Film Reviews


AWKWARD ENDEAVORS - TOP SHORTS REVIEW: Turning Rom-Com into Comedic Cringe

Director Derek Frey turns the rom-com genre on its head in his short film, Awkward Endeavors. Written by The Minor Prophets, this film stars Gil Damon as Greg, a lovelorn middle-aged piano student of Melinda, the talented, kind piano teacher played by Kathleen Kozack. What in other films may have been the climax of a rom-com film, the heartwarming profession of love, turns into a cringe-worthy comedy, a schadenfreude for the audience.

Greg doesn’t have a lot going for him. He is a middle-aged pizza man who presumably lives alone. His one desire is Melinda, who seems to have a lot going for her. She has multiple students including a child prodigy piano player, Desmond Frey, whose immense skill highlights Greg’s un-remarkability. Melinda also has a loving husband and a home. Nothing about Greg’s love for Melinda appears reciprocal, and yet Greg pursues her in an endearingly pathetic way.

The presence of Melinda’s husband, Jerome played by Steve Kuzmick trimming bushes in the backyard as the love declaration is about to happen ramps up the film’s tension. While Melinda deals with Greg inside the house, Jerome has his own awkwardness to deal with outside the house in the form of a chatty neighbor named Paul played by David Amadio. Paul has an obsession with movie trivia. From Jerome’s exasperation, it sounds as if Paul has come over to bother him multiple times in the past.

This film would not be possible without the clever breadcrumbs of backstory built into the screenplay. Moreover, the performances nail the backstories - from each look to line read. The audience is only given a moment with all of these characters, and yet every perspective seems clear and unique.

While the film is simplistic in production, lighting, and sound design, it captures the story elements well - the rising tension, the awkwardness, the characters, and the comedy. The film had an animated short film feel to the comedy. That is, it was full of visual gags that gave it charm.

The cleverness of this film comes from questioning genre conventions and the honesty within absurdity. If a man like Greg hit on a married woman like Melinda, a response like the one in Awkward Endeavors seems more realistic than the plethora of rom-com love declarations out there.

Awkward Endeavors isn’t Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meeting in a park “for the first time” in real life ala You’ve Got Mail or Tom Cruise having Renée Zellweger at hello. It’s a poorly timed, poorly executed, reading-all-the-wrong signs comedy of errors. The reversal is refreshing and delightful.



Reviewed by Rohan Bhattacharya

Our lives are filled with instances that shape us into better versions of ourselves in the long-run. Some of these circumstances are happy or depressing, and some are simply awkward. Despite all of these embarrassments, these “Awkward Endeavors” define our personalities, and often bring us closer to other awkward individuals. Derek Frey’s aptly named short, “Awkward Endeavors” tells us a similar, awkward tale of three men, whose lives are entangled by a rather cumbersome thread: a thread of circumstances, that they might have desperately wanted to rid themselves of. While someone makes it out of this awkward mess with a smile on his face, and a song in his heart, others were not that lucky.

The film starts with a long-shot of a man sitting in a pizza delivery car with a house behind him; while he looks at his reflection in the rear-view mirror, we hear the faint sound of a piano. He picks up a music book, and heads out with confidence. Interestingly, as he lifts the music book, we see a guns and ammunition magazine underneath it. By the way he carried himself, it was somehow understood that he was going to meet someone he was romantically interested in.

With merely expressions, the actor was able to make the audience relate to his character, and bring about an air of nostalgia that might have resonated with many of us; that anxiousness one feels when they head out to propose the love of their life. As the man approaches the house, the sound of the piano booms. He knocks, and the door is opened by a man he had not expected to see. The man invites him inside, and after an awkward exchange of one-sided greetings, the pizza delivery man enters a room where a woman teaches piano to a child, who is extremely good at it. Later, we realize that the man who had opened the door was in-fact the woman’s husband.

Nevertheless, the pizza delivery man was determined to propose the woman today, and so he did. However, things didn’t go quite as he had expected them to.  Despite the premise of the film being quite simple, the director has beautifully handled the cinematography, it almost felt as if he was intentionally trying to add on to the awkwardness that was brilliantly built by actors and their splendid performances. Awkwardly rigid shots, and occasional close-ups of the expressions added on to the awkward beauty of the film. Moreover, the choice of wider lenses while shooting indoors with the pizza delivery man, and the piano teacher was appropriately made; it brought about a sense of openness to the homely teaching environment. Similarly, the director’s choice of lens for outdoor shots of the husband, and his friend was extremely appropriate, and blended well with the context. The shots felt claustrophobic and tense, and we could visually relate to what the husband was feeling while he could literally see the pizza delivery man trying to make a move on his wife. Derek Frey’s use of natural lighting, and color palette can certainly make the audience relate more to the scenes in the film.

It is truly strange how the audiences can relate to almost all the characters in some way or the other. We have been in the shoes of the pizza delivery man, trying to confess to the person we have developed a crush on. We have also been in the shoes of the insecure husband, who loves his wife so much that he’s afraid to lose her. The director’s treatment of the husband’s friend as a character was beautifully executed; we could see how someone’s words that might have been important in any different situation became white noise to the husband whose mind was on something more important to him.

Finally, the book on guns and ammunition and the leaf-cutter added intrigue in the film. Some in the audience might feel something dreadful might transpire at the end; however, it was quite pleasing to see that they served a completely different purpose altogether.  While the pizza delivery guy sacrificed his passion for guns in order to learn the piano for the teacher’s sake; the teacher quite literally cut him out of his life by pointing the leaf-cutter at him!



It takes a very clever writer and director to take a topic that is so negative and emotional such as suicide, group suicide no less, and turn it into a comedy sketch that still has heart and meaning. Fortunately, in this case that’s exactly what happened.

The film begins with three guys trying to start a car and through the conversation and sub textual inferences we make, it becomes clear they are trying to gas themselves. From the off the three main characters have a great rapport which helps the audience connect with them. They aren’t your typical suicidal characters which makes them more human, they have identity.

The fact that they can’t get the car to start is what brings in the humor but it is subtle and done well. The overlaying joke is the fact they are trying to breathe life into a car (literally at one point) that is eventually meant to kill them. It’s that sort of ironic dark humor that works really well here.

The script is clever, both in its subtle use of dialogue which isn’t over used or too expositional, and in the structure of the narrative. It’s simple yet clever and effective. The audience are given just enough to get in on the jokes, and just enough physical comedy that it doesn’t turn slapstick. The ending works particularly well. This suicide attempt has actually brought these guys together and the fact that they accomplish their goal leaves them elated, until they realize what it ultimately means. The end. But we never see what they choose to do. The hose pipe in the car window offers a suggestion but it isn’t conclusive, and it’s that which leaves the audience questioning and talking. That is what effective film does, it stays with the audience.

An excellently constructed short film that utilizes its dark comedy perfectly. With strong performances and a well-written script, this is definitely one to watch

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Derek Frey’s 30-minute featurette, “Green Lake” (2016) reads like a classic horror movie. A “Creature of the Black Lagoon” of sorts, with the added intrigue of being filmed on location, at one of only two lakes in Hawaii. Mythological shapeshifters are the fabled guards of these precious fresh water sources, and legend has it that if their land is disrespected or trespassed upon, a Mo’o possesses the power to wreak havoc.

Frey gives us a classic horror set-up. A group of friends, unaware of the danger that lurks in their surroundings, decide to make the worst possible decision. The lush beauty engulfing the lake does seem like the perfect backdrop for a good old fashion psychedelic mushroom trip. And it could be a great bonding experience, except for the issue with the pissed off protector of sacred land who woke up to join the party.

The dark shape of a woman materializes from the murky waters of Green Lake. Her visage is reminiscent of Samara moving toward the audience after emerging from the well, in Gore Verbinski’s famous scene from “The Ring.” Unlike Samara, the Mo’o is seductive. She hypnotizes her victim as she slinks ever so slowly in for the kill. Her skin is smooth and reptilian. Her hair, long and matted with seaweed gives her the appearance of a being who is part of the eco-system.

Frey’s use of practical effects blends into the natural world. A CGI creature would have appeared too perfect, too modern in this setting. Instead, using costume and make-up, along with body movements and some clever editing produced a believable rendition of the mythic creature. It’s no wonder Frey has such a strong affinity to practical effects; he has spent his career working with Tim Burton.

Matthew Reid’s original score adds substance to the opening narration, transforming the narrator’s words into folklore. The music drifts and bounces throughout the film, moving seamlessly connecting scenes. Reid’s score combined with the skillful use of foley sound adds a sense of anticipation, and outright panic, perfectly timed. Frey also called in some of his Big Island musician friends, Technical Difficulties and Delight Talkies, who wrote songs specifically for the film.

In true Indie fashion, everyone had multiple roles; cast doubled as crew. For nine grueling days, the small band of filmmakers weathered the elements and went without sleep to the point of exhaustion and mental breakdown. Frey calls “Green Lake” his mini “Apocalypse Now.” The Mo’o rising from the water does call to mind one of the famous scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s movie; however, Frey could be referring to the mental and physical pain that he and his friends went through to produce the film. The sacrifices must have been worth it because the result of their perseverance has garnered numerous festival awards.

“Green Lake” is a solid, entertaining horror film that keeps you hanging on until the end. All great horror movies have an underlying meaning, a warning about some mistake that humanity is making, and “Green Lake” is no different. It’s a warning to everyone that we must maintain our balance with and respect nature or face the consequences. Always remember, “Horror Dwells Deep.” 


Independent Shorts Awards Review of God Came ‘Round

ISA award-winning filmmaker Derek Frey gives life to the song “God Came ‘Round” by Trever Veilleux cleverly and beautifully. While Frey plays with the appearance of God, aliens, and ghosts, and creates a fantastic supernatural atmosphere, the influence of his past work with Tim Burton Productions is clear to see. At some point, “God Came ‘Round” can be interpreted as a satire of all clichés in romantic comedies.

It tells the story of a flower seller (Deep Roy) who makes a connection with the girl of his dreams, but immediately God gets in the way and doesn’t allow the pair to interact. Next, we see the seller try to cope with his heartbreak, and this is shot and performed in a way that makes it hilarious to watch. Roy’s performance is very impressive. Through his facial expressions, he tells us everything the character is feeling. It is always a significant challenge to perform without any dialogue, but Roy does it amazingly. Perhaps it is a contrast between the performance and the song that makes it so funny, but it sure is hard to do what he did.

The cinematography is something that should be highlighted as well, especially when the seller has his first encounter with an alien. The lighting is breathtaking, as well as the shot composition. The fog in the background references all the alien tropes found in movies, forcing the idea that this piece is a satire of clichés. Yet it is done subtly, in some moments it might not even be noticeable on the first viewing, but it is the small details that make it so extraordinary.

Even though “God Came ‘Round” was based on the song and serves the purpose of illustrating the lyrics, the images are so strong and carry such narrative, that sometimes it even takes the spotlight away from the song. For the viewer, the performances are so incredible and the story so engaging it leaves a certain curiosity in the air – wanting to know what is going to happen next, making one drift away from the lyrics of the song (not to say that the song is not as amazing as the video, because it indeed is excellent).

Everyone involved in this project did a fantastic job and created a unique piece. It is hard to make an audience laugh, but with “God Came ‘Round” it’s even harder not to laugh.

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VAMPIRES KISS/BLOOD INSIDE - Review by Richard Trejo of

If you crave 80′s goth rock and love yourself some vampires than the next film is right up your alley. We started off Day 2 with one of the most unique horror shorts shot in two parts set to the music of UK Goth rockers Witching Hour. “VAMPIRES KISS/BLOOD INSIDE” is Produced and Directed By Derek Frey with a cast starring Yusura Bush Watcher, Valery Nuttall, Sabrina Lecordier, Leah Gallo, Benoit Moranne, Chris Nuttall, Malcolm Davis, and Tim Burton as Van Helsing. That’s right folks the Edward Scissorhands man himself makes a cameo as the famous Vampire hunter.

The film is shot as a music video with the music providing the pacing of the film. The film follows 3 women who wish to invoke the powers of the vampire goddess. I found the imagery to be almost dream-like heavily infused with the sexuality that vampires used to be associated with.

With recent vampire adaptations falling short of portraying true vampire nature it is refreshing to see that Derek still respects the vampire genre and this film is a direct reflection of that. All the way till the very end of the film you are entertained and you’ll be left with the sultry tunes of Witching Hour for hours to come.


FIlm Review: The Ballad of Sandeep

The Ballad of Sandeep is a drama-comedy film with a sharp message about fairness. It represents the current economic hardship of American workers being less valued because of competitive advantages from other countries. Taking place in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania the film tells the story of middle- aged , Indian-born Sandeep Majumdar (played by Deep Roy) who suddenly loses his IT job because the company has outsourced his work to Bangalore , India. After a futile effort to find employment elsewhere, he manages to get back his job, only by pretending to work from Bangalore under the alias Sudesh Patel—with a significantly reduced salary and increased working hours. The writers, The Minor Prophets, have created a unique, humorous and poignant tale which is quite timely considering the world's economic climate.

Carrying on this social virtue, Derek Frey , the producer, direct or, cinematographer, and editor of The Ballad of Sandeep has brilliantly demonstrated his burning passion to make this film e ntertaining and interesting. His original and creative compositing of shots, combined with s mooth editing, allows the story to flow fluently. A s an American, Derek Frey has succeeded to make an Indian styled film.

The score to The Ballad of Sandeep is entertaining with the main theme song pleasantly jolting the audience with its world music style combined with a funny and light rhythm.

Deep Roy has successfully enlivened the character of Sandeep Majumdar , a neat and noble man who refuses let his predicament become the graveyard of his American dream.

Once again, a cultural approach towards humanity and betterment for life is created by this excellent short film . It is fit with our mission, and therefore, The Ballad of Sandeep is a finalist in our festival.

 Irene Christina,
Festival Co-Director
International Film Festival for Peace, Inspiration and Equality

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by Helen Wheels, Cult Critic Film Magazine

Fade in … A big, hollow, steady drum beat begins to play. We’re looking head-on at the outside of a classic red barn somewhere in the rural countryside. Cut to … a close-up of a garden hose duct-taped on one end to a car’s muffler. Jump cut to … a side-view of the car. We see the hose has been inserted inside the car’s window and sealed with more shiny silver tape. The steady beat of the drum continues. Inside the car are three men: sullen, depressed … ready to die. The man in the driver’s seat attempts to start the car. It won’t start. The drumming stops.

Kill the Engine is a twisted little buddy film about three men who attempt to commit suicide through carbon monoxide poisoning. The car, or perhaps some universal intelligence would have it otherwise. The engine will not start and the trio are therefore unable to finish their plan to take that long road trip in the sky. This turn of events inspires them to work together to fix the car so that they can finish their final group project. The relationship between the three is both ridiculous and charming. It is apparent that they have experienced a lot of life together.

There are some laugh out loud moments in the dialogue conjured by “The Minor Prophets”: Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio. The trio are 100% believable as long-time friends who have given up on life and want to end it all in the same way they lived it, together. Their true friendship shines through and is part of what makes their interactions so entertaining. Damon and Kuzmick play the typical buddy film duo who are like a couple that has been married since high school, while Amadio cracks one-liners that make him the “nagging parent”.

Director Derek Frey has a lot of experience with stories that are bent. He has helmed Tim Burton Productions since 2001, and more recently produced Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Big Eyes. The influence of this Dark Comedy style of filmmaking shows in Frey’s short film through the positioning of the characters within the frame and the angle of the camera. In one shot, Frey has the camera angled up and the characters framed in a tight close-up, giving the impression that not only is the trio looking at the engine, they are being observed. Maybe the engine not starting wasn’t just a case of bad timing. Maybe there is a lesson here to learn.

The comedy in Kill the Engine lies in the relationship between these three misfortunate souls, who consequently are not so misfortunate after-all. The theme of depression and suicide is no laughing matter. Yet, the response to laughing at things that make us uncomfortable or scare us is not unusual. University studies have led psychologists to agree that “having an opposite reaction to an emotional situation helps to regulate emotional responses”. Derek Frey’s Kill the Engine elicits this response and by placing three lifelong friends in the situation together, he leaves us feeling that connection to others is the ultimate answer.


Short & Sweet Film Festival
Review – God Came ‘Round

God Came ‘Round is Derek Frey’s visual interpretation of the song by Trever Veilleux. Derek is known for award-winning works such as Frankenweenie, and blockbusters like Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The film features actor Deep Roy, who does an amazing job delving into multiple characters, including the main protagonist, Sandeep.

We feel bad for him. We root for him. In return he makes us laugh a little. Aiko Horiuchi does an amazing job with her role as Deep’s love interest. She and Deep Roy play well off each other. The talent pulled together in this video goes to show how networking can pay off and give us something worth watching, as each of these people have worked together on previous projects and know similar artists.

God Came ‘Round was filmed in a very short time period of time and in several locations - including Camden Town, Primrose Hill, and Belsize Park in London. It’s easy to tell that the cast and crew had a great time shooting this music video. It’s a pleasure to watch the myriad of characters interacting with one another, in public and also on a more personal level, while maintaining the lightheartedness found in the song’s lyrics. It’s almost like this song was written so Derek could make a music video about it. And he relishes the opportunity to play with his favorite paranormal elements, which he says are “commonplace” in his works.

The cinematography, shots, angles, lighting, and scenery are truly enjoyable to watch, and the use of visually rich locations enhance the experience. For the shoot, Derek brought together a cohesive and productive team. It really pays off when a cast and crew work well together like a well-oil machine, because the end product is what will benefit, and ultimately the audience’s experience. Initially, this project almost didn’t come together, because Derek and Deep Roy were working on projects on different continents, but then the universe “came ‘round” and gave us an amazing music video.

It’s also worth mentioning that the editing of God Came ‘Round is very well done. Each scene has just the right tempo, moving along perfectly with the song. The sounds and music are cool. The costumes are done nicely. The sets are simple yet full of life, movement, and color.

The whole video is enjoyable from beginning to end. The thumbnail image is what first grabs your attention, and then the rest takes you on a fantastical journey… wondering what will happen to Deep Roy’s character(s) next. 

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Independent Shorts Awards
Review – Kill The Engine

With 32 titles as a director on his résumé, along with helming Tim Burton Productions since 2001 and the production of dozens of films, including Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Dumbo (the new reimagining of the classic Disney musical), Derek Frey is a reference name in the film industry.

In this context, not surprisingly, ISA award-winning Kill The Engine is a high standard work on all levels, above all because of the challenges it surmounted, namely turning a drama into a comedy, with no clichés and an effective 10-minute story spent in a garage.

The plotline is simple: three men decide to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning. But what would happen if the car fails to start? Actors Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio form this suicide group and they do everything they can to get the car to work on behalf of their demise. And here begins the secret to the effectiveness of Kill The Engine, brilliant performances based on a black-humored text that does not give in to the easy joke. Neither do the trio of actors, who manage to put out an excellent rhythm and many subtleties in their performances.

Derek Frey’s experience is evident with a safe and highly competent cinematic approach. Fast shots, alternating between closeups and mid shots, with a camera that infiltrates all the space available in this small set, not repeating itself, always looking for fresh points of view, capable of recording the nuances and participating in the action as an element of humor. Derek Frey’s excellent technique is reflected yet again in the lighting and fast-paced editing perfectly suited to the film’s goals.

It is not easy to film in such a small space with three characters and a black-humored story that essentially lives on the dynamics of the dialogue and how the characters evolve – so that a connection with the audience is established and viewers can laugh. Moreover, it is not a physical comedy, but mainly psychological, so the challenge is even greater: start with a dramatic element to do a caricature of it, the suicide decision that stumbles onto an unexpected setback.

It is true that we know very little about the three protagonists and their reasons for attempting suicide. The film does not give any clues, which may lead some to question the density of the characters, if they are real persons with an emotional core, or if the short is a mere caricature of a limited situation with no other narrative aspirations. It can be a relevant aspect for more demanding viewers. Still, this lack does not neutralize the fun of this 10-minute film.

Kill The Engine is, therefore, an excellent example of entertainment production, consistent in technical terms, and perfectly effective with the impact it seeks. Lake View International Film Festival
Review – “Kill The Engine”

Kill The Engine is a film written by the Minor Prophets, and directed and produced by Derek Frey. It depicts three broken men who decide to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning. However, the film is about reinventing oneself and not giving up.

In a span of time lasting ten minutes, thirty seconds we see the beginning of an end, frustration turned into inspiration, need into invention. Through excellent scripting and smart storytelling, we witness the mental journey of three men who are about to give up on life. In no way could one be bored or distracted – for the film definitely grabs your attention. It is compact, entertaining, and meaningful. The message is clear and hard-hitting. The storytelling is neither too complex, nor is it cliché.

Derek Frey has directed the film at his very best. Perfect shots, perfect lines, and perfect actions carried out at the right time with just the right emotions. Transitions are simple, no complicated cinematic techniques to startle the audience. The storyline is extremely intense and strong. There is a constant flavor of comedy prevalent throughout, keeping one hooked to the screen until the end. The constant process of trial and error seen throughout the film is a depiction of life itself. The story begins with hopelessness and ends with happiness, yet keeps the audience wondering. Like a truly good film it leaves the audience with a handful of questions for them to interpret and contemplate. It successfully ignites a multitude of thoughts in the minds of its audience.

The leading men were damn good to watch on screen. The key cast members, (Gil Damon, Steve Kuzmick, and David Amadio), have given praise-worthy performances. Their expressions and delivery capably establish the mood of the film. The dialog stays crisp and fun, without too many lengthy exchanges. The only location in the film is a garage, yet it gives viewers a variety of experiences packed together in one small capsule.

In short, Kill The Engine is among those few films which successfully deal out complicated and heavy messages in a way that is relatable, easily understood, and palatable. Overall the film is a lot of fun to watch, and a great lot of things to understand.


Voices From The Balcony, “GREEN LAKE” Review
by Jim Morazzini

Green Lake is the larger of two freshwater lakes on the island of Hawaii. Residing in the crater of an extinct volcano and reputed to be bottomless. It is a beautiful place and the legendary Mo’o is tasked with keeping it that way. When a group of friends decide that it would be the perfect place to take hallucinogenic mushrooms, they awaken its wrath.

The 36-minute short GREEN LAKE is a cheerful throwback to films like CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON with its amphibious creature wreaking havoc on those who would defile its domain. Unlike the Black Lagoon’s Gillman, the Mo’o is a supernatural being which does change the dynamics of things a bit, but the feel is much the same. This extends to the creature being portrayed by a person in a suit, not CGI. Like the older classics, it’s also light on gore, relying on its script, camerawork, and atmosphere for shocks.

Director Derek Frey has helmed many shorts and worked as a producer on a number of features, several with Tim Burton such as ALICE IN WONDERLAND and DARK SHADOWS. His experience shows in the finished film. Frey has referred to shooting GREEN LAKE as his “mini-Apocalypse Now” due to how difficult it was. A quick look at the cast and credits shows everyone was filling multiple roles in front of and behind the camera. The results were worth it as the film pulled in a huge number of awards in its festival run.

Frey remains proud of his film, and its message. “It was the most challenging shoot I’ve ever been part of but also the most rewarding and I’m so proud of the result. Green Lake is more than your typical horror film, it’s a warning to everyone that we must maintain our balance with and respect nature, or face the consequences.” And he’s put the film up on streaming site where it can be seen free. And you can’t beat free, especially for a good film. And GREEN LAKE is a very good film.


Frightfest Review of The Day the Dolls Struck Back!

Right out of the gate, this one had the audience roaring with laughter. It was a trailer for a movie series that doesn't exist, treated as part of an ongoing saga (the first 3 parts were supposedly made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, respectively). The premise is just what it sounds like...plastic baby dolls wreak havoc on the world! This was some hilarious shit, let me tell you. The sets, effects, costumes, editing, all excellent quality. Total b-movie homage all the way, served with tongue firmly in cheek. Experimental genetically-altered spiders crawl into the dolls and turn them alive! How cool is that? The highlight for me was the reel from the 80s w/ the breakdancing doll."


Cult Critic Film Magazine Review of “GOD CAME ‘ROUND”
by Dr. Nabadipa Talukder

The existential angst of all human beings is what “God Came ‘Round” conveys and deals with throughout the wider section of its plot. And this is something that connects us as an audience, as we live through the regular humdrum affairs of our lives.

Directed by Derek Frey, “God Came ‘Round” is a story of the dramatic turnout of a man, with his love life as the baseline. The story is about romanticizing the unachievable, with wisdom taking responsibility when everything goes topsy-turvy.

Sandeep (played by Deep Roy) portrays all the honest emotions of joy, sorrow, anxiety, and despair over the course of the film… ultimately giving in to patience and returning to his normal life after his anticipated venture with the girl he dotes on takes an unfortunate turn.

What’s striking is that Sandeep, who is a flower seller, looks for hope each day through his fantasies – so much so that he starts to believe he has imaginary friends. An alien visits him, but real life hits him straight in the face (literally), and optimism leaves his side. He is visited by his conscience in the form of God, only to be reminded of his nugatory trials.

The editing and the cinematography are done with sheer excellence and makes the music video hit all the right emotional chords. Through the expertise of the director, the story is knit into a sublime emotional tragedy. It seeks the attention of all lost and forlorn in love and the particular scene I fell in love with is where the protagonist offers each passerby a rose to buy for a dollar. We see how this simple rose is ignored by, which would hardly cost them a buck. This emotional paramount wraps us sentimentally and shoots us back to reality. A topic so versatile yet so unexplored; most of the time, we choose to neglect ourselves and seek happiness through bleak and unrealistic desires. Seen wonderfully executed here is the constant war between our inner and outer world and our consciousness gripping us with questions of who we really want to be.

Brilliant acting is done by Deep Roy, who suits the role perfectly with his sensitive performance. What leaves a spectator confused is how abruptly the plot ends. The depth of the story lies in how the character would have handled the situation which is compromised in the climax. Yet here, the question remains: how shall we spend our lives; waste it away just to get what we want the most; or be content with what we already have and find bliss in it. Overall it is a warm film, laying all the fundamentals of emotions, with layers of stories, sending up a message that no matter what… you have to stand up for yourself; you are your own Savior and you have to find your own bliss.


REVIEW OF AMERICA'S GAME by the Miami Movie Critic    

"A hysterically funny tribute to faux Americana."

America's Game is a little easier on the eyes than other Minor Prophets movies, but what really sets this one apart is the score by Steve Portland. It's absolutely dripping with fake ultra-patriotism - think of John Williams' score for Saving Private Ryan but pumped up on steroids - and it perfectly captures the comedic tone the Prophets are going for here.
An extremely proud American (Gil Damon) suffering from osteoporosis goes out to the local ballpark to watch some kids play a game of baseball. He just about weeps at the apple-pie wholesomeness of it all as he recounts how baseball is the only original American sport. He notes that Lacrosse was stolen from "the Injuns" and football is "just a gay version of rugby." His sentimental views come up against some harsh realities when he gets beaned in the head by a baseball and robbed.

The man is under the mistaken belief that Abner Doubleday invented the game. This myth has been debunked by many sports historians, but of course the Minor Prophets know that. That's why they make great movies.
Damon provides a hilarious voiceover that sounds like those old Pepperidge Farm commercials. You'll fall out of your chair laughing when he talks about savoring "the smell of the hot nuts and the rosin bags." Director Derek Frey cleverly splices in such symbols of American freedom as the bald eagle and Hulk Hogan. America's Game is a hysterically funny tribute to faux Americana.


Open Film review of 4th and 99.

"Kind of like Broken Lizard’s Club, except funny." 

4th and 99 is the funniest thing to come out of Pennsylvania since M. Night Shyamalan. The difference here is that the filmmakers, a comedy troupe known as The Minor Prophets, are intentionally trying to make us laugh. Kind of like Broken Lizard’s Club, except funny.

As played by TMP regular David Amadio, football player Bobby Makefield is somewhere between 12 and 35 years old. Bobby is at loggerheads with his dad (Gil Damon). That’s because Mr. Makefield botched a call while officiating one of Bobby’s games, thus preventing his son from scoring the winning touchdown. He instigates a confrontation between Bobby and another player, Tommy Johnson (Steve Kuzmick), and the “boys” face off in an epic one-on-one match on the field. 

The hostile parenting on display here is simply hysterical; wait until you see Mr. Makefield do a belly-flop victory dance after Tommy scores a touchdown. TMP movies always have an element that’s a little… well, insane. Here, it’s Brian Gillin as “Favre.” I have no idea why he’s named Favre. He wears the former Greenbay god’s jersey, and he has a picture of the quarterback strapped to his wrist. The first time we see him, he’s walking out of a women’s restroom. This is the stuff of bizarro, unexplained comedy, like when Ron Burgundy and his friends got into an all-out brawl in Anchorman.

4th and 99 is better filmed and better edited than other TMP movies I’ve seen. The action on the field is excitingly choreographed and easy to follow. The actors and filmmakers find just the right note of comic cruelty – they tickle our funny bone, but they do it with a jagged edged sword. Long live TMP!



When it was first published in 1996, Andrey Kurkov’s "A Matter of Death and Life" was a game changer in the novelistic world; the story of Tolya, a man living a hard life in post-soviet Ukraine who is trying to make the most out of his existence. And when we say the most we mean an impeccable and (why not?) artistic death. Tolya hires a hitman to assassinate him in a café in order to make his death spectacular. And the situation is almost the same here in Derek Frey’s short movie ‘Kill The Engine’. Three friends are trying to kill themselves by carbon monoxide poisoning, but their plan falls apart when the engine of the car they are using refuses to start. What can they do next? Well, the engine needs a fix-up, and this is exactly what they will do… more or less!

We must admit it has been a while since we’ve had such a good and funny comedy short in our festival, and 'Kill The Engine' made the entire wait worthwhile. The three main characters are amazingly funny even though the main theme is not. The dialogue is insane you literally cannot watch this short without bursting into laughter. The cinematography is really neat, having at the same time some Wes Anderson influences that are easy to spot, giving this short great cinematic effect.

The ending of Derek Frey's film is priceless – after trying multiple possibilities to get the engine running again, the three men work it out and succeed. The engine is purring like a cat, the men are hugging each other and are insanely happy… but they seem to have forgotten something! If Jerome K. Jerome lived today and watched this movie he would be jealous. This type of comedic discourse and narrative is always a good sign that this world is going places.



‘Unrequited love’ is, and always will be a popular topic to explore within film, and all media, as it is one that resonates with most audiences and one that is fraught with emotion but also often a ridiculousness that in hindsight is hilarious.

This is what we see in this film. A look at unrequited affection and how it manifests itself. The loneliness and the sadness that you often feel when life is happening, ridiculous things that you need to share, but have no one to share them with because they won’t pick up the phone. This film deals with this topic in a satire, almost slapstick style which gives it an ‘easy’ air and makes it an enjoyable watch, yet at its core is still this unrelenting truth and sadness.

The body of the film is structured around a song, which adds to the juxtaposing uplifting feeling of the film, despite the content. The overriding musical element means that the cast have no dialogue, yet the emotion is still evident throughout which is a testament to both the acting talent and the direction. Being able portray a character effectively with no words is no mean feat, but it is one that is achieved in this short film.

The FX in the film are obviously cheap and cheerful, but this is the whole point and it adds to the B movie farce-like elements of the film which offset the trauma well. The camera work is well executed, shooting POV shots from the height of the lead. It results in the rest of the cast looking down on him which is often how unrequited affections feel. Overall a well-executed film that makes light of an emotional issue without losing respect for it.


Two Handers, for the most part – Vancouver International Film Festival

October 10, 2014

My two absolute favourite shorts of the night just happened to be the two shortest films in the package: Sky Blue Collar (dir. Derek Frey, 8 mins) and In Passing (dir. Alan Miller, 5 mins). Sky Blue Collar is a modern day twist of the Shakespearean classic Romeo and Juliet, only here, it is the tale of a businessman and carpet warehouseman who must sneak away from their class-conscious bosses to share a joyous ride on a forklift.

By use of subtle dialogue and delightful acting, viewers are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about the details of the relationship.

Both Sky Blue Collar and In Passing engage their viewers in serious topics, but they do so in silly, unique and uplifting ways. Both shorts work so well, they stand alone. They both tell complete, interesting, and engaging stories, and do so in less than ten minutes.Some stories are just meant to be short.


Open Film Review of The Upper Hand by the Miami Movie Critic.

March 11, 2001

"It's got helluva trick up its sleeve."

About half of this movie is in no way believable. Get this: It's about three college-age slackers who find a secret map and go digging for treasure. That scenario might have worked with Will Holloway and Jim Nightshade (from Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes) or maybe The Goonies. 

Still, don't write this movie off too early. It's got one helluva trick up its sleeve. Following an enigmatic dream sequence, the story proper begins with three roommates (played by Brian Diederich, Scott Ford and Josh Jacobson) hanging out on a boring Saturday. The mail arrives (delivered by the surprisingly hot Jill Kocalis), including a mysterious treasure map. There's also a note explaining that the treasure must be found by tonight. Whatever, just go with it.

Where the movie starts to get good is when the treasure-hunters get to the beach where the treasure is supposed to be buried. One of them claims that the beach is haunted, and tells a story about a Chinese fisherman who laid a curse on the place sometime in the 1800s. This turns out to be pure misdirection, like the long subplot in What Lies Beneath where Michelle Pfeiffer thinks her neighbor has murdered his wife. The twist at the end of The Upper Hand turns out to be very clever. I'm guessing this was the initial idea that Derek Frey and Aaron Tankenson had when they sat down to write this story. I won't spoil it, but let's just say that if you wanted to cover up a crime, this would be a fairly ingenious way to do it.