Phantoms and Assassinistas!

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A few weeks ago, I found some unread e-mails from filmmaker Chris .R. Notarile. He wanted to let me know that new episodes of his original web series Phantom Faye were being released. However, by the time I found those e-mails hiding in my spam folder, he had already released episodes 2-4, as well as his much-anticipated short action film Assassinista! Then, by the time I sat down to catch up on those latest works, Notarile released the 5th and final episode of season one of Phantom Faye! Then, as you know from my previous post, I watched Notarile‘s awesome Deadpool: The Webseries before catching up on Phantom Faye and, suddenly, I was obsessed with all things Deadpool! Well, the obsession has dwindled into normal fanboy appreciation, so now, at last, I’m ready to tell you all about Phantom Faye… and Assassinista!

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I first discovered the films of Chris .R. Notarile [IMDb] and Blinky Productions INC [Youtube] when I stumbled upon The Retcon Chronicles (2014) last October. In The Retcon Chronicles, which was intended to be the pilot episode of a web series, a team of superheros [Kayla The Centurion (Dominique Storelli), The Avenger (Robert Tovani), Phantom Faye (Kylie Contreary), and Ken the Specialist (Hidekun Hah)] find themselves up against the “ominous research facility” known as Retcon Labs. Read my original post and watch the film (here). The Retcon Chronicles was Notarile‘s first crack at creating his own comic book universe [recently branded The Blinky Cinematic Universe aka The B.C.U.] on film by tying together some of his other films that made (mostly) subtle references to Retcon Labs in the same timeline – past, present and future. However, he soon realized that his future vision was too ambitious for his low budgets, so he stepped back and, instead, concentrated on the origin of one of The Retcon Chronicles‘ most intriguing characters… Phantom Faye.

The character of Phantom Faye, as portrayed by Kylie Contreary in The Retcon Chronicles, was directly inspired by the personification of “choice”, as portrayed by Blinky regular Mandy Evans, in Notarile‘s brilliant short film CHOICE (2011). Phantom Faye and her sister Phantom Selista, as played by Shannon McDermott, are “beings [that come] to us in times of crisis and [present] life changing options.” Faye and Selista, however, are at odds with each other in regards to how those options should be offered to us. Their sibling rivalry becomes the catalyst for the main conflict in Phantom Faye, the web series which, in turn, sets up the events that occur in The Retcon Chronicles. The first episode of Phantom Faye was posted in February 2015, while episodes 2-5 were posted in July-August. Kylie Contreary and Shannon McDermott returned from The Retcon Chronicles in their respective roles as Faye and Selista, as did adorable Blinky regular Andrea-Nichole Olivas as Madaline Hess. However, Marissa Centrella replaces Dominique Storelli as Kayla The Centurion, Josh Daniels replaces Robert Tovani as The Avenger, and Kevin TaeJin replaces Hidekun Hah as Ken the Specialist.

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You can read my post on the first episode (here) but, here, let’s just start from the beginning …

Phantom Faye (Part I) [12:25] – Faye and Selista are sisters at who are odds with each other. Faye believes that they, as Phantoms, must assure humans that there is always hope when making difficult choices, whereas Selista believes that humans must find hope for themselves and suffer the consequences of their choices. Selista warns Faye that her actions will cause “war, famine and death” like she’s never seen. Selista believes that war will restore the balance of nature that Faye disrupted. So, Faye crosses over into our world and asks Kayla the Centurion for her help to stop Selista’s evil plan, while Selista crosses over and with intentions of aligning herself with current Retcon Labs CEO Madaline Hess. Watch Part I on Youtube here …

The file that Mr. Rothchild (Josh Rothman) gives to Madaline Hess from the Republic City archives is in regards to a superhero from the Golden Age called The Protector. The reference is to The Protector (2006). I love when Kayla the Centurion makes her first appearance. She climbs up onto a pile of rubble, after obviously having been thrown by her opponent Wrath (EricThe SmokeMoran), and says, with sarcasm, “Ouch.” Now, after having watched Deadpool: The Webseries, I see that it’s just like when Sabretooth (Trevor Swann) takes a bullet to the chest from one of Boss Lady’s guard in Episode Three! It works in both films! Oh, and Natalie Fabrizio plays Phantom Ravina who appears at the beginning of the episode. She’s another one of the Phantom sisters. She’ll return later.

Phantom Faye (Part II) [15:50] – Kayla the Centurion and Phantom Faye, in her human guise, track down highly-skilled assassin Ken the Specialist in hopes of convincing him to help them with their plan to stop Selista. However, Faye lets Ken escape, but assures Kayla that he will eventually make his choice. Meanwhile, former Retcon CEO William Sinclair (Adam King) offers Madaline Hess the last remaining sample of DNA from the original Protector as well as the formula for the Centurions’ power developed by Retcon Research before a pair of terrorists exposed the project and forced the government to cancel their contracts. Watch Part II on Youtube here …

William Sinclair mentions “that mess with those terrorists” which led to the downfall of Retcon Research and the rise of Retcon Labs. “You mean Jack and Jill?” Madaline clarifies. The reference is to Jack + Jill (2010) in which psychopaths Jack (Brandon Slagle) and Jill (Kim Santiago), who were “part of a super-secret soldier reprogramming lab experiment,” violently take over a live television broadcast and hold its employees hostage. The characters of Jack and Jill are actually Chris .R. Notarile‘s original take on the Joker and Harley Quinn. The Protector (2006), of course, is referenced again as well. The Protector is a poignant story of an aging superhero in which The Protector, as an old man (Tony Dadika), reflects on his life while watching an old TV show about himself as The Protector (Greg DePetro) in his heyday. The TV show is a parody of ’50s superhero shows such as Adventures of Superman (1952-58) with George Reeves. Watch the parody (here). “Now, why would I do that?” the Old Man wonders. “If I’m bulletproof, then there’s no need for me to duck if they throw a gun at me.” I watched Adventures of Superman in syndication as a child, and I always wondered about that very same thing! That quandary is also presented in Phantom Faye (Part II). Kayla the Centurion drops in on Ken the Specialist while he’s on assignment. He shoots her but the bullet bounces off Kayla’s chest. She sighs. Then, he thrusts the butt of his gun toward her. Kayla stops it with her hand. “Seriously?” she quips. I love that! Oh, and speaking of Deadpool: The Webseries, I was reminded of Typhoid Mary’s psionic grip on Domino’s throat when, in Phantom Faye (Part II), Phantom Selista psionically grips Madaline Hess’s throat! Again, it works in both films!

I have to mention that I love the look of the Phantoms. Their faces remind me of the ghouls from the atmospheric low-budget horror film Carnival of Souls (1962). The black-and-white make-up is simple yet alluring and, in Selista’s case, effectively menacing and, sometimes, even downright creepy …

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However, I also love that Faye takes on a human guise, sans make-up, in Part IIKylie Contreary is a beautiful young actress, as is Shannon McDermott whose Selista also takes on a human guise in Part IV. So, before we continue, let’s first meet Kylie Contreary

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Kylie Contreary was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, but moved to Los Angeles to attend UCLA. She’s an actress – with a B.A. in Psychology! That’s crazy, right? Well, she would know. Now, I don’t know how well she can psychoanalyze, but I do know how well she can act. Faye, by design, is an ethereal being who offers humans choices in difficult times and, as such, she is confident in her purpose and steadfast in her beliefs; but, in her human guise, she is kind of awkward and somewhat naive, like an alien on Earth. Contreary plays these two sides of Faye very well. So, what else has she been in? Well, to date, mostly short films. Here’s two that I’ve seen …

Illuminati Inc. (2014). Directed by Praveen Collins. This film is “an ensemble workplace comedy about the inner machinations of the Illuminati.” I mentioned this amusing film in my previous post. It’s like The Office if Dunder Mifflin’s mission was bringing on the End of Days instead of selling paper. Contreary plays “Kate”, a prospective new employee at Illuminati, Inc. She’s delightful in this film!

What Is Momo? (2015). Directed by Ross Harris. Produced by Jittery Monkeys [Facebook]. What is momo? Zom-burgers! Yum! Watch this quick zombie comedy for a taste! However, if you blink, you’ll miss Contreary as “Victorious Machete Chick.” She’s fun to watch even in bit parts!

And, here’s three more that I’d like to see …

Jingle Dead II (2014). Directed by and starring Jared Black“Three friends from high school reunite in a dive bar on Christmas Eve, and find themselves having to thwart off robbers and a horde of zombies.” The robbers, apparently, are all female and one of them [“Robber #4”] is Kylie Contreary. Sounds like this film would make a perfect double-feature with Dan Riesser‘s ’80s-inspired demon-fest Night of the Punks (2010). Jingle Dead II is a sequel to Jared Black‘s Jingle Dead (2010) in which “a zombie outbreak reaches a small soap factory and it’s employees fight off a horde.” I must see both films!

Cute Girl Uncertainty Principle (2014). Written and directed by Ethan Speakman“A physics professor uses quantum mechanics to try to win over one of his colleagues.” Contreary plays “Zoe”. That’s all I know. Check out their failed Indiegogo campaign (here).

Zombie Queen from Outer Space (2015). Written and directed by Senta Burke (who also plays the Zombie Queen). “A zombie queen from outer space lands outside a small town and starts turning people into zombies – musical numbers ensue…” It’s “a 20 minute rock movie musical”! Contreary plays “Cassie Newton”. Check out their successfully-funded Indiegogo campaign (here).

OK, let’s get back to Phantom Faye

Phantom Faye (Part III) [13:38] – Faye tries, in vain, to reason with Selista, while Ravina confronts Ken the Specialist on assignment. Meanwhile, Madaline Hess, at Selista’s behest, convinces Retcon’s Board of Directors to get behind her latest project to clone a new Protector from the DNA she acquired from Retcon’s former CEO. Faye is attacked by cybernetic SYN who uses a weapon that materializes her essence and traps her in human form. SYN was sent by Madaline Hess, again, at Selista’s behest. Watch Part III on Youtube here …

Ken the Specialist’s target, as seen on his cell phone in the elevator, is a female with dark red hair. She is Jaci. The reference is to Assassinsita (Jaci vs Solitaire) (2015). More on that film later. I should point out that I really like Kevin TaeJin as Ken the Specialist. Apologies to Hidekun Hah (who played Ken in The Retcon Chronicles), but fitness fanatic Taejin looks more like a highly-skilled assassin. The guy is ripped! Of course, you can’t really tell because specialists dress like transporter Frank Martin, but Taejin‘s rugged good looks will convince you. The SYN costume is pretty bad-ass, too. Oh, and I love love Kayla the Centurion’s line when Faye wakes up in the hospital after being attacked by SYN: “What happened to you? I thought you were a ghost or something?”

Speaking of Kayla the Centurion …

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Marissa Centrella [Twitter] is an aspiring actress and a model from New Jersey. Phantom Faye, apparently, is her (short) film debut. However, she is featured in Notarile‘s upcoming film Turned (2015), “a gritty vampire/revenge short starring Josh Rothman, Christian Chase, Roberto Lombardi, Athena Brensberger and Seregon O’Dassey!” Watch the trailer (here). Centrella is also set to star in Notarile‘s next project Pretty Little Killers with Andrea-Nichole Olivas and Shannon McDermott. I’m excited for both films!

Phantom Faye (Part IV) [12:42]. Selista, in her human guise, takes control from Madaline Hess and frees super villain Wrath from prison, while Faye meets with her Father (Roberto Lombardi) to get her powers back. “We must go,” Faye tells Kayla. “We have a team to assemble.” Later, a detective on a stakeout with his partner becomes The Avenger to confront Ken the Specialist when Ken arrives on their scene to do a job. “Did you just shoot and kill all these people?” The Avenger asks him. “Yes. But they’re all bad,” he explains. They fight. Ken runs. The Avenger follows. They run into Faye and Kayla the Centurion. Team assembled. Watch Part IV on Youtube here …

I love Ken the Specialist’s methodical shooting spree in the Republic City slum. The sequence is very stylish, in a low-budget John Woo-esque kind of way, as a beautiful aria is the only sound heard over the brutal violence. I also love Ken’s confrontation and fight with The Avenger. I quoted my favorite line from that scene above but the whole exchange is great. Oh, and Blinky regular Roberto Lombardi, of course, plays Father. He’s excellent, as always. I’ve seen him in dozens of Blinky films but I only just now realized, as I looked over Lombardi‘s credits on IMDb, that he played the TV show host in the no-budget zombie film Zombie eXs (2012)! I love that movie! I wrote about that movie (here)! I love Madison Hart in that movie! Why has she not been in anything else?! Anyway …

Next, let’s meet Phantom Selista …

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Shannon McDermott is a New York City-based actress who was born in Katy, Texas. According to her bio on IMDb, her goal “is to play an anti-hero type character in a stylistic, high concept film or TV series.” Well, maybe Selista will do something heroic in season two thus meeting McDermott‘s goal. Selista, like Faye, is driven by her beliefs but, unlike Faye, she has malicious intentions. Selista’s face, of course, is more menacing but McDermott‘s sardonic grin is pure evil even without the make-up …

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OK, so the still above doesn’t really show her sardonic grin, but I love it so I posted it! In addition to playing Phantom Selista in The Retcon Chronicles, McDermott also played the bit part of Sarah. Next up, as I already mentioned, Pretty Little Killers with Marissa Centrella and Andrea-Nichole Olivas.

Phantom Faye (Part V) [17:09]. Selista and Wrath assemble an army of low-life thugs called the Hive, while Faye, Kayla the Centurion and The Avenger convince Ken the Specialist to play by their rules and stop a war. Ken tracks the signal from Wrath’s armor and a showdown ensues. Kayla takes on Wrath, while The Avenger and Ken fight the Hive gang and Faye, once again, faces off against SYN who, this time, is under Selista’s control. SYN was Mr. Rothchild (Josh Rothman), an amputee Iraqi war veteran, whom Madaline Hess helped via Retcon’s synthetics program and fell in love with. Now, in order to save the man she loves, Madaline Hess is forced to make a difficult choice. Watch Part V on Youtube here …

The SYN backstory certainly delivers an unexpected emotional twist. Kudos to both Josh Rothman for his harrowing war story in the beginning and Andrea-Nichole Olivas for her tearful breakdown at the end. Fantastic! My favorite scene, however, is when Selista, with Wrath, tests two of the Hive gang members, Frank (Keith McMahon) and Maxie (Kassandra Lee). “Frank, I would like you to kill Maxie. If you do, I will pay you handsomely,” Selista offers. “What?” he asks, confused. “Kill her before I pay her to kill you,” she grins. “What are you crazy?” he scoffs, as Maxie draws a switchblade and quickly stabs Frank. “Sorry, Frank,” Maxie whispers as Frank drops dead. Then, she turns and faces Selista. “I’m still getting paid, right?” I love that! Faye’s climactic confrontation with Selista is another awesome scene, especially when Selista angrily offers her final warning: “This world that you love will burn! It’s people will perish!” she rebukes. “And I… I…” she continues but is abruptly cut short as her essence is materialized by The Avenger using SYN’s weapon. “Blah, blah, blah! You talk too much!” he quips. I can’t wait for her to get her essence back and begin plotting more evil plans in season two! Phantom Selista is such a great villainess! Oh, and it’s good to hear Rabbit Junk‘s awesome industrial anthem Break Shins To This once again – it’s perfect fight music! It was previously used by Chris .R. Notarile as the opening theme to The Retcon Chronicles.

Phantom Faye is yet another excellent addition to Chris .R. Notarile‘s ever-growing filmography (IMDb). Now, If you have been raised on nothing but big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, you probably won’t be able to appreciate Notarile‘s low-budget projects or others like his. You’ll just nitpick those films to no end because they don’t measure up to the overblown boredom that mainstream Hollywood brainwashes you into emptying your pockets for. That’s too bad because you’re missing out on some wonderful work from many passionate filmmakers. I would love to make a living like Notarile even if I had to struggle to do so. My friends and I talk about making films, short or otherwise, all the time, but nothing ever comes of it. My problem is the fear of being rejected. Hey, wait, this post isn’t about me. It’s about Phantom Faye. Or it was. Now, it’s about Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire)

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When top assassin, Solitaire, goes rogue and starts making unauthorized hits, her former teammate and best friend, Jaci, is called in, to track her down and stop her. But will Jaci be able to save Solitaire, or will she be forced to put her down?

Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) (2015). Written and directed by Chris .R. Notarile. Starring Grace Morales as Jaci, Nadia Kay as Solitaire, Samantha Talbott as Vikki, Roberto Lombardi as Dr. Walsh, and Sid O’Connell as Sarg. The roots of Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) were planted in 2007 with the short Assassinista which was filmed, guerilla-style, at the Hoboken Film Festival but never completed. It starred Notarile‘s ex Niki Rubin (as Niki Notarile) and was related in name only. Watch the film (here). The character of mercenary/assassin Solitaire, however, was created by Notarile when he was in 7th grade; while bad-ass Jaci, a “female version of John McClain,” was created in 12th grade. In 2010, he attempted to create a web series featuring Mandy Evans [Typhoid Mary in Deadpool: The Web Series] as Jaci, but it was never completed either. It was about “a former black ops agent turned New York bounty hunter who discovers there is a hit squad coming for her and her team.” Watch the promotional trailer (here), the opening sequence (here), and a music video of clips featuring Prodigy‘s “Firestarter” (here). Now, Notarile brings Jaci and Solitaire together in an action short whose main conflict is inspired by Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Thank you, Chris, for adding detailed notes to your films on Youtube! I think I got it right.

Watch Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) here …

I love this film’s two exciting, fast-paced action sequences! The first sequence, in which rogue assassin Solitaire takes out Ambassador Oremov (Tony Dadika) and his entire security detail (including Josh Rothman from Phantom Faye) in a parking garage with only her mad skills and a knife, is well-choreographed; however, when Jaci watches the beat down via security camera footage from a different angle, we see that Solitaire’s first punch actually misses the bodyguard she intends to hit! Wait – did I just nitpick this film? Sorry! I still love it! The second sequence, in which Solitaire attempts to take out Jaci in her home, is even better as the former friends use guns, knives, punches, and kicks to reacquaint themselves with each other. I love when Jaci taunts “You missed me!” after Solitaire shoots at her repeatedly as she runs for cover. I also love that Jaci is forced to fight in her undies. Don’t judge me! The fight scene is sexy fun, and not gratuitous at all! Jaci’s at home, alone, relaxing. She’s not anticipating a home intrusion by an old friend and she, as one Youtube commenter points out, just happens to get “caught with her pants down.” Notarile previously had his ex Niki Rubin kicking ass in her undies as Catwoman when Deadshot (Kofi Nsafoah) breaks into the Gotham feline fatale’s home in “Episode III: Home Invasion” of his awesome 6-episode mini-series Catwoman: The Diamond Exchange (2006). Episode III starts at 5:55.

Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) succeeds, for me, because Notarile has, once again, chosen two lovely actresses as his leads. Grace Morales, with her rugged frame and (Jaci’s) deep red hair, looks like a real bad-ass! She will be featured in Notarile‘s upcoming(?) action flick Armed Robbery (2015) which, according to IMDb, is in “announced” status. However, that one’s been around since before my first post on Blinky Productions! She’s also featured in the upcoming action/horror film Vermillion The Movie (2015) in which “a vaccine created for the sole purpose of prevention, instead leads humanity to the brink of extinction.” It features zombies and vampires! Watch the trailer (here). Model/actress Nadia Kay, as Solitaire, is more of a subtle kind of bad-ass. She looks very much like my favorite actress/stuntwoman Amy Johnston. They could play ass-kickin’ sisters in a movie. Or even ass-kickin’ twin sisters! I love fresh new female talents and Grace Morales and Nadia Kay are two of ’em!

Adorable Blinky regular Andrea-Nichole Olivas was originally set to reprise her role as Boss Lady [Deadpool: The Web Series (2013), The Legend of El (2013)] once again for Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) as can be seen in this early promotional poster …

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However, due to scheduling conflicts and/or medical issues, Samantha Talbott stepped in to fill Boss Lady’s shoes as Jaci’s former handler Vikki. You might recognize her from her role as the new Republic’s android killing machine LIA in Notarile‘s sci-fi feature film Perfect: Android Rising (2013).

Obviously, Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) is only a part of a whole story. Notarile, in his detailed notes on Youtube, said: “I hope to one day further expand upon this storyline and give it the true justice and scale it deserves.” I hope so, too! However, as much as I love Phantom Faye, I hope that the narratives don’t cross over too much. Jaci and Solitaire, I think, need to be grounded in a more feasible reality and, by that, I mean one with no superheroes or other supernatural situations. Assassinista should stand as a straight-up action thriller – girls, guns, knives and plenty of ass-kickin’! Either way, though, I’ll be looking forward to more from both Assassinista and Phantom Faye!

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One thought on “Phantoms and Assassinistas!

  1. Pingback: Assassinista (Jaci vs Solitaire) « Girls, Guns & Zombies!

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