The Ice Cream Stop (2021)

From the moment that I read the script it was perfect. It didn’t need any changes. The subject matter was incredible. The writing was perfect for that subject matter. It had such a wide variety of emotional range that each character was going to bring to the table that it just jumped off the page.”
— Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews

To say that I, as a film critic, am privileged to have watched an advanced digital stream of this masterpiece, granted the opportunity to expose it to others, well, that’s what makes my job the best job there is. I’ve acted in my share of shorts, watched many at film festivals, and reviewed a few along the way for B&S About Movies, but never a short film like The Ice Cream Stop. Raul Perez and Thai Edwards are two unknown filmmakers with a major studio, A-List education as to the importance of the emotional impact and social influences of film; an art form that can, when expertly executed, can open eyes and instill a new perspective in the viewer.

Raul Perez, as with any film school graduate, ultimately wants to write and direct his own films. An up-and-coming actor, such as Thai Edwards, wants to be noticed and book larger roles beyond the usual shorts, web series, and network/cable under-five “day player” roles that serve as the beginning of an actor’s career. To quote Rodney Dangerfield: It’s tough out there, in Tinseltown. So amid his directorial work with shorts and music videos, Perez has worked in various capacities on the crews for the hit TV series Black-ish, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Ellen’s Game of Games, and Major Crimes. Thai Edwards, along with his writing-producing partner, Marty Baber, decided to take Tinseltown by its thorny star to become a wingtips-on-the-desk and cigar-chompin’ QWERTY warrior.

Here, in his eighth directing effort, Raul Perez makes his co-screenwriting debut in a fitting tale exploring our recent concerns regarding racial inequality and social injustice . . . and how one’s life can change in a moment at the mercy of another’s misplaced anger and bad decision making, turning another human being into an exorcising-personal-demons punching bag.

Surgeon Dr. Michael Harris (a solid Thai Edwards) returns home at 3 am from a double shift at the hospital to Tameka, his loving, pregnant wife (a ditto Nicola Lambo). Before going to bed, he asks her if she needs anything: she’s craving ice cream. Although exhausted, he decides to make a quickie-mart run.

It is on his return home that Micheal’s life changes: Officers Reynolds (Paul Logan) and Davis (Dustin Harnish), “aroused” by Micheal’s driving, initiate a traffic stop. Although Micheal checks out, the stop escalates upon the arrival of Officers Morales (Chris Levine) and Officer Smith (Jed Dennis), as their out-ranked level heads can not stop what’s been set in motion. At that moment, each of their lives change — and are connected beyond their mutual, traffic stop tragedy.

Not many films instill the sickness of a burning anger mixed with fear in the pit of your stomach . . . and cause you to shed tears. The Ice Cream Stop is a gut punch and not for the faint of heart. It is a film you must see.

The most recognizable face in the unfamiliar but effective cast of The Ice Cream Stop is actor Paul Logan. U.S. daytime TV fans know Paul for his four-year run as Glen Reiber on The Days of Our Lives. You’ve also seen him on the highly-rated SyFy Channel and mockbuster streamers Atlantic Rim: Resurrection, MegaFault, and Mega Piranha. Fans of TV’s Criminal Minds, Lethal Weapon, and NCIS will notice Nicola Lambo, while fans of TV’s S.W.A.T. will recognize Thai Edwards, who also appeared in the dramatic indie Anabolic Life with Chris Levine. B&S About Movies readers know the work of Chris Levine by way of the indie streamers No Way Out and his leading role in the upcoming, retro-’80s actioner, The Handler.

Courtesy of the pedigree of the network TV resumes in front of and behind the cameras, all of the disciplines are firing on all cylinders (oh, are they ever) — as the expertly-cut trailer above, proves. No trailer is complete without great cinematography: to that end, Chris Warren’s night photography is of a stellar, Oscar-level quality (reminding of J. Micheal Muro’s work in Paul Haggis’s Crash and Robert Richardson’s in Martin Scorsese’s Bringing Out the Dead), making him a name to expect more great works.

The cast, via their superior acting skills, are instantly relatable: Thai Edwards and Nicola Lambo are pure, major studio chemistry as the expecting couple. Paul Logan and Dustin Harnish make us hate them, while Chris Levine and Jed Dennis — with little dialog and more body language and facial expressions (the signs of a truly great actor) — illicit sympathy; you feel their regrets that this “stop” is wrong. No actor can pull that off without a great script: the connection to the characters comes courtesy of an expertly crafted screenplay by Edwards and Perez that’s replete with perfect character arcs; everything the viewer needs — in a script that forces a dark, vile ugliness that exists in our society into our faces and causes us to look within ourselves — is there. Not many short films on the festival circuit leave you wanting more, saying, “Give these guys a budget to make this into a feature” (or do another film), which is the end game of some short films. The Ice Cream Stop is one of those very few film shorts to accomplish that goal.

I had to equate this literally to playing like a child molester or Hitler, someone who is loathsome and who you detest. You had to just go there. If you didn’t commit 100% percent to something like this, especially if this is not the way you think, the audience would see right through it.
— Actor Paul Logan, with Alika Gasimova of ISAFF Interviews

It’s no shock to this reviewer that The Ice Cream Stop recently completed successful, award-winning screenings at the Los Angeles Film Awards in March and the Colorado International Activism Film Festival in September. Currently continuing its festival run — and surely to win many more awards — you can follow the film at its official Facebook and Instagram portals to keep abreast of its commercial streaming release date. And do keep track, for The Ice Cream Stop is a film you must see.

If you enjoy film to the point of wanting to know what goes into making a film, you can learn more about the process through the insights of Raul Perez and Thai Edwards — as well as the rest of the cast — courtesy of their mutual interview with Isaff Interviews WordPress; the portal also offers a video version of the interview on You Tube. There’s more insights to enjoy at the personal website of Thai Edwards.

Just wow. I love this amazing film and await more from all concerned.

The cast and crew of The Ice Cream Stop: Front row, from left: Dustin Harnish, actor/screenwriter Thai Edwards, and Paul Logan. Second row, from left: Chris Levine, director Raul Perez, Nicola Lambo, project co-creator/producer Marcelle Baber, and Jed Dennis/image courtesy of Isaff Inteviews WordPress.

My partner Marcelle Baber, the creator of The Ice Cream Stop, is the one responsible for [the film] and gets the real credit. We all played our part individually and collectively in this project; Raul had a great vision on how to illustrate it and the cast just gave it a heartbeat, but without the idea that helped create the words in order to tell a story, [our film] would never be.

Marty [Marcelle Baber] had a dream and this was just a conversation that he brought to his cousin-by-marriage, Raul, and Raul, after ten-plus years of trying to get something going after a few failed attempts, brought [the project] to me and I took it on like any actor/executive producer who believed in the vision and all the people involved, would.

We all helped to develop and work on the storyline for about seven months; some of this actually came from personal experiences that happened to me and Marty . . . what happened to George Floyd just made us want to do something about it — but in a different way and take a different approach. This helped Raul a lot to come up with the shots needed for the film; it all took about six months after Marcelle brought it to us. This was a film given to us by God at a time when it was much needed. Above all, I’m just happy that we got the assignment given to us, right! It’s a hard watch: you’re either going to love it or hate it; but I see it to be a timeless piece, especially since things haven’t changed and the conversation about this, still, is a non-issue with some people.”
— Thai Edwards, to B&S About Movies

Disclaimer: We didn’t receive a review request or screener copy of The Ice Cream Stop from a PA firm or from a distribution company. We discovered the film on our own via social media and were provided a screener for the film upon our request. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. In addition to writing film reviews for B&S About Movies, he publishes on Medium.

Tomorrow Is Yesterday (2021)

“Today is tomorrow. Tomorrow is yesterday.”
— the woman at the bridge

We were first exposed to the work of Michigan-based actor Mason Heidger courtesy of his leading role as a lovable “mad scientist” in the sci-fi oriented rom-com, Making Time. In that film, Heidger impressed with his thespian abilities in rattling off — and convincingly upselling — that film’s scientific expositional dialogue concerned with theoretical physics and quantum mechanics as it related to time travel. So, when I discovered his newest project — and that the project also served as his writing and directing debut in film — I knew I wanted to review it for B&S About Movies.

“It’s just a little side project I did because I was bored. It’s nothing spectacular,” Heidger modestly explained.

“Get ‘bored’ more often,” was my eventual reply.

As Tomorrow Is Yesterday streamed, it became obvious that, across his wide array of shorts and indie features — as well as a dayplayer role as Officer Rucka in the Detroit-shot scenes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, along with roles in writer-director Harley Wallen’s Michigan-produced Agramon’s Gate and Eternal Code — Heidger wasn’t puffing his ego with any “I am an actor!” foolishness, as most actors oft do, on sets: instead, he was paying attention.

Also starring Christy Edwards (of Wallen’s A Bennett Song Holiday and Eternal Code) and David Budziszewski (a skilled sound recordist doubling in his first acting role), Mason Heidger has crafted an award-winning short on a zero-budget that works wonders across all of its disciplines. The seasonal, wooded cinematography by Cory James Taylor (crewed on Transformers: The Last Knight, as well as Eminem music videos) is clean and crisp. While I lacked a film synopsis or press kit, the soundscapes expertly created by Budziszewksi and musician Aaron J. Morton (Doctor Who: The Soldier Stories fan series; You Tube channel) placed my streaming-watch in the immediate mind set that, while the film opens with a man (Heidger) walking his dog through a peaceful wood, he’s walking into an otherworldly, Twilight Zone moment, one that that will forever change his life — in an Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” stream of consciousness kind-of-way.

My only qualm with the film: Why didn’t you give the dog a screen credit, Mason?

In July of this year, Michigan’s Royal Starr Film Festival selected Mason’s film writing and directing debut for screening. He’s since made Tomorrow Is Yesterday available — for free — on You Tube. You can learn more about the non-profit efforts in film by the Royal Starr Arts Institute on Facebook. You can also learn more about Mason Heidger’s filmmaking journeys on Facebook.

Heidger’s currently in post-production on the feature film debut of fellow Michigan filmmaker Michael B. Chait’s Wolf Hound: a film concerned with the Nazi’s KG 200 program. In addition, Mason recently completed work on Detroiter Harley Wallen’s eleventh feature film, Ash and Bone, currently on the festival circuit with a streaming release, this year. That film delves into the world of Mitten State-bred urban legends . . . the one I know, and freaks me out, is Hell’s Bridge . . . so I wonder if Mason Heidger was, himself, inspired by that creepy bridge legend in crafting his tale.

Fans of Harley Wallen’s films can catch up, with our reviews of Abstruse (starring the always welcomed Tom Sizemore) and Tale of Tails (with Kaiti Wallen of Enteral Code).

Be sure to follow our “Short Films” link, below, to populate our reviews of that genre. Show your support for short filmmakers: for today’s short filmmaker is tomorrow’s feature film Oscar winner.

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener copy of this film from the writer-director upon our request — after discovering it on social media. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes film reviews for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Microworld (1976)

Mircoworld is the perfect film to wrap up our “Ancient Future Week” that you’ve enjoyed from April 11 to April 17.

Do you want to know how microprocessors were developed? Do you want to know why those curious # and * buttons were designed for the telephone? Courtesy of this AT&T short film production — and a little narration from Captain Kirk — we learned about our now “Ancient Future” during our middle and high school science classes about the computers that came to amaze us in the ’80s and steal our quarters, then wholly encompass our lives in the ’90s . . . and turned us into social media morons in the 21st century.

Thank you, microprocessor, for ye unleashed the Kardashians and their ilk upon the world and allowed for the coordination of destructive social protests raging across the U.S. in 2020 and 2021.

And it all began 1904, when British engineer John Ambrose Fleming invented the thermionic valve, the first vacuum tube, which made wireless radio technology a reality. Then, in 1971 — a mere 67 years later — Busicom logic architects and silicon engineers Federico Faggin, Ted Hoff, Stanley Mazor, and Masatoshi Shima developed a 4-bit micro-programmable CPU. By 1976, microprocessors developed by Bell Laboratories expanded to a maximum of 8.5K transistors and 64-bits of memory. The Tandy Corporation sold the TRS-80 Model 1 through Radio Shack in 1977. The first emails were sent. Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I. Bill Gates’s Microsoft Corporation introduced an MS-DOS GUI personal computer to the mass market (pirated from Xerox, but that’s another story).

And our lives would never be the same, again.

You can watch this educational short in its entirety on You Tube.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.

Day of the Pigs (2020)

El Apache (Tino Zamora, The Beast Beneath, Angry Asian Murder Hornets), Manny (Manuel Ramirez) and Guero (Art Paul) are on the run with a big score. Sure, Guerro took a fatal chestful of hot lead. But as the two lucha hood wearing survivors head south of the border, a stop at a farmhouse leads them to Violet (Nikki Curtis Jones) and Starletta (Sparkle Soojian), two brujas who have plans for our protagonists. Bad plans. And what does that pig mask have to do with all of this?

Writer/Director Michael S. Rodriguez has turned out a 12-minute tight tale of murder and mayhem that leaves you wanting more. Here’s to him getting a bigger budget and platform to do something huge with this story, because the bones are all there.

It’s pretty great that in a tenth of the length of most movies this film gets more out of its story. It’s economical in more ways than just the budget. Once it’s available for streaming, we’ll make sure to get the link out there.

Ghost in the Gun (2019)

There’s nothing quite like a social media excursion into the realms of indie films and coming to discover an up-and-coming writer and director. To say this short is a great industry calling card is an understatement, as it’s won 83 film festival awards (IMDb list) across various disciplines.

And this homage that travels the dusty trails of the supernatural western that dates back to Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” is certainly deserving — and it reminds us of the old west-meets-the supernatural majesty of Eyes of Fire (1983), a film so majestic, that we reviewed it, not once (for our “Movies Never Released to DVD” feature), but twice (for “Satan Week”). Can we plug our obsession with all things Amityville (see our “Exploring: Amityville” feature) as well? If you know that cinematic franchise of sequels, prequels, and sidequels, they’re usually stitched together via the possession of inanimate objects (clocks, lamps, toys, clown dolls, shiny trinkets, etc.).

Ghost in the Gun is Chen’s second writing effort that also serves as his directing debut: a supernatural journey of revenge concerned with a man left for dead. Upon discovering a possessed gun, he transforms into a gunslinger hellbent to revenge his wife’s murder — but unbeknownst to him, the “gun” has its own, hellbent agenda.

What makes this Twilight Zone-inspired tale work — besides Chen’s skills at the Final Draft and Canon Reds — is the fact that it stars ubiquitous TV actor Tim Russ (as the Ghost in the Gun); yes, Tuvok from the Star Trek-verse. But since this is B&S About Movies, we have to mention Tim’s work in Dead Silence, and for the younger, Nickelodeon crowd, you’ll remember him as Principal Franklin on iCarly. And you’ll recognize Ross Turner from the Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why, here as the dastardly Sheriff Hicks. The film’s under-the-radar lead, Darren Bridgett, a veteran of various shorts and indie productions (his most visible support role was in 2013’s critical and award-winning favorite Fruitvale Station), carries the film with the class of a major studio, A-List actor.

Ghost in the Gun isn’t just some film school short . . . where our auteur ends up with a career slingin’ hash at Chili’s, pardner: the quality here is of a major studio-level film (that reminds of Brando Benetton’s college thesis project, Nightfire). So you’ll be seeing bigger films and bigger roles from both Andrew Chen and Darren Bridgett.

From the Sci-Fi Nerds Department: If you’re a Lucas-head or a Trekkie, you’ve experienced writer-director Andrew Chen’s pen before, with his 2016 screenwriting debut, Where No Jedi Has Gone Before (that’d I love to see expanded into a feature), concerned with a die-hard Star Wars fan meeting his girlfriend’s Trekkie-obsessed parents.

And we’d love to see Ghost in the Gun as a feature-length film. Yes, it’s that good. You can learn more about the film and keep abreast of its eventual streaming release on its official Facebook and Twitter pages.

Oh, and by the way . . . we love our western spaghetti ’round these ‘ere parts of Allegheny County, pardner. So much so that we loaded up the pasta pots with a “Spaghetti Westerns Week” that ran this past Sunday, August 16 to Saturday, August 22 — and our “Drive-In Friday” tribute to the Spaghetti Westerns of Klaus Kinski will get you started.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publish music reviews and short stories on Medium.

Disclaimer: We did not receive a review request from the director or a P.R firm. We discovered this film on our own and requested a screener. And we truly enjoyed the film.

Into Light (2020)

During the election of 1916, suffragist Inez Milholland (Amy Walker, who also wrote this short)  will stop at nothing to get people behind the right for women to vote. Even terminal illness won’t hold back her final speech.

While so many men see women voting as a threat, she keeps fighting and collapses at the conclusion of her most important speech. While a doctor begs that she rests, she instead puts her cause ahead of her life.

This was directed by Jessica Graham and despite it being only 12 minutes long, it really sets itself up to make you want to see even more of this story. It’s well-shot and edited, well beyond what you’d expect from a lower budget short.

This is a reminder that the rights that we accept today as normal were once anything but. And if we’ve learned anything from this last election, it’s that the voice that we take for granted today may not be there forever unless we continue to fight.

You can learn more at the film’s official site. You can watch this on Amazon Prime.

Snake Eyes (2020)

Don’t get excited — this isn’t the official G.I. Joe movie that got moved to next year. No, instead it’s a short film created by Rene Perez (Death Kiss), which has seventh degree black belt martial artist Juan Manuel Olmedo as the title character and Miss Nevada 2020 Victoria Olona as Snake Eyes’ wife (who is decidely not Scarlett).

Perez and producer Joseph Camilleri previously collaborated on the film The Insurrection, with the director’s next movie being Righteous Blood, which will star Michael Pare and Emily Whitcomb.

While this is a fan film, it’s packed with some pretty good action. That said, if you’re a Joe fan — I mean, I only have 8 or 9,000 of the modern era figures and a room devoted specifically to their display — you’ll be disappointed that this has nothing to do with any of the continuity of the line. It’s a stand-alone story of Snake Eyes last mission.

That said, it will hopefully tide you over until the October 22, 2021 re-release date of the official film.

2020 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 10: The Devil’s Passenger (2018) and Window Dressing (2019)

Day 10: Plastique Vivant: Manniquins are creepy enough standing still, but what happens when they come to life? (Window Dressing)

I came to my gig as the (chief) grease bit scrubber and dumpster pad washer at the ol’ B&S Bar n’ Grill by way of my screenwriting endeavors, which born out of my acting endeavors (which born out of my radio jock days).

As result, I’ve been to more than my fair share of film festivals, not only for the shorts I worked on, but for the films of others — in support of my fellow thespin’ brethren. And as someone who’s worked in the short film realm, take it from me: most of them are arduous, not only to work on, but to watch. As an actor, nothing is more heartbreaking than to pour your soul into someone’s vision to make it the very best short film it can be — only to see that filmmaker’s industry “calling card” disintegrate into an utter failure. And that’s not even counting the shorts that, through sheer directorial ineptitude and an indifferently staffed and in disarray film school, are never finished. The whole angle of the short filmVerse is that, while you, the actor, do not get paid, “you’ll get a finished film/clips for your reel.” And, as goes my luck, the filmmakers that never “paid” me with a finished film or so much as a clip (even after begging), far outnumbers the ones that did “pay” me. And, very few of those were of a quality to use as demo reel material.

Anyway, I digress . . . bottom line: I’ve seen lots of short films. I’ve long since surpassed my Hollywood-mainstream film attendances with my affection for the new breed cultivated in film festivals: I love going to film festivals, seeing short films, and acting in short films: the camaraderie of the indie environs is pure electric. It’s oxygen. It’s life.

And — in the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled filmmaker, one who checks their ego at the door and respects their actors and crew and realizes that film is a “team” effort — the short film story format works and there are, in fact, filmmakers who do not make you dread film festivals, but look forward to them. There’s nothing more pleasing, more exhilarating than to see all of those years of college and university-level film school classes pay off in spades. I am of the camp that doesn’t want those budding filmmakers to suck at their chosen profession: I want to see them succeed.

And succeed they do, as is the case with my reviews for Colin West’s Pink Plastic Flamingos, Marko Slavanic’s Project Skyborn, and Sara Gorsky’s Cockpit: The Rules of Engagement. Then there’s my recent reviews for Ben Griffin’s stellar sci-fi-on-budget excitement that is Ji, Marc Cartwright’s We Die Alone, Megan Freels Johnson’s Dear Guest, Brando Benetton’s top notch college thesis project, Nightfire, Greece’s Vahagn Karapetyan’s Wicca Book, Travis White’s Why Haven’t They Fixed the Cameras Yet?, and Chun-Ku Lu’s 2018 work, This Life, I am a flower pot (yes, he of 1975’s The Black Dragon’s Revenge).

And as I went down a You Tube rabbit hole, I discovered another Frank Barrone-moment, you know, a “holy crap” moment, with writer and director Dave Bundtzen’s The Devil’s Passengers.

Bundtzen’s been bangin’ at the Final Draft and eyein’ the Canon Reds since the early ’90s across fifteen shorts, with thirteen of them as a screenwriter, and a seventeen-film mix as a producer of his own shorts and of others. So it’s no secret that Bundtzen is bringing an A-Game to the table. He possesses an expert concept of what a short film should be: short. His films are well-written and edited and fully-character arced in less than five minutes, exactly as a short film should.

Ack! Please don’t delve into a college thesis on the craft of screenwriting, and act structure, R.D.

Don’t worry; I’m pulling back the reins. But take my word for it: Bundtzen’s short film days are numbered. There’s a feature film on the horizon.

His latest short-fiction work, The Devil’s Passenger, concerns a woman (a very good Colleen Kelly, who reminds of Dakota Johnson; I actually thought, at first, it was Australian actress Amanda Woodhams from 2020’s Dark Sister) in a traffic jam that desperately tries to help another woman she sees in the back of a van hold — held by a hand that appears from the dark background of the vehicle.

And that brings us to Dave Bundtzen and Colleen Kelly’s newest film (and the Scarecrow Video Challenge part), along with the expertly creepy Elaine Partnow, in a tale about Danielle (Kelly), a young woman who responds to an innocent “Help Wanted” sign in the window of the Rose Time antique dress shop run by Clara (Partnow), a kindly, senior shop keep. Now, if you know your British Amicus horror anthologies, you know about those little, out-of-the-way shops and their affable clerks. Yeah, this isn’t going to end well for young Danielle. The “Amicus” vibe of Bundtzen’s pen is buoyed by Gavin V. Murray’s stellar cinematography that gives the proceedings a very-Argento vibe.

The Devil’s Passengers and Window Dressing are currently streaming on You Tube, along with Bundtzen’s early efforts Siri (2012) and Tap (2018), courtesy of Flix Horror’s You Tube Platform. And, what I really dig: Bundtzen supports other short-horror purveyors, as his nifty “Great Horror Short Films on You Tube” playlist attests. Watch ’em once, twice, watch three times. Just an awesome day of movie viewing to be had over at Flix Horror’s page.

Colleen Kelly made one foray into network television with an appearance on ABC-TV’s Castle. Here’s to hoping she makes a much deserved transition out of shorts and indies and into more network television (yeah, you know me well: Law & Order: SVU and Blue Bloods) and A-List feature films. In fact, if you’re a Felissa Rose (A Nun’s Curse, Rootwood) fan — and aren’t we all — you’ve also seen Kelly’s work alongside Rose in Clawed (2017).

You can learn more about Dave Bundtzen’s filmmaking endeavors at Flix Digital’s website and Facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were not sent screeners or received a review requests for either of these shorts. We discovered them on our own and truly enjoyed both works.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Why Haven’t They Fixed the Cameras Yet? (2020)

If you’re a frequent visitor to B&S About Movies, you know of my admiration for Law and Order: TOS and SVU. However, while expertly produced and acted, my precious exploits of Captain Olivia Benson and her squad (and Blue Bloods, I think) sometimes falls back on the ol’ the-car-won’t start-at-the-most-inopportune-moment trope of the ol’ our-security-cameras-haven’t-worked-in-months-and-our-bosses-are-too-cheap-to-fix-‘em trope.

But guess what?

It’s not a screenwriting trope. I’ve witnessed four incidents during my 9 to 5 lifetime where crimes-incidents (yes, people do spike coffee pots and icepick tires and key paint and steal food and spread icky-sticky things around and go into cubicle “smack down” mode) occurred in my workplace—and the cameras were broke. And yes, back in the pre-digital epoch when VCRs interfaced with those cameras—the VHS tapes really were “taped over” every 24 to 48 hours. And security cameras really are the new “digital mailboxes,” as wayward teens like to either—due to a lack of a “canvas” to craft an epithet on—spray paint the lenses or give ‘em a whack with a baseball bat, you know, for fun. Those rascally scamps.

Courtesy of digital technologies and through constant hardware miniaturization upgrades, security cameras—that you don’t know are there and everywhere—are recording everything. And if there’s not a camera to capture our societal faux pas, someone is at the smartphone-ready—recording everything. Then there are those high-tech-toys-not-meant-for-boys drones that, as with any piece of technology, are a benefit to man in the right hands—and a nefarious tool in bad hands. And if those technologies aren’t capturing us in an innocent Ridiculousness moment, the digital ethers chronicle our not-so-innocent-moments; ubiquitous technologies that leads to nary the pass of a day that our local and national news or browser portal feeds go without a newsworthy event or crime—thought private—that becomes our “forever” moment. . . .

A young office worker is thrust into that world of false security set forth by those omnipresent cameras capturing our forever moments—cameras that really are sometimes malfunctioning or vandalized and never repaired by our bottom-line employers. And if you’ve worked odd-ball hours in the big city, then you’ve experienced the reasonable fears of those remote, concrete wildernesses known as a parking garage. . . .

And, for this young office drone, that broken security camera in that desolate parking garage becomes a catalyst: her life is about to change . . . but is it for the better . . . or the worst?

Spoiler Alert: Watch the short, now, in its entirety, before scrolling onward.

Prior to watching and reviewing this debut work by Austin, Texas-based writer and director Travis White, I wrote an upcoming review for our October “All Slasher-All Horror Month” for Thom Eberhardt’s (Night of the Comet) horror-thriller Naked Fear (2007)—a film that concerns a woman’s emotional breakdown and catharsis at the nefarious hands of others.

The reason for my critical analogy of these two decade-apart films is that I see the possibilities of White’s short film—which is exactly what a short film is supposed to do: leave you wanting more; to serve as a visual business card to pitch a feature film development deal.

I’m not privy to reading “Why Is It Always So Dark Here?,” the short story on which this film is based, but I look forward to learning about this office worker’s exploits that—considering Thom Eberhardt’s work with the great Sir Michael Caine (1988’s Without a Clue)—remind of one of my favorite films starring Sir Michael: A Shock to the System (1990). In that film, the accidental death of a hated co-worker at Caine’s hands starts off an anti-hero murder-to-right-the-wrongs-and-for-workplace-advancement chain of events.

Office Parties: I hate people, but love gatherings. Isn’t it ironic?/courtesy of Wet Demin Productions

You can watch the complete film—and other productions—courtesy of Wet Demin Production’s You Tube page. And, in a special treat, we have an opportunity to share the film’s storyboards completed by writer-director Travis White. As you can see, no matter how long or short the film, an incredible amount of thought, time, effort, and planning goes into a film. It’s not about the length. It’s always about the content. Always.

If this is what Travis White (and producer Madison Phillips) can do in less than five minutes with his debut work, then we’re looking forward to see what he can do with his future works. In fact, he’s currently in the pre-production stages of his next short-narrative, Man Seeking Man (beware of those who ask for “favors”), which will see release in 2021. And you’ll hear about it first, at B&S About Movies.

And bigger things are on the horizon for actress Lee Eddy, here as the nameless office worker. She’s currently in pre-production on Richard Linklater’s (Dazed and Confused, School of Rock) Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Adventure, a coming-of-age story set in the suburbs of Houston, Texas, in the summer of 1969, centered on the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. That film stars Zachary Levi (Thor: Ragnarok and Shazam!) and Jack Black (Jumanji: The Next Level). Eddy’s husband, Macon Blair, won the U.S. Dramatic Competition Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival for the Netflix-released I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Fans of Scratch Acid and Jesus Lizard may want to check out the film (it’s great, by the way) as it co-stars lead vocalist David Yow (Under the Silver Lake).

Disclaimer: We were provided a screener by the film’s public relations firm. That has no bearing on our review.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

Ji (2019)

We’ve gone down the DUST rabbit hole once before — as part of last year’s Scarecrow Video of Seattle’s Psychotronic October Scarecrow Challenge of watching 31 movies in 31 days. For the 24th day of the challenge, the theme was “Short Attention Span Theatre: Watch Some Shorts or Anthology Things.” And I chose to meet the challenge with a pair of short films from DUST: a You Tube-based, social media portal that features science fiction shorts from emerging filmmakers obsessed with aliens, robots, space exploration, technology, and the human experience in space.

During my last year’s DUST excursion, I felt moved to the point of wanting to review two of the many wonderful films on the DUST platform — and chose to review Colin West’s Plastic Pink Flamingos and Marko Slavanic’s Skyborn. This year, I was wowed by the writing and directing, narrative-fiction debut of Ben Griffin, a filmmaker who earned his bones in the music video field with the likes of Demi Lovato, Imagine Dragons, Machine Gun Kelly, and Metallica* (2019’s Metallica & San Francisco Symphony). (We previously reviewed A Clear Shot, the latest feature film by Nick Leisure, himself a writer-director who rose up through the music video field ranks.)

Lewis Tan (Shatterstar in Deadpool 2; Gaius Chau on AMC’s Into The Badlands; Lu Xin Lee in Netflix’s Wu Assassins) is Ji, a modified human and commanding General in a military unit protecting the mechanized exo-planet Nilo. His artificial life on his artificial home world is perfect — yet, he hungers to learn of his human roots.

Against orders and abandoning his post, Ji sets off for Earth and comes to discover it’s not the wasteland he and his people were told. Upon arrival, he meets an Earth woman (Eva De Dominici, of the upcoming Bruce Willis sci-fi actioner Cosmic Sin and TV’s Hawaii Five-O) and falls in love. You’ll also recognized Peter Adrian Sudarso (Marvin Shih and Preston Tien in the respective Power Rangers‘ spinoff series HyperForce and Ninja Steel) as Ji’s commanding officer who ventures to Earth to return him to Nilo.

Ben Griffin’s debut is the epitome of skilled filmmaking at its finest, complete with a top-notch, imaginative script flowing in perfect harmony with a solid cast and stunning special effects: a highly recommended watch that’s worthy of expansion into a feature-length film. The last time I was this enraptured with an action-oriented short film, was Brando Benetton’s top notch college thesis project, Nightfire. Which proves my ongoing point: it doesn’t have to be long to be good: it’s in the content, not the length.

You can learn more about the works of San Francisco’s Ben Griffin and his Prime Zero Productions at their official website, Facebook and You Tube pages. After completing a successful film festival run, Ji is now available at DUST You Tube as of July 30, 2020.

* We previously reviewed Metallica’s support of Spencer Susser in 2010’s Hesher (Will somebody please back Spencer and let him make another feature film, will yah? Hesher is so good.)

Disclaimer: We were not sent a screener or received a review request for this short. We discovered it on our own and truly enjoyed the work.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.