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Zootopia (2016)
8/10
Amusing and action-packed; the message starts feeling heavy-handed
11 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Disney's "Zootopia" is an amusing and action-packed addition to their long history of animated classics. However, at times, the message of the movie does start feeling heavy-handed. We got it the first three or five times: you can do or be anything you want as long as you believe in yourself and go for it. There's also nothing quite like a wholesome half-dressed pop star telling our children to "Try EVERYTHING", right? Aside from those two gripes, a great vocal cast and well-placed humor bring everything together quite nicely.

"Zootopia" is rated PG for some thematic elements, rude humor and action. Judy Hopps is bullied by her classmates, which might disturb younger viewers or ones who are victims of that sort of abuse. Christians will be offended by the use of God's name in vain in a couple of scenes as well. Judy and Nick visit a nudist colony where animals don't wear clothing. The sequence might stir up some questions about what exactly a nudist colony is.
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Kiss Rocks Vegas (2016 TV Movie)
9/10
"KISS Rocks Vegas" is the quintessential KISS
28 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
When four Liverpool lads stood onstage playing music and wagging their hair around in the early 1960s, it was easy to please a crowd. Rock 'n Roll was young and new. Fast forward a decade to the 1970s, and you had to do a bit more to thrill an audience. One band stood out above all others and continues to: KISS.

Whether you loved them or hated them when they hit the scene in 1973, KISS made an undeniable impression on anyone and everyone they came across. They were charisma. They were spectacle. They were energy. They were explosive. They were loud. They were bombastic. KISS WAS Rock 'n Roll!

Almost every word I used above to describe the "Hottest Band in the Land" could and is used when people think about Las Vegas shows today. When you think of what many consider the most entertaining and bright spot of entertainment in the United States, words like charisma, spectacle, energy, explosive, loud, and bombastic all come to mind I'm sure. What better home for KISS than this place?

Many die-hard fans of KISS will immediately throw up a wall of defense after reading my previous statement. "MY KISS is a rock 'n roll powerhouse too good to become just another staple of Las Vegas," they'll exclaim. Just like KISS deserved to be put in the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame for so many decades of hard work, they deserve a second home to hang their hats and call their own. A place where people come to them on their own turf to have their faces melted off instead of vice versa.

November of 2014 saw KISS take up residence at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. For nine eruptive nights, the group unleashed their powers and legendary songs on the masses who attended these special performances. Bringing with them all the show-stopping vivacity they've become known for, KISS left the venue in a shambles of explosions, smoke, confetti, and blood.

"KISS Rocks Vegas" is the quintessential KISS. It shows the band at the top of their game in every way. Both Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons unleash their vocals and tight musical fury to perfection on every tune. Guitarist Tommy Thayer shreds his instrument's strings for squealing leads that on multiple times conclude in a flash of sparkles and loud cracks in the sky. Drummer Eric Singer doesn't miss a beat as he pounds away on his multi-colored drums lit and strobing throughout the concert.

Every single wonderful trope of a KISS performance is included in "KISS Rocks Vegas", and they should be. Here is a band delivering the goods to many times folks from all walks of life. They've never seen them before in a live setting. Just as they always do, KISS puts their best foot forward and strives to win over newcomers and make new fans. That's how a rock group becomes immortal.

Starchild Paul flies out into the crowd and performs while strutting down a catwalk suspended above audience members. Demon Gene spits blood and fire before ascending to his pedestal high above and proclaim himself the "God of Thunder". Spaceman Tommy fires rockets and lights up the darkness of the arena. Catman Eric blasts away at his drum kit as it rises off the stage to reveal giant banners featuring ferocious felines looking like they're going to jump into the crowd and devour it.

"KISS Rocks Vegas" was a great balance of songs featuring both Paul and Gene on lead vocals. I was actually surprised at how many of Simmons' signature songs appeared on the set list. "God of Thunder", "War Machine", and "I Love It Loud" were all there. The only one absent that I would've liked to hear was "Unholy." Stanley brought the glitz and glamour to numbers like "Love Gun", "Do You Love Me?", and "Creatures of the Night". Singer even had the opportunity to shine through a soulful performance of "Black Diamond". I did miss getting to see Thayer belt out one of his excellent tracks off of KISS's latest albums "Monster" and "Sonic Boom".

The cinematography for "KISS Rocks Vegas" put the viewer in several different locations during the extent of the show. At times, you would be standing in the middle of the crowd where you could see the whole stage. Other times you'd be standing at the feet of the group front row. We also got to fly high above the crowd and the band thanks to some fabulous crane-shots. There wasn't a bad seat in the Hard Rock Hotel.

I took my nine-year-old son with me and was hoping that "KISS Rocks Vegas" would be appropriate for him. In other DVD releases of the band's concerts, we see girls pulling up their shirts and Gene and Paul's famous rock 'n roll "poses." While there are a couple of those here for the sake of keeping it real, all the girls keep their clothes on and the show is family-friendly.

"KISS Rocks Vegas" is a glimpse of things to come. I can see KISS taking up residency for a much longer time than nine days. I can see them becoming a permanent staple of the Town That Never Sleeps. I can see them building the ultimate tribute band and their presence being forever an essential part of the Las Vegas Experience long after the actual members are gone… but not forgotten.
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8/10
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" still ranks as my favorite sequel to the original
28 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" holds a special place in my heart as a horror fan. As a teen, I would go to my father's during the summer. I used this time visit him and the rest of my family in the area. During my downtime, I would catch up on movies I wasn't allowed to watch living with my mother. Many of the these were, of course, in the horror genre.

One of my favorite memories was watching a double feature one night with my father in the summer of 1987. We went to the local video store and rented "Psycho 2" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2." A funny side-note is that I had never seen either one of the original films. "Chainsaw 2" had a profound impact on me, as it was the first truly graphic and gory movie I had seen. It also had a far sicker sense of humor than what I had witnessed in other horror / comedies like "Fright Night" and the likes.

Revisiting "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" in its new 2K digital transfer was an interesting experience. The movie still holds up over all these years. There's nothing quite like seeing Dennis Hopper battle Leatherface in an epic chainsaw duel. Imagine Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader brandishing chainsaws instead of lightsabers and you get the idea.

Caroline Williams' screams rival those of Fay Wray's in "King Kong." I can't think of any way she could have improved her performance, from her Texan accent to the epic Chainsaw dance at the end of the movie. She is quite the trooper and deserves all the credit she gets as a scream queen being covered in bloody goo and dirt for much of the film.

Dennis Hopper comes alive as a police officer looking to avenge the deaths of his family and end the chainsaw massacre once and for all. He quotes the Bible and sings church hymns while destroying the lair of Leatherface and company, adding to the dark zaniness of the movie. He plays the role relatively straight where many other actors would have hammed it up.

I was very surprised upon re-watching "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" that there's no nudity. There's suggestive material throughout the movie. However, there's no actual sexual situations or topless women to be seen. That's a big surprise to anyone who grew up watching horror movies in the 1980s. I think there might be a pinup picture in the background of a couple shots. Granny Sawyer's decomposing dead body is shown sans clothing, but there's no detail in the body parts.

"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" still ranks as my favorite sequel to the original. Its combination of tension and wild violence with over-the-top black humor still stands as the blueprint for most of the gore fests we get today from folks like Rob Zombie and countless others. Thanks to great practical effects, on-location shooting, and Tom Savini's masterful makeup and prosthetics, the film stands the test of time and is a great example of a well-executed sequel.
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8/10
A great psychological thriller that sets itself apart from the mainstream jump-scare horror films
19 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"The Witch" is one of the most bizarre and disturbing coming-of-age movies I've ever seen. It's definitely not "Sixteen Candles" or "Pretty in Pink." The characters in those films may have their share of problems, but they're nothing in comparison to the ones the family members in "The Witch" are dealing with!

In 1630 New England, panic and despair envelops a farmer (Ralph Ineson), his wife (Kate Dickie) and four of their children when youngest son Samuel suddenly vanishes. The family blames Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), the oldest daughter who was watching the boy at the time of his disappearance. With suspicion and paranoia mounting, twin siblings Mercy (Ellie Grainger) and Jonas (Lucas Dawson) suspect Thomasin of witchcraft, testing the clan's faith, loyalty and love to one another in "The Witch."

There are so many different viewpoints you can watch the movie from. Christians might see it as either blasphemous or cautionary. Satanists consider it be an encouragement for people to look outside the box of conventional religious beliefs. Others will see it as just a modern folk tale warning of unhealthy family dynamics and the dangers of isolationism and paranoia.

Is it a cautionary tale warning of the dangers of playing with the occult and Satanism? Does the movie encourage audiences to explore life outside the "confines" of Christian religions? Is it warning us to always question our beliefs and not just follow the herd? Honestly, it could be any of these.

As a Christian, I find the ambiguity in the message of "The Witch" to be slightly dangerous for those not grounded in their own faith. You're led to believe one thing through three-quarters of the film, even if the family members are extremely fanatic. Suddenly, the direction we're traveling in seems to switch gears.

"The Witch" is rated R for disturbing violent content and graphic nudity. Much of the nudity is shadowed, blurred, or an old lady. I'm not defending it, just further explaining. Some of it is of oldest daughter Anya Taylor-Joy. She is underage in the film, even though in real life she's now 20. None of it is meant to be sexual in any way.

"The Witch" is a great psychological thriller that sets itself apart from the mainstream jump-scare horror films we're getting right now. It's a thinking man's fright fest that leaves viewers pondering what it's all about. Great acting, authentic-looking sets and wardrobe, and real shooting locations make everything feel even more authentic.
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8/10
Stands the test of time when it comes to its dark humor and cautionary narrative
17 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
A star-studded cast headed up by Bruce Willis, Goldie Hawn, and Meryl Streep all give elegantly wicked performances based on a story by Martin Donovan ("The Courtship of Eddie's Father") and David Koepp ("Jurassic Park," "Panic Room").

In "Death Becomes Her," two narcissistic arch rivals (Mery Streep and Goldie Hawn) discover the ultimate accessory – a potion that will keep them forever young – when they meet a mysterious enchantress (Isabella Rossellini) with deep ties to the Hollywood elite. But they get more than they bargained for when their newfound beauty only intensifies their vanity and rivalry.

Bruce Willis is absolutely perfect playing against his typecast at a time when he was known as a raging action hero ready to take out anyone who crosses him or his family. Here he's a whimpering mess being led around by two women who take advantage of and mentally and verbally abuse him. Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are delightfully wicked as the two self-centered women who seek eternal life and servitude from Willis's character.

Director Robert Zemeckis captures the black comedy of "Death Becomes Her" and blends it with a shot of social commentary to give it more depth. Cinematographer Dean Cundey pulls us into the movie through his use of modern Gothic settings and wonderfully moody lighting. All his hard work truly gives the movie a noir feeling that somehow still works even in color.

If you look at the special visual effects through your 2016 glasses they appear dated. However, I remember seeing this movie when it came out 24 years ago and being visually dumbfounded by it. Industrial, Light, and Magic did an incredible job once again pushing the boundaries of their craft to a whole new level with "Death Becomes Her."

The movie is rated PG-13 for some nudity and off-color humor. The only nudity is a shot of Isabella Rossellini's body double from the back showing her rear. There are quite a few cleavage shots here and there as well. "Death Becomes Her" also has profanity, alcohol drinking, and comic violence.

"Death Becomes Her" is one of those films that stands the test of time when it comes to its dark humor and cautionary narrative. Sure, the primitive special visual effects stick out like a sore thumb at times when looking at it now. It's still a really enjoyable and entertaining film that explores the trappings of vanity, the dangers of chasing youth, and being afraid of growing old.
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8/10
Another action-packed thrill ride
29 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Warner Home Video and DC Comics unleash the fury in their latest direct-to-DVD offering "Justice League vs. Teen Titans." The all-new DC Universe Original Movie is brought to us by Director Sam Liu ("Batman: Year One," "All-Star Superman") from a script by Bryan Q. Miller ("The Flash," "Arrow") and Alan Burnett ("Batman: The Animated Series," "Batman Beyond"). It is based on an original idea instead of a comic book arc like most of the past animated films.

Frustrated and disillusioned about his work alongside the Justice League, Robin is forced into a new position with a younger super team, the Teen Titans. Readily welcomed aboard, he is immediately intrigued by the mysterious Raven and the unnatural force that looms over them - her father Trigon - a deceptive being powerful enough to destroy Metropolis by pitting the mighty Justice League against the Teen Titans. Loyalties are on the line and lives hang in the balance in "Justice League vs. Teen Titans."

"Justice League vs. Teen Titans" reminded me of what would happen if an old Satanic Panic flick like "Rosemary's Baby," "The Exorcist," or "The Masque of the Red Death" was blended together with a super hero movie. You have the mother who is deceived into giving herself over to a cult and spawning the daughter of Satan (or Trigon as they call him in the DC Universe). The offspring of the Unholy One fights her destiny and chooses to use her powers for good. The only difference between this and a classic horror film starring Vincent Price or Linda Blair is the inclusion of Robin the Boy Wonder, Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Blue Beetle, Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.

Writers Bryan Q. Miller and Alan Burnett are no strangers to the DC world of super heroes. Burnett has helped create some of the most adored animated television shows and movies from the past three decades, while Miller has brought to life several different comic book characters through live-action series starting with "Smallville." Director Sam Liu knows how to pull it all together and give it a breakneck speed while not skimping on the story.

I applaud the filmmakers for trying to reach out to a teen crowd with their use of rock and dance pop numbers as the Titans try to blow off some adolescent steam at a carnival. They also do a decent job of creating some convincing chemistry between Robin and Raven, who feel like they're the outcasts of the supergroup. At the same time, older comic fans might feel as if they're watching an episode of "DeGrassi: The Next Generation" or "The O.C."

"Justice League vs. Teen Titans" is rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some suggestive images. Several demons get their heads chopped off and regrow them. Our heroes also go to Hell and battle some very disturbing creatures that get hacked up. It's definitely not for younger audiences.

Just be warned, parents. These are not the happy-go-lucky super heroes you know from "Teen Titans GO!" The group of youthful crimefighters we see here tend to use some profanity and are dark, angry, and grim. Their leader, Starfire, enjoys wearing extremely short skirts and shirts fashioned with what I call a boob window. I think she might use it as a distraction for her enemies while she battles with them. There's plenty of fun for older teens and adults to be had, but intense and disturbing scenes and other adult content keep this from being something the whole family can watch.

With a great voice cast including Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Jerry O'Connell as Superman, Jason O'Mara as Batman, and Jon Bernthal as Trigon, "Justice League vs. Teen Titans" is another action-packed thrill ride from DC Comics and Warner Home Video. Although the frantic pacing and short run-times of these animated movies sometimes feel a bit light on story buildup, they accomplish what they set out to. They're a comic book put in motion before our very eyes.
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7/10
Feels like the iconic director was going through the motions
18 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
"Village of the Damned" doesn't have that John Carpenter quality we've come to expect from the director's more "personal" projects. The passion we see in his remake of "The Thing from Another World" is all but absent here. I don't get a sense of emotional attachment to the source material like I do for Howard Hawks' original 1951film. Maybe that's because I've read and seen interviews with Carpenter and his production partner where they admitted they were less than enthused to take on the movie and had ulterior motives.

Since "Village of the Damned" was made before the CGI craze hit Hollywood, we get a lot of practical and traditional special effects. Director Carpenter features not just one, but two burned and charred bodies for horror enthusiasts to enjoy. The visual effects of the children's eyes are also a treat to look upon.

John Carpenter shares the responsibility of the musical score for "Village of the Damned" with The Kinks' singer, songwriter and guitarist Dave Davies. The combination of these two talents makes for an eclectic soundtrack. Let's just say it's not quite as menacing as what we've come to expect when sitting down to watch Carpenter's productions.

John Carpenter's "Village of the Damned" isn't necessarily a bad movie. It just feels like the iconic director was going through the motions. Almost like he really didn't have any personal stakes in creating something that would stand the test of time like his own "Halloween" or "The Fog." The acting isn't really bad and there are some chilling moments, but I couldn't shake the idea that I was being walked through an updated Reader's Digest condensed version of the original 1960 British film.
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Cherry Falls (2000)
8/10
One of the more adept entries in the slasher genre
8 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Just about everything in "Cherry Falls" is somehow clever and quick- witted. First of all, just take a minute to ponder the name of the town. The concept of a killer taking out virgins instead of disreputable teens is also something the movie has going for it. Another asset is a well thought out script by writer Ken Selden with a surprise reveal that hearkens back to the suspenseful who-dun-its like "Prom Night," "My Bloody Valentine," and even the later "Scream" and "I Know What You Did Last Summer."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying "Cherry Falls" is perfect by any means. There are plenty of stale performances and overacting from a largely young cast. Honestly, that's my only complaint about the movie.

"Cherry Falls" is rated R for strong violence / gore, teen sexuality, language and some drug content. There's plenty of talk about sex, but no nudity. If you saw the movie when it premiered as the most expensive TV-movie on the USA Network, I'm sure most of the language and graphic violence was nowhere to be found. The version we get here is the home video cut, which features folks getting axed in the head and being impaled. Most of the killing is performed offscreen, however, in the fine fashion of "Psycho" and other early thrillers.

"Cherry Falls" is one of the more adept entries in the slasher genre. Much of this is owed to the combination of a sincere performance from Brittany Murphy, an ingenious turnabout in plot, and the familiar use of a surprise ending. It's an enjoyable addition to a horror fan's home entertainment collection.
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7/10
Manages to provide some great thrills and chills
8 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Katie Holmes takes on the role of rebellious Goth teen Rachel Wagner in "Disturbing Behavior." She was doing her best at the time to break free of her good-girl typecast in "Dawson's Creek" where she played near-perfect Joey. What that means is she grimaces a lot and dresses up in half-shirts and rocker boots.

"Disturbing Behavior" has all the tropes you could ever want in a genre film from the late 1990s. You get over-the-top performances and bad acting mixed with hints of tell-tale talent. A melodramatic electronic soundtrack is mixed well with an alternative rock soundtrack and clothing styles that defined the decade.

The lesson to be found in "Disturbing Behavior" is that you must fight for your identity and individuality. Don't run with the crowd just to be accepted. There's a lot more social commentary here than what you would expect from a Hollywood teen flick.

The visual effect used to show the brainwashing really ages the movie as well. They're a sort of fractal imagery that would have looked advanced in a Pre-CGI world, but comes across as hokey today.

The movie is rated R for strong violence, sexuality, language, and drug content. There's nudity in a couple of parts and one definite scene suggesting something is going on out of frame. As usual, it's really all needless and might have been the reason the movie wasn't as successful as it could've been were it accessible to a PG-13 crowd.

"Disturbing Behavior" manages to provide some great thrills and chills. The best way to describe it is as a sort of teen slasher mixed with "The Stepford Wives" and "A Clockwork Orange." The ending seems rushed and comes with some cheesy one-line and a tacked - on finale that would lead you to believe they're might be a sequel in the works. Unfortunately, the movie didn't make enough money at the box office to merit such a thing.
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8/10
Another strong entry in the annals of the great Dane's crime fighting career
5 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Hanna-Barbera brings us the latest incarnation of the crime-solving canine and his partners in sleuthing with "Be Cool, Scooby-Doo" The cast is made up of regulars Frank Welker (Scooby-Doo and Fred Rogers), Matthew Lillard (Shaggy), and Grey Griffin (Daphne Blake) being joined by newcomer Kate Micucci ("Scrubs," "The Big Bang Theory") as Velma Dinkley.

The Scooby gang is back with a modern comedic twist on the beloved classic. With high school over and one last summer to live it up, the gang hits the road in the Mystery Machine, chasing fun and adventure in "Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!" But monsters and mayhem keep getting in the way.

I gave my nine-year-old son, Ephraim the chance to review the series. He shared his assessment with me after binge-watching his favorite episodes again.

"'Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!' is an exciting adventure with the gang in 13 new spooky episodes. My favorites are 'Trading Chases' with the spirit of Sobek, 'Mystery 101' starring the ghost of Kingsley, 'Screama Donna' with the ghost of Prima Donna, and 'Kitchen Frightmare' featuring the Yeti. What I like about this show is Shaggy and Scooby's hunger after eating the largest tower of food and Daphne's strange objects for each mystery. Hop into the van cause there's a mystery to solve!"

A completely different animation style than what we've seen before is utilized for "Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!" This really comes as no surprise, since they've been trying to play with the look of each show since "Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!" The look takes a bit of getting used to, but works in the end.

"Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!" is another strong entry in the annals of the great Dane's crime fighting career. I still prefer the classic look of "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?" And "What's New, Scooby-Doo?" However, the humor and tales told outweigh any issues I have with the way the characters and their surroundings appear.
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9/10
Any aged fan of super heroes will find something entertaining and funny when watching
29 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Join everyone's favorite characters for the all new original movie, "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash." Director Rick Morales is in familiar territory as the man who helmed "LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League - Attack of the Legion of Doom!," "Beware the Batman," "and Green Lantern: The Animated Series." Writer James Krieg is known for his work as a scribe for "LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League - Attack of the Legion of Doom!," "Batman: The Brave and the Bold," and "Teen Titans Go!"

Voice actors include Troy Baker ("Batman: Arkham City"), Nolan North ("Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro League"), Grey Griffin ("Star Wars Rebels"), James Arnold Taylor ("Star Wars: The Clone Wars"), and Phil LaMarr ("Justice League).

Villainous super-computer Brainiac (Phil LaMarr) decides to add Earth to his collection of worlds in "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash." The members of the team of super heroes will stop at nothing to fight back. Scattered through time by Brainiac's devious schemes, they'll have to reunite to save the world.

My son really enjoyed "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash." He took the time to give it his review. He stated, "Brainiac, the collector of worlds, has found a planet that comes between DZ and EB. He has taken captive of that world. Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman have been shot into different times. Wonder Woman is the Queen of the Cave in the time of dinosaurs. Green Lantern is the ship's cleaner in the time of pirates. Thunder Lad, Saturn Girl, and Cosmic Boy fight Brainiac-Superman in the future.

"What I like about 'LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash' is Brainiac's super ship because it has many guns on it. I don't like Supergirl because of her whining. 'Cosmic Clash' is a movie everyone should see," Nine-year-old Ephraim told me.

"LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash" is not rated and for a general audience. Of course there's the typical comic book violence. However, there's always a lighthearted tone to everything.

There's not much when it comes to bonus material for "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash." A gag reel entitled "The Justice League: Caught on Camera" is included as a special feature. All our cherished super heroes "candidly" cause hilarity for everyone to enjoy.

Any aged fan of super heroes will find something entertaining and funny when watching "LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League - Cosmic Clash." With a good balance of female and male role models to latch onto, it's the perfect film for a quiet night at the house with the whole family. DC and LEGO have once again proved their partnership together is a genuine success.
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3/10
Utter disregard of the source material
29 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Wow… I don't even know where to start with my review of "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Zack Snyder and the rest of his filmmaking crew have truly shown his utter disregard of the source material when it comes to at least Batman in this heaping mess of a film. We have a rather listless and mopey Superman mixing it up with a trigger-happy Dark Knight who goes against everything he ever stood for in the canonical comic books he's based off of. They're all angry and they're just not going to take it from Jesse Eisenberg's over-the-top annoying and crazy-on-the-surface Lex Luthor.

It's been nearly two years since Superman's (Henry Cavill) colossal battle with Zod (Michael Shannon) devastated the city of Metropolis. The loss of life and collateral damage left many feeling angry and helpless, including crime-fighting billionaire Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck). Convinced that Superman is now a threat to humanity, Batman embarks on a personal vendetta to end his reign on Earth, while the conniving Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) launches his own crusade against the Man of Steel in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice."

I honestly don't know who to blame here for everything wrong with "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Is it Director Zack Snyder for not just saying no to all the many terrible ideas he saw when he read the script? Or is it Writers Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer who deserves to carry the heavy load of failure dumped on audiences.

Let's get the good out of the way first, since that's the easiest. There's not much to write home about when it comes to "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." Not in a positive light at least. Ben Affleck plays a great Bruce Wayne and Batman. When he's not riddling people's body's full of artillery holes, he's brooding, grim, and tough just the way he's supposed to be. He has no mercy on the villains and doesn't care if they live or die as he makes his way to righting the wrongs they're doing. He'll be great in a solo movie not bogged down with the refuse he's surrounded himself with in this atrocity.

Also, Gal Gadot does a great job bringing DC's first lady of comic books to life on screen. I wouldn't go as far as to say she steals the scenes she's in. However, Gadot does hold her own among the big boys and even saved their hides a few times. She'll definitely help get females (and fanboys) fired up for her solo outing.

I'll also go on record saying that the CGI and other effects weren't a problem for "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice." They were a bit shaky at times and could've been better. Overall, they weren't a distraction and blended well with their surroundings.

Apparently, no one involved in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" has ever read a single issue of Detective Comics or Batman. The evidence is shown in the fact that he has the Dark Knight using all sorts of shooting instruments and artillery to KILL people. I'm not talking about like in Tim Burton's "Batman," where he would use bullets or exploding bombs to remove objects out of his way or scare his enemies. He actually killed people with them. Anyone with ANY passing knowledge of Batman knows he wouldn't do this.

The Lex Luthor we get in "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is NOT the Lex Luthor we're given in the comic books we all know and love. Jesse Eisenberg's wacko, unmedicated and juvenile depiction of the character is so annoying you practically pray for him to leave the screen whenever he shows up. He's like a spoiled rich kid with power who accidentally is smart.

I don't want to get into spoiler territory here, so let me be as vague as I can be. Everything you think or can imagine based on what you've read as a comic book fan, either passing or hardcore, happens just the way you fear it will. There are NO surprises to be found at all. Not unless you just know the names of these characters and have never seen a single animated or live-action film based on them in the past. I wouldn't say the script is absolutely terrible. Worse, it's just bland and predictable.

"Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action throughout, and some sensuality. A lot of people get killed in the movie - most of them bad guys. It might also disturb some younger children to see their favorite superheroes duking it out when they're supposed to be buddies. There's also a bit of profanity used here and there. The only sensuality I can think of is when Lois in the bath and they keep almost showing her breasts, but either cutting away or moving the camera up just in time to keep us from seeing anything. Still trying to figure out what the point of that was.

Is "Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice" the worst superhero film I've ever seen? No. Although I didn't hate it, the newest incarnation of "Fantastic Four" still holds that honor. If I had a close second, this would be it. I will say it offends me more than that movie because of it's blatant disrespect for the creators and source material it's based on. You can kick dirt in the face of the Fantastic Four or any other Marvel character out there, but don't start soiling the images of my beloved DC icons.
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Carrie (2002 TV Movie)
8/10
Really isn't as bad as history remembers it
9 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In the made-for-TV movie "Carrie," our young naive outcast (Angela Bettis) is tormented by her fellow high-school students. She learns of her telekinesis and begins using it as a tool for vengeance.

The 2002 version of Stephen King's "Carrie" is a lot better than it could've been. It was already fighting an uphill battle trying to recapture the same tense and gloriously haunting magic the 1976 movie did. Weak performances and cheesy dialogue by many of the actors doesn't help the situation. However, Angela Bettis's incredible performance as the title character virtually redeems any weakness shown by the other cast members. The one thing that hinders this update is the TV-quality production and cinematography. That being said, the special effects are a lot better than they should've been for a TV-movie made in the early 2000s.

Although 2002's "Carrie" is rated TV-14 and includes some questionable content for younger viewers. There's brief nudity, although nothing graphic is shown. The scenes are from the back or a profile of Carrie lying in the fetal position in the shower. There are adult situations, violence and gore, mild profanity, alcohol and smoking, and frightening and intense scenes.

If you give the update a chance, you'll find that it really isn't as bad as history remembers it.
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8/10
Still holds up because it's actually more realistic and grounded than most dystopic sci-fi film
30 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
In "Escape from New York," it's 1997 and a major war between the United States and the Soviet Union is concluding. The entire island of Manhattan has been converted into a giant maximum security prison. When Air Force One is hijacked and crashes into the island, the president (Donald Pleasence) is taken hostage by a group of inmates. Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell), a former Special Forces soldier turned criminal, is recruited to retrieve the president in exchange for his own freedom.

The thing that impressed me upon re-watching "Escape from New York" on Blu-ray was the practical effects, models, and background paintings utilized. In the age of CGI, they still look realistic and make you feel like you're watching something that's actually happening in front of you. You feel as if you've been dropped with Snake into the middle of the Rotten Apple.

"Escape from New York" is rated R for violence and gore, profanity, smoking, nudity, and frightening and intense sequences. A girl is seen topless in a rather darkly lit sequence that lasts barely five seconds. The rest of the "offending" content is rather tame by today's standards.

I'm sure there are not many out there who haven't seen "Escape from New York" in one form or another over the past 35 years. Besides the fact that it's set in the future 18 years ago, the movie still holds up because it's actually more realistic and grounded than most dystopic sci-fi films. Instead of the flying cars and advanced technology viewed in movies like "Blade Runner," we see believable and relevant settings that could transpire in the next decade or so.
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Batman vs. Robin (2015 Video)
8/10
A worthy follow-up to "Son of Batman"
27 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation bring fans of the Dark Knight his latest adventure "Batman vs. Robin." Writer J. M. DeMatteis does an incredible job blending together Grant Morrison's "Batman & Robin: Batman vs. Robin" and Scott Snyder's "Batman: The Court of Owls" graphic novels into one action-packed thrill ride through the darkness of Gotham City. It doesn't hurt that the ever angry and charismatic Damien Wayne and his strained relationship with his father Bruce are parts of the main focus of the story.

In "Batman vs. Robin," Damian Wayne has a hard time accepting his father's no-killing rule. He soon starts to believe his destiny lies within a secret society. The Son of Batman finds himself the target of a vigilante calling himself Talon. The mysterious man wants Damian to take his place as the lead assassin of the enigmatic Court of Owls.

I loved the way filmmakers incorporated parts of "Damien: Son of Batman" into "Batman vs. Robin." There's a small "dream" (or "nightmare?") sequence where Batman finds himself face to face with a grown-up Damien who dresses in a new version of the cape and cowl. A touching showdown between the two ensues which addresses the Dark Knight's insecurities about the way he's raising his offspring.

"Batman vs. Robin" is rated PG-13 for intense action and violence, suggestive images and thematic elements. There are some instances where dark silhouettes cover up nude bodies in the context of insinuated adult situations. For all intents and purposes, think of "Batman vs. Robin" as having the same content as "The Dark Knight Rises," but as a cartoon.

"Batman vs. Robin" is a worthy follow-up to "Son of Batman." I love the character of Damian Wayne and feel there's a lot more they could do with the character in further animated features. Might I suggest an animated adaptation of the "Damien: Son of Batman" graphic novel? The explosive relationship between Bruce and Damien is something that will not only find teens being able to associate with it, but fathers who struggle with their rebellious and independent-minded sons as well.
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8/10
Fits nicely with "The Goonies" and "The Monster Squad"
27 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Director Tobe Hooper's remake of the 1953 classic takes the always successful Amblin Entertainment formula made famous through films like "E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial," "Space Camp," and "Explorers" and adds his own flair. He takes those familiar ingredients and combines them with frightening aliens intent on taking over the world one small town at a time.

In "Invaders from Mars," a boy (Hunter Carson) begins seeing his parents and neighbors act like zombies. Is it a coincidence the weirdness all started after a flying saucer landed in his back yard?

The big genre star in "Invaders from Mars" is veteran genre actor Karen Black. She's perfectly cast in the role of the panicked and constantly tormented school nurse who believes our young lead character is telling the truth. Is she a little overdramatic and campy at times? Of course she is… she's Karen Black in a horror movie!

"Invaders from Mars" is rated PG in that wonderful way many 1970s and 1980s movies were. It contains a lot of content that would've merited it at least PG-13 today. The movie includes violence but no real gore. Many sequences will frighten younger viewers because of how the aliens appear and the intensity they'll feel as the lead characters are chased down. The young boy in the film has quite a filthy mouth, much like his counterparts in several other movies featuring children experiencing fantastic adventures in the 1980s.

"Invaders from Mars" will fit nicely with "The Goonies" and "The Monster Squad." It has all the elements of the coming-of age films of the 1980s directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, Robert Zemeckis, and others. The only difference is it delves a bit deeper into the horror and sci-fi realms. It's exactly the sort of genre movie you would expect "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Poltergeist" Director Tobe Hooper would want to watch as an alienated (pun intended) boy.
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8/10
Fits perfectly somewhere between other portmanteau films made in the 1980s and the 1960s anthology classics
20 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Some horror fanatics might know "From a Whisper to a Scream" by its other title, "The Offspring." Director Jeff Burr and the screenwriters take the portmanteau formula and inject their own brand of bloodletting and revolting deeds of dementia into it. Their approach takes the art form to a whole other level of graphicness and disgust that couldn't be explored in previous decades.

Beneath the small-town exterior of Oldfield, Tennessee lies a history of shocking violence and terrifying phenomena, as recounted by local historian Julian White (Vincent Price). In the '80s, an office worker (Clu Gulager) nurses a deadly crush. In the '50s, a witch doctor (Harry Caesar) holds the secret to unending life. In the '30s, fighting breaks out in a traveling carnival over forbidden love. Finally, in the 1860s, Union soldiers discover a group of orphaned children with a deadly agenda.

When you see Vincent Price's name attached to "From a Whisper to a Scream," your mind will drift to the classic films he made in the 1960s and 1970s, which were tame by today's horror standards. I assure you that's not the case here. The four tales presented come stuffed full of the gore and gruesomeness we all expect from 1980s genre movies.

"From a Whisper to a Scream" is rated R for violence and gore, adult situations, nudity, profanity, alcohol, drugs, smoking, and frightening and intense sequences. Necrophilia is insinuated which spawns a deformed monster baby in one of the most disturbing segments of the film. No nudity is shown in relation to sex. It was still unnecessary and added nothing to the story or plot.

"From a Whisper to a Scream" fits perfectly somewhere between other portmanteau films made in the 1980s like "Tales from the Darkside" and "Creepshow" and 1960s classics such as "Tales from the Crypt" and "The Vault of Horror." Vincent Price serving as the teller of the sordid stories lends an air of nostalgia which leads the viewer to expect a bit more quality to what might be mistakenly thought of as just another attempt at an anthology collection. However, you'll find yourself glad you made the trip to Oldfield as the ending credits roll.
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8/10
An entirely new and unique hybrid in the world of cinema
14 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
From the sick and twisted minds of two of the nicest and most down- to-Earth guys I've met in the film industry comes something bold and distinctive for the 21st century. "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" is what can only be referred to as a horror western. Equal parts 1980s slasher film and classic spaghetti western, you'd think the combination would be disastrous. I wholeheartedly assure you that it isn't. Instead, it makes for an inimitable viewing experience that leaves you wanting to revisit the movie and make sure you caught everything the first time around.

It's the autumn of 1900 in "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella." Outlaw Claude Barbee puts his "retirement plan" in action, attempting to lead his train-robbing gang across Texas to recover a cash stash hidden after a botched railroad heist. They soon discover they're being hunted by more than just the law - but rather a merciless, unexpected evil quite possibly greater than themselves.

When viewing "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella," it'll be hard to fathom the dedication and work it must've taken to shoot such a project in this day and age on the micro-budget of an independent film. The sprawling barren landscapes will leave you wondering where such areas still exist in the U.S. The realistic "Old West" settings make you ponder how they were built and put together to look so authentic.

Another amazing thing about "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" is how genuinely filthy and grimy everyone looks in the film. You really do believe you're looking at outlaws living in the west who haven't taken a shower in a week or so. The authenticity in the overall look of the movie is quite impressive.

The journey the outlaws embark on in "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" take them in the direction of many different misadventures. It puts them on a path in which they meet several very interesting characters played by familiar genre icons. Bill "Leatherface 2" Johnson from "Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" appears in a small and gory role. Edwin Neal, who played the Hitchhiker in the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," makes the most of his bloody brief appearance. Michael Berryman climbs out of the hills that have eyes to administer some painfully graphic medical help as a town doctor.

The script by Justin Meeks and Duane Graves unfolds slowly and methodically for "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella." If you're expecting the quick cuts, edits, and jumps of modern filmmaking, you'll not find that here. The sort of pacing you get with this is reminiscent of the slow-boiling complex tales put on celluloid in the 1970s.

Let's talk about the musical score for "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" for a moment. Yes, you did read that correctly. There is an actual score for a low-budget independent film that sounds like a million dollars (or more). Composer John Constant gives you exactly what you would expect in a spaghetti western… and I mean that as a compliment. There are also contemporary country twangs that reminded me of the "Young Guns" movies.

The movie just got picked up for distribution by Image Entertainment and hasn't been rated. I would give "Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" an R if it were put in my hands to do so. The movie contains nudity, sexuality, profanity, violence, gore, alcohol, smoking, and frightening and intense sequences. I'm not big on sexuality and nudity in films and it really doesn't need to be in here. The two sequences I can think of right offhand easily could be taken out, opening it up to a broader audience who might not watch films which include those types of scenes. Editing them out of the film won't cause people NOT to see the movie, but it might cause others TO watch it.

"Red on Yella, Kill a Fella" is an entirely new and unique hybrid in the world of cinema. Although movies like Wesley Snipes' "Gallowwalkers" and DC Comics' "Jonah Hex" have attempted to dabble in mixing horror and supernatural elements in to their western settings, Writer / Director Team Justin Meeks and Duane Graves make the blending feel natural. I didn't even realize I was watching a slasher movie until about three quarters of the way through it. Just imagine a sprawling western epic in the grand tradition of John Ford and Sergio Leone if an enigmatic and sinister stalker were following the anti-heroes on their excursion. You get an idea of what to expect when climbing into the saddle for this thrill ride.
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8/10
Another fine example of a classic film somehow being overlooked
13 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Here's another forgotten piece of film history. So many great movies get lost in the shuffle of time and an always crowded box office. They never get the attention they deserve. Some just don't get the proper media coverage or struggle to find the right audience, which I believe was the case when this was originally released in 1967.

In "Our Mother's House," Mrs. Hook (Annette Carell) dies after refusing to take medicine owing to her fundamentalist beliefs. She leaves her seven orphaned children to fend for themselves. Not wanting to be put in foster homes, the siblings bury their mother in the garden and successfully keep her death a secret. When their long-lost father (Dirk Bogarde) returns, it's initially a happy reunion, as he helps perpetuate the fraud. But soon he shows his true colors -- drinking, carousing and scheming to sell the house.

What a touching and disturbing film "Our Mother's House" is. Every single actor on screen is completely invested in their role. Dirk Bogarde makes you hate the scheming loser he portrays as he lies and mistreats the children. The child actors are incredibly talented and all establish their own individual characters so that the viewer truly empathizes with them.

I would consider "Our Mother's House" to be a drama with sprinkles of thrills and chills here and there. The scenes of the oldest daughter (Pamela Franklin) trying to contact their dead mother via a sort of séance add a little supernatural flavor to the movie as well. They never really tell you whether she's actually talking to the deceased or faking it to make the children listen to her. Franklin was perfect for the role and continued to freak people out as a clairvoyant in "The Legend of Hell House" a few years later.

Although it's unrated, "Our Mother's House" would garner a PG at the least by today standards. It's a pretty intense film that deals with death and the effects it has on children. The movie contains light profanity, brief adult situations, alcohol and smoking, and some frightening and intense sequences. The part where the mother is lying lifeless in bed with the children surrounding her is one of the most shocking and realistic depictions of death I've ever seen on screen.

"Our Mother's House" is another fine example of a classic film somehow being overlooked by cinema enthusiasts. It's a brilliant family drama blended with just the right amount of effective creepiness to keep you in suspense. The child actors never failed to impress me as they moved from emotion to emotion.
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The Babadook (2014)
9/10
Truly an exercise in psychological horror that must be seen
8 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"The Babadook" is an effective thriller which climbs inside your head and drags all your worst fears and insecurities to the surface. It will haunt not only your nightmares as some of the disturbing events take place in the "safety" of the day.

In "The Babadook," a troubled widow (Essie Davis) discovers that her son (Noah Wiseman) is telling the truth. He is seeing a monster that entered their home through the pages of a children's book. Together, they must fight to remove the sinister creature from their lives while they spiral more and more into insanity.

Although I've heard complaints from some that they never really show the monster, I find that to be a part of the mystery surrounding "The Babadook." You only get fleeting glimpses of what the creature truly is. I see it as a combination of Dr. Caligari and a Spanish horror icon known as Coffin Joe. That's all I'll give away about its appearance.

"The Babadook" is unrated but could hold an R. A sexually explicit scene with no nudity is found. It also includes violence involving a child. Many times the child is dishing out the violence. Frightening and intense sequences of the monster are guaranteed to frighten viewers. There's also profanity and the child is given a sedative to help him sleep.

"The Babadook" truly is an exercise in psychological horror that must be seen. It takes your worst fears and darkest thoughts and parades them on screen in front of you to deal with and work out. You could even call it a sort of extreme grief and parental therapy if you truly dig into the meanings behind the movie.
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8/10
Takes an interesting and dark turn in its third act
3 April 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Walt Disney takes us on a dark and dazzling journey "Into the Woods" with this mashup of the many fairy tales they've so colorfully brought to the screen in animation form before. If you can imagine "Once Upon a Time" loaded with never-ending musical numbers you have a good idea what to expect from this impressive film. Besides a few spots where you know you're on a movie set, audiences will no doubt get lost in the land of make-believe Director Rob Marshall transports you to.

In "Into the Woods," a baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) are childless as the result of the curse of a once-beautiful witch (Meryl Streep). Three days before the rise of a blue moon, they venture into the forest to find the ingredients that will reverse the spell and restore the witch's beauty: a milk-white cow, hair as yellow as corn, a blood-red cape, and a slipper of gold. During their journey, they meet Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford), Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy) and Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), each one on a quest to fulfill a wish.

The movie is rated PG for thematic elements, fantasy action and peril, and some suggestive material. There are some surprisingly adult-type situations towards the end of the movie when the mood of the film switches gears. The nods to the original Grimm's fairy tales might be a bit too disturbing for younger viewers as well.

"Into the Woods" will be a big hit with audiences into the theater and musicals. It takes an interesting turn in its third act which, if you've never seen the production before, will come as a shock to those who want to live happily ever after. I do have to say some of the sets look and feel stagey, which took me out of the viewing experience at times. The singing and performances by the entire cast were spot-on. Unfortunately, I really don't enjoy this sort of thing and can't imagine I'll ever revisit the Woods.
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It Follows (2014)
6/10
Left wanting more in the horror department
31 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
"It Follows" has become the most talked about horror film of the season thanks to rave reviews and a ridiculous amount of press from not only genre outlets but mainstream ones as well. With so much hype surrounding it, I deemed it necessary to drop everything and see it as soon as possible. As I left the theater, I couldn't shake the feeling that while what I saw was both engaging and thought- provoking it still somehow missed the mark of true terror.

In "It Follows," a teenager (Maika Monroe) has disturbing visions following a strange sexual encounter. She has the inescapable feeling that someone -- or something -- is after her.

I couldn't help but be intrigued with the premise of what has now become a juggernaut of a horror film. As a Christian who promotes sexual abstinence before marriage, the concept of "It Follows" caught my attention right away. It's like taking one of the most important "rules" of slasher films and really pounding it home.

"If you have sex, you're going to die!"

Several viewers will take "It Follows" as a metaphor for the endless spreading of the AIDS virus through unprotected sex. Others might look at it as a warning that premarital sex never ends well. There's always emotional baggage we're left with after the experience. Either way, there's a lesson to be learned whether it was intentional or not.

Is "It Follows" actually THAT scary like everyone else says it is? Not really. Is there an ever-present sense of dread and gloom? I would say so. The main problem with the film is that you're expecting some over-the-top controversial ending thanks to all the hype the media is throwing at us. Sadly, I think most people will find the conclusion unsatisfying.

Another issue I had with "It Follows" is the way the horror is taken out of the lead character's head. At first, only she can see the evil coming for her and that provides a certain personal or first- person psychological appeal to the film. Once the "entity" manifests itself to the others like a poltergeist, you start to feel as if you're just watching another typical supernatural thriller. The novelty of the whole concept just wears off during those segments.

The movie is rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language. There was definitely way more nudity than there needed to be in order to get the point across. It's not sensual nudity, either. There's nothing attractive or stimulating at the flesh we see flash across the screen. The violence is gory and includes a few head shots and blood splatters.

"It Follows" succeeds in its suspenseful set-up and establishment of an atmosphere of dread and panic. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver any real closure at its conclusion. Some will find this fitting, where others will leave the theater unfulfilled. I was caught somewhere in the middle of dissatisfaction and contentment. Although I enjoyed the basic premise and the unique blend of 1970s and 1980s nostalgia with present day technology, I was left wanting more in the horror department.
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7/10
One or two good twists and a big lie by omission fuel this suspense thriller
30 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Arc Entertainment serves up another slice of thrills and chills with the suspense thriller "Something Wicked." Touted as Brittany Murphy's last performance, it delivers through deliberate psychological missteps and a lingering dark sense of dread that leaves the viewer wondering if all is what it seems. Although it's not quite up to par with most theatrical releases, it deserves a status a few notches above the Lifetime and TV-movies category it will no doubt be lumped into.

In "Something Wicked," a young couple makes their wedding plans shortly after the death of the bride's parents in a tragic car collision with a train. As they settle into married life, gruesome secrets from their past collide with the present.

"Something Wicked" achieves what all movies should aim for. It gives audiences a distraction from real life for over ninety minutes through a series of ups and downs and loops and sharp turns that any fan of suspense thrillers will enjoy. I had my suspicions of what might happen in the end, but it didn't affect the level of entertainment I experienced along the journey.

"Something Wicked" is rated R for violence, sexuality, and language. Although there are a few sensual moments that get a little steamier than what we see in made-for-TV movies, that's really the only thing that would push this into R-rated territory. Things never go overboard in the areas of violence and gore.

Brittany Murphy shows great emotional depth as the tortured sister- in-law of the lead character. She switches from grounded psychologist to a helpless, crazed, and empathetic shell with the sense of professionalism you would only hope for in a much more seasoned actor. I don't know whether it was for the role or not, but her greasy slick-backed hair and pale features matched her character's agonized and mentally drained personality.

"Something Wicked" is the equivalent of a Lifetime movie if production and the budget were taken one step further. One or two good twists and a big lie by omission fuel this suspense thriller. A cast who are invested in their characters lends a level of quality to a film that successfully rises above what could have been just another direct-to-DVD casualty. It acts as an acceptable tribute to the late Brittany Murphy, who turns out a fine performance in her last role.
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4/10
A soulless and humanistic attempt at rehashing "The Ten Commandments"
20 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not entirely sure if Ridley Scott even read the story of Moses and the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt found in the Holy Bible before agreeing to climb behind the camera and direct "Exodus: Gods and Kings." Here we have an extremely fallible attempt at re- visiting what Cecil B. DeMille already perfected twice in two different decades with "The Ten Commandments." While those movies still took artistic freedoms, they were one hundred times more close to the source material than what we see here.

In "Exodus: Gods and Kings," Egyptian Princes Moses (Christian Bale) and Ramses (Joel Edgerton) are raised together as brothers. When Ramses becomes pharaoh, Moses is his most-trusted adviser. However Moses soon discovers his Hebrew parentage, and Ramses banishes him to the desert -- often a death sentence. But God has a mission for Moses: Free the Israelites from slavery. Moses returns from exile and demands that Ramses let his people go, but the arrogant ruler is unmoved, leading to a battle of divine wills.

I can't believe it took four writers to completely desecrate and butcher what many would consider one of the most vital stories found in the Bible. Even if you consider the Holy Bible just to be another great piece of literature, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is a terrible adaptation for the big-screen of what many believe is a cornerstone of their faith and some respect as great fantasy. If Ridley Scott were Chris Columbus, this is his "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" versus "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" as far as imprecise and exact book adaptations go, respectively.

The acting in "Exodus: Gods and Kings" is all over the place in regards to performances. Christian Bale is completely wasted as Moses. He walks and stands around most of the film acting like a helpless bystander. Every once in a while he'll lead a revolt against the Egyptians, but for the most part he just observes God's spiteful punishment from afar.

John Turturro plays the King of Egypt and does his very best in the dramatic role. However, the entire time I watched him on screen I kept waiting for him to exclaim, "I'm very sneaky" in a weird accent. Joel Edgerton's performance as the Pharaoh Ramses II shows he has the acting chops to take on better big-budget productions than this tripe. Sigourney Weaver floats through her fleeting appearances in the movie as if she's doing Ridley Scott a favor portraying the Queen of Egypt.

I won't deny it was cool seeing the plagues come to life through the use of modern CGI. The alligators ravenously devouring the fisherman and turning the Nile red with their blood is a fun scene to watch. It was also an impressive sight to see all the frogs and locusts invading Egypt and wreaking havoc. The parting of the Red Sea was a bit of a visual disappointment, however. The primitive visual effects from 1956's "The Ten Commandments" were more stunning than what we got in "Exodus: Gods and Kings."

"Exodus: Gods and Kings" is rated PG-13 for violence including battle sequences and intense images. There are some gory scenes of Egyptians being eaten by alligators and animals throwing up blood. We also see the lifeless bodies of Egyptian children as their parents cry in agony over their deaths, which will be disturbing to some.

"Exodus: Gods and Kings" completely belittles its reluctant hero and makes him nothing more than a raving mad bystander instead of the obedient instrument of God's just rule. On top of that, the once powerful God is whittled down to a spoiled child who is arrogant and prone to venomous temper tantrums. The supernatural plagues found in the scriptures are reduced to natural disasters for the most part, easily explained away by convenient scientific theory. When it's all said and done, the entire production is nothing more than a soulless and humanistic attempt at rehashing Cecil B. DeMille's original masterpiece "The Ten Commandments."
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5/10
An admirable attempt at capturing the glory days of the Universal and Hammer monster movies
16 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I love the classic Universal and Hammer horror and monster films. The Universal pictures of the 1930s and 1940s capture my fancy because of their black-and-white shadowing, atmosphere, and theatrical acting. The Hammer movies feed my appetite for Technicolor gore, Gothic settings, and even more dramatic turns from two of my favorite genre actors – Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Writer / Director Damien Leone's "Frankenstein vs. The Mummy" puts a modern spin on and combines both the tales of Mary Shelley and the story for Boris Karloff's 1932 original conceived by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Richard Schayer.

In "Frankenstein vs. The Mummy," Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Max Rhyser) and Egyptologist Naihla Khalil (Ashton Leigh) are both professors at a leading medical university. Victor's latest grisly "experiment" is the re-animated corpse (Constantin Tripes) of a sadistic madman and Naihla's most recent find is the cursed mummy (Brandon deSpain) of an evil pharaoh. When the two monsters face-off in an epic showdown, no one is safe from the slaughter. Can the murderous rampage be stopped and the carnage contained before it's too late?

Writer / Director Damien Leone does his best at paying tribute to the classic monster mashups of Universal's heydays of horror. We got to see Frankenstein's monster go up against the Wolf-Man and team up with Dracula on a few occasions. For anyone who grew up watching these movies, it only makes sense that you'd want to see "Frankenstein vs. The Mummy." Who in their right mind wouldn't? Unfortunately, Leone's ingenious way of marrying the two tales together ends up leading to a rather lackluster battle between the two iconic creatures that will leave audiences feeling unfulfilled.

"Frankenstein vs. The Mummy" is not rated, but if it were would probably be a hard R or NC-17 because of the amount of graphic gore. It also includes adult situations and sensuality, violence, profanity, smoking, and frightening and intense scenes. The sensuality and adult situations revolve around an unnecessary sex scene that adds nothing to the story and a couple of attempted rape scenes with the monster assaulting Naihlia.

"Frankenstein vs. The Mummy" is an admirable attempt at capturing the glory days of the Universal and Hammer monster movies. Weak acting and lulls in action work against the film as a whole. I do have to give credit to Writer / Director Damien Leone for trying to build up the story and character motivations, but here it only serves to slow down and put off what everyone watches the movie for in the first place. We want to see the big showdown between Frankenstein's Monster and the Mummy, which is way too short when it finally arrives. In the movie's defense, there are some great gory practical effects and a few bloodcurdling scenes that made me cringe.
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