Night Job (2017): The Freaks Come Out at Night (Review)

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Written and directed by J. Antonio, Night Job is an ambitious first effort by the new “auteur.” Taking the 1984 Whodini song “The Freaks Come Out at Night” as his template, Antonio tells the story of James (Jason Torres) a neophyte night doorman in New York.

As anyone who works, or has worked, the night shift knows the setting of the sun brings out the weird and wonderful denizens of any city. James is treated to a bizarre evening of eccentric tenants (He is the doorman to a high-rise apartment building.) street vendors and more.

Antonio also tries hard to make this film a visual melting pot of foreigners who have flocked to the big city for whatever reasons. James comes in contact with a number of oddball characters, including his lazy co-worker, Romeo (Greg Kritikos).

Shot almost entirely in black and white and taking place, for the most part, inside an apartment building foyer, Night Job could almost be called a comedy noir film. Torres could be seen as the “Sam Spade” of doormen.

(The only colour sequence is when James dreams of meeting a woman at a rooftop party. Antonio does this, presumably, to go against tradition where dreams are filmed in black and white, or at the very least, sepia.)

While the acting is, in a number of cases, lacking; there are performances that stand out head and shoulders above the majority of the cast.  A lot of the “European” characters sound right while some of the local parts sound disconnected and wooden. It is understandable that films with low/no budgets have little choice in the performers they use.

The truly outstanding bits of acting on offer includes:

Timothy J. Cox, as usual, provides a huge amount of truth in his performance as Mr. Jones, the man whose girlfriend has his apartment keys. 

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Timothy J. Cox as Mr. Jones

Stacey Weckstein, in her first role in a feature length film, nails it as the girl who has had too much of everything. The wide eyed, slow and careful delivery is spot on. As any actor will tell you, playing an intoxicated or stoned  character is damned difficult and this young lady killed it. 

Monikha Reyes, in her first role ever, plays her part with an ease that is scary, natural and spot on.

Jason Torres does an adequate job as the keystone that all the other players must gravitate around. He has the unenviable task of creating a character who mainly reacts to the insanity that unfolds in front of him as the night shift goes on.

Other players who manage to smoothly create characters seen for a matter of moments includes Shanae Christine Harris, as Josephine, Kutcha as Julio, Lester Greene as the DVD street vendor, Brandon J. Shaw as “Apartment 718,” Steven L. Coard as Mark and Bettina Skye as Stella.

Cinematographer Valentin Farkasch does a brilliant job keeping the camera out of the frame in an environment full of mirrors and reflective glass. The only complaint about the film would be the tendency of too many close ups during a conversation. The movie could have used a few more “medium shots” but the urge to “zoom” could have been dictated by the set’s many reflective surfaces.

At 85 minutes, the film is a tad too long for the subject matter, however, the slow pacing and the overall length could well be J. Antonio’s way of putting the audience in James’ shoes. Any nightshift is long, but the first one, in any job, is excruciatingly long.

All in all, Night Job is amusing and gives the audience a wide range of quirky characters. Torres gives his role a “nice guy” flavor that keeps the viewer on his side throughout his first night as a “temp.”

Night Job is a 3.5 star film. It is a solid enough first attempt that, in places, feels a bit too improvisational. This could well be the reason that some of the characters and their lines felt a bit wooden.

J. Antonio has gotten off to a good start and it will be interesting to see what his next project will be. The film is due out in 2017.

Trinity (2016): Surreal and Haunting Imagery (Review)

Sean Carmichael as Michael

Written and directed by Skip Shea (his first feature length film) Trinity is a movie about sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and its aftereffects. Michael (Sean Carmichaelis an artist who does portraits of the dead using their ashes. He bumps into his abuser; Father Tom, (David Graziano) at a local coffee shop. This prompts the remainder of the film which is a surreal trip of vivid and haunting imagery. 

The journey is, in itself, cathartic and revealing. Shea shows us just how many conflicting emotions are hidden in each survivor of sexual abuse by a trusted member of the church.

Trinity, the title of the film, refers, obviously, to the “holy trinity” taught by the church. “The Father, the son and the holy Spirit (or Ghost)” which must be believed in by follows of the Catholic faith. The term could also refer to the three acts in the film. It could also make reference to the triangle that exists between Michael, Father Tom and his mother (Played brilliantly by veteran horror actress Lynn Lowry).

It it the latter instance where Shea shows how deeply wounded Michael is by his encounter with Tom. In the scene, Michael, as an adult, is pushed toward the father. Prior to the “passing over” his mother kisses him suggestively several times. This clearly indicates that Michael feels just as violated by his mother as he does Father Tom.

The entire film owes much to the French filmmaker Robert Enrico and his 1962 film Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. A short film, shot entirely in black and white, it loses none of its haunting beauty or message even today.  

Shea is not aping the film. He is, however, utilizing a similar technique of storytelling. It works brilliantly in this instance. One event triggering another which in turn triggers more and more occurrences, memories and emotions. Enrico’s film is not as in-depth as Shea’s offering but the feeling is the same.

Haunting, most surely. Surreal, most definitely. An uncomfortable, sad, angry and horrible journey faces the protagonist. There are moments where Shea shows us that Michael feels ill equipped to deal with the torturous memories and pseudo explanations offered by those who claim to help.

As shot by cinematographer Nolan Yee (Who also shot the superlative “A Life Not to Follow” and was the DP for Shea’s award winning short film Ave Maria.) the film itself is stunning to look at. The imagery, the subdued and bright lighting, that is used to accentuate the various scenes is nigh on perfect.

Sean Carmichael as Michael does a smashing job as the outwardly calm, serene artist whose internal dialogue borders on the insane. After being triggered by his chance meeting with the priest who sexually abused him, the artist takes a dark and disturbing trip down a sour confusing rabbit hole.

Carmichael is also a fascinating character.  His personal choice of tools to create his portraits, the ashes of the subject is beyond bizarre and yet, oddly, it makes perfect sense.

David Graziano (a personal favorite) oozes a sort of filthy aura masked by his false jocularity and sincerity. Once again, there are clues about how each main character in this story see themselves. When Graziano, as Father Tom, speaks with his now grown victim, he looks down making eye contact with the artist’s lower chest. It is clear that the clergyman still sees   Michael as the boy he abused. 

Kudos to Beatrice di Giovanni who played Beatrice in the film. She manages to be captivating and endearing while playing her part on the story. 

Lynn Lowry manages, in the scant moments she is in the film, to show why she is an award winning actress still very much in demand.  Lowry manages to convey a range of emotions with little more than a glance and those kisses.

Poster for Trinity

Trinity is a full 5 star film. Everything that Shea does here meshes together perfectly to show the inner workings of the grown victim. The overly loud music, which serves to disorient the viewer (in sympathy with the protagonist) does not drown out the dialogue but filters it instead. A masterful touch that many filmmakers have yet to learn.

The film is currently on the festival circuit. Skip tells us that Trinity has been seen in a total of 19 festivals has garnered four awards. The film has picked up Best Director at the Amazon Undergound Film Festival (Brazil), Best Editor at the Arte Non Stop Festival in Argentina, Best Actress for Lynn Lowry at the HorrorHound Film Festival (USA) and Best Special Effects for Phil “Skippy” Adams at the International Filmmaker Festival of World Cinema in Italy.

Shea also revealed that this film was the result of his own experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

Trinity Trailer from Skip Shea on Vimeo.

Debbie Reynolds Dead at 84: A Life Well Lived

A young Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds an Oscar nominated star of the ’50’s and 60’s has died one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died from a heart attack aged 60. Todd Fisher informed the press after Ms. Reynolds was admitted to hospital earlier on Wednesday, 28 December with breathing problems.

Reynolds, who started off her career as a major film star by impersonating  Betty Hutton, became America’s sweetheart after playing roles like Tammy, in Tammy and the Bachelor (which spawned a million selling single for Debbie Reynolds; “Tammy’s in Love”).

It was after appearing in the  1952 Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor film Singin’ in the Rain that Reynolds’ career really took off. She went on to make a number of hit films, including  The Unsinkable Molly Brown  before she turned to television.

Ms. Reynolds did not completely leave the cinema however. She voiced the spider in Charlotte’s Web in 1973. She worked steadily in television and did more voice-over work including the popular animated kid’s show, The Rugrats. (She voiced Lulu Pickles.)

Mary Frances Reynolds was born on April Fools Day in El Paso Texas in 1932. Throughout her long life and career, she married three times, one husband; her third,  squandered her money away and left her $3 million in debt. A massive amount that she paid off by performing at Las Vegas and Reno Nevada.

Debbie was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Molly Brown in the 1964 film “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” At the end of her career, she accrued 17 awards and a further 36 nominations. One of the awards received was the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in  2016.

Reynolds’ first husband, Eddie Fisher; father to Carrie and Todd, left her for Elizabeth Taylor in 1958 in a move that shocked the world. Carrie Fisher a product of that union died on 27 December age 60 after a heart attack.

Social media, already reeling from the death of an icon, is now trending on Twitter with #RIP Debbie and Carrie. The world has lost a legend and her iconic daughter. Both women who lived life to the fullest and were, in their own way, bigger than life itself.

Ironically, it was on a Debbie Reynolds TV movie that Carrie got her start in the business; Debbie Reynolds and the Sound of Children.  Both women were strong, witty and not backward in coming forward. The two shared a sometimes tempestuous relationship which Carrie wrote about in her semi-autobiographical novel Postcards From the Edge.

Todd Fisher, Debbie’s son, reported his mother’s death on Wednesday, 28 December.  Ms. Reynolds had been rushed to the hospital earlier in the day for breathing problems and suspected stroke.

Mr. Fisher said, in a statement, that his mother wanted to be with Carrie. Ms Reynolds is survived by her granddaughter Billie Lourd and her son Todd, a TV commercial director.

Debbie Reynolds has died suddenly after leading a life “well lived.” She will be remembered for a long and varied career that, like the Unsinkable Molly Brown, could not be held back or down. She was also known to a legion of “Star Wars” fans as Carrie Fisher‘s mother.

Chasing Cameron on Netflix – Who the Hell is Cameron Dallas?

Cameron Dallas

There comes a point and time where one realizes that some things need to be seen through the eyes of a child to make any sense.  Chasing Cameron, the new Netflix documentary following the rejuvenated MAGCON and Cameron Dallas, features a lot of people you have never heard of, unless you are under a certain age.

Meaning that unless you are a tween girl who dotes on this group of puerile young men whose only discernible talent is to display a certain amount of charm whilst doing amusing things (to a 12  or 13 year old) in front of the camera.

Vine, which Twitter have decided to change forever, has truly created a slew of monsters here.  The first episode of Chasing Cameron “With 1 Tweet” follows the rise and rise of Cameron Dallas. Viewers who stop by to watch the documentary will ask, “who the hell is he?”

To be fair, even the older crowd who are perfectly au fait with YouTube and Instagram will be somewhat befuddled by these cookie cutter replicants who look so much alike they could all be brothers, or at the very  least close cousins.

Dallas, the Cameron of the title, has millions of subscribers/followers on Vine, Instagram and YouTube. He has, in fact, more fans than personal favorite Nigahiga (Ryan Higa) who has been a thing on social media since 2007. Higa also, at one time, held the record for highest amount of followers on YouTube.

Dallas started out on Instagram and soon learned, after selling himself as a model, that comedy paid larger dividends than sultry good looks. He then discovered the six second treasure trove that was Vine. Comedy, good looks and a certain amount of vapidity made Cameron a star.

He is not alone. As Emma Thompson once famously said, these new kids are not stars and they cannot act [sic]. Yet these shallow and very focussed on the money stars are raking it in.

Entrepreneur Bart Bordelon started the original “MAGCON” (which stands for “meet and greet” and the concept took off like wildfire.  Sadly, for the young men who headlined the events, no one got paid for their personal appearances. With this somewhat avaricious oversight, the concept broke down.

Now, Cameron Dallas has teamed up with Bordelon, after initially causing the original to fold with his departure, to re-create the fan favorite. It is, a tween’s dream for a lot of young girls who take  selfies and meet their “crushes.”

(Apparently these 20 something heartthrobs are all blazingly “hetero” as the footage from both the old and new MAGCON shows thousands of young female fans and not one male.)

It is all too easy to be cynical about this Netflix documentary. The series appears to be all about MAGCON and Cameron Dallas’ part in the company.  Toward the end of episode one, Taylor Caniff (another lad you have never heard of) goes off on an assistant for not having the promised per diem ready for “the talent.”

(This is all too indicative of the mentality of these young lads. How talented is it to be attractive and do silly things for Vine? The phrase “The talent” generally applies to someone who has some. In other words, actors, musicians, singers, and so on.)

Dallas has taken steps to insure “the talent” is part of team MAGCON and therefore should not be yelling at hapless employees for not having his money ready.

Once again that cynicism creeps in when looking at this documentary series. It is, in essence, a 10 hour advertisement for Dallas, MAGCON and all the little social media celebrities who attend the show. The thing is a thinly veiled request for more money.

As PT Barnum is often quoted as saying, “There is a sucker born every minute.” This series seems to prove it. The first MAGCON in “Europe” – held in London, has a couple saying they are happy to pay for their little girls to attend.

(On a sidenote, Americans still call England and Great Britain Europe. Just to clarify; no it is not. It is Great Britain, full stop. For Europe, catch the ferry and head across the English channel. There you will find Europe.)

Dallas and Bart approach Caniff and tell him off for complaining about not getting his money to a member of staff. So much for keeping “the talent” happy. It was this issue (lack of recompense) that collapsed the first MAGCON money machine.

On one level this is impressive stuff. Who cannot help but admire someone smart enough to take advantage of this new “star” making application.  Bart Bordelon may have been the first to “exploit” these young celebs but it is clear that when it comes to social media in the 2000’s there is indeed gold in them thar hills.

Dallas is a “Johnny Come Lately” compared to a host of talented YouTube personalities who realized they could make money by posting videos. Ryan Higa, Ray William Johnson, Jenna Marbles and PewDeePie are just some of the mega famous, mega earners who blazed the trail before Dallas and his new chums.

One big difference is that unlike Dallas, who got fans with little to no talent compared to the YouTuber’s before him, the first group of social media “giants” had something to bring to the entertainment table.

Vine removed the “viral” mechanism  required on YouTube and shortened a newer generation’s attention span to six seconds. It also created stars that main stream media finally realized could be exploited for more money, box office receipts and audience numbers.

Catering to an ever younger demographic, television and Hollywood are recruiting from the talentless ranks of these new stars and counting on raking in some money.

A smart move if the crowds attending these MAGCON events are really as big as they seem.

Heading back to Chasing Cameron and away from the cynical breakdown of a money making machine for the vapid, the series is streaming on Netflix or can be downloaded on your flavor of smartphone or tablet.

In a day and age where an aging narcissistic reality TV personality can be elected president these new kids on the block may well be the next president elect in the not so near future.

(On a sidenote: This reviewer is a huge fan of Vine and the many people who can adequately make people laugh within a six second window. So much so that the news of Twitter changing the face of the app caused a certain amount of amazed disbelief.)

Those who have to ask just who the hell Cameron Dallas is, or indeed any of his little chums on the MAGCON, may want to give this one a miss.

‘Shut Eye’ The Tower – Reversed: Hooking Up (Recap/Review)

KaDee Strickland, Jeffrey Donovan in Shut Eye

In episode four of Shut Eye “The Tower – Reversed” Charlie’s pigeon is ripe for plucking and he swoops in to set up the kill.  Nick almost hooks up with Emma, the girl he drank the love potion for, and Linda has a visit from Gina.  Drugs play a part in a tragic turn of events and Fonzo is interested in the new car that Charlie’s “patron” drops off.

Charlie’s daughter comes up with the information he needs to set Nadine up for a huge score. One of the things he finds out is that his target has well over a million dollars in an untouched account.

Gina drops off a sample of the scopolamine she told Linda about in the previous episode. She tries to talk Linda into having sex in the bedroom while Charlie is with Nadine but the answer is no. After warning her lover about using too much Scopolamine “too much is not good,” Linda takes the packet of the drug and hides it.

Nick smashes up some vitamin C tablets and tells his mother that the crushed tablets are his adderall. This is to increase his supply to Emma who is selling it to other students.  Linda sees through the scam immediately and tells Nick they will talk later.

Eduardo, Charlie’s new patron, stops by to give him his BMW. Linda is shocked and pleased. Eduardo tells her not to be stopped by the police as the car’s title and deed might not be “kosher.”

Linda goes to lay down after Nick arrives home with Emma. She asks that they be quiet and not disturb Charlie’s session. The two agree to keep it down.

Emma tells Nick that they can hook up “if you want.” She then asks the boy if he “has something.” “Just the adderall,” says Nick. Emma then explains that she meant something for “protection.” The embarrassed teen then leaves to get condoms.

As Charlie continues his reading with Nadine, Emma investigates the house. She drinks some vodka and rummages for other things.

She finds the scopolamine.

Thinking it is coke, Emma snorts some. The effect is immediate. She walks out of Nick’s room with her earphone cord dragging her mobile phone. The teenager collapses.

Linda hears the noise and investigates. She find the girl laying on the floor with blood tinged froth bubbling out of her mouth. She starts to drag the semiconscious girl across the floor when the doorbell rings.

It is Fonzo and he wants to speak with Charlie. He notices the car in the drive and Linda says it belongs to a client. In the background, Emma is obviously thrashing about as thuds can be heard at the front door. Again Linda lies to Fonzo and says that someone is fixing the kitchen cabinets.

After Gary drops off a rose bush and Fonzo leaves, Linda uses the new BMW to remove Emma from the house. It is not overly clear, but the teenager might just be dead.

Linda does not mention the overdosed girl but she does tell Charlie that Fonzo dropped by and the BMW lie.

Charlie is still having those visions, he has one while with Nadine. The crackling sound has increased to include phantom smoke as well.  Clearly his new precognitive powers are trying to tell him something, but Charlie has not yet worked out what.

Fonzo looks to be far too interested in Charlie at the moment and it looks like Linda will be keeping the fate of Emma a secret, just like her affair with Gina.

“The Tower – Reversed” proves once again that Linda is the “tough one” in the relationship. She literally does not bat an eye when dealing with Emma.

(Speaking of batting an eye, kudos to Mel Harris for that “involuntary” eye twitch when Donovan’s character is delving into the death of her adopted son. Splendidly done and it felt so spontaneous, just like any real “tell.”)

Shut Eye is looking to be a brilliant little show.  The characters feel as though they will all converge for a huge “showdown” of some sort. The homicidal Eduardo, cruel Fonzo and the slightly gullible millionaire, Nadine must be heading for an outstanding convergence.

According to the visions that Charlie keeps having, it looks like someone is going to get burned when it happens.

Shut Eye is on Hulu and all the episodes can be watched. Head on over and see what you think of this psychic drama.

Cast:

Guest starring Roan Curtis as Emma and Nicholas Carella as Gary Shapiro