5 LBS OF PRESSURE (USA 2023) ***

Directed by Phil Allocco


The film 5 LBS OF PRESSURE (the title is derived from the force that comes out from a particular gun) begins like the steam in a pressure cooker - waiting for the nozzle to be opened to be hissing out.  The first 30 minutes introduce the audience to a variety of its many characters.  Nothing can be determined of the plot yet but the decision to devote screen time to its characters works.  It is an absorbing watch as one wonders where the plot leads or who the main protagonist is.  Each character has a past, and most of them have volatile personalities - uncontrollable explosive or under control.  For a crime drama, it is hard to feel sympathetic or emotional for any character, this film included.  The best alternative is just to make the characters watchable,

The opening scene takes place outside a bar called the Mirror Bar.  Nothing is seen but there is the sound of gunfire.  Flashback to “Four Days Earlier.”  Adam DeSalvo (Luke Evans) is approaching the end of three years’ probation following 16 in prison for flareup. Adam’s kept his nose clean, but he is not seeking a fresh start elsewhere.  Fresh out of prison after serving time for murder, Adam (Luke Evans) returns to his old stomping grounds to seek out a son who doesn't know him (Rudy Pankow). Eli (Zac Adams), the brother of the man he killed is looking for revenge. Mike, is trying to escape a life of crime living under the thumb of his gangster Uncle Leff (Alex Pettyfer).

More like a crime melodrama than a crime thriller and a crime drama, interesting though each character is, the story falls ten into cliched territory together with the fact that too many incidents happen that credibility is stretched too far.  Every character is down on his or her luck and things do not look as if it is going to get any better  The main protagonist is Ada, determined after the frost 20 minutes or so, who serves time because of a killing when he was a kid.  Down on his luck, he survives time in prison in the hope of seeing bis boy, the photo of his baby kept by him (sob-sob) all the time.  He still loves his girl, who wants to protect the son from him.  The three eventually meet for more heart-breaking melodrama.  One can tell things are not going to look good see, for obvious reasons.  Another story involves Mike played by Rory Culkin, brother of the HOME ALONE kid star, who is forced to drug deal.  As if things cannot get worse, he falls in love with his violent uncle's lover and decides to run away from the money tube made from a drug deal that eventually goes wrong.  All the bad stuff culminates at the Mirror Bar the scene which bookends the film.

There are some plusses in the film that include the gritty dark atmosphere of the film.  The film was shot in Manchester, England, a grim and dark industrial city where the black of the coal can still be seen on the buildings.

5 LBS OF PRESSURE is a decent crime thriller and melodrama, not without flaws but interesting enough for its story of down-on-the-luck losers with no way out, no matter how hard they try,  The film  opens in theatres and on-demand on March 8th,



Directed by Paul Debtor


Based on a true story.  Sort of…  That is what the audience is told at the beginning of the comedy/drama AMERICAN DREAMER, which means the filmmakers have taken the liberty to do changes to the true story for the purpose of entertainment.  American Dreamer, based on a true story from Chicago Public Radio’s The American Life, is the story of Dr. Phil Loder (Peter Dinklage), a twice-divorced, frustrated, underpaid professor of economics, whose grand dream of home ownership (the American dream?) is tragically out of reach.  When an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes his way, Phil strikes a deal with Astrid Finnelli (Shirley MacLaine), a lonely, childless, near-death widow who offers her sprawling estate for pennies. The deal is that he is to be a live-in at the estate, inheriting it when she passes as she has no offspring.  This is what he learns and signs with the real estate agent, played with gusto by Matt Dillon,  But Phil quickly learns the deal is too good to be true and the American dream is not quite what it used to be.

For those familiar with the work of Peter Dinklage, who rose to fame after his debut in THE STATION AGENT, he is a fine actor of ‘little’ status.  Lately, his height has not hindered him from playing roles of normal beings as evident in films like I CARE A LOT and SHE CAME TO ME.  In fact his character requires him to be kind of a Don Juan that all the ladies in the film wish to and do get to go to bed with (him).  Here the Emmy and Golden Globe Award Winner serves also as producer.  He is joined in the cast by Academy Award Winners Dillon and MacLaine.  Needless to say, fine performances are delivered in the film.

Hapless professors in colleges have recently been fond fodder in films like THE HOLDOVERS and AMERICAN FICTION,  In AMERICAN DREAMER the professor is again the hapless hero and once again as in AMERICAN FICTION, the professor takes his frustration into the lecture room that gets him in trouble with the authorities.

A few things that do not work in the film are Loder’s slapstick comedy like falling off half the time, either cutting himself or breaking things.  The obsession of Loder having to own property is also not that credible though it is based on a true story.  The other fact that stretches credibility is the woman’s attraction towards Loger.  Height aside, the personality of the man is annoying, angry and stressful, not to mention his dirty habits like being untidy, keeping a filthy unkept drawer and eating sandwiches out of vending machines, not to mention his constantly disheveled appearance.  What is really interesting is MacLaine’s character talking about past lives as MacLaine in real life does believe in and has written books on past lives as well claimed sight of phenomena like UFOs.

But there is something that can clearly be felt missing from this comedy-drama, be it the conviction of getting the story’s message across.  For sure is the fact that there is a message on the American Dream and the futile desire for material wealth.  But it is too bad that the message fails to hit harder at the audience that got lost in the way.


KUNG FU PANDA (USA 2024) **½

Directed by Mike Mitchell


When KUNG FU PANDA opens, the titular hero Po (Jack Black) is about to retire from being the Dragon Warrior, to step down to take on the new position of the Spiritual Leader of the Valley of Peace.  The same might be applied to the 4th installment of the KUNG FU PANDA franchise.  Perhaps it is time to retire the hero as ideas are running scarce, as this sequel shows,

Po is once again the goofy-eyed lazy and chubby panda who prefers eating dumplings to practicing his Martial-Arts.  Still, he prides himself on kicking butt.  Instead of hearing the words ‘Inner Please’, he hears the words ‘Dinner please’.

The jokes turn out pretty lame.  Examples are the quotes of ‘words of the street’ like you can’t trust anybody, used at an appropriate moment.  There are also jokes on little voices.  Po hears the voices of different Pos who all say the same thing, that Po does not want to hear.  Whatever humour that makes an animated feature (take Eddie Murphy’s Donkey as the best example in SHREK) is clearly missing here.

Still, director Mitchell (TROLLS) and writers Jonathan Abel, Glenn Berger and Darren Leake all do try their best to give this 4th installment everything they got.  For one they have created a supervillain that can steal the superpowers of all of Po’s past villains as Tai Lung, Lord Shen and Kai the Collector thus making her more than invincible.  The chameleon (voiced by Viola Davis) can shapeshift as well as harness the powers with the use of Po’s trident.  A new character in the form of a fox called Zhen is voiced by Awkwafina who livens the story up several notches.  She is Po’s new friend and sort of disciple.  But a fox is a cunning animal as will be revealed later in the story.




Directed by Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna, Eduardo Sánchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero and Alejandro Brugués 


SATANIC HISPANICS is a horror anthology of different horror stories bound together by the thread called ‘The Traveller’ of a man questioned by the police as he tells the stories.

SATANIC HISPANICS is directed by top Latin filmmakers and showcases the skills of Hispanic talent, both on and off-screen.

It all begins when police raid a house in El Paso, they find it full of dead Latinos, and only one survivor.  Known as ‘The Traveller’, he is taken to the police station for questioning. There, he recounts tales of horrors from his life, chronicling portals leading to other worlds, mythical beings, demons and the undead; he speaks of legends from Latin America.  “Death is never the end.  There are portals between life and death and sometimes the portals don’t close.”

The first one occurs in Chapter 2 called ‘Tambien Lo Vi’ (translation: ” I saw it too”)  with a character called Estrada who has a special sight.  He can see what others cannot see.  Apparently, he can see this portal between death and the living.   This chapter does not make much sense but it contains solid scares and has great atmospheric effects,

Chapter 3 is called El Vampire and yes, as the traveller says to the cops: It is a Vampire Story.  This segment is clearly the silliest but it is not without laughs.  A vampire is enjoying the best night in his life on Halloween drinking blood unaware that he would lose an hour of night owing to daylight savings time.  He has to make it back to his coffin before daylight.   A funny comedic set piece involves two cops witnessing him after killing three victims, thinking that it is all a prank.

Chapter 4 is called Nahuales.  It begins when the cops question the vial of red fluid which the traveller claims he obtained from a shaman’s ceremony after it was over. A nahual is a human being who has the power to transform either spiritually or physically into an animal.  The traveller goes on to relate is story that makes this chapter.  This tale is the most violent of the lot and with the least humour,

Finally ‘the traveller’ tells his last story in Chapter 5 about a guy called Malcolm.  At this time, the two cops have already lost their patience as has the traveler who has to leave his custody or his predator will get him as the traveler cannot remain in one place, he always manages to be several hours ahead of it.  This story involves a weapon called ‘the hammer of Zanzibar’ which is a giant dido used to, yes, fuck up the demon.

SATANIC HISPANIC is a horror anthology in the old tradition of classics like the 1945 British DEAD OF NIGHT, famous for the last episode about a mad ventriloquist.  Though the film is a mixed bag of tricks, it is still a blast of gore and laughs, a few better than others and a few funnier or scarier than the others, the anthology showcases the talents of the 5 Latino directors Mike Mendez, Demián Rugna (of the recent WHEN EVIL LUKS), Eduardo Sánchez, Gigi Saul Guerrero and Alejandro Brugués.  The film premiered at Fantastic Fest in 2022 and opens on Shudder on March 8th.


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