Three Texan ranchers, Seth (Barry Tubb), Randall (Robert Prentiss) and his son, Limon (Ryan Boggus), accidentally strike with their truck a man (Al No'Mani) who lies in the middle of a highway. They take him to the ranch where their Mexican housekeeper/cook, Carmen (Melinda Renna), takes care of him and tries to nurse him back to health. Upon examining his belongings, the ranchers believe that he may actually be the infamous dictator Saddam Hussein whose plane had crashed on the U.S.-Mexico border leaving him as the only survivor. Theydecide to fax the Texas division of the FBI to inform them about their finding in their opportunistic hopes of becoming famous and striking it rich for capturing the most wanted man in the world. Soon enough, an FBI agent, Kathy (Shaneye Ferrell) begins her own investigations even though her boss doesn’t take any of it seriously after learning about the fax. One of the ranchers said so himself that the photograph they took of the man makes him look like nothing more than a drunk Mexican. Once the man awakens into consciousness, he and Carmen form an unlikely romance. Many aspects of the screenplay co-written by David H. Hickey, Shaneye Ferrell and Al No'Mani are highly improbable and outrageous, though, so in order to feel captivated, you’ll need to suspend a lot of your disbelief. The plot itself could have used some more bite to its political commentary, but at least it offers some interesting, unexpected twists, and remains suspenseful as you’re wondering what precisely will happen to the ranchers. It’s also worth mentioning the use of offbeat, dry humor most of which is quite funny even when it resorts to turning the ranchers into stereotypes. Director/co-writer David H. Hickey moves the film along at just the right pace and makes the most out of the scenery in Texas. Moreover, the original soundtrack is quite superb and helps to enliven the film while enhancing the mood of many scenes. At a running time of 1 hour and 33 minutes, Baghdad Texas is often funny, refreshingly original, imaginative and unpredictable, although it could use more satirical bite.
Change of Plans
Daniel & Ana
Based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen. During the summer of 1957, second grader Bryce Loski (Ryan Ketzner) moves into a new neighborhood with his mother, Patsy (Rebecca De Mornay), father, Steven (Anthony Edwards), and older sister, Lynetta (Cody Horn). His neighbor, Juli Baker (Morgan Lily), also a second grader, lives across the street and instantly develops a crush on him. She loves his eyes, his smell and everything else about him, but he doesn’t feel quite thrilled when she pays so much attention to him in school. Six years later, Juli (now played by Madeline Carroll) still stalks Bryce (now played by Callan McAuliffe) and he still tries to avoid her. He turns down her request to sit beside her on a tree branch of her favorite sycamore tree and secretly throws away eggs that she repeatedly delivers to him for free as a gift. Bryce’s father can’t stand the Bakers, though, especially because of how they never keep up their lawn. The Loskis are afraid of salmonella poisoning from the fresh eggs from Juli’s hens that she raises in her backyard. Bryce begins to realize that perhaps he likes Juli after all her once his grandfather, Chet (John Mahoney), befriends her and after his parents invite the Bakers over. Concurrently, Juli questions her own attraction to Bryce. Aidan Quinn plays Juli’s loving father who spends his time painting and knows that she has her eyes on Bryce. Director/co-writer Rob Reiner has taken a simple story about young love and turned it into a sweet, tender and true-to-life romantic drama that everyone will be able to relate to. Rarely has a film glowed with such genuine feelings of warmth and pure, unadulterated, uplifting spirit. You’ll actually be able to feel the palpable chemistry between Bryce and Julie onscreen. If you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s, you might feel like you’re going down a trip through memory lane. Sure, there’s a good amount of voice-over narration, but it serves the story well. The same can be said for the shifts from Bryce’s perspective to Juli’s which feel refreshing. Reiner includes plenty of tuneful doo-wop songs of the era and exquisite cinematography which fit so well with the film’s tone. Each member of the cast gives a terrific, convincing performance that will keep you engrossed from start to finish. At an ideal running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Flipped is a wholesome, genuinely heartfelt, sweet and uplifting story that everyone, young and old, can easily fall in love with.
The Last Exorcism
Reverend Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) wants to leave his job as a preacher because he has been questioning his faith. When Louis Sweetzer (Louis Herthum), a father from Louisiana, sends him a letter where he pleads with him to come down south to exorcize his potentially possessed, sixteen-year-old daughter, Nell (Ashley Bell), Cotton agrees to do so and hires a documentary film crew to follow him there for his last exorcism. He feels a bit skeptical, though, about the existence of demonic possession, so he doesn’t really expect anything supernatural to occur. Is Nell truly possessed or just pretending to be that way for some reason? How might that answer change if she were able to contort her body in many inhuman positions? Was she traumatized by something in her past perhaps? Why does her brother, Caleb (Caleb Landry Jones), behave so suspiciously? Screenwriters Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland answer these questions and more while keeping you at the edge of your seat with interesting, unexpected twists and turns. As Cotton begins to believe in the supernatural more and more, so do you because Nell does seem as though she’s possessed by a demon. Fortunately, there’s much more to The Last Exorcism than that plot strand which has been treaded over and over in many films with exorcists in the past. Cotton uncovers a secret, which won’t be spoiled here, that turns the film into a suspenseful drama while allowing you to see Nell in a different light. You’ll also find some moments of comic relief here as you laugh at Cotton. Director Daniel Stamm unfolds the film in a faux documentary style a la The Blair Witch Project and, at times, the fakeness does seep through because you can sense those “documented” onscreen are merely acting. The film does cheat you, though, with a very facile and lazy ending that could have been much more powerful had it been more thought out more and elaborated upon. At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, The Last Exorcism is suspenseful, surprising, somewhat terrifying and clever despite its rushed, lazy conclusion.
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Make-Out with Violence
Carol (Cody DeVos) and his twin brother, Patrick (Eric Lehning) Darling, have just graduated high school and about to start their summer vacation in their quiet suburban home town. Their dear friend, Wendy (Shellie Marie Shartzer), has mysteriously disappeared. Little do they know that she has turned into a zombie until they find her neither-dead-nor-alive body in the nearby countryside. They bring her into an empty house in an attempt to bring her back to life somehow. The brothers try to feed her raw meat from the supermarket, but she won’t eat it because, of course, zombies prefer to eat the living. If you’re afraid of rats, good luck sitting through a disgusting scene where they feed her a live rat. Patrick, though, has feelings for her and spends the most amount of time with Wendy---he even goes to the extent of putting makeup on her in one of the film’s creepy yet darkly humorous moments. Meanwhile, Carol has his own struggles with love because he wants his relationship with Addy (Leah High) to move from the friend zone to the girlfriend zone instead, a task that’s easier said than done. The director/co-writers, known as The Deagol Brothers, together with co-writers Cody DeVos and Eric Lehning, have woven a very bizarre blend of comedy, horror and romance. You’ll be gross out one minute, laughing the next and, at times, you’ll find yourself scratching your head at some of the events that transpire. On a purely aesthetic level, Make-Out with Violence excels because every single frame looks stylish the pacing, music, set designs, lighting and use of colors all add layers of richness to the film. It’s very difficult to classify the film in one particular genre, though, and it jumps around from many different tones, but at least it’s far more clever and compelling than Deadgirl, a silly, unimaginative horror/thriller that treads similar waters. Perhaps your best bet would be to watch the film with a bunch of friends while drinking some beer---a drink that easily accessible at the reRun Gastropub theater---and laughing at the many crazy, twisted moments. Just don’t get too drunk so that you can remember the film and discuss it with your friends the next day. At a running time of 1 hour and 45 minutes, Make-Out with Violence is outrageous, disturbing and wickedly funny. It’s a stylish, bizarre and refreshingly subversive amalgamation of horror, romance and comedy.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct
The Milk of Sorrow
Something's Gonna Live
This informative and lively documentary follows six artists in their senescence who have bonded throughout the years after working in Hollywood during the golden age of cinema. From storyboard artist Harold Michelson to art directors Robert Boyle, Henry Bumstead and Albert Nozaki to cinematographers Haskell Wexler and Conrad Hall, each one of them gets just the right amount of screen time so that you’re able to understand precisely how they started out in the film industry, how they contributed to it and what makes them so important within the scope of the world of film. Neither of them comes across as full of themselves or boring; they’re each wise, honest and charismatic. Albert Nozaki, who worked as the art director in such films as When Worlds Collide, the original War of the Worlds and The Ten Commandments , explains how even though his eyesight was poor back then, his boss at Paramount let him continue to work; on the day that the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, though, he was fired merely a few hours after the bombing, but returned to his job there after the war was over. He retired when he became completely blind in 1969 and died in 2003 at the age of 91. Robert Boyle worked as a production designer for a variety of classic films ranging from Saboteur to The Birds, North by Northwest, In Cold Blood, The Thomas Crown Affair and more. It’s very fascinating to listen to him and storyboard artist Harold Michelson discussing what it was like to work on The Birds together and how a modern version of The Birds would probably leave virtually nothing to the imagination and have no subtleties unlike the original. They also give their two cents about how Hitchcock (referred to as “Hitch”) would make films if he were alive today to utilize modern technology which he’d probably use frequently, but only as a means of serving the story. Both Boyle and Michelson died at the age of 100 and 87, respectively. Production designer Henry Bumstead worked on To Kill a Mockingbird, Vertigo, The Sting and recent films such as Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, and others, before dying at the age of 91. Haskell Wexler not only works as a cinematographer, but also as a director, writer and producer to this very day. His credits include The Thomas Crown Affair, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, Medium Cool which he also wrote/directed and produced, and most recently, he directed the documentary Who Needs Sleep?. Cinematographer Conrad L. Hall worked on such films as In Cold Blood, The Day of the Locusts,Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Road to Perdition and others before his death at the age of 76. He explains his cinematography helped to highlight and reflect the human condition in In Cold Blood just like the other artists tried to do in the films they worked on as well at that time. Will there be another renaissance in the world of film? It’s hard to say, but these six artists do believe that it’s bound to come at some point. Director Daniel Raim deftly blends interviews with each of them along with select footage from their films and footage of them bonding as friend back in 2003. He asks important, provocative questions while wisely staying out of the film to keep the focus on them and their thoughts, feelings and some of their memories of the iconic renaissance period. In turn, Raim brings out their warmth, panache, wisdom and, occasionally, their sense of humor so that by the time the film’s over, you’re able to fully grasp them as humble, down-to-earth and sensitive human beings who ought to be remembered and appreciated by future generations for their persistence, brilliance, diligence and sense of camaraderie. At a running time of 1 hour and 20 minutes, Something’s Gonna Live is engaging, honest and filled with warmth, insight and charisma.