Category Archives: Film Reviews

Review: ‘Blood Stripe’ (Kate Nowlin, Chris Sullivan)

 

One of this year’s most standout performances comes from an indie film that is pretty much under the radar, but you can catch Blood Stripe this weekend at Beverly Hills’ Laemmle Music Hall.

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Noomi Rapace Delivers Tour De Force Work With ‘What Happened To Monday’

As a Brian De Palma (Passion) and Ridley Scott (Prometheus) enthusiast, Noomi Rapace has been a personal favorite. With What Happened To Monday, she delivers a tour de force performance that, despite its gimmicky plotline, is grounded in humanity. It’s premieres on Netflix today, and if you’re a sci-fi/thriller fan, it’s a must watch.

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French Noir Classic ‘Panique’ Hits Laemmle’s Royal Theatre

 

Playing this week at Laemmle’s Royal Theatre, “Panique” is a French classic where romanticism and existentialism collide like bumper cars, leaving various victims in its wake. A new digital restoration, coupled with the film’s nuanced storytelling, are just several reasons to check out this unforgettable cinematic experience.

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Natalie Portman Weaves A Memorable “Tale of Love and Darkness”

Natalie Portman takes a huge chunk of ambition and runs with it as the writer, director, and lead actress behind A Tale of Love and Darkness, a feature based on Amos Oz’s coming-of-age bestseller. This is Portman’s feature writing and directing debut, and thanks to her deep connection to the material the narrative is infused with a self-assured and subtly evocative flair.

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Blu-ray Pick: 5 Reasons To Love ‘To Have and Have Not’

 

The comparisons to Casablanca were inevitable, as To Have and Have Not has resistance fighters, a memorable piano player (Hoagy Carmichael), and smoldering chemistry between the leads. But even then and now 72 years later, To Have and Have Not is a classic that stands on its own, and Warner Archive Collection has done a great job with this Blu-ray release. Below are five reasons to love To Have and Have Not.

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DVD Pick: 5 Reasons To Love ‘The American Side’

 

I woke up at 2:30 this morning, unable to shake The American Side, a first rate neo-noir that isn’t afraid to wear its homage driven heart on its sleeve. Director/writer Jenna Ricker takes those hardboiled film noirs of the 1940s-50s and the conspiracy filled thrillers of the 1970s (The Parallax View, Winter Kills) and gives us a cinematic dish that’s worth the calories. Cinephiles will gorge on the various easter eggs and references in the film, and actually the less said about this film, at least story wise, the better. Below are five reasons to love The American Side.

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‘My Golden Days’ DVD Celebrates International Kissing Day

 

Since my own love life is non-existent, I had no idea July 6 is International Kissing Day. At least my lifelong love, aka cinema, will always be with me, and I’m definitely looking forward to the DVD release of the romantic drama My Golden Days.

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Review: ‘Cry of the Hunted’ Is Swamp Filled Film Noir From Warner Archive

 

One of the distinct pleasures of scouring through the Warner Archive Collection is discovering its extensive library of forgotten and overlooked films, and thankfully they have brought much needed spotlight to “Cry of the Hunted.” Though director Joseph H. Lewis is best known for the 1949 film noir classic “Gun Crazy,” “Cry of the Hunted” reaches similar cinematic heights.

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Film Review: Jack O’Connell Highlights Tense Thriller “71”

Gary Hook (Jack O’Connell) is an idealistic British soldier who’s accidentally stranded by his unit after a street riot in Belfast.  Alone and scared beyond belief, Gary’s life is hanging by a thread, and this tense, suffocating universe is effectively captured in ’71 .

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Film Review: ‘Down and Dangerous’ Is A Stylish, Visual Triumph

Down and Dangerous

Down and Dangerous, a film which gained much of its financial traction by raising $38,000 on Kickstarter, is proof that a slick, visually enticing film doesn’t need a $40-50 million budget to flourish. Old school filmmakers such as Edgar G. Ulmer (Detour), Val Lewton (Cat People), and Budd Boetticher (Ride Lonesome) laid the foundation for effectively using whatever little money they had to create masterworks of cinema. Although director Zak Forsman has yet to join such esteemed company, he’s swimming in similar waters.

The story focuses on principled dope smuggler Paul Boxer (John T. Woods), a tougher than nails soul who believes a life riding solo is the only way to go. An existence sans entanglements is the purest way to do business, and to date it’s kept him out of the slammer.

Easy money isn’t so easy in the drug trade, however, and when an erratic, Mexican drug kingpin named Rafael Garza (Ernest Curcio) enters the picture, Paul’s hermetically sealed life is taken for a spin. Complicating matters is Olivia (Paulie Rojas), Garza’s current partner in crime, is our hero’s one true love and his right hand man is a trigger happy DEA agent (Ross Marquand, who’s quite believable as a corrupt soul with a horrible chip on his shoulder).

If you’re looking for a thematically rich or innovative storyline, Down and Dangerous won’t fulfill your needs. Rather, its creative thrust lies in everything else that matters in a good movie. You want eye catching cinematography and expert lensing? What about a pulsating, synth driven soundtrack that rivals such crime classics as Thief or Drive?All of those elements reside in an action film which understands that style doesn’t have to triumph over substance. Instead, for a person who wants a visceral and testosterone charged experience, style is substance.

Capturing a nighttime Los Angeles in all its seductive and deadly glory is a skill that directors Michael Mann (Collateral, Heat) and Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) possess, and how Forsman, whose dad is an ex-smugger, managed to paint his own distinct vision of the city sans a big budget is, for lack of a better word, awe inspiring. 

All the supporting players (including Judd Nelson doing fine work as Paul’s prison inmate buddy) do a bang up job, and a huge part of the film’s success lies in John T. Woods’ terse and cool as a cucumber portrayal of the protagonist. Although he looks like a cross between Jerry Ferrera (Entourage’s Turtle) and Karl Urban, that resemblance served as a distraction for the first several minutes, and then I moved on.

Shot in over 30 locations throughout Mexico and California, Down and Dangerous has high production values that puts many studio projects to shame. Years later, heck maybe even weeks from now, Forsman can teach film students how to turn that proverbial fifteen cents into a dollar. All that money is on the screen, and it’ll be interesting to see what the director does with a ton of cash to spare.

Until then, Down and Dangerous is an enjoyable film that proves kick starting the right feature isn’t such a bad idea after all. I won’t be singing the smuggler’s blues anytime soon, but this project reaches a new high I didn’t think smaller scale features could achieve.

Down and Dangerous is now playing in select cities and is available On Demand.