“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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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’ 5 Favorite Books of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

*Please note that every volume included in this list is based on the criteria of a 2018 publication date.

5. Wade in the Water: Poems by Tracy K. Smith

4. The Cabin at the End of the World: A Novel by Paul
Tremblay

3. The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

2. Ghostbuster’s Daughter: Life with My Dad, Harold Ramis by Violet Ramis Stiel

1. The Outsider: A Novel by Stephen King

Runner-Up:

Warlight: A Novel by Michael Ondaatje

“Imposter” – (Short Film Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

“Imposter” (2018) is among the most relatable, beautifully made, deeply symbolic and personal compositions yet from the incredibly talented writer-director Chris Esper. The nine-minute and fifty-four second short film is a series of three interconnected vignettes. They focus on the inward struggles of anxiety and the idea of the Imposter Syndrome. The latter concept, which was formulated by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes in 1978, concerns the idea that someone who is known for their accomplishments are afraid of being exposed as a con.

This theme is expounded upon early on in the form of an overworked man, Mike (in a powerhouse performance from Tom Mariano). During a meeting, he is plagued by visions of a young jester (in a quietly heartfelt enactment from Brendan Meehan). This figure can be seen as the adolescent side of Mike who simply wants to enjoy life. After his meeting he gets on a bus. From herein, we follow an artist (Sheetal Kelkar) and her counterpart (Jamie Braddy) to an art gallery. Here Esper wordlessly shows that both parties feel like they are embarrassed and on display. Returning to the aforementioned vehicle, Esper goes among the populace of the transport. In so doing, he often utilizes direct imagery to quickly tell many private stories of worry and woe. This ends on a highly effective note of tragedy that involves two military veterans (William DeCoff and Adam Masnyk).

Esper’s latest mechanizes tremendously well as social commentary and as an almost entirely dialogue free character study. His scripting and guidance of the project is masterful and mature at every avenue. The Stories in Motion and On Edge Productions fabrication, potently edited by Esper, is also a triumphant demonstration of Ben Alexander and Bryce Brashears’ sound. The same can be said of the lush cinematography from Rick King. This is also true of the make-up and special effects from Julianne Ross. The gently used music from Steven Lanning-Cafaro is haunting and evocative. It fits the tone of the project exceptionally.

All of these moviemaking ingredients help make “Imposter” a timely and timeless meditation on the insecurities which secretly bind so many individuals. I especially related to the first two segments. They immediately spoke to both the full-time laborer and the part-time writer within me. Yet, what is just as remarkable is how, when viewed as a whole, Esper creates a portrait of our civilization that is as intimate as it is grand. This is cinematic poetry. It is as open to interpretation as it is credible and layered. Esper wants to prove that beneath each person is an entire world of wounded self-doubt that others may never understand. He has done so with intelligence and grace. “Imposter” is a masterpiece. It is also one of the best ventures of its type I’ve seen all year.

(Unrated).

The Best Horror and Horror/Comedy Films of 2018 (So Far)

By Andrew Buckner

 

The 10 Best Horror Films:

10. Winchester
Directors: Michael and Peter Spierig.

9. Tonight She Comes
Director: Matt Stuertz.

8. Unsane
Director: Steven Soderbergh.

7. Terrifier
Director: Damien Leone.

6. The Strangers: Prey at Night
Director: Johannes Roberts.

5. They Remain
Director: Philip Gelatt.

4. Revenge
Director: Coralie Fargeat.

3. Annihilation
Director: Alex Garland.

2. A Quiet Place
Director: John Krasinski.

1. Hereditary
Director: Ari Aster.

 

Runners-Up:

Cargo
Directors: Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke.

Insidious: The Last Key
Director: Adam Robitel.

Island Zero
Director: Josh Gerritsen.

The Manor
Director: Jonathan Schermerhorn.

 

The 5 Best Horror/Comedies

5. 4/20 Massacre
Director: Dylan Reynolds.

4. Mom and Dad
Director: Brian Taylor.

3. Soft Matter
Director: Jim Hickcox.

2. Bus Party to Hell
Director: Rolfe Kanefsky.

1. Hell’s Kitty
Director: Nicholas Tana.

“The Continuation of the Dance” By Andrew Buckner (Poem)

The Continuation of the Dance
By Andrew Buckner

Often the path to literary creation
Is paved with backsteps, hesitations!
Often golden cities of subplots must be destroyed
For true worth, audience immersion, to be employed.
Often the time spent
Hardly equates a new stone turned; a character’s breath lent.

Yet, there are the rare occasions
Where every word and beat has the right spin.
You are the orchestrator of the world’s most beautiful melody
And the harmony flows freely, melodically
With the perfect pitch and tone
And nothing needs to endure discarded, alone.

But, what matters in either circumstance
Is the continuation of the dance.

The patient writer, as all great artists, will find his or her way.

And, in so doing, history’s eternal remembrance
Will be the award admiring droves will gladly pay.

“King Cohen” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

King Cohen (2017), from writer-director Steve Mitchell, is a lively, charming and effortlessly entertaining tribute to the life and work of cinematic giant Larry Cohen. Yet, one of the most successful attributes of the 107-minute feature is that is filled with the ambition, charm and optimistic spirit of its focal point. This characteristic is made evermore intimate and invigorating by Cohen’s own nostalgic recollections. Early in the production they arrive as Cohen recalls his being a young cinephile and literary prodigy. More specifically, one who sold his first story to the dramatic anthology series Kraft Television Theater (1947-1958) in 1958. This was at the age of 17. As the endeavor goes on, these vividly narrated memories extend to the behind-the-scenes events and the often-impromptu creative sparks which helped fashion his early television and later movie work.

Cohen’s various relationships with his cast and crew members further flesh out the project. The sequences where Cohen and actor Fred Williamson, who appeared in a variety of Cohen’s efforts, disagree on the details of certain related situations they were both involved in are when the jovial charm of the documentary is most evident. But there is another layer of appeal to the arrangement. It is just as infectious. This is when modern moving picture masterminds such as J.J. Abrams, Joe Dante, John Landis and Martin Scorsese discuss their thoughts and personal connections to Cohen’s material. Such a sensation of motivation is further expounded upon in arrangements such as a delightful one found in the second half of the exercise. This is where fans of Cohen’s brilliant dark comedy, The Stuff (1985), speak of why the science-fiction/horror tour de force remains memorable and relevant to the culture of today. These bits add to the underlying perspective of awe, inspiration, love and endearing respect for Cohen and his contributions to the photographic art form which help make King Cohen such a resonant and deeply personal masterpiece. This is true from the engrossing commencement to its uniquely uplifting conclusion.

The segments which discuss the making of and audience reaction to the action film Black Caeser (1973) are also particularly intriguing. This interest continued during the discussion of how Cohen’s approach to the medium changed during the fabrication of Hell Up in Harlem (1973). When the eventual, though slow-going, success of Cohen’s classic monstrous baby on the loose opus, It’s Alive (1974), and terrifying tackle of theological issues, God Told Me To (1976), filled the screen I was equally riveted. The musings on the invention of Cohen’s timeless take on the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, Q: The Winged Serpent (1982) and involvement with Bette Davis during the recording of Wicked Stepmother (1989) were equally captivating.

Mitchell’s composition earns even more acclaim for meticulously covering nearly every one of his ventures. Moreover, the affair contains terrific music from composer Joe Kraemer. It also conveys same said cinematography by David C.P. Chan. Such elements heighten the striking quality of the piece. Correspondingly, Mitchell’s pacing and style is perfectly fitting for the tone and theme of the undertaking. The sound and editing are sharp. Also, the incorporation of stills and clips from Cohen’s constructions make Mitchell’s latest more well-rounded and complete.

In turn, Mitchell offers audiences one of the best big screen entries of its type you will see all year. King Cohen is pure celluloid joy. Those of us who grew up both admiring and obsessed with Cohen’s tales owe it to themselves to see this as soon as possible. You can do so when Mitchell’s marvelous labor is released in select theaters on July 27th, 2018 through Dark Star Pictures.

(Unrated).

“The Love Children: A Tale in Seven Pantoum Poems” By Andrew Buckner

THE LOVE CHILDREN:
A TALE IN SEVEN PANTOUM POEMS

By Andrew Buckner

I.

In the back alleys of Dave Sivo’s clinic
The illegal human reassignment surgery was performed.
It was advertised as a cure for the sick
That had become for mankind the norm.

The illegal human reassignment surgery was performed-
It transformed men into pythons, women into gill-fish goddesses.
That had become for mankind the norm-
It started in hopes to relieve their stress.

It transformed men into pythons, women into gill-fish goddesses.
It was advertised as a cure for the sick.
It started in hopes to relieve their stress.
In the back alleys of Dave Sivo’s Clinic…

II.

As the years passed, the alteration succeeded
Thousands of times, the masses
Saw it as an escape, a second chance, from the disease which bled
All goodness, kindness from the human classes.

Thousands of times, the masses
Which were rehabilitated became harder to ignore.
All goodness, kindness from the human classes
Remained in the DNA of the different, while all else declared war.

Which were rehabilitated became harder to ignore-
Saw it as an escape, a second chance, from the disease which bled-
Remained in the DNA of the different, while all else declared war-
As the years passed, the alteration succeeded…

III.

…It expanded and new sexes, species were born.
All of them were from the patron’s imagination.
Some wanted to be beautiful, others purposefully torn;
Deformed in face, with exposed body pimples, indignations.

All of them were from the patron’s imagination
For they soon knew that such sights
Deformed in face, with exposed body pimples, indignations
Were part of Earth’s betterment; a way to embrace surface imperfections, fright.

For they soon knew that such sights-
Some wanted to be beautiful, others purposefully torn-
Were part of Earth’s betterment; a way to embrace surface imperfections, fright…
…It expanded and new sexes, species were born.

IV.

They called themselves “The Love Children”.
They knew that their mere existence
Was enough to mirror the potential of the most backwards of men.
They embraced all that was said to be ugly (True luster, in a sense).

And they knew that their mere existence
Was more impactful than the fateful bullet; hate’s repugnant song-
They embraced all that was said to be ugly (True luster, in a sense).
And by never firing a gun, flailing a knife or speaking ill they echoed that throng.

Was more impactful than the fateful bullet; hate’s repugnant song-
Was enough to mirror the potential of the most backwards of men-
And by never firing a gun, flailing a knife or speaking ill they echoed that throng-
They called themselves “The Love Children”.

V.

In so doing, those that held onto their anger gradually diminished-
No one can possibly live healthily in such a continuously deflated state-
And quickly the number of those that came to Dave Sivo’s Clinic with the same wish
Did exponentially inflate.

No one can possibly live healthily in such a continuously deflated state-
And when unrealized ambitions, images became reality;
Did exponentially inflate-
Violence, aggression lost its primitive appeal to some; peace was Earth’s gravity.

And when unrealized ambitions, images became reality
And quickly the number of those that came to Dave Sivo’s Clinic with the same wish-
Violence, aggression lost its primitive appeal to some; peace was Earth’s gravity-
In so doing, those that held onto their anger gradually diminished.

VI.

As the faces, overall appearance of everyone, became wildly different
Conformity became the target of criticism.
Though civilization once pondered a new name for humanity, the intent
Remained to remember our flaws, but never return to such a shallow prism.

Conformity became the target of criticism.
Thus, once proudly erected walls of materialism were left standing.
Remained to remember our flaws, but never return to such a shallow prism-
The currency was kindness. The retired lifting of backbreaking jobs was outstanding.

Thus, once proudly erected walls of materialism were left standing.
Though civilization once pondered a new name for humanity, the intent-
The currency was kindness. The retired lifting of backbreaking jobs was outstanding.
As the faces, overall appearance of everyone, became wildly different…

VII.

…Everyone reverted to calling themselves “Human”
For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored.
The lessons learned became a new brand of evolution.
In so doing, we grew gills and guts instead of spilling gore.

For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored-
It was the goal that every child from therein would not loose stride.
In so doing, they grew gills and guts instead of spilling gore
And, in turn, flesh and country again became a thing of pride.

It was the goal that every child from therein would not loose stride-
For the initial factor of our genus, hope, had been restored.
And, in turn, flesh and country again became a thing of pride
…Everyone reverted to calling themselves “Human”.

“Butcher the Bakers” – (Movie Review)

By Andrew Buckner

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

Butcher the Bakers (2017), the third full-length feature from writer-director Tyler Amm, is a uniquely entertaining and spectacularly inventive medley of humor and horror. Part contract killer tale, part buddy comedy and part slasher saga, the 94-minute arrangement is pure fun. Much of this endless enjoyment derives from Amm and Virginia Campbell’s sharp and briskly-paced script. Filled with well-timed gags, smirk-inducing dialogue and retro (primarily 1980’s influenced) terror elements, Amm and Campbell’s previously stated contribution also winks at audiences with a few genuinely inspired self-referential moments. One of these is a nod to Amm’s debut picture, River City Panic (2015). There are also subtle alignments to numerous big screen classics wisely placed throughout the affair. John McTiernan’s action masterpiece Die Hard (1988) and Steven Spielberg’s timeless science-fiction epic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) are the most easily perceptible of these allusions. There is also a frenetic and infectious energy the likable cast radiates throughout the undertaking. When unified by the stellar performances that only continue to reflect these terms, the rousing success of Amm’s latest genre crossbreed is increasingly distinguishable.

Amm chronicles Dragomir ‘Drag’ the Reaper (in a stupendous turn from Mike Behrens that drips old-fashioned macabre). Having recently lost his job, Drag begins the arduous process of killing members of a small town. The reason for his behavior is to collect souls. Why he needs to amass these internal mechanisms is an answer that Drag keeps to himself. Soon bakery shop laborers Sam and Martin (Sean Walsh and Ryan Mathew Ziegler respectively) are hired to permanently disrupt Drag’s massacre. Because of this, the lead villain of Amm’s effort finds it progressively difficult to keep his plans and reasoning for his wicked measures to himself.

It’s a great set-up. Such is one that is molded with crowd-pleasing flare from its commercial-like opening, which is spliced with flashes of tense brutality, until the satisfying conclusion of the exertion. The narrative is given further life by Amm’s stylish and efficient guidance of the project. His editing is just as proficient. Adding to these qualities is Zach Shaw’s alternately rich and appropriately gritty cinematography. Billy Niebuhr’s music beautifully echoes the offbeat, grim and gut-busting tone of the piece. The camera work is exceptional. Moreover, the special and visual effects enhance the joy of the enterprise. This is with their decidedly antiquated veneer. Nicholas Swartz’s costume design is terrific. The sound department work is top-notch. Relatedly, Lisa Wojcik is remarkable in her portrayal of Pat. The post-credits sequence is hilarious. It brilliantly expands upon the commencement of the story.

Co-executive produced by P.J. Starks (2015’s Volumes of Blood), Amm’s exercise has its share of exceptionally crafted instances of gore. Yet, it is never overblown. The same can be said for the sum of Butcher the Bakers. Amm’s endeavor is daring, delightful and unabashedly tongue-in-cheek. Still, it hardly ever feels excessive. Such is a fine balancing act. It is one of the various essentials of Amm’s opus that I admired throughout its trim runtime. Another constant source of esteem would be Amm and his filmmaking participants’ palpable chemistry. It resonates through every merry frame of his most current outing. These high-functioning components combine to form a wonderful B-movie. Such is especially evident when considering the several smartly done twists which encompass the labor. Recorded in Ottawa, Illinois, this Petri Entertainment distribution release is brimming with the glorious, can-do spirit of independent cinema. I highly recommend seeking out Amm’s cleverly titled flick. It will be unleashed on select digital platforms in the U.S. on January 16th, 2018.

(Unrated). Contains scenes of graphic violence, adult language and adult themes.

Capsule Reviews: “All the Money in the World”, “The Devil’s Well”, “Ferdinand”, “The Foreigner” and “Slumber”

By Andrew Buckner

ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD

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

All the Money in the World is one of the best films of 2017. It is also another masterful exhibition of craft from the always interesting director Ridley Scott. The 132-minute thriller, which chronicles the true- life story of the abduction of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III, is riveting from start to finish. It is so engrossing that I barely stirred during my viewing of the picture. Further benefitting the affair is a performance from Christopher Plummer that is one of the finest to hit movie screens all year. Michelle Williams and Mark Wahlberg, who portray Gail Harris and Fletcher Chase respectively, issue deft, layered and gripping enactments. Additionally, Scott’s engrossing storytelling, confident pacing and distinguished behind the lens style makes this compelling and highly-cinematic work evermore accomplished. This is a must-see!

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

In theaters now.

THE DEVIL’S WELL

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

The Devil’s Well (2017) is an always interesting, if routinely structured, faux documentary style horror picture. It is one that gleans its chilling nature in the manner of many of the most enduring installments in the previously stated sub-genre: through the power of the imagination. Whether describing fearful incidents in the past or present, the Kurtis Spieler penned and guided opus often wisely tells instead of directly showcasing its stabs at trepidation. This is excluding the engaging concluding 15 minutes of this 88-minute endeavor. Such a time-honored approach works beautifully. Spieler’s affair is no exception. In telling the simultaneously chilling and entertaining tale of Karla Marks (Anne-Marie Mueschke) and her disappearance into the notorious title place, Spieler crafts both relatable and believable characterizations, same said dialogue, situations and scares into a deft dose of low-budget chills. Recommended!

(Unrated).

On DVD 1/23/18 from Wild Eye Releasing.

FERDINAND

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

Though formulaic in structure and prone to a few moments that may be thematically too dark for some young children (especially in the finale), the beautifully animated Ferdinand (2017) sports a balance of genuinely funny humor and effective sentiment that is as admirable as it is infectious. Alongside John Cena and Kate McKinnon’s lively lead voice work, the always welcome message of embracing love in a world of violence that courses throughout the film is as timely as it is timeless. In turn, the slightly overlong 108-minute feature, based on Munro Leaf’s classic book about the adventures of a kind-hearted bull who is mistaken for a menace, proves to be both a wonderful surprise and robust family-friendly entertainment.

(PG). Contains some crude moments and situations.

In theaters now.

THE FOREIGNER

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

The Foreigner (2017) is a murky, dull, by-the-numbers mess of a movie. It fails as both a conspiracy thriller and as an action film. Worst of all, leading man Jackie Chan’s often jaw-dropping capacity for cinematic combat is wasted here. This is due to director Martin Campbell’s insistence on keeping such moments as brief and standard service as possible. This is a problem found throughout the relatively empty 112-minute runtime of the film. Moreover, the finale to this terrorist revenge tale is especially flat and unsatisfying. In turn, Campbell has crafted an all-around desperate, distant and forgettable venture. Skip it.

(R). Contains violence and adult themes.

Now available on digital.

SLUMBER

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

Slumber (2017) is a lean, well-mounted and genuinely effective sleep paralysis based horror outing. The story, which concerns a sleep doctor’s attempts to defend a family from a demon that torments them while they dream, is first-rate. The same can be said of Maggie Q’s central depiction of Alice Arnolds. Co-writer (with Richard Hobley) and director Jonathan Hopkins provides excellent work with his aforesaid contributions. The last 15 of this 84-minute production, though a shade predictable, are a perfect payoff to the immersive buildup beforehand.

(Unrated). Contains violence and terrifying situations.

Now available on digital and in select theaters.