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VIEWS ON FILM review of Sheryl
2022's Sheryl had its first screening in March of this year. It's a documentary about Sheryl Crow, a musician out of a small Missouri town who managed to sell over 50 million albums worldwide. If your a Sheryl Crow fan (I dug her 90s stuff), then this is a harmless docu clocking in at 94 minutes. "If It Makes You Happy" well you might as well see it. Natch.

Sheryl portrays Sheryl Crow as self-made, persevered, and female empowered. I also like that she was a huge music fan at a very early age (like myself). Heck, it's not everyday that a background singer for Michael Jackson goes on to make such a huge dent in the world of folk and country rock. Man during that Bad tour Crow had some really spritz-y hair.

Sheryl is a standard documentary but to its credit, it's pretty speedy and unhesitating in its approach. There's the usual archive footage, interviews from colleagues, friends, and family (I never knew Crow was buds with Laura Dern), and the voice of Sheryl Crow herself. My only question is why wasn't Kid Rock and Eric Clapton mentioned? I mean she was close acquaintances with those guys too.

Distributed by Showtime Networks and chronicling Crow's bouts with depression and/or breast cancer, Sheryl has good intentions but at the same time, is a little self-indulgent. Yes Sheryl Crow can sing and play but she hasn't had a bonafide hit in over twenty years (her last LP sold a little over 49,000 copies). Could Sheryl be a ploy to jump-start Sheryl Crow's already recluse career that seems anachronistic with today's musical world? Possibly. Is Sheryl perhaps a postmark to the end of one's metier that has seen at least 7 Top twenty Hits and five platinum albums? Maybe. Sheryl isn't a bad documentary but you have to wonder, was "the first cut the deepest?" Sigh.

Lord of the Streets

VIEWS ON FILM review of Lord of the Streets
If David Ayer decided to direct a film that didn't really involve law enforcement and/or dirty pool fuzz, then Lord of the Streets would be that film. If 1990's Lionheart was made today and involved a more heighten style of bone-crunching violence, then Lord of the Streets would fit right in. If a cockeyed version of Rocky took place in the seedy underbelly of dirtied-up LA, then Lord of the Streets would suffice. "You gotta fight". Indeed you do.

Lord of the Streets stars Anthony "Treach" Criss. "Treach" is a rapper for Naughty By Nature and this is the first flick I've ever seen him in. Criss gives a sympathetic performance in an otherwise pretentiously thuggish pic that has mostly mediocre acting. "Treach" plays Jason Dyson, a former MMA fighter who has to recruit an inmate to fight for him and get him out of a life-threatening debt. We're talking bare-knuckle brawling where the term "ride or die" is solely evident.

Fashioned in a cinematic fantasy-land where the cops tread very lightly and the villain (Kane played by "Rampage" Jackson) has more power than established Michael Corleone (oh brother), "Streets" is low budget, hip-hopped, and veritably silly.

"Treach's" acting isn't the problem here, it's director Jared Cohn's ego trip as producer, writer, and helmer of "Streets". Albeit, Lord of the Streets is unsympathetic, non-empathetic, and with its ghetto bird rap soundtrack, a bloodied mess that can't quite take itself seriously. When people are shot and killed in "Streets", they're remembered so much as a light jab.

In retrospect, Lord of the Streets could have benefited from some more focused editing, a little solace from its myrmidon characters, and a sense of justification for extirpating at will (you'll see if you watch the movie). I don't plan on taking it to these "streets" with a second viewing.

John and the Hole

VIEWS ON FILM review of John and the Hole
"I'm just tired". So says the main character of John in 2021's John and the Hole. Obviously John isn't too tired to somehow get his sister, mother, and father down in a 50-foot bunker while keeping them there for days. The flick doesn't really show you the aptitude of it all. Implausible? Yeah you could say that.

Anyway, John and the Hole is based on a short story called El Pozo. And no, this isn't a sub-genre you would find playing at the AMC. "Hole" is obviously an art film that wants to terrify while showing that it can be artsy-fartsy and niche market at the same time. "Hole's" director (Pascual Sisto) silently turns the psychological screws but those screws aren't completely screwed in and are somewhat ill-defined.

So yeah, John and the Hole did at times disturb me. And the musical score by Caterina Barbieri (which shows up randomly) has a numbing awareness that evokes synth-like despair. But what is the paradox surrounding this weird little pic that has young John (played by Charlie Shotwell) doing pseudo nasty things to his well-off family? I mean it's not like he has it that bad.

I suppose John is just an insane teen that needs to be surrounded by a SWAT team and/or put in a mental institution. Helmer Sisto never defines John or his actions, at least not to the viewer. It also doesn't help that John's family is so blase about the brute situation (I'd be screaming mad if I was stuck in that bunker).

All in all, you'd probably need another viewing just to take in Sisto's almost completely pensive vision. But hey, John and the Hole is not that kind of movie. It's a one-and-done that wipes away any thriller, box office clout. Sure Pascual's film looks clean and his direction is apt. But with an added subplot about a mother and daughter (I suppose they were John's neighbors), John and the Hole has well, "holes". Big ones.


VIEWS ON FILM review of Memory
2022's Memory was put into theaters in April of this year. It represents that rare Liam Neeson release that's not in the doldrums of winter. If you're a Neeson fan (and I mostly am), then you won't mind anything that goes down in Memory. Heck, you'll "remember" it when it's over (har har).

Memory runs almost two hours and Neeson as usual, has a special set of skills (duh). His character also has early onset dementia (hence the title). In February's Blacklight, Liam had OCD. Hey, why not keep that status quo rolling.

So OK, Memory is coincidental and well, Guy Pearce co-stars in it (do you recall Memento? Too soon?). Memory also has Martin Campbell at the helm. Campbell likes things dark, ominous, loud, and visceral. Every bone crunch by Neeson and every heightened, bloodied shootout is courtesy of Mr. Campbell (I mean he did direct Edge of Darkness).

Memory is the ultimate antihero flick and that includes not only Neeson but the law enforcement cohorts he comes into contact with. It doesn't matter whether it's the bad guys or a conscience-filled hitman or the FBI. Everybody dispatches somebody in Memory and they do it with almost a smidgen of comedic shock value.

Distributed by Open Road Films and using police car insignia-s, fire truck insignia-s, and regular signage to let us know that it takes place in a certain city (we get it, El Paso, Texas is where things went down), Memory is about a professional assassin named Alex Lewis (Neeson). When Lewis refuses to do a job where he has to kill a teenager owned by human traffickers, he becomes a finish off target himself.

Memory is no masterpiece but it has a little more lex talionis and coil going on than your typical Neeson action-er. It's a "reminder" that AARP Bryan Mills can still churn out this stuff well into his 70's.

The Outfit

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Outfit
Chicago and the Mob, it's like peas and carrots and bat and ball. That's the Windy City way (natch). The Outfit (my latest review) has two meanings obviously. One of "Outfit's" characters is a tailor (get it?) and its title derives from the Chicago Mafia (otherwise known as the Chicago Outfit). "You know exactly what it is that we do". Ah, so much for that good old Mob oath.

Coming off as a one location stage play masked as organized crime-d drama, The Outfit is 1950s "golden age" interspersed with some gentlemanly gunplay, some wound stitching, and a Mexican standoff or two. Yup, the clothing shop featured in The Outfit has a lot more going on in it than just focused cutting.

Brit Mark Rylance stars in "Outfit" as habituated lead Leonard Burling. Just like in his Oscar-winning turn via Bridge of Spies, Rylance's Leonard is the smartest guy in the room and the one thinking three steps ahead. As subtle as Mark comfortably is, this is nearly a master class in acting for him. His Leonard Burling appears as a non-threatening, sort of more harmless version of Keyser Soze. "And like that, he's gone". Indeed.

The Outfit is directed by rookie Graham Moore. He's a Chi-town native so you better recognize. Moore's film is darkly lit, it stays put (just one sound stage where almost no daylight seeps in), and the actors hit their marks as if they're performing at a packed playhouse in Upstate New York.

Harboring a decent sense of time and place despite limited locales, "Outfit" doesn't apologize for being a talky flick because it's otherwise enhanced with snarky dialogue and the occasional mild violence. Add a musical score straight out of a Brian De Palma pic and a few twists and you got an old-fashioned, old-world cinematic experience. "Outfitted".


VIEWS ON FILM review of Moonfall
How bad is 2022's Moonfall? Massively bad. Vastly bad. Moonfall is billed as a disaster flick. The disaster part I can understand.

Moonfall makes me not wanna trust its director anymore (that would be Roland Emmerich). Gone are his storytelling high points in regards to The Day After Tomorrow and/or Independence Day. Gone is his penchant for continuity and inserting eye candy images that aren't merely for show. Gone is his sense for providing actual entertainment for the sci-fi crowd. I mean why can't Moonfall just be about some astronauts trying to save Earth from the moon hurtling towards it on a collision course? Is that such a chore?

Moonfall suffers from a bloated running time of 130 minutes. The science fiction mumbo jumbo is off the charts, the subplots are aplenty, and the annoyance of British actor John Bradley rears its ugly head (is he Kevin Smith's jerk face twin?).

Moonfall is a special effects extravaganza with zero build-up and laissez-faire inconsistency. The destruction of Earth is so random, so without any subjugation. The moon must be in a bad mood and have a knack for being real naughty. There's no impetus as to why cities like NYC and LA are being turned into rubble. And what's up with the enormous amount of green screen being churned to the hilt? Obviousness should never be in the dictionary of an epic disaster monger like Emmerich. He's discernibly cutting corners even when his film is a half hour longer than it should be.

Moonfall stars Halle Berry, Patrick Wilson, and Bradley (mentioned earlier). They appear in a movie that is so scatterbrained and so riffed with dartboard-ed, spaceflight ideals, the result is something that lacks any conch of suspense or amusement. Add an inconsistent musical score, an almost meaningless cameo by Donald Sutherland (was he bored?), and characters that are cliches of the disaster genre ("we gotta go now", ugh) and you got one of the worst offerings of this year. "Fall" out.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent
"It's grotesque, I'll give you $20,000 for it". That's such a Nic Cage moment in a movie about Nic Cage starring um, Nicolas Cage. Oh and there's a couple of scenes where Cage sees his Wild at Heart persona as a sort of kooky hallucination. Oh man, that hair.

Anyway, Nicolas Cage appears in 2022's The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, a rather dry action/comedy in which Cage plays himself (apparently in the same exact way he plays all his other characters). Cage's performance is good because well, it's no stretch. There's the overacting, the crescendo yells, and the massive craziness. This "cage" as usual, has been opened up and let loose.

Self-parodies and self-deprecation-s begot, "Talent" gives the audience those cultural references that any Nic Cage fan could salivate over (like myself). There's that famous line, "why couldn't you put the bunny back in the box?" (from Con Air of course). Then there's that "not the bees!" quip from The Wicker Man. Finally, there's a clip from Guarding Tess that Nic watches solemnly from a TV set in a hotel room. You think taking in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent would be the ultimate Nic Cage experience but it doesn't quite reach that plateau. It's almost underwhelming espy if you put it next to his best flicks (Con Air mentioned earlier, The Cotton Club, Face/Off, Leaving Las Vegas).

Like I said in the second paragraph, "Talent" is billed as an action/comedy. Well there's not a whole lot of laughs and the action scenes aren't really that bracing (you'd think with the R rating there'd be a little more something something). If anything, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is a gimmickry vehicle in the Cage canon, a possible out of the box attempt to jump-start Nicky boy's iffy career (he's made some questionable stuff in the last couple of decades). Would I recommend "Talent?" Probably not. Hey at least it wasn't "unbearable" after one showing.

The Batman

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Batman
Why so serious? I say why not. 2022's The Batman is just that, serious. You want a Batman flick that makes 1989's version seem like a long-lost takeoff? You'll get that with The Batman. You want a Batman pic that makes all that Joel Schumacher stuff seem like cartoon schlock? Uh Prego, it's in there.

Even darker than those Nolan films from 2005-2012, The Batman is a PG-13 endeavor that pushes its "Parents Strongly Cautioned" tone to the brink. A little David Fincher here, a little Bruce Wayne as Rick Deckard there, a little song, a little noir dance. The Batman is a moxie crime thriller with a stupendous action finale and a substantially brooding, musical score. It's unlike any Batman vehicle you've ever seen or will ever see again.

Robert Pattinson stars in The Batman as you know, Bruce Wayne/Batman. He doesn't smile once and always looks like he lost his dog in a freak accident. I like that. Pattinson has immense screen presence and is a superhero who's all business. I'd rank him along Christian Bale and Micheal Keaton as the best Batman-s in the bunch.

The Batman cascades almost three hours with a couple of subplots and less set locations than the norm. Thankfully the runtime doesn't drag as much as you think. It's also nearly a small-scale Batman conch that's as dark in its grain as it is in its look. Albeit, the sun actually shines a couple of times. Otherwise you can almost taste the tasteless raindrops on your tongue. Steamy, smoky, and wet.

Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures and directed with a steadily, copycat vision by Matt Reeves (I'll let it slide), The Batman has Riddler (Paul Dano being Paul Dano), Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz coming into her own), Penguin (an unrecognizable Colin Farrell), and of course, Pattinson. Their characters inhabit Gotham City as if it's the chronic underbelly of totalitarian society. "Pow!" "boff!" kapow!" "whack!".

Choose or Die

VIEWS ON FILM review of Choose or Die
A young woman decides to play an 80s video game not knowing that said video game could result in someone getting killed. That's the gist of Choose or Die, a sort of fitting title for a movie about vehement, processing data manipulation.

Released this month through way of the internet (makes sense), Choose or Die is relegated to the type of film I've seen before (Unfriended: Dark Web comes to mind). Here's the thing: Choose or Die although in the same model, doesn't adhere to all that Skype stuff. It feels less grainy and more straight-laced. I mean we don't always need something where everybody is constantly in Zoom meeting mode.

Iola Evans plays computer wiz Kayla while Asa Butterfield plays her partner in crime, Issac. They are platonic friends who come together to try to investigate the evilness of a computer playdown capable of extracting someone's tongue (that happens early on, ugh).

Choose or Die has some pretty creepy moments in the slight vein of anything via the Japanese horror franchise (Ju-On). It also feels neo-noir with some neon hues to boot. Rookie director Toby Meakins (he has only previously done shorts) fashions a fresh genre entry that seems to have been sledgehammered about five years ago. He dirties up the atmosphere and lets his actors inhabit a sort of banal, downtrodden existence. Added to that, there's also a cameo by legend Robert Englund only I don't think we ever see him. Hey at least we're still reminded of the Greed decade again ("It even has his name written in it, Fred Krueger mom").

Choose or Die ends in a way in which the old adage of film tells us we can interpret things any way we want. That's what makes this medium so darn fascinating. Does the female protagonist go to the dark side after taking control of the video game and its penchant for causing harm? Possibly. Is Choose or Die so far-fetched that it feels more like a hallucination instead of a veracious reality? Maybe. You as the viewer can "choose".


VIEWS ON FILM review of Pursuit
"First time?" Yup. I suppose there's a first time for everything. That includes seeing a film like 2022's Pursuit. I don't plan on viewing it ever again, especially since I didn't know simians were actually allowed in the editing room?

So yeah, how does one write about something like Pursuit? I suppose I could try but it's not gonna be pretty. There's kidnapping scenes involved, bad cop-age, drug cartel stuff, and computer hacking but uh, where's the freaking story? And why wasn't the storyboard artist fired during production? Oh wait, that never happened.

Pursuit is a violent, torturous, and fiddly mess that's actually listed as mystery/adventure. Added to that, it's a 97-minute pic that includes more characters and plot devices than Cloud Atlas (I'm not kidding). Who really are the bad guys? How the heck do they straddle from point A to B? How can you possibly wrap things up? And why does supporting player Emile Hirsch talk like he's having a mild stroke? Misguided method acting I suppose.

Pursuit is directed by veteran Brian Skiba. His flick has little continuity as he films prating scenes undercut with badly choreographed shootouts and faux foot chases (Swayze and Reeves did it better). You wanna see everything in slo-mo with bullets taking far too long to reach their targets? You'll get it here. You want automatic weapons that are supposed to fire at an alarming rate but have a different trigger modem altogether? Prego. Finally, do you want another clip where a douchey antagonist walks away from a huge, in the distance explosion? I didn't think so. Been there, seen that.

In jest, Pursuit is not really a movie it's an experience (and a disgraceful one I might add). Long-time actors John Cusack, Andrew Stevens, and William Katt co-star but I suppose they didn't know what they signed up for (maybe monetary). "Cold pursuit".

Naked Singularity

VIEWS ON FILM review of Naked Singularity
"My client pleads not guilty". So says the lawyer who later holds a samurai sword like he's FN-2187 with a lightsaber. I'll get to that later.

Anyway 2021's Naked Singularity is directed by rookie Chase Palmer. Rookie mistake. Chase loves his out of place musical score, his penchant for butchering the cinematic form, and his close-ups in spades. As for the title, well I suppose it sounds cool but it has nothing to do with the crux of the movie. Taking place in NYC, "Naked" gives us the best performance of Brit John Boyega. Considering that I don't think he's much of an actor, that's not saying a whole lot.

Naked Singularity has a decent cast with Boyega, Bill Skarsgard, and Tim Blake Nelson being the standouts. Their scenes between each other crackle with John Boyega's character being the one that needs the tough love pep talks. After all, he's the ransacked counsel who's otherwise yielding.

Holding one's hand aside, Naked Singularity is about a public defender (Boyega as Casi) who decides to change sides from attorney to drug deal raider in order to supplement his weak income. "Naked" is part comedy, part court drama, part SVU conch, and part neo-noir constituent. What a freaking mess. It probably needed a script supervisor, an editor, and a storyboard artist to replace those that were already on the job.

But hey, it could be worse (could it?). "Naked's" Big Apple look is palatable and the acting is tolerable considering that everyone fades in and out like darkness and light. But why does Naked Singularity have plot holes the size of the Grand Canyon? And why does "Naked" strive but fail to be the film The Lincoln Lawyer already was? That question wasn't asked and answered when the end credits rolled. "Singular" unipolar.

Sins in the Suburbs

VIEWS ON FILM review of Sins in the Suburbs
"I'm your new neighbor". Uh-oh, sketch alert. A new neighbor who has already murdered and won't bat an eye as to doing it again. Oh and said neighbor is a hopeless romantic who loves his choke holds. Ugh.

So yeah, 2022's Sins in the Suburbs is a TV Lifetime-r that seems to think a creepy, foreboding musical score, a blase suburbanite setting, and a patchy, flashback cut ending might give it some shine. Phooey. Those things a great film doesn't always make. "Sins" as Rear Window facade, could've been "deadlier seven" times over.

Sins in the Suburbs stars Brandon Santana as early-indication-psycho Tyler and Monique Sypkens as damsel Heather. Playing neighbors who happen to live across from each other and are somewhat attracted to each other, Santana and Sypkens have bad eye contact in their scenes. They seem to look at spots on the wall as they banter and that's not a plus in the acting department. Hey at least one of them is a struggling artist and the other is a photographer so their characters have that in common.

Directed by Sam Fichtner who has done one other Lifetime endeavor (Framed by My Husband), "Sins" only baits you into thinking it's compelling when it's merely small-scale Lifetime riffraff. The lead antagonist is not menacing enough and the lead protagonist faces danger in such a nonchalant way. Heck, we don't know a lot about the bad guy (Santana) except that he moves from town to town, does heinous things with no design (like killing), and is an out of work photog. Tyler is like a poor man's version of the world's evilest drifter.

At a running time of a little over 90 minutes with adequate pacing (and ads), Sins in the Suburbs evaporates right after you see it. Thou "art" not rattled (har har). Just because you take a picture doesn't always mean it will last longer. Natch.

Your Boyfriend is Mine

VIEWS ON FILM review of Your Boyfriend is Mine
A working class, young guy with a cutesy girlfriend, takes on a lucrative job as a house manager to a businesswoman. What we know about said businesswoman is that she's got a ton of moolah and is a bit cray cray. What we don't know is what she actually does for a living. Maybe she doesn't work at all and it's merely inheritance (oh the horror).

Released last month and filmed possibly in Atlanta, GA (just guessing), Your Boyfriend is Mine is another Lifetime vehicle where you know the antagonist is off within a good 10-15 minutes. And in classic Lifetime fashion, the protagonist is oblivious to all this and decides to just ride the situation out (otherwise there'd be no movie).

Eli Jane plays manipulative well-to-doer Amanda Roberts while Jamie Roy plays house boy Ben Howard. Jane is pretty evil in her role as an attractive female who has weird methods of snagging a man (doesn't make sense but whatever). Roy however, needs a few more acting lessons cause it feels like he's well, acting (hey at least he looks the part).

Their courtship (or pseudo courtship) is pretty strange, a sort of Kathy Bates Misery where only one leg gets damaged. At times, Your Boyfriend is Mine can be pretty upsetting and you truly want Jane's Roberts to get what's coming to her. Other times you wonder why this sort of trash is worth viewing considering that the whole state of affairs is like a PowerPoint presentation on lady paramountcy (money isn't everything and Amanda never comes off as normal in any capacity).

With "Boyfriend", at least the villain actually gets caught and does time as opposed to getting away. And yeah, Lifetime provides some justice for once. Finally, the flick doesn't need a twist or two to get the job done. "Hey-la-day-la my boyfriend's back".

The Bubble

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Bubble
"At least we tried to make a movie". Tried and failed. That's a roast.

Anyway, 2022's The Bubble is probably one of the most misguided films I've ever seen. And it's also a career low for director Judd Apatow. Apatow's movies are normally thirty minutes too long, they have too much improvised dialogue, and the editing in Judd's work is usually a mess. "Bubble" represents the worst of those Apatow attributes. Added to that, Apatow thinks we the audience want to watch a COVID-19-type movie when we're already still living through it. Bad judgement call Judd. Just bad.

The Bubble is in jest, a satire or a spoof or Apatow's piggybacking on last year's Don't Look Up. Either you cut it, the flick is a turkey with the mushiest dressing. The cast is well known with people like Leslie Mann, David Duchovny, Kate McKinnon, John Cena, and John Lithgow attached. Most of their characters are people you learn to hate throughout. Only Duchovny as hard working actor Dustin Mulray practices any fruitful art of self-effacing (and that's a good thing).

Apatow's "Bubble" feels like it's four hours long. After the first hour, you can't believe you've got another one left. The whole film is about a bunch of actors and actresses stuck inside a Pandemic bubbled hotel in hopes of completing the fictional pic, Cliff Beasts 6 (yes there were five others before it).

The Bubble as Alan Smithee schlock, is basically a bunch of scenes where the "Hollyweird" bicker, fight, get under each other's skin, and sarcastically deface the shooting process. It's all so darn flippant and yup, none of it is funny, witty, or narrative coherent. Netflix may rule the earth in terms of erecting the already abundant, streaming empire. With The Bubble, their good luck might have finally "burst".

Dangerous Methods

VIEWS ON FILM review of Dangerous Methods
A Hollywood assistant becomes the assistant to a whacked out actor who I'm thinking, is schizophrenic. That's the rub to 2022's Dangerous Methods. Pay attention to the word methods, or should I say Method (as in acting).

Released this month and featuring title cards as if it were The Shining (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.), Dangerous Methods reveals from the beginning that the lead (Christopher Showerman as Desmond Gage) is loony tunes right off the bat. The assistant to him (if you can call her that) doesn't do much except fawn over him and his A-list status. She must really need the job. I mean anyone else with half a frame of reference would have left the situation on day one.

But wait, there'd be no movie. And you the viewer wouldn't be plodded along hopelessly wondering where the heck "Methods" is going. Director Humberto Rosa wants to build tension but doesn't seem to reach it. The actors are game but their milk-and-water scenes are kind of stuck in neutral.

On the flip side, why would the Hollywood industry even attempt to keep an unstable trouper like Gage on the payroll (he almost strangled someone on set for gosh sake)? And why would Gage's assistant (Lacy Johnson played by Rachele Brooke Smith) be so befuddled as to be seduced by him? I mean is Lifetime (the film's distributor) trying to say that Hollywood is "Hollyweird? It certainly appears so. "Freaking actors".

All in all, I didn't hate Dangerous Methods but I thought it was rather restrained for what it could've been. The unhappy ending amps things up a bit but at the same time, it also felt like a dangling loose end. The fates of everyone involved (the assistant, the assistant's father, the cuckoo thespian) seemed arbitrary at best. Dangerous Methods isn't quite "The Most Dangerous Game".

The Adam Project

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Adam Project
"Time travel exists". Yeah and so does The Adam Project, a 2022 release. You want a sci-fi pic with dry humor and spit-fire dialogue intertwined with exhilarating action payoffs? Look no further cause "Adam Project" projects that.

The Adam Project is the epitome of a PG-13 movie for the mature kid in all of us. It was more violent than I thought so as they say, "Parents Strongly Cautioned". The film feels Spielbergian in spots, J. J. Abrams in others. Add the middle child of Back to the Future and Star Wars and "Adam Project" while dated, still manages to be fun and whizzing.

Not a huge Ryan Reynolds fan, I almost changed my mind here. He's the lead and "Adam Project" might be the perfect vehicle to cater to Ryan's fast-talking style of delivering his lines. Reynolds probably saw the script, knew he'd be kicking some serious arse, and decidedly said to himself, "let's let er rip".

"Adam Project" is a time traveling movie and those kinds of things make me think in spades. One little quip or run-in with yourself or others, could ultimately alter time ahead. I used to think movement through portals of space would be awesome with all kinds of possibilities. Now the whole concept makes me take heed. Slippery slippery slope.

Distributed by Netflix with a strong cast and action set pieces that put you right in the character's grills, The Adam Project chronicles one Adam Reed (Reynolds). Reed is a time pilot and quite the swashbuckler. While trying to get to 2018, Reed lands in 2022 from 2050. There he meets his 12-year-old self and they team up to try and save the future.

Director Shawn Levy (Free Guy, Date Night) wants to bring back those fuzzy matinee thrills. He edits in cuts as to give The Adam Project a mixture of time travel argot dispersed with all things rock 'em, sock 'em. He's also a good storyteller who's not afraid to occasionally throw up that cinematic, "Project" Hail Mary.


VIEWS ON FILM review of Blame
"Be careful on your way up there". Up there is rural Wisconsin. Say "cheese!"

Anyway 2021's Blame is an interesting thriller. I applaud it for its craft though because it evades the viewer from what it actually is. You initially think it's horror fare but nope, it's not assertive enough for that. People get killed but the motive is fallacious. How refreshing if you're tired of the same old same old.

Blame takes place in Illinois and Wisconsin (mentioned earlier). The snow is falling, the blizzard is imminent, and you just wish the five characters in peril knew how to use GPS (what the??). Blame provides flashbacks upon flashbacks as if the ghost of Rashomon walked in. Oh well. That's Blame's hook and it's probably the best way the flick could succeed.

Blame is about a few buddies who attempt to drive to a Wisconsin ski refuge only to get stuck on the road and find shelter in a remote building. You just know conflict and chaos are about to flex. The five personas aren't the most likable people in the world but their performances are intense and effectively panicky. It's the typical five with a mixture of girls and guys with at least two of them dating. The actors are unknowns but they could easily pass as modern day cast members of One Tree Hill.

Blame is directed by the unseasoned B. J. Rayniak. Could have fooled me. BJ strongly puts Blame's pieces together in fits and starts. Some of it stalls but keep watching. The ending is justified as it could lead to someone harboring manslaughter charges and/or obstruction of justice.

Blame's outcome can be deflating if you're a horror geek obsessed with discovering the next Billy Loomis. Bite your tongue. Blame is more intricate than that stuff so check it out. If it's not to your liking, just refer to the lyrics of Collective Soul. "Lay that blame on me".

No Exit

VIEWS ON FILM review of No Exit
"Honestly what are we doing here?" Last time I checked the flick No Exit was on Hulu. No Exit can be classified as horror but it's more psychological horror than just plain old blood and guts. Early on it's sorta like a whodunit started with a card game named well, I won't say (insert dirty word here ___ ).

No Exit is relentless, I mean it goes on and on (I'm not saying that's a bad thing). Getting off to a harrowing start, "Exit" begins with the lead (Havana Rose Liu as Darby) escaping a rehab clinic to go see her mom who is possibly dying of a brain aneurysm. On the way, Darby gets stranded due to a blizzard and tries to rescue a young girl being tied up in a van.

Rose's acting here is raw and reactor-y. I mean it's in the eyes, the hand movements, and the facial quips. She anchors a film with a main cast of about 6 six people. Remember The Hateful Eight (I did but without great enthusiasm)? Well "Exit" is a modern day version of The Hateful Eight except that it justifies its shorter running time and come on, it's just better.

Rose's Darby is not exactly the most put together person (she's a snippy recovering addict) but when it comes to saving someone's life, she's all heart and knows how to really snap to it. Call her the antihero who steals a car like a champ and can readily stay alive (at least till the very end which is a little murky).

No Exit provides layers of tension that exhaust you (you'll forgive the overindulgence). "Exit's" director (Damien Power), well he's a second-timer to watch. Tarantino and Drew Goddard laid the groundwork for neo-noir-s with strangers stuck on the lam. Power "powers" it through with No Exit.

Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez

VIEWS ON FILM review of Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez
Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez is a 2022 release. It's true to its long title or at least it is most of the way. Fred Savage played an evil dude in No One Would Tell. Now with "Shed", it's his brother's turn.

So yeah, "Shed" while Forensic Files tested, ends on a Lifetime lite note (that's because it is Lifetime). I mean closing titles shouldn't explain the outcome of the antagonist without showing him at least getting arrested or surrounded. It just feels like a pretense.

Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez is not as disturbing as last year's Girl in the Basement but it will do. "Shed" is based on a true story but why do the end credits say that it is a work of fiction? Huh? What?

The director of "Shed" is also an actress in Jessica Harmon. Her film is disturbing but what's up with the main villain (Ben Savage as Nathan Kibby). Savage does a decent job but is there just in his character's motive? I mean is Nathan a conspiracy theorist? Yup. Is he whacked out of his mind? Uh yeah. Is there a true reason for him holding a girl against her will for months? Not really. The audience is invested but that's just baseline for millions of Lifetime-rs looking to get led up the garden path.

Filmed in British Columbia because it's probably cheaper (I looked it up), Girl in the Shed: The Kidnapping of Abby Hernandez is about a 14-year-old teen who gets seized and temporarily held in a soundproof abode via the backyard. There she must try to stay alive because the whole free world is out looking for her.

A little Stockholm Syndrome here and a little psychotic manipulation there. "Shed" may not push the envelope like some abduction thrillers but at least it features enough isolated moments to suffice (tasers and tracking collars oh my). "Shed" a tear.

The Lost City

VIEWS ON FILM review of The Lost City
2022's The Lost City is just plain fun. Escapists and popcorn munchers are welcome. It's one of those action-adventure vehicles where the protagonists supply the sarcastic quips in the face of swashbuckling danger. "Jungles eat people like us". Need I say more.

Directed with jungly cinematography by those Nee brothers (Aaron and Adam), "City" is like the goofy cousin of a certain '84 Robert Zemeckis flick and any Indiana Jones endeavor. It's a riff but a good riff that's not to be taken as serious. There's supposed hidden treasure, chases, snakes featured, and for added effect, leeches too.

The Lost City stars Sandra Bullock as a novelist who gets kidnapped when one of her stories reveals the location of fortune in an ancient burgh (sound familiar?). The role of writer Loretta Sage is perfect for a bumbling, physical comic like Bullock. It's like her agent said, "oh yeah, this is a no-brainer".

"City" also has Brad Pitt in it as a Navy Seal (Jack Trainer) sent to rescue Sage from the already rich baddies. When he exits, well it's almost a buzzkill. Piggybacking on his intimidating persona via Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Pitt just reminds us again that he's a legend. His bone-crunching action sequences in "City" give the film a shot in the arm that doesn't quite sustain for the rest of the running time (1 hour-plus). Sure "City" is motion full tilt but finishes with less cowbell.

In thinking back, "City's" look could almost pass as boost animation. The dialogue is improvised, the characters are dispassionate (yet funny), and because of the breezy tone (intertwined with PG-13 violence), The Lost City is a true to type, moviegoer's movie. It's basically one of the reasons we hit the cineplex on a Friday at 7-ish. Call it "Advancing" the Stone.


VIEWS ON FILM review of Uncharted
Ruben Fleischer directs 2022's Uncharted. He's a dude whose movies fly along at a lightning clip. Uncharted like many adventure flicks since the inception of adventure flicks, whisks you from one set piece to the next. It's arduous stuff so be careful as to how fast you chew your popcorn.

Inspired by a video game, Uncharted amused me and lightened my cinematic load. I mean it begs the question of how many times characters act tongue-in-cheek in the midst of possibly getting killed (there's tons of quips and cracks from the leads). Thankfully the film is PG-13 so not much of said killing actually happens (unless you're Antonio Banderas, ugh).

Uncharted stars Tom Holland, Banderas, and Mark Wahlberg. Coming out about two months after Spider-Man: No Way Home, Uncharted is obviously a ploy to capitalize on the inauguration of Holland as a movie star (and that's what he is, a star). As for Wahlberg, well he plays a fortune hunter named Victor Sullivan. Wahlberg just loves to channel the buddy buddy role. He may be miscast but this casting for him is just pleasing enough.

So yeah, if you haven't yet seen a James Bond flick or The Goonies or Indiana Jones stuff or National Treasure, then Uncharted will provide a fix palatable to those hallmarked escapades. If you have seen the pics just mentioned, then Uncharted will feel a little more underwhelming but still a lot of fun (and we all know Holland coming off like a professional tag participant, is the quintessential king of fun).

Uncharted is about a treasure pursuer (Victor Sullivan) who recruits Nathan Drake (Holland) in hopes of recovering a stash of gold left by the late Ferdinand Magellan (if you're in the lurch, he's the guy that sailed around the world).

Fleischer shoots Uncharted panoramically (and three-dimensionally), with well-choreographed action sequences that are virtually bloodless and saucy locales like Spain and the Philippines. The look of Uncharted is elaborate and bright, like a postcard sent from the boroughs of Disneyland. I'm sure there's an Uncharted sequel in the works but sequels seem like dated concepts unless it's Marvel. Sigh.

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing

VIEWS ON FILM review of Downfall: The Case Against Boeing
"Fly up! Fly up!" Of course. Otherwise the plane is gonna crash, a Boeing 737 MAX.

But the MAX did crash and another one within the span of five months. Their stories are technically-driven and mightily one-sided in the 89-minute documentary, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing. I say one-sided but not like it's a bad thing. Director Rory Kennedy fashions "Downfall" as a consoling cry for help and she could very well be the next Michael Moore (except that we never see her).

"Downfall" is one of the best films of the year so far. Why? Because it's intelligent and informative while tastefully attacking its airplane corporation subject (for most of the way). It's also tragic for the lives lost in the real-life plane prangs that killed I believe, over 300 people. Of note: anyone associated with Boeing who's on the outside, might want to avoid watching this thing. They very well could have a conniption fit (I know I would).

"Downfall's" aviation stuff (through interviews) is in abundance and will probably be over your head (I know nothing about airfoils so I'm included). I wouldn't say "Downfall" is completely rousing but it kept my interest throughout. I still hate getting on an aircraft and I'll probably get on one again but there is pause (there's always pause).

Departures begot, Rory Kennedy's docu can be a bit preachy and its narrative is somewhat jumbled. Oh well. There's so much to take in via a short running time and you'll probably have to pay attention anyway. Downfall: The Case Against Boeing has strong archive footage that is obviously the product of enhanced restoration. There's reenactments of the events too and that's kinda the way to present said events. I mean it wouldn't be very fastidious to show what actually went down (no pun intended and I mean it).

Downfall: The Case Against Boeing is a clean and faired documentary that makes you ask questions in your head. It could be conspiracy, it could be hearsay, it could be witch huntress, and it could be speculation. The film presents one half of those proverbial coins. I thought that would be its "downfall" but it's not.

A Day to Die

VIEWS ON FILM review of A Day to Die
Kevin Dillon plays the lead in 2022's A Day to Die. As Connor Connolly, he has to deliver 2 mil to some drug lords so they don't off his pregnant wife. His crew of awkward mercenaries are there to help him save said wife. Watch for "Die's" loud soundtrack that has rap/country tunes I've never heard before (and will never hear again).

It's good seeing Kevin in a film, in anything again actually. He's a hoot and it's almost like he's channeling his inner Johnny "Drama" via an action thriller. Too bad "Die" is like a David Ayer film without the full, nasty edge. "Hey brother, I need your help". I hear you brother and I wish I could assist you.

So yeah, A Day to Die is a relentless shoot-'em-up that takes place in Mississippi, has hints of an LA County setting, and has cars in it that have Ohio license plates. Talk about a locale problem that director Wes Miller obviously failed to recognize (why does every slick, video-on-demand-er have the helmer name Miller attached to it?).

"Die" is shoddy but you gotta admire its energy and earnestness for the tongue-in-cheek (trust me though, it doesn't have any). The exploding, action scenes (and there are many of them) are edited on the fly and don't have a clear mapping of point A to B. And come on, when is it okay for the so-called protagonists to kill cops and somehow get away with it? Last time I checked that was a capital felony.

A Day to Die also has Bruce Willis and Leon attached to it (Leon plays himself as usual and I think it's ultimately the voice that gives it away). Willis harbors the inevitable baddie Alston (all the personas in "Die" have one-word names). Willis emotes a little bit better this time but he still feels the need to say his lines one syllable at a time. The only real difference between this performance and so many other recent ones, is that Brucey now has some facial hair attached. Oh and I almost forgot, he probably did his scenes in one day (daylight and then some nighttime).

A shaky cam here, a twist there, some slanted camera angles, people saying "white boy" a lot, some fake CGI fire, and a dude walking away from an explosion (never seen that one before). That's "Die" for better or worse. Basically Wes Miller does his ego best as writer, producer, and director (there's even a side character with Wes's last name). His "Die" is kinda freaking stupid. Call it Expendables for dummies and not so good "day".

Cruel Instruction

VIEWS ON FILM review of Cruel Instruction
Two teenagers are sent away to a Utah institution. Why? Because one got expelled and the other is attending to avoid a stint in juvie. While at said institution, they are put through the ringer by an evil headmistress with questionable behavioral methods. That's the gist of Cruel Instruction.

Released in March of this year, Cruel Instruction is a Lifetime Television movie that seems to hark back to the network's golden era (80s/90s). It's like a prison drama that doesn't take place in a prison (it's more of a residential treatment center). The young girl personas featured walk on eggshells throughout and almost need permission to breathe. You the viewer will harbor the same feeling even though "Instruction" feels the want to cut corners (in effective storyboard editing, character development, and overall diegesis).

Camryn Manheim and Kelcey Mawema star in "Instruction" as a Nurse Ratched type (Miss Connie) and a shy, misunderstood 15-year-old (Kayla Adams). Their performances are good and they undoubtedly anchor the film. But like a lot of goings-on in Cruel Instruction, their ending fates seem cryptic and all for naught. I mean did Connie eventually go to the slammer? And what the heck is Kayla going to do with her life after being thrown out of high school?

Cruel Instruction is longer in length than your typical Lifetime-r (maybe it was the commercials). Pretty much everyone in it (that includes the jugged love interest, the treatment center bully, the parents, the orderlies) fades in and out while being almost totally paradoxical.

Sure Cruel Instruction lays out the blueprint of damaged youth. Sure the film's military school environment seems cold (and harsh) and sure, everyone's popping meds without seeing much daylight. But does "Instruction" actually push the envelope? Nah. It's disturbing in parts but fails to reach the heights of say something like When You Remember Me (a confinement TV vehicle from the beginning of The Good Decade starring Fred Savage). "Cruel instruction manual".


VIEWS ON FILM review of Fresh
No it's not 1994 and Samuel L. Jackson is not headlining. It's present day and 2022's horror flick Fresh is what's on the table (no pun intended). Fresh is directed by a rookie in Mimi Cave (she's done mostly shorts and music videos). This is an audacious and voyeuristic debut by Cave who turns the screws of terror for at least most of the way. "Come on, give me a smile". I wish I could but I'm feeling a little queasy.

Fresh starts off sort of like a Lifetime movie with better production values. I stress the words "starts off". Then the 30-minute mark hits, the opening credits come up (they're so 70s), and you know you're no longer getting something that could be shown on network television. I mean would Lifetime feature a Hannibal Lecter type who cooks female body parts and serves them as if he were a chef at a five-star restaurant? I didn't think so either.

The baddie in Fresh is Steve played by Sebastian Stan. Steve is one sick puppy who along with channeling is inner Hannibal the Cannibal, comes off a little like Patrick Bateman without the suits. He loves his Peter Cetera ditty-s (you'll never hear "Restless Heart" the same way again) and his tunes by Animotion (same deal for "Obsession"). Stan along with the movie he's in, seems so retro and avant-garde at the same time. Steve's torture, luxury abode is the star or should I say, the "starkiller". Natch.

So yeah, it's weird. Fresh is vulgar and upsetting but it only ventures that way until the third act. The film could've upped the ante even further if it had a little more guts (again no pun intended). The second act is the high point as it reminded me of stuff like Tusk and last year's Girl in the Basement (that's a good thing). A woman named Noa (played very effectively by Daisy Edgar-Jones) is being held against her will by Steve only to have her buttocks be surgically removed (ugh).

Eventually Fresh turns into a another damsel in distress slasher with hints of earlier Stockholm Syndrome. Cave revels in gross, coarse imagery (which has to do with ground up body scraps and regular food), interesting camerawork (love the arc shots), and 80s/90s offcut. Fresh is recommendable even if it's almost "freshly dated".

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