Danny Johnson Saves the World (2015) Rating 8 out of 10 Director: Christopher R. Mihm May 20, 2015, 7:30pm Heights Theatre, 3951 Central Avenue NE, Columbia Heights MN WARNING... I CAN'T SPELL Successful low-budget children's sci-fi film. Recommended for all low-budget movie moguls watch and collect ideas for their own films. Christopher Mihm's creative efforts have been rewarded with a huge audience at this film's premier.
THE SCENE: The Heights Theatre has a pleasant small-towny feel and is located directly beside a Dairy Queen. As I entered I was amazed to see it at near to full capacity.
PLOT: Young Danny and his friends play in a forest, are surprised by a robot and a small alien puppet and are kidnapped to a flying saucer hovering about the earth. After a line of escapades Danny Johnson dismantles the mind-control devices of the evil aliens thus saving the world from alien mind-control... leaving this path of endeavor quite open to Barak, Jeb and Hilary.
CAST ACTING: performances were effective and brought the story to life. The film's non-puppet, non-robot characters were all children, save for Grandpa Danny (effectively played by James Norgard). Some of the children looked a bit over their heads and I think movie audiences forget how much training goes in to the professional child actors we see in Hollywood film and TV. An acting coach on-set might have been useful, but the performances were watchable, charming and sometimes very good. A particular stand out was the very charming and pretty Gabrielle Bilotta as Cassie, Danny Johnson's love interest. Another natural actor was the girl playing Grandpa Danny's granddaughter, I think this was Iola Warneke, and the girl playing Danny's sister, I think this was Alice Mihm.
CAMERA (cinematography): A lot of the camera set-ups were clever and effective. I believe the forest shots would have benefited from more contrast, perhaps more light on characters, keeping trees dark and mysterious. I kept being afraid that i'd see the people behind the puppets accidentally show themselves. I would have liked this black & white film to have been shot in 16mm b&w. Why the Shaky cam? Why Zoom- ins?
SPECIAL EFFECTS - SFX: The SFX worked. There was a puzzling scene where Danny and his puppet friend are trying to open a locked door which i didn't understand but I guess this is more of an editing comment.
Christopher Mihm et al did the special effects (SFX) effectively and with low budget. The puppets sort of worked - but i couldn't escape the thought that the puppets were, well, puppets. Practical effects make the film more fun to watch. I liked the film's stop-motion efforts.
POST-FILM SCENE: There was well-deserved applause at the end of the film and some Q and A with cast and director. Then was a curious amount formality over some props from the film that were to be auctioned. I never knew exactly what all this was for but it appeared to be something of a buzz-kill and induced some of the audience to leave. All this was quickly forgotten as we filed into the Heights Theatre's foyer and talked convivially with cast and crew. Many of the ladies were splendidly dressed. Christopher Mihm emerged from the theater to give me a huge bear hug (re-positioning several vertabrae that had been out-of-place for years) and introduced me around. A fine group it was. Everyone was convivial and pleased at the film's obvious success.
I had a short but memorable and informative conversation with the beautiful Stephanie - who played the arch villain - and was assured in my guess that the film was a cautionary tale of what could happen under a Hillary administration. Chilling. Chilling. Stephanie was excellent as the "Queen Mother." I recommend this film to any indie film person, it has good ideas and shows what you can do creatively on a low budget with some talented and creative people.
Review by Mark Nielson from the Internet Movie Database.