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By Vernor Rodgers
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The movie theaters are still closed, leaving us film fans with the alternative of streaming. Below are three movies I viewed during the month of June.


This movie was brought to my attention via a Facebook post by a friend of mine, Paula Lindberg, an actress I met via my association with filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska. Lindberg had a small but vital role in the Soskas' "American Mary" and I met her when she attended screenings of Soska films "See No Evil 2" and "Vendetta."

Paula LindbergIn "The Fiddling Horse," Lindberg has a major role as Leslie Heart, a woman who has been born into a family rooted into the Southern world of unique heritage and charm. Upon the passing of her mother, Leslie now is in line to be accepted into the exclusive Ladies Who Lunch, a group of high society women led by the snobby Ethel Truman (Alley Mills, the mom from "The Wonder Years"), from the family of the  powerful state treasurer. Despite her heritage, Leslie finds she is not totally welcome in this group of privilege. For one, she is not married -- just living with her boyfriend Philip Ainsworth (J. Elvis Weinstein), a man struggling to maintain his timeshare business that is trying to improve its image by changing the term "timeshare" to "fractional ownership."

"The Fiddling Horse" is the brain child of C.J. Wallis, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. It is only 70 minutes long and takes a jab at high society with its gentle humor.

When Leslie, stewing because she knows her acceptance into this well-to-do realm is being met with some resistance, learns she has inherited a horse, she convinces  Philip to explore the possibility of going into the horse racing business. Philip reluctantly goes along and upon a recommendation from a gambling co-worker Richard (Fiend), hooks up with Barry Bitterman (Andy Kindler), an aptly named former jockey, discredited and paranoid, barely surviving as a trainer.

Bitterman is a classic cynical con man, deep in debt, making things up on the fly and suitably able to talk naive Philip into a business deal to train and race the horse, named Some Like It Heart by Leslie. Bitterman drafts a short-tempered  jockey, Bug Boy (Mitchell Murrill) to ride the horse.

Bitterman has a plan that is unscrupulous -- enter Some Like It Heart into a few races and have the horse finish last or close to it. Then as the odds climb against the horse winning, place heavy bets on the horse and allow it to run full force, leading to a big payoff via a victory. Like that is going to work.

Kindler is a hoot as Bitterman, a perpetual loser stumbling along as a person who thinks he can beat the system but is always on the brink of toppling over a cliff.

Lindberg and Weinstein present an interesting dynamic of a couple in which one must ask: How the heck can this work? Leslie is so focused on entitlement yet is hooked up with a man entrenched in a business that hardly is considered honorable and certainly looked upon with disdain among the people with whom Leslie seeks to be peers. Weinstein's Philip is almost a tragic character, befuddled, devoted to Leslie but totally out of his league trying to match wits with the elite class he is being forced to join.

"The Fiddling Horse" is a charming little movie, well constructed by Wallis and boosted by solid performances from a cast of capable performers who may not be marquee regulars but nevertheless know their craft.

"THE FIDDLING HORSE" Official Trailer:   https://youtu.be/Ru_lfnlTGDI


This documentary, offered on Netflix, is a visually stunning look at people who like to take risky physical challenges, going up against Mother Nature. The beginning of the movie features a list of the people who served as cameramen on the project, directed by Thierry Donard. The credited cameramen were Jean-Remy Ceron, Tomatoa Cowan, Mateffy Istvan, Matias Myklebust, Tim Pruvost, Soren Rickards, Humberto Santo, Matty Schweitzer and Malachi Templeton.

"Magnetic" focuses on extreme surfers, skiers, cyclists and flyers (non-plane) who visit remote areas of the world to conduct their conquests of huge waves, steep slopes, trails and rock formations and the unpredictability of wind currents. Here are some of the featured locations and athletes:

Praia del Norte, Portugal: Underground tunnels off the shore help trigger some of the biggest waves in the world. Here, Toby Cunningham from San Diego and Maya Gabeira take to these massive waves. So perilous are these endeavors, each surfer must have a buddy nearby on a jet ski to be able to come to the rescue should things go bad. The efforts of these surfers draw crowds to watch.

Chamonix, France: Here the patience of a dedicated skier is shown as Wille Lindberg ends up spending 46 days seeking a chance to ski down nearly 90-degree slopes of L'Amone in the French Alps. Out of those 46 days of waiting for the best conditions to ski, Lindberg actually went to the crest of L'Amore seven times before he was finally able to tackle the slope on his eighth try.

Tarifa, Spain and Scotland: Liam Whaley meets the forces of wind and water as he goes kite-boarding. What looks graceful can be punishing to the body, especially the legs and back, according to Whaley.

Samoens, France: Those of us who thought it was great to ride a bike without too many spectacular crashes can envy Xavier Marovelli and Tom Barrer, who cycle in rugged territory, often with narrow trails and hills and even rocks that they are able to hop up on with their bikes. Marovelli considers himself a climber while Barrer is a freestyler.

Karimabad and other locations in Northern Pakistan: Back to the slopes as extreme skiers Sam Favret, Leo Slemmit and Julien (Pica) Herry meet the spine-tingling deep slopes of Mirshiker Summit and Barbara's Peak. The dedication of these guys is seen as they hike for hours, sometimes getting physically sick, to reach their destination and what will be a brief but unforgettable zip down the snowpacked terrain.

New Zealand: Speed flying, shown here by Jamie Lee and Malachi Templeton, is the elite group of hand-gliding experts. Templeton's helmet-cam shots show these guys navigating at high speeds through gulleys and narrow canyons where one slip of their controls could send them bashing into rocks.

Hawaii and Tahiti: The documentary wraps up, naturally, featuring surfers Zane Kekoa Schweitzer, Matahi Drollet, Lorenzo Avvenenti, Tikanui Smith, Tehotu Wong and Hira Teriinatoofa as they take on some of the best waves in the world and recall some close calls when the oceans elect to slap them down.

Watching this movie, I wished I could have viewed it on an IMAX screen. The footage is so spectacular that not only are we going on wild rides with these athletes, we are seeing gorgeous elements of this world.

 "MAGNETIC" Official Trailer:   https://youtu.be/AzYpyGA7Nrs


Via Amazon I was able to view "Save Yourself," a little horror flick that was made in 2015. All scary movies latch onto to some theme that is a staple of this genre -- such as "promiscuous sex usually leads to a brutal death" and sweet and traditional holidays like Christmas can be terribly perverted by some deranged killer(s).

"Save Yourself" builds upon the theme of "beware of small towns, as they can be a breeding ground for some truly demented people." After the screening of a horror movie and subsequent autograph-signing session in a modest little hamlet, five young women -- part of the film's cast and crew and led by director Crystal Lacroix (Tristan Risk, "American Mary"), pile into a car for a drive to Los Angeles for another screening. Crystal appears to be weary of it all, yet carries on like a trooper.

The car loaded with the women doesn't get far when Crystal,, the driver, pulls off at a rest stop to get out, take a breather and smoke a cigarette. Several hours pass and Crystal does not return.

Three of the women -- Kim Tobin (Jessica Cameron, who also served as producer), Lizzie Miller (Cayleigh Le Grand) and Dawn Sommerville (Lara Mrkoci) set out to look for Crystal while Sasha Tobin (Tianna Nori) opts to stay with the car.

The three women come across a big secluded home that looks both inviting and ominous, where they get a hostile greeting by Astrid Sauter (Elma Begovic) whose lack of hospitality is overridden by her husband Chris (Ry Barrett), whose friendliness, like the house, could be inviting while still being creepy. Taken in by the cordiality of Chris, the three women accept his invitation to come inside, get refreshed and then use a landline to call the police to report Crystal's disappearance.

Of course, it is not long before the true agenda of Mr. and Mrs. Sauter is revealed.

Directed and co-written by Ryan M. Andrews -- others collaborating on the story and screen play were Chris Cull, Mitch Lackie and I.J. Schecter, "Save Yourself" now becomes a body-count thriller as the women, upon learning the ghastly truth of what is transpiring at the Sauter residence, try to survive in a very deadly situation. They encounter Heather Amato (Sydney Kondruss), who has been held captive by the Sauters for a few years, Richard (Marcus Haccius), who oozes cool evilness, and Tessa (Bea Santos), the silently suffering daughter of the Sauters. And it wraps up with a slightly twisted ending.

"SAVE YOURSELF" Official Trailer:   https://youtu.be/YPiTR9S9eC0

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