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A Star Is Born (2018) Blu-ray Review: An Engaging Tale of Addiction, Fame, Partnership, and Family

For his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper has done a wonderful job with this film.
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Confession time. I have not seen any other version of A Star Is Born. I have not seen the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version, the Judy Garland and James Mason version, nor the Janet Gaynor and Fredric March version. I have not even seen What Price Hollywood? which is viewed by some to be the predecessor to all of the versions of A Star Is Born. I have only seen this version of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, so I will not be making comparisons to those other films. I am solely reviewing this

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray Review: Manic Dream Pixie Mermaid

The story is a bit simple, but the animation really shines.
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With Lu Over the Wall, GKIDS continues to prove there is a place in the animation film world beyond Hollywood and Studio Ghibli. There are so many great films being released year after year and it's amazing to find more and more companies filling in the cracks to allow American audiences a chance to view movies they'd otherwise miss. In the sleepy seaside town of Hinashi lives a shy young boy named Kai Ashimoto (Kanon Tani). He makes electronic music on his computer and posts them anonymously online. When local girl Yuho (Minako Kotobuki) recognizes his phone (and thus him)
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Excitement and anticipation for what the day will bring. Like any other day, for some it will bring love, for some marriage, and sadly, an occasional funeral. For this single guy, Shout Factory! came through with the 25th Anniversary edition of Four Weddings and a Funeral and there are a lot worse ways to spend the evening on February 14. In 1994, few of us had been exposed to the talents of Hugh Grant. Yup, could follow that up with 37 jokes but I’m just moving on. Andie MacDowell was coming off

Desert Fury Blu-ray Review: More Like Desert Melodramatic

Western noir is a weird blend of genres, settings, and sexuality, but never amounts to much.
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The credits roll over a vast desert, much like the type you’d see in an old Western starring John Wayne. Except here a long highway stretches across the screen letting us know that this isn’t an old western but a contemporary film. To highlight this, a modern automobile (well, modern for 1947 when the film was made) comes rolling in across the highway. Inside are two strangers coming into town, again like they do in those old westerns, except these aren’t black-cladded cowboys but rather two gangsters in matching suits. They stop at a bridge and speak of it in

Alita: Battle Angel Movie Review: A Modest Visual Spectacle

Despite some flawed storytelling, it is a visually ambitious stunner.
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Robert Rodriguez is a master at doing films that are either a stunning visual experience like Sin City or a thrilling pastiche of classic genre fare like Planet Terror and From Dusk Till Dawn. As it turns out, his latest venture, Alita: Battle Angel, is a mixture of the two. Its story is rather old school and it is a visual feast for the eyes of the imagination. Even if the film’s screenplay ends up succumbing to tired machinations, it is still a thrilling theatrical experience that should be seen on the big screen. Based on the Japanese manga by

The Real McCoy (1993) Blu-ray Review: Dammit, Kim!

Kino Lorber places Russell Mulcahy's heist stinker starring Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer on display for you to give or take.
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Like Kino Lorber's recent release of 1974's The Midnight Man, 1993's The Real McCoy is another Universal production filmed in the South about an ex-con who finds it isn't easy to change their stripes (so to speak). Of course, comparing The Midnight Man to The Real McCoy is like juxtaposing Highlander with Highlander 2: The Quickening. The subtle film reference joke there being that the latter three titles were all manufactured by a filmmaker one either loves or hates (or both, if they're a Highlander fan): one-time pop music video director Russell Mulcahy. Here, former Vicki Vale Kim Basinger stars

Isn't It Romantic? Movie Review: It Is Indeed

An amusing satirization with plenty of heart and a great Rebel Wilson performance.
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When watching Isn’t It Romantic?, it’s hard not think of I Feel Pretty when doing so. Especially because it came out last year. Both films have a similar premise involving a woman living in NYC who lack self-respect. But after badly hitting their heads, they get a new particular outlook on life and themselves. Their outlooks are demonstrated in different ways but they still have the same idea. However, Isn’t It Romantic? executes that idea in a far better manner. While I Feel Pretty has its heart in the right place, it doesn’t provide the same amount of laughs. Also,

Audition Blu-ray Review: Family Drama Turns Violent

Takashi Miike's disturbing melodrama gets a nice restoration from Arrow Video.
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Perhaps the most shocking thing about Takashi Miike's 1999 film Audition is that for its first half or so there is nothing shocking about it at all. Miike, a Japanese director known for films featuring perverse images, black humor and extreme violence, spends the first 50 minutes of his nearly two hours run time telling an intimate, emotional, family drama. For anyone who comes to Audition knowing Miike films such as Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, or Izo, watching nearly an hour of cinema in which nothing weird, blood soaked, or insane happens is the craziest twist of all. This

At Eternity's Gate Blu-ray Review: Poetic Beauty

Willem Dafoe excels in unconventional biopic of Vincent Van Gogh.
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Yes, we just had a semi-biopic on Vincent van Gogh not too long ago with Loving Vincent; the trippy, experimental effort that saw well-known actors turned into water color figures. And, hey, in the end, that worked out rather well. Now, we get another film about the famous painter with At Eternity’s Gate, which has the wonderful Willem Dafoe headlining as van Gogh. Surprisingly, though, this is not the familiar, Oscar-bait type of feature that one expects around late November (the time of its theatrical release). It’s a rather deep, philosophical exploration at the late painter’s last days. Dafoe narrates

The Group Blu-ray Review: 1930s Women's Issues - Not So Different from Today

It's hard for most of the women in The Group to realize their full potential. Something that was true for 1933, 1966, and sadly, for many, still today.
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Kino Lorber has released the 1966 film The Group on Blu-ray. Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Murder on the Orient Express, Network), the film explores the post-college lives of eight women for a decade. An adaptation of the Mary McCarthy's bestselling 1963 novel of the same name, The Group follows eight young women as they graduate a Vassar-like college in 1933. They are young and white and privileged - and they are all assured, even convinced, that the world is their oyster. But the world is not that simple, and each woman will face challenges

Horror Express Blu-ray Review: Hammer Horror-esque

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battle an alien ape on a train. What more could you want?
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Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing first performed in a movie together in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Cushing played Oscric, a minor character, while Lee was an uncredited spear carrier). They were nearly inseperable after that, performing again together more than 20 more times. They made several great movies, quite a few bad ones, and became stars performing for Hammer Studios in a slew of horror films. They were the best of friends up until Cushing died in 1994. In 1972, both actors were set to make a low-budget horror movie based upon the novel Who Goes There?

Bohemian Rhapsody Blu-ray Review: A Moving Portrait of a Band and a Man Who Became Music Royalty

This film is also about Freddie Mercury's life and his struggle to live in his true identity.
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Bohemian Rhapsody follows the formation of Queen from their early days as a band called "Smile" who hires Freddie Mercury after losing their lead singer through the band's heyday and ends with their legendary Live Aid performance. And while the film tries to cover over two decades of events in a short amount of time, this film is also about Mercury's life and his struggle to live in his true identity. The film is nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor. While I don't think that Bohemian Rhapsody will take best picture, Rami Malek definitely deserves

The Midnight Man (1974) Blu-ray Review: I Could Stay Here All Night

One of Burt Lancaster's most elusive (and intriguing) features finally hits home video in the U.S. thanks to Kino Lorber.
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Occasionally referred to by the relatively few who have seen it as a Southern precursor to David Lynch's Twin Peaks, 1974's The Midnight Man is an exceptional neo-noir starring the one and only Burt Lancaster as Jim Slade: an ex-cop from Chicago, who also happens to be an ex-con. Released from stir after serving a stint over a crime of passion (which is, thankfully, only alluded to), Slade accepts a job as a night watchman at a college in a tiny, sleepy-eyed town in the South; an invitation for a new life extended by his old friend, fellow ex-cop Quartz

Summer Lovers Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Scenery, Beautiful People, Not Much Else

Randal Kleiser's follow-up to Grease takes him to Greece for a film that ought to be a lot more fun than it actually is.
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After the massive success of both Grease and The Blue Lagoon, director Randal Kleiser was given free reign to make pretty much any movie he wanted. Apparently what he wanted was to make a listless film featuring beautiful scenery, beautiful people and about as much casual nudity as an R-rated movie could stand in 1982. A young American couple, Michael (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy (Daryl Hannah), decide to spend the summer between finishing college and starting their careers vacationing on the Greek island of Santorini. She has always been a good girl, never getting into trouble and always behaving. He

What Men Want Movie Review: Taraji P. Henson Elevates Decent Rom-Com

Subpar yet still watchable thanks to Taraji P. Henson's charismatic performance.
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Admittedly, What Men Want could’ve been its own original idea rather than a gender-flipped remake of the Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want from 2000. Only because it’s a part of an ongoing trend of gender-flipping old properties when they could easily give actresses their own original properties. That being said, What Men Want still manages to be an amusing comedy that dissects gender and racial discrimination in the workplace. Plus, it’s proof that Taraji P. Henson can carry a film like it’s literally nobody’s business. Henson plays Allison “Ali” Davis, a sports agent who just can’t catch a break.

2019 Oscar-nominated Live Action Short Films Review

My favorite had the best story and execution.
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For over a decade, ShortsTV has proudly brought the Oscar-nominated Short Films to audiences across the globe. This exclusive release features the year’s most spectacular short films and for a limited time is available to watch on the big screen. Each nominee is released in one of three distinct feature-length compilations according to their category of nomination: Live Action, Animation, or Documentary. The films go into theaters around the world on February 8 and are not released anywhere else until a few days before the Oscars, when they are also made available February 19 via on demand platforms, including iTunes,

Shoplifters DVD Review: Two Hours of Pure, Understated, Humanistic Cinema

One of the very best films of 2018.
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Director Hirokazu Kore-eda has made some of the best portraits of humanity for over two decades. These are stories of human beings in constant states of emotional and physical limbo that seem rare, honest, and fresh. They also describe certain parts of society that are usually and often overlooked in film. These amazing films include After the Storm, Still Walking, Nobody Knows, and Like Father, Like Son. However, I think his wonderful 2018 masterpiece, Shoplifters, is where he has reached his zenith. The film takes place in the margins of Tokyo, where a dysfunctional "family" of misfits makes ends meet

2019 Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Films Review

And the nominees are...
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For over a decade, ShortsTV has proudly brought the Oscar-nominated Short Films to audiences across the globe. This exclusive release features the year’s most spectacular short films and for a limited time is available to watch on the big screen. Each nominee is released in one of three distinct feature-length compilations according to their category of nomination: Live Action, Animation or Documentary. The films go into theaters around the world on February 8 and are not released anywhere else until a few days before the Oscars, when they are also made available February 19 via on demand platforms, including iTunes,

Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost DVD Review: Does It Work? Yes, Mostly

Thirty-five years later, our teenagers return to capture the last ghost.
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Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost is the 32nd direct-to-video release of the series. Just let that sink in a second. A show that has been around since 1969 has had 13 different series and since 1998, there have been 32 direct-to-video movies. For a series that is celebrating 50 years, it's amazing how vibrant and up-to-date it can feel after feeling so dated and out of touch just a few releases earlier. I've been reviewing the different series and movies off and on for the past 12 years. This newest release is an interesting finale to the

Sundance Film Festival 2019: Selah and the Spades is Terrifically Sharp

Sharply written and features a multi-layered star turn from Lovie Simone.
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It goes without saying that high school is Hell. As it turns out, the teen dramedy Selah and the Spades is a sharp look at the kind of students who make it into a hellscape. Particularly, the Queen Bee who rules the school. We may have seen high school films that demonstrate the vantage point of popular mean girls like Jawbreaker and of course, Mean Girls. However, Selah and the Spades still offers its own incisive demonstration of the political nature of high school cliques. There are five factions that make up the underground lifestyle of Halliwell Boarding School. The

The Princess Bride Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: As Good As You Wish

So well crafted, it is equally one of the best comedies, one of the best adventures, and one of the best love stories.
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Based on the novel by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride is a fantasy adventure filled with humor and romance that became an instant classic in the hearts of many who saw it. When a young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed, his grandfather (Peter Falk) comes over to continue a family tradition by reading him The Princess Bride. The young man is not overly thrilled about having to sit through a romance, but he gives his grandfather the benefit of the doubt. The film then cuts to the book's story introducing the

The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot Movie Review: Not Exactly What You Expect, and That's a Good Thing

Sam Elliott plays a man who kills Hitler and then hunts Bigfoot in this surprisingly moving film.
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What a name for a movie! One could easily suspect The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot would be the latest in grindhouse genre tributes and might be shown as a double feature with something like Hobo with a Shotgun. Alas, despite the lengthy and creative title, Robert D. Krzykowski’s debut is less of an all-out bloodfest and more of a character study on a man who once made an impact on American society - and yet few know about it. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of revisionist history being put into play here, and Kryzkowski has some

Mikey and Nicky Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Elaine May Should Be Unanimously Acclaimed

A very underappreciated masterpiece of toxic masculinity and bleak relationships.
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When it comes to underappreciated figures of film, none are more legendary and important than Elaine May. After a successful series of improvisational comedy routines from the 1950s with the late, great Mike Nichols, she later developed a career as a very talented director and screenwriter with a deft and savage eye for complicated relationships. Even with brilliant films such as A New Leaf (1971), The Heartbreak Kid (1972), and her 1976 masterpiece, Mikey and Nicky, she continues to be often overlooked, because apparently, filmmaking only belongs to men. This should never be the case, because when talking about May,

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray Review: Vampire Mermaids Warm the Heart

A boy befriends a mermaid, and director Masaaki Yuasa reigns in his anarchic animation style...for a little while.
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Masaaki Yuasa is something of a wild card anime director. In an industry that can be chided for a certain uniformity of design and technique, he makes movies that look like nobody else's. To paint with a broad but not inaccurate brush, anime tends to go for contrasts of motion - energetic motion punctuated by stillness. Detailed backgrounds with simplified characters. Yuasa can do that, then wildly shift into incredible kineticism, with characters and backgrounds shifting with no concern for realism, detail, or anything other than the effect of the shot. Lu Over the Wall was conceived, as Yuasa explains

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Blu-ray Review: Emotional, Poignant Fantasy Epic

This visually arresting fantasy story of a mother and son that pulls at the heartstrings (and the tear ducts).
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Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is visually stunning, and works hard at it. It opens with the working of a loom on screen, digitally animated. It's an incredibly detailed bit of mechanical animation, all lit with a white light that makes the images pale and almost translucent. The next image is of a beautiful vista - a white city sitting above a lake, blue water in the foreground and green and white mountains behind. Both shots are detailed, and rendered to be as visually impressive as possible. As the anime characters start appearing among these detailed fore and background

Sundance Film Festival 2019: Untouchable Lets Weinstein's Victims Be Heard

A harrowing watch that continues the conversation surrounding sexual misconduct.
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The documentary Untouchable, which depicts the rise and fall of former movie producing mogul Harvey Weinstein, doesn’t tell us any information about him we don’t already know at this point. But what it does do is give us an idea of how monstrous he truly is. The interview subjects that have been subjected to his sexual misconduct describe the severity of his behavior and it becomes quite harrowing to watch. Granted, Untouchable was never meant to be an easy pill to swallow. But still. It’s discomforting seeing these unfortunate women relive their trauma at the hands of a man with

Reign of the Supermen Blu-ray Review: Too Much Story Compressed into a Small Amount of Time

Enjoyable but not as much as it should have been.
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In the previous DC animated film, The Death of Superman, the Man of Steel met his demise at the hands of the powerful Doomsday. It’s been six months since the loss of our hero and four new superheroes have risen to take his place. Superboy (Cameron Monaghan) is a teenage clone more interested in girls and media attention than crime fighting, and who happens to be created by Superman’s (Jerry O’Connell) arch enemy, Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson). Steel (Cress Williams) is a man made of metal with a giant war hammer as a weapon. But is he a robot, a

The Possessed & The Fifth Cord Blu-ray Reviews: Giallo Before and After Argento

Two films from Luigi Bazzoni illustrate both what a great director he was and what seismic shifts Dario Argento created on Italian cinema.
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There were giallo around before Dario Argento unleashed The Bird with the Crystal Plumage but that film upended, supplanted and redefined the genre creating a million copycat films in its wake and making all previous films feel like they are part of a different genre altogether. Luigi Bazzoni directed two films in the genre, The Possessed in 1965 and The Fifth Cord in 1971, which straddle both sides of Plumage, making it a fascinating double feature to see how in just a few short years the genre had completely changed. Arrow Video is releasing both films this week with new

Sundance Film Festival 2019: Little Monsters is a Bloody Delight

A darkly humorous yet surprisingly heartfelt zombie comedy.
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For those of you who don’t know the synopsis, Little Monsters is not a documentary on Lady Gaga’s fan base. Instead, it is an entertaining zombie comedy that features Taylor Swift music, Star Wars references, and of course, lots of undead creatures. It also manages to be pretty heartfelt with its story involving a kindergarten teacher going to great lengths to protect her students from being infected and/or killed. Admittedly, the chief protagonist is Alexander England as Dave, a slacker who accompanies his nephew, Felix (Diesel La Torraca) on a class field trip so that he can get with his

2019 Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films Review

Any of them are deserving to win.
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For over a decade, ShortsTV has proudly brought the Oscar-nominated Short Films to audiences across the globe. This exclusive release features the year’s most spectacular short films and for a limited time is available to watch on the big screen. Each nominee is released in one of three distinct feature-length compilations according to their category of nomination: Live Action, Animation, or Documentary. The films go into theaters around the world on February 8 and are not released anywhere else until a few days before the Oscars, when they are also made available February 19 on demand platforms, including iTunes, Amazon

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