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April 2018

Film Review - A Quiet Place


While forging his directorial career, actor John Krasinski has stayed with odd dramas that focused on complicated behaviors and family issues. He’s remained down to earth with efforts like “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” and “The Hollars,” hoping to create challenging work in the realm of the real. For “A Quiet Place,” Krasinski turns to horror to make an impact, helming a chiller that’s executed largely without dialogue, relying entirely on sound design and silent cinema-style performances to summon an unusual viewing experience -- at least in a day and age when excess and loquacious characters are common in the genre. “A Quiet Place” is easily the best film Krasinski has made, and it features the finest performance he’s ever given, constructing a classy B-movie that explores the foundation of familial relationships, but also delivers sizable chills from total silence, showcasing a previously unseen ability to induce panic with minimal directorial flourishes. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Blockers


There’s a lot to fear about “Blockers.” It’s yet another improvisation-based comedy that traffics in vulgarity to come off edgy, joining a seemingly unending list of productions that view the screenplay as merely a starting point for random make-em-ups. And it marks the directorial debut of Kay Cannon, who wrote not one, but three “Pitch Perfect” movies. That “Blockers” is actually amusing, downright hilarious at times, is a multiplex miracle, finding Cannon better commanding a set than dreaming up punchlines. It’s a madcap endeavor with a few dismal detours into gross-out situations, but Cannon is backed by a charismatic cast and some universal truths on the state of teen maturation and parental control, overseeing appealing chaos as she joins the R-rated comedy gold rush.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Happy Anniversary


Writer/director Jared Stern doesn’t have a fresh idea with “Happy Anniversary,” becoming the latest in a long line of helmers trying to communicate the ups and down of a relationship with a brew of comedy and neuroses. There’s limited originality to the feature, but it does have personality, mining the perils of a longtime union with a fine sense of humor and steady level of concern. “Happy Anniversary” isn’t a Bergman film, but it does take bruising of the heart seriously, even while it’s making light of the situation, navigating hidden truths and stunted communication to find some fragment of authenticity in the midst of formula. Stern isn’t bringing out the big guns for his directorial debut, but he does achieve a lived-in sense of coupledom, which adds a little weight to the general lightness of the material.  Read the rest at

Film Review - The Titan


“The Titan” aspires to be thought-provoking sci-fi entertainment, but it has some difficulty generating the right amount of seriousness to support any messages it hopes to impart. Director Lennart Ruff and screenwriter Max Hurwitz try to stay on course with this tale of genetic evolution, but it’s not an easy task, finding the project missing a certain level of inspiration that raises it above a “Twilight Zone” knock-off. The first half of “The Titan” handles with confidence and mystery, but Ruff and Hurwitz don’t push hard enough to secure a satisfying conclusion. As monster movies go, this feature isn’t frightening or corrupt enough, but it does have a premise capable of producing remarkable weird science, making the viewing experience more frustrating than haunting.  Read the rest at

Film Review - 6 Balloons


I think it’s safe to suggest that Dave Franco hasn’t been challenged much as an actor. He’s done work as the dim-wit in many comedies, but the first inkling that there may be something more to Franco than stunned, slack-jawed reactions was found in last year’s “The Disaster Artist,” and now, with “6 Balloons,” there’s hope for a capable dramatic career to come. He’s joined by co-star Abbi Jacobson and writer/director Marja-Lewis Ryan, with the trio creating a film with immense emotional weight and surprising intimacy, achieving an artful and eventful tale of obligation as it transforms into something more profound between siblings reaching their darkest hour. “6 Balloons” is wrenching stuff, but it offers points of behavioral illumination to enhance the viewing experience, and there’s Franco doing his best work to date. Read the rest at

Film Review - Spinning Man


The truth, or at least the perception of it, drives most of “Spinning Man.” It’s something of a whodunit and not much of a thriller, instead sticking with intellectual debates on the nature of language while psychological unrest bubbles underneath the surface. It’s an adaptation of a book by author George Harrar, giving the feature a literary pace and attention to character, but director Simon Kaijser manages to bring some cinematic qualities to the talky picture, developing a mild amount of suspense with police procedural activity and domestic suspicion. “Spinning Man” isn’t a pulse-pounder, but it remains an intriguing study of denial, offering atypical attention to the concept of guilt, making a game out of questioning and memories, which provides a satisfying sit.  Read the rest at

Film Review - The Humanity Bureau


For his third film release of 2018, Nicolas Cage takes a trip to dystopia in “The Humanity Bureau.” Screenwriter Dave Schultz seems ready to give the actor a sizable role of dramatic expression and action physicality, but in the hands of director Rob W. King, Cage is often left to carry entire scenes with his highly rehearsed, paycheck-stroking enthusiasm. “The Humanity Bureau” has ideas it wants to share on the state of the planet and its futureworld slide into government-controlled barbarity, believing itself to be a commentary on modern woes. However, the movie has trouble selling the misery visually, finding severe budgetary issues pinning the effort to the ground, making it difficult to invest in whatever suspense manages to materialize during the run time.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Where is Kyra?


“Where is Kyra?” is not a film for everyone. Of course, such a warning could be applied to every feature, but this endeavor is truly something that’s not meant for a casual viewing. It’s the new work from Andrew Dosunmu, director of “Mother of George,” who teams with screenwriter Darci Picoult to inspect the desperation of poverty, tracking one woman’s terrible luck as she’s forced to go to extremes to protect herself from being swallowed entirely by debt. “Where is Kyra?” is a fantastically grim picture, but it has to be with this subject matter, as easy answers aren’t available for such a test of survival. But Dosunmu doesn’t take it easy on the audience, bathing the effort in shadows, distances, and long takes, hoping to find art in misery, coming up with a movie that’s meant to be challenging, but teeters on the edge of becoming unendurable.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - China Moon


After handling documentary duties with Lily Tomlin's "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe," director John Bailey elected to spice up his helming career with a red-hot noir. A respected cinematographer, favored by Lawrence Kasdan ("The Big Chill," "Silverado," "The Accidental Tourist"), Bailey constructs "China Moon," a lusty, twisty mystery that offers a little more visual heft than a Tomlin performance, taking the action to Florida, where characters engage in sex, lies, and murder. Bailey isn't redefining the beloved genre with "China Moon," but he does make a pretty picture, keeping the effort visually interesting while the screenplay by Roy Carlson struggles to keep things compelling, slogging through some tedious plotting. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Hangover Square


In his final film role, Laird Cregar, the star of "The Lodger," finds himself back in period London trouble in "Hangover Square," though it's a very different type of serial killer story. More of an obsession chiller than a tale of murder, "Hangover Square" strives to give viewers a stranger viewing experience while hoping to keep up momentum from "The Lodger," with returning helmer John Brahm working to spin the picture in a slightly different direction, going for more operatic conflicts than atmospherics ones.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Since You Went Away


While it's fascinating to watch World War II movies produced after the global event, the ones made during the conflict carry a special atmosphere, with productions trying to manage the jingoistic needs of the war effort with the more sobering reality of military duty. 1944's "Since You Went Away" is not a gritty offering of wartime observation, but the David O. Selznick-produced picture has its moments of honesty and concern, blending bits of reality in the overall melodrama, which gives itself a whopping three hours of screen time to take shape.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Indian Runner


After years spent making trouble for other directors, actor Sean Penn elected to take matters into his own hands for 1991's "The Indian Runner," assuming helming and screenplay duties, taking dramatic inspiration from "Highway Patrolman," a song off Bruce Springsteen's 1982 album, "Nebraska." Penn would go on to have an erratic career behind the camera (scoring with "The Crossing Guard" and "Into the Wild," but stumbling recently with "The Last Face"), but it's interesting to see early cinematic interests immediately taking shape, with this American tale of brothers and disaster blending the raw energy of a Cassavetes picture (the helmer is thanked in the end credits) and the screen poetry of a Malick movie, ending up muddled and heavy-handed, but not without stunning moments of pure visual communication. "The Indian Runner" doesn't feel like a complete story (an expected result when inspiration comes from a five-minute-long song), but it's not without beautifully human moments and certain directorial flair from Penn and his tireless ambition to put everything rattling around his head on the screen.  Read the rest at