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January 2018

Blu-ray Review - Baby Bump


There's no way to accurately describe "Baby Bump," which takes an experimental art look at the pains of puberty from the perspective of a particularly confused boy. It's a scattergun effort from writer/director Kuba Czekaj, who gives the endeavor his all on a visual level, playing with editing, split-screen, animation, and abstraction to make his comedy(?) aggressively playful. Whatever this is, it handles itself with remarkable attention to detail, giving underground cinema cowboys a true bucking bronco viewing experience.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Insidious: The Last Key


Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the “Insidious” series is watching how writer Leigh Whannell manages to squeeze out new directions for the saga to take after exhausting all his ideas in the 2010 original film. After going the prequel route for “Insidious: Chapter 3,” Whannell makes a sequel to the prequel with “Insidious: The Last Key,” which is meant to lay track up to the first movie, creating a crooked circle of character connection for a franchise that never had a decent road map to bring it through various installments. “The Last Key” promises finality for the brand name, but endeavors to squeeze out a few more scares using the proven fright formula that turned the three previous pictures into low-budget hits. Whannell is out of ideas, but he goes soft for the new journey into the Further, giving a fan-favorite character the spotlight she deserves. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Before I Wake


In recent years, writer/director Mike Flanagan has made a name for himself in the world of horror. He pulled off the impossible, making a compelling sequel to a complete turkey with “Ouija: Origin of Evil,” and last year he successfully loaded up nightmares with the tense, profoundly macabre “Gerald’s Game,” managing a successful Stephen King adaptation. And there was “Hush,” a little-seen but celebrated chiller executed with limited dialogue. Now finally seeing release after experiencing several delays due to a bankrupt distributor, “Before I Wake” (shot in 2013) joins the growing list of Flanagan achievements. While it’s not a true genre exercise, the feature has its scary stuff, but it’s after something more heartfelt between moments of shock and terror, with Flanagan and co-writer Jeff Howard digging a little deeper with the material, trying to keep “Before I Wake” as human as possible while still delivering requisite unease.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Crooked House


After years becoming part of the television routine, author Agatha Christie is suddenly big business these days, experiencing a cinematic resurrection as talented filmmakers try their hand at adapting the famed mystery writer’s puzzles for grander budgets and bigger stars. Last November, there was “Murder on the Orient Express,” which became a major box office hit, securing the return of Hercule Poirot for Kenneth Branagh in 2020. And now there’s “Crooked House,” which doesn’t have the financial means to generate a grand whodunit, but it does have the better story, launching a sinister mystery that, much like “Orient Express,” is largely contained to a single location, simmering with a collection of restless, possibly murderous characters. “Crooked House” lacks scale, but of the two recent Christie efforts, it’s the tighter, more compelling endeavor, providing a jolt of evil to go along with all the psychological gamesmanship.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Permanent


Writer/director Colette Burson has a lot of nervous energy she wants to release with “Permanent,” wielding this coming-of-age comedy like machine gun that’s a little too heavy to handle. There’s quirk galore in the film, which details the pains of adolescence and adulthood from a possibly biographical standpoint, attempting to make a funny movie about characters who are trapped in self-imposed prisons of vanity and frustration. “Permanent” isn’t particularly funny, and Burson’s furiously idiosyncratic approach registers as borderline obnoxious at times, but the “Hung” creator does have a way with providing dimension for all characters, with interesting neuroses to periodically explore when the production steps away from cartoon behavior. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Strange Ones


To experience “The Strange Ones,” one must summon all patience humanly possible, as directors Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff (who also scripts) aren’t going to make the cinematic journey easy on anyone. It’s cryptic work from the indie film-minded duo, and paced deliberately, offering a slow leak of symbolism, heavy breathing, and enigmatic behaviors that often make the 76 minute run time feel like 76 years. Perhaps for some viewers, the artfulness of Radcliff and Wolkstein’s efforts might be appealing, with the picture refusing the comfort of appealing characters and easy answers. However, “The Strange Ones” isn’t much of a puzzle, often too laborious to inspire deep consideration, missing a fundamental screen energy that could help with all the layer-peeling going on.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Stratton


To create a big screen spy series takes a lot more than sticking to the basics these days. “Stratton” is the latest attempt to explore government heroism, taking inspiration from author Duncan Falconer’s series of novels, exploring the life and death struggles of the titular character, who’s part of the Special Boat Service. Such affiliation is rarely celebrated, giving the material something unique to help separate itself from the competition. Unfortunately, it’s the last defining trait in “Stratton,” which is quickly weighed down by clichés, most executed without an ounce of concern from director Simon West. He’s sticking to the basics with this globetrotting thriller, and while it’s far from a bad movie, it’s not an inspired one, testing patience as the production tries to pretend it’s an original vision.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Blame


A former child actress, Quinn Shephard has decided to take command of her career by making her directorial debut with “Blame,” which revives the sexual hysteria of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” moving the madness over to a high school setting, where such reckless behavior is daily routine. The script (written Quinn and Laurie Shephard) isn’t subtle with its scheming characters, with Shephard making a movie about a play, but can’t quite shake the theatricality of the production, leaving a “Mean Girls”-style approach to hallway antagonism, periodically interrupted by a compassionate understanding of the adolescent experience for teen girls. “Blame” has its heart in the right place, but Shephard isn’t seasoned enough to infuse the picture with necessary tension, often caught struggling just to fill 95 minutes of screen time.  Read the rest at