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Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 8 DVD Review: Four Films That Broke the Code

The Warner Archive Collection presents a quartet of Pre-Code classics that delve into vice with very little virtue.
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Once more, the guys and gals at the Warner Archive - along with the folks at the Turner Entertainment Corp. - have assembled another collection of rarities from the early '30s, made at a time before the Hays Office established its moralistic Production Code upon the film industry. Prior to when the Code was fully enforced in 1934, filmmakers were able to get away with quite a bit more than they would in later decades. Skin, sin, and a frequently-seen seductive grin lured audiences into theaters as easily as the various elements of vice (often without a whole heck of
Peter Jackson continues The Hobbit trilogy with The Desolation of Smaug, an action-packed fantasy adventure that improves upon the previous installment, which suffered from sluggish pacing due to non-essential scenes. It also has the advantage of being the middle part of the story so it doesn't have to introduce the majority of main characters and it doesn't have to offer an ending, since leaving characters in precarious situations is enough. However, there's so much packed into it, like An Unexpected Journey, it feels more like Jackson is creating a miniseries intended to be watched in amounts of one's choosing at

Book Review: American Titan: Searching For John Wayne by Marc Eliot

Feels more like a history book than a biography.
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John Wayne is one of the most legendary actors to come out of Hollywood, but most of us don’t know much about him other than what we’ve seen on the big screen and with his passing in 1979, over 30 years ago, his films have been regulated to DVD views and classic television stations. Even with his enormous catalog of nearly 150 films, a number of them have been lost over the years because film was considered disposable and there was no reason to save it. But in this latest biography, author Marc Eliot gives us a look not only

The Maze Runner Digital HD Review: Lord of the Labyrinth Flies

Derivative of many other dystoptian works, but with enough fresh spin and worthwhile performances to make it a winner.
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Oh great, another teen dystopian flick, right? Yes, The Maze Runner seems like an also-ran following the lead of the Hunger Games and Divergents of the world, and yet it called to my mind an entirely different predecessor: Cube. In both films, a group of strangers wake up in an ever-changing, deadly maze with no memory of how they got there, and must band together to find their way out. Another similarity: they're both surprisingly entertaining. As efficiently directed by Wes Ball, the film thrusts viewers right into the nightmare without any preamble, following lead character Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) as

A Newly Widened Screen: Two Steve Martins and a Black Scorpion

The Warner Archive Collection re-releases several classic favorites in 16x9 widescreen.
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As some of you may recall, there was once a time when television sets were great big, bulky, boxy contraptions that weighed more than an entire average American family did immediately after eating Thanksgiving dinner. Shortly before the manufacturers of these electronic babysitters began making the lightweight widescreen models we know and (possibly) love, the world was introduced to DVD; a revolutionary new home video concept wherein we could finally see digital transfers of movies we (potentially) adored in their original theatrical aspect ratios. Sadly, some early DVD releases did not bring us the widescreen video presentations we had hoped

Book Review: Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas by Alonso Duralde

A guide to Christmas movies, from best to worst and everything in between, including Brazil.
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Christmas time is a time for many things, and one of the things that I most enjoy are the movies. We all know such classics as It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) and Miracle on 34th Street (1947), but in Have Yourself A Movie Little Christmas author Alonso Duralde stretches the definition of “Christmas movies” to include all sorts of non-traditional flicks. To find homes for the 122 movies discussed in this book, Duralde has grouped them in nine chapters, with such headings as “Putting the Heist Back in Christmas: Crime and Action Extravaganzas,” “There’ll Be Scary Ghost Stories: Holiday Horror,”

Stonehearst Asylum Blu-ray Review: Might Make Poe Proud

It's pretty good right up until it tries too hard.
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Coming this week to a retailer near you is Stonehearst Asylum, a 19th Century thriller of sorts from Brad Anderson, the man behind such films as The Machinist, The Call, Transsiberian, and Session 9. Stonehearst is based on the short story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" by Edgar Allan Poe. The film begins in Oxford, UK in 1899 with a demonstration of eliciting a psychotic response in a patient for instructional purposes. This scene hints at the barbaric practices of treating the insane that are nowadays considered heinous and foul and "how did we think that was

Intruders DVD Review: Moody Paranormal Thriller Looks Good but Lacks Depth

An interesting premise that's well executed but not entirely thought through.
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To review something is, at least in some ways, to spoil it. You simply cannot talk about the quality of Art without at least giving away part of its secrets. There is pretty much constant debate over how much a reviewer should spoil, and at which point the review needs to add in the dreaded "spoiler alert." We’ve been arguing over spoilers since there was art. Somewhere some caveman got his head split in because he gave away the ending to the newest wall painting. As a great consumer of visual art and a reviewer. I try to stay as

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strips 1944-1945 by William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peters

IDW and the Library of American Comics give us a wonderful collection from the Golden Age.
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Superheroes had only been in existence for a handful of years when Wonder Woman burst on the scene in 1940 with the one-two punch of All Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1. She wasn’t the first female superhero, but she was definitely the most notable and it was only a matter of time before the Amazon Princess followed her male counterparts Superman and Batman from the four-color world of comic books to the hallowed halls of the daily newspaper strip. Thanks to the backing of the powerful Hearst publishing empire, the Wonder Woman strip reached a much larger audience

Book Review: Modern Sci-Fi Films FAQ by Tom DeMichael

The choice of films makes the usefulness of this book…well, not very useful.
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The author purports to make a relatively comprehensive guidebook to sci-fi films since the '70s- with the caveat, of course, that he gets to choose which sci-fi movies are significant, and which to include. That’s his prerogative, of course, but it makes the book a bit unhelpful. This book (which isn’t really an FAQ - it’s not in a question an answer format) - is divided into several sections: an introduction, which includes biographies of important science fiction writers, and then a number of chapters about movies of various types (space travel, time travel, virtual reality, etc.) Though some sections

Top Five Movie Review: Genuine Laughs with the Sting of Truth

Need a break from oh-so-serious Oscar bait? Chris Rock's raucous, original comedy is funny, touching, and unexpectedly relevant.
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Perceptive moviegoers know that they can pick up clues about the movie they’re about to see by the trailers selected to show before it. Catching a prestige piece of Oscar-bait starring a crew of distinguished British thespians? You’ll see trailers for costume dramas, highbrow literary adaptations, and films with many shots of beautiful but desolate landscapes. About to see an action-adventure or sci-fi flick, e.g. Guardians of the Galaxy? You’ll see lots of explosions, CGI, and comic book superheroes swinging/flying to the rescue. When you’re attending a movie like Top Five, written, directed, and starring Chris Rock and featuring a

Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray Review: Perhaps Even the Best

As the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi is off to a roaring start in the brilliant new series.
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With the Blu-ray release of Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series, it is clear that the beloved Doctor is on a historic roll. While there have been highs and lows since the 2005 re-boot of Doctor Who, something very special has been going on in the past couple of years. Part of this has been the excitement over the 50th anniversary, which was in November 2013. But even bigger was the appointment of Steven Moffat as showrunner. With The Sopranos, David Chase turned the story of a New Jersey mafia boss into a parable of turn-of-the-millennium America. With the eighth

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray Review: Peter Jackson Goes Back Again

The director returns to Middle-earth with mixed results.
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Filmmaker Peter Jackson returned to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of an intended trilogy based on the author’s 1937 fantasy novel. Considering a few recent book-to-film franchises had increased their ratios, it wasn’t a surprise when news broke that The Hobbit would be turned into two movies. However, when the announcement came that the material would be expanded into three movies, many fans were puzzled how it would work being stretched so thin. For many, myself included, it didn’t work well, especially when inevitably compared to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings

Book Review: Popeye: Classic Newspaper Comics, Volume Two 1989-1998: A Surprisingly Modern and Adult Take On The Classic Character

If you think Popeye is some silly kids comic from a bygone era, think again.
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Popeye is not something I’ve ever cared about. No wait, scratch that, I loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man. But all the other incarnations were nothing I was ever really interested in. I do remember watching the cartoon at my grandmother's as a kid. I don't remember seeing it at home which means it must have been on a cable channel we didn’t get and that I only watched it because it was boring at Grandma's. We used to pretend to be Popeye every now and again but there is really only so many

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Blu-ray Review: Shades of Gray

The Warner Archive Collection breathes new life into the innovative classic.
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While it certainly wasn't the first motion picture adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, MGM's 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray did have the honor of not only being the first feature-length American version of the tale, as well as the first to employ the use of color when black-and-white was the norm (during the war, even). Fortunately, Albert Lewin's masterpiece does so sparingly. Reserving the bulk of his (black-and-white) stock so that cinematographer Harry Stradling may deliver some truly atmospheric noir-like (and Oscar winning) photography, Lewin then dazzles viewers with four very brief - but simplistically powerful

When the Wind Blows (1986) Blu-ray Review: Wild is the Wind

So, anyone for a nuclear holocaust, then?
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Not many people may remember this, but there was a lot of nuclear war going back in the '80s. Big time. All over the place! Tensions between the various powers in the east and the west began to swelter, and James Bond and many other agents from the free(er) parts of the world were rushed into action. Sometimes they succeeded, making the way for artists like Rita Coolidge to gain a hit single out of the deal in the process. Other times, however, things failed with the utmost of (in)efficiency. The world was destroyed, time and time again, inevitably paving

Book Review: Hope: Entertainer of the Century by Richard Zoglin

Yes, there is Hope for the holidays.
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In 1993 the legendary entertainer Bob Hope and his wife Delores welcomed TV viewers, and some celebrities of the time, into their home to share some memories of the many Bob Hope Christmas specials in a show entitled Bob Hope's Bag Full of Christmas Memories. The show would later be edited down to an hour and released on DVD as Hope for the Holidays. The editing was somewhat merciful in that Hope, at ninety years of age, had little participation in the special due to his limited eyesight and hearing. In 1995, a musical release Hopes for the Holidays featured

The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) Blu-ray Review: Ex-Swordsman Blues

Wait, THIS lost to "The Barbarian Invasions"? THIS?!
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It's always interesting to see the similarities between samurai films and the western. Both genres have served to inspire filmmakers from either corner of the world intermittently over the years. Sergio Leone adapted the spaghetti western classic (For) A Fistful of Dollars from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo - a tale that itself borrowed elements from an American film noir, The Glass Key. Likewise, The Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, while Sergio Corbucci's cult classic Django (the real one, kids) and just about every other influential European western eventually wound up receiving an Eastern treatment in Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django.

The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears Blu-ray Review: Bizarre, Incomprehensible, and Mesmerizing

A hallucinatory fever dream of a film that is surprising, strange and wonderful.
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After watching The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, you’ll probably have a lengthy discussion with your viewing partner about style versus substance. That is if your partner hasn’t fallen asleep or left the theatre in a rage. It's the sort of film that will likely sharply divide its audiences. It's either a beautifully poetic, deeply intellectual masterpiece or pretentious trash depending on who you ask. The story for what there is (and what there is is very little) concerns a man, Dan (Klaus Tange), who comes home from a business trip to find his apartment door locked from the

Flaming Star Blu-ray Review: Hunka Hunka Burning Death

Elvis Presley's best performance? Well, if such a thing was ever possible, this is most assuredly it.
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It wasn't until earlier this year, when Twilight Time released the happy, family-friendly flick Follow That Dream to Blu-ray, that I finally, willingly [citation needed] sat through an entire Elvis Presley film from beginning to end. Even then, I had to occasionally resist the urge to lift up my couch in order to read the fine print on those labels that tell me not to remove them just so I could keep my spirits up. And that is probably because there is this weird misconception about Elvis movies ingrained into my head (which is a fairly common credence that could

Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collection, Vol. 1 & 2 DVD Reviews: What, No Sammy Petrillo?

The Warner Archive Collection re-releases the long out of print Paramount sets featuring 13 of the duo's best-known works.
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While they were once as easy to find as a pregnant woman in a maternity ward, the world of comedy duos has almost faded into obscurity since the latter part of the '50s. One one side of the ring, there were the reigning kings of comedy themselves, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, who had served both their public and country alike during World War II by making a slew of patriotic wartime comedies while raising a whopping (estimated) $85 million in war bonds. Alas, a very poor choice in accountants found the Internal Revenue Service pursuing the long-standing, legendary two-man

She's Beautiful When She's Angry Movie Review: A Sober and Sentimental Reflection

Documentarian Mary Dore's celebration of 2nd Wave Feminism opens in limited engagements in New York and Los Angeles.
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The problem for Feminism is the same oversimplified and problematic perception of all political movements in America, they lack joy. Almost all radical movements in America endure this same media-driven hose job, from protests in Ferguson to Tea Party rallies it’s all a bunch of un-fun, fringe aggressors. This image ignores the exultation of being swept by both radical mobilization and camaraderie. But American Feminism in particular, from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Andrea Dworkin, is haunted by an image of self-serious man-haters, full of a sexless anger and void of personality. Even the Third Wave Movement of the 1990s is

Judgment at Nuremberg Blu-ray Review: Picking Up the Pieces

Stanley Kramer's powerhouse post-World War II courtroom drama gets another chance to shock and delight via Twilight Time.
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We've all heard the saying "War is Hell" a million times over. Hell, there are probably over a million films that have been manufactured from all corners of the world throughout the last millennia or so that have done their very best to convey this message unto viewers. Sometimes, these stories serve as clever warning devices to remind mankind of its own mortality (and immaturity, despite its age). Other times, you just wind up with a great big mess of a cheap exploitation flick on your hands. And then there are those rare, infrequently-made movies that look past the conflicts

Dr. Gillespie Film Collection DVD Review: Van Johnson and Keye Luke Join the Fun

The last six films of the original Dr. Kildare series eerily foreshadows one of contemporary television's most popular medical dramas.
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In many respects, MGM's original Dr. Kildare Movie Collection essentially served as filmdom's first hospital show. Granted, the series was one of a theatrical nature; although television did in fact exist when the series was born, it had not yet been molded into what it would become in the '50s. Nevertheless, the various storylines and recurring supporting characters the nine films had gives the old fashioned film franchise a very likeable "modern" quality when viewed today (as it did way back when, I should add). But the series only grew to foreshadow television after its star, Lew Ayres, left the

The Best Of The Danny Kaye Show DVD Review: If This Is The Best, I'd Hate To See The Worst

The one thing that worked throughout all of the episodes was the musical numbers.
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I’ve been a fan of Danny Kaye for a long time. While some know him for his films The Inspector General, White Christmas or Hans Christian Andersen, my personal favorite has always been The Court Jester, a parody of Robin Hood about how a simple jester is mistaken for a legendary outlaw. Knowing him for his vast film catalog, it was a complete surprise to find that he actually had his own variety show that ran from 1963 to 1967 and had won several Emmys during its television run. The show consisted of multiple sketches interspersed between musical numbers while

History Presents: The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection DVD Review: Nirvana in a Box for War Buffs

Forty-four hours of some of the best World War documentaries ever made by The History Channel.
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At the close of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “One must regard these thirty years of strife, turmoil and suffering in Europe as part of one story…One story of a thirty years’ war.” The events of those years are so complex and hard to believe that many of us remain absolutely fascinated by it all. The people at History know this, and have been producing some of the greatest World War documentaries ever made. This year they have put together the ultimate gift for guys like me, History Presents: The Definitive WWI & WWII Collection.

The Skeleton Twins Movie Review: A Twisted Tale of Those Bound by Blood

Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig turn dysfunction into emotional drama in The Skeleton Twins
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As the holidays get closer we'll all be thrust together with family we may love, but why are we stuck with them 24/7. There are countless Christmas-themed movies about spending awful holidays with equally awful extended families, but Craig Johnson's The Skeleton Twins says it doesn't have to be the holidays for your family to drive you nuts. Tightly controlled by leads Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, The Skeleton Twins is both funny and heartfelt, frustrating and endearing, in equal measure. Maggie and Milo (Wiig and Hader) haven't seen each other in a decade, but are thrust together when Milo

UHF Blu-ray Review: Constant Parodying, Semi-Constant Laughter

"Weird Al" packs a comic sensibility not at all conducive to feature films into a ramshackle movie.
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"Weird Al" seems to be perpetually "coming back". It's surprising to see, in a world where all careers have peaks and valleys, and some valleys never rise into a peak again, that a "novelty act" has stayed fresh, interesting, fun and popular while basically just doing the same thing for 30-plus years. With a combination of pop-culture references, absurdist humor, and not-too biting parody (which only, as Al explains himself on the Comic Con panel available on the Blu-ray features, occasionally ventures into satire when it directly comments on the work) "Weird Al" seeks, above all, to amuse. Not so

Adventure Time: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review: Make Time For It

Looking for adventure? Head out and buy this.
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The fourth season of Cartoon Network's Adventure Time ran from April 2, 2012 to October 22, 2012. Some of the episodes have previously been released to home video, but this release presents the Complete Fourth Season for the first time. "Princess Cookie", "The Hard Easy", "Lady & Peebles", and "Goliad" were all nominated for Annie Awards. "Card Wars" won a Golden Reel Award and was entertainingly imaginative as Finn and Jake played a version of Magic the Gathering. Guest voices this season include Bobcat Goldthwait, Susie Essman, Erik Estrada, and Lou Ferrigno. For those not in the know, Adventure Time

Darkman Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Delivers the Fun Quotient

Sam Raimi's ultracool, post Evil Dead B-movie.
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As we all know, Sam Raimi is one of our favorite directors, cult films (The Evil Dead series), and blockbusters (the Spiderman series, Drag Me to Hell). Not to place criticism, but he does have a tendency to make certain films that have failed to live up the hyper-kinetic gruesome horror of his early classics, such as the ill-fated Crimewave (1985), The Quick and the Dead (1995), and most recently his prequel follow-up to the classic 1939 film, The Wizard of Oz, entitled Oz: The Great and Powerful. But he has made some really remarkable films, such as A Simple

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