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Walter Chaw
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Jacked **½/**** Image C Sound B Extras C starring Ron Beaco Lee, Bizzy Bone, Alexis Fields, Anna Maria Horsford written and directed by Timothy Wayne Folsome by Walter Chaw Courageous and extremely well performed, Timothy Wayne Folsome's zero-budget Jacked Up demonstrates a rare and surprising willingness to explore the moral consequences of a moment's rash misadventure on victim and family alike. It is, in that sense, as unusual and compelling as Roger Michell's brilliant Changing Lanes, even if the route that it takes to get to its revelations are circuitous at best and overly familiar at worst. Jacked Up is a showcase for a young filmmaker's potential (otherwise missing from Folsome's debut of a couple of years ago, An Uninvited Guest), but it also exposes Folsome as a bad visual stylist and a limited scenarist who depends too much upon the path most travelled. Good thing there are lots of flowers of interesting bouquet to sniff along the way. Dre (RonReaco Lee) is a good kid who falls in with a bad crowd, an affiliation that one fateful night results in the murder of an innocent man. As it becomes clear that he's gotten away with it, conscience weighs heavily... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2020 at Film Freak Central
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2018 was a traumatic year for me that should turn out to be a good year in hindsight. I read something by a career counsellor who told clients thinking about a change to stop thinking and quit their job. He said you can't know what you can do until you stop doing what you're doing. I've spent the past six months doing things I would never have had the time or headspace for had I not walked off a ledge. It's not good for the heart but it's good for the soul. I've finished a couple of large writing projects and positioned myself to be available for a handful of genuinely interesting opportunities. I'm evolving. It's a daily thing. It's a work of a lifetime. This year, I have watched my friends achieve extraordinary things with their art and it's filled me with joy, not to mention inspiration. I don't know what they see in me in return, but I hope to justify their faith in 2019. I wouldn't have been able to be rash without the strength of my family and the support of my friends. A couple--you guys know who you are--somehow knew when to reach out and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2018 at Film Freak Central
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Aterrados ***½/**** starring Maxi Ghione, Elvira Onetto, Norberto Gonzalo, George Lewis written and directed by Demián Rugna LUCIFERINA ***/**** starring Sofía Del Tuffo, Marta Lubos, Pedro Merlo, Victoria Carreras written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada by Walter Chaw Demián Rugna's Terrified is as if the ghost-hunter sequence in Poltergeist were the entire movie and instead of the one house, the entire street were haunted. It is, in other words, a lot of fun. The picture opens, as these things must, with paranormal shenanigans, which in this case involve spectral voices coming out of the kitchen pipes, leading to one of the great shock reveals in recent memory. Really. It's a kill so radically cool and unexpected that it's at once horrible and deliciously uncanny. Simultaneously, a next-door neighbour seems to have gone missing and in flashback we see what's been happening to him. Then the son of poor single mom Alicia (Julieta Vallina) gets run down in the street before showing up a few days later, black from rot and stinking of the grave, to sit quietly at the dinner table. I love the image of this horrible corpse seated in a sunny dining room while everyone stares at it.... Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2018 at Film Freak Central
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*/**** starring Jaden Piner, Rob Zabrecky, Aurora Perrineau, Charley Palmer Rothwell written by Luke Jaden & Diane Michelle directed by Luke Jaden by Walter Chaw Luke Jaden's feature-length hyphenate debut (he co-wrote the script with Diane Michelle), Boo! is an insular family drama framed against a chain-letter premise involving one religious family's decision not to participate in paying a Halloween prank forward. What follows are a lot of jump scares and some on-the-nose dialogue that could have benefited, I think, from more workshopping. The problem is that the picture wants very badly to be about the toll of religious fundamentalism on the development of children (a well-taken point, of course), but it becomes the proselytizer itself with its straw-man of a bible-thumping patriarch, James (Rob Zabrecky), set up to bear the brunt of the film's sins. His constant references to the "good book" feel unnatural, rehearsed, what a movie evangelical would say. When his wife Elyse (Jill Marie Jones) reveals a tragedy in their past and her unwillingness to go to James at a point of crisis because of what he would say, it raises the question of how it is these people ended up together in the first place... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2018 at Film Freak Central
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ZERO STARS/**** written and directed by Drew Barnhardt by Walter Chaw Hypehante Drew Barnhardt's sophomore feature Rondo is vile, amateurish garbage that fails largely because it's so pleased with itself. It features narration ripped off in style and intent from Todd Field's Little Children, of all things, giving its set-up a kind of arch distance, but what begins as moderately clever reveals itself to be a desperate way to provide exposition when dialogue, character work, and camera movement have failed. Rondo follows Boone (Grant Benjamin Leibowitz), a junkie crashing on his sister Jill's (Breanna Otts) couch, visiting a sex party presided over by Lurdell (Reggie De Morton), who carefully enunciates his Pornhub-menu monologue to the participants before it's revealed that this sex party is, wait for it, actually a murder party. Jill gets involved. Jill and Boone's former vet dad (Michael Vasicek) gets involved, albeit briefly. And then there's some crap cribbed from that old Tom Savini book about doing gore effects on the cheap before Jill strips down to her underwear and starts acting like one of those models in an NRA video. Rondo is a particularly low form of exploitation that asks two different women to talk about... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2018 at Film Freak Central
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½*/**** written by Solomon Gray and Sonny Mallhi directed by Sonny Mallhi by Walter Chaw Towards the end of Sonny Mallhi's nigh-unwatchable Hurt, someone off-screen says, "Don't worry, it's almost over," and, you know, I felt seen. It's a film so assiduously About Something that it ends up mostly being about how much the filmmakers want it to be about something. They should've just called it METAPHOR and left the title flashing in the corner like that Quenten Dupieux movie Rubber about a killer tire. I also hated Rubber but I can respect that to some degree it knows it's full of shit. Hurt wants to use slasher-movie tropes as a literary device to discuss the living nightmare of life in the United States, feeding eternally into gun violence and forever wars, but it appears to have only seen Scream, making it an ape of an ape. It's like someone making a satire of Airplane!; or an older, less good meatloaf out of another, much better meatloaf. Rose (Emily Van Raay) likes fucking with the neighbourhood kids but then one day her PTSD-having boyfriend, Tommy (Andrew Creer), home from deployment, decides to show her what fear is actually like. He's... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2018 at Film Freak Central
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*/**** starring Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Paul Bettany written by Jonathan Kasdan & Lawrence Kasdan directed by Ron Howard by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. In Roger Ebert's reviews of the original Star Wars trilogy, he mentions that one of the wonders of this universe is that the droids are thinking, feeling, emotional beings, thus making their torture in Return of the Jedi a visceral thing. In Ron Howard's expediently-extruded Solo: A Star Wars Story (hereafter Solo), a sassy robot named L3-37, voiced by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, is fused into the Millennium Falcon spacecraft after being murdered in the middle of a slave and prisoner rebellion she's incited in another interchangeable industrial backwater. I mention this as a point of interest because L3 is the clumsy mouthpiece for broad progressive beliefs in a shockingly-bad script by father-son duo Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan. When Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover) asks if there's anything else he can get her as he's leaving a room, she says, "Equal rights?" It's that kind of character. The kind usually workshopped out when the screenwriter--one of them, anyway--isn't the most powerful person in the room. She's Dobby the House Elf from a storyline smartly left... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2018 at Film Freak Central
½*/**** Image B Sound A Extras C starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland, Eva Longoria, Kim Basinger screenplay by George Nolfi, based on the novel by Gerald Petievich directed by Clark Johnson by Walter Chaw Michael Douglas in a suit gets into an affair with the wrong woman and ends up running for his life to save his career. Again. RUNNING TIME 108 minutes MPAA PG-13 ASPECT RATIO(S) 2.40:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 5.1 French Dolby Surround Spanish Dolby Surround CC Yes SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-9 STUDIO Fox He's a Secret Service agent this time, Garrison, who, like Clint Eastwood's fossilized vet in In the Line of Fire, is a legend for saving Reagan from being shot twice, I guess. Like that character, too, he finds himself targeted in a plot to kill the President. The proverbial race against the clock is alas muted because our current real-life President is someone most U.S. citizens have probably fantasized about popping themselves (Shooter touches on this with a line having to do with loving the idea of the presidency, if not the corporeal manifestation); we learn that there's a traitor in the Service, and because Garrison fails a polygraph... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at Film Freak Central
***/**** Image B- Sound B- Extras C starring James Spader, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeremy Davies, Patrick Bauchau screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson, based on the short story by Mary Gaitskill directed by Steven Shainberg by Walter Chaw Pleasantville for the sadomasochism set, Steven Shainberg's Secretary is a gentle sexual-awakening fable set in a peculiar fairytale hyper-reality reminiscent of the saturated inward-gazing milieu of David Cronenberg's Spider. Featuring a courageous, social-convention-shattering performance by Maggie Gyllenhaal, the picture is The Graduate by way of humiliation and water sports--the hallmark pool scenes feature Gyllenhaal's Benjamin Braddock character Lee Holloway festooned with water-wings, her position just on the surface the mordant reflexivity of Sunset Blvd.'s doomed Joe Gillis rather than of Braddock's bottom-of-the-drink disconnection. Between Secretary and the Jake Gyllenhaal starrer Moonlight Mile, the Gyllenhaal siblings seem intent on tackling their generation's particular alienations by way of Mike Nichols's counterculture classic, but where Jake takes a conventional route in Moonlight Mile, Maggie's exploration of plastics-vs.-individualized happiness embraces the essential shadows of our nasty sexual ids in a Solondz-lite waltz with seething suburbia. RUNNING TIME 111 minutes MPAA R ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.85:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 2.0 (Stereo) CC No SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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***/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B- starring Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland screenplay by Deborah Moggach directed by Joe Wright by Walter Chaw There's fat to be trimmed from Joe Wright's noble go at Jane Austen's adapted-to-death Pride and Prejudice, which clocks in at a flabby 127 minutes (yet still seems somehow rushed at its conclusion), but when it works, it does for Austen what Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and Hamlet did for Shakespeare: it makes the trials of these iconic literary figures feel immediate and sensible--and it does so with a screenplay (by Deborah Moggach) that understands what parts of the text are timeless and what parts are not. This isn't to say that this Pride & Prejudice is more post-modern than the source, but that Wright understands where to prompt top-billed Keira Knightley to laugh sardonically and thus crafts an illusion of an interior life for her Elizabeth Bennet beyond the usual impression of adolescent cattiness. Knightley may very well be headed for an Oscar nomination for what has become the chick-Hamlet (Austen being the crucible through which young British actors put themselves in preparation for, I guess, Domino and sequels to Pirates of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Film Freak Central
Cidade de Deus **/**** starring Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge, Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora screenplay by Bráulio Mantovani, based on the novel by Paulo Lins directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund by Walter Chaw I'm uncomfortable with Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund's City of God--not for its brutality, but for the slick cinematic treatment of that brutality as it manifests itself through the harsh realities of Brazil's favelas ("slums"). Social Darwinist and serio-mythic in equal queasy measure, the picture is more influenced by Tarantino than Meirelles's background in commercial and video filmmaking, finding itself trying to balance its sizzle with social conscience before choosing in the end to remove itself as a strict adaptation of Paulo Lins's book Cidade de Deus. That being said, Meirelles does a magnificent job of parceling out--of marketing--the key touchstones in the history of a slum seething with violence. The result is a film that suggests what it might be like if Guy Ritchie helmed The Pianist--kinetically intriguing and technically proficient, but deeply troubling for its pop sensibility. Split into three segments, City of God is defined by the drugs of the choice of the era and the attendant levels of violence that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at Film Freak Central
*/**** Image A+ Sound A- Extras B- starring Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone, Stephen Dorff, Juliette Lewis screenplay by Richard Jefferies directed by Mike Figgis by Walter Chaw Conservatively speaking, I'm going to see something like four-hundred films this year and write reviews for about three-hundred of them. That's somewhere in the neighbourhood of "too many" and "much too many," and it's fair to wonder at some point along the way if my point-of-view is becoming coloured by fatigue, too many disappointments, too many deadlines, and the sort of imperious condescension to lacklustre product that begins to feel a little bit like hate. You get into this business because you love movies, you love talking about movies, and you love criticism wielded with responsibility--and then sets in the sobering realization that maybe the experience of going to movies might be permanently degraded by the experience of going to every movie and, worse, being forced to think about and contextualize all of them in a larger perspective. RUNNING TIME 119 minutes MPAA R ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.85:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 5.1 French DD 5.1 CC Yes SUBTITLES Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-9 STUDIO Touchstone So you can imagine my surprise when... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2017 at Film Freak Central
½*/**** Image D+ Sound B screenplay by Stu Krieger directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman by Walter Chaw So Gnorga (voiced by Cloris Leachman), the queen of the trolls, hates flowers, outlawing them in her forsaken trolldom. Kindhearted simple-troll Stanley (Dom DeLuise) finds himself and his green thumb in quite the pickle: What's a horticulturally inclined troll to do when everything his olive digit touches turns to a badly-animated flower? Get banished to Central Park in New York, of course--the only place in the universe more unpleasant (according to Gnorga) than Trolldom. Not content to be a worm in the Big Apple, fish-out-of-water intrigue, Don Bluth's excrescent A Troll in Central Park also manages to shoehorn in a Mary Poppins, "parents too busy to fly a kite" bit of nonsense. It seems too much to wrap up in just under seventy-six minutes, but not only does it manage to do just that in its trundling, underdeveloped way, A Troll in Central Park also wastes what feels like hours on aimless and appalling musical numbers. RUNNING TIME 86 minutes MPAA G ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.78:1 (16x9-enhanced) 1.33:1 LANGUAGES English Dolby Surround CC Yes SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-10 STUDIO... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Film Freak Central
*½/**** starring Colleen Wainwright, Robert Beckwith, Jason Sales, J. Keith Butler written and directed by Mikon A. Haaksman by Walter Chaw In order to get someone to vomit, one character asks another if they'd like to eat at Long John Silver's. It's a bright comic moment in the midst of the otherwise awkwardly-scripted 97 Brooks, the zero-budget digital video debut of Mikon A. Haaksman, who raised money for his project by soliciting contributions from friends and family. While the cast (largely composed of Haaksman's friends) is game, the screenplay, direction, and editing betray them at every turn. 97 Brooks lacks pace and rhythm--that visual or thematic hallmark that would have guided the movie over its essential lack of ear and many a narrative leap and difficulty. It isn't so much that 97 Brooks is a terrible film, it's that it has neither the wit nor the special something to overcome its amateurish screenplay and production values. Dorothy and Peter (Colleen Wainwright and Robert Beckwith) are small-town cops finding themselves out of their league when Simon (Jason Sales), a suave serial killer, sets up shop in their backyard. Borrowing from sources as diverse as The Silence of the Lambs, Clay Pigeons,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Film Freak Central
*/**** Image D Sound B screenplay by Don Bluth directed by Don Bluth, Gary Goldman by Walter Chaw A predictably disturbing take on Hans Christian Andersen's cautionary tale of the importance of conformity and the dangers of female sexual awakening, the diminutive heroine of Don Bluth and Gary Goldman's Thumbelina arrives in the slow blossoming of a rose. After brief stops in which a hyper-sexualized, Charo-voiced frog teaches Thumbelina to shake her tiny money-maker, a sleazy moustachioed junebug (Gilbert Gottfried) abducts her to be its wife, and Bluth presents phallic stems and pregnant bulbs to the point of indecency, the message of "there's someone for everyone" (or, closer to the mark, an "Eye of the Beholder"-like "stick with your kind, freak") comes ham-fisting home. RUNNING TIME 86 minutes MPAA G ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.78:1 (16x9-enhanced) 1.33:1 LANGUAGES English Dolby Surround CC Yes SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-10 STUDIO Fox Thumbelina (Jodi Benson) measures three inches in height--explanation for her stature is never satisfactorily offered. Her friends are singing animals, an apple-faced mother, and a French swallow (Gino Conforti) that sounds suspiciously like Jerry Orbach doing Maurice Chevalier. Thumbelina whines a lot about not having any humanoid boyfriends, but... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** Image A- Sound A- Extras B starring Amy Adams, Embeth Davidtz, Ben McKenzie, Alessandro Nivola screenplay by Angus MacLachlan directed by Phil Morrison by Walter Chaw Charting the vicissitudes of regional attitudes and the mercurial family dynamic, Phil Morrison's Junebug restores some of the lustre to the indie dysfunction genre (and to the Sundance imprint) with a beautifully performed drama about the cost of grace. If critics have a function anymore besides carving their own gravestones on the marble of modern cinema, it's to point a finger at films like Junebug, which sounds like a thousand other pictures but is actually something all its own: a Southern Gothic in the tradition of Flannery O'Connor that treats its characters as more than plot-movers or cardboard caricatures. More, it tackles an issue as delicate as outsider art with a deceptively sharp satirist's scalpel, understanding that the best weapon against paternalism is an affectionate portrayal of people just as mean, petty, and ruined by life as the rest of us. It can't hurt that its cast is uniformly fantastic, that its script, by Angus MacLachlan, is intuitive and smart, and that Morrison understands devalued things like mise-en-scène and visual metaphors, presenting them... Continue reading
Posted Mar 9, 2017 at Film Freak Central
****/**** starring Yûya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, Hiei Kimura, Momoko Shimizu written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda by Walter Chaw Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows appears so effortless that the weight of it by its closing credits is just astonishing. It's classical, formal filmmaking of the kind in which the Japanese seem to specialize, full of silences and long takes while featuring a quartet of performances from children that are so natural they feel stolen. Filmed between autumn 2002 and summer 2003, the picture was edited as it was shot, with the structure taking on the progression and characteristics of the four seasons and Kore-eda devising the shape of the next quarter as the previous one finished. No script was written for the children, who were advised before every shot of the substance of what they were to portray. Its evolution was organic, and evidence of that fluidity in its birth is, in the greatest stroke, never betrayed by telltale awkwardness. Nobody Knows feels like the truth unadorned and it feels like poetry--it's not often that the two share a breath. Between this and Hungarian director Nimród Antal's Kontroll, I've already seen two of the best films of 2005. Keiko (You) is... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at Film Freak Central
*/**** directed by Petra Epperlein & Michael Tucker by Walter Chaw Some of the footage is interesting and some of the quotes are poignant, but Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein's documentary Gunner Palace is hamstrung by embarrassingly trite narration and a lack of any sort of unifying theme in its editing. The film follows the United States 2/3 Field Artillery group--"Gunners"--as they take up residence in Uday Hussein's palace of earthly delights (redubbing the mansion "Gunner Palace" in the grunts' rough vernacular) in a bombed-out Baghdad during the months following U.S. occupation. More old ladies and shell-shocked children than hard-bitten insurgents are terrorized over the course of Gunner Palace, but what should have been an unbearable look at life under wartime and the constant threat of betrayal or ambush opens with a tone-setting Tucker voiceover that, with the callous defensiveness of a perspective-challenged, embittered vet, derides the audience for liking reality television like "Survivor". "Survive this," he says, spitting like a bona fide jarhead in the face of all us lefty wimps who've made the mistake of trying to learn something without getting shot at. Tucker isn't a journalist or a documentarian--in the tradition of Born Into Brothels, he's an... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2017 at Film Freak Central
HONEYDRIPPER */**** starring Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stacy Keach written and directed by John Sayles MARRIED LIFE ***/**** starring Pierce Brosnan, Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, Rachel McAdams screenplay by Ira Sachs & Oren Moverman, based on the novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven by John Bingham directed by Ira Sachs by Walter Chaw As a huge admirer of John Sayles's middle-period body of work--a period marked by such pictures as Matewan, Eight Men Out, and Lone Star (still my pick for the best American film of the Nineties)--it pains me to look at something like Honeydripper and recognize in it everything I like about Sayles side-by-side with everything that's fast making him irrelevant. He's got a common touch, no question, something forged in the time he spent rolling up his sleeves, joining labour unions, hitchhiking across the country, and writing vital, committed novels about it all. Was a time his gift for how ordinary people talked and thought translated into definitive statements about the United States; now it seems that all he uses it for is passing, fleeting music in otherwise earthbound productions. Passion Fish is extraordinary in its effortlessness; Honeydripper is likewise effortless, but it lacks... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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TEARS OF THE SUN */**** starring Bruce Willis, Monica Bellucci, Cole Hauser, Fionnula Flanagan screenplay by Alex Lasker & Patrick Cirillo directed by Antoine Fuqua BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE */**** starring Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy, Joan Plowright screenplay by Jason Filardi directed by Adam Shankman by Walter Chaw Antoine Fuqua's curiously timed Tears of the Sun is an unpleasant bit of jingoistic bullroar that seeks to redress the Clinton administration's refusal to intervene in the Rwandan genocide by offering up a small band of American special forces soldiers as saviour bwana bravely risking all for a white woman and, incidentally, restoring the son of a slain tribal leader to power. A lot like Schindler's List, for all the devastating scope of human tragedy involved in its story, the film is about the survivors and the white heroes, not the victims. Martyr complex fully engaged and full speed ahead, Bruce Willis is AK Waters (apparently named after the gun), a stone-faced lieutenant in the Schwarzenegger "Dutch" mode leading a band of highly-trained übermensh on a mission of mercy. The similarities to Predator over the first half of Tears of the Sun are startling (complete with unwilling female charge, token... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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*½/**** Image A- Sound B+ starring David Bowie, Jennifer Connelly screenplay by Terry Jones directed by Jim Henson by Walter Chaw As riffs on Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz go, Jim Henson's Labyrinth is a painfully dated, shockingly un-magical romp through a fragmented netherworld populated by Ziggy Stardust and a horde of little people wearing giant papier-mâché heads. Following a wish by bratty Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) that her bratty kid brother be spirited away by the Goblin King (David Bowie) and Sarah's inevitable lapse into unconsciousness and journey into the titular, Escher-inspired labyrinth, the picture unfolds at a laboured clip marked not so much by a sense of wonder, but rather a feeling of confused disinterest. While the film is a nostalgic hallmark for many (and so is Pete's Dragon, it occurs), cinematically and artistically, better to revisit Henson's flawed but alive The Dark Crystal. RUNNING TIME 93 minutes MPAA PG ASPECT RATIO(S) 2.35:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 5.1 English DTS 5.1 CC Yes SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-9 STUDIO Columbia TriStar To be fair, Labyrinth holds some interest as an artifact of a time in filmmaking that was dominated more by invention than... Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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Nochnoy dozor */**** starring Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Valeri Zolotukhin, Mariya Poroshina screenplay by Timur Bekmambetov and Laeta Kalogridis directed by Timur Bekmambetov by Walter Chaw When it's not frantically whipping up arbitrary rules in its supernatural universe like the world's most convoluted (and expensive game) of Calvin-ball, Russian sensation Timur Bekmambetov's epileptic fusion of Highlander and The Matrix, Night Watch, comes off as every bit the puerile lightshow that such a union would imply. Consider the premise: Light and dark "Others" live amongst humans, sometimes not knowing that they're not human, frozen in a centuries-old truce policed through night and day watches (and a dusk watch, too, judging by the proposed title of the third film in this planned trilogy) that ensure both sides refrain from killing one another. They're all vampires, I guess, though some are also shapeshifters (or instead are shapeshifters, who knows?) and some are those Indian fakir surgeons who used to pretend to reach into human body cavities and yank out chicken guts. It's telling that no positive review of this film is complete without a mention that there's a sequel and, with it, the rationalization that the many narrative crimes of Night Watch are... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Film Freak Central
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***½/**** DVD - Image A Sound A Extras C+ BD - Image A+ Sound A Extras C+ starring Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Hal Holbrook screenplay by Sean Penn, based on the novel by Jon Krakauer directed by Sean Penn by Walter Chaw SPOILER WARNING IN EFFECT. Young and full of piss, Chris McCandless (Emile Hirsch, amazing) is an idealist brimming with the kinds of ideas that young men entertain fresh out of school: diploma in hand, bile in throat, knowing everything about the world that there could possibly be to know. His politics, stringently black-and-white, aren't that different from the very politics against which he'd rail; for as bleeding heart as kids can be, they tend to subscribe to the foundational belief that the United States is responsible for the welfare (and travails) of the rest of the planet, which is the basis for our self-declared status as moral policemen. In defense of Chris, whose saga has been documented in print by Jon Krakauer and now on film by Sean Penn, he doesn't presume to change the world, he only wishes to escape it--the idea of zero impact taken to its logical conclusion. But the ideal of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Film Freak Central
**/**** Image A Sound A- starring James Caan, Robert Sean Leonard, Daniel Roebuck, Jamie Harrold screenplay by David Freed directed by Mikael Salomon by Walter Chaw Apart from the satirical possibilities, it appears that the rationale behind the title A Glimpse of Hell is the graphic aftermath of an explosion in the gunnery chamber of the U.S.S. Iowa. A made-for-TV docudrama that breeds Edward Dmytryk's The Caine Mutiny with Rob Reiner's A Few Good Men, A Glimpse of Hell impresses only with its dedication to mediocrity. While the subject is topical, recounting the possible malfeasance aboard an aging battleship that resulted in a magazine explosion, the execution is theatrical and cardboard from direction (by Mikael Salomon, cinematographer of The Abyss) to performance. RUNNING TIME 85 minutes MPAA R ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.78:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 5.1 English Dolby Surround CC Yes SUBTITLES English Spanish REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-9 STUDIO Fox Lieutenant (j.g.) Dan Meyer (Robert Sean Leonard) is eager to serve aboard the "sword's point"--a battleship, the legendary Iowa, that is run with a kind of imperious Queeg-ness by Capt. Fred Moosally (James Caan). Shocked at the apparent decrepitude of the ship's armaments (a soda can is used as... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2017 at Film Freak Central
*/**** Image C Sound C Extras D starring Robert Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon, Harry J. Lennix screenplay by Robert Townsend & Keenan Ivory Wayans directed by Robert Townsend by Walter Chaw I remember when Robert Townsend was the Next Big Thing. An alum of Chicago comedy troupe Second City, he got eyed for A Soldier's Story and got his self-styled break with Hollywood Shuffle, a fitfully funny sketch farce about a starving black actor autobiographically frustrated by the lack of dignified roles for African-American performers. Townsend made waves by funding the project with credit cards, shooting without permits, and having the audacity (circa 1986, recall) to bite the hand that feeds. It's ironic, then, that with all his newfound greenlight sway, Townsend promptly made one really bad film (The Five Heartbeats) and another, somehow worse one (Meteor Man), both of which revealed this hyphenate of the moment for a mugging, self-obsessed, stage-bound monologist. RUNNING TIME 122 minutes MPAA R ASPECT RATIO(S) 1.85:1 (16x9-enhanced) LANGUAGES English DD 4.0 English Dolby Surround CC Yes SUBTITLES English REGION 1 DISC TYPE DVD-9 STUDIO Fox A once and future 'VH1 movie that rocks,' The Five Heartbeats follows the rise and fall of the titular... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2017 at Film Freak Central