Blu-ray Review - No Resistance


1994's "No Resistance" offers a look at Houston in the future, where gangs are plentiful, the economy is in disarray, and a man with a portable computer can infiltrate and manipulate any system he's paid to invade. So, basically, this is Houston, 1997, but for co-writer/director Tim Tomson, "No Resistance" is his chance to play with the world of cyberpunk, doing so with a shot-on-video thriller that looks to present heated confrontations and online warfare with a no-budget production effort, forcing Tomson to get as creative as possible with his limited resources. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - My Best Part


Nicolas Maury has been acting for a few decades now, perhaps best known to international audiences from his turn in 2018's "Knife + Heart." Creating an acting opportunity for himself, Maury co-writes and directs 2020's "My Best Part," which puts him front and center in a drama about a long- suffering actor trying to take some type of control of his seemingly spiraling life. A thespian showcase is exactly what "My Best Part" is, allowing Maury to stretch as a screen presence, bringing in French film industry legend Nathalie Baye for support as he undertakes a character study with elements of dark humor and drama, questing to generate an appreciation for an emotionally wounded man and his many experiences with rejection and depression. Read the rest at

Film Review - Easter Sunday


August is a strange month to release “Easter Sunday,” but it’s easy to recognize a studio punt with the project, which is meant to turn comedian Jo Koy into a leading man. He’s not a seasoned film actor, and this much is evident in the picture, which finds Koy struggling to become charming in a completely laugh-free viewing experience. “Easter Sunday” aims to say something about the chaos of family life, and doing so with a Filipino-American focus, hoping to use the culture and its broad personalities to prop up a DOA endeavor directed by Jay Chandrasekhar, who has a rough track record when it comes to making funny movies (offerings include “The Dukes of Hazard,” “Super Troopers,” and “The Babymakers”). Wacky behaviors can’t save the effort, which doesn’t do anything fresh with humor, and it’s a terrible holiday feature, failing to find the warmth of a domestic gathering, putting a lot of pressure on Koy to make anything here appealing. Read the rest at

Film Review - Prey (2022)


1987’s “Predator” is an action cinema classic, merging worlds of violent excess and sci-fi cinema into a tightly constructed ride of survival, dripping with testosterone. Producers have attempted to match it for over 30 years, and while a few follow-ups have been fine, the original Schwarzenegger-ian magic hasn’t been recaptured. That was supposed to change with 2018’s “The Predator,” but the big-budget reworking was a major creative whiff, failing to restore excitement and surprise to the franchise, almost coming close to killing the brand name with its ineptitude. Four years later, and now there’s “Prey,” which is a prequel to “Predator,” with screenwriter Patrick Aison taking the adventure back to 1719, introducing Native American characters as targets for an alien hunter that refuses to back down from a fight. “Prey” has the novelty of its setting, which is a refreshing change of pace, and director Dan Trachtenberg (“10 Cloverfield Lane”) oversees some effective suspense sequences. It’s not an especially different take on the central human vs. hunter concept, but it’s definitely an improvement over “The Predator.” Read the rest at

Film Review - Bullet Train


Director David Leitch has built a career out of hardcore action movies, dealing directly with elaborate choreography and bloody messes in films such as “Atomic Blonde,” “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” and his biggest hit, 2018’s “Deadpool 2.” For “Bullet Train,” Leitch isn’t interested in taking any creative detours with this adaptation of a Japanese novel, preferring to Americanize the material with plenty of bruising, slicing, and blunt force trauma, recycling the “Deadpool” formula of irreverent comedy and hard-R brutality, as the features are basically the same, even down to the actors involved. However, “Deadpool 2” had a defined sense of humor and some interesting ways with action. “Bullet Train” is a graceless, unfunny endeavor that’s hell-bent on being the most aggressive picture of the year. Leitch puts his faith in the “more is more” way of thinking, content to bash viewers over the head with the cartoonish ways of the material, trying to sell a joke that doesn’t have a punchline. Read the rest at

Film Review - I Love My Dad


While it carries a friendly title, “I Love My Dad” is a dark comedy about parental extremes, with writer/director/star James Morosini taking viewers on quite a ride with the material, which is shaped from a true story. The helmer spotlights the bad instincts and big heart of a father who doesn’t understand right from wrong, generating an exploration of askew guardianship from a desperate man doing anything, I mean anything, to spend some time relearning how to engage with his emotionally fragile son. “I Love My Dad” hits a few farcical highs and some profoundly emotional lows, and while Morosini doesn’t always maintain command of the feature’s tone, he takes some interesting storytelling risks with the picture, which results in some major laughs and plenty of wincing along the way, making for one of the stranger films of 2022. Read the rest at

Film Review - They/Them


In 1980, actor Kevin Bacon was a cast member of the hit slasher film, “Friday the 13th.” The picture helped to change the industry, inspiring countless knockoffs and a passionate fanbase, but Bacon has never celebrated his participation in the endeavor, possibly troubled to be associated with an unsavory feature. For “They/Them,” Bacon finally returns to the deep woods for this effort, which places him in a camp setting where a killer is on the loose, hacking up victims. It’s cause for celebration for some, but writer/director John Logan isn’t making a horror movie with “They/Them,” more interested in a study of young people dealing with the turbulence of their lives. Macabre events periodically occur, but Bacon isn’t back to basics here, playing a supporting part in a heartfelt examination of confusion and shame, but it’s a lousy genre offering. Read the rest at

Film Review - Luck (2022)


Skydance Animation is the latest company created to get in on the profitable ways of family entertainment. Their debut feature is “Luck,” and the company hopes to acquire some of the good stuff with the hiring of John Lassiter, the once mighty Pixar Animation honcho who left the company for controversial reasons. Lassiter is here to help secure a hit for the studio, with the man who helped develop “Cars” and “Toy Story” staying strictly within his comfort level with “Luck,” which takes zero creative chances during its run time. It’s also one of the most exposition-packed animated pictures in recent memory, with director Peggy Holmes (“The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning”) desperately overseeing an often absurdly elaborate exercise in world building that’s meant to be explored in additional media, should the initial outing reach its audience. Such an outcome seems unlikely, leaving viewers with the burden of keeping up with the laborious screenplay, which is mostly tell and very little show. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Coca-Cola Kid


After making a name for himself with artier endeavors in the 1960s and '70s, director Dusan Makavejev aimed to establish a career for himself in the 1980s, settling down with slightly more accessible fare, including the 1981 dark comedy, "Montenegro." 1985's "The Coca-Cola Kid" was the second of Makavejev's offerings in the decade, presenting the helmer with more defined steps toward a mainstream hit, dealing with known actors and the exotic, idiosyncratic ways of Australia, which provides the picture with a special energy during a time of growing trendiness. "The Coca-Cola Kid" is based on short stories written by Frank Moorehouse (who also provides the screenplay), and the picture retains such narrative limitations, putting Makavejev in charge of conjuring a sense of playfulness for the movie while it struggles with a general disinterest in storytelling authority. Amusing interactions and a pleasing sense of location is in play here, keeping the effort buoyant enough to pass, and Makavejev retains much of his visual and tonal impishness, trying to twist the feature into something odd when the plot threatens to keep the whole thing a conventional fish-out-of-water study, with slight romantic comedy additions. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Studio 666


Leave it to a rock band to make the most entertaining horror comedy in recent memory. Foo Fighters have been around in one form or another for nearly 30 years, but there's something about a pandemic that inspires strange ideas. For frontman Dave Grohl, the downtime presented a chance to develop an idea for a demonic possession story, with screenwriters Jeff Buhler and Rebecca Hughes hired to flesh out the concept of a band experiencing a developing nightmare while attempting to record their latest album inside a haunted house. There's a single setting but lots of ideas for bodily harm in "Studio 666," which updates the concept of a "band movie" for genre fans, asking members of Foo Fighters to play slightly cartoonish versions of themselves while the tale delivers blasts of ultraviolence and moments of silliness. "Studio 666" is tremendous fun, and while it's aimed at the fanbase, there are gore zone delights for all. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Mr. Jones


"Mr. Jones" presents the story of journalist Gareth Jones, who not only managed to make his way into the Soviet Union during the early years of conflict before World War II, he witnessed the ravages of the Holodomor in Ukraine, exposed to the horrors of a man-made famine utilized by Joseph Stalin to destroy the country, using its riches as "gold" to demonstrate power to the rest of the world. Such a dire tale of political exposure isn't an easy sell, but in director Agnieszka Holland's hands, the feature becomes a riveting study of reporting and corruption that mirrors the world's struggles and horrors of today. "Mr. Jones" maintains a steady pace and sense of dramatic urgency throughout, giving Holland one of her most effective movies in years, and one smartly designed by screenwriter Andrea Chalupa (making a fine debut), who encourages suspense while delivering a powerful message on the value of the press. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Buster Keaton Rides Again


In 1964, legendary screen comedian Buster Keaton was hired to make "The Railrodder," a silent short used to showcase the natural beauty and personality of Canada. Director Gerald Potterton (who would go on to helm 1981's "Heavy Metal") was put in charge of assembling the picture, teaming with Keaton, who was 69 years old, embarking on the creation of his 87th movie. Hoping to capture this moment in film history, director John Spotton was brought on to make a documentary, "Buster Keaton Rides Again," about the production experience, observing Keaton at his most unguarded as the icon toured the country, trying to perfect gags for "The Railrodder." Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Little Hours


Writer/director Jeff Baena has made a positive impression during his emerging career, pulling off a horror comedy with "Life After Beth," and achieving a cinematic miracle with "Joshy," a movie about male bonding that wasn't basted in ugliness. "The Little Hours" proves to be his greatest tonal challenge yet, mounting a comedy that's not always pursuing laughs, and its target is repression found in organized religion. It's a gamble from Baena, likely alienating a great number of potential viewers right out of the gate, but he mostly sticks the landing, finding ways to scrape out the blasphemy by playing it all so broadly, making a film that certainly has the potential to reach farcical highs, but pulls back a bit too often, perhaps afraid to really dive into the weirdness of the material. Read the rest at

Film Review - Thirteen Lives


“Thirteen Lives” is a dramatization of the Tham Luang cave rescue, where 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach were trapped inside a cave for 18 days, inspiring an operation to retrieve them that required precise physicality and an untested medical leap of faith. The story was also explored in the 2021 documentary, “The Rescue,” but now director Ron Howard gets his shot with the tale, which plays to his career interests in the procedural workings of an unthinkable situation and his love of hope. “Thirteen Lives” doesn’t have a fresh perspective on the event, but Howard does provide a solid you-are-there approach, getting to understand the details of the rescue, the divers in charge of pulling off a perilous journey into the cave, and the team on the other side, who have no concept of the major effort in place to make sure they come out alive. Howard aims for a cinematic understanding of risk, and he achieves it with this mostly riveting feature. Read the rest at

Film Review - DC League of Super-Pets


Live-action comic book features are everywhere these days, presenting vivid displays of fantasy action with enough CGI work to technically qualify as cartoons. “DC League of Super-Pets” goes fully animated, with the team behind “Scoob!” and “The Lego Batman Movie” bringing the exploits of superhero animals to life. Family audiences are the target demographic for the endeavor, but directors Sam Levine and Jared Stern don’t skimp on the epic action, giving the effort a few major set pieces to dazzle viewers while also tending to the comedic possibilities of the premise and its colorful characters. “DC League of Super-Pets” has its issues, but it remains a very entertaining picture with periodic explosiveness, keeping one eye on the kid film playbook and the other on the DC universe, trying to give fans a bit of goofy fun to go with all the high-flying activity expected from the brand name. Read the rest at

Film Review - Resurrection (2022)


Writer/director Andrew Semans manufactures an intense tale of psychological warfare with “Resurrection,” exploring the gradual implosion of a woman losing her grip on reality when triggered by the return of an abusive boyfriend from long ago. Semans has thespian might in lead Rebecca Hall, who’s typically drawn to characters on the verge of complete physical and mental collapse, and he has select scenes of unnerving menace, playing up a sick game of control where the rules are extremely bizarre and invasive. Early scenes promise a more direct character examination, but “Resurrection” isn’t that tidy, with the material blurring reality, growing darker as it goes, and Semans prioritizes his writing, creating a battle of monologues that becomes a bit wearisome as the story unfolds, limiting overall suspense. Read the rest at

Film Review - Vengeance (2022)

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B.J. Novak is a celebrated comedian, author, and a cast member on “The Office,” which, according to the internet, is the greatest television show of all time. He’s hunting for a new challenge with “Vengeance,” making his directorial debut with his take on American characters and podcast culture, also working in a murder mystery at times. Novak also writes and stars in the feature, accepting an enormous amount of responsibility to deliver a tightly constructed whodunit with heavy presence of a Texas insanity. Novak gets most of the way there with “Vengeance,” which pieces together rather cleanly for its first two acts, delivering a rich sense of personality and dramatic purpose, even when the story is uncomfortably similar to the hit show, “Only Murders in the Building.” The helmer can’t stick the landing, but Novak offers amusingly exaggerated observations and behaviors with the film, which remains an engrossing sit. Read the rest at

Film Review - Not Okay


Making fun of social media influencers is easy, with this world already flooded with such extreme personalities, it doesn’t take much to identify the cartoonish ways of the subculture. “Not Okay” could go for simple laughs, but writer/director Quinn Shephard hunts for a darker tone with the picture, exploring the depths of self-delusion and desperation required to make it big with followers, freebies, and access. She has a sharp idea for extremity, following a character’s evolution when a white lie develops into a major change of status, taking her on a journey of exposure and admiration she’s never earned. There’s a roller coaster ride of black comedy for the taking in “Not Okay,” but Shephard isn’t committed to making a barbed film, instead looking for a more emotionally driven study of a fragile mind coming into contact with authenticity that’s alien to her experience. Such an approach supports dramatic intentions, but Shephard is much better off poking fun at the excesses and vanity of the ego-driven universe. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sharp Stick

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Lena Dunham made an impression with her 2010 movie, “Tiny Furniture,” joining the indie film scene with her version of a Woody Allen picture, examining the neurotic and unwell with her own sense of humor and love of awkwardness. Dunham went on to create the television show “Girls,” keeping her busy for many years, but now she’s back on the screen with “Sharp Stick,” which carries a similar atmosphere as “Tiny Furniture,” but remains more focused on shock value and strange behaviors. The new endeavor, her first feature-length directorial outing in 12 years, certainly has the vibe of a creator unsure what to do with the material, presenting a series of unfinished thoughts with “Sharp Stick,” which delivers a few moments of fascinating mental health disasters, but not much else. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Ghost and the Darkness


Stephen Hopkins isn't the most refined filmmaker, but there's always been something about his career that suggests he'd rather be making high art than genre entertainment. He broke through in Hollywood with his work on 1989's "A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child," and built a reputation for violent thrillers with 1990's "Predator 2," 1993's "Judgement Night," and 1994's "Blown Away." All of these features have significant creative problems, but Hopkins still found gigs, and 1995's "The Ghost and the Darkness" seemed like a project capable of taking the helmer to the next level of respectability, offered material (scripted by William Goldman) that carries a frightening atmosphere while supported by some of the finest cast and crew in the business at the time, giving what's essentially another "Jaws" knock-off some true cinematic regality. "The Ghost and the Darkness" plays like a production aching to achieve event movie status, but it never quite reaches such ambition. It's an entertaining picture with a cracking pace for the first hour, but Hopkins is a strange choice to guide the endeavor, stuck trying to find a balance between the grisliness of the true story behind the Tsavo Man-Eaters experience and the character study of Goldman's writing, which is often obscured through mangled editorial moves. Read the rest at