Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

“Brawl in Cell Block 99” is the second feature from director S. Craig Zahler, the man behind “Bone Tomahawk,” the acclaimed horror western that sent critics buzzing. I, for one, didn’t enjoy the movie, so imagine my surprise when I tuned in to “Brawl in Cell Block 99,” a movie that is essentially a throwback to prison brawlers and a compelling drama. Not since “Raze” have I seen a movie so raw and vicious in its depiction of humanity. Vince Vaughn gives an enormous turn as Bradley, a man at the end of his rope who literally has to dive in to hell to save his wife and unborn child. And what’s surprising is not how far he goes, but how easy it is for a good man to sink in to hell so rapidly.

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1922 (2017)

2017’s been the year of Stephen King, and it’s been a great bit of fortune that fans have been given mostly great cinematic adaptations of his work. “1922” is a deliberately paced and ingeniously calculated drama that hearkens back to the classic Victorian era murder thrillers. King invokes the style of Edgar Allan Poe for “1922,” a Southern Gothic drama that’s heavily steeped in horror. While it’s been lumped in to the Stephen King horror category, “1922” is more an examination on the concept of greed, and how it can rot us from inside out. It’s more tragedy with a tinge of horror more than horror, despite how menacing director Zak Hilditch paints the twisted albeit beautiful aesthetic.

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Batman vs. Two Face (2017) [Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital]

I was not at all a fan of the original “Batman” animated movie, as I felt it was somewhat unfocused. Thankfully “Batman vs. Two Face” not only gets the idea more about the Batman series, but uses Two Face quite cleverly. As most fans know, the original Adam West Batman show wanted Clint Eastwood to play Two Face, but deemed the character too disturbing for viewers. Producers for this animated movie go back to re-cast Two Face for their show, but bring aboard another television icon to play the villain, William Shatner. Shatner is perfect for the role of the duplicitous deviant ne’er dowell known as Two Face, and what makes the pot even sweeter is that he’s turned in to an allegory for homosexuality.

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A Fish Called Wanda (1988): Special Edition [Blu-Ray]

Charles Crichton’s “A Fish Called Wanda” is probably the last bit of Monty Python cinema we’ve ever gotten, and it embodies much of the same lunacy of the comedy troupe while also standing alone as one of the funniest movies ever made. “A Fish Called Wanda” is a zany and often raucous comedy that teams a slew of brilliant actors together for a unique, film that mixes sub-genres quite well and never loses sight of its comic themes, and Python-esque humor that borders on absurd without ever being ridiculous.

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Happy Death Day (2017)

If the premise for “Happy Death Day” sounds eerily similar a certain Bill Murray comedy where a man has to re-live the same day over and over, it’s not you. “Happy Death Day” is unofficially a remake of said movie but with a murder mystery injected for good measure. The thing about “Happy Death Day” is that it knows it’s literally a redoing of “Groundhog Day.” Seriously, it literally stops to acknowledge the fact that we’re watching a modern re-imagining of a sort. Not that that hinders the experience of “Happy Death Day” thankfully. Through and through it’s mediocre, but it charms as an engaging coming of age romance painted in the shade of a horror comedy.

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Rope (1948)

While most people would consider films like “Psycho,” or “Rear Window” to be top notch Hitchcock, I often insist that “Rope” is where Hitchcock manages to shine the most. At the very least it’s what I consider the best Hitchcock has ever been because he manages to challenge himself at every turn here. With “Rope,” adapted from an actual real life crime, Hitchcock lingers on his characters and his setting, adopted ten minute long extended takes that were the length of a normal camera magazine. With the long takes, Hitchcock is allowed to use the camera as a proxy for we, the spectator, who are watching and waiting to see if our villains Phillip and Brandon are going to be caught.

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