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Lone Wolf and Cub Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Manga Comes to Life

Chanbara film series is aided by the screenwriting of the manga series creator, Kazuo Koike.
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As the shogun executioner, Ogami Itto has a comfortable gig until he falls from grace and endures the death of his beloved wife. Facing almost certain death at the hands of his enemies, the dreaded Yagyu clan, he’s forced to flee and gives his toddler son a choice: die at his hand or join him in a life of hardship on the “demon road”. With no home, no money, and no seeming future, the father becomes an assassin for hire and stays on the move, pushing his son around the countryside in a rickety cart from one misadventure to the

Mifune: The Last Samurai Movie Review: A Wonderful Remembrance

A straightforward biography that reveals little more than the story of the man's life.
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Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazak's documentary tells the story of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who together with director Akira Kurosawa became worldwide sensations because of their work together on 16 films, from Drunken Angel (1948) to Red Beard (1965). Narrator Reeves says they were "some of the greatest movies ever made...Together, they influenced filmmaking and popular culture around the world." Their partnership was such an integral part of their lives, it's not a surprise it's an integral part of this documentary as well. Because film was such an important part of what he became, the story of Mifune: The Last Samurai

Frank & Lola Movie Review: Not Your Average Love Story

First-time director Matthew Ross proves he's someone to keep watching.
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Michael Shannon is such an intense actor I don’t know that I could ever see him as a romantic lead. Even when he’s whispering sweet nothings, I’d always feel like there was something sinister happening underneath. So it is with Frank & Lola, the new film starring Shannon and Imogen Poots as the titular characters. He’s a respected Las Vegas chef and she’s a fashion designer-hopeful just out of school. First-time director Matthew Ross shows us the beginnings of their relationship in fits and starts. He strings together snippets of scenes, flashing both backwards and forward, giving us snapshots of

Kristen's Book Club for December 2016

What's worth reading this month?
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Winter is upon us. Snow is falling, cocoa is plentiful and there's no better time to curl up and let the stress of Christmas pass you by with a good book. Here's a trio of titles worth reading. Elizabeth Taylor by Ellis Cashmore Paparazzi everywhere; TMZ covering every celebrity's move 24/7. It's nearly impossible to imagine a time where this didn't exist. Ellis Cashmore's Elizabeth Taylor seeks to pinpoint when this oppressive obsession with celebrity first started, zeroing in on Elizabeth Taylor's public affair with Richard Burton. Cashmore doesn't rehash Taylor's biography. Instead, the book charts Taylor's rise from child

Pete's Dragon (2016) Blu-ray Review: A Fine Film If You Simply Change the Name

I would recommend ignoring the title and viewing it as a completely new movie featuring a dragon.
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The original Pete's Dragon (1977) is one of my all-time favorite Disney films. When I heard a remake was in process, I couldn't wait to see it. Unfortunately, the people behind the new film had no idea what made the original so special. Rather than creating a new version of a beloved film, they ended up with something completely unconnected to the original. Five-year-old Pete (Oakes Fegley) is on a road trip with his parents when, in an effort to avoid a deer, they crash the car. His parents are instantly killed and wolves force Pete into the woods where

C.H.U.D. (1984) Blu-ray Review: The A-List B-Grade Latchkey Monster Flick

Arrow Video's two-disc Limited Edition release of this '80s horror flick is worth crawling through a mutant-infested sewer for.
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Like many of the "classic" horror flicks I tend to review, C.H.U.D. first crawled its way out of the manhole and into my life via videocassette. Even then, during that awkward span of existence known as my teenaged years, I couldn't help but shake the feeling there was something equally thorny about the film ‒ and it had absolutely nothing to do with the titular flesh-eating creatures within the picture itself. Rather, the peculiar odor C.H.U.D. emitted was of an entirely different variety of cumbersome: it was almost as if it was simultaneously trying to be something it ultimately wasn't

TV Review: Legends of Tomorrow: 'Invasion'

The Sentries' responses are mixed.
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The Cinema Sentries are having their own crossover event to cover the DC Superheroes four-part crossover event entitled "Invasion," running this week on the CW. It began (briefly) on Supergirl, formally began on The Flash and continued on Arrow (sorta) and concluded on Legends of Tomorrow. Todd Karella: The final chapter of the CW’s crossover event ended with the Legends of Tomorrow episode and started with the band of superheroes meeting up at STAR Laboratories in Central City to plan their next move. Having been abducted by aliens, Oliver (Green Arrow) is more rattled than he realizes and his first

Hannie Caulder (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review: Rape, Revenge, and Raquel

There are trappings of the subversive in Burt Kennedy's western, but not their convictions.
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An early entry in the rape-revenge subgenre, Burt Kennedy’s western Hannie Caulder requires you to squint pretty hard to read it as a proto-feminist work. The framework is there — Raquel Welch’s titular character wreaks violent vengeance on a trio of men who raped her — but the details don’t really support it, from the way Kennedy films the rape to the way he portrays her assaulters to the repeated narrative beat where Hannie must rely on a man for help. One could easily argue that Kennedy (who wrote the screenplay using the pen name Z.X. Jones) is more interested

TV Review: Arrow: 'Invasion'

"Tell Felicity this isn't 'the Best. Team-up. Ever.'" - Gordon
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The Cinema Sentries are having their own crossover event to cover the DC Superheroes four-part crossover event entitled "Invasion," running this week on the CW. It began (briefly) on Supergirl, formally began on The Flash and continued on Arrow (or did it?). Todd Karella: At the end of last night’s crossover episode, five of the heroes ended up being abducted by the alien invaders. But tonight’s episode of Arrow started with Oliver living his dream life. He was getting married to his first love. He was surrounded by loving friends and family. He was living his dream life. But that

Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: An Underwhelming Celebration of Cinema History

Welles' legendary masterwork gets yet another Blu-ray release, courtesy of Warner Bros.
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What can you say about Citizen Kane that hasn't already been said? Director/actor/writer/producer Orson Welles' controversial landmark film has been dissected, acclaimed, and talked about for over 75 years. Its innovative flashback structure, piercing cinematography, amazing performances, and overall production have been forever integrated into the popular culture lexicon since its 1941 release. It's also a very ambitious depiction of a man's epic rise and fall that remains accurate to this day. Everyone knows the plot to the classic film: the study of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful newspaper magnate who eventually becomes undone by his own ambition and wealth.

TV Review: The Flash: 'Invasion'

"Finally. The Superfriends are together again for the first time. And they even have their own Hall of Justice." - Shawn Bourdo
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The Cinema Sentries are having their own crossover event to cover the DC Superheroes four-part crossover event entitled "Invasion," running this week on the CW. It began (briefly) on Supergirl and formally started on The Flash. Shawn Bourdo: Unlike last night's Supergirl, this one is an actual crossover. Like last night's Supergirl, it must be hard to watch these episodes if you don't follow all of the shows. Each show has had a pretty complex series of plots this season so far and they are playing into the continuity of the story. Cisco and Barry's tension is explained here but

Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: 'Swear'

"They called it 'Swear' because I swear it contained 13 minutes of actual storytelling." - Shawn
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In which the dead horse moves closer to the end. Kim: With only two episodes left before the mid-season break, I’d like to take a moment to discuss what’s really on everyone’s minds: How badly this season sucks ass. So, I tuned in last night fully understanding that we would not see Carol, Morgan, or Ezekiel (or that damn tiger). We would not see Negan. We would not see Daryl. We would not see Rick, Michonne, Maggie, Sasha, or Jesus. I reluctantly sat to watch, knowing that this episode would feature characters that none of us honestly give a shit

TV Review: Supergirl: 'Medusa'

"I’m still hoping for big things on the upcoming shows this week, but after tonight, I’m a little less enthusiastic than I was." - Todd Karella
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The Cinema Sentries are having their own crossover event to cover the DC Superheroes four-part crossover event entitled "Invasion," running this week on the CW. It begins (briefly) on Supergirl. Shawn Bourdo: Billed as the first part of the four-part crossover, I feel sorry for viewers tuning in who watch the other shows but not this one. If you are a fan of just Arrow or just The Flash then you are missing out on a pretty good season of Supergirl but you were also probably pretty confused about this continuity heavy episode that tied up loose ends from the

Fathom Events and TCM Present: Breakfast at Tiffany's

A light-hearted romantic comedy with a buoyant Harry Mancini score and Audrey Hepburn at her most chic.
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In 1995, the alternative rock band Deep Blue Something released their only hit song, "Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I was in college at the time in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was all over the city. Playing on the radio, in all the restaurants, and all over the campus. One day, my friend Jenifer and I were singing along to the song and we came to the realization that neither of us had seen the Audrey Hepburn film of the song’s title. We scooted on over to the local video shop and rented up the VHS tape (wow, how anachronistic is that

They Were Expendable / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Blu-ray Reviews: The WAC Duke

Two of the most famous John Ford/John Wayne collaborations make their HD home video debut courtesy the Warner Archive Collection.
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While both names carry around their own amount of (significant) weight, it's almost hard to imagine a John Ford movie without John "The Duke" Wayne ‒ and vice versa. Thankfully, the Warner Archive Collection has been gracious enough to help fans of both classic motion picture greats fill two voids in their High-Definition libraries with new Blu-ray releases of two of their best-known collaborations, They Were Expendable and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Both films showcase The Duke doing what he did best ‒ giving 'em hell ‒ but is in the first of these individually released titles, MGM's They

Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: One of the Medium's Most Visually Compelling Films

Caveat emptor, it's a reissue of the 70th Anniversary release.
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After a restored DCP master of Citizen Kane played at the 2016 AFI Fest, followed by an AFI Master Class, featuring Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment released a new Blu-ray and DVD to commemorate the film's 75th Anniversary. However, this release has not been struck from the new master, but instead is a reissue of the 70th Anniversary release. Citizen Kane tells the story of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a newspaper tycoon who “helped to change the world” though his detractors declared him a yellow journalist. He became one of the wealthiest

Hell Or High Water Review: All Hail West Texas

It is a fine western, and a fine crime film, but it doesn’t really ascend to the level of wondrous drama.
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Fittingly, I watched an episode of Columbo recently wherein William Shatner plays a TV detective who murders his producer, a woman who was also blackmailing him. He reflects upon his crime, and also upon an episode of his show that was seemingly in part an inspiration for his crime. Shatner’s character talks about how he felt the killer was sympathetic in the way things unfolded. The reason I take this aside before discussing the movie Hell or High Water is because that idea certainly feels thematically relevant. Hell or High Water is both a western and a heist movie, although

C.H.U.D. Blu-ray Review: Cheesy Happenings, Underwhelming Direction

C.H.U.D. strands a fun premise and surprisingly great cast in a meandering story with few thrills.
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What’s weird about C.H.U.D. is how much it’s like a real movie. An '80s horror flick, it has the feel of one of those '70s movies shockers that doled out the horror pretty sparingly, but spent a lot of time building characters and solidifying its premise. Partly this is because of the New York location shooting. Partly it is because the actors, particularly David Stern and Christopher Curry, rewrote large swatches of the script to turn their cut-outs into real characters. The title is an acronym meaning Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. And it’s not a surprise these C.H.U.D.s are working

Blindman (1971) DVD Review: Don't Let This One Out of Your Sight

The seldom-seen Spaghetti Western outing starring Tony Anthony and a recently disbanded Ringo Starr finally hits DVD.
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It was only 1971, but a lot had changed in the entertainment world since the '60s ended. First, and perhaps most importantly, The Beatles had disbanded. Secondly, the phenomenon of the Spaghetti Western was on the decline; the cruel victim of oversaturation and repetition on the behalf of the very countrymen who accidentally created the subgenre. One ex-Beatle in particular, Ringo Starr, attempted to launch a solo career in music, but was not experiencing much success [insert joke about Starr's drumming abilities here]. Across the Channel, American-born filmmaker Tony Anthony ‒ no "stranger" to the Euro western field, having created

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast Blu-ray Review: Extensive, Exhausting Exploitation Experience

With 14 movies and hour of extras, this set is all a fan could want (and more than most need.)
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Enormous multi-movie box sets (especially expensive ones) have two real audiences: already devoted fans, and movie buffs who want to get into a director, so they take the plunge all at once. There is, to my mind, no one who will casually purchase a 17-disc, 14-movie set with copious (almost endless) extras, particularly one that retails for a couple hundred bucks. The question, then, for Arrow Video’s extensive (if not entirely exhaustive) Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast is, what is in it, and will it satisfy both the dedicated and the curious? Being curious myself, and not a follower of the

The Wonder Years: Season Six DVD Review: No Shark Jumping, but It Was Time to End

It’s worth buying the season just to see how the story of these Wonder Years comes to a close.
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Appearing on both The Hollywood Reporter's and Rolling Stone's Best TV Shows of All Time lists, The Wonder Years is certainly one of the most memorable shows of the late '80s. Premiering after the Super Bowl on January 31st 1988, it was an immediate hit as baby boomers could not get enough of the blossoming 1960s junior high school relationship between Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and Winnie Cooper (Danica McKellar). There were certainly many other relationships explored on The Wonder Years featuring an amazing array of talented performers, but ultimately the show always came back to Kevin and Winnie. As

Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: 'Go-Getters'

"The continued loss of interest is correlated to the lack of zombies for me." - Shawn
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In which Carl has his first date and kiss. And nothing else happens. Kim: So, once again we all tune in to The Walking Dead and once again I’m left with feelings of anger and resentment for episode #(I don't really care), with the not-so-fitting name. I keep waiting for it to get better. I keep waiting for it to draw me in. It’s just not doing any of that this season. In fact, there are really only two things I feel I need to talk about in regards to this episode. I’ll give you my thoughts and then you

Macbeth (1948) Olive Signature Blu-ray Review: Something Welles This Way Comes

A haunting and noirish adaptation of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
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Orson Welles was always a man of very electic tastes and certain cinematic desires. He wasn't just a dominating, and towering actor. He was also a director, producer, and writer whose many gifts became legendary in the history of cinema, especially with his 1941 breakthrough masterpiece Citizen Kane, which is often regarded by many critics as the greatest film ever made. However, his personality could be a little too larger-than-life, where his manic and perfectionist attitude took over many of his most iconic projects. His 1948 effort and adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth represents just that. It took the words and

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Blu-ray Review: A Hero? Yes. Super? Hell, No.

One of the pulp world's first heroes makes for one of film world's worst zeroes.
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Lately, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been threatening all of mankind by announcing he is slated to star in one remake after another, including a short-lived, fleeting fantasy of a new version of Big Trouble in Little China and ‒ more recently ‒ the reboot of a footnote in the revised American Superhero book, the Doc Savage franchise. And though no such crimes have been perpetrated as of this writing, I almost think a re-envisioning of Doc Savage is in order. Not necessarily because I would support it (I wouldn't), but because it couldn't possibly be any worse than the

Joshy Blu-ray Review: A Darkly Funny Film about Loss and Friendship

This film not only deals with the themes of grief and loss but with the themes of recapturing youth and spontaneity.
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A few months after his fiancé Rachel (Alison Brie) commits suicide on his birthday, Joshy (Thomas Middleditch) decides he still wants to go away with his friends for the weekend that was supposed to be his bachelor party. Not all of Joshy’s friends are as keen on the idea as he is, and many of the friends abandon the plans. Not wanting Joshy to be alone, Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll), and Eric’s friend Greg (Brett Gelman), all decide to join Joshy out at the weekend house in Ojai. Once the group comes together, it

Twilight Time Presents: The Southern Pacific Training Montage

Runaway locomotives, trainspotting hoboes, rail-hopping escapees, and deep-rooted Deep South prides and prejudices highlight this delivery of Blu-ray goods.
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Generally, my attempts at finding a common link between Twilight Time's monthly releases leaves me a lot of room to improvise. In the instance of the label's October 2016 releases, however, I didn't have to delve in too terribly far beneath the surface, especially with titles like Runaway Train, The Train, and Boxcar Bertha staring me right in the face. Combine that with the fact there is an awful lot of Southern drama involved in a large portion of the mix ‒ specifically in The Chase and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte ‒ and, well, I'm sure you get the idea

Universal Studios Home Entertainment Holiday Gift Guide 2016

From classic tear-jerkers to vintage knee-slappers, these goodies are sure to warm the hearts and tickle the funnybones of movie buffs.
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It's that time of the year once again, videophiles. And with all of the crazy mixed-up offerings 2016 has been pulling on us from the very beginning, there is some considerable comfort to be found in what Universal Studios Home Entertainment has put together for the holiday season. First and foremost is the prospect of you and yours spending a very Marxist Christmas (or perhaps Hanukkah would be more appropriate) with one of the most eagerly awaited Blu-ray box sets for classic comedy lovers everywhere. I speak, of course, of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection: a three-disc High-Def item
The new Olive Signature line of releases includes Nicholas Ray's compelling Johnny Guitar, mastered on Blu-ray from a new 4K restoration. In addition to be a thrilling adventure, the film is the rare Western where strong, interesting female characters are the leads of the story while the men take a backseat. Passing explosive excavations by a train company and witnessing from a distance the end of a stagecoach robbery, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) rides into an Arizona town as a dust storm blows. Those scenes foreshadow the volatile, chaotic events to come. Johnny goes to Vienna's, a saloon named after

Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: 'Service'

"I found myself wishing that Negan would just start killing people so we could move on from this." - Kim
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In which the group gets reverse furniture delivery and Shawn and Kim watch. Shawn: Much like the actual plot development of this super-sized episode, I don't have many comments about this episode of The Walking Dead. I should have more to say in case we look back in a couple years to this as the point where viewers started abandoning ship. For now, I'll keep the good thoughts. "Service" The episode is so called because like any other job in the service industry, like working for Arby's or in the bathroom accessories department at Lowe's, this episode seemed to be

Vamp (1986) Blu-ray Review: From Dusk Till... Hey, Wait a Minute!

Though the extras for this Arrow Video release are a bit on the anemic side, I can still sink my teeth in this fun '80s vampire cult classic.
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While the cinematic equilibrium of horror and comedy had been teeter-totting off and on for many years prior, it really wasn't until the 1980s rolled around that people started to get the balance right (that may or may not have been a Depeche Mode reference, for those of you playing at home). Indeed, the monstrous success of Ghostbusters in 1984 (you know, the good one) all but blew the doors off of the previously sealed gateway to the otherworldly. Within the boundaries of films we weren't supposed to take very seriously, that is. In a way, this permitted the horror

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