Calling All Earthlings

You guys. I don’t even know where to begin. I was given the opportunity to watch the documentary “Calling All Earthlings”, a film by Jonathan Berman. This movie has it all, aliens, Howard Hughes, free energy, the FBI, Tesla, the military, and a death…or possibly murder.

“Calling All Earthlings” explores a mid-century UFO cult led by one-time Howard Hughes confidante, George Van Tassel. Van Tassel claimed to have combined alien guidance with the writings of inventor/physicist Nikola Tesla, and other controversial science, to build an electromagnetic time machine he dubbed “The Integratron.” Was he insane? Or could the dome really break through the boundaries of space, time, and energy? FBI agents worked against Van Tassel and the alternative community that formed out of his work. Would he finish the Integratron before the government finished him?

The film examines the roots of the Peace Movement, Burning Man, and even the FBI’s notorious COINTELPRO program. The verité tale of Van Tassel and his dome is told by relatives, neighbors, skeptics, believers, scientists, healers, artists, and historians. The film features the “stewards” and owners of the Integratron, the Karl sisters; Dr. Kevin Starr, the preeminent historian of California; Eric Burdon, Singer for The Animals and War; and the legendary Drs. J.J. and Desiree Hurtak.

I say this in all seriousness, why hasn’t this story been made into an actual movie as opposed to documentary? The story of George Van Tassel has all the makings for a fantastic Christopher Nolan film! Here’s the trailer:

Interested? “Calling All Earthlings” is available on Video on Demand in the following platforms: iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, AT&T U-verse, DirecTV, Dish Network/Sling TV, Hoopla, Sony Playstation, Swank, Vudu, Xbox, Youtube Movies, In Demand (Comcast, Cox, Spectrum, etc.) and Vubiquity (Frontier, Verizon Fios, etc.). Hopefully it will be available on one of the streaming services like Netflix or Hulu in future!

Who Doesn’t Love Caddyshack?

The folks at Audible.com reached out to me with a new book to share. I was excited when I learned it had to do with the movie “Caddyshack”, because who doesn’t love “Caddyshack”? The book is called, “In Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story” by film critic for Entertainment Weekly Chris Nashawaty. Here’s the details:

Caddyshack is one of the most beloved comedies of all time, a classic snobs vs. slobs story of working-class kids and the white-collar buffoons that make them haul their golf bags in the hot summer sun. It has sex, drugs, and one very memorable candy bar, but the movie we all know and love didn’t start out that way, and everyone who made it certainly didn’t have the word classic in mind as the cameras were rolling.

In Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story, film critic for Entertainment Weekly Chris Nashawaty goes behind the scenes of the iconic film, chronicling the rise of comedy’s greatest deranged minds as they form The National Lampoon, turn the entertainment industry on its head, and ultimately blow up both a golf course and popular culture as we know it. Caddyshack is at once an eye-opening narrative about one of the most interesting, surreal, and dramatic film productions there’s ever been and a rich portrait of the biggest and most revolutionary names in Hollywood. So, it’s got that going for it…which is nice.

On a fun side note the audio book is narrated by Peter Berkot, who played Angie D’Annunzio in the “Caddyshack”!

Audible.com was nice enough to provide a clip for me to share with you!

The Devil and Father Amorth

The Orchard will release “The Devil and Father Amorth” theatrically in New York and Los Angeles On April 20th.

Years after he changed the landscape of American filmmaking with 1973’s “The Exorcist”, director, co-writer and legendary storyteller William Friedkin moves from fiction to fact with his new documentary, “The Devil and Father Amorth”. What began as a brief conversation between Friedkin and Father Gabrielle Amorth – the head Exorcist for the Diocese of Rome for over 30 years – as two professionals who knew of each other’s work soon transformed into an once-in-a- lifetime opportunity, as Amorth agreed Friedkin could film an exorcism ceremony. It would be the ninth exorcism for a painfully afflicted woman, Cristina (a pseudonym), who had already been under Father Amorth’s care – and it would be filmed by Friedkin alone, with no other crew allowed, no light other than the natural light in the room and a small digital camera-and-mic unit that could capture the ritual and its revelations.

Combining the startling and singular footage from Cristina’s exorcism with interviews from priests and psychologists, neurosurgeons and non-believers, Friedkin guides us on a journey into the twilight world between the boundaries of what we know and what we don’t with a singular and startling guide in the form of the urbane, charming and self-deprecatingly funny Father Amorth, a man who laughs in the face of the Devil both figuratively and literally. Combining Friedkin’s past memories and present observations with archival footage and new interviews – as well as also presenting what may be the only real exorcism ceremony captured on film – “The Devil and Father Amorth” is a startling and surprising story of the religion, the ritual and the real-world victims involved in possession and exorcism.

Batman: Gotham By Gaslight

At the end of January “Batman: Gotham by Gaslight” was released direct to video. It’s an animated feature based on the stand alone comic of the same name. I never read the comic, so when I learned the movie was out on DVD I picked it up, and well, I have feelings to share.

Let’s start with the film’s description from the back of the case:

It’s the Bat against the Butcher!
Gotham City, at the turn of the century, is experiencing a golden era of discovery and industry as showcased by affluent businessman Bruce Wayne’s World Fair. Down in the darkest alleys, however, there is a killer on the loose. Preying on the city’s women, this killer is precise as he is cruel. As Commissioner James Gordon tries to calm the fears of Gotham’s citizens over the butcher named Jack the Ripper, masked vigilante Batman does some detective work of his own, with the help of the sultry and surefooted Selina Kyle. Witness a world in flames as the killer’s controlled savagery meets the calculated stealth of the Dark Knight!

That relays the gist of the film quite nicely. Seriously, who can resist a dark, Victorian era version of Batman? Not this gal. However there is the weird feeling that they couldn’t convey the era without beating you over the head with it. For comic book folks, it’s generally believed that Gotham is a stand in for New York City (and Superman’s Metropolis is Chicago). Yet not only did they drop Chicago’s World Fair, complete with ferris wheel into NYC, but Batman is pursuing Jack the Ripper who we all know was a British problem. I get that this is a whole alternative universe thing, but it did feel kind of wonky.

Now let’s discuss the star of the show, Selina Kyle. This a fantastic version of the character. A shrewd business woman, a badass brawler, and a sexy show girl. Way cooler than Bruce Wayne or Batman. In the film she invents the Bat Signal and alternate universe or not, I’ve decided it is canon and that’s that.

The story, which I assume at least this part matches the comic, takes a surprise twist at the end, which I found pretty daring and well done. I won’t say more for fear of spoiling it.

The film is rated R for violence, but compared to many Jack the Ripper stories, the violence if fairly tame and never feels gratuitous.

Yes I had some petty gripes, but the good definitely outweighs the bad. If you dig Batman and the whole Victorian Era Steampunk thing, “Gotham by Gaslight” is worth checking out.

Wild Wild Country

You guys, I got a press release for a documentary series debuting on Netflix March 16th that looks crazy. I’m going to want to watch it and I thought you might too. Here’s the story:

When the world’s most controversial guru builds a utopian city in the Oregon desert, a massive conflict with local ranchers ensues; producing the first bioterror attack in US history, the largest case of illegal wiretapping ever recorded, and the world’s biggest collection of Rolls-Royce automobiles. Over six episodes, Directors Chapman Way and Maclain Way (“The Battered Bastards of Baseball”) and executive producers Mark and Jay Duplass (Duplass Brothers Productions) take viewers back to this pivotal, yet largely forgotten moment in American cultural history, one in which our national tolerance for the separation of church and state was sorely tested. Wild Wild Country is historical filmmaking brought to life on an epic scale. It’s a tale so wild that seeing means barely believing.

And here’s the trailer:

The UnAmerican Struggle

I received a press release for a movie I thought some of you would want to keep an eye out for. It’s premiering at the San Antonio Film Festival on August 2, 2017.

“The UnAmerican Struggle” is a feature-length documentary that examines the resurgence of racism, misogyny, sexism, and xenophobia in America brought about by Donald Trump’s words and actions as a candidate, and now his policies as president.

1366 Films, an Atlanta-based production company, is excited to announce that the San Antonio Film Festival will host the world premiere of “The UnAmerican Struggle” on August 2nd. The city served as one of the film’s prime locations, given its exemplary celebration held each January that pays homage to MLK’s legacy of inclusion and civil rights.

“The UnAmerican Struggle” speaks to the dangers of remaining silent in the face of state-inspired hate and threats to civil rights. Bigotry unchecked ushers in greater abuses to civil rights, as evident through the recent attacks on the free press, the cornerstone of American democracy. As such, the documentary provides a voice to groups affected by the intolerance and bigotry sweeping the nation like a cancer.

“The UnAmerican Struggle” pays close attention to the struggle for equality from the perspective of Immigrants, Latinos, Muslims, Blacks, Women, and Transgender People. Seventeen experts representing the Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Diversity Council, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and local groups, such as Black Lives Matter, lent their voices in the film to help Americans better understand the fight to preserve America’s values of inclusion and civil liberties.

And you know I wouldn’t share this with you if I didn’t have a trailer:

The Student

I’ve got to tell you, there’s another movie I’m going to have to be on the lookout for and perhaps you will be too. “The Student”.

After Venya’s mother receives a call from school reporting her son’s refusal to participate in mixed swimming lessons, she first suspects her teenager of being shy and derides his claim that it is “against his religion.” As Venya is finally exempted by the school’s devout principal, he grows confident that his strict and rigorous study of the Bible gives him the ability to manipulate all forms of authority.

Challenged by a teacher who refuses to consent to his dogma, he sets out to eliminate her and subdue an entire community. At a time when arguments over the teaching of religion in public schools are prominent in the media, this wildly escalating classroom drama — based on a play by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg — serves as a frightening cautionary tale.

Variety says, “At a time when arguments over educational ‘safe spaces’ and belief-based ‘micro-aggressions’ are prominent in the media, this wildly escalating classroom drama — based on a stage work by German playwright Marius von Mayenburg — serves as a frightening cautionary tale. Whether it ultimately comes down for or against unqualified free speech, however, is one of many potential topics of post-screening conversation.”

“The Student” opens in San Francisco this month with more screenings nationwide to follow. You can learn more here.

The Transfiguration

I know, long time, no post. My headaches have been particularly bad these past few weeks and when you pair that up with me thinking I should write about the Saratoga Beer Summit (a huge, daunting task) I essentially stalled out. However, I let go of my beer writing ambitions, at least for the moment, and decided to share a truly haunting looking film I just learned about.

“The Transfiguration was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Writer/director Michael O’Shea’s debut feature “The Transfiguration” follows troubled teen Milo who hides behind his fascination with vampire lore. When he meets the equally alienated Sophie, the two form a bond that begins to challenge Milo’s dark obsession, blurring his fantasy into reality. A chilling portrait of violence, The Transfiguration is an atmospheric thriller set against the grit of New York City. – from the official website.

This looks like a unique take on the vampire myth. Of course it appears the question will be, is he a vampire that needs to kill to live, or is he a human killer? Scream said, “Imagine if ‘Let the Right One In’ was directed by Larry Clark. That might not sound like the most pleasant of viewing experiences, but it’ll certainly pack a hard-hitting punch. Michael O’Shea’s ‘The Transfiguration’ takes the troubled teen urban drama and injects it with dose of Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and the results are an impressive, if a tad harrowing at times.”

“The Transfiguration” opens in New York, NY on April 7th and in Los Angeles, CA on April 22nd. You can keep up with release dates and locations on their official website.

They Will Have to Kill Us First

I was tardy to the party on getting the word out on this one. It opened in Los Angeles on April 1, 2016, however it is continuing to pop up around the United States. Keep your eyes open for this one!

Timed to coincide with Music Freedom Day 2016, BBC Worldwide North America released Johanna Schwartz’s timely and powerful feature documentary “They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile”.

Music is the beating heart of Malian culture, but when Islamic jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they enforced one of the harshest interpretations of sharia law by banning all forms of music. Radio stations were destroyed, instruments burned, and Mali’s musicians faced torture, even death. Overnight, the country’s revered musicians were forced into hiding or exile, where most remain — even now. But rather than laying down their instruments, these courageous artists fought back, standing up for their freedoms and using music as a weapon against the ongoing violence that has ravaged their homeland.

“They Will Have To Kill Us First” is director Schwartz’s debut feature, and follows Songhoy Blues and musicians Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, and Moussa Sidi as they each deal with the unfathomable situation in different ways. Telling the story of the uprising of Touareg separatists, revealing footage of the jihadists, and capturing life at refugee camps where both money and hope are scarce, Schwartz and her indefatigable, mainly female, crew chart the perilous journeys to war-ravaged cities, as some of Mali’s most talented musicians set up and perform at the first public concert in Timbuktu since the music ban.

Co-written by Schwartz and Andy Morgan, renowned journalist and former manager of Grammy® Award winning band Tinariwen, “They Will Have To Kill Us First” is produced by Sarah Mosses of Together Films and executive produced by Andre Singer (The Act of Killing) alongside Stephen Hendel, Victoria Steventon, OKAY Africa and Knitting Factory Entertainment.

“They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile”, features an original score by Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs), and a commissioned soundtrack featuring Songhoy Blues, Kharia Arby, Fadimata “Disco” Walet Oumar, Moussa Sidi and many more.

To learn more and see where it’s playing, visit: http://www.theywillhavetokillusfirst.com/

THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST – SHORT TRAILER / US THEATRICAL from TWHTKUF – Doc on Vimeo.

Icaros: A Vision

A film is making its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and I thought I’d give you the heads up because I thought some of you might find it interesting. The film is “Icaros: A Vision” and it’s directed by Leonor Caraballo and Matteo Norzi and stars Ana Cecilia Stieglitz, Filippo Timi, and Arturo Izquierdo. Here’s a synopsis:

Looking for a miracle, Angelina (Ana Cecilia Stieglitz) lands at a healing center in the Peruvian Amazon where shamans minister to a group of foreign psychonauts seeking transcendence, companionship, and the secrets of life and death. Her perceptions altered by the ancient psychedelic plant known as ayahuasca, she bonds with Arturo (Arturo Izquierdo), a young indigenous shaman who is losing his eyesight. In their hallucinogenic journeys together they attain a different sense of their destinies. She learns to accept her fears while Arturo, in turn, realizes that he will be able to see in the dark and sing his ceremonial healing songs, the icaros.

Icaros Poster
Icaros Poster

You can learn more at: http://www.icarosavision.com/