Blu-ray Review - Knight Chills


2001's "Knight Chills" hunts to find the horror in the world of role-playing games. Unfortunately, such genre intent is only part of the viewing experience, with the screenplay by Jeff Kennedy, Juanita Kennedy, and D.J. Perry more interested in the ways of romantic obsession and police nonsense, limiting the fantasy aspects of the picture. "Knight Chills" hopes to be something of a valentine to gaming, offering time with a group of friends and their Saturday evenings of "Dungeons & Dragons"-style imagination adventuring, sharing such concentration with viewers. The rest of the shot-on-video endeavor isn't quite as lively, with director Katherine Hicks unable to merge elements of fright and insanity into a more compelling feature. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Bloodfeast! The Adventures of Sgt. Lunch


1991's "Bloodfeast! The Adventures of Sgt. Lunch" is a goof. It was made as a distraction while director David Palamaro and his friends were involved with the military, using their base as a studio of sorts, giving them room to explore what's intended to be a supercop cinema parody, attempting to go silly with a shot-on-video endeavor. There's certainly the central idea of a heroic law enforcement officer on the hunt for crime, dealing with despicable villains and a killing machine. The humor of it all is up for debate, as Palamaro basically uses "Sgt. Lunch" (which doesn't even have an IMDB entry) as his film school, learning about the ways of timing and execution as he screws around with his buddies and their plastic guns. They're clearly having a ball making the picture, but it's not quite as fun to sit through it. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy


A Czechoslovakian and Yugoslavian co-production from animator Dusan Vukotic, 1981's "Visitors from the Arkana Galaxy" is a live-action cartoon from the helmer. It's a take on the creative process, exploring the runaway imagination of a writer coming into contact with his own creation, experiencing all the curiosity and madness such a meeting involves. It's a wild comedy from Vukotic, who eventually allows the film to spin out of his control, but the set-up is involving, dealing with sci-fi examination, mild eroticism, and domestic pressures, generating a unique atmosphere of exploration as matters grow stranger by the minute. Read the rest at

Film Review - Spaceman (2024)


We have two sides of Adam Sandler these days. There’s the man who enjoys screen silliness and paid vacations, recently seen in “Murder Mystery 2” and “Hubie Halloween,” also taking a voice role in last holiday’s “Leo.” And there’s the actor side of Sandler, where he challenges himself to play various parts with focus on extracting previously unseen dramatic potential, found in “Hustle” and “Uncut Gems.” “Spaceman” has Sandler in serious mode, going across the galaxy with this tale of a cosmonaut experiencing the weight of his conscience while moving toward a celestial event, joined by a special passenger. Based on a book by Jaroslav Kalfar, “Spaceman” almost entirely relies on Sandler to communicate deep emotional wounds and physical activity, and the star is up for the acting challenge, delivering a meaningful performance in a somewhat elusive film. However, it’s one with a sharp visual sense, with director Johan Renck (“Downloading Nancy”) overseeing an interesting mystery of many dimensions. Read the rest at

Film Review - One Life


“One Life” is based on the true story of “Nicky’s Children,” following the experiences of Nicholas Winton and his efforts to rescue Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia before the outbreak of World War II. Why this tale may be of some familiarity is due to the spread of a viral video on social media channels, which provided a clip from the British show “That’s Life,” where the real Nichloas Winton was surprised to find himself sitting in an audience mostly comprised of the now-grown children he helped to save. It’s an emotional moment, perfect for bite-sized media consumption, and now it’s a feature-length film. Director James Hawes and screenwriters Lucinda Coxon and Nick Drake endeavor to inspect the tale in “One Life,” looking to understand what drove Nicholas to commit his life to the quest, and how he deals with memories of the time, caught up in recollections of what occurred and could’ve been during a grim period in world history. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Animal Kingdom


The world is changing, and co-writer/director Thomas Cailley is looking to take a form of evolution to an extreme in “The Animal Kingdom.” The French production examines a state of emergency involving the mutation of humans, with more and more people transforming into animals with nowhere to go, putting one parent and husband in a difficult position with loved ones. There’s plenty of dramatic potential in such a premise, and Cailley doesn’t head in a horrifying direction. He offers a sense of realism to emotional ties and survival challenges, with “The Animal Kingdom” also examining the stress of parental protection, even with such an incredible situation. Cailley creates an often riveting understanding of fear and belonging in the feature, also working with capable visual effects and a gifted cast to help secure the strangeness and universal feelings in play. Read the rest at

Film Review - Club Zero


With “Club Zero,” screenwriters Geraldine Bajard and Jessica Hausner (who also directs, last seen with 2019’s “Little Joe”) take on the ways of eating disorders and cults, along with a few other topics that also pertain to certain power plays people face every day. It’s a psychological study of submission involving a small number of private school students and their introduction to “conscious eating” via the new teacher in town, with such elevated thinking causing trouble for all. Hausner makes a peculiar chiller here, which recalls the work of director Yorgos Lanthimos and his strange ways with tone and terror. Unease takes its time to build in the movie, but “Club Zero” has an original take on influence and control, and it does very well with its large cast. This includes star Mia Wasikowska, who brings an unnerving sense of stillness to the picture, providing a central figure of concern the material enjoys developing. Read the rest at

Film Review - Bad Behaviour


Alice Englert has worked her way through acting assignments over the last decade, but now she wants to direct. The calling makes sense, as her mother is celebrated helmer Jane Campion, perhaps setting some example for Englert and her creative drive. “Bad Behaviour” is her feature-length debut, and Englert is determined to get as messy as possible with the slightly anarchic picture. A study of parenthood, love, and the heavy burden of trauma, the endeavor (also written by Englert) steps into the world of therapy and details the rush of feelings, with two passionate characters, a mother and daughter, enduring severe highs and lows during parallel experiences in the wild. “Bad Behaviour” doesn’t amount to much, as Englert is primarily pursuing an acting exercise with the movie, but small moments of focus makes some difference, suggesting the presence of a stronger film buried beneath all the showiness. Read the rest at

Film Review - The New Boy


Cate Blanchett was last seen on screens in 2022’s “Tar,” where she delivered an exquisite performance in a difficult film, reinforcing her ability to handle all kinds of characters and moods. Before she goes the paycheck route with this summer’s “Borderlands,” Blanchett returns to challenging material with “The New Boy,” tasked with portraying a nun who witnesses a miracle occurring at a remote monastery, unsure how to process such an event. There’s a strange atmosphere to the feature, with writer/director Warwick Thornton looking to build a mystery with some supernatural elements, also delving into Australian history involving the collection and reprogramming of Aboriginal children. “The New Boy” isn’t always a well-balanced study of discovery, with its two-hour-long run time much too indulgent for the story it wants to tell. However, Thornton has an opening half that’s stocked with surprises, and there’s Blanchett, who creates a fascinating journey of faith and survival in this unusual picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Jeanne du Barry


Maiwenn has been acting for decades, but she’s probably best known for her role in 1997’s “The Fifth Element,” portraying Diva Plavalaguna (a.k.a. the blue opera singer). In an already highly bizarre film, Maiwenn managed to be one of its weirder additions, but she made an impression. She’s also been stacking directorial credits during her run, helming such efforts as 2015’s “Mon Roi.” Maiwenn shows a little more career ambition with “Jeanne du Barry,” which is a costume drama concerning the drive of a poor French woman trying to find independence in a world that has no patience for such desire. Created with a sizable scope and attention to costume and production design detail, “Jeanne du Barry” doesn’t radically subvert expectations, but Maiwenn oversees capable performances and some appealing emotional escalation. She gives the feature a little more feeling than anticipated, helping to melt some of the inherent iciness that comes with this type of endeavor. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Ghost Nursing


1982's "Ghost Nursing" sends an anti-"Ghostbusters" message, with the characters actually calling the ghosts when there's something strange in the neighborhood. It's a Hong Kong production from director Wilson Tong, who offers a heroic commitment to the wild and weird with the picture, showing little restraint when it comes to bizarre happenings involving supernatural and spiritual matters. The story follows a woman who's down on her luck, introduced to the ways of ghost child adoption to solve her problems, keeping up with blood offerings to stabilize her seemingly ruinous life. The tale is out there, but Tong supports such extremity with a lively viewing experience, filling the run time with macabre events and bewildering battles between good and evil. "Ghost Mother" is a real ride, shedding concern for logic as it hits highlights of genre filmmaking. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Evil Judgment


1984's "Evil Judgment" is occasionally described as a giallo, as it features a black-gloved killer coming after terrified victims while a mystery of sorts fights for screen time. Missing is a sense of style, with co-writer/director Claudio Castravelli basically holding on for dear life with the slasher movie, in charge of making sense of an eye-crossing plot, overseeing a cast of hazily defined characters, and stitching together two filming periods (one in 1981, the other in 1983) into one passably coherent picture. "Evil Judgment" has its violence and exploitation interests, but the Canadian production doesn't catch fire as a thriller, often caught struggling with the details of the crime and forward momentum of the story, emerging as a chiller with limited moments of screen tension. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Jules


In 2018's "Puzzle," director Marc Turtletaub worked to create a special atmosphere of humanity with a story that's usually fodder for clichéd entertainment. The film explored the quirky world of competitive puzzling, and while the premise invited a shallow sense of personality, Turtletaub handled it carefully, making for a sensitive picture. "Jules" is about an alien visitation in a rural, older Pennsylvania town, and it's another tale that seems like a launching point for silly business, or perhaps something along the lines of 1985's "Cocoon." Once again, Turtletaub generally avoids the obvious, with "Jules" a deeper examination of aging and loneliness, and it just so happens to have a little blue creature in it. Screenwriter Gavin Steckler pairs real characters with an extraordinary situation, emerging with a thoughtful understanding of needs, blended with some mild comedic beats that connect as intended, sold with terrific performances. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Coming Out


1989's "Coming Out" is a historic film, widely identified as the last feature to be released by East Germany before reunification efforts began in the country. It's also a rare study of the gay experience from the era, with director Heiner Carow overseeing a tender but turbulent story of self- acceptance. In many ways, "Coming Out" has the touch of a television movie, but there's something deeper about the material (written by Erika Richter and Wolfram Witt), which takes its time to understand brewing emotional issues and the pain of mistakes, and lead actor Matthias Freihof provides a powerful performance, capturing the internal churn of a man who can't find comfort, dealing with the mighty weight of his own shame. Read the rest at

Film Review - Tyler Perry's Mea Culpa (2024)


Writer/director Tyler Perry does the one thing, and it’s made him a fortune. His particular love of melodrama has inspired everything he does, even when he made an effort to stretch as a storyteller with 2022’s “A Jazzman’s Blues.” The picture began with some promise, but ended up with the same messiness as all of the helmer’s projects. Perry sustains his fondness for unwieldly performances and poor plotting with “Mea Culpa,” which is the director’s attempt to make an erotic thriller from the 1980s, pitting a lawyer against pure temptation with an attractive client who may be a violent killer of women. “Mea Culpa” is ridiculous, but that’s the point of it, with Perry making the same film once again, giving viewers a look at irrational characters and tepid performances, while his writing feels like a first draft that was hastily brought to the screen, lacking basic logic, chilling turns, and a decent ending. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dune: Part Two


Hollywood isn’t big on taking risks, but they put their faith into director Denis Villeneuve, who wanted to bring Frank Herbert’s literary sci-fi epic, “Dune,” to the screen once again. Such ambition isn’t unheard of, but labeling the picture as “Part One” without a second chapter in the can was unusual, depending on audience response to trigger production on a sequel. The gamble paid off, with the success of “Part One” finally clearing the way for “Dune: Part Two,” which realizes the second half of Herbert’s novel, with Villeneuve returning to finish what he started a few years ago. Picking up where he left off, the helmer looks to increase the scale and depth of “Dune,” newly emboldened to dig into the fine details of this universe, examining its chess game of power while confronting the potency of authority as it bleeds into extremism. “Part Two” makes some curious moves in its final moments, but it remains as consistently enthralling as the previous chapter, and Villeneuve certainly puts on a visual show for fans, once again wowing with his technical achievements. Read the rest at

Film Review - Red Right Hand


Jonathan Easley makes his screenwriting debut with “Red Right Hand,” and he’s not chasing originality with the material. It’s another one-man-army feature, this time offering star Orlando Bloom his moment as a once aggressive man is brought back into the darkness when a criminal kingpin threatens the health and happiness of his family. Easley looks to shake up the norm by setting the tale in the deep south, with this level of isolation creating a war zone for the story. He also looks to flavor the writing with defined characters dealing with past sins, endeavoring to add some emotional weight to the effort. Directors Eshom and Ian Nelms (who previously helmed the enjoyable Santa actioner, “Fatman”) do their best to support the slow ride to revenge, embracing the theatrical qualities of Easley’s work. “Red Right Hand” could certainly use a tighter edit, but what’s here has occasional power and an appreciation for violent escalation. Read the rest at

Film Review - Drive-Away Dolls


Joel and Ethan Coen are on a break. Maybe it’s a permanent one, who knows at this point, but the filmmaking siblings responsible for some incredible features during their decades of collaboration are currently operating solo. Joel went highbrow, taking command of 2021’s arty, stark “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” clearly out to flex his wings with a wildly different creative challenge. Ethan’s more interested in making a Coen Brothers picture, with “Drive-Away Dolls” basically tracing over tonal lines the siblings have previously drawn. It’s a dryly comedic, slightly madcap take on lovers-on-the-run cinema, and whatever Joel brought to the partnership is clearly missing from the endeavor. A labored exercise in zaniness, “Drive-Away Dolls” isn’t charming or funny, finding Ethan unable to cough up that old Coen magic in a movie that, well, he’s already made several times before. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ordinary Angels


“Ordinary Angels” is meant to be feel-good entertainment, providing a “based on a true story” tale concerning the kindness of strangers and the power of community support. It’s faith-based cinema from director Jon Gunn, who’s spent his career in the genre, last seen on screens with 2017’s “The Case for Christ.” Godly influence is a little less prioritized in the feature, as the story deals with a medical and fiscal crisis facing a widower trying to help his sick five-year-old daughter. There are a lot of buttons being pushed in this endeavor, but “Ordinary Angels” does make some effort to find nooks and crannies in characterization to explore. Screenwriters Kelly Fremon Craig (“Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”) and Meg Tilly (yes, that Meg Tilly) work to bring some points of pressure to the film, locating a few realistic emotional struggles to go with all the honeyed ways of Christian storytelling. Read the rest at

Film Review - Bring Him to Me


Director Luke Sparke has spent a chunk of his career trying to launch his own sci-fi franchise, overseeing 2018’s “Occupation” and 2020’s “Occupation: Rainfall.” The franchise didn’t take the world by storm, and Sparke’s filmmaking imagination was limited at best, trying to make his tight budgets look epic. He’s back to more human concerns with “Bring Him to Me,” which follows growing tensions between two men on a long drive to certain doom, with the passenger unaware of what’s coming for him. It’s a talky offering from screenwriter Tom Evans, who hopes to tap into damaged characters and their battle to express the pain that powers them. “Bring Him to Me” is something of a crime movie as well, but Sparke is better off pursuing the gut-rot elements of the material, which are always more compelling than showdowns. Read the rest at