The Dust Storm (2016): A Love Letter (Review)

Poster for The Dust Storm

Written and co-directed by Ryan Lacen – Anthony Baldino was Ryan’s co-director – The Dust Storm is, primarily, a romance with musical overtones. The film also has its fair share of drama thrown in for the two likable protagonists who rekindle an old love affair in Nashville, the “country music capital of the world.”

Starring Colin O’Donoghue (The RiteOnce Upon a Time) and Kristen Gutoskie (The Vampire DiariesContainmentas Brennan and Nora respectively, the film looks at the two very different people who share the Nashville experience together. After the one-time lovers who broke up seven years previously bump into one another they undertake a journey of self discovery and, for one, self realization.

The young couple spend an intoxicating weekend together bar hopping and attempting to catch the fire that burned so brightly once before. Brennan is a burned out floater who still harbors dreams of writing songs and singing for a living.

Nora is almost over another romantic entanglement and she does not let the dregs of this relationship stop her from pursuing an old love. Of the two, she is the least likely to follow this ship’s passing in the night happenstance to a satisfactory end.

In terms of maturity, Brennan is miles behind Nora and it shows.  The singer/songwriter who turned his back on his preferred career gets caught up in the excitement of Nora.

Set against the bar and club scene of Nashville, where talented singers and performers gravitate to show off their wares, The Dust Storm features musical performances from O’Donoghue and Gutoski.

While the film focusses on the couple and their ups and downs, over a well-oiled time period where drink rules the days and nights of Brennan and Nora,  it is clear that The Dust Storm is a love letter of sorts.

Clearly, the writer and co-director has a soft spot in their heart for the music industry, Nashville itself and those “wannabe’s” (like Brennan) who never give up the dream.

If there is a distinct message from the filmmakers it has to be a combination of determination when pursuing one’s chosen profession and that looking too closely at one’s past may be detrimental but it is still necessary.

As Winston Churchill is credited with saying, those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it. This too is a part of what Lacen and Baldino are saying. Certainly some parts of our own personal journeys are too painful to consider.

The Dust Storm tells us that not only is it okay to relive some parts of our lives but that it is also necessary. The pain of a relationship gone wrong, or two people who desperately want different things while still finding the other attractive, are all things that we have to face.

This long weekend of love, lust, loss and alcohol is an interesting glimpse into the lives of two people who could very easily be seen as “life’s losers.” Both are in a transitional phase of their life and both are searching for something.

The Dust Storm is a 4 star film. It delivers on many different levels. The camera work is spot on and so is the editing. The lighting is crisp where it needs to be and soft as required.

At a running time of 95 minutes, the film could drag, but despite its leisurely pace, The Dust Storm never really drags.  We are interested in these two people and want see how their story ends.

The movie has some very mild violence, a couple of sex scenes and some “adult” language. Have a look at the most recent trailer and see what you think.

Patch Town (2014): Quasi Musical Fantasy Fun

Zoie Palmer, Julian Richings, Ken Hall
Directed by Craig Goodwill (his first feature length film) and starring Zoie Palmer (Dark Matter, Lost Girl), Julian Richings (Cube, Man of Steel), Rob Ramsay (The Thundermans, Blue Mountain State), Suresh John (Bulletproof Monk, Shoot ‘Em Up) and Ken Hall (A Christmas Horror Story, Mistletoe Over Manhattan) Patch Town is a Canadian production that follows a sort of Grimm’s fairy tale version of cabbage patch dolls and their lives outside the garden where they were born.

Julian Richings plays the dual role of the man who discovers the cabbage’s secret and later  he is Yuri, the child catcher. The film tells of how each baby borne of the cabbage was frozen, in  special machine created by Yuri’s father. This invention turned the babies into dolls who were then adopted by loving little girls the world over. As the dolls became neglected, aka outgrown, Yuri collected the dolls and reanimated them into people.

Their memories were wiped so they could not remember their prior lives as dolls. The process, however, is not perfect and a few can recall their mothers. Jon (Ramsay) is one who remembers his mother, Bethany (Palmer) very well. Jon works in the cabbage patch baby factory where each day cabbages containing babies are opened up and the tiny infants removed.

The contents of the vegetables are  guarded closely and anyone caught stealing a baby from the factory are jailed and re-educated.  Jon escapes with his wife Mary (Stephanie Pitsiladis) and their stolen baby Daisy. He is aided by Sly, (John) who tries to help him fit into the real world. 

Meanwhile, Yuri is lonely and wants a bride and he choses Bethany, Jon’s former mother who has a new child, Avery (Kayla DiVenere) who Yuri want to freeze and make into a doll. 

This quasi-musical is a lot of fun to watch and full of quirky humor. Suresh John, who could be the re-incarnation of funnyman Jerry Colonna is truly hysterical in this film. John’s comic timing and delivery are exquisite and the delivery of his lines as Sly are side splitting.

Take, for example, his explanation of Santa Claus and elves to Jon.

Jon: ” Who am I supposed to be?”

Sly: “You are some benefactor named Santa Claus.”

Jon: “And who are you supposed to be?”

Sly: “I am some freakish mutation that works in a factory making toys for greedy undeserving children.”

Suresh is even good at setting up jokes for his fellow performers to serve up as punch line. Sly warns Jon not to talk to the police, whom he refers to as the fuzz, the po po and 5-Oh. Jon later retranslates this into “I’m not supposed to talk to the fuzzy Po Po.”

Ken Hall, as Kenny, is almost as funny as Suresh. This man’s manic expression while rambling about kidnapping gloves, standing by the side of the road with beet juice on his face, or stumbling over his words explaining why he kidnapped the girl and not Bethany are show stoppers.

The only complain about this film is that there could be more Zoie Palmer. As Bethany she does not have too much screen time. (Another complaint would be that her character’s lines are a tad confusing. She tries to force Jon to help her find her daughter and when he agrees to help, she immediately asks him why.  Confusing.)

The plot could be seen as a homage to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with it’s child catcher, certainly  Richings’ character resembles  Robert Helpmann’s child catcher although he is a lot more verbal than the sinister villain in that 1968 musical.  While the character of the child catching Yuri may be a homage to the film of the flying, and magical car, it is apparent that the whole storyline of cabbage patch babies is connected to those hideous dolls from the 1980s.

Or…the film really is a sort of musical Grimm’s fairy tale about babies found in cabbages. Either way, the movie is quirky fun with an unlikely hero and the brilliantly comic Suresh John as equally unlikely sidekick.

At 85 minutes the film is not overly long and the pacing is brisk, although it does drag in places. Streaming on US Netflix, Patch Town is great fun and while the songs are not catchy enough to stick in your head, they do, at least, help the story along.

This is a 4 out of 5 stars for originality, and it loses a star for not enough Zoie Palmer, but earns 4 just for Ken Hall and Suresh John who steal this film from Richings and Ramsay as deftly as if he were the child catcher himself.

Into the Woods: Disney Does Broadway Beautifully (Review and Trailer)

Into the Woods: Disney Does Broadway Beautifully (Review and Trailer)

Having never seen any stage version of this Stephen Sondheim musical it is much easier to take this big screen adaptation of Into the Woods at face value and while Disney does do Broadway beautifully, the film, for all its hype and fan excitement, does not overwhelm or overly impress. Certainly the movie looks gorgeous, the costumes, the set designs, the actors, with the exclusion of James Corden as the baker are all equally beautiful.