Film Review - Find Me Falling

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Harry Connick Jr. seemed primed for an acting career in the late 1990s, with the lauded musician finding his way in supporting roles (“Independence Day”) before graduating to more substantial parts (“Hope Floats”). For reasons not immediately understood, Connick Jr. moved away from thespian ambitions, taking smaller roles here and there for the last 15 years. With “Find Me Falling,” Connick Jr. is front and center in a romantic comedy about an aging rock singer looking for retirement peace in Cyprus, only to get caught up in family business in a tight-knit community. While not as wacky, the production certainly wouldn’t dismiss comparisons to the ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding” series, playing up the local culture and the lone American’s response to such intensity. Writer/director Stelana Kliris isn’t pushing too hard on viewers with “Find Me Falling,” which sticks with the rom-com playbook, but she has Connick Jr., who keeps the picture at least somewhat charming, also busting out a few songs to add a musical mood to the endeavor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Clear Cut


If one squints hard enough, there’s a chance the basic idea behind “Clear Cut” makes sense. Screenwriter Joe Perruccio is on a mission to make a manhunt film, and one that takes advantage of outdoor locations, allowing a low-budget production to capture some action quickly, free from outside interference. And there’s the novelty of the story, which is partially set in the logging business, which is a vocation rarely explored in features. Perhaps it’s not potential, but there’s a concept here that could use developing. Patience with it all isn’t prioritized by director Brian Skiba (“Dead Man’s Hand,” “Pursuit,” and “Beverly Hills Christmas”), who gets messy early with the storytelling particulars of “Clear Cut,” having trouble making sense of the writing’s flashback structure and primary motivations. It’s a quickie from Skiba, who’s stuck with dismal technical achievements and a limited cast, unable to conjure some B-movie magic. Read the rest at

Film Review - My Spy the Eternal City


“My Spy the Eternal City” (which used to have a colon in its title until just this week) is a sequel to 2020’s “My Spy,” which was an overly aggressive, decidedly unfunny movie meant to soften star Dave Bautista’s screen image. It was his “Kindergarten Cop,” blending heavy violence with softer moments of child guardianship, allowing the bulky star to showcase something more than simple hostility on screen. The feature pinballed around theatrical release dates before finally landing streaming distribution during the early days of COVID-19, and a captive audience must’ve materialized for the endeavor, because now there’s more. Bautista and most of the original cast returns for another round of superspy activity, and Peter Segal once again directs. “My Spy” was a rough sit with the weirdest sense of its primary audience, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, “Eternal City” is more of the same, offering families(?) hard PG-13 material and a dismal level of humor as the tale travels to Italy for the same old save-the-world stuff. Read the rest at

Film Review - Oddity (2024)

ODDITY - Still 13

“Oddity” is a horror movie released during a year that’s been filled with spooky stories from a variety of filmmakers and their specific interests in delivering slow-burn creep to the masses. Writer/director Damian Mc Carthy returns to the tried and true approach of ghostly experiences and unstable people with the effort, which explores the death of a woman and the different ways her loved ones react to her sudden loss, turning to the unexplainable for answers. Mc Carthy gets farther than most with his understanding of screen tension, building a suspenseful reunion situation for the characters, while adding touches of the supernatural to keep the whole thing periodically surprising. “Oddity” is strong work from the helmer, who conjures mood and does well with mystery, generating an engrossing sit with uneasy relationships and the addition of dark magic. Read the rest at

Film Review - Twisters


1996’s “Twister” was a moviegoing event. A fast-paced disaster film about storm chasers pursuing deadly weather while working on their relationships along the way, the feature provided chaotic theater escapism for the summer season, giving ticket-buyers a real ride. The screenplay was simplistic and acting was loaded with hammy turns, but director Jan be Bont created a visceral picture with major technical achievements. 28 years later, we have “Twisters,” which isn’t attempting to be a sequel, but a replication of the original endeavor. The writing (credited to Mark L. Smith) traces over the same story beats as before, and director Lee Isaac Chung (“Minari”) is in charge of summoning big screen mayhem, but the creative team manages to revive that special blockbuster magic for what’s essentially a do-over. “Twisters” isn’t a grand reimagining of tornado alley terror, but as pure entertainment with several menacing storm and rescue sequences, it works, reviving large-scale weather nightmares for the masses. Read the rest at

Film Review - Widow Clicquot


Director Thomas Napper has a special creative challenge with his work on “Widow Clicquot.” The feature tells the story of Barbe-Nicole, a woman who, against all calls for her dismissal, worked to save the champagne business she once shared with her husband. It’s a tale of a vineyard and growing resentments, which doesn’t automatically translate to riveting cinema. The film is an adaptation of a 2008 “business biography” by Tilar J. Mazzeo, and the screenplay (by Erin Dignam) manages to make something vital with the story, which touches on the struggles of commerce, the reality of relationships, and the strength of a woman trying to stand alone in a world run by men. It’s elegantly made by Napper and gracefully acted by lead Haley Bennett, who offers a complex understanding of stress, adding some emotional sophistication to an interesting picture. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Unlawful Entry


1992's "Unlawful Entry" represents director Jonathan Kaplan's return to the exploitation offerings of his early career. Receiving respect and professional opportunities in Hollywood after the success of 1988's "The Accused," Kaplan burned off most of this goodwill with the 1989 misfire, "Immediate Family," forcing him to find material with a little more box office potential. And nothing was hotter than psychological thrillers focusing on unhinged people targeting suburban citizens. Screenwriter Lewis Colick ("The Dirt Bike Kid," "Flamin' Hot") looks to serve up some disturbing material with "Unlawful Entry," which touches on sexual obsession and police corruption, giving Kaplan plenty to work with as he develops screen tension. Unfortunately, the helmer only finds modest inspiration for the endeavor, which begins with a bang and ends with tedious formula, ruining a feature that works well when dealing with sinister business. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Bubble Bath


Writer/director Gyorgy Kovasznai offers an ambitious tale of doubt and fear in 1979's "Bubble Bath." He creates a musical that explores various experiences in life, with the Hungarian production also delivering surreal animation to help expand reality and permit the helmer to play with visual elasticity and artful intent. "Bubble Bath" doesn't always come across as a feature fully prepared to fill 80 minutes of screen time, but Kovasznai has an outstanding creative approach for the project, which is impressively crafted and periodically energetic. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blonde Death


1983's "Blonde Death" is a slice of campy crime from writer/director James Robert Baker (billed here as "James Dillinger"). He's armed with a lunch money budget, access to an empty house, and a video camera, looking to pay tribute to the juvenile delinquent cinema of his youth with the endeavor, mixed with plenty of affection for the work of John Waters. "Blonde Death" strives to go wild with unruly behavior and outrageous punishments. Heck, it even visits Disneyland for a few minutes, really doing something dangerous along the way. But as a study of crime and lust, the effort struggles to get past its no-budget approach, dealing with a thin story that doesn't really go anywhere, leaving viewers with shrill performances visibly wrestling with showy dialogue, while comedy is a real your-mileage-may-vary situation. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Zombie Army


1991's "The Zombie Army" is a shot-on-video production that makes full use of its location. In this case, it's an abandoned psychiatric hospital, with director Betty Stapleford using the facility to visualize the end of the world. Or at least the end of a handful of Army personnel ordered to establish a base where an insane young man is capable of conjuring dark magic with help from electricity. There's no epic presented to viewers here, with Stapleford (and screenwriter Roger Searce) endeavoring to make a mess of bodies for 79 minutes, generally disregarding even a basic story to help encourage audience participation. "The Zombie Army," which is "based upon an actual event," plays like a highlight reel for an aspiring makeup effects team, with Stapleford more concerned about splatter than drama. For some, this will be enough. For others, seek your no-budget grotesqueries elsewhere. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sing Sing


“Sing Sing” takes viewers into the prison experience, but it’s not the usual offering of hard men playing games of respect and violence while behind bars. There’s a more sensitive story to be found here concerning the Rehabilitation Through the Arts organization, which offers inmates a chance to explore different sides of themselves through the stage, participating in the creation and performance of plays. Co-writer/director Greg Kwedar (who co-scripted “Jockey”) examines this odyssey of the mind and body with care for the characters, moving away from cliché to understand the people beyond the crimes, especially when placed in a situation where emotional intimacy is encouraged from participants who’ve lived most of their lives in a state of fear. “Sing Sing” takes chances with acting and tone, and it mostly hits the mark, with Kwedar (and co-writer Clint Bentley) using a real world organization, giving it dramatic highs and lows, sending viewers on a journey of profound feelings. Read the rest at

Film Review - Longlegs


“Longlegs” is the fourth film from Osgood Perkins (son of actor Anthony Perkins), and it remains firmly in line with the rest of his oeuvre, including his last endeavor, 2020’s “Gretel & Hansel.” Osgood has a very specific way of making movies, and he’s not in the mood to deviate from his obsessions, with his latest another descent into slow-burn horror with deliberate framing, aiming to generate a nightmare visually without much of a story to back up what’s meant to be creeping intensity. “Longlegs” is more of the same from Perkins, with this odyssey into evil not dense enough to overwhelm audiences, finding the screenplay offering limited darkness and lukewarm mystery before it eventually reveals itself, and what’s here is…a bit goofy. It’s also the rare picture that doesn’t benefit from the presence of Nicolas Cage, who appears in a small role, bringing his usual eccentricity with him, and it manages to make something that’s desperate to disturb into something that’s hard to take seriously, finding Perkins in no hurry to restrain what’s become expected broadness. Read the rest at

Film Review - Divorce in the Black


Tyler Perry has always made ridiculous movies, but he pushed his luck with last February’s “Mea Culpa,” an “erotic” thriller that quickly slid past heat and went right to absurdity. Perhaps Perry’s fanbase is happy with such lunacy (though even that’s up for debate, as the faithful rejected “Mea Culpa” as well), and the helmer is in no mood to creatively challenge himself, returning to pure ludicrousness with “Divorce in the Black.” As with previous Perry melodramas, the new film offers an uneasy blend of God and violence, doing what it can to trivialize abusive relationships while remaining close to the helmer’s recent interest in softcore sex scenes. “Divorce in the Black” is a baffling viewing experience, and while it opens with a comfortable sense of theatrical nonsense, it quickly dissolves into tediousness. Read the rest at


Film Review - Fly Me to the Moon


“Fly Me to the Moon” marks the screenwriting debut of Rose Gilroy, daughter of actress Rene Russo and writer Dan Gilroy, who’s written such features as “Nightcrawler,” “Velvet Buzzsaw,” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” She’s also the niece of Tony Gilroy, creator of “Andor.” It’s fairly safe to assume Rose Gilroy understands how Hollywood works, and this comfort with formula is easily spotted in “Fly Me to the Moon,” which endeavors to blend Space Race suspense with a romantic story of opposites attracting, peppered with a bit of government conspiracy elements, and topped off with an overview of tortured pasts. It’s a bit of everything, but doesn’t really amount to anything too memorable, with director Greg Berlanti (“Life as We Know It,” “Love, Simon”) fighting to find the tone of the picture as it moves unsteadily from comedy to tragedy. It’s meant to be easily digestible with a certain broadness to keep it accessible, but Gilroy loses the battle of balance, making for an uneven and somewhat bewildering movie. Read the rest at

Film Review - Faye


Laurent Bouzereau, the man responsible for some of the finest documentaries to be found on home video releases dating back to the laserdisc age, is clearly a fan of Faye Dunaway. The legendary actress is handed the spotlight treatment in “Faye,” with Bouzereau working his way through the highlights of her career and the tempestuousness of her private life. He’s aiming to humanize Dunaway in a manner Hollywood has refused to do, electing to scrape way her somewhat villainous reputation to better understand the determination that drives her creativity and life choices. “Faye” isn’t a completely complex inspection of a sophisticated woman, but Bouzereau does excellent work understanding the Faye Dunaway experience as it once was and how it stands today. There’s more here than just “Mommie Dearest” memories, with Dunaway taking some control of her story, explaining all the facets of her personality and push to challenge herself. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sorry/Not Sorry


In 2017, the New York Times published an article about comedian Louis C.K. and the stories concerning his history of exposure and sexual activity with women working with or for him. The writing went through years of rumors and accusations, highlighting Louie’s disregard for others and his predatory behavior, growing comfortable with abuses in power. For those in the world of stand-up comedy, the revelations were no revelations at all, as Louie’s behavior was often whispered about. As a documentary, “Sorry/Not Sorry” (which is an extension of the original article) isn’t interested in relitigating the allegations, partially because Louie previously admitted his guilt. What directors Cara Mones and Caroline Suh are mostly concerned with are the women involved in the mess, giving them a chance to share their perspectives and intimate tales, reclaiming the reality of what went down between them and a popular comedian who retained little regard for personal or professional boundaries in the pursuit of sexual satisfaction. Read the rest at

Film Review - Girl You Know It's True


Producers want musician and band bio-pics, as there’s money to the be made from devoted fans and, for some of these releases, a sweet hit of nostalgia also drives ticket sales. “Girl You Know It’s True” doesn’t exactly check any of those boxes, exploring the saga of Milli Vanilli, tracking the rise and fall of performers Rob Pilatus and Fab Morvan. In 1989, the men managed to become one of the hottest acts in the music business, turning into a global sensation with their distinctive style and succession of hit singles. These were songs they didn’t actually sing, becoming the face for producer Frank Farian and his team of session musicians, carrying a lie that burned them in many ways. Writer/director Simon Verhoeven (“Friend Request”) looks to return to the heat of the moment with “Girl You Know It’s True,” which is extremely sympathetic to Pilatus and Morvan, depicting them as excitable guys caught up in the temptations of fame. The reality of this adventure is up for debate, but Verhoeven’s feature plays the complex situation much too simplistically. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - Darkman


It seems a little odd to consider now, but at the time of its release in 1990, "Darkman" was simply the studio debutante ball for director Sam Raimi. Now, 34 years after its unexpected late-summer success, the movie has grown into an interesting puzzle piece in the filmmaker's career, bringing him from the no-budget wizardry of "Evil Dead II" to the big-budget helmer we know today. While fraught with Hollywood growing pains and home to a few clunky ideas, "Darkman" is truly one of Raimi's liveliest creations -- a pure shot of comic book-inspired eccentricity, barnstorming visuals, and regard for the dark side of justice. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Impulse


The early 1970s were a strange time for William Shatner. He was a working actor attempting to manage his "Star Trek" past into a viable professional future, looking for opportunities to break typecasting and perhaps challenge himself. As "Star Trek" slowly evolved into an iconic franchise, Shatner was off doing odd things with scrappy filmmakers. Such experimentation is found in 1974's "Impulse," with the actor trying his luck as a villain, portraying a deranged man willing to kill to protect his secrets. "Impulse" is a weird picture, with screenwriter Tony Crechales and director William Grefe ("Stanley," "Mako: The Jaws of Death") aiming to find horror and suspense in the study of an unraveling human being, with Shatner in charge of communicating such psychological burning. The feature connects as camp, giving those hunting for prime Shatner-ing a clear view of the performer's instincts when it comes to interpreting the ways of an imbalanced man. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Rock-afire Explosion


Nostalgia, the undiluted variety, can assume the form of tender memories that enhance the human experience, providing illumination in the strangest of places. Nostalgia can also foster obsession, either for objects or a return to a supposed simplicity of life that's impossible to reconstruct in the modern world. 2008's "The Rock-afire Explosion" itemizes the efforts of sensitive individuals who ache to grasp the elusive comfort of the past to help brighten their future, only the object of desire in play here might raise a few eyebrows. Read the rest at