Also visit Space Jockey Reviews at for trailers, Rocket Meter ratings, movie news, short films, and more!

Saturday, August 25, 2012


The pages of a fairy-tale book turn, and a picture comes to life, in color, as we are taken, magically, into once up a time…somewhere.  We are flown into The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad with a bee’s-eye view, through the hexagonal lenses of…you guessed it…a bee.  Instead of a “fly on the wall,” we are a “bee in flight” just as objectively viewing the strange new world around us.  Through a forest and into a tree (yes, a tree), we begin our journey.

At the end of the bee’s journey is a man in lavish dress with the pointed ears of…you guessed it again…an elf.  He sits impatiently at the bedside of an older woman who is annoyed by his presence and uninterested in what he has to say.  The man is Himo (Fernando Noor), and the woman is the half-elven, half-human Tallulah (Melissa Malan).  Tallulah is on her deathbed (as she has been for the last fifty years), and Himo seems to anticipate her death more than dread it.  “Why?” you ask.  Although a fifty-year-long death could be reason enough, that’s not it.  As the title suggests, Tallulah is a heroine.  She has, in her long life, seen all manner of dangers and adventure—fighting dragons, bandits, and assassins, and saving damsels in distress.  All this she did while Himo lived in her shadow as nothing to be known for or remembered.  Are we talking about the ingredients for one jealous elven husband?  Is there a great man behind this this great woman?  What will Himo do to get what he wants, and what will Tallulah do to stop him?  I’m not telling, but you can imagine the possibilities for this one.

“It must be nice to have such a legacy….something that’s going to live on past you.” ~ Himo

My favorite scene in the movie begins at the four-minute/forty-six second mark.  Himo and Tallulah are outside near a waterfall, in a flashback from the past, exchanging affections.  This is an absolutely beautiful scene, with Melissa Malan looking stunning as her elven character, complete with pointed ears and a pixie smile. Malan is an actress with talent matched only by her beauty, and she shows both here to full effect. I, for one, was captivated by her wide-eyed spirit of performance; the energy in her personality radiates from her and brightens the movie beyond boundaries.  Melissa convinced me that she was Tallulah, with all the best that paramours could offer a mate.  Her eye contact, loving glances, and focus on Himo were spot on!  I often see actors who don’t show the commitment to a part that makes a character believable.  In The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad, Melissa Malan does the opposite of that in a most crucial scene. She shows us who Tallulah really is, letting her character shine through; she makes her familiar and also human, adding more to what makes the movie a success—realism in a fantasy story, grounding it in experiences we know.  Perfect!

 “We’ll never get old, because you love me.” ~ Tallulah
This brings me to Melissa Malan in general and in this fairy tale again.  Malan is an actress I have previously seen in a short horror film called The Mockingbird.  In it, she plays a woman confined to her bed, after being paralyzed in a car accident.  In The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad, Malan again plays a woman confined to her bed, in most scenes.  In each movie, because of Malan’s talent, a bedridden character is brought to life with more energy and depth than most characters walking on two legs.  With expressions and words alone, she gives Tallulah strength as a heroine, even on her deathbed.  I do not give compliments like this liberally; Malan, however, deserves the compliments, no matter how sparingly I use them.  As in The Mockingbird, Malan makes an easily forgettable character one to remember!

Fernando Noor is an award-winning actor, writer, producer, and voice over artist. I had not seen his work before; however, he is one I will look for in the future.  As “The Cad”, Noor is the personification of the word’s definition—“A man who behaves dishonorably, especially toward a woman.”  He is this personification not just because we know what he’s thinking as Himo, but because of what Noor does as Himo…and yes…how he acts—as an actor, that is.  Noor projects coldness with his voice and sly detachment in his disdainful looks.  Even his posture and movements are subtly used as body language to complete the role. Noor let’s the viewer make no mistake in understanding his character, superficially as well as below the surface.  When Tallulah is still devoted and loving, Noor is her antithesis, projecting selfishness to please himself, totally believable in his part.  Tallulah’s love, contrasted with Himo’s lack of it, play off one another perfectly to set the movie’s tone.  Noor skillfully makes his character one we dislike, but remember all the more for disliking.  This, ironically, makes The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad one we can like all the more for disliking Himo.  As for what Himo wants as much as he wants her death, I’ll leave that for you to discover yourself.

Fernando Noor as Himo
 As for other actors, we also have Tristan Scott-Behrends and Malia Miglino.  Behrends is “The Doctor” and plays the part as one who cares little to nothing about his patient.  He considers half-humans to be inferior to full-blooded elves, and shows it with enough arrogance and detachment to make it believable.  You might say that Behrends plays the ultimate racist in a fantasy world—a doctor whose hyppocratic oath didn’t include equality; he boldly practices medicine with bigotry in his words, if not in his actions.  Behrends’ characters, as he well plays it, adds an extra element of social commentary making it decidedly more than a fairy tale, carrying over to the world of humans as much as elves.
I understand that we as the Elven race get frustrated with the lifespans of…lesser races.” ~ The Doctor
Malia Miglino has the minimal but essential part of the sexy nurse, and she does exactly that…very well!  Miglino is the current object of Himo’s affections, and no doubt Tallulah’s replacement; in her leather boots (the first we see of her) and her red elven nurse outfit, Miglino gets nearly as much attention as most other characters.  Even in her brief screen time, Miglino efficiently communicates her character to the audience, making a stereotype something more original, and surely memorable. (I look forward to seeing movies in the future, with Miglino in a lead role.) Miglino’s version of a temptress brings out more of Himo’s character, making him uncomfortably as much human as elf; his ogling flirtation with her is part of what shows, early on, his more despicable qualities.  After all, he is still married to Tallulah, and she is still on her deathbed.  How dare he do that!

Before I move on, let us stop and consider that last thought one more time, at least to better understand Himo, and possibly even ourselves—“How dare he do that!”  Yes, at first, we think, on impulse, in moral high gear, that Himo has no business having lecherous elven thoughts, while married, with his wife on her deathbed no less.  Yes, it’s easy to think it, say it, and act as though we ourselves would never do it.  However, before you judge too quickly (even an elf), consider this…just for a moment.  Tallulah has been dying for fifty years; count them slowly.  This sexy nurse is someone Himo’s been seeing, no doubt, for a seriously long time (maybe even fifty years)—parading around in front of him in her sexy elven boots, sneaking beautiful glances, slipping him amorous letters.  Yes, she’s also been giving shots, changing IVs, bringing medicine, and doing all other non-sexy things nurses do.  But, even doing non-sexy things, a nurse like this could distract even the best of elves…and humans!  No, I don’t have a dying half-human wife, cared for by a sexy elven nurse, but I understand temptation and how it works to change the best of us. So, in a way, I’ll defend Himo, as much as say why he’s despicable.  Yes, consider all that for just a moment, at least, seeing yet more in this most unique of tales. Just like in the fairy tales of Grimm, there’s far more than what we see on the surface–something pulling us under with it. Take a deeper look, then move right along.  How dare he do that!

Now with that over…for now…let’s consider how low-budget fantasy films are especially difficult to do.  Other genres—drama, action, adventure, mystery, and even horror—are easier, at least because they can happen anywhere, as is, without modifying the normal environment.  Fantasy, on the other hand, requires another world that must be created, often from scratch, often with budgets exceeding what is available.  I have the greatest respect for independent film directors who even attempt anything so ambitious.  After seeing, The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad, I have an even greater respect for such directors.

A painting of a younger Tallulah, appropriately called the “Tallulah Pastel” (by Elizabeth Lee)

This brings me to the ever-talented (and always beautiful) Claire Wasmund–an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. Her written work has appeared in nationally-published journals, and her film work has been a part of over 30 film festivals! In The Heroine & the Cad, Wasmund has written, created, and filmed a world that is a gem of a fantasy to see. With Wasmund’s directing talents, this new tale earns a respectable place as a new classic in a collection of its own.  The richness of colors, contrasts, focus, lighting, and camera angles all work together, creating a place we can imagine elves would inhabit.  Wasmund makes the technical aspects subtle to our senses and all the more natural on screen.  Small but opulent sets make all that’s needed, effectively, on a limited budget; I never found myself wanting to see more. Wasmund wisely kept characters at the center, using sets to support the story rather than carry it.  As the writer and director, Wasmund has taken her fairy tale from the page to the screen, beyond the limits of its budget. Such spirit, dedication despite obstacles, and ultimate achievement is what I most applaud in fimmaking. With such challenges in the fantasy genre, it’s easy to give up and difficult to succeed; to Wasmund, I give a standing ovation for success!

Of course, music can either make or break a fairy tale; music sets the mood, helps to establish the setting, and, if done well, helps the mind slip away into faraway lands and mythic places.  The original music composed by Brandon K. Verrett certainly makes The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad.  From the title page of the fairy tale book, as it begins, we hear what we expect–soft, light, magical music, with lilting tones carrying us with it, leaving the real world behind.

Production designers, art directors, special effects artists, costume designers, and jewelry coordinators are often overlooked in reviews. However, in a film like this, they must be recognized and applauded as well. The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad could not have done without the production design of Lex Benedict, Greg Cruser, Fernando Noor, and Claire Wasmund; it could not have done without the art direction by Caley Bisson; it could not have done without the beautiful “Tallulah Pastel” by Elizabeth Lee; it could not have done without the special effects by Greg Cruser, the sumptuous costumes by Lex Benedict, the jewelry by Betsey Benedict, or the soprano Ashley Burkett. Finally, but far from least, it could never have done without the special effects makeup by Laura Lieffring and Tokiko Inoue.  Yes, in this movie, all of these talented people came together to produce one movie that stands out in its indie genre, well in front of any I’ve seen before.

As a great example, we have the special effects makeup of Laura Lieffring and Tokiko Inoue. If I didn’t know Melissa Malan was such a beautiful young woman, I would actually think she was a beautiful but much older woman.  The makeup effects here are simply awesome!  With the high-definition image, it is especially important for effects to stand up to scrutiny; Laura Lieffring and Tokiko Inoue have made sure that they do. Without this effect alone, there would have been trouble once upon a time, too many times for success. Here, however, it’s done perfectly!

Adding to makeup accolades, I must also compliment the elf ears.  Even in the most brightly-lit, high definition, these ears looked like the real deal.  And, in a movie about elves, bad ears could ruin everything.  Once again, Laura Lieffring and Tokiko Inoue, operating on a lower budget, save the show, with the best ears I’ve seen so far in a movie about elves–bar none!

It is also interesting that, in the opening credits, the names of the cast and crew are not the names that appear in the credits for the movie elsewhere. Actors have names such as Lolindir Eledhwen, Ireth Elensar, and Ireth Fefala; the cinematographer is Natulcien Calaelen, and the director is Idril Seregon.  (Yeah, we know it’s you anyway, Claire.) The only reason for this I can imagine is one I really like. To further immerse the story in the fairy tale world, these are Elvin names, as if the elves are really producing it. Nice touch!

What’s this fairy tale about overall?  It’s about the cruelty of time, as it affects relationships, love, and life in general–how people (and even elves), in time, fall out of love for reasons that love should prevent. Such is the ironic nature of love, especially when only one has fallen out of it. Those who made the film boil it down to what is likely the most concise and accurate: [It] “deals with time’s longest running battle: the power struggle between couples.”  I agree!  And, this quote by Henry Louis Mencken (included at the movie’s end)  is perhaps the best way to point it out: “Love is like war; very easy to begin, but very hard to stop” Indeed it is!

“What’s the moral to this fairy tale?” you ask.  It could be all or any of a number I can imagine.  It is an aspect of all happiness to suppose that we deserve it, as supposed by Himo.  But, ultimately here, “The [heroine] is brave in deeds as well as words.” The ironic self-destruction that comes to those who are greedy and superficial is another message that is obvious.  Underestimating those more powerful is one of the worst mistakes we can make.
“Boom. Magic.” ~ Tallulah
The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad has already been selected to screen at a number of film festivals; it’s also been nominated for as many awards, including best make-up, costumes, and art direction.  I have a feeling it will receive many more before it’s over.  Recently, I read an interview with Claire Wasmund in which she was asked what inspired her to become a filmmaker. “An overwhelming desire for immortality,” was Claire’s answer. I like that. It’s the reason I do what I do too. Living on in the legacy we leave is the best any of us can do to be immortal. With her latest film, Claire is already well on her way to that immortality.

The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad is a beautiful new fairy tale, told with all the feeling and effect of an older classic–a fifteen minute short film, with all the punch of a longer feature.  It was produced by a cast and crew totally dedicated to the work and bound for the success they achieved.  Unlike youth and sometimes love, this one is sure to stand the test of time. :) 

Visit The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad blogspot:

See and “Like” The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad on Facebook by clicking here!

Check out Claire Wasmund on Twitter too–a great one to follow! @ClaireLWasmund

T.G.C. Films and Longlost Pictures present The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad, Starring Fernando Noor, Melissa Malan, Tristan Scott-Behrends, and Malia Miglino, Written and Directed by Claire Wasmund, Story by Claire Wasmund and Fernando Noor, Edited by Longlost Pictures (Lex Benedict and Greg Cruser), Original music composed by Brandon K. Verrett, Production Design by Lex Benedict, Greg Cruser, Fernando Noor, and Claire Wasmund, Art Direction by Caley Bisson, “Tallulah Pastel” by Elizabeth Lee, Special Effects by Greg Cruser,  Costumes by Lex Benedict, Jewelry by Betsey Benedict, Special Effects Makeup by Laura Lieffring and Tokiko Inoue, Music Featuring Soprano Ashley Burkett

Watch the demo reel of Claire Wasmund’s awesome directing work below! Included are scenes from The Tale of the Heroine & the Cad. In just under five minutes, it’s easy to see the magic in all of Claire’s work. Enjoy! :)

Monday, August 20, 2012


Here it is, all you Space Jockey explorers of superstellar cinema!  It's "the long-awaited, final trailer for the Louisville, Kentucky based action comedy Billy Inaction"--written and directed by Jimmy Humphrey!  It's a full-length feature, coming to DVD this fall, along with its companion piece Painwheel: The Making of a Movie Called Billy Inaction.

"What's it all about?" you ask.  The best way to answer that is to use quotes from the movie creators themselves. Meet the colorful characters below, and you'll see what I mean.  Each one is featured on his/her very own Billy Inaction movie poster.  Together, in order, they even spell the movie's title--Billy Inaction!  How cool is that?  Off the Space Jockey Rocket Meter already, I say.

Billy Duckett as himself – “Ruthless. Truthless. Nearly Toothless. Did we mention he’s the hero? While waiting in line for a new video game release, slacker Billy Duckett get’s more than he bargained for as destiny steps in and hits the select button, changing his life in ways he could never imagine.”

Jimmy Humphrey as The Ringmaster – “Twisted and hellbent on revenge after years in the circus, the villainous Ringmaster plots a foul reign on the city and especially it’s mayor. Little does our hero Billy Duckett know how he fits into all of this… he takes center stage in the Ringmaster’s vengeful sideshow.”

Rocko Jerome as himself – “In control of the deadly southside mob, crime boss and Kung-fu master Rocko Jerome vows to destroy his elusive rival Gustav Monyar. Little does Rocko know that Gustav has an ace up his sleeve in the guise of the unsuspecting Billy Duckett.” I know Rocko Jerome personally, and he’s no man to mess with! Trust me! Rocko means business!

Theresa Plappert as Miss Kitka – “Dangerous and beautiful, Miss Kitka, the world’s foremost female Russian assassin plays all angles. Hired by Rocko Jerome to handle some loose ends, not even Kitka could foresee whose side she’ll be on when the last body drops.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I have a particular fascination with female Russian spies–who are invariably sexy.  Are there any exceptions here?  Absolutely not!  Theresa Plappert as Miss Kitka already has the part nailed with her appearance alone.  From here, it can only get much better! Miss Kitka even has her own sexy action figure already. Check it out!

Roni Jonah and Ashley Brightwell as The Siamese Twins – “The deadly Siamese Twins are the left and right hand to the villainous Ringmaster. Swearing their allegiance to the defunct Red Triangle Circus, the twins aid in a dastardly plot to destroy the mayor and kidnap a certain well-known talk show host.” Do Siamese Twins really get any sexier than this pair of undercover operatives? Absolutely not! A beautiful couple like this up to no good spells only one word–D-A-N-G-E-R!  Look out, but look often at this dynamic duo, as they will surely command attention!

Matt Goodlett as Jeff Brisco – “As the much beleaguered number one guy to Gustav Monyar, Brisco is about to hatch a plan that the mob boss won’t be able to resist. But Brisco discovers he’s opened a Pandora’s box of mayhem when that plan involves the hapless Billy Duckett.”
Finally, in case you’re having trouble putting all those letters in line to see the title, below is the fantastic final poster for the film!  Way cool, again!

Finally, in case you’re having trouble putting all those letters in line to see the title, below is the fantastic final poster for the film!  Way cool, again!

When I say it doesn’t get any better than this, I mean it! With Billy Inaction, there’s a little (or, I should say a lot) of everything that everyone wants in the best of action/comedy films–sexy women, dastardly villains, unlikely heroes, ruthless henchmen, a killer plot, and sexy women. Did I say sexy women twice? Good! I meant to! No, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but knowing what I do, I have the highest expectations…and anticipations!  This Space Jockey, for one, will be there the night it premieres! A full review will follow, of course. Don’t miss it, and check back for updates on the movie, the DVD, and everything Billy! In the meantime, plotting and playing the possibilities in your mind, enjoy the awesome trailer below!

Visit Jimmy Humphrey on Facebook by clicking here!                                                 
Follow Jimmy on Twitter by clicking here!
See and “Like” The Billy Inaction (Finish this movie before I die!!!) Fan Page

I Eat Poop Films presents a Jimmy Humphrey film, Starring Billy Duckett, Theresa Plappert, Matt Goodlett, Rocko Jerome, Jimmy Humphrey, Shawn Coots, Brandon Ingram, Karen Condra, Roni Jonah, and Ashley Brightwell, Written and Directed by Jimmy Humphrey

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


If you suddenly needed to care, selflessly, for another—a family member, or perhaps even a sibling who had once cared for you—giving up most of your life in the process, could you do it? Could you return, repay, or at least, “mock” the kindness given to you? Before you say yes, stop and think. Do you really know yourself so well? Are there, perhaps, demons hidden within yourself you’ve only yet to meet? The Mockingbird is a short film by Rick Gawel that makes us consider, in a not so comfortable way, the most extreme albeit possible outcomes of such a need.

On second thought, “not so comfortable” is actually far too mild to describe the way The Mockingbird goes about confronting us with such possibilities. Horrific is actually more appropriate. “How?” you ask. Let’s begin with the beginning. A woman moves down a hallway, half awake, on her back, with overhead lights flashing by; an oxygen mask on her face, suggests she’s headed for emergency treatment somewhere, surely in a hospital. But, no! She’s being dragged by her feet! Where she’s being dragged and what’s about to happen are things I’m not about to tell. Let’s just say that it makes the unpleasantness above only child’s play.

Madelyn Kennedy (Rebecca Steer) is a twenty-something woman suddenly confronted with the need to care for her sister, Evelyn (Melissa Malan). Evelyn is a once strong and independent woman robbed of her autonomy by an accident—one leaving her paralyzed from the neck down, condemned to a life of helplessness, confined to a bed. Evelyn is a prisoner in her own body, while Madelyn becomes a prisoner in her own home, haunted by commitment, guilt, and desperation.

What is most interesting about The Mockingbird is the in-your-face confrontation with transformation—deterioration into madness and the worst of what is human. With this change comes questions that involve us all; as viewers, we become as much a part of the story as Madelyn and Evelyn. Is the change the result of one susceptible individual becoming what few of us could? Or, are we too arrogant and vain to see the truth? Is it, instead, the result of forces grating on the senses to the point that any of us could become a monster? Is it, in fact, the rearing of an ugly nastiness, latent in us all, ready to spring forth and make us behave just as badly, beyond our control? Yes, what made me feel even more horrified was the thought of not really knowing myself—in the sense that inexperience makes it impossible. Setting aside what you think you know, and all of your most hopeful expectations, do you really know yourself? The Mockingbird makes us ask all these questions and more.

Rebecca Steer is an actress I have not seen before, but she plays her part as Madelyn with all the force necessary to give the movie its punch. Rebecca transforms her character from a pleasant, likeable woman, submissive, but otherwise “normal” on the surface. As the movie progresses, Steer shows her true talent by progressing her character accordingly, with impressive realism. Oddly, she makes Madelyn’s changes believable as much as they are bizarre and disturbing.

Before you think the part of a paralyzed woman cannot be difficult to play, think again. Melissa Malan has the challenging job of making Evelyn afraid, not with movement of the body, but only through looks on her face and terror in her eyes. Malan did this well enough to make me afraid just watching her; she made me feel as though I was, like her, unable to move, unable to defend myself, unable to do anything but be afraid. Without such a powerful performance as a bedridden character, The Mockingbird could not have been the success it is. Evelyn’s fear is a key part of The Mockingbird’s horror; Malan’s ability to communicate it to the viewer is what makes it real.

Director and editor Rick Gawel, along with cinematographers Tony Colon (and yes, Rick Gawel again), have created a horror film that stretches the boundaries of surreal cinema. As a reviewer, I must confess being partial to this type of film; however, with any objective view, The Mockingbird is a film that sets itself apart from others I’ve seen, visually as well as conceptually. Stark black and white, with strong highlights and high contrast, along with quivering overlapping images, gives the movie its surreal and most unique effect. Image shifts throughout intrude on the senses, unwelcome but imminent, forcing us, like Madelyn, to face the reality of human deterioration—physically as well as mentally. Bizarre camera angles make even reality seem unreal at times, helping to keep us unsure about objectivity, even when we assume it to be the case. With all the effects that Gawel and Colon deliver, the whole movie could be a nightmare…or so we think. Making us think again, however, we sense somehow that it’s not.

Added to these horrific visuals is a soundtrack that nearly drove me nuts—or should I say, as mad as the man in “The Telltale Heart.” Yes, I definitely should. A slow, pulsing repetition of noise (not music), grating on the nerves, making me want to turn it off. Before you think it’s a bad thing, think again. Like it or not, it’s a good thing here. This is a horror movie! Horrific, uncomfortable sound is delivered here with annoying perfection. I wanted it to stop, but it wouldn’t; I wanted to mute it, but I wouldn’t do that either, even though I could. Instead, I gave the movie every opportunity to make me uncomfortable; fitting with the story, it did that very well—as easily as a rope chokes a throat, a knife cuts the flesh, or any other thing causes pain, such as it does in The Mockingbird.

With the amount of special effects in The Mockingbird, no review could be complete without applauding Jenni Schenk—the one in charge of makeup and special effects. Blood and gore effects are not only copious, but just as copiously well done. Black and white, while toning it down, doesn’t allow for skipping quality…and Schenk doesn’t skip. With lesser talent, The Mockingbird might never have flown.

Never fear! There’s a lot more in The Mockingbird to fluff your feathers. There are nurses who draw blood—lots of it—and don’t wear shoes. Yes, they don’t wear shoes! Why? Who knows, but it’s another of the nightmarish details I like. Just like a dream, it just is. When it would make more sense for them to wear shoes, they don’t. There’s also a being with no name, possibly more important than we know. I can only guess who he might be. Do the same yourself, and see what you think. And, there are…well, lots of other things I won’t talk about here. Just watch the movie!

Oh! “What is the significance of The Mockingbird, as a title?” “What does it mean?” you ask? I’ll only say enough to be cryptic until you’ve see the movie. It is, I think, about punishment—how penance, in its most devastating yet effective way, is like a Mockingbird in its ability to imitate. The presence of such connections is another quality that makes The Mockingbird soar above the ordinary horror flick. There are metaphors to be found; rather than being disproved, they are talked about, living beyond the movie’s screen time, becoming something much greater.

The Mockingbird premiered at the Viaduct Theater in Chicago on August 6, 2011, as a part of the very first Herbivore Productions film fest—Herbi-Palooza 2011. It’s a 41-minute short film that packs all the punch of a full-length feature; it’s also the third film in Gawel's "Tortured Girl" trilogy. This is the first of these films I’ve seen, but, from the force of this one alone, I’ll be seeking out the others. The Mockingbird has style, scares, and suspense to spare, with surrealism that truly transcends reality—a Space Jockey favorite, easily!

With only one of Rick Gawel’s movies watched, I am already a fan of his work, looking forward to what else he produces. Herbivore Productions has found a unique niche in horror cinema; ironically, it’s at the top of the food chain in its niche, with not another plant eater larger than itself. At the heart of this herbivore is the human condition, haunting us with all its darkest possibilities. Is there a Madelyn lurking somewhere in us all? A possible horror for any of us of us is all the more horrific for all of us. With The Mockingbird, Gawel and Colon remind us of that, from beginning to end…from each bloody nightmare to every bloodier reality.

Starring Rebecca Steer, Melissa Malan, Joelle Weber, Kasey O'Brien, Steve Ruppel, David McNulty, and Brenda Arsenault, Directed and Edited by Rick Gawel, Cinematography by Tony Colon and Rick Gawel, Written by Melissa Malan and Rick Gawel, Produced by Brenda Arsenault, Makeup and Special Effects by Jenni Schenk, A Presentation of Herbivore Productions

Visit the Herbivore Productions website at
Visit Herbivore Productions on Facebook at
Visit Herbivore Productions on Twitter at

The Mockingbird Trailer

A Scene from The Mockingbird


Below is a great interview with actress Rebecca Steer who plays the part of Madelyn Kennedy. True to her character's condition, Rebecca is paralyzed and bedridden, complete with her oxygen mask. If you're not interested yet, check out the subtitled interview question! Enjoy! :)


Tuesday, August 7, 2012


 “I was never really afraid of being alone, until being alone meant not being with her.”
Stephen King suggests that Hell is repetition in his short story, “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French”.  The story is about a woman who is forced to repeat the first hours of her and her husband’s doomed second honeymoon over and over.  I have often considered Hell to be exactly that myself—the monotony of the same thing happening again and again, made worse by the fact that you know the doomed outcome in advance.  Sisyphus and the Rose—the new independent film by Matt Goodlett and Jimmy Humphrey—makes me think of that Stephen King story and exactly what Hell could very well be.

I was recently invited to a screening of Sisyphus and the Rose in my own hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.  In attendance were the writer, the director and editor, along with the actors and production crew.  I admit that I went to the movie knowing nothing about it (not even the general plot), with no expectations.  I planned to have at least an evening with friends, and to meet a few more, no matter how the movie turned out.  I left not only with more than expected from the film, but also another movie well worth featuring here on Space Jockey Reviews.  I was pleasantly surprised with a movie that transcends its budget to be something much larger.

Sisyphus and the Rose begins with the main character, Parker (Matt Goodlett), in his bathroom brushing his teeth.  From his face, we see he’s disturbed and unsettled about something, as the camera closes in on a ring on a chain around his neck.  “My face is a road map of who I am and what I’ve become,” we hear with Parker’s voice-over narration. Who he is, what he’s become, and maybe, more importantly, who he was are questions explored in Sisyphus and the Rose.  The answers, although not given to us directly, are certainly worth thinking about and trying to find.

Parker is a common man, ordinary and forgettable, yet unique and outstanding in his banality.  He is a man obsessed with the memory of a loved one lost—to what we don’t yet know, if we ever do.  He misses her to the point of being next to dysfunctional and nearly detached from society.  He has no interest in dating, despite his opportunities, and compares all women to the woman he loved most—Samantha.
“Without her in my life tomorrow, all I have are yesterdays.” ~ Parker
The foreboding soundtrack by Dennis Stein reminds us that the story is a nightmare of sorts throughout, even when joy should be felt—even when the moment without music would make us feel happy and hopeful. The low, ominous tone of the score makes us feel that something bad has already happened, as much as it leads us to think the same about the future; even memories that should be pleasant are disturbing.  I’m thinking of the scene in the park where Parker has just proposed to Samantha.  Stein’s music captures the ominous tone of the story and hangs on, even when it could be lost, saying “Not so fast!” as we want to rejoice.  The wrong music would lead us the wrong way, but Stein’s score keeps us on track, maintaining the mood, making us participate by being, like Parker, uncomfortable.

Matt Goolett, the writer, also plays the part of Parker—the melancholy man unwilling to face his future.  Goodlett gives Parker just the right tone of behavior—a detachment from reality, with despair and hopelessness projected from his eyes, as well as the looks on his face.  Goodlett’s performance is the key that tightly locks the necessary elements into place.  He portrays Parker, with perfection, as a pensive personality—one of tormenting thoughts—overwrought, and complicated, but shallow in his view of the world.  Goodlett makes Parker someone we can identify with in some way, while we seek to distance ourselves from his type altogether; he makes Parker a man who once was normal but is no longer.  All of this that Goodlett does so well is what Sisyphus and the Rose could not have done without.  Kudos to Goodlett for delivering just the right main character in his own movie!

Casandre Elyse Medel is an actress I have not seen before, but she is one I expect to see many times more soon enough.  She has a gift for acting, and her performance in Sisyphus and the Rose was a true joy to watch.  Medel is as natural in her performance as the girl next door type she portrays.  As Lily and Samantha, Medel adds total believability to the story. She never seems to be acting; instead, she is always Lilly or Samantha, as we imagine they should be, even though we never knew them.  Medel is captivating in every scene she’s in, because she plays her part with a passion that represents life.  Lilly is the beautiful, hopeful element of the story, contrasting with the ugliness of despair; Medel captures this beauty perfectly, offering just the relief necessary in a movie that could otherwise be overwhelming in its oppressiveness.  Medel, her characters, and the life she breathes into them, are exactly what’s needed in the story; with lesser talent, Sisyphus and the Rose would have, like its namesake, been unable to reach the top of the hill.
“It’s more like the absurdity of life, or living life no matter how absurd it is and making the best of it, just being happy—the paradox of the absurdity of life.” ~ Lilly
Although beauty is not required for an actress to be effective, Medel’s exceptional beauty adds another essential element that makes Sisyphus and the Rose exactly what it needs to be.  Lilly’s striking beauty is part of what makes the mental torture experienced by Parker seem all the greater and more effective for the story.  Each time Parker turns Lilly down or avoids her advances, there is a certain frustration felt.  As a viewer, we wonder why and think all the more to find reasons.  It doesn’t seem right, and it doesn’t make sense, but it happens anyway.  This has the added effect of creating greater depth to Parker’s character, as we consider the growing intricacies of who he is.  Is Parker really the calm, harmless albeit confused man he appears to be?  Or, is he perhaps someone more sinister—someone with a much darker past?  Is he turning Lilly down because of guilt, fear, or because he has no choice?  Is Lilly herself a punishment—a desire that must be forever refused?

There is a definite comparative symbolism in the name Lilly (as a funeral flower) and the rose in Lilly’s hair and the movie’s title.  Lilly wearing a rose, in my interpretation, symbolizes life as well as death, complicated by love.  She represents the duality of themes, as well as the repetitive omen that she arguably and ironically is.  Several times, Lilly readjusts the rose in her hair, as if to repeatedly tempt Parker, metaphorically, with a new beginning.  However, she is one so dearly loved that she cannot be loved again; the thought of a repetitive torture, knowing the end, may be too great for Parker to bear.  Again, I think of more questions.  Is a beginning with a promise worth taking, only to be damned to know the end?  Is Lilly a ghost? Is she really as she appears to Parker?  Or, to the contrary, is Parker somehow happy, regardless of how he seems, regardless of what affects him? Is he, like Lilly describes Sisyphus, possibly happy, giving it “tons of meaning.”  Yes, these are yet more questions we are left to think about—questions we are left with, long after the movie is over.

One of the many things I so like about Sisyphus and the Rose is that it’s a metaphor for life in general—the pains and joys, and how they are so entangled and complicated, sometimes cancelling out one another in the process of happening.  In other words, are the joys of life worth experiencing with the pains they necessarily involve?  Is love worth having when it must end with death for sure, breakups too often, divorce possibly…or perhaps even murder?  Yes, even murder here is a possibility that cannot be ruled out as much as it can also not be proven.

Of course, a review of Sisyphus and the Rose could not be complete without mentioning the significance of the reference to Sisyphus—the avaricious and deceitful king from Greek mythology.  Yes, King Sisyphus was not exactly the most likeable of people. According to Greek mythology, he killed travelers and guests, in violation of the rules of Zeus himself.  Sisyphus is said to have not only killed people, but also to have enjoyed it.  It is said that he did this in order to maintain power through the force of fear.  For his crimes, Sisyphus was sentenced to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down, just as it would have reached the top.  Or, as Lilly says, “He was doomed to a life of meaningless labor.”  Yes, this metaphor is an integral part of Sisyphus and the Rose, suggesting ever-important possibilities for meaning.  Is Sam, like Sisyphus, being punished for something terrible he has done—yes, perhaps even for killing Samantha?  Is this punishment imagined and born of guilt, or is it perhaps visiting him in the form of Lilly, an avenging spirit herself?  Or, is Parker perhaps avoiding his Sisyphus-themed punishment by resisting the temptation to begin anew with Lilly? (If that is the case, it is interesting how it demonstrates an ironic inability to escape yet the repetition of a painful opportunity—effectively still leaving no escape.)  These are questions that cannot be answered with certainty, but the possibilities are part of what makes Sisyphus and the Rose all more intriguing as a movie.  After all, the experiences and answers are, I believe, as subjective for Parker as they are for the viewer.

Sisyphus and the Rose was written by Matt Goodlett.  I had not met Matt before seeing the movie, but I did talk to him about the movie afterwards.  As for the multiple interpretations, Matt said, “Whatever you take away from it is correct.  I wanted to leave it open to interpretation. Did her ailment do her in, did he kill her, or did she just leave him and he is that crazy?  I never wanted that to be clearly defined.  Any way you slice it though, it kind of falls into that horror sub category.  I love Edgar Allan Poe, and I guess I wanted it to kind of have that feel.”

I also love Edgar Allan Poe, and I must say that I did get a distinct Poe feel with Sisyphus and the Rose.  Parker is a man haunted by the death of a lover, and tormented by fears and realities, existing possibly only in his mind.  This, along with the resulting mood of despair and hopelessness produced exactly the type of Poe feel Goodlett aspired to create. “Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.’”

Sisyphus and the Rose was directed and edited by Jimmy Humphrey. (Humphrey also stars in the movie as Parker’s friend at the bar—the one who sets him up with Lilly.)  I had met Humphrey prior to seeing this film, but was unfamiliar with his work.  However, I must say that I was blown away by his directing talents, after seeing Sisyphus and the Rose.  A variety of camera angles, all setting the perfect mood for the movie, along with flawless editing and lighting is what made the film what it could not have been without a person of his talent—a success!  I must stress the effect of the lighting in this movie that gives it the perfect somber, melancholy feel.  It takes a director like Humphrey to make a movie like this work, and he certainly did it.  Again, I expect that we’ll be seeing lots more of Humphrey’s work soon enough, as his talent will, no doubt, make it happen.  I certainly plan to feature more of his work on Space Jockey Reviews!

In the end, after considering the movie, the metaphors, the symbolism, and all other elements, I will at least try to boil it down to interpretation that fits in a nutshell.  To me, Parker is the obvious Sisyphus and Lilly with her rose is Parker’s boulder.  Although he can resist new beginnings, he cannot stop the opportunities, the frustration, and all the miserable consequences tantamount to pushing his burden up a hill, only to fall back down again.  Such are the best laid plans of mice, Parker, and Sisyphus.

By now, (or long before) you may have wondered how I can ask so many questions, provide so few answers, and properly review a movie.  The answer is easy, if you haven’t figured it out already, or if I haven’t in some way said it earlier.  Sisyphus and the Rose is a movie that is about making you think, making you ask the questions, and find answers for yourself.  It’s a thinking man’s (and woman’s) movie that puts your mind in overdrive and never lets up.  It doesn’t tell you the answers, but does give you the clues to decide for yourself.  Watch the movie in its entirety below, but don’t expect to be done with it when it’s over.  As the credits roll, it’s only the beginning…again.

Visit Matt Goodlet, Art on Facebook by clicking here! See Matt on Twitter by clicking here!  Check out Matt on Tumblr by clicking here!

See Casandre Elyse Medel’s website by clicking here!  Visit Casandre on Facebook by clicking here! (There’s GREAT music on her website too! Trust me!)

Visit Jimmy Humphrey on Facebook by clicking here!  See Jimmy on Twitter by clicking here!

Starring Matt Goodlett, Casandre Elyse Medel, Jimmy Humphrey, and Luna in Exile, Extras Theresa Plappert, Ethan Fleming, Groucho P. Trout, Jess McMillan, Kelli Baumgarten  Written by Matt Goodlett, Directed by Jimmy Humphrey, Edited by Jimmy Humphrey, Additional Crew Brandon Ingram and Conrad Newman, Original Score by Dennis Stein, “Bad Design” performed by Today the Moon, Tomorrow, the Sun, Produced by Birds of a Feather Films In Association with ieatpoop films