Previous month:
January 2018
Next month:
March 2018

February 2018

Film Review - Early Man


Leave it to Aardman Animations to make a picture featuring cavemen that’s also about the birth of soccer. It’s typically strange stuff from the company that gave the world “Wallace and Gromit,” “Chicken Run,” and “Shaun the Sheep,” but the production offers a commitment to the absurdity, trying to find the funny in every frame of this stop-motion animated event. Significant laughs are missing from the mix, a rarity with Aardman, but “Early Man” delivers on charm and technical achievements, supplying a breezy sit with a bizarre premise, which marries sports movie formula with Monty Python wit. Director Nick Park aims for a slightly younger audience with “Early Man,” which is heavy on slapstick and exaggerated personalities, and while the film is perhaps something of a disappointment in the grand scale of Aardman achievements, it remains pleasant and periodically inspired.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Looking Glass


For his second release of 2018, Nicolas Cage goes the voyeur route in “Looking Glass,” which offers almost enough provocative moments to pass, only to weirdly pull back just when the effort hits major areas of disturbing behavior. It’s the latest endeavor from Tim Hunter, the helmer of “River’s Edge” and “Tex,” and a director who’s spent a significant amount of time guiding TV shows, gifting him ease with tiny budgets and small ideas. “Looking Glass” offers both, and it doesn’t emerge with any real sense of screen authority, but Hunter captures a few blasts of unguarded behavior and thriller-esque twists, laboring to make something exciting out of a slow-burn journey into the mind of defeated man. It certainly could be better, but it’s mildly impressive to watch Hunter make sure it’s not worse.  Read the rest at

Film Review - When We First Met


Adam DeVine is relatively new to the world of leading men, having previously shared shenanigans with larger casts in supporting roles (“Pitch Perfect,” “Why Him?”), and joining Zac Efron in 2016’s “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates.” “When We First Met” is the first time a picture is dependent entirely on DeVine’s charm, skill with a punchline, and capacity for emotional communication. Director Ari Sandel (“The Duff”) puts a lot of faith in DeVine to manage the inner life of the film, and it’s not the best casting in the world, with the habitual jokester trying to make a Jack Black comedy while the helmer attempts to nudge the tone of the effort to something more bittersweet. “When We First Met” has some positive energy and a tried-and-true premise ripe for silly business, but a little DeVine goes a long way, with the feature not nearly as hilarious or meaningful as it aims to be. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Female Brain


“The Female Brain” is an adaptation of a book by Louann Brizendine, a neuropsychiatrist who has spent the majority of her career studying the chemical changes in women as they encounter the daily worries of life. The material doesn’t seem like a natural fit for a big screen adaptation, but comedian Whitney Cummings, who’s never directed a film before, has elected to take on the challenge of turning science into entertainment. Obviously, Cummings strives to turn “The Female Brain” into funny business, giving her cast wide open spaces to improvise and horse around while the script struggles to manufacture something resembling a plot. Cliché eventually suffocates the movie, but it’s a long road of unfunny business before formula reigns, with Cummings and co-writer Neal Brennan arranging a pedestrian battle of the sexes where only the audience loses.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blood Beat


Most low-budget horror pictures tend to play it safe with narrative construction, keeping things simple to appeal to a wide audience, trusting in frights to define the viewing experience. 1983's "Blood Beat" does away with story altogether, submitting what should be an abstract extravaganza where anything goes because it simply can. It's filmmaking without rules, but something tells me the pronounced confusion of "Blood Beat" wasn't intentional. Writer/director Fabrice Zaphiratos has ideas but no real clue as how to implement them into a dramatic saga of psychic forces, deer hunting, and samurai armor. Instead of giving it all some thought, he makes a mad dash through nonsensical scenes and empty characterizations, almost relishing how little clarity the endeavor has to offer its audience. Perhaps some viewers will get off on the confusion, but to reach a point of comfort with Zaphiratos's randomness takes a substantial amount of patience I doubt few are willing to give. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Portrait of Jennie


1948's "Portrait of Jennie" is a romantic fantasy that's very careful to introduce elements of the unreal, opening with narration that debates existential questions and offers two quotes from philosophical minds to help set the mood. It's a lot of introductory work, but "Portrait of Jennie" is a strange movie (adapted from Robert Nathan novella) that requires the viewer to let go and join the narrative flow, leaving few answers to many questions. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Demon Wind


"Demon Wind" is not a great movie, but it's a fun movie. The 1990 release explores the mess of an evil encounter at a rural location, offering another helping of young people heading where they shouldn't, unable to successfully defend themselves during monstrous encounters. Perhaps everything in the film makes sense to writer/director Charles Phillip Moore (making his helming debut), but he's not especially skilled at providing proper exposition to help secure critical turns of plot. However, bouts of incoherence tend to add to the viewing experience, which is loaded with gore zone visits, macabre encounters, and bewildering events, keeping "Demon Wind" just absurd enough to enjoy. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Titanic (1943)


It's a story told time and again, but only once by the Nazis. 1943's "Titanic" is a German production personally overseen by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, who sought to undermine faith in the British Empire by detailing one of the most famous disasters in world history, only here the focus is not on loss of life, but English greed. More of a curiosity than a true extravaganza, "Titanic" doesn't come close to other dramatic interpretations of the incident, but it has a specific point of view that's perhaps interesting for students of history and German cinema. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - A Closer Walk with Thee


"A Closer Walk with Thee" is described as a "Homoerotic Evangelical exorcism film." Perhaps that's all the review certain viewers will need. It's a curious effort from writer/directors John C. Clark and Brie Williams, who are clearly after something with the work that concerns the uncomfortable relationship between religion and desire, with longing mutating into supernatural events during what's largely a static thriller. The helmers aims for a Lynch-ian mood of unease and askew sexuality, but they don't have the technical seasoning to pull off a few wilder ideas, keeping "A Closer Walk with Three" limited in its ability to beguile and terrify. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Fifty Shades Freed


What began as a tentative step toward the mainstreaming of kink with psychologically disturbed characters has now become a telenovela that fails to find a suitable ending. “Fifty Shades Freed” is the second sequel to 2015’s “Fifty Shades of Grey,” offered up as a trilogy closer to a film series that never started in the first place. The main characters have returned, as have the glory shots of unlimited wealth and sexual gamesmanship between people in dire need of therapy, with the production setting out to make the die-hard fans of author E.L. James’s work happy enough with the adaptation. It’s the execution of such absurdity that’s a real problem for director James Foley (returning to duty after 2017’s “Fifty Shades Darker”), who loses concentration on what little passes here for plot, shooing away dramatic interests to sell the basics in sex, soundtrack cuts, and product placement, with the occasional pout from the lead actors presented to remind the audience they’re still viewing an ongoing saga about broken people who should be legally blocked from seeing each other. Read the rest at 

Film Review - The 15:17 to Paris

1517 TO PARIS 1

Heroism is an amazing thing, and it should be celebrated as much as possible, helping to cut through the stress of daily life with reminders that when faced with unimaginable adversity, humankind remains capable of extraordinary courage. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos are heroes, bravely taking on a heavily armed terrorist onboard a train bound for Paris in 2015. They should be remembered, but “The 15:17 to Paris” is not the way underline their true grit in the face of absolute horror. In fact, nobody should be subjected to what this movie has to offer. Director Clint Eastwood has made his share of duds while helming 36 motion pictures, but “The 15:17 to Paris” is by far the worst film he’s ever made, fumbling a valentine to the three men who survived a potential massacre with a feature that’s shockingly amateurish and numbingly dull, while its overall disposability keeps the effort in a coma. Read the rest at 

Film Review - The Cloverfield Paradox


Bad Robot, a production company owned by J.J. Abrams, is trying very hard to make “Cloverfield” a thing, only they don’t seem to possess much of a game plan for franchise expansion, doing little original work since the 2008 theatrical debut of the first picture. In 2016, there was “10 Cloverfield Lane,” which began life as a low-budget thriller (originally titled “The Cellar”) with no sci-fi touches, only to be ‘roided up with “Cloverfield” juice and turned into a sequel, and a successful one at that, inspiring Bad Robot to return to the same formula with “God Particle,” a space chiller that’s been redressed as “The Cloverfield Paradox,” offering an even looser connection to the brand name than the previous chapter. Not helping matters is the DTV quality of the filmmaking, with “The Cloverfield Paradox” offering a wildly inconsistent tone and poor casting to bring its space station disaster to life.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Peter Rabbit


I'm fairly certain that when Beatrix Potter created Peter Rabbit in the late 1800s, she never imagined there would come a day when the beloved character be featured in an adaptation that includes a scene where Peter fights an uncontrollable urge to place a carrot inside Mr. McGregor’s plumber's crack. Trying to amuse families in a modern age, director Will Gluck cranks up the mischief and irreverence for the new Peter Rabbit, which quietly discards the delicate nature of Potter's work to charge ahead as a slapstick-drenched cartoon. It's not entirely unpleasant either, but purists might find themselves in a permanent state of pearl-clutching with this aggressive carnival of talking animals and bodily harm.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Entanglement


I’m sure the producers of “Entanglement” are in a difficult position when it comes to selling a semi-strange movie. The marketing is slightly misleading, depicting the endeavor as a Shane Carruth-style brain bleeder, but the actual effort is a bit warmer and funnier than expected. Director Jason James and screenwriter Jason Filiatrault set out to explore the power of chance and the comfort of delusion, but they don’t leave Earth for extended periods of time, remaining accessible as a relationship drama and a depiction of a mental breakdown, all the while adding human touches to keep the picture approachable. “Entanglement” has a few issues with revelations, but it remains a compelling march across a broken heart, examining tricks from the human mind and soulful needs, with James doing his best to balance the enigmatic with the completely relatable.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Permission


It’s difficult to make a lot of sense out of “Permission.” Writer/director Brian Crano has a vision to create an anti-romantic drama, examining the pressures that come with an open relationship, especially one created out of fear, not lust. It’s a provocative picture, taking an adult look at complicated pairings and the struggle of clean communication in a longstanding union, and Crano gets select moments right, especially when it comes to the internal churn of temptation and the head rush of reality when faced with sexual opportunity. “Permission” isn’t consistent with character and its resolution leaves much to be desired, but when Crano digs into the psychological muck with this premise, he’s generally far more effective a storyteller than when he relies on cliché.  Read the rest at

Film Review - The Ritual


“The Ritual” is based on a 2011 novel by Adam Nevill, but it plays like an update of “The Blair Witch Project,” only this time this time thirtysomething men are sent into the wilderness to experience the numerous horrors of camping. Characterization is strong in the picture, which showcases numerous concerns from a group of frightened men, but pacing is slack throughout, with director David Bruckner soaking in the juices of perilous travel but failing to secure a riveting sense of doom. “The Ritual” eventually arrives at a place of absolute danger and oddity, but it takes a long time to get there, with Bruckner strangely electing to simulate the extremely long and physically draining journey, leaving suspense more of an afterthought than a priority. Read the rest at

Film Review - Victor Crowley


It’s honestly great that Adam Green is determined to keep the “Hatchet” series going for a small collection of fans. It’s rare to find such dedication to a franchise that most people aren’t even aware of, with “Victor Crowley” the third sequel to the 2006 original, milking a derivative slasher concept for everything its worth. What began as a jokey horror experience has finally achieved its desire to become a sketch comedy show, with Green doing away with any sort of frights to make a painfully goofy and alarmingly small-scale continuation to an ongoing narrative that’s already coughed up everything it was meant to offer 12 years ago. “Victor Crowley” is crude, endless (even at 76 minutes), and made on the cheap. Fans might lap it up out of habit, but it’s bizarre to watch the “Hatchet” universe get smaller and sillier as it expands, with Green refusing to put a DNR order on his creation.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Hype


1996's "Hype" is a documentary that explores a musical movement while also participating in it. The subject is grunge, the groaning subgenre that rose from the depths of Seattle to take over a nation, giving birth to several artists that conquered the charts, while two, Nirvana and Pearl Jam, managed to dominate musical tastes for a few years. Director Doug Pray embeds with the artists, critics, and personalities of the northwest to achieve a greater understanding of the new dawn, giving "Hype" plenty to work with when shaping a study of sudden cultural domination threatening to suffocate a once vital and fiercely private music scene.   Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Dudes


Whatever one thinks of "Dudes," it's certainly not the work of a director who wasn't prepared. By the time she got around to helming the 1987 picture, Penelope Spheeris already created an indelible portrait of the punk rock scene with 1981's "The Decline of Western Civilization," using her experiences with antisocial and depressive behavior featuring the youth of the day to inform her next two movies, 1983's "Suburbia" and 1985's "The Boys Next Door." She was already well-versed in the language and stance of a disillusioned generation, making her a natural fit for the extended oddity of "Dudes," which blends the primal scream of punk rock with the cowboy liberation of life in the Old West. Granted, she's not completely able to tame screenwriter Randall Jahnson's wily imagination, and perhaps nobody could. The film is a mess, but a fascinating one, smashing genres together to create its own identity as a revenge feature that's more about the journey within than the squeeze of a trigger.   Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Rawhead Rex


"Rawhead Rex" was initially born in Clive Barker's "Books of Blood," a multi-volume collection of short stories that mined the darkest depths of depravity and horror. 1986's "Rawhead Rex" is a ridiculous movie, and a production Barker provided the screenplay for but has since disowned, and it's easy to see why. The author's insatiable appetite for poetic unpleasantness and violent sexuality is basically turned into an Ed Wood picture by director George Pavlou, who doesn't have the money or the time to treat Barker's imagery with the patience its deserves. Instead, he's made a monster mash with creature that resembles a man in a Halloween suit, and while the basic appeal of a B-movie is hard to discount, "Rawhead Rex" could've been so much more with the right filmmaking materials and concentration. On the plus side, the endeavor's aesthetic and thematic wipeout did inspire Barker to claim complete control of his directorial debut, "Hellraiser," released a year later.   Read the rest at