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February 2016

Film Review - Misconduct


25 years ago, the pairing of Anthony Hopkins and Al Pacino would’ve guaranteed plump box office returns and film enthusiast concentration, finally bringing acting titans together to have an out-act-athon. In 2016, the thrill is gone, with both men currently scrambling to secure paycheck roles for reasons not entirely understood, willing to torch their legacies for a few extra dollars. While it’s difficult to judge such decision-making, it certainly easy to reject it, with “Misconduct” the latest in a long line of forgettable efforts from both Hopkins and Pacino, who sleepwalk through this dreary, nonsensical movie, professionally trading lines with co-stars as their eyes slowly glaze over. Read the rest at

Film Review - Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” has an enormous amount of story to work though, and not a lot of time to do it. It’s an exposition festival peppered with visits from the undead, with nearly every scene packed with one character explaining the rules of this world to another, while the main titles are strictly devoted to a brisk education on the finer points of Seth Grahame-Smith’s 2009 cult novel. “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” is an exhausting picture, madly spinning plates to the best of its ability, but there are moments when the feature's outrageous premise finds inspired execution, or at least takes a minute or two out of its busy schedule to enjoy itself. Read the rest at

Film Review - Hail, Caesar!


Joel and Ethan Coen have been to Hollywood before. In 1991’s “Barton Fink,” they constructed a surreal vision of creative Hell, satirizing industry types with a dose of insanity. “Hail, Caesar!” doesn’t share the same interest in self-destruction, but it returns to a position of mischief for the legendary filmmakers, who use the moment to revive and ridicule the Old Hollywood way of business, with its blinding star power, big screen extravaganzas, and habitual troublemaking. While brightly crafted and more playful a picture than “Barton Fink,” “Hail, Caesar!” is missing customary Coen Brother snap. That’s not to suggest it isn’t wonderfully entertaining at times, but the production as a whole seems a little undercooked, perhaps too caught up in the rare opportunity to recreate a specific time in a turbulent business. Read the rest at

Film Review - Regression


What Alejandro Amenabar is looking to achieve with “Regression” and what ultimately ends up on screen are two different things. The director of “Open Your Eyes” and “The Others” returns to his chiller roots with his latest effort, which tries to marry traditional horror stings with a promising dissection of mass hysteria, attempting to bend formula into new and interesting directions. Amenabar doesn’t pull off the tonal experiment, but at least “Regression” strives to shake up expectations. It’s a frustrating sit at times, especially when it serves up the obvious, but there are kernels of invention scattered around the picture that keep it semi-involving, but overall storytelling satisfaction is never found. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Choice


“The Choice” is the 11th Nicholas Sparks novel to make the long journey to the big screen. At this point, it’s difficult to figure out what separates these productions beyond their stars, with the latest effort yet another foray into honeyed North Carolina coastal bliss, idealized romantic, and sudsy melodrama. Despite its comfortable predictability, “The Choice” comes across particularly inept, never paying attention to the toxic central relationship it’s selling and the weirdly dangerous moral it’s manufacturing. Sparks is never one to create gritty displays of human interaction, and the picture is eventually hobbled by its blind obedience to the author’s gooey formula. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Two for the Seesaw


Following up his triumph with the expansive, electric "West Side Story," director Robert Wise returns to intimacy with 1962's "Two for the Seesaw," which trades singing and dancing for the concerns of opposites gently working through their relationship issues. An adaptation of the William Gibson play, "Two for the Seesaw" feels like a cool-down for Wise, who brings some visual flourish and plenty of patience to the production, seemingly delighted to focus on the neuroses of only two characters. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Captive City


1952's "The Captive City" is a film noir that directly reflects its tumultuous production era, acting a response to Senator Estes Kefauver's participation in the United States Senate Special Committee to Investigate Crime in Interstate Commerce, where the government went after the plague of organized crime. It's a rage against the (corrupt) machine movie, with star John Forsythe portraying a newspaper man discovering a criminal underworld in his own backyard, intent on exposing unlawful behavior while gradually becoming aware of its influence over everyone he interacts with. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Thundercrack!


The underground movie scene of the 1960s and '70s provided a Wild West experience for its participants. Free of studio control, often constructing pictures with hopes and dreams instead of money, the filmmakers were cleared to explore their imagination to the fullest, dissecting the world around them with bizarre creations steeped in provocative imagery and interpretational screenwriting. For some, pure insanity was the goal, with 1975's "Thundercrack!" a prime example of a feature that's primarily driven by curiosity and impulse, trying to disrupt expectation in every way imaginable. Directed by Curt McDowell and scripted by George Kuchar (who also appears in a supporting role), "Thundercrack!" is a wild viewing experience out to merge melodrama with hardcore pornography, leaving little to the imagination as feels around in the dark for a story to back up all the absurdity. Read the rest at