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November 2015

Film Review - Man Up


The last time actor Simon Pegg decided he wanted to warm up his image, it resulted in 2014’s particularly unpleasant “Hector and the Search for Happiness,” which actually made the jovial performer come across unappealing, suggesting that perhaps tales of love were not his forte. “Man Up” is a decent enough rebound for Pegg, who teams with Lake Bell for a lively adventure through misunderstanding and silliness. It’s definitely not Pegg’s finest professional hour, but as fizzy romantic comedies go, “Man Up” has its share of surprises and enthusiasm for the material, maintaining an effort to disrupt the subgenre routine with speed and a great deal of mischief. Read the rest at

Film Review - I Am Thor

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Following the footsteps of “Anvil: The Story of Anvil,” “I Am Thor” looks to locate another overlooked member of the heavy metal community who’s interested in a comeback. The documentary surveys the life and times of Jon Mikl Thor, a once mighty bodybuilder who rode his physique to the heavy metal middle in the 1980s, blending superhero theatricality and blazing riffs to wow audiences. He was also the star of junk drawer cinema classics such as “Zombie Nightmare” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare,” creating an image as a hulking master of ceremonies, out to conquer the entertainment industry with his unique, hammer-wielding presence. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Faust


Summoning the fury of Heaven and Hell to make a movie about the operatic nature of sin and salvation, F.W. Murnau's "Faust" is a stunning example of silent film technique and vision. The 1926 production, an expensive effort in its day, showcases remarkable helming precision, with Murnau leaving blood and sweat on the frame as he creates a specific vision of suffering that demands emotional extremes to help create a level of cinematic beauty. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Gueros


"Gueros" is a collection of little ideas rolled up into a road movie structure, emerging as an impish creation from co-writer/director Alonso Ruizpalacious, who's ultimately creating a feature about Mexico that's aware of Mexican cinema clichés. There's a lot to take in with the picture, which gleefully bounces around various tonalities to preserve surprise for viewers, but as scattershot as the effort is, it miraculously stays together thanks to a great deal of wit, timing, and audio/visual experimentation. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Class of Nuke 'Em High 3: The Good, the Bad and the Subhumanoid


Who knew there was such a demand for "Class of Nuke 'Em High" sequels? Troma Entertainment, never a film studio to let anything die a peaceful death, returns to the world of mutant madness with 1994's "Class of Nuke 'Em High 3: The Good, The Bad and the Subhumanoid." Making a final push to make this premise profitable, Troma waters down their traditional serving of pure excess, trying to find a narrative path that welcomes B-movie chaos and dramatic interests, going so far as to use a William Shakespeare play ("The Comedy of Errors") for inspiration. It's an ambitious move, and one that manages to find a sense of stability to the franchise, but nothing in the Troma universe remains still for long. "The Good, The Bad and the Subhumanoid" quickly degenerates into noisy bits of comedy and horror, while a host of storytelling choices render the picture tiring, especially with a run time that's a good 30 minutes longer than it needs to be. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Pro-Wrestlers vs. Zombies


There are unavoidable expectations in place when sitting down to watch a movie titled "Pro-Wrestlers vs. Zombies." Obviously, material like this isn't looking for respectability, but basic functionality is always welcome. Writer/director Cody Knotts looks to summon a mood of horror and sports entertainment with his picture, hiring some well-known wrestlers to appear in a no-budget genre film that's largely shot inside an abandoned prison and in the deep woods. The helmer depends on established personalities to lead the way, along with a healthy dose of gore, keeping the feature regular with bursts of violence and meaty, troubled acting. What "Pro-Wrestlers vs. Zombies" is missing is fun, with Knotts overseeing a depressing vibe of survival and vaguely defined evil, managing to fatigue the effort long before it has a chance to truly kick back and enjoy its ridiculousness. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Madhouse


A farce doesn't have to be friendly, but there should be some degree of likability to help encourage viewer engagement. Non-stop mean-spiritedness committed by selfish, bellowing characters isn't exactly a welcome mat for outsiders, with 1990's "Madhouse" a prime example of comic lunacy souring at the moment of impact. Imagined as a wily, mischievous journey with pushy houseguests, the feature marches right towards absurdity, with writer/director Tom Ropelewski mistaking noise for timing. The picture is certainly jam-packed with incident, and performances work up a sweat as they try to communicate the simplest of reactions with flailing body parts and wide eyes. However, laughs are missing from the movie, which is so caught up in maintaining a madcap tone, it doesn't make room for any considered punchlines. Read the rest at

Film Review - Heist


In the plainly titled “Heist,” the production labors to merge a standard crime thriller with elements of “Speed,” dusted with some off-the-shelf emotional obstacles for the characters. Director Scott Mann (“The Tournament”) has all the right ingredients for junk food cinema in front of him, but no real clue how to assemble a frothy feast of exploitation. “Heist” is only enjoyable when it remains on the move, racing past logic and repetition with convincing energy. Applying the brakes to detail worry only reinforces flimsy screenwriting and iffy casting, losing the movie’s appeal as it struggles to build a more dramatically sound offering of complete nonsense. Read the rest at

Film Review - Visions


Scary movies tend to stick to the same settings out of habit, never venturing too far away from haunted houses, securing the comfort of familiarity as monsters and ghosts emerge from the darkness. “Visions” isn’t a radical departure from the genre norm, but it does use a vineyard as its playground of doom, which livens up a picture that eventually becomes a standard chiller, recycling scares and strange explanations as it struggles to remain compelling. Director Kevin Greutert isn’t one to deny audience expectations, but there are a few decent turns in “Visions” to keep it moving, even as it quickly grows tiresome. Read the rest at

Film Review - The 33

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“The 33” certainly doesn’t have the element of surprise. A dramatization of the 2010 Chilean Mining Disaster that trapped workers underground for 69 grueling days, the production is working with a globally known event, including a happy ending that was omnipresent during a few news cycles five years ago. Even the theatrical trailer for the movie gives away the ending, making suspense all but an impossible for director Patricia Riggen to achieve. “The 33” is painfully overlong, but it’s also effective with the basics of survival, using moments of claustrophobia and familial divide smartly as it searches for anything to help distract from the highly publicized conclusion. Read the rest at

Film Review - Love the Coopers


If you’re planning to see “Love the Coopers,” remember to bring a pencil and some scratch paper. It may be easier to follow this mess of a movie with the help of careful notes, but there are no guarantees. A Christmas lump of coal sneaking into theaters before Thanksgiving, “Love the Coopers” strives to be a heartwarming holiday effort concerning a dysfunctional family, but never once does it stop to introduce the participants or explain the details. Director Jessie Nelson and screenwriter Steven Rogers soak the picture in maudlin events, with occasional breaks for light slapstick, but as the feature unfolds, less is understood about the titular clan and their yearly need to make one another miserable. Read the rest at

Film Review - Entertainment


Actor Gregg Turkington is comedian Neil Hamburger, or perhaps Neil Hamburger is Gregg Turkington. The distinction is never clear, but that’s part of the performer’s appeal to “anti-comedy” fans. “Entertainment” is a valentine to Turkington’s method of madness, with director Rick Alverson making sure every pregnant pause, non-sequitur, and violent outpouring of hate is tenderly cared for, attempting to communicate Hamburger’s special way with nothingness for die-hard admirers and newcomers. Equally successful as a cult comedy and a non-lethal crowd dispersal weapon, “Entertainment” is a type of film that establishes its tone in the very first minute of screentime, and it’s your own fault if you decide to stick around for the rest of it. Read the rest at

Film Review - Shelter


After maintaining a long but uneven career of interesting performances (“Master and Commander”) and painful ones (“Priest,” “Legion), actor Paul Bettany is ready to move behind the camera, finally in control of his own project. “Shelter” is Bettany’s helming debut, and he’s made exactly the type of movie a frustrated thespian would, dreaming up a tale of misery and hopelessness to best underline lead performances from Jennifer Connelly (his real-life wife) and Anthony Mackie. “Shelter” has its heart in the right place, trying to identify the frustration and self-destruction of homelessness and rehabilitation, but its fixation on indulgence chips away at the feature’s lasting message of endurance, mixed with a little tragedy. Read the rest at

Film Review - Condemned


Attention will be placed on “Condemned” for one major reason: the casting of Dylan Penn. The daughter of Sean Penn and Robin Wright, Penn makes her feature-film debut with a low-budget horror endeavor, taking a career route that has helped a great number of actresses, electing to show off some lung power and panicked looks instead of partaking in a significant dramatic test her first time out. There’s more to “Condemned” than Penn, but she’s a braless, blonde focal point in a picture that’s otherwise concentrated on vomit, urine, pustules, and spilled innards, basically guaranteeing all attention will be aimed her way for the duration of the movie. Penn’s been coached well by her parents. Read the rest at

Film Review - Difret


To help “Difret” reach theaters across America, the production is using the good name of executive producer Angelina Jolie to attract attention. The famous humanitarian isn’t directly involved with the production, but it’s almost odd that the movie isn’t her third directorial outing, as it plays directly to her interests in global injustices and the plight of young women in the third world. Helmer Zeresenay Mehari (making her feature-length debut) actually handles “Difret,” making an interesting choice to avoid understandable hysterics to play the effort as a legal drama of sorts, preferring to capture the steps of community condemnation when dealing with the practice of forced marriage, instead of stirring it up with cheap melodramatics. Read the rest at

Film Review - Welcome to Leith


“Welcome to Leith” is an incendiary documentary about the power of hate in today’s world, where growth is carried out through a strict observance of laws, pushing opposing sides into a dance of patience as definitions of engagement are carefully inspected. Directors Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher K. Walker find a chilling tone of escalation concerning the subject matter, which takes on sinister business from the white supremacist moment in America, using odd events and rattled interviewees to paint a portrait of discomfort that eventually transforms into an authentic summation of community defense in the digital age. “Welcome to Leith” is a strange feature, but it retains substantial suspense in its early going, with the helmers identifying horrors and shaping frustration that builds into explosive moments. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Tu Dors Nicole


The Canadian production "Tu Dors Nicole" presents a journey into the painful early moments of adulthood, tracking the titular character (played by Julianne Cote) as she experiences the slow death of juvenile comfort, pushed out into a world she wants little to do with. Instead of mounting a valentine to ennui, writer/director Stephane Lafleur finds a slightly quirkier edge to "Tu Dors Nicole," paying attention to the comedic possibilities of the material along with its stinging, immensely relatable realities in connection to the last summer of a post-college life. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Demonoid


1980's "Demonoid" is about a severed hand that kills. For some, the review ends there, scratching a B-movie sweet spot that promises exquisite horror and camp. The feature isn't completely unleashed, but writer/director Alfredo Zacarias certainly strives to give viewers a sufficiently berserk ride, filling the feature with violence, action, and the central image of a roving hand on the hunt for fresh victims. As bottom-shelf insanity, "Demonoid" is tremendously entertaining and bluntly bizarre, with Zacarias orchestrating a chase picture that touches on marital unrest, spiritual challenges, and Satanic omnipresence, while star Samantha Eggar classes up the joint with a semi-committed performance, selling the oddity of an unstoppable hand and its determination to possess all those who come into contact with it. Read the rest at