“Fairfield Follies” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Fairfield Follies (2017), the debut feature from writer-director Laura Pepper, is a sharp, charming and frequently funny comedy. Yet, the one-hundred-minute picture succeeds most masterfully in its humorous tackling of stereotypes. Nearly everyone we encounter in Pepper’s effort falls prey to such typecasting in one manner or another. This latter declared quality could’ve easily created overly aggressive and unlikable characterizations. Yet, Pepper reveals a child-like incredulousness in those we encounter on-screen. Such an influence shields them from such harsh criticisms. Still, it never makes any excuses for their hateful actions. Likewise, there is also an everyday value to the blemished personalities our leads exude. Such makes our resident protagonists, as well as the film itself, more mirror-like to our contemporary world. The result is a highly satisfying and memorable example of the profound depth that laughter can convey.

Pepper, via her quietly biting and brilliant screenplay and deft guidance of the project, centers the entertainingly plotted narrative around the traditional title Christmas pageant. It commences with Ms. Evans (in a stellar turn from Susanne Colle), a woman who is prone to spontaneous sickness and blackouts, taking over as administrator of the undertaking. This is in place of the elderly Mrs. Whitelove (in a bulls-eye enactment from Mary DeBerry). The latter is the most biased of those in Pepper’s affair. This detail is smartly woven in an uproarious commencing arrangement which is upbeat and joyful. That is until Mrs. Whitelove whispers a slew of derogatory terms into Ms. Evans’ ear. From herein, Ms. Evan’s idealistic notion of turning the annual sketch-driven play she is tasked with putting together into an all-inclusive holiday gala gets skewed. This is by the politically incorrect cast and crew. In so doing, Ms. Evans’ goodhearted concept is shaped into an unintentionally offensive exercise in jaw-dropping chaos.

There is a consistently breezy demeanor Pepper instills into the proceedings. It impeccably befits the well-paced material. When combined with the behind the scenes action that endures until the hour mark and the unfolding of Ms. Evans’ program in the closing forty minutes, the movie itself is ever-intriguing. It also seems to contain a wisely theatrical quality. This is much in line with the show our heroine is frantically trying to erect. It is also reflected in the deliberately straight-forward, but nonetheless effective, cinematography of Jill Poisson. This clever parallel is also spied in the often-enigmatic individuals Pepper implements in her tale. Such an aspect is also transported in the manner Pepper moves the account forward. This is with many of the passages throughout the entirety becoming itself a singular skit tied around a larger plot thread. For example, one of my favorite moments involves Max (in a standout performance from David Ryan Kopcych) practicing his dramatic, almost musical reading of the Chinese takeout menu. Such a segment transpires at around the half hour mark. This becomes a running gag which is utilized throughout the duration of the runtime. Yet, the witty section in which this initially arises has an intimate actor and audience sensibility. This certainly evokes a stagy impression. Even the smirk-inducing post-credit bit, which encompasses Pepper appearing to address unseen spectators, splendidly reinstates this factor. Such also immediately expunges the inconclusive sensation that stems from the quick final episode. This is spied before these cunningly constructed acknowledgments roll.

The two-location project, which alternates between Ms. Evans’ home and the interior of the building where the play is being honed, is also graced with skillful and endearing performances all-around. Anna Rizzo is terrific as the cellphone obsessed Kelly. The same can be said for Johnny Sederquist’s turn as Jeremy. Rosemary Pacheco is charismatic and captivating as Melissa. Correspondingly, Dan Greenleaf is especially amusing as the drunken Santa Claus of the project, Paul.

From a technical standpoint, Pepper’s editing is superb. Phillip Martin’s music is innovative and lively. It captures the spirit of the story masterfully. Pepper’s animation and Poisson’s digital effects are similarly excellent. The camera and electrical contributions, as well as Anna Goodchild’s costume design, are all magnificent. Relatedly, the sound department delivers a largely proficiently to the overall prowess of the piece. This is even if some of the songs in Ms. Evans’ fabrication come off as indecipherable because of such an attribute.

There are several loose ends in this Peppered Productions release. For instance, Ms. Evans’ mysterious ailment is never satisfactorily resolved. Though this holds the photoplay back from perfection, it is overshadowed by the sheer variety, inventiveness and consistent successfulness of the guffaws on hand. But, Pepper also works just as well with the notion that most of the individuals in her fiction are themselves archetypes. For hordes of cinematic craftsmen, this would be a flaw too glaring for patrons to overlook. Yet, Pepper has intentionally instilled these traits in our leads. This is to punctuate the pigeonholed categorizations that these beings often verbalize via Pepper’s ingeniously penned dialogue. It gives bystanders a method to study the theme of this tour de force from both within and without. Best of all, Pepper finds a stupendous balance between the heady subtleties of her flick and the light-hearted spirit that pulsates on the surface. Such creates a labor that is as quietly meditative as it is quirky and fun. Ultimately, Pepper doesn’t weigh down her plot in her finger-waving and lesson learning. But, such practices still illuminate the presentation. Such is just one of the numerous items which make Pepper’s effort so special. With Fairfield Follies, Pepper has given us one of the best genre concoctions of the year. I highly recommend seeking it out.

“Alien: Covenant” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Visionary director Ridley Scott continues to carry the Alien franchise along a bold and refreshingly unique route, as he last did in the criminally underrated Prometheus (2012), with the eighth entry overall in the former-stated cinematic succession, Alien: Covenant (2017). This is while respecting the foundation, the well-placed moments of terror and masterful buildup (as well as the working-class characterizations and claustrophobic cinematography), that were present in Scott’s original film in the series, Alien (1979). The satisfying and rich story, which revolves around a ship of colonists who land on a planet they believe to be habitable only to find themselves encountering a chain of deadly threats, is where the above-mentioned qualities are most evident. Such results in the rare modern science-fiction/ horror release that is as rich, challenging and cerebral as it is atmospheric and entertaining. Likewise, the finale, though a shade predictable, is still the perfect note in which to end the film.

As always with a genre feature from Scott, the sets are meticulously detailed, striking, complex and inspiring. In turn, they are almost as lively as the stars themselves. The performances, true to the Alien tradition, are gritty and credible. Katherine Waterston is especially good as Daniels: a more visibly vulnerable riff on Sigourney Weaver’s Alien heroine, Ellen Ripley. Yet, Michael Fassbender steals the show in his dual role as the identical androids David and Walter. These portrayals remain layered despite the inability of the otherwise magnificent screenplay, from John Logan and Dante Harper, to flesh-out our protagonists in any new way. This is a problem initially glimpsed in the commencing minutes of the picture. It courses throughout the duration.

Correspondingly, the pace is uneven. Still, its construction is oddly enchanting and exhilarating. Relatedly, some of the effects, the contribution from a crew of dozens of individuals, are a bit underwhelming. But, there is also plenty of excellent work provided in this arena to be seen. Furthermore, Alien: Covenant isn’t quite as philosophical, visually spectacular or ambitious as Prometheus. It also isn’t as groundbreaking or immediately terrifying as Alien. Still, Alien: Covenant remains a terrific addition to the Alien canon. The pure craft Scott showcases throughout the entirety of its one-hundred-and-twenty-two-minute runtime makes up for these comparatively minor flaws. This is especially true of Alien: Covenant‘s perpetually somber, elegiac and dread-laced tone.

Operating as both a sequel to Prometheus and a prequel to Alien, Alien: Covenant is sure to frustrate those who want only Xenomorph action. Though the sparse bits consisting of such a detail are vicious, jarring and well-done. Regardless, it will assuredly enthrall audiences who like their movie-going experiences more singular. The quietly eloquent opening sequence alerts spectators of this factor immediately.

In the end, Alien: Covenant is a brilliant signpost of the life still left in this near forty-year-old saga. It is just as much a symbol of Scott’s endlessly evolving mastery of the material. Fans intrigued by the Alien mythology will adore Scott’s most recent outing. I know I did! As a matter of fact, I look forward to absorbing its myriad wonders once more on the biggest screen possible.

(R). Contains graphic violence, language and some sexual content.

Alien: Covenant was released in U.S. theaters on May 19th, 2017.

“Long Night in a Dead City” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Long Night in a Dead City (2017) is among the most accomplished works from the collaborative team of screenwriter Lenny Schwartz and director Richard Griffin. It stands as a testament to the surreal, hypnotic power derived from a largely imagery-driven narrative. This brilliantly paced and filler-less seventy-five-minute masterpiece also garners an endless mystique from this quality. What also helps matters is that it wisely never overindulges in its rhythmic and often cryptic dialogue.

This is immediately noted in the visually stunning opening arrangements. In this section, our hero, Daniel Belmont (in an ever-gripping portrayal by Aidan Laliberte), wakes up bloody and bruised. Gradually pulling himself from the middle of the road, where he either fell asleep or lost consciousness, we follow him with increasing intrigue. This is as he dazedly treads through the surrounding area. But, there is a confused impression about his movements. Such suggests an attempt at filling in gaps in his memory. What he is trying to recall becomes the impetus of this 1979-set affair. From herein, Griffin and Schwartz answer this question with an almost dream-like succession of events. All of which revolve around a film festival and Daniel’s missing brother, Charlie (Anthony Gaudette). There is also an enigmatic cult-like group. Griffin and Schwartz also incorporate into the proceedings a bar where people, all of whom are as immobile as figures in a wax museum, go before committing suicide on the last day of the year.

Such fascinating factors and clever concepts are augmented by the gorgeously constructed modern noir-like atmosphere. Yet, this Scorpio Film Releasing produced affair, originally titled Satan’s Children, refuses to settle into the tidy constraints of any genre. This is as it effortlessly juggles elements of science-fiction, horror, murder mystery and dark romance. But, there is a masterful use of recurring symbolism that fits neatly into the most prominent themes of this The Twilight Zone-like (1959-1964) undertaking. Such is manifest in the utilization of a black watch that is spied early in the endeavor.

Adding to these awe-inspiringly artistic and subtly issued attributes is a palpable love for 1970’s cinema. This is readily perceived in the terrifically designed posters for the fictional features showing at The Cine Satyrica New Year’s Eve Film Festival. It is also enhanced by the various Kubrickian shots of the inside of the theater where the aforesaid jubilee is held. There are also classically erected moments where our lead slowly treads down long, isolated hallways. They also alluringly reflect this aesthetic. Yet, this trait is most discernible in the way the sights Daniel views on-screen prompts him to piece together his fragmented recollections. Such a plot thread also seems to silently speak to the catharsis and relation to what one is seeing in a photoplay in correlation to the singular experiences of the viewer in general. This component also allows for some truly innovative, near Lynchian spectacles. Moreover, John Mosetich carries on this ardent connection. This is with cinematography that is as mesmerizing and colorful as it is reminiscent of an Italian Giallo film.

Continuing to strengthen the exertion is Griffin and Schwartz’s deliberate decision to leave the characters, even our protagonist, an enigma. In less capable hands, this would be a fatal flaw in this otherwise impressive effort. Instead, it heightens the palpable air of intrigue that pulsates throughout the entirety. It also matches the same said tone to illuminating effect. Such also allows us to get inside Daniel’s psyche with plentiful ease. In turn, the opus is more skillful and captivating because of such a choice.

What is all the more tremendous is that we still feel as if we know and can relate to nearly everyone we encounter in Griffin and Schwartz’s elusive voyage. This is a major courtesy of Griffin’s ever-mature, stylish and astounding guidance of the project. It is also a consequence of Schwartz’s rich and intelligent authorship of the account. Such a triumph in this category is also related to the pitch perfect casting of the piece. For example, Sarah Reed is enthralling as the target of Daniel’s affections, Holly. Anna Rizzo is superb in her brief turn as The Bartender. Aaron Andrade is just as memorable as the shadowy individual known as The Driver. Jaquelyn Fabian as Diana, Jack Shipley as Luke and Lars Rieck as Tom are all terrific in their respective roles.

From a technical standpoint, Griffin orchestrates seamless and sharp editing. Sissy O’ Hara’s makeup and Angela Shulman’s art direction are similarly striking. Mark Cutler, Tony Milano and Daniel Hildreth all provide incredible music. Their collective participation suits the downplayed mood of the movie masterfully.

Griffin and Schwartz’s latest concludes with a sequence that turns a familiar tale-telling circumstance on its head. This is that the announcement, and the detached manner it is stated in, seems to nod to emotions and ideas far more complex than what should be brought forth from such a statement. It is one of the myriad moves of ingenuity that pushes the project. Having seen the feature twice now, I can say that upon the initial watch we are drawn in by the gloomy beauty and the puzzle-like nature of the arrangement. On the next sit-through, we note how well the clues placed before Daniel propel him to his destination. Furthermore, audience patrons are drawn in by the depth and dimension of Daniel’s journey the second time around. Such only seems to hint at a plethora of layers yet to be tapped into with ensuing observances. This, along with all the adept touches declared prior, comes together to create a well-rounded, stirring, nightmarish and unforgettable exercise in anecdotal cinema. Long Night in a Dead City is the best picture of the year.

“Besetment” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Besetment (2017), from writer-director Brad Douglas, is a lean and ultimately potent horror concoction. The seventy-four-minute picture begins as a triumphant homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s quintessential psychological thriller, Psycho (1960). We note this in the relationship our antagonist, Billy Colvin (in a simultaneously tense and vulnerable, ruggedly enthralling performance from Michael Meyer), has with his domineering and equally wicked mother, Mildred (in a phenomenal portrayal from Marlyn Mason). Much of the plot, which revolves around a young woman, Amanda Millard (in a top-notch representation from Abby Wathen), who takes a job at The Oregon Hotel and later comes up missing, echoes this aforesaid similarity. Not to mention, it is even spied in one of the most quietly clever moments in the fiction. Such an arrangement arrives at nineteen minutes into the story. This sequence involves what looks like a bloody fluid building around the drain of a shower. For those who vividly recall the murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in the previously stated Hitchcock classic, especially the closing shot, Douglas’ sequence serves as an equally smart and smirk-inducing parallel. It also fits effortlessly into the context of the story.

Such a comparison is strongly tailored until nearly the conclusion of the intriguing, if exposition heavy, first half of the movie. Once the tension becomes more palpable and the thriller elements kick into full gear, Douglas’ endeavor establishes a tone that is more along the likes of Deliverance (1972), Wolf Creek (2008) and Kevin Connor’s darkly comic cult classic, Motel Hell (1980). Yet, Douglas’ exertion has the most in common with Jim Lane’s recent gem, Betrothed (2016). This is most noteworthy once the Colvins’ intentions towards Amanda are exposed.

When this occurs, the undertaking is partially held back by the familiarity that propels the events of the last forty minutes. Furthermore, one of the most pivotal arrangements in the undertaking, which is set in a church, is too brief to be as effective as possible. Regardless, the succession that is placed immediately after this instant, which serves as an epilogue, is perfectly chill-inducing. It also garners further points for being comparable to the commencement of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Such more than makes up for the prior addressed shortcomings. Additionally, the film is consistently well-made and engaging. This formerly stated stretch also includes several episodes that are as steeped in tradition as they are memorable. The same can be said of the terrifically developed characterizations. This is most readily noted in a pair who find themselves attempting to solve the mystery of Amanda’s disappearance. They are Sheriff Joe Palin (Greg James) and Deputy Julie Nelson (Hannah Barefoot). Yet, the caliber of their depictions, sheer likability and on-screen chemistry with one another illuminate the configurations they reside within.

From a technical standpoint, Douglas’ scripting and general management of the project is skillful and captivating. Such high-quality capabilities evoke a foundation for the labor that is as gritty as it is deftly executed. Compatibly, the dialogue is credible. The actions of both the protagonist and antagonist also logically derive from the situations Douglas introduces into the tale. Best of all, Douglas just as organically builds continual suspense and audience interest. He also incorporates a masterful pace that unveils in a gradual and even fashion. These are all certainly necessary ingredients in crafting the unyielding credibility that radiates from Douglas’ undertaking.

This Barbed Wire Films co-production also sports spectacular, wonderfully claustrophobic cinematography from Chuck Greenwood. The veneer in Douglas’ latest calls to mind Daniel Pearl’s masterful work in Tobe Hooper’s groundbreaker, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Such a look, commonly attempted in grindhouse evocative exertions such as this, is more than suitable for the material. Likewise, Graham Denman and Kyle Hnedak’s music is impressive and atmospheric. The effects, sound and makeup department offer a similarly exceptional contribution.

Such results in a taut, tough genre entry. This is even if the twists in the narrative are hit and miss. Still, the general prowess of the piece keeps the movie ever-admirable. The 1970’s B-movie sensibility that courses throughout the totality also adds a consistently old-fashioned charm. This is an appeal that fellow cinephiles will certainly adore. What augments the strength of this factor is Douglas’ spellbinding construction of the terror elements. The outcome is a thoroughly solid and satisfying genre outing. Douglas’ exercise in fear is far above average.

Besetment releases on video on demand on June 6th, 2017 through Uncork’d Entertainment. It will be available on DVD on September 5th.

“7 Witches” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

Co-writer and director Brady Hall’s 7 Witches (2017) is a masterclass in ever-darkening atmosphere. Hall’s quietly unsettling, often bass tonal music continuously suggests a sinister cloud of wickedness slowly encompassing the viewer. This can also be said of Mark Meseroll and Will Putnam’s unnerving contribution to the sound department. The creepy morsels the duo concoct frequently derive from the narrative itself. In the classic horror genre tradition, this largely stems from the din some unseen individual makes from afar. It is also heard, and felt from the perspective of the viewer, in the more brutal episodes of violence spied in the labor. Such a statement is piqued by Ryan Purcell’s ominous and grimly beautiful cinematography. Additionally, the variety of increasingly strained character relations, which begin slightly askew and become more aggressive as the ingeniously fashioned plot unfolds, only enhance this brooding orchestration. Hall’s gradual, layer by layer pace assists this element. There is also an equal doses subtle and dream-like manner that stylistically guides the project. Such a veneer weaves these components together brilliantly.

Hall commences his tale with a genuinely shocking and superbly done black and white sequence. It details a colonial massacre. The length of the segment is no more than three minutes. Yet, it leaves a lingering impression. It also mechanizes as an instantaneous expression of the technical prowess of the piece.

As the story moves to the modern day, Hall focuses in on a wedding. It is between Aggie (in a top-notch performance from Megan Hensley), a local, and Rose (in an enactment from Danika Golombek that perfectly balances innocence with underlying trepidation). The latter is a stranger to the area. Almost immediately we note the problems among those who have gathered for the matrimonial celebration. Chief among these is the sibling rivalry between Kate (who is enthrallingly played by Persephone Apostolou) and Rose. The film, especially the initial half hour, wisely utilizes this as a springboard. It is one meant to entertainingly develop these on-screen personas. Simultaneously, it keeps us biting our nails. This is by ceaselessly garnering unease. Such a sensation always appears to be incessantly tightening its malicious grasp around these otherwise mundane events. This impression is pushed into full force when Hall introduces a mysterious group of individuals. They gather with the assorted family members the night before Aggie and Rose’s festivity. The rest of the picture also astonishes in its ability to never lose sight of its sharp eye for its leads. This is while the affair delves further into its eerie, mesmerizingly constructed and imaginative terror arrangements. In turn, the payoff is every bit as satisfying as its buildup.

The deft screenplay, co-penned by Ed Dougherty, adds to the richness of the proceedings. This is as much as the all-around terrific depictions. Mike Jones as Kate’s (potentially ex) lover, Cody, and Macall Gordon as Paula are some of the strongest of these previously unmentioned portrayals. Nancy Frye’s representation of Elanor and Kris Keppler’s embodiment of Anne are similarly incredible. Adding to the charm is Kristine Hawthorne’s superb costume design.

At a mere seventy-one minutes in length, this is a lean, taunt, filler-less moviegoing experience. This Indican Pictures release rivals Robert Eggers fierce full-length feature debut, The Witch (2015), in sheer unpredictability and stark credibility. Likewise, Hall’s exercise is just as chill-inducing. This is even if some of the arrangements of exposition found in the first act are handed via formulaic circumstances. Still, the overall power of the presentation is never diluted. 7 Witches is a knockout. I look forward to whatever Hall does next.

(Unrated). Contains violence, sexuality and adult themes.

Available now on video on demand.

The Facebook page for the project can be found here.

“The Black Room” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Taking cues from The Entity (1982), Insidious (2010), Wishmaster (1997) and The Evil Dead (1981), prolific writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky’s The Black Room (2016) is stylish, tense, captivating and fun; an instant classic. The project tells the tale of a married couple who discover a demon that thrives on sexual repression and desire. Such an unholy entity threatens to destroy the lives of the once happy duo. This is almost immediately upon their arrival in their new home.

In so doing, Kanefsky instills a plethora of inventive ideas. They greatly enhance the occasionally formulaic mechanics of the plot. The endeavor also benefits from solid, character-oriented writing. Kanefsky also sports an undeniable capacity for visually stunning direction. Such a trait is wonderfully reminiscent of Dario Argento. The often gooey 1980’s influenced special effects, which come courtesy of Eric Chase and Vincent J. Guastini, only augment the joyously retro feel. Such pulsates ardently through every frame of the proceedings. Correspondingly, Savant’s booming, nail-biting and grimly gorgeous music compliments Kyle Stryker’s same said cinematography brilliantly.

Furthermore, Lin Shaye as Miss Black and Tiffany Shepis as Monica, a real estate agent, shine in their brief turns. Natasha Henstridge as our heroine, Jennifer, makes for a compellingly vulnerable counterpart. This is in relation to her possessed husband, Paul (in a bulls-eye turn from Lukas Hassel). Such is especially true once his increasingly eccentric behavior kicks in near the end of the first act.

In turn, Kanefsky has created a smartly paced, joyously successful horror outing. It is one erected from the most endearing qualities of the genre. Admittedly, the creature in the basement scenario is the most charming element in this respective arsenal. Best of all, the ninety-four minute picture commences with an extended opening segment that is impressive on all accounts. From herein, this largely unpredictable presentation only continues its enjoyably atmospheric and imaginative streak. The rousing, blood-soaked climax and post-end credit scene can be viewed as one magnificent, elongated final wink at the audience. Such results in an all-around superbly done and satisfying venture. Kanefsky has delivered one of the best cinematic terrors of the year. The mysteries of The Black Room are well-worth seeking out.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence, sexuality, adult themes and nudity.

Now available on video on demand.

“The Salesman” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Asghar Farhadi’s Academy Award-winner for Foreign Language Film, The Salesman (2016), is a quietly powerful and human drama. It is also a masterfully restrained and dignified thriller. The rich and unapologetically flawed characterizations, performances, emotive music by Sattar Oraki and brooding snd elegant cinematography from Hossein Jafarian are all first-rate. These elements strongly call to mind the qualities of his earlier work, A Separation (2011). Similarly, Farhadi’s latest one-hundred and twenty-four minute picture equals the afore-mentioned entry in Farhadi’s cinematic catalogue in pure craftsmanship. Yet, the manner of storytelling utilized in these two movies are wholly different. A Separation unveils its plotline quicklyThe Salesman unfolds in a more novel-like, gradual and competent fashion. This latter manner is more satisfying. It is also better suited for the material present in Farhadi’s recent endeavor.

This tale of a man, Emad Etesami (Shahab Hosseini), who tries to find the individual who broke into his new apartment and attacked his wife, Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), and the doubts and suspicions that arrive from such an encounter, could’ve easily become cliche. In Farhadi’s ever-competent hands, it is nothing short of exhilarating. Likewise, it is brilliantly paced and filled with nuance. There is also a timeliness and immediacy to the variety of themes Farhadi smoothly incorporates into the presentation. Such is as delicately, yet believably, treated as the sentiments burning beneath the surface of both our leads and the film itself. The dialogue is also credibly penned and delivered. Correspondingly, Farhadi’s guidance of the project is terrific. It is consistently graceful, appropriately somber and proficient. Best of all, it is stylish without ever being, as is often the case, distractingly showy.

Farhadi’s seventh feature-length production is also, as is spied in the phenomenal final act, a welcome anti-revenge statement. The Alfred Hitchcock and early Roman Polanski reminiscent touches peppered throughout, as well as the pitch perfect concluding note the endeavor unveils, only makes the proceedings all the more hypnotic. It all comes together to create a definitive masterpiece; a wonderful celluloid exploration that is as intimate as it is transcendent.

(PG-13). Contains adult themes and language.

Available now on video on demand.

A Word of Dreams Recommends: “Buddy Hutchins”

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

A Word of Dreams’ latest independent motion picture recommendation is writer-director Jared Cohn’s brilliant Buddy Hutchins (2015). In this wildly entertaining and uniquely thought-provoking production, Jamie Kennedy gives the best performance of his career. This is as the gradually unhinged, recovering alcoholic title character. He is a man who is driven to violence from all the pressures and problems piling up in his personal life. This meltdown is prompted by the closing of his failed business and his discovery that his wife, Evelyn (in a quietly resonant performance from Sara Malukal Lane), is being unfaithful.

All of these previously stated plot traits are given ample concentration and build-up. What also further strengthens the affair is that Cohn’s direction and screenplay are both top-notch. They are both carefully constructed and paced. This is with a perfect balance of emotionally searing sequences of character development, effective dark comedy, many masterful mid-life crisis moments and tensely erected thriller elements. Likewise, the last act, especially its climactic scenes, ties these qualities together in a harrowing, beautifully balanced and satisfactory fashion. Augmenting the overall strength of the effort is a great soundtrack. There is even a cameo in one of the concluding bits from Los Angeles and Detroit based rapper Jonezen (Chris Jones).

Moreover, the 96-minute movie, distributed through Uncork’d Entertainment, is consistently compelling and well-done. Additionally, we have no problem relating to and understanding Hutchins’ pain and anger at any time in the feature. The result is consistently compelling and memorable. In turn, Cohn has given us Falling Down (1993) for the 21st century. This is a riveting endeavor. It is one that is just as intimate and powerful as Joel Schumacher’s afore-mentioned political masterpiece. The end credit montage is especially amusing.

See it now on Amazon Prime and other video on demand platforms. It is also available on DVD and Blu-ray.

(Unrated). Contains violence, adult themes and language.

“The Lure” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

The Lure (2015), a horror/ musical based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid” (1837), is one of the most unique, imaginative, surreal and visually spectacular films I have seen in years. Jakob Kijowski’s cinematography is gorgeous, the writing and direction (from Robert Bolesto and Agnieska Smoczynska respectively) are beautifully done and Marcin Charlicki’s effects are credible and superb. Congruently, the acting is stellar. Michalina Olszanska and Marta Mazurek as our heroines, Zlota and Srebrna, are especially good. Moreover, the nearly wall to wall songs, and dance numbers that accompany them, are lively and emotive. Likewise, the moments of terror are memorable and effective. The non-linear storytelling, as well as its constant contrasts in cheery and ominous mood, only helps add a deeper sense of unpredictability, drama, poetry and art house allure to the proceedings. Additionally, the touches of love narrative and same treated, often darkly comedic elements are handled in a proficient and spectacularly blended fashion. It is in a manner that never takes away from the true focal point of the fiction: the bond of Zlota and Srebrna. Correspondingly, these cinematic components are anything but formulaic. Such only makes this production, originally titled Corki dancingu (Daughters of the Dance Club), increasingly layered.

The result is an awe-inspiring, ardent and breezily paced ninety-two- minute stroke of excellence. This is a consistently hypnotic endeavor. It is one that seems to take as many cues from Jim Sharman’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) as it does any number of grindhouse flicks from that era. Smockzynska’s feature length debut masterpiece, which concerns a pair of sea nymphs who find themselves working in an adult night club in Poland in the 1980’s, is as toe-tapping and, at times, head-banging as it is brilliant. From beginning to grisly and smirk-inducing end, this is one continually soaring, high-note of cinematic exhilaration. For those who claim there is little originality left in the genre, I strongly urge you to seek this one out.

Available now on demand and on DVD and Blu-ray.

Distributed in the USA by Janus Films.

(Unrated). Contains nudity, some graphic violence, sexuality and adult themes.

“The Wicked One” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

Rating: **** out of *****.

Co-writer and director Tory Jones’ The Wicked One (2017) is a knockout retro style slasher film. It is tense, blood-soaked fun. Furthermore, it is clearly inspired by a plethora of classics in the sub-genre. John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) and the Friday the 13th series are among them. Even Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho (1960) gets a nod. Jones’ sly references to these previously mentioned features throughout this skillfully done work only augments the high entertainment value derived from this aspect.

Furthermore, the performances are strong. Correspondingly, Eryk Kyr (who is phenomenal here in his enactment of Mr. Miller), Sean Thomas and Vintage Voodoo’s music is atmospheric and haunting. The same can be said of Roman Jossart’s gritty cinematography. Andy Palmer and Jossart’s editing is terrific. Additionally, the project ends as grippingly, if abruptly, as it begins.

Jones also respects the many traditions, especially in terms of characterization and their often inexplicable actions, inherent in this brand of cinema. This is even if Jones and Cheyenne Gordon’s screenplay invests a bit too much time in the protagonists’ personal dramas. The simple, straightforward plot, which concerns a masked maniac (Jack Norman as the brutal, no- nonsense title protagonist) systematically hacking up a group of young friends on a weekend getaway, also reflects these qualities. Yet, never once does the narrative ever feel trite. It also rarely comes across as unimaginative or underwhelming.

Movies such as these hit audiences on a primal level. Therefore, they will never go out of style. Jones’ latest venture is invigorating proof of such a statement. It is also a testament to his prowess as a filmmaker and collaborative scripter. I eagerly anticipate the sequel the ninety-one-minute affair sets up in such a smirk-inducing fashion its concluding moments. See it!

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence and some nudity.

Available now on video on demand.