4K/UltraHD Review: “Super 8”

  • SUPER 8
  • Starring: Kyle Chandler and Elle Fanning
  • Directed by: J,J. Abrams
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 52 mins
  • Paramount

JJ Abrams directs a love letter to Steven Spielberg about kids and a mysterious alien in 2011’s “Super 8.” . It’s “The Goonies” meets “Close Encounters” meets “E.T.” and very entertaining. It’s also an homage to the cinematic 80s tropes and is a heartwarming tale coping with loss and grief.

“Super 8” is celebrating its 10th anniversary and what better way to celebrate than to indulge in the brand new 4K UHD Blu Ray collection. Since the film is only 10 years old, it benefits from the high definition tremendously, as this is the best the film has ever looked on video. It has been encoded in TrueDolby HD sound, giving it a demo-worthy soundtrack that also incorporates some excellent LFE subwoofer activity that’ll drive your neighbors crazy! 

The story is about a small group of teen misfits encountering a misunderstood extra-terrestrial. There’s much to absorb here though. We have a father and son who must live on without mom. We have an alcoholic father raising a daughter. We have a scientist involved in a government cover up. However the camaraderie of the kids seems to make all of these problems a bit lighter. The fact the kids are all budding filmmakers adds even more comedic flavor to the story. Throw in some of the best special effects of the time (Industrial Light & Magic) and you truly have a unique viewing experience. This film reeks of nostalgia and intentionally has a Spielbergian feel to it as well and that’s okay. It is obviously intended as it is a love letter to Steven Spielberg (the kids are perhaps the biggest indication).

“Super 8” is truly super great and highly recommended in the 4K format. .

EXTRAS

  •  Audio Commentary 
  •  The Dream Behind Super 8
  •  The Search for New Faces 
  •  Meet Joel Courtney 
  •  Rediscovering Steel Town 
  •  The Visitor Lives 
  •  The 8mm Revolution 
  •  Scoring Super 8 
  •  Do You Believe in Magic?
  •  Deconstructing the Train Crash 
  •  Deleted Scenes 

Film Review: “Black Widow” SPOILER FREE!

  • BLACK WIDOW
  • Starring:  Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh and Rachel Weisz
  • Directed by:  Cate Shortland
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 13 mins
  • Disney

The expression is “timing is everything.”  I say this because, while I found “Black Widow” enjoyable, it doesn’t feel as timely to me as other films in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe for those of you who don’t understand fan-speak).

Ohio.  1995.  It’s another sunny day in the local park and Melina (Weisz) is enjoying the time watching her young daughters play.  When they get home mom prepares dinner and they all wait for dad (David Harbour) to get home.  However, the mood changes when dad announces “it’s time.”  On the move again!

Full of non-stop action and some self-depreciating humor, “Black Widow” is an origin story that attempts to inform viewers where Natasha (Johansson) came from and why she defected to the Avengers. 

The majority of the film takes place in 2016, after Theodore Ross (William Hurt) helped the United Nations enforce the Sokovia Accords, which basically made the Avengers outlaws, unable to do their stuff unless requested.  It also requires all “enhanced” people in the United States to not only identify themselves but disclose what their enhancement is.   Currently Ross is on the look for Black Widow and Captain America.  And the hunt is on.

I’m doing my best to make this a SPOILER FREE review, so I won’t be going into too many details.  Suffice it to say that the characters travel literally all over the world, a lot of stuff gets damaged and a lot of people got hurt.  The action scenes are well designed and the script fun.  But still…..

While it’s not the best film in the MCU, it certainly isn’t the worse.  And that’s a good thing.   

Film Review “F9: The Fast Saga”

Directed by: Justin Lin
Starring: Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, John Cena, Jordana Brewster, Nathalie Emmanuel, Sung Kang, Michael Rooker, Helen Mirren, Kurt Russell, Charlize Theron
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Release date: June 25, 2021
Running time: 145 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

The Fast & Furious franchise titled The Fast Saga has not run out of gas just yet. “F9” is completely over-the-top, action packed and one hell of a blast to watch. Who knew that this franchise would be going here nine films strong. Listen we all know that these things could never happen in real life but they are fun to watch on the big screen. I recently re-watched this franchise from the beginning and it was really fun to see how this series has evolved from street racing to international spy heists…and it has been so much fun to watch. This latest film gives this franchise a kick right into outer space…literally! Where can this franchise possible go next?

Official Premise: “Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto is leading a quiet life off the grid with Letty and his son, little Brian, but they know that danger always lurks just over their peaceful horizon. This time, that threat will force Dom to confront the sins of his past if he’s going to save those he loves most. His crew joins together to stop a world-shattering plot led by the most skilled assassin and high-performance driver they’ve ever encountered: a man who also happens to be Dom’s forsaken brother, Jakob (John Cena, the upcoming The Suicide Squad).”

I am personally a big John Cena fan from the WWE and it was awesome getting to see him play the baddie. I felt that the film also gave an extra nod to the ladies of the Fast Saga. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a female only spinoff happen down the line. The visual effects are beyond amazing. There is nothing that looks “too CGI” or anything like that. The Fast Saga is well known for blending actual practical effects with digital effects.

Like I mentioned above, I have no clue where this franchise could go in the future, so the next two films are going to be a big mystery. But from a franchise that started 20 years ago, this week in fact (Happy anniversary), on the streets to literally flying outer space in this film, and while still keeping things fun and existing, I don’t see this franchise having any issues in the future. This movie needs to be seen on a big screen with popcorn and concessions!

Official first look at new film “Mermaids’ Lament” from the Director of “Strange Frame”

Easily one of my favorite films to come out of 2012 is a probably one you haven’t heard of called “Strange Frame”. This movie is brilliantly animated and directed by GB Hajim, co-written by Hajim and musician Shelley Doty, and co-stars voice talents including Tim Curry, Cree Summer, Juliet Landau, Ron Glass, Alan Tudyk, Michael Dorn, Claudia Christian and George Takei. It centers around the theme of the transformative power of love between two women. It is definitely a trippy fun beautiful film that needs to be seen by everyone!

Well, after that long intro, the reason we are here is that GB Hajim is back with a new feature film that is currently in production called “Mermaids’ Lament”. The film is a psychological drama with elements of fantasy. According to the director it pays homage to an 1986 foreign film titled “Man Facing Southeast” and deals with the issues of depression, anxiety, and trauma. It follow a woman drowning in trauma who takes a therapist beyond her own depth into the darkness and together they find the surface and the sun.

Here is the film official synopsis from the director: “It’s about two women: One who suffered an incredible trauma that left her mute and she may or may not be a mermaid. The other, a therapist who has crippling anxiety, is trying to help the first woman overcome her delusions of being a mermaid and fit better in the world. They end up helping each other out and finding a middle ground because the world is crazy and we need a little mermaid inside each of us to cope.”

Hajim has gathered together another amazing collection of creatives to bring this project to fruition which is apparent in these first official images:

To find out more about GB Hajim’s first film “Strange Frame” and how to watch it, click here. I honestly cannot wait to see what he puts together for this next film. I am sure it is going to be something very special. Be sure to check out the film’s official Facebook page here to follow the film’s production and plans for release, which the director mentions he is aiming for 2022 release.

Film Review: “A Quiet Place Part II”

  • A QUIET PLACE PART II
  • Starring: Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds
  • Directed by: John Krasinski
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 1 hr 37 mins
  • Paramount Pictures 

Three years ago, “A Quiet Place” became THE breakout film of the year as it grossed over $188 million domestically and landed in many top ten lists. Its long-awaited sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II” picks up right where its predecessor left off and it does not disappoint. From the get-go, we are put on the edge of our seats as this fast-paced, sci-fi/horror flick keeps our hearts racing a million miles per hour. A smart script and superb direction by John Krasinski help make this film the first true “must-see” of the year. 

(If you have somehow not seen the original film yet, then do not read this any further.) When we last saw the Abbott family, the father, Lee (Krasinski) had sacrificed himself so that his family would have a chance to live. Thanks to the subsequent resourcefulness of his deaf daughter, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and the tenacity of his wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), not only were they able to survive, but they also found a way to kill the sound sensitive aliens by utilizing Regan’s cochlear implant. 

“Part II” takes us back to Day 1 when a normal afternoon of little league baseball turns into an extinction-level event for humanity. After this brief flashback, we are flung forward to day #474 of the invasion. Evelyn and her three children – Regan, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and her infant son – gather up what possessions they need and make a silent, perilous walk into town. 

As they reach the deserted town’s railroad depot, they accidentally make enough noise to attract an alien. It is at this point they stumble upon Emmett (Cillian Murphy, “Inception”), an old friend of theirs who has lost everyone and everything. He is initially adamant they leave, warning Evelyn there is not anyone left worth saving. However, Regan figures out a way for a much broader application of her cochlear implant and it sets into motion events which put everyone’s lives in serious jeopardy. 

“A Quiet Place Part II’ is a superb work of cinema as it excels in all three major phases – writing, acting, and directing. Good luck in finding a flaw with the script. In fact, you will have a better chance at finding a needle in a haystack first. Blunt delivers a perfect blend of strength and vulnerability as does Simmonds, who again demonstrates with a wonderful range that she is a star in the making. Lastly, Krasinski successfully duplicates the pacing, tension, and thrills of the first film, which earned an Oscar nod for Best Sound Editing. 

Overall, “A Quiet Place Part II” already has a good shot at being on a lot of top ten lists again when 2021 is over.

Film Review: “Cruella”

  • CRUELLA
  • Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson
  • Directed by: Craig Gillespie
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Running Time: 2 hrs 14 mins
  • Walt Disney 

There is nothing cruel about watching the new Walt Disney prequel “Cruella,” starring former Academy Award winner Emma Stone in a role she absolutely nails. Unlike 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” in which Glenn Close played Cruella with over-the-top, maniacal behavior, Stone infuses Cruella with emotional complexities that draw us into a character who becomes much more than a punchline. Ultimately, there is an almost Joaquin Phoenix-as-Joker vibe to Stone’s performance, just not nearly as dark. However, do not be worried, “Cruella” is not all doom-and-gloom as there are enough light-hearted and even tender moments to keep it from falling too far down the rabbit hole. 

As a little girl, Cruella goes by Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, “Krypton”). Raised by her loving mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham, “Daphne”), Estella manages to get into a private boarding school. Her mother warns her, though, to not be rebellious and cruel, but the fashion curious Estella cannot prevent herself from getting into continuous trouble. Eventually, Estella wears out her welcome and is expelled. 

Estella’s expulsion does not turn her world upside down. In fact, she views it as a new adventure complete with a new puppy she finds. However, reality of how cruel the world can be takes place when Catherine dies and Estella becomes homeless in London’s city streets when she encounters two young boys who are always up to no good. 

Flash forward ten years later when the trio of Estella, Jasper (Joel Fry, “Game of Thrones”) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser, “Richard Jewell”) are busy stealing from anyone they can. Yet Estella still has her eyes set on the world of fashion and a series of lucky events puts her into the employment of the most powerful fashion designer in London – The Baroness (Emma Thompson). At the pinnacle of her happiness, Estella learns a dark secret and Cruella begins to take over. 

Stone has all the appearances of being born to play this role in what is an overall terrific origin story. Her portrayal never becomes too unhinged, and she even manages to do the previously unthinkable – make Cruella De Vil a sympathetic character. Of course, she was guided with the steady direction of Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”), had a fresh and inventive script to work with, and shared the screen with the equally fantastic Thompson who makes The Baroness about as unsympathetic and diabolical as they come. What should also be mentioned are the film’s fantastic costume designs which will hopefully not be forgotten about when Oscar season rolls again, not that more than 10 or 12 people will be watching it anyway. 

Overall, “Cruella” is probably not for small children. Let them watch the 1961 animated version instead. Otherwise, “Cruella” is a wonderful, two-plus hour escape.

Blu-ray Review: “The Marksman”

  • THE MARKSMAN
  • Starring: Liam Neeson, and Teresa Ruiz
  • Directed by: Robert Lorenz
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 1 hr 48 mins
  • Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Jim (Liam Neeson) s a former Marine who lives a solitary life as a rancher along the Arizona-Mexico border. But his peaceful existence soon comes crashing down when he tries to protect a boy on the run from members of a vicious cartel. And that’s pretty much the story here. Though Neeson gives a solid performance, the story may be a bit too formulaic. 

Jim basically has had some rough times. He lost his wife to cancer, and his property is being foreclosed. All of this happens in the beginning of the film, so it’s hardly a spoiler. Jim spends his days sport hunting with his canine companion, Jackson. He’s excellent with a rifle, which earned him a medal in the Marine Corps. Jim reports anything suspicious to his step-daughter, a border patrol agent, whilst hunting on the grounds. A woman and her son are on the run from the Mexican drug cartel and Jim gets involved. What I do appreciate about this film is that it’s a road film. Like Rainman,” most of the film takes place on freeways, highways and small town bi-ways. And with the cartel in hot pursuit, you can rest assured that it’s going to be a helluva commute.

 Now Jim’s life has taken a turn. He’s on the run with a kid (Miguel) who is stunned into silence due to his mother being shot by the cartel. Jim makes a promise to the kid’s mother to take him to her sister in Chicago. Unbeknownst to Jim, the cartel can track his whereabouts every time he uses his debit card with a sophisticated computer system. And so what follows is a series of close calls with the cartel and the bonding of Jim and Miguel.

Much of the film is uninspired as we have seen it before and as I previously mentioned, a bit formulaic. Screenplay is weak but the more interesting scenes are when Jim and Miguel are bonding. As I also mentioned, I personally love  road films and “The Marksman” is a road film indeed. Here Neeson does put on a good performance with what little he’s been given. It’s just Liam fighting the baddies. They are now calling his films “Your yearly Neesoning”. Overall it’s worth a rental but it comes up short in comparison to “Honest Thief” and “The Commuter.”

SPECIAL FEATURES

Making of “The Marksman” featurette.

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Elysium”

  • ELYSIUM
  • Starring: Matt Damon and Jodie Foster
  • Directed by: Neill Blomkamp
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 49 mins
  • Tri Star Pictures

Neil Blomkamp’s futuristic action popcorn ride is very impressive with visual effects. One thing’s for sure, subtlety has never been an inspiration in Blomkamp’s body of work. “Elysium” addresses a sociopolitical concern, very similar to Blomkamp’s earlier gem, “Districkt 9.:” the policing of a state where the socially unequal, i.e. the poor, suffer grave depravities. “Elysium” takes place in a futuristic Los Angeles where the state has separated it’s citizens, with the majority remaining in Los Angeles while the wealthy 1% live free of the world’s anxieties in a halo-like space habitat orbiting Earth called Elysium.


Matt Damon stars as Max, a parolee dying of radiation poisoning who is fighting to be smuggled to Elysium in order to take advantage of the advanced Healthcare system that exists there. He still works at the industrial plant where he got the radiation poisoning and is told that it will kill him in 5 days. The society is partially policed by robots, which Max consistently has unfavorable encounters with. Max realizes he has little time left to live but Elysium has machines that can cure him which motivates him to get to the orbiting station. Max teams up with a rebel group to steal information from a company that can free the citizens of Los Angeles and make everyone a citizen of Elysium. But in order for this to happen, Max has to be tagged with bionic parts to his arms and back while a computer chip needs to be implanted in his brain. This allows him to be more agile in fighting and the chip to his brain will give him access to the company, He also has to get through Defense Secretary Delacourt, played by Jodie Foster, who will stop at nothing to keep the citizens of Los Angeles out of Elysium. The results pits the rebels against the state in a battle that is full of great visuals and action.

 
I watched the film on a UHD 4K Blu Ray, and the picture and sound are astounding. A notable upgrade from the previous Blu Ray release where contrast and brightness are improved delivering a sharper image with vivid whites and deeper blacks. Sound is amazing with plenty of activity in the surround fields and lots of LFE activity for the subwoofer. The sub-woofer sound is smooth as the low level sounds will not overextend your speaker. The 2160p picture, which is double that of a Blu Ray picture produces breathtaking imagery, showcasing the visual effects with remarkable clarity. The Elysium station has to been seen to be believed! The orbiting station is a wonderful work of digital effects. And seeing it on 4K Blu Ray will astound you. It took me back to Star Trek Beyond (which I also have on 4K Blu Ray) where the docking station is a mixture of ship technology and citizenry. I had a great time with “Elysium.” It’s films like this that make me glad that I invested in a 4K Blu Ray player.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Exoskeletons, Explosions, and the Action Choreography of Elysium 
  • The Hero, The Psychopath, and the Characters of Elysium
  • The Art of the Elysium Miniatures 
  • Bugatti 2154 
  • Theatrical Trailer 1 
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 
  • International Trailer
  • Visions of 2154 Interactive Gallery 
  • Extended Scene: Kruger Wakes Up 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 1 – Envisioning Elysium ()
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 2 – Capturing Elysium 
  • The Journey to Elysium: Part 3 – Enhancing Elysium 
  • Collaboration: Crafting the Performances in Elysium 
  • The Technology of 2154 
  • In Support of Story: The Visual Effects of Elysium 
  • Engineering Utopia: A Society in the Sky 

Blu-ray Review: “The Father”

  • THE FATHER
  • Starring:  Anthony Hopkins and Oliva Colman
  • Directed by:  Florian Zeller
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  1 hr 37mins
  • SONY Pictures Classics

I turned 60 last September and, as I get older, one of my biggest worries is that I’m going to slowly lose my faculties.  As someone that loves to write and communicate, I think that would destroy me.  I preface this review with that statement because that MIGHT be what’s going on in THE FATHER.

Anthony (Hopkins in an Academy Award winning performance) likes to relax in his flat, listening to music and taking occasional glances out the window.  He is looked after by his daughter, Anne (Colman) and things appear to be well.  Until one afternoon when Anne informs him that she will be hiring a caretaker because she is moving to Paris to be with the man she loves.  At least Anthony thinks this is what she told him.  Things get more puzzling when the next moment Anne’s former husband appears, but claims to be her current husband for the past eight years.  What the hell is going on here?

A true psychological thriller, “The Father” is a very non-linear descent into what could either be madness or gas-lighting.   Director Zeller leaves it up to the viewer to decide which it is.

The film is brilliantly acted, with, as noted earlier, Hopkins winning his second Best Actor Oscar for his performance.  Colman, herself an Oscar winner – and a nominee for her work here – matches him beat for beat.  Supporting work by Imogen Poots and Rufus Sewell, among others, carry the story along smoothly.

With theatres opening up to usher in another summer of fast cars and explosions, take a moment to stay home and watch “The Father.”   

Special Features:

  • Homecoming: Making “The Father”
  • Perception Check: Portrait of “The Father”
  • Deleted Scenes

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Last Action Hero” (Steelbook)

  • LAST ACTION HERO
  • Starring:  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Austin O’Brien
  • Directed by:  John McTiernan
  • Rated:  PG 13
  • Running time:  2 hrs 10 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

It was THE movie event of 1993.  A movie starring the world’s biggest action star, directed by the guy who directed “Die Hard,” and featuring an amazing array of celebrity guest stars.  Hell, they even launched a rocket into space with the film’s title on the side.  That film was “Last Action Hero,” and, at a cost of $85 million was one of the most expensive films made at the time.  Even though it made over $134 million world-wide, it was considered a dud by the bean counters in Hollywood and was not met well by critics.  However, as a 32 year old movie theatre manager, I LOVED IT.  Almost 30 years later, I still love it.

Danny (O’Brien) is a young boy who lives with his mother and spends most of his free time at the movies, where he has made friends with the projectionist, Nick (Robert Prosky).  One of the benefits of the friendship is Danny being allowed to screen new films before they open.  This night he is getting set to watch the latest Jack Slater adventure, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Nick give Danny a “magic ticket,” goes into the booth and starts the film.  But tonight is different.  Danny isn’t watching the movie, he’s IN the movie.

A fun buddy comedy (even though there is 30 years age difference between the buddies), “Last Action Hero” is everything it was advertised to be, which made its poor box office in the U.S. surprising (it mad $15 million it’s opening weekend but ended up only making another $35 million before it was out of most theatres).  The fun comes from the fact that Jack Slater (Arnold, of course) has never heard of Arnold Schwarzenegger.  He thinks Danny is just some crazy kid who somehow ended up in the back of his car during a high speed chase. 

Jack thinks Danny is delusional.  A trip to the video store features a lobby display for TERMINATOR 2, but this version stars Sylvester Stallone.  Introduced to another cop (F. Murray Abraham), Danny instinctively recognizes him as the guy who killed Mozart in “Amadeus.”  Having never heard of the film, Slater tells the cop that Danny thinks he killed someone named Moe Zart!

The fun continues until the pair chase a baddie (Dance) back into Danny’s world, where Slater learns that you can’t punch a window without cutting yourself and you are no longer magically bulletproof. 

The film is an amazing combination of action and humor and one that doesn’t live up to it’s rep.  Check it out with an open mind and I think you’ll agree with me. 

Both the picture and sound on this release are amazing and the film comes in a special steel case.  This is a fun film I highly recommend. 

Special Features:

Commentary with Director John McTiernan

Deleted & Alternate Scenes

Alternate Ending

“Big Gun” Music Video by AC/DC

Original Behind-the-Scenes Featurette

Theatrical Teaser

4K ULTRA HD/Blu-ray Review: “Big Fish’

  • BIG FISH
  • Starring: Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Curdup
  • Directed by: Tim Burton
  • Rated: PG 13
  • Running time: 2 hrs 5 mins
  • Columbia Pictures

There is simply no film like a Tim Burton film! This visually arresting film also has a great story.

. Ewan McGregor is one of those actors that is interesting in anything he’s in. Here he plays a protagonist in a make-believe world. Or is it make-believe? As I watched this, I was reminded of the character of Forrest Gump, a man having adventures in everything he was involved in. 


The story involves Willll Bloom (Billy Crudup), who seems to harbor animosity against his father, Edward (Albert Finney). Will feels that he really doesn’t know his dad, who is noted for telling great stories which seem too far fetched for reality. As Edward tells one story after another, we flashback to his younger self (played by Ewan McGregor) who seems to have adventures that put him at an advantage to his peers.

Edward longs for Sandra, whom he instantly falls in love with despite her already being engaged. Edward soon finds himself joining the circus, simply because Sandra is also part of the same circus. As Edward tries to woo Sandra for her hand in marriage, he must meet conditions that he can only ask Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito) for, learning one thing about Sandra each month. This is to ensure that he knows all about her in his pursuit. This lasts for three years until it is revealed that Amos is secretly a werewolf (I’ll stop here so I will not ruin the film for the viewer).

This is just one example of how the story weaves and the viewer is treated to breathtaking locales and a very interesting plot.

Visually, as usual, Tim Burton is quite amazing. The man shows extreme creativity and his films hold up very well for repeat viewing. There is much to see in “Big Fish,” and you will do this film an injustice by renting it for one viewing. It has to be bought, taken home and enjoyed over and over.

“Big Fish” is a perfect blend of heartfelt sentimentality and visual splendor. In lesser hands, “Big Fish” would’ve gone off the rails as another goofy drama. In the hands of Burton, with John August’s script and with McGregor as the protagonist, it is the perfect blend of storytelling and fantasy. This film has some very colorful characters but that’s Burton’s recipe for a great film. 


The film is now on HDR 4K Blu Ray, with an impressive transfer by Sony. The film is nearly 20 years old but it holds up well with an HDR10 transfer that doesn’t disappoint. The audio is beautiful with a Dolby Atmos track that definitely increases atmosphere in a film that’s already captivating. “Big Fish” is a big winner that is surely presented with that Tim Burton signature that fans have come to expect and love. It’s a masterpiece!

Film Review: “Spiral”

  • SPIRAL
  • Starring: Chris Rock, Max Minghella
  • Directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
  • Rating: R
  • Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins
  • Lionsgate 

Part of the premise of the “Saw” franchise is that the story’s victims are put in horrendous situations and then forced choose to do something terrible to escape or die horribly. Except possibly the 2004 original, I have desperately wanted to run away from each one of these dismal death traps as they begin to flicker to life on the screen. The newest installment, “Spiral” is easily one of the most unsurprising, stereotypical works of cinema I have ever seen in my career as a professional film critic. 

The story, which is a nice way to describe what is presented to us as entertainment, begins during a 4th of July celebration when an off-duty detective does not call for any backup before chasing a purse snatcher down into a darkened subway tunnel. Shockingly, he never sees the light of day again. Enter Det. Zeke Banks (Chris Rock), a lone wolf cop who is hated by every police officer in his precinct as they all view him as a rat. 

Divorced and estranged from his father, former police chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson), Zeke is forced to take on a younger partner, Det. William Schenk (Max Minghella, “The Handmaid’s Tale”) as he begins his investigation into crimes committed by a Jigsaw-inspired killer. Despite his efforts, the body count climbs as more dirty cops are killed in such horrific ways that you cannot help but wonder how the writers who come up with these ideas sleep at night. 

At the risk of ruining any surprises those who wish to spend their hard-earned dollars on seeing “Spiral,” I will refrain from going into any more details about the story. It should be noted that while there has been a total of eight “Saw” films in the franchise, “Spiral” is technically not part of the franchise’s ongoing tale as villain Tobin Bell (John Kramer) is only mentioned in this endeavor. 

Directed by Overland Park, KS native Darren Lynn Bousman, who also helmed “Saw II,” “III” and “IV,” “Spiral” overflows with unbearable, over-the-top grotesqueness matched only by ridiculous stereotypes (e.g. a captain who yells and waves fingers at a “rogue” detective) and plot points so predictable that you could go to the bathroom for ten minutes and not miss a beat. A good chunk of Rock’s dialogue feels like a stand-up comedy routine and when he wants to present himself as intense, he often resorts to squinting his eyes like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western. Minghella is stoic while Jackson is too underutilized. The rest of the cast delivers choppy performances with dialogue that may have been written in crayon. 

Overall, “Spiral” spirals down into an abyss of mindlessness so bad that not even a stiff drink could help salvage it as being watchable.

DVD Review “Senior Moment”

Actors : William Shatner, Christopher Lloyd, Jean Smart, Esai Morales, Katrina Bowden
Director : Giorgio Serafini
Run time : 1 hour and 36 minutes
Release date : May 11, 2021
Studio : Screen Media

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Typically “Senior Moment” is not the type of film that I would usually watch…but I was drawn in by the cast including William Shatner (“Star Trek”) and Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”). Shatner delivers in the leading role. The actor who recently turned 90 plays a retired pilot in his early 70’s and nails it.

Official Premise: After drag racing his vintage convertible around Palm Springs, a retired NASA test pilot (William Shatner) loses his license. Forced to take public transportation, he meets Caroline (Jean Smart) and learns to navigate love and life again.

The film itself is what my mom would call “cute”. It is a cheesy love story and probably isn’t a film that I would watch numerous times but as a one-timer, I could stand watching this little romantic comedy once through. It’s not a loud out loud comedy either, just a sweet and cute little film that delivers due to it’s fantastic cast!

4K Ultra HD/Blu-ray Review: “Speed”

  • SPEED
  • Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock and Dennis Hopper
  • Directed by: Jan de Bont
  • Rated: R
  • Running time: 1 hr 56 mins
  • 20th Century Fox

“Pop quiz, hotshot. There’s a bomb on a bus. Once the bus goes 50 miles an hour, the bomb is armed. If it drops below 50, it blows up. What do you do? What do you do?”

That’s pretty much the story in this intense action film that’ll keep you on the edge of your seat! After seeing this, you’ll never look at buses the same (much less ride one). LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) was just doing his job when he and his partner (Jeff Daniels) rescued an elevator full of hostages from a mad bomber (Dennis Hopper). They were true heroes of the hour but when the bomber sets another trap on a commuter bus – if the speed of the bus in question drops below 50 MPH it will explode – it’s game on. The bomber demands millions of dollars in ransom. Now Jack must find a way to get on board the bus, rescue the hostages and stop the maniac bomber once and for all.

The story is a combination of thrills that, when added up,equals nerve-wrecking tension. The bus cannot stop whatsoever and there are times when you think “okay how in the world are they going to survive this?” Former cinematographer Jan de Bont’s (“Cujo,” “Ruthless People”) directorial debut comes through a true winner.

For action fans, there’s plenty of it here. Narrative moves at a suspenseful pace where the speedometer on the bus is a factor. I had the privilege of watching Speed on a 4K Blu Ray copy and for a 1994 film, it shines with a great picture and sound, even though the disc does not have a Dolby Atmos track. Still, this film is a great time.

EXTRAS

Disc One (4K)

  •  Audio Commentary by Jan de bont
  •  Audio Commentary – by screenwriter Graham Yost and producer Mark Gordon.

Disc Two (Blu-ray)

  •  Action Sequences 
  •  Inside Speed
  •  Extended Scenes 
  •  Music Video – “Speed” by Billy Idol.

Film Review “The Djinn”

Written and Directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell
Starring: Ezra Dewey, Rob Brownstein, Tevy Poe, John Erickson, Donald Pitts, Jilbert Daniel, Omaryus Luckett, Collin Joe and Isaiah Mansfield
Studio: IFC Midnight
Running Time: 82 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

When I see a movie coming out from IFC Midnight, my interest always immediately peaks! When I saw that there was a new movie centered around the supernatural Djinn, I got even more excited. I knew I had to see this film ASAP. It packs a fantastic synthesizer score, which I wish was used more. I would have loved to seen The Djinn more in it’s supernatural form but the film kind of cop-outs by transforming the Djinn into human form. I think it could have been much creepier if it was in demon form but I assume it was due to budget. Overall, the score works well to deliver great suspense, especially with the crying mom. “The Djinn” is definitely worth a watch despite it’s likely budgetary issues.

Young actor, Ezra Dewey, definitely does a great job here. He also worked with writers/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell on their last film “The Boy Behind the Door”. I can see why they wanted to work with him again. I see this kid having a bright future in the business. He literally carries this entire film himself as the only other case is his father and the humans that the Djinn embodies from photos in the apartment. I

Official Premise: The story follows a mute twelve-year-old, Dylan Jacobs, as he discovers a mysterious book of spells inside his new apartment. Grieving the loss of his mother, and feeling isolated from everyone except for his father, Dylan performs a ritual that promises to deliver his heart’s desire: to have a voice. But he soon discovers that every gift has a toll when a sinister djinn arrives to collect his soul. Now trapped in his new home with nowhere to hide, Dylan must find a way to survive until the stroke of midnight or pay the ultimate price.

Overall, the small apartment in the film is the only location for this film, which leads to this claustrophobic feel that the film has. Due to this small space, it delivers some solid suspense for our young lead trying to escape the creature throughout the hour in order for his wish to be granted. The twist is worth the watch as well. I appreciate a good twist in horror films and this one definitely delivers. I just wish we had the Djinn more in it’s creature form because this could have been much scarier if we had a looming figure rather than a human hunting our lead.

Opening in New York at the IFC Center, Los Angeles at Laemmle NoHo7 and Select Theaters Nationwide on Friday May 14th. The film will also be available on digital/VOD everywhere you rent movies.

Copyright: MediaMikes.com © 2021 · Powered by: nGeneYes, Inc. · Login

All logos and images used on this website are registered trademarks of their respective companies. All Rights Reserved. Some of the content presented on our sites has been provided by contributors, other unofficial websites or online news sources, and is the sole responsibility of the source from which it was obtained. MediaMikes.com is not liable for inaccuracies, errors, or omissions found herein. For removal of copyrighted images, trademarks, or other issues, Contact Us.