Previous month:
February 2012
Next month:
April 2012

March 2012

Film Review - Turn Me On, Dammit!


With coming of age movies, the central focus tends to fall on the misadventures of boys embracing their developing sexuality in crude and humiliating ways. It’s the “American Pie” genre where girls are often treated as foreign objects to be conquered. “Turn Me On, Dammit!” assumes the reverse perspective, approaching the raw needs of a young woman who feels urges just as powerfully as her male counterparts do, only to be ostracized for her honesty. It’s a long overdue depiction of askew desires, packed into an efficient character piece from Norway, maintaining a humorous atmosphere of mischief and introspection that brings traditionally unspoken fears and inquiries to life. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Raid: Redemption


“The Raid: Redemption” is a rare action movie, likely to leave those who dare to sit through it covered in bruises. A furious offering of bodily trauma from Indonesia, home to some of the greatest cinematic examples of smashed limbs and brazen stunt recklessness, the picture doesn’t mess around, providing an ultraviolent joyride through all manner of beatdowns. Seriously, this film is not for the faint of heart, taking martial art action to such an extreme, the effort can’t help but tucker out long before the end credits hits. The high doesn’t last for very long, but when “The Raid” finds its happy place as a concussion factory, it’s breathtaking, leaving namby-pamby American product in the dust. Read the rest at

Film Review - Intruders


Perhaps “Intruders” is for more discerning horror movie audiences. It’s a tense feature, heavy with nightmarish imagery, but its ultimate intentions take the picture out of the genre, disrupting reliable elements of terror with heavy symbolic inclinations that assume a deeper psychological importance. It’s a sturdily constructed chiller with an ambition to land somewhere beyond the norm, and those expecting more of standard boogeyman run of torment will likely find themselves disappointed in the latest effort from director Juan Carlos Frensnadillo. More adventurous viewers will discover a challenging picture that bends reality in a subtle matter, taking an alternative path to sniff out some scares. Read the rest at

Film Review - Wrath of the Titans


Sequels generally tend to learn from the film that preceded it. It’s not a rule, but common sense, figuring out a way to up the cinematic ante while still providing the basics that brought audiences in for the first round. “Wrath of the Titans” is the follow-up to 2010’s “Clash of the Titans,” itself a remake of a 1981 cult classic. Finding itself riding the event movie coattails of “Avatar” (boasting hastily post-converted 3D to squeeze paying customers dry), “Clash” unearthed blockbuster box office but surprisingly little love. “Wrath” looks to emphasize positively received elements while bringing a pronounced grit to the franchise, finding a meaner, earthy continuation that strangely ends up making a few of the same mistakes as before. At the very least, this new adventure has stronger CGI and 3D, but there’s not enough improvement in production imagination to make this second chapter leap off the screen. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mirror Mirror


The first of two pictures based on the Brothers Grimm tale of “Snow White” (“Snow White and the Huntsman” debuts this summer), “Mirror Mirror” takes a largely comical approached to a realm of magic, monsters, and murder. An interesting misfire, the feature, while beautifully designed and photographed, is destroyed by a feeble sense of humor and critical miscasting. Aiming to be a lavish romp with a pronounced wink, “Mirror Mirror” ends up paralyzed by botched whimsy, frantically trying to pass itself off as a rollicking good time when it’s decidedly mediocre, with director Tarsem Singh so concentrated on bejeweling his creation that he forgets to make it funny or even the slightest bit romantic. The delicate fairy tale fabric has been disrupted by slapstick and insistent CGI. Read the rest at

Film Review - Footnote


There’s a terrific opening scene in the picture “Footnote” concerning the rumpled frustrations emerging from a father sitting impatiently at a ceremony celebrating his son’s academic splendor. As filmgoers, we’re conditioned to see bright displays of parental pride, or perhaps an extremity of abuse. “Footnote” introduces us to the uncomfortable middle, where there’s no joy and very little mutual admiration. It’s an efficient and fascinating starting point for this strange, darkly comic movie, which asks viewers to bear a domestic strain that will never carry to a resolution, instead locked in an investigative tone of extreme discomfort as a central relationship between a father and son is put to the test with nary a word shared between the two men. Read the rest at

Film Review - Apart

APART Still 3

There’s a mystery at the heart of “Apart” that’s dying for a more convincing exploration. A glacial descent into teen anxiety born from a mystery psychological disorder, the feature does a poor job convincing viewers to care about its puzzles and miserable characters. It pouts and shouts, yet “Apart” is looking to build to a powerhouse resolution of unimaginable emotional weight it doesn’t reach, spending too much time on atmosphere, soaking the picture in a repetitive sense of the unknown. “Apart” is handsomely mounted, but far too languid to penetrate the senses in the same mind-blowing manner writer/director Aaron Rottinghaus intends. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dark Tide


It’s disappointing to report that “Dark Tide” isn’t the type of shark attack extravaganza many will be expecting. While it’s always interesting to find a production that teases one direction before heading off into another, it’s deflating to find this picture left with nothing much to do and nearly two hours to do it. A bewildering bore, “Dark Tide” imagines itself a cross between “Jaws” and a Bergman film, pitting uncharismatic actors against a dreary script that doesn’t go anywhere. High adventure on the vast sea this feature is most certainly not. Instead, director John Stockwell appears more comfortable showcasing inconsequential arguments and murky underwater footage, creating a home movie ambiance that’s wearisome from start to finish. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Space Jam

SPACE JAM jordan goodbye

"Space Jam" was an odd film in 1996, and it's an even stranger film in 2012. Someone, somewhere had the bright idea of merging the worlds of cartoons and basketball, throwing a ton of cash toward Michael Jordan to co-star with the Looney Tunes army in what was something of a comeback vehicle for the animated legends at the time. There's barely a story, rarely a laugh larger than an approving titter, and the visuals range from professionally polished to Full Sail freshman. It's a chaotic, ephemeral feature, and it's difficult to tell just what audience this effort is for. Animation purists have vehemently dismissed "Space Jam" as trendy junk over the years, while basketball nuts have treated the movie with a great deal of confusion. It's tempting to outright dismiss the picture as nonsense from a studio desperate to make a longstanding property relevant to the "kids" again, yet "Space Jam" isn't a total failure. It's rather amusing in a who-thought-this-was-a-good-idea? kind of way, making the whole enterprise a big-budget lark that works up a sweat to prove itself worthy for the big screen. I'm certainly not a fan of "Space Jam," but it's hard to deny its rich tapestry of questionable ideas. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Raccoon Nation


At the Minnesota Zoo, there’s an exhibit devoted to observing the behaviors of local raccoons. While other animals inside the grounds are afforded at least an approximation of their native habitat, the raccoons here have been set free inside a replica of a farmhouse, allowing the critters to forage to their heart’s content. Initially, this glimpse into raccoon life appeared almost offensive in a way, handing the creatures a stomping ground that reinforces their disruptive need to scavenge around vulnerable homes under the cover of darkness. The “Nature” program “Raccoon Nation” essentially reinforces the accuracy of the Minnesota Zoo display, embarking on a study of an animal that’s evolving into a not-so-lean, quite mean urban exploring machine. While the show takes a careful position of science to investigate the furry invasion, it’s clear the onslaught of raccoons into major metropolitan areas is a cause of great concern for the health and wellbeing of humans. They may look somewhat adorable and approachable, but the raccoon is a troubling creature gradually learning to survive anywhere it dares to roam. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Hunter

HUNTER Still 2

When approaching a gloomy movie of survival starring Willem Dafoe, it’s understandable to imagine a forbidding picture with a pronounced streak of violence, exploiting the haunting features of one of today’s most memorable actors. It comes as a shock to find “The Hunter” to be a softer film, away from aggressive scenarios of revenge and intimidation to offer more of a procedural event, blended with unpredicted touches of domestic harmony. If it lacks a balled-up fist of engagement, “The Hunter” makes up for its rage deficiency with a tender story wrapped inside a hushed tone of outdoor detection. Sentiment and Dafoe don’t typically intersect on the screen, yet this effort finds a comfortable middle ground for the two to meet. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Hunger Games


It’s understandable to find such fervor surrounding “The Hunger Games.” It’s a large-scale dark fantasy puckered with teen romance and broad displays of heroism, ornamented with sci-fi touches and outrageous characters. The material, created by author Suzanne Collins, is a nice fit for the big screen, creating an extraordinary opportunity for spectacle prepared with superfans in mind, leaving those outside the literary party zone with little to cling to besides a handful of intriguing sequences, a sinister backstory, and some arresting acts of survival training. “The Hunger Games” doesn’t make a seamless transition to blockbusterdom, but it’s sure to satisfy faithful individuals able to keep a straight face while names like Katniss, Glimmer, and Haymitch are thrown around. Those comfortable with Collins’s world will be relaxed enough to process the experience in full. Those new to the books might find themselves questioning plot developments and fascinating character arcs that go absolutely nowhere. Read the rest at

Film Review - October Baby


“October Baby” aims to tell a poignant story about abortion survival, and it does so in the most banal manner imaginable. A tedious motion picture with a pronounced pro-life purpose, “October Baby” is primarily devoted to teary interactions and horrifically strained comic beats, hoping to tackle an unsavory subject matter in a delicate matter, backed by liberal use of montages and dewy cinematography that resembles a coffee commercial. It’s a disingenuous movie without a human moment, reliant on its religious message to entice audiences, barely making a screen effort to tell a persuasive story about a sensitive subject. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Deep Blue Sea


An adaptation of the 1952 play by Terence Rattigan, “The Deep Blue Sea” studies the death of an affair and the forced recognition of independence. It’s a somber picture, supported with blasts of classical music to heighten the developing tragedy, and while it dwells in troubling circumstances and crippling personal mistakes, the feature holds steady as an authoritative piece of drama. Director Terence Davies encourages the pain, mixing searing audio and visual elements to tell a fragmented story, soaking the viewer in discomfort and longing as these characters figure out their positions of dignity after the bottom has fallen out of their lives. Read the rest at

Film Review - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen


“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” didn’t need to be so middling. Boasting a strange premise and a wildly appealing cast, the effort would’ve done just fine trusting the naturalistic spirituality of the story, leaving the characters to observe the development of an impossible professional assignment. Instead, director Lasse Hallstrom pours a thick glaze over the entire endeavor, taking something charmingly idiosyncratic and turning it into contrived mush for the masses. The filmmaker plays it safe, abandoning any hope for surprise in an exhaustively pedestrian feature that could use a great deal of it. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Kid with a Bike


The latest from the Dardenne Brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc), “The Kid with a Bike” continues their distinctive journey as filmmakers interested in viewing the world with a naturalistic eye, peeling overt manipulation away from their features, focusing on the instinctual actions of their characters. It’s story without meat, yet the textures are unforgettable, trusting the viewer with unexplained acts of devotion and persistence, crafted with equal attention to horror and raw experience. While it’s unlikely to move anyone to tears, “The Kid with a Bike” remains an effective picture with a genuine feel for human behavior, unearthing a direct sense of disturbance and a few select moments of stunning psychological clarity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Brake

BRAKE Still 2

“Brake” has the unfortunate position of following 2010’s “Buried,” with both films sharing the premise of a man trapped in a box for 90 minutes of screen time. With “Buried,” there was Ryan Reynolds and the dire situation of being locked inside of a coffin in middle of nowhere. For “Brake,” there’s Stephen Dorff and a clear plastic box within a moving automobile. It’s a bit of a downgrade in imagination and thespian reach, but it doesn’t entirely rub away the suspense of this effort. Although the two features share uncomfortable similarities, “Brake” works as a budget suspense experience, reaching enough boiling points to entertain, but not enough to block out the ridiculous ending. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Fortress of the Bears


The life of the American bear is a demanding existence of hunting and evading, constantly on the lookout for predators and prey necessary to the animal experience. It's not an easy cycle of survival, often merciless when it comes to displays of aggression, but it's nature in motion, carrying on unmolested for centuries in the great wilds of the world. "Fortress of the Bears" travels to the Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska, where a community of Grizzly Bears and Brown Bears embark on this yearly process of endurance, awakening from their winter slumber to gorge themselves on the bounty of the river, which pipes in thousands of salmon every spring and summer to the delight of these furry rulers. However, feeding bears is only a small portion of the salmon function, and when that lifeline is disrupted for any reason, it creates a chain reaction throughout the land, robbing trees, insects, birds, and bears of the routine they rely on to make a life for themselves. Although it's cliche to remind readers of the "circle of life," the truth is no joke. Without salmon, the bears are forced to survive beyond their instincts, a development that could cause cataclysmic damage to this lush land of astonishing wildlife personality. Read the rest at