Buffalo Review

Rebel Pictures has made another engaging drama with the full feature film Buffalo. A very well written character piece starring William McCallum as Roger, a distant and emotionless taxi driver that ran out on his family many years ago. As Roger goes through the mundane motions of everday life, he starts to question things. Roger discovers he is terminally ill and knows time is running out. He also finds out his ex-wife has passed away.
Roger finally realizes too much lost time has past him by. No real connections with anyone, he steals the taxi and heads out to his ex-wife’s funeral and find his son, he abandoned long ago. Along this amazing journey, he encounters several people at a crossroad in life. Free of his old ways, he listens to their stories and provides help. But with each encounter, Roger realizes that the chance meetings with these people were really a gift and they have helped him in more ways than he could ever imagine.
The biggest lesson Roger learns is the connections with other people, that is what truly matters. Standout performances from William McCallum and Barb Dalman, his love interest. The director Michael McCallum, managed to keep Roger very likable, with a definite possibility of redemption. The soundtrack is amazing and it all fit together very well. I particularly liked the story it’s human and heartfelt, a very solid character -centered film.

Neal Damiano


Top 10 Must See 1980s High School Comedy Movies

American teen movies of the 1980s struck a chord with a generation trying to find its own identity. Neal Damiano talks about his faves and why these films continue to resonate today.

10. Mischief (Damski, 1985)
Set in the mid-50s in Nelsonville Ohio, Doug McKeon stars as a nerdy teen who takes the advice of a slick new kid in town to impress and win the heart of the ultra desirable local sweetheart, played by Kelly Preston. In the tradition of obsessed over-sexed teen romps Mischief hits it dead center.

9. Just One Of The Guys (Gottlieb, 1985)
Hilarity ensues when a smart high school girl disguises herself as a boy to prove herself a top notch journalist. But it’s one funny twist after another when she falls head over heels for a sensitive classmate. She has to decide between exposing her cover or finding true teen love. I like the lighthearted aspect of this film, not too heavy on teen issues.

8. Teen Wolf (Daniel, 1985)
Michael J. Fox plays a nerd in high school that can’t seem to get with it. He’s the worst player on the basketball team, can’t make a basket or score with the girls. Things change once he discovers his family’s strange secret – that they’re all werewolves. He’s soon howling at the moon and miraculously becomes the talk of the town. But not everyone is on the teen wolf train, as friends see the monster he’s really become. Teen Wolf is certainly not the greatest teen film made but it has plenty of funny moments, a tongue in cheek flare, and there is a lesson to be learned in the end. A huge hit at the box office and helped Michael J Fox become a star.

7. Can’t Buy Me Love (Rash, 1987)
Patrick Dempsey’s first leading role. He plays Ronald Miller, a high school nerd who tries to buy his way into the popular crowd. He comes up with a crazy plan, hiring a popular cheerleader to front as his girlfriend. A funny, charming tale of teen angst. Ronald achieves superstar status, creating the Ronald Miller Express, but ultimately pays the price for his popularity. There are definitely moments here we can all relate to and Dempsey’s vulnerability is so genuine.

6. License To Drive (Beeman, 1988)
The second film among many to star the dynamic duo Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. License to Drive is full of wonderfully zany characters and situations and is yet another fresh and light movie that defines the era. The movie is very heavy on exaggeration but done in such a hilarious way you can’t help but overlook it. Haim’s character has two missions in life, getting his driver’s license and dating Mercedes (Heather Graham), the hottest girl in high school. The chemistry between the two Corey’s is undeniable.

5. Dream A Little Dream (Rocco, 1989)
Corey Feldman and Corey Haim starred in a string of films together in the 1980s and affectionately were referred to as The Two Corey’s. Dream A Little Dream is my favorite because of the surreal dream like atmosphere. Dinger and Bobby are best friends. Bobby falls for Lainie, the hottest girl in school and has to convince her that she loves him before the night is over. Bobby switches his body with his neighbor, old man Coleman, living life through his eyes and vice versus. The same thing with Lainie and Coleman’s wife. So it’s a romantic comedy with a twist. I really enjoyed this movie because of the complex structure and story line, very unique and different than most teen angst films. You really have to pay attention to the characters and their bond. A great film about friendship and relationships in high school.

4. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (Hughes, 1987)
One of the most iconic films of the 1980s, Ferris Bueller became a template for every teenager who wanted to be cool. Liked by all social groups – burn outs, dweebs, jocks, and preps because Ferris showed them how it could be done. He knew how to outwit the adults and possessed an undeniable charm. Ferris was not going to let a school day ruin his adventure in downtown Chicago.

3. The Goonies (Donner, 1985)
Electrifying, fun filled adventure ride produced by Steven Spielberg and director Richard Donner. A group of teenagers go on an epic search for pirate treasure. Plenty of non-stop action involving death traps, clumsy crooks, and a lovable giant. The Goonies is a movie that makes you smile, every kid wanted to be a Goonie growing up.

2. Sixteen Candles (Hughes, 1984)
The first in the Molly Ringwald trilogy from the master of teen comedies John Hughes, Sixteen Candles creates unforgettable characters like Farmer Ted, Jake Ryan, and The Donger. Ringwald stars as a young girl whose 16th birthday is forgotten by her family, she’s crushing on a high school senior, and her only male friend is king of the geeks. Plenty of laughs and one-liners in this teen comedy.

1. The Breakfast Club (Hughes, 1985)
A timeless film by John Hughes. Five very different students from different places in the high school social system, spend a Saturday detention together, only to learn they have more in common than they thought. But the movie is much more than this, becoming one of the most endearing and beloved films of all generations. The film speaks volumes of what it is to be a teenager. All the insecurities and vulnerabilities displayed on the table, open wide for the audience to feel and believe. As we watch the characters develop, we can relate to their fears and desires and how they connect with each other emotionally. The movie broke down barriers in social groups in a very genuine, heart felt way.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

Many talented people have contributed to the success of these, and many other, 1980s teen movies. Neal would like to pay tribute to two of those who we lost in 2009 and 2010 respectively – John Hughes and Corey Haim. One was a star behind the camera, the other, a star in front of it. Their legacy is forever recorded in the films that have become long-time favorites of so many.


Top 10 Bizarre Suburban Films

Living in the suburbs isn’t always about sharing cups of sugar and neighborly chats over the fence as Neal Damiano finds out in the Top 10 bizarre suburban movies list…

10. Pleasantville (Ross, 1998)
Two siblings played by Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon living in the 1990s, get mysteriously zapped back to the 1950s by way of a strange TV repairman. They must adapt and learn the ways of this very different time period. What makes Pleasantville so bizarre is the collision of decades. They’re trapped in this wholesome suburban nightmare in black & white, almost a “Father Knows Best” atmosphere.

9. Disturbia (Caruso, 2007)
A modern day take on the Alfred Hitchcock classic “Rear Window”, Shia LaBeouf plays a suburban teenager on house arrest. To avoid going crazy from boredom, he begins to spy and observe his neighborhood, seeing all sorts of interesting things. While this becomes a source of entertainment, he witnesses something very disturbing. All hell breaks lose as he tries to escape from his next door neighbor.

8. The Stepford Wives (Forbes, 1975)
A shrewd businessman and wife move to the quiet suburbs after he suffers from a nervous breakdown. Trying to free himself of the hustle and bustle of city life, he takes refuge in the slow moving town of Stepford. However, his wife notices something very different about the housewives in this strange community. Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the film is the creepy submissive and robotic dreamlike state all the women seem to be in, each one’s behavior emulating the other.

7. Happiness (Solondz, 1998)
Todd Solondz’s second film. A happily married shrink tries to suppress his fantasies of serial killing and pedophilia. He develops a thing for his son’s friend. There are plenty of moments here where you just have to turn your head and look away! Depravity and dysfunction ensue throughout the film, while the characters seem somewhat normal on the surface. Happiness is so over the top it tips over the bizarre scale.

6. Suburbia (Spheeris, 1984)
Suburbia is more like a documentary chronicling the lives in a group of punk rock kids that seem to be thrown out by modern society. Filmed on a very low budget the movie does a great job on capturing the carefree kids, as they shun authority on a regular basis. It’s is also Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers debut performance as an actor.

5. Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990)
Tim Burton brought to life a fascinating character played by Johnny Depp. Edward Scissorhands has scissors for hands and falls in love with a human being, played by Winona Ryder, a pretty girl bored in middle suburbia with a misogynistic boyfriend (Anthony Michael Hall). Not one believes Edward has real feelings, but he does, just as any real human being. Depp’s performance is so brilliant in part because he doesn’t speak allowing his emotion to come through movement, expression and mannerism. And, he’s so convincing.

4. Over The Edge (Kaplan, 1979)
The film reminded me somewhat of an after school special but far more fascinating. Set in the 1970s, a group of rebellious kids embark on a war with authority. One of the first films to really show kids with a complete anarchistic and out of control attitude, with little parental supervision in their bored-out-of-their-minds state. They unfortunately find self destructive ways to keep themselves entertained. One of Matt Dillon’s first leading roles and he provides an amazing performance.

3. Daydream Nation (Goldbach, 2011)
Kat Dennings plays Coraline Drexler, a mature 17-year-old high school student from the big city who moves to an eerily quiet suburban town. Stricken from boredom in middle suburbia Caroline is unable to relate to her immature peers, developing a passionate relationship with her English teacher (Josh Peck). At the same time she leads on an eccentric classmate named Thurston (Reece Thompson). The love triangle creates intense jealousy leading to dangerous consequences. While all of this is happening, an industrial fire continues to burn just a few towns away, threatening to work its way toward Caroline’s home, and high school girls keep turning up dead, at the hands of a sociopath. Kat Dennings is so convincing, she really owns the role.

2. American Beauty (Mendes, 1999)
Kevin Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a married corporate drone in his mid-forties living in suburbia USA, fed up with the structured mundane existence of his everyday life. Lester, having a semi mid-life crisis, wakes one day with an epiphany – nothing really matters. While this new found perspective affects his family, Lester makes a few changes – he quits his job, begins exercising and lifting weights, starts smoking pot, and begins fantasizing about his daughter’s best friend (Mena Suvari). His wife (Annette Benning), frustrated beyond belief, becomes obsessed with self-motivation tapes. His daughter falls for the eccentric boy next door played by Wes Bentley, who films random things and has a homophobic military father. American Beauty is the near perfect portrait of suburban hell and won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1999.

1. Imaginary Heroes (Harris, 2004)
Imaginary Heroes is about a severely dysfunctional upper class suburban family. Sigourney Weaver plays Sandy Travis, who is estranged from her father and her marriage to Ben (Jeff Daniels) is crumbling. She has two kids Matt and Tim. Matt, a potential Olympic swimmer commits suicide in the beginning, we don’t know why? Tim feels distant from his father, who centered all his attention on Matt’s swimming. Kyle, a negative influence, is Matt’s best friend. Seen through flashbacks, Matt and Kyle get in trouble with the law and things come to a halt. Tim (Emile Hirsch) stricken by guilt spends his time mostly in a dream-like trance through the film. The layers are deep here, on the surface it seems like a happy loving family, but peeling away the surface we see an inner darkness that is slowly revealed throughout. I really enjoyed this film, good story and exceptional acting.

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

About the Author

Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.


It’s Kind Of A Funny Story – film review

A modern day One Flew Over the Cockoos Nest except it centers around a kid. With all the pressures of being in high school and hoping to get a good job upon graduation Craig (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental clinic. He ends up in the adult ward because youth section is shut down. There he befriends an older patient named Bobby (Zach Galifianakis) they create a unique bond, he takes Craig under his wing. Craig also finds romance with a fellow young patient the pretty Noelle (Emma Roberts) during his five day stay Craig learns a lot about what it is to live. A very entertaining film.


Neal Damiano

My Brother Jack – film review

I first caught wind of My Brother Jack at The New England Underground Film Festival in Hartford it was the feature and to put it simple I was floored. Stephen Dest a resident from New Haven, or as we locals like to say “A guy from the neighborhood” directed a truly cinematic suspense thriller. The film centers around two brothers Jack (Malcolm Madera) and Vince (Jon Thorndike), trying to figure out who killed their parents on Christmas Day when they were children. Fast forward to several years later, the man convicted of the murder is released from prison and gets killed at a bar. Vince is the prime suspect and a detective which happens to be a childhood friend, is hot on his trail. My first initial thought was this reminds of an Alfred Hitchcock or Brian Depalma film, because of the constant build up of suspense through the entire movie.
A really good film keeps you engaged through the entire experience and My Brother Jack does just that. From the very opening shot the movie pulls you in, enticing and grabbing at your psyche trying to figure out who the killer is. I particularly liked the fact that Stephen used the city so well, including landmark shots of iconic New Haven establishments. The cinematography is beautiful and the acting is brilliant, also a compelling soundtrack. Malcolm Madera and Jon Thorndike’s chemistry together on screen is excellent, a really convincing performance. A very interesting story-glad to see filmed in New Haven.

Neal Damiano


Brilliant Mistakes – film review

Every year I attend Connecticut Film Festival and usually come across a film I think about long after the festival is over. Brilliant Mistakes is one of those rare films, where you can empathize with every character. A deeply textured and emotional layer enriched within each person we come across in this heart felt drama.
Marcus Wright (Daniel Dambroff) is an english teacher at a prestigious prep school in Connecticut, madly in love with his longtime girlfriend Gaby (Elise McNamara). Marcus plans on asking her hand in marriage, but tragedy strikes and she is involved in a car accident, leaving her in a coma. We do not see what or who caused the accident. Marcus struggles as he comes to the realization that she may never speak again. At a grief meeting he befriends Elliot, (Christopher Clawson) a free-spirited writer, who makes Marcus feel alive again. They create a strong bond through hardship, each not knowing just how close a connection they share.
What I particularly enjoyed about Brilliant Mistakes is the unpredictability of the story. The connections we watch unfold seem real, not forced at all. The acting is amazing and the cinematography filmed throughout rural Connecticut is quite beautiful. A very well written film about learning to accept tragedy and growing through the process.

Neal Damiano