A weekend filled with DC bad guys gone good dominates the big screen this week, but there are also a gaggle of indie films to counterbalance all things big budget. In fact, there are a massive six flicks covered this week and the subjects and themes are delightfully diverse. From psychic head explosions to call girl protecting services, from art films to documentaries (plus a little wild abandon mid-life crisis thrown in for good measure!) it’s a rapid review look at flicks on a small scale. Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews for Sun Choke, Hotline, The Mind’s Eye, Amateur Night, The Tenth Man and There Is A New World Somewhere below! (Plus go to the bottom for a ‘cinematic sure thing’ recommendation to boot!)
A more caustic and visceral version of Polanski’s Repulsion, Sun Choke is thankfully no less effective. It’s a brutal internal and external tale of a disturbed woman (played with just the right amount of quiet creepiness by actress Sarah Hagan) as she tries to both get help (via even more eerie doctor Barbara “Re-Animator” Crampton!) and wreak havoc on the life of an unsuspecting gal she spots and fixates on one day. And while the film isn’t cohesive, opting for an arty dream like style, in the case of Sun Choke it’s a good thing. It takes the dark subject of madness and murder and gives it a surreal Lynch like veneer that makes heinous acts watchable. Both brutal and beautiful, Sun Choke boldly takes its wicked wares out of the shadows and into the bright light for all to see – thick skin sunscreen required.
(Hotline Documentary, LLC)
Examining the phenomenon of phone hotlines, this doc diligently digs deep into the wealth of categories associated with such a subject with great results. From sex to psychic lines, from suicide prevention to help with homework, Director Tony Shaff leaves no receiver unturned to get the skinny in all available avenues. Best of the bunch are not only candid interviews with phone providers like late iconic psychic Ms. Cleo and various sex call experts who are unashamed of their skillful services, but also chats with actual customers who bravely tell their own stories of struggle and finding solace at the other end of a cord. Honest and emotional, Hotline is a wonderful look back at what people craved before cell phones and texting took over – a human connection.
THE MIND’S EYE
Much like his previous flick Almost Human (a nod to the Body Snatchers pictures!), Joe Bego’s The Mind’s Eye is a film I wanted to like more than I do. An ode to the Scanners world, the film utilizes all the genre tropes fans have come to love – a retro score, stylistic slow-mo staging and even a doctor villain who becomes obsessed with becoming what he is examining. (John Speredakos’s crazed Dr. Slovak could give Re-Animator’s Dr. Hill a run for his money!) Problem is for all the well-meaning homage meant to take the viewer back to a film feel of the past (complete with head exploding practical effects!), The Mind’s Eye just doesn’t quite satisfy. Coming across less like captivating Cronenberg and more like the bastard cousin of the David Hewlett sequel (I swear he and Eye lead Graham Skipper look exactly alike when doing the death stare thing!), there’s plenty of B-grade cheddar to ingest, but not much in the realm of quality film fromage. So while I admire The Mind’s Eye for its psychokinetic showmanship, movie magic is missing.
While Amateur Night claims to be based on true story, it’s actually the supposed ‘made up’ bits that seem elevate the flick beyond simply being another crude comedy. (At least witnessed by the end credits that provide the audience with true and false accuracy!) In any case the flick provides middle of the road raunchy humor with goofball Jason Biggs playing an out of work architect and father to be who ends up driving a gaggle of sex workers around to various gigs to make ends meat. A paper-thin premise with a half hour shelf life, there are fortunately two notable elements that do extended the expiration date. First the fact that Bigg’s square character is completely honest with his pregnant wife about all salacious events going down (makes for some caustic candid comedy!) and second the captivating turn by actress Janet Montgomery as sexy no-nonsense call girl Nikki who teaches Bigg’s apprehensive babe in the woods to grow up. Life lessons in the midst of laughable lechery – let the good times roll.
THE TENTH MAN
There’s a solid silent solace in the staging of this Argentinian import about a man heading home in search of his rather absent father that sadly grows tired. Meaning The Tenth Man begins interesting enough with Alan Sabbagh’s sullen son hitting brick walls when he arrives in Buenos Aires to find his busy altruistic pop MIA and in the absence forms an unusual bond with quiet local gal Eva, played by the captivating Julieta Zylberberg. But the film then becomes somewhat pretentious and focuses on character introspection, trying to put the inner identity turmoil of Sabbagh’s manchild front and center as a piece of serious cinematic substance – it’s not.
THERE IS A NEW WORLD SOMEWHERE
As a film There Is A New World Somewhere has some really good things going for it. Directed by female filmmaker Li Lu who has a keen eye for cinematic beauty, her debut effort has a wide array of lush and picturesque visuals that often arrest. Not to mention that her leading lady, the fetching Agnes Bruckner, gives a deep and heartfelt performance that anchors artistry of the film nicely. But the thing that ultimately kneecaps New World is the non-existent chemistry between Bruckner and her uninspired co-star Maurice Compte – a true elephant in the room. As the passionate dramatic device that propels the films’ spontaneous romantic road trip story it’s omission is distractingly deadly and sadly becomes the films Achilles heel. Deep and beautiful for sure, New World is nevertheless loveless.
Finally for those looking for a badass movie that delivers, I highly recommend the recently released SOLEDAD available now on iTunes and various digital formats. I previously reviewed the film while at former home Starpulse.com HERE and also gave it well-deserved awards HERE and HERE. It’s a fantastic flick directed by the dynamic filmmaking duo of Eduardo Maytorena & Wayne Mitchell with a tasty turn by leading man Jesse Celedon that lingers long. A fine film that I’m proud to have my quotes on (no Pete Hammond fake praise here folks!), Soledad is a certainly a “cinematic sure thing”. (Yup, I said it!) Check it out HERE!