October 2013 Archives

Concert Review: Danny Elfman's Music From the Films of Tim Burton

Genius on display.
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After debuting at the Royal Albert Hall and a few performances in the UK, “Danny Elfman's Music From the Films of Tim Burton” made its North American debut and first of a three-night stand on October 29th at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live. John Mauceri conducted the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra and 45-member Page L.A. Choir in a performance of music from all 15 of Elfman-Burton collaborations, which began with Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985), a film notable for being Burton's first as a feature director and Elfman's first as a film composer. If there was any doubt how excited the

Watch Oingo Boingo Live from Halloween Weekend 1987

It's another Dead Man's Party.
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Last year, thanks to Despina838 of YouTube, we presented video from Oingo Boingo's 1990 Halloween show. It was a local tradition for the band to play Orange County's Irvine Meadows from 1986 to 1991, and luckily, I attend was able to attend that last year. Their final concert was Halloween 1995. Inspired by seeing Danny Elfman sing songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, I have decided to start our own tradition by presenting Despina838's video from 1987. In March of that year, they had released Boi-ngo, their fifth studio album. I have chosen the Friday

Vikings: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Old Gods Make Decent Drama

History Channel's first scripted series, Vikings mixes fact, legend, and fairly standard TV drama.
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The images that are conjured by the words "History Channel scripted series" are not too exciting. It makes one think of men in fake beards and faker costumes standing around tables, making speeches about important things that are going to happen, like those Civil War TV-movies that occasionally come about, where it feels like all the participants already know the outcome of the battle, and the war, before it has even begun. Vikings, happily, is not that. It is not perfect television, but it's a real, modern show. That means it looks good, it has an intricate political plot, and
B-movie producer Roger Corman somewhat famously used to tell his directors that they could make his movies anyway they wanted but they had to have either a scene of violence or of sex every fifteen minutes. The producers of the Johan Falk Trilogy must come from the Corman school of movies, though they tend to focus more on the action than the sex. Within the opening scenes of the first film, Zero Tolerance we find Johan Falk (Jakob Eklund) in a post-coital glow with one of his coworkers quickly followed by a bloody shoot-out and car chase. It hardly slows

Book Review: Armageddon Films FAQ by Dale Sherman

Dale Sherman takes a look at the end of the world - Hollywood-style in the book Armageddon Films FAQ.
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Armageddon Films FAQ can be called a companion volume to Applause Books’ Horror Films FAQ in that there is some overlap. A few of the zombie films mentioned in Horror Films are also classified as Armageddon films, but most movies about the end of civilization stand in their own distinct genre. Author Dale Sherman covers over 20 genres of end-of-the world flicks in Armageddon Films FAQ. Body snatching, Satan, technology, the Rapture, evil animals, zombies, and aliens are just a few of the reasons humans cease to exist in the film world. The wealth of world-over films run the gamut

New Girl: The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Another Great Season

It gave me a chance to laugh all over again at the jokes I found so funny the first time.
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New Girl is one of the best shows on television today. To just refer to it as sitcom is to sell the show short of its sheer greatness. Part of what makes this show so great is its rewatchability in reruns and on DVD. It was a ton of fun to get to review this new 3-DVD set. The complete second season has been released by 20th Century Fox and it gave me a chance to laugh all over again at the jokes I found so funny the first time. It also gave me a chance to catch the jokes

TCM Announces First Three Movies on the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Lineup

How many will you see there?
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And so it begins. For those curious about what would be playing at The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival, scheduled for April 10-13, 2014, here is some news to whet your appetite. The line-up is going to include the recently restored Gone with the Wind (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939) in its stunning new IMAX 3D format, and the Harold Lloyd comedy classic Why Worry? (1923), with legendary silent-film composer Carl Davis conducting the live world premiere performance of his new original score. Of the three, Why Worry? is the one I am most interested in. I haven't seen

La Notte Criterion Collection DVD Review: They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

A slow-burn Italian relationship drama that leaves you hanging.
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La Notte is definitely a film from a different era where plots were not entirely clear until the third act, stories were primarily driven by dialogue and characterization, and the one-line pitch/synopsis of the movie makes it sound positively dull. It examines people and relationships and raw humanity, without special effects or hyperbole -- just unsettling honesty. This is a cerebral kind of film on which viewer opinions tend to be very divided between being touching and engaging or outright boring. I also realized while watching this Italian-dialogue English-subtitled story that most of the movies I watch with subtitles are

Mindwarp (1992) / The Other (1972) Blu-ray Reviews: Happy Halloween from Twilight Time

Everyone's favorite new niche label is back with two very different seasonal selections.
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Holding up to the classic cry of "Trick or treat!" youngsters are apt to beckon homeowners to handfuls of candy and razors with, Twilight Time has given us two vastly different horror titles for the year of 2013: the 1992 splatterfest Mindwarp, followed by the creepy 1972 thriller The Other. And indeed that's just what we get here: a trick and a treat. Now, every now and then, a niche label is bound to release something that will generate a big amount of "Huh? What?" from its regular consumers. Much like the folks at Criterion have puzzled completionists with their

Monsters University is the Pick of the Week

This is certainly not my most glowing Pick ever.
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Pixar. Its name is associated with quality. The company almost single-handedly ushered in a new era of brilliant animation that is both kid friendly and cherished by adults. In 18 years they have made 14 feature films and almost every one of them have been golden. For most of that time, you could go to a film with Pixar's name attached to it and know nothing else about it and know that you were getting a quality picture. Then with Cars 2, their first non-Toy Story sequel things began to slide. That film was a critical bomb and when announcements

Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray Review: Monsters Get Scared Too

Meet the Monsters.
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Released in November 2001, Monsters, Inc. was the fourth feature-length feature film by Pixar Animation Studios. While it was a commercial and critical success, I didn't think it was as entertaining for adults when compared to the previous films. The inhabitants of the city Monstropolis rely on the screams of children as its source of power. Monsters, Inc. provides the city’s energy through its scream-processing factory. James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are the top scare team at the factory. Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) is Sully’s rival determined to take over the top position. In

Nightmare Honeymoon DVD Review: Can I Get an Annulment Over Here?

The Warner Archive brings us a sleazy, slow-paced rape/revenge thriller with two different versions.
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As events near and far forever altered the world throughout the '60s and '70s, the well-known face of cinema began to go through a change, as well - beginning with the demise of the Hays Code in 1968, wherein the MPAA introduced us to a rating system. With this advent, filmmakers could depict more "adult" themed tales - without fear of excessive backlash from the censors. This also meant exploitation folks all over could at long last make the kind of trash their demented audiences craved at drive-ins and grindhouse theaters all over the country - such as Wes Craven's

Sex Kittens Go to College DVD Review: Oh, Dear God, Please Make It Stop!

What happens when you try too hard to be too hip.
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Ah, the wonderful world of exploitation. After studios and filmmakers such as AIP and Roger Corman began to make hip motion pictures aimed solely at the adolescent crowd in the '50s - manufactured, no doubt, in an effort to wrangle the teens into theaters so as to curb the ever-growing numbers of juvenile delinquent crimes that were on the rise in the US ([/sarcasm]) - the rest of the moviemaking community started to stoop so low as to embrace earnings over eminence. Some of these fine folks, however, grossly overestimated the demand to make things far en vogue with the

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa Movie Review: Bad Is Right

Knoxville stumbles in his solo outing.
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Bad Grandpa finds Johnny Knoxville branching out on his own from his onscreen Jackass pals, like a musician putting out an album apart from his group. Unfortunately, like unsuccessful solo projects, this movie stumbles when it tries something different from what made the brand a success. Knoxville plays his recurring character 86-year-old Irving Zisman, who is featured in the expected series of outlandish public pranks that should delight fans. With the help of prosthetics, he gets his penis stuck in a vending machine and his balls drop out his underwear while trying to impress the ladies in an all-African American
During the mid-‘60s, the mantle of the counterculture was passed from the beats to the hippies, probably the night that Bob Dylan and The Beatles smoked pot together in 1964. People stepped away from writing novels and poetry at their typewriters, choosing instead to pick up electric guitars to write rock songs. Yet The Velvet Underground (Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker) carried on in the beats’ tracks, specifically the work of William S. Burroughs as Reed related dark, gritty tales from the shadows and evenings of city life, detailing heroin addiction and sadomasochism in honest frank
In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Chile. Writer/director Nicolás López was there and one of the things that struck him was not only the terrible destruction that the quake caused but how ordinary citizens suddenly threw away all the bounds of conventional society. Looting was rampant as well as sexual assaults, rape, violence, and murder. In discussions with Eli Roth, they decided to make a movie about that very thing. I'm right there with them, that sounds like an excellent concept for a movie. Unfortunately neither of them were able to create something interesting from that initial idea. It is

Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review: Yet Another Mouth to Feed

A show that scores even after they ad another addition.
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Were the average individual to take the time to peruse the annals of sitcoms from both the past and present, they would likely discover that the addition of a new family member often results in the untimely departure of the show's run on television. Who could ever forget the stupefying deathblow administered to Diff'rent Strokes when Danny Cooksey came aboard? Or what happened to The Cosby Show when sagging ratings spawned several latter-day additions to the cast? But again, these instances of the final nails being gently pounded into the proverbial coffin came to pass because - as I previously
As noted on their website, "the Bridge School Benefit Concert is an annual, all acoustic, non-profit charity event held every October." This year's lineup, which is the 27th Annual, includes CSNY, Queens Of The Stone Age, My Morning Jacket, Jack Johnson (Saturday Only), Tom Waits (Sunday Only), Arcade Fire (Saturday Only), Elvis Costello, Diana Krall, fun., Jenny Lewis and Heart. For those who couldn't make it to the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA, the webcast is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Pacific time and will run eight hours. Please feel free to watch below and leave comments, Organized

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (Remastered Deluxe Edition) DVD Review: Maybe This Year He'll Show

The Great Pumpkin is so good it makes up for the other Peanuts special included.
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On this Deluxe Edition from Warner Brothers, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is paired with the lesser-known It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. The Great Pumpkin is a television institution. It was the third animated Peanuts special and has been airing annually on network television since 1966. The main plotline focuses on Linus as he anticipates the arrival of The Great Pumpkin, a magical creature similar to Santa Claus, who brings toys to children. The main difference between them is that The Great Pumpkin only shows up at sincere pumpkin patches. Linus faces doubters at every turn, including derision from his

Vince Guaraldi Trio: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Snoopy's Doghouse Edition) Soundtrack Review

A fun interactive package for the classic Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack.
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I look forward to the holiday season for a few reasons, and one of them is the undeniable joy of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. It may seem a little silly, what with it available on home video in so many formats and everything, but I faithfully watch the broadcast every year. I have always been a Peanuts fan, and Charlie Brown's difficulties with the commercialization of Christmas is a timeless story. But it is the marvelous soundtrack by the Vince Guaraldi Trio that really puts the special over for me. Since its original Fantasy Records release in 1965, A

Rifftrax Live! Night of the Living Dead Review: A Flesh-Feast of Hilarity

Sit down with three hilarious men making fun of a 1960s classic!
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George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead has entered the pantheon of pop culture as the first zombie film - at least in the incarnation we know today. Anchored by a social commentary on race, the movie still holds its weight in that regard, although the rest has devolved into campiness. Thankfully, the trio of Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy are able to bring life into this black and white classic with their latest Rifftrax Live! event. A flesh feast of a good time was had, jokes were made (some incredibly risqué compared to past events), and a

Waking the Dead: Season Eight DVD Review: Forensic Cop Show, Overwrought and Desperate

In its eighth season, Waking the Dead is a perfect example of a show that has outworn its welcome.
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An advantage many British shows have over American television is that they usually have far fewer episodes. A show will typically (though not universally) have around six episodes in a series (the British using the word "series" the way American television uses "seasons") and there will sometimes be a few years gap between series. Ostensibly, this means that there is more creative impetus behind the episodes - that more television exists because there were good ideas for it, and not just because they didn't manage to get canceled the previous year. But this is not universally the case, and even

Blue is the Warmest Color Movie Review: A Compelling Story About Love and Life

Three hours/ten years wasn't enough time to spend with Adele.
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Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color is a beautiful, coming-of-age story set over the course of about 10 years in the life of a young French woman named Adèle (Adèle Exarchopoulos), beginning when she is a 15-year-old. While understandably controversial due to its graphic sexual content, what is most notable about the film is the normalcy of the relationship between Adèle and Emma (Lea Seydoux) because what they experience together could occur between any two people in love. Immediately upon seeing Adèle among her peers in school, she comes off more mature and above their pettiness. She begins dating

Family Guy: Volume Eleven DVD Review: Okay, Not Spectacular

A new volume of episodes that has its hits and misses.
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I love Family Guy and watch both the new episodes as well as those in syndication. However Volume Eleven of this series started off on way too dark a note for me. Now I know some of you are out there saying, "But Miss Darcy, that's what so great about Family Guy. It's a darkly funny show. There are supposed to be dark moments." And while I agree with that, I want the funny along with the dark, not just the dark. The first episode on Disc One started off the new volume as I expected but both "Seahorse

American Horror Story: Asylum Blu-Ray Review: Absolutely Insane, But It Works

American Horror Story: Asylum is like a dozen horror movies at once, but somehow they all hold together.
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American Horror Story is more about horror than it is horror. It has the tropes, and the imagery, of real horror, but it is so completely saturated with these familiar aspects that it doesn't manage to ever be too terribly scary. Fortunately, that is not all the show wants, or needs to accomplish. Asylum, the second season of AHS, is a completely distinct story from the first season. Gone is the thoroughly annoying Harmon family, along with the rubber man and the psychic Downs syndrome next door neighbor. Asylum takes place, appropriately, in an asylum, run by the harsh to

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Girl in the Flower Dress"

The discussion continues.
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Todd Karella writes... When Chan Ho Yin, a man with the ability to create fire, disappears off the S.H.I.E.L.D. radar, Agent Coulson gathers his team together to track him down. The only clue is that someone from the Rising Tide resistance group has hacked into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s data stream. Having been one of the members of this computer-hacker network, Skye is tasked with tracing the hack back to its original source, which just happens to be her boyfriend, Miles. Trying to both protect her boyfriend and save Chan from whatever danger he is in, Skye ends up caught in the middle

Nikita: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review: La Reine Nikita

Fast-paced espionage thrills continue in the show’s final full season.
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Shows airing on CW aren’t generally known for the strength or complexity of their writing, but Nikita has been a delightful surprise during its run with ever-changing dynamics that promise and deliver thrills at every turn. Just when you get used to the status quo, the writers throw in a plot twist or untimely character death to keep us guessing where the characters will go next. Sure, those twists stretch believability at times, and the characters are a bit one-dimensional, but this is a consistently entertaining show worthy of adding to your queue. Of course much like other CW shows,

The Vincent Price Collection is the Pick of the Week

A selection for you Halloween weekend.
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Mat Brewster is taking the week off. Aside from Christmas, I can't think of another holdiay that guides people's viewing habits like Halloween. Horror movies become all the rage in October as a new batch make their way to theaters, familiar titles go on sale in various editions, and people scour their TV channel and video libraries looking for thrills and chills. But not with me. Not sure why, but I've never been a big fan of horror movies, and I like Halloween. I saw most of the Universal Monster movies when I was a kid and still appreciate the

Robot Chicken Season 6 Blu-ray Review: Back For More Irreverent Channel Changing

Great for adults but not for kids.
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Robot Chicken is an animated television series using stop motion, Claymation, and small puppets known mainly as action figures, and was created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. The concept is fairly simple. Take toys that every one of us has played with as a child, put them into outrageous situations, and see what happens. The series airs on Cartoon Network during the late night Adult Swim time frame, usually two episodes in a half hour block. Each episode contains multiple short skits and is made to appear like someone is flipping channels on their television, catching snippets and fragments

Luther Series 3 DVD Review: Panic on the Streets of London

Idris Elba continues to put in strong work as DCI John Luther, too bad the season is only four episodes long.
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If you’re looking for a feel-good cop show with a tidy resolution at the end of every episode, this is not the show for you. Idris Elba’s John Luther character goes about as dark and deadly serious as any modern protagonist, and his adventures tend to span multi-episodic arcs. Unfortunately, Luther’s seasons are also woefully short, so just about the time you’re easing into the pervading gloom, the end is nigh. For the third series (and first in two years), we get a grand total of four hour-long episodes, making this set more a miniseries than a proper season. Luther

Book Review: Horror Films FAQ by John Kenneth Muir: The Thinking Person's Guide to Horror Films

Horror Films FAQ is the thinking person's guide to the horror genre.
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The FAQ series from Applause Books has devoted editions to pop culture staples like Kiss, the Beatles, Star Trek, and the Three Stooges. One of the publishing house’s latest releases tackles a much broader subject - horror films. Written by pop-culture critic John Kenneth Muir, whose previous books include Horror Films of the 1970s and The Encyclopedia of Superheroes on Film and Television, Horror Films FAQ explores horror films by format and decade. Each chapter is dedicated to a horror film type, with mini-essays about classics and underappreciated films. In the chapter "The Night Has Its Price," Muir examines vampire

Only God Forgives Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful, Blood-Spattered Disaster

If you're expecting Drive 2, you're in for serious disappointment.
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Before you ask, the answer is no; I didn't believe Only God Forgives was going to be a sequel, or in any way connected, to Drive. Director Nicholas Winding Refn creates a visually arresting film, but in the process arrests the narrative and characters to the point of creating a movie entirely stillborn. In its brief runtime, despicable characters do despicable things with little rhyme or reason other than vengeance and it’s hard to sympathize with anyone considering there’s little depth to their motives other than that lonely term. Julian (Ryan Gosling) is a drug smuggler by night and owner

On the Riviera Blu-ray Review: Double the Danny Kaye!

A classic Danny Kaye musical now available on Blu-ray.
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There was a time when Danny Kaye was one of the top entertainers in the world. Although Bob Hope and Jack Benny are better remembered today, in the 1940s and ‘50s he was considered their comedic equal. He was also an enormously talented song and dance man. On the Riviera (1951) is a marvelous showcase for his many talents. The film has just been released to Blu-ray, and it looks and sounds terrific. Kaye actually has two roles in the film. As nightclub entertainer Jack Martin, Kaye plays a version of himself. He also plays Jack’s doppelganger, a French aviator

A Band Called Death Review: ...For the Whole World to See

This is a very good documentary.
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Perhaps you have heard the rough outline of the documentary A Band Called Death, as the story of the titular band certainly got some traction in various forms of media. In the 1970s, three black teenaged brothers in Detroit form a proto-punk band who, eventually, decide to name themselves Death. Their music falls through the cracks, until it is rediscovered many years later and the band finally gets their due credit and recognition. Indeed, that is a nice, tight summary, and one that is definitely intriguing. It is certainly a unique story, and one that, if told well, could make

Killing Season (2013) Blu-ray Review: More Like Retiring Time

You know it's bad when even Nicolas Cage drops out.
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For every motion picture performer, there comes a time when all that matters is a quick and easy paycheck. It is during these dark moments in one's career that even the most ill-advised decision to make a little dough can serve to topple what was once the most immovable of towers. I fondly remember a point in time when Robert De Niro - the man who wowed many a moviegoer away in movies like Taxi Driver and The Deer Hunter, and who won an Oscar for his work in both Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II - was on

The Ghost Busters The Complete Series DVD Review: Laughs over Logic

The show is good for young children and nostalgic Gen-Xers.
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Filmation's The Ghost Busters was a live-action Saturday morning kid's show that aired in 1975, well before Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd battled The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on the silver screen. The show reunited Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch from F-Troop. They played Jake Kong and Eddie Spenser and were assisted by Tracy the Gorilla. Fifteen shows were produced and they all had the same plot. A couple of ghosts would appear in the local graveyard and take up residence in the local castle. Tracy and Spenser would go to a store to get their assignment, which was a

Groovie Goolies DVD Review: The Saturday Mourning Collection

Welcome to Horrible Hall.
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Filmation’s Groovie Goolies was created by the team behind The Archie Show to take advantage of CBS’ success of Scooby-Doo. It first appeared in 1970 as Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies before becoming its own series in 1975 and then moving into syndication in 1978. It was a classic Saturday morning children’s show that had everything a kid could want. Classic horror monsters were the stars, and given cute nicknames like Drac, Frankie, and Wolfie. They lost their power to frighten by appearing in lavish color and in silly skits filled with slapstick and bad puns. The humor and pacing

Interview: 'Rifftrax Lives' Kevin Murphy Talks 'Night of the Living Dead' and MST3K

MST3K star Kevin Murphy talks Rifftrax's Night of the Living Dead live show!
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Audiences may be unfamiliar with actor Kevin Murphy’s face, but if you’re a fan of Mystery Science Theater 3000 you can’t forget his voice in the character of the wisecracking robot, Tom Servo. After MST3K ended its run in 1999, the trio of alums Murphy, Michael J. Nelson, and Bill Corbett started Rifftrax. Rifftrax’s goal is simply “We don’t make movies…we make movies funnier,” and they do! Any movie is up for lampooning, and they’ve tapped into a market with old fans of MST3K continuing to love their shtick, and new fans enjoying their skewering of popular fare. In honor

Pacific Rim Review: One of 2013's Best Blu-rays

A refreshing original adventure that honors a genre.
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Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim is an impressive tribute to the monster movies of Ray Harryhausen and Ishiro Honda, who received a dedication in the credits because their work has been a source of entertainment and inspiration to many over the years. Fuelled by the vivid imaginations of del Toro and his crew, they created a world of such great spectacle and wonder that fans of the genre will be able to overlook the shortcomings of the story and human characters. Written by del Toro and Travis Beacham, Pacific Rim tells the story of the invasion of Earth by interdimensional

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "Eye-Spy"

It's nice to see some improvement.
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Gordon S. Miller writes... I know this might be faint praise considering my reaction to the previous three episodes, buthis week's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the best of the series so far because of a creative script by Jeffrey Bell, which was reminiscent of past spy shows like Mission: Impossible. “Eye-Spy,” which has multiple meanings, opens in Sweden with 55 men wearing red masks making their way through Stockholm and onto a train. This stunt is to keep secret a shipment of diamonds one of them is carrying. Almost no one seems to notice their odd appearance, except
Directed by Patricio Valladares, Hidden in the Woods is a grimy but somewhat silly exploitation film from Chile. While this 2012 flick features an awful lot of bloodshed and rape, it doesn’t earn billing among the titans of New Wave extreme horror. It isn’t so much unrelenting as it is repetitive and sometimes strikingly careless. Valladares, who is also directing the to-be-released American remake, starts with some early scenes that are truly disquieting. But when Hidden in the Woods settles in, it traffics in replication and an off-kilter crime plot that simply exists to give the distressed protagonists something to

Bones: The Complete Eighth Season Blu-ray Review: Going Through the Motions

Veteran show continues its predictable and comfortable run.
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Bones is the TV equivalent of comfort food. You know what you’re getting, you know you won’t be challenged in any way, and you’re ok with it because, hey, it makes you feel good. In this eighth season set, the show is generally operating on cruise control, as is the relationship between Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Booth (David Boreanaz). They have a kid together, they’re living together, and there’s nary any strife in their harmonious work and personal lives. Yawn. Brennan is still the smartest “squint” working at the Jeffersonian (basically an elaborate DC crime lab), applying her vast knowledge

Murder University DVD Review: Cyanide Capsule Sold Separately, Unfortunately

I sat through this whole ungodly atrocity so you don't have to.
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Murder University wasn't satisfied with just being bad. Oh no. It strove to be so horrendous that I'm still a day later stoically incredulous to how terrible it actually was. It's really a toss up between this and last year's Mark of the Beast for the crown of worst thing I've watched in the last decade or so. I went in with tempered but optimistic hopes. After all, this is the same Richard Griffin who brought us the raunchy, campy, riotous The Disco Exorcist. That movie did so much right, nailing the time period and cracking ridiculous, funny dialogue left

Love Actually: Tenth Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

It's probably my favorite Christmas movie ever.
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For much of my life I was a hum-bug. I hated Christmas and all its crass commercialism. I do like my family, and spending time with them is always enjoyable, but the rest of it I'd just assume throw out. Oh sure, I like to get presents but the whole "I bought you something so you have to buy me" exchange we do at Christmas makes it less than special. I hated the crazy people at the post-Thanksgiving sales. I hated the overcrowded malls. I hated the tacky sweaters, the ridiculous ornaments, the bad movies, television specials, and music. Oh,

Embrace of the Vampire (2013) Blu-ray Review: Better Than the Original, Which Isn't Saying Much

If you like b-grade vampire movies, this one's pretty well done.
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When I heard there was a remake of the 1995 erotic vampire flick, Embrace of the Vampire, I had but one response which was - and I think I speak for the entire Internet here - why? The original is really rather terrible. The only reason anyone saw or remembers it was because Alyssa Milano, fresh off of her Who's the Boss fame, got naked in it. She isn't in the remake so it seems ridiculous that they'd make it again. I suppose they figured they'd get a little press - albeit likely scornful - for it and as they

Embrace of the Vampire (1995) Blu-ray Review: Would Be Forgotten Were It Not For Alyssa Milano's Assets

This isn't a show-off disk, unless by showing off one means presenting high-definition celebrity nudity.
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Pardon me while I get pervy. In my day if one wanted to see celebrity nudity one had to work at it. There was no Google, there was no TMZ, no Mr. Skin, no Celebrity Nude Database where one could look up a celebrity and find out exactly which movie she was naked in, how much skin she showed, and exactly what part of the movie to fast forward to in order to see the skin. No, if we wanted to see naked celebrities we had to go to the theatre, or rent the video and hope for the best.

Tarzan (1966): The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Wither Ron Ely

The last of the 15th Lord of the Apes' adventures.
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As the old saying goes, "The more things change, the more they stay the same." When motion pictures first came about, nearly every literary character ever created started to appear in pictures. As radio became the norm, many a pop culture hero - from comic books to classics, and moving pictures to boot - turned into regular audio programs. Once a newfangled contraption known as television quickly started to become the new medium, many a previously-used idea was recycled and rebooted for contemporary audiences. And, while Hollywood is still utilizing the re-imagining of virtually everything already conceived all-too-heavily today -

The Fly (1958) Blu-ray Review: A Classic Reborn in HD

A truly classic Vincent Price creature feature.
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Between The Fly (1958) and The Fly (1986), you couldn't have two films that take more different approaches to the same story, yet both achieve their aim admirably. The former is from a time when special effects were in their infancy, and the story had to carry the audience and hold their attention. The latter emphasizes suspense, but the build-up is to a gory climax that puts the unmasking of Andre Delambre to shame. If you somehow have missed both of these films and their numerous sequels, well, get ready for a big spoiler -- they're about scientists (David Hedison,

The Tin Star (1957) / Nichols: The Complete Series DVD Reviews: Lawmen of a Different Color

The Warner Archive presents two very different western tales.
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In the annals of the western, there is perhaps no greater character than that of the local sheriff. Sometimes he's just as ornery as the resident villain's sadistic henchman (heck, sometimes he is the resident villain's sadistic henchman). Other times, he's an old, weary fellow who is ready for that great round-up in the sky. And then there's that quintessential hero type who is both quick on the draw and guaranteed to save the community at any given time. But what we usually don't see in these cinematic (or even episodic) tales of the old west are greenhorn newbies taking

Birth of the Living Dead Movie Review: Timely Revisiting of Horror Classic

Birth of the Living Dead, Rob Kuhn's excellent new doc, looks at the impact of George Romero's seminal zombie movie.
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At the risk of sounding hipsterish, I'm sick of zombies. Zombies are so done. When I was a young Night of the Living Dead/Dawn of the Dead fan, that thought would have been unthinkable. Much like the zombies themselves (or, more properly in Night of the Living Dead, where the Zed-word is never spoken, the ghouls themselves), the cultural phenomenon of zombies started small, in cult films and amongst the feverish fandoms, but after shuffling slowly toward the mainstream, suddenly they broke out into a run. They've taken over, and are apparently here to stay. The zombie saturation occurred somewhat

Eyes Without a Face Criterion Blu-ray Review: A Mesmerizing, Poetic Film

While it embraces the horror genre, it manages to rise above it as well and present itself as a masterful work of art.
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In the 1950s French critics and cultural purveyors thought that horror films were beneath them. Monsters and gore were not the sort of thing French filmmakers should bother with nor the cultured filmgoer should watch. The filmmakers mostly agreed but the public was becoming enamored with such British horror films as The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Producer Jules Borkon decided the critics could stuff it and embarked upon making a new French horror film. He enlisted director Georges Franju (a documentary filmmaker who was just then making his first fictional film, Head Against the Wall) to help

How I Met Your Mother: The Complete Season 8 DVD Review: Just Meet Her Already!

While the end is definitely in sight, the audience is still being strung-along for the sake of padding this story out as much as possible.
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There are times when a story is so good, so well-told, so full of fun and laughter that you just don't want it to end. That was the first five seasons of How I Met Your Mother. But then there comes a point at which nearly all stories outstay their welcome, causing you to glance at your watch to confirm just how much time has passed since it began and think about just how much longer it'll be before it finally concludes. Now, as the show enters its ninth and final season of broadcast, and its eighth season rolls out

William Powell at Warner Bros. DVD Review: The Early Adventures of a Thinner Man

Four Pre-Code Vitaphone rarities starring the definitive Nick Charles.
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Everyone needs a role model. Especially when they're growing up. As a young lad, I found myself at odds with my choices. The men folk amidst my surroundings weren't entirely suitable to my liking on account that I was a precariously peculiar boy delimited by rednecks, loggers, farmers - just a plain assortment of simple-minded people in general, really. But that all changed upon my first viewing of The Thin Man. I had found a god amongst men. And although William Powell had retired from acting many, many moons before I was ever so much as a twinkle within the
Directed by René Clair, I Married a Witch is low on magic and high on fumes. Its major selling feature is the presence of one Veronica Lake in an impish and syrupy performance as a “vengeful sorceress.” Much of this 1942 picture plays by absurd fantasy-farce rules but it isn’t an effective comedy, even if it inspired the television series Bewitched. Now available on Criterion Collection Blu-ray, I Married a Witch regularly stumbles without direction. At times, it seems to long for satire (the opening scene, for instance) but other moments rely too heavily on the sensibilities of the small

The Croods Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: A Fun Family Film That Needed A Little More Originality

Children will like the action, vivid colors, and silly creatures.
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The story is about a family of cavemen. Over the years, they have seen their friends and neighbors killed off by illness, dinosaur attacks, and all kinds of unimaginable ways that people can die. The only reason that the Croods have managed to survive so long is because of the Grug’s (Nicolas Cage) basic philosophy. Be afraid of everything and stay locked away in a cave as much as possible. But that kind of life isn’t really living. It’s just surviving. And that life style isn’t something his daughter, Eep (Emma Stone), can stand any longer. Her father might be

The Trials of Muhammad Ali Movie Review: Entertaining and Informative

A fleet-footed and hard hitting documentary.
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This documentary from director Bill Siegel has depth rarely seen as he goes beyond Ali's legal issues and delves into the trials of life with a flow as smooth as Ali had in the ring. Currently in limited release, The Trials of Muhammad Ali draws the audience in with intense opening segments featuring David Susskind; the brother of Muhammad, Rahaman; and Louis Farrakhan, and holds on like many of the champs opponents did. Following the life of Ali primarily from his Olympic victory to his return to the ring following his exoneration for refusing military service, at 94 minutes this

Two Classic Doctor Who Serials Found and Restored

This is no Nigerian scam.
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Fans of Classic Doctor Who, and in particular those of the Second Doctor, Patrick Troughton, should be delighted by the news that The Enemy of the World (Story 40) and The Web of Fear (Story 41), both from Season Five and neither seen in 45 years, have been recovered and remastered. While many stories on the Internet related to Nigeria involve scams, Phillip Morris, Executive Director of TIEA Ltd., has a tale that will bring a smile to the face and hope for what the future may bring of many a Who fan. Morris found episodes 1, 2, 4, 5

Book Review: Star Trek FAQ 2.0: Everything Left to Know about The Next Generation, the Movies, and Beyond by Mark Clark

An excellent look at the amazing second act of the franchise.
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Sometimes I wonder if I am a “Trekkie,” or “Trekker.” What does it take exactly? A working knowledge of every episode of the original Star Trek series, and The Next Generation, plus the films? A visceral hatred for Star Trek Into Darkness? Put a check-mark in all of the above boxes for me. Maybe it is the books, of which there are literally hundreds. If you have them all, I think it would be safe to call you a Trekker. There are two books that I think even the most casual of fans should own though. The first was published

Escape from Tomorrow Movie Review: Could Have Used More Imagination

Worth seeing from the novelty aspect alone.
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Escape from Tomorrow tells the story of Jim White (Roy Abramsohn), whose trip to Walt Disney World with his family finds him descend into madness. Shot on location with both Disneyland and Walt Disney World posing as one park, writer-director Randy Moore's film is more notable for its production than its execution because the characters are unappealing and the story is rather goofy. Before Jim heads into the park, his boss calls and informs he has lost his job. Jim keeps the information to himself rather than spoil the family vacation, which he does inevitably. Unfortunately, it's hard to sympathize

Going Underground (2013) DVD Review: Paul McCartney, The Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture

The documentary explores the origins of the 1960s counterculture movement and how it influenced some of the Beatles' greatest works.
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In 1960s England, an underground art movement greatly influenced worldwide pop culture. Emerging from 1950s nuclear disarmament protests and the frank American beat poets, this counterculture trend ultimately rebelled against prevailing conservatism. Attitudes toward sex, politics, art, and music changed, becoming more liberal. Jazz musicians such as Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, and Ornette Coleman also played a part in this rebellion, as their music often deconstructed the traditional form to create a looser, more freeform version. In turn, these transformations hugely impacted the Beatles’ music. Going Underground: Paul McCartney, the Beatles and the UK Counter-Culture examines this period

The East (2013) Blu-ray Review: Anarchy in the USA?

The long lost sequel to 'The North' and 'The South'.
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First, there was Gregory Nava's El Norte in 1983. Next, Victor Erice followed suit by delivering El Sur unto us that same year. And then, nothing - not a single motion picture with a Spanish-language direction came about for years! And while up-and-comer Zal Batmanglij's latest magnum opus, The East has about as much to do with the aforementioned peliculas as frozen yogurt has to do with raw ore, I just think it's a shame nobody made a movie called El Este, so I'm assigning this one that name for just a brief second in time for absolutely no specific

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "The Asset"

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Todd Karella writes... The third episode opens with a truck hijacking. It’s not your typical everyday crime as the two escort vehicles are suddenly thrown up into the air by some invisible force. The driver calls for help as his semi is propelled thirty feet into the air and we find that this small convoy is a S.H.I.E.L.D. operation. But before help can arrive, armed men raid the truck and kidnap the man secured in the back. Agent Coulson and his team are quickly brought onto the scene to determine what happened and quickly find a small device that is

I Married a Witch Criterion Collection DVD Review: Truly Bewitching

Screwball comedy about a beautiful witch you cannot help but fall in love with.
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Forget Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched; the most beautiful witch of all time is Veronica Lake in I Married a Witch (1942). It has been over 70 years since Rene Clair’s classic screwball comedy provided escapism for a country in the middle of World War II, and the world has changed many times over. Yet, besides that it was filmed in black and white, there is nothing about this movie that feels dated. I Married a Witch is a delight, and has just been released as part of the Criterion Collection. We open at a Salem witch trial where Clair’s deft

Much Ado About Nothing is the Pick of the Week

Despite my inability to fall in love with all things Joss, I'm very excited about his take on this Shakespearian comedy.
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I have a geek confession to make. I'm not really a fan of Joss Whedon. I don't hate him. He's made some enjoyable things. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer - it's a very fun show with some brilliant episodes but with far too many just decent ones to elevate the entire show into more than just a good category. I've tried to get into Firefly a few times but can never get past about the third episode. The Avengers was a good superhero movie, but nothing more. Etc. I admit that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was brilliant, but he's

La Cage aux Folles (1978) Criterion Collection DVD Review: Classic French Farce Bliss

It's OK to be in Saint-Tropez.
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Eighteen years before the enjoyable-but-ultimately-uncalled-for remake, The Birdcage hit theater screens across the world, La Cage aux Folles first introduced moviegoers to the fantastic farce of an engagement between the offspring from two entirely different households as only the French could do it. In fact, they did it better. And there's a reason for that: La Cage aux Folles is a bona fide French creation all the way around. Based on a 1973 stage play by Jean Poiret, La Cage aux Folles proved so popular, it inspired two sequels, an American musical stage version, and the aforementioned remake. Here, we

TV Review: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: "0-8-4"

I liked this episode a little better than the pilot.
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“0-8-4,” the name of the episode, is a S.H.I.E.L.D. code for an object of unknown origin, like what turned out to be Thor's hammer at the end of Iron Man 2. Agent Coulson's (Clark Gregg) team, though they squabble and act more like a bunch of individuals, is called into action when an 0-8-4 is found at an Incan archeological site in Peru. While analyzing the mystery object, the Peruvian National Police show up, and Commandante Camilla Reyes (Leonor Varela) just so happens to be a former fling of Coulson's. They agree to work together, but once on-board the S.H.I.E.L.D.

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 23-26 DVD Review: Murder and Fun in the Sicilian Sun

I'd put it in league with something like Monk or Moonlighting.
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Inspector Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is a popular Italian crime drama based upon the detective novels of Andrea Camilleri. It stars Luca Zingaretti as Detective Salvo Montalbano (though he acts more like a police chief or at least a detective supervisor and in fact there is some internet debate over whether or not the title is mis-translated and should instead be something like Commissioner Montalbano, but I digress) who solves crime in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicility. Assisting him are his deputy Mimi (Cesare Bocci), Detective Fazio (Peppino Mazzotta) and the bumbling assistant Catarella (Angelo Russo.) Like most European

3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: On the Verge of a New Cinematic World

One of the most fruitful collaborations in cinema is enshrined in Criterion's outstanding box set.
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The FilmsThough their collaborations were largely overshadowed by the scandal of their romance, Roberto Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman proved to be fruitful cinematic partners as well, their films together pushing Rossellini into new stylistic territory and giving Bergman some of her most fully realized roles. In the three features included in the latest invaluable Criterion box set, Rossellini is consciously moving away from the neorealism of films like Rome Open City and Paisan (the very films that inspired Bergman to reach out to him, and available in another superb box from Criterion) to a more individually focused, more emotionally internal

Vincent Price is TCM's Star of the Month for October

The program schedule for TCM's Vincent Price spotlight.
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In October, Turner Classic Movies shines their Star of the Month spotlight on Vincent Price, whose film career lasted more than 50 years. Every Thursday of the month, the channel will be presenting an evening filled his films, beginning with his performance in 1939 as Sir Walter Raleigh in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex to Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart in 1973's Theatre of Blood. With this being October, it's only natural the last two nights of the retrospective will focus on his work in the horror genre, with which he was so well associated. Thursday, Oct. 3 8

White Collar: The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review: Charming Cons Carry This Uneven But Entertaining Show

The main thrust of the fourth season involves Neal looking into his father's past.
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White Collar is pretty indicative of what kind of show the USA network likes to do. It's a fairly light drama with a lot of comedic elements. It relies on the charm and likeability of their main cast. It does a story of the week most of the time, but they include overarching elements because, in this modern era of ours, every show needs a mythology. Season four of White Collar is no different than any prior season, or most USA shows, in this respect. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course. After all, the show succeeds in

Sinbad (2012): The Complete First Season DVD Review: A Unique Version With A BBC Twist

There are a lot of good things working for the show.
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Most people’s idea of Sinbad is of the swashbuckling hero from the Ray Harryhausen films of the 1970s. But the BBC has brought forth and the Syfy channel has recently broadcast a re-invented version of the adventurer and his legendary journeys. Sinbad (Elliott Knight ) and his brother, Jamil (Devon Anderson ), are a couple of street rats doing whatever it takes to put food in their mouths and take care of their invalid mother and elderly grandmother. This includes lying, stealing, and fighting. It’s during one of these fights that Sinbad is pushed onto his path of destiny. While

In the Flesh (2013) Series One DVD Review: Leave It To the Brits to Make Zombies Human Again

"If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes, you'll just have to claw your way through the disguise."
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Anymore, it seems the word "zombie" is synonymous with a well-placed sigh of exasperated annoyance - garnished with a complete and total hatred of the unimaginative hipsters and low-budget filmmakers who have taken something that used to be underground and cool, only to have turned it into a dull and tired affair. In America, television execs decided to jump on the living dead bandwagon and create a series about a post-zombie apocalypse world. The result, of course, was The Walking Dead - and is in every way identical to what one might envision would happen were George A. Romero, the
Mondays and Tuesdays throughout October finds Turner Classic Movies continuing its presentation of Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Also scheduled those evenings are films discussed in the documentary. The titles in bold are TCM Premieres and links are offered for titles we've reviwed. Monday, Oct. 7 8 p.m. - Pather Panchali (1955) (India) 10:15 p.m. - The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011) - Episode Six: "The Swollen Story: World Cinema Bursting at the Seams (1953-1957)" - This is the story of sex and melodrama in the movies of the 1950s. While James Dean, On the Waterfront

The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

There's no picks like double-dips.
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I want to say that it is impossible to hate The Wizard of Oz, but if the internet has taught us anything it is that there is always someone around who hates everything. If you browse the message boards of IMDB at all, you'll quickly see detractors calling whatever movie you are looking at stupid, boring, pointless, plotless, and without merit. Of course there are then always fans of said film who will call the detractor things like neanderthal, brutish, stupid, and will make suggestions that this moron go back to the message boards of lesser films like Transformers. I

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