Blu-ray Review - The Invisible Ray


Downplaying their success with horror entertainment, Universal Pictures turns to weird science to fuel 1936's "The Invisible Ray." The movie's opening card tries to sell the story as possible futureworld reality, but the basics of the production remain with genre tastes, reteaming Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in a tale of galaxy power and damnation. However, instead of horrible monsters unleashed on society, "The Invisible Ray" offers a glowing Karloff on the verge of detonation. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Black Cat


Although both actors made their name in the cinematic realm of monsters, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi attempt a different style of menace for 1934's "The Black Cat." Director Edgar G. Ulmer has two incredible faces to utilize for this adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe short story ("suggested by" is the actual credit), and he gives the talent a little more room to detail distorted personalities with their distinctive styles, infusing the picture with a remarkable level of menace as the tale swings into unexpectedly bleak areas of revenge and higher power. Read the rest at

Film Review - Jay and Silent Bob Reboot


In 2001, Kevin Smith was handed 22 million dollars to say goodbye to his View Askewiverse creation, using the cash to create “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” a cameo-laden farewell to the lovable stoners who delivered silly business in movies such as “Clerks,” “Dogma,” and “Chasing Amy.” The boys from New Jersey were handed the spotlight for their final screen appearance, with Smith serving up a tight, wacky, and celebratory feature. The retirement didn’t last long (the guys were back in business with 2006’s “Clerks II”), but Smith is in a sentimental mood again, crafting another valentine to his most popular characters with “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.” Taking aim at remake/reboot fever in Hollywood, Smith gifts his fanbase an intentional recycling of “Strike Back,” pantsing creative laziness with his own impishness, delivering a slightly winded but entertaining offering of exaggerated madness, with the whole thing dipped in nostalgia and sentimentality for maximum response. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Aeronauts


There haven’t been many movies made about the trials of survival while working in the basket of a giant gas balloon, giving “The Aeronauts” a distinct identity in an increasingly crowded marketplace. That it’s a very engaging adventure is icing on the cake, with director Tom Harper (“Wild Rose,” “The Woman in Black: Angel of Death”) tasked with creating suspense and spectacle while dealing with the tight confines of the balloon. Based loosely on real events, “The Aeronauts” brings viewers high into the sky, exploring the mysteries of the mid-19th century atmosphere as two characters attempt to crack the secret code of meteorology, but the writing is also attentive to personal stories, creating a balance of intimacy and self-preservation as science and redemption is examined in this satisfying endeavor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Pain and Glory


Pedro Almodovar always makes personal films, showing little hesitation when it comes to exploring his fantasies, desires, regret, and hope on the big screen. He’s a sensitive director, but with “Pain and Glory,” Almodovar digs a little deeper into his fears, dealing with aging and death with his traditional compassion and gift for the movement of storytelling. There’s an enormous amount of life within “Pain and Glory,” which also represents the most lived-in feature he’s made in a long time, using the tale to work through private ideas concerning creativity and mortality. Aided by a sensational performance from frequent collaborator Antonio Banderas, Almodovar crafts another achingly beautiful effort that’s mindful of human fallibility, but also aware of cinematic possibility as it seamlessly weaves together experiences from the past and the present. Read the rest at

Film Review - Zombieland: Double Tap


Released in 2009, “Zombieland” managed to make some money with its comedic observation of a zombie apocalypse, finding co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick trying to maintain all the splatter the subgenre is known for while encouraging a steady display of silliness to secure audience appeal. The feature felt fresh at the time, striving to do different things with the undead while other moviemakers were determined to preserve as much horror as possible. While not revolutionary, the effort did the trick, but, weirdly, the producers failed to capitalize on the endeavor’s box office performance. A decade later, a sequel has finally come together, with “Zombieland: Double Tap” hoping to revive the recipe of gore and giggles for fans. Unfortunately, too much time has passed between installments, and Reese and Wernick don’t have much to say with their follow-up, which often plays like a series of disconnected sketches occasionally interrupted by zombie attacks. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sweetheart


“Sweetheart” is a cross between “Cast Away” and “Predator,” but made on a limited budget. It’s the second directorial effort for J.D. Dillard, who made his debut a few years ago with “Sleight,” which offered viewers an intriguing blend of sci-fi and criminal pressure, but failed to doing anything original with it, with Dillard soon leaning on cliché to connect the dots. “Sweetheart” also suffers a bit from familiarity, putting a frightened character against an unknown monster lurking in the dark, but Dillard simplifies his genre targets and deepens his mysteries with the picture, which supplies a gripping variation on the island survival subgenre. Dillard delivers on expectations when it comes time to craft a creature feature, but he’s also mindful of pace and discovery, constructing a more satisfying effort for his second at-bat. Read the rest at

Film Review - Maleficent: Mistress of Evil


Disney was in a special position many years ago. The release of 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” went wonderfully, grossing over a billion dollars, but audience reaction was mixed. They marched ahead with a sequel, finally coming up with 2016’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and the expensive feature failed spectacularly. With “Maleficent,” the situation is similar, as the studio managed to make a giant hit out of their reworking of “Sleeping Beauty” characters, delivering a CGI-heavy fantasy experience that pulled in audiences, but didn’t leave a lasting impression for many. Gambling on ticket-buyer loyalty once again, Disney offers “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” which brings back Angelina Jolie and big visuals to wow the crowds once again, this time betting on the Halloween season to stimulate box office interest. Much like “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Mistress of Evil” doesn’t do anything different, once again providing a numbing viewing experience that’s mostly about creating noise and limp mythos to expand on a world that wasn’t very interesting in the first place. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Night of the Creeps


For his directorial debut, Fred Dekker is determined to share his love of B-movies from the 1950s. "Night of the Creeps" is a creature feature from 1986 that tries to play modern with a cast of young characters dealing with love and bullying on a college campus, but the heart of the endeavor remains in past, as Dekker serves up a valentine to horror history with the production, doing whatever he can to celebrate his influences, which are numerous. "Night of the Creeps" is about a space slug takeover of a college campus, but Dekker only visits terror periodically, having more fun playing up the cinematic excitement of it all. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Mia and the White Lion


When encountering a movie about the relationship between lions and human, thoughts of 1981's "Roar" immediately come to mind. "Mia and the White Lion" isn't created out of chaos, with director Gilles de Maistre trying to make something similar to an old-fashioned Disney film with the effort, shooting the feature over three years to generate a natural relationship between the lead character (played by Daniah De Villiers) and Thor, a white lion who matures with his co-star. It's like "Boyhood," only with lions, and while the production's patience is fascinating, "Mia and the White Lion" isn't always dramatically sound, as de Maistre can't quite make storytelling as exciting as natural behaviors. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - We Die Young


He's battled robots, M. Bison, Dolph Lundgren (multiple times), and he almost, in the mid-90s, went head-to-head with the abominable snowman. And now Jean-Claude Van Damme is going after the MS-13 gang. It's a sobering change of pace for the action star, as "We Die Young" intends to be a grittier endeavor, with a streetwise sense of horror from writer/director Lior Geller. Van Damme isn't the traditional hero here, but a broken man barely clinging to life, inspired to stand between the street gangs that control America's capital and the young lives threatened by violence. "We Die Young" isn't going to blow minds with its offering of chases and intimidation, but Lior sustains credible peril while examining an urban fight for survival. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - King of Thieves


There's always room for a heist movie. It's an evergreen genre that's recently been tended to by the likes of "Ocean's 8" and "Widows," and now returns in "King of Thieves," which offers an English take on heavily planned criminal endeavors. From the outside looking in, the picture seems to have it all, submitting a story that takes place around London's diamond district, and the cast couldn't be better, with Michael Caine leading an ensemble of older actors playing up age-related issues as their characters participate in an elaborate theft. At least half of the film seems to understand the feisty appeal of Grumpy Old Men dealing with a new world of surveillance and security, but "King of Thieves" (based on a true story) doesn't stay lively long enough, suffering some dramatic balance issues as director James Marsh ("The Theory of Everything," "Man on Wire") peaks too soon with seemingly surefire material. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Mutual Appreciation


Writer/director Andrew Bujalski is currently entering a strange position in his career, newly in charge of movies that people are actually seeing, achieving some success with last year's "Support the Girls," and also taking a screenwriting credit on the upcoming Disney+ live-action remake of "Lady and the Tramp." Of course, Bujalski wasn't always in such a people-pleasing mood, launching his career with 2002's "Funny Ha Ha" (which featured intentionally distorted sound) and 2005's "Mutual Appreciation," which welcomes audiences into the world of three characters who spend their time conversing with one another. And that's it. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Addams Family (2019)


There's been plenty of attempts to do something with the works of Charles Addams, who originally created “The Addams Family” in 1938, offering single-panel cartoons of amusing antics featuring a macabre family. T.V. programs, movies, musicals, and animated shows have endeavored to interpret Addams’s imagination, and now the creepy clan graduate to a CGI-animated endeavor, with “The Addams Family” hoping to muscle in on “Hotel Transylvania” territory, giving all-ages entertainment a boost of the bizarre. While the production lacks the budget to pull off a truly gorgeous representation of the source material, directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan try to make the effort as amusing and spirited as possible, respecting the dark elements of the original concept while delivering modern cartoon elasticity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Gemini Man


It’ll be interesting to discover the overall reaction to “Gemini Man,” which is being marketed as a hardcore actioner, blasting “Will Smith vs. Will Smith” on its poster, offering audiences the showdown of 2019. This type of blockbuster entertainment doesn’t usually originate from director Ang Lee, who certainly knows how to put together a battle scene (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), but is always drawn to the deep-seated feelings of his characters, last seen on screen with the 2016 misfire, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” True to form, Lee doesn’t bring the wham-bang to “Gemini Man,” which is only berserk in small doses, striving to become more of an introspective piece on the strength of family ties and the unexpected conflicts of cloning. Even with adjusted expectations, it’s difficult to feel charged up over a needlessly talky, stagnant sci-fi thriller. Read the rest at

Film Review - Lucy in the Sky


In 2007, news reports followed the saga of Lisa Novak, who was arrested in Orlando for attempted kidnapping and several other charges after she drove cross-country to confront a lover who was cheating on her. What made the story special wasn’t the potential violence or mental illness on display, but the fact that the participants all worked for NASA, which is largely viewed as an organization for brilliant people, making the lunacy of Novak’s actions all the more delicious. “Lucy in the Sky” intends to be the dramatization of the Novak case, but co-writer/director Noah Hawley doesn’t want to get to close to the cartoonish highlights, preferring to create his own exaggerations and absurdities. However, before any self-destruction commences, Hawley demands 90 minutes of screen time to work through some odd visual choices and snoozy drama, making a movie about reaching for the stars that mostly drags along the ground. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mary


Last year, Gary Oldman accepted an Academy Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour.” This year, he’s starring in “Mary,” which pits the veteran actor against a ghost onboard a small ship. Careers can be funny things sometimes. Oldman actually helps the genre feature reach a few of its dramatic goals, but there’s no reason for him to be here. This is not nuanced work from screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski and director Michael Goi, who are more interested in arranging cheap scares to accentuate the fright film experience, largely avoiding anything human beyond some tired, formulaic subplots. “Mary” isn’t scary, it’s much too familiar for that, but Goi isn’t inspired to take the haunted house vibe over the top, leaving Oldman and his castmates fighting for things to do while a feeble display of evil is slapped together. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - How to Make an American Quilt


Winona Ryder was the "It Girl" of the early 1990s, participating in a succession of wonderful films from a wide range of directors, building a reputation for fine work and tasteful creative choices. There's was Martin Scorsese's "The Age of Innocence," Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula," Gillian Armstrong's "Little Women," Ben Stiller's "Reality Bites," and Tim Burton's "Edward Scissorhands." But the actress's reign had to come to an end, and it did with 1995's "How to Make an America Quilt," which provided Ryder with her last hit movie for quite some time, soon losing her sharpness in endeavors such as "Boys" and "The Crucible." Of course, it would hard to flop in "How to Make an American Quilt," which finds Ryder joined by an ensemble of uniquely talented actresses questing to portray the idiosyncratic members of a quilting bee struggling with relationship woes and stained memories. It's an adaptation of a Whitney Otto novel (scripted by Jane Anderson), and director Jocelyn Moorhouse crafts a literary- minded feature that attempts to replicate the flow of a book, moving from chapter to chapter to explore the pain of silenced spirits and uncontrollable passions. Ryder's great here, but so is everyone else, contributing to a sensitive, expansive picture with an atypically honest assessment of mistakes made in the name of love. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Valentine: The Dark Avenger


It's not easy to introduce a new superhero in an already packed marketplace. "Valentine: The Dark Avenger" is an Indonesian production with American filmmaking interests, finding the producers eager to create their own take on "The Dark Knight," only without the iconic battle between Batman and Joker. Instead of DC Universe familiarity, there's Valentine, a plucky amateur crime-fighter looking to make her presence known when baddie The Shadow rises to take control of Batavia City. "The Dark Avenger" doesn't have the budget or depth of a typical modern comic book adaptation (the material is credited to Skylar Comics), and it really doesn't have much drama either, preferring to do much of its speaking through martial art battles, which are often edited into a visual mush. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Shredder


Slashers in a post-"Scream" world are difficult to digest. The self-referential approach doesn't quite work for horror movies, which needs a sense of sincerity and surprise to truly generate a proper fear factor. "Shredder" is a 2003 release that tries to be both aware and immersed in murderous intentions, with co-writer/director Greg Huson attempting to provide a gore fest for genre fans, but also one that's semi-comedic, hunting for a tone that permits him to be silly and scary. "Shredder" doesn't connect on multiple levels, but being humorous is one of its greatest failures, with Huson forcing his stale sense of humor on viewers, trying to find the "fun" in the middle of what should be a proper slaughterama in the snow. Read the rest at