ON MAY 29 | IN MOVIE REVIEWS | BY MICHAEL PARSONS | WITH NO COMMENTS
3 ½ out of 5 stars
“The only thing that ever got in crime’s way were the criminals”.
Stone-faced crime boss Theresa James (R & B artist/actress Tia Dae) delivers a lengthy allocution on criminal behavior to Marcell (Dominique Spencer), an underling who has unknowingly been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar. Her words are wise, even poetic, though it seems like an awful lot of wisdom (and creativity) to waste on someone who’s about to get waxed. “Welcome to your future,” she says as he meets his demise.
thickIt’s to be expected, I suppose. These guys never seem to pick up on insinuation, even when they know they’ve messed up (an exception would be the guy from “Lethal Weapon 2” who wanted to make sure he wasn’t standing on plastic when summoned into the boss’s office). And almost invariably, the turgid speech that precedes their punishment serves only to emphasize the unhealthy ego of the speaker – often an overblown or cartoonish villain with little substance to their words.
If “Thick” starts off looking a touch self-important, it quickly finds its equilibrium within the stage-worthy performances and a script that has something to say. Dae’s monotone Theresa is less sinister than pragmatic, possibly a metaphor for the country’s pre-occupation with work and financial stress, among other things. She fits the bill as the steely-eyed crime boss, virtually disconnected from anything that might distract her or expose a weakness. Her position, as we see, is a precarious one, and somewhere beneath the virtually expressionless demeanor lies a deep-seated paranoia, which bubbles over when her wife Roni (Pascale Piquion) shows even the slightest hint of independence.
The film is part “The L Word”, part “King of New York”, and Dae’s character, who is both protagonist and antagonist, owes a little something to Christopher Walken’s Frank White, who occasionally liked to unload his intellectual side on a disloyal employee or two before burying them with their betrayal money. But this ain’t the ’80s, and a relatively meager $500,000 in “get out” money stashed in Theresa’s house suggests that times are tough, even for less legitimate business enterprises.
Scheming employees, dirty cops, and a deteriorating personal life are part of this nasty equation. Trusted advisor “Lefty” Eggleston (Ronald Benson-El) plots to take over the empire while assassin Nina (Chaseedaw Giles) plans to run off with Roni , with whom she’s been having an affair. And the crooked detectives in Theresa’s pocket (Caleb Jackson and Mick McGuire) are looking for an early out, and a hefty retirement package to boot.
It might sound like it’s gearing up for a finale like “True Romance”, but “Thick” is definitely more chess match than bloodbath. The characters, though, are no less cut-throat than in more violent contemporary urban crime dramas. Save a few requisite executions, which are carried out in shadowy Washington, DC area settings like a sewer tunnel or in the back seat of a car, we mostly watch our characters manipulating their way to what they want. Local writer/directors Cheryl Brown and Anthony M. Greene (“The Henchman’s War”) have crafted something that looks like a CliffsNotes for an HBO drama series, tightly cinched in a 70-minute package. The micro-budgeted “Thick” covers a lot of ground while never appearing overly ambitious, with fine editing by Omar Juarez (who is also the cinematographer) and Manuel Santos. There are many earmarks of a great crime saga here, and it will be interesting to see if Brown and Greene revisit the material.
about the author: michael parsons
Husband. Father. Ex-salesperson. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema. During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”). The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis. Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment. A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It’s been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving. Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues. (Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).
I really gotta make updating this a priority BUT I am here to play catchup. Now the last time we spoke, Anthony Greene’s “THICK” had already screened I believe twice … BUT here is some news for you … THICK since then has screened 2 more times! Again in Washington, D.C at Busboys and Poets (dope ass spot) and we brought it to screen in my hometown, Baltimore, M.D at the Landmark Theater, downtown HarborEast! It was a sold-out crowd in DC & and a sizable one at the Baltimore screening!
“Busboys and Poets
As far as whats next for “THICK” … you’ll just have to stay tuned ! But as always thank you everyone for your time and support on this fantastic production. I have attended every screening for the film and the response has been phenomenal! We cannot thank you enough!
And if you haven’t seen the trailer you can check it out below. In the film I play the role of “Marcel”. Also check out the “Skyrocket Productions” film page for updates pertaining to “THICK” and other productions out of their camp https://www.facebook.com/SkyrocketProductions .
THICK Trailer 2014
Above is the alternative Theatrical Poster for Anthony Greene’s Feature length Crime-Thriller “Thick“. In the film I play the role of “Marcell”. As always #Staytuned for updates regarding this production. Also, if you havent already like the production company’s Official Facebook page at:https://www.facebook.com/SkyrocketProductions. Not to mention if you havent already “Like” my Facebook page as well at:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Actor-Dominique-Antonio-Spencer/104852579588294 . Thank you everyone for your time and support!
Above you can watch the Official Kickstarter campaign video for Don Barzegelli’s Webseries: When Life Gives You Lemons ! In this video you can see our vision for the series, whos involved, and what we need from you guys !
Here is a quick synopsis of the series:
This tale will take audience members on a comedic, action-packed adventure with Lou, Zip and various other “characters” met along the way. When Life gives you lemons follows the uncanny lives of two fellas dealing Lemonade, Lou and Zip. After the Local Drug Kingpin leaves on business Lou must fill his shoes, and watch this kingpin’s block.Lou reacquaints himself with the grungy, grimy dangerous game of hustling lemonade and faces everyday problems similar to that of the modern day drug cartel. Lou is suddenly plunged into a world of conflicts from the dilemma of being controlled by a powerful hierarchy, to chasing down his boss’s schizo sister. Meanwhile Zip’s devastating past as an addict constantly haunts him, as he struggles to adapt to this new environment; and to top it off an elite group of Federal gun yielding FDA agents start to track the cartel’s every move, and will stop at nothing to end this Sinister Syndicate! In the series I will be playing in the recurring role of “Eric”.
** This project contains mild violence, suggestive sexual content, suggestive drug use, and mild language. **
For more information regarding this webseries PLEASE visit the link to the series’ Kickstarter page at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1561809136/when-life-gives-you-lemons Here you can see EVERYTHING ! We REALLY NEED YOUR HELP GUYS TO GET THIS SERIES UP AND RUNNING ! Thank you for your time guys !
You can also check out the teaser trailer for the series below as well:
“When Life Gives You Lemons” Teaser Trailer
Dominique Antonio Spencer
The first official trailer for Anthony Greene’s Thriller “THICK”/ Cast & Crew Photos at the 2013 R.I.F.E film Festival !
Official Trailer 2014
Be sure to visit my Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Actor-Dominique-Spencer/104852579588294 to see the first official trailer for Anthony Greene’s Thriller “THICK” You can also see the trailer above as well ! You can check out the current theatrical poster “as seen above” for the film as well =) As always you can check back here for updates on the films production OR you can check in at the film’s Official Facebook Fan Page at: Please watch it, enjoy it, love it ! #THICK In the film you can see me in the role of “Marcel”
Im just playing catchup here and filling you guys in on what happened late last year! Well you all remember me blogging about AGreene’s Thriller “THICK”! Well it had its first screening at last years #RIFE film festival. For those who may not know what RIFE stands for, its short for “Reel Independent Film Extravaganza” ! Here numerous films are screened from all over the world, awards are given to films, and actors alike ! It is just a wonderful event that has been taken place for a number of years and is spearheaded by AGreenes production company “SkyRocket productions“! BUT theres more! The first screening of “THICK” was SOLDOUT as well as the Second Screening !! Frickin AWESOME !!I also have some pics of the cast/crew as well at the event(RIFE) for the films first screening ! Twas an awesome night and Im just thankful to have had the opportunity to be present !
Again #StayTuned for production updates regarding this film and check out some photos below of the cast and crew below !!
Dominique Antonio Spencer
Principal photography is officially wrapped for James Christopher’s crime/thriller short film “Clean Slate”. In the film ill be playing one of starring roles in the film as “Derrick Stevens”. 1st I want to give huge thanks to my bro and crazy talented actor Ronald Benson for mentioning me to our director and then my director for believing in me to deliver. Much love to the cast and an outstanding crew! As an actor you have expectations of how a set should be ran and this crew definetly was on their ps&qs. Everything seemed right and I learned so much from everyone. Keep an eye out for stills and info. On the film.
Blessed and thankful -Dominique
Below is the High Def Digest Film Review for Gary Ugarek’s Crime Thriller [All In The Game] starring Nelson Irizarry, Chris Clanton, Micaiah Jones, Kelvin Drama, Mike McMullin, Daniel Ross, and along with yours truly in the role of “Flash”. As always #StayTuned and #Enjoy
All in the Game (2011) (Blu-ray)
Self distributed disc / 2011 / Unrated
Street Date: December 27, 2011
List Price: $25.00 (Order direct from director Gary Ugarek!)
(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
|The Movie Itself|
|HD Video Quality|
|HD Audio Quality|
|Bottom Line||Worth a Look|
Reviewed by Nate Boss
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
After two ‘Deadlands’ films, writer/director Gary Ugarek takes a stab at a different genre with the crime drama ‘All in the Game.’ Made on a micro-budget of under two grand, this black and white flick feature is another noticeable step forward in terms of final product from the up and comer. While growing pains may still be visible from time to time, this first step away from flesh-eating fare is a tightly spun yarn that picks up plenty of steam as it barrels towards its finale.
Set on the streets of Baltimore, ‘All in the Game’ captures the the workings of a tightly nit group of drug dealers (Micaiah Jones and Chris Clanton from HBO’s ‘The Wire,’ Nelson Irizarry and Kelvin Page) as they begin their ascent to the big time. As they eliminate the competition, they soon find themselves up against Michael Caprisci (Mike McMullin), the top dog who isn’t quite ready to relinquish his crown. The bloody little war being waged behind closed doors is about to reach its apex, and there’s no telling who will be standing when the last bullet is fired.
For about the first thirty minutes of this 73 minute flick, I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely impressed or fully hooked. The characters weren’t quite clicking, nor did they do much to differentiate themselves from each other, and I started to wonder if the film would be like a zombie survival tale, in that we really don’t need much characterization, just a setup in which to tell the story. While some of the longer scenes, centered around a speech or two, were really well written and fun to listen to, they dragged the film’s pace down to a crawl, and needless to say, some of the acting proved to be a little uneven, especially in moments where one performer would sell the character and scene, while the other seemed to have a little trouble getting the right words out. A few mis-framed shots drew the eye, while the use of split-screen seemed a little excessive in its repetitiveness.
The thing about “All in the Game’ is that it ultimately overcomes these obstacles and provides a pretty darned fulfilling, enjoyable movie experience. It’s not like a switch is suddenly flipped, and we’re on to a new experience, but the bugs seem to work themselves out, the characters start to stand out better, and once we get to some torture scenes, we get to the real grit and grime that sells the game being played. The dialogue, which is always very natural feeling, starts to sound less forced, the action starts to feel like it matters, and the events that unfold start to connect the dots in a way that wasn’t all too clear in the beginning.
‘All in the Game’ operates at peak performance when we see the crew (led by Irizarry’s Ontario character) take it straight to the Caprisci family. When the former associates turned rivals face off, the stakes are raised significantly, and so is the drama and the brutality, with a number of memorable little sequences that pack a fun punch. The violence isn’t quite cartoonish (even with the budget limiting the possible effects, making for some very soft gun pops and cutaways to the recently departed), but it also isn’t quite brutal enough to make viewers uncomfortable with the content. The language on the other hand may not make many friends, as the racial tensions do lead to some words being said that may offend.
This third effort from Ugarek definitely impressed me, even with the aforementioned shortcomings. There is more change from his previous works here than just the lack of zombies and color, as this is his first film without a proper score, instead featuring a soundtrack. This is also the first Ugarek didn’t personally edit. On top of that, it’s also the first to feature recognizable faces. What is captured here for less money than I spend annually on Blu-rays definitely provides a solid payoff. I can only imagine if this film had a slightly bigger budget the small things that would have helped it be a little less noticeably independent…those little quirks that remind you that you’re watching someone putting his all into a film and letting the end result speak for itself.
‘All in the Game’ isn’t as viable as, say, the found footage features that took similar budgets and made hundreds of millions, but really…aren’t we tired of those damn films, anyways? This original crime story is definitely one that will grow on you…if you have the patience to get past the first act.
The Disc: Vital Stats
‘All in the Game’ is not found in any stores. Ugarek is currently selling the title on his website (www.wetnwildradio.com) on Blu-ray, DVD, and HD DVD for $25.00, shipped in the United States, and also has listings on eBay for the Blu-ray and DVD editions. The Blu-ray release is a limited edition of 100 copies, signed and numbered, and features cover art designed by HDD forum member Torrente! Like the pressings of the ‘Deadlands’ films, this title is highly likely to sell out fairly fast!
The disc itself is a Region A/B/C BD25 (BD-R), that has no-pre-menu content. The menu itself features a tab for extras, and a tab for the movie itself, though loading the extras page makes it function slow like a DVD. While there are three audio options, pressing the play button instructs you that you can access them through the alternate audio buttons on your Blu-ray remote. The packaging features information that was relevant to the HD DVD disc, concerning a second disc which wasn’t quite necessary on this Blu-ray to get all the content, so ignore the portion that states there is a second disc, as Ugarek has confirmed this is a typo.
Be sure to stay through the trailers for one extra scene. It’s a little bit of an anti-climax. Also, some of the images for this review were taken from the press kit for the film. There is not a single color scene in the film.
‘All in the Game’ comes to Blu-ray in 1080p using the MPEG-2 encode. The black and white film (made in color, with no obvious off colors to create b&w contrast, though some tweaking was admittedly done in post) honestly looks pretty damn good. I was fighting for a while between the score featured in this review, and a half star higher, and only aimed low because some of the nagging problems ultimately added up.
This disc defines inky black. I mean, spill a jar of ink all over your screen, rub against it like some kind of pervert, and you still won’t come close to the level of deep, obsidian awesomeness that this disc boasts. Detail levels fluctuate, but in may shots, there’s a wealth of detail in the characters, their skin and hair. It’s a little hit or miss, but when it’s on, it’s really something! Midrange shots can also look pretty damned solid.
Yes, this disc has some artifacting visible, including a few shots with a really bad banding effect (view the skies when the soundtrack gets a credit in the opening for an example). Sure, there’s some jaggies in diagonals here and there, like a sharp rail or a zipper, but for the most part, this issue is kept to a minimum. Grain levels jump back and forth a little bit, including times inside scenes with no lighting change, which is a little frustrating. The two biggest issues are the whites that are so bright that they’re borderline blown out, and the obvious fact that some shots, even after the tweaking to make the film look better in black and white, really don’t lend themselves to the two tone color palette. Trees and brick walls should not fuse, but this is not the fault of the disc. Another small issue I had was the sometimes shaky camera work that made it tougher to focus on some shots, but, again, not the disc’s fault.
‘All in the Game’ is a marked improvement over the previous two discs released by Ugarek on Blu-ray. Taking all things into consideration, it’s really an appreciable disc!
The audio for ‘All in the Game’ is the one area in which I was dissatisfied. There are two audio options, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track being the default for the disc. I’ll admit, there’s some nice separation at times, and pretty darn good dynamics, but that’s about all the niceties I can offer. For one, the disc is amazingly quiet, requiring me to crank up the levels on my receiver to get much volume coming out of the speakers. Dialogue and other elements sometimes blend, creating prioritization issues, while words can be a little difficult already. There are some audio sync issues, like the end of the three amigos torture scene, as his dialogue was way off in a number of shots, probably ones used from other takes to make a back and forth conversation using a single take’s verbal performance. There’s a good amount of breath on mics, and an entire scene that sounds like there’s not only a geiger counter nearby, but also some serious radiation to set it off. I’d say going into this release with no expectations for the sound may be the best thing.
Discs pressed after the copy I’m reviewing include an extra bonus teaser trailer, introducing the Littles character, similar to the teaser found here that spotlights the Lucky character.
Not every extra found here is also on the HD DVD disc, and said additions are noted.
- Audio Commentary – With director Gary Ugarek. This track is found by pressing the alternate audio button. G-Man discusses the change of pace, his casting coups, the N word and the discomfort of it all, legalities, projectile bats, and more. Ugarek is pretty open and honest about criticizing his own work. One of my complaints, the split screen, Ugarek doesn’t take credit for, so that helps me think higher of his work on the film! An informative track that doesn’t miss a beat, with a mix of anecdote and depth delving.
- Music Video (HD, 4 min) – Saint Anger’s You Heard Me. I’m proud that I was able to make it a minute into this one. HD DVD buyers did not get this extra. Tragedy, that.
- Teaser Trailer (HD, 1 min) – A redband trailer that sells Lucky in a Bear Jew kind of way.
- Original Day 1 Footage (with deleted scene) (HD, 1 min) – As Ugarek explains in the commentary, this footage was axed due to the actors not quite clicking with each other yet, reshot at the end of the shoot. This color footage makes for an interesting glimpse on what the film could have looked like sans filtering.
- More Day 1 Footage (deleted/reshoots) (HD, 4 min) – Four more minutes worth of axed first day footage, this portion not available on the HD DVD release. This is more alternate footage than anything else, but, again, color.
- The Three Amigo’s Torture Scene – Original Cut (HD, 4 min) – A different take on a scene in the film.
- Fund Raising Promo (HD, 2 min) – A promo explaining the film, obviously to raise some green.
- In the Hot Seat (Cast Interviews) (HD, 12 min) – Cast and crew talk about the film. Actors butcher Ugarek’s name and talk up the typecasting they’re stuck in before we get into the nitty gritty. We hear the origins of this film (some repetition from the commentary), comments about the shoot and shooting environment. Some non-PC stuff.
- Bloopers – By the Balls (HD, 2 min) – One scene, fucked up many times, in many different ways. Pretty funny at one point before it falls into “laugh inappropriately” territory.
If any content above is not found on the DVD release, it will be moved here.
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Gary Ugarek’s third film, and first outside the zombie sub-genre, is his best to date. It starts slow, but gathers plenty of steam to provide a solid payoff. Fans of urban power struggle dramas should definitely check this one out. It’s not overly violent due to budget obvious constraints, and isn’t a glossy, perfect little film, but it has enough going for it to get at least one thumb up. This self-made Blu-ray release has good but occasionally problematic video, though the audio left much to be desired. A fun oddity or obscurity to have, which supports a great cause in helping the director make more films. As such, it’s worth a look.
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