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June 2018

Film Review - 211

211 2

For his fourth film release of 2018, Nicolas Cage plays a cop caught in the middle of a particularly violent bank heist, forced to use his law enforcement experience to survive the event. And Cage has to summon his acting experience to make anything out of “211,” which is a bland actioner, stranded somewhere between procedural concentration and network television heroics. Cage isn’t exactly straining himself to command this feeble effort from writer/director York Alec Shackleton, but he’s offering something to a production that needs all the help it can get. “211” has moments of ferocity, but it’s not a convincing thriller, with clichés too pronounced and severity watered down to make much of a lasting impression.  Read the rest at 

Film Review - American Animals


Writer/director Bart Layton made an industry splash with 2012’s “The Imposter,” saucing up documentary formula by adding some sense of theatricality to the work, blurring the line between information and performance. He’s back with “American Animals,” which is a similar endeavor, only here the emphasis is on drama, putting actors partially in charge of recreating a true crime event that occurred nearly 15 years ago in Kentucky. While Layton’s already made other film and TV projects, he seems intent on proving his cinematic chops this time around, keeping “American Animals” steeped in style and attitude, but there’s little else that sticks after a viewing, finding the material too manipulative and the story too familiar to successfully keep the effort from resembling anything but a showy director’s reel.  Read the rest at 

Film Review - The Gospel According to Andre


“The Gospel According to Andre” feels like a Marvel Studios-style payoff for subject Andre Leon Talley. Finally, the focus is on the Vogue editor after years of bit parts in other documentaries such as “The September Issue,” “Unzipped,” and “The First Monday in May.” Of course, Talley is a superhero in a way, and it’s about time someone recognized that, with director Kate Novack focusing exclusively on the larger-than-life personality, delivering biographical details and fly-on-the-wall footage, making sure that at all times, Talley is the star of the show. “The Gospel According to Andre” isn’t always stuffed with dynamic interactions, but it does manage to isolate Talley’s vitality and expertise, working through his history in the fashion industry and his childhood in North Carolina to paint a portrait of an unusual man who’s lived an extraordinary life.  Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Kills on Wheels


A Hungarian production, "Kills on Wheels" makes an effort to depict the physically disabled in a unique way. Writer/director Attlia Till takes a creative route while showcasing a story of crime and emotional dysfunction, using the conventions of gangster cinema to shake up the norm when it comes to tales that feature wheelchair-bound characters. "Kills on Wheels" has its share of dark comedy, also highlighting blasts of violence, but there's an emotional foundation poured by Till that gives the material a little more to do than simply tend to formula, trying to form living, breathing characters to go with modest exploitation interests. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - The Return


It's hard to imagine director Greydon Clark didn't have Steven Spielberg's 1977 masterpiece, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," in mind when made 1980's "The Return." The film opens with a similar mood and visual style, watching a mysterious, glowing alien ship emerge from the sky to dazzle a few Earthlings before rocketing away. However, the production stops trying to manufacture awe soon after, switching to a more affordable invasion story, and one that favors chills over curiosity, with Clark more interested in breaking glass and shooting guns.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - 68 Kill


Shock value is easy, and it seems to work the best when there's thought put into it, with clever filmmakers managing to create a big screen mess and keep their effort somewhat approachable, either through dark comedy or dimensional characterization. "68 Kill" brings a cannon to a knife fight, with writer/director Trent Haaga trying his best to make the most repellent feature imaginable, focusing on pure ugliness as a way to achieve irreverence, making an exploitation movie for an age when such juvenile aggression is no longer a special event. Adapting a novel by Bryan Smith, Haaga is looking to master an atmosphere that showcases gruesome events and toxic behavior, yet somehow remains humorous enough for the endeavor to qualify as a comedy. "68 Kill" is specialized product for a certain type of genre fan, but boy howdy, does it ever test patience as Haaga stumbles blindly from one scene to the next.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Lucifer's Women


In 1978, director Al Adamson was tasked with turning 1974's "Lucifer's Women" into a different picture, effectively burying the earlier production (directed by Paul Aratow), which, apparently, never saw the light of day. The restoration efforts of Vinegar Syndrome have returned "Lucifer's Women" to life, bringing the "lost" feature to Blu-ray along with Adamson's "Doctor Dracula," offering cult film fans their first opportunity to watch both incarnations of the Aratow endeavor, with the first pass more of a softcore satanic panic chiller, while the second pass goes goofball with a patchwork quilt of exposition and additional characters, with Adamson laboring to leave his fingerprints on another helmer's work. It's not exactly a thrilling cinematic discovery, but for those who live for B-movie archaeology, this is a suitably strange viewing experience.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Action Point


At this point, there probably won’t be another “Jackass” sequel. The guys are getting up there in age, and wear and tear on the body isn’t a party in your forties. Johnny Knoxville seems to understand the shelf life of his stunt days, working to build a bridge between self-harm and acting with “Action Point,” which isn’t a sequel to 2013’s “Bad Grandpa,” but shares a similar interest in pranks and stunts, mixed in with some relaxed Knoxville mischief. “Bad Grandpa” was a surprise, offering good-natured nonsense and decent direction for its type of entertainment. “Action Point” is the opposite, handling a surefire concept with low energy and a limited appreciation for the finer points of slapstick. It’s not fun, which is a bewildering response to a movie that sets Knoxville and a cast of goons loose inside an amusement park where safety is of no concern. Read the rest at