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July 2012

Blu-ray Review - Next of Kin

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In 1987, Patrick Swayze scored a sleeper smash with "Dirty Dancing," catapulting the actor to bigger and better roles in Hollywood, offering a shot at starring vehicles after years of supporting work. In 1990, Swayze hit the jackpot with "Ghost," a bona fide blockbuster that made him a household name, using sensual pottery and a resolute commitment to emoting to turn his last name into legend. Yet, there was an odd year in between the hits, with 1989 providing an especially double-fisted year for Swayze, testing out his newfound bankability with two actioners of disparate temperaments, both met with cult approval and middling box office. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Bringing Down the House


It's a wonder how a film like "Bringing Down the House" made it through the trials of script development and studio inspection. A racially charged comedy released roughly 30 years after such an enterprise could still be considered daring, the feature is a uncomfortable blend of hate and slapstick, greased down with a sitcom lubricant to aid mass appeal and to keep the more easily offended from throwing a fit after sitting through such nonsense. It's broad but terribly outdated material; however, upon its release in 2003 (making Disney's "10th Anniversary Edition" label a little bewildering), the movie was greeted with massive box office success, finding audiences eagerly devouring the shenanigans without a single thought paid to the toxic nature of the writing and direction. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ice Age: Continental Drift


I don’t think anyone who caught the original “Ice Age” back in 2002 thought there would be a fourth installment a decade later. It’s quite an achievement for any franchise, yet the strain of invention wears heavily on “Ice Age: Continental Divide.” While providing moderate charms, expectedly inviting voice work, and two sizable laughs, it appears the producers are out of good ideas for this third sequel. While the last installment, 2009’s “Dawn of the Dinosaurs,” took great liberties with history to cook up a dilemma for our prehistoric heroes, “Continental Drift” doesn’t share the same passion, slapping together an unimaginative tale of pirates and parenting to keep the series sliding along. Read the rest at

Film Review - Beasts of the Southern Wild


“Beasts of the Southern Wild” requires a special moviegoing mood to embrace. It’s a jittery study of behavior and disaster, anchored by first-time actors and an untested filmmaker, who use a broad understanding of the Hurricane Katrina disaster to fashion their own interpretation of regional pride and the human spirit’s thirst for defiance. It’s often indescribable and occasionally unfocused, though the originality of vision supplied here successfully lubricates a few tiresome moments. To appreciate “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” one must relax their expectations, allowing the feature’s sputtery sense of momentum to generate a feeling of detachment and parental love, communicated in a most unusual manner. Read the rest at

Film Review - Why Stop Now?


“Why Stop Now?” is a film that should snowball into greatness, working with a talented cast and a plot that’s amenable to a madcap approach. Unfortunately, writer/directors Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner are more interested in fashioning a pedestrian dramedy, trying to bring real pathos to a paper-thin concept, believing a little time with characterizations might help to season the comedic elements. “Why Stop Now?” isn’t very funny or poignant, drifting somewhere in between while the actors make the best out of a lackluster storytelling situation. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Magic of Belle Isle


The direction of Rob Reiner’s career has been quite curious as of late. After scoring a major hit with 2007’s “The Bucket List,” the helmer has retreated into smaller films of a more wholesome nature, including 2010’s unexpectedly tedious family offering, “Flipped.” “The Magic of Belle Isle” furthers Reiner’s newfound interests in unexceptional entertainment on a slightly more victorious note, though the picture isn’t something that demands attention. Better with intimacy than artifice, the movie shines intermittently, holding out hope that Reiner will wake up before the feature concludes and deliver a string of amazing scenes. Instead, “Belle Isle” contains very little magic, at least the sustained kind. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blade: Trinity


While some movie trilogies shine like a diamond, most tend to peter out by the second sequel. Think "Spider-Man 3," "RoboCop 3," and "Beverly Hills Cop 3." "Blade: Trinity" is a classic example of a franchise running at top speed into a brick wall for its third installment, collecting a series of dismal ideas, poor characterizations, and iffy filmmaking ability into a glacial, joyless enterprise that essentially ignores what made the previous pictures connect with audiences. Although ripe with potential, "Blade: Trinity" is a trainwreck set to a booming soundtrack, turning vampire hunting into a screen chore while it almost intentionally torches the macabre groundwork laid down by the first two features. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Pact

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In the world of low-budget horror, it takes a special vision to rise above the frequently dreary competition. I’m not sure if “The Pact” has any extraordinary qualities, but as the genre goes, it’s competent, suspenseful, and mercifully focused. Credit writer/director Nicholas McCarthy (making his feature-length filmmaking debut), who plays smartly with known elements, creating a chiller that carries itself with confidence, despite a lack of budgetary might keeping the picture small in scale. Although it doesn’t win any points for originality, “The Pact” is a tense, smoothly paced fright experience, proving once again that a little effort goes a long way. Read the rest at

Film Review - To Rome with Love


Because of the speedy nature of Woody Allen’s work ethic, his latest, “To Rome with Love,” is not a direct response to his last picture, the unexpected blockbuster “Midnight in Paris.” Following Allen’s filmography is a bit like riding a roller coaster, with “Paris” the impossibly perfect peak and “Rome” the unsettling drop, reinforcing the filmmaker’s erratic output, though even his misses carry a plethora of interesting elements. Continuing his tour of Europe, Allen attempts to embrace the possibility of Rome, with all of its romance, history, and temptation. The mix of whimsy and commentary doesn’t settle ideally for the master, who scrambles to pull together a comedy out of unfunny business. Read the rest at

Film Review - Savages


It’s been a long time since Oliver Stone last visited the gutter, perhaps dating back to 1999’s “Any Given Sunday” and its aggressive depiction of the NFL. After touching base with his sentimental side (2006’s “World Trade Center”) and his beloved political routines (2008’s “W.”), the filmmaker is back to sharpening his knives with “Savages,” adapted from the book by Don Winslow -- and perhaps should’ve stayed as one. Expository to a numbing degree and needlessly graphic to obtain shock value, the feature is a failed cinematic masturbation session by a director who always forgets he’s capable of greatness. Coarse and half-asleep, “Savages” is a waste of Stone’s time and energy, falling back on tired habits of provocation best left buried with his 1994 sensorial blast, “Natural Born Killers.” Read the rest at

Film Review - Katy Perry: Part of Me


The world has endured 3D concert movies from Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, and the cast of “Glee.” Now comes Katy Perry, who’s older, wiser, and armed with a cream cannon, showering her devoted fans in white goo that I’m sure ruined a few exposed cell phones along the way. The best-selling recording artist with a candy fixation makes her way to the big screen in “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” a surprisingly emotional look at the history and world domination of the woman who once kissed a girl and liked it. Although expectedly cagey about the details of Perry’s private life (the “Part” of the title is accurate), the documentary is a flashy, enlightening time capsule of Perry’s career. It’s no concert film, but more of a backstage pass, permitting fans access to the singer and her turbulent year of mega-stardom. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Born on the Fourth of July


In 1989, writer/director Oliver Stone was diligently working on building his filmmaking career after his 1986 effort, the semi-autobiographical "Platoon," was showered with awards and exceptional box office, making the struggling artist a hot commodity. His vision would carry on to movies such as 1987's "Wall Street" and 1988's "Talk Radio," but Stone's interests in the nuances of the Vietnam War was far from sated. Adapted from the autobiography by veteran-turned-activist Ron Kovic, "Born on the Fourth of July" allowed Stone a chance to expand his dissection of this tumultuous era, acquiring a story not necessarily about the horror of the front lines, but the conflict of the troubled soul. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Amazing Spider-Man


With the release of “Spider-Man 3” in 2007, the franchise fell into a rut. While marked with impressive action set pieces and a few flashes of director Sam Raimi’s whiplash style, the second sequel was a storytelling mess, hesitant with a dramatic direction and overstuffed with inadequate villains. Instead of permitting Raimi to untangle the series with a fourth installment, the decision was made to reboot with a fresh creative force, restarting what began a mere decade ago, resulting in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” one of the fastest do-overs in film history. While fully recast and reorganized, it’s a disappointment to see the new Spidey adventure resemble Raimi’s initial stab at big screen wall-crawler excitement, down to identical plot turns and conflicts. With millions being spent to rework Spider-Man for a new generation, it comes as a great surprise to a find a movie that’s essentially a remake, glossed up with new tech toys but covering the same dramatic ground. Read the rest at