Weekend’s Over. Tomorrow’s an EVIL School Day! “Monday Morning” reviewed! (MVD Visual / Blu-ray)

Pick Up a Copy of “Monday Morning” Now on Blu-ray!

At Oceana High School, you’re either one of the local kids or you’re nothing. That’s how the aspired musician Bobby Parker and his friends are treated when their parents are transferred into town to build a powerplant. Shunned, ridiculed, and bully, Bobby can’t seem to catch a break even when he steals the heart of Noreen Hedges, a popular local and the sister of most bigoted bully of them all, James. To James who has essentially the entire town behind his way of obnoxious, intolerant thinking, Bobby Parker is no better than scum and is unwelcome anywhere in town, even at the local waterhole called The Shandy. After sneaking into The Shandy to see Noreen, Bobby is left in a heap of trouble with the law when a near fatal accident lands one of the local girls, James’s girlfriend, in the hospital. Looking to teach him a lesson he’ll never forget, James and his lackeys bring a gun to school to scare him but when a teacher is shot and James finds himself holding hostage his homeroom class with the gun, he’ll need to prove his innocence to his narrow-minded classmates as well as the police with itchy trigger fingers.

Mondays are the worst. When you’re a teenager coming off a weekend, that bell ringing at the start of the week is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard. When you’re a teenager who’s constantly bullied by popular jerk and the entire prejudging town that only sees you as an outsider, Mondays could shoot anyone’s nerves. Shoot being the key word in Don Murphy’s 1990 release feature film debut, or rather his only feature film credit, “Monday Morning.” Also known as “Class of Fear,” the cult drama with a classroom shooting at centerstage of the narrative feels awfully relevant in today’s tumultuous time of school and mass shootings. Where the topical issue of gun control is on the edge of every Red and Blue politician’s lips. For Don Murphy, who went on to produce notable blockbusters such as the “Transformer” films as well as cult hits with “Apt Pupil” and “Natural Born Killers,” “Monday Morning” is just a movie without any kind of political or social commentary behind the surface. In fact, Murphy has stated that production was initially a student film that evolved, but the theme behind reality and fantasy are the same in that children-bullying-children can push fragile minds beyond a breaking point. First A.D. of “Caged Heat 3000” Sheila Lightfoot produces the film alongside Murphy as executive producer under the production banner Team Angry Filmworks, Inc.

Noah Blake, the son of child star turned accused wife-murderer Robert Blake, steps into the constantly ragged on shoes of ostracized struggling high schooler Bobby Parker.  Bobby’s a never-say-die, never-give-up good guy given a cruddy hand in life as he’s dealt blows not only by his school peers, but also by his father who throws him out of the house for not living up to expectations and even by his band of like misfit friends for being traitorous for trying to live outside the confines of his unwanted status.  Bobby’s an extremely likeable and evolving character to almost a fault as he walks into foreknowledge adversarial situations without so much a clue on how to handle unprovoked hostility other than head on.  Perfect in the role that’s aggravatingly inspirational on how everyone should be pigheadedly neutral and able to see the good in everything, the “Piranhaconda” actor Blake takes Bobby Parker by the reins and lets the character be a subject of unbridled victimization.  One of the more conspicuously unhinged and douchey performances, landing this actor on the opposite end of the spectrum in contrast to Noah Blake, goes to Brandon Hooper as pretty boy bully James Hedges.  You really want to just punch James square in his pointy nose because of his incessant nitpicking and tunnel vision on making a crusade out of tormenting Bobby Parker for being in the platonic presence of his girlfriend (Shannon Absher, “Blood Nasty’) and having a romantic relationship with his sister Noreen (Julianne McNamara, “Saturday the 14th Strikes Back”).  What’s curious about “Monday Morning” is its ability to drop Bobby Parker’s friends from the principal lineup, with the exception of Bobby’s ride-or-die bestie Bill (Karl Wiedergott, a “The Simpsons” utility voice actor) though initially saturating the narrative with their bickering and turn the attention more on the town’s chief of police, played by “Sorority House Massacre’s” Fitz Houston fitting into his usual typecast role in law enforcement, by introducing one of the classroom hostages as his son (Vincent Craig Dupree, Julius from “Friday the 13th Part VIII:  Jason Takes Manhattan).  Rickey Dean Logan (“Freddy’s Dead:  The Final Nightmare”), Marta Marin (“Mindwarp”), Nicole Berger (“American Cyborg: Steel Warrior”), Jason Lively (“Night of the Creeps”), Brian Cole (“Mortuary Academy”), Paul Henry Itkin, Annie O’Donnell, and Lisa Rinna round out the cast.

How writer-director Don Murphy describes his film is “The Breakfast Club” with guns.  Granted, Murphy’s firsts draft contained more angst as an angry student holds the whole class hostage at gunpoint for the near entirety of the story, but “Monday Morning” is more akin to “Pretty in Pink” with A gun, isolating teenage cliques, trying to overcome their pressuring biases, and exposing differences in social classes and mistook attitudes.  Most of the film is building up to the clinching climatic classroom moment with Bobby trying his damn hardest to be a bridge between the gaps in a “Romeo & Juliet” type relationship that connects spurned outsiders with the spurning locals.   “Monday Morning” is a very contained narrative with only a handful of locations, primarily Oceana High and The Shandy, grounding the scale to a much more condense and story friendly design that’s easy to follow and digest.  That design isn’t turf war central.  We’re not talking about an all-out war between the Jets and Sharks.  Murphy, who often co-credits the final script to another screenwriter, rains down a supercell storm cloud’s rain and lightning on the downtrodden outliers to garner a tremendous amount of sympathy and to really beam lasers of hate into the local louts that essentially becomes a turf war just from their perspective for fear of losing their lionization over Oceana and the town.  “Monday Morning” embodies that quirky 1980’s teen melodrama with a very real, very terrifying, and very present-day topic that bumps Don Murphy’s movie up into the cult category.

We all agree that Mondays suck, but “Monday Morning” is a Monday associated gem of a film that is now available on a high definition 1080p Blu-ray from Angry Films and MVD Visual as part of MVD’s Rewind Collection banner.  The new transfer, taken from the original camera negative of a European based filmstock, is presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  The transfer release is reasonably well-dressed in color, with an ever so slight teal or gray tinge, and a good enough, above average decompression rate around 28mbps.  The transfer does display flashes of damage that look very much like tracking lines, but also could be light exposure on the negative.  The audio remains at an English LPCM 2.0 mono and contain static throughout with hissing in portions of the dialogue; however, the tracks are relatively clean enough for discerning dialogue.  Bonus features include a high-def, near feature length interview with writer-director Don Murphy doing a deep dive into his background, the film’s backstory, and his recollection of events throughout his career, a high-def, 24-minute Don Murphy from 2019 that looks at the producing career of the filmmaker, and the standard definition VHS version (1.33:1 aspect ratio) of “Monday Morning” under the alternate title “Class of Fear.”  The physical release comes with a reversible case cover art with alternate “Class of Fear” and a collectible mini-poster insert housed inside a clear Blu-ray snap case with a cardboard slipcover of the same primary cover except with faux cover damage to resemble a worn-torn rental.  Both versions of the film run at 105 minutes and is rated R.  A timely release for “Monday Morning” as a film that’ll reexamined and rethought of from its original entertainment purposes to be said that the issue has long since been prevalent and in the back of our minds.

Pick Up a Copy of “Monday Morning” Now on Blu-ray!

I Would Be EVIL Too If Disturbed at “6:45” reviewed! (Well Go USA / Blu-ray)

Now on Blu-ray “6:45” the Worst Time of Your Life!

Bobby and Jules seek to fix their broken relationship with a vacation to the island resort town of Bog Grove after a big fight about Bobby’s suspected infidelity.  The off-season island is strangely quiet with hardly any tourists roaming the shops and boardwalk.  The couple stay at the Cozy Nook bed and breakfast, owned and operated by an eccentric host, Gene, whose more personally invasive than he is hospitable, yet everything else feels like a dream for both Jules and Bobby reconnecting to what is lost between them until a hooded man slices Jules’s throat and snaps Bobby’s neck.  Next thing Bobby knows, he becomes awoken by a 6:45 am alarm and feeling relieved that the horrific moment was only a dream, but when the events exactly play out as they did in his dream and he dies again the same way only to wake up again at 6:45 am, he, and he alone, realizes he and Jules are trapped inside a time loop driving him to face a different, more grim reality.

Ah, yes.  The time loop genre.  An alternate dimension where reliving the same day over and over again without a new path of escape on the horizon had established a foundation of fear beginning with Bill Murray starring in the Harold Ramis directed comedy “Groundhog Day” and has more recently been a executed (pun intended!) delightfully in the Christopher Landon cycling slasher “Happy Death Day.”  Well, here we are again, as if we ourselves are stuck in a time loop, with another rinse and repeat picture titled “6:45” from the “Perkins’ 14” director, Craig Singer.  “6:45” will mark as screenwriter Robert Dean Klein and Singer’s fourth collaboration in their respective roles and their first feature together in 15 years following 2001’s “Dead Dogs Lie,”, 2003’s “A Good Night to Die,” and 2008’s “Dark Ride.”  The fictional locale of Bog Grove is actually multiple locations up and down the new Jersey Shore from Ocean Grove to the Seaside Heights, showcasing a few local hangouts and attractions of the upper Jersey shore of Ocean County.  “6:45” is coproduced between the director and the films’ stars Augie Duke and Michael Reed under the Birds Fly Dogs Bark Wind Blows productions.

Augie Duke must need a vacation because “6:45” makes the second getaway horror where one of Duke’s previous characters vacations at the Jersey Shore following the Cape May-shot psychological thriller “Exit 0” alongside sojourning costar Gabe Fazio.  While there are parallels between the two Jerseyan films, Singer’s very own holiday in Hell is set on repeat and poor Augie Duke has to continuously have her throat cut more than a handful of times as the romance-question Jules, but being a quietly discreet scream queen of indie film (“The Black Room,” “Hell’s Kitty,” and “Necropolis:  Legion”), the L.A. born Duke can handle a simple boxcutter to the juggler.  Opposite of Duke, playing a recovering alcoholic musician in Bobby, is an equal match for indie horror credits to his name with Michael Reed (“The Disco Exorcist,” “Exhumed,” and “Subferatu”).  Duke and Reed play nice as a happy couple on the rebound but as death and the date never ends, the strain between them grows with intensity every cycle as Reed has been the outlier in remembering every moment of his girlfriend’s death and the helplessness he feels in the inability to stop it no matter what route he tries. Creepy characters a peppered throughout just to make more peeving towards Reed tumble drying recollection of events from the Cozy Nook’s nosy nuisance of a host Gene (Armen Garo, “The Manor,” “Coda”), the drunk lesbian Brooklyn (Sasha K. Gordon), and the shadowy, silent man (Joshua Matthew Smith) who’s a representation of the incessant range and has one job of slicing throats and breaking necks. Remy Ma, Sabina Friedman-Seitz, The 45 King, Allie Marshall, and Windows, himself, from “The Thing” Thomas G. Waites co-star in the film.

“6:45” has a story that can easily wrap you up initially and have you invested in a couple burdened by their love-hate relationship. To lure you in more, that light-and-dark balance tilts more toward the latter in a dangerous askew manner and love morphs into a blinding obsession to where anything is possible, making that narrative of a volatile human chemistry cocktail needing to be told as straightforwardly as humanly possible. Singer works diligently on keeping Reed and Jules on that track of an askew reality revolving around the historical mysteries of a bruised romance that include infidelity, alcohol abuse, and even violence, but Singer keeps close to the chest in not unveiling the true nature of Bobby’s repetitive retreat on what should have been the best day the newfound happy couple’s lives after rekindling and taking next steps to marriage with an island proposal that’s seen as Bobby’s good faith effort in turning around his life for the better because of his love for Jules. Yet, out of nowhere, the established linear narrative takes an unexpected montage turn in style, blending the couple’s past, present, and future all in one Brady Bunch grid mixed with even more flashbacks and repeated scenes that tries to explain more of Bobby’s checkered, playboy background and hand over emotional stress of repeating everyday like a persistent and noisy street hawker trying desperately to hand you pamphlets. Yet, the repeated days stay sequential after Bobby’s next death and so Bobby and Jules die more than a dozen or so times, but the next title card follows in sequential order (but aren’t they also reliving the same day so wouldn’t be day 2 over and over again). “6:45” attempts unnecessary stylistic approaches to keep the story fresh because no one wants to see the same thing over and over again and that’s perhaps where Robert Dean Klein collapses in the second act that inevitably bled to a total meltdown of story in the third act in trying to connect the time of 6:45 am to an important event with an end result of just leaving us more bewildered about the reference. The gist of Bobby and Jules’ downfall is clear, but how Singer takes us there is a pothole-laden path with lots of senseless bumps along the way.

This off-season, Jersey shore, psychological thriller really casts a dark cloud over the sunny good times usually offered for vacationers. “6:45” is the shark roaming just offshore in that feeling of fearful uncertainty of what lurks about. Well Go Use Entertainment releases the Craig Singer film onto a region A Blu-ray home video, presented in a widescreen 16X9 aspect ratio, and is rated R for strong violence and gore, sexual content, nudity, and language throughout. Cinematographer Lucas Pitassi casts a fairly natural image, clearly sharp and texturally above par in Well Go Usa’s high-definition Blu-ray release. While much of the gels and abnormal lighting comes more into play at the tail end of the film, “6:45” offers a more than just a paradoxical effect on the mind but also on the sight of seeing what should be a joyfully hopping with out-of-town patrons and vividly bright with beach sun resort town turned into a cold and dreary Hell by the ocean. The English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 had some issues with inconsistent dialogue levels that were, at times, muffled without just cause. Perhaps, the cause was more boom placement or interference of some sort. The soundtrack by Kostas Christides has a smoother quality while creating tense atmospherics where needed and ascending into rock instrumental for those black sheep montages and flashbacks. English SDH subtitles are an available option. On the variable-trailer-esque menu, there are no bonus features nor are there any bonus scenes during or after the credits on this barebones release. The cardboard slipcover, of the repeated Blu-ray cover art, is a flat, smooth matte that nicely sheathes the snapper case. “6:45’s” thrills and chills literally emanate a no time to die mantra disillusioned by guilt and death and the only slither of hope out of purgatory is to come clean, but if it was only that simple – in life and in Craig Singer’s film.

Now on Blu-ray “6:45” the Worst Time of Your Life!

When the Girl of Your Dreams Thinks Like an EVIL Robot! “Deadly Friend” reviewed! (Blu-ray / Shout Factory)



Whiz kid Paul Conway, along with his mother and artificial intelligence robot creation called BB, move to a new house to be close to Poly Tech where the teenage prodigy begins research study on the human brain.  Paul quickly befriends Tom, the local paperboy, and cute neighbor Samantha, aka Sam, that evolves into more than just friendship, but when Sam’s abusive father kills her and BB is blow to smithereens by a cruel, paranoid neighbor over the holiday season, a distraught Paul begs his friend Tom to assist him in a radical resurrection to save Sam by implanting BB’s A.I. chip into Samantha’s brain.  The long shot surgery pays off and Sam is awake and moving around automatonlike, but the thoughts and feelings of Sam and BB blend and the hatred toward their killers feeds into the need of grisly revenge.

Wes Craven.  Every genre fan upon hearing his name goes through an euphoric reliving in seeing one of his films for the first time.  For most that film is “A Nightmare on Elm Street” with Robert Englund starring as the fedora-sporting, dream killer Freddy Krueger  who wears a glove with finger knives.  Krueger has been and still is one of the most iconic and memorable villains ever in horror since Krueger’s from Craven’s nightmare-to-cinema creation in 1984.  Fast forward two years later, Craven hops at the chance to make a studio film with Warner Bros.  A film that’s polar different from “ANOES” with a touching, PG-rated macabre, science fiction coming of age story based off the Diana Henstell novel entitled “Friend” with an adapted script by Bruce Joel Rubin who went on to pen “Ghost” and “Jacob’s Ladder” a few years later.  After test screenings, the studio began to meddle, urging, if not demanding, Craven add horrific violence to the intensity lighter story thus turning “Friend” into “Deadly Friend” with a blender hacked story that failed at the box office during the Halloween season nonetheless.  Pan Arts/Layton serves as the production companies with Warner Bros presenting “Deadly Friend” under the studio’s banner.

At the center of the story are two star-crossed teens in the midst of adolescent flirtation.  Eyes glued to one another, but separated by the cruel whims of a drunken father, are Paul, “The Little House on the Prairie” star Matthew Labyorteaux and Samantha, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” feature star Kristy Swanson.  While not overly smoochy between Paul and Sam, the then teenage youngsters sell the affectionate tension between them with depth in their performances.  Yet, the Swanson’s post-surgery mechanical movements are terribly rudimentary and cheesy, turning the studio warranted violent exploration of youth and morbid Sci-Fi cybernetics story into the laughing stock of the already inanely entertaining killer robotic subgenre.  Without the studio intervened violence and gory edits, I could not envision Craven and Rubin’s touching story between Paul and his desperation creation to cure his broken-hearted affection for both his robot and the girl next door.  By far the best principle role is Tom, played by Michael Sharrett (“Savage Dawn”) who really plays into that Craven and Rubin softer vision with a bit of well-timed comedy.  As a character, Tom’s always falling or fainting in some capacity and deliveries some great one-liners that jazz up the lightheartedness of “Deadly Friend’s” more macabre stance.  Big names and distinguish faces fill rather unexpected cameos, such as “The Goonies” Anne Ramsey as a paranoid recluse who blows away BB in a Halloween mischief gone wrong, as well as Roger Rabbit voice actor Charles Fleisher as BB.  “Deadly Friend” routs out with Anne Twomey (“The Imagemaker”), Richard Marcus (“Tremors”), Lee Paul, and Russ Marin (“The Dark”).

I know Warner Bros. swallowed the original intent of “Friend,” chewed it with the purpose to add crowd-pleasing violence and gore, and spat out an game-changing “Deadly Friend” totally going against the wishes of the cast and crew, but losing that more tender creativity of an undead romance narrative wasn’t put out to pasture in vain.  Infamy and a semi-cult status long after release came out of the hellish mixed-bag of critically panning spitfire and the disownment of the film’s creators.  One particular scene, involving a basketball and an explosion of head goo, is definitely one of the more rememberable and well executed kill scenes of the era.  As a whole, “Deadly Friend” rests in ridiculous peace as many viewers will watch, digest, and come to some kind of self-compromising understanding on Craven’s misadventure and will relinquish to the fact that the film has a place in his repertoire of work.  Yet, dicey editing and pacing issues suggests a heavily edited film and trying to surmise how “Friend” would have been perceived in studio unmolested form is nearly impossible given the already bizarre sci-fi narrative subject matter.  What I found more interesting is Craven essentially sticking it to the studio’s request for violence and gore by rehashing much of “A Nightmare on Elm Street” into “Deadly Friend’s” framework with the intense dream sequences, a giant furnace-boiler room, a severely burned man’s face, and even a few shots of a blond Kristy Swanson garbed in white has a familiar Amanda Weise skin.  Overly compressed and subsequently reworked to appease audiences, “Deadly Friend” is no friend at all on a “Re-Animator” or insert man-in-machine horror parallel dipped into a “Short Circuit” coating that plainly suffers from outside interference resulting in a neutralized effect.   

You’ll never have a friend like “Deadly Friend” now on a collector’s edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, a subsidiary of Shout Factory!  The rated R film has a runtime of 90 minutes and is presented on a 1080p High-Definition, region A Blu-ray in a widescreen 1.85: aspect ratio from a new 2K scan of the interpositive 35mm film.  Without much criticism, the virtually undamaged transfer refreshes previous releases for high-definition aficionados with a palatable amount of grain and the details are clearly discernable.  Colors looks good too between the natural skin tones and the range in contrasts, providing new life into Philip H. Lathrop’s (“Lolly-Madonna XXX”) two-toned atmospheric cinematography.  The English language DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track is equally as pleasant with clear and clean soundtrack unobstructed by damage or static.  No issues with the dialogue as well in another testament to Shout Factory’s attention to the audiophile-appreciated fidelity.  Optional English SDH subtitles are available.  Special features include new interviews with Kristy Swanson and writer Bruce Joel Rubin who go into rigorous details about the Studio’s interception as well as working with their cast and crew mates.  There are also new interviews with composer Charles Bernstein and special make up effects artist Lance Anderson.  The theatrical trailer rounds out the special features.  “Deadly Friend’s” tech-horror with a twist is about as deep as the brain of a toaster oven replacing your girlfriend’s father submissive and overly meek brain, but the new Scream Factory collector’s edition is absolute perfection.

Wes Craven’s “Deadly Friend” now on a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray!

The Greatest Trick EVIL Ever Pulled Was Convincing Couples the Perfect Marriage Ever Existed. “Happily” reviewed! (Saban Films / Digital Screener)

Tom and Janet have been married for 14 years.  By that amount of time elapsed, marriage has moved past the honeymoon stage and settled into routine with the spark having dulled and sex life becoming nearly, if not totally, stale, but for Tom and Janet, their libidos are the equivalent to hormone-driven teenagers.  Their marriage has happily sustained over the years, never veering off course, but when a couples’ retreat invitation is rescinded by their friends because of the envied desire for each other and a mysterious man arrives at their door step next day offering a syringe injection that will cure them into a normal married couple, Tom and Janet believe they’re a part of a sick joke by one of their so-called friends, leading to a dead body, a brief case of unknown substance, and a re-invitation to the couples’ retreat where they must figure out who is and who isn’t of the four other couples are on team Tom and Janet.  Yet, the trip founded on the idea booze and relaxation turns into a disclosure of lies, secrets, and deadly disconnections. 

What’s the secret to a long lasting marriage?  Good sex, obviously.  But can an ostensibly impenetrable marriage be flawless?  That’s one of the themes writer-director BenDavid Grabinski toys with in his inaugural feature film directorial of “Happily” that disparages the unsullied union of Tom and Janet by a quartet of couples, who are also Tom and Janet’s closest friends, who aim to stick it to the happy couple because of their own marriage and life failures.  Grabinksi, creator and writer of revamped “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” television series, incorporates that element of grim tale mystery for allegorical effect into the psychology of envious, mal intent friends projecting their negativity on Tom and Janet’s positivity and love.  “Happily” is a production of the Arizona based Common Wall Media, an indie record and film production labeled owned and operated by Chuckie Duff, and, perhaps, the reason “Happily” has a killer soundtrack that includes Tim Capello “I Still Believe.”  Jack Black (“Tropic Thunder,” “Goosebumps”) also produces the film under his Electric Dynamite Productions, Inc. banner in collaboration with Indy Entertainment (“Nightmare Cinema”). 

I find extreme difficulty seeing Joel McHale in anything remotely with a serious tone for someone who grew up with the comedian during his 12 season days of E!’s spinoff of Talk Soup titled simply, The Soup.  McHale’s range as a funny man is beyond being paramount with great comic timing and able to deliver an unlimited amounts of laughs in just his mere expressions and that has translated well into his filmic career from comedies such as “Ted” to “The Happytime Murders” and even well into his more earnest and darker roles in “Deliver Us From Evil” and, his most recent release which is “Home Alone” for a more mature audiences, “Becky.”  In “Happily,” McHale plays Tom, a loving husband to wife Janet who can’t keep their hands off each other and never fight for more than half a day in what’s staunchly considered a perfectly sickening marriage by their closest friends.  One thing I’ve learned from watching Joel McHale in this role is not only can he bear the weight evenly of an emotional thriller, but the guy is jacked!  Opposite McHale is “Penny Dreadful:  City of Angels” star Kerry Bishé, matching the sexual and profound tone as the wife, Janet. Bishé takes on Janet’s ever benevolent wifedom, elevating it to a whole new level as the working spouse, ready to gratify Tom by any means possible and in any compromising position possible, who’s also served hand and foot by the same man who knows how to reciprocate at the right moment. Bishé’s a favorable compliment to McHale as a power couple daring the odds together on the same page until losing they’re way because, simply, they’re inevitably human. Tom and Janet square off against four other couples under suspicion of a suspected prank-gone-wrong after meeting with a mysterious man played by “Office Space’s” Stephen Root. Could the pranksters be the flamboyantly affluent, but unaffectionate Karen and Val (Natalie Zea of “The Following” and Paul Scheer of “Piranha 3DD”)? Could it be the uptight lesbian couple Carla and Maude (Shannon Woodward of “Westworld” and Kirby Howell-Baptiste of the upcoming “Cruella”)? Or is it the carefree Patricia and her inhospitable husband Donald (Natalie Morales of “The Santa Clara Diet” and “Mastermind’s” John Daly)? Maybe its the anger unmanaging Richard and his newfound fiancé Gretel (Breckin Meyer of “Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare” and Charlyne Yi of ” Puppet Master: The Littlest Reich”)?

Grabinski forcibly shoves the happily in “Happily’s” Tom and Janet’s marriage down our throats with a diabolical lustful half-exposition, half-hanky-panky action before title sequence intro into their infinity spicy life. The couple screw like two teenage rabbits hopped up on an aphrodisiac more than a typical mundane couple of 14-years should ever seen in their union’s lifetime, but, then, Grabinski throws in the proverbial monkey wrench into the gears. The question comes up, and lingers throughout, whether Tom and Janet are inherently broken, a defect in their existential creation, and that begins to snowball down the hill of insidious thoughts as the protagonists have their idyllic marriage tainted by the hair brain idea of a stranger, carrying two syringes of an insta-fix made up of unknown, illuminating material, who beguiles them with bureaucratic niceties to lie his way into their home and tells them he works for a higher power. Is this mysterious man God? Perhaps, the Devil? Grabinski smartly keeps that little detail under wraps and, for the first half of the film, stays a mystery upon itself. In time, each couple begins to unravel cankerous secrets, all of which have been targeted at Tom and Janet for their perfection and that’s perhaps where “Happily” struggles a bit as a story as Grabinski has a rolodex of past events being flipped through a plethora of interaction exposition, leaving morsels to try and puzzle the uneasiness of the morose couples’ retreat together. The long and short of the story is that the audience will need more morsels to chew on, get the creative juices flowing, to understand character motivations because, in the end, “Happily” is one big couples therapy session of divulging secrets to wash away, more or less, soul-deteriorating sin.

Before all hope is lost between two people, an intervention is warranted, even if it’s a divine one in BenDavid Grabinski’s dark comedy “Happily” heading our way to theaters, digital, and on demand come Friday, March 19th from Saban Films. The R-rated film runs for 96 minutes is presented in a widescreen 2.39:1 aspect ratio that gets to showcase more of Adam Bricker’s luridly dreamy style. The “Starry Eyes” cinematographer instills a firm taste of precise, primary coloring tinting that evokes the intensity of the scene rather than pitching an outlined overlay on top of his soft lighting. The red “Predator”-esque vision through CCTV lens is a nice touch of also breaking up the more natural lit scenes for that ominous approach. Since “Happily” is coming to theaters, there is obviously no bonus material, but stick around for scenes during the credits and after credits. Lies, betrayals, murder, and the uncanny are soaked into “Happily’s” absorbent fibers as one of this years best dark comedies that hones in on ascertaining that nothing is perfect but the perfection that you make together.

Evil’s Calling… “Cell” review!

screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-04-17-pm
Clay Riddell just landed in Boston after scoring a huge deal in New York involving concepts for his graphic novel. With all the cellphone charging stations occupied, Clay calls his estranged wife from a pay phone to speak with his son, but when the landline severs communications, that’s when it started. People on their cellphones turn into Phoners, murderous maniacs who tear through anyone in a destructive path mindless insanity. Clay, in the midst of panic, bumps into subway train conductor Tom McCourt and fight their way out of the city, barely escaping with their lives. Fleeing a burning Boston overran by Phoners, Clay is determined to track down his family in New Hampshire with the help of Tom and two teens, Alice and Jordan, but the Phoners are not just absentminded anymore as individuals start to flock together exhibiting the beginning signs of their telepathic network lending to something far more sinister than just temporary mayhem.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-01-05-pm
“Cell” is the feature film adaptation to Stephen King’s novel of the same title and reunites John Cusack with Samuel L. Jackson once again since their last costarring venture of King’s book-to-silver screen production of “1408.” King shares screenplay credits with Adam Alleca, who co-penned “The Last House on the Left” remake in 2009, and with “Paranormal Activity 2” director Tod Williams at the helm. From the first inkling of a “Cell” movie, back with Eli Roth was attached, the excitement couldn’t be contained as I read the Stephen King novel and was captivated by the unique story of mixed and varied human emotions and the uncontrollable yearnings to be a part of the collective through being electronically connected that ultimately becomes mankind’s undoing.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-20-28-pm
However, “Cell” was heading in the direction of certain doom from the moment Roth unattached himself from the project, sending “Cell” into the annoyance of limbo until a production company conglomerate formed to pull “Cell” from it’s stagnant state and attached Williams to direct. Yet once again, King’s beloved story goes into the throes of uncertainty with distribution after filming wraps in 2013. 2016 comes and Saban Films, along with Lionsgate , distributes “Cell” theatrically and within the home entertainment market respectively.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-02-05-pm
After all the monumental problems, I personally wanted to “Cell” to be one of the most entertaining and frightening horror films of the modern age, but as fate would have it, the Williams’ film disappoints. An film adaptation of a King novel needs more minutes to cover the story’s girth and “Cell” lacked pages of warranted minutes to be a full tell all for Clay, Tom, and the Raggedy Man. Portions of the novel were translated to the screen, but for the majority of the film, a rushed version of the story debuts to silver screen audiences that loses the book’s essence and dilutes character development, such as with Raggedy Man who has a sizable role in the book, but the character in Williams’ movie barely scratches the surface with being just a figurehead for the Phoners and not the collective’s soap box looming leader. The film started out great with intense chaos at Boston airport, pictorializing to life the Phoners from the King’s book with pinpoint precision, but from there on, the story’s time span goes vague whereas the book stretches out the length of time. Only a matter of two or three days does it seem the survivors jump from Boston, to the school, to the bar, to the story’s final location of Kashwak, but in reality terms and in the amount of devastation and character portrayal, weeks have passed.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-03-17-pm
The ending has been rewritten from a surprisingly mixed reaction to the book’s and yet, the unravelling of the finale does more than convolute matters when Clay finds his son. There lies almost a dual ending where one’s interpretation can be the film’s own storybook ending. Stephen King’s “The Mist” had an ending that, when compared to Frank Darabont’s totally new ending for the film, was totally inferior to Darabont’s and I feel like that’s the stage that was trying to bet revisited here with “Cell” and it just missed the mark completely. Not all changes are for the worst. Character Tom McCourt, whose white in book, went to Samuel L. Jackson who absolutely fits the role without question, nailing PTSD stricken McCourt with little emotion but with untapped hurt. If I ever had to choose an middle aged white actor for the role of Clay, John Cusack would be my first and only choice even before casting began for the film. I do feel like having a white Raggedy Man was purposefully steered away from social sensitivities with an antagonistic young black male in a hoodie. The cast rounds out with Isabelle Fuhrman, Owen Teague, and Stacy Keach (“Slave of the Cannibal God”).
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-01-43-pm
The digital visual effects were so poorly constructed and composited that I’m not surprised “Cell” didn’t have a longer theatrical run. The book had a number of jaw-dropping visuals the imagination could run with and now with seeing the depictions of those visuals on screen, they seemed seriously slapped together in such haste to where the devastating sensationalism turns inane and bland. King’s apocalyptic story warrants Hollywood scale effects, but received a few levels below that bar, failing to deliver major catastrophe on a world ending scale to the likes of “War World Z” or to cleverly style the film through a smaller medium such as George Romero accomplished with this first three “Living Dead” films.
screen-shot-2016-10-06-at-9-20-59-pm
Lionsgate’s Blu-ray release is presented in widescreen 2.40:1 aspect ratio and the 1080p Hi-Def resolution becomes a disadvantage that clearly outlines the quality of the effects. The English 5.1 DTS-HD master audio is par for the course, but slightly in-and-out with dialogue that’s difficult to balance. The 98 minute feature’s bonus features includes an director’s commentary and “To Cell and Back: The Making of the Film” which is redundant if you’ve read the novel. Bottom line is if you’re fan of Stephen King’s novel, you’ll be sorely disappointed with Tod Williams’ “Cell” that’s nothing more than a long awaited entertaining rated-R apocalyptic horror with obsolete effects and with star-studded names attached to this Stephen King story adaptation.

Buy “Cell” on Amazon! Cusack and Jackson reunite!