Inner City Rats “Eye For Film” Review

It begins with two young men plotting a robbery. Originally their plan had been to steal from houses, but they’ve just shopped at a local convenience store. Wouldn’t it be easier, one of them suggests, simply to return and rob that? They’d need to be in disguise, of course. So they go to another nearby store and ask for “any kind of mask.” Then one of them decides to remove his shirt, presumably forgetting that he’s covered in distinctive tattoos. With this kind of genius at work, it’s clear that things aren’t going to go well – but this is only a taste of what New York City’s petty criminals have to offer.

Sam Garcia Southern’s quirky yet personable début film segues one short story into another as we spend a day exploring the city’s lowlife. We witness drug deals, visits to gun dealers, kids dropping things off roofs, scammers ripping off tourists and some deeds so dark that you really don’t want to think about them. Reminiscent of Pulp Fiction in structure and sometimes in tone, the film blends these elements together in a light and fluid way, inviting us to feel curious about every stranger we see. Covid-19 aside, it’s everything the tourist board doesn’t want you to see.

There are none of the shadow traditionally associated with cinematic depictions of inner city life here. It’s a bright, sunny day, the weather apparently hot, doing away with the illusion that crime always takes place out of sight, making it clear that most of these people are not in the least ashamed of what they do. That absence of shame in turn makes room for an element of playfulness in several of the vignettes; it’s easy to like most of these people because they like themselves, and their despicable behaviours often seem like a product of their environment. Southern invites us to adopt an amoral stance as we watch them, then pulls that comfortable rug out from under us in the final act.

There’s lots of good acting here but the heavily stylised nature of the film, important in creating a sense of coherence, limits what the actors can do, and this is sometimes a weakness. It’s attractively shot, making good use of the three dimensionality of urban spaces. Southern’s distinctive approach suggests that this is a testing ground for a filmmaker whose profile could rise high. Although it takes its time to really grip, the film certainly makes an impression, and its stronger segments will linger in the memory long after the credits have rolled.

Variety: Tugg Becomes Random Media’s Releasing Platform

April 7, 2017

Five-year-old releasing platform Tugg Inc. has unveiled its first-ever arrangement to become the primary theatrical releasing arm for an independent distributor.

Tugg will now be the full releasing arm for select Random Media films, providing promotional services, campaign strategy, advertising and theatre booking services.

The first film to be released in this unique new arrangement will be “Finding Kim,” a documentary that follows a Transgender man during a three-year period as he transitions from female to male. The film will initially screen staring June 1 in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Miami, with additional cities to be named later, along with the opportunity for groups, organizations, and individuals to bring the film to their local cinema.

Eric Doctorow, CEO of Random Media, said, “Finding a creative way to release our films theatrically has long been a goal of Random Media. Tugg has built a very successful business finding clever ways to create theatrical exposure for unique films and we look forward to working closely with them to expand the audience for our films. This is an exciting opportunity for both of us.”

Doctorow, a longtime Hollywood executive, launched Random Media in 2013. Random Media’s library includes  “Escape from Tomorrow,” “The Visit,” “Killswitch” and “Fare.” Tugg has a library of 1,800 titles and relationships with over 85% of the theater screens in the US, including independent cinemas and exhibitors Alamo Drafthouse, AMC Theatres, Cinemark Theatres, Studio Movie Grill, and Regal Cinemas.

Movie Review: HAPPILY EVER AFTER – Starring Sarah Paxton & Julie Montgomery – March 12, 2016

Running at almost 2 hours, HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a delightful comedy drama about two high school friends who both have the identical goal of living happily ever after. The only problem is that it is almost impossible task to accomplish, as most human beings can attest to.

The film centres on Heather (Janet Montgomery), an edgy documentary filmmaker in her 20s returning to her small Canadian hometown to look after her ailing father, Walt (Oscar nominee Peter Firth). She had left the town and her friends and family for Toronto after high school. She then reluctantly agrees to film the wedding video for her former high school best friend Sarah Ann (Sara Paxton). Things turn out more complicated than expected as the film turns into sort of a bedroom farce involving the whole town.

And between family and secrets, Heather is convinced that she and the seemingly carefree bride-to-be have nothing in common – except perhaps the high school teacher they both fell in love with (Tom Cullen).

It takes quite a while for Carr-Wiggin’s film to get a solid footing. The first half of the film appears to be all over the place with too many characters and an annoying lead. The situations all centring around a wedding also seems superfluous. But one has to be patient for HAPPILY EVER AFTER to settle in. It takes a while but the waiting pays off. The film shifts its focus from the lead character to the two leads, the lead and her best friend with an additional twist in the plot coming near the end (which will not be revealed in this review).

The film is about leaving a small town and making good. Another film that deals with this same theme, my favourite but highly forgotten INDEPENDENCE DAY (not the disaster pic) also showed the really difficult decision of small town folk having to make the decision to get away even though all logic points into doing so. The best thing about HAPPILY EVER AFTER is that the lead has left for the big city of Toronto but has not got much success either. She is a documentarist wannabe. Yet all the small townsfolk still admire her, if not for her decision to leave, despite the current state of affairs. The fact that Heather is not perfect and has just an equal if not larger amount of problems makes her character a more interesting one.

The film grows on the audience like a small town does on its visitors. At first annoying and uneventful, a small-town and the film gradually enchants its audience with its small town charm.

Carr-Wiggins characters also are all searching for simple happiness. They are all looking for love, and often in all the wrong places – i.e. the same town. The ‘follow your heart’ message is a bit too obvious, but given the situation of losers, it is an appropriate one to entertain the audience. There is more than meets the eye in this neat little film.



Los Angeles Times – October 2015

Danish director Michael Madsen (not to be confused with the American actor) builds his latest film around a what-if scenario — hardly an unusual strategy. Except that Madsen makes documentaries.

As its narration states, “The Visit” (not to be confused with the M. Night Shyamalan feature) “documents an event that has never taken place” — that event being the arrival on Earth of intelligent life from space.

Madsen has assembled a U.S.- and Euro-centric array of astrophysicists, military officers, theologians, psychologists and lawyers, most of whom address the camera, and the imaginary alien “you,” with burning questions: “What makes you happy?” “What do you care about?” “Why are you here?”

Some get into their roles more than others. And there are moments bordering on parody, as when two British officials agree that David Attenborough should be the designated voice of calm while world leaders sort out the nature of the extraterrestrials’ visit.

The film, whose full title is “The Visit: An Alien Encounter,” at first feels like a bizarre exercise in conjecture or a brainstorming session for fiction writers, but it turns into a provocative and moving philosophical inquiry. Madsen brings our collective sense of identity into sharp relief through the lens of what could be called a first date with mysterious beings. In explaining who we are to these strangers, do we share our darker truths — say, our capacity for mutually assured destruction?

Using well-curated archival footage and stills, a music cue borrowed from Stanley Kubrick and a dreamlike first-contact simulation, Madsen conjures a sci-fi atmosphere that’s at once eerie, doleful and awed. He reveals a few hard facts, too: The job title Director of Interstellar Message Composition, for example, is indeed a thing.


Exclusive DVDetails/art: “THE JOKESTERS” are no laughing matter! (Fangoria)

Fangoria –May 6, 2015

A scary prank goes very, very wrong in THE JOKESTERS, an independent horror feature that yuks it up this summer. We’ve got the exclusive word on the release date, DVD features and the first look at the cover art.

Random Media releases THE JOKESTERS on disc and VOD July 21. AJ Wedding directed the movie from a screenplay by Nathan Reid, who also stars with Dante Spencer, Gabriel Tigerman, Luis Jose Lopez, Jen Yeager, Jodie Bentley (who produced with Reid) and Angie Simms. The synopsis: “The Internet sensation ‘Master Pranksters’ decide to take it to the extreme for their season finale. When the leader of the group, Ethan, announces that he is getting married and leaving the gang and the pranks behind, the rest of the founding members decide to pull off one final stunt; a “cabin in the woods” nightmare on their friend’s honeymoon. What follows is a spiral descent into terror when the prank goes too far and the members of the group actually start dying.” Extras on the disc will be:

• Deleted scenes
• Interviews
• Auditions
• Character videos
• On-set pranks and videos
• Making of the mask

A New ‘Wrinkle in Time’ (Wall Street Journal)

Wall Street Journal –April 2015

Madeleine L’Engle’s ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ has sold 14 million copies since its publication in 1962. Now, a never-before-seen passage cut from an early draft is shedding surprising light on the author’s political philosophy

Madeleine L’Engle, the author of “A Wrinkle in Time,” resisted labels. Her books weren’t for children, she said. They were for people. Devoted to religious study, she bristled when called a Christian writer. And though some of her books had political themes, she wasn’t known to write overtly about politics. That is, until her granddaughter, Charlotte Jones Voiklis, came across an unknown three-page passage that was cut before publication.

The passage, which Ms. Voiklis shared with The Wall Street Journal so it could be published for the first time, sheds new light on one of the most beloved and best-selling young-adult books in American literature. Published in 1962, “A Wrinkle in Time” has sold 14 million copies and inspired a TV-movie adaptation, a graphic novel, and an opera. Meg Murry, the novel’s strong-willed misfit heroine, has been a role model for generations of children, especially girls. Now, Jennifer Lee, the co-writer and co-director of the Oscar-winning animated film, “Frozen,” is writing a film adaptation for Disney.

‘Frozen’ Director Jennifer Lee to Adapt ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ for Disney (EXCLUSIVE) – Variety

Variety –August 2014

Jennifer Lee, who wrote, and co-directed “Frozen” with Chris Buck, has chosen her next project: “A Wrinkle in Time.”

Lee will write the bigscreen adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s book for Disney in which children travel through time and visit strange worlds in order to find their missing scientist father.

Published in 1962, “Wrinkle in Time” was one of Lee’s favorite novels as a child, and she impressed Disney executives with her take on the project, which emphasizes a strong female-driven narrative and creatively approaches the science fiction and world-building elements of the book. 

Madeleine L’Engle Goes to the Movies – Christianity Today

Christianity Today –March 2012 

Cornelia Duryée Moore’s story sounds like something from a fairy tale.

“I got hit in the head with my godmother’s magic wand, and she said, ‘Hello, Corrie—this is what you’re going to do for the rest of your life!’ So I said, ‘Yes, please!'”

To be more specific, Moore’s godmother—Madeleine L’Engle, author of science-fiction novels (including A Wrinkle in Time and her popular Time Quartet) and inspirational memoirs—bequeathed to her a remarkable gift: the rights to adapt twelve of her early stories into plays and movies. At the time, Moore was in her third year of seminary; she promptly quit in order to attend film school instead.

And she’s making it happen. Taking Camilla, a play that L’Engle wrote in her twenties and later revised into a novel, Moore has completed a wonderful film called Camilla Dickinson, which features an impressive, accomplished cast. The film is complete, but doesn’t yet have a distributor or release date; Moore and her production company are now pursuing possibilities.

DVD REVIEW: “Wolfy, The Incredible Secret” – Indiewire

Indiewire –March 2015

Traditional animation buffs might take note of the feature length Wolfy, The Incredible Secret – just out this week on DVD from Random Media, in partnership with Cinedigm –  a story of political machinations, anamorphic animal hierarchy and gypsy fantasy – traditionally hand-drawn with a look that leans far away from photorealism.

Traditional animation buffs might take note of the feature length Wolfy, The Incredible Secret – just out this week on DVD from Random Media, in partnership with Cinedigm –  a story of political machinations, anamorphic animal hierarchy and gypsy fantasy – traditionally hand-drawn with a look that leans far away from photorealism.

The convoluted English title (French title: “Loulou, l’incroyable secret”) actually refers to quite a few secrets, which unravel as Wolfy, an easygoing wolf, and Tom, his neurotic bunny pal, travel to Wolfenberg to find Wolfy’s mother. A gypsy has told them that she is the true princess as well as the leader of a rebellion against an evil usurper—a manipulative wolf named Lou Andréa.

If this doesn’t sound like kiddie fodder, it’s not. The look of Wolfy—a cross between Studio Ghibli and those Weston Woods/Scholastic animated films—certainly appears to be the stuff of little ones. Tom, in fact, bears a strong resemblance to Buster Bunny from the popular Arthur cartoon series. For the most part, kids can enjoy it for its visuals and occasional action sequences (and the car, which looks like the one in Thatcher Hurd’s picture book, Art Dog).

Hollywood’s First Sci Fi Musical, Just Imagine (1930) Is Rediscovered – Huffington Post

Huffington Post –August 2012

Hot off the heels of 1927’s Metropolis, a masterpiece of German expressionist filmmaking, and one of the silent movie era’s greatest achievements, Hollywood sought to cash in on a futuristic blockbuster of its own, with a curious twist. The result was the first science fiction talkie feature, 1930’s Just Imagine, a pre-Busby Berkeley musical comedy blockbuster set in the distant world of 1980.

With rare and unusual exceptions (Rocky Horror Picture ShowYoung Frankenstein), the science fiction musical comedy as a film genre, never really took off — but if it ever truly does, Just Imagine can be credited as its forefather.