Head (1968)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

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Written by: Bob Rafelson and Jack Nicholson

Directed by: Bob Rafelson

Starring: The Monkees (Peter Tork, Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith), Victor Mature, Teri Garr, Carol Doda, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Timothy Carey, and Ray Nitschke

How to describe the 1968 BBS film, Head, accurately? A psychedelic concert film starring The Monkees that’s also an anti-war mish mash of satirical comedy. That would be a great representation of what this 85 minute film entails. Although, it’s still such a hard film to really nail down because of wild and rampant it is. The one thing I can guarantee to anybody wishing to view this film is that you will have an absolute blast even with the lack of a real narrative.

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Head is a mix mash of different stories and musical performances that goes hand in hand with the popular counterculture of the 1960’s. The Monkees get into many difficult situations which each reflect the United States negatively. These situations take on such topics as Hollywood, Vietnam, Imperialism, and Consumerism as well as many others. An insane trip down the rabbit hole that begins and ends with a giant plunge.

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It’s really hard to review this film for the fact that it’s very self explanatory and there’s really nothing bad you can distinguish. But, it’s so out there that distinguishing all the good is just as difficult. I personally enjoyed this film immensely and think that it exemplifies everything about the 60’s perfectly. If you want to see a feature length experimental acid trip that tackles some really deep topics than this film is perfect for you. But, if you’re looking for a traditional story with serious substance, then this film will do nothing for you.

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The soundtrack of this film is one of the greatest things about the film. Prior to viewing this film, I had only heard of the Monkees and had not heard any of their material. This film showed me how original and enjoyable their music really is with some songs I found to be very reminiscent of the sound that had later been used in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Also, the film was written by a young Jack Nicholson who had just incorporated himself with the BBS production company and would later bring us highly acclaimed films such as Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces (which I will get into later in the coming months). Nicholson also makes a blink and you’ll miss it cameo in this film when it breaks the fourth wall on the studio set.

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In conclusion, Head is a strong film with an amazing sense of energy and political commentary. It’s an incredibly fun film and probably would be an amazing discovery to any stoner looking to trip out over something other than Cheech and Chong or Dazed and Confused or the average Seth Rogan flick. If that doesn’t tell you enough about the audience intended for this film.

Grade: B+

 

 

 

Eighth Grade (2018)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 34 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual material

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Written by: Bo Burnham

Directed by: Bo Burnham

Starring: Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton, Emily Robinson, Jake Ryan, and Fred Hechinger

Eighth grade is two words that strikes the largest sense of dread throughout my entire body and soul. Eighth grade was easily one of the worst years of my life and was also one of my largest changes. As a bearer of modern memories of extreme social media use and loss of physical interaction, this film is meant to relate to people like me. But, the question is, does Bo Burnham, considering this film being his directorial debut, use the right elements to actually craft a legitimately awkward film? The answer is an absolute definitive YES.

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The extremely introverted Kayla is in her last week of middle school. Struggling with many usual early teenage problems, Kayla is desperately trying to find her place in the world. Through a series of YouTube videos, Kayla documents her feelings towards very tough concepts to grasp at times such as confidence and being yourself. She also has problems handling her dad and goes through sexual revelations as boys around her make (sometimes) disturbing advances.

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Bo Burnham did the absolute smartest thing while casting, and casted a bunch of general nobody’s seem to be plucked from any town in the United States. The most surprising part about this is the acting is exceptionally amazing. The lead actress and her fictional father’s chemistry runs so deep, and in a scene lit only by a fire, you find yourself nearing tears at the beauty behind these two actors. Burnham lets his scenes play out for as long as he needs them to, which really builds these characters into lovable people that you root for.

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The music and it’s use in the film creates really intense sequences that really captures each moment in a way that you feel everything directly through the screen. Eventually, this film really seems more like a memory than a story. It feels so uncanny that it is a fictional story due to the realism and the use of present day technology to create an interesting and visceral experience. There’s many scenes that I could watch and instantly felt due to experiences that I’ve previously had in middle school, even though this is in the perspective of a female.

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There’s a sequence in this film that takes place in a car that feels like it goes on forever due to the intense feeling of uncomfortableness that emanates from it. I know I’ve mentioned the wonderful characters before but I have to mention more because of how wonderfully developed each person is. There is a kid that is only seen twice in the whole film who had me grin from ear to ear the entire time he was on screen. He is probably one of the most lovable characters I’ve seen in a film all year. My only complaint about this whole film is that I wish I had seen more of this kid. Also, the father in this film does an amazing job at being a fun loving dad that doesn’t know his limits.

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Bo Burnham, known most notably for his stand up comedy specials, does an amazing first effort in the director’s chair and created one of my favorite movies of 2018, thus far. If Burnham continues directing future projects, I will definitely keep an eye out for their release. Once this film is released on home video (unless you can make a screening in the next day), definitely pick it up and support this brilliant piece of modern cinema.

Grade: A

Traffic (2000)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 2 hours 27 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive drug content, strong language, violence and some sexuality.

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(based on the 1989 British television serial, Traffik)

Written by: Stephen Gaghan

Directed by: Steven Soderbourgh

Starring: Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quad, and Catherine Zeta-Jones

Drug trafficking and the U.S.’s determination to destroy it is one of the largest political debates there is. In 2000, Steven Soderbourgh directed a film that set out to tackle every aspect of this very obvious problem. In 5 different stories, Soderbourgh finds a way to design a truly beautiful and personal look at the impact drugs have in our communities and in our governments. This political piece takes a middle ground in political opinions and will surge you full of plenty of different emotions to keep you interested from title screen to credits.

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This film follows five connected stories on either side of the Mexican border near San Diego. A newly appointed drug czar (Michael Douglas) is trying to find his footing in a world he has no experiences with. A selfless Mexican cop (Benicio del Toro) who is just trying to look out for his best friend. A couple of detectives (Don Cheadle and Luis Guzman) who are trying to crack down on one of the largest drug trafficking organizations. A wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who’s husband has been hauled off to prison after being busted for leading a drug trafficking organization. Finally, the drug czar’s daughter (Erika Christenson) is having her own battles with drug abuse after being introduced by her boyfriend.

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The first thing that I must praise this film for is it’s ability to feel truly realistic and create five immensely entertaining and impactful stories. The different locations are differentiated through different filters and saturations that create an interesting visual look and makes for an easily understandable change in story. The use of real government facilities and the appearances of many real life senators and governors make the film feel much more like a documentary than a fictional film.

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Benicio del Toro won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars the year this film came out. For good reason too, Benicio steals the show with his undeniable presence he brings the second he walks on screen. The emotional performance he gives is nothing short of extraordinary. In one of his last scenes, he makes a deal with someone and says that all he wants is lights for the baseball field in his home town so the boys could play safely at night.

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Probably the weakest story in the film is the one following Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character. It starts off very strong but everything likeable about the characters in this situation disappears in the last half of the story. Also, i feel like the film could have ended each story with a more satisfying conclusion. Even though the film runs for almost 2 and a half hours, I think it could’ve held up even better with an extra hour added on. The film just did not feel long enough for me.

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“If there is a war on drugs, then many of our family members are the enemy. And I don’t know how you wage war on your own family.” Michael Douglas and his fictional daughter played by Erika Christensen are both one of the greatest things about this film. They both bring in an amazing performance with very realistic chemistry that makes for some very intense and heartbreaking scenes. It’s very relateable on both ends and makes you really feel for both of these characters to a deep level.

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Traffic is paced at a breakneck speed and goes by quicker than one might expect. A near perfect film that makes me very interested in what else the highly acclaimed Steven Soderbourgh has to offer. I definitely recommend this film to anybody who wants to have an enjoyable and emotional time. A warning to people sensitive to drug use because there are some very graphic scenes of drug use.

Grade: A

Blue Sextet (1969)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

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Written by: David E. Durston

Directed by: David E. Durston

Starring: John Damon, Peter Clune, and Coco Sumaki

Blue Sextet is a very obscure sexploitation film directed by David E. Durston (I Drink Your Blood) that turns out to be more of an artsploitation gem that got lost over the years. One may not expect from the title or nature of the film/director, that this is a film that is actually an interesting piece of cinema. The edgy tone of the film pushes the limits and the wonderful storytelling and use of flashbacks give this film a need to be rediscovered by film lovers alike.

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The beloved Jeff Ambler (John Damon) has committed suicide. A group of his friends gather together to get to the bottom of what truly happened. Each friend knows a little more about the man than the other. As the truth is uncovered we realize that Jeff Ambler was an awful, egotistical monster who would do anything to get what he wants. Then, when more is revealed, you begin to wonder who the real monster is.

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There are some very touchy subjects used in this film in a way to show how manipulative this man was. Such as Jeff setting up his cheating friend with a transvestite, just so that Jeff can have sex with his girlfriend, and his endless stack of homemade porn of various women he drugged and used for his fantasies. The film has some odd sequences that may take the viewer out of the experience but I found these sequences to be super entertaining.

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There is a scene in this film that is very similar to a scene in Friday The 13th Part 4 (created 20 years later) where one of the characters watches the weirdest softcore porn and giggles throughout while the other characters are noticeably upset. The ending to the film was somewhat of a shocker for me and I liked the original idea of having multiple endings to show two different outcomes.

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Blue Sextet needs to be given a chance with the right mind set, this is not an all out sex ridden borderline porno. It is however, an enjoyable and semi-complex arch that I found to be highly enjoyable. I personally prefer this film way over the film that I had ultimately expected it to be and was pretty close to just skipping this film altogether. But trust me, this film NEEDS to be rediscovered. If you would like to view this film, the only official release is as a bonus co-feature to I Drink Your Blood in Grindhouse Releasing’s blu ray edition.

Grade: B+

NO TRAILER CAN BE FOUND FOR BLUE SEXTET

The Graduate (1967)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 46 minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

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(based on The Graduate by Charles Webb)

Written by: Calder Willingham and Buck Henry

Directed by: Mike Nichols

Starring: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, and Katharine Ross

The Graduate, the sophomore effort of Mike Nichols following the Oscar winning Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?, is one of the greatest American films in history. The Graduate had an unforgettable cultural impact that influences young filmmakers to this day (including myself). This film is easily the most relateable and entertaining film that I’ve ever seen, and still remains my all time favorite film. Mike Nichols won his first (and only) Oscar for Best Director due to his brilliant attention to detail in this comedic masterpiece.

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Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) is a little worried about his future. After coming home from graduating college, his parents bring all their friends over and throw huge parties to celebrate “him” and he begins to feel lost in his own shoes. Until he begins to have an affair with a friend of the family, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). Then, he begins to realize that he is falling in love with her daughter (Katharine Ross) who has no clue about the fling that ensued.

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The brilliant cinematography that was mostly fueled through Mike Nichols vision, makes the film so visually interesting. The soundtrack completely made up of songs by Simon and Garfunkel creates an appropriate melancholic atmosphere. The performance given by Dustin Hoffman is so honest and he fits his role perfectly. The on screen chemistry between Hoffman and his lovers feels so awkwardly realistic. Especially a scene where Hoffman grabs Bancroft’s boob and then repeatedly bangs his head on the wall (which in the moment was Hoffman trying his best not to laugh).

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The character growth is a great aspect of this film as well. The final shot is one of the most memorable final shots in cinema history, leaving you with the same uncertain feelings you’re sure that they feel. The opening shot as he gets off his airplane and stands on the moving walkway puts you in just the right mood as The Sound of Silence plays and mixes with Hoffman’s blank stare.

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The Graduate is an unbelievable film that I would recommend to anyone who hasn’t given it a chance yet. Every time I think about certain parts of this film, it just makes me want to pull it back out and view it again. Also, the Criterion release is a great copy of the film with new interviews, one of which is the widow of the cinematographer. Now, that’s enough from me about this film, go watch it… like, as soon as you can.

Grade: A+

The Last Unicorn (1982)

Review by Carson Hearne

Running Time: 1 hour 33 minutes

MPAA Rating: G

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(based on The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle)

Written by: Peter S. Beagle

Directed by: Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass

Starring: Alan Arkin, Mia Farrow, Jeff Bridges, Tammy Grimes, Robert Klein, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, Keenan Wynn, Paul Frees, and Rene Auberjonois

Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass are mostly known for their christmas specials (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, etc.) and their animated Tolkien adaptions. Another animated adaption that they took part in was this little “girl” animated gem, The Last Unicorn. One wouldn’t expect a film like this to be a beautiful piece of animation with an honest and mesmerizing story with enjoyable characters.

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A young unicorn (Mia Farrow) overhears that she could possibly be the last of her species. After hearing, she travels out of her realm to find out the truth behind these assumptions. Along the way she befriends a magician named Schmedrick (Alan Arkin) and Molly Grue (Tammy Grimes). She finds out on her journey that she must go to the castle of King Haggard (Christopher Lee) and confront him in his genocide of the unicorns. Upon reaching, she has been mistakenly turned into a human and falls in the with the son of King Haggard, Price Lir (Jeff Bridges).

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I was honestly very surprised at the talent behind this film. The acting and direction, as well as the beautifully executed animation. This film is a great mix of drama and comedy as well as withstanding a sense of reality. The Last Unicorn really takes on some tough topics, even if it wasn’t a kid’s movie. It’s bold and honest and the characters make the whole story and idea work. The music isn’t awful either, but eventually it just begins to feel like the same old stuff and really doesn’t add anything great to the film.

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“But what if it isn’t a happy ending?” asks one character to another in the toughest part of the story, the other character replies “there’s never happy endings, because nothing ends.” I feel these quotes are great capsules of what makes The Last Unicorn a great animation film, it is brutally honest even in the darkest of times. But, not even five minutes before this quote is said, is some of the greatest comic relief I’ve ever seen. A character named simply as The Skull, played by Rene Auberjonois, is greeting all of our protagonists as they are trying to race against the clock (quite literally). The moment makes for some great laughs and charm.

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The climax of the film is immensely satisfying and ends with a great message of everything won’t turn out exactly the way you want it to, but that’s okay. If you’re biased about watching this film (I certainly was, my girlfriend forced me to watch it) due to the thought of it being a girly little kid’s movie, put your thoughts aside and just sit down and enjoy yourself. I feel any fan of fantasy film or Jim Henson-esque films would love this. I must say that it definitely beats The Dark Crystal any day of the week.

Grade: B+

AFTER MIDNIGHT (1989)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Directed by: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat

Written by: Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat

Starring: Ramy Zada, Jillian McWhirter, Pamela Segall, Marg Helgenberger, Marc McClure, Tracy Wells, Judie Aronson, Ed Monaghan & Alan Rosenberg

I’m a sucker for horror anthologies. This subgenre comes with the benefit of knowing that if one story sucks, there will be a new (hopefully better) one arriving in 15 minutes. I discovered 1989’s AFTER MIDNIGHT from a Scream Factory press release. This company has been known for re-releasing awesome obscure horror, along with a few not-so-good titles (why the hell did they even bother with CARRIE 2: THE RAGE and DISTURBING BEHAVIOR?). I also came across some praise for AFTER MIDNIGHT on a few other websites, so I decided to give this obscure little 80s anthology a shot…and am now regretting it. The best story in this anthology is okay, while the rest of the material ranges from mediocre to just plain bad. Like my other anthology reviews, I’ll give my thoughts on each story before grading the film as a whole.

Wraparound: The film’s wraparound follows the students of a unique college course “The Psychology of Fear.” After their creepy new professor (Ramy Zada) is reprimanded for an extreme classroom prank, he decides to offer an extracurricular session at his home. As the students and professor swap scary stories, strange things appear to be afoot. This wraparound kicks off decently enough as Zada’s kooky professor is fun to watch, while there are neat little clues as to what’s actually going on. Unfortunately, things meander after the first story and the final 10 minutes devolve into an incomprehensible mess. The conclusion is an eye-rolling cop-out that might tempt viewers to throw something at their TV screen. This wraparound provides a weak excuse for weak stories in a weak anthology. D+

THE OLD DARK HOUSE: Heading home after a romantic date, a couple (Marc McClure and Nadine Van der Velde) find themselves stranded on the side of a deserted road. With a storm fast approaching, the two take shelter in a creepy old house that has a murderous past. As you might expect, things go bump in the night and the couple begin freaking out. This story’s premise is familiar and clichéd. For the most part, things play out in a simple, stupid way…until a clever twist rears its head. The twist arrives a bit too late in the proceedings and the story ends right after it, but it saves this tale from being flat-out bad. C

A NIGHT ON THE TOWN: AFTER MIDNIGHT’s middle story is easily its lowest point. This tale follows four teenage girls (Judie Aronson, Monique Salcido, Penelope Sudrow, and Tracy Wells) as they attempt to con their way into a night club. After they get lost in a scummy warehouse district, the gal pals find themselves beset by a crazy hobo and his pack of killer dogs. This segment’s only positive quality is its warehouse district setting, which looks convincing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the filmmakers shot this in an actual warehouse district. Other than that, the characters are stupid, the pacing is dull, and the story is downright forgettable (and borderline exploitative as the threat of rape lingers over one long sequence). Other than the setting, I cannot say a single nice thing about this segment. D-

ALL NIGHT MESSENGER: Luckily, not all of AFTER MIDNIGHT is bad because this nifty little story comes along and serves as the only redeemable tale of the bunch. A night shift telephone operator (Marg Helgenberger) receives a series of eerie calls from a psycho (Alan Rosenberg). As the calls become more menacing, the operator begins to fear for her life. This segment gets cheesy at points, but good acting (a rarity in this film) and bits of suspense elevate the clichéd material. I particularly enjoyed the final shot that leaves things on an ambiguously creepy note. This last story isn’t great, but it’s decent…and decent feels like great when compared to the rest of AFTER MIDNIGHT’s lame offerings. B-

Lots of horror anthologies were released during the 1980s. Some of these films are remembered fondly (CREEPSHOW being a perfect example) and others have been forgotten to the sands of time. AFTER MIDNIGHT falls into the latter category and deserves to languish away there. There’s one decent story of the three (four, if you count the flimsy wraparound), but the rest of the tales range from tedious to terrible. I don’t recommend checking out AFTER MIDNIGHT. This film isn’t a complete failure, but you can certainly find plenty of horror anthologies that are miles better and scarier than this.

Grade: C-

DEAD CALM (1989)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 36 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Directed by: Phillip Noyce

Written by: Terry Hayes

(based on the novel DEAD CALM by Charles Williams)

Starring: Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman & Billy Zane

DEAD CALM is a thriller that left more of an impact in cinema history than you might believe. Charles Williams’s novel of the same name was partially adapted into film form by Orson Welles, but the troubled production (and an actor’s death) halted the movie before filming was completed. This 1989 adaptation received some acclaim from critics and made enough of an impression to be adapted by THE SIMPSONS in one of their final good TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episodes. However, taken purely on its own merits as a film, DEAD CALM is a mixed bag of Hitchcockian suspense, clichés, and stupid decisions.

After the tragic loss of their son, John Ingram (Sam Neill) and his deeply depressed wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) take their yacht to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to recover. Rae’s fragile mental state seems to be slowly healing with the calm environment. The couple’s vacation takes a turn when they happen upon a sinking boat and meet sole survivor Hughie Warriner (Billy Zane). Hughie claims that his fellow crew members succumbed to deadly food poisoning. Curious about inconsistencies in Hughie’s story, John boards the sinking boat…only to discover a gruesome crime scene. Meanwhile, psycho Hughie wakes up and takes the John’s boat…with an unconscious Rae still onboard. Now, Rae must contend with a murderous psychopath to stay alive and John desperately tries to salvage the sinking death-trap of a boat.

DEAD CALM has a simple premise and three characters. Unfortunately, for this plot to kick off, otherwise rational human begins make irrationally dumb decisions in order to keep the story moving forward. Obviously, this happens in the unconvincing move that John would paddle out to a sinking boat and leave his mentally unstable wife with a creepy stranger who he already believes is lying. A few stupid decisions are made later in the film too, though luckily for the viewer (and the film’s characters), John and Rae seem to regain most of their brain functions and common sense after their first disastrous incident.

As John and Rae, Sam Neill and Nicole Kidman have convincing chemistry. You can feel a connection between their characters early on and will likely find yourself rooting for them to reunite. Sam Neill spends a majority of the running time alone…trying to save himself and rescue his wife. The film milks tension out of little things that frequently bite this character in the ass. These problems mainly involve ocean water seeping into the boat and pieces of the boat falling apart. There was originally going to be a scene in which Neill’s John gets harassed by a shark, but this was removed from the final cut. Strangely enough, I was expecting a shark to pop up because there are shots of blood in the water that could attract a hungry finned menace and the film could have benefited from that extra threat.

In an overly familiar and clichéd plotline, Nicole Kidman maintains a charade of civility to keep Billy Zane’s psychopath at bay. Kidman’s Rae has a few smart moments that will likely have the viewer cheering, but she also makes simple mistakes (missing prime opportunities to kill the killer). The worst performance of the film easily belongs to Billy Zane as would-be sympathetic psychopath Hughie. He’s unbelievably over-the-top in his manic mood swings and murderous tendencies. The film attempts to make him more human, but this character falls apart simply due to Zane’s inability to convincingly emote.

Besides suffering from stupid character decisions and a very corny performance from Billy Zane, DEAD CALM tries to substitute shocks for suspense in spots. There are numerous sequences of escalating tension and the story’s high stakes are sure to keep the viewer curious about how the couple will possibly escape this mess, but this movie isn’t above showcasing a graphically murdered dog and a baby flying out of a window. The score seems to be composed of heavy breathing and gasps, which becomes distractingly annoying at points. The ending also feels wildly out of place as test audiences were unsatisfied with the original conclusion, so the studio threw in an unconvincing stinger that had me to rolling my eyes and laughing at its sheer silliness.

DEAD CALM contains enough suspense and cheap thrills to be an okay-at-best time killer. Unfortunately, the film’s good qualities are frequently overshadowed by dumb decisions that seem included to further the plot along and Billy Zane’s hammy bad guy. The final scene is beyond laughable in its ineptness and serves as a prime example of how cinematic decisions made by audience screenings (instead of filmmakers) can really leave a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. To be fair though, Orson Welles’s planned version doesn’t sound like it would be too much better than this mixed bag thriller.

Grade: C+

FIST FIGHT (2017)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 1 hour 31 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout, Sexual Content/Nudity and Drug Material

Directed by: Richie Keen

Written by: Van Robichaux & Evan Susser

Starring: Charlie Day, Ice Cube, Tracy Morgan, Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Dean Norris, Kumail Nanjiani, Dennis Haysbert & JoAnna Garcia

I may be a tad biased towards FIST FIGHT, because my day job involves education. However, I will attempt to review this film in the fairest way possible. FIST FIGHT has solid laughs, good acting, and packs in surprisingly relevant social commentary. However, this film suffers from a handful of jokes that fail to land and storytelling that’s about as predictable as overused formulas can be. This is a simple little comedy that has more positives than negatives, but only amounts to being decently entertaining.

On the last day of school at Roosevelt High, students are dishing out relentless (downright dangerous) pranks and teachers are counting the hours until they receive their well-earned vacation away from the teenage hellions. When English teacher Andy Campbell (Charlie Day) attempts to help hot-headed History teacher Ron Strickland (Ice Cube), it results in Strickland furiously destroying a desk with a fire axe. Wishing to keep his job, Andy narks on Strickland and is challenged to an afterschool fist fight by the now-jobless Strickland. Not wishing to get his ass kicked, Andy tries to find a way to thwart the confrontation…all while the social media spreads the news of the #TeacherFight and the clock ticks down to the inevitable.

Props to FIST FIGHT for being a hard R-rated comedy. This is filled with crude, explicit and very funny jokes. If you don’t like this kind of humor, you probably won’t like FIST FIGHT. If you find yourself giggling at horribly inappropriate situations and sex jokes, you’re likely to get enjoyment out of this film. Not every joke works, but many of them result in well-earned laughs. The humor mainly comes from a colorful batch of characters working at the school and increasingly desperate lengths that Andy goes to in order to divert the inevitable teacher fight.

Though certain characters are one-dimensional, the dysfunctional faculty is brought to life by capable performers. As timid teacher Andy, Charlie Day is basically playing the high-pitched, hyperactive character that he plays in every film…but this time he has trouble standing up to people. I bet you can’t possibly guess where his story arc will end up. Ice Cube plays his usual tough guy persona as the stressed-out antagonist, though there’s a slightly deeper level to his character that left me pleasantly surprised. To be fair, Ice Cube and Charlie Day aren’t bad in their roles, but they are pretty much playing their usual typecast characters.

On the supporting side of things, Dean Norris earns a huge amount of laughs as the intimidating principal. Jillian Bell is hilarious as the worst school counselor ever, who openly admits to buying home-cooked meth from students and fantasizes about being with legal-aged seniors. Kumail Nanjiani also receives a few good moments as the school’s security guard, who pretty much hates everyone around him. The only performers who fall flat are Tracy Morgan as the loser gym coach (he didn’t elicit a single laugh from me) and Christina Hendricks as a borderline psychopathic Drama teacher (her story arc was underused).

As another highlight, FIST FIGHT surprisingly delivers hilariously accurate social commentary about the everyday stresses that teachers have to endure and how the education system has its problems. This mainly comes in one great moment that hits right before the inevitable teacher fight. I’m sure that loads of educators will adore this specific scene, because it’s oddly therapeutic to watch. As for the titular fight sequence, it’s well executed with over-the-top violence and plenty of laughs. Also, this film realistically portrays how social media can blow up an otherwise small event. We’ve seen plenty of crazy school stories in the news and FIST FIGHT certainly nails how technology can potentially make an already problematic situation even worse.

FIST FIGHT is a decently entertaining comedy. A few of the characters are one-note, some the jokes simply don’t land, and the storytelling is formulaic (to say the least), but the film’s positives far outweigh its problems. Again, I’m slightly biased towards this comedy, because I have an attachment to the material it’s lampooning. As a flawed R-rated comedy that supplies big laughs and a decent amount of charm, I give FIST FIGHT a tepid recommendation.

Grade: B-

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