Brian Holcomb
Former Contributor

WRITTEN BY Brian Holcomb

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows [Blu-Ray]

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is a major improvement over the previous entry. It's a fast-moving, confident piece of entertainment, well played by its cast and with a great, tongue -in-cheek score by Hans Zimmer.

The Innkeepers [Blu-Ray]

Like his work or not, Ti West's follow up to The House of the Devil is another fine piece of craftsmanship. The young man simply knows how to make a movie, and especially one on his own terms.

The Conversation [Blu-Ray]

The Conversation is a film of the 1970s, not only in its European art-film-influenced minimalism and existentialism, but also in terms of its subject matter. It is rooted in the new American anxiety of the time, the idea that behind every ideal was a rotten, festering truth.

Passion Play

A vanity project from successful Hollywood screenwriter and first-time director Mitch Glazer, Passion Play should really be much funnier than it is. Oh, it's not a comedy, by the way. Not at all.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is so incredibly inept that it almost has to be inept on purpose, and yet, it's so randomly inept that no ordinary mind could ever conceive of such a thing. It's simply awe-inspiring and jaw-droppingly funny.

The Traveler

"Where he goes, Death Follows." So says the rather inelegant tagline on the DVD box, but it's an apt description for The Traveler. Death does indeed follow Mr. Nobody (Val Kilmer), but never directly by his hands.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

The third and final entry in Stieg Larsson's enormously successful series is perhaps the least thrilling, but it's easily the most satisfying. For those who have spent two films suffering along with the almost cosmically tortured Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest will be particularly cathartic.

The Last Exorcism

When this was released last year, I was struck by the fact that someone had the cojones to actually make it. As far as I'm concerned, there really isn't an "exorcism" genre, just an absolute masterpiece called The Exorcist followed by a bunch of sad imitations. This also goes for the non-existent "killer shark" genre.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed

What first-time director Blakeson does with this very familiar situation is cut it to the bone. Not only is there very little fat on this body, there's barely a skeleton. On paper, the script probably read as though it were a stage play. Three characters in one location trying to outwit one another.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Just like its predecessor, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a tired, workmanlike adaptation that will still satisfy fans of the Stieg Larsson novels and those looking for a competent thriller. But much like the American adaptations of the novels of Dan Brown, these films are as literal as they come and gain nothing from being transposed to the cinema.

The Killer Inside Me

The Killer Inside Me is a brutal, cold film noir which takes the audience right to the center of the sick mind that novelist Jim Thompson first burned to paper in 1952. It would be the most literal adaptation of pulp fiction imaginable, if "pulp" meant "beaten to a pulp."

The Red Riding Trilogy

The Grimm fairy tale title might lead you to believe that this was a children's program, but you would be quite mistaken. Made for British TV, The Red Riding Trilogy is three films telling one story based on four novels by British novelist David Peace, all set in the city of Yorkshire, U.K. from 1974-1983.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird

Wow! This film was a total blast from start to finish. It's more than Good, has little that is Bad, and is filled with the Weird. A completely stylized movie, it's a madman's Western made by and starring South Koreans who have as much claim to the American West as the Italians did in the '60s. The title is a hint to the Sergio Leone-esque approach, but Leone's operatic style is only one of many that director Kim Ji-Woon (A Tale of Two Sisters) splashes across the screen. In truth, the Leone homage conceals the film's actual forebears, directors Steven Spielberg and George Miller, whose rough-and-tumble yet balletic action choreography and sweeping camerawork in films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Road Warrior are pushed to the limit in this film.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The film version by director Niels Arden Oplev is a faithful adaptation of the novel...perhaps too faithful to work completely as cinema, but well-produced nonetheless.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog [Blu-Ray]

Dr. Horrible isn't the sort of thing you would find on TV or in the cinema. A musical comedy/tragedy about superheroes running at an unmarketable length of 42 minutes is like a square peg in the industry's round hole. What's more, it tells its "superhero" tale from the point of view of an aspiring supervillain, Dr. Horrible (Neil Patrick Harris), who is less horrible than inept, timid, and lovesick.

Tetro

Reading the synopsis above makes the film sound like a very old fashioned and predictable melodrama, and on one level that's exactly what it is. There is an intentional naiveté in the storytelling that makes it feel as though it's taking place in the late '50s or '60s. Only the occasional appearance of a cell phone or Macbook snaps us out of the timeless atmosphere. More than the look, however, the film seems to be most influenced by the storytelling styles of that era.

Lake Mungo

Lake Mungo has been spoken of in terms of Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity, but it's really a bird of a different feather. Not simply a "found footage" film, it's more like a segment you would see on NBC's Dateline rather than a first-person camcorder account of escalating terror. Presented as a factual documentary, the film chronicles the mysterious events that occurred following the accidental drowning of 16-year-old Alice Palmer. In the weeks and months after her body was discovered, the grieving Palmer family began to experience paranormal experiences in and around their home and learned that their daughter had many more secrets than they could imagine.

The Fourth Kind

I honestly cannot remember the last time a movie made me actually HATE it before it was over. This film really got under my skin, to the point I almost wished physical harm on its creators. The arrogance and ignorance on display is truly amazing. Arrogance of its superiority over the audience's intellect and ignorance of filmmaking craft. I almost had no words to write about this movie since my reaction was virtually Cro-Magnon: "Film Bad. Film Very Bad." Period. (Smack on head with club.)

Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

Eli Roth's original film exploited a game that kids know very well. It's "What's Grosser Than Gross?" Sexually stimulating the rotting flesh of a girl's thigh is gross. Shaving the flesh off your legs might be grosser than gross (or maybe it's the other way around?). It's mostly this one-upmanship of "ewwww" that links this sequel to the original.

The House of the Devil

The House of the Devil is an anomaly in today's horror landscape. Despite the '80s setting, it's not ironic, not really meant to be a specific homage to anything in particular, isn't tongue in cheek, and is not a contemporary confetti of images. This isn't meant to be some half-ass "dance on the grave" of some old films. The period setting is used as a stylistic tip of the hat to the films of the period, as a kind of sense-memory device for fans of the genre. For those who pick up on these details, it sets a certain mood very effectively.

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