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Book Review: Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies Vol. 2 (1935-1939)

A beautiful collection of historically important comics.
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From 1929 to 1939, the Walt Disney company created 75 original animated short films under its Silly Symphonies line. As opposed to the Micky Mouse short films Disney was producing at the same time the Symphonies were designed to be whimsical pieces devoid of continuity or the need to feature regular characters (though several characters quickly stood out and became regulars in the films). In many ways, these shorts were a means by which Disney could experiment with the animation without fear of hurting his brand. The films helped dramatically improve what could be done with animation in terms of

Manchester By The Sea Blu-ray Review: A Modern Masterpiece

Kenneth Lonergan crafts a near-perfect, and superb tale of humanity through the darkness.
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Last year, 2016, was actually a great time for thought-provoking cinema. You had a modern musical; a story of a young man's coming-of-age; a scifi tale of alien contact; a tale of revenge, among others; and acclaimed director Kenneth Lonergan's Manchester By The Sea, a tale of redemption/courage/compassion through unbearable tragedy was a perfect reason why. It's a film or experience of a family's journey of hope through pain; community through extreme loss, and connection through personal struggle that everyone can relate to. Casey Affleck stars as Lee Chandler, a Boston janitor, who suddenly becomes the sole guardian of his

Book Review: Batman: The Silver Age Newspaper Comics Vol. 3, 1969-1972

Final collection of Silver Age Batman daily comic strips finds our hero in decline due to diminishing publication and artistic changes.
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Long before most of us were reading the funny pages, Batman was finishing up a six-year comic strip run fueled by the popularity of his ‘60s TV show. While the early years found the strip mirroring the show’s campiness, the final era diverged into a tone similar to Batman’s more serious comic book stories. That’s the timeframe covered by this final entry in IDW’s Batman reprint editions, a collection that traces the decline of the strip from its fine artistry and full-week publishing schedule to hackneyed art and stories published six days a week by a radically reduced roster of
I’ve been very fortunate to see Def Leppard several times over the years since their monumentally explosive Hysteria album took the world by storm in the late ‘80s. And while I have one or two bands that I like slightly better than them, they have always been the most consistent in regards to their live performances. The music is flawless, the vocals pristine, and they play the songs the way we know them. They don’t try the gimmicky tricks by trying to flip one of their best songs and give it a reggae feel, doing it acoustically, or making up

Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: 'Rock In The Road'

"Overall, I think this episode was much better than the first half of the season as a whole." - Kim
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In which Rick is Rick again and zombies are dying by the handful. Kim: The Walking Dead has returned and here we are, all revved up and ready to tell you what we thought of the second-half premiere. I have two thoughts to start with and we’ll just go from there. 1) This was everything I wanted it to be.2) This was everything I didn’t want it to be. Now, I know you’re wondering how the heck I could possibly have such bipolar feelings regarding a show. I mean, you either love it or you hate it, right? Wrong. I

The Survivor (1981) Blu-ray Review: I Guess Fate Really IS the Hunter

Severin Films brings us the seldom-seen supernatural thriller which seems to have inspired others more than itself.
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While he is perhaps best known to cult horror and sci-fi audiences today as the guy who was in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, Dario Argento's Deep Red, and Roger Vadim's Barbarella, the career of one-time Alfred the Great star David Hemmings was much more extensive than that. Off-screen, the late English actor/filmmaker was the co-founder of the Hemdale Film Corporation ‒ the very busy production company responsible for several iconic films from the '80s, including several Oliver Stone hits (Platoon and Salvador), Hoosiers, The Last Emperor, and even still-mimicked trendsetters such as James Cameron's The Terminator and Dan O'Bannon's zombie horror

Cameraperson Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: No Better Film Experience Last Year

A soulful and illuminating document of the human experience.
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When it comes to human honesty, there is no better genre of film stronger than the documentary. In a time where special effects, explosions, CGI, and even 3D basically dominate the box office, it is very refreshing to know that some movies would rather deal with reality and what the world is really like. Director Kirsten Johnson's fascinating 2016 film, Cameraperson, shows us what being human truly means to be. In this brilliant snapshot, or series of tableux, Johnson captures in real time, stories of people, places, and things. Whether it is a young boxer in his first match in

2017 Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films Review

And the nominees are...
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North America owned the Animation Short Film category this year with three from the United States and two from Canada, though one was a co-production with the United Kingdom. The art is where the shorts all stand out. Unfortunately, a couple falter because of the story. Blind Vaysha (director Theodore Ushev, Canada, 8 min) - A young girl is born in a village with one eye that sees the future and one that sees the past. The narrator offers viewers the opportunity to see as Vaysha, but offers no resolution to her story. The short has an interesting look as

2017 Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Films Review

The rundown on the five nominees for the documentary short subject category.
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Through the wars of the past and the present to the wars that we battle in our own bodies, this year’s Academy Award nominees in the Documentary Short Film category all tackle remarkable subject matter that reflect the power and courage of the human spirit. They show that human connection and caring for one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive. All these films center on the theme of hope. 4.1 Miles (director Daphne Matziraki, USA, 26 minutes) This documentary follows Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a captain in the Greek Coast Guard who is caught in the

The Handmaiden DVD Review: Period Thriller, Twisty and Twisted

Chan-wook Park's sumptuous period piece is masterfully mounted, compelling, erotic, but is more compelling than involving.
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Movies that depend on plot twists have a number of complications forced on them, in order to be good and not just "twisty". The first problem is that the twists have to be big enough that they change the audience's perception of what has gone before, but not so wild that they discount everything that has happened. You want to twist the audience's head from one side to the other, but not clean off. And since most twists occur in order to bring characters into a new light, it's important that the audience has a firm grasp on character before

Alfred the Great (1969) DVD Review: Greater Things Have Happened

The Warner Archive Collection presents the home video debut of this legendary box office failure featuring a young Ian McKellen.
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Sprawling epics were all the rage in the 1950s, with fantastical biblical yarns and timeless tales of undefeatable conquerors popping up in theaters near and far, usually presented to eager audiences via the modern miracle of of CinemaScope and stereo sound. And yet, long after American filmgoers had had their fill of wildly inaccurate and often preposterous cinematic blockbusters which damn near bankrupted Hollywood's biggest studios, the Brits decided it was their turn to rewrite history and produce a large-scale saga which people would avoid in droves. Thus, Alfred the Great ‒ the UK's 1969 throwback to the great epics

When a Feller Needs a Friend (1932) DVD Review: How About a Break Instead?

The Warner Archive Collection dusts off one of the sappiest, nerve-wracking, Depression-era family melodramas ever made. Enjoy.
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While I am always eager to point out how wretched contemporary filmmaking seems to have become, I can never dismiss the notion that bad movies have been getting cranked out by Hollywood since the beginning. In fact, as the type of feller who appreciates that certain kind of maligned movie manufacturing (see: just about any of my articles), I don't mind discovering a previously unseen Tinseltown atrocity from yesteryear in the least bit. That is, until I stumble across something as wretched as When a Feller Needs a Friend, of course. That's when I feel like gnawing my own arm

Black Society Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Madman Miike's (Relatively) Somber Saga

In these three films about criminal outsiders, Takashi Miike tones down his frenetic style demonstrating a commitment to craft.
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Takashi Miike is the Japanese director who will, seemingly, film anything. And anything does not just mean he'll put the ugliest or craziest images on screen, but he will try literally anything. Hyperbolic nastiness, vicious violence, creepy sex including necrophilia? Yes. A madwoman chopping off a man's foot with piano-wire to teach him a lesson? Sure. A children's fantasy film with talking umbrellas? Why not? Or, in the so-called Black Society Trilogy, three (relatively) restrained movies about the difficulty of being an outsider, even in the outsider society of organized crime, where the need for family both sustains and destroys

Howards End Blu-ray Review: Luxuriously Lush

A magnificent presentations of a wonderful period drama
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Upon watching the new 4K restoration of Howards End by the Cohen Film Collection, I come to realize it was my very first time watching a Merchant-Ivory Production. This surprises me as I feel like I know exactly the sort of films they made. Founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, the film production company became well known in the '80s and '90s for their beautifully made period films that often adapted literary works set in Edwardian England. Working with modest budget (often adapting books from the likes of Henry James and E.M. Forster that were

The Black Dragon's Revenge (1975) Blu-ray Review: Bruce Lee Van Clief

Blaxploitation meets Brucesploitation in an utterly shameless, completely inept, no-budget cash-in on the demise of a martial arts master.
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A brief disclaimer beginning with "The names and characters in this film, based upon the Death of Bruce Lee, are fictitious..." cautiously alerts anyone with a lick of common sense or taste as to what sort of tripe awaits them. And yet, The Black Dragon's Revenge still manages to hit way below one's expectations of a cheapo martial arts flick produced in the wake (pun very much intended, since it's more than obvious the producers of this particular atrocity showed no remorse or honor whatsoever) of Bruce Lee's controversial death. Here, two equally tendentious subgenres of exploitation filmmaking ‒ that

The Internecine Project (1974) Blu-ray Review: Don't Ask, Don't Tell... Die Anyway

An overlooked, underrated slice of internal political espionage is probably more relevant today than you realize.
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Given the right amount of time, the natural progress of corruption can make even the lowliest tale of espionage and assassination seem relevant. Take Ken Hughes' The Internecine Project, for example. Originally penned as a freebie favor by screenwriter Jonathan Lynn for writer/producer Barry Levinson (no, not that Barry Levinson, but another guy with the same name), The Internecine Project started out as an espionage thriller about a sleeper KGB agent in the US who ‒ upon activation ‒ must dispose of the few people who are aware of his true identity. And while Ken Hughes and an unknown ghost

Binge-Worthy Collections from the Warner Archive

From forgotten comedy duos to early travelogues to matinee cowboy pictures, the WAC has just a bit of everything for classic film collectors.
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In this time where people will often sit and binge-watch an entire television series, half of the population gleefully engages in such sittings regularly, while the other half will sit and wonder why the term "binge-watch" was added to the dictionary, especially since there was already a perfectly good word selected for marathon viewings in the first place: "marathon." But no matter what side of the vernacular you're on, there truly is nothing quite like being able to sit down and get a good proper feel for a particular performer or series. Thankfully, even film history's lesser-remembered talents continue to

Book Review: Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen

Using numerous interviews, a personal climb to the crash site, and government documents, Matzen constructs the story deliberately.
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Like the rest of America, World War II transformed Hollywood. Within 10 days of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt appointed a "coordinator of government films" as a liaison between the government and the motion picture industry and to advise Hollywood in supporting the war effort. And just 40 days after Pearl Harbor, the first Hollywood star would die in pursuit of the latter. Known for her beauty and her roles in popular screwball comedies, Carole Lombard became one of the highest paid actresses during the 1930s. She appeared in more than 30 films that decade. In 1999, the American Film

Inferno (2016) Blu-ray Review: Well, It Certainly is Hellish...

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard reunite for another apocalyptic Dan Brown/Robert Langdon adaptation. But is it a bit too late?
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If there's one grouping author Dan Brown never imagined he would be lumped into, it's that of the works by purported novelists E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer, and whoever it is we have to blame for those Hunger Games and Divergent books. And yet, thanks to terrible film adaptations of the works of Dan Brown ‒ to say nothing of other (real) writers whose works have been equally massacred by Tinseltown scribes who keep appearing to miss the moral of the story ‒ it has almost become virtually impossible to distinguish legitimate writers from hacks. Brown's messages to humanity first became

The Watermelon Woman (Restored 20th Anniversary Edition) DVD Review: Completely Universal and Extremely Relevant

A fresh and sassy take on movies and LGBT culture, especially from an African American perspective.
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With the exception of last year's immensely stunning Moonlight, there rarely have been films that tackle gay and lesbian counterculture, especially in terms of race. Usually, when it comes to the African American experience, being LGBT still seems to be taboo in today's society. Fortunately, director Cheryl Dunye's 1996 landmark film, The Watermelon Woman, broke the mold of not just gay and lesbian society, but also its viewpoint from the lives of black women. Even after twenty years, it remains a sharp and funny observation of love and filmmaking. Dunye herself stars as a twenty-something black lesbian working in a

Gimme Danger DVD Review: Jim Jarmusch Pays Loving Tribute to Iggy and the Stooges, but Misses Some Opportunities

A long overdue official history lesson documenting the "greatest rock and roll band ever." Or, at least one of them.
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From the first few minutes of Gimme Danger, Jim Jarmusch's loving tribute to Iggy and the Stooges, the director makes his unabashed fandom abundantly clear - even going so far as to label them "the greatest rock and roll band ever " (a claim repeated numerous times throughout the film). While that label is debatable at best, there is still no denying the enormous influence of the Stooges on a subsequent generation of rock bands ranging from the Ramones and the Clash, to Sonic Youth and Nirvana. Jarmusch is of course no stranger to the rock-doc form, with a resume

The BFG DVD Review: Steven Spielberg Captures the Essence of Roald Dahl's Story

An uplifting and magical story of a little girl and her unlikely friend.
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The BFG (Big Friendly Giant) is based on the book by beloved children’s author Roald Dahl. It is the story of Sophie, who, after the death of her parents, is forced to live in a London orphanage. While the other orphans have no trouble sleeping, Sophie suffers from insomnia and spends her nights roaming the orphanage. One night while Sophie is awake and looking out onto the empty streets of London, she encounters the BFG at work. His job is to deliver dreams to people while they sleep. Since Sophie sees the BFG, he decides that he needs to take

Disney's Pinocchio: The Signature Collection Blu-ray Review: Much Here to be Appreciated

This is a great addition to any collection whether you have children or are a big kid.
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On the weekend of November 21, 2016 at D23’s Destination D: Amazing Adventures event at Walt Disney World Resort, the addition of Disney’s triumphant animated classic Pinocchio to the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection was announced. Pinocchio, which inspired the world to wish upon a star, arrived for the first time on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on Jan. 10, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Jan. 31 with hours of new and classic bonus features. So once again Disney opens the vault to allow those of us who don’t already own the movie to take another walk down

Peanuts by Schulz: Snoopy Tales DVD Review: Captures the Spirit of the Source Material

Thirty-two new shorts bring the classic comic strip to life for a new generation.
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Over the years, I've tasked myself with watching and writing about new updates of shows that I loved as a kid. These updated versions would sometimes be simple revamps of the old show and sometimes they would be very different, modern takes on the characters. The most common example is Scooby-Doo. I've seen versions recently that expanded upon the mystery-solving attraction of the show and other versions that try to meld the trends in animation and culture to retell the old stories. Both failed and succeeded to varying degrees. I tried to entertain the new Peanuts animated shorts with the

Scavenger Hunt Blu-ray Review: A Long Overdue Release That Stands the Test of Time

It compares to It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, mainly because it contains an overabundance of celebrities racing around to win a prize.
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When game designer, Milton Parker (Vincent Price), passes away, his $200 million fortune is left to be distributed between his family. At least that’s what they expect to happen. Being the game player that he is and invoking his motto of “Play to Win,” his last will and testament states that the person or persons to receive his entire fortune will be whoever collects the most points in a scavenger hunt. The items that need to be collected are written in riddle format, and the only rule is that they cannot purchase the items, but must obtain them by any

Wagon Tracks Blu-ray Review: Revenge on the Santa Fe Trail

Silent western icon William S. Hart rides onto Blu-ray for the first time.
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William S. Hart was one of the preeminent stars of the silent film era, well-loved for his portrayals of stoic, strong-jawed Wild West heroes. His relative obscurity today isn’t helped by a lack of representation on home video; most, if not all, extant DVD releases of his films are Alpha Video public-domain cheapies. But here comes Olive Films, riding in heroically on horseback with the first Blu-ray release of a Hart film, 1919’s Wagon Tracks, sourced from an original 35mm nitrate print from the Library of Congress. It’s a good choice. Far from an anonymous run-of-the-mill oater, Wagon Tracks is

Fathom Events Presents Dirty Dancing

For its 30th anniversary, Fathom Events put Baby back in the corner for a couple of viewings on the big screen.
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I grew up attending the Churches of Christ - a conservative evangelical Christian sect most know for our aversion to instrumental music and, like John Lithgow’s minister in Footloose, our declarations against pre-marital dancing. While watching Dirty Dancing on the big screen for its 30th anniversary care of Fathom Events, my wife turned to me and said, “this is why we couldn’t go to dances.” It's true the film is filled with, as its name suggests, plenty of dirty, sensual, sexy dancing that would put prurient thoughts into the most wholesome of minds. Made on a tiny budget of $5

Pinocchio: The Signature Collection Blu-ray Review: Delightful For All Ages

The classic Disney film gets a new release with a little bit new and a whole lot of old supplementals.
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By 1937, Walt Disney Studios had been making animated shorts for over a decade. They’d become very successful but were still seen as a silly kids studio by most of Hollywood. With the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that changed. The film made over $8 million dollars in its initial run, garnered lots of critical praise, and won an honorary Oscar. With all that success, Disney quickly moved into making his second full-length animated feature, Pinocchio. Based upon an Italian children’s novel, Pinocchio tells the story of a wooden puppet that is given life by a

Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horror-Thon Blu-ray Review: The Ultimate Party Mix

Imagine a seven-and-a-half-hour compilation of nothing but horror movie previews from the '80s. Then go one step further.
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Before the days of easily comprised playlists, which can be effortlessly constructed via an MP3 player synced up to something resembling iTunes, we adults had to deal with the complexities of assembling party mixes with using archaic technology such as analog cassette tapes. If you were lucky, you had a dual-cassette boombox with high-speed dubbing capabilities, but that hardly made editing a breeze: you either knew when and where to release the pause on Deck One as you hit the 'record' button on Deck Two or you didn't. And that was just for audio mixes, kids ‒ compiling a video

The Handmaiden DVD Review: A Twisting, Turning Korean Thriller

South Korean director Park Chan-wook takes a break from his usual shocking ultra violence and makes a magnificently beautiful period drama.
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Park Chan-wook is best known for what is now known as his Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance), three films that are unrelated in plot but share deep thematic ties and the director’s perchance for extreme violence and a dark, often perverse sense of humor. His latest film, The Handmaiden gives up the violence (mostly) and exchanges it for a lush, tightly plotted period romance (albeit one with some fairly graphic lesbian sex and tentacle porn). Set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s, the film tells the story of Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) a pick-pocket and con

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