Thursday, October 27, 2022

THE BOBBY DIAMONDS STORY - Poster Reveal and Interview with Robert Aaron Mitchell

 

The Bobby Diamonds Story now has a poster. The poster reflects the duality of a poker player as well as the duality of the story the documentary unfolds. The film also recently won Best Documentary Short at the Tokyo International Short Film Festival joining the film's win at the Venice Fullshot Film Festival.

Director and writer Robert Aaron Mitchell also recently did an interview about The Bobby Diamonds Story and film making in general. You can find that interview HERE The film's iMDB page is HERE 

Here is the trailer once again:

Thursday, October 6, 2022

FROST Extremities of Survival Reflections by Robert Aaron Mitchell

 

Hypothermia is a medical emergency when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. As your body temperature drops, your heart, brain, and internal organs cannot function. Without aggressive resuscitation and rapid rewarming, you will ultimately not survive. Hypothermia can begin in five minutes if exposed to cold temperatures.

Families can be complicated. Abby (Devanny Pinn) is driving to see her father Grant (Vernon Wells). She has not seen or spoken to Grant in five years. Abby is also pregnant. She arrives to his house high in the mountains and surrounded by an immense forest. They have dinner and the conversation is light and then turns into a strained, awkward conversation. 

Quite sometime ago the father and daughter lost the matriarch of the family in a horrendous and unexpected way. Grant self medicates with alcohol and has taken to a near hermit lifestyle, fishing and hunting to make ends meet. 

The next morning Grant is off to fish. He invites Abby along to relive the old days when they would embark on fishing excursions together. A set of innocuous small events leads to disaster. Grant requests that Abby leave her phone at the house. Abby asks her father to drive. Grant loses control of the car and crashes into the heavily forested mountainside.

A thriller operates on the astringent action continually rising. The film succeeds in creating viable moments of tension that is true to the world the film exists in. In the thriller genre there is always the next problem, then the next hardship and the next obstacle. The filmmakers have crafted a film where these elements are well executed. They have also handled the tone of the film very well. A movie like this can very quickly go into "eye-rolling" territory. Frost resonates and is highly effective because the film does not wavier in it's survival story timbre.

Devanny Pinn is outstanding in Frost. This is indeed her film. The audience is with her all the way as she navigates the crash scene and as she tries and survive the elements. A huge amount of praise must also be bestowed upon the special effects team of Frost. For this film to work the special effects must be incredibly and credibly constructed. They succeed and the film succeeds because of their hard work.

Frost is unrelenting as the story unfolds into extremities of survival. How intrinsically ingrained is the survival instinct in human beings? Few films have made me physically ill. I have seen many of the most intense horror films ever crafted. Frost made feel quite queasy. Frost took me to something I have never seen before. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

SMOKE AND MIRRORS: The Story of Tom Savini. First Look Trailer & Stills

Here is a first look at a new documentary about special effects artist Tom Savini. Special Makeup Effects legend, Actor, Director, Stuntman. Tom Savini has redefined the horror genre with his arsenal on talents. But who is the man behind the "King of Splatter?"

From his his childhood in Pittsburgh, PA; to his tour of duty during Vietnam, to his beginnings with George A. Romero and beyond. SMOKE AND MIRRORS is the defining documentary on the life and career of horror icon Tom Savini.

Featuring Tom Savini, Danny McBride, Robert Rodriguez, Danny Trejo, Alice Cooper, Greg Nicotero, Tom Atkins, Corey Feldman, Doug Bradley, Bill Moseley, and more!

From Wild Eye Releasing, director Jason Baker's SMOKE AND MIRRORS on Digital October 19. Here is the official trailer:

Sunday, September 18, 2022

TIFF 2022 LEONOR WILL NEVER DIE Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago: Mabuhay ang Sinehan!

 Leonor Will Never Die closed at the 2022 Midnight Madness program at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was a film I did not know anything about which is one of the great aspects of a film festival. You take a seat, the lights dim and go on an unexpected and unknown ride. And what a ride Leonor Will Never Die is. The film is written and directed by Martika Ramirez Escobar.

The title character is Leonor Reyes.  She was a successful screen writer. Shelia Francisco brings Leonor to life with great pathos and passion befitting an aging writer. The screenwriter's days are spent slipping in and out of reverie. She has a fondness for action movies and watches them as much as she can. She also forgets to pay the electricity bill. 

A freak accident sends Leonor to the hospital. The doctor explains her Leonor's condition to Leonor's son Rudie, "Rudie, you see, sometimes, we are awake, other times, asleep. But sometimes, you can be between both. That is called conscious sleep or hypnagogia. That's is the state your mother is now. Right now we don't know how to wake her up, or if she will wake at all. At least we're sure she's alive." Rudie, "How do we wake her up?" The Doctor responds, "You can't wake up someone who is not asleep." It is so with this story as well. A theme of the film is lines. The line between reality and fantasy, life and afterlife, sleep and awake.

The art form of cinema can really deliver on straddling the fictionalized "real world" of the movie and slide effortlessly into a fantasy world the characters of the film drift into. I have always gravitated to films that are movies within movies, mise en aybme. Anguish, Adaptadtion, Videodrome come to mind. This is something seen a lot in horror movies or drama. To see reality and fantasy blend so well in the context of action film was magnificent. Scenes that are exceptionally strong in Leonor Will Never Die are where the reality of the story run into the fantasy action film that Leonor is engaging with. The movie is also a love letter to Filipino action movies from years gone by.

I especially love the scenes of creating the screenplay for the movie within the movie. Ang Pagbabalik Ng Kwago. The Return of Kwago. Depicting writing in a movie is not an easy feat to pull off. Martika's imagination and innovation soar as the film revels in the act of writing A scene where Leonor is simultaneously typing and acting out what is she writing is a sheer joy.

Step back, this where another fight scene happens.

A film is created by a great many folks, I want to also acknowledge the editor Lawrence S. Ang. Pulling together a film that moves within it's own fantasy and reality takes a keen talent to succeed. The look of the reality and the action sequences created by cinematographer Carlos Mauricio are also wonderful.

There is something to be said or in this case, to be written about what the film watcher brings to watching a movie. I watched the film on what is my mother's first birthday after her passing in March. Watching this movie on this day, there was a lot that hit me a lot more as I engaged with the film. Leonor Will Never Die is a film that addresses grief. The movie celebrates the joy and healing in the act of artistic creation. It is also a testament to strong material. Good screenplays never age.Mabuhay ang Sinehan!

After watching Leonor you have to ask yourself why are we not seeing more grandmothers kicking ass in cinema. Ending a story can sometimes prove difficult. Getting a great ending though is uplifting. Leonor Will Never Die, what a great ending to Midnight Madness 2022.

. The screenwriter's days are spent slipping in and out of reverie. She has a fondness for action movies and watches them as much as she can. She also forgets to pay the electricity bill. 

A freak accident sends Leonor to the hospital. The doctor explains her Leonor's condition to Rudie, "Rudie, you see, sometimes, we are awake, other times, asleep. But sometimes, you can be between both. That is called conscious sleep or hypnagogia. That's is the state your mother is now. Right now we don't know how to wake her up, or if she will wake at all. At least we're sure she's alive." Rudie, "How do we wake her up?" The Doctor responds, "You can't wake up someone who is not asleep." It is so with this story as well. A theme of the film is lines. The line between reality and fantasy. Life and afterlife. Sleep and awake.

The art form of cinema can really deliver on straddling the fictionalized "real world" of the movie and slide effortlessly into a fantasy world the characters of the film drift into. I have always gravitated to films that are movies within movies, mise en aybme. Anguish, Adaptadtion, eXistenZ come to mind. Scenes that are exceptionally strong in Leonor Will Never Die are where the reality of the story run into the fantasy action film that Leonor is engaging with. The movie is also a love letter to Filipino action movies from years gone by.

I especially love the scenes of creating the screenplay for the movie within the movie. Ang Pagbabalik Ng Kwago. The Return of Kwago. Depicting writing in a movie is not an easy feat to pull off. Martika's imagination and innovation soar as the film revels in the act of writing A scene where Leonor is simultaneously typing and acting out what is she writing is a sheer joy.

Step back, this where another fight scene happens.

A film is created by a great many folks, I want to also acknowledge the editor Lawrence S. Ang. Pulling together a film that moves within it's own fantasy and reality takes a keen talent to succeed. The look of the reality and the action sequences created by cinematographer Carlos Mauricio are also wonderful.

There is something to be said or in this case, to be written about what the film watcher brings to watching a movie. I watched the film on what is my mother's first birthday after her passing in March. Watching this movie on this day, there was a lot that hit me a lot more as I engaged with the film. Leonor Will Never Die is a film that addresses grief. The movie celebrates the joy and healing in the act of artistic creation. It is also a testament to strong material. Good screenplays never age. Mabuhay ang Sinehan!

Ending a story can sometimes prove difficult. Getting a great ending though is uplifting. Leonor Will Never Die, what a great ending to Midnight Madness 2022.

Friday, September 16, 2022

TIFF 2022 V/H/S/99 A Reflection by Robert Aaron Mitchell

V/H/S/99 a reflection by Robert Aaron Mitchell

The year 1999 has been on my mind a lot recently. I watched Woodstock 99: Peace, Love and Rage and began thinking of the year that was. Culturally turbulent. I remember quite distinctly the buildup, panic and fear surrounding Y2K. The paranoia was very real that computers would not recognize the year 2000 and thereby crash the entire system. Banks where running out of cash. Grocery stores were running out food.

1999 was actually pretty chaotic beyond the millennium scare. It was a year that saw riots at the WTO Seattle of what became known as the battle for Seattle. On June 1st Napster was launched completely changing how we consume culture and entertainment. The Columbine school shooting tragedy occurred. As previously mentioned, Woodstock 99 concert took place. A corporate music festival billed as an anti-commercial love fest which turned into a nightmare, as riots, fires and numerous sexual assaults happened. If you were a teenager in 1999 it was also a time of restless energy, pranks, skateboarding and nights wandering around Blockbuster looking for a videotape to rent.

This bring me to V/H/S/99. Alongside the sequel, the found footage concept is another staple of the horror genre, the anthology film. Creepshow (1980) Southbound (2015) XX (2017) Trilogy of Terror (1975), The ABCs of Death. The V/H/S movies combine found footage as well as the anthology structure. V/H/S/99 premiered at the 2022 Midnight Madness program. The fifth film in the series. I have always had a fondness for VHS tapes and camcorders. I spent the 1990s making ninja fight scenes with my friends. Graduating to more complex gangster and art house movies shot around my hometown. There was indeed a thrill to put in a blank tape with nothing written on the label to see what was on the videotape.

A staple to the structure of the anthology film is the wraparound story. In the case of V/H/S/99 it is less a story than something that begins the VHS tape and is then buried under many other recordings and resurfaces in the midst of tracking lines and static. It is highly imaginative and funny as hell. Little green army men in a stop motion movie with great voice overs. These army men segments are the work of Tyler MacIntyre who also directed a longer segment in the film. Which reminds me in the backyard of a townhouse in Mississauga, Ontario near the Meadowvale Mall are several G.I. Joes I buried alive that never made it back to the base. I have been meaning for quite sometime to return to that townhouse on a mission of archeological importance.

The tape goes through infomercials, BMX stunts, more static, "The Video Journal of Neurosurgery"...and settles into something quite akin to my 1999 experience, videotaping skateboarding at the local skate park and a garage band. This segment is Shredding written and directed by Maggie Levin. Way before YouTube and TikTok the original "content creators" were 90s kids running around with LP videotapes as is the case with this group of friends in a band. Local legend has it that a band called Bitch Cat played a show to very catastrophic results. The kids are going to the place where the show happened to see what they can find. Perhaps some new gear for their band and most definitely some more stuff for them to shoot on their camcorder. The fun of this segment is watching and vibing the transition of kids mugging for the camera, juvenile hi-jinks to suspense and horror in a very quick amount of time.

The unique pressures of conformity when heading to university. It leads some to take on great risks so that the next four years of their life are filled with friends, parties and maybe find a boyfriend or girlfriend. The tape settles on what is Suicide Bid written and directed by Johannes Roberts. Lily has found a sorority that she has fallen in love with and wishes to pledge to. She is so taken with the sorority and afraid of spending her university days alone that she decides to pledge only to them which means that if she doesn't get in, that's it, no sorority, social suicide aka the suicide bid. She meets up with girls form the sorority in a graveyard where she will be placed in a coffin and buried alive. There are safe guards in place. The lengths someone will go to become popular are indeed downright scary.

Ah, the Nickelodeon kids game shows of the 1990s. Competition is fierce and broadcast across the nation. You could lose and be humiliated  on national television It could very well be a nightmare scenario. Losing far more than the competition is where Ozzy's Dungeon directed by Flying Lotus and written by Zoe Cooper and Flying Lotus takes us. The lengths that a Mom will go to right the wrongs for their children is at the heart of this segment. It is also a segment that asks the question, "What would you do for a Sega Dreamcast?"

Another great aspect of the 1990s was the prank. It could be done in person, at a sleepover. For my friends and I, our favorite was the prank was the telephone call. Today's kids will never know the simple pleasure of being complete dickheads and phoning complete strangers in the middle of the night. 

It turns out the little green army men were being filmed by Brady the little brother of Dylan the protagonist of The Gawkers written by Chris Lee Hill and Tyler MacIntyre. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre. The big brother promptly snatches the camcorder back from Brady and begins filming himself flexing in the mirror and prank after prank with his buddies. The extremely hormonal teenagers then focus their camcorder lens on Sandra the girl next door. Turns out that Brady while being a genius stop-motion storyteller also has mad computer skills. Once again we see someone sellout morals for the sake of acceptance. 

The tape of V/H/S/99 winds up in a logical place, New Years Eve 1999. All those fears of the Y2K bug and the new millennium take a back seat in Joseph and Vanessa Winters' To Hell and Back. A group of documentary filmmakers are shooting a documentary with a bunch of people anticipating what the last night of 1999 will bring. "You're in for one hell of a trip" one of the people say to the camera. We can all hope to run into Mabel if our journeys do not take us exactly where we thought we might go. Great creature effects and humor close out the anthology on high note.

The fun of V/H/S/99 are the stories within stories that propel the characters forward in their segments. A doomed band, a tale of a sorority pledge gone horribly array, a horrific appearance on a kids game show. Another completely engrossing and entertaining aspect of the film is being propelled by the imaginations of the storytellers as they take their segments to places you had no idea where they were going to wind up. Watching the filmmakers play within the context of VHS camcorder is also one of the great aspects of the V/H/S anthology films. The end credits arrive with Danzig's "Long Way Back from Hell" blasting. Pitch perfect. 1999 what a fucking year. Don't be a dweeb, rewind the tape for the next person who finds this tape.

 


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

TIFF 2022 THE PEOPLE'S JOKER

 

The People's Joker in a first for the Midnight Madness program screened once at it's world premiere and was hit with a cease and desist order from Warner Brothers. Filmmaker Vera Drew is positive the film will be seen again. As I learn more I will share the details. 



TIFF 2022: THE GOOD NURSE Reflections by Robert Aaron Mitchell

 

The Good Nurse is based on a true story. Jessica Chastain plays nurse Amy Loughren. Eddie Redmayne plays Charles Cullen. Charles Cullen is a serial killer who killed patients in hospitals. The film is based of the book written by Charles Graeber. Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917) adapted the book. Tobias Lindholm who directed tiff favorite Another Round as well as The Hunt in 2012 helms The Good Nurse.

There was a lot of anticipation ahead of the premiere of Lindholm's first American feature film. The journey of this film was a long one as Lindholm was sent a version of the screenplay several years ago. He was drawn to the material because the focus was not an obsession with the serial killer but the nurse who stops him. 

The film opens in a hospital room as doctors and nurses rally around a bed of a patient who is dying. The camera. They are of to the side. The focus of the opening is a slow zoom towards Charles Cullen (Redmayne) who stands expressionless as the events unfold. The patient passes away. Cullen slouched walks down a hallway under a glowing red exit sign. 

The events of the film center around Parkfield Memorial Hospital in New Jersey in 2003. The hospital is run on a strict budget. The American hospital is a business. The nurses are overworked and exhausted. She works the overnight ICU shift as well as caring for her two kids. Amy is informed that she will be getting help soon as another nurse was just hired. Amy also has health problems of her own. As she sits on a bed in a doctor's office he walks in with a clipboard and informs Amy, "If you continue like this you're looking at a serious coronary incident within months." Amy is in danger of suffering a stroke. She has to continue to work the long stressful hours because she does not receive health insurance until she has been employed by the hospital for a year. The consultation she just had runs 980 dollars. The American healthcare industry is a business.

Amy sits in her car in the parking lot of a hospital as the rain pours. We see her grappling with her circumstances. She gets out of the car and pushes forward. She meets Charlie and shows him around the ward. They begin to bond over the job and their similar backgrounds. Both have two girls around the same ages. The dynamics of their burgeoning friendship is what makes The Good Nurse fascinating. Amy has a heart episode in front of Charles. He shows empathy talking her through the situation. He asks her if she has spoken to their hospital.s cardiologist. She panics and asks Charles not to mention her health condition to anyone. They both have secrets. 

In a film where the two lead actors are Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne one would expect that performances are great. One would be correct. The filmmakers do a great job balancing the film, as the stories unfolding are personal dynamics, hospital drama and police procedural. The film becomes quite compelling as the tension increases with intensity. Amy becomes trapped between the system of the healthcare industry and the legal system.

A hospital should be a place of empathy, care. People should be treated with dignity. In the apparatus and gears of capitalism, patients can become products. When something is suspect the system is designed to protect the hospital from lawsuits. The American healthcare system, the insurance machine, the bureaucracy, the costs of care can be horrific. To then have a serial killer running loose in ICUs that hospital administrators and lawyers are covering up, truly horrific. The film made me think a lot about systems and how they operate. How the hospital industry dealt with, not dealt with Charlie Cullen reminded me of another giant system, the catholic church. How they move abusers around. The policing system, problematic police are fired only to be rehired somewhere else. The film speaks to the fortitude and strength of Amy Loughren a good nurse that stood up against the system and fought for justice for Cullen's many victims.