Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Landed Entertainments Television Pilot Review - Day Players

Naveen Ghezzi ( Farid Yazdani) is a Day Player. He lands acting jobs that are normally one day's work usually with no dialogue. At the start of the episode he's working as a bartender in the background of a murder investigation catching hell from the director (Naomi Snieckus) as she finds his ethnic features distracting. After that unpleasant experience he returns to his flat where his pals Devon Hayes (Brendan Jeffers) and former child star Blake Summers (Brock Morgan) hang out between bit roles and promotional gigs. The trio decide to take an acting course in order to improve their skill set and up their odds of success at future auditions.

At the acting class taught by the over expressive Professor Edmund (Adam Tsekhman) we meet the other half of the inspiring actor content of the piece. Vincent Adamo (Julian Robino) is consumed by intensity seeming to have a problem with dialing it back. He is the perfect foil for the former child star of Zac Attack fame who continues to dine out on his early childhood successes. Shiva Negar is Trinity Grace a mysterious figure of few words and very intense glances her partner in the story is destined to be the take it as it comes Devon Hayes.  Lastly, Naveen's ex Veronica Blackwell (Ashley Leggat) appears as the students are being paired up for Improv. She's paired with Naveen and they immediately begin to bicker, he jealous of her current success modeling and she upset by how their relationship ended. These improve pairings create natural chemistry likely be further explored if the story catches and there are future episodes.

Yazdani takes a writing credit along with Chris D'Alessandro. The narrative has many laughs that are not to inside of the walk on acting world that the whole audience can understand and react. The pilot plants a jumping off point for further development of the characters both in the present and the past. The production team have outlines for 10 future episodes that see different characters taking the lead then drifting back into supporting roles.

Day Players is a Canadian project that has potential for a regular episodic run on television. It's  a fresh take on the world of bit part acting which is the normal fate of the majority of people in the profession rather than the red carpet walking multi picture deals of stars like Tom Cruise Jennifer Lawrence and Will Smith. Depending on the platform the piece would work as an edgier adult oriented cable show or the comedic aspects could be bumped up for network television perhaps with a portion of the bite kept in a safe harbour time slot. The production could be challenged to keep all of its Can Con content if they find a U.S. buyer but based on the first offering they have a good chance to find a home and be to play off their tag line: Lights.Camera.Your're Signed.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

Day Players | Aref Mahabadi | Canada | 2016 | 30 Minutes.

Tags: Visible Minority, Walk-on Role, Fired, Rent, Child Star, Acting Class, Billboard, Sex Tape, Stardom, Green Fury          

Sunday, December 4, 2016

BITS '16 - Selected Short Films Reviewed

WHAT DO YOU SEE - Directors Charlie Hamilton & Zach Ramelan

Opening with a shot of a teenage girl Selena (Raven Cousens) running down a residential street as if her life depends on it; What Do You See is a short film crafted by Charlie Hamilton and Zach Ramelan that could easily be fleshed out into a full feature. Selena reaches her destination a house where she is greeted by Isaac (Austin Duffey) who sports scratches on his face that we soon learn are from their last encounter. Isaac is assistant to Elijah ( Rich Piatowski) a hypnotist who puts Selena back under to face a demon in a small space where she must obtain a special object to defeat the creature before it takes greater hold of her and crosses over to the known world.

**** Out of 4

MRS. RAFFERTY'S RED ROSES - Director Greg Kovacs

Mrs Rhonda Rafferty (Alex Graham) is watering her roses when her doorbell rings It's a Mr. White (Grieg Graham) who is going door to door to offer a special service for a very low cost. He's an assassin for hire. He will exterminate anyone anywhere at any time desired. They retire to the garden where Ms. Rafferty explains her beef, gives the name of the target, location and the small fee is paid. The final touch is settling on a  message to be delivered to the intended then the hit man performs one act readies himself humming as he leaves on his way to acquire the new target. It's a clever bit of film-making by director Greg Kovacs with a very unexpected ending.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

SUMMONED - Director Victoria Angell

Amanda (Hope LaVelle) is seated in a circle of magic blood spattered on her white nightgown as the action starts. We discover that she had good reason to summon the demon who did what she wanted but continued beyond her expectations. Amanda is faced with two options; to yield or to play. She tries to explain that the results were not what she wanted, she only had one target in mind but the demon states that there is much sin to go around. Amanda has a critical thought then makes her decision. Director Victoria Angell presents a chilling short that locks the audience in from the sharp initial title sequence. The subject matter is serious and difficult featuring a cast that each perform physically challenging acts for their roles.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

INGRID AND THE BLACK HOLE - Director Leah Johnston

Time Travel should you go forward or back is the question in Leah Johnston's Ingrid & The Black Hole.  Editing is the key as the narrative jumps back and forth through Ingrid and Conrad's lives. Starting when they are both 7 and treating all time as one as the action jumps to different points in their story. The music of Christopher Barnett is paramount to set the scientific astronomy/ fantasy feel of the piece.  Is she moving back and forth through time or is Ingrid an old woman suffering from deteriorating mental health who now mistakes her son John for her late Husband Conrad?

**** Out of 4

TAKING POSSESSION - Director Peter Campbell

Isaac (Martin Huss) looking for peace and quiet buys a rural Victorian Era farmhouse and is handed the keys by his realtor  Ashleigh (Jemma Robinson). He shows up with one suitcase explaining that the truck is coming Monday with more stuff. Before she departs  Ashleigh comments that there is 150 years of memories in the farmhouse. Alone he begins to hear the noises of the home before he retires to bed. Jarred awake in the middle of the night by a child's voice hauntingly similar to his daughter Bev, he heads to the basement to investigate only to discover the real reason why the house was available.

*** Out of 4.

Monday, November 28, 2016

BITS '16 Film Review - 3 Dead Trick or Treaters

A man rides his bike through the fringes of town delivering papers a few days after Halloween. The main headline is a story about three trick or treaters that remain missing. At the end of his route he delivers to a seemingly abandoned remote home. The deliverer goes to inspect finding three crooked fresh graves marked by makeshift crosses on the property. Attached to each monument is a scribbled folded note thats the narrative to the three allegoric tales to follow.

The first story follows a young couple that meet up and go shopping to prepare for Halloween night. They visit a costume store pick out masks then head out for a Devil's Night role reversal adventure. The second features cultish religious overtones as two women and a man with Halloween as a backdrop prep their victim for a particularly painful death until one of the three help the victim to attempt an escape leading to significant consequences. The third stories lead characters are street youth hiding their candy stash the day after Halloween. But one does not contribute leading to a vengeful act by the other two who are suffering from an extreme state of hunger.

Director Torin Langen weaves together the three featured tales that were all shot at different times spanning a 4 year period. The newest or 4th story added focus on two police men one older and the other younger that have a side business placing traps in the woods then delivering humans caught in the traps to a client for a fee.

The twist of the feature is the absence of dialogue. The cast demonstrate emotion and feeling through gestures, eye movement and body language. The soundtrack, sound effects and cinematography are all critical in a film that has no dialogue.

Director Langen also does a superior job in the editing room for this production. The three stories were all originally shot as stand alone but due to shooting style, similar pacing , women driving the majority of the story and violence the stories all fit seamlessly together.

The cast of relative unknowns many friends of the director all perform well without a major tool in acting dialogue being available as a device to give voice to their characters.

3 Dead Trick or Treaters is possibly the only silent horror anthology ever made. The visuals are gritty the storylines rough and unpolished featuring acts of horror that are up close and personal. the film is blessed with superior editing bringing the whole packed together with a cleaver final story featuring the writer of the scribbled notes making the production a film that i can definitely recommend.

*** 1/2 Out of 4

3 Dead Trick or Treaters | Torin Langen | Canada | 2016 | 72 Minutes.

Tags: Halloween, Devil's Knight, Silent Film, Kidnapping, Cannibalism, Homeless, Trapping, Writer, Pencil, Serial Killer.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

BITS '16 Film Review - Inspiration

Samantha (Emily Alatalo) has seen her fortunes as a writer plummet since she decided to leave the horror genera behind for romance writing. Her agent Coraline (Tianna Nori) continues to receive requests for more Grinning Charlie novels but Sam declares that she's moved on from horror. However with her husband Mark (Ry Barrett) business dealings faltering combined with her reduced income Sam can't refuse an offer from a large publisher linked to a film deal. Planning a surprise for Mark with the news on their anniversary she shows up at home unexpected to witnesses an event that turns her in a different direction. Sam decides to go to the small town of Warren for isolation and a bit of Inspiration to write her new book.

Once in town Sam's greeted by friendly real estate agent (Colin Paradine), knowledgeable but respectful neighbours Lena (Valerie Morrissey) and Maynard (Andrew Roth) plus two dogs that came with the house. Our heroine makes great progress with her novel until an unfortunate accident effects her mental state and alters the rest of her time in the community. She begins to see things that are not there, has premonitions about bad events while reports start to surface about locals going missing.

Writer Director Jason Armstrong pens his first feature after a long absence working with Emily Alatalo who he recently directed in his TV project 9 Days with Cambria. The narrative is crisp and concise. The story moves fast not telegraphing the plot forcing the viewer to pay attention and think along with the characters.

Emily Alatalo plays the physically and mentally challenging role of Samantha. She is onscreen for just about every frame of the film having to switch from being half of a big city power couple; to an isolated remote single home occupant in the dead of winter. Her character is aggressive, determined and in charge one moment then vulnerable, confused and a target the next. Andrew Roth is strong in the supporting role of Maynard. He does not speak much, knows the rural surroundings well and always has a piece of good advise for Sam.

Inspiration is a challenging film that will leave the viewer recalculating their current theory of the events several times. The action cumulates in a frantic third act where twists and turns in the plot spiral totally out of control. The cast acquit themselves well given the harsh setting of the bulk of the piece. The soundtrack could have been dialed back a few decibels but that a minor issue that does not detract from the film being one that I can recommend.

*** Out of 4.

Inspiration | Jason Armstrong | Canada | 2016 | 87 Minutes.

Tags; Horror Novelist, Mask, Bonfire, Cheating, Book Signing, Fans, Isolation, Divorce, Advance, Hitch Hikers.

BITS '16 Film Review- Kidnap Capital

A sedan pulls up on a quiet Phoenix suburban street followed by a white van. The van pulls into the garage as the car occupant enters the house to greet his wife and child. The occupants of the van are  forced into the home as raised voices panicked breathing and confusion fill the opening frames of Felipe Rodriguez Kidnap Capital. After the frantic activity ends one of the new arrivals removes his black hood to discover that he is in a room filled with other mainly frail Central American migrants clad as he is only in their underwear. The room is dirty dark and cramped. The bathroom has dripping water no tap handles and a toilet without a seat and dirty water. One of the new arrivals Manolo is panicked as he does not see his wife. The leader of the captures enters and asks a simple question. Do you have $2800.00? If so you can leave, if not you have to stay until someone can pay your rent.

Writer director Felipe Rodriguez presents a story that is gripping, intense, suspensful and heartbreaking. Its' based loosely on the epidemic of drop houses in the Phoenix Arizona area where migrants from Mexico, Guatemala and other Central American countries leave everything behind at home walk, ride the rails, are transported n hidden compartments in vehicles to get across the American border. When they think they have reached freedom they are snatch again brought to suburban homes in nice neighbourhoods that are hollowed out prisons where they are held for ransom until their families can pay or their capture loose patience.

Manolo (Johnathan Sousa) came from Guatemala with his wife Elena (Michelle Arvizu) to raise their soon to be born child in a place away from the gangs that have terrorized his own town. Along the journey he meets Pedro (Pedro Miguel Arce) auto an overweight, soft underachiever who's only friend appears to be his mother. The pair along with the other detainees take turns being led to the basement where they are repeatedly asked who can help them to produce the $2800. Mental and physical intimation are both used on the prisoners to motivate them to become creative to convince family, friend or acquaintance to come up with the funds for the captors.

Johnathan Sousa leads the cast as Manolo. The audience enters the home with him on day one of his arrival. His only goal is to see that his pregnant wife is safe as he is racked with guilt because he persuaded her to come on this journey north. Paulo Nunes is strong as his opposite number Wyler. He is the warden of the house and clear that his goal is to get the money from the prisoners as he owes a lot further up the chain. Wyler is good cop and bad cop all in one. He is ruthless when needed but practical and willing to put down a lieutenant if they jeopardize the operation. Pedro Miguel Arce is notable as Manolo sidekick Pedro. He is a blabbering, crying weakling when reacting to his current situation. However, he is able to show a different side to his character on more than one occasion in the film. Lara Gilchrist has a small but intriguing role as Wyler's wife Kay. She lives in the drop house with her infant son Tyler. She knows what goes on and has female underwear clad migrants as servants while she plays suburban housewife to the neighbours.

Kidnap Capital is a gut wrenching film on a vastly under publicized subject. It focuses on extortion of migrants that come to the US illegally. They have no status in the US but cannot go back for legitimate reasons. The prospects for these people are so poor in their country that they would rather take their chances in a drop house then be rescued by the authorities and face the prospect of deportation. The ensemble cast shine on the screen which is particularly remarkable considering that the entire film takes place mainly in three rooms of a home. It's an important piece of filming and one that I can highly recommend.

**** Out of 4.

Kidnap Capital | Felipe Rodriguez | Canada | 2016 | 93 Minutes.

Tags: Kidnap Ring, Migrants, Extortion, Drop House, Phoenix, Guatemala, Ransom, Suburbs, Mexico.

BITS '16 Film Review - The Sublet

Geoff (Mark Matechuk) and Joanna (Tianna Nori) approach a four story walk-up ring the bell to announce that they are here about the sublet. The door opens and the couple with their newborn son enter the apartment to a note from the absentee owner. The key is in a drawer they can stay if they  like the place but if not they must lock the door and leave right away. They decide to stay the noting that one room is locked and off limits. The narrative divides the story into parts each new chapter introduced with the start of a new week. In week one we learn that Joanna is suffering from postpartum depression, she sees herself as fat, does not want Geoff to touch her to initiate sex plus   isolated spending all day in the apartment alone with the baby. Adding to her stress are strange creaking noises, knocking from above, next door and out in the hall.

One morning the door to the room that's off limits swings opens to reveal a nursery with framed photos of mothers and their newborns, along with a rocking chair and partly completed quilt. Joanna also finds a diary that she begins to read as she notices that her son Porter is very calm and happy when he is in the room. The diary tells the tale of a woman who lived in the apartment long ago, feeling trapped in an abusive relationship with her neglectful husband. Joanna is feeling some of those same emotions, as Geoff appears to be more concerned with his acting career than her considering their minimal interaction since they moved into the apartment.

Director and co-writer John Ainslie brings a new approach to a paranormal psychological story. The condition of postpartum depression plays a major role as does quizzical fact the couple uses a sugar bowl each day that was left in the apartment by a prior occupant. The viewer will wonder if the events as Joanna sees them are actually taking place. Joanna's depression is subtle at first but picks up in a jarring scene when Geoff invites his ex and colleague over for dinner without warning only adding to our central figure strong body image issues. Her psychological stresses continue to grow as she spends more time in the nursery, reads more of the journal beginning to loose gaps of time each day.

Black Fawn Muse Tianna Nori fits well as the heroine slowly loosing her mind with every additional moment spent in the apartment. She hears noises in places then goes to investigate only to find no one there. She thinks Geoff is cheating on her with no evidence, is convinced that the sugar she uses each morning is poisoned and seems to be the only one that sees a homeless woman hovering around the building. Mark Matechuck thrives as the self centred Geoff. He is well meaning but continues to make comments that push Joanna deeper into her postpartum depression. You can almost detect a hidden smirk as nudges Joanna further towards the cliff. He sees his partner loosing her grip but his only solution would bring her further from reality.

The Sublet is psychological horror story set in one location with a small tight cast. There are not a lot of jump scares or obvious monsters or villains around every corner. The writers take a direct look at the often neglected subject of postpartum depression coupled with a historical psychological storyline destined to repeat itself with each new occupant of the space. The small cast does not take a wrong step in their roles. It's a steady infusion of paranoia and loneliness that swells to a singular climatic act thats well worth a watch.

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Sublet | John Ainslie | Canada | 2015 | 82 Minutes.

Tags: Postpartum Depression, Isolation, Diary, Abuse, Newborn, Nursery, Sugar, Running Lines, Homeless Woman, Creak, Knock.

Friday, November 25, 2016

BITS'16 Film Review - 24x36 A Movie About Movie Posters

The one sheet dimensions of  27 x 41 is the classic size for a movie poster due to a most particular reason. The posters are that size because movie companies used to ship them inside the canister with the film and that size that would fit when the poster was folded into quarters. It's also the reason why classic movie posters for 1927's Metropolis or the classic Boris Karloff horror films from the 30's have creases in them from the fold. Director Kevin Burke's documentary tackles the history of the art form touches on the radical change that started in the nineties then the revival of movie poster art by small independent agencies.

Starting with the 18th century French origins and an explanation of the original creative process the film jumps to the early iconic examples of the medium evidenced by the above mentioned titles mixing in other golden age examples of Gone With The Wind , Little Caesar and Charley Chaplin's Modern Times. The art of these pieces included little vignettes of the events of the film. It gave the moviegoer several snapshots of what to expect in the film.


The narrative moves ahead to the modern legends of the field Bob Peak, John Alvin and Richard Amsel who were responsible for the best work from the final stage of the original practice with memorable work for Jaws, The Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now and Raiders of the Lost Ark. These were pieces where the viewer took their time to take in each small detail that fit together combining to form an exciting blueprint for the film.

Unfortunately things changed with the dawn of the computer, the ability to use Photoshop and the birth of the fast food consumer disposable society. People now looked at small images on their phones to make their movie choices or small boxes on their Netflix home page.  Movie companies, producers and especially the agents wanted more control of their talent's image giving rise to the floating heads of the stars at the top of the poster with a small image from the film at the bottom as evidenced in the Scream films and every Tom Cruise vehicle since Mission Impossible.


Thankfully a market has emerged for high-quality limited quantity move posters through small indie firms Mondo, Skuzzel and Great Matter Art. Director Burke takes the viewer into the cultural world of movie poster collectors, shows at the firms, examples of the fine art of screen printing creating a new standard size of 24 x 36. The collectors discuss the online community, being poster buddies, meeting to buy, exchange and display their purchases. Several of the artists' work is featured including Akiko Stehrenberger, Jason Edminston, Daniel Danger, Ken Taylor and Mondo's leading man Tyler Stout. The topic of licensing is discussed in detail including those instances where an artist or company go rogue creating a poster without proper permission.

24 X 36 A Movie about Movie Posters is an insightful short exploration of movie posters from their origins through the golden age to the end for the first phase of artist rendering. Listening to a marketing rep try to justify the move to the floating heads because an artist rendition may make the audience conclude that the film is likely animated will make you want to tear your hair out but it seems that in the last few years the industry is moving away from that practice. Tom Hodge is producing great work for films such as Spy and The Heat.  The world of movie posters is a subject that could easily be worthy of a future update to see where the industry stands. Hopefully we will see one in the not too distant future.

**** Out of 4.

24 x 36 A Movie About Movie Posters | Kevin Burke | Canada /USA | 2216 | 82 Minutes.

Tags: Movie Posters, Artitis, Screen Printing, Raiders of the Lost Arc, Collecting, Mondo, Skuzzel, Tyler Stout.