Movie Review: 'Blue Ruin'


[Editor’s Note: This review was originally written and posted at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.]

Revenge is a dish best served with a knife, a crossbow and semi-automatic rifles in Jeremy Saulnier’s bloody and brilliant sophomore feature, Blue Ruin.

When Blue Ruin opens, a drifter named Dwight (Mason Blair) is coasting through life on a beach. He’s dirty, living on a steady diet of trashcan food, and his face looks as if it’s never felt a clean shave. He breaks into houses just to take a bath, however his presence shows he’s not a bad or harmful man — he’s just trying to survive. Things aren’t so bad, this bum has built a home and life for himself at a place where things are simple and uncomplicated.

While sleeping in his rusty, old and beaten-up blue Bonneville, Dwight gets a surprise visit from the local sheriff (who seems to know him really well). She tells him that a man from his past has just been released from prison, and from the deer in headlights look on his face, we know this isn’t a man Dwight wants to exchange presents with on Christmas. And as his eyes turn from scared to sad to pain to anger, he sticks a sharp knife five inches deep into his enemies’ skull (not a spoiler). It quickly becomes clear that these two won’t be playing Go Fish together anytime soon, either. During the scuffle, Dwight abandons his car, which is registered to his sister’s house, at the crime scene. Things, as they say, don’t go exactly as planned, and Dwight’s fiery rampage of revenge has only just begun.

What makes Dwight the perfect, unconventional anti-hero is the ambitious size of his bite — he’s short, skinny, has never held a gun in his life, and would probably apologize to a butterfly if he hurt its feelings. Blair completely embodies Dwight and brings him to life with subtle, but fierce, intensity. During a scene in which he’s stuck in a house, outnumbered and outgunned, you can feel Dwight’s anxiety and anger vibrate through him — boom, acting! As his violent tale of revenge takes a dramatic — and at times, comedic — turn, Blair’s portrayal of Dwight displays a level of commitment that’s admirable; in fact, this commitment demands that we root for him all the way to the bitter, brutal end.

Revenge breathes a new life in Jeremy Saulnier’s script. The film is very violent, but Saulnier manages to avoid glorifying revenge or bloodshed. Actually, he shows how terrifying, unnerving, sad and awful it is to kill a man. Dwight’s boyish innocence is gone, yet he still doesn’t know what he’s doing, still doesn’t want to do what he’s doing, and still knows he’s not doing a good thing — but feels compelled to protect the only family left in his life, at whatever cost. This relentless drive is what makes Blue Ruin one of the best shoot-‘em-up-until-they-are-all-dead-dead-dead revenge quests, ever.  

Movie Review: 'THE VISITOR' Returns From 1979 to Peck Out Your Eyes and Make You Like It


Good vs. evil! Abortion! Potty-mouthed asshole children! Frank Nero as Jesus? Frank Nero as Jesus! Shelly Winters power-slaps! How to fight off bullies on the ice skating rink! Lance Henrikson getting his ass kicked by a plastic falcon! This is The Visitor, a super low budget horror film from 1979.

There’s a lot of fun going on in The Visitor, but I really couldn’t tell you what it’s about. It’s a bizarre circus of magic and mayhem, and stars Sam Peckinpah (director of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and The Wild Bunch), Lance Henriksen (Aliens), Glenn Ford (Clark Kent’s dad in Superman 1979), Franco Nero (Django) Shelley Winters (The Poseidon Adventure, Lolita, Night of the Hunter) and John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) as people of good and bad higher power trying to get inside the head of and brainwash an 8-year-old girl with telekinesis powers and an attitude that will put any Hollywood diva to shame. Things will go one of two ways: 1) good or 2) the opposite of good.

Most of the plot doesn’t make any sense and it’s hard to say who’s on whose side (good versus evil thing). If you read the back of the Blu-ray or DVD box, it’ll tell you this eight-year-old is needed to take control of the world — so God (Peckinpah, I think) and the Devil (a collective of foes including Henriksen) duke it out on earth while the girl wrecks the place in her own little telekinesis asshole way (putting a heavy emphasis on asshole).

A lot of people bitched about The Visitor when it originally released in 1979. Why? People like to bitch. The eerily attractive poster (see below) was frustratingly misleading (that freakish eyeball never appears in the movie, dammit) and the writer and producer, Italian-American filmmaker Ovidio G. Assonitis, was known for ripping off highly acclaimed Hollywood horror — The Visitor bleeds The Omen and The Exorcist. Anyway, it quickly overstayed its welcome and went away until Tim League and Drafthouse Films (the coolest cinematic megaphone for reviving old repertory gems) brought it back from its dusty grave. And Wallah! This out-of-towner has a new, permanent home.

Even though it’s cheap, senseless, and just odd, it’s a good film. Why? Because I was entertained. I laughed, loved the corny visual effects, and was entertained from beginning to end — that’s the purpose of a movie, right? The Visitor is truly one of the most absurd movies to come out of the heavily experimental decade in film—the 1970s—but it’s also a lot of fun.

There are some really bonkers, balls-to-the-wall, and gloriously harsh scenes that’ll keep your focus if you start to zone out. One that stands above most is when Shelley Winters really slaps the shit out of Telekinesis Girl (Paige Conner) for being a little asshole. I read that the slaps were real and, in fact, every parent should show their kids that scene when they are disobeying.

With good versus bad, God against Satan, right and wrong: The Visitor is stuffed like a fat turkey with symbolism throughout the film. Is there a moral? Sure. Never trust an eight-year-old to save the world.


                                      Original poster from 1979


AFTERNOON DELIGHT Captures the Challenges of Seeking Love, Happiness, and Peace

Poor Rachel (Kathryn Hahn). Although she’s married to the man of her dreams, Jeff (Josh Radnor), leads a really nice lifestyle, and has a healthy son, she’s bored as hell as a stay-at-home housewife. Her friends are starting to suck, because they all have day jobs and/or do normal mom things. And Jeff never wants to have sex. They high five in passing more often than they copulate, and Jeff even has an unspoken “no sex tonight” safe phrase when they’re going to bed.

In an attempt to spice up their sex life, she, along with Jeff and some of their friends, go to a strip club. Here’s where it gets, well, a bit odd. After getting a lap dance from a young stripper named McKenna (Juno Temple), Rachel’s curiosity and boredom get the best of her, and she takes it upon herself to help McKenna out of her current unhealthy lifestyle. Things will go one of two ways: 1) Genius. 2) Stupidly bad.

Afternoon Delight explores the off-kilter world of Silver Lake, a highly hip neighborhood in Los Angeles, California, full of highly hip (and crazy) people. This will probably go unnoticed by folks who don’t live in L.A., but it sure hits home for those of us who do. But don’t worry, there’s enough delightful entertainment packed into this movie, you don’t need to be a native to enjoy. There is, however, one thing you should know about Los Angeles — everyone here has a therapist. Even therapists have therapists.

Afternoon Delight is writer/director Jill Soloway’s feature film debut, and she’s brought together a lovely cast. Kathryn Hahn branded herself in small-but-memorable roles on TV and in films (Parks and Rec, Anchorman, Step Brothers), but she takes the lead as Rachel and knocks it out of the park. She’s fierce, vulnerable, crazy, and courageous, all at the same time. Josh Radnor, who is better known as playing the hopeless romantic in long-running sitcom How I Met Your Mother, steps out of the norm in this film, but still manages to play a man with a gentle heart. Radnor is a very likable guy, and will always get a thumbs up from me for playing characters who wear their heart on their sleeve.

We also get a few scenes with the great Jane Lynch as Rachel’s therapist, who mostly talks about her problems rather than listen to Rachel. Lynch is proof that a cinematic God exists. Without Lynch, sharp deadpan comedy with a splash of ignorance would not be as fun. Her presence is never a letdown. She makes every moment memorable in every movie she’s in, and Afternoon Delight is no exception.

Juno Temple (Dirty Girl, Killer Joe, Kaboom) another raunchy performance. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen her in a movie with her clothes on. She’s nice to look at, but she’s also very talented, so it’s great to see her as the not-so-much naked aloof-dame-in-distress for once. Temple differentiates this character by stripping away the adult dancer cliché and playing McKenna with a lot of heart. Temple makes this dirty girl lovable in an eerily fitting way.

What’s especially delightful is that Soloway’s confident direction maintains a steady balance between witty comedy and heavy drama. There are moments where you will laugh out loud, and there are moments where you will think to yourself, “better Rachel than me.” And as cliché as it may be, that’s life — it’s full of funny little moments, full of heartbreak and sadness, and full of love. Love, happiness, and finding peace take a little time. Afternoon Delight captures these feelings in the most sincere way possible.

Afternoon Delight is now available on Blu-ray and DVD. 

Sundance Review: 'Rudderless' Is A Remarkable Directorial Debut From William H. Macy


Note: This review was originally written and posted for Indiewire’s The Playlist. Please click on this link and support their site. 

So let it be known throughout the land: William H. Macy has balls of steel. In addition to juggling a busy, successful film and television career, he’s taken on a new role—filmmaker. His first feature film, “Rudderless,” is a poignant story that explores finding happiness in the midst of loss and pain. And you know what? It’s really damn good.

“Rudderless” follows the wonderful, horrible life of Sam (Billy Crudup), a successful advertising executive whose life is shaken up when his teenage son shoots six students at his college, and takes his own life. Sam isn’t coping with this well—his life now revolves around microwave pizza and hitting the bottle hard; fast forward a few years later and Sam is living on a boat and making money by painting houses for a contractor. He’s sobered up and just trying to live his life as best as he can. While going through the remainder of his son’s possessions, Sam stumbles across music his son made in the time leading up to the shootings. As a former musician himself, Sam works out his angst by learning his son’s songs and playing them. Soon after, he finds it therapeutic to play these songs at a local bar. But when a young musician (Anton Yelchin) finds this music intoxicating, the two team up and start a band (with Ben Kweller!), changing their lives forever.

You’re probably thinking the movie sounds odd or inconsiderate—school shootings are a very sensitive subject and shouldn’t be taken lightly. But at the heart of “Rudderless” is a story about moving on; at a certain point, dwelling on the past becomes poisonous. On the other end of the spectrum from films like “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” “Elephant”, and other films with school violence at the center—”Rudderless” is about really, truly moving forward with your life and doing your best not to focus on the past. Sam doesn’t want to become a famous musician, he doesn’t want to forget about his son and pretend nothing ever happened, he just wants to find a way to carry on. No parent ever wants to be the father or mother of a child who takes the lives of others, but that possibility lingers ever more prominently as violence increases in the world around us.

Sam is the type of person who makes friends one year only to lose them the next. A guy who manages to keep his ragged and uncouth confidence, no matter what emotional state he’s in, which makes Crudup the perfect fit, carrying arrogance and confidence together with sincerity. Crudup’s Sam is a coward for not dealing with his son’s brutal and tragic ending, but he’s filled with more hurt than he can process and his healing begins when his regret ends. And yes, you Selenators, Selena Gomez does have a pivotal role in the film and is great, showing plenty of potential for becoming a leading lady one day.

“Rudderless” is a very impressive directorial debut from the acclaimed Macy. Not a coming-of-age or let-the-tears-fly movie with a Sigur Ros-filled soundtrack—it’s a fairly easy-to-digest look at how to cope, before worse becomes intolerable. Any movie dealing with such heartbreaking violence is going to rattle your soul, but it’s about how the filmmaker tenderly dismantles the story, and shows us so much more. It’s an ambitious and strong first start for Macy’s filmmaking career as he’s clearly taken a note or two from some of the great filmmakers he’s worked for. Don’t let the title of this film fool you—“Rudderless” is solid. [B]

Sundance 2014 Review: Roger Ebert Doc 'Life Itself' A Profoundly Moving Story About One Of Cinema’s Greatest Superheroes


Note: This review was originally written and posted for Indiewire’s The Playlist. Please click on this link and support their site. 

Without question, Roger Ebert is the most recognizable figure in American film criticism, possibly even international criticism, and deservingly so. Ebert helped curious minds alive today better understand movies and what they were trying to say, moving past the obvious and always finding something deeper. “Life Itself” is based on Ebert’s memoir of the same name, but the film goes far beyond the book’s last page. This documentary actually started shooting months before Ebert knew he was going to die, and the bulk of the focus is on his many relentless and rigorous battles to stay alive, as well as highs and lows in his life — there’s no soft-pedalling here. One very admirable trait about Ebert — when he learned he was going to die, and very soon, he wanted the show to go on.

Like the showboat he deservingly was, Ebert had acclaimed director Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “The Interrupters”) take charge and tell the story of his life, but with a bit of guidance from Ebert. James tells this unapologetic story with little sympathy, as per Ebert’s wishes, and a lot of passion — he wants the audience to really know who Roger Ebert was, and understand the importance of his work. The film’s highlights include a look at the enormous troubles Ebert had to overcome, mostly his fondness for booze and women, as well as the battle he faced every day until his last breath — the cancer that reduced him to a shadow of his former self, and eventually killed him.

A big nod goes to his devoted wife, Chaz, who has been his biggest cheerleader since the day they fell in love. Without her, Ebert freely admits he never could have faced his demons. As taxing as it is spending days with a loved one who is dying, Chaz never gave up on Roger and the film makes it clear she’s an important part of Ebert’s work. A large portion of the film takes place in the hospital during Ebert’s last act in life. James gets up close and personal, showing the audience how much Ebert smiled through his tough, final days and managed to still enjoy his life. It’s devastating and beautiful, sad and poetic, all at the same time, exactly what Ebert wanted.

Fans of Gene Siskel will be very pleased to see a healthy tribute to him in the film. Nothing is held back as the audience watches Siskel and Ebert fight, insult and laugh at each other as they talk about movies — passive aggressiveness was never a part of their language and they just went straight for the jugular. But it’s clear that they loved each other, but didn’t always know how to say it — too proud, perhaps.

If you’ve read Ebert’s book of the same title, you’ll appreciate how remarkably well James constructed the film. It’s impossible to discuss every detail of Ebert’s memoir, so James deliberately bounces around the book, letting the audience know what chapter is being dissected and where Roger was at in his life — even though some of the years are a bit out of order, it’s still a smooth transition. To help better understand Roger’s feelings, James provides voiceover quotes from the book, and then shows archived and new footage, or talking heads of the ones closest to him finish out the chapter.

There was a thunder in Ebert’s heart, and that was his love for movies, and he wanted to tell the world about films, both big ones and small. James should be high-fived every day of his life for telling the real story of Roger Ebert — a writer, a former alcoholic, a showboat, a hero, a lover, a man who changed from an uncouth kind of a dick to one who was unfailingly witty and kind. Last but certainly not least, Roger Ebert was a movie lover, and this is the kind of movie he would have loved.

Sundance 2014 Review: Blue Ruin


Revenge is a dish best served with a knife, a crossbow and semi-automatic rifles in Jeremy Saulnier’s bloody and brilliant sophomore feature, Blue Ruin.

When Blue Ruin opens, a drifter named Dwight (Mason Blair) is coasting through life on a beach. He’s dirty, living on a steady diet of trashcan food, and his face looks as if it’s never felt a clean shave. He breaks into houses just to take a bath, however his presence shows he’s not a bad or harmful man — he’s just trying to survive. Things aren’t so bad, this bum has built a home and life for himself at a place where things are simple and uncomplicated.

While sleeping in his rusty, old and beaten-up blue Bonneville, Dwight gets a surprise visit from the local sheriff (who seems to know him really well). She tells him that a man from his past has just been released from prison, and from the deer in headlights look on his face, we know this isn’t a man Dwight wants to exchange presents with on Christmas. And as his eyes turn from scared to sad to pain to anger, he sticks a sharp knife five inches deep into his enemies’ skull (not a spoiler). It quickly becomes clear that these two won’t be playing Go Fish together anytime soon, either. During the scuffle, Dwight abandons his car, which is registered to his sister’s house, at the crime scene. Things, as they say, don’t go exactly as planned, and Dwight’s fiery rampage of revenge has only just begun.

What makes Dwight the perfect, unconventional anti-hero is the ambitious size of his bite — he’s short, skinny, has never held a gun in his life, and would probably apologize to a butterfly if he hurt its feelings. Blair completely embodies Dwight and brings him to life with subtle, but fierce, intensity. During a scene in which he’s stuck in a house, outnumbered and outgunned, you can feel Dwight’s anxiety and anger vibrate through him — boom, acting! As his violent tale of revenge takes a dramatic — and at times, comedic — turn, Blair’s portrayal of Dwight displays a level of commitment that’s admirable; in fact, this commitment demands that we root for him all the way to the bitter, brutal end.

Revenge breathes a new life in Jeremy Saulnier’s script. The film is very violent, but Saulnier manages to avoid glorifying revenge or bloodshed. Actually, he shows how terrifying, unnerving, sad and awful it is to kill a man. Dwight’s boyish innocence is gone, yet he still doesn’t know what he’s doing, still doesn’t want to do what he’s doing, and still knows he’s not doing a good thing — but feels compelled to protect the only family left in his life, at whatever cost. This relentless drive is what makes Blue Ruin one of the best shoot-‘em-up-until-they-are-all-dead-dead-dead revenge quests, ever.  

Sundance 2014 Capsule Review: Whiplash, or The Most Unconventional David Vs. Goliath Story in Years


If Miles Teller doesn’t become a superstar, I’m leaving Earth. At the young age of 26, with less than five roles completed, he’s already become the quintessential man: blowing away critics, fans, and movie lovers everywhere with his charismatic smooth delivery. Last year he carved his place in Hollywood with an incredible performance in The Spectacular Now. Sure, he’s had parts in a few teen comedies aimed for a teen audience, but when the role demands it, he has shown the world he can project maturity with fresh vibrant sincerity. Once again, Teller has commanded the screen with fierce determination in Damien Chazelle’s second feature, Whiplash.

Whiplash follows Andrew Neyman (Teller)  — he’s a freshman in college and wants to be the best jazz drummer at his East Coast music conservatory. Neyman doesn’t have any friends — which is by choice — and the closest he has to a social life is seeing movies with his father (played by Paul Reiser). This is Okay with him because playing the school’s drum set after hours is what stimulates him most; he wants to become a legend and nothing will get in his way. When he’s finally selected as an alternate backup drummer in the school’s prominent band taught by the well-regarded but ruthless music conductor, Terence Fletcher (in a staggering performance by J.K. Simmons), he feels like he’s already on top. But this isn’t a fairytale, and Neyman quickly learns he’s going to have to fight harder, play faster, and challenge the one person he admires most — Fletcher — no matter what the consequences are. 

From the moment Simmons shows up on screen, to the last frame he’s in, Simmons gives one of the most energetic (and quite terrifying) performances of his career. His Terence Fletcher teaches by inflicting fear and emotional pain. Instead of finding what his students are good at, Fletcher sniffs out their weakness and exploits it. To him, this form of teaching will filter out the worst of the best. I can’t remember the last time a film pushed its actors mentally as well as physically, but Whiplash brings the pain as our two leads battle out their differences.

What makes Whiplash so compelling is the war between our two leads — aside from Simmons’ machine gun spray of expletives at his students (and a thrown chair here and there) — there’s not much dialogue exchanged and not a single punch is thrown. These two spill blood (literally) with what they are good at: Neyman beating the drums as hard as he can, and Fletcher screaming in Neyman’s face that he’s not playing the drums good enough. Both want the same thing, but these two in the same room is like watching a tornado meet a volcano. Whiplash is a fierce story about determination, loss, pain, and following your heart no matter how poisonous it can sometimes be. 



Dumb is a word you use as a kid, but it’s the only way to describe Quentin Dupieux’s latest, WRONG COPS. (Especially compared to his insanely brilliant RUBBER, and the wacky and loveable WRONG.)

BAD LIEUTENANT. TRAINING DAY. THE DEPARTED. RAMPART. SERPICO. The list of dirty cop movies is quite lengthy.  There are even shows like RENO 911! with incredibly moronic cops doing incredibly moronic things, but it’s incredibly funny. WRONG COPS is trash cinema full of dirty cops doing weird, moronic, and dirty things all at the same time. Its goal is to make you laugh at things you’re not supposed to laugh at and perhaps make you question what the fuck you are watching, but falls flat on its ugly face. It’s “weird for the sake of being weird,” if you will. Dupieux worked backwards with this film from his previous work. Again, to really bring it home, it’s dumb.

Here’s the thing — by now when you go in to see a Dupieux film, you already expect an unrealistic world of chaos and all the Hollywood formulas have been flushed down the toilet to rot in the sewer pipes. Dupieux is, by definition, an auteur (fancy word for “Makes cool weird movies”) and a master at picking the right leads to play the perfect level of awkwardness he wants. Our main character and cop is Duke, so fearlessly played by Mark Burnham, who also played a cop in WRONG, too. Burnham’s Duke gets by from selling weed stuffed and duct taped dead rats. He’s obsessed with fast European techno (made by Dupieux himself, but as his real DJ name Mr. Oizo), being in his underwear, and not doing his job.

Shit hits the fan when Duke patronizes a sissy punk named David (played as awkwardly as possible by Marilyn Manson) who’s listening to what he thinks is shit music. So Duke takes (kidnaps) David to his house, strips down to his underwear, and blasts fast Euro bangers he loves to listen to. But David escapes and when Duke shoots at him, he misses and kills a guy who’s watering his lawn. Then Duke enlists help from his brainless partner Shirley (Arden Myrin, MADTV) and another (kind of cop, I guess? Detective?) Sunshine (Steve Little, EASTBOUND & DOWN) to help him dispose of this dead body. If you’ve seen WRONG or RUBBER, it won’t surprise you when said dead body is sometimes dead, and sometimes helping another cop (Eric Judor, another from WRONG) make a techno record. Oh, and there’s also a side story of another cop (played by TIM AND ERIC’S AWESOME SHOW GREAT JOB! ’s Eric Wareheim) who humps cars and holds women at gunpoint until they’ll show him their boobs. If none of this makes any sense, then Dupieux has done his job making WRONG COPS exactly how he wanted to, and I’ve done mine explaining it.

What sets WRONG COPS apart from RUBBER and WRONG is the story structure — to be very clear, WRONG COPS is plotless. There’s still a coherent story somewhere in RUBBER and WRONG. And both films have a sense of purpose — it’s there, you just have to look close. If an official synopsis wasn’t written for WRONG COPS, you’d probably think it was made by a too cool for school college “filmmaker” who gained access to a camera, accidentally mixed his cereal with speed, and made a movie. WRONG COPS is Dupieux’s proverbial toilet — he dumps all of his shit ideas in it. (And It gets worse before it’s intolerable.) Almost every filmmaker has their CITIZEN KANE, but they also have their BATTLEFIELD EARTH. Dupieux just made the worst movie of his career to date. And I never thought that would be possible. Sigh. 

Movie Review: RAZE Raises Hell, Bashes in Skulls, and Shows Doug Jones Without Makeup (Worth Noting)


Zoë Bell is a face you may not recognize at first glance, but you’ve seen her in some your favorite movies. Her most notable performance was as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in the KILL BILL franchise - she was the one doing all the cool shit. She was also the girl on top of the 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T — with no wires, just pure adrenaline — during the insane chase scene in Quentin Tarantino’s DEATH PROOF. Besides her stint in that, she’s never really had her day in the sun (we are going to pretend BITCH SLAP never, ever happened)

RAZE is a solid action film with bell as a strong lead. She gets to shine as a badass and beat the hell out of everything that gets in her way. She she also shows she can actually act without having to throw a fist — give her some lines of melancholic dialogue and I guarantee she can deliver it better than Arnold Schwarzenegger and all those tough guys out there.

In RAZE, women with some kind of fighting skill wake up in a cell with no recollection of how they got there. They soon learn they have to fight and stay alive, or the organization behind this twisted business will kill whatever loved one most important to them.

The fights are set up nicely; we get character development in between — who’s who, and the loved one they are trying to stay alive for — and then the screen goes black with Character Name Vs. Character Name (this is very important for the last fight, which is just plain badass), and then the bloody mayhem begins. The fighting is not held back — these women are gladiators, so skulls are bashed in and eyes are gouged out — lots of blood is spilled. Pretty much anything goes in this bareknuckle arena. But in this movie, these ladies are not enjoying killing one another. They are thrown into a situation where, if they aren’t the last one standing, their loved one will also perish. 

This will no doubt get compared to FIGHT CLUB and HOSTEL for obvious reasons, but whatever, this movie stands on its own by giving post-brutal fight real human emotion. These trained fighters don’t want to be there and they don’t want to kill someone they don’t know but they have to. It’s kill or be killed with the knowledge your loved one will follow suit if you don’t win.   

Bell as the lead was a brilliant choice. She proves she can carry a film, dish out real human emotion just shortly after beat the shit out of someone who deserves to get the shit beat out of them. I hope Hollywood takes note and gives her more chances for top billing. 

You should watch this — maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about how much blood explodes when slamming someone’s head against a brick wall. 

RAZE is the ultimate midnight movie. 

And before I’m off, it should also be noted that this is the first time you see Doug Jones as Doug Jones, without pounds of makeup, except he’s still a character and really shines with what little screen time he has. 

Movies You've Never Seen But Should: TV JUNKIE


This year — based on the suggestion of my pal Nathan Rabin — I watched a documentary from 2006 that that I’ve never heard of called TV JUNKIE. The film had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival (in 2006) and won the Special Jury Prize for documentary (and was also nominated for the Grand Jury Prize). Then it disappeared after the festival ended. Until now.

I’m not sure why this never got a proper theatrical or DVD release - it’s one of the most compelling documentaries I’ve ever seen in my life. It was never sold to a film distributor and was shelved until the digital age made it slightly easier to get the film out into the world. 

In this poignant and heartbreaking story, Rick Kirkham, an INSIDE EDITION Reporter, is obsessed with filming every aspect of his life. This includes fighting  with his exhausted-but-supportive wife, filming his excessive drug abuse, and shooting over 3,000 hours into his descent into madness. You can feel his tremor of something - sadness, loss, anger - vibrate through him. And we are watching it all happen as cowards cringing while he self-destructs.

Rick loved shooting and filmed everything - he held nothing back and I admire is determination. You see, dear reader, Kirkham’s tragic story he hoped  would to lead him to fame and glory pushed him so far down the rabbit hole recovering seemed inconceivable.

TV JUNKIE was carefully edited with candor and compassion by the films’ directors Michael Cain (fellow Dallasite!) and Matt Radecki. Please do yourself a kindness and see this film. 

TV JUNKIE is still currently unavailable on DVD, but you can rent or buy it on iTunes by clicking HERE. I highly suggest you do this.

New on Blu: Criterion Collection's GREY GARDENS


                    Sleek new cover by artist Shayne Christiansen

GREY GARDENS is an American classic. So much, years later it spawned a fiction feature film adaption starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, a a full-length musical on Broadway, multiple plays loosely based on the main subjects of GREY GARDENS, and many popular models you’ve fantasized about at some point in your life dressed as them on the runway. Edith ‘Little Edie’ Bouvier Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale (who I’m going to refer to as Mama Beale) became the world’s most famous counterculture icons, and all by accident. This is an incredible documentary about two women who who don’t pretend to be great - whether the cameras are rolling or not. 

If I were watching GREY GARDENS and a friend walked with no context of what I was happening on screen, he/she could easily pass it off as a horror film; Edith and Mama Beale live in a 28 room mansion in the East Hamptons. Sounds like heaven, right? The only (very large) difference is this mansion is plagued with fleas (a fucking shit ton of them),  an unhealthy amount of (stray?) cats, raccoons in the attic that the Beales feed with full loafs of bread mixed with cat food, and whatever you may find in a filthy broken down home that hasn’t kept up its maintenance or has been cleaned in probably, well, ever. This place because so unsanitary, in fact, the town tried to get them evicted —  and almost won — but they got help and cleaned up just enough to convince whatever health people that their living conditions could be managed (it never was). 


GREY GARDENS is the most unconventional documentary ever made and if there’s another documentary about a family more eccentric and real than The Beales, I haven’t seen it. 

What’s funny is GREY GARDENS is shot primarily in three rooms and the patio, where the ladies get a little sun. In the room where they mostly spend their time, there’s two twin beds and  Mama is belting her heart out to music from her record player while cooking corn on the cob (on the bed) from what looks to be a tiny grill. Yeah, it gets weird. 

Co-directed by Albert Maysles and his late brah, David Maysles, (who both made the widely acclaimed Rolling Stones documentary, GIMME SHELTER) GREY GARDENS has them following the mother and daughter during their daily routines at home. It’s not much, but these two charismatic character make everything they talk, bicker, and banter about more than enough to keep anyone interested during the films 100 minute running time. And as much fighting as these two do, their actions towards each other show how much they love and need one another.


Mama Beales keeps her hobbies steady by singing loud and proud from her record collection - and the most memorable being “Tea for Two” by Vincent Youmans (but sung by Mama, of course). Edith occupies her time wearing eclectic outfits, dancing, and talking to the camera about things she gave up to come to care of her mother. But the truth is, Edith needs Mama just as much as mama needs Edith. 

What’s so powerful about this film is there’s no narrative, no goal, and no resolution. The biggest problem the filmmakers probably faced was, “When the hell do we stop filming?” Good thing for us fans they didn’t for a while, and  released a sequel 31 years later with archived footage not seen in the GREY GARDENS.

                                     THE SUPPLEMENTS

This digital restoration for the Blu-ray comes as new 2K digital film restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack — all with the blessing by the co-director Albert Maysles. 

As briefly mentioned above, the most exciting supplement on this Criterion Collection is the 2006 follow up, THE BEALES OF GREY GARDENS. With a BRIEF introduction by filmmaker Albert Maysles, we learn how close him and his late brother (who did sound) became really close to the ladies - close enough where Edith had a long crush on one of them and finally revealed who it was decades later.

One of the things Edith wished GREY GARDENS had more of was singing and dancing - both her and her mama loved to sing (even though Mama wanted to jump out a window every time Edie belted out a tune - “Get my radio, I’ve got to have professional music,” she would often say). Edith was the dancer and wasn’t afraid to show it. If the cameras were rolling or not, Edith was dancing a jig. This followup just proves my theory that all Edie wanted to be was loved, she wanted to be told she’s pretty, and she wanted to be wanted. She’s the saddest girl to never hold a martini but did her thing and didn’t lose a beat.

Inside the Blu-ray case is a booklet featuring an essay by critic Hilton Als. In this essay, she talks about the interview she had with little Edie after her mother’s death. It’s a thoughtful essay on Edie and sheds light on her post-life without her mother. 

Another solid suppliment is an audio interview from 1976 with Little Edie by Kathryn G. Graham. Since it is audio, the screen fills with Edie at her happiest. It’s quite lovely. 

GREY GARDENS is such a haunting and poignant story of sticking together, love, regret, and just staying alive. Since there’s no direction and it’s easy to follow the story’s narrative just by listening to the women chatter, and this is what makes GREY GARDENS an American classic.

NOTE: A few of the supplements I hadn’t had time to fully engage in for review and are listed below: 

Audio commentary with Maysles and co-directors Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, along with associate producer Susan Froemke 

Interviews with fashion designers Todd Oldham and John Bartlett on the continuing influence of GREY GARDENS

Behind-the-scenes photographs



Looks like someone decided to take the Wolverine spin-off series seriously. The second installment in the Wolverine franchise - so eloquently called The Wolverine - is a huge improvement from its predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. And when I say huge improvement, I mean that it’s watchable and doesn’t suck.

In this installment, Wolvy™ flies to Japan to say sayōnara to a friend he saved long ago (at the bombing of Nagasaki, to be exact), but finds trouble with ninjas who do hands-free cartwheels (awesome) and a giant steel samurai robot (double awesome). Sounds corny as I read that last sentence, but I promise 1) it’s not, and 2) I really just wanted to find a place to add hands-free cartwheeling ninjas and this is where it fit best - deal with it.

The Blu-ray

One thing that most cinephiles and most movie geeks in general love is good cover art for Blu-ray, DVD, VHS, or whatever format they’re collecting films on. The Wolverine has really great artwork; it’s slick, modern, and slices out all of that ugly and obvious Photoshop bullshit you almost always see for comic book movies that one could argue is a joke or a child made in Microsoft Paint (I can’t imagine how painful this is to the comic book artists who’ve worked on these characters for years). Thumbs up to Marvel and 20th Century Fox for getting a good artist for The Wolverine

There’s not a whole lot of extra features with The Wolverine - it comes with the standard DVD and digital copy - but there are enough to please Wolverine and X-Men fans out there. This version comes with an alternate ending (anybody out there still like alternate endings?), a set tour of the upcoming X-Men movie, X-Men: Days of Future Past (who else is excited for this?), and five behind-the-scenes videos of The Wolverine

Buy, rent, or avoid?

Comicbookies are going to buy this regardless. But if you’re a fan of solid action, and want to hear Wolverine talk serious trash and get dirty, buy this Blu-ray. It’s worth a rental if you don’t care for the franchise and just want to see a good action movie. 

Movie Review: MAN OF STEEL


Director: Zack Snyder
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay), David S. Goyer (story)
Cast: Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Lawrence Fishburne

I want to preface by saying that Christopher Reeves’ Superman was my hero growing up. But I didn’t realize it until much later that it was actually Reeves who was my hero. He made me believe a man could fly. Growing up with not many friends, the SUPERMAN franchise were my escape from every day life. I could related to Reeves’ Clark Kent, who was a complete goon and had a tough time being understood. And of course what kid doesn’t love watching their favorite person fly and save the world? I could really write an essay on how much the these films saved my childhood, but I don’t want you to get bored and fly away.

So let’s talk about MAN OF STEEL.

Keeping with the familiar setup, Snyder retells his version of Superman’s life beginning with his birth on Krypton. I’m going to skip over discussing this beautifully elaborated opening because it’s the longest you’ll get to navigate through Krypton and I want you to enjoy it with the freshest of imagination.

Once baby Supes lands on Earth, it cuts to a grown up, and very brute and bearded Clark Kent. He’s now a deserter, moving from one odd job to the next, living a pretty shitty life. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn how he discovered his powers and learned to control them, and we find out why he’s trying to stay off the grid. But when an old friend of his dad’s comes to Earth looking for him, General Zod (brilliantly played by a menacing Michael Shannon), Superman must come out of hiding and save the planet which he’s grown to passionately love. And beat the hell out of these bad guys.

Bryan Singer tried to give the franchise a reboot with SUPERMAN RETURNS. And while it was a noble effort, it failed on too many levels to warrant a sequel. After a long cliffhanger, Warner Bros. announced a they once again rebooting the Superman franchise and starting from Scratch. Out went Singer and Brandon Routh (who played Superman in RETURNS) and in came director Zach Snyder (WATCHMEN) and actor Henry Cavill to take on the titular role. Many questioned whether or not Snyder was a good choice to take on this project (his previous two films flopped worse than a fish out of water). But MAN OF STEEL was made, I’ve seen it, and I’m here to tell you that it’s the Superman film you’ve been waiting your whole life to see.

Christopher Nolan forever changed the way comic book will be made. THE DARK KNIGHT trilogy was as realistic as a superhero movie could possibly be. Then came IRON MAN, following that same routine. After that, it became understood that a superhero movie would not live to be a franchise without making it as raw and realistic as possible. So this begs the question, “Can a Superman movie feel real? It’s about a God-like invincible flying alien in the form of a man.” Well, with the help of Nolan (who produced MAN OF STEEL), screenwriter David Goyer (BATMAN BEGINS), and Snyder’s vision, you can breathe easy because the first time in history, a realistic Superman story is here.

There are so many things to admire about Snyder’s retelling of Superman - the explanation of how Supe grew to learn and understand his powers, how and why Kryptonite effects him, and most importantly, how he can get away with his alter ego Clarke Kent. One of the reasons why SUPERMAN RETURNS failed is because it relied heavily on emotions and lacked enough action to make it fun. MAN OF STEEL tosses out the emo shit and literally rolls with the punches. The action scenes in this film will leave you slack-jawed. This is the first time in history we get to see Superman throwing punches on the ground and in the air. You will not be disappointed.

MAN OF STEEL is the Superman film us Supernerds have all been hoping for. It’s raw, it’s gritty, and it’s one of the most realistic comic book films ever made. There are, of course, fantasy moments in MAN OF STEEL, but this most realistic Superman film you’re every going to see. And while MAN OF STEEL isn’t as emotional as its predecessors, it still carries a lot of heart.

Movie Review: PINCUS


Writer/Director: David Fenster
Producer: Phil Lord
Cast: Paul Fenster, Dietmar Franusch, Christi Idavoy
Synopsis: A story centered on a young guy who ineptly runs the family construction business by day and begrudgingly acts as caretaker for his father by night.

A movie doesn’t need flashy effects, big stars, and morals to make it good. Yes, we go to the cinema to escape from our everyday slump, but it’s nice to watch a film crafted on a raw level, using wit instead of talking robots and explosions, someone going through real pain versus an actor pretending, and skipping the feel good ending where the protagonist goes through some life-changing experience blah, blah, blah. There are movies that are filled with sorrow yet leave us with a feeling of hope. This is what you will take away from PINCUS, a heartfelt story of selfishness stomped by the power of love. [Cue Huey Lewis and the News.]

Pincus (played by David Nordstrom) is a cynical hero with a soft heart for his father. He spends his days smoking weed, avoiding work, and doing yoga because he wants to sleep with his instructor. He’s allowed this glamorous lifestyle because he’s inherited his father’s very successful and well-respected construction business. But, “like father like son” doesn’t work in this family. Most people hire Pincus because Pops did a splendid job on their house, but all fire Pincus because he’s less than reliable and rarely ever shows up. It also doesn’t help that he lets his illegal German help sleep in the house they’re renovating. Pincus is a disgrace to everything his father has worked so hard for.

So why am I calling this misanthrope a hero? Despite winning many awards with his clients (Category: Deadbeat), he spends the rest of his time taking care of his father Paul (played by writer/director David Fenster’s real father) who is suffering from Parkinson’s. Pincus is reluctant about his caretaking skills because he’s lazy and doesn’t know how to handle it, and would rather put him in a nursing home than have to deal with it. But when Pincus is there taking care of him, he’s there taking care of him. At whatever hour, wherever he is (except when buying weed), he tends to his father’s every need. He shows a strange level of love and commitment to his father that’s incredibly admirable. This is what makes him a hero.

Actor David Nordstrom really sells the unlovable loser in Pincus, but the standout here is Paul. Paul is actually really suffering from Parkinson’s and it’s pretty incredible how calm he can be pretending to be a fictional character, frustrated by his aging and pain, when he’s actually frustrated by his aging and pain in real life. It took a lot of guts for filmmaker Fenster to cast his own ailing father to play an ailing father, but it’s pulled off remarkably. I have to hand it to Fenster–he’s got chutzpah.

PINCUS is visually inept and shot like a low-budget documentary with fast zooms, handheld shaky cam. It feels like the camera man is there with them and the cast is aware–but this actually works to Fenster’s advantage. It gives the film a more authentic appeal and the characters seem real. The budget for this was incredibly small and Fenster did a marvelous job telling the story not through fancy camera work, but through character interactions. PINCUS is a deeply moving film that you should not ignore.

Capsule Review: ONLY GOD FORGIVES, But Not For This Movie


Writer/Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm
Official Synopsis: Julian (Ryan Gosling), a respected figure in the criminal underworld of Bangkok, runs a Thai boxing club and smuggling ring with his brother Billy. Billy is suddenly murdered and their crime lord matriarch, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from London to bring back the body. When Jenna forces Julian to settle the score with his brother’s killers, Julian finds himself in the ultimate showdown.

ONLY GOD FORGIVES: The most fartistic movie of the year.

The only thing going for it is potty mouthed Kristin Scott Thomas, who obliterates her innocence we’ve all grown to know. (Good for her.)

There’s a great scene, which you can see in the trailer, where Gosling’s Julian calmly asks his foe, “Wanna fight?” This is probably one of the coolest and most talked about lines before the film even released. But, the fight scene following is hollow, pointless, and not as exciting as writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn could have and should have made it.

But let’s get one thing clear, Refn is the master at stylized violence and colorful photography - it’s what makes his avant-garde style so great and unmatched. But ONLY GOD FORGIVES was too over the top - a love letter by Refn, for Refn.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Video Review: Richard Ayoade’s SUBMARINE


Discovering little indie gems is the finest perk of attending a film festival. Last night I did just that when I saw SUBMARINE, about a boy who is set on scoring the girl of his dreams and saving his parents’ marriage. This has already been stamped as my favorite film of the festival, and I’m still here. Wes Anderson fans are going to devour this film whole.

I saw SUBMARINE last night with Jordan Raup (The Film Stage), Alex Billington (First Showing), and Peter Sciretta (Slash Film), and shortly after, Jordan and I shot a quick video review (with a full review written to follow soon). Check it out after the break!


From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Review: WHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA


Rating: 3.5/5

Writer/DirectorDustin Lance Black
CastJennifer ConnellyEd HarrisAmy MadiganEmma RobertsHarrison Gilbertson

Something’s wrong with Virginia. What that is, we’re not entirely sure of. The film opens with Virgina (Jennifer Connelly) being carried out of her house by Sheriff Dick Tipton (Ed Harris). There’s a little blood on her collar and she looks like she has no clue of events that just took place in her life. These events are explained by Virginia, however, later in the film.

Cut back to a few weeks prior and here our story begins, leading up to the carried Virginia by that big bad sheriff. Virginia lives in a small, quiet town in Virginia (naturally) where religion is a must, everybody has dirty little secrets, and nobody really understands the value of honesty. Virginia isn’t quite all there. In fact, we find out early on that she’s a mentally ill single mother who wants nothing but to see her son (Harrison Gilbertson) live - like, really live. And she has some big plans to get them out of that town.

But here’s where things get really, really complicated. Virginia has been sleeping with Sheriff Tipton (who’s married) for the last 16 years, and it’s questionable whether or not he’s the father of Virginia’s son. Tipton doesn’t want anything to do with the him, he’s only interested in Virginia’s body and all the sex toys he’s been buying online. He’s also running for public office and everybody in town looks up to him. The boy, Emmitt, is convinced Tipton isn’t his father, so the idea is all but forgotten by both parties. But Emmitt has a big reason for this - he’s in love with Tipton’s daughter Jessie (Emma Roberts). As you know, big secrets like these can’t last forever.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA was written and directed by Dustin Lance Black. For a film so enriched by a great cast and a rough story that works, I’m very impressed with his directorial debut. VIRGINIA tangles itself with so many people who are living perfect lives outside the skin, but under, they’re more rotten than a three week old banana. It’s no surprise Black used “Dick” as Dick’s born name. The man is evil, and Satan himself would probably feel cold air against his red hot flames if this man walked by. As viewers, we are supposed to be emotionally involved with the story’s characters, whatever emotion that may be. Ed Harris brings out the hate for VIRGINIA, and my God he does it so well. His stares and wicked gestures are what can bring out the pink elephant in any room.

But when we get right down to the emotions of the film, our best character is certainly Virginia. She’s been lost her whole life and still can’t get things right, despite trying her hardest. She doesn’t listen to the advice she needs and attempts to make things right with what she thinks is best. She’s adorable, yet very sad. Jennifer Connelly is normally the bombshell and that’s still here, but her comedic elements come into full fruition which loses a little bit of the sex appeal and adds more of the “this girl got herself acting chops” appeal. In a scene I don’t want to give away, I just have to note that it involves her and and a gorilla mask.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH VIRGINIA is a story about how little white lies can grow and grow and grow and can literally kill other people. I now know what is wrong with Virginia, and I recommend you find out as well.

From the GATW Archives: Sundance 2010 Review: JACK GOES BOATING


This review was originally published on January 26 as a Sundance review. JACK GOES BOATING is now open in NY and LA, with expansion next week.

Rating: 7.5/10

Writer/Director: Philip Seymour Hoffman
Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan, John Ortiz, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Thomas McCarthy
Studio: Overture Films

A few days ago marked the world premiere of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s offbeat comedy, JACK GOES BOATING. This feature is also the directorial debut for the Hoff, who already carries quite the impressive acting resume. Before becoming a feature film, JACK GOES BOATING was a 2007 play (that Hoffman also starred in), and was written by Bob Glaudini (who wrote BOATING’s screenplay as well).

In this story of broken - and sometimes clumsy - romance, Hoffman stars as Jack, a limo driver who dreams of better days and better pay. His daily pastimes are hanging out with best friend and fellow limo driver, Clyde (John Ortiz), and jamming to reggae (he’s even given his hair a weak attempt at dreadlocks). Jack wants love, and Jack may have found love when Clyde and his backbiting wife, Lucy (Daphne Rubin-Vega), set him up on a blind date with Lucy’s co-worker, Connie (Amy Ryan- who is best known for her brief stint on “The Office”).

A broken nose on a train ride and a boss (Tom McCarthy) that can’t seem to keep his hands away from her upper torso (it gave me great pleasure to watch Tom play a creepster) has contributed to Connie’s idea that love just isn’t her thing. But this doesn’t stop her from giving Jack a chance. After the date, Connie tells Jack she wants to go boating, so Jack makes a promise to take her boating once winter passes. There’s only one problem (which he fails to mention) - he can’t swim. Additionally, after accidentally signing up to cook for her (besides Mom, nobody’s ever cooked for Connie), Jack goes on an awkward journey to learn how to cook and swim.

Let’s start this off with Hoffman, who never ceases to amaze me with his performances. It’s very clear that this man takes acting very seriously. Normally, Jack and Connie would never be a match, but Philip brings a strange, sad charm to his character. It works and it works well. You don’t feel bad for the guy, but you do want to see him find whatever it is he’s looking for.

Hoffman did a really impressive job balancing comedy and drama. Being a first-time director, I’m sure this isn’t an easy task. There are scenes in the film that BOATING’s audience will laugh at, while simultaneously questioning that laugh. I think we call that “bittersweet.”

The big surprise in this film comes from John Ortiz. Acting next to Hoffman, he could easily have a big shadow cast over him, but Ortiz holds his ground quite well. Clyde is a funny man, but when things begin to spiral out of control and his emotions get the best of him when his love life isn’t exactly how he first imagined, my heart ached for him a little. Love is sometimes a bitch.

JACK GOES BOATING is a pretty touching story about how love can be (often at the same time) awkward, funny, and important.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Review: LET ME IN


Rating: 4/5

Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Matt Reeves and John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist(novel)
Cast: Chloe MoretzKodi Smit-McPheeRichard JenkinsElias Koteas
Overture Films

Editor’s Note: This review was originally published on September 12th, 2010.

Nobody really knows when love will first chomp at them. For Owen (THE ROAD’s Kodi Smit-McPhee), it happens at a very tender twelve years old, when he meets Abby (KICK-ASS’s Chloe Moretz) in Matt Reeves’ LET ME IN. But the the first time they encounter one another, she tells him “we can’t be friends.” She means well and has very good reasons - she needs blood to survive and can’t come into a living quarters without being invited.

She’s what us modern suckers call a vampire.

If you’re reading this (thank you, by the way), then you probably know this is the American remake of the 2008 Swedish film, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, which was in turn based on John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel of the same title. It’s nearly impossible to write this review without comparing (or simply referring back) to its original, but I’ll do my best. The plot of LET ME IN is the same, the kills are based around the same scenarios, and in some sequences, it’s shot-for-shot from the original. But what Matt Reeves brings to the table is his own unique spin on all those elements - the story, the kills, and the shot-for-shots.

It’s all about the visuals for Reeves. The man took his time to make sure not to upset fans of the original and to honor it with his work in LET ME IN. There’s a particularly fresh scene in the film that will not leave my mind. It involves one single take, one car, and one major crash, which all turns the events of the film. It’s one of the most intense car crashes I’ve ever seen committed to film. “Holy shit” is the only phrase that comes to my mind to describe it - it’s that much of a show-stopper.

One thing I really appreciated about LET ME IN was Reeves’ more intimate focus on Richard Jenkins’ character, The Father. This is a man who genuinely loved Abby and dedicated his entire life to seeing that she gets her blood without her having to destroy her own innocence in its pursuit. Jenkins finely displayed the sloppiness that an aging soul will start to embody when growing both tired and hungry for all the madness to end.

Some people might not give LET ME IN a chance solely based on it being a remake of a beloved original. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN grew a pretty large fanbase for itself after hitting the U.S., so skipping this so it “doesn’t ruin the original” might seem logical. I assure you, however, this is one of the best film of its kind in the recent years. It’s not better than the original, but that’s not what Reeves set out to do - the man wanted to make a solid film and he did just that with LET ME IN.

From the GATW Archives: TIFF 2010 Capsule Reviews: ATTENBERG, REPEATERS, and Max Winkler’s CEREMONY


ATTENBERG opens with our two main females standing in front of one another (seen above). They begin to show us the literal meaning to “French kiss,” and swirl their tongues around and around. Marina (Ariane Labed, right) doesn’t like the feeling, so she starts growling and sticking her tongue out. Then both of them jump around like dogs and the scene ends. This is pretty much the entirety of ATTENBERG, with a subplot of Marina spending time with her father during the last days of his life. Marina hates men too, she’s 23 and despises even the thought of a penis. Then she stumbles upon a man who fascinates her.

ATTENBERG was written and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari, who served as an associate producer on the much talked about movie DOGTOOTH. After walking out of ATTENBERG, I couldn’t decide if I really hated it, or really loved it. I still can’t decide. Tsangari definitely has her foot in the door of arthouse cinema, but ATTENBERG stretches this genre to “WTF!?” Our lead, first timer Labed, was fantastic in it. She’s a natural at being awkward; the Michael Cera of women.


REPEATERS is GROUNDHOG DAY in hell. Three patients in a rehab hospital get this weird electricity charge through their bodies on a stormy night, which forces them to repeat the same day over and over. At first it’s a rush. One time they rob a liquor store. One time they break into their male nurse’s house and find porn magazines all over the place. As the repeats start to get worse and worse, one of them (Richard de Klerk) starts to go on a crime spree, and killing whomever gets in his way.

For an indie flick, REPEATERS was really well-made and a lot of fun to watch. Director Carl Bessai takes us on a journey  of raw, unplanned mischief, the kind you probably always thought about venturing on didn’t want to face the consequences. It’s one of those films where you don’t know whether to root for the bad guy or the hero, or even who is who.


CEREMONY was written and directed by MICHAEL AND CLARK’s Max Winkler. This marks the debut of his first feature as well. CEREMONY stars Michael Angarano as Sam Davis, amateur children’s book writer, and former flame of Zoe, played by Uma Thurman. Davis has big dreams: become an established writer and marry Zoe.  There’s a few problems: Davis is awful at his writing and illustrations and Zoe is soon to be married. So what does he do? Convince his friend Marshall (ROCKET SCIENCE’sReece Thompson) to take a road trip with him, unknowing to him Davis has plans to break up a marriage. They end up staying at the mansion Zoe, her fiance, and their entire wedding party are staying at, and things become, well, a lot more complicated.

CEREMONY is hilarious and very surreal when it comes down to the moments on life-changing decisions. Winkler knows how to balance his comedy and drama. With Angarano as our lead, he nails his character as a young Vince Vaughn: the out of place winks, the full confidence in situations he has no way of gaining. CEREMONY’s title might throw off the young crowd (this is not your typical rom-com), but it’s a lot better than sitting through an actual ceremony. Nobody cares about those things.