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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Fear Pharm 2020 * * 1/2 Stars


2020's Fear Pharm is my latest write-up (not sure what the "Pharm" means). Its TV production values, sometimes lame acting, and "bag" characters almost veer the pic into terror parody. "Pharm" does not end well for its protagonists who are just following the protocol of people making bad decisions in a horror film. They get captured, bullied, and hostilely tortured in which their skin is totally peeled right off. Ugh. 

Anyway, Fear Pharm gets a mixed review from me for it feels outmoded and a little dated. Paying homage to the likes of Rob Zombie, Gregory Plotkin, and Tobe Hooper, "Pharm" echoes stuff like House of 1000 Corpses, Hell Fest, and that silly GEICO commercial from a few years back (you know, the one with the chainsaws and the running cars). 

Distributed by Indican Pictures (a private entertainment company), containing thirty minutes of buildup that almost made me lose interest, and directed by rookie Dante Yore (he's mostly a cinematographer), "Pharm" is about four millennial personas who flock to a corn maze attraction on Halloween night. There, they are hunted down by some callous ruffians who look like hideous extras from a carnival rock music video. Said maze which feels endless, is the panic hook and game co-star of Fear Pharm. It's a kind of labyrinth where it's obvious early on that no one is getting out alive. 

Containing a few tense moments, capable roving direction from Yore, and a cessation in which the sadistic entity wins (I'm always affected by that as a moviegoer), Fear Pharm is ample if not nutrition-less viewing for genre, fright fans looking for another fiendish helping. Me, well I wanted "Pharm" to be grainier, less familiar, and less lampooned but let's face it, this ain't the cinematic 70's anymore. This is what we're left with.   

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, September 25, 2020

Let It Snow 2020 * 1/2 Stars


"I hope you enjoy your stay". Me, well I didn't "enjoy" 2020's Let It Snow. In fact, I denounced it. I rolled my eyes and sighed when its director (Stanislav Kapralov) decided to do a pretentious, "after the credits" ending. Mr. Kapralov, having your protagonist yell at the top of her lungs two or three times isn't psychologically terrifying, it's just freaking annoying.

Anyway, a couple named Mia and Max (played decently by Ivanna Sakhno and Alex Hafner), spend Christmas time venturing to a high elevation, Georgian ski resort. There, they attempt to snowboard at a forbidden ridge where a revenge-minded killer is waiting for them. Said killer dressed in black ski gear and yielding an ax, spends most of the movie messing with the two lovebirds (and goading them) instead of readily getting down to business. The whole endeavor as rinse, repeat hypothermia, feels like a pointless exercise in aloof methodology.

So yeah, "Snow" is not The Shining nor is it The Grey nor is it 1993's Alive. It's just meh. It's another cold weather flick in which the characters survive longer in sub-zero temperatures than any human being has a right to. Oh and yeah, the film spans five days in which almost no water or food is consumed. Me, well I'd be dead and frostbitten in two.  

Distributed by Black Sheep Films (that makes sense), harboring derivative flashbacks, and devoid of being in any way scary, Let It Snow is stylish and steely yet ho-hum. Helmer Kapralov is sadly, a veritable, cinematic hot dog man. He commits to every shot although purposeless and the cinematography by Yevgeny Usanov is gleaming enough to accrue at least one viewing. All for naught. It's just too bad "Snow's" fustian storyline and stock outcome fail to horrify you. Misguided "snow" job. Rating: 1 and a half stars.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn 2020 * * * 1/2 Stars


"Yusuf! Yusuf! Yusuf! Yusuf!" That refers to fallen teenager and innocent bystander, Yusuf Hawkins. Objectors and marchers yell his name in the docu, Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn. Yup, it's my latest review. 

Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn is just what it says it is. There was indeed a racial "storm" over New York City's most populous division circa August of 1989. This documentary, which feels as relevant today as it did when the actual events went down over thirty years ago, chronicles the untimely death of Hawkins. He was a black 16-year-old who was gunned down by some youths in a mostly white neighborhood via Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.  

The aftermath of Yusuf's demise involved many protests and marches in which the famous Reverend Al Sharpton was involved. What's even more eerie is that the racial tension sparked by Yusuf's shooting came just months after Spike Lee released his ode to The Borough of Homes and Churches in Do the Right Thing

"Storm Over Brooklyn" sans a sort of one-sided view, is a very well-made documentary that seems to have been released at the perfect time (or imperfect time). Growing up in Michigan in 1989, I was unaware of these events but now everything for me has come full circle. It's like this film predicted the future. Sadly, it seems almost nothing in this country has changed more than three decades later. 

"Storm Over Brooklyn's" director (Muta Ali Muhammad) shoots the docu with careful style, attention to detail, and some verve. He inserts neighborhood overhead shots, grainy archive footage, and interviews by the denizens that lived through the incident (Sharpton, Yusuf's mother and brothers, former NYC Mayor David Dinkins). Chronologically told and effectively intercut with the veil of present day, Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn is one of 2020's best offerings. "We will be back and that's is a fact". Rating: 3 and a half stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Go-Go's 2020 * * * Stars


"Oh my god. This is gonna be huge". Yup, it's gonna be "Double-Platinum" huge. The Go-Go's (my latest review) is about a band that was the cat's pajamas, well at least during the early 80's. "Go-Go's" is a documentary with said band consisting of five no-BS women. They were the first all-female new wavers to play their own instruments, sing their own songs, write their own songs, and top the Billboard album charts. "We Got the Beat" indeed.

So yeah, I've seen The Go-Go's on a docu before. It was an episode of VH1's Behind the Music circa the year 2000. 2020's The Go-Go's is a little longer in length, a little more subdued, and provides about thirty minutes more in terms of insight. "Go-Go's" even shows the girls jamming in present day while writing some new material.

The Go-Go's while chronologically time-lined in its approach, effectively revels in zoomed-in archive footage, uninhibited interviews from the band members (along with managers and rock critics), and punk rock attributes that were their initial identity. The storytelling may be a little straightforward and clean but that doesn't mean your not drawn to Belinda Carlisle and her four other, tough love besties.  

Not a shameless ploy but fair, the question at the end of the film is this: Should The Go-Go's be included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? Sure, why not. Nirvana got in and like The Go-Go's, they only put out about three to four albums. 

Bottom line: The Go-Go's similar in journey and duration to The Mamas and the Papas, are relevant today despite not having a hit record since 1984. Otherwise there wouldn't be a ninety-minute flick green-lighted that talks about their tumultuous experiences. See The Go-Go's on Showtime with interviewee F-bombs attached. Go-Go's drummer Gina Schock waives any kind of ladylike filter. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Big Ugly 2020 * * Stars


"You're looking for answers". Aren't we all. Me, I'm looking to watch a movie. I'm looking to take in something where lock, stock meets the greasy underbellies of a Waffle House. And yup, Vinnie "antihero" Jones and his scowl better be there.

Anyway, The Big Ugly is my latest review. Released by way of Internet in July of this year, "Ugly" is a shambled, southern-fried noir that's produced by almost everyone starring in it (Jones, Ron Perlman, Malcolm McDowell). Billed as a straight action spectacle, The Big Ugly is anything but.

So yeah, "Ugly" was shot in Kentucky, wanted to be shot in Ohio, and takes place in the Appalachians of the Mountain State. Either way you slice it, you're getting your full onslaught of baddie shenanigans and double crosses in Middle America. Characters get beaten, drunk, and/or plugged, 70's pop tunes show up in various scenes, women are objective cogs, and a cocktail called bourbon and milk is dutifully introduced (or at least it was to me). "Ugly" indeed.

Filmed about two years ago and featuring a closing credits montage set to Exile's "Kiss You All Over" (this gag felt more warranted in 1993's Dazed and Confused), "Ugly's" story hinges around a London mob outfit that gets involved with some West Virginia oilmen in hopes of getting rich via some dirty laundering money. When a girlfriend of one of the mob bosses gets murdered unexpectedly, revenge is carried out and all heck breaks loose.

With some shoddy editing, some recycled machismo line readings, and some out of place narration, "Ugly's" all over the place account doesn't really help move things along. By the end of "Ugly", the dramatis personae involved are meant to feel more important than the viewer that is watching them. Bottom line: A mixed review for The Big Ugly was "big easy".

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Deep Blue Sea 3 2020 * * 1/2 Stars


"There's blood in the water". Uh-oh! Here come those pesky sharks. There's three bull ones and they don't look very happy. Said sharks terrorize a small island that appears like a tropical Venice in Deep Blue Sea 3 (my latest review). 

So yeah, "3" has some annoying characters, a nuance on the gore, and a somewhat sexy lead in LA girl Tania Raymonde. Deep Blue Sea 3 also has a low budget feel and some obvious CGI effects that are groomed and primed for the Syfy channel. Finally, "3" diverts from being strictly a shark attack flick and instead throws a little side drama in the mix. I'm not gonna recommend it but heck, there are points to be given.   

Anyhow, Deep Blue Sea 3 is indeed sick-making but it tries so hard to avoid being yet another shark-invested endeavor. In total verity, it's like an above-water version of The Abyss except that the dialogue is cheesy and pulled straight from a CBS TV series. 

Director John Pogue (he co-wrote 2002's Ghost Ship) provides "3" with a few shark pouncing payoffs that intertwine with a couple of persona non grata betrayals. They kinda add to the film's dare to be novel. Johnny boy is no James Cameron but at least he avoids being a flashy stepchild to sometimes hollow style monger Renny Harlin.  

Shot on a sort of leftover location from Waterworld and having pretty much nothing to do with the original Deep Blue Sea from 1999 (furthermore, I never knew Deep Blue Sea 2 even existed), "3" is an elevated B-movie that despite its drawbacks, tropes other bad B-movies. Sans the obvious nod to all things elasmobranch, "3" probably could've avoided being a sequel and just accrued to existing as its own entity. Therefore, I give it a sympathetic yet mixed review.  

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Tenet 2020 * * 1/2 Stars Tenet Original Movie Poster 27x40 Advance 2 Sided Robert  Pattinson Christopher Nolan: Posters & Prints


"Hasn't happened yet". Yeah it has. 2020's Tenet has finally hit movie theaters. Time to 'Mask Up', keep six feet, and avoid sitting next to seat-filling strangers.

So OK, you got a wooden John David Washington (Denzel's son) in the lead. You got miscued sound editing that's only hindered by a bludgeoning soundtrack. You got a 150-minute running time that flows at a somewhat decent clip. Finally, you got the obligatory Michael Caine cameo that always plays opposite the main persona. Yeah Tenet is the flick that director Christopher Nolan was probably born to make. The question is, were we born to see it?

Anyway, Tenet is an out of the box, scrambled spy thriller that might require multiple viewings. And that's even if you didn't enjoy it. Nolan working from his own clunky script, fashions his altered version of Back to the Future Part II except that everyone is occasionally walking and talking backwards.  

Action-packed yet overly mysterious and lacking in character background within the first hour, Tenet is Nolan at his most ambitious and/or most opaque. Too bad his storytelling sensibilities can't coincide with well, his stark ambition.  

As something about a secret agent who has to steal a case of plutonium which would adhere to the start of World War III, Tenet is an enigma wrapped inside a coffer wrapped inside a gimmickry bubble. The film is a human Zapruder because you have to rewind scenes in your head just to figure out what the heck is going on (hence the multiple viewings).

Christopher Nolan as a helmer, isn't in the business of entertaining you. He wants to educate you, like an MIT professor who's bent on getting a darn Field's Medal. It's his world, his rules, and we're just sitting in the middle while sucking on it for $10 bucks a pop. I'm going with a rating of 2 and a half stars until I see Tenet again, "tentatively". 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Blood Quantum 2019 * * * Stars

Blood Quantum (2019) - IMDb


"Did you get bit?" Bit by a stumbling zombie that is. Zombies invade a random, early 80's Native Indian reservation in 2019's Blood Quantum (my latest review). These witchcraft-ed creatures even take the form of gutted fish and husky dogs.

Anyway, Blood Quantum certainly earns its title because there are buckets of red dye corn syrup flowing throughout. Shot in dark hues, built up slowly, and featuring a musical score that seems straight out of a John Carpenter flick, Blood Quantum feels cut from original cloth despite being yet another afterthought, corpse endeavor.

Now we all know that zombie movies have been done to death and completely brain fed (no puns intended). Blood Quantum concentrates a lot more on its downtrodden characters, family-oriented dramatic shifts, and layered plot. That makes it revivifying and Judgement Day recommendable. 

Cerebral, gory, grave, and briefly time-lined, Blood Quantum is for all intensive purposes, a thinking person's zombie vehicle. It's also like an art house, antithesis version of say, Zombieland and/or Shaun of the Dead. Sorry guys, Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg ain't around for some apocalyptic comic relief. Oh and Simon Pegg's deadpan goofiness needn't apply here either.    

Directed by a dude that composes his own music (Canadian Jeff Barnaby), reminiscent of an undead Red Dawn, and filmed in Listuguj, Quebec, Blood Quantum involves betrayal, beheaded death, and the loss of everyday, law and order normalcy. 

Helmer Barnaby breathes some fresh air into "the walking dead" kaleidoscope in regards to Blood Quantum. With some rack focusing, some overhead shots, some cartoon imagery, and lots of drenched, blood-soaked likenesses, he's as confident as any filmmaker in the last ten years. He'd rather punch you in the cinematic mouth than play it safe. Bottom line: There will be "blood". Oh yes, there will be "blood". Rating: 3 stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Hard Kill 2020 * * Stars

Movie Review - Hard Kill (2020)

"Time's up, send em' in". That's right, send in the paperweight villains who walk like stodgy storm troopers just waiting for the slaughter. Said villains enter an abandon building with lots of ammo and sensors in 2020's Hard Kill (my latest review). 

Now is Hard Kill full of bullet-ridden shootouts that seem repetitive and kind of presumptuous? You betcha. And is "Kill" a film in which the hero (Jesse Metcalfe as Derek Miller) offs every goon as if he were 1980's Chuck Norris? Oh without a doubt. 

Anyway, Hard Kill lacks plot buildup and provides the audience with another veritable, sleepwalking performance from co-star Bruce "paycheck" Willis. The lines are minimal, the movement on screen is lackadaisical, the bald head is binding, and the cue cards are for the most part, ever-present. The other actors ham it up while the "Bruiser" just sits there totally comatose. 

Reminiscent of a neutered Assault on Precinct 13, shot by a helmer who likens Willis as his muse, and driven by an antagonist who won't stop spewing numerous soliloquies (Sergio Rizzuto as The Pardoner), Hard Kill is about a group of soldiers who have to protect a computer program meant to end the world. "Kill" starts out taut until it drags its game actors down in flask continuum. The flick runs ninety-eight minutes but probably could've concluded in just over an hour. 

Bottom line: Hard Kill has everything you want in a direct-to-video action thriller (I don't know if that's a good thing). There's the techno spy music, the Scorpion TV show-style dialogue, and a director who just feels so enamored to be working with Bruce "I use to be awesome in Die Hard" Willis. Too bad Hard Kill is such a "hard" movie to embrace considering that its terrorism interludes pale in comparison to what our world is going through right now. Rating: 2 stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

You Should Have Left 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

You Should Have Left Movie Review – Funtastic Life

"What is this place?" Why it's a house, a sort of weirdly constructed labyrinth that only the strangest of architects could come up with. In You Should Have Left (my latest review), said house is the star and its maze-like corridors are like taxing nooks and crannies.

Anyway "Left" bills itself as a horror film (just watch the trailer) but it's probably more of a "mind violence" spectacle with a couple of jump scares and some analogous shadows. Is it "keep you up at night" scary? No not really. Does it get points for being somewhat original? Sure it does. Except for hinting a little bit towards 1980's The Shining, You Should Have Left is its own modern entity.

So yeah, as something about a family who rents a Wales vacation home only to find out that the place is haunted and somewhat barren, "Left" builds slowly only to deflate and produce a lukewarm payoff. The performances are good though especially Kevin Bacon who layers up to play damaged banker and rattled husband, Theo Conroy. Amanda Seyfried plays Bacon's young wife Susanna (28 years younger actually) and Avery Essex plays Bacon's 9-year-old daughter Ella (Essex is more than adequate in the child acting department).

The best moments in You Should Have Left actually don't involve the creepy. They involve the fiddly interplay between Bacon, Seyfried, and Essex. "Left" thinks it's a terror fest that sends your knees knocking but it's more a broken down drama about a household that probably didn't need to be formed in the first place. Director David Koepp who worked before with Bacon in the terrifying Stir of Echoes, adds a ghostly jolt or two to accompany the psychological swipe. The result is numbing, entailing, and refreshingly off-kilter. Basically You Should Have Left "should" provide you with a decent rental. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Beware of Mom 2020 * * * Stars

Lifetime Review: 'Beware of Mom'


"Are you insane?" That's an unloaded question. I'm gonna bypass the uncertainty and guess yes. That's what I don't wonder every time a Lifetime movie villain hits the screen. 

Anywho, 2020's Beware of Mom is my latest write-up. Kathleen Turner, Rebecca De Mornay, and Faye Dunaway would be darn proud if they saw it. The "mom" of course is the malefactor and as we all know, demented moms rule the roost when it comes to all things Lifetime network. Crystal Allen plays said mom Anna and with angry scowl and possible Tourettes in tote, she dutifully channels feminine spastic lunacy.

Registering a little over 90 minutes (typical Lifetime feature-length) and leaving no stone witnesses unturned, Beware of Mom is rather creepy because the antagonist has almost no shred of penitence. Allen's Anna is robotic and puffed up as she nonchalantly goes in for the next kill.    

Beware of Mom's story which has the obligatory Lifetime flashback and is set to suburbanite surroundings, goes like this: A stable mother named Tanya (played by Rene Ashton) is very protective of her teenage daughter Kylie (played by 22-year-old Nicolette Langley). When Kylie befriends neighbors Anna and daughter Jessie (Allen, Monica Rose Betz), Anna attempts to get rid of Tanya and replace her deceased lass with Kylie.  

Beware of Mom minus its slight implausibilities, is baneful and edited for some solid payoffs. The unease builds and the acting as opposed to most TV flicks, is a little more believable this time around. Crystal Allen is the showstopper as she takes "mommy and me" and cougar midlife to a nerve-ending level. As an actress with over 50 credits to her name, Allen is kinda perfect for her role. The walk, the talk, and the "voices in her head" facial expressions are definitely on point. "Mother Superior". Rating: 3 stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, August 17, 2020

Body Cam 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

Body Cam (2020) - IMDb


"Put your hands in the air now". "Put your hands on the vehicle now!" Ah, if it were only that easy on a routine traffic stop.

So OK, you got singer-songwriter Mary J. Blige in the lead. A delayed release of over a year. A supernatural twist. A scene with lots of cockroaches (ugh). Unedited material caught on camera (naturally). It's all present in 2020's original and nightmarish, Body Cam.

Anyway, Body Cam takes the unethical cop thriller and combines it with the gruesome, horror genre. Just think Black and Blue meets Candyman meets Deliver Us from Evil and you're on the right track. 

Slow-paced yet ominous with a pitch perfect musical score by Joseph Bishara (Dark Skies, The Conjuring), Body Cam builds tension, trepidation, and full-fledged uncertainty. This is all despite the comatose nature of the script and the actors who translate it.  

As something about a ghostly figure who gets caught on body cam footage taking nasty revenge on some crooked policemen, Body Cam revels in swallowing and darkened atmospherics. Set to a seedy Louisiana backdrop, the film projects like a numbing dream until it hits you with the good old blood and guts.  

Body Cam, which feels like a dusted off Scott Derrickson project, is worth a look. It could've been a ho-hum flick about police corruption or civil rights violations but it's clearly not. Unfortunately, Body Cam also makes you wonder if Mary J. (mentioned earlier) can actually carry a full-length movie. Yes she has been nominated for a past supporting Oscar but her line deliveries here seem wooden and kind of fleeting. As officer Renee Lomito-Smith, Blige goes through the motions with just a smidgen of screen presence to back her up. Hey, at least she looks believable holding a gun. Call her Dirty "Mary" without the glint. Rating: 2 and a half stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, August 13, 2020

The Wrong Stepfather 2020 * * * Stars

The Wrong Stepfather (TV Movie 2020) - IMDb


"I just want a family, a happy family!" Uh-oh, creep-o alert. These are words you think about but shouldn't say out loud.

Anyway, 2020's The Wrong Stepfather is my latest review. It has star Corin Nemec hamming it up as if he were snarling axe-man Jack Torrance. Oh and co-star William McNamara gets his ham on too playing a spastic English teacher (McNamara was in Dream a Little Dream but he's hardly recognizable now). 

Registering at eighty-nine minutes and featuring Vivica A. Fox in her umpteenth stint as a high school administrator, "Stepfather" is a Lifetime flick that checks all the boxes. You got a SoCal setting (check), adult personas that are naive to what's going on (check), cheesiness (check), social media interludes (check), and a campy, off the rails mentality (checkmate).

Featuring an abrupt ending similar to Psycho Escort (the bad guys don't always get caught) and defying the laws of gravity when the antagonist falls twenty feet to pavement while getting up unscathed (whatev), "Stepfather's" diegesis goes like this: A college adviser named Craig Green (Nemec) gets involved with a single mother named Mrs. Woodley (played by television mainstay Krista Allen). Woodley's daughter Sarah is on the verge of getting into a good school and Green wants to help her while trying to sweep said mom off her feet. Craig Green is also a liar and a sneaky killer and will eliminate anyone who doesn't allow him to make his contented household complete.

All in all, the Lifetime network churns out movies like this at a rapid rate. The Wrong Stepfather just feels a little more eerie as it unfolds with a sort of sledgehammer intensity. This thing won't win any Oscars but you gotta love it when Nemec's Green with an angered look, exclaims "Sarah you naughty girl". Corin Nemec plays conflicting type here as opposed to being the woeful protagonist in 2019's The Wrong Stepmother. Looking vein-popped and rattled, he pulls it off quite nicely. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson      

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Money Plane 2020 * * * Stars

Money Plane (2020) - IMDb
Director: Andrew Lawrence
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Adam Copeland, Kelsey Grammer, Joey Lawrence

"You owe a lot of money to some very bad people". Ouch, what a bummer. I "owed" it to myself to at least attend one viewing of Money Plane. Thankfully it was a heck of a lot better than 1995's Money Train.

Anyway Money Plane as splatter house tongue-in-cheek, is my latest review. Modernized, post-apocalyptic, bestial, and fantasy-laden, "Plane" is violently glorified from 38,000 feet. Turbulence and cabin pressurization I guess, are absent and just an afterthought.

Shot in Louisiana and distributed by Front Row Filmed Entertainment, Money Plane is for all intensive purposes, a random Lawrence brothers flick. I'm talking Andrew Lawrence directing (and co-starring) and Matthew Lawrence and Joey Lawrence contributing in supporting roles. You also have Kelsey Grammer hamming it up as the villain (I like when Kelsey does that) and actor Thomas Jane being well, Thomas Jane. 

Andrew Lawrence as a first-time helmer, fashions "Plane" as his dare to be the guy who lauds black humor. It's a rabid, screw loose heist pic with various shifts in tone. Barring a sadistic sense of giving it its grindhouse all, Money Plane is like Ocean's Eleven meets The Italian Job meets Snowpiercer (with a little bit of 2004's Saw thrown in). I laughed, I almost hurled, and I found myself wondering why the Lawrence clan wanted to venture so far from their TV stint titled, Brotherly Love (I know I'm not the only one who feels this way).   

Bottom line: It may only run 82 minutes and it might be low budget but "Plane" is like no other piece of bloody, aircraft schlock you've ever seen. As a film about a crew who robs an airborne casino to pay off some debt, Money Plane trades criminal logic and decency for slaughter and predatory sport. Seat backs and tray tables in their full, upright position. Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, August 3, 2020

Stalked by My Husband's Ex 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

Stalked by My Husband's ExDirector: Anthony C. Ferrante
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Alex McKenna, Joey Rae Blair, Adam Huss

"Hey it's okay, I know you're upset. But you're gonna learn to love me again". Spoken like a true persona saddled into giving a TV movie line delivery.

Anyway, Stalked by My Husband's Ex is my latest review. It was released in July of this year and has an alternative title of Another Mother. Anthony C. Ferrante helms "Stalked" and he's the dude responsible for those "beer and pizza" Sharknado movies. His direction here is ho-hum as here switches gears for the crack-addictive, Lifetime stuff.

So yeah, "Stalked" is badly acted, initially predictable, and almost directionless. It's about a woman who becomes engaged only to find out that her fiance's ex-wife is pseudo-psychotic and wants her daughter back. The ex-wife is also an alcoholic, a parolee, and dresses like a borderline homeless person.

Stalked by My Husband's Ex | LifetimeStalked by My Husband's Ex is almost saved by its twist that you don't quite see coming. You think there's only one crazy person when another deranged kook is sifted into the mix.

In truth, if you dug 2019's The Wrong Stepmother, then "Stalked" will sadly leave you a bit underwhelmed. And if you fancy the M. Night Shyamalan of Lifetime flicks, then Stalked by My Husband's Ex is a convenient if not derisory diversion.

Produced by seven different people and distributed by Canada's Champlain Media, "Stalked" has stock characters and scale extras that seem befuddled. They're virtually one step behind the sucked in audience that's glue-fully watching them.

Lifetime Movie 'Stalked By My Husband's Ex' Soundtrack Is Online ...
"Stalked's" twist (mentioned earlier) caught me off guard but it feels slightly diverted. It zaps the pic of forced, dramatic momentum. It's kinda offhand but it asks some questions. I mean who do we root for? Who is the real villain? And why should we care about any of these palm tree-d, sunshine-d denizens? "Stalked" is no stinker but it "balks" at garnering a favorable recommendation. Rating: Two and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 31, 2020

Mile High Escorts 2020 * * Stars

Mile High EscortsDirector: Sam Irvin
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * Stars
Cast: Christina Moore, Saxon Sharbino, Kara Royster

"We don't come looking for them, they come looking for us". Ah, sounds like someone is persuading someone else to sell their sleek body for a little ready money.

Anyway, Mile High Escorts is my latest write-up. It's about a young woman and her friend who take jobs at an escort service only to find out that the owner of said service is a workmanlike killer. Oh and private jet departures to Paris (and back) are involved.

Mile High Escorts should not be confused with Deadly Mile High Club except for the fact that they are both Lifetime endeavors. They also both have mediocre hammy acting, squat production values, and some signature campy residue. The funniest thing about "Escorts" minus its desperate title, is that during the female companion flights you never see a freaking pilot. Automatic perhaps? Uh I don't think so.

Mile High Escorts (2020 Lifetime) – Lifetime UncorkedMile High Escorts which does contain a few tense moments, never quite "takes off" as a hokey thriller (ha-ha). The film putts around while globetrotting through Kentucky, Michigan, Maine, France, and Amsterdam (sans a few aerial shots, everything was probably shot on one location).

"Escorts" takes a while to unfold and when it does, everything feels a little anti-climatic and blase. Basically the flick trades dramatic momentum and pimped seriousness for kooky dialogue exchanges and pretty faces. Heck, besides a few smooches, some flattery, some wine and dine, and some Brut champagne, there isn't really any "mile highness" involved (that means hanky-panky on a plane, duh).

Mile High Escorts' Review: Lifetime's film is adventurous and ..."Escorts", with its characters beamed across the Atlantic in true "where no man has gone before" approach, concludes with a small twist and murders by way of stabbings, shootings, and head trauma. And in veracious Lifetime fashion, everything turns out okay about six months later. Yup, it's fille de joie minus the "fill". Rating: 2 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 24, 2020

Blood and Money 2020 * * * Stars

Blood and MoneyDirector: John Barr
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Tom Berenger, Kristin Hager, Mark Sivertsen

A small crew, a couple of writers, two remote distributors, a rookie director, and an alternate title of Allagash. Hey, it gets the job done in regards to 2020's Blood and Money.

Anyway, Blood and Money is a searingly effective thriller that echos stuff like Cliffhanger, Wind River, and 1998's A Simple Plan. It starts out as a character slow burn only to become unforgiving and coldblooded with each passing increment.

Blood and Money' Review | Hollywood ReporterAs something about a war veteran (on a hunting trip) who accidentally kills a robber with a bag of money, "Blood" revels in Northern Maine locales and nameless (and almost faceless) villains. Somehow I found the whole survivalist modem here to be very darn fruitful.

Granted, Blood and Money is implausible, time-warped, and lacking in all things A to B ("Blood's" lead in Tom Berenger probably lived longer than he should have). And what's with the weird, surprising ending in which a widowed mother gets a quasi-treasure map that leads to over a million dollars (spoiler alert, sorry).

Oh well. Blood and Money keeps you riveted and cling-ed as Berenger (mentioned in the last paragraph) does his finest work since getting nominated for an Oscar in 1986's Platoon.

Looking weathered, coughing up blood, bemusing frustration, and never giving the audience a reason to think he's even acting, Tommy boy lives the role of old-timer Tom Reed. He chain smokes, shoots to kill (no pun intended), and demonstrates a creaky sort of physicality.

Blood and Money movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger EbertTom Berenger is in every frame of "Blood" and you tag along with his rustic persona like a long lost puppy. It doesn't matter that his Reed killed his daughter in a drunk driving accident, lives in a Trailer RV, and consumes peanut butter sandwiches on a steady diet. Blood and Money as the antithesis of being unclouded, still "cashes in". Rating: 3 stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 20, 2020

Fatal Affair 2020 * 1/2 Stars

Fatal AffairDirector: Peter Sullivan
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Nia Long, Omar Epps, Stephen Bishop

"Can't you see we were meant to be together". Gee, where have I heard that forlorn line before. Oh yeah, in every stalker thriller that has ever come out.

Anyway, a female attorney named Ellie Warren (played by Nia Long) ends up working with an old friend named David Hammond (played by the slightly impassive Omar Epps). Having not seen each other in about twenty years, David becomes obsessed with Ellie and plans on wrecking her marriage while killing a few people on the side. Heck, you know Davie boy is a bedeviled dude about ten minutes in. Predictable, rote, knockoff-ed, and Lifetime-like, I give you 2020's Fatal Affair.

Fatal Affair on Netflix: Nia Long and Omar Epps' thriller divides ..."Affair" has elements drawn from a dozen or so flicks where a psychotic man (or woman) refuses to take "no" for an answer. It's like The Perfect Guy meets Obsessed meets The Boy Next Door meets Psycho Escort meets Unforgettable. Yup, we've seen this movie before and it has been done with more panache and even a twist or two for kicks-and-giggles. If Netflix ("Affair's" distributor) wants to continue to rule the world, they'd better come up with some less stale material in the future.

Directed by a guy known for TV Christmas endeavors (Peter Sullivan), shot in and around Los Angeles (which I thought was initially San Francisco), and pushing the adage where the cops are almost never around, Fatal Affair is mechanically plot-driven and feigned in its approach. Aside from some scenic locales and some nice-looking personas, you feel like the actors are puppets to the by the numbers script and that keeps them from giving more disciplined performances.

Netflix's Sexy Thriller Fatal Affair Is Your Next Obsession: Watch ...Bottom line: There's a song that plays a couple times during "Affair" called "Forget Me Nots". Besides the initial sigh, you'll "forget" about Fatal Affair the moment it's over. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 17, 2020

Legacy 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

LegacyDirector: R. Ellis Frazier
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Luke Goss, Louis Mandylor, Elya Baskin

Legacy is my latest review. It was released in May of this year and is distributed by I guess fourteen companies. R. Ellis Frazier helms as he shoots the colorful Baja California landscape in hinging and swallowing fashion. I thought to myself, "would an amateur rock collector literally go nuts if he or she was hanging out here?"

So OK, Legacy is violent, twisted, unsafe, and almost unabated. It's roughly about a hit-man with that same hit-man growing a conscience that seems to come out of nowhere. Yeah people die but the main protagonists eventually dodge their own salient demise. Talk about forced irony to serve the overlapping plot mechanics.

Trailer for Legacy Starring Luke Goss - The Action EliteLegacy contains a script where the characters constantly spew stuff like "we keep moving" or "we need to move". The acting is half-wooden and almost tolerable with Guy Pearce lookalike Luke Goss leading a mostly unknown cast.

In verity, if you fancy a Red Rocks version of say 1993's Cliffhanger, then Legacy will give you a little leeway sans Sly Stallone. And if you dig a mountain man flick akin to Roger Spottiswoode's Shoot to Kill, then Legacy will help you find your dessert treeline Waterloo.

Globetrotting a few distant countries (when everything was supposedly filmed in Baja and LA) and featuring a villain who apparently dressed up like Steven Seagal circa Halloween 2016, Legacy involves a drug kingpin slash rapist who orders an assassin to gun down a father and son on a hunting trip. 

Watch 'Legacy' Full 4k MoVies | 123Movies [2020] DOWNLOAD!Bullets fly, bows and arrows ascend, wild game are absent, and the pacing is prompt provided you ignore the fact that various personas fade into the sunset (what happened to the county Sheriff and the hit-man's third buddy?). Basically Legacy is an MTV-style B-movie that minus a pat ending, could've skyrocketed to A-level status. "Bequest" almost. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 13, 2020

Proximity 2020 * 1/2 Stars

ProximityDirector: Eric Demeusy
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Ryan Masson, Highdee Kuan, Shaw Jones

"Did you have an encounter with an extraterrestrial being?" Me personally, not a chance. But a bug-eyed character and his lady friend do with bells on in Proximity (my latest review). The extraterrestrials in Proximity look, talk, and flex sort of like the ones in 2002's Signs. They're just a little more friendlier, smaller, and for the most part, more readily tolerant.

So yeah, in Proximity you have low budget effects coupled with paperweight acting and synth, 80's-style tunes that feel out of place. The film although eager and astute, is a vast shift in tones as its over-seriousness gets punctuated by a pouncing musical score that John Williams would reject on the spot.

Movie Review - Proximity (2020)For all things Area 51, Proximity's Roy Neary story involves a scientist named Isaac (played by DJ Qualls and Keir Dullea lookalike Ryan Masson). Isaac gets abducted by aliens and instead of dealing with his own inner self, he downloads his abduction footage hoping to get media attention and legit, notarized documentation. Issac searches for the truth but he also wants every snooty news outlet to know about his eerie plight (get ready to be scrutinized dude).

With a running time close to two hours (when 90 or 100 minutes would have been enough) and edited by three people (that explains the flax continuity), Proximity is stock and unintentionally cheesy sci-fi that feels too little, too late. Bordering on being exaggerated and uncomfortably tongue-in-cheek, it's like 2011's Super 8 but with older millennials and laser guns involved.

Movie Review - Proximity (2020)Proximity wants to be profound and wink-y in a Spielbergian sort of way. Accompanied by a rookie, unknown director (Eric Demeusy) and a Lifetime movie setting of Los Angeles, it lands short on both counts. Verdict: Don't be in close "proximity" to renting this ode to all tools Martian. Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, July 10, 2020

Downhill 2020 * * * Stars

Downhill Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Will Ferrell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Miranda Otto

"There's only one thing I have to worry about right now, one obligation and that's going down". So says the punching bag, sad sack persona of Pete Staunton. Staunton is played by Will Ferrell who keeps the funny shtick to a standstill in 2020's Downhill (my latest review). Oh and Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Staunton's grating wife Billie. Ferrell and Louis-Dreyfus really get out of their comedic comfort zones to give startlingly raw performances. Elaine Benes and Ricky Bobby, we hardly knew ya!

Anyway, Downhill is not a comedy or even a black comedy as some people might have suggested. Just call it American Beauty minus the dark side with a slight lane of awkwardness. Yup, if you've ever had reservations about getting hitched, Downhill might halt and force you to keep those reservations.

Downhill (2020) • Movie Reviews • Visual ParablesSo OK, Downhill is a remake of a 2014 Swedish film titled Force Majeure. I haven't seen "Majeure" so I'm basing my write-up here on something viewed with fresh eyes. Yeah, yeah, yeah I'm aware. As voiced by other critics, the original did it so much better.

Now would I recommend the independently felt Downhill? I thought I already did. It's a revealing snapshot of two people getting through a crappy marriage by using an avalanche and slalom skiing as coaxed metaphors. Would I call it entertaining in a Brady Bunch vacation sort of way? Uh no. Downhill is demoralizing, snippy, and a little cold (no pun intended). It uses frustrating drama as a backdrop to beautiful mountain scenery via the Austrian tourism industry.

Downhill' Review: Ferrell, Louis-Dreyfus Redo a Swedish Art ...With lush, snow-blind direction by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and some Enigma-style music by German Volker Bertelmann, Downhill becomes eighty-six transitory minutes of numbing character inquiry. It's a "slippery slope" that despite having a sometimes pedestrian script, gets a rating of three stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Monday, July 6, 2020

Becky 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

BeckyDirectors: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Lulu Wilson, Kevin James, Joel McHale

2020's Becky is my latest review. It's lead role Becky (played by 14-year-old Lulu Wilson), might be just as evil and savage as the bad guys she's up against. This little vigilante with weapon in hand, has a severe case of unmerciful badassery.

Helmed by two people (Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion) and featuring a scene where a detached eyeball is sawed off on a kitchen counter, Becky is a snuff slash exploitation flick where apparently bloodier is better. With fire elements and crackling, outdoor cinematography, Becky feels reminiscent of stuff like 2018's Mandy and You're Next.

The film although candidly stylish, revels in prolonged, unnecessary gore. Heck, if you view Becky and are of the squeamish, just know that it's red dye corn syrup and not the real thing (ha).

Becky movie review & film summary (2020) | Roger EbertAlong with Lulu Wilson, Becky stars bungling funnyman Kevin James. James plays main villain and prison escapee, Dominick. With grisly beard and numerous tats, it's refreshing seeing him venture so far out of character. James and the rest of the cast are solid but their performances get drowned out in a movie that's too violent and remorseless for its own good. Their personas are like cardboard sloths just waiting for the hard-hearted slaughter.

Released by way of Internet on June 5th and shot exclusively in Ontario, Canada, Becky is about a girl named well, Becky. Visiting a lake house with her father, her father's fiance, and her father's fiance's kid, Becky must fend off a gang of criminals who commit a home invasion looking for a key (yeah I didn't know what the key was for either).

Review: A teenage girl goes up against neo-Nazis in violent ...Bottom line: Becky is well directed and taut with various zoom shots, rack focusing, flashbacks, and the occasional jittery camerawork. However, there's no one to really root for, no protagonist really wins, and the daft film leaves the viewer wondering what the point of it all was. There will be blood though. Oh yes, there will be blood. Rating: 2 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Force of Nature 2020 * 1/2 Stars

Force of NatureDirector: Micheal Polish
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Emile Hirsch, Mel Gibson, Kate Bosworth

"Your dad doesn't want to leave, I can't force him". Hey, I'm not gonna "force" you to see 2020's Force of Nature. Heck, for the purposes of panning it, I won't even beg.

So yeah, in Force of Nature there's the occasional burst of gunfire where the villains can't hit water in the ocean. Then there's those same villains who love to say stuff like "don't move or I'll blow your head off", "drop it", or "slowly". Finally, there's an accented Mel Gibson as a retired cop, a miscast Emile Hirsch as a current cop, and a Category 5 hurricane featured that doesn't do a whole lot of damage (just some wind, some flailing palm trees, the traditional eye of the storm, and some stinging rain).

Force of Nature' Review – VarietyAnyway, "Force's" confined story involves a group of robbers who are bent on stealing $55 million in paintings from a Puerto Rico apartment complex. It's up to a cliched, demoted officer, a cranky geezer on dialysis, and a ravaging tiger (yeah you heard me) to try and stop them.

Obviously low budgeted enough to forgo some actual, storm chaser special effects and containing a film score by Kubilay Uner that feels like second-rate Michael Kamen, Force of Nature is laddish, B-movie slop. It's like watching a self-serious, Die Hard ripoff coupled with a direct-to-video version of 2018's The Hurricane Heist (which could have been a direct-to-video endeavor itself).

Force of Nature (2020) - IMDbAlong with having some brief and feeble action-style payoffs, "Force's" script comes off as dopey and a little red-blooded at the same time. It makes solid actors Hirsch and Gibson appear as though they didn't bother to read it or console with their agents. Aside from collecting the proverbial paycheck and staying relevant, you wonder why they even got involved. Yup, "Force" is a "dead horse". Rating: 1 and a half stars.

Written by Jesse Burleson

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Outback 2019 * * * Stars

OutbackDirector: Mike Green
Year: 2019
Rated R
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Kym Cramp, Brendan Donoghue

"Crikey, blimey". "No worries, mate, she'll be right". 2019's Outback is my latest review. Shot on location in Sydney, Australia, it's a flick about a man and his annoying girlfriend who get lost in "the Land Down Under's" far off interior. Without food, sound judgement, water, or a sense of where they left their car, the couple drink their own urine and encounter some really poisonous varmints.

So yeah, I've seen perilous stuff like this before. I've just never seen it done without hand-held gimmicks or the pitfalls of pretentiousness. Just imagine 2002's Gerry but with a less arty approach and that's what you get with Outback. Also imagine Open Water but without I guess, water.

Outback (2019) reviews and overview - MOVIES and MANIAOutback's cinematography by Tim Nagle is panoramic and deft and the "why so serious?" musical score is all together pouncing. Rookie Mike Green's direction is stalling yet on the level. You ultimately wish Paul Hogan would just show up and help these torn lovebirds find their way back to civilization. You also wish an Aboriginal would come along and propel you to think your way through.

Outback is effective, hallucinatory, dour, well-acted, and has a slight sense of desolate agoraphobia. As a two-person show and a supposed true account, you roll your eyes at the characters for making such bad decisions but you also feel sorry for their unpalatable (and nasty) state of being.

Outback does have a happy ending but not a complete and fulfilling happy ending. The fact that one of these vacationers survived as long as they did with cell service after a few days, is beyond my comprehension. Alas, it's only a movie.

Outback' Is a Survival Thriller Based on an Urban Legend [Trailer ...So OK, Outback is no masterpiece but as something that gives you a feeling of being demoralized and left out on the lurch, it gets the job done. Outback as Aussie swallowing beauty, doesn't "crack". Rating: 3 stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Captive Nanny 2020 * * * Stars

The Captive NannyDirector: Amy S. Weber
Year: 2020
Rated NR
Rating: * * * Stars
Cast: Karynn Moore, Austin Highsmith, Michael Aaron Milligan

"I think they're gonna kill me". Oh yeah, that's reassuring. I guess I'll check au pair off my career list.

Anyway, 2020's The Captive Nanny is my latest review. And in the tradition of the entity in The Amityville Horror yelling "get out!", I felt compelled to say the same thing to the pushover childminder in "Captive". Heck, she needn't be in that reconnaissance house for more than a half hour (hint, hint).

The Captive Nanny (2020)Clocking in at a running time of 100 minutes (with brief commercials) and billed as a thriller with a touch of the "violence of the mind", The Captive Nanny's layered plot goes like this: A young woman who can't adopt and ends up splitting from her boyfriend, decides to take a job as a live-in nanny with a creepy family bent on watching her every move. When said family loses said woman's trust, they confine her to her room and hold her against her will.

The performances in "Captive" are solid with Karynn Moore playing nanny Chloe and Austin Highsmith and Michael Aaron Milligan playing psychotic parents Emily and Michael. Highsmith is the standout and she slowly slides off rails channeling snide villainy, mild rage, and tortured manipulation.

Watching The Captive Nanny, you eventually want her to suffer because she's also a cuckoo stalker. You want Highsmith's Emily to get what's coming to her and its defeating that Moore's Chloe doesn't have the gumption to at least fight back or break a darn window.

The Captive Nanny (TV Movie 2020) - Photo Gallery - IMDb"Captive", with all its Flowers in the Attic leavings and its ode to all things invasion of privacy, is one of your more effective Lifetime movie endeavors. It's frustrating, upsetting, gnawing, and bends the spectrum of TV-made, psychological terror. Observing The Captive Nanny in all its crippled sterility, you feel as if you are also "under lock and key". Rating: 3 stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

Friday, June 19, 2020

2 Minutes of Fame 2020 * * 1/2 Stars

2 Minutes of FameDirector: Leslie Small
Year: 2020
Rated R
Rating: * * 1/2 Stars
Cast: Jay Pharoah, Katt Williams, Keke Palmer

"I'm not doing whatever I want, I'm following my dream". So says the character of Deandre McDonald when it comes to making people guffaw and completely bust a gut. McDonald with no money, no job, a best friend manager, and a family back in Alabama, ventures to LA to make it as a touring comedian. He rips his home state while becoming a YouTube monger in 2 Minutes of Fame (my latest review).

Anyway, "Fame" at a running time of ninety-seven minutes, showcases star Jay Pharoah as the biggest scene chewer this side of 1990's Jim Carrey. With impressions ranging anywhere from Jay-Z to Eddie Murphy to Tracy Morgan to Denzel, Pharoah is likable if not a little hit-or-miss playing lead McDonald (mentioned in the first paragraph).

2 Minutes of Fame (2020) - IMDbYeah Jay could have been funnier, 2 Minutes of Fame could have been a little more over the top, and Mike Epps could have killed it if someone offered him a slight cameo in the foreground. What's on screen is basically lightweight, R-rated fare and something an aspiring student of stand-up might get insight to. Yup, just imagine watching Last Comic Standing as a pseudo, potty-mouthed version. Then imagine a translucent fever dream that David Chappelle would have concocted right before he became a household name. 

2 Minutes of Fame' Review - Lights Camera JacksonDirected by Leslie Small, featuring Katt Williams in a unique supporting role, and profusely made to subjugate today's Internet age, "Fame" is kinda stupid funny and reminded me of small scale comedies like Half Baked and 2006's Grandma's Boy. The film doesn't push any cruel envelope nor does it advanced the audacity of a career that Jay Pharoah might seek to have. Jay is basically playing himself here and with a direct-to-video feel, he doesn't exhibit enough padding to heighten his desired, star-making platform. Verdict: This "Fame" ain't no obscurity but it's no "grande dame" either. Rating: 2 and a half stars. 

Written by Jesse Burleson