A Brief Word On New/ Upcoming Releases: “Alien Convergence”, “Death Pool”, “Dragon Teeth”, “Full Wolf Moon”, “Gremlin”,”Gwendy’s Button Box”, “Karate Kill”, “Leftovers”

By Andrew Buckner

Alien Convergence

Rating: *** out of *****.

Alien Convergence (2017), from director Rob Pallatina, is a fun, if familiar, creature feature. The light echoes of the Godzilla films only help matters. Nonetheless, the chronicle itself, which revolves around a crew of jet fighter pilots banding together to fight a reptilian monster which is terrorizing the surrounding area, is thin. Continually, the special effects leave much to be desired. Moreover, the leads and their relationships aren’t developed in any new way. Yet, the project has an antiquated sensibility towards entertainment. Such a quality is sure to prove endearing for those of us who grew up on similar cinematic experiences. This factor, combined with its quick pace and efficient eighty-seven-minute length, is more than strong enough for us to forget its shortcomings. Now available on Video on Demand from The Asylum.

(Unrated). Contains violence.

Death Pool

Rating: **** out of *****.

Death Pool (2016) is another knockout thriller from writer-director Jared Cohn; tense, tough, well-made and endlessly entertaining. Randy Wayne is terrific as Johnny Taylor: a young man who evolves into a serial killer, and later a pop-culture icon in Los Angeles, after drowning his babysitter as a child. Cohn keeps the suspense hard-boiled and the stride pitch-perfect. The dialogue is also crisp and believable. He also keeps the eighty-nine-minute affair from becoming repetitive. This is by finding new ways to utilize Taylor’s obsession with murder via water. This is while avoiding many of the clichés common in related slasher fare. The result is consistently seductive and intriguing throughout the entirety. Furthermore, Josh Maas’ cinematography is gorgeous. Chase Kuker’s music punctuates the piece powerfully. Reportedly based on a true event. Releases on Video on Demand and DVD on June 20th from MTI Home Video.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence, nudity and sexuality.

 

Dragon Teeth

By Michael Chrichton

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Dragon Teeth (2017) is Michael Chrichton in top form; an irresistibly entertaining, perfectly paced and vividly written mixture of Paleontology and the Old West. It is also every bit as inventive and intellectually stimulating as you would expect from a work by Chrichton. This twist and adventure filled wonder, which concerns a thousand-dollar bet turning into a test of how far one young man will go to save a batch of recently uncovered dinosaur fossils, is an ingenious showcase for Chrichton’s cerebral and compulsively enthralling writing. This instant classic is undoubtedly one of the year’s best novels!

Length: 295 pages.

The volume was published by Harper Collins on May 23, 2017.

 

Full Wolf Moon

By Lee Child

Rating: **** out of *****.

Lee Child’s fifth Jeremy Logan novel, Full Wolf Moon (2017), adds nothing new to the supernatural murder mystery sub-genre. Still, it is a briskly paced, entertaining and well-written horror tale. Additionally, Logan is as likable and engaging as ever. The plot, which concerns Logan going to a wooded retreat to finish a paper and becoming entangled in a potentially werewolf related series of killings, becomes tedious in the mid-section. Regardless, there is an old-fashioned sensibility pulsating beneath the surface, common with tales from Child, that makes it easy to overlook these flaws. Such makes this detailed and character-oriented work altogether charming. Fans of Child’s prior works should certainly be satisfied.

Length: 258 pages.

The volume was published May 16th, 2017 via Doubleday Books.

Gremlin

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Boosted by an interesting concept and some sly nods to a similarly titled Joe Dante venture from 1984, director and co-scripter Ryan Bellgardt’s Gremlin (2017) is a thoroughly engaging mini-monster movie. The moral dilemma brought forth by those who are in possession of the title creature-in-a-box, who terrorizes one family until it is passed off onto someone said kin admires in a ceaseless cycle, is especially interesting. Still, the protagonist-oriented, eighty-eight-minute photoplay is held back by less than stellar effects. It also suffers from a talkative second act and an all-too-abrupt finale. Releases July 11th, 2017 on Video on Demand.

(Unrated). Contains violence.

 

Gwendy’s Button Box

Rating: ****1/2 out of *****.

Gwendy’s Button Box (2017), a novella from Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, is brilliantly told. It is an engaging, inventive concept that is rich in moral message and power struggle symbolism. King and Chizmar chronicle our title heroine becoming in power of an odd contraption that is gifted to her by an unusual gentleman at an early age. At first, it seems to help her get her life on track. This is through its production of an unusually savory chocolate. This helps her diet and gain the popularity she desires. The item also disperses coins which will assist her financially as time passes. Yet, the switches, which are representative of different counties, give the object a shadowy persona. It is a means of responsibility that Gwendy only comprehends the significance of as she gets older.

Such begins a genuinely gripping narrative. It is one that is told in an unmistakably masterful manner. This is as only King and Chizmar could weave. As can also be ascertained from these two authors’ prior literary contributions, the personas found within the fiction are credible. Likewise, they are likably fashioned. The outcome is thoughtful and haunting; a must-read!

Released via Cemetery Dance Publications on May 16th, 2017.
Length: 180 pages.

Karate Kill

Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.

Writer-director Kurando Mitsutake’s Karate Kill (2016), which will be released in the United States on July 18th via Video on Demand and DVD/Blu-ray, isn’t quite as outrageous as its intriguing cover art and obvious grindhouse roots may suggest. Furthermore, its endless barrage of fist-flying action scenes, though accomplished, are never as jaw-dropping as one might expect. Additionally, the villains are one-dimensional archetypes. They are also underwhelming and not entirely memorable. Not to mention, the story arc and exposition are all delivered in an all-too-familiar manner. The plot is also not entirely novel. It involves our ruggedly charismatic and engaging hero, Kenji (Hayate), trying to save his kidnapped sister, Mayumi (Mana Sakura), from a cult of snuff filmmakers in Los Angeles. Still, the flick delivers just what fans of B-movie martial arts pictures demand in spades: bloody, brutal, fast-paced and occasionally hilarious fun. All of this is incorporated in a relatively brief, eighty-nine-minute runtime. Such is more than enough to make up for its former addressed shortcomings. The result is a genre entry that will assuredly please fans of similar works.

(Unrated). Contains graphic violence and nudity.

Leftovers

Rating: ***** out of *****.

Writer-director Seth Hancock’s Leftovers (2017) is an undeniably powerful, ever-fascinating and insightful eighty-minute documentary. It boldly addresses a potent and timely subject: hunger and food insecurity among senior citizens. The movie is just as much about the necessity of the Meals on Wheels program. What assists matters is that Hancock’s style and voice-over is appropriately straight-forward. As this is incorporated with a series of poignant interviews and reinstated with effective information to back up its thesis statement, the sheer impact of this unforgettable endeavor is undeniable. The result is tightly paced and endlessly moving; one of the best accounts of its type I have witnessed all year! Do yourself a favor and seek this one out! Hancock’s picture releases on Video on Demand on July 11th. It will be available on DVD on August 29th.

(Unrated). Appropriate (and recommended) for family viewing.

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