Saturday, December 30, 2017

Movie Review: The Blood Harvest (2016)

The Blood Harvest (2016) - UK (Ireland) - Horror - Not Rated (Gore)
Written and Directed by George Clarke
Starring Robert Render, Jean Paul Van der Velde, Griffin Madill, Alan M. Crawford, Rachael Stewart, Matt McCreary, Liam Rowan, Rachael Galloway, Lisa Marks, Kenny Martin, Benjamin Reid, Courtney Lee, Peter Meehan

Reminiscent of 70s and 80s b-movie horror with a spin on the killer family that is unfortunately also reminiscent of those same movies in the poster art is better than the movie.

Someone is killing people and leaving their bodies scattered over the Northern Ireland landscape. The injuries to every body are identical as well they have been drained of blood. Is a vampire responsible, or maybe aliens? A police detective has his wild theories which don't sit well with his superiors resulting in getting him fired from the force, but that doesn't stop him from his mission to find the killer, whatever it may be.

With a look somewhere between old school AGFA "Eurocolor" film and contrasty video this succeeds in feeling like a 70s or 80s horror film, the likes from which much of its inspiration came. Springboarding from an obvious Texas Chainsaw Massacre influence and running with an unlikely leading man at the helm it proceeds to fall flat on its face. Thank goodness nobody was carrying a chainsaw at the time.

The problem with this film, I mean aside from its lack of originality, is it's filled with many too obvious plot holes. Apparently over 30 murder victims is no reason to be alarmed in Ireland, I presume by the way the movie handles it, as a pair of local cops is more than adequate to handle it. If the killer in this movie is so advanced in intelligence then why leave bodies all over the countryside instead of burying them in mass graves like any normal serial killer?

Even with the weak premise and plot holes this could have been a little better if they had a different core plot. The two lead actors do a pretty good job in carrying this and at the very least keeping an interest going. Instead the film focuses on gore and then devolves into a ridiculous explanation of everything, and even the lead actors seem to have lost interest at this point by just matter-of-factly delivering their lines or hamming it up.

To their credit the ending does have a part with some heart to it and there are post credits bloopers that show the cast in a more fun light, and some of the bumps and bruises they went through, so at least they gave it an effort. The end result of the film though is unfortunately not a reflection of their effort. For horror geeks there may be some saving grace to the references to horror movies bantered about in the film.

My Rating: 2 Fingers. That's 4 out of 10 for IMDbers.

You can buy or rent The Blood Harvest on Amazon Video

Friday, December 29, 2017

Movie Review: Beyond Repair (2017)

Beyond Repair (2017) - USA - Horror - Not Rated
Independent Short Subject - Robbie Barnes - 8 Mins
Written and Directed by Robbie Barnes
Starring Kinsley Funari, Jesse Dillon Sorrells, Ember Burns, Christopher Kyriakides, George Tutie, Robbie Barnes

Connects at the most modest level of the everyday to magnificently bring to the screen a story with the power to become an indelible fable in our collective media consciousness.

It happens billions of times a day; somebody has to go to the bathroom. When it hits and you are traveling the choices are random, and tonight's random stop for Jorah won't exactly have her flushed with excitement.

The movie starts off with a premise most any of us are familiar with, and that is traveling and having to pull over somewhere to use the bathroom. Certainly Kinsley Funari's anxious dance as she holds it in will hit home with all of us. As well what hits home is how that overwhelming feeling to go can prioritize itself over any rudimentary sense of caution.

Driving down the road, a graduation tassel hangs on the rear-view mirror as the car radio plays. This could be any one of us and a strength with Beyond Repair is that oh so common connection it sets up from the start. The viewer can certainly sympathize with the situation Jorah is in, and without knowing anything about her, her occupation, what she likes, what she doesn't like, we don't need to know any of that because the situation transcends the unfamiliar and instantly acquiesces us into a "what would I do" frame of mind.

One thing that popped into my head watching this was a segment from the film Body Bags that takes place at a service station; of course you know the protagonist is in trouble when Wes Craven himself makes an appearance. One of the problems with that film and a problem with many anthology films and TV series of the 80s, 90s, and hence who took their inspiration from The Twilight Zone was in getting the look down, but not the spirit of The Twilight Zone.

Beyond Repair has certainly captured that spirit, not in copying The Twilight Zone mind you but in knowing that it is what is at the heart of the story that is important, not the trappings of the story. In a similar way to The Twilight Zone episode The Hitch-Hiker the mechanics of how and why things happen in relation to the mundane are unimportant; it's the story and that's where Beyond Repair shines is in telling its story. Beyond Repair has the heart and soul of Twilight Zone and the new car smell of modern filmmaking.

Robbie Barnes' story and direction is intuitive with its subject and drawing the viewer into the protagonist's world to bring the viewer into sympathizing with the main character. Rather than focusing on a rationalization of the elements of the story instead those very elements become the palette from which she paints onto a cinematic canvas a picture of ghoulish deluge.

At the heart of any story is the protagonist who either draws us into the story, or puts us off of it. That responsibility ultimately rests on the shoulders of Kinsley Funari. Physically, with an adorable sweetness to her face and girl next door looks, she is an ideal choice. Ultimately though appearance is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest of that iceberg brings a real person to the screen who gives you good reason to feel for her character.

Supporting performances from Jesse Dillon Sorrells and Ember Burns add to the overall fright with Sorrells pumping a thick eeriness into the already haunting atmosphere and Burns lavishes ever so lovingly in the gruesomeness of her role. 

Do not try to rationalize the story. Rationalization is its own defense mechanism; we try to talk away the things that scare us. If you do find yourself trying to rationalize it, then it scared you more than you thought it did... or are willing to admit.

My Rating: 5 Fingers; I give it a high five!

You can find Robbie Barnes on Twitter and Facebook

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Movie Review: Check Please! (2017)

Check Please! (2017) - USA - Comedy - Not Rated (Adult Humor)
Independent Short Subject - MaxiMeise Productions - 4 Mins
Directed by Chad Meisenheimer
Cinematography by Niklas Berggren
Starring Shane Ryan, Chad Meisenheimer

In space no one can hear Shane Ryan cringe but thanks to Chad Meisenheimer we can all see and enjoy it.

Adam and Steve get together at a restaurant the morning following first meeting on a blind date. Apparently things went well on the date but Steve has a revelation that just may change the way Adam looks at blind dates again.

If the premise of two men meeting at a restaurant for a love interest strikes you as a meeting midway between My Dinner with Andre and Making Love...

...think again.

Though Chad Meisenheimer has been making headway as a horror director with his ongoing trilogy of retro horror shorts, including the 80s entry Nite Nite, making its way in festivals now, and his 90s in the works project Little Girl in White, his roots have been comedy, and of course if you've ever followed him on social media you would have no doubts about this. In the midst of establishing himself as a horror director he has hearkened back to his roots as writer and director of the comedy short Check Please!

Inline with his off-the-wall and unapologetic style of humor guaranteed to get your attention, if not your ire too, Chad takes aim at a setup involving a hookup between gay men. His partner in crime... err... I mean cinema is fellow filmmaker and friend Shane Ryan (Caged Lesbos A-Go-Go, Faces of Snuff) who is no stranger to pushing the envelope in film.

With Chad directing and Niklas Berggren on board as cinematographer they keep it dynamic by changing up the shots. This is important as it's all too easy with an under four minute short to keep a camera stationary when you only have two actors sitting at a table. Constantly changing the perspective to accentuate each actor's expressions adds to the pace and allows the viewer to focus on the dialogue more while the occasional framing shot of both actors keeps the viewer in check with the setting.

I have a feeling with Shane being friends with Chad he has become a master of the facepalm and annoyed look. He plays well a reactionary sounding board for Chad's humor. And speaking of Chad, probably something you don't want to find yourself doing too often, he is buoyant in delivering his lines and I suspect relishing the opportunity to torture Shane.

If this sounds a lot like friends having fun doing a comedy skit, well that's exactly what it is and they successfully translate that to film. The story is complete and Chad has certainly filled it with his WTF juice... wait, ewww! The end result at a basic level is a good and entertaining film that benefits extra from its directing and cinematography.

My Rating: 3 Fingers Plus

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Movie Review: The Watchers (2010)

The Watchers (2010) - USA - Thriller - Not Rated
Independent Short Subject - Two Man Crew Productions - 28 mins
Directed by Sy Cody White
Written by Jeff Moffitt and Sy Cody White
Starring Jeff Moffitt, Timothy J. Cox, Peter Francis Span, Kathleen Boddington, Darrin Biss, James Konczyk, Mike Sgroi

A tense, evocative psychological thriller that comes at you like a freight train even Superman can't stop.

John Porter is an accountant by day and what he does in his off time... is apparently everybody's business. Or so he thinks. Strangers lurking outside his apartment and in the streets and subway. An intruder in his home leaving notes for him, but staying just out of sight. He is being followed hour by hour, minute by minute, or so he thinks. Is he paranoid, paranoid delusional, or is he the only one seeing the truth?

With tension thicker than a London fog pumped up by claustrophobic framing and a pulse pounding soundtrack The Watchers is a heart attack inducing thriller. Not since the likes of 70s spy thrillers, Marathon Man comes to mind, do I think I've seen a film that keeps you on the edge of your seat to this degree with tension, twists and the unknown. This certainly was not the best choice of a film to watch just before planning to go to bed as the pace and tension are like a shot of adrenaline followed by a ten cup coffee chaser.

Director Sy Cody White frays your nerves with tight framing; and from someone who suffers from claustrophobia, damn you and a job well done at the same time. What White puts on a plate for you is surgical in its precision, and harrowing in its isolation. Focusing on expressions and seeming threats with only a fleeting glimpse just out of the frame has the viewer feeling the paranoia and outright fear John Porter must be feeling, while your heart is no doubt feeling like it wants to escape from your body.

Jeff Moffitt plays the main role of John Porter, as well he was co-writer of this along with director Sy Cody White. And as co-creator of this I say Jeff you are a sick and twisted man, and my congratulations on that. In his role as John Porter he evokes an increasingly stressed man whose world, and mental stability, is falling apart at his feet. As the focus is so much on his character it is to his credit this works so well as he brings John Porter fervently to cold sweat inducing life.

A secondary player in this is Timothy J. Cox as Dr. Orwell (cute). Cox plays a wonderful, not really a duality, role showing a distinction between the business side of the doctor and the leisure side. In sessions he uses his rich talent with body language, such as leaning in, reclining, and the use of his hands, to enhance his dialogue, and therefore the viewer's unconscious response, in each scene he's in. One of the many subtleties in this film which drives the mood and pace.

One of the problems with thrillers and horror movies is in having a great build-up to have a let down of a conclusion that does that not even come close to the film which preceded it. The Watchers does not suffer from this at all as the conclusion neatly wraps up this package with as much shock and awe as everything that preceded it. Not a moment is missed from beginning to end in a film that is going to slam you into a wall, but get you up to the speed of sound before it does that. The Watchers is its own experience from beginning to end that does not let up for a second, so hold onto to your heart.

My Rating: 5 Fingers; I give it a high five... as soon as I can wrench my clutching hand from my chest.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Movie Review: Spent (2017)

Spent (2017) - USA - Comedy/Drama/Noir - Not Rated (PG)
Written & Directed by Lisa Mikitarian
Starring Connie Lamothe, Darren Barzegar, Nick Nerangis, Madeline Mikitarian, Tony Villa, Janna Livingston, Anna Grace Padgett

Full of story and style with a mix of elements from various genres from film noir to comedy Spent becomes its own unique experience culminating in a cinematic high.

Poor Herbert. Dying of a brain tumor. His family will miss him. As a matter of fact, they can't wait to miss him. You see, Herbert has been a tightwad his whole life, but now all that penny-pinching has paid off, or will pay off to his family once he is gone and they will be able to do all those things they couldn't  while he was alive. But sometimes fate has a tendency to throw a wrench in the gears and complicate things.

In the very opening of this film I was in a timewarp. A woman is using a Compaq Portable III* computer (so jealous and in such pristine shape) while a young man prances about his room looking like it was furnished in the 80s or before, then when he is at the movie theater the movies on the marquee are relatively recent. What?

As it turns out the family has literally been living in the past. Herbert, being the penny-pincher he is has not updated their lifestyle in over 25 years and with an antique car, an analog cell phone and vintage applliances around the house the viewer is attuned to the timewarp the family must feel.

*For nitpickers, the Compaq Portable III is not a color computer nor even capable of the things it does in this film, but that's missing the point as it is present to show how long Herbert hangs onto stuff to keep from spending money.

Though the family lives an austere lifestyle, and the small town in which they live in many ways is just as atavistic as they are, there is an entrenched elegance in the film from an exquisite display of baubles of plenty to the simple charm of a little girl selling root beer on a hot summer day. And how something as seemingly innocuous as the latter becomes a plot element is part of the special chemistry of this film.

Initially I felt the pace was a little slow as the film lingers a bit on its settings but ultimately it accomplishes pulling the viewer into its world effaced of much of the familiarity of the postmodern condition. Using this technique better transitions the viewer than if they were simply thrust into it pell-mell as a fish out of water.

The art direction is full in this. This may seem a contradiction with the simplicity of the lifestyle depicted but that contradiction allows the adornments of antiquity to shine through the ascetic means of the characters. An important discovery at work in this story is not treating the bereft comforts of the protagonists lives as emptiness by focusing on that part but instead allowing the characters themselves to shine through as the important elements in a strongly character driven plot.

Mixing elements from film noir and comedy Spent unfolds a story that is both farcical and interpersonal. It is a fun and emotional roller coaster ride that is likely to have you laughing hysterically through your tears. From the beginning it may seem like it is obvious where this story is going, but that changes quickly. As I said before it is a character driven story and those characters, amazingly in only two days of story time, discover, evolve and effect the plot through their interactions in what is a funny and beautifully woven tale of family, greed, rat poison and squirrels.

There are problems in this, though very few. At times some of the acting is a little wooden, but competent enough. And a boon to the cast is the wonderful performance by Nick Nerangis who puts so much zest and feeling into every scene he occupies, and with his natural expressiveness and facial features he is a photographer's and filmmaker's dream come true. The conclusion of the film, more properly a coda, does not have the same strength as the rest of the film, but it is short and does fill in some gaps.

What Spent does accomplish though is a unique piece of cinema that lavishes in its style, wafting from color to black & white to enhance the mood, and its storytelling in allowing the characters to lead the plot, changing up the story constantly keeping it fresh. It builds to a bittersweet apogee of tears and laughs in a cinematic high of intensity as such I felt as though I was riding in a taxi being driven by Harry Chapin. And in the end its strengths far outweigh its weaknesses and what Lisa Mikitarian has accomplished as a writer and director is quite possibly the best movie I have seen all year.

My Rating: 5 Fingers; I give it a high five!

You can get Spent on Amazon Video. Watch it for free with Prime.

More information is available on the Spent Twitter and Facebook pages.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Luna Films Announces Production of Three Knee Deep

Luna Films has announced that James Marshall (Twin Peaks, A Few Good Men) and Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Martial Law) have signed to star in the new series Three Knee Deep, which goes into production in Bucharest in January 2018.

Three Knee Deep is a harrowing psychological drama set against the backdrop of the world of “black ops” special rendition and detention. The show will follow the lives of a handful of criminals incarcerated in a secret prison and the lengths that certain government officials will go to get what they want.

The first season will consist of 5 episodes. The series will be shopped upon completion.

Marshall is hot off Showtime’s Twin Peaks, in which he reprised his role of James Hurley, while Mandylor recently completed work on Jesse V. Johnson’s The Pay Up.

Bobby Barbacioru (Hotel of the Damned) directs and produces under his Luna Films umbrella.

Holt Boggs, Adam Horner, Manuela Harabor and Marius Stanescu are set to co-star in the series.

Keep up with series updates on the Three Knee Deep Facebook page. For more information on Bobby Barbacioru you can check out his IMDb profile and his director reel on YouTube.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Movie Review: Night Job (2017)

Night Job (2017) - USA (NYC) - Comedy - Not Rated (PG)
Written & Directed by J. Antonio
Starring Jason Torres, Greg Kritikos, Lester Greene, Timothy J. Cox, Bettina Skye, Hardy Calderon, Sofiane Madi, Laeticia De Valer, Stacey Weckstein, Monikha Reyes, Una Petrovic

*I will update the cast list as I have time because it is a large cast in this film.

Though an at times slow moving film it ultimately succeeds in the wealth of characterization it offers the viewer with many memorable performances and plenty to take home in a doggy bag from this feast.

The regular doorman is out sick for the night and a temp, James, has been called in for his first night on the job. Night means nothing in the city other than having to turn on a light. Nicknamed "the city that never sleeps" James will come to wish it did as he will have to deal with all sorts of characters and their mishaps from feuding couples to an exorcism before this night is over.

Within this microcosm of New York City with which our protagonist James has to contend is a relevant diapason of the city's character. J. Antonio has brought together a diverse cast to play the quirky malcontents who inhabit a New York City high-rise apartment building (think The Jeffersons meets Hot L Baltimore) and who will display with diligent gratification the ingredients that turn a promising and optimistic young man into a bitter and pessimistic old man.

The core of this narrative is singular in perspective, but it is third person as we as the audience are observers of James' trek through this night. The apartment complex, and thus James momentary thrust into insanity, is occupied by many characters, i.e. the cast is huge, and rather than trying to break down the cast and characters, which I feel would be counterproductive to the viewing experience anyway, I will select a few of the more notable performances.

Timothy J. Cox - It's always a pleasure to see Timothy J. Cox show up in a film because, summed up, not only is it going to be good but it's also not going to be a repeat of any other performance he has done as, from what I have seen, he always brings something fresh to every role. Cox plays Mr. Jones and certainly brings his comic flair to the role. An at times slow paced film gets a few ticks up in its pace whenever Cox is present.

Bettina Skye - Anybody who has ever worked as a doorman or night security has met her: the talkative elderly woman. She talks about the past, the present, what a wonderful young man you are, and of course not to get old. Skye brings perfection to this role; subdued in its humor yet rich in subtle farce.

Greg Kritikos - Romeo, oh Romeo... where the hell are you? Yep, we've met him too; the slob complacent in his job who is never around when needed, always busy when he's not, yet completely handy when there's a tip to be earned. Kritikos maturates in this role bringing sarcastic life to Romeo and delivering just the right amount of humor to the viewer, and inspiration to take a scalding hot shower afterwards.

Lester Greene - This is another character we've met; the smilin' Jack street vendor. Despite just trying to make a buck he always seems genuine and he's your friend, who always has a special deal just for you. Even before Greene speaks you've seen this character coming, and that speaks volumes to the aura he evokes as his character. He's so good in this role I want to buy a DVD from him.

Monikha Reyes - Though not a named character, 'Young Woman' in the credits, Reyes is a beautiful young woman who makes an impact as an engaging character and certainly lifts the scene with her presence and has such sexy eyes.

Una Petrovic - Just because she is soooo effing hot! Tight, short white dress and thank you, thank you, thank you!

Jason Torres - And of course what would a film be without our protagonist, the reason we give a damn, and the glue that holds it all together. Torres' strength is in his natural reactiveness. His body language and expressions give credence to every scene. He is our tour guide through the movie. Each scene might be akin to a site along the tour, but his presence gives us the highlights of the tour and makes it that much more worthwhile.

J. Antonio has a lot of stories to tell with his film. Some more interesting than others, but the key here is that's entirely by perspective. Everybody is going to align to something different, have favorite characters that are different than mine, and react differently. Night Job is a smorgasbord offering plenty from which to choose. If your tastes lean more one way you may not connect with the plethora of choices available, but that doesn't mean the person behind you won't.

As I mentioned before, the pacing at times is a little slow. An elegant jazz soundtrack helps it along in places. An opening scene with Kutcha as Julio drones on a bit, but it sets the tone and can be forgiven for that. The choice for a black & white presentation is interesting, and though it may seem like just a creative choice at first there is dream sequence which contrasts with it in such a way to imply a humanist subtext, but I'll leave it at that.

Initially I was leaning toward a 3 Finger Plus rating. Writing out the review and exploring further the characters in the story has advanced a perspective. Though slow in parts the important thing is ultimately it's not lacking. Many of the characters in this have given me plenty to reminisce about, and it's that lingering power of a story that bumps it up.

My Rating: 4 Fingers; that's 8 out of 10 for IMDbers.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie Review: Terry Kendall and Orange Green (2011)

Terry Kendall and Orange Green (2011) - USA - Thriller - Not Rated
Independent Short Subject - Meg Skaff - 11 Mins
Written & Directed by Meg Skaff
Starring Brit-Charde' Sellers, Timothy J. Cox, Kimberly David
and Anna Calabrese (narrator)

Entertainingly done, Terry Kendall and Orange Green, the names of the two main characters in this film, me thinks that's just coincidence, most definitely earns a place in the film category of "didn't see that coming".

Terry Kendall is a young, single black woman, wakes every day to shout to the world her enthusiasm and head to work at the grocery store where she is a stocker. You could say she's a positive person... and positive she is being stalked by a strange man who has a habit of showing up everyday at the same time, to the second.

The narration of the story is done in a hep urban female voice which, along with the bizarre plot of the film, is reminiscent, for me, of underground comix of the 70s and 80s. No, not Freak Brothers, Leather Nun or any of a number of others that basically retooled Tijuana Bibles, but there were many stories in those comix with an urban undertone and bizarre if not tragic sense of humor. This is actually the second review in a row where a film has made me think of underground comix... me suspects a conspiracy. 

A critical character in this story, of only three characters, is the Orange Green character played by Timothy J. Cox. It is certainly a different type of role for him compared to what I've seen him play. On the surface it seems like it would be an easy role to play, but that's deceptive as he makes it look effortless, though I'm certain it's no easy task to play a character without giving away his intent in a look or expression. He maintains an uneasy and cold calm throughout making one wonder just what he's up to, and when you do find out, he certainly never gave it away.

Brit-Charde' Sellers is spot on in being annoyed by Timothy J. Cox's character. Initially she plays to exuberance as a pretty young woman ready to not tackle but embrace the world looking forward to every day. Her character's awareness of someone's presence is well played as her body language communicates to the viewer as well as any spoken dialogue would.

As the primary, Brit Charde' Sellers has more to work with, but both roles require subtleties to pull them off, and Sellers and Cox have both accomplished this.

I'm not a fan of ambiguity, but it does actually work in this. The ambiguity is not in the story as the story is complete, but in the rationale; there simply is no rationale. The ambiguity works to a degree like a story you would read in a newspaper or see on the TV news and wonder... well, just "why". It's not a cheap out, but it is a head-scratcher and I don't think it was in any way intended to be rationalized, just experienced.

Interesting storytelling method Meg Skaff puts on the screen. Certainly there's nothing unique about a narrated story, but the personality of the narrator is its charm.

I would give a film just for having a complete story and done in an entertaining way a minimum of 3 Fingers. Up to a point I enjoyed this, then it threw me for a loop and surely got my WTF certification. Though I'm pretty positive I didn't like that part, I'm giving Meg Skaff extra credit for throwing me like he did.

My Rating: 3 Fingers Plus; that's 7 out of 10 for IMDbers.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Movie Review: Hectic Knife (2016)

Hectic Knife (2016) - USA - Comedy - Not Rated
(Excessive Graphic Violence & Language)
Directed by Greg DeLiso
Written by Greg DeLiso & Peter Litvin
Starring Peter Litvin, J.J. Brine, John Munnelly, Georgia Kate Haege, Traci Ann Wolfe, Richard Kohn, Robert Bella, Richie Blackwood, Rockin Ray

A diluvian and albeit hectic comedy hits its stride well save for the last part where it strays and runs out of gas.

Hectic Knife, a seemingly.. oh hell there's no seemingly to it.. a very weird vigilante who slices and dices, and juliennes too, bad guys, and others, meets his match in an evil doctor (I know this because he says he's an evil doctor) named Piggly Doctor, and is truly a ham. This brings about a crisis of confidence in Hectic as he searches for himself, and if he would take a moment to search for the plot of this film too it would be truly appreciated.

A movie almost fully in black & white save for color in a scene or two, Hectic Knife answers the question "what if David Lynch and Robert Crumb had a love child that was then raised by Andy Warhol". Of course it is a question nobody asked, and I don't even know if anybody wanted an answer to it, but here we have it.

From the very start Hectic Knife proceeds to break every rule of good cinema with bad acting, over-acting, recognizing the camera, recognizing the script, and lots of the overly obvious and overly oblivious. In near the first hour of the film it succeeds in being quite funny with many laugh out loud moments; especially with things that should not be funny but garner a laugh anyway, if for no other reason than its pure silliness.

Hectic Knife is a mix of surrealist and nonsense cinema; and whether or not there is a script in the mix is beyond me. It feels many times like a throwback to early Troma, except this moves at a better pace and is funnier, up to a point. 

About two-thirds into the movie it loses its energy and what was a funny albeit super-silly ride runs out of gas and has to walk the rest of the way, and the bagel scene alone has it on its hands and knees. At least the film has the self-awareness to make fun of itself in pointing out how bad it is at this point. But that's not enough to bring it back to life as what remains is mostly padding the time.

If Hectic Knife had maintained its level of energy it would have been at a 3 Plus rating from me. That's where I was for a good bit of the film. Overall it has more entertainment than not. I can imagine this would be even better to watch with friends, and especially for those who like their movies on the silly side and their humor on the WTF! side.

My Rating: 3 Fingers; that's a 6/10 for IMDbers. I struggled with this as the first two-thirds is better than 3 Fingers and the last is by far not, so I went midway between what I would have rated each part, 3 Plus and 2 respectively, and rounded up. Obviously movie reviewing on my part is not an exact science.

*I will add screencaps to this review later.

Hectic Knife on Twitter

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Hectic Knife Website

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Movie Review: Kepler's Dream (2017)

Kepler's Dream (2017) - USA - Family Drama - Not Rated (PG)
Based on the book by Juliet Bell
Directed by Amy Glazer
Starring Isabella Blake-Thomas, Holland Taylor, Steven Michael Quezada, Esperanza Fermin, David Hunt, Sean Patrick Flanery, Stafford Douglas, Kelly Lynch, Kelly Hu

Kepler's Dream comes off like it wants to be a Disney family movie from the 70s, but it unfortunately lacks the fun of those movies.

Ella is an 11 year old girl living with her separated mother. Unfortunately her mother has leukemia, but there is a stem cell treatment that shows promise. Having to be confined to the hospital for the treatment leaves Ella, whose father is absent and avoiding of her calls, with nowhere to stay other than with a grandmother she's never met who lives in an isolated farmhouse in New Mexico filled with antiques, rare books and peacocks but has all the warmth of a hotel concierge in the off season. The only connection she has to her grandmother is her father and a thing called the Moon which a mathematician named Kepler wrote about in a very rare volume in grandmother's library.

When I saw this film was available the first thing that stood out to me and drew me to it was the presence of Holland Taylor in it. A wonderful actress who brings a quirky charm to any role and in her 70s simply looks fantastic. With Kelly Lynch and Kelly Hu along for the ride this film has more notable names than is usual for the movies I often review. But even with Holland Taylor at the wheel and the others along for the ride, it was not an enjoyable ride.

There is occasional humor, occasion tearful moments, and hence that's its problem out of the gate is too much occasional this and that. Filled with awkward and uncomfortable moments in a fish out of water story it lacks any real flow. It picks up here and lingers there and even though it eventually reaches its destination, a bit abruptly, it was exhausting getting there for a 90 minute movie.

At its core this is a story about reconnecting. About lost and eroded connections and how rediscovering those, perhaps in a new light, will lead you to find your way. This is a story for teens and young children, but it feels like it wants to play connect the dot for the viewer to get the picture. For a youth film, I don't know if that's a good idea.

Holland Taylor naturally handles her role with finesse and brings real character to a role that could have been over or under played is lesser hands. Isabella Blake-Thomas as the central character of Ella soars, especially as a young actress, in a complex role handling humor, emotion and her character's awkward moments equally well. The standout performance for me was Sean Patrick Flanery as Ella's father bringing a very real character into the film, that unfortunately it was begging for and didn't get enough of him.

I would give a film 3 Fingers for telling a complete story, but part of that is telling it in an entertaining and satisfactory fashion, which this does not.

My Rating: 2 Fingers Plus; that's 5 out of 10 for IMDbers.

Kepler's Dream on Facebook

Kepler's Dream Website

Leomark Studios' Kepler's Dream Page

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Movie Review: Ballerina I'm Not (2017)

Ballerina I'm Not - USA - Sports/Documentary - PG-13
Written & Directed by Francesca Zappitelli
Starring Francesca Zappitelli, Christie Ricci (Christie Mathis), Shelly Martinez, Ken Yasuda, Julie Ginther, Stacy Keibler, *

*Not being a fan of wrestling I have no idea who these people are. I'll update this list when I have more time. Being this is a documentary these are all people appearing as themselves.

An informative documentary on the inside of women's wrestling that dares to pull the viewer out of their comfort zone is also a gripping underdog story which compels the viewer to connect beyond the assumptive and arbitrary.

Francesca grew up in a religious family. As a child, ballet was acceptable for little girls. But wrestling? Wrestling is where her heart was. It's where heroes existed, and she wanted to be part of that world. But the journey for a woman in that world has many hurdles a man never has to face. Ballerina I'm Not is the story of her journey not only facing challenges reserved only for her gender, but facing a challenge from one of her own as the underdog.

Up front I'll state that I am not a fan of wrestling. As a kid growing up in the South I was, because it's what the adults in your life watched and so you watched it too. But beyond the facade of a TV show which preyed on ignorance and prejudice for ratings was nothing for someone who developed a disdain for violence. Life is a journey. Things you accept for their superficial flair as a child evaporate into the thin air from which it was made as you become an adult. But childhood dreams do remain. Influences from our formative years, whether something to escape from, or escape to, are the things that drive us further in a journey through life, and Ballerina I'm Not on the surface is a wrestling documentary, but take away that periphery of trappings and at its heart is a genuine nugget of a woman's journey in life regardless of the means by which she treks.

Beautiful women, scantily clad, slapping, hitting, tits a flopping and bouncing, lots of skin showing, rolling around with their bodies firmly pressed against each other. You know, this could sound like the introduction to a film on my other website. But this doesn't belong there. The biggest challenge up front for a viewer, especially men, is to get out of their comfort zone when watching this film.

I grew up in a traditional nuclear family as it was called. A father, a mother, I was obviously the son (shaddup smartass), and I have a sister. I think my sister would agree that my mother was tougher on her than on me. It wasn't favoritism. I don't think it was unusual for girls to be raised with expectations of having it tougher than boys. Certainly society hasn't proven parents wrong as most anything, certainly in the United States, has hurdles for a woman to overcome that is automatically granted to a man.

When I grew up it wasn't uncommon, say in a classroom setting in elementary school, for someone to ask what you wanted to become when you grew up. It also wasn't uncommon for the boys to be asked what they wanted to become and the girls to be asked who they wanted to marry. In those same classes cold war films were shown. Those short films about communists and how their ways were wrong. Yet, in retrospect, those same things they told us the commies were doing are the same things we were doing; we just called it by a different name.

Social structure by gender was taught from a very early age. In the crib we used different colors. As boys and girls got older, boys were given play tools and girls were given dolls to pretend they were their babies. And if they ever swapped them they were scolded. Our parents did not invent these things, or conspire to delineate us by gender, but they were raised with the same social divisions of gender to pass on to their own children.

And even today that taboo of social structure lingers and haunts us. How can it not? It's been ingrained in society for longer than organizations have stood. For longer than nations and governments have stood. And of course the males of societies, in larger part, have embraced this. Why not embrace something that basically grants you automated social supremacy based on nothing more than having been born with a penis?

The sad part is, men are not the smarter or tougher of the species. I once commented on an article about disaster movies and the default so common in movies of men saving the world that there are actually quite a few disaster movies with women as the leads. And as is par for course for an industry controlled by men, disaster movies where women are the protagonists have them solving problems by using their brains rather than brawn. Yep, we men are just so smart (sarcasm).

And where is this mini rant going and what does it have to do with Ballerina I'm not? Well that social structure is a large part of our comfort zones, for men and women, and when we step out of it, we are made either uncomfortable, as the viewer, or our challenges are amplified multi-fold, as a female wrestler. The natural response for a guy is that this is something a lady should not be doing. The natural feeling for a guy is to be excited by the exhibition of female flesh in the ring. And both of these things add to the already uphill battle a woman faces in a man's game, especially when that game is in perhaps the most testosterone fueled form of sports entertainment.

From the very start of Ballerina I'm Not it is obvious that Francesca Zappitelli is a beautiful and well proportioned woman (by the time I have finished this review I will have earned several slaps most likely). The tits and looks factors alone in this film are worth the price of admission. But that's not what this film is about, and conversely at the same time that's part of exactly what it's about.

Seeing wrestlers portrayed as superstars, even superheroes, as young children watching wrestling on TV, these ladies were inspired by people they saw as heroes, and villains too. Even entertainment superstars like Cyndi Lauper were inspirations. For Francesca, being raised in a strict, religious family, these were not the things little girls do. Ballet was allowed, even encouraged, but a ballerina she was not. A wrestler is what she idolized and a wrestler she would become.

But being a woman, the wrestling world is going to look at you and treat you differently. Big beefy guys get big checks for prancing around a ring in character while women are used as decorations, and their checks are comparatively very small. Unlike their well paid male counterparts, a woman in this industry often has to branch out into other venues of the fighting sports including catfighting, Mexican wrestling and ultimate fighting, all of which carry greater risks and offer relatively smaller paychecks than their male counterparts in their comparatively cushy day-jobs (my words).

Being wrestlers is what these women aspire to. Male or female it should not make a difference, but it does. Things they have to endure to make it would make grown men cry, yet it is these same crybabies (my words again) who look down on them as women and treat them as eye candy. Even though there are several million women who are wrestling fans (yes, I was surprised too) the dominant audience is male and the dominant appeal to that audience are the tits and looks factors.

Ballerina I'm Not is not an exposé of wrestling. It does, however, provide insights into things like fight choreography, scripting, the use of razor blades for blood fights among other things. This film is not shy about giving some of the lowdown on wrestling, but it is not in any way primarily about that. What insider information comes out is from the frankness and natural course of the narrative rather than trying to hide behind the usual glib showmanship and BS common to professional wrestling, as it's called.

It is a little rough around the edges in places. Handily in one scene where the audio is not that strong, subtitles are used to make up for that. The camerawork at times is rough, but this was shot documentary style, and using footage from various sources, meaning uniformity in audio and video is lacking; but this is again a documentary and there's nothing uncommon about that. Overall the editing successfully puts together a coherent and strong presentation from various sources shot over a period of many years; no easy task for sure.

Two things which work strongly for this film are the narrative structure and connecting with the audience. Francesca has certainly done her homework in using a linear timeline in her narrative broken up by sidelights which clarify things in the main narrative, and amplifies and/or parallels a connective part of the story, such as one part which focuses on the challenges of a female ultimate fighter facing off against a male fighter who thinks women can't be good fighters and therefore has no respect for her. And hence this frames an important and connecting element of the film: earning your due respect.

Beyond the documentary of the challenge to women succeeding in a testosterone dominated arena and the lengths they have to go to that no man will ever have to experience is also a challenge to the central character against another female fighter for whom she has great respect but that same respect is not reciprocated. The challenge is enhanced by a scene in which Francesca flubs a leg drop and ends up giving the other woman a bloody nose. It's a moment most of us would probably not want on our highlight reels, but Francesca uses it to connect with the viewer.

Anyone who has ever been derided in their job by a superior or co-worker with more experience will certainly feel her pain in this scene. Certainly the more experienced wrestler does not soften the moment by throwing her experience in Francesca's face. Being her occupation is fighting, she plans what a lot of us would probably like to do with a superior or co-worker: taking it into the ring with her.

The challenge Francesca faces is a gripping part of the film. Though many will probably make a connection to Rocky in an underdog story, and that certainly is illustrated by the use of the movie poster at one point in the film, for me the connection is with Here Comes the Boom, the Kevin James film of a teacher who gets involved in ultimate fighting to save another teacher's career. In that film there is a moment in the final match where Kevin's character tries to touch knuckles with his opponent, a show of respect, but the opponent refuses. By the start of the third round his opponent touches knuckles with him because he has earned his respect.

Here Comes the Boom is a story. Some are not going to make the connection with earning your opponent's respect. Ballerina I'm Not drives this home with showing first the uphill battle, well illustrated by one scene, Francesca faces just by being a woman in the fighting sports as well the battle she faces as the underdog against a contemporary. Maybe men just have to touch knuckles, but a woman has to jump hurdles...and lots of them.

And as I often ask myself when I wrap up a review, and you're probably sick and tired of it, is where do I go in rating this? At it's most basic level of telling a compelling story it succeeds very well. At another level of making it compelling beyond the skin factor to a guy who not only proudly proclaims to be a fan of sleaze but is no fan of wrestling, it succeeds very well. At a minimum I would rate such a film 3 Plus Fingers. But the connection with the audience and the gripping underdog part of the film has me wanting to take my rating up a notch. And of all things I just upgraded my rating while I was writing this last paragraph. To hell with just a notch.

My Rating: 5 Fingers. I give it a high five!

Ballerina I'm Not Website

Ballerina I'm Not on Twitter

Ballerina I'm Not on Amazon Video

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Friday Night 80s Party is Back on December 15

First of all if you follow me and have never experienced one of my Friday Night 80s Party nights, let me apologize for what I am about to do to your Twitter and Facebook newsfeeds.

Friday Night 80s Party is where I post music videos, links to YouTube, relating to a theme for that particular night, plus nostalgia and trivia as well. I used to run one fairly regularly from 8-9pm EST, but a lack of a very reliable internet connection at the time, and an even more unreliable work schedule, made it difficult to keep it up. Well it's going to return on Friday December 15th with a few changes for a special edition.


The special theme for the coming Friday Night 80s Party will be videos, trivia and nostalgia related to ghosts and scary movies. This special edition will run from 8-10pm and will coincide with a fundraiser event to get donations for Chad Meisenheimer's short horror film Little Girl in White which is in the pre-production stages and most importantly needs to get the financing in order before they can start because people do like to be paid.

Little Girl in White

Little Girl in White is going to be the second short film of a trilogy. The first film was Nite Nite and was inspired by 80s horror movies, especially babysitter horror, and was even set in the 80s. Little Girl in White is going to be an Asian style horror film set in the 90s. As you can see each film in the trilogy is a tribute to a different decade in horror movies using a theme and style that was popular during that decade.

They need to put together $6,000 just to get rolling. Compared to a big studio Hollywood film this is not even a drop in the bucket, but for independent filmmakers, people who often work regular jobs like you and me just to pay the bills, this is a lot of money and they are most likely not going to make it back.

So how can you help?

Every dollar you give to the campaign to fund the film is one dollar closer they are to starting filming. Chad has a crowdfunding page setup on IndieGoGo where you can contribute any amount, and anything at all is helpful.

Friday December 15 8-10pm

You can write it down if you want to, but I will be tweeting about it from now until Friday the 15th. The Friday Night 80s Party will run for 2 hours from 8-10pm EST and include music videos from the 80s as well from the 70s and of course the 90s. Trivia and nostalgia, like commercials, will be tweeted as well. And in between them I will includes links to the Little Girl in White crowdfunding page.

Let's see if we can't get this off the ground for Chad and his crew.

Toxic Fletch

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Lisa Ovies to Direct Beverly Hills Lizard People

Cthulhu Crush Productions have announced that filmmaker Lisa Ovies will direct horror-comedy Beverly Hills Lizard People.

Written by Cthulhu Crush’s Jody Wheeler, Beverly Hills Lizard People is described as a mix of Slither and Scream, and tells of an ancient race of shape-shifting Lizard People from the depths of the Earth who return to the surface to reclaim what was once theirs: Beverly Hills.

An estimated 12.5 million Americans believe in the existence of Lizard People.

Wheeler and Steve Parker produce for Cthulhu Crush Productions alongside I No.Films.

Ovies is an award winning producer, director and actress. Her feature Taking My Parents to Burning Man took home audience choice awards at the Sonoma International Film Festival, the Newport Beach Film Festival and the Maui Film Festival. Puppet Killer, currently in post-production, has gotten huge buzz and anticipation based on its unique premise.

“Lisa got BHLP from word one. She not only got the horror elements, but the moments of humor peppered through the script, laughs that emerged from the terror, not in spite of it,” Wheeler said.

“Everyone swears they’ve met people who were not quite human,” Parker said. “Who knows? They may indeed have been shape-shifting reptilians looking to rule the world.  Or just looking to improve their tan.”

“I had to direct this,” Ovies said. “It’s a crazy blend of horror, humor, and personal empowerment — precisely the kind of stories I love to tell. I’m looking forward to getting people to wonder what’s really beneath the skin of their best friends or loved ones.”

Ovies is represented by Moving Pictures Talent & Entertainment Group. Her IMDb page.

Beverly Hills Lizard People will be the fourth Cthulhu Crush Production, whose films include Love, Colin and the current horror flick WTF!. Wheeler and Parker were also creatives on cult hits Judas Kiss and The Dark Place.

Production is slated to begin Summer 2018, in Vancouver, Canada.

Official Synopsis

Disturbed from their ancient slumber by the excavation of a cross-town subway, the ancient reptilian masters of a faded empire strike out to reclaim what was once theirs: Beverly Hills.

Ground zero for their invasion? A once popular, though now faded, hotel, currently the site of a reality TV cooking show competition, and directly overhead of their secret city. Can the collection of unlikely contestants — ambitious, backstabbing, and determined — stop the shape-shifting Terrors From Below below before the reptilian ravagers achieve their goal of conquering first Beverly Hills and then the world?

Jody Wheeler
CEO & Creative Partner

Jody Wheeler is an award-winning creative, based in Los Angeles. He is the writer-producer-director of the 2014 mystery-thriller THE DARK PLACE, the writer of HEAT WAVE, the producer JUDAS KISS and the forthcoming WTF!. He wrote for the groundbreaking TV series “Inside / Outside The Beltway.” His short film “In The Closet” was nominated for the 2008 IRIS Prize. He’s a graduate of the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program.

Steve Parker
CFO & Creative Partner

Steve Parker is an award-winning editor and executive producer, based in San Francisco. He directed, shot and edited the music video of Tom Robinson’s “Loved By You”, produced  the shorts “Begging for Change”, and “Barbie Boy,” and the feature films JUDAS KISS, THE DARK PLACE, and the forthcoming WTF!. He recently directed the short “Love, Colin”, set to premiere in 2016.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Want Me to Promote Your Film with Cartoon Captions?

No, I'm not offering a pay for promotion service, or any kind of paid service. This is just something I do for fun, that coincidentally can help to promote your indie film using humor; and also sates my sadistic tendencies for torture. :)

Some of you, yeah the both of you, have probably noticed the captioned screencaps I have been using to promote Slashening 2's crowdfunding. I started this on my own initiative promoting the release of Fear Town, USA and the first The Slashening on Blu-ray. The reason why is because if you've seen their work you already know they have a damn good sense of humor. And frankly, having seen the ending of Fear Town, USA, they pretty much set a line that would be hard to cross. They promised to cross that line in Slashening 2, and I'm not sure I want to see what can cross that line. O.O

Of course the point of that rambling is that Brandon and Rey have provided me with screencaps to use, perhaps at times regretfully on their part, and I don't know if there is such a thing as going too far when the picture you're starting with has a plate of vagina on the wall. But to do the same thing with others' films might offend someone.

If you want me to promote your film with my captioning, you'll have to tell me, and of course either provide screencaps or provide a download I can screencap myself. And of course you'll have to have a good sense of humor.

Before you ask me, have a look at some of the captioning I did for Slashening 2:

If you still have the daring and gumption to ask, contact me on my Twitter or Facebook page. And don't forget you can support the making of Slashening 2 by donating on their GoFundMe page.

Toxic Fletch

Friday, November 17, 2017

Movie Review: Skybound (2017)

Skybound (2017) - USA - Action/Disaster - Not Rated (14+)
Written and Directed by Alex Tavakoli
Starring Scarlett Byrne, Rick Cosnett, Gavin Stenhouse, Tyler Fayose, Carla Carolina Pimentel, Morten Suurballe, Jerry Coyle

An interesting premise with good direction and cast is riddled with clichés bringing it down like a jet plane out of fuel.

Five friends board a plane going from New York to California. What starts out as a joyride becomes terror as media outages and loss of contact with the ground leaves them to wonder what is happening below, and if they'll even be able to land.

It sounds interesting, and I don't doubt it could have been. With capable direction and a good cast it starts off promising. It's not long before "seen this...expected that" comes to the forefront of ones thoughts. You know you're in a nosedive to hell when you get the bravado rallying speech complete with musical accompaniment. I mean for Green Acres or Animal House this works because of the ridiculousness of it, but for something taking itself as serious it becomes its own self-parody.

Other elements in this with no bang for their buck include a love triangle which wilted the rose before it even had a chance, the most impotent bad guy I've seen in a movie of recent memory and a mixed bag of special effects from really good to video game quality, and I don't mean a good video game at that. And that is the film's problem in a nutshell is there was potential here too often ambushed by cheap one-offs.

From a standpoint of average fare for SyFy you could use to fill time, this would fit as it is entertaining enough for that. Perhaps I'm just being down on it as there was potential here to be more than that and it was brought down by screenwriting 101 checklisting: love triangle, check; bad guy, check; bravado speech, check; heroic sacrifice, check. To add to that the ending of this is truly "how the hell!?"

I would give standard SyFy time fillers 2 Fingers, but there are at least some better elements here such as the direction and a good cast.

My Rating: 2 Fingers Plus.

You can get Skybound on DVD or VOD from Amazon Video.