REVIEW: Psychic Murder [2017]

“Yes. I realize I look … like the Hamburger Helper.” The idea of a “deal with the devil” tale is to show how—if at all—the victim caught with his/her soul on the line can escape. The fun is in the torture of this latest riff on Faust by his malicious benefactor and the payoff the inevitable bittersweet end. But what if it didn’t have to go that way? What if the victim that always proves to be a good person who made a regretful mistake out of hubris is exactly…

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REVIEW: Night Job [2017]

“People just use the night as an excuse to be someone completely different” Write what you know. These are fortune cookie words of wisdom, but they aren’t wrong. Our own lives are often strange and interesting enough to form the basis of a sitcom because they’re simultaneously universal and unique. Viewers relate to a sense of “common man” humanity, especially when thrust into a chaotic occupation dealing with eclectic characters every shift for as long as your tenure lasts. Think cashiers, salesmen, wait staff—you name it. We’ve all had similar…

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REVIEW: Gary From Accounting [2016]

“I think I left my oven on so I’m going to …” Drinking problems are a serious matter. Alcoholics neglect their families, careers, and their own health as they walk through life in a haze towards their next glass. It’s hard to reach someone suffering from this disease without the cold hard truth. So you stage an intervention to facilitate your laying everything out. “This is how your actions affect me—him, her, and you.” The hope is that this bombardment of emotions and love can jolt someone out of his/her…

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REVIEW: Transience [2013]

What is the packet that George (Timothy J. Cox) gives Tom (Joshua Michael Payne) in Tan See Yun‘s short film Transience? This question is running through my mind in desperate need of an answer because without one the whole proves too esoteric to reconcile. We know these two men are a couple—the former responsible, caring, and career-oriented with the latter younger, independent, and perhaps resentful—but we don’t know why they’ve drifted or why/if they should reignite their waning passion. There are of course obvious motivations whether it’s nondescript universal frustrations…

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REVIEW: Linda LeThorn & the Musicbox [2012]

“She is really good at this job!” There’s nothing generic about Linda LeThorn & the Musicbox, Meg Skaff‘s quirky psychological study delving into the mind of a damaged young woman who left her aunt behind to endure a fatal disease alone despite promising to remain by her side. Linda (Aundrea Fares) was obviously affected by her decision, a flashback showing the girl bright and clear with sassiness to complement her keen business sense. Today, however, sees her defeated, slack-jawed, and depressed. She continues her once booming pet-sitting responsibilities, but the…

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REVIEW: Hell-Bent [2016]

“May you write some great pieces on this” For whatever reason, screenwriters Lorenzo Cabello and Shayne Kamat refused to turn their script about an underachieving journalist and his demon acquaintance into a deal with the devil scenario. Kudos, guys. There’s ample opportunity too considering Michael’s (Justin Andrew Davis) struggles to find the confidence to fight for a promotion against his cutthroat competition Beth (Ashley Kelley). Ricky (Steven Trolinger‘s demon in question) tells Michael that he better not disappoint him if he agrees to be the subject of this latest make-or-break…

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REVIEW: Dirty Books [2016]

“Jobs? You’re an after school club.” Print is dead and apparently this isn’t only true in the outside world where magazines and newspapers are shuttering and/or moving to a more robust online presence. Of course schools would find themselves facing the same problem. After all, it’s the latest generations’ penchant for using the internet as a source of daily headlines that has more or less catalyzed the transition. So when cost saving measures become number one on the to-do list of middle school principals the nation over, shuttering a paper…

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REVIEW: Here Lies Joe [2016]

“There is hope. There’s a way back to your life.” Only dying can bring two people lost and finished with the world back from the brink of death. That may not make sense to read, but it does in my head. I think maybe writer/director Mark Battle and cowriter Pamela Conway will understand as their film Here Lies Joe deals with the issue—the hope bred from a vacuum of sorrow. To be alone is to embrace the end, yet to attempt suicide is to be anything but alone. There are…

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REVIEW: What Jack Built [2015]

It’s difficult not to think about Tom Waits‘ song “What’s He Building?” from Mule Variations while watching Matthew Mahler‘s (co-written with Ross Mahler) What Jack Built. This is both a compliment to the tone set by Timothy J. Cox‘s performance as Jack and the tension created by the filmmaker slowly revealing hidden details as the character moves from basement/garage workspace to the woods outside. But it’s also a big reason for why I feel the film doesn’t quite succeed. I try not to let budgetary constraints factor into my experience…

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REVIEW: That Terrible Jazz [2014]

“I’m gonna kick up some dirt” A senior film student at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Mike Falconi went noir for his thesis short That Terrible Jazz. The piece has an obvious affinity for past cinematic greats with hard-boiled dialogue, a stoic lead, and the missing persons mystery at its core, but his love for the genre inevitably becomes overshadowed by the resource limitations such a project inherently finds itself combating. It’s tough to critique acting when most of the performers are likely as green as their director, so I’ll…

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REVIEW: Greg’s Guardian Angel [2013]

“Get the Cookies! Cookies!” It wears its comedy on its sleeve with an intentionally broad performance from its titular savior along a pretty obvious plot trajectory, but Greg’s Guardian Angel finds a way to entertain nonetheless. Whether it’s the office setting or the relatable gags embellished for effect sprinkled throughout Greg’s (Greg Vorob) unremarkable life’s transformation into one of unfathomable success, we find him a likeable character caught in what’s apparently an enviable situation. However, despite a couple initial good calls on his Angel’s (Elmer J. Santos) behalf, the invincibility…

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