Category Archives: American Indie
What madcap, steampunk, nonsensical adventure was this?? NEIL STRYKER & THE TYRANT OF TIME is like DOCTOR WHO on crack (and we all know that DOCTOR WHO is already on something, so hot damn!) and the result is absolutely GLORIOUS. Like, hi, move over Indiana Jones, a new action hero has stolen my heart – and he’s ridiculously emotionless, gravelly voiced and entirely capable of handling himself around robots (because YES, THERE ARE ROBOTS IN THIS MOVIE!!!). (And yes, I WILL apparently be using my caps lock key a lot.)
So Neil Stryker is a dude, on suspension from his job as…okay, I never really understood exactly what he did but kind of like the military + secret government operation + spies thing? Unfortunately for the world, Neil’s ex-mentor, the MAD scientist – complete with white lab coat, crazy sticky-uppy hair and crazy goggle glasses – has finally set in motion his dastardly plan to go back in time through the time portal he created to…steal a bunch of toys on Christmas Eve and have THE SEX (as E. would say) with Mrs. Claus! NOOOOO!!! Along the way, the mad scientist also kidnaps Neil’s son, so there’s that. Also the mad scientist is MAAADDDDD, which just leads to all sorts of shenanigans and tom-foolery. Oh, and he has a sidekick (of course) named Darrel who’s robotically challenged, musically inclined, and sneaky planning his own…uh, sneaky plan.😉 Darrel is actually my favorite character of the whole piece (sorry, Neil! I love you but I love Darrel more because he sings!), which makes sense, because his vibe is the epitome of “bad boy”, which media and society has conditioned women to view as totally normal and moreso, absolutely romantic (“omg, he got so mad he punched a wall? That’s soooo romantic – look how passionate he is about you! *sighs*” *rolls eyes so hard they fall out of head*). Anyway, despite his bad boy vibe, Darrel is more cartoon villain than romantic villain (think Dr. Horrible), so whatever, I dig him.
In fact, the whole movie is a cartoon come to life, with over-the-top…well, EVERYTHING. It’s a complete and total farce, and it’s AMAZING. Guys, there’s cars that fly! Robots! Goblins!! (I honestly have no idea WHY there were goblins, got totally lost there, but dudes – goblins!!- and they were adorable and evil and so cute, and then there was the Russian guy and the vodka…like The Fireys in LABYRINTH! Kinda…). There’s time travel! Souvenirs! Explosions! HEADS exploding! This movie has it ALL. It’s an 80s throwback that hits its mark perfectly.
In fact, those super kickawesome, evil, adorable goblins? Looked like they were right out of the Henson labs. They were brilliant. This film was shot entirely in Oregon and parts of Washington over the course of 9 years, and every single set, effect, every puppet was created by a Portland artist. Now THAT is what I like to see in homegrown cinema. Especially when the result is something as laugh out loud funny and enjoyable as this.
The sets were kick ass. The small amount of CGI was almost perfect (the explosions were a little off and fake looking, but they also might have been that way on purpose to fit the 80s theme, I’m not sure). The costumes were fabulous. The actors – ugh, I don’t think there was anyone in this films that I DIDN’T like and that rarely happens. Nic Costa (Darrel) captures the “sidekick craving more” trope perfectly. Rob Taylor as Neil Stryker is hilariously apathetic as the hero (anti-hero?) of the piece. And Rob Taylor as the Mad Scientist is ridiculously funny at being woefully inept. Oh yes, you did read that correctly – Neil and MS were played by the same guy – and I had NO freaking clue till the end of the movie when the credits came around! Not one inkling. Holy fuck, I loved this movie.
Currently playing at the Portland Film Fest, NEIL STRYKER & THE TYRANT OF TIME is a side-splittingly funny piece of comedy that had me alternately shaking my head at the melodrama, then giggling uncontrollably. With a bit of everything, it’s a madcap adventure of the very best kind – and there damn well better be a sequel in the making. I’m willing to follow Neil Stryker through the universe and time, so c’mon guys, let’s get to more adventuring!
Oh yeah, and watch the trailer below to get a taste of the wacky wildness that is Neil Stryker!
TW: Talk of Suicide
I love this film. I love everything about it. It’s an absolutely brilliant story about suicide (although as stated above definite trigger warnings if you’re currently depressed or feeling suicidal). Not everyone’s been there but a lot of us have – that point where you just want to give up on everything. It’s a scary point. But then, if you’re lucky, you’re able to pull yourself out of that deep, dark hole with the help of friends, family, therapy, meds, and mostly yourself. What happens when you can’t leave that place? What’s it like to have an addiction to suicide & death?
“Suicidal ideation: unusual preoccupation with suicide.” In Here Lies Joe, we meet two individuals at a Suicide Anonymous group – a group for individuals dealing with suicidal ideation. Joe is the new guy while Z is the manic-pixie dream girl of the group. Z writes her suicide notes in iambic pentameter instead of trying to NOT want to die; Joe just seems out of place and unsure of why he’s there or anywhere. The two seem to sense kindred souls in one another and Z manages to finagle a ride from the meeting with Joe. Instead of taking him to her home, she takes him to the cemetery instead, where they spend the afternoon. And later that night they spend hours on the phone together, bonding, each lost in their own way. What will morning bring?
As someone who has a mental illness of which suicidal ideation is a key symptom, this film really touched a chord. It was incredibly honest and open. The characters were real and tangible, relatable. Z says she wants to kill herself because she’s “an ugly thing in a beautiful world”, a statement which is so honest and heartrendingly easy to understand. This film is utterly beautiful. And while it is a film with dark elements and themes, they explore them with humor and pathos to arrive at the film’s ultimate message: hope.
While Dean Temple as “Joe” gives a wonderful and sturdy performance, it’s Andi Morrow as “Z” who steals the show (and your breath) away. Her performance is raw and something magical to behold.
I can’t recommend Here Lies Joe highly enough. Visit the film’s website to find out where you can catch it. And remember that there’s ALWAYS hope.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
After last week’s spot of “teamwork”, can the boys handle a bit of creativity?
What’s this? The webseries I co-wrote is FINALLY here? It premiered TODAY?? Indeed it is and indeed it did!
COUNSELING tells the tale of Matt and Tom, who seek the assistance of counselor, Dr. Robbins, in order to become more upstanding members of society. Does it go well? Does it go poorly? Do they become the most upstanding of upstandingest people ever? Well…as I say in my interview:
I really wanted to write two really awful people and make people really like them.
Take that as you will.😉
So head on over and check out my interview, then watch the premiere episode of COUNSELING below! (RATED R for language and crass humor – aka E., I think you will like)
Remember Volumes of Blood? Remember how much I loved it? Well, P.j. and the gang are back for Round 2 and if you’re so willing, they’d love your help. They have an Indiegogo campaign up right now full of fun perks so if you have a couple of extra dollars and love indie horror, head on over and give ’em a hand!
Tag Line: It finds the bug in you…
Guys. *pssst* Hey, guys! I have a secret. Know what it is? That this movie is f*cking awesome! (What? If you didn’t know, then it counts as a secret…) This is, hands down, one of my new favorite movies. Not gonna lie – I wasn’t a fan of the ending but it doesn’t detract THAT much from the “WHAAA-?” factor going on here.
So ya know how we live in the age of “Big Brother” (hello, 1984!)? Drones, people listening in on phone calls, Facebook messenger needing access to our birth certificate to work kinda stuff? That’s what this is about. Except what if “Big Brother” isn’t a person (or group of people) but rather…dun, dun, dun…a NIGHTMARE CODE???
“Nightmare Code” is a psychological sci-fi thriller about computerized behavior recognition, behavior modification and 24/7 surveillance.Our main guy, Brett, is this wicked hacker who’s also a whistleblower, who’s in a heck of a lot of trouble, who gets recruited to work on this super secret project that needs to be finished STAT. It’s called ROPER and it’s an all-seeing behavior recognition program (think Minority Report – the TV show at least, I haven’t seen that movie) intended to predict future behavior. Brett got recruited super fast for this project. Why? Oh, just because the last lead programmer went on a murder/suicide spree. Yeah, no big. Cotton was his name and he was apparently a genius – a MAD genius, mwhahaha. Now Brett’s holed up in this office building (seriously, he can’t leave for some reason, not even to get lunch apparently? Weird…TOTES) with a super small team of 4 other people trying to race against time to get this baby done. His only contact with the outside world is via video chats with his wife & daughter and his programming counterpart in India. Fun job, eh? One small, itsy bitsy problem though…the code he’s working on? It’s kind of alive. Yeah.
That’s right, the big bad of our thriller is computer code! You’re sitting there going, that doesn’t sound scary or thrilling at ALL. NO. You just watch the movie because ROPER is freaking terrifying. It’s like “Robopacolypse” terrifying. The entire movie is told from the viewpoint of the CODE. Yep, it’s the first movie told from the view of artificial intelligence. This ended up being a small problem for me at times, actually, because this involved a lot of security camera footage being shown on 4 split screens at a time. There was way too much going on for me to concentrate when different things were happening on those screens so I don’t know if I missed anything important. Otherwise, it’s wicked cool watching our protagonist, Brett (Andrew J. West), slowly lose his mind while unwittingly (at first) battling this entity.
As I said before, I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It was entirely too expected; it was exactly what you knew was going to happen. I spent the last half of the film praying it WOULDN’T happen but to no avail. It doesn’t take away from the overall kickaewsomeness of “Nightmare Code” but a less archetypal ending would’ve set this film so much further apart from other sci-fi thrillers than it already is.
Guys, this is some good, clean fun right here (and by “good, clean” I obviously mean blood + sexy naked time), and y’all need to get your asses in gear and go watch “Nightmare Code” NOW. Remember, I’ll know if you don’t, because someone’s always watching…😉
Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! Hope it was super fabulous and delicious! As always, THANKSKILLING is an absolute *MUST* to follow up all that food, family, fun & dysfunction so ENJOY!
Stand Up Guy is a short crime thriller featuring a mafia-like organization (or “Family”, as they’re referred to). With only a handful of characters, the film keeps things nice, neat and concise, which works well in it’s favor, and the script is fairly tight. Things flow quickly with the end being reached before you know it, which is a shame in my opinion, as I could definitely watch more of this world and these characters.
Stand Up Guy starts with a federal agent coming to speak with the head of a Family at his “recording studio” about ratting out other people, then turns to a man freshly out of prison who seems to have a need for revenge with said Family head. The rest of the film is mostly dedicated to Roman (just out of prison guy) and Angelo’s (Family head guy) confrontation, with a small interlude that was there to…I’m actually not entirely sure why it was there. To show us how Angelo operates his business? There were definitely a couple of places where it felt like scenes could have been cut without affecting the Roman/Angelo storyline but doing so would have also left the film incredibly shortened – so I guess those scenes were there as filler. The only other scene like this was the scene with the agent at the beginning. Not having that scene wouldn’t have changed the main plot at all, in my opinion. These scenes neither detracted nor distracted; they just weren’t particularly necessary. I would have enjoyed seeing more about Roman (because he was obviously totes cray!) and finding out who Sarge (Serge??) was. For such a small film, I though both the acting and cinematography were top notch so kudos to the team for that.
Overall, it was highly enjoyable and I was a little sad to see it end. Go become a part of the Family and watch it, so you don’t end up swimming with the fishes (or something like that…)!
Ahhh, now THIS was a film I enjoyed! Total Performance was the total package, y’all. It had the right amount of comedy and drama; the acting was fab and I REALLY dug some of the camerawork, yo. So what’s it about? Well, that’s part of what makes it so fun…
The film is about Cori, an actress, but her main gig is a little bit different. She works for a company that employs actors to play opposite real people who want to rehearse a difficult conversation. A breakup, a firing, or even an embarrassing confession: the company that she works for provides a living, breathing ‘sparring dummy’ for their clients. Essentially, she gets paid to go around fighting with people. It’s awesome. There are some obvious pitfalls, of course, like with ANY job, but for reals, how easy is this gig?? We see Cori on a few jobs…we see her on a date…we see her on an actual audition…we see hope in the comedic yet oddly touching and sad ending. The film is under 20 minutes but as time flew by, it felt as if it was only 5 minutes.
I found Tory Berner (Cori) utterly fantastic. Her face is SO expressive and she has this almost wide-eyed naivete about her that’s completely charming. I would watch her in just about anything. My favorite shots were done during the date scene. They weren’t anything fancy but something in them resonated. In fact, I think you’ll find that the whole film resonates as it’s so easily relatable to all.
That said, you should head over to Facebook and give ’em some love, and to find out where you too can watch this stellar TOTAL PERFORMANCE!
PLEASE PUNISH ME, is a super cute comedy about a guy getting his ass whipped. Yeah, I realize that the words “ass whipped” and “cute” aren’t typically used together but really, trust me on this one, guys. It’s the story of a businessman who is so overly blessed, that he seeks to be “punished” for his curse. Thus entering the “Punish Me Palace” in the above photo. Cute S&M, who knew?
PLEASE PUNISH ME is just under 15 minutes but it gets its job done well. The characters were more well-rounded than some I’ve seen in recent “features”, and while the film doesn’t necessarily take us anywhere new or special, that’s totally fine because you’ll be enjoying the ride nonetheless. The businessman is a fabulous character – love the actor (David Sackal, I believe) – who is just so miserably unhappy because of his neverending happiness. It’s a fun concept to play around with, for sure. Then there were the secondary characters of the “Punish Me Palace’s” receptionist and (I guess) head dominatrix (?), who were both equally funny and stole their scenes. You’ve also got some REALLY nice camera work going on here. I absolutely LOVED the closing shot of the businessman’s dominatrix laying her mask down on the bed. It doesn’t sound like much, I realize, but it was beautiful. And you can never go wrong with whippings. Just sayin’.😉
Kudos to writer, Tom Paolino, and director, Chris Esper, on an incredibly well-made (and funny) short. Keep up the awesome work guys!