Previous month:
March 2016
Next month:
May 2016

April 2016

Blu-ray Review - The Holcroft Covenant


Author Robert Ludlum built a brand name with his literary endeavors, favoring the thriller genre with dense work that adored spy games and their working parts. A few of his novels have been adapted for television and the big screen, most notably "The Bourne Identity" and its numerous sequels, which found a way to translate his special handling of suspense and paranoia for the mass audience. However, before Jason Bourne ruled the box office, there was 1985's "The Holcroft Covenant," which doesn't share the same raw intensity, but keeps up with the Ludlum vision as it explores secretive evil deeds, duplicitous characters, and globetrotting locations. This isn't the finest hour for director John Frankenheimer (creatively, most of the 1980s didn't go his way), but the helmer does supply meaty direction that at least tries to turn this tale of banking and identity into a nail-biting viewing experience. It doesn't quite take overall, but with Michael Caine in the lead role, "The Holcroft Covenant" remains compelling, even when it arranges full-on absurdity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Mother's Day


Garry Marshall has never been a great director, but he’s managed to find a few peaks of charisma with efforts such as “Overboard,” “The Princess Diaries,” and “Beaches.” However, the majority of his filmography is made up of stinkers, as he’s almost magnetically attracted to bad material to best accentuate his pedestrian timing. After stumbling upon a hit movie with 2010’s abysmal “Valentine’s Day,” Marshall decided to turn the holiday theme into a franchise, following it up with 2011’s “New Year’s Eve,” and now “Mother’s Day,” which has the distinction of not only being the crummiest chapter of the series, but it’s also Marshall’s worst film, making dreck like “Raising Helen,” “The Other Sister,” and “Georgia Rule” feel like summer vacations next to this appallingly idiotic and insulting picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Keanu


After several successful seasons of their Comedy Central show, “Key and Peele,” comedians Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are ready to take their partnership to the big screen. “Keanu” is their debut feature, and while both men have enjoyed supporting parts in movies and television, this is their chance to take center stage, building on their viral video triumphs. “Keanu” is more of an extension of the “Key and Peele” show than a true starring vehicle, creating a cinematic sandbox for the pair to showcase their skills, with the men playing multiple characters, poking fun at race and disparate cultures, and embracing weirdness as a way of life. It’s not an especially inspired effort, and not all that funny, but it does provide hope that one day, with stronger screenwriting, Peele and Key might create a devastatingly hilarious film that makes full use of their considerable talents. Read the rest at

Film Review - Green Room


In 2014, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier made quite an impression with “Blue Ruin.” A revenge thriller dripping with atmosphere and supported by exceptional performances, the feature was one of the best films of the year, bringing Saulnier into view. Continuing his interest in the feral nature of humanity and the power of screen violence, the helmer returns with “Green Room,” which manages to best “Blue Ruin” in brutality, which is no small achievement. Concentrating on claustrophobia and the price of survival, Saulnier brings raw force to “Green Room,” a chilling horror effort that demands full attention, supplying a vision for doom that’s graphic but propulsive. The picture is dizzyingly crafted, shocking from start to finish. It’s also a wonderful reminder of Saulnier’s developing talents and his ability to summon incredible tension. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sing Street


For writer/director John Carney, music is as vital as drama in his cinematic endeavors. For “Once,” the helmer found lo-fi love on the streets of Dublin, celebrating two amateur musicians finding love and communication through performance. In “Begin Again,” Carney inched toward mainstream interests with name actors and a broader storyline, but still made time for songs to carry the viewing experience. For “Sing Street,” Carney returns to his indie roots and the soothing ways of musical expression, crafting a loving ode to joys of garage bands and pubescent interests. A spirited, hilarious movie, “Sing Street” is Carney’s best work to date, smoothly merging his storytelling and jukebox obsessions. Even with a few rocky moments, it all works with irresistible confidence. Read the rest at

Film Review - Dough


In this politically volatile time, a film like “Dough” probably isn’t going to move the needle much when it comes to religious and cultural unity, but every little reminder of peace is welcome. “Dough” isn’t a strong movie, but its premise has potential and director John Goldschmidt has a good grip on the picture’s tone for the first hour, balancing comedy with the material’s interest in exploring refugee anxiety and Jewish tradition. Good performances and a strong opening isn’t enough to carry a viewing experience that’s eventually smothered by melodrama, but Goldschmidt keeps the feature amiable, even a little silly at times, before it runs out of things to do. Read the rest at

Film Review - Precious Cargo


While Bruce Willis continues to tarnish his career with cash-grab supporting roles in B-movies, at least there’s a suitable replacement for the star’s once mighty charms. “Precious Cargo” gifts actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar a chance to prove himself as an action titan, taking center stage in this feisty but formulaic heist effort. It’s certainly an unusual casting choice when hunting for a fast-talking, bullet-spewing performer, but Gosselaar ends up the highlight of the feature. Director Max Adams has more difficulty, attempting to sell a vision for big stunts and large-scale suspense, but he’s working exclusively with clichés, struggling to create big screen ruckus with visuals already detailed in hundreds of other productions. Read the rest at

Film Review - Nina


If Nina Simone was a multifaceted personality capable of performing musical miracles during her career as a recording artist, wowing audiences with her depth of feeling and genre range, “Nina” isn’t interested in telling that story. Or any story for that matter, delivering a bio-pic that’s clouded and confused, misguided in certain aspects of production, and absurd in its blindfolded editorial approach. Shot four years ago, “Nina” is finally seeing the light of day, but this is no long-awaited release. It’s a prison escape, displaying a stunning depth of filmmaking ineptitude from writer/director Cynthia Mort, who isn’t really making a movie about Nina Simone, she’s committing a 90-minute-long character assassination, transforming a music legend into a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. Read the rest at

Film Review - Rio, I Love You


In 2006, “Paris je t’aime” was intended to be a valentine to the titular city’s mysterious ways. Putting together a collection of short films created by a wide range of directors (including Wes Craven, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Alexander Payne), the feature enjoyed tremendous oddity, sensuality, and artistic achievement. “Paris je t’aime” also established the “Cities of Love” franchise, with a sequel, “New York, I Love You” following in 2009, this time welcoming pictures from Brett Ratner, Mira Nair, and Natalie Portman. Feeling Olympic fever, or perhaps concerned that sporting hype will drown out the city’s natural vibrancy, producers have concocted “Rio, I Love You,” the next installment of weirdness and wonder found in a foreign land. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Panic in Year Zero


Ray Milland pulls double duty in 1962's "Panic in Year Zero," directing and starring in a post-apocalyptic tale that doesn't have the budget to imagine the end of the world, but does just fine with elements of dread. A bold depiction of doomsday survival, the feature bravely looks at the chaos following a nuclear attack, doing so during a period in time when the end of the world was an all too real possibility. Milland doesn't try to suffocate his audience, instead keeping "Panic in Year Zero" surprisingly buoyant, filling the effort with chases, shoot-outs, and heated confrontations, making it more of an exploitation endeavor than a requiem for the American Way. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Monster Dog


Scoring a point for truth in advertising, 1984's "Monster Dog" actually submits the hellish fury of a monster dog, making it a minor success in terms of delivering on a titular promise. The rest of the picture's quality is open for debate. A rare foray into acting for rock music legend Alice Cooper, "Monster Dog" provides the master of shock with an appropriate thespian challenge, tasked with portraying a shadowy recording artist with an interest in the macabre. Perhaps this is slow-pitch softball for Cooper, but the feature doesn't make the transition easy, pitting the singer against the harshness of Italian genre filmmaking, with its loose dubbing, general dismissal of storytelling, and iffy special effects. At the very least, the movie supplies two Cooper tunes and gifts gorehounds with a few sticky encounters, meeting demands with a passably entertaining home invasion/werewolf/killer dog extravaganza that eventually does away with plot altogether, preferring to cling to a routine of violence and lackluster suspense to fill the run time. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Journey to the Seventh Planet


Mind games command 1962's "Journey to the Seventh Planet," but they're the inexpensive kind, giving the picture a chance to keep costs down by messing with group consciousness, which is easier on the special effects budget. An endearing offering of confusion from director Sid Pink, "Journey to the Seventh Planet" manages to overcome its monumental monetary limitation, showcasing delightful visual invention to bring a taste of paranoia and alien manipulation to life. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Gallant Hours


War films, especially WWII films, typically favor the intensity of combat, watching leathery men set out to shut down the enemy, using heated battles to keep audiences invested in the routine of conflict. 1960's "The Gallant Hours" offers nothing in the way of extravaganza, preferring to take the introspective route as it explores Admiral William F. Halsey (James Cagney) and his leadership approach during the five-week period leading to the Guadalcanal campaign. It's an unexpectedly restrained feature, but its careful way with drama and psychological inspection is exceptionally managed by director Robert Montgomery, who puts his faith in the cast, trusting them to provide the firepower intentionally avoided by the rest of the effort. Read the rest at

Film Review - Tale of Tales


The latest effort from Italian director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah,” “Reality”), “Tale of Tales” endeavors to bring a world of fairytales to the screen, but these aren’t your usual stories of extraordinary events and eccentric characters. Inspired by Giambattista Basile’s 17th century work, “Pentamerone,” Garrone goes wild with “Tale of Tales,” hitting macabre highs with his carefully composed look at the mad passions of queens, monsters, and the desperately lonely. It’s a vividly crafted picture, with stunning technical achievements and startling turns of plot, but Garrone’s real accomplishment is his ability to conjure an authentic storybook atmosphere, with the various segments of the movie retaining their literature inspiration while generating pure cinema. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Huntsman: Winter's War


One could make the argument that every sequel is unnecessary, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where there’s any demand for a follow-up to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” While a box office hit due to release timing and audience hunger for CGI-laden spectacle, the picture didn’t exactly inspire lasting fandom, with most ticket-buyers forgetting the feature in full on the ride home. However, profit is profit, and Universal Studios isn’t about to leave money on the table. “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is visually similar to its predecessor, but a few key changes have been made to ensure a lively viewing experience. Sadly, what’s presented here isn’t enough to engage, again proving that this update of the Snow White story isn’t meant to be a fantasy playground, continuing a lethargic take on magic and mystery that barely improves on the previous adventure. Read the rest at

Film Review - A Hologram for the King


Based on a 2012 novel by Dave Eggers, “A Hologram for the King” arrives pre-loaded with personality detail and bold dramatic movement, using hundreds of pages to create an emotionally and physically volatile environment, servicing an extensive journey for the lead character. Writer/director Tom Tykwer only has about 95 minutes to cover the same terrain. A clever filmmaker who previously helmed “Run Lola Run,” “Perfume,” and “Cloud Atlas,” Tykwer is up for the adaption challenge. While his ability to condense sections of the story leaves much to be desired, Tykwer captures a defined mood with “A Hologram for the King,” teaming with star Tom Hanks to issue an unusual effort that embraces idiosyncrasy and long stretches of sincerity. Read the rest at

Film Review - Elvis & Nixon


It was a private moment shared by the President of the United States and the world’s biggest music star, but a meeting in 1970 between Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley (a joining of disparate worlds documented with a single photograph, becoming one of most popular pictures in the National Archives) created a tidal wave of speculation, with fans of both men openly wondering just went on behind closed doors. “Elvis & Nixon” doesn’t have the evidence, but it provides a bright recreation of the event, imagining the oddity, bravado, and irritation triggered by Elvis and his determination to meet the most powerful man in the world. Read the rest at

Film Review - Holidays


With anthology horror pictures all the rage in recent years, it’s been interesting to see what concept the filmmakers employ to piece together their omnibus of evil. For the “V/H/S” series, a more abstract approach was attempted, marrying weird tangents of doom through the power of video. In the recent “Southbound,” tales were collected with a plan to shape a narrative circle, building bridges between the segments. For “Holidays,” the idea is simple. Offering largely unknown directors a chance to make a mess of a calendar year, the shorts embrace individual themes based on their festive day, with seven holidays to explore and exploit. Read the rest at

Film Review - Everybody Wants Some


Writer/director Richard Linklater has enjoyed a creative resurgence in recent years, scoring critical kudos and impressive box office returns with dramatic efforts such as “Bernie,” “Before Midnight,” and “Boyhood.” However, it’s his 1993 picture, “Dazed and Confused,” that manages to endure, building a cult audience over the last two decades that’s responded positively to Linklater’s infatuation with the “hang” film, pulling life and pure social sway out of screen shapelessness. Returning to the vibe, Linklater crafts “Everybody Wants Some,” another casual look at personal interactions, desires, and time-killing with group of funky characters. Indentified as a “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” “Everybody Wants Some” retains none of the charm and pace of the earlier effort. Linklater doesn’t have much of a vision for his latest movie, trying to get by on fumes as the feature slowly runs out of reasons to keep watching it. Read the rest at