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February 06, 2019

Reviews: ‘St. Agatha’ sports a psycho nun; ‘The Isle’ offers location, location, location; yet another ‘Amityville’; plus the MMA noir of ‘A Violent Man

Noel Murray, Los Angeles Times

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.


‘The Isle’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Starts Feb. 8, Laemmle Glendale, Glendale; also on VOD

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January 17, 2019

‘Don’t Come Back From the Moon’ Review: When Men Leave, Children Grow Up.

Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times

CRITIC’S PICK

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

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November 15, 2018

Reviews: Amir Khan is a contender in 'Team Khan,' plus more documentaries

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times

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.

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Lifetime's Summer Escapes Wraps Up with All New Movies

TV News Desk, Broadway World

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.

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July 11, 2018

Review: Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' charmingly recast in La La land

Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times

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.

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June 28, 2018

Review: A Child Adds a Layer to Gay Couple’s ‘Ideal Home’

Teo Bugbee, The New York Times

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

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Stephen King Novella ‘The Gingerbread Girl’ Gets Movie Deal With Brainstorm Media; Radiant Sells In Cannes

Deadline

Stephen King’s novella The Gingerbread Girl has been optioned by U.S. production and distribution outfit Brainstorm Media, which plans to distribute the film in North America. Mimi Steinbauer’s Radiant Films International is launching foreign sales efforts on the thriller in Cannes.

Frequent King collaborator Craig R. Baxley will direct the film from a screenplay written by King and Baxley. Mitchell Galin will produce. Casting is currently underway.

Baxley has previously directed the King adaptations Storm of the Century, The Triangle, Kingdom Hospital and Rose Red, while Galin produced the adaptations of King’s Pet Sematary, The Stand, Thinner, The Night Flier, Creepshow 2, The Langoliers and Golden Years.

The Gingerbread Girl originally appeared in Esquire magazine, and was later included in King’s 2008 collection of stories Just After Sunset. The story focuses on Emily, a woman recovering from a recent loss in a secluded house in the loneliest stretch of New England. She avoids contact with her husband and her father and channels her grief into a grueling daily running regimen. This is doing her all kinds of good, until one day she makes the mistake of looking into the driveway of a man named Pickering. Pickering also enjoys privacy, but the young women he brings to his home suffer the consequences of knowing him. The tension hinges on whether Em will be next.

“We are excited to be working with Craig and Mitchell on this film. This cat-and-mouse thriller will appeal to Stephen King fans everywhere,” Brainstorm Media president Meyer Shwarzstein said.

“You cannot find a more valuable or bankable name than Stephen King in today’s market, and this pulse-pounding thriller with memorable characters and gripping tension will be exactly what buyers are looking for in Cannes,” said Radiant CEO Mimi Steinbauer.

Upcoming releases for Brainstorm include Ideal Home starring Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

This is the second deal for a King novel announced in Cannes, following our scoop on Netflix acquisition In The Tall Grass.

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About Brainstorm

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.

Film Distribution

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.