Blu-ray Review - I Think We're Alone Now


Jeff Turner and Kelly McCormick are fans of the singer Tiffany, who scored major pop radio hit in 1987 with her cover of "I Think We're Alone Now," catapulting her to superstardom for a brief moment in time. Of course, a lot of people were fans of Tiffany back in the day and a few remain so as she keeps working on her music career, but for Turner and McCormick, the red-headed performer of sugary tunes aimed at a teenage audience isn't just someone they admire, but a woman they both want to possess. "I Think We're Alone Now" is a 2008 documentary from director Sean Donnelly, who dares to spend time with two people gently ignoring their severe mental health issues, following a path of delusion as they hope to make contact with Tiffany, pledging their eternal love for the singer, dreaming of a day when she becomes a permanent part of their lives. Whether this involves Tiffany being dead or alive is up to viewers to decide. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Good Book


1997's "The Good Book" presents a dystopian vision of a future where humankind is controlled by the internet, with a Big Brother-like organization keeping close tabs on the population. In 2022, this isn't such a far-fetched vision of reality, but director/co-writer Matthew Giaquinto is making a shot- on-video endeavor, limiting the reach of his messages on media control and isolation. And he's trying to make something of a horror film with "The Good Book," which dabbles in religion and ruin, hoping to provide a slightly more intellectual viewing experience while still tending to B-movie nonsense. Read the rest at

Film Review - Chang Can Dunk


The trials of being an adolescent are explored in “Chang Can Dunk,” which examines one teen’s battle to understand popularity and physical might after years of being viewed as a lesser individual. It’s the feature-length directorial debut for Jingyi Shao (who also scripts), who focuses on the business of being a kid in today’s world of social media clout and online harassment, juggling such pressure with a study of domestic woe featuring a distant mother and her wounded son. There’s a lot to “Chang Can Dunk,” more than the picture initially reveals, and Shao has the challenge of balancing the spirited ways of a sports film and the heartfelt moves of a family movie. Pacing takes a beating in the endeavor as two different plots compete over the run time, but Shao has something special with the cast, as charm and confidence jumps off the screen, keeping the viewing experience inviting as the story hits occasional turbulence. Read the rest at

Film Review - 65

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Screenwriters Scott Beck and Bryan Woods are often billed as the minds behind the “A Quiet Place” franchise, representing the greatest success in their careers as a filmmaking team. Directorial efforts haven’t been quite as special, with the pair recently in command of 2019’s lackluster “Haunt.” They receive a shot at the big leagues with “65,” a sci-fi actioner that carries a substantial budget and features a starring turn from Adam Driver, returning to a galaxy far, far away after years playing Kylo Ren in the “Star Wars” sequels. Beck and Woods have a premise worth paying attention to in “65,” which sets up a prime opportunity for a slam-bang survival movie featuring dinosaurs, fantasy tech, and a race against time. However, there’s something a bit off about the endeavor, finding Beck and Woods often downplaying thrill ride elements to explore character pain and burgeoning relationships, adding a lot of unnecessary pauses to the Big Chase, throttling the excitement factor of the picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Scream VI


2022’s “Scream” was a sequel to 1996’s “Scream,” with the release meant to revitalize a franchise horror fans lost interest in. The effort paid off at the box office, bringing the Ghostface killer back to pop culture prominence, and the producers weren’t about to let time get in the way of momentum, quickly ordering another chapter of the series. Just over a year later, “Scream VI” (we’re back to numbered installments now) is out to pick up exactly where the last feature ended, with returning directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, and screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick, hired to maintain the same atmosphere and tempo of “Scream” while continuing to dig deeper into the ongoing saga of Woodsboro hellraising, coming up with another series of chases, stabbings, and exposition dumps in a quickie follow-up that does very little with changes in location and urgency. “Scream VI” is more of the same, and perhaps that’s exactly how fans want it to be. Read the rest at

Film Review - Champions


They were once the Farrelly Brothers, but directing duo Peter and Bobby have gone their separate ways. Peter found his way to Oscar gold with “Green Book,” getting a taste of Hollywood regality in the process (promptly burning off all goodwill with “The Greatest Beer Run Ever”), but Bobby isn’t as interested in serious storytelling, remaining in full Farrelly Brothers mode with “Champions,” which is a remake of a popular 2018 Spanish picture. Peter looks to change how viewers understand racism, while Bobby stays with the fart jokes and manipulative ways that made him a millionaire, taking solo control of story that combines heart, sports, and comedy, hoping to make a crowd-pleaser. Such mass appeal might work for some audiences, but it’s difficult to get excited about “Champions,” which doesn’t stray from formula and doesn’t feel particularly endearing, getting by on soft humor and paint-by-numbers screenwriting by Mark Rizzo. Read the rest at

Film Review - Unicorn Wars


“Unicorn Wars” is a Spanish-French animated production about the eternal battle between teddy bears and their archenemies, unicorns. It sounds like a comedy, or perhaps a ready-made cult cinema title, but writer/director Alberto Vazquez takes the premise seriously, endeavoring to understand the price of war and the corruption of conflict with the picture, which is not intended for younger viewers. These teddy bears are ready to kill, amputate limps, expose their genitals, and curse, offering R-rated experiences for an audience ready to process the extremity found in the movie. “Unicorn Wars” isn’t a particularly commanding viewing experience, but it does register with creative visuals, strong voice work, and commitment to the concept, with Vazquez marching forward with this decidedly violent and wholly bizarre feature. Read the rest at

Film Review - Righteous Thieves


For a decent heist film to work, there has to be engaging characters, some snappy pacing, and something interesting to steal. There’s more to the genre, explored in numerous other movies, but the basics are key to support a diverting viewing experience. Screenwriter Michael Corcoran (making his professional debut) has the general shape of a thriller with “Righteous Thieves,” inventing a team of criminals working to do a little good in the world, using their skills to take down a villain and his collection of stolen goods. There’s a slight “Robin Hood”-esque touch to the material, but little else about the endeavor puts in the effort to remain memorable. Director Anthony Nardolillo hopes to juice up the viewing experience with some mild action and a final act journey into the business of stealing things, but viewers are forced to deal with unremarkable characters and stale banter, which doesn’t sell the electricity of the players and their specific game. Read the rest at

Film Review - Unwelcome


Director Jon Wright managed to do something exciting with a monster movie in 2012’s “Grabbers,” and he returns with another subgenre target, looking to revive the critter cinema with “Unwelcome,” which is being sold to viewers as a kind of “Gremlins”-style feature concerning the unusual activity of small beings and their enigmatic interests in a pair of new homeowners. The screenplay (by Wright and Mark Stay) commits to the creation of a backstory and society for the little menaces, but “Unwelcome” isn’t a free-for-all horror experience I’m sure many expect it to be. It’s much darker, with the writing working to develop a clear understanding of mental health issues before it unleashes knee-high threats, and even that takes some time to arrive. Wright wins points for keeping his picture quite hostile, but a natural slide to screen chaos with fantasy creatures is mostly avoided, making for an accomplished, but slightly confusing film. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Ritual Killer


Director George Gallo hasn’t been delivering decent work, with recent years devoted to ineffective thrillers and chillers (“The Poison Rose,” “Vanquish”), and he returns to genre duty with “The Ritual Killer,” which is credited to six screenwriters and 18 producers, gathering a full house when it comes to making creative decisions. The feature reflects such a populated production team, as various ideas and tones compete for screentime, only to face a painfully vanilla approach from Gallo, who doesn’t do anything to get the endeavor going. “The Ritual Killer” is cookie cutter filmmaking all around, providing a dull ride with dangerous and broken characters who all move so slowly and offer little emotion, they may as well be mannequins presented for limited posing. For a movie about a murderer, black magic, and traumatic pasts, nobody here is working up the energy to care much about it. Read the rest at

4K UHD Review - Used Cars


1980's "Used Cars" represents a "strike three" of sorts for co-writers Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis (who also directs). The pair were hot stuff in Hollywood for a short time, managing to befriend Steven Spielberg, using such partnership to make movies. However, nobody was particularly responsive to those movies, with Gale and Zemeckis's careers hit with the failure of their first endeavor, "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" (a sublime comedy), and they accepted part of the blame for the underperformance of Spielberg's "1941" (an underappreciated film), handling scripting duties. "Used Cars" was meant to build the boys back up (with assistance from Spielberg, here as an executive producer), handling a slapstick comedy about used car salesmen and their love of unscrupulous business practices, and while they provide a wild ride of one-upmanship and crazed antics, the feature's dismal box office performance kept Gale and Zemeckis out of work for years, finally claiming industry success together in a major way with 1985's "Back to the Future." The fourth at-bat changed everything. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Mind, Body & Soul


1992's "Mind, Body & Soul" isn't deeply considered work from writer/director Rick Sloane, though he's not a filmmaker all that interested in creating refined entertainment. He's a B-movie slinger, responsible for two "Hobgoblins" features and six installments of the "Vice Academy" series. It's during the production of "Vice Academy: Part 3" where Sloane hatched a plan to make a second picture during the shooting of the first, quickly hammering out a script for "Mind, Body & Soul," which definitely plays like a production that was pieced together in a hurry. A fuzzy take on Satanic cults and witness intimidation, the endeavor is perhaps unsurprisingly sloppy, providing more of a random journey of screen events, while performances are stuck with Sloane's undercooked screenwriting and static staging. It's a low-budget journey into the black heart of crime and sacrifice, but the helmer pays no attention to pace or genre impact. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Sporting Club


Even by "New Hollywood" standards, 1971's "The Sporting Club" is an incredibly bizarre feature. An adaptation of a Thomas McGuane novel, the material has been realized for the screen by Lorenzo Semple Jr., best known for his campy interests, helping to shape 1966's "Batman" and 1976's "King Kong." The writer's impishness is in full display with the picture, which examines the panic of WASP-y types dealing with counterculture hellraisers and the true influence of their found fathers, inspiring a war of violence and psychological breakdowns. "The Sporting Club" isn't an easy movie to appreciate, with choppy editing and limited storytelling restraining the dramatic potential of the endeavor. However, the overall vibe of madness is something to behold at times, giving the effort some surges of wild behavior and dark encounters, making the film more of a curiosity than a stunning summation of insane white people and their invented problems. Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Moonage Daydream


"Moonage Daydream" is not a documentary about David Bowie. It's a love letter to the musician, with director Brett Morgen ("Crossfire Hurricane," "Cobain: Montage of Heck") working to create a celebration of artistic impulses and philosophy, occasionally breaking up interview audio with songs from the iconic musician. Morgen builds a ride through the cosmos, spending time with the subject at various points during his career, but it's also attentive to his love of creation and analysis. "Moonage Daydream" isn't an education, it's an experience, and one specifically built for Bowie fans longing for another trip around the sun with a man of mystery and music, pursuing his elusive nature for 135 minutes of screen time, and often in the trippiest manner imaginable. Read the rest at

Film Review - Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre


Director Guy Ritchie has enjoyed a recent creative winning streak, pulling himself out of the punishing excesses of the “Aladdin” live-action remake and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” focusing on tight capers and revenge stories starring collections of meaty, loquacious characters, found in “The Gentlemen” and “Wrath of Man.” “Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre” keeps the good times going for Ritchie, who co-scripts (with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies) an amusing superspy adventure that does well with his usual interests in casting and threat. Ritchie’s cinematic muse, Jason Statham, returns to power in the feature, positioning him as a man of action, joined by a team tasked with taking control of an enigmatic doomsday device. There’s a James Bond-ian influence over “Operation Fortune,” crushed up with Ritchie’s impishness and love of tough guys posturing. The helmer doesn’t provide the tightest storytelling with the effort, but offers an entertaining sit with this globetrotting adventure into danger. Read the rest at

Film Review - Children of the Corn (2023)


I’m sure Stephen King had no idea that when he created a short story in 1977 about murderous kids in rural Nebraska, he would still be seeing movies inspired by it made to this day. “Children of the Corn” is back, but, in reality, it’s never really left, with producers determined to keep making adaptations, sequels, spin-offs, and whatevers for nearly four decades, with the last offering, the little-seen “Children of the Corn: Runaway,” released in 2018. There’s certainly big money in forgettable horror, and the brand name returns with “Children of the Corn,” which lands firmly in the whatevers category, with writer/director Kurt Wimmer (“Ultraviolet,” “Equilibrium”) conjuring his own take on King’s idea, and he has something worth developing involving poisoned land and abused kids. Unfortunately, Wimmer is lost with the feature, delivering an amateurish nightmare that becomes an unintentional comedy, adding another dud installment to the pile. Read the rest at

Film Review - Unseen


Writers Salvatore Cardoni and Brian Rawlins bring some technological complications to the survival movie with “Unseen,” which follows the panic of a gas station employee asked to help a nearly blind woman manage an escape attempt from her abusive ex-boyfriend over the phone. Director Yoko Okumura crafts a somewhat frenetic viewing experience, which offers a few hits of comic book-style escalation while trying to take the central crisis seriously. It’s a tonal challenge the helmer mostly lands, doing especially well with leads Midori Francis and Jolene Purdy, who supply excellent performances as frightened strangers, helping to secure a full sense of anxiety and humanity while the screenplay works to complicate a bizarre partnership. “Unseen” is a wild ride at times, finding its way with a unique take on video call assistance, reaching a few heights of fear and friendship during the mad dash to safety. Read the rest at

Film Review - A Little White Lie


“A Little White Lie” is an adaptation of the 2013 novel, “Shriver,” with author Chris Belden tracking the unique education of a mild man who finds himself in an incredible situation of mistaken identity. It’s a comedy from writer/director Michael Maren (“A Short History of Decay”), who portions out bits of humor carefully, playing with tone and timing as the story explores collegiate atmosphere and introspection. “A Little White Lie” struggles with some editorial limitations and unavoidable production challenges, but it emerges with plenty of laughs and an enjoyable handle on awkwardness. It also benefits from a solid cast, with most happy to follow where Maren leads, enjoying the idiosyncrasies they’re handed to play on this strange ride of personality and social and intellectual pressures. Read the rest at

Film Review - The Donor Party


“The Donor Party” is listed as a comedy, but it’s difficult to find any actual laughs in it. Writer/director Thom Harp has a COVID-19-friendly production premise, putting a small collection of characters into a single home for various adventures involving drugs, sex, and strained relationships. The screenplay isn’t too concern with delivering witty banter and punchlines, with Harp putting his faith in the cast to feel their way around the movie through improvisation, which, if put into the wrong hands, can be torturous to sit through. “The Donor Party” isn’t vicious, with the cast trying to do something with the weak premise, but their efforts aren’t enough to give this feature any noticeable entertainment value, with Harp basically filming rehearsals with this limp endeavor. Read the rest at

Film Review - Transfusion


“Transfusion” features one of the finest performances from Sam Worthington, who hasn’t exactly delivered riveting work over the course of his career. However, writer/director Matt Nable seems to understand how to work with Worthington’s practiced reserved, leaning into the insular ways of the actor, bringing out the best in him with this tale of an ex-military man fighting to deal with all the loss and destruction of his life. “Transfusion” has some difficulty deciding what kind of movie it wants to be, but there’s power here, especially in the first half, with Nable getting into the gut-rot pain of guilt and the frustration of communication, showcasing a particular escalation of danger for a character fighting to process all that’s happened to him. Nable handles the dark stuff very well, only slipping when trying to turn the tale into something more conventional, which isn’t as compelling as the human moments. Read the rest at