April 2014 Archives

Here's Looking At You, Kid: The Humphrey Bogart Film Festival

Sounds like a busy, film-filled (and pretty fun) weekend.
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This weekend I will be attending the 2014 Humphrey Bogart Film Festival (May 1-4), and writing about my experiences for Cinema Sentries (and also on my blog). I can't wait! I inherited the love of Bogie and classic films from my dad, and am thrilled to have chance to check out this festival, now in its second year. Put together by Bogart's son Stephen Bogart and the Humphrey Bogart Estate, the festival meets every year in Key Largo, Florida, the setting for the classic John Huston film of the same name that starred Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Claire Trevor, and Edward

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) Blu-ray Review: A Secret Best Left Untold

Ben Stiller succeeds in launching and then crashing the very same project so many others abandoned or passed-up several times before.
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One fateful day as a geeky movie kid in the late '80s, I discovered a recently-released-to-home-video VHS of something called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. It had the wonderful Danny Kaye. And horror icon Boris Karloff. And silly musical numbers - which I still could probably recite from memory to this day if someone gave me five bucks. Essentially, it was the perfect movie for a fresh classic movie lover such as my younger self, and while the first DVD release of the 1947 classic became one of the hardest movies for me to find at a reasonable price

Doctor Who: The Web of Fear DVD Review: A Cause for Celebration

Available for the first time since being broadcast 46 years ago, The Second Doctor and UNIT are ready for the Yeti.
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The DVD release of The Web of Fear is another victory in the battle to restore all of the “lost” Doctor Who serials. As a cost-cutting measure, the BBC erased and reused the tapes during the 1960s. Since the quest began in earnest, copies of missing episodes have been found all over the world. This has been an extraordinary effort, and when something as significant as The Web of Fear is restored, it is a real event. In some instances, not every episode of a serial can be located though, and this has forced the company to become creative. With

Mr. Selfridge: The Complete Second Season is the Pick of the Week

I defer to the excellent quality Masterpiece has given us all in the past and hope they can pull this off.
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I'll probably be labeled a terrible dad for admitting this, but there has been a lot of television watching in my daughter's three years of life. I know you aren’t supposed to watch TV with your children - you’ll rot their brains and all that. I know you are supposed to spend your days playing and educating and showing them the love of nature and all that. We do those things, too. On nice days we go outside, take walks, climb trees, trundle down slides, and explore the woods next to our house. On rainy, cold days we read, color

Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Black Coal, Thin Ice Film Review: Uneven Film Noir Spiced with Humor and Horror

Stylish noir thriller with touches of humor gives a glimpse into the run-down, everyday China most Westerners don't see.
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Black Coal, Thin Ice (Bai Ri Yan Huo), a very noir detective story with hints of both humor and nihilism, also provides a glimpse into the run-down, everyday world of a provincial northern Chinese city. Ordinary streets, cramped apartments, bare-bones noodle shops, and slow, creaky trams provide the backdrop to an often confusing murder investigation, leading to a purposely frustrating Sopranos finale-style wrap-up. But if you can go with the flow of the film’s shifting moods and paces, it offers an interesting experience as it riffs on detective stories we’ve all seen before. The movie starts quickly and stylishly: the

Book Review: Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics, Volume One: 1966-1967

A welcome addition to any Batfan's library.
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IDW’s The Library of American Comics and DC Entertainment have teamed up to release Batman’s Silver Age newspaper strips, which debuted a few months after the classic television show hit the airwaves, so naturally the tone is light and humorous, as opposed to the serious and somber “Dark Knight” iteration that has been so popular since the mid-'80s. This was the Caped Crusader's third comic strip and the longest, running from 1966 until '74. Volume One covers the years 1966 and '67. Although Bob Kane's name appears in every strip, the book does a great job of crediting the creators,

Tribeca Film Festival 2014: 5 to 7 Review: Witty Comedy Wilts into Soggy Love Story

A graceful, witty culture-clash comedy that overcooks into a ridiculously sappy doomed romance.
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Watching 5 to 7 is like eating an entire box of creamy, sugary, overstuffed bonbons. The first few are delicious, but at some point you’d pay cash money to never eat, or even see, another dessert for as long as you live. The syrupy sweetness that strangles the film is doubly depressing because 5 to 7 starts so well. Set in a fairy-tale Manhattan where unpublished short-story writers can afford nice one-bedroom apartments, the film starts as a culture-clash romance between 24-year-old Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) and 33-year-old Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), a beautiful, sophisticated French woman who just happens to

Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Stories by Numbers Panel: Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Data?

High-powered panel discusses whether data can contribute to creative storytelling and why binge-watching is really nothing new.
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Today, there’s granular, detailed data on what people watch, when they watch it, on what device and at what time of day, how often they pause and rewind, etc., etc. But all that data is more interesting to movie studio marketing departments and TV executives than to the creative people behind binge-watchable, buzz-worthy shows like The Wire and House of Cards. This was an overriding theme of the “Stories by Numbers” panel at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, featuring statistics geek and FiveThirtyEight site creator Nate Silver, film journalist Anne Thompson, Wire and Treme creator David Simon, and House of

Little Feat: Live in Holland 1976 DVD Review: Featfans, Rejoice!

There is really no excuse for anybody who likes music to not own this one.
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They call themselves “Featfans,” and are to Little Feat what the Deadheads are to the Grateful Dead. Recently the Featfans networks lit up in a big way over the announcement that Eagle Rock would be releasing Little Feat's Live in Holland 1976, in a DVD + CD package. There is precious little footage of the Lowell George years, and this set adds another 54 minutes to the existing stock. Featfans, rejoice for the group are in their prime here. Little Feat were probably the musician’s band of the Seventies. They never reached the stratospheric sales of Led Zeppelin, and none

2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Review: Day Three and Four

Each year I seem to enjoy the this festival more and more.
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[Editor's Note: Lorna's coverage of Day One and Two can be found here.] Day Three Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) had me up and raring to go for Day Three. Anything starring Gary Cooper will always be at the top of my list. Factoring in Frank Capra as director, there was nothing else in this time slot that even challenged it. Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper) is a simple man who enjoys writing greeting-card poetry and playing the tuba in his small town of Mandrake Falls, Vermont until he inherits $20 million from a long lost uncle. Upon the news,

Sensation: The Story of Tommy DVD Review: Takes Viewers Behind the Scenes of The Who's Groundbreaking Rock Opera

Learn more about the inspiration of the band's 1969 masterpiece.
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This year marks the 45th anniversary of The Who’s landmark rock opera Tommy, and the celebrations and accolades continue. In 2013, they released a deluxe box set featuring demos, early versions, and live renditions of Tommy tracks; now Eagle Rock has followed suit with Sensation: The Story of Tommy, a DVD/Blu-ray that provides an overview of the album’s creation. An expanded version of the 2013 BBC documentary, the release features new interviews with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey as well as archival footage of John Entwistle. Casual fans will enjoy the look back on a seminal work, although hardcore fans

Tribeca Film Festival 2014: Revealing the Secrets Behind Raging Bull

Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker reveals the influences, artistry and happy accidents that go into a great film.
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A film editor’s film editor, Martin Scorsese collaborator Thelma Schoonmaker focused just on Raging Bull for her master class at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. Fortunately, the film is so rich and fascinating that she probably could have done a whole semester on it and still not exhausted the topic. The 1980 Raging Bull wasn’t Schoonmaker’s first collaboration with Scorsese, but it was her first major Hollywood narrative picture (she had cut Scorsese’s 1967 Who’s That Knocking at My Door, but since then had worked on documentaries). “Raging Bull is like a textbook on filmmaking,” said Schoonmaker. There was plenty

Martial Arts Double Feature: Hapkido / Lady Whirlwind (1972) DVD Review: The Return of Angela Mao

Shout! Factory doubles down with a pair of early '70s chopsocky flicks.
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While I haven't completely forgotten every single bit of my life as an awkward teenager in the '90s, there aren't too terribly many memories from that point in time that I can safely chalk up on the board as being overly favorable. But, for each of the bad ones, there was always some way a bullied movie geek in high school could find some sort of release. One such memory involves a series of martial arts double features videocassettes the now-defunct Video Treasures label put out in the early '90s. The recording speed was always LP (four-hour) mode, the presentations

God's Pocket Movie Review: One Last Chance to See Philip Seymour Hoffman

Downbeat drama with too few flashes of crazy black humor, but strong performances from Hoffman, John Turturro and Christina Hendricks
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What would Roger Sterling, the character John Slattery plays on Mad Men, think of God’s Pocket? (The film is actor Slattery’s directorial debut.) For those who don’t watch Mad Men, Roger is a salesman extraordinaire; a smooth-tongued, silver-maned cynic; a boozehound philanderer who has also experimented with LSD as the show has made its way through the 1960s. For all his bad behavior, Roger is a respectable square at heart, but he’d rather die than let anyone know that. About this film, a downbeat drama with too few flashes of crazy black humor, Roger would say “Who wants to see

Master of the House is the Pick of the Week

Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection.
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You know its a slow week for new releases when a friggin’ Tyler Perry movie is the number-one seller on Amazon. Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection. Week after week, those guys present art-house, foreign, obscure, and fascinating films in the highest of qualities with terrific extras at a decent price. We love Criterion here at Cinema Sentries, and I want to always be talking about them in my Picks of the Week. I won’t always pick them, but never will I not give them a shout. Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered one of the masters of early cinema. He

Off-the-Wall TV Shows from the Warner Archive DVD Reviews: Heroes and Fathers Galore

The Search for Jimmy Stewart's Courtship of Superboy.
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In case you've ever wondered, there have been millions upon millions of motion pictures made the world over since the very inception of film in the late 1800s. Sadly, it's impossible to get an exact count on these, due to many movies out there having been made independently and/or never released, lost due to fire or misplacing, or the fact that they just haven't been "discovered" yet. When you move over to the realm of television shows, however, things don't seem to be as mind-boggling when it comes to numbers - but if just so happens that there are many

2014 TCM Classic Film Festival Review: Day One and Two

I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and was wanting more once it was over.
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The 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival was my fourth and favorite. It may have been the festival programming or the movies I chose to watch, but I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend and was wanting more once it was over. Day One After picking up my pass and surviving the chaos at the Welcome Party at Club TCM, I headed over to Hooters where I luckily secured a prime window seat to see the red-carpet action for the Oklahoma! opening gala. Several celebrities were in attendance such as Shirley Jones and Maureen O'Brien. My festival officially started with Cheaper by the

Search: The Complete Series DVD Review: About 40 Years Ahead of Its Time

Search is perhaps the greatest "lost" TV show of all time.
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Search was a show that aired for one season back in 1972-73, and if you do not remember it, join the club. After watching Search: The Complete Series, what surprised me the most was that it never developed a Star Trek-type of cult following, because Search was about 40 years ahead of its time. The recent Warner Archive set includes all 23 episodes on six DVDs. Unfortunately, the pilot is not a part of the package. Search started out as a TV-movie titled Probe (1972), which was the original title of the series, but legal issues forced the change. We

X-Men: Days of Future Past: Third and Final Trailer

"It's going to take all of us to end this war." - Professor Xavier
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Opening nationwide on May 23, 2014, the two X-Men franchises meld into one as "The ultimate X-Men ensemble fights a war for the survival of the species across two time periods in X-Men: Days of Future Past. The beloved characters from the original X-Men film trilogy join forces with their younger selves from X-Men: First Class, in an epic battle that must change the past - to save our future". Bryan Singer returns to the director's chair and many familiar faces from the series reprise their roles as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back into the past to unite the

Knights of Badassdom Blu-ray Giveaway

It's a fun horror comedy shout-out to nerds, with a modicum of cheesy moments.
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Cinema Sentries has teamed up with Entertainment One to award three lucky readers Knights of Badassdom on a Blu-ray. The contest is only open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada. Starring Peter Dinklage, Steve Zahn , Ryan Kwanten , and Summer Glau, Knights of Badassdom follows three best friends (Dinklage, Zahn and Kwanten) and dedicated LARPers (Live Action Role Players) as they take to the woods to reenact a dungeons and dragons-like scenario fresh out of the Middle Ages. Trouble arises after they unwittingly conjure up some serious evil in the form of a blood-lusting Succubus from the

20 Feet from Stardom Movie Review: Backup Singers Take Center Stage

A fine film for any music fan to watch.
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When 20 Feet from Stardom won the Best Documentary Film award at the most recent Oscars, there was some chatter about how the film won in part because it was, frankly, less of a bummer than the other nominees, particularly The Act of Killing. A lot of the people backing that film to win bristled at the presumption than 20 Feet from Stardom took home the award simply because it was funner and more enoyable to sit through, as if though being entertaining wasn't, you know, integral to filmmaking and movie quality. All that aside, even on its own merits,

TV Review: Fargo: "The Crocodile's Dilemma"

The episode has me intrigued on what happens next, dontcha know.
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Be open-minded. I know that may be easier said than done, especially if you are a fan of the Coen Brothers, but Fargo the TV miniseries, as least as far as the first episode goes, only uses the characteristics of their 1996 film rather than being a direct extension of it. And it uses them well. After a similar disclaimer the film used, stating that what we are about to see is a true story with the names changed, although the TV series' events took place in 2006, fate brings together Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) and Lester Nygaard (Martin

Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries (1955-1957) DVD Review: From Deadeye to Dick

Put out an APB on a couple of beers and shoot out the light.
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At the tail end of his career in motion pictures, a longtime western star by the name o' Wild Bill Elliott was forced to contend with several big changes in the film industry. First, the near-legendary Poverty Row studio known today as Monogram Pictures - under whom Elliott had had his final motion picture contract with - went through a transformation. As it morphed into what soon became Allied Artists, the low budgets Monogram cheapies were so well-known (and rather notorious) for ceased to be. Secondly, as television audiences began to crave western shows, the B-Western unit was disbanded entirely.

Philomena is the Pick of the Week

There is lots of humor threaded through a story that is also filled with sadness.
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My wife tends to avoid sad films, sad songs, sad everything. She says life is tough enough on its own without having to wallow through somebody else’s horrible story. I’m exactly the opposite. I love sad bastard tales. There is something cathartic about living vicariously for a time through another life full of heartbreak, death, and bleakness. Somehow knowing there are others out there suffering helps me sort through my own miserable existence. Or at least it makes me realize I’ve not got it that bad. Not at all. Philomena Lee had a hard life. At a young age, she

Panel Preview: Dark Horse Comics: Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1

Han Solo-the truth behind the myth!
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Beginning April 30, Star Wars: Rebel Heist #1 is the first in a four-issue miniseries written by Matt Kindt (creator of MIND MGMT) with pencils by Marco Castiello, inks by Dan Parsons, and color by Gabe Eltaeb. A young Rebel meets one of the Alliance’s best for his first mission. But the young man’s hero worship is crushed by the reality of Han Solo. A botched escape, a ship that doesn’t work—could it be that Solo is just a lucky bumbler whose luck has run out? The remaining issues will feature Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Luke.
Previously, the folks at Twilight Time had stepped up their game from two to three releases per month to four. Recently, however, the niche home video label decided to up the ante a wee bit further, giving consumers a total of five new releases to add to their collection. As always, this batch is of a decidedly varied assortment; the only true constant here appearing to be most of the movies somehow work death into the picture! But hey, that's one of the few things that still sells, right? Read on and find out. Firstly, we have the 1956 classic

Maverick: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons Review: Pappy Says Save This For the Old Folks

A nice set compiling two seasons of this classic show with really good video and audio quality.
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Full confession right at the top: I’ve never, before this review, seen an episode of Maverick. I’m too young to have watched it on first run, and I’ve never been interested enough to sit down with reruns. I have however seen the 1994 Mel Gibson/Jodie Foster movie a dozen times or so, though only once intentionally. For reasons that probably have to do with the charisma of its stars, the PG rating, my age at its release date, and the age of various chaperones, I unintentionally caught the movie numerous times on youth retreats, college registrations, and miscellaneous other events

Joan Crawford Stars in Montana Moon, I Live My Life, and The Bride Wore Red from Warner Archive

Three little-known films from Joan's MGM years show how the studio placed, and kept, this star in the spotlight for over a decade.
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What images come to mind when one hears the name “Joan Crawford”? Faye Dunaway in a close-up so close she goes a bit cross-eyed, screaming “No. Wire. Hangers. Ever!” Joan as Mildred Pierce, glamorous but heartbroken in furs because she’s cursed with a monstrously selfish daughter in a movie that seems designed to be parodied by Carol Burnett? Joan as the slightly less ghoulish of the two sisters in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, victim of an over-the-top Bette Davis as both scene-stealing actress and crazy character? For me, it was “all of the above,” despite the fact that

Book Review: Grimm: Below the Surface: The Insider's Guide to the Show

A great companion guide to the series, as well as a reference guide to Portland's creepiest inhabitants.
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Grimm is a television show that has been running on NBC since the 2011 fall season. Part procedural cop show, part fantasy, the series follows Portland homicide detective Nick Burkhardt, who is descended from a long line of hunter/protectors known as Grimms. After his Aunt Marie is killed, Nick inherits the family business, from her extensive weapon collection to some super-human abilities. Grimms have the ability to see Wesen, creatures with animal characteristics that live among humans. Many Wesen are dangerous to humans and prey upon them, but as Nick becomes more and more comfortable with his supernatural abilities he

Extreme Bears DVD Review: Another (Mostly) Winning Set from BBC Earth

Grizzlies, pandas, and polar bears in their natural elements.
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A triple feature of sorts from BBC Earth, Extreme Bears is two discs of grizzlies, pandas, and polar bears in their natural elements. The release features three programs - four episodes in total - that concern themselves with all aspects of bear life. The most compelling of the programs is the “Great Bear Stakeout.” This features two episodes dealing with a group of grizzly bears in Alaska. Billy Connolly narrates and really does a bang-up job, bringing his trademark humour and energy to the events. The team of photographers and experts get as close as humanly possible to the grizzlies,

My Top Picks for the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival

If I am lucky, I'll get into all seven.
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Each year when the schedule for the TCM Classic Film Festival is posted, I feel equal levels of excitement and stress. How will I ever decide? And why do they always put movies in the same slot that I really want to see? This year is no different. The schedule can be found at the Festival website and the following films are at the top of my list to see. Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) My festival viewing will start off with this sentimental selection since I have seen it several times but never on the big screen. Clifton Webb

Earth Flight: The Complete Series Blu-Ray Review: A Bird's-eye View of Life on the Wing

A fantastic view of the life of birds from their perspective.
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Continuing their excellent series of nature documentaries, BBC Earth has taken a look at the lives of birds in Earth Flight. Filmed over a four-year period, Earth Flight follows migrating birds over six continents, using unique filming techniques to get the proverbial “bird’s-eye view” of life on the wing for these remarkable creatures. Never before have birds been filmed in this way and the results are astounding. Narrated by David Tennant, the series is broken down into six episodes, with five episodes focusing on a specific continent, save for one, which covers both Asia and Australia. The sixth episode, “Flying

The Nut Job Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack Giveaway

You'd be nuts not to enter.
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Cinema Sentries has teamed up with Universal Pictures to award two lucky readers The Nut Job on a Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack. The contest is only open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada. The Nut Job comes to Blu-ray 3D and Blu-ray Combo Pack including Blu-ray, DVD, & DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet as well as On Demand on April 15, 2014, from Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film will also be available on DIGITAL HD one week early on April 8, 2014. Surly (Will Arnett) is a mischievous squirrel with a mission: to find the tastiest nuts for

The Nut Job Blu-ray Review: Amiable Enough to Entertain the Kiddos

It brings to mind classic Bugs Bunny - alas, none of the characters have quite the personality of Bugs, but then, who does?
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Universal Studios is releasing on Blu-ray and DVD The Nut Job on April 15. The animated film is set in the fictional town of Oakton, which, as far as its wild animal inhabitants are concerned, is in the middle of an extreme food shortage as winter fast approaches. Surly the Squirrel (Will Arnett) and his mostly mute rat buddy named Buddy march to a different drummer, and are constantly getting in trouble with the rest of the local animals. Surly's latest gaffe has been to inadvertently destroy what little was left of the community's stored food, and as a result

August: Osage County is the Pick of the Week

I’m looking forward to seeing this one very much.
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I was born and raised in Oklahoma. This isn’t necessarily something I’m proud of. I mean I didn’t really do anything to be born nor raised there, but it is home. Or was. And is about to be again. I left as soon as I could for college in Alabama. That was plenty far enough away from home, and lovely. Though kind of the same, when you consider politics, religion, and general redneckedness. Then I came back to Oklahoma for a time. Left again. Got married, travelled the world, and came back. Left again for Tennessee, which is more of

The Secret Policeman's Ball - USA Blu-ray Review: Comedy for a Cause

In celebration of Amnesty International's 50th anniversary.
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Starting back in the 1976, a series of charity shows featuring comedy and music were held to benefit the human rights organization Amnesty International. They are known collectively as The Secret Policeman's Balls, taking the name from the title of the third show from 1979. In celebration of Amnesty International's 50th anniversary, a Ball was held for the first time in the United States at Radio City Music Hall on March 4, 2012 and is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Eagle Rock Entertainment. This evening offered a mix of British and American comedians along with performances by two British

An Unreal Dream - The Michael Morton Story DVD Review: Justice Prevails

A powerful story of determination and redemption, and how sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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An Unreal Dream recounts the story of Michael Morton, a man who kissed his wife and son goodbye before heading to work one morning in 1986, and returned to find his wife beaten to death, his son headed for alternative custody, and himself the prime suspect. He was convicted of murdering his wife despite the fact that he wasn't in the same place as her when it happened, and spent 25 years of a life sentence in a Texas penitentiary before justice saw its due. How could this happen in this age of endless crime shows where the bad guys

The Zombie Film: From White Zombie to World War Z Book Review: As Lukewarm as a Reanimated Corpse

Because one more publication on the subject couldn't possibly hurt the subgenre any.
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Once, years ago, the living dead were revered to by many as something almost legendary. George A. Romero's original trilogy of walking corpse movies were regarded as holy. It almost seemed that very few people in the film world dared to enter into such a subgenre of horror for fear of either oversaturating the market or looking like complete fools in the process. And the very notion of a television series about the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse was something that would - at best - conjure up streams of laughter from just about everyone around the world. And now

DC Comics Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures Volume 1 DVD Review: They Cannot Be Beat

I gotta say, these Filmation Adventures are a lot of fun.
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DC Comics are one of the oldest and most successful comic-book publishers of all time. They have also made some incredibly lucrative films with superheroes such as Batman and Superman. While I have always enjoyed those types of movies, I really like the animated shorts as well. With the new DC Comics Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures Volume 1 DVD we have the opportunity to view some of them again. The 63-minute set contains of total of nine adventures, with three each from The Atom, The Flash, and Green Lantern. They originally aired in 1967 as part of the Saturday

Out of the Furnace Blu-ray Review: Burning Too Many Fires

Impressive cast wasted on faulty script that attempts to pack in too many plots and instead masters none.
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Out of the Furnace is a frustrating misfire, made all the more dispiriting by the unwarranted high caliber of acting talent it attracted. As writer/director Scott Cooper’s second feature film, its most lasting impact is the recognition that his first film, Crazy Heart, also wasn’t very good. If you missed it during its miniscule theatrical run at the end of last year, its rapid appearance on Blu-ray also speaks volumes about its position as an underachiever. The film’s biggest flaw is that Cooper doesn’t know what he wants it to be: a tale of brotherly bonding, an ex-con’s redemption story,

Fargo (Remastered Edition) Blu-ray Review: Such a Super Film (but Not so Super an Edition)

An essential movie for any film fan to own. I won’t say the same for this particular release.
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When you think about the Coen Brothers' 1996 masterpiece Fargo you likely think of it as a Frances McDormand movie. No doubt she created one of the more memorable roles of any film with Marge Gunderson (and won an Oscar for it), yet she doesn’t actually appear in the film until about 30 minutes in. No, if you are going by screen time or who the plot revolves around, then we must turn to Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy.) It is his incessant bungling of pretty much everything that moves the story from start to finish (with Marge cleaning it

Mr. & Mrs. Murder: Series One DVD Review: Worth a Look

The Australian TV series Mr. & Mrs. Murder could have been a great show, if given a little time to be fine-tuned.
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Thanks to Acorn Media, I have discovered some great shows from outside of the U.S., and had high hopes for the first season of Mr. & Mrs. Murder. Acorn specializes in packaging mostly British programs on DVD, however Mr. & Mrs. Murder was an Australian series. I say “was” because it was cancelled after the first season, for various reasons. The good news is that with the new Mr. & Mrs. Murder Series One four-DVD set, we get to see all 13 episodes in the comfort of our own homes. The premise is certainly intriguing. Charlie (Shaun Micallef) and Nicola

Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 11 DVD Review: Poirot's Still Got It

A welcome addition to fans of David Suchet's definitive portrayal of the little Belgian sleuth.
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David Suchet is as wonderful as ever as Hercule Poirot in this latest DVD collection from Acorn Media, Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 11. The costumes, settings and locations are as gorgeous as ever in these first-class adaptations of Christie's mystery novels. The films stay mostly true to Christie's original novels. Two of the episodes pair Poirot with Christie's thinly-veiled spoof of herself, crime novelist Ariadne Oliver (Zoë Wanamaker). The first film in the set, "Mrs. McGinty's Dead," seems a bit more artistically framed than previous Poirot episodes. It features one of Christie's most clever plots, with Poirot taking on a

SEAL Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines (2014) DVD Review: aka The Dyslexic Subtitle Movie

Tom Sizemore sizes up a comeback in a movie with a confusing title that no one is truly bound to see. The end.
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Years ago, film producers seemed to take an unnatural amount of pride in increasing the numerical value of their franchises, which were commonly accompanied by a subtitle to the film. For example, the fourth (and by far the last even semi-amusing) Police Academy film was released to theaters under the moniker Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Friday the 13th Part VII sported the subtitle The New Blood. And this was mostly because we kept things simple back then. Alas, with the rising insurgence of prequels, spin-offs, and reboots within the film industry, utilizing the number system became less sagacious

Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 DVD Review: Another Half Season of Dragon Training

Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 1 returns to the surprisingly good TV incarnation of How to Train Your Dragon.
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They've changed the title. Dragons, the TV series continuation of the hit CGI movie How to Train Your Dragon was, in its first incarnation, subtitled Riders of Berk (reviewed here on Cinema Sentries). That season was all about the slow road to acceptance of dragons into the Viking community of Berk. Now that the Berkian's enemies from Outcast island (led by Alvin the Treacherous) have gotten the idea that dragons can be used by Vikings, the series' focus, along with its title, shifts to Defenders of Berk. It's still about training dragons, the former sworn enemies of all Viking-kind. The

Seal Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines Blu-ray Giveaway

You should enlist in this contest.
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Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox Entertainment to award two lucky readers Seal Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines on Blu-ray. Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down) stars in the most explosive and action-packed Behind Enemy Lines yet! On an unsanctioned mission in Africa, a covert team of U.S. Navy SEALs is sent to locate a secret mining operation and prevent the sale of weapons-grade uranium to international terrorists. The stakes are higher than ever—and so is the body count—as Seal Team 8 must fight their way through the treacherous Congo in order to secure the

Fargo Blu-ray Giveaway

I think you're gonna barf if you don't enter.
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As part of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's 90th anniversary celebration, Cinema Sentries have teamed up with Twentieth Century Fox Entertainment to award one lucky reader the Coen Brothers' Fargo on Blu-ray. The “middle of nowhere” has never looked better in this new edition, now remastered for the best high-definition picture yet! In this film, nominated for seven Oscars, things go terribly awry when small-time Minnesota car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) hires two thugs (Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can collect the ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. Once people start dying, the very chipper and very

The Hidden Fortress Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Gold Standard

Kurosawa and Mifune team up for another classic.
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A long time ago in a country far, far away, esteemed director Akira Kurosawa filmed a grand adventure that took the unorthodox approach of framing the action through the perspective of the lowliest of peasants rather than gallant heroes. While those sniveling peasants eventually encounter and join a noble warrior and a princess in hiding, their initial misadventures add a light and comedic touch to a story that could have easily been staged as a conventional epic drama. George Lucas readily admits to being influenced by the film as a basis for the original Star Wars, drawing a direct parallel

Philomena Blu-ray Review: A Simple Story Told Really Well

We need more of these kinds of movies.
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Philomena Lee had a child out of wedlock. This was in Ireland in 1951 so her father sent her to Sean Ross Abbey where the nuns gave her food and shelter and worked her to the bone. For three years they also raised her child (allowing Philomena to see her son only one hour a day.) Then they sold the boy for adoption to some rich Americans. Philomena never saw her son again. Philomena’s story is not unusual. Similar ones were played out hundreds of times all over Ireland. But she told her story to journalist Martin Sixsmith who made

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