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Old Joy Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Quite Reflective and Moving

I have nothing but rave things to say about this terrific film.
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Director Kelly Reichardt has become one of my favorite directors. She is one of the very few maverick filmmakers of landscape and how the supposedly promising aspects of the American Dream can shallow you up. Whether it's women trying to forge their own paths through life (Certain Women), danger for settlers in 1840s Oregon (Meek's Cutoff), a drifter and her dog trying to find their places in the world (Wendy and Lucy), or outsiders fleeing their boring lives but not getting very far (River of Grass), Reichardt has a created a singular body of work that has proven that women

The Report Movie Review: A Story That Needs to Be Told

An efficacious and heroic story of a desk-employee dealing with the stain on a country.
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When we see a film or documentary which closely observes a real person or an incident, recollecting thoughts and summoning them in words, nonchalantly turns into our personal take on the subject. I believe it's one of the attributes of a good film dealing with such subjects, and The Report is one such addition to that unseen list. Four minutes into the film, Daniel J. Jones (Adam Driver) answers the question, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years? Run for office?" with "No. No politics for me. I think I'll be more effective behinds the scenes, somewhere I can

The Anne Bancroft Collection Blu-ray Review: Prepare to Be Seduced

A lovingly curated (if cheaply put together) collection that highlights one of the all-time great actresses' careers.
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Anne Bancroft landed her first film role in 1952 as a lounge singer in Don’t Bother to Knock. For the next 50+ years, she worked steadily on both the big and small screen and on stage. In that time, she won an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Golden Globes, two Tony Awards, two Emmy Awards plus a slew of others and garnered many more nominations. Today, she is mostly known as Mrs. Robinson, the older woman trying to seduce a young Dustin Hoffman (though in reality, she was just six years older than him) in The Graduate. But the

Marriage Story Movie Review: A Story of an Extremely Competitive Couple on the Verge of Separation

This divorce story unfolds with debates on various things like life in New York vs. Los Angeles, parenting, gender roles which come in between and ruin their successful marriage.
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Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story starts with the over-the-top dramatic score by Randy Newman and then enters the star Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) in the most dramatic way possible, the first few lines are in the form of a first-person voice-over by Charlie (Adam Driver) telling us why he loves Nicole. You will almost feel like you are watching a documentary or a television show because of the aspect ratio this film plays out in. This whole sequence unfolds in like an overture in a play. Then the perspective of the wife follows and she says, “He is competitive,” and he says

Hustlers Blu-ray Review: Hustles the Audience

Aside from some energetic performances, the film shows very little hustle.
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Inspired by a true story, Hustlers follows a group of conniving strippers as they turn the tables on their clients for illicit gains. The film aspires to be some sort of postmodern female-empowerment tale, but has such a paper-thin plot, weak character development, and wan direction that it ends up being an utterly bland, disposable affair. Even the casting of this film is a bit of a hustle, since Jennifer Lopez is clearly the biggest name and draw in the cast but acts as a secondary character in the story told from the perspective of Constance Wu’s newbie stripper character,

Book Review: Making Moon by Simon Ward

The behind-the-scenes story of the conception and filming of one of the 21st century's best sci-fi movies.
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Hard sci-fi differentiates itself from the other kind by trying to follow the rules of physics and take place in a universe that might actually occur. Which doesn't mean the story is necessarily dry or dull, but it tries to be plausible. Moon (2009) certainly doesn't explain all of the scientific advancements that would make the story possible, but it keeps up at least the pretense of realism. How it achieved this and more is described in the lovely new book, Making Moon by Simon Ward. Taking a linear approach, Ward follows director Duncan Jones from his early ambitions to

Road Games (1981) Blu-ray Review: Today's Roadkill, Tomorrow's Bacon

Fans of this 1981 Ozploitation nailbiter claim it is worthy of Hitchcock's best. They are not wrong.
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From scene one of Road Games, the film grabs us. There is an extended moment, however, when we realize we are in the hands of a director who knows exactly what he wants and has the chops to pull it off, and it comes several minutes into the picture: Stopping at a diner in the Australian outback to fuel up and stretch his legs—but most importantly call the cops—a well-read trucker, Quid (Stacy Keach), tries in vain to be heard over the other customers. Reception on the line is bad. Shifty-looking dudes play a loud tune on the jukebox, and

TV Review: The Flash: 'Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 3'

What did you think of the Crisis cliffhanger? Do you agree with Gordon and Shawn?
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A pair of Sentries are teaming up to take on the five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event. If you would like to start with previous episodes, please read Part 1 and Part 2. Gordon S. Miller I have been disappointed that Black Lightning hadn't taken part in previous crossovers. Even though it was a DC Comics character in a show airing on the CW, the series set itself apart from the Arrowverse. Thankfully, that changed this year although Black Lightning wouldn't be one of the five shows presenting “Crisis.” However, similar to a comic book that is apart from

Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator Movie Review: A Minimalistic yet Potent Documentation

The film raises relevant questions while documenting a preposterous person.
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When a news anchor displays disbelief in his claims of sleeping less than 30 hours a month, Bikram Choudhury replies, "I'm the weirdest man you'll ever come across". This plausibly is the only accurate statement about Bikram's persona out of the myriad self-appreciating comments he makes over the 90-minute runtime of the film and most likely, his entire life. Eva Orner's documentary, Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator follows the standard investigative exemplar as it explores the highly public life of the bad boy of yoga, Bikram, the founder of 'Bikram Yoga', well, at least that's what he claims to. A significant

Millennium Actress Blu-ray Review: Animated Japanese Film Fantasia

Satoshi Kon's second anime feature film about an actress' pursuit of a lost love intertwines fiction and reality.
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It's a love letter to film, a historical overview of early to mid-century Japan, and a biography of an actress told through scenes from her films. Millennium Actress is an incredibly ambitious, assured, and unconventional animated film, but it's unconventional in a different way than most out-there animated films. The animation isn't abstract or particularly mind-bending. There's no bizarre shock scenes or wild camera movements that would be impossible in the real world. Watching just individual scenes, one would think it could be made as a live action film without substantially changing a single shot. But Millennium Actress has such

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: One of the Most Beloved Sitcoms Comes to a Beautiful Conclusion

As difficult as it is to believe how long the show ran, it's even more difficult to accept that it won't be returning.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. It’s hard to believe that it was 12 years ago that the two loveable nerds, Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons), first walked into Penny’s (Kaley Cuoco) life and into television history. Over that time, the show was nominated for 46 Primetime Emmy Awards and holds the record of most episodes for a multi-camera sitcom at 279. The premise was fairly simple. You take two socially awkward physicists and put them next to

Bombshell (2019) Movie Review: A Well-Acted Yet Slightly Empty Procedural Drama

Bombshell tries being fair but isn't quite balanced.
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Given how Bombshell has a seriocomic tone, depicts conservative media figures, and is written by Oscar-winner Charles Randolph who collaborated with Adam McKay, comparisons to Vice or even McKay’s previous work feel inevitable. However, Bombshell mainly works best when it isn’t trying to be a McKay clone. Its nonchalant, procedural direction successfully negates the need to have characters breaking the fourth wall. Additionally, the comical elements make Bombshell even more uncomfortable than it already is since it delves into sexual misconduct taking place within a very right-wing television network complicit in getting a sexual predator elected as President. One particular

TV Review: Batwoman: 'Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 2'

"Finding Paragons is a boring side quest. And I don't really get the purpose as it relates to the story." Shawn Bourdo
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A pair of Sentries are teaming up to take on the five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event. If you would like to start at the beginning, please read Part 1. Gordon S. Miller This was my first Batwoman episode so I have no idea about any of the storylines other than what I may have heard in Supergirl. There seems to be some serious family battles and intrigue taking place with Kate, but a few hours removed, I'm not sure how I would do on a pop quiz. It is very odd for “CoIE Part 1” to have contained

The Fly Collection Blu-ray Review: Be Excited, Be Very Excited to Own This

Scream Factory brings the entire The Fly series into a terrific boxed set that makes a perfect Christmas gift.
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It is a deceptively simply story. A man invents a machine that can instantly teleport matter from one place to another (like the transporters on Star Trek). At first, he teleports inanimate objects then moves on to animals and eventually himself. It is that last bit where things turn horrific. While teleporting himself, an innocuous house fly accidentally flies into the device, causing it to fuse both man and fly into one horrifying beast. But that simple (and let’s be honest, kind of silly) concept which initially came into existence through a short story became a 1950s science fiction movie

The Goldfinch Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful but Messy Underachievement

The Goldfinch boasts an impressive cast and gorgeous cinematography, but fails to capture the intensity or depth of its adapted novel.
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Every few years, a book comes along that everyone reads. Every book club picks it as a must-do, and it becomes a cultural capstone. Books like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Road become shoe-ins to be adapted into films. One of these books was Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch. The book nears 800 pages, winning the Pulitzer Prize and several other "Book of the Year" awards across publications and organizations. It polarized critics and audiences alike, becoming a source of dinner table conversation in the end of 2013 and through 2014. With a book of that magnitude, there

TV Review: Supergirl: 'Crisis on Infinite Earths, Part 1'

"Am really curious where the story goes from here and to see some of the things already leaked to the press." Gordon S. Miller
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A pair of Sentries are teaming up to take on the five-part "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover event. Gordon S. Miller Based on the epic 12-part miniseries “that rocked the comics community, tragically dooming some of DC's most beloved characters and drastically altering others,” as stated on the trade paperback; hinted at in the previous CW/DC crossover “Elseworlds”; and referred to frequently during this season of The Flash (the only Arrowverse series I watch regularly); “Crisis on Infinite Earths” begins with a cool introduction. The writers gives the audience a few Easter eggs as characters from parallel universes, such as

The Fan (1981) Blu-ray Review: Bloody '80s Stalking Thriller

Michael Biehn is a creepy but underdeveloped stalker obsessed Lauren Bacall in '80s New York.
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The Fan was made in 1981. It's about a deranged man who kills people. He uses a special weapon to do so...and yet, somehow it is not a cheap, cheesy slasher movie. This is against all odds (and apparently against the film's best efforts). A psychopath obsessed with a woman in the early '80s by all cinematic law should defy laws of physics, find new and interesting ways to kill all his victims, and should be implacable, speak no dialogue, and have a catchy name in case we need The Fan II. Instead, The Fan becomes an often interesting, if

I'll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours of Lynyrd Skynyrd DVD Review

This documentary looks at the events leading up to the plane crash that claimed the lives of singer Ronnie Van Zant and five other people
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I'll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours Of Lynyrd Skynyrd is the second recent documentary about Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd and the plane crash that claimed the lives of singer Ronnie Vant Zant and five other members of the band and the crew in 1977. The 2018 documentary, If I Leave Here Tomorrow, covered the entire history of the band in depth. It was narrated by Gary Rossington, the last surviving member of the original lineup, and had lots of archival footage of the band. I'll Never Forget You deals with the last three days of the original

Knives and Skin Movie Review: A Wonderfully Hazy Suburban Nightmare

Writer/director Jennifer Reeder makes a trippy psychological chiller about grief, recovery, and coming of age.
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When looking at just the title for Knives and Skin, one might understandably expect a fair amount of violence to be involved. Its title proves to be a genius form of deception as it turns out to be a hazy, labyrinthian look at the troubled nature of suburban life. There is mystery and slight violence but it’s mostly about what happens when a community comes to grips with a disappearance of one of their own. Despite the enigmatic storyline, it is unclear what kind of tone the picture is aiming for. With its kaleidoscopic cinematography by Christopher Rejano, is it

63 UP Movie Review: The Best Reality Show of All Time

Michael Apted’s legendary documentary series returns with its latest seven-year installment.
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Decades before we were deluged with a never-ending stream of “reality” TV shows, a British TV crew selected a group of 14 seven-year-old schoolchildren as documentary subjects, initially as a study of how social class impacted their upbringing. Every seven years since, a new installment has been filmed with the same subjects, all under the direction and narration of esteemed feature-film director Michael Apted. While Apted was just a young researcher on the original installment who took part in selecting the subjects, he’s been the lynchpin of the entire project for every subsequent film, taking such a personal approach that

Now, Voyager Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Superior Tearjerker

A beloved 1942 Bette Davis classic gets a stellar release from the Criterion Collection.
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With her saucer eyes, unparalled intensity, and unbridled non-vanity, Bette Davis has been and still is regarded as one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history, and rightly so. She always brought her signature style to every role she portrayed, even the lesser ones, with honesty and unapologetic passion. Arguably, her performance in Irving Rapper's celebrated 1942 adaptation of Olive Higgins Prouty's novel of psychotherapy and family dynamics: Now, Voyager, was her at the pinnacle of her gifts, at least until her most cherished role as Margo Channing in All About Eve. She plays Charlotte Vale, a nervous and neurotic

All About Eve Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: All the World's a Stage

The legendary Oscar-winning film arrives in a brand-new 4K restoration, just in time for its 70th anniversary.
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Best Picture Oscar winners don’t always age well, but as All About Eve approaches its 70th anniversary, it’s every bit as entertaining and relevant as ever. The film garnered six well-deserved Oscars out of a lofty total of 14 nominations, including two wins for Joseph L. Mankiewicz as writer and director. The plot is a fascinating study of betrayal, as a young up-and-coming actress named Eve (Anne Baxter) seeks to supplant her idol, aging stage star Margo (Bette Davis). The story should be required viewing for every aspiring actor as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of success, although its

Jake Speed Blu-ray Review: When Indiana Jones and Brendan Fraser Aren't Available, Call Jake Speed

Action, adventure, romance! What more could a teenage boy want?
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My mother likes to call the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies “a poor man’s Indiana Jones.” What she means is that both series star attractive, charismatic male leads who embark on thrilling adventures dealing with archeology and ancient myths, but that the Mummy series doesn’t have quite the high quality as the Indiana Jones films. Like a Big Mac, The Mummy might satisfy a certain type of hunger, but they’ll never be as satisfying as a good steak. Well, if The Mummy is a poor man’s Indiana Jones, then Jake Speed is a poor man’s Mummy. It is the Taco Bell

The Fare Blu-ray Review: Groundhog Day in a Cab

Low budget sci-fi thriller has some interesting ideas, but can't quite pull it off.
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A taxicab driver named Harris (Gino Anthony Pese) gets a call to pick up someone in the middle of nowhere. There is nothing on the radio except alien conspiracy theories and discussions on the female orgasm. Dispatch calls to ask his ETA to the fare. A few minutes later, he picks up Penny (Brinna Kelly). They talk amicably for awhile then she disappears. Poof! Gone. He slams on the brakes and looks around, but she is nowhere to be found. His seatbelt won’t unfasten. He calls in to dispatch but only gets questions about his sobriety. Being a good cabbie,

The Kominsky Method: The Complete First Season DVD Review

Watching this cast perform together is a lesson in acting.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions shared are his own. From producer Chuck Lorre and Netflix via Warner Brothers, Michael Douglas stars in this interesting series as Sandy Kminisky, an aging acting teacher known more for his coaching than his acting career. Represented by successful agent and best friend Norman Newlander (Alan Arkin), this not quite odd couple take on the challenges of getting old and surviving in youthful Hollywood. Though the two don’t cover a lot of new ground in the first eight episodes

Funan Blu-ray Review: A Genocide Through the Eyes of One Family

A beautiful telling of a tragic story.
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In the mid to late 1970s, the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia as one of the most brutal regimes in modern history. Led by Marxist leader Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge wanted to take Cambodia back to what they called “Year Zero” or an egalitarian, agrarian society cleaned from what they thought to be the terrible influences of capitalism. On a practical level, this meant emptying the cities and marching everyone into rural collectives where they would be forced into slave labor. Anybody thought to be an intellectual (including those who wore glasses or spoke a second language) were summarily executed.

Queen & Slim Movie Review: A Poetic Form of Protest Art

A vital, politically charged story that celebrates black love.
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Among the various music videos that director Melina Matsoukas has made, the one for “Formation” by Beyonce is easily one of her most prolific. It serves as an ode to black pride in the face of racial oppression and police brutality and is shot with colorful vibrancy. As Matsoukas makes her feature film debut with Queen & Slim, she demonstrates the exact same singular vision. Even when the picture becomes hard to watch, it’s still impossible to look away. The film opens with the titular protagonists going on a first date after interacting on Tinder. Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) is a

Prophecy Blu-ray Review: Bear Loaf

John Frankenheimer's creature feature is not easily forgotten. For possibly the wrong reasons.
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It was not supposed to turn out like this. For years, the Pitney lumber mill in Maine soaked its river-borne logs in mercury, poisoning the water and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Tadpoles are now as big as boots, the salmon even bigger. Then there are the bears—oh God, the bears! They tower. They look like the offspring of a skinned boar and a 20-foot muskrat. And they move like the wind. On a pushcart. Told of disputes the mill has had with a local tribe of Native-Americans, Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) steps in to mediate. This is a

TV Review: Hellier: Season 2

What began as a series of emails for Greg Newkirk has become so much more than he or the rest of the team ever expected.
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Last year, Season 1 of Hellier debuted on YouTube and quickly won over fans and critics alike. The ten episodes of Hellier: Season 2 will premiere this Friday, November 29th on Amazon Prime. And after watching Season 2 of Hellier, I am telling you will want to scrap your Black Friday shopping plans and experience a different kind of madness. Don't worry, I will not be posting any spoilers. You will need to watch for yourself, but Hellier: Season 2 begins with reconnecting the audience to the investigation team and the key points from Season 1. We are reintroduced to

Stephen King's Storm of the Century (1999) DVD Review: Intriguing Premise at Snail's Pace

Perhaps the best of the run of Stephen King TV movies, Storm is atmospheric, creepy, and slow, slow, slow.
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TV made sense as its own thing until about 20 years ago. Nowadays, what constitutes TV is so sprawling and broken up that it's not really one thing anymore. Twenty years ago, cable was not king, and there weren't that many networks (though, to understand the zeitgeist of TV criticism, one should note Bruce Springsteen could chart a single in 1992 called "57 Channels and Nothin' On") and so the big TV networks competed in splashy ways to get eyes-on, especially in sweeps weeks. Sweeps were the few times during the year, one a quarter, when the Nielsen Company processed

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