THE CANNIBAL CLUB (2018)

Written & Directed By: Guto Parente

Cinematography: Lucas Barbi

Editor: Ricardo Pretti & Luiz Pretti 

Cast: Tavinho Teixeira, Ana Luisa Rios, Pedro Domingues, Jose Maria Alves, Wallen Abreu 

Otavio and Gilda are a very wealthy couple of the Brazilian elite who have the habit of eating their employees. Otavio owns a private security company and is a notable member of The Cannibal Club. When Gilda accidentally discovers a secret from Borges, a powerful congressman and the Club’s leader, her and her husband’s lives are in danger.


This film is a contained, nasty darkly comedic thriller. That comes across more as a class struggle movie. Rather than an out and out horror.

As the cannibals in the movie are the rock and successful who feast on their fellow man for pleasure and after they fulfill the riches needs. That to certain respect leave the poor coming across fetishized as pieces of meat to be abused yet that they are always hungry for.

Wish the film was a bit bigger In Scope as it already feels like a conspiracy satire on the rich. As they feed off of the poor literally. 

Though that is a theme That stays in the background of a more singular problem in the movie for the main characters. As they soon find themselves on the outs of their group and are wondering what to do to survive. 

This is introduced after we see the way they live their lives and basically the husband is a cuckold who gets off on watching other men pleasure his wife and then at the last minute justifying his killing as revenge. As he and his wife ritually then chop up and devour their prey.

The film starts off and plays rather provocatively and try to raise the stakes little by little, never quite coming alive and never matches its own outspokenness from the opening scenes.

One wishes it could Have gone a lot further with its Premise through works great get it chooses to stay simple and introduces aspects that never quite are answered or addressed. Kind of like the first HOSTEL movie then the sequel that kind of explained the business operation. 

Ana Luiza Rios plays the wife and throughout she has many faces to showcase and play. So that she truly comes across as a true femme fatale.

The film contains more spec scenes than expected as of course it would be used to seduce their victims and leave them open to being overpowered and vulnerable.

The film does get graphic. Though it is a bit refreshing in a modern thriller to see sex and nudity that almost feels like the moral lesson of the FRIDAY THE 13TH movies. So that there is as much sex and nudity as gore. Well really still a bit more violence.

It might be wrong to call the film fun but it seems to take a certain joy and excitement in exploring others misfortunes

In the end, the film feels like a dark realistic fairy tale with no supernatural elements. Though it does feel like an extended TALES FROM THE CRYPT episode. 

GRADE: B

WHY DON’T YOU JUST DIE! (2018)

Written, Directed & Edited By: Kirill Sokolov
Cinematography: Dimitry Ulyikaev

Cast: Aleksandr Kiznetsov, Vitaliy Khaev, Evgenia Kregzhde, Milhail Gorevoy, Elena Scevchenko

Andrei, a detective and the world’s most horrible father, brings together a terrible group of people in his apartment: his resentful actress daughter, an angry thug, and a cheated cop. Each one of them has a reason to want revenge..


This is a twisted macabre funny grotesque crime comedy. That stays thoroughly inventive throughout.

The story grows as the film goes along as at first it just starts off with a grand scene where we don’t necessarily know the character’s motivation but as in each scene something new is revealed we flashback to find out how it was needed up there or why certain characters are introduced.

At a certain point motivations are predictable but that still doesn’t Take away any of the intrigue and fun.

Though not as good this film will remind audiences of EVIL DEAD 2 and to a degree SUPERMAN RETURNS for the amount of cruelty and abuse one of the characters throughout the film yet still Manages to survive and also the level of violence of the earlier mentioned film. You could also see this as a feature length version of one of the rooms from the anthology FOUR ROOMS. As it is goofy Strange, violent and funny. As well  as off kilter 

As there is tons of blood she’s throughout this film but though it is a dark comedy it always seems to keep an energetic spirit throughout. Where you actually start to care about the characters no matter how dastardly. 

As wild as this film is it plays almost like a love action cartoon. The filM feels like an early coen brothers comedy. Down More as a horror film And the writing not as sharp, but even more violent.

The film goes by quickly. Though it certainly isn’t forgettable. Even as most of the film takes place mostly inside of a spacious apartment. It only travels outside of it in flashbacks.

GRADE: B

THE DICTATOR (2012)

Directed by: Larry Charles
Written By: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer
Cinematography By: Lawrence Sher
Editor: Greg Hayden & Eric Kissack

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Bobby Lee, Aasif Mandavi, Jason Mantzoukas, Joey Slotnick, Kevin Corrigan, Chris Elliott, Kathryn Hahn, Megan Fox, Ian Roberts, Jon Glaser, Chris Parnell, Chris Gethard, Fred Armisen, J.B. Smoove 


The Republic of Wadiya is ruled by an eccentric and oppressive leader named Hafez Aladeen. Aladeen is summoned to New York to a UN assembly to address concerns about his country’s nuclear weapons program, but the trip goes awry. 


It seems most of the time the only real comedy in this film is more the shocking aspects of the material. As the regular, more comic nature gags seem like they go well on paper, but physically fall flat.

The film plays like a Saturday Night Live skit character who gets their own film But struggles to fill out the premise. So that the film feels like a collection of skits tied together with a rather thin plotline. Soon the envelope is pushed so far all the outlandish details become common. You start to wonder if anything will be considered sacred. 

Unfortunately when it comes to Sasha Baron Cohen who is a gifted comedic performer. His best ability that has so far been shown is his ability to stay in character while improvising around and off of real people not in on the joke, With hilarious awkward, and shocking moments. As others around him seem to drop their guard and open up themselves mostly to his questions and suggestions that have worked for him so far. While he has defined characters he also became more recognizable. So with small roles in other films the natural next plateau was to try to create feature films with characters though more scripted. Though try to feature the same type off the cuff comedy. With a certain looseness in the filmmaking leaving room for happy accidents. In this film he seems to be the only one allowed to do anything really funny, others try but are either cameos that go nowhere or just weak. So this film feels almost like a vanity project. 

He is funny and a good performer, but he is also better than this material. Which only seems to only be shocking to be shocking. No real reason it can’t be funny without going to such extremes. It’s like stand-up who’s act is full of offensive and shocking scenarios. Just no real jokes or sense of humor. Though everything said is supposed to be in some type of humor. Which is a shame especially when you have a cast that is full of funny actors. 

It feels like a mash-up of Different Charlie Chaplin scenarios and scenes from his films only updated badly. –It seems that Sasha Baron Cohen is the closest that we have to a modern Peter Sellers as he totally allows himself to truly be lost in character and there seems to not be any breaking and not know where one ends and where another begins. Also, his films tend to revolve not only around characters that he plays but almost exclusively around him and his character. There are other comedians and characters but most of the humor revolves around only his and others’ reactions to him. 

His previous films that play more off of hidden cameras and regular people reacting to his antics are a bit more powerful as they reflect more of a social satire with a reality. This film is more sketch than anything else scripted satire that is made to look off-kilter but is obviously more formulaic. It’s a shame as the film shows peaks of comedic brilliance and some interesting ideas that are quickly dropped for more traditional comedy in the form of just trying to make the jokes way too offensive and shock humor. 
Which seems to be on the rise in the form of comedy instead of humorous jokes and situations. Comedies seem to be more of a barometer of how much they can get away with that is off-color. There are of course exceptions, but Comedies seem to be going the way of horror with torture porn. The more shocking and graphic it seems the better. 

Like the film, it seems to be inspired by just a bit Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR it has a great speech at the end that tries to inform and send a message. It’s more didactic and not inspiring like its influence. 

The film has a love story that doesn’t work nor is it really needed, but since it seems that most films today have one whether they are needed are not have one involved in the film. Why not this one? 

Grade: D

EUROTRIP (2004)

Written & Directed By: Jeff Schaffer, Alec Berg & David Mandel
Cinematography By: David Eggby
Editor: Roger Bondelli

Cast: Scott Mechlowicz, Jacob Pitts, Michelle Trachtenberg, Travis Wester, Fred Armisen, Kristen Kruek, Lucy Lawless, Joanna Lumley, Vinnie Jones, Diedrich Bader, Matt Damon, Jessica Boehrs, Rade Serbedzija, Steve Hytner, Pat Kilbane, Jana Pallaske 

When Scotty’s German online pen pal suggests they meet, he initially freaks out. But then he discovers that she’s gorgeous, and heads out with three friends after graduation to meet her. As they travel across Europe, the four friends have comical misadventures.


This film seems to want to be a satire of the thought of traveling to Europe and the myths in American Teenagers’ minds about urban legends they have heard of the place. Not to mention adults, but here more inspired by the carnal and drugs. While also trying to be an AMERICAN PIE inspired 1980’s teen movie.

This is definitely a movie of its time as it seems kind of lost though wants to put a spin on that common theme of a trip to a foreign land before you buckle down for the future. A familiar coming of age cliche for movies and sometimes in life. This movie isn’t aimed to witness profound discoveries while expanding the character’s minds, but more in comedic stereotypes and culture-clash comedy.

Where half the time the film seems more aimed at sex and drug humor with not as much nudity as one would think but does have enough nudity as a requirement.

The film has inspired moments that seem to be episodic depending on the country or region they are Into and combined. With some guest starring recognizable actors.

One of whom Fred Armisen totally steals his scenes in an all too brief Role. That works best in the small dose offered.

It seeks to try and break or push taboos that sometimes work but also come off as trying to be too eager in their aim. The film isn’t sincere enough to feel original but ends up feeling like it achieves what it set out for. As it is a teen comedy that is more juvenile but gives enough to its audience to be satisfying.

In a way, the film feels like ideas that were for an AMERICAN PIE sequel if Jim had pursued the exchange student Nadia back to Russia and the hijinks that would have ensued only without the same characters.

The film has the 90’s and 2000 equivalent of a teen sex comedy where like sometimes in reality sex and nudity is talked about more than experienced or shown.

The film’s popularity is helped by the catchy tune and a kind of unofficial anthem SCOTTY DOESN’T KNOW. which plays a pivotal role early in the film and throughout.

While the teen cast is mixed In With the hijinks. The other characters the adult ones do most of the comedic heavy lifting. As the teen cast does get involved but they more react to the cause of any comedy. As naive Americans who are at times ugly Americans inadvertently.

Michelle Trachtenberg at the time is the only real recognizable member of the main ensemble cast. This seems to be a film or Role that was more designed to break her out more into sexy adult roles. As at times, she is meant to be funny and eye candy at the same time.

This is a film that didn’t make much of a mark when it came out but over the years has gained an audience of appreciation. Maybe because of it trying to be a riff of inspiration that wasn’t appreciated in its own time so the next generation raises it to a certain level and can take ownership of it. Especially when it has so many noteworthy actors who cameo out of nowhere and seem to be relieved to be given freedom and room To break out of their more Cooke cutter and wholesome roles they are used to playing on television and movie teen roles that were more on the PG-13 roles.

The film plays more episodic and reminds one of the film National Lampoon’s European Vacation with the wild vast comedic stereotypes the film plays into that could also help sell to foreign audiences showing they have a sense of humor about themselves. As the film is over the top and as the characters are so young they try not to be but end up becoming the ugly Americans. By the end, though the film seems to have sex on its mind more than anything else.

 Grade: C

SHITHOUSE (2020)

Written & Directed by: Cooper Riaff Cinematography: Rachel Klein

Editor: Autumn Dea & Cooper Raif

Cast: Cooper Riaff, Dylan Gelula, Amy Landecker, Logan Miller, Juan Wolf, Olivia Welch, Joy Sunday, Abby Quinn

Among thousands of kids trying their best to make college work, Alex feels alone and depressed. Home is 1500 miles away and he’s struggling to find a reason not to go back. Maggie, Alex’s sophomore RA, has been crushing college since day one. Today though, Maggie is dealt an unexpected loss. After a party at Shithouse, Maggie wants some company and finds it in Alex. Two young people raised in very different households, Alex and Maggie challenge each other and grow up together.


This film is Personal but feels universal definitely something those who have experienced going away to college can identify with and about being young and away from. Home and making. Your way in the world alone. I

As well as a film that offers a follow-up to movies where you spend a great night with a person and make a connection. You just can’t help but care about these characters. 

The film moves naturally. Where it deals with being new in a new place and situation trying to relate with strangers when you are naturally shy and introverted. Then once you do meet someone new and make a connection and hook up. The day after Or the aftermath of what happens when someone doesn’t feel the same way or avoids it all Together When you Might feel that it was more then it was to the other oerson

As at times you can be more open to strangers you just met and not have to worry about being judged as much Metaphorically when he decides to finally clean his room. He is cleaning up his life and his problems.

The film is awkward and sincere and speaks in the way only someone that age and still there and knows the territory can. It might be a singular piece of sorts though can definitely be identifiable for those who are lonely at any age only here through the filter of a young male alone at college. The film and the lead are not afraid to humiliate themselves for an honest emotional moment or reveal.

Though shows growth and not one-sided I was hoping maybe that we would see her side more like the first half of this tale the second half her’s. The film kept taking turns that were more unexpected 

I didn’t want to believe the hype when it came to this film but was totally charmed by this film as maybe I could relate at this age. The fantasy of this dream comes true. As it isn’t a hard-hitting drama but the type of story and characters that an audience can relate to in some kind of way. As either somewhat personal or know somebody like them. 

This reminds me of the indies from my youth (the 1990s) where you would hear the heavy buzz about a film and then go to the theater to see it and it feels more like a privilege to see more than anything. Like someone showing you something personal or sharing their journal or art 

It’s not the first time or the last we will see a movie like this. it feels all the more genuine done by not someone looking back in nostalgia at it but by a filmmaker who experienced it more recently and trying to tell the tale.

Even if many his age or film students are making films like this one feels the most sincere. Look forward to more films from writer/director/star Cooper Riaff

As it seems as he develops and gets more experiences. So will his films and body of work. 

Grade: A-

THE ARGUMENT (2020)

Directed by: Robert Schwartzman
Written By: Zac Stanford
Cinematography: Michael Rizzi
Editor: Max Goldblatt

Cast: Dan Folger, Emma Bell, Tyler James Williams, Maggie Q, Cleopatra Coleman, Danny Pudi, Karan Bear, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Mark Ryder, Marielle Scott, Charlotte McKinney 

A couple gets into an argument at their cocktail party that escalates until it brings an abrupt end to the festivities. They and their guests decide to re-create the entire night, again and again, to determine who was right.



This is a film that just keeps building as it goes along. The energy starts to lick up and so do the laughs. 

The film starts off funny then becomes a screwball comedic free for all by the end. As it continuously keeps raising the stakes. As the film stays unpredictable so It really comes up to speed in the second act. As the first is needed to set up the story and relationships.

As in each iteration, we get more information even though they are trying to recreate everything all over again there are different interpretations, inflections, and deliveries.

One can identify with overly examining events, words said, and themes. Pulling back another curtain offering another reveal which dissects the situation to offer more insight.

Though the cast is all great,  Actress Cleopatra Coleman is a comedic highlight throughout. As she goes from being sexy, funny, insecure, drunk, over the top, emotional 

The film is clearly an absurd farce at times that deals with egos and also examines the nature of memory relationships, body language, and things left unsaid. 

It turns a bit obscure and even making a play in itself. Allowing real participants to be able to examine themselves. Not to mention what others might think and drag even more people into it. This time actors who are so and that it becomes comedic in itself and even them picking up on some subtle relationships and offering theories themselves.

It is also a film that offers up a commentary on entitlement. As each of the characters tries to be humble and some think themselves lowly when actually they have plenty of what others would envy. Which really comes into play during the third act. 

Grade: B

BANANA SPLIT (2020)

Directed By: Benjamin Kasulke
Written By: Hannah Marks & Joey Power
Cinematography: Darin Moran
Editor: Brendan Walsh

Cast: Hannah Marks, Liana Liberato, Dylan Sprouse, Luke Spencer Roberts, Jessica Hecht, Jacob Batalon, Steve Little

Over the course of a summer, two teenage girls develop the perfect kindred spirit friendship, with one big problem: one of them is dating the other’s ex.


Though the film seems to start out as a romance. It quickly becomes a comedy that is more about the power and intimacy of friendships. How they have their own kind of romance about them.

The film seems like it is headed into a screwball comedy where the main character tries to get her ex-boyfriend back by befriending his new girlfriend or most be a film of unrequited love but it does turn into a romance that shows the growth of a friendship rather than some romantic triangle. 

One that grows from the bond of both loving the same guy and also just getting along and getting to know one another.

The inclusion of his best friend in this secret and giving him his own place in the story is welcoming. Instead of usually being the third wheel or a driving force at first and then an afterthought.

This is another movie like SLASH where actress Hannah marks stars and you can’t help but fall for her character. She’s funny, enchanting, self-deprecating, intelligent, and beautiful. It also helps that she is the co-writer of the film. 

Being that they are high school seniors or is understandable why they might not exactly be fully formed characters and the intensity the characters have over something. That feels a bit trivial. The film also adds the deadline of marks character leaving for college in the background gives the film a countdown timetable.

The film just has plenty of energy and charm. That leaves it relatable and doesn’t talk down to it’s the audience. It has the spirit of a true teen film dramatic yet usually funny.

The only parents or adults the film shows are mark’s Character’s family with whom she has a wisecracking rapport.

Sex isn’t necessarily treated as precious or fragile in this movie more matter of fact. Though not overabundant. 

The characters here freely make mistakes and are wrong at least half the time. So it’s refreshing to have characters not always doing the right thing or even wanting to. 

There is no real villain but also no clear hero. It’s more a slice of life. As it is subtle and doesn’t show off and has a lot of heart. Not to mention an emo/pop soundtrack that is sugary sweet yet emotional and quite catchy.

The film is open-ended enough for anything to happen to and for the characters. 

Grade: B

THE HOUSE (2017)

Directed By: Andrew Jay Cohen
Written By: Andrew Jay Cohen & Brendan O’Brien
Cinematography By: Jas Shelton
Editor: Evan Henke & Michael L. Sale

Cast: Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Jason Mantzounkas, Nick Kroll, Lennon Parham, Randall Park, Rob Huebel, Andrea Savage, Steve Zissis, Ryan Simpkins, Allison Tolman, Rory Scovel, Cedric Yarbrough, Kyle Kinane, Michela Watkins, Jeremy Renner, Sam Richardson, Wayne Federman, Andy Buckley, Jessica St. Clair 

After the town scholarship program no longer has funding, two parents are left without money to send their daughter to university. Left without any other options, they along with a friend, start an illegal casino in his home to make cash before the summer ends.


This seems like a more packaged film where they hoped all the candidates medic stars would help illuminate the script with improv

The problem is that the film is filled with notable comedic stars who really are given little to do. So they are mainly just doing what is required

It also feels more like the stars are wacky to be wacky they seem more on autopilot. Acting crazy and wacky but for no real reason except the script tells them too. It would help if the characters started off on a normal playing. Field and started going crazy due to pressure, but they are pretty much the same beginning to the end.

Maybe as the film doesn’t offer anything challenging or new for the lead actors. Who we have gotten used to st this point. It doesn’t seem a stretch. It also doesn’t feel up to the quality of the heights that we have seen them do before. So it’s disappointing in both ways.

There aren’t strong visual choices either. So the style of the film feels slapdash instead of composed.

Understandably this is a studio comedy but seems so outlandish and far-fetched even if that seems to be the point. While trying to make the characters somewhat identifiable.

Not distinct enough to be memorable characters. They just seem borderline of the assembly one and given not only comedic personas but also just weird afflictions instead of quirks. This idea seems like it would be better on paper or as an idea. Rather than a barely 90-minute movie.

The film doesn’t wait to really begin with it’s premise. So we are off to the races immediately. So that we don’t really notice too. If a change when it comes to the characters. There are some chuckles and inspired bits of comedy and scenes. Though really the film’s humor is in watching adults act like teenagers at a keg party with gambling. Borrowing heavily from shows like BREAKING BAD, as far as older characters who do illegal activities to help pay for their kid’s education and helps the other character loosen up. While also having allusions to many gangster movies and television shows

This is a film Where all the comedic actors even to be trying to go over the top and outdo one another not so much out of the competition but just to be noticed. Especially when they are given so little to do.

While the stars don’t seem to be trying hard enough as they aren’t really characters as they keep making such rash decisions and jumping around in emotions and behavior that it seems more put on the. Believable I know this isn’t the film you go into for rational thought, but it still seems haphazard

The film lacks a proper villain. So it tries to come up with a few. Who are just as easily eliminated as they are Introduced. In fact, the one who lasts the longest is the most wearily but easily to see conquer by and never comes off as a real threat.

Jason Mantzounkas is entertaining and one of the only enjoyable elements of this film, but also he is playing the type of role he has done before. If anything this character is more honorable there the ones he usually plays.

The film feels like fast food as it is digestible and offers a quick fix as far as entertainment but not necessarily healthy. Usually, fast food tastes great, but this is more fast food that is ok. So that once it is over your fix is satiated but you will have indigestion as you are pretty much paying for it.

Which the film wouldn’t feel as disappointing if one didn’t have to pay for it, but it feels like for the money you pay they might try, but it feels fairly standard and like a rip off of sorts. As there seems to be little effort put into it. You know what you are going to get but you still expect more and better.

Grade: C-

THE FAMILY FANG (2016)

Directed By: Jason Bateman 
Written By: David Lindsay-Abaire 
Based On The book By: Kevin Wilson 
Cinematography By: Ken Seng 
Editor: Robert Frazen 

Cast: Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Kathryn Hahn, Marin Ireland, Harris Yulin, Josh Pais, Michael Chernus, Danny Burnstein, Steve Barrish, Steve Witting


The first trailer for the film wasn’t released until three weeks before the release date. So the film never really had a chance. Which is strange considering the film’s pedigree.

Whatever I write about this film. It will come off as seeming bitter. As I read the book first and was a big fan of the book. I looked forward to watching this film as, after all, I liked Jason Bateman’s directorial debut BAD WORDS. And since the book was also a dark comedy. I thought it was a match that made sense. The film speeds up the story. Realized that most likely the book’s story would have to be condensed and the dynamics of the story reworked. Not necessarily changing details but leaving less informed turns and losing a certain context hurts the story overall.

It certainly hurt my appreciation of the story presented here. Probably because I read it so recently We would of course expect what you enjoyed being on display. If not in the story then at least in the mood. A film that you would expect more from or certainly handled by a director who had more of a reputation and history with similar material.

I believe I would have enjoyed the film more if I wasn’t so familiar with the material. The films seem smaller-scaled then needed. Shrinking the story to a degree. As it seems to try and be more intimate with the characters to be like a study by not moving the story forward as the book did with so many actions and distractions.

The novel ranked among Time’s “Top Ten Fiction Books of 2011”.

In the translation, it feels like certain layers are lost. The book could have made a great movie. Just. It. This is not this film, unfortunately. As the changes also impact the story. But makes it feel more grounded in reality and not so fantastic in the situations and parts. It never seems to have the impact that it should. As things happen and the film just seems to let them slide off the character’s soldiers. Never taking the time or accepting the consequences. Jason Bateman seems to be playing his usual type of characters. So that it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. Maybe he wanted it to be easier as he also must direct the film. He plays the role with as many issues or sensitivity as the story provides for his character. His character here is more put together and takes charge. Not as distraught as he should be.

He moves forward as a filmmaker showing more depth and talent. Though I thoroughly enjoyed his first film as a director. Here it seems he is more interested in making a strange story more conventional. Understand he must condense, cut scenes and characters as well as events.

Nicole Kidman seems to wear her character on her sleeves, but she is good in the role of the damaged sister who becomes an actress. She gives a good performance that is more serious and how’s how grounded and good an actress she can be if given the right material. As she comes off less recognizable and less of a star even though she is playing one.

Jason Bateman and Nicole Kidman both have several credits on the project. Bateman is the director, star, and producer of the film, while Kidman brought the rights to the book, served as a producer, and as the leading lady.

This is a project that is obviously very close and personal to both the stars. Who I wonder if they didn’t let their influence and their own visions of what they felt the story was really about and letting them reach a catharsis to challenge themselves. As well as letting it be their own homecoming and look at their careers For instance, it has a reunion of Steve Witting and Jason Bateman. The earlier collaboration was the Television series ‘Valerie’. Thought hey share no scenes together. He also casts Kathryn Hahn in a small role. This is their third time working together including being his romantic interest in his directorial debut. As well as Kidman hiring David Lindsay-Abaire who previously wrote the film RABBIT HOLE which she starred in

Trying to condense an epic story into a confined space that limits it and it’s beauty as well as shortening it’s reach.

The film maintains it’s questioning of art and artists throughout. The argument of life and art and what exactly is art is never answered. Which I believe is intentional to make the audience constantly wonder. As the film seems more nostalgic tinged and twee like a dysfunctional family as quirky more than devastating.

Feelings and emotions are on display as the story seems to be about overcoming your passion. Making reactions of others the real art. Turning it on the audience to make them more the performers. As the film puts an essential mystery in the middle of the film, but as the characters get more clues to try and solve it the film. Doesn’t make it feel urgent at all and seems like it is more of an annoyance than anything else. The film goes for a look of southern gothic.

The film is disappointing, both as a representation of the book and as a film on it’s own. Not a bad film as it has it’s own strengths of note, though the story feels more rushed then it should. It barely takes it’s time before it is off on another lead.

So many details that could have been explored or slowed down instead seem more plot-oriented then necessary. Characters that had a darkness to them to match where the story goes are lightened up. So it feels more upbeat. Though truthfully there is nothing wrong with the film technically.

It’s nice to see the cast is filled with naturalistic looking actors rather than unbelievably good looking stars.

Maybe as the adaptation of the book is written by a playwright. The film ends up feeling more like a play or at least more a theatrical piece than necessary The film lacks the depth of what made the original so magical and a delight to read. As well as softening the ending. Making the film feel too cut and dry. Though it seems like a quirky film that normally would be Oscar bait. That comes across as slight more than anything.

Grade: C

BIG BULLY (1996)

Directed By: Steve Miner 
Written By: Mark Steven Johnson 
Cinematography By: Daryn Okada 
Editor: Marshall Harvey 

Cast: Rick Moranis, Tom Arnold, Julianne Phillips, Faith Prince, Curtis Armstrong, Don Knotts, Jeffrey Tambor, Tony Pierce, Stuart Pankin, Blake Bashoff, Carol Kane, Cody McMains

David Leary was bullied by Rosco when he was in elementary school. But he got even on the day his parents moved out of town. Now twenty years later, David, who is a successful writer, is invited back to his home town to teach. Everything is great until Rosco, who is still in town, recognizes him. Now suddenly someone is playing mean practical jokes on him. Isn’t David a little too old to be running to the Principal saying “Rosco’s picking on me.” ?


This film reminds me of the Sunday afternoon family Films, Enchanting on that last day of rest where you are recovering from the day before. You don’ t want to waste the day yet want to go easy. Still want to remember every bit of it as you want it to go by slowly as you know what awaits the next day. Back to the rat race.

So films of this are not that good, but I find them relaxing. Not to vital. There are plenty of acclaimed films that go on this day to as they seem so sudden and important on a day full of rest that they stand out. I wish I could say which day I prefer to watch films as each day brings their own mood and a certain kind of magic to whatever you screen. They are like flavored some go better, but mixing and matching also works out well. Leading to strange and aquired tastes. That usually are memorable.

I only wish this film was better overall. It is done in a broad style and is high concept. Yet feels like it was done on a budget. Where things were supposed to be bigger and grander, but things got changed at the last minute and sent the production scrambling.

It sets up a romantic subplot only to sabotage it as a running gag, but then abandon it to a certain degree. Only to reignite it to tie a bow around the ending.

Now while the scenes of rivalry between the two leads are fun. They never seem to rise to a demented degree that is hinted at. It might be because this film is obviously intended for a more family friendly audience. Though it gets partially dark to a degree.

It would seem like perfect casting Tom Arnold as the bully and Rick Moranis as the victim who begins to strike back.

They both play to their strengths. That feels like it could have gotten more mileage if made today or even letting the actors go a little off script and improv their scenes. As they stick to the script they do what is required yet feel handcuffed to the script. Even when some flair is all that is needed to make the scenes feel more alive.

Considering it is directed by Steve Miner a noted horror director. This film could have easily gone a darker more terrifying way like the film NEXT DOOR by James Woods

Tom Arnold is a rare screen actor. He plays Midwest and hulking bullies well. Yet he can also play oversized nerdish characters. Either way the characters he plays are usually full of bluster and talk too much. Yet they always work. Just look at him in EXIT WOUNDS the Steven Seagal movie. OR FROM THE CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE with Dmx and Jet Li. Sure he has a type but he also plays that type extremely well. Though unfortunately he seems more judged for his past personal life and the manner in which he achieved fame and notoriety. Though if given the chance he proves to be quite humorous. Even if not quite over the top funny. He can also play drama look at the films animal factory where he plays his usual type and GARDENS OF THE NIGHT which is really stretch for him playing a mothering pedophile. To this day though not a huge hit, I am shocked he never played the bully in The Tim Allen film JOE SOMEBODY (no offense to Patrick Warburton who was good in that film)

Just as Arnold is good so is Rick Moranis who seemed to be stuck playing these type field though he is better then this one. Which might be one of the reason why he stepped away. Playing the same type on different films that offer no new directions for him. I don’t have to justify his talent as he has a more pedigree career that is evident in most of his roles. As he plays what is required but might be the most interesting character who you want to know more about as there seems to be more then what is shown. All due to his performance. Even if they come off as cliche. And he seemed to be the prototypical nerd stereotype, but also seems to have had been a prototype for the modern day hipster. Just look at half they hairdos he has in his films like STREETS OF FIRE and THE WILD LIFE. Including the fact that is his retirement he has become a noted musician with actual Grammy’s.

The only other cast member who really makes an impression are Curtis Armstrong as a fellow teacher with a nervous condition and Tony Pierce as Moranis’ fireman buddy Ulf, Who is obsessed with fire and flames.

At least the script gives a logical reason for all of the action as the characters slowly go back to their old roles. As Tom Arnold having become weak after going to juvenile jail for an innocent crime. Has been humbled and jot owed. But once his old victim comes back into town. He finds himself empowered and redirected. As he feels like a new man due to this change of events.

As Rick Moranis Ducks him due to a secret from then past he still feels guilty about. That is what keeps him scared at first. The. Finds the strength to fight back. This struggle is mirrors by the leads children basically mimicking this relationship only in reverse roles.

The film comes alive a few times. Especially whenever Moranis’s character is dealing with his old friends from grade school who are all grown up. Which again introduces something interesting then seems to abandon it. As it seems like there are some interesting ideas that are never explored or feel cut out to trim the fat. As this film barely makes ninety minutes. There were plans to do a sequel which never materialized.

The film isn’t deep but it is a nice time waster that you will forget immediately after watching it. If anything it’s a film to watch with your kids to teach a lesson about bullying. And it’s dangers

Grade: C