Short Film Movie Review: THE MEGA PLUSH (4min, USA, Animation/Action)

THE MEGA PLUSH was the winner of Best Film at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

  MOVIE POSTERTHE MEGA PLUSH, 4min, USA, Animation/Action
Directed by Matt Burniston

Set in the shadows of a gritty underworld, a war is brewing. The Mega Plush, a group of four plush toy vigilantes, are struggling against the uprising of the SOC (Society of Chimps) army. Good vs evil. Bear vs sock monkey. The question is “who has the stuffing to survive?”

http://www.themegaplush.com/

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Badass gangsters, a suspenseful chase scene, cute plush stuffed animals, what’s not to like? Matt Burnison has definitely hit gold mine territory in my book. After so many predictable Marvel films coming out its beyond refreshing to see an original action hero story coming from independent cinema, once again reminding me what Hollywood could achieve if it listened to new voices.

Perhaps the best part of Burnison’s short is that he kind of leaves you guessing who the bad guys and the good guys are. Though there seemed to be some sort of concensus in the audience that the monkeys were the ‘goodies’, the look of his compatriots in the final scene make me beg to differ. Nevertheless, this ambiguity was a comforting change to the traditional “good vs bad” dichotomy that we’re all too accustomed to these days. We all know that in real life things aren’t quite so simple, and I appreciate that Burnison didn’t force his own bias on his audience.

In any case no philosophical discussion of the originilaity of The Mega Plush could do the film itself justice. The sountrack, lighting, compositing, story-telling and directing of the film were all top quality. In fact I was incredibly surprised when, during mediation, I noticed two people who shook their heads at every positive comment, and seemed to really dislike the film. Of course every film will have supporters and so called “haters”, but I couldn’t help but feel surprised that any one would dislike this film.

I suppose I have made my bias for this film a litl emore than obvious. I’m sure there will be those of you out there who won’t enjoy this short, as there are many people out there who don’t enjoy many popular films. When you’re investing 2 hours of your time for a Hollywood blockbuster that everyone is raving about, but you just don’t happen to like, I completely understand that you might be annoyed. But if you have a free four minutes to spare, check out Burnison’s website for The Mega Plush project, best case scenario; you just watched a great short film. Worst case… well I doubt that will even happen.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

 

 

Short Film Movie Review: YO SOY PEDRO (10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy)

YO SOY PEDRO was the winner of Best Musical Score at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

  MOVIE POSTERYO SOY PEDRO, 10min, France, Sci-Fi/Comedy
Directed by Jordan Inconstant

1977. Mackenzie and Banks are two Americans cops who encounter an alien that has just crashed. The police take him for a film actor and decide to bring it back to Hollywood studios. 

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Yo Soy Pedro is one of the most unique films I have seen in a while, and it took me a little discussion with other audience members in order to truly appreciate it in all its glory. I guess that just serves as all the more proof of how misunderstood the science fiction genre can be. Nevertheless once I got a better handle on it, I realized how great of an example this film was that science fiction doesn’t need complex story-lines or super expensive production values to create quality entertainment.

Jordan Inconstant’s short film could not embody the director’s own name more. A Hollywood based film, spoken almost entirely in French, with extremely obvious, not-so-special effects Yo Soy Pedro manages to embrace two different genres while still making a political statement. Tired of watching numerous films based in different countries where everyone speaks English, Inconstant decided to create one in the United States, where everyone speaks French. Moreover, he adds to his critique of Holywood cinema by very poorly dubbing the only supposedly Spanish speaking actor in the film. In fact, despite my fluency with the language I could barely tell it was even Spanish that he was speaking – thank goodness for subtitles.

It’s impossible not to appreciate the cleverness of Inconstant’s creation, through everything from his plotline, to his production values, to his intricate use of language. Inconstant proves that he is able to laugh at himself, and at the film industry as a whole, while still embracing it with all its flaws. He not only seizes at Hollywood’s cheesiest cliches, he subverts them so cleverly that you could watch his film repeatedly and discover a new facet each time.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to declare this film is for everyone, but it certainly has a strong appeal to a well-informed cinemaphile. In fact, for fans of Tim Burton, I have to admit some aspects of this film reminded me quite a bit of Ed Wood.Anyone who’s seen Burton’s infamous flop will quickly understand why Yo Soy Pedro might incite equally mixed reactions. If you’re a fan of clever, self-reflexive Hollywood comedy, give Inconstant’s film a shot. If he doesn’t have you on the floor laughing, he’ll at the very least be able to force our an involuntary smile from you.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

Short Film Movie Review: ARTIFICIAL (20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller)

ARTIFICIAL was the winner of Best Cinematography at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival in January 2016. 

ARTIFICIAL, 20min, Spain, Sci-Fi/Thriller
Directed by Luis Espinosa

A man goes to a job interview. What he doesn’t know is that he has already been selected. CORPSA offers to pay him 80,000 Euros if he agrees to be cloned. But more than just a lot of money depends on his decision.

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

I’ve always found Science Fiction to be a tricky genre in the film industry. People seem to either love it or hate it most of the time. I’ve never been sure if that’s because of how expensive it is to produce a good sci-fi film, or because people have a hard time wrapping their heads around them, but the genre often provokes a lot of mixed reviews. That’s the only explanation I could find for the audience’s reaction to Artificial. During moderation people seemed a bit at a loss for what to say about their experience, whereas I wasn’t sure how anyone could have helped but fall in love with it.

Harkening back to a recent Indie sci-fi favourite, Ex-Machina, David P. Sanudo manages to simplify Alex Garland’s original concept and cause an even bigger impact. By condensing the films’ twists and turns into a smaller time span, Sanudo, the mastermind behind Artificial, keeps the audience constantly on their toes. 20 minutes pass by in an instant as you constantly try to figure out what’s actually happening and then get slammed with more shocking information just as you think you’ve figured it all out.

Connoisseurs of Spanish cinema will easily recognize Aitor Mazo and be disappointed to hear this was his final performance. Suffice to say hiswork in this short film was no less impressive than those of his blockbusters. It’s heartwarming to know the famous star passed away after such a great contribution to independent cinema, but it’s always sad to lose such a valuable component to the International film scene.

Fans of Spanish cinema and science fiction alike will appreciate this film for its simplicity in the face of such complex, and deeply philosophical concepts. Sanudo’s use of the ever familiar job interview setting also appeals to a less tech obsessed audience and provides an interesting fantasy relief to a commonly nerve-racking situation. With a thought provoking storyline, excellent performances and amazing production quality, Artificial certainly deserves every award it has won. Hats off to David Sanudo and his team for such an impressive final tribute to one of Spain’s cinema greats.

Watch the AUDIENCE FEEDBACK Festival of the Short Film:

Interview with Festival Director Carey Westbrook (L.A. Neo Noir, Novel, Film & Script Festival)

Now in it’s fourth year, L.A. Neo Noir Novel, Film and Script Festival has been hailed
by L.A. Weekly as the fest with “The World’s Sexiest, Darkest, Crime Short Films.”
Founder Carey Westbrook has helped many filmmakers find success in Hollywood,
including the Academy Award nominated producers of Blue Valentine and Men of Honor.

For more information about the 2016 season, visit:
http://www.lanneff.com

I recently sat down with Carey Westbrook to talk more about the festival:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Carey Westbrook: We make filmmakers from writers. We fully produce short films based on screenplay / novel submissions and screen those shorts at our festival.

No other film / screenplay festival in the entire universe does that.

Matthew: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival?

Carey: You will be astounded by the greatest neo noir films from L.A. and around the world.

You will behold the world’s most spectacular neo noir writers’ visions coming to life on the silver screen.

You shall witness the incredible live burlesque dancer performances and finest L.A. cuisine L.A. has to offer.

Matthew: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

Carey: Be sexy, be dark, and be crime filled with a dash of film noir. The sexier, the darker, more criminal and film noir-ish you are, the better your chances of being in this festival. If your film can’t be all of those things, you better be one of those things very well.

Matthew: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals? And if so, why?

Carey: Because celebrity films are getting circle jerked by everyone at the festival for their well known stars, celebrity producers, and overall big money campaigns. Politics stink up the festivals the way politics stink up politics. Not us. Our festival is funky, but not foul stench exclusionary Hollywood elite big wigs mucking up the joint funky.

Matthew: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

Carey: Anger. Discontent. There was no L.A. Neo Noir Festival when we started…only film noir festivals…only an idol worship ritual of L.A.’s prehistoric white dead famous
cinematic hero carcasses. We love film noir. There would be no neo noir without film noir, but we are today’s independent cinematic guerillas yearning to tell our own sexy dark crime tales. This is our time. This is our town. This is L.A. Neo Noir.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Carey: We were originally L.A. Neo Noir Erotic Film Festival. People kept confusing erotic with porn. We realized we could bring sexy back stronger and reach broader audiences longer if we took the ‘erotic’ out and just focused on neo noir. Now we’ve brought scripts, novels, and monologues in, and we’re three times better for it.

Matthew: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

Carey: In L.A.’s Grammy Museum.

Matthew: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

Carey: Every three months since the age of 14 I have watched the classic film, Under The Cherry Moon.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

Carey: An ugly meek guy telling a hot greedy girl to buzz off.

Matthew: How is the film scene in your city?

Carey: Great, if your city is Canada. If it’s L.A., the scene is what’s it’s always been: unknown indie visionary no budget filmmakers making something out of nothing…the kind who are featured at the L.A. Neo Noir Novel, Film and Script Festival.

_____

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Fesival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

Short Film Movie Review: MOUSSE (Sweden, 40min. Comedy/Crime)

  MOVIE POSTERMOUSSE, 38min, Sweden, Comedy/Crime
Directed by John Hellberg

MOUSSE is a medium length droll and blackly comic tale of an honest criminal and police ineptitude.

MOUSSE was the winner of best film at the 2014 FEEDBACK Film Festival. 

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of MOUSSE:

Movie Review by Amanda Lomonaco:

Absolutely brilliant. I’ve seen this movie 3 times already and I can’t get enough of it. After watching it the first time at WILDSound, I could not stop thinking about how great it was, I even hunted parts of the soundtrack down, until finally I had to hunt down the film itself. This is especially surprising considering this film is one of the longer selections I’ve seen at WILDSound, standing at 41 minutes. Even if you’re not a lover of subtitles, I would give this film a try.

To begin with, the acting in this film is exceptional, particularly for a film with such a wide diversity of cast, and an equal diversity of languages. Every character in Mousse is meticulously developed and well rounded, and every performance throughout the film feels nothing but genuine. The casting of the elderly policemen could equally not have been more perfect as it added a surprising element of hilarity to the film.

It’s hard to call John Hellberg’s picture a “short film” given its ambiguous length, standing somewhere between a feature and a short film, but at no point during the film do you find yourself disengaged or uninterested. Hellberg propels the story forward through a series of juxtapositions that intertwine seamlessly into the main story line, and prevent any semblance of boredom. Moreover, the production quality gives no sense of cutting any corners, giving Mousse an almost feature like quality.

Between the odd translations and awkward pauses in communication, the age and attitude of the policemen, & the jokes the actors tell each other, it’s hard to say what part of Mousse isn’t hilarious. It’s almost as if Hellberg is trying to cover all his bases in the humour category, from visual, to verbal, he even throws a couple of fart jokes in there just in case.

If you haven’t caught on by now, I think this film needs more visibility. Heck, if it were a part of a DVD collection I would buy it right away just to show others. It will take a little more of your time than most short films, but you’ll be laughing so hard the whole time you’ll hardly notice it passing. This is the first of Hellberg’s films that I’ve ever encountered, but I hope to come across many more in the future.

 

Movie Review: CHICKLAND (Short Film) 2015

CHICKLAND played to rave reviews at the November 2015 FEEDBACK Film Festival

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video from the Festival:

  MOVIE POSTERCHICKLAND, 11min, France, Comedy/Sci-Fi
Directed by Stanislav Graziani

Bubu and Toufik think they are the next Steve Jobs and Martin Zuckerberg… They have implanted a chip in their brain, which gives them access to the web… giving them instant access to universal knowledge. For their first experiment, they test it on picking up girls…

Review of the Short Film by Amanda Lomonaco:

Chickland left me a little bit on the fence. With the growing dissemination of devices like the Google Glass, and the expansion of Virtual Reality technology Chickland is a bit of a terrifying reminder of a reality that we could all soon be living in. Nevertheless, director Stanislav Graziani did a good job at balancing out the miracles of new technology, with the limitations of our own human psyche, providing  a slightly less dystopic view of the future.

The hardest thing to understand about the film was the age range of the actors involved. The male actors seemed far too young to be approaching the girls they were trying to pick up, although perhaps this was done on purpose, considering the end result of their experiment. The end of the film itself is also a bit reassuring, emphasizing the humanity of even the most technologically oriented minds.

There isn’t much that can be said about Chickland without revealing much of the film’s plot. It’s a peek into the future, into what life might look like if Google Glass ever really catches on. Of course there are certain differences. It’s not likely that the Google Glass “victims” of the future will have no suspicion of the tactics being used on them. Then again perhaps this was what Graziani was indicating in his depiction of the boy’s interaction with the math student.

Students of art might also find this film a little insulting in how easily the one boy was able to fake being a literary connoisseur, while his counterpart struggled to prove his math prowess. Nevertheless both the boys’ reactions to “completing the task” at the end of the film showed a lot of emotional sensitivity, one that most young boys of that age would normally not be so ready to admit or expose.

Chickland is an interesting experimental look into what our future might look like, how our grandchildren might date, find partners, or explore their sexuality. It sparks a lot of thinking about where our technological pursuits are heading, what it might truly bring us in the future. This wasn’t by any means one of my favourite short films to watch, but it certainly carried some interesting ideas that will inspire you to consider how natural human emotion is able to coexist with the calculated patterns of digital technology.

Movie Review: FAMILY ON BOARD (Award Winning Short Film) 2015

Family on Board played to rave reviews at the November 2015 FEEDBACK Film Festival. 

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video from the Festival:

  MOVIE POSTERFAMILY ON BOARD, 15min, USA, Drama
Poetry by George Pogatsia

On his way to report to prison, Mike Petito reflects on his life and anticipates what lies ahead … that’s when catastrophe strikes.

Review of the Short Film by Amanda Lomonaco:

Family on Board encompasses so many different elements and genres that it seems almost impossible to put it all into a few reductive paragraphs. In fact I find it difficult to even fit it into one single genre. Despite all this confusion, or perhaps exactly because of it, most of the audience seemed to really enjoy it. Considering the ominous title and the manner in which the film ends I have a feeling that the mish-mash of genres was very much intentional to make the twist ending even sharper.

People’s reactions to this film seem to be largely dependent on how they interpreted the ending. Like many of the films shown at WILDSound, Family on Board ends quite ambiguously, leaving viewers to imagine for themselves how they believe the story ended. This became all the more evident during the  feedback session, where several audience members voiced a plethora of opinions about the end, that I would have never even considered.

Many people also seemed a bit taken aback by how the film begins. Some were put off by the intense violence depicted, others seemed to find the beginning weak, and the performance of the thieves to be unconvincing. I have the feeling this beginning also weighed heavily on how people imagined the films’ ending. With a film that has so many turns and shifts it’s hard to say which points actually influenced the audience’s reaction the most.

Although George Pogatsia goes through a lot of effort to convince us that the main character is a positive member of the community with nothing but good intentions, at times his benevolence seems a little forced or exaggerated. Despite the crime he committed and his ownership of a gun, the main character seems like the kindest and most caring person in the world, going out of his way to help every stranger that crosses his path. The need for this juxtaposition is understandable in order to attract audience sympathy, but it perhaps could have been carried out a little more subtly and had the same, if not a greater, impact. Nevertheless, the familiar famous faces scattered throughout the main character’s “benevolent” sequence do help distract from this exaggeration, if only a little.

Family on Board is definitely a film for lovers of crime dramas and unsolved mysteries. Certainly Tony Sirico’s presence is bound to bring a smile to many a lover of The Sopranos or Goodfellas. There’s a lot to absorb in this film, and it will take you through a bit of a roller-coaster, but who doesn’t love a good old fashioned roller-coaster ride?

Movie Review of the short film “Redemption”

“Redemption” is a thriller/prison drama that played at the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival, part of it’s best of horror/thriller short films event in October 2015. 

REDEMPTION, Australia, 7min, Thriller/Prison
Directed by Tom Vogel

A man in jail finds God and asks his son for forgiveness but is karma about to catch up with him before he can seek redemption.

Read the movie review of REDEMPTION by Amanda Lomonaco

One more point scored by the Aussies for proving that simple stage design, just a few characters, and not much equipment can still make for a good horror film. What’s more – they didn’t even pull out the fake blood! You could argue that the very fact that the cheapness of the production was noticeable makes it a bad film, but I guarantee you many a Blair Witch fan would disagree.

Most of the shots in this film were quite tight, and close-up.The wider two shots were mostly in dark spaces, where little to no background could be seen. This really drew a lot of focus on the acting, which definitely lived up to expectations. It’s a gamble to bank so much of your film on the actors themselves, but I would say Tom Vogel made some good casting calls in this case.

Vogel could have done just a tad better in the make-up department, though. Giving his main, most vicious character, what looked very obviously like a stamp-on temporary tattoo on the neck distracted a little from that character’s brutality. Everything else about the film compensates for this minor mishap, however. Particularly when that same character proceeds to kill someone in an incredibly aggressive and violent manner.

Once again the implication of violence proves more effective than the use of violence itself. It might have begun a little slowly, but Redemption‘s pace picked up quickly enough to not leave you bored or confused for too long. The finale was definitely a very satisfying climax for those of us who love vengeful justice (whether we admit to it or not). I would call this one a good film for cathartic viewing.

Movie Review of the Short Film “A Peaceful Man”

“A Peaceful Man” played at the best of Thriller/Horror short film festival in October 2015, as part of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Monthly Film Festival. It was the winner of Best Cinematography in a short film.  

Australia, 4min, Action/Thriller
Directed by Harrison Norris

Beaten within an inch of his life, a peaceful man has a gruesome epiphany through violence.

Learn more about this short film HERE

A Peaceful Man Review by Amanda Lomonaco

All of us are capable of violence and cruelty under extreme circumstances. At least that’s what Harrison Norris, director of A Peaceful Man, wants to convince us of in his gory short film. His bloody, cringe-worthy, gory close-ups might distract you from that message a little though, or at least it will distract you from the voice-over narrative.

I’m not saying this movie is bad, in fact this was one of my favourite films of the night. What I really mean, is that the cinematography in this film was so brilliant that it almost overshadowed everything else about it. I would venture a guess that the cringes and gasps coming from the rest of the audience indicated they may have agreed with me. Even the special effects didn’t even have to be that great to appreciate this flick, although they were certainly impressive. The very thought of the level of violence being implied in the film was enough to make people curl up in their chairs and look away.

That, to me, is effective filmmaking. Making your audience feel something and react to the very idea of what is being depicted on screen. Even though I’ll admit to only paying attention to half of the spoken narrative in the film, I feel that Norris reserved the most important bits of monologue to the least impactful visual moments. I was able to still understand the gist of everything the narrator was saying while still being able to enjoy the bloody wonder that was being paraded in front of me.

I think Norris makes some really good points in his film. The level of gore and violence simply emphasized how far all of us can be pushed, or in fact need to be pushed, in order to reciprocate with the same level of anger. When it comes to survival, we are all animals, we all have to follow our instincts, and we will all defend ourselves, even if that self-defense involves something we would never imagine ourselves doing. That’s where Norris’ images almost don’t need a narrative. If you simply consider the film’s title, and then focus on the images and how they make you feel, you’ll probably catch on pretty quickly.

By now you’ll have realized that you should not watch this movie if you have a sensitive stomach. On the other hand, if you’re a crazy lover of guts and gore like me, this film should be mandatory viewing. Norris’ cinematographer deserves an award, and  would happily volunteer to make one for him.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of A PEACEFUL MAN:

Short Film Movie Review: REINVENTING THE REEL

REINVENTING THE REEL
by Amanda Lomonaco

Review of the short film
Played at the September 2015 WILDsound FEEDBACK Film Festival.
http://www.wildsoundfestival.com/september_2015_film_festival.html

reinventing_the_reel_1
Reinventing the Reel covers some very interesting and topical subject matter, relating to the portrayal of homosexuality in film and television. With so many global progressive moves towards the legalization of gay marriage, and global acceptance of homosexuality, it’s easy to see the importance of this film in today’s world. You would think that with such an interesting and important subject matter the filmmaker would be able to do so much more with it, but I found this film fell short in a few different ways.

reinventing_the_reel_2
While Reinventing the Reel goes a long way towards describing all the different ways in which homosexuality is wrongly portrayed in film, it fails to provide a solution to how it could be better portrayed. For the most part the film seems to simply support the idea of more homosexual main characters, and more homosexual filmmakers in general. While there is nothing wrong with this concept, it’s a little incomplete as a solution, because it doesn’t analyze the numerous positive and normative ways that homosexuals could be portrayed in film.

reinventing_the_reel_4
Moreover, although this film is largely about the film industry, the filmmaker limits his audience by focusing too much on film industry creators. It gives a brief statistical analysis of the popularity of some kickstarter campaigns that focused on the transgendered, and homosexual community, but there is little communication with the every day spectator. As important as it is for Hollywood and bigger commercial studios to make more homonormative films, it’s equally as important for audience members to accept this emergence.

The documentary genre is always a difficult one to tackle, and there is always a lot more that could be done and said to raise awareness to different issues. Reinventing the Reel manages to provide high quality intrviews, with very prominent and important industry members to convey an important message. I may have focused a little harshly on the flaws of the film, but I still believe it’s an important one to watch. For many of us, the media is our window into different cultures, worlds, and ways of thinking, and if we never allow the “different” to actually appear in that window, we’re just lying to ourselves about what “normal” really is.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video of REINVENTING THE REEL:

Deadline TODAY to Submit your Short Film, Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: http://www.wildsoundfestival.com