American Wisper (2020)

One of the things I really like about Russ Emanuel’s direction is that he’s able to conceive a true crime movie that feels respectful and not at all exploitative. That’s a tough feat to accomplish especially in a time where a lot of indie studios are inexplicably anxious to exploit actual horrible crimes. “American Wisper” (formerly “Wisper”) is a true crime thriller that actually managed to engage me, and that’s saying a lot for someone that almost never cares to dive in to this kind of material.

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My Summer as a Goth (2020)

Tara Johnson-Medinger’s “My Summer as a Goth” is a lot like “Edge of Seventeen” but with so much less insight and charm than its predecessor. That’s not to say that “My Summer as a Goth” is terrible, but it’s a mostly unpleasant and surface level teen coming of age film that doesn’t re-invent the wheel. It definitely doesn’t seem to want to re-invent the wheel, spending a lot of its time trying to work in the inexplicable, often clumsy plot elements in to the narrative.

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Will Reading (2020)

Director Jamie Insalaco’s movie has a lot going for it as a comedy about adults relying on one big score to adjust their lives once again. But once everything came to a close, “Will Reading” ends up being a cinematic experience that’s hindered by so many of its flaws, in spite of so much it brings to the table. I wouldn’t say that I’d recommend it, but if you’re in the market for a movie that feels like a zany send up of “The Big Chill.”

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To Your Last Death (2020)

Director Jason Axinn’s animated gore fest is “Funny Games,” meets “Saw” meets Twilight Zone’s “The Masks” wrapped up in one sick sadistic mutant. It’s gory, and vicious and mean spirited and occasionally baffling, but damned if I didn’t have a good time with it. There’s just something about watching the wealthy tear each other apart that hits a nerve, and “To Your Last Death” is a movie that has fun with its own concept. Not only does Jason Axinn break the conventional narrative, but he uses it as a means of bringing the ugliest sides out of his characters.

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Ashens and the Polybius Heist (2020)

Movies that are based on or around youtube personalities usually, for lack of a better word: suck. They’re awful, they’re terrible, and only mostly just vanity projects for the creators. So imagine what a shock it was to see “Ashens and the Polybius Heist” and find out that it’s actually quite good. I genuinely giggled during most of the film and loved how it all felt like a hilarious mutant amalgam of “Spaced,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” and “The Hot Rock,” in the end.

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Death Blood 4: Revenge of the Killer Nano-Robotic Blood Virus (2019)

Chris De Pretis’ indie horror scifi film has its heart in the right place, but at the end of the day, I can’t say he re-invents the wheel here. I was never quite sure if “Death Blood 4” was intended as a meta-horror movie or not, as it puts up this gimmick of it being a sequel to three movies that never quite existed. It goes about this “Grindhouse” novelty until the introduction of the actual narrative where it’s played fairly straight faced and with a stern tone bereft of any notable satirical content.

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Girls Rock! (2008)

While “Rock School” was one of my favorite documentaries of 2005, it was a missed opportunity. Arne Johnson and Shane King’s “Girls Rock!” almost get the love of music and rock and roll it right. Almost. What the directing duo of Johnson and King explore is this collective ability of these different women to create music in the confines of this limited space and show how they can sometimes fall apart at the seams due to typically creative conflicts and arguments about band names.

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