Category Archives: Movie Reviews
Better late than never I suppose. Especially when you consider that when the artsy, independent horror film “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006, George W. Bush was still President.
But thanks to poor test screenings, distributor cash flow problems and bankruptcy, the film never made a big enough splash to warrant a more wide spread showing and instead wound up collecting dust for the next seven years until finally getting a proper release here in the U.S. on Dec 3rd.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” follows the same format of most horror/slasher films we’ve become accustomed to: a young, virginal Mandy Lane (Amber Heard) is a high-school student who goes off to a remote ranch to party with a much rowdier bunch of kids that includes the jock (Luke Grimes), the sensitive guy (Edwin Hodge), the stoner (Aaron Himelstein), and two sexy, albeit air-headed beauties (Melissa Price & Whitney Able). The addition of a mysterious ranch hand (Anson Mount) popping up at the strangest of times only adds to the tension.
All of the guys are so focused on getting with Mandy that no one really notices that some of them have gone missing until it’s too late. That’s when the bloody truth emerges.
In addition to witnessing the demise of the film’s characters, old school slasher film fans will find plenty of other meat on the bone with “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane”. Whether its the recreational drug use, gratuitous sexual encounters and truth or dare or asking the question of who is really out there in the darkness. Artsy fans will marvel at many of the techniques director Jonathan Levine and cinematographer Darren Genet employed during the filming process.
But for me, what separates this film from the standard ho-hum fare of serial killer pablum was the cool little twist that’s engaged halfway through the film. I’ve seen plenty of Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger “adventures” over the years, but have to admit this was something I certainly wasn’t expecting, and it changed the viewing dynamic for the better.
“All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is Lane’s first leading role as well as Levine’s directorial debut. He’s since gone on to make a name for himself with films like “The Wackness,”and “50/50”. Not bad for a director who’s first film took seven years and two Presidents to see the light of day.
In my view, any filmmaker who invests a substantial amount of time and money into a project should be able to see a proper release of the finished product. While this film is certainly not for everyone, “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane” is one fans of the genre will find was well worth the wait. (Three Stars)
Following the recent U.S. economic downturn, actor Paul Blackthorne (along with photographer and friend, Mister Basquali) decided to embark on a cross-country road trip deep into the heart of the American landscape.
Along the way, they stopped to interview random people about the issues and concerns facing every day Americans to try to gauge what society can do to pull together when times are tough.
The resulting documentary, “This American Journey” is an encouraging, insightful look into the unbreakable will of the American spirit.
Regardless of what we may have been brought up to believe through our own socioeconomic backgrounds and biases, “This American Journey” reveals the unique perspective that lies within each of us. It’s the showcasing of those opinions regarding what’s right and wrong with America that makes the documentary so compelling and engaging.
As an actor, Paul Blackthorne has appeared on some of television’s most iconic series, including “24″, “ER” and most recently, as Detective Quentin Lance on the CW hit series “Arrow”. But it’s his directorial debut in “This American Journey” that adds a fresh layer of inspiration to an already impressive resume.
There are moments in the film that are uplifting, while others will surely move you to tears. You’ll hear perspectives of common folks from all walks of life; many of whom having ideas that may make you reconsider your own way of thinking.
But in the end, the real reason “This American Journey” shines is because it makes you think. And perhaps that’s what Blackthorne had in mind all along when he set out on his cross-country quest.
I spoke with him about his journey across America and what satisfied him the most about it.
What made you decide to take on a project like this?
Shortly after the economic down turn, I became curious about what the people of America were thinking about the country. At the time, the American Dream was in a troubled state, and even I wasn’t sure how I was feeling about America (having always loved it since I was a kid). I decided that the best way for me to form an opinion on how I felt about America was to go out and speak to the people of America. So that’s what we did. We got on the road and had a great chat with a lot of wonderful people.
Did you go into it having an opinion of the people you were likely to meet?
It’s easy to judge a book by its cover, but if you take the time to actually open the book and read a few words inside, there’s a lot more to it than what you originally thought. As we drove across the country and met people in certain places sure, it would have been easy to form an opinion of what someone might be like. But once we had the chance to actually listen to them and really get a sense of their character, we were amazed.
Did you at any time during the course of your journey fear for your own safety?
There was one neighborhood we visited in a big city where we had to make a pretty hasty departure, but generally speaking everyone we met was very open and receptive to us and we were received very positively.
What satisfies you the most about “This American Journey”?
Getting the film completed was very challenging, but we were supported by a lot of incredibly skilled people and that was very rewarding. Seeing the audience’s reaction to the film and the conversations that are generated from watching it is also very satisfying.
We went into it wanting to make a film that would make us all feel good about life and be inspired to dwell on the positive and as a result, hopefully generate more positive stuff. And that’s what we’ve done.
Has your own perspective of America changed now that you’ve completed the journey?
I feel very positive about America. We may be going though some tough times, but the American Spirit is in good shape. I’ve also learned that we have a lot more in common with each other than we have different. If we choose to dwell on the positive and look out for each other a little bit more, we’ve got a greater chance of getting out of difficult times. We’re all in this together, so let’s work together and focus on the important things we have in common.
For more information about “This American Journey” Click Here
In Ambushed, agents Maxwell (Dolph Lundgren) and Beverly (Carly Jones) are closing in on an international cocaine smuggling operation that’s being run by criminal mastermind Vincent Camastra (Vinnie Jones). But when Beverly goes undercover with mid-level drug dealers Eddie and Frank (Gianni Capaldi and Daniel Bonjour, respectively) she finds herself in deeper then she can handle. The case then becomes personal for Maxwell who has to combat ruthless killers and a dirty cop (Randy Couture) in an all-out action filled finale.
Ambushed is told from the point of view of Eddie and Frank; two seedy guys who want nothing more than to become bigger players in the game. But their quest for glory goes awry and in the process sets off a murderous series of events.
Couture plays crooked detective Jack Reiley, an officer disgruntled with the current state of the LA system who decides to strong-arm his way into the drug business for a fast pay-day and early retirement. Meanwhile, Lundren plays DEA agent Maxwell, a man who’s seen his own share of destruction, but has kept his path on the straight and narrow.
What I didn’t like: Although the context of the story certainly gives a general indication, my biggest complaint with Ambushed was the lack of a definable plot and difficulty in determining just who the actual “bad guy” really is. Is it Eddie and Frank? The criminal mastermind, Vincent? Or is it the dirty cop, Jack? The film leads you in many different directions, none of which making any real sense. In fact, many of the scenes through out the film appear to have either been rushed or leave you just scratching your head. For instance, there’s a chase scene between Lundgren and Couture’s characters that initially begins on foot in broad daylight, but ends with Lundgren catching Couture long after dark in the pouring down rain.
What I did like: I enjoyed watching Lundgren and Couture’s characters develop over the course of the film. Let’s face it, both of these guys are already giants of “bad ass”, so it was no surprise that it was only a matter of time before they faced off against each other.
There’s also a scene where Eddie and Frank are bantering on about the violence in a Bugs Bunny cartoon that I thought was terrific. While Eddie’s describing the animated scene in detail, a real-life violent confrontation is playing out at the exact same time across town. It’s a pity the rest of the film didn’t follow through with this kind of formula.
Lundgren fans will certainly find something to savor with Ambushed, but for me the film came up empty. Although living up to the title’s expectation, I ended up feeling incomplete and wanting more. (Two of Five Stars)
I’ve read quite a few mixed reviews of Rob Zombie’s latest release, “The Lords of Salem”; most of which have either applauded the director for taking a chance on a story about the Salem witches, or berating him for a weak script, uninspired character development and a theatrical plot that seems to go no where.
Having now seen it for myself, I can concur with the latter’s assessment.
The Lords of Salem is Zombie’s third horror film [OK, actually it's his fifth, but I refuse to count any attempt at remaking the two original Halloween movies]. And whereas Zombie used “House of 1000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” to showcase more of the carnage and body count, he takes a more methodical, artistic approach with “The Lords of Salem”.
Local D.J and recovering addict Heidi Hawthorne (Zombie’s real wife, Sherri Moon Zombie) receives a mysterious package at the radio station from a band calling themselves..(wait for it).. “The Lords.” When played on air, the record’s atonal melody evokes a strange response from Heidi and a certain female segment of the listening audience; summoning long-slumbering witches of Salem and drawing them to the only living descendent of their eternal enemy, the Reverend John Hawthorne. Someone who just happens to be…. Yep, you’re right again! Heidi Hawthorne!
Meanwhile, local historian and author Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) makes a guest appearance on Heidi’s radio show and begins to notice an odd connection between Heidi, the “Lords” record and the history of the town. His investigation leads him to visit Heidi at her apartment building where he encounters a trio of strange women (Judy Geeson, Dee Wallace and Patricia Quinn) who have taken an interest in protecting Heidi. It’s then when things really start to get out of the frying pan and into the fire.
If you’re into a witch coven returning from the 17th century to raise the prince of darkness, you’ve certainly come to the right place. The Lords of Salem is filled with shocking imagery; including some nudity that should not be seen by the human eye. Thankfully (as seems to be the case in every one of his movies) we do get the gratuitous shot of Zombie’s wife’s bare backside to balance things out.
Zombie has described “The Lords of Salem” as what it would be like if Ken Russell directed “The Shining” and indeed, there are elements of this scattered throughout the film, along with a haunting orchestral score.
Although I do have to join the chorus and poo poo him for a weak, cliché script and blase characters, I applaud Zombie for taking the mindless hack and slash out of horror and replacing it with elements of art. I wasn’t so much scared watching “The Lords of Salem” as I was disturbed. And perhaps that’s what the director really had in mind in the first place.
(2 1/2 stars out of 5)
One of the things I enjoy most about independent films is the fact that everyone from cast to crew really puts their heart and soul into their performances. These productions don’t have the luxury of a big budget studio behind them, so everyone takes it upon themselves to personally deliver the best film experience possible. It’s that passion for story telling that translates well across the screen to the viewer, and such is the case with Dragon Day.
Dragon Day is writer/director Jeffrey Travis’ first feature-length film and tells the story of Duke Evans (Ethan Flower); a former NSA engineer who must fight to save his wife and daughter from despair following a deadly Chinese cyber attack on the United States. One that renders all “Made in China” computer chips useless.
Stories about end of days and world shattering scenarios aren’t at all that far-fetched, and Flower’s performance in Dragon Day not only keeps you on the edge of your seat, but also makes you believe in the impossible. In a world where we mindlessly go about our daily lives believing everything is copacetic, it’s nice to be reminded (thankfully, from a fictional standpoint) that we’re all still vulnerable.
Dragon Day stars Ethan Flower, Osa Wallander, Jenn Gotzon, Eloy Méndez and Hope Laubach. I spoke with Flower about Dragon Day, conspiracy theories and what’s next for the rising actor.
What was it about the script that attracted you to this role?
I was fascinated with the storyline and the idea of a man trying to save his family from a cyber attack after social collapse. I’m also a bit of a conspiracy theorist and for years have been well aware (even before it came out in the news) that the NSA had the power to track and listen in on everything we say or access the recordings if they want to.
With all of the debt crisis negotiations going on and talk of a government shutdown in Congress, a story about China launching a cyber attack to take back America because we owe them money is not at all that unrealistic. Everything we do every day is connected to the Internet; financially, electronically, even our water works. If we could do it to them via Stuxnet, they certainly could do it to us.
A lot of people might say “Oh, that can’t be possible”, but EMP (electro-magnetic pulses) can be sent through cell towers as “still pulses” and can essentially kill anything electronic. When an EMP gets sent, everything gets shut down. So, it’s not like they need to have a secret code inside of every single chip. They just have to get it into enough chips to send the kill posts to the cell towers. That’s the program my character writes at the NSA before he gets fired.
Tell me a little more about your character, Duke Evans.
Duke is an ex-NSA contractor who has written a program that gets taken from him. He’s the ultimate hero who has faults and makes some bad decisions, but ultimately is only trying to save his family from this disaster. One of the things I loved about my character was that in the beginning he says that he doesn’t believe in using a weapon to safeguard his family, but through the course of the film is confronted with a life or death situation and decides to get the gun. He quickly changes into a man willing to do anything he can to save those he loves.
What was the filming process like?
It was intense. We filmed most of it in a great town called Wrightwood, California and everyone there was amazing. Jen Gotzon (Rachel) is the consummate professional. She’s a very dedicated actress. Osa Wallander (Leslie) was phenomenal and it was an honor for me to work across from her and build a chemistry of a family who’s having problems. Eloy Méndez (Alonso) was also great. He’s an interesting actor who adds a strong, simple quality to his work. You just can’t take your eyes off of him. I also loved working with my “daughter”, Hope Laubach (Emma). She’s a new actress, but some of the scenes where we had to show a lot of emotion were very touching.
Tell me a little about your next project, “Spoils of Babylon”.
That was another amazing experience. It’s a television mini-series for IFC. I play a British civilian who sort-of rewrites history with Tobey Maguire. The scene I did was unlike anything I’ve done before and I’m very excited about it.
What did you enjoy most about your Dragon Day experience?
Dealing with people who truly love what they’re doing. You could see it in every meeting you took and could feel it in the writing. The story itself is so interesting and one that hasn’t really been told before. I think when you’re dealing with people who are so passionate about a project, it makes it very easy to dive in and give it your all.
Dragon Day will screen as part of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and be released in select cities on November 1st. The film will also be available for download and Video On Demand.
Two-time Emmy award winner Cady McClain is proving she’s much more than an actress. Although best known for her roles on the soap operas “All My Children” and “As the World Turns” McClain just completed her first short-film; one in which she took on the roles of writer, producer and director.
McClain’s film (and her directorial debut), Flip Fantasia is a dark comedy set in New York City about four guys and their relationship to a dead girl.
Although hilariously comical at times, the film strikes a nerve when you look past the humor and the giant cheese puffs. McClain takes innocent, urban people and creates a situation where they are suddenly faced with hardcore reality, all while posing the question to the audience: “What part of this is a result of the characters not paying attention? How much of it is about love, and what part is about denial?” The themes run deep.
McClain’s short film is about life, death and flawed people. But mostly, it’s a story about love and the emotional process of letting go.
Flip Fantasia stars Christopher Gabriel Nunez, Julie Lucas, Eden Marryshow, Clinton Lowe, and Gil Zabarsky,
I spoke with Cady McClain about Flip Fantasia as well as what she has in store for the future.
What made you decide to undertake this project?
I’ve always had an eye towards multidimensional work. Back in the 90′s I wrote a play that I produced and co-directed and it was one of the greatest artistic experiences of my life. Christopher (Gabriel Nunez, who stars in the movie) is also a playwright and I recently started acting in his plays. He has this amazing energy that just revitalized me and gave me the strength to go back and make something that really matters and to put my vision out there. I’m really grateful for that support.
How did you come up with the idea for Flip Fantasia?
I’ve been jotting down ideas for years and sometimes stories will just pop into my head. Over the years, I’ve had an enormous amount of therapy in my personal life and one day was walking through Central Park thinking I had so much baggage that it sometimes felt as though I was carrying around a dead body. Then I started to laugh at the picture of some young guy walking through the park dragging this girl around, propping her up on a park bench at lunch, just unable to let go.
What was the casting process like?
I originally wrote the story back in 2011 and did a Skype reading with Chris and a few other NYU student actors. When Chris came around again this year, he asked me about the movie and making it happen. He told me that he had a few actors in mind that he had always wanted to work with. Once we did another Skype reading, I knew immediately that it would work!
Did you notice any differences or challenges being a female in complete control of a production rather than being an actress?
It was a big step forward into big shoes, but I never saw myself as being a woman in a position of authority. I think because I don’t treat people differently (whether they’re male or female) and don’t expect people to treat me any differently, I’m setting that environment. In the end though, all of that doesn’t really matter. All I want is to get to the good work.
Why did you decide to go the online route with releasing Flip Fantasia?
Over the last few years, I’ve been really busy a lot online. I have a dialog with a lot of people who have been very supportive of me, so I wanted to give this as a gift to them. The other reason is that since most people know me mostly as an actress on soap operas, they may not think much of it. Doing it this way helps people see that I’m a not just an actress, I’m a story-teller. Sometimes you have to prove yourself in this world.
What have you learned from this experience?
Producing is challenging and it’s also very important to be organized. Another thing I’ve learned by taking on these multiple roles (producer, director, and writer) is that it gives you more respect for the job that everyone does. Everyone’s job is important.
On a personal satisfaction level, how does completing Flip Fantasia compare to some of your other projects?
I’m just as exhausted [laughs], but it’s a similar deep, quiet pleasure. The most fun of all is being on set or in the studio. The actual process of creating is the fun part. It’s a blessing to be able to do it.
What’s next for you?
We start shooting a brand new short film in October called “The World of Fuh”. It’s about a professor named Albert Fuh who falls in love with a balloon [laughs]. I’ve always been a huge fan of short stories and think shorts have a unique place in the entertainment world. The good ones always tend to linger with you the longest.
John Carpenter’s Halloween is the scariest movie ever made. I know, that’s a bold statement for someone like me to make, but one that’s nonetheless appropriate.
For those who’ve been living under a rock for the past thirty-five Octobers, Halloween tells the story of Michael Myers; a psychotic murderer whose been institutionalized since childhood for the murder of his sister.
Fifteen years after his initial confinement, Myers manages to escape the institution and begins stalking bookish teenage girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends while his doctor Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) chases him through the streets of his hometown.
From the opening credits to the climactic final confrontation between Loomis and Myers, Halloween holds the coveted spot as my greatest horror film of all time and for good reason. Unlike many of today’s horror films which rely heavily upon the use of over the top death scenes and gallons of fake blood and gore to sell its scare, Halloween’s scariness stems from using it’s audiences own imagination to instill that fear upon themselves.
Whether it’s the innocence of Laurie Strode; the subtle, yet highly effective use of camera angles and jump scares; the “shape” standing visible and then suddenly disappearing or the eerie theme music playing at the most (in)appropriate of times, it’s the vulnerability and fear of the unknown that causes us to not only be afraid of the monster, but also to honestly consider whether or not this actually could be happening.
I’ll always remember how excited I was whenever Halloween was coming on, but to this day still find it uncomfortable watching those opening credits (even in broad daylight) and being forced to recall my own childhood fear of the bogeyman and the dark. As a youth, whenever the glowing pumpkin and creepy intro music came on the screen announcing the film was about to begin, that was always my cue to close my eyes and cover my ears until after the credits were over.
In celebration of the film’s 35th anniversary, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Trancas International have just released a special 35th Anniversary Blu-ray version of Halloween. This new 35th Anniversary package includes an all-new HD transfer that was personally supervised by the film’s original cinematographer, Dean Cundey, as well as a new 7.1 audio mix.
But the real “treat” of this package has to be the brand-new, feature-length audio commentary by writer/director John Carpenter and actress Jamie Lee Curtis, discussing the film with fresh perspective all these years later. Available in a collectible limited-edition book-style format, the package also includes 20 pages of archival photos as well as an essay by Halloween historian Stef Hutchinson and specially commissioned cover art by Jay Shaw.
Want my advice? Grab some popcorn, turn down the lights (never completely off, of course) and skip past the opening credits. Because thankfully, modern technology allows us the opportunity to do so. (Five Stars)
In today’s world, most independent films aren’t able to achieve independent distribution directly with an actual theater, but Mission Park is the proven exception. AMC Theaters loved writer/director Bryan Ramirez’s film so much that they decided to distribute the film independently in several of their big city theaters.
Mission Park will be released in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago on September 6th, 2013. The film has already won the Best Narrative Feature, Best Direct and Best Acting Performance (Walter Perez) awards at this year’s Boston International Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the World Fest Houston International Film Festival.
Mission Park stars Jeremy Ray Valdez (Walkout), Walter Perez (The Avengers), Fernanda Romero (Drag Me to Hell), Joseph Julian Soria (Crank: High Voltage, Filly Brown), and Wil Rothhaar (Battle Los Angeles).
Written by Bryan Ramirez and produced by Spirit Award Nominee Douglas Spain, Mission Park tells the story of the ambitions of four childhood friends who land on opposite sides of the law. Rookie FBI agents Bobby (Valdez) and Julian (Rothhaar) must go undercover to face their hidden pasts in an attempt to bring down their “best friends’” (Perez, Soria) criminal organization. The film also features performances by Vivica A. Fox, Will Estes and Sean Patrick Flanery.
Although made up of a predominantly Latino cast, it’s the storyline of Mission Park that takes center stage. One that will keep you on the edge of your seat right to the very end. It’s a testament to Ramirez’s creativity and the ambitious mind of Spain in helping to bring the vision to life. Mission accomplished!
I spoke with Spain about Mission Park and the film’s AMC distribution. He also lets us in on a surprise announcement for the people of San Antonio (where Mission Park was filmed).
How did you get involved with Mission Park?
I’m originally an actor and was working on a film in San Antonio several years ago when Bryan approached me with the script. It immediately caught my attention and after I read it, I fell in love with it. The fact that he had written these wonderful, rich characters that were both American and Latino just inspired me. It’s a rare piece of material that doesn’t come around very often in Hollywood. I gave Bryan a letter of interest as an actor and asked him to give me a call when he was ready to move it forward.
Unfortunately, he didn’t have a producer at the time, so the script sat around for a while. I had already done a few years of “behind the scenes” work producing and directing my own short films and since I really loved the piece and wanted to help Bryan execute his vision, I said “If you’re willing to give me a chance to produce, I’ll run with it!” And I’ve since been running with the script, story and movie all the way to the theaters on September 6th.
What are some of the challenges of being a producer as opposed to an actor?
There are so many because as a producer, you’re overseeing every single department. From casting to wardrobe to even the locations where you shoot. I already had experience with that from doing short films, but this was a hundred times more than what I had done previously. Doing those short films prepared me for what I had to do for this one. It came very second-hand, since I already had those skills in me.
What was the filming process like?
I loved being on set. The energy we created was amazing. We had a lot of wonderful moments and an amazing bond with the cast and crew. The thing is, we were all there collaborating on a movie to entertain the world, so we should have fun doing it.
How would you describe the story of Mission Park?
It’s a story between good and bad and the choices that we as individuals make in determining which path in life we choose. The four main characters in the film walk on both sides of the law and end up meeting when they’re older and confronting each other over the paths they’ve chosen. It’s an action/thriller with an indie infrastructure. It also has a mainstream flair because it was shot so brilliantly.
Tell me a little about the AMC Theaters distribution of the film.
There aren’t many proven successful films with a predominantly Latino cast, so it was difficult to find a distributor to take on the challenge of marketing this type of film. In the end though, it’s all about the story and avoiding stereotypes. Our co-producer, David J. Phillips had a contact over at AMC. They’re creating a division just for independent cinema. One where they allocate a certain percentage of their theater for screening independent films. They saw the film and knew that Mission Park had a winning chance and offered us this opportunity.
What’s next for Mission Park?
Because AMC only has one location in San Antonio [which unfortunately wasn't available]; another theater chain local to the area, Santikos Theaters, has come on board to screen the film in four of their primary locations. So, as a gift to our fans in San Antonio, we’re opening the film one day before the rest of country, on Sept 5th.
We also have some screening interest from Maya Cinemas in Salinas, Bakersfield and Pittsburgh as well. It’s a moving train, but we’ve all done a lot of work to get it on the track and now it’s beginning to roll!
What satisfies you the most about Mission Park?
Usually, producers will just see the film through to completion and that’s it. But for Mission Park, we’re all handling the marketing and PR ourselves because we really believe in it. It’s much more than just a “Latino” film. We never go out into the world and say “This a Latino project.” We go in trying to tell a story and do the best we can to convey that story accurately and entertainingly. Although we’re very proud to be Latino, it’s the story that really connects with people. It should always be about the story first.
Mission Park opens September 5th in San Antonio, TX at the Santikos Theaters and September 6th at the AMC Theaters in LA, Chicago and New York.
When I was growing up in the 1970′s, I remember my grandfather taking us kids to the drive in movies on Saturday nights in his 1964 AMC Rambler. I have a lot of good memories of my cinematic experiences with my elderly patriarch; sitting within the confines of his green machine and gorging on buttered popcorn and Pepsi. So you can imagine the nostalgic glee I had when the time came to review the new Calvin Lee Reeder film “The Rambler”. But in this particular case, the title refers more to a drifter (Dermot Mulroney) and not to Granddad’s car.
The film begins innocently enough. “The Rambler” has just been released from prison and is waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up. After finding himself kicked out off her house and being forced to sleep in a junkyard, he receives a letter from his brother in Oregon asking him to join him as a farm hand on his ranch.
Thus, with nothing more than the clothes on his back, a pack of butts, guitar and a desire to start a new life, “The Rambler” begins hitchhiking west. Which is pretty much where any sense of rationality seems to end.
Mulroney, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Mel Gibson with his cowboy hat and shades, is seemingly oblivious to the events he encounters along the way. Whether it’s becoming an assistant to a dream recording scientist (James Cady); hanging out with a woman who disappears over and over again (Lindsay Pulsipher) or being witness to exploding heads, blood, monsters and an obese boxer with a hook for an arm; he just goes with the flow. Where this sort of thing would be an obvious cause for concern to any rational person, “The Rambler” seems more content to just light up another cigarette.
At times, it’s difficult to describe what writer and director Calvin Lee Reeder had in mind for his dream-sequence movie. Instead of being a film with a set purpose, “The Rambler” feels more like several “Twilight Zone” short stories; none of which having any sort of beginning or finite end. Rather, the film feels like one big circle of itself from point A right back to point A again.
Reeder is known for his uniquely wild style of film making, but everything that “The Rambler” encounters just seems to happen, with no real reason or time for absorption. It’s this lack of continuity that left me feeling a bit empty.
Overall, the film combines elements of dark comedy, sci-fi and horror; and had a few sequences that really piqued my interest. In particular, the build-up to seeing if the dream recording machine would actually work and whether or not “The Rambler” could beat an alternate universe “Butterbean” like boxer. But even when both of these issues were finally resolved, I was still left with more questions than answers.
I’d like to say that watching “The Rambler” made me long for those days when Granddad took the kids to the movies. Sadly, it did not. But if campy, over the top sequences of blood and apathy are your thing, and you enjoy watching multiple cigarettes being lit up then this film is certainly worth a view.
Depending on your interest and tolerance level for the aforementioned film types, “The Rambler” will no doubt be a different experience for every viewer; which is perhaps what Reeder had in mind all along.
The Rambler will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on June 25th, 2013
“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”
Written and directed by Scott Stewart, Dark Skies begins with an eerie quote from British author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke and goes on to suggest that there is no pending alien invasion. The fact is, they’ve been here among us all along.
Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton play Lacy and Daniel Barrett, a suburban middle-class couple whose peaceful existence is shattered when their family becomes the target of a terrifying, unknown force.
Daniel’s been recently let go from his job as an architect and has been struggling to find work, leaving Lacy (a real-estate agent) as the sole bread-winner trying to sell houses in an already volatile market.
Adding to the stress, son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) is in full pubescent mode; dabbling in watching soft core porn and keeping company with an older malcontent. While youngest son Sam (Kadan Rockett) seems to be content with just trying to rehabilitate an injured lizard.
But it’s not until something begins rearranging items in the Barrett’s kitchen, scaring Sam and setting off the burglar alarm that the family realizes something is wrong. This is followed by rumors of being visited by “The Sandman”, unexplained blackouts, bruises and flocks of birds dive-bombing the family home. Then there’s the discovery of a creepy child drawing which only reinforces the true horror of the unknown.
The question as to whether or not the family is alone is finally answered when the Barrett’s reach out to paranormal expert Edwin Pollard (J.K. Simmons), who himself has been tormented by the same alien beings.
There are quite a few homages to past horror/suspense classics scattered throughout Dark Skies: including kitchen rearrangement (Poltergeist); child communication with the unknown presence (The Shining) and cameras throughout the house (Paranormal Activity). But regardless of paying tribute to old hat, Dark Skies shines on its own by relying more upon the build up of tension and less on the standard “boo” pablum.
It’s the emphasis of the Barrett’s vulnerability that makes the supernatural events they experience all the more real. And as could be the case with any typical 21st century family faced with financial crisis, one has to take into consideration whether or not Clarke’s argument is really valid after all.
Dark Skies is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. Special features include feature commentary with writer/director Scott Stewart as well as an alternate ending.