August 2011 Archives

GANTZ DVD Review: Your New Favorite Midnight Movie

A mind-blowing trip through a bizarre afterlife filled with fetish gear and nightmarish creatures.
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GANTZ is based on a manga and anime series of the same name, and yet it's perfectly fine and possibly preferable to approach the film with no advance knowledge of its mind-blowing tale. Unlike most recent Japanese genre films, it also has high production values and competent direction that contribute to a polished, professional final product. Its only real drawback is its two-hour length, as it succumbs to the far too typical Japanese approach of prolonged, slow stretches that grind the action to a virtual standstill for no apparent benefit. At a half hour shorter, it could have been an

The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara DVD Review: Diverse Dispatches from the Japanese New Wave

Koreyoshi Kurahara's name may not ring many bells in the West, but it ought to.
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Watching the five films in Criterion's latest Eclipse offering, The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara, one gets the sense that Kurahara was a filmmaker with wildly diverse interests. The films in the set careen from tightly wound noir to jazzy, anarchic buddy movie to erotic art house fantasy -- and yet, each seems to be the work of a master of the genre. We're not talking about a "jack of all trades, master of none" situation here. Kurahara didn't just dabble; he embraced every genre shift with gusto. Working at Nikkatsu studios in the 1960s, Kurahara was a prominent figure

Autoerotic Movie Review: Welcome to Mumbleporn

The stories of four couples that are anything but erotic
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I have a rule about independent films that bill themselves as, "erotic." It is almost a guarantee that those films are actually the furthest thing from erotic. Autoerotic by Joe Swanberg is no exception. Below is how this movie is billed: "Autoerotic follows four interconnected Chicago couples as they explore the boundaries of self-pleasure and sexual exploration. Through a unique blend of outrageous comedy and in-your-face sex, Autoerotic insightfully illuminates the private sexual lives of America's urbanites." Here is the real scoop. This movie is a new subgenre of Mumblecore, which I will call "Mumbleporn." Spoiler alert: This film is

Norwegian Ninja DVD Review: A Tale of Bizarre Absurdist Comedy

A movie so surreal, even Luis Buñuel would scratch his head and say "No comprende."
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Movies that depict events of real-life political scandals usually wind up being about as memorable as the entire career of WWF alumni Brutus the Barber Beefcake: unless you're some sort of freak that obsesses on the subject matter in question, you're really not going to give a shit about it 26 days down the line. But what about 26 years after a guy like Arne Treholt? While a good 99.9% of Americans can safely say they have no idea who he is, he's something of a legend in his native Norway, where he was convicted and sent to prison in

Bambi II Blu-ray Review: A Worthy Successor

An accomplished film that upholds and expands the tradition of the original.
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One of the most questionable actions of the Eisner/Katzenberg era at Disney was the decision to launch a series of direct-to-video sequels to their hallowed animated film classics. For the most part, those sequels were forgettable and barely a shadow of their origin films, with poor artistry, weak stories, and music. Seemingly no reason for existence other than extracting a few more dollars from the parents of the youngest and most devoted fans. However, magic managed to strike a few times, perhaps nowhere as successfully as Bambi II. Picking up during Bambi's childhood (aka his cute years), the "midquel" tracks

Orpheus Criterion Collection DVD Review: Jean Cocteau Constructed a Masterpiece

One would be hard pressed to come up with a better example of presenting a classic film than this.
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"Look at yourself in a mirror all your life and you will see see Death at work," says Heurtebise (Francois Perier) to Orpheus (Jean Marais) "like bees in a hive of glass." It is a wonderful line, and one of Jean Cocteau's main themes in his classic film Orpheus (1950). The statement also speaks to the character of Death (Maria Casares), who I feel is the true star of the movie. In the most basic terms, Orpheus is Cocteau's update of the classic Greek myth. In the tale, we find a musician so charismatic that his songs would charm any

Cedar Rapids The Super Awesome Edition Blu-ray Review: Neither Super nor Awesome

Great potential, but fails to deliver.
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Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a sheltered and naive small-town insurance agent who is given the chance to attend a convention in the big city of Cedar Rapids when his co-worker dies suddenly. Bill (Stephen Root), the insurance company owner, is hoping that Tim will be able to secure the agency the coveted two-diamond award for the fourth year in a row. Tim leaves his older girlfriend/ex-teacher (Sigourney Weaver) behind and embarks on an adventure that starts with him flying on airplane for the first time and results with him drinking, doing drugs, and many other things he would have

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: The Last Mile (1932)

"I think I'll go get a little air." - Killer Mears
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Based on Jon Wexley's play, which the movie poster claims "rocked the nation," The Last Mile stars Howard Phillips as Richard Walters, a man sentenced to death row for a murder he denies committing. While his friends on the outside try to prove his innocence, Walters finds himself in the middle of an uprising. Killer Mears (Preston S. Foster) leads fellow inmates in taking the prison guards hostage and control of a cell block. Mears makes demands, but Warden Lewis (Frank Sheridan) has other ideas to end the stand-off. Director Sam Bischoff must have intended The Last Mile to

Blow Out Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Hearing is Believing

Brian De Palma delivers the goods with this political thriller.
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Brian De Palma's Blow Out is an intriguing political thriller that plays with the ideas of perception and cinema. These themes are hinted at in the opening sequence as "Blow Out opens with a POV sequence taken from Coed Frenzy, a low-budget slasher film, which it turns out is being watched by a producer and sound editor Jack Terry (John Travolta). One night while out in the wilderness recording natural effects, Jack happens to be in the right place at the right time as a car blows a tire and crashes into a lake. Jack jumps in but is only

TRON: Legacy Movie Review: This Should Have Stayed off the Grid

If only I had the ability to drag my memory of TRON: Legacy to the Recycle Bin.
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TRON: Legacy is the most pretentious, douche-baggy film in recent memory. While the original TRON movie was a fun albeit forgettable fantasy story with some interesting ideas and great visuals, TRON: Legacy is instead an action flick that attempts to be The Matrix, but, like, on steroids, man! Kevin Flynn (the protagonist of the first film) disappears and leaves his only son to grow up to be a "badass" angsty, motorcycle-riding, rule-defying hacker that plays by his own rules. But it's not just Sam Flynn who tries to exude "'tude" in everything he does, the script tries to accomplish the

Marley & Me: The Puppy Years Blu-ray Review: Oh, Dear God, No!

A terrible kiddie movie that shamelessly rips off several other terrible kiddie movies.
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Just when you think that that god-awful mega-super-evil conglomerate known as Walmart couldn't get any more malicious towards its ignorantly innocent clientele, it subtly unleashes an "in-store only" exclusive: a forgettable, crappy sequel to a surprisingly entertaining Owen Wilson movie. Yes, it's Marley & Me: The Puppy Years -- wherein the producers behind this abomination figured it would be a good idea to discard just about any continuity with the original film by turning this into a just another talking dog film. Yes, that's correct: the dogs talk in this film. Evidently, lackluster kiddie flicks like Marmaduke (another Owen Wilson

D23 Expo 2011: A Preview of Wreck-It Ralph

He's not bad; he's just programmed that way.
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At the recent D23 Expo, I had the opportunity to talk with some Disney insiders about the upcoming computer-animated film Wreck-It Ralph.  Specifically, I was able to hound some folks from the studio for information about this intriguing project, due out in November of 2012, until they spilled the beans. Ralph (to be voiced by the wonderful John C. Reilly) is a video game character in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.  Specifically, he's the villain.  Ralph is a bad guy by design, but he doesn't want to be.  With his fiery orange hair and giant arms, he looks

The Beaver (2011) Blu-ray Review: A Terrific Film with Some Dazzling Performances

Hey, this isn't the Jerry Mathers biopic!
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I have literally seen several thousand movies -- and I am not in any way trying to brag when I say that, as I know there are professional (read: "real") film critics out there that have seen thousands more. Now, one of the things that members of the general public sometimes don't really take into consideration when it comes to reviewers assessing a moving picture's worthiness is that we don't always pick the movies we see on account of any leisurely "Hey, let's go see that movie" feeling. As such, we occasionally get something dropped in our lap that we

Secret Sunshine Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Secret No More

Actress Do-Yeon Jeon delivers a powerhouse performance in director Chang-Dong Lee's moving drama.
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After an interminable four-year delay, Secret Sunshine has finally reached U.S. shores thanks to the fine folks at Criterion. The South Korean film garnered international acclaim at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival (Palme d'Or nominee and Best Actress winner) but then vanished with barely a trace here, apparently failing to secure domestic U.S. video distribution until now. Thankfully, it was well worth the wait and so timeless that it could have remained in the vault for decades without losing any of its power. That's thanks primarily to a knockout performance by lead actress Do-Yeon Jeon, ably abetted by writer/director Chang-Dong

Book Review: Lucille Ball FAQ by James Sheridan and Barry Monush

There is simply no better source for everything Lucy.
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While Lucille Ball (1911-1989) made her name in television, she began her illustrious career in film. The movie was Roman Scandals (1933), and starred Eddie Cantor. She was later signed as a contract player with RKO Studios, which she would one day own. All of these facts and more are contained in a handy, one-stop tome titled Lucille Ball FAQ. The Hal Leonard Company has been a leader in publishing sheet music, songbooks, and musical biographies for decades now. Their FAQ series has been enormously successful, although until now the books have been exclusively music oriented. Why they chose Lucy

Trailer for Martin Scorsese's George Harrison: Living In The Material World Has Fans on Cloud Nine

The story of the Quiet Beatle, who was much more than that.
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Martin Scorsese's BBC documentary George Harrison: Living In The Material World is slated to be a wide-ranging biography that will examine his impact as an artist on the world and the world's impact on him. After obtaining permission from Harrison's family to make the film, Scorsese and his team created the project from archival footage, some of it unseen, and interviews with many important people from Harrison's life, such as Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, Olivia and Dhani Harrison, Patti Boyd, Eric Clapton, and Eric Idle. Scorsese has proven himself to be a very talented documentarian with films like

The Legends of Hollywood U.S. Stamp Series Honors Four Directors in 2012

Nobody's perfect, but these stamps come awfully close.
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In 2012, the U.S. Postal Service will expand the Legends of Hollywood series with a collection of commemorative Forever stamps, stamps that are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate, focusing on Great Film Directors. Art Director Derry Noyes designed these stamps using art by award-winning illustrator Gary Kelley, who created the images using pastels on paper.  The stamp art combines a portrait of each man with an example of one of his most iconic works. The honorees are four directors selected for capturing the many varieties of the American experience.  They are Frank Capra, John

D23 Expo 2011: Walt Disney Studios Upcoming Live-Action Releases

Based on audience reaction, The Muppets and The Avengers are what Expo attendees are most excited about.
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Director and co-writer Andrew Stanton introduced John Carter, out March 9, 2012, based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel.  The teaser trailer looked rather generic for an action film, along the lines of Then Mummy and Prince of Persia.  Scene where John meets Martians like the nine-foot tall, four-armed Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and a speedy dog-like creature showed some potential and humor but Taylor Kitsch playing John Carter didn't demonstrate much charisma. Tim Burton revisits his 1984 short film "Frankenweenie" by expanding it into a full-length, black and white, stop-motion, 3D feature to be released October 5, 2012

D23 Expo 2011: Walt Disney Studios Upcoming Animated Releases

Sneak Peeks of Brave and Wreck-It Ralph were the highlights.
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The Walt Disney Studios skipped Comic Con this year to present at their upcoming roster of films D23 Expo 2011, bringing some notoriety and publicity to their own event.  And it certainly was popular as the line to get into the 5,000-seat hall was capped an hour before the presentation started and some folks had been in line at 6 a.m. for 10:30 a.m. start time. Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross introduced John Lasseter, chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, to handle the animation portion of the presentation.  First up was Disney's Planes,

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Crimes at the Dark House (1940)

"Oh, I`ve been longing to sink my fingers into your fat, greasy, little throat." - Faux Sir Percival Glyde
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Tod Slaughter stars in this British thriller Crimes at the Dark House based on Wilkie Collins' novel The Woman in White, though to what degree is not clear to me as I don't know either. The film opens in Australia where Slaughter's unnamed character murders Sir Percival Glyde while he's sleeping and then impersonates Sir Percy back home in England thinking he going to come into a great fortune. But Sir Percival wasn't as well off as he appeared. Faux Percival quickly discovers the estate in debt and to his great suprise Lady Catherick (Elsie Wagstaff) shows up claiming

The Killing Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Meet Me At The Racetrack

A competent heist film that provides an early glimpse of Kubrick's emerging talent
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The Killing is a fine little film on its own, and yet I couldn't help but compare it unfavorably to writer/director Stanley Kubrick's later triumphs. It's also a bit deceptively titled, as what one might naturally expect to be a murder mystery is instead a detailed heist drama seen from the various perspectives of its participants. With no major stars and a fairly conventional, albeit imaginatively time-shuffled plot, it's mostly interesting now as a pleasant diversion and a glimpse of Kubrick's early development. The story focuses on a group of crooks as they plan a massive heist at a racetrack.

Senna Movie Review: See It Now, Because Everyone Will Be Talking About It

Like the saying goes, he lived fast and died young.
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One thing I learned early in life: it's okay for boys to cry, as long as the tears are shed at sports movies. So I wasn't surprised to hear some macho sniffling during a recent screening of Senna, the Sundance-Award-winning documentary about Brazilian Formula One race car driver Ayrton Senna, who died in a tragic crash at the age of 34. If I lost you at "Formula One" or "race car," you're not alone. Had I known more about the topic of the film, I might have avoided it, as I've avoided anything relating to motor sports for my entire

La Rabbia DVD Review: A Politically-Charged Italian Oddity

Pier Paolo Pasolini and Giovannino Guareschi square off.
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Differing opinions don't get much more diametrically opposite than those put forth in La Rabbia or The Anger, a two-part polemic helmed by legendary filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and journalist Giovannino Guareschi. Pasolini and Guareschi -- well, let's just say they don't agree on much, offering up vastly divergent diagnoses for the world's ills in their respective segments, each of which run a little over 50 minutes. Comprised entirely of documentary and newsreel footage, accompanied by a stream of running commentary written by the filmmakers, La Rabbia features imagery of the tumultuous 1950s and early 1960s, complete with military oppression,

The Big Lebowski Live Cast Reunion Brought to You by Livestream

See the sold-out event from the comfort of wherever you are.
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Live from New York, The Big Lebowski Live Cast Reunion is taking place at the NY Lebowski Fest to help promote The Big Lebowski's debut on Blu-ray.  For those of you unable to attend the sold-out event, Livestream offers access to it below.  Grab a White Russian and whatever else you have on hand, sit back, and enjoy. thebiglebowski on Broadcast Live Free

Cul-de-Sac Criterion Collection DVD Review: Not Your Garden Variety Thriller

Roman Polanski's third feature film gets a much-deserved Criterion treatment.
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The tragedies and controversy swirling around director Roman Polanski's personal life have frequently overshadowed his reputation as a filmmaker, especially in the U.S. Nonetheless, his body of work stands on its own merits and he remains one of the shining stars of the cinematic landscape of the '60s and '70s. Cul-de-Sac is one of three films that Polanski made in England following the success of his first feature film, Knife in the Water (1962). The decade was a fertile one for Polanski. The first of the English-made films was the brilliant Repulsion (1965), starring Catherine Deneuve. Cul-de-Sac followed in 1966,

The Big Lebowski Blu-ray Review: Not Quite a Gutterball, but Close

The Dude shouldn't have to abide in this lackluster, DNR-heavy high-def transfer.
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The Film There's no film in the Coen Brothers' oeuvre quite like The Big Lebowski, which seems to have generated as many fans because of its ethos as it has for its supreme quotability. The Big Lebowski isn't nearly my favorite Coen film, but it certainly rivals Raising Arizona for the one I pop in the most. Maybe it's something about The Dude's unflappably laid-back demeanor that makes it one of those movies you can watch just about whenever; maybe it's the fact that nearly every episodic scene is a tightly packed comedy capsule. Talk to 10 different Lebowski lovers,

Book Review: The Boomer's Guide to Story: A Search for Insight in Literature and Film by Roemer McPhee

Looking for insight into the Baby Boomers through the literature and film that influenced it and it produced.
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Full disclosure first. I tend to watch a film almost solely for enjoyment. I don't usually concern myself with a movie's structure or ponder how many metaphorical elements it may have. In fact, I remain befuddled by the high regard for Citizen Kane. I am, though, a Baby Boomer, falling about in the center of the commonly used 1946-1964 birth range used to define the boomers. Fortunately, the first isn't a disqualification and the second is of value when it comes to reading The Boomer's Guide to Story: A Search of Insight in Literature and Film. Although the title refers

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Beat the Devil (1953)

"Only phonies like it." - Humphrey Bogart
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Beat the Devil is the fifth and last film Humphrey Bogart and John Huston made together and is a spoof of their first, The Maltese Falcon (1941). It tells the story of a cast of characters stuck in a small Italian port who are trying to get their hands on uranium-rich land in Kenya. Huston co-wrote the script with Truman Capote, which was based on the novel of the same name by James Helvick. Bogart starred in and produced the film; the poor reception upon its release likely explains the quote attributed to him: "Only phonies like it." The
Hooray for Harry Potter! Once again, and for the last time, the creators of the Harry Potter series have put together an entertaining and uplifting movie. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 does not disappoint. It's been ten years since the first Harry Potter movie, and on looking back, I can't remember ever walking out of a single one and thinking that I was shortchanged. This is especially true of the Deathly Hallows Part 2. A very satisfying finale to a great run. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 are perhaps the darkest of

The Mikado Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Dated but Has its Charms

An enjoyable melding of opera and film that offers a glimpse back in time at the sitcom of its day.
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The Mikado is the ninth opera created by the tandem of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It debuted in London on March 14, 1885, at the Savoy Theatre, which was built by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, and was performed to great success by his D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, leading to one of the longest theatrical runs of the era. In 1939, director Victor Schertzinger released an adaptation The Mikado in conjunction with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, becoming the first of Gilbert and Sullivan's work made for the silver screen The film begins with a prologue not in the opera

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man DVD Review: A Truly Mind-Blowing Experience

Harry Callahan gets split into Starsky & Hutch and injected with every Italian stereotype in the book.
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In the early '70s, cop flicks were all the rage. Witness, for example, the oh-so-spectacular Dirty Harry franchise from the United States; a series that was making money all over the globe. Meanwhile, in that Europe place, Italy was showing the world why their country was shaped like a policeman's boot: it was kicking some serious ass of its own with its highly-revered poliziotteschi genre. And, although Italy's contribution to the world of cop flicks started several years before Clint Eastwood's cinematic saga ever hit the screen, the effects of said legacy were felt abroad as well as in America.

The Battle of Algiers Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Political Powder-Keg

Intelligent and visceral, Gillo Pontecorvo's gritty and unflinching film is one for the ages.
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The Film The Battle of Algiers doesn't simply tack on a cinema verité veneer to achieve a sense of realism; it lives and breathes gritty reality, so much so that one has to constantly remind oneself it isn't actually a documentary. Some screenings of the film had a disclaimer attached at the head noting that not a single foot of film was from documentary sources, and it's understandable why. More than a stylistic flourish, the raw immediacy that pulses through every frame has ensured it's unassailable status as a political masterpiece. The film recounts the struggle of the Algerian people

A Big Box Of Wood DVD Set Review: The Ultimate Ed Wood Collection

Practically everything one would want to see from this truly one of a kind talent.
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In anylyzing the qualities about two of the most prominent autuers of the French New Wave, critic Andrew Sarris conclued that while Jean-Luc Godard may have been more brilliant, innovative, and profound than Francois Truffaut - in the end he preferred Truffaut's more gentle, leisurely insights. There is a comforting "man of the people" attraction to this way of thinking, which is one of the reasons Edward D. Wood Jr. (1924 - 1978) has been so celebrated in the years since his death. For example, one can watch Forbidden Planet (1956) today (as I recently did), and still marvel at

Laws of Gravity DVD Review: Scorsese's Mean Streets Did It Before and Did It Better

Writer/director Nick Gomez does nothing new or memorable with this familiar material.
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Nick Gomez' Laws of Gravity was his debut as a feature film writer and director and it is now part of the made-on-demand MGM Limited Edition Collection. The film is very reminiscent of Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets from two decades earlier, but because Gomez does nothing new or memorable with the material, it suffers as a result from the similarities. Jimmy (Peter Greene) and Jon (Adam Trese) are two losers living in Brooklyn. They are partners in crime, and they aren't very good at that. Jimmy lives with his girlfriend Denise (Edie Falco). She has a legitimate job and it's

Donnie Darko 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Nothing New to See Here, Folks

The theatrical cut is well worth revisiting, but this re-packaging of material is hardly anything to get excited about.
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The Film A bona fide cult classic and champion of the home video era after a disastrous post 9-11 limited theatrical run, Donnie Darko is well worth revisiting. Known for its mysterious qualities and inscrutability that's driven plenty of passionate theories and explanations on Internet forums, it's been a go-to mind-blower for the last decade. It'd been a few years since I'd seen Donnie Darko -- the 2004 director's cut -- and I opted for the theatrical cut for this viewing. Whereas the director's cut amps up the mindfuck sensibility with interludes that further explain the internal logic of fictional

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Twelve Crowded Hours (1939)

Happy 100th birthday to America's favorite redhead.
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Even though Hollywood couldn't find a way to turn one of the funniest comediennes into a movie star, Cinema Sentries wants to honor the centennial of Lucille Ball's birth with a Saturday Public Domain Movie screening. She was a contract player for RKO in the 1930s, appearing in small parts alongside the likes of the Three Stooges (Three Little Pigskins, 1934), Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers (Top Hat, 1935), and the Marx Brothers in Room Service (1938). She became known as the "Queen of the B's" but it was her success on the radio program My Favorite Husband, which

Overboard (1987) Blu-Ray Review: A Fun Throwback to the Screwball Comedy

In short: good movie, bad release.
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"Billy, there is a God and he loves me!" "You're not gonna shave your head, are you?" Noted film critic Andrew Sarris once referred to the genre known as the Screwball Comedy as "A sex comedy without the sex." And, thanks to those uptight puritan bastards that developed the Hayes Code back in the '30s, they had no other choice but to keep it that way: the Code deemed sex to be a taboo subject during their totalitarian rule over the Motion Picture Industry that booted up in 1934. By the time 1968 came about, however -- and the Hayes

Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes (2001): And the Winner is...

Get your hands off my childhood, you damn, dirty movie studios!
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Rise of the Planet of the Apes is beating up on the competition like a band of angry gorillas. Director Rupert Wyatt's reboot of the classic 1968-1973 series of films is estimated to earn $55 million this weekend, based on box office projections. Entertainment Weekly describes the movie's performance so far as "terrific" and the Hollywood Reporter suggests that the film, which cost $93 million to produce, will "shatter all [financial] expectations." Critics are raving, Rotten Tomatoes is gushing with an 81% certified fresh rating (highest of all major releases this week) and sequel buzz is louder than feeding time

Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune Movie Review: A Study of a Study in Contradictions

A complex study of the troubled troubadour's life.
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As Kenneth Bowser's new documentary Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune makes clear, folksinger Phil Ochs (1940 - 1976) was a study in contradictions. As part of the Greenwich Village coffee-house scene of the early sixties, Ochs espoused the de riguer leftist politics of the day. On the other hand, he was a proud product of Virginia's Staunton Military Academy, and a big fan of WWII-veteran-turned-actor Audie Murphy, not to mention John Wayne. As friend Andy Wickham puts it: "Left-wing politics was his career, but it was not what was in his heart." His conflicting emotions were most dramatically exemplified

Be Cool Blu-ray Review: The Filmmakers Should Have Followed That Advice

Makes for decent, mid-afternoon "I'm stuck in a hotel with nothing else to do and this is all that's on" fodder.
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We've all heard of the wonders of "Movie Magic." No, I'm not referring to the screenwriting software, but rather to that thrilling enchantment of wondrousness that goes into every aspect of filmmaking. It's something that simply fascinates the general public, unless they have been involved in making a movie, that is, in which case, they can become either disenchanted, bored, bitter, bloated, or -- in the worst case scenario -- a Scientologist. The plus side of the latter fate is that its believers seem to be very happy -- in a "Look, pal, I don't care what you do, but

Bellflower Movie Review: Flamethrowing Its Way Into Your Heart

This Sundance and SXSW fav more than lives up to the buzz.
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Love is a battlefield, as Pat Benatar reminded us back in the '80s. Nowhere is that fact more evident than in Bellflower, actor/director Evan Glodell's stylishly violent romantic tragedy, opening this weekend in New York and Los Angeles. Over the course of two hours, the five leads in this love pentagon are hit by cars, beaten with baseball bats, assaulted with knives, forcibly tattooed, attacked with weapons of mass destruction, shot in the head, and betrayed in their own beds. But it's the infidelity that provides the deepest and most long-lasting wound, as anyone who's been cheated on already knows.

The Fox and the Hound 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray Review: More Bark For Your Buck

Marriage of feature film with direct-to-video sequel is worthwhile thanks to the decent quality of both projects
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Disney's mining of their vaults takes a new turn this month with this Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that includes both the original theatrical feature along with its direct-to-video sequel. They've tried a couple of these two-fer Blu-ray packages with theatrical releases in the past year, specifically Tron/Tron Legacy and Fantasia/Fantasia 2000, but to my knowledge this is the first Blu-ray combo of theatrical and direct-to-video content. It's not the last though, as The Lion King release on the horizon will have an option to purchase as a bundle with its two video sequels. That's great for hardcore fans who want every

Rise of the Planet of the Apes Presents the Rise of a New Franchise

Andy Serkis as Caesar and the CGI work by Weta Digital are the film's highlights.
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While I am certain this phenomenon is not isolated to movies, it's interesting how many devotees confuse having an opinion with informed knowledge about a subject. Although Hollywood usually proves them right, many self-described cinephiles are surprisingly strident in their opposition to sequels and remakes due to a perceived lack of originality and imagination. Yet, it's rather easy to find titles that poke holes in their positions like Godfather II or The Maltese Falcon. Reboots, a popular trend in Hollywood from the past decade that finds franchises relaunched with their own new continuity, is another term that draws immediate derision

Wedding Daze Blu-ray Review: Agreeably Low-Key Rom-Com

Charming, if rote, Wedding Daze is better than it looks.
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The Film For a movie about a spontaneous marriage proposal, the stakes feel pretty low in Wedding Daze, essentially a direct-to-video 2006 film that somehow managed to snag a Blu-ray upgrade. And actually, it's the film's low-key nature that helps it become a rather charming, if hardly earth-shattering little comedy. An approach that tried harder would likely flatten the very thin premise. Written and directed by Michael Ian Black, Wedding Daze (which was originally titled The Pleasure of Your Company and later, The Next Girl I See) begins with a disastrous marriage proposal by Anderson (Jason Biggs) to girlfriend Vanessa

Mars Needs Moms Blu-ray Review: Skip The Movie, Read The Book

Director Simon Wells fails to translate the charm of the source book to film.
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The news that Berkeley Breathed's touching children's book was being adapted to film was met with excitement in my household, until it was revealed that the film would follow the horrendous Robert Zemeckis model of CG animation via motion capture. As it turns out, that mo-cap approach isn't the worst thing about this lousy film, but it's one culprit on a long list. Milo (Seth Green) is an average Earth boy living with a harried single mom and generally failing to appreciate the effort she puts forth for him. After a heated argument one night, Milo realizes the error of

Book Review: Joe Simon: My Life in Comics

A great look at the comic book industry from the inside.
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Tying in perfectly with Captain America: The First Avenger, one of the character's co-creators, Joe Simon, has released his engaging autobiography, which offers a fascinating account of his career in the comic-book business supplemented by his personal life. His prose is very straightforward, like he's sitting across a table from you, and the story progresses chronology for the most part. There are black and white illustrations throughout and eight glossy pages of color. Simon was raised in Rochester, NY and his artistic skills got him job at a local paper, the "Rochester Journal-American. He progressed to larger cities, eventually landing

The Hedgehog (2011) Movie Review: An Emotionally Moving Film

A beautiful film about the fact that we are larger than the roles we have been assigned
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WARNING: THIS IS A FOREIGN FILM AND YOU DO HAVE TO READ AND WATCH AT THE SAME TIME! (Unless you are fluent in French.) The Hedgehog (Le Herrison) is inspired by the bestselling novel, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (L'Élégance du Hérisson) by Muriel Barbery. This delicate foreign film follows the coming of age of Paloma (Garance Le Guillermic) who has decided that she will end her life on her 12th birthday. Off to a great start, right? Actually, Paloma is not a morose little girl by any means. She is just a product of a mother who worships psychotherapy,

Snob Seven: Favorite Movie Monkey

Saluting seven cinematic simians.
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With the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and our own retrospective on the previous Apes movies, it seemed like the perfect time for the Sentries look back at their favorite monkeys in the movies. And save the zoological comments and emails. We know technically they aren't all monkeys, but "Favorite Movie Primate" doesn't have the same ring to it, now does it? King Kong - first appearance King Kong (1933) by El Bicho Had to start with the king of all movie monkeys: King Kong. Brought to life by Willis O'Brien and his stop-motion animation team,

Battle For the Planet of the Apes Movie Review: Time to Sell More Coloring Books!

Man and ape living together? It's a madhouse! A madhouse!
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It's human nature to overstay your welcome, especially when you're having a good time. Apparently it's simian nature too, as you'll discover if you watch Battle For the Planet of the Apes (1973). The final film in the original Apes series is not without merit, but it is without a point. It's creatively unnecessary, and riddled with storytelling inconsistencies that threaten to undermine the narrative integrity of the series as a whole. Of course, you could say the same about the latter chapters of every multi-installment work in film history, from the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies to the much-maligned Star

Electric Daisy Carnival Experience Movie Review: Experience It...If You Can Find It

Controversy threatens to derail theatrical debut tomorrow night
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America's largest dance music festival has been under fire for the last year after massive fallout from the 2010 edition captured in this film. A teenage girl's drug-related death at that show led to a firestorm of publicity that later exposed financial corruption among the LA Coliseum officials who had allowed the event to take place there for many years, forcing the event's move to Las Vegas this year. Then when this documentary premiered to an invitation-only audience in Hollywood last week, hundreds of uninvited guests showed up in response to an ill-advised tweet from featured DJ Kaskade and forced

Rio Blu-ray Review: Bird of Paradise

Director Carlos Saldanha mines his native Brazil for audiovisual gold, enriching Rio's lifeless plot.
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Rio works its Brazilian setting to its advantage, with an explosion of sights and sounds demonstrating the care native son director Carlos Saldanha (Ice Age series) put into sharing the best of his homeland. Regrettably, the same care was not extended to the story, with a lifeless and wholly predictable slog about finding one's true self that fails to match the soaring heights of its visuals and music. The film was also clearly geared to capitalize on the 3D craze, making its current 2D home presentation feel a bit lacking during the chaotic action sequences. However, there are more than

Stake Land Blu-ray Review: It Goes for the Throat

Dammit all, I thought this was "Skate Land"!
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In the film industry, all it takes is one hit. Zombieland -- a film that I really did not enjoy whatsoever -- not only opened the door for movies like Stake Land to be made, but removed it from the hinges completely, allowing for movies like, well, Stake Land to be made. Following my initial disappointment over the fact that I hadn't been given Skate Land like I had hoped, I settled down to check out Stake Land. The story here involves a teenage boy (Connor Paolo) named Martin (a nod to a certain George A. Romero film, perhaps?) teaming

Escape from the Planet of the Apes Movie Review: A Cinematic Course Correction for the Franchise

"Where we come from, apes talk. Humans are dumb." - Cornelius
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"How do you carry on when you've blown up the world?" host Roddy McDowall asks in Behind the Planet of the Apes, a documentary produced for the AMC cable channel in 1998. That was the dilemma facing Apes producer Arthur P. Jacobs and writer Paul Dehn when Twentieth Century Fox requested a third film in the series, following the box office success of Beneath the Planet of the Apes in the summer of 1970. As you may recall, Beneath ends (SPOILER ALERT) with the destruction of Earth. As you may also recall (SPOILER ALERT) it's an awful movie. This left

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes Movie Review: Witness the First Rise of the Apes

"Tonight we have seen the birth of the planet of the apes!" - Caesar
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Watching the original Planet Of The Apes movies some 40 years after their theatrical release makes for an intriguing look back. The first, simply titled Planet Of The Apes (1968) was adapted from the Pierre Boulle book, with a screenplay by Rod Serling. The premise of Earth having somehow de-evolved over time, with apes moving to the top of the food chain, and humans little more than mute animals, was a fascinating one. It has since taken its place as a bona-fide sci-fi classic. The four sequels are another story. They inhabit a genre I like to call "ape-sploitation." Unlike

Leon Morin, Priest Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Sex and Religion on the Mind

Jean-Pierre Melville directs and Jean-Paul Belmondo stars in a film that's somewhat atypical for both.
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The Film Léon Morin, Priest is a somewhat atypical film for director Jean-Pierre Melville and star Jean-Paul Belmondo, at least when compared with the most iconic work of both. A moody, sometimes playful tale of sexual repression and religious debate, the film is set against the backdrop of the German occupation of France during WWII, with Belmondo starring as the titular priest. Belmondo had recently made the jump to stardom, and his rakish charm and good looks might seem at odds with the character of a priest, but work perfectly as Léon Morin, who doesn't go out of his way

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