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Ride Your Wave Blu-ray Review: Touching Romance Becomes Ghost Story

Masaaki Yuasa's latest feature about surfing, grief, and water controlling ghosts is touching and off-putting at once.
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For the first half hour of Ride Your Wave, it seems like Masaaki Yuasa was tackling something he'd only ever flirted with in his previous animated offerings: realism. Without once abandoning the exaggerated squish and stretch sense of movement that is his primary visual signature, Ride Your Wave begins primarily being about real people, in real situations, without the hyperbole, magical realism or out and out crazy that's the hallmark of Yuasa's films. The majority of the film is not spent in the belly of the whale, like Mind Game, or hanging out with mythical fish monsters like Lu Over

Audie Murphy Collection Blu-ray Review: War Hero Becomes a Movie Star

I've heard about Audie Murphy's remarkable life since I was a kid. I'm thrilled to finally be getting to see some of his films with this new set.
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Towards the end of the tenth and final episode of Band of Brothers, HBO's acclaimed miniseries that follows Easy Company from jump training to the end of World War II, we are told about what those men did after the war. It was shocking to me the first time I watched it to learn that those soldiers, who we've just spent ten episodes watching live through absolute hell with the greatest of strength, courage, and honor, came home to become cab drivers, warehouse workers, and farmers. These men were heroes, how could they come home to work such menial jobs?

Tony Curtis Collection Blu-ray Review: Charming

Kino Lorber presents three mid-tier films from the great actor, and it is great to finally have them on Blu-ray.
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Reason #473 that I love boutique labels such a Kino Lorber: they allow us to dig into various genres and subgenres, or plumb the depths of a director or actor's career. The other day some critic was complaining on Twitter that far too many people writing about cinema weren't well versed in the lesser films of a given genre. Everybody knows the classics but few have watched the not-so-classics, or the pretty-good movies of a given genre or time period. Labels like Kino Lorber are helping me and others to fill in those gaps. Case in point: this new collection

Carole Lombard Collection I Blu-ray Review: An Early Glimpse of the Queen of Screwball Comedy

The set includes Fast and Loose, Man of the World, and No Man of Her Own.
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Kino Lorber's KL Studio Classics have released a Blu-ray collection of three pre-Code films featuring Golden Age of Hollywood star Carole Lombard. Film buffs know Lombard as the queen of screwball comedy classics such as Twentieth Century (1934) and Nothing Sacred (1937). Lombard starred in numerous bit parts before making it big - she started her film career at Fox Studios in 1921 at the age of 12. Six years later, a car accident left her with a small facial scar and Fox dropped her contract. She worked for Mack Sennett of Keystone Kops fame for a few years before

The Outsider: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Soaked in Grief

This HBO series based upon a Stephen King novel is beautifully made, terrifically scary, and just a little disappointing.
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Stephen King is one of the most prolific and popular American novelists of the last century. He has written over 60 novels, 200 short stories, and countless essays and musings. He has sold over 300 million books in his long career. His writings have been adapted into countless movies and television series, most of them poorly. His stories are notoriously difficult to film. I've become a pretty big fan of the man over the last few years and I think part of the reason why his cinematic adaptations rarely work is that they tend to focus on his plots which

Castle Rock: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: A Stronger Stephen King Feel to It

It was what I was hoping for, a dark scary world with many twists and turns that kept me on the edge of my seat.
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Having read numerous Stephen King books and loving so many movies based on them, I was really excited for the first season of Castle Rock. The opportunity to see several of his iconic characters come together in this mythical town was exciting. However, it fell flat and left me with no interest in a second season. Upon learning a little bit about the story of the new season and that it included the introduction of one of King’s most terrifying characters, Annie Wilkes from Misery, I decided to give it a try. Annie Wilkes (Lizzy Caplan) has been traversing the

Dream Demon Blu-ray Review: Newly-Unearthed '80s Horror Fantasy

Rarely scary, but visually gripping, an unsuccessful attempt to copy Nightmare on Elm Street scores as a fantasy film.
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An obscure British release from 1988 that never made it to the states theatrically, Dream Demon's major problem is that it is not a good horror movie. It has horror elements, some fun gore bits, and a very spooky atmosphere but Dream Demon isn't very scary. It doesn't have a relentless sense of dread that great horror evokes. It's at best a pretty mediocre horror movie. It is a really good fantasy movie, however, and should be looked at in that light. Jemma Redgrave in her film debut plays Diana, simultaneously a small town teacher and a daughter of great

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break Blu-ray Review: W.C. Fields' Last Star Turn Delivers Laughs

Although it's a presentation of a series of sketches rather than a unified story being told, that doesn't make it any less funny.
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Never Give a Sucker an Even Break is W.C, Fields last outing as the star of a film. He also came up with its original story, credited to Otis Criblecoblis. Although it's a presentation of a series of sketches rather than a unified story being told, that doesn't make it any less funny. Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents it on Blu-ray. (Bear with me as this might get a little confusing) Fields plays a fictional version of himself, referred to in the credits as the Great Man but no matter the name, his trademark cantankerous, put-upon persona is on display.

Taste of Cherry Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Not to Everyone's Taste

Iranian classic finally gets a Criterion Blu-ray release.
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Abbas Kiarostami’s understated film won the prestigious Palme d’Or Award at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, leading to its initial Criterion DVD release way back in 1999. After being out of print for a number of years, Criterion is finally bringing the film to Blu-ray this week with new cover art and some new special features. While its methodical pace isn’t for everyone, the film’s concept remains intriguing. The film centers on a middle-aged man named Mr. Badii who is shown driving aimlessly around the outskirts of Tehran, taking nearly the first half hour before revealing the plot. He has

Marriage Story Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Emotionally Brutal and Full of Life

Noah Baumbach crafts a searingly intense and sometimes humorous examination of a very broken marriage.
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I'm not an expert on marriage, but seeing many films about it, I guess I can at least say that from my viewpoint, it can be quite the emotionally, mentally, and sometimes physically draining journey. There have been many films, including Faces, Kramer vs Kramer, Shoot the Moon, The Squid and the Whale, and most notably, Ingmar Bergman 1973's masterpiece, Scenes from a Marriage, that have put their own distinctive spin on the subject. I think it's safe to say that director Noah Baumbach's marvelous 2019 film, Marriage Story, is destined to join the ranks of highly accurate and piercingly

The World in His Arms Blu-ray Review: Swashbuckling Gregory Peck

A high-flying adventure on the high seas.
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Last week I watched three films that are part of Kino Lorber's ongoing Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema collection. After watching the first two, I threw in what I thought was the third film and laid back to watch it. Gregory Peck played a ship's captain come to port in 1850s San Francisco. It was a very jaunty film. He gets into a couple of fights, meets a girl, and wait a minute...this is a strange kind of film noir. Those types of films usually take place in the 1940s or 1950s. And this movie is awfully goofy

The Mad Fox Blu-ray Review: Kabuki-styled Cinematic Fantasia

Sometimes kabuki, sometimes animated, always fascinating, The Mad Fox is rife with political intrigue and forbidden romance.
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Tomu Uchida is not one of the big names of Japanese cinema in the West, even though he had been at the game from early in the 20th century - his first credits date to 1924. He's made movies, excellent movies, throughout his career, but only recently have they been coming to light on home video releases. That Uchida doesn't have more recognition is a deep shame because, on the basis of this and a few other of his film available now in the West, he may be one of the Japanese greats, able to stand with his contemporaries Ichikawa,

Murder by Decree (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Fogbound

A bland Sherlock Holmes seeks to unmask Jack the Ripper, in Bob Clark's sluggish and tame (but still fun) ensemble mystery.
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Murder by Decree is one of the better Sherlock Holmes movies. Directed by Bob Clark, it features an all-star cast. Christopher Plummer plays Sherlock Holmes and James Mason plays Dr. John H. Watson. As they become embroiled in the Jack the Ripper slayings, they follow the trail of blood to the highest echelons of political power. Along the way, Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland in perhaps the film's most effective supporting role) offers psychic counsel, and Holmes and Watson brush up against bureaucratic figures (Frank Finlay, David Hemmings, and Anthony Quayle) and folks from the London slums (Susan Clark plays Mary

This Island Earth Blu-ray Review: Highly Recommended for the Sci-fi Film Buff

Scream Factory has done impressive work with this title.
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Based on Raymond F. Jones's 1952 novel of the same name, which appeared in Thrilling Wonder Stories as a trilogy of novelettes: "The Alien Machine" (June 1949), "The Shroud of Secrecy" (December 1949), and "The Greater Conflict" (February 1950), This Island Earth is an iconic science fiction film, notable for its special effects. On July 9, 2019, Scream Factory released the film on Blu-ray from a new 4K scan. After a few unexplained technological incidents, scientist Dr. Cal Meacham (Rex Reason) is sent 2486 parts and coded instructions to build a device called an Interocitor. Unbeknownst to him, building the

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema IV Blu-ray Review: Too Much Melodrama, Not Enough Noir

These three films are decent enough dramas but lack the edge of a good film noir.
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For Part IV of their Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema series Kino Lorber Studio Classics is releasing three films from the late 1940s - mid 1950s that aren't exactly the type of film you think about when you want to watch a noir, but there is enough crime, enough stark black and white, and enough dark nights of the soul to call it that anyway. If nothing else, there's a young Tony Curtis being as charming as ever. Calcutta (1947) is an interesting blend of World War II-era exotic location drama mixed with touches of film noir. Alan

America as Seen by a Frenchman Blu-ray Review: A Fascinating Snapshot in Time

A glimpse into my country's past a viewed from a foreigner.
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I've been lucky enough to have done a bit of traveling in my life. I've lived in France, Belgium, and China. I've seen most of Western Europe, a good chunk of Eastern Europe, and bits and pieces of Asia. Wherever I go, I take a camera with me. I'm not a professional, nor an expert photographer but I enjoy the process and sometimes the result. I try to take lots of photos of different things. I hit the big landmarks of course. I have lots of photos of the Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China, Big Ben, etc., but

Solid Metal Nightmares: The Films of Shinya Tsukamoto Blu-ray Box Set Review

Arrow's impressive box set contains a whopping 10 films surveying the career of this film auteur.
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If you’ve seen one Tsukamoto film, you definitely haven’t seen them all, as evidenced by this amazing new box set that houses a dizzying sampling of the many different genres and film formats he has touched on in the past 30 years. As an independent film director, he has the freedom to pursue whatever tickles his fancy at any given time, and as a clearly restless creative force, the results of his experiments presented here are always rewarding. While he may still be best known in the U.S. for his early black-and-white industrial schlockfest Tetsuo: The Iron Man, the films

Blood Tide Blu-ray Review: Fun and Monsters in the Greek Sun

James Earl Jones quotes Shakespeare and conjures a barely seen monster in this masterpiece from Greek auteur Nico Mastorakis.
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Can I consider myself a fan of a filmmaker after hating one of his films, liking another one, and kind-of enjoying a third which he only produced? What if I watched a bunch of trailers for movies he made and that I haven't seen but got rather excited just thinking about them? If so, then consider me a fan of Nico Mastorakis, the Greek filmmaker who directed and/or produced a handful of goofy, low budget flicks in the 1980s. I wasn't at all fond of The Zero Boys, his action/horror hybrid that didn't exactly thrill (though I was impressed with

Inferno of Torture Blu-ray Review: Torsos, Tattoos, and Torture

Another in Teruo Ishii's series of films depicting sadistic practices in Japanese history, all of which involve disrobing women.
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Inferno of Torture is the third of Teruo Ishii's ero-guro (erotic grotesque) films that have recently been released by Arrow Video. Orgies of Edo and Yakuza Law were anthology films, each with three stories ostensibly about the brutal systems of torture used by, respectively, the ruling class and the criminal class. Made in the late '60s and early '70s, these films are framed as historical docu-dramas, but are in fact exploitation films with historical themes. Whatever the intent, the films themselves consist mainly as ways to display sado-masochistic soft-core pornography, punctuated with sequences of gruesome horror. More specifically, topless women

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

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

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,

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

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

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

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

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

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