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April 2020

Blu-ray Review - Hotel Colonial


1987's "Hotel Colonial" is a forgotten film with known stars, sucked into the black hole of obscurity for features that just weren't strong enough to stand the test of time. It's not a particularly strong endeavor, with co-writer/director Cinzia Th. Torrini lacking an appreciation for pace and tense dramatics, but she's pretty good with oddity, making room for several bewildering moments that should rightfully attract fans of moviemaking strangeness in international offerings. It's not every day a picture comes along offering the sight of Robert Duvall in a blonde wig wrestling a python. There's a cult classic in here somewhere. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Disco Lady


Armed with $5,000 and two days to make a movie, and director Bob Chinn comes up with "Disco Lady," which tries to provide something dramatically satisfying for the viewing audience, but remains far more confident with bedroom encounters. Well, not exactly bedrooms, as most of the feature delivers sexual encounters in bathrooms and stock rooms, finding Chinn trying to make the most of what he's got. It's not the most inviting scenery, but the helmer is basically making the picture for lunch money, finding whatever corner and gently used mattress he can to get the job done. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Hard Soap, Hard Soap


Director Bob Chinn goes cheeky with 1977's "Hard Soap, Hard Soap," his take on network primetime comedies of the era. Instead of digging deep into the possibilities of satirizing such self-aware content, Chinn and writer John Thomas Chapman have an idea, but they don't develop it in full, aiming for something flatter with the picture, which is boosted by unexpectedly engaged performances, but lacks a defined funny bone. Read the rest at

Film Review - Trolls World Tour


In the grand scheme of animated movie box office performance, 2016’s “Trolls” didn’t exactly cause a commotion during its initial theatrical release. The picture did fine, but it was hardly a runaway hit, adding some monetary momentum with home media and toy sales. Dreamworks, never one to turn down a sequel opportunity, has reunited the fantasy gang for “Trolls World Tour,” which appears to be testing the potential of the brand name, to see if there’s an audience out there willing to keep the franchise going. The good news is that “Trolls World Tour” is a stronger endeavor than its predecessor, with the production more mindful of the elements that work for the features, increasing the use of blinding color, big musical moments, and Saturday morning cartoon humor. The production isn’t trying to make any daring creative choices here, delivering a simple, sunny continuation that’s merely looking to appeal to the core fan base with a more focused filmmaking effort. Read the rest at

Film Review - We Summon the Darkness


Just last month, director Marc Meyers helped to bring “Human Capital” to the screen. It was a somber look at pained relationships and grim secrets, with Meyers working to find emotional truth in the midst of a semi-soap opera, showing some hustle to keep the picture afloat. He’s back a few weeks later with “We Summon the Darkness,” which is a significant change in genres, leaving behind a faint sense of reality to make a small-scale horror romp featuring a cast of screamers and bleeders. Playfully using the Satanic Panic movement of the 1980s heavy metal scene to develop his own nightmare scenario, screenwriter Alan Trezza (“Burying the Ex”) offers initial cleverness before the feature becomes a showcase for panicky interactions. “We Summon the Darkness” doesn’t have a strong enough fear factor, but it’s a tidy presentation of evil behavior, with a few surprises to keep viewers glued to a story that’s big on prolonged scenes of suffering. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sea Fever


“Sea Fever” doesn’t have the best release timing. It’s coming out a few months after “Underwater” failed to attract any attention at the box office, sharing a similar fondness for oceanic horror. And the screenplay details one character’s struggle to maintain a level of quarantine on an isolated ship while the rest of the crew is in a mad dash to return to civilization, capable of spreading a terrible disease. That’s a little too close for comfort as well. The good news is that “Sea Fever” isn’t exploitative or all that concerned with cheap scares, electing to do major character work instead, striving to find the personalities involved in a strange situation of survival instead of simply hammering on viewers with screen aggression. While it has some pacing issues, the picture is accomplished work, with writer/director Neasa Hardiman (a television veteran) looking to bend a genre offering in unusual ways, disrupting some expectations. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Lost Husband


There’s a lot of competition for “The Lost Husband” out there. Aiming to appeal to a more sensitive audience with trials of the heart and mind, the feature’s premise seems pre-mixed for a Lifetime Movie, while its execution is more in line with a Nicholas Sparks endeavor, complete with tragedy, secretive pasts, and slow-burn romance. However, the material is based on a Katherine Center novel, with writer/director Vicky Wight tasked with adapting something that seems very familiar, left to find elements of the tale that might offer a little more emotional emphasis than the story is capable of delivering. Wight is moderately successful, but she does particularly well with casting, finding appealing actors willing to go where all this mildness leads. Read the rest at

Film Review - Why Don't You Just Die!


Writer/director Kirill Sokolov makes his feature-length debut with “Why Don’t You Just Die!” It’s one of those creative introductions that’s engineered to attract plenty of attention, and while Sokolov doesn’t make a horror film, he generates enough blood and bodily harm to best even the most potent scary movies. It’s a showy endeavor, delivering all sorts of technical gymnastics to keep the eye engaged, and it’s Russian to the core, offered as a slab of black comedy from a country that’s practiced in the tradition, with the writing getting extraordinarily dark at times. It’s the humor aspects of the endeavor that are debatable, as “Why Don’t You Just Die!” makes a distinct pass at being funny, but the jokes are strictly for those who find macabre games of power and intimidation amusing. It’s meant to be a cartoon, and one dripping with gore, but there are one too many moments where Sokolov is more attentive to cinematographic precision than inspired twists and turns. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Omega Syndrome


1986's "Omega Syndrome" tries to keep actor Ken Wahl viable as an action star. While not without charm and leading man looks, Wahl is the reluctant hero in the picture, which is scripted by John Sharkey and transformed into something sellable by director Joseph Manduke, tasked with becoming an authoritative bruiser in a film that's not entirely interested in providing a violent thrill ride. "Omega Syndrome" has the "Taken" formula, with a father losing his daughter to kidnappers, forced for fight for her return, and there's a certain entertainment value in the clash between Wahl's hesitant force for justice and the neo-Nazi scum who make the mistake of taking his character's only child. It's a blunt feature, but certain elements of the writing hint at a more detailed assessment of good and evil, giving the endeavor interesting moments of psychological clarity and idiosyncrasy before it plunges back into the escapism of an Italian-produced B-movie unleashed on the back alleys and parking garages of Los Angeles. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Opposing Force


While 1997's "G.I. Jane" nabbed all the headlines for its then-provocative story about a female struggling to make her mark in the male-dominated military, it's interesting to see 1986's "Opposing Force," which basically explores the same story. Granted, it's a less evolved saga of empowerment and pain, but screenwriter Linda J. Cowgill makes a valiant attempt to address the gender experience in the armed forces, creating a tale of a woman who wants to serve her country singled out by dismissive and predatory men. Because it was created in the 1980s, there's a defined vibe of exploitation to "Opposing Force," which isn't exactly taking a jeweler's loop to the equality issue, with director Eric Karson more interested in suffering and action as he tries to make B-movie with slightly elevated world awareness. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Justine


Virginal corruption is the primary goal of 1980's "Justine," with director Roberta Findlay creating an interesting mix of perversion and desire for the picture. Detailing the experiences of the titular teen orphan (Hillary Summers) as she's sent to live with her Uncle Steven (Ashley Moore), "Justine" uses the guise of dreamlike innocence to explore some kinky behaviors, with Findlay weaving something of a soft nightmare as Justine finds her way to satisfaction while enduring all sorts of aggressive situations. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Beast with a Million Eyes


1955's "The Beast with a Million Eyes" presents itself as a monster movie, only without a significant budget to do something more graphic in terms of creature creation, aiming to set a mysterious mood of unknown aggression. The Roger Corman production is actually more of an Animals Attack endeavor, examining alien manipulation on a remote California farm that weaponizes local wildlife. Keeping with Corman traditions, there isn't much action, but the general vibe of "The Beast with a Million Eyes" is just odd enough to hold attention, as limited resources encourage some enjoyably creative filmmaking. Read the rest at

Film Review - Coffee & Kareem


The directorial career of Michael Dowse has been difficult to follow. The helmer has made a few distinct impressions over the years, delivering the interesting “It’s All Gone Pete Tong,” and he built a genuine cult classic with the hockey comedy, “Goon.” He’s also had some duds, including last summer’s bomb, “Stuber,” which tried way too hard to be funny, ending up a laugh-less noise machine. Dowse’s sensitivity to silly business goes almost completely numb with “Coffee & Kareem,” which basically reheats the formula of self-aware action and riffing galore that ruined “Stuber,” only here the screenplay (credited to Shane Mack) falls apart right from the first scene. Profane and insipid, “Coffee & Kareem” is a bad title stuck with a worse film, making very little effort to become the semi-parody it wants to become, held back consistently by lame jokes, air horn performances, and Dowse’s inability to tighten the reins on the production and squeeze out some decent wackiness. Read the rest at

Film Review - Almost Love


Longtime actor Mike Doyle makes his feature-length directorial debut with “Almost Love,” concocting a small-scale relationship drama (he also scripts) that examines a collection of characters all experiencing relationship troubles in one way or another. Doyle plays to his strengths with the film, which is an actor-driven production that gives plenty of room to the ensemble to explore personalities and showcase their gifts in ways other helmers wouldn’t allow. While it has a tendency to lose focus on the group effort, “Almost Love” has feeling, with the writing and the performances going deep to examine the fragility of the human heart and the work required to make and sustain connections in the world. Sincerity certainly supports the endeavor while it slowly slides away from its initial concept of a community in distress movie. Read the rest at

Film Review - Clover


Jon Abrahams has been a working actor for a few decades now, with his most notable credits including “Scary Movie,” “House of Wax,” and “Meet the Parents.” Over the last few years, Abrahams has been taking back some control of his career, becoming a director with 2016’s “All at Once,” a post-9/11 drama, and now there’s “Clover,” which is a more direct shot at audience acceptance, delivering a mob movie for the Spring thaw. Screenwriting duties belong to Michael Testone, who’s seen his share of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Guy Ritchie endeavors, hoping to take the goodfellas subgenre for a spin, presenting a series of violent misunderstandings with “Clover,” keeping Abrahams busy as he tries to butch everything up. It’s not a tremendous distraction, but the helmer has the right idea for screen energy, keeping things on the move before the whole endeavor tries to aim for cleverness instead of directness. Read the rest at