Blu-ray Review - Cuba


1979's "Cuba" is director Richard Lester's attempt to fashion his own "Casablanca," boldly using elements from the 1942 classic to inspire another tale of tight-jawed love in a turbulent corner of the world. Not a helmer known for warmth, Lester keeps matters characteristically calm for this exploration of a country on the brink of revolution, showing more interest in the details of the land and its inhabitants than he does the lead characters, who often seem stuck without emotions as the picture investigates unrest and desire at the end of a political era. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Napoli, Napoli, Napoli


On a break from dramatic endeavors, director Abel Ferrara ("Bad Lieutenant," "King of New York") takes a moment to address the troubles brewing within Naples, Italy. It's a location the filmmaker is clearly interested in, making himself a participant in 2009's "Napoli, Napoli, Napoli," a documentary intended to dissect exactly what's gone wrong with the locals, with Ferrara visiting prisoners and community members to best illuminate the downfall of a once promising city. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Knight of Cups


At this point, it's clear that whatever writer/director Terrence Malick wants to do with his movies, he's just going to do. There are no producers, stars, or low box office returns that can throttle his interest in esoteric journeys of sight and sound, returning to the screen with "Knight of Cups," which resembles nearly every film he's previously made. After years of dormancy, Malick has suddenly become the Woody Allen of impenetrable cinema, issuing odysseys into the mind and depths of space with surprising frequency, playing to his fan base with habitual interests and familiar technical achievements. On the Malickian scale of confusion and artfulness, "Knight of Cups" has a great deal of passion for itself. However, it's not something that's casually approached, with those unable to tune into Malick's point of view rewarded with another wandering spirit of a feature, and one that's content to recycle the helmer's particular brand of soul-searching. Read the rest at

Film Review - Star Trek Beyond


While the franchise isn’t ailing, “Star Trek” hit a creative dead end with 2013’s “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which decided to cap a fairly effective sci-fi thriller with disastrous fan service, electing to replicate the ending of “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” as a useless offering of familiarity to a fan base known for its ability to adjust to new dramatic directions. Trying to get things back on track, “Star Trek Beyond” loses helmer J.J. Abrams (who took his ball and went over to the “Star Wars” universe), ditches parallel plotting to the original “Trek” film series, and brings in Justin Lin to helm, fresh off his work reigniting the “Fast & Furious” features with refreshed sequels. The change behind the scenes isn’t as obvious as one might expect, but there’s a noticeable shift in tone for “Star Trek Beyond,” which strives to be a traditional adventure to help realign creative chi, while still allowing Lin to play around with widescreen action, giving the 13th “Trek” movie some real velocity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Lights Out


As the horror genre tries to quit its addiction to celebration of pain, movies about supernatural terror have come into vogue thanks to the hits “Insidious” and “The Conjuring.” Both pictures were directed by James Wan, and he’s not about to let a good thing go, returning to produce “Lights Out,” which slavishly follows his formula for scares, making sure every cheap jolt is lovingly tended to. Refreshingly lean (running about 75 minutes sans end credits), the feature offers little more than a series of spooky, shocking encounters, but it really doesn’t have to provide more than that, with director David F. Sandberg effectively staging suspense from start to finish, giving “Lights Out” the disturbances it needs to cover for uninspired dramatics. Then again, who’s coming to this film for the story? Read the rest at

Film Review - Ice Age: Collision Course


It may seem hard to believe, but “Ice Age: Collision Course” is actually the fifth entry in the franchise, and nobody seems more surprised by the overwhelming success of the series than its producers. Scrambling to come up with plots to keep the cinematic cash machine open, the production finally reaches a limit to Paleolithic shenanigans with “Ice Age: Collision Course,” which doesn’t really bother with a story, charging full speed ahead with cartoon gags instead, perhaps realizing there’s nowhere left to go with the initial “Ice Age” premise. Essentially committing to film anything that pops into their minds, co-directors Mike Thurmeier and Galen T. Chu go for broke with “Collision Course,” hoping to charm with silliness instead of endear with established personalities heading in a fresh narrative direction. Read the rest at


Film Review - Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie


Unlike a lot of television-to-feature transitions, writer/star Jennifer Saunders has definitely taken her time bringing “Absolutely Fabulous” to the big screen. While only racking up 39 episodes, the BBC series has remained in and out of production since 1992, generating a loyal audience of fans who appreciate a bit of tasteful debauchery and inspired silliness. While she doesn’t take full advantage of the R-rated opportunity to raise widescreen hell, Saunders cooks up an enjoyable romp with “Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie,” sticking to the franchise’s core appeal while cranking up its comedic potential, sustaining a pleasingly madcap tone throughout, never completely fatiguing a good thing. Read the rest at

Film Review - Cafe Society


For his latest picture, Woody Allen is feeling the urge to explore Hollywood once again, romanticizing the glamour and social connections of the movie industry in the 1930s for “Café Society.” The feature is big on costumes, locations, and attitude, but even for Allen (who churns out product every year), the effort is much too meandering to make any impact. Attempting to craft a sprawling comedy with a large cast, Allen encounters focus issues almost immediately, consistently unsure if he wants to make a movie filled with subplots, or turn a to-do list of subplots into a movie. “Café Society” isn’t very funny or memorable, finding Allen on autopilot, halfheartedly arranging bits of behavior, hoping that something will resemble a film by the time the end credits arrive. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ghostheads


2016 is a special year for “Ghostbusters” fans, with Paul Feig’s remake inspiring fresh waves of memories and merchandise, hoping to tap into brand name hysteria once again. Also joining the party is “Ghostheads,” a homegrown documentary by Brendan Mertens that’s hoping to piggyback on current thirst for all things “Ghostbusters,” creating a tribute to superfans that delves into private lives and identifies personal commitments to the cosplay cause. What could’ve been a charming study of cinematic obsession is wildly overcooked by Mertens, who doesn’t really know what story he wants to tell with “Ghostheads,” which veers wildly from lighthearted memories and analysis to teary memories of the gravely injured and the dead. Mertens’s heart is in the right place, but his storytelling instincts are shellacked with slime. Read the rest at

Film Review - Undrafted


As a child actor, Joseph Mazzello found success with parts in “Radio Flyer” and “The River Wild,” but his greatest role was found in “Jurassic Park,” portraying the young, slightly fried survivor of the dino apocalypse, Tim. Time isn’t typically kind to the careers of most young performers, but Mazzello has managed to do something with his experience, funneling creative knowledge into “Undrafted,” his directorial debut. Armed with a limited budget but a distinct point of view, Mazzello scores a success with his first outing behind the camera, crafting an itchy valentine to the world of intramural baseball, studying its humiliations, camaraderie, and gamesmanship with ultimate interest in its characters. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - U2: Innocence + Experience - Live in Paris


It was supposed to be just another night on the highly successful "Innocence + Experience" tour, taking the band U2 to Paris for a concert intended for cable and internet broadcast. Unfortunately, plans for entertainment were quickly set aside to deal with the November 2015 Paris Terrorist Attacks, an event that shocked the world and forced U2 to rethink touring plans. Not wanting to disappoint loyal fans and preserve their reputation as one of most socially and politically-minded bands of all time, U2 returned to Paris three weeks later, refusing to bow down to terror-minded folk and put on a big time rock show to help heal a shattered city. "Innocence + Experience - Live in Paris" isn't a radical reinvention of the U2 live event, keeping to the essentials of stage presence and widescreen sound, but there's a special level of power to the show, a searing emotionality that runs through the whole endeavor, with Bono, The Edge, Larry Mullen Jr., and Adam Clayton trying their best to bring joy and catharsis to the world through their exquisite song catalog and a brilliant visual display. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blue Sunshine


In a genre known for its storytelling lethargy, credit must to be paid to writer/director Jeff Lieberman, who isn't the most polished filmmaker around, but he certainly has an affinity for oddball horror distractions. His movies ("Squirm," "Just Before Dawn") are clunky but crammed with low budget promise, and 1978's "Blue Sunshine" is no exception. A semi-coherent journey in the rainbow heart of acid ingestion and fugitive blues, the picture is a delightfully baffling concoction, lost on its own groovy trip of horror and paranoia -- resting in a space where exposition is light but death by baldness is certain. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Just Desserts: The Making of Creepshow


1982's "Creepshow" is famous for many reasons. While it didn't invent the anthology movie, it certainly popularized the storytelling format during the 1980s, giving filmmakers the inspiration to collect their own miniature tales of torment, most born from the mind of Stephen King. The picture was also a big hit for director George A. Romero and arguably one of his best movies, tapping into the comic book aesthetic with purity and impishness, paying loving tribute to the world of EC Comics and their frightening tales of death and punishment. "Creepshow" isn't high art, but the effort showcases an engaged Romero, who's having a blast arranging all sorts of macabre events and antagonistic encounters, scratching a boyhood itch for ghoulish fantasy that translates wonderfully through five tales of doom. It's a treat. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Roland and Rattfink


"Roland and Rattfink" isn't big on complicated plotting. It's a mash-em, bash-em series from DePatie-Freleng Studios depicting a never-ending war waged by the titular characters, with their broad antagonisms reimagined for every short. Roland is the square-jawed hero and Rattfink is the gnarled baddie determined to ruin the day, and, throughout 17 chapters of this saga, he manages to do so in a mildly silly manner. Physical comedy carries the viewing experience, highlighting big action and stymied troublemaking with small additions of satire and stillness. It's not the company's finest creative hour, but there's plenty to like about "Roland and Rattfink," especially when it pays tribute to silent film romps, focusing intently on elastic violence and cartoon reactions. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ghostbusters


It was inevitable that someone would eventually work up the nerve to remake the 1984 classic, “Ghostbusters.” Unable to get a second sequel up and running, the studio eventually turned their attention to a full reboot, but their choice of director was Paul Feig, a man not necessarily known for his way with visual effect-laden extravaganzas, previously helming “Bridesmaids” and “Spy.” Feig can’t completely pry himself away from his bad habits, but his refreshing of “Ghostbusters” is actually a substantial amount of fun when it actually makes time for the busting of ghosts. Bellylaughs are scarce, but the picture has sporadic energy, while the cast offers a significant amount of charm to help the material squeeze through a few dismal ideas. Read the rest at

Film Review - Outlaws and Angels


Westerns should be bleak, barren adventures, tracking difficult moral choices and survival situations, but there’s a fine line between staging violence to make a point about threat and staging violence just to enjoy some screen insanity. JT Mollner forgoes subtlety with “Outlaws and Angels,” dismissing good taste to make a down and dirty exploitation picture that’s slicked with bodily fluids and blistered with rage. Aggression comes unnervingly easy to the helmer, who enjoys making a mess of things with this ode to sexual abuse and manipulation. However, while Mollner has brought buckets of blood to the production, he forgot to hire an editor. It doesn’t take long to realize that “Outlaws and Angels” is going to feel as long as the conquering of the west itself, with Mollner incapable of finding rhythm for this intentionally odious movie. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Infiltrator


“The Infiltrator” has all the elements of a classic undercover cop story, including a conflicted protagonist, a Floridian setting, and a secretive world of drug dealing. It presents a true-life tale that offers fascinating characters and heated showdowns, yet director Brad Furman doesn’t quite know if he wants the picture to be a sincere study of a lawman’s loss of self or a ridiculously overcooked crime tale with a few operatic extremes. “The Infiltrator” is unsatisfying and weirdly absurd at times, but it’s not a complete blunder, blessed with a cast that’s capable of finding nuances in the moment, bringing friendships and antagonisms to life in a way that Furman is incapable of doing on his own. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Blackcoat's Daughter


While the films have little in common, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” often reminded me of last year’s “It Follows.” Both pictures provide plenty of atmosphere, using a deliberate pace to conjure a sense of dread, taking their time to build mysteries and unnerve the audience. However, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” demands more patience, with writer/director Oz Perkins working through his material inch by inch, laboring to squeeze as much stillness out of the movie as possible. There’s surely an audience for his effort, especially those who enjoy slow-burn terror productions, but it’s difficult to get excited about the feature’s crawl of creepiness, which doesn’t reward concentration with a particularly memorable conclusion. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Equals


Director Drake Dormus enjoys making movies about tortured love affairs. The helmer of “Like Crazy” and “Breathe In” returns with “Equals,” a sci-fi-tinged tale of forbidden attraction and emotional restraint. Paying tribute to George Lucas’s “THX 1138,” and lifting a dramatic layer or two from 1997’s “Gattaca,” “Equals” endeavors to explore a futureworld of submission cracked open by primal human instincts. The ambition is there, but execution is missing a few degrees of heat, while miscasting tends to leave sections of the picture a bit too cold for comfort. It’s stylish work with some of the most pronounced architecture porn I’ve seen in some time, but Dormus can’t shake his habits, once again returning to burning passions photographed in extreme, jittery close-up while a feeble sense of tragedy brews in the background. Read the rest at