November 2014 Archives

History Presents: The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection DVD Review: Nirvana in a Box for War Buffs

Forty-four hours of some of the best World War documentaries ever made by The History Channel.
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At the close of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “One must regard these thirty years of strife, turmoil and suffering in Europe as part of one story…One story of a thirty years’ war.” The events of those years are so complex and hard to believe that many of us remain absolutely fascinated by it all. The people at History know this, and have been producing some of the greatest World War documentaries ever made. This year they have put together the ultimate gift for guys like me, History Presents: The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection.

The Skeleton Twins Movie Review: A Twisted Tale of Those Bound by Blood

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig turn dysfunction into emotional drama in The Skeleton Twins
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As the holidays get closer we'll all be thrust together with family we may love, but why are we stuck with them 24/7. There are countless Christmas-themed movies about spending awful holidays with equally awful extended families, but Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins says it doesn't have to be the holidays for your family to drive you nuts. Tightly controlled by leads Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, The Skeleton Twins is both funny and heartfelt, frustrating and endearing, in equal measure. Maggie and Milo (Wiig and Hader) haven't seen each other in a decade, but are thrust together when Milo

UHF Blu-ray Review: Constant Parodying, Semi-Constant Laughter

"Weird Al" packs a comic sensibility not at all conducive to feature films into a ramshackle movie.
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"Weird Al" seems to be perpetually "coming back". It's surprising to see, in a world where all careers have peaks and valleys, and some valleys never rise into a peak again, that a "novelty act" has stayed fresh, interesting, fun and popular while basically just doing the same thing for 30-plus years. With a combination of pop-culture references, absurdist humor, and not-too biting parody (which only, as Al explains himself on the Comic Con panel available on the Blu-ray features, occasionally ventures into satire when it directly comments on the work) "Weird Al" seeks, above all, to amuse. Not so

The Peanuts Movie Poster and Trailer

It's your new movie, Charlie Brown.
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After a 35-year absence, Charles Schulz's collection of well-known comic-strip characters return to the silver screen for their fifth movie. The Official Synopsis: In Peanuts, a 3D, CGI animated comedic adventure, Snoopy, the world’s most lovable beagle - and flying ace! - embarks upon his greatest mission as he and his team take to the skies to pursue their arch-nemesis, while his best pal Charlie Brown begins his own epic quest back home. Directed by Steve Martino and written by Charles' son Craig Schulz, Charles' grandson Bryan Schulz, and Cornelius Uliano, The Peanuts Movie is set to be released on

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer Will Awaken Your Interest

"Have you felt it?"
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The first trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens has debuted in theaters and online. Over the course of 88 seconds, it teases some exciting action scenes from a group of X-wings flying across a body of water and the Millennium Falcon engaging TIE fighters. And John Williams' fanfare remains an exhilarating piece of music. Does this have you looking forward to December 2015?

Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review: Make Time For It

Looking for adventure? Head out and buy this.
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The fourth season of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time ran from April 2, 2012 to October 22, 2012. Some of the episodes have previously been released to home video, but this release presents the Complete Fourth Season for the first time. "Princess Cookie", "The Hard Easy", "Lady & Peebles", and "Goliad" were all nominated for Annie Awards. "Card Wars" won a Golden Reel Award and was entertainingly imaginative as Finn and Jake played a version of Magic the Gathering. Guest voices this season include Bobcat Goldthwait, Susie Essman, Erik Estrada, and Lou Ferrigno. For those not in the know, Adventure Time

Darkman Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Delivers the Fun Quotient

Sam Raimi's ultracool, post Evil Dead B-movie.
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As we all know, Sam Raimi is one of our favorite directors, cult films (The Evil Dead series), and blockbusters (the Spiderman series, Drag Me to Hell). Not to place criticism, but he does have a tendency to make certain films that have failed to live up the hyper-kinetic gruesome horror of his early classics, such as the ill-fated Crimewave (1985), The Quick and the Dead (1995), and most recently his prequel follow-up to the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. But he has made some really remarkable films, such as A Simple

TCM and Walt Disney Studios Team Up to Share Stories Centered on Classic Film

Features include new TCM integration in theme park attraction and on-air showcase of disney treasures.
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Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) today announced new strategic relationships with Walt Disney World Resort and The Walt Disney Studios to broaden its reach in family entertainment with joint efforts centered on classic film. At Disney's Hollywood Studios, the "The Great Movie Ride" Attraction highlights some of the most famous film moments in silver screen history and is set to receive a TCM-curated refresh of the pre-show and the finale. TCM branding will be integrated into the attraction's marquee as well as banners, posters and display windows outside the attraction. In the queue line, families will enjoy new

Bunny Lake Is Missing Blu-ray Review: Required Viewing Is Found

The only film to ever have employed a couple of Zombies as a Greek chorus hits High-Def courtesy Twilight Time.
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As soon as the opening credits of Bunny Lake Is Missing fade in following the perfunctory Columbia lady logo, it's obvious that this is an Otto (Anatomy of a Murder) Preminger film. A hand reaches up onto the completely black screen, ripping pieces of the darkness away to show us just enough for the incredible iconic work of Saul Bass to reveal the men and women responsible for this magnificent work of cinematic art. Likewise, director Preminger only shows us fractions of the light throughout this psychological thriller revolving around a missing child in London during the revolutionary mid '60s

2015 Film Independent Spirit Awards Nominations Announced

Nominees for Best Feature included Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, Love is Strange, Selma, and Whiplash.
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Press release: Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA, announced nominations for the 2015 Spirit Awards this morning. Film Independent President Josh Welsh presided over the press conference held at the W Hollywood, with actors Rosario Dawson and Diego Luna presenting the nominations. Nominees for Best Feature included Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Boyhood, Love is Strange, Selma and Whiplash. "As we celebrate 30 years of great independent film," said Josh Welsh, President of Film Independent, "this year’s nominees are an astonishingly

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - Hampton Coliseum (Live in 1981) Review: A Welcome Trip Back

Relive the last classic Stones era in this 1981 concert film.
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Recently released from the Rolling Stones archives, this show took place on Keith Richards’ 38th birthday on Dec 18, 1981. The first pay-per-view concert ever, it captures the band during their prime, in their last U.S. tour until 1989’s Steel Wheels. Eagle Rock Entertainment’s 2 CD/DVD set comes with a booklet with a blow-by-blow description of the show and still photos from the performance. In this day of instant video streaming, the thought of waiting patiently by your analog TV, suffering through the same preview a half-dozen times before the show went live, seems like medieval torture. And the waiting

Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 Are the Picks of the Week

I'm taking a chance that an odd comedy will actually tickle my funny bone.
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I have an unusual sense of humor. I generally don’t find the things that the apparent majority of people find hilarious to be in the least bit amusing. I’ve never enjoyed a Farrelly Brothers' film or any movie associated with Judd Apatow. I’ve got no use for Hangovers or elderly Virgins. I stare at the Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men dumbfoundedly wondering how anybody could find any ounce of humor in any of it. Broad comedy almost always falls flat to my ears and even more esoteric and odd comic film like Borat or Archer barely

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer Debuts on Friday, November 28

Has your interest in this film awakened?
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To ensure the Internet chatter and specualtion doesn't die down, an 88-second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be shown in 30 theaters across North America, beginning Friday morning, November 28. The teaser will then be shown in theaters around the world this December. For those Star Wars fanatics who can't wait for the official trailer and think they can be satsifed by 88 seconds (insert your own joke here), the complete list of participating theaters playing the tease is listed below: AZ PHOENIX HARKINS TEMPE MARKETPLACE CA LOS ANGELES AMC CENTURY CITY CA LOS ANGELES Indep

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) DVD Review: It's Only a Concert Video, But I Like It

The band shows why they remain the very definition of rock and roll.
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In a thousand years, at universities all over the world, in classes titled "Rock N Roll 101," professors will lay a needle on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and that’s all they’ll need to say. When aliens land on our planet and ask us what this rock thing is all about, we’ll take them to a Rolling Stones concert and they’ll hold off the invasion. For more than fifty years The Rolling Stones have been the very definition of rock and roll. Early rockers like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly blended the blues with folk and country creating something new

Book Review: Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1946-1949

Sometimes goofy, occasionally deadly, and always exciting, it's Superman as you may not have seen him before.
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It wasn’t long after his 1938 debut in Action Comics #1 that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s most famous creation began appearing in his own daily newspaper strip, followed shortly thereafter by a separate Sunday strip. Back in those days, funny books were a stepping stone to the big money and prestige found in the funny papers. Curiously, a large number of these Sunday strips have never been reprinted, a wrong that The Library of American Comics valiantly continues to set right with the second volume of their Superman Sundays series. Collecting over 170 sequential Sunday pages from August 11,

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 17: 1956-1957 by Chester Gould

Gould delivers entertaining, action-heavy crime dramas once again.
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The Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing are publishing The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould. Volume 17 is their latest release and it collects the dailies and Sunday strips from May 14, 1956 through to December 14, 1957. Dick Tracy would reach its 25th year on October 4, 1956, and Gould showed no signs of losing the strips' high standards. The book opens with Joe Period and Flattop Jr. in hiding from crimes readers witnessed in Volume 16, but rather than running away, they head back to town because Joe seeks revenge against "Nothing" Yonson, who tried to

The Hook (1963) DVD Review: "Kid, Any Day a War Ends is a Nice Day."

Kirk Douglas, Nick Adams, and Robert Walker, Jr. star in a well-made Korean War drama from George Seaton.
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George Seaton had quite the varied career. Starting out as a struggling playwright and actor within the theater, the future screenwriter and director also became the first nationally-heard actor to portray The Lone Ranger in 1933, lated alleging he invented the famous "Hi-yo Silver!" catchphrase due to his own inability to whistle. Landing a job at MGM courtesy the legendary Irving Thalberg, Seaton's wit and ability to think up a good gag soon caught the attention of Groucho Marx, and he helped contribute heavily to the jokes seen and heard in A Night at the Opera, and would earn the

It Happened One Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Original Runaway Bride

Frank Capra's romantic comedy classic shines in new Criterion release.
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It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time in cinematic history when romantic comedies were extremely rare. That all started to change, for better or worse, with the 1934 release of this Frank Capra gem. The film went on to sweep the five major Oscar categories, netting statues for stars Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, director Capra, and screenwriter Robert Riskin, cementing its status as a Hollywood classic. That classic is now 80 years old and was showing its age, so its recent meticulous restoration and new release on Blu-ray offers a completely refreshed take on the film. Colbert

ABC Family's Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas Starts This Sunday, November 23

What films will you be watching as ABC Family closes out the month?
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Press Release: ABC Family offers viewers the best way to gear up their holiday festivities with the network’s annual programming bonanza “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas” beginning on Sunday, November 23rd . The movies featured in this year’s “Countdown to 25 Days of Christmas” demand to be watched with a bowl of popcorn and possibly some loved ones. There is no better way to unwind from a day of holiday activities - preparing the turkey, eating leftovers, spending all your money during Black Friday - than with a favorite movie and your social-media platform of choice. Let’s face it:

TCM to Remember Award-Winning Filmmaker Mike Nichols on Dec. 6

The director will be honored with triple feature.
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Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will celebrate the life and career of award-winning filmmaker Mike Nichols with a three-film tribute on Saturday, Dec. 6. Nichols, who passed away Nov. 19 at the age of 83, is one of the few artists who has earned Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy accolades. TCM's tribute will showcase his Oscar-nominated work on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and his Oscar-winning work on The Graduate (1967). The night will also include Nichols' acclaimed 1971 film Carnal Knowledge. The following is the complete schedule for TCM's tribute to Mike Nichols. (All times Eastern) TCM Remembers Mike

The Graduate Movie Review: The Perfect Way to Disturb the Sounds of Silence

Is The Graduate still meaningful? Maybe more than ever.
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The year 1967 was one of those magical years (like 1972 or 1996) that produced so many groundbreaking movies that I rarely pass up a chance to see one with that copyright date. That year saw the likes of Bonnie & Clyde, Cool Hand Luke, and Bedazzled, and closed out with my own my debut in November and thenThe Graduate came along just before Christmas. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards with Mike Nichols the sole winner for Directing. I was twenty, just like Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) when I first saw the film. Having just graduated from college

Very Extremely Dangerous (2012) DVD Review: A Life of Utter Chaos

The story of musician Jerry McGill in Very Extremely Dangerous makes Behind the Music look like Romper Room.
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Three-time felon Jerry McGill (1940 - 2013) was a musician whose life was the stuff of legend. Very Extremely Dangerous (2012) is a documentary that was filmed in 2010 during his battle with lung cancer. In it we meet a man who is described by his own friends as a “rattlesnake,” yet even at that point, his charisma and talent were palpable. The 90-minute film was directed by Irish filmmaker Paul Duane, who also produced, along with author Robert Gordon. Duane was inspired to track down McGill and tell his story after reading Gordon’s book It Came from Memphis. I

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D Blu-ray Review: What Goes Down Goes Waaay Down

Dive into a wet and wild ride to the bottom of the world's oceans.
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I watched Deepsea Challenge 3D a few nights ago (though decidedly in 2D as I lack the necessary equipment for that elusive third dimension), but it wasn't until last night that I really developed an appreciation for what James Cameron endured to make this piece of work. He crammed himself into a steel sphere only a few feet in diameter and plummeted to the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean for the sake of curiosity and scientific discovery. What could I have possibly done to compare to this task? I crammed myself into the tiny space under my

Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) Blu-ray Review: Uneven Musical Gangster Noir (in Color)

The Warner Archive presents the second of three strikes for Jack Webb's failed franchise.
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Way back during those far-off days of the very early 1990s (he said in jest), I found myself - along with my peers - choosing an assignment for English from a number of eclectic books our teacher had on-hand. And while my report of The Communist Manifesto, wherein I commented Karl Marx was of no relation to Groucho, Harpo, Chico or Zeppo, was a deliberately dumb affair, it could not compare to the smirking delight that set over my face when the morons on the other side of the room - the "cool, popular" kids, if you will - decided

Unit One: Set 1-3 DVD Review: Hannibal Plays a Cop

Emmy-winning Danish TV series features Mads Mikkelsen as an unconventional detective.
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Long before international star Mads Mikkelsen terrorized TV viewers with his take on the role of Hannibal Lecter, he acted on the right side of the law in his native Denmark in this 2000-04 series. The entire series has now been compiled into this three-volume collection for U.S. release, offering viewers a look at his early TV work in a compelling police drama. Unit One is Denmark’s elite mobile detective task force established to assist local police efforts around the country. The detectives don’t just travel, they bring their entire office with them in a massive tractor trailer, reporting to

Touch the Wall Movie Review: A Tale of Two Swimmers

Missy Franklin strives to make her first while Kara Lynn Joyce aims for her third Olympic Games. Or, why sometimes bronze is just as sweet as gold.
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Near the end of Touch the Wall, an engaging new sports documentary—and a rare one about swimming—Olympian Missy Franklin sits and reflects on the meaning of her collection of four gold and one bronze medals from the 2012 London Olympic Games. The magnitude of what she’s accomplished is only slowly sinking in and she makes a point of giving special attention to the bronze medal. It was her first, her favorite, and yet few people ask to see it. The scene has a way of capturing the entire movie—and the entire sport. During the heat of an Olympic year, the

It Happened One Night is the Pick of the Week

The Christmas season keeps bringing all sorts of great stuff.
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When I bought my first DVD player back in 1999 I vowed that I would only buy really great movies - the classics, interesting indies, fantastic foreign flicks, etc. I wanted to develop a collection of the world’s best movies with no fluff. That died out with in a few months. At the time DVDs were still really rather expensive, running about $20 or more per film. Every now and again, I’d find a used sale at Blockbuster or some such place and you could grab something for ten or sometimes even five dollars. Such a bargain price often made

Criterion Announces February 2015 Releases

Here are some options for your film-loving valentine.
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In February, Criterion offers six new releases. Four are by directors who see an increase of their work added to the Collection. Those titles are Jean-Luc Godard's Every Man for Himself, Nicholas Roeg's Don't Look Now, Jean Renoir's A Day in the Country, and Federico Fellini’s Fellini Satyricon. Criterion also adds an animated film to their roster with Martin Rosen's Watership Down. Also scheduled is the high-definition digital restoration of Yasujiro Ozu's An Autumn Afternoon. Every Man for Himself (#744) out Feb 3 in Blu-ray & DVD Editions After a decade in the wilds of avant-garde and early video experimentation,

Life Itself Movie Review: A Fascinating Person Attached to That Thumb

Film critic extraordinaire Roger Ebert gets the compelling documentary he deserves, celebratory but unafraid to show his flaws and weaknesses.
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Do you think you know Roger Ebert? Believe me, whatever you know, you know only part of the story. Just a few of the late critic’s achievements: ● Winning a Pulitzer for film reviewing in 1975, the first critic to do so (take that, Pauline Kael!) ● With Gene Siskel, turning film critics into TV stars courted by Hollywood power players seeking the elusive Two Thumbs Up!™ ● Writing the screenplays to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens ● Diving headlong into online and social media venues when illness robbed him of his

The Day They Robbed the Bank of England DVD Review: Introducing Peter O'Toole

A taut, well-crafted Victorian Era heist thriller that forged the way for many crime dramas to come.
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Though he had a relatively noted - if short-lived - career in the Hollywood limelight as an A picture actor, it's sometimes hard to imagine the late Aldo Ray as a serious performer when one notes the amount of motion pictures he made in his later years that were preceded B, X, Z, and just about every other letter of the alphabet. Today, he is probably best remembered for not being remembered at all - with an entire legion of mostly clueless Quentin Tarantino followers assuming Brad Pitt's Inglourious Basterds character, Lt. Aldo Raine, is merely just a similarly sounding

Birdman of Alcatraz Blu-ray Review: The Cinematic System's Sympathetic Psychopath

Twilight Time brings us a much-needed High-Def release of the Burt Lancaster/John Frankenheimer classic.
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November 2014 could truly be one of the most auspiciously underestimated months in the history of home video releases. One of two significantly incredible reasons for my assessment owes to a recent Warner release that many of us never, ever thought we would see, Batman: The Complete Television Series - which not only made it to video in a form other than our terrible VHS recordings from TV, but on Blu-ray even. The second reason this month deserves an asterisk in the annals of history is warranted by the High-Def home video debut of another fellow named after a small

Book Review: DC Comics Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History by Daniel Wallace

They are bad no matter how they are drawn.
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With its origins in National Allied Publications, which was founded in 1934, DC Comics has had a long and varied publishing history over 80 years and has been one of the top two comic publishers for decades (Which company has held the top spot at any given moment has been argued by fans for just as long). Its success has not only come from the superheroes in its stable, such as Superman and Batman, but also its super-villains, such as Lex Luthor and the Joker. Author Daniel Wallace claims the bad guys are “one of the driving forces behind the

AFI Fest 2014 Movie Review: Red Army

A great documentary because it takes a niche subject and tells a larger, identifiable story with it.
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Gabe Polsky's documentary Red Army tells the story of Viacheslav "Slava" Fetisov, one of the most successful defensemen to ever play hockey. His career ran from 1976-1998, starting as a member of the Soviet national hockey team and later playing for two NHL teams. But just as the story of baseball player Jackie Robinson (42) is not limited to the man or the sport because of the societal issues related with his breaking Major League Baseball's color barrier, neither is the story of Red Army, which tells a very compelling tale about the Cold War between the Soviet Union and

Mokey / Revolt in the Big House DVD Reviews: A Young Robert Blake Two-fer

The controversial actor goes from motherless juvenile delinquent to prison revolutionary in these two New-to-DVD rarities from the Warner Archive.
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While Robert Blake is unlikely to be on everyone's list of people to meet, the one-time child actor was one of the few of his kind to actually make a successful transition from being a kiddie icon to an adult star. And, while the spotlights for both his professional and private lives have certainly faded out, Blake - one of the few still living actors to have starred in the original Our Gang / Little Rascals short subjects - has nevertheless left a lengthy legacy behind. Starting out as a young doe-eyed Bobby Blake (as he was then known as,

AFI Fest 2014 Movie Review: Tales of the Grim Sleeper

A compelling and heartbreaking true-crime documentary.
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Directed by Nick Broomfield, Tales of the Grim Sleeper is a chilling tale that epitomizes the quote attributed to Edmund Burke, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." On July 7, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA, Lonnie Franklin was charged with 10 counts of murder and one attempted murder, for incidents occurring between 1985 to 2007. He was also suspected in the deaths of many more due to the all the pictures and videos of women found in his home. As of the date of this review's publication, he has yet

Borgen: The Complete Series DVD Review: Danish Politics Fit For Americans

Borgen makes the incomprehensible Danish political system not only understandable but lots of fun to watch.
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Borgen is a Danish political drama that ran for three seasons from 2010 to 2014. It tells the story of Brigitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who through a series extraordinary events becomes Prime Minister. The show follows Nyborg - a charismatic, idealistic, and sometime naive politician - as she tries to lead a very divided government, maintain some semblance of a personal life, and take care of her husband and children. The show also follows a group of political journalists who follow Nyborg's career, with a focus on an ambitious anchor, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.) Danish politics are much

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Review: The Best It's Ever Been

It has dulled a bit over time with other movies building on its formula, but the legacy and impact live on.
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I've seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre twice in my life now. The first was sometime in the 1990s, as I was watching a slew of horror movies with friends at the time. It was okay, nothing special, and certainly didn't seem to warrant the hype surrounding it. I simply watched it and moved on. The second viewing was of the new 40th Anniversary Edition a couple of days ago, and while my opinion remains that about two-thirds of the movie is cheesy, trite, and even at times boring, the last 15 or 20 minutes is still a serious head

Genesis: Three Sides Live Blu-ray Review: ...And Then They Were Live...

Turn it on (again) and play it loud.
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Available for the first time as a stand-alone DVD and on Blu-ray, Genesis: Three Sides Live was initially released on Betamax and VHS in 1982 as a companion piece to the live album of the same name. The film shows the band (vocals/drums Phil Collins, keyboards Tony Banks, guitar/bass Mike Rutherford with support from touring members guitar/bass Daryl Stuermer and drums Chester Thompson) on their 1981 North American tour promoting their eleventh album, Abacab. The concert performances are taken from two New York shows, primarily from Nassau Coliseum, Long Island, on November 29, 1981 with two ("Me & Sarah Jane"

Daniel Boone: The Complete Series - 50th Anniversary DVD Review: A Dream Come-a-Truer

The Fox TV Archives makes its debut with an anticipated re-release the out-of-print TV favorite.
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Since the building of the Manufactured on Demand bandwagon, nearly every major studio in the home video industry has begun the seemingly-endless process of making hundreds (if not thousands) of rarely-seen movies and television shows available to the public upon order. The process has also enabled certain moratorium materials to be put back into print. And with the debut of Fox Home Entertainment's new MOD sub-label "20th Century Fox TV Archives", fans of the classic adventure/western program Daniel Boone are now able to fill in the gap left behind by the inefficiency and abrupt departure of two minor distributors from

Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars DVD Review: A Parallel Adventure in the Galactic Empire

Disney's inventive duo run amiably amok through the story of Star Wars: A New Hope.
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Phineas and Ferb works almost entirely on the basis of their engaging formula. While there have been occasional efforts to shake things up, the broad strokes are usually present in some manner: Phineas and Ferb, step-brothers with a knack for invention and a boundless positivity, come up with some crazy new gadget/theme park/wild concept and execute it flawlessly, all while their sister Candace tries to get them busted with their parents, because she feels that's the moral duty of an older sister. At the same time, their pet duck-billed platypus Perry is actually a secret agent (Agent P) who foils

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions Blu-ray Review: An Excellent Ending to A Strong Series

The final season for the animated Clone Wars series makes its way to Blu-ray.
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When the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars was cancelled after its fifth season, fans wondered what was to become of the episodes already in the can for season six. Thirteen episodes of the originally intended 22 were produced and were eventually made available on the German TV Network, Super RTL, and, later, Netflix in America and Canada. Now those episodes are available with bonus content on Blu-ray as Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lost Missions. The season leads off with “The Unknown” and finds Republic forces batting a battle droid army aboard a planet-circling space station. A

Lots of TV Series Sets are the Pick of the Week

Halloween is over so its time for the Christmas season and with it lots of big TV collections.
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You’ve got to love the (extended) Christmas season. It seems like every year it gets pushed farther and farther up the calendar. I’ve barely taken down my Halloween stuff and already the stores are flooded with Christmas decorations and the radio is playing non-stop carols. There’s plenty of reasons to get annoyed with that - the crass commercialism, the lack of decent music, the spoiling of any specialness the season actually has, etc., but as a collector I gotta say I love it. From now until the end of the year there are going to be sales and deals on

Book Review: Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, Volume 2

This is not your daddy's Star Trek.
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On its way to becoming a multimedia franchise, Star Trek first entered the world of comics by way of Gold Key, who sporadically published 61 issues between July 1967 and March 1979 before the license was obtained by Marvel. Earlier this year, IDW reprinted Gold Key's first six issues in a hardcover collection and now the second volume of Star Trek: Gold Key Archives, which collects issues #7-12, is available. Fully re-mastered with new colors, the first two stories are written by Dick Wood (Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom), the rest are by Len Wein (co-creator of DC Comics'

AFI Fest 2014 Movie Review: Two Days, One Night

With superheros all the rage, it's nice that there are people like the Dardennes creating films this.
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After a brief absence from her solar-panel plant job, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) gets word on a Friday afternoon that she needn't return to work on Monday because her fellow co-workers voted 14 out of 16 for the boss to let her go so they could each receive a €1,000 bonus. Sandra is married and the mother of two young children and they need her salary to keep out of public housing, which her husband Manu (Fabrizio Rongione) refuses to return. Sandra's friend, Juliette (Catherine Salée), claims that supervisor Jean-Marc (Olivier Gourmet) misled the workers with lies to scare them into

Saturday at Wizard World Tulsa: My First Con Experience

My first ever Con found me checking out cosplayers and listening to James Marsters and William Shatner.
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When I learned I’d be going to Wizard World's Tulsa Comic Con this past weekend, I was excited and a little nervous. I’d never been to a Con before, and while I have certain dorky tendencies, I don’t consider myself a full-blown geek. I’ve read a few graphic novels and manga, but I don’t haunt the comic book store. I’ve seen almost all of the superhero movies, but rarely have they been caught in the theatre. I like science fiction movies and stories but not more so than any other genre. And while I play a lot of games, they

Wicked, Wicked DVD Review: The Best Bad Gimmick Movie Ever

The first film to have been constructed entirely out of B roll footage finally comes to DVD.
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Towards the end of his career in the motion picture industry, director Richard L. Bare - the sole individual behind the camera for virtually every episode of Green Acres ever as well as the same man who penned and directed the Joe McDoakes series of theatrical shorts - hit upon an idea. As he looked down the freeway, he noticed it took on the appearance of being split into two separate screens by the divider. It was then, according to legend, that the filmmaker who had spent darn near the entire span of his métier in Hollywood directing comedies and

National Gallery Movie Review: Frederick Wiseman Delivers Cinematic Fulfillment

A three-hour journey into London's most prestigious art gallery.
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Although the documentary genre is a brilliant piece of cinema history, many people haven't exactly embraced it, and that unfortunately includes the distinct work of the legendary Frederick Wiseman, which consists of an almost sixty-year span, including such famous films as Missle (1986), Central Park (1989), La Danse (2009). Two of my favorites of him are the horrifying 1967 film Titicut Follies about the extremely deplorable conditions, and awful treatment of patient inmales of the Bridgewater State Hospital for the criminally insane, and the other is probably his most popular film, the brutally transgressive 1968 high school documentary called High

Possessed (1947) Blu-ray Review: At Last, Gender Equality in Film Noir!

Joan Crawford takes the wheel in a classic thriller that has received a startling new HD release from the Warner Archive.
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It's always the same. One minute, you're wandering aimlessly down the surprisingly empty streets of Los Angeles, searching for a man, mistaking every other stranger you meet for said individual, startling hard-working American folks by meandering into coffee shops and acting strange. The next minute, they're hauling your ass into the psychiatric ward. Well, maybe that's not a common occurrence for you, but I'm sure I have come closer to being in the exact same predicament Joan Crawford finds herself in at the beginning of her 1947 starring role Possessed than most other people who have would freely admit to.

Book Review: Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show: Documentary Turned Book

This book relies too much on quotes from famous names and not enough on imparting facts.
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It’s been said that we’re living in the Golden Age of Television - a fact that’s easy to believe. While Hollywood seems to be cranking out an endless number of sequels and remakes, television has truly mastered the art of storytelling - making some cutting edge stories of science fiction, fantasy, history, and human drama. Behind each of these marvels of storytelling stands one person: the Showrunner. Or so we’re told, at least. In an age when television has reached perhaps its greatest potential, the Showrunner is that powerful, mysterious person in charge of every aspect of telling a story.

The St. Louis Kid DVD Review: Another James Cagney Rarity Makes Its Debut

A cocky, real jerk of a truck driver learns the hard way about the evils of milk in this weird, uneven 1934 feature.
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Chalk up yet another victory for the Warner Archive, boys and girls. Not only have they given us a new stellar Blu-ray release of Yankee Doodle Dandy recently, but they've filled in several other missing James Cagney film gaps as well, including the riotous comedy Boy Meets Girl with Pat O'Brien. And here, with The St. Louis Kid, I was able to at last pin the tail on the donkey of something else. As a youth, one of the many videocassettes in my always-expanding library was a cheapo blooper tape from an illustrious label that at one point went by

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Digital Download Review: Here Be Dragons

Hiccup and Toothless are still a great team and How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a nice middle chapter in their story.
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Fans of Hiccup and his adorable dragon Toothless will be delighted to learn that their second feature, How to Train Your Dragon 2, is now available as a digital download. The Blu-ray/DVD will be released next week, November 11th. This is a review of the digital version of the film, which viewers may be surprised to learn also includes some great bonus features usually reserved just for Blu-ray and DVD. The original DreamWorks Animation film, How to Train Your Dragon (2010), was based on the popular series of books by Cressida Cowell. It was not only a financial success, but

The Compleat Al DVD Review: Vintage Yankovic

If you consider yourself a Weird Al fan, this is worth picking up.
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It has been a big year for Weird Al Yankovic. The world's foremost parody musician, Weird Al's most recent album, Mandatory Fun, rose to the top of the charts, and he released a series of music videos featuring celebrities and hilarity and good times. Now, Shout! Factory has re-released The Compleat Ai on DVD, giving fans a chance to check out some old fashioned Weird Al comedy. This is very much old school, and very much just for the big time Yankovic fans. This faux biography came out in 1985, which was still quite early in his career. This is,

The Killer Shrews DVD Review: A Shrewd Release from Film Chest

Film Chest brings us a "digitally transferred" re-release of the Public Domain cult classic. But just what exactly does "digitally transferred" mean?
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After Toho unleashed its monstrous creation Gojira upon the world in 1954 - itself a metaphor to the bombing of Hiroshima and the radioactive horrors that were born that day towards the end of World War II - America couldn't help but jump in on the fun (again). And so, one mutated critter after another began to emerge, whether it be a creature spawned from the uncharted depths of the Salton Sea due to nuclear testing, alien monsters from the vast vastness of vast space come to teach us a lesson, or the (sometimes) accidental creation of something from some

Miss Marple Volume 1 DVD Review: Old Dames Rule

Agatha Christie's approved actress expertly brings her literary heroine to life in the investigation of deaths.
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Agatha Christie’s famous fictional heroine has moved from page to screen many times, but this series bears the distinction of the author’s seal of approval on the lead actress, Joan Hickson. All of 78 years young at the time of her casting, Hickson continued portraying Miss Marple in this series for the next eight years before finally stepping down. Hickson brings gravitas and wisdom to the role, getting more mileage out of questioning glances than younger actresses could achieve with pages of dialogue. Miss Marple is the quintessential nosy old lady, a simple civilian who somehow finds herself involved in

Style Wars Blu-ray Review: Capturing Street Art in Its Infancy

Original Hip-Hop culture and graffiti documentary gets well deserved restoration.
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“Is that an art form? I don’t know I’m not an art critic, but I can sure as hell tell you that that’s a crime.” That’s Detective Bernie Jacobs, a crime-prevention coordinator for the New York City Transit Authority being interviewed for the PBS documentary Style Wars. The groundbreaking documentary, beloved for capturing hip-hop culture close to its inception, is now out in a beautifully restored Blu-ray edition, complete with forty minutes of well-worth-it outtakes, commentary, and behind-the-scenes videos. The year was 1983 and Jacobs was talking about the cat-and-mouse game between graffiti writers bombing trains and the cops chasing

Yankee Doodle Dandy Blu-ray Review: You're a Grand Old Film

James Cagney gets born of the fourth of July for the Warner Archive's dynamic HD release of the already exceptional George M. Cohan biopic.
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Generally, as I have pointed out in a previous article, biographical motion pictures are something of specialty items - usually commissioned, produced and released in order to cash-in on the death of a celebrity. But in the instance of 1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy, we have a biopic that is a whole different affair altogether. Although the subject of the picture itself, the iconic patriotic American Broadway composer/playwright/performer George M. Cohan - conceived and brought to the attention of studio executives by the man himself (!) - was still alive at the time the film was made, he did not fall

The Italian Exploitation Invasion: Sex and Death, 1969-2012

From lite BDSM affairs of the late '60s to bloody splatter flicks of the mid '80s, here's a little bit of everything from one of cinema's most inimitably imitative industries.
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The bulk of Italian cinema is generally recognized by the average American viewer as little more than a number of classic neorealism features. Maybe a mafia movie made by a US filmmaker of Italian descent. And the occasional film by that guy who paved the way for a classic Tom Cruise interview by going berserk and climbing over (and atop) seats at the Oscars that one time. But for the cult/trash film enthusiast, Italy is perhaps the best known supplier of gory guilty pleasures, sinfully sultry sleazefests, and some of the most rockin' (or at least completely funky and groovy)

Book Review: Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be!: Political Cartooning at its Finest

A collection of historic, important, and just a little bit esoteric political cartoons from a bygone era
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Political cartoons have been around since the early 1700s though they didn’t really come into their own until the later part of the 18th Century with the advent of the French Revolution. It took Punch, a weekly British magazine to firmly establish the medium as something that could have a real impact on the culture and political landscape. Now at the beginning of the 21st with newspapers, editorials, and the comics pages disappearing all together it's difficult to understand what great influence the political cartoonist wielded. But wield it, they did. In 1884, at the height of its power, Puck

Batman: The Complete Television Series Offers Options for Every Bat-fan!

Holy Multiple Formats!
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Press Release: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) sets a new standard for accommodating Bat-fans from the uber-avid to caped-casual with the upcoming release of Batman: The Complete Television Series on November 11, 2014. The most anticipated home entertainment release of all time will be available in several distinct packaging choices with varying content and bonus materials. These offerings include multiple national physical options - most notably, the Limited Edition Blu-ray™ box set - as well as varying digital selections, and a few specialty alternatives. As the ultimate collector’s pièce de résistance, the Limited Edition box set (SRP $269.97) is a

2015 TCM Classic Film Festival Lands Four World Premiere Restorations

Festival to Feature Newly Restored Editions of Apollo 13 (1995), Spartacus (1960), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928).
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Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has landed four film restorations set to make their world premieres during the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival, taking place March 26-29, 2015, in Hollywood. The movies, each from a different era in cinema history, including Ron Howard's Apollo 13 (1995), Stanley Kubrick's Spartacus (1960), William Dieterle's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) and Charles Reisner and Buster Keaton's Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928). The Keaton comedy will be accompanied by legendary silent film composer Carl Davis conducting the world premiere performance of his new score for the film. Passes for the 2015 TCM Classic

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Three: 1971-1974, Edited by Dean Mullaney

Manning's talents continue to impress in this volume.
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Volume Three of the Library of American Comics' Eisner Award-winning, four-part collection of Russ Manning's complete run of Tarzan newspaper strips reveals Manning continued to deliver a high quality of work in both story and art during this time. This book is notable for containing the final two daily strips stories. Henry G. Franke III, editor of literary society The Burroughs Bibliophiles, returns to write another introduction. He explains how Manning creation of Tarzan graphic novels led to him only able to focus on Sunday strips, resulting in the end of his dailies. Franke also tells a great anecdote about

Stanley Kubrick: Masterpiece Collection is the Pick of the Week

Christmas is coming and with it comes big boxed sets and lots of TV collections.
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For nearly as long as I can remember and certainly for as long as I’ve taken cinema seriously ,I’ve been a follower of the auteur theory. Even at a young age, I realized how influential a director was to the overall development and final artistic vision of a film. To this day, I tend to refer to films by their director rather than their stars or plot lines. The best directors leave their stamp on a movie no matter the genre. Stanley Kubrick was truly an auteur in every meaning of the word. You can tell its one of his

Planes: Fire and Rescue Blu-ray Combo Review: Geared Toward Younger Kids

Planes: Fire & Rescue may be a spin-off from Cars but it lacks the Pixar magic.
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Planes: Fire & Rescue is the second of three movies planned for the Planes trilogy which is a spin-off from Pixar's Cars. After becoming a success on the racing circuit, Dusty Crophopper (voiced by Dane Cook) is getting ready for his biggest race to date. During a flight, his gear box gives out and he is told that it cannot be replaced. Not understanding his own limits, Dusty ends up causing damage to a local business and gets pushed in the world of Aerial Firefighting where he learns that being a real hero means checking your ego at the door.

The One I Love Blu-ray Review: Seeing is Believing

What we project onto our relationships can become a reality.
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Films about couples on the brink of losing their relationship are nothing new. We go to the theater to see if they will make it out alive and stay together because we hope in turn our own relationships will make it out alive. But if you are looking for a film to reinvigorate your relationship with your signifigant other, The One I Love is not that film. The One I Love starts as a film about Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elizabeth Moss), a couple trying to save what is left of their marriage after Ethan has an affair. Their

Hugh Hefner DVD Review: He's Just Doing What He Loves

In case you weren't sure whether Hef's life was awesome, here he is to tell you how awesome it is.
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Tony Palmer's 1973 Film About Hugh Hefner, the Founder and Editor of Playboy -- henceforth known as Hugh Hefner -- seems to be something of a cultural enigma. It was originally recorded in 1972 and presumably screened (at least in some limited capacity) in 1973, yet has no IMDB listing that I can find. This new DVD isn't being billed as a remaster or an anniversary edition or anything, which also makes it sound like it never saw the light of day before, yet there are quotes from the likes of Mary Whitehouse, The Times, and The Daily Express lambasting

Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration by Brian Smith

If you love Voltron, you'll love this book.
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I struggled for what felt like an eternity with the opening to this review. It would've been easy to paraphrase the press release that accompanied this book and simply state that Viz Media, the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, is marking the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable animated series of all time with a fancy hardcover commemorative coffee table book. But that just felt sort of flat and given the subject matter, I felt that I needed an opening that was majestic and legendary in its grandeur. Something that would really

Playtime Criterion Collection Review: Hulot vs. Modernization

Tati's own brilliantly satirical spin on the mechanical age
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As we film buffs know the works of Chaplin, Godard, Dreyer, and Antonioni, we are able to see their versions of the stormy side of human nature, but no one in film history has quite of an effect on presenting the dark side of the mechanical age as legendary French director, Jacques Tati, whose classics somehow tend to get lost in the shuffle, especially talking about movie history. In a way, Tati is the "French Chaplin," since Chaplin's own Modern Times described the new harsh reality of the 1930s Depression era, while adding comical touches to surface the difficult situation.

Boy Meets Girl (1938) DVD Review: Recommended Neglected Screwball Comedy Antics

James Cagney and Pat O'Brien pull no punches in this biting satire of the Golden Age of Hollywood.
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When one hears a saying like "boy meets girl", an instant (usually negative) image of a sappy Hollywood romantic comedy - or worse, a sappy coming-of-age sitcom - is almost immediately conjured up. Fortunately, the 1938 satire Boy Meets Girl more than exceeds any preconceived notions those of us who have lived that same Hollywood film ten times before (thank you, Mr. Bowie) may hold. At the same time, Boy Meets Girl represents two styles of comedy we genuinely do not see in the world of American film anymore: the screwball comedy (which essentially died in the '40s) and the

Book Review: Ripley's Believe It or Not!: Daily Cartoons 1929-1930

For those of us who were once hooked on Ripley, this book is a real treat.
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The new Ripley’s Believe It or Not!: Daily Cartoons 1929-1930 from the Library of American Comics is a fond look back at the first years of the iconic cartoon series. As Ted Adams notes in his Foreward, it may be hard for a younger audience to understand the appeal of Ripley. With the answer to nearly every question available on their smartphones, the allure of the arcane facts Ripley specialized in may not impress them. But for those of us born before 1980 or so, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! holds a special charm. As always, the Library of American

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