Blu-ray Review - The Taking of Beverly Hills


While an anticipated release during the summer of 1988, few expected "Die Hard" to do much business, with industry coverage focused on the size of Bruce Willis's paycheck, not the masterpiece he was starring in. When "Die Hard" became one of the biggest moneymakers of the year, rival studios wanted their own version of the "Die Hard on a blank" formula, which began to take shape during the 1990s. Sure, we all have fond memories of "Speed" and "Under Siege," but there are countless forgotten rip-offs, including 1991's "The Taking of Beverly Hills." The picture was meant to entertain with rampant violence and make a big screen hero out of star Ken Wahl, and it's certainly a loud distraction, with plenty of mindlessness orchestrated by director Sidney J. Furie. "The Taking of Beverly Hills" is ultimately too one-note to compete in the subgenre, but it certainly has its heart (or fist) in the right place, with the production trying to generate as much mayhem as possible with the one-man-army premise.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Blame It on Rio


There's always a certain degree of difficulty when translating French farce to American moviemaking. The graduation requires special handling to balance out European sensibilities, helping to rework certain sexual freedoms for audiences who may not be used to such forwardness. 1984's "Blame It on Rio" is a remake of 1977's "In a Wild Moment," with director Stanley Donen feeling the urge to translate an iffy premise for a comedy, helping the cause by relocating the action to South America, with its gorgeous locations and general celebration of the human body. The screenplay, by Larry Gelbart and Charlie Peters, attempts to preserve the French rhythms of the original work, but it's not an easy task, asking viewers to sit through a story that's not loaded with appealing characters, demanding a high level of silly business that isn't there. "Blame It on Rio" attempts its own take on a free-flowing examination of temptation and relationship woes, and while the cast is ready for action, there's not much here that works beyond a few one-liners and the visual appeal of the titular location. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Trouble Bound


In 1993, Michael Madsen was just getting started on an acting career that would find him playing all manner of squinting bad guys, stuck in a cycle of cinematic crime sprees that play to his natural way with brooding intensity. Coming a year after his star-making turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs," Madsen starts to get comfortable with a loquacious crook routine in "Trouble Bound," forced to create chemistry with co-star Patricia Arquette for a road movie that's largely about their softening interplay. Writers Darrell Fetty and Francis Delia go the southwest noir route with the picture, creating a chase between bad guys and troubled people, but they only come up with half-baked ideas, creating a film that spends half its run time trying to be dangerous, and the other half fighting to be funny and flirty.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Traffik


Human trafficking is a major issue in the world today, with organization and corruption transforming kidnapping into big business, often occurring right out in the open. “Traffik” is interested in addressing the idea of human trafficking, but it has no real game plan when it comes to a thoughtful, harrowing study of crime. Writer/director Deon Taylor would rather make a B-movie than something that addresses real issues, and he’s not especially skilled at summoning suspense. “Traffik” is trashy and, most painfully, quite dull, with Taylor struggling to establish some type of POV when it comes to ugly business. A little portion of the feature wants to show concern for the real world plight of human trafficking, and the rest is content to offer DTV-style thrills and performances, quickly draining the life out of the picture. Read the rest at

Film Review - Won't You Be My Neighbor?


“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is a documentary on the life and times of Fred Rogers, but it also acts as a form of therapy for the dark times we live in today. It’s one thing to understand what Fred was pursuing during his lifetime in children’s television, but director Morgan Neville (“20 Feet from Stardom”) reaches for a grander comprehension of the PBS icon’s work, where a seemingly simple man decided one day to give kids the confidence and communication they need to interact with the big world outside. It’s not a picture that can possibly avoid heart-tugging offerings of memory and adulation, with Neville managing to shape a complex portrait of an atypical human being. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” isn’t a valentine, but a necessary inspection of creative control, selflessness, and gushing concern for the welfare of children. Read the rest at 

Film Review - I Feel Pretty


With “I Feel Pretty,” star Amy Schumer wants to make an empowerment anthem for those who suffer from low self-esteem. It’s a fringe demographic, roughly 99% of the Earth’s population, and Schumer hopes to define the anxiety of body acceptance in today’s world of extreme glamour and continuous judgment from others. She also wants to make a date night movie. And a wish-fulfillment comedy. And a friendship melodrama. There’s a lot going on in “I Feel Pretty,” but the picture remains weirdly simplistic, following a strict formula for laughs and pathos as it attempts to relate to every last ticket-buyer. Schumer is a spirited performer, but this is her worst starring role to date, watching her struggle with a dismal screenplay that’s too broad and predictable to drive home intended messages on self-worth.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Ghost Stories


“Ghost Stories” is based on a play by Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson, who adapt their own work for the screen. While horror material emerges from everywhere, the stage is rarely employed as inspiration for cinematic frights, giving the creators a quest to find some movement to inherently static storytelling. Three tales of guilt, fear, and the unknown, “Ghost Stories” does an adequate job with suspense, enjoying the chance to play extensively in the dark with completely rattled characters. Nyman and Dyson never dial the tension up all the way, but they manage to find pockets of high anxiety and strange occurrences, crafting a compelling descent into the unexplained and the forbidden, boosted by the occasional nail-chewing showdown between humans and the other side. Read the rest at

Film Review - Sun Dogs


Actress Jennifer Morrison makes her feature-length directorial debut with “Sun Dogs,” and she’s selected a very human story to launch her helming career. It’s a tale of dysfunction and confusion that’s familiar in many ways, and it also threatens a level of quirk to help the sameness of it all stand out from the competition. But Morrison doesn’t sweeten behavioral extremity to a sickening degree, delivering a vision for Anthony Tambakis’s script that feels as real as possible while still embracing the strange fantasy found in the plot. “Sun Dogs” is a peculiar film at times, and there’s really no way for the material to find a neat conclusion, but it connects with intimate moments, with Morrison preserving as much personality and private yearning as possible, keeping the picture away from becoming a complete cartoon.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - Liquid Sky


It's interesting to watch a feature about alien activity that genuinely feels like it comes from another world. In fact, 1982's "Liquid Sky" is made on Earth, but co-writer/director Slava Tsukerman doesn't pay attention to such planetary limitations, masterminding a deep dive into art-world interests during the rise of the New Wave movement in New York City, coming up with a take on period tastes that merge in-the-moment filmmaking with genre touches, going the sci-fi route to explore the strange marriage of personal expression and self-harm. Tsukerman isn't making a movie about a scene, he's creating one with "Liquid Sky," which revels in its abstraction, blasting the screen with style and color, defiantly remaining out of bounds as it provides viewers with a specialized viewing experience, which resides somewhere between challenging and ridiculous.  Read the rest at

Blu-ray Review - The Dark


Most chillers work very hard to conceal the identity of their primary antagonists. Mystery tends to encourage tighter suspense, leaving it up to the viewer to conjure images of evil before the real thing is finally ready to make its screen debut. 1979's "The Dark" states right off the bat that an alien is on the loose in L.A., killing potential frights as the production exposes what's really lurking in the shadows long before director John "Bud" Carlos is ready to expose villainy to the light. It's a mistake, the first of many in this tepid horror endeavor, which always seems more excited to highlight banal conversations than dig into the possibilities of its extraterrestrial enemy, offering only a lukewarm whodunit where everyone already knows whodunit before the main titles.  Read the rest at

Interview - Broken Lizard for "Super Troopers 2"

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When 2001's "Super Troopers" debuted, few knew who or what Broken Lizard was. The comedy troupe was offered mainstream exposure with their second feature, and while the movie managed to find a smaller audience during its initial theatrical run, it grew into a cult sensation when issued on DVD, inspiring the Lizards to consider a sequel. Other pictures were produced in the aftermath of "Super Troopers" (including "Club Dread" and "Beerfest"), but a proper follow-up never materialized. Now, 17 years later, Broken Lizard has finally returned to the source of their greatest success with "Super Troopers 2," a long-awaited continuation (opening April 20th) that reunites viewers to the pleasures of pranks, meow-laden law enforcement, and mustaches. 

Recently, select members of Broken Lizard visited the Midwest during their promotional tour for "Super Troopers 2," sitting down for a roundtable interview to discuss their latest endeavor. The conversation features Broken Lizard members Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Jay Chandrasekhar, and Paul Soter. Read the rest at 

Blu-ray Review - Soldier Boyz


Once the figure of youthful idealism in 1988's "Platoon Leader," Michael Dudikoff returns to duty in 1995's "Soldier Boyz," maturing into a gruff leader of a makeshift military force. Losing all semblance of wartime commentary to march ahead as a boomy actioner, "Soldier Boyz" goes the "Dirty Dozen" route, mixing combustible personalities and mercenary challenges, with director Louis Morneau making sure to blow something up every 15 minutes, keeping the audience awake as they're forced to endure clichés between blasts of jungle-based hostilities. Read the rest at

Film Review - Rampage


“Tomb Raider” was released a few weeks ago, and now there’s “Rampage,” making this spring flush with feature adaptations of popular video games. However, with “Rampage,” the process to bring arcade highs to the big screen is a bit trickier, as the original 1986 release wasn’t exactly an open world game, offering players only the most basic in button-mashing entertainment. It was a chance to live out “Godzilla” fantasies, offering a simple showdown between panicking humans and gigantic monsters, with the pleasures of the game coming from mass destruction and growling antagonists. Turning the brand name into an event movie was never going to be easy, but director Brad Peyton only seems interested in creating noise, not excitement, as his helming duties here primarily consist of adhering to an embarrassingly crude screenplay and overseeing one of the worst ensembles of the film year. Read the rest at

Film Review - Andre the Giant


He was often billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” but it seems all Andre Roussimoff wanted was to be treated as an everyday man. It’s not an easy request when one is over seven feet tall and weighs nearly 500 pounds, but the documentary “Andre the Giant” does a fine job getting to know the person inside the incredible size, looking to explore just how Roussimoff became one of the most popular professional wrestlers of all time. It’s not an especially eventful story, but director Jason Hehir creates a portrait of a young man who used his extreme look to his advantage, finding a home in the squared circle, making a name for himself as a legend while searching for a place in society where, just for a few hours, he could experience a level of normality alien to his existence. Read the rest at 

Film Review - Truth or Dare


That writer/director Jeff Wadlow has managed to maintain a helming career for the last 13 years is impressive. He hasn’t made a decent movie yet, but Wadlow has been offered numerous opportunities to guide productions, making filmgoing painful with endeavors like “Never Back Down,” “Kick-Ass 2,” “Cry_Wolf,” and Netflix’s “True Memoirs of an International Assassin.” “Truth or Dare” is Wadlow’s latest waste of time, and it’s one of the most idiotic features in recent memory, with the director aiming to make a PG-13 horror event solely for the pre-teen sleepover audience. Its success is assured simply due to obvious budgetary limitations, but Wadlow has nothing to offer his picture, which is a chore to sit through, delivering an insipid story, overly emphatic performances, and complete lack of scares, playing to pushover crowds with the weakest production effort possible.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Borg vs. McEnroe


I’m not sure the world is ready for a serious study of tennis players reaching peak psychological strain, but the makers of “Borg vs. McEnroe” have set out to understand what goes on inside two of the finest players the game has produced. A Swedish production directed by Janus Metz, the picture endeavors dramatize a critical 1980 Wimbledon match between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, but it doesn’t devote itself entirely to the ins and out of the epic showdown between rivals that attracted world attention. Tennis remains a priority for the production, but the screenplay (credited to Ronnie Sandahl) looks to peel back the layers on these famous men, working to understand their respective childhoods and personal drive to become the best tennis players around. A competitive battle ensues, but “Borg vs. McEnroe” does a sharp job holding attention away from the court, finding ways to keep personalities as engaging as the titular showdown.  Read the rest at

Film Review - Wildling


Co-writer/director Fritz Bohm crafts a Grimm Brothers-like tale in “Wildling,” which doesn’t set out to redefine the monster movie, enjoying a chance to play in the subgenre sandbox while dreaming up a few fresh ideas of its own. It’s a dark picture, often quite literally, and one with a plan to sneak up on audiences with scenes of unexplained behavior and baffling personalities, with hopes that when clarification sets in, the feature will have a tight grip on viewers. “Wildling” gets mostly there thanks to a chilling tone and capable performances, and while Bohm doesn’t always have the most original vision for the central metamorphosis, there’s a momentum to the endeavor that’s compelling, and its general direction toward macabre discoveries is periodically hair-raising.  Read the rest at

Film Review - 1945

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“1945” is a WWII film that examines a different type of combat, inspecting a range of guilt and paranoia as it imagines a community coming apart as the global conflict comes to a close. It’s silent warfare, and quite effective too, with co-writer/director Ferenc Torok taking a look at a unique time in history, when the fighting has largely ended and decisions made in the heat of the moment finally begin to show consequences, highlighting the near-casual cruelty that emerges once morality is muted by opportunity. “1945” is a dark picture, but its bleakness is necessary, with Szanto inching away from evil-that-men-do clichés to find something profoundly psychological that touches on anti-Semitism, mob rule, and the gut-rot of shame that comes with exposure to past sins. Read the rest at

Film Review - Marrowbone


“Marrowbone” is an odd cocktail of genres and cultural influences. Half the film reflects its country of origin, with the Spanish production pursing chills and ghostly encounters the local industry is known for. The rest of the picture plays like an English melodrama, with icy characters wrestling with unspoken desires, making dignity-decimating discoveries along the way. One could consider “Marrowbone” an ambitious effort in the manner it wants to sample softness and horror, but writer/director Sergio G. Sanchez (making his helming debut) doesn’t have the training to marry distinct moods, rendering the movie ineffective in both terror and heart, muting whatever eeriness is meant to emerge from this misfire.  Read the rest at

Film Review - You Were Really Never Here


In 2013, Lynne Ramsay was set to direct “Jane Got a Gun,” only to pull out of the production at the very last minute. There was much hullaballoo about her sudden abandonment of the project, with some speculating that Ramsay would never be permitted to make another movie. Proving her critics wrong, Ramsay returns to screens with “You Were Never Really Here,” an askew revenge story that feels like a personal purging of aggression from the helmer, who orchestrates many scenes of the main character bludgeoning men of power with a hammer. Rage flows throughout “You Were Never Really Here,” which provides a visceral viewing experience, but it’s not vital work from Ramsay, who returns to her screen interests and habits, covering artful ways with blood and noise.  Read the rest at