Film Review - The Munsters (2022)


Someday, Rob Zombie will write his autobiography, sharing his experiences in music and art, but also detailing his filmmaking career. Hopefully, there will be a chapter examining his desire to remake “The Munsters,” the beloved 1960s sitcom about monsters making it in human society. It’s a shame the book doesn’t exist today, as any help decoding Zombie’s decision-making skills is most necessary while watching this valentine/redo, which is meant to celebrate the silly world of the original series, but mostly resembles “The Paul Lynde Halloween Special.” Zombie tries to retain his usual interests in macabre cinema and pop culture while building a slightly different “Munsters” for the masses. It’s a cult-ready package that probably won’t please longtime fans or keep family audiences engaged (against all odds, this sucker is rated PG), remaining a distinctly Zombie-fied production highlighting his oddball sense of humor and love of extreme visuals. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Voyage of the Rock Aliens


1984's "Voyage of the Rock Aliens" (titled "When the Rain Begins to Fall" on the Blu-ray print) was initially conceived as a parody of B-movies from the 1950s, when teenagers ruled the world, monsters occasionally interrupted the fun, and love (mostly lust) was in the air as high school happenings carried on. During development, the project became a musical, perhaps to cash-in on the MTV craze, which saw numerous films enjoy a bump at the box office due to their slick visuals and stacked soundtrack. "Voyage of the Rock Aliens" isn't a glossy effort, stuck between comedy antics and musical presentations, with director James Fargo ("The Enforcer," "Every Which Way But Loose") trying to find a balance to the chaos that often takes over the feature. It's a highly weird offering of screen spirit and music genres, and a picture that tends to go wherever it wants to, trusting in the might of a hit single to support the whole endeavor. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Red Lips


1995's "Red Lips" is a 76-minute-long movie, and the opening five minutes of the endeavor are devoted to a sex scene between two women that establishes a dual meaning for the title. Writer/director Donald Farmer is in no hurry to get the film moving along, introducing viewers to softcore material before gradually moving things over to horror, and another change, to melodrama, follows. "Red Lips" is a $5,000 effort that has a lot of things it wants to accomplish, but no significant resources or imagination to do so, with Farmer believing some bloodshed and plenty of sexuality is enough to keep viewers interested in what becomes an aggressively repetitive picture. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché


"Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché" is a documentary about the punk rock singer, but it's more interested in the subject's relationship with her daughter, Celeste Bell. After the 2011 death of Poly Styrene, Bell was left with memories and boxes of media to sort through, giving herself five years of distance before she began going through her parent's belongings. What she found in these boxes wasn't just photos and recordings, but a window to another human being she never really knew, offered a tour of Poly Styrene's career and personal experience. "I Am a Cliché" follows Bell on a journey of discovery, joining co-director Paul Sng as she tracks the life and times of her loved one, reinforcing her position in music history and identifying the fragility of her mind, forced to battle through mental illness while keeping up appearances for fans and the music industry. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Apocalypse After


Director Bertrand Mandico made an impression on certain audiences with 2017's "The Wild Boys." It was his first feature-length production, and he poured everything into its creation, using experience gained after spending a large portion of his life making short films. "The Wild Boys" was weird and incredibly specific in its moviemaking goals. Dramatic value is debatable, but the endeavor was a striking showcase of craftsmanship, earning him a loyal fanbase interested in his helming future. Altered Innocence elects to go into Mandico's past with their release of "Apocalypse After," which offers the 2018 short and ten others to provide an understanding of creative development and artistic vision, identifying Mandico's growing obsessions as well. It's a high dive into challenging, arresting cinema, with the shorts detailing Mandico's fetishes and pursuit of enigmatic material. Read the rest at

Film Review - A Jazzman's Blues


Tyler Perry provided a surprise early this year when he broke his promise to the public, pulling his most popular character, Madea, out of retirement. The idea was to deliver some laughs to a world that desperately needs the distraction during bleak times. The result was a mess, with “A Madea Homecoming” as profoundly unpleasant as anything Perry has made before, reinforcing his severe limitations as a filmmaker and judge of funny business. Perry returns with “A Jazzman’s Blues,” which was actually shot before Madea’s unwelcome return, but is only now seeing a release, with autumn a more appropriate season for a more serious picture from the writer/director. “A Jazzman’s Blues” isn’t high art from Perry, who doesn’t stray far from his love of melodrama, cooking up a juicy tragedy concerning race relations and forbidden love in 1940s Georgia, going all-in with broad performances and thickly sliced horrors of the heart. While sections of the endeavor show some restraint, Perry can’t help himself, aiming for pure audience reaction with this exhausting soap opera. Read the rest at

Film Review - Lou


Beloved actress Allison Janney, known for her skills in comedy and drama, is now an action star? That’s the idea driving “Lou,” which puts the actress behind the wheel of her own bruiser, albeit with slightly less interest in a sustained run of physical activity. Screenwriters Maggie Cohn and Jack Stanley are in charge of making this magic at least partially credible, transforming Janney into an ex-government recluse with a particular set of skills, out to protect a young mother searching for her kidnapped child. It’s the stuff of Neeson, but Janney is a nice change of pace for this type of entertainment, providing an authoritative performance as the eponymous character, giving director Anna Foerster some behavioral business to manage while also participating in stunt work. “Lou” doesn’t win points for originality, but it does provide an enjoyable viewing experience, and a chance to watch Janney go into butt-kicking mode is certainly worth a look. Read the rest at

Film Review - Don't Worry Darling


2019’s “Booksmart” was special, emerging from a murky sea of lame teen comedy films, trying to offer a fresh take on adolescent high jinks from a female perspective. It was the directorial debut for actress Olivia Wilde, and she managed to balance tone and performances, working with co-screenwriter Katie Silberman to offer something oddball and somewhat loveable, capturing a volatile high school energy. It was a pleasantly surprising offering from Wilde, and she returns with an intentionally cryptic endeavor in “Don’t Worry Darling,” reteaming with Silberman for a much different study of power and paranoia. While “Booksmart” carried a casual energy, “Don’t Worry Darling” is attempting to be a suffocating viewing experience, hammering viewers with an intimidating soundscape and cranked-up acting. Wilde’s trying to master a mystery with her second feature, but she’s mostly making noise with this aggressive picture, which is too derivative of other movies to truly shock. And while its messages on the state of gender relations are valid, the effort’s violent execution and painful overlength erodes any lasting appreciation for its themes. Read the rest at

Film Review - Meet Cute


While time travel is often used to create fantasy scenarios of heroism and discovery, it’s also become a device to launch romantic comedies, with the potential of grand manipulation and relationship obsession driving a different kind of year-jumping momentum. “Meet Cute” is the latest production to use a “Groundhog Day”-ish approach to the obstacle course of love, with stars Kaley Cuoco and Pete Davidson tasked with playing people meant to be, only the path to partnership is complicated by disruptions in time. Writer Noga Pnueli offers some silliness with her concept, which involves weird science and dramatic repetition, but she’s also in sync with relationship concerns and demands, understanding how people often get in their own way when it comes to connecting with other human beings. “Meet Cute” is slight but funny, and Pnueli finds fresh ways to explore the same crisis of appeal, manufacturing a puzzle of emotions Davidson and Cuoco handle with authority. Read the rest at

Film Review - Bandit


“Bandit” tells the story of Gilbert Galvan Jr., who, during the 1980s. became known as “The Flying Bandit,” traveling all over Canada to rob nearly 50 banks over a three-year period. It’s a tale that involves dented nobility and economic pressure, disguises and friendships, and a romance of sorts. It’s amazing this tale hasn’t found its way to the screen before, but the production turns to a 1996 book by Robert Knuckle for inspiration, trying to create a crime story worth paying attention to, filled with strange characters and conflicts of the heart. “Bandit” is a spirited picture, with director Allan Ungar (“Tapped Out,” “Gridlocked”) aiming to balance the sugar rush nature of criminal behavior with Gilbert’s emotional crisis, caught between the job he loves and the people he’s responsible for. Ungar keeps the feature on the move, and he has a dependable leading man in Josh Duhamel, who rises to the tonal challenge when playing this odd man and his particularly sticky situation. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Infernal Machine


Adaptations can come from anywhere, but “The Infernal Machine” attempts to do something with a newer form of media, trying to form a feature-length movie from a 25-minute-long episode of “The Truth” podcast. “The Hilly Earth Society” explored the declining sanity of a writer dealing with a most determined stalker through a series of calls to an answering machine, giving writer/director Andrew Hunt a foundation for a mystery, building on the thinnest of ideas. What he ultimately comes up with is a very Stephen King-esque overview of paranoia and intimidation, working to create a story to pair with the central phone call concept, coming up with an uneven viewing experience. The first half builds to a few promising questions of sanity, but “The Infernal Machine” slips out of control soon after, as Hunt gets sloppy with his ideas for suspense. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Enforcer


While it walks and talks like a generic thriller, “The Enforcer” has moments when it feels like it’s genuinely trying to do something with its characters and their seemingly hopeless situations of criminal activity. Perhaps this has something to do with the screenplay, which is credited to W. Peter Iliff, who long ago created “Point Break,” helping to bring one of the finest action films of the 1990s to the screen. Iliff doesn’t have a high caliber director this time around to bring intense visuals and extract ideal performances, but there’s something interesting buried in the feature, which attempts to get past B-movie formula on occasion. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of the promising stuff to support “The Enforcer,” which soon gets tangled up in underworld cliches and dismal casting, losing sight of its more compelling elements. Read the rest at

Film Review - Section 8


Action films aren’t as special as they once were. Blame the VOD market, which has inspired producers to go crazy making violent entertainment for the masses, churning them out without much regard for quality. “Section 8” is part of this generation of B-movies, offering a decent tale of dark servitude that’s poorly executed all around. Director Christian Sesma has worked this routine before, helming similar exercises in low-wattage distractions (including “Paydirt” and “Take Back”), but he’s not one to challenge the norm when it comes to the ways of hard men trying to intimidate other hard men. “Section 8” could’ve worked with some passion for the game, pushing the endeavor into more of a free-for-all experience of shootouts and fist fights. Sesma doesn’t have the vision to really go for it, and the writing (credited to Chad Law and Josh Ridgeway) has no imagination, sticking with familiar grunts of bad dialogue and unwelcome turns of plot. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dig


“Dig” is a minimally budgeted production made in the COVID-19 era, offering a low stakes plot featuring a handful of characters, with the action largely contained to a single location. It doesn’t exactly charm with its bland visuals, but it does open with a loaded moment of suspense and horror, establishing hope that the screenplay by Banipal Ablakhad might be interested in a more gripping level of viewer engagement, dealing with the dangers of the real world as a road rage incident goes horribly wrong for the lead character. “Dig” has a chance to be different than most VOD offerings, but such promise isn’t realized by the production, which gradually falls into routine with cartoonish villains and basic acts of survival. Director K. Asher Levin puts the movie into motion early on, but he’s soon stuck with a bad case of storytelling inertia, leaving the viewing experience disappointingly uneventful. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Cross My Heart


Love is a complicated thing, with "Cross My Heart" an examination of the dating process between two people fighting to overcome their scorching insecurities. It's a comedy from writers Gail Parent and Armyan Bernstein (who also directs), and one that hopes to inspect its characters a little more deeply, getting into the muck of adult gamesmanship as the participants try to present themselves in the most appealing light possible, only to have the truth slowly command the evening. It's up to leads Martin Short and Annette O'Toole to carry the feature, and the pair share wonderful chemistry and timing in this slight but enjoyable two-hander that touches on the challenges of honesty and the thrill of attraction. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Pure Luck


1991's "Pure Luck" is a remake of 1981's "Le Chevre," a French production directed by Francis Verber. The popular French filmmaker proved to be an object of fascination for Hollywood, with studios trying to bring his sense of humor to American audiences. Star Martin Short previously Verber-ed in 1989's "Three Fugitives," and he returns for "Pure Luck," trying to find some funny business with co-star Danny Glover. Instead of luring Verber to handle directorial duties, Universal Pictures turns to Nadia Tass, an Australian helmer who isn't quite up for the challenge of mastering the slapstick comedy. Instead of winding up the leads and arranging plenty of tomfoolery, Tass is caught up with uneven material, constructing a farce about clueless people that's also a detective story, often stopping the feature to highlight weirdly DOA sequences that lack jokes. There's Short, who's always a welcome screen presence, but he's working hard for no reward in this tedious misfire. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Scared to Death


To make a first impression as a filmmaker, William Malone leans on his love of monster movies with 1980's "Scared to Death," joining a long list of directors using genre entertainment as their way into the Hollywood system. The effort is low-budget and limited to a few locations and sets, but Malone has heart, working with whatever he's got to piece together a horror film featuring the threat of a "synthesized genetic organism," or Syngenor, who's basically the Xenomorph from "Alien" if he grew up in the sewers of Los Angeles. Enthusiasm for the project is appreciable, but "Scared to Death" isn't crisply edited, with Malone refusing to tighten the bolts on a picture that often wanders away from the central crisis, dealing with character business that's not important, which helps to dilute what little suspense is present here. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Six Million Dollar Man


Author Martin Caidin created the character Steve Austin for his 1972 book, "Cyborg." Hollywood was soon interested in the material, and a television movie, "The Six Million Dollar Man," was produced in 1973. It provided an origin story for Steve, detailing the former astronaut's horrific accident and his recovery, where his body was reconstructed with bionic parts, giving him super powers he didn't immediately understand. Two more television films followed, taking the premise into a James Bond-ish direction, and a weekly series eventually arrived in 1974, keeping Steve busy with various adventures that involved the use of his bionic powers, his cool demeanor around certain doom, and his feminine appeal. "The Six Million Dollar Man" quickly turned into a hit show, offering audiences a fantasy premise with unusual visuals (and sound effects) and defined heroism, with the production's command of escapism keeping the series going for five seasons. Read the rest at

Film Review - Blonde (2022)


“Blonde” began life as a 2000 novel by Joyce Carol Oates, who presented a fictionalized version of Marilyn Monroe’s life, playing up her torturous experiences and the violence, in many forms, forced on her by men. The book was quickly adapted into a 2001 television miniseries, sanitized for the mass audience, and now returns to the screen in an NC-17 interpretation, with writer/director Andrew Dominik (“Killing Them Softly,” “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”) free to explore the murky headspace of the subject as she craves to be treated humanely, only to face horror. There have been so many versions of this story across all forms of media, but Dominik doesn’t lead with his Monroe obsession, looking to explore the turbulence of her existence, spending nearly three hours in the swirling vortex of her cancerous thoughts. The helmer touches on the steps in Monroe’s life, but he’s more interested in creating a suffocating viewing experience, which works to a certain degree, especially when interpreted by star Ana de Armas, who delivers a full-body breakdown in the part, singlehandedly supporting the feature at times. Read the rest at

Film Review - Goodnight Mommy (2022)


“Goodnight Mommy” was originally a 2014 Austrian chiller from writer/directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala. The pair concocted a dark tale of suspicion featuring twins who no longer trust the identity of their mother, going to extreme lengths to deduce if she’s truly the woman she claims to be. It wasn’t a horror endeavor in the traditional sense, aiming for more of a slow-burn churn of discovery, and it worked wonderfully, delivering terrific menace. The premise has been recycled for an American remake, with “Goodnight Mommy” attempting to summon the same level of unease with a different set of actors, with director Matt Sobel and screenwriter Kyle Warren tasked with sprucing up the fear factor while retaining the same story. Unfortunately for the filmmakers, “Goodnight Mommy” didn’t need a remake, especially one that doesn’t do anything special with the working parts of the original movie, sanding down some of the sharper edges of the 2014 effort to appeal to a wider audience. Read the rest at