August 2020 Archives

Beetlejuice 4K UHD is the Pick of the Week

Tim Burton's 1988 horror comedy classic makes its 4K UHD debut, among other releases this week.
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Usually, most films about dead people are serious, bleak, and grim as all get out. However, there are those that make fun of the deceased, while not taking themselves too seriously. There's Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Return of the Living Dead, among others, that have become classics in their own right. But I think my favorite has to be Beetlejuice, Tim Burton's deliciously morbid comedy classic that both celebrates the dead and also mocks them in a loving way. Obviously, everyone by the now knows the plot of the film, but I do have to mention it a

'Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me' Virtual Cinema Starts September 18, 2020

A film tracing his 50-year journey.
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Press release: Eagle Rock Entertainment proudly presents the first in-depth film biography of iconic musician Ronnie Wood with the release of Somebody Up There Likes Me. An official selection at both the Tribeca Film Festival 2020 and the BFI London Film Festival 2019, the film (by acclaimed director Mike Figgis) will be available in North America as a Virtual Cinema release starting September 18 at www.ronniewoodmovie.com, running through October. This will be followed by a DVD, Blu-ray and deluxe hardback book release on October 9. Pre-orders are available now. Those who purchase a ticket ($11) will also be treated to

Five Cool Things and Chadwick Boseman

May he forever rest in power.
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School finally started around these parts. My daughter has been out of school, or at least not physically attending school since March. COVID shut her classes down after Spring Break. She was getting some form of online education a few weeks after that but it was clear everybody was just winging it. We have elected to keep her home this year as well, but the school seems much more prepared this time around. Still, it will be a challenge. It seems like I've been talking about COVID and its effect on my life forever. That always seems weird since this

Bill & Ted Face the Music Movie Review: A Welcome Respite During These Tough Times

This third installment is a worthy addition to the franchise.
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The Bill & Ted film franchise has now become a trilogy with the long awaited Face the Music unleashed 29 years after they took their Bogus Journey. It's a worthy addition because the property and its fans are treated with respect as screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon created a story worth telling about the characters and the time we live in. In the future, the Great Leader (Holland Taylor), Rufus' widow, is concerned because William "Bill" Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore "Ted" Logan (Keanu Reeves) have yet to fulfill the prophecy about writing a song that would unite

The Balcony Blu-ray Review: Cinematic Satire, I Guess

This adaptation of a French satire failed to make me laugh or think very deeply.
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The Balcony (1963) is a cinematic adaptation of the French play by the same name from writer Jean Genet. It almost entirely takes place inside a most peculiar brothel overseen by Madame Irma (Shelley Winters). Peculiar because it is set up like a soundstage. The girls sit inside a warehouse filled with props and costumes and the like. When needed, they move inside smaller rooms equipped with backdrops, lighting, and even a movie camera. They enact odd little dramas. One man pretends to be a Catholic Bishop overseeing a confession where the girl admits to all sorts of depravity. Another

5-Movie Collection from the Written Works of Stephen King Blu-ray Set Arrives September 15

These five films offer perfect entertainment for Halloween
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Press release: Prepare for terrifying suspense and bone-chilling thrills with this new 5-Movie Collection arriving on Blu-ray September 15, 2020. Based on the written works of Stephen King, these five films offer perfect entertainment for Halloween: Pet Sematary (1989), Pet Sematary (2019), Stephen King’s The Stand, The Dead Zone, and Stephen King’s Silver Bullet. Pet Sematary (1989) Written for the screen by Stephen King and based on his iconic bestseller, director Mary Lambert’s thrilling Pet Sematary electrified audiences upon its release. When tragedy strikes, a grief-stricken father sets off a perilous chain of events that unleashes unfathomable evil in this

Breezy Blu-ray Review: Like Sunday Morning

A sweet romance from Clint Eastwood feels a bit queasy due to the age difference.
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An old, cynical man meets a young woman and is changed by her zeal for life. It is a tale as old as Silas Marner and probably much older. At least George Elliot had the good sense to make the girl a child and the relationship that of a father to his daughter. Modern turns of the story tend to make the girl a bit older and the relationship explicitly romantic or sexual. With Breezy (1973), Clint Eastwood's third film as director and his first in which he did not star, the man is Frank Harmon (William Holden), a middle-aged

Chris Stapleton Returns with New Album 'Starting Over' out November 13

Across its fourteen tracks are songs that examine life’s simplest joys and most serious struggles.
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Press release: Starting Over, the highly anticipated new studio album from Chris Stapleton, is out November 13 on Mercury Records Nashville and is now available for pre-order. Written by Stapleton and Mike Henderson, “Starting Over” begins an album of startling prescience—completed in late February only days before the shutdown began. Across its fourteen tracks are songs that examine life’s simplest joys and most serious struggles. Alongside eleven written by Stapleton with both longtime friends and new collaborators are three carefully chosen covers: John Fogerty’s “Joy Of My Life” and Guy Clark’s “Worry B Gone” and “Old Friends.” The resulting album—both

The Sign of the Cross Blu-ray Review: Saints and Debauchery in a Pre-Code Epic

I'm amazed this thing got made in 1932.
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Claudette Colbert naked in a bath filled donkey's milk. Well, topless at least. And the milk was powdered cow's milk mixed with water. The heat of the lights soured it, so that the stench filled the stage. It must have been misery for Colbert. But god, is it sexy as hell. It is one of the most infamous scenes in a pre-Code movie. It is tame by today's standards, but again that eroticism is something else. The scene does have a reason to exist beyond sex appeal. Colbert is playing Empress Poppaea, the wife of Roman Emperor Nero. Outside, we

The Lawyer (2020) Movie Review: Builds a Solid Case

A masterful exercise in mixing tenuous political commentary with queer love.
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Given how The Lawyer is about two men who form an instant connection as they take part in online dating, it offers a dash of timeliness as we live in a period where people are forced to engage in social distancing. A practice that may seem daunting due to the uncertainty over who the real person behind their social media persona may be can in fact lead to being with a compatible person that shapes one’s life. People like Marius (Eimutis Kvosciauskas) are the kind who seem to yearn for such a connection. As he goes through his typical

There's Always Tomorrow Blu-ray Review: A Nuanced Portrayal of a Man Grown Bored with His Life

This Douglas Sirk melodrama takes a realistic look into a marriage on the rocks and the temptation of another woman.
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Twelve years after making the perfect film noir, Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwcyk starred in another movie about a married couple and the person who comes between them. Unlike Double Indemnity, there is no murder, no insurance fraud, and decidedly, no Edward G. Robinson in There's Always Tomorrow. Instead, we get a nuanced portrayal of a man grown bored with his life and a temptation he'll have trouble saying "no" to. Clifford Graves (MacMurray) has a seemingly perfect life - he runs a toy company, he has a beautiful wife and three wonderful children. But he's grown bored and restless.

Tales from the Darkside: The Movie Blu-ray Review: Slick '90s Horror Anthology

Thin storylines are buoyed by effective production and a surprisingly good cast in this movie version of the TV show.
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The anthology movie seems like it is always going out of style, and yet it seems to crop up again and again, a renewable novelty. Horror is the most common theme of anthologies, which help to focus horror's greatest strength (shock, novel imagery, wild twists) while downplaying the genre's general weaknesses: tedium and repetition. But it also taxes the faculty of the genre that is often in short supply: inventiveness. Horror movies tend to try to stretch something that's barely an idea into feature length. An anthology needs several ideas just to justify its existence. One of the historical wellsprings

Toni Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Influential French Drama

Jean Renoir's realistic portrayal of migrant workers in the South of France helped influence the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism.
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In 1934, acclaimed French director Jean Renoir left the studio in Paris and headed for the countryside in the south of France. There, he hired non-actors and inexperienced ones to shoot Toni, a naturalistic melodrama about immigrants, their work, their lives, and their romances. He used mostly natural lighting and filmed mostly on location. The actors didn't use makeup and spoke in regional dialects. It did poorly at the box office but was beloved by the French New Wave and helped create Italian Neo-Realism (Luchino Visconti, one of that movement's greatest directors, was an assistant on Toni). It is, in

'Icons of Darkness', An Exhibition from the Largest Private Collection of Sci-Fi, Horror, and Fantasy Memorabilia, at The Montalbán Starting in September

Screen-used artifacts, life-like replicas, and never-before-seen props amassed by Rich Correll create immersive public experience with COVID-19 precautions.
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Press release: This fall, beheaded beasts, blood-gushing villains, 14-foot aliens, and the world’s most beloved blockbuster heroes will converge on Los Angeles for an immersive entertainment experience. Icons of Darkness (IOD) will premiere at The Montalbán in partnership with TV actor, writer, producer, and director Richard “Rich” Correll. One of the most extensive, privately owned collections of its kind, IOD will offer cinematic buffs, sci-fi fans, cosplay enthusiasts, and horror aficionados a walking tour of props, artifacts, and memorabilia from movies spanning almost 100 years of Hollywood history. Hundreds of films will be represented, including Frankenstein, The Exorcist, Star Wars,

The Flash: The Complete Sixth Season Blu-ray Review: The Stakes Have Gotten Higher but the Fun Has Gotten Smaller

The Flash keeps getting bigger and bigger, but not necessarily better and better.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Mat Brewster with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are his own. Towards the end of "The Last Temptation of Barry Allen, Pt. 2", Episode 7 of the Sixth Season of The Flash, the main cast gathers together to hug, say nice things to Barry, and look at each other wistfully. They know that Crisis is coming. The prophecy has foretold that Barry Allen aka the Flash (Grant Gustin) has to die. At some point, Cisco (Carlos Valdez) reminisces about the old days, when there was no Crisis,

Toni is the Pick of the Week

An offbeat, underrated character drama from one of the all-time greatest directors starts off a new week of releases.
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When discussing the legendary Jean Renoir, you're talking about one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. His films were noted for their humanity and strong romanticism that continues to be renowned by famous directors such as Orson Welles, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson, and Paul Thomas Anderson, among others. He was brilliant at making films about different subject matter, whether it was critiquing the French class (The Rules of the Game), war (Grand Illusion), or film noir (La bete Humaine), he proved that he could really do anything. And with his 1935 portrait of everyday French society,

Cry Freedom Blu-ray Review: A Fight for Justice

An important black story unfortunately told from a white perspective.
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As our culture continues to shift towards something like equality, it is difficult sometimes to watch and critique older films containing instances of sexism, racism, or both. These films are sometimes made with good intentions, are often designed to oppose such inequalities, and yet are clearly a product of their time. Cry Freedom (1987) is a film ostensibly about Apartheid in South Africa, and its heart is in the right place, but it was made by a white filmmaker and focuses on a white family and its back half becomes just another action thriller where a man tries to make

Town Bloody Hall Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Verbal Battle of the Sexes

An often funny, manic, and sometimes raunchy document of the continuous discussion of gender politics.
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Documentaries, more than any other category of film, successfully (or sometimes unsuccessfully) captures reality at its most uncomfortable means. Whatever the topic is, such as interesting, controversial, and often timely topics on all sides of humanity, you're obviously going to be exposed to different points-of-view, especially in terms of debate. And speaking of debate, the neverending theme of gender politics (whether sexual or otherwise) is always going to come up, at some point. This is the case with Chris Hededus and D.A. Pennebaker's brisk 1979 documentary Town Bloody Hall, which captured for a moment in time, the sometimes toxic elements

Five Cool Things and The Suicide Squad

After a couple of weeks off, I'm back with Five Cool Things.
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My apologies for taking a couple of weeks off. One of our subcontractors told us a few weeks ago that four members of their crew had tested positive for Covid-19. Naturally, that freaked us out a little. I certainly don't want to get it but I was mostly concerned with my elderly, and very immuno-compromised father. We rushed off and got tested. Well, "rush" is the wrong word as it took us some three hours to actually get the test. They all came back negative, thank god. But it was a scare. I wanna say that kept me from writing,

The King of Staten Island Blu-ray Review: Judd Apatow Has Made His Most Realized Work

Pete Davidson really shines in a slightly overlong, but still hilarious and thoughtful tale of love, loss, and finding who are.
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There have been so many coming-of-age movies about young people growing up, dealing with the pressures of life, love, family drama, sibling rivalry, and facing an uncertain future. Judd Apatow is a director who brings his own style: an ear for sometimes raunchy but honest dialogue, long running times, and characters who are so overly complicated but honestly deep and lovable. When these two factors come together, they do mix well (at least most of the time). However, Apatow has made his most realized work with this year's The King of Staten Island, where he also gets a stellar lead

Tender Mercies Blu-ray Review: A Gentle, Beautiful Film

The script by Horton Foote is smart. It won him an Oscar. It knows about people and their inner lives
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Two men brawl over a bottle of whiskey in a run-down old motel room. One man falls, or is possibly knocked down onto the floor. He doesn't get up until morning. The other man takes the truck and leaves. When the man wakes up, he asks the owner of the motel if the other fellow paid for the room. When she says, "No," he asks if he can work it off. She figures there are some things he could do. At the end of the day, he says he might like to stay on for a few days if she

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Angela Winkler Is Sensational

A disturbingly relevant thriller that feels eerily modern to today's skewered politics.
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In today's uncilivilzed world where humanity comes second (or dead last) to politics and where the police take the law into their own hands and drag people through the mud just because they believe they can, the media sometimes can be the bad guy too and try to smear people for their own gain. Volker Schlondroff and Margarethe von Trotta's exhaustingly searing 1975 thriller The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, take these elements one step further...closer to reality. It's tale of misued power, individual freedom under fire, and innocent lives lost hasn't dulled its edge one bit. Adapted from a

Chemical Hearts Movie Review: Teenage-romance Turns Contemplative

Richard Tanne's second feature is a contemplative experience that leaves with a bittersweet feeling.
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Three minutes into Chemical Hearts, you understand that the film is twisting the teenage-romance genre. It places teenage characters in dramatic situations, in which death and PTSD complicate things, while characters remain teenagers grappling with the difference between objective reality and subjective reality. To call Chemical Hearts pretentious would be untrue, but it could have easily fallen into the trap of flatulent intelligence in the pretext of depth. That doesn’t happen, thanks to the way these characters are set-up; sophisticated yet utterly simple. For instance, when Grace Town (Lili Reinhart) explains her understanding of life and death - drawing an

Book Review: Joe Alves: Designing Jaws by Dennis Prince

It does a marvelous job demonstrating the work done by the unsung hero that is the production designer.
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Special make-up effects artist and The Walking Dead executive producer Greg Nicotero, who cites Steven Spielberg's Jaws as an inspiration for his becoming a filmmaker, states in the foreword to Joe Alves: Designing Jaws, “a production designer[ is] tasked with determining the how, what, and why of the look of the film and subsequently how the production is laid out.” The book then proceeds to show readers the work on the landmark blockbuster by production designer Alves, who had previously worked as an art director with Spielberg on his feature-film debut, Sugarland Express, and who would receive an Academy Award

Time Life Releases The Best of Cher on September 15, 2020

From the sequined '70s to the rockin' '90s, Cher's story unfolds across nine sparkling discs packed with music, classic comedy and fabulous outfits.
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Press release: From Hollywood to Vegas and all around the world, no one has continued to delight us, surprise us, and entertain us like Cher. And she's not done yet! For the first time ever, all the spectacular highlights of Cher's remarkable career are together in one electrifying collection: THE BEST OF CHER, available on September 15 from the classic TV DVD experts at Time Life. Cher initially rose to stardom as part of a singing act with then husband Sonny Bono in the 1960s, hitting No. 1 with the single "I Got You Babe" before they starred together on

Coup 53 Movie Review: Transmutes Intricacy into Intrigue

With a plethora of material at disposition, Taghi Amirani's skillfully made documentary assures the intrigue remains intact.
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The facet of documentary filmmaking that excites me most is the aftermath of the release. Documentaries affect the real world and real people; wider the subject matter, wider the impact. On this premise, I'm certain that Coup 53 will have a profound impact on an entire generation of Iran, offering a bit of closure to some, and furthers the existing material pertaining to the Iranian coup d'état, while also instigating a sense of treachery they’ve been subjected to 67 years ago. More importantly, the film factually addresses the major role of the USA and Britain in operation Ajax, whose involvement

All I Desire Blu-ray Review: Can Barbara Stanwyck Go Home Again?

An entertaining vehicle for Stanwyck, who couldn't help but make anything watchable, but its turn-of-the-century setting amplifies its distant, almost quaint feeling.
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Kino Lorber's KL Studio Classics has released All I Desire, from 1953, a romantic melodrama featuring Barbara Stanwyck, from the producer/director team of Ross Hunter and Douglas Sirk. Stanwyck plays Naomi Murdoch, a vaudeville actress who left her husband and family years ago to escape small-town life and scandalous gossip. When her teenage daughter writes to her to come and see her in her high school play, she decides to accept her invitation - good acting roles have dried up for her and she can't help but be curious about how her family has fared without her. Her husband Henry

Life Is a Long Quiet River Blu-ray Review: It Could Use a Few Noisy Rapids

A light-hearted social satire about French life that could have used a few more laughs.
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A nurse, Josette (Catherine Heigel), is in love with Doctor Mavial (Daniel Gélin), whom she works for. He continues to promise that he'll leave his wife when the time is right, but he's been saying that for decades. Twelve years prior, after he'd promised to spend Christmas Eve with her but then went back to his wife after delivering two babies, Josette played a prank on him. She switched the name tags of those babies with each other so that they went home with the wrong parents. When the doctor's wife dies, he is still unwilling to marry Josette. Angry,

Criterion Announces November 2020 Releases

Cinephiles will be giving thanks this November.
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This November, film fans can stuff themselves with these new Criterion Collection offerings. They are Claudia Weill's Girlfriends, Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck, Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, and Essential Fellini, a massive 14-disc Blu-ray set. Read on to learn more about them. Girlfriends (#1055) out Nov 10 When her best friend and roommate abruptly moves out to get married, Susan (Melanie Mayron), trying to become a gallery artist while making ends meet as a bar mitzvah photographer on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, finds herself adrift in both life and love. Could a

Raid on Rommel Blu-ray Review: Raids Other Films for Ideas

It says something about Richard Burton's star power that he still had a career after this stinker.
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As an American of 40 some odd years of age, I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know that much about World War II. I mean, I know the basics. Hitler’s blitzkrieg. The bombing of London. D-Day. Everything I've watched a half dozen times in Band of Brothers. Hitler turning on Stalin. The Bunker. The end. I know even less about the Pacific Theater. I could fill in some other details if I really thought about it, but the specifics of the various campaigns and all the players are beyond what I've ever been bothered to study. I'm definitely deficient in

Batwoman: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: The Arrowverse Finally Goes to Gotham

When Batwoman finds its groove, it's really good.
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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. With Arrow coming into its eighth and final season, the CW needed a new show to replace it and continue its stable of shows within the Arrowverse. Why not head to Gotham and bring forth one of DC Comics most beloved characters? If not Batman, then why not his cousin? Batwoman may not be an obvious choice to fill in the Arrow's shoes, but then again the Arrow wasn't exactly the hottest property the CW could

Town Bloody Hall is the Pick of the Week

A spirited, and not-so ancient battle-of-the-sexes documentary headlines a new week of interesting releases.
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Norman Mailer was arugably the most influential writer during postwar America. He wasn't afraid to be outspoken of what he thought was truth. However, he was also a polarizing, brutish, sexist figure who had a penchant for womanizing (he was married six times after all), violence (he once stabbed his second wife with a penknife and beat his fourth one), drugs, and often repellent behavior. But for better or worse (again), he did possess intelligence and an undeniable charisma that made one of the most unforgettable intellectuals in the history of literature. There were many documentaries about his life, persona,

Backlash (1956) Blu-ray Review: Searching for Gold and Daddy

A great opening setup leads to just a pretty good film.
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A woman rides up to a man digging in the dirt in what appears to be an abandoned camp out in the mountains of Arizona. She asks if he's looking for gold. No, is his reply. He's looking for his father. The place is Gila Valley and sometime earlier, five men were massacred there by Apache Indians. One of them was his father. The two rest in the shade of some rocks. She says she'd like a cigarette. He says he doesn't smoke. She says she's got some in her saddlebag. When he goes looking for them, someone up in

Bloodstone Blu-ray Review: Indiana Jones and the B-Movie Knock-Off

Nico Mastorakis gets into the exotic adventure game with typical mixed results.
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Arrow Video continues to release HD versions of the film of Greek director/writer/producer Nico Mastorakis, and I am here for it. His films are the perfect blend of action, romance, horror, and '80s cheese. For Bloodstone (1986), he's credited as writer, producer, and editor. Directing duties were left to Dwight H. Little of Halloween IV: The Return of Michael Myers and Marked for Death fame. But it has Mastorakis signatures written all over it. Production values are good considering the budget, the acting generally bad, the script ridiculous, and the action is lame, but the location is exotic and the

Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story Movie Review: Yes, Sir. I Do Like It

A revealing tale of success in the face of cruel genius.
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Do you know what rolls down stairs, alone or in pairs, and over your neighbor's dog? Do you know who to call when you are out of Powdered Toast? Did Stinky Wizzleteats teach you how to be happy? If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you are one of the many fans of The Ren and Stimpy Show. Whether you discovered the show when it first premiered on Nickelodeon in 1991, through reruns, or on DVD, you know the genius of this cartoon show. At the time of its debut, The Ren and Stimpy Show was one of the
With the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2 remake dropping in a couple weeks (September 4, 2020 to be exact), what better time to review how we got to where we are? Director Ludvig Gür gives us a look at the evolution of skateboarding culture, the rise (and fall) of the game franchise, and how the two have informed one another over the last 30 years. The movie opens by looking at the rises and falls of skateboarding's popularity from the '70s through the '90s. It got its start with an emphasis on verticality, but as skate parks started

Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies Movie Review: A Flesh-filled Journey that Lacks a Critical Eye

I really enjoyed hearing from the actors and filmmakers who have been in and behind some incredibly iconic scenes and films.
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Skin: A History of Nudity in the Movies is the new documentary that chronicles the storied history of nudity in American film. Written and directed by Danny Wolf and co-written and executive produced by Paul Fishbein, this film takes the audience on a flesh-filled journey of naked people on film beginning with the invention of moving pictures and continues through to modern day. Skin chronicles how nudity has been used, challenged, exploited, and reimagined by filmmakers and actors. This new documentary also touches on the issues surrounding the Me Too movement, power dynamics, the exploitation of women, and body image

Book Review: Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists by Various

A thoughtful, varied collection of work inspired by a sci-fi classic.
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I took the opportunity to review Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists because I'm an Alien nut, then realized I don't really know anything about art. Does it matter? Should it matter? If beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder, so what if I don't know the correct technical terminology for the medium. You like what you like, right? Then I wondered if I even could fill a page with thoughts about a book of pictures. I did it before, but maybe that was easier because they were light-hearted Alien shenanigans. Well, here goes. Alien: 40 Years 40 Artists

The Eagle and the Hawk Blu-ray Review: World War I Was Hell

Frederic March is brilliant as a fighter pilot slowly going mad in this gripping war drama.
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Over the last few months, I've watched three World War I films (All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory, and this one), two of them pre-Code and all three staunchly anti-war. I find it interesting that so many World War I movies tend to depict war as horror rather than something brave and meaningful. It seems to me that most World War II movies tend to be geared towards the rah-rah than the cynical. It wasn't until Vietnam that films seemed ready to embrace the dark side of the country-on-country battles again. That's some broad-stroke painting right there

Essential Fellini Available from the Criterion Collection on Nov 24, 2020

Criterion is thrilled to announce Essential Fellini, a fifteen-Blu-ray box set that brings together fourteen of the director’s most imaginative and uncompromising works for the first time.
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Press release: One hundred years after his birth, Federico Fellini still stands apart as a giant of the cinema. The Italian maestro is defined by his dualities: the sacred and the profane, the masculine and the feminine, the provincial and the urbane. He began his career working in the slice-of-life poetry of neorealism, and though he soon spun off on his own freewheeling creative axis, he never lost that grounding, evoking his dreams, memories, and obsessions on increasingly grand scales in increasingly grand productions teeming with carnivalesque imagery and flights of phantasmagoric surrealism while maintaining an earthy, embodied connection to

Before the Fire (2020) Movie Review: A Timely Thriller that Flames Out

A movie about surviving a pandemic is fitting right now, but this one doesn’t have much going for it.
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There’s a lot that happens in the opening moments of Before the Fire that immediately feels tense and eerie, given the current situation the world is going through. An unknown disease has made itself present, forcing airlines to cancel flights, businesses to offer curbside pickup on what limited supplies they have, and an uncertainty of what’s going to happen next. People flee certain areas that are now considered hotspots, and try to not come into contact with those who may possibly be infected. But the further we get into the slim, 90-minute thriller, the more it feels like there needs

Sukiyaki Western Django Blu-ray Review: The Good, the Bad and the Quentin

Takashi Miike takes an inspired stab at the spaghetti Western genre.
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Writer/director Takashi Miike rose to international fame around the turn of the century with a string of audacious cult classic films including Audition, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, and the Dead or Alive series. While he has continued working nonstop since then, his more recent work doesn’t seem to make its way to the West, or at least cause as much impact, as reliably as it did back then. Thankfully, we can cross one release off the 21st century catalog list now with the U.S. Blu-ray arrival of this film from 2007. It ticks all the boxes for Miike weirdness,

The Complete Films of Agnes Varda is the Pick of the Week

Criterion's mammoth box set of the work of the legendary Agnes Varda tops a new week of releases.
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A master filmmaker like the great Agnes Varda needs no introduction. When she passed away at the age of 90, she definitely left behind a very influential and eclectic body of work. She also left a huge gap in film that arugably no other filmmaker can fill. Not only she did pave the way for modern feminism in both French and global cinema, but she was the only female director of the French New Wave. She was a pivotal director who made films on her own terms, with a unique verite style and realism including those of absolute documentaries and

Hiroshima Blu-ray Review: Unrelenting Terror

A documentary-style narrative film about the days following first atomic bomb dropping.
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The sky is a pale blue. Big, white clouds float by. It looks peaceful. It won't for long. This is the view from the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945, the day the United States of America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. A narrator tells us how the plane left early that morning. About how the pilot Paul Tibbetts had doubts about what he was doing. We see the Hiroshima approach in the distance. The narrator tells us of the destruction of that day. How the bomb killed thousands upon impact. How it leveled the city. The view

Lucky Grandma Blu-ray Review: Don't Mess with Grandma

Lucky Grandma's star, Tsai Chin, like the film, is simultaneously ornery and delightful.
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After her husband's death and an auspicious fortune-telling reading, chain-smoking, cranky Grandma Wong (Tsai Chin - Joy Luck Club, Casino Royale) decides to empty her bank account and get on a Chinatown casino express bus to try and test her luck. She decides to follow her fortune teller's forecast and plays her lucky number 8. It works great at roulette, craps and every game she plays and the chips stack up - until she lands at a private table, where both her luck and chips evaporate. So, it's back on the Chinatown bus, where she sits next to a man

Black Rainbow Blu-ray Review: A Spiritual Thriller

Mike Hodges oft-neglected thriller about a fake medium who gets real powers works best when it focuses on the relationships between the characters
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What happens when your fake medium act turns real? When you've been pretending to see visions of dead people in order to bilk their living relatives out of some cold cash and suddenly, you're having real visions in which you see actual deaths before they happen, what do you do? In the case of Martha Travis (Rossana Arquette) in Mike Hodges' 1989 thriller Black Rainbow, you'd better run because the hitman paid to commit one of the murders she envisions is fast on her trail. Martha and her alcoholic father Walter (Jason Robards) travel by train from Southern town to

Old Boyfriends Blu-ray Review: Girl Trip

A bit of a curiosity, Old Boyfriends is still an interesting film to watch, especially for the boyfriends.
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Diane Cruise (Talia Shire) is a psychiatrist who doesn't seem to have any sense of herself in Old Boyfriends (1979), presented with a new 4K master from Kino Lorber's KL Studio Classics. She suffers a personality crisis after splitting from her husband and decides to embark on a road trip of self-discovery. She decides to revisit three men from her past in order to better understand herself. "I thought if I could find out who I was then, I might find out who I am now." The first man is Jeff (Richard Jordan), her college love. She had repeatedly turned

She Dies Tomorrow Movie Review: Meditation on Impending Doom

Amy Seimetz' second feature length film explores the various reactions to the certain knowledge that... tomorrow, you die.
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The premise is in the title: She Dies Tomorrow. She knows she's going to. She's certain of it. So certain that she, a recovering alcoholic, takes a drink for the first time in a while: what does it matter? She dies tomorrow. She's Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) and she calls her friend Jane to come over. Jane (Jane Adams) sees Amy's drunk, and listens to her babble about how she's going to die for as long as she can take, then leaves. Then, after a short amount of time at home, alone, Jane becomes convinced. It's going to happen to

The Quest (1986) Blu-ray Review: Sit This Adventure Out

Utterly disappointing in every way.
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Fresh off the enormous success of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Henry Thomas, the fresh-faced star of that film must have been offered a million different roles, in a million different movies. His first three films after that Steven Spielberg blockbuster were Misunderstood, a prestigious drama co-starring Gene Hackman and Rip Torn; Cloak & Dagger, a criminally underrated spy thriller with Dabney Coleman; and this low budget atrocity. One has to wonder why a kid still riding high from a massive success would choose to make a low budget Australian film from a director no one in America had ever heard of

Zombie for Sale Blu-ray Review: A New Take on an Old Genre

This zombie rom-com takes the genre into fun directions.
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One would think the zombie movie would be completely played out by now. There have been countless films about the walking dead in a variety of genres (not just horror) since White Zombie introduced the walking dead into our cinematic lexicon in 1932. There have been zombie comedies, zombie romances, zombies in the apocalypse, and zombie musicals. Again, you would think by now there'd be nothing new to say about zombies. Zombie for Sale proves you wrong. It doesn't exactly reinvent the genre, but it puts a new spin on it, taking it in a new, interesting direction. Take black

Ride Your Wave Blu-ray Review: Touching Romance Becomes Ghost Story

Masaaki Yuasa's latest feature about surfing, grief, and water controlling ghosts is touching and off-putting at once.
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For the first half hour of Ride Your Wave, it seems like Masaaki Yuasa was tackling something he'd only ever flirted with in his previous animated offerings: realism. Without once abandoning the exaggerated squish and stretch sense of movement that is his primary visual signature, Ride Your Wave begins primarily being about real people, in real situations, without the hyperbole, magical realism or out and out crazy that's the hallmark of Yuasa's films. The majority of the film is not spent in the belly of the whale, like Mind Game, or hanging out with mythical fish monsters like Lu Over

Book Review: The Complete Steve Canyon, Volume 5: 1955-1956 by Milton Caniff

Caniff's artwork is so evocative the mood of the panel is conveyed before reading the word balloons.
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Since January 2012, the Library of American Comics, by way of IDW Publishing, has been releasing collections of Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon newspaper comic strips. Volume 5 presents the daily and Sunday newspaper comic strips from January 2, 1955 to December 30, 1956, covering the ninth and tenth year of the strip's 41-year run. Library of American Comics associate editor Bruce Canwell wrote the introductory essay "The Inside Man ," which provides insight into the characters and stories. Volume 5 opens in the middle of a story with young airmen Peter Pipper and Murky Murphy trapped on an ice flow

Audie Murphy Collection Blu-ray Review: War Hero Becomes a Movie Star

I've heard about Audie Murphy's remarkable life since I was a kid. I'm thrilled to finally be getting to see some of his films with this new set.
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Towards the end of the tenth and final episode of Band of Brothers, HBO's acclaimed miniseries that follows Easy Company from jump training to the end of World War II, we are told about what those men did after the war. It was shocking to me the first time I watched it to learn that those soldiers, who we've just spent ten episodes watching live through absolute hell with the greatest of strength, courage, and honor, came home to become cab drivers, warehouse workers, and farmers. These men were heroes, how could they come home to work such menial jobs?

The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum is the Pick of the Week

Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta's 1975 disturbingly modern political thriller tops a new week of releases.
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In today's extremely terrifying times, where Donald Trump continues his reign of terror, you have to look back at the paranoid thrillers in the past, especially in the 1960s and 70s, to see how eerily relevant their stories have remained. There was The Manchurian Candidate, Seven Days In May, Z, The Parallax View, Three Days of the Condor, among others. However, I think that 1975's quietly brutal The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, directed by Volker Schlondorff and Margarethe von Trotta, takes it even further with its stinging commentary on absued power, individual morals, and media manipulation. The film stars

Wonder Woman: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: Warner Bros. Brings Us Exactly What We Need

It’s the commentary by Lynda Carter on the pilot and a Season Three episode that are the gems to discover here.
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In 1975, America found itself in strange times. The president had resigned, we had experienced an energy crisis, and Archie Bunker was the hottest thing on television. With those examples, I am only scratching the surface. Perhaps what we needed was a superhero. The Super Friends animated series was doing quite well on Saturday mornings, thrilling children with the adventures of Superman, Batman, Aquaman, and Wonder Woman. Though our three male heroes had been featured in animated series before Super Friends, we had seen little of Wonder Woman. So, was 1975 truly the year to bring her to prime time?

Five Cool Things and The New Mutants

What an eclectically cool week.
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It was an eclectic week for old Mat Brewster and his consumption of cool things. We've got new horror movies, a Christmas musical comedy with zombies, Tony Curtis, New Mutants, Studio Ghibli and the Grateful Dead. So without further ado let's get to it. The Invisible Man (2020) An update on the classic H.G. Wells story for the #MeToo generation. Elisabeth Moss stars as Cecilia, a woman who is trying to escape from an abusive relationship. The film begins with her drugging the husband, Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), then running away in the middle of the night. She stays with a

Rick and Morty: Season 4 - The Antics Arrive on Blu-ray & DVD September 22, 2020

Adult Swim’s out-of-this-world series is coming to your home.
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Press release: America’s favorite crazy scientist and his grandson return for more misadventures when the latest season of Adult Swim’s hit series Rick and Morty: Season 4 arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on September 22, 2020. From creators Justin Roiland (“Adventure Time”) and Dan Harmon (“Community”), go on an intergalactic journey across the multi-verse with the award-winning comedy, featuring all 10 episodes from Season 4, and outrageous bonus content including A Day at Rick and Morty: Inside Season 4, Inside the Episode for every episode, Creating Snake Jazz, and more. Rick and Morty: Season 4 is priced to own at

Summerland Movie Review: A Satisfactory Lesbian Drama

Like a bittersweet beach day. Rain clouds sometimes loom, but the Sun finds ways to shine.
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After starring as Vita Sackville-West in Vita & Virginia, Gemma Arterton continues her small niche of starring in lesbian period dramas with Summerland, a similar acting showcase for Arterton that thrives on more than just on her performance unlike the former picture. While Summerland possesses some period piece cliches, it still overcomes them with its storytelling verve and of course, its commendable performances. In Summerland, Arterton plays Alice, a reclusive writer ostracized by those within her seaside community. While living in the midst of WWII, Alice is forced to temporarily house a young evacuee named Frank (Lucas Bond). Initially, Alice

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