Category Archives: Reviews

Film Reviews

DVD Review: Blood Creek

Blood Creek is the kind of smart independent film that suffers at the hands of Lion’s Gate for the simple crime of its genre roots.  That it is directed by Joel Schumacher and has crept onto DVD with almost no fanfare says more about the filmmaker’s downward trajectory in Hollywood and the distributor’s handling than the film’s quality.  Despite an elegant and dread-filled opening sequence (filmed in a gorgeous, muted black and white) and being marketed as a horror film, Blood Creek is a well-paced thriller, trafficking in suspense more than scares or gore (though it is not without the latter).

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DVD Review: Smokin’ Aces 2: Assassins’ Ball

Joe Carnahan’s Smokin’ Aces remains an under-appreciated piece of action-puzzle genre filmmaking elevated by poignant characterizations and surprisingly deft dramatic work from a wide-net cast.  To wit: Ryan Reynolds and Jeremy Piven naysayers have to admit, the original Aces gives both actors the chance to exercise dramatic muscle their average roles never allow.

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360 Review: Trucker

Trucker starts off with a clever reversal of a familiar scene: two lovers in a roadside motel part ways after rigorous, anonymous sex, one asking when they can see each other again, the other brusquely walking away.  The twist: Diane Ford (Michelle Monaghan) is the one leaving a poor love-struck local man behind.  Diane’s not cold, she just knows How Things Work: she has a date, time and destination where she needs to be to get paid, and that’s all she knows.  Diane is an independent truck driver who’s just recently paid off her rig, and when she’s not making multiple runs across country, she’s taking comfort in the awkward friendship she maintains with Runner (Nathan Fillion), who doesn’t let his marriage get in the way of Seventies Dance Night at the VFW.

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360 Review: Big Fan

Robert Siegel’s Big Fan has only one thing going for it: a brave performance by comedian Patton Oswalt.  But because Oswalt plays such an unflinchingly sociopathic loser, the film becomes hard to care about.

Paul Aufiero (Oswalt) is little more than a man-child with a pathological interest in the New York Giants’ performance.   He and his friend Sal (the terrific and underused Kevin Corrigan) go to every Giants game, but sit in the parking lot and watch on television.  They eat and drink junk food like children (“Anything in a green bottle is gonna kill you.”), and when Paul isn’t watching the game, he’s working as a parking lot attendant, crafting carefully-worded diatribes he can spout off during a local sports radio show.   Paul lives with his mother, and his room looks like a child’s, capped off by a poster of his quarterback hero above his bed.

But when Paul and Sal see the player at a local gas station, they decide to follow him into town to a strip club where Paul misspeaks, causing the QB to pound him into a coma.  Once awake, Paul’s mania becomes clearer: less interested in the doctor’s report than Sal’s game updates, Paul fakes amnesia to prevent a local cop (Matt Servitto) from getting an incriminating statement that will keep the QB off the field, and the Giants out of the win column.

Paul’s relatives seem to accept his life, making the same protestations about his nowhere existence at family gatherings but never pressing him to change.  Once injured, his lawyer brother Jeff (Gino Cafarelli) pushes him to sue, but Paul won’t hear of it.  Fixated on making sure the Giants win their crucial few remaining games, he shuts down any sensible input.  And with an arch-enemy like “Philadelphia Phil” taunting him nightly on the radio, Paul ends up acting out in a drastic and foolish way.

Siegel does a nice job as a first-time director, though the story is so scant that we’re treated to multiple montages and drawn-out scenes that seem to pad the film’s run time.  And Oswalt makes such a compelling schlub, you hate that the character is ultimately so unlikable.  When Paul sees an article about the outcome of his choices, there is a misguided pride that creeps across his face; he knows what he’s done and yet he cannot tell anyone for fear of being known as The Guy Whose Hero Pummeled Him.

With its focus on a truly unpleasant character (no matter how well-played) and a leftover sense of wanting, Big Fan is ultimately lacking.  To quote Sal: “You don’t go for 2 when you could have gone for 4.”  

(Big Fan is currently available on DVD and Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” service, which can be viewed via an XBOX 360.)

DVD Review: The Cove

Louie Psihoyos’ guerilla documentary The Cove focuses on a team of activists setting out to obtain evidence of Taiji, Japan fishermen employing horrific methods when catching dolphins.  The film swings sharply between gorgeous shots of natural settings and underwater activity, interviews with activists, health professionals and International Whaling Commission members, and the stunning footage of what really happens in a Taiji cove where dolphins are systematically slaughtered for their meat.

Ric O’Barry, a former dolphin trainer who worked on the television show Flipper, has spent the last 35 years speaking out against captive cetaceans and has undertaken a number of rescues.  Frequently placing himself in harm’s way, O’Barry has repeatedly aggravated local fishermen and authorities as well as incurred the wrath of political and corporate entities that benefit from dolphin sales.

While the documentary’s main message is the cruelty toward and slaughter of the dolphins, there is also considerable evidence that once killed, the dolphin meat has a level of Mercury toxicity 10,000 times greater than “allowable” levels, thus making it a potential danger if used in, for example, a nation-wide school lunch program.

The Cove is striking in many ways, and deserving of greater attention than lip-service placement on a number of Best Of 2009 lists.  Considering the impacts alleged in sister films Food, Inc. and Collapse, the season of documentary condemnation rolls on. 

(If you want to help, or just want to calculate your mercury intake, go to .  The Cove is currently available on DVD.)