July 2012 Archives

In November 1981, fans attending the Muddy Waters show at Buddy Guy’s old club, the Checkerboard Lounge, were in for a treat. It’s not often one can catch one of the architects of the blues playing in an environment as intimate as the Checkerboard. What they may not have realized was, the Rolling Stones were in town that week, and several of them decided to check out the show. Not only that, all of them ended up on stage with Waters. Fortunately this historic event was captured on video, and is now available as the DVD/CD Muddy Waters & The

Louie: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: Don't Believe the Hype

If you're curious, there's enough to make the show worth sampling.
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Louie is a critically acclaimed TV series on FX that follows the exploits of a fictionalized version of middle-aged, stand-up comic and divorced father of two young girls Louie CK, who comes across as a mix of W.C. Fields, Woody Allen, and Larry David. CK serves as star, writer, director, producer, and editor of each episode. He might even have done some catering. The second season received more critical acclaim than the first, though the reason why is beyond me after watching all 13 episodes, but then I didn't make it past the third episode of the first season. Granted,

Six Pack Annie DVD Review: Southern Fried and Scantily Clad

More double entendres than in the entire eight-year run of Three’s Company.
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Too young to care and too fast to catch, the smallest thing about Six Pack Annie is the town she came from. At least, that’s what the advertisements for this hicksploitation classic touted when it was released in 1975. Featuring Lindsay Bloom as the titular heroine, a pop-top princess with a recyclable can, Six Pack Annie is a film filled with fast trucks, even faster women, and too many amazing taglines for me to possibly work into the first paragraph of this review. But I gave it my best shot. Also giving it her best shot is Annie Bodine, a

Metropolitan Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Two Decades Later, I Still Don't Get It

More than 20 years after its theatrical release, it’s just as alien and off-putting as ever.
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Writer/director Whit Stillman’s debut film received massive critical accolades following its 1990 theatrical release, including a Best Screenplay Oscar nomination. Over two decades later, it’s back in a pristine new Criterion Blu-ray edition, but it’s just as bewildering as ever for viewers like me who fall outside the extremely narrow demographic of stuffy upper-crust New York debutantes. Here’s a film where college-age guys walk the streets of modern Manhattan in top hat and tails without any irony, ceaselessly discussing philosophy, literature, and other egg-headed items while waiting for their next social gathering with like-minded snobs. There’s no real narrative arc

Michael Wood's Story of England DVD Review: 2,000 Years of Tales from Kibworth

Michael Wood and the residents of Kibworth investigate the village’s rich history from the ground up.
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Michael Wood’s Story of England, a six-part documentary originally aired on BBC Four in the fall of 2010, may lead viewers to believe that Wood has attempted to summarize the whole of English history in just shy of six hours. In a sense, he has—but he does so by examining England’s compelling and often turbulent past, from the Roman era to the present day, through the lens of village life in Kibworth. As viewers watch the history of this otherwise ordinary spot in the heart of England unfurl, the hope is that they also gain insight into how other English

Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here Blu-ray Review: Their Musical Talents Shine On

The story of Pink Floyd's classic album of absence and disillusionment
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At the Live 8 concert in London, England, in 2005, Roger Waters joined his old mates in Pink Floyd for a show-stopping set. With the passing of keyboardist Richard Wright, it would be the last time the classic Dark Side Of The Moon lineup of the band would play together in public, making “Wish You Were Here,” a high point in their set, even more poignant. The scenes for this concert serve as the introduction to the Blu-ray about the album of the same name, Pink Floyd: The Story Of Wish You Were Here. Four notes from David Gilmour’s guitar

Stone Temple Pilots: Alive In The Windy City Blu-ray Review: They Still Deliver

STP rock a packed Riviera Theatre.
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While the members of Stone Temple Pilots have often made for a volatile mix off the stage, there is no denying their chemistry on the stage. In March 2010, the band took to the Riviera Theatre in Chicago, IL, for a rock solid, sold-out show that forms the basis of the band’s first-ever concert video release, Stone Temple Pilots: Alive In The Windy City. The concert opens with “Vaseline,” from the band’s 1994 album, Purple. Scott Weiland is in strong vocal form on this riff-oriented rocker and both band and audience seem into it. Things stay up-tempo with the driving

La Grand Illusion is the Pick of the Week

Jean Renoir's classic war film gets a digital makeover.
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Jean Renoir's classic film, La Grand Illusion, has had a long, strange journey since its release in 1937. The German's dubbed it "cinematic public enemy #1" and the French banned it fearing a negative influence on the fighting morale, while it garnered praise in America and other European countries. For decades the original print was thought to have been lost in an air raid in 1942. In reality it was seized by the Germans and sent to Berlin where it sat in their film archives until the Russians found it and sent it to Moscow. In the 1960s it was

Claudia DVD Review: She'll Steal Your Heart and Mock You For It

A snapshot of a young bride who must come to terms with real life in the 1940s
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Twentieth Century Fox’s 1943 cinematic release of Claudia, directed by Edmund Goulding (The Grand Hotel, The Razor’s Edge, and dozens more) is interesting in that it’s merely the middle point of a rather lengthy franchise featuring the Naughton family and the day-to-day stir that brings hilarity and heaviness to their wartime world. Novelist and playwright Rose Franken wrote stories about the goings on of David and Claudia Naughton, their two boys, maid, and extended family that were serialized in popular women’s magazines Redbook and Good Housekeeping in the mid-1930s before being published as an eight-novel series. In 1941, Franken adapted

They Came To Blow Up America DVD Review: A Propaganda Piece Through and Through

A fictionalized tale of a truly frightening Nazi black-op.
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Such terror! Such suspense! Such propaganda! Oh, wait, we weren’t supposed to notice that, where we? They Came To Blow Up America (1943) is based on the true story of the failed German Operation Pastorius. Since the details of the black-op were not fully revealed until after World War II, director Edward Ludwig was free to spice-up the story a bit. Maybe the Russian-born director felt it would be a good career move to embellish the tale. Unfortunately, these obvious exaggerations take the quality of the film down quite a few notches, as they are so transparent. Too bad, because

Kasabian Live!: Live at the O2 15/12/11 Blu-ray Review: A Spirited Performance

British indie rockers deliver their first Blu-ray
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British indie rockers, Kasabian, took the UK and Ireland by storm with a sold-out arena tour at the end of 2011. Their energetic live performance was captured for the band's first-ever Blu-ray release, Kasabian: Live! - Live At The O2 London 15/12/11. Filmed in high definition, both the band and crowd seem amped up for the event, with the band offering spirited performances and the crowd returning the energy to the stage. The show opens with “Days Are Forgotten,” from the band’s most recent album, Velociraptor! The opening is dramatic, with a giant white arch on stage during the song’s

Duran Duran: Live 2011: A Diamond In The Mind Blu-ray Review: They've Lost Nothing to Time

The '80s MTV poster boys are still going strong 30 years later.
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Duran Duran has always been as much a visual experience as an audio one. During the 1980s, their songs dominated the airwaves and their videos — shot in exotic locales with exotic women — dominated MTV (back when they still played music). This aspect of the band translated into their live shows as well, so it is no surprise that for their first live release in nearly a decade, Duran Duran: Live 2011: A Diamond In The Mind, the band would release a Blu-ray. The stage show does not disappoint, either. The band wanted the stage to have arms that
Anyone who has always been a fan of the immortal slapstick comedy The Three Stooges brought us over the course of several decades and was around to remember the glorious days of home video in the '80s and '90s will no doubt recollect the various VHS releases we used to get in the stores (to say nothing of LaserDisc and Beta in the early days). They consisted of three shorts per cassette (rarely totaling over 45-minutes) and the classics seemed to be chosen at random. When DVD came about, we were treated to digital releases which contained more titles per

Rings on Her Fingers from Fox Cinema Archives: A Perfect Fit for Screwball Comedy Fans

Take another bite of The Lady Eve's apple with this entertaining knock-off of the Sturges classic.
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Classic Movie Trivia Quiz: In what 1940s screwball comedy does Henry Fonda play a vacationing millionaire seduced by a sexy swindler? If your answer is The Lady Eve, you’re only half right. In March of 1941, Paramount Pictures released Preston Sturges’ Eve with Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck to critical accolades and box office success. A year later, Twentieth Century Fox released Rouben Mamoulian’s Rings on Her Fingers with Fonda and Gene Tierney and a plot that largely (but not actionably) aped Eve. The former is one of the most beloved movies of all time and was recently added to the

Wrath of the Titans (2012) Blu-ray Review: Wrath of the Critic

Sequel nobody wanted proves to be just as hapless as its predecessor.
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When you think back to the reimagined Clash of the Titans released two years ago, what memories come to mind? For me, the only lasting perceptions are that the huge Kraken monster was pretty cool, and the movie was largely panned, especially because of its lackluster 3D conversion. The film was a passable global hit at the box office, and yet there didn’t seem to be much clamor for a sequel. Well, clamor be damned, Hollywood followed the money and produced this unnecessary continuation of the Titans tales. Sam Worthington returns to the role of half-god/half-human Perseus, again working out

Madame Bovary (2000) DVD Review: An Erotic Take on an Erotic Classic

BBC's second take on Gustave Flaubert's classic is a sexy stunner.
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When Gustave Flaubert first delivered the sexy seeds of his romantic tragedy, Madame Bovary, to the literary world, he was prosecuted for offending public morals. While the novel is now considered a literary masterstroke, its 1856 release proved challenging. As with most things of this ilk, Madame Bovary saw numerous adaptations. It was turned into a 1932 film by Albert Ray and has been given the miniseries treatment more than once. The BBC took it on twice: once in 1964 with Giles Cooper at the helm and once in 2000 with Heidi Thomas in control. Thanks to the magic of

The Disco Exorcist Movie Review: A Strangely Entertaining Highlight Reel of '70s Cliches

Not for everyone, but fans of cheesy horror comedy should give it a chance.
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Fade in on lava lamp and reel to reel, plenty of dust and lines tarnishing the film print, scratchy audio track rife with pops and cracks as if playing off vinyl. A topless girl films a guy snorting blow off another girl's bare ass. The Disco Exorcist strives to capture '70s sleaze vibe and does an admirable job of it. The disco and occasionally moody soundtrack is spot on for the theme. The setting, the costuming, and set design seemingly on the money. And the drug-addled, sex-addicted attitudes consistent with why we remember '70s sexploitation films so well. It's not

The Last Days of Disco Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Witty Look at the End of an Era

Whit Stillman's hilarious, perceptive film offers a genuine look at the bygone past.
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The Film There’s not a hint of irony in Whit Stillman’s 1998 film The Last Days of Disco despite there being plenty of opportunity for it. In Stillman’s cinematic world of the very early ’80s, a band of young, educated Manhattanites are still caught up in disco’s sway, unaware of its imminent expiration, but that isn’t treated as a retrospective character flaw or an opportunity for knowing period-piece mocking of any sort. The characters here are drawn with absolute sincerity, and though Stillman’s trademark mannered dialogue is anything but naturalistic, the film’s refusal to caricature makes it feel immediate and

The Dark Knight Movie Review: Raised the Bar on What Superhero Movies Can Be

There is something to please everyone.
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Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a fantastic film that has raised the bar on what superhero movies can be, much the same way Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen did for comic books over twenty years ago. While the film has the familiar elements of a superhero movie (costumed characters, action-packed scenes, futuristic gadgets), it rises above that usual box-office fare into a serious work of art by dealing with substantial themes without sacrificing the summer-movie fun. Some time has passed since Batman Begins. Crime and corruption is still a problem in Gotham, but more

Batman Begins Movie Review: A Hero Reborn

Nolan use of realism adds to the film's quality.
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Eight years after the damage done to Batman from the one-two combination of Batman Forever and Batman & Robin by the equally villainous and inept filmmaking team of director Joel Schumacher and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, director Christopher Nolan and screenwriter David S. Goyer put a new spin on the movies, adding a realism and darkness to the story. As the title reveals, Batman Begins presents the hero’s origin. It opens with Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) in an Asian prison where Henri Ducard (Liam Neeson) approaches him to join The League of Shadows, a mysterious ninja group led by Ra's al
Back before superheroes were all the rage at the box office, Tim Burton and his creative team brought Batman to the silver screen in 1989. The film was highly anticipated with the logo seeming to appear everywhere that summer. While Jack Nicholson seemed to be the perfect choice for the Joker, some fans were all in a tizzy over Michael Keaton getting cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman, going so far as to send thousands of protest letters to Warner Brothers back in the days before the nerds were online. Ultimately when the film was released, they were proven wrong not to

Van der Graaf Generator: Live at the Metropolis Studios, London Review: Who Doesn't Love the Prog?

The '70s proggers feature new and old material in concert.
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Van der Graaf Generator were one of those groups who could have only flourished in the late '60s English psychedelic scene. Their early days were a bit of a mess, with aborted singles and the like. But when they signed with Charisma Records (they were the first band signed to the label), things improved dramatically. Van der Graaf had a lot in common with early King Crimson, featuring a “hard,” approach to their progressive rock, with a strong emphasis on improvisation. Another trait Van der Graaf Generator shared with King Crimson was a very low profile in the United States.

The Last Days of Disco is the Pick of the Week

I'm hoping my memory of this movie holds up after ten years.
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The original GI Joe animated series is currently streaming on Netflix. I loved that show as a kid. I have many fond memories returning home from school every afternoon and watching the Joes fight COBRA, save the day, and learn something that made knowing worth half the battle. While a part of me wants to bring in the nostalgia and watch it all again, I suspect that would wind up being completely disappointing as my 36-year-old self might find what my 12-year-old self thought was awesome to be utterly cheesy and stupid. Murdering nostalgia sucks so I have yet to

Comic Con 2012: Archer Panel

The Archer gang doesn't disappoint when it comes to entertaining their fans.
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The one panel I was most disappointed in missing out on at Comic-Con 2012 was for FX's Archer, my favorite comedy currently on the air. In attendance this year, seated from left to right in the photo below, were creator Adam Reed (who also provides the voice for Ray Gillette), H. Jon Benjamin (Sterling Archer), Aisha Tyler (Lana Kane), Amber Nash (Pam Poovey), and Chris Parnell (Cyril Figgis). Those folks are always a riot and usually bring an episode from the upcoming season. This year was no different, but fear not because through the magic of the Internet you too

Comic-Con 2012: Firefly Panel

Want to see what happened at this popular panel?
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Celebrating the 10th anniversary of the cult TV sensation Firefly, Science Channel gathered creator Joss Whedon, executive producer Tim Minear, and cast members Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Sean Maher, and Summer Glau at Comic-Con International 2012. The Comic-Con events guide stated they were reuniting "for the first time ever," which seems hard to believe in light of their intense popularity online and at conventions. However, considering how great the turnout was for the panel, fans began waiting in line the night before as early as 10pm when the convention hall closed, and the line ran so long that

Don't Go See A Movie This Weekend

Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out.
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I know that seems an odd statement coming from a website that revels in movies, but that was my immediate response to the many film bloggers and fans who took to the Internet and pleaded with people to "Go see a movie this weekend" as the best way to respond to the tragic events that left 12 killed, 58 injured, at the time of this writing, during last night's midnight screening of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Really?  Burying oneself in the passive experience that is movie-watching for a couple of hours is the best next

Love is News DVD Review: The News is Good

A charming romantic comedy starring Tyrone Power and Loretta Young
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While I’m familiar with the name of leading man Tyrone Power, I realized before watching this film that I’m almost completely unfamiliar with his work. I have a feeling I’m not alone, as in our era he seems to be more noted as a legendary Hollywood star than actually known for any of his films. Thankfully, 20th Century Fox has set out to rectify this courtesy of their Cinema Archives project that manufactures DVD-Rs of niche catalog titles on demand. In Love is News, Power’s fast-talking newspaper reporter character Steve Leyton battles wits with a feisty heiress named Tony Gateson

Midsomer Murders Set 20 Blu-ray Review: Crime and Bemusement in the English Countryside

Retiring star John Nettles is the best reason to watch these uninspired mysteries
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Deep in the English countryside, there's a fictional county with an alarmingly high murder rate. Despite its fairly low population, the charming villages in the Midsomer area are rife with murders that require the expert crime-solving skills of veteran Detective Chief Inspector Tom Barnaby (John Nettles). Unfortunately, after 13 seasons of catching bad guys, the DCI finally decides to retire in this last set of mysteries. It's not the end of the series, just the end of the Nettles run, but don't be concerned about the prominent position of his replacement on the cover because these episodes belong entirely to

Spin a Dark Web [aka Soho Incident] DVD Review: Forgotten British Film Noir

Ever wonder where both Bernard Fox and Ken Adam got their start?
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With all the great American film noir movies out there, forever leaving their mark on experienced and newbie fans of cinema everywhere, it's easy to forget that countries like England have contributed heavily to the genre. Sadly, many of them wind up getting swept underneath the giant carpet of time, waiting for the day when someone finds them and gives them a little distribution. One such forgotten item is a British flick that was originally entitled Soho Incident, but which was given the more lurid moniker Spin a Dark Web for its 1956 debut in the U.S. Here, the one

Here (2011) DVD Review: The Story is Still Asleep

Of map-making and charting the human heart.
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Braden King’s Here opens by informing us that “the story is still asleep.” In the case of the filmmaker’s vision of map-making and charting the depths of relationships, the story takes a little nudging to awaken and never really seems to wind to its full potential. Perhaps that’s the point, as the two lead characters amble through their respective existences without really ever touching the ground. Here has the honour of being the first American film to be shot entirely on location in Armenia. King is, without question, a lover of landscapes and locations. It shows throughout the motion picture,

Bill Nelson and the Gentlemen Rocketeers: Live at the Metropolis Studios, London Review: An Electrifying Set Spanning Nelson's 40-Year Career

The guitar hero has made a welcome return with this DVD/CD combo concert package
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I must admit that when I heard that Bill Nelson was planning to revisit some classic Be Bop Deluxe tunes for a concert recording, I was more than a little excited. This is something I had been hoping of for over 30 years now. The first Be Bop Deluxe record I heard was way back in 1978. It was their 1974 debut album Axe Victim, and I was blown away by it. To me, if ever there were an unsung guitar hero, Bill Nelson was it. Unfortunately my timing could not have been worse. At the very moment I was

Wilfred: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Thank You, Australian Television

I'm not sure if I'm supposed to love it or loathe it.
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Out of all the television producing and filmmaking countries in the world, there are perhaps two that Americans love to borrow (or perhaps, steal) from more than any other. One is that magical, mystical country of France — a land not only of baguettes and tiny clove cigarettes, but which has absolutely nothing to do with this piece whatsoever. The other is the Land of Oz itself: Australia — which has quite a lot to do with this review, since Wilfred is an American remake of an Aussie television comedy of the same name that initially aired in Oz back

Spaghetti, Sleaze, and Mysteries [Mondo Bastardo]

Luigi Bastardo takes a look at six recent Blu-ray releases guaranteed to either delight or degrade.
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It's time to let our fingers wander through the shelves as I introduce you to a new feature, Mondo Bastardo (kudos to George White for the name). For this preliminary article, I bring you a peek at several recent Blu-ray releases that are guaranteed to either delight or degrade. Included here are the double feature releases of The Grand Duel and Keoma as well as The Stranger and Kansas City Confidential, and single releases of D.O.A. (1988), 42nd Street Forever: Blu-ray Edition, Midsomer Murders: Set 19, and The Red House (1947). Enjoy. Spaghetti Western Double Feature: The Grand Duel /

Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand DVD Review: The Good Outweighs the Mediocre

Not a strong thumbs-up, but it is definitely a solid one.
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“One Shall Stand” was originally presented as a massive, seven-episode story arc during the first two seasons of the popular Transformers Prime animated series, currently airing on the Hub. This summer, SHOUT! Factory, in conjunction with Hasbro Studios, brings the universe-shattering epic to DVD as a seamlessly edited, uninterrupted movie. Featuring the legendary voice talents of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker along with Adam Baldwin, Gina Torres, and Ernie Hudson, Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand delves deep into the back story of Optimus Prime and the history of Cybertron while delivering the ultimate adventure for fans of the series. Anyone

The House on Garibaldi Street DVD Review: Primetime TV Nazi Hunters

The man who captured Eichmann before Arliss Howard.
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Though their contributions to mankind will — thankfully — never be looked upon in a positive light by anyone other than skinheads and wacko politicians, Hitler's Third Reich has at least made for an endless source of motion picture entertainment over the years. But whereas certain filmmakers have strived for straight-up exploitation, others have touched upon more factual affairs. In the case of the 1979 ABC TV movie The House on Garibaldi Street, we get a primetime account of the capture of Adolf Eichmann — one of the most notorious SS officers behind the Holocaust — who escaped to Argentina

Mirror Mirror (2012) Blu-ray Review: Please, Make it Stop!

Julia Roberts delivers yet another god-awful performance in this abysmal comedy.
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When I sat down to soil myself in horror over the fetidness only Mirror Mirror could deliver, I had to take a few moments to look back and ask myself "Has Julia Roberts ever truly made even one good movie?" The answer to that was a very stern "No," of course: even the truly best movies that happen to have featured her had been hampered by her appearance — a fact that begged me to question whether or not she is even a decent actress to begin with. But then — before I could answer that one — I found

LEGO Ninjago Masters of Spinjitzu Season One DVD Review: A Fun But Lightweight Extended Toy Commercial

Show serves as a marketing vehicle for successful Ninjago toy line but fails to serve as serious entertainment
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Four pizza-loving teen ninjas battle the forces of evil under the tutelage of their wise old sensei. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Nope. LEGO has a hit new toy brand on their hands, but the tie-in cartoon suffers from its blatant swiping of the TMNT concept. The four teens even wear one different primary color per character and specialize in one weapon each, just like the Turtles. That’s not to say the show isn’t entertaining, but it’s difficult to get past its lack of originality. Early on, the series sets up a goal for the four primary stars: to become the

Chariots of Fire Blu-ray Review: A Fine Presentation for an Overrated Film

The 1981 Best Picture winner isn't an all-time classic, but it remains a worthwhile film.
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The Film Eminently respectable but not exactly cinematically sound, Chariots of Fire is a film whose merits have been considered suspect ever since its 1981 Best Picture win. Arguments that it’s a shoddily made piece of middlebrow inspirational pap aren’t wholly misguided — director Hugh Hudson’s pacing is stilted and his camera rarely captures a sense of kinetic physicality like it ought to — but the film isn’t totally without merit. Colin Welland’s multilayered script uses an awkward framing device, but performs a capable job of developing the crosscutting stories of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in distinct but thematically

Alice: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Three Broke Girls in Search of a Voice

She may not live here anymore, but were glad she's back for a visit.
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Thirty-five years before there were Two Broke Girls working as waitresses, there were three broke girls in Vera (Beth Howland), Flo (Polly Holliday), and Alice, played with an energy rarely seen on the small screen, by Linda Lavin. All three were making a living working at Mel’s Diner in Phoenix Arizona. Alice and the majority of her co-workers were around for nine years and 222 episodes. Inspired by Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, director Martin Scorsese's popular film of 1974, Alice comes to the small screen as a recently widowed mother of one son, who decides to move home to

The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan: The Complete Series DVD Review: Wham-Bam, They're in a Jam!

Keye Luke's elevation to the character of Charlie Chan hits DVD via the Warner Archive.
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Ever since his very first moving picture appearance in the now-lost 1926 film The House Without a Key, Charlie Chan had only ever been portrayed by an actor of Chinese descent but once — and that was in the 1972 Hanna-Barbera cartoon, The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. Veteran Hollywood actor Keye Luke — a character actor fondly remembered by many as Lee Chan, the Number One Son to Charlie Chan in several Fox and Monogram mysteries made between 1935 and 1948 — escalated up the ranks to portray Mr. Chan himself. Sure, Luke's much-needed representation of Earl Derr

A Necessary Death DVD Review: How Do You Film Someone Who Wants to Kill Themselves?

Well presented with likable characters, not quite as shocking as expected, but with welcome twists along the way.
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"Recovered Footage" movies -- ones shot with consumer-grade cameras made to look like home movies, films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity -- can't rely on lots of CGI or fancy special effects and still stay true to the look of the film. The world feels more real, more personal, less scripted, like it could happen to you. With less glitz to distract you, the actors' performances have to be their best. If there are holes in the writing or dialogue, they quickly become apparent and distracting; worse yet, if it starts to feel deliberately plotted or scripted,

Singin' in the Rain: 60th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

One of the greatest American musicals ever made gets a Blu-ray release, and it's not the only Hollywood classic to get a high-def upgrade this week.
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Far and away the most popular American film musical ever made, Singin' in the Rain lives up to its reputation. It may not be the greatest musical in the canon -- as far as this humble opinion goes, that would be another Comden and Green joint, Vincente Minnelli's The Band Wagon -- but I'm afraid you better not bother with the genre if Singin' doesn't get to you. There's Gene Kelly's infectious performance as fading silent film star Don Lockwood, Donald O'Connor's breathtaking physicality as accompanist Cosmo Brown, Debbie Reynolds's sweet optimism as aspiring actress Kathy Selden, the gorgeous Technicolor,

Elmo's Magic Numbers DVD Review: 1-2-3 with Elmo, Max, Zoe and Will Arnett

The Sesame Street gang adds their two cents on the subject of math.
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If you’re familiar with the Sesame Street franchise, you already know that the brand is fairly consistent in delivering content for the two- to five-year-old set that attempts to unite “different cultures, ethnicities, abilities, and colors” through such fundamental concepts as respect and learning. The televised program spends its hour-long weekday slots focusing on a couple predominate themes, using Muppets; human friends, young and old; animated shorts; and musical montages to drive the major points home in a lighthearted, accessible way. Sesame Street also offers a slew of “Best of” DVDs focusing on specific subjects—from toilet training, to dinosaurs, to

The Sinking of the Laconia DVD Review: A Top-Notch BBC Program

A fascinating dramatization of a lesser-known, yet incredible incident during World War II.
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The second RMS Laconia was a Cunard ocean liner built by Swan, Hunter & Wigham Richardson as a successor to the Laconia of 1911 to 1917. Like her predecessor, sunk during the First World War, this Laconia would also be destroyed by a German U-boat. The German Korvettenkapitän (captain) Werner Hartenstein then staged a dramatic rescue effort, which involved assistance from additional German U-boats he contacted. It became known as the “Laconia Incident.” Those are the dry facts, but as the newly released The Sinking of the Laconia (2011) two-DVD set from Acorn demonstrates, the incident was likely the most

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles Movie Review: An Intriguing Documentary about a Decades-Long Mystery

Jon Foy uses beautiful artwork and well-placed music to draw you in.
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I love documentaries! Or should I say I love good documentaries. However, the more I watch, I feel like the harder they have become to find. Often times, I will start one and end up stopping it a little way in because of things like terrible pacing or poor organization. So last week when I was looking around Netflix I happened upon Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles. After reading the summary, the hubby and I decided to give it a try and we are both so glad we did. Jon Foy directs this documentary that is beautifully

The Outside Man (1972) DVD Review: A Contemplative Mob Thriller

French and American cinematic sensibilities come together in this enjoyable crime film.
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An enjoyable conflation of French gangster cool a la Melville and reinvented 1970s American noir, the little-known The Outside Man offers up a languid take on mafia hits and gun-toting car chases. There’s little that can ruffle the nonchalance of French hit man Lucien Bellon (Jean-Louis Trintignant), even as his mission to kill a prominent Los Angeles mobster goes to shit in the first few minutes of the film. Director Jacques Deray opts for an unfailingly deliberate pace and drops us right into the action without a bunch of background exposition. For the most part, the storytelling strategy works, offering

Singin' in the Rain from TCM and Fathom Events: Still Making 'em Laugh in Theaters 60 Years Later

What a glorious feelin', as the beloved 1952 musical comedy returns to theaters for one day only.
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On Thursday, Turner Classic Movies and NCM Fathom Events presented Singin’ in the Rain (1952) at nearly 500 venues nationwide. And I thought long and hard about not going to see it — even though I love old movies in general, and this film in particular. Let me explain. I’ve attended the TCM Classic Film Festival annually since its inception in 2010, and have enjoyed countless pristinely presented classics at Hollywood landmarks like Grauman’s Chinese and the Egyptian Theatre. I also live in New York City, where respected institutions like the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Modern

Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp Special Collector's Edition DVD Review: The Monkey Who Came in from the Cold

Presenting all 17 episodes of simian silliness.
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Airing on ABC, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp was a Saturday morning kids’ show that spoofed spy movies in much the same way as the TV series Get Smart; however, as the title implies, all the characters were played by chimps, which added to the humor, if monkeys are your thing. Link worked for the Agency to Prevent Evil, known as APE, and would be called upon to fight evildoers like the Baron and Dr. Strangemind and less politically correct characters like the Dragon Woman, Ali Assa Seen, and Wang Fu. Each half-hour episode contained two stories of Link on assignment.

Thin Ice (2011) [aka The Convincer] Blu-ray Review: Greg Kinnear and Alan Arkin Reunite

"Don't be surprised when a crack in the ice appears under your feet."
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As someone who occasionally forms ideas and words together with the hopes of someday turning them into an actual bona fide story, the nightmare of having another person completely rewrite your work for the sake of making a moving picture more acceptable to "mainstream" (read: obtuse) moviegoing audiences is a completely realistic one to me. But even completing your opus the way you envisioned it isn't always enough to make it through the cold dark tunnel of studio executivedom: sometimes, somebody is told re-edit your entire movie, re-title it, re-score it, and release it with a trailer that makes it

Jimi Plays Berkeley DVD Review: Flawed but Fascinating

A near-riot ensues outside while Hendrix blazes onstage.
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The newly re-mastered film Jimi Plays Berkeley (1971) is an incredible document of its time. Back in the late '70s, during the “golden age” of the midnight-movie phenomenon, I saw it. Whether it was because of the late showing, or whatever else, I did not remember it as being such a political movie. Rather than being a simple document of Jimi Hendrix playing a smoldering show, Jimi Plays Berkeley captures the entire controversy surrounding the concert. While on one hand, I feel that the film is flawed by all of the extraneous footage, on the other, the tumultuous cultural atmosphere

The Samurai Trilogy Criterion Collection DVD Review: Mifune in His Physical Prime

Director Hiroshi Inagaki and acting legend Toshiro Mifune combine to tell the epic story of folk hero Musashi Miyamoto.
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Japanese screen legend Toshiro Mifune is most closely associated with the directorial efforts of fellow legend Akira Kurosawa, and yet he actually made more total films with lesser-known director Hiroshi Inagaki. The Samurai Trilogy represents three of the Mifune/Inagaki collaborations: Musashi Miyamoto, Duel at Ichijoji Temple, and Duel at Ganryu Island. Although the films were released separately over three years in the 1950s, they are each part of one continuing story about the life of the 17th-century swordsman Miyamoto, so in effect the trilogy is one epic five-hour movie. While the trilogy doesn’t get much attention in the U.S. today,

Doctor Who: Death to The Daleks DVD Review: A Very Suspenseful Story

A temporary truce between the Doctor and the Daleks fuels this serial.
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"Exterminate! Exterminate!" Don't you just love it when the Daleks show up on a Doctor Who series? The newly released Death to the Daleks (Story #72) is a four-part serial which originally aired February 23 - March 16, 1974. The Doctor during this time was Jon Pertwee, an older man who portrayed the third incarnation of the character. The Doctor's companion this time around is young Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen), who has the most annoying presence of any of the Doctor's "girls" I have encountered thus far. Mostly it is her piercing scream that got to me, and in

American Reunion Blu-ray Review: Reunited and It Feels So Good

The American Pie gang reconvene to celebrate their 13th high school reunion.
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The kids from American Pie are all physically adults now, but the guys are still as juvenile as ever. On the odd occasion of their 13th high school reunion, the whole crew reconvenes in their home town to prove…well, something, even if they don’t exactly know what it is. Maybe cultural relevance? Regardless, whatever excuse is foisted on the public to justify their reunion is soon a secondary issue as they get down to reconnecting with their friends and embarking on new exploits. It’s great fun to see the entire original cast together again, although perplexing that the female half

Doc Martin Series 5 DVD Review: Baby Makes Three, Doesn't Spoil the Chemistry

The good doctor and the rest of his neighbors in Portwenn continue to produce a charming show.
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This show may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but its offbeat cast of characters continue to delight those willing to seek it out. Each episode finds the titular doctor (Martin Clunes) assisting a patient or two of the week, usually discovering the cause of their illness or heroically saving their lives by the end of the show. Outside that simple premise, the show explores the ongoing relationships of the fascinating locals, with special emphasis placed on the seemingly ill-suited romance between the grumpy doctor and the lovely and charming head schoolteacher, Louisa Glasson (Caroline Catz). The series is also

Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones: Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 is the Pick of the Week

The great bluesman and the popular rock 'n' rollers played one memorable night together.
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Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones were steeped in the early Chicago blues style (in fact their name comes from the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone"). The Stones' massive popularity internationally helped gain their blues style an audience outside of America. In 1981 amidst their gigantic American tour the Rolling Stones arrived in Chicago for a three-night stint playing at the Rosemont Horizon. While in the city they stopped off at Muddy Water's Checkerboard Lounge to watch the legend in action. It didn't take long for Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Ian Stewart to wind up on stage
Love him or hate him, Arnold Schwarzenegger was arguably the action-hero of the '80s. His roles in films such as Conan the Barbarian (1982), The Running Man (1987), Predator (1987), and Red Heat (1988) made him a superstar. These were some of the best popcorn movies of the decade. Of course there was also crap like Twins (1988) with Danny DeVito that was foisted upon us, but you gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. There is a new series of books out now from the Limelight Editions imprint of the Hal Leonard publishing house titled If You

TR!CK2TER: Bringing Options to San Diego During Comic-Con

An interview with Anita Coulter about TR!CKSTER and the art of setting up shop.
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With Comic-Con only days away from its takeover of the wonderfully accommodating city of San Diego, fans of all makes and models are talking, tweeting, and posting their excitement for the event. With the con having grown to proportions over the past several years that no one could have predicted, this now-cyclical round of excitement is also followed by the now-cyclical observations wondering what place (if any) the comics of the convention's namesake hold at the spectacle. There's no question that attendance is in overdrive more and more, every year. People stood in line last year during the wee hours

Favorite Science Fiction Films [Snob Seven]

Explorations of other worlds and our own.
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With the San Diego Comic-Con about to commence, it seems a good time as any for the Sentries to focus on science fiction. At this moment in time, these are our favorites. Forbidden Planet (1956) selected by Brandie Ashe In the distant future, the crew of the United Planets Cruiser C57D has traveled to the faraway planet of Altair IV to search for survivors of an earlier mission that had arrived on--and seemingly disappeared from--the planet twenty years before. Though the crew receives a radio message from the sole remaining survivor of the original mission, Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon),

Duran Duran: A Diamond in the Mind Blu-ray Review: A Virtually Flawless Live Performance

An influential veteran act shows how to make an audience swoon.
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As the instrumental “Return to Now” plays over the black-and-white opening sequence to Duran Duran’s first live release in nearly ten years, it’s already obvious that the show to follow will be a high-gloss, high-caliber affair. The band are shown perfecting the look of their shimmering attire and priming their instruments. Bassist John Taylor earnestly assesses his hair as keyboardist Nick Rhodes gracefully makes his way down a corridor while being photographed with an iPad. It’s a prologue that clearly establishes Duran Duran are seasoned, self-assured, and still looking the part of iconic figureheads of popular music. When the performance,

LAFF 2012: A Band Called Death Rises from Obscurity

An overlooked proto-punk band from the 1970s is rediscovered.
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While attending the Joey Ramone Birthday Bash in 2009, I noticed the headlining band was called Death. That doesn’t make any sense, I thought. The only band I know called Death is a death-metal band and that band is no more. What’s going on here? I soon found out when the proto-punk band Death performed for one of the first times since 1977. By the end of the first song, the crowd was cheering its approval. Later as the singer of opening band Rough Francis joined them for a song, it was revealed he was the son of Death’s singer/bass

This Is Civilization DVD Review: Examining the Controversial Role of Art in Civilization

a powerful study of mankind’s development through the centuries.
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“Whenever I hear the word 'culture', I reach for my pistol,” is a line attributed to the infamous Nazi Luftwaffe Commander Hermann Goering. Whether or not he actually said it is irrelevant though, as the phrase neatly sums up the relationship between artists and of those in power. The battles between artists and their patrons is as old as civilization itself. It makes for a powerful study of mankind’s development through the centuries and is the topic of the new, double-DVD set This Is Civilization from Athena. Each of the four episodes in the series are hosted by Matthew Collings

Outlaw Trail DVD Review: The Trails Blazers Save the Day (Again)

Another enjoyably bad brain-dead b-western from Monogram Pictures.
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From the very first time the moving picture industry first started showing double features at the bijou every Saturday to an entire generation of bored children, the b-western became a hot commodity with no-budget filmmakers. The poorly-dressed suits at Monogram Studios — one of the most (in)famous Poverty Row film companies ever to grace the silver screen — were certainly no exception to cranking out run-of-the-mill cowboy movies for the masses, creating short-lived franchise heroes (often with has-been silent stars) after another in order to give the same recycled stories Monogram's writers used time and time again some unlikely inkling

Cinema Summary: My Summer Movies of 2012, Part 1

The "S" in "Summer Blockbuster" stands for "suckfest" this year.
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The season opened solidly on May 4th with the debut of the much anticipated Avengers. Directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers is all that it should be. Perhaps not all that it could be, but it gives the audience exactly what it wants and leaves it wanting more. Whedon excels visually as he knows how to milk the most from a scene simply by showing our heroes together. In a story that is simple enough for the youngest of fans to get, yet contains enough depth to keep most adults interested, Thor's brother Loki brings an army of aliens to

Women in Danger: 1950s Thrillers DVD Review: Highly Recommended

If you love classic noir, this is a must-have.
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When soldiers pass their prime, they look forward to assistance from the VA. When a judge retires, he or she starts to count on their local bartender for support. But when it came time for an actress like Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Esther Williams, or Merle Oberon to be cast astray from the studios that made them famous, they had but one place to go: Universal-International. During the '50s, the recently renamed company began to pick up former A-List starlets for a reasonable "Well, at least I'm still working" rates, catering to them with specially-written screenplays based on their own

Zombieland Movie Review: Remember the Rules and You'll Be Fine

Comedy and horror don't always mix, but when you get the alchemy right it's really gory good fun.
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Zombieland (2009) directed by Ruben Fleischer stars Jesse Eisenberg (Columbus), Woody Harrelson (Tallahassee), Emma Stone (Wichita), Abagail Breslin (Little Rock), and Amber Heard (406). To survive the Zombie Apocalypse you have to stick to the rules. That's what lead character Columbus tells us during the opening credits. Some of the rules are “beware of bathrooms”, “fasten your seatbelt”, and “don't be a hero”, and of course make sure to remember the “double tap”. He also explains that he's a coward with IBS and therefore an unlikely survivor. Or, maybe that's why it makes the best kind of sense that he

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Series 2, Season 2 DVD Review: No, Joe!

This cartoon broke my heart
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In 1989, three years after the Sunbow-produced G.I. Joe animated series had run its course, DIC Entertainment procured the contract from Hasbro to create new episodes of the series. Lasting a scant two seasons, this incarnation of G.I. Joe picked up where the old series left off, introducing new characters, new vehicles, and astonishing new ways to suck. Now maybe you’re the type of reader who just scans the first paragraph or two and skips the rest of the review. In that case, I’ll be completely up front with you here, folks: this cartoon is terrible and more painful to

The Pirate Movie is the Pick of the Week

In an incredibly lackluster week, nostalgia wins.
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I was recently reading an article about how It's a Wonderful Life would never have been a much beloved classic had it not been for a clerical error. It seems someone forgot to renew its copyright which allowed television stations to broadcast it for free (whcih is what they did being the cheap bastards that they are) and it was the countless repeat viewings every Christmas that made it a classic. That got me thinking about other films that are now considered to be classics, or that are at least brimmed with nostalgia simply because they got a lot of

In Their Own Words DVD Review: A Great Treat for History Buffs

The best and brightest minds of the 20th Century from the BBC Archives.
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Athena's In Their Own Words two-DVD set collects a pair of BBC Four television series of the same. The production teams thoroughly combed the BBC Archives to present interviews with the best and brightest minds of the 20th Century. Each episode runs under an hour and puts the spotlight on at least 10 people, allowing for brief introductions to them and their works with commentary from modern-day pundits. Disc One features the three-part series, British Novelists, which first aired in August 2010. Through the episodes, the viewer learns "the story of the 20th Century British novel as told by the
Cook with the Hook: Live in 1974, a restored film version of a John Lee Hooker concert in Gardner, Massachusetts, is one of the latest MVD Visual DVD titles. Best known for releasing quirky films and lesser-known titles by popular artists and directors, MVD has released over 2,000 titles since 1999. Cook with the Hook, a 45-minute black and white concert film, was recorded at a music festival, held in a landfill area in Gardner, Massachusetts. Thus, the concert series was named “Down in the Dumps.” It’s a weird setting for a concert, but the crowd of 6,000 didn’t seem

Comic Con 2012: Selected Highlights from Sunday's Schedule

All good things come to an end.
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The full day's schedule for Sunday can be found at their website. Sunday is usually a light day. Many people heading home and the programming ends at 5:00. Below are selected highlights of panels and the reasons why you just may find me in them: 10:00-11:00 The Annual Jack Kirby Tribute Panel-- There might not be comic book industry were it not for Jack Kirby...and if you don't know who that is, you really don't belong at this convention. Each year, his friends and co-workers gather to talk about Jack and his work and to marvel (no pun intended) at

The Lord of the Rings Motion Picture Trilogy (Theatrical Edition) Blu-ray Review

A wonderful, intelligent adventure but the limited extras and Fellowship's video is disappointing.
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The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole is a rare work of art, reaching such great heights of creativity that I might not see it matched in my lifetime. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings does for movies what J. R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings does for books. It creates a wonderful, intelligent adventure that’s about bravery and goodness and doing the right thing. However, the visual quality of these Blu-rays isn't as good as the format allows. Also, a letdown are the extras, meager compared to previous LOTR releases, and placed on regular DVDs.

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