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August 2021

Blu-ray Review - Taxi Girls


1979's "Taxi Girls" takes viewers into a heated battle between cab companies working the streets of Hollywood. However, only the ladies of Pink Taxi have previous experience with streetwalking. "Taxi Girls" is a semi-comedy about the lives of prostitutes who decide to make their illegal business passably legitimate to outsiders, with the screenplay detailing the lives of employees who spend their days driving around, picking up customers for some quick action before dropping them off at their destination. It's the ideal scenario for adult entertainment, exploring the formation and commencement of a ridiculous plan for employment, and it's all quite amusing before a third act turn into violence dampens the cheery spirit of the endeavor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Reminiscence

Reminiscence 1

Lisa Joy is best known for her television work, producing shows such as “Westworld” and “Burn Notice,” dealing with gritty tales of detective work and future technology. Joy makes her debut as a writer/director with “Reminiscence,” which examines the sci-fi concept of living memories and works them into a hard-boiled tale of sleuthing, but with a more emotional push of lovesickness driving the story. The production offers viewers a new vision of American disaster, with wars destroying society and rising coastal waters increasing desperation, but Joy is also trying to pay tribute to the detective stories of old with “Reminiscence,” and she often fails spectacularly. It’s not easy to craft a twisty plot full of deceptive characters, but the helmer gets lost in her detailed visuals, failing to craft at least a passably compelling mystery for the main character, who’s put through the wringer in the name of love, but it’s difficult to work up the energy to care about any of it. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sweet Girl


The first half of “Sweet Girl” is as close to a Charles Bronson-starring, 1983 Cannon Films release as we’re bound to get these days. Jason Momoa takes a break from superhero duty to star as a husband and father raging against the cruel business practices of Big Pharma, who hold the key to survival for many sick people, electing to exploit such weakness for maximum profit. It’s a timely subject, sure to keep viewers interested in the beatings to come, but writers Gregg Hurwitz, Will Staples, and Philip Eisner don’t trust the simplicity of such a fight. The trio attempts to transform “Sweet Girl” into something more psychologically unexpected, hoping to challenge cliché while fully indulging in the sticky stuff. There’s fun to be had with the endeavor, but it’s not the head-slapper the screenplay imagines itself to be, doing much better in attack mode, digging into the frustrations of personal loss at the hands of greedy moneymen. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Protege


Martin Campbell isn’t a director with a particular style, and his commitment to storytelling hasn’t always been stellar. But he’s managed to bang out a career as a man of action, occasionally hitting greatness, including his well-regarded work on the James Bond adventures “GoldenEye” and “Casino Royale.” Still trying to regain his industry footing after the 2011 bomb, “Green Lantern,” Campbell reunites with at least some of his old timing in “The Protégé,” which is an assassin film that doesn’t always want to be an assassin film, periodically working on ways to come at the audience from unexpected directions. Campbell has his set pieces and explosions, but he also has a cast willing to play around with the material, with Maggie Q, Michael Keaton, and Samuel L. Jackson doing something worthwhile while the feature occasionally struggles to pull itself out of exposition dumps and needlessly twisty plotting. Read the rest at

Film Review - PAW Patrol: The Movie


“PAW Patrol” has been a very big deal in the lives of young children since its television debut in 2013. It’s never been one of those pop culture dominating brands, but to a certain audience of a certain age, the show is everything. It’s a little surprising to see it’s taken so long for the producers to take the exploits of the canine rescue team to the big screen, but “PAW Patrol: The Movie” is finally here, and director Cal Brunker isn’t about to waste an opportunity to thrill on a grander cinematic scale, offering an action-packed feature that’s all about the dogs in motion, working to solve problems and save people. The target demographic for this picture will be delighted with every frame of the adventure, but “PAW Patrol: The Movie” isn’t hard on parents and guardians, offering some humor, heart, and enough calamity to engage. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Last Matinee


We haven’t had a slasher film that deals with panic inside a movie theater in some time, making “The Last Matinee” a treat for those who miss such a setting for all kinds of hellraising. A South American production, the picture aims to revive an Italian feel for screen hostility and dark comedy, with co-writer/director Maximiliano Contenti trying to summon the great gods of giallo cinema to help inspire this wonderfully nasty horror offering, which isn’t afraid to spill blood and, well, do a lot more bodily harm during the run time. Contenti doesn’t have much money to create an epic, but he does exceptionally well with a simple chiller concerning a bad night for curious moviegoers in Uruguay. Genre fans should get a kick out of the effort’s grisliness and love for the exhibition business, working with the location to deliver a compelling nightmare. Read the rest at

Film Review - Rare Beasts


Long ago, Billie Piper was best known as a pop singer, scoring a few hits before transitioning to an acting career, focusing on television work, including stints on “Doctor Who” and “Secret Diary of a Call Girl.” Piper graduates to more career control with “Rare Beasts,” which is her debut as a writer/director, examining a sustained state of panic for a woman dealing with all sorts of personal issues and brutal relationships. It’s a bold creative step forward for Piper, who gives everything to the feature, trying to make the endeavor as raw and dizzying as possible without losing her audience. “Rare Beasts” is a tough movie, and it aims to address the female experience on many levels of consciousness. It’s not a tidy effort, but Piper’s ambition is something to behold, using her screen time to hammer on the senses and reach hidden areas of shame with a furious picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Night House


“The Night House” is the latest directorial effort from David Bruckner, who’s no stranger to enigmatic tales of suspense and horror, previously helming “The Signal” and “The Ritual.” Bruckner doesn’t stray far from his genre interests for his latest endeavor, delivering a journey into supernatural suspicion with “The Night House,” which combines domestic disturbance cinema with a ghost story of a more reserved nature, handing Bruckner eerie mood to manage. While it initially promises to become an exciting riff on spousal paranoia cinema, the picture only covers a few ideas concerning marital strife before enigmatic events come to claim the viewing experience. Still, Bruckner achieves career-best work here, establishing spookiness and palpable pressure on the lead character, who connects to several brutal realities in this effective chiller. Read the rest at

Film Review - Demonic


“Demonic” marks the return of writer/director Neill Blomkamp, who hasn’t made a feature in six years, last seen with the abysmal “Chappie,” which put his once promising career (which began with 2009’s “District 9”) on hold. Blomkamp made his introduction with a smaller movie that surprised a lot of people, and after time spent playing with large budgets, he’s back to the basics with “Demonic,” which was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic, inspiring a small-scale story concerning the inner workings of evil. It would be a pleasure to report that the helmer is back on his feet with the picture, but Blomkamp’s latest isn’t that confident. He’s approaching the horrors of demonic possession from a fascinating angle, but the production doesn’t trust its inherent weirdness, gradually offering generic scares and formulaic adversaries. Blomkamp loses his nerve with this one, slowly distancing himself from what actually works in the film. Read the rest at

Film Review - Habit


Bella Thorne is having her Nicolas Cage moment, working like crazy to participate in as many movies as possible. “Habit” is her fourth film in the last year, and this acting opportunity provides Thorne with a chance to play a conflicted character in the middle of a dire situation of faith and crime. The actual picture doesn’t cut deep with such moral and spiritual complexity, with co-writer/director Janell Shirtcliff trying to manufacture an offering of underground cinema, though she remains uncertain if all this should be played for laughs. There are elements of camp in “Habit” to suggest it’s one big goof, but Thorne doesn’t push the comedy, tasked with becoming the dramatic foundation for an endeavor that’s loosely made, prone to wandering around in a drug-induced haze. Shirtcliff isn’t laboring over storytelling needs here, aiming instead for style, priming her for a big career in music videos. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Ironmaster


Movie producers love a hit, especially when success belongs to another feature. The urgency to replicate an impressive box office take is found in 1983's "Ironmaster," which makes an attempt to become the next "Quest for Fire." The 1981 Jean-Jacques Annaud picture surprised a lot of people when it found an audience, and "Ironmaster" is here to sustain such excitement, only without the "science fantasy" angle that made the original prehistoric adventure endeavor so memorable. Director Umberto Lenzi keeps the cavemen and the mystery of the time period, but generally drops everything else, working to make more of an actioner instead, and one that details the formation of metal-based combat. There are more conversations in "Ironmaster," and a lot more ridiculous behavior, with Lenzi overseeing a repetitive effort that launches with enthusiasm but gradually runs out of things to do. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blastfighter


"Blastfighter" is an odd title for a picture about a man who's armed with a super gun, but doesn't even use the thing until the final ten minutes of the movie. Director Lamberto Bava sets up a potent revenge story in the opening moments of the feature, but soon transitions to something of a "Deliverance" homage with the 1984 release, putting star Michael Sopkiw through survival challenges near the Chattooga River in Georgia, even recruiting original "banjo man" Billy Redden for a cameo to keep up the comparisons. Unfortunately, Bava is no John Boorman, and while "Blastfighter" has select moments of compelling violence and steely performances, it's not a cohesive celebration of good vs. evil, dealing with undefined storytelling and blurred areas of heroism, and there's the long delay to the inevitable, keeping the endeavor more about breathlessness and bad dubbing than a rousing display of backwoods vengeance. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Last Gasp


Robert Patrick has experienced an erratic career of highs and lows, and he spent most of the 1990s trying to find his place in the industry after scoring the role of a lifetime, portraying in unstoppable T-1000 in James Cameron's "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." After reaching such a career triumph, Patrick became a working actor in need of employment, eventually finding his way to "Last Gasp," a strange 1995 DTV offering that blends indigenous tribal violence with a detective story, and one that also takes time to add some softcore sex scenes. Patrick puts in some effort, portraying a ruthless businessman undergoing a supernatural change, and he's the big draw of the endeavor, which often struggles to work up excitement over the lunacy it's selling. "Last Gasp" isn't a hoot, but it provides a few decent turns of plot to keep things passably interesting. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Prostitution Clandestine


In a slightly more playful mood, director Alain Payet strives to have a little fun with the oddities of the sex industry in 1975's "Prostitution Clandestine." Perhaps describing the endeavor as fun is overstating things slightly, but there's slightly less heaviness than "Furies Sexuelles," with Payet taking more of an episodic route with the feature, examining the experiences of photo models who also work as prostitutes, using this special cover to prevent exposure to authorities, leaving them at the mercy of the legal system. It's not exactly silly, but the Payet tries to keep things moving along, loading the effort with plenty of kinky connections and bedroom encounters, and its semi-lightness is welcoming. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Furies Sexuelles


1976's "Furies Sexuelles" is not a movie for a casual evening of adult entertainment. Director Alain Payet attempts to bring darkness to the picture, which concerns the psychological and physical destruction of a woman turning to prostitution to solve her financial problems, getting in too deep with distorted male sexuality and all the violence it contains. Payet endeavors to make a film that follows certain adult cinema demands, but he's also interested in creating a rough ride of kink play and disturbing behavior, offering more of a dramatic feature than one focused solely on titillation. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - 400 Bullets


Director Tom Paton has spent the last few years attempting to find his way through the film business with small-scale action and sci-fi endeavors ("Black Site," "G-Loc"), working with technology and small spaces to create escapism that favors some degree of excitement. With "400 Bullets," Paton (who also scripts) tries to remain earthbound, turning his attention to a double-cross story set during wartime troubles. The helmer wisely whittles down narrative complications to just a handful of pressure points, leaving the rest of the feature to mano a mano battles, shootouts, and light conversation. "400 Bullets" doesn't do anything new, but Paton handles familiar business with enthusiasm, looking to jazz up the norm with raw violence, eschewing tightly choreographed mayhem for screen hostility that reflects the urgent, confusing survival situation at hand. Read the rest at

Film Review - Free Guy


Shawn Levy hasn’t made a movie in a long time, last seen on screens with 2014’s “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb.” A vanilla filmmaker with a penchant for saccharine sentiment and editorial permissiveness, Levy tries his best to make “Free Guy” resemble everything else in his career, but he’s not able to completely extinguish the spirit of this amusing picture, which takes audiences into the battle zone of an open world video game, with one fringe participant learning to become a very big deal in the name of love. “Free Guy” has issues with overlength and formula, but it has Ryan Reynolds in the lead role, and his ability to play the wackiness and sincerity of the screenplay (credited to Matt Liberman and Zak Penn) helps to give the feature a kind of magic as it examines video game culture and business ethics, and often searches for opportunities to stage chaotic comedy set pieces. Read the rest at

Film Review - Don't Breathe 2


2016’s “Don’t Breathe” was a nifty little chiller. Director Fede Alvarez found ways to rework the home invasion genre, playing with sensory-based suspense and blasts of horror to provide audiences with a few jolts to go with their chewed nails. It didn’t need a sequel, but “Don’t Breathe” unexpectedly became a major hit, and the producers aren’t going to leave money on the table. Weirdly, they’ve taken their sweet time to create a continuation, with “Don’t Breathe 2” in the unfortunate position to live up to expectations set by the original movie, with Alverez handing helming duties to his co-screenwriter on the first film, Rodo Sayagues. It’s certainly not a quickie effort, but “Don’t Breathe 2” is as terrible as one, with the writers exhausting all their decent ideas five years ago, now offering a grotesquely violent, poorly acted, and abysmally edited feature. Read the rest at

Film Review - Ema


Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larrain went Hollywood with his last feature, 2016’s “Jackie,” and it worked for him. Creating an emotional and illuminating portrait of Jackie Kennedy’s strange days before and after the assassination of her husband. It was powerful work from Larrain, who kept himself together while dealing with studios and the awards circuit. Returning to Chile, the director delivers “Ema,” which offers him an opportunity to delve into complete creative freedom once again, this time examining powers of self-destruction developing between two people who once believed they loved each other, but now deal in bitterness and pain. The material details an emotional war zone for all the characters, and it’s sold with a free-flowing sense of bodily movement and darkness. Larrain scores another career achievement with “Ema,” which offers a hypnotic but deeply unsettling viewing experience, remaining artful throughout. Read the rest at