Film Review: “Eo”

Starring: Sandra Drzymalska, Lorenzo Zurzolo and Isabelle Huppert
Directed by: Jerzy Skolimowski
Rated: NR
Running Time: 88 minutes
Janus Films

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

You hang around animals long enough, you begin to notice things like expressions in their face and how much personality they have. Despite the obvious language/species barrier, it’s fascinating that animals and humans alike are able to understand certain aspects of each other whether that’s happiness or fear. We’re also able to recognize each other’s body language when we’re angry, depressed or joyful. You’d think we’d get along better, but a film like “Eo” shows how that bond is at times oceans apart or beautifully close.

“Eo” is pretty straightforward. It’s about a donkey named Eo, who is a circus donkey when we first meet him. He has a loving owner and doesn’t seem to mind the outdated spectacle, but some animal rights activists are about to “free” him. There’s something comical about watching Eo quietly roaming around amongst angry humans yelling for it to be free, even though the concept of freedom is probably alien to Eo. After being “freed,” we see the folly of the animal rights activists who believe their job is done and let Eo roam freely to potentially be harmed or maimed. The rest of the film serves as a journey that’s heartwarming, tear-jerking, thoughtful, sad and ultimate meditation about life.

Despite being a donkey, Eo should have probably earned an Oscar nomination for delivering a world of emotion through his eyes. At times the camera hovers just inches from Eo’s eyes and we see thousands of words etched into them as he encounters friends, foes and the utterly bizarre, like a soccer match where Eo becomes the focal point through no actions of his own. The film is brief which helps with a lot of the moments where the camera simply follows Eo on his voiceless journey in Europe.

I found myself entranced by Eo’s journey even though there wasn’t anything specifically thrilling about it. It is just a donkey, after all, but Eo is more than that. He represents that soft spot that all humans have for animals. Even when we don’t like a specific creature, we still don’t necessarily wish them harm or want to see harm come their way. I think that’s what makes Eo so fascinating to watch and that’s because his encounters would tell you no person is safe, but all humans you encounter could be potentially safe. Eo sometimes feels like a representation of humanity, going through the motions, encountering adventures that may or may not be the best thing for our soul. We blindly go through life hoping everyone and everything we encounter is good-natured, but unfortunately that’s not always the case.

“Eo” is a film I thought about for days after watching. Personally I know it’s because I attempt to view humanity through these kinds of films. I feel like there’s poor ways of conveying the importance of creatures and the bond we share with them, like “A Dog’s Purpose,” but films like “Babe” help ground us in the reality of coexisting with creatures on this blue marble. “Eo” goes way deeper than I thought. What does coexistence mean when one side mistreats the other? What does life mean when sometimes a singular purpose for one’s existence is ultimately the consumption of the other? What does coexistence mean when we attach ourselves to them in toxic ways? Sure, some animals that aren’t donkeys have a poor temperament and just aren’t cuddly or loveable, but neither are all humans. “Eo” will make you smile, cry and ponder what exactly is going on in this crazy world and you’ll be a better person after all of it. Good donkey.

EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE LEADS NOMINATIONS FOR 95TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS

 

 

Everything Everywhere All at Once, a quirky sci-fi comedy, received (11) total nomination this morning when the films and performances vying for the 95th Annual Academy Awards were announced.

 

The film received nominations in several major categories, including Picture, Director, Actress, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay.  It was followed by the German World War I drama All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin, which each received (9) nominations.  Al three films are in competition for the coveted Best Picture award, along with a selection of both popular hits and critically received films Avatar: The Way of Water, Elvis, The Fabelmans, Tar, Top Gun: Maverick, Triangle of Sadness and Women Talking.

 

Angela Bassett became the first actor nominated for a performance in a Marvel film when she received a Best Supporting Actress nod for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.  This nomination marked a 29-year gap since her first Academy Award nomination – Best Actress in 1994 for What’s Love Got to Do With It?  Not to be outdone, Judd Hirsch, nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fabelmans, closes a 42-year gap, having been nominated in the same category in 1981 for Ordinary People.

 

The awards will also feature a couple of feelgood comeback stories.  Brendan Fraser, inexplicably absent from mainstream Hollywood for over a decade, scored a well-earned Best Actor nomination for his work in The Whale.  Ke Huy Kwan, long considered by me as the titular “doom” in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Everything Everywhere All at Once.  Jamie Lee Curtis, a Best Supporting Actress nominee for Everything Everywhere All at Once,  becomes the second daughter of Oscar-nominated parents (Tony Curtis/Janet Leigh) to receive a nomination, following Oscar winner Laura Dern (Bruce Dern/Diane Ladd).

 

 

The maestro, John Williams, a five time Oscar winner, received his 53rd  nomination for his original music score for The Fabelmans.

 

Here is a complete list of this year’s nominees:

 

Best Picture

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Malte Grunert, Producer

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers

“The Banshees of Inisherin,” Graham Broadbent, Pete Czernin and Martin McDonagh, Producers

“Elvis,” Baz Luhrmann, Catherine Martin, Gail Berman, Patrick McCormick and Schuyler Weiss, Producers

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert and Jonathan Wang, Producers

“The Fabelmans,” Kristie Macosko Krieger, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner, Producers

“Tár,” Todd Field, Alexandra Milchan and Scott Lambert, Producers

“Top Gun: Maverick,” Tom Cruise, Christopher McQuarrie, David Ellison and Jerry Bruckheimer, Producers

“Triangle of Sadness,” Erik Hemmendorff and Philippe Bober, Producers

“Women Talking,” Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Frances McDormand, Producers

Best Director 

Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)

Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Steven Spielberg (“The Fabelmans”)

Todd Field (“Tár”)

Ruben Östlund (“Triangle of Sadness”)

Best Lead Actor

Austin Butler (“Elvis”)

Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)

Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”)

Paul Mescal (“Aftersun”)

Bill Nighy (“Living”)

Best Lead Actress

Cate Blanchett (“Tár”)

Ana de Armas (“Blonde”)

Andrea Riseborough (“To Leslie”)

Michelle Williams (“The Fabelmans”)

Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Best Supporting Actor

Brendan Gleeson (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)

Brian Tyree Henry (“Causeway”)

Judd Hirsch (“The Fabelmans”)

Barry Keoghan (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)

Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Best Supporting Actress

Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”)

Hong Chau (“The Whale”)

Kerry Condon (“The Banshees of Inisherin”)

Jamie Lee Curtis (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Stephanie Hsu (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”)

Best Adapted Screenplay

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Screenplay by Edward Berger, Lesley Paterson & Ian Stokell

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” Written by Rian Johnson

“Living,” Written by Kazuo Ishiguro

“Top Gun: Maverick,” Screenplay by Ehren Kruger and Eric Warren Singer and Christopher McQuarrie; Story by Peter Craig and Justin Marks

“Women Talking,” Screenplay by Sarah Polley

Best Original Screenplay

“The Banshees of Inisherin,” Written by Martin McDonagh

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Written by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

“The Fabelmans,” Written by Steven Spielberg & Tony Kushner

“Tár,” Written by Todd Field

“Triangle of Sadness,” Written by Ruben Östlund

 

Best Cinematography 

 

“All Quiet on the Western Front”, James Friend

“Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths,” Darius Khondji

“Elvis,” Mandy Walker

“Empire of Light,” Roger Deakins

“Tár,” Florian Hoffmeister

Best Documentary Feature Film 

“All That Breathes,” Shaunak Sen, Aman Mann and Teddy Leifer

“All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” Laura Poitras, Howard Gertler, John Lyons, Nan Goldin and Yoni Golijov

“Fire of Love,” Sara Dosa, Shane Boris and Ina Fichman

“A House Made of Splinters,” Simon Lereng Wilmont and Monica Hellström

“Navalny,” Daniel Roher, Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller and Shane Boris

Best Documentary Short Film 

“The Elephant Whisperers,” Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga

“Haulout,” Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev

“How Do You Measure a Year?” Jay Rosenblatt

“The Martha Mitchell Effect,” Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison

“Stranger at the Gate,” Joshua Seftel and Conall Jones

Best Film Editing

“The Banshees of Inisherin,” Mikkel E.G. Nielsen

“Elvis,” Matt Villa and Jonathan Redmond

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Paul Rogers

“Tár,” Monika Willi

“Top Gun: Maverick,” Eddie Hamilton

Best International Feature Film 

“All Quiet on the Western Front” (Germany)

“Argentina, 1985” (Argentina)

“Close” (Belgium)

“EO” (Poland)

“The Quiet Girl” (Ireland)

Best Original Song 

“Applause” from “Tell It Like a Woman,” Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick,” Music and Lyric by Lady Gaga and BloodPop

“Lift Me Up” from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Music by Tems, Rihanna, Ryan Coogler and Ludwig Goransson; Lyric by Tems and Ryan Coogler

“Naatu Naatu” from “RRR,” Music by M.M. Keeravaani; Lyric by Chandrabose

“This Is a Life” from “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Music by Ryan Lott, David Byrne and Mitski; Lyric by Ryan Lott and David Byrne

Best Production Design 

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Production Design: Christian M. Goldbeck; Set Decoration: Ernestine Hipper

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” Production Design: Dylan Cole and Ben Procter; Set Decoration: Vanessa Cole

“Babylon,” Production Design: Florencia Martin; Set Decoration: Anthony Carlino

“Elvis,” Production Design: Catherine Martin and Karen Murphy; Set Decoration: Bev Dunn

“The Fabelmans,” Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Best Visual Effects

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Frank Petzold, Viktor Müller, Markus Frank and Kamil Jafar

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” Joe Letteri, Richard Baneham, Eric Saindon and Daniel Barrett

“The Batman,” Dan Lemmon, Russell Earl, Anders Langlands and Dominic Tuohy

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Geoffrey Baumann, Craig Hammack, R. Christopher White and Dan Sudick

“Top Gun: Maverick,” Ryan Tudhope, Seth Hill, Bryan Litson and Scott R. Fisher

Best Animated Feature Film 

“Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson, Gary Ungar and Alex Bulkley

“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” Dean Fleischer Camp, Elisabeth Holm, Andrew Goldman, Caroline Kaplan and Paul Mezey

“Puss in Boots: The Last Wish,” Joel Crawford and Mark Swift

“The Sea Beast,” Chris Williams and Jed Schlanger

“Turning Red,” Domee Shi and Lindsey Collins

Best Animated Short Film

“The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse,” Charlie Mackesy and Matthew Freud

“The Flying Sailor,” Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

“Ice Merchants,” João Gonzalez and Bruno Caetano

“My Year of Dicks,” Sara Gunnarsdóttir and Pamela Ribon

“An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It,” Lachlan Pendragon

Best Costume Design 

“Babylon,” Mary Zophres

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Ruth Carter

“Elvis,” Catherine Martin

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Shirley Kurata

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” Jenny Beavan

Best Live Action Short

“An Irish Goodbye,” Tom Berkeley and Ross White

“Ivalu,” Anders Walter and Rebecca Pruzan

“Le Pupille,” Alice Rohrwacher and Alfonso Cuarón

“Night Ride,” Eirik Tveiten and Gaute Lid Larssen

“The Red Suitcase,” Cyrus Neshvad

Best Makeup and Hairstyling 

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Heike Merker and Linda Eisenhamerová

“The Batman,” Naomi Donne, Mike Marino and Mike Fontaine

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” Camille Friend and Joel Harlow

“Elvis,” Mark Coulier, Jason Baird and Aldo Signoretti

 

“The Whale,” Adrien Morot, Judy Chin and Anne Marie Bradley

Best Original Score 

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Volker Bertelmann

“Babylon,” Justin Hurwitz

“The Banshees of Inisherin,” Carter Burwell

“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” Son Lux

“The Fabelmans,” John Williams

Best Sound

“All Quiet on the Western Front,” Viktor Prášil, Frank Kruse, Markus Stemler, Lars Ginzel and Stefan Korte

“Avatar: The Way of Water,” Julian Howarth, Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, Dick Bernstein, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers and Michael Hedges

“The Batman,” Stuart Wilson, William Files, Douglas Murray and Andy Nelson

“Elvis,” David Lee, Wayne Pashley, Andy Nelson and Michael Keller

“Top Gun: Maverick,” Mark Weingarten, James H. Mather, Al Nelson, Chris Burdon and Mark Taylor

 

THE 95TH ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS WILL BE PRESENTED ON SUNDAY, MARCH 12TH ON ABC TELEVISION

Film Review: “Women Talking”

Starring: Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley and Rooney Mara
Directed by: Sarah Polley
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 104 minutes
United Artists Releasing

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

George Carlin once said, “There’s no such thing as rights. They’re imaginary. We made ’em up. Like the boogie man.” I open my review with that quote for two reasons. First being that 2022 was the year that women experienced the loss of their body autonomy rights. Second being that the women in “Women Talking,” never had rights because of the boogie man.

“Women Talking” opens with a group of women in an unnamed religious colony discussing the revelation over the prior days/weeks that ghosts or Satan aren’t behind the drugging and raping they’re experiencing. Nope. It’s the men who live among them. Their friends, their neighbors, their fathers, their spouses, etc. For years, those men have been the ones who have been drugging the women so that they can sneak in at night and rape them only to tell them the next day it’s the boogie man. With this revelation, something has to happen, right? The men are caught and arrested, but the rapists post bail and are on their way back home as if nothing happened. The women at this discussion represent different houses of thought on what to do before the rapists return. Some women believe they should do nothing and continue to be the subservient class in this community. Others believe it’s time to stay and get their fists and noses bloodied. A good portion believe that it’s simply time to leave.

Unfortunately the above scenario is not the work of Hollywood, it is based on a book written by Miriam Toews, a former Mennonite girl who fled her Canadian Mennonite community when she turned 18. “Women Talking” isn’t looking to bash one of the more peculiar sects of Christianity though. Outside of showing the horrific reality that women are still second-class citizens in portions of the world, “Women Talking” also examines a very key question in trauma, “What now?” The three options above spur fascinating on-screen discussions that cross the proverbial universe of these women. The revelations are handled differently, with some women still drinking the flavor aid that the best option is to ignore the crimes because…God’s “wishes?” Other women want to leave, but then wonder if that means taking their children. Some of their children are boys, does that mean their boys will grow up to become rapist monsters? Do they leave the boys? Can any man be trusted? If the women stay and fight, how will the community as a whole react? What will stop the men from banding together and retaliating if it’s a war between the sexes?

A film like “Women Talking,” which thankfully spares the audience the visuals of the rapes, relies heavily on its actors and script, and both are a cannon shot across the bow. Not only are the perpetrators called out in the story, but the real world is called into question by these discussions. I could break down the stellar performances and moments, but “Women Talking” is truly a film that demands attention and silences you with the power of words. At times the film is an emotional wrecking ball, making the words of these women more powerful than any scene featuring the crimes themselves. The casting is truly spotless because even the lone man (played by Ben Wishaw) in the community, who is helping the women by keeping record of their discussions and chiming in when called upon, adds emotional layers to the women debating something they’ve probably never debated or even discussed before.

In a lot of ways, “Women Talking” plants its feet in the past and in the present day. In some regards you can view the film as a historic look at how women finally release themselves from the shackles of their oppressors to give rise to a movement and help create the birth of a new society, one in which both sexes are equal. You can also see the modern commentary hidden in the tearful debates between our characters. Either that or the old idiom is true, history is doomed to repeat itself. Foy, Buckley and Mara lead the way for this ensemble cast tasked with not only conveying a powerful message, but doing it in a riveting way where the viewer will either find themselves teary eyed, aghast or silent. For some viewers, those who have already seen the movie, “Women Talking” bookended a rough 2022 for women in America, and for some viewers, this film is your rallying cry in 2023.

KURT DEIMER ANNOUNCES SHOWS WITH TESLA IN THE US + NEW HORROR FILM

KURT DEIMER ANNOUNCES SHOWS WITH TESLA IN THE US + NEW HORROR FILM

Photo by Norman Seeff Productions

Singer Kurt Deimer stayed quite busy throughout 2022 – with the arrival of his debut EP, ‘Word Hard Rock Hard,’ which he recorded with his bandmate and creative partner (and Bon Jovi guitarist) Phil X.

And 2023 will see Deimer build his fanbase with further touring in the US.

“We got a couple more Tesla dates in January. I’m also going to shoot my second feature film that I star in, called ‘Scared to Death,’ along with Lin Shaye, she’s known for the ‘Insidious’ franchise and her role in Kingpin with Woody Harrelson, and Bill Moseley, who was in Rob Zombie’s ‘The Devil’s Rejects,’ amongst other projects.
And we already have further tour dates with Tesla in the Midwest with many, many more to come – starting in April, after my movie shoot.”

“2022 was the year we saw the band evolve. We continued to enhance our live show and become a really tight rock’n’roll band. Given that we are direct support, when we hit the stage, we entertain folks at the highest level – with the opportunity we’re given and the amount of space we’re given on stage. And 2022 has been a great bridge and a great training ground – ‘battle ground’ if you will – setting us up for all the big things that are about to happen in 2023. So, 2022 was the year of hard work. A year of figuring stuff out, a year making the necessary changes to continue to grow as a band and continue to grow our audience across the world.”

Deimer has also issued several music videos thus far, which can be viewed via these links:

“My Dad” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0oqJpgkxjU0
“Hero” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPzlBPogD1M&t=42s
“Naïve” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp-7ZopNcwQ
“Burn Together” (featuring Geoff Tate) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYWxNdXZqz4

With 2022 now in the rearview mirror, Deimer looks back upon the past twelve months with fondness. “Favorite moments from the band this year for sure was our five days that we did with Tesla in the beginning of September. Those were epic shows. We had come off the Yngwie Malmsteen tour, which was another great moment. With Tesla, we did House of Blues and auditoriums – we really got to play in front of a thousand plus every night, and converted even more fans. Another great memorable moment with those Tesla shows was when we came out on stage at the last show at the House of Blues in New Orleans, to play with them on ‘Signs.’ To be on stage with other musicians that I admire so much was a big highlight. And another highlight of 2022 was when we played to 3,000+ fans with Mushroomhead, at their big Halloween bash in Cleveland at the Agora.”

Undoubtedly, 2023 is going to be a big year for Kurt Deimer.

TESLA/KURT DEIMER TOUR DATES:

Saturday, January 14th, 2023
Will Rogers Memorial Center (Auditorium)
Fort Worth, TX

Sunday, January 15th, 2023
Lubbock Memorial Civic Center
Lubbock, TX

Thursday, January 19, 2023
Hard Rock Event Center
Tampa Bay, FL

Film Review: “The Whale”

 

 

  • THE WHALE
  • Starring:  Brendan Fraser, Sadie Sink and Hong Chau
  • Directed by:  Darren Aronofsky
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 57 mins
  • A24

 

And the Oscar goes to…..  Brendan Fraser.  That is all.

 

OK, I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself here.

 

An online class is in progress.  The main screen is filled with the faces of all of the students.  The only black frame belongs to the instructor, who informs the others that the camera on his laptop is broken.  But it isn’t. He’s just afraid of being seen.

 

Driven by Brendan Fraser, who gives a performance that is both brilliant and emotional, “The Whale” tells the story of a man whose life has spiraled downward as his waistline has increased.  Charlie (Fraser) was once a happy man with a wife and daughter.  A college professor, he was able to share his love of literature and of writing.  But Charlie had a secret and that secret destroyed not only his life, but the lives of those that loved him.  Now it is only through food that Charlie can achieve any semblance of happiness, finding consolation in a bucket of chicken or a couple of giant meatball and cheese subs.  He is looked after by his friend, Liz (Chau), who drops by often offering dinner and some companionship.  Liz knows that Charlie is slowly killing himself, but he refuses to seek medical help.  Only after receiving a couple of unexpected visitors does Charlie begin to think of happiness.  But not for himself.

 

I’m a big guy.  I can always afford to lose a few pounds.  And I can admit here that I have had people refer to me as fat.  But I’m Audrey Hepburn compared to Charlie.  Usually, a large person is played for laughs on screen.  Think Eddie Murphy in “The Nutty Professor,” Martin Lawrence in “Big Momma’s House” or the final scene in “Dodgeball” where a very hefty Ben Stiller makes a self-depreciating joke and remarks to the audience, “Are you happy?  Fatty made a funny.”  But with “The Whale” you have no desire to laugh at Charlie.  You sympathize with him.  When he struggles to take a few steps, you feel his exhaustion.  And when he strains to pick something up off the floor, you can feel your fingers reaching out as well.  But Charlie doesn’t want your sympathy.  He just wants to be.

 

I have always been a fan of Brendan Fraser.  From “School Ties” to the “Mummy” series to the underappreciated baseball comedy “The Scout,” he has always appeared genuine on screen.  His performance here is no different.  You feel sad for Charlie.  Not because he’s heavy but because he’s a human being.  It doesn’t matter if Charlie weighs 400 pounds or a buck twenty-five, the hurt he feels is evident in his eyes.  And the ability to express such emotion with only a glance is the hallmark of a great actor. 

 

Fraser is supported ably by his co-stars, including Ms. Chau, Sadie Sink as Charlie’s estranged daughter and Ty Simpkins as a man literally on a mission who knocks on Charlie’s door.  There is not a false performance in this film.

 

As a filmmaker, director Darren Aronofsky can be very hit or miss.  On one side of the spectrum, he created a masterpiece with “Requiem for a Dream.”  On the other hand, I give you “The Fountain.”  “The Whale” is another fine achievement and one that should be seen and appreciated. 

Blu-ray Review “A Discovery of Witches: The Complete Trilogy”

A Discovery of Witches is based on the “All Souls” trilogy by Deborah Harkness. I personally was not aware of the author and her body of work but after finding this show, I am definitely finding myself as a fan! This is the first time that all three seasons are available together in one Blu-ray set, A Discovery of Witches The Complete Trilogy, includes all 25 episodes, as well as over 80 minutes of bonus features on 6 discs and a collectible bookmark. If you were a fan of this series, this set delivers a nice collection of content as well as some decent bonus features to boot.

The series stars Teresa Palmer (Warm Bodies, Hacksaw Ridge), Matthew Goode (“Downton Abbey”), Alex Kingston (“Doctor Who”), Trevor Eve (“The Politician’s Wife”), Lindsay Duncan (“Sherlock”), Owen Teale (“Game of Thrones”), Gregg Chillingirian (“Da Vinci’s Demons”), Aiysha Hart (“Line of Duty”), and Edward Bluemel (“Killing Eve”).

Official Premise: Adapted from Deborah Harkness’ best-selling trilogy of novels, A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES is a bold and romantic thriller that uncovers a secret underworld of vampires, witches and daemons hiding in plain sight for fear of persecution by humans. Brilliant historian Diana Bishop is a witch denying her own heritage. But when she unexpectedly calls up an ancient, bewitched manuscript, Ashmole 782, she finds herself thrown into the heart of a dangerous mystery – and into the path of the enigmatic geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont.

Season Summaries: Across three distinctive and gripping seasons, Diana and Matthew’s quest to solve the mystery of the book and their own long-prophesied connection to it throws them into the path of dangerous enemies. Season 2 takes them back to the 16th century, crossing paths with historical figures Diana thought she could only dream of meeting, as she comes into her own incredible power. In season 3, Diana and Matthew must try to make scientific breakthroughs into a terrible disease that affects their own family, deal with huge loss, new beginnings, and old foes, as their journey takes them towards a thrilling and incendiary conclusion.

Although this set is void of a digital copy, which is a bummer these days. At least they packed in some decent special features on the Blu-ray. There are a few featurettes including focus on the characters, the story and a set tour. As well as “Creating the Worlds” dives into the shooting locations and topping it all off with “Mythology, TV Magic, The Story of The Discovery of Witches”, which dives deeper into the show with cast/crew! Worth checking out for sure.

Blu-ray Review: “Bullet Train”

 

 

Ride or die! Heh-heh!  “Bullet Train” is basically John Wick on a train with a crazy cast of characters and falls into the more cartoony way of movies. There’s plenty of violence to go around, an awesome amount of gore, and some extremely funny lines and characters. It reminds me of “John Wick 3” in particular with similar production notes such as the abundance of colors and the well-choreographed fighting scenes. The Blu Ray picture and sound is nothing short of astounding! Bright neon colors are present from the start as intense purples, greens, blues, yellows, reds, and even pinks strike-through to make each train car look excellent. Flashback sequences go from a warm, orange-tinted look to a remarkable and blue-ish streak. Wardrobe colors, the big city lights at night, and the LED lighting of the train car interiors all look bold and full of life. It was truly a joy to behold.

 

This Blu Ray has an excellent Dolby Digital track! The sound effects are boisterous, robust, and continuously loud. These noises are nuanced and well-balanced in each speaker which flows smoothly in transitional sounds. Gun blasts, the fast traveling train herself, fight choreography, and glass bottles being broken all sound wonderful Explosions pack a loud punch as well. The low end of bass is booming with a smooth yet intense rumble that never has a rocky feel. The score and song cues are pitch-perfect that keep the film centered in its fun and entertaining atmosphere. The dialogue is always clean, clear, and easy to follow with no problems. The height speaker brings those sound effects from overhead, whether it be bullets flying by, rain, debris and body parts falling from above, and more. I really enjoyed watching this film! The Blu Ray is very well produced. 

 

Director David Leitch co-directed the original John Wick (which clearly shows) film which led to him making “Atomic Blonde,”  :Hobbs and Shaw” and “Deadpool 2” (which I enjoyed more than the 1st film!). Leitch even was a heavy-handed producer on “Nobody” as well. If those movies were all mixed together and blended into a high-octane cocktail, the result would be “Bullet Train.”  An intricate world of assassins, a deadly mission, brutal fight choreography, and a comedic and cartoony take on the action all make up this film. And the great thing is, that all these elements have congealed together to make this a blast of a viewing experience. The performances are energetic with wry humor and witty dialog. You’ll almost have to view it twice to appreciate the wry humor. It may strike the novice viewer as strange on the first viewing. 

“Bullet Train” is set on a high-speed modern train where a group of assassins is all tasked with retrieving a briefcase that belongs to an infamous yakuza boss. Nobody realizes other assassins are on the train at first, but as soon as eye contact is made, the violence ensues in bar cars, passenger cars, and even on the outside of the train. With a cast list that stars Brad Pitt, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Joey King, Brian Tyree Henry, Michael Shannon, Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. “Bullet Train” could easily get lost in the star power. But this script allows some unique personalities to collide, all made accessible through the psychology and personality traits of Thomas the Tank Engine. Yes. that’s right! It’s easy to see where films like “Snatch,” “Kill Bill” and even animated shows heavily influenced the style of the movie with their “in-your-face” camera swoops and pans, along with graphics that display character names on the screen. A trademark of Michael Bay as well. Not only that, the breaking-the-fourth wall that is so popular in “Deadpool”  also peaks its head out from time to time. “Bullet Train” can feel a little tiresome in parts when the film often cuts back to tell a story from the past. It disrupts the film’s flow here and there, but when the action is once again centered on the train, the pace instantly picks back up. In its meta way, the characters make it all self-aware of these flashbacks and how boring they can be.

Finally, everyone here is performing at the top of their game and having the time of their lives cutting it all up on set. Pitt is believable as a violent assassin when he needs to be and quickly turns on the comedic charm every chance he gets. Johnson and Henry are the true stars of the film though with their budding relationship and volatile personalities. And of course, Joey King is always a joy to watch on screen as she changes her chameleon-like emotions with whoever she shares the screen with. Leitch has conjured up a super-fun time at the movies with an A-List cast. “Bullet Train” is enthusiastic, crazy, and a surprisingly amazing time. It’s violent, comedic, and an all-around great time. Let’s all hope there are sequels. Highly Recommended!

Film Review: “The Fablemans”

 

  • THE FABLEMANS
  • Starring:  Michelle Williams, Gabriel LaBelle and Judd Hirsch
  • Directed by:  Steven Spielberg
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 31 mins
  • Universal

 

A young boy goes to the movies.  What he see’s has such an impression on him that he makes film a major part of his life.  That young boy could never have known that 2 hours in the dark would change his life forever.  I should point out here that the young boy in question is me and the movie in question was “Jaws.”

 

New Jersey.  1952.  Young Sammy Fableman (LaBelle) is taken to the movies to see “The Greatest Show on Earth” by his parents, Mitzi (Williams, in an Oscar-worthy performance) and Burt (Paul Dano).  Burt is a scientific engineer, so instead of explaining movies in terms of enjoyment he spouts off about how the film runs 24 frames per second, giving still images the illusion of movement.  Despite his father’s description, Sam is mesmerized by the film, especially the famous train crash (oops, SPOILER ALERT!).  He plays the scene over and over in his head when he gets home.  When he receives a train set for Hanukkah you can see the wheels turning in his head.  Especially when he picks up his fathers 8mm movie camera. 

 

An obviously very personal film for Steven Spielberg, “The Fablemans” could easily be compared to Bob Fosse’s “All That Jazz” – without the naked women, of course.  It is rare for any filmmaker to give such an inside look at his life, and while this isn’t a true bio-pic, there are many similarities between Sam and Steven.  His mother was a very talented pianist and his father instrumental in the development of the computer.  Williams even wears her hair in the same style as Leah Spielberg.  But there are enough little changes in the story to make the audience wonder “did that really happen?”

 

 

The film is buoyed by an amazing cast, all at the top of their game.  Williams is stellar as a woman who has put her own creativity on hold to encourage her husband.  Dano excels as a man who truly loves his wife but can’t see the proverbial forest through the trees.  He constantly refers to Sam’s passion as a “hobby” and it’s obvious he doesn’t understand.  Supporting work by Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch helps flesh out the story.  And special praise indeed for young Mr. LaBelle, who just turned 20 this past weekend.  It would be nerve wracking enough to have your second major film directed by Steven Spielberg but to ALSO be playing the director…Yikes!  LaBelle approaches the role with the same wonder that Spielberg must have had as a young man.  It’s a beautiful performance.

 

With all Spielberg films, the production values are first rate.  And it’s so nice to once again see a Spielberg film accompanied by a beautiful musical score by the great John Williams.  Spielberg and Williams.  Takes me back to “Jaws.”

 

Like Spielberg, I made short films throughout high school but that’s pretty much all we have in common.  Though I did notice that he’s #22 on the Internet Movie Data Base STAR METER while I’m listed as #965,422.  Close. 

Film Review: Journey to Royal – A WWII Rescue Mission

HARRISBURG, PA — This documentary directed by Christopher Johnson of Misty Falls Motion Picture Company, and produced by Mariana Tosca, p.g.a. is a remarkable and effective piece of documentary filmmaking that chronicles the incredible stories of the 4th Emergency Rescue Squadron rescue team during World War II.

This film tells the story about Lt. Royal A. Stratton and the rescue mission he flew to save the lives of nine downed B-29 bomber airmen adrift in the dangerous Japanese waters after their aircraft was hit by flak that started a fire in the rear of the plane.

I had never heard about Lt. Royal Stratton before, so for me, the film shines a new light on unsung heroes from World War II that we are forever indebted to.

The story, or rather stories, takes us right into the action with the feature narrative portion to start us off before we jump into the documentary section of the film. The editing is smart and successful which plunges us right into the stressful situation. The documentary portion is not only informative but educational and adds to our understanding of rescue efforts in the Pacific.

The documentary is an effective piece of cinema that informs and educates. Overall, this documentary is a very well-made and incredibly effective piece of filmmaking that is immersive cinematography with gripping action, mixed with firsthand accounts and historical images, showcasing the valor of the squadron who faced overwhelming odds to bring their brothers home.

Highly recommended for those interested in military history and in accounts of bravery in the face of overwhelming odds.

Dr. Zapotoczny is an author, historian, and professor of history. He can be reached at mail@wzaponline.com and his website is http://www.wzaponline.com.

Film Review: “The Menu”

 

 

  • THE MENU
  • Starring:  Ralph Fiennes, Nicolas Hoult and Anna Taylor-Joy
  • Directed by:  Mark Mylod
  • Rated:  R
  • Running time:  1 hr 46 mins
  • Searchlight Pictures

 

I must admit before I continue that I do not consider myself a “foodie.”  If you know me you know I enjoy eating but I’ve never understood the high price restaurants that serve tiny portions on tiny plates made up of things I’ve never heard of.  One example in my lifetime:  I went to Washington D.C. to conduct an interview for my book on “Jaws 2,” offering to take the couple I was speaking with to dinner near my hotel.  While I was thinking something casual, like Houlihan’s or a similar establishment they gave me the name of a little place a block away from where I was staying.  The company, and the conversation, was amazing.  The food was…meh.  $260 later, after we said our goodbyes, I stopped at Subway on my way back to my hotel. 

 

Tyler (Hoult) is excitedly pacing back on forth on a dock.  He explains to Margot (Taylor-Joy) that he has been waiting seemingly forever for this night to come.  A night on an isolated island tasting food created by the most famous chef on the planet, Chef Slowick (Fiennes).  As they board the boat neither Tyler, no the other guests, can contemplate what will be on the menu.

 

 

A film that is both dark and funny, “The Menu” benefits from the combination of a smartly written script and some excellent performances.  If you’ve ever watched a reality cooking show, you know that the chef’s featured often have an overstated sense of importance.  That is true here with Chef Slowick, whose single clap of a hand can bring his entire kitchen staff to attention.  Fiennes is perfect in this role, going from stern taskmaster to sarcastic joker seamlessly.  The guest list is quite eclectic, with everyone from a well known food critic (Janet McTeer) to a once famous actor (John Leguizamo) who now tells people his career is in “the presenter phase.”  Each “course” is presented as a great surprise, though not all of the surprises are good ones.

 

The film is beautifully shot, with each course its own individual piece of art.  I may never eat pickled cucumber balls or slurp down some fancy oysters but they certainly do look good.  So does this film.

Film Review: “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

BLACK PANTHER:  WAKANDA FOREVER
Starring:  Letitia Wright, Lupita Nyong’o and Angela Bassett
Directed by:  Ryan Coogler
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 41 mins
Marvel Studios
 
 
There are very few film franchises that can boast as many quality films as the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  The majority of these films have been embraced by both fans and critics alike.  Even so, there are a few films that miss the mark.  “Iron Man 2.”  “Thor: the Dark World.”  And now, “Black Panther:  Wakanda Forever.”
 
A year after the death of King T’Challa, the country of Wakanda is still in turmoil.  Countries all over the world seek the rare vibranium that is found in Wakanda, without success.  When it appears that the rare element has been found in the Atlantic Ocean, the attempt to harvest it is foiled by an aquatic group under the leadership of a man called Namor.  Cue the action!
 
I can only imagine the difficulty it took to devise a sequel to the Oscar nominated “Black Panther” after the unexpected passing of actor Chadwick Boseman.  And while “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” has many of the elements that fans love it is missing one main ingredient.  Heart.  Instead of emotion, the film is an ongoing barrage of action scenes, with characters traveling all over the world to track down Namor (Tenoch Huerta).  Every familiar character, from Queen Ramona (the amazing Bassett) to her daughter, Princess Shuri (Wright) to the leader of Wakanda’s army, General Nakita (Nyong’o) battle the bad guys, with small bits of Martin Freeman and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss thrown in for some minor levity. 
 
A major problem with the film is the pacing.  Director Coogler has put together a film that is at least 30 minutes too long, as if he really didn’t know where to end it.  Also, the musical score sounds as if it were written for an entirely different film, with no subtlety in the quieter scenes while blaring in others, as if to say to the audience “hey, this is important!”  It feels like the producers weren’t sure about financing a stand-alone Submariner film so they kind of blended Namor’s story into this one. 
 
On the positive side, the performances are strong and the visual effects are outstanding.  But great effects do not always a great movie make – I’m looking at you, “Avatar” – and the humanity that Mr. Boseman brought to the title character is greatly missed.   

William Mark McCullough and Alexis Nelson discuss what it was like shooting A SAVANNAH HAUNTING in a real haunted house

William Mark McCullough and Alexis Nelson discussing what it was like shooting the movie A SAVANNAH HAUNTING in a real haunted house! A SAVANNAH HAUNTING delivers a dread-filled supernatural drama about a mother grappling with her guilt stemming from the tragic drowning of her youngest daughter. When the family moves to Savannah to distance themselves from the tragedy, the mother slowly grows to believe she is being haunted by her dead daughter.

If you are curious at all about this film, check out a quote from their website below, which should seal the deal: “With the sexy undertones of AMERICAN HORROR STORY; the creeping dread of THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and the slow descent into madness of THE SHINING, A SAVANNAH HAUNTING will resonate with audiences who enjoy a thoughtful supernatural thriller.”

Visit A SAVANNAH HAUNTING Official Website to find out how to watch the film and support indie horror: https://www.asavannahhaunting.com/

Rent / Purchase the A SAVANNAH HAUNTING ON iTunes! https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/a-s…

Film Review: “Terrifier 2”

If you enjoyed Damien Leone’s original “Terrifier” – then you’re in luck! “Terrifier 2” is the type of sequel where it feels like the director knows exactly what worked and didn’t work within their original film, and decides to double down on all the best parts. While “Terrifier 2” certainly has its fair share of bad performances and feels about ten minute over-long, it feels like an actual improvement over the first film in so many different ways. For starters, the original “Terrifier” is a perfectly enjoyable horror flick that is (rightfully, in my opinion) criticized for being completely light on plot and too reliant on its gnarly kills. Within the first twenty minutes of “Terrifier 2,” it’s apparent that Leone heard the criticisms and delivers a genuinely engaging protagonist within Sienna (Lauren LaVera) with a moderately compelling, emotional arc at her core. This won’t necessarily win any Oscars, but it’s nice to actually care about the characters this time around!

The film opens nearly exactly where its predecessor left off, with Art the Clown (played by the incredibly committed David Howard Thornton) terrorizing the coroner in a morgue. He soon sets off on a new quest for terrorizing more victims on Halloween, as Sienna and her brother (Elliot Fullam) are caught in the middle of all the carnage. The first thirty minutes are spent almost entirely setting up all the various supporting characters surrounded by the two leads, and the rest of the 138 minutes are a blood-bath that makes the first film seem tame in comparison. “Terrifier 2” is an acquired taste that still won’t satisfy all horror fans as it leans even further into torture-porn category than the original did, but you have to admire Leone’s commitment to furthering both his narrative and the extremes he can go-to with the kills Art the Clown can pull-off.

Another vast improvement here is the visual style and production design on display. The original “Terrifier” looked fine for a film of its budget, but one of the most striking things to me as this one began is that the cinematography is genuinely pretty impressive from the get-go. This is all due in-credit to DP Geroge Steuber, who also shot the first film. This advancement in style and change of pace within a more sporadic, popping production design and sets make for the horror to be all the more creative and creepy. Specifically, there’s a dream sequence near the beginning of the film where Art the Clown appears in Sienna’s dreams that is really impressive to watch and one of the more creative horror sequences that I’ve seen this year.

The original film was completely reliant on Art the Clown as a character and wasn’t focused on delivering much else, and it’s understandable as David Howard Thornton is absolutely magnetic and terrifying (no pun intended) in the role. But it is a refreshing change of pace to see him go against Sienna in this, who makes for a more than worthy adversary for Art. Lauren LaVera completely owns this role, and I could see her becoming an iconic final girl for the midnight-horror movie crowd as this is destined to become something of a cult-classic. The final set-piece that pits the two of them together made me desperately wish I saw this with a crowd! 

While “Terrifier 2” is far from the best horror movie I’ve seen this year, it’s easily the grossest and gnarliest – and I’m not easily squeamish. This type of horror usually isn’t my bag, but I have to admire its pure lunacy and commitment to grossing you out at every turn. It’s vastly entertaining, with a true vision behind the camera – and it makes me so happy to be a horror fan nowadays, being able to witness the renaissance we’re currently going through; creatives are truly expressing themselves in wild ways, and Damien Leone is no exception to this as he delivers an absolutely bonkers sequel that improves on the original in just about every way imaginable. And without spoiling it, make sure to watch throughout the credits to see a peak at how he plans to expand the “Terrifier” mythology even further! 

Exclusive Interview for TERRIFIER 2 with Damien Leone and David Howard Thornton aka Art the Clown!

MediaMikes had a chance to chat with writer/director Damien Leone and star David Howard Thornton of the new movie “Terrifier 2”, which will be in theaters on October 6, 2022 from Cinedigm in partnership with Iconic Events.

From Writer/Director Damien Leone (All Hallows’ Eve, Terrifier), the highly anticipated, ultra-gory slasher sequel Terrifier 2welcomes back David Howard Thornton as the demonic killer, Art the Clown, and introduces Lauren LaVera as Sienna, who is bound to become an instant fan favorite as the next Final Girl.  Also returning is Samantha Scaffidi who reprises her role as Victoria Heyes, with horror icon Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) and professional wrestler Chris Jericho also making appearances. 

SYNOPSIS: After being resurrected by a sinister entity, Art the Clown returns to the timid town of Miles County where he targets a teenage girl and her younger brother on Halloween night.

Film Review: Deadstream

Starring: Joseph Winter, Melanie Stone and Jason K. Wixom
Directed by: Joseph and Vanessa Winter
Rated: R
Running time: 87 minutes
Shudder

Up until recently I’ve shrugged off the found footage genre. During the 2000s I was blasted with advertisements of audiences watching the latest found footage film shrieking in terror with the ad assuring me that it’s the scariest film ever. While I can chalk that up to obnoxious and misleading advertising, the genre also suffered from several other things. For instance, screen distortions for cutaways, bothersome shaky cameras, predictable jump scares and flawed storytelling issues like, “Why is this being filmed? Why are they still recording?” My negative assumptions about the genre were thrown into an open grave in 2022 because of films like the surprisingly terrifying “Outwaters” and the journey into insanity, “Masking Threshold.” Now “Deadstream” has arrived with a shovel.

When we meet Shawn Ruddy (Winter), the host of the wildly popular Youtube show “Wrath of Shawn,” he’s attempting a comeback after being canceled. The practical joker, like a lot of real-life Youtubers, enjoys putting himself and others through crazy stunts like dog sledding in his underwear or crossing the Mexican border illegally in a trunk. The stunt that got him canceled though, he’s not upfront about. The stunt he’s going to do to put the woke mob at ease will be staying the night by himself in an abandoned Utah home known for paranormal activity simply referred to as the “Murder Manor.”

Shawn is ready to film and impress though. He has various cameras in tow that he sets up around the house, he removes spark plugs from his vehicle and locks himself in the house, and quite literally throws the key away. This is all to prevent himself, a self-professed scaredy cat, from escaping. I know you’re already thinking back to the first paragraph where I complained about found footage logic. But alas, “Deadstream” has a fantastic reason why Shawn is staying the night in a building with murder in it’s name. Money. To keep his few remaining advertisers happy, he is setting rules like investigating every ghostly sound or sight he encounters and allowing his advertisers to drop him like a sack of potatoes if he flees the premises.

Money aside, Shawn isn’t smart and is a legitimate coward. You think locking yourself in a home would be enough, but to completely immobilize your transportation to a home in remote Utah? Also, while deathly afraid of the unknown, he certainly doesn’t have any issues doing or saying things that might antagonize a ghost. He walks around with creepy Halloween music to play while he narrates the surroundings and stories about what haunts the Murder Manor. All that being said, Shawn is a real scummy individual, prioritizing profits and followers over his own well-being and those around him. So when the ghosts come out to play, we don’t necessarily feel sorry.

However, Winter, who not only plays Shawn, but directs and wrote the film with his wife, crafts Shawn to be oddly likable. His girly cries of terror made me laugh every time it happened and he manages to have a few agreeable jabs at the woke audience that has forced his hand. Given the circumstance, he does seem to channel the thoughts and reactions of an individual exploring the abandoned house of death. As someone who explores abandoned buildings on occasion, I’ve never explored a building that has death in its nickname, nor would I do it alone. It’s also obvious that the reason Shawn was canceled in the first place, continues to weigh on him consciously.

“Deadstream ” is what happens when the “Blair Witch Project” and “Evil Dead II” design a haunted house. The first third of the film has plenty of creepy moments and the inevitable jump scares that are more fun than annoying (he shrieks like a Kindergartener on a playground). The brisk first half of the film helps give way to a nightmarish funhouse bathed in blood and body parts as Shawn scrambles, fights and cries for safety. Funny moments range from the macabre ghouls that attack Shawn to Shawn interacting with the audience that’s watching on the livestream. Not only do they bait him into doing stupider things, but also remind him of his own fallacies as he begins to realize the direness of his situation. “Deadstream” is a fun found footage film that will make you laugh and cheer at the follies of an attention seeking Zoomer douchebag who deserves every ounce of terribleness heading his way.

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