March 2013 Archives

Argo Movie Review: Ben Affleck Has Come a Long Way

Argo takes a really, fairly wild, story and turns it into an occasionally intense, professional film.
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Slowly but surely, Argo built up momentum that led it to winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, defeating expected favorites like Lincoln and 21 Jump Street. All this despite the fact that Ben Affleck wasn’t even nominated for Best Director, making Argo the first movie to win Best Picture without the director getting a nomination since 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy. Some questioned the movie and whether or not it deserved Best Picture, although to be fair that is true of every Best Picture winner to some degree. Regardless, it certainly shows that Affleck has come a long way since

Book Review: Doctor Who: Plague of the Cybermen by Justin Richards

The 11th Doctor battles his recurring Cybermen foes with the assistance of a plucky lass.
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My Doctor is the 10th Doctor. I have watched all the episodes, read the books, even had dreams where I was David Tennant's (sassy and trustworthy) companion. I even cried when it was time for him to regenerate. And I am not a crier. So, you can only imagine my horror when Matt Smith was the new Doctor. I mean, really? Who is this kid with the Ginger companion? I mean, he was just so... weird. And trying too hard to channel David. But then he started coming into his own. And I just started getting used to his quirkiness.

Parental Guidance (2012) Blu-ray Review: Usually, Jokes are Funny - But Hey, Why Kill Time Laughing?

Billy Crystal challenges everything in contemporary society - including the patience of his audience.
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In an early episode of Scrubs, Neil Flynn's Janitor character sprayed Zach Braff's fictional persona of J.D. in the crotch with a mist of water. Several times, in fact. And such a juvenile prank worked then and there because the writers knew it wasn't funny - which, in turn, made it funny. The dynamic WGA-approved talents of the rarely-employed duo Lisa Addario and Joe Syracuse - two of the seven people to have received credit for the already-forgotten animated kiddie film Surf's Up - on the other hand, completely failed to realize that such a cheap joke seldom causes so
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is epic in scope, though not scale, as it recounts over 40 years in the life of Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey), a British soldier who rose from Lieutenant during the Second Boer War to Major General during WWII. Although time has softened the film's commentary about Britain and war, its views were rather bold considering the country was in the midst of WWII when it was released. The film opens during WWII as British troops are scheduled for training exercises. Tired of the way the higher-ups are running
In some ways, I have found the history of the Doctor Who television series to be even more fascinating than the stories themselves. The very first episode aired on November 23, 1963, so we are just months away from the show's official 50th anniversary. For a relative “newbie” like me, it is a massive undertaking to get a handle on the so-called “Whoniverse.” Thankfully, there is the new book Doctor Who FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Most Famous Time Lord in the Universe by Dave Thompson to turn to. Condensing 50 years of a program’s history into

Room 237 Movie Review: What You See Is What You Get

An absolute delight, especially for Stanley Kubrick fans.
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Based on Stephen King's novel, Stanley Kubrick's The Shining tells the story of the Torrance family during their time alone at the Overlook Hotel during its winter off-season. For those that don't know it, The Shining is a family drama about a father, Jack (Jack Nicholson), driven to kill his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), as a result of losing his mind or becoming possessed. But what if I also told you The Shining was also about the genocide of Native Americans, or that it was about the Holocaust, or that it was Kubrick's confession about

Sunday Program Highlights for WonderCon 2013

All good things must come to an end.
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Though the final day of WonderCon is the shortest, there's certainly no shortage of programming. Their entire listing is available on their website, and here are some of the highlights in another unintended Snob Seven. Much Ado About Nothing 11:00am - 12:00pm - Arena Shakespeare's classic comedy is given a contemporary spin in Joss Whedon's film Much Ado About Nothing. Shot in just 12 days (and using the original text), the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy, and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love. Please join us for an exclusive panel

Ugetsu Criterion Collection DVD Review: What Price Desire?

A powerful and thought-provoking story.
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Kenji Mizoguchi is considered one of the masters of Japanese cinema, striking a balance between the contemplation of Ozu and the emotion of Kurosawa, who looked up to Mizoguchi. He has been championed by the likes of filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard and New York Times critic Vincent Canby. He began in the silent era and his first acclaimed films were made in 1936 about the struggles of women, Sisters of the Gion and Osaka Elegy. Ugetsu, a masterpiece from his latter period, came out in 1953 and was the second of three consecutive films that earned him the Silver Lion from

This is 40 Blu-ray Review: An Endearing Look at Middle Age

Apatow continues the Knocked Up saga with a funny and touching look at life at the end of your 30s.
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Some have lambasted This is 40 for not having a strong central storyline. Guess what? Neither does real life. Some of the greatest challenges both in this movie and life in general are themes rather than objectives. The problems depicted here -- parental abandonment, teenage anxiety, financial problems, cyber-bullying, compromising one’s dreams, the emotional see-saw of any relationship, while bluntly avoiding cliche, overdone topics like infidelity and jealousy -- speak to a wide audience, and we aren’t led along by the hand to a tidy, gift-wrapped happily-ever-after ending 90 minutes later. Real life is messy, and so is This is

Skyfall Movie Review: Good but Not Particularly Special

It's a solid film that is mostly well-made that just happens to be featuring a major character from film history.
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The James Bond movie series has existed through 23 films and 50 years, but it's only a film series inasmuch as every movie features James Bond, super spy, as the main character. There are a lot of aspects that show up in most of the movies, but over the years many different actors, directors, and writers have been involved. Plus, thematically, the movies are often quite different. The winking, goofy days of Roger Moore and the modern, serious take on the character led by Daniel Craig barely have anything in common. In fact, the latest Bond movie, Skyfall, even breaks

Coney Island DVD Review: Musical Fun in the Technicolor Sun with Betty Grable

This 1943 musical, starring wartime's most popular pick-up, is definitely worth a ride.
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You’ve got to love a movie in which the opening titles are sung. But crooned credits are just one reason to go gaga for Coney Island (1943), a buoyant backstage musical starring iconic World War II pin-up girl Betty Grable, on DVD for the first time from Fox Cinema Archives. There are plenty of other delights to savor in this gorgeous “Gay Nineties” romp: bright and bold Technicolor cinematography by Ernest Palmer; Oscar-nominated musical direction from Alfred Newman (uncle to Randy, but no relation to Mad’s gap-toothed mascot); ingenious choreography by the legendary Hermes Pan (who also performs); catchy original

AMPAS Selects 2014 and 2015 Show Dates

Mark your calendars, Oscar watchers.
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The saying goes, there's no rest for the wicked. That can be expanded to included Oscar watchers as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in conjunction with their television partner ABC have announced the key dates for the 86th Academy Awards and the airdate for the 87th Academy Awards. They are: Saturday, Nov 16, 2013: The Governors Awards Monday, Dec 2, 2013: Official Screen Credits due Friday, Dec 27, 2013: Nominations voting begins Wednesday, Jan 8, 2014: Nominations voting ends 5 p.m. PT Thursday, Jan 16, 2014: Oscar nominations announced Monday, Febr 10, 2014: Nominees Luncheon Friday, Febr

Lincoln is the Pick of the Week

Daniel Day-Lewis simply lived, breathed, and embodied the very soul of the 16th President.
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Time and time again Daniel Day-Lewis proves himself to be our greatest living actor. He doesn't make a lot of films, but when he does they are ones to watch. He has won an unprecedented three Academy Awards and the list of other awards he has won or been nominated for is pages long. His films aren't always good, but you can lay your money down that he'll pull out an incredible performance. This is certainly true for his most recent movie, Lincoln. While very good, I found the film to be somewhat flawed, but Day-Lewis' performance was the stuff

Wilson DVD Review: A Forgotten Classic About the 28th U.S. President

There is much, much more to Wilson than I had ever anticipated
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As superficial as this may sound, I actually learned a lot from watching Wilson (1944), part of Fox Cinema Archives. It is a fairly straightforward biography of Woodrow Wilson, and there is no question that it is something of an old-fashioned movie, but there was a lot more to it than I had expected. Wilson was the 28th American President and served two terms from 1912 to 1920. For various reasons, his presidency seems to have been practically forgotten over time, and that is a shame because his accomplishments were significant.It is not the intention of this column to be
It is summer in Southern France. The sun is beating down on everything. You are at the tail end of a long road trip. Your baby is crying - screaming at the top of her lungs. Nothing consoles her. Your middle child is screaming for the baby to stop, ordering your oldest to leave her alone, and generally making demands that no one is listening to. Your first born is kicking the back of your seat complaining about the heat, how uncomfortable her seat belt is, and whatever else comes to mind. You are snipping at your wife and she

Heavenly Shades of Delight: Twilight Time's Blu-ray Releases, Volume Two

Under scrutiny here: Cover Girl, Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, High Time, Bye Bye Birdie (1963), The Sound and the Fury, Steel Magnolias, Enemy Mine, and Night of the Living Dead (1990).
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What do classic musicals, aerial races, William Faulkner, and flesh-eating zombies have in common? Not much, really - apart from the very fact that indie label Twilight Time has released all of the above on Blu-ray in the recent past. Continuing where I left off with the previous Heavenly Shades of Delight article, I present you with eight more titles the popular niche outfit has quietly unleashed upon the world of collectors within the last year. Each of these titles are/were limited to only 3,000 pressings apiece, and are available exclusively online from Screen Archives. Cover Girl (1944) (Columbia Pictures,

Saturday Program Highlights for WonderCon 2013

Comics and movies and TV shows. Oh my.
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WonderCon's second day of programming on Saturday March 30 offers an eclectic mix of panels. My highlights are below. Their entire listing is available on their website The Music That Makes You Scream 10:30am - 11:30am - Room 208 Ever question why your spine tingles when watching a scary scene? Join film and television composers as they discuss the art of composing for one of the most demanding genres-horror! Tyler Bates (Day of the Dead, Halloween II), Anton Sanko (The Possession, Nurse 3-D), Frederik Wiedmann (Mirrors 2, Hostel III), and Dino Meneghin (Teen Wolf) discuss the process of scoring for

She Played with Fire (Fortune Is a Woman) DVD Review: Jack Hawkins, Ladies Man?

A fun, forgotten English film noir.
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Some people you simply don't associate with certain types of roles. Like Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble. Or John Wayne as Genghis Khan. And then there's the case of English actor Jack Hawkins (The Bridge on the River Kwai, Ben-Hur) - a highly respected though-rather-bulldog-faced actor - inhabiting the role of a chick magnet, as he did in the superb-yet-sadly-underrated 1957 British film noir flick Fortune Is a Woman. Released in the United States the following year under the less-imaginative title She Played with Fire, the tale stars Hawkins as Oliver Branwell (not Oliver Cromwell): an insurance investigator for Lloyds

Borgen Season One DVD Review: The Far West Wing

Danish political drama offers compelling characters but somewhat lightweight stories.
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This Danish political drama recently received some unexpected U.S. traction when author Stephen King took to the pages of Entertainment Weekly to boldly proclaim it as the #1 TV show he watched in 2012. That’s not to say it was actually broadcast in 2012, but that’s when he watched it. The Season One set collected here was first broadcast in Denmark in 2010, and just wrapped up its third and final season earlier this month. So does Uncle Stevie know what he’s talking about, or is he just a doddering old-timer out of touch with pop culture? Well, Borgen doesn’t

Elvis Presley: Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite (Legacy Edition) Album Review

Elvis Presley was absolutely in top form on these concerts.
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If you are old enough to remember the original broadcast of Elvis Presley's Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite, then it is a safe bet that you are over the age of 40. It was almost exactly 40 years ago that the huge event was first shown on American television, on April 4, 1973. To celebrate this momentous anniversary, RCA Legacy have just released the double-CD commemorative package of Aloha From Hawaii Via Satellite.There are a number of reason this set is a "must" for Elvis fans, but the biggest is that it collects everything that was recorded for that momentous

Ripper Street DVD Review: A Solid Mystery Series But Far Too Overdone

If you liked the other BBC dramas out there, than you’ll like this.
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The BBC has created a steady output of television shows that have strong dramatic tension paired with worthy scripts and fantastic actors. Their latest series, Ripper Street, is good, but it’s a wanting in certain areas. Despite having a phenomenal trio of leading men, held together by Pride and Prejudice star Matthew Mcfadyen, the similarities to other movies and television shows leaves the plot wandering to differentiate itself for longer than necessary. Once things get into a groove, the plots are fairly standard, but are elevated by the acting. The officers of H Division have been hoping to move past

Les Miserables (2012) Blu-ray Review: Bring This Home

Les Miz fans won't want to go one day more without it.
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Les Miserables was one of my most anticipated films of 2012. I have seen the stage musical numerous times and find deeper meaning and greater appreciation for the themes each time. The 1998 film version with Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush was a tremendous disappointment; therefore, while my expectations were high for the new film, I was cautiously optimistic that they would be able to translate this tale on screen in a deserving fashion. Tom Hooper managed to bring it to the screen it a way that not only pays homage to what I have always loved about the musical

Badlands Criterion Collection DVD Review: An Exploration of Isolation, Realism, Self-Image, and Violence

Marking the entrance of Terrence Malick with boldness and confidence.
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Terrence Malick’s debut explores isolation, realism, self-image, and violence with the filmmaker’s lyrical elegance, setting the footing for an opus that frustrates, engrosses, and challenges with each new entry. 1973’s Badlands may well be the most forthright of his motion pictures, but it is no less vague or inventive. Now available as part of the Criterion Collection, this film marks the entrance of Malick with a statement of boldness and confidence. Indeed, many of his hallmarks dot the broad American countryside of this movie. The use of voiceover, the romantic approach to dialogue, the exciting cinematography, and the graceful approach

Badlands Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Birth of a Legend

Terrence Malick's debut feature film sets the standard for the rest of his career.
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Forty years ago, writer/director Terrence Malick’s first feature film announced the arrival of an important new voice. Through the ensuing decades Malick’s stature has grown, in large part due to the 20-year break he took that added a reclusive air to his legend, but also due to the increasingly obtuse and inscrutable nature of his output as most recently seen in The Tree of Life. Criterion’s new Blu-ray release reveals the genesis of the Malick mystique in a pristine, feature-rich package. Martin Sheen stars as a rudderless young malcontent named Kit, a rebel without a clue who is drifting through

Contest: Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals on DVD

Look, a contest.
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Cinema Sentries and Warner Home Video have teamed up to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals. The two-disc set contains 30 cartoons from the famed duo's theatrical cartoons to eight selections from the Tom and Jerry Tales TV. Clocking in at over three hours, the pals referred to include frequent appearances by Tyke, the son of bulldog Spike; Nibbles (a.k.a. "Tuffy"), a young, diaper-wearing mouse; and the duckling Quacker. In her review of Pint-Sized Pals, parents will be happy to know that Sentry Brandie stated, "this collection serves as a solid, child-friendly introduction

Easy Money (2010) DVD Review: A Familiar Story Told in an Unfamiliar Way

Respect, respect...ain't nothing easy about this money.
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Foreign-film fans this one's for you, with sexy beautiful good guys, dark dirty and seedy bad guys, lavish parties, sad heart-wrenching stories, disco-tech beats, and the annoying sounds of Euro sirens--oh yeah, and plenty of cigarette smoking as well. A fascinating crime thriller set in the Sweden, with more languages being thrown around then drunks at O'Hare's Pub during International Street Fair Day in the city of Orange. It gives a glimpse into many lives, from those who live high on the hog down to those just scraping by in the sewers. Based on the book Snabba Cash by Jens

Scavenger Hunt (2012) DVD Review: It's for the Birds

Makes a strong case for the use of lead-free bullets.
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The new documentary Scavenger Hunt hopes to alert people to an unusual problem. It is the effect of hunters using lead bullets, specifically the unintended results of them on the endangered California Condor. As the title indicates, condors are scavengers. When a hunter kills a deer in the wild, the normal procedure is to dress it there. Basically, they gut it. The “gut pile” is what is left behind and would seem to provide a great source of food for the birds. The trouble is, with the lead buckshot left behind in the gut pile, the condors are dying of

Les Miserables is the Pick of the Week

This week is full of Oscar nominees and award winners.
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For a large part of my life I've been a theatre geek by accident. In high school, I took several years of drama mostly because, at my school, that's what all the cool kids were doing. I wanted to be a cool kid so I took the class. It never did make me cool and eventually I just took wood shop, but hey, I tried. During my freshman year at college, I dated a girl who wanted to be in one of the plays the university was doing and she talked me into auditioning. She got a part. I didn't.

Spiders (2013) DVD Review: It's Only Bad If You Watch It

It could have at least been funny. Instead it just ended up being bad.
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I realize the irony (and possibly the hypocrisy) in bashing a sci-fi horror movie for being unrealistic or inconsistent, but I have to do it. Tibor Takacs' Spiders starts with a kernel of tolerable nonsense, but derails along the way by doing things that should be hilarious, but are not meant in jest. We kick off here with a blend of monsters from space, Arachnophobia, and Volcano, as a chunk of Russian satellite is broken off by passing space rock, and plummets to Earth. It streaks across the New York City skyline and bores a nice hole in the street

Friday Program Highlights for WonderCon 2013

What wonders await at WonderCon?
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WonderCon 2013 gets underway on Friday March 29. The programming has been announced on their website, and in this unintended Snob Seven are the panels that look most interesting on Friday. Warner Archive Collection Presents Pulp Heroes of Film and TV: Tarzan, Doc Savage, Bomba, and More 1:00pm - 2:00pm - Room 207 Many timeless, larger-than-life heroes can be traced to the brittle pages of pulp magazines. Some swung from jungle vines, others created lonely fortresses in the polar ice, and still others performed unmatched feats of physical prowess and mental agility. Many of these heroes have leaped from the

Oz the Great and Powerful Movie Review: Wait for the DVD

The prequel offers further proof that there's no place like home.
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So why would Disney release Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to one of the most beloved films of all time, which has Summer or Christmas blockbuster written all over it, in March? Could it be because the film is so dark and heavy that after investing 130 minutes you'll feel like a house fell on you? Sigh; yeah, pretty much. As with The Wizard of Oz, Great and Powerful opens in black and white, which is pleasant and leads us to believe that the film will be filled with more memories. Whereas the story does contain fun references

Life of Pi Blu-ray Review: Piscine in the Wind

Director Ang Lee's film is a visual delight, but carries little emotional weight.
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Ang Lee fully deserves his Oscar win for successfully bringing this seemingly unfilmable project to screen, but the end result gets by more on its lush imagery than its story. The film is a laundry list of items directors like to avoid: filming on water, working with animals, using an untrained lead actor, and extensive blue screen post-production. The fact that Lee drove the difficult project to fruition over its four-year gestation is highly commendable, but when that's the key selling point it's clear there's a problem with the source material. The film is largely an exercise in futility; a

Doctor Who: The Ark in Space Special Edition DVD Review: Wheel in the Sky Keeps on Turnin'

Hard to believe this is only Baker's second time as the Doctor, as he already has the character completely down.
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The "wheel in space" was the New Frontier-era notion of what space stations of the future would look like. I fondly remember pictures of these from a book I had as a child. So there was a sense of "the future remembered" for me with the opening image of The Ark in Space. The shot is of one of those great wheels, where the TARDIS has landed. The four-part Ark in Space was first broadcast from January 25 - February 15, 1975. This was only the second serial to feature the Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), following Robot. There are some

Heavenly Shades of Delight: Twilight Time's Blu-ray Releases, Volume One

Under scrutiny here: Bite the Bullet, Demetrius and the Gladiators, Bell, Book and Candle, Désirée, Journey to the Center of the Earth, The Big Heat, As Good as It Gets, and The Wayward Bus.
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I know it's one of those things that we all hate hearing about, but nevertheless, it's true: the economy in the last couple of years has really made for some hard times. Though it's not as awful as, say, losing your house or job, the world of home media was not immune to the downfall of the financial system. Nearly a decade ago, we were treated to the digital disc debuts of titles we never even thought we'd see on videocassette back in the '80s. Once things started to take a turn for the lesser, however, we lost many of

Schindler's List 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Blu-ray Review: Never Forget

A powerful story about what can happen when just one man stands up for what is right.
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Based upon all the projects he has worked on as a director and a producer for over 40 years, Steven Spielberg might be the most successful filmmaker the medium has ever seen. He has been credited with creating the first summer blockbuster with Jaws (1975), which was the first of three films, along with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993), that went onto to earn him the highest-grossing film of all time. After a string of box-office hits with science fiction and adventure films, he turned his focus to more serious, dramatic fare, starting with The Color Purple

Book Review: Hopper: A Journey Into the American Dream by Tom Folsom

An impressionistic and unconventional biography.
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I had decided on the opening line of my review of the new Dennis Hopper biography Hopper: A Journey Into the American Dream by Tom Folsom long before I reached page 57 in it. On that page, Folsom confirms my impression of his book with his own appropriation of one of movie-land's great quotes. In the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (1962), the famous line goes: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." Folsom shortens this to "Print the legend." No matter how you word it though, this is Folsom's modus operandi in dealing with the life

Strawberry Shortcake Berry Friends Forever DVD Review: Berry Bland

There's little of interest here for most girls over the age of about six.
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Once upon a time, Strawberry Shortcake was aimed squarely at little girls. Originating as a greeting card character, then expanding into toys and her initial TV specials, the sweet and innocent character and her fruity friends were huge in the early '80s. Since then, various brave souls have taken cracks at revamping the property, foisting multiple character redesigns on the public in the hopes of triggering another wave of popularity. As you can see by the cover art of Strawberry's latest DVD, she's not such a little girl anymore. The current redesign implemented in 2009 aged up Strawberry and her

Doctor Who: The Aztecs Special Edition DVD Review: The First Doctor Can't Change History

A very entertaining series of episodes.
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The Aztecs is the sixth serial of Doctor Who and was first broadcast from May 23 - June 13 1964. Initially the series was meant as an educational family show with some episodes set in the future which would discuss various scientific ideas, and other episodes set in a realistic, Earthly past that would educate children (and adults alike) about our own history. This episode is set in 15th Century Mexico and gives us information on the Atzec nation.The episode begins with the TARDIS landing inside an Aztec tomb. The Doctor and his companions (Susan, Barbara, and Ian) leave the

The Blob (1958) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Oldie But Goodie Returns in High Def

Still stands as one of the classics.
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Watching The Blob (1958) and then watching The Blob (1988) reveals much about how American culture changed over three decades. In the '58 edition, melodramatic overacting ruled the day; movie tickets were 80 cents; women were little more than helpless, whimpering, babbling, hysterical scenery; musical accompaniment is unabashedly schmoozy; teenage shenanigans consisted of racing cars backwards; and getting a stern lecture from the police at worst. Fast-forward 30 years, and we've got screaming tension, movie tickets have quadrupled in price, women have become kick-ass protagonists, the music is piercing and scary, and shenanigans have evolved to jumping motorcycles over chasms

Murdoch Mysteries Collection: Seasons 1-4: A Canadian Historical Mystery Gets a Box Set

An amusing, humble television program from the Great White North.
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The first episode of Murdoch Mysteries offers a clear vision of exactly how the Gemini-nominated will work. Set in 1890s Toronto, the detective show opens with the Canadian city tinkering with the idea of switching to alternating current from direct current. The issue deepens when the newly-crowned Miss Toronto Electric and Light is murdered. The show's protagonist, Detective William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) is thrust into action to solve the case. And, to make things even more electrifying, one of the witnesses to the crime is none other than Nikola Tesla (Dmitry Chepovetsky). This humble Canadian television series plays with historical

Mickey Mouse Makes His Triumphant Return in "Croissant de Triomphe"

Viva la Mickey Mouse!
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If you are like me, today's announcement by Disney CEO Robert Iger that 19 Mickey Mouse cartoons were being produced by Walt Disney Television Animation for the Disney Channel and Disney.com caused more trepidation than delight. All too often over the years, beloved animated characters, including Bugs Bunny and Tom and Jerry to name three, have been revisited with lackluster results that reveal those responsible didn't understand what made the characters succeed in the first place. Not even legendary animators are immune from this, as I'll be the first to declare I don't care for non-daffy Daffy Duck, and that

Mister 880 DVD Review: A Forgotten Counterfeit Gem

A sequel of sorts to Miracle on 34th Street.
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I wonder if there has ever been a more charming actor than Edmund Gwenn. In 2013, his name may no longer be very familiar, but anyone who has seen the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947) will never forget him. Gwenn was absolutely enchanting as Kris Kringle in that classic film. When watching the new-to-DVD Mister 880 (1950), the last thing in the world I expected to find was a sequel of sorts to Miracle on 34th Street. Yet this film, which is ostensibly about a counterfeiter, is exactly that. The strains of "Auld Lang Syne" that inexplicably appear in

The Wizard of Oz (1939): 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray

The "Ultimate Collector's Edition" surely lives up to its name.
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One way to commemorate the 70th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz is the Ultimate Collector's Edition on Blu-ray. This adaptation of L. Frank Baum's children's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the all-time classics in the history of cinema, and will win you a bet against naysayers who confidently claim there's never been a remake as good as the original film. Shot in sepia-toned black and white, young Kansan Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives on a farm with her aunt and uncle, dreaming of a chance to break away, as the song goes, "Somewhere Over The

Chasing Mavericks Blu-ray Review: A Less Exciting Karate Kid for Surfers

A beautifully shot film that is too slow for its exciting subject matter.
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I was excited to check out this movie because I liked the soundtrack so much and I love Gerard Butler. Unfortunately, I ended up watching a beautifully shot film that is too slow for its exciting subject matter and that left me knowing what was coming next. This movie is based on the real life of Jay Moriarity and his mentor Frosty. It stars Jonny Weston, Gerard Butler, and Elizabeth Shue. The "Mavericks" are the waves that break off the shore near Half Moon Bay in Northern California. Jay (Weston) is the child of a single, alcoholic mother (Shue) who
"Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold, Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, long may his story be told..." Those are the opening words to the theme from the classic television program The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, as sung by the Ken Darby Singers. They sound a lot like the Sons of the Pioneers, and evoke an instant connection to the long-lost Golden Age of the television Western. That era was well before my time, but through the magic of reruns, and now DVDs, I have developed a great love of those old shows. The Life and Legend of

The Kid with a Bike Blu-ray Review: Another Major Work from the Dardennes

Here's a reminder to be grateful for the consistently excellent films of the Dardenne Brothers.
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The Film It's time for yet another reminder to be grateful for the Dardennes, those Belgian masters of unmatched cinematic humanism. Brothers Jean-Luc and Pierre Dardenne haven't faltered since their 1996 breakout La promesse, and now, it seems like they might be suffering a little from the curse of consistent excellence. People expect the Dardennes to deliver moving, emotionally honest, and socially conscious films about people in crisis, and when they make a note-perfect film about their pet themes like The Kid with a Bike, almost everybody shrugs. But even if The Kid with a Bike seemed to be forgotten

Life of Pi is the Pick of the Week

So many good choices this week.
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It is good to see that in this post-Oscar season we're finally getting large crops of interesting DVD releases. This week has so many things in it that I'd like to see that I had to actually debate a bit on which one I would actually pick. In the end I went back to good old Oscar (and much critical praise) and picked Life of Pi. To tell the truth, the trailers for the film did not in any way make me want to see it. There's too much CGI tiger and not enough story. Or so it seemed. I

Tom and Jerry: Pint-Sized Pals DVD Review: With a Little Help from Their Little Friends

A mixed-bag of classic Tom and Jerry shorts and less interesting recent creations, this collection serves as a solid, child-friendly introduction to the famous cat-and-mouse duo.
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By virtue of their respective species, Tom Cat and Jerry Mouse are sworn enemies. Tom chases Jerry, and Jerry outwits Tom; sometimes, it's the other way around, as Jerry ends up on the receiving end of Tom's revenge. They give each other hell and, on the rare occasion, team up to thwart a common foe. It's a simple conceit, and one that has the potential to run very dry, very quickly. Yet over the course of eighteen years and more than one hundred cartoons, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera were able to do the seemingly impossible: keep the Tom and

Africa (2013) Blu-ray Review: Remarkable, Vast, Deadly Wilderness, Now in High Definition

One of the most untamed parts of the world, revealed in all its fury and tenderness.
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Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Earth team are at it again, capturing some unbelievable footage in high definition and bringing it home to you. After the inspiring Planet Earth series, I had high expectations going into Africa: Eye to Eye With the Unknown, and was not disappointed. This four-year endeavor has captured some amazing feats of adaptation, as animals continue their rock-paper-scissors tug of war within the food chain. I learned a lot along the way. Armored ground crickets can spray their stinky blood at their predators as if it were pepper spray, but one wrong move and a
In Being John Malkovich, the brilliant feature-film debut of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, an unhappily married couple creates a whole new meaning to the idea of finding happiness in someone else. With his wife Lotte (Cameron Diaz) wanting a baby and his dream of being an artist alluding him because "nobody's looking for a puppeteer in today's wintry economic climate," Craig (John Cusack) Schwartz takes a file clerk job at LesterCorp, which is located on the 7½ floor of the Mertin Flemmer building. There he discovers Maxine (Catherine Keener), who works on the floor. He becomes infatuated

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1978) DVD Review: A Stunning Achievement

British drama at its finest.
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Muriel Spark's Miss Jean Brodie was one of the great literary characters of the 20th century. Her book, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was first published in 1961, and was an immediate sensation. The first cinematic adaptation of the story came in 1969, and starred Dame Maggie Smith as Jean Brodie. Director Ronald Neame did a marvelous job with it, but focused on specific elements of the book, as was necessary for a feature film. As great as that movie was, it took the 1978 television adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie to fully explore the story.

Africa (2013) DVD Review: Insert Preferred Toto Reference Here

You'll bless the rains (and the deserts, and the oceans, and the jungles) down in Africa while watching this gorgeous nature documentary.
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Since the 2006 release of the popular documentary series Planet Earth, the BBC has produced a number of similarly-themed documentaries focusing in greater detail on various regions of the planet. Marked by extraordinary camerawork and unprecedented access to the most far-reaching corners of the world, these documentaries are justly lauded for exposing viewers to the intriguing inner workings of the natural world. The latest release in the series, simply titled Africa, is the result of nearly four years of filming in some of the remotest areas of what host David Attenborough calls "the world's greatest wilderness," and reveals new insight

She-Wolves: England's Early Queens DVD Review: Goddesses and Monsters

An interesting reexamination of the earliest English queens and their vilified roles as the "she-wolves" of history.
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In the history of the modern world, challenging male authority has always been something of a hit-or-miss venture for women. Those who tried rarely succeeded; those who succeeded were labeled traitors to societal expectation. With few exceptions, the development of the western world was guided largely by men, who sought and maintained power through demonstrations of their might and male authority. For those few women who did manage to find themselves within the reach of power, casting aside "womanly virtue" to don the mantle of a king generally came at a price. In the recent BBC documentary series She-Wolves: England's

Trailer for Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing

"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps." - Hero
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Hard as is it is to believe, Joss Whedon shot a movie while on break from making a movie. That's right. Much Ado About Nothing was shot while he was in the middle of post production on The Avengers. Being shot in black and white and the swinging jazz score on the trailer indicates Whedon's take on the Shakespeare classic may have a film noir vibe. Fans of Whedon's work will see many familiar faces as the film stars Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, Fran Kranz, Jillian Morgese, Sean Maher, Reed Diamond, Clark Gregg, and Tom Lenk. The synopsis

Wreck-It Ralph is the Pick of the Week

I've heard nothing but good things, and the arcade nostalgia love has done nothing but grown on me.
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Like a million other boys I grew up playing video games. I cannot begin to fathom how many countless hours (and quarters) I spent walking to the local convenience store to play the new stand-up arcade game, or at home after school and on weekends (and all summer long) plugged into whatever game I was addicted to at the moment. I'm old enough to remember Pong, though they are fuzzy memories, and cut my teeth on Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, and the like - first on the arcade versions and then on my Atari 2600. Later I fell in love with

Iron Man 3: New Poster and Trailer, 'Nuff Said

Summer is coming.
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With less than two months before its release, as early as April 18 in New Zealand while folks in the United States have to wait until May 3, some folks at Marvel apparently were concered that Iron Man 3, the follow-up to The Avengers, the third highest grossing film of all time with its worldwide box office of more than a $1.5 billion, and the start of Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, might not be on the radar of moviegoers. To rectify this, they have released a new poster and trailer. The poster shows a weary Tony Stark

The Master (2012) Combo Pack Review: A Good Movie Not a Great One

It's well-acted, well-directed, and well-constructed. However, there are enough things that end up being off to limit the quality of the film.
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P.T. Anderson's 2012 film The Master seems to have ended up being one of the more polarizing films of the year. Not for the reason some thought, either. The movie centers around a religion/cult called "The Cause" which was, in part, inspired by Scientology. In Hollywood, this can be a sticky wicket. However, it's the content that seemed to divide people. Some thought it was a great movie, others thought it was tedious and mediocre. The film did see three different actors nab Academy Award nominations, but Anderson did not get a nod (but then again neither did Ben Affleck

Deadfall (2012) Blu-ray Review: Nothing New Here, and Not Especially Well Recycled

Despite a strong cast, the intertwining stories are thin and uninteresting.
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Deadfall reminded me of a few other movies: The Ref (1994) for its hostage situation over the holidays, A Simple Plan (1998) for how to get away with a bunch of money in the dead of winter, and The Fugitive (1993) for relentless cops hot on the trail of a man on the run. However, it lacks any of the humor or wit found in The Ref, is devoid of the intricate storyline or raw humanity put on display in A Simple Plan, and the oafish cops act more like the lazy local guys Deputy Gerard told off in The

Sushi Girl Blu-ray Review: Reservoir Dogs' and The Usual Suspects' Slightly Underdeveloped Lovechild

Great ensemble cast -- if only they had a little more of a story to tell.
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How's this for a pitch: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Candyman (Tony Todd), Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), Donnie Darko's Frank the Demonic Rabbit (James Duval), "Ugly Toenails Hood" from Shoot 'Em Up (Andy Mackenzie), and one of the Joker's thugs from The Dark Knight (David Dastmalchian) decide to steal some diamonds from Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), and the Lawnmower Man (Jeff Fahey), but the whole thing goes Reservoir Dogs when a chance car accident sees newish-comer Cortney Palm turning Keyser Soze and enlisting the aid of martial arts legend Sonny Chiba to exact revenge. Yeah, that just happened

Bath Salt Zombies DVD Review: This Is Not the Dustin Mills Flick You're Looking For

I watched it so you wouldn't have to.
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As you might remember, I found much to like about Dustin Mills' Zombie A-Hole, so I went into his flick Bath Salt Zombies with an open mind at the very least. Sure, the real bath salts' 15 minutes of fame ran out as soon as the ink was dry on the first reports of real-life junkies eating people's faces, but that's no reason not to make a very loosely related movie well after media has stopped talking about it. However, despite having almost twice the budget, it falls far short of A-Hole in pretty much every way.If you paid any
As just about anyone who has ever surfed either the shelves of a video store's "hip" section or scoured throughout the various forums available on the Interweb (and the avatars of the users contained therein) has probably deduced, Christopher Walken is hailed as something of a badass with several generations. It's really no surprise, of course: the famous performer has become something of a living meme for the oft-bizarre characters he has played, not to mention his own wild-style and keen ability to mock even himself repeatedly on Saturday Night Live. But then there's that side of Walken that not

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