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Massacre Mafia Style Blu-ray Review: Duke Mitchell's Godfather Antithesis

The ultra-violent cult classic from a very ambitious cabaret entertainer returns to entertain and shock once more.
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It is sometimes interesting - well, to me, that is - how many of the articles I request or wind up for review can often be "connected" to one another like a really outrageous game of Six Degrees of Separation. Not too terribly far back, I found myself diving into the Warner Archive Collection re-releases of the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collections. Just last week, I was viewing Twilight Time's new Blu-ray issue of Roger Corman's neglected Prohibition Era gangster picture, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Believe it or not, there's more than one common denominator at play between

Love and Death (1975) Blu-ray Review: Dying is Easy. Loving is Hard.

The Woody Allen film that even Woody Allen likes gets the High-Def treatment.
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Though some people out there would just assume never hear his name ever again, there is ultimately no denying the contributions Woody Allen has made to the worlds of both comedy and cinema alike since he first starting writing gags for television in the late 1950s. Since then, he has directed 50 (count 'em, fifty) projects in addition to writing, producing, and/or starring in several dozen others. Heck, some of the classic comedians who would become the filmmaker's inspirations growing up did not have such a filmic output (even when combined in some instances). But it wasn't just the witty

American Sniper Movie Review: Eastwood Hits His Target

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper unite their considerable talents in what may well be the best Eastwood film yet.
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I really didn't know what to expect when I decided to see American Sniper. I had resolved not to read anything about it that might predispose my mind to the film and the experience of seeing it. I thought in terms of “seeing it” because, as a Vietnam veteran, I had refrained from seeing all but a couple of the plethora of films about that conflict. In fact, the number of movies which attempt to deal with the ambiguities and puzzles produced as a result of America's participation in Vietnam is staggering - so many that they collectively can (and

The Story of Women and Art DVD Review: Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves

The series does a wonderful service in telling stories about some of these little-known artist's lives and shining a light on their talents.
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Art historian and host Amanda Vickery (professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London) poses a question at the start of her series The Story of Women and Art: Women as muses and artists' models line countless gallery and museum walls - in sculptures and paintings made by male "old masters" - but where are all of the female artists? In three one-hour episodes, Vickery travels the world to try to highlight some of the unknown heroines of art history. In the first episode, Vickery travels through Italy and Holland to showcase the work of 16th and

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) Blu-ray Review: Corman Slays 'Em

The movie that almost put gangsters films back on the map returns for another round (of ammunition).
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While movies like Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde generally get the most credit for being the movies that really introduced gritty onscreen violence into the movies (the former was released just months after the MPAA rating system was introduced in 1968), they weren't the first to do so. Not by a long shot. In fact, copious amounts of blood were being spilled by Herschell Gordon Lewis in his outrageous horror movies that made a real killing at drive-ins for jaded teen and rural audiences during the early '60s. The occasional big-budget Cinemascope war film

Lillies DVD Review: A Bittersweet Post-war Drama

With but one season in existence, Lillies makes a nice snack between larger Television meals.
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Lillies is a costume drama that ran on the BBC for one season in 2007. It was set in Liverpool in 1920. The story revolved around three sisters: Iris (Catherine Tyldesley), Ruby (Kerrie Hayes), and May (Leanne Rowe.) Plus their father (Brian McCardie), brother Billy (Daniel Rigby), and various friends and potential lovers. It is loosely based on the stories creator Heidi Thomas' grandmother used to tell of her life in the early 1920s. The girls all dream of bigger and better lives but are held back by their loving, but often hard, harsh, and drunk father. He can’t bare

An Autumn Afternoon Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Master's Final Masterpiece

Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes.
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Before he died of cancer on his 60th birthday in 1963, Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes. The twilight work of many filmmakers often lends itself better to footnotes than introductions, but the remarkably consistent Ozu has a career filled with potential jumping-off points, and his last film is also an excellent first one for Ozu neophytes. I should know — An Autumn Afternoon was my gateway into Ozu’s exquisite cinematic worlds. Frequent collaborator Chishu Ryu stars as Shuhei Hirayama, a widower who comes to accept

Fright Night (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Brewster's Thirties

Yes, it's "Still a better love story than Twilight" time.
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If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be repeating myself, well, I probably would have believed them. Indeed, when I initially sat down to work on a review for Twilight Time's 30th Anniversary Edition of the 1985 vampire horror classic, Fright Night, I nearly found myself writing the exact same words I had jotted down for my original article for the company's initial release of the film. Not wanting to repeat myself - and with little else to say on the title, I must sadly confess - I figured, since I greedily ignored my editor's

The Best of Me (2014) Blu-ray Review: Another Dopey Romance from Nicholas Sparks

As big a tearjerker as I have ever seen, but my tears are from having spent four hours of my life watching it.
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One thing is certain, Nicholas Sparks is the king of romance. Guys, if you are rolling your eyes, you should be. Sparks writes the most manipulative and frankly ludicrous plots I have ever seen. And to continue my crass generalizations, chicks eat this stuff up like candy. The author of such weepers as Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Notebook (2004) is back with The Best of Me (2014). With the new Blu-ray “Tears of Joy” edition, we actually get two movies for the price of one. The disc includes both the theatrical version (1:57) and the "Tears of

The Godfather LIVE Review: An Event You Shouldn't Refuse to See

With a live orchestra playing, it draws attention to Nino Rota's amazing soundtrack.
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While any chance to see the Francis Ford Coppola's award-winning masterpiece is a great treat, this LIVE presentation of The Godfather by CineConcerts was delightfully augmented by Nino Rota's classic score being performed on stage by the Hollywood Studio Symphony. The Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE was buzzing with excitement. Many attendees had their pictures taken in front of the stage before most the musicians were seated. I had a front row seat off to the left side of the theater. As it was set below the stage, my view was limited to a small porton of the orchestra and its

Maps to the Stars Movie Review: Monsters Incorporated

Julianne Moore, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska in David Cronenberg's dark Hollywood satire/ghost story that's both unsettling and compelling.
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Unsettling and often unpleasant, Maps to the Stars teeters between dark (albeit funny) satire of Hollywood and luridly over-baked melodrama. Director David Cronenberg presents Bruce Wagner’s screenplay, full of greed, ambition, and multiple flavors of bad behavior, simultaneously as a ghost story, a modern-day Greek tragedy, and a peek behind the curtain at the lives of the rich, famous, and ridiculously over-privileged. (Confused yet? Don’t think seeing the movie will straighten things out for you; it’s only likely to raise more questions.) Maps’ multiple intersecting plots follow Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore, incredible as always), a famous but fortysomething movie star

Speed (1936) DVD Review: James Stewart Returns to Reclaim His Title

The Warner Archive Collection unburies the famous late actor's first starring role, wherein he is paired with Ted Healy as a sidekick!
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In-between the vast unnecessary space taken up within the confines of the virtual world by loving tributes to reality-TV celebrities and the hateful comments left behind by internet users who are an entirely different waste of space, there are a few really cool things on the web. One thing I occasionally grin with delight at are the sight of re-imagined artwork for movies - such as the fan-made poster artwork for Ghostbusters starring iconic British horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price (with Woody Strode jokingly tossed in as the token black guy) - and even records (a

The Murder Man (1935) DVD Review: When Spencer Met Stewart

Spencer Tracy's first starring role for MGM is supported by the feature film debut by James Stewart in this unconventional murder mystery.
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It was 1935. The Hays Office had recently begun to enforce their code of morals in film. Meanwhile, film itself was finally getting used to the whole sound thing. Projects were practically bursting from the seems of studios all around town, be it over on Poverty Row or on the lot of the more prestigious outlets. And one such outlet was MGM, where a modest murder mystery was being manufactured under the direction the man who would later bring us The Thief of Bagdad - Tim Whelan - with a script written by he and future Robinson Crusoe on Mars

RiffTrax Live!: Sharknado Review: Chainsaws of Comedy

If you enjoyed MST3K at all, you will want to check this out.
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Sharknado really came and took the world by storm, which is not an intended pun no matter how much it feels like one. It's probably the most well-known bad movie in recent memory. Sure, you've got your The Room and your Birdemic, but those are more on the down low. Sharknado was on SyFy. Anybody could tune in and check it out, and many people did, and they laughed and laughed at its cheesiness and goofiness. Given this fact, it seemed inevitable that the guys at RiffTrax would eventually tackle this movie. For those not in the know, RiffTrax features

Serangoon Road DVD Review: It Might Be HBO but It Plays Like Broadcast TV

HBO Asia's first foray into original programming brings forth an entertaining, but ultimately disappointing crime drama.
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HBO has been making must-see TV for a couple of decades now. Its original programming is consistently not only the best in its time-slot but often the best that’s ever aired in the history of television. A brief glance at the shows its created - from The Larry Sanders Show to The Sopranos, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Band of Brothers - and you wind up with a handful of the best TV the world has ever produced. It's not just a marketing gimmick to say that’s it's not just TV, it's HBO, for the cable channel really has pushed

Hot Tub Time Machine (Unrated) Blu-ray Review: Round up Your Friends and Your Favorite Adult Beverages

Sure to become a cult classic among the “let’s get wasted and laugh our asses off” set.
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Hot Tub Time Machine is rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and pervasive language, which are pluses in the right company when done right, and director Steve Pink and his team most certainly do it right. While certainly not a movie for everyone to be sure, HTTM is wildly over-the-top, filled with so much raunchy silliness (or silly raunchiness) it is sure to become a cult classic among the “let’s get wasted and laugh our asses off” set. After Lou (Rob Corddry) ends up in the hospital, he is reunited with former friends Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam

Crime Scene Cleaner DVD Review: A Job Ripe With Comedy

Seriously, Hollywood, take a cue from the Germans and make more shows like this.
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If you listed out jobs that seem terribly unpleasant to perform, you’d likely hit upon things like garbage man, porta-potty maintenance, and road-kill remover. I’m not sure you’d think of crime scene cleaner. I’m not even sure that’s a real job. It makes a certain amount of sense as I don’t see that the police are going to clean up after your murders and homeowners aren’t likely to fee like mopping up after Aunt Betty’s decomposed on the living-room couch. But it's not exactly the sort of job you see listed on Monster.com or the local classifieds all too often.

Nicolas Le Floch Volume Two DVD Review: Sword Fights and Laughter

A silly French historical crime drama delivers good mysteries and some hearty laughs.
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Nicolas Le Floch is a French crime series that began in France in October of 2008. Each series contains two episodic short films (lasting roughly 90 minutes each.) It is being brought to the US market by MHZ Mysteries. Volume Two contains episodes 7-10. It stars Jérôme Robart as Nicholas Le Floch, Marquis of Ranreuil, Commissaire of the Châtelet which is the flowery French way of saying detective. He solves crimes in 18th century Paris. It is based upon a series of novels by Jean-François Parot. I had not seen any previous episodes before coming to this set, but jumping

Batman: The Television Series: The Second Season Part One DVD Review: Holy Classic TV Comedy!

It would be a crime not to own this.
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After years of legal rights issues needing to be sorted out (and likely a fascinating story in its own right), the legendary Batman television series (1966-68) finally made its Blu-ray/DVD debut last November with The Complete Series set and the simultaneous release of The Complete First Season on DVD. Those who bought the latter can continue adding to their Bat-collection with the next installment from Warner Brothers, The Complete Second Season, Part One. The camp comedy style from the '60s series was so successful it was how the DC Comics character was best known to the general public until Tim

Lovejoy Series 3 DVD Review: Is Lovejoy Looking for Love?

A great edition in the series, with lots of the usual fun that Ian McShane's Lovejoy brings.
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In the second season of Lovejoy, the last time we saw the irascible but ever-charming antiques dealer played by Ian McShane, he was swindling (for a good cause, naturally) crooked antiques dealer Harry Catapodis (Brian Blessed) in order to help out a Japanese businessman (Mako) and a lovely widow Victoria (Joanna Lumley) who had both been cheated by Harry. Lovejoy Series 3, recently released on DVD by Acorn Media, picks up a year later, after Lovejoy has been taking a holiday in Spain, where he has enjoyed (and spent) all the proceeds from that last big deal. He returns home

Born Reckless (1958) DVD Review: My Long Hard Ride with Mamie Van Doren

A delightfully dumb ditty that is bursting with equestrian euphemisms and great B-grade bombshells.
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Though the notion of an actor or actress being a "sex symbol" had been in existence well before the someone coined the phrase in the '50s, it wasn't until that glamorous decade itself rolled around that things really started busting out all over. Quite literally in some cases - so much so that the concept of "skill" was often regarded as secondary when it came to some of America's "biggest" sex symbols, such as a legendary trio of lasses who would become known as The Three Ms in some circles: Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Mamie Van Doren. They were

Crazy Bitches Movie Review: Women Behaving Badly, And Paying For It

It's like Lena Dunham's 'Girls,' but for guys.
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Jane Clark's Crazy Bitches describes itself as a "horror comedy sex romp." It's definitely at least two of those things. We kick off with a group of former sorority sisters and their gay best friend (Andy Gala) reuniting for a weekend in a cabin off the beaten path. Each of the characters represents an obvious stereotype common to the genre, be it the good girl (Liz McGeever), the innocent virgin (Samantha Colburn), the athletic dyke (Cathy DeBuono), the fashionista (Guinevere Turner), the bombshell slut (Candis Cayne), the homely nerd (Mary Jane Wells), the quiet voice of reason (Nayo Wallace), or

Marie's Mind For Murder Set One DVD Review: The German Mr. Monk

For detective genre fans, Marie's Mind for Murder is a nice bit of diversionary television.
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If you took Mr. Monk with all his eccentricities, but dialed back the OCD then mixed him with Dr. House without the anger issues, you’d have something approaching Marie Brand. She’s a bit eccentric but she’s got a brilliant mind. She’s retired from the police force but is unexpectedly brought back to solve a murder. She works best alone, but is teamed up with her exact opposite. Still, they are good at what they do and compliment each other superbly. Marie’s Mind For Murder takes the classic police procedural cliches and runs with it. It stars a mix-matched pair of

Bandit Queen Blu-ray Review: A Brutal, Boring, Bolly-less Biopic

Twilight Time gives the controversial Phoolan Devi biography an upgrade. But is that really a good thing?
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As sad as this may sound to you, my earliest memories of childhood revolve around watching movies. My parents, for whatever reason, decided to take my three-year-old self to a showing of Alien when it was making its initial rounds in theaters back in '79. Eddie Parker's sorry-looking monster in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy stands out prominently in my singular image visual databank due to a very early encounter with late night television. I had carte blanche from my guardians to rent virtually anything I wanted to at the local video stores (barring X-rated films, of course, which

The Story of Adele H DVD Review: Of Love and Madness

The tragic true story of Victor Hugo's daughter.
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Though Americans often think of his novels (and the musical based upon one novel), Victor Hugo is better known in his native France as a poet. During his lifetime, he was also a politician and his writings against the death penalty helped abolish the act in many places. His politics also got him into a great deal of trouble as he became exiled from France after Napoleon III seized power and declared himself emperor. Hugo had five children - one died in infancy, the second drowned at 19, his two boys were both well-loved artists, and his daughter, Adèle, like

Adventure in Baltimore DVD Review: Pastor Robert Young Hasn't Got a Prayer

Unhappy honeymooners Shirley Temple and John Agar appear on-screen together for the second and final time in this odd 1949 dud.
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Exactly one year ago today, America's quintessential child star, Shirley Temple departed from this world - leaving behind an iconic legacy in the world of film. Many mourned her death as the end of an era, whether it be due to her work in Hollywood as that darling little song-and-dance girl, her victory over breast cancer as an adult, her unwitting commitment to the sales of grenadine syrup in bars and restaurants everywhere, or even her involvement in politics between the late '60s to early '90s. To the slightly off-kilter people around the globe like me, however - those of

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Blu-Ray Review: Embraces Optimism over Snarky Fantasy

Beloved children's classic from the 1970s finally gets its turn on the big screen.
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Where have all the family films gone? Movies that cross genres and give every generation of kinfolk a little bit of the film-going experience they’re asking for. I’m talking action and adventure coupled with romance and fart jokes and out-dated references sailing clear over kids' heads and into the deep, nostalgic recesses of parental minds dragged yet again to the theatre for something dull and overexposed. What passes for family fare these days are often dark and brooding films, like Into the Woods, or crass excursions into the juvenile, think Sponge-Bob Square Pants, movies whose adult elements are laced with

Wrestling with Satan DVD Review: Putting Beelzebub in a Sleeper Hold

Taking aim at Satan from the top rope.
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Directed by Paul Aldridge and Tom Borden, the 2009 documentary Wrestling with Satan explores the Christian Wrestling Federation over the course of about six years. This is one of those low budget operations, comprised almost entirely of interviews and footage from the CWF’s wrestling matches. The latter usually take place in front of a crowds of perhaps 100 or so people. There isn’t a lot of criticism or stoutness to Wrestling with Satan and Borden and Aldridge don’t have much to offer when it comes to the theology behind the CWF. The good news is that there is a major

White Comanche DVD Review: 40% Cotton, 230% Shatner

The Warner Archive Collection brings us a much-needed improved print of the campy Shatner vs Shatner Euro western cult classic.
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Though many roads were constructed during the European western era of the '60s, very few paths were created that lead to fame for stardom-starved individuals on either side of the camera. And those went down such lonely, rugged trails dared not tread lightly. Providing fate was on your side, you could find yourself walking in the footsteps of Clint Eastwood - who was little more than a television actor appearing in a weekly western show before Sergio Leone opened the door to international acclaim for him. If lady luck was not guiding you along the way, however, there was the

Scooby-Doo! Moon Monster Madness DVD Review: Scooby Doo Meets Alien

There's a mystery to be solved, and it will be solved.
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When people think of Scooby-Doo, they probably think of those early Hanna-Barbera iterations. The cheap, repeating animation; the ersatz bubblegum pop songs; the reptitive stories. If you are particularly haunted, you may recall the visage of Scrappy-Doo in your mind's eye. However, the most recent version of Scooby-Doo (as of the moment, as there is another new one on the way), which was called Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, was actually quite good. It was funny and well animated and it has serialization and actual characterization. Martha Quinn cameoed as herself, so you know the show was thinking about a potential adult

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