JANUARY 14TH, 2014

YOU’RE NEXT // A perfect blending of horror and comedy, “You’re Next” is a prime example of the Adam Wingard we have come to know and love through his shorts in “V/H/S/2” and “The ABCs of Death”. Producing a natural dark comedy out of the home invasion sub-genre of horror, the film is one-half throwback to classic horror specifications, one-half present day gore-fest complete with throat slashing and blender lobotomies. Setting this film apart are the natural family roles that are divvied when the slashing begins along with one of the strongest female survivor performances ever witnessed in a horror film. Sharni Vinson plays the female survivor, Erin, whose headstrong nature and determination keep her the driving force of the film, all the while, her beauty never falters. Reminiscent of “The Strangers”, with the animal-masked assailants, instead of coming off as a direct copy, “You’re Next” becomes more of a companion piece, highlighting the same overall arcs while remaining distinct in its own right. Although the twists are somewhat contrived and the gore leans slightly heavy-handed, an appreciate for the man that is Adam Wingard cannot be denied. With a cameo from fellow horror director Ti West, I am reminded of the strong collective that has built between these film-makers, and only good can come from healthy collaboration. Standing beside his first major feature release, after being dusted off a shelf at Lionsgate, what Wingard does next could define his future and, in the horror genre, there’s little that I anticipate more than to see his future endeavors.


CARRIE // Kimberly Peirce’s “Carrie” is self-indulgent from the moment that you step in, playing to an audience that has already experienced the Stephen King novel and knows the ins-and-outs. Even the trailer suggests this, giving away the ending in a matter of two and a half minutes. As Carrie White (Chloe Moretz) discovers her telekinetic along with hitting puberty, Peirce’s version takes a much more modern approach, trading nudity and torment for simple public ridicule and bullying. The problem with most of these performances, is that they all feel in on the joke. They know they’re apart of a remake, not breathing new life but playing the parts already set in from of them. That is, except for Chloe Moretz’s performance as Carrie. Chloe’s performance starts off very stiff and becomes calculated and a perfect example of the woman this bright young actress has become, displaying a beauty and talent not yet reached in any of her roles previous to this. Yes, she’s covered in blood in a prom dress and, yes, this comes off as more of a graphic novel depiction rather than a heightened horror film for the season, but “Carrie” meets the average standards for fare like this and with Julianna Moore delivering a sub-par performance and the mean girls, played by Gabriella Wilde and Portia Doubleday, who are a sight for sore eyes, the film stands on its own, feeling unneeded but at least well produced.


FRUITVALE STATION // Bringing me to tears by the end, “Fruitvale Station” achieves exactly what director Ryan Coogler sets out to do, bringing this high profile incident to the public in an entertaining and cinematic fashion, delivering a strong performance from Michael B. Jordan and causing some ripples in the Oscar pool. Opening on the actual footage captured from the incident, along with any news headlines you may have caught on this recent outrage, the audience is given the ending and then sent on a slow moving spiral through Oscar Grant’s (Michael B. Jordan) last day, as we learn about his past, see him interact with his girlfriend, mother, and daughter, all while trying to get his life in order. In terms of a “based on a true story” retelling, I stop to question the believability that this convicted felon was a saint on his last day. I can believe portions but the glamorization of this man’s life on his final day does nothing in the sense to cause an outrage that extends beyond the movie theater seating. Yes, this entire debacle was an injustice and the overzealous nature of police officers towards minorities is sometimes appalling and these points are made clear, but “Fruitvale Station” stays entertaining on the most cinematic of levels rather than hitting home as an honest-to-God true story, Were this film able to hold on, Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan could see themselves with an Oscar nomination, presenting much the same feel I got from “Beasts of the Southern Wild” last year.


RIDDICK // Returning to most of its former glory, “Riddick” is a decent science fiction action film with a spirited showing from lead Vin Diesel. Following a similar plot to “Pitch Black” and completely abandoning the shlock that was “The Chronicles of Riddick”, this third installment brings back the survivalist element as Riddick (Diesel) attempts to adapt to an abandoned planet that was said to be Furya, his home (which it is not). Befriending a baby hyena-dog and preparing to fight the dangerous scorpion-fish creatures that block him from escaping, Riddick shows his strength as well as his vulnerability as he deals with the elements. Although the CGI landscape looks quite two-dimensional and the pet dog creature is rather un-rendered, the creatures and the violence breath real and are some of the most entertaining portions of the film. Paper thin, macho action film dialogue aside, the screenplay from director David Twohy, is appreciatively basic, providing a ticking clock, with the approaching storm, and enough characters to carry one’s attention. Set up a lot like “Pitch Black”, two groups of Mercs arrive on the planet when Riddick sends out a beacon. One by one, Riddick picks off these men in attempt to get one of the ships to take off planet before the scorpion-fish creatures arrive under the passing rain clouds. Chalk full of lewd violence and blatant nudity, “Riddick” is all action film, through and through, providing laughs and intensity that only action films can provide. There’s no re-inventing the wheel here, and rightfully so, as Twohy takes a healthy step back into the world that made this franchise a cult hit with the first film out of the gate. Relying heavily on the charisma of Vin Diesel, “Riddick” won’t break any records or even reach cult status, but it does show that directors and producers learn from their mistakes and can successfully shift a failing concept back on track.


SHORT TERM 12 // “Short Term 12” is a mass of emotions, brought to life by a superior eye for film-making and some subtle yet high caliber performances from everyone involved. The film follows Grace (Brie Larson) as she supervises a home for at-risk teens. With each interaction, at work and at home, a new set of issues is at hand, progressing naturally and hauntingly to the breaking point for our leading actress. Directors don’t just stumble upon strong emotions like these; they are masterfully honed and developed by a keen touch and existing emotions ready to evoke. Brie Larson does an expert job of portraying these emotions, thoughtfully, absorbing the content and expressing it with a believability that keeps the film on course and never over the top. The supporting roles create a strong emotional foundation for the film as well, with excellent showings from the at-risk teens in Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, Alex Calloway, and Kevin Hernandez all of whom take their somewhat small roles and carry them to the next level, with understated emotional responses to their surroundings. John Gallagher Jr. balances out Larson’s performance with some much needed comic relief. Independent films can be a mixed bag, relying heavily on the competence of the director and the resonance of their voice alongside the cast and how versatile and emphatic they are in their performance. “Short Term 12” is easily one of the strongest independent films of the year and spells a long successful career ahead for both Brie Larson and director Destin Cretton.


THE SPECTACULAR NOW // In one of the most subtle and engaging coming of age films this year, “The Spectacular Now” not only captures the essence of being a senior in high school, it portrays an adolescent relationship in a realistic and unique way. Unlike most dramas of this nature, there’s no jealous or cheating, no lies and melodrama, these characters come off as real human beings, especially Miles Teller’s Sutter Keely, whose unabashed frankness brings a memorable dynamic to his character. Shailene Woodley has absolute control over her performance, providing an innocence that breathes so real, it’s hard not to take her as authentic. Even Brie Larson delivers a knock-out performance, reflecting the intangible desire with undeniable brilliance, one of her best showings to date. However, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Jennifer Jason Leigh are both stiff in their roles, perhaps in order to reflect Sutter’s straight-faced home life, but to no favors to themselves, they read false. Along those lines, the film follows a high school senior and his descent into alcoholism and the uncertainty that the future holds. These are all relatable topics, but the characters fail to realize these shortcomings and are never allowed to become fully realized. Instead, he get Sutter, who is always drinking, Cassidy (Brie Larson), who is constantly leading Sutter on, and Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who descends with Sutter, her first ever boyfriend, never asking him to change and following along with his somewhat self-destructive behavior. By the end of the film, we’re not sure anyone actually learned anything and being a huge fan of open endings, I still feel there needed to be more elaboration. With several breakout performances and a sincere, original story, “The Spectacular Now” is a very strong Independent film, but unfortunately will not rank as one of the best of the year.

New Releases
20 Feet from Stardom 2-denied2
Big Sur
Blue Caprice
Carrie (2013)
Enough Said
Fruitvale Station
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Paradise: Hope 2-denied2
Short Term 12
A Single Shot
The Spectacular Now
You’re Next

TV Box Set

  • The Americans: Season One   
  • Blood Relatives: Season One
  • The Dain Curse: The Mini-Series
  • Kavanagh Q.C. Complete Collector’s Edition
  • Last of the Summer Wine: Vintage 2001
  • Line of Duty: Season One
  • The Many Loves Of Dobie Gillis: Season Two
  • One Piece: Season Five Voyage Five
  • SpongeBob & Friends: Patrick SquarePants
  • Top Gear 20

Special Editions/Other Releases

  • Against the Grain
  • An Evening With Ed Wood Jr.
  • Be My Valentine
  • Blind Date (1987)
  • Bounty (2014)
  • Cafe de Flore
  • Chances Are: 25th Anniversary
  • Code Red (2014)
  • The Comeback (1978)
  • Contradictions of Fair Hope
  • Diary of a Cheating Woman 2
  • Die Screaming Marianne
  • Fenced Off
  • Four (2012)   
  • Frankenstein: The Real Story
  • Fresh Meat (2012)
  • Gasland Part II
  • Getting That Girl
  • Greedy Lying Bastards   
  • Gunfight at Yuma
  • Heretic (2014)
  • The Hospital
  • House of Whipcord
  • How to Make Money Selling Drugs   2-denied2
  • I’m In Love With A Church Girl   2-denied2
  • Icannibali
  • Marvel Knights: Wolverine Vs. Sabretooth
  • More To Love
  • The Next Dance
  • No Night Is Too Long
  • No Weapon Shall Prosper
  • The Old Dark House Mystery Collection
  • Our Nixon   
  • Out Loud
  • Plus One   
  • Rewind This!
  • Riddick: The Complete Collection
  • Run (2014)
  • Separate But Equal
  • Silence (2012)
  • Tad: The Lost Explorer
  • Terraferma
  • Underdogs
  • Vampire Riderz
  • Voodoo Possession
  • Where I Am
  • You, Me & Them

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