Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mali Elfman's multi-genre, hotel-room grab-bag DO NOT DISTURB debuts via VOD

Setting your movie in a single hotel room in which various stories play out is not particularly original. A few years back, a little film called Room 314 did exactly this quite successfully (artistically, at least; the box-office was not set ablaze), though its stories all revolved around love and relationships. In her new film DO NOT DISTURB, writer/
producer/actress Mali Elfman (shown below, in character, from the film's bloodiest episode) bundles a bunch of disparate tales that jump from genre to genre into an easy-to-view attraction that's alternately creepy, amusing, surprising and fun.

The movie also (perhaps this was part of its raison d'etre) gives some up-and-coming actors, as well as newcomers, the chance to work, while offering others -- the better-known Eric Balfour, for instance -- the opportunity to try their hand at writing and/or directing.

As an example of on-the-job training, the movie works pretty well. The episodes complement and contrast with each other interestingly, none falls below the required professional level, and at least half the output here is quite a bit better than merely professional.

Mr. Balfour directs the first episode, Duccios Madonna, which initially looks like a sex-for-hire tale but becomes something- else-for-hire. He guides his three actors well -- Harris Goldberg (above), Maureen Flannigan and Diva Zappa (the latter provides the very odd connecting tissue for the episodes) -- positions his camera properly and keeps the off-kilter comic tone on target. The writing, smart and believable, is by Christie Ko.

The hunky Mr. Balfour (above, left) stars, along with an adorable and sexy blond named Lindsey Pulsipher (above, right) in the second episode, Rocketman, from writer/director Petro Papahadjopoulos, which appears to have channeled some of the content of the under-rated Species 2. This one, quite short, is pretty much a one-idea concoction, but the idea is fun, the actors enjoyable, and the writing/direction competent -- so the thing works well enough, leading us to...

the sweetest of the five films, Prom, written and directed by Laura Henry, in which a gay high-schooler and his two best female friends discover that he's going to be sharing the room with the high-school football hero. The two boys, very nicely played by Jonathan Majors (above, left) and John Reese (above, right) -- are initially wary, but what happens between them is lovely and surprising.

The fourth (Intrinsic) and fifth (Death Takes a Holiday Inn) segments are actually part of the same story: a new young couple enters the hotel room for what looks like some hanky-panky, but then.... No spoilers here. Jon-Mann Krieger wrote and directed Intrinsic, while Brandon Nicholas did the same for Death Takes in Holiday Inn, which is a kind of continuation of the first part, but with a layer of surreal/what-if added to the mix. The two work relatively seamlessly, with that maid, played by Ms Zappa (above, right, with Jason Alan Smith), again coming to the fore. As an actress she doesn't gives us much more than a couple of expressions (that's all these scripts seem to call for), but she certainly possesses charisma and a definite strength that is memorable. The always-fine Troy Garity (below) also makes a welcome appearance, as a gangster queasy at the sight of blood.

The weakest sections by far are the beginning and occasional return-to scenes set below-stairs where the chambermaids work (or don't -- as they seem to prefer anything but).  The writing, acting and direction in these segments are just not up to the level of the individual stories, but thankfully this is the least important part of the movie, which made its debut via VOD this past Sunday, and can be seen to good advantage on  Amazon Instant Video, Microsoft X-Box Zune, and various cable outlets. Apple iTunes will be getting it eventually, and you can SAVE it to your Netflix queue. Click here to view the complete listing of where and how you can see Do Not Disturb.

The movie is actually quite a good example of why VOD is a growing market for movie-watching. If I had to recommend this film for those going out for an evening and paying the $13 price (plus transportation) that most NYC theaters now charge, I might have second thoughts.  But I have no qualms about recommending it on VOD, where the price is considerably cheaper and you can view in the comfort of your own home.

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