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The most excellent tragedy of ROUTINES by Kent Hill

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It I believe is the low sinking fear that dwells in the pit of a comedian’s stomach, to die out there in the spotlight, to have each and every gag bring as much of a chuckle as the idea of an infant being suffocated by its own psychotic Mother. Like a potato in a hat, it doesn’t sit well with anyone but, there are those with something to say…whose audience just hasn’t been born yet.

So Domenic Migliore brings us his feature debut,ROUTINES, the story of the fall and fall of Bruce Mann (Michael Bugard), a solitary, tragic figure that uses his stage to scream a little…though it often falls on deaf ears. His spartan existence is then rejuvenated by the arrival of Darling Wednesday (Anita Nicole Brown). She becomes his muse, a vital spark, the link to life and love… stopping his slow spiral into the abyss.  Theirs is a star-crossed lover’s tale with a moment of finality like you have never seen. And, though it is the catalyst that sees Bruce resume is quest toward self-destruction, it is the Eden he goes to at his hour of grace.

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ROUTINES is a difficult film to write about. Not because of the film itself, but to talk about it in detail is to truly soil the experience of watching it unfold. Migilore exhibits his love of masters of Italian cinema alongside a strong Jarmusch infusion that plays in the smoky background like a jazz man high on the music. It is an immersive and emotional film, chronicling the slow internal decent of its front man, as he fights time with passive resistance against a slick and speedy modern world with which he has no connection.

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Some of this might read like a bummer man…but it ain’t. While ROUTINES isn’t a date movie or something you should watch while operating heavy machinery, it has a handcrafted feel, a quiet and beautiful melancholy. It is cinema as art, and just like Coppola said at the end of Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse; (and I’m paraphrasing here) it was his hope that one day some little girl on a farm in Kanas would make a film with her father’s little 8mm camcorder and become the next Mozart, and that the professionalism of film would disappear…and it would really become an art form.

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That is finally, how I feel about ROUTINES. A modern take on comedic tragedy stretched over a spare yet poignant canvas. It is possible to laugh one’s self to tears, but there are those who can meet with triumph and disaster, and who treat those two imposters just the same. ROUTINES carries these elements, and it is my profound hope that you will eventually have you chance to check it out.

Till that day comes, we have for you now the writer/director and his two accomplished leads for you listening pleasure…

MICHAEL BUGARD

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Michael attended university and studied philosophy and film theory at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University before venturing into non profit fund raising and eventually business to business sales.
Curious to pursue his creative interests, Michael began with modeling for print ads for a clothing retailer and Detroit area photographers and movie background work. He moved on to doing stand-in and featured extra work. Being heavily featured as an elite Hunt Club client in Hostel: Part III (2011) gained him attention in the indie horror community.
Michael attended acting and improv workshops, and has acted in two award winning and other shorts, cable network TV, corporate training and promotional videos, TV and internet commercials, and several independent features. From background to talent, Michael has been on the sets of over three dozen productions, and specializes in sinister, scary, and eccentric roles.
In 2013 he stepped behind the lens to do his own photography when not on set. His work has been displayed at the Damned Exhibition in Detroit, published online, in newspapers, a publication by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, in a print magazine and on one cover, have been used by celebrities for their social media profile pictures (most recently for David J of 80s goth/alternative legends Bauhaus and Love and Rockets), one celebrity IMDb photo (Jeff Hatrix, aka “Jeffrey Nothing” of Mushroomhead), and unexpected places on the internet, such as the main photo for the Clu Gulager page on Wikipedia.
Michael was asked to write an article about horror film for issue X of Michigan Movie Magazine in 2011, which sparked his interest in writing for film. Drawing upon his nearly 30 year, personal exploration of film and theory, he added screenwriter to his list of artistic skills; the script for “The Russian Sleep Experiment” feature film, adapted from the wildly popular urban legend, is the first creative result of his generation long, cinematic investigation.
His next step in his evolution as a filmmaker is producing. He co-produced the mockumentary short, Behind the Scenes of Horrorcore Hotel (2014) and a music video for punk rock band Dead in 5, which featured Don Campbell (brother of Bruce Campbell), with more to come.

DOMENIC MIGLIORE

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Domenic Migliore grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 12, he started making home movies with his friends. At the age of 14, he started writing short screenplays. He entered several small writing contests and was a semi-finalist in some of them. At the age of 18, he attended Tribeca-Flashpoint Academy for film, but left early to enter a mentorship program where he met actor/writer/producer Tom Malloy. With Tom’s notes he completed the feature screenplay, “Sprawl”. The film was produced in 2011 (re-titled “Ashley”), it starred “America’s Next Top Model” winner Nicole Fox, “Two and a Half Men” star Jennifer Taylor, and Michael Madsen. The film is now available to stream (from Warner Bros. VOD) on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Google Play. Domenic has directed 7 short films and 5 music videos. For his short “debeaked”, he received the “New Emerging Filmmaker” award at the 2013 Terror Film Festival in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work has been featured on the horror anthologies “Faces of Snuff” and “Ted Bundy Had a Son”, compiled by filmmaker Shane Ryan. Domenic is also a photographer. His work has been displayed at the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art and the Black Box Gallery in Portland, Oregon. Domenic lives in Barrington, Illinois.

ANITA NICOLE BROWN

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Anita Nicole Brown is an aspiring actress who caught the acting bug late. Although cast in many independent films, Brown still considers herself aspiring because she feels that with acting (as with anything in life) one should always look to grow and learn more. And that is what she is doing. Coming late into the field, Brown feels she has been blessed with many life experiences that have prepared her for each and every character she has and will be cast in. She has played the gamut of characters that include an action fighter (Crisis Function and Crisis Function Awakening – still filming), a detective investigating corruption (Wages of Sin: Special Tactics – still filming), a jury member trying not to be swayed by her fellow jurors (12 Angry Women – still filming), a woman who discovers her boyfriend has been cheating on her (Pieces of David) and even a mother pushed to the edge (A Woman And A Gun)! But Brown has yet to accomplish her goal: Showing the world that a Type One Diabetic (T1D) can and will accomplish anything they desire and change the perception of diabetics in this industry. After almost 17 years as a T1D, Brown has overcome so much with her diabetes especially regaining the ability to walk after fighting diabetic nerve damage in her legs and feet almost nine years ago. And now, Brown wears her diabetes each and every day. Literally! She has an insulin pump and for some productions, the thought of having an actress with such a visible device for treatment has been a bit unnerving. But in the past few years, Brown has seen a change in which production companies are writing her character in as a diabetic who is strong and determined OR they allow the pump to be worn and shown without feeling the need to address it because it does not take away from Brown’s ability to deliver the character. It is a slow change but it is one Brown is excited about accomplishing! Look out world, Anita Nicole Brown has much more to show you!

MEGAFORCE – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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Megaforce (1982) is one of the most nakedly jingoistic might-means-right movies to come out of the Ronald Reagan era. Directed by legendary stuntman Hal Needham (Smokey and the Bandit), it is an astonishingly so-bad-it’s-good action movie that brilliantly epitomizes the kind of excess that was synonymous with the 1980s. The poster’s tagline says it all in a nutshell – “Deeds not words.” Hell, yeah! In some respects, Megaforce was a response to many of the gritty, downbeat genre films of the 1970s. It also signaled a new decade where America proudly flexed its military muscle all over the world. It is also a laughably bad movie but entertainingly so.

The opening voiceover narration sets things up for us. Megaforce is in fact, “a phantom army of super elite fighting men,” and whose mission it is “ to preserve freedom and justice battling the forces of tyranny and evil in every corner of the globe.” The opening credits play over triumphant synthesizer music courtesy of Jerrold Immel (Knots Landing) that sets the cheesy tone right from the get-go and also wonderfully, and instantly, dates the film.

We meet the bad guys – a paramilitary army from Gamibia with one of them anal retentively reciting his country’s manifesto while their leader Gurerra (Henry Silva) looks on in boredom. He just wants to blow shit up, which his army of tanks does – attacking a power station in the peaceful Republic of Sardun. Hopelessly outgunned and outmaneuvered by the Gamibia army, Sardun, not wanting to risk an international incident send Major Zara (Persis Khambatta) and General Byrne-White (Edward Mulhare) to find and enlist the help of Megaforce

They meet their contact out in the middle of nowhere. He introduces himself as Dallas (Michael Beck), a good ol’ cowboy type who takes them to his hidden base in a beat-up Ford Bronco. Three armored motorcycles that show off their prowess by popping wheelies and shooting balloons out of the sky eventually greet them. Director Hal Needham captures this all in loving close-ups and slow motion shots that comes across as porn for military vehicle enthusiasts.

Zara and Byrne-White meet Commander Ace Hunter (Barry Bostwick) in all of his spandex jump-suited glory. He’s the leader of Megaforce and not above hitting on Zara who, naturally, takes an instant dislike to him because, y’know, he’s a loose cannon. Barry Bostwick, the terminally square Brad in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), is the last person I’d expect to play an action hero but there he is with fantastically blond blow-dried helmet hair as if channeling Barry Gibb. To his credit, he realizes that this is all silly nonsense (I mean, how could you not?) and has fun with the role.

Megaforce resides in a massive underground complex full of experimental vehicles and gear stolen from other countries. This army of mercenaries is made up of experts from all over the world. Ace and Zara continue to flirt like crazy, admiring each other’s chests and comparing their combat experience and even sharing an intimate moment skydiving, all to jarring romantic music right out of an elevator. I know I always like to treat a lady to a death-defying jump out of an airplane as a form of seduction. That Ace is one smooth operator. He and Zara’s “romance” is laughable at best, with their meet-cute dialogue, clumsily written by the writing team of James Whittaker, Albert S. Ruddy, Needham, and Andre Morgan, and their bizarre goodbye gesture that consists of kissing the thumb and then giving the thumbs up sign to each other. Of course, it doesn’t help that Bostwick and Persis Khambatta have zero chemistry together.

Edward Mulhare, known mainly for his role in the popular television show Knight Rider, plays the stereotypical fussy Brit with a posh accent and haughty attitude until Ace impresses him with knowledge of military tactics. After the career high of The Warriors (1979), it was all downhill from there for Michael Beck who went on to appear in the Olivia Newtown-John opus, Xandau (1980) and Megaforce before settling into a career of roles mostly on T.V. He seems to be having fun in this film and I wonder if he envisioned playing Dallas in a series of sequels that sadly for him never happened. Persis Khambatta, who had been touted as the next big thing prior to appearing in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), further damaged her career in this film by playing eye candy. At first, Zara appears to be a feisty feminist but after a bit of verbal sparring with Ace she is more than happy to sit on the sidelines while the boys go off and play army with their expensive toys.

The movie’s grand finale has to be seen to be believed as Ace and his team punch a hole through Gurerra’s tank army in an orgy of explosions and lingering close-ups of guns firing and missiles launching. If that wasn’t enough, Ace escapes Gurerra’s army in a motorcycle that flies! While this sounds great and was the coolest thing when I was nine-years-old, it looks pretty ridiculous now. And just before Ace does this, he delivers the movie’s classic and most memorable line: “The good guys always win – even in the ‘80s.” If that doesn’t sum up most action films in this decade then I don’t know what does.

Director Hal Needham got the idea for Megaforce from Bob Kachler, the man who got him sponsors for his racing cars. He suggested it could be a television series, but Needham said, “It’ll never make a series, but it’ll make a helluva feature.” Needham and producer Albert S. Ruddy hired a writer to produce a screenplay and afterwards felt that it had some good ideas, but they ended up completely rewriting it in order to make the film funnier and have more action. Needham saw it as “kind of a version of James Bond done with a helluva lot less budget and no Roger Moore, but it was a high tech, good ‘right wing’ film and I thought it was kinda interesting.” They were able to procure funding from Hong Kong film production company Golden Harvest.

Needham and Ruddy approached Mattel Toys and worked with them in designing the look of the vehicles in the film. William Frederick took the designs and engineered the actual vehicles used in Megaforce, which were dune buggies and motorcycles rigged up with weapons and armor. It took him 9-10 months to build 30 them. According to Frederick, Mattel designed the exteriors and made them look “racy” while he designed the interiors to make sure they worked. When Needham asked if they were functional, Frederick fired a missile off of one of them and it blew a hole through the outside wall of the studio! So much smoke was generated from the explosion that the fire department came. During filming, the United States military sent out people to observe Frederick’s vehicles in action for a week out in the dry lakebeds in Nevada. Needham said, “And, if you go back and take a look at Desert Storm, there’s a pretty good resemblance to my vehicles.”

To do all of the riding scenes required in the film, Needham hired approximately 50 drivers for three months. According to those who worked on the production, he used real M48 tanks and armored personnel carriers. One driver said, “I’ve worked on a lot of war movies. Megaforce was as much like going to war as I can remember.” An interview with one of the stunt drivers gives an indication of Needham’s directorial style. During filming, when he wasn’t getting what he wanted, Needham would jump on or in a vehicle and show a stunt driver what to do. “Hal jumped on one of the bikes and went flying down the road who knows how fast and clipped one of these things [two-foot-deep furrows left by the tanks] and got off so hard that it took the production assistant an hour and a half to find his Rolex watch.” This incident delayed filming for approximately a week while Needham recuperated. It was a harbinger of things to come as several drivers were injured over the three-month shoot. Special effects expert Cliff Wenger Sr., who provided the film with its numerous explosions, remembers Needham coming up to him with an idea for a new ending: “They rewrote the script all the way through. I mean, what we shot and what the original script is, there is no comparison whatsoever.” Needham described to him what would eventually be in the final cut and asked Wenger if he could do it in three days.

Megaforce’s ending cries out for a sequel – however, it only grossed $5.6 million at the box office, not even recouping its then-pricey $20 million budget. Needham must’ve taken its failure hard as he barely mentions the movie in his recent autobiography. Years passed and the movie slowly acquired a modest cult following, which included a pair of famous fans – South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone who have not only name-checked it in an audio commentary for one of the episodes of their show, but also mentioned it in passing in an interview they did with the alternative music band Ween. However, they paid the ultimate homage to Megaforce with their own film, Team America: World Police (2004), an action film parody using marionettes and which owed a lot to Needham’s movie, right down to the flying motorcycle.

d8cde3efda1bfc0352491fb8db9f274dMegaforce is the best movie in the world… when you’re a nine-year-old kid with no critical faculties and just want to see stuff blow up, like I did back in 1982. As a kid I loved this movie for the simple reason that it was a live-action version of the T.V. cartoon/toy I was obsessed with at the time – G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero. Both feature a secretive army populated by specialists armed with hi-tech gear, fighting evil all over the world. They eventually made a live-action G.I. JOE movie in 2009 (with a sequel on the way) but, for me, it pales in comparison to Megaforce, which for all of its inherent cheesiness feels like it was the product of a deluded madman – Needham – and not a badly made by committee, CGI-heavy advertisement for toys.

B Movie Glory With Nate: The Harvest

 
The Harvest is the very definition of a hidden gem that one stumbles upon while watching late night cable and sits through to the end just because it’s such a wickedly nasty little thriller. Erotic and steamy, dangerous, very darkly funny are qualities that all reside within a terrific script that has one kicker of an ending that’s quite the chuckle inducing payoff. No one wants to have their organs taken while on vacation in some sketchy South American country, let alone consider the thought of it. Hard luck screenwriter Charlie Pope (an intense Miguel Ferrer in one of his few lead roles) falls right into that unthinkable scenario. He’s sent to Mexico by his bad tempered boss Bob Lakin (a sleazy Harvey Fierstein, who REALLY needs to be in more movies), and marinates in the sweatiness trying to get some work done. After a hot and heavy night with a gorgeous local babe (Leilani Sarelle) he wakes up with the mother of all hangovers and is horrified to find that one of his kidneys has been removed. From there it’s a stomach churning mad dash to figure out where the smugglers have gone, and evade the, at the same time, because they’re coming to try and get his other one and silence him forever as well. It’s an uncomfortable little piece of white knuckle trash, but it’s made with solid flair and like I said, the script is top shelf stuff. Ferrer is the running man here, trying to keep one step ahead of some very dangerous people, his bountiful acting talent putting us right there with him. Fierstein is always a gravel voiced gem, and gets two penultimate scenes that spin the plot on its cogs, both which will have you laughing uncomfortably. There’s also an early career appearance from George Clooney, who is Ferrer’s cousin. His credit here, and I’m not even making this up, is ‘Lip syncing transvestite’. How’s that for a leg up in the industry. Lowbrow, gut churning black comedy mixed with the exotic fish out of water thriller makes for a neat little piece of genre bending, grotesque shocker fun.