October 2017 Archives

The Ballad of Cable Hogue Blu-ray Review: A Bland Western

For its fans, Warner Archive has created a satisfying high-definition presentation with interesting extras about the movie and its director.
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In between The Wild Bunch and Straw Dogs, two films that exemplified his work as a director, Sam Peckinpah made The Ballad of Cable Hogue, a lighthearted Western that has an interesting premise about a man noticing the inevitable change of the American West. Unfortunately, it suffers from a story that takes too long to develop and characters that don't connect with the audience. Bowen (Strother Martin) and Taggart (LQ Jones) strand former partner Cable Hogue (Jason Robards) in the Arizona desert. Cable goes without water for four days, but eventually stumbles upon a water hole. Though scoffed at by

The Dark Tower is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include more horror films for Halloween, some packaged TV for Christmas, and a flopped Stephen King adaptation.
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I’d call myself a casual Stephen King fan. I’ve read maybe half a dozen of his books and seen about as many of his movie adaptations. I’ve always liked him but considering how prolific he is as a writer, I cannot even began to call myself a true believer. Actual fans could argue all day over which of his many books are the best but the general consensus seems to be that his Dark Tower series is up towards the top. To call it an epic is to not understand who Stephen King is as an author. He’s written single

Young Doctors in Love (1982) Blu-ray Review: Do Not Resuscitate

While the talent may have been fresh, it's clear no one in Garry Marshall's soap opera spoof scrubbed up first.
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One might imagine a comedy starring the likes of Michael McKean, Sean Young, Harry Dean Stanton, Patrick Macnee, Dabney Coleman, Ted McGinley, Taylor Negron, Pamela Reed, Saul Rubinek, Michael Richards, Hector Elizondo, Crystal Bernard, and Richard Dean Anderson would be a laugh-a-minute masterpiece. And while I'm sure such a movie exists in an alternate universe somewhere, it has yet to emerge in our reality. One of the first spoofs produced in the wake turbulence of Airplane!, 1982's Young Doctors in Love almost plays like a dirtier, dumber version of Scrubs ‒ right down to being produced by ABC (it was

Book Review: The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard, edited by David A. Goodman

It's as if Jean-Luc Picard wrote it himself.
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Following the success of The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, David A. Goodman explores the background of another well-known and well-respected captain in the Star Trek franchise with The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. The funny thing about it is, from page one until the end, there is a sinking suspicion that Picard is, in fact, a real person, and he wrote the book himself. Or it could have been Patrick Stewart who went under the radar and penned the book while Goodman provided the editing. Alas, neither are true, but Goodman does capture the voice of Picard pretty well, thus

Fathom Events Presents Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

The best movie musical about a flesh-eating plant from outer space hits the big screen again for a limited engagement.
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When I was in college, I worked for the university dinner theater. It was a small university and a small dinner theater with a very small storage space. Sometime before my time, they had launched a production of Little Shop of Horrors. They still had the giant foam-rubber man-eating plant from outer space. Because there was no place to store it during normal days, we just kept it in the auditorium, but when we were putting on a show, we had to carry its large, awkward-tohandle, and very heavy bulk through a small door and into one of the classrooms.

Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago DVD Review: New Documentary Paints an Incomplete Picture of the Band

While interesting, the movie lacks key voices that would have provided a multi-dimensional portrayal of the classic rock group.
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When asked to define Chicago’s sound, saxophonist Walter Parazaider provides this simple summary: “a good rock and roll band with horns.” The band has accomplished that goal in their 50-year-career, from their origins at Chicago’s DePaul University to their '70s heyday through their controversial 1980s productions with David Foster. The documentary Now More Than Ever: The History of Chicago aims to chronicle their story, told through interviews with current members as well as rare home video footage. While it’s an interesting portrait of the band’s tangled history, it is also a one-sided perspective missing some key voices. Director Peter Pardini

Fathom Events and GKids Present Spirited Away

Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning animated classic is a delight on the big screen.
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Spirited Away was my first exploration into the world of Hayao Miyazaki, and it was also the first time I was able to fully appreciate an anime feature. Before then, I had always been kind of hesitant when it came to the genre, since my first exposure was to shows such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon, none of which captured my interest. It wasn’t until watching Spirited Away in a film class that I saw how anime can be as captivating as many of the great American animated features, and, in some cases, have more depth

Avanti! Blu-ray Review: Old Hollywood Could Still Tell a Fine Story in 1972

The premise of Avanti! is simple and reminiscent of some of Billy Wilder's best work.
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The new Kino-Lorber Blu-ray release of Avanti! (1972) intrigues me because it represents an interesting subgenre of films in the early-to-mid '70s. The directors and actors who had come of age in the early days of sound pictures and the Golden Age of Hollywood were anachronisms. Everything they had known about the studio system and making films had changed radically. In this time period, some of our greatest actors and directors were making their last couple films. Avanti! represents the winding down of the career of director, Billy Wilder. A career begun in 1934, this film was only his second

Innocent Blood (1992) Blu-ray Review: A Parisian Vampire in Pittsburgh

The Warner Archive Collection unveils a gorgeous new uncut transfer of John Landis' star-studded horror/action/comedy.
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Where An American Werewolf in London and From Dusk Till Dawn points on a map, John Landis' 1992 vampire horror/action/comedy Innocent Blood would probably be somewhere in-between in terms of its ability to both shock and delight. Set in the magical land of Pittsburgh, the film finds La Femme Nikita beauty Anne Parillaud as Marie, a less-stereotypical (and frequently nude) vampire with a heart. Deeming it an immortal sin to feast upon the innocent, Marie prefers to sink her fangs into the worst society has to offer. Namely, those of the criminal underworld. (Whereas today, she'd likely be draining swamps.)

The Princess Bride 30th Anniversary Fathom Events Review: A Fun Experience

A welcome return to the big screen after all these years.
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Thirty years ago, director Rob Reiner brought to the silver screen a film based on the 1973 novel written by William Goldman. Not only was Reiner a huge fan of the author but felt this novel was the best thing he had written and did everything he could to turn it into a movie. While the screenplay was being kicked around Hollywood by different people, Reiner managed to snag it after he had a one-on-one with the author and received backing from Norman Lear. Keeping to the original idea of having the film feel more like a novel, the story

Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials Deluxe Collection Celebrates a Legendary Entertainer

Featuring more than 37 hours of classic Hope and legendary celebrity guests, this 19-disc set includes 39 specials.
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Press release: Bob Hope, America's greatest entertainer of the 20th century, is celebrated in Thanks for the Memories: The Bob Hope Specials, the most complete collection of his television specials ever assembled! The TV DVD archivists at Time Life have selected the very best of Hope's 250 network specials spanning five decades, many in support of the U.S. Armed Forces, for this ultimate boxed set. Celebrating the legendary and beloved entertainer's legacy, this one-of-a-kind collection is packed with comedy, music, dancing, movie stars, and, of course, Bob's memorable monologues all perfect for wholesome family viewing. Across 19 DVDs, fans will

Creep 2 Movie Review: Another Disturbing Entry into the Mind of a Lonely Murderer

Though not nearly as unnerving as its predecessor, Creep 2 carves new avenues in its look into the mind of a polite serial killer.
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In 2014, director Patrick Brice helmed Creep, a localized found-footage horror movie about two men who meet through an ad. The film opened up questions about gay panic and the nature of the found-footage film, but overall remains an incredibly unsettling horror film with some of the most awkward comedy you'll see. Brice and star Mark Duplass had already intended to turn Creep into a trilogy, and so it is with the release of Creep 2. Though lacking in the cartoony terror of its predecessor, Creep 2 illustrates how the simple switch of a protagonist's gender can unleash a whole

Five Cool Things and The Square (2017)

This week's cool things include Wonder Woman's creator, a Hitchcock comedy, and even stranger things.
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Last week, I noted that I somehow managed to watch quite a few movies even though my in-laws were in town. Well, this week they left and I didn’t watch very many films at all. I spent a little too much time binge-watching a Netflix show to refresh my memory before watching Season Two. I did watch a couple of movies and read a couple of books so let;s get started. Stranger Things If I might be a hipster for a moment, I liked Stranger Things before Stranger Things was cool. Netflix, as is there way, just kind of put

The Honeymooners: Christmas Laughter DVD Review

No denying these episodes are entertaining, but not sure who the intended audience is for this release.
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CBS/Paramount has released a few TV-on-DVD collections focused on Christmas. They include Fraiser, The Brady Bunch, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and The Honeymooners. That last one is an odd choice considering that out of the classic 39 episodes, The Honeymooners only had one related story, "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (#13). Knowing a single episode wouldn't be enough to sell many DVDs, the powers that be included five more, accessible under “Bonus Episodes.” Originating as a comedy sketch on Cavalcade of Stars / The Jackie Gleason Show, The Honeymooners was about Brooklyn bus driver Ralph Kramden (Jackie Gleason), whose get-rich-quick

Festival (1967) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Better Than Woodstock

Documenting the Newport Folk Festival at the height of the folk revival, Festival is a feast for music fans.
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In the early part of the 20th Century, various folklorists, including John Lomax, wandered about the country documenting the songs of the people - folk music. They sought out cowboys and prisoners, former slaves and sharecroppers, and recorded them. In 1952, Harry Smith compiled his favorite songs from these recordings and created The Anthology of American Folk Music. This album reached the ears of folks like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger who recorded some of those songs and started the Great American Folk Revival which hit its peak in the early 1960s. In 1959, music promoter George Wein, who’d had

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972) Blu-ray Review: Rural Murder Italian Style

Lucio Fulci, famous for his gore and zombie films, brings his lurid vision to the Giallo.
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There's an old saying in Classic Hollywood, attributed to Howard Hawks, that a good movie is "three good scenes, no bad scenes." Sometimes I've felt, while watching Italian horror and Giallo movies, particularly Lucio Fulci's, that the rule is "three interesting (and gory) scenes, and who the hell cares what else happens?" Shock and strangeness are paramount, with coherence coming a very distant third. So it was surprising to me, watching Don't Torture a Duckling, that it has a story that can be pieced together with only a few leaps in logic. Don't Torture a Duckling begins with a genuinely

Mansfield 66/67 Movie Review: Jayne's Life Would Have Made a Great Reality Show

A playful, gossipy look at the not-so-unlikely pairing between publicity-seeking actress Jayne Mansfield and Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey.
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Directors Todd Hughes and P. David Ebersole take a quirky approach to the life of actress Jayne Mansfield with the documentary Mansfield 66/67. The film explores the last two years of the actress’ life, a chaotic time marked by a floundering career, rumors of satanic worship, and a gruesome end in a car crash at age 34. Mansfield 66/67 begins with a dance sequence with sequences throughout the film. I’ve never seen interpretive dance used as a storytelling tool in a documentary before, but somehow it fits right in with the "kooky bombshell meets devil worshipper" theme. Like Monroe, Jayne

Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: 'Mercy'

"This was one of the most artsy-fartsy episodes I’ve ever seen on this show." - Kim
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In which Kim and Shawn discuss the type of pants one might wear while watching this zombie show. Kim: “I hope you are wearing your shitting pants!” I’ve spent the past 24 hours trying to figure out how to get across my true feelings about this episode. Several things happened. Several things didn’t. I got laid at the end of the night, so at least that worked out as planned, but I digress. An interesting note about my anticipation of the season opener: I did not have a countdown. I was not suffering any type of withdrawals. There was no,

Popcorn (1991) Blu-ray Review: Hot Buttered Death

Synapse Films turns up the heat on one of early '90s most underrated horror movies.
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Crafted during that curious cusp separating the '80s and '90s, Popcorn initially failed to "pop" with audiences when it first hit theaters in early 1991. In the years that have followed, however, the film has gone on to become a highly-acclaimed cult classic amongst horror film fans. And that is a particularly great feat, considering the production was plagued with many difficulties, including ‒ most notably ‒ the replacement of its director and lead star. Originally intended to be another collaboration between Porky's creator Bob Clark and Cat People (1982) writer Alan Ormsby (who had created several creepy horror classics

The Hidden (1987) Blu-ray Review: The Best Movie John Carpenter Never Made

The Warner Archive Collection proudly delivers this amazing horror/sci-fi/action/comedy hybrid starring young Kyle MacLachlan.
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The epitome of everything that made '80s cinema everlastingly fantastic, Jack Shoulder's cult classic The Hidden is a rare hybrid of horror, sci-fi, action, and comedy. Set in the ghostly shadow of Los Angeles' past, the 1987 film focuses on a parasitical alien lifeform from the infinity beyond with a local affinity for fast sports cars, deadly assault weapons, more money than it needs (since it doesn't actually need any), loud rock music, and a lot of power over others. Yes, there's one of them there allegories present in that particular synopsis; one which not only becomes all the more

Book Review: Little Orphan Annie, Vol. 14 (1948-1950): Sunshine and Shadow by Harold Gray

A fun read for the whole family.
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When I last checked in with Little Orphan Annie (in Volume 10), she was busy fighting the war (World War II that is for those of you who don’t keep up with timelines of little red-haired girls in comic strips). With the war over, Annie spends the bulk of Volume 14 pursuing various business ventures, sparring with little mafia hoodlums, befriending a gypsy, taking on book burners, and having lots of other adventures. Created in 1924 by Harold Gray, Little Orphan Annie ran as a daily newspaper strip until its cancellation in 2010. At its height, it was one of

The Big Knife (1955) Blu-ray Review: Cuts Like a Life

Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, and a barely restrained Rod Steiger star in this dark exposé of '50s Hollywood from Arrow Academy.
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Trying to classify The Big Knife as one particular film genre over another isn't an easy task. But then, there weren't too many movies in the 1950s which brought up the possibilities of Hollywood corruption and cover-ups to light. Nowadays ‒ especially in the wake of the once-powerful movie mogul Harvey Weinstein's fall from the limelight ‒ it's easier for the public to imagine the sort of depths studio executives would sink to. And that's precisely the sort of pickle The Big Knife's tormented protagonist Charlie Castle is up against in this 1955 "exposé" from the acclaimed director of Kiss

Thoughtful & Abstract Take on TV 2017

Learn what Shawn and Kim have been watching this year.
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In which Shawn and Kim take a breath before The Walking Dead starts up again to look at what is happening in their TV worlds. Shawn: Been a long time since we checked in on TV shows, my friend. Leaving out Preacher and The Walking Dead since I feel there will be more to be written on them soon - I thought I'd catch up with a list of what's been distracting me over the Summer and Fall. Making a straight up "Best" list is too easy so I thought I'd make it more of a "Best, Meh, Worst" list

The Corpse Grinders is the Pick of the Week

This week's new blu-ray releases include some really terrible (and terribly awesome) looking horror, the last of the Planet of the Apes trilogy, and more.
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I've often wondered why I like bad movies. Not even bad movies, but bad horror movies, which are set apart on the bad-movie scale. Why do I enjoy watching people be torn apart in the most violent, gore-filled way? What makes a bloody decapitation or a close-up on a knife slicing the skin so much fun to watch? I abhor violence in real life but show me a man getting hacked to death on the big or little screen and I'm in my happy place. I don't have a good answer for that. Part of it is an appreciation of

Geostorm in 4DX Review: If You Intend to Weather This Storm, Do It in 4DX

The visual effects are so captivating, I wouldn't be surprised to hear the phrase “Oscar-nominated Geostorm” next year.
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Geostorm marks the directorial debut of Dean Devlin, screenwriter and producer of films such as Independence Day and Godzilla (1998). It is a disaster movie about the hijacking of a weather-control satellite system known as "Dutch Boy", but the real disaster is Devlin's terrible script. Led by the United States, an international coalition works together to combat climate change with the creation of "Dutch Boy", but when it's brought online without proper approval to avert a disaster, its designer and International Climate Space Station commander Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) is brought before Congress. Jake doesn't take kindly to a Senator's

Justice League Action Season 1 Part 1 DVD Review: More Action, Less Filler

It’s like eating your dessert without having dinner.
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It’s been ten years since the last animated series of our favorite DC superheroes was regularly on the air. Justice League ran from 2001 to 2004 and was quickly followed up by its predecessor Justice League Unlimited, which expanded the roster of characters and ran until 2006. The two shows were praised by critics and loved by fans. Not only did it bring beloved characters to the masses, but it did so with well-drawn animation and quality storylines. After this ten-year hiatus and a live action Justice League feature film about to debut in theatres, it must have seemed like

The Ambassador (1984) Blu-ray Review: When Exploitation Gets Political

Kino Lorber unleashes some Cannon Films cheese starring a boozed-up Robert Mitchum and a gravely-ill Rock Hudson.
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One of two adaptations of Elmore Leonard's 52 Pick-Up produced and released by Cannon Films in the mid '80s, any resemblance between J. Lee Thompson's The Ambassador and John Frankenheimer's subsequent 1986 version (which starred Roy Scheider and Ann-Margret) ends with the basic storyline. Set in sand-blasted, terror-torn Middle East, where all sides wage war against each other on a daily basis, the film finds the great Robert Mitchum ‒ during his "I'm Just Doing This for the Free Booze" point in his long career ‒ as a U.S. Ambassador who just wants everyone to get together, talk their issues

The Lift (1983) / Down (2001) Blu-ray Reviews: Same Shaft, Different Play

Blue Underground opens the doors to Dick Maas' epically strange tale of a killer elevator, as well as his poorly-timed Americanized remake.
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"Take the stairs! Take the stairs! For God's sake, take the stairs!!" Elevators are the worst, aren't they? I mean, you sit there, waiting for a soulless metal box to drop ‒ or ascend ‒ only to have to stuff yourselves in with various groups of strangers whose various odors you'd rather not have to breathe in. But what happens when that metal box suddenly develops a soul, but remains utterly cold and heartless? That was the sorta-kinda premise behind one of Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas' greatest successes, 1983's De Lift. A surprise hit around the world (it even wound

Five Cool Things and The Tragically Hip

Cool things this week include two remakes, Grateful Deed members covering the Beatles, Italian horror, and more.
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My in-laws came in for a visit this week. They are lovely people and I always enjoy their time here, but it definitely changes the way I consume my pop culture. Normally, that means that I wind up watching a lot less movies as we tend to do activities or visit instead of turning on the TV. This week we kept ourselves pretty busy in the afternoons/early evenings but were wore out by the time I put the daughter to bed. Which meant we watched a movie pretty much every late evening. Let’s get to it, shall we? The Breaking

Alice Cooper: Welcome to My Nightmare Special Edition DVD Review: Highly Recommended

A welcome addition to the collection of any Alice Cooper fan.
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Vincent Furnier was the lead singer of the band of Alice Cooper and also went by the name Alice Cooper. After seven studio albums and the band starting to fracture, Furnier legally changed his name to Alice Cooper and became a solo artist with the release of the concept album, Welcome to My Nightmare, about the nightmares of a child named Steven. It was supported by a tour, of which two shows at London's Wembley Arena on September 11-12, 1975 were recorded for the concert film of the same name, which Eagle Rock Entertainment has released and paired it with

Three O'Clock High Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: An '80s Classic That Too Many People Haven't Seen

In 1986, Ferris Bueller had a day where everything just kept working out for him. A year later, Jerry Mitchell had a day where nothing seems to work out for him.
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Three O’Clock High makes my list of great movies that too many people haven’t seen with other films such as Robinson Crusoe on Mars and The Man From Snowy River, and it remains a wonderful film that flounders in obscurity. A year before he picked up his young gun, Casey Siemaszko combed his thinning hair, threw on some high-school threads, and became Jerry Mitchell, a young man who is relatable to many as is the situation depicted in Three O’Clock High. Jerry awkwardly gets introduced to Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson), the embodiment of the worst high-school bully imaginable. Buddy decides

Vampyr Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Come for the Film, Stay for the Book

The film excels at creepy atmosphere, but the included source novel is the more entertaining story.
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Although Vampyr was released way back in 1932, it isn’t the first vampire film, as it was released after the better-known Nosferatu and Dracula. It does have a fascinating production story though, perhaps more interesting than the film itself. The film was co-written and directed by Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, but due to the nearly non-existent Danish film industry he produced the film in France in German, French, and English languages. All audio was dubbed after filming, but Dreyer filmed all dialogue scenes with his actors speaking in each of the three languages so that their mouth movements would

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) Blu-ray Review: It Happened One Time

Odd, compelling, and strangely satisfying, this unique and controversial film returns to shock contemporary audiences for entirely different reasons.
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Hailing from that time before the Southern Gothic tale somehow transformed into hicksploitation, Suddenly, Last Summer extends from the creative talents of both Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal and co-stars Montgomery Clift. That right there should indicate to most out-ward viewers there will be a certain subject matter hidden in the story's proverbial closet. In the hands of The Barefoot Contessa writer/director Joseph L. Mankiewicz, however, the subdued element of homosexuality is about as subtle as, well, Liberace. And yet, somehow, they got away with it in 1959, mainly thanks to an element many exploitation filmmakers of the time would

Terror in a Texas Town (1958) Blu-ray Review: Swedish Sterling Slays Slinger

One of Dalton Trumbo's last pseudonymous screenplays before the blacklist was broken, this is a stylish Western noir.
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Watching older movies, it's fun to remember sometimes how much all media is created as much by the times as it is by its creators. A lot of times, this is basically what reviewers mean when they call something 'dated' - it looks like the time it's from. Timelessness is overrated, to my mind, and highly subjective, anyway. Terror in a Texas Town, a Western that plays a little like a film noir, shows signs of being a movie that was made very much with television in the back of its mind. The opening sequence of the movie shows Sterling

Spider-Man: Homecoming is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a web-crawling superhero, a couple of Criterions, some raunchy ladies, and several nice boxed sets.
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Towards the end of Captain America: Civil War, there is a sweeping scene in which Captain America and Black Widow prepare to train War Machine, Vision, Falcon, and Scarlet Witch to be new Avengers. It was a "passing of the torch" moment. Truth is, over the last decade and dozens of films. the old Avengers are getting, well, old. The actors are all getting tired of playing the same characters and I suspect many fans are ready to move on as well. Marvel has constantly been expanding their cinematic universe and it seems they are preparing to allow some of

Criterion Announces January 2018 Releases

You might want to exchange your holiday presents for these.
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Criterion rings in 2018 with six titles in January. New to the collection are John Hughes' The Breakfast Club; Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake; and two by G. W. Pabst, Westfront 1918 and Kameradschaft. Getting an HD upgrade is John Ford's Young Mr. Lincoln. There will also be another entry in the Eclipse Series, #45 offers four films from French director Claude Autant-Lara Read on to learn more about them. The Breakfast Club (#905) out Jan 2 What happens when you put five strangers in Saturday detention? Badass posturing, gleeful misbehavior, and a potent dose of angst. With this exuberant

Ernie Kovacs: Take A Good Look: The Definitve Collection DVD Review

A treat for fans of Kovacs and this era of television.
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Take A Good Look, Ernie Kovacs' comedic twist on the "Guess Who?" game-show genre, most notably What's My Line?, aired 53 episodes on ABC Thursday nights from October 1959 through to March 16, 1961. This seven-disc set from Shout Factory presents the 49 episodes that still exist. The show was sponsored by Dutch Masters, and Kovacs appears in commercials for them and smokes cigars throughout the programs. Coming from Kovacs, it should be no surprise that the show is a very silly affair. The celebrity panel needs to identify the mystery guests "who've done something that put them in the

The Suspicious Death of a Minor Blu-ray Review: Two Genres, One Film

An oddball mix of crime drama and horror (with heavy doses of slapsstick thrown in) make for an interesting mix.
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As I have been watching and reviewing more and more Italian films, I have come to realize that I tend to lump a couple of genres in together. Certainly, I use "giallo" and "Italian horror" interchangeably even though they aren’t always the same thing. "Giallo" literally means “yellow” in Italian and comes from a type of cheap mystery novel published in Italy that came in a yellow cover. Many of those stories were made into cheap Italian films, which started as fairly straight forward crime thrillers but over time became more lurid and graphically violent with increasing horror elements. It's

The Brady Bunch / Sabrina the Teenage Witch Christmas DVDs Giveaway

Never too early to start winning Xmas stuff.
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Cinema Sentries is teaming up with CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution to award one lucky reader a prize pack of A Very Brady Christmas and Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Christmas Episodes, both on DVD and available now. For those wanting to learn more, read below: A Very Brady Christmas: 'Tis the season for the Bradys! Mike, Carol, Marcia, Greg, Alice, and even more of your favorites from the iconic television series are home for the holidays! A Very Brady Christmas is a heartfelt comedy that proves no matter how many years pass or how many miles

The House (2017) Blu-ray Review: Silly but Slight

The ensemble generates laughs, but the movie feels like watching improv actors early in the workshop phase rather than a polished product.
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From the writers of Neighbors (2014), The House (2017) is a silly comedy about two parents trying to raise money for their daughter's college tuition through an illegal home casino. The script is slight, coming off like an outline about the characters and scenes because there's not much substance to either. It's amusing but not very memorable. When the town pulls its scholarship fund to build a massive pool complex, Scott and Kate Johansen (Will Ferell and Amy Poehler) aren't sure how they are going to be able to afford to send their daughter to Bucknell. Their pal Frank (Jason

The Beguiled (2017) Blu-ray Review: Coppola Beguiles Viewers

Don’t let the period costumes scare you away; this film is a spellbinding thriller that transcends its setting.
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Sofia Coppola’s latest project is a remake of an old Clint Eastwood film based on a novel, and at first glance seems like an odd choice for her due to its Civil War setting and dramatic thriller genre. She proves to have made an astute decision with this mesmerizing film, leading to her best director win at Cannes this year. While the film seems to have been largely ignored at the U.S. box office, this new Blu-ray release will hopefully help it find its well-deserved audience. When an injured Union soldier finds refuge at an isolated girls’ boarding school in

Five Cool Things and The Last Jedi Trailer

This week's cool things include Italian horror, Brian De Palma horror, feminist horror, and a Jedi.
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Hi, remember me? I’m your local writer who talks about new releases and cool things each week. Except for the last couple of weeks when I’ve been absent. A big thanks to Gordon for filling in. I won’t bore you with the details except to say it's been crazy in my real life with work, a busted computer and, well, memory lapses. Let's just say this Tuesday came and I actually thought I’d written a Pick of the Week until I realized that Baby Driver was out and I hadn’t mentioned it. Then I looked it up and I hadn’t

All the Sins of Sodom / Vibrations (1968) Blu-ray Review: The Dawn of Erotica

Film Movement has quite a pair to offer, just as all of Joe Sarno's actresses do in this two-fer of classic sensual cinema.
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If you've ever found yourself sitting in a darkened room with only the light of a saucy softcore selection flickering away before you, you have Joe Sarno to thank for it. A true pioneer of sexploitation cinema, the late New York City native was one of the first filmmakers to chip away at the barriers which had previously separated us from such taboo elements as birthday suits. And two of his many contributions to what would eventually go on to be known as "softcore" are on full parade here in this titillating double feature from Film Movement, both of which

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends: The Complete Collection DVD Review

At nearly 29 hours, it offers a lot of laughs for fans of Carson, comedy, and classic television.
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Over the summer, Time Life released a three-disc Johnny and Friends set featuring Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Eddie Murphy. Those three discs (Volumes 2, 7, and 10) are part of this 10-disc set and were previously reviewed. The remaining discs focus on Don Rickles, David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Burt Reynolds, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jim Fowler. As with previous Carson releases, the complete shows can be watched with vintage commercials and may have technical flaws, which are noted. Volume 1 features Don Rickles on November 14, 1973 and January 6, 1976. On '73, the insult comic followed retiring

Phenomena (1985) Blu-ray Review: Argento at His Most Bewildering

Synapse Films releases Il Maestro's bizarre cult classic in three different forms, including the rare U.S. "Creepers" cut.
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One of Dario Argento's most eclectic contributions to the European horror movie boom of the 1980s, Phenomena is something like an Italian cinematic variation of paella with just a dash of LSD to enhance the flavor. Equal parts giallo, horror, and a lot of other interesting juicy bits of meat, the very strange story finds young Jennifer Connelly as Jennifer Corvino, daughter of an (unseen) American movie star. Sent to a prestigious Swiss boarding school whilst daddy dearest is off shooting a flick in the Philippines (presumably with Bruno Mattei), Jennifer soon discovers she has picked a rather cumbersome time

A Fish Called Wanda Special Edition Blu-ray Review: Filled with Amazing Performances and Genuinely Funny Premises

Catching this new release would be a great investment for both super fan and those who are going fishing for the first time.
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Just short of the film's 30th anniversary, Arrow Video sends a Special Edition of the classic comedy A Fish Called Wanda to store shelves and there is plenty here to be excited about. Originally released in theatres in 1988, it was a sleeper hit amongst competition such as Rain Man, Big, Die Hard, Twins, and…well, Cocktail. With tremendous word of mouth, and Roger Ebert proclaiming Wanda, “The funniest movie I have seen in a long time,” John Cleese had a huge hit on his hands. Cleese, who wrote and stars in the film, manages to take some Monty Pythonesque ideas,

Book Review: Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji by Tom Mes

A loving, informative reading on the films of a Japanese icon.
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You first notice the long, straight black hair. Then you see her body: thin, straight, erect. You look past the blade in her hand and gaze into those eyes. Those haunting, cold, beautiful, deadly eyes. This is Meiko Kaji, she’s a fanboy fantasy. A cult Japanese film star beloved by genre fans everywhere and muse to Quentin Tarantino. She starred in nearly 100 films in her long career but she’s best known for her role as the assassin in Lady Snowblood, the murderious Sasori from the Female Convict 701: Scorpion series and a rebel in the Stray Cat Rock films.

Certain Women Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Truly Amazing Film

A quiet, but powerful mediation on the Western crossroads and the women who inhabit them.
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When it comes to filmmaking, from the past to the present, it is always men at the forefront. However, and rightly so, women have been very important and essential to cinematic storytelling. And then there is the matter of American independent cinema, which has been quite the match for female filmmakers, and director Kelly Reichardt is one of the most astute and easily influential of the "Female New Wave." With her 2016 miracle of a movie, Certain Women, she continues to make it crystal clear that her unique approach to craft and substance sublimely haunts film. Adapted from three short

Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland DVD Review: Singer's Final Years Explored

While the film presents a largely sympathetic portrait of the reclusive star's last years, it never quite captures Jackson's struggles during that period.
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Filming a biopic is fraught with difficulty. How can a writer and director accurately portray an international icon onscreen? Few Beatles films have adequately captured the complex personality of John Lennon, while Elvis Presley-themed movies have to walk a fine line between real life and caricature. In addition, are the screenwriters drawing from respected source material, or from authors with an axe to grind? These questions again surface while viewing the Lifetime movie Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland, set for release on DVD on October 10. While it presents a largely sympathetic portrait of the reclusive star’s last years, it

The Legend of the Holy Drinker Blu-ray Review: Alcoholism is Beautiful

Almost nothing happens at a languid pace, but Rutger Hauer's performance is captivating.
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An elderly, well-dressed, well-kept man (Anthony Quayle) walks down some steps to the banks of the Seine. There, he meets Andreas (Rutger Hauer), a younger, well-dressed but decidedly less-kept man who has clearly seen better days. The older man tells the younger about how he is wealthy but that upon reading about Saint Thérèse, he has decided to live a life of poverty and charity. He can see that Andreas has fallen on hard times and offers him 200 francs. At first, Andreas refuses, but then is persuaded. He is a man of honor and only takes the money as

David Lynch: The Art Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: With Chemicals, He Points

A must own for any fans of David Lynch.
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I remember my first encounter with a David Lynch film was in 2004 during my Introduction to Film class at Butte Community College in Oroville, CA. As part of the curriculum, we were required to watch Lynch’s debut film, Eraserhead, of which I wasn’t aware until then. I remember being disturbed by the movie, and a lot of my classmates walked out shortly after the film had started. I stayed, and I ended up falling for this odd film, even though I had trouble eating chicken afterward because of one particular scene. I swore I wouldn’t watch the film again,

Doctor Who Comes to the Big Screen with 'Twice Upon a Time' on December 27

Event to include exclusive content featuring Peter Capaldi and Steven Moffat.
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Press release: Doctor Who fans are getting a special gift this Christmas from Fathom Events with BBC AMERICA’s Doctor Who: Twice Upon a Time. The epic finale to the Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who is coming to U.S. movie theaters for one night on Wednesday, December 27 at 7:00 p.m. local time, featuring the return of Pearl Mackie and special guests Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and David Bradley (Game of Thrones). The event will also introduce the Thirteenth Doctor, played by Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch), who is the first woman to assume the role. The cinema event will also feature two

Five Cool Things and Tom Petty

A bright end to a week that got off to a rough start.
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I am taking over the reigns this week, the start of which was pretty brutal with the tragic loss of life in Las Vegas and the death of beloved rocker Tom Petty. But bleak news shouldn't stop people from finding good in the world, so here are the cool things I found solace in this week. Daredevil vs. Spider-Man I collect Marvel's Essential line that collects old issues in trade paperbacks, and while reading Daredevil Volume 1, I encountered the two-parter (Issues # 16-17) where ol' Webhead guest stars. Naturally, they have the traditional fight against each other as heroes

Don't Torture A Duckling Blu-ray Review: Fulci Grows a Social Conscience

Gore meister makes a film with an actual plot and social commentary, results are mixed.
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If Mario Bava is the grandfather of Italian horror and Dario Argento artsy-fartsy daddy figure who brought giallo to the mainstream, then Lucio Fulci is the creepy uncle doing strange things in the basement and making all the ladies feel uncomfortable at the dinner table. I’ve only seen a couple of his films but they, and his reputation, declare that as a director he was more interested in bloodletting than story, he loved gore more than any pretense of depth. That might have changed in 1972 with his film Don’t Torture a Duckling. In it, he smooths the edges off

The Slayer (1982) Blu-ray Review: Marital Crisis Solved by Slayer

An idiosyncratic semi-slasher that barely got a theatrical release is finally on home video, uncut and restored.
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Achieving notoriety in the early '80s (at least across the pond) for being one of the Video Nasties, films legally challenged and sometimes prohibited from exhibition in the U.K., the American-made The Slayer is a slasher movie that does not quite want to be one. For certain, it has the overall structure of one: four people (two couples) go out to an isolated vacation spot, have personal tension, and then one by one are slaughtered in graphic ways. The murderer is a mystery, the deaths are gruesome and elaborate, with special make-up effects by an industry veteran. There's a final

Music Review: The Bottom Line Archive Series: Lou Reed and Kris Kristofferson: In Their Own Words with Vin Scelsa

The quirky and revealing Q&A, along with the impromptu performances, make this an interesting slice of rock history.
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The Bottom Line, a rock and folk club in Greenwich Village from 1974 to 2004, featured performances by Bruce Springsteen, Dolly Parton, and Meat Loaf, among others. The music and commentary showcase In Their Own Words, a staple on rock station WNEW in the 1990s, was recorded at the club. The event, moderated by DJ Vin Scelsa, who also hosted the popular free-form radio show Idiot’s Delight, highlighted artists as diverse as Pete Seeger, Roger McGuinn, Shawn Colvin, Doc Watson, Joey Ramone, Jimmy Webb, and Barrett Strong. This episode of In Their Own Words features the unlikely duo of Kris

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 29 & 30 DVD Review: More Murders, Less Fun in the Sicilian Sun

Italian crime series has grown more serious since the last time I checked it out, but it's still entertaining.
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Detective Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is an Italian crime drama set in the fictional town of Vigàta, Sicily. It is based upon a series of novels and short stories by Andrea Camilleri. Started in 1999 it has ran for eleven seasons. Each season normally consists of two episodes with a run time close to two hours making them more like individual movies than what you might consider a normal television episode length. Season 11 consists of Episodes 29 (“A Nest of Vipers”) and 30 (“According to Protocol”). It is brought to the United States by MHZ. The series protagonist is

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 22: 1964-1965 by Chester Gould

While not the best volume to be introduced to Gould's Dick Tracy, it is entertaining and contains a lot of what made the strip a success.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 22 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from August 13, 1964 through to December 26, 1965. The book has an introductory essay by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, "Moon Struck," about the strips collected, which present "the most controversial era" in the strip's history as the lunar-related adventures of Dick Tracy continue. It concludes with contributing editor Jeff Kersten's "The Mystery of the Age (or The Gospel According to Chet)" about matters relating to Gould and the strip during this

New Battles Without Honor and Humanity Blu-ray Box Set Review: Movies with Honor

Director Kinji Fukasaku and star Junta Sugawara team up again for more impressive results.
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That "New" in the title is your tip that these films are a continuation of a previous project. In this case, the "original" was a series of five interconnected yakuza films from the same director and star. The original films proved to be so popular upon their release in the early 1970s that Toei Studio begged the talent to come back for more, leading to this mid-'70s follow-up trilogy. Unlike their predecessors, each of the films in this trilogy are unrelated to each other, with the primary constants being the director, star, genre, and theme music. The titular first film

A Ghost Story is The Pick of the Week

October is here and with it comes a slew of new horror releases.
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I love October. The long, sweltering days of summer are gone. The air is crisp and cool. Sweatshirts go back into the closet to be worn once again. The leaves start turning. The smell of burning wood in fireplaces and fire pits fill the air. It is a glorious time. It is the month of Halloween and with it scary movies. As you’ll see from the list of movies coming out this week, October means horror. For a genre fan like me, October is like Christmas. Surprisingly, my Pick of the Week isn’t supposed to be all that scary, violent,

The Survivalist Blu-ray Review: Very Lean, Sort of Mean, and Surprisingly Dull

This grim, post-apocalyptic thriller follows a familiar beat and then completely collapses in the third act.
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The best thing to say about Stephen Fingleton’s feature film debut, The Survivalist, is that it completely strips away a lot of what many expect from your average movie. Here, we’re given a film with very little dialogue, almost no score, and characters that are mostly nameless. We witness as one man continues his life in a world where food is scarce, and the remaining humans will fight for the necessities to live another day. In the first 18 minutes of its 104-minute runtime, we see as the lead character, known only as Survivalist (Martin McCann) tends to his garden,

Hype! Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: The Rise and Fall of Grunge

While being a fan of the music certainly adds to the enjoyment of Hype!, it's not required to learn the cautionary tale it tells.
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New to the Shout Select line, Hype! offers viewers an inside look at the Seattle music scene of late '80 / early '90s, the seismic shift it caused in pop culture, and how the media exploited it. While the first two elements tell a unique story, the third seems unfortunately all too common. The late '80s were an interesting time in music. Country was turning pop and rap/hip hop was slowly on the rise. Rock music was dominated by hair metal bands, but that would change by the end of the decade. "Alternative music" was a catch-all descriptor for a

A Ghost Story (2017) Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful and Tragic Tale of Loss

David Lowery's latest is one of the year's very best films.
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Despite its October Blu-ray release, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It’s actually the furthest thing from the genre. Yes, there is a ghost, but it doesn’t sneak up on people and try to frighten them. The ghost in this film is one that watches as time passes by on the things he held close to his heart while he was alive. It’s heartbreaking for him, and for us, to see as there are so many changes taking place, and the only thing he can do is stand there and watch. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara

Book Review: Ghost in the Shell by Andrew Osmond

An in-depth look into the Ghost in the Shell franchise.
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Ghost in the Shell began life as a manga series that lasted from 1989 to 1997. In 1995, Marmoru Oshii directed the cult film of the same name based on the manga. From there came a video game, a sequel to the movie, a TV series, a movie (and more games) based on the TV series, another different TV series, then games and a move based on that series, and recently an American live action film. And now we have a new book that tries to understand this massive franchise by anime expert Andrew Osmond. It mostly covers the 1995

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