May 2013 Archives

Teen Wolf: Season 2 DVD Review: Trust the Instinct

Buffy meets Scooby partially impresses and partially disappoints in Second Season.
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The interesting idea I had for reviewing the new DVD release of Teen Wolf: Season 2 was that the last show from MTV that I watched was either Daria or The Tom Green Show. The other interesting challenges to reviewing the second season of the show was that I was familiar with the 1985 film by the same name but I had not watched even a second of the first season. Instead of becoming a more informed reviewer and at least sampling the first season or reading a general synopsis, I chose to attack the new season with no background.

LEGO Batman The Movie Blu-ray Review: Holy Bricks, Batman!

Feature length film expands on the story of the Lego Batman 2 videogame.
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I recently slammed the achingly buffoonish LEGO Star Wars Blu-ray while lamenting that LEGO would have been much better served by farming out its production to the studio behind their licensed videogames, Traveller’s Tales. Lo and behold, my prayers have been answered in their latest release, as LEGO Batman The Movie was directly produced by Traveller’s Tales and is directly related to their hit videogame from last year, LEGO Batman 2. As gamers know, the LEGO Batman 2 videogame introduced a massive open world Gotham City populated with not just Batman acolytes and foes, but fellow Justice League members and

Call Me Mister DVD Review: That's MISTER Mister to You

A seldom-seen and unsurprisingly not-so-memorable mediocre (but still entertaining) musical.
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Adapting a series of comedic sketches into a feature film is probably not the wisest move one can make. Sure, those Monty Python boys did a reasonable job recreating many of their BBC skits for And Now For Something Completely Different, but it still didn't possess the panache their feature-length comedies held - nor did it have the same magic as their original televised sketches did. Now just imagine what might happen were one to take a musical/comedy revue and turn it into a film. Actually, you really don't have to imagine what might happen: Twentieth Century Fox's 1951 post-war

Thanks A Million DVD Review: Dick Powell Croons, I Swoon

A prescient political satire from 1935 makes its DVD debut
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Confession: I have a man crush on 1930s crooner Dick Powell. Although he was pushing 30 when he made his film debut for Warner Bros., Powell seemed perpetually boyish and unspoiled by the harsh realities of Depression Era adulthood. In a series of peppy movie musicals beginning with 42nd Street (1933), the Arkansas native was the face of New Deal optimism - the sunny side alternative to the Warner tough guys who roamed the Lot with a cynical sneer and a smoking gun (before the Motion Picture Production Code disarmed them in a manner apparently unimaginable to today’s politicians). I

Teenage Rebel DVD Review: Without a Clue (or Widescreen)

Who knew Michael Rennie could get down and boogie so well?
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In the 1950s, a life-threatening menace began to rear its ugly head to all good, God-fearing, red-blooded Americans who valued their freedom. No, I'm not referring to the alleged peril Communism was supposedly trying to destroy us with - I'm talking about something far worse: teenagers. More specifically, the teenaged crowd who were busy bopping about in hula-hoops and poodle skirts at the drive-ins after drag racing in hotrods and downing numerous chocolate malts with their hamburger sandwiches, all the while greasing their hair back to the sound of that dreaded negro jazz beatnik music on the jukebox. Or something

Jubal Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Shakespeare in the Wild West

Glenn Ford and Charles Bronson as buddies? SOLD!
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While traditional and contemporary adaptations of William Shakespeare's works have been coming and going since someone figured out how to record moving images way back in the late 1800s, there's something about the more off-the-wall incarnations of the famous author's works that happen to appeal to those of us who don't like to shuffle through the Middle English language we just heard and attempt to translate it into Modern English (I melt with you, by the way) in our heads while still trying to listen to the next line. As such, we have been blessed with films like Forbidden Planet

Book Review: The Treasures of Bruce Lee by Paul Bowman

The book is an absolute treasure to fans of Bruce Lee.
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Authorized by the Bruce Lee Enterprises, The Treasures of Bruce Lee by Paul Bowman tells "the official story of the legendary martial artist," as the subtitle states. There have been many biographies of Bruce over the years, but what makes this one special is its interactive nature, creating an experience similar to reading Nick Bantock's Griffin & Sabine trilogy. Bruce Lee was born in San Francisco's Chinatown at the Jackson Street Hospital on November 27, 1940 while his actor father Hoi-Chuen was working in the United States. The following year saw Bruce's parents return to Hong Kong when he was

Medium Cool Blu-ray Review: A Living Document of America's Rebellion

A piece of Americana that questions and condemns the media.
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The Criterion Collection presents a slice of American history with director/cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s, Medium Cool. Filmed against the background of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Medium Cool tells a shrewd and haunting condemnation on media interaction. In a time where our every thought is broadcast to the masses, Medium Cool explores the idea of documentation itself, and where social responsibility begins and ends. While the narrative isn’t nearly as fascinating as the real-life footage Wexler caught, Criterion has presented an equally fascinating presentation of footage. If you’re a history buff, particularly of our nation’s history, you’d do well to check

Book Review: A Quick Guide To Screenwriting by Ray Morton

A broad look at the art of screenwriting.
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Just about everybody I know has said words to the effect of “I could write a better movie than that!” - usually after seeing a particularly bad film. Actually doing it is an entirely different matter however. Writing a screenplay is something I have always been curious about, but had no idea of where to even start. As if to answer my questions, there is a new book titled A Quick Guide to Screenwriting by Ray Morton. His 102-page guide is exactly what it says it is, a quick read that lays out the basics in a very easy to

Fast Five Review: Between the Rock and a Heist Movie

A fight between Diesel and the Rock. What more do you want?
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Although the previous movie, Fast & Furious, showed the least amount of creativity in its title by removing "the" and adding an ampersand, it returned the franchise to its box-office glory, and more importantly, proved to be my favorite movie of the four. The title Fast Five also inspires little confidence, but what will be the end result? When last we saw the gang, Dom (Vin Diesel) was headed to Lompoc prison on a bus, although his sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) and her boyfriend Brian (Paul Walker), who resigned from a law enforcement agency for the second time, intended to

Longmire: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Complex Characters, Simple Police Work

A smart western series with dynamic characters in a unique setting.
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Based on best-selling author Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire western mystery novel series, Longmire is a fresh take on the crime drama. Since it was A&E's most-watched original series in the network's history, I was pleased to have the opportunity to get caught up on Season One right before the start of Season Two. Longmire (Robert Taylor) is struggling to get his life back together after the death of his wife a year earlier. As the sheriff of Absaroka County in Wyoming, he attempts to do this by throwing himself back into work. While solving a range of crimes, he must

Alanis Morissette Live at Montreux 2012 Review: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Her first live release in a decade shows how she has transformed from anger to maturity, all with her voice intact.
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Almost two decades have passed since Alanis Morissette earned national acclaim with her breakthrough album Jagged Little Pill. For Americans, Morissette seemed to appear out of nowhere, but few realized her radical transformation from child star to rock star. After appearing as a regular cast member on the Canadian kids show You Can’t Do That on Television, she evolved into Canada’s answer to Debbie Gibson. Her first change came by relocating to Los Angeles; the second was collaborating with rock producer Glen Ballard. By the time “You Oughta Know” hit radio, Morissette became the “angry young woman,” the spokesperson for

The Remarkable Mr. Pennypacker DVD Review: Unremarkable Non-Anamorphic CinemaScope Fluff

With seventeen children in two cities, it's clear that Mr. Pennypacker has been packing more than pennies.
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As soon as those infernal television set devices were installed into American homes and began to receive incoming transmissions of this and that in the 1950s, Hollywood had to come up with something new to pull the public in so that they could spend their hard-earned money. One of these gimmicks was dubbed "CinemaScope" - which presented for the first time, motion picture entertainment in a widescreen aspect ratio. While initially utilized to present productions that were on the more "epic" scale of things (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Forbidden Planet, The Robe, et al), it wasn't long before even

Wake Up and Live (1937) DVD Review: Fun Vintage Semi-Musical Hijinks

Probably the only instance in film to see The Tin Man and Batman ride around in a car together.
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You might think that the concept of filmmakers adapting other people's works so loosely that the byproduct doesn't even come close to resembling its source material is a newer notion. You'd be wrong, of course: Hollywood has been doing this sort of thing since the initial inventing of celluloid itself - so much so, that when I discovered the 1937 Fox musical comedy Wake Up and Live (which is the optimist's way of saying "Fuck Off and Die!", no doubt) was based on a self-help publication by Dorothea Brande, I figured it would be a name-only variation. And I was

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Movie Review: It's Fine

A good movie, provided you are cool with watching a movie about the end of human life.
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Steve Carell rose from TV star to movie star pretty quickly, thanks in large part to the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin. However, it would seem, and this may be reductive and, to many people, mostly irrelevant, that the vast majority of his films do not connect with either audiences or critics. You hear very few people espousing the merits of Dan in Real Life, and a Get Smart sequel doesn't seem very likely. As such, perhaps it isn't surprising that it feels like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World flew under the radar, despite the fact

Cinema Sentries Meet the Pretentious Movie Snobs

Listen as they go Into Darkness, into the past, and into dead air.
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The world of entertainment is filled with great franchise crossovers. The comics had Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man, the movies had Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstien, and now film criticism has brought together Cinema Sentries and the Pretentious Movie Snobs, available as a podcast for your listening pleasure. Sentry Gordon S. Miller was a guest on the PMS podcast and chatted with Snobs Kent Conrad and David Smith about the lastest Star Trek movie. Grab your favorite beverage and join them as they go Into Darkness, into the past, and into dead air. The podcast is available on the PMS

The Grass is Greener is the Pick of the Week

This is the sort of week where the Pick of the Week is less a real decision and more of a "yeah, this will do."
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I guess Memorial Day weekend doesn't really rate in the DVD-seller's handbook. There is a whole lot of not-much coming out this week. There's a few bare-bones oldies, a bunch of random TV, and a mess of stuff I can't imagine anyone caring about. Seemingly for a guy like me, Doctor Who would be the easy choice, but poor packaging has made me not give it the gold star and pass it over for something else. Anything else. And with that I've chosen an oldie I've never heard of - The Grass is Greener. The description - a befuddled English

3:10 To Yuma (2007) Movie Review: A Thought-provoking Western

Is it better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven?
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What rules the universe: order or chaos? Is there a plan set forth by a supreme being or are we all making it up as we go? How do your answers affect the way you live your life? Are you bound by the rules agreed to by society or do you instead choose to do what's best for you? And does that change when life treats you unfairly? Director James Mangold deals with thought-provoking ideas in this update of the 1957 western based on Elmore Leonard's short story. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a former Civil War soldier struggling to

Shakespeare: The King's Man DVD Review: The Political Education of Willy Shakes

A fantastic resource as well as an enjoyable examination of the inimitable Bard of Avon.
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Arguably the single most influential figure in the history of English literature, William Shakespeare produced over three dozen plays in his lifetime. Many of these works hold permanent positions in the Western canon, inspiring untold creative minds in the centuries since the playwright’s death in 1616. The plays which Shakespeare produced during the Elizabethan age—roughly the first half of his storied career—range from light comedies (The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream) to visceral drama (Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar) to haunting tragedy (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet). But the most predominant dramatic form in which Shakespeare indulges in these

Fast & Furious Movie Review: Figuring Out the Four-mula

Recommend to those looking for an entertaining action movie.
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After the disappointment of Tokyo Drift, I am very surprised director Justin Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan returned for this next installment in the franchise, but they redeemed themselves by going back to the drawing board and increasing the action. In the Dominican Republic, Dom (Vin Diesel) and Lety (Michelle Rodriguez) are involved in a caper to steal gasoline tankers from a fully loaded gasoline land train. Their team includes Han (Sung Kang), which is a shock as he wasn't expected to be seen driving again. He talks of going to Tokyo so Fast & Furious must take place before

The Wild Geese Blu-ray Review: When Brits Go Badass

Richard Burton, Richard Harris, and Roger Moore blowing the piss out of people. What more could you want?
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Contrary to what most of today's youth might falsely believe, the all-star adventure action flick has been around for several decades - long before Sylvester Stallone was old enough to enlist as a mercenary-for-hire or Chuck Norris mastered the art of waxing his back hair. In fact, these classic movies went on to inspire Italy's sacred genre of what we sometimes call "Macaroni Combat" films - which in-turn motivated people Quentin Tarantino to create movies like Inglourious Basterds. Interestingly enough, some of the more formidable entries on the unofficial list of goodies this oft-unspecified genre has produced over the years

Contest: Offender on DVD

Justice needs to be served at Britain's most notorious young offenders institute.
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Cinema Sentries and Revolver Entertainment have teamed up to give five lucky readers the opportunity to win Ron Scalpello's Offender on DVD. When Tommy Nix (Joe Cole) loses his girlfriend and unborn child as a result of a brutal attack by an armed gang, he vows revenge. But with the men responsible for the attack now in prison, he has no option but to follow them there. Facing a tough, unforgiving environment where violence is an everyday occurrence, he will stop at nothing to punish those that destroyed his life. With uncontrollable rage driving him on, his quest for vengeance

Yossi Movie Review: A Beautifully Crafted Film in Every Aspect

A beautiful film about loss and rediscovering life and love.
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Yossi is the beautiful sequel to Israeli filmmaker Eytan Fox’s 2002 film, Yossi & Jagger. The films is set 10 years after the first and looks to find out what has happened to Yossi (Ohad Knoller) after the death of his lover Lior. Yossi has become a cardiologist and uses his work as a way to escape from his life and truly dealing with tragedy. As a closeted gay man, he spends most nights at home cruising dating sites and eating leftovers. Moti (Lior Ashkenazi), a fellow doctor and recent divorcee, tries to pull Yossi into a world of loose

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift Movie Review: Crashes and Burns

I would recommend drifting right on by it.
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The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was the third installment in the franchise though its placement in the FF storyline would later be altered after the movie's failure at the box office. The main reason for its limited success, aside from being a bad movie, is likely due to the filmmakers making the spectacularly bad decision to use a completely different set of characters. It's as if they found a script about racing and thought cars and the Fast and the Furious title would be enough to please people. The movie opens at a high school where Sean (Lucas
A sensitive, careful and subtle motion picture, Eytan Fox’s Yossi is a wonderful exploration of loneliness and longing. This 2012 film is the sequel to Fox’s 2002 flick Yossi & Jagger. That picture was well-received for telling a romantic tale about two soldiers at the Israeli-Lebanon border who find relief from the ambush of daily violence. Yossi is Fox’s fifth film and it represents his penchant for careful examinations of romance. It seems an apt continuation of his first project, Time Off. That 45-minute picture was an examination of sexual identity in the Israeli army. It wound up leading to

True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray Review: Very Real and Drastic Changes Occur

The stories that unfold this season are all about some very real and drastic changes for many main characters.
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Out this week, the True Blood: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray set includes DVD and digital copies. Let’s take a look. [Some spoilers to follow.] Season Four ended with death. On a show like True Blood, death is not a great shocker but the last few episodes had quite a few losses. A crazed, V-tweaked Debbie Pelt came to confront Sookie, aiming a shotgun at her, but Tara pushed Sookie aside and was fatally shot instead. Sookie quickly overpowered Debbie, shot and killed her. Also on the death list was Authority and AVL representative Nan Flanagan. She was staked by

The Oranges Blu-ray Review: A Conventional Tale of Unconventional Romance

TV's Dr. House, Maeby Fünke, and Seth Cohen - together at last.
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During the middle of the previous decade, my girlfriend at the time and I were hooked on three specific television series: House M.D., Arrested Development, and The OC. Well, the latter was more to appease her than anything. I can't stress that enough, folks. Honestly. In fact, the only thing that enabled me to survive the yuppie haven that particular drama served up on a regular basis was Adam Brody's character of Seth Cohen - who appealed to me since he was an awkward nerd. I can relate. Unsurprisingly enough to anyone who has ever met me, I also identify

3:10 to Yuma (1957) Criterion Collection DVD Review: You Gotta Trust Delmer Daves on This One

Redemtion looms large in this classic Western.
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The opening shot of 3:10 to Yuma (1957) sets the film up as perfectly as anything I have ever seen. It features a magnificent panorama of a stagecoach on the plains of the Old West, accompanied by the deep voice of Frankie Laine intoning the words, “There is a train called the '3:10 to Yuma'…” The combination of the vistas and the dramatic music are incredibly powerful, and as the coach passes in front of the camera, you just know that this will be a classic Western fable. That was my experience the first time I saw the film,

Whispering Ghosts DVD Review: Milton Berle, Ghost Hunter

No, we don't get to see Uncle Miltie's legendary penis in this one, either. Get over it already.
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The very genre of comedy owes an insurmountable debt of gratitude to many of its unsung screenwriters who worked hard to give us an uncontrollable case of the sillies with the timeless gems of yesteryear. Such an arrears almost doubles when it comes to crafting a truly genuine piece of "the funny" during a time of worldwide apprehension - such as war. While the patriotic men and women of the United States were certainly in need of a good laugh, such a thing wasn't always at their beck and call. Sure, on one hand, you had Bud Abbott and Lou

The Moon Is Down DVD Review: Suicidal Norwegians vs. the Nazi Menace

Solution: lunar antidepressants.
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Based on the 1942 novel by John Steinbeck by the same name, 20th Century Fox's 1943 ode to freedom The Moon Is Down centers on the Nazi invasion of a small costal Norwegian town during the very midst of World War II. While the book was a bit vague on the identities of the invading force, the movie - written by The Dirty Dozen screenwriter Nunnally Johnson - is as blatant as can be as to who the villains are. We begin with an extended shot of a typically angry Führer (or rather, his overly-expressive hands) shouting in his native

The Man Who Would Be King Movie Review: Not Many Moments to Celebrate

"Being only human, one thing leads to another." - Peachy Carnehan
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A movie starring Michael Caine and Sean Connery, directed by John Huston, and based on a Rudyard Kipling novel certainly has a great deal of name cache. This was the power base behind the 1975 film The Man Who Would Be King. However, the question remains, did all this talent lead to a promising result? The movie begins with the end of the story, as Rudyard Kipling (Christopher Plummer) is met by a grizzled, mysterious figure who we then find out is Caine's Peachy Carnehan. Of course, at this point we don't know anything about this character, but we will,

Shadow Dancer Film Review: Feel the (Slow) Burn

... a well-executed, slow-burning film about family, commitment, betrayal, and consequences, and it is anchored by Riseborough, whose performance is mesmerizing.
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When you watch a lot of movies with the intent to write about them, you are naturally inclined to wait for things to occur in each film - things about which you can write. Action, direction, dialogue, costumes, score, and so many other things come together (or, you know, don’t) and are there to be judged. Sometimes things come together to great positive effect (think The Place Beyond the Pines), and sometimes things fall apart to great negative (think Star Trek Into Darkness). And then, every so often, a movie comes along that is strong not only for what happens

George Gently Series 5 Blu-ray Review: Murder Most Groovy

Standalone movie format makes latest series of ‘60s-set British mystery show accessible to all viewers.
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With a seemingly unending stream of British mystery series in play, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for relatively recent arrivals to our shores to distinguish themselves. George Gently attempts and succeeds by setting the action in 1960s Northern England, giving it a welcome retro slant in technology and fashion. It’s great fun to watch our lead detectives attempt to solve crimes without the assistance of modern advances, getting by on their wits and moxie. Also, the series is instantly accessible to new viewers even in this Series 5 release thanks to its standalone movie format and lack of principal character development.

Surf Party (1964) DVD Review: How NOT to Throw a Beach Party

Come on in: the water's completely and unapologetically tepid!
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Though the concept of a moving picture story set on the beach depicting the everyday lives of youngsters skilled in the fine arts of surfing, singing, dancing, and G-Rated fornication with one another had been done once or twice before AIP invited us all to the very first Beach Party in 1963, it wasn't until that frolicking festivity with Frankie and Annette that America (and possibly even part of the Lesser Antilles as well) embraced the actual subgenre of such filmmaking. Sadly, this meant that the usual school of low-budget competitors were sure to surface from the murky depths below

Hanna Movie Review: A Worthwhile Viewing Endeavor

It's more interesting in concept than in execution.
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Joe Wright's 2011 film Hanna is a film more interesting in concept than in execution. That's not to say that the movie does not suceed to some degree as it is. It's just that it doesn't quite live up to the intriguing premise as well as one would have hoped. Saoirse Ronan stars as the titular Hanna. She lives with her father Erik Heller (Eric Bana) in the middle of a vast, empty wilderness up in the Arctic Circle. The two live miles from civilization, but Erik makes sure Hanna has plenty to do. Namely, she has been trained to

Pierre Etaix: Criterion Collection DVD Review: Affordable Pricelessness

The Criterion Collection brings us a wonderful set from a fine French comic you probably never heard of.
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For many of the "average" citizens living within the confines of the continental United States of America, the concept of viewing French comedy is on-par with sitting around in coffee shops drinking itsy bitsy cups of coffee whilst talking about art and folk music: that which is perceived by the ignorant, uneducated masses who have been raised under the impression that NASCAR and Coors Light make the world go 'round to be artsy-fartsy-hippie-liberal-faggoty stuff. Of course, what they fail to realize is that - as Morrissey once crooned - America is not the world. And both NASCAR and Coors Light

The Doors 40th Anniversary Celebration: Live from the Sunset Strip, 2006

The night I met (two of) The Doors.
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In November 2006, The Doors began celebrating their 40th anniversary with a yearlong celebration that included new products to take full advantage of the nostalgia. The Doors by The Doors is a fantastic book that examines the band’s career and legacy through interviews and over 300 photos. It is co-written by Ben Fong-Torres and includes input from Jim Morrison’s family. Perspective is yet another remastered collection of the entire Doors’ studio album catalog. This time, the CDs were augmented with unreleased bonus tracks and paired with DVDs featuring 5.1 surround sound mixes and even more content. While I understand leaving

History of the Eagles Documentary Review: A Fascinating Look at a Legendary Group

This thorough look at one of the 1970s' most successful bands is a must-own for Eagles fans.
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Filmmakers, take note: this is the way to celebrate a band’s legacy. History of the Eagles, a new documentary, chronicles the classic rock legends’ rise, breakup, and improbable reunion in an epic two-part film. Now out on DVD and Blu-ray, the movie is a must-own for Eagles fans and a stellar example of narrating a band’s story in a riveting yet objective manner. Part One takes viewers on a journey through the band’s earliest years, critical and commercial peak, and eventual downward spiral due to drugs, alcohol, and clashing egos. New interviews with current and former Eagles members shed new

Rick Steves Europe: All 100 Shows (2000-2014) is the Pick of the Week

I prefer the middle-aged comforts of Rick Steves.
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My wife and I love to travel. At last count we have visited 21 other countries. That isn't a brag, by the way, as one thing that happens when you start to travel is that you meet others who have travelled a great deal more than you. There is a Facebook app that allows you to input all the places you've been and then it tells you how much of the world you've seen. I think I'm at 5% so there is a lot more for me to discover. But I digress, as much as I love to travel it

Detective De Luca DVD Review: He's Not a Fascist, He's Just a Cop

For fans of crime dramas, detective shows, or just really good television.
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Set amidst the back-drop of Mussolini's Fascist Italy, Detective De Luca comes with a much more interesting setting than your typical television crime procedural. Amidst a gluttony of crime and detective shows, De Luca manages to keep my attention through well-written characters and stories that surpass time and date while remaining current and real. De Luca, the character, is a policeman first and everything else falls a distant second. He is constantly butting heads against his bosses and whatever governmental figure is in power because he cares little for politics, but only wants to solve his case. His only friend

The Meanest Man in the World DVD Review: Jack Benny and Rochester, Together Again

A rarely seen Jack Benny film makes its DVD debut.
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The title character in Sidney Lanfield’s comedy The Meanest Man in the World (1943) is not particularly mean, nor is he particularly funny. But he is portrayed by the otherwise hilarious Jack Benny, with support from radio sidekick Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and those are reasons enough to pick up this rarely seen misfire, making its long-awaited home video debut on Fox Cinema Archives manufacture-on-demand DVD. Jack Benny had a confounding career in the movies. After nearly two decades on the Vaudeville stage, the pride of Waukegan, Illinois made his film debut playing himself in MGM’s The Hollywood Revue of 1929.

The Great Escape Blu-ray Review: Delivers Good WWII Escapism

An enjoyable film for fans of war stories
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To commemorate its 50th anniversary, John Sturges' The Great Escape makes its debut on Blu-ray. It tells a fictional account of the WWII prisoner-of-war breakout at Stalag Luft III, which was documented in the non-fiction book of the same name by Paul Brickhill. Steve McQueen leads an all-star cast playing an international collection of characters, composites of the men involved, in a script that overemphasizes the American involvement and decreases the Canadian, setting a precedent for Argo. As the film opens, Elmer Bernstein's signature theme plays as the trucks bring the most troublesome Allied POWs to a maximum-security prison camp.

Star Trek Into Darkness Movie Review: Leads Into Dopiness and Damnableness

One of the worst movies I've seen in quite a while.
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Spoilers are revealed throughout about Into Darkness because they need to be addressed in order to illustrate how truly terrible the story is. To get a sense of the reviewer's opinion without learning specifics, he paraphrases the classic two-word review of Spinal Tap's Shark Sandwich, and simply writes "Shit Trek." When it was announced back in January that J.J. Abrams was going to direct Episode VII of the Star Wars saga, many Star Trek fans were disappointed to be losing the successful producer/director. After suffering through the abysmal Star Trek Into Darkness, they should hope he never returns. Forget bad

Star Trek Into Darkness Never Should Have Seen the Light of Day

Ultimately, it is poor storytelling that leads the audience into darkness.
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After J.J. Abrams established a new timeline with Star Trek (2009) that would allow new stories to be told with the original characters, this sequel was time for Abrams to boldly go where no one had gone before. Or, go where we have gone before, and just make the trip a less pleasurable experience. Nice choice, Abrams. Into Darkness opens with an action sequence that sets the audience up perfectly for what is to follow: an overproduced segment taken straight from Indiana Jones, which features some of the worst makeup and costuming seen in science fiction in decades, and lets
Bill Moyers once again provides compelling and timeless programming with Beyond Hate, a documentary that first aired in 1991. The special has been released on DVD by Athena with the bonus program Facing Hate, a 58-minute interview with Moyers and Elie Wiesel. There is also a 12-page booklet that outlines some historical context. Beyond Hate provides a lucid exploration of a complex subject, discovering hate in many forms and locations and discovering an interesting sense of continuity. Watching the documentary in 2013 reveals that little has changed in our cultural landscape; indeed, it appears we have new avenues down which

Book Review: Film Noir FAQ by David J. Hogan

All that's left to know about Hollywood's Golden Age of dames, detectives, and danger.
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When you flip open to the back of Film Noir FAQ, you will find out that it is one in a series of "FAQ" books. This may be concerning to anybody who has read one of those cheap, tossed-off books out of a series. Often you will find these books about sports teams, all basic information and spelling errors. Fortunately, those fears are unfounded. Hogan put a ton of effort and insight into Film Noir FAQ. The last thing that would be used to describe it is "tossed off." Film noir is a nebulous genre, and some may argue that

Miles Davis with Quincy Jones & the Gil Evans Orchestra Live at Montreux Blu-ray Review: Sketches from Switzerland

A wonderful bit of jazz history for a number of reasons.
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With a career that frequently found him spearheading new jazz genres over the course six decades, Miles Davis became one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, not just in jazz or music, but all the arts. He was a musician that constantly looked forward exploring new ideas because, as quoted in the liner notes, Miles felt that “if anybody wants to keep creating, they have to be about change.” That's why this concert, which found Miles looking back at his work with Gil Evans, was so special. The reason Miles agreed after initially turning it down isn't

generation Um... Movie Review: Um... Well... Um... Yeah... So... Um... No.

Speaking of boring, as characters go, John is like so many other Keanu Kreations - completely devoid of emotion to the point that you want to hold a mirror under his nose when he's not moving.
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Every so often on my late local news (and surely this happens in every other TV market in the country), I see a report about a crime that baffles me. I don't mean the kind of crime that leaves me wondering how anyone could do something so heinous to their fellow man. I mean the kind of crime that leaves me wondering what the hell were they thinking. It's the kind of crime where three or four people hatch some hair-brained scheme to knock over a liquor store or scam a senior citizen or steal puppies from the mall or

Star Trek (2009) Movie Review: A Weak Story with Plenty of Action

Will feed the hungry fans, but the meal is a bit overcooked.
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In 1994, Paramount transitioned the Star Trek movie franchise from the the Original Series cast to the Next Generation cast in Generations, which conveniently served its purpose. Not a great film, but it worked. Captain Picard and his crew followed up with the huge home run First Contact in 1996, but then killed the franchise with the two yawners that were Insurrection (1998) and Nemesis (2002). Trek fans then had little to embrace other than the under appreciated television series Enterprise which lasted until 2005. The franchise was to be reborn in 2008, but the writer’s strike kept anxious fans

Hitchcock (2012) Blu-ray Review: A Legend Plays a Legend

Hopkins shines as the master of suspense.
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Make no mistake: Anthony Hopkins has some acting chops. He’s brought to life some of the most memorable, likeable, and sinister characters in film, sometimes all at the same time. When faced with the prospect of Hopkins playing the iconic Alfred Hitchcock in a mini-biopic centered around the production of the genre-defining horror flick Psycho, and being a fan of Hitchcock myself, it’s understandable to have some reservations, but fear not -- Hopkins lives and breathes the master of suspense from the opening shot to the closing credits. From the plodding gait to the bulbous posture, the pouty mouth to

Star Trek: Nemesis Movie Review: The Wrath of Bad Moviemaking

The Next Generation crew go out with a whimper.
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At this point in the Trek film franchise, the makers of Star Trek had obviously given up on trying to appeal to an audience outside of the sci-fi convention attendees (referred to hereafter as "Conners"). It's too bad because Star Trek's strengths were in its storytelling. It used to reflect society and give us morality plays that all could identify with, but they no longer could, no longer tried, or no longer cared to go outside of what they think the Conners want to see when they finally, so we are left with this mess. Nemesis starts at a Romulan

Beautiful Creatures Blu-ray Review: A Solid Supernatural Story Worth Watching

An engaging plot and interesting characters elevates this about standard teen films.
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I enjoy being surprised at a well-done movie, particularly if it’s in the squalid, increasingly boring teen genre. Having never read the original source material from which Beautiful Creatures is adapted from, I had some reservations about its story involving witches and forbidden love. Thankfully, my hesitations were unfounded and Beautiful Creatures is one of the few enjoyable teen films out there today (sadly, its bombing at the box office will put the kibosh on future installments). While the Blu-ray is beautiful, you need to enjoy the movie itself because the bonus features are fairly weak. It’s not a huge

Star Trek: Insurrection Movie Review: New Aliens, Age-old Problems

A mixed bag, with plenty to like and dislike.
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Star Trek: Insurrection was the third mission of the Next Generation crew on the silver screen. The movie found them on their own, both onscreen and off, as they rebelled against Federation plans and appeared without the aid of familiar friends (Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov in Generations) or foes (the Borg in First Contact) to help draw an audience like the previous two. On an idyllic planet in an area of space known as the Briar Patch, the android Lieutenant Commander Data (Brent Spiner) goes bezerk and exposes a surveillance program of the Ba'ku, a group of 600 humanoids who

Cloud Atlas is the Pick of the Week

I'm probably not going to like it, but it just looks too damned interesting to not at least try to like it.
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Sometimes you gotta go with your gut. I tend to take this Pick of the Week thing a little too seriously. I spend entirely too much time debating which title I should bestow my little honor upon. I contemplate the type of film or TV show I want to highlight. I look over the extras and read reviews online. I ponder the reaction of picking one thing over another. Etc, etc, etc. I recognize that none of this really matters and yet each week I debate the merits of my choices like I was choosing which child is my favorite.

North by Northwest Movie Review: A Perfectly Fine Movie but Not Legendary

A fine thriller, but there's nothing special about it.
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Alfred Hitchcock is a highly acclaimed filmmaker who, while he never got an Academy Award, he did get a movie about him wherein he was played by Anthony Hopkins. Plus, there was that HBO movie too with that guy who played Truman Capote. No, not Philip Seymour Hoffman. The other guy. While he has many beloved movies, 1959's North by Northwest is high on the list. It features Hitchcock working alongside one of his favorite actors in Cary Grant, and several scenes and set pieces that have become extremely famous. It probably does not require a spoiler alert to mention

Doctor Who: The Visitation Special Edition Review: Rubber Reptiles and Disco Androids Bring the Plague

A visit to London with the Fifth Doctor and his companions.
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The Visitation is the fourth serial of the 19th season of Doctor Who. Though it was fourth one aired, it was actually the second one produced, and thus only the second time Peter Davison played the titular character (he briefly appeared in the final episode of the 18th season but only at the end so that viewers could get a hint of what the new Doctor looked like). The episode was written by Eric Saward and this was his first time writing for the series. Given the newness for both actor and writer The Visitation has something of an unfinished

Texas Chainsaw 3D Blu-ray Review: Wither Heatherface?

Yes, it's good to be bad. But this is much worse.
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While I was never a "huge" fan of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre series (the ones that started with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in '74), I must confess that one of my favorite LPs in my record collection is that of the soundtrack from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 from 1986. Of course, any motion picture soundtrack that contains Concrete Blonde, Oingo Boingo, Timbuk3, and The Cramps simply demands to be taken seriously - and there's even an offering from The Lords of the New Church (a group that, interestingly has a new singer named Adam Becvare) entitled "Good
During the 1950s a number of film critics began to criticize French cinema. It was too traditional, too literal, too confined to seemingly arbitrary rules. These critics (including Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut) felt that movies should relate to their youth more, should be more free, and should deal with more current social issues. True to their word, many of these critics became filmmakers themselves and created the French New Wave. Unlike more recent movements like Dogme 95, the New Wave did not have a set of official rules, rather the filmmakers involved worked around a set of general

2 Fast 2 Furious Movie Review: 2 Dumb 4 Me

"All right, let's see what this thing can do." - Brian O'Connor
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With the overwhelming box-office success of The Fast and the Furious, there was no surprise the sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious was released two years later. Unfortunately, the filmmakers appear to have incorrectly thought the movie was a success on all fronts and didn't deal with its flaws. After allowing Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) to escape, former undercover cop Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) went on the run. He ends up in Miami where he gets into the illegal racing scene down there. We are told he needs money, but that's hard to believe when he's able to come up with

Star Trek: First Contact Movie Review: Meeting New Friends and Killing Old Enemies

Plenty of action to satisfy everyone.
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Being the second film for the Next Generation crew and the eighth film in the entire Star Trek franchise, things were looking good for this release simply because it was an even-numbered film. And frankly after what was seen by many Trekkies around the world as the sacrilegious abomination of the previous film that killed off the iconic Captain Kirk (William Shatner), there was nowhere to go but up. At the start of the film, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is having nightmares about his assimilation into the Borg collective that occurred six years prior (shown in the television episode "The

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

Under scrutiny here: Bonjour Tristesse, The Rains of Ranchipur, Beloved Infidel, The Blue Lagoon (1980), Lost Horizon (1973), Experiment in Terror, and Our Man Flint.
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Once more, friends, we (or rather I) invite you to join me as I poke about a bit with some of the newer Twilight Time Blu-ray releases in another chapter of the Heavenly Shades of Delight series, which started with Volume One and Volume Two earlier this year. For this illustrious third entry, I am taking a peek at seven titles from the exclusive niche label - each of which is available exclusively online from Screen Archives (providing they're not sold out already, that is!). 1. Bonjour Tristesse (1958) (Columbia Pictures, Released November 13, 2012) Giving up the lifestyle one

Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay Movie Review: Every Trick Is A Treat

A link to the past, a link to the time in magic's history before craft became crass, is alive and well and mesmerizing.
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We like to do things big in America. We supersize our food. We drive Hummers. The Big Gulp is now the smallest of the Gulp line of beverages. We live in McMansions. We encourage Michael Bay. Magic has fallen victim to the same bloat. What was once an intimate art form has become a gaudy event, with every trickster more showman than magician, every assistant more stripper than confidante, and every illusion more spectacle than trick. Magic was once "look at this." Now, it’s "look at me." It wasn’t always this way. A link to the past, a link to

Safe Haven Combo Pack Review: Cute Leads Can't Save Dumb Story

A harsh story told in the sweetest way possible.
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I’m a young, 20-something female who loves to read. One can say that based on my gender I’m the perfect demographic for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation. To that person, I’d say that that is a horrific misconception as I generally abhor all things Sparks-related. And yet, I can’t stop myself from seeing what atrocities Hollywood perpetuates with the author’s material. There are some decent Sparks adaptations out there (The Notebook continuing to be the high point), but the latest film, Safe Haven, is bottom of the barrel. The movie looks good, and the leads are likable, but the script is

Pierre Etaix Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Bringing Etaix's World to Life

Pierre Etaix's charming films are finally released properly.
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“The defining characteristic of comic cinema,” says French comic, clown and filmmaker Pierre Etaix, “is that it begins with a situation everyone’s familiar with…If your initial situation is authentic, the sky’s the limit.” Thanks to the good people at Criterion Collection, aficionados and novices of Etaix’s evacuated and unkempt cosmos of comedy can experience his works in their full glory. The Pierre Etaix Blu-ray set includes all of his films: five features and three shorts. As critic David Cairns explains in the included booklet, “Etaix had signed his name to a distribution deal that had gone sour, and the bulk

Broken City Combo Pack Review: Power Plays Everyone, Even the Corrupt

Corruption in NYC goes deeper than you think.
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A movie about a corrupt mayor and a not-so-good cop. Wow, that’s a first, and yes, I’m being a smart ass about it. The story has been told a million times in a million cities, but what makes this project different is that director Allen Hughes at least tried to keep the audience guessing as the plot thickened with every new scene. My problem with movies like this is I’m always trying to figure out what each scene means, what does it have to do with the overall plot, and how is this going to reconcile the ending—as in, how

Ender's Game Teaser Trailer

The book made me contemplate big concepts like how humanity can only be brought together by an outside force bent on our destruction.
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I'm not much for science fiction, actually. I know and have seen most of the classic films of the genre. And liked them. But I'm quite deficient in the category of books. A couple of years ago I decided to try and remedy this and started looking for the classic sci-fi books. Time and time again, I heard the title Ender's Game, and eventually got down and read it. I was not too impressed, initially. Orson Scott Card is a decent writer, but his prose is a bit staid, provoking very little emotion or beauty from his words. The story,

Berlin Correspondent DVD Review: A Nifty L'il WWII Espionage B-Flick

Dana Andrews matches wits with Martin Kosleck in Nazi Germany - and it's fun!
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For many B-movie lovers like myself, the late great German-born Martin Kosleck will perhaps be best remembered as the mad scientist who helped create the titular creations in one of the earliest gore flicks, The Flesh Eaters in 1964 - and as a baddie in the ultra-campy no-budget American James Bond rip-off Agent for H.A.R.M. in '66. Decades prior, however, Kosleck made a career playing villainous Nazis (including Herr Goebbels himself - four different times!) in World War II-themed motion pictures boasting both large and small budgets alike. His frequency inhabiting such roles was not just another case of prime

Infographic: Tony Stark's Various Iron Man Armors

A look in Tony Stark's closest.
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The summer box-office battle is already in high gear as Iron Man 3 has already accumulated of $711 million as of May 6. Though making a killing, opinion is somewhat mixed, even here at Cinema Sentries. While one reviewer "enjoyed it slightly more than The Avengers," another called it, "arguably the worst Marvel film to hit the big screen," though one has to wonder if he ever saw Captain America (1992), which Chad Derdowski calls a "turd." Iron Man 3 finds Tony Stark tinkering in his lab, creating numerous suits of armor, such as the Mark XVII “Heartbreaker,” the Mark
The Film The last of Laurence Olivier’s three Shakespeare adaptations, Richard III is unquestionably one of the great Shakespeare films, but its stature might be even more pronounced as one of the great Technicolor films. To call every VistaVision frame of the film ravishing isn’t anywhere near hyperbole — the brilliant colors and sumptuous set design propel the film past mere “staginess” into an overtly artificial baroque fantasy-land that makes the treachery of the lead character all the more unsettling. A hard shift into location shooting for the film’s final segment creates a striking contrast between Richard’s thirst for power

Star Trek: Generations Movie Review: Passing of the Torch

I believe Generations to be the best of the four Next Generation films.
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“Kirk or Picard?” was one of the first questions Dr. Sheldon Cooper asked Dr. Leonard Hofsteder when they first met on the hit show The Big Bang Theory. Leonard’s answer was pretty great too, as he chose Kirk over Picard, but qualified it with Star Trek: The Next Generation as a series over the original. With the first Next Generation film, smartly titled Star Trek: Generations (1994), Trek fans got their wish to see the two Enterprise captains together for the one and only time. While I would probably consider Generations to be the best of the four TNG films,

Criterion's Band of Outsiders is the Pick of the Week

I've seen more movies in French than your average American filmgoer.
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I can't remember the first time I watched a foreign language film. I remember watching some on Bravo (back when Bravo actually showed movies - and commercial free ones at that - instead of a relentless onslaught of reality housewives and newlyweds) in junior high. But that was more because I realized arty foreign flicks often showed bits of naked flesh rather than any calling to pay attention to the filmmaking. I suppose it was college when I actually started paying attention to real cinema and foreign flicks. On the weekends we got IFC in the dorms, and I saw

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review: Engaging and Worthwhile Throughout

Silver Linings Playbook overcame its somewhat odd name to get a lot of award recognition, and it deserved it.
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The 2012 film Silver Linings Playbook featured a lot of folks whose careers were headed in the right direction. David O. Russell was no longer merely the guy who yelled at Lily Tomlin after the success of The Fighter. Bradley Cooper found fame and fortune starring in The Hangover, even if he will always be "Michael Ian Black's gay lover" in Wet Hot American Summer" to some people. Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen, which is something even people who know nothing else about The Hunger Games know. The only person not at the pinnacle of their career with a major

Pawn (2013) Blu-ray Review: Intensity That Just Won't Quit

An enjoyable but flawed thriller.
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Few movies can tie up an ending as neatly and shockingly as Se7en did, with everything coming to a head, the entire plot unfolding exactly the way John Doe had planned, leaving the protagonists with an impossible dilemma. Or how about how at the end of The Usual Suspects when viewers learned who Keyser Soze really was and had to immediately re-watch the entire movie with that in mind? What about how Memento told a story in reverse, but somehow managed to make it make more sense the closer you got to the beginning? Those films stand as well regarded

Carnival in Costa Rica DVD Review: An Endless Unfunny Rom-Com Musical

A movie full of Caucasian Ricans and a hero who looks like frickin' Matthew Lillard.
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In case it has slipped past both your central and peripheral paths of vision in recent years, the residents of the United States of America don't really care for its neighbors beneath it. Apparently, they feel they're, well - beneath them. Canadians? Kosher - so long as they don't talk politics or health care. Mexicans? Never. Not in a million years. Who cares if they do all of the menial tasks most of the USA's own citizens feel are a tad too tedious: they still don't like them. And that goes doubly so for those lazy, happy-go-lucky Costa Ricans -

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Review: Retirement is Truly the Final Frontier

A perfectly good send off for the classic characters.
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After the abysmal critical and fan reception of Star Trek V, they had originally planned for the next film in the series to be a prequel (which makes one wonder what JJ Abrams would have done with his recent prequel reboot), but after objections from the cast and fans (and finding new pressure from fans to have new movies be about the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation) producers decided to make a finale film of sorts with the crew of the original series set to retire making way for the new characters. Taking themes from the front pages

The Loves of Edgar Allan Poe DVD Review: For Curiosity Seekers Only

Edgar Allan Poe and Sherman T. Potter: College Roommates.
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While he was one of the authors who appealed to me during those days of darkness that dominated both my fashion sense and overly-artistic mind in the not-too-distant past, I must confess the notion of a motion picture based on the romantic side of Edgar Allan Poe seems like a real head-scratcher in my opinion. Ironically, outside of something in the vein of a BBC miniseries, Poe's tragic existence would perhaps be best-fitted for fiction - whether it be Hollywood's overly sensationalized 2012 film The Raven with John Cusack, or as an illusory cameo who sets up the entire plot

Iron Man Marathon: From Bad to Worse

The movie is titled Iron Man. It’s not Tony Stark, Super Sleuth.
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With the premiere of The Avengers in 2012, AMC did it right with a Marvel Marathon consisting of the two Iron Man films, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, and then The Avengers. It was an awesome day with laminated passes and lanyards, special 3D glasses, and the theatre employees decked out in Avenger costumes. We were even provided with a schedule for the day that let us know how long each break would be, and they let us go get food at the local restaurants and bring it back into the theatre. So, when it was announced that there

Iron Man 3 Movie Review: Third Time's a Charm

Highly recommend for fans of action and/or Downey as Stark.
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Not only does Iron Man 3 return the franchise to its glory, which I didn't find was as diminished by Iron Man 2 as many of its detractors did, but I even enjoyed it slightly more than The Avengers. Granted, that's due in part to IM3 having the advantage of taking place in a known cinematic world and not being bogged down having to set up the relationships of so many characters the same way Avengers did. Set around Christmas time after the events of The Avengers, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr. whose performance captivates throughout again) is going through

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier: Movie Review: A Good Idea with No Payoff

It keeps teasing and gearing you up for an amazing confrontational ending that it doesn’t deliver.
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In the opening of the fifth installment of the Star Trek franchise we find the Enterprise-A and her crew engaged in a mortal battle where the future of all life in the universe is at stake and…oh, wait that’s not what we find at all. In the third movie, the Enterprise was destroyed and they ended up spending the entire fourth film in a stolen Klingon Bird of Prey. But at the end of the previous film, Captain Kirk (William Shatner) was severely punished for his actions of commandeering his old ship and setting off on a forbidden mission to

Oblivion (2013) Movie Review: Could Be Where Tom Cruise is Headed if He Keeps Trying Sci Fi

It may occasionally be fun to look at, but that is about it.
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Tom Cruise does not try science fiction often, but when he does, the results are mediocre at best; until now. Oblivion would have to get much better to be mediocre. Most reviews include a brief synopsis of the story, and with that, possible spoilers for the reader who have yet to see the movie. No risk of that here. First of all, don’t see the movie. Second of all, the story is a mess. That is synopsis enough. There have been many summer science fiction films over the years that have been simple brain candy films full of excitement and

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