June 2012 Archives

Up (2009) Blu-ray Review: A Wondrous Film by Pixar

It deserves a place in your video library.
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Led by director/co-writer Pete Docter, the Pixar team have once again revealed why they are a brand you can trust for quality entertainment. Up is a wondrous film of adventure filled with compelling characters and an engaging, multifaceted story. The Blu-ray does a fantastic job bringing the experience home. When Up opens, we meet two children, Carl and Ellie. They quickly bond over a shared adventurous spirit and an admiration for explorer Charles F. Muntz (Christopher Plummer). Through a montage, their life together plays out. They get married, each work at the zoo (she as a zookeeper and he as

Springtime in the Sierras DVD Review: A Prime Example of the Roy Rogers Formula

Rogers is after the hottest poacher in the Sierras.
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Is it wrong to be attracted to the most evil villainess in the Sierras? The remastered release of Springtime in the Sierras (1947) sort of begs the question. The film stars Roy Rogers and his faithful horse Trigger. They are out to catch a gang of poachers led by Jean Loring (Stephanie Bachelor), the hottest bad girl west of the Mississippi. Jean is a true femme fatale. She leads a motley crew of poachers who hunt game in the Sierra Mountains out of season, which nets them big bucks on venison and other meats that are normally unavailable at that

Comic Con 2012: Selected Highlights from Friday's Schedule

People's devotion and commitment will be tested.
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The full day's schedule for Friday can be found at their website. Below are selected highlights of panels and the reasons why you just may find me in them: 10:00-11:00 Remembering Jerry Robinson and Joe Simon-- Jerry Robinson was a key artist on Batman in the 1940s, the co-creator of The Joker, and later an accomplished newspaper strip artist and political cartoonist. Joe Simon was half of the legendary team of Simon and [Jack] Kirby, the co-creator of Captain America and other Simon-Kirby classics, and later the creator/editor of Sick magazine. We've recently lost both of these legendary figures in

Comic Con 2012: Selected Highlights from Thursday's Schedule

Something old, something new.
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Thursday saw quite a bit of hubbub on the Internet. Oh sure, there were a few people talking about the Supreme Court, but for a certain group of folks Christmas came early as Comic-Con International began to announce their schedule of programming for 2012. The full day's schedule for Thursday can be found at their website. Below are selected highlights of panels and the reasons why you just may find me in them: 11:00-12:00 Filmation and Lou Scheimer: Celebrating a Generation of Animation and TV Heroes-- One of the most successful and groundbreaking television animation studios was Filmation, whose productions

Carlos (2010) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Tale of the Jackal

Terrorist, freedom fighter, or both?
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Carlos is a fascinating docudrama about the Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, known as Carlos the Jackal, whose most notorious act was leading an attack on the OPEC leaders while they met in Vienna on December 21, 1975. Titles indicate the film must be viewed as fiction because of the controversial gray areas in Carlos' life, yet he currently sits in jail, tried and sentenced for three murders taking place on Rue Toulier. His involvement in the 1974 bombing of the Drugstore Publicis remains under investigation. Criterion has released the captivating French TV miniseries directed by Olivier Assayas on Blu-ray

Almost Kings DVD Review: Almost a Good Movie

It does a little too much telling.
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Almost Kings, in the press release, is described as "an edgy, coming of age drama centered around a young man (Ted) following in his destructive brother’s (Truck) footsteps. Almost Kings asks the question that echoes in every school in America: how far will you go to be accepted?" This sounds like my kind of movie. I happen to like coming of age dramas - the good ones really stand out against the crowd. Unfortunately, like so many high schoolers, this film just kind of blends in. The greatest shortcoming was without doubt, the writing. Forced lines left and right, plot

To Rome With Love, Savages, V/H/S [Movie Recon]

Get info, posters, and video from the latest upcoming movies.
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The Sentries have been out scouting again and this time they've brought you posters, pictures, and trailers from new movies by Woody Allen and Oliver Stone plus a scary looking horror flick. To Rome With Love The Story: Woody Allen's newest is about a number of people in Italy, some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors, and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into. The Filmmakers: Written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Page. The Status: Locked on Target.

Kasabian Live!: Live at the O2 Blu-ray Review: Proof the Accolades Are Deserved

Irrefutable evidence that this band’s gone big time. (And why not?)
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If you’ve not seen Kasabian live for several years, prepare yourself for a show with a lot more flash, loads more swagger, thousands more people in attendance—and feathers. (See guitarist/vocalist Sergio Pizzorno’s feather-trimmed parka. And his feather necklace when he removes his parka—and the feather decal on the bass drum.) The feathers are, of course, a theme tying the highly ambitious stage show to the band’s 2011 release Velociraptor!, which received favorable criticism from the music press and was proclaimed to be among Kasabian’s best work to date. The shaggy, understated upstarts whose raw but ridiculously tight set made the

The Muppets Wocka Wocka Value Pack Review: The Blu-ray Impresses; The Movie Doesn't

A pleasant family comedy that falls short of returning the characters to their full glory.
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After not appearing on the silver screen since 1999's Muppets from Space, there was no surprise at the heightened level of anticipation that awaited last year's the Muppets new film. And for many, The Muppets lived up to the hype, doing so well at the box office a sequel has been announced and earning an Academy Award for the song "Man or Muppet." Yet, I don't get what all the fuss is about. While I wouldn't shout it down, like Statler and Waldorf, The Muppets is a middling affair that suffers from Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller's flawed script. Gary

Yesterday's Enemy (1959) DVD Review: Hammer Films' Contribution to the War Genre

A taut World War II drama from the studio that dripped blood.
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Based on the 1958 BBC teleplay of the same name, the 1959 World War II drama Yesterday's Enemy brings us an account of the Big One from a different perspective. Yes, we've all witnessed various tales of American soldiers in the Asian jungles, as we have seen patriotic yarns depicting the struggles in Europe on the behalf of our British brothers. With Yesterday's Enemy, however, we get to see something altogether different: the plight of a British regiment in the Burmese jungles fighting against the Japanese. Sure, it's very similar to most other WWII flicks, but when you take into

Hinoshi Inagaki's The Samurai Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

Why have I never watched these movies?
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Sometimes when I look at the new releases one blaring question comes straight to my mind: why haven't I watched this movie before? Sometimes there are films that are so highly rated, so obviously classic, so high on my list of things to watch that I'm completely surprised I've never actually sat down with them. This week it is the Samurai Trilogy. I freaking love me some samurai and Toshiro Mifune is one of my all-time favorite actors. I even own some Chinese bootlegs of the films yet I've never managed to sit myself down and watch them. Based on

Gray's Anatomy & And Everything is Going Fine Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Spalding Gray and Steven Soderbergh Double Feature

Criterion releases two films offering divergent perspectives on the late monologist.
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The extraordinarily talented monologist Spalding Gray gets a pair of releases from the Criterion Collection this month. Both films are directed by the ever-eclectic Steven Soderbergh, and offer a pair of divergent perspectives on the man, whose razor-sharp wit, ironic view of the world, and remarkable storytelling skills are on full display in both. Gray, who is believed to have committed suicide in 2004, had a knack for trenchant social observation filtered through a deeply personal, almost stream-of-consciousness structure, and the effect is captivating. First up is 1996’s Gray’s Anatomy, a filmed version of Gray’s 1993 monologue about his struggles

Act of Valor Blu-ray Review: Better Than You Might Expect

An enjoyable B-Movie that fires real bullets and shells.
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The very thought of an action film starring non-actors can send chills up your spine. Imagine what might have happened if Clint Eastwood positively sucked at the fine art of performing whilst cast in Dirty Harry, or Kurt Russell had no clue whatsoever when he was bringing Snake Plissken to life in Escape from New York. Or, for the full effect of genuine horror, think of any film starring Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, or Steven Seagal wherein the aforementioned B-Movie icons weren't even as proficient at their legendary, individual brands of chuckle-inducing stiltedness as they are. Pretty scary thought,

Treasure Houses of Britain DVD Review: How the One-percenters Used to Live

A very interesting series about a way of life which (for the most part) no longer exists.
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Although I have never been to Great Britain, I am aware of the fact that some of the most beautiful houses in the world exist there. An example of the days when homes like these were owned by the once-upon-a-time “one-percenters” is the house in the classic Brideshead Revisited (1981). It is certainly not the only one however. Five similarly amazing estates are profiled in the new, two-DVD set Treasure Houses of Britain, which was just released by Athena. The houses profiled are Burghley House, Chatsworth, Blenheim Palace, Holkham Hall, and Boughton House. All five are incredible, in fact, they

Favorite Film Females [Snob Seven]

Girls (and boys) just have fun with this latest list.
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After 12 feature films, this weekend finds Pixar finally delivering a story featuring a female as the lead character with Brave. Set in 10th century Scotland, a young lady named Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) tries to alter her fate as determined by tradition and deals with the consequences that decision brings to her and her family. In conjunction with this landmark and to remind Hollywood the impact they can have, we here at Cinema Sentries wanted to highlight some of our favorite actresses and female characters. Hildy Johnson (Rosalind Russell) , His Girl Friday (1940) selected by Michael Nazarewycz

Shallow Grave (1994) Criterion Collection DVD Review: Boyle's Debut Shows Promise and Little Else

Boyle's picture lacks details, consistency, and characters to care about.
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Directed by Danny Boyle, written by John Hodge, and available now thanks to Criterion Collection, Shallow Grave is a bleakly comic film that is undermined by its unevenness and lack of details. Boyle’s picture does give us Ewan McGregor in his first leading role and it does offer a rewarding exercise in tone, but the lack of humanity and emotional connection drills unwelcome holes in the foundation. For Boyle, his intent with Shallow Grave was to dump “the moral baggage that British films carry around all the time.” In context, this 1994 picture was relatively couched in a time of

The Gold Rush Criterion Collection DVD Review: One of Chaplin’s Most Acclaimed Films

The finest home-video presentation of this classic ever.
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Although Charlie Chaplin’s “Little Tramp” character remains so iconic, people all over the world are still familiar with it, even if they have never seen a Chaplin film. That had been the case with me up until 1993, when I saw the restored, original version of The Gold Rush (1925) during a PBS pledge drive. To put it mildly, I was blown away. The storytelling, the inventiveness of the shots, and above all, the charisma of Chaplin himself just knocked me out. For a silent film to retain such remarkable power all those years later clearly indicated that the legendary

Top Gear 18 DVD Review: The Best Car Show in the World

The gang go to India, Italy, and the U.S.
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Petrolheads rejoice: Clarkson, Hammond, May, and The Stig are back with another season of Top Gear! The 18th series, although short (seven episodes and a Christmas special), is packed with fast cars, explosions, and its perennial British wit. For those who don't know, Top Gear is, arguably, the best car show in the world. You won't learn how to fix a flat, or get much useful purchasing advice, but you will learn the 0-60 times of the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG roadster, the Jaguar XFR, the McLaren MP4-12C, and countless more Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Bentleys, Aston Martins - basically, every ten-year-old's dream

Gas Pump Girls DVD Review: A Nearly Perfect Example of a Late-'70s Drive-In Flick

Too bad the disco gas-station idea never caught on.
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Somehow I missed the “disco-gas-station” phenomenon of the late seventies, and it is a real shame. As a consolation however, there is the film Gas Pump Girls (1979), which presents a vision of this world in all of its glory. There are all sorts of reasons to enjoy this movie, but for starters there is the legendary former Bowery Boy, Huntz Hall. In Gas Pump Girls, Hall plays Uncle Joe, owner of a rundown gas-station in Sacramento. A big, new shiny Pyramid station across the street has just opened up, and is doing huge business. When Joe’s niece June (Kirsten

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance Blu-ray Review: Food for the Mills of Hell

A serious contender for Worst Film of 2012.
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Well, boys and girls, that clown Nicolas Cage has done it again: absconded with a heap of dough, and leaving behind a pile of something quite smelly in his wake. This time, though, he's gone overboard — delivering what has to be his worst intentionally-hammy performance ever (which — and let's be honest, here — is saying an awful lot) as he reprises the role of Johnny Blaze, the tortured feller who made a deal with the Devil and is now doomed to suck the souls out of evildoers. Interestingly, Cage himself is said to have formed a pact with

Lina Wertmuller Collection (Love & Anarchy, The Seduction of Mimi, All Screwed Up) is the Pick of the Week

Fond, if fuzzy, memories from college and critical acclaim make me want to see these films.
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After my sophmore year in college I took some summer classes. Summer at this college was intensely boring as the vast majority of the students went home and all extra-curricular activities disappeared. This was especially true during the two weeks between the end of the spring semester and the begining of the summer courses. I lived too far away from the school to go home, and I was virtually alone until classes started up again. I didn't own a television at the time so I spent most of my time in the dorm lobby watching TV in there. At night

Missing in Action 2: The Beginning Blu-ray Review: Braddock "Returns" in this Misplaced Prequel

Chuck Norris' tears may cure cancer, but his steely gaze saves this prequel.
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Missing in Action 2: The Beginning “explains the rage” behind Chuck Norris’ James Braddock from Missing in Action, but it really should be the first entry in the series. It serves better as a foundation than it does a prequel and is, for all intents and purposes, a much better movie than the first one. This picture was filmed at the same time as Missing in Action and was initially to be released first, but a production decision reversed the plan and this was released in 1985. Missing in Action 2: The Beginning is directed by Lance Hool, who handles

Dreams from My Real Father DVD Review: Incredibly Difficult to Take Seriously

Not all conspiracy theories are exciting.
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It’s that time of year once again. Unless you live under a rock and even if you do, you should know that it’s rabbit season. Or is it duck season? No, wait, I really think it’s rabbit season. Oops, my mistake. It’s far worse than either one. And no, it’s not fiddler crab season. It’s political season. Yes, it’s that time of year when your mailbox, telephone, and television are bombarded with lies, distorted facts, and phony promises. And to make it even more detestable this season ends with the most dreaded contest of all: the Presidential Election. And along

Missing in Action Blu-ray Review: This B-movie is Missing its Action

Chuck Norris may bleed knives, but he can't save this dull actioner.
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Missing in Action has largely been considered a Rambo rip-off - and a bad one at that. Now available on Blu-ray, there’s little doubt that this 1984 actioner is cheesy and somewhat slow-moving. Chuck Norris, who’s become somewhat of a cult figure thanks to a popular Internet meme, doesn’t really bring much to his role and director Joseph Zito pieces together a limp, misplaced film. The story behind Missing in Action is that producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus were taken in by a screenplay that was floating around Hollywood at the time. That screenplay was written by an up-and-comer

Shallow Grave (1994) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Exceptional Film

Everything comes together perfectly to make this film such a success.
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Danny Boyle's first film Shallow Grave is a disturbing and extreme examination of the consequences of one's actions. I love films and at times will see almost anything just for fun but when I see something exceptional I realize how much horrible stuff I waste my time on. Shallow Grave is one such exceptional film and it leaves me wanting to be more discerning. Tabloid journalist Alex (Ewan McGregor), accountant David (Christopher Eccleston), and doctor Juliet (Kerry Fox) are roommates that have somehow come together as close friends despite their vast differences. The trio are looking for a new boarder

LAFF 2012: Woody Allen's To Rome With Love Opens the Los Angeles Film Festival

Enough amusing moments to make viewing the film worthwhile for Allen fans.
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The 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival opened with the North American premiere of Woody Allen's anthology To Rome With Love. The writer/director/co-star was on hand to introduce a few female members of the cast who were in attendance (from left to right: Penelope Cruz, Greta Gerwig, Alison Pill, Allesandra Mastronardi, and Simona Caparrini) and to offer a few words on the film, such as how he enjoyed making it though he's well aware that's no guarantee the audience will enjoy watching it. The film offers four separate stories that take place around the Italian capital featuring men unsatisfied with their

LAFF 2012: Red Flag, Pincus, Sun Kissed, Call Me Kuchu [Movie Recon]

We've got info on four new movies premiering at the LA Film Festival.
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Since 1995 the LA Film Festival has showcased some of the world's best films. While the festival has premiered some bigger-named titles (this year's festival will have premiered Brave, To Rome with Love (North American), and Magic Mike,) its primary focus is on smaller, independent features, short films, docmentaries, and music videos. It is a 10-day event that started this year on June 14 and will last until the 24th. We decided to host a special edition of Movie Recon today to highlight just a few of the many films selected to screen at the festival. Red Flag The

Civilization: The West and the Rest DVD Review: Ferguson's Cultural Arrogance Clouds This Series

This BBC series is plagued and ultimately sunk by its biases.
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British historical Niall Ferguson presents Civilization: The West and the Rest, a BBC documentary series with six episodes. The program covers Ferguson’s theories pertaining to the ascendency of the West and its influence on “the rest of the world” after 1500 A.D. Ferguson specializes in financial and economic history, so it stands to reason that his focus in the series would include such factors. The trouble is that his fondness for all things Empire gets in the way and we’re left with a tale of Western supremacy that tends to overinflate the morality of those at the “western end of

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death Special Edition DVD Review: Delightful, Yet Dull

I have mixed feelings about it.
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In the late 21st century, humankind has given up on its dreams of one day traversing the stars in glorious rocket propelled ships, largely due to the ease of life provided by T-Mat. Similar to the transporters made famous on Star Trek, T-Mat is an instantaneous form of matter transference which enables people and objects to go anywhere they want to on the planet. But when the T-Mat relay station on the moon breaks down, the folks in charge depend on a curmudgeonly old scientist (who has secretly been building a rocket in the hopes of rekindling interest in the

Bad Ass Blu-ray Review: A Film that Absolutely Reeks of Mediocrity

Don't you mean "Badass"? You're talking about a putrid heinder otherwise!
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For those of you who saw and enjoyed Machete as much as I did, you might have found yourself wondering at one point or another "How does one go about recreating the magic Machete had?" Well, if you're Robert Rodriguez, all you need do is make another Machete movie with Danny Trejo in the lead. If you're not Robert Rodriguez, then all you really should do is not try. At all. Case in point: Craig Moss' inept attempt to make a modern exploitation flick, Bad Ass — a film that is very loosely-based on the infamous viral video of white

Machine Gun Preacher Blu-ray Review: Hope in the Midst of a Holocaust

A good true-life story that is worth telling.
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Machine Gun Preacher is based on the life of Sam Childers, a real-life missionary living in Southern Sudan carrying the word of God in one hand and an AK47 in the other. In the film, Sam Childers is played by Gerard Butler. He is an ex-convict, biker, and heroin addict whose life is on a downward spiral. After a night of robbery and getting high with his best friend Donnie (Michael Shannon), the two have a run in with a psychotic hitchhiker that ends in a stabbing. Sam reaches his personal bottom and with the help of his wife Lynn

The Code DVD Review: An Intriguing Educational Journey

The brilliant BBC series is now available on DVD from Athena Learning.
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The new Athena two-DVD set The Code is not to be confused in any way with The Da Vinci Code. This highly-acclaimed, three-episode British series is far more interesting than that bit of fiction ever could be. In The Code, Oxford professor Marcus du Sautoy explores mathematical “codes” that appear in nature with such frequency that it is hard to believe they are truly random. In the first episode, “Numbers,” du Sautoy compares such seemingly disconnected phenomena as the French Chartres Cathedral, the cicada, Stonehenge, and the way we hear sound. In all, the design comes down to nearly identical

The Ledge Movie Review: A Lot of Hard Talk and Not a Lot of Follow-through

Sometimes a kammerspielfilm shoots itself in the foot and that's the problem with The Ledge in a nutshell.
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The Ledge (2011) is directed by Matthew Chapman and stars Charlie Hunnam (Gavin), Liv Tyler (Shauna), Patrick Wilson (Joe) and Terrence Howard (Detective Howard). The movie starts in a doctor's office where Detective Howard is just being informed that he is sterile and has been all his life, which means that his kids aren't actually his kids. This rather unfortunate turn of events could put a crimp in any guy's day, so it's a little disconcerting to find out that his job for the day is to go talk a jumper off a ledge. On the ledge we find Gavin,
The oddest couple in cinematic history have got to be the 20-year old Harold (Bud Cort) and the 80-year old Maude (Ruth Gordon). The two star in Hal Ashby’s film Harold and Maude (1971), which has just been issued on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. Even in the somewhat “anything goes” mentality of 1971, it amazes me that Harold and Maude was ever made. Almost every single movie I have seen from the early seventies is dated in one way or another, usually with some “counter-culture” references. This is understandable in the wake of Easy Rider (1969), which

The Lady Vanishes (1938) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: All Aboard for Entertainment

Hitchcock and his team deliver a delightful amalgam of genres.
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Though it was Alfred Hitchcock's penultimate film made in Britain before producer David O. Selznick brought him to America, the potent mixture of humor, romance, and thrills in The Lady Vanishes comes across as the epitome of escapism entertainment Hollywood was known for offering during its Golden Age. Set in the fictional European country of Bandrika, a cast of characters, including a a couple of British gents who have a great interest in cricket, Caldicott and Charters (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford), and a married Mr. Todhunter (Cecil Parker) traveling with a woman who isn't his wife as the credits

Gene Simmons Family Jewels Season Six Volumes 1 and 2 DVD Review: An Emotional Season for "The Demon"

One of the most difficult years of their collective lives.
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When I first heard that Gene Simmons was finally getting married, the cynic in me figured it was to boost ratings for his reality TV show, Gene Simmons Family Jewels. After all, he is the guy who spouts the motto, “KISS is a brand, not a band,” ever possible chance he gets. And to be honest, once he came around to the idea, he probably did realize the publicity and ratings potential of the whole thing. As Bill Maher put it so eloquently during the reception, “This is the best cable wedding of the year.” It’s a funny line, but

The Last Posse DVD Review: An Overlooked B-Western Gem

An excellent example of what happens when an above-average story is shipped off to the B-Unit department.
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There's nothing I like more than sitting back and watching a good ol' B-Western, and 1953's The Last Posse is my cup of tea. But this isn't your average cowboy film fare, folks — this one has a strange bit of intrigue and noir woven into its material. Filmed in the beautiful rocky terrain of Lone Pine, California, this forgotten Columbia Pictures gem stars the great Broderick Crawford and a young John Derek (their third feature together), and tells the tale of a small sheriff's posse that rode out of Roswell, New Mexico one day to apprehend a trio who

This Means War Blu-ray Review: More Absolute Yuck from McG

A contemporary, colorless take on Design for Living.
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Late last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing the wonderful 1933 comedy Design for Living — the story about two men who both fall for the same girl and decide to form a "gentlemen's agreement" to remain friends with each other as well as the woman in question. Of course, times have changed. Were you to make a film like Design for Living today, you'd wind up with something so pedestrian and impractical, you'd have to hire some hack like McG to direct, a lousy writer such as Simon (X-Men: The Last Stand) to write, and a number of

Without a Trace: The Complete Third Season DVD Review: Primetime Filler

A lousy show, but a great presentation.
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My first viewing experience of Jerry Bruckheimer's Without a Trace really wasn't much of a voluntary one. I was reviewing another Bruckheimer production, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Eighth Season, at another (now defunct) site and one of the bonus features was the Season Six episode of Without a Trace "Where and Why" -- which was only included as it was a crossover episode to the CSI episode, "Who and What." Frankly, I wasn't too terribly impressed with what I saw: the writing seemed pretty simplistic, and the performances were fairly mediocre at best. I figured it was just

Harold and Maude is the Pick of the Week

It was a hard choice this week but I had to go with my heart.
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There are a few really interesting titles coming out this week, and I had a hard time deciding which one to pick, but in the end I had to go with my heart. Harold and Maude is a film that I had heard about for a long, long time before ever getting around to watching. When I did watch it, it was more of a whim than a conscious decision. Due to complicated circumstances, my wife and I were living with my parents when my aunt and uncle let us house sit for them while they went on holiday. We

Summer Interlude Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Formative Bergman Picture Gets the High-Def Treatment

A tale of loss, despair, and innocence meets its Blu-ray release.
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With Summer Interlude, Swedish master filmmaker Ingmar Bergman began to lay the foundation for some of his most memorable pictures. This 1951 picture, now available on Blu-ray and DVD thanks to Criterion Collection, is considered by the director to be one of his most important works. It is certainly a haunting project.What we have here is a tale of loss. Innocence, love, artistic illusion, and religious faith are all lost in one way or another in Bergman’s film. In other hands, those aspects would be utilized to depress. Here, however, Bergman crafts a uniquely human (and humane) tell that finds

Sherlock Holmes (2009) Movie Review: A Smart Blockbuster

Holmes and Watson work together to solve a thrilling adventure that combines black magic and new science.
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When I first saw the trailer, I was not enthused. I had not been a fan of Guy Ritchie's directorial style and it looked like the film would be dismissing Holmes' mental prowess in an effort to turn him into an action hero. Thankfully, my deductions proved incorrect, as Ritchie created his best film to date and Robert Downey Jr. turned in yet again an impressive, franchise-launching performance. Sherlock Holmes opens in London 1891 with Holmes and Dr. John Watson (Jude Law) stopping what would have been the latest murder in a series of ritualistic killings. The culprit is Lord

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Blu-ray Review: Impressive Disc But Lacks the Charm of the Previous Film

May satisfy if your expectations are kept to a minimum.
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The first Sherlock Holmes was fun, exciting, and unique. It far exceeded my expectations. A Game of Shadows doesn't have the charm of the original film and left me disappointed. A Game of Shadows starts off with a bombing in Germany that we come to realize is much more sinister than it appears. In connection with this bombing, Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr.) follows his feisty love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), which leads to the first big fight scene showcasing the unique direction of Guy Ritchie. Holmes prevails and is able to catch up with Irene just as a

The Gold Rush Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Charlie Chaplin Strikes Gold

Chaplin is an artist at the top of his game here.
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The Criterion Collection has a problem. It's the best kind of problem to have though. They have the rights to release the Charlie Chaplin films and they have at their disposal a plethora of excellent films - many of which have never had the proper DVD and Blu-ray treatment. The issue is what order to release the films. They started with Modern Times from 1936, essentially one of the best silent films ever, created at the end of the silent film era. The next release moved forward to the important anti-war message of The Great Dictator from 1940. His first

Sherlock: Season Two Blu-ray Review: Contemporary Genius

Robert Downey, Jr. and Guy Ritchie should take notes.
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It doesn’t matter we're talking about a gifted mathematician or an extremely skilled plumber: every genius is that of a flawed one. Even the fictional individuals. And there is no better proof than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's immortal character of Sherlock Holmes. Portrayed on big and small screens alike countless times since his first published appearance in 1887, the character of Sherlock is — without a doubt — the most popular of all fabricated creations to appear in film and television. He's also the most freely-adapted character, having served as the inspiration for House, M.D. and more. Of course, with

Too Big To Fail DVD Review: Too Good to Miss

An outstanding HBO film about the recent U.S. financial meltdown.
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Hi there, Ronald Reagan. Hello as well to George Bush, Bill Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Glad to meet ya. The newly-released DVD/Blu-ray/digital release of Too Big To Fail from HBO Home Entertainment opens with all four of their words of wisdom: “Deregulation of the banking industry is good for America.” Wow! is about all I can say about that. Too Big To Fail falls into the winning category of HBO films such as Recount and The Late Shift. This time the focus is on the recent banking crisis, which has proven to be of major proportions. The film

Comic Con 2012: 20th Century Fox TV Announces Panels and Programming

Animation Domination is right.
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Following in the footsteps of Warner Bros. TV, 20th Century Fox Television has released their roster of panels for the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, and the three-day schedule looks awfully slight in comparison. Now, Wednesday is Preview Night, which traditionally sees little programming take place because the Exhibition Hall is the main focus, but Thursday is the first full day of the convention, so it's not clear why that day is free of Fox TV. Of course, more panels could still be announced as the convention approaches. The limited variety of programs also makes Fox look weak in comparison

Simply Red: Live At Montreux 2003 Blu-Ray Review: The Beginning of Their Rebirth and the End of the Line

Simply Red brings their version of American blue-eyed soul to the Montreux stage for two sizzling shows.
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For 25 years, Simply Red offered their British take on American bluesy, blue-eyed soul. Driven by the powerhouse vocals of leader Mick Hucknall, the band was a popular visitor to the Montreux Jazz Festival stage. Their performance at the 2003 festival, along with selected tracks from a 2010 appearance on their farewell tour make up the Blu-ray Simply Red: Live At Montreux 2003. The show opens with “Sad Old Red,” from the band’s debut album, Picture Book. The track's jazzy, walking bassline and subtle piano provide stark contrast to Hucknall’s impressive vocals and help set the tone for the rest

Comic Con 2012: Warner Brothers TV Announces Panels and Programming

Comic Con is coming.
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As the anger and sadness generated from the infuriating clustercusses that are ticket sales and hotel reservations for Comic-Con International: San Diego continue to haunt folks shut out this year, those of us lucky enough to attend have to deal with the insanity that is the event itself. That involves making plans for what panels and events to attend, which should include back-up options because it's not likely someone can do everything they would like to. Warner Brothers Television has provided a nice teaser for their convention programming as they reveal what series will have panels and where there will

Shame Blu-ray Review: A Shameful Waste of Fassbender’s Acting Talent

Fassbender shines in this murky mess.
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Shame is one of those whiny, self-involved New Yorker tales that makes most normal folks cringe. It’s further hampered by a nearly non-existent and non-revelatory plot that leaves viewers with no better understanding of its characters at its conclusion than at its outset. That leaves only one legitimate reason to watch the film: star Michael Fassbender. No, I’m not referring to his much-ballyhooed full frontal work here, but rather his passionate acting performance. Fassbender plays a damaged sex addict named Brandon Sullivan, an apparently wealthy bachelor with a swanky Manhattan apartment and not much to do after working hours except

Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp DVD Review: Very Funny Stuff Indeed

The hilarious adventures of a secret-agent chimp.
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For those of us of a certain age, Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp is fondly remembered. The Saturday morning live-action show aired 17 episodes during its 1970-1972 run. I must say that with the advent of DVD and Blu-ray, I am constantly impressed with the variety of releases of so many long-forgotten programs. The new three-DVD set from Film Chest contains all 17 shows on two DVDs, the third is devoted entirely to bonus features. Watching Lancelot Link again for the first time in 40 years was a real surprise for me. So much time has passed that I wondered if

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained, and Brave [Movie Recon]

We've got assets for three new movies coming soon to your local cineplex.
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The Story: Prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins on a journey to the Lonely Mountain to steal treasure from Smaug, a dragon. Along the way he finds the One Ring and uses it to his advantage. The Filmmakers: Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchet.The Status: Locked on Target. With most of the people involved with The Lord of the Rings trilogy still involved I am very excited to see what

John Carter Blu-ray Review: Delivers as a Roaring Space-Aged Hoot

In its genre, John Carter gives you exactly what you're expecting to see.
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You can run into a lot of problems trying to update a 100-year-old science fiction serial about a Civil War veteran who finds himself transported to inhabited, life-sustainable Mars, not the least of which is that most members of a modern audience are reasonably sure Mars is, in fact, uninhabited. We're not talking "there may be civilizations underground," but straight-ahead "there are warring factions on the surface of the planet that battle monstrous aliens and flying spaceships alike." These are the kinds of concepts that really put a director's ability to suspend disbelief to the test. It's an amazing thing,

Cheri (2009) Movie Review: La Belle Epoque Decadence and Restrained Love

The aging courtesan and her young gentleman companion are not in love, they merely have a mutually beneficial arrangement.
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Chéri is directed by Stephen Frears and stars Michelle Pfeiffer as Léa de Lonval and Rupert Friend as Chéri, or Fred Peloux as he's really called. Set in the Belle Époque in Paris, this is the story of an aging courtesan and her young lover. Or, rather, that's not at all what this story is about, but we'll start there. The story is based on the French novel by the same name by the author Colette. Chéri's mother, Charlotte (Kathy Bates) thinks that her son has become a little too disaffected and disillusioned and wants her good friend, and arch

The Beatles: Yellow Submarine DVD Review: A Great Movie with an Even Better Soundtrack

Looks better than ever and has a lot more to say than may have originally been thought.
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For their third film, The Beatles kind of phoned it in. Their first, A Hard Day’s Night was brilliant, and their second, Help! was a lot of fun. But in the mere three years that passed between A Hard Day’s Night and Yellow Submarine, the individual members of the band went through an enormous amount of changes. George Harrison memorably described the time as if each month equaled a year. So it is somewhat surprising just how good Yellow Submarine actually is. Having recently reviewed the book Revolver: How The Beatles Reimagined Rock ‘N’ Roll for a “sister” site of

Red Tails (2012) DVD Review: George Lucas Drops the Ball Again

How do you get into a World War II flick when someone says "A'ight"?
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If there is any one subject that doesn't get enough screen time, it's that of the Tuskegee Airmen. These legends of the air have been in dire need of a big-budgeted, heartfelt, genuine dramatization of their deeds for decades now (cable-TV movies with Laurence Fishburne notwithstanding) that tell the real story. Sadly, the Lucasfilm production of Red Tails — a PG-13 offering about the brave black pilots who gave their all during World War II, which stars Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr. — is not the film we've been waiting for. It's rare these days to see a moving

Sealab 2020 DVD Review: Underwater Environmentalism for the Kids

Clearly aimed at the nostalgia market.
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I have to admit that as a kid, I was never much into the “action adventure” genre of Saturday morning cartoons. They were too serious. I wanted Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny, not Johnny Quest. But they were very popular in their day, which was basically during the late '60s and early '70s. Just my luck that those were my childhood years. Well, a lot of people would argue that my childhood never ended, which is great, because now I can go back and see what I was missing. Sealab 2020 definitely falls into the category of action-adventure

Teen Wolf: The Complete Season One DVD Review: Color Me Surprised and Count Me as a Fan

It's not simply the shiniest turd in the punchbowl of MTV Original Programming; it's a quality show!
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It was virtually impossible to not be skeptical when MTV decided to launch a new television series called Teen Wolf last year. Loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, Teen Wolf seemed to be an obvious attempt by the former Music Television at snagging a piece of the Twilight pie. And who could blame them? Sharing similar demographics as well as a passion for stories spotlighting females with poor acting skills making poor choices, the marriage of Twilight and MTV seemed like a match made in heaven - or at the very least, gym class. But a funny

Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season is the Pick of the Week

One of the most exciting series on television has its fourth season come to DVD.
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Whenever I hear people grumble about how bad television is these days, I just roll my eyes and mutter under my breath how they don't know what they are talking about. Sure, there's plenty of crap on, and with the 800 channels available there is perhaps more than ever, but if you know where to look, there are tons of great shows out there. In fact I'd argue that the last 20 years has seen some of the best television prgramming since the invention of the cathode ray tubes. Breaking Bad comes very near the top of any list you

American Pickers Volume Three DVD Review: They're a-Pickin' and You'll Be a-Grinnin'

Plenty of fun and profit in discarded Americana.
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The History Channel (now just called History) has come a long way since their debut on basic cable back in 1995. I remember when they used to be nicknamed "The Hitler Channel," because of all the old World War II programs they aired. I actually dug all that stuff, but it did not exactly make for ratings gold. But since they began producing original programming such as Ax Men, Swamp People, and American Pickers (among many others), the channel has become a destination for many viewers. And you can count me in. I enjoy just about everything on History, but

Contest: Chuck Norris Blu-ray Prize Pack

Delta Force, Missing in Action, and Missing in Action II could be yours.
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Cinema Sentries, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and MGM have teamed up to give one lucky the reader the opportunity to win a Chuck Norris Blu-ray Prize Pack, featuring Delta Force, Missing in Action, and Missing in Action II, which are currently available on Blu-ray exclusively at Walmart. Although it came out months before Rambo: First Blood Part II, Missing in Action (1984) was "inspired" by James Cameron's story treatment for the former.  The Golan Globus production for Cannon Films stars Chuck Norris as Colonel James Braddock a former POW during the Vietnam War who returns years later to look for

View Posters, Stills and Trailers for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Red Lights, and Branded [Movie Recon]

We've got the lowdown on new movies with samurais, blind psychics and alien advertisers.
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Once again our scouts have been scouring the movie landscape for upcoming films. This time we found posters, images, and trailers for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Red Lights, and Branded. Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai The Story: A reimagining of a 1962 Japanese film, this one tells the story of revenge, honor, and disgrace, centering on a poverty-stricken samurai who discovers the fate of his ronin son-in-law, setting in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against the house of a feudal lord. The Filmmakers: Directed by Takashi Miike and stars Ebizô Ichikawa Kôji Yakusho. The Status: Locked on

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