Reviews

Periodically I do reviews of note-worthy movies screening at film festivals and markets.   In many cases, this is the films’ debut screening and the review provides an initial online presence as well as industry recognition.  Also included in this listing are a few short films.   By clicking on the title, you can see the full review.

“The Challenger” – Fight for Who You Are
With the help of legendary boxing trainer, (Michael Clarke Duncan), a struggling Bronx auto mechanic (Kent Moran) turns to boxing to prevent him and his mother (S. Epatha Merkerson) from living on the streets.

“The Big Lonely” – Surviving in Isolation
“The Big Lonely” documents the seventh winter of Michael Nelms’ isolation in the Oregon wilderness. This self-shot account reveals his choice to retreat to a remote forest hideout instead of living under a bridge as a homeless man

“All I Need” – A Sinister Call for Blood
An excruciating tale of an insecure young woman trapped in a room with dead or unconscious young women, gagged and bound clad only in their underwear.  She must overcome her captor to save her own life while not knowing the sinister reason she’s being held.

“The One I Love,” Fantasy Retreat Mends Broken Marriage
With spectacular performances by Mark Duplass and Elisabeth Moss, Charlie McDowell’s confident directorial debut “The One I Love,” brings a crowd-pleasing premise having savory twists that stretch the boundaries of numerous genres. It also navigates that marital mine field of a deteriorating relationship with insightful observations, some comic, some tragic, but always authentic.

The Book Thief 
She finds her love of reading as a way to shut out the horrors of Nazi Germany. She steals them, shares them, and uses their words and thoughts to nurture those around her.  In doing so, she creates a magical world that inspires them all.

Chinese Puzzle, a French Comedy with Escalating Complications
When his wife leaves him and moves to New York with his two children, he follows to be closer to them.  There is finds his life complicated by the women in his life, his ex-wife, the women to whom he donated sperm to have a baby and her lesbian partner, and an ex-girlfriend who visits with her two children.  The film is a charming French comedy about a man trying to solve the puzzle of his life.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
This self-investigation of a deteriorating marriage as seen through the eyes of the respective parties shows how too much analysis harms a relationship.  The film is actually two feature-length films shown back-to-back and subtitled “Him” and “Her” respectively.  The film stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy and because of its 190-minute length and confusing structure it faces numerous distribution obstacles.

The Right Kind of Wrong
A failed writer turned dishwasher is made famous for his many flaws and shortcoming by his ex-wife’s successful blog “Why You Suck.”  Then, he meets the girl of his dreams on the day she is marrying the perfect man.  As the ultimate underdog, he becomes the fearless dreamer and strives to show her and the whole world all that is right with a man famous for being wrong.

“Insidious” is classic haunted house movie with scary gotchas and mounting dread.
Insidious is a classic haunted house movie with scary gotchas and mounting dread.  One could feel manipulated as you journey through this story, yet for the masochistic audience that enjoys a scary spine-tingling trip, this is definitely your ride.

Anti People (short)
Anti People is about an intervention that goes bad.  When he tries to make amends with his brother, a recluse it results in a bloody tragedy.

“StreetDance” – Dance worlds collide in this vibrant film about competitive street dancing.
Dance worlds collide in this vibrant, uplifting film about competitive street dancing.  It’s tutus vs. the hoodies in a face-off at the barre as street dancer and ballet trainees are forced to share rehearsal space.

 Jesus Comes to Town (short)
An unexpected guest visits an underworld poker game and leaves a better man. There are no gimmes in poker, no do-overs.  Its a game where names and titles mean little and where random selection, luck, and skill rein over the golden rule; much like life.

Photo Op
After discovering the corpse of a fallen starlet, two deranged paparazzi compete to take their best shot.

In Fidelity
(short)
In Fidelity is a comedic cautionary tale about foibles of online dating especially for those that are married.  Brilliantly acted, this short film skillfully pulls us into the rocky world of a marriage gone astray.

The Other Irene
Based on real life events, The Other Irene is an adaptation that fails to structure a compelling story.   In an attempt to be faithful to actual events, the film looses much of its momentum in redundant long scenarios that had little dramatic inertia.

“Road, Movie” is a journey of a young man from indifference to enlightenment
“Road, Movie” is a journey of a young man traveling from indifference to compassion, from confusion to purpose, and argues that there is more to life than money and materialism.  Delivering an old truck carrying a library of film reels and a projector, young Vishnu begins an odyssey across the Rajasthan desert befriending a young runaway, a gorgeous gypsy, and wise old man. It becomes a magical journey of enlightenment.

The Loneliest Road in America
Two college buddies travel from Denver to Los Angeles, one a binge drinker the other a sulking moody bartender seeking a better job.  

Movie Review – “The Greatest” a deeply moving film about grief starring Pierce Brosnan
“The Greatest” is a deeply moving and challenging film about grief and about how a family survives the lost of their near perfect son.  The film stars Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon as an affluent couple whose lives are shattered when their oldest son is killed in a car crash.  When his girlfriend, injured in the accident, shows up three months pregnant, emotions turn in a different direction.

“Wake” A quirky romantic/comedy with a quandary of mishaps and escalating pretenses
He applies makeup, as she lies on the mortician’s table seemingly dead.  The scene sets the tone of this movie, a quirky romantic comedy that travels through a quandary of mishaps and escalating pretenses

 “Weather Girl” A Frothy Romantic Comedy Starring Tricia O’Kelley
: “Weather Girl” is a frothy romantic comedy about a “sassy TV weather girl” who has an on-air meltdown. After her career suicide brought on by her sleazy two-timing anchor/boyfriend, she is forced to move in with her younger brother. Advice by her girlfriends to get back on her feet, get a job and find a man brings a women’s viewpoint to the story in a comic and ironic way. 

Branson
Personal demons and backstage battles are the essence of this heartfelt documentary about the dreams of stardom on the strip-mall stages of Branson, MO. The real find in this documentary is the incredibly talented Johnny Cash impersonator Jackson Cash who walks away a star.

“Stephanie’s Image” Who was she, to others and to herself?
When a documentary filmmaker investigates the apparent murder of a former model, she finds that there are numerous questions surrounding the Stephanie’s death. The film stars Oscar nominated actress Melissa Leo (Frozen River) in the title role as the nebulous entity everyone is attempting to identify.

 Dropping In
“Dropping In” is a documentary-style narrative about a 42-year old accountant who gives up his job and recommits himself to becoming a professional skateboarder.  Never mind that he’s more than twice the age of average pro skater, can’t skate very well, and is constantly drinking and smoking.

Open Your Eyes (short)
“Open Your Eyes” is a journey of self-discovery for a young woman as she struggles and comes to terms with her life and marriage after breast cancer.  This short film explores the complex relationship women have with their bodies and what happens when a part of their femininity and sexuality is suddenly taken away.

“Desertion” is a Hallmark Card to Women Caught in a Deteriorating Marriage
Starring Kim Rhodes and Brian Krause, “Desertion” is a Hallmark card to women caught in a deteriorating marriage.  A callous self-center husband is the catalyst for the breakup and though she once had everything, she now realizes she has nothing.  Getting on a train to the “middle of nowhere”, she searches for the life she dreamed of having.

 “The Run”
“The Run” is a riveting entry from Australian-born producer/director/writer Tania Meneguzzi.  A struggling young couple seeking excitement, bargains, and easy cash is drawn into the world of drug smuggling and begins a tragic descent into oblivion.

 “Boob Jobs & Jesus” (short)
“Boob Jobs & Jesus” is a hilarious short subject comedy about Carlin, a young author who attempts to cope with the neuroses inflicted by her narcissistic eccentric mother.  All the pain and suffering she has endured she vents into her debut novel.

 “Imagine a School-Summerhill” – Innovative boarding school faces government closure
“Imagine a School-Summerhill” is a documentary about a famous coed alternative boarding school facing closure by the British Government.  One-size-fits-all bureaucrats, wanting to impose structure, discipline, and standardize methods, question its unconventional learning process.  It’s a battle of the pragmatic vs. we-know-best suppression.

 “The Last Blast”
“The Last Blast” is a road film, a journey where the Spirit of the Sixties battles the fight for today. It’s a trip back in time when the open road meant freedom and the words peace and love had real meaning.

“Unfinished Sky” a powerful, poetic and sensual Australian love story
“Unfinished Sky” is a powerful, poetic and sensual love story that peels away layers of pain and mistrust to reveal the true beauty of humanity, its freedom, hopes and choices. An Afghani woman held captive in a brothel flees to the safety of an Australian outback farmer.  Together, they recover their faith in themselves and their trust in humanity.

“Alice’s House” is an extraordinary Brazilian film brilliantly conceived and acted
“Alice’s House” is an extraordinary Brazilian film brilliantly conceived and well worth seeing.  This kitchen drama is a refreshing naturalistic look at an urban middle-class Sao Paulo family, one that is thrown into turmoil by sexual and emotional betrayals.

“That Day” [1 Journée] is the mosaic mystery about a dysfunctional family
“That Day” [1 Journée] is the story about a dysfunctional family and how one haphazard encounter becomes the turning point towards a new beginning.  It’s a convoluted mosaic, a mystery actually, that slowly takes shape and reveals much about the perplexity, sadness and irony of their disconnected lives

Movie Review – “Lady Chatterley” A passionate visual banquet, a film to be savored
Pascale Ferran’s passionate visual banquet about a whirlwind affair between an aristocratic lady and her husband’s gamekeeper is a film to be savored. This sensible and sensitive transformation of DH Lawrence’s scandalous book is a joyous declaration about love and the journey it takes traveling from shattered lives to rebirth.

“Rocket Science” demonstrates that life is anything but an exact science
A touching heartfelt drama, “Rocket Science” demonstrates that life is anything but an exact science.  This edgy film, with its witty writing and thoughtful theme, celebrates the determination of a high school student trying to overcome his speech impediment.

“Charlie Bartlett” – a rollicking pied piper story, about an adolescent coming-of-age
The film “Charlie Bartlett” is a rollicking pied piper story subversive enough to attract young film goers yet has the moral fiber to gain the accolades of more mature audiences.  In this adolescent coming-of-age movie, gaining popularity is the central theme.

“August Evening” reweaves the fabric of a torn family where change is inevitable
Chris Eska’s debut feature is about an undocumented Texas farm worker who takes to the road with his widowed daughter-in-law after losing his wife and his job in rapid succession.  In this unhurried drama, the story centers on the difficulty young and old have in expressing both their love and disappointment in each other.

 “Interview”
“Interview” stars Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller in a sexually charged film about media, truth, and celebrity.  The movie plays like rush hour traffic on the 405 freeway on the worse of all possible days and in this scenario, the audience becomes lookie-loos drawn into one verbal collision after another.

 How Not to Make a Short Film (Book Review)
As I read “How Not to Make a Short Film” I felt more and more cheated, not by the book but by my film school.  Why hadn’t my instructors taught me this stuff?  This is a book every film student, every filmmaker must read before writing, producing, or directing a short film.