19 Reviews
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Getting Grace (2017)
Have a Heart? Then, You'll GET GRACE!
2 February 2018
Veteran character actor Daniel Roebuck makes a stunning feature directorial debut with Getting Grace. And that's saying something. Not many artists can make a comedy about a girl dying of cancer, yet Roebuck totally pulls it off here. And, of course there are some heavy moments of drama that are tear-worthy here, but the comedic efforts of both Roebuck and his leading lady Madelyn Dundon playing the title character keep you smiling and laughing for the most part.

And, what a cast that Roebuck has put together here: Dundon shines in her first feature, but many other veterans of the big and small screen help form this top-notch team. Marsha Dietlein does a fine job, playing Venus, Grace's mother who does her best to love her daughter when she's not drinking to deal with it. Dana Ashbrook, perhaps best known for Twin Peaks, plays Ron a new-age author who takes Grace under his wing and into his heart.

But, perhaps the best of the supporting bunch is Duane Whitaker playing Reverend Osburn, a religious man who not only reads the Bible, but also peruses books like The Secret, as well. Seeing Whitaker, who's made a career out of playing heavies and villains - Is there a movie fan on the planet that DOESN'T remember him as Maynard in Pulp Fiction? - excel as the caring and intellectually open Reverend Osburn is refreshing. You can see how much he cares about Grace and in many ways learns from her.

But, the same could be said for Roebuck's Bill Jankowski, who has an interesting backstory of his own. I will not have any spoilers here as the film will take you in some different directions, captivating you as you get to know both Grace and Bill and see where their journey leads.

Director of Photography Cory Geryak's visuals will stun you and makes the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania a character in itself. And, without revealing, the ending has a great payoff.

The movie is quite unique in itself - you laugh half the time when you should be crying. But, again, there are moments that will make you tear up. And, in some ways this film reminded me of the Jon Turteltaub film Phenomenon starring John Travolta. Dundon's Grace brings much of the town together in the same way that Travolta's George Malley did. And, as a result, you will be hearing a lot more from Dundon, who has been singled out on the Festival Circuit for her efforts, including Best Actress at the Northeast Film Festival.

Not many filmmakers could have pulled this material off, but Roebuck certainly does. For anyone who has a heart, Getting Grace will be for you.
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Where there is Need, BE the ONE WHO ACTS (Potential spoilers)
16 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
This new offering from Writer-Director/Producer/Editor/Animator Scott Storm, the man who brought us the live-action feature "Ten 'Til Noon," will definitely tug at your heart strings. It also happens to make some wonderful points, too about our environment and our planet and the types of abuse we humans have inflicted on it.

The story of Thomas, a young boy, who is sentimental about both the people he loves and the planet he lives on. Pining after his childhood sweetheart, Sabine, Thomas wears a green hat that once belonged to his father. Living in poverty with his mother, Thomas takes pride in venturing off into the woods and protecting nature.

On his latest journey, he stumbles upon the title character, THE Apple Tree, with a lone apple hanging off its branches. He also discovers two punk rock thugs by the names of Luna and The Grizz, who threaten the safety of this Apple Tree and its surrounding area.

Thomas makes it his mission to clean up the bottles and other trash that pollute this area, and to ensure the safety of this Apple Tree, but can he do it before this duo returns?

The Apple Tree features a magnificent score by Joe Kraemer, and features some wonderful retro, vintage animation by Storm. This movie is beginning to get out there, and if you can catch it at a festival or a special screening, do so. You won't be disappointed.

In Storm's own words, "Where this is need, be the one who acts." See the film, and you will likely NOT take nature and all its magnificent beauty for granted ever again. It will also make you feel, and doesn't the best form of entertainment do just that?
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Trane and Miles (2013 Video)
Groovy Ride into the World of "Cool Jazz" with Trane and Miles ****Some Spoilers****
23 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Directed by Scott Essman, it would be an understatement to say I was more than pleasantly surprised with his latest offering, "TRANE AND MILES." You see, I am eclectic when it comes to music, though I am not the Jazz buff, nor music historian that Essman is. Yet, even with that being the case, I found his latest film to be both captivating and visional.

Essman manages to capture the look of April, 1959, with both the art direction and actual color-grading of the film. He draws upon that "smoky" look of the studio where two titans of the genre, John Coltrane and Miles Davis, gathered together for the birth of what's known as "Cool Jazz." The look and feel of the period is definite, with both the film's decor, and the wardrobe and hair of the principles, as well as the background blues that accompany the piece. Travis Hinson is very strong as Miles Davis, seemingly narrating this piece in an interview after his death. This unique approach works for the smoky period piece.

Rico Ross is equally adept at portraying John Coltrane, the other main cool cat, who helped carve out this Jazz niche. As the piece points out, it is based on the real-life story of Coltrane and Davis, but certain elements and dialog are fictionalized for the purposes of dramatization. And, while this is the norm with a real-life story, you get the idea that with Essman's knowledge of the subject-matter, along with his love and appreciation of their music, that not much is fictionalized.

In fact, the two characters are so forthright that they chat about everything from their own addictions, to the civil rights movement, to how everything is changing in regards to music, especially with Rock and Roll being there to stay. Indeed, Hinson's Davis announces, "We will to ... Music's got to evolve."

One thing's for certain: Essman's work has evolved - greatly. This is his best work to date, and that's telling it straight. As a filmmaker, fellow film buff, this film was interesting to me. For Jazz aficionados, this is a can't miss.

At one point, Coltrane asks Miles, "You think they'll get it?" in regards to their music. Miles simply answers, "They can see us ... they'll get it." That one line would best describe this film.

But, don't take my word for it. See it for yourself at a film festival or purchase the DVD and check it out ... or on digital download. I believe it's available. See it ... and you'll get it, as well.
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Tremendous Festival Film!! **Spoilers**
28 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Have seen this film now multiple times over various Film Festivals, and it is one of the most enjoyable and underrated Indie Films I've ever seen on the Festival Circuit.

Nicely helmed by Sloan Copeland, WET BEHIND THE EARS is a sweet comedy with a ton of heart. The coming of age comedy tells the story of Samantha Phelps (played nicely by Margaret Keane Williams, who co-wrote the story with Copeland), a - pun-intended - "wet behind the ears," college graduate in search of a job in advertising.

Her dream search quickly becomes a nightmare when she is unable to find an acceptable job and resorts to taking a gig at her friend Kim's parents' ice-cream store. This hampers her ability to go in on an apartment with her best friend Vicky (Jessica Piervicenti). As good as Williams is in this film, Piervicenti's performance practically steals the movie.

But, then again, Copeland gets the most out of a talented cast of unknowns that includes Michael Giese as Samantha's wisecracking, but cool-cat, brother and Doug Roland as Dean, Samantha's love-interest and resident movie bootlegger.

But, Copeland has done a wonderful job in picking the perfect cast for this film, and again, getting the most out of them. This film has played in a good amount of festivals already and from what I've seen is not slowing down. Catch it at a festival if you can, and if not, hopefully a release of some kind is imminent.

********* stars
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Curfew (I) (2012)
Shawn Christensen's CURFEW one of the BEST SHORT FILMS I'VE EVER SEEN! (Some SPOILERS)
11 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
One of my acquaintances had a short film in Tribeca in 2012 and I went to the "Menhattan" Block of shorts to see it. While I enjoyed it, it was there that I first discovered CURFEW - what an amazingly brilliant short! I also had the chance to meet and chat with Writer-Director/Lead Actor Shawn Christensen - such a talented individual. A Rennaissance man, if you will. He also wrote the music for the film.

The film opens up at a dark point with our lead character Richie, who has obvious suicidal tendencies and bouts with both drug-use and depression. At his lowest moment, he receives a phone-call from his sister, who is desperate - with nowhere else to turn - asking him to watch his niece Sophia.

Where the movie goes from there, I will let the viewer discover for themselves. However, Christensen, not only does a very good job portraying Richie, he manages to tell a full story in only 19 minutes - no easy feat! As the director, he also manages a nice mix between this heavy-handed drama with the perfect amount of humor blended in. It's a tightrope, but Christensen navigates it well.

Much kudos to the young Fatima Ptacek, who despite her young age, turns in a brilliant performance as Sophia, Riche's niece.

One thing that is a testament to Christensen is that this film NEVER runs into melodrama, but is the best kind of drama - the kind that forms a lump in your throat and brings a tear to your eye. Without seeming as if it's trying to, it does tug at your heartstrings.

I saw this film almost a year before it won the Academy Award, but I said it then and will say it again now: It was one of the BEST SHORT FILMS I'VE EVER SEEN! I told Shawn Christensen he was going to win the Academy Award and it was no surprise to me when it did.

And, I am anxiously awaiting his next masterpiece.
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The Ultimate Homage to GOODFELLAS
28 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Pure and simple, if you love Martin Scorsese's GOODFELLAS you will absolutely love NO, YOU AIN'T ALRIGHT. Auteur writer-director Michael Ringston shows his love for both Scorsese and his mob masterpiece that was nominated for six Academy Awards.

Without going into too much detail,the plot centers around Groom-to-be, Charlie (played nicely by Steve Abbott), who is informing his Best Man, Joe (Giuseppe Divita) that he found out his Bride-to-Be had an affair years earlier with a member of his wedding party. What does this have to do with GOODFELLAS? Well, watch this entertaining short, listen to the dialogue and find out.

The scene is also shot curiously like the scene between Robert DeNiro's Jimmy Conway and Ray Liotta's Henry Hill in the diner near the end of the film. So, there is that, also.

One other thing to look out for is a cute performance from the Waitress in the scene, played by Samantha Tuffarelli, a rising actress on the New York indie scene. Tuffarelli, who's had larger parts, uses this character as a brief, but entertaining, humorous and memorable turn.

All in all, if you get a chance to see this fun short at a film festival near you, I highly recommend it. And then, afterward, you can go home and get your shine box ... or just pop in your GOODFELLAS DVD, whichever you prefer.
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The Star Spangled Man With The Plan ;)
22 July 2011
Warning: Spoilers
I chose the humorous song from the movie as the title of my review, because truly this film had a plan. They stuck closely to the Cap's origin, and doing it as a period piece was the only plan that I believe would have worked.

The 1940s vibe will surround you as you watch the style, dress and politics of the period. The World's Fair-like event, headed by Howard Stark's Car of the Future. The enlistment posters.

The nostalgia that was that decade ... that time is a big part of this movie. Combine that with Chris Evans' convincing portrayal of Steve Rogers, the 90-pound weakling that wants so badly to help serve his country. Stanley Tucci's Dr. Abraham Erskine, builds a sweet friendship with Rogers, and his respect for the latter helps form the bond of who Captain America will become.

Then, there is Hayley Atwell, who as Agent Peggy Carter admires Rogers - even as the 90-pound weakling version - for his courage, his passion and most of all his character. There is more than an on-screen chemistry between Atwell and Evans, there is a believable, albeit tragic romance. Without revealing the end, I found myself feeling sympathetic towards these characters, as this was not your average, run-of-the-mill comic book movie.

Director Joe Johnston brings us another classic period fable in the vein of THE ROCKETEER, one of his earlier works. And screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely do a nice job capturing the vernacular of Rogers and his comrades. Erskine's line, "Stay who you are, not just a soldier, but a good man," is destined to go up there with Uncle Ben Parker's, "With great power, comes great responsibility." Johnston gets great performances from everyone involved including Oscar-Winner Tommy Lee Jones, and Sebastian Stan as a rebooted Buck, Cap's pal. Everything from the look of Cap's classic costume, to the shield being a character in itself, just adds to this period classic. The action sequences are not only top-notch, but interesting and do help to advance the story. And, then there is Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull. Awesome.

Without revealing just how, the movie opens and closes in a TITANIC-like fashion, and I truly enjoyed the way it was presented. Truly this film, did have a plan, and I for one, love it when a plan comes together. ;)
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Powerful Short Film **** POSSIBLE SPOILERS****
10 December 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I had the fortune of having my award-winning film play in the 2009 Central Florida Film Festival the same year as this wonderful short, which was nominated for BEST SHORT FILM in the festival. If I had my druthers, it would have won BEST SHORT FILM! Without giving too much away, the film tells the story of Jacob, the older version of which is played nicely by Wouter Kan, who upon seeing a flower on one Spring day recalls the love he still has in his heart for his mother, portrayed angelically by Chantal Demming. This is all I will give away for the plot, and if you think it sounds simple, it's deeper.

The film, to me, represents how strong any kind of love bond can be, but certainly the bond between a boy and his mother. Too often the case in real life, we don't appreciate our mothers until it's too late. But the spirit behind this short subject, the wonderful cinematography and the fine acting all help to make for a completely satisfying viewing experience. Much kudos to Producer Lou Hamburger for helping to put together this poignant and profound project.

I only hope they take my advice and find a way to get this film on DVD here in the U.S. I would be honored to purchase the first copy!
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The Fare (1999)
The Fare is well worth the cost to ride .... **SPOILERS**
21 April 2009

I was fortunate enough to see this film recently, as I have worked with one of the key people involved, and watching it with an unbiased opinion, it was one of the more interesting short films I have ever seen - and I have seen my share.

The premise, is just like the title, a new Fare for a cab driver, however this is no ordinary Fare - and no I won't give too much away. All I will say is that the small girl - played amazingly by a then eight-year-old ?? Robin Anne Phipps - conveys things that most child actors are not able to convey, save for maybe Dakota Fanning. And it's apparent from the very first frame, that there is some mystery surrounding this little girl and her young sleepy brother. We are almost sharing the perspective with the cab driver in a way - trying to figure out just who these two kids are?

That part I won't reveal, as that is the crux of the mystery itself, but I will say that the two things that truly make this film, 'special,' are the acting of Phipps juxtaposed with both the well-written script by Neil Every - which I happen to know took an award during its Festival run - and his masterful direction. As a filmmaker myself, I do appreciate interesting shots and choices, and Every gives us just that. Even the opening - quick flashes of a train arriving, which is carrying the two lead children - and opening-title sequence gets us ready for the ride of our life.

And Phipps provides us with a real, 'CHILDREN OF THE CORN,' moment right before we arrive at our destination, and there is suddenly something both creepy and surreal about her, though I will leave that moment up to the viewer to discover.

I also will NOT reveal anything else regarding the end of the film, as not to spoil someone else's journey. I will, however, say listen to the end title credits for some amazing bits of dialog from both Phipps and Thomas Miller, playing the aforementioned brother, that certainly add to the storyline. Bravo to Every for choosing to run these snippets of dialog in the closing titles - they DO add much to the story. And Bravo to Phipps and the small cast of this interesting award-winning short.

If anyone has a chance, I highly recommend it. If nothing else, it will certainly take you on a strange ride and an amazing cinematic journey.
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Waitress (2007)
A great legacy by any standards ... SMALL SPOILERS
30 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
WAITRESS is a very frustrating movie in many ways; frustrating because it flashes the talent of writer-director - and supporting actress - Adrienne Shelly. Frustrating because it is her last film. Frustrating because critics will inevitably use Shelly's untimely death as a reason why so many people will take to this sweet modern-day fairy tale.

But, in truth, WAITRESS is one of the best films of the year; and one that can stand on its own merit. Now, that's a great legacy by any standards.

Shelly's film tells the tale of Jenna, a Southern waitress trapped in an unhappy marriage, with a pension for making unusual, yet tasty pies that reflect her current mood. As she dreams of escaping her abusive husband, Earl, played by Jeremy Sisto, she discovers an unwanted pregnancy.

THIS one event will set into motion a series of changes in her life, starting with her new physician, Dr. Pomatter, played nicely by Nathan Fillion. There is an immediate chemistry between the two and it only serves to make this film even better. A relationship develops between the two married parties, and Jenna begins to dream of escaping to a much better life.

There is also some great wit and banter between Russell and Andy Griffith, portraying Old Joe, the pie shop's ornery owner. And some terrific exchanges between Russell's Jenna and her co-workers Becky (Cheryl Hines of HBO's CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM) and Dawn (played perfectly by the auteur Shelly).

Some reviewers have unfairly criticized the ending, of which I won't give away, however, I will say that movies are an escape, and chances are you will exit this particular movie feeling very good.

A pretty good escape. A very good film. And a great legacy for Shelly, by any standards.
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Feast (2005)
A virtual FEAST for Horror Fans .........
25 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
For those reviewers who are trying to pick apart FEAST as if it were CITIZEN KANE, certainly no film other than the latter would hold up under that kind of scrutiny. However, horror films, exploitation films and most actions films should not be reviewed the same way. They are genre films and they are meant to evoke certain emotions and please a certain audience. And, quite frankly, FEAST does just that.

It's a virtual feast of gore for horror fans, if you will.

But, this film has humor and entertainment value way beyond the gore. The characters are presented and introduced in such a way that makes the film much more interesting. And the thing about the gore is it's exactly as it should be in some scenes - way over the top. This film really could be considered the CITIZEN KANE of splatter comedies. Much like SLITHER, it does the job.

The acting is top notch, for the most part - I wasn't overly impressed with the first lead Navi Rawatt, however, Krista Allen did an admirable job. The monsters created by Gary J. Tunnicliffe evoked enough creepiness and John Gulager did an excellent job helming the film. He should receive plenty more offers to direct after this one.

Now, if you missed the extremely short limited theatrical release the movie received - quite unfairly in fact - and you want to check this out on DVD (and you should!), keep this in mind: FEAST should not be reviewed or picked apart as if it were CITIZEN KANE, because it's not. It's an enjoyable horror film, though again, perhaps you could call it the CITIZEN KANE of splatter comedies!
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The Old Bait and Switch ...
16 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Remember the old 'Bait and Switch' routine. They get you into the store looking to buy one thing, and then they sell you another? Well, that's exactly what will happen if you go to see THE BLACK DAHLIA expecting some semblance of truth, reality or even a movie about the murder of Elizabeth Short.

In reality, this film is more of an L.A. Confidential copycat impostor than it is a retelling of the grisliest murder in Los Angeles history. The mood of the film does not in any way convey just how horrified the city of Los Angeles was by this grisly and unthinkable crime. In fact, the murder and Short's story is little more than an afterthought, a sort of back story, side-plot to the real nonsense that takes place for more than two hours on the screen.

As someone who has some knowledge of these murders, from books, web-sites, documentaries and yes, even an E-True Hollywood Story; this film adds nothing new, and actually blatantly makes things up.

As I said the murder is nothing more than a backdrop for several fictional characters. The film even goes so far as to 'invent' a killer, and the ending should be the poster ending for anti-climactic endings.

And, when the body is discovered and the Police Chief played by Mike Starr is talking about keeping the pertinent facts out of the paper, he neglects to mention that the body of the victim is severed in two pieces. You'd think it would be the first thing he would say.

But, then again, you'd think this movie would be about L.A.'s most terrible unsolved crime, the gruesome murder of Elizabeth Short. In reality, it has very little to do with that. It's more of an attempt at very bad film noir.

Elizabeth Short deserved better than to have the old 'Bait and Switch' routine pulled on her story. And so does the viewer.
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This is one movie where THE END justifies THE MEANS (SPOILERS!)
25 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Let's get it out in the open: Yes, this is a remake of a very famous Wes Craven film.

Yes, remakes by definition, are almost always inferior to the original.

Yes, I don't usually like remakes.

And, yes, this is typical slasher/horror gore thriller.

That being said, this is a very entertaining movie. And, certainly, one movie, in which THE END justifies THE MEANS!!! The first 20 minutes or so, you get much what you would expect from this type of remake horror, however, after that, the rest of the movie is filmed in such a high-adrenaline, bloody, way, that you truly get a payoff once the main characters begin fighting back.

Certainly it seems like a formulaic premise, but yet, it still gives the audience a payoff. Forget about serious film-goers, and others that may work in the industry, I saw the film with a regular audience, and their cheers - and screams - seemed to echo what I am writing here and now.

See it, and see if you agree with me. And what have you got to lose - other than your lunch, should you be faint of heart - by going to see it? It's certainly worth the price of admission.

And, I think you will agree that THE END, justifies THE MEANS.
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Alchemy (I) (2005)
Cute, funny movie
16 November 2005
Just returned from the Annapolis Film Festival and I came here to comment on ALCHEMY, the opening night film that seemed to go over really well at the Festival. As I got to IMDb, I was surprised to see so many bad reviews, however, I think most people judge things much too harshly these days. After all, this is a romantic comedy, not exactly a genre meant to break new ground in film. But rather, one that is purely meant to entertain.

And, IMHO, this film does just that. It entertains. It's a cute, funny movie, and worth seeing. Heck, it's worth seeing if only for the performance of Sarah Chalke, who brought a realism and believability to the romance. See the film, and you WILL know what I mean.

So often, in lower budget films the acting can be a major weakness, but here, it's a major strength. And in my opinion, none was better than Chalke, who I couldn't quite place where I recognized her from. There was a Q&A afterward, and the director reminded me that Miss Chalke is on SCRUBS. Overall, I really enjoyed this romantic comedy, so much so, that I will be looking for it again on ABC Family Channel.

After all, it does what it's supposed to do: entertain the viewer!
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Fear of Clowns (2004 Video)
Is Kevin Kangas the next great horror director?
16 November 2005
I recently returned from the Annapolis Film Festival, where my film was showing. While at the Festival, however, when checking the schedule, there was one film that interested me - FEAR OF CLOWNS.

I was able to see this fun, creepy film, one that I would describe as SCREAM meets HALLOWEEN. But, instead of Michael Myers there is a Killer Clown - no pun intended - terrorizing the main character.

But, what really impressed me about this film was the director, who utilized all his strengths and got the most out of the weaknesses of the movie. His name is Kevin Kangas and I was fortunate enough to speak with him afterward, and we shared a few filmmaker tales. Could he be the next great horror director? Well, his film was picked up by LIONS GATE - as you can see here on IMDb - and he is already working on a sequel. He is a stand-up guy, and a very talented director.

Rather than just summarize the film - I think most people would prefer to go into it knowing nothing - I just say that it is very entertaining and worth it for Kangas' direction. I am interested in seeing his next TWO films, to see the evolution of someone who just may be the next great horror director.

But, don't take my word for it - See for yourself. This guy is going places.
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Be Cool (2005)
Chilly is back and Cooler than ever!
4 March 2005
Working in the industry, I was fortunate enough to go to an early screening of this film, and despite all the buildup, I was not disappointed. For those that have been jumping to conclusions about the possible merits - and lack thereof - of this film, don't.


This film was a more than ample sequel to Barry Sonnenfeld's 1995 hit GET SHORTY. Certainly, it's not without its flaws, but the payoffs far outweigh the former. The jokes are still funny, the pace is still fast and the characters are still colorful. But, most of all, you get John Travolta at his very best.

Don't dispute, just BE COOL.

His performance in this solidifies the Chilly Palmer character as another great cinematic hero - forgive the pun!! In Travolta's own words, Chilly is the American answer to James Bond. There's also a fine cast with nice turns by The Rock - in what is unquestionably his best acting performance, showing nice range - and Vince Vaughn, who is laugh-out loud funny.

There was also a very nice chemistry between Travolta and Uma Thurman. So, stop worrying about sequels living up to their originals, go see this film and just ... BE COOL.
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A throwback in the tradition of the classics ...
15 September 2004
Whatever happened to the classics? That's what I always hear from true movie connoisseurs. Well with the DVD release of Mark Redfield's version of DR. JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (Alpha Video), we have a new-age classic ... a throwback if you will. I myself, had the good fortune to see a screening of it in Baltimore over a year ago, and I left the theater feeling invigorated.

Redfield and fellow producer/writer Stuart Voytilla tell this tale, quite frankly, the way that Robert Louis Stevenson, would have told it, through the medium of film. Shot in classic locations, with an extremely high production value for the budget it was shot on, the film is technically superior.

And Redfield shows a real screen presence in the dual title roles, not to mention that his direction adds a little something to it. He also throws in a little FRANKENSTEIN-type undertones about man-playing-God and it really works in the picture. I don't want to give anything away, so I would leave the onus on classic film fans and fans of the horror genre alike to check this movie out.

While it may not pack the 'typical' Hollywood cast - which is about the only bad thing I can say about it - it does not disappoint in the delivery. But, hey, don't take my word for it. If you're a movie connoisseur, see it for yourself.

And hopefully, it can provide an answer to your long-standing question: 'whatever happened to the classics?' That's because it's a new-age classic, a throwback if you will ... one worthy of investing the small fee to buy it or rent it.
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Thou shalt LOVE the B-Movie!
6 September 2004
As a writer and a filmmaker myself, I try not to be ultra-critical when you consider all of the elements that go into making a film. When viewing this one, I quickly realized that John Benjamin Martin's script didn't have the same quality of writing of a William Goldman script, and for the most part it certainly lacked the dialogue of a Quentin Tarantino ... or even a Jon Favreau script, for that matter. But, if you're looking for a semi-fun, serviceable B-thriller, this will do fine. In fact, it's the perfect Friday Midnight Movie when you just want to veg-out with a BIG tub of buttered popcorn!

In fact, a little over four years ago, a similar film - WHAT LIES BENEATH - was released starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Harrison Ford. Was it a better movie? Sure, but not that much better when you consider all of the variables involved: HOUSE NEXT DOOR was made with a lot less dough than WHAT LIES BENEATH was. And HND certainly lacked both the A-list stars and the BIG-Studio backing of 20th Century Fox and Dreamworks. In fact, I would go so far as to say that director Joey Travolta did the best he could with what was given him.

And one of the things given him in this film is a fine performance by James Russo, who is at his utmost-creepiest, playing Carl Schmidt, the next door neighbor of Lori Peterson (played by A.J. Cook). Russo's performance - along with Travolta's direction - actually makes this film not only watchable, but enjoyable as a "guilty pleasure." As does the performance of Sean Young, who also does the most she can with the supporting role of Monica, Peterson's long-time friend. It's priceless to hear her utter lines such as, "It's crazy - I mean like get in the car and move to Arizona crazy!" Frederic Forrest, who garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination in 1980 for his performance in THE ROSE, also lends credibility to the cast.

And again, I felt Travolta's direction, which seems to get better with each new film, helps to offset the movie's notoriously low budget.

As was the case with WHAT LIES BENEATH several years back, THIS film is filled with the obvious cheap thrills you'd expect from a movie of this nature, but again, that's part of the reason that makes THIS the perfect Friday Midnight Movie!
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We still need Tragic Heroes
20 July 2004
As an upstanding member of the cinematic community here in the Empire State, I was able to attend a special screening of this film in the Tribeca Film Center in New York City. While the film itself may not cure cancer, cancer DOES play a large role in it.

But mostly it's about life and its Tragic Heroes. What makes some of us run and hide from our past and our problems, while others are willing to face them head on and live life to the fullest - Let Life IN, so to speak. (Okay, okay, bad pun!!)

But seriously, as a filmmaker, I have to respect any independent filmmaker, especially those that get the most out of their low budgets, and that's what I came out of this film thinking. There is a lot of good in it, and perhaps just a little bad, but when you consider the type of budget they had to work with, it might be a miracle that writer-director Steven Creazzo was able to get his film made.

He gets the most out of his cast of young newcomers, and the young actress that played the lead was very good. There is also a lot of music by a singer that sounds suspiciously like Sheryl Crow, though, a quick review of the end credits revealed it wasn't Sheryl! Still for a few minutes, I was fooled! (See the film and you will quickly know what I mean!)

But back to that whole theme of Tragic Heroes. In this film, we quickly learn that the heroin is in remission for Cancer. And while there is a certain level of cornball cheese for the softy in all of us, it is tempered by Hitchock's old lesson .... Suspense versus Mystery. And, it's certainly no mystery that the suspense involved here is that while the heroin begins a new assignment working for a recluse writer (and I can assure you there are plenty of those in the business!!) we can predict the two will opposites will attract easier than if they were in the Paula Abdul song. Still, that suspense revolves around that terrible villain from the beginning that we are just waiting to rear its ugly head. Yes, I'm talking about the girl's cancer.

Now, while Cancer is a very sad and serious subject, there is a lot of positive in this film, not the least of which is that an indie filmmaker was able to get this made despite the lack of any mutants, maniacs or curse words. Again, while I won't sugar coat it, there is a certain level of cheese, it is tempered by the harsh reality of this story, and lack of a Hollywood ending.

Yet, this film covered as much ground as DYING YOUNG, of which I also really liked. It certainly had similarities to it, only the situation is reversed. The eventual Tragic Hero is working for the employer rather than the opposite. And it made me realize something:

We need these Tragic Heroes in cinema, almost as much as we do in life.
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