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John Allman

If you’ve ever wandered the aisles at the video store or surfed the DVR pay-per-view options and seen a bunch of movies that you’ve never heard of, chances are John has watched them. Why? He loves movies. All kinds of movies. Good, bad, so-bad-they’re good, even the truly unwatchable ones. He mostly loves horror and science-fiction and drive-in exploitation movies that most upstanding model citizens wouldn’t dare watch. Then he writes up his thoughts so you can decide - watch, don’t watch or avoid at all costs. Sometimes he even gets to talk to the cool folks who make some of your favorite films.

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New Releases for Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Posted Jul 31, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jul 31, 2012 at 08:58 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Silent House
Genre: Remake/Thriller
Directed by: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Run time: 86 minutes
Rating: R
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: When “La Casa Muda,” the ‘based on a true story’ thriller from Uruguay, was originally released in America as “The Silent House,” much was made of the movie’s major hook – that it was shot in one single, continuous take.

The hook worked, pulling fans across genres to check it out. The story, while muddled, especially during the busy and not crystal clear third act, effectively generated jump scares while maintaining the central trick of not breaking frame. That likely wasn’t too difficult, given the film essentially features three actors, and for the majority of its runtime, only one is on camera.

“Silent House,” the American remake, has one thing going forit – the white-hot Elizabeth Olsen, who just keeps getting better with each new role.

I’ve seen several reviews praising writer/directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau, the duo responsible for “Open Water,” the love it or loathe it, stranded in the ocean with a shark, thriller from several years ago.

But honestly, I don’t understand the praise.

While Kentis and Lau kept the original’s single-shot format(which I liked), they unfortunately chose to do everything possible to ensure that the story is as transparent as possible. It’s a classic example of an American remake dumbing down the material because the filmmakers don’t trust that U.S. fans will get what’s going on.

I counted multiple give-away shots throughout the first half hour that are so blatant they basically club you over the head with a “Look! What’s that? Why is he hiding those polaroid pictures?” neon sign.

“La Casa Muda” worked so well because you really had no idea what the hell was going on until the big reveal in the last 15 minutes.

For those not in the know, the story is pretty simple: Father and daughter arrive at an abandoned family property to clean up the house and pack up the belongings before it’s sold.

They speak briefly to the father’s brother, who leaves. The house has no electricity and the family must use lanterns to move from room to room. When night falls, the daughter hears something upstairs. The dad investigates. A loud crash is heard. And fromt here, well, that’s where the scares come in. Is someone or something in the house with them? I’ll never tell.

“Silent House” moves too quickly to truly establish the necessary sense of foreboding. The back and forth between Olsen’s on-screen father and uncle is expanded from the original, which isn’t bad, but it definitely hints at something rotten within the family dynamic. Kentis and Lau also expand the screen time of a former family friend, a young woman who stops by to see Olsen. Again, Kentis and Lau can’t help but drop just enough hints to make you question the young woman’s purpose.

As soon as father and daughter are alone in the house, the creepy noises, creaking doors and shadowy, ominous corridors take center stage. Olsen is fantastic at communicating abject terror through her facial expressions. She lithely moves through the house, never going so fast so the single camera can keep up, and Kentis, for his part, does a masterful job of swirling around her, ducking and dodging and swooping in with the lens.

The problem, again, is the story, which just doesn’t translate effectively in the U.S. version.

In the original, there was a slow-burn to the reveal, a room filled with horrifying images that finally brings all the puzzle pieces together. In “Silent House,” there is no ‘room.’ There is no slow burn. There’s a bunch of running around, a lot of shrieking, a waste of a supporting character who may or may not be real. There’s just no fixed point to navigate toward.

Even the ending, tweaked from the original, doesn’t work as well.

Much like “Open Water,” a lot of “Silent House” feels like you’re stranded in the ocean, bobbing up and down, hoping against hope that someone will happen by to scoop you up and save you.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Elizabeth Olsen, hot or not? Hotter than her sisters, by far.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal blood.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Not who or what you think.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Audio commentary with writer/directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau.

The Monitor (Lionsgate, 96 minutes, R, DVD): What a difference 60 minutes can make.

It’s long enough to seem interminable when you’re stuck watching a total stinker of a movie. But it’s also just long enough for a movie with promise to flame out and suddenly plummet from mysteriously intriguing to balls-out ridiculous to what the hell did I just endure?

Such is the case with the Norwegian thriller “The Monitor,” starring Noomi Rapace.

Originally titled “babycall,” which is about as awful a title as “The Monitor,” the film has no idea what it wants to be.

Is it a drama about abusive relationships or the apparently shocking child protective services system in Norway? Is it a paranormal chiller about an overprotective mother intercepting phantom transmissions on a portable baby monitor that she buys to keep track of her own child? Is it a murder mystery where Rapace has to try to stop another child from being abused and killed?

You’ll have to suffer through 96 minutes of uneven hokum to find out the answer, and let me just be the one to tell you – the destination is not worth the journey.

If I had stopped watching at the 30 minutes mark, this review would have been completely different. Early on, Rapace gives a compelling, believable portrayal of a distraught mother doing everything possible to protect her son despite the obvious toll her actions are taking on her own well-being.

Then the whole thing just goes to hell. People begin acting erratically for no reason. New characters pop up with no explanation, making cryptic statements that make no sense.
Established characters vanish. Subplots are introduced and abandoned. And poor Rapace just gets stuck, much like she did in “Prometheus,” wasting a committed performance on a silly premise that never takes shape. 

Worst of all, by the end, you question everything you’ve seen. What was real? What wasn’t? Unlike a movie like “Inception,” which exists to prompt such discussions long after the credits roll, there’s no making sense of “The Monitor,” and that is just plain bad.

Brake (MPI, 92 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): “Brake” wants to be “Buried,” but it ends up a muddled TV mash-up of “24” and “The Twilight Zone.”

“Brake” tells the tale of the worst day in the life of U.S. Secret Service Agent Jeremy Reins (played by Stephen Dorff).

He wakes up locked in a clear plastic box in the trunk of a car, and there he spends the next 80-some minutes, trying desperately to save his estranged wife, avert a terrorist takeover of Washington, D.C. and prevent the insurgents from learning the location of the secret underground bunker where the POTUS and other elected leaders are taken during times of domestic assault.

Early on, director Gabe Torres does a good job of keeping the action taunt despite the cramped confines. And certain scenes in “Brake” effectively convey the necessary frustration and tension that Reins is experiencing. Watching, you can’t help but put yourself in the situation, and just the thought is enough to inch you out further to the edge of the couch.

Where “Brake” goes wrong is in the inevitable twist, and the leap of faith and logic is just too great for most viewers to take. It’s an interesting premise, for sure, and in the hands of a different director, with some minor tweaks to the script, “Brake” might have been a really fun thrill ride.

But as is, even for a genre flick with high aspirations, the sum is considerably less than its parts.

Also Available:

Meeting Evil – Samuel L. Jackson continues his push to star in more movies than any other living actor. Luke Wilson, well, he’s just happy to have a job.

Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Complete First Season – On Blu-Ray, for the first time. Trekkies rejoice!

Hey Arnold: Season 2, Part 2

Jiro Dreams of Sushi – It’s a documentary about sushi, but really, it touches so much more.


My Way

Treasure Island

The Untouchables: The Complete Fourth Season, Volumes 1 and 2

Touched by An Angel: Season Five

Children’s Hospital: Season Three – Funny and more twisted than any comedy or medical procedural on network TV.

The Deep Blue Sea

Boss: The Complete First Season

On the Inside

Bonanza: The Complete Third Season

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New Releases for Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Posted Jul 21, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jul 21, 2012 at 07:04 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Genre: Action/Space
Directed by: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger
Run time: 95 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: It makes sense. After all, it has been 30 years.

Why someone hadn’t attempted to remake John Carpenter’s seminal genre masterpiece, “Escape from New York,” before now is a question, when seriously pondered, that does seem odd. I mean, they’ve remade so many other, lesser films. And Snake Plissken remains one of the all-time greatest movie badasses ever concocted.

Luc Besson obviously knows this. The prolific French writer/producer/occasional director, who seems to have his name on a new over-the-top action movie in theaters every six months, penned the story that serves as the plot of “Lockout,” but don’t be fooled into thinking that Besson came up with an original idea.

“Lockout” is “Escape from New York” – only it’s set in space.

Snake Plissken is now Snow, just Snow, although he has a funny first name that’s not revealed until the end of the film. And Snow isn’t played by Kurt Russell with a screwed-tight jaw and seriously bad attitude. Snow is played by Guy Pearce with 101 quips for every occasion, whether facing certain death or wooing the daughter of the POTUS.

That’s right, “Lockout” also has a member of the presidential family in jeopardy. Only it’s his daughter, not the actual president. And she’s played by Maggie Grace, not Donald Pleasance.

Crazy, violent criminals? Yep, “Lockout” has those too. Only instead of having isolated the island of Manhattan as a prison to contain the worst of the worst, the U.S. has created a giant maximum security prison in space, where all the murderers, rapists and serial killers are cryogenically frozen. But they can be thawed whenever the prison wants, which is convenient.

And the prison officials may be experimenting on the inmates, but that subplot is just briefly introduced and then abandoned altogether.

Oh, and the U.S. also has an orbiting police station in space, and police cars that look like F-16 jets.

But that’s not really important because no one bothers to spend much time explaining how and when we mastered intergalactic travel and such.

What is important is that “Lockout” so closely mirrors “Escape from New York” that you can make a drinking game out of it.

Looking for “Brain”? Here, he’s called “Mace.”

Want to see “The Duke”? There’s two big bads in “Lockout,” brothers called Alex and Hydell, although neither is as infinitely cool as Isaac Hayes.

Wondering if there’s some super secret, potentially damaging to the government, recording or document that Snake, er Snow, must retrieve? Take a big drink, sucker, because there is.

Will Snake, er Snow, walk off into the end credits unspooling the cassette tape with the President’s speech on it, chuckling to himself at how he’s just screwed the most powerful man in the world?

No, wrong movie.

But Snow might walk off into the credits with something other than a cassette tape because cassette tapes are so 1980s, chuckling about how he just screwed someone. That part of the movie isn’t very clear, to be honest.

And it features Peter Stormare, so you know he’s a bad guy because that’s all he ever plays, except in “Armageddon.”

The best part of “Lockout” is the fact that it is so ridiculously improbable, and just doesn’t care. I mean, Besson & Co. don’t even try to disguise the fact that 99.9-percent of the events depicted COULD NEVER HAPPEN.

My personal favorite – parachuting, from space, to Earth, with that burning atmosphere re-entry thing that looks like it might hurt, plus a plummeting fall, to concrete, at the exact spot where the police are waiting.


I’ll stick with Snake Plissken paragliding onto the top of the Twin Towers any day.

Oh wait, parachuting and paragliding. There’s another comparison. Take a drink, sucker.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Maggie Grace – hot or not? Discuss!
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – A couple of Scottish brothers, some government honchos and, oh yeah, Luc Besson, for thoroughly ripping off John Carpenter and not even having the decency to give him credit.
Buy/Rent – Rent it, if you must.

Midnight Son (Image, 92 minutes, Unrated, DVD): Vampire movies.

I know, I know. You’re burned out on vampire movies. So am I. “Twilight” and its endless sequels, and a host of bad B-grade bloodsuckers have literally drained (haha, get it) all the fun out of vampire movies in the past few years.

But even if you can’t bear the thought of sitting through another vampire movie because you think there’s just no idea even remotely interesting or original that could possibly be harvested from the genre, I implore you to check out “Midnight Son,” the first full-length feature from Scott Leberecht, the visual effects artist from such films as “Sleepy Hollow.”

“Midnight Son” is a vampire movie, and it’s a love story, but it’s also an origin story of sorts of an entirely different kind of vampire. It feels fresh, alive and surprisingly original.

“Midnight Son” is the story of Jacob and Mary. He’s a quiet emo kid who works security on the graveyard shift. She’s a cocaine addict who sells cigarettes and lollypops at a nightclub.

Jacob has a problem. He can’t quell a growing hunger that is slowly ripping him apart from the inside, and no matter how much he eats, he keeps losing weight.

He also has a skin condition, one that forces him to live with the windows blacked out, rarely venturing outside during the day. When he was a boy, his parents discovered this anomaly because Jacob’s arm burst into flame when it was exposed to direct sunlight.

Jacob is dying, literally and metaphorically, and he doesn’t know why. Until one night when he buys a steak to cook and instead finds himself eagerly lapping up the blood pooled in the container.

Mary is dying too. She drifts through the nights, high and empty and alone, unable to make any kind of lasting connection.

When they meet outside a nightclub, there’s an instant attraction, a raw sexual energy, that can’t be denied even if it’s in its sweetest infancy. Only when they try to consummate their feelings, things get weird.

Jacob’s hunger gets weird too. It keeps growing, forcing him to make some decisions that will ultimately change his life forever. Or will they finally give him the life he’s never lived up to that point?

“Midnight Son” is not a big-budget movie. It’s flawed. It has plenty of moments that you could pick apart if you wanted. But I would ask that you overlook those minor quibbles and instead just enjoy a vampire story that doesn’t feel like every other run-of-the-mill vampire story that has been released in recent years.

This one feels special. It’s different. And it’s definitely worth your time.

Intruders (Millennium, 100 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has given us two movies, both of which offer a glimpse of the potential he likely holds.

The first was “28 Weeks Later,” the surprisingly unsucky sequel to the great Danny Boyle sleeper that revitalized the zombie genre back in 2002.

Fresnadillo’s follow-up is “Intruders,” a dark fable told through two interweaving stories, one in English and one in Spanish. This bold artistic decision makes or breaks “Intruders,” depending on your tolerance for subtitles and your ability to closely follow the mythology that is unspooled about the villain, an ominous, soul-sucking reaper of children known as Hollowface.

There is much to marvel at here, particularly early on, in the opening sequences told in Spanish, where a young boy is tormented by Hollowface in a thrilling, rain-drenched set piece atop scaffolding. Hollowface instantly establishes himself as an original creation, despite the logical comparisons to the main ghost in “The Frighteners” and the Death Dealers from the Harry Potter books and films.

When the film switches to England, where a father, Clive Owen, tries to soothe his daughter’s paranoia that there is no boogeyman in her closet, there’s an equally terrifying scene where that age-old parental calm proves to be entirely wrong.

The main issue with “Intruders” is one of repetition. Fresnadillo shows his hand early on, and too much of the rest of the film is filled with chases and jump scares. There’s only so many times you can be plopped into a darkened bedroom and not know to expect Hollowface to suddenly pop out.

Still, this is an enjoyable haunted house ride that, despite a surprisingly pat ending, manages to surprise with solid special effects, especially the unnerving scrub shown on the cover whenever a character is revealed to have a stark, blank, smooth swath of skin devoid of features.

Get the Gringo (Fox, 95 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): “Get the Gringo” is the Mel Gibson film you never expected to see again, the kind of hard and dirty action flick he used to make before he lost his way and fell victim to the Hollywood hubris that seems to infect a few chosen celebrities, making them feel invincible to backlash and free to say whatever they truly feel.

“Get the Gringo” is “Payback,” albeit on a lesser scale. It’s Mel doing what he used to do best, smirking and brooding and exploding in violent rage.

It’s slight and fast-moving and Gibson’s weathered face shows the wear of so many years of being beaten up by the backlash from his divisive words. That strain and drain works to his advantage, however. He truly looks like a desperate man clinging to the life he once had, the bag of cash that drives the plot sitting in for the well-regard and respect he once enjoyed among his peers.

It’s a shame that it was released direct-to-DVD, but sadly, that decision too makes sense.

Also Available:

Friends with Kids

The Three Stooges

Casa di me Padre

Designing Women: The Final Season

Different Strokes: The Complete Third Season

Doomsday Prophecy

Dan Vs: Season One


Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

The Inbetweeners

Alphas: The Complete First Season

Eureka: The Complete Fifth Season


Storage Wars: Season Three

IRT: Deadliest Roads – Season Two

Sanctuary: The Complete Fourth Season

Leverage: The Complete Fourth Season

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New Releases for Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Posted Jul 14, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jul 14, 2012 at 02:42 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Cherry Bomb
Genre: Action
Directed by: Kyle Day
Run time: 90 minutes
Rating: Unrated
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: It’s not difficult to spot the films that heavily influenced director Kyle Day.

Pretty much any gritty revenge thriller from the 1970s and 1980s gets a subtle homage in “Cherry Bomb.” There are whiffs of “Death Wish,” more than a hint of “I Spit on Your Grave” and even a healthy dollop of “Ms. 45.”

But for every loving grindhouse shout-out to the drive-in pictures of the past, “Cherry Bomb” stumbles whenever it reaches for some dramatic oomph. In fact, the most frustrating aspect of this fitfully enjoyable thriller is the lack of a consistent tone.

Is it a dramatic thriller? A hard-edged, nasty slice of female empowerment? A subversive post-feminist homage to action films of yore? Or a muddled, misguided comedy?

This identity crisis is the biggest problem with “Cherry Bomb.”

Uneven moments of ridiculous levity will follow a violent gun battle. Tender moments of introspection get upended by flat jokes and amateurish performances. And don’t even hope for anything close to reality. There’s none to be found.

Raped, beaten and death wish-fueled stripper Cherry Bomb, played by B-movie actress Julin Jean, goes on a killing rampage with her brother, slaughtering entire families in broad daylight with zero ramifications. The cops keep showing up at weird places, never looking for Cherry, who shouldn’t be hard to find since she keeps returning to the likeliest of hideouts.

Still, there’s enough spunk and stylish mayhem filtered through Day’s lens to keep you watching. You can tell how hard he and the cast are trying and that desire on their part to produce a worthwhile throwback to the types of films that once populated low-rent theaters propels “Cherry Bomb” at points when you otherwise should rightly hit eject and just give up.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Cherry Bomb is a smoking hot vixen out for revenge.
Nudity – Gratuitous
Gore – Yes
Drug use – Yes
Bad Guys/Killers – A strip club kingpin and his band of small town scumbags
Buy/Rent – Rent it
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Audio commentary, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, Alternate Ending

Also Available:

American Reunion

Being Flynn

Twins of Evil

Black Limosuine


The Flowers of War

Warehouse 13: Season 3


Butterfly Swords

The Father Dowling Mysteries: Season Two

Freak Dance


Doctor Who: The Krotons

Doctor Who: Death to the Daleks

Adventure Time: The Complete First Season

Zoom In: Sex Apartments and True Story of a Woman in Jail: Continues

G.I. Joe: Series 2, Season 2

You’re Nobody Til Somebody Kills You

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New Releases for Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Posted Jul 14, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jul 14, 2012 at 02:36 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

God Bless America
Genre: Action/Comedy
Directed by: Bobcat Goldthwait
Run time: 105 minutes
Rating: R
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Oh, the delicious irony.

At a certain point in some filmmaker’s careers, their entire creative output becomes fodder for dissection by critics seeking clues to adequately describe the potential that maybe wasn’t entirely evident early on.

For write/director/comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, that means people really, really need to revisit “Shakes the Clown,” and finally recognize it for the awesome slice of social commentary that it truly is.

Goldthwait has grown with each film that he has directed, and it’s fair to say that few fringe directors working today could deftly balance the pitch-black brew that bubbles under each film’s surface. He’s tackled complicated human emotions by focusing on one woman’s impromptu dalliance with her dog in “Sleeping Dogs Lie,” and examined the pitfalls of unbelievably dysfunctional parenting in “World’s Greatest Dad.”

But with “God Bless America,” Goldthwait’s true feelings take center stage in a furious grand guignol worthy of commentary by Howard Beale.

Goldthwait is disgusted by how far America has fallen. He froths with understandable rage at how society blindly accepts unnecessary, over-the-top marketing, feeds on biased media that pumps out uninformed, dangerous political tubthumping as news and celebrates manufactured celebrity, especially on television, which has become dominated by an increasingly bombastic array of mean-spirited, nasty people who milk fame by being the worst human beings possible.

Into this mix, he throws Frank, a terminally-ill father and divorcee stuck in a thankless office job, surrounded by loud, insensitive jerks and besieged by the nonstop, 24-7 crush of vacuous pop culture.

Instead of trying to drown out the noise, Frank decides to take action, given his condition, and he picks up a handful of weapons and sets out to scrub clean his country by eliminating one blight after another, killing those who deserve to die in his world’s view in spectacular, and often uncomfortably funny, fashion.

Frank speaks in eloquent, fiery soliloquies full of insightful, vitriolic venom. Truly, if you walk away from “God Bless America” with anything, it is an incredible appreciation for the way Goldthwait is able to capture all that is wrong about America today through a handful of furious screeds that are breathtakingly beautiful and perfectly penned.

Goldthwait takes a lot of license in “America.” He asks you to accept that Frank and a teenaged high school girl, Roxy, seeking an escape from her mother’s abusive boyfriend and a bloody outlet for her pent-up aggression, could simply set out on a cross-country killing spree with little notice from law enforcement.

It’s a journey you must choose to accept, and if you do, the film is a glorious, bloody, hysterical ride.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Yes.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Society.
Buy/Rent – Buy it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Audio commentary; Behind the Scenes: Killing with Kindness featurette; God Bless TV: Deleted and Extended Scenes; Outakes; Interview with Bobcat Goldthwait; HDNet: A Look at “God Bless America”; Roxy and Frank music video.
On the Web –

Some Guy Who Kills People (Anchor Bay, 97 minutes, R, DVD): Billed as a genre-bending twist on the serial slasher flicks that were so prevalent in the 1980s, and notable for being co-produced by director John Landis, “Some Guy Who Kills People” is a fitful, but enjoyably lightweight, thriller. The best thing going for the film is star Kevin Corrigan, who gamely gives his all in a mostly undercooked lead role that fails to truly establish a fully thought out backstory.

The Hunter (Magnolia/Magnet, 102 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Willem Dafoe remains one of the most captivating actors working today because of films like “The Hunter.”

He never fails to seek out truly unique characters, and screen stories that defy description.

Much like the largely, criminally overlooked “Antichrist,” Dafoe gives a thoughtful, intense performance in “The Hunter,” largely working on his own, with large chunks of screen time devoted solely to Dafoe and the gorgeous and desolate Australian outback.

What’s the film about? A fitting synopsis would say that Dafoe plays a mysterious contract hunter, seemingly the guy you call when other hunters fall short, who is hired by a giant corporation (think Haliburton) to track down a supposedly extinct animal in the outback, the last known Tasmanian tiger.

“The Hunter” has a lot more on its mind, though. It’s a methodical, quiet film that spends as much time examining human nature as it does the loss of the natural world.

If you’ve seen previews for the film, don’t be fooled. There is action, but it comes in limited bursts. Much like the similarly themed “The Grey,” this is a cerebral thriller more interested in who people really are than what they’re capable of.

Also Available:

Joe + Belle

Rocko’s Modern Life: Season 3

Django Kill

Chesty Morgan’s Bosom Buddies

Mac and Devin Go to High School

The American Dream

Wind Blast

Battle Force

Jesus Henry Christ

Mannix: The Complete Seventh Season

Dynasty: The Complete Sixth Season Part I and II

The Streets of San Francisco: Season 3

Born on the Fourth of July

Under the Tuscan Sun

Treasure Planet

Step Up

Home on the Range

The Horse Whisperer


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New Releases for Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Posted Jul 14, 2012 by John Allman

Updated Jul 14, 2012 at 02:28 PM

What’s new in stores and on video shelves this week:

Wrath of the Titans
Genre: Fantasy/Sequel
Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Run time: 99 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: Just to clear the air, let me be right upfront: I hated the remake of “Clash of the Titans.”

I hated everything about it from the weak, subpar 3D to the tinkering with the story to the ridiculous looking Kraken and heavy-CGI Medusa.

To say I was less than enthused to watch a sequel to a lesser remake of a childhood classic, well, that just really wouldn’t begin to adequately describe the level of apathy I felt when placing the disc in my player.
But the funny thing about reviewing movies for a living is that sometimes, not often, but every blue moon or so, you get completely blindsided by a film that you truly expected to despise.

And that’s exactly what happened with “Wrath of the Titans.”

Everything that I loathed about the remake suddenly didn’t bother me so much. The computer-generated creatures were more impressive, the story – free from the constraints of trying to live up to the original – actually was enjoyable and the multiple big-ticket action sequences popped.

In essence, “Wrath of the Titans” is everything that “Clash of the Titans” aspired to be. It’s a thoroughly entertaining popcorn movie with some truly impressive special effects and just enough heft to its tale of warring gods and half-mortal, half-god humans to make you care.

Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes tackle their respective roles as Perseus, Zeus and Hades with enthusiasm. Fiennes, in particular, seems to be having a blast playing the lord of the underworld.

And several scenes really stood out, especially when Kronos is unleashed from his fiery prison in Hell.

Watching “Wrath” was like taking in double truck panels ripped straight from a comic book, and it definitely stirred my inner fanboy, the giddy kid who loves giant monsters and flying horses and warriors battling seemingly insurmountable odds.

If, like me, you were less than impressed the first time around, I say this: Give “Wrath of the Titans” a chance. It’s not epic fantasy cinema by any stretch, but it’s a blast to lose yourself in for an hour and a half, and you won’t feel jilted once the credits roll.

The Stuff You Care About:
Hot chicks – Yes.
Nudity – No.
Gore – Minimal.
Drug use – No.
Bad Guys/Killers – Kronos, the father of the Gods.
Buy/Rent – Rent it.
Blu-Ray Bonus Features – Maximum Movie Mode, featuring two tracks, Path of Gods and Path of Men; Featurettes; Deleted scenes.
On the Web –

21 Jump Street (Sony, 110 minutes, R, Blu-Ray): Who knew, Channing Tatum. Who knew.

You’re actually a funny, likeable dude given the right source material.

And the 21st-century reimagining of “21 Jump Street,” the guiltiest of high school TV pleasures, has a lot more pop than anyone probably expected.

Pairing Tatum with Jonah Hill, who struck such an impressive balance in “Moneyball,” proves to be comic inspiration. Hill is adept at channeling his inner-geek, but he also displays surprising action chops in a role that easily could have been one-dimensional and played for the basest of juvenile laughs.

“21 Jump Street” is full of winking nods to the genre. High school students call Tatum out for looking like a grown man pretending to be a high school student. The scenes where the unlikely duo act out clichéd cop show tropes, like leaping across the hood of their car, register genuine laughs.

But it also celebrates the worst aspects of high school – the social cliques, the misplaced idolatry, and, yes, the perils of prom – in a way that shows unexpected personal growth.

One of the best moments, and the worst kept secret, is a brief cameo by original “Jump Street” alum Johnny Depp as Det. Tom Hanson. Depp is a riot. And kudos to him for demanding that he get to bring back another familiar face, actor Peter DeLuise as Officer Doug Penhall. Other former stars Holly Robinson Peete and Richard Grieco also get a moment to shine and soak in the fan love in brief walk-on roles. The only person missing is Steven Williams as hard-nosed Capt. Adam Fuller, the original shepherd of the undercover crew.

Sector 7 (Shout! Factory, 101 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Korea’s first 3D monster movie, “Sector 7,” requires a little patience.

After a mysterious and interesting start, “Sector 7” plops you straight onto an oil rig in the ocean and all hell is breaking loose with a stuck drill bit. A host of characters are introduced so fast that you can barely keep up.

Personal dynamics dominate the early going, which is where patience is required. On the first pass, I found myself pausing the film to go finish chores, coming back for a few minutes, then pausing again.

Thankfully, I shut off the ADD and sat down because about 40 minutes in, “Sector 7” becomes a great monster from the deep movie with fantastic CGI effects and a topical storyline that explains the origin of one of the most inventive creatures to come along in some time. Suffice to say, without giving too much away, the creature’s biological composition makes it a possible alternative energy source, but to harness that energy, the creature and its brood would essentially have to be tortured. That’s a pretty original idea, and a difficult moral quandary, something I haven’t seen before.

“Sector 7” owes a lot to “The Host” and “Cloverfield,” but it never feels derivative. I’ve read other reviews that rightfully cite influences from the 1980s, namely “Leviathan” and “Deep Star Six,” and those comparisons are also spot-on.

The action keeps coming at a furious clip, and the characters eventually distinguish themselves and, better yet, make you care about who may or may not survive. One of the highlights involves a battle on the top platform of the oil rig with various characters clinging to the side, dangling near certain death, as an infuriated beast wreaks havoc.

This one is a guaranteed fun time for fans of “Godzilla” and other giant beasts who fight back when poked by greedy corporate suits with little concern for the natural world.

Also Available:

The Artist – Best picture winner, and a mostly silent film to boot!

Mirror, Mirror – The other Snow White movie, the one that should have been a visual smorgasbord because the director is Tarsem, the visionary behind “The Cell” and “The Fall.”


C’mon Man

Damages: The Complete Fourth Season

Best Laid Plans

Sound of Noise

Law & Order: Criminal Intent – The Complete Seventh Season

The Decoy Bride – David Tennant alert! Pay attention, Whovians. Your favorite Doctor toplines this romantic comedy.

A Thousand Words – Oh, Eddie Murphy, I’m so sorry. I really don’t know what happened.

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