Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Level Up (2016)

Matt and Anna are a reasonably happy couple. One day some masked men break into their apartment and tell him if he doesn't follow their instructions Anna will die. This sets Matt off on a wild chase across London as he tries to complete various tasks and beat various obstacles.

Good B level thriller is doomed to get lost until a few years down the road when it's certainly going to be rediscovered since LEVEL UP is coming in the middle of Hollywood's larger budget versions of the same thing (NERVE anyone?). Sadly there have been too many variations of "the mysterious group demands our hero or heroine complete tasks which are filmed" over the last couple of years (and weeks)  with the result is that on the face of it there really isn't anything new here.

I know saying that is a shame but it's the truth and watching the film I found that my interest was flagging, not because it's a bad film, it's not, rather it's simply that I've been here way too many times of late.  Had I not seen several variations of this in the last few months I would have been over the moon.

Distancing because its coming in the middle of a cinematic clump aside this is one of the better variations on the the theme. A great cast sells some solid action sequences, a fact which is always good news. Also good news is that the lack of budget has resulted in a script with real characters. I don't know when I saw a film like this where I actually thought of the characters as people and not pawns to be moved about.

Its a good enough film that I suspect that don the road the film will end up being one of those films that people discover on their own and start talking about until the films fortunes turn around and a cult is born.

LEVEL UP opens in theaters Friday and is worth seeing there if you haven't overdosed on similar films. If you have then you may want to wait until the film is on VOD September 26

Space Dogs Adventure To The Moon (2016) opens Friday

The latest in the series of Space Dog films has Pushok, the son of Belka and Kazbek, going to America on a friendship mission. There he ends up winning the heart of the First Daughter much to the chagrin of her other pets (A rude cat, a French poodle and flighty bunny). Meanwhile Belka and Strelka go on a theatrical tour. And while all of this is going on Kazbek ends up going back into space to investigate a green beam that is lifting things off the earth and bringing them to the moon. Of course everyone ends up on the moon-including a monkey from America…

I have not seen the other films in the series, though that may change since I liked this film enough that I may go back and see the first two. The fact that I want to go back and see what went before is high praise because normally I will avoid this sort of film that screams “direct to home video" like the plague since they tend to be a tad too juvenile. That’s not the case here. While clearly geared to kids the dialog, at least in this English version, is hip enough and clever enough that adults will be laughing just as much, if not more, than the kids.

As much as I like the film there are two problems which keep me from being totally over the moon about the film (sorry). First the film is little too busy. There is simply too much going on to the point that the film loses momentum as it moves from plot thread to plot thread. Any traction the film creates lessened as we go to the next character’s bit. Give the film for points for juggling so many, but take one away for bobbling them.

The other problem is that some of the voice work isn’t the best. Whomever does Lenny the rat is doing a weak Steve Buscemi. The vocal work on the American pets also is just okay.

All of that said I really liked the film a great deal, much more than I thought I would.

The film hits selct theaters Friday and is recommended

Monday, August 22, 2016

Floyd Norman :An Animated Life (2016)

When I saw FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE I found my reaction to the film was split. On the one hand I fell in love with the film on a purely emotional level. This is a great feel good story about this guy who has managed to spend his whole life doing what he absolutely loves. His joy bleeds out of him and infects everyone around him. Emotionally this is one of my favorite and best  films I've seen in 2016.

However on an intellectual level I really liked the film but I had reservations. The result of this split is I’m going to do this in two parts. I know it will come off as strange but is the only way to fully do justice to the film.

Part 1- The heart's review
FLOYD NORMAN : AN ANIMATED LIFE is almost certainly to be on the Oscar short list. As much as I would think some weightier films might win the Oscar, I'm going to make a guess and say that the film will probably win the Oscar as well because this feel good film is exactly the sort of thing that Oscar voters go for, more so when it is about one of their own.

The film is a celebration of Norman who started as a Disney artist in 1956 and, now some 60 years later, is still working at the age of 81. The film follows his days when as a teenager he worked on an Archie comics spin off and it carries through his off and on again time at Disney, the military, forming his own company, reporting on the Watts riots, working for Hanna Barbara and on through his Floydering and making everyone feel good today. It’s a glorious look at man who seems to have had all the luck in the world and is supremely nice and is well respected.

I loved every minute of this film and stopped my viewing of the screener to fire off some emails to friends saying- essentially "I'm in the middle of this amazing film about this amazing person and that you NEED to see this" implying that the film will be like oxygen for them.  I got some "yea sures", and then when my friends got to see the film themselves they emailed me back telling me how right I as.

Trust me on this, the film is absolutely one of the feel good films of the year and it’s a must see. You absolutely MUST see this film because Floyd and his view of life will make you feel good.

Part 2- The head's review
Despite making me feel all warm and fuzzy with a stupid grin on my face, my brain kept wanting to raise its hand and ask some questions. Don’t get me wrong I was loving and do love the film, but there are a couple of things in the film that are going to keep it off my best of the best for the film.

First, there is no way you can no say the film is not hagiographic. The film is most definitely a celebration of Norman but there doesn’t seem to be a down side to the man.(no seriously) No one is this nice. I mean other than his biting cartoons, there is no sense of him not being a great guy or having a downside. I wouldn’t mention it except the film keeps saying he can be a "troublemaker", but we never really see evidence of it. Norman’s life is largely “great” with other than his scrambling for jobs in the 70’s and 80’s things sort of were good- or were kind of fun the way everyone tells it. Yea his marriage broke up, but they even after that he and his ex remained friends. There is no conflict in his life other than Disney firing him at 65 for no real reason other than being 65.

The film is also weirdly lacking in details about what exactly Norman did. Yes we get some discussion of his work on various films but other than the Trust in Me sequence in JUNGLE BOOK there is very little discussion of the details of what he did for Disney or Hanna Barbara or Pixar or anyone else. I know some of what he did because I'm an animation junkie and I've been running across his work all my life, but for people who don't know they are going to wonder what did he do that has resulted in a fifty plus year in animation? What made him a survivor? We don’t know. With films on animators like Chuck Jones or Frank Tashlin or Tex Avery or Ub Iwerks we got a sense of that, here not so much.

I suspect that since the film was made outside the mainstream, especially outside of Disney brand and the fact that the film is a full bore attack on the ageism that Norman couldn’t talk about in his book (Disney wouldn’t approve material if he kept in in) limited the use of clips which would have illustrated his career better. While we can find the material else where it would have been nice to have a little bit more of a discussion and more clips.

And don’t get me wrong I love the film, I just want to love it more.

A must see when it hits theaters Friday- because you want to be on the ground floor on this films run for the Oscar.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Lauren Humphries-Brooks takes a look at Three Fingers (2015) Women Texas Film Festival 2016

Paul D. Hart’s provocative short film Three Fingers premieres this week at Women Texas Film Festival. In a scant 12 minutes, the film tells the story of a young female Marine in the throes of severe PTSD, her life and marriage in a state of imbalance as she’s unable to shake the horrors of wartime experience.

Three Fingers relies on some simple but effective camera tricks and perspective shots to create the fraught and imbalanced world of a soldier out of wartime. There’s little dialogue for about half the film’s runtime, laying emphasis on the expressive face and body of its protagonist (Virginia Newcomb) rather than her interaction with others. The refrain of “three fingers” recurs during the second half of the film to occasionally violent effect, though the full import of that phrase does not come home until nearly the final shots. It is to Newcomb’s credit that she manages to portray such a depth and complexity of emotion in so short a span, giving us a sense of her character without speaking a word.

In fact, Three Fingers is at its best when there is no dialogue, for once dialogue comes in, it’s unfortunately a little hackneyed. Some scenes turn to simplistic clichés (the protagonist being aggressively picked up in a bar, for instance, with predictable results) to stand in for the more intense, less explicable emotions of trauma and reaction to trauma. While moving, there is nothing there that we have not seen before, often more in depth and with greater nuance. I wished that the filmmakers had not turned to clichés to represent trauma, for its most powerful moments lie in the sense that trauma can appear so banal, and that panic can spring from the mere sight of a discarded beer can.

But Three Fingers finally raises itself above the clichés of a coming-home drama in its depiction of a female soldier dealing with PTSD, and in the visual and aural techniques used to place the viewer in her position. The tension and the terror come through in patches as we watch a woman trying to navigate something as simple as going for a run or washing her face, while she’s set on edge by every sound and sight. There’s a hint of resolution nearing the end, but the film is too short and the condition it depicts too fraught to allow for any simplistic conclusion.

Nightcap 8/21/16 Thoughts on doing interviews, controversies, reviewing friend's films, Liar's Autobiography and Randi's links

I did an interview with Ted Balaker, director of Can We Take A Joke? On Wednesday (It’s going to run in a day or two). Doing the interview it became very clear that while it is important to know what questions to ask, you also need to have a subject who can speak well. It may seem obvious but if the person you are talking to won’t or can’t speak with you then the interview will fall apart. I can ask the right question but if the right question won’t be answered the interview will go nowhere.

In looking over the interview I realized all I did was ask Ted a question and he did five minutes. All I had to do was nudge him to say more. I think you have say as little as possible and let the other person talk. You have to make clear that you know what you’re talking about but at the same time its not about the interviewer.

With several interviews on the horizon I’ve been thinking about how to do an interview on a larger level. What is the way in? What can I ask that won’t get a by rote response. I know you have to balance the “typical” questions with new ones. Because your audience won’t have read all the other interviews you do have to ask certain questions everyone asks- unless you’re really going off the board- or have enough time to actually have a real conversation.

I know the problem is at its worst in the 10 or 15 minute interview where you have no time to really go somewhere new- especially since by the time you BS at the start you’ve lost five minutes. Sometimes you can, when I talked to Alonso Ruizpalacios who directed Guerros we started in left field and stayed there, mostly its five minutes of fumbling before you get going. The fact that you’re boxed is why I hate the five or ten minute interview. Unless its someone I really want to talk to, I try not to do them.
I’m going to make a quick statement and say that I’m going to continue to steer clear of celebrity controversies. I say this because a couple of stories broke this week involving bad behavior of an actor and a director. While I could do long think pieces on the implications, indeed I have a rough draft about viewing an artist’s work through the prism of their personal lives, I’m going to just let it lie. For the moment I’m going to take the high ground and say the works should be the focus and not the creators- especially since in the present situations the behavior is not linked to the films. I may revisit the controversy down the road if it effects the Oscar race as some suggest it might (while others say it won’t). For now I’m not going to go near it other than to say I’m very aware of the discussion but I’m staying the hell out of it at least in this forum.
I had some one ask me if it was fair to rave about a friends film.

Yes it is. That’s the way I felt and it would dishonest to say otherwise. I don’t lie about other people’s films why would I lie about a friends?
And now Randi's links

TCM and the art of falling down
Retro Daze VHS cover collection
Olympic docs you may have missed
The hill that was really a pyramid
200 years of sports photos
The secret to building sand castles
Deadly Kites
Movies and the presidency
Secret Libraries
The over priced LOTR/Hobbit super set

42 SECONDS OF HAPPINESS (2016) Women Texas Film Festival

A group of 30 somethings come together on the eve of a hurricane for the wedding of to of the group. But as everyone sits around talking and drinking their feelings come bubbling out threatening to do more damage than the storm.

Flashy low budget drama could have used a little less flash  as the script tries way too hard giving us the unnecessary symbolism of the approaching storm storm and the use of split screen which annoys rather than enlightens. While the cast is most certainly game, they are unfortunately saddled with a screen play which is trying to do too much with a plot has been done to death. Other than the fact that the couple getting married is same sex there isn't anything really new here. This isn't to say it's bad, its not, rather its to say that the cast is much better than the material they are working with and if you see this film it would be to see a bunch of excellent actors going through their paces.

To be perfectly fair I'm the wrong audience for the film. I have a low tolerance for inde drama, especially for ensemble films where friends get together and have revelations about life.  I need something to pull me into the film, I need something special to grab my attention and get me past my resistence and that never happened here.

Line Walker: The Movie (2016)

Nick Cheung, Louis Koo, Francis Ng and Charmaine Sheh star in a spin off of a TV series which concerned the murder of a police official who wiped the files of all the undercover officers before he died. Here the story picks up with one of the former under cover cops being contacted by a previously unknown officer named Blackjack. It seems he's aware of some big moves going on in the under world and he begins feeding the police info. The trouble is the cops can't be certain if he's real since the Blackjack file was damaged to the point that all they know is  that it is "something" but they aren't sure its even an officer.

LINE WALKER is being poorly released in the US. Itsonly in a tiny number of theaters and the company doing the PR is sending tickets to the press and not screeners so any reviews will appear during or after the run. There appear to be no ads for the film and as Joe Bendel and I were standing outside the theater waiting to go in we were being asked what the film is because no one knew.  Its a shame because this is one of the best Hong Kong films I've seen this year.

Despite the fact that you can feel the connection to the TV series bleeding off the screen, Charmaine Sheh and several other in the cast were in the series and it references things that happen, this is still a twisty turny action filled crime film that draws you in and drags you along.  In all seriousness this film has some truly mind blowing action sequences, any one of which would be enough to make the film a must see, but every action scene kicks ass and are the sort of thing you'll want to watch again and again on home video. (And might I say the lady bodyguard battling assassins in the tunnel as being the height of cool- actually her character is a kick ass lady of action)

How good is the film? When it was done I was ready to climb back on board and go for it all over again. I couldn't wait to get home and type it up so that I could start to get the word out on the film.

Is the film perfect? No. There are a couple of bits that seem to be a bit too referential to the series and some of the shifts in the final bit don't make complete sense- I mean how does the bad guys know where a certain place is? However its not even remotely damaging, it's more a tiny scratch in a new car's paint as opposed to a damaged fender. The action and the well drawn characters carry it all along.

After the film ended Joe and I both agreed that this was a film that needs to play at New York Asian.Film Festival next year- or anywhere people love Hong Kong action. This is too good a film to have slide off into oblivion because people don't know it exists and because it gets almost no publicity.

Playing in a tiny handful of theaters LINE WALKER is a film you're going to have to search out. Hopefully it will get a home video release so that the film can finally find the audience it deserves.

Highly recommended.

A list of theaters in the US and Canada can be found here

Man Vs Snake to get a free screening on the 26th

I got a press release concerning MAN VS SNAKE an awesome video game documentary that is going to screen for free on Friday. Its a great film. It made my Film Finds list for last year. (I kind of reviewed it here).

You have to see the film because it's one of the best video game docs you'll see. And if you can't tune in for free rent the damn thing on VOD like iTunes or Amazon.

Here are the details on the free screening

The award-winning documentary MAN VS SNAKE: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler, the thrilling saga of one of eSports original heroes, will make its Webcast Premiere as part of Twitch Weekly (https://www.twitch.tv/) on August 26th, 2pm/PDT. This is a one-time only, free screening of the feature documentary in its entirety for the Twitch audience.

MAN VS SNAKE won Best Picture Documentary awards at Fantastic Fest Film Festival 2015 and Calgary Underground Film Festival 2016, honorable mention at Twin Cities and Omaha Film Festivals and Best Editing Award at FilmQuest 2016 — it currently has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. Distributed by Filmbuff, the film is currently available on major on-demand platforms as of June 24th.

MAN VS SNAKE is a competition/e-Sports doc, that chronicles the story of the first billion-point arcade game (as achieved by Timothy McVey in 1984 — using one quarter and 44 1/2 hours of nonstop play) and the modern day misadventures on an international assortment of competitive “Nibbler” players still contending for world record dominance — yes, it’s weird, but also very entertaining. Moreover, the central theme of a middle-aged man attempting to recapture the glory of his youth is pretty inspirational.

If you ever played the game 'Snake' on your early model Nokia cellphone, then you're familiar with 'Nibbler,' the original 'snake' game. MAN VS SNAKE tells the story of Tim McVey who, in 1984, on a single quarter (and over 44 hours of non-stop play) was the first person in history to score over one billion points on a video game. 25 years later, rumors of a higher score surface online, attributed to Italian kickboxing champion Enrico Zanetti. This calls into question everything Tim McVey has believed for decades and forces him to make a decision: either set a new world record, or risk losing his legacy forever.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Women Texas Film Festival 2016: Shorts Part 2

A few more thoughts on a few more shorts playing at Women Texas Film Festival

A much too short film about a young woman for whom basketball is life being forced to contend with an unexpected pregnancy.  Running a scant 7 minutes the film doesn't have enough time to really build to anything. I wish director Terry Bluez had allowed the story more time.

A young thief has a sense of remorse and returns what she has stolen and changes her life. Good little film.

Eleanor loves everything that begins with the letter E,  especially her boyfriend Ed...except Ed's name isn't really Ed.

One of the best films on a technical level st Women Texas FF, it is lessened by the overly quirky nature of the story. Very much insisting on getting it's quirk on and making damn sure that we are aware of how clever it is, LETTER E is a film that is trying way too hard. As good as the film is you kind of wish it would stop calling attention to itself and just tell the damn story.  Its a good film but it should have played better.

Post apocalyptic tale set 60 years in the future. People either live on communes or the wild. When a stranger enters Nora and Daph's lives things go south and Daph has to try and find her friend.

I understand the film was made for no real money but I never really bought into the film with the look of it all being too much window dressing and the world not making a hell of a lot of sense. For example not a hole hell of a lot happens in the first chunk of the film where the to women hang out and smoke. That's all well and good but where did they get the try leaves to smoke and where is the paper from? (also it takes much too long to get going- this is a short you can't have nothing happen for a quarter to a third of the running time)

Ignoring the fact that no none of it feels real the story is a not bad short story of life past the fall. Taking it on its own terms it's entertaining but its nothing I would ever consider seeing again or recommending.

A young woman wants to leave her home and become an astronomer but has to fight ignorance, her family, poverty and life and general.

Very good coming of age and finding one's place story.  Its a beautifully acted  film that is glorious to look at. Its so well done that it over comes it's been there plot to be something truly special. See this film.

In Brief: MIZ MARKLEY AND ME (2016) Women Texas Film Festival

Documentary/essay by Sharie Vance about coming to terms with who she is. Vance a late bloomer went to film school and in middle age is forced to come to terms with the fact that she may never be a real filmmaker. Then she runs into Lisa Markley singer who is also a late bloomer who's drive to do what she loves makes Vance reconsider giving up.

Lovely midsized documentary (it runs 45 minutes) is a wonderful look at a couple of people who find that you are never too old to do what you love.

For tickets go here

Glimmer Man (1996)

While the film is about bad guys using a serial killer as cover for their murders, the title character is actually Steven Segal, a super-secret agent now working as a cop. Back in his bad federal service days he got the name because you’d see nothing, then the glimmer of something right before you died. Segal has given that all up and has become a Buddhist homicide detective in LA. He had moved because of scandal when a suspect died in NYC. Teamed up with Keenen Ivory Wayans the pair get into trouble when they stop a hostage situation and refuse to not tell the truth. This puts them on a collision course with a bad industrialist with ties to the Russian mob.

Smart ass buddy cop action comedy where a running joke is a dried deer penis joke came at the tail end of Segal’s box office reign and it collided with Wayans failed attempt at becoming an action star (why he never clicked is beyond me because he is very good). After this Segal’s ego got in the way of his script choices and the films began to flop left and right. (Actually what I think happened was that his ego made him difficult to work with so people stopped sending him good scripts-there are all sorts of stories about his being hellaciously late for this film). When this film came out is was viewed as a nail in Segal’s screen career but watching it 20 years on it actually plays better than some of his early mega hits.

The reason the film works is that it’s the right mix of action and humor. The jokes don’t strain to be funny or clever they are the sort of thing that someone might say in the situation. Its helps keep it real. While the action is not always realistic, what Segal film is?. The action is, for the most part nicely low key until the final confrontations. Yea Segal kicks ass but it’s never really too much. The final beat down is of course over the top but it’s more as an exclamation point to the proceedings.

I really like this film a great deal. I think it works a hell of a lot better than many of Segal’s earlier films. I like the restrained action and as for the plot , it actually has one where something like OUT FOR JUSTICE doesn’t have one and MARKED FOR DEATH is a total mess with Jamaican twins as drug dealing psychos. Segal’s best films, this. ABOVE THE LAW (which was the template for several other of his films), UNDER SIEGE work because there is a real story to hang the action on. The problem is most of his films are just action bits with filler between them.

Definitely worth your time if only to remember that Steven Segal used to actually make decent films

Friday, August 19, 2016

TOY (2016) Women in Texas Film Festival 2016

I have no idea if I like TOY or not. There is something about it that didn't quite work for me, but at the same time its a ballsy defiant film that is uniquely its own thing. I completely understand why it was programmed at Women Texas Film Festival where it is one of the absolute must sees.

The film follows an artist named Chloe who is having assorted problems. Difficult to deal with she is battling various substances, bad relationships and bad choices. When she meets Kat, a call girl, she begins to fall in love. However the pair's demons threaten to rip them apart.

Beautifully acted and hauntingly shot TOY is a film that burns itself into your brain. A late addition to Women Texas FF, it's clear why it was added- once seen you can't forget it. I am in awe of the film simply because it seems to frankly go where few films have ever gone. There is something about the film and it's characters that one can not shake.

To be honest I have no idea if I "like" the film. I think it starts awkwardly, (Chloe challenges us from the start and it makes it a battle to get into) and there are some rough spots along the way, but at the same time the film is a cinematic slap in the face. It forces you to confront it and it's themes head on and it doesn't give you a moment's respite. Its one of the most combative and challenging films I've seen in 2016 which  alone makes it a must see film.

Films like TOY are why I go to film festivals. A darkly challenging film it is decidedly off the beaten path and trip you'll want to experience. You may not like it but you'll at least know you're seeing a film that isn't like anything else you've seen all year.

Highly recommended

For tickets go here

Not Too Young (2016) Women Texas Film Festival 2016

Full disclosure for those who aren’t regular readers of Unseen Films Alec Kubas-Meyer is a friend and occasional contributor to Unseen Films. That said, my feeling for his film was in no way influenced by that. If anything the fact that I know him and the cast was a distraction because I saw my friends on screen. Despite that the film still knocked my socks off. If the film had been bad I would have told him so, as he will attest since we’ve had arguments about projects that I thought didn’t work. 

Alec Kubas-Meyer’s NOT TOO YOUNG is one of the most challenging films you’ll see- period. The film is a slap in the face and a challenge to what you think and feel or rather what you think you should think and feel. Simply put you don’t want to feel for Alec's protagonist, but you do.

The film concerns a man, played by the director, who is a a hebephile (meaning he is attracked to adolescent girls). The film charts his struggle to deal with his attractions. The film is unsensational, it just is, and it ends with a moment that is unexpected and, dare I say it, hopeful, which is going to troubling for many people.

It is a film that hangs with you. I’ve have seen it several times, the last one last night at Alec's insistence and I find I am haunted by it. It’s a film that is like sitting at fancy dinner and having the chair pulled out from under you, except that instead of crashing to the floor you go into a slow motion fall that lasts months or years as you ponder what you’ve just seen and why you feel as you do. You are  not supposed to feel this way,  but you do. I’m still waiting to crash from having the chair pulled out and having my emotions jumbled.

Alec has made a masterpiece. This isn’t a button pusher but a button stomper. He’s blown up the box on how we are supposed to feel for certain type of character and set the old notions on fire. It’s a film that some people are going to dismiss not because it’s bad but because it’s too good, he’s made a film some can’t like because a person who is “bad” finds, perhaps, a way out.

This is going to be a controversial film, and I suspect some people are not going to want to run it. or see it.  Its understandable, as much as I think its a great film, it still disturbs me.

NOT TOO YOUNG is a punch in the face. It’s a film that will challenge you. It’s a film that will make you think and feel things you don’t want to. Its a film that does what all great films and great filmmakers do- make you both think and feel.

Even allowing that Alec is friend, I have no trouble saying he is a genius. He is a filmmaker of the highest order and one you need to watch and NOT TOO YOUNG proves it in spades.

For more information and tickets to the Women Texas Film Festival go here

Women Texas FF The Shorts Part 1

Below are the first batch of the best of the shorts that I saw playing at the festival. I am still going threw other films as this posts so look for another post over the weekend.

Charming music video about two women who go to a restaurant.

Beautifully shot, very moving look at a woman with PTSD. Damn if they didn't get it right.

Portrait of Lillie Solomon a woman who loves puppets and performing. This is a neat little film about a woman and her passions.

A group of friends get together to play a board game and get sucked into it. Think of it as a solid riff on JUMANJI. I want to see asequel

Made in 48 hours this is the story of a road trip- can't say more than that because you'll know when you see it. Excellent and one of the delight of the film festival with a kick in the ass ending. One of my favorites

A young woman goes home to visit her cousin. Awesome acting and beautiful filmmaking  made me want to see more of this story. There is something here and this film should be turned into a feature- but the cast as to be the same.

The story of two girls who take a day off from work and then things go side ways. The unexpected turns make this a delight

A girl gets revenge at a bake sale. I dare not say more than that except its funny, sick and twisted.

A riff on WEEKEND AT BERNIE'S when three women have to get a dead star out of their house.

For tickets go here

Avoid 2 JENNIFER (2016) ,I wish I had

Absolutely terrible found footage film concerns a film fan who decides to make a sequel to his favorite horror film 2 Jennifer. Dragging a friend along he begins to put the film together and eventually casts a girl named Jennifer in the lead. Of course he become unhinged and things turn dark.

Looking little more than some one's home movie (which I suppose is a compliment in a way) the film is like following a bunch of nudniks around for 90 minutes. It wouldn't be so bad if you actually liked anyone or that you could get passed the fact that the film really does look like a home movie. While I can appreciate that the it all looks real, its much too off putting to make much of a connection to the audience. Yes you want it to look real but you also have to give us a reason to want to watch the film to the end. I'm still not sure  there is a reason to see the film for any reason.

You can skip this one, I wish I had.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Santo and the Blue Demon vs The Monsters

This film is the very definition of psychotronic. A weird wonderful mind scrabbling WTF sort of film that mashes up genres with wild abandon. Many films have tried to do this but few have actually succeeded in making a film that is watchable never mind as much fun.

The plot of the film is very basic. The evil dead Dr Halder is resurrected by his evil assistant. The plan is to get revenge on Santo the masked wrestler who defeated him. Using an army of monsters (Frankenstein’s creature, vampires, a cyclops, ect)and an altered Blue Demon (Santo’s best friend) Halder sets out to kill Santo and take over the world.

Lots of wrestling sequences give way to fight scenes only pausing briefly for alleged exposition and a full on dance number (it’s in a nightclub) in a film that pure motion and eye candy. There is little real exposition. I’ve seen the film four or five times now and I couldn’t tell you much beyond the basics because the film doesn’t tell us much. Plot isn’t required here since the motion and costumes keep us interested and chuckling.

Somewhere lower than low rent this film has the look and feel of a film made for about five bucks before being repossessed. The dance number was obviously lifted from somewhere else, either another film or from a stage performance. I suspect it was added to make the film look like it had a budget. If the actors weren’t professional this would have been intolerable, but their glee at playing the script for maximum effect makes this an absolute delight.

I love this film a great deal. So much so that over the last few weeks I keep reaching for the DVD to cleanse the mind of all stress.

An absolute delight.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In Brief: Purgation (2015)

Misfire horror film concerns a a filmmaker who is sent to her home town to look into the haunted asylum there. Years before she had gone there with some friends and things had gone horribly wrong. Now she sees the trip as a way of  curing the ills of the past. Unfortunately the ghosts of the past come calling.

Mediocre horror film has very little to recommend it. While not the worst horror film to come down the pike recently (and I say that having seen some real stinkers) this isn't anything one wants to actively search out. The plot isn't anything special, the performances are merely adequate and the film suffers from internal inconsistencies that will give you fits. Its a film that kind of sort of almost works but just can't quite get over the hump.

While PURGATION isn't a particularly good film it's a step or to above the bottom of the barrel. I know none of that is a ringing endorsement, and frankly its not something that most horror fans are going to want to even approach. That said I have a few friends who are voracious  horror fans who will watch everything horror related, whether good or bad, and who frequently run out of things to see, thus scraping the bottom of the barrel. This is a film that is kind of worth seeing if you're a forgiving horror fan with nothing to see. Its a film that is best described as a film of last resort meaning that if you want a horror film and you've seen everything else or have no interest in yet another piss poor zombie knock off its an okay time killer (assuming you're not paying to see it).

PURGATION was released on home video yesterday by Osiris Entertainment

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Women Texas Film Festival Starts Friday- BUY TICKETS NOW

The first Women Texas Film Festival starts Friday and if you’re in Dallas you really should go.. The brain child of filmmaker Justina Walford the festival is a wonderful celebration of women and of film. Actually it’s just a great bunch of films that you really need to see.

Running from Friday through Sunday the festival has programmed an eclectic mix of films (tickets here). Walford has said that she has programmed films that she really liked and didn’t worry about anything else other than they are good .And while I haven’t seen everything what I have makes it feel like I’ve plopped myself down in the living room of a film nerd who wants to show you all the really cool films they’ve stumbled upon. It's as if you’re sitting there eating popcorn they are throwing films on the screen from all over the place and delighting you at every turn because you don’t know what gem is coming next. I should say that while I’ve been tearing through the shorts with wild abandon I haven’t been trying to group the films according to the way they have been programmed so my experience with the films has been much more random than what yours will be.

While I have several posts for running later in the week, one with shorts and some on the features I’ve seen I do want to say that there are a couple of absolute must sees. These are the films that make it clear that Women Texas is a festival that needs to continue past this year because they have found some films which break the mold and make it clear that they really want to find the best films possible and not the best films of a type:

NOT TOO YOUNG- forget that Alec Kubas Meyer is a friend and contributor to Unseen Films, the film he has created will stay with you more than almost any film you’ll see all year. I saw it originally a year ago and its haunted me ever since.

MOSCA(FLY) rarely do you say that a short film should be expanded but this small gem about a woman visiting her cousin needs to be expanded with this cast because it’s amazing

TOY- a late addition feature film is a cage rattler. I’m still working on my full review but two minutes in I knew why the film was added.If I was programming a festival I would have added it. Whether you end up liking it or loathing it its film that makes you sit up and take notice. Ballsy as all hell it redefines raw intensity and the sort of film that restores my faith in filmmakers to make films that challenge us.

Go buy tickets. The festival starts Friday and on the basis of what I’ve seen this is going to be a festival that will be a game changer. Go to it and be able to say that you were there that first year when the cinematic festival landscape changed. Tickets can be had here.

People Vs Fritz Bauer (2015)

The fictionalized story of German prosecutor Fritz Bauer, who  was tasked with finding German war criminals. When his office found Adolf Eichmann he tipped off the Israelis as to his whereabouts because his fellow country men didn't want him found, being too terrified of what Eichmann might reveal about his collaborators.

This award winning film is going to delight some audiences and bore others. Constructed very much to make you aware that it is about something important and carrying a political agenda the film is very much an art film. It is a good looking film with some really great performances, Burghart Klaußner as Bauer. in particular. Its a kind of big screen Masterpiece Theater.

The problem that most audiences are going to run into is the pacing which shifts unevenly between leisurely and quick paced. Several sequences seem to go on much too long while others, some involving the investigation speed along a bit too fast. For me the film never drew me in enough to fully care because I never felt settled in with how the film went.

The other problem with the film is that it is very much set up to be a film about something. You know this is the sort of a film where writer/director Lars Kraume has Bauer end the film by looking into the camera and saying how nothing is ever going to stop him again. Everything is set up for a purpose to the extent that despite Kraume's claims that the film is historically accurate he has constructed a young prosecutor in order to work in a subplot about Bauer's homosexuality, something that apparently had no bearing on anything that happened, and to clumsily reveal that some Nazi laws were still in effect even after 1957. The subplot feels artificial and distracting and I kept asking why it was there.

While I have reservations about the film, I did like it and assuming that the subject interests you can recommend that you try it when the film opens Friday

Monday, August 15, 2016

Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World (2016)

LO AND BEHOLD is Werner Herzog's dizzying look at the Internet and our interconnected world covers a wide variety of subjects and is almost too much to take in on a single viewing.

Herzog's look at technology begins at the beginning on the night in 1969 when two computers 400 miles apart spoke to each other. The first message was Lo, then the computer crashed. They had been trying to say log so that one computer would log into the other but the G was never sent. From there the film shoots off to look at all the possibilities and realities of this now interconnected world- both the good and the bad. Its a heady mix that will get your brain going...and make you want to pause from time to time to think about hat you're seeing.

And as much as I love the film I really do think the film is trying to do too much in 98 minutes. There simply is too much here including driverless cars, on line courses/games, programming robots, solar flares and their effect on the world, game addiction, the dangers of radiation from cell towers, the end of civilization, hackers and artificial intelligence. There is even more that I didn't mention, so much in fact that I got to a certain point and I just threw up my hands, I was losing way too much because I simply didn't have time to process all that was being thrown at me. Honestly I need three or four more passes through the film in order to fully comprehend it all.

Herzog has enough material here for a film twice as long or even a series of films. We are given lots to contemplate before we are suddenly bumped to the next thing. We don't have time to ponder anything because we have to get through all of the parts in under 100 minutes with the result it often feels rushed or unfinished. I think the reason for this is that the film doesn't connect everything together, yes people appear in several segments and yes some things tie together but there isn't one giant "ah ha!" moment where all the ideas come together where you know what Herzog was getting at..  I know you can argue that's the internet, but at the same time a film, especially one that's only 98 minutes, needs something more to hang all its ideas on beyond a general statement. (Compare this film to any of Adam Curtis's films or even his sensory assault live show that he did with Massive Attack and you'll see how information overload can be done right)

I'm sure there are people who are going to go into the film and insist they got it all the first time and I will call them liar. I'm also suspicious of some of my fellow writers ho have written long detailed pieces on the film. I'm certain that any of their long pieces are the result of press notes and cheat sheets, things the average movie goer are not going to have. Personally I don't think it's possible to fully get most of what is being said is interconnected with the film and once you see it you kind of have to go back and see it again to see the connections.

Be certain I'm not dismissing the film or even remotely suggesting that its anything less than great, I'm simply saying that Herzog has made a film that assumes his audience has a brain in its head, can actually process a great deal of information and is capable of independent thought. Here is the exact opposite of pretty much every summer film from a major studio for the last 40 years and it's refreshing and utterly daunting, and even exhausting.

I know some of you are saying what did I expect from Werner Herzog? Exactly something like this. As any long time readers of Unseen Films know Herzog is one of my favorite directors and while he doesn't always turn out masterpieces or documentaries that tell the complete truth (the end of CAVES OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS), he does make films that challenge you, sometimes, like now, where they kick your legs out from under you. LO AND BEHOLD begins begins simply and then gets complicated not in what we see but what Herzog chooses to point out to us. His sly comments twist what we've seen and what we are told in such away that we are forced to contemplate it. We are seeing the world in a new way and it makes you dizzy.

I am overwhelmed by the film. That's a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because I know I have to go back and see this film again if only to see what I missed. Its bad because I know that there really is too much here for one sitting, or two, and because I suspect that it may just be a bunch of random pieces too loosely tied together that they are falling out of the bundle, As I said I had to throw up my hands. I really wish I had the film on DVD or Bluray so I could stop and start as I wanted and so I could jump through the film referencing pieces.

I love it and I hate it.

LO AND BEHOLD is one of the headiest films of the last decade. It's a must see for Herzog fans or anyone who wants to go as far from the multiplex mentality as possible.