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Book Review: Secret Agent X-9: 1934-1936 by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Sometimes a "Dream Team" is better left to the imagination.
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Everyone loves a dream team. Who can forget Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage joining forces to form the Mega-Powers or Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison coming together as the musical Voltron known as The Traveling Wilburys? Much like the magical combination of chocolate and peanut butter, a dream team represents a union of the good, the great, and the totally sweet, and not only lays to rest the question of “What If?” that lurks inside the hearts and minds of all fans, but also threatens to tear the very fabric of the

Doctor Who: The Daleks (2015) DVD Review: Purchase It Just for the Tom Baker Story

BBC Entertainment releases a recent Daleks Greatest Hits but the real gem is a 1975 classic hidden on Disc 2.
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The latest release from BBC Home Entertainment brings together a diverse collection of recent episodes to satisfy the true Doctor Who fans. The thing about compilation releases is that you are going to have to generally be familiar with the characters and history to enjoy the references and continuity issues. It's hard to review as a single story because Doctor Who stories exist in order and are not necessarily meant to be viewed singularly. Here's what you get with the purchase of Doctor Who: The Daleks. "Dalek" featuring the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) The reboot of the series was only

The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-ray Review: Long Live Rock

If this was the only concert of the band on record, there'd be no doubt why they are rock 'n' roll legends.
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Reading up on The Who, it appears what was intended to be a tour in support of It's Hard became a farewell tour because of Pete Townshend's personal issues and the friction they contributed to between he and his bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. Although they have reunited many times since, and Daltrey and Townshend, the last living original members, are currently touring in celebration of the band's 50th anniversary, it's fantastic to see this document of The Who still at the peak of their abilities. Taken from their October 13, 1982 performance, the second of a two-night stand

Spider Baby Blu-ray / DVD Review: An Extremely Offbeat but Amazing Movie

This really is the most maddening story every told, but in a good way.
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In this 1960s, the independent film boom was well under way of becoming the next big thing in cinema. The indie films of the '60s, included 'nudie cuties', drive-in flicks, rebel-youth outings, and most importantly, horror movies. These horror movies were a mixture of blood, gore, cheesy but method acting, and dated production values. However, for better or worse, they changed the way that underground films would be made since then. In this case, director Jack Hill's 1963 cult masterpiece, Spider Baby, remains one of the best of the bunch. Yes, it's not as serious as George Romero's 1968 revolutionary

Planet Ant DVD Review: Tiny Social Wonders

They're not so different from us.
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Planet Ant acts as part of a special season of BBC Four programs that originally aired starting in 2013, and are centered around taking a close-up look at the insect world. If you had an ant farm growing up, you might think you know a thing or two about ants. Expand that to the size of an entire room, build it out with cameras, radio tracking, tunnels, an ample food source, and a migrated colony of thousands of leafcutter ants, and now you're really cooking. This is exactly the challenge taken on by entomologist Dr. George McGavin and leafcutter expert

Contamination (1980) Blu-ray Review: On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream 'Rip-Off!'

The cycloptic grandpappy of ALIEN clones makes its chest-bursting, worldwide High-Definition Blu-ray debut courtesy Arrow Video.
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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - it's certainly the least-creative - but there are relatively few individuals out there with enough gall to market a movie of their own as a sequel to somebody else's production. Nevertheless, the annals of exploitation movie history could quite literally be lined with one-sheet movie posters of low-budget movies shamelessly retitled in an attempt to lure unsuspecting filmgoers into thinking they were follow-ups to other (better known) movies. The lengths some of these shady distributors would go to were admirable, to say the least - with my personal favorite being the

Book Review: Star Trek: New Visions Volume 2 by John Byrne

These new voyages fit right alongside the old ones.
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In Star Trek: New Visions, John Byrne tells of the lost missions of the starship Enterprise under the command of Captain James T. Kirk. Through the use of images from the Original Series combined with new material such as characters and dialogue, Byrne creates adventures that have an air of authenticity because we see the familiar faces of the actors. Volume 2 collects issues #3-5 and contains an all-new story with something for those who read Gold Key's Star Trek comics. "Cry Vengeance" tells the origins of the Doomsday Machine from the episode of the same name. "Robot" is a

Smokey and the Hotwire Gang DVD Review: Anthony Cardoza Strikes Again!

Witness an unforgettably forgettable failure from one of low budget cinema's most notable underachievers.
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This may sound pretty odd coming from an individual such as myself, but z-grade exploitation filmmaker Anthony Cardoza is quite a bit of queer duck. While his stint with the U.S. Army during the Korean War earned him many a medal for his distinguished service to his country - including one for marksmanship - his subsequent, longer engagement in the motion-picture industry has resulted in each and every one of his projects completely failing to hit their mark, with nary an award to be seen from any direction. His brief association with cult auteur Coleman Francis, wherein Mr. Cardoza produced

R.E.M. by MTV Blu-ray Review: Fables of the R.E.M. Construction

This should satisfy fans, most of whom likely already know the story, but it's great to hear it directly from the band members.
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Previously a part of the REMTV boxed set, the documentary R.E.M. by MTV is now available as a separate release on Blu-ray and DVD. It presents the history of the band through archival interviews and clips of news and performances, much of it, but not limited to, material from MTV. The band (Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and Bill Berry) and associates tell the story chronologically through interviews conducted over their decades-long run. The viewer witnesses R.E.M.'s career arc going from a cult favorite and critical darling to a force on the pop charts with hit songs and albums

Pit Stop Blu-ray/DVD Review: One of Jack Hill's Very Best Films

An unusually exciting story of wild youth and fast cars.
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When the 1960s arrived, there started a new type of film: the independent film. Films under this label were made outside the Hollywood system. They had limited to no budgets, unconventional or method actors, and sometimes cheesy production values. However, director Jack Hill's 1969 cult classic Pit Stop isn't the case. Although the film had a limited run, a next to no budget, and a radical story, it really rises above that to tell the story of rebellious youth with something to prove, obsession with fast cars, and pretty girls along for the ride. Hill's unique eye for detail, his

Book Review: The Complete Dick Tracy, Volume 18: 1957-1959 by Chester Gould

Gould's writing entertains because of the unpredictable twists the stories take along the way to their expected conclusions.
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As the Library of American Comics and IDW Publishing continue to collect The Complete Dick Tracy by Chester Gould, Volume 18 presents the dailies and Sunday strips from December 15, 1957 through to July 11, 1959. The opening few panels are a little heavy handed and preachy as Tracy's adopted son Junior explains he and some friends want to go into law enforcement and gives a slightly nauseating speech about how much better things would be "if parents stayed at home more with their kids and helped teach them good manners - taught 'em to pray, and tanned their little

Welcome To Me Blu-ray Review: Kristen Wiig Is Amazing, but This Movie Is Far from Perfect

Kristen Wiig's magnum opus, or sort of.
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We know that Kristen Wiig has proven herself to be actress of extreme range and talent, as she has demonstrated in comedies such as Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids. In just in few years after her Emmy-nominated stint on Saturday Night Live, she established herself as an actress worthy in dramas, and my personal favorite one is The Skeleton Twins. In director Shira Piven's Welcome To Me, an uncomfortably flawed, but quirky depiction of mental illness, TV obsession, and fame, she handles both comedy and drama with flair, even if the film can be mostly beneath her genius. She plays

Sol Madrid DVD Review: The Nutty NCIS Kojak Batman Star Trek 007 Affair

David McCallum's solo venture into the '60s spy genre is odd, compelling, and worth a look.
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As I had iterated in my ealier review of The Scorpio Letters, the latter half of the '60s were big on spy movies. The Britons essentially set the stage for a newly-revamped genre with their James Bond series, and everybody else was soon competing to create their own various fields of cinematic espionage. The craze became an all-out phenomenon in Europe, giving birth to what we call the Eurospy film today. In a way, it was a blessing. Sure, there were a lot of forgettable movies made during this time thanks to ol' supply and demand model of economics, but

Gerontophilia DVD Review: A Perverse, but Tenderly Made Turning Point in LGBT Cinema

A great film with moments of pure hilarity and emotional intensity.
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When Harold and Maude premiered in 1971, it wasn't a box-office hit, but it did break new ground of how certain relationships are viewed. It also became one of the greatest cult films of all-time, not just because of its taboo subject matter, but because it was just so damn funny. Forty-three years later, director Bruce LaBruce decided to take the subject a step further in his controversial romantic comedy, Geronotophilia, a refreshing and frank depiction of generational conflict, race, sexuality, and aging. LaBruce is no stranger to controversy, making films of rebellious eroticism, with such cult movies as Huster

TCM Presents: Jaws 40th Anniversary Movie Review: I Love Movies Because of Jaws

It brings back memories from opening night.
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TCM Presents and Fathom Events have teamed up to bring Jaws to movie theaters for its 40th Anniversary. I attended a showing on Sunday night jokingly saying it was my 75th time seeing the film. Not having a way to really know, I thought about it a little more and that number is probably shooting a little low. I was there in theaters as a seven-year-old on June 20, 1975. If you want to argue that it did or didn't change the movie industry you can, but you can't argue that it changed the interest in movies and filmmaking for
It’s been nearly 20 years since Slash was a member of the heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses. Since then he’s put out multiple solo albums and was a founding member of the highly successful band, Velvet Revolver. But in this recent video release the legendary guitarist shows off his incredible chops over his entire musical history. And once again he has teamed up with an exceptional vocalist, Myles Kennedy, who has his own unique singing style and sounds like a cross between Axl Rose and Scott Weiland. Since Slash has been making his own solo albums for years now,

Ripper Street: Season Three DVD Review: Risen From Cancellation

A social media campaign brought it back and it was well worth the fight.
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The BBC’s Ripper Street takes place in Whitechapel of London’s East End. This is the same area that Jack the Ripper did his terrible deeds back in 1888. Season One of the show takes place six months after those horrible murders and all of its characters are haunted by those crimes. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastado and Kristen Lopez). Season Two takes place about a year after season one, and while the Ripper has faded mostly from memory there’s still plenty of crime to contend with in the neighborhood. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastardo.) Season Three almost didn’t happen. Citing

Survivor (2015) Blu-ray Review: A Little Action, A Lot of Filler

This movie should have been Brosnan and Jovovich running around trying to kill each other.
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You look at the Blu-ray cover for Survivor and you see Pierce Brosnan and Milla Jovovich holding guns, with a tagline letting you know that Brosnan’s latest target is now chasing him. It looks like it could be a solid cat-and-mouse thriller. Indeed, there are parts of the movie where that is true, but the issue is that it makes up far too little of the movie. Jovovich plays a woman named Kate Abbott, a Foreign Services Officer from America who has been brought to London to try and thwart terrorist attacks. Brosnan plays an assassin who is brought in

The Best of The Ed Sullivan Show 6-DVD Collector's Set Review

A who's-who (and "who's that?") of mid-20th Century entertainment.
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For 23 years, from Sunday June 20, 1948 to Sunday June 6, 1971, Ed Sullivan served as the host of the quintessential variety show, presenting viewers with acts from across the entertainment spectrum. This six-DVD set, sporting the generic title of The Best of The Ed Sullivan Show, serves as a great example of what audience saw. The first two discs offer greatest-hits collections ("Unforgettable Performances" and "50th Anniversary Special"). The next three feature clips arranged by subject: "The All-Star Comedy Special," "World's Greatest Novelty Acts," and "Amazing Animal Acts." The final disc presents Bonus Interviews of participants from the

Insider Access to Disney•Pixar's Inside Out Review: Inside and Out of Site!

An early preview of Pixar's newest film with special guests, behind-the-scenes goodness, and an enormously good time.
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Old media has been struggling with how modern audiences consume their movies, books, and music for quite some time. With broadband internet allowing us to quickly and cheaply bring all the media directly into our homes, there is less and less reasons to purchase them as physical objects. It's fascinating to me to see the different methods media producers come up with in order to get us to pay for the things we consume. As televisions increase in size and definition and home theatre sound systems become more affordable for the average consumer, there is less reason for anyone to

The Pillow Book Blu-ray Review: Peter Greenaway's Idiosyncratic Collage

Eroticism and revenge mingle as aspect ratios shift.
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Peter Greenaway’s 1996 film The Pillow Book is alternately a sensual exploration of memory and a hot-blooded revenge fantasy, but it never fully embraces either, its eroticism often aloof and its violence almost completely suggestive. No one should expect otherwise from the idiosyncratic British director, who indulges his love for stagy compositions and florid production design while only half-committing to a traditional narrative, the film’s tableau-like scenes functioning more as standalone setpieces than components of a fluid story. Greenaway trains the viewer to expect this by plunging almost immediately into a dense collage of images — academy frames, widescreen frames,

Valley of the Cycle Sluts DVD Review: Sluts Rule!

Weird retro Cycle Slut fun from MVD Visual.
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The Cycle Sluts are back, and boy are they pissed. In Valley of the Cycle Sluts (1992) we find seven members of the women’s biker gang The Sisters of Mercy bent on revenge against crooked undercover officer Wade Olson (Jason Williams). Before he was fired, Olson had taken out each of the ladies' men, one by one to get to a big pile of loot. The gals lure him to Death Valley to spring their trap. This being a gang of Cycle Sluts however, it will not be a simple execution. The honor of shooting him will go to the

Jurassic World Movie Review: A Sequel 22 Years in the Making

The fourth film in the popular series is everything that the previous sequels should have been, but never could have.
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Sequels have always been a tough market. Even as far back as the classic Universal Monster movies, filmmakers were struggling to come up with new and inventive concepts in order to keep franchises alive and kickin'. Once a World War had ended and the Atomic Age came to pass, man-made legends such as vampires or the Frankenstein monster took a backseat to reawakened prehistoric beasts. One such devil was the Gill Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, whose brief trilogy of films went through as diverse of a storytelling process as could be, having been discovered in the

Book Review: Tarzan: The Complete Russ Manning Newspaper Strips, Volume Four: 1974-1979

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
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With the Library of America Comics releasing the fourth and final volume in the Eisner Award-winning series, they have published the complete collection of Russ Manning's Tarzan newspaper strips. As Henry G. Franke III, editor of The Burroughs Bibliophiles, explains in his informative introduction of the strip and its author, Manning was only creating Sunday strips at this point in the run, having given up the dailies in order to add Tarzan graphic novels to his workload. However, interest in the strip and the character had waned by the end of the decade. In February 1979, Tarzan "was appearing in

The Searchers Blu-ray Review: Revisionist Western Before There Were Revisionist Westerns

John Ford's justly praised western classic explores the contradictions of glory and brutality in the settling of the West.
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Taking a highly praised classic on is a tricky business for any film reviewer. A movie as celebrated and revered as The Searchers has been picked over, analyzed, and revised up and down in critical estimation since it was dubbed a classic. It can be hard to just sit down and watch The Searchers like any movie. Not for nothing, the first time I saw it was in film school, surrounded by people who, even if like me they hadn't seen it before, had already had drummed into them what was "important" about it. The Searchers was not an instant

Rio Bravo Blu-ray Review: A Western Classic Restored

Howard Hawks' classic Western gets a nice upgrade with some new extras, what else is there to say?
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In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann made High Noon with Gary Cooper, who plays a small-town marshal whose being threatened by a man he once put away and his gang of thugs. Throughout the film, Cooper tries to find others to help him fight the gang, but one by one everyone either refuses or leaves town. In the end, it is only the marshal’s wife who brings forth any assistance. Howard Hawks and John Wayne, tough guys that they were, thought this plot was phony. No man worth his salt would go around asking for help in such a situation. And

John J. Malone Mystery Double Feature DVD Review: Pat O'Brien vs. James Whitmore

The Warner Archive Collection rescues two forgotten comedies featuring the less-than-celebrated fictional sleuth.
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The list of female mystery writers in history isn't a terribly long one. Even today, the only mysteries set in the literary world as written by women are the unexplained successes of poorly-worded tripe such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. No, that's not my chauvinistic side poking out of my trousers. That's something anyone with even a little common sense (or taste!) can attest to. Of course, the relatively short list of lady crime writers can mostly be blamed on good ol' fashioned chauvinism itself - as it wasn't until the last century that women finally began to

The Book of Negroes DVD Review: Important Miniseries Adds New Perspective to North American History

How historical fiction can counter the dominant narrative of history.
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As a genre, historical fiction when adapted well for film or television, can teach people about important parts of history. These parts of history may be an expansion of what they have already learned or it may teach about stories from history that have been silenced. However, if the studio producing the adaptation strays too far away from the original manuscript, the important message being taught through the historical fiction can often be lost. Historical fiction is also a genre that when adapted for the screen can be either beneficial or detrimental to history. What effect it has depends on

The Wonder Years: Season Three DVD Review: The Best Season of the Series

Kevin goes from Algebra to Zits this season.
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Time Life and Star Vista released season three of The Wonder Years on DVD May 26th and the season opens with us following the Arnold family on a summer vacation that includes neighbor Paul (Josh Saviano), who is mysteriously available even though we were told at the end of season two that he would be gone all summer. The vacation includes Kevin getting his first French kiss and the family coming together after a rough start. We then follow Kevin (Fred Savage) and his group of friends into eighth grade as the writers take us from algebra to zits and

McFarland, USA Blu-ray Review: Deserves to be Running in Your Home on a Regular Basis

Harkens back to the old days of Disney filmmaking when the stories were simple yet powerful and poignant.
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Disney has done quite well with underdog sports movies such as The Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Invincible, Miracle, but there have been some failures along the “Glory Road”, so it is tough to figure out what to make of McFarland, USA. There appeared to be little marketing behind a movie starring Kevin Costner, and a February release date generally does not bode well for a film. Luckily, McFarland, USA does not need the marketing or a prime summer release date to put itself amongst the best of Disney’s underdog sports-themed movies. Though some may struggle with the

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