Blu-ray Review - Unmasking the Idol


If you were a filmgoer in the 1980s, perhaps you were thinking, "This James Bond movie needs more ninjas." Or maybe, "This ninja movie needs more James Bond." Well, 1986's "Unmasking the Idol" is going to be your best friend, as director Worth Skeeter attempts to merge the worlds of martial arts and superspy adventures, delivering all the excitement he can with a very limited budget, unknown actors, and sets left over from previous productions. Ambition runs pretty high here, as Skeeter strives to make a big impression with his action extravaganza, trying to deliver furious battles and elaborate escape plans while offering a tongue-in-cheek take on 007-style antics featuring a British secret agent. "Unmasking the Idol" isn't sturdily built, lacking a great deal of momentum in the second act, but it's a fun romp for the most part, as Skeeter really wants to entertain with this effort, doing what he can to delight viewers. And if you're thinking, "Does this James Bond movie about ninjas contain a supporting performance from a baboon wearing a gi?" The answer is yes. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Buried Alive


Juvenile delinquent cinema meets the horror rush of the 1980s in "Buried Alive," which takes its influence from the works of Edgar Allan Poe. There's a black cat, sounds emerging from mysterious places, and the spread of madness, but the feature isn't committed to the finer points of gothic terror. It's more of a slasher-like endeavor, exploring the developing nightmare of an all-girl school terrorized by a masked madman with a fetish for killing people slowly, getting off on the memory of their expiration. Director Gerard Kikoine hopes to add some gasoline to the viewing experience, investing in a hyperactive style for the picture, aiming to generate sensorial overload to best capture the feeling of a psychological break. Such hustle is appreciated, but the effort's storytelling skills leave much to be desired, with "Buried Alive" soon breaking down into seemingly random scenes of character interactions and horrible events. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - The Return of the Living Dead


1985 was a major year for the "Night of the Living Dead" brand name. In July, George Romero added another chapter to his undead saga with "Day of the Dead," which disappeared from U.S. theaters fairly quickly. Original co-writer John A. Russo also delivered a zombie experience for the summer season, taking a co-story credit on "The Return of the Living Dead," with writer/director Dan O'Bannon making his helming debut with the endeavor. Romero went somber with his vision for a zombie apocalypse, while O'Bannon goes wild, eventually, with "The Return of the Living Dead," electing for a more comedic version of a monster rampage, trying to separate himself from the competition with a punk rock soundtrack, unabashed exploitation, and a tone of hysteria that either delights or repulses, depending on the scene. O'Bannon isn't big on style, and his sense of pace leaves much to be desired, but he has a vision for physical horror and zombie threats, with the last half of the picture capturing a pure cinematic insanity that's rarely found in the genre. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Saturday Night at the Baths


1975's "Saturday Night at the Baths" presents a time and place for audiences during the decade, with co-writer/director David Buckley offering a snapshot of celebratory happenings involving the gay community. Instead of simply making a documentary about time at the Continental Baths, the production hopes to touch hearts and minds with this drama, which examines one man's journey of sexuality, making discoveries about himself while working in a scene he doesn't fully understand at first. "Saturday Night at the Baths" is no great offering of storytelling, but it does have a distinct fingerprint when it comes to detailing a moment in history, capturing the jubilance of performance and the thrill of living free, with Buckley understanding more about the scene than the demands of dramatic structure. Read the rest at

Film Review - Fear (2023)


Director Deon Taylor’s filmography doesn’t inspire much faith in his abilities, recently helming the stillborn chiller “Fatale,” and the wretched comedy, “The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2.” Taylor’s been able to keep his career going with low budgets and minimal expectations, and such career ambition returns in “Fear,” which was filmed over two years ago, looking to capture the dread and paranoia of the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many genre pictures these days, Taylor and co-writer John Ferry keep things small and manageable, offering a few characters locked inside a remote location, with the idea here being anxiety, as a group of friends encounter trouble from beyond, with their deepest fears brought to life as they fight to survive encroaching madness. At least that’s what should be happening in “Fear,” but Taylor and Ferry get lost with this impotent chiller, trying to tap into something ill-defined, using all the hacky horror moves they can muster to keep 15 minutes of story going for 90 minutes of tedium. Read the rest at

Film Review - Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle


When “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” was released in 2010, viewers laughed. It was a particularly inept filmmaking endeavor from writer/director James Nguyen, who seemed to have no idea how awful a movie he was making, marching forward with a tale of bird attack in Half Moon Bay, California, utilizing some of the worst helming instincts imaginable. Cult film fans ate it up, and Nguyen returned to the scene of the crime with 2013’s “Birdemic: The Resurrection,” where he achieved some level of self-awareness, trying to recapture the vibe of the first installment while leaning into expanding ridiculousness. Viewers didn’t laugh. Ten years later, Nguyen returns to quite possibly his only source of income with “Birdemic 3: Sea Eagle,” which basically rehashes “Shock and Terror,” only this time around, the helmer is determined to establish the climate change message of the series, asking viewers to sit through an hour(!) of exposition, speeches, and Hitchcock appreciation before the birds return to attack humans. Viewers won’t laugh. Read the rest at

Film Review - Maybe I Do


Marital blues and relationship concerns are the focus of “Maybe I Do,” which examines communication struggles between people trying to figure out what they want from life and love. Writer/director Michael Jacobs touches on universal feelings of uncertainty and fatigue, offering a dramedy that concentrates on the inner lives of characters and their stunted ways of self-expression. To help the cause, Jacobs has brought in a capable cast willing to explore the itchiness of such doubt, with leads Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, William H. Macy, and Diane Keaton offering committed performances to help Jacobs reach his larger points about the demands of trust. “Maybe I Do” is frequently supported by thespian strength, as Jacobs gets a little too windy with his dialogue exchanges, losing pace as he tries to make something meaningful while the natural flow of the material leads to a potentially farcical conclusion. Read the rest at

Film Review - You People


“You People” is a film about race, culture, and love, and it most certainly wants to be a comedy up until the moment it suddenly decides not to be one anymore. The screenplay is credited to Kenya Barris (who also directs) and Jonah Hill, but there’s no evidence in the movie that anything was actually written down. Instead, the picture plays like a long improvisational challenge between actors eager to engage and actors who no longer have much interest in onscreen performance, with the endeavor fighting to achieve some type of shape as it blindly jumps from one scenario to another. “You People” hopes to update the premise of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” but Barris and Hill aren’t ready to think things through with the feature, which offers only limp riffing and dismal formula, assuming some type of importance when it can barely summon up the energy to create a genuine set-up and punchline. Read the rest at

Film Review - Blood (2023)


Writer Will Honley (“Bloodline,” “Escape Room: Tournament of Champions”) has a strong idea for horror in “Blood,” examining the extent of a mother’s love when she’s forced to turn to macabre solutions to solve unreal problems. Unfortunately, Honley only gets as far as a short story with the material, straining to stretch the particulars of the concept to a feature-length run time. Director Brad Anderson (“The Machinist,” “Vanishing on 7th Street”) attempts to conjure a dark mood for the endeavor, which plays with mysterious happenings and grim developments in health and home, but there’s not a lot of dramatic meat on these bones. “Blood” gets pretty far with a first half devoted to grotesque situations and marital hostility, but the production can’t sustain such mystery, eventually slowing down to a full stop as the screenplay loses interest in developing the central crisis. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Mutant Hunt


1987's "Mutant Hunt" presents a future world New York City that mostly, definitely looks like the New York City of 1987. Writer/director Tim Kincaid ("Bad Girls Dormitory," "Breeders") is dealing with the lowest of budgets and the shortest of shooting schedules with the endeavor, which offers an ambitious tale of a cyborg attack and the mercenary squad hired to bring the machines down. "Mutant Hunt" doesn't offer the tightest screenwriting and performances struggle, but technical achievements are quite impressive for the B-movie, which attempts to pull off a level of violence and oddity that keeps the viewing experience compelling, delivering a bit more punch than the average bottom-shelf offering. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Red Sun Rising


1994's "Red Sun Rising" is an attempt to give star Don "The Dragon" Wilson something just a little different to play. The respected martial artist and B-movie hero is tasked with a slightly heavier load of drama to carry in the feature, portraying a Japanese policeman dealing with guilt and rage while trying to seek revenge for the loss of his partner. The action is mostly found in Los Angeles, and Wilson does his thing very well, smashing opponents and dealing with fight choreography while director Francis Megahy tries to build a picture around him. Unfortunately, "Red Sun Rising" isn't all that compelling a police story, struggling to merge supernatural elements with street violence, while the overall effort to turn Wilson into a leading man doesn't take, with such a calculated career move blocking the view of a passable actioner. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Goldengirl


1979's "Goldengirl" is an adaptation of a 1977 novel by Peter Lear, which follows the development of a promising track star put on the road to glory by the men in control of her, for various reasons. Developed for television, the material hopes to pull suspense from the eponymous character's physical and emotional journey, while something of a detective story develops during the run time, adding a touch of mystery to a picture that constantly teeters on the edge of melodrama. "Goldengirl" has an initial drive to explore the questions surrounding the runner and her special abilities, but it doesn't sustain intrigue, losing its footing as it drags out the central plot, offering a limp conclusion to an otherwise passably engaging look at athletic trials and biological tinkering. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Tiny Cinema


In 2020, director Tyler Cornack delivered "Butt Boy." The cult-ready effort tracked the desperation of a man and his battle with the unholy power of his rear end, with Cornack's production team, Tiny Cinema, creating a detective story about a most unusual event. The endeavor wasn't without tonal and humor problems, but it managed to find ways to make pronounced oddity amusing, instead of the usual helping of obnoxiousness. Tiny Cinema is back with…er, "Tiny Cinema," with writers Ryan Koch, William Morean, and Cornack (who also directs) creating an anthology film about the wonders of madness and the pains of trickery, sold with a defined sense of the absurd. "Tiny Cinema" is quite the viewing experience at times, mixing genuine hilariousness with a slow-burn sense of shock value, sold with lively, committed performances and a weird "Twilight Zone" vibe from Cornack, who creates consistent chapters in this tour of crazy ideas and desperate characters. Read the rest at

Film Review - Alone at Night


There’s a slasher movie for every occasion, and “Alone at Night” (titled “18 & Over” on the film, so I’m sure there’s a story there) attempts to portray the dangers facing a cam girl while she’s trying to do business inside a remote cabin. The setting is familiar and the players are all the same, but co-writer/director Jimmy Giannopoulos also deals with the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to give his picture a little extra sense of isolation and loneliness as he manufactures misdirections and suspicions. “Alone at Night” is a small-scale endeavor and it doesn’t try to be anything more than a droopy genre exercise, with Giannopoulos going through the motions as he hopes to merge suspenseful encounters and mild media commentary, which whiffs just as hard as the rest of this tiresome, aimless chiller. Read the rest at

Film Review - Detective Knight: Independence

Detective Knight Independence 2

Most trilogies take years to complete, with meticulous filmmaking used to craft a tale worth exploring throughout three movies. For the “Detective Knight” series, viewers had to wait 13 weeks, with “Detective Knight: Independence” following last October’s “Rogue,” and December’s “Redemption,” allowing the impatient to mainline bottom shelf action in the fastest manner imaginable. It’s been a quick and dirty ride for writer/director Edward Drake, who’s slapped together a collection of forgettable endeavors starring Bruce Willis, though in this particular supercop world, the star and main marketing selling point barely participates in the story. “Independence” sustains such a bizarre creative choice, with Drake once again making the saga about other characters, this time taking on the violent disillusionment of a young man facing a cold world of indifference, drawn to the comforting heat of rage to solve his problems. It’s not a terrible idea to pursue, it just requires a more refined cinematic touch to really sell, and Drake just can’t get there. Read the rest at

Film Review - Missing


“Missing” is not a sequel to 2018’s “Searching,” but the pictures share a universe where detective work is carried out on computers, giving traditional sleuthing a screen update. The new film is a desktop thriller that attempts to build on what “Searching” started, changing up the central mystery while maintaining a heated look at clicking and calling as a young woman fights to learn more about her mother’s disappearance. Writer/directors Nick Johnson and Will Merrick (making their helming debut) stick close to the formula of the previous offering of static suspense, maintaining focus on the confusion of the situation and all the concentration it requires. “Missing” isn’t a real stunner in terms of summoning tension, falling a little short of its predecessor as it tries to provide a similar viewing experience, only with a slightly less interesting story. Read the rest at

Film Review - 80 for Brady


“80 for Brady” is a film that celebrates the career and overall allure of NFL quarterback Tom Brady. And who else can lift Brady higher than himself, with the athlete taking a co-producing credit while making a role for himself in the feature. It’s Brady on Brady, and that’s concerning, but the production makes a wise decision to limit the non-actor’s screen time, turning the story into a valentine to friendship, with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Rita Moreno, and Sally Field doing the heavy lifting here, offering their enthusiasm, timing, and star power to an effort which needs all the charm it can possibly get. “80 for Brady” is ridiculous and formulaic, but there’s a pleasant mildness to the endeavor that will surely delight the target demographic for the picture, and the leads offer the right energy, getting the movie past some unnecessary dramatic road blocks on its way to semi-digestible broadness. Read the rest at

Film Review - Shotgun Wedding


After finding some success with 2022’s “Marry Me,” star Jennifer Lopez immediately returns to the romantic comedy genre with “Shotgun Wedding.” However, instead of mild pleasantries and easily solvable problems, the new movie offers more of an action film experience, detailing all the panic involved when a destination wedding is invaded by local pirates on the hunt to collect a fortune in ransom money. Instead of toughening up in the part, Lopez looks to try on a Lucille Ball impression for the picture, which isn’t easy to watch. Actually, there’s very little in “Shotgun Wedding” that’s charming, with director Jason Moore (“Pitch Perfect,” “Sisters”) overseeing a noisy and brainless offering of easily digestible entertainment, with the cast and crew enjoying tropical surroundings while the material drags through uninspired scenes of physical threats and relationship woes. Read the rest at

Film Review - Alice, Darling


“Alice, Darling” is a story about domestic abuse, but director Mary Nighy doesn’t linger on the violence of the situation. She uses such tension in other ways, working with screenwriter Alanna Francis to best comprehend a level of dehumanization involved the in the eponymous character’s battle with herself, making efforts to achieve a level of exterior normality while she disintegrates within. Also prioritized by the material is an examination of friendship, which gradually takes command of the picture, exploring the ways close relationships struggle with communication and deliver on protection when necessary. Nighy gets a little carried away trying to bring visual poetry to the feature, but “Alice, Darling” is a haunting effort that eventually finds the heart of the situation, capturing the intensity of fear and the liberation of love. Read the rest at

Film Review - When You Finish Saving the World


Jesse Eisenberg is well-known for his acting career, breaking into the big time with “The Social Network” and “Zombieland,” and sustaining an interesting dramatic career with roles in “The End of the Tour” and “The Art of Self-Defense.” He’s moved behind the camera for his directorial debut, “When You Finish Saving the World,” which is an adaptation of his 2020 audio production. The material plays to Eisenberg’s strengths, examining the struggle of neurotic and frustrated characters trying to maintain some connection as life takes them in different directions, handling earnest intentions by making a mess of everything. The helmer loves to summon scenes of itchy interactions and damaged relationships, giving “When You Finish Saving the World” some interesting energy as it deals with the customary trials of parenthood and adolescence. Read the rest at