April 2013 Archives

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Review: Like, Totally Awesome

And although the film recognizes the difference between 2286 and 1986, it doesn't play too much into the superficial trappings of the decade.
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Like most folks my age, I was introduced to the original Star Trek series when I was a kid, via reruns on UHF (a statement that lends insight into what my age might be), and I did the typical Kid Trek stuff: I went out as Kirk for Halloween (with one of those surely-flammable plastic masks with the elastic string in the back and the lousy holes in the nose); I figured out how to make the “Live Long and Prosper” sign with my hand; I pretended to give my friends the Spock Shock (or whatever that neck grab thing

Tai Chi Hero Movie Review: A Worthy Successor

A solid kung fu coming-of-age flick.
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I almost made a big mistake going into watching Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi Hero -- I nearly disregarded the prequel, Tai Chi Zero, assuming this was just loosely or not-at-all related. It’s important to note that, similar to Kill Bill, these are two parts of one story, or one movie broken into two (possibly more) parts, if you prefer (this Facebook page hints at a three-quel named Summit and this IMDB page seems to confirm, but it’s in its developmental infancy at best). The brief recap at the beginning of Hero is not nearly enough to bring you up to

My 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival Journal, Part Two

A weekend of bunnies, birds, and classic films.
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My Saturday started off with a bit of nostalgia at “Bugs Bunny's 75th Birthday Bash”. Film critic Leonard Maltin and animation historian Jerry Beck put together a collection of cartoons featuring his key rivals, such as Elmer Fudd and Yosemite Sam, along with showcasing the different directorial styles of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, and Chuck Jones. Even though I have never been a big fan of Bugs Bunny, it was really fun to see some cartoons I had forgotten about as well as watching the crowd dance in their chairs to the iconic Looney Tunes opening song. My favorites were

My 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival Journal, Part One

What I saw the first two days at 2013's TCM Film Festival.
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As the fourth annual TCM Classic Film Festival was approaching, I was filled with anticiption as I made my top selections of films that I wanted to see. y next moment of anticpation was the schedule since lots of times movies I want to see conflict with each other. This year, I was able to see just about everything that I wanted to and the programmers did a wonderful job of picking a range of movies I have never seen or even heard of along with those that I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to see on the
The early 1940s in Hollywood were the unofficial Age of Sturges. Writer/director/producer/general wunderkind Preston Sturges made eight films in the period between 1940 and 1943, and several of these pictures—chiefly among them Sullivan’s Travels, The Lady Eve (both 1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), and The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (filmed in 1942, released in 1944)—have become veritable comedy classics in the ensuing decades. Sturges’ best films are the essence of screwball comedy, boasting a mixture of sharp wit, ferociously funny dialogue, improbable physical hijinks, and sophisticated humor that makes each picture truly, uniquely hilarious. When Sturges parted ways with

Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 1-3 (Blu-ray) are the Picks of the Week

Mat lets you know why he'd be happy to have it on his shelf.
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I am not what one would consider to be a trekkie (or a trekker or if you want to get technical.) I have fond memories of watching the original series as a kid and as a teenager arguing with my sister about how much better it was than The Next Generation (while simultaneously watching every new episode.) I've seen most of the movies in the theatre, and all of them more than once. But no, I wouldn't consider myself a true fan. I stopped watching the TV franchise after TNG, having never seen a moment of any of the subsequent

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) DVD Review: You Say You Want a Revolution

While there are fine performances by the other two leads, McKellen stands out with a sparkling, well-measured performance that could easily slip into caricature but never does.
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I’ve reviewed a lot of catalogue titles over the years and through most of them, one thing has remained consistent: I tend to review films that I think will interest me (regardless of whether I wind up liking them). I don’t think this practice is a bad thing, because familiarity with a given subject can translate into a keener critical eye. But getting outside of my comfort zone is something I want to do because I think it will help me be a better critic and a better writer. With that, I raised my hand and asked to review The

Cheech & Chong Animated Movie: About Damn Time

Hey man, it's me, Fumo. I got some new stuff.
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If you are too young to remember or lived your life under a rock for most of the '70s and '80s, now is your chance to understand what the rest of us have been laughing about for years. Cheech and Chong are back, but this isn’t their normal stage show; it’s a cartoon. I wish this had been around back when I was a young loadie puffing on my first pipe (a wood one I made myself in shop class) because the visuals highlight the comedy, giving the viewer the full force hilarity of Cheech Marin and Thomas Chong. Besides

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock Movie Review: You Can't Keep a Good Vulcan Down

It deserves to be considered one of the lesser films in the series.
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As a life-long Star Trek fan it’s almost impossible to say there has ever been a bad Star Trek film. There certainly has been some bad storylines and plots to the films but whenever you have the beloved cast members on screen simply interacting with one another and being so true to their characters, it’s never bad. This third film in the series is certainly what started people thinking about the odd-numbered-film curse, which eventually held true until the tenth film of the franchise. Up until that point it was the even-numbered films that were standouts while the odd-numbered films

Parade's End (1964) DVD Review: A Very Impressive Period Drama

This miniseries remains as impressive a production as ever.
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The current success of Downton Abbey is just the latest example of a subject that the English never seem to tire of. Actually, I should amend that. Programs about the lives of the British upper-class in the early part of the 20th century have proven to be incredibly popular all over the world. Generally, these are television miniseries, and include such memorable titles as Upstairs, Downstairs and Brideshead Revisited. One of the earliest of these so-called “period dramas” was Parade’s End (1964). It was originally televised in three 90-minute parts on the BBC and has just been released to the

Fathom Events Presents Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Best of Both Worlds"

The evening was not quite the best of both worlds.
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For those non-Star Trek fans; "The Best of Both Worlds," a two-part cliffhanger that ended season three and opened season four, is arguably the best episode of the series, and is considered to be one of the greatest cliffhangers in television history. In "The Best of Both Worlds," Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the Enterprise tangle with the Borg, a cold and methodical robot-type creatures that travel through the universe destroying worlds and assimilating inhabitants into their collective. Oh sure, we never see any Borg that look like any of the other aliens races introduced on Star

Poker Night 2 Review: This Game's Got Character

Ever want to play poker with Brock Samson and Ash Williams? Now you can.
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There have certainly been no shortage of poker video games produced over the years, so what makes Telltale Games' new release, Poker Night 2, stand apart from the rest? It aims to recreate what happens at a poker game other than poker: specifically the taunting, drinking, chatter and good-natured ribbing that often occurs between the all the shuffling and the betting. And Poker Night 2 stays very true to that premise, as long as your card-playing buddies are an eclectic amalgam of pop-culture characters plucked from TV, movies, video games, and comics. Poker Night 2 is Telltale's second trip to

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan Movie Review: Classic Storytelling

Only the greatest Star Trek film ever made.
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For this fan, the greatest Star Trek movie of all time is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). Obviously this does not include the upcoming Star Trek Into Darkness, which will be released on May 17, 2013. As it stands today however, there are none that even come close to Khan. I have probably watched this particular movie more times than any other. It is not that I think The Wrath of Khan is the greatest film ever made. But Khan was the first movie I ever owned, having purchased it way back in 1983, to play on

Great Barrier Reef Blu-ray Review: Keeping the Streak Alive

BBC Earth's tradition of excellence continues with this closer look at one of the world's greatest natural marvels.
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BBC Earth has been on a roll lately. Among others, they’ve hit us with Africa, One Life, and The Blue Planet. In keeping with their tradition of masterfully shot, well narrated and informative documentaries on the flora and fauna of this planet we call home, they’ve now tackled the largest living structure in the world -- Great Barrier Reef. Monty Halls leads viewers along on a journey all around the reef itself, its formation, the surrounding and interconnected ecosystems, wildlife, and weather that all go into making the reef what it is, a 2000km long natural marvel that can be

One Life Blu-ray Review: Nobody Does It Better

The BBC covers familiar ground, but the results still dazzle.
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With 007 handling narration duties and some of the best nature cinematography splashing across the screen, One Life is yet another example of why nobody handles natural history better than the BBC. A single program, about 85 minutes in length, One Life doesn’t particular break new ground. Fans of the BBC’s nature productions, like the brilliant Planet Earth and the stunning Life, may find themselves recalling some familiar territory in this show. But One Life does offer new vantage points and the material is woven into the larger tapestry with elegance and wit. The major narrative thrust is that of

Moneyball Movie Review: A Legitimate, Entertaining Film

Good, but it doesn't really rise above the trappings of your run-of-the-mill sports movie.
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Sports movies are made quite often. Usually, they tell the tale of a ragtag bunch of underdogs coming together to succeed, occasionally with the help of angels or a particularly skilled golden retriever. However, the idea of a sports movie that focused on the front office and their use of advanced statistics to gain an advantage, but not to win it all, is on the surface an odd idea. Not only was that movie made, but it garnered multiple Oscar nominations and was a big success. That movie is 2011's Moneyball. Granted, Moneyball is helped by the fact that it

See the Iron Man 3 Red Carpet Premiere

The new Iron Man is here. The new Iron Man is here.
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If you cant make it to the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, California for the star-studded premiere Iron Man 3, the kind folks at Yahoo! Movies, in conjunction with Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures, are going to give you the next best thing by presenting the Official Live Stream. As the press release reveals, "The HD live stream will be available online and via mobile on Yahoo! Movies offering fans a complete 360 degree experience with celebrity interviews, a social interactive stage, fashion experts and full access to the hottest premiere! During the online live stream fans will have the

Richard III (1955) Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Tremendous Film

Laurence Olivier has never been better.
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One of the most striking aspects of the newly restored Richard III (1955) is its magnificent use of color. As a young (self-taught) student of film, I came to understand that the greatest Shakespearean actor of all was Laurence Olivier. This is what initially drew me to his production of Richard III. In watching it, I was able to familiarize myself with the play, and with Olivier as well. It was a bit of a cheat I suppose, but I felt that I was killing two birds with one stone. I watched it on public television, and was so focused

George A. Romero's Knightriders (1981) Blu-ray Review: The Most Sincere, Underrated Drama About Adult Outcasts Ever Made

"It's real hard to live for something that you believe in."
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The setting is a quiet forested area, with a gentle, calming body of water nearby. A king awakens completely nude on the ground - his slumber distributed by a vision of a black bird - with his just-as-bare queen lying next to him. He goes about his ritualistic afternoon: bathing in the water, lightly lashing himself in the back with a small, flexible branch, only to then don his tunic, his sword, his armor and helmet, and then - as if a moment had been pulled straight out of the pages of a forgotten Monty Python screenplay, the king and

Star Trek: The Motion Picture Movie Review: Boldly Going Where They've Gone Before

The making of the movie is more interesting than the movie.
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As the May 17 release date for Star Trek Into Darkness approaches, it seemed like the perfect time for the Sentries to shine a light on the motion pictures that are part of the franchise. While plenty of television series were enjoyed around the world, Star Trek fans took their devotion to a whole new level, including participating in a mail-in campaign credited with getting the show a third season that aired from 1968-69. Though its canon status is debatable, the actors and writers of the series returned for an animated series by Filmation that aired from 1973-74. With the

Thor: The Dark World Trailer Reveals Bright Prospects

The second feature in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gets a poster and trailer.
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Directed by Alan Taylor, Thor's second solo cinematic adventure takes place a year after the events of The Avengers and finds the Thunder God (Chris Hemsworth) reuniting with Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and fighting an ancient race of Dark Elves who threaten all Nine Realms, led by the malevolent Malekith (Christopher Eccleston). Though short at under two minutes, this first trailer indicates the action sequences have intensified from the previous Thor movie, and circumstances must become dire if Thor seeks the help of his treacherous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Thor: The Dark World is out in the UK on October

John Dies at the End DVD Review: Hey, Thanks for the Spoiler Alert!

As genius as what might have happened had Douglas Adams taken LSD.
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Every filmmaker has some sort of visual signature that can be easily recognized in their works. Sometimes, such as in the instance of Alfred Hitchcock, it's a brief walk-on role that you have to look out for (to say nothing of his directorial style, but that's quite literally beside the point in his case). For others, it's the tendency to repeat the same damn scene in every movie they make - such as that no-talent hack Michael Bay and his frequent usage of something exploding on a freeway as the camera pans away. And then there are directors like the

The Impossible (2012) is the Pick of the Week

What's worth watching this week.
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Sometimes it seems that we are constantly engulfed in tragedy. If it isn't a school shooting, it is an earthquake in China; if someone isn't bombing Boston, then God is washing away half of Asia in an enormous tsunami. Sometimes it is all too much. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity and regularity of so much tragedy. This is especially true of big natural disasters. They wreak so much damage it is difficult to really grasp what has happened . This is why news shows so often tell the story of one business, family, or person.

The Fast and the Furious (2001) Movie Review: Start Your Franchise Engines

"My hobbies are fast cars and fast women because uh... that's why my... the guys in my car club call me the 'cruiser'." - Cruiser
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With the sixth movie in the series, the creatively titled Fast & Furious 6, about to hit theaters on May 24, 2013 and the recent announcement at CinemaCon of the seventh, the equally imaginative Fast & Furious 7, intended to be released on July 11, 2014, now seemed like the best time to check out the franchise, which has already earned over $1.5B at box offices around the world. Based on a Vibe magazine article about street racing in New York City, The Fast and the Furious opens with an impressive action sequence as an unknown group of thieves using

Spies of Warsaw DVD Review: A Rare Misstep for the BBC

A distinctly average tale of espionage.
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At their best, spy films incorporate espionage, the old double-cross, corruption, opportunities for incredible rewards, and cold-blooded murder at every turn. The James Bond franchise is the gold standard, but they are really a genre unto themselves. The Bond movies do illustrate the point that the British have proven to be masters of the form however. Besides Bond, the Brits have produced quite a number of excellent spy/espionage flicks over the years as well. It was with these thoughts in mind that I watched the three-hour, two-part miniseries Spies of Warsaw (2013), which has just been released to DVD from

No More Trouble in the Forest: Rush Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall Fame

"[Rush has] always been cool." - Dave Grohl
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On Thursday, April 18, 2013, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Rush, Heart, Public Enemy, Albert King, Donna Summer and Randy Newman as well as Lou Adler and Quincy Jones. Most notable was the inclusion of Rush. who had been eligible since 1999, a year that saw less influential artists such as Billy Joel, Del Shannon, and Dusty Springfield get inducted. Rush's yearly snubbing had long been a sore spot for fans, but was a blemish on the Hall of Fame more than anything else. Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters offered a passionate, funny induction

The Bible (2013) DVD Review: An Ambitious Endeavor That Needed More Funding and Prayer

Like all of us, it could have and should have been better.
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As nice as it was to see The History Channel take a break from what is seemingly an endless Pawn Stars marathon, the ten hours dedicated to The Bible were spotted with poor choices, performances, and storytelling. Despite being somewhat inconsistent, the Mark Burnett (creator of Survivor)/Roma Downey (Touched by an Angel) project, which they deemed “their calling”, broke viewing records and even toppled the one time unconquerable American Idol in the ratings. So it was no surprise that the DVD would be rushed to store shelves to further feed those still hungering for more of the greatest story ever

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Teaser Trailer

Catch this.
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the sequel to 2012's The Hunger Games, and second part of The Hunger Games Quadrilogy (the third and final book The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is set to be released as two films), is set to be released in IMAX and regular theaters on November 22, 2013. Taking the reins from Gary Ross, Francis Lawrence is set to direct this film and its susequent sequels. Joining the cast will be Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Lynn Cohen, Meta Golding, Amanda Plummer, and Jeffrey Wright. The plot starts up shortly after the ending of The

Broken City DHD Review: Taut Noir Thriller Debuts in a New Format

This unlikely character-driven noir flick delivers a solid cast and production, and in an all new format.
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Broken City became available for purchase last week, even though the Blu-ray and DVD aren’t due out until closer to the end of the month. No, it’s not an “available to pre-order” situation, but rather in a new format -- Digital HD (DHD). Before you start groaning about having to rebuy all the movies you just replaced in moving from DVD to Blu-ray (or HD-DVD for those unlucky souls who banked on the loser of that fight), lets take a look at the pros and cons of this new medium to see if it’s right for you. The DHD Format

The Syndicate Series 1 DVD Review: Mo Money Mo Problems

British TV import follows a group of five lottery winners from poverty to riches
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This British TV drama about lottery winners gets off to a shaky start until we get to know the downtrodden characters. While they initially seem completely unrelatable and unappealing, they all gain some depth over the course of the five-episode series. The creators structure the series in such a way that each episode focuses on one primary character, while also mostly avoiding retreading ground already covered in previous episodes. That leaves us with one consistent and progressing plot, but five different aspects of the story, a winning approach that is a perfect match for the material. When five lowly convenience

Book Review: Mind Over Matter 4: The Images of Pink Floyd by Storm Thorgerson and Peter Curzon

Mind Over Matter is a great addition to a Pink Floyd collection.
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As reported by the BBC, graphic designer Storm Thorgerson passed away Thursday at the age of 69. Over the years, the roster of musicians he worked with include Peter Gabriel, Led Zeppelin, and Muse, but he will forever be remembered for his long partnership with his childhood friends in Pink Floyd. Their collaboration led to some of the most iconic images to ever grace an album cover, which can be found on the pages of Mind Over Matter. First published in 1997, the fourth edition of the book was released in 2007 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the

Warlock (1959) DVD Review: A Dynamic Western Presented in an Outdated, Eviscerating Format

Because displaying a movie in its proper widescreen ratio is passe, right?
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OK, so let me bring you up-to-date here, kids: recently, Fox Cinema Archives released several classic motion pictures - originally presented in theaters in CinemaScope - in the dreaded, severely outdated process of pan-and-scan (something that was used for older 4:3 TVs, but which is flat-out ridiculous in this day and age, what with widescreen television sets and all). As Douglas Adams would say: "This made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move." Well, seeing as how everyone else has griped about this faux pas (or would that be a "Fox pas"?)

Maigret Set 7 & 8 DVD Review: Well Made Dullness

Maigret is perfectly serviceable television.
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I recently read a discussion on Reddit where a guy was lamenting the fact that his girlfriend preferred Michael Bublé's version of "Moondance" over the Van Morrison original. The poor fellow was so distraught over the news he was thinking of breaking up with the girl. Many comments ensued. Some said that Bublé had a technically better voice than Morrison (though others counter Van's got soul!). Different folks noted that Bublé's version was more modern and that maybe the original sounded a bit dated. But the consensus was that she had heard the Bublé version first, fell in love with

Apartment for Peggy DVD Review: Good Film, Atrocious Presentation

A sweet comedy/drama from director George Seaton is marred by a flawed DVD print.
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In 1947, writer/director George Seaton teamed up with the delightful character actor Edmund Gwenn to shoot an indelible Christmas classic, Miracle on 34th Street. The film resulted in Academy Awards for both men, with Seaton taking home the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and Gwenn securing the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his portrayal of the “real” Santa Claus. In the wake of that film’s massive critical and commercial success, Seaton and Gwenn worked together again a year later on Apartment for Peggy, a charming, heartfelt comedy/drama costarring William Holden and a luminous Jeanne Crain. College philosophy professor Henry Barnes
Warner Brothers has released the final trailer for the Zack Snyder-directed, Christopher Nolan-produced Man of Steel, set to be released June 14. Let me say upfront, I've never been a big Superman fan. The character certainly has great potential but his nigh-invulnerability lessens the stakes of the stories and limits any possibility that he might fail. Of course, that's presuming his foe doesn't have any kryptonite, like almost everyone seemed to during his comic book adventures in 1958-59, which I am reading in Showcase Presents: Superman Volume 1. The hero always succeeding likely works for some people because it fits

Star Trek Into Darkness Final Trailer Has Been Unleashed

Will you be beaming into theaters to see it?
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Paramount has released the third and final trailer for director J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, in IMAX on May 15, 2013 followed by a general wide release on May 17. Into Darkness looks action packed, like the previous installment that reimagined the franchise, as the mysterious John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), who quite a number on the Internet think is a pseudonym for a previously seen character from the franchise, appears to have go rogue against Starfleet. Will be curious to see how well the terrorism goes over in Boston and around the country. Naturally, there's only one group that

Repo Man Criterion Collection DVD Review: Punk All Over

Definitive version of one of the greatest cult movies of all time.
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The seamy underbelly of Los Angeles has been explored in numerous films over the years. A few of my favorites include Bunker Hill in Kiss Me Deadly (1956), the psychedelic Sunset Strip in The Trip (1967), and the downtown bars of the 1970s that Charles Bukowski drank in during Barfly (1987). As for the punk milieu of the early ‘80s, nobody did it better than Alex Cox with his classic Repo Man(1984). The funny thing about Repo Man being considered a “punk” film is that it really has nothing to do with music at all. There is only one brief

Wife, Husband and Friend DVD Review: Hitting All the Flat Notes

A middling attempt at screwball comedy falls flat despite a typically winning performance from star Loretta Young.
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The year 1939 is generally recognized as a golden one in Hollywood; indeed, some critics have gone so far as to label 1939 the “best” year in the history of film. Some of the most notable motion pictures released during that storied year include such cinematic gems as Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Ninotchka, The Women, and Goodbye, Mr. Chips, among many, many others. But while these undoubtedly important films remain influential staples in the cinematic diet of most movie lovers, it is worth noting that of the more than five

Django Unchained is the Pick of the Week

Ready to grab it up and give it a go.
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The very last scene of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 2 shows Uma Thurman's character cuddling with her daughter. It is meant to be poignant as she had thought her daughter to be dead and after a long struggle she has been reunited with her. Many critics called the movie his most mature work to date in part because of that scene and ones like it.It totally didn't work for me. My problem was that over the course of several hours and two movies we saw Thurman's The Bride fight, chop, and slice her way through scenes, we saw mountains

Panic in the Streets Blu-ray Review: Keeping Order by Breaking the Law

I was more enthralled with the previews for other films than the one I watched.
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It has been 63 years since Panic in the Streets first opened and it wasn’t a box-office hit. Yet one can learn even from bad film, and though this isn’t a typical “bad film”, for it has its moments, it opens up a viewer’s eyes to aspects of life occurring in the '50s, some of which can be revived for today’s world. Elia Kazan was one of the world’s finest directors but even he couldn’t help a script which read more like a drunken David Mamet play that couldn’t find its soul, so brining it out on Blu-ray leaves me

The Marriage-Go-Round DVD Review: James Mason, '60s Swinger at Large!

Lesson learned: don't punch holes in the lid of the bottle for the lightning to breathe.
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Adapting a work from one form of entertainment to another is not an easy task. Imagine, if you will, what might happen were one to add a Descriptive Video Service audio track to a film like Koyaanisqatsi. Or if Cannibal Holocaust were turned into a bloodless Broadway musical. Something would inevitably get lost in translation, making way for that age old adage about capturing lightning in a bottle. But what happens if you hand that magical glass container over to someone - say a complete and total dumbass - and they go and punch holes in the lid so that

Oh, Men! Oh, Women! DVD Review: Oh, Brother!

Typical run-of-the-mill '50s War of the Sexes fare, notable only for being Tony Randall's film debut.
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If someone were to voluntarily stroll up to me and willingly make it a point to talk to me about the classic War of the Sexes genre of romantic comedies that highlighted many a headliner at cinemas of yore, chances are they would invoke the holiness of those oh-so-dated-yet-timeless Doris Day/Rock Hudson vehicles. Were such a conversation with a complete stranger to occur, however, my first thought would not stray towards the appeal of either aforementioned lead performer. Instead, I would grin with delight over the very thought of the quintessential War of the Sexes co-star, Tony Randall - one

Ministry of Fear Criterion Collection DVD Review: (Don't) Let Them Eat Cake

A compelling, if somewhat convoluted, noir thriller from director Fritz Lang receives the Criterion treatment in this recent DVD release.
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Stephen Neale, a handsome young Brit, stares at a clock on the wall, counting down the final minute before he is to be released from an asylum. After a warning from a physician to avoid future involvement with the police, the man heads to the train station and buys a ticket for London. While waiting for the train, he wanders into a nearby fair, where he is coerced by an older woman to visit the palm reader’s booth. His initial amusement turns to discomfort when the fortuneteller remarks upon his past love life. Telling her to “forget the past—just tell

A Haunted House DVD Review: Bumps in the Night Turn Into Dull Thuds

Despite a strong structure, and a few throwaway gags that hit, the movie commits the worst sin of being flat-out boring.
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With Scary Movie 5 coming out this weekend, it would make sense to review that other spoof movie that is set for release on home video this month: Marlon Wayans’ A Haunted House. A Haunted House came out in January of this year, and I believe is actually better (and I use that term very, very loosely) than the last three Scary Movies combined. A Haunted House has structure, and doesn’t spend time throwing pop culture references into things, making it last far longer than a movie filled with overdone Britney Spears jokes. Unfortunately, for the few things A Haunted

Inhumans DVD Review: Welcome Back, Old Friends

Marvel’s latest motion comic is a welcome spotlight on an overlooked classic
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Marvel has released quite a few motion comics in the past few years, but none as surprising a choice as this overlooked classic. Rather than flood the market with an obvious Spidey or X-Men tale, or even a book from the origin title of these characters, the Fantastic Four, Marvel took the welcome opportunity to shine a light on these largely unknown characters. The basis for this release is a 12-issue comic book series by writer Paul Jenkins and artist Jae Lee. Their story reintroduced these minor characters 15 years ago, in the process greatly elevating the Inhumans in the

Umberto D. Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Old Man and His Dog

A classic of world cinema I highly recommend.
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One of the last great films from the Italian neorealism movement, Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D. focuses on the struggles of the elderly in post-WWII Italy as seen through a few days in the life of retired pensioner Umberto Domenico Ferrari (Carlo Battisti in his only performance as an actor). How a society deals with its older citizens says a lot about it, and this story is as topical over 60 years later as it was when it was released in 1952. The film opens with a march on the ministry building by pensioners demanding a raise in their benefits.

Fraulein DVD Review: War is Hell, Particularly When It's Pan-and-Scan

Love among the ruins at the end of World War II, for those with 25-year-old TVs.
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Classic film fans are, as a rule, a nostalgic bunch. But here’s one retroism none of us pines for: “This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit this screen.” Thanks to the Fox Cinema Archives DVD release of Fraulein (1958), a soapy romance set in Germany at the end of WWII, we get to take a trip back to the bad old days of square, standard-definition TVs and the truncated transfers created for them. Because Fox has taken a film that was released theatrically in a aspect ratio of 2:35:1 - more than

Gate of Hell Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Not Quite Heavenly, But Far From Hellish

Tragic love story fails to build credibility, negating the tragedy
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Celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, this Oscar-winning Japanese film has fallen off the radar over the past few decades but is poised for renewed interest thanks to Criterion’s release. Its director, stars, and story are no longer widely known commodities, which is oddly something of a blessing since the film and its performances now have the opportunity to completely surprise modern viewers. That’s not to say they succeed, but it’s worth the watch. When a hot-tempered, obstinate country bumpkin of a swordsman encounters a comatose high-class courtesan, he becomes smitten with her as he revives her and protects her

Woochi: The Demon Slayer Blu-ray Review: Rebranding Gone Awry

Nice whimsical fantasy that trips on its shoelaces a bit trying to figure out what it wants to be.
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The 2009 Korean-folklore-inspired box office hit Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard has been retitled Woochi: The Demon Slayer and landed stateside on Blu-ray on April 9, 2013. It follows an apprentice Taoist through being framed for the murder of his master, spending 500 years banished within a scroll painting, then being loosed in modern-day Seoul to continue the fight started with goblins and other wayward Taoists five centuries prior. However, the movie is missing two main components of its subtitle: demons and slaying. This rebranding from “Taoist Wizard” to “Demon Slayer” set the wrong expectations for me going in, and

Lincoln Blu-ray Review: History Can Be Entertaining in the Right Hands

Daniel Day-Lewis is completely mesmerizing, but the literary writing is what truly elevates the film.
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Lincoln is one of those films I had to force myself to watch. As a Very Important Film from esteemed director Steven Spielberg and starring esteemed actor Daniel Day-Lewis, it arrived with so much weight attached that it felt like a burden to dive in. Thankfully, the highly literary writing from Tony Kushner elevates the film, as his well-crafted plot centers on only the final months of Lincoln’s life and is just as concerned with the political intrigue on Capitol Hill as it is with the man. Rather than falling into the typical biographical trap of recounting the entire life,

LEGO Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out DVD Review: The Force is Weak With This One

Short and unamusing project wastes both licenses.
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I love all of the LEGO video games. Love love love them, and play all of them to completion. A big part of what I love about them is the witty and hilarious writing by the development team at Traveller's Tales, and I’ve often wished for them to take on a video-only project. Unfortunately, I’m still wishing. Rather than hand off production of this TV-special-turned-DVD to a proven commodity, LEGO has engaged another group which shall remain nameless because I didn’t look them up, and the end result is like open mic night at the local comedy club: amateurish and

So Undercover Blu-ray Review: Straight to Video and It's Obvious Why

Unlike a number of films where the ending destroys a perfectly good film, the ending of this one is its saving grace.
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When the FBI needs someone to infiltrate a sorority in order to protect the daughter of a mob informant, they call on the only person who can get the job done, Molly (Miley Cyrus). With this basic premise and given the fact that this is Cyrus’ second film in a row to be sent straight to DVD, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that it will be a train wreck. The question is how bad is it going to be. While most people would find it difficult to watch her playing an FBI agent, they can find some solace

Killing Them Softly DVD Review: Absolutely Worth Watching

Honestly, I forgot this movie existed.
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What do Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, and James Gandolfini have in common? They were all in a decent movie that no one will remember in five years. Released at the end of November (in the middle of Oscar season), Killing Them Softly is an easily forgettable crime thriller written and directed by Andrew Dominik (the mind behind The Assassination of Jesse James). I saw Killing Them Softly in the theater, and I genuinely enjoyed it. Solid performances, an engaging story, nifty cinematography; certainly not an Oscar winner, but a good movie nonetheless. A week later, at Christmas dinner with my

Bachelorette Blu-ray Review: Four Despicable Friends and a Wedding

The film is definitely fun to laugh at but don't get too close.
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Like the countless wedding-themed movies that have been made, something always goes wrong that needs to be fixed and as soon as possible for the big day. The same goes for Bachelorette, when four friends reunite for the first wedding in the group, and while we find out more about the ladies and how close they really are, we sadly find out that these women are pretty despicable, but at least they are funny. The story started as a play and then was made into a feature film by first-time director and playwright Leslye Headland. Although she has never directed

Michael Nesmith: Live in Ferndale, Michigan 4/8/13: A Reluctant Live Performer Returns To An Adoring Crowd

Michael Nesmith returns for his first solo tour in 21 years
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For years, Michael Nesmith famously avoided the concert stage, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Monkees. His last Monkees shows had been the European leg of the 1997 tour for Justus, while his last solo tour came in 1992. Fans clamoring for a live appearance by “The Wool Hat,” had learned to temper their expectations. Then, in late 2012, Nesmith decided to hit the concert trail again, beginning with some solo shows in England and later reuniting with the surviving Monkees (Davy Jones died last February) for a reunion tour. The shows with the Monkees

Book Review: Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow by Tommy Donbavand

Adult science fiction show reduced to novel aimed at simpler audience.
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"PC Reg Cranfield turned the corner into Totter's Lane, the beam of his torch slicing through the fog. It was a thick one tonight, what his dad would have referred to as a 'real pea souper', had he still been alive to say it." That's how the first Doctor Who book I've read in over 20 years starts. The latest release from Broadway Paperbacks is written by Tommy Donbavand and entitled Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow. It's one of three new releases including Doctor Who: Plague of the Cybermen by Justin Richards and Doctor Who: The Dalek Generation by Nicholas

Prometheus Movie Review: "Pings, glitch, life form."

This is a truly gorgeous piece of science fiction, where the Engineers' technology is similar to ours, but more organic in nature.
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This is the prequel that isn't for the Aliens-series that Ridley Scott began with Alien (1979). It positions itself a little awkwardly as being a part of the same universe, but not a direct prequel, which means we are in a world we are familiar with, but the pacing and the ideas are different. It's different enough to be intriguing in its own right and still familiar enough that the viewer is comfortable with the premise. A pair of archaeologists, Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), have discovered a particular constellation of stars that appear in several

One Life DVD Review: Most Impressive

Incredible study of nature from BBC Earth.
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Nature programs have been a staple of family-friendly viewing for decades now. Some have proven to be very popular with the general public, as was the case with the Academy Award-winning March of the Penguins (2005). I have watched countless hours of these types of shows over the years, and the new BBC Earth documentary One Life is one of the most impressive I have ever seen. Just to give you an idea of what went into the making of this 85-minute feature, the filming took place over the course of 3,000 days. The crew traveled the world to get

The Blue Planet: Seas Of Life Blu-ray Review: A Spectacular View Of Life At Sea

With The Blue Planet: Seas Of Life, The BBC takes viewers on an incredible journey to the farthest reaches of the Earth's oceans.
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In 2001, the BBC took on the daunting task of doing a comprehensive documentary on one of the least-explored regions of the Earth — its oceans. Narrated by David Attenborough and five years in the making, the documentary, known as The Blue Planet, covered each aspect of the world’s oceans in a series of eight 50-minute episodes. The show was an astounding success, capturing images of seldom (and sometimes never) seen sea life in its natural habitat. Its breathtaking images did not go unnoticed, as The Blue Planet won an Emmy Award for Best Cinematography — Non-Fiction. Likewise, George Fenton’s

Hyde Park On Hudson is the Pick of the Week

The transmogrification of Bill Murray from the crazed goofball to the wonderfully dramatic actor has been nothing short of a thespian miracle.
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Who would have thought that Dr. Peter Venkman could be so poignantly fragile as Herman Blume in Rushmore? Who in their right mind would hire the guy who played Carl Spackler as the subtly sad lead in Lost in Translation? The transmogrification of Bill Murray from the crazed goofball to the wonderfully dramatic actor has been nothing short of a thespian miracle. Like some sort of magic phoenix Murray's career went from Spacejam and The Man Who Knew Too Little to a series of roles that have nabbed him a long list of acting nominations and awards. That the voice

Lincoln (2012) Movie Review: Deserved the Best Picture Oscar

The best movie of 2012 as measured against the known competition.
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Steven Spielberg. Daniel Day-Lewis. Abraham Lincoln. It is no surprise that a movie combining this trio was getting major Oscar buzz by the time the first poster was released. However, in the end, Lincoln did not win Best Picture in 2012, losing out to Argo. Day-Lewis did get his Best Actor win for his portrayal of the former president, while Spielberg, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field were all nominated but failed to take home any Oscar statues. Still, that's a lot of prestige for a film, even if it isn't quite what a group that impressive would hope for.

The Sorcerer and the White Snake Blu-ray Review: All Hiss and No Bite

Without the presence of real danger, Fahai is nothing more than a mystic meddler.
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There’s a car out there somewhere. It’s at least 20 years old, it’s either primer-grey or riddled with rust, it has body damage or is missing something (bumper, taillight, whatever), the tires don’t match (and one might even be the donut), the windshield is visibly dinged, and the engine knocks and pings. But damn, the stereo in that thing is ridiculous. If you haven’t owned this car, or haven’t known someone who has owned this car, or haven’t had this car slow-roll your neighborhood, then you haven’t lived. And if you haven’t lived, now’s your chance to experience something similar

Stitches Blu-ray Review: An Irish Horror Spoof That Needs Some Polish

A valiant effort at a tricky sub-genre, but doesn't quite hit all the right notes.
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After the titular Stitches the Clown (Ross Noble) shows up late for a routine kids’ birthday party, he ends up leaving in the hands of the coroner due to a prank gone awry. Six years later, he rises from the grave to get his revenge on the kids who inadvertently killed him. Conveniently, on the anniversary of the party where he died, there just so happens to be another party for him to crash with the same attendees. Clowns have a varied history in scary movies. At one end you have Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, a face that still

The Company You Keep (2012) Movie Review: Redford Delivers a Decent Thriller

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the film ends.
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Based on Neil Gordon's novel of the same name, Robert Redford's The Company You Keep is a political thriller powered by a stellar cast, who are regrettably let down by a script that makes the same mistakes some of its characters do by focusing too much on the desired result and not thinking enough of the path required to get there. One morning, Sharon Solarz (Susan Saradon), a former member of the Weather Underground, who has been in hiding for decades, decides to give up her life as suburban wife and mother in Albany, New York, and turn herself in

I Got The Feelin': James Brown in the '60s Review: A Great Tribute to the Man and His Music

Many black artists crossed over to white America, but James Brown brought white America to black music.
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The subtitle of this set is slightly inaccurate as almost all the content focuses on the year 1968, two of the DVDs specifically dealing with James Brown's concert at the Boston Garden the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, but that doesn’t make the content any less compelling. Disc 1 features the television documentary The Night James Brown Saved Boston, which first aired on VH-1 on April 5, 2008, the 40th anniversary of the event. Cynics scoff at musicians who try to save the world with their songs, but many involved in the concert’s planning and those who

Remembering Roger Ebert (1942 - 2013)

The life of the legendary film critics offers a valuable lesson.
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Roger Ebert died at the age of 70 after a lengthy battle with cancer and just a few days after announcing he was going to take what he referred to as "A Leave of Presence," which would allow him to "do what I've always fantasized about doing: reviewing only the movies I want to review" as well as work on other projects. On the eve of the 46th anniversary when he became the film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, he assured readers " I am not going away," only to have fate prove him wrong the day after the anniversary.

Book Review: Doctor Who: The Dalek Generation by Nicholas Briggs

The Daleks save humanity, or so they would have us believe.
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Of all the creatures the Doctor has met in the universe, none are more evil than the Daleks. But what if, in some unforeseen time, they are seen as a force for good? That is the fascinating premise of the new Doctor Who novel, The Dalek Generation by Nicholas Briggs.The “Dalek Generation” refers to an entire generation who have grown up believing that the Daleks had saved them from an unimaginably horrible life. It is more than a belief actually; it is the truth. The Dalek Foundation took billions of people them from their horribly polluted, deadly worlds and gave

The House of Redgrave Book Review: A Misleading Title Can Frustrate Readers

Don't let the title fool you, there's an interesting biography here, just not on the people you expect.
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The Redgrave family never liked to be referred to as “a dynasty,” as it invoked images of power, and yet author Tim Adler proves in his biography The House of Redgrave that they were. The three generations of Redgrave’s, and by extension the Richardson’s, are an acting powerhouse who have awards in every ceremony both here and abroad. The book is interesting, but at times can leave more questions than answers, specifically about the progenitor of the Redgrave dynasty, patriarch and actor Michael. The title is highly misleading, spending far too much time on director Tony Richardson, and at times

Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence DVD Review: Or, Before They Were Stars: The Movie

No, it's not a documentary about America produced by the Tea Party.
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Everyone remembers the late great actor Glenn Ford for a different reason, whether it be his roles as Pa Kent, Mr. Eddie's Father, Dr. Faraday, or - on perhaps a more famous note - as the lead of many a fine cowboy or film noir protagonist. But what of his films before he became a big star? Well, thanks to the Fox Cinema Archives, we can at long last view Glenn's very first major role - as a feller named Joe Riley in the 1939 film Heaven with a Barbed Wire Fence - without having to scour hundreds of television

What I Must See at the 2013 TCM Film Festival

A preview of my schedule for the upcoming TCM film festival.
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As spring approaches, one of the things I look forward to with high anticipation is the TCM Classic Film Festival. This year it returns to Hollywood Blvd. the weekend of April 25-28. Of the 40-plus films that have been announced, the following seven are, in no particular order, at the top of my list of must-sees. Airplane! (1980) This disaster-movie spoof written and directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker about the food poisoning of a flight crew and the subsequent chaos that ensued, blazed a path for film parodies. It has been several years since I have

Pier Paolo Pasolni's Trilogy of Life Criterion Collection DVD Review: Make Mine Bunuel

Picaresque neorealism, or artsy-fartsy stuff from a bipolar loon? You decide.
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As one of those individuals that became the slightly pretentious artsy-fartsy feller during his teenage years whilst growing up in a small town, I frequently made trips to video stores (or at least ordered random titles from grey market mail-in video distributors) in search of something that I surely thought would add a little culture to my mundane, tormented existence. It was through these actions that I transitioned from one phase to another - discovering and subsequently learning to appreciate the work of oft-renowned filmmakers such as French New Wave pioneer Jean-Luc Godard, the stylish bullet ballet work of Hong

Ripper Street [Series One] Blu-ray Review: As My Teachers Always Said: "Needs Improvement"

It's no Sherlock, but it certainly could be worse.
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Some will tell you that life imitates art. Others will insist that the opposite is true. Personally, from what I've seen in the fields of film and television, I would venture to say that art imitates art. Well, sometimes it's art that's being imitated. Other times, you have people emulating the likenesses of other endeavors from the film and television genres that simply weren't too terribly outstanding to start with - and which were really only popular with the masses. It's almost like popcorn imitating popcorn: a tasty treat when you dive into it, but it's oh-so-fleeting in the long

Raiders from Beneath the Sea DVD Review: "As Far As I'm Concerned, You Stink of Trouble!"

A laughably bad scuba heist drama that never heard the expression "sink or swim."
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When I received my copy of Raiders from Beneath the Sea in the mail, I knew I by the artwork alone I was in for a real exercise in tedium. As soon as I popped the disc into my player late one evening after having consumed not nearly enough Guinness, the words "Lippert Incorporated Presents" appeared onscreen - giving me an even graver indication that I was about to slide into an obscure B-Movie Hell. I was right, of course: chock full of wooden acting, production values that seem even lower than that of a rushed Del Tenney feature, and

Pat Metheny Group: We Live Here: Live in Japan DVD Review: Brilliant in Every Way

Eagle Vision have reissued this classic 1995 from the Pat Metheny Group.
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The Pat Metheny Group concert that was recorded for the We Live Here: Live In Japan DVD took place at the Golanda-U-Port Hall in Japan, on October 12, 1995. It was previously released on VHS and DVD, but has been out of print for many years. Even though I am a big fan of the guitar maestro, I missed this one, and have been reluctant to pay collector’s prices to get it. Fortunately, Eagle Vision have just reissued the set, and the Pat Metheny Group were in top form that night, without question. Pat Metheny’s debut, Bright Size Life was

WonderCon 2013: WonderWow

I gained a new admiration and respect for everyone who likes to shut out reality for a bit and delve into the finer arts of fantasy.
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If it can be imagined, it can come to life, and what better place to hold an expo where fantasy and fiction come alive, but in the city of Walt Disney’s dreams: Anaheim, California. Across the street from the Magic Kingdom, in the convention center on Harbor Blvd., was my first comic book/sci-fi convention, and though I was told this is a small operation compared to Comic-Con down in San Diego, it eased me into a world where Super Mario’s walk the rows of collections with Captain America’s and Imperial Stromtroopers. I am happy I charged my iPhone to full

Fathom Features Star Trek: The Next Generation "The Best of Both Worlds"

We are about to get The Best of Both Worlds in more ways than one!
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Being in a movie theatre is usually great. Watching Star Trek: The Next Generation is usually great. It has been more than ten years since we saw the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation in a theatre, and unfortunately Star Trek: Nemesis was not so great. Now, fans are about to get "The Best of Both Worlds" in more ways than one. Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment are reuniting to celebrate the iconic series Star Trek: The Next Generation in a special one-night, big-screen event on Thursday, April 25th at 7:00 PM (local time) in select cinemas nationwide.

Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home (2010) DVD Review: A Sobering Look at Life on Skid Row

A very important glimpse into a world that many of us avoid.
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I guess that every major city in America has a “skid row,” but none can compare to the one in Los Angeles. The area covers 50 city blocks, and is home to over 10,000 homeless people. The newly released DVD Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home takes a look a L.A.’s skid row, and it is an eye-opening movie to say the least. In Lost Angels, filmmaker Thomas Q. Napper and narrator Catherine Keener take us inside the lives of the people who live on the streets. Everyone has a story, and some of these stories are just heartbreaking.

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One: Avengers Assembled is the Pick of the Week

Mat has assembled his latest column for your reading pleasure.
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I am not much for comic book movies. This is likely due to me not having read many of the superhero comic books. This causes me to not get many of the fanboy details, which in turn makes the films not much more that big action flicks with dudes wearing tights. I was however very impressed with the way Marvel developed Phase One of its Cinematic Universe. By making separate films for the individual characters before assembling them all into an Avengers movie they not only continually built up hype for the franchise but they were able to develop each

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