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KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS (1948) blu-ray review

July 23, 2020

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written by: Leonardo Bercovici and Walter Bernstein (novel by Gerard Butler)
produced by: Richard Vernon
directed by: Norman Foster
rated: not rated
runtime: 79 min.
U.S. release date: October 30, 1948
Blu-ray release date: July 21, 2020

 

As one of the latest entries in the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line of Blu-ray releases, Norman Foster’s 1948 film noir, “Kiss the Blood off My Hands” gets a fine 2K restoration transfer and hopefully a wider audience. The Universal Pictures release was significant for its star Burt Lancaster, since it was the first film released by Norma Production, a company he founded with his agent Harold Hecht and James Hill, in an effort to break away from the heartthrob roles that would come his way. Here, Lancaster plays a psychologically tormented man (not too unheard of for the genre) who may or may not be able to shake off his past with the help of a kind hearted woman.
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JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE (2020) review

July 3, 2020

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produced by: Erika Alexander, Ben Arnon, Laura Michalchyshyn & Dawn Porter
directed by: Dawn Porter
rated: PG (for thematic material including some racial epithets/violence, and for smoking)
runtime: 96 min.
U.S. release date: July 3, 2020 (virtual cinemas)

 

U.S. Congressman John Robert Lewis turned 80 this year and is currently receiving treatment for Stage IV pancreatic cancer. That last part isn’t mentioned in “John Lewis: Good Trouble”, but knowing that from recent news and considering all the ground covered in Dawn Porter’s absorbing documentary, which looks at the impressive life of this civil rights leader, legislator and comic book writer, it’s impossible not to see him as an American hero. It’s a insightful look at the life of the longtime Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District. Read more…

MY SPY (2020) review

June 30, 2020

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written by: Erich Hoeber & Jon Hoeber
produced by: Dave Bautista, Chris Bender, Jonathan Meisner, Gigi Pritzker, Peter Segal, Robert Simonds, Jake Weiner
directed by: Peter Segal
rated: Rated PG-13 (for action/violence and language)
runtime: 99 min.
U.S. release date: June 26, 2020 (Amazon Prime)

 

“You want me to talk my way into some stranger’s apartment? Do you know how dangerous that is?”

 

Ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger tussled with tots in “Kindergarten Cop” back in 1990, the family friendly film has become a rite of passage for any tough guy actors looking to broaden their appeal. The burgeoning subgenre is notoriously hit-or-miss and certainly doesn’t lack its fair share of terrible entries – 2010’s “The Tooth Fairy” anyone? – and the never-ending litany of wrestlers turned actors is responsible for the bulk of its content. Since his breakthrough role as Drax in “Guardians of the Galaxy” back in 2014, Dave Bautista has proven himself a genuinely likable talent and a prime candidate for a softer side family comedy. Read more…

EUROVISION SONG CONTEST: THE STORY OF FIRE SAGA (2020) review

June 29, 2020

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written by: Will Ferrell & Andrew Steele
produced by: Jessica Elbaum, Eitan Evan, Will Ferrell, & Chris Henchy
directed by: David Dobkin
rated: Rated PG-13 (for crude sexual material including full nude sculptures, some comic violent images, and language)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: June 26, 2020 (Netflix)

 

“Hello from Iceland, we’re all very sorry and promise to pick someone better next year.”

 

Anyone who has followed comedy closely enough for the last twenty years and can recognize certain directors likely gets a shiver down their spine whenever the name David Dobkin appears. His previous films include “Shanghai Knights,” “Wedding Crashers,” “Fred Claus,” and “The Change-Up,” all of which have two things in common. First, they’re all at or near two hours long, an excessive running time for a comedy, and second, they don’t have nearly enough laughs to sustain that two hour running time. Read more…

URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD: INTO HER OWN (2019) review

June 16, 2020

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produced by: Ken Kobland, Simon Taufique and Daniel Traub
directed by: Daniel Traub
runtime: 57 min.
rating: not rated
U.S. release date: June 5, 2020

 

The immersive documentary “Usula Von Rydingsvard: Into Her Own” by Daniel Traub opens with a close look at New York-based contemporary artist carefully marking raw cedar wood 4X4s with the Ebony pencils she keeps in her tool belt. The camera focuses on just how important the act of touching is to the German-born artist, as we see her gloved hands (with exposed fingertips) moving over the surface of the material which she will eventually twist and turn into giant sculptures. The various art pieces seen throughout the film display not just von Rydingsvard’s style, but also how her work feels purposefully touched by her hand, which she passes on to the world to be touched.
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THE WAY BACK (2020) review

June 3, 2020

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written by: Brad Ingelsby
produced by: Gordon Gray, Jennifer Todd, Gavin O’Connor & Ravi Mehta
directed by: Gavin O’Connor
rated: Rated R (for language throughout including some sexual references)
runtime: 108 min.
U.S. release date: March 6, 2020
Blu-ray release date: May 19, 2020

 

Not a remake of “The Way Back” from 2010 and not a prequel to 2013’s “The Way Way Back”, Gavin O’Connor’s “The Way Back” reteams with actor Ben Affleck (after their thriller “The Accountant”) for “The Way Back”. On the outside, it looks like another underdog sports drama, but it has more on its mind than the tropes of that subgenre, thanks to Brad Ingelsby’s effective screenplay and probably the best performance from Affleck since “Changing Lanes”. Like the best sports movies you can think of, the movie succeeds in primarily focusing on characters over the highs and lows of competitive athletics. “The Way Back” may not go on to become a classic, but it definitely should be recognized as a movie that takes a serious look at potent and relatable themes in a rare introspective manner. Read more…

DEERSKIN (2019) review

April 30, 2020

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written by: Quentin Dupieux
produced by: Mathieu Verhaeghe and Thomas Verhaeghe
directed by: Quentin Dupieux
rated: not rated
runtime: 76 min.
U.S. release date: October 25, 2019 (Chicago International Film Festival) & Gene Siskel Film Center (May 1-7, 2020) 

 

“We put the corpse in room one until the undertaker comes”

 

There’s a fine line between a movie about a man suffering a mid-life crisis and one about a man suffering a mid-life break with reality. The mid-life crisis has been the catalyst many feel-good movies that have delighted audiences the world over. Mid-life breaks with reality, however, tread into much darker water that can inspire a filmmaker to plumb the depths of their imaginations. Read more…

SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE (2019) review

April 24, 2020

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written by: Cédric Klapisch and Santiago Amigorena
produced by: Gaëtan David, Cédric Klapisch, and Bruno Levy
directed by: Cédric Klapisch
rated: not rated
runtime: 110 min.
U.S. release date: April 24, 2020 (avail. on Vimeo)

 

Two thirtysomethings in modern-day Paris find themselves in a funk – unlucky in love, losing sleep, and lonely. It just happened. Neither are struggling with an addiction, nor are they grieving, or have been emotionally wounded in some way. They are gainfully employed and have family they keep in touch with, yet there’s a melancholy about them that they just can’t seem to shake. French director Cédric Klapisch subverts our expectations in his latest film, “Someone, Somewhere”, which takes it’s time learning what’s going on with these two before their meet-cute. Read more…

ROBERT THE BRUCE (2020) review

April 15, 2020

 

written by: Eric Belgau and Angus Macfadyen
produced by: Kim Barnard, Andrew Curry, Nick Farnell, Richard Gray, Anna Hutchison, Angus Macfadyen, Cameron Nugent
directed
by: Richard Gray
rated: Not Rated (violent content equivalent to an R)
runtime: 123 min.
U.S. release date: April 24, 2020 (Amazon Prime & VOD) 

 

“You cannot stop your boy from becoming a man. Nothing’s certain, not the future, not even the present. You have to let go.”

 

Despite its director and star’s current reputation, 1995’s “Braveheart” was a moment of triumph for Mel Gibson, bringing him into the realm of respected actors turned directors. While the film certainly played fast and loose with history, it turned what could have been a lecture on history into crowd-pleasing ultra-violent entertainment. That has more or less been Gibson’s bag since then, though he didn’t seem all that eager to return to this particular story—likely because it had a pretty firm ending for his character. Read more…

WHEN I LAST SAW JESSE (2019) review

April 2, 2020

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produced by: Brian Robert Rose
directed by: Brian Robert Rose
rated: not rated
runtime: 88 mins
U.S. release date: September 7, 2019 (Gene Siskel Film Center Chicago) & March 13, 2020 (Amazon Prime) 

 

“How do you come to a family who has a missing student and say, ‘Oh, here’s his stuff’?”

 

Narrative resolution is something which audiences members crave, whether or not they’re aware that’s what they want. Ambiguity has always worked better on stage than it has on film, mainly because a film audience has a certain need for closure by the time the film cuts to black. The 2019 documentary “When I Last Saw Jesse” is full of ambiguity, a sort of real world “Rashomon” wherein several different witnesses all have differing versions of events. Unlike Kurosawa’s masterpiece, however, there is no closure offered by this film, leaving audiences in much the same place as the missing boy’s family and friends. Read more…