Film Review - Significant Other


The trials and tribulations of a long-term relationship is offered a sci-fi touch in “Significant Other,” which looks into the stress and resentment that builds between people on their way to spending their entire lives together. Co-writers/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (“Villains,” “The Stakelander”) toy with tone and storytelling in the movie, which sets an intimate mood in the open world, looking to build suspense as two characters deal with unexpected challenges to their safety, also delving into universal feelings concerning commitment phobia and learned behavior. “Significant Other” has something to offer viewers for the first two acts, with the helmers creating a threatening atmosphere before they’re forced to explain things, which doesn’t go well for the picture, offering a conclusion that doesn’t live up to the endeavor’s enigmatic introductions. Read the rest at

Film Review - Bromates


Almost two decades ago, Court Crandall received a co-story credit on the hit film, “Old School.” He hasn’t done much since, but he’s back with “Bromates,” which hopes to use a similar level of sophomoric humor to inspire another success. He doesn’t have Todd Phillips to guide the project this time around, stepping up to be the writer/director of the project, which examines the misadventures of luckless, loveless men and their juvenile antics while pursuing some type of clarity in their hapless lives. “Bromates” endeavors to be a freewheeling viewing experience filled with slapstick and cringe comedy, but Crandall doesn’t go the extra mile when it comes to the imagination of such silliness. The crudeness of the feature is downright punishing, offering the lamest bits of wackiness and strangest moments of stupidity, with Crandall showing no discernable leadership with this assortment of artless incidents. Read the rest at

Film Review - Lyle, Lyle Crocodile


“Lyle, Lyle Crocodile” has been around for a very long time, with author Bernard Waber’s book first published in 1965 (actually Lyle’s second literary adventure, but the first to offer his name as the selling point). It’s been a library staple for decades, charming generations with the misadventures and feelings of the eponymous creature, who aims to spread joy to all brave enough to meet him. The material was originally brought to small screens with a 1987 musical adaptation for pay cable, and now Lyle’s ready for the big show, gifted a feature, which is also a musical, with songs crafted by the team that worked on “The Greatest Showman.” Screenwriter Will Davies doesn’t manage to avoid the muddiness of family film formula with the endeavor, but he preserves the spirit of the books, giving “Lyle, Lyle Crocodile” a major push of positive energy, which pairs well with periodic breaks into song and dance. Read the rest at

Film Review - Hellraiser (2022)


In 1987, author Clive Barker made his directorial debut with “Hellraiser,” adapting his own novella, “The Hellbound Heart,” looking to bring his own brutal sensibility to the screen. The film managed to accomplish quite a bit with a frighteningly small budget, translating Barker’s fetishes and dark imagination with terrific atmosphere and shocking scenes of horror. It was a tiny movie that made a profit, launching a franchise that would deliver three more wide-release theatrical efforts (1988’s “Hellbound: Hellraiser II” being the most thrillingly gonzo of the bunch) and six DTV features, with certain producers more concerned about keeping their legal claim to the material than delivering a follow-up as powerful as the original endeavor. Four years after the last installment, there’s a new “Hellraiser” on the block, and writers Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski are interested in revisiting the disturbing behavior of Barker’s picture. It’s not a remake, but a reboot of “Hellraiser,” with the material striving to bring back the gruesomeness and despair that made the 1987 offering unforgettable. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mr. Harrigan's Phone


“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” was originally presented as a novella from Stephen King, included in his 2020 collection, “If It Bleeds.” Continuing its interest in bringing most offerings from the writer to the screen, Hollywood attempts to expand and deepen the source material for a feature-length examination of tech-based chills, with writer/director John Lee Hancock (“The Little Things,” “The Highwaymen”) working to transform King’s brief understanding of confusion into something potentially more substantial while retaining the author’s sense of the macabre and the unreal. Expectations are in place for a terrifying picture, but “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” isn’t that type of viewing experience, and Hancock doesn’t force the story into awkward genre positions. He delivers a gentler sense of concern with the endeavor, trying to match King’s imagination with technophobia commentary, more attentive to characterization than the development of any fear factor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dark Glasses


At 82 years old, Dario Argento is still making movies, despite latter career choices that’ve managed to tarnish the amazing work he accomplished in his prime, during the late 1970s and early 1980s. “Dark Glasses” is the director’s first picture since the embarrassing “Dracula 3D,” which found the maestro trying to make something gothic and surreal happen, only to fall flat on his face. Hoping to stimulate renewed interest in his output, Argento returns to the wooby of giallo for his latest endeavor, once again overseeing a black-gloved killer tormenting an overly excitable target, while some strange events periodically break up the hunt. “Dark Glasses” has the weirdness one expects from the helmer, but the execution lacks style and ferocity, finding Argento pushing through a lackluster plot with limited effort, resting on his laurels with this uneven tale of murder. Read the rest at

Film Review - Amsterdam (2022)


David O. Russell had quite a winning streak going in the early 2010s, with the director guiding “The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” and “American Hustle” to big box office and Oscar gold, working fast and hard on spirited endeavors that appeared to reflect his own experience with a near-bipolar view of the world. Russell likes to feel the highs and lows of emotion and relationships, and he scored a hat trick of dynamic cinema. This all came to a screeching halt in 2015’s plodding “Joy,” finding Russell losing his rhythm with the lengthy dramedy, and perhaps some sense of fatigue was creeping into the work, with “Amsterdam” his first picture in seven years, returning to screens with a murder mystery featuring an all-star cast. The material plays to Russell’s strengths, delivering hyper situations and confused characters, but whatever the helmer lost while making “Joy” is not found in “Amsterdam,” which aims to be cheeky and offbeat, but it’s exhausting instead, never finding its way as a quasi-farce about people in deep trouble. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Combat Shock


The 1980s introduced a wave of films that reassessed and, in some cases, reengaged with the Vietnam War. With the conflict becoming more and more of a memory, storytellers elected to return viewers to the situation with renewed clarity, hoping to reach the reality of all the senseless death and destruction, creating a true understanding of horror and sacrifice. When one considers this trend, the extremes of titles such as "Platoon" and "Rambo: First Blood Part II" come to mind, but there's also room for "Combat Shock," a low-budget backyard production from writer/director Buddy Giovinazzo, who used the 1984 release to address the plight of PTSD-wrecked vets trying to contain their melting brains. And he takes on the subject matter via exploitation cinema, hoping to strangle audiences with his dire vision for mental health and physical decay, which often confuses his messages on the state of the union. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Stanley


As revealed in the supplementary material on this Blu-ray, 1972's "Stanley" was solely created to cash-in on the success of 1971's "Willard." Before, it was a story about a man and his beloved rat. This time, it's the story of a man and his beloved rattlesnake. Director William Grefe and screenwriter Gary Crutcher aren't concerned about hiding their influence, marching forward with this effort, which tries to address a special sensitivity between a broken man and his top snake buddy while offering viewers the occasional horror of an animal attack endeavor. "Stanley" was written in three days and assembled quickly for release, and it retains the atmosphere of a movie that isn't particularly well thought out or properly edited, leaning heavily on the central shock value of snakes in motion to provide entertainment. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Horror High


The torment and terror of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is brought to a Texas high school in 1973's "Horror High." Screenwriter J.D. Feigelson turns to author Robert Louis Stevenson for inspiration, using the basic idea of weird science to inspire a slight but determined chiller concerning a teenager who's done with his problems, turning to a special serum to help trigger his violent side. The picture isn't a refined genre offering, with director Larry Stouffer handling occasional troublemaking while tending to teen concerns involving bullying and burgeoning romance. "Horror High" keeps things simple with chiller moments and detective focus, helped along by engaged performances, which help to hold attention as the material figures out things to do between scenes of revenge. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Final Flesh


PFFR is a production company that counts Vernon Chatman as one of its founders. Chatman is best known to alt-comedy geeks as the co-creator of "Wonder Showzen" and "The Heart, She Holler," and he's recently worked as a producer on "South Park," helping to guide the show's transition into a streaming event series for Paramount+. In 2003, Chatman had a dream, looking to scratch a particular absurdist comedy itch with a vision for dramatic chaos few could match. Recognizing the growing industry of made-to-order pornography, Chatman sent screenplays to four companies specializing in fetish moviemaking, paying them to execute his bizarre take on the impending apocalypse. No hardcore footage was included, just concentration on the wild visuals and bodily commitment required to bring these loosely connected stories to life. "Final Flesh" stitches the short films together in one big mess of non sequiturs and amateur acting, offering those with amazing patience for Chatman's sense of humor a full display of his lunacy, captured with a shot-on-video budget. Read the rest at

Film Review - Bros


For some viewers, Billy Eichner is a celebrated comedian who’s appeared on hit shows and movies, building a passionate fanbase with his singular take on silliness. For everyone else, he’s the guy who pops up on T.V. every now and then, clutching a microphone and yelling at people. Eichner does a lot of yelling, with volume his signature move, making a name for himself as the loudest man in show business. He hopes to change such a reputation with “Bros,” co-scripting (with Nicholas Stoller, who directs) a romantic comedy for himself, allowing him to showcase other sides to his performance capabilities, including a rare view of softness. Eichner retains some hostility with the picture, but he also manages to find some heart to go with the laughs in this occasionally hilarious understanding of relationships and all the complications they provide. It’s nice to see Eichner doing something different, pulling off a performance that keeps things human, even when he returns to extremity to land a laugh. Read the rest at

Film Review - Hocus Pocus 2


In 1993, “Hocus Pocus” was released with little fanfare, with Disney issuing a Halloween-themed film in the middle of July, finding few takers for the horror comedy. Not helping the cause was the feature’s quality, as the Kenny Ortega-directed endeavor had a difficult time with tone and quality of material, emerging as something of a mess, but one with a sharp sense of seasonal spirit. The gods of physical media and basic cable were kind to “Hocus Pocus,” giving it a home entertainment afterlife that developed a passionate fanbase for the effort, allowing viewers to repeatedly revisit the Sanderson Sisters and their reign of slapstick-infused terror. 29 years later (ouch), there’s “Hocus Pocus 2,” with helmer Anne Fletcher in charge of reviving the brand name for a multi-generational audience, refusing to take too many chances with this semi-remake of the original movie, simply out to deliver a follow-up that’s capable of pleasing those who’ve remained faithful to the first picture for decades. Read the rest at

Film Review - Spirit Halloween: The Movie


Spirit Halloween is a chain of stores that typically open for business in August, offering holiday costumes and decoration for rabid fans of the season and families trying to solve any outfit issues in one fell swoop. Spirit Halloween is big news these days, with the fetishization of Halloween growing more intense every year, and the company seems perfectly comfortable with jabs at its business model, taking over buildings previously inhabited by retail failures. “Spirit Halloween” is the first film based on the brand, emerging as seasonal entertainment for younger viewers and a commercial for the stores, pitting excitable kids against possessed inventory. Director David Poag and screenwriter Billie Bates seem to understand the creative mission, creating broad emotion and conflicts to help inspire a mildly enjoyable adventure in the “Goosebumps” tradition, keeping things relatively easygoing and mercifully short. Read the rest at

Film Review - Smile


Curse movies have fallen out of favor, with audiences more interested in slow-burn psychological freak-outs and slasher standards these days. A few decades ago, pictures about curses were all the rage, with Japanese productions such as “Ring” and “The Grudge” inspiring Hollywood remakes and rip-offs, giving horror fans plenty of options at the multiplex. With “Smile,” writer/director Parker Finn (making his debut) hopes to return some fury to the subgenre, presenting a chiller that details a creeping evil and the woman who sets out to challenge it. Finn has some imagery to be proud of, but “Smile” isn’t a complete nightmare package. It’s too long and too reliant on a deafening soundtrack to really cut to the bone, playing with every shock cinema tactic in the book without ever building something genuinely disturbing along the way. If you need to see it, my advice would be to bring earplugs. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Greatest Beer Run Ever


The impossible happened in 2019. Peter Farrelly, co-director of “Dumb and Dumber” and “There’s Something About Mary,” took home two Academy Awards for his work on “Green Book,” a profoundly mediocre feature about the evils of bigotry and the soothing nature of friendship. The movie became a hit as well, giving Farrelly a level of respectability he’s never experienced before, helping to save a career that was close to its expiration date. For his follow-up, the helmer hopes to sustain his success with dramatic endeavors, aiming to bring the true tale of John “Chickie” Donohue and his impossible Vietnam adventure in 1967 to the screen. “The Greatest Beer Run Ever” is basically a “Green Book” sequel, only instead of a “racism is bad” message, there’s a “war is bad” one, with Farrelly once again trying to reach a wide audience with blunt filmmaking, which is perhaps the only way to approach this extremely bizarre tale of a man risking it all for reasons not even he fully understands. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Good House


It’s been a long time since Sigourney Weaver had a substantial big screen role. She’s been doing supporting work for quite some time, circling television too, but “The Good House” fully intends to challenge Weaver with a leading part that touches on all emotions, often going from light to dark in a matter of minutes. The picture is an adaptation of a 2013 Ann Leary novel, and the screenplay (credited to Thomas Bezucha, Wallace Wolodarsky, and Maya Forbes – the latter two also direct the feature) works very hard to maintain an arc of incoming calamity for Weaver’s character, which offers a special acting obstacle course that any actress would kill for. “The Good House” is a great performance in search of a compelling film, with Weaver easily the most interesting element in the endeavor, which struggles to manage supporting characters and larger psychological ideas, but it usually finds perfect focus when giving Weaver room to interpret pain and confusion, occasionally in comedic ways, making the performance all the more impressive. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dead for a Dollar


“Dead for a Dollar” returns Walter Hill to the director’s chair, a spot he hasn’t occupied in years. And for good reason too, with his last two features, 2013’s “Bullet to the Head” and 2017’s “The Assignment,” lacking creative authority, trying to be chewy genre entertainment with little lasting value. Hill revisits the western for “Dead for a Dollar,” a genre he’s spent quite some time in (including “The Long Riders” and “Wild Bill”). In fact, almost every picture the helmer has made has been a western in one way or another, but his latest returns him to the ways of horses, card games, hard men, and shootouts, trying to be a thick slice of B-movie escapism with a more theatrical sense of dramatic engagement. Hill aims to soak the production in atmosphere, delighting in traditional confrontations between salty characters, but he struggles to bring a cinematic quality to the endeavor, which often resembles a filmed play occasionally broken up by violence. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon


In 2014, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour collected a small but loyal fanbase with her debut feature, “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.” She lost a lot of that support with her follow-up, 2017’s “The Bad Batch,” with some viewers catching on that while skilled at creating memorable imagery, Amirpour wasn’t much of a storyteller, boldly refusing dramatic interests in the pursuit of atmosphere. Five years later, the helmer returns with “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” which involves even less of a plot than anything Amirpour has mounted before, keeping the picture in a weird state of paralysis as attempts at comedy crumble and a proposed mystery is never tended to. Amirpour has her colors, lame offerings of playfulness, and cartoonish performances, but there’s nothing going on in “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon,” highlighting her severe shortcomings as a moviemaker. Read the rest at

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