Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review: The S.S. Swenson

Release date: January 28, 2019 (Digital Release: May 11, 2020)
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring:  Jono Robertson, Alex Gainer, Olga Elliot, Cole Selby

The S.S. Swenson follows three degenerates as they battle the demons of grief in a fantasy world they've built around themselves.  After their father dies, the three siblings Swan (Gainer), Ricky (Robertson), and Bonnie (Elliot) come together to grieve but dull the pain in booze and drugs.  Although their antics are mostly harmless, they do resort to petty theft to fuel their habits.  However, when Ricky accidentally tries to break into a house, only to get a job as a nanny, their whole lives (and the lives of the family he is nannying for) change forever. 

The S.S. Swenson is filled with quirky characters. The Swenson kids themselves are a unique group of people; each sibling's very different personality blend together into a chaotic family whole.  Swan has the most gregarious personality, as the captain of the three rag tag bunch, but his character is also one that did not resonate with me.  He does a good job and puts forth an effort, but I just didn't love the fake captain persona.  Bonnie is sweet but does not have enough personality between the three. Ricky is a good character, and one that you root for.  He keeps trying to do the right thing but keeps getting dragged down by his siblings.  And Cookie (Selby), the young boy that Ricky nannies, is fun to watch and relatable if you have ever been a slightly awkward kid.  The rest of the characters are quirky but I didn't like them, including the antagonist character.

The S.S. Swenson has some good, imaginative moments, but a lot of the film seems odd for the sake of being odd.  Characters make some pretty bad decisions, but the destructive moments aren't destructive enough and everything gets resolved too easily.  As I mentioned, the family does a lot of petty crime to make ends meet, but they're all fixed with a jolly laugh and no consequences.  And when there is a big consequential decision, that decision and the consequences after do not have the gravity that it should.  The emotional scenes themselves don't hit as well, and some of the stranger scenes, such as anything with the antagonist, just seem like they're trying too hard.  And finally, the siblings make some pretty terrible decisions but also change a little too quickly.  

In the end, the S.S. Swenson has a cast of quirky characters and a ton of heart, but the voyage suffers from poor navigation and a lack of wind behind its sails.

Rent it.
For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Friday, May 29, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: May 29, 2020

Home Rental: The High Note
The High Note is a phenomenal feel good musical drama with fantastic characters, a story with plenty of surprises, and a soulful, wonderful soundtrack that will stay in your head long after the credits roll.  For more information, check out our review!

Redbox: The Invisible Man
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!

Digital: Raising Buchanan
Raising Buchanan's dry sense of humor, wonderful cast, and quirky premise will steal your heart as you enjoy this presidential crime caper.  For more information, check out our review!

Digital: I Will Make You Mine
I Will Make You Mine is a beautiful blend of art and music with a bold style, great characters, and an authentic realism to its music that must be heard to believe!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Space Force
Space Force has Steve Carell returning to his comedic roots, along with a fantastic cast and plenty of humor in this high flying, hilarious series.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Betaal
Betaal is a Hindi zombie series with the production values you expect from Blumhouse, featuring good horror effects, a palatable sense of suspense, and a fantastic cast!  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Netflix): Uncut Gems
Adam Sandler's fantastic return to serious roles is a diamond in the rough!  Uncut Gems is complex, with enough facets to allow its fantastic characters to sparkle brightly.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Amazon): After We Leave
After We Leave is a fresh first effort from writer / director Aleem Hossain, with a minimalist style, fresh perspective, and amazing score that elevates this film.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (HBO): Happy Death Day 2U
The sequel to the surprisingly good horror / comedy original, Happy Death Day 2U follows the events of the first movie with another killer loop that gets even more ridiculous than the first.  Tree is forced to make some very difficult choices as she tries to stay alive long enough to solve yet another groundhog day death trap.

Streaming (HBO): Ready or Not
Ready or Not tells a twisted tale with plenty of dark humor.  The setting is fantastic, the imagery feels authentic, and the performances give this deadly game a unique charm that will make you want to play again.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Raising Buchanan

Release date: April 12, 2019 (U.S. Digital May 5, 2020)
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring: Rene Auberjonois, Amanda Melby, Cathy Shim

Ruth (Melby) has fallen on hard times.  Her dad is sick, she is behind in her payments, and she has to do community service that she hates.  However, when the body of a former president falls into her lap, she decides that the way out of her troubles is to steal the corpse of former US president James Buchanan, hoping to net a large ransom.  However, complications with her plan arise when it seems that no one is particularly interested in getting him back.

Raising Buchanan has a quirky style that it uses to full effect.  Melby is fantastic as Ruth, with a dry sense of humor and a charm that is evident throughout the film.  The movie has a strange premise, but it is one that is very entertaining once it gets going.  Ruth and her best friend Meg (Shim), attempt to ransom off the former President's body, but their ineptitude is evident throughout this endeavor.  It is fun to see them make the most basic of mistakes and the level of incompetence on their part forms a part of the humor of this movie.  And one of the fun surprises of this film is that after Ruth steals Buchanan's body, his ghost follows her around and discusses the finer points of his life and her current predicament.  Buchanan (Auberjonois) is very enjoyable, with funny insights into Ruth's actions as well as tidbits of knowledge about the president's life.  The whole premise is ludicrous but it works surprisingly well

Raising Buchanan's story is surprisingly entertaining.  The amount of ire that the world has for Buchanan is a constant point of humor.  In fact, the film itself has a wonderful, dry, light-hearted comedy that will have you laughing out loud at times.  Despite the theoretical gravity of what they are doing (stealing a body and auctioning it off), the film never strays into too serious a territory.  And the story, although ridiculous, has enough twists and turns as the inept criminals attempt to ransom off a corpse that no one wants that it keeps the film entertaining.  And another surprising side effect of this movie is that you will learn a little history along the way!

Raising Buchanan's dry sense of humor, wonderful cast, and quirky premise will steal your heart as you enjoy this presidential crime caper.

Watch it.

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Review: Space Force

Release date: May 29, 2020 
Running time: 30 minute episodes (10 episodes)
Starring:  Steve Carell, Diana Silvers, Tawny Newsome

By the duo who brought you The Office, Greg Daniels and Steve Carell are back with Space Force. Space Force follows a four-star general Mark Naird (Carell), one of the most decorated pilots of his time, whose dream is to command the Air Force. But his clear career trajectory has to take evasive maneuvers when he is surprised to be given the "promotion" to head of the newly formed sixth branch of the Armed Services, the Space Force.  And even with tons of skepticism he remains dedicated to the country and moves his family to a remote base in Colorado.  Working alongside a very charismatic team of scientists and "Spacemen," Naird works tirelessly to fulfill POTUS's tweet and have "boots on the moon" by 2024 to achieve total space dominance. 

Lets be honest, as soon as you heard the announcement of this original series you knew it was going to be silly.  And thankfully, you are not wrong.  The creative duo of Greg Daniels and Steve Carell bring you a certain confidence in comedic expectations based on their history of work. And besides with Space Force being a real thing, I think there is a visual curiosity of exactly what it is going to be and what they will do. But I am here to say that this was as foolish as you thought it would be.

I had a good time with this series for a number of factors. Steve Carell is a star and his return to his comedy roots after a few more serious roles is a positive thing.  His mannerisms and dialogue alone will have you cracking up.  Carell brings a high level of intensity and energy that just brightens every scene he is in.  Creator Greg Daniels tends to stick with his usual cast of actors and Space Force is no different.  You will see a ton of characters that you are familiar with.  Tawny Newsome who plays Angela Ali, a "Spaceman" helicopter pilot is easily one of my favorite characters in this series with a very different dynamic than other characters. This provides hilarious interactions due to this imbalance. Also a highlight is growing star Diana Silvers who plays Erin Naird the daughter of Mark Naird.  As she has progressed she is taking more diverse roles and Space Force shows that she is becoming her own star.

None of us truly knows what Space Force is and will be but if its anything like this series, well we're in for some wild times.  But all jokes aside, this series was very funny with tons of great scene and unforgettable moments.  Even with the added special effects to make some scenes come together, they do a good job to keep the constant tone of fun and lack of seriousness so at no point do you think you are watching a serious military show.  But there is plenty of comedy for those who know the military or have experience there.  If shows like Parks and Recreation & The Office are your comedy niche, this will be right up your alley. And if its not and you're just curious as to whats this is all about, you will certainly have fun with this series.  

Space Force has Steve Carell returning to his comedic roots, along with a fantastic cast and plenty of humor in this high flying, hilarious series.  

Watch it.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Review: Betaal Season 1

Release date: May 24, 2019
Running time: 45 minutes (4 episodes)
Starring: Viineet Kumar, Aahana Kumra, Suchitra Pillai

Betaal is a new collaboration with Blumhouse Television for Netflix.  It is a four episode series that follows a team of soldiers that stumble upon an ancient evil.  In a remote village, an undead East India Company officer and his battalion of zombie redcoats awaken and attack this squad of soldiers.  They must cooperate with the local villagers and learn what is going on if they have any hope to survive.  

I was pleasantly surprised to see a Hindi collaboration with Blumhouse, and Betaal has a lot of what you have come to expect from that studio.  I have a soft spot for Bollywood film and so this collaboration definitely put a smile on my face.  The horror elements are well done, with a good amount of make up on the zombies and wounds.  The make up is a highlight, with realistic otherworldly wounds and blood being used to great effect.  The series is often dark, which helps to keep the suspense high.  And suspense is what this series has in spades.  Much of the first few episodes have a similar feel to Alien, where the soldiers are trying to decide what is going on while being hunted by elusive zombies.  This suspense is palatable at times and it is great to see a high quality horror series in a bingeable format.  The characters are mostly well done, and the main character is particularly enjoyable.  He is not your typical Bollywood star who is larger than life; he is simply a good soldier with an open mind who is trying to do what is right.  And the main villagers are likewise well played, with a certain amount of superior knowledge that makes them interesting and scary at the same time.

However, despite the series having great makeup, the CG is less than stellar at times.  There are some noticeable CG moments during the gunfights that are acceptable, but do distract from the suspension of disbelief.  Additionally, the sound is generally very good, with creature sounds, suspenseful noises, and suspenseful music being used to great effect.  However, the gunfire sounds are muffled and don't have the same high level that I would expect from this series.  For some reason, the gunfire is just disappointing, with noticeable CG and less than stellar volume, a real let down in a series about a zombie conflict.  And the creatures, though generally well done, do have silly-looking CG in their eyes.  Finally, although there are some scenes that try to pile on the emotion by going in slow motion, this can have mixed effects as sometimes it just caused me to impatiently wait for the next bit of action to occur.  The story starts off slowly, which I appreciated, and ramps up in the last two episodes.  And the conclusion is a satisfying one.

Betaal is a Hindi zombie series with the production values you expect from Blumhouse, featuring good horror effects, a palatable sense of suspense, and a fantastic cast!

Watch it.

Review: The Vast of Night

Release date: May 29, 2020
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz, Gail Cronauer

The Vast of Night chronicles the story of one fateful night in 1950s New Mexico. The film follows a young, curious, and intelligent switchboard operator Fay (McCormick) who tags along on an investigation by radio DJ Everett (Horowitz) as they discover a strange audio frequency that could change their small town and the future forever.  

Set at the dawn of the space-race the Vast of Night has a fantastic dedication to recreating this time.  The 1950s are completely recreated in this film with a commitment to that era's fashion, cars, mannerisms, and period details.  The film story is told through narrative stitched together from dropped phone calls, AM radio signals, secret reels of tape forgotten in a library, switchboards, crossed patch lines and an anonymous phone call.  The film is like a visual radio program; much of the plot is developed through dialogue and through character interactions.  This is accentuated by solid performances from both Horowitz and McCormick.  Horowitz fully embraces Everett, and although he is annoying at the start, he grows on you as the film progresses.  McCormick is likewise fully invested in Fay, and she is likable and enthusiastic.

The film has a lot of touches to call back to the old twilight zone episodes.  Like those shows, the film doesn't explain a lot and lets the viewers learn about the situation through experiences and snippets.  There are callbacks to the twilight zone opening sequence, and the old school TVs that are prominently featured during that show.  However, the lack of explanation and slow exposition might be a turn off for those expecting something more exciting.  Likewise, the movie has beautiful long shots and long scenes that appear to be done in one take.  These are impressive, but tend to slow the film down even more as the camera pans for 45 to 50 seconds or a conversation stays on a character for the entire time without breaking.  It is an impressive feat, but one that might be a turn off for some viewers.  And although the film picks up in the final third, the first third of the movie is very slow.

The Vast of Night has an impressive commitment to the period in this character-driven homage to the twilight zone and other period mysteries.  If you have the patience for it, it will reward you with a unique cinematic experience.

Rent it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

News: Check Out The New Trailer for Tenet!

The mind-bending new trailer for Christopher Nolan’s TENET is now available!
In theaters July 17 (hopefully!)

 John David Washington is the new Protagonist in Christopher Nolan’s original sci-fi action spectacle “Tenet.” Armed with only one word—Tenet—and fighting for the survival of the entire world, the Protagonist journeys through a twilight world of international espionage on a mission that will unfold in something beyond real time.

Not time travel. Inversion.

The international cast of “Tenet” also includes Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Dimple Kapadia, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy, with Michael Caine and Kenneth Branagh. Nolan wrote and directed the film, utilizing a mixture of IMAX® and 70mm film to bring the story to the screen.

News: Weathering With You Coming To Digital August 4 and Blu-Ray / DVD September 15!

GKids announced yesterday on twitter the release plans for the digital and physical releases of Weathering With You, the fantastic anime from the studio that brought you Your Name.  Weathering With You is one of my favorite movies of the year, and one I saw in theaters MANY times before they shut down.  Now, starting on August 4, you can watch it as many times as you want from the comfort of your home.

The tweet stated:

☀️ WEATHERING WITH YOU from Makoto Shinkai (#YourName) is coming to Digital on AUG 4 and Blu-ray, DVD & Steelbook on SEPT 15!

Bonus features include director interviews, featurettes, trailers and more!

✨ #WeatheringWithYou Collector's Edition details coming soon.

Review: Intuition

Release date: May 28, 2020
Running time: 116 minutes
Starring: Luisana Lopilato, Joaquín Furriel, Rafael Ferro

Intuition tells the story of Manuela "Pipa" Pelari (Lopilato), who begins her career as a police detective.  Working alongside with her mentor, the controversial detective Francisco Juánez (Furriel), together they must solve the violent murder of a 19 year old girl when all the clues point to the fact that she was murdered by her best friend. At the same time, Pipa will have another difficult mission, to secretly investigate the murder of a young boy where her boss Juanez seems to be guilty. 

This movie has fun, but by the book police procedural characters.  Lopilato is a rookie with a lot of talent and a hunger to succeed.  Furriel is a brilliant detective who just happens to always be one step ahead of both the criminals, and his own department.  His persona is a nice balance of intense focus and disconnect with what is going on, as he only cares about the case and solving the crime.  Together they form an enjoyable team.  The story is entertaining, if a little unmemorable.  It has enough threads that are happening simultaneously that it never gets boring, but does seem a little convenient at times.  And the characters outside of the main two don't play very big roles in the overall story.  They come in and out when needed but the main thrust of the film are the two named leads. 

Intuition is like watching a movie length episode of CSI.  The police instantly analyze data and make observations that lead to the next clue.  If they don't have the answers, they will use their crack investigation skills and a little luck to get to the next part of the story.  It is entertaining, but not very realistic.  They seem to have the right answer right when it is needed, and get the clue that solves the case when they just happen to hit a dead end.  There isn't much action in the film, it focuses more on solving the mystery.  The movie also starts off odd, with a weird, traumatizing incident that is not referenced again or explained.  That being said, this film is an enjoyable police procedural, with plenty of twists that will keep you entertained.  

Intuition is an enjoyable police procedural with enjoyable main characters, plenty of plot threads, and an interesting but convenient story. 

Rent it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

News: Jon Stewart's 'Irresistible' to Premiere at Home On Demand - June 26th!

Starting on June 26th, Jon Stewart's "Irresistible" will be available on demand for a 48-hour rental period for $19.99.

From writer/director Jon Stewart comes the comedy of a Democrat political consultant (Carell) who helps a retired Marine colonel (Cooper) run for mayor in a small Wisconsin town.

The film is written and directed by Jon Stewart. It is produced by Stewart, Lila Yacoub and Plan B Entertainment’s Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner.

Genre: Comedy
Cast: Steve Carell, Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace, Natasha
Director/Writer: Jon Stewart
Producers: Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Lila Yacoub, Jon Stewart

Go to for more info on where and how to watch it.

Review: Isolina

Release date: September 24, 2017 (U.S. Digital May 27, 2020)
Running time: 107 minutes
Starring: Kate McLaughlin, Catriona Evans, Jim Sweeney

After witnessing a murder, a young single mother is forced to act as a witness.  However, this soon draws the ire of many underworld individuals who attempt to stop or change her testimony.  Threatened on all sides, she must do whatever it takes to protect her son.  And she must try to outwit both the good and the bad guys that are using her youth and inexperience against her.

Isolani is a slow, but compelling story.  There is not a lot of action; most the movie develops through dialog and suspense.  And for a movie like this to succeed, there must be good acting and a great script.  Thankfully, Isolani has that in spades.  The story is a complicated one with many players involved.  Isla (McLaughlin) is fantastic as the young single mother.  She has to play both a scared kid and a strong, resourceful woman due to the fact that she is a young single mother.  She does a great job straddling this line and it is really fun to see her as a strong female lead against all of the outside, underworld interests.  Bonnie (Evans) is also great as the cop who is trying to coerce her testimony.  She also has to balance many interests to keep Isla feeling secure while also trying to force the testimony out of her.  

In fact, this movie is filled with people playing multiple angles.  This really is part crime thriller, part character drama.  And that is what makes this film such an intense watch.  Much of the meat of this film is seeing the characters try to play various sides and angles to get what they want.  It is done in such a realistic, gritty way that you will often be holding your breath waiting for something to happen.  There is so much suspense here as you try to figure out who is playing who, who will double cross who, and where the story is going.  The sense of dread is palatable at times, especially for this young mother and her son who literally have nothing and are against everything.  And although the film is a slow burn, it has a satisfying ending after this long ordeal.  

Isolani is a suspenseful tour de force with a strong cast of characters playing multiple angles in this character-driven crime thriller. 

Watch it.

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
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Deal: May 26, 2020 Movie Deals

Everyone is staying home more now, so movies at home are the new normal.  Get some 4K Blu Rays from Best Buy for $10 to $15.  Many people prefer the physical media for the higher quality you get from a 4K disc and the ability to sell it later.  Additionally, there are several digital movie deals going on right now so you can entertain while you quarantine.  The best of those is a 4 movie family action / adventure pack on iTunes for $10!  Additionally, there is a great deal to get two Clint Eastwood movies for $10.  Some real classics in that pack!

4K Blu Ray Deals
Digital Movie Deals
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Monday, May 25, 2020

Review: The High Note

Release date: May 29, 2020
Running time: 111 minutes
Starring:  Dakota Johnson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Ice Cube

The High Note is a story about Maggie (Johnson), an assistant to superstar Grace Davis (Ross).  Grace has not released a new album in 10 years, and is living off the fame and success of her record setting career.  Maggie runs Grace's life, but she has recently discovered that she wants to do so much more, while still being close to the superstar she grew up idolizing.  However, this desire to strike out on her own and produce music leads to conflicts with Grace's manager (Ice Cube) and Maggie's potential clients (Harrison Jr.).  

The High Note is a feel good musical drama with a lot of heart and soul.  Maggie has a real love for classic music and a simpler style where the artist, not the accompaniment, shines through.  And Johnson does a really good job as Maggie, bringing a convincing amount of musical knowledge and perfectly balancing the conflicted character who loves her job but wants much more.  Ross is fantastic as Grace Davis, who is both a loving friend and fearsome boss at the same time.  Grace Davis goes through so many mood swings and Ross is perfectly believable in all of them.  Harrison Jr. and Ice Cube are both phenomenally cast as well, but the real stars of this picture are the leading ladies.  They put on powerful, fun, and heartfelt performances that really make you invested in the characters.  

And a movie about music should definitely have a fantastic soundtrack, and the High Note does not disappoint.  It has a nice blend of new tracks and classic songs.  The Grace Davis songs are so entertaining that I listened through the credits (twice) just because I loved hearing them.  And as you would expect for a movie set in the entertainment industry, the story itself is entertaining.  The film has enough ups and downs to keep you guessing what happens next.  The story has enough complexity and surprises that it will keep you engaged; this film is far from a cookie cutter romantic drama.  The writing is fun and entertaining, and pours on the heart when needed.  And the film, despite being set in modern times, has plenty of classic callbacks to reflect Grace Davis's career.  There are nice touches like MTV VMA awards, classic shows that Grace appeared on, and other little references that evoke the music history depicted in the film.  The High Note is just an all around feel good movie at a time when we desperately need things like this.  But it also highlights someone who pushes for their dreams despite the consequences, another needed lesson.

The High Note is a phenomenal feel good musical drama with fantastic characters, a story with plenty of surprises, and a soulful, wonderful soundtrack that will stay in your head long after the credits roll.

Watch it.
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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Deal: Digital Movie Deals for May 24, 2020

Here is a collection of digital movie deals to help keep you entertained while you quarantine.  There are some great choices here.  We have some Disney classics in 4K for the kiddos (if you don't already subscribe to Disney+).  Those movies are Movies Anywhere will port to your linked iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft, Google Play, and VUDU accounts.  And we have some 4K 99 cent rentals of recent movies that will give you a lot of entertainment for a little bit of money!

$10 Disney Movies (Movies Anywhere) []
99 cent rentals []
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Saturday, May 23, 2020

News: GKids Releases "Marona's Fantastic Tale" Direct to Home Rental on June 12, 2020

Director: Anca Damian
Writer: Anghel Damian, Anca Damian
Run Time: 92 minutes

GKIDS has announced the North American virtual theatrical release of Marona's Fantastic Tale, from director Anca Damian. Starting June 12, 2020, the film, which played in competition at the Annecy International Film Festival, and won the Animation is Film Special Jury Prize last year, will be made available at through virtual cinema partner links. The virtual release includes additional interview content with director Anca Damian.

Initial virtual cinema partners include the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles and The Museum of the Moving Image in New York City, with additional partner theaters and organizations to be added. A percentage of the net proceeds of every 'ticket' sold will go to listed partner theaters and related organizations. The complete listing of affiliate theater and organization links and how to purchase a virtual 'ticket' will be available at

"While GKIDS and our exhibition partners' original intention was for audiences to enjoy Marona's Fantastic Tale as an in-theater experience, we are elated to bring this beautiful, touching film to home viewers through virtual cinema," said Chance Huskey, GKIDS' Director of Distribution. "During this time when many of us are socially isolated, we are hopeful that this film will serve as a reminder to cherish even the smallest moments with our friends and companions."

Friday, May 22, 2020

What to Watch This Weekend: May 22, 2020

Redbox: The Way Back
The Way Back tells a story that has you rooting for the man down. With scenes that will make you hold your breath, cry, and cheer, this is a journey that you will be glad you took.  And as with all sports movies, the journey is the most important part of the story.  Be sure to be ready for an emotional roller coaster here. For more information, check out our review!

Redbox: Onward
Pixar's Onward will cast a charm spell on you with it's wonderful cast, beautiful animation, and story that has all of the heart and magic that we have come to expect from this studio.  For more information, check out our review!

Digital: Tokyo Godfathers
Tokyo Godfathers is a beautifully animated classic that has been fully restored for a modern release.  However, it is a testament to this film being ahead of its time that its unconventional main characters, engaging story, and subject matter feel completely at home in modern times.  For more information, check out our review!

Digital: Dalai Lama Scientist
Dalai Lama Scientist is a surprising look into the Tibetan leader's little known interest in science, with wonderful historical footage and insights from top scientists and the Dalai Lama himself.   For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (HBO): Joker
Joker is a dark and disturbing tale about one man's descent into madness and rebirth as an iconic villain.  It is not going to be for everyone, but this brilliant, unpredictable, and uncomfortable film should not be missed.  For more information, check out our review!

Streaming (Showtime): Hustlers
Hustlers provides an unreal story about some slick and resourceful women.  It is a female wolf of wall street, with a decent amount of craziness, high risk scams, and strong personalities.  For more information, check out our review!

Review: Acacia Motel

Release date: May 22, 2020
Running time: 88 minutes
Starring: JC Santos, Jan Bijvoet, Nicholas Saputra

Acacia Motel, the American release title of the Filipino film Motel Acacia, follows a young Fillipino man JC (Santos) and his father (Bijvoet) who are owners of Motel Acacia.  But this isn't just not regular motel; this motel provides shelter to illegal immigrants on behalf of the government in a remote wilderness location.  Father is raising JC to become like himself, a tyrant who is motivated to exterminate the immigrants.  But the pair soon realize that this place is also the home of an ancient, dark spirit. With the surrounding elements and with scarce supplies this puts everyone in survival mode and JC in a predicament that he could of never imagine.

From the first, eyebrow raising act I was sure this was going to be one gory adventure.  But after the initial exciting act, the film takes its time to develop the story and drop small hints to help you figure out what is going on.  What I thought would be more of a Hostel-type film turned into a more atmospheric horror experience.  The first demonic scene shows this transition; it is an unsettling scene that is complimented by chilling sounds and score. And from this moment on, everything intensifies. There is a sprinkle of comedy but the drama and horror escalates the longer the film goes.  

This film is in Tagalog with a Filipino cast, which I really loved to see.  I enjoy seeing foreign films for new ideas and to experience different cultures, and this film delivered in that respect.  And although I was overall entertained by this film, there was some factors I found problematic.  With many genres but mainly horror, the human element is very important and I felt the reactions to situations felt very unnatural that couldn't be overlooked even with solid acting performances.  And the plot and its message didn't land for me.  The resolution and direction of the plot left me more confused and even questioning if there was more to come in the film.  Maybe that was by design and they were leaving it open for a sequel (which is common in horror), but for me it felt unfulfilling.  I would of love a little more about the origin and mission of the ancient spirit but there just wasn't enough development there.

Acacia Motel is a refreshing horror film, with dramatic and chilling horror elements that escalate throughout your stay in this twisted motel.  

Rent it.

For additional information about the film and to rent / buy it, check it out at the links below.
This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.