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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…


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…

THUNDER FORCE (2021) review

April 9, 2021


written by: Ben Falcone
produced by: Ben Falcone, Melissa McCarthy, Marc Platt, and Adam Siegel
directed by: Ben Falcone
rated: PG-13 (for some action/violence, language and mild suggestive material)
runtime: 105 min.
U.S. release date: April 9, 2021 (Netlfix)


When a comedy isn’t funny, it’s hard for me to keep my external reactions in check. I find myself catching my audible sighs and maybe repositioning the way I sit more frequently, or more noticeably throwing my hands in the air. Then I’ll get a headache from how far back my eyes roll into the back of my head when the unfunny humor continues with no end in sight. At least I was sitting on my couch next to my wife as such a reaction occurred from the latest Netflix comedy and not distracting others in a dark theater. But, then again maybe I’d be doing them a favor. One of the many problems with “Thunder Force” is that no one told writer/producer/director Ben Falcone and the movie’s co-producer and co-star, Melissa McCarthy, that it’s not a funny movie. Read more…


April 8, 2021


written by: Khyentse Norbu
produced by: Max Dispesh Khatri and Rabindra Singh Beniya
directed by: Khyentse Norbu
rated: not rated
runtime: 113 min.
U.S. release date: April 9, 2021 (virtual) April 16, 2021 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


“Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Mustache” certainly has an attention-grabber of a title and sometimes watching a film solely because of its title proves to be surprising and rewarding. Such is the case with Bhutanese writer/director Khyentse Norbu’s latest film, which presents a story in which its protagonist unexpectedly embarks on a journey that finds him questioning not just himself, but also his senses and his dreams, especially when he begins to second guess both of them. It’s a visually tantalizing film, offering an engaging and unpredictable story with rich characters and a striking sense of wonder, as well as subtle sense of humor. As it unravels at its own pace, “Looking for a Lady with Fangs and a Mustache” offers much to contemplate, before and after viewing. Read more…

2021 Oscar-nominated DOCUMENTARY Shorts

April 7, 2021


While the documentary shorts are typically my favorite Oscar category, I’m not gonna lie and say any of them are pick-me-ups or feel-good viewing. Nevertheless, all five nominees are highly recommended documentaries (regardless of length) and there are a few which are quite inspiring and heartwarming. That being said, most of them are focusing on either challenging subjects or current events such as a democracy being dismantled, the repercussions of Nazi atrocities, and malnutrition that leads to the death of children. Yeah, not cheery stuff, but what this category has always succeeded at is casting a spotlight on what is happening in the world, informing viewers of true stories we would otherwise never been exposed to. These are important and powerful shorts that can enlighten and inform viewers. We’ve all been going through quite a bit within the last year of this pandemic, but it’s always helpful to see the challenges that other people and cultures are facing and that’s definitely what these five nominees offer. Read more…

2021 Oscar-nominated LIVE-ACTION Shorts

April 7, 2021


There are often similarities in the Oscar-nominated shorts, especially in the Live-Action category, but it’s uncanny how the connective thread weaves through the nominees this year. Each short seems to be touching on some kind of political or social issue and how people are seen (or not seen and sometimes are considered transparent) and treated differently than others. Ultimately, tensions between others are examined, some are resolved while others are left with the repercussions of how their snap-judgements impact someone else. None of these five nominees feel like propaganda, but rather sincere and predominately successful attempts at pointing a lens on those who live around us, often stemming from a very personal place and often resulting in escalated situations. Read more…

2021 Oscar-nominated ANIMATED Shorts

April 7, 2021


It’s Oscar season, even though it doesn’t feel like it and that typically means there are Shorts that need your attention. Those who traditionally partake in Oscar pools will want to catch all of them in select theaters (this year, it’s a very select few, thanks to COVID) or On Demand via ShortsTV. If you’ve been paying attention over the years, these are the nominees I’m most curious about and ones I get the most exciting about each year after viewing them leading up to the telecast. While I usually recommend them, I must say I was a little disappointed in the Animated Shorts this year. Of the five nominees, only one is the real standout and it would ludicrous if it didn’t go home with a golden boy. The other four were fine, but just didn’t really rise to an Oscar level. Here’s my rundown, from worst to best… Read more…

SHIVA BABY (2020) review

March 31, 2021


written by: Emma Seligman
produced by: Kieran Altmann, Katie Schiller & Lizzie Shapiro
directed by: Emma Seligman
rated: not rated
runtime: 77 min.
U.S. release date: March 15, 2020 (SXSW) & April 2, 2021 (Music Box Theatre, Chicago, IL)


The things you overhear or witness at a funeral service when you try to be a wallflower can often wind up being just as baffling and unexpected as the conversations you inevitably have with other attendees, especially the ones you’d rather not run into anywhere. The surface talk about anyone other than the deceased is understandable as are the obligatory condolences, but those banal questions about whether or not you’re seeing anyone (that is, if you’re single) or what you’re doing for work, can feel as if your own life is slowly draining. These reminders and observations came to mind while watching writer/director Emma Seligman’s relatable and tender comedy “Shiva Baby”, which portrays the claustrophobic awkwardness of attending a social gathering commemorating the recently deceased. Read more…