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Colin Covert

Displayed with permission from Star Tribune

Imagine a Venn diagram charting three qualities: Silly, gross and dumb. At the point where they overlap you will find the fright film spoof "A Haunted House 2," a scattershot, anything-goes affair that's unapologetically stupid. Proudly stupid. Aggressively stupid.

The film is writer / star Marlon Wayans' take on suburban ghost stories. Putting himself at the center of that usually lily-white genre gives him a target-rich environment for broad, politically incorrect satire. The first entry in the series gave Wayans' upwardly mobile new homeowner a head-spinning freakshow of a girlfriend (we've all been there, right, guys?). Those demons banished, he takes another shot at suburban life with his new girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) and her two teenagers.

Once again the road to settling down and relationship building is strewn with supernatural stumbling blocks. Wayans is repeatedly hypnotized by a chalk-faced, creepy-eyed antique doll whose erotic magic sends him into a mating frenzy, typically when Pressly or her kids are approaching the bedroom door. The star's gymnastic, flesh-baring humping and randy pillow talk is funny at first. It's not the kind of joke that improves with repetition, though. Wayans beats it to death, then to smithereens, then to dust motes.

To the limited degree that the film works, it's thanks to the all-in commitment of the cast. In a Santeria blood-sacrifice ritual, Wayans has to catch, pummel and slaughter a chicken that turns out to be remarkably uncooperative and tough. The scene is a master class in physically punishing over-the-top slapstick. Pressly is winning as Wayans' oblivious, cougarish new squeeze. Gabriel Iglesias provides good-humored ethnic awkwardness as Wayans' Hispanic neighbor, and Cedric the Entertainer returns as a serenely sinful exorcist.

The film parodies a lot of movies that deserve it (its basic framework comes from the "Paranormal Activity" series, the doll from "The Conjuring") and one or two that deserve better (the sublimely scary "Sinister" gets a thorough drubbing, turning its occult killer into an accident-prone klutz). The script is lazy, recycling countless genre cliches rather than inventing novel twists. The jokes aren't just painted in broad strokes, they're applied with a roller.

But at least in one way, "A Haunted House 2" improves on the first entry in the series. That film had a long, gratuitous shot of Nick Swardson's bare rump, a horror that the sequel spares us.

——--

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2

1.5 stars



Rating: R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use and some violent images.



Distributed by MCT Information Services


 
 
The trailer is out for "The Toy Soldiers."  It is this year's Indie Film we are most looking forward to.  Have a look.
 
 

Beware of Images: A Documentary About the Perils of Media

 
 
By ANNIE MARTIN


Displayed with permission from UPI.com Jim Jarmusch presents his own vision of vampires in his new film, Only Lovers Left Alive.

The Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers director has a decidedly different take on the topic than Twilight. He spoke to the New York Times last week in an interview to discuss the new movie and his approach to filmmaking.

Only Lovers Left Alive is the first movie the 61-year-old director has shot digitally, as opposed to film. He says the transition was strange at first, but the things he hates about digital -- "depths of field and skin tones" -- caused no problems in a film about pale vampires.
Sources report that the film stars Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton as the vampires Adam and Eve. The centuries-old lovers lead increasingly lackadaisical lives in Detroit and Tangier, sustained by blood they purchase from suppliers. Their apathy and reclusivity are disrupted when Eve's wild younger sister, Ava (Mia Wasikowska), comes to stay with them after they reunite in Detroit.

As a character, Adam is a "reluctant virtuoso" musician who has become increasingly dissatisfied with the human state of affairs. Jarmusch elaborates that the character's "weakness [is] that he wants to hear his own music echo back."

"That's not a smart thing to do if you're trying to live undercover," the director says of Adam's vampiric identity. "Unlike Eve -- she has no need for that, she's full of wonder at things, and that's enough for her."

"I have Adam's weakness," Jarmusch says of his own love-hate relationship with popularity. "I think [Eve is] more enlightened somehow."

The director says he considers Only Lovers Left Alive a "tender romance" between Adam and Eve. Vampires, as immortal creatures, were a way for Jarmusch to meditate and comment on cultural history; for example, John Hurt brings Elizabethan tragedian Christopher Marlowe to life as a vampire in the movie -- a character who still struggles in the shadow of William Shakespeare.

Jarmusch says that the interplay between real life and narrative in his movies has always "sort of been my way."

"I have a lot of [real-life] weird experiences by not having a plan," the director continues. "I have that, too, while filmmaking. I have this motto of: It's hard to get lost when you don't know where you're going."

Only Lovers Left Alive debuts in U.S. theaters on April 11.
 
 
First, I have to state that Najarra Townsend stars in Eric England's "Contracted" and is also the star in Erik Peter Carlson's "The Toy Soldiers," of which I am a producer, and I learned about Najarra from a giddy email from Erik telling me how great she was -- and, if you watch Erik's film, "Transatlantic Coffee,"  you'll see he's a pretty good judge of talent.  Still, I had to see for myself,  and so I watched Contracted for the first time yesterday, and well, I can't wait to see Najarra's performance in The Toy Soldiers.  I will admit, on first seeing Najarra in this film I thought maybe  she had been miscast; you know, the just-another-pretty face syndrome kicked in.   Slowly, however, I saw it was a setup and I don't want to ruin the story for you, so will let the film poster and tag line tell you what you need to know: A young girl is date-raped by a stranger at a party and contracts what she thinks is a sexually-transmitted disease - but is actually something much worse.
Also, regarding the "zombie" film poster, I have to say that unless you play Night of the LIving Dead backwards to Radiohead's "Creep" song, this is no zombie film.  Yes, there is blood, peeling flesh, etc., but it's offered up in a sensitive way.  That is to say, this is a film you can watch with a squeamish girlfriend/boyfriend -- especially if you think she/he's been cheating on you without protection.  Yes, it's a film you won't fall asleep to or one which relies on blood to keep you interested.  It's actually a feel-good film when you look back at that one-night stand you had in your twenties and escaped alive.

Along with Najarra's excellent performance, I have to give a nod to Alice Macdonald who sets up the story as the great party friend who won't say no to a shot.  Oh, and Charley Koontz does a great job offering up a few not-over-the-top chuckles as the film's drug connoisseur -- which every great film needs.
 
 
Brad Pitt's production company plans to make film about the Steubenville rape case April 2, 2014 ANNIE MARTIN

By ANNIE MARTIN
Displayed with permission from UPI.com Brad Pitt's production company, Plan B Entertainment, plans to make a film based on the Steubenville rape case, and the Anonymous activist who worked to expose the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The crime took place in August 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio, when two high school football players raped a 16-year-old girl after a party. The girl was sexually assaulted by her
peers while she was incapacitated by alcohol, and the students took photos and videos during the incident. The two later posted the footage on Facebook and Twitter and discussed the situation in a series of text messages.

The crime took place in August 2012 in Steubenville, Ohio, when two high school football players raped a 16-year-old girl after a party. The girl was sexually assaulted by her peers while she was incapacitated by alcohol, and the students took photos and videos during the incident. The two later posted the footage on Facebook and Twitter and discussed the situation in a series of text messages.

Deric Lostutter, a member of the hacktivist collective Anonymous, launched a campaign in support of the girl after school officials attempted to cover up the incident. His role was documented in the Rolling Stone article "Anonymous Vs. Steubenville" after the activist himself was investigated for leaking evidence against the perpetrators on social media.

The two students were eventually convicted in juvenile court for the rape of a minor, and several adults were indicted for their obstruction of the investigation. One of the students has already been released early, while Lostutter currently faces ten years in prison for identity theft and threatening action against the rapists.

The new film will be based on the Rolling Stone article, and will focus on Lostutter and Anonymous' work to bring the two students to justice. Anonymous and Lostutter himself have both confirmed the news on Twitter.

Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment has bought the rights to the Rolling Stone article Anonymous vs Steubenville http://t.co/REQOshR38y— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) April 1, 2014

At this time I have no further comment about the Brad Pitt Plan B movie on my life coming out. Please direct your questions to my lawyer— KYAnonymous (@DericLostutter) April 1, 2014

Plan B Entertainment's latest film, Academy Award Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave, was a critical and audience success. No further details on the upcoming Steubenville movie have been released.

[The Hollywood Reporter]
 
 
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Okay, this film snob stands corrected.  I had a chance to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch when it played at the The Roxie Theatre in San Francisco back in 2001, but didn't because of my Rocky Horror Picture Show hangover from the 80's.   Having said that, I am so glad I finally sobered up enough to watch Hedwig and the Angry Inch and have to say this is no Rocky Horror Picture Show.  What it is is  a deep film that needs no annoying costumes or popcorn tossing to enjoy.   John Cameron Mitchell is the man/woman.  He has that rare quality of being a gifted actor and director (plus much more such as writer, voice artist, Texan… etc.).        
The story is about a transexual punk rock girl from East Berlin touring the US with her band while following her ex-boyfriend/bandmate who stole her songs.   That's the surface story.  What makes this now one of my top five films, ever.  Yes, EVER!  Is the myth.  In the film Hedwig refers to Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium by telling us that humans were once round, two-faced, four-armed, creatures, until angry gods split us in two leaving of with a lifelong yearning for our other half.  Need I say more, really.  Okay, I will, the soundtrack is pretty badass.
 
 
This is a withinfilm.com production we did for EsotericDaily.com.  Since it was my first experience with a ghost I had to post it here.  Enjoy.
 
 
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Spoiler Warning Caution! Many aspects of the plot are divulged in this writing which could ruin the experience for first time viewers.

Plot Summary The story centers on Christine Brown, a young and up-and-coming bank loan officer who through unforeseen circumstances becomes the victim of a powerful demonic curse.

Analysis Christine Brown is a young woman who is trying to do everything right. Despite her humble background, she has worked her way into a good job as a loan officer at Wilshire Pacific Bank-a far cry from the farm where she was raised. She is very into self-improvement, so in order to overcome the country twang in her speech, she listens to self-help tapes and practices in her car on the way to work. After all, there's no room for country bumpkins in sophisticated LA. She has flashbacks in her mind to the time when she struggled with her weight all through childhood, so she bypasses the pastry shop for breakfast on the way to the bank. She maintains her self-discipline; she has no desire to go back to the fat girl she once was. Above all, she constantly needs to suppress her feelings of inadequacy.
 Displayed with permission from Gerard Sczepura Film

Credits Raimi, Sam, Ivan Raimi. Drag Me To Hell. UnratedDirector's Cut, DVD. Directed by: Sam Raimi. Universal City: Universal, 2009.
Cast Overview Alison Lohman as Christine Brown
Justin Long as Clay Dalton
Lorna Raver as Mrs. Ganush
Dileep Rao as Rham Jas
David Paymer as Mr. Jacks
Adriana Barraza as Shaun San Dena
Reggie Lee as Stu Rubin
Bojana Novakovic as Ilenka Ganush
You could say that Christine is just a normal person trying to survive in the world. But it's not easy to achieve success when you've been marginalized and ignored for most of your life, particularly your adolescent years. But Christine is trying hard to put all that behind her. She now has decent looks and a promising career. Not only that, she is involved in a serious relationship with her boyfriend Clay.

The day starts out like any other day. After helping a young couple with their loan request, she glances at the vacant assistant manager's cube. Christine has been anxiously awaiting the bank's decision on who will be awarded the position. She approaches her boss Mr. Jacks and asks if a decision has been made on the assistant manager's position. Her boss tells her that both she and a co-worker, the new guy Stu, are being considered for the position. Mr. Jacks tells Christine that Stu is aggressive and is able to make the "tough decisions." That last comment from her boss immediately puts Christine on the defensive. She anxiously rises to her defense by saying, "I'm perfectly capable of making the tough decisions." But Mr. Jacks ends the conversation by suggesting that she take lunch and asks her to bring him back a turkey club. Stu chimes in and asks her to bring him one also. While probably not intentional, her boss succeeds in humiliating her. Stu, on the other hand, would like nothing better than to see Christine's self-esteem take a nose dive, after all she is competing with him for the assistant manager's job. By this time, Christine is disheartened and disappointed that her boss seems to be favoring Stu and not her for the promotion. But for now, she looks forward to having lunch with her professor boyfriend Clay.

At this point in her life what Christine needs is to be accepted and Clay not only accepts her, he admires and respects her. Christine's spirits really get an uplift while having lunch with Clay. To celebrate Clay becoming a professor, Christine gives Clay a rare coin she found at the bank. Clay collects coins so he immediately puts the coin in an envelope and seals it for safe keeping. She then follows up her gift by impressing Clay again by fixing his printer problem by removing a paper clip from the mechanism. Clay complements her by saying that she is cocky, sexy, and unbelievable. Not bad for an ex-farm girl. Now Christine is really feeling good about herself. Unfortunately, not everyone shares Clay's feelings. The phone rings while Christine is making her way out of Clay's office and it turns out to be Clay's mother. Clay puts the phone on speaker. Clay's mother sharply asks what he is doing and he responds by saying that Christine stopped by and brought over some lunch. Clay's mother responds with "Oh, the one from the farm." Clay's parents, particularly his mother, don't approve of Christine. Christine overhears the conversation while she pauses to take a drink from the water fountain. Instead of returning to work on an up note, she feels worse than before. Sad and dejected, Christine returns to her office at Wilshire Pacific Bank.

You can never really change who you are inside. No matter what you try to do, you will always be that person you hate. Christine was once the fat farm girl, now she is a thin attractive woman. But somehow she is always reminded of her past. The past she would like to forget. The past she has worked so hard to put behind her.

As it is with many of us, Christine seems to have a lot of things going for her. Even though she can't control what others may think of her, she would like to think that she is, for the most part, in control of her own life. Little does she realize that she is about to be proven very wrong.

After Christine returns to the bank from her lunch with Clay, she is distracted when she hears Stu offering Mr. Jacks tickets to a Lakers game-Mr. Jacks happens to be a big Lakers fan. She now feels like she doesn't have a chance at that promotion. However, she is brought back to reality by the impatient tapping of finger nails on her desk, specifically, Mrs. Ganush's ugly, split and yellowing finger nails. Mrs. Ganush happens to have her mortgage with Wilshire Pacific Bank and is in default. Mrs. Ganush has come to the bank to request an extension on her loan since she has been given notice that the bank intends to repossess her home. At first, Christine seems to empathize with Mrs. Ganush's circumstances and offers to try and help resolve Mrs. Ganush's predicament. Christine takes Mrs. Ganush's paperwork into Mr. Jacks' office and asks if the bank would extend Mrs. Ganush more credit. Mr. Jacks reminds Christine that the bank has already given Mrs. Ganush two extensions on her loan already and says that the bank stands to make a lot of money in fees from the foreclosure. Mr. Jacks leaves the decision to Christine, "Your call." As Christine walks out of her boss' office, she looks over at the empty assistance manager's cubicle, and then looks over at Stu and remembers all those years of struggling to raise herself up from the farm. Christine turns to Mr. Jacks and says, "I'll take care of it." Christine returns to her desk and informs Mrs. Ganush that the bank will not extend her additional credit. Mrs. Ganush then begs Christine to reconsider. Christine refuses causing Mrs. Ganush to make an awful scene. Finally, security removes Mrs. Ganush from the bank. Mr. Jacks endorses Christine's actions by saying, "You handled that just right you know." Later, while the bank is getting ready to close, Mr. Jacks approaches Christine and tells her how impressed he is with her work and that she is at the top of the list for the assistant manager's position. Christine is elated, convinced that she made the right call.

Christine's life has been a series of ups and downs, of mountain tops and valleys. She's weary of living in the valleys; she longs for a mountain top experience. Her current circumstances and the memories of all her past experiences and disappointments have come together like a perfect storm so that the only decision she could make was the one she did make. Was it chance that caused all these events to perfectly converge like the alignment of the planets? Or, was Christine simply unlucky enough to be at the wrong place at the wrong time? Was her decision an act of free will or was it her fate? If fate, then a curse is fate's nearest relative.

What happens in the parking garage after Christine leaves the bank for the evening is an over-the-top confrontation between Christine and Mrs. Ganush-one of the most intense I've ever seen. It turns out that Mrs. Ganush is not the weak, sickly old lady she appears to be, but a vicious, evil woman who seems to possess inhuman strength. Mrs. Ganush is not about to let Christine get off easily. She pulls a button off Christine's coat and proceeds to recite an incantation over the button. The spell is sealed when she gives the button back to Christine by placing it in her hand and closing her fingers around it.

Later that evening with Clay, Christine expresses second thoughts about her decision to deny Mrs. Ganush's loan extension request. Clay tries to convince her that she made the right decision, but Christine still feels that something is wrong. So, while passing a spiritual advisor's storefront, Christine decides to have her fortune told. Clay tries to discourage her, but Christine is dead serious about having it done. After entering the establishment, Christine is greeting by Rham Jas, the seer, and she asks if she could have her fortune read. During the reading, Rham tells Christine that something has been taken from her. Christine responds that it was a button from her coat. Then, while gazing into Christine's face, Rham sees a terrifying apparition and is immediately taken aback and tries to end the session. Christine insists that he tell her what he saw. Rham says, "A dark spirit has come upon you." Rham follows up by questioning Christine as to whether she had any involvement with the occult. Christine responds that she hasn't. Rham then says, "Perhaps someone has cursed you." Clay drives Christine home and sees her to her door. Christine assures him that she will be okay; but she will not be okay, not at all.

Christine wasn't exactly accurate when she said a button was taken from her. Mrs. Ganush only borrowed the button long enough to pronounce a curse upon the owner of it. What was really taken from her was something much more; what was taken was her hopes and dreams. A curse is personal in that it torments the victim by exposing their deepest fears and by exploiting their weaknesses. What a curse imparts to the one cursed is torment, humiliation, disappointment, and regret. For Christine, her curse will only last three days, but for others it could be lifetime.

The dark spirit torments Christine day and night. She hears strange noises and sees disturbing images her first night alone at home. Sleep provides no relief-she has horrible nightmares.

While at work the next day, she suddenly develops a nose bleed. There's something humiliating about bleeding in public-more than mere embarrassment.

Now convinced of the curse upon her, she visits Mrs. Ganush's home with the intention of promising her she will reverse the loan decision. Christine is met at the door by Ilenka Ganush who isn't at all happy to see her. Christine says that she tried to help Mrs. Ganush and that she wants to make things right. Ilenka accuses Christine of lying and then mocks her by telling her that she must have been a real fat girl. Anyway, Christine is too late; Mrs. Ganush has died.

Christine's dinner engagement with Clay and his parents doesn't go well either. While eating dinner, Christine again sees visions and hears strange noises causing her to have a violent outburst. She decides to leave and Clay's mother tries to convince Clay to just let her go.

Clay however, has no intention of letting Christine go. He remains steadfast through all her trials and tribulations even though he is skeptical of fortune telling, curses, mediums, and the like. You could say that Clay is the real hero in the movie.

Christine, now becoming more desperate, agrees to follow Ram's suggestion to try to communicate with the dark spirit through a séance. Ram makes the arrangements with spiritualist Shaun San Dena, who is probably also a Santera. Shaun San Dena unsuccessfully tried to help another person afflicted by the dark spirit many years before. The séance doesn't go well; the evil spirit is powerful and isn't deterred by Shaun San Dena's rituals and as a result, she dies in her attempt to undo the curse.

While Christine and Ram are leaving Shaun San Dena's residence, Ram informs Christine that the curse was not lifted and that in order to avoid the inevitable consequences, Christine must gift the button to another person. Christine gives Ram the accursed button and Ram puts it in an envelope, seals it and returns it to Christine.

While driving home that night in Clay's car, Christine screams aloud after seeing another vision of Mrs. Ganush causing Clay to hit the brakes. Christine's envelope and all of Clay's papers get scattered all over the front of the car. As they are parked in front of Christine's home, she scrambles to find her envelope before getting out of the car. She is relieved when she locates it and reassures Clay that she is alright. Christine insists that they both meet at the train station the next morning for a trip they had planned earlier.

At a diner later that evening, Christine looks around at the various patrons trying to decide who she should give the button to. She then decides to give it to Stu, but after he shows up at the diner and begs her not to expose his theft of the McPherson loan file to Mr. Jacks, she feels compassion on him and tells him to leave.

After consulting again with Ram, Christine decides to make a gift of the button to the deceased Mrs. Ganush. What follows is an outrageous attempt by Christine to dig up Mrs. Ganush's grave and give the button to her as a gift. Finally, after a long night at the graveyard, Christine succeeds in gifting her envelope to Mrs. Ganush's corpse.

That morning while Christine is cleaning up and getting ready to meet Clay at the train station, she gets a message on her answering machine from Mr. Jacks informing her that he discovered Stu's theft of the McPherson file and that Stu made a full confession after Mr. Jacks exposed holes in his story. Mr. Jacks congratulates Christine on being awarded the assistant manager's position.

It's a bright and sunny morning and Christine is now feeling on top of the world. She has defeated the curse that was put upon her and has finally achieved the promotion she so desperately wanted. She is now on her way to meet her boyfriend for a weekend getaway. On her way to the platform, she stops to buy a new coat. Her buying the new coat is symbolic of her putting off the old life and putting on the new. Christine believes she has succeeded in working out her own salvation. She is now a new person; she even confesses to Clay that she made the wrong decision in denying Mrs. Ganush's loan extension. True repentance?

But fate and circumstances have a way of derailing our best laid plans. On this day Clay planned to give Christine an engagement ring, but instead he gave her an envelope... Drag Me To Hell.
 
 
"Decisions" is an independent film shot in Dallas Texas.  We were invited on the last shoot -- which was a skeleton crew for a pickup scene which made it more intimate than ever.
"Decisions" is a Slo Rowe Entertainment production presently in post and scheduled for release this summer.  Watch for it.
 

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