Battle of the Bio-Pics
Staci Layne Wilson
I have seen some truly interesting, informative, and inspiring biopics lately. I love the variety of these – one is a full-on narrative, one is a mix of recollections and recreations, and the other two are straight up documentaries – but one is liner from birth to death, while the other covers just a year in the life.

Directed by: Jay Roach

The successful career of 1940s screenwriter Dalton Trumbo comes to a crushing end when he and other Hollywood figures are blacklisted for their political beliefs. This film tells the story of his fight against the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom, which entangled everyone in Hollywood from Hedda Hopper and John Wayne to Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger.

I knew Bryan Cranston was an amazing actor from watching every episode of Breaking Bad ever made, but seeing him as Dalton Trumbo, he amazes anew. Fully embodying this real-life, larger-than-life character, he goes from top dog to underdog, to downright dirty dog, to top dog. Not only is the story engrossing – and true! – sometimes upsetting, and always informative, but it’s also funny (director Jay Roach is known for his blockbuster comedies). Helen Mirren as Hedda “The Hat” Hopper steals every scene she’s in, and comedian Louis CK turns in a surprisingly heartbreaking performance as one of the Hollywood 10, and Dalton’s best friend. This is a must-see movie, and I am certain there are Academy Awards in its furture.

Janis: Little Girl Blue
Directed By: Amy Berg

This moving and insightful film reveals Janis Joplin in her most genuine, and rawest, form. The narration is in Joplin's own words, from letters that she wrote over the years, as read by Southern-born musician and actor Chan Marshall (a/k/a Cat Power). The film depicts Joplin’s evolution into a star, encompassing soul-stirring concert sequences, studio footage, and interviews with music industry veterans, collaborators and close friends such as Clive Davis, filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, Kris Kristofferson, founding Grateful Dead member Bob Weir, and Joplin's younger siblings, Laura and Michael Joplin.

While this documentary isn’t presented in an especially innovate way – visually or narratively – its subject’s bright, burning light shines through. I already knew a lot about Janis Joplin, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something – and, I was deeply moved by its inevitable end.

Steve McQueen: The Man and Le Mans
Directed By: Gabriel Clarke, Jon McKenna

The turbulent production of the Steve McQueen car-racing classic Le Mans serves as the subject of this documentary from filmmakers Gabriel Clarke and Jon McKenna. At the time Le Mans went into production McQueen was one of cinema's biggest stars. Given his choice of film projects thanks to a lucrative deal with Cinema Center Studios, McQueen quickly began work on the passion project he had been dreaming about for the past decade. But as production on Le Mans got underway, the driven star would be forced to contend not only with the sudden departure of the film's original director, John Sturgis, but his own failing marriage, the threat of bankruptcy, and the fear of learning that he had been targeted for death by one of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th Century as well.

I knew the basic highlights of Steve Queen’s careers – acting, and racecar driving – and his marriages, but not much about the blood, sweat, and tears (literally) that went into making his passion project, Le Mans. While I think it’s a worthwhile doc, it runs too long and paints a rather (unintended, I believe) poor portrait of McQueen as a chauvinist, a liar, a hothead, borderline narcissist, and unreasonable, paranoid drug and alcohol addict. I’d rather just think of him as “The King of Cool” and leave it at that.

Dreams of a Life
Directed By: Carol Anne Morley

Would anyone miss you? Nobody noticed when Joyce Vincent died in her bedsit above a shopping mall in North London in 2003. Her body wasn't discovered for three years, surrounded by Christmas presents she had been wrapping, and with the TV still on. Newspaper reports offered few details of her life -- not even a photograph. Interweaving interviews with imagined scenes from Joyce's life is not only a portrait of Joyce but a portrait on London in the eighties -- the city, music and race. It is a film about urban lives, contemporary life, and how, like Joyce, we are all different things to different people. It is about how little we may ever know each other, but nevertheless, how much we can love.

This biopic is a few years old, but I’ve been meaning to see it. Since I either missed it on Netflix or it never made it to the queue, I ponied up the $2.99 to rent it on Amazon Prime. I am really glad I waited until after seeing it, to read the user reviews. I was amazed at how many people disliked the imagined scenes from Joyce’s life (portrayed by actress Zawe Ashton), which I thought breathed fresh air into the melancholy, mysterious story. (Plus, this device is commonly used in true crime TV – I love all those shows on Discovery ID.) Another complaint was that the doc is skewed to provoke a certain emotional result – Michael Moore does that all the time. I’m not sure if all the facts were presented (some argue that Joyce’s sisters did try to find her… but the fact remains, no one tried hard enough or she wouldn’t have been rotting to skeletal remains for three years in her flat), but to some degree I agree with the adage “never let the truth get in the way of a good story” – Morley has a filmmaker’s point of view, not a documentarian’s.

Now I’m eager to check out more of director Morley’s work. Not only is Dreams of a Life an imaginative, multilayered post-mortem examination, it also paints a portrait of London in the 80s—the city, the club and music scene, racial tension, and the working class. I like how she juxtaposes urban life with inner life, and how the two don’t always intersect. 

Halloweek Page-Turners - Best Reads for Cold Nights
Staci Layne Wilson
I’ve been reading a lot of horror lately, and fiction to boot! (Usually, I stick with nonfiction, true crime, and memoirs.) As the days get shorter, and the nights longer, what better way to while away the extra hours of darkness than to shiver with some spooky stories?

I read two new anthologies back-to-back. The first one is called Seize The Night, and it’s all about vampires.

“The notion of the romantic vampire is transcended to chilling and even heartbreaking effect in this stellar anthology of tales…These stories move smoothly from the subtle to the horrifying…” —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

These are original, blood-curdling vampire fiction from New York Times bestselling and award-winning authors, including Charlaine Harris (whose novels were adapted into HBO’s hit show True Blood), and Scott Smith (publishing his first work since The Ruins).

Before being transformed into romantic heroes and soft, sparkly emo antiheroes, vampires were figures of towering terror. Now, from some of the biggest names in horror and dark fiction, is this stellar stack of short stories that make vampires vicious once again. Edited by New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden and featuring all-new stories from the likes of the aforementioned, as well as John Ajvide Lindqvist, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Michael Kortya, Kelley Armstrong, Brian Keene, David Wellington, Seanan McGuire, and Tim Lebbon, Seize the Night is old-school vampire fiction at its finest.

My favorite stories were: Up In Old Vermont, by Scott Smith. It’s about Ally, a down-on-her luck caretaker who, in her darkest hour, miraculously finds a job watching an Alzheimer's in exchange for room, board, and a stipend. Sounds perfect, but of course, it’s not. Whisky and Light, by Dana Cameron. It’s a period piece, and center of superstitions steeped in historical fact. The Last Supper, by Brian Keene. It’s about the downside of immortality and is a tale succinctly, brilliantly, told.

The next anthology I read was 18 Wheels of Horror: A Trailer Full of Trucking Terrors, Edited by Eric Miller. I read this book because some of my favorite writers (and friends) are featured in it pages (or pixels, in my case – I Kindled it), but was pleasantly surprised to be hooked regardless of my connection to any of the authors.

The description reads: "Psychotic killers, devious ghosts, alien monsters, howling storms, undead creatures, and other dark forces haunt the highways and the truckers who drive them in these 18 chilling tales! A ghostly voice on a trucker’s CB radio knows more about his life than it should… Two drivers find their cargo gives them inhuman appetites… A boy in a truck stop encounters a supernatural force that threatens to destroy the world… The hypnotic singing lulling a driver to sleep might not be coming from the tires… A fender-bender between a big rig and a four wheeler is not as accidental as it seems… The sinister cargo lurking in a rock and roll band’s fleet of trucks is unleashed at their final show... Hit the road with this anthology of trucking horror fiction!"

My favorite stories were: Whistlin’ By, by Shane Bitterling. This is hillbilly horror at its finest distillation, about an extremely superstitious truck driver who makes the mistake of whistling past a graveyard; even though he takes all the precautions, fate has other plans for him. Lucky, by Del Howison, is the only story about a female trucker, and she turns out to be so lucky after all. Happy Joe’s Rest Stop, by John Palisano. This story, set in a truck stop convenience store, reminded me of a cross between The Mist and Phantasm, but with its own unique twists and turns. Take the Night, by Joyce Holden. I am a sucker for anything to do with guitar stars and bands on the road… in this trippy tale, it turns out the lead singer of a rock group has sold his soul to the devil, and the 18-wheelers on the tour are carrying more than just amps and instruments.

Did I mention I’m a sucker for rock star stories? Well, I also recently finished the novel, The Nobodies Album, by New York Times bestselling author Carolyn Parkhurst. I fell head over heels in love with Parkhurt’s unique, unforgettable, indelible writing style and wholly unique way of thinking when I read her debut novel, The Dogs of Babel, back in 2003. She’s not a prolific writer, so it took years for her second book, Lost and Found, to come out. I skimmed through it, having trouble with all the characters. So then I kind of forgot about Parkhurst – though I am an avid follower of her funny Twitter feed – until it came time to interview her for my podcast, Dread Central Presents: Killer Queens, which I cohost with Vanessa Gomez. I picked up her third novel, The Nobodies Album, which came out a few years ago, and didn’t put it down until I was finished. What a story!

Here’s the official description: “Centered around a famous novelist Octavia Frost, The Nobodies Album explores her troubled relationship with her son Milo. When Milo, a renowned alt-rocker in San Francisco, discovers his fiancée brutally murdered after a night in which he has blacked out, he finds himself the prime suspect in the international media circus that follows. Having been estranged from Milo for many years, Octavia sees this as a chance for reconnection and redemption. The two share a difficult past, their relationship never having fully recovered from the accidental death of Octavia's husband and daughter. And it is the tentative progress of their bond that propels the heart of Parkhurst's story.”

Even though there’s a lot going on in the book (as there was in Lost and Found), I had no trouble following it and sticking with it, because it’s all from the first person perspective of one person. It’s got elements of the Sid Vicious / Nancy Spungeon murder case; an ageing rock star who brought up a daughter not his own (which reminded me of Todd Rundgren raising Liv Tyler as his own, until the truth came to light that she was Steven Tyler’s lust-child); and a writer wanting to go back and rewrite history – which was reminiscent of the recent news surrounding Harper Lee’s prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird being published against her will.

Parkhurst’s stories – always centered around grief and uneasy family dynamics – are like page-turning beach reads, in spite of the very dark, insular subject matter. Laced with humor and pathos, I must say: The Nobodies Album is one of the best novels I’ve read since burning through all of Gillian Flynn’s oeuvres.

Next up is the first in a new series by L.J. Oliver, the combined force of New York Times bestselling author Scott Ciencin and acclaimed author E.A.A. Wilson, called The Humbug Murders. According to the press release party line, “Readers are in for a chilling ride as they join Ebenezer Scrooge in his pursuit of a killer through the streets of Dickens’ London. Full of action and wry humor, The Humbug Murders is a fun take on a classic character—Scrooge as you’ve never seen him before.”

I can’t wait to dive in. I am a huge fan of “What if?” stories and alternate reality fan-fic. One of my faves is the series by Harold Schechter, which feature Edgar Allen Poe as a crime-solving amateur detective.

Killer Cop & 3 More Italian 70s Bs come to Blu-Ray
Staci Layne Wilson
Killer Cop, also known as La polizia ha le mani legate (which translates from Italian to “The police have their hands tied”) is a 1975 crime thriller helmed by a director I admire very much for his gialli: Luciano Ercoli did Death Walks at Midnight, and Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion.

It’s a complex, and sometimes convoluted, story which crams everything from murder, drug deals, police corruption, and international terrorism into its running time. There’s lots of dialogue (basically, it seems every Italian YELLS CONSTANTLY) so you must pay close attention until the big finish, which is actually quite exciting as it’s a shoot-out in a crowded train station which Ercoli obviously choreographed very meticulously.

The Blu-ray restoration is beautiful, thanks to Raro Video’s careful attention to details in going from the original 35mm negative to HD. There’s also an interview, a fully illustrated booklet, and new and improved English subtitle translation.

Also newly available (from Blue Underground)

·         1990 The Bronx Warriors
·         The New Barbarians
·         Escape from the Bronx

3 Holes and a Smoking Gun – Movie Review
Staci Layne Wilson
I never have understood why Hollywood insider stories don’t do especially well onscreen (with Entourage being one big exception). And films based on writers are usually one rung below those. But I’m always partial to them, especially the indie ones. While it’s not exactly like Swimming with the Sharks or 3 Days in the Valley, 3 Holes and a Smoking Gun shares some similarities – and better yet, it’s an authentic neo-noir shot on location in two of the best cities in the world.

Those who can’t do, teach – and so that’s what scribe-on-the-skids Bobby Blue Day (James Wilder) does for a living: he’s a screenwriting instructor. When one of his less-talented students, Jack (Zuher Khan), comes out of nowhere with a stellar script called “Hijack”, Bobby’s attention is snagged. And so are his baser instincts, as he sets out to snag the screenplay from the young upstart. As it turns out, Jack didn’t write the killer script – but he did kill to get it. The film flop-flips from one extreme to the next, and while the comedy isn’t quite strong enough to support the outlandish suspension of disbelief requirements, it’s still a fun ride down the dark and dreamy streets of L.A. and New York City.

3 Holes and Smoking Gun is uneven. The only real standout actor was James Wilder (why isn’t this guy a big star already?), but most everyone else acquits themselves ably enough. The writing (by Scott Fivelson) is sharp and salty, but the direction is definitely lacking in style and voice. John Honoré’s cinematography is superb (I first noticed it in 2011 when I reviewed The Theatre Bizarre), but the music is nothing special. And so on.

No, it’s not perfect across the board – but still, I enjoyed the story and if you’re in the mood for a talky little potboiler 3 Holes and Smoking Gun is just the ticket. It's now available via Vudu, Netflix and many online rental outlets. Definitely worth a look.

Burgundy is the Warmest Color – “The Duke of Burgundy” Movie Review
Staci Layne Wilson
1586f2bf6c37356bf41f868a9b8da02aLike a lush Ingmar Bergman chamber piece with a touch Jess Franco style sensuality, one could say The Duke of Burgundy is a kinky cross between the seminal S&M sendup Secretary and the most dazzling homage to giallo in recent years, Amer.

As the film takes its title from the name of a rare species of butterfly, it’s fitting how angels and insects intersect in writer-director Peter Strickland’s languid look at womanly passions. Like the winged creatures they study, there’s a chrysalis-like turn on the axis between lovers Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) as the seductive narrative unfolds.

More psychological than sexual (yet the impressionistic love scenes are still deeply erotic) this is an arthouse movie for true and avid cinephiles. The Duke of Burgundy is more adult, and far more interesting and layered than the other indie lesbian sex-drama which recently made waves, (the overrated) Blue Is The Warmest Color. Cynthia and Evelyn are in the nadir of a co-dependent dom/sub relationship, but there’s a droll, unstated humor beneath the veneer of pain.


Strickland’s talent is unique in that he can exploit the milieu, mood and tone of 70s Euro grindhouse cinema (think: The Living Dead Girl, or Emmanuel), and yet make it palatable to modern sensibilities, complete with a more intimate connection to the characters. These women, kinks and all, are actually relatable. 

As with Strickland’s first feature, The Berberian Sound Studio, audio plays a crucial role here. It is every bit as complex and nuanced as the visuals, using a mix of high heel clicks on hardwood floors, heavy breathing, music by Cat’s Eye (as well as the purr of a Siamese cat) and the butterfly-wing buzz of insects. The visuals are truly stunning… perhaps a bit much at times (even for me, which is saying a lot) with the ghosted images, overlapping semi-transparent faces juxtaposed with other imagery, and so on. But still: Nic Knowland’s digital cinematography is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

DOB_still_020_Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia, Chiara D"Anna as Evelyn

This isn’t a party movie, and it’s not something to have on in the background while you dust the shelves. The Duke of Burgundy is an experience to be savored. Give it your full attention, preferably in a warm, dark room – in solitude, or with someone you love.

The Duke of Burgundy has only played in some international film festivals to date, but its U.S. release is slated for January 23, 2015.

5 Things You Need to Know Before Seeing “The Equalizer"
Staci Layne Wilson

Denzel Washington stars in this cinematic take on the popular 1980s crime-of-the-week television series of the same name. (Don’t remember it? It won Emmys and Golden Globes in its four-season run from 1985-89 and featured a gray-haired, doughy British actor, Edward Woodward, in the title role.)

Whether or not you’re a fan of the TV show, here are five things everyone should know before buying the ticket and walking into that dark movie theater.

1. It is seriously violent.

Sure, we’re used to middle-aged kick-ass avenging angels thanks to, well, every movie Liam Neeson has been in, in the past 10 years. But “The Equalizer” is like two “Taken” flicks as co-directed by John Woo and Nicolas Winding Refn. (Actually, the director is Antoine Fuqua, who worked with Washington before in “Training Day”.) McCall is the MacGuyver of murder here, taking anything that’s close at hand to fend off his foes, and then adding a little spit and spackle to make it that much more deadly. During the showdown in a home improvement store, the violence is downright balletic as our hero goes ballistic with chainsaws, razor wire, drills, and claw hammers.


2. Little Chloë Grace Moretz is all grown up.

The apple-cheeked child star is now a hot-pants wearing, fetish wig donning lady of the evening in “The Equalizer”. She plays Teri, an underage prostitute in a ring run by the Russian mob, who befriends a bookish stranger… who just turns out to be McCall. And McCall doesn’t take kindly to child abuse. After Teri’s pretty face is burned with acid thrown by her wrathful pimp (Alex Veadov), McCall calls up his old powers of persuasion and goes on the warpath.


3. You have to wait a pretty long time for all that violence.

As one astute reviewer put it, “The Equalizer” feels like an odd mix between “Death Wish” and “Reading Rainbow,” because McCall is not only a passionate bookworm, who spends his long, lonely nights leafing through Hemingway and Cervantes in a local diner, he’s also the fat police, admonishing his overweight coworker (Johnny Skourtis) whenever the tubby wanna-be security guard goes over his allotted daily calorie count. McCall spends at least a half a non-violent hour just reading, counseling, and joking around with his fellow cashiers and shelf-stockers at the home improvement warehouse. Oh -- and he also does a back-up dance, ala Gladys Knight and the Pips, circa 1972.


4. “The Equalizer” movie is nothing like “The Equalizer” series.

In the TV show, McCall was a middle-aged divorcee living in a gritty pre-Giuliani New York. In the movie, he’s a middle-aged widower living in a gritty post-recession Boston. In the TV show, McCall prowled the night streets in search of bad guys while riding in a sleek, classic Jaguar. In the movie, he has a boring day job and takes public transit. In the series, the Equalizer advertised his special pro-bono revenge services in the classifieds. In the film, McCall is trying to keep a low profile. And so on.



5. There are more false endings than a “Lord of the Rings” movie.

All’s well that ends well. Well, sure… but it’s not the end. Just when you think the last loose thread has been pulled, there’s another one. And when you think the end has really come, it’s only near. Wait for the parting shot that’s sets it all up for an “Equalizer” sequel.

Overall, I liked “The Equalizer”. What’s not to like about Denzel Washington? Everyone’s his biggest fan, right? And as usual, he’s quite good at striking the balance between affable and bad-ass. The movie is overly long, and certainly overly-violent in contrast to its sometimes preachy do-right earnestness, but it’s well worth a look.

“The Equalizer” opens nationwide on Friday, September 26, 2014. (Photos Courtesy Sony Studios).

​Fast 5 Hot Bots – and a peek at the new Antonio Banderas Sci-Fi "AUTOMATA"
Staci Layne Wilson

While Automata, the new dystopian science fiction film from visionary Spanish director Gabe Ibáñez, does indeed deliver an intelligent robot plot… they just couldn’t resist making one of the mechanical minxes a former sex surrogate. (Not that there's anything wrong with that...)


The shapely, souped-up Roomba first shows up in lingerie and a fetish wig, but soon shucks her trappings and goes on the run (or lockstep as the case may be) with the human she’s been programmed to protect -- Antonio Banderas as an unwilling fugitive from the corrupt corporation he once worked for.


While the film is actually not great, it does boast a great, gritty look and feel. The robots – there are some male machines in the mix as well – are 100% mechanical yet textured with non-sappy human traits.

The mere fact this movie was made, and more movies like it are poised on the horizon, shows just how fascinated we continue to be with the possibility of artificial intelligence in people-shaped packages. Ever since Maria made her debut in Metropolis way back in 1927, we’ve been fascinated with the possibility of man-and-machine relations.


Until Automata hits theaters in limited release on October 10, check out these racy robots from days of yore.



Playboy Playmate played the ultimate plaything in the low-budget 1980 sci-parody Galaxina.



Jude Law portrayed to perfection a foxy ‘bot built to serve a woman’s every need and desire in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).



Kristanna Loken as T-X (“Terminatrix”) made male temperatures rise as the first on-screen female Terminator in Rise of the Machines (2003).



Way back in 1973, Yul Brynner was a badass leather-clad killing machine in Westworld, one of the first fantasy-horror takes on the genre. (The gold standard of bots gone bad would really come alive in ‘75 with the release of The Stepford Wives.)



Daryl Hannah brought sex and style to the screen in the 1982 epic Blade Runner as Pris, a “basic pleasure model” replicant.

Four Fine Reasons to see the Film Horns
Staci Layne Wilson


1. Daniel Radcliffe in Devil Horns

Yep, with the title Horns you do get what you expect to see. The film follows Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) the underachieving son of well-to-do parents and the boring boyfriend of restless beauty Merrin (Juno Temple). Ig’s life suddenly gets interesting when his sweet S.O. is brutally slain and he’s the sole suspect. Shortly after that, Ig sprouts a pair of hellish horns and the sight of them compels mere mortals to confess their sins to him - an effective tool in his quest to discover the true circumstances of the crime and for getting revenge on her killer.


2. Juno Temple Dancing to Classic David Bowie

In a flashback scene showing the evolution of Ig and Merrin’s love fest, we see how they bonded over Bowie. The two love lovebirds have a secret tree-house in the forest where they dance and romance. In one lavishly-lensed scene, Merrin does a sensuous, solo slow dance in a see-through sheath dress to the spinning vinyl of “We Could Be Heroes”. Ig disrobes and they make the branches sway.


3. Heather Graham as a Fame-Famished Waitress

While the spontaneously sprouted horns never really register with the locals, the shocking murder certainly is a springboard for hot headlines. The small Pacific Northwestern logging town is soon overrun with reporters from all over place, each vying for the best angle. The night server at Eve’s Diner is just dying to be a part of the media circus that surrounds local star / possible killer Ig Perrish, and in a small but memorable role, Graham’s character gets a lot more recognition than she bargained for.


4. James Remar is Remarkable as Ig’s Deadpan Dad

James Remar has a long and storied career – from his breakout role in The Warriors (1979) to Dexter’s devious dad on the long-running Showtime series of the same name. So it’s always a pleasure to see him onscreen, even if only in a supporting role. He’s tops in Horns as drab Derrick, a guy who prefers his drug-addict musician son Terry (Joe Anderson) to the straight and narrow Ig, just because Terry can play a mean trumpet. But that’s not the only mean thing here, as Remar reels off his real reasons (remember: the sight of the horns compels folks to tell the awful truth) for believing Ig actually murdered Merrin.

While Horns is a mixed bag – tonally, it can’t quite decide if it’s fable or grit – the flick’s well worth a look.

​Killer Kiwi Comedy Comes Stateside - A look Inside Housebound
Staci Layne Wilson

Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O'Reilly) is in trouble again. She’s been given quite a few breaks, being young and bright, but this time the judge has had enough: unrepentant Kylie is sentenced to house arrest, ankle-bracelet and all, and forced to live with her nattering mum Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and stoic step-dad Graem (Ross Harper). That’s worse than prison, as far as Kylie’s concerned. She settles into a sulk, doing nothing but zoning out in front of the TV set, eating her parents out of house and home, and basically not lifting a finger. But Kylie soon learns she’s not the only housebound soul… someone else is forced to stay within the walls of the creepy, creaky old homestead. Someone who may or may not be alive.


If you’ve been dreaming of a Kiwi terror take on The Sixth Sense as it meets Home Alone blended with Bad Ronald, then you’ve come to the right place. Writer-director Gerard Johnstone cleverly twists and shifts genres into a mysterious, hilarious Rubik’s Cube of haunted-house suspenser, whodunit and family comedy as his heroine walks the tightrope of fear and fun – all the while trying to keep her ankle monitor from alerting her parole officer, Amos (Glen-Paul Waru). Of course, that does happen and when he joins the fray, the action really, er, steps up. Add Kylie’s court-appointed a psychologist, Dennis (Cameron Rhodes) to the mix, and we’re off and running.


First and foremost, Housebound succeeds as a horror film – it’s got some great jump-scares, a compelling plot-twisty mystery, and oh yes: plenty of gore. What makes it succeed is Johnstone’s nearly flawless juggling act – he never allows the humor to overshadow the scares. The actors’ deadpan delivery of droll dialogue is delish, and the kills are quite wicked.

Lock yourself in, and have a look. Just in time for Halloween, XLrator Media will be releasingHousebound in theaters, VOD and iTunes on October 17th.

​Movie Review – A look at the new biopic, Jimi Hendrix: All Is By My Side
Staci Layne Wilson

Jimi: All Is By My Side is one of the most controversial biopics to come out in some time. Although in the very beginning words come up onscreen stating it’s “based on a true story” an awful lot of it is not entirely true to the guitar god’s actual story. Much artistic license is taken, and not in an art house way (ala the delightfully delirious Bob Dylan biopic, I’m Not There).

In “it’s only a movie” terms, I really liked it. Jimi: All Is By My Side is stylistically done by Academy Award-winning writer-director John Ridley (writer of 12 Years A Slave and Undercover Brother). Covering just over a year in Hendrix's life from 1966-67 as an unknown backup guitarist to making his mark in London's music scene up until his Monterey Pop triumph, the film offers an intimate, if uneven and untrue portrait of a complex, naive musician on the verge of becoming a legend.

It’s not so much a biopic as it is a mood piece. There were some interesting experimental choices made in regard to audio, sound design, music, and editing. Since the bio part of the pic is unauthorized, and the Hendrix estate would not license any of Jimi’s music, filmmakers stuck to his early cover tunes and used songs from the musician’s own heroes (Bob Dylan melodies figure in prominently). It works.

Andre Benjamin was well-cast in the title role. He did a good job of portraying Jimi's elliptical speech patterns and vague yet vigilant demeanor. The character comes off as enigmatic, but in rather an unsatisfying way. One feels more frustration, than intrigue.

Overall, Jimi: All Is By My Side is worth a look on the big screen, because it captures the essence of a time in music history quite beautifully.


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