February 2012 Archives

Rapture (1965) Blu-ray Review: A Forgotten, Poignant Masterpiece

Twilight Time brings us a genuine obscurity, and the results are hauntingly pleasing.
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Prior to the advent of home video, it was very easy for a movie to simply fall far into the deepest recesses of time, where they would lie in wait to be discovered many years later. Indeed, even after we were able to watch motion pictures in private, some movies still eluded us. One such title is 1965's Rapture -- an adaptation of Phyllis Hastings' Rapture in My Rags (oh, how I'm glad they didn't retain the original literary title!) directed by John Guillermin -- a film that most audiences have rarely had the opportunity to see outside of cable

Elmo's World: Elmo's Favorite Things DVD Review: Fun, Colorful and Educational

A perfect mixture of live action, animation, and puppets.
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Though he has dabbled in films, starring in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and having a peripheral role Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, any fan of the three-year-old, bright red puppet knows him best for his work on Sesame Street, where he stars in a segment known as "Elmo's World". New to DVD is Elmo's World: Elmo's Favorite Things! where Elmo takes eight subjects and does what he does best: makes them fun, colorful and educational. The eight episodes are "Birthdays," "Dinosaurs," "Pets," "Fun and Games," "Building Things," "the Beach," "Friends," and "School." Each one is educational on the

Martha Marcy May Marlene DVD Review: A Daring Feature Film Debut

As a true independent film, it is a refreshing look at a challenging subject.
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Martha Marcy May Marlene is a daring feature film debut from director/writer Sean Derkin about the affects of being in a cult. Through flashbacks and careful editing, two stories play off one another, making this a film for the attentive and patient viewer that leaves a lingering uneasiness when it's over. Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) is first seen running away from what seems to be communal living on a farm. After a panicked phone call, Martha is picked up and taken to her sister's home in Connecticut. Here you find out that Martha has been missing for the past two years

Tiny Furniture Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: One Character in Search of a Relationship

I think you sound like you are in the epilogue to "Felicity".
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It's important to start off with a confession. I love "coming of age" films. It's a genre that never seems to run dry of ideas. The transition from childhood to adulthood is ripe for all kinds of stories. The best of the genre starts with The Graduate - as Dustin Hoffman tries to adapt to life and romance after college. The genre isn't limited to post-college experiences. Coming of age works well as a nostalgic look at loss of innocence in Stand By Me or the transition from high school to independent adult like American Graffiti. The genre can even

World on a Wire Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Nature of Unnatural Reality

While the plot is obvious, the film's cerebral take on sci fi and impressive '70s cinematography make it well worth its lengthy running time.
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Two business colleagues at a supercomputer research facility are enjoying a pleasant conversation before one of them declares that he knows a secret that would destroy the world. He then proceeds to excuse himself, exits the room, and shortly turns up dead elsewhere in the facility. What follows is a cerebral, tense sci-fi drama about virtual reality seemingly decades ahead of its time. While it's almost immediately obvious that the workers at the lab are themselves computer simulations being monitored by actual humans a level of consciousness above, the story carries so much philosophical weight augmented by groovy '70s cinematography

No Subtitles Necessary DVD Review: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Absorbing documentary about the two legendary cinematographers.
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Cinematographers Laszlo Kovacs (1933-2007) and Vilmos Zsigmond (born 1930) filmed the Hungarian Uprising in Budapest during 1956. When the Soviets moved in to crush the rebellion, the two managed to escape to Austria with an incredible 30,000 feet of footage. Both had studied cinema at the Budapest Academy and had learned a great deal about the craft. As they discovered when they made their way to America however, they had not learned anything at all about how Hollywood actually works though. Their first stop was New York City, where they quite naturally thought that the film they brought with them

Hugo is the Pick of the Week

Martin Scorcese's gorgeous love letter to the movies comes out this week.
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I think I mentioned before in this series that I haven't seen very many films in the theatre this year. My daughter was born last April and I fully blame her for my lack of theatre experience. The wife and I barely get any time to ourselves anymore and when we do we're usually way too exhausted to sit in a dark theatre, on comfortable chairs without falling asleep. As such I've only seen one of the pictures that were nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. As it turns out that picture is out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

J. Edgar Blu-ray Review: Bloated Hollywood Makeup Drama

A hodgepodge of powerhouse moments interjected with a lot of ho-hummery.
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Have you ever seen an overzealous costume drama that reveled in its own fantastical wardrobe department more than anything? Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar is kind of like that, only it gets caught up in its advanced makeup effects instead -- prompting me to declare it a "makeup drama." Like its clothing-oriented period-piece cousins, this Hollywood spectacle brings us a fictionalized account of the life of the notorious and enigmatic architect of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, J. Edgar Hoover. And a Tinseltown exhibition it is, too: in keeping up with the many other ambitious biopics that preceded it, J. Edgar

Mandrill Blu-ray Review: Chile's Contribution to the Neo-Grindhouse Genre

I'm something of a "Mandrill" myself, if you know what I mean.
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Americans aren't the only ones who can make modern grindhouse movies. Our cousins in Chile evidently took a cue from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's more recent endeavors and created this campy action flick that obviously is paying its respect to classic European crime dramas (and the Grand Theft Auto video game series, as one might note upon viewing the movie's choice of font for its credits), with the extremely agile Marko Zaror cast in the lead. Unfortunately, writer/producer/director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza's Mandrill doesn't hold a candle to its predecessors, and instead just comes off as something of a mess.

Santana: Greatest Hits Live At Montreux 2011 DVD Review: An Artist Still on Top of His Game

Forty years on, the musical giant is still pushing boundaries.
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In 1970, Carlos Santana and his band, Santana, made their first appearance at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival. Nearly 42 years later, both Santana and the festival are still going strong, with Santana getting to organize his own "mini festivals" at the event for the past decade. His 2011 performance at Montreux is captured on the DVD, Santana: Greatest Hits Live At Montreux 2011. Packed over two DVDs, the show opens with an inspired "Spark Of The Devine," with its big drums and bongos intro. Santana ably solos over a layer of trumpets and keyboards before the song breaks down

Cinema Sentries Select the Best of 2011

Forget the envelope; just continue reading.
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With the Oscars just hours away from honoring the best of 2011, a few Sentries have gathered to name their selections as Award Season comes to a close. Margaret selected by Dusty Somers History will venerate Kenneth Lonergan's follow-up to acclaimed 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me, even if moviegoers initially ignored it to the tune of a $40,000 gross. It's not like you can blame the public. After a protracted legal dispute over running time and final cut -- delaying the release nearly five years -- Fox Searchlight unceremoniously dumped it into less than 20 theaters last

Looney Tunes Super Stars: Pepe Le Pew DVD Review: Le Win

Warner's barebones disc delivers pristine-looking shorts coupled with timeless laughs.
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As some of us sit and wonder if we'll ever see one über-definitive ginormous anthology that delivers every Looney Tunes short ever made, we have little choice but to settle for individually themed titles, such as the Looney Tunes Super Stars series. While Warner Brothers have released several dozen different Looney Tunes packages on DVD over the last ten years, it would appear that the character of Pepé Le Pew had always been placed on the back burner for said sets -- only making an appearance here and there, but never receiving his own collection. Fortunately, that blunder has been

World On A Wire Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Superb Piece of Science Fiction

One of Fassbinder's most obscure and fascinating works.
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What if everything you thought you knew was nothing but a fabrication? This is but one of the many themes in the newly restored Rainer Werner Fassbinder film World On A Wire. As the protagonist of the film, Fred Stiller (Klaus Lowitsch) puts it: "I can't be alone in thinking nothing really exists. For Plato, reality exists in the realm of ideas. And Aristotle conceived of matter as passive non-substance that only becomes reality by thought." I will begin by stating the obvious - this two-DVD Criterion Collection edition is a must for Fassbinder fans. It is certainly one of

3 DVD Review: A Playful Menage a Trois

Director Tom Tykwer follows up the deadly dull The International with a coolly ironic take on modern relationships.
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After one entirely dull, far too self-serious attempt at a big-budget Hollywood crossover in The International, it's nice to see German director Tom Tykwer follow up with a more idiosyncratic vision. That would be 3, a not entirely successful but nonetheless wholly engaging film about a couple at a crossroads, and the man who enters their individual lives independently. Perhaps Tykwer's greatest asset here is his sense of playfulness -- despite its metaphysical and philosophical underpinnings, 3 isn't weighed down by metaphor, even though it engages in a good deal of it. Tykwer's best-loved film, Run Lola Run, is immensely

Book Review: Reel Culture: 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Mimi O'Connor

A nice primer of 50 classic films from the 20th century.
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Reel Culture: 50 Classic Movies You Should Know About (So You Can Impress Your Friends) by Mimi O'Connor is an interesting primer for budding film buffs. The 50 films chosen are not obscure in any way, and have definitely stood the test of time. As the author puts it in her foreward: "Classic film references seep into pop culture in ways that many people are not aware of. Once you come to know these films, you will be amazed at how many jokes and references you will suddenly get." Reel Culture is published by Zest Books, who have carved out

Breakfast On Pluto Movie Review: The Strange and Exotic Tale of Patrick Kitten Braden

With a line like "If I wasn't a transvestite terrorist, would you marry me?" at least you know Kitten won't bore you.
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Breakfast On Pluto (2005) based on the novel of the same name by Patrick McCabe is directed by Neil Jordan and stars Cillian Murphy as the unique Patrick "Kitten" Braden. This is a really peculiar mixture of coming of age, personal discovery, picaresque, moral tale, fairy tale, oblique political commentary, and hagiography. The opening shot shows Kitten in full regalia pushing a pram down the street and being accosted by construction workers whose lewd cat-calls she responds to with pointed poise. It then loops back on itself to the very beginning of the tale where we are shown a bassinet

American Teacher DVD Review: A Distant Look at the Profession

Full of facts but lacking the ability to keep this student engaged.
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Before I got a chance to review it, I had heard about the documentry, American Teacher. I was excited by the preview; however, it fell a little short for me when it came to keeping me emotionally engaged. American Teacher is narrated by Matt Damon and follows the lives of four current and former teachers in the American public school system. These four teachers come from different parts of the country and all come from different backgrounds. Athough this documentary provides a lot of facts that most people don't know about teaching, it lacks a real emotional edge. Through interviews

The Sons of Tennessee Williams DVD Review: Mardi Gras Offers Sanctuary Amidst the Celebration

An important documentary about the gay civil rights movement in Louisiana.
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The Sons of Tennesee Williams is a documentary about the gay Mardi Gras krewes out of Louisiana. This film not only shows the fun and wild side of gay Mardi Gras but takes a deeper look at the civil rights movement at the heart of the gay krewes. Through present-day interviews and archival footage, The Sons of Tennessee Williams tells the story of the drag movement and the fight for civil rights that predated most other homosexual liberation movments by almost 10 years. For many years in Louisiana it was against the law to be openly homosexual and any homosexual

Buzzkill Movie Review: Just Isn't Funny Enough

Naming your comedy "Buzzkill" might be asking for trouble.
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The Second City is as close as you can get to royalty within the comedy community. The vested troupe is the progenitor of pretty much all modern sketch comedy, and as such you'd expect any production involved with them would have an unassailable pedigree. This should be funny. God knows, watching it, it wants to be funny. A would-be writer whose script falls into the hands of a serial killer, who is in turn inspired by the script which gives the author a poorly founded sense of accomplishment. But while the basic plot might have been, at some point, a

Three Outlaw Samurai Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Genre-Defining Samurai Film

A brilliantly shot period piece with beautiful cinematography and lots of fighting.
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The Samurai genre and the Western are so closely tied by themes and storylines that it's amazing the great Japanese films of the Sixties and Seventies haven't made a larger impact in the United States. I've been a casual fan of the Samurai genre since my first viewing of Shogun Assasin in the mid-Eighties. That led me to the Lone Wolf and Cub series and eventually the Zatoichi Blind Swordsman series. These films work well in a series because of the epic storytelling - the growth of the legend of the samurai hero becomes the overall importance. He must face

J. Edgar is the Pick of the Week

Clint Eastwood's biography of the enigmatic FBI director gets my pick this week.
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There's an old Seinfeld joke where Jerry and George are talking about bringing a date to a party. Jerry insists its a bad idea because at a party you want to mingle and not be stuck talking to one person. He says you could take J. Edgar Hoover as your date but you'd still want to excuse yourself from his conversation. When George asks why he picked Hoover for the example, Jerry replies, "Well I would think, with the law enforcement and the cross dressing. Seems like an interesting guy." That probably sums up what most of us know about

Talking Heads: Chronology DVD Review: More Videos About Buildings and Food

Featuring live performances spanning from 1975-1983, the DVD shows the evolution of one of the most influential bands of the '80s.
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Since the mid-'70s, Talking Heads have defied easy categorization. Are they rock? Punk? Avant-garde? The band raised themselves above labels and existed on another sonic plane, one which blended all the aforementioned sounds as well as African rhythms, funk, and even a touch of country. No one before or since has surpassed the band visually and musically, and these talents are prominently displayed in the DVD Chronology. Live shows from 1975-1983, along with one of their performances at their 2002 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, offer a rare glimpse at their formative years. Stripping away their

The Son of No One Blu-ray Review: "Meh, I Saw That One Coming"

The writer/director and star of Fighting reunite to bring us something just as boring.
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New York City-based filmmaker Dito Montiel teams up once again with Channing Tatum -- his star of 2009's Fighting -- to bring us another hard-hitting look at life on the wrong side of the tracks in The Son of No One. This time 'round, the rarely animated Tatum takes the lead as a cop in Queens with a troubled past and a nagging wife (Katie Holmes, one of many turn-offs this movie's cast has to offer) and a physically ill daughter at home. While things are hardly 100% kosher for Channing to begin with, his professional and personal lives grow

Bullhead Movie Review: Oscar-Nominated Drama as Meat-Headed as Its Protagonist

An Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Bullhead possesses a crippling lack of insight into its steroid-addled protagonist.
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After spending its first act setting up a rote narcotics syndicate narrative -- freshened ever so slightly by cattle hormones acting as the illicit product -- Michael R. Roskam's Bullhead takes a turn for the intimate. Abandoning the finer details of its cop-killing conspiracy plot, the film homes in on the inner life of hulking Belgian cattle farmer Jacky Vanmarsenille (Matthias Schoenaerts) and seems to promise some grand insight into his steroid-addled, belligerent character. Roskam would've been better off sticking to clichéd drug plotting. Bullhead, nominated for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, takes a turn toward the unbearable with

Book Review: The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael

A very worthy addition to the library of anyone whoever lost it at the movies.
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While there were plenty of good reviewers before her, Pauline Kael's popularity as a movie critic saw her rise to level of rock star as she developed a devout following of readers and inspired writers to follow in her footsteps. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman told rockcritics.com she "was more than a great critic. She re-invented the form, and pioneered an entire aesthetic of writing. She was like the Elvis or the Beatles of film criticism." The Age of Movies is the literary equivalent of a career-spanning best-of album. The book opens with her essay bemoaning the then-current state of the

Special Treatment DVD Review: Prostitution and Psychotherapy Overlap in Underwhelming Film

Strong performances, including a turn by the great Isabelle Huppert, make the film worthwhile, but its script lets the actors down.
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There's a promising movie in the middle of Special Treatment, a low-key comic drama that's at turns too programmatic in the beginning and too muddled in the end. Lead turns from the brilliant Isabelle Huppert and a very good Bouli Lanners tend to be the saving grace during the underwhelming spots; unsurprisingly, the film's at its best when the two are onscreen together. Huppert stars as Alice Bergerac, a high-class Parisian prostitute willing to cater to her client's individual needs, whether that be a rote schoolgirl fantasy, buttoned-up housewife domination, S&M, or simple elegance. She requires a 10-session commitment, payment

2012 Oscar-Nominated Documentary Shorts Review: Bring Tissues, Because You're Going to Cry

This year's nominees stuff a lot of emotion into small packages.
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Stanislavsky once said, "There are no small parts, only small actors." At least I think he was the one who said that. It may have been Jerry Maren. Regardless, the same sentiment can apply to short films, especially when they're as compelling as this year's nominees in the category of Documentary Short. Four of the five films recognized by the Academy are playing in theaters around the country leading up to the Oscar telecast on Sunday February 26, and while they may be less than feature length, they all pack more than their share of emotional oomph. But be warned:

The Bed Sitting Room DVD Review: Post-Nuclear British Satire Hits the Mark

Richard Lester's adaptation of the Spike Milligan and John Antrobus play is a sharp piece of surrealism.
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An absurdist minor masterpiece, Richard Lester's The Bed Sitting Room in many ways follows in the same vein as Lester's How I Won the War from two years earlier. How I Won the War has an undeniably higher profile, mostly due to the presence of John Lennon in a non-Beatles role, but The Bed Sitting Room has a far sharper command of the non sequitur. How I Won the War's inanity turns tedious quickly, but The Bed Sitting Room is a bright, coherent piece of filmmaking, even if its characters are anything but. It certainly doesn't hurt that Lester is
Not to put too fine a spin on it, but Zest Books cater to a fairly small, but an incredibly powerful niche audience - teen girls. Ever since the days of Frank Sinatra's "bobby-soxers," teenagers have been the major market for all forms of entertainment. The world of film is certainly no exception. Movies aimed at the teen market have been around for decades, and author Nikki Roddy has taken an interesting approach to them with her new book How To Fight, Lie, and Cry Your Way To Popularity (and a Prom Date): Lousy Life Lessons From 50 Teen Movies.

The Deadly Spawn Blu-ray Review: A Wonderful Slice of Gory, Cheapo '80s Sci-Fi / Horror that Delivers

Elite Entertainment returns from the grave with a disappointing "High-Def" release.
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One of the most cherished memories of my mostly-wasted teenage years was the time I spent renting obscure horror and science fiction movies from the video store. Back then, there were several video stores in the small community I lived in, and the bigger ones offered a "five movies (on VHS) for five days for five dollars" package. Seeing that I was already a very mad-about-motion-pictures kind of lad, I was back at the store every other day (my visits were sometimes more frequent than that -- there wasn't much else for me to do, folks), and my list of

Treasure Train Blu-ray Review: I'm Being Punished for Something, I Know It

What, they can't find a good print of The Secret of Magic Island, but they can release THIS on Blu-ray?
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Normally, I'm one to welcome a kooky French flick with open arms and baguette. In the case of the French/Canadian co-production Treasure Train, originally known as The Emperor of Peru, I couldn't help but feel I was being punished for something -- though I'm not sure what dastardly sin I committed to incur the wrath of this unforgiving kiddie film. The story mostly centers on a trio of young children: a brother and sister named Toby and Liz (and played, respectively by Jonathan Starr and Anick -- who, thankfully, never went on to do anything ever again), and a Cambodian

Ferry to Hong Kong DVD Review: The Beginning of the End for Orson Welles

One of the rare films where German great Curd Jürgens plays a good guy.
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Just one year after the disastrous debut of Orson Welles' Touch of Evil in 1958, the mighty auteur found himself in Ferry to Hong Kong, a low-budget British production set and filmed in the Orient. Co-written and directed by Lewis Gilbert, who later went on to helm the James Bond movies You Only Live Twice, The Spy Who Loved Me, and Moonraker. Reminding me of the finale of The Three Stooges short Dizzy Pilots, wherein Moe Howard was covered in rubber and accidentally turned into a human balloon, Welles (complete with a ridiculous English accent) overdoes it to no end

The Richard Thompson Band - Live At Celtic Connections Blu-ray Review: Something for Everyone

The folk rock legend returns with his first-ever Blu-ray.
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Richard Thompson's most recent studio album, Dream Attic, was recorded live in front of a series of American audiences before being taken out on the road. On the subsequent tour, a Glasgow, Scotland date at Celtic Connections was filmed, comprising The Richard Thompson Band's first-ever Blu-ray release, The Richard Thomson Band - Live At Celtic Connections. The former Fairport Convention guitarist is widely regarded as one of the best at his craft in the world, ranking among Rolling Stone's "100 Greatest Guitarists Of All Time," and he is in fine form throughout the disc, coaxing a multitude of sounds out

Favorite Courtroom Films [Snob Seven]

The Sentries make their case for the following titles.
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The Sentries turn their gaze to films where the courtroom setting is an important element and make the case for their favorites. 12 Angry Men (1957) by Greg Barbrick 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 A/C, 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 adjourning: guilty

God is the Bigger Elvis Movie Review: Classic Film Star Dolores Hart Returns After 50 Years, and Oscar Notices

The Hollywood starlet who became a nun is back in this unlikely Oscar nominee.
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In the trailer for Michael Curtiz's 1961 religious epic Francis of Assisi, actors Bradford Dillman and Dolores Hart are described as being "inspired" by their respective roles as Saint Francis and Saint Clare. In the case of Hart, that wasn't just Hollywood hyperbole. Two years after portraying a beautiful young woman who leaves a life of privilege to become a cloistered nun, Hart walked away from one of the hottest careers in Hollywood and became a cloistered nun. It was a shocking, life-imitates-art transmogrification for the star of Where the Boys Are, and it's the story at the core of

The Rum Diary is the Pick of the Week

Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson again to mixed reviews.
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For the last week my wife and I have both had terrifically terrible head colds. We create create quite the modern symphony with our constant cacophany of coughing, and have the modern art equivilant with our mountains of filthy tissues piled up in each room. I continue to buy various over-the-counter medications and continue to take them in various amounts and combinations which leave me in various states of mental capabilities. It is absolutely awful. Getting no sleep, being in constant pain, continously coughing and being regularly drugged out of my mind is ridiculously not at all fun. I won't

Five Star Day Blu-ray Review: A Movie About Life, Love, and Manure

Any movie that has a lounge singer is OK by me.
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Anyone who has ever glanced at their horoscope can attest those astrological predictions are not always what they're cracked up to be. In fact, they are usually pretty cracked themselves. For poor Jake Gibson (Cam Gigandet, desperately trying to find a star attraction in order to wipe Twilight off his résumé), his horoscope couldn't be any more inaccurate. Promoting a five-star day, complete with the promise of an improvement in his professional and personal lives, Jake's day only results in him getting laid off; returning home only to find his girlfriend getting laid. And so, Jake sets out to prove

Survive! DVD Review: Mexploitation Cannibal Goodness with Hugo Stiglitz

Best fit for a gloomy, snowed-in afternoon with a raw steak at your disposal.
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Some of you may remember the 1993 film Alive, which depicted a Hollywood account of the fateful Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 disaster of 1972. Seventeen years prior, Mexican exploitation filmmaker René Cardona produced a feature called Supervivientes de los Andes, which was released in America under the strikingly-similar-to-the-1993-title-Alive, Survive! (exclamation point included). Mexi/Euro superstar Hugo Stiglitz stars in this low-budget tale of survival, which was written for the screen by Cardona's son, René, Jr, who also brought us several other exploitative class-icks such as Beaks: The Movie, Guyana: Cult of the Damned, and The Night of a Thousand Cats

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas Blu-ray Review: The 19th Best Christmas Movie of All Time

A funny return to form for this generation's Cheech and Chong.
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Harold and Kumar aren't the ideal characters one would envision for a frothy Christmas movie or a senses-shattering 3D experience, but as it turns out they're just the counter-programming the season and the 3D format need. The new film plays up their odd couple relationship to the extremes, with Harold now a conservative, happily married Wall Street exec and Kumar a poor, disheveled pothead one missed paycheck from eviction. Ok, so not much has changed for Kumar, except for his girlfriend's revelation that they have a baby on the way. Harold has embraced his serene suburban life to such an

What Do You Say To A Naked Lady? DVD Review: Not Ready for 1970 Prime Time

Allen Funt turned his "Candid Camera" to more adult themes for a dated, but entertaining film.
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Allen Funt (1914 -1999) is best remembered for creating the television show Candid Camera. The basic premise of the program was to film the reactions of ordinary people to unusual situations. It was a very popular show for years on both network TV and in syndication. The show ran from 1948 to 2004, with Funt's son Peter taking over hosting duties after the senior Funt suffered a debilitating stroke in 1992. For the younger generation, probably the closest example of what Candid Camera was all about was the MTV show Punk'd, only with the general public as the targets, rather

2012 Oscar-Nominated Live-Action Short Films Review: A Mixed Bag of Nominees

Time travel humor, estranged friends, and adoption struggles are among the subjects of the 2012 Oscar-nominated live-action short films.
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Before the 84th Academy Awards take place on Feb. 26, you still have time to catch up with some of the lesser-known nominees, including the short films. Beginning Feb. 10, ShortsHD will be screening the Oscar-nominated animated shorts, documentary shorts and live-action shorts in separate programs at more than 200 theaters across the country. While the live action category isn't quite as strong as the animated line-up, there are worthwhile entries from veterans and independents alike. The five nominees are: Pentecost by Peter McDonald and Eimear O'KaneA football-loving Irish lad (Scott Graham) may be separated from his true passion after

Up The Creek (1984) DVD Review: Whitewater Rafting Never Looked Like This Much Fun Before

After all these years, the film is still funny and entertaining.
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Dean Burch (John Hillerman) is tired of his University being the laughing stock of the country. He wants Lepetomane University (or Labotomy U. as it's jokingly referred to) to have at least one accomplishment to be proud of. In the entire history of the school not one student has won a trophy or received an award of any kind, but that's about to change because the Dean has a brilliant strategy. His plan is to take the four worst students in the entire country, the four students who have no hope in ever graduating and bribing them with a degree

Texas Killing Fields Blu-ray Review: Unimaginative and Disjointed

Just another procedural crime drama.
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I am always a little concerned when reviewing a film that I have never heard of that has already been released in theaters. Texas Killing Fields is one such film, originally released in theaters in October 2011, it is now available on Blu-ray. I took an interest in watching the film despite my concerns since I enjoy crime films and because of the cast. Unfortunately, I should have gone with my instincts. It is unimaginative, disjointed, and a sad waste of the actors' talents. Homicide detective Mike Souder (Sam Worthington) and his recently transferred partner from New York, Brian Heigh

Styx: The Grand Illusion • Pieces Of Eight Live Blu-ray Review: Music to Soothe an Angry Young Man

These classic rockers dust off two of their most successful albums live.
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The trend for classic rock acts over the last decade or so is to revisit a classic album in its entirety live. Everyone from Cheap Trick to Aerosmith to Bruce Springsteen has done it, and the shows have usually been well received. Styx has joined their ranks, performing not one, but two of their most famous recordings, The Grand Illusion and Pieces Of Eight on the new Blu-ray, Styx: The Grand Illusion • Pieces Of Eight Live. Filmed in high definition with 11 cameras at Memphis' famed Orpheum Theater, the Blu-ray finds the band in fine form, delivering many of

Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Season One, Part 2 DVD Review: Crystal Cove Curse

The Scooby Gang's dark journey to solve the secrets of the previous Mystery Incorporated.
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Following the Scooby-Doo gang is a patient, often frustrating process of starts and stops and reboots. There are currently two separate but equal Scooby-verses for the fans. The Direct-to-TV films exist within their own Universe and yet do not have much in the way of coninuity or rules. In 2010, Scooby-Doo! Camp Scare was a return to classic Scooby mystery storytelling like the original series. But the next year, Scooby-Doo! Legend of the Phantosaur was like many of the ridiculous later series aimed at a much younger viewer. A year ago I reviewed the release of the first four episodes

The Rebound (2009) Blu-ray Review: A MILF and a Twentysomething Guy Walk into a Movie...

Hey, Catherine Zeta-Jones can use me for rebound sex any day.
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Yup, it's another chick flick, kids. But what sets The Rebound apart from its multiple competitors out there is that this title tackles that often-taboo subject of an older woman bedding a younger fellow. Now, having been a cougar and MILF (not to mention psycho) magnet for many, many years, I can wholly relate to this premise -- and the moment wherein 25-year-old Aram Finkelstein (Justin Bartha) is being razzed by the friends of his twenty-years-his-senior girlfriend, Sandy (Catherine Zeta-Jones), brought back a irksome memory or two. The appealing part of the segment, of course, was that Aram is a

Geek Charming DVD Review: Boy Meets Girl and You Can Guess the Rest

Everyone loves a geek, even snobby little rich girls.
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Dylan Schoenfield (Sarah Hyland) is the most popular girl at Woodlands Academy. She also happens to be the most arrogant, stuck-up, and selfish person in the school. At least that's what film geek Josh Rosen (Matt Prokop) thinks. Normally he wouldn't have anything to do with a girl like that, but he is a film student looking to create a hard-hitting documentary about popularity that might win him an award at a film festival and possibly catapult him into a good film school. When Josh asks Dylan about making a documentary all about her desire to become the Blossom Queen

2012 Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films Review: Five Strong Nominees Vie for Gold

A pair of beautiful and idiosyncratic Canadian films, one ode to books and one to tall tales, and Pixar's latest compete.
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No matter how much of an Oscar completist you are, by the time February rolls around, it's usually the short films that remain on most people's to-see list. Fortunately, ShortsHD has made it much easier to catch all the nominees in one place since 2006, by screening them together in theaters around the country. Over 200 theaters will feature animated shorts, live-action shorts, and documentary shorts in separate programs beginning Feb. 10. Now the hardest part of Oscar preparation is deciding whether it's worth it to watch Madonna's new movie to round out your costume design obligation. This year, the

Halls of Anger DVD Review: Turgid Race Drama Enlivened by the Performances

Despite featuring a muddled stew of ideas on race relations, performances from Calvin Lockhart and a young Jeff Bridges elevate the material.
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A racial drama lacking the stylistic bravado to match its potentially incendiary subject matter, Halls of Anger retains any kind of profile these days for the early appearance of a pre-Last Picture Show Jeff Bridges. Bridges' quietly intense performance is a clear bellwether of things to come, but he's not the only one to show great potential. Lead star Calvin Lockhart pulls off a nice balancing act as Quincy Davis, an ex-basketball player and dedicated educator tasked with keeping order as the vice principal at an inner-city school. The role is often little more than the kind of well-mannered, neutered

The Thousand Plane Raid DVD Review: An Ode to Stock Footage

A weak WWII flick that only succeeds in dropping the wrong kind of bomb.
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Sometimes, you just have to praise the almighty gods of film for the invention of stock footage. Having such a library of miscellaneous stuff on-hand is essential for movie and television producers, especially when they're establishing a location shot. Let's say a certain segment of a movie or TV show takes place in Thailand, but the cast and crew never so much as leave the confines of Hollywood. All one has to do is cue up some decades-old film that somebody shot whilst they were on vacation in Bangkok visiting and insert that footage with newly-shot studio scenes. It's that

Fright Night (1985) Blu-ray Review: Already Hard-to-Find, but Definitely Worth It

Twilight Time presents us with another wonderful HD release.
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Though most of his efforts to the world of film have been forgettable at best since, Tom Holland definitely made his mark on the map with his 1985 horror/comedy, Fright Night. Sure, Tom also brought us the original Child's Play (a wonderful notion, but one that became obscured once those awful sequels started being made) and the television mini-series of Stephen King's The Langoliers, but neither of those entries have anywhere near the bite (pardon the pun) that this campy vampire thriller has. To this day, I still remember being thoroughly impressed with the feature when my older brother brought

The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live In Texas '78 Blu-ray Review: It's Live Rock 'n' Roll and I Like It

Yet another excellent document of The Rolling Stones in action.
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I am not sure the reasoning behind The Rolling Stones' recent decision to go through their vaults and unleash some of the archival material they've been sitting on for decades, but fans, especially those who didn't get to experience as it happened, should consider themselves very lucky. One of the many great video releases is Some Girls - Live In Texas '78, capturing the band during their July 18, 1978 performance at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas. Considering all the hits in their catalog by that point in their careers, they could effortlessly pack a setlist with

Downton Abbey Series Two is the Pick of the Week

Simple a marvelous show which includes the Christmas special.
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In the first few weeks after my daughter was born my wife, my mother-in-law, and myself spent a great deal of time inside the house with nothing to do but manage the girl and watch television. With the mother-in-law in-tow I was greatly limited in my viewing opportunities - I tend to watch a lot of violence, sex, zombies, and cursing, none of which my mother-in-law approves of and so I had to find tamer fare for the three of us to indulge in. I have lots of classic films as well on DVD and we watched many of them,

Midnight in Paris Movie Review: A Beautiful Fantasy

What is it with this city?
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Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris is a delightful piece of comic fantasy. It is, at times, hysterical and touching, a warm ode to a city and a lifestyle of romance, literature, art, sex, and, above all else, love. Allen's 41st film brims with all of the brightness of his best work, containing thoughts about his legacy and his passion in the midst of a story that is brilliantly funny and warm to the touch. Midnight in Paris has earned four Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture and one for Best Director. Allen's screenplay also picked up a nomination

The Whistleblower Blu-ray Review: A Highly Effective Film

Rachel Weisz takes on human trafficking in war-torn Bosnia.
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Kathy Bolkovac (Rachel Weisz) is a cop from Nebraska, who is so focused on her career that she has neglected her family. And because of that neglect, her husband has been awarded full custody of their daughter and is moving them both out of state. But with her lack of funds and inability to transfer between police agencies, Kathy cannot follow along to be near her child. When she hears about the incredible money that cops are receiving for joining private security forces in war-torn Bosnia, she decides that this may be her only option. She immediately signs up to

Godzilla (1954) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The King of Monsters is Back

While the concept was original back in 1954, nowadays the film comes across as quite anticlimactic.
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In 1954 one of the world's biggest monster movies was released to the big screen. Created and directed by Ishiro Honda, the film was inspired by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the continued tests of atomic weapons. After several ships disappear near Odo Island, a research team headed by Dr. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) is sent to the island in hopes of discovering what has been destroying the ships. After finding giant radioactive footprints, listening to the tales of local villagers, and an encounter with a giant reptile, it is determined that a creature from the age of

Zone Troopers DVD Review: Nazis, Aliens, and Tim Thomerson, Too!

A wonderful tale from Charles Band and the makers of The Rocketeer.
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It seems that, if there's a certain movie I want that hasn't been released on DVD yet, all I have to do is find an old videocassette of it and -- lo and behold -- I find out the very next day that it's due out as part of a Manufactured-on-Demand lineup. It's happened to me several times already, with Zone Troopers being the most recent. Here I was fortunate enough to find a good copy of the film on VHS from the ol' Lightning Video label in a video store one day, only to read the announcement that MGM

Gog DVD Review: The Final Chapter in Ivan Tors' OSI Trilogy

A good pick for the fan of vintage '50s sci-fi.
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In September of 2003, I made one of my few trips away from home to attend the World 3D Film Expo I in Hollywood, CA at the historical Egyptian Theater. I wasn't able to afford tickets for all of the movies presented at the nine-day festival -- which really didn't matter since all of the really "famous" films were sold out anyway -- but I was able to see three B-grade science fiction flicks from the '50s: the infamous Robot Monster (one of my all-time favorites), the equally-bad Cat-Women of the Moon, and the critically-complimented 1954 Gog, directed by Herbert

Mercenary Fighters DVD Review: When Cannon Films Roamed the Earth

Peter Fonda and Reb Brown "star" in another embarrassing Golan-Globus dud.
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Back when the mystical movie workshop of the Cannon Group was still goin' strong, the filmmaking duo of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus cranked out one B-movie action flick after another. Anyone who can vividly recall strolling through the aisles of a video store during the glorious days of VHS may also remember seeing the familiar Cannon logo on a number of videocassette sleeves, which were usually found on Media and MGM/UA releases. For some, the Cannon mark meant you pretty much knew what you were getting into should you have decided to rent one of their features. Low budgets,

Jerry Lewis as The Jazz Singer (1959) DVD Review: Jerry Sings? Oy Vey!

A genuine prize for any Lewis lover.
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Yes, you read that right: Jerry Lewis as The Jazz Singer. As if the 1980 musical version of Samson Raphaelson's famous play with Neil Diamond wasn't enough to have you rushing to the supermarket to buy a pound of bacon, you have to wonder what it'll be like with Jerry Lewis in the starring role. One glance at the title alone makes you wonder if it isn't some kind of parody as opposed to a being a bona fide "serious" offering -- and anyone who has ever witnessed Martin Short's excellent lampooning of Mr. Lewis will immediately wonder if this

The Woman in Black (2012) Movie Review: Harry Who?

Daniel Radcliffe shuffles off the ghost of Harry Potter with the help of Hammer.
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Confession #1: I've never seen any of the Harry Potter movies. I'm aware they exist, of course, and vaguely familiar with the hocus-pocus plot, but I've never been exposed to more than a trailer's-worth of the character that made Daniel Radcliffe famous. So I went to see The Woman in Black, the 22-year-old actor's first post-Potter vehicle, with absolutely no preconceptions. Confession #2: I found Radcliffe to be a thoroughly charming screen presence, and his new film to be a stylishly engaging spooker with some creepy images that will linger in my psyche every time I visit a train station.

Queen: Days of Our Lives Blu-ray Review: A Definitive Look at the Legendary Band

The best documentary on the band to date.
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Before Queen released their first album in 1973, the late Freddie Mercury already had lofty ambitions for his musical career, telling friends he wasn't going to be a pop star, he was going to be a legend. He was right, and more than 40 years later, we are still talking about Queen. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the BBC ran a two-part documentary mixing old clips and recent interviews with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor. Those make up the Blu-ray Queen: Days Of Our Lives. Borne from the ashes of Smile, May and Taylor's pre-Queen band, Queen built

Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal DVD Review: Intriguing yet Offers More Questions Than Answers

A documentary focusing on the disturbingly frequent occurrences of mass shootings in America.
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There is a phenomenon in this country which we refer to as "going postal." The term was coined after a series of mass shootings in the workplace by disgruntled Post Office workers back in the late eighties and early nineties. Since then, "going postal" has entered the lexicon as shorthand for losing one's temper. It is an example of what one might call vocabulary evolution, and one which I had never paid much attention to previously. But the producers of the new film Murder By Proxy: How America Went Postal certainly have. The title intrigued me, because it led me

Rango (2011) Blu-ray Review: There's a New (Animation) Sheriff in Town

Highly recommend to fans of animation and Westerns.
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For well over a decade, Pixar Studios, the makers of the Toy Story trilogy and Up, have not only been the industry leader in terms of how brilliant artwork in computer-animated films could be, but they've had little competition. That is until Rango came along earlier in the year. Led by director Gore Verbinski, Industrial Light & Magic's exquisite first foray into animated feature films is a stunning debut that may concern rivals but will certainly please moviegoers. Johnny Depp voices a domesticated chameleon that finds himself in the rough and tumble town of Dirt, somewhere in the Mojave Desert,

Busting DVD Review: '70s Buddy Cop Film Elevated By Elliott Gould

Not exactly a forgotten masterpiece, Peter Hyams' debut feature still has plenty going for it.
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As far as little-seen '70s buddy cop films go, Peter Hyams' Busting isn't as bizarrely transgressive as Richard Rush's Freebie and the Bean or as relentlessly downbeat as Robert Culp's Hickey & Boggs. It certainly feels like less of a discovery than those two films, but there's plenty to stick around for -- especially if you're a fan of Elliott Gould in his sardonic prime. Like the aforementioned films, Busting straddles the line between ironic distance and hard-hitting bleakness, but comedy tends to rule the day, even if many of the film's implications are less than cheery. Gould's Det. Keneely

The Ides of March Movie Review: Beware the Ides of Clooney

A stylish but largely empty political thriller.
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No less than the collapse of a doe-eyed young man's faith in politics stands at the core of The Ides of March. This film, penned and directed by George Clooney, is not unlike many political films in that it smashes the illusion of goodness that few have with respect to the political realm. Nobody with any sense is surprised that the political game is unethical and chock-full of sleazy characters, but narratives like Clooney's can make for good entertainment. The Ides of March is based on Beau Willimon's 2008 play Farragut North and has received an Academy Award nomination for

Division III: Football's Finest Blu-ray Review: Andy Dick Jokes Do Not a Movie Make

I can't even see college brahs owning this one in their library.
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For those of you who have ever found themselves lying awake in bed, unable to sleep, fathoming mysteries such as "Who in their right mind would hire Andy Dick to star in their movie?," your ship has just sailed in with Division III: Football's Finest. Marshall Cook, a young lad who produced and edited House Arrest with Andy Dick, has somehow felt the urge to expand a short film he made with Dick in 2006 (also called Division III) about a vile creature named Rick Vice who is hired to coach one of the nation's worst college football teams ever

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