The Shallows (2016) – Review

3 Stars

Oceanic adventure films have always possessed a voyeuristic under-current. Going back to the opening shot of Jaws, to Jacqueline Bisset’s wet t-shirt in The Deep, Jessica Alba’s closely observed rear in Into the Blue, and now Blake Lively’s bikini-clad beach body. It’s an unspoken appeal of the genre, it is undoubtably used to market and sell the film to young men, while providing visual pleasure even if the films aren’t quite as marvelous as their semi-nude stars.
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From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

From Dusk Til Dawn is a tale of two movies, each battling for screen time. Like Grindhouse, this vampire story could have played out in a double feature. Instead the narrative is split into halves, the first is a hostage picture with strong dialogue, the second a horror movie with little talking and lots of visual mayhem. The former section works better than the latter half. The screenplay from scribe Quentin Tarantino is literate and overly violent, not surprising given the writer’s other works. The film’s main problem is in not providing a main character that is sympathetic or likable, the Gecko brothers are raging psychopaths.
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The Lawnmower Man (1992) – Review

2 Stars

It’s easy to forget that pre-James Bond, Pierce Brosnan starred in mostly bad movies. Add to the list The Lawnmower Man, a film that most people remember as ‘that virtual reality’ movie. Yes. There is in fact a lot of talk about new frontiers in a digitized dimension, but there is also a lot of contrived scenes that are so obvious in their resolutions that we are left stranded as the characters on-screen try to figure out what we already know.
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The Veil (2016) – Review

3 Stars

I’ve long admired the film works of director Phil Joanou. His grasp on storytelling, both visually and from a narrative standpoint, is so strong that middling vehicles like The Veil are elevated because of his touch. This low-budget film comes from Universal and producer Jason Blum, their tested formula is again at play, but Joanou makes the picture his own, adding a drab color platte, interesting actors and producing a number of ‘jump’ moments.
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Lake Placid (1999) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

In today’s Hollywood names like J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon are synonymous with blockbuster franchises. It wasn’t always so. Looking back to 1999, the jump from television show-runner/writer to screen scripter wasn’t as easy nor glamorous. Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelly penned this creature feature set on a Lake in rural Maine. If Deep Blue Sea (released earlier the same summer) was a dirty cousin to Jaws, than Lake Placid is a second-cousin to 1950’s matinĂ©e horror/comedies. Director Steve Miner continues his late career hot streak following the devilishly fun and stylistic H20: Halloween 20 years Later.
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Sphere (1998) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Sphere is a pedestrian retelling of Solaris, lacking any of the poetry or tranquil beauty of the original or 2002 American remake. Instead we have a laborious Hollywood concoction featuring some of the best talent in the industry and the result is flat, unconvincing and undersized for its blockbuster aspirations. Sphere is an agonizingly talky picture in which charters speculate, analyze and then pontificate to no end. The 138 minute running-time is a chore for those that aren’t Crichton completists.
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Jason X (2002) – Review

1 Star

After visiting Camp Crystal Lake, Manhattan and Hell, Jason Vorhees has been jettisoned into space in the oddity that is known as Jason X. This is a tired and lumbering entry that willfully takes its scripting cues from the first two Alien films. Screenwriter Todd Farmer (Drive Angry) has a bit role as a hard ass crewman aboard the scavenger vessel that finds the cryogenically preserved bodies of Voorhees, and a female scientist from 400 years earlier.
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Eye See You (2002) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Eye See You aka D-Tox is a misbegotten crime thriller that shows signs of inspiration but ultimately comes crashing down due to evident post-production tinkering. It features Sylvester Stallone in a welcomed and relaxed performance as FBI agent Jake Malloy, a man obsessed with capturing a psychotic killer preying on peace officers. Once slated to be helmed by Oscar-winning director Ron Howard, the final product has been crafted by horror specialist Jim Gillespie.
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Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

In full disclosure I have a close connection to the Hellraiser series. Outside of the literary architect Clive Barker, writer Peter Atkins has done the most work on the franchise, having written three installments. Mr. Atkins is a distant relative of mine, so for years I have avoided reviewing any of his cinematic works. They may be genre flicks, but they have always held a unique quality for me.
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Psycho III (1986) – Review

2 Stars

I’ve never counted myself a fan of Psycho nor Norman Bates eccentric affairs. Alfred Hitchcock may have set a template of terror back in 1960, but the film is dated and not all that profound. That may be sacrilege to fellow film buffs, but the truth is that without Anthony Perkins as Bates it would all be for not. So, 26 years after the original comes the third film featuring that memorable mama’s boy Norman.
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Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) – Review

3 Stars

Halloween H20 is a smart and suspenseful thriller that is the best in the series since John Carpenter’s iconic original feature. Set 20 years after the events of the first film (this movie disregards all the sequels), Laurie Strode (Jaime Lee Curtis) is living a quiet life in Northern California. She has changed her name and is the headmistress at a private prep school. Even two decades removed from her family tragedy, Laurie still can’t let go of the terror that she assumes will one-day manifest itself in the form of Michael Meyers.
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Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) – Review

1 Star

Michael Myers has been retired from the series in favor of a one-off story about possessed children’s masks. Franchise creator John Carpenter produced and delivered the score, but his stylistic touches and creative control are much-needed. Season of the Witch is a slow-moving, idiotic, and cheap bit of work. While this isn’t the standard stalker genre flick that was so prevalent in the eighties, it’s ‘pod-people’ narrative is contrived and lacking of interest.
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Freddy vs. Jason (2003) – Review

2 1/2 Stars

If Freddy vs. Jason had been directed by anyone other than Ronny Yu, and stared any other the incomparable Robert England it would be half the picture it is. While this is not a necessary or intense meeting of iconic slashers from decade’s past, it is at least a semi-smart melding of two franchises and settles the age-old schoolyard arguments of who’d win a fight between the two maniacal powerhouses.
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Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) – Review

2 Stars

Insidious was a startling creep-fest back in 2011. It premiered against the much-hyped return of Wes Craven and the Scream franchise, going head-to-head against Scream 4 at the box-office. It not only beat the major studio release, it also signaled that one-time masters of the genre had to concede the mantle to newer names in the field. Director James Wan has emerged as the unofficial leader of what has become affectionately referred to as the ‘splat pack’. After an opening teaser that runs about ten minutes, Insidious: Chapter 2 becomes less interesting as it goes along. Turning a malevolent spiritual force into a literal figure lessens the impact of the whole enterprise.
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