Los Ultimos Frikis


Heavy metal thunder.

(2019) Music Documentary (Cinema Tropical) Diony Arce, Hansel Arrocha Sala, Eduardo Longa, Ivan Vera Munoz, Yamil Arias, Alberto Munoz, Dario Arce. Directed by Nicholas Brennan

When thinking about where great heavy metal originates, the first place that would come to most people’s mind would not be Cuba. Yet Zeus, an iconic band in their home country, has been (head) banging away for thirty years in an atmosphere not always favorable to rockers. Early in their career, the band was often hassled by police and frontman Diony Arce spent six years in jail for unspecified violations. Rock and roll was considered a capitalist tool and was effectively illegal in Cuba.

Filmmaker Nicholas Brennan spent ten years in Cuba documenting the band as they are affected by the tides of political trends; eventually the Cuban government relented and allowed the band to play at a Havana venue called Maxim Rock once a month; for their 25th anniversary the group was even allowed to tour the island (which makes up the bulk of material in the documentary.

The band members are individually interviewed with Diony coming off as introspective and a little less egotistical than his American counterparts. Lead guitarist Hansel Arrocha Sala is the musical force in the band and his dedication to his music is obvious. Drummer Eduardo Longa is candid about his love for drumming, but also about his drug and alcohol problems (apparently that is a rock and roll universal). Guitarist Ivan Vera Munoz is the young buck, happy to be a part of the band and bassist Yamil Arias rounds out the band.

It is notable that the band comes off looking and sounding like their counterparts anywhere else in the world. While Zeus does sing obliquely about political topics, they have to tread a very careful line lest the hard-fought government approval they enjoyed suddenly dry up; Diony speaks of the band having to essentially reflect Cuban revolutionary ideals in order to exist, even though the band often protests what they see are deficiencies in the Cuban government.

The tides of political change do effect the band; the death of Fidel leads to the relaxing of restrictions, allowing the band to play “officially” in Havana and occasionally outside of the capital. It even allows them to embark on the anniversary tour. Obama’s movement to normalize relations with Cuba further improves things for the band, although Trump’s reversal of that policy leads to a more restrictive policy towards American musical idioms. Currently in favor is the reggaeton form which the band members individually detest; additionally, rock bands are often assaulted by reggaeton fans who look with equal disdain on rock music.

When the Maxim Rock venue suffers roof damage, Zeus is left without a place to play and go more than a year without performing. This creates a good deal of despair within the band, who begin to question their future. Diony says flat out “the (government) made a fool of me,” referring to the years that the band compromised their message in order to be allowed to play.

However, the very short (73 minutes) documentary ends on a hopeful note and that should leave the audience exiting the theater on a bit of a high. I’m not a particular metal fan but their music sounds pretty strong. In a lot of ways, they are very much like a metal band anywhere else in the world; mugging for the camera, banging their heads in time to the music, enjoying the human demolition derby of the mosh pit, but they are unmistakably Cubano.

There is some lovely cinematography and some of the landscapes of the hinterlands as well as the urban cityscapes of Havana do show off the uniqueness of the country; one sees the Colonial-style architecture of Havana with the classic cars rolling around and one can only say “Ah, Cuba!” The film isn’t particularly hagiographic towards the government of Cuba but they aren’t necessarily hostile to it either. I would have liked a little more context in the movie; although we are told that Zeus is iconic  and essentially the godfathers of the Cuban metal scene, we never get an idea of how extensive the scene is. We also don’t get much of an idea of how their music is recorded and distributed. One wonders if it can be downloaded here.

The movie was going to be screened this very evening at the Miami Film Festival but sadly coronavirus fears have led to the remainder of the Festival being canceled. Hopefully the film will be screened in some way in Miami; there will likely be a fairly strong audience there for it.

The tittle translates roughly to “The Last Freaks” and it doesn’t quite convey what the term Freaks means in Cuban culture; it generally refers to long-haired rockers and is not quite affectionate; think how the term “Hippies” makes you react and you’ll have the general idea. Rock and roll was never a respected form of music in Cuba and it is on the decline there as we speak. Still, the movie is a fascinating look at Cuba which in many ways remains as mysterious to us Americans as Antarctica is. Maybe it’s time that changed.

REASONS TO SEE: Manages to make Zeus look like a typical heavy metal band while not shying away from their differences in circumstance. Some very nice cinematography.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little sparse on context.
FAMILY VALUES: This is some profanity and drug references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The film originated as a short film, Hard Rock Havana, which Brennan turned into a feature.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/8/20: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet: Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING:  Anvil! The Story of Anvil
FINAL RATING: 7/10
NEXT:
White Lies

Swallow


(2019) Psychological Horror (IFC MidnightHaley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Denis O’Hare, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche, Luna Lauren Velez, Zabryna Guevara, Laith Nakli, Babak Tafti, Nicole Kang, Olivia Perez, Kristi Kirk, Alyssa Bresnahan, Laura Dias, Elise Santora, Myra Lucretia Taylor, Nicholas M. Garofalo, Matthew Waiters, McGregory Frederique, Jackie Almonte, Mingjie Li, Sophie Max. Directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis

 

A great movie tells a great or compelling story. We are taken from point A to point B and all the way to the end, watching the story unfold. That isn’t always the case, however. Sometimes, what makes a movie great are the things that are left unsaid.

Hunter (Bennett) would seem on the surface to have it made. She is married to a wealthy husband (Stowell), a rising star in his father’s (Rasche) firm. She lives in a gorgeous house her in-laws bought for the couple. To top it all off, she is newly pregnant. What’s not to like?

Plenty, as it turns out. As the movie progresses, we see that the in-laws, supportive and caring on the surface, pay only lip service to that persona. What they really are is condescending and controlling, particularly her mother-in-law (Marvel). Hunter has come to realize that she’s in a prison cell. A comfortable, beautiful prison cell but a prison cell nonetheless.

Her means of regaining control is by ingesting objects that aren’t edible, starting with marbles and dirt, ramping up to more dangerous items like batteries, pushpins and thumbtacks. Is she trying to off herself and/or the baby? Or is there something deeper at play here?

This squirm-inducing psychological body horror film is based on a real condition called pica. Mirabella-Davis takes the tactic of not answering all the questions; we are never given a definitive answer as to why Hunter is subjecting herself to this dangerous habit. Is it a means of courting danger and getting an adrenaline rush? Is it compensation for her past which is revealed during a conversation with her therapist (Dias). That past is dealt with eventually in a coda in which she establishes that she has a voice and is no longer content to be the submissive, mousy little housewife. The tone of the denouement is at odds with the rest of the movie which renders it much more effective.

Bennett is a revelation, delivering a mind-blowing performance that is terrifically layered, showing a surface persona that hides deep-seated anxieties and resentment. Despite Hunter’s often maddening submissive behavior, Bennett makes the character someone we can root for particularly in the last third of the movie.

The production design is also quite amazing; despite the modern conveniences (Hunter constantly plays video games on her smartphone), there is very much a 50’s/early 60’s vibe here, from Hunter’s perky blonde bob, her A-line skirt wardrobe and the 64 World’s Fair furnishings. Cinematographer Katelin Arizmendi impresses with shots bathed in lush primary colors. It’s visually a very striking film.

This isn’t for everyone. The scenes of her ingesting some of the items are cringe-inducing to say the least and the scenes of her retrieving the bloody objects from the toilet may send some straight for the exit. Still, this is a mesmerizing film that cinema buffs are going to appreciate and horror fans might just find compelling.

REASONS TO SEE: Bennett gives a bravura performance. Disturbing on in a good way on so many levels.
REASONS TO AVOID: Sometimes gets caught up in its own bizarre tone.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity, plenty of sexuality and some truly disturbing behavior.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is Mirabella-Davis’ first solo feature film; the movie was inspired by his grandmother’s institutionalization and eventual lobotomizing. During the film’s Tribeca screening, an audience member actually fainted during the thumbtack ingestion scene.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/13/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 86% positive reviews: Metacritic: 67/100
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Teeth
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
Los Ultimos Frikis

Pandemic


We live, as the Chinese curse goes, in interesting times. The world is caught in a pandemic of the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus, which is not just your ordinary flu. Whether you believe that the crisis has been blown out of all proportion by the media, or has been used as a tool in the re-election campaign in the President, or has been mishandled by governments around the world, there is no doubt no matter what side of the political fence you sit on that it has begun to affect our daily lives and that effect will only intensify in the coming days.

While film festivals and sporting events have been canceled – including the Miami Film Festival, which I have been covering (reviews to come shortly), as yet mainstream movie theaters remain open – at least for the time being. However, there won’t be a lot of content for them in coming weeks – there are no more wide releases left in the month of March as both A Quiet Place – Part II and Mulan  have been put on indefinite hold, while other films have been re-scheduled for later in the year or even next year. Even if the disease runs its course and theaters remain open for the duration, there won’t be a lot of major studio content in them for the month of April. While there are as of yet no plans to delay or cancel the Florida Film Festival, the plans for that celebration will depend greatly on how able Orange County is able to deflect the pandemic from overwhelming emergency services. Walt Disney World, for example, will be closed for the next two weeks. That doesn’t happen often.

Here at Cinema365 World Headquarters, we’ll continue to review movies as often as possible. I work from home so the need to go out into the world is not great, which is a blessing. However, I urge my readers to take precautions – wash your hands regularly, try to avoid large gatherings of people in close proximity as much as possible, and see a doctor immediately if you exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19. Keep informed by checking regularly with the Center for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov) periodically. I hope to see all of my readers make it out to the other side of this crisis as intact as possible. Cinema365 sincerely wishes that you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe as much as possible.

New Releases for the Week of March 13, 2020


BLOODSHOT

(Columbia) Vin Diesel, Guy Pearce, Elza Gonzalez, Sam Heughan, Toby Kebbell, Talulah Riley, Alex Hernandez, Lamome Morris. Directed by Dave Wilson

When a soldier is killed in action, he is brought back to life using nanotechnology. Not only is his body improved and he is made virtually unkillable, he discovers that the corporation in charge has been tampering with his mind and memories as well. How can he fight back when he can’t be certain what’s real and what’s implanted in his memory?

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website
Genre: Superhero
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, some suggestive material, and language)

Big Time Adolescence

(NEON) Pete Davidson, Griffin Gluck, Sydney Sweeney, Jon Cryer. A high school kid tries to navigate life with the aid of a college dropout friend who shows him all the wrong decisions; it will remain for his dad to try and clean up the mess and rein in his son’s bad habits.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Cinematique of Daytona
Rating: R (for drug content, alcohol use, pervasive language, and sexual references – all involving teens)

Cruel Peter

(Vertical) Henry Douthwaite, Rosie Fellner, Terrence Booth, Claudio Castrogiovanni. A century after a cruel and vicious bully is killed in an act of revenge, an archaeologist and his daughter, grieving for his wife (her mother), come to the scene of the crime. The daughter’s attempts to contact her deceased mother result in her possession by the spirit of the brutal bully. Her father now msut save her from a curse that he has no idea how to break.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Extra Ordinary

(Good Deed) Maeve Higgins, Barry Ward, Will Forte, Claudia O’Doherty. A small-town driving instructor with the power to communicate with the other side faces a demonic plot by a has-been rock star to make a deal with the devil and send an innocent soul to hell. Aided by the girl’s father, she will take on some unusual paranormal activities if she is to save the soul – and the world, or at least the immediate community.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Comedy
Now Playing: Enzian Theater
Rating: R (for language, sexual content and some horror violence)

Hope Gap

(Roadside Attractions/Screen Media) Bill Nighy, Annette Bening, Josh O’Connor, Alysha Hart. A couple’s visit to their son takes an unexpected turn with the father confides that he is leaving his wife of 29 years for another. She is left to pick up the pieces and rebuild her life, while the son deals with the emotional fallout.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Old Mill Playhouse, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG (for some thematic elements and brief strong language)

The Hunt

(Blumhouse/Universal) Betty Gilpin, Ike Barinholtz, Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank. A group of people wake up in a clearing not knowing how they got there or why they’re there. They are there, as it turns out, to be hunted by a group of “global elites” but one woman who knows the Hunt better than they do is going to turn around the game on her captors. The movie was delayed from last year due to a series of shootings that hit too close to home; the movie is also notable in that President Trump decried it without having seen it.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide Release
Rating: R (for strong blood violence, and language throughout)

The Postcard Killings

(RJLE) Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, Cush Jumbo, Denis O’Hare  A New York detective grieves for his wife and daughter who were brutally murdered in London. He travels to the UK and discovers that the killings were one of a series of similar crimes, each one preceded by a postcard sent to a local journalist. He must race against time to stop the killings and get justice for his family.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Suspense
Now Playing: Old Mill Playhouse
Rating: NR

Swallow

(IFC Midnight) Haley Bennett, Austin Stowell, Elizabeth Marvel, David Rasche. A beautiful housewife seems to have everything – a wealthy husband, a supportive family, a beautiful house and a baby on the way. However, the high expectations of her husband and his family cause her to manifest her stress by swallowing objects that are increasingly dangerous.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: R (for brief sexuality/nudity)

Tuscaloosa

(Cinedigm) Devon Bostick, Natalia Dyer, Tate Donovan, Marchant Davis. In Alabama circa 1972, a young man falls for a patient at his father’s mental hospital, while his best friend gets involved in the civil rights movement which doesn’t sit well with the powerful civic leaders of Tuscaloosa.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Barnstorm Theater
Rating: NR

Wendy

(Searchlight) Yashua Mack, Devin France, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin. A re-imagining of the Peter Pan story told through the eyes of Wendy Darling and through the inventive mind of Beasts of the Southern Wild director Benh Zeitlin.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website  
Genre: Fantasy
Now Playing: AMC Disney Springs, Regal Winter Park Village
Rating: PG-13 (for brief violent/bloody images)

ALSO OPENING IN ORLANDO/DAYTONA:

Angrezi Medium
I Still Believe

ALSO OPENING IN MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE/KEY WEST:

Angrezi Medium
Bacurau
Balloon
Chal Mera Putt 2
I Still Believe
Straight Up – Canceled

ALSO OPENING IN TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG/SARASOTA:

Angrezi Medium
Block Z
Corpus Christi
I Still Believe

ALSO OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE/ST. AUGUSTINE:

Angrezi Medium
I Still Believe

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Bacurau
Big Time Adolescence
Bloodshot
Extra Ordinary
The Hunt
Swallow

FILM FESTIVALS TAKING PLACE IN FLORIDA:

Miami Film Festival, Miami FL