Saturday, October 16, 2021

Screening: See Antlers Early And Free!

We have partnered with Searchlight Pictures for an early screening of the tense horror film Antlers!  The film is coming to theaters on October 29, 2021, but you can get into the spooky spirit and see it early and free!!  Details and entry form are below!

Antlers

Starring: 

Keri Russell
Jesse Plemons
Jeremy T. Thomas

Directed by Scott Cooper

Produced by Guilermo del Toro, David S. Goyer, and J. Miles Dale

Synopsis: 

From the visionary world of acclaimed director Scott Cooper and horror maestro Guillermo del Toro comes ANTLERS.  In an isolated Oregon town, a middle-school teacher and her sheriff brother become embroiled with her enigmatic student whose dark secrets lead to terrifying encounters with a legendary ancestral creature who came before them.  Based on the short story The Quiet Boy by Nick Antosca.

 Screening Info:

ANTLERS

Monday, October 25th

Landmark E Street

7:00pm

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, October 15, 2021

What to Watch This Weekend: The Last Duel, Halloween Kills, Pig, Escape Room

For An Exciting Period Action Drama: The Last Duel (Theaters)
Ridley Scott shows the power of storytelling and action in this period drama based on real events that has an intriguing look at memories and a visceral final act.

For The Horror Fans: Halloween Kills (Theaters and Peacock)
Overall, Halloween Kills does not slay it, but the brutal violence and classic characters should appease fans of the originals.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Seriously Good Nic Cage Film: Pig (Redbox)
Pig takes flavors from several different genres and prepares them with some delicious acting from Cage and Wolff, and a stellar soundtrack to create a layered, unique stew.  For more information, check out the review

For A Tense Escape Room Sequel: Escape Room: Tournament of Champions (Redbox)
Escape Room: Tournament of Champions has some complex, varied, and deadly challenges that are complemented by a great cast and some over the top special effects!  However, I did hear that they changed the ending for the at home release, so I have no idea how this one finishes.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Dramatic Look At Discussions And Relationships: Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Virtual Cinema)
This will be a slow burn for most, but for those who stick with it, Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy has some genuinely beautiful and deep observations about connection and relationships.

For A Documentary Style Horror Treat: The Medium (Shudder)
What starts off as a realistic horror documentary turns into something far more sinister in this clever and scary horror docu-drama.

For the Rock Stars: The Velvet Underground (Apple TV+)
A documentary that covers the iconic band but also the era in which they were rocking out. 

Shining Sequel: Doctor Sleep (HBO)
Doctor Sleep pairs a stellar cast, with a big score, and enough nostalgia from the original movie to keep you entertained.  Whether you are a fan of the novel or have seen Kubrick's original masterpiece, you will thoroughly enjoy Doctor Sleep.  For more information, check out our review!

News: Nightstream 2021 Audience Awards Announced - THIS IS GWAR Takes Top Honors

 

Following the last night of NIGHTSTREAM 2021, which ran from October 7-13th virtually all across the U.S., the festival is proud to announce the Audience Award winners for the second edition, topped by Scott Barber’s THIS IS GWAR doc taking top honours for features.

“This film was an absolute honor to be a part of,” says Barber on the Audience Award, “now, on top of that, to win this award at a festival like NIGHTSTREAM is just amazing. I got to work with an incredibly talented team on this film, and we are all so very grateful to everyone who watched it at the festival! Thank you so much! Hail GWAR!"

GWAR lead vocalist Berserker Blóthar also shared his thanks for the win, adding “I’ve got a night stream for ya. I’m working with a prostate the size of a Hyundai Elantra. But seriously, we are honored to have the audience award. Screw the critics. It’s the people that matter. That’s why we do what we do. After all, they’re the ones with the money and the drugs.”

Runner-up features for the Audience Award are Kier-La Janisse’s doc, WOODLANDS DARK AND DAYS BEWITCHED: A HISTORY OF FOLK HORROR and Junta Yamaguchi’s BEYOND THE INFINITE TWO MINUTES.

The short film Audience Award was a tie between Joe Cappa’s GHOST DOGS and Chris McInroy’s GUTS.

The runner-up Audience Award in the shorts category goes to Sonny Calvento’s EXCUSE ME, MISS, MISS, MISS.

NIGHTSTREAM 2021, which presented 31 feature films, 4 short blocks, and 14 events, was accessed by audiences across 48 U.S. states and territories. Proceeds from the event will once again go to filmmakers and artists involved, and further allocated toward important charity causes, the National Alliance To End Homelessness and climate change advocacy group the Sunrise Movement.

Highlights from the festival’s slate of events include a duo of panels presented by Shudder featuring Creepshow director Greg Nicotero and HORROR NOIRE writers Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes, a new The Future of Film Is Female panel, presented by Daily Dead, with guests A.K. Espada (THE IS OUR HOME), Samantha Aldana (SHAPELESS), Kate Robertson (Liverpool University Press’ Devil’s Advocates: Trouble Every Day), Ashlee Blackwell (Graveyard Shift Sisters), Lisa Dreyer (Fantastic Fest), and a very special Anniversary Party Presented By FANGORIA featuring special guests Karyn Kusama, Bryan Fuller, David Dastmalchian, Ernest Dickerson, Paul Scheer, Natalie Erika James, Sean Baker, Joe R. Lansdale, and Stephen Graham Jones, among others, discussing some of their favorite horror films celebrating monumental anniversaries this year.  

Further highlights of the festival include our duo of celebrated World Premieres, Jefferson Moneo’s COSMIC DAWN and Scott Friend’s feature debut TO THE MOON, artists talks with David Lowery, Akela Cooper, and Don Mancini, and a deep-dive panel on the industry of indie filmmaking from Divide/Conquer co-founders and producers Adam Hendricks and Greg Gilreath.  

AUDIENCE AWARDS

AUDIENCE AWARD - FEATURE: This is GWAR, dir. Scott Barber

AUDIENCE AWARD RUNNER-UP - FEATURE: Woodlands Darks and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror, dir. Kier-La Janisse

AUDIENCE AWARD RUNNER-UP - FEATURE: Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes, dir. Junta Yamaguchi

AUDIENCE AWARD - SHORT: Ghost Dogs, dir. Joe Cappa

AUDIENCE AWARD - SHORT: Guts, dir. Chris McInroy

AUDIENCE AWARD RUNNER-UP - SHORT: Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss, dir. Sonny Calvento

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Halloween Kills Review: Leans Into Slasher Aspects, Loses The Heart

Release date: October 15, 2021
Running time: 100 minutes
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, Will Patton, Thomas Mann, and Anthony Michael Hall 
Directed by: David Gordon Green 
Written By: Scott Teems & Danny McBride & David Gordon Green

Minutes after Laurie Strode (Curtis), her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak) left masked monster Michael Myers caged and burning in Laurie’s basement, Laurie is rushed to the hospital with life-threatening injuries, believing she finally killed her lifelong tormentor. But when Michael manages to free himself from Laurie’s trap, his ritual bloodbath resumes. As Laurie fights her pain and prepares to defend herself against him, she inspires all of Haddonfield to rise up against their unstoppable monster. 

Halloween Kills is a follow up to the smash 2018 hit, Halloween, which rebooted the franchise in a clever way.  It put the victims as the aggressor, as Laurie Strode (Curtis) took to preparing for and then executing the masked killer of her nightmares.  Halloween Kills continues this story with Michael escaping and going on a rampage through the town of Haddenfield.  And the film brings back some interesting characters and storylines from the first reboot and even from the original 1978 film.  I really liked seeing the main cast back, as well as seeing characters from the classic Halloween movies. 

But whereas the first movie had an interesting role reversal, this film just can't decide what it wants to be.  It is equal parts camp and serious film, and unfortunately those do not meld very well.  I really liked the call backs to the original films and the use of characters from that those classics.  And the movie cements this in with a 1980s style opening with some nice film grain on the older scenes and a classic horror introduction that really lets you know where this is going to go.  And the camp is in full force here with characters making all the horror tropes you know and love, from going alone into areas, to splitting up, to not locking doors.  The film feels like a callback at times.  But then the film also tries to impart some more modern ideas, such as mob violence and the idea that monsters can be of our own creation. These conflicting views just don't meld well in this film, and it really should have tried to stick to one or the other.  It is tough to ask "are we the actual monsters" when Michael has already racked up a baker's dozen of kills. 

And additionally, despite the film also leaning into the slasher aspects with some brutal and bloody kills, the movie itself is very slow.  It starts with a flurry, then slows down to a crawl as the town hunts Michael.  And there is very little tension in this film because Michael is not very creative; he is usually hiding exactly where you expect him to be and kills with a brutal efficiency that would make Jason Bourne smile.  The tense scenes--with a few exceptions--are generally over within a matter of minutes, leading the film to rely a lot on exposition and the aforementioned cultural themes.  Overall, I think Halloween Kills had a really solid idea that was bogged down in execution.  

Overall, Halloween Kills does not slay it, but the brutal violence and classic characters should appease fans of the originals.

Watch it.

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Halloween Kills is in theaters and on Peacock on October 15, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Dune Review: A Brooding Dramatic Start For This Series

Release date: October 22, 2021
Running time: 155 minutes
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem
Director: Denis Villeneuve 

Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) directs Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “Dune,” the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name. A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. 

So I will preface this by saying that I never read the books, but what I loved most about this movie is just how unique it felt.  The film is a scifi film with interstellar travel and large space ships, yet it feels low tech at times.  The warriors fight with swords (a consequence of the shield system) and much of the training feels medieval at times.  Additionally, the technology feels well realized here, but with an otherworldly feel at times.  For example, the main fighter planes used to transport around are dragonfly like with high speed vibrating wings that give it a very visceral sense.  And the film has elements of mysticism as well, with visions and other magics at play that give this both a science fiction and high fantasy feel.  It is like some of the darker areas of the Star Wars lore, if those were actually well done in films.

And this technology is well realized with some stellar special effects.  Everything in Dune feels legitimate for the big screen.  There is not obvious CG moments, the effects are so well done that you can just suspend your disbelief and enjoy.  And some of this might also be because of the mix of high and low tech, so you don't have effects all the time.  The fights can be more low tech, and the scenes with the Fremen also have a more low tech style that can help to hide some of the computer generated aspects.  Additionally, the film has some great epic music to set up the story and the gravity of the situation.  It has both an epic and an otherworldly feel that feels right at home in this world. 

The story of Dune is slowly paced, but that gives you a good chance to spend time in this world.  The world building is phenomenal, and the slow pace lets you really get to know these characters.  However, Dune is very much a part one.  Despite it not having that in the name on any advertisements, Dune's splash screen calls it "Dune Part One."  The film spends most of its time building up the world and previewing what is to come, only to then end right when a big revelation happens.  It very much builds up for a second film, and possibly more, and I honestly can't wait to see where it goes. 

Dune is a stunning visualization of Frank Herbert's world, with a great cast, fantastic special effects, and an epic and otherworldly soundtrack that will suck you in quicker than a great sand worm. 

Watch it.

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Dune is in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Screening: See The French Dispatch Early and Free

We have partnered with Searchlight Pictures for an early screening of the the next Wes Anderson film, The French Dispatch!  The film is coming to theaters on October 22, 2021, but you can see it early and free!!  Details and entry form are below!

The French Dispatch

Starring: 

Benicio Del Toro
Adrien Brody
Tilda Swinton
Léa Seydoux
Frances McDormand
Timothée Chalamet
Lyna Khoudri
Jeffrey Wright
Mathieu Amalric
Stephen Park
Bill Murray
Owen Wilson
Christoph Waltz
Edward Norton
Jason Schwartzman
Anjelica Huston

Directed by Wes Anderson

Written by Wes Anderson

Produced by Wes Anderson, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson

Synopsis: 

From the visionary mind of Academy Award® nominee Wes Anderson, THE FRENCH DISPATCH brings to life a collection of stories from the final issue of an American magazine published in a fictional 20th-century French city.

 Screening Info:

THE FRENCH DISPATCH

Monday, October 18th

Landmark E Street

7:00pm

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Screening: See Dune in IMAX Early and Free

We have partnered with Warner Bros. for an early screening of the the scifi epic Dune!  The film is coming to theaters and HBO Max on October 22, 2021, but you can see it early and free!!  Details and entry form are below!

Dune

Release date: October 22, 2021
Running time: 155 minutes
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem
Director: Denis Villeneuve

Synopsis: 

Oscar nominee Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) directs Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ “Dune,” the big-screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s seminal bestseller of the same name. A mythic and emotionally charged hero’s journey, “Dune” tells the story of Paul Atreides (Chalamet), a brilliant and gifted young man born into a great destiny beyond his understanding, who must travel to the most dangerous planet in the universe to ensure the future of his family and his people. As malevolent forces explode into conflict over the planet’s exclusive supply of the most precious resource in existence—a commodity capable of unlocking humanity’s greatest potential—only those who can conquer their fear will survive. 

 Screening Info:

DUNE
Tuesday, October 19
7:00 pm

Regal Majestic

900 Ellsworth Drive, Silver Spring, MD

Screening Link!

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Cosmic Dawn Review: An Otherworldy Simple Science Fiction Story

Release date: October 9, 2021
Running time: 98 minutes
Written and Directed By: Jefferson Moneo
Starring: Camille Rowe, Emmanuelle Chriqui

Ever since her mother vanished before her eyes as a child, Aurora (Camille Rowe, The Deep House) has never given up her search. When an alluring bookstore clerk (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Wrong Turn) recruits her into the ranks of a UFO cult called The Cosmic Dawn, answers seem to finally be in reach. As she falls deeper into their bizarre world led by the eccentric Elyse (Antonia Zegers), Aurora must decide how far she is willing to go for the truth. Inspired by the writer/director Jefferson Moneo's own alien encounter when he was a child, THE COSMIC DAWN is an engaging, timeline hopping psychological thriller topped off with a dope score from Alan Howarth (Halloween franchise, They Live).

Cosmic Dawn is a simple and complex movie.  The time jumping style is disorienting at first, but you get used to it as the film goes on.  The movie is understated, with a simple style that uses the beautiful nature and splashes of color to tell its story.  There are hints of science fiction throughout, including some very interesting looking rock formations and a futuristic looking camp, but these just help to accent the overall feel.  The movie has a mix of science fiction and cult aspects, with the characters wearing bold primary colored jump suits that will feel at home in any cult type film.  

And the music is great as well, with a retro feel that is right at home in this throwback science fiction style.  The music is done by MGMT and you can tell that it has that band's exciting and throwback style. And this throwback feel is helped by some lower resolution space footage and effects.  I really loved how it had these aspects without feeling the need to intentionally degrade the rest of the film.  It had hints of older science fiction and horror, without intentionally hurting the audience's enjoyment.

And the story is mysterious and sinister enough to keep you attention throughout this film.  I really loved the overall feeling and how unsettling it felt despite the relative simplicity of the film.  And as I mentioned, the film jumps back and forth in time but the story comes through easily enough.  And after it all, you are left with a strange, but perfectly appropriate ending.

Cosmic Dawn will abduct your attention and open your mind with its simple but bold style, great characters and music, and sinister, science fiction story.  

Watch it.

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Cosmic Dawn is premiering at Nighstream 2021 on October 9, 2021.  Keep your eyes open for future chances to view it. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes Review: A Clever Premise That Makes A Charming, Mind-Bending Indie Film

Release date: October 9, 2021
Running time: 98 minutes
Directed By: Junta Yamaguchi
Written By: Makoto Ueda
Starring: Kazunori Tosa, Aki Asakura, Gota Ishida, Riko Fujitan, Masashi Suwa, Yoshifumi Sakai, Haruki Nakagawa, Takashi Sumita, Munenori Nagano, Chikara Honda

Closing down his café for the night, Kato heads upstairs to his apartment and is shocked to see himself on his computer screen — only this Kato is speaking to him from the café computer two minutes in the future. A wild sci-fi romp ensues as Kato and his friends try to figure out this strange phenomenon and how to twist it to their advantage. Mind-blowing in its execution, this one-take time loop adventure from Japan shot on an iPhone is a true achievement in low-budget indie filmmaking that'll have you asking, how did they do that? 

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a fantastic example of budget indie filmmaking done right.  All it takes is a very clever idea, solid execution, some creativity, and a full commitment to the endeavor and you have one of the most clever scifi movies I've seen this year.  I loved the premise, which was so simple but built several layers on top of it to create an ultimately mind bending but still entertaining film.  The premise become more and more complicated, but it kept the charm that made it so interesting at the start.

And I also loved the cast.  I thought at first that given how complicated the idea ended up being, that it would try to keep the cast small but the film ended up having several very different and quirky characters that you got to know.  I like how they each offered something different to the overall story, and each contributed something to the endeavor.  And the film also has some great cinematography to sell this, including some very long and complex one takes that make you wonder how this was actually filmed on an iPhone.  Aside from the cleverness factor, the result is just something that is a pure, complicated joy to watch.

Side note, make sure to watch the credits in this film as there are some behind the scenes shots that show just how difficult this was to make.  It will let you appreciate some of the time-bending paradoxes that they had to deal with and the lengths that the camera crew (and the whole cast in fact) went to for this film.

Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is indie filmmaking done right, with a seemingly simple premise that builds in complexity, a clever story, and a wonderful cast that bring this mind-bending film to life.

Watch it.

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Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is premiering at Nighstream 2021 on October 9, 2021.  Keep your eyes open for future chances to view it. 

Foundation S1E4 "Barbarians At The Gates" Review: Foundation Sets Up The Rest Of This Exciting Series

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 45 minutes

Salvor faces off with an enemy of the Empire. Brothers Day and Dusk are at odds, while Brother Dawn wrestles with his truth. 

If you were waiting for Foundation to pick up, then this is the week to watch.  Although it doesn't quite get into the full on action, this episode has lots of intrigue and a whole lot of build up.  But this build up has important revelations and an exciting format, as you get to see more of some pivotal characters.  We really get a good look at the three emperors as they deal with their own galactic crises, and of Salvor and her place in the foundation.  It has an air of excitement that seems to set the rest of the season up for some amazing times.

Episode 4 keeps the same great production values that have made this series a visual treat, but adds a whole layer of new information.  We get important revelations about many of the main characters, and a good idea of who will be the focus of the following episodes.  And we get to see some characters grow into the leaders that we expected them to be, with some pretty impressive acting from them.  I really liked Leah Harvey as Salvor, who takes on a commanding performance in this one.  And I also loved the set up.  Whereas before I was annoyed, this time I am all about the slow build.  The build up here feels meaningful, with a direct relation to what we find out and what will occur in the near future.  It really speaks to the care that this series has that we can have episodes that have so much backstory, and it will pay dividends in the remaining six.  

Foundation S1E4 puts the spotlight on some characters and sets up  some exciting events that will have an impact on both the Foundation and the Empire.

Watch it.
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Foundation is available to stream on Apple TV+ with Season 1 Episode 4 "Barbarians At The Gates" available on October 8, 2021.

Ted Lasso S2E12 "Inverting the Pyramid of Success" Review: Finishes Season 2 Strong And Sets Up Season 3 Perfectly

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 50 minutes

Richmond gets their final chance to win promotion as Ted deals with the fallout of Trent Crimm’s painfully honest exposé.

So Ted Lasso has been on a wild journey this season, and S2E12 ties up a lot of the loose plot threads into a satisfying and exhilarating finale.  I really loved how it built on the major events of the season and gave the viewers a sense of completion after all of this.  The series has been up and down, especially with a relatively weak middle part, but the ending of this season makes me excited for what is to come. It deals will all the drama that has been introduced and puts a lot of storylines that you have been following to bed.  

But what is also so special about this series is that although sports are the main subject, it is not the main focus.  Success, life, hard work, and following your dreams are the real drivers of Ted Lasso, and this episode has all of that.  This episode specifically deals with mental health (as have others) and with the benefit of having that out in the open and not hidden.  It also deals with masculinity and success, and what it means to be supportive.  And most importantly it brings back some of the things I've loved about this show, including good coaching and soccer action on top of the drama. Plus, it sets up some nice intrigue for the next season.  

Ted Lasso S2E12 finishes the series strong, with plenty of drama and heart to go with great sports action, and sets up a wonderful opponent for Season 3. 

Watch it.
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Ted Lasso is available to stream on Apple TV+ with Season 2 Episode 12 "Inverting the Pyramid of Success" available on October 8, 2021.

South of Heaven Review: An Emotional Role For Jason Sudeikis

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Aharon Keshales 
Writen By: Aharon Keshales, Kai Mark, and Navot Papushado
Starring: 
Jason Sudeikis, Evangeline Lilly, Mike Colter, and Shea Whigham

After serving twelve years for armed robbery, Jimmy gets an early parole. Upon his release from prison he vows to give Annie, his childhood love, now dying from cancer, the best year of her life. The best last year of her life. If only life were that simple.

South of Heaven is an interesting one as you have Jason Sudeikis playing someone that sounds like Ted Lasso but does nothing like Ted Lasso!  The film has Sudeikis playing a prisoner who gets a second chance, only to have new obstacles be placed in his and his fiancé's way.  I liked the serious tone of the film and the way it started.  It really made you latch onto the characters and their situation.  And overall, the film builds with an interesting set of circumstances happening to Jimmy, causing him to get deeper and deeper into a situation that he hoped to stay out of.  And on top of that the film throws some good curve balls at you as the story changes and adapts to Jimmy's changing situation.  

But South of Heaven just kind of feels a little much.  The situation that happens feels forced, and the resolution of that situation really jumps the shark.  I liked lots of parts of it, including the actors and the overall story.  But there were just some instances that felt too extreme to be believable.  If the film had been toned down slightly (and a lot at the end), I think we would have had a better overall experience.  And to be clear, there were some really great scenes, including the middle where you start to empathize with different characters.  It really showed that things aren't always what they seem.  But this then leads into a crazy sequence of events that feels unrealistic and downright strange at times.  

South of Heaven has a more serious Sudeikis in a tense drama about second chances and consequences that tells an interesting, if unnecessarily extreme, story.

Rent it.

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South of Heaven is available in theaters, digitally, and on demand on October 8, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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The Manor Review: A Good Setting That Doesn't Quite Keep You Committed

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 80 minutes
Written and Directed by: Axelle Carolyn
Starring: Barbara Hershey, Bruce Davison, Nicholas Alexander, Jill Larsen, Fran Bennett and Katie Amanda Keane

A malevolent force preys upon the residents of a sleepy nursing home in The Manor, a gothic tale of terror with a modern twist. When a mild stroke diminishes her ability to care for herself, Judith Albright (Barbara Hershey) moves to Golden Sun Manor, an assisted living facility with a sterling reputation. But despite the best efforts of the staff, and a budding friendship with fellow senior Roland (Bruce Davison), strange occurrences and nightmarish visions convince Judith that a sinister presence is haunting the massive estate. As residents begin to die mysteriously, Judith’s frantic warnings are dismissed as fantasy. Even her devoted grandson Josh (Nicholas Alexander) thinks her fears are the result of dementia, not demons. With no one willing to believe her, Judith must either escape the confines of the manor, or fall victim to the evil that dwells within it.

The Manor starts off with some nice imagery as the house itself is foreboding and imposing looking, with an oppressive feel right from the start.  It also begins with a lot of mystery as you try and figure out what is going on in this retirement community.  There is clearly something amiss but you don't quite get a handle on it until later.  Unfortunately, when you do get a handle on it, it is just not that interesting.  The film has a decent build up but the payoff is not worth it.  And the journey to get there also has plenty that could have been better.  

The Manor just is not that engaging of a film.  The story itself is ok, but the writing and dialogue just didn't keep my interest.  There are jokes and humor in this film but none of it really was that entertaining or funny.  And the delivery is scattered which contributes to the feeling that this is just not that good of a film.  The build up is slow, but also doesn't quite have the impact to keep your interest or the natural dialogue to make me want to see where it goes.  And there isn't much excitement in this film, which makes this feel like a very slow movie.  The Manor has an interesting kernel underneath, but it just doesn't do enough to grow and keep the audience engaged.

The Manor's unsettling start and good setting are let down by its slow pace and dialogue that doesn't keep the viewer entertained or engaged. 

Pass on it.
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The Manor is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Madres Review: An Interesting Horror Story With A Deeper Message

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 84 minutes
Directed by: Ryan Zarazoga
Written by: Marcella Ochoa & Mario Miscione
Starring: Tenoch Huerta, Ariana Guerra, Evelyn Gonzalez, Kerry Cahill, and Elpidia Carrillo 

Beto (Tenoch Huerta) and Diana (Ariana Guerra), a young Mexican-American couple expecting their first child, move to a small town in 1970’s California where Beto has been offered a job managing a farm. Isolated from the community and plagued by confusing nightmares, Diana explores the rundown company ranch where they reside, finding a grisly talisman and a box containing the belongings of the previous residents. Her discoveries will lead her to a truth much stranger and more terrifying than she could have possibly imagined.

Madres is a slow building film but one that I really appreciated.  The pace is measured and the build up is wonderful, with a nice sense of unease from the moment this film starts.  I liked the sense of paranoia and the themes that were exhibited here, helplessness, terror, paranoia, and also the lack of agency are all present in this film.  And although there are supernatural elements, they are not as pronounced as in other horror films.  It was a nice change where you are just not sure if the unease is real or in the main character's head, which leads to some interesting confrontations and scary encounters.  

But what I loved about Madres is it uses horror to speak to other societal issues.  It doesn't quite hit on them, but I loved the exploration of some of the themes in Madres.  Pesticides, race, culture, and exploitation are all present in this film that crosses languages to tell this story.  It uses horror to look at marginalized people and the disparity in wealth and information for those groups.  But it also looks at the intersection between spiritualistic type beliefs and medicine. And this is all against the backdrop of some real life attorcities that happened.  The film seems to go off the rails at the end, until you see the credits scene to find out that this horror is more based in reality than I thought.  Films like these that entertain and inform are a great tool for the genre and society as a whole, and I was glad to have experienced this one. 

Madres has a tense, dread-filled build up that leads to a terrifying finale that scares because of the horrific event but also the real world inspiration behind it.

Watch it.
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Madres is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Justin Bieber Our World Review: An Interesting Look At The Superstar

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 95 minutes
Directed by: Michael D. Ratner 

A small camera crew follows the two-time Grammy®-winning artist and his longtime collaborators through rehearsals, construction of the massive set on the rooftop and painstaking planning for live streaming the concert to millions. Bieber himself, alongside his wife Hailey, supplements the coverage with self-shot videos, bringing the audience into their home and daily routine.  But before the 240 invited guests can line the balconies of the hotel suites overlooking the stage, an array of challenges threatens to derail the ambitious undertaking, including strict Covid-19 protocols, a rare Los Angeles thunderstorm and a last-minute rush by fans to log into the livestream. Finally Bieber, backed by his dancers, band and an army of stagehands, delivers an electrifying performance amid a spectacular array of lights, lasers and pyrotechnic effects. From the wistful “Boyfriend” to an emotional “Holy,” dedicated to Hailey, the artist’s often autobiographical songs have the elated concertgoers singing and dancing along with him.

The Justin Bieber movie actually comes off as much more watchable than I expected it would be.  Bieber portrays himself as a genuinely good person, a little egotistical but he has every right to be.  But he seems to be a good husband who cares about his family, his life, and the crew that have been with him for all of his adult life.  He also shows how involved he is in aspects of the show, going over choreography, lighting, stage design, and everything else you wouldn't expect a megastar to dip their toes into.  And the film also features plenty of Bieber music for fans to enjoy.  I liked hearing the songs and revisiting those that I knew while discovering some new hits I never listened to.  

But where Our World doesn't’ make the most sense is in the title.  The film is more about Justin Bieber and those around him, rather than about Justin Bieber’s relationship with his fans.  And let me be clear, that would be a fine and interesting movie, but in calling it Our World, I expected this to have a larger connection.  And the film’s main focus is whether or not a concert will happen during COVID and all the protocols that Justin and crew had to go through to make it happen. But there is no mystery in the event as the film also shows video clips from the concert while you watch the build up and drama.  It took a lot of the dramatic aspect out of this film because you already know the end result.  

Justin Bieber, Our World gives a behind the scenes look at the international artist and profiles those around him, but the focus on Bieber and crew loses the “our” aspect.

Rent it.
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Bingo Hell is available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Lamb Review: A Good Film That Derails In The End

Release date: October 8, 2021
Running time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Valdimar Johannsson 
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson

 A childless couple in rural Iceland make an alarming discovery one day in their sheep barn. They soon face the consequences of defying the will of nature, in this dark and atmospheric folktale, the striking debut feature from director Valdimar Jóhannsson.

Lamb is a tough movie to judge because it does so much right.  The film has a really great sense of dread and tension right from the start.  The unease is perfectly set and it is made all the better by the farm setting and the many sheep co-stars.  I really loved the close up shots of the animals because it had this wonderful unsettling feeling.  Seeing a close up lamb's eye just gives this feeling of unease because you can't tell what the animal is thinking or what will happen next.  And Lamb also has some really good cinematography and acting.  It is a dramatic role for Noomi Rapace who rises to the occasion and provides an interesting character to follow.  And the film has a wonderful, deliberate cinematography that brings the Icelandic nature and isolation of this farm right into focus. 

But where Lamb fails is in the story department. The film has a great build up and sense of dread, but this doesn’t lead to any major events or a satisfying conclusion. I really was hoping there would be more to the story but it didn’t seem to progress throughout.  And although the ending does jump into some strange territory, it really came out of nowhere.  It introduces some new behaviors that seemingly come out of left field, only to not revisit those in the strange ending.  And the actual final scene just doesn’t have the emotional weight that I think it was supposed to, and just left me wondering what happened.

Lamb births a unique scenario with a great sense of dread, but the story doesn’t live up to the production values and the strange ending leaves ewe wondering what happened.

Pass on it.

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Lamb is in theaters and on demand on October 8, 2021.  For showtimes, click here.

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What to Watch This Weekend: Blush, James Bond, Horror Movies, and Kids Movies

For An Emotional Animated Experience: Blush (Apple TV+) 
Blush is a beautifully animated triumph that packs a ton of emotion into this short story supported by a deeper meaning to the whole experience and some beautiful music!  For more information, check out the review!

For A Dramatic Indie Thriller: Coming Home In The Dark (Theaters and Digital)
Coming Home In The Dark is an indie film that masterfully uses all it has to offer, with a tense story, brilliant performances, and an unsettling encounter that will have you holding your breath.  For more information, check out the review!

For An Atmospheric Experience With A Deeper Message: Madres (Amazon Prime)
Madres has a slow, dread-filled build up that directs viewers to its deeper message of the marginalization of people and the horrors of the past and present.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Stylish and Grotesque Horror Film: Bingo Hell (Amazon Prime)
Bingo Hell is a winner, bringing a bright style, wonderful music, and eccentric characters to craft an entertaining horror film that scores with visceral gore and social commentary.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Triumphant Return to Theaters: No Time To Die (Theaters)
No Time To Die is a solid return to the theaters, with intense action, amazing sound, and the Daniel Craig Bond you know and love.  For more information, check out the review!

For A Season Finale That Scores A Hat Trick: Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Ted Lasso's season finale scores by tying up several loose story threads, giving a satisfying end to the drama this season, and setting up an exciting clash for the next one!

For The Kids: Muppets Haunted Mansion (Disney+)
Muppets Haunted Mansion hits Disney+ today and it is a great, family friend way to get your kids into the holiday spirit!

For The Kids Part Two: My Little Pony: A New Generation (Netflix)
My Little Pony touches a new generation of kids with a message about unity and banding together against misinformation, something many kids and adults could use these days.

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