Previous month:
June 2013
Next month:
August 2013

July 2013

Film Review - RED 2

RED 2 Bruce Willis

2010’s “RED” was a disappointment. Gifted a premise with serious action-comedy potential while surfing along an irresistible marketing hook, the picture didn’t live up to expectations, losing its focus as murky intrigue and overplotting gradually scooped the fun factor out of the geriatric mayhem, rendering it strangely inert. “RED 2” is more of the same mediocrity, though the antics are now emboldened by the original’s promising box office performance. Out to dish up the same watery stew of bullets and slapstick, the follow-up doesn’t achieve a personality of its own as it madly dashes to cover the same terrain as the earlier effort, only here the noise has been dialed up and co-star John Malkovich has been instructed to go full ham. This is not progress. Read the rest at

Film Review - Only God Forgives


After scoring an unlikely success with 2011’s “Drive,” director Nicolas Winding Refn and actor Ryan Gosling delve even deeper into the darkness of cinema with “Only God Forgives,” an eye-crossingly violent mood piece on the futility of revenge. Considering the relative mass appeal of their previous work, “Only God Forgives” is decidedly specialized filmmaking for adventurous audiences blessed with paint-drying patience. It’s monumentally rough stuff with a glacial pace, though its surreal execution grows quite interesting the longer Refn sticks to the unknown and the absurd, making the effort more performance art in design than aggressively genre-minded. Read the rest at

Film Review - Turbo

TURBO Ryan Reynolds

Not that animated films should be held to a standard of realism, but “Turbo” is quite bizarre, even for a cartoon. It’s a story about a snail who finds himself soaked in nitrous oxide, endowing him with the characteristics of a car. He glows and moves with lightning speed, yet fringe characters don’t really seem shocked when confronted with such a vision. The snail is also allowed to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with other cars, and nobody bats an eye. However, the fantasy draws a line at communication, finding humans unable to hear the snails speak. It’s a weird movie and thankfully one that’s filled with enough positive energy and slick visuals to distract from its nonsense. Entertaining and agreeably performed, “Turbo” is a pleasant diversion for younger audiences. A little nutty, but friendly and colorful. Read the rest at

Film Review - I'm So Excited

I'M SO EXCITED Almodovar

Nobody disappoints quite like Pedro Almodovar. The famous, celebrated writer/director returns to his roots with “I’m So Excited,” intending to awaken his dormant sense of humor, last viewed in full bloom two decades ago in “Kika.” Spending the interim crafting immaculate melodramas and collecting awards for his work, Almodovar hopes to restore a little spark to his oeuvre with this attempt at a sex-and-midair-panic cinematic soufflé, only to come up frustratingly short in the laugh department. Although admirably bizarre and forward when it comes to the dance of the pants, “I’m So Excited” doesn’t work itself into a proper lather, showing only intermittent flashes of inspiration. Read the rest at

Film Review - Evidence


The found footage subgenre doesn’t always explain itself in full. Rarely is there a film that establishes why we’re watching the video recordings of others, electing to use the screen chaos of hand-held devices instead of motivating their presence. “Paranormal Activity” selected a police evidence angle to ease audiences into a haunted atmosphere, but “Chronicle” didn’t even bother to follow through on its collection of security footage and home movies. “Evidence” is perhaps the most securely reasoned found footage effort to date, creating a story that logically requires cops to sift through hours of confessions and interactions on the hunt for a killer. It’s a welcome respite from careless storytelling, but this creative spark is smothered by an exhaustively subpar picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Girl Most Likely


The quirk flies hard and heavy in “Girl Most Likely,” which often resembles more of a failed sitcom pilot than a feature film. Directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini show no sense of timing and tenor when it comes to the deployment of eccentricity in this comedy, but they do have a reassuring figure in star Kristen Wiig, who proficiently manages any challenge tossed her way. She’s the lone highlight of this soggy, overeager effort, coming to the rescue of a few embarrassingly forced moments of oddity, while consistently supporting the rest of this painfully self-aware picture with her innate screen gifts. Read the rest at

Film Review - Pawn Shop Chronicles


Director Wayne Kramer certainly doesn’t make it easy to enjoy his work. Obsessed with the murky state of the human condition, viewed through a darkly comic prism, the helmer often treats his characters as pinballs, dreaming up an elaborate play field of sickness and violence to explore. After failing to dissect the state of illegal immigration in 2009’s “Crossing Over,” Kramer returns to his roots with “Pawn Shop Chronicles,” a warped collection of lurid stories that play like a cross between “Creepshow” and “Pulp Fiction.” It’s high-flying, wound-licking stuff, strictly for those who found the moviemaker’s 2006’s effort “Running Scared” an underrated masterpiece. Outsiders should seek their ugly entertainment elsewhere. Read the rest at

Film Review - Killing Season

KILLING SEASON Robert De Niro John Travolta

A decade ago, the pairing of John Travolta and Robert De Niro would’ve been considered event cinema, watching two popular actors square off in a physically challenging thriller. Today, it’s not such an extraordinary viewing experience, especially when both talents openly guide their career by paycheck opportunities, seldom invested in the details of the work. “Killing Season” is typical of De Niro and Travolta’s recent dramatic interests, placing the two in a dreary, one-note cat-and-mouse effort that’s rarely exciting and geopolitically numb. Derivative and bizarrely graphic, “Killing Season” is nothing more than another forgettable entry in two ongoing filmographies that desperately need more inspired professional choices. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Endeavour: Series 1

Endeavour Series 1

I wasn't familiar with the character of Inspector Morse when I reviewed the pilot for the prequel series "Endeavour" a few months ago. Perhaps this was for the best, as I didn't cling to any expectations when it came time to understand how the detective should be played. After years as a literary series (from author Colin Dexter) and a longstanding ITV program, it makes sense to return a little youth to the dramatic equation, allowing all idiosyncrasies and mysteries a cleansing reboot with "Endeavour," a show that convincingly refreshes the franchise. Playing nostalgic with its sixties setting and submitting powerful work from stars Shaun Evans and Roger Allam, the effort is rich with mood and stuffed with snappy whodunit attitude, sure to please those who've invested plenty of time with the "Inspector Morse" universe. Read the rest at

Film Review - Grown Ups 2

GROWN UPS 2 Adam Sandler Kevin James Chris Rock David Spade

“Grown Ups 2” opens with a display of animal urination. After the main titles, we spy Lenny (Adam Sandler) asleep inside his palatial suburban home, awaking to the sight of a deer causally hanging out in his room. Trying to rouse wife Roxanne (Salma Hayek), her screams of surprise trigger the deer to rear back on its hind legs and pee all over Lenny’s face. This event occurs in the first few minutes of the movie. The picture closes with Lenny breaking wind while pawing at Roxanne during sex. It’s been three years since the original “Grown Ups” broke all box office records for a Sandler production, and this is how the audience is repaid, offered bathroom humor bookends as reward. It might be hard to believe, but the sequel actually gets worse as it drags its corpse-like sense of humor around for what feels like an eternity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Pacific Rim


Perhaps after his attempt to make “The Hobbit” was shut down by studio financial woes, director Guillermo del Toro was aching to kick out the jams. It’s been five years since his last moviemaking assignment, the fantastically bizarre “Hellboy II: The Golden Army,” which is probably why his latest, “Pacific Rim,” feels more like a visionary flexing atrophying muscles than a bold creative step forward in a most colorful career. Gone are the quirk, crunch, and magical dealings of del Toro’s past work, replaced here with a heaping helping of noise and scraping metal, which for 80 minutes would be an irresistible proposition. 100 minutes would be quite entertaining. Unfortunately, “Pacific Rim” runs 130 minutes, and its repetitive action and cornball dialogue eventually sands off the senses, lessening the matinee euphoria del Toro aims to conjure. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Way, Way Back

WAY WAY BACK Sam Rockwell

“The Way, Way Back” is an endearing effort about the alienation of youth, making it instantly relatable and, at times, lovable. What’s less enchanting about the picture is how routine it is, rarely coloring outside the lines with its coming of age and neglectful parenting plotlines. It’s an enjoyable film but seldom notable despite a few focused performances and a lived-in setting that lends the feature much needed personality. However, if one can hurdle the familiarity of it all, “The Way, Way Back” should manage to beguile with its knowing take on the beating heart and whirring mind of the teenage outsider. Read the rest at

Film Review - Terms and Conditions May Apply


Timing on the release of the documentary “Terms and Conditions May Apply” couldn’t be better. After all, with the case of Edward Snowden and his decision to inform the world about a massive U.S. surveillance program, the subject of data accumulation and interpretation is a particularly sensitive subject. Perhaps director Cullen Hoback is kicking himself over the late development, yet “Terms and Conditions May Apply” still provides a proper foundation to a larger discussion of privacy and how it’s being stripped away from regular folk one click at a time. Insightful and swiftly edited, this is eye-opening work, even without a proper crescendo to leave viewers enraged and freshly paranoid. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Hot Flashes

HOT FLASHES Brooke Shields

“The Hot Flashes” is exactly the film one would expect from such a title. It’s a specific movie made for a specific audience, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with a softball pitch, it feels a little strange to be so far removed from the point of view director Susan Seidelman is working to illuminate. Thankfully, there’s a little more to the feature than a stream of menopause jokes, with “The Hot Flashes” more of a sporting comedy than a lament for the loss of menstrual cycles. While its predictability is a foregone conclusion, Seidelman manages to keep the picture approachable and occasionally amusing, smartly utilizing the varied gifts of the cast, who often look stunned to be starring in a basketball comedy. Read the rest at

Film Review - Downloaded

DOWNLOADED Shawn fanning

In 1999, the peer-to-peer file sharing service Napster made its debut, and nobody could explain exactly what the intent was for such a radical service. In 2013, the mystery of Napster’s final destination is still in question. Director Alex Winter (helmer of “Freaked” and co-star of the “Bill & Ted” pictures) attempts to summarize the rise and fall of Napster in “Downloaded,” a documentary with a specific aim to dissect the service using interviews with important figures in its winding history. Winter arrives with good intentions, a ripping pace, and smart editorial control, but he doesn’t provide a fresh angle on old news, reheating file footage and assembling unenlightening interviews when this particular event in the ongoing internet revolution deserves a more profound understanding of motivation and influence. Read the rest at

Film Review - Under the Bed


“Under the Bed” has a terrific premise, making the universal childhood fear of monsters lurking in the blackness of a bedroom a very real and terrifying concern. That it manages to do very little with the plot comes as a tremendous disappointment, especially since the feature appears to have an itch to cause a Sam Raimi-style commotion with its horror elements. Drab and pokey, “Under the Bed” is strictly for patient genre enthusiasts, especially those able to manage the stasis of Steven C. Miller’s direction as he hunts for ways to cover for the film’s lack of budgetary might. Read the rest at

Film Review - More Than Honey


“More Than Honey” might register as something of a shock to those raised on traditional nature documentaries. It’s surprisingly leisurely, almost serene. Considering how it details the possible end of the human race, this casual approach is unexpected. However, pulling a finger off the panic button lends the picture a distinct personality, and instead of a dry read of facts and figures, there’s a true observational quality to the effort that makes for fascinating cinema. Think you know everything about the world of bees? “More Than Honey” might have something fresh to share, presenting an agreeably cinematic take on a natural disaster. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Punk Vacation


The punk experience had it rough in the media during the 1980s. Think old worrywart "Donahue" debates or the infamous "Battle of the Bands" episode of "CHiPs." Marginalized and infantilized, the punk scene also made for excellent antagonists -- riling up audiences with heavily painted exteriors and acidic attitudes. They're easily branded baddies creating insta-tension with a mere twitch of their squinted eye. "Punk Vacation" uses the music subculture in a predictable fashion, pitting the misfits with switchblades against a rural community armed to the teeth. It's exploitation cinema in its purest form, though the jubilant nonsense of such an endeavor is often muted by the movie's absurd construction, with the no-budget seams of the effort exposed in a most severe manner. A ludicrous production that's stunningly earnest, "Punk Vacation" is best appreciated as a bottom-shelf treasure with mistakes galore, making it amusing on multiple levels of engagement, especially those who prize examples of punk's influence on pop culture as it neared its expiration date. Read the rest at