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April 2013

Blu-ray Review - The Missing Lynx


We see this type of production pop up every now and again. Trying to compete with Hollywood animation factories like Disney and Dreamworks, independent studios typically have a devil of a time trying to get a foothold into the global market, often faced with lackluster budgets and wheezy scripts as they cook up colorful CG-animated antics for the kiddies. A Spanish production presented and produced by Antonio Banderas, "The Missing Lynx" is similar to releases such as "The Wild" and the recent "Escape from Planet Earth," attempting to drum up some excitement with little in the way of cinematic might, relying on frantic action, crude comedy, and artificial sincerity to make an impression with wee ones who'd gladly watch a test pattern if it included the promise of candy, soda, and popcorn. Exhaustively underwhelming and cheapy all around, "The Missing Lynx" isn't even passable babysitting fodder, asking children to sit through a routine adventure with anthropomorphized animals engaged in acts of panic and elastic derring-do. Read the rest at

Film Review - To the Wonder

TO THE WONDER Ben Affleck Olga Kurylenko

Terrence Malick makes a particular type of movie. There’s nothing wrong with an artist in possession of a singular style, with many filmmakers enjoying mighty careers basically making the same feature over and over, with subtle shifts in approach. “To the Wonder” is Malick’s latest work (his sixth project since 1973), and it resembles his previous accomplishments in numerous ways. What’s lacking here is character, watching the helmer construct his traditional ode to environmental instability and human weakness, yet there’s not a single interesting figure onscreen capable of holding attention. A sudsy wash of sensations, “To the Wonder” is gorgeous and ambitious, but cold to the touch, nearly carrying on as a parody of a Malick endeavor instead of solidifying its poetic ways as a step forward in the slo-mo evolution of the reclusive creator. Read the rest at

Film Review - Antiviral


It seems the poisoned apple doesn’t fall far from the rotting tree. “Antiviral” marks the feature-length directorial debut for Brandon Cronenberg, son of David Cronenberg, the master filmmaker behind such classics as “The Fly,” “Videodrome,” and “Dead Ringers.” Following in his father’s footsteps, Brandon conjures a diseased take on our engorged celebrity-fixated culture with this ominous, gruesome production. While the younger Cronenberg is undeniably sipping from his dad’s reservoir of corporeal nightmares, he proves himself to be visually fascinating helmer with a unique perspective on societal decay. “Antiviral” is stimulating work with a fulfilling grasp on agitation, though it works ever better as a glimpse into futureworld psychosis and extremes of consumption. Read the rest at

Film Review - Scary Movie V

SCARY MOVIE 5 Ashley Tisdale

“Scary Movie V” opens with Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan in bed. Then they begin to have sex. Then “Yakety Sax” kicks in to score their gymnastic lovemaking session. And this is the type of viewing experience “Scary Movie V” becomes, with bad ideas spread like curdled butter over lousy ideas, and it doesn’t let up for 75 minutes (add another 15 for the end credits). What began with the Wayans Brothers spoofing “Scream” has now turned into a cinematic garbage bin for the franchise’s fifth outing, with a reduction in budget, casting surprises, and fodder for satire flattening the potential for even a single responsive titter. If you absolutely need to experience the feature, bring a pillow, as there’s nothing to the effort that promises to keep the viewer awake. Read the rest at

Film Review - 42

42 Still 3

Jackie Robinson was a miraculous baseball player, but one would never know that after watching the bio-pic “42.” Instead of focusing on a sterling Major League Baseball career that lasted for nine years, the feature only covers Robinson’s introductory season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, where he faced torrential amounts of bigotry as he broke the color barrier. Racism is primarily on the mind of writer/director Brian Helgeland, and it often results in dramatic dead ends, beating the same drum of intolerance while a towering portrait of a sporting legend is left behind. “42” isn’t a baseball movie, it’s a flaccid, obvious melodrama with occasional moments of dazzling diamond activity. What a shame. Read the rest at

Film Review - Trance

TRANCE Still 1

After soaring to box office heights and striking Oscar gold with his last two pictures, “Slumdog Millionaire” and “127 Hours,” director Danny Boyle comes crashing back down to Earth with “Trance,” a soggy jigsaw puzzle of a movie that’s so intent on frying the brains of its viewers, it completely forgets to invite them in on the grisly festivities. Crafted with Boyle’s traditional electro bounce and cinematographic A.D.D., “Trance” is best left for those who either adore the filmmaker no matter the inconsistency of the work or those who love taffy-pull strands of interpretational material, working the stickiness until it makes some type of sense, even if the creator didn’t intend such meaning. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Angels' Share


While in possession of a storied filmmaking career, director Ken Loach isn’t one to hunt for a laugh. Rarely exposing his funny bone, Loach aims for a slightly lighter tone with “The Angels’ Share,” though any smiles are quickly tempered by the crushing reality of human fallibility. As with any Loach picture, the effort is a mix of emotions and hardships with a Scottish tilt, yet pockets of brevity are welcome, permitting the movie an approachability and unpredictability that’s often missing from the helmer’s work. I’d even go as far as to suggest “The Angels’ Share” is somewhat charming, which is a reaction not typically found with a Loach endeavor. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Judas Kiss

JUDAS KISS Charlie David

It's easy to admire "Judas Kiss" for its ambition to be original. It's another thing to actually sit through it. Attempting to avoid the pitfalls and clichés of gay cinema, "Judas Kiss" heads into a borderline sci-fi direction, often playing like the most sedate "Twilight Zone" episode of all time. Credit goes to screenwriters J.T. Tepnapa (who also directs) and Carlos Pedraza, who reveal a drive to juice up their work with strange occurrences and unexplained behavior, while pushing forward as a searing emotional experience concerning regret and sexual abuse. However, that's a heavy workload for such a modest movie, and the script's interest in magical realism is undone by half-baked characters and inconsistencies, keeping focus off the key elements of heartache Tepnapa and Pedraza hope will be strong enough to define the viewing experience. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo


Although this "Nature" program is titled "Cold Warriors: Wolves and Buffalo," most of the program takes place during the spring and summer seasons, while the production's preference for wolves upsets any promised balance. It's a strange documentary that seeks to understand how the animals work to survive harsh, remote conditions, yet ends up a highlight reel of hunting, following a group of wolves, the Delta Pack, as they figure out how to pick off buffalo calves and maintain nourishment to keep their cubs fed. Those expecting a detailed inspection of wildlife and instinct are bound to be disappointed with the effort, and if you happen to adore the buffalo, I wouldn't recommend a viewing. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Brass Teapot


Following in the footsteps of numerous stories concerning the dangers of granted wishes and the unmerciful nature of greed, “The Brass Teapot” takes an extremely dark premise and treats it like an afternoon picnic. Lacking fangs and consequences, the picture at least moves, granted a buoyant forward momentum by director Ramaa Mosley, making her feature-length helming debut. She knows how to make a movie skate along, but in terms of black comedy and vicious delights, “The Brass Teapot” is missing numerous layers of sickness, fearful of pushing a plot of pain on its audience, forcing them to study the complexity of unsavory desires with unlikable characters. Instead, it’s a candy bar commercial with the occasional act of violence. Read the rest at

Film Review - Evil Dead


Seeing a horror remake pop into moviegoing view certainly isn’t a new development. After all, Hollywood has been on a recycling tear as of late, returning hits such as “Friday the 13th,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Halloween,” and “Dawn of the Dead” to the big screen. It’s an unfortunate development driven almost entirely by the prospect of easy box office returns (with newcomers and fanatics lining up in droves), but a few of these reheated properties have managed to score with imagination and a renewed thirst for blood. Count “Evil Dead” in the win column, successfully reworking the legendary cult feature from 1981 for a younger audience while teasing the faithful with elaborate acts of violence and survival that live up to the exalted brand name. Read the rest at

Film Review - Jurassic Park 3D


It’s not like Steven Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” was a modest art-house release back in 1993. It was destined to be a blockbuster from the moment work began on the picture. An expensive, visually groundbreaking tale of dinosaurs run amok, “Jurassic Park” fulfilled its promise with enthusiasm and armrest-rattling suspense, supported by a level of Saturday-matinee-style directorial heft that felt like opening gifts on Christmas morning. It’s been two decades since the mighty T. rex first rampaged onscreen, and to celebrate the anniversary of this now-classic fantasy adventure, “Jurassic Park” has undergone a makeover, pushed and pulled into 3D, while an IMAX-approved sound mix carries the theme park chaos to new heights of eardrum-banging intensity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Thale

THALE Still 2

Those who prefer their horror cinema to resemble a demolition derby would be wise to steer clear of “Thale,” a Norwegian effort that takes its time to arrive nowhere in particular, showing remarkable restraint with common displays of violence and gore. Electing a more reserved direction of tension, the feature plays with stillness and the unknown, doing an effective job building mystery despite a no-budget production scope that keeps the action confined to a single dingy basement. Intriguing without ever making the jump to riveting, “Thale” is solid work from writer/director Aleksander Nordaas, who shapes a beguiling monster movie without ever truly indulging the tropes that often accompany the chaos. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Place Beyond the Pines


In his last movie, 2010’s “Blue Valentine,” writer/director Derek Cianfrance studied an intimate world of relationship deterioration, focusing on the hearts and minds of two characters retracing their mistakes. With “The Place Beyond the Pines,” the helmer opens his scope up to move across generations, yet the core of the picture remains quietly meditative, continuing his quest to explore human fallibility and the yearn to right wrongs. It’s an impressively imagined effort with a sweeping arc of drama to help carry it through three stories of emotional disruption, and its ambition is almost worth a recommendation alone. It eventually falls apart, perhaps by design, but Cianfrance shows interesting new sides to his filmmaking ability with his latest feature, while continuing to indulge a thespian permissiveness that’s embarrassing to watch at times. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Endeavour


A prequel to the popular British television series "Inspector Morse," which enjoyed a healthy run between 1987 and 2000, "Endeavour" intends to restart the franchise in a younger direction, hoping to entice a new generation of viewers willing to be sucked into fussy behaviors, dire crimes, and extended sequences of clue gathering. To be completely fair to "Endeavour," I'm not familiar with the original "Inspector Morse" program; however, to the production's credit, they've managed to create a story that doesn't require complete fandom to figure out and embrace, managing to reintroduce the beloved character without leaving outsiders in the dark, while admirers will still be able to detect familiar pieces of personality. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Preacher's Wife

PREACHERS WIFE Denzel Washington

All the good intentions in the world can't help make 1996's "The Preacher's Wife" anything more than a mediocre movie. It's a shame, since there's some incredible talent working to bring the picture to life, to gift it wings of soaring gospel and cheery do-goodery, yet all the production can muster are a few smiles and an admittedly euphoric soundtrack. It's a remake, drawing inspiration from the darling 1947 picture, "The Bishop's Wife" (starring Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven), which is a fairly strong launch pad for the feature. However, the miracle doesn't carry for a second cinematic round, finding director Penny Marshall struggling to locate the pixie dust that should rightfully blanket every frame of the film, while stars Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Courtney B. Vance fight to maintain a semblance of personality as the material gradually, and rather peacefully, falls asleep. Kindly to a fault, "The Preacher's Wife" has a big heart, but no sense of pace and conflict to sustain the viewing experience for an unnerving two hours. Read the rest at