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April 2018

Blu-ray Review - Ice Cream Man


Clint Howard has appeared in a great number of movies, but he was born to play the titular monster in 1994's "Ice Cream Man." It's the perfect marriage of actor and part, requiring Howard to go wild as a cartoonish creeper, flaring up his looks and bottoming out his voice to join horror history as serial murderer who spends as much time killing as he does crafting frozen treats. "Ice Cream Man" isn't an entirely successful endeavor from screenwriters David Dobkin (who would go on to direct "Wedding Crashers") and Sven Davison, who engage in a battle of tone, working to craft something scary that also plays like a "Goonies" sequel, unsure if they want to unnerve viewer or delight them with an adolescent adventure. "Ice Cream Man" struggles to find stable ground, but when it focuses on Howard and his grand commitment to the role, it delivers the genre goods, as wild-eyed and raspy as hoped for.  Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Cadillac Man


The cruel reality is that while Robin Williams was a brilliant performer, arguably one of the funniest men around, his taste in film scripts left much to be desired. We all have fond memories of "Aladdin," "Good Will Hunting," and "Good Morning, Vietnam," but 1990's "Cadillac Man" is an excellent reminder that Williams couldn't always spin gold from lackluster writing, starring in what seems to be some type of madcap hostage comedy, but mostly emerges as an unfunny, unfocused mess, and one that's depending on the lead actor to do some heavy lifting in the joke department. Perhaps director Roger Donaldson was looking for a change of pace after achieving more sobering box office hits with "No Way Out" and "Cocktail," but he's not the guy for levity, keeping "Cadillac Man" frustratingly muted when it comes to punchlines and inspired insanity, gifting the feature a sense of darkness that's all wrong for the manic mischief it's hoping to communicate. Read the rest at 

Film Review - The Week Of


It’s been a long time since Adam Sandler really scored with a comedy. He’s lost a lot of his goofball charm over the years with movies that either tried too hard to be heartwarming family entertainment or never had the proper slapstick vision to begin with. “The Week Of” marks the directorial debut for Robert Smigel, a former “Saturday Night Live” writer and the creator of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, and while he’s been on the Happy Madison payroll since the beginning, this is his first real shot a creative authority. The promotion is most welcome, with Smigel (who co-scripts with Sandler) creating a charmingly manic farce with “The Week Of,” playing with wedding build-up clichés and absurdity with remarkable fluidity and appreciation for non-sequitur humor. It’s a very funny film when it wants to be, and mercifully, such desire makes up most of the run time, refreshing Sandler’s screen appeal for a good two hours of decent laughs. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Kodachrome


“Kodachrome” is based on a New York Times article, expanding the essentials of reporting to create a warm viewing experience about emotionally mummified men. Director Mark Raso wins points for sincerity, and he’s lucky to have an actor like Ed Harris in the role of an icy artist in need of a psychological thaw, helping the production reach a few of its lofty dramatic goals. “Kodachrome” is a road trip and a domestic disturbance tale, with Raso trying to add as much honeyed glaze as possible without suffocating the viewing experience. It’s a fine film, but it frustratingly refuses to be a great one. There are fascinating avenues of toxic behavior to explore, but Raso and screenwriter Jonathan Tropper sand down the rough edges of the saga, working to extract tears, not build riveting drama.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Avengers: Infinity War


For their 19th film, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is looking to shake things up in a significant way. Marvel Studios has adhered to formula before, building a brand name with superhero feats of strength and crisis-solving, spinning an intricate web of characters and motivations. With “Avengers: Infinity War,” the company is looking to add a more pronounced element of surprise, uniting all the big names and fringe players for battle against a powerful foe, and one who’s capable of wiping out the universe with the snap of his fingers. Directors Joe and Anthony Russo try to make the specialty of the community effort unique, generating a sprawling epic that crosses galaxies and takes lives, ordering up towering action sequences and primal emotions, delivering the most psychologically complex MCU event yet. “Infinity War” isn’t concerned with endings, but as set-ups go, it’s a humdinger, going apocalyptic while still retaining familiar beats of humor, heart, and body-smashing confrontations. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Most Likely to Murder


I’ll admit, it has been easy to accept Adam Pally as a major player in the world of comedy. There isn’t much about him that can’t be found elsewhere, and his brand of improvisation has never thrilled or delighted. However, with “Most Likely to Murder,” Pally finds a perfect match of delivery to material, putting his slacker self to proper use in this comedy, which plays around with murder mystery conventions, but mostly concerns itself with silly business. It’s wonderfully hilarious at times, with co-writer/director Dan Gregor happy to keep the feature in a state of stupidity for as long as he can get away with, wielding Pally and co-stars Rachel Bloom and Vincent Kartheiser effectively, giving “Most Likely to Murder” a nicely defined sense of humor and horror before it returns to the particulars of a whodunit.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Supercon


How difficult is it to make fun of a comic book convention? “The Simpsons” did it brilliantly. “Ted 2” did it recently. And yet, “Supercon,” a film whose sole purpose is to pants geek culture and convention business, doesn’t contain a laugh, a satiric idea, or a single functional scene. Co-writer/director Zak Knutson is flailing from the first frame, in charge of material that has no sense of timing or structure, and its concept of humor is downright deadly. “Supercon” should be an easy lay-up in terms of plot and characters, but the writing destroys whatever potential invention was there to begin with, hammering the audience with a level of crudeness that transforms a wannabe romp into a punishing viewing experience.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Cartel 2045

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Writer/director Chris Le has a strong idea for “Cartel 2045.” It takes place in a futureworld where technology has advanced criminal interests, giving the unsavory and the violent access to unimaginable power and precision, making it impossible for law enforcement to do their job. Unfortunately, Le doesn’t have the “Chappie”-style money or the sheer helming power to pull off such an ambitious concept, which requires a lot more than good intentions and a crackerjack concept. There are a host of problems keeping “Cartel 2045” grounded for most of its run time, watching Le struggle to make the gritty actioner he wants to, often facing the constraints of bad dialogue (or none at all), budget CGI, and editorial slackness. There’s something here that has potential, but it’s never realized to satisfaction.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Little Pink House


“Little Pink House” is based on the true story of “Kelo vs. City of New London.” It’s a David and Goliath tale of a woman forced to fight for her own home when corporate interests and local government threaten to take it away through the use of eminent domain. Writer/director Courtney Balaker has passion for the battle, which explores basic American rights and human need, also detailing morally corrupt practices and abuse of laws that were never meant to be bent in so many directions. There’s a television movie feel to “Little Pink House,” but messages on spirit and community remain vividly detailed by Balaker, who seeks to create a war cry for injustice with the feature, reminding viewers how easy it is for one percent interests to steamroll over hardworking citizens when stacks of money are at risk.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami


Grace Jones has been a recording artist and general pop culture figure for over 40 years, but those who’ve stood outside her fame would probably find it difficult to identify what makes the icon tick. “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” isn’t a career overview or a very in-depth biographical investigation, but director Sophie Fiennes makes it a priority to deliver a seldom seen side of the artist as she approaches the age of 70, following her as she records a new album, dominates the stage, does the promotional rounds, and pays a visit to her family in Jamaica. “Bloodlight and Bami” offers outstanding concert sequences to refresh appreciation for Jones’s talents and blazing sense of style, but it’s also an intimate study of temperament and trauma, with the subject unafraid to showcase her impatience with world as she quests to realize her art.  Read the rest at

Film Review - The House of Tomorrow


There’s a particular speed of teenage angst that charges “The House of Tomorrow,” but it’s difficult to catch the vibe writer/director Peter Livolsi is shooting for with his muddled adaptation of a Peter Bognanni novel. The material strives to understand the rhythms of rebellion facing three adolescent characters, and Livolsi definitely achieves a level of frustration common with kids, especially during exploratory years. But there should be more to “The House of Tomorrow” than juvenile behavior, offering writing that cares for all the characters, not just the ones who haven’t turned 18 yet. While some ideas and design elements break through to make a decent impression, the rest of the feature doesn’t share the same distinction, ultimately presenting a limited representation of musical and domestic liberation.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Taking of Beverly Hills


While an anticipated release during the summer of 1988, few expected "Die Hard" to do much business, with industry coverage focused on the size of Bruce Willis's paycheck, not the masterpiece he was starring in. When "Die Hard" became one of the biggest moneymakers of the year, rival studios wanted their own version of the "Die Hard on a blank" formula, which began to take shape during the 1990s. Sure, we all have fond memories of "Speed" and "Under Siege," but there are countless forgotten rip-offs, including 1991's "The Taking of Beverly Hills." The picture was meant to entertain with rampant violence and make a big screen hero out of star Ken Wahl, and it's certainly a loud distraction, with plenty of mindlessness orchestrated by director Sidney J. Furie. "The Taking of Beverly Hills" is ultimately too one-note to compete in the subgenre, but it certainly has its heart (or fist) in the right place, with the production trying to generate as much mayhem as possible with the one-man-army premise.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blame It on Rio


There's always a certain degree of difficulty when translating French farce to American moviemaking. The graduation requires special handling to balance out European sensibilities, helping to rework certain sexual freedoms for audiences who may not be used to such forwardness. 1984's "Blame It on Rio" is a remake of 1977's "In a Wild Moment," with director Stanley Donen feeling the urge to translate an iffy premise for a comedy, helping the cause by relocating the action to South America, with its gorgeous locations and general celebration of the human body. The screenplay, by Larry Gelbart and Charlie Peters, attempts to preserve the French rhythms of the original work, but it's not an easy task, asking viewers to sit through a story that's not loaded with appealing characters, demanding a high level of silly business that isn't there. "Blame It on Rio" attempts its own take on a free-flowing examination of temptation and relationship woes, and while the cast is ready for action, there's not much here that works beyond a few one-liners and the visual appeal of the titular location. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Trouble Bound


In 1993, Michael Madsen was just getting started on an acting career that would find him playing all manner of squinting bad guys, stuck in a cycle of cinematic crime sprees that play to his natural way with brooding intensity. Coming a year after his star-making turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," Madsen starts to get comfortable with a loquacious crook routine in "Trouble Bound," forced to create chemistry with co-star Patricia Arquette for a road movie that's largely about their softening interplay. Writers Darrell Fetty and Francis Delia go the southwest noir route with the picture, creating a chase between bad guys and troubled people, but they only come up with half-baked ideas, creating a film that spends half its run time trying to be dangerous, and the other half fighting to be funny and flirty.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Traffik


Human trafficking is a major issue in the world today, with organization and corruption transforming kidnapping into big business, often occurring right out in the open. “Traffik” is interested in addressing the idea of human trafficking, but it has no real game plan when it comes to a thoughtful, harrowing study of crime. Writer/director Deon Taylor would rather make a B-movie than something that addresses real issues, and he’s not especially skilled at summoning suspense. “Traffik” is trashy and, most painfully, quite dull, with Taylor struggling to establish some type of POV when it comes to ugly business. A little portion of the feature wants to show concern for the real world plight of human trafficking, and the rest is content to offer DTV-style thrills and performances, quickly draining the life out of the picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Won't You Be My Neighbor?


“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is a documentary on the life and times of Fred Rogers, but it also acts as a form of therapy for the dark times we live in today. It’s one thing to understand what Fred was pursuing during his lifetime in children’s television, but director Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) reaches for a grander comprehension of the PBS icon’s work, where a seemingly simple man decided one day to give kids the confidence and communication they need to interact with the big world outside. It’s not a picture that can possibly avoid heart-tugging offerings of memory and adulation, with Neville managing to shape a complex portrait of an atypical human being. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” isn’t a valentine, but a necessary inspection of creative control, selflessness, and gushing concern for the welfare of children. Read the rest at 

Film Review - I Feel Pretty


With “I Feel Pretty,” star Amy Schumer wants to make an empowerment anthem for those who suffer from low self-esteem. It’s a fringe demographic, roughly 99% of the Earth’s population, and Schumer hopes to define the anxiety of body acceptance in today’s world of extreme glamour and continuous judgment from others. She also wants to make a date night movie. And a wish-fulfillment comedy. And a friendship melodrama. There’s a lot going on in “I Feel Pretty,” but the picture remains weirdly simplistic, following a strict formula for laughs and pathos as it attempts to relate to every last ticket-buyer. Schumer is a spirited performer, but this is her worst starring role to date, watching her struggle with a dismal screenplay that’s too broad and predictable to drive home intended messages on self-worth.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Ghost Stories


“Ghost Stories” is based on a play by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapt their own work for the screen. While horror material emerges from everywhere, the stage is rarely employed as inspiration for cinematic frights, giving the creators a quest to find some movement to inherently static storytelling. Three tales of guilt, fear, and the unknown, “Ghost Stories” does an adequate job with suspense, enjoying the chance to play extensively in the dark with completely rattled characters. Nyman and Dyson never dial the tension up all the way, but they manage to find pockets of high anxiety and strange occurrences, crafting a compelling descent into the unexplained and the forbidden, boosted by the occasional nail-chewing showdown between humans and the other side. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sun Dogs


Actress Jennifer Morrison makes her feature-length directorial debut with “Sun Dogs,” and she’s selected a very human story to launch her helming career. It’s a tale of dysfunction and confusion that’s familiar in many ways, and it also threatens a level of quirk to help the sameness of it all stand out from the competition. But Morrison doesn’t sweeten behavioral extremity to a sickening degree, delivering a vision for Anthony Tambakis’s script that feels as real as possible while still embracing the strange fantasy found in the plot. “Sun Dogs” is a peculiar film at times, and there’s really no way for the material to find a neat conclusion, but it connects with intimate moments, with Morrison preserving as much personality and private yearning as possible, keeping the picture away from becoming a complete cartoon.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Liquid Sky


It's interesting to watch a feature about alien activity that genuinely feels like it comes from another world. In fact, 1982's "Liquid Sky" is made on Earth, but co-writer/director Slava Tsukerman doesn't pay attention to such planetary limitations, masterminding a deep dive into art-world interests during the rise of the New Wave movement in New York City, coming up with a take on period tastes that merge in-the-moment filmmaking with genre touches, going the sci-fi route to explore the strange marriage of personal expression and self-harm. Tsukerman isn't making a movie about a scene, he's creating one with "Liquid Sky," which revels in its abstraction, blasting the screen with style and color, defiantly remaining out of bounds as it provides viewers with a specialized viewing experience, which resides somewhere between challenging and ridiculous.  Read the rest at