A Brief Word on Recent/ Upcoming Releases: “Boss Baby”, “Camera Obscura”, “Camino Island”, “Charlotte”, “The Darkest Hour”, “The Dinosaur Four”, “The Drama Club”, “Flower Boy”, “4:44”, “Ghost in the Shell”, “It Stains the Sands Red”, “Killing Ground”, “Miss Sloane”, “Night of Something Strange”, “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter”, “Trespassing Bergman” and “Watch the Sunset”

By Andrew Buckner

 

BOSS BABY

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

Even though the premise of director Tom McGrath’s Boss Baby grows tiresome near the finale, it is surprisingly clever. This unique tale, based on Marla Frazee’s 2010 book of the same name, concerns a suit-clad baby (perfectly voiced by Alec Baldwin), who teams up with his older brother to unfurl the wicked schemes of the CEO of Puppy Co. The ninety-seven-minute project incorporates terrific animation. Additionally, there are a fair share of laughs. There is also just the right amount of heart. For a family film, you can certainly do worse.

(PG).

Now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and streaming platforms.

 

CAMERA OBSCURA

Rating: * out of *****.

As an exercise in coherent storytelling and crafting a unique horror opus from an inventive idea, Camera Obscura (2017), which concerns a man with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who sees upcoming deaths in the pictures he takes, is wholly out of focus.

(Unrated).

95 minutes.

Released: 6/9/17.

Available to rent or buy at Amazon.

 

CAMINO ISLAND

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

Camino Island (2017) is among John Grisham’s greatest novels; brilliantly penned, characterized and plotted. Fellow authors will especially enjoy its insights, atmosphere and engaging central caper (which involves the theft of a handwritten J.D. Salinger manuscript). Published through Doubleday, the volume opens exhilaratingly. It closes just as successfully.

294 pages.

Released: 6/6/17 in eBook and physical copy format.

 

CHARLOTTE

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

Killer doll centered anthology Charlotte (2017) hits more often than it misses. Many of the plots and ideas found within its brisk 83-minute runtime are routine. Still, there is an undeniable charm found in the effects, execution, writing, direction and performances that certainly make up for such criticisms. Best of all, the project begins cleverly. It also ends just as well. This is with the most memorable and inventive tale in the entire production. The result is an enjoyable, if minor, descent into fear.

(Unrated).

Available now at Amazon Prime.

 

THE DARKEST HOUR

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

Madchild’s fourth solo album, The Darkest Hour (2017), is a 14 track knockout. Terrific imagery, wordplay and rhyme schemes; mesmerizing production.

Available now in CD and streaming format.

 

THE DINOSAUR FOUR

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

Equal parts Stephen King, Michael Chrichton and Jules Verne, The Dinosaur Four (2014) by Geoff Jones is a creative, fast-paced and thrilling debut novel. The plot, which focuses on a group of individuals at The Daily Edition Café suddenly being transported back into prehistoric times, is unique. Additionally, the central figures are lively and wide-ranging in personality. There is also an abundance of differing title creatures found throughout the project. Simultaneously, Jones’ writing is terrific. His in-depth knowledge of the extinct beasts at the center of his tale only makes the fiction even more credible and compelling. The result is an absolute bulls-eye.

290 pages.

First released: 3/25/14.

Available now in eBook and physical copy.

 

THE DRAMA CLUB

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

Writer-director Joe McLean’s The Drama Club (2017) is conventional in plot and characterization. The narrative follows the ex-members of the title high school organization as they reconvene after a twenty-year absence. Their past decisions, along with the not always wise choices they make during their reemergence, continuously challenges this group throughout the brisk eighty-seven-minute runtime. McLean’s independent feature has its share of joyous and sorrowful moments. Still, it holds too rigorously to its obvious cinematic inspirations, such as co-writer-director Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill (1983), to be anything truly groundbreaking. This is despite strong portrayals all-around. The heavy-hitting issues McLean threads into the endeavor are also admirable.

(Unrated).

Now on Video on Demand.

 

FLOWER BOY

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

Tyler, the Creator’s fourth solo album, Flower Boy (2017), is inventive, beautifully produced and eclectic; another gem in the California born rapper’s discography.

(Parental advisory). Explicit lyrics.

14 tracks; 46 minutes.

Released on CD and digital streaming form on 7/21/17.

 

4:44

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

Jay-z’s 13th studio album, 4:44 (2017), is among his most thoughtful, concise and introspective efforts to date; remarkable production and mature flows.

(Parental advisory). Explicit lyrics.

10 tracks; 36 minutes.

Released on CD and digital streaming form on 6/30/17.

 

GHOST IN THE SHELL

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

Visually spectacular, but at its heart routine and a narrative mess, the live-action Ghost in the Shell (2017) has no real soul. It’s enactments and finale are similarly muddled.

(PG-13).

106 minutes.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray on 7/25/17. It is also available to buy or rent on digital platforms.

 

IT STAINS THE SANDS RED

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

Beautifully shot and refreshingly offbeat, Colin Minihan’s It Stains the Sands Red (2017) is one of the best zombie films of the year. The piece is centered by an excellent lead performance from Brittany Allen. There is also a great balance between dark humor and effective horror present throughout the exercise. The phenomenal make-up, character focus and genuinely tense finale only strengthen this 92-minute masterpiece. Such results in a truly original, surprisingly introspective take on a well-worn sub-genre. This is a bulls-eye.

(Unrated). Contains violence and adult language.

Available now on digital platforms.

 

KILLING GROUND

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

Painfully routine, unimaginative, slow-moving and cruel, writer-director Damien Power’s Killing Ground (2016) is a gigantic misfire; another uninspired Deliverance (1972) imitation.

(Unrated).

88 minutes.

Available now in select theaters and on Video on Demand.

 

MISS SLOANE

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

Miss Sloane (2016) is one of 2016’s unsung political masterpieces; riveting in its timely subject matter and execution. The bold script (from first-timer John Madden), direction (by Jonathan Perera) and performances (especially Jessica Chastain as our flawed title lead) overcome the weak finale.

(R).

132 minutes.

Currently on Amazon Prime.

 

NIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE

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

With gore, humor and attitude in abundance, co-writer and director Jonathan Straiton’s Night of Something Strange (2016) is a wildly enthralling B-movie. It is one which is much in the vain of Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive (1992). The piece is graced with terrific effects, pacing and depictions. Likewise, Straiton’s ability to craft one intriguing, heavily tongue-in-cheek sequence after another gives this zombie outbreak film perpetual life.

(Unrated).

97 minutes.

Now available on DVD/ Blu-ray and Video on Demand.

 

ROGUE WARRIOR: ROBOT FIGHTER

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

Writer-director Neil Johnson’s Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter (2017) is terrific science-fiction. It is ambitious, exhilarating, idea-driven entertainment. The effects, writing, direction and representarions are all charming. Heavily comparable to the Star Wars films (1977-), a sense of old-fashioned fun hangs over the proceedings.

(Unrated).

101 minutes.

Currently on Blu-ray at Walmart. It will be available on DVD everywhere 8/15/17.

 

TRESPASSING BERGMAN

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

Trespassing Bergman (2013), from directors Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas, is ever-illuminating and endlessly fascinating; a true cinephiles’ delight. The 107-minute documentary is a collection of ruminations from a variety of high-pedigree filmmakers. They are seen discussing at length the influence they derived from of the all-time cinematic greats, Ingmar Bergman. This is as many of them gather to wander around Bergman’s secluded home on the Baltic Sea island of Faro. Magnusson and Pallas’ opus utilizes these intimate discourses powerfully; to a paint a thorough portrait of the Swedish maestro. This is while providing a private and movie-by-movie retrospective into Bergman’s many masterpieces. The result is an effortlessly engaging, invigorating and essential tour de force.; a must for anyone with even a passing interest in both the history and future of motion pictures.

(Unrated).

Now available at Amazon Prime.

 

WATCH THE SUNSET

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

The single take set-up legendary director Alfred Hitchcock utilized in Rope (1948) works well in Watch the Sunset (2017): a lean, effective, if familiar and routinely characterized, crime saga.

(Unrated).

79 minutes.

Premiered at the Revelation Perth International Film festival in July. No DVD/Blu-ray or Video on Demand information yet announced.

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