The Tent (2020)

“The Crisis,” an apocalyptic event, has devastated the Earth and left David (Tim Kaiser) to rely on the backwoods survival skills he learned from his childhood. Living in tent-bound isolation and losing his mind, with only flashbacks of the past to comfort him, Mary (Lulu Dahl) emerges from the woods. The isolation have left both socially maladjusted: he’s immediately suspicious of her and she of him. Together they must learn to work together to avoid “Those Who Walk In Darkness,” heard-but-unseen creatures that may be responsible for or were born out of “The Crisis” event.

While The Tent initially comes across as a thriller with horror overtones, this feature film debut by writer/director Kyle Couch is actually an intelligent, introspective drama made on a well-utlized budget and comes across as a low-budget inversion of the Frank Darabont-directed The Mist — only without the special effect bombast and thespian clutter of superfluous characters in over-the-top dramatic moments.

Michigan-native writer and director Kyle Couch has won awards for his previous shorts and documentaries that led up to this feature film. The work by award-winning cinematographer Robert Skates (with twenty-plus credits across various shorts and indie projects) is exquisite throughout.

Trekkies will recognize Detroit, Michigan, actor Tim Kaiser from his role as Admiral Gardner in the 2016 fan-web series Star Trek: Horizon. Reminding one of Bruce Dern, he’s amassed an impressive 50-plus credit resume across various shorts and web series in a short nine years after beginning his acting career at the age of 56. Kaiser’s co-star, Lulu Dahl, has also embarked on a newly-forged career across several short films, as well as a featured background role in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Both are excellent in their roles and bigger projects are on the horizon for both in mainstream television series and films.

The Tent is currently on the U.S festival circuit, where it’s won several sets of leaves, and seeking distribution on all of the usual PPV and VOD platforms. You can learn more at the film’s official website and Facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were sent a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

All Hail the Popcorn King (2020)

The last time we heard from filmmaker Hansi Oppenheimer was her writing and producing debut with the rock-doc Color Me Obsessed: A Film About The Replacements (2011), her musician-fan insightful chronicle on the 12-year career of the Minneapolis punk-pop quartet that issued several beloved college rock gems on Twin Tone and Sire Records. Not exactly a document that screams “mainstream” to the masses.

Now she’s back with another heartfelt tribute to one of America’s non-mainstream writers: Joe R. Lansdale. Okay, yeah, we know you comic book geeks (the B&S staff and probably most of you reading this) know Joe for his work in that field. And there’s no denying that his work on Batman: The Animated Series made that one of the greatest action-animated series of all time — with stories that surpassed the Batman cinematic franchise. His biggest “mainstream” recognition came from the patronage of Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) adapting Joe’s Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella, Bubba Ho-Tep.

Now, we keep putting mainstream in quotes, not as an insult to Joe’s work. But let’s face it: there’s nothing “major studio” about a tale that features Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy (who goes underground as a surgical-altered African-American . . . maybe) battling a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in a nursing home. No one but the unconventional master of the Silver Sphere could have brought that to the big screen.

And only Hansi Oppenheimer could bring Joe Lansdale to the big screen — a career that needed to be documented on the big screen. As with her Replacements tribute, you immediately sense Hansi’s heartfelt fandom for her subjects. Documentaries about musicians and filmmakers come and go. This is one that stays and, hopefully, will walk away with some deserving awards on the festival circuit. Fascinating stuff.

You need more Joe than this documentary can give you (and it gives a lot)?

Then surf on over to his official website or his Wikipedia Page, which is extensive. Wanna watch his movies? You can watch Don Coscarelli’s Bubba Ho-Tep on TubiTV. You can find Cold in July on all the usual streaming platforms, including You Tube Movies. There’s no VODs for Christmas with the Dead, but Amazon has the DVDs. We also found a copy of Joe and Don Coscarelli’s premiere episode of the first season of Mick Garris’s Masters of Horror series for Showtime, “Incident On and Off a Mountain Road,” on You Tube.

Currently making the festival rounds, you’ll be able to pick this up on all the usual VOD platforms in the coming months. You can keep up to to date with the latest on the film at Squee Projects via their official website and Facebook page.

Disclaimer: We were sent a screener by the film’s P.R firm. That has no bearing on our review.

Like A Boss (2020)

Man, this quarantine is killing me. If my wife wants to watch something, now we watch it. I’ve seen more than a few Tiffany Haddish movies now. Let me share my pain with you.

I put on a strong front in these posts, but trust me, I always get roped in to these movies.

Haddish and Rose Byrne play childhood best friends who are more like sisters. Their makeup company is on the verge of bankruptcy when their get an offer from Salma Hayak’s character, who is obviously going to screw them at the end and try to ruin their friendship.

As basic as this film is, I enjoyed the casting of Jennifer Coolidge and Pittsburgh native Billy Porter. I also really liked another movie by director Miguel Arteta, 2009’s Youth In Revolt, which played with the expectations of teen movies pretty nicely.

The Hunt (2020)

The Hunt has often been a punchline in the emails between this site’s R. D Francis and myself, as we’ve discussed many times how bad the film appeared from trailers and whether or not the controversy was just made up to get rid of a movie that did not appear ready for theaters.

When the COVID-19 epidemic finally pushed this out — anything that is in the can and could be released is being shown — I finally got my chance to see just how bad — or good — this movie was.

Directed by Craig Zobel — who helped created Homestar Runner — from a script by Nick Cuse and Damon Lindelof, this movie reimagines The Most Dangerous Game for the nightmare hellworld that we find ourselves navigating every day.

The movie was originally called Red State Vs. Blue State and so upset President Trump that he referred to it as “”Liberal Hollywood” being “[r]acist at the highest level” and stating, “The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos”, and “They create their own violence, and then try to blame others.”

Nobody cared.

I mean, this is a movie that has Sturgill Simpson play a character named Vanilla Nice. That’s the extent of its humor. And the idea that perhaps there’s no right side in this war is pretty much wasted so that Betty Gilpin and Hilary Swank can have a fifteen-minute fistfight.

The whole beginning of this movie feels less like a film and more like watching someone else play PUBG, with numerous deaths happening with no consequences or emotions.

It’s closer to a slasher, some would say, but most slashers are entertaining.

Imagine if The Purge, but remove all the over-the-top ridiculousness and square up reel moralizing — as well as most of the fun — and you have this movie.

Look, Hard TargetTurkey Shoot and Surviving the Game are already much better cover versions than this. They just didn’t have a ton of money behind them and all manner of hype that they didn’t deserve.

The King of Staten Island (2020)

You know, I liked this movie more than I ever would have thought. I’ve disliked nearly everything Pete Davidson has done on Saturday Night Live, seeing him as, at best, a one-note stand-up jammed into a show where the best he can do is look sleepy and break in nearly every sketch.

Yet this movie, a semi-autobiography as Davidson’s father was also a firefighter who died on 9/11, was moving and well-done.

It’s not without its problems. Like every Judd Apatow movie, there’s no reason for it to be two hours and sixteen minutes. The guy has no idea how to end a movie on time.

Marisa Tomei again shows why she really did deserve that Oscar and wow, Bill Burr was a revelation. The guy is so natural and perfect here, as is Bel Powley as Davidson’s love interest.

Pamela Adlon, who plays Burr’s ex-wife, is actually the voice of Bobby Hill on King of the Hill, which is a shock. And Steve Buscemi, who was a firefighter while beginning his acting career, is great as usual.

I was expecting a self-indulgent mess and got a thoughtful film. I promise not to judge Davidson so harshly in the future.

Battlefield 2025 (2020)

Here’s the official description of this film from the fine folks at October Coast: “Weekend campers, an escaped convict, young lovers and a police officer experience a night of terror when a hostile visitor from another world descends on a small Arizona town.”

As for the title of this film, it doesn’t make sense until the end, which comes out of nowhere for a movie that up until then has felt like Without Warning 2020.

We covered director Joseph Mbah’s film Expo on the site and as I was looking back on it, I remember that I called out that that film had more than ten minutes of credits. This one started with nearly three and ends with eleven minutes or more. So, if you love credits, good news!

I really liked the design of the alien monster in this, which felt very 1950’s science fiction. I was expecting to not see any creatures in this, so I was pleasantly surprised to have so many creature effects.

Battlefield 2025 is available on demand from Uncork’d Entertainment, who was nice enough to send us a copy to review.

Our Father’s Keeper (2020)

When David Roberts (Craig Lindquist), a successful man suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s wanders away from home a day before Thanksgiving, his already dysfunctional family, headed by his son Matthew (Kyler Steven Fisher), splintering under the financial and spiritual strain in caring for their patriarch, snaps.

Out on the streets alone, David comes to develop a spiritually-mending friendship with Christine (Shayla McCaffrey), a fatherless, thirteen-year-old homeless girl who saved him after a street beating. Through the faith and selflessness of their “father’s keeper,” the Roberts family comes to restore their own family and faith.

Our Father’s Keeper is admittedly different from the genres of films in the indie marketplace that we normally review here at B&S About Movies. And we know that faith-based films are not palpable subject matter for everyone. And in these current hard times, as we deal with a global pandemic, the last thing anyone wants to watch is a movie about a family struggling with a disease.

But it also the exact time that we need a movie like Our Father’s Keeper in the marketplace to affirm that there is a light at the end of even the darkest tunnels.

This intelligently-written feature film debut by screenwriter Chris Dallimore is directed by Rob Diamond. An award-winning writer and director in his own right, Diamond’s been behind the keyboard and lens since the late ’90s and amassed twenty-plus credits in both disciplines.

Fans of character actor Danny Trejo may already be familiar with Diamond’s work, as Trejo starred in two of his previous films: Justin Time, a 2010 family-adventure, and Propensity, a 2006 dramatic-thriller. Diamond’s forte is, of course, faith-based films and his works in that genre, The Last Straw, starring Corbin Bernsen, and Wayward: The Prodigal Son, won Utah Awards in 2013 and 2015.

Hopefully, based on that production pedigree and the fact that Diamond can bring familiar, quality actors such as Trejo and Bernsen onto his projects, it will encourage one to watch My Father’s Keeper. Putting the faith-based subject matter aside, My Father’s Keeper is a well-made film that features stellar performances from its unknown, new-to-the-streaming-screen cast. Craig Lindquist and Shayla McCaffrey, in particular, will each quickly expand their now slight resumes with larger, more mainstream projects. Thread reviewers name drop “Hallmark” in their comments on the film. I feel the subject matter of My Father’s Keeper is a bit too heavy for that channel’s warm n’ fuzzy rom-com catalog. It is, however, deserving of wider exposure on the family-friendly Up cable channel (which began its broadcast life as Gospel Music Channel and GMC-TV).

Streaming in the online marketplace for several months on Amazon Prime and the You Tube channel of the faith and family-based Encourage TV (which also streams on Roku and Android TV), Our Father’s Keeper made its premiere as a free-with-ads stream this month on TubiTv.

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

Disclaimer: We weren’t provided an advanced screener or a review request by the film’s PR company, distributor, or director. We discovered this film all on our own via social media and genuinely enjoyed the movie.

Making Time (2020)

Everyone dreams of second chances as they fight their demons of regret over past decisions and time wasted.

This is the quandary facing Nick (Mason Heidger), a loveable “mad scientist” obsessed with the concept of time travel. Now, seven years after his first experiments, his career and finances are in a shambles, his family and friends have abandoned him, and his marriage with Jess (Tori Titmas) has ended in divorce — which exacerbates his resolve to make the hypothetical a scientific reality. If he can make his machine work so he can get a government contract, he can get his life back. . . .

Nick’s fortunes change when a consortium realizes Nick is closer to success than Dr. Kent (Steve Berglund), their own frazzled, chief time travel physicist. Nick will receive the funding needed to finish the project and have a permanent job, provided he travels with Dr. Kent into the past. And it works . . . and the machine blows the home’s fuse box and leaves them stranded seven years in the past, as they wait several hours for the machine to recharge its mainframe.

The temptation to “break the rules of time travel,” i.e., not tampering with the past and altering the present, complicate the trip when Nick discovers he’s surrounded by the friends and family that once shunned him — on the night of his engagement party when he first proposed to Jess, the woman he just divorced.

As the tagline on the theatrical one-sheet states: Making Time was shot in two days. . . .

And the genesis of the film was . . . a home renovation.

Writer-director Grant Pichla and his wife, Lyndsay, were in the process of remodeling their suburban home, so Pichla “seized the day” by using the real life “set” as an opportunity to illustrate time travel. Principal photography of first half of the film — the past, with the house in a shambles — was filmed in “real time” over the course of one day. The second half of the film — the present, with the remodel completed — was film seven months later.

If you’re familiar with the intelligence of Shane Carruth’s low-budget time travel drama Primer and Charlie Kaufman’s (Adaptation) sci-fi romance Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (both 2004), then you’ll enjoy the character-driven premise of Grant Pichla’s sophomore feature film (his first was 2014’s Niner). If you connected with the scientific wanderlust of the recently released Red Rover, Shane Belcourt’s indie rom-com centered around the Mars One Project, you’ll enjoy this inventive time travel romance.

Making Time is, in fact, the second low-budget time travel movie I’ve watched this year: the other was the sci-fi rom-com Same Boat. And as with that utterly brilliant Chris Roberti-directed film, Making Time is the type of film that inspires mainstream A-List producers to take notice. And as with my prediction that we’ll be seeing more from Chris Roberti: we’ll be seeing more from Grant Pichla. It’s just a matter of time. And the clock will strike sooner, than later.

The same holds true for Michigan-based lead actor Mason Heidger, who’s appeared in an array of shorts and indie features (along with a dayplayer role as Officer Rucka in the Detroit-shot scenes of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice). His co-star, Tori Titmas, recently made her feature film screenwriting debut with the comedy The Girls of Summer.

As I watched Heidger’s performance unfold, I was reminded of the acting brilliance of Jim Parsons in his portrayal of Sheldon Cooper in CBS-TV’s The Big Bang Theory. Heidger’s thespian skills in rattling off scientific expositional dialogue are on equal. Is the “science” of time accurately based in theoretical physics and quantum mechanics? Is it all just a screenwriting trick-of-the-keyboard? No matter. It is written and acted with such conviction by team Pichla-Heidger, that they convinced me — as I ponder what reading materials, besides filmmaking texts, sits on the shelves of Pichla’s remodeled house.

My only quibble (and it’s not a deal breaker) with the film is the time machine itself. In the lo-fi lands of indie film, we’re certainly not expecting a Robert Zemeckis-inspired DeLorean to appear . . . but what “sold” Shane Carruth’s Primer to indie-fans was the inventive construction of his lab and its related props on-a-budget. In Making Time, the time machine does appear, as one thread reviewer pointed out, to be a (black) sheet draped over a cone strung with Christmas lights (and a short stack of DVD decks/cable boxes “hooked” up to an iPad). But hey, actor Peter Fonda rigged up 8-Track players to send (nude) people through time in an underground desert bunker in Idaho Transfer — and Sam and I like that Mill Creek public domain ditty. And I enjoyed Making Time.

After a successful festival run — where it won awards for Best Acting Performance of the Year and Best Supporting Actress at the 2019 LA Actors Awards, and Best Indie Feature at the 2020 Vegas Movie Awards — Making Time began streaming in the online marketplace via Amazon Prime and premiered this month as a free-with-ads stream on TubiTV through Indie Rights Movies. You can learn more about the film at its official Facebook page.

You can learn more about IRM’s roster of films on their official website, along with their Facebook and You Tube pages. Back in March and April, we reviewed two of Indie Rights’ most recent releases: M.O.M: Mother of Monsters (starring Ed Asner of TV’s Lou Grant fame) and the equally intelligent and inventive sci-fi thriller Double Riddle. You can also watch Tori Titmas in The Girls of Summer — directed by . . . wait for it . . . only at B&S About Movies . . . John D. Hancock, the writer-director of the 1971 Drive-In psychological-horror classic Let’s Scare Jessica to Death — via IRM on TubiTV.

Disclaimer: We weren’t provided an advanced screener or a review request by the film’s PR company, distributor, or director. We discovered this film all on our own via social media and genuinely enjoyed the movie.

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

Heartbeat (2020)

A reporter finds her life in danger when the story she has published results in several murders that come closer to her. That seems like a simple start, but the truth is, I was continually surprised by this horror film, as every time that I thought it would be a typical direct to streaming affair, it showed some aspiration or threw in a winking nod to the past.

Director Gregory Hatanaka has worked on several films that you can find streaming. Samurai Cop 2: Deadly Vengeance would probably be the best known.

I thought that this was going to be a straight-up slasher, but was shocked to see plenty of giallo influence in the kills, the lighting and even in the push in pauses that the film uses to dramatic editing effect. There’s even a scene where two of the characters watch a Hong Kong movie — I think it’s Master of the Flying Guillotine — that made me smile.

While most direct to streaming affairs feel filmed on an iPhone, this movie aspires to be much more. Plus, Lisa London is in this, who you may recognize as Rocky from Savage Beach. I always like to point out an Andy Sidaris reference.

You can learn more at the official site.

Thanks to Cinema Epoch for sending this movie to us.

Mucho Mucho Amor (2020)

Every day for decades, Walter Mercado — the iconic, gender non-conforming astrologer — mesmerized 120 million Latino viewers with his extravagance and positivity. And then he was gone.

In the film, Mercado defines himself as androgynous and insists that the primary relationship of his life is with his fans; he also jokes about being a virgin even in his advanced age. But man — what a magical world he created. His intros and his voice and his beyond Liberace outfits stand out in the macho world of Mexican television, a Puerto Rican performer just seamless fitting in while standing out at the same time.

For as big a star as Lin-Manuel Miranda is, you can tell how humbled he is upon meeting Mercado. That human moment made this entire movie for me. It’s exclusively on Netflix and well worth checking out.