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Game of HAM Review: Outrageous Fun for Those Not Easily Offended

Folks should use their imagination and make of the game and its accompanying paraphernalia what they will.
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Much in the way that the makers of Cards Against Humanity created their “adult” version of Apples to Apples by putting a risque spin on the idea of filling in a blank with offensive, inappropriate responses, the makers of Game of HAM (Hating All Mankind) have done something similar but also expanded matters by including a board and an instruction manual filled with a plethora of variations to keep people entertained. Needing a minimum of three players, 18 and older (but I guarantee teens getting a hold of this will play), the basic gameplay has everyone selecting 10 pink cards

The Flesh and The Fiends Blu-ray Review: Selling Corpses in Scotland

Donald Pleasence steals the show.
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For centuries the science of anatomy lagged behind other fields of study due to cultural norms and religious beliefs concerning the handling of corpses. By the 18th Century, things were changing and medical schools across Europe were allowing the dissection and study of the human body. But while the scientific institutions pushed forward, the laws regarding which bodies were acceptable to desecrate lagged behind. Edinburgh, Scotland had become one of the premier cities in the study of anatomy and yet the law still only allowed for the bodies of criminals and suicides to be used as cadavers for study. During

The Truth Movie Review: Truthfully Middle-Ground

Both an adequately understated family drama and a missed opportunity.
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In a way, The Truth feels like a spiritual sequel to Clouds of Sils Maria. Another film distributed by IFC Films dealing with a French actress diva grappling with aging in the film industry as she works on a new project. Only this time, Juliette Binoche plays the daughter of said actress instead of the actress herself and gets to have Catherine Deneuve, a fellow screen icon, playing her mother. A pairing like this is enough to get any film buff giddy with excitement and “truthfully,” it’s the most saleable thing the picture has going for it. Watching Binoche and

Urban Cowboy Blu-ray Review: The Devil Should Have Gone Down to Texas Instead

This 1980 cash-in on the country pop craze has little to say, and isn't much fun.
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Urban Cowboy (1980) is one of those faddish films that has aged poorly. John Travolta plays Bud Davis, a country boy from Spur, Texas, who goes to Houston to work in an oil refinery. After hours, he frequents Gilley’s, a honkey-tonk the size of a football field, with a dance floor and mechanical bull. Bud’s day job is just a means to his nightlife. At Gilley’s, he gets his girl, Sissy (Debra Winger, in her breakout performance), loses her to an ex-convict stud in a mesh shirt, Wes (Scott Glenn), and fights to win her back. Love and strife among

Wild Palms Blu-ray Review: It's No Twin Peaks

Futuristic miniseries throws in so many ideas that it never settles on one
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In the wake of the spectacular rise and fall of the original Twin Peaks, its network ABC was keen to produce another offbeat series that might trigger the same kind of national water-cooler fervor. Along came Oliver Stone, at that time a creator in very high demand, with a suitably surreal idea based on a comic strip by Bruce Wagner. To eliminate the possibility of another Twin Peaks Season Two disaster, ABC insisted that Stone’s Wild Palms show had a complete story with a clear end up front, leading to the format of this five-episode miniseries. While the resulting project

Narrow Margin (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Strangers on a Canadian Train

While the plot is predictable, Gene Hackman's performance and the stunt work keep the viewer engaged.
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Journeyman Peter Hyams did triple duty (director, cinematographer, and screenwriter) on enjoyable albeit formulaic thriller Narrow Margin (1990), a remake of the 1952s' The Narrow Margin. While the plot is predictable, Gene Hackman's performance and the action scenes keep the viewer engaged. While on a blind date in Los Angeles, Carol Hunnicut (Anne Archer) witnesses Michael Tarlow (J.T. Walsh), an underworld attorney unbeknownst to her, murdered because he embezzled from crime boss Leo Watts (Harris Yulin). After learning of her whereabouts in a remote Canadian cabin, deputy district attorney Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman) heads out to bring her back to

South Park: The Complete Twenty-Third Season Blu-ray Review: Maintaining Their Tegridy

The show has become TV comfort food, for good and for ill.
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Written and directed by Trey Parker, the twenty-third season finds the citizens of South Park continue to deal with current events in their typical fashion as topical matters get taken to exaggerated extremes amidst gross-out humor and profanity. Fans get more of the same shenanigans and those that didn't take to the show before likely still won't this season. In the previous season, Randy Marsh moved the family out to the valley and opened up Tegridy Farms where he grows and sells marijuana. Sales are down and trying to increase them is storyline that works through the season. In "Mexican

Athlete A Movie Review: Moving Documentation of an Immense Tragedy and a Gargantuan Triumph

The new Netflix original is another crucial addition to the studio's growing library of powerful documentary titles.
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The greatest achievement of any great documentary is that it can actually change lives. Indirectly, they can inspire and instigate a conversation about a particular subject matter, thereby holding the potential to alter viewer perceptions. In a direct sense, the best of the documentaries empower the humans whose story they are capturing on camera and give a voice to them. The Paradise Lost documentary trilogy by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky and the Peter Jackson-produced West of Memphis cumulatively played a vital role in cleansing the public image of three wrongfully convicted teenagers in 1993’s triple homicide case. The aforementioned

Suzi Q Movie Review: Looks at the Groundbreaking Career of Rocker Suzi Quatro

Quatro's success inspired the Runaways, Chrissie Hynde, and many female musicians to pursue careers in hard rock.
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Australian director Liam Firmager spent four years working on Suzi Q, the definitive documentary of Detroit-born rock star Suzi Quatro, who rocketed to fame in the UK and Europe in the 1970s. His modus operandi draws heavily on Quatro’s sometimes difficult relationship with her sisters, as well as her music and indefatigable spirit. Even after over 50 years as a rock star and musical icon, it took almost a lifetime for Quarto to acquire perspective and peace about her relationship with her parents and siblings. Through original and vintage interviews, film clips, and a slew of newspaper and magazine clippings,

Book Review: Run-Out Groove: Inside Capitol's 1980s Hits & Stiffs by Dave Morrell

The fourth volume in the Morrell Archives takes readers through the record promotion business in the decadent 1980s.
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In the 1980s, everything seemed bigger: the fashions, the drugs, the money, and even the sound of music. For Dave Morrell, who helmed Capitol Records’ East Coast FM promotion efforts during the decade, it was an era of excess and wild times. In the fourth volume of his highly entertaining series, The Morrell Archives, Run-Out Groove: Inside Capitol’s 1980s Hits & Stiffs takes readers behind the scenes of parties, the record company’s desperate attempts to promote both successful and unsuccessful acts, and the occasionally outrageous behavior of some of the era’s biggest stars. Morrell, a music fan and Beatles fanatic,

House of Hummingbird Movie Review: A Coming-of-Age Story with Peculiar Wings

Kim Bora's directorial debut soars to terrific heights.
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The aptly titled House of Hummingbird follows 14-year-old Eun-hee (Park Ji-hoo) as she tries to fly her way through life without a care in the world. Even if she undergoes a seismic life journey as she deals with neglect from her parents along with an illness potentially paralyzing her face, it still feels very composed as it captures the insouciant period known as adolescence. A time where one is largely unsure how the real world works and only gets premature glimpses of its hardships. As Eun-hee feels indifference over being devoted to school, her neglectful parents struggle to stress how

Book Review: Tiananmen 1989: Our Shattered Hopes by Lun Zhang

A beautifully illustrated, personal account of a terrifying event that happened more than 30 years ago.
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I was not even five years old when the events of Tiananmen Square took place in Beijing, China in 1989. I think the first real exposure I had to it was a reference in a 2005 episode of The Simpsons called “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” in which the family goes to China to help Marge’s sister, Selma, adopt a baby. The family comes across a plaque that read “Tien An Men [sic] Square: On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.” I laughed, sure, but I wasn’t aware of the full story. That Simpsons joke is still funny to this day.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Burning Bright

This mesmerizing French film offers a fresh take on artist/muse romance and social class distinction
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Writer/director Celine Sciamma’s latest film is both exhilarating and depressing: spellbinding because of its absolute excellence and disheartening because it illuminates how far American dramas have fallen in comparison to this masterful new French work. It’s immediately evident why the film was a Golden Globe nominee for Best Foreign Language Film this year, and mind-boggling that it wasn’t nominated in the same category or even outright Best Picture at the Oscars, especially considering that France was instead represented by Les Miserables, a film with both significantly lower critical and popular review scores. Awards aside, the film is an instant classic,

Book Review: Superman: The Silver Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1963-1966)

The final volume in the Superman Sunday Comics series is uneven and unpredictable, but ultimately a good time.
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For more than 25 years, the Man of Steel fought for truth and justice in newspapers across the country, but only the first few years have ever seen the light of day as reprints. Thankfully, the Library of American Comics has partnered with DC Comics to bring the complete series to fans in these oversize hardcover editions. I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing a handful of these exquisite collections and now I’ve made my way to this, the final volume in the series. Superman: The Silver Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1963-1966) collects the final few years of the full-color Sunday

The Cameraman Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Star Begins to Fade

A stealth double feature of Keaton's last two silent films.
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Although a talented filmmaker, Buster Keaton wasn't a great business man and his box-office struggles caused him to sign on with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The Cameraman was his first film in his deal with MGM, a decision he's on record as calling "the worst mistake of my life," the title of a chapter from his autobiography, which is included in the accompanying booklet. Although the studio began to exert control over him and his work, he was still able to turn out an amusing picture. Buster is a tintype photographer and falls in love at the sight of Sally (Marceline Day). Upon

Disclosure Movie Review: Emotionally Informative

A requisite doc about on-screen trans representation told in a stirring, matter-of-fact manner.
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Disclosure is a look at the way the trans community is represented in the media told through the voices of artists such as Laverne Cox, M.J. Rodriguez, Chaz Bono, Alexandra Billings, and Jamie Clayton. As the doc has them express the trials they’ve faced in their careers in the entertainment industry, it also forces cis artists to take a hard look in the mirror and rethink the way they portray the trans experience. It explores the history of trans representation from the days of silent cinema to the present where a series like Pose has become a TV sensation. Even

White Fire, The Wind, and Why Don't You Just Die! Blu-ray Reviews: Three From Arrow Video

Three very different films get the excellent Arrow Video treatment.
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As the world continues to move towards consuming media through an increasing number of streaming platforms, there is a niche market for physical media. In the same way that vinyl records sales have increased dramatically over the last several years, there are certain types of people who prefer physical media over digital streams. I am one of them. As a collector, I like to have a physical object that I can put on my shelf and look at. This is so much more satisfying than making a list of digital files on a computer screen. While there certainly is

The Short History of the Long Road Movie Review: A Subversive Portrayal of Adolescence

A brisk road movie that offers a refreshing take on the coming-of-age narrative.
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The Short History of the Long Road is a simple, slice-of-life road movie that takes some jarring U-turns. What starts off as a profound father-daughter story becomes a navigation through both literal and mental deserted terrain. After Nola (Sabrina Carpenter) is left on her own on a cross-country trip after her father Clint (Steven Ogg) suddenly passes, she still carries on, finding out her own place in the world. One could say the picture is a different type of coming-of-age story. It’s not about a teenager trying to find love, fit in with the popular crowd, or even have one

Babyteeth Movie Review: Melancholia and Merriment Go Hand-in-hand

Shannon Murphy's feature debut is bittersweet meditation of death.
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It’s been a while since I shed a tear while watching a movie. With Babyteeth, though, I shed more than a few tears, after a very long time, and the first time in a teen movie. Teen movies, as a genre, have become associated with cliches of late. There is no need to name them, throw a stone at the genre and it's highly likely that you hit a cringe-ridden movie that either considers its concept the need of the hour or the plot has little gravity to hold the whole film. However, there have been fine films, over the

Friday the 13th 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Steelbook Review: There Was This One Time at Camp Crystal Lake...

The film that started it all gets a brand new steelbook release, packed with tons of special features.
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Confession time. The Friday the 13th franchise is one that I’ve largely ignored my whole life. Call it snobbery, call it what you will. The horror genre - especially the cheesy, teen slasher type - was not something in which I was largely invested in my childhood and that thought/feeling has kind of continued into my adult years. I decided to finally give Sean S. Cunningham’s film a spin to have an official take on it and to see if I am able to just flip off my brain for a bit and enjoy some silly, '80s slasher flick. To

Hot Docs 2020 Review: All That I Am

A beautiful story of courage in the midst of fear
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Imagine being six years old and the stepfather who is supposed to provide for you and protect you, repeatedly violates you and steals your innocence. Imagine trying to tell adults who you trust that these terrible and violent things are happening, but they dismiss you. Imagine once you do finally find someone who trusts you that you are forced to leave your mother and siblings for five years and when you are able to return, you are not supposed to talk about what happened. Imagine that at the end of those five years, you also know that this monster now

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) Blu-ray Review: Love and Madness

'60s British Comedy stars David Warner as a love-sick, gorilla-obsessed artist trying to win back his wife.
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Morgan is going mad. Or maybe he was always a little mad, but it became too much and wasn't as fun as it was when they were young. Either way, his wife Leonie is divorcing him. Morgan knows this, he'd promised to stay away in Greece until it was all done, but instead he comes back in an attempt to reconcile. His first salvo to get his wife back is to hide a skeleton in her bed and to skulk around her house, where he is no longer wanted. As this doesn't work, he escalates his campaign by going after

7500 Movie Review: Largely Free of Turbulence

German filmmaker Patrick Vollrath makes a promising debut with a flight-hijacking thriller that strives for realism and mostly succeeds.
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Unlike other movies based on flight-hijacking - Air Force One, Passenger 57, Operation Thunderbolt, or say Non-stop - in which the rescue efforts comprise the majority of the narrative, here is a film that observes the tension from the viewpoint of pilot, who is usually the first one to die in such films. Moreover, like the protagonist of 7500, Tobias (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an American co-pilot on board the flight from Berlin to Paris, we see the proceedings outside the cockpit only through a TV. The story-telling choice, which confines us to the cockpit for 99.2% of the runtime, invigorates the

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 Blu-ray Review: A Must-Own for Animation Fans

In these 19 cartoons, gags fly rapidly, and the rules of physics and the medium are thrown out the window.
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When it comes to the work of legendary animation director Fred “Tex” Avery, the stories typically show order giving way to chaos, which may explain why the 19 cartoons on Warner Archive Collection's Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 1 from his tenure at MGM aren't listed chronologically. Though some collectors may find this screwy, the amount of laughter provided should more than make up for any obsessive-compulsive anxiety caused by the randomness. Avery first made a significant impact on the medium during his time at Warner Brothers, working on Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies. While there, he was involved with

An Unmarried Woman Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Bold and Groundbreaking

A still fresh, unapologetically honest portrait of a woman's reawakening.
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As I mentioned in my Pick of the Week recently, the 1970s were a very pivotal time for women. There was the coming of feminism, Gloria Steinem, bras being burned, Mary Tyler Moore, etc. Arguably unlike any other decade, maybe besides the 1980s, women started to have their own say, thoughts, feelings, sexual needs, and boundaries. They didn't let men define them. They were beginning to find themselves. They had careers, children, and independence. They allowed themselves to clip the strings of men and grow their own wings. I think that director Paul Mazursky really took to that seriously with

Pretty in Pink Blu-ray Review: A Pretty Influential Portrait of Teenage Culture

Although it's not a perfect movie, I still enjoyed it.
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Okay, let's just get this out in the open. The whole "boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, complications and peer pressure threaten to tear them apart, but they overcome their differences and end up together" has been done to death, to the point of almost parody. However, if you put that in hands of the late John Hughes and his world of teenagers, then maybe you have something. Written by Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, Pretty in Pink (1986) does just that. It also shows the growth of Molly Ringwald, especially as an

Mirador Movie Review: Captures The Ethos of Comraderie

Antón Terni's provocative documentary underscores the beauty of companionship.
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In Spanish, Mirador means "lookout." The word has multiple connotations. Alertness, observation, prediction, or a person assigned to keep an eye on his surroundings. The last of the aforementioned undertones befit the documentary’s subject matter, that encircles three friends and the solidarity among them. The irony, though, is all of them are visually-impaired, meaning they can’t keep an eye on each other literally, but their support is persistently up for grabs, figuratively. The locale is a secluded and sylvan rural part of Uruguay, where the film’s prime subject, Pablo Zelis, leads a simple and tranquil life. He records and listens

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III Blu-ray Review: Gambling, Murder, and Back Alley Adoptions

Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents three more lesser-known noirs in a nice collector's box.
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If you are a fan of film noir, I hope you've been paying attention to Kino Lorber, the boutique video distributor, for they have been releasing all sorts of great noir for several years now. Recently, they've been putting out film noir collections that dig deep into the noir closet, finding all sorts of hidden gems. With Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema III, they've collected three films (Abandoned, The Sleeping City, and The Lady Gambles) that deal with the seedier sides of the city, are populated by dames, bad men, and bullets, and are full of dark shadows

Lonely Are the Brave Blu-ray Review: The Last Cowboy

Kirk Douglas gives one of his best performances in this 1962 neo-Western lament.
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Based on Edward Abbey’s novel, The Brave Cowboy, Lonely Are the Brave (1962) came and went without a fuss. Now known as Kirk Douglas’s favorite of his own films, it has gained a following as a neo-Western classic, and deservedly so. It gives the man-out-of-place element a wistful touch. Douglas plays Jack Burns, a ranch hand just off the grid. On horseback, he rides from the desert to get arrested so he can visit a friend in jail. He then escapes and flees the police as he high-tails it to Mexico. Along the way, he meets an unrequited love (Gena

The Booksellers DVD Review: Like a Good Book, You Won't Want It to End

The overall experience of The Booksellers is a positive one - books are special and so are the people who collect and read them.
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Calling all bibliophiles - The Booksellers is a documentary that you won't want to miss. And like a good book, you won't want it to end. Director D. W. Young (A Hole in a Fence) takes viewers on a colorful behind-the-scenes tour of New York's collectors and dealers of rare books. A dedicated and passionate community, rare booksellers come from varied ethnic and financial backgrounds, but they all seem to share an enthusiasm for books and book lovers. The film highlights dedicated collectors and collections of a wide range of subject matter, from singular items like a Gutenberg bible or

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