October 2017 Archives

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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