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Unbroken (2014) Blu-ray Review: Look, if It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

Angelina Jolie brings us an all too run-of-the-mill biography of WWII POW Louis Zamperini.
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Despite having seen the trailer for the film at the cinema prior to its release, it wasn't until I saw the teaser/standee artwork for the WWII/POW movie Unbroken that it stood out to me. And that was because once I saw a man standing with his back to us, holding a heavy wood beam over his head, a golden-colored and familiar-looking font spelling out the name of the film, I instantly thought of Rocky Balboa. I had every reason to, too, as the promotional artwork damn near plagiarized the cover of the more popular 2006 Sylvester Stallone sequel. When

Into the Woods Blu-ray Review: Bringing Out My Inner Theatre Geek

Making me believe in big, bold musicals once again.
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When choosing Into the Woods as my pick of the week, I noted that I’m not as big of a theatre geek as I once imagined. Sometimes I get bored in the theatre and I’m finally in a place where I can not only admit that, but also be perfectly okay with it as well. I came to Rob Marshall’s movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s much-beloved musical with a lot of hopefulness, but also a touch of trepidation. What if I didn’t like it, or worse, what if I didn’t get it? I’m able to now say I’m not the

Blind Woman's Curse Blu-ray Review: Gory Japanese Ghosts and Yakuza Fun

A kitchen sink of Japanese genre elements from Japanese exploitation expert Teruo Ishii.
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Blind Woman's Curse, directed by Teruo Ishii and due out on Blu-ray on April 21 from Arrow Video, is a fine example of the kind of leeway that was allowed in Japanese studio films. As long as the movie had enough elements that looked like it belonged to a genre, Japanese exploitation movies of the '60s and '70s would go to surprising artistic places, and most often with extremely professional technical results. This movie, on the surface a mix of a Yakuza story about a female boss of an early 20th century Japanese gang and a ghost story with a

Book Review: Chappie: The Art of the Movie by Peter E. Aperlo

Gritty, realistic sci-fi doesn't exactly translate to stunning pre-production design.
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A few weeks ago, Chappie, writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, arrived in theaters to mixed reviews. A few days ago, Chappie: The Art of the Movie arrived on my doorstep in a similar fashion. Taking inspiration from the creator’s short film "Tetra Vaal," Chappie contains all the typical elements of a Blomkamp film: gritty science fiction grounded in a hard reality, ultra-violent action, and a sharp satirical wit. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley too. Anyway, on to the book. Big hardcover coffee-table art books are pretty much a no-brainer, especially when they deal with robots, and if you’re reading this

Book Review: Quentin Tarantino FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Original Reservoir Dog by Dale Sherman

Covering Tarantino's body of work and his rai·son d'ê·tre for each film.
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Author Dale Sherman’s newest FAQ book, he previously wrote Armageddon Films FAQ and KISS FAQ, was published this month, and it’s a work dense with trivia, factoids, and much more. But does it answer the big question? (At least my big question?) What is Tarantino’s fascination with an out-of-sequence narrative? We will get to that. Sherman’s writing comes off as a bit awkward at times, but mostly it’s fine, although quite familiar, as the book was intended to be a series of blog posts. But the overall voice throughout the work has the feel of someone who is jazzed to

Exodus: Gods and Kings Blu-ray Review: Cecil B. Diminished

Ridley Scott falls far from the grace of God and anyone who has ever worshipped either of the two.
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According to His faithful flock and their respective independently-produced movies, God is not dead. The concept of the Hollywood biblical epic, on the other hand, is a critically endangered species. The days of lavish productions loaded with dazzling special effects and all-star casts of white folk playing Egyptians performing in big-budget productions interlaced with a strong belief in the Christian theology throughout are long gone, having been replaced by low-budget, poorly acted, and usually mind-numbing films produced by people who are either just exploiting the faithful (see: Left Behind), or who are a few hundred thousand Hebrewites short of an

Memory Lane (2012) DVD Review: Ambitious, but Lacks Polish

Its 70-minute length is both its saving grace and its biggest weakness.
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The promotional material for Memory Lane called down the thunder by comparing itself to the likes of Primer and Memento. It's no secret that I thoroughly enjoyed Primer. Memento I've seen a couple of times now, and it's always a crazy ride even though I know what happens. The former had a budget of $7,000 and the latter $9M. Writer/director Shawn Holmes must have been trying to set a record with a budget of $300. There's just one problem...it feels like a $300 movie. That's not to say that expensive effects or elaborate locations or A-list talent are needed for

McLintock! (Authentic Collector's Edition) Blu-ray Review: An Entertaining Escape

John Wayne tries to tame Maureen O'Hara.
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Made by his own Batjac Productions, John Wayne stars as the titular McLintock! in a variation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew with Maureen O'Hara, the fourth time they shared the silver screen together. Set in the Old West, G.W. (named after the country's first President) McLintock is a major cattle rancher in the Oklahoma Territory and his estranged wife Katherine (O'Hara) returns to town after two years, wanting a divorce and custody of their daughter Rebecca (Stefanie Powers), herself returning from school with a suitor in tow, Matt Douglas, Jr. (Jerry Van Dyke). However, G.W., who never wanted her

The Wrecking Crew Movie Review: A Musical History and a Labor of Love

Denny Tedesco's loving tribute to his father and the talented musicians who made up The Wrecking Crew.
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A few months back Marc Maron released an episode of his podcast, WTF, where he sat down with Denny Tedesco to talk about his project The Wrecking Crew. I listened to him talk to Maron about this documentary and I was intrigued and excited to see this film when it came out. I am happy to say I was not let down. The Wrecking Crew is not just a film about the group of ultra-talented musicians whose work you have heard over and over on some the biggest albums of all time, but it is Denny’s loving tribute to his

Monty Python Live (mostly) Blu-ray Review: And Now for Something Generally Familiar

It’s great to add this final chapter to the collection.
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After previously working together in various configurations at university and on such television shows like The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set, (the late) Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin formed what is arguably the funniest and most influential comedy troupe ever. Known as Monty Python, they came together to create the legendary TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus, which debuted October 5, 1969 on the BBC. Their humor was a great mix of high brow and low brow, both of which are typified in the "Summarize Proust Competition" where each

The Way He Looks Blu-ray Review: An Instant Classic

A beguiling, wonderful film about first love and infatuation.
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There have been many coming-of-age movies, such as The Yearling (1946), The 400 Blows (1959), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Breaking Away (1979), The Breakfast Club (1985), Stand By Me (1986), and Dazed and Confused (1993), that have made a really big impression on me, in terms of accurately depicting the trials and tribulations with growing up, peer pressure and parental dysfunction, and buddling love. And speaking of buddling love, Daniel Ribeiro's 2014 charmer The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) gets it absolutely right. It takes the premise of newfound love and takes it to such new

The Breakfast Club: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Kids Can Be So Cool

Universal re-releases John Hughes' quintessential teen dramedy just in time for a two-night theatrical re-offering.
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One of the few filmmakers who made movies about teenagers while actually having an understanding about the awkward, spotty-faced years of adolescence itself, John Hughes' second film as writer and director (and his first as a producer) is one that has successfully managed to withstand the test of time. Indeed, it is probably the quintessential American motion picture to center on high school students (from the '80s or otherwise) who are coming to grips with themselves, peer groups, and the pressures allotted to and from both. With a minimal budget, single location setting, and nothing but character development to offer,

Come Together: A Beatles Tribute Documentary Review: Meet the Faux Beatles!

A Beatles documentary with a twist, the film pays homage to international tribute bands.
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At this very moment, a Beatles tribute band is likely playing a concert somewhere throughout the world. Over 8,000 groups worldwide regularly recreate the music and, occasionally, the exact image and accents of the Beatles. Come Together: A Beatles Tribute Documentary examines these tribute bands, which range geographically and even in gender. Hosted by John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird, the film interviews several musicians who earn a living imitating their idols. While interesting, Come Together provides little insight as to the benefits and pitfalls of such a career. Baird often appears in various locations throughout Liverpool, from the recreated Cavern

Doctor Who Last Christmas Blu-ray Review: When the Doctor Met Santa Claus

"Happy Easter." - The Doctor
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When one can travel through all of time and space, sometimes Christmas comes about at the strangest of times. For Doctor Who fans, it's Christmas right now as the BBC releases 2014's Christmas special "Last Christmas" on DVD and Blu-Ray between Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day. While the title gets the 1984 song by Wham! instantly stuck in my head for hours to come, "Last Christmas" proves to be a brilliantly written and highly entertaining holiday outing for the Doctor. In fact I think it's my favorite of all the Doctor Who Christmas specials so far. Imagine Alien, The

Mark of the Devil Blu-ray Review: Say Hello to Arrow Video USA, Kids!

The movie that left its mark on the annals of exploitation advertising history inaugurates Arrow Video's new North American label.
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Nothing delights me more than seeing a new cult video label emerge in the USA. After the collapse of the (global) economy nearly a decade ago, a number of niche companies who specialized in movies I grew up only reading about or drooling over the lurid VHS labels of in mom and pop video stores as a kid disappeared. Many of them were on a winning streak at the time, too, which makes it all the more regrettable. Since then, several outfits have surfaced - with some becoming hugely popular, while others were literally the home video equivalent of a

Big Hero 6 Blu-ray Review: This Movie Will Make You Feel Better

"Sometimes, life doesn't go the way you planned." - Hiro
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When the Walt Disney Company bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009, there was much speculation about what would be the first Disney animated film to spring forth from the pages of Marvel Comics. The annoucement that it would be Big Hero 6, a Japanese superhero team from the late '90s that appeared in only a few books and is so obsure that not even Marvel.com has an entry for them, many questioned the choice. But after earning over half a billion at the box office worldwide and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it looks like the the folks at Disney

Lovejoy Series 4 DVD Review: Up to His Old Tricks

It is always fun to watch Lovejoy straddle the outer edges of honesty in his various deals and swindles, and Series 4 is yet another great edition.
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Lovejoy (Ian McShane) has always walked a fine line between legitimate and slightly shady deals - such seems to be the nature of the antiques trade. But in Lovejoy, Series 4, the always charming rogue has crossed over to out-and-out swindling - for a good cause, naturally - the saving of his own skin. Lovejoy is a "divvie," someone who has the gift of being able to sniff out a real antique. This feature has both helped and hindered Lovejoy in his life, loves, and business. As the series opens, Lovejoy Antiques, Inc. has been seized by the authorities -

CHiPs: The Complete Third Season DVD Review: Lay Down the Roller Boogie

Finally, the classic cop show we all love to love for all the wrong reasons returns.
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Were one to order nachos at a restaurant in the plainest, most simplistic form possible, they would most likely receive a pile of crispy tortilla eighths covered in a melted mass of dairy-gleaned and coagulated delight. "Cheesy chips," if you will. Similarly, were one to sit back and watch even one episode of a certain, lighthearted television series about the California Highway Patrol as made during the late '70s and early '80s, they might think something along the line of how cheesy CHiPs is. And yet, despite all of the bad acting, ridiculously lurid storylines, and a noticeable lack of

The Carol Burnett Show: Together Again...Well, Sort of

If you receive this DVD as a gift, it’s worth watching once and regifting.
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On February 24th 2015, StarVista Entertainment/Time Life released a DVD featuring three uncut episodes from the landmark television variety series. When one hears of a new release from this classic show, it is easy to get excited. To title said release Together Again, only adds to the excitement as we imagine the classic moments enjoyed over the eleven-year run of this CBS success. Said excitement can be quickly quelled when we discover who is not together again. Unfortunately, none of the three episodes feature Harvey Korman and Tim Conway together. Korman and Conway are fine on their own or interacting

Longmire: The Complete Third Season DVD Review: A Much Darker Season Unfolds

It offers something different than the many formulaic crime dramas these days.
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The third season of Longmire continued what had been previously established in the first two seasons as a strong crime drama rooted in deep and interesting characters. What was unique about this season is that it followed three fully developed storylines involving the main characters rather than just standalone murder mysteries, unfolding a complex interconnectedness between them. It is a much darker season as well with a strong undercurrent of evil that wove throughout. This drew me in further and resulted in a huge cliffhanger that left me anxious for the next season. A&E didn’t have as much faith and

WolfCop DVD Review: Bloody, Sexy, Crazy, and Furry

It even has a gangsta rap theme song.
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A movie like WolfCop doesn't need a lot of explanation -- the title kind of tells you everything you need to know going in. When I first heard about it, I thought of Full Eclipse (1993) starring Mario Van Peebles as part of a team of werewolf cops out to clean up the crime-ridden streets of Los Angeles. With all the recycling of ideas in Hollywood, I guess 21 years is a reasonable amount of time to pass between movies about werewolf cops. First thing you'll notice is that this isn't a big city, big budget action thriller. It was

Massacre Mafia Style Blu-ray Review: Duke Mitchell's Godfather Antithesis

The ultra-violent cult classic from a very ambitious cabaret entertainer returns to entertain and shock once more.
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It is sometimes interesting - well, to me, that is - how many of the articles I request or wind up for review can often be "connected" to one another like a really outrageous game of Six Degrees of Separation. Not too terribly far back, I found myself diving into the Warner Archive Collection re-releases of the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collections. Just last week, I was viewing Twilight Time's new Blu-ray issue of Roger Corman's neglected Prohibition Era gangster picture, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Believe it or not, there's more than one common denominator at play between

Dumber and Dumber To Blu-ray Review: Still Dumb After All These Years

While there are some laughs, it suffers like many sequels do from not being as good as the original and covering similar ground.
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It's no surprise that the directing team of Bobby and Peter Farrelly would write, produce, and direct The Three Stooges, the 2012 modern-day update with new actors playing Moe, Larry, and Curly. The Stooges' brand of dim-witted lunacy and aggressive slapstick is seen throughout the Farrelly Brothers' work, including their feature-film debut, Dumb and Dumber. Starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, who are perfectly described by the film's title, Dumb and Dumber was a smash hit, turning a $17 million budget into $247 million at the box office. It led to an animated series

Love and Death (1975) Blu-ray Review: Dying is Easy. Loving is Hard.

The Woody Allen film that even Woody Allen likes gets the High-Def treatment.
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Though some people out there would just assume never hear his name ever again, there is ultimately no denying the contributions Woody Allen has made to the worlds of both comedy and cinema alike since he first starting writing gags for television in the late 1950s. Since then, he has directed 50 (count 'em, fifty) projects in addition to writing, producing, and/or starring in several dozen others. Heck, some of the classic comedians who would become the filmmaker's inspirations growing up did not have such a filmic output (even when combined in some instances). But it wasn't just the witty

American Sniper Movie Review: Eastwood Hits His Target

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper unite their considerable talents in what may well be the best Eastwood film yet.
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I really didn't know what to expect when I decided to see American Sniper. I had resolved not to read anything about it that might predispose my mind to the film and the experience of seeing it. I thought in terms of “seeing it” because, as a Vietnam veteran, I had refrained from seeing all but a couple of the plethora of films about that conflict. In fact, the number of movies which attempt to deal with the ambiguities and puzzles produced as a result of America's participation in Vietnam is staggering - so many that they collectively can (and

The Story of Women and Art DVD Review: Sisters Are Doing It for Themselves

The series does a wonderful service in telling stories about some of these little-known artist's lives and shining a light on their talents.
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Art historian and host Amanda Vickery (professor of early modern history at Queen Mary University of London) poses a question at the start of her series The Story of Women and Art: Women as muses and artists' models line countless gallery and museum walls - in sculptures and paintings made by male "old masters" - but where are all of the female artists? In three one-hour episodes, Vickery travels the world to try to highlight some of the unknown heroines of art history. In the first episode, Vickery travels through Italy and Holland to showcase the work of 16th and

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) Blu-ray Review: Corman Slays 'Em

The movie that almost put gangsters films back on the map returns for another round (of ammunition).
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While movies like Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde generally get the most credit for being the movies that really introduced gritty onscreen violence into the movies (the former was released just months after the MPAA rating system was introduced in 1968), they weren't the first to do so. Not by a long shot. In fact, copious amounts of blood were being spilled by Herschell Gordon Lewis in his outrageous horror movies that made a real killing at drive-ins for jaded teen and rural audiences during the early '60s. The occasional big-budget Cinemascope war film

Lillies DVD Review: A Bittersweet Post-war Drama

With but one season in existence, Lillies makes a nice snack between larger Television meals.
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Lillies is a costume drama that ran on the BBC for one season in 2007. It was set in Liverpool in 1920. The story revolved around three sisters: Iris (Catherine Tyldesley), Ruby (Kerrie Hayes), and May (Leanne Rowe.) Plus their father (Brian McCardie), brother Billy (Daniel Rigby), and various friends and potential lovers. It is loosely based on the stories creator Heidi Thomas' grandmother used to tell of her life in the early 1920s. The girls all dream of bigger and better lives but are held back by their loving, but often hard, harsh, and drunk father. He can’t bare

An Autumn Afternoon Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Master's Final Masterpiece

Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes.
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Before he died of cancer on his 60th birthday in 1963, Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes. The twilight work of many filmmakers often lends itself better to footnotes than introductions, but the remarkably consistent Ozu has a career filled with potential jumping-off points, and his last film is also an excellent first one for Ozu neophytes. I should know — An Autumn Afternoon was my gateway into Ozu’s exquisite cinematic worlds. Frequent collaborator Chishu Ryu stars as Shuhei Hirayama, a widower who comes to accept

Fright Night (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Brewster's Thirties

Yes, it's "Still a better love story than Twilight" time.
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If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be repeating myself, well, I probably would have believed them. Indeed, when I initially sat down to work on a review for Twilight Time's 30th Anniversary Edition of the 1985 vampire horror classic, Fright Night, I nearly found myself writing the exact same words I had jotted down for my original article for the company's initial release of the film. Not wanting to repeat myself - and with little else to say on the title, I must sadly confess - I figured, since I greedily ignored my editor's

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