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April 2018

Blu-ray Review - The Dark


Most chillers work very hard to conceal the identity of their primary antagonists. Mystery tends to encourage tighter suspense, leaving it up to the viewer to conjure images of evil before the real thing is finally ready to make its screen debut. 1979's "The Dark" states right off the bat that an alien is on the loose in L.A., killing potential frights as the production exposes what's really lurking in the shadows long before director John "Bud" Carlos is ready to expose villainy to the light. It's a mistake, the first of many in this tepid horror endeavor, which always seems more excited to highlight banal conversations than dig into the possibilities of its extraterrestrial enemy, offering only a lukewarm whodunit where everyone already knows whodunit before the main titles.  Read the rest at

Interview - Broken Lizard for "Super Troopers 2"

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When 2001's "Super Troopers" debuted, few knew who or what Broken Lizard was. The comedy troupe was offered mainstream exposure with their second feature, and while the movie managed to find a smaller audience during its initial theatrical run, it grew into a cult sensation when issued on DVD, inspiring the Lizards to consider a sequel. Other pictures were produced in the aftermath of "Super Troopers" (including "Club Dread" and "Beerfest"), but a proper follow-up never materialized. Now, 17 years later, Broken Lizard has finally returned to the source of their greatest success with "Super Troopers 2," a long-awaited continuation (opening April 20th) that reunites viewers to the pleasures of pranks, meow-laden law enforcement, and mustaches. 

Recently, select members of Broken Lizard visited the Midwest during their promotional tour for "Super Troopers 2," sitting down for a roundtable interview to discuss their latest endeavor. The conversation features Broken Lizard members Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, and Paul Soter. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Soldier Boyz


Once the figure of youthful idealism in 1988's "Platoon Leader," Michael Dudikoff returns to duty in 1995's "Soldier Boyz," maturing into a gruff leader of a makeshift military force. Losing all semblance of wartime commentary to march ahead as a boomy actioner, "Soldier Boyz" goes the "Dirty Dozen" route, mixing combustible personalities and mercenary challenges, with director Louis Morneau making sure to blow something up every 15 minutes, keeping the audience awake as they're forced to endure clichés between blasts of jungle-based hostilities. Read the rest at

Film Review - Rampage


“Tomb Raider” was released a few weeks ago, and now there’s “Rampage,” making this spring flush with feature adaptations of popular video games. However, with “Rampage,” the process to bring arcade highs to the big screen is a bit trickier, as the original 1986 release wasn’t exactly an open world game, offering players only the most basic in button-mashing entertainment. It was a chance to live out “Godzilla” fantasies, offering a simple showdown between panicking humans and gigantic monsters, with the pleasures of the game coming from mass destruction and growling antagonists. Turning the brand name into an event movie was never going to be easy, but director Brad Peyton only seems interested in creating noise, not excitement, as his helming duties here primarily consist of adhering to an embarrassingly crude screenplay and overseeing one of the worst ensembles of the film year. Read the rest at

Film Review - Andre the Giant


He was often billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” but it seems all Andre Roussimoff wanted was to be treated as an everyday man. It’s not an easy request when one is over seven feet tall and weighs nearly 500 pounds, but the documentary “Andre the Giant” does a fine job getting to know the person inside the incredible size, looking to explore just how Roussimoff became one of the most popular professional wrestlers of all time. It’s not an especially eventful story, but director Jason Hehir creates a portrait of a young man who used his extreme look to his advantage, finding a home in the squared circle, making a name for himself as a legend while searching for a place in society where, just for a few hours, he could experience a level of normality alien to his existence. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Truth or Dare


That writer/director Jeff Wadlow has managed to maintain a helming career for the last 13 years is impressive. He hasn’t made a decent movie yet, but Wadlow has been offered numerous opportunities to guide productions, making filmgoing painful with endeavors like “Never Back Down,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “Cry_Wolf,” and Netflix’s “True Memoirs of an International Assassin.” “Truth or Dare” is Wadlow’s latest waste of time, and it’s one of the most idiotic features in recent memory, with the director aiming to make a PG-13 horror event solely for the pre-teen sleepover audience. Its success is assured simply due to obvious budgetary limitations, but Wadlow has nothing to offer his picture, which is a chore to sit through, delivering an insipid story, overly emphatic performances, and complete lack of scares, playing to pushover crowds with the weakest production effort possible.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Borg vs. McEnroe


I’m not sure the world is ready for a serious study of tennis players reaching peak psychological strain, but the makers of “Borg vs. McEnroe” have set out to understand what goes on inside two of the finest players the game has produced. A Swedish production directed by Janus Metz, the picture endeavors dramatize a critical 1980 Wimbledon match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, but it doesn’t devote itself entirely to the ins and out of the epic showdown between rivals that attracted world attention. Tennis remains a priority for the production, but the screenplay (credited to Ronnie Sandahl) looks to peel back the layers on these famous men, working to understand their respective childhoods and personal drive to become the best tennis players around. A competitive battle ensues, but “Borg vs. McEnroe” does a sharp job holding attention away from the court, finding ways to keep personalities as engaging as the titular showdown.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Wildling


Co-writer/director Fritz Bohm crafts a Grimm Brothers-like tale in “Wildling,” which doesn’t set out to redefine the monster movie, enjoying a chance to play in the subgenre sandbox while dreaming up a few fresh ideas of its own. It’s a dark picture, often quite literally, and one with a plan to sneak up on audiences with scenes of unexplained behavior and baffling personalities, with hopes that when clarification sets in, the feature will have a tight grip on viewers. “Wildling” gets mostly there thanks to a chilling tone and capable performances, and while Bohm doesn’t always have the most original vision for the central metamorphosis, there’s a momentum to the endeavor that’s compelling, and its general direction toward macabre discoveries is periodically hair-raising.  Read the rest at

Film Review - 1945

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“1945” is a WWII film that examines a different type of combat, inspecting a range of guilt and paranoia as it imagines a community coming apart as the global conflict comes to a close. It’s silent warfare, and quite effective too, with co-writer/director Ferenc Torok taking a look at a unique time in history, when the fighting has largely ended and decisions made in the heat of the moment finally begin to show consequences, highlighting the near-casual cruelty that emerges once morality is muted by opportunity. “1945” is a dark picture, but its bleakness is necessary, with Szanto inching away from evil-that-men-do clichés to find something profoundly psychological that touches on anti-Semitism, mob rule, and the gut-rot of shame that comes with exposure to past sins. Read the rest at

Film Review - Marrowbone


“Marrowbone” is an odd cocktail of genres and cultural influences. Half the film reflects its country of origin, with the Spanish production pursing chills and ghostly encounters the local industry is known for. The rest of the picture plays like an English melodrama, with icy characters wrestling with unspoken desires, making dignity-decimating discoveries along the way. One could consider “Marrowbone” an ambitious effort in the manner it wants to sample softness and horror, but writer/director Sergio G. Sanchez (making his helming debut) doesn’t have the training to marry distinct moods, rendering the movie ineffective in both terror and heart, muting whatever eeriness is meant to emerge from this misfire.  Read the rest at

Film Review - You Were Really Never Here


In 2013, Lynne Ramsay was set to direct “Jane Got a Gun,” only to pull out of the production at the very last minute. There was much hullaballoo about her sudden abandonment of the project, with some speculating that Ramsay would never be permitted to make another movie. Proving her critics wrong, Ramsay returns to screens with “You Were Never Really Here,” an askew revenge story that feels like a personal purging of aggression from the helmer, who orchestrates many scenes of the main character bludgeoning men of power with a hammer. Rage flows throughout “You Were Never Really Here,” which provides a visceral viewing experience, but it’s not vital work from Ramsay, who returns to her screen interests and habits, covering artful ways with blood and noise.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Paterno


In 2010, Barry Levinson and Al Pacino teamed up for “You Don’t Know Jack,” which explored the saga of Dr. Jack Kevorkian and his controversial “death machines.” The picture was not only a riveting drama about a taboo subject, but it managed to make Pacino an interesting actor again, briefly snapping the screen legend out of his paycheck haze. Eight years later, they’ve reteamed for “Paterno,” once again detailing an unsavory topic with confidence, this time dramatizing the whirlwind around Penn State football coach Joe Paterno and his ties to retired coach Jerry Sandusky, a pedophile who viciously abused his trust with children. “Paterno” is already commencing a tightrope walk with this subject matter, but Levinson manages to dissect the case with care, exploring the murky waters that separate willful ignorance and permission. And Pacino does wonders again with a true crime part, generating a sense of downward momentum to a man who once stood with the football gods, only to see everything he worked for disappear over a hellacious weekend.  Read the rest at

Film Review - 10x10

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While it attempts to be a nail-chewing thriller, “10x10” doesn’t have much of a hook to reel the audience in. The screenplay by Noel Clarke (“Storage 24”) has the idea of a small-scale confrontation between two angry people, and he toys with perceptions of guilt and wild accusations, but it takes a very long time to get anywhere interesting. It’s a short film (80 minutes), so screen time is precious, but Clarke offers a lot of filler, which drags the viewing experience to a halt. Suspense is rarely summoned in “10x10,” but when it actually gets around to staging something more than silent reflection and everyday routine, it becomes the movie it’s ultimately endeavoring to be. But the payoff is not worth the time invested. Read the rest at

Film Review - Submergence


Wim Wenders is an artist, and he’s made some incredibly powerful films over the years, retaining his singular appreciation for longing across great physical and psychological divides. But when the director goes wrong, he really wipes out. Straining to retain some level of cinematic grace, Wenders flounders mightily with “Submergence,” unable to fully decode what appears to be a romantic tragedy of sorts, but really comes off as a study of insanity in various forms, crossed with touches of social and political commentary. Since Wenders doesn’t have the time or access to sit with each ticket-buyer and explain exactly what he’s going for here, much of “Submergence” remains frustratingly inert and vague, as though the helmer never wanted to commit to a single idea, instead offering several half-baked concepts with hopes something might stick.  Read the rest at

Film Review - An Ordinary Man


“An Ordinary Man” is the latest picture from Brad Silberling, who once enjoyed a major Hollywood career, helming titles such as “Casper,” “Moonlight Mile,” “City of Angels,” and “Land of the Lost.” Perhaps trying to shake off the mainstream movie blues, Silberling focuses on “An Ordinary Man,” which isn’t anything more than a filmed play, essentially handing star Ben Kingsley 80 minutes of screen time to chew scenery with extended monologues. There’s sophistication in the study of guilt and emotional isolation, but the feature is alarmingly simple and repetitive, with Silberling laboring to fill his effort with anything that could inflate the material into something substantial. Unfortunately, his instincts only conjure tedium, and while Kingsley rages until he’s red in the face, the rest of the endeavor struggles for oxygen. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Platoon Leader


While cinematic inspections of the Vietnam War were already in place by the time "Platoon Leader" was released in 1988, it's the awards-sweeping success of 1986's "Platoon" that's truly the reason why the movie came to be. Hungry for their own take on wartime misery and the death of innocence, Cannon Films brings an adaptation of James R. McDonough's memoir to the screen, but they go about it in a distinctly Cannon Films fashion. Instead of hiring a thoughtful person for the job, they bring in Aaron Norris, a man who's already had his way with Vietnam, helming "Missing in Action III," which starred his brother, Chuck. Instead of bringing on a capable star, they hire "American Ninja" hero, Michael Dudikoff, who seems like a nice guy, but can't quite reach imagined dramatic heights with this deathly dull actioner.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Whales of August


Some will watch "The Whales of August" for its dramatic content, but most coming to the 1987 production are most likely spending time with the picture for a chance to see stars Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Ann Sothern, and Vincent Price in action near their end of their respective careers. It's premiere time with acting legends, and director Lindsay Anderson understands just what he has here, permitting the ensemble to make the most of the feature, which is an adaptation of a David Berry play. "The Whales of August" isn't particularly thunderous went it comes to creating tension, and the story is practically nonexistent, but it does offer an opportunity to watch icons in motion, generating unusual chemistry with a tale that plays to their advanced ages, addressing the pain of the golden years, especially when true communication between loved ones is blocked. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Etoile


There's something about Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" that beguiles filmmakers, and long before Darren Aronofsky nailed the biggest hit of his career with 2010's "Black Swan," co-writer/director Peter Del Monte used the world-famous ballet to inspired creepy events in 1989's "Etoile." The duality found at the heart of "Swan Lake" permits an easy transition to genre moviemaking, and Del Monte, while not heading in an overt horror direction, sparks to the potential of a ghost story of sorts, merging dance with otherworldly experiences, generating a chiller that toys with reality, identity, and the blinding power of young love. "Etoile" has its issues, but its strangeness is appealing, with Del Monte finding stillness in the growing nightmare, taking cues from stage performances to introduce a sort of artfulness to a production that's poorly cast, and features a ridiculous ending that needs to be seen to be believed.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Pick-Up


1975's "Pick-Up" gives off the impression that it's going to follow the sexploitation rulebook, opening with a flirty standoff between a motor home driver and two young women who would do anything for a free ride. And, for a few moments, the picture maintains the B-movie allure, offering teasing glimpses of nudity and bad behavior, lubricated by marijuana and the liberation of the open road, shadowed somewhat by reminders of mysticism and strangeness to come. And holy moly, does "Pick-Up" ever get weird.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Isle of Dogs


It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since the last release from writer/director Wes Anderson, but the extended time between productions has returned the helmer to the world of stop-motion animation. Anderson has been here before, with 2009’s exquisite “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” but he’s not content to churn out a precise duplicate, going deeper into culture and oddity with “Isle of Dogs,” a highly bizarre achievement that showcases Anderson’s visual interests and methodical design work, darkened some by a semi-grim subject matter and fondness for pregnant pauses. “Isle of Dogs” seems directly made for true Anderson-Heads, but those in the mood for something completely different that offers extraordinary creativity and a sly sense of humor, this is a complex and deeply impressive moviemaking achievement. Read the rest at