Film Review - Thelma (2024)


As a 94-year-old actress, June Squibb has been working for decades, but she’s only really enjoyed a breakthrough in her career over the last ten years, caught stealing scenes in Alexander Payne’s “Nebraska.” Typically the bright spot of any movie she appears in, Squibb finally receives her own starring vehicle in “Thelma,” which is similar in story to last winter’s “The Beekeeper,” finding a fresher way to detail a revenge tale, getting there through outstanding writing and directing from Josh Margolin, who makes his debut with the endeavor. The helmer doesn’t go the action way with the picture, preferring to sink into character and some levels of comedic chaos, and Squibb doesn’t miss a step in the lead role, clearly having a ball portraying a driven grandmother looking to reclaim money stolen from her by scammers. “Thelma” is fresh, heartening, and hilarious, with Margolin skillfully making a feature that’s wildly entertaining but also softer when necessary, offering a touch of reality to go with all the craziness. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Bikeriders


Jeff Nichols hasn’t made a feature since 2016’s “Loving,” and he returns to screens with an unusual study of family in “The Bikeriders,” which continues his career mission to explore various kinds of relationships and cultures. It’s an adaptation of a photo book by Danny Lyon, who collected pictures and interviews from those involved with a motorcycle club, seeking to understand what life was like inside such a volatile organization. Nichols (who also scripts) follows this lead, creating a film of moments, memories, and connections, eschewing plot to explore camaraderie and forms of respect. “The Bikeriders” is loaded with atmosphere and stacked with a cast of brooding male talent, and the helmer works hard to keep viewers in this haze of brotherhood as it evolves from something almost pure to a more organized display of criminal activity. It’s not always a hypnotic movie, but there are moments where the endeavor feels lived-in, capturing a time in American life. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Present (2024)


The director of “How to Be Single” and “Love, Rosie,” Christian Ditter has explored the ways of dating and romance, and now he turns his attention to the challenges of family life with “The Present.” It’s a “Groundhog Day”-style effort from screenwriter Jay Martel (“Get Hard”), who creates a time-travel tale about the prevention of divorce and all the strange roadblocks encountered during this race to preserve normalcy. Martel’s story supplies a germ of an idea involving the anxiety of kids who don’t want to see their parents break up, but Ditter isn’t ready to go deep with the endeavor. He makes a Disney Channel-type of viewing experience instead, going broad and borderline obnoxious with this feature, which establishes adult concerns but offers childish antics. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny


There's a full-length documentary on the release of 2008's "Tenacious D: The Complete Master Works 2" that's essential viewing. It examines the period of fame for the musical duo, with Jack Black and Kyle Gass struggling to deal with an imbalance in media attention, especially as the build up to the release of 2006's "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny" starts to form. Especially illuminating is the excitement surrounding the movie, with cameras at the premiere, catching New Line Cinema execs sharing their joy with the picture's earning potential, laying the groundwork for a potential sequel. And then "The Pick of Destiny" was unleashed on America…and nobody came. It's one of the great box office mysteries of the decade, with the cult popularity of the group unable to cross over to mainstream success, turning the feature into secret handshake cinema. The film itself didn't deserve such a cruel fate, with director Liam Lynch masterminding a wild ride of music and comedic mayhem for Tenacious D, finding the joyful silliness of the band while celebrating their exceptional musical power. It's such a fun endeavor, triumphantly selling Black and Gass's wonderful way with stupidity and rock authority. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock


There's some level of bravery to "The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock," with the 1962 production trying to explore the ways of necrophilia without triggering utter disgust from viewers and censors of the day. Director Riccardo Freda doesn't shy away from the central display of inhuman lust, but he's not making an offering of underground cinema here, going gothic with the endeavor, which is more of an atmospheric viewing experience than a suspenseful one. "The Horrible Dr. Hitchcock" moves slowly, absurdly so at times, but there's style to keep the audience interested in the weird cravings of a doctor and his specific carnal appetites, preferring his partners to be lifeless. There's some eeriness to the feature, and perversion, helping to support the movie when it shows a general reluctance to march ahead as a wild display of madness. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Eileen


In 2016, director William Oldroyd made a strong impression with "Lady Macbeth," transforming a Russian novella into a riveting sit, and one that offered an amazing lead turn from Florence Pugh, helping to launch her visibility. After a seven-year break, Oldroyd is back with "Eileen," which presents another adaptation challenge, bringing Ottessa Moshfegh's 2015 book to the screen, with the author co-scripting with Luke Goebel. The filmmakers have quite a story to share with viewers, cutting into the fantasies and brutal realities of the eponymous character – a young woman facing a stagnant life of casual abuse, with her essence enlivened by the arrival of a psychologist looking for friendship, or maybe something more. "Eileen" takes its time to set mood and deal with the ways of the complex characters, and Oldroyd delivers compelling atmosphere to support the journey, also handling potent performances from stars Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Gay USA


1977's "Gay USA" is a documentary that initially presents itself as a study of Pride Parade activity across the country, with cameras visiting celebrations in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and San Diego. However, director Arthur J. Bressan Jr. ("Buddies") has much more in mind for the picture, which seeks to appreciate the state of the LGBTQIA+ community during this moment in time, sending interviewers into the crowds to better understand personal stories and deep feelings. "Gay USA" is a remarkable document of a time and place, with a heartfelt approach to reinforcing the solidarity of Pride Parades and what they mean to individuals used to living in a state of fear and confusion brought on by community violence, hateful organizations, and power-hungry leaders. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Imaginary


“The Imaginary” comes from Studio Ponoc, a company established by Yoshiaki Nishimura, who was a producer at Studio Ghibli. It’s their first feature-length endeavor since 2017’s “Mary and the Witch’s Flower,” and they remain in a fantasy realm with the picture, which investigates a community of imaginary friends and their battles to understand their purpose, facing an evil presence determined to feast on them. Similarities to the recent “IF” are impossible to miss, but director Yoshiyuki Momose makes a more fanciful experience with “The Imaginary,” which aims for screen immersion with its offering of wild characters, fantasy environments, and exceptional animation. It’s not always a riveting study of heroes and villains, but the production aims for details with the effort, holding attention with a significant creative achievement that makes full use of the art form. Read the rest at

Film Review - Brats (2024)


In 2021, Andrew McCarthy authored the book, “Brat: An ‘80s Story,” which examined his formative years and experience as an actor, building on a foundation of education and professional drive to rise as a major face in Hollywood, which was in the midst of mining the youth market. McCarthy became a star, and he also became part of the “Brat Pack,” with journalist David Blum electing to depict a collection of young thespians in an unflattering way to help define a moment in time. McCarthy’s been dealing with the branding for decades, and now he's taken his fight to the screen, directing “Brats,” which sets out to understand what happened to an assortment of movie professionals who were suddenly turned into media stars at a tender age. This turbulent experience remains at the heart of the documentary, but McCarthy isn’t always interested in studying it, occasionally biting off more than he can chew as he attempts to go abyssal into cultural analysis, which allows the film to wander away from its most appealing offerings of reflection from those who were there. Read the rest at

Film Review - Latency


Writer/director James Croke doesn’t have much in the way of a budget for “Latency,” going the modest route for this chiller, which highlights the dangers of technology and the influence of anxiety disorders. There are plenty of ideas in the writing to investigate, and with only two characters and a single location, expectations are put in place for a heartier examination of personality and behavior, while Croke is clearly paying tribute to the cinema of David Cronenberg at times. Unfortunately, the helmer has his ambitions, but the execution of “Latency” is underwhelming. There’s little tension to enjoy as the main player in a game of unreality deals with a disruption to her brain, and Croke isn’t too confident when it comes to scares, preferring to hit viewers with loud noises instead of nailing them with more interesting acts of terror. Read the rest at

Film Review - Inside Out 2


Pixar Animation Studios has taken a few hits in the press lately, with the company facing some financial turmoil as parent organization Disney figures out what to do with the animation giant. Their output has been mostly impressive over the last five years, creating a few original gems along the way (“Luca,” “Soul”), but now Pixar returns to the source of one of their greatest financial and critical successes with “Inside Out 2.” There’s a cynical response ready for such a follow-up to one of 2015’s best movies, but screenwriters Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein offer a careful continuation meant to expand on the world of Riley and her turbulent emotions. The character is now a teenager with a lot of room to grow, and “Inside Out 2” does just that, developing the inner world of feelings with a more advanced state of distress, and director Kelsey Mann (making his directorial debut) oversees a gorgeously animated adventure that returns to behavioral discoveries with heart and humor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Tuesday (2024)


Writer/director Daina Oniunas-Pusic offers quite the first impression with “Tuesday,” her feature-length helming debut. She doesn’t make it easy for herself, taking on the subject of death, and even the process of it in an askew way, going the magical realism route with this study of a mother working extremely hard to deny the imminent passing of her terminally ill daughter, challenged by Death itself, who emerges in the form of a macaw. There’s a devastating side to the material, but Oniunas-Pusic isn’t all that interested in crafting a tearjerker, going to much stranger places with the endeavor, which is never short on surprises. “Tuesday” hits the heart, how could it not? But there’s a rich sense of inspired filmmaking driving the effort, with Oniunas-Pusic overseeing outstanding performances and imaginative storytelling with this often stunning exploration of life and loss. Read the rest at

Film Review - Big City Greens the Movie: Spacecation


“Big City Greens” made its Disney Channel debut in 2018, and quickly became a hit for the company, who gave the show greater exposure on the Disney+ streaming service, establishing a loyal fan base for the series. Created by The Houghton Brothers (Chris and Shane), “Big City Greens” is the rare animated offering that organically merges crazy slapstick antics with a real sense of heart, always finding fresh ways to explore the Green Family and their urban and rural experiences. And now the program goes big, with “” offering a 90-minute-long adventure with beloved characters, which is quite a development when episodes usually run around 11 minutes. The Houghton Brothers, co-writers, and director Anna O’Brian maintain their usual speed with the feature, delivering a hilarious odyssey into major trouble for the characters, losing none of the charm and mischief of the original series. Read the rest at

Film Review - Cora Bora


Director Hannah Pearl Utt impressed with her last endeavor, 2019’s “Before You Know It,” blending interests in comedy with something more sincere when dealing with character yearnings and foibles. Utt returns to a similar dramedy landscape with “Cora Bora,” following the misadventures of a young woman attempting to handle herself with care, only to end up in impossible situations of longing and awkwardness as she tries to reconnect with her past. The picture also offers a starring opportunity for actress Megan Stalter, who’s been particularly good about stealing scenes in recent efforts (including “Sometimes I Think About Dying” and “Please Don’t Destroy: The Treasure of Foggy Mountain”), and she’s terrific here, handling the turns found in the screenplay (by Rhianon Jones), which tracks a bumpy road of maturation. “Cora Bora” is a little lumpy at times with pace, and a few supporting characters seem superfluous to the odyssey, but the feature remains involving and empathetic, detailing a specific stretch of emotional unrest. Read the rest at

Film Review - Reverse the Curse


David Duchovny is best known for his acting in television shows, but he’s created a directorial career over the years, breaking into feature-length filmmaking with 2005’s “House of D,” also claiming a screenplay credit. The picture didn’t work, despite a capable cast, but Duchovny tries again with “Reverse the Curse,” which returns him to the delicate ways of relationships and regrets. Marketing plans are pushing the movie as more of a lighthearted study of a family reunion and the strange influence of baseball, but Duchovny wants something deeper with the endeavor, which strives to provide a more sensitive viewing experience with emotionally constipated characters. It’s not another “House of D,” but “Reverse the Curse” shares similar tonal problems and general helming issues, with Duchovny struggling to craft a dramedy capable of hitting hearts and finding humor. It ends up a mushy pile of moods, but, once again, acting is the highlight of the effort. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ride (2024)


Jake Allyn has scripted a few movies, with his last, 2021’s “No Man’s Land,” exploring the cowboy way in America. Allyn also acts in the features, giving himself juicy parts, often portraying tormented souls dealing with trouble of their own making. For “Ride,” Allyn returns to acting and screenplay duties (co-writing with Josh Plasse), and he makes his directorial debut with the endeavor, which once again explores the desperation of Texan men trying to fight their way out of emotional horror and financial ruin. It’s another showy part for Allyn, but he wisely packs the picture with capable supporting talent, with these performances carrying the film through a general sluggishness it only periodically breaks free from. “Ride” is an editorial pass away from greatness, but the effort does hit a few gut-rot moments of regret worth sticking around for, and its central idea of generational guilt occasionally reaches its potential. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - D.A.R.Y.L.


In many ways, Steven Spielberg dominated the entertainment industry in the 1980s. He made blockbusters that delighted all audiences, and even scored a global sensation with the release of "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," scoring huge box office and launching a wave of similar productions, with other producers trying to capture the hearts and minds of kid audiences flocking to multiplexes. 1985's "D.A.R.Y.L." isn't a Spielberg endeavor, but it's certainly taking advantage of the mogul's moviemaking triumphs, presenting a tale of a young robotic boy and his quest to live a regular life with his adoptive family and mischievous best friend. Director Simon Wincer ("Free Willy," "Quigley Down Under") hopes to blend danger and heartwarming relationships with the effort, which is pushed along by entertaining reveals in its first hour, getting to understand the child's computer abilities and his interactions with human caretakers. "D.A.R.Y.L." stumbles some in its last act, which turns the feature into a more action-packed offering, but the gentleness of the picture supports an enjoyable viewing experience. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - eXistenZ


After finding his way through the turns of fetish and fixation in 1996's "Crash," David Cronenberg doesn't stray far from the flesh with his follow-up, 1999's "eXistenZ." For this round of specialized horror, the writer/director explores the ways of virtual reality video games, sending viewers into a strange world of fleshy game systems and twitchy players capable of physically plugging into adventures that threaten to corrupt humanity. Cronenberg remains close to his filmmaking interests in "eXistenZ," but he's confident with this odyssey into unreality, delivering a unique take on the immersion of gaming and the dangers of such submission. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - Southern Comfort


1981's "Southern Comfort" was marketed as a viewing experience similar to 1972's "Deliverance," once again pitting masculine men of adventure against rural folk who don't take kindly to strangers. In the hands of co-writer/director Walter Hill, the picture sticks with genre trappings but also pays close attention to character, following National Guard soldiers as they create a violent mess in the Louisiana swamps they soon can't escape from. It's a small-scale horror movie in many ways, playing like a semi-slasher without pronounced suspense, as Hill keeps the feature low-key and irritable, enjoying the slow march into frustration as the characters evolve from men on a mission to strangers desperate for survival. Games of power and command are played, and this is not a film that gallops from moment to moment. It's a slow-burn experience, which doesn't always work for the endeavor, but Hill concentrates on relationships and attitudes, finding some interesting acts of hostility, madness, and anger to work with as he explores the dynamics of the Vietnam War in the swampland of America. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Fatal Games


In the great slasher cinema race of the 1980s, the marketplace was filled with strange characters and bizarre weapons. 1984's "Fatal Games" looks to join the fun by taking its version of absolute terror to a school for athletes, where a masked killer is trying to pick off the students with a javelin. It's a pretty cumbersome weapon, but the javelin is part of the ride of "Fatal Games," which is as routine as it gets when it comes to cooking up horror happenings, but there's a certain oddness to the picture that keeps it mildly interesting. It's not a shining example of the subgenre, but the effort wins when it tries to sell absolute silliness with a straight face. Read the rest at