The horror genre cannibalizes itself, and I'm not talking about movies about cannibals. Unlike other genres, horror stereotypes are so ingrained in the collective consciousness that it's near impossible not to watch a horror movie through the lens of a previous one. Emelie immediately conjures up similarities to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and that's not a bad thing in my book, being one of my favorite "rogue babysitter" films. Sarah Bolger and the child actors assemble work wonders with a script that tries to avoid the pitfalls but never sticks the landing. A couple's anniversary sees them hiring
Recently in Blu-ray
From the Tudors to terror, actress Sarah Bolger shines as an unhinged babysitter.
One of the more memorable blockbusters in recent years, and the high-def presentation is a fantastic showcase for it.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens might well have been one of the most anticipated films of all time if the numerous box-office records it set are any indication. Since Star Wars (released in 1977, amended in 1981 with the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope), the franchise went on to become a major pop-culture juggernaut with a presence in every medium thanks to its devoted fan base and the talented contributors who expanded the fictional universe. The Force Awakens, “Episode VII” of the main film series and the first of a planned sequel trilogy, is an action-packed, thrilling space adventure
A greater package than the movie itself warrants.
Back in 2005, Dangerous Men had an extremely limited release -- the writer/director/composer/costume designer/etc. John S. Rad spent thousands of dollars to rent out four theaters in Los Angeles for a week to show his film, and its take was a whopping $70. It's not a coincidence. It's not simply a result of having almost no marketing (an ad even ran for it during Fear Factor). It's just a bad movie, evident in every trailer I've seen for it. The very first character we meet inadvertently sets the tone for the entire movie. His credited name is "Police Detective." Yes,
A film that should that stand the test of time with its powerful performances, terrific script, and truthful message.
There is no greater fear for a parent than the loss of a child to certain horrifying circumstances, such as death or the thought of someone kidnapping their child and doing vile things to them. The plot of director Lenny Abrahamson's 2015 moving film, Room, takes that rather basic premise and extends it into something much more harrowing, but ultimately inspiring. Based on the acclaimed novel by Emma Donoghue, the film will take hold of you emotionally, once you get past the intensity of the story. It centers on the seventh year of capitivity of Joy (Brie Larson), a woman
Fuller's only feature-directing credit of the 1970s found him infiltrating the ranks of a German crime procedural.
Half a rollicking, goofy near-parody of noir and half a queasy, German New Wave-inflected portrait of futility, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) is a singular film from iconoclastic director Samuel Fuller. Dead Pigeon is actually an episode of the (still-running!) German television series Tatort, though it was also granted a theatrical release in several countries, making it Fuller’s only feature-directing credit of the decade. Olive Films presents the restored director’s cut on a stellar new Blu-ray release. Watching Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street will make you wish Fuller had directed an entire season of a crime procedural. His episodic,
Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.
Plagued by production difficulties, it's a wonder Jane Got a Gun ever saw the light of day. In 2011, the film made the Black List, an annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays. By May of 2012, Natalie Portman had signed on to star in the film alongside Michael Fassbender with Lynne Ramsey to direct. By the next year, Fassbender was out due to scheduling conflicts and Jude Law was in. Then Ramsey quit over artistic conflicts and out went her cinematographer with her. And Jude Law. Bradley Cooper came and went just as fast. Eventually they did make the film
A far cry from David Lean's big epics, but sometimes small is just as beautiful.
Christ, David Lean knew how to compose a shot. I swear you could take all of his movies, put them in a pile, shuffle them up, and no matter what scene came up, you could make a stunning poster out of the image. We tend to think of his later, grand pictures like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago when we think about David Lean’s stunning images, but Brief Encounter proves he could create something epic out of little things as well. Filmed in 1945 in the final vestiges of the European stage of
Six Yakuza movies from the '60s, replete with knife fights, anguish, and women falling in love with the wrong gangster.
How is being an Outlaw Gangster different from just being a gangster? By definition, they're all outlaws, aren't they? It turns out, no, it takes a very special soul to be an outlaw among gangsters. Especially if one is also, as the title of this collection implies, a VIP. This simple appellative explains a lot about the protagonist of this loose series of Yakuza movies. Goro Fujikawa, played by Tetsuya Watari in every one of the six movies included in this box set. Goro was born in poverty, lost his entire family when he was young and ended up in
An odd-ball action/horror hybrid that will surely scratch that bad '80s flick itch.
Oh the '80s! Was there a better decade for watching bad movies? The advent of home video not only meant you could watch bad movies from the comfort of your own home, but it also ushered in the era of direct-to-video productions and thousands of more bad movies coming out every year. The action and horror genres probably got the biggest boost as you could make those films on the cheap and genre fans would eat them up without necessarily caring if the production quality was all that good. Cashing in on this concept, director Nico Masorakis smashed the two
Larry Cohen's comical, horrifying look at rampant commercialism, American gluttony, and corporate greed gets another chance to creep around thanks to Arrow Video.
As a screenplay artist, Larry Cohen has many a unique offering under his literary belt. The New York-born auteur first started writing mysteries for television when he was only in his early twenties, and his god (told me to) given knack for penning thrillers soon found him cranking out teleplays for cult airwave favorites such as Branded, The Invaders, and Columbo during the '60s and '70s. Then, during the early '70s, Mr. Cohen was permitted to expand his filmmaking résumé with a directorial debut in the realm of a present subgenre phenomenon: blaxploitation movies. As a result, Larry was also
From deadly strolls about in High Heels to casual executions committed at Midnight, this two-fer from Arrow Video USA is sure to make a killing among fans of classic Italian thrillers.
Though born in the early '60s, only a few short years before various forms of psychedelic and sexual revolutions began to spin a seemingly stuck planet in circles far too fast for even God to fathom, the giallo film truly started to roll about freely once the 1970s came to pass. The titles were unabashedly long and lurid; the storylines both baffling and beguiling; the murders downright bloody, yet immeasurably inventive. These were the thrillers ripped straight from Italy's sleazy pulp fiction crime novels boasting distinctive yellow (or, "giallo," if you will) jackets which kept moviegoing audiences glued to their
Two Italian giallos get the Arrow treatment.
After the success of his first film as a director, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Luciano Ercoli directed two more giallos before moving on to other genres. These two films, Death Walks on High Heels, and Death Walks at Midnight have been lovingly restored and upgraded by Arrow Video into a very nice boxed set. Besides sharing similar titles, Ercoli also used the same actress, Nieves Navarro - here going by the stage name Susan Scott (his then girlfriend, later turned wife) as the lead in both films as well as using the same writer, similar themes, and
A quintet of moving pictures that are guaranteed to hear your prayers (or at least be your friends when you're feeling unknown and all alone).
Everyone strives for a little more room to breathe in this world. Some seek solace far away from others on islands previously unexplored by man. Others, beget into dystopian lies, defy omnipresent eyes around them in order to discover the truth. Still more are simply born with their own freedom, albeit one that is easily taken away with the mere flick of a trigger. To further illustrate this endeavor, I submit to you this collection of Twilight Time offerings (initially released in December of 2015), which take us into all of the aforementioned mysteries of personal freedoms ‒ and then
There can be only one. But is this much-anticipated (and greatly needed) BBC miniseries event truly 'it'?
Of all the stories written and published by Britain's crowned queen of mysteries, Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None has had the privilege of being adapted, staged, filmed, re-adapted, re-staged, re-written, re-published, remade, and ripped-off more than any other tale in the literate world. And it stands to reason that it should: it is, after all, one of the most ‒ if not the most ‒ successful mysteries ever published. Originally published in its native country with a far less respectable title taken from an 1860s blackface song (you may look it up at your discretion and leisure), the
Maggie Smith as a one-note character is the only good thing in this very droll comedy.
When watching a movie, there are some things that are good to reveal about a character right away and some things that should be left toward the third act. How would we respond as viewers, if for example in the movie Psycho, Norman Bates was seen wearing his mother’s clothing and then we cut to the moment when he first meets Marion. It would feel a bit out of place and that is how I felt when I watched this movie. At the very start, we see an elderly lady driving away from one of the most backwards cops ever
All the gore (and humor) you want from the franchise.
Brian Yuzna’s sequel to the cult classic Re-Animator is the very definition of a film that is not for everyone. For your humble reviewer, it was about the point when the re-animated dismembered fingers, which have been attached to an eyeball, escape the lab and are accidentally squished by the police lieutenant that I knew Bride of Re-Animator was a film totally for me. Bride strips the original of its - well I don’t want to say import as Re-Animator isn’t much more than a hilariously gory zombie romp - so let's say artistic meaning and gleefully reproduces its blood-splattered
You may not want to go hiking or camping anytime soon after viewing The Forest, but you are likely to want to seek out Natalie Dormer in her next feature.
Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, The Tudors) stars in the supernatural thriller The Forest. The film is an old-school jump-scare movie that substitutes a haunted house for a creepy forest in Japan. The only problem with this conceit is that the spooky forest featured in the film, Japan's Aokigahara Forest, at the foot of Mount Fuji, is a real place, with a real and poignant modern history of being a site where people choose to go to die. The Forest quickly presents this fact and then...does not much with it, proceeding with its fairly traditional ghost story.
Weak plotting in the first half undermines a terrific final act.
DC appears determined to cater to all manner of Justice League fans this year. If the dark, brooding Batman V Superman movie isn’t your cup of tea, and you think you’re too grown up for the blissfully fun hijinks of Lego Justice League: Cosmic Clash, here’s your middle-of-the-road alternative. Sure, it leans more to the dark side, but in a welcome departure from many recent DC animated releases, it doesn’t resort to adult language or mature themes to hit its perceived demographic. Continuing the Damian Wayne (Robin) story followed in the past couple of Batman animated films, the latest entry
Not even Natalie Dormer can save this dud.
At the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, lies the Aokigahara forest. With its large rocky ice caverns, it is a popular tourist destination. With its densely packed trees and vegetation, all visitors are warned to stay on the trails or get lost. In Japanese mythology, the forest is populated with angry ghosts called Yūrei. For decades now, it has also been a popular site for suicides. Despondent men and women wander into the forest, hang themselves, overdose, or sometimes intentionally get lost and starve to death. That’s a terrific set-up for a great horror movie. Unfortunately The Forest isn’t it.
Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Blu-ray Review: The Acting and Directing Elevate the Writing
Robert Altman and his cast turn a second-tier script into something worth watching.
Based upon a stage play of the same name this movie was written by the playwright (Ed Graczyk) and directed by Robert Altman (who also directed it on the stage). It tells the story of six women who come together for a twenty-year reunion of a James Dean fan club inside an old Woolworths in a tiny town in Texas. There they laugh, reminisce, open up old wounds, and reveal secrets long since buried. The story itself is nothing special, old friends coming together to drudge up the past is pretty boilerplate storytelling, and the script adds nothing new. The
An enjoyable, albeit very predictable, martial arts action movie.
Late one night, I decided to pop in this Blu-ray. I knew nothing about this movie except that ninjas were somehow involved. When the menu screen appeared, I was introduced to a very cheesy, but perfect '80s theme song. Oh, how thrilled I was to know that the same track would be used for the opening credits. During the credits, we are shown a party on a boat where people are getting high and dancing around. It looks like a lot of fun, but soon a police officer by the name Shiro Tanaka (our main protagonist and star of this
Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine / Dr. Goldfoot & the Girl Bombs Blu-ray Reviews: An Interesting Time Capsule
Two Vincent Price classics come to Blu-ray with mixed results.
Kino Lorber has released two vintage Vincent Price films from 1965 and 1966 respectively. You hear the name "Vincent Price" and 1960s and the Poe adaptations immediately come to mind. These are quite different from those horror stories. The release of Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966) to Blu-ray are an interesting time capsule. They are hard to classify but they aren't horror, nor are they straight comedies. Upon viewing each disc, it's hard to even call one a sequel to the other. It's almost like they exist on two separate
It deserves to be in the collection of everyone who enjoys a good '80s comedy.
Palmer Woodrow (Dana Olsen) has been thrown out of six different schools in the last three years. His parents are tired of his shenanigans and are threatening to cut off his trust fund if he doesn't graduate before he becomes older than the teachers. But buckling down and getting good grades is not something he is willing to do. So what’s a spoiled rich kid supposed to do when a massive fortune and his entire way of life is at stake? He hires a poor kid to take his place and get the diploma for him. Eddie Keaton (Judd Nelson)
There are hints that the 'George Washington' filmmaker might make a stylistic leap with 'Undertow.'
The opening sequence of David Gordon Green’s third film, Undertow, portends an interesting stylistic progression for the filmmaker, his Terrence Malick-influenced imagery pushed to a frenetic pace, cut to pieces by jarring cuts, freeze-frames and flashes to negative as teen Chris (Jamie Bell) flees from his girlfriend’s angry father. Set to a propulsive Philip Glass score, it’s a sequence that commands attention, even if it’s more freewheeling pastiche than a genuinely original moment. The rest of Undertow settles into a more staid visual approach, the images struggling to keep up with the operatic grandeur of Glass’s score. While Green’s early
Psychics battle each other in this anime series where the villains are just as compelling as its heroes.
Tokyo ESP is an anime series based on the manga created by Hajime Sagawa. It begins when a group of people with psychic abilities aka ESPers take control of a government building and begin killing people. They demand that all of humanity begin to worship them otherwise a lot more people are going to get hurt. There are rumors that there is still hope. The one called "The White Girl" will save them all. Meanwhile, high-school student Rinka Urushiba wakes up to discover that she can move between solid objects. In trying to understand her new powers, she meets several
Pam Grier escapes prison, kicks butt and bares her...(heart?) in this classic exploitation flick.
Last week I complained that the new release of an old Pam Grier exploitation film, Sheba, Baby forgot to actually exploit anybody. Well, this week’s release of Black Mama, White Mama remedies all that. And how! Within the first five minutes half the cast has stripped down naked for an extended, soapy shower scene while the prison guard peeps through a small hole Porky’s style and pleasures herself. From there we get scantily clad cat fights, attempted rapes, machine-gun battles, nun attacks, loads of naked breasts and more dick jokes than any one man can handle. Now that’s how you
Arrow Video USA's most ambitious undertaking yet is worth its notable weight in gold.
As a guy who has become slightly worn out from watching mostly B-grade movies for the majority of both his adolescent and adult lives, it can sometimes be difficult to truly jump up and down for joy over an impending release of vintage flicks which have been buried by the sands of time. Nevertheless, my excitement managed to pique and I was instilled with a great deal of giddiness upon learning of Arrow Video's American Horror Project earlier this year. And as it turns out, my enthusiasm was completely justified, for the first installment of this potentially life-changing series has
I hold this series to a high bar and I was very satisfied with the final product.
The recent Blu-ray and DVD release of The Peanuts Movie by 20th Century Fox leaves me with a conundrum of how to review it. I want to be fair and approach it just as a current kids movie. How does it compare to current cream of the crop releases from Disney and Pixar? The film is made by Blue Sky Studios, the creators of Ice Age, another groundbreaking movie franchise. The source for this film though goes way back into our cultural DNA. This isn't some recently created franchise. The film itself is built upon multiple winks to the viewer's
In Pam Grier's last exploitation film they forgot to exploit anybody or anything.
After a string of low-budget, b-grade exploitation flicks in which she kicked ass, cracked wise, and stripped down, Pam Grier became, not exactly a star, but a real sensation among people who like a certain type of movie. By 1975, she was ready to move onto other types of films and with Sheba, Baby she made her very last blacksploitation flick. Now that I've seen, all I have to ask is this: what exactly were they exploiting? It certainly is filled with plenty of black actors and comes with a plot straight out of the genre - Grier plays Sheba
The American Friend Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Tense Blend of Suspense and Character Study
An unusual, but beautifully made neonoir from one of film history's greatest directors.
There have been a few cinematic adaptations of famed author Patricia Highsmith's stories, such as 1951's Strangers on a Train, and 2002's Ripley's Game, but director Wim Wenders' 1977 acclaimed thriller, The American Friend, stands above the pack. It is one of Wenders' more accessible and entertaining films, in which the narrative flows with uncommon grace and suspense. It also contains one of iconic actor Bruno Ganz's best performances, where he inhabits every since he's in. In the film, Ganz portrays Jonathan Zinnermann, a terminally ill German everyman who gets involved in an elaborate murder plot concocted by the quirky