Film Review: “Overlord”

OVERLORD
Starring: Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell
Directed by: Juluis Avery
Rated: R
Running Time: 1 hr 39 mins
Paramount
 
Produced by J.J. Abrams, “Overlord” is not your father’s John Wayne-type World War II flick. Other than the title being derived from Operation Overlord, the codename for the June 6, 1944 Battle of Normandy, best known as D-Day, “Overlord” has little to do with the actual invasion. A mix of action, horror and science fiction, “Overlord” contains a predictable storyline with a degree of vagueness high enough to undermine the plot. However, watching crazy, evil Nazis getting blown apart by the good guys is always excellent fun to watch.
 
The first third of “Overlord” is the most intense of the film as planes full of American paratroopers are flying into Nazi-controlled France on the eve of D-Day. Their mission, as ridiculous as it sounds, is to knock out a singular German radio tower or else the Allied invasion will fail. It’s a chaotic, tense-filled scene as the American fleet tries to survive withering anti-aircraft fire from German positions. Director Julius Avery (“Son of a Gun”) does a wonderful job of making us feel like we are on the plane with lots of shaky camera work. We can almost smell the vomit and the fear.
 
From the moment we meet him we know that Pvt. Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo, “Fences”) is going to be the story’s hero even though he doesn’t have the respect of many of his fellow soldiers. He is especially harassed by Pvt. Tibbet (John Magaro, “Not Fade Away”), a sniper whose bad faux-accent is as annoying as nails on a chalkboard. Amidst the plane’s green soldiers is brooding explosives expert Cpl. Ford (Wyatt Russell, “22 Jump Street”), the obvious grizzled veteran who doesn’t take any guff from anyone.
 
Eventually it comes down to just four GIs, including our three named American heroes, who must find a way to sneak into the heavily guarded radio tower, which sits on top of a French church. Pvt. Boyce stumbles his way inside, but once there he discovers horrific experiments are being conducted on French villagers, American soldiers, and even dead Germans. Think Captain America soldier serum meets “The Walking Dead.” Some sort of mysterious liquid underneath the church is being refined by a Nazi scientist to make invincible soldiers, which isn’t that the goal of every evil scientist in a war-related movie? Yawn.
 
Ultimately, our heroes, with the assistance of a local girl (Mathilde Ollivier, “The Misfortunes of Francois Jane”), must save the test subjects and destroy the tower while trying to evade a sadistic Nazi officer (Pilou Asbaek, “Game of Thrones”). Oh, and don’t forget they are to ensure that D-Day succeeds.
 
“Overlord” sometimes feels like a version of the Wolfenstein video game, only with slightly better acting. The intensity of the beginning is lost because of predictability and near-campiness of the story. The plot is paper thin with a climax that unfolds like a B-movie. Still, “Overlord” is a bit of a guilty pleasure so get plenty of popcorn.

Film Review: “The Old Man and the Gun”

THE OLD MAN AND THE GUN
Starring: Robert Redford, Sissy Spacek
Directed by: David Lowery
Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins
Fox Searchlight
 
Jesse James. Cole Younger. Billy the Kid. Bonnie and Clyde. All were criminals who robbed and murdered their way into history thanks to being turned into distorted Robin Hoods by dime store novels, bleeding newspaper headlines, and eventually a variety of movies. The supposed glory days of stickup artists arguably ended by the time the 1940s rolled around, yet one man named Forrest Tucker (1920-2004), who had a flair for the dramatic, probably stole more than all the aforementioned bandits combined. His life of crime, which began at the age of 15, is detailed in the current drama “The Old Man and the Gun,” starring Robert Redford in the alleged last acting gig of his career. Redford goes out with a bang in a performance that is charming and engrossing.
 
Written and directed by David Lowery (“Pete’s Dragon,” “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”), “The Old Man and the Gun” is based upon a January 27, 2003 article of the same name in “The New Yorker” by American journalist David Grann. Like the title implies, we meet Tucker in his older years when he should be enjoying retirement somewhere sunny or at the very least staying out of trouble with the law. However, we quickly discover that Tucker cannot give up the thing he loves the most no matter what his age is. With fellow thieves Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits) in tow as part of what the press dubs the Over the Hill Gang, Tucker continues a nationwide bank heist spree in 1981 that garners the attention of detective and family man John Hunt (Casey Affleck). Hunt and Tucker are complete opposites of each other, but there is a bit of mutual respect as a cat-and-mouse game evolves before Hunt’s case is taken over by the feds.
 
In the middle of it all, Tucker encounters Jewel (Sissy Spacek), a single woman with a small horse farm in the country. He beguiles her with his charm, which Redford fleshes out effortlessly in scenes not only with Spacek, but also in scenes when Tucker is holding up banks with smiles and courtesy. Their chemistry on the silver screen is tangible and watching these two acting masters at work is a special cinematic treat to be savored like a fine wine. Of course, their relationship becomes more complicated when she discovers his real line of work, which is growing increasingly perilous as he continues to take chances despite mounting press coverage of his crimes.
 
Lowery has crafted a wonderful little film that flows smoothly from beginning to end with great acting and solid dialogue. Waits is subtly fantastic as a hardened tough guy while Glover quietly plays a worrywart and Affleck is solid in a nice supporting role. Beneath the entertaining Hollywood veneer, though, is a man who was in and out of jail his entire life, which included 18 alleged successful escapes from various detention centers and prisons. The film glides by how many lives were adversely affected by Tucker’s criminal activities and it only gives a brief nod to what happened to his family. Much like the dime store novels of the 19th century, “The Old Man and The Gun” sentimentalizes Tucker by taking a lot of dramatic license with reality. So much so that Tucker achieves a certain level of sympathetic status that whitewashes the fact he was a habitual criminal.

Film Review: “Museo”

MUSEO
Starring: Gael García Bernal
Directed by: Alonso Ruizpalacios
Rated: Unrated
Running Time: 2 hrs 8 mins
Vitagraph
 
Every so often a work of cinema is created that is so fantastic and brilliant that it belongs in a museum where it can be forever enshrined. The new Mexican drama “Museo” is not one of those films. “Museo” is the tale of the 1985 robbery of Mexico’s Museum of Anthropology during which over 100 pre-Columbian artifacts were stolen. Never mind the recognition it received at the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, “Museo,” misfiring on nearly every cylinder, is two hours-worth of distorted history, obnoxious musicality, bad writing and directing.
 
The son of a successful doctor, Juan Nuñez (Gael García Bernal, “Y Tu Mamá Tambien,” “Mozart in the Jungle”) is dissatisfied with his upper middle-class lifestyle and family. He claims to be studying for a degree veterinary medicine, but it appears to be a lifelong pursuit because he lacks all motivation to finish. The same is true for his best friend, Benjamin Wilson (Leonardo Ortizgris). While Benjamin may not have quite as comfortable of an existence, he lacks any friends and has little in the way of desire.
 
To alleviate their boredom, Juan hatches a scheme to pull off the greatest heist in Mexico’s history. It seems impossible that could ever work, yet miracle of miracles the two half-wits succeed easily during the pre-dawn hours of Christmas Day. They are amazed by the subsequent coverage and how the news media portrays the thieves as part of an international conspiracy. However, their victory is a hollow one.
 
Benjamin proves to be more worried about his ailing father than Juan cares for while Juan himself begins having visions of a Mayan king that lead to having feelings of guilt. It all puts a great stress on their longtime friendship, especially after they meet an unscrupulous artifact dealer who points out to them that their stolen goods are both priceless and worthless at the same time. Despair falls upon them as the manhunt by Mexican authorities begins to breathe down their necks.
 
Extremely little accuracy is paid to the actual events besides that the Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City was indeed robbed by two men. Director Ruizpalacios tries to create suspense by having the two imbecilic friends almost get caught by museum security. Never happened. Nor did they try to sell their artifacts right away or develop a guilty conscience as one of the two main culprits in real life was arrested in 1989 while participating in a drug trafficking ring. The dramatic license taken goes beyond absurdity.
 
The choice of musical score is a complete disaster as it is loud, brash, and fails to heighten the nonexistent suspense. It plays like a bad, offensive sample of a Hitchcock film. Making matters worse are a series of ill-suited, quasi still shots of the dynamic duo as they rob the museum. Combine that with some random shaky camera footage, add a rambling sense of storytelling without any tightness and you get a cinematic mess. Bernal is adequate for his role, but his acting is only pushed in one lone, actual memorable scene involving Juan and his stoic father. The only drama you will find in “Museo” is if you can sit through its entirety.

Film Review: “Wildlife”

WILDLIFE

Starring:  Ed Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal
Directed by:  Paul Dano
Rated: PG 13
Running time:  1 hr 45 mins
IFC

It’s amazing what a little pride will do to a family.  Take the Brinsons.  Things go to bad when man of the house Jerry (Gyllenhaal) is fired from his job.  They go to worse when he is offered his job back but, because of his pride, refuses to accept it.  With a family to support – wife Jeanette (Mulligan) and 14 year old son Joe (Oxenbould) – he leaves home to take a dangerous job as a firefighter.  He should have just gone back to work.

I don’t know what is happening in Hollywood, but so many young actors are taking the reins and writing and directing their own features.  This film was directed by Paul Dano (the co-star of such films as “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood”) and written by Dano and fellow actress Zoe Kazan (“The Big Sick” and the granddaughter of the great director Elia Kazan) and while it starts off a little slow, as the story grows you begin to embrace it.

The performances are smartly delivered, with Gyllenhaal at his most hang-dogged at times and Mulligan her beautiful but unsure self.  The story is told through the eyes of Joe and Oxenbould is fine as the central story point.

Technically the film is beautifully presented, with long shots of mountains and sky as far as the eye can see.  Credit this to director Dano and cinematographer Diego Garcia, who give the film almost a “postcard” quality and Mr. Dano a very strong freshman effort from behind the camera.

Film Review: “Boy Erased”

BOY ERASED

Starring:  Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman and Joel Edgerton
Directed by:  Joel Edgerton
Rated: R
Running time:  1 hr 54 mins
Focus Features

 

ARKANSAS.  THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY.

So reads the license plate that is the first thing we see at the beginning of “Boy Erased.”  But opportunity for who?  It’s certainly been good to the Eamons family.  Father Marshall (Russell Crowe) is not only the town preacher, he also owns the big car dealership in town.  Wife Nancy (Kidman) is busy in the community.  And son Jared (Hedges) is a popular high school boy who dreams of being a writer.  But Jared has a secret, one that will pit him against those he loves because of those he loves.

Based on the experiences related in the book “Boy Erased” by Gerrard Conley and written by director and co-star Edgerton, the film follows Jared as he is outed to his parents and made to attend a program that will “cure” him of his supposed misdeeds.  He is taken to a campus run by Victor Sykes (Edgerton).  The rules are strict.  No cell phones allowed in classes.  They are actually confiscated each morning, with the staff informing the owners that they will be checking their contacts and calling random numbers to ensure there is no evil happening on the other end of the line.  No contact, except for the briefest of handshakes.  Heck, you have to take a counselor with you when you use the bathroom.  Most important…you do not discuss the therapy with anyone outside the campus.  Jared wants so much to please his parents but as his therapy continues he realizes that to deny his true feelings is to deny himself.

I was a huge fan of Edgerton’s previous writing/directing project, 2015’s “The Gift” and he continues to show with his work here that he is one of the most gifted filmmakers working today and one to be reckoned with for many years.  It can’t be easy pulling double duty both in front of and behind the camera, but he keeps the story moving while allowing the audience to absorb the happenings on screen.  He also pulls amazing performances out of both Hedges and Kidman, with both of them doing some of their best work in recent years.  Add to the acting kudo list Edgerton himself, as well as supporting work by Flea, Jesse LaTourette, Britton Sear, Theodore Pellerin and David Joseph Craig, whose smug face and attitude made me want to punch him every time he came on screen.

Awards season is coming and “Boy Erased” has easily put itself in the running for some end of the year gold.

Blu-ray Review “Mandy (2018)”

Actors: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, Richard Brake
Directors: Panos Cosmatos
Rated: Unrated
Studio: IMAGE ENTERTAINMENT
Release Date: October 30, 2018
Running Time: 121 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

In 2010, I did an interview with Michael Rogers, who was at the time co-starring in the web series, Mortal Kombat Legacy, and he mentioned he had a new film coming out called “Beyond the Black Rainbow”. I ended up watching this film directed by this new guy, Panos Cosmatos, and was blown away at how different, trippy and captivating it was. Fast forward eight years later Panos has done it again this time with his new film, “Mandy”, starring Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache, Bill Duke, and Richard Brake. If you ever wanted to know what doing acid was like without taking the drug, watch “Mandy” since it delivers the same psychedelic effect. This is literally one of the craziest movies I have seen in years. Guaranteed to be a cult classic for many years to come! Another great performance by Cage, who is beyond insane in this movie! See Mandy now!

Official Premise: Pacific Northwest. 1983 AD. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence. When their pine-scented haven is savagely destroyed by a cult led by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand, Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire.

Director Panos Cosmatos really has a unique vision for his films. I really enjoyed how patient you need to be with “Mandy” and the pay off is beyond rewarding like “Beyond the Black Rainbow“.  The long drawn out shots leave you starring at the screen waiting on their every next move. The special effects are amazing for the low budget film and gives away just enough to make you want more. I would love to see characters and themed expanded in spin-offs or sequels. There is so much great stuff in this movie that I don’t want to ruin anything before you see it.  It does also feature one hell of an amazing score, the last score in fact from the late renowned Oscar-nominated composer Jóhann Jóhannsson (“Sicario”, “The Theory of Everything). It is haunting and also drives the first half of the movie perfectly!

The Blu-ray A/V presentation is solid. The 1080p transfer is solid. The film relies a lot of color and has some dark scenes but they really looks great. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works great with Jóhannsson’s haunting score. Personally, I don’t think anyone saw the breakout success of this film when they were planning to release it with a very limited theatrical engagement and  VOD on same day. You can tell that the Blu-ray wasn’t given much love in terms of extras. There is only a brief behind-the-scenes featurette includes as well some deleted and extended scenes. I would have loved a commentary track to get some more info about this crazy production.

Film Review: “Bohemian Rhapsody”

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY
Starring:  Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton and Joseph Mazzello
Directed by:  Bryan Singer
Rated: PG 13
Running time:  2 hrs 14 mins
20th Century Fox

 

I’m going to confess something here.  On my list of life regrets, one of the ones near the top has to do with the fact that I had a few opportunities in my lifetime to see the band QUEEN live in concert and never went, always telling myself, “I’ll see them the next time they come around.”  Sadly, on November 24, 1991 that statement became moot, as the world mourned the death of the bands flamboyant lead singer, Freddie Mercury (music trivia purists will also note that Eric Carr, the 2nd drummer for KISS, also passed away on that date).  Director Bryan Singer’s new film, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” containing an amazing star-making performance from Rami Malek, lets the world know that Freddie isn’t dead!

London, 1970.  When we meet Farrokh Bulsara (Malek) he is unloading luggage at Heathrow Airport.  He is not happy in his work, especially when his co-workers refer to him as “Paki.”  “I’m not Pakistani,” he constantly reminds them (he was actually Parsi, having been born on the island of Zanzibar before his family moved to England).  While his mother and sister dote on him, he knows his father is ashamed of him, scolding him for going out late at night and imploring him to follow his father’s words of “Good Thought.  Good Words.  Good Deed.”  Farrokh has the opportunity to meet a band who has just lost their lead singer and he soon gets the gig.  A few changes, including the name of the band (and its lead singer) and QUEEN, as well as Freddie Mercury, are on their way.

Full of the music you will fondly remember and featuring one of the most immersive performances by an actor EVER, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a musical masterpiece.  And while the film is definitely designed around the flamboyant Mercury, the other band members – Brian May (Gwilym Lee), Roger Taylor (Ben Hardee) and John Deacon (Joseph Mazzello) – are given ample screen time, allowing their characters to be as fleshed out as possible.  They enjoy the musical ups (concert tours and success) and downs (the head of the record company hate’s their music and concepts, critics hate the song “Bohemian Rhapsody”) together, as a family.

However, anyone familiar with the QUEEN story knows this may not be a family you or I would like to be a part of.  Besides the “getting better through science” fast track that Freddie s drug abuse puts him on, there is the same kind of in-fighting and arguments between the members of the group.  There is also the subject of Freddie’s sexuality.  He meets the “love of his life,” Mary (Boynton) but she understands that there will always be an unsaid “thing” between them that will keep them apart.

The film follows the band through their appearance at 1985’s LIVE AID.  It is here that they cemented themselves as one of the greatest bands of all time.  Four decades later, they still hold that distinction.

Confession number two:  I’m old enough to say that my first concert was Elvis Presley (Valentine’s Day – 1977) so when I say I’ve seen them all, I’ve seen them all.  And I’ve said for years that the greatest front man EVER was Freddie Mercury.  If you care to disagree, drop me an email and we’ll talk about it.

CD Review: Atreyu “In Our Wake”

“In Our Wake”
Atreyu
Spinefarm Records
Tracks: 12

Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars

Metalcore mavens Atreyu have returned with a brand new full length studio album titled “In Our Wake” The album is being released via Spinefarm Records and includes 12 tracks from the So-Cal natives. “In Our Wake” is the bands seventh studio release and the follow up to the 2015 album “Long Live” which peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard 200.

Since the bands return from a self imposed hiatus Atreyu have produced a continuous stream of melodic infused metal which can be describes as two parts metalcore and two parts post-hardcore and they further cement this statement with their latest offering “In Our Wake” from tracks like the anthemic opener “In Our Wake” to the thunderous, angst filled “Nothing Will Ever Change” the band showcases the numerous facets of their signature sound which they first debuted in 2002 with the release of “Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses”. The band continues to incorporate more and more electronic elements into their sound and tracks like “Blind Deaf & Dumb” and the somber “Terrified” are fitting examples. Another highlight of the album is its closing track “Super Hero” which features guest appearance from Avenged Sevenfold front man M. Shadows and Underoath’s Aaron Gillespie.

Atreyu fans will certainly want to add “in Our Wake” to their collection as nearly every song on the album has potential to dominate the charts and your playlist and even though I found the use of gang vocals to bit a excessive (almost every track features some form of this) each songs performance seems to have been carefully crafted and arranged as the album has a solid flow and unique textures providing an enjoyable listen time and time again.

Track Listing:
1.) In Our Wake
2.) House of Gold
3.) The Time Is Now
4.) Nothing Will Ever Change
5.) Blind Deaf & Dumb
6.) Terrified
7.) Safety Pin
8.) IntoThe Open
9.) Paper Castle
10.) No Control
11.) Anger Left Behind
12.) Super Hero

Film Review – “Halloween”

 

HALLOWEEN

Starring:  Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer and Will Patton
Directed by:  David Gordon Green
Rated:  R
Running time:  1 hr 46 mins
Universal

 

There are a handful of films that can be pointed to and described as “game changing” in Hollywood history.  “Citizen Kane” broke all the rules as to how a film is made.  “Jaws” gave us the summer blockbuster.  “Star Wars” ensured that sci-fi fans would always have a voice.  And where do you start when you talk about the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  In 1978, another film arrived and changed the face of the horror genre’ forever.  That film was “Halloween.”

We “meet” Michael Myers as an adult, standing alone in a squared-in area of a state-run mental institution.  He is being visited by a film crew working on solving a mystery:  why did 6-year old Michael stab his sister to death on Halloween night, 1963 and why, after escaping from captivity, did he return to his hometown 15 years later and kill again?

One thing to note here for fans of the series, or just those that are interested.  Despite a plethora of “sequels” to the 1978 original, they are treated here as non-existent, making THIS film a continuation of the original.  And I’ll say here that the film, with some tongue in cheek references to other films, works well.  The scares are legit and the performances, led by the amazing Jamie Lee Curtis, are well delivered.

I was surprised to learn that this film was co-written by the always funny Danny McBride.  Good job.  The script is solid, with some nice set-ups inter-spliced with some emotional family moments between Curtis’ Laurie Strode and her estranged daughter and granddaughter.  But you go to these films to see the boogeyman get his comeuppance.  So, what are you waiting for?

Concert Review: FOO FIGHTERS in Kansas City

 

 Foo Fighters
 Sprint Center, Kansas City, MO
 October 12, 2018
 
During an introduction a few years ago on CBS’s “Late Show with David Letterman,” the now-retired host said this about the Foo Fighters, “We can all sleep easy at night knowing that somewhere at any given time, the Foo Fighters are out there fighting Foo.” With founder Dave Grohl at the helm, Foo Fighters did plenty of that and then some in front of a packed audience for three wild hours on Friday night (Oct. 12) at the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Missouri.
 
After hitting the multi-generational crowd with three songs – “Run,” “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” and “La Dee Da” – from their ninth studio album “Concrete and Gold,” Grohl, who somehow manages to not blow out his vocal chords, took a break from wailing to let drummer Taylor Hawkins perform an epic solo, which was upon a miniature stage that rose a couple stories above the main stage. This led into “Something From Nothing,” also from their current album, before Grohl and company – bassist Nate Mendel, guitarist Pat Smear, Hawkins, guitarist Chris Shiflett, and keyboardist Rami Jaffee – took the Sprint Center on a rock journey across their 23-year music career.
 
Using just the right amount of laser lights and other visuals to complement their music, the Foo Fighters often went on extended, improvised versions of such classic hits as “The Pretender” and “Learn to Fly.” Without missing a beat, the audience was impressively able to sing every song word for word when called upon by Grohl, who once again proved he is a master showman. Some singers can bore you to tears when they decide to stop and talk in between songs. Grohl is a brilliant exception. Even with plenty of f-bombs to spare, Grohl, much like he did while sitting in a guitar throne three years ago during their last Sprint Center appearance, kept his spectators engaged and entertained.
 
The Foo Fighters took a break from their hit parade to allow each band member to have their own feature solo. No one in the house was disappointed as they demonstrated masterful musicianship, highlighted by a fantastic rendition of “Blitzkrieg Bop” with Smear taking the lead and “Under Pressure” with Grohl on drums and Hawkins on lead vocals. However, perhaps no more fun was to be had than when Grohl explained how important music can be to healing differences with Jaffee playing “Imagine” in the background. With everyone expecting to sing along with the John Lennon classic, Grohl surprised everyone by doing Van Halen’s “Jump” lyrics to the music of “Imagine,” again showing their versatility and playful side.
 
The Foo Fighters wound up the raucous evening of pure American rock with classics “My Hero,” “Monkey Wrench” and “Best of You” before diving into a slightly surprising encore. It featured Grohl inviting an 11-year-old kid onstage to play “Enter Sandman” on guitar, which was to the gleeful delight of the crowd, before the group ultimately ended with mainstay “Everlong.”

SET LIST:  Run, The Sky is a Neighborhood, La Dee Da, Sunday Rain, Something From Nothing, Walk, These Days, Arlandria, The Pretender, Times Like These, All My Life, Learn to Fly, Breakout, Another One Bites the Dust, Imagine/Jump, Blitzkrier Bop, Under Pressure, My Hero, Monkey Wrench, Best of You.  ENCORE:  Enter Sandman, Dirty Water, This is a Call, Everlon.,

 

Film Review: “Blaze”

BLAZE
Starring: Ben Dickey, Alia Shawkat
Directed by: Ethan Hawke
Rated: R
Running Time:  2 hrs 9 mins
IFC
 
Having grown up listening to the music of country artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc., I was surprised I had never heard of Blaze Foley (1949-89). After watching the biopic of the obscure yet influential Austin-based singer/songwriter, I felt saddened that he did not realize the full potential of his artistry. “Blaze” is a tragic tale that flows like a sad country song with little in the way of silver linings. Based upon the 2008 memoir “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze” by Foley’s ex-wife Sybil Rosen, “Blaze” features a powerful breakthrough performance by musician Ben Dickey in an emotionally complex role. Unfortunately, writer/director Ethan Hawke’s endeavor is so draggy at times that it makes a meandering creek look like a raging river.
 
Hawke bravely chose to tell his tale from three different time lines – sometime after the death of Foley within the confines of a radio booth interview; the night of Foley’s death; and the beginnings of his life as an artist when he meets Rosen (Alia Shawkat, “The To Do List”). The interview portion is entertaining as we watch Hawke, who never exposes his face, interview Foley’s friends – singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton), who had his own demons to deal with, and Zee (Josh Hamilton). Van Zandt embellishes to the point where you don’t know if he is telling the truth or creating the lyrics to another lonely country song.
 
The portions involving the night of Foley’s death are rather lackluster. Of course, some of the edge is taken off because we know what’s coming, but Hawke fails to make us feel like we are dancing along a razor. It plays more like a Hank Williams, Jr. tune that never made the final cut in the editing room. Dickey still manages to be a steady presence on the silver screen, but it’s the story of his innocent beginnings with Rosen that truly grab our attention and leave the most lasting impression.
 
Much of the story’s focus, and rightfully so since Hawke heavily used the real Rosen’s novel, is on the years when Foley and Rosen met, and lived for a time in a tree house. Dickey towers in these sentimental scenes like a seasoned veteran of the acting craft. While he sometimes forgets to maintain the limp Foley had, Dickey appears to capture the man’s essence with breathless ease. He hits every note with perfection as he portrays a man who fell hard from carefree joy and blossoming artistry into a dark haze of alcohol and drugs that cost him everything – love, career and life.
 
“Blaze” is a tragic story, yet if you subtract Dickey from the equation it feels stuck in neutral while cameos by a pair of stars, one a recent Oscar winner, feel contrived and over the top. Overall, it’s a story that could have used a lot tightening up and more cohesivity. Otherwise, Hawke’s effort falls short of his other tragic-musician tale in the form of 2015’s fantastic “Born to Be Blue.”
 
Having grown up listening to the music of country artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, etc., I was surprised I had never heard of Blaze Foley (1949-89). After watching the biopic of the obscure yet influential Austin-based singer/songwriter, I felt saddened that he did not realize the full potential of his artistry. “Blaze” is a tragic tale that flows like a sad country song with little in the way of silver linings. Based upon the 2008 memoir “Living in the Woods in a Tree: Remembering Blaze” by Foley’s ex-wife Sybil Rosen, “Blaze” features a powerful breakthrough performance by musician Ben Dickey in an emotionally complex role. Unfortunately, writer/director Ethan Hawke’s endeavor is so draggy at times that it makes a meandering creek look like a raging river.
 
Hawke bravely chose to tell his tale from three different time lines – sometime after the death of Foley within the confines of a radio booth interview; the night of Foley’s death; and the beginnings of his life as an artist when he meets Rosen (Alia Shawkat, “The To Do List”). The interview portion is entertaining as we watch Hawke, who never exposes his face, interview Foley’s friends – singer/songwriter Townes Van Zandt (Charlie Sexton), who had his own demons to deal with, and Zee (Josh Hamilton). Van Zandt embellishes to the point where you don’t know if he is telling the truth or creating the lyrics to another lonely country song.
 
The portions involving the night of Foley’s death are rather lackluster. Of course, some of the edge is taken off because we know what’s coming, but Hawke fails to make us feel like we are dancing along a razor. It plays more like a Hank Williams, Jr. tune that never made the final cut in the editing room. Dickey still manages to be a steady presence on the silver screen, but it’s the story of his innocent beginnings with Rosen that truly grab our attention and leave the most lasting impression.
 
Much of the story’s focus, and rightfully so since Hawke heavily used the real Rosen’s novel, is on the years when Foley and Rosen met, and lived for a time in a tree house. Dickey towers in these sentimental scenes like a seasoned veteran of the acting craft. While he sometimes forgets to maintain the limp Foley had, Dickey appears to capture the man’s essence with breathless ease. He hits every note with perfection as he portrays a man who fell hard from carefree joy and blossoming artistry into a dark haze of alcohol and drugs that cost him everything – love, career and life.
 
“Blaze” is a tragic story, yet if you subtract Dickey from the equation it feels stuck in neutral while cameos by a pair of stars, one a recent Oscar winner, feel contrived and over the top. Overall, it’s a story that could have used a lot tightening up and more cohesivity. Otherwise, Hawke’s effort falls short of his other tragic-musician tale in the form of 2015’s fantastic “Born to Be Blue.”

Blu-ray Review “Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection”

Actors: Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester
Number of discs: 24
Rated: NR
Studio: Universal Studios Home EntertainmentRelease Date: August 28, 2018
Run Time: 2764 minutes

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

As a kid, I grew up loving and also fearing the classic Universal Monsters. I used to be terrified going to Universal Studios Horror Make-Up Show as a kid cause I would see these terrifying creatures and monsters. Just fell in love. Universal Home Entertainment is making horror fans biggest dream come true bringing all these wonderful films together in “Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection”, available now. The thing that I am more excited about is that I will be able to share these great films with my daughter as she is growing up and continue the wonderful legacy that these films that brought and influenced over the decades! This is the first time ever that these film’s have been available together on Blu-ray.

The Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection includes Dracula (1931), (1931 Spanish Version of Dracula included as extra feature), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), Werewolf of London (1935), Dracula’s Daughter (1936), Son of Frankenstein (1939). The Invisible Man Returns (1940), The Invisible Woman (1940), The Mummy’s Hand (1940), The Wolf Man (1941), The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942), The Mummy’s Ghost (1942), The Mummy’s Tomb (1942), Invisible Agent (1942), Phantom of the Opera (1943), Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), Son of Dracula (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), The Mummy’s Curse (1944), The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944), House of Dracula (1945), She-Wolf of London (1946), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) wraps it up, WHEW!

In the time we live in together were we have films like “Saw” or “The Purge” posing as horror films, it is great to be able to showcase the ORIGINAL most iconic monsters in motion picture history including Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. This collection features the each of their films which stared some of the most legendary actors including Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains and Elsa Lanchester. These are characters that we can not let disappear they pioneered the horror genre with their with groundbreaking stories and productions.

First time ever hitting Blu-ray are the following films: The Invisible Man Returns, The Invisible Woman, Invisible Agent, The Invisible Man’s Revenge, Revenge of the Creature (first time also in 3D) and The Creature Walks Among Us. I should mention that Revenge of the Creature isn’t even available on the included set at the time of receiving. Universal has already setup a replacement program to receive a corrected Blu-ray disc featuring the 3D version of Revenge of the Creature and 2D version of The Creature Walks Among Us. Hopefully that is correct in future wave of this release. To receive an updated disc, please email USHEConsumerRelations@visionmediamgmt.com.

To think that some of these films are nearly 90 years old! YES nearly 90! These films simply look amazing. I am not a film specialist but when you are watching these films on Blu-rays, the 1080p transfers are simply amazing. You can see all the fine detail that went into these wonderful productions. Top it off with beautiful scores from each of these films. Music drove these films and it added suspense, which is nothing like we have today. These films are still scary with their DTS-HD Master Audio Mono tracks. Simply beautiful and makes me really miss these types of scores.

The bonus feature in this set are literally jam-packed with great extras. There are great behind-the-scenes documentaries and great featurettes focusing on these legends like Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., and Jack Pierce. If you are a commentary buff like myself you will be happy to hear that their are 13 feature commentaries with film experts. Lastly there are tons of great archival footage, photos and trailers. I think this giant box set has more content that I can even watch. Additionally this also includes a 48-page collectible book filled with behind-the-scenes stories and rare production photographs. Seriously, just a must have for any horror fans!

CD Review: Behemoth “I Love You at Your Darkest”

“I Love You at Your Darkest”
Behemoth
Metal Blade Records
Tracks: 12

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Black Metal heavy weights Behemoth have just released their 11th studio album titled “I Love You at Your Darkest” via Metal Blade Records. The album is the bands first studio release in four years and features 12 uniquely crafted tracks from the Gdansk natives who have been churning out their own signature blend of black metal since the early nineties. Vocalist/guitarist Nergal has stated that “It doesn’t get more blasphemous than this.” a claim which could be very, very true.

When a band like Behemoth and you releases an album titled “The Satanist” it might cause some to wonder if a black metal band can go much further than that. After listening to the twelve tracks which make up “I Love You at Your Darkest” I can tell you that the members of Behemoth (Nergal, Orion and Inferno) have not only matched the power and impact of their previous release but they may have found a way to take things one step further. The band is no stranger to controversy and in a recent press release Nergal talked about the album’s title, “It’s a verse from the Bible, It’s actually a quote from Jesus Christ himself”. For Behemoth to use it as the basis of our record, it’s sacrilege to the extreme.” Combine the back story of the title with the bands darkly colored fury and sleek production and you get tracks like the blast beat driven “Wolves ov Siberia” the haunting epic esque “Havohej Pantocrator” and my two personal favorites “Rom 5:8” and the droning riff driven “Bartzabel” which despite being lighter than the albums other eleven tracks still packs a punch and breaks up the release nicely.

“I Love You at Your Darkest” offers listeners more than just your run of the mill guttural vocals, down tuned guitars and obligatory blast beats. The band instead uses those techniques as a foundation to craft much more vast sonic landscapes that will appeal listeners time and time again. Even after a couple listens I still wanted to hear more. Albums that are able to keep a listeners attention time and time again are few and far between and Behemoth have packed each of the albums twelve songs with enough texture and instrumentation to keep your ears busy for a very long time.

Track Listing:
1.) Solve
2.) Wolves ov Siberia
3.) God = Dog
4.) Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica
5.) Bartzabel
6.) If Crucifixion Was Not Enough…
7.) Angelvs XIII
8.) Sabbath Mater
9.) Havohej Pantocrator
10.) Rom 5:8
11.) We Are the Next 1000 Years
12.) Coagvla

Book Review: “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest” by K.K. Downing w/ Mark Eglinton

“Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest”
Author: K.K. Downing w/ Mark Eglinton
Da Capo
Hardcover: 277 pages

Our Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As guitarist for the iconic British heavy metal band Judas Priest, Ken “K.K.” Downing lived the fast-paced, opulent life of a rock star. It was a far cry from his tedious, impoverished childhood in the heart of England. In “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest”, Downing recounts his forty-plus years with the band recounting events such as his first meeting with vocalist Rob Halford and guitarist Glen Tipton to stories of touring with bands like AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

There aren’t many music fans out there who can’t name at-least one Judas Priest song. From “Living After Midnight” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” to “Breaking the Law” the band has a memorable catalog that for many was the soundtrack of their youth. “Heavy Duty: Days and Nights in Judas Priest” is the chance for fans of the band to see just what was going on behind the scenes during the bands early years and on up through guitarist K.K. Downing’s departure from the group in 2011. Over the course of the books 277 pages the guitarist and his collaborator Mark Eglinton give detailed accounts of the bands formation, the growing pains all new bands go through and what the band was like during the recording of some of the most influential heavy metal records in music history. Downing is candid and no subject seems to be off limits as he recounts his own personal struggles as well as inner turmoil between band members, management and producers giving the reader a fly on the wall perspective that until now was not available.

At times I did find the stories to be a bit drawn out with a few too many “poor me” moments for my liking. Yes this is a memoir/autobiography and those types of things come with the territory however there were some redundancies and details that probably could have been thinned down or omitted completely with a little more editing. Do not get me wrong, the book still has a bunch a really cool moments and stories that aside from the people who lived it have/will never be experienced by most so being able to read about those is worth it. There are also some really great photos included the hardcover book comes with a super cool metallic like slip cover which will look awesome displayed next to other Judas Priest and music memorabilia.

DVD Review “PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes”

PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes
Street Date: September 11, 2018
Catalog: 59198274000 (US)
Running Time: 77 Minutes
Audio: English 5.1 and Spanish Stereo
S.R.P.: $10.99

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

It’s that time of the year! Halloween season is here, which is easily my favorite time of the year! The latest PAW Patrol DVD collection is jam packed with spooktacular adventures from the hit Nickelodeon series. I love the spooky episodes of “PAW Patrol” and this new collection of seven episodes are a must have for any fan of the show. There is even a super ghoul double-length special episode! This is a perfect collection of episodes to get you in the Halloween mood!

“PAW Patrol: Halloween Heroes” includes the following episodes: “Pups and the Ghost Pirate”, “Pups Save a Ghost”, “Pups and the Ghost Cabin”, “Pups Save a Bat”, “Pups Fall Festival”, “Pups Save the Corn Roast” and “Pups Save a Show”. I have SO MANY memories of my daughter and I watching “Pups Save a Ghost” I knew when she was little this episode used to scared her and yet she still watched it (proud horror fan daddy). These episodes are fun and yet still convey a good message for kids.