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|Shadows off the beaten path|
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|See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 5.Apr.20|
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Tyler Cornack
prd Ryan Koch
scr Tyler Cornack, Ryan Koch
with Tyler Rice, Tyler Cornack, Shelby Dash, Brad Potts, Austin Lewis, Robert Moss, Tyler Dryden, Kai Henderson, Wilky Lau, Colleen Elizabeth Miller, Nino Hara, Jeremiah Jahi
release US 17.Apr.20,
A pitch-black comedy, this film approaches its outrageous premise with a straight face, as if it's a darkly emotive drama. Actor-filmmaker Tyler Cornack sometimes fails to catch his own jokes on-camera, but the film is an amusing collision of gritty imagery and silly storytelling. So as it gets increasingly bonkers, ultimately tipping over into wacky horror fantasy, the filmmakers' love of their central joke kind of leaves the movie feeling pointless.
Chip (Cornack) finds his IT job boring and also struggles to build enthusiasm around his busy wife Anne (Dash) and infant son. Then he has an epiphany during a prostate exam that leads to a rather extreme private obsession. When a baby goes missing in a park, Detective Russel (Rice) enlists the community to help, but Chip knows more than he admits. Years later, Russel and Chip run into each other at Alcoholics Anonymous. And when a child goes missing in Chip's office, Russel begins to suspect that Chip's addiction isn't to booze.
The absurdity of the story's big central joke adds a hilarious edge to the film, which is shot, acted and edited like a hard-boiled noir. As a director, Cornack playfully indulges in B-movie thriller cliches, while Koch's script keeps the wildly ridiculous comedy sketch set-up mainly in the subtext. So Chip's decades-later relapse is played as a tense moment of temptation for a man whose life is still empty, with his still-annoying boss (Lewis), a just-as-preoccupied wife and now 10-year-old son Marty (Dryden).
The actors deliver riotously deadpan performances, like a rather deranged mash-up of The Office and CSI. Cornack plays Chip as such a sad sack that he's never particularly sympathetic, but his internal issues make him oddly compelling. And his connection with Rice's amusingly gruff detective holds the interest, especially as they begin a somewhat nutty cat-and-mouse game. The best line is delivered utterly straight-faced by Potts, as the jaded police chief puts the premise into squirm-inducing words.
Cornack and Koch's audaciously bone-dry approach to this set-up sometimes feels like it's stretching out the high concept far further than it can go. But they push it anyway, gleefully taking a crazy idea to the next level. And then some. There are deeper darker themes swirling around in here, including marriage, addiction and vengeance issues, but the filmmakers leave those things unexplored on the sideline. That said, where this movie goes is both appalling and entertaining, in a properly guilty pleasure sort of way.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir Chris Roberti
prd Josh Itzkowitz
scr Chris Roberti, Josh Itzkowitz, Mark Leidner
with Chris Roberti, Tonya Glanz, Julia Schonberg, Evan Kaufman, Jeff Seal, Katie Hartman, David Carl, David Bly, Leah Rudick, Anto Boros, Jade Daugherty, Ben Scheiner
release US/UK 10.Apr.20
A snappy script playfully stirs observational humour into a genre mash-up that mixes sci-fi with a hitman romance in the confined absurdity of a cruise liner. And it's remarkably easy to travel between a ridiculous comedy and a sweet love story with thriller undertones. Actor-filmmaker Chris Roberti bridges these elements smoothly into something fresh and consistently entertaining, even if perhaps a little more edge might have helped.
In the summer of 1989, Leah and David (Rudick and Bly) honeymooning when they're attacked by assassins James and Mot (Roberti and Schonberg), who time-travel from the 29th century to eliminate those who will damage the future. Lilly and David were going to invent reality TV. Three decades later, James and Mot are on a cruise, and Lilly (Glanz) is their target. As they set sail, she has just cruelly broken up with her boyfriend Rob (Kaufman), who quickly befriends James. Then while Mot is taken down by seasickness, James falls for Lilly.
Impressively, Roberti shot this on a real cruise, mixing carefully orchestrated scenes with quite a bit of superb guerrilla filmmaking both on the ship and in ports of call like Key West and Cozumel. So the movie looks great, as real people mingle alongside the colourful cast members. Three of the crew (Seal, Hartman and Carl) offer hilarious asides all the way through the film, skilfully adding even more comic relief to the central narrative. And while the central plot seems like a standard romcom, it has a several wrinkles that keep the audience intrigued.
It helps that performances have a grounded, offhanded quality that makes them feel engagingly realistic, even in the nuttier moments. As an actor, Roberti has an adorably soulful, hang-dog persona, so James drags himself through his daily life without much interest, until he gets drunk. Glanz is terrific at throwing away jaggedly funny dialog, making her ruthless maneater remarkably likeable as she finds someone she can be herself with.
There's a lovely running gag as James continually comments that this is a golden age, offering hints about the future. And even though the general idea is bonkers, there's a lovely bittersweet undercurrent as James struggles with what he knows and what he must do. This at least adds some thematic resonance to what is otherwise a goofy bit of fluffy amusement. So there's plenty to keep us smiling as we wait for the other shoes to drop. And there are some surprising twists in the tale.
Review by Rich Cline |
dir-scr Deborah Kampmeier
prd Annarosa Mudd, Veronica Nickel, Deborah Kampmeier
with Isabelle Fuhrman, Tarek Bishara, Annarosa Mudd, Allison Winn, Isabella Pisacane, Alexanna Brier, Lollie Jensen, Sophia Adler, Kana Hatakeyama, Eve Austin, Ryan Matt, German Santiago
release US 10.Apr.20
Based on real events, this is a dark thriller for the #MeToo era. Writer-director Deborah Kampmeier takes an arthouse approach, with swirly visuals and an indie song score. And she makes sure the audience understands how bold she's trying to be. The theme is the objectification of women in the entertainment business (and society in general), although the important points are shouted too loudly by the film's hyper-dramatised approach.
As producer Lux (Bishara) sets up his next project, Pearl (Furhman) arrives to audition along with a group of hopeful actresses. One of them, Rosa (Mudd), befriends her, secretly recording the audition process. Pearl doesn't get the role, but Lux brings her into his protege programme for future projects. She also gets increasingly freaked out that Rosa is following her. But Pearl doesn't know that she's filming her as well, planting hidden cameras in a room where she does another audition for Lux that takes a sexual turn. Clearly Rosa has been here before.
Kampmeier shifts between Rosa and Pearl's very different perspectives. To mimic Rosa's recordings, the camerawork is rough and often blurred, which adds a jarring authenticity especially to the film's extended centrepiece audition sequence. But the film is never subtle, opening with a harrowing sequence in which Rosa wires herself with a camera, pierces her own tongue, inflicts additional scarring and shaves her head in a ritual nod to Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus.
The acting is also uneven. Fuhrman is likeable and grounded as a young woman struggling to make it as an actor. Although she seems too intelligent to be this naive. By contrast, Mudd turns Rosa into a bizarrely camp figure in a supervillain costume, the kind of person who would scare anyone off, which in the real world would badly undermine her secret mission. Meanwhile, Bishara bravely bridges both worlds, giving a remarkably nuanced turn as a super nice guy who might actually be a monster.
Kampmeier is clearly on a mission, zeroing in on predatory men who use the casting process to take advantage of actresses. Of course this is about control and dominance, not sex. So it's somewhat frustrating that Kampmeier's filmmaking is rather undisciplined, adding in material she thought was vital while neglecting the audience. This unfocussed approach adds some complexity, but it also draws attention to how she shies away from the one thing that might equalise this story and drive the point home without preaching. Still, it's a clever approach to a vitally important topic.
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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