Thursday, December 31, 2009

Iceman Chronicles mixes genuine comedy with mystery

Aunt Jemima in a pink tutu on Sunday!
The Iceman Chronicles is an awesomely fun suspense-comedy web series.
The comedy elements do not distract or detract from the narrative flow or impact.

I’m not surprised that most so-called comedy web series are epic fails at comedy—like Hurtling Through Space At An Alarming Rate, The Crew, and Cabonauts.
Comedy is not easy to do well, so I’m surprised that so many web series try. I was also happily surprised to discredit my skepticism and discover that The Iceman Chronicles is a dark thriller comedy that understands how to do comedy right: it must be organic, deriving naturally and logically from the story, not gratuitous or contrived.
Even better, not only is the comedy actually funny, it is clever & intelligent!
And even more better, The Iceman Chronicles is a well written & interesting story, well produced by 15Gigs.

In the small hometown of Blythe, Arizona, a shadowy figure eliminates his accomplice, drawing the town coroner/veterinarian, Russell Coldpalm, into a baffling murder investigation. As he digs deeper into the murder, Russ and his moronic cop buddies stumble onto the horrible truth their parents tried to bury: the serial murders of The Iceman, a ruthless killer who terrorized Blythe in the 1970s and 1980s.

Also available on
Hulu .

Soul Fire Rising: soul searching cinema

Dale Fabrigar and Kurt Patino (King Dream Entertainment) bring us this gem of an original web series: Soul Fire Rising . Mixing thematic and stylistic elements from TV shows Supernatural and Xena, the series might be described as a “sleeper hit”... a pleasant surprise you don’t see coming, in that it’s better than you expect it to be. Lilith, Gabriel and a guardian angel named Eve are the main characters.
Lilith, a demon rebel with her own agenda, takes advantage of the vices Earth has to offer, while also taking many souls.
The Winger, Gabriel, turns Lilith’s world upside-down when he summons her and makes her an offer she can’t refuse. Lilith has only to fulfill one task: find the Winger, Eve, and bring her back to Gabriel. The value of Eve’s soul is worth over a million human souls — and Eve is even more vulnerable now that she’s decided to become mortal.
On a journey between heaven and hell, Demons and Angels fight for human souls in a battle for supremacy.

Beautifully filmed, with high production values and a talented cast. Soul Fire Rising has its flaws, occasionally bordering on the cheesy, and I had my doubts at first… but by the third episode—- as the story developed further-- I was hooked.
Cinematically compelling and remarkable special FX, make up and music--- but none of that would matter without the writing of a good story. And Soul Fire Rising is a great, well written story!
(A movie expansion/adaptation is also being planned.)

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Man From Earth: Complex story, simply told

Produced by Falling Sky Entertainment, Jerome Bixby’s independent film Man From Earth is one of the most phenomenal pieces of cinema you will ever have the good fortune to experience... presenting a fascinating & captivating tale.
A perfect example of how a great discussion can sustain, and be sustained by, interesting subject matter—especially when propelled through interesting characters.
A college professor proposes to his colleague friends to consider the possibility of an immortal caveman, unfolding a story, as they begin to confront the reality that this may be a true story-- about him! And that’s not even the most shocking claim to be revealed. Throughout the movie, we wonder –and wander between--whether he is telling the truth, or is just a really good, imaginative story teller.
Sheer elegance in its simplicity, Man From Earth utilizes a minimalist approach (a woefully underestimated sensibility in film making), consisting of a conversation among friends.
To our great shame and misfortune, contemporary social attitudes and storytelling ethos has conditioned an expectation, within our society, that plot development means action and flashy spectacle. Such accoutrements are not what make a story, or make a story good, and may even hinder & distract from a story if used gratuitously.
There is little respect & appreciation these days for the storytelling, oratory power of people talking. Have we forgotten that such dialoguing (and monologuing)is an essential element of Shakespeare's plays?
I highly recommend that you buy/rent and watch this epic story immediately.
see the trailer
*image credit- The Drawing Board Art Studio *

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Break: noir misadventures

Written & Directed by Marc Clebanoff (through Cinema Epoch/ Odyssey Motion Pictures/ Full Force Films), the concept for the intensely vibrant independent film called BREAK
is pure genius. Fortunately, so is its execution-- where so many such high concept stories often fail, in any media.
A stylistic crime noir drama, Break plays out like a graphic novel, featuring characters which are simultaneously fully formed & archetypal… without descending into stereotype or caricature.
All the characters are referred to by the cyphers of what they are, the role they play, with names like: The Associate, The Woman, The Man, Haiku, The Bishop, The Mysterious Brunette, The Chinaman, and simply Frank (also not coincidentally the actor’s name).
Despite being character archetypes, each person has fascinating depth and vividly distinct personality & quirks--- the authentic complexity of real people.
The trailer for this movie epically fails to do the story justice, so ignore that and trust me on this: Break is truly Awesome!
Break tells the story of an introverted & introspective, soft spoken hitman (Frank)-- the good guy/nice guy hero type (like Jim Belushi in Angel’s Dance)—who does the job, and well, without becoming the job. He gets caught in a series of plot twists trying to fulfill a double hit assignment, discovering there is no clean break in love or death, as he tries to save/spare one of his targets.
The subject of “breaking” is a recurring theme in Break: emotionally, physically, psychologically, narratively… utilized and engaged to great effect.
There really are no small parts in this "Kill Bill-esque" movie.
Magnificent dialogue, equally complimented by magnificently acted/ directed performances and cinematography.

Netflix it ASAP:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ai - Life in the Shadow of Death

Written & directed by Raffi Asdourian, of ZAFFI Pictures.

Although the plot is cliche’ – a kid whose family is murdered grows up training for revenge, it is far from simplistic; counter intuitively working exactly because of (& despite) being a cliche’.
This film makes the cliche’ work in that the story is about a samurai in training, so the trope makes sense. And that samurai element is another beneficial feature-- particularly because the samurai Bushido philosophy interests me... but also because the samurai are an intriguing character concept, capable of inspiring intriguing stories.
Ai - Life in the Shadow of Death is archetypal in plot, as well as in its portrayal of samurai attitudes.
And even better, where it breaks from cliche’, is having a woman as the central character in a samurai story! By which I mean, living not only the samurai way of life, but in a role typically reserved for men.
To its credit, the fight scenes are more realistic & organic than cinematically stylized/ exaggerated like most choreographed fight scenes tend to be in TV/ movies, imbuing the tale with authenticity.
Magnificently produced— visually, thematically, narratively.
Open-ended, Ai would be a great series pilot.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sooner Or Later: time for Nazis

Sooner Or Later
Written & directed by István Madarász
*image credit- István Madarász*

The scene of this English sub-titled Hungarian short film occurs at the end of World War II, as the Nazis are experimenting with a time travel inducing serum.
A complex plot, simply presented; though the temporal (dis)continuity logic is iffy, implying a repeating causality loop.
But regardless, Sooner Or Later tells an interesting story with a minimalist approach, in a well produced film.
We really need to foster appreciation for minimalist story telling. Don't under-estimate the narrative power of people talking (with each other).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Artemis Eternal Initiative: ambassador of media literacy

The Artemis Eternal film project is not only about reforming/ revitalizing filmmaking & storytelling, but also promoting media liberty & literacy. Jessica Mae Stover —the conscientious mastermind behind this phenomenal endeavor— is on a mission to increase public media awareness & engagement.
On her blog, Jessica Mae tells us, “Hand in hand with issues of media control come issues in education.” “To that end I strive to not contribute to the dumbing down of my generation.”

This grand pursuit is not just a matter of importance to artists, but indeed important for preserving the sanctity of a democratic society. For many years, she has extensively researched and explored Media related topics, and now shares her Knowledge as an advocate for greater media education.

As she declares on her blog: “I work tirelessly on challenging people to understand propaganda and media bias, and to illuminate the negative effects of media consolidation, politics and control so that said global citizens can make better decisions in place of actively undermining their own best interests.” “Media and power should not be biased and consolidated in disservice to the public.”Photobucket
In dedication to the cause, Jessica Mae Stover— in the course of her due diligence & vigilance-- has arranged a meeting with Commissioner Copps' office at the FCC.
Vital issues of concern and consideration include:
-corporate Media Consolidation
-media bias
-media politics
-lack of diversity in Media
-artists issues/ smaller ownerships vs. Big Media
-monopolies of knowledge (theory applied to Media Concentration)
-net neutrality / The Internets
-promoting education & critical/ independent thinking
-censorship and free speech
-journalism/ entertainment Press reform
-advertising/ commercialism
-the public education system
-dissemination of propaganda

If these issues matter to you, support her campaign by becoming an Artemis Eternal Wingman.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One Hour Fantasy Girl

More than simply a “coming of age” story, One Hour Fantasy Girl is a thoughtful “becoming of self” story, as a young woman— Becky-- strives to survive on the streets by working as a “fantasy girl” (similar to a prostitute, but with no nudity or kissing).
As hard as she tries, she can’t manage to save enough money to invest in the real estate she hopes for, so she can eventually make the big money. So determined/desperate is Becky to get rich quick, that she willingly suffers the indignity of fulfilling bizarre fantasies.
Along the way, Becky— gloriously portrayed by Kelly-Ann Tursi-- gradually begins to figure out who she really is, and who she wants to be, through a peculiar encounter with one of her clients. In a wonderful surprise plot twist, what seems to be a semi-typical romance developing turns out to be… well, something quite else.

Being a story telling consultant, I would have improved on several minor details, but I can’t really comment about what those are without spoiling anything. One thing I can say is that an opportunity was missed to feature/incorporate music of merit by a real life musician, through a main character who is a musician (Becky’s business partner/agent).
But these detail are, as I said, minor, and the movie is excellent despite them. Which is saying something about the strength of both the narrative & characters.
My only major complaint is that One Hour Fantasy Girl leaves me wanting more… not because it is lacking, but because it didn’t seem finished. A case of "the ending is also a beginning", left open ended and hanging. As the central character, Becky (and by proxy, actor Kelly-Ann)is compelling-- as she should be, fascinating... and the movie ends just as the story starts to begin.
I want to know what happens next in the main character’s on-going journey.

No Restrictions Entertainment

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ataque de Pánico!: Robot apocalypse ensues

From digital animator & director Federico Alvarez (with Murdoc Films), sci-fi short film Ataque de Pánico! (translated in English as “Panic Attack!”) features giant robots invading the Uruguay city of Montevideo.
Panic Attack seems to be mere eye candy-- although yummy & incredibly well produced eye candy.
What we see are giant robots destroying a city with missiles, accompanied by a flotilla of airborne assault craft. But the real story is in what we don’t see, the story implied off screen.
Where did the robots come from and why are they attacking that city? To say the story has no plot would be to misunderstand.
This “short film” is composed like a movie trailer, offering only a glimpse at a piece of a much larger puzzle. Because that is exactly what Panic Attack is intended as.

Clockwork Art: sculpture in motion

Gaze in awestruck wonderment at the mechanized wall sculptures of kinetic artist Brett Dickins.
Motorized gears turn, performing a kind of synchronized dancing within their frame.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Vetala: under mysterious circumstances

A supernatural thriller web series based on an ancient Sanskrit myth of a hostile spirit creature, The Vetala is two stories in one, starting off seemingly a crime drama mystery, gradually & surprisingly morphing into the sci-fi/horror genre with another kind of mystery. There is much more going on here than is immediately apparent.

Produced, written and directed by DAMON VIGNALE, The Vetala has a fascinating premise, well executed… and is definitely among the better produced of the online episodic series.
Each episode leaves you curious to know where this narrative is going, what happens next? What is the Vetala? And how is it connected to an amateur investigative reporter?
I don’t much care for spoilers, so I won’t tell you what the series is about and ruin the surprising developments unfolding. But as the other entries throughout this blog prove, you can trust that it is awesome and worth watching.

Wikipedia gives a summary of the Vetala from which the show is named:

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Compulsions is compelling storytelling

Simply brilliant (and brilliantly simple), Compulsions is a thrilling dramatic web series, created by Bernie Su, illustrating that no one is exactly who they appear to be, or who we think they are.
Most “normal” people repress whatever dark desires they may have— or so we like to assume, but Compulsions reveals three inter-connected individuals who privately engage these destructive tendencies, instead.
Quite effectively, the series depicts the social/psychological contrast between the characters' daily lives and secret lives.
Narratively flawless and driven by interesting characters both well conceived and acted, Compulsions compels me to watch the fascinating dichotomy... despite the somehow delightful sick and twistedness of it all.
Perhaps I should feel wrong for being entertained or intrigued-- as if with a guilty pleasure, but the story is so good & presented in such a marvelous way... that there is nothing to be ashamed of.