While at this year's American Film Market, the largest get-together of film distributors and buyers in America, held each February in Santa Monica, we were introduced to a small studio/distributor by the name of Echelon Entertainment. We were able to see one of their upcoming releases entitled "Wake", starring Martin Landau.

In an act of graceful generosity, Echelon Entertainment will be releasing this Independent feature film in Los Angeles and New York on May 28th, 2004. This comes as great news for true film buffs and art lovers that have been choking to death on the rotgut re-imagining fluff currently clogging our cinematic arteries. “Wake” is a startlingly original character study. A deeply poetic examination of brotherly love and family dysfunction that bruises the heart with swinging punches of revulsion. If you’re tired of clichéd Cineplex drama, then you should defiantly check out this, the writing and directing debut of Henry LeRoy Finch.

A true family affair, the film was produced by Henry’s wife Susan Landau Finch, and features Finch’s father-in-law Martin Landau in a role that encompasses and compacts the focal point of this harrowing story. Set in a ramshackle house in the town of Bath, Maine, Landau stars as Sebastian, the oldest of four brothers. He sits at his typewriter, plagued by demons of the past. His aged fingers struggle with releasing his own bitter history onto sheets of whiskey soaked paper. This novel was started long ago, on an evening that ripped him and his three brothers apart…

Long estranged and no longer on speaking terms, these four brothers collide within this creepy, four-walled structure once owned by their parents. The main throughline of the script revolves around their combustible reunion as each brother reveals extremely different reasons for participating in this late night revelry. What starts out as a fun night of cheap booze and even cheaper whores quickly turns into a mind-altering tragedy. A party becomes a wake in the blink of an eye.

Beautiful constructed and well acted, “Wake” holds a medium of tension in its foreplay. The wrap around becomes a thought provoking mystery of interaction and reaction. Most of the film is swathed in the nonconforming blanket of a stage play, and it’s beat structure recalls a strong voice easily associated with some of the greatest American playwrights. This taut character study relies heavily on its dialogue passages, and finds it’s creative intonation in the actors chosen to play the four brothers.

Blake Gibbons, as escaped convict Raymond, literally steals every scene he’s in with a dark, textured performance that literally seals the stamp of legitimacy on this production. Once he blazes on screen in a streak of meanness and whiskey, it’s almost impossible to take your eyes off the crotch-kicker. Certainly not the principal player, he steals a surmountable amount of thunder from the film’s leading man Gale Harold, who has garnered an earned amount of praise for his Brain Kenney on Gay as Folk.

Harold brings forth the inner tragedy of Mental Illness with a galloping bit of inspired energy that certainly ushers him in as a star to watch. He is the glue that holds this arc and fold together. The double-teaming thespian skills of Gibbons and Harold single-handedly make “Wake” worth a night out at the local Art House Cinema, and they earn the worth of that over-priced 12 dollar ticket with a surreal jap to the teeth.

Dihlon McManne and John Winthrope Philbrick play the other two brothers. Dihlon stars as aspiring writer Sebastian, aging down the Landau aura with a swift hand. The man is at war with himself, stuck at his mother’s bedside contemplating the act of euthanasia while Philbrick deals with his own inner shiftiness. Once a cop with a convicted brother, John’s Jack has decided to hit the road in a flitting bit of escapism that may very well save his favorite sibling from jail.

“Wake” proves Henry LeRoy Finch to be a talent kid right out of the gate. He shot his first feature film in a house originally built in Bath, Maine around the year 1745, and it gives this project a very tiled visual authenticity not often seen in small budget features shot directly on video.

If you’re so inclined, “Wake” is worth seeking out. It is head and shoulders above anything currently playing at the local Maitreyaplex. Of course, considering what’s being shown there, that’s not much praise. Don’t hold that in contention.

“Wake” will open at the Regent Showcase on La Brea in Los Angeles and at the Quad Cinemas on 13th Street between 5th and Avenues of the Americas.

Following this release, Echelon Films will open A Tale of Two Pizzas in theaters later this year. It centers itself on a feud between The Bianco and the Rossi families of Yonkers. Yes, they are warring over one of my favorite things in the world…Pizza! Rossi's is slinging the tangy sauce. Those who like their crust thin and crispy go to Bianco's. When young Angela Rossi, armed with a newly minted associates degree in marketing from New York's Fashion Institute, tries to help her father put the Biancos out of business, pizza detente goes out the window. And when doodle artist Tony Bianco agrees to help his father steal the secret of the Rossi's sauce to win the neighborhood pizza contest, a full throttle pizza war - and a little hush puppy humping - follow. It’s Romeo and Juliet at 2 bucks a slice!

Even though it will aggravate my acid-reflux and make my mouth water with hunger, I’ll be here to give you my brief take on this delicious dish when it comes closer to it’s theatrical release date.


Dont't forget to also check out: Wake