November 2011 Archives

The Rules of the Game (1939) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Jean Renoir, Je T'aime

The Criterion Collection brings us a constructive release of this reconstructed classic.
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I have no choice but to dismiss you. It breaks my heart, but I can't expose my guests to your firearms. It may be wrong of them, but they value their lives. - Marquis Robert de la Cheyniest (Marcel Dalio) to his trigger-happy groundskeeper, Edouard Schumacher (Gaston Modot). Anyone who's even remotely familiar with the Internet knows that it's pretty easy to find just about anything you're looking for -- from snow tires to prostitutes. It's also very common to see something shocking on the ol' Information Superhighway. Why, within mere minutes of his demise, images of the late Muammar

Under Fire: Journalists in Combat Movie Review: Slapdash Production Values Undermine Compelling Content

The subjects of Under Fire are compelling storytellers, but they're surrounded by stylistic clutter in this Oscar shortlisted doc.
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Oscar shortlisted documentary Under Fire: Journalists in Combat has one major factor in its favor -- its subjects are all seasoned journalists with the storytelling skills to prove it. At its core, Under Fire is simply journalists recounting their battlefield experiences. The extraneous stylistic punches come off as unnecessary and unfinished, while the psychologizing of the journalists -- courtesy of producer and psychiatrist Anthony Feinstein -- fails to create a convincing overarching argument. But when director Martyn Burke allows his subjects to just sit in front of a black backdrop and tell of the horrors they witnessed, it's captivating. The

God Bless Ozzy Osbourne DVD Review: Pulling Back the Persona to Reveal the Man

A fascinating look at the private side of the Prince of Darkness
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Ozzy Osbourne has become something of a cartoon character in recent years. The reality show, The Osbournes, portrayed him as a lovable oaf and the term "Prince of Darkness," has become a marketing catchphrase, rather than the appropriate metal term is was in the 1970s and 1980s. The documentary God Bless Ozzy Osbourne, produced by his son, Jack, attempts to rectify all this and help Ozzy reclaim his rightful legacy on top of the metal world. The producers of the film spent two years on the road with Osbourne and the movie opens with scenes from his concert in Buenos

The 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominees Have Been Announced

Did your favorites make the cut?
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Film Independent announced their nominations for the 2012 Film Independent Spirit Awards. The Best Feature category is comprised of 50/50, Beginners, Drive, Take Shelter, The Artist (selected Best Picture by the New York Film Critics Circle), and The Descendants, and all the films except 50/50 received a Best Director nomination. Leading the nominations were Take Shelter and The Artist, each receiving a total of five nominations. Beginners, Drive, and The Descendants had four, and 50/50 had three. Martha Marcy May Marlene received four nominations, the most of any film not nominated for Best Feature. "The Film Independent Spirit Awards recognize

Frosty's Winter Wonderland DVD Review: A Warm Return from Everybody's Favorite Snowman

A lonely Frosty meets Crystal the snowlady.
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There are a lot of reasons that people enjoy the holiday season. For me it is the chance to see the holy trinity of Christmas classics again. I never tire of Frosty The Snowman (1969), A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1969). There were many others of course, and many more have been made since. But nothing compares to those three, in my mind. Frosty, which was originally hosted by the inimitable Jimmy Durante, returned in the sequel Frosty's Winter Wonderland. It was first broadcast in 1976, and in it Andy Griffith took over for Durante.

The White Bus DVD Review: Gorgeous Photography Makes Up for Tedium of Experimental Film

A minor effort from the director of If..., featuring beautiful photography and sophomoric surrealist satire.
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The White Bus is an odd short feature (or longish short film) by Lindsay Anderson, made in 1967 just before his greatest film, If... It shares with If... the actor Arthur Lowe and the cinematographer Miroslav Ondricek. Ondricek's work is the principal reason to see the film. Like If..., the scenes alternate between black-and-white and color photography, seemingly at random. But all the images are striking. The film is apparently about a young office worker who leaves her dreary job one day and has a series of not particularly exciting adventures aboard a train and a tour bus. Although allegedly

Ghost Warrior DVD Review: Like a Corny Tabloid Headline Come to Life

A forgotten "fish out of water" tale from the boys in the Band family.
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Based on an idea by low-budget filmmaker Charles Band, the fanciful Ghost Warrior is a spin on the timeless "fish out of water" tale -- things that were later perfected (and subsequently hashed) by filmmakers in the '90s. We begin with a noble 16th Century samurai warrior (Hiroshi Fujioka) receiving a seemingly fatal slice of death after a failed attempt at rescuing his wife. Falling into the icy water below, Yoshimitsu is discovered in the frozen wastes of Japan four centuries later and brought back to life by a experimental cryogenics lab that uses laser light show projectors to revive

30 Rock: Season 5 is the Pick of the Week

30 Rock boosts a pretty slow week for new releases.
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If it were up to Mat Brewster the regular guy, the non-writer, the man with the statuesque physique but ever shrinking wallet due to a wife who likes to shop and baby who needs larger and larger clothes on average of about every 3.7 seconds - if it were up to that guy, he'd give this week a pass. There just isn't anything coming out this week that's gonna make him spend his already tiny Christmas budget on. But since this column isn't written by that guy but rather the Mat Brewster who has to write a weekly column about

The Music Lovers DVD Review: A Spirited Symphony of Excess

Ken Russell's film about Russian composer Tchaikovsky is no tired biopic.
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The first theatrical feature in Ken Russell's series of unconventional composer biopics, The Music Lovers must be a frustrating experience for sticklers for historical accuracy and Tchaikovsky purists. But thank God he didn't make a stuffy, narratively driven depiction of the 19th Century Russian composer's life. The hidebound biopic genre could use more of Russell's verve and trademark stylistic excess. Kicking off a particularly fertile decade for Russell -- it would be immediately followed by controversial masterpiece The Devils and the sublime Broadway musical adaptation The Boy Friend -- The Music Lovers hits the high points of Tchaikovsky's (Richard Chamberlain)

Don't Worry, We'll Think Of A Title DVD Review: The Spy Who Came In From The Catskills

Anything this bad is great in my book.
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Morey Amsterdam wrote, produced, and directed Don't Worry, We'll Think Of A Title (1965) while he co-starred in the TV classic Dick Van Dyke Show. DVDS co-stars Rose Marie and Richard Deacon are in the film as well. Amsterdam must have collected a lot of chits back then, because he managed to get some big names to put in cameo appearances. These include Danny Thomas, Steve Allen, Milton Berle, and Carl Reiner. Reiner was producer of the DVDS, and Don't Worry, We'll Think Of A Title is basically a lengthy sketch. One gets the impression that head writer Rob Petrie

Enter the Ninja DVD Review: "So, Who Are You Going to Kill Next, Mr. Ninja?"

An epic, illustrious failure from Cannon Films and Golan-Globus.
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Some movies are born unto greatness, achieving staggering heights of recognition rarely ever matched by imitators -- the likes of which seem to have been born solely to orally copulate and feast upon large, economy-sized containers of male genitalia. And then there are those other movies -- like 1981's ode to embarrassment, Enter the Ninja -- that are so utterly awful, they attain their own manner of renown. Put simply, Enter the Ninja is so bad, it's good -- and we can thank the infamous Cannon Film Group and the production team of Golan-Globus for bestowing this unforgettable "martial arts

12 Angry Men Criterion Collection DVD Review: Explosive Drama in the Jury Room

A masterfully directed piece with nothing but the emotions of the players to provide the action.
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The stifling, claustrophobic feeling director Sidney Lumet perfected in films such as Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and Network (1976) was a key ingredient of his directorial debut, 12 Angry Men (1957). The premise of Reginald Rose's script was a deceptively simple method of conveying the raging emotions of the 12 jurors who are tasked with deciding a murder trial. It is a blisteringly hot day in New York City, there is no AC, and the dilapidated fans in the room do not work. All anyone wants to do is leave, but they have one little matter they must resolve before

Identification of a Woman Criterion Collection DVD Review: Searching for a Way out of the Fog

The story of a man trying to find himself while lost in love.
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Identification of A Woman is the story of Niccolo Farra (Tomas Milian) a middle-aged Italian filmmaker who is searching for himself after his wife has left him. Niccolo is also on the search for the subject of his next film, a woman with the face that will inspire him. This search leads him into relationships with two women who are startlingly different although they look similar. The first relationship is with Mavi (Daniela Silverio), a young socialite who is sexually experiemental and naracisstic. She is a product of the empty world she grew up in and is fascinating to Niccolo

Kill a Dragon DVD Review: Don't Train It; Kill it!

A low-budget Seven Samurai made for the 007 market and starring Jack Palance as the good guy. What's not to like?
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"Look, Limey: you swish your way, and I'll swish mine!" --Vigo (Aldo Ray) in drag, upset at being told how to sway his hips to make a more convincing woman. Aside from the drugs, music, political unrest, and sex, the '60s were perhaps best known for the persona of the swingin' secret agent type of feller -- a guise that men around the world dreamt of living up to, and filmmakers were keen to cash in on. Once Sean Connery stepped into the shoes of James Bond 007, it opened the floodgates for other actors to try to invoke his

Frankenhooker Blu-ray Review: Nobody Makes Movies Like Frank Henenlotter!

An uproarious parody of classic horror/sci-fi films that's been given a sizeable dose of supercrack.
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There aren't very many movies out there that have been publicly endorsed by both Joe Bob Briggs and Bill Murray. As a matter of fact, I can only think of two: Frank Henenlotter's Frankenhooker and, er -- nope, there's just that one, actually. When it first premiered way back in 1990 (Christ, has it been that long now?), this bizarre, comedic variation on the timeless tale of Frankenstein with oodles of breasts and crack thrown in for good measure gained a great deal of gratitude from the likes of a certain gonzo drive-in movie critic, as well as the famous

The Narrows DVD Review: A New York Coming-of-Age Gangster Movie

A not entirely happy amalgam of genres sometimes just makes genre-soup.
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The Narrows (2008) directed by Francois Velle stars Kevin Zegers (Mike Manadoro), Vincent D'Onofrio (Vinny Manadoro), Sophia Bush (Kathy), Eddie Cahill (Nicky Shades), Titus Welliver (Tony), Monica Keena (Gine Abruzzi), Roger Rees (Professor Reyerson), Tony Gucci (Big Lou), Melina Lizette (Luz). Based on the novel Heart of the Old Country by Tim McLoughlin. The Narrows is an odd fish, as movies go. It takes its name from the strait in New York City between Brooklyn and Staten Island and this is very much a New York movie, and even more a Brooklyn movie. The protagonist is nineteen-year-old Mike who works

The Sleeping Beauty DVD Review: French Provocateur Catherine Breillat Re-imagines the Fairy Tale

Breillat's second fairy tale adaptation proves to be a good fit with her pet theme of sexual awakening.
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French director Catherine Breillat's depictions of sexual awakening can be shocking -- consider the seemingly out-of-nowhere conclusion to her 2001 film Fat Girl, a confounding is-it-real-or-not jolt that exults in the terror and wonder of blossoming sexuality. Lately, Breillat has turned her attention to the realm of fantasy, where she's adapted Charles Perrault's Bluebeard and this year's The Sleeping Beauty. As one might expect, Breillat's interpretation of The Sleeping Beauty isn't a stodgy old rendering, but neither is it as nakedly brazen as her work can be. Whimsical, dark and tinged around the edges with themes of sexual exploration, Breillat's

West Side Story 50th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: The Story's Not The Thing

The choreography and music dazzle in HD, but the story still falls flat
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For a 50-year-old, this film still has great legs. It's certainly not without its shortcomings, but this new HD remaster shows off the original material to maximum impact with pristine, vibrant image quality and a new 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack. The bonus features don't go much beyond what was previously available on DVD, but completists will appreciate the newest interview footage included here. The story is an update of Romeo and Juliet, transposing the action to the mean streets of mid-20th century New York where rival gangs face off against each other in racially-charged encounters on the pavement and the dance

Prep & Landing DVD Review: A Real Christmas Treat

This year, we're not only leaving out cookies for Santa, we're also setting out some for Wayne and Lanny.
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Creating a new "Christmas classic" is difficult, but that doesn't stop many folks from trying every year. It seems everyone wants to come up with a new festive standard, be it a new Christmas song, movie, or TV special to join the ranks of Jingle Bells, It's a Wonderful Life, or A Charlie Brown Christmas. But how often does that happen? Every year, the Christmas landscape gets positively littered with the likes of Our Love is Like a Holiday, Fred Claus, and Shrek the Halls. But amid the clumps of coal, every now and again, a bright and shiny new

Stagecoach (1966) DVD Review: The Version Everyone Forgot About

Twilight Time brings us a beautiful transfer for a rather underrated remake of the John Ford classic.
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There's just something about redheaded women that make men want to fight over 'em. Within the first few minutes of the 1966 version of Stagecoach, we witness two Calvary soldiers fight each other to the death over a young ginger named Dallas (Ann-Margret). Just then, Calvary Captain Mallory (John Gabriel, who was the Professor in the original Gilligan's Island pilot) jaunts in and recommends the dancing girl of ill repute leave town on the next available stagecoach. The angry Calvary leader advises the same of several prominent witnesses to the double murder, as well -- including a white-suited gambler (and

The Last Gun / 4 Dollars of Revenge Blu-ray Review: A Double Dose of Mediocrity

Where the hell is Franco Nero when you need him?
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When someone hears the phrase "Spaghetti Western," there's a damn good chance a vision of Clint Eastwood wearing a poncho will pop into their head. And it's for good reason, too: those epic Sergio Leone classics starring Clint Eastwood are -- in all probability -- the most well-known Euro western titles to audiences worldwide. Indeed, the first Leone/Eastwood collaboration, A Fistful of Dollars is generally considered to be the first spaghetti western to achieve recognition in the U.S. But it wasn't the first spaghetti western made; between 1960 to 1980, the collective film industries of Europe produced and released approximately

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp Lives Again, Thanks to Martin Scorsese and the Film Foundation

Scorsese kicks off a two-week run of the restored classic at New York City's Film Forum.
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Martin Scorsese's Hugo arrives in theaters on Wednesday in eye-popping 3-D. Before (and after) then, the Academy Award-winning director would like New Yorkers to see an equally groundbreaking film, made more than 60 years ago using state of the art visual techniques. "I always like to look at it a few times a year," Scorsese said of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 classic The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, before a sold out screening at Film Forum on Friday. "It grows more enduring and more moving (each time) I watch it." Now, thanks to an effort spearheaded by

Woody Allen: A Documentary Review: His Films Make Life Worth Living

The director is featured in this career overview on PBS' American Masters.
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Robert B.Weide's Woody Allen: A Documentary airs in two parts on PBS' American Masters and is a comprehensive biography about a man who has had one of the most impressive careers in all of show business. Weide interviews actors who have worked with Woody in all stages of his film career, from Louise Lasser and Diane Keaton to Scarlet Johansson and Owen Wilson. The viewer also hears from those who have worked with Woody behind the camera, such as writers Mickey Rose and Marshall Brickman, cinematographer Gordon Willis, and agent/producer Jack Rollins. A few notable fans, Martin Scorsese and Chris

Quigley Down Under Blu-ray Review: Yet Another Reason Tom Selleck Kicks Ass

An adroit tale of an American sharpshooter in the Australian Outback.
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"This ain't Dodge City -- and you ain't Bill Hickok." --Matthew Quigley (Tom Selleck) confronts his former one-time employer, Elliott Marsden (Alan Rickman), in a dramatic showdown. The history of the American western in film has experienced a fair share of instability over the years. It seems that, once we reached out into the starry void of outer space, we gave up giving a rat's ass about cowboys, Indians, and the genocidal war that took place between the two. Several western flicks have surfaced over the last 30+ years -- many of which attempted to revive the sleeping genre in

Making the Boys DVD Review: An Important Look at the Boys from The Boys in the Band

Even though padded to feature length, this documentary is a must-see for aficionados of theater, movies, and gay cultural history.
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Making the Boys (awkward title) has a great subject for a 45-minute documentary: the story behind the groundbreaking play and movie The Boys in the Band. It actually runs a bit over 90 minutes, so there is more than a little padding. Luckily, most of that padding is pretty entertaining, too. The Boys in the Band is an ensemble piece for nine gay male characters, set at a birthday party in a New York apartment (one of the "birthday presents" is a hustler named Cowboy). It was written in 1967 and opened in New York in 1968. The Stonewall riots

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) Blu-ray Review: "Gesundeidt"

The Definitive Version.
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When you look at the cinematic contributions Walter Matthau left behind upon his death in 2000, one tends to commonly think of his roles alongside Jack Lemmon -- particularly their comedies like The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men. And, while those timeless tales of two men constantly bickering back and forth are remembered for good reason, there's a whole other serious side of acting that Matthau put forth over the years as well. One look at a classic like Charley Varrick should give you an inkling of what Walter was capable of when he didn't clown around -- to

Rushmore Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Wes Anderson's Best Film Dazzles in High-Def

Criterion upgrades their early release of Anderson's sophomore feature.
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The Film By and large, there's been quite a backlash against the films of Wes Anderson, and even though I'm a fan, I'll admit it's not entirely undeserved. I don't buy the idea that his specific brand of highly designed twee dysfunction is subject to steeply diminishing returns (his weakest film, The Life Aquatic, sits right in the middle of his filmography), but it is true that actual human emotion can get squeezed out by all the overtly manufactured elements of Anderson's style. But that's not at all the case with Rushmore, Anderson's sophomore feature and in my estimation, the

Malone (1987) DVD Review: Hey, Little Sister, Shotgun?

We all die Malone and afraid.
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Anyone who grew up in the '80s probably remembers seeing a certain videocassette in the stores at one point or another, depicting a very angry, injured Burt Reynolds with a furious appearance upon his moustached kisser and brandishing a shotgun in mid-blast. Why, if you were to glance at a Polaroid I snapped of my room from the days of my (in all likelihood) misspent youth, you would notice a promotional display for the movie hanging from the ceiling. And yet, just like several other cinematic offerings starring Loni Anderson's former celebrity hubby from that particular period in time, I

The Stool Pigeon (2010) Blu-ray Review: Contemporary Hong Kong Action at its Finest

Director Dante Goes on the Lam from All the Beastliness.
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It's rare that a movie can employ that timeless-yet-tired ol' Yuletide tune, "White Christmas," and actually not make you want to throw up. It's also unusual to see a film by Hong Kong filmmaker Dante Lam -- the man responsible for such classics as Beast Cops, The Twins Effect (also known as Vampire Effect), and Beast Stalker -- to take a step back from his usual motif of infusing his own moving pictures with that certain amount of weird beastliness he typically tends to use. Nevertheless Dante goes on the Lam here from all that horror/fantasy stuff in order to

Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva DVD Review: Animated Sleuthing Success

A richly illustrated full-length film based on the Nintendo DS puzzle game series.
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Professor Layton's Nintendo DS puzzle-game series introduced the characters carried over to this all-new feature-length anime movie. The games don't succeed just because of the varied puzzles in them, but because of the beautifully animated sequences tying them together into imaginative stories. Thankfully, the film's creators realized the rich vein to tap here for a full movie, maintaining the high animation and vocal talent standards of the games and spinning them into an entirely new tale. While the established fan base for this film is admittedly miniscule, consisting primarily of the puzzle game fans and otaku who have played the

God Bless Ozzy Osbourne DVD Review: A Side of Ozzy We Have Never Seen Before

The film has a very strong story to tell.
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It has been nearly a decade since The Osbournes debuted on MTV, and since that time the first family of rock seemed to have over-exposed themselves. The show was such a runaway hit that the family was suddenly everywhere, and what once was once charming became a bit overbearing. So it was not a huge surprise when the film God Bless Ozzy Osbourne did not sell out theatres coast to coast upon its release this past year. Most probably wondered the same thing I did, what more could there possibly be? As it turns out, quite a bit. The most

The Wind That Shakes the Barley Movie Review: A Tale of Two Irish Brothers and the War of Independence

In guerrilla warfare on home turf things are always more personal.
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The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) directed by Ken Loach stars Cillian Murphy (Damien O'Donovan), Pádraic Delaney (Teddy Donovan), Liam Cunningham (Dan), Orla Fitzgerald (Sinéad), Laurence Barry (Micheál), Mary Murphy (Bernadette), Mary O'Riordan (Peggy), Myles Horgan (Rory), Martin Lucey (Congo), Roger Allam (Sir John Hamilton), John Crean (Chris Rielly), Damien Kearney (Finbar) Frank Bourke (Leo), Shane Casey(Kevin), and Sean McGinley (Father Denis). The story takes place during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21) and the Irish Civil War (1922-23) in the County Cork in Ireland. It centers around the two O'Donovan brothers, Damien and Teddy. Damien starts out wanting

The Mysterious Monsters DVD Review: Peter Graves Hunts for Bigfoot!

A must for fans of absolute nonsense and misguided edification.
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How would you set about trying to prove the existence of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster to skeptics and non-believers? Well, if you're at all like the people behind the 1976 "documentary" The Mysterious Monsters, you do the one thing that would surely invite people to accept your rather-baseless theories and flimsy facts with: you'd hire none other than Peter Graves to host and narrate your feature, sending the former Mission: Impossible star all over the United States to interview reported real-life witnesses of Sasquatch encounters and honest to goodness scientists to provide all kinds of irrefutable evidence. Made
Can one film ruin a genre? I guess you can look at it from two angles. Did Titanic ruin the Disaster Film genre because no other film could live up to the hype? Or was it possible that Volcano ruined the Disaster genre by having Tommy Lee Jones and Anne Heche (as a geologist!) stop a volcano from destroying L.A.? In 1993, Richard Linklater may have ruined a whole genre with the release of Dazed and Confused, a film about an ensemble of teenagers set on the last day of school in 1976 in Texas. The problem is knowing just

The Christine Jorgensen Story DVD Review: An Amusing Period Piece but Just Not Campy Enough

More like a mild soap opera than a tabloid shocker, but good photography and music.
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Newly released to video as part of MGM's Limited Edition Collection, The Christine Jorgensen Story is no classic, to put it mildly, but it's an amusing period piece, already dated in fact by the time it was released. The subject matter must have been shocking or at least titillating in 1970: the true story of the first sex-change operation to get major press coverage. George Jorgensen, uncomfortable growing up as an "All-American boy," went to Denmark in 1956 and returned to New York as Christine. The tabloids had a field day. But the style of the movie is not sensationalistic

Eames: The Architect and The Painter Movie Review: More Nostalgia Than Anything Else

Am almost dynamic documentary about a dynamic couple.
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I was very excited to watch a documentry about the late, great Charles and Ray Eames. As someone who gets nerdy about design, I was looking forward to learning more about this powerful and creative couple. However Eames: The Architect and The Painter falls a little short. This documentary follows the lives and and careers of Ray and Charles Eames from their meeting at school through the end of their lives. And although this documentray covers all the aspects of their career, it doesn't really flesh out the main accomplishment they were largely known for, their furniture design. The filmmakers

The Quatermass Xperiment (AKA The Creeping Unknown) DVD Review: Too Slow to Bother with

Often referred to as a cult classic. Not sure why.
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Based upon the 1953 BBC television serial The Quatermass Experiment (The title was changed to The Quatermass Xperiment to market the X Certificate rating received from British Board of Film Censors), this movie was produced in 1955 by the British production company Hammer films, and would later be released in the United States as The Creeping Unknown. Written by Richard Landau and director Val Guest based on the original story by Nigel Kneale, it is a condensed version of the television serial and tells the tale of Victor Carroon, an astronaut who blasts off into space as a member of

12 Angry Men is the Pick of the Week

Sidney Lumet's classic court-room drama gets the Criterion treatment.
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There are several interesting films coming out on Blu-ray this week and it was hard to just pick one of them as the best, but its my job to make the hard choices and I'm ready to make them for you. Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men is a classic in every conceivable way. It is superbly written, directed, shot, and acted. It is the standard for courtroom dramas. It is truly a masterpiece of cinema. And now it is available in high definition Blu-ray in what looks like a tremendous edition from Criterion. It is presented with a new high
If you've ever seen some of the god-awful movies that independent film studio Crown International Pictures released like The Beast of Yucca Flats, The Creeping Terror, or They Saved Hitler's Brain, you may have pondered the age-old question: "What they fuck were these guys thinking?" Well, while the more "traditional" film historians out there will continue to vomit over the mere mention of some of the movies Crown released over the years, we B-movie lovers will prolong to show our adoration for enduring class-icks such as 1980's sci-fi sex romp, Galaxina, and 1977's throwback to '50s horror, The Crater Lake

The River Murders DVD Review: All Kinds of Awful

A seminar in embarrassment with Prof. Ray Liotta, Dr. Ving Rhames, and Christian Slater.
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I vaguely recall a time wherein actors Ray Liotta, Ving Rhames, and Christian Slater were slightly admired -- maybe even revered -- for their contributions to the film industry. Well, two of 'em were appreciated. OK, one. No, wait, I think the jury's still out on that. Nevertheless, the quality of moving pictures that the three aforementioned performers have been appearing in has dwindled over the years. Actually, maybe "sunk" or "plummet" would be more appropriate. Well, whatever verb, adjective, or noun you may chose to use in order to describe the sense of class inhabiting movies like The River

My Cousin Rachel (1952) DVD Review: A Victorian Era Psychological Thriller?

Not to be confused with My Cousin Vinnie.
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What's this? A Victorian Era psychological thriller from the writer of Rebecca and The Birds? Why, yes, indeed! Based on Daphne du Maurier's then-new novel of the same name, My Cousin Rachel brings us a tale of mystery and romance starring Olivia de Havilland and Richard Burton, set in Cornwall, England in the latter half of the 19th Century. Nobleman Philip Ashley (Burton, in his first American role -- a part which prompted the movie's theatrical trailer to promote him as "a bright new star") has always admired his older cousin Ambrose (John Sutton), who raised him to be the

Book Review: Screen World: The Films of 2010, Edited by Barry Monush

A good analog resource though its easily trumped in our digital world.
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"Screen World Volume 62: The Films of 2010 is the latest installment in the long-running reference-book series. On the back cover, it claims to have a listing for "every significant American and international film released from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 in the U.S." It also serves a yearbook with sections that cover "Promising New Actors," "Academy Award Winners and Nominees," "Top Box Office Stars and Films of 2010," and "Obituaries." After a brief introduction where editor Barry Monush mentions almost every well-known movie released that year, the listings are divided into Domestic and Foreign Films, which are

The Flim-Flam Man (1967) DVD Review: George C. Scott at His Most Amusing

Twilight Time releases the never-before-released cult classic to DVD as a limited exclusive.
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"You can sell anything on God's green Earth if a customer believes it's stolen." --George C. Scott as Mordecai C. Jones, flim-flam man. Based on Guy Owen's novel, The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man, this light-hearted 1967 rural romp brings us the tale of fast-talkin' con-man Mordecai C. Jones, a "Master of Back-Stabbing, Cork-Screwing and Dirty-Dealing" (and played to the hilt by George C. Scott) who wanders from county to county in the South, relieving people of any financial weight they may have in their pockets. The story here -- as written by William Rose, who also penned such classics

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Adventures of Don Quixote (1933)

"I've got chivalry in me head but me stomach craves for food." - Sancho Panza
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Continuing this month's theme of movies adaptated from books brings us to director G.W. Pabst's Adventures of Don Quixote, based on the novel by Miguel de Cervantes and starring Russian opera singer Feodor Chaliapin, who played the character in Massenet's 1910 opera of the same name. In 16th Century Spain, Don Quixote finds himself longing for the days of chivalry. Considered mad by his fellow townsfolk for selling off his land to buy books, he and his trusted squire, Sancho Panza (George Robey), set out to find adventures worthy of a knight, though Don Quixote always misreads the situations.

Into the Abyss at AFI FEST 2011: Encounters at the End of Humanity

Director Werner Herzog stares into Texas' death penalty.
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When introducing his latest documentary at AFI FEST presented by Audi, German director Werner Herzog stated he was against the death penalty but didn't feel it was his place to tell the people of the United States, and more specifically Texas, where the crimes at the root of this film occurred in 2000, how they should handle these matters. However, he obviously wants them to rethink the position considering how easily he demonstrated the arbitrary nature it is being applied. In the interest of full disclosure, I too am against the death penalty for a number of reasons. Typically in

Fanny & Alexander Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Bergman's Documentary Trumps Feature Film

While the film is somewhat bloated and slow, its accompanying documentary is revelatory
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As a newcomer to Fanny & Alexander, I was surprised to learn that the original format of the project was a four-part TV miniseries spanning over five hours. That series was subsequently edited down to a still-massive three-hour movie for worldwide theatrical presentation, which is the version most recognized by U.S. audiences. Criterion's new Blu-ray box set contains both versions of the project, with one disc for each version, along with a third disc containing supplemental material highlighted by a feature-length documentary filmed concurrent with the feature production. Famed director Ingmar Bergman intended this project to be his final feature,

Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures Volume 3 DVD Review: As Fun as Ever

Fourteen more crazy tales with Tom and Jerry!
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Warner Home Video are now offering the third installment in their Tom and Jerry: Fur Flying Adventures DVD series, and our heroes remain as fun as ever. The formula is pretty simple, each volume contains 14 classic Tom and Jerry cartoons. For the FFA editions, WHV have chosen a mix of sixties-era Chuck Jones episodes, and the recent Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone tales. In the case of FFA Volume 3, the count is six for Chuck Jones, and eight for Brandt/Cervone. Chuck Jones is a legend in animation, having created the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, and Pepe LePew,

Pride and Glory Movie Review: Needs a Little More Pride

A tale of family and loyalty and dirty cops in New York that could have been so much more.
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Pride and Glory (2008) directed by Gavin O'Connor stars Edward Norton (Ray Tierney), Jon Voight (Francis Tierney Sr.), Noah Emmerich (Francis Tierney Jr.), Jennifer Ehle (Abby Tierney), and Colin Farell (Jimmy Egan). This is basically a story about a family of police officers in New York. The Tierneys are like a royal house of cops with the brother-in-law Jimmy Egan as the dark horse. There is something decidedly Shakespearean about the whole dynamic of the Tierney clan. The problem is that Jimmy Egan is dirty, involved in taking money from drug dealers and killing the competition of the dealer they're

Sugar Hill (1974) DVD Review: The Grandmother of All '70s Blaxploitation Zombie Flicks!

Hey Sugar: do do that voodoo that you do so well!
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"I give you your revenge! Put them to evil use; it's all they know -- or want." - Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley), upon having resurrected a group of creepy pinball-eyed machete-wielding corpses. In this age of increasingly dull, incredibly monotonous films depicting zombies as mindless, fast-moving, brain-eatin' hoards, it's hard to imagine there was a time when motion pictures about the living dead contained no flesh consumption whatsoever -- and that legions of reanimated carcasses served an objective in (after)life. It's also difficult to picture that we once had cinematic offerings featuring revived stiffs that were actually as enjoyable

The 2012 People's Choice Award Nominees Have Been Announced

Let the madness begin.
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Award shows. Movie fans love them and others love to hate them. Over the next few months until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have their final say on Sunday, Feb. 26 when they hand out the Oscars, different groups of critics and industry professionals will be weighing in on what they perceive to be the higlights of the year. Regular folks have allegedly been getting their say since 1975 when producer Bob Stivers created the People's Choice Awards, which honors movies, TV, and music. People can vote on their favorites online at the PCA website or on

Atlas Shrugged Part One DVD Review: Who Is John Aglialoro?

Surprisingly faithful to the source material but hampered by lackluster casting and mediocre direction.
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After languishing in development hell for nearly 40 years, the film adaptation of author Ayn Rand's magnum opus finally reached the big screen earlier this year with a resounding thud. That's due in no small part to the lack of star power in front of and behind the lens, as well as independent financing by industry outsider John Aglialoro, and yet as it turns out the final product isn't nearly as bad as its meager box office and talent might indicate. Make no mistake: the film is by no means a classic, and yet its surprisingly faithful and effective script

Blue Velvet 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: Just As Good As You Remembered It

Sparkling new Blu-ray release with newly discovered deleted scenes proves you can go home again.
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In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Blue Velvet is being released in a feature-packed Blu-ray edition highlighted by the inclusion of nearly an hour of deleted scenes. That footage hasn't been edited back into the film, instead existing solely as a bonus feature, but it's still intriguing to see the added perspective it offers. Writer/director David Lynch revisits his recurring theme of the dark underbelly of bucolic suburbia, spinning a tale of a plucky and inquisitive college student named Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) who stumbles across a severed human ear and sets out to learn who severed it. He's joined by

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the Pick of the Week

The end comes to the fantasy-film franchise.
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I came to the Harry Potter universe a little late. I didn't see the first movie until the fourth one came out and didn't start reading the books until the sixth one was released. Honestly the first two films didn't really do anything for me. They were cute enough, and they remained fairly faithful to the books, but for someone just stepping into the universe they weren't able to capture my imagination fully and make me understand the massive appeal the stories had. Still, I bought the books for my wife and took them up for something to do. Pretty

Ray Charles: Live in France 1961 DVD Review: The Genius in His Prime

Rare footage of Ray Charles at work in 1961 makes its DVD debut.
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In 1961, it's safe to say Ray Charles was at the peak of his powers. His albums and tours were smash hits and he had signed a deal with ABC-Paramount that granted him 75% of his record's profits and a minimum guarantee of $50,000 per record. In addition, his former label Atlantic, which was still stinging from the loss of its big star, released a number of unreleased Ray Charles songs which when combined with the material he was doing for ABC-Paramount, made for 10 albums of new material between 1960-1961. Life was good indeed. In 1961, he was invited

Identification of a Woman Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Futile Search for Romantic Fulfillment

An exploration of modern love, Antonioni's late-period film is a worthy effort if not as obviously masterful as some of his earlier work.
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The Film Among those disinclined to enjoy films without a clear story arc, well-defined conflict, and a resolute conclusion, the films of Michelangelo Antonioni would likely be enemy number one. A sort of lazily dismissive shorthand for the difficulties of art cinema has sprung up around Antonioni's name (see also: Andrei Tarkovsky) but it misses the fact that his films are generally engaging and densely packed with ideas, even if not traditionally fulfilling. That said, the late-career Identification of a Woman is probably not the best place for an Antonioni neophyte to begin. By most accounts, it's not one of

Kuroneko Criterion Collection DVD Review: Expressionistic Horror in Feudal Japan

Kaneto Shindo's film is a psychologically wrenching ghost story.
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A spooky, poetic Japanese ghost story, Kuroneko is the kind of film that captivates you by virtue of an astonishing opening scene and doesn't let up from there on out. The matter-of-fact grimness of Kuroneko's opening minutes is replaced by a much more otherworldly aesthetic in the rest of the film, but both types are showcases for the deft visual storytelling of Kaneto Shindo. As the feudal era-film opens, we see a band of roving samurai enter a secluded house, take their fill of food and drink and then systematically gang-rape the two women inside, Yone (Nobuko Otawa) and her

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Volume 3 and 4 DVD Review: Entertainment Assembled!

A very good animated program for superhero fans.
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Based on the Marvel comic book series, The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! is a very good animated program for superhero fans that debuted online and in the U.S. on Disney XD during Fall 2010. The show combines characters and plotlines from the comics with the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. The latter's influence is evident by the front covers of Volume 3 and 4, which cover the second half of Season One in production order. Each only shows only the four characters from the movies: Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America. These Avengers were formed in response to the escape

The Saturday Public Domain Movie: Great Expectations (1946)

"I realized that in becoming a gentleman, I had only succeeded in becoming a snob." - Pip
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While many work at writing their novels during NaNoWriMo, November seems like a perfect time to look at film adaptation of books. David Lean's Great Expectations is the third time Charles Dickens' classic novel appeared on the silver screen. It tells the story of Phillip "Pip" Pirrip (played by Anthony Wager as a young boy and John Mills as an adult ) who is trained to be a gentleman by a mysterious benefecator. In his younger days, Pip made frequent visits to Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt), a wealthy spinster at whose home he meets Estella (Jean Simmons as as

Cars 2 Blu-ray Review: Stuck in Neutral

Pixar's first misstep fails to capture the heart of the original
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After over 15 years of unparalleled critical and commercial feature film success, it was inevitable that Pixar would hit a wall, but unfortunate that it took the destruction of their previously-enjoyable Carsniverse to do so. Offering none of the heart and barely any characters of the original, Cars 2 sends its top stars Lightning McQueen and Mater on an ill-advised spy trek/world grand prix far away from the cozy confines of Radiator Springs. How did this seem like a good idea to the notoriously story-centric Pixar brain trust? The only logical explanation is merchandising, as the film offers up a

Stake Land Movie Review: A Serious Post-Apocalyptic On The Road Vampire Movie

This unexpected gem is on par with "Near Dark" and is certainly worth a viewing.
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Stake Land (2010) directed by Jim Mickle and written by Mickle and Nick Damici is a vampire movie with a different flavour. In a parallel and immediate now, disaster strikes and a pandemic hits the world. Vampires take over, for any given value of that when they actually don't retain any higher brain function other than the basic predator-feeding instinct. That does not mean they are not extremely dangerous, because they certainly are. This story centers around the young boy Martin (Connor Paolo) who survives the brutal attack on his family thanks to the timely arrival of Mister (Nick Damici).

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