August 2020 Archives

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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