The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Thursday, June 27, 2013
23 Minutes to Sunrise (2012)
Here is another of the films submitted to us by Kevin at MTI Video. This one I was really interested in, because it starred Eric Roberts. He's a favorite here at the DTVC, even though we haven't reviewed nearly as many of his 300+ imdb credits as we should. (Have you looked at his bio recently? He has more post-production credits than most people's full CVs.)
23 Minutes to Sunrise takes place in a small Illinois town outside of St. Louis. It involves two people who work 3rd shift at a diner, Eddie and Sheila (Dingani Beza and Jilanne Klaus respectively), and the odd assortment of patrons they have. Two of them are Eric Roberts and a young lady with him. There's something ominous about Roberts, and Eddie thinks he knows why, and because of that doesn't want anything to do with him; while Sheila wants to protect the girl. At the same time, a young thug and his girlfriend show up, looking to rob the place. They're all on a collision course to wackiness!
There were a lot of aspects of this that I enjoyed. I liked the two main characters, Eddie and Sheila; I liked the sets and cinematography and the way those things set a great atmosphere of mystery and tension; I loved what Eric Roberts brought to the table, and the other supporting cast, including Nia Peeples. What I didn't like was the ending. I felt like it wasn't worthy of who the main characters were, and I felt like they deserved better than the ending they got. I obviously can't discuss the ending without giving it away, but it was a disappointment. Overall, the story had its slow moments, but it also had some great ones that would have made up for that; but for me, it couldn't recover from that ending.
Eric Roberts was definitely Eric Roberts here. He was just smoking cigarettes and chewing up scenery. It's amazing, for someone who does so many films, that he doesn't mail it in when he's in a low-budget film like this, but he doesn't. I think that's what I love about Roberts, that he's a consummate professional. Or maybe that he's always Eric Roberts in every film, whether it's this or The Expendables, it's Eric Roberts. For fans of him, like myself, this definitely delivers, and in that respected I enjoyed it.
The film is carried by the stories of Eddie and Sheila, who create a kind of united front in dealing with the customers, and Beza and Klaus make those characters compelling enough that I wanted to root for them and I stuck with the film because I wanted to see them make out well. Again, the ending doesn't provide that kind of fulfillment, at least for me, which was an extreme disappointment. I think when you put in the work to give us strong, nuanced characters, and give us a reason to invest in them, we need that investment to pay off, otherwise the whole thing is shot.
As I mentioned above, Nia Peeples is in this, playing a wife who is having marital problem with her husband, played by Bob Zany-- he's not all that zany though. She doesn't have that many scenes, but her role is one of the few that infuses some humor into the film, which was a good thing. The young lady with Roberts was played by Haley Busch, heir to a massive beer company fortune that we won't name in order to avoid buzz marketing it. I noticed that the director made sure to get a good shot of a nice microbrew in a convenience store scene, which was a nice counter to that. The couple looking to rob the place were played by Tom Sandoval and Kristen Doute. They were listed as being on a reality show called Vanderpump Rules. I have no idea what that is, but maybe someone reading does. All of these people did their thing as a supporting cast, and they all worked, though I would have liked to have seen more Nia Peeples.
Finally, we have Greg Warren playing a developmentally delayed man who dresses as a super hero and comes into the diner to get what appears to be his usual meal and coffee. Eddie and Sheila know him and like him, and unless you have no heart, it would be hard for anyone else to not like him either. The film maker though pulls a very mean-spirited move and has Sandoval's thug character rob him at gun point. It happens off-screen, but when he comes back we see him with Warren's superhero money belt. The thug character really has no repercussions from this, making it all the more mean-spirited. I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy seeing developmentally delayed characters robbed at gunpoint, especially in the context of the rest of the film with the goodwill it was building through the Eddie and Sheila characters. Maybe some people enjoy more mean-spirited fare in their films, but I don't.
And maybe that's it, this didn't work for me because it wasn't made for me. Except, 90 percent of it, all but the superhero character getting robbed and the end, worked for me; so where does that leave someone who likes the more mean-spirited elements, but not the better-feeling elements that I enjoyed leading up to them? I don't know, it's an interesting call. This is available on DVD from both Netflix and RedBox, so those would be places to check it out if you are interested.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2009402/