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August 2012

Film Review - The Day

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One would think that a movie produced by World Wrestling Entertainment would contain a little more theatricality, a little more bang for the buck. “The Day” is a post-apocalyptic actioner from the sports entertainment factory, and despite a plot that dabbles in cannibalism and supplies a sizeable body count, there’s little here that invigorates the senses, despite a production that’s sniffing around for a certain tone of badassery it never achieves. Glum, poorly acted, and hard on the eyes, “The Day” is a flat feature with a few spikes of absurdity that push the production into unintentional camp. Even by the relatively low standards of the siege horror genre, this picture is a tedious waste of time. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Possession


What’s most frustrating about “The Possession” (not to be confused with last week’s “The Apparition”) is that it’s filled with potential. It’s a distinctive story of demonic ownership with a specific cultural tilt, yet the production seems hesitant to follow through with its chilling ideas for terror. Instead, “The Possession” is locked in mediocrity, always wincing when the horror hits a few memorable extremes. Maybe it’s the PG-13 rating or perhaps director Ole Bornedal isn’t up for the challenge, but this feature is exceptionally good at pulling its punches, leaving discouraged viewers to fantasize about a more satisfying picture poured from the same filmmaking ingredients. Read the rest at

Film Review - Compliance


Sure to raise pulse rates and incite shockwaves of disbelief, “Compliance” is an exceptional example of provocative filmmaking, taking viewers on a 90-minute-long journey of humiliation, manipulation, and good old fashioned stupidity. It’s a riveting watch, with a stranglehold of suspense expertly maintained by writer/director Craig Zobel, who accepts the challenge of adapting a true crime situation without pumping the plot full of fiction, holding to the innate horror of the central violation while subtly shifting the ground beneath the viewer’s feet. Bravely uncomfortable and sure to inspire heated post-movie (and likely mid-movie) conversation, “Compliance” is haunting, positively enraging when it sinks in that this was no nightmare, but a reality. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure


“The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure” is the brainchild of Kenn Viselman, a marketing wizard behind “The Teletubbies” and “Thomas the Tank Engine” who decided to strike out on his own, overseeing a family film geared toward the short attention spans of pre-schoolers. Billed as “interactive,” “Big Balloon Adventure” encourages young viewers to twist and shout in front of on-screen characters, getting into the spirit of this lackluster musical blasted with puppetry and nuclear colors. Although it’s meant to tickle toddlers, “Big Balloon Adventure” isn’t worth punishing multiplex pricing, delivering small-scale thrills on a limited budget. It’s definitely a rental, offering parents a chance to escape while wee ones bop around for 85 minutes. Read the rest at

Film Review - Lawless


It’s difficult to recommend “Lawless” to the average moviegoer. It’s a film that contains scenes of pure evil, with lacerating violence to back up its arguments, making it extremely troubling for those with sensitivity to screen brutality. Thankfully, there’s a consistently impressive effort inside its grim ambiance, embellishing its Depression-era setting just enough to activate splendidly as an offering of pulp cinema, keeping viewers glued to dramatic developments and widescreen menace. It’s a rough feature, yet this intensity keeps the material on task. Instead of lounging around as an evocative slice of backwoods history, “Lawless” stands up straight as a revenge picture, with flawed heroes and a villain of unparalleled sliminess. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Tall Man

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Marketed as a sinister picture with heavy demonic overtones, “The Tall Man” turns out to be something quite different, absent a juicy genre hook to immediately pull viewers in. That’s not to say the film is successful, but its intentions are unique, hoping to approach formulaic scares with moralistic twist. It’s a shame the feature isn’t terribly interesting beyond its central concept, laboring through pedestrian chase sequences and flaccid confrontations. Writer/director Pascal Laugier has a few inspired visual ideas to share, but what begins as an intriguing Stephen King riff devolves into a Lifetime Original, effectively burning off the potential of the complex misdirection. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Sixteen Candles


For his directorial unveiling, John Hughes selected a piece of material held close to his heart; a screenplay that contained beloved topics: the chaos of the nuclear family and the humiliation/redemption of the average American teen. "Sixteen Candles" is largely Hughes testing his gifts behind the camera, inadvertently pioneering a genre that would come to define his career. It's a rough sketch of future triumphs, but "Candles" is a brazenly mischievous, consistently uproarious comedy that christens the devastating Hughes-fu with vivacious results. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Queen & Country


I didn't know who Sir Trevor McDonald was before I sat down with the series "Queen & Country," and I know even less about the man four hours later. He's our guide through this Diamond Jubilee celebration of Queen Elizabeth II's life and times, but there's no introduction, no moment to isolate a host the viewer comes to rely on for facts, interviews, and pacing needs. The question mark of McDonald (research tells me he's a respected British journalist) is emblematic of "Queen & Country," a handsomely produced inspection of the royal experience, yet a show created strictly for royalists and romantics, offering nothing in the way of an introduction for those who've elected to live their lives without an intricate understanding of the Monarchy. The news footage is remarkable, the conversations breathless, and the subject fascinating, yet the lengthy production is no proper education, it's a victory lap. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Johnny Carson: King of Late Night


As a child, it was a badge of honor to slowly acquire access to late night television. As bedtimes grew later, entrance to a world of comedians, monologues, and celebrity interviews was provided, commencing an education in timing and talent few prime time shows could offer. While David Letterman possessed an appealing wackiness and genial subversive quality, nothing could come close to Johnny Carson, an iconic figure who owned late night programming, making his nightly adventures an illuminating display of confidence and enchanting cocktail-hour routine, killing nightly with a triumphant sense of humor. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Victim

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“The Victim” has been routinely referenced as a classic grindhouse production, out to charm fans of sleazy, violent entertainment. However, writer/director/star Michael Biehn doesn’t put his best perverted foot forward with this lackluster, budget-minded suspense picture. Underdeveloped and occasionally directionless, “The Victim” is actually quite tasteful for the genre, preferring windy dialogue exchanges to wrathful acts of bloodshed. While not without a few highlights, the feature is disappointingly tame, missing a grand opportunity for screen insanity. Biehn has a germ of an idea here, but lacks the sickness needed to bring this tale of murder, sex, and feverish uncertainty to life. Read the rest at