Blu-ray Review - GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling


They were known as the "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling." It was female wrestling presented to the American public in a different way, and the television series "GLOW" (which debuted in 1986) strived to connect worlds of comedy and athleticism, with creator David McLane and director Matt Cimber hoping to create a stir with their blend of outrageousness and silliness, giving birth to specialized entertainment during a pop culture period when pro-wrestling was king. Director Brett Whitcomb ("The Rock-afire Explosion," "Jasper Mall") looks to understand how such an oddball offering of T.V. managed to make an impression on a generation of viewers in 2012's "GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling," with the documentary collecting interviews with the professionals involved in the business. Whitcomb doesn't have a sizable run time (77 minutes), but he has access to many people who put their bodies through hell to make some syndication magic for the masses, covering the four-year-long run of the show and its long list of peculiarities. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Infernal Rapist


With a title like "The Infernal Rapist," one must act cautiously around the film. It's more of a warning than a title, with the 1988 Mexican production working hard to be an ugly movie, examining the corruption of an already corrupt man compelled by dark forces to hurt people in the name of Satan. There's certainly a way to do this kind of exploitation endeavor, but the production (including director Damian Acosta Esparza) isn't attentive to the wily ways of genre happenings, preferring to be more of a blunt instrument aimed at viewers who elect to sit through multiple scenes of sexual violence and occult grisliness. "The Infernal Rapist" initially offers a slightly amusing take on evil events and macabre motivations, but it quickly extinguishes such inspiration, preferring to be sleazy and aggressive instead, which turns the viewing experience into a painful sit. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Flesh and Fantasy


1943's "Flesh and Fantasy" is an anthology film, taking a closer look at the ways of obsession with three different tales of strange behaviors and future visions. Director Julien Duvivier has a tremendous cast to help bring these stories to life, and he puts in quite an effort as well, crafting a mostly suspenseful understanding of pained people, offering style and tension to help accentuate strange circumstances the characters find themselves in. "Flesh and Fantasy" is a decent ride for this type of undertaking, always most interesting at its weirdest points. Read the rest at

Film Review - Simulant


“Simulant” definitely has interesting release timing, entering theaters as world leaders and the entertainment business discuss the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on humanity. The screenplay by Ryan Christopher Churchill looks to examine a futureworld of A.I. enhancement, where people claim machines to help with work and fill holes in their hearts, but this deceptive stability is newly challenged by someone who doesn’t believe in such order. “Simulant” has the appearance of a nail-biting thriller, but Churchill and director April Mullen (“Wander”) don’t step on the gas with the endeavor, preferring a more meditative understanding of the central crisis. Unfortunately, this approach keeps “Simulant” largely uneventful and dull, with the importance of the message and the urgency of the hunt lost in superfluous atmosphere and uninspired casting. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Boogeyman (2023)


“The Boogeyman” is based on a Stephen King short story from 1978. And with most, if not all, adaptations of King’s short stories, the tale has been changed dramatically to meet the needs of a feature-length run time. Enter screenwriters Scott Beck, Bryan Woods, and Mark Heyman, who are tasked with making something substantial out of a tale that only filled 25 pages, turning to the ways of tragedy, family ties, and teen angst to do so. “The Boogeyman” isn’t a fulfilling viewing experience, with director Rob Savage sticking to the basics in horror moviemaking, juggling the weight of damaged people and the movement of something sinister in the dark. It’s the usual PG-13 stuff, though it seems capable of avoiding routine with a deeper emotional journey. The picture has the means to get there, but the writing isn’t that brave. Read the rest at

Film Review - Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse


It’s hard to believe it came out nearly five years ago, but “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” made a lot of comic book fans happy. It wasn’t an enormous hit, but it found an audience, and one ready to absorb the production’s love of the character and his superhero history, delivering a portal-opening ride of then-unique animation and interesting characters, only really running into trouble when trying to find a way out of the mess of the story. For “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” sequel-flexing is felt, with the run time expanded, the cast list lengthened, and dramatic ambition inflated. “Into the Spider-Verse” was a careful introduction to the eponymous character(s) and their amusing disorientation, but “Across the Spider-Verse” aims for an epic feel of multiverse maneuvering, attempting to deliver a heavily knotted tale of fates and friendships, with directors Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson speeding up the edits and slowing down the storytelling as they build on the previous picture’s artistic achievements, though they still have a problem with pacing. Read the rest at

Film Review - Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story


Robert Englund has been acting since he was 13 years old, working on stage and screen, pushing his way through the industry, pursuing a life as a character actor. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Englund managed to land a role that would turn him into a star, transforming a man of many faces into a scarred monster the public adored. It’s a crazy story of fame and pop culture ubiquity, and it’s a major subject for “Hollywood Dreams & Nightmares: The Robert Englund Story,” with directors Chris Griffiths and Gary Smart endeavoring to give the cult film legend a chance to explore his diverse career in this long-form interview with the once and future Freddy Krueger. It’s Englund’s big tour, and there’s nobody better at articulating the turns of his life than the man himself, who commands this exhausting but informative and entertaining documentary. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Son of the Stars


1984's "Delta Space Mission" offered a Saturday morning cartoon viewing experience, going wild with adventurous happenings, focusing on delivering a certain level of excitement to support its Romanian animation storytelling. Ambition increases with 1985's "The Son of the Stars," which returns to the ways of deep space and colorful creatures, but amplifies surreal intent. It's a psychedelic viewing experience, with the production basically doing away with measured storytelling to march full steam ahead into a swirl of intergalactic unreality featuring a telekinetic hero and his never-ending quest to understand the unreachable limits of the universe. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Curucu, Beast of the Amazon


1956's "Curucu, Beast of the Amazon" is generally considered a monster movie, produced during an era in Hollywood when such entertainment was happily devoured by young audiences. Unfortunately, the reality of the film isn't quiet as enticing, with the creature feature elements of the screenplay quickly burned through to deal with a greater selling point in South American tourism, as the endeavor was shot in Brazil, even reminding viewers of such a creative get with an opening card. "Curucu" is more of a travelogue than a horror experience, and one that often plays like a slightly more aggressive version of the "Jungle Cruise" attraction at Disney Parks. Writer/director Curt Siodmak isn't going for hospital corners with the effort, basically trying to make a weird adventure with exotic locations, adding as much excitement as a limited budget allows. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Beast in Space


1980's "Beast in Space" is an offering of low-budget sci-fi from director Alfonso Brescia, who works very hard to deliver the basics of space exploration with limited resources. It's more "Star Trek" than "Star Wars," with the helmer hoping to go one step beyond the usual marketable elements by adding a few hardcore sex scenes to the mix, bringing some spice to the endeavor, which could really use all the distractions it can find. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Broker


Writer/director Hirokazu Kore-eda is an exceptionally talented filmmaker who's been on a streak of involving dramas over the last decade, mostly recently on view in 2018's "Shoplifters" and 2019's "The Truth," which offered him a chance to make a French endeavor, changing things up from his usual interests. With "Broker," Kore-eda is back in South Korea, examining the inner lives and relationships of characters involved in the business of selling babies. This is no horror story, adding to the helmer's preference for humanist dramas, taking time to understand the mindset of those contributing to such a situation, exploring the complexity of such a choice. There are layers to examine with "Broker," and wonderful moviemaking to help with the journey, as Kore-eda oversees excellent performances and an approachable level of melancholy with this feature, which remains gripping, even when it deals with simple matters of the heart. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Machine (2023)


“The Machine” is based on a stand-up comedy routine from Bert Kreischer, who used the details from a disastrous trip to Russia in 1998 to create a story for the stage, and one that managed to go viral, catapulting the little-known comic (and occasional basic cable show host) into some degree of online fame, helping him to achieve a devoted fanbase. Kreischer’s act involves shirtlessness and volume, and now he’s being asked to lead a big screen comedy, with writers Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes (“Ma”) tasked with turning the comedian into an actor, making something out of a mix of college day memories and his aggressive entertainment world persona. Oddly, “The Machine” isn’t a rip-roaring laugh riot, with the picture curiously muted when it comes to insanity and pace, asking the faithful to watch the eternal frat guy manage material that has him crying multiple times and participating in Screenwriting 101 arcs of redemption and atonement. It’s a movie specifically engineered to build Kreischer’s brand, and he’s the least appealing element in it. Read the rest at

Film Review - Kandahar (2023)


“Kandahar” marks the third collaboration between director Ric Roman Waugh and actor Gerard Butler, with the pair previously dealing with a presidential threat in “Angel has Fallen,” and the end of the world in 2020’s “Greenland.” Their newest effort takes on the lack of peace in the Middle East, with “Kandahar” piecing together elements of spy cinema and action spectacle for what’s ultimately trying to be a character study, using cultural instability to understand multiple sides of this conflict. Those coming to the film for another Butler-led bruiser might be let down by the movie, with screenwriter Mitchell LaFortune aiming to understand personalities and motivations, saving big displays of destruction for just a handful of moments in the feature. Such restraint is laudable, but it doesn’t make the picture riveting work, as the endeavor lacks editorial sharpness, making for only an intermittently grabbing viewing experience. Read the rest at

Film Review - About My Father


Last year, there was “Easter Sunday.” It was the big showcase for stand-up comedian Jo Koy, who turned to the ways of his overbearing family and their cultural peculiarities to provide the foundation for a big screen comedy. With “About My Father,” stand-up comedian Sebastian Maniscalco turns to the ways of his overbearing family and their cultural peculiarities to provide the foundation for a big screen comedy. There’s some major déjà vu surrounding the new release, though Maniscalco has a bit more thespian firepower to work with, hiring Robert De Niro to portray his tough but lovable Sicilian parent who has a difficult time dealing with separation issues. “About My Father” is an extremely mild comedy, but it’s not a funny one, largely leaning on Maniscalco’s charms and De Niro’s professionalism to deliver something that hopes to be silly and sweet, but the whole thing feels way too undercooked. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - Sidekicks


Chuck Norris, the man, the myth, the legend, receives an enormous offering of hero worship in 1992's "Sidekicks," which, appropriately, is directed by his younger brother, Aaron Norris. The actor doesn't actually have much to do in the feature, which is probably best for Norris's acting range, but he makes for a compelling action figure in the effort, which explores one sickly boy's relationship with the screen star through the power of daydreams. Unlike most of Norris's oeuvre, "Sidekicks" is meant for a younger audience, but the helmer isn't exactly sure how young to go, often going full cartoon with this endeavor, creating a picture that sometimes wants to be a sincere understanding of adolescent confidence (lifting liberally from "The Karate Kid"), but most of the time wants to be a slapstick comedy co-starring Joe Piscopo at his most obnoxious. The Norris Boys hope to celebrate everything Chuck with the film, but they often get in the way of straightforward earnestness, trying to be wacky in the worst ways. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Little Mermaid (2023)


To many, 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” isn’t just an animated classic from Disney, but something of a religion, with many fans devoting their time to the celebration of Ariel, the sea creature who wanted something more from her life, including love. It’s the picture largely credited with helping the company pull out of a box office tailspin, commencing a run of hits throughout the 1990s that basically followed the formula set by the aquatic musical. And with such extreme popularity comes a live-action remake, with director Rob Marshall coming back to the Disney way after 2018’s “Mary Poppins Returns,” tasked with making the heart and cartoon antics of “The Little Mermaid” into something at least semi-real. And he manages to do just that with the reworking, which uses an extraordinary amount of digital tricks and the raw talent of star Halle Bailey to deliver a satisfying journey into mermaid yearning, sea witch scheming, and oceanic creature goofballery. Read the rest at

Film Review - You Hurt My Feelings


Writer/director Nicole Holofcener hasn’t made a movie in five years, last seen on streaming with “The Land of Steady Habits.” She’s a vastly talented filmmaker dealing with the changing tides of the industry, still determined to make smart, real, and hilarious pictures for adults, and she’s one of the best at it. “You Hurt My Feelings” isn’t a grand departure for Holofcener, who returns to the land of troubled characters dealing with communication issues, but she finds fresh dramatic ground to explore in the area of codependency, examining the presence of honesty and all the trouble and weird areas of renewal it inspires. “You Hurt My Feelings” deals with neurotic people in a New York City setting, but sameness isn’t an issue in the feature, which is often elevated by wonderful performances and the deceptive nebulousness of the screenwriting, which ends up a most insightful examination of marital and parental woes. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Wrath of Becky


2020’s “Becky” was a low-budget revenge thriller, and probably little was expected of it in terms of financial success. It was a small film, using the strangeness of star Kevin James in a villainous role to attract attention, eventually finding release in June. But this was no ordinary June, but a full COVID-19 pandemic June, with Hollywood refusing to put their product into theaters. This allowed “Becky,” a delightfully hostile, blood-soaked riff on adolescent fury, a chance to be seen, ending up on the top of the box office chart for two weeks thanks to steady drive-in business. Suddenly, this tiny endeavor was a big deal, and now there’s a sequel, with “The Wrath of Becky” looking to return to the teenager and her problems with vile men. Violence returns, as does star Lulu Wilson, who delivers a mighty show of force for the effort, which isn’t quite as lovably feral as its predecessor, but manages to bring the pain as the main character once again faces off against the worst of American society. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - From Beyond


When 1985's "Re-Animator" became a cult hit, finding profit when many expected it to be ignored, a reunion was organized. Another H.P. Lovecraft adaptation was found in "From Beyond," with screenwriter Dennis Paoli tasked with transforming a short story into a feature-length rampage involving weird science and deadly mutations. "From Beyond" is a little uneven when it comes to finding a story to tell and characters to invest in, but director Stuart Gordon puts on a marvelous display of ugliness with the film, supported by a team of special effects and makeup artists who go crazy with the grisly particulars of the movie, providing a rich sense of the macabre, working to live up to Lovecraft-ian standards with this take on glandular savagery and sexual hypnosis. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Satan's Menagerie


A monster mash is prepared by co-writer/director Gary Griffith, with "Satan's Menagerie" an ode to the menace of classic Universal Studios Horror. Griffith concocts a reworking of creature mayhem, dancing carefully around legal issues to bring his version of the Wolfman, Gill-man, and vampire to the screen. Of course, the endeavor isn't ready to pay big for such ghoulish visions, with "Satan's Menagerie" a shot-on-video movie, finding Griffith trying to turn his limited budget into a horror epic, complete with dark magic and forbidden love. There's an A-for-effort here that carries the viewing experience, with Griffith and his team really trying to do something with next to nothing in the feature, and such ambition is welcome, helping the picture to overcome its clear lack of polish and weird neglect of tight editing. Read the rest at