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THE TAKING Review

Director: Alexandre O. Philippe Year: 2023 Filmmakers often use real-world locations as a way to ground their stories in a precieved reality or to take advantage of the unique features of a specific location. The Statue of Liberty quickly represents NYC, the Hollywood sign lets the audiance know we are in LA, and The Eifel Tower is one the easiest ways a filmmaker can use a single (text free) image to set a film in Paris. Monument Valley has been the go to symbol for the American West since the earlies days of motion pictures.  Our fascination with western expansion has been consistent but rarely has it led to honest depictions of this complicated piece of American history. We often focus on the pioneering spirit, rugged individualism, and manifest destiny. The idea that settlers were destined to expand westward and spread democracy and civilization was a powerful narrative that captured the imagination of many Americans. Not only is this incomplete telling of history dishonest, its da

Umma Blu-ray Review - UMMA

  The Film Sandra Oh has been consistently one of the most underutilized actors of the last 20+ years. I first became aware of her when she landed a recurring role on the HBO series ARLI$$, the show itself is (was) fine, not great, not bad, just a slightly above average half-hour comedy. That being said, Sandra Oh was always phenomenal on the show, she brought humanity to even the most absurd moments and delivered comedic relief when the air needed to be released from a scene.  The same can be said about her work on GREY'S ANATOMY, a long-running powerhouse that might not be my cup of tea, but her work as Dr. Christina Yang is undeniable.  UMMA (the Korean word for mother) is one of Oh's first forays into genre fare and the results are pretty remarkable.  The film is centered on a mother (Sandra Oh) and her daughter (Fivel Stewart) who have settled into a quiet life on a farm in the middle of America about 60 miles outside of nowhere. I was raised in a town called Winder Georgi

HOME WITH A VIEW OF THE MONSTER Is One of The Best Horror Films of The Last 10 Years

2019 Directed by : Alex Greenlee and  Todd Greenlee Written by :  Alex Greenlee and  Todd Greenlee Stars : Ellen Humphries, Sebastien Charmant,  Danielle Evon Ploeger, Jasper Hammer To me, the best horror films are ones where the scares are secondary. Films where you could excise all the guts, gore, and mayhem and still be left with a film. A story that stands on its own without leaning on jump scares to placate the audience. One of the more impactful moments in HOME WITH A VIEW OF THE MONSTER  is when a character confronts someone about babyproofing a house, that's it, not a beheading or a cat jumping out of a closet, but a moment that introduces an idea, an idea that informs not only the character who is being observed but the character who is doing the observing as well.  I won't go into the exact details of the film because one of the sheer joys of Alex and Todd Greenlee's feature-length debut is discovering how each chapter of the film informs what you've already s

DIRTY GOD Review

  Directed by: Sacha Polak Starring: Vicky Knight Sometimes when I'm presented with the synopsis for a film I can't help but pull for it. An idea that, on its surface, so deeply resonates with me I want to immediately champion it. When I read the description of Sacha Polak's DIRTY GOD I knew I'd be completely on board as long as it wasn't an unmitigated cluster fuck.  To fully explain, I'll give you a brief description of the film and explain why this story offered the potential for such a personal connection. The film is about a young mother trying to find her way after being the victim of an acid attack by her ex-boyfriend. Polak cast a first-time actress who was in a house fire as a child that left her with scars on about 30% of her body.  That should be enough for anyone to want this film to succeed. Acting is a vulnerable business that's accompanied by cruel and often thoughtless criticism. On the personal side, I spent close to 8 weeks in a Phoenix bur

GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN Blu-ray Review

GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN  Director: Richard E. Chuna Stars: Sally Fraser, Buddy Baer, Morris Ankrum, and Bob Steele The picture above, says it all. If you see that image and want to know more, you should check out Richard E. Chuna's 1958 backyard horror schlockfest GIANT FROM THE UNKNOWN.  From a first-time director, writer, and producer the film has an infectious energy that's only possible from a group of people who have no idea what they are doing. If you imagine a film somewhere in between Ed Wood and Roger Corman you won't be far off.  Dr. Frederick Cleveland (Morris Ankrum) and his daughter Janet (Sally Fraser) are joined by scientific researcher Wayne Brooks (Ed Kemmer) in the pursuit of ancient artifacts from Vargas, a giant 500-year-old Spanish conquistador, you know that old chestnut. When a lightning storm interrupts their search, the team finds much more than artifacts when the long-lost Vargas returns to life, with a murderous rage and an ax to grind! While amate

Mill Creek Retro Look VHS Collection - KRULL, SILENT RAGE, LAST ACTION HERO, and WHO'S HARRY CRUMB Reviews

All of the releases in Mill Creek's Retro Look VHS Collection have throwback VHS-style slipcases that will look great on any physical media collectors shelf. These are bare-bones releases but for anyone interested in shelf aesthetic, you won't be disappointed in any of these Blu-rays. KRULL Set in a mystical time and place that is somehow neither the past nor the present, where extraordinary creatures of myth work their incredible magic, and where a horrific, omnipotent Beast is the ruler. This is the planet of Krull! Prince Colwyn sets out on a daring mission to rescue his young bride who is held captive by the Beast. But slayers and alien beings under the command of the Beast oppose him at every turn. Colwyn must first reach a faraway cavern to recover the legendary Glaive, a flying blade capable of phenomenal powers. I'm not sure if this a new scan for the Mill Creek Retro Collection but man does this transfer look gorgeous. The rich color pallet of Peter S

TRUST MACHINE THE STORY OF BLOCKCHAIN review

2018 Directed By: Alex Winter The decentralization of currency is confounding to the layman, confrontational to the establishment, and a source of consolation for millions of daring investors. Director Alex Winter has developed a knack for exploring misunderstood elements of technology in several of his documentary films. In DOWNLOADED he made sense of Bit Torrent, in DEEP WEB he explored the often maligned non-indexed corners of the internet and in his latest film TRUST MACHINE THE STORY OF BLOCKCHAIN, he makes takes on the technology that enables cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. Is blockchain a scam? Or is it simply a way for nefarious individuals to purchase illegal goods and services on the internet? No and no. As Winter explains in his film blockchain is a brilliant way for digital information to be transferred but not copied. It is essentially an open source ledger that allows for two parties to conduct a transaction in a way that is verifiable and perminent. In other words,

LAFF 2018 What to Watch

With a little over a week to go until this year's LAFF kicks off, we decided to take a look at the films that have us most excited. This is by no means a complete list of all the films, just the ones we have earmarked as the must-see titles. FUNKE  Evan Funke was one of the hottest young chefs in Los Angeles when he inexplicably walked away from his critically-acclaimed and wildly popular restaurant, Bucato, leaving behind him a wake of financial and personal upheaval. Years later, as Evan begins mounting his comeback, he reconnects with his maestra, a virtuosic pasta teacher in Bologna, Italy and partners with Janet Zuccarini, a Canadian restauranteur undertaking her first venture in the U.S. Eyeing one of the most competitive and expensive streets in America as a stage for the dying art of handmade pasta, he battles many obstacles on the road to opening a restaurant that he hopes will become his legacy and repair the mistakes of his past. In his feature debut,

ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES - Review

Somewhere in between THE A-TEAM and ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ lies the Sylvester Stallone prison break for hire franchise, ESCAPE PLAN . In the latest installment,  ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES,  structural engineer Ray Breslin (Stallone) teams up with former rival Trent DeRosa (David Bautista) to rescue his team. When Ray discovers where his team is being held he reaches out to Trent, a mercenary working in hostage recovery and Bug (Pete Wentz) a notorious weapons dealer to rescue his comrades and save Yusheng. In order to complete the mission, Ray must break into Hades a prison known as the Land of the Dead. Director Steven C. Miller is easily one of the most prolific filmmakers working in the action genre today. With 15 credits to his name in 6 years, he is consistently turning out throwback spectacle that would have felt cozy on the shelf of any Blockbuster in the late 80's. With ESCAPE PLAN 2: HADES Miller has infused the action tropes of the 80's with stylish camera work a

BOILED ANGELS: THE TRIAL OF MIKE DIANA - Fantasia 2018 Review

Mike Diana is an outsider artist working in comic books. Unlike what most would associate with the medium, Diana uses his funny books to tackle subjects like the environment, consumerism, and pedophilia. Through graphic depictions and dry social commentary Diana pushes the boundaries of acceptable speech and taste so much so he has the distinction of being the first person to be convicted of artistic obscenity. BOILED ANGELS: THE TRIAL OF MIKE DIANA opens with the following: "The uncensored art shown in this film is deliberately and aggressively NON PC. It is meant to provoke, disturb, shock, offend, and confront the viewer. If graphic depictions of sex and violence disturb you, STOP watching the film NOW." It's the perfect way to open the film as it contains imagery that will make many viewers uncomfortable. And if you are unable to get past that imagery to see the tragedy of Diana's story, the film has no interest in speaking to you. The film mirrors its su

NO ALTERNATIVE review

Depression is often marked by sadness, despair, and hopelessness. The sense that things will not get better is something most of us pass through at different points in our lives. But depression is something more than that. It’s not just a temporary feeling, it’s a debilitating emotional state that you can’t simply pull yourself out of. The angry outbursts, irritability, and frustration that come along with depression can isolate individuals suffering from this condition and push them deeper into their own thoughts. Everyone needs to be heard and sometimes those who can’t express themselves in traditional forms find their voice in art. Edvard Munch wrestled with agoraphobia and frequently had hallucinations, one of which inspired THE SCREAM, a painting so iconic that even the most casual art enthusiast is familiar with the piece.  Sylvia Plath took a more direct approach with THE BELL JAR and laid out the details of her depression with brutal honesty. Briana Dickerson a white

MADHOUSE Blu-ray review

1981 Directed By: Ovidio Assontis Starring: Trish Everly, Michael MacRae, Allison Biggers, and Dennis Robertson Written By: Ovidio Assontis and Stephen Blakely MANY PEOPLE VISIT... NO ONE EVER LEAVES MADHOUSE Blu-ray review Julia (Trish Everly) has spent the better part of her life living in denial. Trying to forget about the cruel and inhumane treatment she received as a child at the hands of her twin sister Mary (Allison Biggers). Time has not softened Mary, before escaping a hospital where she has been treated for a disease that has left her disfigured, she vows to get revenge on her sister. MADHOUSE is setup as a ticking time clock where we count down the days until Julia's birthday, the day Mary has promised to exact revenge. Assontis is best known for his work on THE CURSE and PIRANHA 2: THE SPAWNING but I've always felt his operatic sensibilities were best suited to films like MADHOUSE. A production shot entirely on location in Savannah Georgia, his fil

BFF review SWEET PARENTS

SWEET PARENTS review 2017 Directed By: David Bly Starring: David Bly and Leah Rudick Written By: David Bly and Leah Rudick Moving to New York City with ambitions of making it as an artist is an uphill battle. Hell, moving to New York with ambitions of breaking into fast food is an uphill battle. Exorbitant rent makes it difficult if not impossible to get a temp job while you audition, paint, write, or sculpt. And paying $28 for an artisan PB&J not only has a heavy tax on your pocketbook, over time it can carry a greater burden on your soul. Spending tons of money to only feel like you are barely keeping your head above water is a crushing way to exist. SWEET PARENTS is the story of a young couple who have been living the artists struggle in NYC for close to 8 years. Will has dreams of making it as a Chef and Gabby wants to become a professional sculptor. Both start side relationships, as last ditch efforts to support their careers, in what becomes a choice between ambi

LAFF interview w/ Sam Patton on DESOLATION

Interview with DESOLATION director Sam Patton DESOLATION is a film about a mother who takes her son and her best friend on a trip into the remote wilderness to scatter his father's ashes; they must confront their fears when a lone hiker begins following them. Today on the show my guest is Sam Patton, a producer and director whose feature film debut DESOLATION will be playing at LAFF on Jun, 21st at 9:30 PM at the ArcLight Culver City 4. I had Sam on the show to discuss his film, George Lucas, Chinatown, and how film snobs like ourselves need to calm down and remember its ok to watch a movie on an iPhone. For tickets to the film go to: https://tickets.lafilmfestival.com Click play on the embedded player below to hear my conversation with Sam.