Tuesday, February 27, 2018

They Remain (No Matter How Much You Might Want Them To Leave

From my 2.27.18 Variety review: “‘You know how this is going to end,’ a character portentously intones to no one in particular at the start of They Remain, writer-director Philip Gelatt’s ponderously moody suspense drama about scientific researchers who may or may not fall under the influence of supernatural forces while observing flora and fauna in a remote woodland area. Unfortunately, those words prove to be less of a cryptic warning than a blunt appraisal. After enduring the first 10 minutes or so this pretentious twaddle, anyone with previous exposure to similarly affected slow-burn thrillers will know they’re destined for a long onslaught of murky symbolism, stilted dialogue, mannered performances, and brain-fogging confusion, leading to a conclusion that is satisfying only because it signals the termination of an enervating journey. In short: They Remain is a movie that lives down to your worst expectations.” You can read the rest of my Variety review here.

Review: Survivors Guide to Prsion

From my 2.23.18 Variety review: “If ever a proselytizing documentary could be described as assaultive, Survivors Guide to Prison might sport that label as a badge of honor. Filmmaker Matthew Cooke (How to Make Money Selling Drugs) launches a frenetic barrage of facts and figures, cautionary tutorials, and worst-case scenarios, in the manner of someone wielding blunt instruments to strike illuminative sparks. His outrage likely will prove highly contagious for audiences exposed to his free-wheeling critique of the U.S. criminal justice system, which starts out as a series of practical warnings to anyone (of any racial or ethnic background) maneuvering through close encounters with zealous cops and aggressive prosecutors — the useful advice includes admonitions to be polite and, if possible, shut the hell up — and gradually expands in scope to question the need to incarcerate so many people in a supposedly free society.” You can read the rest of my Variety review of Survivors Guide to Prison — which is now available on various streaming platforms — here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Sunday, February 18, 2018

And this I say unto three: Samson underwhelms

From my 2.15.18 Variety review: "Despite the limitations of their obviously limited budget, the makers of Samson strive mightily to provide the scope and sweep of an Old Hollywood biblical epic while offering their take on the classic tale about a mighty hero who falls from grace after a tonsorial malfunction. Unfortunately, there’s nothing miraculous about this latest product from Pure Flix Entertainment, an outfit that’s recently scored considerably greater success with such modern-day faith-based fare as Woodlawn, God’s Not Dead and The Case for Christ. Even if you’re willing to forgive the laughably fake beards, the unconvincing computer-generated imagery, and a man-versus-lion skirmish that might have embarrassed Ed Wood, the overall clunkiness of this enterprise may tempt you to shout rude things at the screen." You can read the rest of my review here.

Nicolas Cage dials it down in Looking Glass

From my 2.17.18 Variety review: "Nicolas Cage continues to pad his resume with VOD-centric B-movies of wildly varying quality, demonstrating, if not discerning taste, then a prodigious work ethic that would have served him well as a Warner Bros. contract player during the 1930s and ’40s. Looking Glass, the latest in his seemingly endless parade of low-rent star vehicles, is notable mostly for showcasing a relatively restrained performance by the often manic actor. During almost the entirely of this derivative melodrama, a slow-burn scenario about strange doings at a second-rate desert motel, Cage tamps down his trademark tendency toward ravenous scenery chewing. He remains admirably disciplined even during scenes in which one of his co-stars is prematurely giving the game away by doing everything short of screaming, 'I’m the mad killer! I’m the mad killer!'" You can read the rest of my review here.