September 2012 Archives

Produced By George Martin Blu-ray Review: An Inside Look At The Producing Legend

A look at the life of one of music's most beloved producers.
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Produced by George Martin. Those four words rightly conjure up images of The Beatles, as Martin was considered by many to be their fifth member, bringing to life the wild ideas they had in their endlessly creative minds. It’s also the name of a new documentary, originally shown on BBC television and now available on Blu-ray, that shows Martin was far more than just The Fab Four. Martin, who originally fancied himself as “Rachmaninoff the Second,” wanted to be a classical composer but World War II got in the way. Martin joined the Royal Air Arm, where he served as

Lola Versus Blu-ray Review: Films About Breaking Up Are Hard to Do

It tries to be an edgy breakup comedy but doesn't quite succeed.
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Lola Versus is a breakup comedy disguised as something edgy and different that doens’t quite cut it. Co-written by director Daryl Wein and the actress that plays Alice (Zoe Lister Jones), this quaint film tries to capture the relationship with oneself. Perhaps it is as simple as two takes on a relationship that make that film feel at odds with itself. Lola Versus tries to be a film with a fresh take on the subject but often fails as it fights against the cliches that work for it so well. Before the title credits begin, Lola Versus starts with the

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel DVD Review: Well Worth a Visit

There are many wonderful aspects that make the film so successful.
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I admit that I loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel before I watched it. The preview brought me to tears and the cast had me in awe. I am happy to state that it lived up to my expectations; it made me laugh, cry, and at the end left me feeling joyful and hopeful. It is the type of film that makes you feel good and better off having watched it if you pay attention to the underlying lessons. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of retirees who, for varying reasons, decide to pack up their lives and

The Babymakers Blu-ray Review: Finally, A Lifetime Movie Made for Men

Broken Lizard antics mixed with what would otherwise be another typical chick flick? I’m in.
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The guys behind the comedy team Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter) have a knack for irreverent humor. Those who dig it, dig it hard. Many of their movies are very BL-centric (Super Troopers, Beerfest, Club Dread) while others see them joining in as ride-alongs on someone else’s adventure. Such was the case with the recent Dukes of Hazzard remake, and such is the case with The Babymakers. Tommy and Audrey Macklin (Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn, respectively) have been together for a couple of years now, and decide it’s time to start a

Surviving Progress DVD Review: How to Temper a Double-Edged Sword

Human progress has given us some fantastic tools and technology, but that same development threatens our continued existence on this planet.
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Surviving Progress takes a look at the advancements human beings have made over the last few thousand years, what our current situation of balancing progress and resource consumption against what Earth can reasonably support, and the steps needed to correct our path to attain a sustainable future. The good news is that all is not lost, but some things need to change. We as a species need to become more cognizant of our impact on the world we live in -- on both a small and large scale -- and what each one of us can do to rise to

Fringe The Complete Fourth Season: A New Timeline Brings Both Enjoyment and Disappointment

Just think, there's an alternative universe where the writers did a better job.
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I watched the first four seasons of Fringe on Blu-ray over the course of a few months, so I powered through them as fast as I was able, as opposed to having to wait for when the FOX network made them available. I was intrigued by the characters and mythology in the first season, grew frustrated when the mythology wasn't dealt with in the second, and was very impressed by the scope and choices made in the third. As enjoyable as it was to reunite with the characters (except for the ever-boring Astrid played by the equally boring Jasika Nicole)

Elysium, Tales of the Night, Oz the Great and Powerful [Movie Recon]

Images, trailers, and more from three upcoming films.
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Elysium The Plot: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy lives on a man-made space station while the rest of population reside on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. The Filmmakers: Directed and written by Neil Blomkamp, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and William Fichtner. The Status: Locked on Target. While I thought District 9 was not nearly as good as most everyone else did, I still found it to be an intelligent piece of science fiction by and very capable filmmaker. Elysium appears to be

The Living Daylights Movie Review: It's Not Easy Being the New Guy, Especially When You're the New Guy's Substitute

Just like Frankie, Elvis, and Sid, Timothy Dalton did it his way.
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As anyone who ever found themselves making that awkward transition from one school to another during their years spent in educational institutions can attest to, it's not at all easy to be the new guy. The pressure gets turned up to an unbearable temperature as people around you begin to unjustly judge you right off the bat - just because you don't conform with their expectations of how a total stranger should look. What, then, might occur when you're not even the guy that was meant to be there? Supposing you're the new guy's surrogate - only there because

The Halloween Tree DVD Review: This Tree Bears Spirited, Nostalgic Fruit

The Halloween Tree really seems to capture the spirit of the holiday in an almost magical way.
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If, like me, you grew up in the '80s and '90s, you no doubt recall the myriad of Halloween TV specials that aired the week of the holiday every year. Since you could only see them once a year, they held a special significance to kids and sounded out like celebratory bells ringing in an exciting time of year. And there were certainly no shortage of them. Every year, it seemed as though every animation company would release another, taking one more shot at creating the next It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a perennial classic that would become a

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender Blu-ray Review: Queen's Frontman Gets the Royal Treatment

A respectable look at a man and his talent.
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One of the most unique voices in rock music and arguably the greatest front man to grace the stage, Freddie Mercury has been hailed as a showman beyond compare and a decadent party animal, but beneath the glitz and glamour was a very guarded and enigmatic man. Unearthing previously unseen footage and vintage interviews, a new documentary from Eagle Rock Entertainment, appropriately titled Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, gives fans an opportunity to peer beneath the flamboyant stage presence and charismatic public persona of a rock legend and see the very private man who dwelt inside. It’s inevitable that any

Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray Review: A Visual Spectacle, But Not Quite a Classic Reborn

Convincing effects can’t cover up a thin story with some judicious liberties taken, but it’s still a fun ride.
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It’s been many years since I saw the Disney incarnation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so the first thing I did after viewing Snow White and the Huntsman was to dust off that classic and freshen up on what has changed in the last 75 years. It seems this retelling borrows some elements from both the 1937 classic and the original Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. Let’s get a few basics out of the way. First, Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart) stepmother queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. Along the way, there are

The Delta Force Blu-ray Review: Chuck Norris Negotiates Peace in the Middle East

Fun and unintentionally funny.
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As the Cannon logo appears with Alan Silvestri's synthesizer score playing underneath, it signals viewers are about to watch an '80s B-movie. In this instance, the year is 1986, and the movie is The Delta Force, starring Chuck Norris as a Special Forces soldier Major Scott McCoy battling Middle Eastern terrorists. The prologue is a re-enactment of Operation Eagle Claw, the failed attempt to rescue American hostages held in Tehran, Iran. The pre-dawn mission is aborted when a helicopter crashes. Disobeying orders, McCoy (Norris) is the only one willing to attempt a rescue of his buddy Pete (William Wallace), who

Doctor Who: Planet of Giants DVD Review: Reconstructing the Doctor

Another brilliant entry in the ongoing mission to release the early episodes.
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The legendary BBC program Doctor Who holds the world's record for the most episodes of any series. The count is 788, plus various specials and one-offs. It is an incredible number any way you look at it, but for fans the earliest shows are the most sought after. This is because many are lost, due to money-saving efforts such as "wiping" old tapes, poor storage, and other mistakes made by the company. The three-part Planet of Giants serial was the second season opener of the series, and originally aired from October 31 to November 14, 1964. It is the earliest

Modern Family: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review: More of the Same and That's a Good Thing

A pleasant family sitcom that combines laughs and heart in its stories.
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The third season of Modern Family presents the continuing adventures of the extended Pritchett family. It also continued the series' success with Emmy voters as it won its third consecutive Outstanding Comedy Series and third Outstanding Supporting Actor (Eric Stonestreet reclaiming the award from last year's winner/fellow castmate Ty Burrell), and its second consecutive Outstanding Supporting Actress (Julie Bowen repeating) and second consecutive Outstanding Directing. Though I didn't find this to be the most outstanding comedy of last year, Modern Family is certainly a pleasant family sitcom whose great appeal is the way it combines laughs and heart in its

Two and a Half Men: The Complete Ninth Season: How to Carry On After Your Star Gets Fired

Ashton Kutcher is given the unenviable task of stepping in to fill Charlie Sheen's cocaine-stained shoes — and he immediately starts winning.
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The loss of a lead performer in a film or television franchise can be a truly devastating ordeal — whether the missing star's absence is attributable to an unfortunate real-life passing (see: Taggart), or someone simply went wacko and got shit-canned by producers (see: Valerie). In the moving picture industry, this can be rectified by a simple bit of recasting. In TV Land, however, there are these strange, ardent, geek-like individuals — people we often refer to as "fans" — who become so rapt by their favorite show that the mere thought of hiring a new player is usually met

Sky Commanders: The Complete Animated Series DVD Review: Easy to See Why It Didn't Work

Which came first: The toyline or the cartoon?
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The KISS principle states that most systems work best whenthey are kept simple and straightforward rather than overly complex. Perhaps this theory has never proven more true than during the 1980s animated toy line boom. Robots that turn into cars and jets, specialized branches of the armed forces fighting a faceless terrorist organization and a barbarian battling an evil wizard with a skeleton face in a world filled with science and sorcery were simple and easy formulas for success. But if a team of scientists utilizing zip-lines in their quest to obtain an unstable new element that can only be

Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection is the Pick of the Week

The super spy gets a super box.
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I've always had something of an odd relationship with James Bond. My parents were never huge fans of the franchise so I didn't necessarily grow up watching him. I think I discovered the films during my pubescence at say 12 or 13 years of age but at that pont I mostly watched for the girls. I can remember staring longingly at the opening sequences with their naked silhouettes and strategically placed lettering, but then the actual films tended to bore me. Well at least until some Bond girl showed up in a bikini and then I was all eyes again.

Total Recall (2012) Movie Review: Get Your Ass To, Well, Britain, I Guess

Despite some inconsistencies with the previous movie and original short story, this holds up admirably as a fun action romp.
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There are a few iconic things that come to mind when someone mentions Total Recall (1990) -- Mars, over-the-top effects, explosions, false-memory implantation, and the mutant prostitute with three boobs. One of these is noticeably absent from the 2012 reboot of the movie of the same name based on Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Can you guess which one? You might be surprised, and then surprised again to learn that it was never really featured in the original short story, either. For those who are just joining us, Total Recall is the story

Diplomatic Courier DVD Review: A Sturdy, if Unremarkable Cold War Thriller

Henry Hathaway's post-WWII suspense film isn't particularly memorable, but it generally gets the job done.
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It’s not particularly stylish and there’s little subtext to Henry Hathaway’s 1952 Cold War espionage drama Diplomatic Courier, but it gets the job done as a sturdy, engaging tale of crisscrossed loyalties and post-WWII mistrust. Nearly everything about the film is on the nose — characters frequently spell out their motivations with explicit detail and the various twists and turns are both telegraphed ahead of time and explicated in follow-up scenes to ensure the audience’s complete understanding. Nonetheless, Diplomatic Courier is solid B-entertainment with a capable cast, and the Fox Cinema Archives burn-on-demand disc gives it a respectable Region 1

Pac-Man The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Worse Than You Imagine

There are not enough power pellets in the world to make this show watchable.
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Remember all those years ago, when it seemed like the whole world was in love with a roly-poly, compulsive eater caught in the throes of a prescription drug addiction? Haunted by ghostly manifestations of his paranoia, this poor soul was trapped like a rat in a cage as he attempted to maneuver the metaphorical maze of life. The existentialist nightmare of Pac-Man was popular enough to spawn several sequel games and even an animated series, which lasted two miserable seasons. Now, thanks to Warner Archives’ Manufacture-on-Demand program, both seasons of the atrocity known as Pac-Man: The Animated Series are available

Absolutely Fabulous 20th Anniversary Specials: Still Not Acting Their Age, Thankfully

Edina, Patsy, and the gang return for three specials.
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Absolutely Fabulous debuted in Britain in 1992 and went onto become an international television sensation. Creator Jennifer Saunders pushed the boundaries for female characters with Edina (Saunders) and Patsy (Joanna Lumley), who are bizarro versions of Lucy and Ethel. Throughout their adventures, the two women attempt to stave off the inevitable by trying to stay hip, which finds them chasing fads, swilling booze, and ingesting drugs. Their behavior has been of particular consternation to Edina's daughter Saffron (Julia Sawalha), who has had to act as the grown-up. The duo were last seen in a 2005 Comic Relief sketch and returned,

Weekend (2011) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Moving, Deceptively Complex Film

I didn't think much of Andrew Haigh's film when I first saw it, but I'm glad I gave it a second look.
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The Film When I first saw Andrew Haigh’s Weekend last year during a blitz of awards-season catch-up, I appreciated its charms but mostly dismissed it as a minor, fleeting work. It was accomplished, well-acted and beautifully photographed, but not what I’d call especially meaningful. I’m glad I got a chance to revisit, courtesy of the Criterion Collection’s very nice Blu-ray, because Weekend is hardly insubstantial fare at all, though its ostensible goals may be modest and its timeframe short. Anchoring the film are two exceptional performances from two relative unknowns, Tom Cullen and Chris New, who star as a pair

Holy Flying Circus DVD Review: A Pythonesque Look at the Controversy Surrounding Life of Brian

For Monty Python fans, it is a must.
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Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted on the BBC way back in 1969. To call it “ground-breaking” is an understatement. The absurdist humor, strange bits of animation, ridiculous situations, and straight-faced delivery all added up to some of the most influential comedy ever. What is amazing to me is that even 40-some years later, the Python show still feels fresh and new. There has never been, and probably never will be anything quite like them. While doing promotion for their film Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974), which satirized the legend of King Arthur, an annoyed Eric Idle responded to

Wallander Series 3 DVD Review: No Loki, Still Heavenly

Kenneth Branagh returns for his third tour of duty as Sweden’s most famous inspector
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In between filming Wallander series 2 and 3, star Kenneth Branagh directed a little art house film called Thor. In the process, he gave a turbo boost to the career of his Wallander co-star Tom Hiddleston, directing him as the baddie Loki. Hiddleston’s impact was muted in the first two series of Wallander due to his relatively minor and cookie-cutter junior detective role, so with the greener pastures of the big screen calling it’s no surprise or great loss to find him missing from the police roster this time around. That gap in the department allows some fresh blood to

A View to a Kill Movie Review: I Want My MTV

A review to Moore's last outing.
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Okay. Confession time. I specifically chose to review A View to a Kill (1985), the fourteenth entry in the James Bond film franchise and seventh (and final) film starring Roger Moore as 007, because Duran Duran performed the title song. There. I said it out loud. If there is something I have a weakness for as much as movies, it's the 1980s - the decade of my youth. I am the MTV Generation. I watched the network launch on Day One. I tuned in daily to see VJs like Nina and JJ and Alan (not train wrecks like Snooki

Children of Paradise Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Cinematic Paradise

Exceptional new restoration of classic French film enhances an already monumental work.
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At first glance, this film might seem like a poor candidate for greatness, or even relevance in our era. It’s over three hours long, French, in black and white, and occasionally features pantomime performances due to its early 19th century theater setting. Sounds pretty bad so far, right? Instead, Children of Paradise is an enthralling, transcendent, and absolutely essential masterpiece. Thanks to its exceptional and meticulous new restoration, it’s even better than ever now and fully worthy of a permanent place in your Blu-ray collection. The film is set in a Parisian theater district teeming with crowds for its offerings,

Sampling The Carol Burnett Show: The Ultimate Collection: Curious Selections

What is rare is not funny and what is funny is not rare.
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There is no question that The Carol Burnett Show is iconic and arguably one of the best variety shows in the history of television. With Time Life unveiling The Ultimate Collection featuring 50 episodes, which were apparently hand-picked by Burnett herself, on 22 DVDs packed with bonus material, now would seem to be a good time to look back, and Time Life was kind enough to provide the first disc in the set for review to facilitate said trip down memory lane. The disc contains three episodes with rare and funny moments from this wonderful series. The problem is that

Lonesome (1928) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Sometimes, Happiness is Just a Neighbor Away

Criterion brings us the lost fairy-tale romance from Paul Fejos, along with two other Fejos curiosities.
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There's nothing like a little alone time to give you some perspective on your situation in life — especially when you're lonely. During his extremely brief career in Hollywood, Hungarian-born filmmaker Paul Fejos directed this early artistic curio contribution to the world of celluloid about a lonely factory worker in New York named Jim (Glenn Tyron), who — bored with the day-to-day drill of his professional life — goes to the mystical Isle of Coney, wherein he meets an equally forlorn female by the handle o' Mary (Barbara Kent), who works as a telephone operator (because there were few other

Zombie A-Hole DVD Review: A Worthwhile Throwback to Less-Than-Serious Horror Movies of Yore

Boobs and blood, exploitation and gratuity...what more could you want?
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Having recently reviewed Richard Griffin’s The Disco Exorcist, I initially mistook Dustin Mills’ Zombie A-Hole as having been a creation of the same team. They’re both firmly in the vein of low-budget (try $1000) ridiculous cheesy horror comedy, use the same dirty filter to make the film appear much older than it really is, feature over-the-top death sequences and characters, and the most gratuitous nudity you’re likely to find this side of proper pornography. Despite these similarities, where Disco Exorcist never took itself seriously with laugh-out-loud moments at every turn, Zombie A-Hole sets a somewhat more grim backdrop for the

Oslo, August 31 DVD Review: A Brilliant, Thoughtful Piece of Art

The talons of old lives dig deep.
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When one feels that life is passing him or her by, it can be unbearable to see those who “have it all together” parading callously through their respective existences. The happy morons, so to speak, excruciate in their excellence and the talons of old lives and fuck-ups dig deep. This sits at the core of Joachim Trier’s dazzling Oslo, August 31st. The Norwegian film is a staggering but subtle affair, brimming with real characters and a sense of perceptive patience that few modern films manage. Trier cites the influences of Robert Bresson and Alain Resnais, with their elegance and life-infused
The year 1983 was strange, but interesting for James Bond fans. It saw the release of Octopussy, starring the then current EON Productions' James Bond, Roger Moore, but it also saw the release of Never Say Never Again, starring original Bond Sean Connery. The film is a loose remake of 1965's Thunderball, which producer Kevin McClory and screenwriter Jack Whittingham had successfully sued Ian Fleming over after he did not credit them for their contributions to the Thunderball novel. The title of the film came from Connery's wife, Micheline, after Connery vowed he'd never play the role again. While

The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show DVD Review: A Fun Romp from My Childhood

Warner Archive unleashes these mischievous animals from 1980.
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The Heathcliff and Dingbat Show came from the brilliant cartoon minds of Hanna-Barbera in 1980. This complete collection released by Warner Archive is 13 episodes long and broken into two discs. Each episode of the show is broken down into the four shorts that make up the full half-hour. Within each episode there are two Heathcliff and two Dingbat and the Creeps cartoons. Heathcliff is a fast-talking alley cat, who is always getting into mischief and running from the authorities or battling his nemesis, a bulldog named Spike. Heathcliff also has a lovely girlfriend named Sonja who keeps him occupied

Born to be Bad from Warner Archive: A Cinematic Mystery Solved

Six decades later, Warner Archive restores the original ending to what could have been a great film.
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Part soapy potboiler, part society noir, Nicholas Ray’s Born to be Bad is, in the bowdlerized version released by RKO in 1950, a flawed film. But now, thanks to a new DVD release from the Warner Archive Collection with a previously lost alternate ending, we can see what might have been. Prim and proper Christabel Caine (Joan Fontaine) comes to San Francisco to live with her uncle’s secretary Donna (Joan Leslie), who is engaged to mustachioed millionaire Curtis Carey (Zachary Scott). Chris “mistakenly” arrives at Donna’s house a day earlier than expected, and meets Donna’s sharp-tongued friend Gabriel “Gobby” Broome

Criterion Collection Eclipse #35 DVD Review: Maidstone and Other Films by Norman Mailer

Be grateful that his career as a filmmaker was short-lived.
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The fine film lovers at the Criterion Collection recently released a two-disk set containing the first three films made by American writer Norman Mailer. Wild 90 (1967), Beyond the Law (1968), and Maidstone (1970) comprise this collection released under Criterion’s budget-conscious Eclipse banner. Norman Mailer's reputation as a novelist was already secured by the time the cultural and political turbulence of the ‘60s rolled around, and he had been writing counter-cultural essays since the 1950s. An astute participant/observer of the era, he chronicled the times in a series of non-fiction books, one of which (The Armies of the Night) won

Behind the Scenes: Universal Studios Halloween Horror Nights Press Day

Scars, curses, zombies and ghosts - meet them in person and be afraid.
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Have you ever been scared by a movie? Did the hair stand up on the back of your head? Did you jump? If so, that might have been Robyn’s fault. (That’s her in the picture applying a nasty looking scar to my forehead.) Robyn Rebbe was one of a dozen motion picture makeup artists who showed up to demonstrate their talents at the press-kickoff for Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights. Halloween Horror Nights pushes the envelope of scary by infiltrating the Universal Studios Hollywood theme park with 120 creatures of the night. If you thought zombies were creepy on-screen, just

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is the Pick of the Week

All four films are in one big Blu-ray package, loaded with extras.
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Through four films and a television series, Indiana Jones has become one of the great heroic icons of all time. In 1980, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wanted to create an episodic adventure story that harkened back to the seriels of the 1930s. With Raiders of the Lost Ark, they not only bested their source material but made one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. It was followed relatively quickly with two sequels (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom & Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) neither of which lived up to the original, but both

Frankenstein (2004) DVD Review: A Little Too Anemic to be Gothic

“I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames…” or not, as the case might be.
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The television miniseries Frankenstein (2004) is based on Mary Shelley's novel, is directed by Kevin Connor, and stars Alec Newman (Victor Frankenstein), Luke Goss (The Monster), Julie Delphy (Caroline), Nicole Lewis (Elisabeth), Donald Sutherland (Captian Walton), William Hurt (Professor Waldman), and Mark Jax (Victor's father). This is a two-part miniseries, 204 minutes in total, that tries to take on one of those stories that live in the cultural subconscious in ways that mostly have nothing to do with Mary Shelley's original epistolary novel. As such it does a much better job that Branagh or Boris Karloff. But verisimilitude is nor

Contest: Pac-Man: The Complete Second Season on DVD

Gobble up your chance to win this prize.
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Cinema Sentries and Warner Archive have teamed up to give one lucky the reader the opportunity to win Pac-Man: The Complete Second Season on DVD. Namco's Pac-Man debuted in Japan on May 22, 1980 and became one of the most successful video games of all time.  Pac-Man had a simple premise: eat all the pellets in a maze, while avoiding four ghosts, to move onto the next level.  Four power pellets turned the ghosts blue and then they could be eaten as well.  The game was so popular it grew into an iconic pop-culture phenomenon. Hanna-Barbera developed a Saturday morning

Understanding Art: Impressionism DVD Review: An Enjoyable Look at an Important Movement

An entertaining, accessible, and occasionally annoying observation of art.
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I didn’t take any art history or art appreciation classes in college. Actually, I didn’t even go to college, but if I had, I imagine I might’ve enjoyed that kind of thing. Luckily, the DVD release of documentaries such as Understanding Art: Impressionism ensures that I’ll never have to regret my lack of education. Completely accessible and incredibly in-depth, this four-part program was a lot more interesting and entertaining than sitting in a classroom taking notes. Even better, this review is the only homework I’ll have to do. These days, the work of Impressionists can be found everywhere. Postcards, t-shirts,

The Game (1997) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Fast-paced Thrill Ride

Emotionally and intellectually engaging while also being visually interesting.
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David Fincher is one of my all-time favorite directors. He instantly captured my attention with Se7en; I had never seen anything like it and was mesmerized by its darkness. The Game solidified what would be a continued devotion to this day to see anything he is involved with. This film is emotionally and intellectually engaging while also being visually interesting. There is an inherent darkness but yet it provides moments of real filmmaking beauty. I am thrilled that it is getting the appreciation it deserves by being given high-definition treatment by the Criterion Collection. Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is

TIFF 2012: Storm Surfers 3D: A Marvelous Adventure

Surfing for these guys isn't just a board and some wax.
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Australians Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones are well-known figures in the world of surfing. Carroll, age 49, had a Hall of Fame career that included two world championships in 1983 and 1984. Clarke-Jones, age 45, was the first non-Hawaiian to win the prestigious Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau in 2001 and remains a highly acclaimed big-wave rider. Together, they teamed up with directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius to create two Storm Surfers TV specials, airing on Discovery Channel Asia and FUEL TV, as they pursue the biggest waves they can find. They have now brought their thrilling adventures

Revenge: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Very Little Here You Can't Find in a Daytime Soap Opera

Once again, ABC has taken a routine movie formula and turned it into an overlong TV series.
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Since the dawn of television itself, there have been countless attempts to turn popular big screen movies into a long-running weekly programs produced exclusively for small screen viewers. More times than not, these transitions have proved disastrous for producers and performers alike, but that hasn't prevented them from continuing to try. Lately, however, TV studios have been attempting to turn entire film genres into series. A recent example was the shockingly god-awful unintentional laughfest The River — a show that should serve as living proof that ABC will, in fact, air anything. The latest instance is another ABC series: the

Terra Nova: The Complete Series DVD Review: A Missed Opportunity

It is unfortunate that circumstances went the way they did, but you never know.
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Terra Nova was a show that I had high hopes for. When it premiered on the FOX network in September 2011, things looked very promising. For one thing, there were some big names attached to it. Terra Nova was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, along with Star Trek alums Rene Echevarria and Brannon Braga. Then there was the high concept. The series begins in the year 2149, and Earth has become practically uninhabitable due to terrible air quality and overpopulation. Scientists have discovered a gateway to the very distant past, to Earth as it existed 85 million years ago. What’s

About Cherry Movie Review: Could Have Been About So Much More

A film I am glad I didn't save my virginity for.
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About Cherry is a film about Angelina (Ashley HinShaw) a pretty girl who likes boys in bands and comes from a broken home. Her mother, Phyllis, (Lili Taylor) is an alcoholic who spends most days lying on the couch drunk while her creepy boyfriend comes and goes as he pleases. Angelina tries to care for her sister JoJo (Maya Donato) when she is not working at the laundrymat or going to school. One night after Andrew (Dev Patel) drops her off to see her boyfriend Bobby's (Jonny Weston) band, Bobby talks to Angelina about taking some pictures. He tells her

Octopussy Movie Review: Can't Live Up To Its Name

Don't tell my mom but Octopussy doesn't live up to my pubescent imagination.
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When I was a kid, my family and I would spend a couple of weeks with my dad's clan in eastern Tennessee. One particular summer TBS was showing a bunch of James Bond films (actually I think this was their habit several summers in a row, but anyways.) On this particular week while we were in Tennesseee they were showing Octopussy on the coming weekend. They ran pretty constant promos for the film which as a pubescent teenage boy this was both titilating and completely awkward. With every promo my brother and I would get excited and pledge to

Vexed Series 1 DVD Review: A Brief Burst of Genre-Bending Hilarity

Buddy cop show seeks laughs instead of clues
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The hilarious opening scene of this offbeat cop show sets the tone for the rest of the series. A man and woman casually wander around a beautifully appointed home admiring and discussing its merits before deciding that the woman should make an offer on it. All well and good, until the camera pulls back to reveal them standing over a bloody corpse. Turns out they’re detectives examining a murder scene, but they don’t let that get in the way of their personal business. As series creator Howard Overman so brilliantly demonstrated with Misfits and again here, he possesses a winning

Cloud Atlas, Wreck-It Ralph, and On the Road [Movie Recon]

Posters, stills and trailers from three new movies.
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Cloud Atlas The Plot: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present, and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. The Filmmakers: Based on a book by David Mitchell, written and directed by the Wachowskis (with directorial assistance by Tom Tykwer.) Starring Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant. The Status: Locked on Target. If you think that plot synopsis is confusing, just watch the trailer. It won't make anything

The Complete Hammer House of Horror DVD Review: A Mixture of the Macabre and Mediocre

An odd mix of satisfying and disappointing.
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To horror film buffs, the name Hammer is synonymous with gothic tales of the macabre. For years, Hammer Film Productions was responsible for some of the high watermark films of the genre. And even when they missed the mark, the studio still managed to turn out a fair number of stylish and entertaining films (I’m looking at you, Dracula A.D. 1972). In 1980, the fine folks at Hammer turned their attention to the small screen and created the Hammer House of Horror, an anthology series which ran for less than four months and produced a scant 13 episodes (quite fitting,

For Your Eyes Only Movie Review: At Least the Title Track is Good

It hasn't held up well over 30 years.
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For Your Eyes Only (1981) marks the twelfth installment in the James Bond franchise, and the fifth to star Roger Moore as 007. After the space-romp that was Moonraker, the series came back to earth...or maybe "fell back to earth" is more like it. The film is certainly grittier and more realistic (relatively speaking) than past Moore-as-Bond films, but in its quest to abandon the gadgetry that helped make Bond famous, it instead relies on gimmickry that rings untrue. The film opens with Bond at the grave of his late wife (see On Her Majesty's Secret Service), setting a

Sacrifice DVD Review: Not Worth Your Time Sacrifice

Veteran director Chen Kaige hampered by bad editing and lackluster acting
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Highly esteemed director Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine) spins an intriguing revenge yarn in his latest film but is undone by lousy editing and largely unimpressive acting. Scary general Tuan Gu is intent on overthrowing the ruling Zhao clan and assuming the throne for himself. To succeed, he stages a coup that results in the death of all Zhao family members except for the newborn son of the king. The court doctor, Cheng Ying, successfully smuggles the newborn out of the carnage and into his own home where his own wife has also recently given birth to a son. When

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season DVD Review: Their Funniest Season Yet

After five seasons, series shows no sign of slowing down
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Although The Big Bang Theory got off to a rough start early on, the ratings have improved dramatically over time. When the show went into syndication last year, the popularity of the repeats surprised everyone. For those of us who discovered this program a little late, the reruns have served to cement the reputation of it being one of the funniest on TV. The Big Bang Theory is a very smart sitcom, with the central focus being the on-and-off relationship between Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki), and his neighbor Penny (Kaley Cuoco). Leonard’s roommate Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), plus friends Howard

Battle Circus DVD Review: Bogart Plays M*A*S*H Doctor

A gritty, realistic portrait of the Korean War that is ultimately weakened by the inclusion of an ineffective romantic subplot.
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The description for 1953’s Battle Circus, now available on made-to-order DVD through the Warner Archive, labels the film as a sort of spiritual predecessor of the popular 1970s/80s television show M*A*S*H (as well as the 1970 theatrical film that inspired it). In many ways, this is an apt comparison—both take place in medical units (Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals) during the Korean War, both inject a healthy dose of levity to offset the darkness of the setting, and neither the film nor the TV show relent from occasionally depicting the horrors associated with battlefield medicine. And it does not end there;

30 Rock: Season Six is the Pick of the Week

It took me awhile to get on board, but I now love 30 Rock
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In 2006, network television released two separate series about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of Saturday Night Live -esque sketch comedies. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was an hour-long drama created by Aaron Sorkin and 30 Rock was a half-hour comedy developed by former SNL alumni Tina Fey. Initially I wasn't interested in either having not watched SNL since the mid-'90s and never being much of a sketch comedy fan. On a whim I caught an episode of Studio 60 about four or five episodes into the series and loved it. At that point I had never seen anything of Aaron

Book Review: An Askew View 2 by John Kenneth Muir: A Journey Into the Askewniverse

Recommended for Kevin Smith fans.
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Director Kevin Smith’s production company is called View Askew, which made the title of John Kenneth Muir‘s filmography An Askew View something of a no-brainer. The book was published in 2002, and has just been updated as An Askew View 2. Muir seeks to answer the burning question of what has been happening in Smith’s “Askewniverse” in the 10 years since the book was first published. Kevin Smith roared out of the gate with Clerks (1994). The story behind it has passed into Hollywood legend, but it is still fun to tell. In the simplest terms, he was a man

Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea Bagging in the UK DVD Review: Adding Sights to the Clerks' Podcast's Sounds

If you enjoy watching a radio show being taped, this is the Smith/Mewes project you've been waiting for.
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What happens when Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith take their podcast on the road to the United Kingdom?  You hear enough about their personal sex lives to keep their wives blushing for a century.  They do touch on a smattering of personal experiences, both ridiculous (Jay versus security when they find him carrying a lock-knife when attempting to board the London Eye) and a bit heartfelt (anecdotes about the last few months of life for one of Kevin’s dogs), but it’s a very different animal from the Q&A sessions the team has become known for (An Evening With Kevin Smith

Martha Reeves Live in Concert DVD Review: Martha's Voice Has Nowhere to Hide

Martha Reeves and her new Vandellas perform their hits at a South Carolina concert, now available on DVD and CD.
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In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at 96 in their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. Thanks to Reeve's powerful voice and material written by Motown's greatest songwriters, the group stands as one of the defining acts of the 1960s. “Dancing in the Street” became an unofficial anthem for '60s activism, while “Nowhere to Run” unintentionally expressed the uncertainty and sense of gloom surrounding the Vietnam War. Pop classics like “(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave” and “Jimmy Mack” remain oldies radio staples. Four decades after the group's breakup, Reeves still tours, this time accompanied

Glee The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review: Lower Your Expectations and Enjoy

While Glee will never be quality television, I found myself enjoying season three more than I had any right to.
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The Show Severely lowered expectations are a major boon to the third season of Glee, a show I’ve long given up on being anything approaching “good.” Revisiting the pilot recently, I was struck by how much potential — satirically, stylistically and to a lesser extent, narratively — the show hinted at in its early days. But now, with the uneven totality of the first season and the truly atrocious second season having demolished those good vibes, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed season three — and not only for trainwreck can’t-look-away reasons either! Let’s be clear: Glee is
The Lieutenant was the first TV series created by legendary Star Trek guru Gene Roddenberry. The show ran for one season, from September 1963 to June 1964. Despite all of his later success, Roddenberry’s first effort has rarely been seen until now. Warner Archive has just released all 29 original episodes of The Lieutenant as a two-part set. It provides a fascinating glimpse at the way Roddenberry initially approached the medium of television. Part Two of the set contains 13 episodes plus a bonus theatrical film spread out over the course of four-DVDs. This set begins with the 17th episode

The O'Jays Live in Concert DVD/CD Review: An Enjoyable Romp Through Their Greatest Hits

This trip down Philadelphia Soul memory lane proves that some artists get even better with time.
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“I love music, any kind of music/ I love music, just as long as it's groovin'/ Makes me laugh, makes me smile,” the O'Jays sing on their 1975 smash “I Love Music.” For 50 years, the Philadelphia International group have produced memorable singles, many of which virtually defined the 1970s. Amazingly, founding members Eddie Levert and Walter Williams still tour, accompanied by Eric Nolan Grant, a member since 1995. Levert's gritty yet passionate voice, along with the trademark O'Jays harmonies, are on full display on the DVD/CD set The O'Jays Live in Concert, an often enjoyable romp through their greatest

Moonraker Movie Review: Even an Established Film Franchise Can Bow to a New Trend

007 goes toe-to-toe with Star Wars, and the result is nothing short of amusing.
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After 33 years, what is honestly left to be said about Moonraker that hasn't already been touched upon? I certainly can't go and say "Well, it's bad!" for fear of repeating what many people have already most definitely established without the aid of a run-of-the-mill film critic such as myself. I cannot even go with what my immediate gut feeling tells me to say -- "Well, it's enjoyably bad!" -- because I know there are many individuals out there that have also figured that one out for themselves. However, in lieu of anything wholly original to say, I'll just

The Lieutenant, Gene Roddenberry's First TV Series, Now on DVD

Before Star Trek, Roddenberry wrote and produced this military drama starring Gary Lockwood.
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The Lieutenant, the first TV series written and produced by Gene Roddenberry, aired on NBC during the 1963-64 TV season. This hour-long military dram, set at Camp Pendleton near San Diego, follows the careers and personal lives of several Marine Corps officers and enlisted men, most notably main character Second Lieutenant William Tiberius Rice (yes, Roddenberry did like that middle name), played by Gary Lockwood. Rice, a charming and idealistic lieutenant, encounters everything from fear of flying in an air maneuver (“To Take Up Serpents”) to defending a fellow officer accused in a hit and run accident (“Fall from a

Injustice DVD Review: The Vigilante Barrister

James Purefoy shines as the morally ambiguous lead character in this British crime procedural miniseries
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Over the course of its five episodes, this miniseries very slowly reveals its true intention. What starts out as a simple murder mystery and ensuing legal trial gives way to an underlying tale of moral ambiguity due to its lead character, barrister Will Travers (James Purefoy). While the series is overlong for what it needs to accomplish, it’s an intriguing spin on the crime procedural formula. Travers lives with his family in the peaceful Suffolk countryside, having abandoned the stress of big-city London life in favor of a slower pace. When he is called upon to defend an old friend

The Spy Who Loved Me Movie Review: One of the Franchise's Best

Nobody does James Bond better than the cast and crew of The Spy Who Loved Me.
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In the prologue to The Spy Who Loved Me, author Ian Fleming claimed it was a manuscript by a Canadian woman named Vivienne Michel, a memoir of her life, which finds her crossing paths with James Bond in the latter third of the book. Because of the book's poor reception with critics and the public, Fleming was not happy with the novel. As a result, he sold the film rights to just the title. Two nuclear subs have disappeared so the British and Russians put their best people on it, James Bond (Roger Moore) and Anya Amasova (Barbara Bach).

The Foxes of Harrow DVD Review: Drags to the Point of Tedium

A potentially compelling story is lost to the whims of the Production Code and the weight of its failed attempts at grandeur.
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When it comes to antebellum costume pictures, the inarguable standard-bearers are Jezebel (1938) and Gone With the Wind (1939), both of which center around strong, independent women bucking the norms of an oppressive Southern society. These films are marked by gorgeous set pieces, brilliant staging, strong performances, and crisp, well-fashioned dialogue, all combined into singularly magnificent film experiences. The 1947 film The Foxes of Harrow (recently released via MOD DVD through Fox Cinema Archives) attempts to emulate this successful formula, albeit with a reversal in gender: this time around, the main character, Stephen Fox (Rex Harrison) is the illegitimate adopted

Dredd, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Trouble With the Curve [Movie Recon]

View posters and trailers for upcoming films.
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Dredd The Plot: In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.The Filmmakers: Directed by Pete Travis and starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey The Status: On the Radar. I've never read the comic but I remember all too well the atrocity that was the Sylvester Stallone version. Comic book movies have changed a lot since then and it looks like they've gone to great lengths to make this one more

H.P. Lovecraft's The Whisperer in Darkness Blu-ray Review: We're Lucky to Have It

Eldritch rituals, gibbous moons, and Great Old Ones finally available in your home theater.
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Everyone enjoys H.P. Lovecraft. That is to say, I think there's something universally appealing about Lovecraft's strange and terrifyingly unique mythos. Something about the truly alien and unnatural images he conjured out of his fevered mind that tickles at some primitive part of our brain in a modern world almost completely explainable through science and study. There's an irresistible draw to something that, as it is told to us, is completely unfathomable to the human mind. Even those who aren't necessarily drawn to his storytelling, which is long-winded and expository, can find some draw in the unworldly qualities of a

Contest: Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season on Blu-Ray

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's going to win this?
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Cinema Sentries and The Walt Disney Company have teamed up to give one lucky the reader the opportunity to win Once Upon a Time: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray. As our own Steve Geise informed us inhis review, Once Upon a Time is set in "a dream world of magic populated by classic fairy tale characters experiencing modern angst." Created by Lost writers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, the story began 28 years ago when the Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla) cursed the entire fairy tale kingdom, dooming "everyone to live in our dreary world with no memory of their

The Harry Potter Wizard's Collection is the Pick of the Week

I can't wait to watch these films with my daughter.
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I'm a child of the '80s therefore I am a Star Wars man. As a kid, I watched the original trilogy a million times, I collected all the toy figures, playing cards, etc., and in my imagination I played out the saga of Luke Skywalker over and over and over again. I was in college when they released the special editions of the original trilogy and I was first in line to see them. Ditto the prequels, nearly wetting myself at their very announcement. As an adult film-lover, I recognize that as a series the films don't really hold up

The Man with the Golden Gun Movie Review: All That's Gold Does Not Glitter

The filmmakers missed a golden opportunity.
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Roger Moore made his second appearance as James Bond in The Man with the Golden Gun, which saw the secret agent return to the Far East and go up against assassin Francisco Scaramanga (Christopher Lee), renown as a marksman. The movie is based on the final Bond novel by Lee's cousin Ian Fleming, who died before he had completed it to his satisfaction. It's got the action, gadgets, and girls that people expect in a Bond movie and makes for a very good time capsule of the early '70s, but all that's gold does not glitter. MI6 receives a
Many have worn the mask of the Green Lantern over the character's long history in the pages of DC Comics. The most notable is Hal Jordan, whose origin was told in Showcase #22 (September-October 1959), so it's not surprising that he is the lead in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, which airs on Cartoon Network. The first half of Season One, 13 episodes now available on a two-disc set, is subtitled "Rise of the Red Lanterns" and features a story arc about the villain Atrocitus and his army of Red Lanterns preparing for war against the Guardians of the Universe.

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