John Keith

Staff Writer

Writer. TV Addict. Bibliophile. Reviewer. Pop Culture Consumer. Vampire Enthusiast. LOST fanatic.

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"Heroes Rise" Might be a Gateway Drug for "Ben 10" Review

The second volume of the Ben 10: Omniverse series, titled Heroes Rise, finds titular hero Ben Tennyson (Yuri Lowenthal) and sidekick Rook (Bumper Robinson) facing skilled predator Khyber (David Kaye) and his vicious greyhound, who possesses the same (yet opposite) powers that Ben has. (For those unfamiliar with the series, basically Ben has a nifty watch gizmo that transforms him into various alien lifeforms to help him combat evil in the Omniverse. The greyhound has a matching dog collar that turns him into the predators of Ben’s transformations.) With the help of more devious characters who lurk in the background (and in flashbacks), Khyber goes through the series hunting down Ben.

Jul
15
2013
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Non-Fans Should Pay No Mind to "Mindless Behavior" Review

Despite being an avid fan of One Direction and Selena Gomez (and their ilk), I’ve never heard of the boy band Mindless Behavior. Yet they have a new Blu-ray that chronicles their “rise to stardom.” With cameras following them around on their most recent tour last summer, Mindless Behavior members Prodigy, Princeton, Ray Ray, and Roc Royal perform to swarms of pre-teen girls and give interviews about their exciting lives to director Steven Goldfried.

The group was formed in 2008 by old friends Keisha Gamble and Walter Millsap, who wanted to capitalize on the growing boy band trend (after receiving a mandate from God in a dream, according to Walter). They gathered together the aforementioned boys—now in their early teens—based on their aptitude for rapping and dancing. Through a little luck, some efficient marketing, and two years of practice, the group released a full album in September 2011, while also touring with big names like Janet Jackson and Justin Bieber.

Jul
15
2013
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"After Newtown" Says Nothing About "Guns in America" that the Constitution Doesn't Review

Once again, PBS uses a misleading title to present a serious documentary. Just as the Space Shuttle Columbia documentary only focuses on one of the astronauts, so After Newtown: Guns in America only focuses on the history of guns in America (thus, 45 minutes of the documentary occur before the Newtown tragedy). While it may seem that the film is trying to capitalize on the tragedy, it merely uses that as a jumping-off point to make a statement about gun control in America.

Guns in America presents a very strong argument for the right to bear arms. Not only do they regurgitate that oft-repeated phrase about how it’s not the gun but the person using it that causes the violence but they also present relevant facts about gun use—for instance, the taxes collected from the purchase of guns and ammunition fund wildlife conservation. However, the more subtle implications of the presented history seem to defend guns purely because America was founded with the use of guns.

Jul
12
2013
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Everyone Must Die-Starting With The Screenwriter Review

When Steve Rudzinski (who serves as writer, director, and actor for the film) conceived of Everyone Must Die, he envisioned a slasher film in which we never learn the motivation of the killer. Instead, he wanted the film to focus on the hunt for and death of the killer. Enter Kyle (Nick LaMantia), an average Joe/ex-Marine deadset on hunting down the guy who brutally murdered his sister. With the help of a conspiracy theorist, Kyle learns the his sister’s killer has been brutally massacring people from town to town, with the police trying to cover up the massive scale of the murders.

Jul
04
2013
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Sundance Channel has a Slow-Burning but Excellent Contemplative Drama in "Rectify" Review

Tensions are mounting in the small town of Paulie, Georgia as a convicted rapist and murderer is being released from death row after almost two decades of imprisonment. Due to new developments in DNA evidence, his sentence is vacated—although a new investigation is inevitable. Such is the jumping-off point that creator Ray McKinnon used for the series Rectify to tell a story about a man who has lived in a box and must suddenly face the world around him. Certainly an intriguing premise for a character study, but how well does it translate into a television series?

Jul
02
2013
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Get Lost in the African Tale of the "Great Zebra Exodus" Review

In the Makgadikgadi salt pans of Botswana are a nomadic breed of zebras. These zebras are family-driven in their focus on survival. And with a title like Great Zebra Exodus it may seem that they are fleeing their habitat in search of a new world, but their “exodus” from the salt pans is merely part of their yearly cycle to find sustenance.

These zebras leave the salt pans when the drought season sucks up all available water. In this documentary we follow the zebras to the Boteti river where they invade the habitat of fellow animals. But their residence on the banks of the river is merely temporary, until the rains return and the zebras instinctually know they can return home.

Jul
01
2013
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Complex Story and Characters Heat to Perfection in "Stoker" Review

Stoker is a highly intriguing film. It expertly combines various aspects and themes from family dramas, psychological thrillers, and horror films to tell a stunning story of murder and familial bonds. It also works as a lavish visual and audial feast, giving the film various layers for enjoyment. And with its stellar cast, Stoker is a sumptuous film that lends itself to repeat viewings.

After Richard Stoker (Dermot Mulroney) dies under suspicious circumstances (at least in the gossip circles), his mysterious, unknown brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) appears to help Richard’s grieving family. Richard’s wife Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) is emotionally unstable at her loss, but finds comfort in the charming and seductive Charlie. But it is actually Richard’s daughter India (Mia Wasikowska) that Charlie finds most fascinating. India is an introspective young woman who was very close to her father. She is mistrusting of Charlie because his arrival coincides with the disappearances of her grandmother (Phyllis Somerville) and the housekeepers. While she keeps a close eye on Charlie, she also has to deal with the brooding and aggressive Whip (Alden Ehrenreich) who attempts to sexually assault her. When Charlie materializes to help her, she begins to see the real Charlie, while also learning insight about herself.

Jun
28
2013
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Few Revolutions Have Made Use of Mirrored Balls as Well as "The Secret Disco Revolution" Did Review

When filmmaker Jamie Kastner approached Bravo producer Charlotte Engel about making a documentary about the playwright Harold Pinter, Engel (rightly?) responded, “Nobody gives a shit about Harold Pinter anymore, how about a film on disco?” Kastner said, “OK.” And The Secret Disco Revolution was born. What arises is Kastner’s examination of the disco movement as he muses (along with the interviewees) on whether this movement was sheer frivolity or an actual revolution.

By 1969, amidst race riots and the Stonewall raid, the civil rights and gay pride movements were in nascent form seeking more exposure and traction. R&B music was becoming overly politicized, too preachy and not very fun. And women were beginning to celebrate the female orgasm. Thus, as narrator Peter Keleghan puts it, the “masterminds” created disco.

Jun
28
2013
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"Some Girls" Will Stick in Your Mind for Days Review

Adam Brody plays the unnamed protagonist in the latest filmic adaptation of a Neil LaBute play. He is a somewhat notorious writer about to get married who is embarking on a masochistic (and even sadistic) quest to revisit all of his past girlfriends and check in with them. He claims to be searching for closure, but it seems like he is really just more intent on ruffling these girls’ feathers, reawakening dormant feelings.

His first stop (in Seattle) is a tame one, as he seeks closure from high school sweetheart Sam (auburn-haired Jennifer Morrison). He ditched her senior year citing a terrible vision of a dead-end life with her. Now married with children, Sam finds the reunion befuddling; but that doesn’t stop her from trying to squeeze some answers out of him.

Jun
28
2013
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"Venus and Vegas" is Comically Broke Review

Amateur thieves Eric (Eddie Guerra), Stu (Donald Faison), and Alex (Eddie Kaye Thomas) have bad luck with women and with heists in the comedy film Venus and Vegas. The boys think they’ve found a way to Easy Street when they attempt to rob a Vegas mobster (Jon Polito); but, of course, things go wrong and Alex is taken prisoner. Thus Eric and Stu fumblingly try to rescue their friend while balancing their pathetic girlfriend drama.

Tara (Jaime Pressly) has dumped Eric for another man, yet he keeps trying to get her back—a task that’s complicated by the fact that he’s swooning hard for a mysterious woman (Molly Sims) he meets at the horse tracks. Meanwhile Stu’s girlfriend Kristen (Roselyn Sanchez) has something important to tell him, but he’s too busy keeping his thieving life a secret that he never has time to listen to her. With such a gang of developmentally arrested men, it’s hard to believe these beautiful women would ever be attracted to them.

Jun
28
2013
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The Poignancy of "Mosquita Y Mari" Fails to Engage Review

Every year we get a couple of indie films that are so darling—or “an indie jewel” as Stephen Holden from The New York Times calls it—that everyone goes crazy for them. Aurora Guerrero's Mosquita Y Mari seems to be another one of those films, racking up exposure at Sundance, Outfest, and even scoring an Independent Spirit Award nomination. While these films may be endearing and often “important,” they are almost always too introspective to be fully entertaining (and this one is no exception).

Yolanda—nicknamed Mosquita (Fenessa Pineda)—is our introspective protagonist, wholly focused on her schoolwork so she can get into college. In walks neighbor girl Mari (Venecia Troncoso) whom Yolanda volunteers to tutor.

Jun
24
2013
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"Fred Won't Move Out" or Anywhere At All Review

Remember that insufferable film from last year, Amour? The one that painstakingly—some say “beautifully”—chronicled the final days of an octogenarian couple. Well Fred Won’t Move Out is the American equivalent, only with a strong attempt at being funny. Needless to say, Fred Won’t Move Out is not only an unnecessary retread of similar themes but also an even more insufferable film than Amour (I never thought I’d prefer Amour to another film).

Aging couple Fred (Elliott Gould) and Susan (Judith Roberts) are facing debilitating issues. Susan is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, and Fred is losing his ability to walk (not to mention some of his mental faculty). Their grown children Bob (Fred Melamed) and Carol (Stephanie Roth Haberle) step in to move their parents into a home where they can age under constant supervision. Susan, of course, has no say; but, as the title suggests, Fred won’t move out.

Jun
23
2013
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"The Private Life of Deer" is Worth Prying Into Review

If you’re not still reeling from that shocking deer crash on Teen Wolf, then you may be interested in delving into The Private Life of Deer. These somewhat elusive creatures have social rituals and heightened senses we are oblivious to as we hit them with our cars. They live on the fringes of society—literally! Their habitats are on the border between field and forest, the paved road and the wild wood, your backyard and those backwoods. And this PBS documentary highlights the more fascinating aspects of these seemingly common creatures.

Jun
23
2013
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Does "Cleopatra" Still Deserve to Reign as Hollywood's Most Extravagant Flop? Review

Cleopatra has earned the nickname of the most expensive film in Hollywood (though even with inflation many of the more recent blockbusters have far surpassed that price tag). It’s also known more for its off-camera scandals than for any of the content in its four-hour runtime. As the film turns 50 this year, Cleopatra finds itself back in the pop culture consciousness through Jess Walter’s popular novel Beautiful Ruins (which has a movie adaptation in the works) and the (much-derided) Lindsay Lohan film Liz & Dick. Yet even those works focus more on the infamous off-camera drama than anything related to the actual film. So, with this epic “flop” (it never made back it’s money despite being a top grosser for the year and scoring some Oscar statues) now on Blu-ray, is it worth revisiting?

Jun
13
2013
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Believe it or Not, Exorcists Can Still Find Work in the 21st Century Review

Exorcisms have been fascinating people for centuries, a realm of myth and faith, of angels and demons. Films about exorcisms certainly abound. But how many documentaries have you seen that actually delve into the world of exorcisms? Norwegian director Fredrik Horn Akselsen does just that in the documentary The Exorcist in the 21st Century.

The film follows two different people whose paths cross in these deeply personal stories about exorcising demons. Father Jose Antonio Fortea is a Roman Catholic priest who bears the distinction of being one of the very few Vatican-approved exorcists.

Jun
08
2013
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"Mission of Hope" Takes a Very Specific Look at the Space Shuttle Columbia Tragedy Review

With a title like Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope you would think that the PBS documentary would be an in-depth look at the story of the Columbia space shuttle. The story of the seven diverse astronauts who came together to explore space in this tragic mission. While the film does go in-depth, it merely focuses on the story of Israeli astronaut Colonel Ilan Ramon, glossing over and even ignoring the others involved with the mission.

Not to imply that his story isn’t an important one. Ramon was the first (and only) Israeli astronaut, a fighter pilot dedicated on telling a remarkable story of hope. Ramon brought into space a miniature Torah scroll with an incredible story. Given to a boy during a secret bar mitzvah in the terrible Nazi concentration camp, Bergen-Belsen, the scroll survived the Holocaust and the boy grew up to be Israel’s lead scientist for the mission, Joachim “Yoya” Joseph. Ramon brings the scroll with him on the mission, and tells its powerful story to the world in a broadcast video message.

Jun
07
2013
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"The Hit Girl" Will Catch You By Surprise Review

“Be careful what you wish for,” is an oft-used warning. “Be careful what you wish for when you sleep next to an enchanted statue,” is a less-used but far more important warning. One that Bill (James Castle Stevens) should have heeded had his sister (Sharon Gibson) bothered to tell him about her latest internet purchase.

In The Hit Girl, large, adult, bounty hunter Bill goes to bed thinking about teenage girls after a serious discussion with his niece Suzy (Jessamyn Arnstein) about her high school woes, and he wakes up in the body of a tiny, teenage girl whom Suzy names Jessica (Ella Bowen). After a quick study of body swapping lore in film history, Suzy advises Jessica to embrace her teenage body and use it as an advantage in combat whilst enjoying the life of a teenage girl and trying out for the school musical. Fortunately for Jessica/Bill (an interesting name pairing if you consider True Blood), she is able to infiltrate a smuggling ring that has been poaching teenage girls from the high school, culminating in a graceless pole dance by Jessica.

Jun
07
2013
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Final Season of "Have Gun - Will Travel" Goes Out With a Bang Review

CBS continues its old TV show DVD rollout with the final season of popular western show Have Gun - Will Travel (divided up into two separate volumes with 16 episodes a piece). Long before the days of Craigslist, the “knight without armor” Paladin (Richard Boone) is a hired gun eager to seek out justice on behalf of paying clients in the San Francisco area in the late 1800s. This popular series aired from 1957-1963 before spawning its own popular radio show and managing to rack up a couple Emmy nominations.

The series’ scope is solely focused on this white knight of the west. Each half-hour episode follows his chivalrous quests to right whichever wrongs his clients require.

Jun
06
2013
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"Once Upon A Time In Brooklyn" Is One Bedtime Story That'll Put You To Sleep Review

Gangster movies are gangster movies; there hasn't been anything original in this genre in the last 20 years (at least). And Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn is no exception. Jumping around in time and perspective, Brooklyn is a fast-paced film that literally moves so quickly you won't be able to keep up with all the convoluted storytelling.

Bobby Baldano (William DeMeo) has been released from his (kind of unfair) 9-year prison sentence and is thirsty for revenge and the life of crime he's been missing out on. But his father (Armand Assante) would rather he just went to work for the family construction company. Of course, Baldano is a hot-blooded American man (and mobster) and literally cannot resist seeking revenge for what happened to him, leading him to all-out war with the mob.

Jun
02
2013
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"Shadow Dancer" Reveals Itself to be a Taut Thriller Review

Shadow Dancer is a somber thriller that takes place in the early 1990s as the Troubles in Ireland were beginning to end. (“The Troubles” refers to the decades-long conflict in Northern Ireland concerning religious discrimination and the nation’s attempts to form an independent Irish Republic.) Unlike action-heavy thrillers, Dancer is more character-driven, placing the action in the protagonist’s choices (or evasion of choices) more than in the politically motivated attacks. This gives the film a quiet mood, providing a stronger contrast for the explosive and riotous moments.

Collette McVeigh (Andrea Riseborough) is enmeshed in the IRA thanks to her brothers. When she gets arrested for being involved in an aborted IRA bomb attack in London, she is offered a chance at redemption. She must chose between going to prison for 25 years (thereby abandoning her son) or returning to Belfast to spy on her family. Naturally, she chooses the latter (otherwise this wouldn’t be a very interesting thriller).

May
31
2013
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