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3.7 out of 5 stars
Judas Kiss
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68 of 79 people found the following review helpful
on September 3, 2011
Format: DVD
For me, Judas Kiss (which I saw at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco this past June)represents a huge leap in indie gay film making. After years of coming out stories (who have their place, but are clichéd riddled these days), it was fun to see a movie where no one was suicidal about being gay, was not being beat up because they're gay or just worried they could be gay. It also differs from the others in this genre with its lush cinematography and impressive use of CGI effects (and on such a low-budget I know these movies work with). In this film, screenwriter Carlos Pedraza (the web series Star Trek: Phase II) and director J.T. Tepnapa (the funny short Masturbation: Putting the Fun into Self-Loving and the web series Star Trek: Hidden Frontier) takes a simple idea -what if you could go back in time and change your past- and spins a tale about the paths we choose when we're young, and how (at the time) we never think about the consequences of our actions. From that idea, the movie then borrows equal parts The Twilight Zone and a dash of A Christmas Carol and takes us on a journey that while familiar, it is never boring. Charlie David has never been better, giving a wonderful performance of a man in search of redemption for the sins of his past. Then there is Richard Harmon who shines as the troubled young man in search of life outside the reach of his damaged father (he also gave a creepy and memorable performance in AMC's The Killing this past spring). Harmon is brilliantly watchable in what should be a breakout performance. Meanwhile, Belgium singer/actor Timo Descamps as the evil Big Man on Campus is equally as good, along with the talented Julia Morizawa. Then there's Sean Paul Lockhart as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Well known for his gay adult films as Brent Corrigan, Lockhart proves he can act. He's likable, charming and vulnerable, but confident in what he wants. Like Harmon, this could be a game changer for the him.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2011
Format: DVD
"Judas Kiss" is a rather creative and ambitious story about destiny and second chances. The main character is "Zachary", a 30-something failed movie director (David's character) who reluctantly agrees to help judge a film school scholarship competition at his old alma mater. Being housed in a dorm room for the festival makes this even more of a journey for Zachary, since it reminds him of all the promise and potential he showed back then, which he sold out by making some bad decisions then and since. At a gay bar near campus, he meets a student (played by Richard Harmon) with whom he spends the night. It's not until the next day, meeting the filmmakers, that he realizes the young man is one of the contestants. Even stranger: the young man's name is Danny Reyes, which is Zachary's real name, and the film he presenting is actually one that Zachary made when he went to the school. A mysterious older man clues him in that he is somehow being given a second chance to perhaps change his life, by helping the younger version of him make better choices than he made when he was in his shoes.

Supporting, fully developed and relatable characters include Shane (Timo Descamps) a singer/artist into "vampire" videos who is the spoiled son of one of the school's richest benefactors, and his filming assistant Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart), and the film has a nice, original soundtrack that adds to the film, which is low budget but done remarkably well considering I did chuckle a bit that it looks like they used an old disco ball to generate some cheap "special effects" in a couple of scenes). Usually, the words "Starring Charlie David" aren't much of a draw for me, but he is actually quite good in this role, much deeper than the usual "hot guy" he plays and has considerable depth and emotion. Harmon is also excellent in his role.

Not rated, but would likely be an R due to sexual content. ... Watch it through the end credits, as the entire cast sings a song that can't be missed! DVD has extensive extras, including commentary, a "making of" feature, deleted scenes and a music video by Descamps (who apparently is a big teen idol in Belgium). May not be for everyone, but I thought it was a great effort. Five stars out of five.
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34 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on October 6, 2011
Format: DVD
This film, Judas Kiss, was absolutely amazing, and everyone leaving the film festival theater where I recently saw it was touched by it and its message of regret, redemption, and hope for the future. Judas Kiss has a little bit of something for everyone, but most especially, it is a story that every viewer can relate to... reflection upon one's own life, regret over decisions made, and what you might have done differently if you could. In this innovative film, the character of Zach actually does get a chance to change some things in his younger life. But will his younger self, in that "all-knowing-invincible arrogance" of teenage youth, listen to his older self, and take a different path that will change both of their futures? That indeed is the question in this charmer of a film.

The film has a professional and compelling soundtrack, lighting, photography, and editing, I was blown away by its message of regret, redemption, and the possibility of change. Charlie David, Sean Lockhart, Timo Descamps, Julia Morizawa, and the rest of the cast truly give stellar performances, beyond what is often expected in independent films.

Viewers will be transported to this quirky, mystical intersection of time and space, and experience similar emotions as the characters on screen. Viewers will ponder how they, too, could change their own life, and, indeed, change their own future. Beginning right then and there. I know this for a fact because everyone at the film festival where it played did just that. Everyone was thinking about it. To me, that is the success of this smart and bright indie film from director/writer J.T. Tepnapa and producer/writer Carlos Pedraza (who were amazing in the Question and Answer session held afterward).

Be aware, Judas Kiss is an edgy film, and there are several graphic and emotional scenes that are intentionally made to evoke some emotional response from the viewers. That being said, all is done tastefully and artistically, and viewers will be glad that they saw this little gem of a film.

I can't wait for it to be available on DVD -- it will definitely be a stocking stuffer for many of my friends -- gay, straight, bi, and whatever.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
This is an ambitious, low budget film, but the story line is convoluted and it unfolds in too many unbelievable, yet predictable ways. I found myself working too hard to care about what was happening. Ultimately, I gave up on it. I just didn't care enough about the characters or the outcome of the story to finish watching the film. I gave up. There were a few strong performances. Laura Kenny, in particular, was exceptional as the all knowing, Mrs Blossom, a relatively minor character.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
Ridiculous. Boring. Ridiculously boring. Bad acting, bad writing, BAD directing - bad film. Who is giving this movie five stars? Honestly?? If you're looking for compelling gay cinema, look elsewhere. What's worse is I really did try to care about the characters and the story, but ultimately I was trying harder than the film itself. I found myself fast forwarding just to get to the end more quickly. I can't think of anything that could have saved this film; even if it were working on all cylinders, ultimately it's predictable, trite nonsense.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant Video
JUDAS KISS is a polished little film that successfully mixes gay issues with science fiction. Written (with Carlos Pedraza) and directed by young J.T. Tepnapa it manages to take a dream idea and by incorporating the use of sci-fi create a story with which almost everyone can relate. It introduces some fresh talent and allows some seasoned actors to keep the quality of the film on keel.

Zachary Well (Charlie David) is a failed filmmaker who despite a promising career in college left school to respond to the magnet of Hollywood: fifteen years later his life now is in and out of rehab and waiting tables because his dream of fame in la-la-land didn't happen. Zach's friend Topher (Troy Fischnaller) is successful and when an emergency trip arises he asks Zach to replace him as a judge for the filmmaking class at Zach's old college. With great trepidation Zach goes back to his alma mater, is housed in the freshman dorm, visits the local gay bar and has an encounter with a student - one Danny Reyes (Richard Harmon). The next day as Zach is preparing for the judging he discovers the name of his previous night's encounter and cannot believe that Danny Reyes hnot only has Zach's previous name but also is a contestant in the film contest with a film by the same name that Zach had written and made 15 years ago. Other characters enter the scene - Chris (Sean Paul Lockhart) who is Danny's paramour but who Danny is rejecting in favor of Shane (Timo Descamps) whose parents are wealthy and are supporting the film contest; Abbey (Julia Morizawa) who is Danny's assistant; and Danny's father (Vince Valensuela). The bizarre aspect of this is that Danny Reyes not only possess Zach's name but also Danny's life and associations mirror Zach's when he was in college. Characters form the past and imaginary situations occur and Zach sees in Danny the opportunity to make the result of the film contest different and thus alter the destiny of Danny Reyes.

The story makes sense as a campus story but the interesting aspect of the film is the clever way in which elements of science fiction (via camera work and music and Trompe l'oeil) bring the story to a level of reconsidering the past and seeing where different actions could have possibly resulted in a more successful present. It works and bodes well for the career of JT Tepnada. Grady Harp, November 11
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2012
Format: DVD
How often we've all wondered how alternate choices could have changed our lives' trajectories. The idea is hardly new, but "Judas Kiss" explores a new avenue: meeting one's younger self and trying to persuade him to seek better options. The little self-conscious twist here is that the main character is a failed film maker, so in a sense, he is afforded the chance for a lifetime "re-take." This is a very sincere, intelligent effort with remarkably high production values for its low budget; inventive, sensitive direction and fine visual sense; and uniformly touching performances from Sean Paul Lockhart (in a stunningly nuanced, moving dramatic portrayal), Richard Harmon, and Charlie David. Everyone's intense involvement and sincerity are very apparent. The film's principal protagonists are gay, and refreshingly, the film eschews cliches and overused plot lines, defying categorization as it fluidly blends several genres, genuinely elevating the idea of "gay cinema." More from this team is eagerly awaited.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Format: Amazon Instant Video
Judas Kiss stars Charlie David as a down-on-his-luck filmmaker who gets wrangled into going back to his college to judge a student film festival. Thing is, one of the students whose work he's judging is in fact himself. From years ago. But this isn't exactly Back to the Future stuff either. Not only is he able to interact with his "past" self, in the present, but they interact quite intimately, if temporarily. It's a little bit of a mind bend, the idea of sleeping with yourself but not masturbating. The magic in this story, though obvious, is also so subtle that it doesn't really feel unbelievable or throw you out of the story or characters at all. I love subtle magic that enhances the reality of the story rather than drowning it out.

The reference of the title is interesting. Our present day director is currently in hard times mostly because of his poor decisions since he won the student film festival years back with a film that was technically ineligible. In returning to the scene of the crime, as it were, he finds that with a little of that subtle magic going on, he's able to make things right. But it can only happen at the expense of his younger self. He's either going to have to betray this eager and talented young man in order to clear his adult conscience and do things the right way, or he's going to have to let the kid repeat the mistakes of his past and end up far removed from what's really important in life.

As far as professional quality, this movie is not far off from the quality of films like Love! Valor! Compassion! or (for a "mainstream" comparison) A Single Man. It is well done, all around - well written, well-acted, well filmed, and well edited. These things don't actually take budget - budget can only polish the talent that's already there and Judas Kiss didn't need big budget for the talent involved to shine.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 29, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video
This movie was simply amazing. The writing was fantastic, but it takes something real and transposes it a situation that anyone can really relate to. So while the characters are gay, the entire movie is about choices, regret, and what one would do/troubles faced if one could go back and change or undo what had already been done.

The story line provides additional sensitivity to viewers because in the eyes of a young film maker, that which may launch his career as an acclaimed movie entrepreneur, is the very story that has haunted and destroyed his past. So, does he risk it all by telling this story and also risk lose all his financial support for film school from his only family member or does he retract a hideous story, a narrative that exposes the raw and unpleasant past of our main character, losing the film festival, and ruining his opportunity to tell a life that should never be experienced by another.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 20, 2014
Format: Amazon Instant Video
I've had better wet dreams! At least it was free! So I really can't complain. It's still only one star.
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