Best Limited Releases Coming To Pittsburgh – November 2014 Edition

Nas: Time Is Illmatic – Row House Cinema

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Twenty years after the release of Nas’s groundbreaking debut album Illmatic, Nas: Time Is Illmatic takes us into the heart of his creative process. Returning to his childhood home in Queensbridge, Nas shares stories of his upbringing, his influences — from the music of his jazz musician father Olu Dara to the burgeoning hip-hop scene in New York City — and the obstacles he faced before his major label signing at age 20. Featuring interviews with his Illmatic producers (Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S., and DJ Premier) and musical peers (including Pharrell Williams and Alicia Keys), the documentary from One9 offers a thrilling account of Nas’s evolution from a young street poet to a visionary MC. Nas: Time Is Illmatic opens Nov. 1st at Row House Cinema. The film is presented as part of Row House’s Documentary Films week.

Bad Turn Worse – Hollywood Theater

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After a weekend of partying with stolen money, three Texas teens (Jeremy Allen White, Logan Huffman, and Mackenzie Davis) find themselves indebted to a sociopathic criminal named Giff (Mark Pellegrino in a breakout performance). To pay their debt, Giff forces the teens to steal from his boss, a money-laundering gangster named Big Red (William Devane). Things go from bad to worse when betrayal, distrust, and corruption complicate an already dangerous plan. This stylish and emotional crime thriller is the stunning directorial debut of Simon and Zeke Hawkins. Bad Turn Worse screens from Nov. 14th through Nov. 17th at the Hollywood Theater.

Memphis – Harris Theater

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A strange singer drifts through the mythic city of Memphis, surrounded by beautiful women, legendary musicians, a stone-cold hustler, a righteous preacher, and a wolf pack of kids. Under a canopy of ancient oak trees and burning spirituality, his doomed journey breaks from conformity and reaches out for glory. Directed by Tim Sutton and starring Willis Earl Beal. Memphis opens at the Harris Theater on Nov. 28th.

Belvederes Serves Up ‘Bad Taste’ For Halloween B-Horror Bash

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Before director Peter Jackson redefined excess with his bloated, three-part take on The Hobbit, he was grossing out horror fans with ultra low-budget films such as the outrageous zombie classic Dead Alive. On Oct. 29th, Belvederes Ultra-Dive will celebrate another one of Jackson’s early works when they host their Halloween B-Horror Bash.

Presented as part of the venue’s weekly punk, post-punk, and goth night, Nilbog, the event will include a screening of Jackson’s first feature Bad Taste. Shot in New Zealand, the film follows a group of friends who must save their small town from becoming fast-food for a group of gluttonous aliens. The 1987 sci-fi horror comedy boasts impressive practical special effects and puppetry that were staples of Jackson’s early career.

Bad Taste will begin at 9 p.m. The Halloween B-Horror Bash will also include $5 homemade vegan pumpkin soup and a free raffle with prizes such as tattoo and piercing gift certificates from Alter Ego Body Art Studio and occult jewelry from Mod Evil Studio. A dance party with DJ Off the Record (aka The Vomiting Rat) will take place after the screening. Costumes are encouraged. Admission is free (for freaks).

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48 Hour Horror Film Project Premiere Creeps Into Hollywood Theater

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October equals Halloween, which, in turn, equals horror movies, and one event will deliver plenty of spooky selections from area filmmakers. The Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Horror Project challenged 19 teams to write, shoot, edit, and score their own horror shorts over the course of a single weekend. On Oct. 25th, the films will premiere at the Hollywood Theater and compete for a variety of awards. See screening schedule below:

Group A

6 p.m.

Actors with Strings – Mark McKinney
Falling October Productions – Alexander Cronin
Beginnings – Jackie Druga
Dynamite Carrot – John James Lynn
Clever Cleaver – Samuel Harris
Locust Street – Lance Parkin
Pyrite Production – Nicole Wintruba
Naked Sheep Productions – Travis Culley
Blind Tiger Films – Josh Hausman
Blackwater Films – Paul Martinez

Group B

8 p.m.

Children of the Corman – Darin DiNapoli
Cipher Eye Media – Steven Croner
Crawling Gorloks – Herbert Wolfe
Everything But the Name – Edwin Huang
Gaff Tape and a Prayer – Mike Hanley
Goldbug Productions – Raj Pandravada
R. Walker Productions – Rodman Walker
ShadowFrame – Jason Boyer
Winston Says Boo! – Christopher Friedrick

The Pittsburgh 48 Hour Horror Film Project premiere will begin at 6 p.m. Audience members may vote on their favorite films after each group showing. Tickets are $10 each or two for $15, and are available for purchase at Brown Paper Tickets.

Club Cafe To Present Haze XXL Doc ‘The Color Of Noise’

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Club Cafe has played host to countless musical acts from Pittsburgh and all around the world. But on Oct. 23rd, the South Side venue will become a screening room for The Color of Noise, a film about one man’s influence on rock and art.

The feature documentary tells the story of artist Haze XXL (Tom Hazelmyer) from his early life as a hardcore punk, to eventually joining the Marine Corp and moving on to playing in bands and starting his own label, Amphetamine Reptile Records. During the 1990s Tom would find success in his hard work with Amrep, and turn to the art world for new inspiration- building a gallery behind one of his restaurants and hosting some of the most cutting edge pop artists of the time, as well as raising a family and running a successful business. This film highlights many of the label’s bands and visual artists – including The Melvins, Helmet, Unsane, Boss Hog, Today Is The Day, Shepard Fairey, and Frank Kozik Coop – through mini bio-pics weaved throughout Tom’s story.

Doors open at 7 p.m., Color of Noise begins at 8 p.m. The event includes an art show and a Q&A session with director Eric Robel and Haze XXL. Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase at TicketWeb.

[Review] ‘Meltdown’

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Meltdown (Dir. Jake Mulliken)

[Lucky 4 Productions; 2014]

After filmmaker Jake Mulliken won a RAW award for his directorial debut Meltdown, plans to turn the comedy horror short into a feature film were soon set in motion. The concept certainly had potential, as its ambiguous ending left the main character, Hunter, and his friends trapped by zombie hordes in Pittsburgh. This time around, Mulliken delivers a longer, bloodier, more ambitious vision that’s a worthwhile expansion on the 32 minute-long original.

Shot in Somerset and Venango County, PA, the new Meltdown follows Hunter (Mulliken), a well-meaning, but unsuccessful comic book writer intent on marrying his girlfriend (Hannah Horwatt) even after she abandons him on his birthday. When she rejects his proposal, and leaves him with a broken heart and a black eye, he retreats to a townie bar to numb his sorrows. Before long, he and his drinking buddies, the obnoxious sidekick Les (Seth Gontkovic), the sage bartender Zeke (F. Robert McMurray), and the determined love interest Callie (Alicia Marie Marcucci), are attacked by flesh-eating monsters. As their small town becomes overrun by zombies, the four shoot and hack their way to freedom and take refuge in a remote cabin.

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Much like its predecessor, the first half of the film leans more toward comedy with gross-out gags galore. Though similarities to the zombie rom-com Shaun of the Dead are apparent – an everyman hero and dead mother being among them – the humor avoids becoming derivative by often veering into absurdity (a moment when Callie instigates some inappropriate, pre-zombie kill flirting is especially hilarious).

The tone shifts to post-apocalyptic survival horror when the story fast forwards two years later and finds Hunter, his friends, and other survivors holed up in a wilderness stronghold called Whisper City. With Hunter as the leader, the group battles encroaching undead (dubbed Howlers) and murderous rednecks, all while dealing with unrequited feelings and dwindling supplies. Their situation worsens when a deceptively meek preacher (David Petti) and his young daughter (Rebecca Gruss) pose a new threat that could destroy Hunter and his clan.

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Mulliken, whose acting background includes appearances on Breaking Bad and In Plain Sight, tackles the lead role with confidence and a commendable disregard for his own safety (stunt work, in this case, is not optional). He obviously recognizes skilled actors, and everyone from the core players to the minor supporting cast deliver performances that add quality and just the right amount of emotional weight to the ultra-low budget indie. Actress Pilar Freeman in particular stands out as Murph, a tough-talking badass who exudes old school horror heroine swagger.

Meltdown benefits further from the impressive work of special effects coordinator Cody Ruch, whose rolling zombie heads, realistic gaping wounds, and detailed monster makeup ratchet the visuals up into some truly cringe-worthy territory. A number of spectacles also stand as testaments to the ballsy guerilla-style shoot, including a scene where an actual house goes down in flames.

For the most part, Mulliken’s script keeps the pace quick and the action plentiful, but the first 15 minutes are awkwardly focused on emphasizing the loathsomeness of Hunter’s obviously loathsome girlfriend – in retrospect, the time could have been better spent establishing Hunter’s relationship with Callie or his ill-fated mother. Like with any shoestring production, lighting, editing, and sound issues are present, but these flaws seem insignificant compared to the strength of the more crucial areas (writing, acting, and FX).

Overall, Mulliken and his crew have succeeded in crafting a solid, entertaining zombie flick that should please horror fans with its sick sense of humor and extra-splattery kills. With a reported sequel in the works, is should be interesting to see what other gory pleasures they have in store.

An Indiegogo campaign for Meltdown is currently underway to raise funds for film festival and theater rental fees, and publicity costs. A Meltdown DVD release is scheduled for sometime in November.

JFilm To Present ReelAbilities Film Festival

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Since 2007, the ReelAbilities Film Festival has set out to spotlight the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. Beginning Oct. 22nd, JFilm will bring the New York-based event to Pittsburgh, and with it four documentary and narrative stories about the challenges people face everyday. See schedule and film descriptions below:

Oct. 22nd

CinemAbility

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From the early days of silent films to present day, from Chaplin to X-Men,disability portrayals are ever changing. This dynamic documentary takes a detailed look at the evolution of “disability” in entertainment by going behind the scenes to interview filmmakers, studio executives, film historians, and celebrities, and by utilizing vivid clips from Hollywood’s most beloved motion pictures and television programs to focus attention on the powerful impact that the media can have on society. CinemAbility screens at 7 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Oct. 26th

Touch of the Light

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Blind pianist Huang Yu-Siang plays himself in this Taiwanese Oscar-contender about a blind piano prodigy from rural Taiwan and his relationship with Xiao Jie (Sandrine Pinna), a young woman who dreams of becoming a dancer despite enormous challenges. In Taiwanese with English subtitles. Touch of the Light screens at 1 p.m. at the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) in Bakery Square.

Come As You Are

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Three guys in their twenties love wine and women but they are still virgins. Under the guise of a wine tour they embark on a journey to Spain hoping to have their first sexual experience. Josef is blind, Philip is paralyzed from the neck down, and Lars is in a wheelchair with a brain tumor, but they’re not going to let anything stand in their way. Come As You Are screens at 7:30 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Oct. 30th

Stand Clear of the Closing Doors

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When Ricky, a 13-year-old Mexican-American boy with autism, runs away from his immigrant family on the fringes of New York City, he embarks on an odyssey that forces his splintered family to reconcile their differences. Stand Clear of the Closing Doors screens at 7 p.m. at Rodef Shalom Congregation.

Tickets for CinemAbility are $20, $10 for students. All other films are $10, $5 for students. Tickets are available for purchase on the JFilm website.

Andrew Alden Ensemble Sink Their Teeth Into ‘Nosferatu’

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Last spring, the chamber music group Andrew Alden Ensemble riled a few zombies with their original live score of Night of the Living Dead. On Oct. 19th, they return to Pittsburgh to provide musical accompaniment to one of the silent film era’s most frightening works.

The group will contribute their interpretation of Nosferatu as part of the Hollywood Theater‘s Silents, Please! series. Released in 1922, German director F. W. Murnau‘s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula follows the blood-thirsty Count Orlok (Max Schreck) as he relocates from his castle in the Carpathian mountains to a small German town, where he feeds on the unsuspecting populace. The early horror masterpiece has influenced generations of filmmakers, and inspired Werner Herzog‘s remake with Klaus Kinski in 1979, and director E. Elias Merhige‘s re-imagining Shadow of the Vampire in 2000.

The Nosferatu and Andrew Alden Ensemble event will take place at 4 p.m. at the Hollywood Theater. Tickets are $10, $8 for children, students, and seniors, and are available for purchase at Showclix.