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Old 02-27-2022, 05:55 PM   #51
Zhuge1 Zhuge1 is offline
Blu-ray Guru
Jan 2019

For anyone interested here are direct links to previous reviews of DVDs and blurays picked up at Dollar Tree:

November 2022 Reviews:

Self/less -- (5/10) -- Self/less is a 2015 sci-fi action film starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley. Kingsley portrays Damian, a dying real estate mogul who finds a way to escape death by undergoing a process called shedding which is a process that transfers his consciousness into a new, younger body (Ryan Reynolds). The procedure, created by the secretive Professor Albright, requires Damian to continue to take medication while in the new body, one that he's been told was simply grown in a lab. The medication supposedly suppresses vivid hallucinations, that Damian is told are side effects of the procedure. When Damian accidentally misses a dose of the medicine, he begins having flashbacks and and begins to suspect he may not have been told everything behind shedding. The secretive organization behind the process is determined to ensure Damian doesn't reveal any of their secrets.

Self/less has an interesting concept (despite the fact that it's not completely original) and a great cast headlined by Kingsley and Reynolds. Unfortunately, the movie just doesn't pay off that well. The movie starts off well enough, but once it enters the second act in which the action should pick up, there are just significant lulls that result in some fairly boring segments. In addition, Reynolds has shown that he can shine in movies (such as with Deadpool, Free Guy, or even Red Notice), but there wasn't much in the script of Self/less that lets him really show off his talents. Overall, the movie is mediocre at best.

The Guest -- (7/10) -- The Guest stars Dan Stevens as David, a mysterious stranger who shows up at the door of the Peterson family claiming to have served alongside their now deceased son. Initially, David says that his whole goal was to simply let the family know that their son tasked him with being sure to tell them all that they were loved by the son and that it was important he get that message to them as he was dying. The Petersons, still struggling from the loss, end up taking in David who begins assisting them with various tasks -- picking up young Luke from school, helping with laundry, etc. Shortly after David arrives, though, several troubling deaths occur (that ultimately benefit the family) and Anna, the older sister, begins to suspect David isn't who he seems and starts investigating.

Overall, I thought this movie was very entertaining -- Stevens plays a total bad-ass sociopath who calmly deviates between anti-hero and villain, leaving the audience both pulling for him and appalled by him. Maika Monroe does a great job as Anna Peterson, the older daughter who is suspicious of David and Brendan Meyer (as Luke Peterson) does a great job of portraying the younger brother who is totally taken with what he sees as a new role model (that has also ensured no bullies will be messing with him in the future). The pacing, script, and ending are all well-done resulting in an entertaining thriller.

October 2022 Reviews:

Dead Space: Downfall -- (5/10) -- Dead Space: Downfall is a 2008 animated film that serves as something of a prequel to the video game from the same year. The movie focuses on a space ship (the Ishimura) which is investigating a mining colony on the planet of Aegis VIII. The miners on the planet found a large monolith that mirrored a religious artifact in the current dominant religion. Unfortunately, this alien relic creates havoc resulting in the reanimation (and subsequent mutation) of corpses on the planet. Without fully understanding what exactly is happening, the captain of Ishimura brings the survivors of the mining colony as well as the monolith on board. This results in chaos as the religious members of the crew begin to worship the object, while it begins to create the same problems that broke out on the planet surface. The result is a sci-fi horror story that's almost a mix of Aliens and Resident Evil. Overall, the movie is pretty entertaining and doesn't require previous knowledge of the video game series to enjoy.

Unkindness of Ravens -- (6/10) -- The Unkindness of Ravens is a low budget Scottish horror film that seemingly takes some interesting inspiration form Edgar Allan Poe. The film focuses on a Scottish soldier (Andrew) who returns from Afghanistan and is suffering from PTSD after being involved in some very difficult situations during war time. While working with his therapist, she suggests that he consider going to a remote cabin in the country to spend some time alone away from the stresses of the city.

Andrew travels to the cabin and begins to have flashbacks of some of the horrific experiences he had while in Afghanistan. At the same time, he keeps seeing strangers lurking around the cabin dressed in dark cloaks with raven-like masks. Things take a steep decline when Andrew begins arguing with himself and realizes he's struggling to distinguish reality from the horrors of his imagination.

Honestly, for low budget horror -- this was pretty good. James Scott Gordon portrays Andrew and while there are a number of people credited in the cast of this movie, nearly all of them are in very brief roles as Gordon carries the majority of the film while he's alone in cabin in the countryside. Surprisingly, he's not had very many roles (and all are of the low budget variety); but at least in this film, he was quite convincing as the PTSD-stricken soldier.

Overall, this was certainly worth the watch.

Slender Man -- (3/10) -- Slender Man is a 2018 horror film based on the creepypasta Internet-based legend of a supernatural entity with oddly long appendages that captures children. The film opens when a group of teenage girls decide to summon the Slender Man monster one night because of a rumor that some boys they are interested in were planning to do the same thing. Things go awry the next day when one of the four teens goes missing from a school field trip. The remaining girls begin investigating to try to find their missing friend.

There are definitely elements of the film that are somewhat creepy -- the filmmakers leverage the Internet-aspect of the legend by using creepy Internet videos of child abductions, ominous anonymous chats with random Internet users who seem to know more than they'll fully disclose, etc. Ultimately, though, the scares are mediocre at best and the target audience is probably more younger high school age (similar to the ages of the stars of the movie). The movie isn't terrible, and there are aspects of it that are well-done, but it can be a bit boring to watch in certain sections, which isn't good for any movie, but is especially problematic for a movie that's trying to churn up scares. That said, the movie isn't very good either, and many sections are so dark, it's nearly impossible to actually see what's occurring in the movie.

Overall, the filmmakers probably did the best they could with the what they had. Unlike more established legends (werewolves, vampires, etc.), there's not as much to the mythos of Slender Man to really work with for a story.

Tower of Silence -- (3/10) -- Tower of Silence takes the viewer to a fantasy world in which Kae, a powerful sorceress, has been captured and imprisoned by Groth, who is aided in his villainy by a powerful necromancer. Kae's students and other heroes join together to rescue Kae and defeat the evil forces.

This film is a low budget fantasy film that's well shot, well put together, and fairly well scored. As with most low budget films, it features primarily amateur actors, but they do a decent job overall. Although the special effects are basic, they look pretty good for a film that's this level. It's quite clear that a lot of work was put into this film.

However, while the film looks good visually, it's script is seriously lacking, resulting in a very frustrating watch -- that level of effort that went into it doesn't result in a suitable payoff. Characters are introduced with very little backstory, and their connections to each other are never fully defined. In addition, there are long scenes of extremely boring dialog that does little to advance the story or explain fully what's happening in the film. And, while the score is pretty good, the combination of the dramatic, slow orchestral music with long-winded, dull dialog makes for an overall boring watch. It's truly a chore at times to stay awake through some of the scenes. Also, it's a bit awkward and odd that some of the soldiers in the film are decked out in what appears to be Spanish, conquistador armor.

I included this movie in my Halloween 2022 watch list because I (mistakenly) thought there was more of a horror component given that there are undead, zombie-like creatures that the heroes face off with in the trailer. Overall, I certainly can't recommend this for a Halloween or horror watch-list, but I also can't recommend it for fantasy enthusiasts as its strengths in visual appeal are strongly overpowered by its weaknesses in the writing.

Point of Contact -- (1/10) -- Point of Contact is a 2006 horror film starring Buddy Dolan (who is also the writer and producer), Mikki Padilla, and James Kyson Lee(best known for Ando in the Heroes television series). Jake McCormick (Dolan) experiences an accident in his youth resulting in him being in a coma for 12 years. Despite being clinically dead for 9 hours, Jake survives somehow and amazingly loses no muscle mass during his coma. Upon waking up from the coma unexpectedly, Jake finds he has an odd ability to "sense" people, including spirits. A year later, Jake has began a relationship with a nurse that cared for him during his coma, and still struggles with interactions with the spirit world. Ultimately, Jake begins working with a team to help those spirits.

To be blunt -- this movie is an absolute mess. According to IMDb, it was originally shot as a 60 minute pilot for a TV series, and then an additional half hour was added to make it into a feature film. As a television series, it would have been horrible. As a 90 minute film, it's somehow worse. The film opens when Jake is a youth; then there's a time jump of 12 years; then a jump of another year; then another jump of 3 months; and finally a time jump to "present day" with no indication of when that really is. The actor portraying Jake (Buddy Dolan) wears a ridiculous wig throughout the first 30-40 minutes of the movie, which is really distracting. "Present day" Jake has gone from long, thick hair (that didn't thin out or change during his time in the coma or afterwards) to a heavily thinned and receded hairline, making him almost unrecognizable as the same actor.

In addition, the movie has tons of "filler" scenes of spirits swirling around the live actors and/or flashbacks in which Jake "senses" the spirits. Unfortunately, these scenes make little sense and are never really clarified later on. There's also a nearly 2 minute scene of Jake walking through a hotel in slow motion to rock music while looking to meet a psychic book author (after being encouraged to meet her by a spirit). Sadly, the scenes with actual dialog aren't much better in terms of cohesiveness. Jake's relationship is seemingly over (with no explanation) in "present day." The scene between Jake and the author is awkward and nonsensical. And there's ultimately no ending -- the movie simply stops, which seems oddly appropriate as there was no resolution needed, given that there wasn't anything resembling a coherent storyline.

It feels as if they had enough story for about 30 minutes of film and stretched that originally to 50-60 minutes for a TV pilot, and then again to 90 minutes to make a feature film. The movie ends up being something of an incomplete puzzle -- many of the pieces are there for a story and the viewer has to try to assemble them into something sensible; but overall a few key pieces in the center are clearly missing, making for an incomprehensible image.

Incident in a Ghostland -- (6/10) -- Incident in a Ghostland opens with a mother and her two daughters move to a spooky old house that the mother inherits from her recently deceased sister. Moments after moving in, they are faced with murderous home invaders who have vile designs on the three females. Years later, the younger daughter (Beth) has developed a successful career as a horror writer despite still struggling with the nightmares about the events that occurred. When she receives a horrifying call from her sister (Vera), who still lives in the house with their mother and deals with severe psychological trauma, Beth decides to go back to try to help.

As with many horror movies, there's a twist in this one; and if you pay close attention, it doesn't come as much of a surprise. This is certainly a difficult movie to watch and not for the faint of heart. The actors do a great job in their roles. It's a bit difficult to say much about the movie without spoiling it, but overall it's a solid watch despite being one I would want to watch again.

Anger of the Dead -- (3/10) -- Anger of the Dead opens with a woman discovering she's pregnant, only to seconds later discover she's in the midst of a zombie apocalypse through a very brutal sequence. After being trapped in her apartment with a zombie, she eventually escapes and finds rescue from a samaritan who happens by. Simultaneously, another woman is held hostage in some sort of oddball institution where the staff seem to experiment on and abuse her. Overall, it's an awkward opening.

There's so much that doesn't work with this movie. First off, there are two distinct story-lines, and while they do intersect, it isn't until 65 minutes into an 85 minute film. Secondly, there are some plot elements that don't quite make sense -- for example, in one scene, the antagonist runs away and leaves someone to fend for themselves during a zombie attack, yet somehow he finds himself behind the person he just left to fend for themselves moments later while avoiding the horde. In addition, the ending is just terrible -- there's a faux ending (which is bad) followed by the real ending (which is worse).

The film features some good camera work, professionally done audio, and some well-done scenes. The acting is also solid, so while it's likely a low-budget film, it doesn't have the feel of a low budget movie. That said, it's definitely going to be difficult for some viewers to get through as it seems to feature a lot of violence towards women, and while a post apocalyptic zombie world would be a rough environment, the world of Anger of the Dead seems especially brutal for women and young girls.

Ultimately, the movie feels like a bad episode of Tales of the Walking Dead. It's not absolutely horrible, but it's far from good, and really not worth the time.

100% Wolf -- (5/10) -- 100% Wolf focuses on Freddy Lupin, the son of the current alpha of a werewolf pack. The pack acts as something of a local group of heroes in their town -- they rescue people from burning buildings, they save children, etc. -- although the local populace has no idea of that. While attempting to rescue a misguided ice cream vendor from falling off a cliff, Freddy's dad goes missing, leaving Freddy to be raised by his uncle Hotspur (who is now leading the pack). When Freddy finally comes of age, the pack celebrates as he is expected to inherit the new mantle of alpha... only for things to fall apart when Freddy transforms into a poodle, rather than a wolf, when hit with the moonlight. Freddy is left to deal with the confusion of being a poodle, a crazy scientist focused on building a machine to turn dogs into wigs, and a bumbling group of dogcatchers while also hoping to one day find his long-lost father.

While 100% Wolf isn't a great animated film, it was far better than expected. The animation is decent; the story is focused, has reasonable subplots that don't detract from the main theme, and concludes nicely; and the voice cast does a solid job in the film. Overall, the end result is a decent watch.

The Mermaid's Curse -- (4/10) -- The Mermaid's Curse is a low budget British horror movie centered around Jake, a newspaper reporter living in a seaside town that meets a mysterious, silent woman that he inexplicably begins to fall in love with. The woman, a siren, has disfiguring "sores" on her face that seem to magically heal when she's able to eat human flesh.

In terms of low budget horror films, this one isn't terrible. The acting, which is handled by a cast with few notable credits, is reasonably well done. The audio (which can often be inaudible in many low budget productions) is fairly good; and the camera work is handled fairly well. The movie does also feature a cameo by Shawn C. Phillips (coolduder of YouTube "fame").

The original title for the film was Witches of the Water and that's a far more appropriate title. In addition, the poster art for the film which features a demented looking mermaid crawling out of the ocean is very misleading. But overall, for low budget horror, this was certainly watchable.

Felix and the Hidden Treasure -- (4/10) -- Felix and the Hidden Treasure centers around Felix, a young boy who lives on the coast in Canada. The movie opens with Felix's mother leaving a babysitter in charge of Felix and his young sister while she prepares to go on a cruise vacation. Taking advantage of the overwhelmed sitter, Felix pretends to go over to a friend's house, while in fact going to search for his father -- a fisherman who went missing years prior. Felix joins up with Old Tom, a fisherman who lives in a nearby lighthouse in order to search for his father who he is convinced is still alive. He's also accompanied by his faithful pet cat, Rover (who thinks he's a dog).

While on the search, they stumble across a secret island where rich people are being "transformed" (in which they are made younger) that is run by the mysterious Morgaa. Years prior, Morgaa found a secret treasure that led to a "fountain of youth" she could use to transform her customers. The only catch is that once they are transformed -- they can't leave the island.

The film's animation is fairly basic and the storyline is fairly straightforward. While the movie is aimed at a younger audience, there's plenty of humor in the dialog that's aimed at adults. Overall, though, this approach doesn't fully work. The plot is a bit too advanced for the elementary aged children that are the target audience and the rest of the film is too basic to attract an older audience. Overall, the movie ends up being mediocre at best.

September 2022 Reviews:

Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans -- (6/10) -- The Teen Titans Go! team attempt to break up a robbery attempt by The Gentleman Ghost. Things go awry when the ridiculously kind ghost attempts to take over the body of Raven inadvertently unleashing her demon side entirely. Things go from bad to worse when The Master of Games sets up a tournament pitting the Teen Titans Go team against other versions of themselves. From there, the silly superheroes must face off with Raven's demonic father, Santa Claus, and the whole multiverse in order to save their teammate Raven.

Although the movie is a crossover between the two teams (and the interactions between the silly Go team and their more serious counterparts is entertaining), it's the Go team that are the focus of the movie. As expected with anything dealing with Teen Titans Go!, the film is ridiculous, yet entertaining for both kids and adults (with the usual number of Easter eggs and other references thrown in at various points).

Overall, it's a pretty entertaining watch.

June 2022 Reviews:

American Buffalo -- (6/10) -- Don (Dennis Franz) runs a second-hand store in a run-down section of the city. After recently selling a buffalo nickel to a customer, he begins to experience regret and resentment when he starts to question whether or not he sold the item too cheaply. He begins plotting with his young friend Bob to break into the house of the buyer to get even for the perceived slight. The plan escalates when another local, Teach (Dennis Hoffman), convinces Don he'd be a better partner in the crime.

American Buffalo is very much a character driven movie as it's based on a stage play from the 1970s -- and the film has that gritty look and feel of the early to mid 1970s. The story explores how resentment and innuendo can quickly spiral out of control. The majority of the film takes place in Don's store, leaving little overall action. The dialog-driven story may not appeal to all viewers, but the performances by Franz and Hoffman were excellent and can certainly keep one engaged in the story. Overall, it was definitely worth the watch.

Paper Soldiers -- (5/10) -- Paper Soldiers focuses on a small-time criminal, Shawn (Kevin Hart in his first major role), who is trying to learn the art of breaking and entering from his bumbling friends. In addition to money problems (and his newfound criminal ways), Shawn has to deal with his hot-headed friend and a girlfriend that is not enthused with his new plans.

The film credits Jay-Z as one of its stars, however the musician only had a non-speaking cameo of less than a minute. Similarly, Damon Dash (who also serves as co-writer and co-director) shows up in a brief cameo.

Overall, the movie is okay -- it's not incredibly funny, but has a few moments. That said, most of the laughs are more a result of Charlie Murphy than Kevin Hart.

May 2022 Reviews:

Stalled -- (4/10) -- Stalled is a British zombie comedy set almost entirely in the ladies' restroom of an office complex during an annual Christmas party. The film begins when the disgruntled office janitor attempts to clean the restroom while avoiding the holiday revelers. However, two women walk in soon after he begins cleaning and rather than walk out, he makes the awkward decision to simply hide and wait for them to leave. Unfortunately, a zombie outbreak occurs and he finds himself trying to survive in one of the restroom stalls.

The cover of the DVD proclaims that the film is a worthy successor to Shaun of the Dead. Unfortunately, the film falls far short of those lofty ambitions. It has a few humorous scenes, but they are simply too few and too far between. Overall, Stalled ends up being "just OK."

Sins -- (1/10) -- A priest and a blind man find themselves sitting together on a train in Italy where they begin to discuss life, and in particular their pasts. Both have checkered backgrounds that have led them to their current situations, and the two discuss those prior sins while passing the time. Father Leonard (Danny Glover) recounts his past criminal involvement that ultimately led him to murder a friend in front of the friend's family. Davide (Giovanni Martorana) recounts his past transgressions as a member of a Sicilian mafia family. The film also features Michael Madsen channeling one of his Tarantino characters as a transplanted American mob boss warring with the other families in Palermo.

The positive aspects of the film is that there are a few nice shots of the Sicilian countryside. And that's it.

The rest of the film is amazingly bad:
- The overall plot is excruciatingly boring. The film is 83 minutes, but it's a VERY long 83 minutes.
- The script is horrid.
- It seems as though the actors are simply doing improv in several scenes (like perhaps the director/writer gave them a general idea of what to say and let them go for it -- this is especially the case with most of Madsen's scenes).
- There is a mix of Italian and English, but in a nonsensical way where the American actors spout out their lines in English while Italian actors in the same scene reply in their native language.
- The audio levels are nearly inaudible in several scenes, including many of those on the train with Dannny Glover.
- There are scenes and segments which make little sense and don't contribute to the plot.
- The film ended in an awkward, jarring way that seemed to make little sense.

Overall, this was a terrible movie.

Black Wake -- (1/10) -- Black Wake is a found footage movie in which an outbreak begins affecting inhabitants of Montauk, New York. A research group attempts to discover the foundations of the affliction. Dr. Luiza Moreira (portrayed by Nana Gouvea) begins to piece together what really happened, while seemingly devolving into madness. She serves as the primary narration for the film, and specifically tracks down random video footage of various incidents across the country (or maybe just the east coast -- it's not clear). At the same time, she's seemingly under surveillance by the FBI (or some group).

The cast features a number of known actors (many of whom are now known for low budget, bad movies) -- Tom Sizemore, Eric Roberts, Chuck Zito, Vincent Pastore, and J.W. Cortes (from the Gotham television series).

There's no way to sugar coat it -- this movie is godawful. Gouvea, who originally hails from Brazil, speaks with a thick accent which makes understanding some of the narration challenging. That said, it may all be for the better, as much of the film is total nonsense and a little hard to follow. There are a few time jumps that also make piecing together the timeline difficult. The film is comprised pretty much completely of video journal entries and poorly staged found footage (some of which was clearly recorded on cell phones).

I've watched a lot of terrible movies. This one ranks pretty high up on that list.

Brennan -- (3/10) -- Brennan is a 2016 independent film focused around Brennan Manning, a Christian author and speaker best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. It's unclear how true any of the events in the film really are as it feels like the film uses Brennan more as a character in a film that focuses more on his writings/teachings. The film centers around the relationship between Brennan and Jim English, the son of a New Orleans pastor who is living out of his car in San Diego. Jim struggles with many of his past decisions, most notably the choice to give up his child (born out of wedlock) years ago. By happenstance, Jim randomly finds Manning's book (The Ragamuffin Gospel), and later meets the man himself. When Manning is desperate for a ride to New Orleans to save his marriage, Jim agrees to help and the two set off cross country on a trip.

The film is clearly low budget, and that's best illustrated by some poor audio as some scenes are nearly inaudible and some rough editing. Despite that, it does feature relatively decent acting for the caliber of film it is. David Schultz (who portrays Jim) struggles a bit with the more dramatic scenes, but does well in the lighter, comedic scenes. Hal Alpert does solid job as an older Manning who sways dramatically between caring tenderness and rage-filled ranting.

Overall, the film isn't terrible, but it's not great. The DVD cover bills it as a sequel to the film, Ragamuffin, which was a biopic of Rich Mullins, a Christian musician popular in the 1980s and 90s. The connection is loose in that Mullins and Manning had very similar viewpoints (with Mullins having been heavily influenced by Manning's writings). Again, the film seems to focus more on Manning's teachings more so than his life, so it's not a typical "biopic" -- particularly since it seems the scenario and the character of Jim were potentially fictitious. It's certainly a film that will appeal to fans of Manning or his teachings, and may not be that interesting to average viewers.

Drunk Parents -- (3/10) -- Alec Baldwin and Salma Hayek play Frank and Nancy Teargarten -- an upper class couple that have just dropped their daughter off at a high-priced college, while hiding the reality of their financial ruin from her, their friends, and their neighbors. The Teargartens are about to lose their house, their car, and their upper class lifestyle. To deal with the problem, they resort to drinking and begin a series of schemes to attempt to quickly recover some money.

In addition to the two main stars, the film features appearances by a solid group of actors and comedians -- Jim Gaffigan, Will Ferrell, Colin Quinn, Treat Williams, Joe Manganiello, and Aasif Mandvi. With such a solid cast, it seems that this movie should be a solid watch. Unfortunately, it isn't. Out of the 97 minute run time, there are roughly four funny scenes which account for maybe 5-6 total minutes of the film. The rest is simply a mess that doesn't work.

The title implies that Hayek and Baldwin are drunk throughout, and yet, that really only applies to the first major scene of the movie. After that, the focus shifts to their schemes of making quick money, including renting out the house of their neighbor (who is out of the country) to a registered sex offender (Gaffigan). Unfortunately, while the premise seems funny, the overall writing is woeful for the film with most of the jokes falling flat, and the overall plot being far from focused. It seems the actors did the best they could with the script -- Gaffigan approaches his role with his usual, awkward everyman style; Baldwin takes his usual deadpan approach; however Hayek struggles by delivering her "comedic" lines by speaking in a loud, overemphasized manner with awkward facial expressions (potentially to try to make something out of nothing). The scene with Ferrell and Quinn comes off like a mediocre SNL skit, completely wasting their potential.

Overall, the movie just isn't good. The plot, while basic, meanders without focus, and the comedy, aside from a very few segments, simply isn't funny.

April 2022 Reviews:

Paws to the Rescue -- (3/10) -- When a former employee of the cigarette industry decides to testify against Big Tobacco over their practices, his former employers decide to engage the services of two bungling criminals to kidnap his son in order to convince him to change his testimony. The bungling criminals find kidnapping the son to be far more difficult than expected when the family's two loyal dogs attempt to thwart them at every step of the way.

Overall, the film is sort of a mash-up of a dog act from America's Got Talent and Home Alone. The dogs set up traps for the kidnappers and work creatively to protect the young son of the family.

Oddly, the film focuses more on the criminals than the boy or his family (in fact, the whole setup of the father testifying is mostly lost as the movie progresses). The criminals struggle to kidnap their target due to the interference of the family pets, struggle to keep the boy imprisoned due to the rescue attempts of the dogs, and ultimately struggle to get out of prison when their mission fails. This last part is especially odd because the movie shifts focus away from the primary story to delve into what happens to the bad guys when they ultimately fail in their endeavors. That said, perhaps it's not as odd of an approach when taking into account the fact that the film's writers are also the actors portraying the bungling kidnappers.

Overall, this is not a great film, but the slapstick antics coupled with the cute dog tricks will appeal to some younger viewers.

Bab -- (4/10) -- Bab takes place in a 1950's post apocalyptic world where a town is under the tight control of Mr. Bascum, a highly religious leader who controls what people can hear on the radio as well as what they do in their everyday lives. The film actually begins in the early 1940s when Donnie is a young boy whose mother (Bab) drives to a mental health treatment center to get help for her "problems." Donnie is told to wait outside in the car with his young sister, but ultimately sneaks into the center and witnesses the bizarre treatments that Bascum is subjecting his mother to.

Years later, a grown-up Donnie is approached by Milt, a mysterious traveler with a plan to take down Bascum once and for all. The benefit to Donnie is money to get actual treatment for his mother, who has long been held in the facility.

This movie is as bizarre as it sounds. It's a low budget film with a fairly strange premise and an even stranger execution -- in particular we get to what seems to be the obvious conclusion of the film only to find out there's another 40 or so minutes of movie that meanders about. The most notable actor in the film is probably Sarah Dumont (Scout's Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse), who portrays Bab; however the cast as a whole put in good performances. Overall, the movies is a mediocre post-apocalytic film.

Rise of the Fellowship -- (4/10) -- Randall is a high school student who spends his time focused on gaming -- specifically Lord of the Rings Online. He has a job at a local gaming store (that caters to the role playing game crowd), and he's also a regular target of the football team, who enjoy tormenting Randall and his friends. When an opportunity arises to compete in a national Lord of the Rings online tournament in Florida, he and his friends feel it's the quest they need. Unfortunately, the expected path to the competition gets completely upended, leaving Randall and his friends with a very difficult path to the tournament that leads them on a difficult quest that mirrors their favorite fiction.

Rise of the Fellowship is an indy film (previously released as The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers) that features primarily amateur actors and a fairly low budget. It's an homage to Lord of the Rings (which is obvious from the poster and storyline), specifically the first book in the series. The film starts off a bit dull and slow, so it's easy to see how it could lose an audience in the first 20 minutes. That said, the film begins to pick up after that initial opening and does move into a more engaging story (and ends up being a decent watch). Although it's billed as a buddy comedy, there are only a few comedic lines that work, however it works better as a low budget coming of age, high school story. Overall, the movie has a promising premise and some pretty good acting (despite the lack of experience among the leads), but it does fall a bit short of where it could have been.

March 2022 Reviews:

Les Boys, le Documentaire -- (5/10) -- Les Boys, le Documentaire follows an adult, amateur hockey team from a suburb of Montreal as they ultimately make their way to Paris to compete against similar teams from around the world. The team is comprised of players of all walks of life -- a baker, a singer (who seemingly entertains at nursing homes), a grocer, a millionaire (and oddly, his brother), a couple of father and son combos, and many others. From some quick reading, the team (La Bande Jap's) is one of the oldest adult, amateur teams in the Montreal area.

The documentary gives you a bit about the team members' background, with the first half of the film being quite sparse on actual hockey footage (aside from a few scenes of practice). Ultimately, the documentary attempts to establish more about the people and the team itself initially. The second half of the film combines the team site-seeing around Paris while also showing off their skills on the ice while competing against international teams in a tournament.

Overall, it was relatively interesting for a documentary that follows an amateur sports team. Viewers should be aware though that the film is entirely in French and the DVD release does not have the option for English subtitles (so some knowledge of French is helpful in viewing). The film also features some interesting music at times (although this is a bit inconsistent -- there are sections of the film where some background music would be appropriate and there is none). The DVD release also includes ten minutes of extra scenes that delve a bit more into the day to day lives of some of the players.

Napping Princess -- (?/10) --

Doctor Foster -- (6/10) --

Young Adult -- (6/10) --

Black Rose -- (3/10) -- Black Rose is a joint Russian/US production that focuses on a Moscow police officer who travels to California to assist in hunting down a serial killer who is targeting Russian girls in Los Angeles. The movie stars (and is directed by) Alexander Nevsky, a bodybuilder and action star hopeful. The movie also features more experienced actors such as Robert Davi, Kristanna Loken, and Adriian Paul.

Unlike a lot of direct to video films, Black Rose clearly had a decent budget behind it (some sites report it having a $7 million dollar budget) -- it's professionally shot with good camera work; the sound is well done; and the actors around Nevsky are all good with their roles. Unfortunately, though, the movie just isn't that good. The plot and story are something out of a typical weekly TV crime series episode. Nevsky is extremely stiff as an actor and struggles with the direction of the film as well -- despite a short 83 minute run time, there are several scenes that are superfluous and add nothing to the plot, resulting in a short film that drags at times.

Overall, the solid production budget prevents it from being totally terrible, but it's far from good.

The Postcard Killings -- (7/10) -- The Postcard Killings is based upon a novel by Swedish author Liza Marklund and American James Patterson (author of the Alex Cross novels among others). The movies focuses on Jacob Kanon, an American detective who learns his daughter and her husband, newlyweds, have been murdered while in Europe. While identifying the bodies, Kanon soon discovers that his daughter's murder fits a pattern of other murders in which newlywed couples are killed and shaped into grizzly scenes depicting well-known art. Working with police agencies in various countries, Kanon sets out to find his daughter's killer.

The film stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Famke Janssen, and Cush Jumbo. All of the cast put in solid performances, with Morgan channeling a bit of The Walking Dead's Negan in his role. The plot is solid, the twist is interesting, and the story kept me engaged throughout. Overall, it's an entertaining and solid movie.

Bus Driver -- (4/10) -- A normal day goes bad for Gooch Garibaldi, a high school PE and Health teacher, when he discovers he's been assigned to escort a group of misfit students on a field trip to a lake in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately for Gooch, things get far worse when the bus they are traveling on suffers a blow out in an area with no cell signal and a group of drug dealers who aren't too happy about intruders in their territory. Luckily for Gooch, the new Bus Driver is a mysterious man with plenty of military and survival training.

The film is a low-budget, direct to video action film with mostly inexperienced actors and some cringe-worthy dialog. Despite this, though, it does have its moments and at only about 75 minutes is a decent time killer. Overall, not great, but not terrible either.

The Opening Act -- (6/10) -- Will Chu works an 8 to 5 that he hates where he deals with an annoying and intrusive boss. His life's passion is to become a stand-up comic, because stand-up comedy is the one area he was able to connect with his father after the untimely death of his mother when he was still a kid. When he gets an opportunity to emcee a comedy show featuring two noted comedians, he jumps at the chance to finally try to make it. The film features a number of notable comedians in both starring and cameo roles. Overall, it's pretty entertaining and fairly funny.

Blue Call -- (4/10) -- Blue Call stars Katie LeClerc as Haylee, an EMT who went through a traumatic experience in which someone died in her ambulance. After taking some time off to recover from her trauma, Haylee finds herself in the uncomfortable situation of trying to assist someone whose only wish is to die. When Haylee ultimately decides to go through with the person's request, she begins a descent into a dark place where moral lines get blurred.

The premise of this indy film is good; the set and scene design is solid; and the acting is pretty good as several of the actors have been in larger roles. That said, shakey (and overall shoddy) camera work leaves a lot to be desired as several scenes show the camera not only bobbing up and down but also side to side making for frustrated viewing. In addition, there are a few plot points that seemed strange and/or confusing.

Overall, it's an okay watch.

February 2022 Reviews:

Napoleon -- (5/10) -- Napoleon is an Australian film about a Golden Retriever puppy named Muffin who longs for adventure (as well as a name change to Napoleon). During a kids birthday party, Napoleon wanders into a basket attached to a batch of balloons and floats away from his home. He gets a view of Sydney but ends up floating across the harbor to another area where his adventures living in the wild begin.

Overall, this is a cute dog movie aimed at young kids and shows off some of Australia's wildlife. The story is fairly basic and predictable; there's some music sequences; and the ending ties up everything nicely.

Satellite Girl and Milk Cow -- (7/10) -- Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is Korean film about a satellite designed to take photographs of the Korean peninsula that stops functioning. Adrift in space, the satellite detects a song being played down on Earth that attracts it. As the satellite plunges to Earth, it encounters a situation in which a milk cow is being pursued by a walking incinerator that's the size of a small building. When the wizard Merlin (who has oddly been transformed into a roll of toilet paper) rescues the cow, he inadvertently transforms the satellite into a girl. And thus sets up the movie in which the three main characters are a satellite (transformed into a girl), a human musician (who transformed into a milk cow after having his heart broken), and a wizard (who has the form of a roll of toilet paper). The villains are the walking incinerator and a guy who is poaching organs from heartbroken people that have somehow transformed into animals.

That premise sounds absolutely bonkers, and the movie follows suit -- it's quite strange. But despite that oddness, it's pretty entertaining and actually is quite rewatchable. While the target audience is younger kids, the uniqueness could easily draw in adults as well.

The bluray release of the film (from Shout Factory) also includes the short (30 minute) film "Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword" which features an ancient swordsmen who reincarnates as a coffee vending machine, but still finds that he has to combat his ancient enemies. Much like the main feature, it's both insane and entertaining.

Broken Swords: The Last in Line -- (3/10) -- A group of warriors have found themselves holed up in a small barn while they try to evade their enemies. The group bicker and try to defend themselves through the night against an impending onslaught. Overall, this movie is strange. It's literally as if you're thrown into a new world where you have no context or knowledge and begin witnessing a group of folks over a period of 10-12 hours. You find out a little (but not enough) about their origins, why they are there, who they are fighting and why, etc. It's honestly a bizarre film and may require an appreciation for role playing games to have more context or understanding (since I don't have this -- maybe something was lost on me). The DVD (and I assume the blu-ray?) has quite a few special features that are not typical of an Echo Bridge release including a director's commentary track as well as several featurettes that explain more about the world and background of the film. Those extra features are actually somewhat helpful in understanding the movie, and at some point I may re-watch this with the director's commentary just to have a better sense of what the movie is about.

Murphy's Law -- (6/10) -- Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson) is an LA police detective who is having an extremely bad day. Everything that can go wrong... has. His car is stolen; his ex-wife is murdered; he gets framed for the murder; and he ends up in jail with a foul-mouthed younger woman who had kicked him and evaded capture from him earlier. Things continue to get worse for Jack as he attempts to escape and find the true killer. Overall, this was very much a film of the early 1980's. I was primarily interested in grabbing this DVD when I saw it show up at Dollar Tree because I had noticed Kino Lorber was releasing a blu-ray of the film and I wanted to see if it was worth the cost to upgrade. Overall, the movie is pretty good; but it's one that I'm okay just having on DVD.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course -- (6/10) -- The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course is aptly named as three separate storylines --- Steve Irwin and his wife filming their television show; a woman protecting her cattle farm from a large crocodile; and two US Special Agents looking for a crashed satellite component -- collide in a fairly humorous film. While the movie isn't great, the writers really did a good job of finding a vehicle to get Steve Irwin (whose Animal Planet televised show was immensely popular at the time) onto the big screen. The overall plot of the movie is a bit silly, but it does it's job which is to showcase Irwin. In fact, a large part of the movie is almost simply an episode of The Crocodile Hunter in which Irwin tracks down dangerous animals and educates the audience about them. The last third of the movie in which Irwin has to square off with the US agents (who are the villains in this film) is also quite entertaining and really allows the popular Aussie to illustrate his showmanship. Overall, this isn't a great film -- but it's a very fun watch.

Deadland -- (2/10) -- While traveling from California to south Georgia to reconcile with his wife, Sean Kalos stops at a gas station just in time to witness the outbreak of WWIII. Five years later, Sean is still searching for his wife in post-apocalyptic America that has devolved into militaristic (and misogynistic) factions. In addition, everyone is infected with a virus that requires constant medication to control. While the virus dilapidates most, there's a select few that have a positive reaction. When Sean finally makes it to Georgia, he finds himself afoul of one of these militaristic factions and must continue his search while also avoiding his enemies.

Overall, this movie had the opportunity to be a solid independent film -- but, unfortunately it falls flat. For low budget indy film, it has a very solid beginning, a decent story background, and a solid cast (most of the main actors have been in much larger budget pictures) which includes William Katt (The Greatest American Hero). Unfortunately, the script results in a movie that is boring at times and just doesn't pull things together very well. A solid beginning is followed by a boring middle and a finale that just fizzles out. Very little time is spent going into the virus that impacts everyone, and while the makeup artists do a great job, that effort is wasted by leaving the viewer somewhat confused about what specifically is occurring (radiation poisoning? virus? something else?). In addition, while flashbacks show us Sean's life before things go awry, many of those scenes feel unnecessary and redundant. More time could have been devoted to fleshing out exactly what's going on and less time could have been spent on some meaningless action scenes. The DVD release of this film includes a 30 minute "Making Of Deadland" featurette that was ultimately more interesting than the movie itself. It's clear from that documentary that the people behind this film really put a lot of effort and time into it, so it's unfortunate that it just didn't quite come together.

Last edited by Zhuge1; 12-18-2022 at 02:39 AM.
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Thanks given by:
Here2Learn (03-26-2022), socal9 (03-29-2022)