Sunday, May 3, 2009

Bardwell's SKEPTIC: old-fashioned combo of scares, psychology and Tim Daly

With only two films to his credit, writer/director/producer Tennyson Bardwell has done a nearly complete about-face from his earlier gay-coming-out comedy, the generally enchanting Dorian Blues to his new one, THE SKEPTIC, a modern ghost story to which Bardwell has given a very old-fashioned feel. He has also added some fairly adept psychology to the mix, in which lead actor Tim Daly, playing a non-nonsense lawyer, learns some important things about himself and his past as the movie meanders down its not-uninteresting pathway.

Set in upstate New York during those lush fall colors and peopled with a cast of slightly oddball characters that include a gorgeous young woman (Zoe Saldana) who appears a perfect receptacle for other-worldly communication, a sweet priest (Robert Prosky), a professor (Bruce Altman) who may or may not believe in the supernatural and -- best of all -- Tom Arnold, giving yet another varied and excellent performance (he also sports a nice punk haircut) as Daly's best friend and law partner.

Though running just under 90 minutes, the film seems almost leisurely as it unspools, offering an old house, odd sights and sounds, wind out of nowhere that blows out the candles, and many other cliches from the genre. That we don't laugh aloud or beat a retreat has a lot to do with the acting on display, generally better than we're used to in films of this sort. Daly's done mostly television but he also starred in one of the best and most overlooked romantic comedies of the last decade, Seven Girlfriends. Here, he's quite game, hitting all his marks -- from disbelief to terror to a kind of bereft sadness -- beautifully. This actor is particularly adept at playing not-so-likeable guys you end up rooting for. Saldana brings great looks and some sass to her role, and Arnold, as I say, is simply terrific: funny, quirky, caring and always real.

Bardwell may be just treading water here, so I look forward to his next outing. If he hasn't given us much new, he's put some old warhorses to decent use and managed to combine ghosts and shrinks (Edward Hermann doing a nice turn) to good effect. His ending seems both sad/inevitable and open-ended. Either way, it's believable (if you can tolerate the idea of ghosts, that is) -- and fun.


IFC Films is releasing THE SKEPTIC via its IFC in Theaters platform. Beginning April 29th the film will be available nationwide on-demand for three months. In addition, the film will have exclusive week-long theatrical engagements in New York (May 1st at the IFC Center); Albany (May 8th at The Spectrum) and Los Angeles (May 15th at the Music Hall).

THE SKEPTIC is actually one of several genre movies that IFC Films will be releasing over the coming months -- horror, science fiction, erotic arthouse and action cinema. The company plans to build on its recent success with such interesting genre fare such as THE LAST WINTER and BLACK SHEEP and so will release more than 30 IFC Midnight titles in 2009 across its theatrical and on-demand platform, giving exposure to films that have premiered at major festivals such as Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, AFI, SXSW and more.

IFC recently announced theatrical release dates for two of these: the Toronto Film Festival horror favorite PONTYPOOL (May 29th) and the Sundance hit DEAD SNOW (June 12th). Its complete IFC Midnight on-demand lineup for April, May and June with include a range of movies such as the crime thriller THE CHASER; the Cannes Film Festival favorite FRONTIER OF DAWN; the erotic drama A’LAVENTURE; the horror-thriller HUSH; the psychological thriller DARK MIRROR; the gore-fest CADAVER; the psychological thriller FEAR ME NOT and the erotically charged DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC (which I can't seem to find on the IMDB).

TrustMovies will try to cover at least some of these in the days/weeks/months to come....

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