No "Beauty", But Not Much "Beast" Either Review

It's all part of the new Vincent.

Did you see the first season of Beauty & the Beast (2012)? Then let me catch you up. Are you familiar with the fairy tale by Beaumont? Well, it's got absolutely nothing to do with that. In fact, the show would probably be better named Beauty & the Beautiful Thing We Call a Beast Because He Has Scar. Maybe that's longer than what they wanted. Anyway, Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) is an ass-kicking NYPD detective who befriends (and, by season 2, falls in love with) a ass-kicking shadow-dweller called Vincent (Jay Ryan). Vincent is an ex-soldier who was genetically interfered with, giving him superpowers when he makes an ugly face--quite like the vampires from Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003). Sadly, after many romantic and thrilling adventures, Vincent is kidnapped and reemerges (for season 2) having forgotten everything but with super spidey senses and a mission to kill all similarly mutated creatures.

Jul
07
2015
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"Camp X-Ray" Only Looks So Deep Review

It's not as black and white as they said it would be.

By now, there isn't a human on the planet that hasn't heard of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Some detainees--not prisoners, mind you--have been there for a decade or more, spanning all levels of culpability in terrorist activity from none to heinous. And yet, despite its infamy, all efforts to resolve the issue have failed. One of President Obama first acts in office was to promise closing the facility and thereby force a solution, which came to nothing. So either Camp X-Ray (2014) is a narrative film that is guilty of being made too late, delaying a forceful, humanist argument, or a shameful reminder that we've allowed a dark (if abstract) American phenomenon to continue. Of course, it is both. It is the kind of narrative film that will go further to make people seriously consider the implications and possible solutions than the legions of documentaries and news reports could have been.

Jul
07
2015
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"Auteur" Might Use A Pseudonym Next Time Review

The name “Charlie Buckwald” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but given the number of times it’s said aloud in Auteur in hushed tones of awe and mystery, you’d think they were talking about Keyser Soze. This may seem like a small issue, but it typifies a lot that’s wrong in Auteur, in which the film presupposes (or would seem to) some very dramatic effect that it misses wildly, leaving you wondering exactly what they were going for in the first place.  One would like to be generous and assume that this film was aiming for something smarter than what ultimately comes across, but it’s difficult to be sure.

Jun
29
2015
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"Echoes" Fades In The Distance Review

The title Echoes suggests empty space, in which voices long silenced might be preserved through the sheer lack of obstruction. The desert setting, with its wide, parched vistas, matches this ethos, but so too, unfortunately, does the screenplay, which never propels its action forward any faster than a meandering tortoise that might be seen in the background.  There’s something to be said for the commitment to spacey atmosphere, and the mysteries that may emerge from it, but writer/director Nils Timm’s command of it is never strong enough to give it any real effect, making Echoes fainter and fainter as it goes along.

Jun
29
2015
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It's Always Worth A Trip To "Broadchurch" Review

Broadchurch was a smash hit when it debuted on ITV in 2013. Created and written by Chris Chibnall (Torchwood) and starring David Tennant (Doctor Who) and the ever-underrated Olivia Colman (Peep Show, Hot Fuzz), the debut season chronicled the devastating effect that a murder investigation had on a small fictional town on England’s Jurassic Coast, all towering cliffs and crashing waves--gorgeous, but undeniably dangerous. Tennant’s DI Alec Hardy, an outsider sent to Broadchurch to start anew after a high-profile investigation went awry, and Colman’s DS Ellie Miller, an ambitious local cop resentful of Hardy for swooping in and stealing the promotion she wanted, had some of the best crime-solving chemistry since Special Agent Dale Cooper met Sheriff Harry S. Truman on Twin Peaks. The eventual reveal of who murdered local boy Danny Latimer was a real doozy, with a twist that could have came off as cheap in lesser hands but instead felt rich thanks to Chibnall’s masterful writing and Colman’s punched-in-the-gut performance. Like all successful things, people immediately wanted more--but with the murder solved, where could Broadchurch possibly go from there?

Jun
27
2015
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Excitement Is Just A Little "Beyond The Reach" Review

In Beyond the Reach, Jeremy Irvine (best known for playing the lead role in War Horse) stars as Ben, a young tracker who has taken on the “family business” of serving as the one-man search and rescue operation of a small town on the borders of the unforgiving Mojave Desert. Rather than join his girlfriend, Laina (Hannah Mangan Lawrence) in Denver where she is starting college on a swim team scholarship, Ben remains behind--and is soon enlisted by the local sheriff to take a brash big-game hunter named John Madec out into the desert to hunt bighorn sheep. Unfortunately for Ben, he doesn’t immediately realize how dangerous of a predator Madec truly is.

Jun
26
2015
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You Might Be "Blindsided" By How Dumb This Is Review

Blindsided, alternatively known as Penthouse North, was first announced in 2011, screened at festivals in 2013, aired on Lifetime in January 2014 and is only just now making its way to DVD--a winding road to be sure, and one that generally does not bode well for a film’s quality. Written by seasoned thriller writer David Loughery (Lakeview Terrace, Obsessed) and directed by Joseph Ruben (cult horror classic The Stepfather), Blindsided stars Michelle Monaghan as Sara, a photojournalist who was blinded by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan (though her pretty face was conveniently left unmarred by the explosion), and Michael Keaton as Hollander, a vicious criminal determined to find the diamonds that are supposedly hidden in Sara’s glamorous New York City penthouse.

Jun
26
2015
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"The Drownsman" Sinks Below The Water Line Review

I can't stress how bad of an idea I think this is.

Some horror is allegorical first and scary second, some horror scary first and allegorical maybe, some horror isn't even scary. In the low-budget arena, horror is more likely an excuse for young filmmaking dudes to get women to take their clothes off for them and any meaning they can muster is in aide of convincing these ladies during the casting session. The Drownsman (2014) is surprisingly not in this latter category. With an all-female cast of victims and a risqué cover that invokes both A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and bathtub horseplay, one might wrongly expect some exploitation. This is probably the last all-positive thing I have to say about The Drownsman as most everything else suffers from its makers willing surrender to tropes and the superficial sophistication modern technology allows for.

Jun
26
2015
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"Shakespeare Uncovered": An Actor By Any Other Name Makes All The Difference Review

A filmmaker friend of mine recently expressed a desire to improve her ability to work with actors by workshopping scenes from Shakespeare. The thought was that the material is so resolutely timeless, rich with words and ripe for interpretation that it lends itself perfectly to exploring the art of storytelling through performance. She isn’t the only one; actors, directors, scholars and enthusiasts still cannot get enough of William Shakespeare, even as we near the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. I myself am one of them; the whiplash-inducing witty dialogue and strong female characters in plays like Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing stand head and shoulders above much of what has been produced in the centuries since. Fortunately, for people like us, PBS has given us a present in the form of the second series of Shakespeare Uncovered, now available on DVD.

Jun
26
2015
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Hey Girl, "Lost River"'s Pretty Out There Review

I got a job for you.

Lost River (2014) is a tough movie in many ways, and doubly so if you don't want to reduce it to the word "weird" or its synonyms. Because the movie is both strange and ordinary. One could call it magical realism, but the magic is not clearly in evidence. The cinematography is exactly the same, using different looks that range from realism to surrealism. While this is usually a sign of people working at cross-purposes or a failure of vision, writer-director Ryan Gosling probably made exactly what he set out to make. And yet, it's almost exactly the kind of movie that Gosling-as-actor fans would avoid. With a few exceptions, Gosling's acting choices have been towards the interesting, but still accessible through his dreamy eyes. Although it is a pretty film, it certainly isn't in as conventional a sense as Mr. Gosling could be so-described.

Jun
26
2015
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