A Troubled Family’s EVIL Dynamic. “Kindred” reviewed! (IFC Midnight / Digital Screener)

When Ben and Charlotte declare a decision to move from the English countryside to Australia, Ben’s ardent mother, Margaret, refuses to let her son move away from his family and responsibility in overseeing the massive manor property that’s been in his family for generations.  Despite friction between mother and son, even after the unsuspected announcement of Charlotte with child, the young couple are eager to start their new lives abroad.  An accident causes the sudden death of Ben that takes a psychological toll on Charlotte.  Margaret, and Ben’s aim-to-please brother-in-law, abruptly move Charlotte into the grand manor home as she floats through grief, but their overwhelming generosity turns into obsession with her every move, corralling her to do what’s best for the unborn child with undue stress based off her own family’s mental history.  As Charlotte resists more against the family’s insistence she stay, the stronger their grip on her tightens. 

Sometimes, meeting your partner’s family can be uncomfortably standoffish.  In Joe Marcantonio’s psychological thriller “Kindred,” reticent of personal gain and admission of truth becomes a thick, abrasive wall of tension that crimps the fringes of family relations and mental instability.  The writer-director’s debut feature film hailing from the United Kingdom, releasing this November 6th, tampers with the control over one’s own body through the traumatized perception of a pregnant woman with predispositions on having children in the first place and on her dead boyfriend’s unusual family, coursing with unsettling mental and emotional warfare that’s already tipped in one side’s favor.  The 101 minute, English-made thriller is a co-production of Reiver Pictures and Serotonin Films in association with the makers of “Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies,” Phil Hunt and Tom Harberd of Head Gear Films and Compton and Elliot Ross of UK based Kreo Films.

The players in this tumbling mix of disturbing cat and mouse antics are more or less confined to a skewed variation of an immediate family though none of characters are exactly blood relatives.  Neither Charlotte, Margaret, or Thomas share an smidgen of the same DNA, but have become entangled, in one way or another, into Margaret’s hampering incubator that shelter’s their distinct and varied, sometimes uncooperative, personalities.  Margaret is beholden to memory to her late son, Ben, and exposing Margaret’s egotistic manipulations so wonderfully subtle and true is Fiona Shaw of the “Harry Potter” saga in a role that isn’t so dissimilar to the blunt nastiness of her Aunt Petunia character, but renders a more fierce, enshrouding malice that’s less caricature.  The Irish born Shaw and “DunKirk’s” Jack Lowdon dance a beguiling routine of mother and son as Lowdon plays Margaret’s step-son, Thomas.  Thomas tends to Margaret’s every snippy whim, being a charming and gleaming host, and an overall nice guy, but deep in the recesses of our minds we know something is just not right with Thomas’s polished veneer that soon will explode with true intentions out of dormancy.  Yet, things might not be okay with our seeming heroine either in Charlotte.  Charlotte is very weary of Margaret and Thomas who indirectly, through her eyes, hold hostage the mother-to-be from fleeing the family now that the connection is broken with Ben’s death.  In her debut principle feature film performance, Tamara Lawrance’s Charlotte scribbles outside the lines that smudges the contours of perception reality, adding a complexity component to her character that may or may not being suffering from parental depression commingled with external stress that treats Charlotte like a child in herself.  Chloe Pirrie, Anton Lesser (“Game of Thrones”), and Edward Holcroft (“Vampire Academy”) round out “Kindred’s” strong supporting cast.

Marcantonio’s “Kindred” splits the focal point of isolating tension, dividing the source into two distinct paths from the point of a view of the self-protective besieged.  In one hand, the pregnant and mentally vulnerable Charlotte experiences apprehension of being forcibly, and manipulatively, instructed by Margaret and Thomas to do what’s best for the baby…Ben’s baby.  Having never seen eye-to-eye or felt comfortable around Ben’s instable mother and peculiar brother-in-law, Charlotte has no Ben as a buffer against their coarse personas, overpowering her as a tag-team of self-interest, but most of everything Charlotte experiences is filtered by past judgements about them.  Alternatively, Margaret, Thomas, and even her boyfriend Ben, note directly to Charlotte her mother’s history with postpartum depression.  The undercurrent theory that it produces brings an under the table perception of how audiences will then try to solve Charlotte’s predicamental puzzle.  On the surface level, Charlotte is being held captive and drugged by her late boyfriend’s estranged family; obscurely, Charlotte’s terror is manifested by a loathed family lineage of mental illness and when your observations goes in one direction per the mind’s pre-wired setup, but all the evidence points to the contradiction, audiences will begin to empathize more closely to the harrowing experiences, through childlike control, of an unstable mind on the brink of a break.  Marcantionio very clearly makes things unclear of an in-between reality that challenges not only audiences, but also Charlotte, on what’s real and not real of the mind’s emphasis.  However, not everything is teed up perfectly as some of the abstract visuals, i.e. Charlotte’s dreams of ravens and horses, fall more into the rigors of psychological concepts that become lost in the affect of either pathway toward what could be considered a Schrodinger’s Cat finale as Charlotte, stuck inside a manor house that’s symbolically a box, could be both sane and insane.

 

Family can be a finicky thing and “Kindred” is a fastidious look at the instability of family and mental illness which can be, in filmmaker Joe Marcantonio’s eye, interchangeable.  Setting up shop before families get together for the impending holiday season, IFC Midnight will release “Kindred” in select theaters, on digital platforms, and on VOD November 6th.  In regards to the look of the film, director of photography, Carlos Catalan, hones in on a series of medium to medium-closeup shots while grasping very little toward widescreen shots, especially being shot mostly in a grand manor house in Scotland.  When Catalan has symmetrical framing, the allusion is gesturing grand with loneliness, but the cinematographer rarely has the frame centered, often creating an unnerving amount of space in the depth when juxtaposed with an uncentered character in the closeup all the while in natural light to not feign cynicism through use of color or filter. The only time filters are used are in the purple hued airy dream sequences with the raven and horses that become a metaphorical motif of Charlotte’s embattled dreams. The score is composed by a UK collaboration of multi-instrumental composers in Natalie Holt and Jack Halama. Holt’s harsh violin chords with Halama’s drama-fueling classical style produced hints of Mark Korven’s “The Witch” in similar tones, but explode with targeted dissensions that spur equally emotional dissensions amongst the characters. There were no bonus features included with the digital screener nor were there any bonus scenes during or after the credits. “Kindred” is relationally disjointing, disturbingly psychological, and textbook taut with tension as one of the best familiar thrillers to come out of the United Kingdom in the last quarter of the year.

EVIL’s a Face-Off to the Death! “Guns Akimbo” reviewed! (Saban Films / Screener)


Miles, a thirtysomething video game developer, remains stuck in an unfulfilling and lonely existence where being an internet troll gives him his only taste of dominance over those who normally succeed above him in all other life aspects. When he pokes and prods a popular and sadistic underground death match known as Schism, the virally trending sensation sweeping the internet nation comes knocking at his apartment door to officially install him into the next melee bout. With guns crudely surgically bolted to both hands, Miles, whose used to running from just about everything, now has to nut up against Schism’s most prolific killer, Nix, and save his kidnapped ex-girlfriend from the deviants behind the game.

Social commentary runs amok in this grisly balls to the wall, gunplay stimulating action-comedy, “Guns Akimbo,” from the New Zealander, “Deathgasm” writer-director Jason Lei Howden. Trading in doom metal horror for a crass bullet ruckus, Howden barrels down with an on fleek supercharged story like a runaway freight train or a 6,000 round per minute minigun, shredding through a high body count like in a high occupancy round of a first person shooter. Under the production wing of Occupant Entertainment and distributed by Saban Films, who released films such as “The Girl with All the Gifts” and Rob Zombie’s “31” and “3 From Hell”, “Guns Akimbo’s” edgy dystopian air gangling along nerdy humor scraps “Robocop” utilitarian veneer for a fresh coat of millennial trivialities, fleshing out, in a ream of firepower, relevant societal topics and facing their adversarial shades head on in a barrage of blood soaked bullets.

Spearheading “Guns Akimbo” is Daniel Radcliffe, who seemingly continues to distance himself from the world of wizardry of “Harry Potter” and focusing his current career on off-Hollywood and chic films that has gained Radcliffe a cult following alongside his cache of wizards and witches fandom. Feeling content stagnant, Miles lounges comfortably in the power of being a keyboard warrior and Radcliffe leads the non-exuberant charge until pushes comes to guns bolted to my and someone is trying to kill me-shove. Opposite Radcliffe is Samara Weaving as a brashly confident and hard-hitting character of familiar skin that’s similar to her Melanie Cross role in Joe Lynch’s “Mayhem.” Instead of being a mild-mannered woman infected to be a savage, floor-clearing combat artist, Weaving bares no dissuasion embodying another uncaged killer becoming the nitty-gritty, tattooed, and uncouth Nix, hard-nosed with violent tendencies stemmed by the fiery murder of her family. Together, Weaving and Radcliffe make engaging adversaries and friendlies who both end up on working on themselves while working with each other in a do-or-die game. Ned Dennehy plays the creator of Schism and overall bad guy Riktor. The Irish actor, who recently had a role in Nicholas Cage’s “Mandy,” finds himself just as tatted up as Nix, waving a nihilistic-revolutionist banner like its something to be proud of, but despite Dennehy’s best efforts in alleviating his cynical nature with a few sarcastic quips, Riktor comes off as bland and unfulfilled as a story’s aortic villain; instead, I found myself more curious about his fascinating short-lived henchmen played by Mark Rowley as a Zangief Street Fighter doppelganger, Racheal Ofori shelling out with double barrels, and Set Sjöstrand as a gimp mask wearing Fuckface. The international cast rounds out with Natasha Liu Bordizzo (“Hotel Mumbai”), a once in a lifetime hilarious homeless man act by funny man Rhys Darby, Grant Bowler, and Edwin Wright (“Turbo Kid”).

“Guns Akimbo” could have been pulled straight from the crimson flashy illustrated pages of a popular graphic novel and, most definitely, would have worked as one too, soon to come for sure, but as a feature film is concerned, as fun as Howden drapers it with explosions, expletives, and executions, “Guns Akimbo” ultimately shakes at the knees with acute breakneck, 24-hour speed that clocks in at a 95 minute runtime. While that’s the standard runtime of choice for movies, average around 90 to 100 minutes, consequences from flying through backstories (Miles, Schism, Riktor, Nix) in a blink of an eye at the story’s expense to hastily push for gun blazing glory puts all the pressure on the viewer to keep up. The story’s non-linear moments also factor into being an onerous barrier for audiences which are shiplapped together egregiously just for the sake of going against the atypical plot structure design and interspersed with flash backs and wishful thinking near death pipe dreams all jam and crammed packed into the sardine can that is the very eye-candy combat of “Guns Akimbo.” Yet, enough time was mustered for symbolism where Miles finds himself ensnared in the sticky negativity that is the social media sludge, fueled by the sadistic voyeurs enjoying the show in a violence-porn tapestry. From troll to titan, Miles rises as the unlikely gladiator presence in Schism, pushing him toward being a viral sensation from which he can’t escape despite the lack of enthusiasm to anything related to Schism and his skyrocketing social media status. The whole showdown thrusts him into controlling his own life whether he likes it or not, a kick in the ass for a lack of a better phrase, to get him motivated.

Come February 28th, Saban Films’ “Gun Akimbo,” produced by Occupant Films’ Joe Neurauter, Felipe Marino, and New Zealand film producer Tom Hern, will go full blown trigger happy into select theaters, on demand, and on digital. Since this movie is yet to be officially released, is a screener, and doesn’t have a home video release just quite yet, there will be no audio and video critique portion of this review nor were there bonus material. There have been many great dual wielding action heros in our lifetime, including John Weston from “Equilibrium,” Selene from “Underworld,” and even that Counter-Strike terrorist avatar with the option to wield Dual Berettas. Now, we have Miles from “Guns Akimbo,” an immense ball of New Zealand vitality, un-tapered exploitation, and twofold in gun fun.

Pre-Order “Guns Akimbo” on Amazon Prime!

EVIL Gets Schooled! “Slaughterhouse Rulez!” Review!


Slaughterhouse boarding school is an aristocratic playground housing some of the children of Britain’s most elite families. Alongside institutional studies, a long list of leisure activities are available, such as junior military, golf, and chess just to name a few. For new pupil Don Wallace, attending Slaughterhouse was just to please his mom’s persistence that soon sparked mixed feelings about his new surroundings between finding his place in the student vicious hierarchy and being in the company of the girl of his dreams: Clemsie Lawrence. The school also has a new headmaster, one who has made lucrative dealings with a fracking company for the extraction of natural gas at the outer rim of school grounds, but the seismic tremors caused by fracking result in large sinkhole, unleashing a horde of underground dwelling beasts that run rampant on campus grounds hungry for a meaty school lunch. It’s up to Don Wallace and his misfit school chums, plus one miserable school educator, to fight back in order to escape with their lives.

Boarding schools, especially the British ones, inherently have an intimidating nature about them and if the comfort decimating idea of being housed away from your parents isn’t frightening enough, the upper-crust cliques and sovereign clubs are an assumed terrorizing, foreboding thought – just look at all the paranormal and murderous boarding school incidents that happened to Jennifer Connolly’s character in “Phenomena” (aka “Creepers”). In Crispian Mills’ sophomore written and directed feature, also co-written with Henry Fitzherbert, “Slaughterhouse Rulez” is another boarding school that can be chalked up as being a killer institution adding big ugly beasts shredding through the student body as the antagonistic creature in this feature. The 2018 comedy-action-horror is produced in the UK as the first film from the Simon Pegg and Nick Frost production company, Stolen Picture. Pegg and Frost have a long and hilarious history together, breaking out internationally with the modern classic “Shaun of the Dead” and continuously worked together on various projects throughout the last 19 years since their George A Romero inspired success. The usually buddy comedy duo have reunited once again for Mills “Slaughterhouse Rulez” as supporting, yet memorable, characters that do steal the show.

“Slaughterhouse Rulez” mainly focuses around Don Wallace, the new teen on the scene who tries to live up to this standards his deceased father’s worked hard for, and Wallace, played by “Peaky Blinders” regular Finn Cole, goes through the motions of being the new kid in school that quickly discovers who his enemies are, as an outsider forced to be friend with the school black sheep, and falls heads over heels for the most popular girl on campus. Cole’s especially charming for most of the performance, but can flip his character to being weak in the knees and want to be reclusive when pushed too hard. Opposite love interest, Clemsie Lawrence (Hermione Corfield of “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”), provides little insight into her perceptions of Wallace as the character does a 180 degree regarding her feelings for him, but Clemsie sure does have reason to withhold how she really feels by being a Goddess and being under surveillance by Clegg, a legacy God who takes his title literally as a divinity itself and has a sadistic iron fist for those who buy their way into Slaughterhouse. Clegg is a stone-faced psychopath performed very blunt by Tom Rhys Harries Wallace’s friend by roommate association, Willoughby Blake, is a social outcast who loves to live in isolation. Asa Butterfield, from “The Wolfman” remake and “Ender’s Game,” sizes up Willoughby crutched by depression and drugs as the most complex character with a dreadful secret. “Slaughterhouse Rulez” continues with an amazing lineup of talent that include Michael Sheen (“Underworld” franchise), Margot Robbie (“Suicide Squad”), Isabella Laughland (“Harry Potter” franchise), Kit Connor, Jamie Blackley (“Vampyr”), and, of course, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Mills’ anti-fracking and subterranean monster flick isn’t all action and blood. For the first 2/3 of “Slaughterhouse Rules,” the filmmaker initially barely hints at a creature feature and harnesses to express his inner John Hughes with his attempt at a coming-to-age horror-comedy bursting with adolescent complexities, such as drug use, depression, suicide, bullying, love, adult and peer pressure, social differences, and so forth, that becomes heavily cloaked in humor and horror in the same vein as “Shaun of the Dead.” All the buildup of the teen dynamic comes to a screeching halt; literally, a bloodthirsty monster screeching when unearthed from the fracking folly killed, in a whole bunch of various degrees of the term, all the pre-apocalyptic adolescent shrapnel and turned it on its head as a means of overcoming the difficulties of the Slaughterhouse boarding school, relinquishing the difficulties into a honky-dory finale.

PER CAEDES AD ASTRA! “Through adversity to the stars” does the Stolen Picture produced “Slaughterhouse Rulez” find itself on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Presented in an anamorphic widescreen, 2.39:1 aspect ratio, the digital picture maintains a rather seamless presentation though I though there could have been a little more pop in the coloring. Director of photography, John De Borman, did a phenomenal job with the lighting through the woods, the school grounds, and the labyrinth maze under the school; a reminiscing aspect from his earlier work in Stephen Norrington’s “Death Machine.” The English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track caters to every whim. Range and depth were good, especially with the beasts’ roars/howls. Dialogue is prominent, yet I still have a hard time with the English accent. Also available is an English Audio Description Track, French (PAR), Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and English, English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles for a film that runs 104 minutes. Unfortunately, there is no bonus material. “Slaughterhouse Rulez” has the Pegg/Frost humor that we’re all now familiar with and still retains the funny, even if some of it is British-ly dry! With that said, Crispian Mills’ film observes adolescent behavior while also being blood splattering entertainment through the razor sharps jaws of the hounds from fracking hell!

Now available on DVD!

The Evil That Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger! “Jungle” review!


Yossi Ghinsberg yearned for more than the comfy, cushy life he was born into and being young and adventurous, Yossi travels abroad to backpack in Bolivia to pursue self-discovery and beauty in places far less travelled despite his father’s wishes. He quickly befriends fellow backpackers Marcus and Kevin and together, they lay tracks through the eclectic terrain of the breathtaking Bolivian landscape, but wasn’t until an Austrian geologist named Karl approached Yossi about a promise of unearthing gold and experiencing hidden tribes deep inside the lush jungle. After some convincing, the three friends venture into the jungle with only Karl to guide them and, at first glance, the wilderness is an escape from the noise and pollution of human corrupted inhabitations, but a drastic realization quickly washes over them when they’re force to separate and that the jungle is a cauldron of constant survival. Along with captivating beauty, fire ants, poisonous snakes, symbiotic organisms, jaguars, and torrential rains tip the iceberg of everything that embodies the sequestered jungle and Yossi must endure the trials and tribulations alone in order to make it out alive.

Based off the book of true events from Yossi Ghinsberg comes the motion picture retelling of Ghinsberg harrowing tale of survival in “Jungle.” The 2017 biographical adventure-thriller is penned by Justin Monjo (teleplay writer for TV hits like the sci-fi odyssey “Farscape”) and directed by “Rogue” and “Wolf Creek” director Greg McLean. “Jungle” showcases the night and day environment of one of the world’s most beautiful, yet deadliest locations, cascaded with awesome uncharted landscapes with an augmentation of great mortality once man is introduced. However, the thing with the jungle is that no matter what man’s objectives may be with the rainforest, whether it’s to destroy it or to embrace it as were Yossi’s intentions, nature treats all with the same merciless brutal as it’s kill or be killed. Yossi is in the midst of a man versus nature thematic element where Darwin’s survival of the fittest lays all well true and from his book, Yossi Ghinsberg went through a nearly three weeks of severe isolation, stomach-devouring starvation, and vigilant hyperawareness against the local wildlife. Yet, somehow, he survived.

To play such as downtrodden character needed an actor committed wholeheartedly to the story and, luckily for McLean and the rest of the crew, Daniel Radcliffe encompassed Yossi Ghinsberg and his plight with passion and dedication. So much dedication that the Harry Potter famed actor lost about 14 to 15 pounds in order to mimic starvation and really put his body close to the hazards Yossi had faced. “Jungle” has certainly solidified his range as an actor inside the genre of not only fantasy films, but also thrillers as well. From “Horns” to “Imperium,” the English-born, 5’5”, 28-year-old actor has placed a major footprint in the industry that stretched from low-budget to Hollywood stardom and doesn’t seek to stop in the near future. Radcliffe is joined by a pair of Australian actors in Alex Russell (“Chronicle” and “Bait”) as American photographer Kevin Gale and Joel Jackson as Swiss teacher Marcus Stamm on sabbatical. A standout performance, one that really rivals Radcliffe in cliffhanging suspense with cryptic intentions, is that of Thomas Kretschmann (“Blade II”) playing the Austrian geologist Karl Ruprecther. Fantastic chemistry between all four men with spot-on performances, especially not portraying their native heritage.

While Greg McLeans has no fear in getting gritty where gritty needs to be get, “Jungle” has a tame nature about it for a director well-known for Outback cruelty. McLean doesn’t exact the right amount of perilous attitude that was unfortunately bestow upon Yossi. Much of Yossi Ghinsberg’s book was not translated to screen such as his rectum being impaled by a large stick when he falls down a slope. The hard stop editing and pivot bounces the viewer around being out of control on a trampoline. When we meet Yossi for the first time and he encounters Marcus Stamm, a cascading event of one jointly pursuit with another that string along and attach Kevin Gale to a web of awkwardly editing scenes of traveling through Bolivia in what felt like a slapdash montage with the sole purpose of setting up the trio’s friendship in an unsympathetic way. Another issue with the editing was that the film had to keep reminding the viewers about previous events, such as when Yossi was bitten by a fire ant, and those scenes ended up being a redundant time filler that points audiences to being naive and inattentive to cherry pick previous actions.

Umbrella Entertainment releases “Jungle” on a rated mature, region B Blu-ray with crystal clear full high definition, 1080p presented in a widescreen 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Image quality bares no marks of compression issues nor any flagrant fouls in the coloring, whether natural or generated. Aliasing is also a non-issue. The 5.1 DTS-HD English soundtrack has moments of low fidelity at the beginning of the film where making out the dialogue can be challenge, but the jungle ambiance and the Johnny Klimek (“Land of the Dead”) score bring alive the eclectic atmospherics of the wild, wildlife. Bonus features include a featurette that extends up Danial Radcliffe becoming Yossi Ghinsberg, the making of the Yossi Ghinsberg story, cast and crew interviews, and the theatrical trailer. “Jungle’s” adventurous first half sets up the catalytic downfall into desperation and despair of a man versus nature thriller in the latter half, splitting Daniel Radcliffe into two auspicious roles of enchanting self-discovery and a fight for survival. The movie most certainly encourages one to read the book of Yossi Ghisbergs edge of death misadventure.

2016 AKA The Year of Celebrity Death?

With only 15 days into the new year, 2016 is shaping up to be ‘the year of celebrity deaths’ as a string of well-known, and some well-loved, celebrities have succumbed to the Grim Reaper.

Alan Rickman – 69 years old – Cancer took the life of “Die Hard’s” Hans Gruber, “Harry Potter” series’s Professor Snape, and other many, many more interesting characters on 1/14/16.

David Margulies – 78 years old – Most famously known as the mayor from the two Ghostbuster movies, Margulies died 1/11/16.

David Bowie – 69 years old – Cancer, once again, claims a life and the androgynous and iconic pop music star became the man who fell from earth on 1/10/16.

Dan Haggerty – 74 years old – Cancer, what a bitch, claims the life of Grizzly Adams who is no longer on the run since today 1/15/16.

Tera Wray Static – 33 year old – The widow of the late Static-X frontman Wayne Static and former adult star fell into the suicide pool as her body was discovered on 1/14/16.

Angus Scrimm – 89 years old – The unforgettable “Tall Man” from the Phatasm series departed our dimension 1/9/16

Who’s next? Who’s on the verge of 2016 being their last year alive? Its a scary thought, but that’s life, unfortunately.

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