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Happy Holidays (ON DEMAND)

Happy Holidays (ON DEMAND)

IndiePix Price: $3.99

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starstarstarhalf a starHappy Holidays Review

Aug 17th, 2011

In the tradition of such cinematic staples such as “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “The Big Chill” and “Clerks”, director James C. Ferguson brings you his black and white version of a Christmas story about faith, friendship, and foul language in “Happy Holidays”.

The style of this movie is very simple and straight forward, with no flashy camera moves or special effects. The flick is basically a series of two and three person shots also with the occasional walk and talk. But don’t let the simple style of this movie influence your opinion of its substance. James packs a lot of story into an hour and forty-three minutes of two-toned cinema. The story is set in New England on Christmas Eve when, by chance, three old high school friends reunite after a series of happenstances in their lives. Patrick Donovan (Paul Hungerford) is a gay pet groomer who lives in his childhood home with his partner. Alden J. Winslow III (John B. Crye) is a commitment phobic friend of Patrick’s who comes to stay with him for a few days due to some domestic trouble with his girlfriend, who recently asked him to marry her (he refused). Their friend Kirby (Thomas Rhoads) is a skirt chasing teacher who’s father had just past away and who is in the process of dealing with that and some other issues in his life.

Being that it was shot in black and white there were certainly some issues with lighting. Some of this most likely was a budgetary concern and really only noticeable in a couple scenes (the school gym in particular). The outdoor shots and even the stills during the movie’s opening credits looked great. And the director did a great job conveying that feeling of a New England winter. The sound was done well and I particularly enjoyed the soundtrack (especially the opening credits music).

The script in this movie is quite good, and the dialogue definitely feels realistic. The only comment on this is that sometimes it felt like it was taking awhile to get to the point of the scene. Not necessarily a deterrent for the average viewer, but it was noticeable to me. The movie certainly flowed well from scene to scene as we followed the characters on their journey as they rediscovered their friendship, and worked on getting over their hangups with each other, as well as themselves. It’s very much a feel-good holiday movie that, even in the heat of July I found myself enjoying.

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starstarstarhalf a starLovely By Surprise Review

Aug 17th, 2011

“Lovely By Surprise” is the directorial debut of Kirt Gunn. There was a good part of this movie that, at first glance seemed to me to be a lot of nonsensical storylines that had no point to them…But that’s where I was wrong. As I paid more attention I noticed an intricate story being woven by the director (who also penned this picture) that was reminiscent of films by David Lynch and Alfred Hitchcock. Kirt mixes drama and comedy with a deft hand and leaves the audience wondering if what they’re viewing is fact, fiction, or fantasy. To review this movie in a linear form would be a disservice to the story and would not give the reader a good view of what I just watched. But I’ll try to give you a few story points to introduce you to the concepts of the movie.

Marion (Carrie Preston) is an author that seems to believe that the characters in her book are real. The story interplays around her trouble writing these characters, and their actual perceived existance upon a houseboat that doesn’t actually reside in water. So far so good right? Well…

Cut to another story of troubled car salesman Bob (Reg Rogers) and his mute-by-choice daughter Mimi (Lena Lamer). Bob is undergoing an existential crisis following the death of his wife and the rift it’s created between he and his daughter. Bob isn’t very successful at selling cars because he dispatches his own brand of philosophic advice to his customers, convincing them that they don’t need a car.

There is no interplay between any of these characters and you are left wondering fairly far into the story what it all means. That is until one of the characters from Marion’s book, Humkin (Michael Chernus) escapes from his prison on the land-locked houseboat and ends up meeting up with Bob at the car dealership where he works. The interesting part here is that, Humkin is self aware of his author, and of his predicament, and rather than fall prey to his master’s plans (she attempts to have another character kill him), he decides to choose to live his own life instead, dispatching his own brand of childlike pearls of wisdom as well.

Marion’s story is really the core of this movie, and to give away the ending or more of the plot would make it unwatchable (much like many of Lynch’s movies, which hinge on the plot reveal at the end). Instead I’ll leave it at this: “Lovely By Surprise” was just that, living up to its title.

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