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DEMONIC (2021) review

August 22, 2021

 

written by: Neil Blomkamp
produced by: Neil Blomkamp, Mike Blomkamp, Stuart Ford & Linda McDonough
directed by: Neil Blomkamp
rated: R (for language, some violence and bloody images)
runtime: 104 min.
U.S. release date: August 20, 2021 (select theaters – Music Box and available to rent on Digital and VOD on most major digital platforms, including Amazon Prime VideoYouTubeDIRECTVSpectrum OnDemandGoogle Play, and Vudu)

 

What has writer/director Neil Blomkamp been up to since his last sci-fi feature, “Chappie” released in 2015? Better yet, what has he been up to during the pandemic? The answers to both questions can be found in his latest film, “Demonic”, a peculiar science fiction/horror thriller that revolves around a woman with a complicated and estranged relationship with her mother. Although there are attempts to incorporate some unique and quite fascinating concepts to the horror subgenre of demon possession, it falls subject to recognizable formulaic trappings and predictable moves that limit the potential for the film to embrace potential for weirdness and dread. Read more…

BLOOD CONSCIOUS (2021) review

August 21, 2021

 

written by: Timothy Covell
produced by: Christina Behnke
directed by: Timothy Covell
rated: not rated
runtime: 81 min.
U.S. release date: August 20, 2021 thru September 2, 2021 (streaming at Facets Cinemathaque)

 

In “Blood Conscious”, writer/director Timothy Covell, aims to enthrall viewers with a psychological thriller that relies heavily on themes of confusion, mistrust and paranoia in an extreme survival situation. In a remote setting with characters encountering an unexpectedly horrific course of events, these themes are easily amplified. It’s a small-budget thriller that’s being described as “Get Out” meets “The Thing”, but the latter is a real stretch and the former comparison never really reaches the tension of the John Carpenter classic. Read more…

ANGÉLICA (2016) review

August 19, 2021

 

written by: Marisol Gómez-Mouakad
produced by: Marisol Gómez-Mouakad, Rocia Zambrano and Ignacio Decerega
directed by: Marisol Gómez-Mouakad
rated: not rated
runtime: 100 min.
U.S. release date: August 20, 2021 thru September 2, 2021 (streaming at Facets Cinematheque)

 

After screening at film festivals in Puerto Rico and New York City back in 2016 and 2017 (respectively), the identity crisis drama “Angélica” arrives in theaters, well, virtually at least. It just so happens to focus on a woman who finds herself having to choose between those two locations. This feature-length debut from writer/director Marisol Gómez-Mouakad, who also serves as co-producer and editor, finds the Pierto Rican filmmaker making a deliberate effort to shine a light on race and sex discrimination with an even sharper focus on colorism amongst Latin American culture. The themes may be tackled in a not-so-subtle manner, but one can’t help but notice that they are specific themes that are long overdo for consideration. Read more…

EMA (2019) review

August 15, 2021

 

written by: Guillermo Calderón and Alejandro Moreno
produced by: Juan de Dios Larraín
directed by: Pablo Larraín
rated: R (for strong sexual content, nudity and language)
runtime: 107 min.
U.S. release date: 2019 (Venice International Film Festival) & August 13, 2021 (limited theaters)

 

While Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín’s last feature film was “Jackie”, his English-language debut from 2016, which created an immersive and emotional portrait of Jackie Kennedy days before and after her husband’s assassination, the filmmaker has been quite busy as a co-producer (Sebastián Lelio’s last two films,”A Fantastic Woman” and “Gloria Bell”) and helming all eight episodes of “Lisey’s Story”, an adaptation of the Stephen King novel that dropped last month on Apple TV+. His latest and eighth feature is the hypnotic and artful “Ema”, which finds Larraín returning to Chile to tell an unsettling albeit intoxicating tale that revolves around guilt, manipulation, and self-destruction, while weaving creative freedom and pyromania throughout. Read more…

A QUIET PLACE PART II (2021) review

June 15, 2021

 

written by: John Krasinski
prodiced by: Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller & John Krasinski
directed by: John Krasinski
rated: PG-13 (for terror, violence and bloody/disturbing images)
runtime: 97 min.
U.S. release date: May 28, 2021 (theatrical)

 

You should be able to watch any sequel without knowing anything about a movie that came before it. A movie should ideally stand on its own with a story that is comprehensible, like picking up a comic book issue and being able to understand who’s who and what’s happening. John Krasinski‘s “The Quiet Place Part II” is one such movie where it is essential to have watched the first movie. Okay, maybe “essential” is extreme. How about “preferable”? It’s hard to imagine a viewer who hadn’t seen the previous movie getting the same viewing experience that someone who has possibly will. Of course, viewing experience is subjective and Krasinski does something a little different this time, which may benefit first timers to this world where being quite keeps you alive. Read more…

CRUELLA (2021) review

May 29, 2021

 

written by: Dana Fox and Tony McNamara
produced by: Andrew Gunn, Marc Platt, and Kristin Burr
directed by: Chris Gillespie
rated: PG-13 (for some violence and thematic elements)
runtime: 134 min.
U.S. release date: May 28, 2021 (theatrical and Disney+ premiere)

 

It’s hard to just sit through some movies and not wonder who it was made for. Disney’s “Cruella” is one such a movie. While more akin to the spinoff that the studio’s “Maleficent” movies (yes, there were two of those) were, as opposed to the slew of live-action re-imaginings of classic Disney animated features which started with 2010’s “Alice in Wonderland”, there’s still this feeling of how unnecessary it all is. It’s highly doubtful that anyone who watched Disney’s 1961’s “One Hundred and One Dalmations” ever wondered what the wretched and psychotic Cruella de Vil was like in her younger years. She’s so loud and large that such an iteration was all we could think about. No one pondered what damaged this brash and obnoxious character in her younger years, but here we are. Read more…

ARMY OF THE DEAD (2021) review

May 22, 2021

 

written by: Zack Snyder, Shay Hatten and Joby Harold
produced by: Deborah Snyder, Wesley Coller and Zack Snyder
directed by: Zack Snyder
rated: R (for strong bloody violence, gore and language throughout, some sexual content and brief nudity/graphic nudity)
runtime: 148b min.
U.S. release date: May 14, 2021 (theatrical) & May 21, 2021 (Netflix)

 

It’s been seventeen years since Zack Snyder played with zombies when he helmed a remake of George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead”, a solid entry into the horror genre and different enough in its own right to make any doubters sit at the edge of their seat. The director returns with “Army of the Dead”, not a direct sequel but since the last three words are the same, one could easily say he’s returning to the world he remade. This time, Snyder co-wrote the screenplay and also lensed the movie himself, serving as his own cinematographer. Like “Dawn”, Snyder is working with an ensemble cast for “Army”, but the difference here is how a straightforward heist plot is injected into a world that’s more massive in scale, offering adrenalized action horror with a few unique twists for the genre. Granted some of those twists made me shake my head and some found me chuckling and I suppose those are exactly the responses Snyder is going for. Read more…

THE DJINN (2021) review

May 16, 2021

 

written by: David Charbonier and Justin Powell
produced by: Carter Armstrong, Ryan Scaringe, and Meghan Weinstein
directed by: David Charbonier and Justin Powell
rated: not rated
runtime: 82 min.
U.S. release date: May 14, 2021 (now playing in theaters, and available on demand and on digital platforms.)

 

Djinn are supernatural creatures that have been incorporated into the horror genre in recent years, such as Babak Ancari’s “Under the Shadow” in 2016 and Tobe Hooper’s penultimate film, “Djinn” back in 2013. Both of those films were set in different time periods in Western Asia, which makes sense considering the history of Djinn (or “Jinn” as referred to in Arabic), which derive from a pre-Islamic Arabian and Islamic mythology. In “The Djinn” from the writer/director duo of David Charbonier and Justin Powell, the setting here is presumably America, likely Southern California, in a story that takes place solely in one location and primarily in which one young protagonist must fend for himself one evening against a visiting menace. However, despite the title, it doesn’t seem like it ever matters (or is directly noted) that the frightening presence is indeed a djinn. Read more…

SPIRAL: FROM THE BOOK OF SAW (2021) review

May 13, 2021

 

written by: Josh Stolberg and Peter Goldfinger
produced by: Oren Koules and Mark Burg
directed by: Darren Lynn Bousman
rated: R (for sequences of grisly bloody violence and torture, pervasive language, some sexual references and brief drug use)
runtime: 93 min.
U.S. release date: May 14, 2021 (theaters)

 

Keeping myself away from the “Saw” franchise for this long was a deliberate decision. Granted, I’ve been told that the movie that started it all back in 2004 from director James Wan (making his feature debut), is actually quite good, with friends telling me how it doesn’t have the extreme “torture porn” vibe the subsequent installments would become known for, but I just couldn’t prioritize watching victims trapped what were inevitably fatal endgames. Still, serial killer storylines intrigue me, and when I learned that Chris Rock signed on to “Spiral” described as an spin-off or off-shoot of the series, I became somewhat curious. Would this movie be more of a crime thriller as opposed to the slasher horror vibe that dominated most of the previous installments? There’s a curiosity factor in approaching “Spiral”, especially for someone who’s never seen any “Saw” movie before. Read more…

Interview with VANQUISH writer/director George Gallo

April 14, 2021

 

Known primarily for combining humor and action in his screenplay for 1988’s “Midnight Run” with Robert DeNiro and Charles Grodin, and in the story for “Bad Boys”, which catapulted Will Smith’s career, writer/director George Gallo has directed almost as many movies as he’s written, starting with 1991’s “29th Street” a dramedy with Anthony LaPaglia and Danny Aiello. His latest is the action crime thriller “Vanquish”, the second of three movies in which he directed Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman, along with the upcoming “The Comeback Trail”, which reunites Gallo with DeNiro. Read more…