October 2011 Archives

Cars Collector's Edition is the Pick of the Week

A less than stellar sequel gets the full treatment.
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For the longest time it seemed that Pixar could do no wrong. Over the last 16 years they have consistently made some of the finest family films this side of Studio Ghibli. While certainly some films were better than others all of them have been highly enjoyable and walked that line where both kids and adults can find something to enjoy. When they announced a sequel to their 2006 film Cars I was at first a little disappointed. While filled with some amazing animation and some fun moments I find that film to my least favorite Pixar film to date,

William Castle is Back! And Deader Than Ever

Skeletons are not the only things to emerge from a Halloween weekend screening of House on Haunted Hill.
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Good news: William Castle, the master of cinematic suspense and inventor of the greatest audience-pleasing gimmicks in movie history, has come back from the dead. "I can confirm that," the director's grandson Kyle Castle Newall said Friday night at the Loew's Jersey Theater in Jersey City. "Indeed he has." Newall, an NYU student who was born after his grandfather died - or rather, after he died the first time - was in attendance for a screening of Castle's 1959 classic House on Haunted Hill, wherein a flying skeleton torments attendees at a party thrown by Vincent Price. And, in a

Le Havre Movie Review: Another Low-Key Delight from Aki Kaurismäki

Impeccable composition, glorious art direction and a charming, fantasy-tinged tale make Aki Kaurismäki's latest a must-see.
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Aki Kaurismäki's films often require the viewer to get on a specific wavelength in order to appreciate the wry tone he cultivates. His latest, Le Havre, is an excellent place to begin to get accustomed, as Kaurismäki weaves a warm, fantasy-tinged tale that's easy to appreciate and immensely charming. Applying a light touch to the knotty issue of European immigration, Le Havre is hardly a substantial take on its subject matter, but it's not trying to be. Instead, we get a lovely, melancholy story that's more about mood and characterization than big issues. André Wilms stars as Marcel Marx, a

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

"If I am the Phantom, it is because man's hatred has made me so...If I shall be saved, it will be because your love redeems me." - Erik
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Spend Halloween weekend enjoying a landmark in cinema history. Based on the novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom (Lon Chaney) haunts the Paris Opera House and issues threats if his beloved Christine (Mary Philbin), understudy to the lead, isn't allowed to sing the role of Marguerite in the current production of Gounod's Faust. Knowing that Christine is involved with the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry), the Phantom kidnaps her to live with him in his underground liar, leading Chagny and others to come to her rescue. Lon Chaney shocked audiences with his inventive, iconic

The Captains DVD Review: William Shatner Logs Interviews with Peers

A Must-Have for Any Trek Fan.
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William Shatner has written and directed this compilation of interviews and brief glimpses into the lives of the six actors, of which he is one, who have served as captains in their own franchise of Star Trek. The list includes Shatner from the original series, Patrick Stewart from Star Trek: The Next Generation, Avery Brooks from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Kate Mulgrew from Star Trek: Voyager, Scott Bakula from Star Trek: Enterprise, and Chris Pine from the most recent motion picture. As the documentary ends, one can't help but realize that the line between an incomplete piece and simply

The Howling: Reborn Blu-ray Review: Direct-to-Video meets Direct-to-Bargain-Bin

They should have included a free pooper-scooper, so that it could be disposed of properly.
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From the very first frame, it's clear to even a single-celled organism with a solitary intelligence quota point that The Howling: Reborn is an ode to incompetence. The Direct-to-Video wonder -- helmed by an unknown, untalented writer/director named Joe Nimziki -- is nothing more than a bunglingly bad and all-too-obvious attempt to meld the worlds of Harry Potter and Twilight along with just about any other semi-popular motion picture fad they could think of. All one has to do is note the presence of Harry and Bella look-alikes as the lead "teenagers" here and listen to any of the movie's

Act of Vengeance (1974) DVD Review: Watch Out, Men, 'Cuz the Rape Squad is Here!

Guaranteed to have you waltzing in to take a hot shower once it's over.
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Filmmaker Bob Kelljan started off with a promising enough career at AIP Studios in 1970 writing and directing the cult classic Count Yorga, Vampire -- a highlight of '70s horror cinema that Kelljan followed up the following year with a sequel, The Return of Count Yorga (which he also wrote and directed). Two years after that, Bob found himself directing yet another sequel, though this time, it was to a funky AIP bloodsucker that wasn't of his own devise; that of the hip Blacula in Scream Blacula Scream. And then, just as swiftly as his vocation manufacturing big-screen horrors began,

Smiles of a Summer Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: All's Well That Ends Well

Ingmar Bergman's film will deliver a smile any night.
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Though legendary director Ingmar Bergman is well known for creating films that deal with serious subjects about life and death, faith and doubt, marriage and divorce, he became an international sensation with this light romantic comedy, which Criterion released on Blu-ray this year. Smiles of a Summer Night is a charming tale about of group of upper-class, mismatched lovers who sort things out one summer night in the country. Lawyer Fredrik (Gunnar Björnstrand) is married to the much younger Anne (Ulla Jacobsson), who is near the same age as Fredrik's son Henrik (Björn Bjelfvenstam) from his previous marriage to his

Book Review: The Vampire Film: From Nosferatu to True Blood - A Highly Recommended Reference Book

Alain Silver and James Ursini have revised their already wonderful book to include several recent entries of vampire lore.
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Recently in the history of our humble little planet, we've witnessed a ruthless dictator's toppling demise, the occupation of Wall Street by protestors, the threat of a complete shut-down of the government, and two -- two -- incredibly bizarre (not to mention highly inaccurate) promises of the end of the world by the same Christian nutjob (which many people actually fell for the first time 'round). It's madness, to say the very least. And yet, despite all the daily dangers to economies and budgets around the world, there's something comforting and buoyant over reference books about vampires in the motion

Island of Lost Souls (1932) Criterion Collection DVD Review: Are We Not Men?

One of the most unsettling films ever.
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"Do you know what it means to feel like God?" asks the fiendish Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) at one point in Island of Lost Souls (1932). It is the question of an ultimate egomaniac, and goes to the root of this incredibly creepy tale. The movie is based on the novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, published in 1896 by H.G. Wells. Although it is not as celebrated today as films such as Frankenstein (1931) or Dracula (1931), Island of Lost Souls is an early horror classic. In many ways it is one of the most unsettling films ever. Our

The Four Feathers (1939) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Offers Quite a Bit of Excitement

Harry Faversham's journey from coward to hero.
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The A.E.W. Mason classic adventure book The Four Feathers (1902) has been adapted into at least seven films directly. The latest was a semi-well received version in 2002 with Heath Ledger, Wes Bentley, and Kate Hudson. When the 1939 version was released, there had already been three previous version, including a version with King Kong star Fay Wray. Now out on beautiful Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection is the Zoltan Korda 1939 version of The Four Feathers. For a story adapted so many times, I knew this film is considered the definitive version and I was anxious to see what

Cream: Live at Royal Albert Hall London 2005 Blu-ray Review: I'm So Glad This Was Recorded

A great concert disc showcasing their triumphant return.
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Cream is a legendary rock trio from the late '60s featuring bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce, guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton, and drummer Ginger Baker. Though only active for a brief time, from their official debut at the Sixth Annual Windsor Jazz & Blues Festival on July 29 1966 to two final farewell concerts at the Royal Albert Hall on November 26, 1968, they made a major impact on the music world with their hard rockin' blend of blues and psychedelia that many have imitated and, to this day still, very few have duplicated. In 1993, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll

Grayeagle DVD Review: Charles B. Pierce's Faux Native American, er, "Epic"

Is that red face paint you're wearing, or are you really that embarrassed to be in this movie?
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During the last portion of the 20th Century, filmmakers became slightly attracted to the notion of making moving pictures about Native Americans -- or, as Mel Brooks would delicately describe them in his spoof of the cowboy picture genre, Blazing Saddles: "those little red devils." Indeed, American Indians had long been present on film since the earliest B-Western first appeared on matinee screens more towards the beginning of the 1900s, though they were almost always portrayed in a negative light; barbaric, scalping fiends brought to life by the most non-native-looking white men possessing the largest noses that Hollywood schmucks could

Movie Recon: Angels Crest, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Woman in Black

Another recon full of posters, trailers and still of upcoming films.
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This edition of Movie Recon looks at three very different films, including a one blockbuster sequel that's been on the horizon for quite a while. Angels Crest Story: In the small, working class community of Angels Crest, nestled in a valley deep in the Rocky Mountains, Ethan, a young father of a three-year-old boy faces an unexpected tragedy and is then pursued by a prosecutor facing his own demons. Filmmakers: Directed by Gaby Dellal, written by newcomer Catherine Trieschmann (based on the novel by Leslie Schwartz), and starring Thomas Decker, Elizabeth McGovern, Jeremy Piven, and Mina Sorvino. Status: On

Contest: Win a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack of Winnie the Pooh

One lucky readers can win the new installment of the silly old bear's adventures
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Cinema Sentries and Walt Disney Studios have teamed up to give one lucky readers the opportunity to win a Blu-ray+DVD combo of Winnie the Pooh, starring the gang from the Hundred Acre Wood. Learn how to enter contest at the bottom of this article. In this latest adventure, which Senora Bicho reviewed, Winnie the Pooh gets sidetracked on his hunt for honey, when he comes across Eeyore, who has lost his tail. Pooh elicits the help of Owl, Rabbit, Tigger, Piglet, Kanga, and little Roo. Later on, the gang comes to believe that Christopher Robin has been captured by a

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection is the Pick of the Week

The classic comedy duo get the big box treatment.
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I'm not entirely sure I've ever seen a Laurel and Hardy film. In fact the only Laurel and Hardy anything I'm quite certain I've seen is that Scooby Doo episode that featured the comedy duo and that was actually voiced by other actors. It's possible I've seen a short film here or there, but I cannot actually recall them. Why then am I so anxious to see the new boxed set, Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, that I am making it my Pick of the Week? Reputation, my dear friends, reputation. Laurel & Hardy have one of the best-respected,

The Killing Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Day at the Races

The pairing of these two early flicks from legendary director Stanley Kubrick makes for great viewing pleasure.
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Written by Fantasma The Criterion Collection has scored big again with the DVD release of The Killing, Stanley Kubrick's 1956 film noir classic. The disc is jam packed with all the bells and whistles that come with a Criterion release, including filmed interviews with film critics, actors, and producers and as always a great booklet. The two-disc set also comes with a second Kubrick classic from the year before, another noir thriller Killer's Kiss. The pairing of these two early flicks from legendary director Stanley Kubrick makes for great viewing pleasure. With a talented cast, The Killing is the story

A Big Box Of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots and Death Rays: 75 Percent Accurate is Still Pretty Good

A good set for anyone interested in B westerns, sci-fi, and classic spooky fun from the 1930s.
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Written by Fantasma A Big Box Of Cowboys, Aliens, Robots and Death Rays is a neat four-DVD set that includes eight B Westerns movies from the 1930s and '40s. With an array of stars of the day that include singing cowboy hero Gene Autry, "Colonel" Tim McCoy, Ken Maynard, Ray "Crash" Corrigan, and Robert Livingston. Some of these movies even include the outfits that these cowboys rode across the silver screen with, such as The Range Busters and 3 Mesquiteers, whose ranks at one time included cowboy legend John Wayne. These classic oaters are collected to highlight the mixing and

Winnie the Pooh Combo Pack: A Wonderful Return to the Classic Characters

Geared more towards younger viewers but there are some clever moments for adults.
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Winnie the Pooh is the fifth animated theatrical release featuring Christopher Robin and the adorable creatures from the Hundred Acre Wood. The creators of the film used five stories from the original A.A. Milne works as their inspiration for this new tale. Winnie the Pooh is one of my all-time favorite Disney characters and I was hesitantly excited to see the new film. My hopes were that they would be able to recapture the charm and personalities from the early cartoons rather than the disappointment I had experienced from some of the most recent feature films with characters that didn't

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

"Shut up and bring on the food!" - Audrey Jr.
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The SPDM returns with the second, and most famous, film by producer/director Roger Corman and screenwriter Charles B. Griffith. The Little Shop of Horrors finds nebbish Seymour Krelboyne (Jonathan Haze) working in the flower shop of Gravis Mushnick (Mel Welles). Seymour creates a new plant by crossbreeding a butterwort and a Venus Flytrap, which he names "Audrey Jr." after co-worker Audrey Fulquard (Jackie Joseph), who he has a crush on. One night, Seymour discovers Audrey Jr. likes human blood and it helps the plant grow. The larger Audrey Jr. gets the more popular it becomes, which benefits the store,

The Four Feathers (1939) Criterion Collection DVD Review: One Man's Journey of Redemption

Zoltan Korda's adaptation is a nice piece of viewing history.
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Harry Faversham (John Clements) comes from a long line of heroic officers in the British army. But ever since he was a young boy listening to his father's horrific tales of war, he began to agonize over the fact that someday he would find himself in the middle of a battle. But after his father passes away, Harry feels that his family obligation is over, and when his regiment receives notice that they are about to deploy to Egypt he decides to resign his commission. While his father may be dead, his fellow officers and friends take exception with his

Batman: Year One 2-Disc DVD Review: Rise of the Bat

So similar to the original comic book it might as well be a motion comic.
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Twenty-five years ago, DC Comics opted to reboot the Batman mythos in an attempt to expand his origin story and base the character in a gritty realism rather than the cartoony foolishness it had drifted into through the years. They picked Frank Miller for the writing task, fresh off his success with The Dark Knight Returns, and he teamed up with artist David Mazzucchelli to craft four pivotal issues in the regular Batman comic book series under the banner Batman: Year One. Flash forward to this week's release of Warner Bros. Animation's newest feature of the same title, an extremely

Criterion Collection Eclipse Series #29 DVD Review: Aki Kaurismaki's Leningrad Cowboys

Two films and a concert from the ultra-hip Leningrad Cowboys.
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Not since the likes of Sigue Sigue Sputnik have a band with so little to offer gained such mass attention. One might argue that Milli Vanilli and Spinal Tap achieved even more in the field of fakery, but that is not a fair comparison. Spinal Tap always knew they were a joke, while Milli Vanilli were actually serious about the whole thing, and never did understand why their Grammy was rescinded. Leningrad Cowboys were invented first, then toured as an actual band. Theirs was a beautiful career arc - and it is little wonder that they became ultra-hip for a

Book Review: Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film by Ian Nathan

In space, they would hear you scream with delight.
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With Alien Vault, Ian Nathan has created the book of the year for film fans, one they will revisit in their library many times over, as I know I will, because of the outstanding job he has done compiling the history of Ridley Scott's Alien. Starting from its origins as Dan O'Bannon's incomplete story called Memory, Nathan is extremely thorough detailing the film's creation, its enduring legacy, and the franchise that was spawned. The book opens on the set as the cast and crew filmed the film's most iconic moment when the title character literally burst onto the scene. Interviews

The Artist at the New York Film Festival: Evoking Memories of Buster Keaton

A brand new silent film pays tribute to the visual masters and cinematic language of the past
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Sunday afternoon, on the final day of the New York Film Festival, I saw Michel Hazanavicius' The Artist. Sunday night on Turner Classic Movies, I watched Buster Keaton in Free and Easy. Although these two very different films were made more than 80 years apart, they actually have a lot in common. As you may have heard, The Artist is a silent movie scheduled for release on November 23 by the Weinstein Company. There are many current films I wish were silent, like Transformers, the Sex & the City movies or anything with Adam Sandler, but The Artist may be

LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace Combo Pack Review: NNNNOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

Sombrero Grande has a bad feeling about this.
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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I used to give a crap about Star Wars. That was before George Lucas started whoring out his beloved franchise to let seemingly anyone create new content and belittle the cherished creations he apparently just doesn't care for any more. Oh sure, it was cute the first time I saw a Santa-hatted Darth Vader bobblehead at Target, and playing the LEGO Star Wars video games was a blast. I even chuckled at the Darth Vader Volkswagon commercial. But now it's clear that Star Wars has been allowed to cross over

Kuroneko Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Things That Go Bump In The Night

Creates some spooky atmosphere but fails to drive a compelling narrative.
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Although classified as a horror film, Kuroneko isn't very scary. Instead, it delivers atmosphere and oddities, making it more akin to David Lynch than John Carpenter. It also makes a couple of very abrupt and unexpected scene changes that may challenge viewers to follow the through line of the plot. With middling acting throughout and suspect cinematography in the opening stages, the film is far from essential viewing but offers something outside the norm. As the film opens, a large group of disheveled samurai-era Japanese men emerge from a forest and enter a quaint hut, where they find two women

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Blu-ray Review: Few Pirates, No Caribbean, But Still Fun

Jack Sparrow's fourth outing isn't his best, but it is leagues better than the previous one
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After Captain Jack Sparrow's confusing and overblown third outing nearly sank the entire Pirates franchise, there was a palpable sense of "one too many" in the air upon the release of On Stranger Tides. It didn't help that Disney and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had the audacity to saddle the project with director Rob Marshall, most famous for helming musicals. Musicals + pirates = stranger tides indeed. Pirates of Penzance, anyone? Thankfully, Marshall's touch is barely noticeable, and the plot is linear and logical enough to actually make sense for its entire length, helping this voyage turn out rather pleasant for

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 40th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

Willy Wonka gets a big box set for its anniversary.
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Roald Dahl wrote children's books that are full of dark, sardonic humor, mean and nasty villains, and a complete lack of over emotional sentiment which makes them absoluely marvelous for children and adults alike. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was no exception as it is filled with bratty children, the treacherously eccentric Willy Wonka and the utterly bizarre Oompa-Loompas. The 1971 film version of the book took some notable excursions from the source material but is still considered a brilliant classic. Gene Wilder is fantastic as Wonka and the brightly colored Oompa-Loompas with their imaginative songs will leave you in

Martha Marcy May Marlene at the New York Film Festival: A Chilling Parable of Millennial Pessimism

Writer/Director Sean Durkin's indie thriller may be this generation's Rosemary's Baby.
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"Do you ever have that feeling where you can't tell if something is a memory or something you dreamed?" twentysomething Martha asks her clueless older sister Lucy midway through Martha Marcy May Marlene. It's just one of many good lines of dialogue in writer/director Sean Durkin's new thriller, but it's the creative crux of what makes his debut feature such an inventive treat. Arguably there was no hotter, more buzz-worthy ticket at the just-completed New York Film Festival, where Martha Marcy May Marlene played twice to enthusiastic, capacity crowds. When first we meet beautiful, sad-eyed Martha (Elizabeth Olsen), she is

Take Shelter Movie Review: Preparing for the Storm

A compelling family drama anchored by Michael Shannon's captivating performance.
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Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter is a compelling family drama anchored by Michael Shannon's captivating performance as Curtis, a man whose judgment regarding the safety and welfare of his family grows increasingly at odds with those around him. Curtis dreams about an impending storm of great magnitude. Birds fly off in large numbers, and the rain is thick and viscous like motor oil. He's concerned the dreams may be prophetic so he starts building an underground shelter in his backyard to protect his family, which includes wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) and their daughter Hannah (Tova Stewart) who is deaf but an

Leap Year (2011) DVD Review: A Painful Portrait Of Isolation

An unflinching story of loneliness, set almost entirely in a small Mexico City apartment.
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There's not much respite for Laura (Monica del Carmen), the plain freelance journalist who's onscreen nearly every second in Michael Rowe's measured, thoroughly disheartening Leap Year. Save for the film's opening scene where Laura eyes an attractive man oblivious to her longing in the grocery store, the entire film takes place inside her drab Mexico City apartment. There's some significant cognitive dissonance going on here, as Laura's descriptions of her life to people on the phone (steak dinners, relocation to Switzerland) are fantastic substitutes for reality (beans straight from the can, masturbating while watching her happily domestic neighbors). All the

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: A Bucket of Blood (1959)

"Life is an obscure hobo, bumming a ride on the omnibus of art." - Maxwell H. Brock
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After American International Pictures gave him a $50,000 budget and a five-day shooting schedule to create a horror movie, producer/director Roger Corman teamed up with screenwriter Charles B Griffith for their first of three films to create A Bucket of Blood, which was inspired by House of Wax (1953) starring Vincent Price. Dick Miller stars as Walter, a shy bumbling busboy working at a beatnik coffee house. He wants to be a sculptor although he has no skills. One evening he accidentally kills his landlord's cat, and to hide what happened, he covers the cat in clay and turns

Harakiri Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Samurai Condition

A masterful indictment of the morally bankrupt samurai system.
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When a bedraggled masterless samurai, or ronin, approaches the estate of a large warrior clan and asks for permission to kill himself in their courtyard, he triggers a surprising face-off that reveals the depravity of the highly regimented samurai code. His initial request is met not with outright refusal or approval but instead with a story about another previous ronin who had made the exact same request. The clan suspected that ronin of graft, as many other clans around the nation typically extended employment or at least handouts to ronin appearing at their gates. The film dissolves to flashback to

Terri DVD Review: The Outsiders

Has its charming moments, but fails to develop into a meaningful whole
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High school alienation isn't new subject matter for films, but Terri takes alienation to the extreme with its focus on an obese, socially awkward teen (Jacob Wysocki) so far out on the fringe that he wears pajamas to school every day with impunity. Not just pajama pants, but head to toe old man pajamas. Recognizing someone in need of a lifeline, caring principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) begins scheduling weekly meeting with Terri to get to know him better and hopefully bring him out of his shell. Unfortunately, Mr. Fitzgerald also does this with a handful of other oddball

The Tree Of Life Combo Pack Review: A Film About Life and Just as Confusing

I came looking for a story and only got parts of one.
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I had heard great things about, The Tree Of Life from people. The trailer was beautiful and engaging. So when I sat down with a group of friends to watch it, I expected a film that everyone at the end would refer to as, "The best film of the year!" Instead we were all left scratching our heads. I will now tell you what I think this film is about. I say, I think, because this film has no clear narrative. The plot revolves around Jack as a boy (portrayed by Hunter McCracken) and as an adult (played by Sean

Contest: Win a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Two lucky readers can win the fourth installment of the Disney movie franchise.
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Cinema Sentries and Walt Disney Studios have teamed up to give two lucky readers the opportunity to win a Blu-ray+DVD combo of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, starring Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Learn how to enter contest at the bottom of this article. In this latest adventure, Jack searches for the fabled Fountain of Youth. Forced aboard the ship of the most feared pirate ever, he doesn’t know who to fear more — Blackbeard (Ian McShane) or a woman from his past (Penelope Cruz). Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will be available on October

Contest: Win a Copy of Terri Starring John C. Reilly

Three lucky readers have the opportunity to win this coming-of-age tale on DVD.
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Cinema Sentries and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment have teamed up to give three lucky readers the opportunity to win a DVD of Terri, starring John C. Reilly and Jacob Wysocki. Learn how to enter below after this fun feature FHE has provided. It seems like a cliché, but in any film about a loveable loser, everyone wants the underdog to succeed and have a happy ending. In celebration of the October 11 release of Terri on Blu-ray and DVD, we have compiled a list of five of the greatest unlikely heroes in film. These five characters range from extraordinarily

Martin Scorsese's Hugo at the New York Film Festival: A Valentine to Cinema

Scorsese's new film is a pleasant surprise for the NYFF audience.
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"This is really a special evening for us," said New York Film Festival selection committee chairman Richard Pena, as he took the stage at Avery Fisher Hall on Monday night. "The only other time we've shown a work in progress was back in 1991." Two decades ago, the work in progress the NYFF audience saw was Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a charming family film that will be returning to theaters with a 3-D release on January 13, 2012. Tonight it was Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a charming family film that also happens to be in 3-D -- from the man

Contest: Win a Blu-ray Combo of Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life

Two lucky readers have the opportunity to win the 2011 Palme D'Or winner, The Tree of Life.
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Cinema Sentries and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment have teamed up to give two lucky readers the opportunity to win a Blu-ray combo of The Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Learn how to enter below after this fun feature FHE has provided. In this feature we’ll journey across space, fly over volcanoes and dive deep into the ocean, showcasing some of the great scientific imagery from the film.  Places like Death Valley, Texas, Villa Lante in Italy and even the Sun, take us to the space between spaces and remind us of how precious our world

The Tree of Life is the Pick of the Week

Terrence Malick's new flick comes out this week and I'm ready to buy.
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Terrence Malick has only directed five feature films in his nearly 40-year career. I'd say he lacked ambition except that all of those films were hugely ambitious in scope and meaning. I've only actually seen two of those five (Badlands and The Thin Red Line), but both of those were beautiful, artistic measure, and his other films are very much on my list of things to see. For me Malick is a bit like Kurosawa and Bergman in that I've loved everything I've seen by them, but their films are often so dense, so full of meaning that I know

Shame at the New York Film Festival: Incest in the City

Controversy is coming in director Steve McQueen's sexy, disturbing new film.
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Early in Shame, the hypersexual new film from British director Steve McQueen, the protagonist wordlessly flirts with a pretty passenger on a crowded New York City subway train. It's the hottest sequence in the film -- ironic, considering that it's one of the only scenes of romantic pursuit that doesn't end in sweaty, graphic, MPAA-rating-be-damned sex. Brandon (Michael Fassbender) is a handsome, thirty-something, urban professional (do we still call them Yuppies?) with a taste for the ladies and an aversion to commitment. He spends most of his waking hours in the relentless pursuit of all the intimacy-free sex the Big

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Buy the Disc, Take the Ride

Highly recommend for Thompson fans and mildly recommend for Gilliam fans.
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First appearing in the pages of Rolling Stone, Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas details the drug-fuelled adventures of journalist Raoul Duke and attorney Dr. Gonzo as they search in the unlikeliest of cities for the American Dream, which the '60s counterculture failed to deliver. Thompson's captivating manner of writing, considered gonzo journalism by many though Thompson thought the book was a failed experiment in that style, is what makes Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas a seminal piece of literature. The book floundered in Hollywood over the years with different people trying to adapt it to

Book Review: Music on Film: A Hard Day's Night by Ray Morton

Morton succinctly tells the fascinating story of a classic movie musical that still enchants audiences.
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Back in 2000, Miramax Films reissued the classic A Hard Day's Night in movie theaters. Since I was unable to see the 1964 film when it first appeared in theaters (due to the fact that I hadn't been born), I excitedly gathered a group of friends to see The Beatles musical as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen. Sitting in the cinema with a sold-out crowd, many of whom hadn't yet been born in 1964, I was wondering if the film's irreverent humor and buoyant music would still resonate. Indeed, over 35 years later, the audience

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: The Penalty (1920)

"At twelve noon on that day I shall loot the City of San Francisco." - Blizzard
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The Saturday Public Domain Movie returns with The Penalty starring Lon Chaney before his landmark performances in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Based on the pulp novel by Gouverneur Morris, Chaney stars as Blizzard, a San Francisco crime boss who vows revenge on the doctor who mistakenly amputated both his legs after a traffic accident when he was a young boy. Ethel Grey Terry stars as Rose, a secret service agent who goes undercover to bust up Blizzard's gang but soon finds her alliances shifting. The Penalty has some odd things

Movie Recon: War Horse, The Help

Steven's Spielberg's new flick and a DVD/Blu-ray release of The Help.
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Today's Recon brings information about two films from the history pages. On Christmas day Steven Spielberg's movie about a horse making its mark on WWI comes out, and earlier in December The Help comes to DVD/Blu-ray. We've got images, trailers, and bonus material waiting for you below. War Horse Story: A horse is taken from his master in rural England to help with the war effort during WWI. The horse finds himself experiencing all angles of the war from the British calvary to German soldiers, from the idylic countryside to No Man's Land. Along the way he touches the

Angel of Evil DVD Review: The Italian Mesrine

So similar to Mesrine in content and execution that there's little to distinguish it
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Angel of Evil is a gripping study of a career criminal as he robs banks, escapes prisons, and breaks hearts throughout the 1970s, becoming something of a folk hero to his nation. If that sounds familiar, it's because the film's subject matter and execution is nearly identical to the two-part French film Mesrine. Both are based on true crime stories, both feature commanding lead performances requiring their actors to portray the charming criminals aging over a couple of decades, leaving language as the biggest difference between the two. If you've already seen Mesrine, you'll surely suffer some serious déjà vu

The Kid with a Bike at the New York Film Festival: A Harrowing Tale of Troubled Tweenhood

Don't kid yourself! The new film by the Dardenne brothers is a must-see.
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In the theatrical release poster for Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne's The Kid with a Bike, which had its New York Film Festival premiere on Thursday night, a young boy and a smiling woman ride their bicycles along a picturesque, European-looking riverfront. From the pastoral nature of the image, one might assume that this is a well-adjusted child and his doting mom, perhaps on their way to buy something delightful and cinematic, like a red balloon. In fact, the titular kid in The Kid with a Bike is an uncontrollably violent orphan - more feral beast than human child. And

Straw Dogs (1971) Blu-ray Review: Don't Mess With Dustin Hoffman, Dammit!

A fine-looking transfer that sadly, lacks any remarkable features.
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"This is where I live. This is me. I will not allow violence against this house. Don't worry." --David Summer (Dustin Hoffman), shortly before turning into a passive-aggressive creature of merciless cruelty. The raw human emotion of hate. The violence. Those nipples. While all of those key ingredients may be noticeably absent in the lackluster Hollywood blockbuster remake of the same name, they are still present in Sam Peckinpah's original Straw Dogs. In fact, those very sale delimiting elements will most likely always be present -- no matter how old this memorable, gritty, controversial cult classic gets. Here we are,

Pixar Short Films Collection Volume 1 DVD Review: A Study in Animation

A great collections of shorts that shows the company developing its talent and techniques.
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Pixar Animation Studios has been the most consistently creative and innovative production company over the past twenty years. The company was originally a division of Lucasfilm until 1986 when Steve Jobs bought it after he left Apple. Pixar's eight feature films, from 1995's Toy Story to 2007's Ratatouille, have a theatrical worldwide gross of over $4 trillion, and that doesn't taken into account the usually more lucrative DVD market. Pixar's success over the years resulted in The Walt Disney Company acquiring them in a stock transaction worth over $7 billion. This DVD collection presents 13 shorts by the Pixar team,

Blood Simple Blu-ray Review: The Coen Brothers' Impressive Debut Launches a Few Careers

A well-plotted, modern-day film noir.
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After a brief introduction (HD, 1 min) from Mortimer Young of Forever Young Films, where he explains the film has been "digitally enhanced and tastefully restored" and even had the boring parts taken out (this Director's Cut of the film has three minutes cut from the theatrical release), Blood Simple gets right into familiar noir territory. Bartender Ray (John Gatz) has run off to spend the night in a local hotel with the wife (Frances McDormand in her feature debut) of his boss, Marty (Dan Hedaya). Marty knew she was up to something and had them tracked by a P.

Susan Orlean's "Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend" at the New York Film Festival

The greatest movie star of the 1920s was a dog. The new book about him is anything but.
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On Tuesday night the New York Film Festival brought together three of my favorite things: silent movies, books about film history, and the delightful writing of Susan Orlean. Orlean, staff writer for The New Yorker and author of The Orchid Thief, took the stage at the Walter Reade Theater for a reading of excerpts from her new book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, the story of (arguably) the second-most-famous canine in film history. "I'm often asked, 'Why didn't you write about Lassie?'" Orlean told the audience. "Lassie was a fictional character, played by real dogs. Rin Tin

My Life As A Dog Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Boy's Eccentric Journey to Manhood

Lasse Halstrom knows just how to balance the lightness of the eccentric characters against the main themes of the film.
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When you further categorize the films that I love the most, you'll find that the majority of them speak to the transition from childhood to adulthood in one way or another. Maybe it takes the escape to another world to find your way like The Wizard Of Oz or Alice In Wonderland. Sometimes it's the reflection from an older point of view to the process of getting older like It's A Wonderful Life or Cinema Paradiso. In the Nineties, one of my favorite examples of this genre was The Cider House Rules. Homer's journey away from home to the "foreign

O Brother, Where Art Thou? Blu-ray Review: An Epic High-Def Upgrade

While not one of the Coen Brothers' best, O Brother looks incredible on Blu-ray.
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The Film A bit of a trifle compared to more exactingly crafted Coen Brothers films, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is enjoyable, but lacks the odd specificities that make a Coen film really shine. What we get instead is possibly the broadest film the brothers have made (leaving aside easily bottom-tier Coen Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers), populated with a stable of hayseed caricatures. The film is still plenty fun thanks to the way leads George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson embrace their cartoonish characters, but there's a good reason the film's T-Bone Burnett-curated soundtrack easily outpaced the

Melancholia at the New York Film Festival: Cast Comments About Lars von Trier

The controversial Danish director is back with the feel-bad hit of the Fall.
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If, like me, you think of getting married as something akin to the fiery destruction of Earth, you'll love Melancholia, director Lars von Trier's meanderingly beautiful paean to depression, astronomy, and Kirsten Dunst's cleavage. As with every Lars von Trier movie, haters gonna hate. And there's plenty to dislike in Melancholia, most particularly the characters. Every one of them, in fact. Never before has film seen a more unpleasant collection of self-centered depressives (other than at the press screening for Transformers 3). But there's also plenty to love about Melancholia, particularly if you're smitten with von Trier's ragged, anti-establishment approach

Movie Recon: The Lie, I Melt With You, & The Rum Diary

Today's recon brings you posters, trailers, and stills from The Lie, I Melt with You, and The Rum Diary.
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Today's recon has information on three upcoming movies. First up is The Lie, an independent film about two idealists who find themselves conforming and a great big lie that may change it all. Next is I Melt with You about some college buddies getting together and finding more than they bargained for. Lastly, we've got the The Rum Diary based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel and starring Johnny Depp. The Lie Story: Based on a short story by T.C. Boyle, The Lie tells the story of two young idealists whose lives get derailed by a pregnancy and then the

Shut Up, Little Man! Movie Review: Viral Outrageousness from the Pre-Internet Age

An amusing/disturbing, funny/depressing little documentary about a nearly forgotten cult "audio verite" hit from 20 years ago.
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Shut Up, Little Man! is an amusing, occasionally disturbing documentary about the origins and aftereffects of a prankish set of "audio verite" recordings that went viral before "going viral" was even a term. Some of the participants, interviewed recently, seem to want to put a degree of significance and seriousness on the story that it can't really bear. But that fits right into the documentary's method: let those who were there tell their tale, without editorial commentary. The recordings were made by Eddie Lee Sausage and Mitchell D, two young roommates in San Francisco in the late 1980s, at first

The Phantom Carriage Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Spooky Silent Cinema That Transcends Genre

The father of Swedish cinema directs a film that obsessed Ingmar Bergman, and might do the same to you.
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The Film Victor Sjöström's intensely atmospheric, technically brilliant The Phantom Carriage was highly influential on the career of Ingmar Bergman, who would go on to cast Sjöström in several of his films, including Wild Strawberries. It's not difficult to understand why Bergman was so taken with the film and why Sjöström is considered the father of Swedish cinema. The Phantom Carriage is moody and spooky, but it's no mere genre film. Sjöström penetrates the human soul and captures some of the most stunning images of the silent era with his emotionally wrenching morality tale. Legend has it that the last

Ken Burns' Prohibition is the Pick of the Week

Lots of good releases this week, but my vote goes to the ever impressive Ken Burns.
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It is a great big week for Blu-ray releases, but I've got to give the edge to a regular DVD release from Ken Burns because one can never really go wrong with a Ken Burns series. Prohibition is a three-part, six-hour documentary about the 18th Amendment - what brought it on, the consequences it created, and its ultimate repeal. The three-disc set includes interviews and bonus scenes not seen in the television airing, plus original music by Wynton Marsalis.Also coming out this week that sounds interesting to me:Bored to Death, Season 2: I haven't watched an episode of this HBO

Ben-Hur at the New York Film Festival: Flawless Restoration, Flawed Presentation

A beloved classic rises again, in fulfillment of the Scriptures.
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The audience sat in rapt attention as a Roman centurion in scarlet cloak and gold chest plate marched onto the stage. Behind him tiptoed a shy young princess in flowing robes, her honeyed tresses cascading upon her shoulders. Applause filled the arena, then died out. Then silence. The princess and the soldier stood before the assemblage, seemingly unsure of what to do next. Then, from the wings of Alice Tully Hall, a man waved his hand at the centurion. The soldier unsheathed a dagger from beneath his cape and brandished it once or twice in the general direction of the

Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The True Origins of the French New Wave

Often unsung, Claude Chabrol's debut films reveal his early mastery of the craft.
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The Films The French New Wave evokes thoughts of two films above all others -- François Truffaut's and Jean-Luc Godard's earth-shattering debuts The 400 Blows and Breathless. And while these unquestionably occupy the "shot-heard-round-the-world" slot of the movement, they're not the originators of the nouvelle vague. Rather, it's the perpetually unsung Claude Chabrol's complementary and contradictory pair Le Beau Serge and Les Cousins that take that honor, released in the late '50s months ahead of The 400 Blows. One of the Cahiers du Cinéma gang, Chabrol was the first critic of the influential bunch to make the jump into feature

The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) Blu-ray Review: Why Bother?

Why should Disney put any effort into a film that couldn't even get its own story straight to begin with?
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One of the delightful things many people enjoy when watching vintage flicks from the Golden Age of Hollywood is spotting the occasional goof or anachronism. Whether it be a visible wire in a "special effects" shot, a car in the background of the Old West, or a telephone pole on the moon, the odd flaw makes even some of the more wretched movies from yesteryear amusing. Such a sight is much less common in our modern age of filmmaking, though, so it's doubly laughable when you encounter a "newer" film that is littered with so many chronological mistakes and errs

The Tempest (2010) Blu-ray Review: A Nightmare of Pretentiousness

I'll stick to Forbidden Planet if it's all the same to you.
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In the recent Big Box of Wood release from S'More Entertainment, filmmaker/Ed Wood historian Ted Newsom commented that, while Wood's dialogue seldom wandered into the territory of greatness, it would have ultimately made more of a favorable impression had it been read by professional actors. In watching Julie Taymor's interpretation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, however, I observed a similar, though adverse notion: even the world's best dialogue can be ruined by staggeringly horrendous overacting and a smug aura of farty pretentiousness. Yes, I know I just mentioned Ed Wood and William Shakespeare in the same paragraph. But hey, they're both

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