Film Review

Film Review - Jay and Silent Bob Reboot

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In 2001, Kevin Smith was handed 22 million dollars to say goodbye to his View Askewiverse creation, using the cash to create “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” a cameo-laden farewell to the lovable stoners who delivered silly business in movies such as “Clerks,” “Dogma,” and “Chasing Amy.” The boys from New Jersey were handed the spotlight for their final screen appearance, with Smith serving up a tight, wacky, and celebratory feature. The retirement didn’t last long (the guys were back in business with 2006’s “Clerks II”), but Smith is in a sentimental mood again, crafting another valentine to his most popular characters with “Jay and Silent Bob Reboot.” Taking aim at remake/reboot fever in Hollywood, Smith gifts his fanbase an intentional recycling of “Strike Back,” pantsing creative laziness with his own impishness, delivering a slightly winded but entertaining offering of exaggerated madness, with the whole thing dipped in nostalgia and sentimentality for maximum response. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Aeronauts

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There haven’t been many movies made about the trials of survival while working in the basket of a giant gas balloon, giving “The Aeronauts” a distinct identity in an increasingly crowded marketplace. That it’s a very engaging adventure is icing on the cake, with director Tom Harper (“Wild Rose,” “The Woman in Black: Angel of Death”) tasked with creating suspense and spectacle while dealing with the tight confines of the balloon. Based loosely on real events, “The Aeronauts” brings viewers high into the sky, exploring the mysteries of the mid-19th century atmosphere as two characters attempt to crack the secret code of meteorology, but the writing is also attentive to personal stories, creating a balance of intimacy and self-preservation as science and redemption is examined in this satisfying endeavor. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Pain and Glory

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Pedro Almodovar always makes personal films, showing little hesitation when it comes to exploring his fantasies, desires, regret, and hope on the big screen. He’s a sensitive director, but with “Pain and Glory,” Almodovar digs a little deeper into his fears, dealing with aging and death with his traditional compassion and gift for the movement of storytelling. There’s an enormous amount of life within “Pain and Glory,” which also represents the most lived-in feature he’s made in a long time, using the tale to work through private ideas concerning creativity and mortality. Aided by a sensational performance from frequent collaborator Antonio Banderas, Almodovar crafts another achingly beautiful effort that’s mindful of human fallibility, but also aware of cinematic possibility as it seamlessly weaves together experiences from the past and the present. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Zombieland: Double Tap

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Released in 2009, “Zombieland” managed to make some money with its comedic observation of a zombie apocalypse, finding co-writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick trying to maintain all the splatter the subgenre is known for while encouraging a steady display of silliness to secure audience appeal. The feature felt fresh at the time, striving to do different things with the undead while other moviemakers were determined to preserve as much horror as possible. While not revolutionary, the effort did the trick, but, weirdly, the producers failed to capitalize on the endeavor’s box office performance. A decade later, a sequel has finally come together, with “Zombieland: Double Tap” hoping to revive the recipe of gore and giggles for fans. Unfortunately, too much time has passed between installments, and Reese and Wernick don’t have much to say with their follow-up, which often plays like a series of disconnected sketches occasionally interrupted by zombie attacks. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Sweetheart

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“Sweetheart” is a cross between “Cast Away” and “Predator,” but made on a limited budget. It’s the second directorial effort for J.D. Dillard, who made his debut a few years ago with “Sleight,” which offered viewers an intriguing blend of sci-fi and criminal pressure, but failed to doing anything original with it, with Dillard soon leaning on cliché to connect the dots. “Sweetheart” also suffers a bit from familiarity, putting a frightened character against an unknown monster lurking in the dark, but Dillard simplifies his genre targets and deepens his mysteries with the picture, which supplies a gripping variation on the island survival subgenre. Dillard delivers on expectations when it comes time to craft a creature feature, but he’s also mindful of pace and discovery, constructing a more satisfying effort for his second at-bat. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

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Disney was in a special position many years ago. The release of 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland” went wonderfully, grossing over a billion dollars, but audience reaction was mixed. They marched ahead with a sequel, finally coming up with 2016’s “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and the expensive feature failed spectacularly. With “Maleficent,” the situation is similar, as the studio managed to make a giant hit out of their reworking of “Sleeping Beauty” characters, delivering a CGI-heavy fantasy experience that pulled in audiences, but didn’t leave a lasting impression for many. Gambling on ticket-buyer loyalty once again, Disney offers “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil,” which brings back Angelina Jolie and big visuals to wow the crowds once again, this time betting on the Halloween season to stimulate box office interest. Much like “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” “Mistress of Evil” doesn’t do anything different, once again providing a numbing viewing experience that’s mostly about creating noise and limp mythos to expand on a world that wasn’t very interesting in the first place. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Addams Family (2019)

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There's been plenty of attempts to do something with the works of Charles Addams, who originally created “The Addams Family” in 1938, offering single-panel cartoons of amusing antics featuring a macabre family. T.V. programs, movies, musicals, and animated shows have endeavored to interpret Addams’s imagination, and now the creepy clan graduate to a CGI-animated endeavor, with “The Addams Family” hoping to muscle in on “Hotel Transylvania” territory, giving all-ages entertainment a boost of the bizarre. While the production lacks the budget to pull off a truly gorgeous representation of the source material, directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan try to make the effort as amusing and spirited as possible, respecting the dark elements of the original concept while delivering modern cartoon elasticity. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Gemini Man

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It’ll be interesting to discover the overall reaction to “Gemini Man,” which is being marketed as a hardcore actioner, blasting “Will Smith vs. Will Smith” on its poster, offering audiences the showdown of 2019. This type of blockbuster entertainment doesn’t usually originate from director Ang Lee, who certainly knows how to put together a battle scene (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), but is always drawn to the deep-seated feelings of his characters, last seen on screen with the 2016 misfire, “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.” True to form, Lee doesn’t bring the wham-bang to “Gemini Man,” which is only berserk in small doses, striving to become more of an introspective piece on the strength of family ties and the unexpected conflicts of cloning. Even with adjusted expectations, it’s difficult to feel charged up over a needlessly talky, stagnant sci-fi thriller. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Lucy in the Sky

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In 2007, news reports followed the saga of Lisa Novak, who was arrested in Orlando for attempted kidnapping and several other charges after she drove cross-country to confront a lover who was cheating on her. What made the story special wasn’t the potential violence or mental illness on display, but the fact that the participants all worked for NASA, which is largely viewed as an organization for brilliant people, making the lunacy of Novak’s actions all the more delicious. “Lucy in the Sky” intends to be the dramatization of the Novak case, but co-writer/director Noah Hawley doesn’t want to get to close to the cartoonish highlights, preferring to create his own exaggerations and absurdities. However, before any self-destruction commences, Hawley demands 90 minutes of screen time to work through some odd visual choices and snoozy drama, making a movie about reaching for the stars that mostly drags along the ground. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Mary

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Last year, Gary Oldman accepted an Academy Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in “The Darkest Hour.” This year, he’s starring in “Mary,” which pits the veteran actor against a ghost onboard a small ship. Careers can be funny things sometimes. Oldman actually helps the genre feature reach a few of its dramatic goals, but there’s no reason for him to be here. This is not nuanced work from screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski and director Michael Goi, who are more interested in arranging cheap scares to accentuate the fright film experience, largely avoiding anything human beyond some tired, formulaic subplots. “Mary” isn’t scary, it’s much too familiar for that, but Goi isn’t inspired to take the haunted house vibe over the top, leaving Oldman and his castmates fighting for things to do while a feeble display of evil is slapped together. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Joker

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As a villain in Batman’s rogues’ gallery, Joker has been returned to repeatedly. He’s the classic archenemy, with a nuclear psychological profile that makes him a viable threat and a thematic counterpoint to the Caped Crusader’s own dalliance with insanity. In film and television, Joker has been portrayed by a number of talented actors, each giving the part a unique spin while still tending to the traditional madness of the character as it exists in the Batman universe. Co-writer/director Todd Phillips seems to be tired of the superhero norm, delivering “Joker,” an origin story for the Clown Prince of Crime that slowly makes its way into an abyss of mental illness, refusing the lure of Batman to remain with the villain as he samples the cruelties of the world, helping him to become the sadistic madman known to all. Phillips has a big idea for “Joker,” but he doesn’t make much of a movie with it, with the possibilities of the feature more enticing than the realities of it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - In the Shadow of the Moon

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Director Jim Mickle has enjoyed a career of varied projects, keeping himself challenged as he explores numerous genres and locations, with his last effort, 2014’s “Cold in July,” a sensational crime story. After taking a long break to deal with a television show (“Hap and Leonard”), Mickle returns to screens with “In the Shadow of the Moon,” which combines time-travel plot mechanics with social unrest commentary, and glazes the concoction with a detective story. The endeavor is a lot of things, with Mickle’s job involving the braiding of genres and characters, creating a compelling understanding of the impossible. He’s mostly successful, as “In the Shadow of the Moon” does just fine as a mystery and a fantasy, building to a suspenseful whole. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - 10 Minutes Gone

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With “10 Minutes Gone,” we’re back in Brian A. Miller country. The helmer is largely responsible for uninspired action fare for the VOD marketplace, trying to summon the power of Mann and the twists of Hitchcock with such forgettable endeavors as “The Outsider,” “The Prince,” “Reprisal,” and “Backtrace.” Miller never has strong titles to work with, and his output is largely cookie-cutter stuff, dealing with the same issues as bad guys battle other bad guys on the streets of an American city that offers the best tax rebate deal. For “10 Minutes Gone,” Miller visits Cincinnati, which provides the battleground for a heist-gone-wrong effort, while screenwriters Kelvin Mao and Jeff Jingle fail to summon a single thrill or nurture a passable mystery with the material, simply working through as many cliches as possible in 90 minutes. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Parts You Lose

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There are no major displays of dramatic firepower in “The Parts You Lose,” and the plot is simple, dealing with issues facing the main characters, without going beyond the core dynamic to pad the runtime. Writer Darren Lemke doesn’t go for flash with his screenplay, trying to land more of a literary atmosphere to the feature, which often resembles an adaptation of a young adult novel. “The Parts You Lose” may not have a fireworks display, but there’s consistency to the picture, providing a full sense of character and heart. The modest nature of the production isn’t a problem, as director Christopher Cantwell creates an inviting sense of tension and interaction, always preserving the human side of the story to best retain viewer attention. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Low Tide

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“Low Tide” offers a chance to watch a young filmmaker make a promising debut, turning to the comfort of a crime picture to deliver impressive visuals and some decent screen tension. Writer/director Kevin McMullin isn’t breaking fresh ground with the feature, which surveys a breakdown in friendship and communication as greed enters a sticky situation, but familiarity isn’t an issue here, as McMullin brings some freshness to formula, becoming creative with storytelling to shake up the norm when comes to kids getting in too deep. “Low Tide” certainly has some difficulty as it leaves a sense of realism behind to play with genre highlights, but there’s a lot to like in the movie, which McMullin keeps cinematic and alert. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Semper Fi

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There have been plenty of movies that explore the lives of Iraq War veterans, and most are the same, highlighting battlefield dangers and psychological despair while the brotherhood of service attempts to hold together. “Semper Fi” provides that viewing experience, but the difference here is an attempt from co-writer/director Henry Alex Rubin to transform combat shock into a tale of family ties tested by the prospect of a prison break. “Semper Fi” successfully avoids some of the repetition of subgenre, and while it doesn’t have consistency, it connects in parts, with Rubin working well with suspense and while detailing inmate horrors, wisely spending little time in the Middle East to survey a slightly different War at Home scenario. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - In the Tall Grass

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After the massive success of the “It” movies and other creative hits in “Gerald’s Game” and “1922,” it’s important to remind people that not everything adapted from the works of Stephen King is automatic gold. Exposing this often painful reality is writer/director Vincenzo Natali, who achieved cult fame 22 years ago with “Cube” and has failed to match it ever since. He returns with “In the Tall Grass,” which brings a novella co-written by King and his son, Joe Hill, to the screen, offering something spooky for the Halloween season. At 64 pages in length, there wasn’t much to the original material, but Natali doesn’t accept this reality, working to pad “In the Tall Grass” for a feature-length endeavor when a short film would’ve done the trick just fine. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - Sometimes Always Never

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It’s always a special time when Bill Nighy is allowed to connect to a role, utilizing his gifts with material that permits him room to stretch and find his way around. He’s a fantastic actor, but he’s been lost in work lately, taking a few random roles (including “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu,” and voice work in “Peppa Pig”) to pay the bills. With “Sometimes Always Never,” Nighy returns to his usual level of excellence, presented with a challenge to humanize Carl Hunter’s direction, which takes on a graphic, slightly unreal quality, giving a tale of unimaginable pain a storybook appearance at times. There are some strange creative choices made in the feature, but the cast, led by Nighy, is always excellent, securing emotion as the production teeters on the edge of cutesiness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - The Pretenders

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Two years ago, there was much ado concerning the release of “Blade of the Immortal,” which was promoted as the 100th film from director Takeshi Miike. While movie nerds questioned the actual production count, the point was clear: Miike likes to work, and he does so whenever he can. “First Love” is his third picture since “Blade of the Immortal,” and it returns the helmer to the world of crime and street justice, sending viewers through a twisty run of secret behavior, near-misses, and double-crosses. There’s a lot to Masa Nakamura’s screenplay, which doesn’t color outside the lines when it comes to establishing underworld threats, instead striving to be more exciting with unexpected events and character backstory, giving Miike something to massage between action sequences. “First Love” isn’t furious, but it does have plenty of crazy moments and violent interactions, creating bursts of adrenaline to support a somewhat uneven viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Film Review - First Love

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Two years ago, there was much ado concerning the release of “Blade of the Immortal,” which was promoted as the 100th film from director Takeshi Miike. While movie nerds questioned the actual production count, the point was clear: Miike likes to work, and he does so whenever he can. “First Love” is his third picture since “Blade of the Immortal,” and it returns the helmer to the world of crime and street justice, sending viewers through a twisty run of secret behavior, near-misses, and double-crosses. There’s a lot to Masa Nakamura’s screenplay, which doesn’t color outside the lines when it comes to establishing underworld threats, instead striving to be more exciting with unexpected events and character backstory, giving Miike something to massage between action sequences. “First Love” isn’t furious, but it does have plenty of crazy moments and violent interactions, creating bursts of adrenaline to support a somewhat uneven viewing experience. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com