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July 2017

Film Review - Paris Can Wait


Considering how everyone with the last name Coppola is already in the movie industry, it’s amazing that it took Eleanor Coppola so long to make her first feature-length film, graduating from documentaries and shorts at the age of 80. Her choice of subject is love, but not in the traditional sense, with “Paris Can Wait” a valentine to food, art, and travel, with interpersonal communication eventually working its way to the surface of the effort. It’s a mild endeavor, never challenging its audience with a deeper inspection of sadness, but it’s not a picture that’s easily dismissed, with Coppola finding a heartbeat here that holds attention, turning what’s essentially a travelogue into an engaging tale of exposure to new things and ideas, finding Diane Lane a practiced star of this kind of story. Read the rest at

Film Review - 2:22

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The magnetized pull of fate is explored in “2:22,” an attempt from screenwriters Todd Stein and Nathan Parker to create a brain-bleeding viewing experience big enough to compete with similar titles. It all boils down to a question of patience, with the best of the genre inviting viewer participation and decoding, stimulating a burning need to keep with the big screen puzzling. “2:22” doesn’t encourage that type of response, trying a bit too hard to achieve a sense of confusion that eventually clears into profundity by the end credits. The movie doesn’t have the creative drive to be anything more than a tepid mystery, and even with a few ridiculous twists and turns, director Paul Currie can’t connect the dots in a fascinating way, with the entire effort resembling more of a screenwriting exercise than a hypnotic overview of celestial guidance.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Gremlin


When one hears the title “Gremlin,” thoughts of the 1984 Joe Dante-directed classic, “Gremlins,” come immediately to mind, recalling how masterfully the blockbuster balanced dark comedy with PG-bending terror, emerging as one of the top films of its release year. But this is “Gremlin.” Singular. And we’re about as far away from Dante territory as possible. Co-writer/director Ryan Bellgardt has a vision for horror featuring a tiny creature that lives inside a box, but it’s not a strong one, manufacturing a chiller that takes itself seriously, but not in a way that strengthens viewer involvement. Instead of a high-flying creature feature with distinct gore zone visits, Bellgardt gives birth to a bummer, more content to numb his audience than thrill them. Perhaps it’s best to get lost in memories of Gizmo and Stripe while watching this dismal endeavor.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Inconceivable


“Inconceivable” doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a Lifetime Original, but even with those lowered standards in place, the feature doesn’t carry a level of insanity required to make it interesting. It’s an updated take on “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” from “Poison Ivy II” screenwriter Chloe King, who heads in the wrong direction by taking the story seriously, trying to find the reality of these damaged characters and how they deal with strange conflict. “Inconceivable” isn’t campy, it’s bland, and the more helmer Jonathan Baker trusts in the dramatic limitations of the effort, the harder it is to sit through the movie. Those expecting a soap opera will be tremendously disappointed by the endeavor, which tries to establish itself as a proper psychological thriller, only to abandon all the amusing extremes of the subgenre.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Spider-Man: Homecoming


Of course, the title “Spider-Man: Homecoming” has dual meaning. The story is set during the countdown period to a school dance, but it’s also the big return for the superhero brand name, which finally joins up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe after an extended tease in last year’s “Captain America: Civil War.” Spider-Man has endured a few lumps on the big screen in recent years, and lord knows the world doesn’t need another reboot, but for his third incarnation in 15 years, the wall-crawler reclaims multiplex dominance with “Homecoming,” which truly understand the cravings of its teenaged character, backing up frothy but meaningful characterization with some of the finest comic book-inspired entertainment in recent years. Sure, wedging Spider-Man into an already crowded community of costumed avengers is perhaps anticlimactic at this point, but director Jon Watts and his army of screenwriters (six in total) reclaim the swinging ambiance and sheer joy of the character, fashioning a superb refreshing that hopefully will carry on for a long time.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Psycho Cop Returns


Full disclosure: I've never seen 1989's "Psycho Cop." I've never even heard of it, making the prospect of reviewing its 1993 sequel, "Psycho Cop Returns," daunting. Genre fans are a passionate bunch, and they want their film writers prepared and informed, but here's a unique situation where the follow-up doesn't really need an initial chapter to make sense, as the tone it's pursuing is so broad, so cartoonish, that there's only one thing to know before a viewing: There's a cop, and he's a psycho. My apologies to those looking for a direct comparison between the pictures, but I'm guessing most who come to "Psycho Cop Returns" are probably new to the brand name as well, playing an easy game of catch-up with an endeavor that's not about adding to the ongoing saga of a vicious, Satan-worshiping police imposter, but offering a smorgasbord of wild comedy, squealing characters, gore, nudity, and mayhem throughout a single setting. It's not franchise algebra, but a funky, cartwheeling B-movie from director Adam Rifkin (billed here as "Rif Coogan"), who's obsessed with creating as much chaos a low budget endeavor can support.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Microcosmos


Before there were entire cable networks devoted to every corner of the natural world, there was 1996's "Microcosmos." What a kid could do now with a cell phone camera and some decent lighting took three years of production for directors Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou, who worked carefully to follow the lives of insects on their home turf, using special cinematography to detail every fluttering wing, crooked antennae, and wiggly body they could find. Using the footage to shape a highly artistic vision of, ahem, a bug's life, the helmers achieve a cinematic miracle with "Microcosmos," assembling a riveting, hypnotic valentine to the misunderstood members of Earth. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Crucible


"The Crucible" is one of the most important plays in American theatrical history, and Arthur Miller's 1953's work has justly earned a wealth of accolades and deep analysis over the decades, with particular emphasis on the material's Red Scare inspiration. Constructed during a time of McCarthyism, where paranoia and fear ruled the land, Miller elected to have history comment on the destructive situation at hand, reviving the Salem Witch Trials for audiences craving a dissection of condemnation, building a bridge between unthinkable madness from a feral time and similar recklessness in a modern age. It's brilliant work, and yet, multiple attempts to adapt Miller's play for the screen have been hit or miss, often losing something in the translation. 1996's "The Crucible" appears to have everything it needs to successfully launch a new take on the material, including top-tier actor Daniel Day-Lewis in a starring role, a screenplay by Miller himself, and direction by Nicolas Hytner, fresh off his international success with 1994's "The Madness of King George." And yet, the feature weirdly flatlines right off the bat, failing to stir up a level of frenzy and horror that should organically flow though a movie that explores the pure psychological and physical destruction of a village enslaved by religious fervor and legal lunacy.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Sunset in the West


1950's "Sunset in the West" isn't out to reinvent the western for an oversaturated marketplace. It's content to serve up yet another round of black hats and white hats doing battle in a growing America, filling the brief run time (67 minutes) with enough gunfights, chases, songs, comedy, and horses to satisfy audiences. Thankfully, director William Witney isn't troubled by sameness, giving "Sunset in the West" a rollicking sprit to stave away the stasis of formula, urging star Roy Rogers to play to his strengths of everyman charms, combating the western filmmaking machine with engaging stunt work and comfort food conflicts, always putting entertainment needs first.  Read the rest at