral, The Social Dilemma

For the Sports Enthusiast - The Racer (Digital)
The Racer tells an honest sports story, with inspirational moments, plenty of interesting insights into conflicted athletes, and a story that paces itself nicely before a photo finish.  For more information, check out our review!

For the Political Scientist - All In: the Fight for Democracy (Amazon)
All In; The Fight for Democracy is an important film about modern voter suppression techniques, with poignant examples and valuable advice to ensure that all Americans are able to exercise their rights to vote.  For more information, check out our review!

For the Political Historian - The Way I See It (Theaters)
The Way I See It highlights the power of photography and the unprecedented access that Souza was given during the Obama presidency, and visually shows the stark differences between Reagan, Obama, and Trump.  For more information, check out our review!

For the Political Drama Fan - Les Sauvages (Topic)
Les Sauvages has an interesting cast of characters, complicated story, and plenty of drama in this French political thriller with parallels to events happening in America and on a global stage.  For more information, check out our review!
 
For the Fan of Stylized History - Antebellum (Theaters)
Antebellum is an imaginative mind game that explores the sins of the past and present through strong performances, a mysterious story, and some fantastic, dread-inducing music.  For more information, check out our review!

For the 90s Horror Fan - Spiral (Shudder)
Spiral's attention to 90s detail and refreshingly diverse main characters help you lose yourself on this descent into madness and dread.  For more information, check out our review!

For the Drama Fan - I'm Thinking of Ending Things (Netflix)
Strong performances from Jessie Buckley and Jesse Plemons and good writing from Charlie Kaufman highlight this movie that has wide critical appeal but mixed audience reactions.  

For the Social Media Addict - The Social Dilemma (Netflix)
The Social Dilemma has universal praise and presents a sobering, clear look into our datamined world in a dramatic form that should appeal to all.  

For the Thriller Fan - The Invisible Man (HBO)
The Invisible Man is a new take on the classic film, with great, minimalist effects, wonderful tension, and an amazing performance by Elisabeth Moss.  For more information, check out our review! 

Les Sauvages Review: A French Political Thriller With Shades of World Issues

Marina Foïs	...	 Marion6 episodes, 2019  Roschdy Zem	Roschdy Zem	...	 Idder Chaouch6 episodes, 2019  Amira Casar	Amira Casar	...	 Daria6 episodes, 2019  Souheila Yacoub	Souheila Yacoub	...	 Jasmine6 episodes, 2019  Dali Benssalah	Dali Benssalah	...	 Fouad6 episodes, 2019  Sofiane Zermani	Sofiane Zermani	...	 Nazir6 episodes, 2019  Farida Rahouadj	Farida Rahouadj	...	 Dounia6 episodes, 2019  Karimouche	Karimouche	...	 Rabia6 episodes, 2019  Lyna Khoudri	Lyna Khoudri	...	 Louna6 episodes, 2019  Shaïn Boumedine	Shaïn Boumedine	...	 Slim6 episodes, 2019  Ilies Kadri	Ilies Kadri	...	 Krim6 episodes, 2019  Romain Levi	Romain Levi	...	 Romain Ramos

Release date: September 17, 2020 (Streaming)
Running time: 60 minute episodes, 6 total
Starring: Marina Foïs, Roschdy Zem, Amira Casar, Dali Benssalah, Sofiane Zermani, Souheila Yacoub

Set in present-day France, Les Sauvages follows the first presidential candidate of Algerian descent who is in a heated election.  The series follows the election and the events that occur after the election that touch on politics, identity, and France as a nation.  

Thriller, politics, french, france, political, drama, mini-series, series
A drama like this will live and die by its characters, and Les Sauvages has a lot of interesting and conflicting ones.  It follows the Algerian political candidate Idder Chaouch (Zem), a charismatic politician who appears to have some influence from Obama.  Idder is running on a campaign of hope and change, and there are definite attacks on him about his nationality and whether he is French enough.  On top of Idder, we are introduced to his daughter and political campaign manager Jasmine (Yacoub) and her longtime boyfriend and successful actor Fouad (Benssalah).  Early in the series we meet Fouad's family, who includes a brother (Zermani) who is politically opposed to Chaouch's ideals and candidacy.  This is just scratching the surface and, as with any good drama, there are plenty of other characters to meet along the way that add to the overall intrigue and drama.  And despite the dramatic nature of the series, it doesn't feel like characters are overacting for it.  There is a general likable nature to the individuals, which makes you want to root for them that much more.  

And drama is one thing that this series has in spades.  Full disclosure, I have only watched two of the episodes, but those episodes do a really great job of establishing the world, the major conflicts, and all the characters.  If you are looking for a lot of action, this is not it.  But if you are looking for interactions between characters and plenty of threads to follow, then this show might be for you.  And part of what makes the threads so fun to follow is the writing.  Although I am watching it subtitled, the dialogue is interesting and dramatic, and the story line is easy to follow despite the plethora of characters and events.  And the camera work and production values are quite good, with some nice shots of France and good lighting for a show that has a lot take place at night.  There are some poor decisions that happen, but that is also how you get the drama to take place.  And some of the themes, despite being French issues, are ones that are relatable to the world at large.  The series deals with isolationist policies, nationalism, and identity politics, all of which are relevant on a global scale.  And as I said, I definitely saw shades of American political issues in this French series.  And overall, despite being two episodes in, I am excited to see where it goes next.

Les Sauvages has an interesting cast of characters, complicated story, and plenty of drama in this French political thriller with parallels to events happening in America and on a global stage. 

Watch it.

Thriller, politics, french, france, political, drama, mini-series, series

If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider 
following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube.   LES SAUVAGES premiered on Topic Thursday, September 17.

God of the Piano Review: A Subtle Aria That Crescendos To A Fortissimo Finale

Release date: September 18, 2020
Running time: 80 minutes
Starring: Naama Preis, Andy Levi, Ze'ev Shimshoni

For Anat (Preis), music is everything. She is a promising pianist, but is not able to match the accomplishments of her famous musical father.  Having never been able to reach her father's musical standards, she rests her hopes on the child she's about to have.  When the baby is born deaf, Anat succumbs to extreme measures to keep the dream alive.

God of the Piano is a subtle, slow burning film that starts with a bang and then builds back up again.  The first choices that Anat make really showcase the lengths she will go to succeed and start the movie off with a very dramatic moment.  And when Idan (Levi) begins to show some musical promise, there are some really amazing piano moments that are highlighted.  I really liked Idan's natural talent and effortless musical ability, as well as some of the ideas that his youth brought.  There is a wonderful scene where his young views on music and youthful flair clash with some older ideas of composition.  It is a great little push and pull and one that I wish had been explored more.  The film also has a tough story about choice and the consequences that can stem from that.  There are a lot of choices in this film, and many of them have very real effects on Anat and those around her.  And director Itay Tai has a subtle, understated style that really shines through in this film.  There isn't a lot of excess drama and the film feels carefully crafted.  It is beautifully crafted some subtle shots that help to highlight what is being shown.  But that being said, the story definitely crescendos as Anat's many choices begin to weigh on her, and the consequences of those choices come full circle.

However, one problem that I had with God of the Piano is that Anat is not a very likable character and her struggles to raise a musically inclined child did not hit me with the amount of emotional drama that I think they were supposed to.  It is a natural parental instinct to want your children to do better than you and succeed where you might have failed, but this film did not really frame that struggle for me.  Now the lengths that Anat goes for her son, and her son's clear musical talent, are well documented in the film and definitely show you what she would do to succeed.  But the overall struggle just did not resonate with me because it didn't feel like enough groundwork was laid.  I wish there was a little more on her own musical struggles, the disappointment that she had, or something to show why she is so in need of musical adoration.  And maybe that is just how Tai builds his films, I can't have a wonderfully subtle film and hope for explicit points.  There are several mentions of Anat not living up to her father's examples, and some subtle examples of her musical limitations, but I just wish that more was laid out earlier.  But that being said, Tai's style is at least consistent.  Additionally the film does have some temporal jumps that seem to happen quickly without many changes in the cast other than Idan's character.  He will age considerably but everyone around him looks the same and with no hint given to the audience other than an older child in the room.

But that being said, this film is a unique experience that has a subtle style and care to the story that we don't normally see.  God of the Piano is a film that we don't see often, one that has subtle touches, parental struggle that crescendos throughout, and some amazing musical performances.

Rent it.

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For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out here

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