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Immoral Tales and The Beast Blu-ray Reviews: 1970's French Erotica

In which our hero has to ask himself, how much fake semen can one person handle?
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In my review of La Grande Bouffe, I noted that Arrow Films is second only to Criterion in creating masterful productions of interesting and obscure films. With their release of Immoral Tales and The Beast, I could easily add "obscene" and "pornographic" to that description. Or perhaps, "erotic arthouse" would be more suiting. I’m being intentionally flippant here which isn’t fair to the films (especially Immoral Tales which has its moments of artistic flair and depth of meaning behind its sex and rampant nudity) but after seeing two films back to back featuring enormous fake ejaculating penises, I can't help

The Leftovers: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Relishing the Remnants

HBO's newest series creates a complex and confusing web of intrigue worth watching and rewatching.
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Those who know me are aware of my regular refrain when the fall arrives: "I don't watch television." With so many movies out there, I find little worth devoting three months of my life to on a weekly basis. Life's too short to waste on bad television. The Leftovers was recommended to me constantly, so I decided to give the pilot a cursory glance....cut to a day and a half later and I'd successfully binged watched the entire series, a first for me. As if that's not already a rare occurence, I rarely ever watch the same season twice but

Big House, U.S.A. Blu-ray Review: Lean, Tough '50s Crime

This surprisingly grim, unsentimental crime film with great character actor cast is a tough-minded winner.
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This was an unexpected treasure. Big House, U.S.A. (which is a completely undescriptive, absolutely terrible title for this grim thriller) is as close as movies came in the '50s to being like the crime-fiction novels of the era. It's a lumpy narrative that follows our antagonist from bad end to bad end, getting into one horrible scrape from which he can't escape to another, without ever making him sympathetic or likeable. Doesn't sound like a fun time at the movies, but Big House, U.S.A. is consistently engaging, taut, and interesting, and doesn't always go just where I expected it to.

Thoughtful & Abstract: Fear The Walking Dead: 'Cobalt'

"Hold on for another week, I think you'll love me someday." - Episode 5
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In which Kim has questions and Episode 5 (Shawn) has answers. Kim: Episode 5, I kind of liked you. You gave us palpable tension. We saw that the Army dudes weren’t just carting people away to kill them (yet). We got to see an actual zombie, named Kimberly. There are several little things and character developments that were introduced in this episode, and with the end of the mini-season next week, we’re obviously not going to get to them all. We’ve got the new guy in the detainment cell with Nick. We’ve got Alicia and Chris demonstrating teen angst and

White Shadow DVD Review: A Work of Unflinching Beauty and Harsh Reality

A stunning depiction of the human condition.
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When it comes to humanist dramas, most moviegoers don't usually take the time to see these films because of the lack of special effects, explosions, and dangerous stunts. They mostly stay away from films with challenging subject matter and character-driven narratives. These films tell stories about real people with real predicaments, sometimes with hopeful results, while others don't exactly end well. However, in director Noaz Deshe's 2013 harrowing White Shadow, narratives can be both tragic and hopeful. This is a really difficult film to watch, but with moments of extremely sublime beauty. This is a story of Alias, an albino

Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: A Spine-chilling Drama with Comic Relief

If you are looking for a quirky show that offers chills, laughs, and revolutionary lore, watch this show!
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When I first heard about the premise behind Sleepy Hollow. I had no interest in watching it as it sounded ridiculous. A couple of friends who have similar tastes to mine when it comes to television told me that I would love it. They were right. and I am now a huge fan that is thrilled it has been renewed for a third season. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), while on a mission in the colonial army for General Washington, encounters a headless horseman. During their battle, they kill each other simultaneously. Crane's wife, Katrina (Katia Winter), a powerful witch, casts

We Are Still Here Blu-ray Review: A Modern Horror Masterpiece

An inventive and chilling breath of fresh air for the horror genre.
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The horror genre is kind of a dying genre, a literally tried-and-true category of cinema, where filmmakers are constantly trying to think up new ways of scaring moviegoers. The haunted-house group obviously qualifies as an attempt to revitalize horror cinema. There are films that have successfully taken us by surprise, including Ti West's The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, and James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious; while others such as Courtney Solomon's An American Haunting, have almost destroyed the entire landscape with half-baked attempts at supernatural hauntings and possessed victims. Fortunately, Director Ted Geoghegan 2015's modern masterpiece We

Manos: The Hands of Fate Blu-ray Review: As Close to Perfect as It Will Ever Be

The infamous, long-standing contender of The Worst Movie Ever Made is ready to recruit new followers in this eagerly awaited release from Synapse Films.
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The manufacturing of a cult film is not something someone may intentionally set out to do. Sure, you can wrangle a few college kids together, get the coeds to show their boobs, and shoot a shot-on-video z-grade shitfest under the delusion you are making the next greatest midnight movie ever, but you will be sorely mistaken. Much like a great work or (real) art, making a cult movie requires more than an idea and a chisel. So much more. A deranged, rushed form of feverish perseverance. A complete lack of technical know-how that is superseded by sheer determination. But most

People, Places, Things DVD Review: This Generation's Annie Hall with Refreshing Modernity

Films like this deserve to be watched and talked about for years to come.
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When Annie Hall was released in 1977, it was a gamechanger in depicting complicated adult relationships. It was smart, witty, and intelligently modern. Thiry-eight years later, director Jim Strouse's charming and brilliant People Places Things takes it a step further while giving a fresh and funny look at flawed people just trying to find love in their own ways, no matter how awkward their journeys become. Jemaine Clement (We Live in the Shadows) gives a marvelous performance as Will, a New York graphic artist and intellect, who finds his world turned upside down after he finds the mother of his

Cop Car Blu-ray Review: All Thriller, No Filler

A tight, lean little flick that entertains then leaves just as quick.
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Two boys walk through a giant expanse of space in New Mexico. They engage in call-and-response cursing. The first boy, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), calls out a bad word and the second, Harrison (Hays Wellford), repeats it. They come upon a barbed-wire fence. Travis pulls apart the wires and quickly moves through it with ease. Harrison approaches slowly, gingerly prying the throned wires and tentatively slipping through. In these few moments, director Jon Watts gives us a clear idea who these boys are - Travis is the leader while Harrison follows unsure of their plan. The boys have run away for

Kirby Grant and Chinook Adventure Triple Feature, Volume 3 (1949-1953) DVD Review: Chinook of the North?

The Warner Archive Collection takes off to the Great White North (eh!) for another trio of Northern adventures of RCMP Corporal Rod Webb.
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Latch your pistol to a lanyard and put your best boot forward, boys and girls, because Corporal Rod Webb is back for more adventure in the Great White North. Well, most of the time, it's Rod Webb. At first, he's named Bob McDonald, but that doesn't change the fact that he is still portrayed by Kirby Grant and is accompanied in his dangerous missions by the one and only Chinook, the Wonder Dog. As to why Grant's character was randomly changed like that is anyone's guess. But then, these were films made by the now legendary Poverty Row studio, Monogram

The Flash (2014): The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Check This Series Out as Fast as You Can

An exciting superhero series worth watching.
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When I first watched The Flash "Pilot" at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, I thought that "while there’s no denying it's a CW show and at times it comes across like Central City 90210 with its many good-looking actors and melodramatic moments, there’s a lot to like about the series." After going through the Complete First Season on Blu-ray, my assessment remains the same. Spun off from Arrow, the series presents the adventures of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), an assistant forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department, where his adoptive father, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), works. Joe

The Invisible Monster (1950) Blu-ray Review: What Are They, Nuts?

The very first Saturday matinee cliffhanger serial hits Blu-ray, and it's THIS? I'll take it!
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Having been raised by my grandparents - proud members of the Greatest Generation - I was privileged in a way my peers were not: I learned to know of and love a variety of films (as well as television shows and radio programs) that had become nothing more than footnotes in the entertainment history books before I was even born. Fortunately for me, I was growing up within the great boom of the analog video era - when thousands of motion picture titles were finding their way to videocassette for the older generations to rediscover, hopefully gaining a new audience

Jane the Virgin: The Complete First Season DVD Review: A Show that Delights in the Ludicrous

A clever, satirical telenovela that will make you laugh, cry, and break your neck it moves so fast.
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Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is a 24-year-old Latina who works hard, studies hard, and takes her religion very seriously. She is the virgin of the title because of her Catholicism and the fact that her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) scared the bejesus out of her as a young girl by using a flower to illustrate the delicate value of her budding sexuality. During a routine OB/GYN visit, Jane is accidentally inseminated by Dr. Luisa Alver (Yara Martinez) with Rafael Solano’s (Justin Baldoni) seed, which was supposed to impregnate his wife Petra (Yael Grobglas.) Rafael also happens to own the hotel where

Book Review: Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide (Third Edition)

Maltin makes film buffs happy once again with a new, complete guide of classic movies from the Silent Era through 1965.
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Although some books on cinema should be taken with a few grains of salt, not just because of some ways that movies are described, but also the movies that were chosen as well. As with the late great Roger Ebert, whose books on cinema are still the standard for anyone who wants to study movies and loves them, beloved film critic Leonard Maltin has also written his fair share of successful and sometimes infuriating books on film culture. Fortunately for us, his newest book on classic movies should enlighten and infuriate once again, which is great because it allows for

Eaten Alive Blu-ray Combo Review: A Strangely Entertaining Cult Film Worthy of Rediscovery

Another bizarre, sweaty, and dread-filled tale of Southern madness, courtesy of Tobe Hooper.
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Horror films are like the misunderstood stepchildren of cinema, and when you talk about them, one of the best examples that always seem to come into conversation is Tobe Hooper's 1974 nightmarish masterpiece, The Texas ChainSaw Massacre, which remains one of the greatest and most traumatizing movies of all-time. However, as for his 1977 underrated follow-up, Eaten Alive (aka Starlight Slaughter and Death Trap), that movie continues to get lost in the underground shuffle; mainly since it's so bizarre, campy, and not for all tastes. This is unfortunate, because it is a strangely entertaining cult film that deserves to be

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Friendship Games DVD Review: Ponies No More

The third full-length movie starring alternate universe human versions of My Little Pony characters.
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You know how kids are good for exposing you to stuff you otherwise never would have touched? This film is a prime example. Hasbro’s burgeoning My Little Pony empire has expanded its screen presence from its long-running TV series to this third film which is set in an alternate universe populated with human-like characters, not horses. Sure, it’s still a blatant marketing ploy to allow the pony franchise to compete with the older-skewing Bratz/Monster High/Ever After High doll lines, but it’s also wildly entertaining for both kids and their reluctant parents. When last we left the Girls, temporary arrival Twilight

Fathom Events and TCM Present Psycho on the Big Screen

I won't be able to shower again for weeks.
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The famous shower scene took seven days to film (of an 11-week shoot,) contained at least 70 camera setups with as many different cuts and only lasts three minutes. Three of the most original, terrifying, and famous minutes in all of film history that is. Psycho is an iconic film. It is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous and well loved films. It's also a terrific little thriller. Interestingly, Paramount, who had a contract with Hitchock for one more film, did not want anything to do with the film and refused to give him his regular budget. Hitchcock then independently

The Hee Haw Collection DVD Review: Stockholm Syndrome in the Cornfields

This five episode collection of the corniest TV show in history makes the show's long life understandable... a little.
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The first hour of watching The Hee Haw Collection might have been the longest hour of anything I've seen. The leaden jokes, hideous animations, Buck Owen's fake hair, Grandpa Jones frailing the banjo while it was being played Scruggs-style on the playback. Every few minutes there might be a music performance that would lift me back up just to kick me in the teeth with more... humor. By the end of the second episode, something had shifted, slightly. It may have helped that the second episode here was from the third season - these Time Life Presents collections apparently randomly

Arrow: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review: An Exciting Ride for Starling City's Most Famous Archer

Oliver Queen makes some tough choices in the excellent third season of Arrow.
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The third season of the CW’s hit series, Arrow, found the title character (Stephen Amell), adding to his team of heroes to defend Starling City. Old relationships were rekindled and characters thought to be dead turned out to be very much alive. In addition, the show spawned a spinoff in The Flash. Season three begins with “The Calm,” and finds Arrow in a much better position with the Starling City police after defeating Deathstroke (Manu Bennett). Police Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne) has called off the anti-vigilante squad that had previously not taken too well to Arrow and the costumed types.

Empire: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Birth of a Dynasty

The series marks the triumphant return of the nighttime soap opera to network TV.
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The pilot episode of this series is a huge mess. Stuffed with a random assortment of seemingly unrelated scenes, frequent poorly executed time jumps, and enough laughable dialogue to qualify it as a comedy, it’s amazing that the show ever got picked up for full series. Thankfully, it did, and quickly became “TV’s biggest smash of the past decade” according to the cover art of this new Blu-ray set. The story of music industry titan Lucious Lyon and his highly dysfunctional family makes for great soap opera moments that should ensure the show’s continued success for a few years to

Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection DVD Review: The Quality of These Specials Is Mixed

Recommended for those who need to add at least half the contents to one's library.
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In anticipation of the upcoming The Peanuts Movie and tying in with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' recent ceremony, Warner Brothers has gathered together 11 previously released specials into the new Peanuts Emmy Honored Collection. While it doesn’t contain all the Peanuts specials recognized by the Emmys, the two-disc set presents two winners, Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown (Outstanding Animated Program) and You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (Outstanding Children’s Special), and nine others that were nominated. Like any collection of nuts, there are some that are better than others. You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979) sees

Gentleman's Fate / The Phantom of Paris DVD Reviews: John Gilbert, Cinema's Forgotten Heartthrob

The Warner Archive Collection unburies several talkies from one of the Golden Age of Hollywood's many fallen stars.
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It is a sad inevitability that every era - each generation that passes - will feature a high point doomed to be forgotten come the next wave. As we move further away from the foundations of cinema, plastering over the multi-acre art deco sets of the past with small green screens in the process, more of our motion picture past is being swept under the rug. And it is here, now, as members of the Millennial generation struggle to figure out who Stan and Ollie are, that we should look back perhaps even further; to those artists that even the

Twilight Time Presents: Five Features from the Escalator of Life

"The Best Country Places in the Fabulous World," or "The Month Henry Baker Hearts Everything."
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As if they were taking a cue from the late '80s new wave musician Robert Hazard himself, Twilight Time has lassoed up another wave of feature films from yesteryear that presents civilized human beings at various stages upon what he called the "Escalator of Life." From that awkward moment in our barely-pubescent years when we first begin to obsess over people we perceive ourselves to be in love with, to that moment in adulthood when we realize things just aren't the same as they used to be. You know, like a "Change Reaction." (Yes, that was a Robert Hazard song,

The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes DVD Review: This Is Good Stuff!

Though not actually "lost," this set is well worth finding.
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It’s always interesting when the term “Lost Episodes” is used to describe a new DVD release. Is that really what happened? Was there actually a conversation where someone said: “Hey, have ya seen the first five seasons of The Carol Burnett Show?" “I thought you had them”. “Did you check your pockets?” It’s not like we’re talking about car keys. We’re talking about the first five seasons of what is arguably the best variety show of all time. That’s 134 episodes. That’s a lot to misplace. In this case, it appears it was more of a legal access issue, which

Thoughtful & Abstract: Fear the Walking Dead: 'Not Fade Away'

The dead have disappeared.
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In which Shawn and Kim are grateful there are only two episodes left. Shawn: Well, I got what I asked for. I've wanted to see more of the daily life as the government cracks down and people are still completely unaware of what is happening. We've progressed another week since the military first arrived at the end of the last episode and they've developed a small community inside their neighborhood "safe zone". It's not unlike what we've seen in The Walking Dead and I think it's an interesting phenomenon for humans to want to keep recreating a comfortable, idyllic neighborhood

Pitch Perfect 2 Blu-ray Review: Re-Introducing Hailee Steinfeld

Steinfeld shines, Banks makes a fine director, but the returning characters tread water due to Kay Cannon's subpar script.
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The Barden Bellas are in trouble. After winning the hearts of a cappella aficionados and casual fans everywhere, both within the movie and through its surprising box office success, the singing sensations of Barden University are now faced with the daunting proposition of how to continue their success. After a disastrous performance in front of the U.S. President, they promptly find themselves on the outs with their college and each other, knocking them right back to square one as they search for redemption. Enter teenager Hailee Steinfeld as new Bella recruit Emily, and seemingly the only member legitimately of college

George Strait: The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium DVD Review

What makes this concert stand out is that you can feel how truly special it is for all involved.
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Growing up, I always dreaded when my mom would put on her country music. She warned me that when I got older I would change my tune, and she couldn't have been more right. One of her favorites for as long as I can remember has been George Strait. When he announced his farewell tour, I hoped to go but his continued popularity denied me tickets. At least I was able to get the next best thing with the DVD release of his tour finale. The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium features a star-studded line-up including Vince Gill,

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes - The Thinking Engine by James Lovegrove

Two "thinking machines" face off in this excellent pastiche that pits Sherlock Holmes against a Victorian precursor to the computer.
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Early in the third season of Elementary, one of its episodes offered an intriguing premise: a sentient computer was suspected of killing its creator, and Holmes’ job was to perform a Turing test in order to ascertain whether said machine could really have the intelligence to intentionally kill a human. Of course, the answer was an unsurprising “no,” because the universe of a procedural just doesn’t have space for sentient machines. Nonetheless, the episode was possibly the most interesting one of the show, as it offered an intriguing and deeply relevant theme for Sherlock Holmes: that of man vs. machine.

Supernatural: The Complete Tenth Season DVD Review: After a Decade of Fighting Evil, the Winchesters Are Still Going Strong

Most fans will enjoy the season as it stays true to the characters and keeps the feel of the show exactly where it should be.
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It’s hard to believe that Supernatural has been on the air for ten years. Not many shows make it to the magical fifth season let alone double that number. But if you’ve been watching the show all this time, you know that it’s something special. It mixes in the dark and macabre with the right amount of humor, heart, and characterization that hasn’t been seen on TV since Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer. At the center of the story are two brothers, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) Winchester, who have grown up as hunters, a family profession

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