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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