Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Frankenstein Theory (2013) Review

The Frankenstein Theory takes a very unique and original look at the Mary Shelley story of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus under the pretext that an heir to the "Frankenstein" family has found notes and family memorabilia to suggest that the creature is indeed still alive in the Arctic north.
The film is shot from a documentary perspective as it follows a group of five film makers and Jonathan Venkenhein, the great, great, grandson of Johan Venkenhein which was the actual creator of the Frankenstein creature on their journey to discover the truth.
Timothy V Murphy ("The Lone Ranger", "Appaloosa") gives a perfect performance as the guide Karl, as he tries to distill in the crew the dangers of heading out across the Arctic with nothing but snowmobiles and a childlike misunderstanding of what exactly they are getting themselves into.
Kris Lemche nails the furiously curious role of Jonathan Venkenhein, who is a young professor who has been so consumed by his family history and the possibilities, that he has been suspended from the University in which he teaches.
Directed by Andrew Weiner, who co-wrote the story with Vlady Pildysh, the film is able to overcome the documentary tiredness that some films fall into and stand alone with good acting and great cinematic shots.
The creature, who is played by a very well seen, but unknown actor and stunt man named Roger W. Morrisey ("The Lords of Salem". "Hellborn") is perfectly placed and never overly used. This is more of an imaginative tense and scary fall through an unlit cave than it is a spotlight heavy horror movie where the creature is highlighted in detail and posed for each high definition shot.
Come take a look at the Adam of Venkenhein's labors, and see for yourself, just how wretched are the ways of men, both past, and present...

Friday, August 23, 2013

Only God Forgives (2013) Review

Director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive", "Bronson") puts together a visually stunning film in Only God Forgives. The plot might seem to move slowly for some, but a true fan of the art of acting as well as anyone who enjoys a good play will be very excited to watch as the story unfolds like a flower from a Golden Shower Tree.
The story takes place in Thailand, where the streets are filled with a slow moving mass of chaos and the sets lit with neon that drapes shadows through the pattern of the architecture. This is a very disturbingly beautiful picture that makes perfect sense to only those who don't need a leash to lead them along.
Most of the dialogue is in Siamese and subtitled, save for a handful of lines that are mostly given by the overly dramatic and emotionally manipulative character of Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) who plays a very overbearing and demanding Westerner in a foreign land that she finds to be beneath herself.
Ryan Gosling plays the part of the damaged son to perfection, with his well timed glances and movements that are never out of sync with his frenzied state of calm.
Aside from the Cinematography being almost perfect in every scene, one of the great aspects of this film is how it takes our main character on a very uneven trajectory. One moment you think he is going to be the hero, the next, the villain. If you had to sum up the character in one word, you would be hard pressed to decide between tortured and broken.
The only critique I could give is that the soundtrack sounds like a mix of movies you have already seen, from Inception to Tron Legacy, sometimes it is a distraction and does not mend well with the scenes as they are playing out on screen.
Only God Forgives is not a movie for all to enjoy, as some will get lost in the artistic feel of it and others bored with the theater like performances. However, those who will find it entertaining, will not soon forget about it.

Only God Forgives can be found in theaters now.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Naked Zombie Girl (2013) Trailer Review

The trailer to define a genre has just been released by Hectic Films Productions. Rickey Bird's Naked Zombie Girl looks to be a haunting yet fun midnight maze of nudity, narcissism, and blood sputtering chainsaw action of Grindhouse gore gone wild! 

Rachel Montgomery working as a Producer and First Assistant Director along with Director of Photography Brent Peters come together in supporting the Director Rickey Bird in an all star line up of up and coming actors and actresses.

Meghan Chadeayne bares all in this mad dash to outlast the ever present dangers in a post zombie outbreak. Along for the relentless ride of rampage is Ali Doughtery, Josh Keith Matthews, and an endless array of limitless talent in DT Carney, Robin Steffen, Jason Sanders and Shaun Piccinino as zombies. Nick Reisinger pulls every trick out of his bottomless make-up bag and along with Jason Sanders on special effects and editing, they succeed in creating some of the best zombies to shamble and shake across the screen in this diabetic coma inducing eye candy of a trailer. What can be better than the Naked Zombie Girl trailer? The short film itself!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Bridge (2006) Review

The Bridge is a documentary about the Golden Gate Bridge and the tragic loss of life that is voluntarily given by so many. The filmmakers captured 23 of the 24 suicides that took place from the bridge in 2004, and show the stories and footage from some of those who jumped to their death as well as a survivor and a rescue.
While the subject matter is very dark and bleak, the stories run the full spectrum from awe inspiring and forgiving to maddeningly depressing. It is an eye opening look at something that we as a society choose not to see, or choose not to think about. 

Eric Steele directs the documentary while conducting interviews with witnesses and family members of those who are no longer with us. Some have found an understanding and carry with them a forgiveness for those who chose to end their lives while others are still questioning and baffled by the loss. For anyone who has dealt with mental illness in their lives, whether it be through a family member, friend, or even themselves, there is a very real feel to the stories that one can easily understand. For those who have never experienced something as chaotic as mental illness, the film offers great insight into the human psyche and just how far we all are and feel from time to time.

From the thermals that warp the footage on hot days, to the clouds and fog that roll into the bay and shroud the bridge in a mist, the film brings the viewer right up to the cold, damp railing and lets you experience the rumble that vibrates through it as well as the bounce that you feel when you stand upon the bridge as a truck drives by. From the people who refuse to look up from their shoes as they walk by someone sitting on the railing to those who stop and try to talk to them, there is a sense of tragic loneliness as well as heroic interception that the film brings to the screen so beautifully in an agonizing way.

The Bridge can be found on Top Documentary Films and streamed for free.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The East (2013) Review

The East is 116 minutes of great acting, wrapped around a twisting (yet predictable) plot of Eco-terrorism, Anarchist mayhem, economic sabotage, and parental rebellion.

If Fight Club had begun as a hippie movement focused around a Guy Fawkes concept, The East is what it would have been. However, don't expect an all loving, spiritual awakening type of film, it still rubs raw the ideals and expectations of the naive with brutal truths and discoveries.

Zal Batmanglij wrote and directed a great film. While it is not his first outing in the directors chair, it is by far his most well polished work thus far.
Brit Marling ("Arbitrage") plays Jane, an operative for a very deep pocketed elite private investigation firm that is sent out to infiltrate the group as Sarah. What she finds is a well polished and close knit group of like minded people, most of which have a very personal interest in the anarchist movement that is The East.
Alexander SkarsgÄrd ("True Blood", "Battleship") completely sheds his inner vampire for this role, and does an extraordinary job portraying Benji, the cautious and scarred Zen like commander of this leaderless pack of renegades.
Ellen Page ("Juno", "Inception") takes hold of the reins of Izzy, a protective and very defiant young woman who does not take kindly to the uninvited introduction of Sarah into their little family.
The actors do an absolutely outstanding job creating unique and likable characters. From Shiloh Fernandez ("Evil Dead", "Red Riding Hood") as Luca, the motherly one of the group who brings Sarah in when she needs medical attention, to Toby Kebbel ("Wrath of the Titans", "RockNRolla") as Doc, who struggles with his own physical limitations and provides the medical help that the group sometimes needs. There is zero weak links in the chain of actors in this film, even the supporting cast all do an outstanding job peeling back the curtains and giving the viewer a glimpse at what it is like to run rampant upon the corporate world with revenge and retribution fueling the fires of well conceived chaos.

Most of the film takes place in and around an old half burned down home in the forest, which the group uses as its temporary headquarters while they carry out their Jams (attacks). The cinematography is spot on and always finds a way to incorporate the surroundings, whether its peeling wallpaper or horses running across a meadow into the story to keep your eyes entertained and your mind thinking. What is important, what isn't?  It's a very well conceived film that unspools as a bit of a mystery as you ride along with Sarah as she tries to uncover who trusts who, who might be dangerous, and who is on to you in an adventure you are sure to enjoy.

The East is in Theaters now.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Gideon's Army (2013) Review

Gideon's Army is a documentary film that tears the rusted lid off of the justice system to expose the hidden truths behind why Lady Justice wears a tear stained blindfold.

Dawn Porter is the founder of Trilogy Films and along with Motto Pictures and HBO Documentaries they follow the lives of three Public Defenders who give everything they have to strive to prove that a person accused of a crime shall indeed be held innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Travis Williams, Brandy Alexander and June Hardwick confirm the nightmares that anyone who has ever served as a juror knows first hand, that our justice system is flawed, and that the assumptions of guilt can quite easily be the downfall of the innocent.

The film deals heavily with the morality of personal struggle and in no way, shape, or form does it endorse or celebrate the protection of the heinous criminals who feed like parasites off of the dedication and hope of those who are there to attempt to counterbalance the heavily laden scales of justice to give everyone a fair fight in court.

It is far too easy for those who have never experienced the cold hard glare of the American Justice System to sit back and assume that all is well, and that no person can be found guilty unless they are guilty. I mean, they must have done something to be arrested in the first place, right? Wrong!

Gideon's Army is the gavel slamming hard against the well oiled and waxed table top of preconceived notions. Before you find yourself in front of a judge in a court of law as a defendant you should know just how stacked against you the deck truly is. Gideon's Army will give you a glimpse of the horrors that await, and also show you that through dedication and hard work, there are indeed a small group of people out there who are fighting just as hard as you are to keep you innocent until proven guilty.

Gideon's Army can be found on HBO Go

Friday, July 5, 2013

Stake Land (2010) Review

Don't be confused by the name, Stake Land is not a low budget rip off of Zombieland. While the effects sometimes leave something to be desired, as well as the behavior of the infected vampires, the plot is fairly solid with some great ideas used in the story line. 

Nick Damici ("The Black Donnellys", "World Trade Center") plays a great renegade survivalist called Mister. Taking the young Martin, played by Connor Paolo ("Camp Hell", "Alexander") under his wing after his parents are slaughtered, they travel the back roads while keeping distance from the religious Brethren, who believe vampires are God's punishment.

The visuals of an apocalyptic world are very nice, although they don't really make up for the failure of the vampires who look like diseased clowns and move like amateur stunt men fresh out of high school.

Written by Jim Mickle and Nick Damici, this movie would have made a great novel where the imagination could have created more terrifying vampires while holding onto the great locations and scenarios that the actors find themselves in.

The one saving grace for this film as well as the most creative reason for watching it is the way in which the Brethren attack a small community of survivors. While I won't hint at how it is done, I will suggest that you see the film, if only for this one segment of great film making.

You can find Stake Land streaming on Netflix and Amazon

Friday, June 28, 2013

Pontypool (2008) Review

Pontypool was adapted from the novel Pontypool Changes Everything by the author, Tony Burgess and directed by Bruce McDonald. While the argument can be made that it is a twist on the Zombie genre, McDonald spoke out against classifying this film as a zombie movie at Rue Morgue's Festival of Fear expo in 2008. I won't get into exactly what he said, as there are some spoilers within the statement that I think would do a viewer a disservice to know before seeing the film.

This film is not for the blockbuster amused, or the hardcore gore fans (although it has its moments). This film is perfect for those with a great imagination and who still find that they can scare themselves at night when they are all alone. The look of the film is very dark, but lit perfectly so that you never strain to see what is happening. The dialogue is what sets this movie apart from the rest. Burgess gives you such great dialogue that it will not only keep your attention, but it will also challenge you to think.

Stephen McHattie ("Watchmen", "A History of Violence") plays Grant Mazzy, the brooding radio announcer who spins a fine web of silken words to appease his new station manager Sydney, played by Lisa Houle ("Emily of New Moon"). Together with Georgina Reilly ("Eddie: The Sleepwalking Cannibal") as the technical assistant Laurell-Ann, they work towards updating their listeners on local news of the morning when all hell starts to trickle loose.

Although most of the film takes place within the radio station, there are still plenty of shots outside of the station that remind you of just how alone we all are at 6:00am, when the sun has yet to make itself known, and the night still holds all of us captive.

You should definitely give this film a chance and join the cast on a blind journey into the unknown, where fear truly terrifies.

Pontypool can be found streaming on Netflix

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Lackey (2012) Review

The Lackey starts with a Reservoir Dogs feel, pours in some Guy Ritchie styled narration, mixes it all with a splash of Mixed Martial Arts, and then serves it to you with such a well polished rawness that you quickly forget that you are watching a "low budget" Indie Film.

The look of the film is quite unique and hard to explain, it's "grainy" without looking like your watching a twelve year old 35mm print in a dollar theater. This multiple award winning film grabs you by the collar and drags you straight down into the street where the action takes place. 

The writing is spot on with a mix of wit, heart, and believability. The fight scenes feel natural and are choreographed in such a manner as to feel completely spontaneous. Kudos to Shaun Paul Piccinino and Steve Pisa for not only writing this visually striking film, but also for coordinating the stunts, which include possibly the best fight scene that takes place around a billiards table you will likely never find a comparison to.

The actors all play their roles true and with respect to the genre. The lovely Lauren Parkinson ("Phase Two", "In Mysterious Ways") plays Lola, Jude's junky ex-girlfriend, who can still tug the heartstrings of our hero like a marionette handler while she spirals out of control. Orlando McGuire ("The Bloodletting", "Deadliest Warrior") steps right into the spotlight as Suga Henare, the always eager sidekick to the cagey Sonny Fingers, played by Rickey Bird Jr. ("The Deadlines", "Phase Two").  Two of the most unforgettable characters of the film are Big Leo, played by D.T. Carney ("John Dies at the End", "The Curse") and Guy A. Grundy ("Deadliest Warrior", "Acts of Violence") as Grundy. There are no shortcomings in the acting department on this one, From Shaun Paul Piccinino ("Deadliest Warrior", "Jinn") who plays the infamous Jude St. Clere to Vernon Wells ("Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior", "Weird Science") as Mr. Dechlan. There is a multitude of mastermind actors in supporting roles as well that bring the whole film to life and complete what just might be one of the best action films to hit the Indie screen in quite some time.

So what is the greatest aspect of The Lackey? One word, Cinematography. Ian McAleece and Jason Sanders are nothing short of genius in the way they show you the darker side of any major city. They put you in places you would never see in a tourist brochure and makes sure that you feel it gather grit under your fingernails while you witness the story unfold. This action film lives up to the action billing as well. Just when you think you can't possibly handle any more excitement, the pace slows for a moment so that you can catch your breath, take in the moonlit cityscape, and then plunges you right back in. Like a truly feared roller coaster ride, you don't know whether to raise your arms and cheer or just white knuckle the arms of your couch, and try not to get knocked out of your seat!

You can pre-order The Lackey on Amazon.com