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I Am FEMEN DVD Review: Sex Sells Everything, Perhaps Even Revolutions

"Naked bodies and politics is an explosive combination."
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The first time I heard of the half-naked female activism group FEMEN back in 2013, it was largely by accident, a link in a comment on some loosely related Reddit post or something like that. I assumed it was a flash in a pan, something that stopped almost as soon as it started, given the hostile reception the girls received outside the Georgian embassy in July 2011. Sitting comfortably behind a desk (and the First Amendment) here in the United States, it's strange to think that protestors can just be assaulted in broad daylight for trying to spread a message.

Cannibal Ferox Blu-ray Review: Umberto Lenzi's Unforgiving Subgenre Swan Song

The notorious cash-in of a craze beget by the cash-in of a cash-in makes its much-needed (?) High-Definition debut courtesy the finely deranged folks at Grindhouse Releasing.
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In 1970, with the entire world in a state of change, Elliot Silverstein's A Man Called Horse was released to cinemas. Like the environment that spawned it, the film was about a transformation: a white man named John Morgan (as played by the late Richard Harris) - captured and enslaved by a group of Native Americans - soon becomes one with the very tribe that had previously seized and humiliated him. Of course, no groundbreaking work of art goes unnoticed abroad - especially in Italy, where filmmakers were keen to cash-in on anything that generated so much as a dollar-fifty

Burying the Ex DVD Review: Joe Dante Tries to Bring His Sensibilities Back From the Dead

If you are the kind of person who watches a Dante movie waiting for the Dick Miller appearance, and then get excited when you see him, this is for you.
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Joe Dante is an American treasure. He’s made some tremendous films that are iconic pieces of pop culture. He’s one of the foremost pop-culture commenters and recontexualizers in cinema. Beloved modern filmmakers such as Edgar Wright are following in Dante’s footsteps. However, while he was a major cinematic contributor in the '80s and '90s, his presence in filmmaking these days is marginal at best. After Looney Tunes: Back in Action flopped in 2003, that was about it for him. He’s made one film since then, and it was called The Hole, and it came out in 2009, and you haven’t

Once a Thief (1965) DVD Review: Post-Beat America Meets the French New Wave

The Warner Archive Collection releases an excellent, atmospheric, innovative, and gritty crime drama from yesteryear. A definite must-see.
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Filmmaker Ralph Nelson was always up for something different. While the late director is best known today for bringing the world acclaimed (and often groundbreaking) classics such as Requiem for a Heavyweight, Charly, tick... tick... tick…, and Lilies of the Field, it's some of the movies he's not known for today that perhaps deserve the most attention. And one such motion picture outing is his 1965 masterpiece Once a Thief: a spectacularly gritty black-and-white crime drama written by an actual ex-convict set in San Francisco during that precariously precocious period that bridged the gap between the beatnik era and the

Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: An Obscure French Western Gets Its Day

The Good, The Bad, and the Boring.
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About the time the western genre was growing stale in America, European filmmakers picked it right back up. More than 600 different Westerns were made in Europe between 1960 and 1980. While they were made in just about every country on that continent, the majority came from Italians. The most famous and arguably best examples of European Westerns come from the Italian Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy. While the Spaghetti Western may have ruled they day, a great many other European countries got into the western game as well. Cemetery Without Crosses is one such film. Made in 1969

Signpost to Murder DVD Review: Stuart Whitman Goes Loco for Joanne Woodward

The Warner Archive Collection brings us a seldom seen psychological thriller that has trouble finding its own direction.
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In Hollywood, it doesn't take long to become typecast. Take, for example, the early career of one Stuart Whitman. Following a breakout performance as a recently released child molester attempting to exorcise his personal demons in 1961's The Mark, the recently new to the limelight Mr. Whitman found himself earning an Oscar nomination and a few meaty parts alongside John Wayne in big studio productions. But the shadow of his most famous role (of the time) remained, and in 1962, Whitman was a supporting cast member in a prison drama entitled Convicts 4. In 1964, Stuart appeared in a psychological

Slow West Blu-ray Review: Like Death, Westerns Are Universal

German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender stars and co-produces this New Zealand-made tale from the American West, which features many a Scotsman and Aussie. How's that for diversity?
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With the American western genre all but dead, this is as good of a time as any for filmmakers from other corners of the globe to try their hand at something the Italians once perfected in the 1960s: revamping it. In 2005, Australian musician Nick Cave (our deepest of condolences to you and yours, good sir) penned a screenplay for The Proposition. In 2010, the Aussies brought us a great contemporary western entitled Red Hill. Sadly, neither film really garnered enough attention stateside in order to reignite the flame of passion for the cowboy movie. Well, here we are in

42nd Street / Ladyhawke / Wolfen Blu-ray Reviews: The Musical, Magical, and Mythical

The Warner Archive Collection brings us three classic catalogue titles out of the Standard and into the realms of High-Definition.
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In continuing their fine tradition of reviving the occasional catalogue title for today's HD-savvy generations, the Warner Archive Collection has been releasing more vintage titles to Blu-ray than ever before. Recently, three classic titles from one end of yesteryear or another - the 1933 musical 42nd Street, the oddball 1986 magical fantasy/comedy/adventure Ladyhawke, and the mythical 1981 urban horror flick Wolfen - landed on my doorstep; each as far removed from the other as can be. My trio of diversity begins with the 1933 musical 42nd Street, as choreographed by the great Busby Berkeley and directed by the one and

Wonderfully Perfect: Fathom Events and TCM Present Double Indemnity

It's a great pleasure seeing classic films on the big screen.
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In college I had one of those special, "make an inspirational movie about him" kind of professors. He was also the theatre director, and for most of my collegiate life, I did work study under him. He was a brilliant teacher, capable of making even the dullest plays seem utterly fascinating, and a great director. It was a small college and he had a minuscule budget but he somehow managed to put up productions that rivaled the nearby million-dollar Shakespeare Festival. He helped further my academic education and schooled me in life. He was also a good friend. Sadly, he

My Beautiful Laundrette Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Film Stands the Test of Time

A groundbreakingly potent depiction of bleak social commentary
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When discussing some of the most influential LGBT films, Stephen Frears' 1985 modern classic My Beautiful Laundrette usually is one of the most talked about, because it doesn't just address the unforunate issues of homophobia, but also the brutal, sometimes tragic aspects of racism, social status, and cultural differences. One of the reasons why it remains such an influential film is because it showcases a same-sex relationship that is both tender and unusual. It is no wonder why this is considered, along side The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, one of his very best cinematic creations. The story centers on Omar

Rush (1991) Blu-ray Review: The '90s Drug Genre Looks Inward

A slow-burn examination of drugs and police corruption is revealed in Kino's recent Blu-ray release.
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Reflecting the times, the cinematic landscape of the 1990s found itself awash in drugs (on-screen, at least). On the heels of films like Goodfellas and New Jack City, director Lili Fini Zanuck directed Rush. Despite a setting in 1975, Rush is very 1990s in its actors - popular stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric - as well as starring roles for Gregg Allman and a soundtrack by Eric Clapton in his somber phase. Dated, to be sure, Rush is a slow burn that, had the budget and script gone bigger, could have presented some intriguing socio-political examinations regarding police

Limelight Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Chaplin's Coda

Age must pass as youth enters.
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My Chaplin journey hasn't been linear. I didn't start with the silent shorts and work my way through The Kid (1921) and onto A Countess From Hong Kong (1967). It was a rambling journey that went forwards and backwards through highlights of his spectacular career with Criterion including Modern Times, The Great Dictator, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. In many ways the other films were reflections and parables of the times Chaplin was living in. The newest Criterion Blu-ray release is Limelight from 1952. It's subtitled "in his human drama" and this film is his most personal story. The

Batman: The Television Series: The Second Season Part Two DVD Review: Back to the Batshow!

For any Bat collector who doesn't already have them, this is a must-own.
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On the off chance someone doesn't know about the iconic Batman TV series from the 1960s (there must be at least one person at any given moment), let me offer a brief explanation of the show. In the city of Gotham, millionaire Bruce Wayne (Adam West) and his young ward, Dick Grayson (Burt Ward), protect the citizenry as costumed superheroes, Batman and Robin, against a colorful collection of criminals as they had done in the pages of DC Comics. With an emphasis on "comic," the show has a silly sensibility from Bruce/Batman's uberserious goodness to the wacky crimes and traps

Shark Blu-ray Review: Swim Along with Charismatic Killers

You won't need four rows of teeth to chew through this delicious Planet Earth appetizer.
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Fresh off reviewing BBC's Planet Ant, I find myself confronted with a series about a much larger, deadlier animal up for investigation -- the timeless predators who rule the seas detailed in Shark, another new chapter in the BBC Earth series. From scary Ragged-Tooths to Makos that could outrun Usain Bolt, Paul McGann narrates four one-hour segments that cover everything from what sharks eat to how they interact and socialize, and how these creatures who've barely evolved since the age of the dinosaurs are paving the way for scientific breakthroughs. Spinning up the disk reveals two "parts" in the episode

Here is Your Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Engrossing and Enervating Debut

The first feature film from Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell has its visual merits, but it's bogged down by a leaden narrative.
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A film that’s both engrossing and enervating at turns, Here is Your Life kicked off the feature-film career of Swedish director Jan Troell, an art house sensation in the ’70s with breakthrough duo The Emigrants and The New Land. The multi-talented Troell directed, shot, edited, and co-wrote the screenplay for Here is Your Life, based on one of a series of semi-autobiographical novels by Eyvind Johnson, and though Troell’s camerawork and editing are often inventive, the film never really breaks free from its novelistic shackles. After his father falls ill, teenager Olof (Eddie Axberg) is forced to leave his sickness-ridden

Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police DVD Review: An Inside Look at a Legendary Band

Based on Andy Summers' memoir, the documentary reveals the rise and demise of the defining 1980s band.
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When the Police ceased recording in 1984, rumors swirled as to the cause. Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland became infamous for their constant fighting, sometimes ending up in fisticuffs (such as during a 1983 MTV interview with Martha Quinn). Summers and Copeland’s intense jealousy of Sting’s notoriety was cited as another factor. The new documentary Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police presents Summers’ side of the story, suggesting that the Police’s dissolution resulted from a multitude of complicated reasons. As hard on himself as on the other band members, Summers provides narration while archival footage as well as

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review: Not As Exotic As the First, but Still Charming

Were it not for those remarkable actors even Liftime would be embarrassed by this.
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God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for

Book Review: Bravo For Adventure by Alex Toth

Bravo for Alex Toth!
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Legendary artist and noted curmudgeon Alex Toth never made a secret of his continued frustrations with editorial interference, bad scripts, and the continued trend toward gritty anti-heroes in mainstream comics. So when given the opportunity to create his own comic series, he took a look back in time to the halcyon days when dashing film heroes like Errol Flynn and comic adventurers such as Terry and the Pirates buckled swash and took part in all manner of high adventure and derring-do. The end result was Bravo for Adventure, a throwback adventure that many consider to be Toth's seminal work -

Book Review: The Ultimate Woody Allen Film Companion by Jason Bailey

It's a book to be savored, yet it's so good one may rush through to discover all it offers.
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The first thing I thought when I got a hold of this book was that if there was any filmmaker who would quickly make a book like this incomplete because of how fast he works it would be Woody Allen. Author Jason Bailey obviously had the same thought because the Prologue offers a link to a website "for a discussion of Magic in the Moonlight and other future Woody Allen projects...for updates and new essays." Seeing as we had similar concerns, I figured I was in good hands as a reader and I was right. Each film (from What's Up,

State of Grace Blu-ray Review: Characters Anchor Crime Drama Neo-Noir

Twilight Time releases this underseen 1990s noir.
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Unlike some niche Blu-ray distributors, Twilight Time doesn't just release classic films. Oftentimes their release output includes underrated or little seen gems that wouldn't immediately warrant an HD disc. In the case of their latest, the 1990 crime thriller State of Grace, rewatching this on Blu was a great way to re-familiarize myself with a film that I'd forgotten I enjoyed. After a decade-long absence, Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to his hometown of Hell's Kitchen, immediately getting back into the good graces of small-time hood Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman). As Terry becomes more comfortable with his old friend, he

Stray Cats: Live at Rockpalast DVD Review: A Great Live Concert DVD

Two amazing Stray Cats concerts from 1981 and 1983 recorded live in Germany.
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The American Rockabilly scene would not be what it is today without the influential music of the Stray Cats. Their rocking sound introduced a new generation to the sounds of the 1950s while helping change the 1980's music scene with their original sounds and songs. Stray Cats: Live at Rockpalast features two early Stray Cats concerts, both recorded in Germany in the early 1980s. The earlier concert footage is from Satrory-Sale Cologne on July 16th, 1981, and the later concert is from Open Air Loreley on August 20th,1983. This is the first time in over 30 years this concert footage

'71 DVD Review: A Winning Depiction of a Losing Battle

In tackling the divisive topic of The Troubles in Northern Ireland director Yann Demange blurs the boundaries of loyalty and highlights humanity.
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On Monday, rioting broke out amid a Protestant Orange Order parade in Belfast after it reached a stretch of road inhabited mostly by Catholics, republicans, and nationalists; at least eight people were injured. This, nearly 44 years after the Ballymurphy Massacre, which occurred in Belfast in early August 1971 and today remains a dark spot in the hearts of the Irish. At surface level, it can be easy to pick sides when reviewing history or current resurgences of turmoil. But what director Yann Demange asks in the extremely gripping and often gut-wrenching ’71 is: Can you always trust your loyalties?

Stray Cat Rock Blu-ray Review: Motorcycle Girl Gangs and Hippy Crime Sprees

Five loosely connected Japanese exploitation movies capture the spirit, and looseness of their age.
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On an interview on this disc, director Yasuharu Hasebe talks about how ephemeral the movies he made were. “I expected it to last a week,” he says about one of the three movies he made on this box set. They were not made with posterity in mind, but were very much of their time and in their time. This is true of any movie, of course - however carefully constructed or intentionally contrived, a movie cannot help but be made in the time when it is made and by the people who make it. And there are movements and trends

A Newly Widened Screen, Part II: Alibis and Those Who Sympathize

The Warner Archive Collection brings us two more titles from the early days of DVD in widescreen for the first time.
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As they had done in the latter part of 2014 with several titles that truly deserved it, the folks at the Warner Archive Collection have once more taken two completely different catalog titles from the earliest days of DVD and given them the widescreen treatment they should have had back in 1998. Alas, these two titles are not on the same level as The Black Scorpion or a couple of classic Steve Martin comedies. Instead, this batch of newly widened screenings consists of movies that even I didn't rent on video when I was a teenager. And mind you, I

The Maltese Bippy DVD Review: Rowan and Martin Comedy is No 'Laugh-In' Matter

The first and only post-fame feature-length film from the classic sketch comedy hosts is a mostly dreadful horror spoof.
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During a time when five crazy Britons and one expatriate American were producing bizarre sketch comedy for the BBC, two US-born contemporaries on the other side of The Pond were running amok on national television. Thus, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (complete with a soon-to-be-dated title about the hippie revolution) amassed a huge following, launching its hosts, comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, to success status for a brief period. Naturally, no one in the motion picture business was about to let a hot commodity like Rowan and Martin slip past them; because, as anyone who has ever seen any Saturday

Twilight Time Presents: Rebellion! Turmoil! Endless Talking!

From the hormonally-charged historical wrongdoings of King Henry VIII to David Mamet's acclaimed verbal diarrhea, this batch of flicks has all bases covered.
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Once more, the folks at Twilight Time have resurrected five photoplays from yesteryear - and this time, they're not holding back on the dramatics one bit. We begin our line-up with perhaps the most epic motion pictures of epic motion pictures ever; the fact that A Man for All Seasons features a supporting performance by the one and only Orson Welles himself doesn't even enter into it, believe it or not! Rather, Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons focuses on the charisma and talents of the late Paul Scofield, cast here as Sir Thomas More. Now, for my fellow

Rifftrax Live: Sharknado 2 Review - The Second One is Still Funny!

While not as raunchy as The Room, Sharknado 2 has the Rifftrax guys doing what they do best.
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The Rifftrax gang is back with the second of four films set to receive the live riff treatment in 2014. Dubbed "The Crappening," Rifftrax Live recently did the first of two shows around the Syfy "masterpiece," Sharknado 2, a continuation of the magical story of a tornado with sharks taking over New York City. As a standalone movie, Sharknado 2 lacks the campy humor of the first film, acknowleding its self-awareness and loading the film with cameos, and the Riff guys aren't as sharp as they were with the R-rated The Room, but it's hard not to love being seduced

Sesame Street: Count On Elmo DVD Review: That's One Ah-Ah-Ah Great Family DVD

Don't be a grump, a grouch or a Trump, and fall in love with Sesame Street again.
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I grew up watching Sesame Street. My now four-year-old daughter continues to grow up watching Sesame Street. My mother swears that my brother learned to read watching Sesame Street. Some 77 million other Americans grew up watching Sesame Street. Millions more found Sesame Street (or International versions of Sesame Street) in their home countries all over the world. I love Sesame Street. My family loves Sesame Street. Everybody loves Sesame Street. Well, that’s not true. Some people don’t like Sesame Street. But those people are grumps, grouches, and Donald Trumps. Luckily for everybody but the grouches, we can watch Sesame

Enter the Ninja Blu-ray Review: It Is Awesome

For fans of '80's action / exploitation / genre films, this disc is a must-have.
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If, in 1981, you had the chance to invest in throwing stars or something else, and you chose something else, Enter The Ninja is most likely the reason you lost everything and curse your life to this very day. The absolute obsession with ninjas that this film instilled in teenage boys lasted for years. Some would call it a craze while others just shook their heads and went on with their maskless and nunchuck-free lives; never to know the joys of spelling the word "assassin" without looking it up. Would moms worry? Maybe. But at least you weren't playing Dungeons

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) Blu-ray Review: Anarchy, Sentiment, Family, Karaoke

Takashi Miike's surrealist musical comedy finds its way to Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video.
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Director Takashi Miike is credited with seven or eight films in the year 2001 alone, depending on who you ask. One of the most energetic and life-affirming of these pictures is The Happiness of the Katakuris. This is an absolutely joyful and bizarre flick, a musical comedy complete with stop-motion sequences, a pile of dead bodies and the ever-looming presence of Mount Fuji. The Happiness of the Katakuris is an unabashed remake of Kim Jee-woon’s 1998 film The Quiet Ones, with Miike paying direct homage to several of the shots and scenes in the Korean movie. He certainly strays at

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