October 2019 Archives

The Uncertainty of Indie Filmmaking: An Honest Interview with Harpoon Director Rob Grant

"If Rotterdam said no, probably no one would be watching this film." - Rob Grant
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Most profile pieces begin with a description of what the celebrity was wearing when they were interviewed. These pieces talk about the location, about the coolness and power the A-lister emoted, about how they felt to be in their presence. Rob Grant, director of Harpoon, is a different type of filmmaker. I sat down with Grant on a brisk morning in Brooklyn. We were bundled up in jackets, and the wind was blowing deeply into the recorder, leaving most of it ripe with static. He had bright blue eyes, a beard, a huge smile on his face. It was his

And Soon The Darkness (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: And Eventually the Thrills

This very slow moving British thriller takes its time getting to the action but is quite good if you have the patience.
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Two British nurses, Jane (Pamela Franklin) and Cathy (Michele Dotrice), take a cycling holiday in rural France. They’ve planned their route out for each day and Jane pushes Cathy to stick to it, which means not stopping very often or spending much time off their bikes. Cathy wants to stop off and eat at the cafes, take in the local scenery and possibly flirt with the cute guy who seems to be following them. They ride for a while but Cathy’s incessant complaining leads to a stop at a little grove of trees. Cathy lays out a blanket and turns

By the Grace of God (2019) Movie Review: Shines a Spotlight on the Catholic Church Scandal

A strongly acted and skillfully directed examination of a recently-closed case.
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It wasn’t that long ago that Tom McCarthy released Spotlight, the Best Picture-winning biopic that showcased a team of Boston Globe reporters investigating and, eventually, exposing the allegations that a Catholic priest in the area had molested more than 80 boys. That was mostly seen from the perspective of the journalists and the struggles they experienced in a pre-9/11 world - as well as what happened when that infamous day struck. With By the Grace of God, François Ozon takes a similar story, also based on true events, that is set a decade after the events of Spotlight and in

Hercules in the Haunted World Blu-ray Review: Sword & Sandals Meets Horror

Mario Bava infuses the tired Hercules film with his own sense of style, creating something unique and really fun.
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For decades the Italian film industry often emulated the successful films of the United States. Through the late 1950s and early 1960s, with the popularity of such Hollywood films as The Ten Commandments and Spartacus, this often took the form of Biblical epics and stories set in the Greco-Roman period. Critics, with some derision in their voices, called these films peplum (using the Latin word for the Roman style tunics worn in such films) or sword-and-sandal movies. Fans have reconstituted those slags into something more positive. In the early part of this movement, Hercules was by and far the most

By the Grace of God Movie Review: An Effectively Procedural Account of Sexual Abuse

Incredibly timely and harrowing. Just don't call it a French "Spotlight."
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Given how Spotlight came out four years ago and also covers the topic of pedophilia in the Catholic Church, it’s hard not to think of the Best Picture winner when watching By the Grace of God. Because both films are based on true stories, it only furthers their comparisons. However, By the Grace of God works as a successful companion piece because it focuses on the vantage point of sexual abuse victims as opposed to Spotlight which was about a group of journalists interviewing victims in order to expose the Church and their complicity. Additionally, By the Grace of God

Nightmare Beach Blu-ray Review: Somebody Wake Me Up

Slasher horror meets spring break comedy in this terrible '80s hybrid from schlock master Umberto Lenzi.
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If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to mix an ‘80s slasher with an ‘80s spring break comedy, then Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare Beach is for you. Well, actually it isn’t for anybody because it is a terrible, terrible movie. It wasn’t even for Umberto Lenzi for he swears he didn’t direct it (at least according to IMDB trivia). He was signed on to direct but at the last minute decided it was too similar to one of his other films (Seven Blood Stained Orchids) and begged off the production. The credits name a “Harry Kilpatrick” as the director

Criterion Announces January 2020 Releases

Criterion kicks the year off with some classic titles.
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Criterion has something to look forward to next year with four new additions to the collection. They are George Cukor's Holiday, Jean-Luc Godard's Le petit soldat, Sidney Lumet's Fail Safe, and Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother. Also available will be a Blu-ray upgrade of Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind. Read on to learn more about them. Holiday (#1009) out Jan 7 Two years before stars Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant and director George Cukor would collaborate on The Philadelphia Story, they brought their timeless talents to this delectable slice of 1930s romantic-comedy perfection, the second film adaptation of a hit

AFI FEST 2019 Announces World Cinema and Documentary Sections

World Cinema Section includes five international feature film Oscar submissions and a total of 16 titles from 19 countries.
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Press release: The American Film Institute (AFI) announced today the films that will play in the World Cinema section and the inaugural Documentary section of AFI FEST 2019 presented by Audi. The World Cinema section showcases the most anticipated and celebrated international films of the year and features 16 titles representing 19 countries. The section includes five official International Feature Film Oscarsubmissions screening at this year’s festival: Sweden's AND THEN WE DANCED (DIR Levan Akin), Canada's ANTIGONE (DIR Sophie Deraspe), Poland's CORPUS CHRISTI (BOŻE CIAŁO) (DIR Jan Komasa), Italy's THE TRAITOR (DIR Marco Bellocchio), and Romania's THE WHISTLERS (DIR Cornlieu

The Omen Collection is the Pick of the Week

A 1976 horror classic, it's so-so sequels and a mostly unnecessary remake make up a new box set that tops a new week of terrific releases.
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Obviously with franchises, especially with horror, there always the first films that are classics, the sequels are from good to decent to bad, and then there are the remakes, which are mostly forgettable. This is definitely the case with the Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Friday the 13th (yes, I said it), and A Nightmare On Elm Street franchises. However, if there is one that often gets overlooked, it is The Omen Collection, for better or worse, a worthwhile series that is going to be released as a new deluxe edition this week from the good folks at Shout/Scream

Fathom Events Enters 'The Twilight Zone' for 60th Anniversary

Audiences can unlock the door to another dimension on November 14, with a cinematic event, including an all-new documentary about creator Rod Serling.
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Press release: From the four repeating notes of its theme music to its unforgettable tales of the supernatural and the surreal, few television series have reshaped the medium as much as Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone. On November 14, Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment celebrate the series’ 60th anniversary with a one-night-only event exclusively in cinemas nationwide. “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” will combine digitally restored versions of six quintessential episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of creator Serling, whose thought-provoking introductions continue to mesmerize fans. Tickets

Five Cool Things and Robert Forster

With Autumn come many cool things.
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It is finally starting to feel like Autumn around here. After an unseasonably hot September, October has come and with it cooler weather. I love this time of year. I love getting out the sweatshirts, roasting marshmallows in the backyard fire-pit, and watching the leaves change. October also means Halloween, our annual pumpkin-carving party, and horror movies. I spent a lot of time in September mapping out what horror movies I’d watch this year and then promptly ignoring it (so far). I don’t know, exactly, what I love about horror movies but I’ve loved them as long as I remember.

Dolemite Is My Name Movie Review: Eddie Murphy is Back

A dynamic and glorious return to form for star Murphy.
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When '70s stand-up comic Rudy Ray Moore (Eddie Murphy) decided to enter the movie business, it was a rough road since the industry didn’t believe audiences would be ready for his crass, idiosyncratic artistry. After getting hit with the word “No” despite giving all he could as an artist by proving his ability as an actor, a comedian, and a singer, he decided to make a blaxploitation film, named after his alter ego called “Dolemite,” and forge his own path to stardom. In addition to expertly telling Moore’s story, the biopic Dolemite is My Name serves as an ode to

Midsommar Blu-ray Review: Unsettling in Any Season

Ari Aster's follow-up to Hereditary confirms his unique talent.
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Midsommar is marketed as a horror film, but it’s so different from the typical entries in that genre that it really belongs in a category all its own. While there is a bit of stomach-churning gore and an overbearing sense of dread as writer/director Ari Aster leads us down his twisted rabbit hole, there’s also an intriguing anthropological study of an insular Swedish culture that reveals unexpected layers of beauty in its madness. Where most horror films increase their scares by incorporating night settings, Midsommar frightens viewers in the full light of day during a festival occurring during the season

Morituri (1965) Blu-ray Review: Hidden Naval WWII Classic

Starring Marlon Brando and Yul Brenner, Morituri is a great spy thriller beautifully shot aboard a real German frigate.
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The cliché is, they don't make them like they used to. But, damn it, movies like Morituri don't get made anymore. It's a suspense thriller with a complex technical background with several moving parts, both in the setting and the character interaction. It was made in a time where special effects were difficult to impossible to achieve, so the amazing things you see aren't done with computers, but with some underpaid idiot risking his life to get a shot. And there was an inkling in the filmmaker's mind that an adult might be in the audience, so the level of

Fantastic Fungi Movie Review: Mushrooms Are (Finally) Cool

Louie Schwartzberg's "Fantastic Fungi" is a fascinating, story-driven documentary that makes you believe in the power of these mighty organisms.
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Fungi aren't something stapled to the front of people’s minds. They aren't something we think about on a daily basis. We don’t even know how to pronounce the word. They're an afterthought, as are mushrooms. For most people, they’re an add-on. They’re good with other things, parts of a whole, not standalone products. Louie Schwartzberg has different ideas, though. Fantastic Fungi, which is narrated by the critically beloved Brie Larson and who I’m sure will bring in an audience by being connected to this film, is a documentary that wastes little time in telling you the importance of fungi and

X-Men: Dark Phoenix Blu-ray Review: Not Dark and Certainly Not Rising

It’s all fine in a "plain white toast for breakfast" sort of way. Sadly, that’s about as good as it gets.
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The first thing I noticed when I received my Multi Screen Edition of X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which hit store shelves on September 17, was that “X-Men” was three times larger than “Dark Phoenix” on the cover. Was this a marketing strategy to draw focus away from the poorly reviewed theatrical run? I certainly hope that works for them more than the movie worked for me. As a fan of the X-Men franchise, I was looking forward to this film despite the poor reviews and wanted to like it so much that I watched it twice before sitting down to write.

Blade: Original Motion Picture Score Review: Hauntingly Unclear

The score of the cult classic Blade from 1998 is getting its first LP release, and what a beautiful vinyl it is.
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Blade is a cult classic for a reason. It features a jacked-up Wesley Snipes, loads of vampires, buckets of blood, and action scenes that purr because of the speed of the swords. It came out in 1998, and it was ahead of its time for comic book heroes and the success they would soon enjoy. Over twenty years later though, we have received the most underrated part of Blade in physical form: an LP of the score by Mark Isham released by Varèse Sarabande It's a score that doesn't immediately jump out at you. It refrains from massive builds and

The Big Fix (1978) Blu-ray Review: A Hippy Neo-noir Lament

Richard Dreyfuss is Moses Wine, a former-hippy detective whose latest case takes him back to his radical roots.
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Despite being such a sunny city, Los Angeles is the home of noir. All those sun bleached streets are hiding the deepest shadows. Many of the best literary mystery writers set their stories. Ray Chandler's Philip Marlowe and Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer hit the mean streets of Los Angeles, as does Harry Bosch and the various morally-conflicted cops of James Ellroy's various pitch black noirs. Unique among this varied crowd of detectives is Moses Wine. Philip Marlowe was a white knight of the streets. Lew Archer was WWII vet and amateur psychologist who found social ills at the foundation of

The Prey Blu-ray Review: Pray You'll Never Have To Watch

Arrow Video does an excellent job presenting this should-have-been forgotten slasher in a very nice package.
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The 1980s were a great time for horror movies in general and slasher flicks in particular. With the advent of home video and the booming popularity of video rental stores, there was suddenly a need for more and more videos to stock those shelves. Lots of studios specializing in cheaply made, straight-to-video movies sprung up overnight. Horror fans are a motley lot and easily amused. They are not known for snobbish attitudes, willing to take a chance (and often enjoy) films of lower budget and artistic caliber. As long as the film has plenty of violence, at least some blood-soaked

Three Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg is the Pick of the Week

Von Sternberg's classic silent trilogy rounds out a slow week of new releases.
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Although he was well known for his legendary collaborations with the great Marlene Dietrich, famous Vienna born, New York-raised director Josef von Sternberg had already established himself with dark, grim visions of ordinary people caught up in dangerous, and highly emotional circumstances that still influence filmmakers to this very day. In Underworld (1927), George Bancroft plays criminal Bull Weed, whose attraction to his mistress gets him into some really nasty situations with his rival, and eventually the police. To further his descent into madness, the mistress falls hard for an alcoholic ex-lawyer. In The Last Command (1928), Emil Jannings won

The 28th Philadelphia Film Festival Announces Line-up

Fest to screen 120 films from 41 countries to screen during 11-day event, Thursday, October 17 - Sunday, October 27, 2019.
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Press release: The Philadelphia Film Society is proud to announce the full line-up for the 28th Philadelphia Film Festival (PFF), spanning from October 17 - October 27. This year’s line-up features a multitude of remarkable films from a wide range of genres. Select Festival categories will commence with an opening night film premiere. The opening night for the Galas category will be Destin Daniel Cretton’s JUST MERCY on October 17. This heartrending and inspirational film tells the story of author and social justice activist, Bryan Stevenson, played by acclaimed actor Michael B. Jordan of FRUITVALE STATION, CREED, and BLACK PANTHER

Five Cool Things and 1917

It has been a long week but I'm here (if a little late) with some cool things I discovered.
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My brother spent this week in Japan with his son, my sister, and her husband. The sister told the nephew that they’d take him anywhere in the world when he graduated high school. He chose Japan. Mainly because he is a gamer and they do a lot of that stuff in that country. They seem to be having a blast. Here stateside, things have been a little tougher. When I’m not writing about cool things, I run a little family business with my dad and that brother. With him gone, the father figure and I have had to pick up

Gosford Park Blu-ray Review: Upstairs Downstairs Sideways

Robert Altman puts his twist on an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
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Robert Altman's Gosford Park is his take on an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Set in 1932 during a shooting party held at the estate of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), the film is a wonderful immersion into the worlds of those who live upstairs and those who work downstairs in an English manor. It's made all the more believable by Altman's trademark stylized naturalism. Mary MacEachran (Kelly Macdonald) is newly hired as a maid to one of the guests, Constance, Countess of Trentham (Maggie Smith) and cousin of Sir William. Mary serves as the audience's conduit, conveying the inner workings

Joker Movie Review: Self-Important, Nihilist Drivel

Even a committed Joaquin Phoenix can't save this grim Scorsese clone.
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Going into Joker, which serves as an origin story for Batman’s archnemesis, one shouldn’t expect it to be any laughing matter. It’s meant to be a bleak look at how the Clown Prince of Crime began his reign of terror. As it turns out, bleak is all the movie is. It lacks depth even as it tries to make it seem like it possesses insightful commentary. Particularly about incel culture, mental illness, and how our inhumane world shuns mental illness victims. Yet, it never goes beneath the surface of the conversations it wants to engage in. Also, with its portrait

Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection Blu-ray Review: Trailblazing

This four-disk set from Kino Lorber demonstrates what a huge talent Ida Lupino was.
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Several weeks ago, I randomly decided to watch On Dangerous Ground, the pretty good film noir by Nicolas Ray from 1951. It was one of those nights where I was flipping through my various streaming services and eventually got so tired of not making a decision, I wound up punching "play" on whatever sounded remotely interesting. I’ve enjoyed several of Nicolas Ray’s film and I’m always up for a noir so away I went. Like I said, it was pretty good. It is about a cop whose violent tendencies get him sent to the countryside to cool off. There, he

Los Angeles' Secret Movie Club Unveils Festival of Horror Programming

Midnight screenings of seminal horror films, including John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy and two Dia De Los Muertos-themed screenings.
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Press release: The Los Angeles-based Secret Movie Club has officially unveiled the programming slate for its FESTIVAL OF HORROR film series, which will run throughout the month of October and culminate on November 2. The FESTIVAL OF HORROR films run the gamut from the classic (a FRANKENSTEIN/ BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN Universal Studios matinee double feature) to the contemporary (THE WITCH), and from the iconic (including a TWILIGHT ZONE MARATHON) to the obscure (a double feature of two films produced by Val Lewton for RKO Studios) and includes John Carpenter’s seminal APOCALYPSE TRILOGY. The FESTIVAL OF HORROR film series begins on

The Hills Have Eyes, Part 2 Blu-ray Review: Flashback City

Arrow Video does a nice job spiffing up this movie that is so bad even the director disowned it.
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Wes Craven is often placed near the top of lists concerning the greatest horror filmmakers of all time, and rightly so. He was at the forefront of the gritty, ultra-violent new wave of horror films in the 1970s making such low budget classics as The Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. In the 1980s, he rejuvenated the slasher genre by creating the iconic Freddy Kreuger in the Nightmare on Elm Street, then reinvented it with the very meta and very ‘90s Scream films. But while he deserves all the accolades, let us not forget he was

Dilili in Paris Movie Review: Michel Ocelot's Love Letter to the City of Light

Ocelot's distinctive voice shines through in his latest animated feature film.
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In his latest feature film, veteran animation auteur Michel Ocelot immediately toys with audience perceptions by opening on what appears to be a tribal African village before zooming out to reveal the scene taking place in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, a virtuoso sequence that draws viewers into guessing about the film’s direction. After three previous feature films set in Africa starring the character Kirikou, not to mention the timing of this film’s U.S. release coinciding with the usual seven-year gap between each of the Kirikou films, it’s easy to imagine that we’ll explore more of the tribal village

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Celebrates Batman Beyond and Wonder Woman: Bloodlines at New York Comic Con 2019

WBHE panels will be live-streamed for fans unable to make the trek to New York.
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Press release: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) returns to New York Comic Con with two spotlight events - the World Premiere of the latest DC Universe Movie, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, and a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Batman Beyond and its upcoming remastered release on Blu-ray - over the October 3-6, 2019 weekend at the Javits Center. Presentations will include a film premiere and never-before-seen remastered footage, discussions with production/acting talent, a special autograph signing, and exclusive prizes for inquisitive fans. Both of the WBHE panels will be held on NYCC’s Main Stage. The cast and filmmakers of Wonder

Ron's Regal Unlimited Report #2: Rambo: Last Blood Is Not Worth It

John Rambo is really mad this time.
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It was my second weekend of having my Regal Unlimited Movie Subscription Pass, and it feels like I’m seeing movies for free. I’ve already saved $13.65 so one more movie and I’m in the black for the month. Though a bad movie does have a cost associated with it and it was a high cost for Rambo: Last Blood. It’s hard to tell if the bad guys in Last Blood suffer more than the audience. I’ll admit that I went into the film with low expectations. Accepting the fact that whatever we got, it would not be a new idea.

Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection on Blu-ray November 19 from Shout! Factory

Get ready to laugh out loud as this collection comes packed with all 28 of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello's iconic films at Universal.
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Press release: This holiday season, every Universal Pictures film from the most popular comedy duo of all time comes home when Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection hits Blu-ray for the first time as a complete collection on November 19, 2019 from Shout! Factory. The Complete Universal Pictures Collection comes loaded with bonus features, including 10 new audio commentaries, a collectible book, and a bonus disc with more than eight hours of content. Celebrating the 80th anniversary of Abbott and Costello’s first film One Night in the Tropics, the massive 15-disc set is the ultimate tribute to two

Harpoon (2019) Movie Review: A Gory, Gutsy, Giddy Voyage

Filled with blood and betrayal, Harpoon is sometimes tough to swallow, but easy to love.
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The first 15 minutes of Rob Grant’s Harpoon are slow. Grant is methodical in the way he introduces each character, using archival footage and flashbacks to give all the exposition one needs for a good story. We understand each of our three protagonists, or antagonists by the end of the film, and can plainly see where they fit within the interlocking friendships. The roles are set. The pecking order is established. And with that, Harpoon doesn’t just walk or run to the next conflicts, it sprints at breakneck speed, shattering everything in its path. The film centers around three friends,

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988) Blu-ray Review: Same Gore, Less Story

Follow up to Hellraiser has the same aesthetic, same cast, much the same crew, but not enough story or ideas.
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It's strange that so many horror movies spawn enormous franchises when the surprise and the unknown are central to the effectiveness of a good horror story. Shock and dread are two of the desired outcomes of horror: to be surprised by something you didn't want to see, and to be slowly drawn toward something you don't want to see, but just have to look. Hellraiser as it stands doesn't make a great candidate for a sequel in any case. It's primarily a twisted love story - the main characters are the undead Frank and his lover Julia who supplied him

Hellraiser (1987) Blu-ray Review: Clive Barker's Semi-professional Debut

An erotic and grotesque twist on a haunted house story, with an unsettling horrific vision that supersedes some film-making fumbles.
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Roger Ebert hated Hellraiser when it came out, giving it half a star. He starts with the money quote Stephen King gave the director/writer on his literary debut: "I have seen the future of horror, and it is Clive Barker." Ebert quips: "Maybe Stephen King was thinking of a different Clive Barker." Cute, but it ignores the strengths that Barker was bringing to the horror game, which in the mid-'80s literary world was becoming big business. First, Clive wrote with style. There are decent stylists in the horror world at the time (Peter Straub, Ramsey Campbell) but there was a

Doom Patrol: The Complete First Season Review: Seriously Weird

In a culture that seems more homogenized every day, it's wonderful to see something completely different, which makes this well worth the watching.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. For years now, our popular culture has been swimming in comic book stories. We are positively drowning in the stuff. Marvel releases two or three films a year that not only dominate the box office but consume our cultural conversations. While DC hasn’t been nearly as successful, their films still make money and have developed large fandoms. Beyond the movies, there are lots of television series and actual comic books. You cannot escape the power of

Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island DVD Review: The Plot Is Pretty Much Contained in the Title

The Gang returns to the setting of their best film with less exciting results.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. For almost 30 years, Scooby-Doo! TV shows and movies didn't have what you would call continuity. There was a backstory to the characters that was changed slightly to fit the needs of the plot. There was always a hint that the gang had encountered ghosts and villains before but not a continuing story from episode to episode. The changing landscape of animated television series and movies has added to the evolution of the franchise. Now, we've

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