First Rites Movies

First Rites - Movies from New Directors

The Australian distributor Tribe Enterprises linked up with Hollywood Video to release a series of first films by new directors. We have not seen any new titles lately. and it appears they have closed up shop. Too bad, because it was a nice venue for young talented director, writers, and actors.

This is such a refreshing group of work that we thought we'd list the ones that we have seen, so far:

Mr. Vincent

Perhaps the last of the First Rites movies, Mr. Vincent is another tale of love and obsession. John Vincent is a poor songwriter with a failed marriage. To make things worse, he lives in Yonkers. John meets up with Lisa, an old high school acquaintance, and they begin dating. Both on the rebound, they keep it at arms length for awhile, and John seems to be doing okay. Lisa's friends and family, don't take too well to him. When she begins to cool off, he starts losing traction. Director Robert Celestino does an excellent job of slowly exposing the depth of John Vincent's desperation. Before long, he is climbing through her window, reading her mail, and listening to her phone messages. It gets worse, much worse, and neither of them can stop the train. Frank John Hughes is Mr. Vincent, and Lisa Lo Cicero plays the victimized Lisa. This gets a little scary because it's too real for fiction. Very well done. B&W. 2000. Unrated. 90 minutes.

The Eden Myth

Written and direct by Mark Edlitz, The Eden Myth is a tale about family secrets. The Speck sons and daughter are all called home to the family manse for an important meeting with Dad. It seems Dad has arranged a marriage for his youngest son. Oddly, his son has little problem with that and takes an immediate liking to the young woman. Meanwhile the sister is having an affair with the middle brother, and the eldest son announces that he to is getting engaged. The director's intro and the film jacket make a big deal about not revealing the "secret' ending. So, we won't, but we'll wager you'll figure it out long before the big revelation. Rated R. 85 minutes.

Anarchy TV

Directed by Jonathan Blank, Anarchy TV is a Zappa family production with no less than three of Frank's kids in the cast, not to mention Alan Thicke. Essentially a pointless romp with lots of grandstanding, bad acting, sophomoric humor, and embarrassingly pointless nudity as some radical student types retake a TV station that was co-opted by televangelist Thicke. Look for Mink Stole as Mrs. Dickman. And somehow they even got Timothy Leary to do a walk on. Yikes. Better you should watch Blank's other film Sex, Drugs & Democracy. 90 minutes. Rated R. 2000.

Art House

Director Leigh Slawner scraped up $200,000 to make a film about a guy trying to make a film. The hero, Ray McMichael, works in a coffee shop and struggles to make his "film". His acquaintance, unsuccessful filmmaker, Wes Craig, teams up with him and then rips off his magnum opus script. Undeterred, Ray perseveres and encounters a few distinctive characters along his personal path to fame, including the roommate from hell. This is Leigh Slawner's first film and is released on the First Rites label. Rated R. 88 minutes. 2000.

The Big Empty

First time director Jack Perez puts a new twist on the hard boiled detective story. Lloyd Meadows is not quite sure why he is a detective, but he waits patiently for his next divorce job. A rather vulnerable Jane Danforth hires him to trail her social worker husband, Peter. Peter appears to be an angel, so Lloyd starts messing with his mind. Before long the lonely detective has pried Jane away and made Peter the lonely party. 96 minutes. Unrated. 2000.

The Big Split

The story of a relationship gone wrong, then gone right, by new director Martin Hynes. Very realistic. If you've been there, you'll be able to relate. A First Rites Film. 87 minutes. Unrated.

burnzy's last call

A one day snapshot in a downtown New York bar. The director Michael de Avila knows his subject, and he gets a host of cameos in his cinematic bar room. As a veteran barkeep, de Avila has a good handle on his subject, and he has condensed his fifteen years of anecdotes into one night. Burnzy is an elder patron who starts his drinking daily at 10 am and has occupied the same stool since 1956. He stays in place as yuppies, weirdoes, David Johansen, drag queens, Sherry Stringfield, cops and bookies come and go. Through it all, Burnzy drinks his short beers. Johansen plays Andre the vile artist bum who is just too gross to believe. Sal the bartender is a teetotaler whom Andre likens to a diabetic in a candy store. Sal (James McCaffrey) makes him the drink to end all drinks. Watch this one when you're feeling thirsty. Burnzy sticks it out to closing time and you should to. Enjoy the superb close up shots of fizzy drinks and cigarette smoke and the great sound track. 88 minutes. 2000. Unrated.

Chicks Man

Possibly a film about men's inability to fathom the mysteries of women. Directed by Jeremy Wagener. Supposedly this won the Savannah Film Festival. I guess we missed that one. 93 minutes. Unrated. 2000.


Gus is a middle aged accountant who embezzles a few bucks to help buy his family a new home. Of course, he's not very good at anything, least of all crime, and he quickly gets caught. He takes his son and runs off to upstate New York. It is beautifully shot in black and white by Wolfgang Held, and the cinematography amplifies the depressing qualities of this poor schmuck's life. 77 minutes. Unrated. 1994.

Dead Pet

While Jake was away at Harvard, the family poodle has displaced him and garnered all his parents' affection. They regretfully inform Jake that he can't finish school as his tuition went for experimental surgery on Miko, their 13 year old poodle (played by Raindrop). He retires to his room only to find it has been converted into a pink poodle recovery room. Soon after, the poodle dies while in his care. When his parents return, they accuse him of murdering the dog in a fit of jealousy. He leaves home, but that is just the start of his problems. He takes a job selling knives door to door, with a cutlery sales cult hoping to make ends meet. But the harder he tries the harder life gets. Kevin Cotteleer, wrote, directed and starred in this funny spoof on just how tough it is to be a twenty-something. Reminiscent of Spanking the Monkey, but far more light hearted.

Dill Scallion

The jacket to this this film calls it a country western version of This Is Spinal Tap. Granted, it is a music industry pseudo-documentary, but that's where the similarity ends. Dill (Billy Burke) is a shit kicker school bus driver in central Texas who gets a shot doing radio ads in Nashville. He rockets to the top with Henry Winkler (I swear I'm not making this up) as his manager. He sings great tunes like "Tube Top Boogie". According to the credits, Sheryl Crowe wrote the music. Some of the lyrics are hysterical. Written and directed by Jordan Brady and released on the First Rites label. 1999. Rated PG. 91 minutes.


Subtitled "The rise and fall of an all girl bookie joint" by director Eve Annenberg. Dogs is a tale about Lower East Side NYC female slackers who have a plan to move them over to the lower west side. Leila Wascowicz is so broke, that they take her mother's coffin to the cemetery by subway (She died of MSG buildup). After that experience Leila and her roommates decide to go into business. They link up with a Brooklyn bookie who sets them up as a satellite office. It kind of smacks of early Spike Lee, but the idea and the dialogue are pretty entertaining. God save small independent film makers. 85 minutes. 2000. Unrated.

Fashionably L.A.

A no-holds look at working your way up or through the modeling business in LA. Directed by Tamara Olson, who apparently lived through this hell before becoming a great director. Show this to your teenage daughters to dispel any illusions she may have about the glamour of a modeling career. 95 minutes. Unrated

Fishing With Gandhi

If your head is clogged from too many slick formulaic Hollywood films, watch this movie, it is brain Drano. Gil and Roy are a none too bright set of hillbilly twins (played by James & Rick Reichmuth) that pick up Danno (Dan Klein) a pathetic stoner who is hitch hiking home from his mother's wedding. She married his Uncle Roy (which puts this solidly in our avuncular film category). Anyway these two "human speed bumps" make frequent stops to let their overheated pick up truck cool down. The dialogs that ensue are inane and priceless. Both a comedy and a safety film as director Gabe Weisert clearly spells out the dangers of human inbreeding. Keep an eye out for Weisert's next film Cow Monkey in which the twins set out to find Bigfoot.73 minutes. Unrated. 1999.


Ralph gets some acid from a friendly chemist and trips with his three slacker friends. This four part movie examines the psychedelic analysis that these four undergo over the course of the evening. Ralph (director Karl Hirsch's autobiographical character) realizes his film career does not exist and perhaps he has a small problem with intimacy. Eric's trip is presented in a cool stop motion animation sequence. Best line is: "This is my life, and boy does it suck." Dave, the nowhere poet, does a stand up routine, and Joanne just loses it. They end up in the emergency room and generally realize their lives suck. Ralph leaves town in the end. 2000. Unrated. B&W/Color. 91 minutes.

Next Time

This is a Laundromat tale. A just-off-the bus artist from Ohio, (Christian Campbell), befriends a streetwise woman (Jonelle Allen) who is twice his age. She is mystified as to why this white kid would want to live in south central LA. Over a string of Saturday nights she imparts a little of her wisdom, and he transfers some of his optimism to their mutual benefit. Director L. Alan Fraser does an excellent job of keeping this tight screenplay in motion with the help of Allen and Campbell's talent. 2000. Unrated. 96 minutes.


Director Jesse Fiegelman has created another weird tale of life along the Jersey Shore. Sean (David Wheir) is a summer kid who overstays his welcome and keeps his summer job in a photo lab. For fun, he culls out all the kinky prints to show his friends. One rather interesting young woman (Gaby Hoffman) brings in photos of dead animals. This is kind of quirky film that is really quite good. Look for Mr. Fiegleman's next film Hotbox. Unrated. 85 minutes.

Social Intercourse

This film was made in a week for $15,000 at a borrowed house with volunteer actors. It is a house party movie with people dancing in their underwear, lesbians kissing, druggies, dweebs, twits and a fight scene. The sub-hero of the tale is Todd who can't get laid because he drives a Tercell and can't get past his last relationship. Pretty close to your average post college party. Nice credits. Directed by S.Lee Taylor, who also plays Todd. 88 minutes. Unrated. 1999.

Sudden Manhattan

If you are a Hal Hartley fan, you'll know Adrienne Shelly as the lead actress in Trust and The Unbelievable Truth. Adrienne wrote, directed and stars in this off kilter story of a disoriented New Yorker who keeps witnessing homicides. After the first sighting she links up with Adam, (Tim Guinee), who becomes her impotent lover who prefers Russian novels to sex. She seek out a gypsy fortune teller (Louise Lasser) for assistance, but that does little to clear things up. It is all rather clever and far better than that crap you've been watching on TV. Look for her second film, I'll Take You There, which should be along shortly. Unrated. 81 minutes. 2000.


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