About adamthemoviegod

I am a 31 year old guy that lives for tv and film. I spend majority of my free time watching anything and everything and try to save people some time by telling them what I think is worth watching and what's not! All different genres/budgets it doesn't bother me! if you have got something you want reviewing let me know and I will be happy to accommodate. You can contact me at adam.weber@bigpond.com /path/to/nanospell/getstarted.html

Chase (Review) Loyalty means everything…

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CHASE

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by saying thank you to Writer/Director, Michael Matteo Rossi (Sable) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest Crime/Drama film “Chase”. Chase follows a hitman (played by Damien Puckler of TV’s Grimm) who must ultimately choose between his line of work with mentor and friend Miles (Aries Spears), or his girlfriend (Jessica Morris) and her wishes for him to leave the business behind and join her and her young son. The film also stars Devanny Pinn (Party Bus To Hell), Richard Riehle (Fear Inc.), Harry Hains, and Paul Duke.

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Rossi’s previous venture came in the form of Sable *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/sable-review-2/ a film ultimately about choices and relationships. Once again, Rossi delves into the criminal underbelly of Los Angeles in Chase and explores the repercussions that come with wanting out of the life. Each of Michael’s independently made films has boasted solid production values and Chase is no different. The neo-noir inspired color palette looks quite sharp, particularly the pinks, which really pop. There’s a cautionary tale element in here and it comes via narration from Chase, and in turn, lead actor Puckler. DP, Jason Weary (Sable) reteams with Rossi and offers up a lot of really great two-shots over the course of the film. The audio track is nicely elevated in the mix and Salil Bhayani generates a “Drive” inspired synth pumping track to open proceedings – though it’s a bit of a shame the introduction itself isn’t anywhere near as memorable as Refn’s driving sequence. The performances are generally serviceable, with the dynamics between Damien and Jessica the standout characteristic. Puckler spends a majority of the runtime as the strong but silent type and happens to bear a striking resemblance to fellow actors Jamie Dornan and Eric Bana. Though he certainly flaunts a much more enhanced physique than that pairing. Morris undoubtedly brings the emotional component to the table and I enjoyed watching bit players in Pinn and Riehle do their thing as well. Chase doesn’t have a lot in the way of action but James Poirer’s brief fight choreography does work well.

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From a technical point of view, not everything in Chase works exactly as it should. I noticed a couple of small focus issues, though to be fair, they may have been intentional stylistic choices. Either way, they weren’t a great look. The same could be said of some of the Steadicam use on display too. I’d love to have seen a little more in the way of practical blood spray in the aftermath of the shootings, rather than the reliance on CG spurts. If I’m being critical, I’d argue that sections of the dialogue in Chase are either weak or unnecessarily crass. The film has more profanity than what feels natural for the material. I was disappointed with the lack of on-screen violence as well, given that from the outside this looked as though it might be a little more high octane than it ultimately ended up being. At times it seems almost bereft of atmosphere, made all the more obvious by Chase’s necessity to narrate all his thoughts and fears, spelling out for the viewer any of the potential nuances that may have been offered up. Chase is constantly trying to show us the ropes, but in actual fact ends up divulging very little of any worth. The most interesting part of the film can be found in the interactions between Chase and Miles but the film is crying out for some much-needed clarity and substance on the machinations of that supposed lifelong “friendship”. We gain some useful information at the height of the climax but there’s very little to go on prior to that. Rossi opts for a montage of seemingly irrelevant “marks” being dealt with rather than hinting at the truth behind the darkest of Chase’s depths.

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Chase is a solid little indie Crime/Drama from an up and coming young filmmaker in Michael Matteo Rossi. Once again, the production value is really high in regard to both the cinematography and lighting, which are quite well crafted. The audio track is clean and the synth portion of the score helps to surge the mood. Performances are pretty consistent across the board and the climax proves to be fairly entertaining. On a sour note, some of the attention to detail is lacking and chunks of the dialogue aren’t great either. There’s an inordinate amount of narration declared by our protagonist that seemingly endeavors to cover for the lack of on-screen action – it’s a little on the heavy-handed though. Further world building certainly wouldn’t have gone astray, namely surrounding the relationship between Chase and Miles. As it stands, Chase is worth a one watch but I don’t know how much value there is to be had in multiple viewings. Go ahead and check out the trailer below and keep an eye out for the film coming soon!

My rating for “Chase” is 5.5/10

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Us (Review) Where two worlds collide…

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US

 

THE SETUP

Not all that long ago, Jordan Peele (Key and Peele), Writer/Actor since turned Director, was a name synonymous with his comedy sketch show. Dare I say that his 2017 directorial debut “Get Out” re-invented themes in horror and made fans stand up and take notice, even forcing them to reassess the limitless possibilities of the genre and the potential for change. Despite Get Out being guilty of stretching credibility in its characters logic and mindset surrounding the foundations of the Armitage families extracurricular activities, it cast quite the unique spotlight upon racial tensions and how we perceive each other in any given social situation, all the while maintaining enjoyable roots in both the horror and thriller genres. “Us”, Peele’s latest, certainly pays homage to many a film that has come before it, but like any good artist, the man injects multiple themes and fresh ideas into a narrative not so beyond the realms of reality in this day and age. Us is very much a Mystery/Sci-Fi film that can be likened to an episode of “The Twilight Zone” rather than the conventional horror film studios would have you believe it is. Husband and Wife, Adelaide and Gabe (played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke), along with their teenage daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and young son Jason (Evan Alex), are enjoying a beachside vacation in sunny LA when they end up in a fight for survival after their home is invaded by “tethered” doppelgangers. The film also stars Elisabeth Moss (TV’s The Handmaid’s Tale), Tim Heidecker, and Madison Curry.

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Us begins with a rather unusual matter of fact statement. One that basically informs the viewer that in the United States alone, there are countless miles of undiscovered subway and subterranean tunnels. They simply don’t appear to have any purpose. I, like most, didn’t think anything of that declaration at the time. However, after 90 minutes had passed, that seemingly irrelevant sidenote revealed itself to be of major significance. Only with hindsight do you realize that from the opening long take of a young girl watching a box TV (with VHS’s of films like “CHUD” and “A Nightmare On Elm St” nearby), unknowingly absorbing imagery for “Hands Across America” – a nationwide food drive, that the pieces of the puzzle have begun to take shape and do so in the most methodical of ways. Key pointers and information of note are almost always drip-fed to you and only when Peele feels it necessary to do so. There’s a duality in almost everything we see throughout Us, you just don’t know it until you know it. The title credit sequence is a prime example. A simple and slow reverse tracking shot that plays to a tonally peculiar operatic vocal track with drumming and a choir backing it. Initially, the frame opens tight on a rabbit in a cage and eventually pulls back to reveal a classroom wall full of rabbits in cages. Is it a metaphor? See for yourself. Us is full of moments like that.

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The beginning of the film takes place at an amusement park in the mid to late ’80s, where we’re introduced to a young girl (played by Curry). Amidst a fun-filled family night, the little girl becomes separated from her parents and winds up in a house of mirrors. Cut to modern-day and the Wilson family arriving at their vacation home. The characterization in Us could be clarified as stock standard, but I actually think that’s just Peele’s way of highlighting that we’re all the same. The representation of this black family is undoubtedly the same as what it would have been had all the actors had been white. Never has there been a more accurate depiction of the embarrassing dad than with Duke’s character of Gabe. He’s a likable oafish guy almost solely responsible for the films comedic relief. A number of the scenes involving him are quite funny, namely the boat antics and some of his one-liners. Young actors in Joseph and Alex are perhaps guilty of the odd dip in intensity, but that’s nothing to scoff at given their limited experience in front of a camera. They play their dual roles really effectively, with Zora’s habit being her phone addiction, and Jason’s trademark a lighter that supposed to be some sort of magic trick – one that he can’t quite pull off. Joseph’s focus shines through once tethered Zora makes her entrance, whereas Alex gets to revel in more expressive manners as his tethered sports a Nomex hood and grunts away.

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Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years A Slave and Black Panther) absolutely steals the show in Us, simultaneously delivering both an unnerving and convulsive rhythm of her tethered character (complete with tics and damaged vocal cords), as well as playing up the defensive and frightened exterior of her motherly, Adelaide. Peele’s script is rich and layered and that allows Lupita to go for broke in this world of duplication. On the technical front, this is a great looking film with atmospheric lighting, sharp sounds, and a superb score. DP, Mike Gioulakis (It Follows) sets it all in motion with smart and simple cinematography. There are a lot of sweeping wide shots and intimate close-ups, the focus often on Adelaide and her ever-growing fears. The foley is extremely effective, and Get Out composer Michael Abels ups his game yet again with an eclectic, unique, and chilling score. Luniz’s rap track “I Got 5 On It” is used in such a great way and the orchestral strokes help to generate most of the film’s tension. Peele ups the violence this time around as well, with more practical blood spray and a few surprisingly aggressive moments. In one particular scene, a number of characters are surprisingly set upon and the audience witnesses it from outside the house looking in – really unexpected and cool stuff.

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WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD (OTHERWISE SKIP STRAIGHT TO RATING)

The biggest issue with Us lies with the studio clearly having mismarketed this one as a home invasion type Horror film. Whilst the premise has an element of the genre to it and the trailer was eye-catching and really well cut, Us is a Mystery/Sci-Fi film, make no mistake about it. It’s problematic and somewhat disappointing if you choose to look at this as the former because the result simply isn’t scary. A majority of the suspense permeates purely through Abel’s “Hitchcockian” score, very little is actually manufactured through any of the scenes or imagery. I, for one, didn’t have an issue with it because I was so engrossed in the mystery of it all – much the same as with Peele’s debut feature. Some of Duke’s comedic relief does fall flat or feels ill-timed, most notably throughout the third act. By and large, the bulk of the score was fantastic, although Minnie Riperton’s “Les Fleurs” is a bit too bohemian for the tone of the film and better suited to something like “Harold and Maude”, despite somewhat fitting the final shots. There are so many finer points to delve into and dissect when you look at a film like Us. It’s strongest when Peele lets the imagery speak for itself, as there’s almost always a decipherable meaning behind even the most inconsequential of things, be it the unconventional means of communication between doppelgangers, a toy ambulance becoming the focus of a shot or a frisbee landing on a particular spot. All that said, not everything adds up, and what I mean by that is that certain things only come into play when it’s convenient for the narrative – in turn calling credibility into question.

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I’ll break down the film blow for blow and discuss what works and what doesn’t. So, my read on it is that at some point in time the government began experimenting with cloning people, doing so underground with the intention of basically controlling the masses. These clones are referred to as the “tethered” (living down below), meaning they are connected through DNA to their “above” selves. A young Adelaide enters the house of mirrors in the first act and encounters her tethered. Now, we’re led to believe that the tethered involuntarily mimic everything that their above selves do and therefore they’re forced into an existence that simply isn’t their own (hence they can’t leave the underground). Later we see that there’s always been a clear path in an out of the house of mirrors (you’d have to assume there are many more in other locations) so tethered Adelaide only encounters her real counterpart because young Adelaide went in there in the first place. At first, Us just appears to be a contained nightmare for the Wilson family as each one of them ultimately faces off against their tethered. Early into the second act though, it’s revealed that the occurrence is actually an America wide attack and everyone has their very own tethered trying to kill them. The tethered have their own means of communication too, and the only one that appears to speak is Red/Adelaide. It turns out that they never learned a language and were essentially left to fend for themselves down below.

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The first sign that all is not what it seems comes in the form of a monologue by Red to Adelaide, and it’ll have you thinking back to some of the things you’ve seen prior. Her irrational fear of the beach (stemming back to her childhood visit to the amusement park) and her inability or want to communicate socially with friends. Red paints a vivid picture of the stark differences between her families lives in comparison to Adelaide’s. Gabe goes toe to toe on the boat with his tethered in Abraham, Zora’s clone Umbrae stalks her on a nearby road under the dim street light, and Pluto (Jason’s tethered) seems hell-bent on seeing Jason’s magic trick with the lighter. Eventually, things come full circle and Adelaide reluctantly heads back to where it all started – the house of mirrors. It’s down below where she finds Red reveling in having bought all the tethered’s together for Hands Across America (think back to the promotional footage in the very beginning). It’s here where all the memories of Adelaide/Red are unveiled, as we see that while young Adelaide was enjoying the park as a child, her tethered was witnessing the same actions being aimlessly acted out down below. Instead of people eating fairy floss and candy, they’re eating rabbits from cages. Rather than letting loose on a rollercoaster, patrons are stuck shaking in doorways. A game of whack-a-mole sees her father hitting a padded wall in replace. This all leads to Adelaide and her tethered ultimately coming face to face where we learn that Red was embraced by the people below as a sort of prophet or savior. She was inevitably responsible for the revolt. From there, a showdown takes place in the form of a cleverly choreographed dance/fight sequence that showcases Adelaide’s ballet talents (of which can ultimately be telegraphed by Red).

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There is one final twist in Us which I won’t spoil. Some said they saw the final reveal coming, but I think it takes supreme levels of deception to hook the audience, have them swear by it, only to then change their mind shortly thereafter and be fooled because they realize they had it right all along. There can be no denying that the biggest stretch in probability with the virtual existence of this “other world” is the logistics behind it. We know the government is responsible for a lot and can do a lot, but I think even that’s a reach for them. It means in order to take this seriously, we’re supposed to believe that the government cloned an entire country, realized they failed and decided to keep them all secure underground. They then somehow stocked the underpasses with enough rabbits to feed millions (survive on), materials to make countless identical jumpsuits, gloves, and scissors… I mean c’mon, seriously. How many years did this experiment go on for? Because there are no signs of decay or death down there. Not to mention that all the kids would’ve had to have been born at some point and there were no signs of any facilities to cater for that. There are no explanations for all those missing details and that’s a problem. Peele could’ve at least aesthetically alluded to a few of those things on how the government may have assisted. Then you’ve got the whole notion of the tethered replicating what the “above” do. That only holds up when Peele wants it to. Initially, it seems like Jason/Pluto are the only pair piloted by the former’s actions (just look to him walking back into the fire). Clearly, while Jason has been failing to ignite the lighter, Pluto has been bearing the brunt of the flame down below. That establishment renders itself contradictory though when Pluto clicks his fingers at Adelaide because Jason never actually clicked them in the car he just nodded to the music. As for Gabe and Zora, they don’t appear to wield any control over their doppelgangers, begging the question as to why it’s only Jason and Adelaide?

Us might not be the masterpiece everyone wanted it to be, however, it’s a wholly original and vastly entertaining film that’ll get you thinking more than anything else that the genre has had to offer up in recent times. This one’s unapologetically a Twilight Zone melting pot consisting of equal parts Shyamalan and Kubrick by way of “The Machinist”. In addition, the countless references to some of Peele’s favorites are a good bit of fun. The cinematography is stylish, the sound is crisp, and the score is one of the best of the year thus far. Acting is strong across the board with Nyong’o delivering one hell of a performance (that should garner attention come award season – another reason not to call this a horror film). I certainly can’t look past those issues but I still loved this film. I’ve seen it twice and I think it’s a clever piece of cinema that warrants further viewings. Go ahead and check out the trailer below and be sure to catch it in theaters now!

My rating for “Us” is 7.5/10

Book Of Monsters (Review) You’ve gotta fight for your right to party!

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BOOK OF MONSTERS

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thanks to both Michelle Vezilj at Epic Pictures, and Dark Rift Films for allowing me early access to an online screener of the new Horror/Comedy “Book Of Monsters”, Written by Paul Butler and Directed by Stewart Sparke (The Creature Below). Book Of Monsters introduces us to reserved teenager, Sophie (Lyndsey Craine) whose still dealing with the mysterious death of her mother. On the eve of her 18th birthday, Sophie’s friends Mona and Beth (Michaela Longden and Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton) attempt to get her out of her comfort zone by spreading the word about their party, and before you know it half the town descends on her quaint home looking for a good time. What begins as a normal night of festivities, takes a turn for the worse when a seductive stranger (played by Steph Mossman) unleashes bloodthirsty monsters on the party. The film also stars Anna Dawson, Rose Muirhead, Daniel Thrace, and Arron Dennis.

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Book Of Monsters is a self-explanatory blend of low-budget horror and comedy, clearly inspired by the likes of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” and lesser known’s like “Night Of The Demons” and “Deadly Spawn”. Production value is noticeably high in most facets. This is DP, Hamish Saks first time on a feature-length film and he takes advantage of some nice early silhouetted light in order to create a smooth and effective hallway tracking shot. All the framing is consistent and a number of soft zooms give the film a slick look and feel. The audio track is bumped up nicely, and if nothing else, Dave Walker’s synth tones are at least unique (in my opinion some work and some don’t). A shout out to Butler, Sparke, and anyone else responsible for casting. Craine is incredibly well cast to play the teenage daughter of Samantha Mesagno, and what’s more, is that young Sophie (played by Jessica Fay) pairs up brilliantly too. The performances are generally serviceable without anyone necessarily transcending what’s on the page.

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Butler incorporates a couple of humorous specifics that will no doubt call to mind personal experiences for some. Such as the potential for embarrassment regarding having your parent think that you’re still as eager to spend that special day with them as you were when you were ten (and showcasing that accordingly). Book Of Monsters has a quick run time and proceeds to give you a peek at its “Lovecraftian” inspired shapeshifting monster that’s at the core of the story. It’s conceived practically and looks impressive, so to the evil book and its design. Despite the clear use of familiar stock sounds from the “imp” (remember the fireball throwing demons from Doom?) which I guess was used to elevate that component, I still enjoyed the practical blood and gore regarding said monsters. There are gory moments of dismemberment and beheading, both on the human and monster front, and the climactic action sees a chainsaw come into play (albeit only briefly and mostly off-screen).

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Book Of Monsters has its fair share of quick-cut edits of medium shots amidst the action and it can be a little much at times. Stretches in credibility rear their ugly head on occasion as well, most notably with some of the cast well and truly pushing to pass for eighteen years old. The music is often too loud in the mix and the demon squealing sometimes peaks out too. I couldn’t decipher much of the shapeshifter’s dialogue due to the particular filter used and Anna Dawson replaces the phrase “boogeyman” with “bogeyman” – yeah, that was weird (or maybe just English). As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of the performances are good but I found Nicholas Vince’s delivery (as Sophie’s Dad) to be a touch stilted, although that could’ve just been due to his character’s somber guise. The look of some of the various monsters and killers isn’t exactly original either, in particular, the figure of “The Slasher” (who looks like the madman from “An American Terror”). Book Of Monsters desperately aims to take a more lighter-hearted approach to its content but ends up under-delivering on genuinely funny comedic moments. Short of the odd one-liner and perhaps the group constantly pronouncing Gary’s name incorrectly, the humor was lacking overall.

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Book Of Monsters doesn’t necessarily come together seamlessly but yet it remains a fast-paced good bit of English horror. It’s a fairly straight forward character raises hell type of deal and Sparke showcases some impressive practical blood and gore that genre fans will enjoy. It’s a slick presentation with solid cinematography, clear audio, and decent performances from a cast with varying amounts of experience. The Lovecraft Esq creations are ambitious and look surprisingly good considering the films modest budget. The design of the one killer does lack originality and some of the films technical facets may have benefited from a little more attention to detail. The balance of humor and horror wasn’t quite at the level I’d hoped for, but the end result is still an entertaining one. Book Of Monsters can be recommended to fans of the genre blend and you can check out the trailer below. The film is now available for purchase through Epic Pictures!

My rating for “Book Of Monsters” is 6/10

90 Feet From Home (Review) The past always catches up with you…

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90 FEET FROM HOME

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to B22 Films and Writer/Director, Brett Bentman (Apocalypse Road and Kreep) for allowing me early access to an online screener of his latest feature film “90 Feet From Home”. 90 Feet From Home is a hard-hitting drama about a fractured family. Scott Conway (played by Adam Hampton), a troubled ex-pro ball player, returns home to face his estranged older brother Tommy (Thom Hallum) and their abusive stepfather James Devine (played by pro-wrestler Shawn Michaels). The film also stars Eric Roberts (The Human Centipede 3), Steven Michael Quezada (TV’S Breaking Bad), Dean Cain (God’s Not Dead), Laura Menzie, and Heather Williams.

Jersey-born Bentman, now a Texas-based filmmaker, initially began writing and directing short films back in 2013. It wasn’t until 2016 and the release of his impressive directorial feature-length debut “Apocalypse Road” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/apocalypse-road-review/ that I began following his work. Since that initial venture into the post-apocalyptic wasteland, Brett has made two more feature films. The intimate and controlled crime/drama film “Kreep” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/kreep-review-2/ and a home invasion-style horror flick called “The Night Before” https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-night-before-review-2/. One of the most beneficial traits Bentman seems to possess is his broad turn of mind regarding branching out. 90 Feet From Home is further evidence of that.

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90 Feet From Home is a well-conceived and simple story about the inevitable ramifications of domestic violence. This small-town Texas setting gives the story an appropriately intimate physicality.  DP, Anthony Gutierrez employs simple framing and nice shot choices to help best display character-driven drama. One such discernible moment comes in the form of a clever upshot where Scott is looking down on his stepfather, it speaks volumes by clearly signaling a change in the dynamics of that power struggle. The audio track is clean, and the understated orchestral and synth score manages to filter through without ever feeling like it’s emotionally manipulating the viewer. A few familiar faces appear in 90 Feet From Home so it’s clear Bentman has a great rapport with his actors.

All the performances are consistently good, and that’s quite rare for an independent drama. Both leads bring different properties to their respective characters and they carry themselves well, in particular, Hallum. Actor, Jaren Lewison (who more than passes for a younger Hallum) might just be the best casting decision, playing the role of teenage Tommy in the first act. Hampton’s characters younger counterpart is played by Chase Pollock (who also turns in a nice performance), though I think the two do look significantly different (I pictured someone more like Kevin Makely). Menzie plays Tommy’s wife Margaret, who’s sort of the grounded and level-headed one despite being kept at arm’s length regarding the Conway family history. Heather Williams handles her emotional moments the strongest of anyone in the film and she plays a character that many will identify with. The surprise packet in 90 Feet From Home is certainly D-Generation X alumni (for those wrestling fans out there haha) Shawn Michaels. A raspy, tired and torn Michaels consciously remains self-contained throughout his depiction of the Conway brothers brutish, mean, and alcoholic stepfather. His customary turn to god just further highlights the notion that religion can serve as a convenient vehicle for vindication – I hate that. Experienced heads in Roberts, Cain, and Quezada round out the cast and deliver a memorable moment or two during their short amount of screen time.

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At a touch over two hours, 90 Feet From Home does feel rather long for an independent film. That’s not to say there’s necessarily much content here that needed scrapping, perhaps just tightening somewhat. If I’m being nitpicky, the interior location used to double for the police station didn’t look entirely credible. A couple of the flatter interactions may have been better off being swapped out for some much-needed baseball content. The closest thing we get to any ball playing is James vehemently swinging a bat at an unsuspecting Scott. Now that wouldn’t be so much of a problem if there weren’t a number of mentions of baseball and that fact that Scott made pro. The inclusion of at least one actual game so the scouts could view him would’ve definitely been wise. It’s also problematic that there’s barely a reaction when Conway returns home (despite having made it to the big time no one in this small town seems to care). The timeline jumping forward fifteen years was always going to make it difficult to age the characters accordingly. Michael’s would’ve benefited from growing his beard out a lot more for the latter part of the film, and Hampton could’ve better resembled an older Chase Pollock if he had of gone for the completely clean-shaven look instead.

90 Feet From Home is a surprisingly heavy hitting character piece that sees Bentman spread his wings once again. With elements from films like “Shotgun Stories” and even Gavin O’Connor’s stellar 2011 film “Warrior”, this one tackles an all too familiar shade of violence. The cinematography is solid, the audio crisp, and the score fittingly somber. Aspects of the casting are superb and the performances are really good right across the board. Hallum is wonderful given his limited experience, Hampton wears the anti-hero badge with pride, and both Laura and Heather drive the emotional punch. Michael’s is restrained but wholly effective in his depiction of an incredibly small-minded man. This type of film is so difficult to get made and rarely do they get it right. If you want something with a little more substance I can safely recommend 90 Feet From Home. You can check out the trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “90 Feet From Home” is 7/10

Hunter (Review) Waging war between fantasy and reality…

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HUNTER

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to start off by thanking Skyfire Productions and Writer/Actor, Jason Kellerman for allowing me early access to an online screener of his independent Horror/Thriller film “Hunter”, Directed by David Tarleton. Hunter (played by Kellerman) centers around a young man of the same name, haunted by a tragic past. Once a dominant brawler, now with unresolved PTSD issues and consigned to a life on the unforgiving streets in Chicago, Hunter grapples with the supernatural truth behind what happened to his family and eventually meets Danni (Rachel Cerda), a caseworker of sorts who may just be the key to his personal salvation. The film also stars Leigh Foster, Ryan Heindl, Beau Forbes, and Nick Searcy.

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Kellerman kickstarts proceedings with a gritty cage fight montage that sees a popular and inked Hunter going round for round with various local “contenders”. Cut to a downtrodden and heavy bearded present-day Hunter, who wakes from one nightmare and straight into another – the realization that he’s homeless and now on the streets of Chicago during the middle of winter. What we know is that something violent occurred and it’s now causing Hunter all sorts of psychological problems. Through natural evolution, the film actually becomes much more about the drama than it does its thrills and that threw me somewhat and is bound to do the same with other viewers. DP, Scotty Summers presents us with some nice swift dolly movements and an overall slick look to the image. A stylish upshot of the city skyline and consistently good over the shoulder shots are the films visual highlights. The audio track appears to contain some ADR (additional dialogue recording), but for the most part, it’s a clear recording. The score is most interesting when it’s calling on sharp orchestral tones to build the atmosphere, most notably in the second act. The performances are generally consistent and serviceable, with Cerda the best of the bunch. Rachel’s rawness combined with the character’s good nature certainly makes her the most likable. Kellerman challenges himself by seeing to it that his character run the full gamut of emotions, in turn, delivering some pretty solid moments. Whilst not as threatening as he could’ve been, Searcy, as Volakas, is a welcomed addition with his experience on show in the third act. There are a couple of action sequences that involve some practical blood but they don’t take front and center.

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On the technical side of things, I found a combination of too many quick-cut visuals and static editing that simply don’t give you any time to get your bearings, particularly during the opening act. I think filmmakers often feel a need to utilize rapid or static symbolism in order to convey a fractured psyche, and while that might be the case, it just doesn’t make for great viewing. The lack of light in the “home invasion” sequence involving Volakas and his men made it difficult to discern any of the particulars. On occasion, the dialogue comes across as clunky too. Hunter uses the line “screw off” after having his patience tested by a fellow bum. It’s almost as if he was intentionally trying not to swear, need I say that the appropriate word replacement for that one goes without saying. Danni well and truly wears out Hunter’s name, using it an inordinate amount of times at the beginning of sentences. It’s awkward and unnatural, especially when they’re the only two people in the room. If I recall correctly, Hunter mentions Paul (Foster), one of the mysterious men, quite early on in the piece, although it wasn’t clear as to how he even knew who he was at that point. I always shake my head at characters who do their damnedest to act like lunatics and are still surprised when they inevitably draw attention to themselves. There are at least two examples of Hunter doing that exact thing. The first comes while he’s doing a little recon in tailing young Luke (Heindl), who spots him, and a rattled Hunter hurriedly takes off – not smart. The second is more noticeable as he lets out a maniacal laugh before running from a group of police officers (as you do). I suppose one could argue that his mind has played tricks on him in the past, but the problem is that we’ve already seen a lighter side of him come to the surface in his interactions with Danni, along with his ability to direct that mindset, therefore, it doesn’t make much sense. Details regarding the “mystery men” were scarce and I would’ve loved to have known a little bit more about how that community materialized.

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Hunter is a competently made and fairly polished Horror/Thriller from Tarleton and Kellerman. Certain aspects of films like “The Thompsons”, and even some of the fundamentals in that of “Van Helsing” can be found here. By and large, the cinematography is quite skillful, the audio pops nicely, and the orchestral based score fits the tone of the material. The performances work pretty well and the few moments of supernatural action are decent. Unfortunately, I’d hoped to see a little more in the way of mechanics, something to sink my teeth into better (pardon the pun). Lighting is lacking in certain scenes and some of the visuals weren’t to my liking (a personal preference). A few chunks of the dialogue felt stiff and there were a few too many unnatural uses of Hunter’s name in nearly every conversation. Some of his erratic behavior was undoubtedly fitting, though equally as frustrating and hard to understand at the business end of things. More of a shared approach to the inner workings of Volakas and his men would’ve given me something more to latch onto (pardon the secondary pun… I’ve really got to stop that haha). Hunter is still definitely worth a look and if you’re a fan of this brand of Horror/Thriller I think you’ll potentially get even more of a kick out of it than I did. You can check out the official trailer below and be sure to keep an eye out for it soon!

My rating for “Hunter” is 5.5/10

Le Rouge Est Mis (Review) Who can you really trust?

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LE ROUGE EST MIS

 

THE SETUP

“Film-noir” was a term initially coined by French critics, and was often used to describe American Crime films of the ’40s and ’50s, in particular, the works of prolific filmmakers such as Orson Welles (Citizen Kane), Fritz Lang (The Big Heat) and Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard). One of the earliest ventures was Roy Del Ruth’s original 1931 “The Maltese Falcon”, but the first display may have actually been “Underworld” in 1927. Anywho, it’s since become known for being one of the most stylish genres of filmmaking. At one stage it was the most popular type of film being made in Hollywood and you can see the influence firmly established in many modern-day filmmaker’s works. Think Paul Verhoeven and “Basic Instinct”, Curtis Hanson and “LA Confidential”, or more recently Robert Rodriguez and his visual approach to “Sin City”. I’ll jump at any chance I get to talk about some of the lesser knowns that are deserved of more attention. One such film is Gilles Grangier’s 1957 French Crime/Drama “Le Rouge Est Mis”. Le Rouge Est Mis opens with a daring daylight heist – the men responsible, a ragtag gang led by Paris garage owner, Louis Bertain (played by Jean Gabin). The three of his accomplices, Fredo (Paul Frankeur) the one who got the tip, Pepito (played by Lino Ventura), and The Sailor (not sure who to credit) begin to suspect that Louis’s younger brother Pierre (Marcel Bozzuffi), an ex-convict, may have given the men up in order for a leash with a little more slack. The film also stars Albert Dinan, Antonin Berval, Annie Girardot, and Gina Nicloz.

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Le Rouge doesn’t waste any time setting the scene, and that’s a nice change of pace in comparison to the similarly themed French poliziotteschi genre that ultimately put actors like Lino Ventura on the map. The pacing is good and the run time is a brisk 80 minutes. Accomplished cinematographer, Louis Page presents us with nice framing and simple shot choices that suit the narrative, and the audio track/subtitles are neat too. Composer, Denis Kieffer’s film career was short-lived, but he’ll be remembered for this classic score that utilizes a smooth mix of violin, french horn, and saxophone. The performances are solid right across the board, with a stalwart Gabin driving it home. Ventura provides the appropriate amount of menace, Bozzuffi brings a certain innocence to Pierre (but probably only because we aren’t privy to the details of his previous crime), and Girardot’s, Helene is somewhat of an enigma until Grangier deems it necessary to upheave the applecart.

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One of the most interesting plot points in Le Rouge Est Mis is the crafty way in which Louis approaches his interactions with Helene, leaving the viewer to ponder over intent. Part of me thought their dynamic was building to a certain revelation, but nothing came of it and I liked that element. It’s nice to see an active opening that cut straight to the heist, as well as later showcasing the means with which the gang dealt with covering their tracks, both on the vehicle and weaponry front. In the middle act, there’s a well-conceived and brazen drive-by sequence that sees Pepito’s submachine gun put to good use (years ahead of The Godfather scene). In addition, the chase scene following the aftermath of the said gun down is quite a fun ride. Notwithstanding the somewhat of a predictable finish, Le Rouge comes to a highly entertaining close when Louis is forced to make a life or death decision.

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Grangier’s film isn’t without noticeable hiccups regarding continuity and stretches in credibility though. There are a couple of scenes that could’ve been cut, if for no other reason than they don’t appear to have any relevance to proceedings. The first appears to take place at the property of a horticulturist, who from what I could tell, was supplying Fredo with useful garden tips and nothing more. A subsequent scene shows a group of bike riders stopping to help a straggler with a puncture (extremely random to say the least). Perhaps more of a glimpse into the personal lives of the other members of the gang, in Pepito and The Sailor, may have been a better way to spend that time. Something I noticed right off that bat was the seemingly narrow age gap between Gabin and Nicloz (playing Mother Bertain) who look better suited to play husband and wife. I can’t lock down her age but I know he was 54 years old at the time of filming and looks far too old to be her son (at a guess I’d say she looks in between 65-70).

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As for continuity, the biggest stumble is certainly in the lack of clarity surrounding details of the fate of one of the gang members. It comes across as really clunky just due to inferior editing. Helene also tells Pierre to wash up before laying down with her but he never actually does it. He walks into the bathroom, loosens his shirt, and walks back out, slowly sinking onto the sheets of her bed. Why include the line of dialogue if you’re not going to carry out the action? Both the opening heist and eventual arrest are rather poorly staged and therefore equally as weakly edited. There are some stock foley sounds followed by cutaways and that’s about all we get. Even keeping in mind that this was 1957 and things were done a lot different back then, the fact that such a huge amount of unsecured money was being transferred is beyond incomprehensible. No locked briefcases, no armed security, no nothing. Had the figure been hundreds of thousands of dollars instead of multimillion’s, one may have been able to overlook that not so minor detail, but alas. Only further hammering the point home is the ineptitude of the uniformed police officer responsible for holding Louis. The way in which he escapes just screams of lazy writing and it really hurts that third act.

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Le Rouge Est Mis was a very difficult film to track down (or at least a version with English subtitles) but I was pleasantly surprised with Grangier’s stylish Crime/Drama which is ahead of its time. The pacing is consistent, the cinematography quite sharp, and the blues and jazz score one of the more memorable aspects. Whilst the narrative isn’t anything new, the characters are developed enough to be engaging and the dealings between the trio of Helene and brothers Louis and Pierre add another layer. The moments of action are copacetic and the climax brings things to a relatively satisfying conclusion. There’s a couple of disconnected scenes in the middle and Gabin and Nicloz can’t really pass for mother and son and so I’m pleased they didn’t fall back on that too hard. One particular action set piece with the gang in the car was in need of a re-cut to better display what went down so as to avoid debate over what was the eventual cause. A few too many convenient plot specifics involving the money, the arrest, and the police all hamper the foundation of the whole thing. I understand that the film is over 60 years old so these issues are bound to come up more than once. All that said, Le Rouge Est Mis was damn entertaining and I can definitely recommend it to fans of ’40s and 50s’ film-noir, just check your thinking man’s (or women’s) hat at the door first. This is quite a rare print but you can check out the intro clip below and purchase a clear label DVD from “MovieDetective” for around $20 at the following link – https://www.moviedetective.net/.

My rating for “Le Rouge Est Mis” is 6/10

The Cannibal Club (Review) Only the finest meats and wines…

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THE CANNIBAL CLUB

 

THE SETUP

Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me an online screener of Guto Parente’s Brazilian made Horror/Comedy film, “The Cannibal Club”. The Cannibal Club is a dark and perverse exploration into the elitist world of wealthy married couple Otavio and Gilda (played by Tavinho Teixeira and Ana Luiza Rios). Otavio owns a private security company and spends his leisure time with Cannibal Club members, mingling at parties, or dining on whoever happens to be his and Gilda’s latest caretaker. One night, Gilda discovers something about Borges (Pedro Domingues), the club leader, that puts her and Otavio’s life of comfort in jeopardy. The film also stars Ze Maria, Rodrigo Capistrano, and Lc Galetto.

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I saw the sunny poster art and the contradictory trailer for The Cannibal Club a while back and I thought it looked quite interesting. I’m always keen to step outside the conventional avenues and check out more foreign material. So, The Cannibal Club – well… it’s all in the title really (or so you would think). There have been a number of films depicting themes or scenes of cannibalism, from a gritty exploitative venture like “Cannibal Holocaust” or “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, through to the more polished foreign films like “I Saw The Devil” and “Raw” (just to name a couple). This time around though it’s the upper crust committing consumption, and there’s something truly disturbing about witnessing the self-serving, holier-than-thou march to the beat of your own drum types partaking and reveling in the slaying of others. Let’s be honest, Is anyone really surprised when the backwoods hillbilly inbred starts chowing down on part of a fleshy human thigh? No, you’re not, and you know why? Because you’ve had time to prepare yourself for it, you even expect it, and although you don’t want to judge a book by its discolored cover, deep down you know its damaged goods. Here, Otavio and Gilda live a life of luxury, and they certainly look the part, so who would suspect them of such wickedness?

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The couples villa and beachfront paradise make for a nice location, even if it isn’t taken full advantage of coverage wise. Lucas Barbi’s cinematography is steady and stylish, everything nicely framed and all the two shots are slickly presented. Composer, Fernando Catatau is a relative newcomer (to film) but brings about an eclectic group of themes to The Cannibal Club. It’s a jazz/blues orientated score with french horn taking front and center for a bulk of the runtime. There are frantic moments of eerie keys during the third act and some interesting fusion drum and synth that fits a sort of live show scene. The film is well acted, and plenty of credit should go to both Tavinho and Ana for baring all and putting themselves out there for a couple of unnecessarily graphic and crude scenes. Being a foreign film, it should come as no surprise that the multiple sex scenes are graphic and portrayed realistically (although I don’t think the shock value money shot was needed). It doesn’t take long for The Cannibal Club to serve up its entrée, doing so in the form of a sexually charged kill mid-thrust, followed by a disturbingly real dismemberment (shown from a distance but still bold). The practical blood and gore fx are impressive although they could be considered scarce given the title of the film. The climax (not that kind…) lacked clarity in terms of its specifics but it was still enjoyable, and in a way probably fitting.

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The Cannibal Club is only 80 minutes long (including credits) but the pacing still feels a bit off, no doubt magnified by the spates of downtime in the middle act. The lengthy exchange between Gilda and Borges in his office, regarding the fallout of events from the party, could’ve been halved and still sufficiently summarised. I thought the vocal performance at the party was quite weak and even a little flat in places and the music could be pulled back in the mix just a bit. Aside from a number of questions I was left with about the club and its overall purpose, Otavio’s meek, tepid water like persona rising to the surface early in proceedings proves to be contradictory to what we’ve previously witnessed, in turn, calling into question the validity of those initial convictions. Whereas at least Gilda has a backbone, a willingness to position the pieces on her board where they need be so she can maintain control. The film requires more of that take no prisoners alpha male presence and the violence that one would expect from these powerful people. I was left a little cold by the lack of exposition regarding the club too. Other than a thinly outlined mantra from Borges about wearing your stripes proudly, we learn absolutely nothing about this club, its culture or how it came to fruition. Couple that with the absence of any further violence (until the end) and you’ve got somewhat of an unfulfilling end result. There are several mentions of a character named Clovis (Capistrano) and some sort of betrayal of the club although I don’t recall seeing anything of note (perhaps upon a second viewing I’ll get whatever was missed). The reasons for the implode don’t make a whole lot of sense either. Gilda’s reaction to what she witnesses doesn’t scream of concern, more of disappointment. Which begs the question as to why it bothered her enough to schedule a meeting with Borges? If she didn’t raise it he may have never accosted her. It wasn’t as if he was a potential meal for her and Otavio to consume.

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The Cannibal Club is a polished and competently made Horror/Comedy from a young Brazilian filmmaker in Parente. The sun-soaked imagery and darkly satirical vibe mixed the displeasure of cannibalism initially had me intrigued. The cinematography is high in production value, the score is a little different, and the performances are all solid. There is some impressive practical fx on display but the action isn’t as widespread as one might hope. On the downside, the pacing could have used some work, the score is too loud, and Otavio’s core characteristics negate the credibility behind his early actions. With little detail given about the club itself and Gilda’s peculiar approach to Borges personal life, things don’t quite come together as smoothly as they should. The Cannibal Club is quite entertaining but it simply doesn’t have a clear enough voice to get over the sounds of the crowd. You can check out the official trailer below and the film will be available in limited theatres March 1st and on VOD March 5th!

My rating for “The Cannibal Club” is 5/10