January 2016 Archives

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Blu-ray Review: A Remarkably Forthright Film

The plot might remind one of Andrea Arnold's 'Fish Tank,' but the tone is decidedly different
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Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl isn’t particularly groundbreaking from a visual or formal standpoint; its burnished digital photography and lilting camerawork could belong to any number of Sundance entries. But this adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel is certainly distinctive among American film for its forthright, completely nonjudgmental approach to female sexuality. The plot — in which a teenage girl starts sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend — bears at least passing similarity to Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, but The Diary of a Teenage Girl is nearly a tonal opposite, fraught nerviness replaced with a pleasant inquisitiveness. Diary’s

Grandma Blu-ray Review: A Common Story with Uncommon Grace

The legendary Ms. Tomlin delivers her career best performance in one of the very best films of 2015.
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You would think that a road trip movie about a girl and grandmother bonding would be another one of those meandering chick flicks that you see nowadays far too much. However, Director Paul Weitz's 2015 refreshing gem of a film, Grandma, is not that type of film and that's a very good thing. It's a devilishly funny, smart, and wonderfully real piece of indie filmmaking that doesn't come around too often. It's also a showcase for the legendary Lily Tomlin to do what she does best, which is to knock it out of the park. And she does. Tomlin stars

TCM Programming Alert for the Week of 02-01-16

The first week of 31 Days (and 360 Degrees) of Oscar.
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On Monday, Turner Classic Movies will kick off its 31 Days of Oscar, the network's annual month-long celebration of the Academy Awards, on February 1 at 6am with a screening of Gigi (1958). This year’s theme is “31 Days (and 360 Degrees) of Oscar,” which features 360 Oscar-winning or nominated films with each connected to the next by an actor or actress who has a role in both. No films or connections are repeated and it all comes full circle when the last film of the programming, Around the World in 80 Days (1956) connects back to Gigi (1958). This

2016 Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films Review: An Excellent Group

Short films, big emotional punch.
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If the Oscars have any real meaning (and let’s be honest, they mostly don’t outside of very rich, very famous people congratulating themselves), it's that they bring to the masses films that we would otherwise overlook. The Oscars have long since brought to me lists of great films I might have never heard were they not given a very large spotlight. The awards ceremony also means these films will garner more money than they might normally which in turn means more award-caliber films will get made. This is especially true when it comes to non-mainstream genres like documentaries and short

The Devil Wears Prada 10th Anniversary DVD Review: One of the Best Films of the Last Ten Years

These Prada boots are made for walking...but all over you, literally.
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In the fashion world, which can be very intimidating, it is literally a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong (and stylish) survives. You either have what it takes, or you might as well as look for another profession. Many have tried and succeeded, while others have failed miserably. The Devil Wears Prada, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is semi-realistic, but it is pretty close to being an accurate depiction of that world. Based on the best-selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, the film stars Anne Hathaway as Andrea "Andy" Sachs, a naively perky but aspiring journalist living in New York

2016 Oscar-nominated Live Action Short Films Review

All five films feature characters in situations that challenge them and their assumptions.
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The five Academy Award-nominees for this year's Live Action Short Film originated from Europe, the United States, and one production that involved Palestine. Two of the stories are lighthearted and three are serious, but all present characters in situations that challenge them and their assumptions. In alphabetical order, they are: Ave Maria: The film opens in the West Bank, Palestine, on Friday at 5:35 pm. A Jewish couple and his mother are driving home before sundown. They get into a car accident in Arab territory outside a Sisters of Mercy nunnery. They allow the man to use their phone but

Silicon Valley Comic Con Announces First Wave of Panels

Highlights include: An Evening with William Shatner, Ask Adam Savage, Let’s Go to Mars!, Con Man: The Fan Revolt 14 Years in the Making.
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Press release: Silicon Valley Comic Con (SVCC), Steve Wozniak’s pop culture and technology expo, today revealed the initial round of panels that will be featured during the highly anticipated event that blends the best of entertainment, technology, gaming, comics, VR and all things pop culture. Attendees will have the opportunity to gain an insider’s perspective as they hear a wide variety of discussions helmed by their favorite Hollywood icons, scientists, technology luminaries and more. Panel Highlights: POP CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT An Evening With William ShatnerFrom Star Trek’s Captain Kirk to Boston Legal’s Denny Krane, there are few actors that are

A Thoughtful Solo Adventure with the Outsiders

If you think this write-up is all over the place and confusing as hell, then you know how I felt about that 60 minutes of my life.
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In which Kim strays off the beaten path with Outsiders. Having spent the past 13 months desperately missing my dose of the hotness that was Sons of Anarchy, I was so excited to see that my Opie (Ryan Hurst) was in a new show with his fabulously long hair and beard that made me want to curl up with him in the first place. I sat down with my beer and shitty microwave popcorn to watch Outsiders on WGN. This show had two really compelling reasons for me to watch. The first was that, though totally unrelated, I simply loved

getTV Honors Black History Month on Monday Nights

Highlights include interviews and performances featuring Diana Ross, Lena Horne, Harry Belafonte and Martin Luther King Jr., and a Sidney Poitier Birthday Block on Feb. 19.
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Press release: getTV celebrates Black History Month with a Monday Night Variety lineup featuring rare interviews and performances by groundbreaking African-American icons, airing every week in primetime. This month’s roster includes beloved entertainers Lena Horne, Richard Pryor, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, and more, headlined by a powerful interview with Martin Luther King Jr. on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW on February 29 at 10 p.m. ET. As part of the month’s festivities, getTV will also pay tribute to Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier with a special birthday block on Friday, February 19, starting at 8 p.m.

The Finest Hours Movie Review: Fine For About an Hour

Disney's latest has great effects but squanders a decent plot in a contrived love story.
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You know the year's just begun when Disney debuts their latest inspiriational drama. Usually geared towards the sports world (Miracle, McFarland USA), this year's feature is a water-logged mix of The Perfect Storm meets Kevin Costner's The Guardian set in Stephen King's Castle Rock. The lobster roll they form is The Finest Hours, a film whose B-plot should be the film's main focus but instead looks at an A-plot so cutesy and generic you'll get a cavity just watching. 1952, Chatham, Massachusetts. An oil tanker named the Pendleton gets caught in a horrific storm that leaves the boat broken in

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 Blu-ray Review: Action Heroes '50s Japanese Style

Three action/crime films from Nikkatsu studios that showcase their popular leading me of the late 50s.
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The Nikkatsu Diamond Guys title comes from a marketing scheme from nearly 60 years ago. Nikkatsu is a studio in Japan, and they were looking for a new way to promote their movie stars in the late 50s, so they created the Nikkatsu Action Series, with the "Diamond Line" of "Mighty Guys". Arrow has put three of these pictures into a Blu-ray and DVD release, Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1. Unrelated in story, theme, or director, (though they all involve crime stories) what connects them is the studio, and the era in which they were shot. The three movies are

Doctor Who: Series Nine, Part Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Doctor Who split apart, Spike Lee modernizing the ancient Greeks, Jack Black fighting children's monsters, and Bradley Cooper playing with food.
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I have very vague memories of watching Doctor Who as a kid. This was the '80s when the long=scarfed Tom Baker was the titular character and the series ran late-night Saturdays on my local PBS station. I wasn’t really a fan of the series and I only watched it a few times, but I remember the Daleks. I remember being old enough to be embarrassed to ask my mother to lay down next to me afterwards but young (and terrified) enough to ask her anyways. When the new series came on, those memories weren’t enough to make me raise even

The Wonder Years: Season Four DVD Review: The Characters and Writers Struggle with Transitions

Transitioning from Junior High School to High school can be exciting, awkward, and even scary. This season could easily be described in the same way.
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Time Life released the four-disc set of Season Four of The Wonder Years on January 16th. During this season, we not only watch Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) finish Junior High school, but also begin to transition from a little boy into a young man. Savage continues to give excellent performances, but it is clear that he, his character, and the rest of the cast are growing up. It’s most noticeable in Kevin’s best friend Paul (Josh Saviano) whose character begins to step out of Kevin’s shadow and the actor clearly becomes the first to sprout. As the characters struggle with

TV Review: American Masters: Mike Nichols

An entertaining, funny, and very insightful glimpse of a genius trailblazer.
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When the great Mike Nichols passed away on November 19, 2014, it was a very shocking blow to not just film world, but basically Arts and Entertainment as a whole. He wasn't just a talented director; he was also a gifted actor, writer, producer and comedian who broke the mold of how eclectic a man of the arts can truly be. When you think of amazing men, his name usually comes up and rightly so because he was one of the great ones, a man with no equal. Directed by Elaine May, his former comedy partner from the late '50s

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990 Blu-ray Review

This entertaining performance proves all the naysayers wrong.
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The Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle stadium tour ran for nearly a year. The North American leg started in Philadelphia on Aug 31, 1989, and the European leg ended in London on Aug 25, 1990. The tour is notable for many reasons. The 10 nights they played at the Tokyo Dome in February 1990, from which the material on this live album comes, was the first time they ever performed in Japan. It was the band's first tour since their 1982 European Tour. It was their first tour without touring pianist Ian Stewart. It would be bassist Bill Wyman's last tour before

Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 Ultimate Edition of Awesomness DVD Reviews: Not Awesome, But A Lot of Fun

Average animated stories made good by good performances and some stunning animation.
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If it's funny for a fat guy to show athletic nimbleness, then I suppose a panda being an expert at kung fu is hilarious. At least that’s the basic premise of the Kung Fu Panda series of movies. Luckily, the films are chock full of terrific actors and some really stunning animation that raises them above such ridiculous ideas. In Kung Fu Panda we find that our illustrious hero Po (Jack Black) is a big, fat, lazy panda who has a goose for a father (James Hong), and idolizes the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis

Book Review: The Art and Making of Hannibal: The Television Series by Jesse McLean

This book perfectly captures what was special about the show and the beauty behind it.
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If you are going through withdrawal from the cancellation of the ingeniously gorgeous television show Hannibal created by Bryan Fuller, then The Art and Making of Hannibal by Jesse McLean is the book you have been waiting for. The television show was adapted from the Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon and is rooted in the developing relationship between Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) It is organized by the appropriately named chapters of "Aperitif," "Entree," "Main Course," "Sorbet," "Dessert," and "Digestif." The "Aperitif" is a foreword by Martha De Laurentiis, who produced the television series as well

TCM Programming Alert for Week of 01-25-16

TCM will take viewers around thew world in seven days.
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For those who are absent-minded, feel free to bookmark this list of TCM suggestions for the final week of January. '60s Spy Stories: Arabesque (1966) Monday, Jan. 25 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) A university professor gets mixed up with international spies and a two-timing woman. The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) Tuesday, Jan. 26 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) Musical biography of the backwoods girl who struck it rich in Colorado and survived the Titanic. Star of the Month: Fred MacMurray - The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) A college professor fights off corrupt businessmen to market

Sherlock: 'The Abominable Bride' Review

The new special intricately weaves three different threads of plot and leaves the viewer with dozens of puzzles to tide them over until the next season.
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It’s becoming almost a biannual (that one means once every two years, right?) for the New Year to open with a new episode of the BBC’s Sherlock. The absolutely excellent, but excruciatingly infrequent, show usually airs once about every two years, and has now made a habit of helping Sherlockians and geeks the world over ring in the New York with complex puzzles, convoluted plots, and clever dialogue. This year was a special treat: eschewing (seemingly) their modernization of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock went back to the Victorian period for a Christmas (New Year’s?) special. It’s an episode the hype, hysteria,

Bitter Rice Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Beauty of the Downtrodden

1940s Italian film marries social commentary about the lower class with rewarding drama and romance.
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Long before Dino De Laurentiis was a noted Hollywood producer, he produced Italian films such as this 1949 drama. Interestingly, his director on this film, Giuseppe De Santis, also had a deep appreciation of U.S. culture and Hollywood film techniques, although he maintained strong convictions about how his films should stake their own Italian identity both thematically and visually. His subject matter for Bitter Rice fully expresses those ideas as he wrings beautiful scenes out of a story set amongst poor farm workers. As the film reveals, every year scores of Italian women would leave home to find temporary work

Shadows and Fog Blu-ray Review: or, Smoke and Mirrors

Even with an unmistakable style and fine supporting cast, Woody Allen's final Orion Pictures production is a bittersweet one indeed.
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In several respects, the release of Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy in 1982 marked the beginning of two pivotal points in the career of Woody Allen. Not only was it the year he began releasing a new motion picture each and every year ‒ a tradition (or obsession, perhaps) that continues to this day ‒ but it was also his first film with Orion Pictures, a company with which he would find backing and distribution for his next eleven projects. It was during his Orion constellation that Allen made a number of homages to classic film genres (and

Ip Man 3 Movie Review: Love, Redemption, and Mike Tyson

Some of the best action sequences in years are on display in Wilson Yip's latest martial-arts romp!
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Wilson Yip’s newest addition to his Ip Man film series, Ip Man 3, is a wildly entertaining and surprisingly poignant feature effort that lacks only in plot structure and character development: two completely unimportant aspects of any film. Of course, in the case of a martial-arts film so brilliantly choreographed and shot as this one, that last part really is true. Ip Man 3 suffers from its lack of story-arc dynamics only when isolated from its excellent displays of Wing Chun (Ip Man’s martial art of choice). Otherwise, the story gets lost in the action in a way that contradicts

The Doughgirls DVD Review: When Girl Comedies Didn't Need Fart Jokes

The Warner Archive Collection unveils a vastly underrated WWII comedy about three groomless brides, with scene-chewing support from Eve Arden and Charles Ruggles.
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In those glorious, long gone days before female-driven movies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids (to say nothing of the forthcoming Ghostbusters spin-off, I'm sure) began infecting cineplexes near and far with stories that relied too heavily on such surefire ticket-selling gimmicks such as fart jokes, an assembly of some of American cinema's finest actresses was something worth taking note of. Particularly when said actresses weren't necessarily "comediennes" per se (and didn't "let one" for the sake of a laugh). Such a formula can be seen at work in the Warner Bros. 1944 comedy The Doughgirls: a tale for the ladies

Scorpio (1973) Blu-ray Review: A Different Kind of Zodiac Killer

Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon shoot the breeze ‒ and just about everything else in sight ‒ in Michael Winner's oft-criticized (but still enjoyable) espionage flick.
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Following on the heels of his previous action film, 1972's The Mechanic with Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, British filmmaker Michael (Death Wish) Winner reunited with the star of his first American project ‒ the one and only Burt Lancaster ‒ for a similarly-themed tale of espionage, double-crossin' secret agents, paid assassins, and looped dialogue. The result was 1973's Scorpio: a title that may have been carefully chosen to subtly associate audiences with yet another action film ‒ 1971's Dirty Harry, wherein Clint Eastwood matched wits (and barrel sizes) with a Zodiac-patterned serial killer named "Scorpio." And while Scorpio's limitations

Jaco DVD Review: Tribute to a Jazz Legend

Jaco is a balanced and compassionate look at the legendary jazz bassist.
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“It’s not about bass playing, it’s about being a storyteller.” The documentary Jaco traces the life of iconic jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, from his childhood in Florida and first gigs as a teenager to his innovative style of bass playing, work with Weather Report, and his untimely death at age 35. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, the documentary’s producer, saw Weather Report in 1979, and the experience helped mould his own musical journey. Jaco compiles archival footage, home movies, personal photos and interviews to form a balanced and compassionate look at the groundbreaking musician’s life. Directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen

Criterion's Inside Llewyn Davis is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us one of the Coen Brothers' best films, some influential hip hop, a deadly mountain climb, a deadlier internship, and much more.
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Many times in these pages I’ve mentioned my extraordinary love for both the Criterion Collection and the Coen Brothers. When you put them together, you pretty much have a guaranteed Pick of the Week. Surprisingly, Inside Llewyn Davis is the first time the two have met. You’d think the Coens' films would get the Criterion treatment every time like Wes Anderson films do. Seemingly, their films fit the Criterion niche perfectly. They are quirky, arty, funny and often strangely violent . They are well loved by critics and maintain a relatively small but highly devoted fanbase. I suspect there is

TCM Programming Alert for Week of 01-18-16

If you watch TCM, there's no way out of seeing quality films.
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This week's highlights at TCM suggests that films don't have to be old to be considered classics. African American Coming-of-Age: Sounder! (1972) Monday, Jan. 18 at 10:00 p.m. (ET) Black sharecroppers during the Depression fight to get their children a decent education. Robert Osborne's Picks: Penny Serenade (1941) Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 9:45 p.m. (ET) A woman on the verge of divorce recalls her heartbreaking attempts to adopt a child. Star of the Month: Fred MacMurray - The Apartment (1960) Wednesday, Jan. 20 at 10:15 p.m. (ET) An aspiring executive lets his bosses use his apartment for assignations, only to

Criterion Announces April 2016 Releases

Something old, something new...
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Next April, the Criterion Collection expands with four new entries. They are Howard Hawks' Only Angels Have Wings, four films about John F. Kennedy by Robert Drew & Associates, Christian Petzold's Phoenix, and Whit Stillman's Barcelona, which is part of A Whit Stillman Trilogy set. Also, David Lean's Brief Encounter gets a standalone release. Read on to learn more about them. Only Angels Have Wings (#806) out Apr 12 Electrified by the verbal wit and visual craftsmanship of the great Howard Hawks, Only Angels Have Wings stars Jean Arthur as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for

David Bowie: Station to Station (Special Edition) Album Review: A Great Piece of Work

Station to Station is special on its own, and the Special Edition is well worth owning for the live album.
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Station to Station is Bowie’s tenth album. Considered a transitional album as its title indicates, it blends his musical past and future as elements of funk and soul from Young Americans commingle with the synthesizers and electronic sounds that would soon appear on his Berlin Trilogy. In 2010, it was re-released in expanded formats. The album opens with a brief audio prologue as a train moves across the speakers on the title track. Bowie sings of “The return of the Thin White Duke/ Throwing darts in lovers’ eyes,” reflecting the coldness the persona would traffic in during its existence. The

2016 Academy Award Nominations Have Been Announced

Who is bringing Oscar home this year?
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[Updated with winners in bold.] The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have revealed their nominees for outstanding film achievement of 2015. Alejandro G. Iñarritu's The Revenant leads the roster with 12 nominations. Hosted by Chris Rock, the Oscars will be presented on Sunday, February 28, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center and televised live on the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The nominees (with links to our reviews) are: Best Picture The Big Short Bridge of Spies Brooklyn Mad Max: Fury Road The Martian The Revenant Room Spotlight Best Actor

My Favorite David Bowie Songs

Bowie made many musical masterpieces, but it was hard to list them all. These are just a few that really spoke to me.
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David Bowie was a genius, a rebel, a god, and a musical innovator who had no equal. He was brilliant, sexy, and unclassifiable; he was also quite radical. Just like the Beatles, his music defined and refined a generation. When I first saw him, he was like a beacon of light, this beautiful creature who didn't look like anyone I had ever seen. When I first heard his voice, chills went up and down my back like never before. Who was this handsome, androgynous man? Where did he come from? I decided to pick a few of these songs that

Never a Dull Moment (1950) DVD Review: Why You Never Say Never

Irene Dunne and Fred MacMurray do their best with subpar situational comedy material in this recent obscurity from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Based on the 1943 book Who Could Ask for Anything More? by composer Kay Swift ‒ best known to today's "classic" music enthusiasts (read: people who hang out in jazz bars) as the composer of the timeless standard "Can't We Be Friends?" ‒ 1950's Never a Dull Moment finds Irene Dunne as Kay Kingsley: a fictionalized variation of her real-life counterpart, who, as our story opens, is a popular singer/songwriter in bustling New York City. During a charity rodeo event (in NYC) she helped to organize, she catches the eye of a simple, widowed father of two cowboy/rancher named Chris

Beasts of No Nation Movie Review: Beautiful Brutality

Not my favorite film of the year, but a bold and unbridled effort nonetheless.
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“I am thinking that the only way not to be fighting is to be dying.” Cary Joji Fukunaga’s most recent directorial effort, Beasts of No Nation is a colorful triumph of cinematic storytelling. Fukunaga’s bold insistence to be party to every aspect of filmmaking (director, screenwriter, cinematographer, producer) clearly benefits his ability to share his vision with an audience; and displays his art as something perhaps more complete than what would have been created had he worn only his director’s hat. Fukunaga’s latest work tells the story of Agu (Abraham Attah), a young boy thrust into the role of soldier

David Bowie, The Heart's Filthy Lesson, Se7en, and Me

A creepy song on the end credits of a creepy movie created a lifetime fan.
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David Fincher led me to David Bowie. I doubt that was a typical path to the Thin White Duke, but it's how I got there. I went to watch Se7en because the review in the Daily News said it should have gotten an NC-17 for its grisly crime scenes, so that was something I had to see. This was back when it was easier for young and impressionable teens to get into R-rated movies (two years later I would be barred from seeing Lost Highway at the same theater, even though I was 17 - I just couldn't prove it.)

Broken Lance Blu-ray Review: The Open Range (Robert) Wagnerian Opera

Twilight Time presents the Oscar-winning western remake that inspired even more movies.
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While it isn't entirely uncommon for a contemporary film to be remade into a western (it's much more common to see a western remade into something modern, or sometimes, even futuristic), it's extremely rare to see different filmed versions of the same story from the same screenwriter. The second of four adaptations (three being cinematic, the other made for TV) based on Pulitzer Prize winner Jerome Weidman's I'll Never Go Home Any More (1949), 1954's Broken Lance was the second time the original story had been transformed for the silver screen by Philip Yordan (King of Kings, El Cid) ‒

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny Deliver the Gift of the Rifftrax Experience

And treat yo'self to some Rifftrax this month.
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Someone wiser than me said, "Pay for experiences not things." I love movies. But I love the experience of going to the theater just as much, if not more. I think there's a communal experience to watching in the dark with friends and strangers. Plus, the lack of temptations to look at other screens, flip to another channel, check on the game, or even just get up and go get another beer goes towards a greater enjoyment of the film. I like the laser focus I can get in a theater compared to my movie ADD at home. For years,

Tenderness of The Wolves Blu-ray Review: Not What You Expect, But Better

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's company make a surprisingly gentle serial killer movie.
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Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by serial killers. There is something so uniquely interesting about someone who murders not for money, revenge, jealousy, rage, or any other understandable motive but for the pure pleasure or murdering itself. It is of course horrendously horrible, but terribly fascinating as well. One such person I’d not heard of until I watched this film was Fritz Haarmann who lived and killed in Hanover, Germany in the period between the World Wars. He sexually assaulted, mutilated, dismembered, possibly ate, and almost certainly sold for meat a minimum of 24 boys all while

Remembering David Bowie and 'Under Pressure'

RIP to the Thin White Duke.
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Being an only child, but having some hip uncles who were more like older brothers, I got exposed to a lot of great musical artists at a very early age. One of those musicians was David Bowie. Not unlike Prince after him, Bowie was one of those performers who were so diverse, it was nearly impossible to like everything he did (You can’t please all of the people all of the time), but when he hit the mark, he hit it hard. Being a Queen fan as well, I was intrigued when I saw that the new track on the

The Martian is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two Criterions, a Victorian Sherlock, a hacking Robot, and Ridley Scott once again making great films.
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I subscribed to the auteur theory before I even knew what that was. That is to say as I began to take films seriously, I naturally gravitated towards directors moreso than genres, stories and actors. There are certain directors whose films get me excited by the mere fact that it was directed by them whether or not anything else about the pictures is interesting to me at all. I’ll see anything by people like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers no matter if the stories or actors or anything else excites me about it. So much more is

David Bowie's 'Life on Mars?' Signified the Arrival of an Innovator

Bowie defied convention musically and visually, intertwining rock and film in a way no other artist will equal.
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Against a blindingly white background, a man stands alone. Clad in a sky-blue suit and sporting technicolor makeup, the figure appears as if he has stepped out of a watercolor painting. Occasionally swinging a leg back and forth, he stares into the camera, lip synching the words to a sparsely arranged song. In extreme closeups, the singer evokes the lyrics’ complex imagery through facial expressions. Is this short clip a viral video from 2016? No, it is David Bowie’s video for “Life on Mars?” released in 1973. Over four decades later, the song and clip seem timeless yet strikingly modern.

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 9 DVD Review: Bogart's Face and Bette Davis Eyes

The Warner Archive Collection ups the ante with their latest release of Pre-Code rarities, adding a fifth bonus flick into the fray.
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While the bulk of the Warner Archive Collection's output varies on the whole, there are numerous riches lurking within the corners of the Warner/MGM vaults that hail from a time before classic Hollywood censorship took hold. As such, every time another Forbidden Hollywood set rears its head from the dusty confines of our filmic past (read my assessment of the previous set here), I can't help but wonder what sort of treasures lie in store for classic movie enthusiasts. For their late 2015 release of Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 9, the folks at the WAC decided to not only treat us

TCM Programming Alert for Week of 01-11-16

What are you watching this week?
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The top highlights of the week include a number of classics, such as Bonnie and Clyde, Gone with the Wind, and Double Indemnity with star of the month, Fred MacMurray. Guest Programmer: Dick Guttman - Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Monday, Jan. 11 at 10:30 p.m. (ET) The legendary bank robbers run riot in the South of the 1930s. The Little Fugitive (1953) Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) Fearing he has killed his older brother, a boy runs off to Coney Island Star of the Month: Fred MacMurray - Double Indemnity (1944) Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 8:00 p.m. (ET)

It's in the Air (1935) DVD Review: Benny and the Debts

The Warner Archive Collection unties a rare Jack Benny comedy featuring the even rarer sight of Ted Healy playing the stooge.
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A melting pot of old vaudevillians and rising wisecrackers from all over the map, MGM's 1935 comedy It's in the Air finds inspiration from several forms of thieves within the confines of civilized society: advertisers, confidence tricksters, and the IRS. Here, the great Jack Benny stars as a con man in the big city who dreams of retiring from what he calls a living and reuniting with his beautiful estranged wife, but who is actuality stuck with that jestful sally of a fraudster Ted Healy as his running mate. And run, they do ‒ especially once Internal Revenue Service agent

Mojave Movie Review: Death and Pretension in the Desert

Despite its talent, Mojave trades on incomprehension as opposed to tension.
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Nothing good ever happens in the desert, or at least that's the ultimate message in director/screenwriter William Monahan's latest film, Mojave. Well-regarded as the screenwriter of Martin Scorsese's gritty crime drama, The Departed, Monahan takes a shot at his own gritty crime drama, eschewing bullets and F-bombs for grand soliloquies about life and a scenery-chewing performance from Oscar Isaac. Hollywood screenwriter Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself disillusioned and adrift. A trip to the Mojave desert is hoped to clear his mind until he meets the mysterious Jack (Isaac), a shiftless drifter with devious intentions. A moment involving murder places Thomas

Man-Proof DVD Review: Pidegon Shoots Down Tone Deaf Loy

The Warner Archive Collection unveils an uneven war of the sexes dramedy featuring an unbeatable cast.
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We all know the story: boy finds girl, boy finds another girl to run off and marry, first girl gets drunk at boy's wedding. And that's just the beginning of Richard (Jailhouse Rock, The Scorpio Letters) Thorpe's 1938 B-romance (no, I did not say "bromance," brahs), Man-Proof. Here, the one and only Myrna Loy ‒ diving into her work in order to fight the still-fresh pain of losing her friend, legendary sex symbol Jean Harlow ‒ stars as a surprisingly headstrong for the late 1930s lass named Mimi Swift, daughter of prominent American romance novelist Meg Swift (Nana Bryant), who

TV Review: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: 'Chardee Macdennis 2: Electric Boogaloo'

The season premiere finds the Gang involved in the typical outrageous high jinks fans have grown accustomed to and been delighted by.
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The Gang returns to FXX for their 11th season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and as the season premiere indicates Mac (creator/executive producer Rob McElhenney), Dennis (executive producer Glenn Howerton), Charlie (executive producer Charlie Day), Dee (Kaitlin Olson), and Frank (Danny DeVito) continue their narcissistic, dimwitted, doomed adventures at the expense of each other. This isn’t a show for everyone because the main characters are frequently horrible people who frequently do horrible things, but those who like their comedy dark should enjoy it. "Chardee MacDennis 2: Electric Boogaloo" is a follow-up to the Season 7 episode, "Chardee MacDennis: The

Grant, Hepburn, Taylor, Streisand, and Boston Blackie Headline getTV in January

Highlights include Rita Hayworth in Gilda, the 40th Anniversary of Murder by Death, and Katharine Hepburn & Liz Taylor in Suddenly, Last Summer.
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Press release: getTV opens the New Year with a January programming lineup packed with acclaimed dramas and beloved favorites, airing in primetime all month long. The roster features stunts starring Barbra Streisand and Rita Hayworth, as well as a month of Boston Blackie serial thrillers; a night of Cary Grant classics; a 40th Anniversary celebration of MURDER BY DEATH; and Golden Age icons Katharine Hepburn and Liz Taylor in SUDDENLY, LAST SUMMER. Highlights of getTV’s January programming lineup are as follows: FUNNY LADY (1975)—Wed., Jan. 6 at 8 p.m. ET Barbra Streisand brings the story of Vaudeville legend Fanny Brice

The Mad Genius / The Great Man Votes DVD Reviews: Unburiedmore

The Warner Archive Collection digs up two forgotten starring vehicles of cinematic titan, John Barrymore.
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What's in a name? These days, not a whole heck of a lot. We've witnessed the offspring, the grandchildren, and various poor relations try to follow in the footprints of their much more famous ancestors. The result? Filmic outputs that have, more often than nought, wound up as experiments on Mystery Science Theater 3000 or lampooned in equally lamentable Hollywood in-jokes such as Bowfinger. And while the bulk of modern actress Drew Barrymore's nominations are mostly in association with her unforgivable multiple appearances in movies starring Adam Sandler (and which are commonly limited to MTV Music Awards and Golden Razzies),

Book Review: The Twilight Zone FAQ by Dave Thompson

An uneven, yet informative look into a dimension of sight and sound.
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The Twilight Zone… a dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. A land of shadow and substance; of things and ideas. Also, a pretty great television show that ran for a total of five groundbreaking seasons and left an indelible mark on popular culture. In The Twilight Zone FAQ, author Dave Thompson takes a look back on this thought-provoking series, reflecting on its birth and creation in the mind of the then-unknown Rod Serling, and following along as it went on to become a cultural touchstone and the blueprint for so many fantasy television series, movies,

Sicario is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some cool sounding action, high-wire acts, zombies, detectives, Quentin Tarantino inspirations' and much more.
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A great big thanks to Davy for helping me out last week. Extra credit since I gave him about a day's notice. At least it was an easy week for him to cover. The last week of the year always brings out very little as the studios have all shot their wads for the Christmas shoppers and they’ve not yet had time to recharge for the new year. This week brings us quite a few things I’m finding interesting though most of it was found to be disappointing by critics and audiences alike. Still there’s a lot of it and

Murder in the Private Car DVD Review: A Pre-Code Mulligan Stew

Wisecracking Charles Ruggles and Una Merkel highlight this odd comedy-romance-mystery that is as outdated as rail travel itself.
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An out of control railroad car inhabited by a loose gorilla and runaway madman, and crazy madcap comedy are the ingredients that make up the mulligan stew of early cinema that is known as Murder in the Private Car, now available for the first time on home video from the Warner Archive Collection. An oddity from engine to caboose, the 1934 Pre-Code offering from MGM finds one of America's premium forgotten comediennes, Una Merkel, as its leading wisecracking lady, who is joined on-screen by another unremembered great of the silver screen, Mr. Charles Ruggles. The weird part about that, of

T&A Take on TV 2015

A thoughtful and abstract look at the best and worst of TV in 2015.
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In which Shawn and Kim reflect on their favorite televison programs and the disappointments. Shawn: We've had a few opportunities in 2015 to write about the TV shows that entertained and frustrated us. But I thought it would be good to put a bow on the year with the Best and Worst moments of TV 2015. In no particular order. BEST MOMENTS 1.) THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) - We started the year with Tyreese's death and end up with the death of Deanna. In between, we had developments that I didn't agree with and ones that intrigued me. I know

Deathgasm Blu-ray Review: Good, Brutal Fun

Maybe not quite my favorite horror-comedy, but definitely a good watch nonetheless.
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Growing up, I remember hearing some adults referring to heavy metal music (and its offshoots) as "devil music." In Deathgasm, it turns out they're right. It kicks off with headbanger Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) bringing the viewer up to speed on how he came to live with his ultra-Christian aunt and uncle and his preppy douchebag bully of a cousin. The narration sets the stage, and probably trimmed some runtime, but it ensures the pace doesn't drag with exposition. This is a horror-comedy, after all. If something isn't gushing guts or making me laugh, it needs to step aside. Struggling to

TCM Programming Alert for Week of 01-04-16

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The top highlights of the first full week of 2016 include a variety of monsters from criminals to stage mothers. There's also King Kong. Behold a Pale Horse (1964) Monday, Jan. 4 at 10:45 p.m. (ET) A Spanish bandit returns from exile to visit his dying mother. King Kong (1933) Tuesday, Jan. 5 at 8:00 p.m. (ET) A film crew discovers the "eighth wonder of the world," a giant prehistoric ape, and brings him back to New York, where he wreaks havoc. Star of the Month: Fred MacMurray - Suddenly It's Spring (1947) Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 11:15 p.m. (ET)

Mistress America Blu-ray Review: The Voice of a Generation

A modern day human psychology lesson, but with smart and insightful humor.
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I am a really big fan of indie films; films that rely on characters and their issues, rather than special effects and explosions. The films of director Noah Baumbach, and especially those with his girlfriend, co-writer, and current muse, Greta Gerwig, actually quenches my thirst for understanding people and their flaws. With Greenberg and Frances Ha, Gerwig has been establishing herself as the indie 'It' girl for quirky, but modern women trying to comes to terms with their real selves, while dealing with their hangups, as well as those of the people around them. The more I see her in

Rage Against The Machine: Live at Finsbury Park Blu-ray Review: Christmas in June

Viewers will be able to testify how great this band is after seeing this concert.
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No matter what one may think of the music spawned from reality TV shows on both sides of the Atlantic, such as American Idol and The X-Factor, it's hard to dispute the success mogul Simon Cowell has had in the music business with the acts he signed from those shows. But that doesn't mean some people aren't frustrated by the state of pop music. Such was the condition married couple Jon and Tracy Morter found themselves in 2009 as Christmas approached because the previous four years the UK Singles Chart Christmas #1 song had been by the winner of The

The Green Inferno Blu-ray Review: A Truly Visceral Experience

Human savagery is the name of the game in Roth's gripping throwback to Italian cannibal flicks.
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As we know, Eli Roth is one of those directors who is kind of a "love him or hate him" filmmaker, making movies that have been reviled and crucified by critics since his cult film Cabin Fever grossed out moviegoers back in 2002. As for me, I absolutely love him because his films successfully assault the audience and refuse to hold back. I have to say that they have the energy of Sam Raimi and the unapologetic gore of Lucio Fulci; they also have actual depths of intelligence that most of those pesky critics fail to realize. So case in

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