June 2013 Archives

21 & Over Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: If You're Itching For A Good Teen Party Flick, Look Somewhere Else

It’s a lot of rehashed ideas from the ‘80s that are poorly executed.
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The 21st birthday has become a symbolic rite of passage into full adulthood. At least that’s what everyone wants to say, but it’s really a celebration of reaching the legal drinking age. And when that night arrives, it is customary for the friends of the newly arrived 21-year-old to take him/her out to the local bars to imbibe in as much alcohol as the human body can handle without dying. So when that lucky day arrives, Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) finds his two best friends from high school, Miller (Miles Teller) and Casey (Skylar Astin), have flown into town for
I'm a big fan of sketch comedy. I've been watching Saturday Night Live (for better or worse) for almost as many years as it has been on TV, and in that span of time I've also enjoyed everything from Second City TV to MAD TV, and from The Kids in the Hall to Robot Chicken. I like the format for several reasons, but what I like about it most is the fact that if a sketch isn't funny, there's a new one coming along in minutes. But those are TV shows. What about movies? Well, sketch comedy hasn’t had the

Brazil Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Dreams and Nightmares Courtesy of Terry Gilliam

Some times the little guy wins and some times he loses.
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Terry Gilliam's dsytopian classic Brazil, a film about a man fighting against an oppressive system, led to life imitating art before its release as Gilliam fought with Universal Studios to get his version of the film released. That inside-Hollywood story is as interesting as the one on screen and the Criterion Collection tells them both in this two-disc set. At 8:49 PM, somewhere in the 20th Century, an explosion goes off in a storefront window, an occurrence so frequent during these times people don't stop eating during a restaurant bombing. In the Ministry of Information, a warrant for the arrest

In Old Arizona Blu-ray Review: Proof Not All Classics Are Classic

Tonight, on Racial Stereotype Theater…
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When Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace first started teasing moviegoers and nerds everywhere in the late 1990s, the world became accustomed to the phrase "Every Saga Has a Beginning" - something that has been copied and parodied in some circles ever since. Of course, it's a true statement; one that extends as far back as the early days of moving picture entertainment itself. Witness the 1928 Academy Award winning Hollywood classic In Old Arizona, wherein we see the beginning of three entirely different (but altogether) factions of film: the singing cowboy motif, the first all-sound entry filmed
The matter of Harold Lloyd’s lack of fame has been of much discussion over the years. He is often cited by film buffs as one of the three masters of the silent comedy era, with the other being Buster Keaton and Charles Chaplin. Yet somehow the Nebraska-born Lloyd is often now overlooked in conversations about the subject, despite the fact that he made more pictures than Keaton and Chaplin combined. Safety Last!, available now on Criterion Collection Blu-ray, is perhaps Lloyd’s most well-known work. The famed clock scene has been often imitated, even in commercials, but most people still aren’t

Things to Come Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Overly Didactic Technical Marvel

A sometimes prescient and sometimes naïve examination of the future
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The Film An impressive technical achievement, even if its didacticism threatens to overwhelm all other elements, H.G. Wells’ Things to Come is a sometimes prescient and sometimes naïve examination of the future. Produced by Alexander Korda and directed by William Cameron Menzies, the film is arguably primarily authored by Wells, who wrote the screenplay based on several of his works, including the novel The Shape of Things to Come. No fan of Metropolis, Wells apparently instructed the production crew to fashion a vision of the future that was the exact opposite of the “robot workers” and “ultra-skyscrapers” of Lang’s film,

Safety Last! (1923) Criterion Collection DVD Review: A Silent Comedic Masterpiece

It is clearly the work of a man at the peak of his powers.
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The three comedic geniuses of the silent film era were Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. For various reasons, Keaton and Lloyd have not retained their popularity over the years the way Chaplin has though. After watching the new Criterion Collection edition of Harold Lloyd’s Safety Last! (1923), I can certainly say that for him, the quality of his work is not at issue. This film is as fresh, irreverent, funny, and downright thrilling as anything I have ever seen. Safety Last! is considered by many to be Lloyd’s masterpiece, and I see why. It is clearly the work

Wilfred: The Complete Season 2 Blu-ray Review: Disgustingly Funny

The show is crass, rude, disgusting, and very, very funny.
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Based upon an Australian show of the same name (which itself was based on an award-winning short film) Wilfred is a comedy about a man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) and his dog Wilfred, (Jason Gann) who happens to talk (and curse, and drink, and smoke pot, and hump everything in sight.) Or at least he appears to do those things in Ryan's eyes, but appears as a normal dog to everyone else. The reasons for this duplexity are as yet unexplained and the mystery is one of the central points to many plot points. At the end of Season 1,

Upside Down is the Pick of the Week

How did I let this slip through?
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Every week as I write this column I am amazed at just now many movies are released each week. Hundreds of titles enter the vast ocean of DVDs and Blu-rays already in existence, all asking to be bought, to be watched. Admittedly many of them are low-grade, low-budget Z-movies being released in the cheapest of ways, or films in the public domain getting cheaply reproduced to make a quick buck and then there is the Girls Gone Wild-style of pornography that seems to reproduce like bunnies. Still, after taking away all that garbage, there are still dozens upon dozens of

Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD Review

If you own one DVD set, it should contain this series.
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Celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of the most fascinating programs to ever air on television, Athena presents a new DVD edition of Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers featuring new material. Well known for his work in comparative mythology and religion, particularly The Hero with a Thousand Faces where he details the concept of the monomyth or the hero's journey, professor Joseph Campbell was interviewed over the last two summers of his life by Bill Moyers about the myths of the world; the way they worked in society, past and present; and how they connected

LAFF 2013 Review: A Compelling Look at Our Nixon

This found-footage documentary that offers a compelling look at his presidency from the inside.
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Former vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower, Richard M. Nixon became the 37th President of the United States on his second attempt at the position, defeating Vice President Hubert Humphrey in 1968. He won re-election in 1972 against Senator George McGovern in an extremely lopsided victory, yet didn't complete his second term. He resigned in disgrace on August 9, 1974 before he could be impeached as a result of the dirty tricks conducted by his administration, most notably the break-in of Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel and Office Building. Currently playing the festival circuit and set for a

Beck: Vol. 7 & 8 DVD Review: He's Not a Loser, Baby, And He'll Catch Your Killer

The more you watch the more you want to see.
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Based on a series of 10 novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Beck is a Swedish crime drama that revolves around a group of murder police in the city of Stockholm. The MHZ Networks have been showing the series via their television stations and continue to release it on DVD.Volume 7 and 8 contains three episodes a piece (Vol. 7 contains episodes 19-21 and 8 has 22-24.) Like many European crime dramas, each episode is really a movie - with a run time of 1 hour 30 - which allows it more time to develop its story than the

Contest: 6 Souls on DVD

You could bring these souls home.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Anchor Bay Entertainment and RADiUS- TWC to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win 6 Souls, which will be available on Blu-ray and DVD on July 2. After the death of her husband, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Cara Harding’s (Julianne Moore) faith in God has been shaken, but not her belief in science. In an attempt to open her up to accepting unexplainable psychiatric theories, her father introduces her to Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a patient with multiple personalities, who takes on some of the physical characteristics of his other personalities. Cara quickly discovers

Marketa Lazarova Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Defiantly Experimental

Epic black and white Czechoslovakian film tests narrative patience but offers ample visual rewards
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You know how Game of Thrones gets really confusing with the various warring clans populated by so many characters that we barely get to know any of them? Now imagine if those medieval adventures in Westeros were moved to Czechoslovakia, filmed in black and white, and shot like an art film. Director Frantisek Vlacil’s epic 3 hour film limits the opposing parties to two tribes, but devolves into so much artistry along the way that its seemingly simple war story becomes a dense exercise in comprehension. This is a movie for hardcore movie lovers only, as it offers no conventional

Contest: Jack the Giant Slayer Combo Pack

You have the power!
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Cinema Sentries and Warner Brothers have teamed up to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win Jack the Giant Slayer Combo Pack, which includes a Blu-ray, a DVD, and Ultraviolet access. Directed by Brian Singer (X-Men, Superman Returns) and starring Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy), Ewan McGregor (Star Wars, Moulin Rouge!), and Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), press materials reveal the story is about how "the giants strive to reclaim the land they once lost, forcing Jack (Hoult), into the battle of this life to stop them. Fighting for a kingdom and its people, and the love of a

Doctor Who: The Mind of Evil DVD Review: A Curiosity Piece

The Doctor and Jo battle The Master in a story that tells us more about the latter than the former.
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Over the past few years, I've reviewed quite a few of the BBC releases of Doctor Who. One of the latest releases, The Mind of Evil, is not my first Jon Pertwee review with him as the Doctor. I reviewed The Three Doctors release that takes place at the beginning of Season Ten when the Doctor is finally released from a two-year exile on Earth. This new release takes us back to the second story of Season Eight. By this time, Pertwee is comfortably 29 episodes into his run and has settled into the character. The six-episode arc is an

Slugterra: Slugs Unleashed DVD Review: Arrested Development

Second DVD collection from the TV series contains fast-paced standalone episodes with no unifying arc.
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For those new to this vibrant and expertly animated series, Slugterra is an underground land populated with many different types of humanoid creatures and slugs. The denizens don’t know about our above-ground Earth, and humans don’t know about Slugterra, but lead human character Eli Shane has moved to Slugterra thanks to some insider information. When last we left Eli and his intrepid underground adventurers, they were forming a close-knit group (the Shane Gang) that was united in its efforts to defeat the evil Dr. Blakk. Their weapon of choice: adorable assorted little native slugs that transform into mighty battle beasts
H.G. Wells has had a number of books turned into classic films, including The Island of Lost Souls (1932), and The Time Machine (1960). His direct experience with the cinema was less than satisfactory however. Wells’ only full-length feature film was Things To Come (1936), which has just been released on DVD as part of the Criterion Collection. It is one of the strangest films I have ever seen, for a number of reasons. No matter what you may think of it in the end though, it is a truly unforgettable piece of cinematic history. The two-bit synopsis of the

Burn Notice Season 6 DVD Review: The Spy Who Came In From the Cold

After rejoining the CIA, Michael Westen gets burned again.
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If you’ve never watched USA Network’s long-running crime/action show, here’s a quick recap: faithful US spy gets blacklisted by his own government, spends the next few years using his formidable skills to help civilians in need while simultaneously tracking down who burned him and why, before finally solving enough of the mystery to return to the good graces of the CIA. Bring on Season 6! Once again ably abetted by his support team of retired Navy Seal Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), demolitions expert and love interest Fiona (Gabrielle Anwar), fellow burned spy Jesse (Coby Bell), and his long-suffering mother (Sharon

The Last Ride (2012) Blu-ray Review: It Should Never Have Been Taken

I'm sure a pitch meeting happened where somebody said, "It's a film about an unlikely friendship that forms between two men who are forced to travel together."
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I will start this review by stating that I am a huge Hank Williams Sr. fan and I like old-school country music. So please know these two facts as you read on. The film, The Last Ride, is the partly truthful story of Hank Williams Sr.'s last trip before he died on January 1, 1953. The film stars Henry Thomas as Hank Williams, although in the film, that is only alluded to. For the entire picture no one speaks the name of Hank Williams and he is only referred to as Mr. Wells, one of a few aliases that Williams

Vexed Series 2 DVD Review: A Vexing Decline

New co-star inevitably changes the chemistry, but not for the better.
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After only one season, co-star Lucy Punch is gone. While that wouldn’t be a big deal for a show with a large ensemble cast (see any CSI or Law & Order), this buddy cop comedy/drama series really only has two stars. The massive change in the core chemistry of the show is akin to what would have happened if Moonlighting had replaced Cybill Shepard, or for you younger readers, if Bones replaced Emily Deschanel. New co-star Miranda Raison is pleasant, easy on the eyes, and game to help the show, but she’s not Lucy Punch. To further compound problems, the
Filmmaker Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool walks the tender line between fiction and non-fiction, using the cinema vérité method to beg questions about the duties of media and the principles of witnessing the world as it is. Indeed, the questions asked in this motion picture are as persuasive today as they were in the milieu of late-60s disruption; it is remarkable how little has changed. Medium Cool is now available on Criterion Collection, so now is as good a time as any to visit (or revisit) this gripping and exceptional feature. Wexler’s picture, to have film critic Thomas Beard tell it,

Queen: Live at Wembley Stadium 25th Anniversary Edition DVD Review: A Wonderful Keepsake

Queen: Live at Wembley Stadium: 25th Anniversary Edition revisits one of the iconic group's most dynamic performances.
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This two-disc DVD set from Eagle Rock Entertainment, commemorates the 25th anniversary of Queen’s iconic concerts at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1986. The DVD features the complete July 12, 1986 show at and the rain-soaked July 11th show in its entirety. The “Magic Tour,” designed to promote the album A Kind of Magic, was the original band’s last sojourn. Freddie Mercury passed away five years later. The Wembley shows highlighted the band at the top of their game- fresh off Live Aid and firmly ensconced as one of the world’s most iconic groups. “We Are the Champions” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,”

Doctor Who: Inferno Special Edition DVD Review: Murdering Radioactive Mutants Unite!

Inferno is definitely one of the better ones, and with all of the extras, this package is a sweet one.
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We are just a few months away from the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and the BBC continues to roll out classic serials on DVD. As a Yank who is a fairly recent convert to the series, I am getting to know the various incarnations of the Doctor through these releases. In watching them, I find it interesting how often my opinions about the show, and the Doctors changes. A case in point is the new seven-part Inferno, which originally aired from May into June of 1970. Jon Pertwee stars as the Third Doctor, and with this serial, he has

A Good Day to Die Hard Blu-ray Review: Lots Of Action With Little Substance

John McClane ceremoniously passes off the torch to his son Jack in this fifth installment of the franchise
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It’s been 25 years since the inaugural film of the Die Hard franchise was released in theatres to mass audience appeal. Now in its fifth installment John McClane is ceremoniously passing off the torch to his son Jack (Jai Courtney). The two have been at odds throughout most of their lives as John has spent too much time focusing on his job instead of on his family. Even though his job usually involves taking out the bad guys and saving countless lives, that’s hard for a kid to understand. All he knows is that his father was not around while

The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour DVD Review: A TV Special That's Barely OK

This is a tour not worth taking.
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It seems like it would have been hard to go wrong if in 1976 Saturday Night Live creator and producer Lorne Michaels signed on to produce a special for NBC featuring The Beach Boys who had re-grouped to release a new album. And yet, oh so wrong this production does indeed go. Ironically, the project was titled The Beach Boys: It’s OK, but it would take a generous reviewer to say this new release, now titled The Beach Boys: Good Vibrations Tour is even close to be “Ok”. The only thing in worse shape than this “special”, due to hit

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol Review: A Movie on Cruise Control

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is not a well-made movie.
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It seems somewhat improbable that the Mission: Impossible film franchise would deliver a fourth installment in 2011, with potential for future sequels as well. The first one came out in 1996, at a time when Tom Cruise starring in an action blockbuster made sense. In 2011, it would, in theory, make no sense, but Cruise is no ordinary man, having seemingly not aged too much in the past 15 years, although there is still clearly some wear and tear on Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, but time makes fools of us all. More than that, the general consensus

Stoker is the Pick of the Week

If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's releases.
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It is a great week to be a movie fan. This week's DVD/Blu-ray releases have a little something for everyone. There is a big-budget 3-D action adventure flick, a couple of British dramas, and a couple more '80s horror flicks getting collector's editions. A cult Korean filmmakers debuts his first English language thriller, a huge cast of stars make a daring comedy that was quickly panned by everybody, and there is a huge collection of classic films getting some nice treatments from Criterion and Kino. If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's

Last Shop Standing DVD Review: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Store

When a store such as Hudson’s Record & Tape Centre closes after 105 years of business, it is cause to take notice.
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As music sales have declined over the last decade, the retailers hit hardest have been the independent record stores. In the UK alone, where there was once over 2,200 independent stores in the 1980s, that number has dwindled to 269 as of 2009. So what happened? Surely people still like music? Last Shop Standing: The Rise, Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Store aims to find out. Based on the book of the same name by record distributor Graham Jones, Last Shop Standing finds Jones exploring the history of the UK independent record shop. The film is divided into

The Wolf of Wall Street Trailer Should Have You Howling with Delight

This might be the best movie of the year.
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Based on the memoir of Jordan Belfort, who was jailed for 22 months because of securities fraud and money laundering, The Wolf of Wall Street is the fifth collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese and may be their best one yet if the film is as great as the trailer. Set to Kanye's powerful "Black Skinhead," it suggests a cinematic wild ride that explores the lives of Belfort and his associates as they exploit the financial system to their great, albeit brief, benefit. The rise and fall of Belfort is similar to that of mobster Henry Hill from Scorsese's

Dark Skies (2013) Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: A Compelling Family Drama Undercut by Aliens

The film isn't super scary, but it does have a slow built of creepiness and intensity.
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I have never been a big fan of alien movies because they have never been particularily scary to me. More real life and tangible things are scarier; give me a psycho killer or a big shark and I am not sleeping. Little green men, on the other hand, are too far beyond reality. What is interesting about Dark Skies is that while the cause of the scares is aliens, the story is more about real-life happenings and what draws families together and pulls them apart. The Barrett family seem to be a normal suburban family dealing with everyday issues. Daniel

The Girls in the Band Movie Review: A Fascinating Story about Women in Jazz

Little-known female jazz instrumentalists finally get deserved recognition in this documentary, which spans from the late 1930s to the present.
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When asked to name prominent female jazz artists, most fans can list Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, or Billie Holiday. All were legendary singers, but what about musicians? While a few names may come to mind today such as Esperanza Spalding and Diana Krall, many toiled in all-girl bands or behind the scenes for decades, never receiving the recognition they deserved. The documentary The Girls in the Band spotlights women from the late 1930s to today, demonstrating how they battled sexism and being labeled as “novelty acts” to pave the way for modern artists. Director Judy Chaikin--best known for writing, producing,

Man of Steel (2013) Movie Review: A Movie Made Solely to Sell Kiddie Meals

I wish I had Superman's powers, just so I could spin the world around backwards and turn back time just long enough to prevent this film from being made.
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Upon the release of Skyfall, regular ol' filmgoers and trolling fanboys alike started to point out all the similarities between the third Daniel Craig James Bond flick and a certain superhero series that filmmakers Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer had rebooted. Well, hey, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? There's absolutely nothing wrong with including in a little homage to another title (or complete franchise) in your own movie. And it's a game that just about anyone can play, too. All one need do is check out the Goyer/Nolan-penned reboot of the timeless Superman legacy, Man of

Man of Steel (2013) Movie Review: Man of Action, but Little Thought

A Superman I don't completely recognize and I'm okay with that.
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Director Zack Snyder, producer Christopher Nolan, and writer David S. Goyer have delivered an adaptation of Superman that is parts familiar and foreign as they reboot the franchise after Bryan Singer's Superman Returns. Man of Steel, which remakes Superman: The Movie and Superman II, is an amalgamation of ideas executed with varying degrees of success, as they focus on the man and create a superhero I don't completely recognize. The story, which takes non-linear turns during the first half, begins with the impending destruction of Krypton. The planet's main scientist, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), and his wife have the first natural

Laurel and Hardy in Dirty Work (1933)

"The whole thing looks screwy to me!" - Oliver
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Dirty Work is the fifth and final short the boys released in 1933, a month before their classic feature Sons of the Desert, and it is a funny one. Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy are working as chimney sweeps and get work at the home of Professor Noodle, a scientist developing a formula to reverse the aging process, but that is just a set-up for the final joke that closes out the film. This film could have been set in any house with a chimney because the main focus of the story, and the laughs, are the antics between the
Mike Leigh’s wonderful Life is Sweet is less a film about something and more a film about the thrust of life itself. It focuses on a family of four in North London as they try to eke their way through various curveballs and ongoing struggles. The performances are pitch-perfect, the dialogue crackles with realism, the comedy is at turns bleak and hysterical, and the movie winds up being life-affirming and intelligent. Leigh’s 1990 picture, available now thanks to Criterion Collection, was the British filmmaker’s international breakthrough. He had crafted a series of plays and films prior to its release, of

Fast & Furious 6 Movie Review: Flashy & Fantastic

It bucks conventional wisdom about sequels and is the best one yet.
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It may have been easy to dismiss the first few installments, especially after Tokyo Drift nearly sank the franchise, but with Fast & Furious and Fast Five pushing the series' domestic box-office total to nearly $700 million and over $1.5 billion worldwide, there's no denying its success. Even more astonishing is Fast & Furious 6 bucks conventional wisdom about sequels and is the best one yet. The seeds for the story were sown in the Five's epilogue. Although proclaimed dead in F&F, Dom's girlfriend Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) is discovered alive and working with a criminal gang in Europe, led by

Killing Lincoln Blu-ray Review: Before and After

It suffers from being dull in its reenactment.
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I remember when Howard Stern left terrestrial radio. The first thing I thought was, “You don’t want to be the next guy. At best, you want to be the guy after that.” So big, so definitive was Stern that the guy who wound up replacing him didn’t stand a chance. (Okay, so you can argue that the guy who wound up replacing Stern, former/current/former/current/former/current Van Halen front man David Lee Roth, couldn’t have replaced most of us, let alone a living legend, but go with the spirit of the argument here, please.) Such now is the case with anyone who
Garbage’s Shirley Manson spends a large part of One Mile High…Live traipsing a ring mid-stage like a prizefighter. She sporadically lunges forward and back, prattles in her Scottish brogue and delivers slithery, punk-infused vocals to an appreciative throng at Denver’s Ogden Theatre. Now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital video from Eagle Rock Entertainment, this document of Garbage’s first world tour in seven years captures the band in a loose but adept state. There is nothing overpowering about it, but One Mile High…Live shows a competent rock band trying to yank themselves back in the mix. Manson is joined by

Doctor Who: Series Seven, Part Two Blu-ray Review: The Doctor Returns with a New Companion and a New Attitude

The second half of the seventh series is well done and the interaction between the two main characters adds a breath of fresh air to the franchise.
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Now that the Doctor is back with a new companion and he’s pulled himself out of his emotional cage, he’s ready to set off for adventure at the beginning of the second half of the seventh series. But wait; there’s a huge problem. The audience has been promised that Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) was the new companion. But how could that be? We saw her in the first half of the series as a shipwreck victim in the episode “Asylum of the Daleks,” and she died in that episode. That could have just been a coincidence since at that point the

Contest: Killing Lincoln on Blu-ray

One lucky reader the opportunity to win Killing Lincoln on Blu-ray.
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Cinema Sentries and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment have teamed up to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win Killing Lincoln on Blu-ray, which is now available for sale on Blu-ray and DVD and has been reviewed by Michael Nazarewycz. Based on The New York Times best-selling novel by Bill O'Reilly, Killing Lincoln is the suspenseful, eye-opening account of the events surrounding the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. While some aspects of the plot to slay Lincoln and cripple the newly forming union are widely known, much more of the history unfolds in this insightful thriller. As John

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Teases with Poster and Trailer

The trailer offers quite a bit of action and excitement.
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As the excitement for Man of Steel and Pacific Rim builds, there are some people who don't want you to forget a little fantasy film coming out on on December 13, 2013 so a poster and trailer have been released. The Desolation of Smaug, part two of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, continues the events from An Unexpected Journey, as the hobbit Bilbo Baggins travels with the Wizard Gandalf, the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield, and his company into the Kingdom of Erebor, taking them through Mirkwood, Esgaroth, and Dale to eventually the epic combat with the dragon Smaug. The film stars Ian
From time to time in this weekly series I like to discuss the ways and means to which I choose my Pick of the Week. I've previously mentioned how I like to pretend that some kind soul is giving me one DVD or Blu-ray from the week's releases. And so my pick is simply what I would choose to receive on any given week. Well, this week I really was given a copy of my choice. Criterion has kindly allowed me to review their Blu-ray upgrade of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries. I have seen the film before and absolutely adore
A pompous yet dull sex comedy from Argentina, 2+2 is more exasperating than entertaining. It is apparently the highest-grossing comedy ever in the South American country, but it lumbers around like every predictable and sloppy farce on the subject and has little of import to say. On top of that, it asks the audience to bond with unrealistic characters. There have been many movies to ostensibly decry the pitfalls of the dreaded monogamous relationship only to back down for the big finish. 2+2 is no different from the rest. Apart from being an unoriginal glimpse at swinging, it features characters

Doctor Who: The Snowmen Blu-ray Review: This Year The Doctor's New Christmas Gift Is A New Companion

It's entertaining, but difficult to understand why it needed to be released separately from Series Seven, Part Two.
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Series Seven continues the tradition in the Doctor Who universe of a stand-alone Christmas special coming between the two halves. In "The Snowmen," it’s 1892 and the Doctor has gone into self-exile. The loss of his two previous companions, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill), in the first half of the ser has pushed him over the edge. He is no longer the protector of the universe. Instead, he has resigned himself to the TARDIS high above the clouds. But the universe works in mysterious ways, and if his past is any precursor of what’s to come in his

Wild Strawberries Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful, Complex, Symbolic Film

A fully rewarding film with great emotional wealth and intellectual grace.
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I am 37 years old. With luck, I'll live another 37 before I die. At the middle of my life, I try not to partake of the crisis that effects so many at this age, but I do admit to periodic bursts of looking back - at the things I've done, the places I've seen, the accomplishments I've achieved, and the people I've known - and comparing them to where I thought I'd be when I first began. The man I dreamed I would be as a child is many fathoms away from the man I became.I do not possess

Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse: The Epic Ordeal Behind An Epic Film

An engaging documentary about a man with huge dreams and all the things that conspired to destroy them.
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Apocalypse Now is a legendary film, but, as many movie fans know, the production of Francis Ford Coppola's war epic was just as legendary in its own way. Fortunately, thanks in part to Coppola's wife Eleanor, folks can get a sense of what happened in the behind-the-scenes documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. By the time Francis got involved in the production of Apocalypse Now, he was a huge name, thanks to a couple of films about a mob family. Also, The Conversation. He was a man with big visions, and the willingness to throw his own money into

Prometheus (2012) Blu-ray Review: A Feast for the Senses, An Appetizer for the Mind

My deep appreciation of the film's visual style is why I am so disappointed there are problems with the script.
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Ridley Scott's return to science fiction and the universe he established with the classic film Alien is a visual masterpiece. The work of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and production designer/frequent Scott collaborator Arthur Max, along with their respective teams, is marvelous to behold, whether on the silver screen in 3D or on Blu-ray in 2D. I wish the frames of the film were collected in a photography book, so I could gaze at them at my leisure. My deep appreciation of the film's visual style is why I am so disappointed there are problems with the script. Prometheus opens at an

George Gently Series 5 DVD Review: The Most Intriguing and Intense So Far

An excellent mystery/police drama, all set to the fascinating backdrop of England in 1968.
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As the BBC series George Gently embarks on its sixth series, Acorn Media have been helping us catch up with it. The first step was the George Gently Collection Series 1-4 box set, which we recently reviewed. That 11-DVD collection contains all 11 episodes of the first four series of the program. Series Five has also just been released, as a four-DVD set. Each series (“seasons” in the United States), consists of two, three, or four 90-minute episodes, hence the odd number of series in the box. There were four programs (really TV movies) for the fifth series, and a

Masaki Kobayashi Against The System DVD Review: Angry & Elegant Political Films

Early films from the director of Harakiri reveal a rancorous, politically minded filmmaker.
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Known for his exemplary samurai film Harakiri and three-part World War II humanist epic The Human Condition, Masaki Kobayashi wasn’t afraid to criticize the cultural values of his country, whether medieval notions of honor or more contemporary militarism. In the four films included in the Criterion Collection’s 38th Eclipse set, Kobayashi’s rancorous tendencies are laser-focused on a host of postwar moral turpitude, both small- and large-scale. These three early works and one from Kobayashi’s prime are angry yet elegant, politically charged but not overtly polemical. Leading off the set is Kobayashi’s first major film, The Thick-Walled Room, shot in 1953

Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine Trailer Shows Why Jasmine Is Blue

Woody Allen returns to the U.S. for his latest film.
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Set to be released on July 26, 2013 in New York and Los Angeles, Woody Allen's next film is Blue Jasmine, starring Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Sally Hawkins, Peter Sarsgaard, and Michael Stuhlbarg. According to the film's press release, "it is the story of the final stages of an acute crisis and a life of a fashionable New York housewife" (Blanchett). "After the government took everything" from her and her husband Hal (Baldwin), who "turns out to be a crook," according to Chili (Cannavale), like Bernie Madoff, she heads to San Francisco to

Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie Review: A Lot of Hot Air

But as the movie played, it became more and more evident that it wasn't my memory that had failed me, but rather Downey, who was less of a cultural icon and more of a one-hit wonder.
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In case I haven’t said this before, I am a sucker for nostalgia - particularly ‘80s nostalgia. I spent the entirety of my teenage years living in the decade of decadence, and while you might not catch me wearing anything DayGlo, you will still find Wayfarers on my face, Reeboks on my feet, a formidable ‘80s music collection on my iPod, and even a few episodes of Battle of the Network Stars on my DVR. One of the joys of being nostalgic, especially as much as I am, is when a memory hits me that I didn’t expect. It’s easy

Contest: The Purge Prize Pack

Would You Survive the Night?
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Cinema Sentries and Universal Pictures have teamed up to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win The Purge prize pack containing a t-shirt and mask. The movie plays in theaters everywhere on June 7. Starring Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, The Purge follows one family over the course of a single night. From sundown to sunrise, for 12 hours, all crime is legal. Four people will be tested to see how far they will go to protect themselves when the danger of the outside world invades their home. The question is... Would You #SurviveTheNight? Take the quiz below to

Conan O'Brien to Host Carson on TCM

For those who bemoan that Hollywood stars and late-night talk shows ain't what they used to and also for those who don't, it will be must-see TV.
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Conan O'Brien, talk-show host and member of the Turner television family, will host Carson on TCM, an ingenious joint venture showcasing segments from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson when the King of Late Night interviewed some of Hollywood's biggest stars. "With its connection between late-night television and classic films, Carson on TCM offers the perfect opportunity to bring TBS's popular late-night host to Turner Classic Movies," said Jeff Gregor, chief marketing officer of TBS, TNT and TCM and general manager of TCM. "Conan has long idolized Johnny Carson, and he understands what it's like to be on the other

Book Review: Doctor Who: Harvest of Time by Alastair Reynolds

The Doctor and the Master find themselves at the cold end of time.
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Forget about the Rolling Stones’ 50th anniversary, the one that really counts is coming this November, which will mark 50 years of Doctor Who. For a show that was dismissed, destroyed, and seemingly discarded for good at one point, the BBC is pulling out all stops. One element of the celebration is the publication of some very cool Doctor Who novels, the latest being Harvest of Time. This is no quickie tie-in either, as the book was written by the acclaimed sci-fi author Alastair Reynolds. I must say, the story Reynolds has crafted is as good and in some ways

Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season is the Pick of the Week

Walt finally sets the pieces in place to be the kingpin he was born to be but it never seems enough.
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With but a half season to go Breaking Bad is very near to completely proving itself to be one of the all-time greatest shows to have ever existed. The rise (or fall depending on how you look at it) of Walter White over five seasons has been some of the most riviting dramas on television. Despite being labled as "The Fifth Season," this DVD set contains only the first half - eight episodes - of season five. But what a half season it was. I'll not spoil anything except to say Walt finally sets the pieces in place to be

George Gently Collection Series 1-4 DVD Box Set Review: A Hidden Treasure

The first four series of this British gem are now available in a box set.
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In 1955 author Alan Hunter published a novel entitled Gently Does It, which marked the first appearance of the British police inspector George Gently. To say that the character proved to be very popular in his homeland is a bit of an understatement. From 1955 to 1998, Hunter published roughly one new George Gently novel every year. With such a proven track record, it is a little surprising that it took until 2007 for Gently to move from the printed page to the television screen, but it did. “George Gently” was the title of the pilot of the George Gently

Now You See Me Movie Review: A Lot More Magic Could Have Saved It from Mediocrity

Unfortunately, after introducing some great characters and a very interesting storyline, the film stalls out in the middle.
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J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a cocky, up-and-coming magician. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is his former assistant who is turning heads with her own show. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a cocky street magician/petty crook. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist, highly adept at reading people and hypnosis. These four talented amateur magicians find themselves mysteriously summoned to the same address in downtown Manhattan where they end up bonding together and creating a new magical act they call the Four Horseman. A year later they have an enormous Las Vegas act, where for their final trick they rob

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