“One Last Coin” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

“One Last Coin” (2016), from writer-director Skip Shea, is achingly beautiful. The seven-minute and fourteen-second short film, a case of neorealism that would fit perfectly alongside the associated developments of such masters of Italian cinema as Federico Fellini and Roberto Rossellini, is especially gorgeous in its profundity. More precisely, that which it derives from everyday simplicity. For example, the endeavor is content to merely showcase the breathtaking natural elegance and allure of the streets of Rome (where Shea recorded the article entirely on his iPhone 6). Such occurs as we follow an individual who decides what to do with his title object. This is right before Christmastime.

As the wordless tale unfolds, the piece speaks emotive volumes. This is largely a courtesy of Shea’s indelible imagery. Such a facet becomes collectively brilliant when glimpsed through the marvelous black and white cinematography he incorporates into the labor. These triumphant qualities are made increasingly potent by Shea’s decision to score the exertion with a single lovely and evocative piece of music. It plays to grand consequence throughout the undertaking. The gentle sound of water heard in the final moments enhance the Zen-like sense of calm and first-person perspective which ultimately courses throughout the production. These touches also spectacularly augment the previously addressed notion of authenticity and finding poetry in the commonplace.

What also strengthens the piece, and further helps it to become such an unforgettable opus, is that Shea offers no background information about his unnamed lead character. Is he homeless? Is he merely a curious visitor in Italy’s capital city? Maybe he could be a bit of both. Either way, the audience is forced to relate. In so doing, we see the lovely vistas Shea stunningly brings to the screen through the visage of our own thoughts and experience. This also makes the haunting sights spied along the way, such as a few instances around the mid-section where we spy crowds of people walking past those who appear lifeless on the ground, evermore effective. These quick bits, as well as the unique storytelling elements Shea integrates into the affair, make for an illustration of moving art that is as credible as it is unforgettable.

Another item that is equally astonishing, aside from the high-quality of the chronicle itself, is that Shea is a one-man moviemaking crew on this venture. In turn, the narrative has the sharp focus and radiate intimacy of a passion project. Shea’s editing is stalwart. Additionally, his sound work is crisp and incredible. It compliments the components of realism and quiet splendor that are in perfect symmetry through every frame of the effort.

“One Last Coin” is a masterpiece. It is impossible to not be moved.

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5 New Poems: “When All Has Been Done to Tend to Dreams”, “To Compose a Thesis on Affection”, “Home”, “Empty Safety Nets” and “Brain Strikes”

By Andrew Buckner

“When All Has Been Done to Tend to Dreams”

When all has been done to tend to dreams
And feet, interests remain stagnant:
One must remember that the most plentiful streams
Often begin with a single willful fragment.

“To Compose a Thesis on Affection”

To compose a thesis on affection
Without knowledge of the subject;
To score a film on rejection
Without awareness of images abject;
To tread in the shoes of a master
Without first grasping the sole of the essentials:
Is to become one with the pace of life, ever-faster-
To divide potential with the consequential.

“Home (Haiku)”

Soft baby fingers
Of home remove the callous
Cracks of the real world.

“Empty Safety Nets (Haiku)”

Empty safety nets
Lead to fearful valleys of
Exhilaration.

“Brain Strikes (Haiku)”

Brain strikes like lightning
Rods in self-serving song storms-
Idle conductor.

25 Underrated Films of the Past 25 Years

By Andrew Buckner

Whether the film received generally negative reactions from critics and audiences upon its initial release or simply didn’t get the proper attention the feature deserved, the past twenty-five years have been filled with underrated gems. With this in mind, I have prepared a list of twenty-five movies from the aforementioned time frame that deserve a second look. They are included below in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

The BFG (2016)
Director: Steven Spielberg.

Bubble (2006)
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

Cosmopolis (2012)
Director: David Cronenberg.

Film Socialisme (2011)
Director: Jean-Luc Godard.

Fire in the Sky (1993)
Director: Robert Lieberman.

The Fountain (2006)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

The Fourth Kind (2009)
Director: Olatunde Osunsanmi.

Gummo (1997)
Director: Harmony Korine

The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)
Director: Rob Zombie.

Julien Donkey-Boy (1999)
Director: Harmony Korine.

Kuso (2017)
Director: Flying Lotus.

Love (2015)
Director: Gaspar Noe.

Machete Kills (2013)
Director: Robert Rodriguez.

Matinee (1993)
Director: Joe Dante.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
Director: Spike Lee.

mother! (2017)
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

Natural Born Killers (1994)
Director: Oliver Stone.

Prometheus (2012)
Director: Ridley Scott.

Red State (2011)
Director: Kevin Smith.

Silence (2016)
Director: Martin Scorsese.

Storytelling (2002)
Director: Todd Solondz.

The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears (2014)
Directors: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani.

Tideland (2005)
Director: Terry Gilliam.

What Dreams May Come (1998)
Director: Vincent Ward.

The Words (2012)
Directors: Brian Klugman, Lee Sternthal.

A Word of Dreams’ 21 Favorite Films of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that the films included are based on a 2018 U.S. release date.

21. Incident in a Ghostland
(Director: Pascal Laugier)

20. They Remain
(Director: Philip Gelatt)

19. The Endless
(Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead)

18. Upgrade
(Director: Leigh Whannell)

17. Unsane
(Director: Steven Soderbergh)

16. My Hero’s Shadow
(Director: Justin Young)

15. Ready Player One
(Director: Steven Spielberg)

14. Thoroughbreds
(Director: Cory Finley)

13. Revenge
(Director: Coralie Fargeat)

12. The Insult
(Director: Ziad Doueiri)

11. The Death of Stalin
(Director: Armando Iannucci)

10. Annihilation
(Director: Alex Garland)

9. A Quiet Place
(Director: John Krasinski)

8. Isle of Dogs
(Director: Wes Anderson)

7. The Tale
(Director: Jennifer Fox)

6. Tully
(Director: Jason Reitman)

5.You Were Never Really Here
(Director: Lynne Ramsay)

4. Loveless
(Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev)

3. King Cohen
(Director: Steve Mitchell)

2.Hereditary
(Director: Ari Aster)

1.Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
(Director:J.A. Bayona)

“Hide in the Light” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Hide in the Light (2018), the debut feature from co-writer and director Mikey McGregor, is moody, spectacular supernatural horror. The efficient and well-mounted 80-minute film effectively utilizes the time-honored device of the sinister being lurking unseen in the darkness. This is most noteworthy in the tense and exciting second half of the arrangement. Yet, the feature is so well-made, paced and tense that it never ceases to feel fresh and exciting. Richard Albert’s wonderfully creepy music, McGregor’s brilliant behind the lens work and Gonzalo Digenio’s rich cinematography only make the production evermore haunting and memorable. These qualities are enhanced by the stunning performances present throughout the endeavor. For example, Eric Roberts offers a phenomenal depiction as Father Wes. Additionally, Jesse James is terrific as Todd. The same can be said of Lindsay Lamb’s engaging depiction of Becca.

McGregor’s movie tells the tale of a group of thrill-seeking friends. They break into the fictional Saint Petersberg Orphanage in hopes of exploration. In so doing, they find themselves being stalked by paranormal forces. Eventually the credibly etched and relatable protagonists on-screen unveil that they can only find safety by doing as the title suggests. The symbolism of such an act, especially in a religious sense, is applied intriguingly to the project. This is without the notion ever being overdone.

Such a solid narrative foundation calls to mind David F. Sandberg’s Lights Out (2016) in its concept. Yet, McGregor’s fabrication is comparable to James Wan’s modern haunted house masterpiece The Conjuring (2013) in its ability to unnerve. This is evident in the chilling five-minute prologue of the endeavor. It is set in 1966. In turn, McGregor and his fellow scripters Cynthia Bravo (who deftly plays Karen) and Digenio craft a tale that is as scary as it is entertaining. Hide in the Light is imaginative and harrowing; an instant genre classic! It will be released by High Octane Pictures later in the year.

(Unrated).

“Hell’s Kitty” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Hell’s Kitty (2016), the 98-minute sophomore feature from writer-director Nicholas Tana, is an affectionate and wildly hilarious sendup of the ardent bond between owner and pet. It also successfully operates as a loving parody of the horror genre. Particularly, the compositions of literary maestro Stephen King. Additionally, sly references to classic films rooted in this genre abound. Nods to Ghostbusters (1984), Poltergeist (1982), Killer Klowns from Outer Space (1988), Halloween (1978), the Friday the 13th franchise (1980-present), The Fog (1980) and The Omen (1976) are all cleverly woven into the fabric of the narrative. Yet, the most brilliant of these bits is a black and white lampooning of the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho (1960). It occurs near the one-hour mark. Heightening the enjoyment of this factor is an all-star cast of categorically related cinematic veterans. All of whom have small roles throughout the picture. They are also frequently named after personas from the opuses of terror mentioned above. Nina Kate’s amusing representation of Dr. Laurie Strodes is a wonderful example. Similarly, Doug Jones (2017’s stunning The Shape of Water) is terrific as Father Damien. Dale Midkiff (1989’s Pet Sematary) is engaging as Rosemary Carrie. Continually, Lynn Lowry is a delight to watch as The Medium. Courtney Gains is exceptional as Mordicia. A late sequence that kids the original adaptation of King’s Children of the Corn (1984), which Gains appeared in as the antagonistic Malachi, is another memorable highlight of the exercise.

Based on both the web series and the comic book of the same name, the production is inspired by Tana’s own personal experiences with his cat, Angel. Such is a moniker shared by the feline cited in the title of Tana’s tale. In the affair, Nick (in a lively and charismatic depiction from Tana), is a Hollywood screenwriter. He is one whose attempts at romantic entanglements are constantly cut short. This is by Angel’s violent outbursts when women are around him. As these murderous eruptions increase in number, Nick believes his cat has been possessed by a demon. Seeking help from a variety of individuals, Nick attempts to stop the body count by getting his beloved companion exorcised.

Such is a fun and inventive concept. It also works tremendously well. This is especially evident when combined with the proudly tongue-in-cheek execution of the exertion. Tana’s witty, heartfelt and skillfully paced script makes the most of this idea. The arrangement is complete with felicitous humor and dialogue. Correspondingly, the characters are just as smartly crafted and relatable. Furthermore, the sharp storytelling abilities in Tana’s screenplay are made increasingly alluring. This is via Tana’s charming and stylish guidance of the project.

Assisting matters is the visually impressive opening and closing credits. Richard Albert’s music, with supplementary material from Wolfgang Lackner, is certainly tone-fitting. The most memorable and side-splitting of these selections is a number that sounds like a moggy-driven rendition of Jerry Goldsmith’s “Ave Satani” (1976). The playful effects, striking cinematography, excellent sound and proficient editing enhance the immersive pleasure derived from the undertaking.

Produced by Denise Acosta, Hell’s Kitty is grand, 1980’s influenced entertainment. The intermittent sequences of gore are effectively constructed. Still, the labor is never overly reliant on these instances. This can also be said of the spirited scares Tana compiles throughout the endeavor. In so doing, Tana erects an impeccable atmosphere that mixes laughter with the paranormal. It is one that never wavers from commencement to conclusion. Highly reminiscent of Tim Burton’s timeless Beetlejuice (1988) and Peter Jackson’s The Frighteners (1996) in both quality and sheer rewatchability, Tana’s configuration is destined to be a cult classic! I recommend checking it out when it arrives on video on demand on March 13th, 2018.

(Unrated).

“Cold Moon” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Cold Moon (2016), from co-writer-director Griff Furst, is an absolute joy to sit through and contemplate. This is for both the avid cinephile and fellow thriller fanatic. Based on Michael McDowell’s novel Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980), the eighty-eighty-minute venture has a delightfully unyielding, bleak atmosphere. It also exploits a simultaneously ominous and elegiac veneer. Such a look is much in the vein of a skillfully polished, yet appropriately gritty, piece of celluloid from the 1970’s–early 80’s. Additionally, there are subtle Hitchcockian touches delicately placed throughout the affair. Hitchcock’s immortal adaptation of Robert Bloch’s Psycho (1960), my personal favorite work from the master of suspense, frequently came to mind. Furthermore, there is a tremendously executed sequence of death in the first ten minutes. It is so visually stunning and mesmerizing that one cannot help but draw comparisons to Italian horror maestro Dario Argento. This sentiment is held onto and echoed in many other similar moments throughout the arrangement. Likewise, the supernatural episodes that occur later in the configuration are handled just as deftly and effectively. A hypnotic scene in a graveyard near the one hour mark is surefire evidence of such an assessment. This previously mentioned bit also slyly brings forth a snake-like creature. This entity is reminiscent of an otherworldly beast spied in another ethereal masterpiece McDowell co-authored. Such is the Tim Burton helmed Beetlejuice (1988).

Correspondingly, Furst toys with gothic genre sensibilities in a manner that is worthy of an alignment to a Hammer Film Productions release from the 1960’s. The characters, most of whom are small-town archetypes, are wonderfully realized and credible. Jack Snyder, Furst and McDowell’s highly-intelligent, gorgeously mounted and impressively structured script, which is full of life-mirroring dialogue, remembers the cardinal rule of the most enduring scary stories. In so doing, Furst keeps the personalities on-screen at the forefront. All of this is worthy of top-tier praise and recommendation. Regardless, one of the most striking components on display is how our villain, when revealed, isn’t shone exclusively in a wholly loathsome light. This is an error far too many features highlight and proudly display in their protagonist. This is again another telltale aspect of Furst’s ability to allow audiences to understand the motivations and inner-mechanisms of even the most sinister of those who dominate the narrative.

Recorded in Louisiana, Furst chronicles a fatal tragedy in a southern municipality. It is one which interrupts the daily goings-on of the Larkins. While local law enforcement attempts to solve this murder, the victim returns as a ghostly presence. Albeit, one that is bent on serving up her own sense of post-death vengeance. This is to the individual responsible for her demise.

It’s a naturally intriguing concept. Such is one that Furst makes increasingly terrific. This is with his enigmatic and quietly unnerving treatment of the material. Even if the plot is familiar in hindsight, Furst avoids traditional trappings of dread at nearly every avenue. As the picture plays, it becomes gradually darker. Nonetheless, it also amplifies its inventiveness. But, it never loses its genre-mashing style and boldness.

Relatedly, Furst’s opus never becomes desperate to augment or cheaply punctuate its scares with unnecessary jumps. Because of this, Furst establishes a perfect symmetry of plot and organically erected instances of fear. The endeavor could easily have become overblown. This is especially true of the finale. Instead, the exercise utilizes this aforesaid balance to grand consequence. This is until the eye-popping imagery which commences the concluding credits is spied. The saga also ends on a perfect note. It is one that brings about as many questions as it does answers.

What also adds to the sheer brilliance of the demonstration is the all-around exceptional performances. Christopher Lloyd steals the show as the wheelchair-bound James Redfield. Candy Clark as Evelyn and Chester Rushing as Jerry Larkin are both captivating. They fit comfortably into their roles. This is while making them distinct. Madison Wolfe as Mandy, Josh Stewart as Nathan Redfield and Laura Cayouette as Ginny Darrish are also magnificent.

The movie also benefits from Thomas L. Callaway’s astonishing, mood-laced cinematography. Furst’s editing is seamless. His overall guidance of the project is inspired. It is also refined and mature. This can also be said of Nathan Furst’s haunting, proficient and remarkable original music. The effects, make-up and sound are spectacular. Jayme Bohn’s costume design is superb.

Furst has crafted a brilliant effort. It is an astonishing exhibition of the strongest attributes of both the categories of crime, drama and paranormal revenge. The no-nonsense excursion is also layered, full of dimension and insight. It wraps bystanders up in its mysteries and memorable terrors from the first frame to the last. Having not read McDowell’s source literature, I cannot state if it is faithful to the original telling of the Florida-set endeavor. Yet, I can declare with complete certainty that the labor stands triumphantly on its own merits as one of the best white-knuckle shockers I’ve witnessed all year. I highly recommend checking out Cold Moon. It will be distributed in theaters and on video on demand October 6th, 2017 through Uncork’d Entertainment.

(Unrated).

“It Comes at Night” – (Capsule Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

It Comes at Night (2017) is claustrophobic, ominous, well-acted and beautifully made. Additionally, writer-director Trey Edward Shults successfully builds an unsettling atmosphere. This he wonderfully institutes alongside a slow-burn pace that works terrifically from the first frame to the last. The problem the 91-minute horror outing faces is that the story, which concerns a man who is attempting to protect his family from an enigmatic sickness which wiped out most of the world, has become routine in recent post-apocalyptic genre offerings. This is also true of the general chain of events found in the narrative. Such tired ingredients greatly dilute the overall interest and effectiveness of this otherwise solid, character-oriented film.

(R).

Available to buy now at Amazon.

“Death Waits for No Man” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Death Waits for No Man (2017) is riveting in concept and execution. Additionally, writer-director Armin Siljkovic’s debut feature is an unpredictable, taut, stylish and endlessly intense thriller. Clocking in at a lean 77 minutes, the slow-burn picture is effective and efficient. Though the work is essentially a three-person tale, audience care and understanding is equally distributed among our leads. Such is a courtesy of the way Siljkovic slyly makes these individuals look like protagonists and antagonists of the venture. This is at differing moments throughout the effort.

The plot itself is a masterclass in storytelling. Siljkovic commences the affair on a deceptively simple note. It concerns a woman, Lily (in a layered and commanding portrayal from Angelique Pretorius), asking a man, Uzal (in an excellent enactment from Bradley Snedeker), to kill her husband, Sinclair (in a gripping depiction from Corey Rieger). To say anymore would be to give away the sheer delight of watching Siljkovic build on this idea. This is with one credible, ever-darkening twist after another. Best of all, the tale ends just as well as the rest of the largely one-room movie deserves.

This is a courtesy of Siljkovic’s sharply honed contributions to the project. His authorship of the material is every bit as skillful and harrowing as his general guidance of the endeavor. Siljkovic’s characters are initially enigmatic. This works to further erect bystander intrigue in the early passages. When the exercise concludes, the on-screen personalities arise as suitably developed. Such an attribute is even more evidence of how well Siljkovic handles the material.

Furthermore, Joseph ‘Sloe’ Slawinski offers brooding, hypnotic and emotionally resonant music. Ted Hayash’s cinematography is moody and immersive. Isabel Mandujano’s costume design is superb. The make-up and sound fare just as magnificently. The result of all these afore-mentioned components is a full-throttle masterpiece; an absolute bulls-eye.

Death Waits For no Man is scheduled for release in fall of 2017.

 

The 78 Best Horror Films of 2017 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

I am proud to present the best horror films of 2017 so far. The article contains 78 full-length titles as well as my favorite genre-related documentary. Also included herein is a section on the top-tier short films in this category. Furthermore, there is also a passage considering my highest-ranking guilty cinematic pleasures from the afore-mentioned time frame. It is my intention to continue to add to the piece until the end of the year. This is with the hopes that by December 31st I will have a complete list of 101 genre works. Please check back and see what gets added and what gets changed.

78. The Atoning
Director: Michael Williams.

77. Ghost Witch
Director: Joseph Lavender.

76. The Gracefield Incident
Director: Matthieu Ratthe.

75. Sacrilege
Director: Paul Catalanatto.

74. Gremlin
Director: Ryan Bellgardt.

73. Phoenix Forgotten
Director: Justin Barber.

72. Don’t Knock Twice
Director: Caradog W. James

71. Psychos
Director: Sandy Chukhadarian.

70. Galaxy of Horrors
Directors: Dennis Cabella, Javier Chillon, Todd Cobery, Andrew Desmond, Benni Diez, Marcello Ercole, Richard Karpala, Justin McConnell, Antonio Padovan, Fabio Prati, Ethan Shaftel, Marinko Spahic.

69. The 13th Friday
Director: Justin Price.

68. Demons
Director: Miles Doleac.

67. Patient
Director: Jason Sheedy.

66. Whispers
Director: Tammi Sutton.

65. Pool Party Massacre
Director: Drew Marvick.

64. Life
Director: Daniel Espinosa

63. The Belko Experiment
Director: Greg McLean

62. Open Water 3: Cage Dive
Director: Gerald Rascionato

61. Bornless Ones
Director: Alexander Babaev.

60. Darkness Rising
Director: Austin Reading.

59. WTF!
Director: Peter Herro.

58. XX
Directors: Roxanne Benjamin, Karyn Kusama, St.Vincent, Jovanka Vuckovic.

57. The Wicked One
Director: Tory Jones.

56. Inner Demon
Director: Ursula Dabrowsky.

55. Hunting Grounds
Director: John Portanova.

54. Ghosts of Darkness
Director: David Ryan Keith.

53. Circus Kane
Director: Christopher Ray.

52. Ghost Note
Director: Troy Hart.

51. 7 Witches
Director: Brady Hall.

50. Pitchfork
Director: Glenn Douglas Packard.

49. Besetment
Director: Brad Douglas.

48. The Covenant
Director: Robert Conway.

47. Getting Schooled
Director: Chuck Norfolk.

46. The Creature Below
Director: Stewart Sparke.

45. Residue
Director: Rusty Nixon.

44. Jackals
Director: Kevin Greutert.

43. Watch Over
Director: F.C. Rabbath.

42. Heidi
Director: Daniel Ray.

41. Demon Hunter
Director: Zoe Kavanagh.

40. Beacon Point
Director: Eric Blue.

39. Annabelle: Creation
Director: David F. Sandberg.

38. Bonejangles
Director: Brett DeJager.

37. Bethany
Director: James Cullen Bressack.

36. The Ice Cream Truck
Director: Megan Freels Johnston.

35. Devil’s Domain
Director: Jared Cohn.

34. The Black Room
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

33. Split
Director: M. Night Shyamalan.

32. The Girl with All the Gifts
Director: Colm McCarthy.

31. The Demonic Tapes
Director: Richard Mansfield.

30. Peelers
Director: Seve Schelenez.

29. Clowntergeist
Director: Aaron Mirtes.

28. Get Out
Director: Jordan Peele.

27. Personal Shopper
Director: Olivier Assayas.

26. It Comes At Night
Director: Trey Edward Shults.

25. We Go On
Directors: Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton.

24. The Evil Within
Director: Andy Getty.

23. VooDoo
Director: Tom Costabile.

22. The Dark Tapes
Directors: Vincent J. Guastini, Michael McQuown.

21. Hounds of Love
Director: Ben Young.

20. Cold Moon
Director: Griff Furst.

19. Asylum of Darkness
Director: Jay Woefel.

18. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Director: Oz Perkins.

17. The Void
Directors: Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski.

16. Prevenge
Director: Alice Lowe.

15. The Domicile
Director: Jared Cohn.

14. It Stains the Sands Red
Director: Colin Minihan.

13. It
Director: Andy Muschietti.

12. We are the Flesh
Director: Emiliano Rocha Minter.

11. Berlin Syndrome
Director: Cate Shortland.

10. The Transfiguration
Director: Michael O’ Shea.

9. The Lure
Director: Agnieska Smoczynska.

8. Alien: Covenant
Director: Ridley Scott.

7. The Devil’s Candy
Director: Sean Byrne.

6. Kuso
Director: Flying Lotus.

5. A Dark Song
Director: Liam Gavin.

4. Mother!
Director: Darren Aronofsky.

3. A Cure for Wellness
Director: Gore Verbinski.

2.Raw
Director: Julia Ducournau.

1.Long Night in a Dead City
Director: Richard Griffin.

 

Favorite Horror Documentary of 2017:

Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Semetary
Directors: John Campopiano, Justin White.

 

Favorite Short Film of 2017

“Alone”
Director: Tofiq Rzayev.

 

Guilty Pleasures:

Evil Bong 666
Director: Charles Band.

Land Shark
Director: Mark Polonia.

Sharknado 5: Global Swarming
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante.