February 2020 Archives

Manon Blu-ray Review: Doomed Love in Post-war France

Henri-Georges Clouzot tale of doomed love works like a film nor in a melodrama setting.
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Manon Lescaut is an 18th Century novel by Antoine François Prévost. It was controversial at the time of its release, for it depicted a woman so full of greed she’d resort to low morals (cheating on her husband, turning to prostitution) in order to live the lifestyle she preferred. It was banned for a time in its native France, which of course means it was extremely popular. Twenty years after publication, an acceptable version was printed, toning down the scandalous details and injecting moralizing disclaimers. It remains a classic, so much so that my wife, ever the lover of French

Rob Liefeld Gives Fans the First Look at Snake Eyes: Deadgame

Superstar artist writes and illustrates the fan-favorite ninja commando in upcoming G.I. Joe miniseries, debuting in June.
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Press release: IDW Publishing is proud to share the first look at Snake Eyes: Deadgame #1, the first issue of an explosive new comic book miniseries written and illustrated by Rob Liefeld (X-Force, Deadpool)! Snake Eyes has long been the most mysterious member of the G.I. JOE team, but within the pages of Deadgame, he’ll finally be forced to play his hand! How long can he keep his past classified… and what deadly secrets will come back to haunt him? “G.I. JOE was my first obsession. Those were the toys in the sandbox with me, kung fu grip, eagle eye,

Teorema Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Pasolini's Most Accessible Work

This puzzlingly fascinating masterwork from 1968 gets new life.
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The late director Pier Paolo Pasolini was a very controversial filmmaker to begin with. His often taboo-breaking subject matter didn't exactly sit well with most critics and audiences, not to mention censorship laws. However, that's what made him one of the greatest in film history. He did films his way, with provocative themes, such as sex, religion, philosophy, and art, and how they can sometimes coexist in the same surface. His 1968 subversive classic, Teorema, definitely did just that. The film stars the great Terence Stamp as a handsome, and perplexing figure, known only as "The Guest", who mysteriously appears

The Great War (2019) DVD Review: A Film Better Suited for Television

The Great War is not terrible, but it’s nothing that special.
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If you can’t guess what this film is about, all you need to do is google “The Great War” and you immediately know this is about World War I. There have been a lot of films and stories about Vietnam and World War II but not nearly as many about this war. It’s probably no coincidence that this finds its way to DVD right when 1917 has come out. It’s quite common for studios to pump out films with similar topics and themes at the same time. But the two topics it deals with that set it apart from the

Teorema is the Pick of the Week

A radical 1968 Pasolini masterwork tops a new week of releases.
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The late, controversial director Pier Paolo Pasolini made his dangerous mark on cinema with blunt stories of taboo-breaking material, such as sex and religion, and how the two can sometimes coexist. There is his 1962 breakthrough, Mamma Roma, with Anna Magnani playing a former prostitute who becomes a market trader; his trilogy of life: The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, and Arabian Nights, and his most shocking final film, Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). But his finest work is 1968's Teorema (theorem), which remains a timely story about the masks we wear, and our true selves hiding underneath

Birds of Prey Movie Review: A Chaotic Breath of Fresh Air in the DCEU

With its swing-for-the-fences filmmaking and dynamite acting, Birds of Prey flies pretty sky high.
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Given how Margot Robbie was one of the few saving graces of Suicide Squad, it should come as no surprise she was given a Harley Quinn spinoff. Despite the film being called Birds of Prey, it’s chiefly about the story of Harley Quinn and her journey towards independence and avoiding being defined by the men she’s served. It’s a journey done with such kinetic flare by director Cathy Yan and slight political undertones with its depiction of a group of diverse women combatting white male chauvinism. Birds of Prey follows Harley Quinn as she slowly joins forces with vigilante Huntress

TCM to Honor Actress & Comedian Lily Tomlin with Hand and Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre

Celebration to take place Friday, April 17 during the 2020 TCM Classic Film Festival.
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Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) today announced it will honor iconic actress and comedian Lily Tomlin with a hand and footprint ceremony at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX in Hollywood during the eleventh annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Friday, April 17. Tomlin, a Tony, Grammy, eight time Emmy, and two time Peabody Award winner, has had a remarkable career starting in the 1960s starring in cinematic classics, television staples and on stage. “Lily Tomlin’s talent has endured for fifty years because she knows who she is. She’s managed to play broadly drawn roles alongside more nuanced characters

Five Cool Things and The French Dispatch

Another week, more cool things.
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Last week, I talked about how the themes of this month were going to be foreign films and films made by and starring people of color, in honor of Black History Month. I have utterly failed on that last one. Films by people of color are a large hole in my cinematic viewing history and I really do need to start filling it. But like so many other times when I’ve failed at watching certain types of films during one month, it all comes down to availability. White males have dominated the film industry since there was a film industry,

Swamp Thing (2019): The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: What Is and What (Unfortunately) Will Never Be

The complete first and only season of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing shows what could have potentially been a great series.
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It was doomed from the beginning. Before making its debut on the DC Universe streaming service, Swamp Thing had its initial 13-episode first season cut to 10 episodes. Then, once it finally premiered, the show was cancelled after the airing of the pilot episode. The series was able to play out the remaining nine episodes, as the show aired weekly and didn’t release all at once. But the fate of the series was already determined, and those who stuck with it to the end, hoping to get at least some kind of closure, were left gravely disappointed. It’s a pity,

Criterion Announces May 2020 Releases

Six titles in May.
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Hold off on that summer vacation budget because Criterion will be releasing six titles in May. They are John Sturges's The Great Escape; Dorothy Arzner's Dance, Girl, Dance; Paul Dano's Wildlife; John Cassavetes's Husbands; Scorsese Stories, a compilation of five early short films by Martin Scorsese; and given a Blu-ray upgrade Eric Rohmer's Six Moral Tales collection. Read on to learn more about them. Six Moral Tales (#342) out May 5 The multifaceted, deeply personal work of Eric Rohmer has had an effect on cinema unlike any other. One of the founding critics of the history-making Cahiers du cinéma, Rohmer

Howl's Moving Castle & Ponyo Arrive in Limited Edition Steelbook Blu-ray+DVD May 12, 2020

From GKIDS and distributed by Shout!Factory comes acclaimed animated features from Studio Ghibli.
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Press release: Studio Ghibli and GKIDS, with distribution by Shout! Factory, will release Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo, from the famed Studio Ghibli library of films, on May 12 in limited edition SteelBook packaging with striking new art. The Howl’s Moving Castle and Ponyo SteelBooks will house Blu-ray & DVD combo packs, presenting the films alongside hours of bonus features and a booklet with stunning art and statements from the filmmakers. With this release, films from one of the world’s most coveted animation collections can come home to collectors in limited edition SteelBook packaging for the first time in North

I Got You Babe: The Best of Sonny & Cher, Volume 1 DVD Review

Fans of variety shows and of this era of television should enjoy these episodes.
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Sonny & Cher started as a singing duo and had their first big #1 hit in 1965 with “I Got You Babe” off their debut album, Look at Us. They never reached the same heights of success and failed with a couple of attempts at making a movie. They headed to nightclubs where they added comedy to their act with Sonny the butt of Cher's jokes and put-downs. After successful guest appearances and a TV special, CBS head of programming Fred Silverman hired them for a summer-replacement series that debuted in the summer of 1971 and ran for six episodes.

Sundance Film Festival 2020 Review: 'Promising Young Woman' Is a Promising Directorial Debut

Writer/director Emerald Fennell presents an electrifying yet melancholic revenge tale with a masterful Carey Mulligan performance.
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When Promising Young Woman begins, a cover of the song “It’s Raining Men” plays in the background as Cassie (Carey Mulligan) walks in broad daylight covered in blood. That song perfectly illustrates how it’s practically hunting season for Cassie who’s ready to combat the male species and will emasculate any strange man that she crosses paths with. After a terrible incident happened in her college years, forcing her to drop out, Cassie has been on a downward spiral with the film following her pursuit of justice over what happened. It also follows Cassie finding peace within herself, resulting in the

My Bloody Valentine (1981) Blu-ray Review: Superb Slasher Restored

One of the best '80s slasher films, My Bloody Valentine returns to Blu-ray with newly restored video and audio.
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My Bloody Valentine was, if not quite a box-office bomb, a severe disappointment. It was released right at the height of the slasher craze, a year after Friday the 13th had directly copied the formula of John Carpenter's wildly successful Halloween, upped the gore factor, and turned what was a phenomenon into an entire genre. Cheap and easy to make, most slasher movies were throwaways, only interesting in their sometimes innovative and gruesome special effects. And despite hitting the basic tropes spot on (takes place on a holiday, has a masked killer in an interesting costume, and plenty of "teenagers"

Roma (2018) is the Pick of the Week

Alfonso Cuaron's hauntingly beautiful portrait of 1970's Mexico headlines a new week of releases.
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When Green Book won the Oscar for best picture, it immedidately became a controversy, simply because it was a rather terrible pick, and also a safe choice. It felt more like a conventional Oscar-bait movie more than anything. The Academy really screwed up there, because Alfonso Cuaron's 2018 masterwork, Roma, should have been the choice. Not only was it arugably the best film of that year, but it was one of the best films of 2010s. Cuaron really hit his stride with his sharply moving depiction of not only its central family, but also Mexico at a certain time and

TCM To Celebrate Legendary Golden Age Actor Kirk Douglas

A 24-hour programming tribute airing on March 5 and special screening scheduled for TCM Classic Film Festival.
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Press release: Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will celebrate the life and career of seminal actor Kirk Douglas with a 24-hour programming tribute on Thursday, March 5 as well as a special screening of Spartacus (1960) at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood in April. Douglas, who passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 103, was known for his iconic work in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Acting in more than 80 movies before he retired in 2004, Douglas was recognized for breaking the Hollywood Blacklist by hiring Dalton Trumbo to write his film Spartacus (1960). He earned

The 2020 NAMM Show Review: There's More to the Music Business Than Music

An impressive endeavor with so many interesting things going on.
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The NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Show traces its roots back to the NAPDA (National Association of Piano Dealers of America), which formed in 1901 and had its first trade show in 1902. It was first held in Anaheim, California in 1976 and has returned many times since. Attendance is open to NAMM members, “pro audio professionals and buyers representing non-member companies, venues and houses of worship, as well as music educators and music majors,” and members of the media. This was my first time attending, and while I have visited numerous trade shows over the years, including San

Five Cool Things and The Jesus Rolls

Foreign Film February is off to a great start.
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After a very successful January in which I watched many films from director Jean-Pierre Melville, I couldn’t decide on a theme for the month of February. I knew I wanted to go with some kind of topical theme rather than choosing another director or star as I feared choosing another director would mean that each month would be nothing but directors and perhaps actors, and it seems more fun to mix it up. Eventually, I narrowed it down to two choices: movies made by or starring African Americans as it is Black History Month, or foreign language films as Foreign

Premature Movie Review: An Uneven Story with an Incredible Lead

Rashaad Ernesto Green's second film features a stellar, intimate performance from co-writer Zora Howard, only to be let down by a weak third act.
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When you first see Ayanna (Zora Howard), she looks to be in her element. She laughs with friends on the subway, flirting with guys standing opposite them. She chats without effort, but with speed and fluidity, in control of her surroundings. It provides a stark contrast to Ayanna only 90 minutes later, as Rashaad Ernesto Green’s Premature follows this 17-year-old through her summer before her first year of college. Ayanna wants to be a writer, and her poetry’s used as voiceover throughout the film, providing a constant rhythm to the coming-of-age drama. A few minutes into the film, she meets

The Righteous Gemstones: The Complete First Season out on DVD 4/14

Featuring all nine episodes from Danny McBride’s latest hilarious comedy plus bonus content.
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Press release: Danny McBride returns and reunites the creative team behind Vice Principals and Eastbound and Down with HBO’s latest hit comedy The Righteous Gemstones. Ahead of the show’s second season, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment is set to release The Righteous Gemstones: The Complete First Season on DVD April 14, 2020 for $24.98 SRP ($29.98 SRP in Canada). The two-disc set features all nine hilarious episodes plus an “Invitation to the Set” bonus feature. In addition to McBride, the comedic cast stars many familiar faces as series regulars including John Goodman (Roseanne, Treme), Edi Patterson (Vice Principals), Adam Devine (Pitch

Sundance Film Festival 2020 Review: 'The Nest' Is a Colossal Bore

It's like Seinfeld. A movie about nothing.
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Sean Durkin's awaited follow-up to Martha Marcy May Marlene has the makings of a strong retro thriller, yet succumbs to being like a feature-length film adaptation of the SNL skit The Needlers only with a more dour atmosphere. It’s almost two hours of a couple who clearly should be getting a divorce, yet choose to remain together because they’re evident masochists. Here’s a quick overview as to who these masochists are. Rory (Jude Law) is a British businessman who moves his family back to London because he’s unsatisfied with the house and job he has in America. This upsets his

Infinity Train: Book One Comes to DVD on April 21

With puzzles and perils awaiting them in every car, and the relentless Steward on their trail, will Tulip ever find a way off the train and return home?
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Press release: Created by Owen Dennis (former writer and storyboard artist from Regular Show), Cartoon Network’s mysterious and critically acclaimed series Infinity Train: Book One will be released on DVD on April 21, 2020 from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Go on a journey will all 10 episodes from the first season and bring home some extra magic with over an hour of epic bonus features including commentaries, documentaries, animatics, and more! Infinity Train: Book One DVD is priced to own at $14.97 SRP ($16.99 in Canada). Join Tulip on a mind-bending journey aboard the mysterious Infinity Train, alongside her companions

Turner Classic Movies Announces the Latest Additions to the 11th Annual TCM Classic Film Festival

Which of these titles would you like to see on the big screen?
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Press release: The TCM Classic Film Festival will return for its 11th consecutive year and is set to take place Thursday, April 16 - Sunday, April 19, 2020 in Hollywood, CA. The following films have been added to the program: Dick Powell and Linda Darnell star in a U.S. premiere restoration of the fantastical comedy IT HAPPENED TOMORROW (1944); Harry Belafonte, Mel Ferrer and Inger Stevens star as the only living people in a post-apocalyptic city in THE WORLD, THE FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1959) presented here in a new 35mm print; Vincent Price is the title character in a

Waves (2019) Blu-ray Review: The Place Beyond the Palms

Trey Edward Shults' latest is ambitious and also aggravatingly flawed.
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The use of popular music can make or break certain scenes in movies. Martin Scorsese knows this, even though he uses the same Rolling Stones song (“Gimme Shelter,” for example) or variations of it in a lot of his movies. But no matter the song, its placement is practically perfect. Others, like David O. Russell, struggle in this department. The Fighter went for the obvious with Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” Silver Linings Playbook had a terrible use of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” during an argument

The Garden Left Behind Movie Review: A Simplistic Political Experience

The Garden Left Behind blossoms thanks to its central performance and effective storytelling.
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When artists like Alicia Vikander and Jared Leto win prestigious awards for movies handling the trans experience, dedicating their awards to the transgendered community, it begs the question of whether trans artists themselves will be able to tell their own stories. Well, thanks to the FX series Pose, along with movies like A Fantastic Woman and the latest film The Garden Left Behind, they are able to be more front and center. Additionally, The Garden Left Behind digs into not only the experience of being trans in America, but a trans woman of color. How people are threatened just by

FLCL Progressive/Alternative Blu-ray Review: A Classic Badly Revived

A U.S. anime hit returns with a pair of mediocre sequel series that totally misunderstand the original's appeal.
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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. FLCL (pronounced Furry Kurry or Fooly Cooly, dependent on one's mood) looked like it was the beginning of something. It was a direct-to-video anime series released in 2000-2001, which at the time in Japan generally meant a series that a production company was given a larger budget to produce higher quality animation, without the restrictions that were placed on anime television so the content was directed by the vision of the creator. And FLCL, written by

Edge of the Axe Blu-ray Review: Careful with That Axe, Psycho Killer

Arrow Video presents this late entry into the slasher genre that spends too much time developing character when it should be chopping up bodies with an axe.
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It is always fascinating to me when the makers of low-budget slasher films try to inject their films with an actual story and well-developed characters. This seems rather pointless when all fans of the genre want is attractive people being hacked to death in creative ways. This is especially interesting as the majority of people who make low-budget slasher films wouldn’t know an interesting story if it slapped them in the face with a black leather glove, nor a well-developed character if it stabbed them in the eye with a shiny, sharp knife. Edge of the Axe is a Spanish-American

Crooklyn is the Pick of the Week

An underrated 1994 Spike Lee dramedy headlines a diverse week of good releases.
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When it comes to the coming-of age film, Spike Lee is not exactly the first director that comes to mind. However, with his 1994 sleeper hit, Crooklyn, I think he made one of the very best films about youth and family during a certain time and place. With an amazing soundtrack and great performances from Alfre Woodard, Delroy Lindo, and especially newcomer at the time, Zelda Harris (in her film debut), you get a classic that mostly hits all the right notes. The story is set in Brooklyn, New York, 1973, when eight-year-old Troy Carmichael (Harris) tries to navigate growing

For Sama Movie Review: War Seen Through a Young Mother's Eyes

A mother's confession letter that is sure to resonate with the entire world.
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If For Sama is a painting, pain is the brush. If it is a book, anguish is the pen. If it's metamorphosized into a human, a mother's love suffuses its heart while the fear and anger fill the mind. For Sama is beyond a personal film. Beneath the evident horrors intimately captured by the Waad Al-Kateab, the subject, narrator, and co-director of the film, lies a mother's confession letter to her daughter. "Heart-wrenching" is a milder word to describe the horrors, while befittingly construes a mother's agony. The agony is personal, but it resonates with the world, being the profoundly

Sundance Film Festival 2020 Review: Ben Whishaw is the Driving Force of 'Surge'

Ben Whishaw carries a bold directorial feat that's like Uncut Gems on Valium.
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Ben Whishaw has a knack for playing characters down on their luck with Joseph from Surge being the latest entry in his niche. Fed up with his soul-sucking day job as an airport security worker, Joseph decides to seek reckless adrenaline to get out of his sedate existence. His pursuit of thrills leads him down a path of criminal activity and self-destruction. As far as storytelling goes, that’s all Surge is. An employee in the service industry getting out of his boredom just for a day. Yet, writer/director Aneil Karia still makes it a vivid filmmaking experiment. Once the film

Rabid (2019) Blu-ray Giveaway

The Soska Sisters’ new take on David Cronenberg’s classic.
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Press release: Cinema Sentries has teamed up with Scream Factory to award one lucky reader Rapid on Blu-ray. For those wanting to learn more, read the press release below: Rabid comes to Blu-ray from Scream Factory on February 4, 2020, and includes an audio commentary with directors & writers Jen & Sylvia Soska, an interview with actress Laura Vandervoot, and the theatrical trailer. A gruesome accident ... an experimental treatment ... an unstoppable nightmare. Jen and Sylvia Soska bring you a terrifying new take on the legendary David Cronenberg's Rabid. Demure and unassuming fashion designer Sarah (Laura Vandervoort, Jigsaw), horribly

Five Cool Things and A Quiet Place Part II

January was a great month for cool things. Here's hoping February has just as many.
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I officially watched 34 movies in the month of January. That’s more than one movie per day. That’s a record for me. Only nine of those were movies I’d previously viewed. Six of those were from Jean-Pierre Melville, my Artist of the Month. I really enjoyed trying to watch a bunch of Melville films in January. I didn’t see all of the movies he directed but that’s a pretty good chunk. I’m not sure what my theme will be in February, but I’ll have to decide by tonight. I also suspect I won’t keep up my pace. There are a

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