Category Archives: Entertainment

They’re Watching (2016): Shut Up and Eat Your Goat D**k (Review)

Brigid Branagh as Becky in They're Watching

Written and directed byJay Lender and Micah Wright They’re Watching is a vastly entertaining blackly comic horror film set in Eastern Europe.  It is yet another POV film, but without a unique device like the 2015 horror film “Nightlight.” While that medium is wearing out its welcome, this film manages to almost make it work.

They’re Watching is about a US home improvement show gone international.  Potential American home buyer Becky Westlake (Brigid Brannagh)  finds a “fixer-upper” in Moldova.  The artist and her professional soccer player boyfriend renovate a dilapidated house and outbuildings in Pavlovka. 

The camera crew of this realty show return to Moldova to see Becky’s progress on the house.  This group of “ugly American’s”  manage to annoy everyone and outrage the community.  Before doing their bit to create an international incident, they meet up with local estate agent Vladimir (Dimitri Diatchenko) who sold the property to Becky. 

Greg (David Alpay) and Sarah (Mia Faith) are caught filming a funeral service for three dead children.  They get found  out when Kate (Carrie Genzel)  calls Sarah on the walkie. Alex (Kris Lemche) buys some pot from a local while Greg and Sarah  flee the church. he local cop tries control the situation. 

They’re Watching is a good bit of POV fun.  The crew and star of the house renovation show bicker and argue . They also take time to have some laughs.  The production crew are split into slightly more savvy world travelers and the new kid Sarah.

The newest member of the crew is amazed that this tiny European village has no Starbucks. “How do they live without caffeine,” she cries.  The locals burned a  witch at the stake 100 years before and it seems that they still believe in witches.

This film is more a comedy of errors  than a comedy of terrors. Although to be fair the last few minutes of the movie does have a good bit of horror in it.  In keeping with the theme of a horror film that does not take itself seriously, however,  the “magical’ effects are rather schlocky.

Show host Kate Banks  is pushy, arrogant and strong willed. Camera man Greg is haunted by an event in Afghanistan.  Sound man Alex takes nothing seriously and Sarah has just graduated from film school. 

Banks is  thoroughly unlikeable and Sarah is cute in that puppy dog sort of way.  Alex is the funniest of the lot as he literally takes nothing seriously..  Vladimir, gregarious Moldovan realtor,  is the comic relief; full of homilies and advice.

The film is not to be taken seriously as a horror film. It is a good bit of fun as it makes fun of the reality realty television market. It also has a jab  at the horror genre.  The movie does feel a little like a  comic version of Hostel or The Shrine.

Lender and Wright also appear to give a sly wink to the  1972 film Frogs, starring Ray Milland and a very young Sam Elliott. Their  film changes direction several times before ending on a hokey magical massacre in the outskirts of Pavlovka. 

In terms of fun They’re Watching is  a solid 4 star film.  Despite using the tired POV format it is enjoyable and fun.  As long as the viewer is not looking for serious scares they will enjoy this film.

The film is streaming on Netflix at the moment and is worth a look or two. How can one not love a film with the line, “Shut up and eat your goat d**k?”

Captain America: Civil War – Epic Intimacy (Review)

Team Cap in Civil War

Captain America: Civil War has, to date, pulled in a box office returns in excess of $1 billion worldwide.  The Russo brothers put their own stamp on this next installment in the development  of the Avengers.  The film pitted superhero against superhero and introduced another Marvel character while “borrowing” a couple more.

Thor and The Hulk were conspicuous in their absence but there was a reason that these two were left spending time in the bleachers.  This theme of trouble in an uneasy Xanadu of heroic men and women was more compact in nature than previous Marvel outings.

There were many who complained, when the film premiered, that the scenes were too cramped. There were none of Joss Whedon’s vast vignettes where action filled the screen on an epic scale. Once again there was a reason that the brothers Russo, Anthony and Joe, kept the shots tight and almost intimate.

Each of the prior films dealt with the Avengers learning to work as a team. Building up trust and, most importantly  learning to share the power.  The group were always going to have issues, but, as long as there was a strong leader, Samuel L. Jackson‘s Nick Fury in most of the films, it could have worked with few problems.

Then came the dissolution of SHIELD after  HYDRA staged their almost successful coup.  Fury left the controls to Captain America and  then along came Bucky the “Winter Soldier.” The previous films all dealt with issues that were bigger than life. Alien invasions orchestrated by Thor’s brother Loki,  Tony Stark’s self aware “man machine” trying to destroy his maker and everything else,  SHIELD struggling to defeat an organization bent on taking over the world.

All these threats came from without.  Captain America: Winter Soldier featured problems from within. Each superhero had a personal issue to deal with. A leader to back and support based upon their own perception of right and wrong.

The UN mandate where The Avengers were controlled via the council was the trigger and while, surprisingly, Tony Stark agrees with the move, many of the team do not. Cap, who got used to running the show disagrees and the team, that worked so hard to come together before, are now split in the middle.

Thor and The Hulk being excluded made sense. Thor is not from this world and therefore any help he renders is down to his personal choice.  The Hulk is a reluctant participant and works only when needed, the big green guy’s need for solitude outweighs the team’s needs.

All the fight scenes and action sequences were on a smaller scale for a reason.  This film was all about individuals and their beliefs and reactions.  Over and above that  was the realization that this all boiled down to issues between Stark’s Iron Man and Captain America. Cap’s friend Bucky, when he was the Winter Soldier, killed Tony’s parents.

And Cap knew.

Ultimately this film was all about the two most forceful members of the Avengers disagreeing and fighting for what they believe to be right. It is also about betrayal and loyalty to friends who do not fit into the bigger picture.

The film serves as a reminder that however much we the audience love “Team Avengers” these heroes are their own entities.  Each one with a system and agenda all their own.  ‘

The  intimate feel backs this theme of individuality brilliantly. There is no need for panoramic vistas or sweeping epic scenes where all of New York City, for instance, is used as backdrop.  The story does not require either.

Even the addition of the new “team members” are comprised of more solitary players. The superbly funny Tom Holland as the, seemingly, 12 year-old Spider-Man or his competition for comic relief Paul Rudd‘s Ant-Man and even Chadwick Boseman‘s The Black Panther are all solo acts here.

The new kids on the block take sides in what is, essentially, Cap and Iron Mans’ war.  Because the battle is internalized, the cinematography is more compact and intimate. It fits the story and the struggle perfectly.

Captain America: Civil War is a more personal tale. The Russo brothers have presented the film just as it should have been.  Tight shots to emphasize the internal battle of each super hero.

This is blockbuster cinema at its finest and presented just as it should be.

Tastes Like Medicine (2016): Schism (Review) [Update]

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[Update] It was pointed out that the character who speaks with Drew at the shower was omitted in the review, in terms of casting. This has now been rectified. Mike’s Film Talk apologies for this oversight.

Written, directed and edited by Steven Alexander Russell Tastes Like Medicine  is a stark look at relationships, people and trauma.   A young man has the love of his life leave him and five years later is invited to her baby shower.  He goes through a meltdown at the party and creates a schism within himself.  One where reality takes a different path from his own tortured perception of events.

Allison (Marisa Rambaran)  leaves Drew (Damion Rochester) and he is a broken man because of it.  At the start of the film, he has an inner monologue with himself while looking at Allison’s face.  Later, he arrives a the baby shower and  brings along a call girl as his date. 

Kake (Wi-Moto Nyoka) is quiet and much more than she seems. Inside the party, the two separate and Drew withdraws into himself. Alex (Randall Hollowayattempts to talk with Drew but he is not overly interested. Alex,  however, makes a valid point in his discussion about crime and criminal records. Once a murderer always a murderer is the theory. In other words,  once an act is committed the reality of it stays regardless of one’s future actions.

It seems to apply to Drew in his prior relationship with Allison.

Once the announcements are over, Drew behaves badly, so badly in fact that he appears to separate himself . His other self watches in helpless horror as his actions get worse. As the things progress Drew’s grasp on reality gets weaker and tougher to maintain.

This short film by Russell is brilliantly presented as an almost fugue state of surrealism.  The film is shot in black and white, which is clearly meant to convey that in Drew’s world of relationships things are rather stark.

At the party, as things become more stressful for Drew, there is a sound that is evocative of fingers rubbing across a balloon or stretching rubber. This shows that Drew’s ability to deal with the situation is out of his control.

Later, in Kake’s apartment,  Drew wakes up and Kake looks on.   Above the bed is a small mirror where her face shows and it looks as if there are two Kake’s watching Drew. This further example of a schism, the first being Drew’s “out of body” experience at the shower, shows how far things have gotten out of control.

Russell’s message appears to be that once the deed is done, refusal to accept the consequences affects everyone.  Drew looks so closely at the issues of Allison leaving and why that he fails to see he has to move on.

Considering that most of the cast are first-time actors, the film moves along crisply and each character is presented well and with moments of truth.  The storyline has a number of hints and almost subliminal messages about Drew’s state of mind.

Tastes Like Medicine   is a 4.5 star film, only losing a half star because of sound issues. The effects of Drew’s out of body left  some of the dialogue incomprehensible.  Apart form that the presentation was nigh on flawless. (That mirror shot alone was worth the price of admission.) And the psychological aspects were just brilliant.

This is Steven Alexander Russell’s first time out of the gate and he has created a clear winner with this film. Russell is another one to keep an eye on. Tastes Like Medicine is currently on the festival circuit.

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Mail Time (2016) Silence is Golden (Review)

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Written, directed, produced and edited by Sebastian Carrasco Mail Time shows what can be done with a minimal amount of production staff and money.  At under 7 minutes long, this “silent” short film proves that “silence is golden” when done properly.  (There is one spoken bit of dialogue, but that is done by actor Ed Norton in a clip from the 2006 film The Illusionist.) 

Ted (Timothy J. Cox) delivers the mail every day on his normal route. To spice things up, the postman uses magic with little positive reaction from the people he delivers to. In fact, the only resident who seems pleased to see the lonely chappy is the woman at 280 Mead Street (played by Makeela Frederick). 

The magician does his tricks for an unappreciative audience who have most likely seen the tricks a million times.  Undeterred, the postman maintains his smile. Although at the doors, his grin starts to resemble an almost desperate rictus of hope as he presents his limited bag of tricks.

Ted is robbed by a hooded man with a knife. The criminal not only takes his money, he empties the postman’s bag and kicks the mail about.  Later, Ted is watching “The Illusionist” and the film inspires him.

Sebastian Carrasco has deftly taken a short subject; a tiny glimpse at a man’s repetitive and boring job and turned it into something special. With a reported budget of $1 thousand dollars  and a very intimate cast of two, the film creator has come up with a little bit of magic.

A splendid mix of fantasy and comedy set against a classical score that reeks of gravitas makes for a brilliant short film. (Another of those under 10 minute films that could be classed as “Flash Films.”)  Mail Time delivers across the board in terms of cast, Cox never turns in a mediocre performance he gives his all every single time, and story.

For a film of such short duration, Carrasco manages to insert not one but two twists and ends the film on a high.

As yet another  “cottage industry”  filmmaker, Carrasco’s short effort looks crisp and clear. The editing is spot on and the choice of music, combined with the subject matter of a magical postman, is nigh on perfect. This is a chap to keep an eye on.

The character of the postman is amusing and rather single minded. This works for the film, turning the surprise twists into something quite special.  It also makes the man more likable thereby making his rejection from the residents all that more disconcerting.

Watching the man excitedly notice that the woman from 280 Mead St. has mail, the viewer can feel and empathize with his pleasure. She is, after all, the only person to acknowledge his existence as a fellow human being.

The smile, the small wave, and the shared pleasure at seeing one another could have sent the film toward a romantic setting . Although, the bit of  magic later on does seem to indicate that the woman really is rather special to Ted and vice versa.

Sebastian Carrasco has fired on all cylinders here. His story and use of a silent film delivery with a fantasy storyline really works.  A full 5 star effort and very entertaining.

Bravo.

Gridlocked (2015): ‘The Hard Way’ Sans the Humor (Review)

Cody Hackman and Dominic Purcell

Gridlocked feels like a remix of the 1991 Michael J. Fox film The Hard Way, sans the romance and the  laughs.  The film also lacks James Woods, but has Dominic Purcell as the millennial version of Woods and even has Steven Lang as the bad guy. Lang was the villain in The Hard Way as well.

There are elements of Assault on Precinct 13 without the Carpenter touch and the film even seems to borrow a bit from  Sabotage. Gridlocked has Cody Hackman as Hollywood star Brody Walker; a former child actor who, despite being a success at the box-office,  has issues. One  these problems includes  assaulting a member of the paparazzi.

To keep from doing jail time, Walker is assigned to Purcell’s character, David Hendrix, a cop recovering from being shot on duty. Stephen Lang is Korver, an old colleague of Hendrix’ who is after some bearer bonds in an evidence locker. Vinnie Jones and Danny Glover have small roles in the film, with Jones on team Korver and Glover as a cop.

(There is a self referential moment where Glover’s character sighs and says he is “Too old for this sh*t.” Something his character in the Lethal Weapon franchise was always saying.)

While the film does resemble the 1991 Fox/Woods vehicle, in this version, Hendrix is not trying to get rid of Walker. The cop opts to take the Hollywood bad boy under his wing instead.  Hendrix takes the star to the training facility, a ‘la “Sabotage,”  and Lang’s people, after disabling the building, attempt to overtake it.

There is plenty of action. Gunfights and hand to hand combat are the order of the day and the good guys have a mole on their side who is working for Korver.  As Lang’s character repeatedly tries to enter the building, Hendrix and his small team fight them off. Eventually  the bad guys get in and the fighting gets up close and personal.

As Gridlocked moves from a siege to an invasion, Hendrix has more problems. He has a mole  on his team, and  a personal connection with the bad guys who want in.

Aussie actor Purcell does a good job as the injured action hero and Hackman is convincing as the irksome Hollywood star. Lang really does give the best ”bad guy” in the business and Glover is splendid in his cameo as the cop  nearing retirement.

On a sidenote, there is a practical effect later in the film where one of the character’s is shot through the face.  Uncomfortable to look at, it looks real and not a little bit freaky.

Directed and co-written by Allan Ungar (his second feature length film) Gridlocked  flows well and does not drag.  The action may feel a bit formulaic and the plot does seem to be influenced by the above mentioned films. However, the cast keep things interesting and Purcell proves that he is more than a one trick pony. 

Vinne Jones has little to do other than to look menacing though later on he does fight Purcell’s character. (In terms of cameos, the excellent Saul Rubinek does  a splendid turn as Walker’s agent.)  

At just under two hours the film moves along at a crisp clip and does not drag at all.  While the film is more “action” than acting, it will never be mistaken for Shakespeare, Gridlocked does entertain.

This is a 3.5 star film.  Nothing to write home about but good enough to get lost in for an extended period of time. It is streaming on Netflix at the moment. Pop up some corn and pour some fizzy and see what you think.

Deadpool (2016): Marvel for the Big Kids (Review)

Deadpool and Colossus

It has been along time coming but at long last Hollywood, or more accurately FOX, have made a  Marvel action film  for the big kids. The ones who can get into a ‘R’ rated feature without being carded.  Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson, joined the super anti-hero verse in the 1990s so this fourth wall breaking sensation is a new kid on the Marvel block.

Deadpool the movie opened to great box office and better than average reviews and has already been greenlit for a sequel and possible crossover with Spiderman in 2017.  This should come as no surprise as the film delivers as many laughs as it does action and obliterates the fourth wall completely.

The character of Wade Wilson goes beyond referencing pop culture in an accepted sense. He also references his own  as the actor who plays him;  Ryan Reynolds.  On the way to his cancer treatment, which will give him superpowers, the future Deadpool insists that his superhero suit not be green or animated. (Green Lantern, Reynolds’ previous superhero film that  failed to live up to expectations is the punchline here.)

Other  in-joke references includes  Deadpool’s response to Colossus, of the X-Men, who handcuffs the antihero to his own wrist and says they will speak with the professor.  Wilson asks, “Which one? McAvoy or Stewart?”  Later, back on the X-Men theme, Deadpool goes to the professor’s college.

He asks Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) for help rescuing his lady love, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin).  As an aside he ponders why they are the only two X-men in the facility. He muses that one would almost think that the studio could not afford more of the heroes. 

Reynolds chortles, chuckles and wisecracks his way through the film and he is what makes the whole thing work.  Although, disturbingly, without his mask, after his character’s transformation,  Wilson looks like John Malkovich with a bad skin condition.  

There is much more to the film than the tongue in cheek humor, in jokes and annihilation of the fourth wall.  Action, some brilliant fight scenes and actors who all know what they are doing take this films to great heights.  (London actor Ed Skrein plays his character dead straight (pun intended) and it works brilliantly in contrast to Reynolds’ comic interpretation of Wade.) 

Skrein does appear to channel his inner Vinnie Jones though and this too works well for the film.

That Deadpool was made for the big kids who love the Marvel verse is obvious by all the self referential humor.  The focus on IKEA and Stan Lee in his Marvel cameo as the emcee of a pole dancing club where Vanessa works points to giggles for the older audience members. (Although not too old as that demographic favor The Avengers and  and Iron Man…)

In many ways the film is a parody wrapped in a satire wrapped in a “Three Stooges” movie. Deadpool often veers into Bill and Ted territory with the odd detour into  “Dude, Where’s My Car?” although, once again this mix works well.

Everything about the movie works. The comedy routines, even the crackhouse bit at the end where Vanessa picks out that Deadpool lives in a house, all hit the nail on the head.  The music,  a splendid mixture of rap and ’80s pop, is perfect and makes each scene flow beautifully.

Tim Miller does an excellent job directing  his first feature length film and is already penciled in to helm  Deadpool 2.

This is a 5 star effort that proves  comedy works even if the picture is rated ‘R.’  Deadpool, aka Wade Wilson may be a newer member of the Marvel verse but he was designed for the big kids to enjoy.  Check this one out, it is streaming on a multitude of sites an is well worth the time spend to watch it, over and over.

Cast:

  • Ryan Reynolds  –  Wade Wilson/Deadpool
  • Ed Skrein  –  Ajax/Francis
  • Stefan Kapicic  –  Colossus 
  • Morena Baccarin  –  Vanessa
  • Leslie Uggams  –  Blind Al
  • Gina Carano  –  Angel Dust
  • Brianna Hildebrand – Negasonic Teenage Warhead

It’s Not You (2013): Short Tug of the Heartstrings (Review)

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Written and directed by Sophie Peters-Wilson, who also shot and edited the film, It’s Not You is a short tug of the heartstrings.  A dissolution of a marriage and the parents breaking the news to their only child prompts a short sharp trip down memory lane for the child. 

At just under four minutes the film lasts about as long as a flashback or three, in this case,  of a series of events leading up to the announcement.

As the mother (Sara Ruth Blake) explains to her daughter (Abigail Spitler), while dad (Timothy J. Cox) silently,  that it is not her fault the kid has three memories.  Each features the family idyll; love, laughter, and a warm atmosphere.

Having an ice cream in the park, preparing  for a family night out,  and preparing something in the kitchen are the there scenarios that play thought the girl’s mind. Each event changes in significance once she learns of the divorce plans.

It is also clear that the mother is “editing” the circumstances in order to protect the kid from the truth. A reality that is self evident in the second memory of each scenario.

Aside from Sophie Peter-Wilson proving that  Robert Rodriguez has not cornered the market on cottage industry film making,  she has produced a film that encompasses much in the least amount of time possible.  She also shows that hindsight is indeed 20/20.

For a short film so short, it could be classed as a “Flash-film,” the director has wrung an enormous amount of emotion and feeling from the performers.  (Cox’s tearful countenance at the start speaks volumes. While his character is not perfect, his pain at the thought of losing everything is right there in his eyes.)

The short vignettes show two sides to each story.  The “happy families” side and then the real, less perfect, presentation of what really happened.  All the actor’s rock their short time in front of the camera. Blake’s performance is shows both sides of the coin fully in the child’s memories.  Spitler, like Cox earlier, speaks volumes with her eyes, accented brilliantly by her glasses, at the end of the film.

It’s Not You is a powerful bit of film making. Succinct story telling that resonates in under four minutes. One can only imagine what Peters-Wilson could do with a bigger budget and more time.

The film looks crisp, clear and is perfectly framed.  The editing is sharp and equally clear, there are no muddled moments in this short film at all. The director uses sound to  muffle the more intense moments, showing how the child would remember them. In essence showing that the words exchanged between the adults are not as important as the emotions exhibited.

It’s Not You is splendidly crafted from screenplay to the final edit. The film may not be perfect but it is damned close.  This is a 5 star effort  that evokes so much in so little time. Catch this one and keep an eye out for this talented director, writer and cinematographer.

Little Dead Rotting Hood (2016): The Asylum Does Werewolves (Review)

Bianca A. Santos as Dead Rotting Hood....

Shot in and around the Santa Clarita Hills, at Rene’s ’50s Town, Little Dead Rotting Hood is another helping of schlock from The Asylum. The same company who is determined to produce Sharknado until the end of time, and yet amazingly still manages to delight with Z Nation, has now done werewolves. (Without a tornado in sight…)

Written by real estate specialist Gabriel Campisi (which explains so much) and directed by Jared Cohn it stars a bored Eric Balfour. The film also features  a tiny, blink and you will miss it, cameo by Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis

The film also starts The Fosters  regular Bianca A. Santos as “Rotting Hood” and Romeo Miller as the love interest.  Little Dead Riding Hood  has a  meandering plot. It is  set in the mountains where the old wolf lady,played by  Sirtis, kills herself at the start of the film to empower her granddaughter.

Balfour’s sheriff  has his hands full with his kids being dropped off by his ex. There are also  increasing amounts of wolf attacks on the local citizenry. Santos is the granddaughter, whom granny lets die before empowering her, and Miller is Samantha’s boyfriend.

In keeping with The Asylum’s practice of slapping storylines together that make no real sense, the werewolves, which crop up toward the end of the film,  are a complete surprise. Also in keeping with nonsensical plot devices,  the head werewolf is a giant.

The FX for the enormous werewolf  leader  varies. In some shots the creature  looks okay and in others it resembles a draft effort. (Still the thing did look marginally better than the unintentionally  funny zombie gorilla in Zoombies. The gigantic werewolf leader may have looked dodgy but it did not elicit  eruptions of hysterical laughter like the big monkey did.)

Balfour as  Sheriff Adam looks as though he misses his Haven costars Emily Rose and Lucas Bryant. Of course it could have been that the actor is not used to playing cops after five seasons of being the bad boy on the SyFy series. 

The storyline, such as it is, meanders all over the place and does not really hold together at all.  One has the feeling that a lot wound up in the cutting room floor, or, the script was never meant to make a whole lot of sense.

On the plus side, the blood flows like a good claret and the wolves, when they attack, are very convincing. (IMDb states that real wolves were used for the filming.)  On the very crowded minus side the film was very clearly shot in and around Santa Clarita. A  location that does not remotely resemble Maine or the Appalachian Mountains or where ever the film is really meant to be.

Little Dead Rotting Hood is atypical pap from The Asylum that is meant to be watched while smoking pot and munching on stale pizza. (Or conversely drinking beer and eating stale pizza.)

This is “Drive-In” fare that would have preceded the main film back in the day. A real 2.5 star effort  that one should watch if only nothing else is available.  Confusing and boring, this is even worse than “Zoombies.” This is  streaming on Netflix, at the moment. Approach with caution and arm yourself with mood altering substances before watching.

Holidays (2016): Anthology Horror With a Twist (Review)

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Holidays is the 2016 anthology film to watch for chuckles and the odd disturbing vignette.  There is a twist in a few of the tales which range from blackly comic to darkly disturbing. 10 directors do there best to bring some originality to the screen and pay homage to existing classic horror films and themes.

Kevin Smith is  perhaps the best known of the lot and his Halloween segment stars his “Yoga Hosers” Daughter Harley Quinn Smith. In terms of  “names” Seth Green  appears in the Christmas segment and The House of the Devil star Jocelin Donahue is Carol in Father’s Day. 

Valentine’s Day starts off the proceedings and has clearly been influenced by the 1972 British offering  Tales from the Crypt.  This old anthology film featured a similar short tale starring  horror icon Peter Cushing and also features  a lot of “heart.”  A lovely homage that proves someone knows their horror films.

The Easter story was equal parts disturbing and creepy. A young girl gets Jesus and the Easter Bunny mixed up in her head, the night before Easter.  This felt like a homage to Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth right down to its downbeat ending.  At points the tale was uncomfortable to watch as it seemed dangerously close to a take on pedophelia.

Two of the holidays on offer, St Patrick’s Day and Mother’s Day were seemingly  influenced by Rosemary’s Baby.  In the Irish tale, a doctor even tells the pregnant protagonist to “think of Rosemary’s reptile.”  Set in Ireland this is more of a darkly comic parody of the Roman Polanski film.  Mother’s Day was more serious in intent and was move evocative of the paranoiac nature of RB.

Father’s Day, starring  Jocelin Donahue, was the saddest  of the lot.  Smith’s Halloween was the quirkiest and there was no sign of a  homage anywhere. This was original horror with a  blackly comic edge.  His daughter starred as one of the three “webcam girls.”

Christmas starred Seth Green, with his real life wife Claire Grant,  and featured a virtual reality  type of equipment that bypasses game play and shows the wearer different things.  A dark humorous look at human behavior,  marriage and murder.

Seth Green in Christmas
Seth Green as Pete Gunderson

Saving the best for last, New Years Eve was easily the funniest segment. Watching this could well put viewers off of dating websites forever. This also feels as though it was influenced by a cult film from down-under.  While there was no direct correlation,  this seemed to be a nod and a wink to the Australian horror film,The Loved Ones. The female protagonist also resembled Robin McLeavy;  who played “Princess” in that 2009 movie.

Rather interestingly the film focusses on “universal” holidays like Christmas and leaves out the more regional ones like Independence Day and Thanksgiving. Even though the film is set in the US it seems to cater to world audiences.

These omissions are  not important but Holidays has been done well enough that after the last holiday on offer, one wishes devoutly for more.  The range of styles and mix of darkly comic horror and eclectic storylines  is nigh on perfect.

The directors and their respective segments are:

  • Valentine’s Day  -Kevin Kölsch & Dennis Widmyer
  • St Patrick’s Day  – Gary Shore
  • Easter  -Nicholas McCarthy
  • Mother’s Day  – Sarah Adina Smith
  • Father’s Day  – Anthony Scott Burns
  • Halloween  –  Kevin Smith
  • Christmas  –  Scott Stewart
  • New Years Eve  –  Adam Egypt Mortimer

Fans of anthology films will love this offering  of 10 entertaining stories with not one relying on “found footage” to sell these blackly comic scares.

Holidays is a 5 star gem of a film. A pleasant surprise that is streaming on Netflix at the moment. At 105 minutes the movie streaks by and leaves the viewer wanting more.  The film offers horror with a twist and is well worth a look, or two.

Trilogie De Tragedie (2016): Pseudo Art House in Three Acts (Review)

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In what could be called a loving homage to all those Art House films, including the French New Wave cinema that took the world by storm in the 1950s and ’60s, Trilogie De Tragedie is a pseudo three act offering complete with French subtitles.  The three segments, done by different directors all feature Tiffani Fest.

The first installment; “Meek Marianne” is  directed by Blake Fitzpatrick and it features Fest as Marianne. The sunglasses wearing, vodka guzzling woman teams up with Rich (Fitzpatrick). The two head over to Marianne’s soon to be ex’s house for some money and a bit of payback.  Horror icon Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp,  Return to Sleepaway Camp) has a cameo as Cindy.

The second segment; “La Petite Mort” (The Little Death) is about entitled self expression artist Alexandre (Peter Lofstrom) whose  girlfriend/drug dealer is played by Tiffani Fest. Alexandre tattoos himself, is waited on by his father and practically sends Trina round the bend with his fixation on self. 

Last in the trilogy of tales is Hollywood Hospitality. A dialogue heavy story that could be the Peg Entwistle tale  in reverse.  Tiffany is  an out of work actor who cannot believe her luck when widower  Evan (Andrew Mandapat) hires homeless actress to read for the part of his dead wife. 

The first vignette really feels a cross between French noir and New Wave.   The other two offerings were different in texture and while both were in the black and white medium they lacked the noir touch.

trilogyposter

For those who have frequented the old Art House’s to see world cinema releases “pre” home entertainment, the look of these three films will feel familiar.  The soundtracks, too loud and an overabundance of subtitles brings back those days when film’s like Jules et Jim could only be seen in New York or some other metropolitan city with an Art House.

(Or conversely seen after midnight on BBC 2 during a retrospective in the early ’80s. The channel aired a scratched and damaged copy of the film, not as bad as these films but enough that it was noticeable.)

Trilogie De Tragedie is a New Wave version of Tarantino and Rodriguez’ “Grindhouse” project (Death Proof and Planet Terror) mimicking the jump cuts and bad edits of the worn celluloid. Foreign films were also put through the mill being shown over and over at different small cinemas until they were very difficult to watch.

The film is interesting to watch and entertaining.  Regrettably there were bits that ran too long and the overly loud soundtrack became annoying after a while.  (Struggling to hear dialogue over an intrusive soundtrack is a personal pet peeve.)

“Meek Marianne” – written and directed by Blake Fitzpatrick was done very well and was easily the smoothest of the three segments.  It was nice to see Felissa Rose, even if it was only for a short time.

“La Petit Morte” was written and directed by Aaron Burk was the funniest of the three and rather interestingly, Peter Lofstrom, who played Alexandre looked a lot like “The Rebel” star Nick Adams.

“Hollywood Hospitality” (Brad Paulson helmed and wrote the last offering) was a twist on the old Peg Entwistle myth but with an interesting O. Henry type end.  This tale ran too long and was far too “talky” but, once again, taking the New Wave motif to heart, it felt right at home in the trilogy.

Blake Fitzpatrick in Trilogie De Tragedie

Trilogie De Tragedie is a solid 3 star film.  It would have garnered another star for cleverness alone, but it ran too long, and stretched the joke thin.  Even with the amusing sight gags and  references to world cinema of old, it just felt too long.  That said, it is still worth watching.  Fans of  the old Art House offerings and foreign films from the ’50s and ’60s will appreciate this film.

Film School students will also get a kick out this offering, provided they have not seen too many “restored” versions of “classics.”