Posts Tagged ‘independent

03
Dec
09

Indie Watch: Sleeping and Waking

“Sleeping and Waking” is the latest film from director Joe Banno.

The Story: Sullivan Daniels (Jeff Allin) is an artist known for extremely detailed and harsh religious paintings and woodcuts. Faced with terminal cancer, he opts for an experimental treatment. Following the procedure he can’t draw as he once had, his mother believes he’s thwarted God’s will and his wife won’t touch him. He now must find a way back from the darkness of his decision.

Stars: Jeff Allin, Hope Lambert, Helen Hedman, and Ray Ficca.

For more information, check out the website at: www.sleepingandwaking.com

NOTE: The movie opens on Friday, December 4, 2009 at the Regal Park Terrace Stadium 6 theaters in Charlotte, NC.

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12
Nov
09

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity

paranormal_activity

 

 

Quite honestly, the best damn tent-pole movie in a long time.

Starring Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat. Directed by Oren Peli

It’s gonna be rough trying to sleep tonight.

Before I get much further into the review, let me explain what I said in the first line. “Tent-pole” movies were ones that movie studios bank on to “pay for” all the other flops. Further insight: the Studios’ plan on one movie making the money that twenty movies will lose. The idea actually goes further back to when motion pictures were the “new technology,” and people gathered under tents at fairs and the like, huddled around a screen and watching a train pull up to a station or a cowboy point a gun at the audience and pull the trigger (reportedly several people ran out on this one).

What we have here is an indie horror film that delivers in a way that the previous horror movie, “The Blair Witch” can’t touch and light years away from anything “Cloverfield” could’ve ever hoped to be. Yeah, I said it. I put down my money and watched both; “Blair Witch” was a good campfire “ghost story” movie with an excellent marketing campaign (the webpage alone made you seriously think about the movie) whereas “Cloverfield” was an over-hyped “Godzilla” wannabe. And I’ll say it again: both movies fall short of this one.

Before I go much further if you have any inkling to go see this movie, do so. It’s worth the theater experience. And yes, it’ll scare the crap out of you. And stop reading now.

Still there? Alright. The story involves Katie and Micah (pronounced me-kuh). They live in a condo in San Diego. Micah is a day-trader who, encouraged by weird things happening in their abode, decided to invest in a high-grade prosumer videocamera. His live-in girlfriend Katie isn’t crazy about him buying the camera or even what he wants to use it for: trying to find out if their place is really haunted.

When they call in a psychic (Mark Fredrichs) to give them answers Katie spills the beans on her “haunted” past while Micah remains skeptical, videotaping all the while. The psychic gives them an answer they weren’t expecting: the condo isn’t haunted, but a demon could be plaguing Katie. Micah proposes setting up his videocamera to record their bedroom and what happens during the night, the camera firewired into a laptop and a mic capturing any and all sound.

Following this is the simplicity of horror that escalates: murmuring voices, their bedroom door opening and shutting, a sonic BOOM shaking the condo, and Katie being adversely affected by the ghost. Katie wants to leave but begins to believe that she truly is being the object of a demon’s affections, while Micah wants to continue videotaping and compiling evidence. Each morning Micah reviews the night’s videos and wants to know more while Katie wants it all to end. The demonologist recommended by the psychic is out of town, and the psychic himself doesn’t want to have anything to do with it, so they truly are on their own.

It gets much worse after Night 17. I’m still reeling from the final scene. You won’t see it coming…

With the lackluster return of the slasher flick, or rather the onslaught of horror remakes, I’m picky about what horror films I’ll see. The last few that I liked were “The Mist,” the first “Saw,” the director’s cut of “1408,” and “Session 9.” I can’t remember any other good ones (maybe “Murder Party”). “Paranormal Activity” got right what most current Studio productions got wrong: horror is about simplicity. The demon has a purpose and it will not stop until that purpose has been carried out. It doesn’t need to be explained by a lifetime of pathos or even some weird Nazi science experimentation with the occult. Sometimes the best horror is hearing footsteps and creaks in staircases, lights flickering on and off, unexplained shadows, bedsheets mysteriously moving, and the slow descent into insanity (or possession).

And these guys did it on an estimated budget of $11,000. Last weekend the movie grossed over $9 million. Take that next proposed horror remake.

If you haven’t made up your mind about whether you’re going to see it or not, just get up and go see it. This is the theatrical horror movie experience you’ve been wanting. While it’s fun to watch other people get scared, trust me, you’ll jump out of your seat as well. It really is all about the final scene.

My grade: B+

27
Oct
08

Movie Review: Choke

 

 

A feel-good sex addict movie.

 

Starring Sam Rockwell, Brad William Henke, Anjelica Huston, Kelly MacDonald, and Clark Gregg. Written for the screen and directed by Clark Gregg. Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

 

Funny. Sad. Poignant. It wins!

 

Based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk (esteemed author of “Fight Club”), Sam Rockwell plays sex addict and “historical interpreter” Victor Mancini. Victor has a fellow sex addict and historical interpreter roommate Denny (Henke), a big guy who’s into masturbation and finds a girlfriend; stripper Cherry Daiquiri (Gillian Jacobs). His mother Ida (Huston) is at a nursing home and whenever Victor arrives, she believes that he’s one of her many lawyers. To pay for her stay, Victor goes to restaurants and chokes on food, thus eliciting sympathy and monetary compensation. Life is sad and lonely for Victor.

 

It all changes when he meets his mother’s new doctor, Paige Marshall (MacDonald). She tells him there’s an experimental way to save his mother from dementia, and to do it they must do it. This causes problems with Victor because he’s about sex, not relationships. Speaking of relationships, Victor is trying to find out from his mom who his father really is and the secrets are in a diary she wrote in Italian. With Denny moving out, falling in love with Paige, and the possibility that he may be a direct descendant of Christ, it all becomes too much.

 

For those wanting to compare this with, “Fight Club,” the only traits this movie shares with it is that the character is sad, depressed, lonely, and basically living on the bottom rung. And this person also has relationship issues. That’s about it. Dotted through this film are pieces to explain to us how Victor came to be. His mother went from place-to-place, Victor was often put in foster care, and there is a more than a hint that Victor was taken by Ida from another couple.

 

This is one of the most honest movies in regards to portraying relationships and sexuality. As I’ve stated earlier: funny, brutal, messed-up, but honest.

 

Kudos to Clark Gregg who not only wrote and directed this (based on the novel), but had a part as Lord High Charlie. Funny.

 

My grade: B

05
Aug
08

A Primer for the Indies: Ten Must Watch Independent Films

After a small break, the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research brings you the

 

TOP TEN MUST WATCH INDEPENDENT FILMS

 

Note: This is a “primer” for watching indie movies. It was difficult coming up with the right ten, but it’s just my opinion, right?

 

10. “Sling Blade” (1996 ) – Billy Bob Thornton was just a supporting actor when he plucked his money down and came up with this tale of a mentally-challenged guy named Carl who is released from the mental hospital. Walking back to his hometown he befriends a kid and his mom, whom he tries protecting them from the mom’s boyfriend (Dwight Yoakum). Thornton was and probably is the first Billy Bob to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

9. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992 ) – Sure, he’s better known for “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” and “Jackie Brown,” but I still enjoy “Reservoir Dogs.” This film, based on the Honk Kong action flick “City on Fire,” is about a jewel heist gone wrong. Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney and even QT himself, this is arguably one of the best independent gangster movies. And once you’ve watched it, you’ll never think of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You,” in the same way again.

 

8. “Trainspotting” (1996 ) – Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “Shallow Grave” gave us this UK story of Scottish folk on the score for heroin and other drugs and how their lives turn upside down. It introduced those of us here, “across the pond,” to Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. This movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Boyle would go on to direct “28 days later,” Ewan would become “Obi Wan Kenobi,” and Carlyle would be seen in another indie favorite, “The Full Monty.”

 

7. “Swingers” (1996 ) – “You’re money, baby.” Directed by Doug Liman and written by Jon Favreau, “Swingers” is a look at a group of wannabe actors trying to break into the Hollywood scene. The film ushered the above catchphrase into the culture’s vernacular and re-introduced swing dancing to the masses. Liman would go on to direct “Go,” and “The Bourne Identity,” Favreau would later direct, “Iron Man,” and Vince Vaughn would become a leading man in films such as “The Break-Up,” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

 

6. “Boondock Saints” (1999 )– Once I bought this film on DVD, I loved it. “Boondock Saints” is about two brothers (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who become the “protectors” of their neighborhood as the Russian mob tries to slowly take it over. They are being tracked/ watched by effete FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). The coolest part of the film is when Dafoe’s character actively “describes” how different events took place.

 

5. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004 ) – Ever have a girlfriend/ boyfriend that you wanted to erase from your memory? Check out this tale from director Michael Gondry about a guy (Jim Carrey) whose girlfriend (Kate Winslet) erases him from her memory. When he goes to do likewise, he finds that he’s made a mistake and tries to stop the erasure from completing. Also stars Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

4. “Brick” (2005 ) – “Lunch is a lot of things. Lunch is complicated.” Take Dashiell Hammett dialog and put it in a modern SoCal High School environment where Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is investigating the mess his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) has gotten into. Once she is found dead, Brendan is inside a maelstrom of drugs, thugs, and assorted low-lives. Hardboiled noir has never been better. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for playing Tommy in “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

 

3. “Snatch” (2000 ) – A search for a caravan (trailer) leads to two unlicensed boxing promoters into a madcap tale involving a diamond as large as your fist, a compulsive gambler named Franky Four-Fingers (Benicio del Toro), a jeweler named Doug the Head, and a Pikey bare-knuckles boxing champ named Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt). Great editing, soundtrack, and comedy make this a must-see. This film propelled stars Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham.

 

2. “Gone Baby Gone” (2007 ) – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut of Dennis Lehane’s novel about a little girl missing from her crack-addict mother and the cover-up of the disappearance was nothing short of impressive. Of all the indie films of 2007, this was my favorite. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and John Ashton, this movie is worth it for the cast alone. Of note, Amy Ryan’s Boston accent was so convincing that a security guard kept her from entering the filming lot; a fellow actor had to let her in.

 

1. “Memento” (2000 ) – “Remember Sammy Jankis.” With these words tattooed on his skin, former insurance fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is on the hunt for his wife’s killer, one “John G.” Problem is, his memory only lasts for 15 minutes and he can’t create any new memories. His only kinship comes from “Teddy” (Joe Pantoliano) and “Natalie” (Carrie-Anne Moss), both Leonard has trouble trusting. Director Christopher Nolan’s indie opus cost $300,000 to make, and he raised the money while showing his film “The Following.” After “Memento,” Nolan signed a contract with Warner Bros. and has since directed, “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” and “The Dark Knight.”

13
Jun
08

Movie Review: Son of Rambow

 

 

Make film. Not war.

 

Starring Neil Dudgeon, Bill Milner, Jessica Hynes, Will Poulter, and Jules Sitruk. Directed by Garth Jennings.

 

Setting: England, some point in the 1980’s. Will Proudfoot (Milner) is a young schoolboy with a great ability to do drawings. His main problem is that his family is under the religious regime of the Brethren, a sect that outlaws media, art, and most of the outside world influences. Enter Lee Carter (Poulter), the “trouble” kid. He smokes, helps his brother bootleg movies, and gets into trouble just about every day. When these two opposites meet, Lee makes Will feel indebted to him, and pulls him into helping to win a filmmaking contest. When Will watches “First Blood” for the first time, he transforms from mild-mannered kid into the rambunctious “Son of Rambow.” What follows is a tale of friendship, religion, family, and small-scale filmmaking.

 

What I liked about this movie: it’s endearing. Instead of your CGI-based movie, or the standard sugar-coated Disney fare, this film has heart whereas the others have money. It’s not a perfect film; it has its flaws and it can meander, but overall I enjoyed it.

 

The only movie I could even compare it to would be “Bowfinger.” Thing is, it’s not as campy or corny as “Bowfinger” was. However, it does show filmmaking on a small scale: getting the people, the prima donna actor, “losing control” over the production… all of that is in here. Again, it’s a nice movie. Not great, not earth-shattering, but nice. And that’s all it really aims for.

 

My grade: B