Climate of the Hunter (2019)

Mickey Reece — who co-wrote this film with John Selvidge, has made two movies a year since 2008 and I haven’t seen a single one of them. After watching Climate of the Hunter, that will definitely change. It’s all about two older sisters awaiting the return of a childhood friend named Wes, one they both have romantic feelings for. He’s definitely a writer, but he may also be a vampire.

Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) can barely be in the same room with one another, but now they’re staying at their family’s cabin together, right next to the aforementioned — and very mysterious — Wesley (Ben Hall). His strange behavior has led one of the locals — the wonderfully named BJ Beavers (Jacob Snovel) — to determine that this man of letters is really a count of blood, so to speak. And as for Alma, well, she can barely stay attuned to this reality, much less be able to deal with a bloodsucker.

Of course, even vampires have families today, which include a son (Sheridan McMichael) who spikes dinner with garlic and a wife (Laurie Cummings) who must rely upon facelifts to appear as youthful as her vampiric paramour when she isn’t in an institution.

Further complicating matters is the short visit from Alma’s daughter Rose (Danielle Evon Ploeger), whose youth and beauty take Wesley’s attention away from our protagonists.

This is a film that sparkles with modern dialogue while calling to mind the cinema of the 70’s,  particularly ones that set up dark spaces where female characters slowly lose their minds. Most strikingly, one scene borrows liberally from Daughters of Darkness.

You can learn more about this film on its official Twitter page.

My Little One (2019)

In our previous review of Pleased To Meet Me (2013), we discussed the analogous career travels of musician-actor John Doe and Sam Raimi-bred Bruce Campbell. Campbell resigned himself to being an actor that would never book a leading man role in major studio picture; that his career would consist of smaller support roles in A-List pictures, while maintaining a leading man status in B-Movies.

And as result of his iconic status from The Evil Dead, one day, Bruce got a call to star in La Patinoire, aka The Ice Rink (1998), a French rom-com about an inexperienced film crew producing a hockey film — with Campbell starring as Sylvester, a fish-out-of-water American actor cast as the team’s goalie, who falls in love on-screen and off-screen with his leading lady.

And so it goes with this Swiss-French co-production casting John Doe in a minor support role as a musician scratching out a living in a dusty Arizona casino. Thus John, like Bruce (thanks to The Evil Dead), is cast as the lead in self-produced indies like Pleased to Meet Me, or he’s cast in an overseas, major studio film as a support player — courtesy of his iconic tenure with his Los Angeles punk band, X. And in the U.S., John trades chops with such A-Listers as James Woods, Jennifer Aniston, and Ben Affleck in Salvador, The Good Girl, and Forces of Nature, respectively.

And, because of the Chin that Kills, I rented The Ice Rink. And because of Doe, I sought out this road movie (during its festival release) set in the Navajo Nation of the American Southwest that stars renowned French art house actors Vincent Bonillo, Mathieu Demy, and Anna Mouglalis.

“Never wait for something to happen.”
— Jade

A decade ago, the now estranged brothers Alex and Bernardo (Bonillo and Demy) lived on the coast of Mexico in a menage-a-trois, spiritual existence with Jade (Mouglalis), until a tornado destroyed their mutual business — and Jade disappeared. And while the still dreaming, 40-something Alex drifts in the memories of his youth, Bernardo became a responsible husband, father, and architect in Geneva, Switzerland.

The brothers are forced to reconcile as strangers-in-a-strange-land when they discover Jade now resides in Arizona. Dying from cancer, she wants the brothers to take care of Frieda (who is possibly either of their daughters), her now 10-year old, half-Sioux, half-American and half-Swiss daughter (well played by Disney series actress Ruby Matenko, who’s also appeared in the U.S. cable series Baskets and Veep). Jade makes a living as a singer known as “The Frenchie” in a slot machine casino with fellow musician Matt (John Doe). The film also stars local Navajo actors Zoël Zohnnie (as a medicine man who practices white-man medicine) and Kody Dayish (as a youthful hashish dealer).

My Little One comes from a place of erudition, with co-writers/directors Frédéric Choffat and Julie Gilbert drawing on their connections to the Navajo desert and its indigenous peoples as result of Choffat growing up in the Moroccan desert, while Gilbert, as result of her mother’s career as an ethnologist (a branch concerned with sociocultural anthropology), spent her youth among the indigenous peoples of Canada, Mexico, and U.S.

The indigenous aspect of the film — both of the peoples and landscapes — beautifully captured by cinematographer Pietro Zuercher, is maintained with Navajo native tongues (not subtitled) amid the English and French (subtitled) speaking cast. While I’d would have enjoyed watching Doe in a larger role in such an exquisitely-made film (he’s a fine actor deserving of such a casting), this tale of the lost and confused fear and loathing in an exotic land is still a joy to watch.

As with the unfurled existentialism in the dusty, lost landscapes of Border Radio — John Doe’s acting debut from all those years ago — a film that pinched from the ’70s cult films Easy Rider, Vanishing Point (John starred in the ’90s remake) and Two-Lane Blacktop, My Little One harkens the French New Wave films of old to remind us of Michelangelo Antonionis The Passenger (1975), as well as the ’80s American independents Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Down by Law (1986), and Mystery Train (1989) by writer-director Jim Jarmusch.

A hit on the festival circuit — where it was nominated as “Best Foreign Independent” at the 2019 Golden Trailer Awards — in France, Germany, and Switzerland before its European theatrical release, Los Angeles-based Cinema Libre Studios acquired the rights to distribute the film in the U.S. in the wake of its U.S. premiere at the Miami Film Festival. Other films on the studio’s roster include Imprisoned starring Lawrence Fishburne, the rock-doc Creating Woodstock, and the recently U.S.-released historical import from China, Enter the Forbidden City.

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.

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.

White Lie (2019)

Originally called Baldy, this movie is all about Katie Arneson (Kacey Rohl from The Magicians and Arrow), who has become a poster girl on her campus as she continues to attend classes despite fighting what seems to be a losing battle with cancer. Despite this diagnosis, she remains a popular undergrad with a close-knit group of friends and a fulfillig relationship with her partner Jennifer (Amber Anderson, Emma).

There’s only one problem.

She doesn’t have cancer.

Written and directed by Yonah Lewis and Calvin Thomas, this is a fearless movie that presents a character that we should, by all right, absolutely hate. Yet by the time we see how Katie has used sympathy and fame to gain everything she wants — while giving up on her family, with a father who remembers how she got away from school in the wake of her mother’s suicide by faking another sickness — at the cost of everyone who has fallen in love with her.

From the description, I didn’t think that this was a movie that would engage me for as long as it did. I’m happy to report that this was better than expected and urge you to seek it out and watch it for yourself.

You can learn more on the film’s official Instagram, FacebookTwitter and web site. This film will be streaming on all on demand properties as of January 5.

Haven’s End (2019)

When major cities burn in the aftermath of a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, a disgraced doctor and her friends escape Atlanta for the refuge of her family property, which is nestled deep in the heart of rural Georgia. What they find there — more than just people, but also something perhaps from beyond our understanding — may be more dangerous than the terrorists.

Directed by Chris Ethridge from a script by Michael H. Harper, the heroine of this film is trauma surgeon Alison (Catherine Taber*, who is the voice of Padme in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), who has been suspended by her hospital. She takes charge and gets her pregnant roommate and boyfriend out of the city and off to her family’s hidden property, where her addict brother and her girlfriend show up just in time to kill another family friend.

While the human tension between all of the characters is the best part of this movie, it’s also a film that isn’t sure what it wants to be. Gritty end of the world military movie? Zombies in the woods? Strange lights? Possession? Ham radio evil voices film? Literal Biblical end of the world movie? It’s like the filmmakers threw it all in a pot and didn’t let it simmer long enough. At least Taber gets a chance to shine as her character and there’s some fun action.

You can get Haven’s End on DVD from Mill Creek Entertainment. It’s also available for purchase on Amazon Prime. Want to learn more? Check out the official site and official Facebook page.

*Ethridge, Harper and Taber also all worked together on the film The Morningside Monster.

Born to Be (2019)

Dr. Jess Ting is part of the groundbreaking Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery in New York City. There, for the first time ever, all transgender and gender non-conforming people have access to high-quality transition-related health and surgical care and often, this work is covered for the very first time by insurance.

Tania Cypriano was given extraordinary access to make this feature-length documentary, which shows how Dr. Ting’s work impacts the lives of his patients as well as how his journey from renowned plastic surgeon to pioneering gender-affirming surgeon has led to his own life being transformed, as well as how his life turned from Julliard-trained musician to boundary-pushing surgeon.

Born to Be is the kind of movie that documentaries should be. It shows you a world that you may never see, going deep into the lives of people whose reasons for how they feel in their bodies may seem alien to you. I wish that people had an open enough mind to sit and watch this film and meet each of these people on an individual level to see who they truly are. They are not faceless people that upset conservatives because they want bathroom privileges at Target. They are people that just want to live the lives they feel that they would never get the chance to authentically live.

The gender-affirming surgeries of Dr. Ting’s patients are shown — not in graphic detail, but you definitely get to learn the near-magical ways that he is breaking barriers and transforming their bodies — as well as the emotional journeys that they must make and how even the strongest and most supported of them must deal with trauma and derision.

“We can’t repair the wounds to the mind and soul that have been borne over a lifetime of neglect and hate,” says Dr. Ting. And that’s the last part of this movie, the part that we must take into the world. The surgeons and counselors and makeup people and hair removal and clothing and all the artifice of these transformations can only do so much. I hope that we can finally remove so much of the prejudice in our souls. Perhaps seeing the one-on-one stories in this movie could go a long way toward making that happen.

Born to Be is currently playing on Kino Lorber’s KIno Marquee and Kino Digital. It will be released in January on DVD.

You can learn more on the official website and Facebook page. You can watch a discussion of the movie with director Tania Cypriano, Dr. Jess Ting and Mahogany and Jordan, two of the patients in the film, below on YouTube.

Thirst (2019)

Known in its native Iceland as Þorsti, this is one bloody take on the vampire film. How bloody? At least 200 litres (528 gallons) of fake blood were used in the film.

It starts with a drug addict named Hulda, who is charged with murdering her brother. After the police let her go due to insufficient evidence, she meets Hjörtur, a thousand-year-old gay vampire. He sees something in her, so he decides to show her the ways of vampirism, which starts with him replacing the weiner in a hot dog with, well, a weiner of another kind.

If you can get past that scene, then you’re going to love this movie.

It’s directed by Steinþór Hróar Steinþórsson and Gaukur Úlfarsson from a script by Björn Leó Brynjarsson. They’ve crafted a world where the good guys are vampires and the bad guys are a mix of Christian leaders and the police, who have created an apocalyptic cult behind the scenes.

This is perhaps the most over the top horror comedy I’ve seen in a long time, filled with inventive moments of pure mayhem. It’s not for everyone, but Hjörtur — who is played by Hjörtur Sævar Steinason — is an absolute delight, if a genital decimating bloodsucker can be described in such a way.

You can find this on demand and on DVD from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Contracts (2019)

Did you ever play with G.I. Joes? Did you ever spend an entire day setting up a gigantic battle with your friends and then wait for the carnage to begin, which soon ends up with nearly every single Joe and Cobra dead except for the two or three favorites of each person playing?

Yep. That’s this movie.

Assassin Anthony Lo (Alex Chung, who also write and directed this) joins hitman Marc Sullivan to battle a rogue gang of killers who are picking off their friends.

This was originally going to be a prequel to some of the shorts that Chung has worked on in the past, but it ended up being a standalone feature, which may explain why some of the story makes little to no sense.

That said, you’re not watching this movie for the story. You’re watching it for the fights. And this movie has just as many, if not more, fights than you were looking for. Honestly, I think people are still fighting despite the movie being over.

Contracts is available on demand from Indiecan Entertainment.

Hollyweird (2019)

After an accident hurts a film’s Latino star, the hunt for his replacement begins. The role of the undercover cop Basco is up for anyone who can get it, which seems to be a two-man race between Steve Fernandez, a struggling actor, and a man who has just thumbed a ride into town named Alejandro Costello, who isn’t who he seems to be.

Welcome to Hollyweird, originally called Hóllyweird.

With the tagline “Some people lie to themselves, other people lie to the world. (Alguna gente se miente, otra gente miente al mundo),” this film presents the behind the scenes world of the Latino Hollywood experience. It comes from director Edwin Porres, who co-wrote this with Jaime Marie Porres.

It’s interesting because Steve (Douglas Spain, But I’m a Cheerleader) is Latino but doesn’t play to the stereotypes that Hollywood has placed upon them, while Alejandro (Michael J. Knowles) — spoiler — isn’t Latino at all but may be better at playing the role than someone who has born into it.

If you’re in the mood for a movie about the making of movies, Hollyweird is now available on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, Vubiquity, iNDEMAND, DIRECTV, AT&T Universe, VUDU, Vimeo, Roku, FandangoNow, Redbox, Cox Cable, Spectrum Cable, Comcast, Verizon Fios, Xtreme and YouTube Movies.

Attack of the Demons (2019)

The year is 1994. This is when a demonic cult who has planned the end of the world will bring their ritual to a music festival in a small Colorado town. Soon, demons will rule the land and three very human people will have to try and stop it.

Sure, you’ve seen this type of movie before. But have you seen it as a cut paper animation?

Attack of the Demons would be an interesting experiment if its story didn’t work, but it atcually becomes truly engaging and succeeds because of it.

Director Eric Power also made another animated film called Path of Blood. Here he’s working with writer Andreas Petersen, who also provides the voice of Jeff, to make a movie that would completely fit into the 1980’s direct to VHS era — if it were a live-action movie. Being animated allows it to go wild with its visuals and create a world beyond an everyday budget.

Attack of the Demons is available on demand and on DVD from Dark Star Pictures, who were kind enough to send us a copy to watch.