One of the most controversial faith films ever made, The Reliant explores forgiveness and violence; but in a rather heavy-handed sort of way. When riots breakout across the county plunging communities into chaos a suburban family retreats to the woods and starts to question their faith in God and commitment to nonviolence. While the plot is pretty solid, presenting a frighteningly realistic scenario where there would be a wide-spread breakdown of society, the dialog is painfully on the noise (constantly quoting scripture verbatim). And the performances aren’t that good either (though a lot of that is script related). Yet while The Reliant isn’t a very compelling film, it’s an interesting conversation starter about some important issues and that are becoming increasing prevalent in today’s society.
Affairs of State is a provocative political thriller that’s not quite sure where it’s going. When an ambitious political aid attempts to sleep his way to the top his affair with a candidate’s wife threatens to destroy lives and careers. Unfortunately the film seems to be more concerned with the main character’s sexcapades than the political maneuvering and conniving of the campaign. And the political landscape is a little hard to follow, as it tries to avoid labels yet makes allusions to current issues. Also, the cast is rather lackluster (despite featuring Thora Birch and Mimi Rogers). Kind of a mess, Affairs of State is a disappointing film that doesn’t quite work.
Tawdry, low-budget schlock, April Fool’s Day feels more like a cheesy soap opera than a horror film. A year after rich socialite Milan Hastings is killed in an apparent April Fool’s Day prank gone wrong, she returns from beyond the grave to blackmail a group of her former friends to force her murderer to confess or they’ll all be killed. The acting is terrible and the writing is atrocious; featuring some really awful dialog. The who-done-it isn’t the least bit interesting and there’s no suspense to any of the killings. At times April Fool’s Day verges on being “it’s so bad it’s good,” but it ends up just being bad.
A mediocre noir crime drama, The Poison Rose is full of mystery and intrigue. Based on a novel, the story follows an LA PI who returns to his hometown of Galveston, Texas, for a job looking into a crooked retirement home, but he soon runs into an ex-girlfriend who hires him to clear her daughter of murdering her husband. Starring John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser, and Famke Janssen, the film has an impressive cast; though they give rather middling performances. And the low-budget shows in some of the sets and directing choices. Still, there are some interesting plot-twists and suspenseful moments as the investigation unfolds. Yet while it’s entertaining, The Poison Rose is a fairly rote thriller.
Jim Carrey stars in the disturbing crime thriller Dark Crimes. Inspired by a true story, a police detective pursues a writer believing that his novel is a confession to a notorious murder. The plot is really hard to follow, as it takes a lot of turns and the character relationships aren’t always clear. Additionally, the tone is rather ugly and film has a grimy, dingy look. Also, the main character isn’t really that likable. Boring and monotonous, Dark Crimes is a poorly made film that’s too dark for its own good.
Jon Favreau remakes another animated Disney classic as a CGI/live-action film with The Lion King. The story follows the original beat by beat; a lion cub named Simba is tricked into thinking that he has killed his father and runs away, but returns when he learns that his uncle has destroyed the Pride Lands. Once again Disney takes a PC blush to their classic, and it really feels like pandering. However, the real problem is with the animation itself; something about the mouth/facial movements seems off. And the music isn’t quite right either; feeling like a second rate cover of the original, lacking its majestic tones. Still, the musical numbers are entertaining and fun, and the action scenes are incredibly exciting. Yet ultimately this new Lion King is an unnecessary adaptation that doesn’t have the same magic as the original.
Direct-to-video trash, Doom: Annihilation is a cheesy, low-budget reboot based on the popular video game. When a group of marines are sent to a secret base on the Martian moon Phobos they discover that the scientists there have unleashed a murderous creature that has turned on them. None of the acting is any good and special effects look cheap as hell. And the sets aren’t any better. A film that no one asked for, Doom: Annihilation is a pathetic attempt to relaunch the franchise.
The Rock is on a mission to kick ass and take names in Doom. Based on the popular video game, an elite military unit is sent to secure a research laboratory on Mars that has been attacked by a hostile creature. The story’s pretty formulaic and follows all of the usually tropes of a horror film. Co-starring Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike, the cast is fairly strong and is able to make the material work. Additionally, the action’s well-done and is enhanced by some interesting sci-fi tech. Doom is a stereotypical video game turned film that delivers on the action but doesn’t have much of a story to go with it.
Mel Gibson and Vince Vaughn star in the crime drama Dragged Across Concrete. When two cops are suspended for using excessive force they use their time off to stake out a crime boss and make plans to rob him. Gibson and Vaughn both give strong performances and work well as partners. Additionally, the script is well-written and is full of interesting characters and colorful dialog. Still, the tone can get kind of dark and the violence is rather graphic. A gritty and provocative film, Dragged Across Concrete explores the moral gray of the criminal world.
An avant-garde, David Lynchian film, Mandy is an incoherent mess. There’s no real story, just a vague impression of a revenge tale. Nicolas Cage leads the cast (for whatever that’s worth), but the real star is the cinematography, ‘cause the film just looks amazing; giving off a surreal, ethereal vibe. And the set designs are especially well-done. However, the pacing is excruciatingly slow and the storytelling is abysmal; requiring the audience to fill-in huge gaps as to how characters got from point A to point B and what they’re doing and why. Mandy is a visual spectacle to be sure, but it’s also incredibly boring and pointless.
Noomi Rapace and Yvonne Strahovski star in the psychological thriller Angel of Mine (an American remake of the French film Mark of an Angel). The story follows a grieving mother who’s unable to come to terms with the death of her infant daughter and starts to stalk a little girl believing that she’s her daughter come back to her. Both Rapace and Strahovski give strong performances and each comes off as sympathetic in their own way. However, the script is rather weak and takes too long to explain how the daughter died and whether the mother believes the girl is her actual daughter or her reincarnation. Still, there are some dramatic and intense scenes as the mother’s obsession becomes dangerous and self-destructive. Angel of Mine has a compelling story to tell, but it has some trouble coming together.
Olivia Wilde stars in the revenge thriller A Vigilante. The story follows an abuse victim turned vigilante named Sadie who helps other abuse victims get free of their abusers (maybe). The storytelling really isn’t that good, as it kind of just jumps randomly into different scenes from Sadie’s missions without getting into the context (whether she’s doling out punishment, helping victims escape, or eliminating abusers). Still, Wilde gives an incredibly strong performance (both physically and emotionally). And there’s some mystery and intrigue to trying to figure out Sadie’s backstory and how she become a vigilante. A Vigilante is an interesting indie drama, but it falls a little short and doesn’t quite come together that well.
Official Secrets is a blatant piece of propaganda that attempts to rewrite history and deify the liberal media and their “whistleblower” allies. But if you can get past the politics, it’s a pretty engaging drama. The film follows an antiwar British intelligence analysis who leaks a top secret memo in an attempt to prevent the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and is subsequently charged with treason after being caught. Starring Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, and Ralph Fiennes, the casts is quite impressive and delivers solid performances. And the writers do a good job at building suspense and tension. The dialog however, is rather poor and is preachy as all get-out with sanctimonious speeches about whistleblowing and the usual liberal antiwar rhetoric (“Blair lied,” “illegal war,” blah, blah, blah). Yet while it’s a far cry from an objective depiction of events, Official Secrets is a fairly solid legal drama.
The Showtime political thriller Homeland is a high-quality and provocative series that exemplifies what serial television can do. Season 1 follows the return of Sergeant Nicholas Brody, a U.S. Marine who was held prisoner by al-Qaeda for 8 years in Iraq, as he struggles to reacclimate to life back home with his family; meanwhile the CIA secretly investigates Brody as a possible double agent after receiving a tip that an American POW had been turned by al-Qaeda. The material is especially rich, and quickly evolves into a complex and compelling story. The casting is also especially good; as Claire Danes and Damian Lewis are incredible, and really give dynamic performances. And the supporting cast members, such as Mandy Patinkin and Morena Baccarin, are equally as strong. Full of intrigue and suspense, Homeland delivers an extraordinary first season.
Men In Black: International attempts to revive the franchise but puts forth a rather lackluster effort. After chasing after the MIB all her life Molly finally infiltrates one of their offices and is granted a probationary status and assigned to the London branch where she’s teamed up with hot shot Agent H. New leads Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson don’t have near the chemistry or charisma of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (who still loom large over the series). And Rebecca Ferguson makes for a weak villain. Also, the tone isn’t as lighthearted as the previous films (focused more on the action) and no one seems to be having fun on these wacky alien adventures. The aliens aren’t all that interesting either and seem pretty generic. A rote sci-fi action film, Men In Black: International has none of the color or whimsy of the original trilogy.
Men In Black 3 repackages the same old bag of tricks, yet still manages to be an entertaining and enjoyable sci-fi adventure. In this installment, Agent J must travel back in time to 1969 in order to stop a renegade alien from killing Agent K. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return, and are joined by Josh Brolin and Emma Thompson. The special effects are pretty good, but the alien designs are a little too campy. However, the action scenes are energetic and fun. Fairly tame and run-of-the-mill, Men In Black 3 plays it save, delivering an average time-travel adventure that has some good laughs but doesn’t try for much more.
The Men in Black are back for another cheesy, lackluster adventure in Men in Black 2. The story is pretty much the same as the first film’s; a villainous alien comes to Earth looking for some ambiguous thing and it all ends up in a big chase scene with Agents J and K. Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, and Rip Torn return, and are joined by Lara Flynn Boyle and Rosario Dawson; none of whom give good performances. The special effects and makeup have gotten worse, and the writing is pathetic. Men in Black 2 is a mess, and doesn't have much going for it.
Men in Black is a fun and action pack sci-fi/comedy that’s out of this world. Based on the comic book, NYPD cop James Edwards is recruited to be part of a top secret agency that monitors and controls alien activity on Earth. Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, and Rip Torn, the film has a lot of solid comedic talent. Jones and Smith make for a good comedic team, but Smith goes over the top a bit too much. And unfortunately, the alien creature designs are pretty underwhelming. Yet while it has its problems, Men in Black is still a wildly entertaining film that delivers plenty of laughs.
Bushwick is a gritty and intense apocalyptic thriller. A college girl who’s coming home to see her grandmother teams up with a stranger in order to navigate the streets of Brooklyn when civil war breaks out and a paramilitary group attempts to seize control of the city. Brittney Snow and Dave Bautista both give fairly strong performances, however, the writing is a little weak; the plot in particular is rather hard to follow at times. Still, the fights and chases are suspenseful and exciting, and are heightened by the atmospheric directing style. It’s a little underdeveloped, but overall Bushwick is a solid action film.
An ultraviolent and vulgar dark comedy, Dog Eat Dog is an ugly mess. The story follows a group of smalltime Cleveland gangsters who try for a big score with a kidnapping, but things all fall apart. Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe lead the cast, but their performances aren’t very good (Dafoe is particularly horrendous). And the directing is terrible, as none of the stylistic choices work, and the sets look cheap. Additionally, the sex and violence are incredibly gratuitous and makes the film feel dirty. Complete garbage, Dog Eat Dog is a pointless waste of time.
Another Nicolas Cage abomination, 211 isn’t so much a film as a festering pile of dog sh**. While out on patrol two cops stumble upon a bank robbery in progress by a disaffected group of mercenaries from Afghanistan, and once engaged they turn the streets into a war zone. The acting is really bad, not even up to community theatre standards (and that includes Cage). And the sets and costumes are equally terrible. It’s hard to believe that a film as bad as 211 could be made in this day and age, but there it is.
Nicolas Cage has A Score to Settle in this low-budget revenge thriller. After getting an early medical release from prison Frank Carver retrieves a hidden stash of mob money and attempts to make up for lost time with his son, but secretly he hunts down former members of his crew that betrayed him. Cage gives a strong performance, as does co-star Benjamin Bratt. However, the film's big twist is telegraphed right from the start, and only become more obvious as it goes on. Still, it does add an extra dimension to an otherwise formulaic plot. A mediocre film, A Score to Settle is a pretty by-the-numbers crime drama.
From SyFy comes Leprechaun Returns, a low-budget horror-comedy. A direct sequel to the original, when Tory Redding’s daughter heads off to collage she discovers that her sorority house is the same house that her mother lived in when she battled the Leprechaun, and that he has returned to find his gold. Mark Holton reprises his role as the dimwitted Ozzie, but he’s the only one who comes back. In fact the cast is pretty weak: Taylor Spreitler is no Jennifer Aniston, and Linden Porco has none of the charisma or charm of Warwick Davis. Still, some of the environmentalist satire works, and the new character design for Leprechaun isn’t too bad. However, the horror-comedy relies too much on cheesy gore and special effects. Yet as silly and stupid as Leprechaun Returns is, it’s about par for the series.
What the F*CK was that! The WWE royally screws up the Leprechaun series with the reboot Leprechaun: Origins. Going for a creature feature vibe, the Leprechaun is re-envisioned as a primordial animal that feeds off of human flesh. The plot involves a group of college students who are sent off the beaten path by a local miner to see some ancient Celtic ruins, but it turns out to be a trap intent on sacrificing them to a leprechaun. It's an incredibly generic storyline, and is full of all the usual horror movie cliches. Plus, the characters really aren't that interesting, and neither is the Leprechaun. Leprechaun: Origins is just senseless violence and gore without much suspense ('cause it's very predictable).
Whassup ninjas! The Leprechaun heads Back 2 tha Hood in this sixth and final installment of the series. After a hairdresser named Emily finds a chest of gold coins at an abandoned construction site and shares them with her friends, the Leprechaun comes a calling. The characters are actually fairly interesting and are well-written, except for the Leprechaun; who seems entirely out of place and buffoonish. Still, there are some entertaining kill scenes, and the gore is pretty effective. While it has some problems, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood is one of the better installments of the series.
The Leprechaun series takes a radical turn toward Blaxploitation with Leprechaun in the Hood. When three aspiring rappers break into a music mogul’s office to steal some startup funds they accidentally release an evil leprechaun. The script is filled with all kinds of nonsense, and the rapping is especially lame. Ice-T leads the cast and plays to his gangster image. The rest of the cast however, is rather bland and their performances are weak. And, it doesn’t help any that the characters are all a bunch of one-dimensional stereotypes. Despite the change in locale, Leprechaun in the Hood still delivers the same tired, old schlock as the previous films.
Boldly going where no Leprechaun film has gone before, Leprechaun 4: In Space is WTF kind of crazy. A group of soldiers are send after a mischievous alien (aka the Leprechaun) who has kidnapped a princess. Incredibly silly, the film sets the right tone for a lighthearted and fun horror comedy. And, the over-the-top performances work in adding to the camp and cheesiness. Additionally, Jessica Collins has a screen presence that gives a lot of energy to the film. Though it’s not good, Leprechaun 4: In Space provides a bit of fun romp by playing up its hokeyness and making its B-movie quality work for it.
What happens in Vegas should stay in Vegas, especially Leprechaun 3. In this adventure the Leprechaun heads for Sin City to wreak terror on those who come between him and his gold. The story is garbage, and seems to be made-up as it goes along. The acting is also incredibly bad, in an annoying, hard to watch kind of way. Even Warwick Davis isn’t into it, as he seems to be reading off of cue cards or riffing on his own. Extraordinarily stupid, Leprechaun 3 is an atrocious low-budget slasher.
The Leprechaun is searching for a bride in the cheesy horror-comedy Leprechaun 2. Baring no continuity to the first film, the Leprechaun (a different one from last time) emerges from an Irish tree stump in L.A. to claim his bride on St. Patty’s Day. The acting is terrible and the characters couldn’t be less interesting. The sets and the costumes look cheap, and even the gore isn’t done very well. No one involved with Leprechaun 2 seems to be putting forth much effort, and it shows.
“No one takes a leprechaun’s gold!” The B-horror film Leprechaun is cheesy as hell and unbelievably stupid. While renovating a country home a group of kids unwittingly release a leprechaun to stir up murder and mayhem. Sadistic and wisecracking, Leprechaun is a third rate Freddy Krueger rip-off. Only, there’s no real element of danger or fear with the Leprechaun character; as he’s a f***ing joke. However, this does mark the film debut of Jennifer Aniston who has a star quality about her, even in this schlock. Warwick Davis on the other hand, chews up the scenery as the Leprechaun. A complete train-wreck, Leprechaun is epically bad.