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August 2011

Film Review - Red State

RED STATE Michael Parks

With “Red State,” writer/director Kevin Smith seeks a darker path of storytelling, directly contrasting a career made up of profane comedies and barbed but cuddly relationship dramas. Part chiller, part lecture, “Red State” is a jumble of ideas and characterizations tossed haphazardly into an unnervingly disconnected motion picture, which often feels unfinished and calculated instead of winningly feral. Yes, “Red State” is unlike anything Kevin Smith has made before, but it’s also the least effective feature of his career. Read the rest at

Film Review - A Good Old Fashioned Orgy


Promising a bawdy time with a slippery slapstick edge, “A Good Old Fashioned Orgy” instead plays it fairly safe, pulling a tired RRR routine (raunch, riff, and reference) while remaining about as enchantingly explicit as PBS daytime programming. It’s a moldy film (shot three years ago), uninspired and predictably performed. All it really has is its titular event, an extended sequence of pure pulled punchery that’s going to leave many viewers disappointed. Read the rest at

Film Review - Seven Days in Utopia


The Christian golf drama “Seven Days in Utopia” is truly a mixed blessing. Competently acted and gorgeously shot, the film is often unbearably corny at times, assuming the guise of an inspirational tool when it’s far more compelling as an intimate story of personal struggle. It’s perfectly digestible and refreshingly G-rated, but it’s often so confused, looking to make salient points on godly goodness when its best attributes are found on the fairway. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Debt

DEBT Helen Mirren

A remake of a 2007 Israeli film, “The Debt” has all the components of a richly observed, fingernail-chewing spy thriller, yet the dramatic elements are anything but taut. Heavy with marvelous, ideally impassioned performances, the picture suffers from an unevenness that robs the material of the excitement it effortlessly generates in the electrifying opening half. Read the rest at

Film Review - Colombiana


The Luc Besson action machine revs up again with “Colombiana,” a female-driven shoot-em-up that never feels particularly organized or inspired. A few sequences based purely on visual appeal shine, but the rest is a heated jumble of emotional breakdowns and assassination games. It’s not quite up to the popcorn-gobbling standards Besson is usually known for.

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Film Review - Swinging with the Finkels

SWINGING WITH THE FINKELS Mandy Moore Martin Freeman

Admittedly, marriage can be difficult. The comedy “Swinging with the Finkels” makes it look absolutely unpleasant. A half-baked ode to the challenges of sustaining marital sex, the picture makes all the wrong moves, somehow believing it’s forming some type of poignant comment on the complexity of commitment. Instead, it’s an occasionally loathsome sitcom starring two miscast leads doing their chipper best to make this malarkey profound.

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Film Review - Brighton Rock


“Brighton Rock” is an incredibly dramatic motion picture, positively loony at times. There are a few moments so heated, it feels as though the film itself is pointing a loaded gun to its temple, threatening to shoot. The manic energy isn’t a smooth blend with writer/director Rowan Joffe’s sizable effort of screen style, but the volcanic mood feels undeniably effective at times, funneled into a combustible story of gang warfare, criminals, and the women they secretly detest. Read the rest at

Film Review - Main Street

MAIN STREET Ellen Burstyn

“Main Street” represents the final cinematic contribution from the late playwright and screenwriter Horton Foote (“To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Tender Mercies”). His rich vocabulary and observance of southern life continues on in this motion picture, but it also holds the producers captive. Unable or unwilling to challenge the writing legend, “Main Street” unfolds with a myriad of problems in the areas of characterization and resolution. There’s something interesting here at the core of the conflict, but the story is offered so little room to breathe, coming across rushed and undercooked. Read the rest at

Film Review - Don't Be Afraid of the Dark


“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” is a remake of a 1973 television movie, a production beloved in cult circles, but it’s hard to believe the story didn’t originate in the murky ocean of ghoulish events that passes for co-writer/producer Guillermo del Toro’s imagination. Pervasive darkness, tiny goblins on the hunt to inflict pain, and a creepy old house of horror. This picture is right up the filmmaker’s alley. I’m shocked he didn’t direct it himself. Read the rest at

Film Review - Our Idiot Brother


We’ve seen multiple R-rated comedies this summer that’ve trafficked in vulgarity to make themselves heard, dependent on shock value to acquire box office attention. “Our Idiot Brother” is a swell change of pace from the obnoxious norm, rooting its shenanigans in a welcome feeling of familial reality, pulling laughs from a source of frustration viewers might be able to relate to. It’s a dumb comedy but never stupid, always good-natured and sharply performed. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Smurfs


“The Smurfs” have enjoyed an extensive history of television and print achievements, charming audiences for decades now with their miniature adventures and lust for mischief. Their CG-animated/live-action film debut finally answers the question weighing heavily on the mind of every fan: do Smurfs fart? Turns out they do, with this and several other revelations just waiting to be discovered in this dreadful kiddie distraction. Franchise creator Peyo (who passed away in 1992) would be so proud. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Guard

GUARD Brendan Gleeson

More entertaining than riotous, the dark comedy “The Guard” is best valued as a vehicle for actor Brendan Gleeson, the vastly talented performer who’s enjoyed accolades and awards for decades now, yet remains best known as Mad-Eye Moody from the “Harry Potter” pictures. Digging his teeth into a delightfully sour antihero role, Gleeson is perhaps the only true reason to sit through “The Guard,” a satisfactory yet oddly monotonous police adventure in dire need of the actor’s perfectly timed delivery. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Family Tree

FAMILY TREE Dermot Mulroney

“The Family Tree” looks to expose the poisoned heart of suburbia, rendering the picture formulaic and a little on the moldy side. However, it’s determined, at least visually so, shoving the ensemble into action, expressing all the worry and wonder surrounding this myriad of subplots, often mashed together into a toxic whole. The feature isn’t especially humorous or enlightening, but it’s rarely boring.

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Blu-ray Review - Muppets from Space


Out of all the Muppet features produced since 1979, I would rank “Muppets from Space” as the least effective of the bunch. It’s not an easy decision, since the picture features numerous gut-busting one-liners and a general Muppet anarchy that’s satisfying. It’s a fine motion picture, yet in terms of Jim Henson-style wonderment and overall cleverness, “Muppets from Space” comes up short. It’s entertaining enough, but lacks the magic the Muppets are so skilled at summoning.

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Blu-ray Review - Priest


In 2010, director Scott Stewart brought a dopey apocalyptic action film titled “Legion” to the big screen, which starred Paul Bettany as an agent of God caught in the middle of an unearthly war. For 2011, Stewart throws a curveball with “Priest,” a dopey apocalyptic action film that stars Paul Bettany as an agent of God caught in the middle of an unearthly war. And people say there’s no originality in Hollywood anymore. Well, instead of combative angels in a desert setting, the new feature offers a plague of vampires in a desert setting. Progress?

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Blu-ray Review - The Conspirator


“The Conspirator” is a sumptuously shot depiction of a lesser-known moment in history. Taking place after President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865, the picture seeks to recreate hysteria and shady political dealings during a time of nationwide turbulence. Unfortunately, instead of mounting a crushing procedural picture filled with facts and figures, director Robert Redford elects for a more melodramatic route, turning all the accusations and disgust into a wobbly drama of limited emotional impact.

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