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A review of a movie or TV show.

Underrated Films: Big Fan

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Big Fan 2009Robert D. SiegelRobert D. SiegelPatton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Big Fan(2009)
 

American Football is back, and perhaps no film depicts the gridiron aficionado’s passion better than Robert D. Siegel’s wryly disturbing “Big Fan.” The indie stars comedian Patton Oswalt (of “Ratatouille” fame) as Paul, a gnome-like 36 year old parking lot attendant from Staten Island. Paul, who lives at home with his overbearing mother (Marcia Jean Kurtz), is belittled by the achievements of his brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) who practices law and lives in a Mansion with surgically enhanced wife.

The obvious dud in the family, Paul does have one true calling in life, to revere his beloved New York Football Giants. Paul roots for the G-Men, watching the game on a portable T.V set with his best friend Sal (Kevin Corrigan) from the outside of Giants Stadium in the cold of a New Jersey Sunday afternoon. Paul also spends his free time writing rants for a late Sports talk radio show, countering the harsh words of Philadelphia Phil (Michael Rapaport) and his own fanaticism for The Giants chief rival, The Philadelphia Eagles.

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Drive Hits the Pedal to the Metal!!!

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Drive 2011Hossein Amini Nicolas Winding Refn Ryan Gosling, Carey MulliganJames Sallis (novel Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Drive(2011)
 

From the film’s svelte neon violet, cursive lettered opening titles, we knew “Drive” had some serious mileage. Danish action director Nicolas Winding Refn (“Bronson”) answers the question that’s never occurred to film buffs but should have (at least when randomly watching “Sixteen Candles” and “Manhunter” back to back over a Madonna “Papa Don’t Preach” costume party): what would “Taxi Driver” have been if Michael Mann and John Hughes joined forces to remake the Martin Scorcese’s Classic, circa 1985? Yes, “Drive” does take place in Modern Day Los Angeles, but the mixture of long, stark takes with the nameless Driver (Ryan Gosling) cursing during a luminous Californian night, juxtaposed with montages that belong in MTV’s Reagan era video rotation make “Drive” into the most surreally striking vision of L.A since “Pulp Fiction.”

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Suffer (as seen at MIFFF)

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Suffer 2011Aaron Au,Ryan Nicholson,Kimani Ray SmithKimani Ray SmithRyan Robbins Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Suffer(2011)
 

"Suffer" is about a man who wakes up in a dark room surrounded by people wearing white masks and then is put to the test when a rather large (muscular-wise) man enters the scene to beat the crap out of him. What follows is a bizarre adventure that impresses on multiple levels.

Ryan Robbins does a great job as a martial artist, a freaked out man, and a hero in this short film. He is stuck in a bizarre situation that he has to get out of and he emotes everything he should as the situation dictates.

The story is simple, but what is in there is so eerie and violent you can't look away. Think "Hostel" with mixed martial arts and well directed (Yes, I had to take a shot at Eli Roth). It's a solid short film that leaves you wanting more and thankfully we will get it.

I decided to review this short, caught at MIFFF, because it was probably the only short that had me thinking, "this should be a feature." Thankfully, one of the crewmembers (Aaron Au?) made an appearance at the festival and let us know that there is in fact a feature film version of the short in the works. To this we WOOT!

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Melancholic Fantastic (as seen as MIFFF)

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Melancholic Fantastic 2011A.D. CalvoA.D. CalvoAmy Crowdis,Robin Taylor,John Caras,Geneva Carr,David Pirrie,Shirley Knight Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Melancholic Fantastic(2011)
 

"Melancholic Fantastic" features a young girl, Melanie Crow, who has lost both her father and her mother and finds herself with only one friend. That friend is a creepy cracked face doll whom speaks to her. That is until one day at a library super goth boy, Dukken, starts to chat her up. As the doll begins to disapprove of Melanie's new friend things begins to slowly unravel. What will become of Melanie and her friend and her… other friend? The answer to that will be alluded to in the next few paragraphs.

The direction is solid, especially considering this is a low budget film and one could easily assume what kind of compromises had to be made. However, the director/writer, A.D. Calvo could have asked more of himself as a writer/director and asked for a tad more character development. After all, without the main character having a journey, do we have a story at all?

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Boy Wonder (as seen at MIFFF)

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Boy Wonder 2010Michael MorrisseyMichael MorrisseyCaleb Steinmeyer,James Russo,Zulay Henao,Bill Sage,Tracy Middendorf,John Sharian,Roberta Wallach,Nichole Patrick,Jim Devoti,Daniel Stewart Sherman,Alex Manette Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Boy Wonder(2010)
 

"Boy Wonder" was a bit of a surprise for me when it played at MIFFF this year. I had been told it was good, but sometimes with independent films good means "Good, if you forgive the low budget, not-so-great performances and [insert one or two of a dozen other reasons here]. Thankfully, "Boy Wonder" suffers from none of these.

The storyline for this film is of a young man who suffered the loss of his mother at the hands of street thugs and decides to pull a poor man's Batman/Daredevil and make other street thugs, drug dealers and pimps pay the price for it. He has no gadgets, no utility belt or mansion. He's just a sharp young man with a burning desire to avenge the death of his mother and save anyone/everyone from what could be a similar fate to his own.

First off, the casting is about as good as you can cast an independent film. Everyone except two bit part actors, that don't really matter anyway, give performances that are very well handled. Every cast member embraces his or her character with an honesty that's refreshing.

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The Selling has us sold (as seen at MIFFF)

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, The Selling 2011Gabriel DianiEmily LouGabriel Diani,Janet Varney,Jonathan Klein,Etta Devine,Nancy Lenehan,Barry Bostwick Bitter,Bitterometer,meter The Selling(2011)
 

This year MIFFF made it a habit to replay the trailers for their upcoming features before every block. The first time I saw the trailer for "The Selling" I thought it was going to be a fun campy movie until I saw the end of the trailer that gave me pause and made me think this film might actually know what angles to play to be a good comedy. The next half-dozen times I saw the trailer I found the ending made me laugh just the same as the first time, so once again I thought it might be better than just a campy romp. Sure enough it did and it was. Needless to say "The Selling" sold us right from the start of the film and satisfied through to the closing. Thankfully, there is no mortgage left and we can share the joys of ownership of these memories.

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Absentia (as seen at MIFFF)

Bitter, Bitter Balcony, Movie Review, Absentia 2011Mike FlanaganMike FlanaganKatie Parker,Courtney Bell Bitter,Bitterometer,meter Absentia(2011)
 

"Absentia" is a hard film to review. I shouldn't reveal too much since the surprises and twists are the best part, but it's also my job (OK, not really, but I want it to be) to get you to go see a film if it's good and this one is a gem. I was able to see it on the big screen thanks to MIFFF and I'm glad I did. Continue reading for the best I could offer as a spoiler free/tantalizing review.

The story is of a woman whose us and disappeared suddenly and has been gone without a trace for seven years. It also involves her sister who returns to help while they file a "Death in Absentia" certificate and get life back on track. Once the paperwork is filed the sisters begin to experience odd supernatural things and this ghost story begins to take shape. To tell you anymore about the film would mean filling this review to the brim with all the great twists and turns the film takes. I firmly believe that having not known them when I walked in to see this film was one of the reasons I enjoyed it as much as I did.

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