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December 2014

Film Review - Poker Night


The premise of “Poker Night” is better suited for the short film format, where its small surprises and ambitious structure could be more succinctly communicated, thus improving its sucker punch mentality. As a feature, “Poker Night” often doesn’t know what to do with itself, sweating to fill up a run time with windy monologues, overacting, and jumps in time that doesn’t do the effort any favors. Writer/director Greg Francis is clearly aiming to shape a serial killer mystery with hard, masculine edges, but the picture is impossible to take seriously, finding its mix of dark comedy and shock value painfully awkward, unfunny, and devoid of scares. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Iguana


The director of "Two-Lane Blacktop" and "Silent Night, Deadly Night 3," Monte Hellman is more of a fascinating filmmaker than a consistent one. 1988's "Iguana" represents Hellman's quest to explore the limits of power and the lasting sting of humiliation, adapting Alberto Vazquez-Figueroa's novel for the screen. The result is undeniably powerful and unflinching, but also stiff and unconvincing, with inefficient editing and wooden performances sinking a provocative island adventure story. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Stunt Squad


I know the idea of yet another remake in the cinema landscape is enough to trigger a wave of eye-rolls, but if there's any picture that deserves a second pass at perfection, it's the 1977 Italian production, "Stunt Squad." An origin story for a supercop series, the effort has all the ingredients to delight as escapism and chill as a procedural, making it ideal fodder for an excitable helmer to transform the material into a roughhouse actioner that leaves audiences breathless. This could be one of those rare times when a do-over might actually improve on the original. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Last Embrace

Last Embrace

After scraping through most of the 1970s with intelligent B-movies, director Jonathan Demme took a sharp turn toward the cinematic with 1979's "Last Embrace," an extended Hitchcock homage starring Roy Scheider and Janet Margolin. Bathed in a warm, excitable score by Miklos Rozsa and shot by the great Tak Fujimoto, "Last Embrace" certainly isn't sloppy. However, this adaptation of the book "The 13th Man" (written by Murray Teigh Bloom) doesn't offer the snap Demme is looking for, and while the production has aspirations to be "North by Northwest," it mostly comes to attention in frustrating fits. Read the rest at