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New Releases for Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Note: This week's review column includes BVB's take on several recently-released titles that you don't want to miss.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Genre: Action/Sequel

Directed by: Matthew Vaughn

Run time: 141 minutes

Rating: R

Format: Blu-Ray

The Lowdown: For years, director Matthew Vaughn resisted the urge to helm a sequel to any of his wildly successful action and fantasy films.

But Kingsman proved irresistible after Vaughn delivered a sleeper surprise hit with his 2014 adaptation of Mark Millar’s popular comic book, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Vaughn’s wickedly entertaining spy genre mash-up introduced the world to Taron Egerton’s Eggsy, and proved Colin Firth could kick some serious ass as a dapper British secret agent.

Though dismissed by critics, and mostly ignored by audiences, Vaughn’s follow-up, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, plays more to the original source material’s pulpy comic book roots, amplifying and elevating the action sequences, and adding more winks and nods to viewers exhausted from the super serious escapades of James Bond and Jason Bourne.

The Golden Circle benefits from some seriously stunning set design, and a number of clever new tricks that help reunite the core crew from The Secret Service to once again save the world from a maniacal Big Bad. This time, Vaughn wisely picks a female antagonist to challenge the Kingsman, and Julianne Moore looks like she is having an absolute blast as Poppy, a not-so-veiled variation on the world-conquering aspirations of Oprah or Martha Stewart.

Is it silly? You bet your ass, but it’s also giddily irreverent and wildly entertaining.

While The Golden Circle lacks the fresh feel of its predecessor, it is by no means an inferior sequel or a blatant cash grab. And the addition of the Kingsman’s super-secret American colleagues, the Statesman, provides a nice kick in the pants.

Do yourself a favor, and ignore the theatrical reviews. If you liked The Secret Service, you will enjoy The Golden Circle too.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – No. Gore – No.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Julianne Moore imagines herself as Martha Stewart as an uber-villainess.

Buy/Rent – Buy it.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie (Warner Bros., 101 minutes, PG, Blu-Ray): Confession time – I hate LEGO toys, but I absolutely adored the first two LEGO movies, which crackled with sly wit and surprisingly insightful social commentary.

The latest in the franchise, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, bursts out of the gate in much the same way, tackling parental abandonment issues and high school insecurities all while immersing viewers in a breathtaking world where the residents of Ninjago live in daily fear of an attack by the evil Garmadon.

The explosive early battles between Garmadon’s forces and the band of teenage ninjas who protect Ninjago are thrilling.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie mixes live-action and animation in a fun, inventive way, but after 30 minutes or so, it starts to drag. Three films in, and this franchise is already at the tipping point of diminishing returns.

That doesn’t mean Ninjago is a dud. It’s simply a heads-up to keep your expectations low to achieve maximum enjoyment.

Hollow Creek (MVD Entertainment, 116 minutes, Unrated, DVD): What do you get when you mash together a bunch of cliched horror tropes, an aging Bandit who’s seen better days, a bunch of PSA’s about missing children and the skeletal bone structure of a Lifetime movie?

Welcome to Hollow Creek, your next great guilty pleasure.

As co-written and directed by Guisela Moro, Hollow Creek is clearly a passion project for its Argentinian auteur, so please, try not to giggle too loudly.

Moro plays Angelica Santoro, the mistress of acclaimed horror fiction writer Blake Blackman (Steve Daron, who co-wrote the film), who accompanies her beau on a retreat to the backwoods of West Virginia so Blackman can finish his latest novel.

As they’re driving into the small West Virginia community where Blackman is renting a cabin, Angelica remarks about how deserted it is. Blackman – again, folks, he’s supposedly an acclaimed writer – says, ‘Oh, it’s because of the mudslide that buried half the town several years ago. I probably should have mentioned that.’

Um, you think? Way to bury the lead, writer guy.

The first 30 minutes or so of Hollow Creek focuses almost exclusively on Moro, who plays Angelica like a Latin iteration of Fran Drescher at her worst.

But that’s not the good part.

Immediately upon arriving at their isolated rental cabin, Angelica’s dog runs off into the woods, chasing someone or something that briefly passed Angelica’s gaze off in the woods. Hours later, dog still missing, she takes a bath, and suddenly there’s a creepy ghost kid in the bathroom with her! Does she see him? Of course not. Later that night, while sleeping, she wakes to spooky noises in the house, but does nothing. The next day, while searching for her dog, lightning literally strikes the tree immediately next to her, causing it to split and nearly crush her when it falls.

I’m no genius, but that right there is four, count ‘em four, direct signals that you should not be staying at that cabin.

Not long after, Angelica goes to the local town doctor for a checkup to make sure she wasn't injured by the falling tree. In the waiting room, she watches a newscast about missing children in the town. Then the doctor tells her she’s pregnant, and she freaks out because the baby is a result of an illicit affair. After leaving the doctor, she stops for gas and sees a young boy in the back seat of an old car. The boy draws a sad face in the condensation on the window. Naturally, Angelica decides to follow the car – because, why not?

The car arrives at an even more remote, heavily-gated farm property deep in the mountains. Angelica sneaks through the fence and sees evidence through a basement window of children being held captive. She tries to call 911, but the reception sucks. Then she tries to escape, and is captured after the kidnappers let loose a pack of wild dogs because the kidnappers are redneck sociopathic hillbillies. And they decide to keep Angelica hostage once she tells them she is pregnant because the redneck female hillbilly sociopath hopes her baby will be a boy to add to their growing kidnapped family.

Within its first 45 minutes, Hollow Creek has presented itself as a supernatural ghost story, a redneck survival thriller and a domestic drama about being knocked up by a married man.

Oh wait, there’s still more than an hour to go!

From this point, Hollow Creek switches to Blackman’s story arc as he desperately searches for Angelica. I say ‘desperate,’ but the reality is Daron is such a wooden actor that he comes off like a guy playing a guy who is distraught with panic.

Blackman goes to the local cops, and guess what? They’re good old boys who don’t take kindly to city folk. Blackman becomes the prime suspect in Angelica’s disappearance. He’s arrested, then released. There’s a whole subplot about his book publisher wanting to drop him as a client due to the bad publicity.

It’s like you’re suddenly watching an entirely different film. Eight months have passed since Angelica disappeared. Blackman is still trying to find her to clear his name. He ends up having an audience with the local rich guy who owns the coal mines. That guy is played by Burt Reynolds, who just looks sad.

So much screen time has now passed, you find yourself wondering:

What the hell is going on with Angelica?

Where the eff is the creepy ghost kid who appeared early on?

Hollow Creek responds with a baseball that magically dribbles down the stairs in Blackman’s cabin. The baseball has initials written on it. The initials match the name of one of the first children to go missing, the grandson of Reynolds’ character, who I think is the creepy ghost kid that first appeared while Angelica was bathing. This sparks Blackman to redouble his efforts.

Hollow Creek swerves again. Now it’s an action thriller. Blackman starts demanding answers from the witnesses who saw Angelica driving eight months earlier. Of course, one of them remembers a key detail that he forgot to tell the cops. Blackman gets a gun and heads off to find the remote farm property.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, Angelica is about to give birth. In a cage. While being berated by the redneck female hillbilly sociopath and her man.

Blackman arrives. He’s no one-man wrecking crew. Thankfully, ghost boy materializes to take on the redneck male hillbilly sociopath, who shouts something like, ‘I already kilt you ghost boy!’

Angelica escapes, but her water breaks in a cemetery on the farmhouse property. She gives birth next to a grave, but begins hemorrhaging. Moro makes sure to frame her own face in dappled sunlight for the most flattering close-up possible. Angelica watches ghost boy wraith-ing his way across the graveyard to go play ball. Suddenly, he’s dressed all in white, and appears human instead of creepy dead.

Angelica dies – but wait! Blackman won’t let her die. Not on his watch; not the mother of his child!

At nearly two hours, Hollow Creek feels more like a multi-part miniseries than a movie. I actually watched it in three sittings because I simply couldn’t not know what happens to these dumb characters.

If you love bad movies, I highly recommend Hollow Creek for your next home viewing party. It’s ridiculous in all the right ways.

Also Available:

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 4K Ultra

The Apartment: Limited Edition

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