January 2018 Archives

The Inexplicable and Unexplainable Worlds of Erotica and Exploitation

Existing in strange little worlds all their own, these four bizarre ventures into filmmaking prove sex doesn't always sell.
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Some movies seem to exist solely to defy a simple explanation. Others simply seem to exist in worlds of their own, immune to laws of gravity, gravitas, and ‒ in the instance of the movies mentioned in this piece ‒ good taste. And it is here that we shall take a peek into four very unique Blu-ray releases. Featuring titles from two of Europe's most hailed cult filmmakers ‒ Jess Franco and Lucio Fulci ‒ this edition also finds room for a rogue Latvian sex-horror manifestory metaphor and a sleazily sinful "softie" from the '70s which is nothing more than

Five Cool Things and a New Heathers

Cool things this week include a Hitchock from the Criterion Collection, a French animated film, a Rogue Cut, and lots of gods.
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I try to write little pieces of this article as I watch, read, and listen to cool things throughout the week. If I do it right, then on Friday morning all I have to do is assemble the pieces and write an intro. Sometimes that actually works, other times no so much. Last week was one of those times that I was scrambling to put all my thoughts together about all the five things before my deadline. In that rush I forgot to write an intro. Then I got sick. It was a weird sickness. One moment I felt fine

Legendary Spinal Tap Bassist Derek Smalls Returns with First Solo Record and Tour

"Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)" out 4/13.
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Press release: Derek Smalls, the bass force formerly of the fabled heavy metal band formerly known as Spinal Tap, returns with the release of his first full length solo venture Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing), out globally April 13 via Twanky Records/BMG on digital, CD and vinyl. Additionally, Smalls launches his U.S. tour “Lukewarm Water Live: An Adventure in Loud Music” on April 14 in concert with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra at the Saenger Theater, New Orleans. Subsequent dates include June 29 in Atlanta at the Atlanta Symphony Hall with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and a special appearance with the

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 23: 1966-1967 by Chester Gould

Those who prefer their Dick Tracy Earthbound will be pleased as will anyone who enjoys crime stories filled with sex and violence.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 23 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from December 27, 1965 through to July 2, 1967. The book has an introductory essay by consulting editor Max Allan Collins, "Now Back to Our Story," about the strips collected. It concludes with contributing editor Jeff Kersten's "Hard as Hell - Act One" about matters relating to Gould and the strip during this time period offering references to allusions Gould makes to the JFK's assassination and Washington Post publisher Phillip Graham's divorce. He

Proud Mary Movie Review: A Frustratingly Bad Taraji P. Henson Vehicle

Taraji P. Henson does all she can to salvage greatness out of what is a complete snoozer of an action flick.
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When watching the retro opening credits of Proud Mary where our main heroine is getting prepped up with the song “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” playing the background, it seems like we’re in for an action thrill ride in the vein of '70s blaxploitation films. But then, within the first thirty seconds, our expectations immediately become squandered. It seemed like it would be an exciting John Wick-style vehicle for Taraji P. Henson but it ended up being a complete misfire that does a disservice to her talents. Proud Mary follows the story of a hit woman named Mary (Taraji P.

Criterion Announces April 2018 Releases

No fooling. Here's what's coming.
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In April, Criterion plans on releasing five titles, including a new entry in the Eclipse Series. New to the collection are Leo McCarey's The Awful Truth, Sergei Parajanov’s The Color of Pomegranates, Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, and Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides, and Eclipse Series 46: Ingrid Bergman’s Swedish Years. Read on to learn more about them. Eclipse Series 46: Ingrid Bergman’s Swedish Years out Apr 10 Ingrid Bergman appeared in ten films in her native Sweden before the age of twenty-five, and while that work tends to be overshadowed by her time in Hollywood, it showcases the actor summoning

Blade Runner 2049 is the Pick of the Week

The sequel to a sci-fi classic leads this week's new Blu-ray releases.
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One of my pop-culture admissions is that I’ve never been a huge fan of Blade Runner. I’ve only seen the director’s cut, but it's generally considered the best version of the film, and I’ve seen it twice, but it's never really done it for me. I like Ridley Scott, I love sci-fi, and I appreciate a lot of the things the film does, but for whatever reason, I’ve just never particularly cared for it. All the same, I was pretty excited to hear they were finally making a sequel. I really do think the concept of Blade Runner is interesting

TCM and Fathom Events Present The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

Go see it on the big screen while you can.
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Based upon the book by B. Traven, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is generally considered one of the greatest movies ever made. Interestingly, Traven was such a recluse, he would only make notes on the script via letter. Eventually, he did send his representative, a man named Hal Croves, to the set as technical advisor. It was greatly suspected Croves was in fact Traven, but never proven. Mostly shot in Mexico over six months, it was one of the first American films to be shot on location, much to the chagrin of Jack Warner who was footing the bill.

The Tragically Hip: National Celebration Blu-ray Review: Armed with Will and Determination and Grace, Too

Ironically, the 30 songs played here make a brilliant introduction to the band as they said goodbye to their fans.
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As I wrote in my review of the documentary The Tragically Hip: Long Time Running, "On May 24, 2016, it was announced that the Tragically Hip's lead singer Gord Downie had incurable brain cancer. In spite of that, they intended to tour in support their thirteenth studio album, Man Machine Poem, set for release a few weeks later. They played 15 shows across Canada in just under a month, concluding with a hometown show on August 20, 2016, at the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston, Ontario. It was an unofficial, though presumed, farewell tour, which became official with the passing

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) Blu-ray Review: For Loads of Fun, Just Say 'Shazam!'

Kino Lorber gives the Blu-ray treatment to Republic's most popular serial.
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Although the format went extinct long before I was born, I’ve always been fascinated by serials. They’re short-formatted adventures that leave you wanting to come back for more. In the age of Netflix and binge-watching, we don’t really get the same thrill of heading to the local multiplex and seeing the latest chapter that shows us what happened to the hero(es) after the previous week’s cliffhanger. It’s easy to take for granted that we have full seasons available to watch at home and on demand. Back when something like Adventures of Captain Marvel was released, that wasn’t the case. It

Five Cool Things and Fahrenheit 451

This week's cool things include a classic Doctor Who, two new adaptations of old books and lots of violence.
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Mat was felled by a stomach bug before he could finish writing his article, which is not a cool thing, so dive in without his traditional introduction. Make sure to wash your hands when you are done reading. - The Management Brawl in Cell Block 99 I’d been hearing really good things about Brawl in Cell Block 99 for a few weeks. So much so that I made it my Pick of the Week awhile back. It is streaming on Amazon so I gave it a shot. It is a really interesting mix of the art house with the grindhouse.

The Breakfast Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Don't You Forget About These Bonus Features

Criterion's new edition of the classic '80s film is packed with hours of fascinating bonus features.
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While The Breakfast Club is justifiably revered as a classic teen film, primarily due to the involvement of masterful writer/director John Hughes, its insightful approach to teen angst makes it just as timely today as it was the ‘80s. Hughes understood more than any of his contemporaries that teens aren’t just stereotypical comic fodder, they’re universally relatable when treated as complex characters. In Criterion’s expansive new Blu-ray release, hours of bonus features delve into the production details and legacy of this important work. The setup of the film is so simple that it seems more like a play. Five high

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season DVD Giveaway

The Fickle Finger of Fate might pick you as one of the winners.
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Cinema Sentries has teamed up with Time Life to award three lucky readers Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season seven-DVD set, which is currently on sale. For those wanting to learn more, the press release reads: When, in 1968, presidential nominee Richard Nixon rhetorically queried "Sock it to me?" on "Laugh-In," it helped to elevate him to the White House and was named by Time Magazine as one of the "Top 10 Presidential Pop Culture Moments." That's just one of the many unforgettable pop culture highlights in a transformative season full of them. Home audiences are sure to

Valdez Is Coming (1971) Blu-ray Review: They Just Messed with the Wrong Mexican

Despite casting Burt Lancaster as a Latino, this early revisionist western from Kino Lorber still deserves a look.
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Originally envisioned as a project for director Sydney Pollack and the starpower of Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster, novelist Elmore Leonard's Valdez Is Coming was once set to contend against the Spaghetti Western craze dominating screens throughout the latter half of the '60s. That didn't happen, of course. In fact, Valdez wouldn't come until 1971 ‒ when the European variation of the genre was quickly being paved over by the American revisionist western ‒ with an entirely different cast and crew attached to the project. With Pollack out, Broadway/TV director Edwin Sherin took over directing. It would be the first

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Still Funny? You Bet Your Bippy!

The humor of Laugh-In holds up, remaining just as wonderfully wacky as when it premiered.
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After previously releasing the Complete Series in June 2017, Time Life is releasing Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In as Complete Season sets. The Second Season, now available, presents 26 episodes, airing between September 16, 1968 and March 31, 1969, spread across seven DVDs. The comedy team of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted Laugh-In, an anarchic take on the variety show that matched the youthful spirit of the era with fresh faces of its main cast; presented material that dealt with sex, politics, and drugs; and had a visual form with more in common with French New Wave films than anything

Book Review: The Art of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie by Ramin Zahed

Awe-inspiring and just regular inspiring too. And a whole lot of fun.
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We can all agree that Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie was pretty sweet, right? It was cute, it was charming, it had a good message about friendship and being kind, and it was basically just a bunch of fart jokes for little kids. And isn’t that what life is all about? No, not fart jokes, but little kids. Laughter. Friendship. If the sound of a child’s laughter doesn’t warm your heart and put a smile on your face, I’m sorry, but there’s just something wrong with you. And nothing makes a child laugh harder than a good fart joke.

Hell Night (1981) Blu-ray Review: A for Effort

Scream Factory goes all-out for the minor low-budget college slasher flick with Linda Blair.
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One of several dozen slasher movies to find its way to screens during the slasher horror movie boom of the late '70s and early '80s, Tom DeSimone's Hell Night always seems like the one that gets left out in the cold. Granted, there's very little to outwardly discern the 1981 shocker starring The Exorcist's Linda Blair from any other movie of the era featuring a group of annoying college kids being murdered in an isolated setting. (Well, other than the fact that it stars Linda Blair, of course!) In fact, were one to make a check-list of '80s college slasher

Book Review: The Complete David Bowie (Revised and Updated 2016 Edition) by Nicholas Pegg

Expanded and updated with 35,000 words of new material, this edition is likely to be the last, until a number of the inevitable posthumous releases dictates another.
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"Complete" is an accurate description of this astoundingly thorough encyclopedia of Bowie's work. The book naturally opens with "The Songs from A to Z," starting with "Abdulmajid," an instrumental by Bowie and Brian Eno that appeared as a bonus track for a "Heroes" reissue in the early '90s as well as All Saints: Collected Instrumentals 1977-1999. Over the next 300-plus pages, readers are presented in-depth details about greatest hits, covers, and deep cuts, through to "Zion," a "rambling six-minute demo from 1973 which has also appeared on bootlegs under the various titles 'Aladdin Vein', ' Love Aladdin Vein', and '

It (2017) is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a killer clown, a Deep Throat, a Supreme Court Justice, and more.
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Miniseries have been around since the birth of television but it was the 1980s that really defined what they are and cemented them in our collective consciousness. Or at least that’s how I remember it. As a kid, I can remember grabbing the television guide from the Sunday paper and very carefully mapping out my primetime viewing for the week. I had certain shows on most nights that I watched every week, but some times there was a special - the Olympics, an awards show, or Circus of the Stars - that would take precedence over my normal TV watching.

Dunkirk (2017) Blu-ray Review: Bring the Boys Back Home

An outstanding war film that strikes a great balance between the inhumanity of the weaponry and the humanity of the individuals.
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Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is an impressive World War II epic about the Allied military evacuation on the beaches of Dunkirk, France while under siege. The film weaves together three different narratives (on land, on sea, and in air) and delivers spectacular action sequences, but it's the smaller moments of men exhibiting heroism and fear in the face of death all around when it is at its most captivating. The Axis powers had "driven the British and French armies to the sea. Trapped at Dunkirk, they await their fate." The film opens with six young soldiers walking deserted streets as Nazi

I, Tonya Movie Review: Using Camp to Deconstruct It

Although an imperfect film, I, Tonya celebrates the imperfections of its leading lady with surprising emotional resonance.
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If the year was 1994, and you were to turn on the TV, pick up a newspaper, or chat with friends and family, all discourse would be about the epic scandal known as Tonya Harding v. Nancy Kerrigan. Tonya, a lower-class figure skater from Portland, Oregon is suddenly entrenched in a social, not to mention legal battle to defend her name - a name that, until this point in time, did not really seem to matter. But after her triumph at U.S. figure skating, jettisoning her to the 1994 Olympics, she soon became a household name. Well, that and the

My Little Pony: The Movie Blu-ray Review: Friendship Is Magic

The veteran animated series makes a successful jump to a feature film.
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After seven seasons of animated TV adventures, the "mane" six ponies of Hasbro’s current My Little Pony series have finally made the jump to a proper feature-length film. Unlike the prior series of quickie spinoff movies featuring the ponies morphed into animated human form as Equestria Girls, this film is a legitimate movie with an obviously bigger production budget and stars to match. Although the pony character designs have been updated to take advantage of the elevated effects budget, Hasbro wisely kept the primary voice actors, composer Daniel Ingram, and long-time series director Jayson Thiessen in place to ensure continuity

Five Cool Things and The Grateful Dead

This week found me reading some cool comics, watching some non Doctor Who-related Peter Capaldi TV, and more.
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As noted in last week’s entry, I spent the week between Christmas and New Year's at my in-laws spending time with my wife’s family. They are lovely people but not very pop-cultural savvy. We tend to spend our time playing board games and chatting with each other rather than watching movies and television. Luckily, I always get a few comic books for Christmas and as you’ll see I’ve already read a few of them. The Avengers: Age of Ultron(comic book) In the comics, Ultron has existed since the late '60s and appeared as one of the great Avengers' villains periodically

Book Review: Star Hawks, Volume Two: 1978-1979 by Gil Kane and Ron Goulart

Reminiscent of a million things but totally unique - I've never seen anything quite like it!
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I’ve never seen anything quite like Gil Kane and Ron Goulart’s Star Hawks. And yeah, I know we geeks are prone to hyperbole; we like to rant and rave online about how mind-blowingly transcendent the stuff we love is and we like to say that things we don’t like somehow travelled through time to assault our childhood. It’s all pretty ridiculous, but it seems like Geek Hyperbole is part and parcel with internet nerdery, doesn’t it? So much so, that you probably didn’t bat an eye when I capitalized it! So yeah, we who fly on the geeky side of

D.O.A.: A Rite of Passage Blu-ray Review: Nevermind the Bollocks, Watch This Film

Seminal punk documentary finally gets a digital release.
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A few years back, maybe ten come to think of it, I was getting to know a girl, Pamela, who eventually became a good friend. I asked her, like I always ask people I’m getting to know, what kind of music she liked. She said she was a big punk fan. Intrigued, as she didn’t look like your typical punk rocker, I asked for details. “Who do you like,” I asked. “The Dead Kennedys? The Minutemen?” “Who?” she replied. Pushing further, I asked “The Misfits? Black Flag?” I got blank stares. “How about the Ramones or Green Day?” Nothing. “Well,

Joe Versus the Volcano (1990) Blu-ray Review: When Tom Met Meg

John Patrick Shanley's quirky fantastical romance hits Blu waves with a stellar transfer from the Warner Archive Collection.
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After his Academy Award-winning screenplay for 1987's Moonstruck, playwright John Patrick Shanley launched into the '90s by taking the world into a different corner of comedy altogether. It was the first time Shanley directed a film ‒ something he wouldn't do again until crafting his own stage work for the screen in 2008 ‒ but it would go on to become a genuine American cult classic. A fairytale romance perfect for pairing with The Princess Bride, Joe Versus the Volcano was also the first time filmgoers were treated to the award-winning chemistry of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who would

Samurai Jack: The Complete Fifth Season Blu-ray Review: Watch It!

One of the best television programs of 2017.
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Nearly 13 years since the end of its fourth season, the epic story of Samurai Jack concluded with this 10-part fifth season, an impressive piece of television led by creator Genndy Tartakovsky, and the Blu-ray highlights the visual artwork. As the season opens, fifty years have passed, although Jack (Phil LaMarr) hasn't aged, and he is still tortured by memories of his family left behind after the demon Aku (Greg Baldwin, replacing the late Mako) flug him into the future. Jack's hair has grown long, he wears a beard, and he uses a gun because he has lost his katana,

Six Shooters: A Full Round of Classic Westerns New to Blu-ray

Twilight Time and the Warner Archive present us with a gunslingin' good time.
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The ageless allure of life in the Old West is just as timely as ever with these six classics, now available on Blu-ray courtesy the efforts of Twilight Time and the Warner Archive Collection. Boasting many common themes (including a few connections between home media distributors!) and ranging from early cinematic 3D productions to the earliest revisionist westerns by genre rule-breaker Sam Peckinpah, there's an awful lot of reason to shoot up the joint over here. Gun Fury 3D (1953, Twilight Time, Limited Edition of 3,000) One of several movies conceived and released during the early '50s 3D phenomenon (and

Best of 2017 Assorted Lists

So here's the final set of my 2017 lists.
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From 2005 through 2012, I pretty consistently wrote my Sunday Morning Tuneage blog. It continued inconsistently through 2013 before being abandoned. Each year was punctuated with a series of "Best" lists. While the blog still remains retired, I'm reviving the year-end summary. BY THE NUMBERS 4,216,588 steps (that is less the four weeks in June that I went without a FitBit) 246 beers logged - 130 that were new to me this year. 0 times with the hiccups 25 books read (2nd year in a row of meeting 25 book goal) 0 concerts attended 55 films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

The Breakfast Club Criterion Collection is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us John Hughes getting his first Criterion plus a tennis match, an Italian murder, Tom Cruise running drugs, and more.
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If you are a child of the '80s, if you are a movie fan of a certain age, then John Hughes films have a special place in your heart. Throughout the 1980s, he made movies about teenagers that felt real. His characters spoke like real teenagers spoke, they cared about things real teenagers cared about. They were funny and sad, romantic and heartbroken. They felt like they were made for…well, me. And a million other me’s. It is hard to pick a favorite John Hughes film because so many of them are so good. As a teenager, I likely would

Best of 2017 TV Lists

So here's the next set of my 2017 lists.
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We live in a very high-quality TV-show era now. Maybe the top end isn't as strong as a decade ago but the number of very good shows is amazing. It's hard to even keep up with shows that aren't on your sourcing radar - HBO, Showtime, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc. This list is as fluid as any here - ask me tomorrow and it might be different - but here it is at this time and place. BEST TV SHOWS OF 2017 1. TWIN PEAKS (SHOW) I don't know that I was completely in love with this show as it

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