May 2012 Archives

The Dean Martin Variety Show Uncut DVD Review: Cool Is Still Cool

The show is very appealing to even modern sensibilities.
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Watching episodes of The Dean Martin Variety Show made one thing very clear - there is no equivalent of the "variety" show on U.S. television these days. My favorite shows of my youth included variety shows like Donny and Marie Osmond, The Muppet Show, Hee Haw, and The Caro Burnett Show. Today, the shows that combine music and comedy have morphed into nighttime talk shows like The Tonight Show. Other shows like Saturday Night Live or America's Got Talent rely too much on comedy sketches or on the contest portion of their shows to really feel like they spring from

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story Movie Review: A Man Behind the Masks

A fun documentary about the man behind Marvel Comics.
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If you’re a comic book fan or even just a fan of the latest Marvel films to hit the big screen, then you know who Stan Lee is. But do you know what his real name is? What exactly is his contribution to the Marvel Universe? Is he a writer, creator, or an artist? Do you really know who Stan Lee is at all? I’m willing to bet that the average person has no concept of what Stan Lee has done for the comic book genre. If you’re thinking like I did before watching With Great Power: The Stan Lee

Inch High, Private Eye: The Complete Series DVD Review: Kick-Ass Hanna-Barbera Fun

It takes a little man to accomplish a big feat. Or something like that.
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Once again, it's time for us to dive into another vintage Hanna-Barbera classic from the folks at Warner Brothers. While not as famously known as its brethren Scooby-Doo Where Are You? or The Flintstones, the '70s cartoon Inch High, Private Eye has achieved its own following over the years. Lasting only one season, the NBC morning kiddie show originally ran from 1973 to 1974, and brought us the amusing exploits of a bumbling private detective known as Inch High. His name is an appropriate one, too: Inch is literally only one-inch in height. Though he is employed at the Finkerton

Wallander: The Revenge Movie Review: Original Book Author Contributes a Terrific Film Plot

Sweden’s most famous fictional police investigator is back on the beat in this new film penned by his creator, Henning Mankell.
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Believe it or not, Stieg Larsson didn’t corner the market on Swedish crime fiction with his Dragon Tattoo (aka Millenium) series. In fact, author Henning Mankell’s Wallander character has a much more storied and extensive bibliography and filmography. Now Wallander is venturing onto U.S. film screens in this premiere installment of his latest Swedish series. Even better, while much of the character’s previous filmed output has been based on Mankell’s original novels, here Mankell himself contributes an entirely new story exclusive to the screen. That story opens with a fantastic setup when the moderately sized town of Ystad, Sweden, is

Summer with Monika Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Review: Bergman in Love

Ingmar Bergman’s simple and predictable tale is highlighted by an ethereal middle third.
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This early success from director Ingmar Bergman follows a completely straightforward and conventional path to its obvious conclusion, offering little hint of his later cinematic prowess. While a scholarly case could be made for the film’s secondary theme regarding socioeconomic conditions in mid-20th century Stockholm, Sweden, at its core the film is nothing more than a fleeting look at a doomed youthful romance. As such, its universal love theme transcends its era and location to remain accessible to modern viewers. A young lower-class couple named Harry and Monika impulsively decide to ditch their dreary lives and jobs in Stockholm to

Certified Copy Criterion Collection Blu-Ray Review: Certified Original

Great performances by the two leads outweigh the questionable plot shift.
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An esteemed English author named James Miller (William Shimell) has written a book on the value of copies versus original works of art. After presenting his theories at a lecture in Italy, he’s approached by an unnamed fan (Juliette Binoche) from the audience who gives him her address, and the next day they meet and take a drive to a local village. She remarks on her delight at being in his car and politely requests his autograph on a few copies of his book. While in the village, they discuss various works of art found in the area, while also

Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved DVD Review: Compelling in Its Scope

The most in-depth investigation of the Titanic disaster yet.
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The recent 100th year anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic has spurred interest in that famous “night to remember” to an unprecedented degree. The new History Channel DVD Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved documentary takes us on the most exhaustive investigation of the shipwreck yet. And as the title purports, they actually do solve the mystery of what really happened the night of April 12, 1912. The question posed at the outset is a simple one; “Did the Titanic have a fatal flaw?” There has been a lot of speculation over the years over what actually happened. The

Book Review: Cary Grant: A Life in Pictures, Edited by Yann-Brice Dherbier: Handsome Book, Handsome Man

Life was a bit harder than it looked for the real "Cary Grant."
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Whether you're a classic film fan or not, you've probably heard of Cary Grant. Like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, or Humphrey Bogart, Grant is one of those actors whose status as an icon transcends the movies. His persona as the unflappable, impeccably dressed leading man is ingrained in our culture, thanks to films like Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief (1955) and North By Northwest (1959). And now, with the handsome new large-format hardcover Cary Grant: A Life in Pictures, you too can learn that a persona is often just that. The son of a hard-drinking suit presser, Archibald Alexander

Summer Interlude and Summer With Monika Are the Picks of the Week

Two Bergman flicks get the Criterion treatment.
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I've barely made a dent in the 64 films that director Ingmar Bergman made in his lifetime, but the handful I have managed to watch have been masterful, and nearly perfect. His films are often difficult, dark, deep, and intellectual, which means I don't watch them nearly as often as I'd like as I all too often prefer something more lighter, more easy to digest, but when I do make the effort I am always rewarded greatly. Criterion is releasing two of his earlier period works (Summer with Monika and Summer Interlude) and though I have never seen them, nor

Simply Red Live at Montreux 2003 DVD Review: At the Peak of Their Creativity

Fans of English blue-eyed soul will enjoy Simply Red's high-energy performance at the legendary jazz festival.
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For most Americans, the words “Simply Red” conjure images of a man bearing a shock of red, curly hair, earnestly belting out the soulful ballad “Holding Back the Years” back in 1985. In reality, the band (whose only consistent member is lead singer Mick Hucknall) has since produced a steady stream of solid blue-eyed soul, eventually leading to Hucknall dissolving the group in 2010 to pursue a full-time solo career. While Simply Red may have ended, fans can appreciate and rediscover them through the DVD Simply Red Live at Montreux 2003, a showcase for Hucknall's still-intact voice as well as

Movies for Memorial Day [Snob Seven]

Seven choices from the military genre.
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First intended to honor Union soldiers during the Civil War, Memorial Day was expanded to include all fallen American soldiers from all wars. Here are some of our favorite movies that tell the stories featuring American servicemen. Stalag 17 (1953) selected by El Bicho Director Billy Wilder brought to the silver screen this Broadway play that tells the story of American POWs who think one of their comrades is a traitor working with the Germans. At the beginning of the film, American prisoners Manfredi and Johnson are killed by German soldiers waiting for them, which leads to questions about how

Pawn Stars: Volume Four DVD Review: To Pawn or Not to Pawn in Las Vegas

It balances between humorous moments and a real sense of drama.
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Remember when pawnshops used to be scary? Maybe it was the area I grew up in, but there was always this really sleazy vibe in them when I was younger. But back then, I never really understood the appeal of “junk” anyway. Things have changed a lot over the years, and with the advent of chains such as “Yuppie Pawn,” pawn shops have become respectable. Well, some of ‘em anyway. The gentrification of pawn has been a recent development, and part of it has to do with the economy. People need money, and are willing to sell things at a

Frank Sinatra Film Collection DVD Review: Ol' Blue Eyes at His Most Mediocre

It's a good value for the money, but this repackaging of 10 previously released DVDs is fairly underwhelming.
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Despite the fact he’ll always be more famous as a singer than an actor, Frank Sinatra often excelled on the silver screen. Given the right project and the right director, Sinatra’s limited range could stretch, and he could deliver vital performances, both comedic and dramatic. Perhaps it’s no surprise many of his best films were helmed by strong auteurs with a distinctive vision — Vincente Minnelli’s Some Came Running, Otto Preminger’s The Man with the Golden Arm, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s On the Town. Unfortunately for this new 20th Century Fox 10-film repackaging of Sinatra’s work, all of those

Doctor Who: Dragonfire DVD Review: Trapped in the 1980s

It didn't light any fires for this reviewer.
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My continuing journey into the world of Doctor Who continues with the fourth and final serial of the 24th season of Doctor Who, entitled Dragonfire (Story #151). Originally broadcast from November 23 - December 7 of 1987, Dragonfire features Sylvester McCoy as the seventh incarnation of the Doctor and introduces us to Ace, who would replace Mel as the Doctor's new companion. Viewing it also marked my personal introduction to McCoy's interpretation of the character and a very '80s interpretation of the series as a whole. The story takes place on Iceworld, a wretched space-trading colony rife with scum and

On The Ice (2011) Movie Review: Scratching the Surface of Eskimo Culture

A film about death and guilt from a unique perspective.
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Qalli (Josiah Patkotak) and Aivaaq (Frank Qutuq Irelan) are teenagers living in the town of Barrow, Alaska. One day when the boys are heading off onto the ice to hunt seals, Aivaaq takes off early with their friend James (John Miller) and leaves Qalli behind. By the time he manages to catch up with his two pals, Qalli sees them fighting and rushes in to break it up. But when he does, things have escalated to the use of weapons and he inadvertently ends up stabbing and killing James. Terrified at what has just happened, the two friends decide to

The Last Mile (1959) DVD Review: Mickey at His Rooniest

A low-budget prison drama from Amicus Productions' Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky.
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Prior to their great success in the British horror film industry with the highly prolific Amicus Productions, American-born filmmakers Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky cranked out a number of tiny-budgeted movie musicals that were mostly aimed at teenage audiences. In 1959, just a year away from producing the atmospheric classic Horror Hotel, Milton and Max fashioned a minor prison drama called The Last Mile, which was based on the popular 1930 play by John (Angels with Dirty Faces) Wexley — a project that had been filmed several times before as well as produced many times onstage. But, whereas the original

The River: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Oren Peli's Paranormal Holocaust

There's magic out there. Well, maybe not in this series, but…
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While police procedurals are and always have been a dime a dozen when it comes to television shows, the horror genre has almost always left something to be desired. Well, let me rephrase that: it has always left something to be desired if it's anything other than an anthology show like Tales from the Crypt or whatnot. When studio execs decide to give the greenlight to something such wholly other, however, you can usually bet your bottom dollar that the end result will be disastrous. One glorious and ultimately thorough example is the recent ABC failure The River, which combined

Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray Review: It's Elementary That You Must Watch This

Benedict Cumberbatch is completely effective in the lead role of this modern take on the classic sleuth.
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My keen powers of observation have allowed me to deduce that you’re thinking “Another Sherlock Holmes project? Enough already!” Sure, the Robert Downey Jr. movies and previous TV series and books and such have kept Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation firmly entrenched in public consciousness, and yet the current BBC series proves that there’s still plenty of life in the old property. Instead of just rehashing the old-timey sleuthing tales of Holmes and Watson for the millionth time, series creators Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) and Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen) updated the action to present-day London, with

Serenity and Nathan Fillion Close 2012 Hero Complex Film Festival

My time among the Browncoats.
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For those not in the know, Hero Complex is a website that covers the pop-culture beat with a focus on movies and comic books for The Los Angeles Times. (I know. Who knew there was another website like that?). Their third annual film festival saw them continue the tradition of screening classic genre films, accompanied by a Q&A with one of the cast or crew. Programming included Shaun of the Dead and its director/co-writer Edgar Wright, RoboCop and A Clockwork Orange with their respective leads, Peter Weller and Malcolm McDowell. This year's closer was Serenity, based on the cult science-fiction

Eclipse Series 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave DVD Review: Gems Indeed

Criterion brings us six seldom-seen surreal ditties from five masterful directors.
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You never really know what to expect from the more "arty" contributions the world of international cinema has to offer us. When the Criterion Collection released A Hollis Frampton Odyssey earlier in the year, I found myself being tortured by a self-absorbed artiste's experimentations with celluloid. With Pearls of the Czech New Wave, however — a collection of oddities from assorted filmmakers of the former Central European state now available under Criterion's Eclipse banner — I found the pretentious art-lover in me at long last emerging. Of course, I have always preferred New Wave over avant-garde art any ol' day,

Chronicle (2012) DVD Review: Rebel Without a Costume

Like a 1960's Spider-Man comic with all of the angst and none of the spandex.
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When Andrew (Dane DeHaan) decided to start videotaping his life, he had no idea what was in store. Bullied at school and at home by an alcoholic father, Andrew is watching his mother die from the cancer that is eating away at her. His social life is practically nonexistent and the camera serves as not only a tool of documentation, but also another barrier between Andrew and everyone else. All that changes when he and his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), along with the popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan) discover a mysterious glowing artifact at a party. As so often happens

This Means War DVD Review: A Blubbing Mess

Everything that's wrong with Hollywood rom-coms in one movie.
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This Means War is one of the most abrasive, frustrating, mind-numbingly terrible films of 2012. It presents itself as a romantic comedy action flick, but it fails on all fronts and winds up a blubbing mess “highlighted” by foolish characters, awkward lightning and set design, and Chelsea Handler’s nauseating attempts at humour. Of course, this is a McG project. That means that every scene is coated in ridiculous amounts of musical intervention and it means that the action scenes are incoherent messes. That the movie misses the romantic mark and the comedic mark with gross consistency makes matters even worse,

The Secret World of Arrietty Blu-ray Review: Another Ghibli Gem

Miyazaki doesn’t direct this time around, but you’ll never be able to tell the difference
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Even when legendary animation director Hayao Miyazaki isn’t officially helming films for Studio Ghibli, his touch is so ingrained in their process that the results are instantly recognizable. From character designs to its plucky young female protagonist to the incredibly lush backgrounds celebrating the power of nature’s beauty, Ghibli’s latest work is a Miyazaki film in everything but the director’s name. The master serves as writer and producer this time around, while the directing duties are held by Ghibli loyalist Hiromasa Yonebashi, filling in quite nicely in an unenviable position. Arrietty is a “Borrower”, one of a race of tiny

Sherlock: Season Two is the Pick of the Week

The master detective does it again in another season of the update on a classic.
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I have a very mixed relationship with Sherlock Holmes - I am both utterly fascinated with the character, and more than slightly annoyed at his God-like abilities. He's an interesting character, well drawn and utterly sunk into our culture, and yet all too often he seems to solve crimes by doing nothing more than looking intently at something. I realize that's the point, that he uses his big brain and skills of observation and deduction but it often feels like a writer's trick rather than real detecting. Still, I do enjoy reading the stories and am always ready to catch

3 Women Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: 2 Actresses Can't Save 1 Film

Even Altman finds elements pretentious and contrived.
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Writer/producer/director Robert Altman's 3 Women is powered by the standout performances of Sissy Spacek and Shelley Duvall playing two offbeat women whose lives come together in an unusual manner. Unfortunately, the story doesn't come together, resulting in an unsatisfying film in the end that Criterion now presents in high definition. Pinky (Sissy Spacek), a shy, immature young lady, seemingly fresh out of high school, gets a job at a convalescent hospital in a small California desert town. She immediately becomes fixated with Millie (Shelley Duvall), a fellow Texan who gives off a sophisticated air that no one else can take.

Desire DVD Review: A Realistic Look at Twentysomething Sexual Mores

Laurent Bouhnik's erotic drama explores the lives of twentysomethings in a small French town.
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French director Laurent Bouhnik’s romantic drama, Desire examines the sexual mores of a group of loosely connected friends and acquaintances in a quiet seaside village. Lead character Cécile (Déborah Révy), unable to accept her father’s recent death, wanders from one sexual encounter to another. Even though Cécile’s father has died, its hard to dredge up any sympathy for her as she meanders from lover to potential lover, targeting random strangers at cafes, good-natured auto mechanic Matt (Gowan Didi), teasing her sometimes boyfriend Chance (Johnny Amaro), and generally putting the make on others in her social group. An economic downturn has

Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden DVD Review: Drugs Are Bad, M'Kay

If CSI: Pigs in Space was an actual television program, it might look a bit like this.
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When an interstellar cruise ship emerges from hyperspace at the exact same coordinates as a trade ship, the two become fused, creating an unstable zone between ships and a multitude of problems for the crew of both ships. Arriving just in time to solve said problems are the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), his companion Romana (Lalla Ward) and their little pal K-9. But when a crewmember is injured by a mysterious animal and the Doctor discovers a stash of rare drugs, things go from bad to worse in this, the fourth serial of the 17th season of the long running

The Dictator, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, RIP Donna Summer [Friday Night Videos]

A range of emotions from the week.
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Sacha Baron Cohen's The Dictator hit theaters on May 16. He took to Saturday Night Live in his character Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen to provide rave reviews from noted critics and a special guest, whose identity was spoiled by quite a few dopey websites. On Thursday, word leaked out that Van Halen was postponing concerts scheduled after June 26. (Whew, I've got tix to see them June 12.) This naturally led to speculation that David Lee Roth and the Van Halen brothers weren't getting along, which certainly wouldn't be hard to believe considering their past. But word is that the

Father's Day (2011) Movie Review: Too Modern and Too Hip for Its Own Good

An entertaining, twisted effort that can't quite find its groove.
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Produced by the famed Troma Enterainment, Father’s Day is a pretty middling affair. The flick comes written and directed by Winnipeg-based filmmaking collective Astron-6 and attempts to slap itself headlong into the grindhouse and late-nite movie genre, using resolute cheese, bad effects, and exaggerated sex and violence to plead its case. The trouble is that Father’s Day is simply too knowing. While other films have enjoyed success by committing to the B-movie principles and embracing the clichés, rarely does a moment go by within this picture that the actors don’t seem to be winking at the camera. The comedy is
As Roger Ebert so memorably put it a few years ago, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show is not so much as movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon.” Indeed, there has never been (and likely never will be) a movie which has inspired such fan devotion. It has now been nearly 40 years since the original stage production of Rocky, yet it remains as weirdly fresh as ever. When the film version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released on VHS in the '80s, I assumed that the whole midnight movie thing would end. After all, owning it

Doctor Who: The Happiness Patrol DVD Review: Don't Worry, Be Happy or Else

A story made better when the context is known.
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Has anyone ever stopped to consider what the politics of The Doctor might be? I must admit that before watching The Happiness Patrol, it is a question I had never even thought of. More to the point, it is a question that had never seemed relevant. The Doctor seems to exist on a plane where such mundane concerns as liberals versus conservatives is practically absurd. One of the greatest attractions of science fiction has been to use it as a pretext to discuss serious social issues. The first Star Trek series was famous for this. That program even aired the

Underworld: Awakening Blu-ray Review: Can This Series Really Have a Nadir?

Kate Beckinsale returns for another easy paycheck.
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Like its zombie counterpart — the increasingly-tedious Resident Evil series — the vampire/werewolf Underworld film franchise has now reached a point so low that you have to wonder if it's even possible for this entire legacy to even have a nadir. With the first three films just barely piquing past the point of being tolerable as it stands (and that praise in itself is somewhat debatable), it's fairly plausible that a fourth feature — especially one that creeped into cinemas without any advance screening for critics — will have just enough steam in it to elevate it slightly above the

Hell on Wheels: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: The Boiling Melting Pot

Solid writing makes the show worth watching in spite of its dusty historical setting
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This AMC series didn’t seem to get much attention during its first season, especially in comparison to the network’s critical darlings, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead. It doesn’t help that the title conjures up images of something closer to Sons of Anarchy than its actual setting of the construction of the first transcontinental railroad. Then there’s the pesky matter of its almost entirely exterior set location in Alberta attempting to stand in for Nebraska, roughly 1500 miles to the southeast. There’s no real draw to the talent on board, with the biggest names being

Never Stand Still Movie Review: A Love Letter to Dance, Dancers, and the Legendary Jacob's Pillow

Ron Honsa’s Never Stand Still gets to the heart of why people dance and why where they dance makes all the difference.
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Director Ron Honsa, whose television and film credits range from nightly news specials to Saturday Night Live to America’s Most Wanted, has spent many years using his talent as a filmmaker to support and uplift the dance community by directing dance for television. In 1985, he released his documentary The Men Who Danced, which chronicled the evolution of Jacob’s Pillow founder Ted Shawn’s all-male American company, Ted Shawn’s Men Dancers. Now, in Never Stand Still, Honsa explains what became of Shawn’s rustic farm in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts that he purchased in 1931, initially as a retreat where the

Chapter Two (1979) DVD Review: Dull Neil Simon Melodrama

James Caan sinks into one sappy quagmire of a film.
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During the '70s and '80s, there was an onslaught of Neil Simon plays being adapted in movies. He was at his peek in both venues, penning one hit for the stage, and then rewriting it for the screen. Sure, he created a number of comical masterpieces like Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective during that time, but he also wrote several sappy semi-autobiographical dramedies like Only When I Laugh and The Goodbye Girl — most of which starred his then-wife Marsha Mason as a slightly-fictionalized, overly-dramatic version of herself, with a nice Jewish boy like Judd Hirsch or Richard

G.I. Joe: Renegades: Season One, Volume One DVD Review: All Set Up with No Payoff

Knowing is half the battle, but not knowing is a far greater victory.
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In 2011, a team of military specialists were branded as traitors to their country for a crime they didn’t commit. Promptly escaping to the underground and still wanted by both the elite military team known as the Falcons and the evil organization known as Cobra, they are known as both heroes and outlaws but consider themselves “ordinary Joes”. This, in a nutshell, is the premise of G.I. Joe: Renegades, the latest animated incarnation of a toy line that has become an American institution. Using the 1980s Real American Hero version of the Joe team as a template and borrowing liberally

Being John Malkovich is the Pick of the Week

With his first film, Charlie Kaufman proves he is a writer worth watching.
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I suppose it is fair to say that the majority of filmgoers primarily see films based on who is in it. Actors are the most visible aspect of a movie - they are quite literally the stars of the show. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture and there are not bigger celebrities than movie stars. When people talk about movies, the actors are generally talked about. Directors probably come second on that list. People like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ron Howard are household names. Writers, however, are much farther down. With few exceptions. I'd guess that most of us don't

Favorite Vampire Films [Snob Seven]

Here's a list to sink your teeth into.
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Alhough there has been considerable backlash against the Twilight series and its fans since the release of the first film in 2008, and Tim Burton and Johnny Depp's version of Dark Shadows hasn't fared well with critics or at the box office, nothing will ever put a spike through the love affair filmgoers have with vampires. Since the very early days of the medium, this creature of the undead has been a popular figure and here are some of our favorite films where they appeared. Nosferatu (1922) selected by Mat Brewster I grew up watching movies. Some of my first

Being John Malkovich Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Remarkable Achievement

One of the most original and prescient films of our generation.
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The year 1999 was a strange one. The dot-com bubble was going strong, and the economy was booming. Yet there was the whole “millennial fever” thing happening, and a major undercurrent of paranoia was palpable. This manifested itself in two instant film classics. Oddly enough, both featured Brad Pitt - as one of the stars of Fight Club and during a cameo in Being John Malkovich. Both movies are certainly worthy of receiving the Criterion Collection treatment, but Being John Malkovich beat Fight Club to the punch, as it were. Being John Malkovich is so layered, it holds up to

Outlaw (2007) Movie Review: Vigilante Violence Without Narrative Conviction

Sometimes it's not enough to want revenge and justice, you have to have a plot too.
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Outlaw (2007) directed by Nick Love is a British revenge vigilante tale that starts with a disturbing nightmare that involves Gene (Danny Dyer) getting assaulted by a gang of roughians as he is driving to his wedding. This scene sets the tone for what you can expect as the movie progresses. Sean Bean plays the disgruntled ex-soldier Danny Bryant who comes back home and checks into a hotel where the security guard Simon Hillier (Sean Harris) has rigged the rooms with surveillance cameras in order to keep closer watch on the denizens. The hotel's security office turns into a kind

Nobody Else But You Movie Review: A Marvelous Piece of Cinema

A classic in its own right.
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Imagine, if you will, that David Lynch and the Coen brothers had a French son. This is the movie he would make. Nobody Else but You is a darkly hilarious murder mystery that nods to Twin Peaks, Barton Fink, Fargo, and even The Big Lebowski. Let's get one thing out of the way right now: This is an incredible film, and you should go watch it. Now, let's dig a bit deeper; the devil is in the details, after all. David Rousseau is a bestselling Parisian crime novelist who goes to the remote community of Mouthe to collect inheritance from

New Year's Eve (2011) Blu-ray Review: Acquaintance with This Film Should Be Forgot

It disappointed more than it charmed.
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New Year’s Eve comes with mixed emotions; either it is a holiday worth celebrating with plenty of champagne and kisses, or for others it is a nice night on the couch. The new year is a holiday that inherently celebrates oneself and what the new year has in store for you; the resolution that you hope keep and the person you hope to kiss. Garry Marshall’s take on the holiday tries very hard to be iconic but it falls short in every way. Much like his film Valentine’s Day the entire film takes place on one day and all of

Island of Lost Souls (1932) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Of Monsters and Men

Owning a copy of this movie should be the law.
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The first of many adaptations of H.G. Wells' novel The Island of Dr. Moreau, Erle C. Kenton's Island of Lost Souls is a fascinating blend of science fiction and horror from the pre-Code days of Hollywood. The film leaves a lasting impression on a number of fronts as it takes viewers to a mysterious island where Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) defies the laws of nature with his experimental work. Going from an adventure off-screen to this one, Edward Parker (Richard Arlen) is found floating in the ocean after surviving a shipwreck. A freighter, rendezvousing with a boat from Moreau's Island,

Tonight You're Mine Movie Review: A Totally '80s Idea in Modern-Day Indie Garb

Very reminiscent of the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset franchise,
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Filmed on site at the T in the Park music festival in Kinross-shire, Scotland, in July 2010, Tonight You’re Mine stars the dashing Luke Treadaway (Killing Bono, Clash of the Titans) as Adam, one half of the fictional electropop supergroup The Make, and Natalia Tena (About a Boy, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones) as Morello, the feisty lead singer of The Dirty Pink. When the pretty boys (including Mathew Baynton of Peep Show and Gavin and Stacy fame) meet the gritty girls in the middle of a bunch of obligatory festival mud at the start of the film, you get

The Complete Jean Vigo Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Career in Four Films

What's essential for some isn't always for others.
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The Criterion Collection honors filmmaker Jean Vigo by presenting the four titles from his very brief career, cut short due to his untimely death from tuberculosis at the age of 29. Author Michael Temple of the biography "Jean Vigo" offers commentary on each film. À propos de Nice (1930, 23 min) is a silent film, expect for a score created by Marc Perrone in 2001, presenting an intriguing look at the seaside town. At first, it feels like someone is just running loose with a camera, learning how to work it on the fly and filming whatever comes his way,

La haine Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Seething Portrait of a Vicious Cycle

Mathieu Kassovitz offers up no easy answers in his compelling, unsettling 1995 film.
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The Film Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 triumph La haine doesn’t pull any punches — it’s right there in the title, which literally translates to Hate. That's an inflammatory moniker, but Kassovitz means it. The film’s social ills aren’t ascribed to misunderstanding or miscommunication; rather, there’s a seething anger that pulses through every frame. The result is a work with a solitary focus — a focus that doesn’t attempt to answer sociological questions, but dislodge and shove them into our faces with unsettling force. Set in the projects on the outskirts of Paris, where police violence and murdered immigrants were the norm,

Tom and Jerry: Around the World DVD Review: A Bad Trip

Yet another "best of" set that fails to deliver.
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In all the world of home media, there is perhaps nothing as dreaded as the proverbial "best of" compilation — especially when it comes to cartoons. Instead of just releasing television shows or theatrical shorts in their original, unedited chronological order, some distributors insist on tossing a group of items together onto a single disc and calling it good. The latest assemblage of animation to hit the shelves of video stores near and far is something called Tom and Jerry: Around the World, and brings us nearly three hours of hijinks from the classic cat and mouse pairing. Unfortunately, this

La Haine is the Pick of the Week

A choice between a arty French flick and bad horror has me pretending to be more cultured than I am.
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My wife teaches French at university while I stay at home and raise our one-year-old daughter. It is an unconventional set-up I suppose, but for the most part I rather like it. This semester has been tough though. She is teaching seven different classes where she normally teaches about four or five. The extra work load means that she stays longer at work and when she comes home she normally has tests to write or papers to grade. All of which puts extra work on me, managing the house and taking care of the kid. This week is finals week,

The Three Stooges (2000) DVD Review: Nowhere Near as Bad as its Reputation

A heartfelt but nevertheless fabricated biography of America's longest running comedy team.
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Though he is not at all seen as being the quintessential spokesperson for people of Jewish heritage today, there was a time when the once-powerful Mel Gibson thought very highly of the legendary comedy team of the Three Stooges (of whom the original members were Jewish) — enough so that he felt the urge to produce an emotional, Made-for-TV biopic about them. In 2000, The Three Stooges was beamed to television sets across the nation, garnering mostly lukewarm reviews from the few folks who actually bothered watching the primetime feature that evening — only to fade (somewhat quickly) into obscurity

Free Comic Book Day!

The 11th annual event provides exclusive free titles from across the full spectrum of comic books.
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Free! Gratis! Absolutely no charge! Today marks the 11th annual nationwide Free Comic Book Day, a fantastic event that presents a wide variety of exclusive titles from all of the major comic book publishers. How do you get ‘em? Just visit your local comic book store and look for the free stuff! The free titles prominently display a uniform Free Comic Book Day logo on the cover, and most stores house them near their checkout counters. Although it might seem like the event is timed to coincide with the US theatrical release this weekend of Marvel’s The Avengers, it’s always held

Flicka: Country Pride Blu-ray Review: Talk About Beating a Dead Horse

Walmart presents a direct-to-video sequel to a direct-to-video sequel of a remake. Yay.
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It’s rare you see a movie these days that bears an honest-to-goodness G rating. I figured the MPAA just up and quit assigning them altogether. Of course, when you get right down to the heart of the matter, the possibility of a G-rated movie even being any good is about as likely as meeting an interesting Walmart greeter. Speaking of Walmart, their latest direct-to-video exclusive, a G-rated something that is labeled as Flicka: Country Pride in the advertising, but which bears the actual onscreen title of Flicka 3 — something that immediately begs the question “Wait, there was a Flicka

The Ultimate Marvel Marathon: 15 Marvelous Hours of Movies

One epic day spent in a movie theater.
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Yes, sitting through six movies over the course of 15 hours could be considered crazy by many people, yet there were many crazy people doing just that as Marvel, Paramount, and theatres throughout the country, presented all five of the superhero films that preceded The Avengers, which then premiered at 12:01 a.m. on May 4th. With lanyards being issued upon entering the theatre, Avengers-themed 3D Glasses handed out, and the marathon held together with big-screen introductions to each film by S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Coulson (Clark Gregg), the day became an Avenger event, where the audience is made to feel like

Jess + Moss DVD Review: Delivers In A Very Roundabout Way

It exists somewhere between generic indie and art/experimental film.
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According to the press release, “Jess (Sarah Hagan) and Moss (Austin Vickers) are second cousins in the dark-fire tobacco fields of rural Western Kentucky. Without immediate families that they can relate to, and lacking friends their own age, they only have each other. Over the course of a summer they venture out on a journey exploring deep secrets, identity, and hopes of the future in the wilds of their world.” It delivers, but in a very roundabout way. Jess is a high-school graduate who has lived with her inattentive father since her mother left them (which she blames herself for).
As Marvel's The Avengers continues to dominate the box office, I thought I'd offer a brief respite and use this week's Friday Night Videos to spotlight another popular group that battled aliens countless times: the crew of the Starship Enterprise-D. On Saturday, April 28, 2012, the Calgary Expo gathered the main cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Sir Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Denise Crosby) at the Calgary Stampede Corral for a Q&A session to commerate the 25th anniversary of the TV series' debut. On top of

The Avengers (2012) Movie Review: Merry Marvel Mayhem

Joss Whedon delivers an epic superhero team-up full of action and laughs.
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After years of planning and audience baiting through individual Marvel superhero films, the massive Marvel team-up finally arrives in U.S. theaters tonight. Thankfully, the film delivers, offering a great team, sufficient focus on each individual, as well as a perfect and classic villain. It’s a true popcorn film, an unapologetic comic book movie that never forgets its origins, giving it broad appeal and a smattering of welcome, uncheesy humor thanks to director/co-writer Joss Whedon. The movie gets off to a bit of a shaky start, mostly due to some surprisingly wooden acting from Samuel Jackson, Scarlett Johanssen, and Cobie Smulders.

Strip Strip Hooray! DVD Review: A Sexual Sextuplet of Sleaze

Once again, Something Weird is afoot — and I'm pleased as punch about it.
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In the middle of 2007, a crushing blow was delivered to the lovers of the truly bizarre, the sleazy, and the entirely otherworldly when the seven-year-old partnership between Image Entertainment and Something Weird Video ceased to be. Although the dedicated folks at Something Weird continued to release more strange ditties upon the unsuspecting world via their wonderful website, there seemed to be something ultimately missing overall — as we stopped seeing stores carry deranged goodies like Please Don't Eat My Mother, Doctor Gore, and the double feature offerings of gems such as Alley Tramp and Over 18...and Ready! Earlier this

The Innkeepers Blu-ray Review: A Carefully Crafted Genre Exercise

Indie horror filmmaker Ti West's latest has much to admire, but ultimately feels like a formal exercise.
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The Film One thing’s for sure about indie horror filmmaker Ti West — he’s a superb craftsman with an astute compositional eye. Every frame of his latest film, The Innkeepers, feels carefully assembled, and the way his camera glides and tracks through its environments creates a sense of visual poetry often unseen in modern slashers. There’s one thing I’m not sure about though — whether West has much esteem for the genre he’s working in. Like previous cult fave House of the Devil, which put a spin on the babysitter-in-peril trope, The Innkeepers mines shopworn scenarios and characters and plunks

The Incredible Hulk (2008) Movie Review: Credible At Best

Perhaps better than previous theatrical efforts, this Hulk is still lacking in many areas.
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In the opening credits we are filled in on the events that lead Dr. Bruce Banner to be hiding in Brazil exploring techniques to control his temper. For those familiar with the story, this is an adequate way to provide the information, but those new to the Hulk may be left confused before the film ever gets started. From there, director Louis Leterrier delivers 112 minutes of loud action that will go well with a bucket of popcorn or snack of your choosing. That may be enough for some, but those looking for more will be disappointed. The talented cast

Avengers (Videos) Assemble!

Get in the mood for the big movie with these clips.
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At midnight, Marvel's The Avengers will be unleashed at movie theaters across the United States, certain to dominate the box-office receipts. If you don't have the time to take part in the Ultimate Marvel Marathon where theaters will be screening Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America, and Thor leading up to the big debut, the videos below may help satisfy your Avengers desire until you can get out and see it. Marvel's The Avengers Trailer: In this clip, writer/director Joss Whedon provides commentary during a scene where Iron Man and Thor face off: Taking a page

Iron Man Blu-ray Review: You Will Believe An Iron Man Can Fly

All you'll ever need.
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Having suffered through more misses than hits, comic book fans were understandably concerned about Iron Man, a second-tier hero for Marvel Comics, coming to the big screen. Those fears were blasted aside by the talented team behind the second best superhero film of 2008, a fitting designation considering that while Stan Lee claims Tony Stark was inspired by Howard Hughes, it’s hard not to see comparisons to Lee’s crosstown rival’s own millionaire playboy industrialist and more successful creation, Bruce Wayne. Iron Man is fantastic, filled with great action and special effects, particularly the outstanding CGI effects that seamlessly fit into

Cirkus Columbia Movie Review: A Fairly Good Motion Picture

Tanović's film explores impending war through the eyes of personal relationships, but the human element isn't developed enough to make a satisfying impact.
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Directed by Danis Tanović, Cirkus Columbia was the Bosnian entry for the 2010 Best Foreign Language Oscar. It is a picture about war and its consequences, but it approaches things from a slightly unconventional stance and winds up very nearly being a domestic soap opera set against the blossoming of the Bosnian War. Tanović, who won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his 2001 debut No Man’s Land, doesn’t present a political picture with Cirkus Columbia. There are elements couched in historical reality, but they operate more as a frame rather than a full subject. The basic premise is

A Hollis Frampton Odyssey Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Essential Collection of Avant-Garde Treasures

Criterion goes for broke in this thorough and fascinating collection of 24 films from the experimental artist.
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The Films There isn’t much experimental film represented within the Criterion Collection library, but when the good folks there do decide to highlight an avant-garde filmmaker, they go for broke. Following up 2010’s sterling three-disc Blu-ray set featuring the films of Stan Brakhage, Criterion offers up A Hollis Frampton Odyssey, a varied collection of 24 films Frampton made from 1966 to 1979. This is probably an even more audacious release than the Brakhage collection — Frampton’s films often aren’t as immediate or visually breathtaking as the hand-painted, hand-scratched kaleidoscopes of color seen in a number of Brakhage works. They can

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