"Queen Margot" Has Your Westeros Fix Review

Having only just finished watching the most recent season, and having finished the books quite some time ago, I find myself once again in the throes of Game of Thrones withdrawal. Symptoms include checking the Twitter feed of George R.R. Martin’s editor, Anne Groell, to see if there any hints or updates as to when The Winds of Winter will finally be published, scouring message boards full of excessively detailed fan theories as an alternative to an actual book by the man himself, and even cooking up recipes from my Game of Thrones cookbook. (It's medieval meat pie night!) However, recently I watched a film that checks most of the boxes that one would require in a proper Game of Thrones substitute: Complicated power struggles! Graphic bloody violence! Borderline incest! Not-borderline sex! Sadly, there are no dragons--instead, one gets an education, as this story is based on actual history, of France rather than that of Westeros. It is Queen Margot, released on Blu-ray by the Cohen Film Group to commemorate the award-winning film’s 20th anniversary.

Sep
11
2014
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"Michael King" Could Use An Exorcist, Or A Script Review

The Possession of Michael King follows in the rich tradition of “possession” films (like The Possession of David O’Reilly, 2010; The Possession, 2012) in exploring demonic possession through generally “authentic” means. In Michael King’s case, the authenticity is derived by Michael’s (Shane Johnson) documentarian skills, which capitalize on the amateur camera trend in horror films today. At least in this case, Johnson is a handsome man who makes for an attractive subject at the center of the film—that is, until, his demonic possession drives him haggard.

Sep
11
2014
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How Do You Say Boring In Italian? "Closed Circuit Extreme" Review

The amateur camera trend in horror films has now extended to Italy for “Circuito chiuso,” or Closed Circuit Extreme as its English name. While not actually in spoken Italian, the characters speak English with such heavy Italian accents that the film still requires subtitles. But, surprisingly, that’s the least egregious aspect of Closed Circuit Extreme.

As films continue to strive for authenticity, Closed Circuit purports to tell the closed file case of two vigilante friends trying to find the suspected serial killer who killed their friend. Lots of expositional information is delivered as case information that serves as the easy way to reveal each of the limited characters in the film. But with such a limited scope, the film almost could not make sense without it.

Sep
11
2014
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There's A Lot To Clean Up In The "Aftermath" Review

There is no government anymore, Brad!

In the right-wing mania, there lies a deep and abiding fear of the end of days. It may be religious, semi-religious, or xenophobic, but somebody somewhere will cause something horrible to happen and nobody is going to be ready for it. Except me! Aftermath (2012) a fictional enabler of this vague and violent fear, plays out the World War II scenario of nuclear warfare in north Texas. The leader, a med student (C.J. Thomason), seems preternaturally aware of their needs and the details of nuclear fallout. Also, the luckiest person in the world, he picks up a diesel truck, two pretty girls, and tons of supplies in very short order. The real danger, as all paranoiacs know, is humanity itself. People loot, rape, and kill when society's formal structures disintegrate. While the doctor explicitly tells one character that this isn't a zombie movie, I'm afraid that diagnosis was premature. Roving bands of physically scarred barbarians laying siege to a gender-balanced group of strangers? It's a zombie movie.

Sep
11
2014
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"The Legend Of Shelby The Swamp Man" Won't Likely Be Passed Down Review

The latest effort by History to fill its programming slate with as little historical content as possible is The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man, a comical reality series spun off from the network’s hit show Ax Men. The show chronicles what Shelby Stanga, the owner of Swamp Man Logging, gets up to at home in the Bayou when he is not logging. This includes buying a pirate ship to be his new home after his houseboat is destroyed in a hurricane, helping a well-to-do family rid their house of a swamp rat infestation, and hiring a surprisingly preppy voodoo priestess to cleanse the ship of any spirits. He punctuates these shenanigans with frequent outbursts of catchphrases like “Son of a bitch!” and “Here we go!” in his nearly-indecipherable but always enthusiastic twang. A character in every sense of the word, Shelby is the kind of guy who gets bitten by a poisonous snake and reacts by biting the snake’s head off and sticking its corpse in his pants pocket so he can cook it for dinner later.

Sep
11
2014
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"Bee People" Tickle Rather Than Sting Review

You become an instant badass when you're a beekeeper.

Honey bees are disappearing. In North America, the losses in commercial hives may be as high as 60%. While the loss of a sometimes-pest may not cause immediate concern, it is in fact a issue of some import. Bees pollinate more than pretty flowers. "The honey bee is responsible for 33% of everything you eat," says the narrator of Bee People (2014). The film begins with this dire warning. It then proceeds to show you the solution, of which you can be a part, with three of the sweetest midwestern bee nuts you could ever hope to meet. While the idea of a low budget advocacy film seems like a vast waste of time, Bee People is actually a far more entertaining and productive watch than 80% of what passes for infotainment on cable.

Sep
11
2014
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"Locke" Locks It Down Review

I have a list of things I have to do tonight.

Steven Knight's Locke (2014) centers on a single paradox: doing the right thing about a wrong thing. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), half-Russian philosopher and construction foreman, has decided to leave his loving family and beloved job to be with his pregnant "mistress" (Olivia Colman) who is going into labor. He ain't happy about it, but has made the decision to do the right thing and handle the fallout during his hour and a half drive to London. He juggles phone calls along the way, organizing a massive but delicate concrete pour (through his near-feckless assistant (Andrew Scott)), calming his neurotic mistress, and trying to limit the damage at home. The symbols and metaphors run as deep as a sky rise's foundation leaving even the worst English student in no doubt, but a powerful performance from Tom Hardy and a surprisingly gripping script from Steven Knight makes for a great film.

Sep
09
2014
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"Blood Glacier" Wins 2014's Truth In Advertising Award Review

Some movie titles leave very little to the imagination. This kind of bluntness can be refreshingly clarifying when one is trying to decide what to watch. For instance, one only needs to hear the name Love Story to know that if you’re not into romances, you ought to stay away. Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Horror fans, rejoice--methinks there will be blood. And Texans. Hot Tub Time Machine? You get the picture. Such was my train of thought when I popped Blood Glacier into my DVD player, and goodness knows, the film did not disappoint. It is not trying to do anything obtuse or symbolic. It is not secretly warm and fuzzy. No, it is exactly what its title says it is--a movie about a glacier in that oozes blood. What is surprising, however, is how enjoyable the movie is. In fact, of all of the recent efforts by John Carpenter’s various disciples to make their own version of The Thing without getting sued for copyright infringement, Blood Glacier is the best yet.

Sep
09
2014
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Give Being "Married" A Chance Review

Before Homer Simpson, Dan Conner, and Peter Griffin, Al Bundy was the classic middle/lower-class beer-drinking TV dad. Seasons 1 and 2 of Married with Children are now available on DVD, and re-watching the first two seasons of Married with Children, like FX’s retrospect on The Simpsons, reminded me how much the characters and messages changed in the life of the show.

In seasons 1 and 2, Al and Peggy are a meaner version of Dan and Roseanne Conner or Homer and Marge Simpson. Al works at a shoe store, but his minimum wage job cannot support the lifestyle that Peggy and his children Kelly and Bud desire. Most of the humor of Married with Children is derived from Al and Peggy’s get-rich schemes and the typical battle-of-the-sexes sitcom shenanigans. Al wants to watch sports, but Peggy wants Al to be romantic. Peggy forces the entire family to go on a diet, and the entire family hates it. Al is often a sexist pig. Peggy is a housewife with no discernible talent for cooking or cleaning. Kelly and Bud are greedy, empty-headed brats.

Sep
09
2014
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Ugh, "Dragonwolf" Review

Do you think a movie that goes around calling itself Dragonwolf might be compensating for something? A weak script, maybe? Seizure-inducing direction? Or simply the fact that the two most hard-core hit men in all of Devil’s Cauldron look like guys who’d be more comfortable in some art student’s indie band than punching anyone in the face. Whether you’re looking for a gangster epic, a martial arts actioner, or just something that won’t make you throw up your hands in disgust, Dragonwolf fails to deliver.

Sep
06
2014
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