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S.O.B. (1981) Blu-ray Review: Julie Andrews' Most Revealing Role

The Warner Archive Collection releases Blake Edwards' bitingly funny stab at Hollywood, featuring his famous wife's only nude scene.
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For a film director, there surely can be no greater blow to the ego than to have your work re-edited without your consent. In fact, studio interference has had dire consequences in the allegedly "magical" world of motion pictures, resulting in vastly talented filmmakers being reduced to little more than mystical scapegoats when things don't go the way the people who screwed everything up had hoped for (also see: Politics). There have even been unforgivably unfortunate moments in Tinseltown history where directors have committed suicide after things didn't quite work out in the favor of the businessmen who thought they

The Fencer Movie Review: Touching Soviet-Era Sports Drama

A rare movie about fencing and Soviet oppression, The Fencer infuses the sports movie formula with real-world stakes.
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Never before have I seen a sports movie whose main emotional tone was quiet dread. One look at the title: The Fencer, and you know the film is about fencing, and when you hear the basic storyline - in 1953, a man moves from the big city and begins a fencing school in a small town - many of the story beats will already be known to a savvy viewer. Yes, he’s reluctant to teach at first but darn it if the moppets don’t get into his heart. There's a love story with a demure teacher. There’s a big tournament

The Gumball Rally Blu-ray Review: An Amusing Racing Movie

The Warner Archive's Blu-ray delivers quality video and good audio.
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Auto enthusiast and writer Brock Yates conceived the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash, an unsanctioned cross country race. He tried to turn the idea into a movie, which he did with The Cannonball Run (1981) but a few films beat him to release, including The Gumball Rally, which has been given a Blu-ray release from the Warner Archive Collection. Bored candy executive Steve Bannon (Michael Sarrazin) sets in motion The Gumball Rally, an illegal 2,900-mile race that starts in Manhattan, New York and ends in Long Beach, CA, which he won the previous year. There are 11 different vehicles

Yu-Gi-Oh!: The Dark Side Of Dimensions Blu-ray Review: An Excellent Addition to the Franchise

Yugi must save the world but can he do it without the help of the Pharaoh?
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The last time we saw Yugi Moto (Dan Green) and his friends they had once again saved the world and finally laid to rest the spirit of the Pharaoh, who resided in the Millennium Puzzle worn around Yugi’s neck. It’s now a year later and Yugi, Joey (Wayne Grayson), Tea (Amy Birnbaum), and Tristan (Greg Abbey) have bigger concerns than the end of the world. They are about to graduate from high school and things will never be the same again. But before they get to walk across that stage and receive their diplomas, strange things begin happening across the

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (Criterion Collection) Blu-ray Review: A Stealth Double Feature

This release allows viewers to see Hitchcock at the early stage of career on his way to becoming a legendary director.
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The Criterion Collection's release of Alfred Hitchcock's third feature, The Lodger (1927), is actually a stealth double feature of Hitchcock and actor Ivor Novello as it includes their film Downhill (1927) as an extra. The Lodger, considered the first “Hitchcock” film, even by the man himself, tells of a mystery revolving around a serial killer working the streets of London. It has many story and visual elements that populate Hitchcock's filmography. Based on the novel of the same name by Marie Belloc Lowndes, the film opens, a young woman found murdered along the river. She is the seventh golden-haired victim

Night of the Living Dead (40th Ann. Ed.) DVD Review: A Classic

The key to its success, and a lesson for filmmakers of today, is keep it simple.
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After 40 years, this little film made by a bunch of people who were still learning their craft, produced on a shoestring budget, starring both actors and non-actors whom you had never heard of, still manages to do exactly what it was intended: scare the audience. Produced in 1968, the film that set the trend for all zombie movies to come, tells the story of a group of people trapped in a farmhouse surrounded by zombies over the course of a night in which radiation from space has caused the recently deceased to come back to life in search of

Gospel According to Al Green DVD Review: A Career at a Crossroads

An R&B legend's struggle with the spiritual and sensual is chronicled in this electrifying portrait.
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In 1977, R&B legend Al Green signaled to fans that he was undergoing a life—and career—transformation. “Belle,” a track off his LP The Belle Album, contains a telling lyric: “It’s you that I want, but it’s Him that I need.” Green’s struggle to reconcile the spiritual and sensual, the sacred and profane, is chronicled in the newly reissued 1984 documentary Gospel According to Al Green. Originally produced for the BBC, this Robert Mugge-directed film has been remastered for DVD and Blu-ray, and features extras such as updated director commentary, previously unaired outtakes, and the full audio of Mugge’s two-hour interview

Doberman Cop (1977) Blu-ray Review: Sonny Chiba Does It Doggy Style

Arrow Video unleashes a truly mind-blowing 1970s exploitation action-comedy equivalent to fusion cuisine starring the larger-than-life Shin'ichi Chiba.
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An unconventional policeman from the boonies travels to the big city to help out on a case, complete with a pet pig in tow. No, it's not the beginning of another Italian cop comedy starring Terence Hill. Rather, this particular picture marked both the beginning and the end of two distinctively different eras in Japanese cinema. After maybe overdoing the yakuza genre just a tad throughout the '70s, the film industry in Japan started to explore different options. And if there is one good word which may be employed in a noble effort to accurately describe all of the sights

Zaza (1923) Blu-ray Review: Swanson's Spitfire Star Turn

Gloria Swanson stars as a singing star who just wants her man in this silent comedy melodrama.
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It's hard to get around the fact that, for a modern movie viewer, silent movies are a lot of extra work. Even for a viewer more used to enjoying silents than most, it can be extra taxing to pay attention without audio cues. For some genres this can ultimately is a bonus - fantasy and horror silents tend to have a dream-like quality that makes the material extra-effective. For comedies and melodramas, it can be a lot iffier. Zaza, a 1923 comedy that morphs into a melodrama, is an odd duck in any case for a modern viewer. First, there's

The Fate of the Furious Blu-ray Review: The Franchise Gets a Much-Needed Jump Start

Fate looks good for the F&F family and for fans.
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The Fate opens with the series returning to its roots. Dom (Vin Diesel) gets involved in a race on the streets of Havana standing up for his cousin Fernando. The audience's senses become engaged with bright colors, loud sounds, and beautiful bodies, as the cars race through the streets of Cuba in an intense action sequence that gets wilder by the minute. While walking the streets alone, Dom plays the Good Samaritan to a woman with car trouble, only she turns out to be the notorious cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who mysteriously gets Dom to work for her and turn

Their Finest Blu-ray Review: One of the Year's Finest Films

One of the year's best movies looks to get a new audience on a wonderful Blu-ray.
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It's always disheartening to see a movie fail to capture audience's attentions like it should. And whether you believe 2017 has already presented some incredible films, or the worst, it's impossible to make a decision without seeing Their Finest. Lone Scherfig's tale of perserverance is both a love letter to WWII-era production in Britain, as well as a blistering condemnation of the double standards, in film and life, that are just as fresh today as they were in the '40s. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is struggling to make ends meet for her and her husband. She takes what she presumes

Wolf Guy (1975) Blu-ray Review: Lycanthropy, Grindhouse Style

Arrow Video throws us a bone in the form of a shapeshifting werewolf feller like no other.
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Much like vampirism, the subject of lycanthropy is generally reserved for horror films. Or perhaps a comedy horror film. There have even been action horror comedies pertaining to the subject of werewolves and shapeshifters. But there are very few movies like Wolf Guy floating about. In fact, I think Kazuhiko Yamaguchi's Wolf Guy may be a real one-of-a-kind filmic outing; a gory, over-the-top Japanese action thriller which has very little to do with the common folklore western civilization seems to be better familiar with. But then, I can't even say Wolf Guy's peculiarity is purely attributable to a foreign culture

The Zookeeper's Wife Blu-ray Review: Fascinating Story, So-So Movie

Jessica Chastain can't even save this underwhelming World War II drama.
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Even in movies that aren’t good, such as last year’s Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain has proven to be a major highlight. She can give a commanding performance that deserves to be in something better. But what The Zookeeper’s Wife proves is that she can’t always be the movie’s brightest spot. Chastain doesn’t give an all-around bad performance in The Zookeeper’s Wife; there are moments where she does exceptionally well. But the biggest flaw with her performance is her attempt at a Polish accent. She slips in and out of it for the duration of the movie, and it doesn’t even

Species (Collector's Edition) Blu-ray Review: Not Even HR Giger Can Save This Clunker

Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, a creepy Giger alien design, and Natasha Henstridge's breasts fail to make this sci-fi horror flick interesting.
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Species hit theaters the summer after my freshman year at college. It was the only summer I came home for the entire break. It looked like a fun little sci-fi flick, so one random Sunday I decided to catch it at a matinee. My 16-year-old sister begged to come, so I let her and her friend Andrea tag along. I remember very little about the film except it was terrible and I felt very awkward sitting next to two teenaged girls while staring at Natasha Henstridge’s naked breasts. Shout! Factory is putting out a nice looking Blu-ray of the film

Book Review: Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics Volume 4 - 1945-1947

The past adventures of Donald Duck come alive again!
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Everything old is new again with the upcoming reboot of Duck Tales on Disney XD, which is looking to include an expanded role for “Unca Donald.” Often modern Disney-enthusiasts might only know Donald for his temper, but a few decades ago, he was one of the champions of cleverness and comedy. These aspects of his character come to life in IDW’s fourth collection of the Donald Duck daily newspaper comic strip. Over 750 strips, most with just four panels, show piles of hilarity from 1945 to 1947. The Donald Duck portrayed in the comics was largely through the work of

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: Johnny and Friends Featuring Steve Martin, Robin Williams & Eddie Murphy DVD Review

In addition to how wonderful it is having Carson's Tonight Show at one's fingertips, it is interesting to compare the different styles of the comedians.
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The latest Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson release from Time Life collects Volumes 2, 7, and 10 of the "Featured Guest Series" in a three-disc set with each disc focusing on one classic comedian for a total of nine episodes. Disc 1 / Volume 7 features Steve Martin from July 21, 1976; May 21, 1982; and December 19, 1991. On the '76 episode, the only one is this set when the show ran 90 minutes, Martin comes out after Jimmy Stewart and performs stand-up, some of which appeared on his debut album Let's Get Small. He then got a segment

Vision Quest Blu-ray Review: Wasn't Too Crazy For This

The soundtrack is definitely the highlight of the film
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Vision Quest is a movie that I have always been surprised that I haven’t seen, considering there were not many coming-of-age movies from the 1980s that I missed. The only thing I really knew about it going in, other than it starred Matthew Modine, was that it was Madonna’s first movie appearance and featured her hit “Crazy for You”. Lowden Swain (Matthew Modine) is a wrestler who has decided that in his senior year of high school he needs to compete against the state champion from their biggest rival. In order to do that, he must drop two weight classes.

Doberman Cop (1977) Blu-ray Review: Sonny Chiba's Hick Dirty Harry

Entertaining cop movie despite a wildly fluctuating tone, a departure from director Fukasaku's harder-edged Yakuza material.
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Kinji Fukasaku, of Battles Without Honor or Humanity fame, is best known as the director of hard-edged, cynical material with an almost documentary edge to it (that is, before he directed his final film Battle Royale, 20 years after his career heyday). When he was tapped to direct a manga adaptation, it was an odd pairing. Manga, or more specifically, gegika, which is manga that takes itself seriously, still tends toward over-heated material, with one foot in reality and on foot in comic book exaggeration. The book Fukasaku was tasked with adapting, Doberman Cop, is about a Harley-riding tough who

Cheech and Chong's Next Movie Review: The Humor Buzz Wears Off Quickly

The movie plays like a dress rehearsal of an outline.
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With the counterculture comics going mainstream on the strength of the funny songs and routines from their comedy albums, it was no surprise they eventually made their way to the movies with Up in Smoke, which saw them strike box-office (Acapulco) gold with the first stoner comedy, making back 22 times the film's budget. That success gave them even greater creative control, which may have been a mistake. Next Movie clearly needed an outside force to focus and edit the fellas because the humor buzz wears off quick. Next Movie doesn't so much have a plot as it just finds

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Review: A Skillfully Crafted Thriller

Dario Argento's first feature film is given a lovely 4k transfer, and the set is filled with an incredible amount of extras.
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Dario Argento has been referred to as the “Italian Hitchcock,” and when you see his debut feature, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, you’ll understand why people called him that. Argento’s first film is a stylishly edited slasher flick that dishes out the blood in such a unique way that’s not overly grotesque. Those of you who have seen other Argento films, but have not seen this one, are probably chuckling at that last comment, but it’s true. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage contains some rather disturbing moments, but Argento doesn’t show the knife going into the person’s body,

Book Review: Walt Disney's Treasury of Classic Tales, Volume One

A marvelous collection from the Disney vaults.
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Walt Disney was a savvy businessman. With a staff of talented writers and artists employed to create films, he was not content working within one medium and used some staff members to create comics as well. The first was a comic strip that starred Mickey Mouse and debuted on January 13, 1930. In his well-researched Introduction, Michael Barrier writes about Disney features making their way to the Sunday paper, starting with the studio's first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In a great bit of marketing, the Snow White strips began a couple weeks before the film premiered

Album Review: ELP: Once Upon A Time In South America (4-CD Set)

The 1993 & 1997 reunion tour concerts showcase an ELP trying to pick up the pieces following more than a decade in the wilderness.
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Emerson Lake & Palmer (or ELP as they've also been often billed - including on this live recording, drawn from a series of shows in South America, two dates from a 1993 reunion tour and one from 1997) are one of those bands who have gotten kind of a bad rap over the years. Even during their 1970s heyday - when they were one of the top drawing live acts in the world, riding a string of mega-selling albums including Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery, they were still universally despised by the rock press. But even as the critics routinely

Madhouse (1981) Blu-ray Review: A Film Where No One is Fully Committed

Arrow Video's recently discharged slasher flick is so lazy, its composer ripped-off his own work.
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Perhaps one of the most alluring features to be observed within the boundaries of Italian exploitation movies was the industry's tendency to rip-off anyone's work, including their own. Sometimes, the references are quite obvious, such as when they make sequels to other people's movies. Other times, the connections are much more subtle (by Italian filmmaking standards, that is). In the instance of Madhouse, however, we're served a little bit of both: its various parallels to other works are undoubtedly noticeable, but none of them can hold a birthday candle to the fact that the legendary, late great composer Riz Ortolani

The Unholy (1988) Blu-ray Review: Damp Devil Movie Gets Superb Release

Another cult film where you had to be there, The Unholy's Blu-ray extras show what went wrong.
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Devil movies work best when they have a core of revelation. They need characters to struggle against the reality of the devil in their stories, to search for any rational explanation that is evil is not real, has a face, and is looking at them. The Exorcist might end with a half hour of puking, swearing Linda Blair, but that's not until the poor girl is subjected to weeks of medical and psychological tests. Directed by Camilo Vila, The Unholy, a cult favorite devil movie that has finally seen release on Blu-ray feels like it understands the core of what

Brain Damage (1988) Blu-ray Review: The Greatest Drug Parable Never Aired

Frank Henenlotter's rude, crude, cult horror-comedy classic receives a fresh fix from Arrow Video in this must-have release.
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While it has been something of a long time since he brought us a new feature film, it's still safe to say no one can make a horror movie like Frank Henenlotter. Sure, a countless many may have tried, but no one has ever truly succeeded in emulating Mr. Henenlotter's bizarre form. From that glorious moment in 1982 when his first feature film, Basket Case ‒ the story of a man (as played by the great Kevin Van Hentenryck) who keeps his deformed killer Siamese twin in a wicker basket, letting the little rubber bugger out as they track down

Fathom Events Presents My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro kicks off Studio Ghibli Fest and it's as delightful as I remember.
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There are no villains in My Neighbor Totoro. No violence either. There are monsters of a kind, but when Mei the precocious four-year-old meets the largest and scariest looking one, King Totoro, she laughs then bounces on his belly and takes a nap. The adults are all generous and good. The father is neither a bumbling fool, nor hateful and sarcastic like so many fathers in feature films these days, but rather thoughtful and kind. When his children tell him they saw strange little black things crawling around his house or a giant owl-like magical creature in the forest, he

Fathom Events Presents the 2017 DCI Tour Premiere

More than just marching band.
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Drum Corps International (or DCI as they are commonly called) was formed in 1972 as the non-profit governing body for drum and bugle corps in the U.S. and Canada (DCI is international much like how Major League Baseball's championship is the World Series though it only ever includes a tiny percentage of the planet). Every summer DCI hosts competitions throughout the United States, which concludes in August with the week-long DCI World Championship. For many years now the start of the season has begun in Indianapolis. Fathom Events hosted a live viewing of this competition last night in movie theaters

Wizard World Sacramento 2017 Review: Great Guests and Even Better Panels

This year's con proved to be a better experience for pop-culture fans than the previous year.
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Ever since making its way to Sacramento in 2014, I’ve had the pleasure of covering each Wizard World convention. That was actually the first time I had attended an event of its kind, and I was completely blown away by how much of a nerd nirvana it turned out to be. Whether you are into movies, television shows, comic books, or anything pop-culture related, there was something for everyone at the event. I’ve always looked forward to each one, but, to be honest, I was a little let down by the 2016 convention. I’m not saying it was an entirely

John Wick: Chapter 2 Blu-ray Review: I'm Thinking He's Back and That's Great News

Expect to see this on "Best Blu-rays of 2017" lists.
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Not for the faint of heart, John Wick returns in another action-packed, stylish shoot-'em-up that sees our "hero" leave audiences breathless as he leaves behind another massive body count in his wake. Picking up shortly after the first film, the prologue finds retired assassin John Wick in hot pursuit of his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which has been stored in the chop shop of Russian mobster Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare), uncle of Iosef, who brought John back into action by stealing his car and killing his dog. It's clearly the principle of the matter to John as he

Spotlight on a Murderer (1961) Blu-ray Review: Illuminating French Proto-Slasher

A most unique mystery/black comedy from Georges Franju receives a long-overdue opportunity to shine in the US thanks to Arrow Academy.
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To the trained eye of an advanced mystery movie sleuth, spotting the writing team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac as the authors of the film you're about to experience is a darn good indication you're in for a treat. Sure enough, Georges Franju's 1961's mystery, Pleins feux sur l'assassin ‒ which shall be referred to henceforth by its English title, Spotlight on a Murderer ‒ is such a treat. While it may have only been the third feature film for the late visionary filmmaker, Spotlight on a Murderer should serve as an inarguable example of just how far one

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