Film Review: “Love, Simon”

Starring:  Nick Robinson, Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Garner
Directed by:  Greg Berlanti
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  1 hrs 49 mins
20th Century Fox


Meet Simon (Robinson).  Like most high school seniors he keeps himself busy, hanging out with his friends, going to parties and getting ready to graduate.  But Simon has a secret.  He’s gay.

A coming of age story with a twist, “Love, Simon” is the story of a young man at the crossroads of his life.  Citing an unusual series of dreams about Daniel Radcliffe in his early teens as the turning point in his sexuality, Simon comes across an online post by a young man who calls himself Blue.  Blue is also gay and longs to come out but does not have the courage.  Simon emails Blue and explains that he, too, is in the same boat.  He signs his note “Jacques,” and the two begin a series of conversations that grow both bolder and emotional as they go on.  However, a fellow student named Martin (Logan Miller) comes across the missives and informs Simon that he knows his secret.  He also blackmails him, trying to arrange a hook-up with one of Simon’s female friends.  If Simon doesn’t help him, he’ll spill the beans.  Sadly the kid is beyond unlikable and soon, after an embarrassing attempt at wooing his intended, he outs Simon to the school.  What a dick!

I have a lot of mixed feelings about this film.  I commend it for being one of the few mainstream films to deal with gay issues in a matter of fact way.  “Love, Simon” is simply a love story about a young man with a crush that happens to be another young man.  But the film also sends up the typical Hollywood stereotypes I didn’t expect.

Part of Simon’s fear stems from the fact that there is already a gay student in his class (Clark Moore).  Sadly, this young man is a sassy, well-groomed confidant of the school’s snobby girls, dishing out fashion advice and one-liners.  Sadly, the typical “gay” character from Central Casting, the same people that brought you Lamar from “Revenge of the Nerds.”  I have several gay friends.  None of them is, if stereotypes are to be believed, “obvious.” It’s a shame this is the only way Hollywood can find to portray an openly gay character.  To me it’s a double shame because the film’s director, Greg Berlanti, is gay and should know better.

Between being outed and then bullied, nobody is held accountable.  The most believable character in the film is Natasha Rothwell, who plays Ms. Albright, the school drama teacher (the school is putting on a production of “Cabaret,” which, though I’ve learned has been put on in high schools, doesn’t strike me as a show to be performed by teenagers).  When two boys bully Simon in the lunchroom, it is Ms. Albright that confronts them and assures them that this action will not be tolerated.  So it’s disheartening to see the two boys a few moments later being excused for their actions by offering Simon a mumbled “sorry.” And Martin, who for some reason is playing the Emcee (badly) in the production of “Cabaret,” continues to be the class clown, again not facing any consequences for his actions.   By the time Simon’s friends, all with petty slights, deserted him I lost all faith in the film or its message.

Which is a shame, because Nick Robinson does a great job trying to balance all of the inner feelings Simon must deal with.  He can only smile and nod when his father, commenting on the latest contestant on “The Bachelor,” says “look at him…you know he’s gay.”  He knows his father means no harm but still just the way he says “gay” is enough to keep Simon in the closet.

I’ve heard this film described as a “John Hughes” – type film.  Barely.  Though Hughes did spend a lot of his time writing about teenagers, their problems and how they dealt with them, his characters were a hell of a lot more believable.

Film Review: Terrifier

Starring: Catherine Corcoran, Jenna Kanell and David Howard Thornton
Directed By: Damien Leone
Rated: R
Running Time: 82 minutes

The past two decades have seen a lot of evil clowns enter the realm of pop-culture. In video games, there was Sweet Tooth from “Twisted Metal.” In television, there was Twisty from the third season of “American Horror Story.” We’ve also had plenty of evil movie clowns, from the reimagining of Pennywise in “IT” to Captain Spaulding in Rob Zombie’s films. Now enters Art (Thornton), a homicidal clown that may or may not have supernatural powers.

After a night out, Dawn (Corcoran) and Tara (Kanell) are grabbing a slice of pizza when a black and white painted and dressed Art the Clown enters, with a bag of unknowns in tow. Even with his grotesque smile and creepy hand emotes, he’s made even sinister by the fact he doesn’t utter a single word and seemingly doesn’t make a single sound. His pantomiming is sometimes meant for humor, but mainly meant to menace the two young girls on Halloween. The situation sours when the girls are stranded alone at night after their bizarre encounter with Art.

There’s not much to the story and there’s certainly not much to the plot. “Terrifier” is a vehicle for Damien Leone’s crew to exhaust their violence and gore budget. “Terrifier” is shot much like the violent grindhouse films it’s paying homage to. In moments of pitch black you notice a lot of grit in the picture quality. But in brightly lit scenes and in quick shots, you really appreciate the even grittier practical effects as Art lays waste to a naked woman or an unsuspecting bug exterminator.

The director manages to milk a lot out of his script, which is set in one night at one building. It’s helped by Art’s unquenchable bloodthirst. While he’s sometimes satisfied with the simple pull of a trigger, other times a bonesaw or knife are a lot more intimate and satisfying for the clown. We see the pleasure that Art derives from the senseless, brutal murders, thanks to Thornton’s creepy smile and gleeful silence while dancing in place.

It’s almost as if Art’s muteness is a reflection of everything about this movie, all substance with very little, if anything, to say. It’s entertaining in the midst of chaos as Art navigates through an old building worth of potential victims, but its rewatchability isn’t on par with other horror films because the characters aren’t sympathetic, relatable or distinctive outside of one note jokes. That’s not any of the actor’s fault, but that blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the director. Art the Clown had the potential to be a lot more terrifying.

Film Review – “The Death of Stalin”

Starring:  Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jeffrey Tambor, Michael Palin, Andrea Risebourough, Rupert Friend and Jason Isaacs
Directed by:  Armando Iannucci
Rated:  R
Running time:  106 mins.

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

In the Soviet loop. Armando Iannucci brings his breakneck quips and futile power plays to Stalin’s final days in The Death of Stalin, a darkly hilarious take on a moment in history handled by a collection of top notch actors.

In 1953 Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) sits atop a well oiled oppression machine. He doles out hit lists to his gulags on a daily basis and even among his closest confidants he wields terrifying power. Steve Buscemi’s sycophantic Khrushchev takes personal notes on what jokes bombed in his company so as not to repeat his mistakes. Inconveniently Khrushchev and company find their leader face down and on death’s door in a puddle of his own piss. With no official recourse for succession, the jockeying for power—and chewing of the considerable scenery—begins.

Filling out this Stalin’s cabinet with Buscemi is a dream team lineup of Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin (my favorite Python!), Jeffrey Tambor and Jason Isaacs. To Iannucci’s credit none of the actors in this film are asked to adopt any sort of Russian or even any shared accent which only adds to the air of chaos in the party and likely is what frees up these actors to stay absolutely focused on the script’s fast and fierce comic timing. Additionally just when you’re getting the rhythm of this first set of yes-men, Andrea Riseborough and Rupert Friend are imported in as Stalin’s wayward offspring to inject even more manic energy into the proceedings. Friend in particular is a revelation as Vasily, a bellowing drunkard who arrives landing insults with surgical precision and more often than not, departs by being wrestled physically from the frame.

I had some hesitation going into this film being pretty much unaware of the specifics of this moment in history and wondered whether that would impact my experience however this turned out not to be the case. The themes of absolute power corrupting absolutely and the pettiness of men are always ripe for political farce especially from the likes of the man behind “Veep” and this spectacular cast.

Film Review “A Wrinkle In Time”

Directed by: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Zach Galifianakis, Chris Pine.
Distributed by: Walt Disney Studios
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 109 minutes

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

I have to admit I saw “A Wrinkle in Time” with no previous notion that it was a best selling book series. I had no idea what it was about. I knew it had a stellar cast including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling and Chris Pine…and a story of a strong female lead. That was enough for me. This film marks the first film to cost over $100 million to be directed by a woman of color, neAva DuVernay. Now that is an important milestone, unfortunately that doesn’t guarantee that it will be a good movie though. I rarely find myself saying “Damn, I wish this film was longer” but with “A Wrinkle in Time”. I felt like I wanted more. More backstory, more depth with the characters and the magic that they are controlling in the film. Packs a solid heart and delivers beautiful and sometimes trippy visuals but feels rushed and scattered by the end.

Here is Disney’s official one-liner for those who aren’t familiar with the book “From visionary director Ava DuVernay comes Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and, ultimately, the triumph of love. Through one girl’s transformative journey led by three celestial guides, we discover that strength comes from embracing one’s individuality and that the best way to triumph over fear is to travel by one’s own light.”

It’s weird even though Oprah Winfrey has her constant talk show and is everywhere always, I really never really think of her as an actress. She really didn’t do anything special here but I enjoyed her character. Reese Witherspoon personally is not a favorite actress of mine. She is cute in the film and pretty funny, so that was a nice surprise. Mindy Kaling is someone I honestly, can’t stand watching but they used her very well in this film quoting popular quotes of history and culture primarily as her only dialogue. So she ended up being cute and didn’t annoy me as usual. Chris Pine felt like he was channeling his inner Flynn from “TRON”, which is not a bad thing. This guy just rules in anything he does. Storm Reid is easily the winner here. She stole my heart and I really think she has a long career in Hollywood as she grows up. Same goes for Levi Miller. I saw him in “Better Watch Out” last year and I knew he has promise. His character was also well done and very likable.

This film does pack some really solid visuals, my only issue was that it really felt like a green screen. I felt the exact same way about “Oz, the Great and Powerful”. It was kind of a little too CGI for me. Parents be wary, I probably wouldn’t recommend this film for kids under the age of 10 due to content and a few disturbing scenes. I didn’t expect this film to have a dark side like it does but it is intense and definitely adds in a good way for the adults to enjoy but just be weary of the little ones. This is not all pretty colors and rainbows.

So overall,  this isn’t a terrible move by any means. I can’t say that I am disappointed since I had no expectations. But I can definitely say that I have thought about this movie since seeing it and how important of a message it carries despite the fact that it wasn’t perfect. It features a strong female and how she embraces herself in order to save her father. It is a great story overall, I just wish the film didn’t get lost trying to wow so much with the visuals. I would still say that this is worth seeing in theaters at least to catch the whole trippy ride. Just pace yourself for a slow moving, slightly confusing yet heart filled journey.

Film Review: “Gringo”

Starring:  David Oweloyo, Charlize Theron and Joel Edgerton
Directed by:  Nash Edgerton
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hrs 50 mins
Amazon Studios

It’s hard for me to go into detail about why I did not enjoy “Gringo” as much as I wanted, or even as I feel I should have.  It’s one of those things you can’t really put a finger on…you just know you didn’t like it.  But I’ll try.

Harold (Oweloyo) is a middle-management employee for a pharmaceutical company.  Things appear to be well on the outside, but inside he is dealing with the fact that his wife is spending him into bankruptcy and rumors that his company is about to be sold.  He approaches his bosses, Richard (Edgerton) and Elaine (an icy Theron) who assure him things are fine.  They also inform him that they will be accompanying him on his upcoming trip to Mexico, where recent inventory reports disclose a shortage of product.  After concluding their business the pair leave Harold in Mexico to wrap things up.  But things go incredibly wrong when Harold is kidnapped.  Or is he?

I wanted to like this movie so much.  I love the cast and director Nash Edgerton, who is Joel’s brother, has done some great short films and music videos.  But it looks like everyone was working on different movies and they were all patched together in editing.  It’s not for lack of trying.  After seeing Oweloyo in such dramatic fare as “Selma,” where he played Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, or the outstanding HBO production “Nightengale,” it’s a rare treat to see him tackle comedy.  And tackle it well.  He seems to be having fun and it’s infectious.  Heck, this film may be the first time I’ve ever heard him laugh on screen.  Joel Edgerton and Theron are strictly bad bosses out of central casting, but the effort they put into their characters keeps them interesting.  And while he’s a treat to watch, Sharlto Copley seems to wander in from another film.  Add to this group a drug lord with an almost un-healthy love of the Beatles and a very brief, but impressive, film debut from Paris Jackson (Michael’s daughter) and they do hold your interest.

No, the problem, I think, is that director Edgerton just decided to use everything he shot, giving very little thought to when a scene could be cut so that the payoff doesn’t continue to hit you on the head, long after you’ve been satisfied by it.  Perhaps Joel Edgerton, who wrote and directed the much underrated film “The Gift” should have given his brother some much needed advice.

Film Review: “A Wrinkle in Time”

A Wrinkle in Time

Starring: Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon
Directed By: Ava DuVernay
Rated: PG
Running Time: 109 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Disney has had no problems taking a few risks here and there, especially since their Marvel and Star Wars properties guaranteeing the studio an easy half billion dollars (at the very least) every time one is dropped. So it’s understandable that they can make a calculated gamble or two on tricky creative properties. With “A Wrinkle in Time,” the movie studio certainly rolled the dice with a very well-known, but difficult to transcribe, story. Unfortunately, Disney has rolled snake eyes.

By no means would it be easy for anyone to take the most frequently challenged pieces of literature of the 20th century and turn it into a big budget visual delight for mainstream audiences. The book’s blending of Christian spirituality and grounded science are a complicated combination that creates a fear for movies producers when it comes to potentially upsetting several groups. Writers had to not only conjure something enlightening and mentally stimulating, but have it be void of controversial thesis statements about life. Of course if you don’t know anything about the book, you’ll be confused on how the film handled that narrative regardless.

Meg Murry’s (Reid) father, Dr. Alex Murry (Chris Pine), has been missing for several years. Many believe he simply abandoned Meg, her brother Charles (Deric McCabe), and their mom. But others believe something planetary happened because of Dr. Murry’s pursuit and interest in interdimensional travel. He had a theory about the brain being able to traverse universes and being able to move from locale to locale with the use of the mind’s focus. It’s a lot of exposition and scientific theory to take in already; it doesn’t help that “A Wrinkle in Time” quickly ushers in three astral travelers, each with a specific quirk and power.

At about the halfway mark, I began to wonder if “A Wrinkle in Time” was more concerned with telling rather than showing. I also questioned the film’s direction because at this point, I felt nothing for any of the characters on their journey. Sure Meg and Charles feel slighted by their father, who they’re ultimately searching for, but outside of those abandonment issues, there’s not much there for viewers to latch on to. It doesn’t help that much of the emotional core of the movie is derailed by having to shoehorn in a new character every five minutes.

The movie really doesn’t work until the final act, after we’ve had to suffer through a lot of confusing tone changes, half-hearted story beats and dead end CGI spectacles. I believe the final act only works because the movie finally embraces the concept of alternate realities and begins treating Meg like the adult she’s maturing into. Although it could have paid off more if we got more time with the characters being themselves instead of reciting exposition and acting wooden in the face of extraordinary circumstances.

I remember reading “A Wrinkle in Time” back in sixth grade as an assignment. It came after a class reading of “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” My recollection of the book itself is fuzzy, but I remember having to reread an entire chapter because I felt like I had just tried to digest algebra for the first time. Disney tried to adapt “A Wrinkle in Time” back in 2003 and it was met negatively. It looks like they’ll have to try for a third time in about 15 years.

Film Review – Molly’s Game

The twentieth century saw a lot of American Dreams coming true. In the twenty-first century, there are a very few people who could see that happen. The online casino business sounds like routine today, but years back a young female started on a risky mission on a big stake Poker game, exposing herself to some trouble and unwanted attention. Read this exhaustive review by Jackpot Fruity to know more about the movie. Jackpot Fruity brings to you the review of the latest movie based on the Molly Bloom- the Olympic skier and what it meant to the world.

The Artists

The casting seems appropriate, with Jessica Chastain playing the role of Molly Bloom. Some critics say that this is the best role of her career till now. Other actors including Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, and Michael Cera have played important roles in a well-defined manner.

 The Poker Story Is for Real

Molly Bloom starts her own gaming initiative in top class hotel suites in Los Angeles and finds some of the richest and most famous celebrities coming to gamble and win at her weekly events. She grows to become a host with taste and standards like a queen. For more than a decade, the fortunes continue in her favour. The table is turned around when tens of FBI officials arrest her during a midnight.

 The Making of Molly’s Game

After Molly Bloom was arrested on charges of illegal gambling in the USA, the right to make the movie was purchased by The Mark Gordon Company. She was approached by the famous Aaron Sorkin to proceed with the screenplay. He has been praised worldwide for his contribution in the making. The dialogue writing is apt and commendable, which makes the characters come alive in a properly detailed manner. Aaron debuted as a Director with this movie only to get acclaims and his work has been well appreciated. The shooting was completed within a few months’ time.

As on January 5, 2018, the movie has released across the USA and is running successfully. The audience is intrigued to know what was happening in the lives of the elite actors, businessmen, sportsmen, etc. and this is drawing them towards the nearest theatre.

 Critics’ Take

The movie is doing well and in the USA alone, it has grossed a business of around $36.5 million. It gets the thrill quotient considering the real incident inspiring it was dramatic itself. Some people do not find it good and say that the female protagonist role could have been carved better. A major objection is raised against the fact that there are only male gamblers in the movie. The creators wish to remain silent at this. The general ratings of people who have watched the movie are good.

Wondering what happens next in the movie? That’s the suspense no one would like to have ended here. Like most movies, Molly’s Game is doing well as it is based on a real incident. The combo of style, luxury and suspense do deserve a watch after all. The harmless bug of the online casino might sting you for squeezing great benefits out of it.

Film Review: “Annihilation”

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Oscar Isaac
Directed By: Alex Garland
Rated: R
Running Time: 115 minutes
Paramount Pictures

I really wanted to like this movie. Despite a poor advertising campaign and some unimaginative trailers, I was optimistic that Alex Garland could make some magic out of nothing with “Annihilation.” The man been attached to some great films over the past couple of decades like “28 Days Later,” “Dredd,” and most importantly, “Ex Machina.” Whereas “Ex Machina” was sleek and smart, “Annihilation” is clunky and confusing.

It’s not that “Annihilation” is lacking in interesting concepts, it’s that they’re wrapped around predictable subplots and a ragbag of conflicting tones. The movie begins with an interesting sci-fi premise, an extraterrestrial phenomenon, called the Shimmer by the scientists investigating it, has been slowly enveloping the land around a coastal lighthouse for three years. The government has sent in several teams of soldiers into the Shimmer, only for them to never return. Except for one.

A confused Kane (Isaac) stumbles back into his home, into the loving embrace of his wife, Lena (Portman) who had assumed the worst after he went MIA. She knew nothing of his mission into the Shimmer and his mysterious return only brings her into the fray. In the hopes of learning more about the Shimmer, Lena joins an all-female team, which is heading into the Shimmer. What they encounter, is a bunch of red herrings, glazed over plot points and horror movie tropes.

Throughout “Annihilation,” I kept putting off these nagging issues with the script and structure of the story in the hopes that the ending would provide a worthy payoff to some of my frustration. Without giving away the ending, “Annihilation” seems content on ambiguity, but without any legitimate bread crumbs to lead viewers down one path or another. I have my own theories, but none of them feel as profound as the ones birthed from other sci-fi greats in the past few years like “Blade Runner 2049” or “Under the Skin.”

There’s also the trouble as to what kind of movie “Annihilation” wants to be. It begins as a sci-fi, but has elements of body terror, jump scares and clichés from average horror flicks that are slowly mixed in. A fear of the unknown comes with movies about aliens, but “Annihilation” is bad at developing tension because it forces its characters to have the minds of teenagers at Camp Crystal Lake. We watch this group in the Shimmer split up into groups, avoid taking the high ground in dangerous situations, and camp out for the night near corpses and other macabre scenes.

Even if “Annihilation” is bad, there’s something slightly noble about a bad movie that at least makes you think, and not just about the glaring plot holes. There are a couple of moments that are trying to speak volumes about our relation to nature and humanity’s destructiveness. However there’s no real follow-up to some of these burning ideas and questions that are raised. There’s really nothing left to ponder or chew on when you leave the theater. This might be one of the most disappointing aspects of “Annihilation.” It’s a beautifully shot film that hobbles from the start and then whimpers in its final moments.

Film Review – “Survivor’s Guide to Prison”



Starring:  Danny Trejo, Matthew Cooke and Susan Sarandon

Directed by:  Matthew Cooke

Rated:  Not Rated

Running time:  1 hrs 42 mins

Gravitas Ventures





When I sat down to write this review, I tried to think of a film that, upon its release, found itself on the front page because of the subject matter it covered.  All I could come up with was “The China Syndrome,” which was released in March 1979.  12 days after it opened, events unfolded at Three Mile Island which nearly mirrored the film.  Recently here in Kansas, a man named Lamonte McIntyre was released from prison after serving 19 years for a crime he didn’t commit.  That theme is repeated in filmmaker Matthew Cooke’s latest project, “Survivor’s Guide to Prison.”


The film introduces us to two very different people with one thing in common:  innocence.  Bruce Lisker was a white 17-year old boy when he came home one afternoon to find his mother dying from multiple stab wounds.  He called 911 but when the police arrived they took him into custody “for his protection.”  He would not see freedom again for 26 years.  Reggie Cole was a young black man who was also arrested for murder.  He was lucky.  He only had to fight for 16 years for his freedom.  Both men were the victims of shoddy police work, ineffectual representation and this country’s eagerness to throw people in prison.  And it’s not getting any better.


Narrated by a host of celebrities, among them Trejo, Quincy Jones, Danny Glover, Sarandon, Ice T and director Cooke himself, the film is a step-by-step, by the numbers guide on how to do whatever it takes to keep yourself out of prison.  As they tick through the bullet points – “Be Polite” is first and foremost – it’s almost humorous to see people like Trejo, his face weathered from having spent over a decade himself in prison, offer reminders on how to stay clean.  But the more they speak, the more you realize you’d better pay attention.  It is revealed that with all of the new and various laws being passed constantly, the average American can commit three felonies a day without knowing it.


As we learn more and more about life behind bars, the film also revisits Lisker and Cole, and they’re own struggles.  The true definition of irony comes when, five years into his sentence, Cole kills a man in self-defense.  Because of the circumstances that put him behind bars for murder, an innocent man is NOW a murderer.  Hidden camera and surveillance footage show the brutal way of life that is a constant for those incarcerated.


A sobering look at a life any of us, if enough things work against us, could find ourselves living, “Survivor’s Guide to Prison” is a film that should not be missed.

Film Review “Death House”

Directed by: B. Harrison Smith
Starring: Cody Longo, Cortney Palm, Dee Wallace, Kane Hodder
Production company: Entertainment Factory
Distributed by: Hannover House
Running time: 95 minutes

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Before we start, a quick question: are you a horror fan? If so, let me just drop a few names here for you to look over: Kane Hodder, Barbara Crampton, Bill Moseley, Dee Wallace, Camille Keaton, Michael Berryman, Tony Todd, Sid Haig, Adrienne Barbeau, Felissa Rose, Cortney Palm, Sean Whalen, Vernon Wells, Lloyd Kaufman, R. A. Mihailoff, Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Tony Moran and Gunnar Hansen.

Now if you are a true horror fan you should be losing my mind now! Am I right?These are absolutely legends in the business…and they ALL appear in the film “Death House” from writer/director, H. Harrison Smith. I have been following this film for years now as it was being called The Expendables of Horror! Well after finally getting a chance to see this film, I am happy to say that this film does not disappoint. “Death House” IS the Expendables of Horror! 90 minutes of non-stop genre fun! I found myself glued to ever scene!

Here is the official premise: “During an exclusive tour, a power breakdown inside a secret prison known as the Death House sends two agents fighting through a labyrinth of horrors while being pursued by a ruthless army of roaming inmates. As they fight to escape, the agents push toward the lowest depths of the facility where they learn a supernatural group of evil beings are their only chance for survival”.

“Death House” is based on an original idea from Gunner Hansen (“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”). Being a hardcore horror fan, this film is a blast. Every scene you will see a new friendly face. The only thing holding this film back is lack of funds, otherwise this is sure to be instead cult classic. “Death House” doesn’t disappoint on the gore and packs some impressive practical effects. It also has humor matched with some solid suspense and a great score. You can tell that writer/director B. Harrison Smith is a horror fan just like us! He injects a fresh new life into the horror genre, while setting up a new franchise in the process. Prequel is in the works already! Read our interview here with writer/director B. Harrison Smith here!

Even though this film is filled with horror icons, the film is led by great new talent like Cody Longo and Cortney Palm, read our interview with her here. Cortney is a great actress and she deserves much more attention in Hollywood. We also had a chance to interview horror icon, Dee Wallace, and you can read it here. She is great in the film as  Dr. Eileen Fletcher.  Kane Hodder also kick some major ass as Sieg.. Hodder also has the new film, Victory Crowley, (aka “Hatchet 4”) this month! He is on fire in 2018!!

If you want to prove your role as a horror fan, you need to support this film and spread the word! “Death House” is breaking the odd and getting a limited theatrical release starting February 23rd in Regal Cinemas and Cinemark theaters across the country. Check their Facebook page to see if it is playing in a theatre by you…and if it is go see it!! You got to give it to the production company behind, “Death House”, Entertainment Factory for being behind this film. You can tell that this is a real labor of love, a lot of hard work went into this film and it deserves recognition. Films like this do not get theatrical release and yet they deserves it.  It’s not perfect but it is fun and made by a horror fan FOR horror fans!

Film Review – “Black Panther”

Starring:  Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong’o
Directed by:  Ryan Coogler
Rated:  PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
Walt Disney Pictures



Holy Crap!!

I continue to be amazed at how the films in the Marvel Universe seem to keep getting better and better.  And it’s not just my opinion.  In checking back though our pages, I found that NONE of the main film reviewers on this site (myself, Mike Gencarelli, Jeremy Werner and Lauren Damon) have given a Marvel film less than four stars out of a possible five.  And “Black Panther” is no exception.

We first met our hero briefly in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.  Our story here takes us to Oakland in the early 1990s.  While young boys shoot hoop in the courtyard of the projects they call home, high above them they see a flash of light among a dark cloudy sky, briefly forgetting their problems.  But those problems will not go away, no matter who you are.

A story of diversity, family and compassion, Black Panther roars onto the screen at a million miles an hour.  Having lost his father, the former king of the African country of Wakanda, in a terrorist attack, Prince T’Challa (Boseman) returns home to find that he has much to learn.  The only place on the planet where one can find Vibranium, the world’s hardest metal, the country hides its vast wealth and technological advantages behind the guise of a small, third-world country.  Before he can rightly take the throne, T’Challa must accept and defeat all who would challenge him.  He does this with the help of his head of security, Okoye (Danal Gurira), brilliant sister Shuri (Letitia Wright), loving mother (Angela Bassett) and former partner in crime and matters of the heart Nakia (Nyong’o).  As the work to keep their country safe, they must take on the challenge of a long-lost relative, Erik Killmonger (Jordan), who is defiant of the fact that Wakanda is a wealthy country with seemingly endless resources.  He wants to share the wealth and make it possible for everyone to reap its benefits.  Of course, this brings a great hub-bub up to King T’Challa.  “If we take in people and their problems they wil soon become our problems as well.”  Sounds familiar.

Director Coogler, who directed Fruitvale Station and Creed, has once again filled his cast with an amazing set of actors.  Besides Boseman, who has played everyone from James Brown to Jackie Robinson to Thurgood Marshall on film recently, the cast contains recent Oscar winners Forest Whitaker and Nyong’o, as well as Academy Award nominee Bassett.  These films are meant to be taken serious and the cast more than delivers on that promise.  But these films are also meant to be fun, and with great visuals and a brilliant musical score, Black Panther more than fills the bill.

Film Review “Early Man”

Directed by: Nick Park
Starring: Eddie Redmayne. Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, Timothy Spall
Distributed by: StudioCanal
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 89 minutes

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Aardman Animations is probably best known for their characters Wallace and Gromit. This company has been around for nearly 50 years mastering the art of stop-motion clay animation. I absolutely love that format and this company has brought out some great content over the years including “Chicken Run” and “Shaun the Sheep”, unfortunately “Early Man” is not one of their better films. I hate it when I see a trailer for a movie and shriek and say “Oh boy, that’s gonna suck”. In this case, the trailer is 100% right.

“Early Man” takes place in the Stone Age when prehistoric creatures and cavemen roamed the Earth. There is a small tribe of caveman led by Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall) and they live in a valley where they hunt rabbits. A young caveman, Dug (Eddie Redmayne), has dreams to do more. Their world is turned upside down when a Bronze Age army led by Lord Nooth (Tom Hiddleston) take over their land and force them out into the badlands. Dug seeks out a way to get back his home and challenges the Bronze army to a game of soccer finding out that his ancestors discovered the game before his time…and that about sums of the movie, not much else happens here.

Sitting in the theater, I looked over at my wife and she was yawning. I was dozing off myself as this film was barely able to keep our attention…even our 5 year old seemed bored as well. If you have seen the trailer, then you have seen the whole movie. Tom Hiddleston, known best for his work in the Marvel Universe playing Loki, literally was the best part of the whole film as Lord Nooth. He was funny for sure but can’t save the film by himself.

One comment my wife pointed out, which I happened to notice as well, is that the film is very drab and there was really only one color pallet the whole film. In other stop motion films like “Coraline” color is such an important part of the film. I have to give credit to the animators because I love the craft of stop motion animation and you can tell that a lot of work went into this movie. I just wish I could say that I enjoyed it more but it was simply boring (and only at 89 minutes) and lacking any depth whatsoever. Yawn!

Film Review: Victor Crowley

Starring: Parry Shen, Kane Hodder and Laura Ortiz
Directed By: Adam Green
Rated: R
Running Time: 93 minutes

As director and writer Adam Green said himself, the “Hatchet” trilogy was a segmented, yet complete story. So there was never a need for a fourth “Hatchet,” yet here we are with “Victor Crowley.” Green can be forgiven for going back to the monster that made his career, especially since it’s taken on a life of its own and worked its way into the hearts of horror aficionados. Luckily, unlike others who’ve returned to their roots, Green has found a worthy amount of gory content and vicious fun to justify this fourth time around.

Picking up 10 years after the event of “Hatchet III,” the sole survivor of Crowley’s massacre, Andrew (Shen), is promoting a new book detailing how he survived. While many line-up to get an autograph or buy the book from him, an equal amount take the time to ridicule him for cashing in on death or accusing him of committing mass murder under the guise of the supernatural. What mainstream public could actually believe 40 people were killed by a disfigured Hulk-like entity in a swamp?

Of course it wouldn’t be a “Hatchet” movie without returning to that very swamp. Andrew is suckered back in, with the promise of more money on his book tour campaign. Getting mixed up eventually is an aspiring crew of filmmakers and the people transporting Andrew back to the site of the decade old massacre. Of course, the key component, Victor Crowley (Hodder), needs to be summoned to go on another killing spree.

The actually summoning is one of the few hiccups in an otherwise funhouse blood fest. Once Crowley shows up, “Victor Crowley” rarely lets up, spending the second half of the movie being relentlessly savage and overwhelmingly sadistic. But it’s equally funny, at least for those with an ounce of black humor in their funny bone. There’s a lot of fan service, within the own franchise as well as several nods to the horror community, that sometimes distracts from the core content.

I can’t give too much away because “Victor Crowley” is meant to be experienced instead of hearing my pitch as to why you should see it. Those who have already gone along for the trip will certainly check out “Victor Crowley,” and without a doubt I can say they’ll fall immediately in love with it. Very rarely does a sequel, much less the fourth of a franchise, live-up-to and exceed the expectations set by previous films, but “Victor Crowley” does. If this is the beginning of a new storytelling trilogy, it’s set the expectations for future films ridiculously high.

Film Review: “Ruin Me”

Starring: Marcienne Dwyer, Matt Dellapina and Chris Hill
Directed By: Preston DeFrancis
Rated: R
Running Time: 87 minutes

Any horror film buff would certainly take part in a Slasher Sleepout, a 36-hour experience that’s a mishmash of elements from escape rooms, haunted houses and a weekend camping trip. Is this actually a thing? I’m genuinely curious and would probably splurge on it if it existed. At least the six characters in “Ruin Me” did. When we meet the, they have this giddy excitement, that I’m sure I would have before a weekend of cheap scares alone in the woods, solving puzzles. Well, five out of six of those characters at least seem cozy to the idea.

Alex (Dwyer) is lukewarm to the concept. She’s begrudgingly going with her boyfriend, Nathan (Dellapina), who received the experience as a birthday gift from a pal, but his buddy couldn’t go so Alex is his fill-in. You’d think he’d have gone with another friend, or at least someone who’s favorite movie isn’t “Dirty Dancing.” The four other people joining them are all about horror though. There’s the awkward loner who rattles off horror movie references, the stoic weird guy, and an obnoxious Goth couple that has done these kinds of hodgepodge horror getaways before.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a true horror movie if something didn’t go wrong, and things go south quickly. At the beginning everyone plays along with the fake blood, fake mutilated body parts and hooded men in the forest stalking them, but it’s not until people start disappearing and the fake blood becomes real blood. “Ruin Me” has a bit of fun playing with the audience expectations about when things will take a nosedive and how far our characters are still willing to believe that they’re just being toyed with by 21st century carnival ride operators.

“Ruin Me” has a lot of twists and turns after the midway point. Some of the surprises are earned and are actually rewarding while others feel like concepts shoehorned into the script without actually fitting into the overall narrative. Alex, being the focal point of misery as the film progresses, has a lot of the believable twists to her character arc. Some of Alex’s reveals appear sloppy at face value, but they are a lot more believable in hindsight when everything is finally tied together.

“Ruin Me” is a midnight movie romp, which pays off for viewers who love watching characters trapped in sadistic head games. The argument could be made that Alex’s misery and the film’s head games don’t go far enough. It’s a fair point because “Ruin Me” seemingly makes a 180 degree turn in terms of tone at one point, without justifying the pivot. The “fun weekend gone wrong” trope could have easily sustained the movie, but it seems like the intentional swivel was an attempt to subvert. “Ruin Me” isn’t about to spawn a new genre or rewrite the horror movie rules, but it maintains a sense of mystery and excitement for those willing to go on the overnight with the characters. If nothing else, the writers might be on to something with this Slasher Sleepout.

Film Review – “Hostiles”


Starring:  Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi
Directed by:  Scott Cooper
Rated:  R
Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures


What would you do if you’d spent your entire adult life hating someone only to find that they are now your roommate? I’ll wait while you think up an answer.

A young husband (Scott Sheppard) is alerted by his wife (Pike) that there is a band of Native Americans approaching their homestead. The husband orders her and their young daughters to flee while he takes up his rifle. Sadly, he is no match for the marauding group, nor are his children. Terrified, the woman seeks refuge in the neighboring woods.

As things in Washington D.C. get progressive, Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) looks forward to retiring soon. He has spent the majority of his military career hunting down (and killing) the Native Americans the government has deemed dangerous. Among them, was Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi), a Cheyenne who, along with his family, was captured by Blocker. Blocker is surprised to find out that the plight of the Native Americans has reached the cosmopolitan east coast of the country and that his last assignment will be to escort the Chief and his family safely to Montana, where he can live out his days as a free man. Blocker refuses, only relenting when he learns that to disobey will cost him his pension. To say he’s not happy is an understatement.

Scott Cooper has always been an entertaining filmmaker. Whether it’s the day to day life of singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart” or the bond of the Baze brothers in “Out of the Furnace,” he has a unique way of telling a story that makes the viewer feel they are part of the story. And he also knows how to get great performances out of his actors. Jeff Bridges won an Oscar for “Crazy Heart” and both Bale and Casey Affleck did some of their best work in “Furnace,” which is saying a lot since they both also have Oscars. Bale shines again here, as does the group of soldiers he takes with him on the mission, including Jesse Plemons, Jonathan Majors and newly Academy Award nominated Timothee Chalamet. Add to this group long time performers like Ben Foster and Scott Wilson, as well as the quiet, dignified Studi, and you have a cast that is more than up to the task. This also goes for Ms. Pike, who is found by Blocker’s party and taken into the group, with Blocker going out of his way to ensure her safety. Not for any ulterior motive but out of a sense of chivalry and decency.

Visually the film is beautifully shot, with director Cooper and DP Masanobu Takayanagi (“The Grey,” “Silver Linings Playbook”), along with composer Max Richter (television’s “Black Mirror”) painting portraits of the long ago countryside.

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