Film Review - The Package


Crude comedies are often troublesome, with most in a hurry to be offensive without being funny, hoping to get by on shock value. This year has been especially strange for R-rated entertainment, but “The Package” is trying to be the most outrageous of them all, and there’s something endearing about its mission to be absolutely grotesque. There’s a lot of extreme behavior and visuals in the picture, but screenwriters Kevin Burrows and Matt Mider, along with director Jake Szymanski, push through the basics in riff-happy entertainment to fine something inspired in the midst of utter nonsense. “The Package” has its issues with pace and substance, but there are big laughs to be found along the way, with the central grossness of the plot getting the movie to a level of playfulness that’s not often found with this type of vulgar funny business.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Dog Days


Garry Marshall passed away two years ago, but his spirit remains in “Dog Days,” with screenwriters Elissa Matsueda and Erica Oyama trying to replicate the formula that turned vanilla pictures like “Valentine’s Day” and “New Year’s Eve” into hit films. There’s no holiday to celebrate in “Dog Days,” with the magic of canines the reason for this multi-character gathering, finding pet antics and tales of wounded hearts keeping director Ken Marino busy. Much like Marshall’s later output, this feature is a jokeless, aimless concoction that relies completely on cutesiness, with a large ensemble handed very little guidance when it comes to funny business while Marino layers on sticky sentiment, trying to master a heartwarming celebration of companionship that’s disappointingly predictable. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Misterjaw


Following their work on "The Dogfather," DePatie-Freleng elected to try their luck again in the world of movie parodies, unleashing 1976's "Misterjaw" on audiences still fired up over "Jaws" mania from the previous summer. There's not much here that delivers on Spielbergian monkey business, with the production keeping to the basics with this mild Looney Tunes riff, creating a Road Runner vs. Coyote dynamic for the titular character and a tiny fish he's determined to consume, despite getting smashed, crashed, and humiliated along the way. In the overall DePatie-Freleng oeuvre, "Misterjaw" ranks fairly low, as repetition and a general absence of thought over to what to do with a comedic shark makes 34 episodes of this series wearying at times. There's a sound-alike "Jaws" theme that opens every short, but overall, the material tends to be more about physical comedy and chases than a robust pantsing of a movie phenomenon.  Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - The Dogfather


Hunting for material to keep their empire of animation rumbling along, DePatie-Freleng elected to take inspiration from the movies during the 1970s, adding to their cinema-inspired arsenal that began with work on the "The Pink Panther" films. While Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather" seems like an unlikely influence for any family-friendly cartoon endeavor, the creative forces at DePatie-Freleng weren't intimidated by the feature's R-rated interests, creating 1974's "The Dogfather," a canine-led spoof that largely did away with sex and violence, replacing the raw stuff with silliness. Exploring the daily life of the titular don and his league of nitwit enforcers, "The Dogfather" is largely traditional mischief from the company, who enjoy the challenge of creating wild antics for as cheaply as possible, giving the material some appealing speed and absurdity as it tries to make something as heavy as "The Godfather" into 17 shorts of extreme goofiness.  Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Two Much


By the mid-1990s, Antonio Banderas was a highly respected actor in his native Spain, having built his reputation working with esteemed directors such as Pedro Almodovar. However, an itch to join the Hollywood elite proved impossible to ignore, with Banderas trying to make his mark on bigger projects, including "The Mambo Kings," "Philadelphia," and "Interview with the Vampire." 1995's "Two Much" represents a bridge built between his previous achievements in European cinema and his California dreaming, putting the actor in the middle of a semi-farce with two actresses clearly unfit for the thespian challenge. Banderas isn't to blame for the general lethargy of "Two Much," as he gives an engaged performance. However, director Fernando Trueba doesn't know exactly what he wants from the PG-13 picture, which doesn't offer much more than tedious antics, dreary line-readings, and a distinct lack of heat between the star and his leading ladies. It's all meant to be a rollicking good time, but the feature doesn't have the refinement to become anything more than a chore to watch. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Offerings


Slasher cinema comes to a screeching halt with 1989's "Offerings," which has all the ingredients to bake a perfectly acceptable nightmare, but writer/director Christopher Reynolds becomes a little too caught up in his desire to remake "Halloween" to notice that general momentum is lacking. It's a no-budget affair, putting a shadowy madman on a quest to murder those who made his already problematic childhood hell, and Reynolds has trouble coming up with reasons to remain with it to the very end, which, at times, feels like it may never arrive. While trying to keep in step with genre trends of the day, Reynolds doesn't summon enough originality to inspire thrills, sticking to a basic stalk-and-kill formula that's not boosted by bright characters or any discernable suspense. "Offerings" is assembly line moviemaking, and while it might provide a nostalgic kick for a simpler time in horror entertainment, the picture just doesn't get the job done, watching Reynolds spin his wheels with dull scenes, bland personalities, and distracting technical limitations, ultimately hoping enough John Carpenter references might be enough to cover for a distinct lack of his own ideas. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - The 6th Man


There was a moment in the mid-1990s where basketball pictures were all the rage (likely ignited by the sleeper success of 1992's "White Men Can't Jump"), with Disney especially determined to create their own comedy blockbuster with help from college and professional basketball. There was "Eddie" and "Celtic Pride," but the worst of the bunch was 1997's "The 6th Man," a film that has the bright idea to merge comedy and death, trying to create laughs in the shadow of some rather mean-spirited behavior and brutal reminders of mortality. "The 6th Man" is clueless, but it does have confidence, with director Randall Miller (who recently served time in prison due to his participation in the death of camera assistant Sarah Jones) committing to everything the screenplay by Christopher Reed and Cynthia Carle dreams up, failing to recognize that the material is largely devoid of appeal, sensitivity, and laughs. But there's plenty of basketball and NCAA atmosphere, with the production trying to work itself into a sports movie lather as it deals with DOA material.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Blindspotting


To give themselves a premiere acting opportunity, Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs wrote a screenplay that makes ideal use of their individual talents, pairing them in a buddy dramedy that’s rich with location detail found in Oakland, California, soaking the writing in a culture they know from personal experience. The partners also take on heady subjects such as guns, masculinity, and trauma, filling “Blindspotting” with all kinds of nervous energy that permits vivid performances. As a screenwriting debut, it’s an impressive accomplishment, taking on the big subjects of the day from a fresh, honest perspective, all the while retaining personality required to manage potentially suffocating situations. “Blindspotting” is sharp, surprisingly funny, and smart about the ways of the modern world, with Casal and Diggs carrying the picture with thrilling ease, delivering vulnerable work to best support their perceptive scripting debut. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Christopher Robin


For her directorial debut, Lauren Miller Rogen takes a page out of the Adam Sandler playbook, writing a script that permits her to cast family members (husband Seth Rogen) and visit vacation destinations. It’s a smart way to do business, but much like Sandler, the cast and crew are having more fun than the audience. “Like Father” is confused work from Rogen, who previously co-scripted the phone sex comedy “For a Good Time, Call,” and gently dials down her capacity for raunchy business to make a film that’s aiming to please a wide audience, hoping to extract some tears, trigger some belly laughs, and elicit sighs as she enjoys the playground of a massive cruise ship and naturalistic pleasures of Jamaican locations. Rogen’s not trying to do much more than exist with pure formula, and “Like Father” is as vanilla as entertainment gets. I hope Rogen enjoyed the sun, because her movie is a drag. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Like Father


For her directorial debut, Lauren Miller Rogen takes a page out of the Adam Sandler playbook, writing a script that permits her to cast family members (husband Seth Rogen) and visit vacation destinations. It’s a smart way to do business, but much like Sandler, the cast and crew are having more fun than the audience. “Like Father” is confused work from Rogen, who previously co-scripted the phone sex comedy “For a Good Time, Call,” and gently dials down her capacity for raunchy business to make a film that’s aiming to please a wide audience, hoping to extract some tears, trigger some belly laughs, and elicit sighs as she enjoys the playground of a massive cruise ship and naturalistic pleasures of Jamaican locations. Rogen’s not trying to do much more than exist with pure formula, and “Like Father” is as vanilla as entertainment gets. I hope Rogen enjoyed the sun, because her movie is a drag.  Read the rest at

Film Review - The Darkest Minds


Just when you though the multiplex was safe from a YA adaptation, here comes “The Darkest Minds,” which seeks to turn Alexandra Bracken’s trilogy of books into a brand new franchise for the milking, with studio 20th Century Fox trying to find a new area of fandom to delight after “The Maze Runner” came to a conclusion earlier this year. What’s initially appealing is the employment of Jennifer Yuh Nelson as director, working her way out of the animated realm after helming the last two “Kung Fu Panda” sequels, now in charge of a potential blockbuster that has big plans for future chapters. Sadly, “The Darkest Minds” is the most cartoon movie she’s made, showing very little mastery of human behavior and basic storytelling needs, keeping this first shot fired a resounding dud. Read the rest at 

Film Review - The Spy Who Dumped Me


“The Spy Who Dumped Me” is a cheeky title parodying 1977’s “The Spy Who Loved Me,” which was Roger Moore’s third and arguably best screen outing as James Bond (and the title of a 1962 Ian Fleming novel). And that’s it for cleverness with this action comedy, which tries very hard to be a blunt instrument of lame gags, screeching performances, and poor direction. For helmer Susanna Fogel, her mission to make a consistently underwhelming movie is a screaming success, as “The Spy Who Dumped Me” never gets going when it comes to funny business or smashmouth pursuits, remaining in a brutal purgatory of limp improvisational volleying and feeble espionage activities. There’s hope with the casting of Kate McKinnon, a wonderfully talented comedian, but this turns out to be her “Corky Romano.”  Read the rest at

Film Review - Zoe


It’s only natural to find filmmakers gravitating towards stories about artificial intelligence, with concerns about the creation of synthetic humans developing into headline news. For screenwriters Richard Greenberg and Drake Doremus (who also directs), the strange landscape of A.I. provides inspiration for “Zoe,” which isn’t a tech thriller or a doomsday event, instead taking a look at the manufacturing of companionship and feelings for a future society that’s gone numb to the ways of organic connection. It’s timely work and the writers have a fantastic idea to develop, especially when examining how humans would choose to create a partner instead of find one. “Zoe” gets most of the way there, but Doremus doesn’t know when to quit with this drama, which eventually spirals out of control, losing concentration on the very ideas that offered it originality and intriguing reflection on trends of loneliness.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Billionaire Boys Club


While controversial and on the quickie side, 1987’s “Billionaire Boys Club” (which aired on NBC) managed to catch the ambiance of the 1980s by sheer proximity to the true crime details of a 1983 murder that inspired the production. 2018’s “Billionaire Boys Club” looks like a collection of baby-faced actors playing dress-up, straining to sell the wonders of the decade with a well-worn story of drugs, lies, and greed. Co-writer/director James Cox has been unsuccessful in true crime before, with 2003’s tepid “Wonderland,” and his streak of mediocrity continues here, fumbling through scenes of financial swindling, broheim swagger, and venomous confrontations, with the big screen take somehow less cinematic than the television film.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Extinction


Alien invasion stories are plentiful these days. Just last week there was the Australian actioner “Occupation,” and now there’s “Extinction,” which arrives with working parts from other, better movies, and it carries a Big Idea to separate itself from the pack, but it doesn’t know quite what to do with it. The screenplay isn’t very strong with secrets and enticing characterization, and director Ben Young isn’t seasoned enough to launch eye-popping spectacle, keeping the picture fairly pedestrian until it’s time to clarify exactly what’s going on. Such reveals bolster other productions, but “Extinction” begins lethargically and remains there for 90 minutes, giving viewers familiar sights and sounds before making the foolish assumption that they’re going to be interested in a potential franchise with a story that barely supports a single film.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Eighth Grade


We’re currently in this wonderful era where the wants and needs of adolescent girls are being represented honestly on the big screen. There was “Edge of Seventeen” and “Lady Bird,” and now “Eighth Grade,” which offers a snapshot of even younger concerns, but emerges as the most authentic of the group, which is no small feat. Writer/director Bo Burnham endeavors to capture the moment junior high wonder becomes high school hell, and he doesn’t miss a beat with this small but special picture. The helmer is making a comedy, but one with deep pathos and care for its lead character, who’s a uniquely positive creation despite suffering setbacks in mental health. Burnham avoids cliché in a remarkable way, preferring to dig his own groove of cinematic emphasis and rich characterization, giving audiences time with a typically unrepresented age, now free of Disney Channel glitter and Larry Clark grime. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mary Magdalene


Director Garth Davis won accolades and reasonable box office for his last feature, “Lion,” which detailed a young man on a special emotional and spiritual journey. Now Davis tackles unfinished business with the Bible, examining a more famous story of self-inspection, giving the saga of Jesus a special spin with “Mary Magdalene,” which sets out to right the titular woman’s wronged reputation, isolating her origin story, giving her a modern appreciation in line with current filmmaking trends. Davis doesn’t do explosive, keeping this drama extremely mild, aiming more for poeticism and reflection than prolonged suffering, approaching familiar stories from the Bible with a more artful perspective. “Mary Magdalene” isn’t a fiery collection of characters and their struggles to define faith, with Davis keeping the effort crawling along, electing to make something visually appealing and insular than traditionally dramatic.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Celtic Pride


Full disclosure: I've never read Judd Apatow's original screenplay for "Celtic Pride." However, I choose to believe that whatever he was able to come up with in the initial planning stages for the film has to be funnier than what ended up in theaters in the spring of 1996. Here's a movie about fandom, taking a look at the lengths sports nuts will go to protect the good fortunes of their favorite teams, using the idea to inspire a comedy about extremes and mishaps, while saving a little space to pants the NBA and its collection of arrogant athletes. And yet, "Celtic Pride" doesn't work, missing a sharp sense of humor and fondness for farce that could elevate some good ideas into an uproarious picture. Perhaps Apatow is to blame for whiffing with a surefire premise, but, more often than not, director Tom DeCerchio is lost, preferring to have his cast scream into the camera than craft a slightly more devilish understanding of the deceptively bitter relationship between fan and player. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Like Me


With the release of "Ingrid Goes West" last summer, there's already been a fairly accurate summary of social media and its capacity to distort lives, exposing dangerous levels of need and delusion. "Like Me" has the same interest in the potency of stranger celebration and condemnation, but writer/director Robert Mockler isn't interested in playing straight with what little drama he offers here. "Like Me" is more of a modern art installation, going the abstract route with wild visuals and anxious editing, keeping Mockler busy orchestrating a 79-minute-long freak out. Your mileage may vary with the picture, as those particularly interested in an artful summary of personal ruin while find something to embrace here. It's not for everyone, but what's disappointing about the movie is that, at times, it's only really for Mockler.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Babyface 2


"Babyface 2" offers the suggestion of a sequel to Alex de Renzy's 1977 original, but the features are miles apart in story and tone. While the previous picture carried a bit more severity when it came to the sexual gamesmanship between men and women, the follow-up is more of a stand-alone endeavor, finding the writer/director in a particularly scattered mood as he hires half of the adult films stars from the 1980s to join what's essentially a filmed party. Imagine if Robert Altman helmed a teen horndog comedy from the era, and that's kinda, sorta how "Babyface 2" plays, putting in a group effort to detail a network of young(?) characters finding excuses to experience carnal pleasures in random locations. Read the rest at