‘Working Man’ Review: Powerful And Timely Story Of Factory Workers Fighting Back After Losing Their Jobs
Certainly the new film Working Man wasn’t intended to be released at a time when unemployment is at or approaching its highest level since perhaps the Great Depression. With more than 33 million Americans newly out of work, factories continuing to close and other results of the coronavirus pandemic, this film takes on new urgency. But most importantl, it might inspire empathy toward those who are adding to these sad statistics on a daily basis by putting a human face on what is otherwise a number on a news report.
Allery Parkes (Peter Gerety) is an older worker at a plastics factory in a working-class Illinois town where just about everyone seems to be employed by the big companies — blue-collar lifers whose occupation is also who they are. It definitely is how Allery is defined, even as he is old enough to retire. When the factory shuts down and everyone loses their job, Allery doesn’t take it well; he begins returning every day, lunchbox and Thermos in tow, to the empty building where even the power is turned off. This confounds not only his former co-workers, who just watch as he marches through the neighborhood to the non-existent job, but also his devoted wife Iola (Talia Shire) who just can’t understand why he is doing this. Soon though he is joined by the uber-enthusiastic colleague Walter (Billy Brown) who not only takes charge but makes Allery’s quiet statement a crusade by also enlisting the rest of the workers to return to the building, sleeping bags with them, and stay there until they finish the job they had started as a way to guarantee they will be paid. Can they turn it all around? Well, it’s complicated, as Allery finds.
As things are revealed about Walter as well as why the factory really shut down, the situation begins to change things in a big way. In addition to all this, the poignant and pertinent script by writer-director Robert Jury hits a sad moment in Allery and Iola’s marriage as they still deal with the tragic death of their only son.
Jury’s film is reminiscent of the collective work of the great British director Ken Loach, whose cinematic career frequently has been directed at the plight of the working man in England. Now here’s an American director who has brought it much closer to home. This is a promising feature debut, to be sure.
For those going through the heartache of having your whole world suddenly turned upside down, take heart: This film is not a total downer and even offers hope. It is memorable in many ways, but first and foremost as a showcase for some fine actors who don’t get leads in movies these days. Gerety, a recognizable actor from many films and TV shows including as last season’s key villain in Ray Donovan, is simply superb, saying more with one facial expression than many actors can do with 20 pages of dialogue. Shire again proves what a fine actress she is, underplaying emotions buried inside, instead putting faith in her weekly Bible studies. Also just excellent is Brown (How to Get Away with Murder), how has perhaps the showier role and delivers on all cylinders. These are the three main actors, but there is terrific support all around in this film which defines what smart independent moviemaking is all about.
It would be powerful material to absorb at almost any time, but that we have it right now is particularly heartening and important.
Producers are Clark Peterson, Maya Emelle, Lovell Holder, and Jury. Released through Brainstorm Media It is currently available on VOD and digital platforms. Check out my video review with scenes from the movie at the link above.
Do you plan to see Working Man? Let us know what you think.
“Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story,” a documentary comedy from the star comedian, has sold to Brainstorm Media for a special theatrical release this summer, Variety has learned.
The movie will play in U.S. theaters on July 31, for a one-night special event. Fathom Events is a partner on the deal, and Griffin will join audiences for a live Q&A following the film.
“A Hell of a Story,” which is directed by Troy Miller, premiered at SXSW in March to strong reviews. The film takes place at the end of Griffin’s recent “Laugh Your Head Off” tour, where she discusses the fallout from a controversial 2017 photograph where she posed with a fake severed head that looks like it belonged to Donald Trump.
As a result of the picture, which Griffin meant as a joke, she was blacklisted by Hollywood. She stopped getting job offers in movies and TV. And even worse, she underwent lengthy federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Secret Service on suspicion of conspiracy to assassinate the president.
Griffin self-financed and produced the film herself. The theatrical version of the film is a different cut than what audiences saw at SXSW. It include documentary footage interspersed with her onstage comedy.
“I am so excited to be announcing my first-ever theatrical release,” said Griffin in a statement. “I’m honored to be given the opportunity to showcase my comedy and the raw behind-the-scenes-footage of the last two years. The film pulls back the curtain for a gritty, unapologetic look at this era of cultural chaos and Trumpism. You’re going to hear things in this film you’ve never heard before—and it’s funny as hell.”
By Jennifer Szalai May 16, 2019
In “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” a playfully arch and unsettling film based on Shirley Jackson’s 1962 novel, there’s nobody obvious to root for; everyone is dour, foolish, phony or deranged. Possibly even murderous. Under Stacie Passon’s precise direction, this gothic fable of isolation and violence expertly treads a fine line between tragedy and camp.
Merricat (Taissa Farmiga), still childlike at 18, lives in the cavernous Blackwood family chateau with her older sister, Constance (Alexandra Daddario), and their sickly Uncle Julian (a reliably furtive Crispin Glover). The girls’ parents died several years ago after eating a suspicious meal that left Uncle Julian debilitated and the sisters shunned. Constance, unfailingly coifed and composed, makes do as a dutiful homemaker, baking pies and canning fruit with a glistening smile plastered on her pretty face. A skulking, slouching Merricat endures the taunts of the townspeople when she makes weekly trips for provisions, rushing home to bury trinkets in the castle’s enormous garden and casting protective spells.
The sisters take care of each other; they cuddle in bed and fantasize about living on the moon, which hangs outside of Merricat’s window like a cartoon cutout. Their home is full of lush fabrics, gorgeous wallpaper and a worrying number of candles. (Piers McGrail’s cinematography makes the tableaus look like twisted photo spreads from Life magazine.) Farmiga’s Merricat speaks in a clipped cadence that sounds both creepy and competent; her knowledge of mushroom toxicology is troublingly comprehensive. Uncle Julian silently glides into the frame in his wheelchair, suddenly reciting cryptic lines from the family history he’s writing. Constance tends to the house in what appears to be a state of willful oblivion, looking cheerful and stunned.
The delicate balance of the household is upended with the arrival of Charles (Sebastian Stan), a dashing cousin who seems helpful at first but whose authoritarian streak reveals itself when he takes an aggressive interest in Merricat’s buried treasures and starts calling Constance “Connie.” (Having him chug milk from the carton is also a nice touch.) Like the jeering men in the town, Charles turns out to be an entitled patriarch; under every languid grin lies a leer and a smirk.
Mark Kruger’s screenplay isn’t subtle, but then neither is Jackson’s novel — a sharp, demented fairy tale in which the women live happily ever after despite the men, rather than because of them. The outside world is cruel, capricious, inhospitable; only when the sisters lock themselves inside their crumbling castle can they truly be free.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Director Stacie Passon
Writer Mark Kruger
Stars Patrick Joseph Byrnes, Una Carroll, Peter Coonan, Joanne Crawford, Alexandra Daddario
Running Time 1h 30m
Genres Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Adapted from Shirley Jackson’s 1962 mystery novel, We Have Always Lived in the Castle (out May 17) stars Taissa Farmiga as Merricat Blackwood, who lives with her sister Constance (Alexandra Daddario) and her Uncle Julian (Crispin Glover). The trio are survivors of an arsenic poisoning that killed everyone else in the family five years prior. Merricat is bold and imaginative, and protects the property with “spells”. Despite being hated by the townspeople, the sisters live an idyllic life, until cousin Charles (Sebastian Stan) arrives. Charles offers to help around the house, and inquires about the family’s finances. Constance is charmed by Charles, and Merricat resents Charles’ intrusion. As Charles and Merricat battle for control, tragedy threatens to strike again.
“I read Castle first when I was in high school,” said filmmaker Stacie Passon in her director’s statement. “It is smart, suspenseful, dark satire. The story, narrated by an 18-year-old sociopathic girl named Merricat Blackwood, is a rich mix of American political and social commentary. The themes of isolation, gender, class warfare seem even more relevant today.”
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is released in theaters and on VOD, May 17.
Exclusively watch the film’s trailer above.
Reviews: ‘St. Agatha’ sports a psycho nun; ‘The Isle’ offers location, location, location; yet another ‘Amityville’; plus the MMA noir of ‘A Violent Man
Some of horror’s most memorable movies happened because the filmmakers had access to a great location: like a shopping mall or an abandoned hospital. In the case of Matthew and Tori Butler-Hart’s supernatural thriller “The Isle,” it was the remote Scottish island of Eilean Shona.
Co-written and co-produced by the married Butler-Harts — and directed by Matthew — “The Isle” follows the plight of three mid-19th century shipwrecked sailors, who make their way to a tiny island, cloaked in mist. There they meet the four residents: the gregarious Fingal (Dickon Tyrrell), the standoffish Douglas (Conleth Hill), his niece Lanthe (Tori Butler-Hart), and the roving madwoman, Korrigan (Alex Wilton Regan).
The three seamen (played by Alex Hassell, Graham Butler and Fisayo Akinade) quickly realize the islanders won’t make it easy for them to leave. There are no boats to ferry them home; and a mysterious wailing appears whenever they even think about escaping.
“The Isle” isn’t especially scary. It’s more of an adventure/mystery, as the heroes keep pressing their hosts — at the risk of their own lives — for more information about where they are, and about what happened to the people who used to lived there.
But the picture’s a pleasure to watch throughout, largely because of Eilean Shona. The Butler-Harts built their story around the place, and don’t squander any of the spectacular scenery. This island looks like something from a dark fairy tale — so that’s exactly what the filmmakers have made.
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes
Playing: Starts Feb. 8, Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; also on VOD
Gentle, wistful and often quite beautiful, Bruce Thierry Cheung’s “Don’t Come Back From the Moon” is a dreamlike meditation on abandoned children and dying locations.
Set amid the arid emptiness of California’s Salton Sea, its almost alien landscape in perfect harmony with the movie’s title, the filament of story unfolds through the teenage eyes and low-key narration of Mickey (Jeffrey Wahlberg). His small community, he tells us, was once a holiday destination, but the lake is shrinking and the last factory has closed. Now men are leaving, slinking off into the night without explanation — except for one, whose exit note says he has gone to the moon.
Trailer: ‘Don’t Come Back From the Moon’CreditCreditVideo by Brainstorm Media Mickey’s father (a briefly seen James Franco) is the latest to depart, leaving Mickey to worry about his quietly devastated mother (a wonderfully subdued Rashida Jones), and his younger brother (Zackary Arthur). The bond between the siblings, and among their similarly deserted friends, is the one emotional constant in a movie that weaves pain and anger and sorrow into a haunting mood of unresolved yearning.
Adapting Dean Bakopoulos’s 2005 novel, Cheung fashions a sense that time has stopped and lives are suspended — until fathers come home, or prosperity returns. Children forced too soon to become adults act out and draw inward in scenes that some may find aimless and metaphorically strained. Yet the movie’s emotional potency is undeniable, its slow crescendo of wounded feelings and shimmering photography leaving unexpected imprints on the eyes and heart.
Don’t Come Back from the Moon NYT Critic’s Pick
An exasperatingly slick documentary with a charismatic subject, “Team Khan” follows two years in the rise of British-born Muslim boxer Amir Khan, a dashing champion chasing the ultimate test of greatness: a match against the likes of a Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.
Directors Blair Macdonald and Oliver Clark secured great access across training sessions, photo-ops, moments with wife Faryal and their 2-year-old daughter, and spirited get-togethers in gray suburban Northwest England with his extended Punjabi clan. If “Team Khan” offers any insight as it aggressively packages him with the familiar tropes of verité sports-doc portraiture, it’s how the closeness of Khan’s relatives — many of whom work for him — keep him grounded behind that high-wattage smile and disciplined drive to make the most of his lightning quick blows.
Built around a few key bouts in Las Vegas and New York meant to set him up for that hoped-for call to challenge a legend, the directors’ “Rocky”-ish approach has its upside (Khan is easy to root for) and downside (is this a film or a commercial?). There are also side trips to cement his philanthropic bona fides, including a trip to Pakistan to show support after 2014’s Peshawar school massacre, and a visit to his ancestral village. If your taste for athletic snapshots has tired of tales of the troubled, Khan’s at least smoothly offers someone as comfortable being a Muslim hero and family man as he is a fast-jabbing contender.
A Father’s Nightmare makes Lifetime history with not one, not two but THREE endings! Vivica A. FOX stars in two new movies and August brings all new thrills that are sure to keep the end of summer as hot as the beginning!
To be a part of history and vote for the alternate ending YOU want to see - watch the first airing of A Father’s Nightmare on July 22nd on Lifetime. To see if your ending was chosen, watch the second airing on July 27th on Lifetime Movie Network. Reeling from the recent death of his wife, Matt (Joel Gretsch, Push, The Vampire Diaries) sends his daughter Lisa (Kaitlyn Bernard, 1922) off to college, where she falls under the spell of her older, more mature roommate, Vanessa (Jessica Lowndes, 90210, A Deadly Adoption). As Vanessa’s manipulation sets Lisa on a downward spiral, Lisa and Matt grow further apart, while her dependence on Vanessa deepens. But, will Matt figure out what’s really going on before it’s too late? A Father’s Nightmare, presented by Brainstorm Media and WIN is produced by Sepia Films. Meyer Shwarzstein and Larry Gershman executive produce, Tina Pehme and Kim C Roberts produce, Vic Sarin serves as director and Shelley Gillen as writer.
At initial glance, the notion of Shakespeare’s oft-reinvented “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” reset in modern-day Los Angeles complete with a surfer dude Puck and texted soliloquies wouldn’t exactly lend itself to movie magic.
But darned if Casey Wilder Mott’s feature directorial debut doesn’t prove to be a disarmingly effective, visually vibrant frolic.
While previous incarnations have become rock operas or set against a disco beat (1999’s “The Donkey Show”), it was probably only a matter of time before you’d find a Hermia (Rachael Leigh Cook) who’s a movie star dubbed H-Pup, or a Theseus (Ted Levine), now a big-shot Hollywood producer, landing the cover of Variety as Showman of the Year.
And even though the play is no longer the thing (it’s now a very-low-budget film), and this time the overzealous Bottom (Fran Kranz) finds his head transformed into an ass of the human anatomical variety, somehow it all works.
Credit an energy level that takes its buoyant cue from Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and a similarly sprightly cast, with especially delightful work by Avan Jogia’s impish Puck and Lily Rabe’s Helena, recast as a brooding screenwriter.
Meanwhile Mott, who started out in Hollywood working in the fabled William Morris Agency mailroom, nimbly choreographs all the updating, resulting in a breezy, cute-and-clever confection that’s tailor-made for a sultry midsummer’s night.
As two well-heeled aesthetes living in a version of gay paradise, where one partner hosts a cooking show that the other produces, Erasmus (Steve Coogan) and Paul (Paul Rudd) are ambivalent about the prospect of parenthood.
But when Erasmus’s estranged son is sent to prison, leaving Erasmus’s troubled young grandson Bill in his and Paul’s care, the couple adapt to the child’s needs. For better and for worse, their parenting style matches their prickly relationship. Flighty Erasmus plans parties to help Bill make friends, while duty-bound Paul takes over mundane tasks like packing lunches and driving the boy to his Santa Fe elementary school.
The director of “Ideal Home,” Andrew Fleming, based the movie on his own experience as the second parent to his partner’s child, and the movie thrives by depicting the idiosyncratic textures of gay relationships. “Ideal Home” is genuinely funny, and the poignant and pithy script is aided by the chemistry between its stars, who are equally adept with comedic punch lines as they are with dramatic gut punches. Refreshingly, the film’s tone seems pitched more to gay audiences than straight ones. Erasmus and Paul would prefer white wine over beer, thank you, and there is a pleasing and rare lack of self-consciousness about the way the characters engage with their identities.
“Ideal Home” avoids explicitly addressing its politics until the credits, which play over a photo montage of real gay families. Mr. Fleming’s gesture is clearly heartfelt, but in a film that avoids the sappiness so frequently reserved for gay domesticity in popular entertainment, it is the one sentimental sleight of hand that gives the game away.
Ideal Home NYT Critic’s Pick
Development and Production
Brainstorm Media has developed and produced a number of movies and series. It is currently developing, producing and/or co-financing new movies for a variety of TV, SVOD and theatrical release.
Having been involved in distribution since 1995, Brainstorm has been a trend-setter in VOD, TV and other media. Now that the indie film industry has evolved, the company treats distribution more like a craft. The distribution plan for each individual film is tailored for that movie to maximize the outcome. In the movie business, it’s been generally accepted that the development and production are the only areas which require creativity. No longer. As the business continues to change, distribution will further evolve as a craft designed to facilitate a connection between filmmakers and their audience.