June 2014 Archives

The Lonely Man (1957) DVD Review: An Equally Lonely Movie

Who's ready for a little PnP? Perkins and Palance, I mean.
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As soon as the brooding, bellowing, and otherwise lamentable sounds of Tennessee Ernie Ford's voice starts to croon the titular theme song, you get the feeling that the 1957 Paramount Picture b-western The Lonely Man is an appropriately titled affair. And it is, too; the entire film suffers from a deep case of severe depression and isolation from the whole of humanity - so much so, that Paramount even stopped distributing the film on DVD a while back. Recently, however, the Warner Archive added this one to their ever-growing collection of odds and ends, with this one most assuredly falling

Fearless (1993) Blu-ray Review: Jeff Bridges in the Pre-Lebowski Years

The Warner Archive brings us a massive upgrade from that horrible old budget DVD.
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Having "been there, done that" throughout the whole of the '90s, I have to say I have a certain amount (read: a lot) of bias against the entire decade. Why, I cringe in terror whenever I think of the god-awful colors our extremely baggy articles of clothing were endowed with to the music scene that seemed to accomplish very little in the grand scheme of things except that most people needed to bathe more. And then there were the films of said era, like Forrest Gump. What the hell were you all on, for God's sake? And thought a thousand-and-one

Panel Preview: Dark Horse Comics: Groo Vs. Conan #1

"By Crom! What manner of man has devoured my cheese dip?"
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In the works since 2005, July 23 marks the release of Groo Vs. Conan #1, a crossover so obvious, it's hard to believe it's taken this long for someone to bring these barbarians together. The creative crew responsible are writer Mark Evanier, artists Sergio Aragonés and Thomas Yeates, and colorist Tom Luth. "The most heroic warrior in history meets the stupidest as Robert E. Howard’s immortal Conan the Barbarian crosses swords with Sergio Aragonés’s Groo the Wanderer in Groo vs. Conan #1. This four-issue miniseries was concocted by Mark Evanier and Sergio Aragonés, aided by illustrator Thomas Yeates and colorist

The Americanization of Emily Blu-ray Review: A Classic Satire of Heroism and War

It's easy to see why James Garner and Julie Andrews each considered this their favorite starring roles.
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The very traits that distinguish your average, everyday coward from that of renowned public hero are split by a very fine line - something Lieutenant Commander Charlie Madison (James Garner) knows only too well. An enlisted Naval officer and practicing coward, Charlie makes his living solely by being a dog-robber for Rear Admiral William Jessup (Melvyn Douglas) in London during the days just prior to D-Day in World War II. Whatever the officers of merit want, Charlie gets it, even in a city - nay, an entire country - that hasn't seen fresh fruit or Hershey's bars in years. Food,

The Unknown Known Movie Review: Rumsfeld's Snowflakes

The smile may be the "beginning of love," but it's also Rumsfeld's Weapon of Mass Distraction.
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Filmmaker Errol Morris has said of his interview with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld that it was one of the strangest interviews he’s ever done. The 2013 documentary The Unknown Known explores this conversation and effectively proves Morris right by focusing on his subject’s effusive predisposition to “muddy the waters.” Rumsfeld is not a clarifier. It stands to reason that Morris constantly uses the motif of the open water to express the man’s tendency to send people afloat on oceans of words. At one point, the water even fills with scraps of Rumsfeld’s memos. There are apparently some

Infliction DVD Review: A Low-budgeted, but Clever Shocker

A creepfest that's just as creepy as The Blair Witch Project.
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Normally, I'm not into the whole "found footage" genre, because it can be a little cliched. There have been some good ones, such The Blair Witch Project, Cannibal Holocaust, Cloverfield, and Paranormal Activity. Others, such as Monster (nothing to do with the incredible Charlize Theron film) and The Amityville Haunting are really bad. I would have to rank Infliction as good, but not just good, but actually really great. The story centers on two brothers in North Carolina, who decide to go on a killing spree and tape their crimes. They target certain people, people who you don't think can

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Second Season DVD Review: A Most Unusual Program

Fascinating tales of science fiction and fantasy that appeal beyond fans of those genres,
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While the Writers Guild of America just recently voted Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone the third best written series of all-time, viewers have long known how special this iconic anthology series was. Serling, who wrote 20 of the episodes this season, and his team of writers, which included Charles Beaumont, Richard Matheson, and George Clayton Johnson, told fascinating tales of science fiction and fantasy that appealed beyond fans of those genres because the stories were so identifiable in the way they spoke to the human condition and morality. The Second Season earned Serling an Emmy for Outstanding Writing Achievement in

The Escape (1939) Movie Review: An Emotionally Charged Gangster Classic

A film that deserves discovery from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
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As we all know, the greatest year in Hollywood history was 1939, and it was really the year of Gone With The Wind, which remains one of the most popular movies of all-time. There were also other influential films, such as The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Love Affair, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, Destry Rides Again, and The Women. But, if there was one film that deserves discovery from this pivotal year, it is Ricardo Cortez's minimalist, but emotionally charged gangster classic, The Escape. The story takes place in the slums of New York, where reformed gangster Louie

Gremlins 2: The New Batch Movie Review: A Looney Tunes Horror Movie

If there was ever going to be a horror film for the non-horror fan to enjoy, it's this one.
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Gremlins is a horror movie. Oh, it has some comedy in it, sure, but it is very much a horror movie, which is one of the reasons it helped lead to the PG-13 rating. Several years later, in 1990, director Joe Dante decided to make good use of the PG-13 rating in his sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Also, he decided to skew things a bit more toward "comedy" than "horror." OK, a lot more...and he decided to completely let loose in bonkers fashion. Dante is a rather idiosyncratic filmmaker, but if you are on his wavelength, it can

Radio Free Albemuth Movie Review: Faithful Adaptation of the Philip K. Dick Novel

Director John Alan Simon shows deep respect for the author.
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One of Philip K. Dick’s (1928-1982) finest inspirations was VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System), which he first laid out in Radio Free Albemuth. The novel was written in 1976, but not published until 1985. The new film Radio Free Albemuth (2014) is the eleventh book of Dick’s that has been brought to the screen. Unlike Blade Runner (1982), which strongly deviated from its source novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Radio Free Albemuth is very faithful to the original. Director John Alan Simon adapted the book for the screen, and it is clear that he is a big

The Who: Quadrophenia Live In London Blu-ray Review: A Stunning Audio and Visual Presentation

A brilliant performance of one of the band's best-loved pieces.
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When The Who first toured for their classic rock opera Quadrophenia back in the 1970s, the technology of the day made it difficult to replicate the album with just the four original members on stage. In 1996, the band brought the album to the concert stage again, this time with additional musicians and singers, including Billy Idol and Gary Glitter. While that tour was a success, when the band — now comprised of just Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey — took the album on the road again in 2012, they tried a different approach, immersing the fans in not only

The Girl in the Empty Grave DVD Review: Andy Griffith Shines in Forgotten TV Thriller

The Warner Archive dusts off yet another obscurity from the vaults.
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After all-but-becoming Sheriff Andy Taylor in that long-running, still-in-syndication classic television series with the whistling theme song, Andy Griffith was a natural selection when there was a small town country cop part to be cast. Sadly, the public apparently had an issue with Griffith being cast as a lawman within the confines of a fictitious rural community if the subject was that of a serious one. A 1974 TV-movie entitled Winter Kill starring Griffith was intended to sell a series to network audiences, and, when that failed, was altered into what would become the short-lived Adams of Eagle Lake, where

Warner Archive's James Cagney Combo DVD Reviews: Three Rarities for You Dirty Rats

See Jimmy duke it out. See Jimmy enlist in the Navy. See Jimmy go West to fight Bogie. Then see yourself smile.
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Gangster. Dancer. Mister Roberts’ personal pain in the ass. James Cagney inhabited all kinds of roles as a performer, and the better-known works of his onscreen legacy have been well-preserved time and time again over the years. And then there are those other, lesser entries in Cagney’s filmography that have all-but slipped underneath the radar as time marched on - three of which have recently hit DVD via the Warner Archive Collection. In fact, this instance in home video history notably marks the first time two of said titles have seen their way into homes other than as a late-night

Panel Preview: Dark Horse Comics: The Goon: Occasion of Revenge #1

"And that's why the Zombie Priest told me to kill you first." - The Goon
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Following June's one-shot, One For The Road, Eric Powell's The Goon returns in the first issue of the monthly miniseries Occasion of Revenge, set for release on July 23. In what is being dubbed as "Powell's biggest story since 2008, what's left of the Zombie Priest's race of witches comes after the Goon, forcing him to face his nightmares or lose his town!" Dark Horse Comics has provided a preview. Tell us what you think in the comments below.

The Twilight Zone - Essential Episodes (55th Anniversary Collection) DVD Review: Gift It or Rent It

Lives up to its subtitle admirably, though not for those looking for the quality.
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The groundbreaking, thought-provoking science fiction television series The Twilight Zone is truly a gift that just keeps on-a-givin'. Who - apart from a fortune-telling napkin dispenser in a tiny rural town somewhere - could have possibly conceived that when a visionary named Rod Serling first presented television viewers with his first creepy look into his now-legendary fifth dimension all those years ago that the show would still be inspiring and delighting people all over the world? Never you mind the countless times Serling and his crackshot writing staff destroyed said world in the process: they still made it happen just

Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 4 DVD Review: Atypical B Westerns

Quite possibly the only cowboy star to work with John Ford, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock.
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My love of classic black-and-white b-westerns is not a film fetish I try to hide. Anytime I get a chance to check one out, I take it. If my local art theater decided to show one every day until the day I died, I would probably only miss, well, none. Likewise, when the Warner Archive issues another entire set of old cowboy movies, I am always eager to mount my metaphorical steed and write off into the sunset (like what I did there?). But in the instance of the Tim Holt Western Classics Collection, Vol. 4 (please, say it five

Out with the Old, in with the Even Older: The Warner Archive Presents Dr. Kildare

More docs and Dick than you can shake your medical staff at.
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Decades before the American public became more comfortable with the concept of watching the outrageous antics of an antisocial-and-yet-still-sociopathic doctor with a strong Vicodin addiction on a regular weekly basis, they were more content with witnessing a man who actually cared about people in action. In fact, in the instance of the fictional physician Dr. James Kildare, popularity was not just limited to one format, as he was one of those rare characters who transgressed the bridges of every conceivable kind of media - branching out into film, radio, television, comics, novels (where he actually originated, having been given life

The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Crack Ups DVD Review: So Funny the Cast Couldn't Help but Laugh

Although packed with guest stars, the sketches with the main cast are the best.
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Carol's Crack Ups presents 17 episodes of The Carol Burnett Show, the popular CBS variety show that ran for 11 seasons, beginning in 1967. Spread over six discs at random (for no apparent reason), Burnett selected the collection's episodes, which aired between 1972 and 1978. I first discovered the show in syndication when they were cut down to half an hour and had the musical numbers removed. Here, they are presented uncut. Viewers get to see Burnett was more than a comedienne as she held her own singing alongside the musical guests, as well as the dance numbers that closed

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story Movie Review: A Portrait of an Artist as a Yellow Bird

Caroll is Big Bird and Big Bird is Caroll, and that is a rare and beautiful thing to watch on screen.
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I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story is exactly that, a portrait of the man that is inside of the big yellow bird. But like the title suggests, there is no costume change that makes this man different, he is Big Bird and Big Bird is Caroll and that is a rare and beautiful thing to watch on screen. The documentary is very straightforward, taking a look at his life before Sesame Street and then what happened after he was assigned the bird. We find out that he became inspired by puppetry at an early age and by the

The Delphi Bureau - The Merchant of Death Assignment DVD Review: Laurence Luckinbill, Desk Jockey

Ah. THIS must be why Sybok searched so anxiously for God.
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Possibly beget as one of three bullets loaded in the chamber of a short-lived ABC wheel series The Men, where it revolved along with Assignment Vienna and Jigsaw, The Delphi Bureau starred Laurence Luckinbill - best known to old-school Star Trek fans as the least-effective big-screen villain ever, outranked only slightly by a certain Voyager spacecraft - as government agent Glenn Garth Gregory. Well, he's kind of an agent. In fact, the Delphi Bureau has only one employee (guess who), but the department is so obscure that they don't even have an office or phone number. Nevertheless, Gregory, along with

The Vitaphone Comedy Collection, Volume Two - Shemp Howard (1933-1937) DVD Review: Thank You, Warner Archive!

For those of us who have always been and always will be Team Shemp.
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After leaving the original vaudeville version of a comedy company that would later come to be known to the world as The Three Stooges, Shemp Howard embarked on a solo career in comedy. It was a venture he did not have to enter into lightly, either - as Shemp possessed an inherent ability to make one laugh, be it by his oh-so-distinguishable looks (his manager once promoted him as the ugliest man in Hollywood) or his knack for slapstick humor. Unlike his former (and later, future) colleagues, he didn't necessarily need to be a second banana or serve as an

Fernando Di Leo - The Italian Crime Collection, Vol. 2 DVD Review: Violenza all'Italiana

Raro Films issues another set of gritty crime flicks from the late Italian maestro.
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During my awkward years spent as a pretentious latter-stage teenager who spent way too much time watching weird, foreign-made films, I went through the various phases of being, looking, or at least pretending to be "cool" in some fashion. This, naturally - and in hindsight, regrettably - included the act of smoking. When one of my eighth-grade teachers saw me dangling the dreaded tobacco stick from my bottom lip, she politely scolded me, but then quickly reflected the wise words a long-gone cousin of mine (who died before I was born) imparted unto her: "Pick your poison and stick with

The Grand Budapest Hotel Blu-ray Review: An Optical Feast

Even at his worst, Wes Anderson is one of our best.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel has all the trademarks of a Wes Anderson film: a vast cast of talented actors used in either requisite amusing cameos, like Owen Wilson as Monsieur Chuck, or in critical tertiary roles, like Willem Dafoe as the Germanic deviant JG Jopling. There is the obligatory young romance rendered here by teenage lobby boy Zero Moustafa and teenage baker Agatha, played with earnest by Tony Revolori and Saoirse Ronan, respectively. Their relationship, as with all of Anderson’s adolescent couplings, mixes a bit of naivety with world-weariness; they are mature enough to believe their love will save them

Red Scorpion / Thou Shalt Not Kill...Except / Street Trash Blu-ray Reviews: Synapse, Bloody Synapse

Three sleazy, gory gems for your bad movie viewing (dis)pleasure.
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Most of us already know that there is nothing like a good movie. There is also nothing like a good bad movie, but it takes a special kind of bad to make one good enough for my particular, already-far-too-drastically-low standards. Fortunately, there are companies like Synapse Films - who not only specialize, but excel at releasing a variable assortment of venerable b-movies from all walks of life (or living death, perhaps). Under scrutiny here are three of Synapse's older releases, which I sat on for a really long time before a recent move unearthed them - much like the films

The Swimmer (1968) Blu-ray Review: The Last Great Studio-Made Cult Film

Burt Lancaster delivers a performance that will positively send chills down your spine. And those blue swimming trunks sure won't help any.
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The very definition of a cult film is one that many (ahem) "scholars" such as myself can drunkenly argue amongst ourselves into the wee hours of the morning over copious amounts of scotch and Schlitz. In my humble opinion, setting out to make a cult film will grant you an unlikely chance of winning; one need only take a peek at the many kajillion so-called "cult" movies released to DVD via indie labels on an unfortunately, weekly basis. But if there's one thing many of us actually can agree on, it's that most major studios simply don't have the guts

What Price Hollywood? DVD Review: Hell Is a Place Called, Well, You Know

The Warner Archive dusts off another forgotten tale of woe set in vintage Tinseltown.
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We've all heard the many tales of terror reaching from the furthest depths of the various circles of Hell that make up a certain section of the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area, and even as far back as 1932, the offscreen drama and intrigue were already present and in full swing. The pre-Code RKO ditty What Price Hollywood? presents us with a lurid look at the high cost of living it up as one rises into the illustrious nighttime sky to play amongst the stars. And while the people and events depicted therein are works of fiction, it is worth

Free and Easy / Estrellados DVD Review: Buster Keaton en Español? ¡Sí!

Because we all know how well Buster Keaton could dance, sing, and speak Spanish.
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Although MGM's 1930 pre-Code musical comedy Free and Easy wasn't silent comedian Buster Keaton's first talking motion picture, it was the first film wherein audiences were introduced to his gravelly voice - which the suits at the studio were, for reasons unknown to this day, completely OK with asking him to sing with. While dancing. Because that's what one of the greatest comic daredevils ever does best: sing and dance. Oh, and why not have him speak phonetic Spanish, too? That's not in any way silly, is it? But then, that's just the way they did things back then, kids.

A Hard Day's Night is the Pick of the Week

A thing of everlasting beauty.
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A few weeks after we got married my wife and I caught a showing of A Hard Day's Night at the local cineplex. That summer they were running all sorts of old films and as neither of us had seen that Beatles classic. we figured it would be fun. It turned out to be one of the most perfect, happiest moments of my life. We were still basking in the glow of being newly married, filled with so much love and potential. The theatre was one of those big, new, stadium-seating jobs with giant plush seats that you could get

Favorite Movies Adapted from the Stage

Some of the best of both mediums.
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With Clint Eastwood bringing the Tony Award-winning musical Jersey Boys to the silver screen, it serves as a reminder that many stories have graced theater stages before going before the cameras. Here are a few of our favorites: His Girl Friday, adapted from The Front Page, which debuted at the Times Square Theater on August 14, 1928 by Chris Morgan The Front Page has been turned into a movie a few times, but the best of all those movies, and one of the best movies of its era, is His Girl Friday (1940). This version keeps the newspaper milieu, but

Still Mine Blu-ray Review: All He Wanted to Do Was Build a House

For those of you who have always wanted to see an elderly James Cromwell nekkid, your ship has just sailed in.
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Chances are the one-time plight of now-deceased Canadian resident Craig Morrison eluded you back in the day. Back in 2007, an 88-year-old Morrison staked out a plot of land on his own property to construct a new single-story house so that he could take better care of his wife Irene, who suffered from Alzheimer's. But building a home for he and his wife on their own land proved to not be as easy as he remembered it being: not because of his age or the work, but due to the fact that a building inspector began to cite Morrison for

Hearts and Minds (1974) Criterion Collection Review: A Riveting Documentary of the Vietnam War

This 40-year-old documentary feels as relevant today as ever, and is one that I will not soon forget.
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The Academy Award-winning Hearts and Minds is the most riveting war documentary I have ever seen. The raw footage and the interviews that director Peter Davis has collected here tell an incredible story. And while it would seem to be an impossible task to tell the story of the war in Vietnam without taking sides, much of Hearts and Minds is beyond politics. The most gripping material in this film comes from the people who never had a voice, the Vietnamese themselves. What are the politics of watching your son being shot by the very soldiers who are there to

The Missing Picture Movie Review: A Fascinating, Creative, Heartbreaking Piece of Art

Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh has once again crafted a fascinating work of history, art and memory.
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Directed and written by Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh, The Missing Picture is a fascinating and creative documentary. This 2013 picture was the Cambodian entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar and secured the nomination. It also scooped the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes. Panh’s documentary is a deeply personal film. Using propaganda footage along with lovely recreations with sculpted clay figurines, he attempts to piece together the “missing footage” of his experiences in Cambodia when the Khmer Rouge ruled. Panh sifts through spools of celluloid and examines decaying film, but it washes away. The English narration features Jean-Baptiste Phou

Celebrate The Twilight Zone's 55th Anniversary with the Essential Episodes Collection

For 55 years, Rod Serling introduced viewers to a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.
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On October 2, 1959, television viewers made their first entry into The Twilight Zone as a man (Earl Holliman) wearing an Air Force uniform who finds himself all alone in a town that appears abandoned, wondering "Where Is Everybody?" The series ran for five seasons and became a cultural institution that continues to air today. Image Entertainment has announced the release of The Twilight Zone: Essential Episodes (55th Anniversary Collection), available on DVD on July 1, 2014, at an SRP of $29.98. This very special collection features some of the most memorable episodes exploring the fantastic and the frightening. The

Panel Preview: IDW Publishing: Star Trek: Harlan Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever: The Original Teleplay #1

"This is truly going to be a Star Trek adventure unlike any other." - Chris Ryall
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Star Trek: The Original Series episode “City on the Edge of Forever” finds Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock travelling back into Earth's past after Dr. McCoy, who alters the timelime in such a way that the Enterprise ceases to exist and strands the landing party. It's a great story about love and sacrifice, yet Harlan Ellison's original teleplay is even better. Quite a number of changes had to be made to get Ellison's script to fit Gene Roddenberry's vision of Star Trek in terms of story as well as budget. Ellison wrote characters whose humanity was recognizable, making their choices

Book Review: Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell

Never has the word "genius" been so apt.
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Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth is the third and final chapter in the Library of American Comics' in-depth look at the life of legendary artist Alex Toth, accompanying 2011's Genius, Isolated and 2013's Genius, Illustrated. This volume focuses in on what is arguably Toth's best known contribution to the art world: his work in the field of animation. Standing 13.2 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches and weighing in at 5.4 pounds, this 328-page behemoth presents a definite challenge when attempting to write a review. You see, not long after receiving my copy, I remarked to a friend

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Final Trailer Sees the Light of Day

"Apes...do not...want war!" - Caesar
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A growing nation of genetically evolved apes led by Caesar is threatened by a band of human survivors of the devastating virus unleashed a decade earlier, as seen in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes. They reach a fragile peace, but it proves short-lived, as both sides are brought to the brink of a war that will determine who will emerge as Earth’s dominant species. Directed by Matt Reeves, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes will be released on July 11, and from the final trailer, the story continues, bolstered by great action sequences .

Book Review: Little Orphan Annie, Volume Ten: The Junior Commandos by Harold Gray

It comes most highly recommended to anyone with an interest in comics.
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Little Orphan Annie was a daily comic strip created, written, and drawn by Harold Gray. It began in August 1924 and was finally cancelled in June 2010. Gray wrote every strip until his death in 1968 after which it was taken over by a variety of artists. At its peak, it was read by millions and in 1937 it was ranked number one in popularity by a Fortune poll. It has been adapted into a variety of other mediums, including comic books, a radio show, a broadway musical, and a popular movie based upon the theatrical production. Though ostensibly for

The Book Thief Blu-ray Review: Familiar but Compelling Wartime Drama

Following a girl who comes of age in Nazi Germany, The Book Thief is a familiar, but quality story.
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It's almost always stupid to say, "They don't make films like this anymore" to describe some character drama. It's usually not true, and if it is, there's often good reason. Some forms of drama just don't have elastic sell-by dates. Sometimes technology improves, making techniques or story forms that were artifacts of the era in which they were created obsolete. But it is true that the mid-budgeted character-focused drama is not much of a going concern, particularly one that tells what could be called a "traditional" story. Mid-budget movies with mid-budget returns don't make stockholders excited, and a studio can

Interview: Caroll Spinney and Dave LaMattina Talk Big Bird and 'Wow' Moments

Documentarian Dave LaMattina and puppeteer Caroll Spinney talk about their collaboration.
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I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story sits comfortably at number one on my Best Movies of 2014 list. Whether it stays at number one depends on the rest of the year, but it'll be hard for another movie to play on my emotions, and better yet, my nostalgia, than this. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes talking to I Am Big Bird's co-director Dave LaMattina, and Big Bird himself, Caroll Spinney, about the documentary, the moments that made them go "wow," and Disney dunking their characters. In the end, these two left me laughing and almost

Mama's Family: The Complete Fourth Season DVD Review: Firing on All Cylinders

It's is definitely family fun for all.
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Mama’s Family was one of the most popular recurring skits on the old Carol Burnett Show, so it was not a big surprise when it was decided to turn the skit into a fully-fledged series on its own. What was surprising was that after airing on NBC for two seasons, the producers decided to do it as a first-run syndicated program, a form which was in its infancy in the Eighties. The show did pretty well, and ran for a total of five seasons. With the new DVD release of Mama’s Family: The Complete Fourth Season on Jun 24, all

Criterion Announces September 2014 Releases

Go back to (film) school with these upcoming releases.
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In September, David Lynch makes his debut in The Criterion Collection with his memorable feature-length debut, Eraserhead. Two adaptations of classic literature also get added to the Collection: Roman Polanski's take on Shakespeare's Macbeth and Jack Clayton's The Innocents, based on Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw. Available for the first time in the U.S. on DVD or Blu-ray is Serge Bourguignon's Sundays and Cybèle, the 1962 Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Last but not least, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's Ali: Fears Eats the Soul gets a high-definition upgrade to Blu-ray. Eraserhead (#725) out September 16 in

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the Pick of the Week

It is a ludicrously beautiful film full of mirth and wonder.
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Over the last few years, I’ve regularly complained that the local cineplexes all show the same overblown blockbusters and none of them pay any attention to smaller, independent, or art-house films. Well, I moved and now there are multiple theaters that play all sorts of films you won’t be seeing at the top of the box-office lists. Hallelujah. We have a locally owned cinema that plays all sorts of interesting independent fare. They do lots of cool things like show relatively locally made movies with the filmmakers coming to the showing. Or sometimes they have scholars come to give a
Since 1986, many of the stories about Batman have been grim and gritty, most notably in the comic books of Frank Miller, The Animated [television] Series, and the films of Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan. However, the Dark Knight is only one successful iteration of the character. In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the producers returned the Caped Crusader to a bright and humorous world for three seasons on Cartoon Network, from November 14, 2008 to November 18, 2011. Being aware the change of tone might meet resistance from some fans, the producers explain themselves to viewers indirectly in

I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story Movie Review: Big Bird Brings Joy!

A darling story about a beloved television icon
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Sesame Street’s Big Bird is one of the most beloved icons of children’s programming, if not the icon of childhood itself. But do you know the man living inside the suit? The man whom, without him, Big Bird or Oscar the Grouch wouldn’t exist? A life without these two characters is a horrific thought, which makes telling puppeteer Caroll Spinney’s story all the more necessary. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story seeks to go inside the character of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to learn about the man who gives them life. Directors Dave LaMattina and Chad

The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story DVD Review: The Madcap's Rise and Fall

This expanded documentary is a must-have for fans of Syd Barrett and early-era Pink Floyd.
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Syd Barrett’s tragic journey from being the creative force behind Pink Floyd to becoming a virtual recluse in a few short years is explored in The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story, a two-disc reissue of the 2005 documentary. Barrett led Pink Floyd to its early success, then succumbed to a LSD-fueled mental breakdown that resulted in him leaving the band. The documentary traces Barrett’s rise and fall through interviews with friends from his art-school days, bandmates, associates, and one of his girlfriends. There are clips from early videos and live performances as part of London’s psychedelic underground with Barrett
Set in the Land of Ooo more than thousand years after the Great Mushroom War, the animated fantasy TV series Adventure Time presents the imaginative adventures of a 13-year-old human boy named Finn (Jeremy Shada) and his best friend Jake (John DiMaggio), a dog with the ability to shapeshift. Among their pals are their Tree Fort roommate BMO (Niki Yang), a living game console; Princess Bubblegum (Hynden Walch), who is made out of bubblegum and rules over the Candy Kingdom; and Marceline the Vampire Queen (Olivia Olson). Created by Pendleton Ward, the series airs on the Cartoon Network, where it

An Adventure in Space and Time Blu-ray Review: A Must-have for any Whovian

A loving remembrance of how Doctor Who got its start.
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In 1963, the BBC had a space to fill in its Saturday time slot. Legendary producer and head of drama Sydney Newman had an idea for an educational science fiction show to fill it. He promoted Verity Lambert to produce the show (creating the first female producer of a dramatic program at the network). She hired character actor William Hartnell as the lead. It had a minuscule budget, a tiny studio, and got off to a rough start (the pilot aired the day of the JFK assassination) but went on to become the stuff of legend. The show, of course

Ernest & Celestine Blu-ray Review: A Tail of Two Cities

Oscar-nominated film is short on substance but long on style.
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One of the biggest surprise nominees at this year’s Academy Awards was this little-seen French animated film. Thanks to its new arrival on Blu-ray on June 17, it’s now readily accessible to the U.S. masses. This is a tale of two cities: the city above ground populated by bears, and the city underground populated by mice. The two tribes keep entirely to themselves, with mice being trained from childhood to avoid the fearsome bears at all costs, but adorable orphan mouse Celestine fantasizes about friendly bears in spite of the warnings of her elders. Meanwhile above ground, lovable oaf Ernest

Classic Drama Collection DVD Review: Five Films Full of Drama, Comedy, Romance, and Costumes Galore

A package of five films that are really rather good, and well worth the buy.
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There is a moment whenever I’m browsing through the movie section of Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever dumb, big-box store I’m at that I get really excited to see a big bunch of movies bundled up tightly into a cheap package. “Five movies for ten dollars,” I think. “How awesome is that?” Then I actually look at the movie titles and am always disappointed. It is a nice marketing gimmick, of course, and they usually throw three movies in that are really rather good, but then they slip a couple of other real stinkers into the mix so that the actual

Starting Point: 1979-1996 and Turning Point: 1997-2008 Book Review: Unique Memoirs from an Animation Genius

Starting Point and Turning Point memoirs provide insight into the work and life of Spirited Away director Hayao Miyazaki
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Hayao Miyazaki's downbeat personal sensibility, constant self-doubt, and pessimism are nearly absent from his works. My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, and Spirited Away are all populated by young people who, despite their personal problems, eventually do their best. Princess Mononoke is graphically violent and depicts an intractable conflict that leads to much death and suffering, but it ends with at least the possibility of reconciliation. Miyazaki's best work (which include most of his feature films) are palpable with this sense of tension - that the world is hard and full of problems, and that if they can't be surmounted,

Jurassic Park Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Review: Mondo Releases John Williams' Music on Vinyl

Available on colored and black vinyl for the first time.
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We are obviously big fans of the movies around here, and the soundtracks to those films can be equally compelling. There have been some highly successful soundtracks over the years, but all too often, the music becomes the forgotten child of the big screen. When it comes to a composer as talented as John Williams though, people do pay attention. Especially when he is scoring a Steven Spielberg film. One of the coolest movie merchandise sites around is Mondo, and on June 11, 2014, they are releasing Williams’ soundtrack to Spielberg’s Jurassic Park (1993) on vinyl. The choice of June

True Detective is the Pick of the Week

It is a brilliant show, the sort of thing that cable TV has gotten so good at lately.
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A big thanks to Gordon for handling this column last week while I was away. As he noted I’ve moved. Again. We don’t actually move once a year as he joked, but he wasn’t that far off the mark. In the 12 years my wife and I have been married we’ve moved approximately eight times through four different countries, three states, and five cities. It's an exhausting way to live, but at least we never get bored. For the last 15 months or so, we’ve lived in a little house way out in the country. It was a lovely bit

Book Review: Borderline Is Lawrence Block's Pulp Fiction

It shows what a training ground pulp fiction played for such a good and prolific writer as Block.
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Lawrence Block is one of the country's best-known and successful mystery and crime novelists (8 Million Ways to Die, When the Sacred Ginmill Closes, The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart). He has created memorable characters like the hard-boiled detective Matthew Scudder and the charming burglar-turned-bookseller (and crime solver) Bernie Rhodenbarr. But many of his most ardent admirers may not know that Block started his writing career in the pulp field, frequently using pseudonyms to churn out stories mixing crime and sex. Hard Case Crime has been reissuing these lost dimestore novels, now under Block's name, and the latest, Borderline,

RoboCop (2014) Blu-ray Review: Let's Hope They Don't Remake RoboCop 2

Doesn't live up to the original, barely can stand on its own.
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The original RoboCop had an interesting mix of satirical social commentary, snarky jabs at the bigger-is-better consumerism of its era, brutal violence, and comically bad '80s haircuts. It was great when it came out and it's still great today. The 2014 remake of the same name features political commentary, media-spin bashing, and an existential dilemma that would feel more at home on the Lifetime Network than SpikeTV. The flick opens with Samuel L. Jackson barking at the screen as Pat Novak, political-pundit extraordinaire, hosting a show that wouldn't be a millimeter out of place on Fox News. Novak boasts about

The Agony and the Ecstasy Blu-ray Review: The Ham Outweighs the Intellect

Charlton Heston's gruff attitude clashes with his portrayal of Michelangelo.
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Carol Reed’s The Agony and The Ecstasy dramatizes the relationship between Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti and Pope Julius II, who commissioned the sculptor/painter to create among other works the frescos adorning the Sistine Chapel ceiling. My interest piqued when I read Charlton Heston portrays Michelangelo. The idea of a 20th-century symbol of virility portraying a 16th-century symbol of artistry seemed too fantastic to pass up. To be fair Heston had already portrayed Moses, John the Baptist, and Ben-Hur for which he won an Academy Award. Yet his casting in all of these films seems misguided; his melodramatic stoicism and roughhewn

Chef Movie Review: A Truly Touching Father-son Love Story

Slight satirical comedy becomes something better as it goes along.
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How nice is it to watch a movie that gets better as it goes along? That was my happy experience with Jon Favreau’s Chef, which morphed at its halfway point from a sort-of-funny satire about a successful but unhappy superstar chef having a professional crisis into a truly touching story about a father and son bonding over a shared passion. This is the movie to take your dad (or your kid) to on Father’s Day: like the delicious cubano sandwiches made by the dozens in the film, it hits the sweet spot between fairy-tale wish fulfillment and an appreciation for

Favorite Tom Cruise Movies

I feel the need. The need for a list.
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Over the past 30 years, few actors have been as big a movie star as Tom Cruise has. With his 37th feature, Edge of Tomorrow, the sci-fi actioner that finds mankind fighting against an alien race with the ability to control time, debuting this weekend, we thought it was a good time to reflect on his impressive body of work. The Color of Money by Gordon S. Miller Although Cruise had a greater success with Top Gun, my favorite performance by him from 1986 was in this Martin Scorsese-directed sequel to The Hustler, which found Paul Newman returning as "Fast"

Blended Movie Review: One of the Worst Films of 2014

This film is offensive on many levels.
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In 1998, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore teamed up for The Wedding Singer, and it was good. Six years later, they would come together again in 50 First Dates, and it was cute. The Wedding Singer combined good storytelling and performances. 50 First Dates was more about the performances than the story. Now it’s 2014, and we get Blended. It has some of the worst performances and storytelling seen on the big screen this year, not to mention a final product that is not only offensive to people from Africa, but to those who have been there, or even heard

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 16: 1954-1956 by Chester Gould

There's no mystery why Gould's work endures.
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Chester Gould's Dick Tracy comic strip debuted on October 4, 1931 and continues today under the creative team of by Joe Staton and Mike Curtis. Named after the lead character, a square-jawed, yellow-hat-and-jacket-wearing police detective, the strip became so popular it would be adapted to many media, including radio, films, and television. In 2007, The Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing began publishing The Complete Dick Tracy. Volume 16 presents the dailies and Sunday Strips from October 25, 1954 - May 13, 1956. The collection begins mid-case with Tracy and the police on the hunt for Rughead, a vain

Jack Taylor: Set 2 DVD Review: Iain Glen (and His Fans) Deserve Better Than This

Iain Glen's performance keeps the series afloat.
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Jack Taylor (Iain Glen) is a bit of a lost soul. He wants to do good in this world but his big mouth and love for the drink keep getting in the way. He was in the Gardaí (a sort of Irish National Police) but was kicked out after he assaulted a politician he caught speeding. Now he works as a private detective and while he’s good at catching the bad guys, he’s close to useless on the business side of things. He’s partnered with Cody Farraher (Killian Scott), a much younger and less experienced lad who idolizes Jack and

Dragons: Defenders of Berk Part 2 DVD Review: Mostly Satisfactory Season Ender

Concludes the second TV season of Dragon training on a satisfactory, not brilliant, note.
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How to Train Your Dragon 2 looks, at least from the early trailer, like it is willing to take risks with the series formula. Hiccup is older in the trailer, and the rest of his friends have aged accordingly. Older characters leads to dealing with more serious stuff, and can either be a sign of a series maturing, or attempting to wear the superficial coloring of maturity to appease a knee-jerk, psuedo-sophistication which sees "dark" and "serious" as synonymous with "quality." Who knows how the movie sequel will do, but its predecessor was a real pleasant surprise. What does all

Sophia Grace & Rosie's Royal Adventure DVD Review: A Cute, Fun, Family Film

The fun-loving duo who rose to fame on The Ellen DeGeneres Show start in their first movie!
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If you've watched Ellen, you have more than likely seen these YouTube sensations who have become tiny stars. (If you haven't, they are cute, funny, and talented, so you should probably watch some of their videos.) These two adorable Brits have won the hearts of people all around the country and they have just starred in their first film. In Sophia Grace & Rosie's Royal Adventure, the two princess-loving girls are sent by the Ellen show to Switzelvania to be correspondents for the crowning of the country's new queen. On the way, a series of missteps separates them from their

The New Adventures of Superman: Seasons 2 & 3 DVD Review: Worth Buying for Fans

In 1966, Filmation brought the Man of Steel to television in the first animated version made specifically for the small screen.
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Almost seven years after the release of Season 1, Warner Home Video finally delivers the remaining episodes of this iconic series, keeping in mind that the series did include Superboy episodes which are not found here. In 1966, Filmation brought the Man of Steel to television (CBS) in the first animated version made specifically for the small screen. Legendary producers Norm Prescott and Lou Scheimer along with Alan Ducovny gathered together extraordinary vocal talent including Bud Collyer, Joan Alexander, Jack Grimes, Ted Knight, Bob Hastings, Jackson Beck, Julie Bennet, Cliff Owens, Gilbert Mack, and Janet Waldo, and they created a

Blazing Saddles Movie Review: Funny Racism with a Bite

Mel Brooks outdoes himself with a classic satire of moviemaking politics.
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Although I prefer Mel Brooks' other masterpiece, 1974's Young Frankenstein, it took some time for me to warm to his raunchy, bold, and controverisal landmark, Blazing Saddles. What hasn't been said about this uproarious send-up of the Hollywood western, and Archie Bunker politics with a little bodily humor put into the mix? Let's say Mel Brooks knows how to make spoofs that are really funny, and turn that genre on its head, and Blazing is no exception. Many people have seen it and still laugh at the jokes, so I will try to be brief. The story centers on Hedley

Wolverine Weapon X: Tomorrow Dies Today DVD Review: Days of Future Deathloks

Oddball choice for Marvel's latest print comic conversion to motion comic.
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Marvel continues their ongoing motion comics conversions with this tale starring the omnipresent Wolverine. While there’s no shortage of Wolverine stories ripe for motion comics treatment, this isn’t necessarily one of them. Aside from a key co-starring role by current Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. character Deathlok, as well as brief cameos from other Marvel heroes, the story and art aren’t compelling enough to deserve the motion treatment. The movie stands okay on its own, but pales in comparison to the rich legacy of other entries in the deep Wolverine catalog. Wolverine is enjoying a pint with Captain America when they’re attacked

Barbary Coast is the Pick of the Week

Hopefully, it was ahead of its time and won't show its age, or else shows its age in an unintentionally funny way.
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I don't know if Mat's mentioned it, but he and his family are in the process of moving to another state. If he hasn't, I am sure over the weeks to come he will discuss settling into their new surroundings. It seems like they move once a year, so I am sure the process will be easier for him than it would be for myself whose been living in my current home with my darling wife for the last eight years. Still, to help lighten his load, he's taking the week off from this column, and I am filling in.

13 Sins Blu-ray Review: Borrowing From the Best

What would you do be willing to do for six million dollars?
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The Game. A Simple Plan. Fight Club. Eagle Eye. Saw. If you liked any or all of these movies, there's a good chance you'll like 13 Sins. It pleasantly surprised me with its cathartic take on what people do to escape increasingly desperate situations. Elliot (Mark Webber) is like many of us -- he's got more responsibilities and obligations than his time or bank account will allow for. Things get worse when he's unexpectedly let go from his job with a wedding to plan with his fiancee Shelby (Rutina Wesley), a disabled brother Michael (Devon Graye) to look after, and

Dan Curtis' Dracula Blu-ray Review: Jack Palance is Dead and Loving It

With an emphasis on scares, it's great to re-welcome Dan Curtis' Dracula to the filmed pantheon of the infamous bloodthirsty Count.
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Just released on Blu-ray, Dan Curtis' Dracula features Academy Award-winner Jack Palance (City Slickers, Shane, Barabbas) in the title role of the Transylvanian count. Produced and directed by Dan Curtis of Dark Shadows fame, the film adds a more romantic spin to Bram Stoker's classic tale, with Dracula obsessed with a beautiful young woman who resembles his long-lost wife. The film was written by science-fiction and horror legend Richard Matheson (I Am Legend, The Box, Trilogy of Terror), who pared down Stoker's epistolary tale to a fast-moving, but still scary 98-minute film. The always charismatic Palance is impressive as Dracula.

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