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The Boy Friend (1971) Blu-ray Review: Was This the Precursor to 'The Apple'?

Ken Russell's hallucinogenic homage to Busby Berkeley is just that ‒ and the Warner Archive has made it even trippier via a beautiful (and uncut) restoration.
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While musicals aren't my prefered form of motion picture entertainment, I did, in fact, see many a song-and-dance flick during my youth. That said, with the exception of the glamourous Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers classics of the 1930s (all of those movies which just happened to feature a musical number don't qualify in my less-than-established but nevertheless somewhat experienced opinion), most of my interaction with musicals tended to be of a decidedly off-kilter variety. In fact, I can't even count how many times I have seen Phantom of the Paradise, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Pink Floyd: The Wall,

Book Review: Star Wars: The Complete Classic Newspaper Comics, Vol. 1

An enjoyable throwback to the early days as George Lucas' fictional universe was expanding.
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Before The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980, Star Wars fans who wanted more stories from George Lucas' “galaxy far, far away" had few options. Marvel Comics presented original adventures after its six-issue adaption of the film. Alan Dean Foster's Splinter of the Mind's Eye novel had been intended to be the basis for the movie sequel, so it seemed the most canonical; and of course, the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special on television. In 1979, the Star Wars Universe expanded into newspaper comic strips for five years. The Library of American Comics is releasing those strips in a

Finian's Rainbow (1968) Blu-ray Review: Dance with the Times

The Warner Archive raises the curtains on a movie that would be both Francis Ford Coppola's first studio film and Fred Astaire's last complete musical.
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As the end of the 1960s rolled around, bringing with them the many changes some people are still having a difficult time wrapping their ideologies around, the timeless tradition of the standard movie musical began to make a much-needed alteration as well. One such example was 1968's Finian's Rainbow. Directed by a young novice named Francis Ford Coppola, this big-screen version of E.Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy's stage success features many of the elements the '60s are so well remembered for ‒ namely, civil rights and stinkin' hippies. It's pretty hip to the times, even if it is slightly bewildering

Demon Seed (1977) Blu-ray Review: Artificial Intelligence Meets Artificial Insemination

The kooky, slightly kinky '70s sci-fi horror hybrid featuring the talents of the late Fritz Weaver and Robert Vaughn receives a beautiful makeover from the Warner Archive.
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Released just a few months before Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind would become science fiction movies to end all science fiction movies, Donald Cammell's 1977 horror hybrid Demon Seed really isn't the easiest movie in the world to fathom. Not without some combination of drugs or alcohol, at least. Based on an early story by Dean Koontz, the tale finds Fritz Weaver ‒ no stranger to either genre ‒ as a computer genius who builds the supercomputer to end all supercomputers. Little does he know, however, that his latest, greatest invention may actually turn out to

The Jacques Rivette Collection Blu-ray Review: Not For Me

Experimental French films are interesting conceptually, but hard sailing to watch.
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Inspired by Jean Cocteau to become a filmmaker, Jacques Rivette moved to Paris in the 1950s began making short films and writing for the influential French film magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. It was there he met Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Éric Rohmer, and Claude Chabrol. Together, they revived the critical consensus of American genre filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchock and John Ford and started the French New Wave (Rivette directed Le Coup de Berger, which is considered the first film in that movement). In early 1975, Rivette conceived of a film cycle consisting of four films using a made-up mythology

Voodoo Black Exorcist (1974) Blu-ray Review: The Epitome of 'So Bad, It's Good'

The Film Detective brings us the first widescreen 2k scan of this truly abominable, incoherent ‒ and yet, undeniable entertaining ‒ Euro horror messterpiece. And it's glorious!
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Imagine if an amateur Spanish filmmaker, light years away from honing in on the trade he decided to briefly pick up, suddenly received word he and his friends could join a cruise to the Caribbean for free. "Free," that is, so long as they agreed to document ‒ and subsequently promote ‒ the company paying for the very generous freebie. Deciding this would be the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their limited financial means and still crank something (emphasis on "something") out in the process, they wrangled in what little talent they could (emphasis on "little") and took their

A Woman's Face (1941) / Flamingo Road (1949) DVD Reviews: The Dark Side of Joan

Two classic features from the one and only Joan Crawford return to DVD thanks to the Warner Archive Collection.
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While previously released to DVD by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, a number of Joan Crawford classics had fallen into that unfavorable "Out of Print" status movie collectors so hate to see. Fortunately, a total of six Crawford vehicles ‒ Dancing Lady, Sadie McKee, Strange Cargo, A Woman's Face, Flamingo Road, and Torch Song (the latter five of which comprised the bulk of The Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2 from 2008) ‒ have re-emerged from moratorium thanks to the Warner Archive Collection, two of which are reviewed here. In A Woman's Face, a 1941 thriller from director George Cukor, we not

TCM and Fathom Events Presents the 40th Anniversary of Smokey and the Bandit

Grab a beer, jump in your vintage Trans-Am, and get ready for a hell of a ride.
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When TCM host Ben Mankiewicz introduced Smokey and the Bandit, there was both a gleam in his eye and a smirk on his mouth. The gleam comes from his admission that as a 10-year-old boy in 1977 it was the first film that made him fall in love with movies. Moreso than even Star Wars, which also came out that year, it was the movie he watched over and over again, making him desperate to both be the Bandit and to see more movies just like it. The smirk comes from the knowledge that even on its 40th anniversary Smokey

The Sheik (1921) / The Son of the Sheik (1926) Blu-ray Review: Happy Valentino's Day

Kino Lorber unleashes two of the greatest works from legendary Silent Film heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.
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One of the civilized world's first heartthrobs and cultural icons returns in two of his most famous works, now available on Blu-ray for the first time from the folks at Kino Lorber. Although the sands [terribly pun possibly intentional] of time may have obliterated the name of Rudolph Valentino from the limited lexicons of today's youth (especially his full name at birth: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella!), the impression the Silent Era film legend left behind ‒ as well as the universal vogue his raw sex appeal launched ‒ are the sort of things which shall

Long Strange Trip Movie Review: All a Dream They Dreamed One Afternoon Long Ago

Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead...
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Like America itself, the Grateful Dead were a great melting pot of cultures, genres, and styles. Take a close look at the songs they chose to cover in their 30 years of existence and you’ll see nearly every brand of American music of the last century. From Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Reverend Gary Davis to Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Marley, Blind Willie Johnson, Leiber and Stoller, Martha and the Vanillas?, the Dead played jazz, folk, blues, rock and roll, Appalachian folk music, reggae, and everything in between. They took all those styles and more, blended

Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition (The Complete Series) DVD Review: One of the Most Original TV Series to Ever Hit the Airwaves

Best watched while enjoying a slice of cherry pie, a few donuts, and some “damn good coffee.”
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From the minds of David Lynch and Mark Frost sprang forth one of the most original TV series to ever hit the airwaves. The opening credits signaled the viewer was going to see something different, very different. The beautiful nature shots juxtaposed with the moody, ethereal “Twin Peaks Theme” were an unusual contrast compared to the big hits of the time like The Cosby Show and Matlock, although fans of Lynch’s Blue Velvet would recognize the motif of something off-kilter in small town America that the credits evoke. One morning, a beautiful high school girl, Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), is

The Yakuza (1974) Blu-ray Review: That Time Robert Mitchum Went to Japan

Like a trusty katana, the Warner Archive Collection whips out this neglected, gritty, emotional '70s cult classic with much grace and dignity.
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What can you say about a Japanese-American co-production from the director of Three Days of the Condor as written by the beautifully dark minds who penned Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Kiss of the Spider Woman? Well, if said film also happens to star the great Robert Mitchum alongside Japanese icon Ken Takakura, and features an eclectic funky score by Dave Grusin, then the one and only official answer to that query is a heartfelt "Plenty!" ‒ as Sidney Pollack's 1974 cult classic The Yakuza should prove to even the most jaded classic movie buff beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The Red Skelton Hour in Color 3-DVD Set Review: An Entertaining, Old-fashioned Variety Show

Skelton ends every show hoping he and the gang have at least brought a moment of entertainment into the viewer's life, which they do many times over.
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Red Skelton, who became a personality in vadeville, radio, and movies, had a very impressive run with his TV program, The Red Skelton Show, which aired from 1951 to 1971. Starting in September 1962, the show expanded to an hour, leading to the name change. During the time period of the the late '60s when these episodes debuted, between January 4, 1966 and October 28, 1969, the show aired Tuesdays at 8:30-9:30 pm on CBS and ranked in the Top 10 except for the 1968-1969 season when it dipped to #11, tied with Mission: Impossible and Bewitched). Most of the

Bells Are Ringing (1960) Blu-ray Review: You Found Me Just in Time

The irreplaceable Judy Holliday teams with the one and only Dean Martin for a musical extravaganza which has received a dynamic makeover from the Warner Archive.
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The history of the American musical is indeed a fascinating one, particularly once the genre was introduced to the ever-changing world of the 1960s. Far removed from filmed vaudeville acts and Broadway show adaptations from the dawn of the Sound Era in the late '20s, the once-harmless naïvety of the movie musical of yesteryear was about to be shown the door by an increasingly cynical society which would soon be surrounded by great shifts in both cultural and political trends. And the beginning of those changes are quite noticeable in the classic 1960 musical Bells Are Ringing, which is now

Brain Damage (1988) Blu-ray Review: Schlock That Loves Being Shlock

Cheerfully sleazy exploitation movie about a singing brain parasite is charmingly repellent.
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There's a certain genius to Brain Damage (1989). Thousands of horror movies are made which simply copy the last popular one, doing the bare minimum to get a (in the past) theatrical release or (more recently) a DVD distributor. These movies feel like somebody is filling out a checklist. "Creative" kills, check. Some nudity, okay. Jump scares, gore shots, blah blah blah. Brain Damage is no less puerile, in a sense, but it is knowingly puerile. It isn't copying somebody else's bad ideas, it has a sackful of its own (and some good ones, to boot.) Brain Damage tells the

The Commune (2017) Movie Review: Uneasy Living

Quirky characters are wasted in Thomas Vinterberg's latest.
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The Commune is a film that should be praised for its realistic depictions of a relationship growing stale and the difficulties of living with life-long friends and/or total strangers. I can imagine quite a few people will find some relation to this film in one way or another; I certainly did. But, at the same time, I also found myself wanting to be with characters that had more to them. For a good portion of the movie, I felt like I was watching something in which the script was written, but there were some glaring moments that felt like they

The Climber (1975) Blu-ray Review: The Stuff Scarfaces Are Made Of

An all-growed-up Joe Dallesandro stars in this nifty (and violent) little Italian crime drama, recently rescued from obscurity by Arrow Video.
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Fresh from appearing in several collaborations for Paul Morrissey and the legendary Andy Warhol ‒ a union which culminated with two of the most notorious horror-comedies ever made, Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula ‒ model-turned-actor Joe Dallesandro found himself alone in Europe. Much to his surprise, his underground popularity as a Warhol factory superstar in the US was synonymous with that of "famous" abroad. And it wasn't long before he was being asked (or conned) into making a handful of motion pictures in the continent. One such film was Pasquale (I Am the Law) Squitieri's L'ambizioso, aka The

Good Morning (1959) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Japanese Master's Flatulent Comedy

One of the great filmmakers of the 20th century fills his domestic comedy with wistfulness, charm...and fart jokes.
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Comedy doesn't tend to get the respect of drama in movie writing. Like horror, its effectiveness depends on whether or not the audience laughs - it demands, when done right, an immediate physical response. It's hard to write oneself out of having laughed at a comedy a writer doesn't want to enjoy for whatever reason, or to write oneself into praising a comedy that didn't raise a yuck. Dramas have more stuff for writers to write about, and writers are the ones who make the lists of what's important in cinema and what isn't. I've seen reviews of 1959's Good

Alien: Covenant Movie Review: Ridley Scott Returns to the Bloody Basics

Although it recycles a lot from the previous films, Alien: Covenant is still a gorgeously shot, thrilling sci-fi feature.
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More than 30 years after he terrified us with Alien, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise with Prometheus, a film that proved to be more ambitious than fans of the sci-fi franchise were expecting. Sure, it had the origins aspect that fans were expecting, but a lot of the Alien prequel side of the film felt subtle to the exploration of life and creation of man on which Scott ended up focusing. The result was a film that was divisive amongst the Alien fan base, and even Scott admitted recently that he was going in the wrong direction with Prometheus.

Kiss of Death (1947) / Edge of Eternity (1959) Blu-ray Reviews: Homicidal Tendencies

Twilight Time brings us two remarkable, unforgettable, trend-setting thrillers from yesteryear in two equally beautifully transfers.
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Kiss of Death (1947) One of the most quintessential titles to ever emerge from the annals of film noir, Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death still packs quite a punch today, long after a bastardized 1995 remake from the same studio left many with a foul aftertaste. Here, however, the flavor from the fatal lips administering the eponymous smooch is both robust and plentiful. This is particularly true whenever the movie's most famous character ‒ a giggling psychopathic killer sporting the time-honored moniker of Tommy Udo, as played in a groundbreaking debut by a young Richard Widmark ‒ livens up the

Ludwig (1973) Blu-ray Review: The Historical Epic Wherein Nothing Really Happens

Love it or hate it, Arrow Academy has unveiled an undeniably beautiful box set for one of Luchino Visconti's final films.
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I would only be slightly remiss were I to openly admit history was never my strongest subject in school. Truth be told, when I wasn't having assorted slurs shouted at me in the hallways or eluding those who wanted to stuff me in a locker, I was safe in my room at home watching movies most people had forgotten about. And the truly beautiful part about those otherwise terrible years was my ability to sit through even the longest, most boring film known to man and still be able to focus on it. Sadly, enduring great strides of monotony is

L'assassino (The Assassin) Blu-ray Review: The Lady-Killer of Rome Returns

Elio Petri's forgotten, strange, and very dark satire makes a long-overdue debut in the US from the newly launched Arrow Academy.
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The first feature film from Property Is No Longer a Theft director Elio Petri, The Assassin (L'assassino) is an interesting, early test run for the filmmaker's later (and better known) 1970 hit Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion by way of Franz Kafka's The Trial. Albeit a very Elio Petri fashion, of course. Interestingly, some Italo movie aficionados around the globe see The Assassin as something of a proto-giallo, as many elements would later become staples in the gialli movement. It also, coincidentally enough, features a character similar to legendary TV detective Columbo, a year after the character first appeared

Peanuts by Schulz: Go Team Go! DVD Review: An Excellent Addition to the Peanuts Family

In which the Peanuts strips come to life with a collection of sports-themed shorts.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Post. The opinions I share are my own. It would have been easy to just take my review for Peanuts by Schulz, Volume 1: Snoopy Tales and copy and paste it generally into a review here with a couple tweaks. Warner Bros. is releasing Volume 2 of the new series under the subtitle of Go Team Go! with over two hours of sports-themed shorts. I lauded the first volume for capturing the comic pace of the strips instead of being in the tradition

Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism Blu-ray Review: Radical Politics and Radical Filmmaking

Thematic trilogy from a Japanese master, these three films are designed to be as beautiful, and baffling, as possible.
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Some movies offer formal challenges as part of their appeal. They might have sequences of the narrative where the viewer doesn't know exactly what's going on or in what sequences they're shown. They might have elliptical stories that really require an interpretation rather than just unfolding the narrative directly for the viewer, like a David Lynch film. Or they might have a different way of showing images on screen that is unconventional. Entire film movements are built around recognizing the "rules" by which films are made, and then subverting or even ignoring them. And then there's Kiju Yoshida's Japanese New

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review: Eh-Calibur

Guy Ritchie's King Arthur re-telling is flashy but dull.
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The one question I had after the screening of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was, “Why does this exist?” I’m still trying to find an answer for it. Granted, this is a different take on the King Arthur story that we’ve all known to grow and love. And by different, I mean, there are gigantic elephants getting ready to destroy Camelot in the opening sequence. Not only that, but there are strange, octopus mermaids led by one that looks like a cross between The Little Mermaid’s Ursula and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June. But my

Book Review: Donald Duck: The Complete Daily Newspaper Comics, Vol. 3 & The Complete Sunday Newspaper Comics, Vol. 2 (1943-1945)

IDW Publishing's latest Donald Duck comic strip collections drive home the U.S. domestic impact of World War II while also serving up laughs aplenty.
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There’s something decidedly comforting about reading old Disney comic strips, as they’re reliably funny, relatable, and finely crafted. These latest collections add a rare aspect: they’re also educational. The reason for that is the timeframe these strips were originally released, smack dab in the waning years of World War II. While they’re not ostensibly war books, there’s no escaping its influence throughout these pages. Although Donald didn’t go to war in the comic strip (flat feet), its impact is felt throughout this run, as he frequently deals with the domestic hardships endured by U.S. civilians. Among those travails are gas

Dead or Alive Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Literally Explosive Cinematic Madness

Yakuza blow up the world, and that's just first film of this loose trilogy starring Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi.
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The opening six minutes of Dead or Alive, one of the first films of Takashi Miike to get international attention, are some of the most energetic, aggressive, and propulsive filmmaking of the '90s (or, hell, of any era.) Several characters are introduced and plots are put into motion, interwoven with quick cuts of various people engaged in various debaucheries: stealing drugs, sex in bathrooms, stripping, a man doing a six-foot line of cocaine off an enormous ramp, and a man shoveling in bowl after bowl of ramen (which then memorably gets blown out of his stomach in a shotgun blast).

Buena Vista Social Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Cuban Musicians Get the Recognition They Deserve

A landmark and infectious documentary about the joy of Cuban music and the great individuals who brought it to life.
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When it comes to music, there are many styles and cultures: Mexican, Spanish, Portugese, etc. However, Cuban music seems to be for only certain tastes, and even sadder, the singular individuals who created it have become virtually forgotten. Thankfully, Wim Wenders' 1999 influential documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, gives new life to these all-but-ancient musical talents and gives the recognition they extremely deserve. It is also a documentary of how music, in general, can be a lifelong desire and reason for living. Wenders' camera and the legendary Ry Cooper, along with his son Joachim, travel to Cuba to find and

The Dismembered (1962) Blu-ray Review: I'd Rather Be in Philadelphia

Garagehouse Pictures digs up one of the goofiest ‒ and yet, strangely intriguing ‒ lost regional horror comedies ever.
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Picture, if you can, what might have happened had a very bored Charles Addams sat down for a few hours one sunny afternoon to jot down the general outline for a lighthearted episode of The Twilight Zone. But rather than seeing his little side project achieve fruition via its intended nationally broadcast television medium, the story wound up in the hands of amateur filmmakers instead. Expanding his original story into something that would still pass for "feature-length" by cinematic standards in 1962, an indie filmmaker in Philadelphia subsequently gathered together a few friends, even fewer dollars, and said "What the

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review: A Solid Start to the Summer Movie Season

This sequel to the 2014 smash hit is entertaining, but doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.
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Superhero movies are going to be coming down the cinematic pipeline for many years to come. The same can be said for superhero sequels. It’s inevitable, but, when they bring in the big bucks, it’s also understandable. And yet, for many reviewers out there, who sit through more than 100 movies each year, it also becomes wearisome to see another origins story and another sequel to said origins story. You have to watch so many different movies to figure out who or what fits where in the timeline that, at a certain point, there comes a level of fatigue. Mine

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