March 2014 Archives

I Am Divine DVD Review: Hairspray and Hilarity

The story of an ugly duckling who transformed into a Pink Flamingo.
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I’ve loved The Little Mermaid since I was five years old. Ursula is one of my favorite Disney villains. So when I was about 13 and had the internet at my disposal I discovered the inspiration for my favorite villain was John Waters’ “muse,” Divine. To me, the name meant absolutely nothing until I grew older. For all my appreciation of John Waters’s macabre humor and the role Divine played in it, I never knew anything about Divine as a person or actor. Thanks to documentarian Jeffrey Schwartz I’ve come away with a greater appreciation for the man who was

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

An honor I’m sure Mr. Tennant will wear with pride.
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It is a little embarrassing to say now, but I came to Doctor Who a bit late in the game. I knew the show as a kid, and I used to watch it from time to time through the Tom Baker years. But it was never something I sought out, or geeked about. When news came of the reboot in 2005, I more or less shrugged and went back to watching The West Wing, or The Wire, or whatever I was loving at the time. My wife was a much bigger fan as a kid and so she was a

Kirby Grant and Chinook Adventure Triple Feature, Volume 2 (1949-1950) DVD Review: Canadian Mountedness from Monogram Pictures

The Warner Archive breaks out three vintage Northern films co-starring a very bright doggy.
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When the name Kirby Grant is mentioned - usually in a bar full of aging male retirees reminiscing about the good ol' days - he is automatically associated with that of the popular, long-running '50s television series Sky King. A musical prodigy in his youth, Grant eked out an existence as a leading man in B-movies for more prominent studios in Hollywood, wherein he starred in seven budget westerns for Universal. His new star status caught the eye of those fellows on Poverty Row, and Monogram Pictures soon signed the performer to head a series of ten Northern adventures based

Knights of Badassdom Blu-ray Review: Verily Indeed

It's a fun horror comedy shout-out to nerds, with a modicum of cheesy moments.
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Knights of Badassdom is a horror comedy in the vein of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or ThanksKilling. It never takes itself quite seriously enough to be a satirical play on the genre like Scream or Cabin in the Woods, but is more like Fanboys with a horrific demon killing everyone. It kicks off with a group of nerds (which I use to relate, not denigrate, as I myself am a nerd) LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) in the woods, performing a ritual sacrifice as part of a larger game they're playing. Their debate over the validity of the act

Saving Mr. Banks Blu-ray Review: A Heartwarming Story

I have read several articles addressing all of the incorrect information in the movie, and I have no issues in enjoying the illusion.
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It is rare that I am interested in watching a movie a second time after a recent viewing. It is usually a few years before I am ready. Saving Mr. Banks is a rare exception to this rule because I was actually excited to see it again, and it proved to be even more delightful. Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) is determined to fulfill a 20-year promise to his daughters by bringing their beloved character, Mary Poppins, to life. Author P. L. Travers (Emma Thompson) has fought him all along but due to financial difficulties she is convinced to travel from

Mapp & Lucia: The Complete Collection DVD Review: Slow and Delightful British Comedy

For those who enjoy jolly good British comedies and something a little more slow paced, this is a rare delight.
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Every couple of years or so, our representatives engage in egregious debates over public media. One Republican or another shouts that NPR is too liberal, that Sesame Street makes enough money on its own, and that we surely do not have the kind of funds to be blowing on radio and television programs when the world is drowning in too many programs already. It never goes anywhere of consequence, but stirs up the bases and brings up the hit counts of various blogs and websites. I admit to engaging in a Facebook debate or two on the subject, always standing

Frozen (2013) Collector's Edition Review: A Fairy Tale about True Love

Only let it go if you want more extras.
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Starting with the 1931 Silly Symphony short, “The Ugly Duckling,” the stories of Hans Christian Andersen have long been a great source of inspiration and success for the Walt Disney Company. The 1939 color remake of that short won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Fifty years later, The Little Mermaid was the first film in the decade-long Disney Renaissance when the studio returned to its former glory. And now there is Frozen, the 53rd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, and arguably the greatest Andersen adaptation by Disney, which at the time of this

The Bigamist (1953) DVD Review: A Sensitive Treatment of the Subject

With a tagline like “Wanted by Two Women!” who could resist?
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I must admit that my prurient interests were piqued by the title of The Bigamist (1953). This Ida Lupino-directed film has just been excavated and restored by the good people at Film Chest Media, and looked like a lot of fun. With a tagline like “Wanted by Two Women!” who could resist? As it turned out, The Bigamist is actually quite sympathetic to the subject of bigamy, if a bit melodramatic in tone. The film opens with a beautiful shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, then zooms into the office of an adoption agency. Harry Graham (Edmond O’Brien) and his

Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 DVD Giveaway

Hiccup and his fellow dragon trainers battle to protect their island home.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with DreamWorks Animation to award one lucky reader Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 on DVD. Based on the DreamWorks Animation Academy Award-nominated movie How to Train Your Dragon, Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 follows Hiccup and his fellow dragon trainers as they battle to protect their island home. The young Vikings must put their dragon training skills to the test to defeat dangerous and surprising new enemies! The series features original voice talent from the film including Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse and will include,Zack Pearlmanand more. Defenders of Berk, and
In Elton John’s long and storied career, few, if any, of his albums have been as beloved as Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Originally released in late 1973, the album spawned several hit singles that remain staples on classic-rock radio to this day. Now to celebrate its 40th anniversary, the album has received the Super Deluxe treatment, in a new box set with four CDs, an interview DVD, and a 100-page hardcover book with rare photos. This review focuses on the four CDs, as that was what was made available. Disc one is the album proper, newly remastered in excellent sound.

The King of Comedy Blu-ray Giveaway

"Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime." - Rupert Pupkin
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox to award one lucky reader The King of Comedy on Blu-ray. Academy Award-winner Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard give mesmerizing performances in this “chilling black comedy” (TV Guide’s Movie Guide) that explores the painfullyhigh and often hilarious price of fame. Desperate to be a star, struggling stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) enlists the aid of his fanatical friend Masha (Bernhard) to kidnap talk show host Jerry Langford (Lewis). The ransom? A guest spot for Pupkin. The results? Outrageous! The King of Comedy stands as Scorsese’s prophetic masterpiece

The Wolf of Wall Street is the Pick of the Week

I’ll soon be adding it to my collection, where it will stand proud with all the other Martin Scorsese films and even prouder amongst all the Picks of the Week.
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About this time every year when we get our tax refund back, the wife and I give ourselves a hundred bucks to blow and then tuck the rest away into some sort of savings fund. I always have enormous amounts of fun choosing things to buy with my wad of cash. The initial debate is whether to spend it on one relatively expensive item or to purchase many much cheaper things. Cheap usually wins as I really like getting lots of packages in the mail. Amazon is the place that tends to get my money. I have a wish list

Ran Criterion Collection DVD Review: Akira Kurosawa's Final Masterpiece

Kurosawa uses Shakespeare's King Lear to make a statement about mankind and the folly of war.
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Ran is Kurosawa’s last masterpiece from a man who made many. He made three more films afterwards, but none came close to the size and scope of Ran. Financing had been hard for Kurosawa to raise in his later years. Since Red Beard in 1965, he was making one film every five years and at the age of 75, Ran was quite likely to be his last, so he pulled out all the stops to make as glorious a spectacle and a statement as he could, and he succeeded mightily. He returned to Shakespeare, transporting the story’s setting to 16th

Kagemusha Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: And a Thief Shall Lead Them

"The only crime is pride." ― Sophocles, Antigone
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From his debut as a director with Sanshiro Sugata (1943) through to Red Beard (1965), director Akira Kurosawa averaged releasing one film a year. That's an impressive run even before taking into account how many were widely acclaimed the world over. However, Kurosawa began to have trouble raising money for projects with Japanese studios. He headed to the United States but didn't complete a film. The winter weather derailed his attempt to shoot The Runaway Train and then, according to Donald Richie's account in The Films of Akira Kurosawa, he got himself fired from Tora! Tora! Tora!likely due to clashes

Elvis Presley: Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis Legacy Edition Review: The King's Homecoming Concert in Its Entirety

The latest Elvis Presley Legacy Edition release includes two complete concerts from 1974.
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When Elvis Presley played a concert in Memphis, TN, in 1961, few, if any in the audience probably suspected it would be his last concert appearance in his adopted hometown for more than a decade — but it was. After a decade in Hollywood, Presley returned to the live stage in 1969, never to return to movie making, but it took five years for him to return to Memphis. The show was recorded and released in truncated form as Elvis Presley — Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis. Now, 40 years after the original performance, the full show, along with

Monsters: The Complete Series DVD Review: Another Great Horror Anthology

A time warp back to the late '80s for a cheesy horror romp with the stars of yesteryear.
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I've always been a fan of horror, suspense, thrills, and clever plot twists, but have always found it more satisfying when the focus is on the story and the characters rather than the special effects. Classic Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? have long been favorites of mine. I still appreciated Tales From the Crypt even if it went more for literal shock factor and earning its R-rated equivalent presence on cable-only HBO. Somewhere in the middle of all that debuted a quiet little series called simply Monsters, running from 1988 to 1991. It's replete

Out of the Furnace Blu-ray Combo Pack Giveaway

A gripping and powerful drama about family, fate, circumstance and justice.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox to award one lucky reader an Out of the Furnace Blu-ray Combo Pack. From Scott Cooper, the critically acclaimed writer and director of Crazy Heart, comes a gripping and powerful drama about family, fate, circumstance and justice. Russell Baze (Oscar-winner Christian Bale*) leads a dead-end life - he works a meaningless steel mill job all day, and cares for his terminally ill father at night. When Russell’s brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) returns home from Iraq, he is lured into one of the Northeast’s most ruthless crime rings and mysteriously disappears. When

Doc McStuffins Mobile Clinic: Doc's On The Go DVD Review: A Doc Worth Visiting

Thank goodness the Doc's making house calls.
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Do you suffer from headaches, nausea, or depression brought on by watching atrocious children's programming with your young child? The only cure is to pay a visit to Doc McStuffins. On the show, Doc McStuffins is a six-year-old African American girl who wants to be a doctor just like her mother, so she sets up a medical practice to treat the injuries, maladies and "boo-boos" of her toys. The episodes are full of fun characters, enjoyable songs and, though the show is not really "educational" per se, it does offer up good messages about healthy things to do and aims

Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 7 (1945-1952) DVD Review: There's Gold On That There Poverty Row

The Warner Archive dusts off another nine delightful B-Western selections.
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In late 2011, the Warner Archive unveiled its first nine-film volume of the Monogram Cowboy Collection. Well, it's been just over two years now, and here we are with the fresh MOD three-disc release of Monogram Cowboy Collection, Volume 7 in our saddlebags - which features nine more B-Western goodies from the '40s and '50s starring (respectively) the talents of the portly Johnny Mack Brown, country crooner Jimmy Wakely, and the wacky Whip Wilson. The latter star dishes out the largest bulk of fare here, with four films, while that legendary crooner Jimmy Wakely only gets two entries to his

The Venture Bros.: The Fifth Season Blu-ray Review: Being and Ventureness

This season is more focused in story and provides a lot of laughs,
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Together, Jackson Publick & Doc Hammer have created an amazing fictional universe in The Venture Bros. Over 63 episodes, a pilot, and three specials, they have introduced viewers to an imagantive menagerie of mad scientists, magicians, and monsters, as well a seemingly never-ending collection of costumed heroes and supervillians. It is also filled with pop-culture references from our world. The series started as an adventure series spoofing Johnny Quest, but has since evolved into a dramedy about characters trying to find their place in the world. After the Fourth Season of The Venture Bros. ended in 2010, the series went

Boardwalk DVD Review: Death Vish

A time capsule from the bad old days of crime-ridden 1970s New York, almost saved by a touching love story enacted by octogenarian pros Lee Strasberg and Ruth Gordon.
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New York City used to be a dangerous place. No, really. This will not be news to anyone who lived in or near the Big Apple in the 1970s, but for those who have only seen the sanitized, Disneyfied Times Square of today, it might be hard to believe. Of course, there are still parts of New York that are less than savory, if not downright menacing. But they look like high-security gated communities with manicured lawns compared to the nightmarish, decaying city depicted in the 1979 film Boardwalk, now available on DVD. With its graffiti-emblazoned subway cars and violent

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Two: 1969-1971, Edited by Dean Mullaney

Manning has created captivating adventures accompanied by outstanding illustrations.
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The second installment of Russ Manning's complete Tarzan newspaper strips from what will be a four-book series published by the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing finds the artist at the top of his game, creating captivating adventures accompanied by outstanding illustrations, just as he had been with the work that appears in Volume 1. Henry G. Franke III, editor of literary society The Burroughs Bibliophiles, has written the introductory piece that provides Manning's history with the character, as a fan reading most of the Tarzan books while in high school, and as an artist drawing the Gold Key

Criterion Announces Their June Releases

Forget that summer vacation. You are going to be spending that money on Criterion discs.
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This June finds The Criterion Collection delivering an impressive roster of titles. Out June 7 Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows (#95) stars Jane Wyman as a wealthy widow torn between following her heart for a younger man (Rock Hudson) of lesser means and the expectations that her children and society place upon her. The new edition comes with: New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray Audio commentary featuring John Mercer, coauthor of Melodrama: Genre, Style, Sensibility, and film scholar Tamar Jeffers-McDonald Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992), a groundbreaking essay film about the actor by Mark

American Hustle is the Pick of the Week

I’m ready to put on a leisure suite, hang the disco ball, and live with this movie for a month, much less a week.
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My mother often says I was born in the wrong decade - that I should have grown up in the '60s. She says this because of my affinity to the music and movies of that decade and for my politics and my rather hippy idealism. Sometimes I think she’s right. When I think about all the great music - from the Beatles to the Stones, the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan - I wish I could have been there. Sometimes I dream of attending Woodstock or political rallies, of growing my hair long, smoking pot and tuning in, turning on,

Joanna Lumley's Nile and Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey DVD Reviews: Take a Tour with Patsy

Equally at home in drama or comedy, Joanna Lumley seems to have found a new calling in these travel programs.
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Isn't that Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous? Yes, it is. Joannna Lumley has calmed down her signature beehive and put aside the endless glasses of bubbly and taken on the role of travel guide for two very watchable documentaries from Athena, Joanna Lumley's Nile and Joanna Lumley's Greek Odyssey. Both two-disc DVD sets feature four episodes and Lumley's delightful observations on the local sights and history. In Joanna Lumley's Nile the host lays out her plan of attack, to travel the entire length of the north-flowing Nile, considered the longest river in the world, with a length of 4,132 miles (6,650

Sunrise (1927) Blu-ray Review: A Visual Masterpiece from the Silent Era

Though its plot and acting have not aged well, the visuals remain impressive to this day.
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At the very first Academy Awards, F. W. Murnau's Sunrise was the winner of the Unique and Artistic Production, considered a co-Best Picture at the time alongside Outstanding Picture, which went to Wings. The following year the Unique and Artistic Production category was no longer included and Wings has gone on to be recognized as that year's Best Picture winner, revealing that even from the very start, the Academy would get things wrong as Sunrise is the better film. Sunrise tells a story so universal that the characters aren't given names so they are identified by what they are

Himizu Movie Review: Compellingly Weird Coming-of-age Drama

Himizu is a strange, but compelling, coming-of-age drama about a boy trying to find normalcy in post-tsunami Japan.
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Weird movies (and Sion Sono makes nothing but weird movies) can only be really successful story vehicles if they properly teach the audience how to watch them. Sharp tonal shifts and weird characterizations can work dramatically if the groundwork is laid. In many of his previous films (his most famous to American audiences is probably 2001's Suicide Club) Sion Sono has not approached storytelling with much discipline. His style is less "everything but the kitchen sink" and more "3 or 4 kitchen sinks, from completely unrelated kitchens" and lots of screaming actors. Himizu has numerous, strange plotlines. It has off

Guilty of Romance Movie Review: Sexy Thriller with Tacked-On Murder

Sion Sono's Guilty of Romance is a sexy, strange, perverse thriller about a housewife's forays into prostitution.
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Izumi seems like the perfect wife, by her husband's sterile and demanding definition of perfect. She has his slippers in the right position for when he comes home at night, and has them right where his feet land when he gets up in the morning. He leaves at 7 every day, comes home at 9 every night, and those times when she is near him, Izumi seems happy, even though they do not speak. It does not last. Guilty of Romance is a story about a bored housewife, with a wraparound story about a grisly murder of the movie serial-killer

Book Review: 300: Rise of An Empire: The Art of the Film by Peter Aperlo

The book tells the film's story through a presentation of its visual elements.
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Peter Aperlo takes readers inside the making of Noam Murro's 300: Rise of an Empire, which expands upon Zack Snyder's 300 in what is being called an “equal” by the filmmakers as opposed to a sequel because, as producer Bernie Goldman states in the book, “it's taking place at the same time as the first movie and it amplifies the first movie...It's the same world, but it's a different perspective...and tells a different story.” Snyder “pretty much thought there could never be a sequel” until Frank Miller, creator of the original 300 graphic novel, approached him with the idea of

100 Years Of Wrigley Field DVD Review: A Century of Baseball on Chicago's North Side

A loving look at this classic ballpark.
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The Friendly Confines, three words that conjure up images of sold-out games, fans watching from rooftops, the ivy on the outfield wall, and visiting home runs being thrown back. The place is Wrigley Field, of course, now celebrating its 100th year of hosting baseball on Chicago’s north side. In honor of this historic occasion, Major League Baseball and Lionsgate have released a documentary, 100 Years Of Wrigley Field. While Wrigley Field has been the home of the Chicago Cubs since 1916, it was originally the home of the Chicago Whales of the long-defunct Federal League. The stadium was originally known

In the Name of the King 3: The Last Mission (2014) Blu-ray Review: Why Do I Torture Myself Like This?

Yet another entry from a franchise nobody asked for to begin with.
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Sometimes, all it takes is the right angle - whether you're a Nigerian prince trying to give away free money, or a adult magazine photographer who's looking for the proper approach to snapping a picture of someone's privates. And then there are bad movies made by bad directors which star bad actors. If you stand even the slightest chance of surviving such an affair, it's imperative you change your point of view somewhat. Now, I'm not saying you should take back all those things I've said about Adam Sandler movies not being funny (they're still not) but that you should

Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie, Set 1 DVD Review: Who Needs Poirot?

This delightful new box set of Christie mysteries is worth the effort of reading a few subtitles.
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Just when Agatha Christie fans might be feeling a bit bereft since David Suchet hung up his Poirot mustaches, Acorn Media has released a delightful new box set of Christie mysteries available from France — Les Petits Meurtres D'Agatha Christie, Set 1. Viewers should not be put off by the prospect of subtitles. Yes, the mysteries are all in French, with easy-to-read, large subtitling, and they are most definitely worth the effort. Originally made for French television in 2009-2012, this collection has dusted off the classic Christie tropes and given them a distinctly Gallic flavor, which surprisingly, works beautifully. Christie's

Veronica Mars Prize Pack Giveaway

The mystery is, "who is going to win?"
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with PartnersHub to award one lucky visitor a Veronica Mars DVD and limited edition Neptune, CA trucker hat. Following a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign that ended on April 12, 2013, Veronica Mars was shot over 23 days during June-July 2013. Co-written (with Diane Ruggiero), produced, and directed by Rob Thomas, the film will be released in selected theaters nationwide on March 14th, 2014 and available on Digital HD. On the eve of graduating law school, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) has put Neptune and her amateur sleuthing days behind her. While interviewing at high-end New York law

Eric Clapton: The 1970s Review DVD Review: Between Cream and 461 Ocean Boulevard

Love him or hate him, this DVD tells us pretty much everything that Clapton did during the gloriously decadent decade.
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The video company Sexy Intellectual specialize in unauthorized biographies, such as From Straight to Bizarre: Zappa, Beefheart, Alice Cooper and LA's Lunatic Fringe, Joy Division: Under Review, and Brian Eno: The Man Who Fell to Earth among many others.Their Eric Clapton: The 1960s Review came out last year, and the new Eric Clapton: The 1970s Review is being released today. In the ‘60s, hip Brits were spray painting “Clapton is God” all over England, but I think his career in the ‘70s was far more interesting. This Review fudges the timeline a little, but there is a natural break where

DVD Review: DC Comics Superheroes: The Filmation Adventures, Volume 1: A Peppy Blast from the Past

Watch the Flash, the Green Lantern, and the Atom battle evil-doers in this collection of animated adventures from 1967.
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DC Comics Superheroes: The Filmation Adventures, Volume 1 contains nine animated adventures from The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, which ran on CBS-TV for the 1967-68 season. It's a truncated version of the two-disc DC Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures that featured all the show’s supporting superheroes - including Hawkman, Teen Titans, and the Justice League of America.. This volume has three adventures each from three other superheroes - Green Lantern, the Atom, and the Flash. Radiation, evil aliens, mad scientists, robot monsters, and giant insects are the bad guys in these short adventures, which run about seven minutes each. The

Gasoline Alley: The Complete Sundays Volume 1, 1920-1922 Book Review: Fine Restoration of Classic Strips

Lovingly restored, Dark Horse Comics collects the first two years of the beloved series Sunday run.
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Reading archives of old comic strips can be odd, because not only were these never meant to be perennial entertainment, but were the definition of ephemera, thrown out the next day with the rest of the old paper. That's one of the refreshing things about them - they aren't written with a modern audience in mind, and so remain suffused with the character of their times. It would be presumptuous to place weighty pretensions on any collection of old comic strips. Gasoline Alley, which started in 1918 as a gag strip about auto mechanics only inadvertently became a chronicle of

Mama's Family: The Complete Third Season DVD Review: A Blast from the Past

The good old days are alive and well on Mama's Family: The Complete Third Season.
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Spin-offs have been a part of the television world for many years now. As a matter of fact, there is even one in the works for Breaking Bad, featuring Bob Odenkirk as lawyer Saul Goodman, in Better Call Saul. Back in the ‘70s, All in the Family begat Maude, which then spun off Good Times. Happy Days led to Laverne and Shirley, then Mork and Mindy, and even the hideous Joanie Loves Chachi. As far as I know however, there was never a recurring variety show skit that was turned in to a series before The Carol Burnett Show spawned

Fibber McGee and Molly Double Feature (1942-1944) DVD Review: The Mediocre and the Stinky

Decades after the fact, the Warner Archive cleans out the McGee's hall closet. Sadly, this was all they found.
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In this day and age, the idea of a real-life couple appearing together in a motion picture, on the television, or even on the radio is enough to make one want to pick up one of those book things and take up an interest in reading. But it hasn't always been that way, kids. No, decades before the criminally uncomforting activities of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez or the monotonous snoozerific charms of those blank expressionless Twilight leads, there existed actual real-life couples with actual real-life talent, who were capable of captivating actual real-life audiences for generations. And these brave

Contest: In The Name Of The King 3 on Blu-ray

Enter in the name of winning.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox to award two lucky readers In The Name Of The King 3:The Last Mission on Blu-ray. Available on March 11 on Blu-ray and DVD, the next chapter of the video game-inspired non-stop fantasy action adventure finds Hazen Kaine (Dominic Purcell), an American hitman, skeptically entering into what he hopes is his final contract with corrupt European crime lords. When Hazen realizes he’s been tasked with an impossible mission involving the countries royal family, the stakes change and his mission turns into an all-out fight for survival that takes him spiraling back

Inside Llewyn Davis is the Pick of the Week

You’ll likely never see me not pick a Coen Brothers' movie as my Pick of the Week.
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If I were to remove my critic’s hat when you asked me to name my favorite director, I’d likely go with the Coen Brothers. Not that they don’t make critically acclaimed movies (for even the slightest perusal at their award nominations and wins will paint you a bright picture in that regard) but that without having to think too hard about a director’s artistry and allowing myself to simply bask in the sheer enjoyment of their films, the Coens tend to come out on top. It wasn’t always so. I can’t remember when I first saw their second movie, Raising

The 300 Spartans Blu-ray Review: Caveat Emptor

The inspiration for Frank Miller's 300 is less than inspiring.
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The 300 Spartans debuts on Blu-ray in conjunction with the theatrical release of 300: Rise of an Empire, which expands on the story of Zack Snyder's 300 with scenes that take place before, during, and after the events of Snyder's film. 300 was adapted from Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name, and he claims The 300 Spartans "changed the course of my creative life." However, it's hard to see why because the film hasn't aged well since 1962. Set in 480 BC, The 300 Spartans tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae when a small group of

Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Deluxe Edition) DVD Review: Star-studded, Jam-packed, Mid-career Celebration of One of Rock's Greats

Only Dylan could get so many talented artists to come together and create such incredible music together.
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The 1980s were not particularly kind to Bob Dylan. There were a few highlights including successful tours with Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead (though that grouping has plenty of detractors, the recordings present plenty of great grooves) and 1988 saw the beginning of what is now known as the Never Ending Tour, which has produced many of Dylan’s greatest performances ever. His work with the Traveling Willburys was good and Oh Mercy is a stand-out. But mostly it was a tough decade with rambling, incoherent albums and a great decline in relevancy in popular culture. The beginning of the

Hellboy: The First 20 Years Book Review: Celebrating Mike Mignonla's Most Famous Creation

Hellboy: The First 20 Years is an attractive artbook that charts the visuals of the Hellboy series
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Hellboy: The First 20 Years is a celebration, not necessarily of the character, but of the artist and writer who created him, Mike Mignola. It is an art book that shows how intrinsic Mignola's sense of character design and color are to making the character work. Because it is a character that probably should not work. In the context of comic books, the notion of a boy from Hell who fights against the paranormal isn't too outlandish, but even from the beginning Hellboy wasn't quite what one would expect from the high concept. He's not very devilish, and he has

Adventure Time: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review: The Animated Saga Continues

They are right. The fun doesn't end.
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Although some of these episodes have been made available on previous releases, The Complete Third Season of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time collects all 26 eleven-minute episodes. The third season began on July 11, 2011 and concluded on February 13, 2012. The packaging looks like Finn and Jake's roommate, BMO, the living game console. Created by Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time is an animated fantasy series filled with tremendous imagination and humor. Set in the Land of Ooo more than thousand years in the future after the Great Mushroom War, it presents the extraordinary adventures of a 13-year-old human boy named Finn

300 Movie Review: A Bit of the Old Hyperviolence

A magnificent ballet of violence and bloodshed
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Brothers and sisters, lend me your eyes so I many share with you all the tale of brave Leonidas I, King of Sparta, son of King Anaxandridas II, descendant of Heracles, who led 300 Spartan warriors against the seemingly unending forces of Emperor Xerxes of Persia at The Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC. Xerxes sent forth messengers to all Greek city-states offering gifts in exchange for their surrender and allegiance. Leonidas did not take the insult kindly and in a breach of protocol killed the messengers. In accordance with Spartan law, he sought permission from the Keepers of the

Contest: Snickers Movie Prize Pack

Enter the contest or you'll make Godzilla angry. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Snickers Brand to award one lucky visitor a $15 Fandango gift card and 5 Snickers bars. Continuing the well-known Snickers ad campaign starring famous faces, Godzilla appears in the spot below as part of the marketing push for his new film, Godzilla, which will be released on May 5. The giveaway is limited to U.S. residents. Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Snickers Movie Prize Pack containing 5 Snickers Bars and 1 $15 Fandango Gift Card via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address (no PO Boxes) per

Zaytoun Movie Review: A Heavy Subject with a Light Touch

Riklis’ movie is decent but not as good as it could’ve been.
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More than a little melodramatic in places, Eran Riklis’ Zaytoun is a tale of unexpected friendship in seemingly impossible circumstances. The Israeli director teams with The King’s Speech producer Gareth Unwin and producer Fred Ritzenberg to craft this piece, with the Nader Rizq screenplay going through a number of rewrites on its way to primetime. The retooling of the script was allegedly designed to take out the more “dogmatic” aspects and that’s really what Zaytoun has as both its greatest strength and greatest weakness. While the relative neutrality of the film’s politics create ample space for the friendship between protagonists,

Last Stand of the 300 and Other Famous Greek Battles DVD Review: Grand Theft Auto at Thermopylae

The History Channel examines the battles of ancient Greece in this three-DVD set.
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Remember when The History Channel actually showed programs of historical interest? For a lot of people (generally men), those history shows were a welcome diversion from the usual TV fluff. The times have changed dramatically though, for today it is a steady diet of Pawn Stars, Ax Men, and Swamp People. The Last Stand of the 300 and Other Famous Greek Battles is a reminder of the good old days on HC. This three-DVD contains six History Channel programs about the ancient Greek legends of war, with an emphasis on the 300 Spartans who fought off tens of thousands of

Wicked Blood Blu-ray Review: Southern Meth Generic Crime Drama

Wicked Blood, a crime drama seen through the eyes of a teenage girl begins promisingly, but sinks under generic plot.
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The film's title, Wicked Blood, implies that it will be about family, and I suppose it is. It evokes the notion that heredity may be destiny - that the sins of the fathers (and mothers) get played out, or even recreated in their children. Or it is about how a girl in a family overloaded with bad is terrified that the little good she has around her will be taken away, but the only way she can think to deal with it gets her deeper into the family's darkness. It's an idea that has a lot of promise, if it
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned only four novels and 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes, the last of which appeared in 1927. In the not-quite hundred years since, the detective with the amazing deductive skills has permeated our collective imaginations, created his own archetype, and has been recreated on radio, television, comic books, the stage, and movies thousands of times over. He is one of the world’s most enduring and popular characters ever created. There is a dizzying array of adaptations and retellings of the stories out there. The classic stories and new inventions have been told and retold over

Love Is a Racket (1932) DVD Review: Yeah, Figured That One Out Already, Thanks

Personally, I need an everlasting love, but I'll wait for it, wait for it, give it some time.
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First of all, allow me to say that, although the gossip column of the newspaper has expanded enormously into entire tell-all magazine publications and deceptive propaganda-mongering networks since the era in which Love Is a Racket was made, it's still a difficult notion for me to grasp. Put simply, I just don't get it - and this is primarily due to the fact that I don't care about the lives of celebrities. So, whenever I find myself assigned with the task of critiquing a film like the Love Is a Racket - especially Love Is a Racket itself, wherein our

Ashanti (1979) Blu-ray Review: The Most Disastrous Disaster of a Non-Disaster Flick

A naked supermodel, bored lead, hammy heavy, and a guest star gettin' blowed up real good: now THIS is what cinema is all about!
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If one were to pick a solitary word to describe Richard Fleischer's 1979 exploitation adventure flick Ashanti, the noun "disaster" might very well define every single aspect about the motion picture. Though he was no stranger to the field of action/adventure movies - or even exploitation for that matter - it seemed that, by the time the late '70s rolled around, Fleischer (son of legendary animator Max Fleischer) no longer had quite the luck he had enjoyed up to fifteen years prior with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage, Tora! Tora! Tora!, and even Soylent Green. In fact, shortly

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor Blu-ray Review: An Overstuffed, but Still Yummy Christmas Turkey

A nice send-off to the Eleventh Doctor, just not a great one.
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The Time of the Doctor has all the tell tale signs of a Doctor Who episode under the tutelage of show runner Steven Moffat. It's thrilling, clever, funny, and very entertaining, yet crammed with too much stuff, overly referential, and ultimately rather shallow. On a small, isolated planet a mysterious message is being beamed across all of time and space. Outside the planet are hundreds of alien ships (including most of the Doctor’s enemies) all desperately trying to determine what the message says. The Papal Mainframe, led by Tasha Lem - an old friend of the Doctor - is protecting

12 Years a Slave is the Pick of the Week

It's the kind of thing Academy voters eat up as they obviously did last night.
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The 86th Academy Awards show was on last night. It was watched by a lot of people. Usually I’m one of them. But this time I did my taxes. Or rather my friend who used to be an accountant did them. We’ve been trying to find a time that we could get together and get them done for weeks now. But bad weather, busy schedules, and sick kids have caused us to reschedule and reschedule again. So last night, even though I really do love the Oscars, I turned off the TV and set about my civic duty. The upside

Doctor Who: The Moonbase DVD Review: An Important Release

The Second Doctor encounters the Cybermen for his first time but that's not his only problem.
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The Cybermen have always rivaled the Daleks as the premier villains in the Doctor Who Universe. The Daleks always seemed to be able to win on just being a creepy monster. The Cybermen were always the thinking man's villain for me. They are inherently a very philosophical monster. At what point do humans become something else as they replace their parts. It's been a theme in Science Fiction for generations. In the Doctor Who Universe, the evolution of the Cybermen has reflected the thoughts of the times. Their role now as arguably the most important adversaries is built upon more

Corruption (1968) / The Big Gundown (1966) Blu-ray Reviews: Two Points for Grindhouse

Grindhouse Releasing gets their hands on two cult epics from the Columbia Pictures vaults - and the results are nothing short of fabulous.
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In the latter half of 2013, cult indie label Grindhouse Releasing unveiled their first Blu-ray title - the mind-numbingly awesome 1972 psychedelic romp, An American Hippie in Israel. Shortly thereafter, Grindhouse continued what had already amazingly become a winning streak with two more equally devilishly delicious ditties: the sleazy 1968 British horror/thriller Corruption, and the 1966 Italian spaghetti western The Big Gundown. Their astounding transfers and bonus materials aside, the only thing these two moving pictures from the latter half of the '60s have in common are blood and typecasting. But in the case of Corruption, we have a prime

Tess Criterion Collection Review: Polanski's Vision of Victorian England

Roman Planski's Tess is a beautifully shot adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel about Victorian England.
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Tess is an unforgettable film, and one of the finest of Roman Polanski’s career. The fact that it lost to Ordinary People for Best Picture surprises me, but the movie was not completely ignored by the Academy. Tess was nominated in six categories, and won in three: Art Direction, Cinematography, and Costume Design. In watching the newly released Criterion Blu-ray, I believe that it holds an additional appeal today that may not have been apparent back in 1979. Thirty-five years later, Tess is more than just a great movie. It is an example of a filmmaking style that seems to

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