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My Old Lady Blu-ray Review: or, Secrets & Lies: The Previous Generations

Aging author/playwright Israel Horovitz finally makes his feature film directorial debut. But is he too late in doing so?
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In this great big muddled world of ours, we seem to be divided into large groups of individuals. On the one side, you have picky people who will dispiritingly say that you cannot teach an old dog a brand new trick. And then there are those seemingly rare factions of folks who will encouragingly state that it is never too late to learn. My Old Lady, the indie feature from 2014 starring Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Maggie Smith, seems to fall somewhere in the middle of that. For here, author/playwright Israel Horovitz (creator of both Author! Author! and

The Bride Wore Black (1968) Blu-ray Review: The Roots of '70s Grindhouse Cinema

Fran├žois Truffaut's homage to Hitchcock makes a stunning Blu-ray debut from Twilight Time.
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While it is frequently reiterated that we are unable to take it with us, it should be noted that we do manage to take some of it along into the next life. No, I'm not attempting to wax some fruity spiritualism on you here (that's a job for those weird people handing out pamphlets in parking lots to tackle), I'm actually referring to things such as fashion and entertainment. As each craze fades out, it carries a little bit with it over into the new (usually worse) fad. In the world of music, we witnessed punk music (the real kind,

A Walk Among The Tombstones Blu-ray review: Somber, Slow Detective Throwback

This adaptation of Lawrence Block's alcoholic detective series is true to the character, maybe to a fault.
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Looking at the trailer for A Walk Among The Tombstones, one would be forgiven for assuming it is a Liam Neeson movie. That is, about man with a particular set of skills. Terrorists (or just murderers, here) being killed. Action mayhem, a hero who will stop at nothing. But this movie, an adaptation of Lawrence Block's novel, the tenth in his series featuring recovering alcoholic and recovering police detective Matt Scudder, is by no means an action movie. It involves no revenge (at least not for the main character). It involves no obession. Central to Scudder's character in his work

Atlas Shrugged Part III Blu-ray Review: Fool's Gold

Producer John Aglialoro completes his quixotic quest to adapt Ayn Rand's epic novel to the screen.
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The final act of this unlikely trilogy spotlights a strong-willed individual who ignores public opinion and forges ahead with his own vision. That’s John Galt, the messianic character of the work, but also John Aglialoro, the financier behind the entire endeavor. Operating far outside of the studio system and critical approval, Aglialoro here completes the daunting task of bringing author Ayn Rand’s magnum opus to the screen. That in itself is a measure of success, albeit the only success the film is likely to experience. If you’ve been following along with the prior installments (Part I and Part II), it

Breaking Away (1979) Blu-ray Review: How Kids Grew Up Before the Internet

Quite possibly the only movie in history to partly focus on cycling and not suck in the process.
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Following the near collapse of the American film industry somewhere between the end of the '60s and the beginning of the '70s - a semi-catastrophe brought on (mostly) thanks to lavishly over-budget and egotistical studio productions, a war in Vietnam, and something the history books refer to as the "Hippie Movement" - the few folks who were still going to the picture show seemed to demand more realism. That, or the once lavish budgets that used to be handed out to filmmakers at the drop of a hat, and which were now being frequently slashed by some now very nervous

The Purple Rose of Cairo Blu-ray Review: When Worlds Collide

Twilight Time continues its legacy of giving a damn about Woody Allen's classic, truly good movies.
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As a reasonably mature adult male who has been involved in an unending war with depression and mood swings since he was but a wee lad, I know how easy it is to seek solace from the cinema. To find a sense of purpose within the imaginary realms as designed by far-greater dreamers. I have danced the same steps as timeless American icons Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I have romantically wooed the jaw-dropping charms of international B movie actresses like Barbara Bouchet and Margaret Lee. Espionage? Exploration? Elimination? I've done it all just by becoming immersed in a movie,

The Party (1968) Blu-ray Review: Psychedelic Comedy of Errors

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers team up for a subversive, slightly racist classic.
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We open on a desert film set, the high-strung director—played with ‘look at me, Ma’ gusto by eternal character actor Herb Ellis—appears over budget and out of time in constructing his latest, Gunga-Din style epic. There’s elaborate sets and high priced explosives, an expanse of extras to coordinate and Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bumbling Indian character actor hot off the Bollywood Express. He’s here to goof it all up, infuriating the extras until they turn their guns on him on like a prop armored firing squad. Bakshi manages to make it through the shoot, pun intended, until the last day

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power Blu-ray Review: "The Search for More Money"

Thoroughly mindless entertainment. Minus the whole "entertainment" part.
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A few years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing the last movie in Universal's Scorpion King legacy (which was itself a secondary subsidiary to the studio's ongoing attempt at burying Stephen Sommers' career, and was something that officially started immediately after he made his debut film with 1989's Catch Me If You Can). Fortunately, I don't remember a single solitary frame of the previous entry. In fact, I had to look up an old review of mine (published elsewhere) just to make sure that I actually did see it; it was that memorable. Well, once more, the powers that

Wetlands (2013) Blu-ray Review: Filth Presented as Frankness

German director David Wnendt's misguided and NSFW tale of filthy femininity finds its on to Blu-ray.
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I’ve seen plenty of repugnant films, the kind that shock for the sake of shocking. I’m not just talking Death the Ultimate Horror either, an hour-long collage of real-life murders, mishaps, and violent pratfalls set to the unrelenting pummel of speed metal. They bore a morbid fascination for me at seventeen, the same sick and twisted attraction driving teenagers into the arms of GG Allin or to the midnight cinema for Spike & Mike’s. No, I’m thinking more of Catherine Breillat’s stark explorations on female sexuality, or a certain coming-of-age pie-screwer, or Jackass, or Harmony Korine’s Gummo—easily one of the

Left Behind (2014) Blu-ray Review: Ungodly in Every Sense of the Word

A movie about people who are lost made by people who couldn't find their asses with both hands and flashlights.
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Reaching out to a target audience with a speciality motion picture is never an easy task, particularly when said target audience is intelligent or - at the very least - has expectations that scale only slightly above "public access TV production values." First, let's turn back the clock a bit to the original filmic adaptation of Left Behind (subtitled The Movie, in case its target audience was unable to distinguish the difference between a paperback book and a videocassette - which certainly wasn't insulting to their intelligence in any way) from 2000 starring former teen heartthrob-turned-evangelist Kirk Cameron. Based on

Archer (Vice): The Complete Season Five Blu-ray Review: Smugglers' Blues

With season five, Archer continued to be one of the funniest shows going.
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As the season-five premiere, "White Elephant," opens, show creator Adam Reed creates a perfect visual metaphor. Life for the ISIS team is comfortable and serene, like many TV shows entering their fifth season. But Reed is not going to coast and continue to give viewers the same old show, evidenced by the ISIS offices getting blown up before the episode's opening credits. Turns out Malory (Jessica Walters) never got sanctioned by the U.S. government to conduct espionage operations, making the adventures of the past four seasons even funnier without altering them, and they get hauled in by the FBI. She

The Vanishing (1988) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Thriller as Character Study

A woman's disappearance creates a terrible bond between the man who took her, and the one who lost her.
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The missing person is the greatest motif of the mystery story. Even if the murder story is more common (and perhaps the majority of missing-person stories become murder stories in the fullness of time) the missing-person story contains more questions: not just who did it, but what did they do? What really happened? Is the missing person dead, captured, tortured, or did they even just leave of their own accord? The relationship between the missing and those looking for them can be complicated and fascinating. In one line of The Vanishing, Rex Hofman, after years of looking for the long-missing

"Rebel, Rebel": Six Tales of Defiance from Twilight Time

From Streisand to Stone, controversies to conniving, this sextet offers it all.
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Since the dawn of mankind itself, there have been notable examples of individuals willing to break any rules that have been established, question whatever authority may be in command, and just try to have a good time in general - especially when it's all-but forbidden to do so. And that motif of rebellious folk is in fine form in the latest collection of movies from Twilight Time. Released in late December, this batch of six films ranges from highly acclaimed classics to somewhat forgotten features from yesteryear, as directed by the likes of Stanley Kramer, Oliver Stone, Mike Nichols, and

Holiday in Spain Blu-ray Review: Scent of a Mystery Woman

With so much work invested into a weird little gimmick flick starring Denholm Elliott and Peter Lorre, what's there not to love?
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Three-dimensional television sets with Ultra High-Definition 4K resolution. A kajllion-and-one useless apps for our increasingly useless smartphones. A vast array of challenging social networks that only go to make people vastly socially-challenged. With some new revolutionary thing we allegedly cannot live without coming 'round the bend every other week, it's easy to not fully realize we live in a world that is literally littered with nothing more than a shitload of gimmicks. More than half a century ago, studios and distributors alike were also worried the public might soon stoop so low as to pick up a book and learn
Warner Archive continues its release of Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Blu-ray with The Complete Second Season. The 26 episodes are presented on two discs, making them easier to find than when they debuted over 18 months between November 20, 2009 to April 8, 2011. For those unfamiliar with this series, let me quote my review of The Complete First Season: Created between The WB's The Batman and Cartoon Network's Beware the Batman, The Brave and the Bold teams Batman (Diedrich Bader) with different heroes, just like the DC Comics book series of the same name

Horns Blu-ray Review: Daniel Radcliffe Can Still Talk to Snakes

The real reason to see Horns, of course, is for Daniel Radcliffe, who is quite good as Ig, American accent, horns, and all.
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Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) met the love of his life, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), when they were just children, and the two fell in love and shared everything together. Their romance seems idyllic, until one night when Merrin is found dead, the victim of a brutal rape and murder. Ig finds himself the prime suspect, his town, friends, and even most of his family shunning him. The heartbroken Ig maintains his innocence, to deaf ears. And then, as the opening line of the novel by Joe Hill states, after he "spent the night drunk and doing terrible things," Ig wakes

The Skeleton Twins Blu-ray Review: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Are Fantastic Centerpieces

Twins are reunited after ten years of estrangement and begin down a road that changes them both forever.
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The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as twin siblings, Milo and Maggie, who have not spoken to one another in 10 years. The two are reunited after Milo attempts suicide and the phone call from the hospital interrupts Maggie's own attempt. She flies from New York to Los Angeles to be by his bedside, but he asks her to return home and tries to downplay the attempt. Sensing that Milo is not being honest with himself or with her, Maggie stays and convinces him to come to New York to stay with her and her husband Lance

The Doors: Feast of Friends Blu-ray Review: Strange Days Revisited

A good meal for new fans; a familiar one for long-timers.
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Hitting the vaults once again, The Doors and Eagle Rock Entertainment have re-teamed for Feast of Friends, a short film the band self-produced about their life on the road while touring in the summer of 1968. Having only played at a few film festivals previously, this first official release of Feast of Friends (HD, 39 min) has been "restored from the original negative...color-corrected and cleaned in high definition with the soundtrack totally remixed and remastered by Bruce Botnick." The band's music has been paired with visuals of them in concert and between gigs, creating a longform document of those moments

The Night Porter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Nazi Love Story

Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
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Normally I’d say that the space between True Art and exploitation is wide and wandering, but if The Night Porter teaches us anything, it's that the line is actually pretty thin. It's story is pure sleaze - A Nazi SS officer reunites with his former concentration-camp prisoner thirteen years after the war. A sadomasochistic love affair ensues. But in the hands of director Liliana Cavani, it becomes something more - a meditation on love, guilt, and redemption. It reminds me a bit of Boxcar Bertha, a typical Roger Corman B-Grade flick elevated by the talents and artistic brilliance of a

Guardians of the Galaxy Blu-ray Review: A Star-Lord is Born

They're the heroes the universe deserves.
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The executives and filmmakers at Marvel Studios have made an impressive impact on both the world of pop culture and the business of Hollywood. Superheroes have become more prominent across the media landscape and other studios are trying to create shared universes with their properties. For example, Warner Brothers with DC Comics characters, and Universal with classic movie monsters. Marvel took their biggest risk to date with this summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, a space adventure featuring an obscure group of characters starring Chris Pratt, a sitcom second banana in the lead. With James Gunn at the helm as director/co-writer,
Peter Jackson continues The Hobbit trilogy with The Desolation of Smaug, an action-packed fantasy adventure that improves upon the previous installment, which suffered from sluggish pacing due to non-essential scenes. It also has the advantage of being the middle part of the story so it doesn't have to introduce the majority of main characters and it doesn't have to offer an ending, since leaving characters in precarious situations is enough. However, there's so much packed into it, like An Unexpected Journey, it feels more like Jackson is creating a miniseries intended to be watched in amounts of one's choosing at

Stonehearst Asylum Blu-ray Review: Might Make Poe Proud

It's pretty good right up until it tries too hard.
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Coming this week to a retailer near you is Stonehearst Asylum, a 19th Century thriller of sorts from Brad Anderson, the man behind such films as The Machinist, The Call, Transsiberian, and Session 9. Stonehearst is based on the short story "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" by Edgar Allan Poe. The film begins in Oxford, UK in 1899 with a demonstration of eliciting a psychotic response in a patient for instructional purposes. This scene hints at the barbaric practices of treating the insane that are nowadays considered heinous and foul and "how did we think that was

Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series Blu-ray Review: Perhaps Even the Best

As the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi is off to a roaring start in the brilliant new series.
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With the Blu-ray release of Doctor Who: The Complete Eighth Series, it is clear that the beloved Doctor is on a historic roll. While there have been highs and lows since the 2005 re-boot of Doctor Who, something very special has been going on in the past couple of years. Part of this has been the excitement over the 50th anniversary, which was in November 2013. But even bigger was the appointment of Steven Moffat as showrunner. With The Sopranos, David Chase turned the story of a New Jersey mafia boss into a parable of turn-of-the-millennium America. With the eighth

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition Blu-ray Review: Peter Jackson Goes Back Again

The director returns to Middle-earth with mixed results.
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Filmmaker Peter Jackson returned to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, the first part of an intended trilogy based on the author’s 1937 fantasy novel. Considering a few recent book-to-film franchises had increased their ratios, it wasn’t a surprise when news broke that The Hobbit would be turned into two movies. However, when the announcement came that the material would be expanded into three movies, many fans were puzzled how it would work being stretched so thin. For many, myself included, it didn’t work well, especially when inevitably compared to Jackson’s Lord of the Rings

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) Blu-ray Review: Shades of Gray

The Warner Archive Collection breathes new life into the innovative classic.
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While it certainly wasn't the first motion picture adaptation of the Oscar Wilde classic, MGM's 1945 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray did have the honor of not only being the first feature-length American version of the tale, as well as the first to employ the use of color when black-and-white was the norm (during the war, even). Fortunately, Albert Lewin's masterpiece does so sparingly. Reserving the bulk of his (black-and-white) stock so that cinematographer Harry Stradling may deliver some truly atmospheric noir-like (and Oscar winning) photography, Lewin then dazzles viewers with four very brief - but simplistically powerful

When the Wind Blows (1986) Blu-ray Review: Wild is the Wind

So, anyone for a nuclear holocaust, then?
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Not many people may remember this, but there was a lot of nuclear war going back in the '80s. Big time. All over the place! Tensions between the various powers in the east and the west began to swelter, and James Bond and many other agents from the free(er) parts of the world were rushed into action. Sometimes they succeeded, making the way for artists like Rita Coolidge to gain a hit single out of the deal in the process. Other times, however, things failed with the utmost of (in)efficiency. The world was destroyed, time and time again, inevitably paving

The Twilight Samurai (Tasogare Seibei) Blu-ray Review: Ex-Swordsman Blues

Wait, THIS lost to "The Barbarian Invasions"? THIS?!
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It's always interesting to see the similarities between samurai films and the western. Both genres have served to inspire filmmakers from either corner of the world intermittently over the years. Sergio Leone adapted the spaghetti western classic (For) A Fistful of Dollars from Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo - a tale that itself borrowed elements from an American film noir, The Glass Key. Likewise, The Seven Samurai became The Magnificent Seven, while Sergio Corbucci's cult classic Django (the real one, kids) and just about every other influential European western eventually wound up receiving an Eastern treatment in Takashi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django.

The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears Blu-ray Review: Bizarre, Incomprehensible, and Mesmerizing

A hallucinatory fever dream of a film that is surprising, strange and wonderful.
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After watching The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, you’ll probably have a lengthy discussion with your viewing partner about style versus substance. That is if your partner hasn’t fallen asleep or left the theatre in a rage. It's the sort of film that will likely sharply divide its audiences. It's either a beautifully poetic, deeply intellectual masterpiece or pretentious trash depending on who you ask. The story for what there is (and what there is is very little) concerns a man, Dan (Klaus Tange), who comes home from a business trip to find his apartment door locked from the

Flaming Star Blu-ray Review: Hunka Hunka Burning Death

Elvis Presley's best performance? Well, if such a thing was ever possible, this is most assuredly it.
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It wasn't until earlier this year, when Twilight Time released the happy, family-friendly flick Follow That Dream to Blu-ray, that I finally, willingly [citation needed] sat through an entire Elvis Presley film from beginning to end. Even then, I had to occasionally resist the urge to lift up my couch in order to read the fine print on those labels that tell me not to remove them just so I could keep my spirits up. And that is probably because there is this weird misconception about Elvis movies ingrained into my head (which is a fairly common credence that could

Judgment at Nuremberg Blu-ray Review: Picking Up the Pieces

Stanley Kramer's powerhouse post-World War II courtroom drama gets another chance to shock and delight via Twilight Time.
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We've all heard the saying "War is Hell" a million times over. Hell, there are probably over a million films that have been manufactured from all corners of the world throughout the last millennia or so that have done their very best to convey this message unto viewers. Sometimes, these stories serve as clever warning devices to remind mankind of its own mortality (and immaturity, despite its age). Other times, you just wind up with a great big mess of a cheap exploitation flick on your hands. And then there are those rare, infrequently-made movies that look past the conflicts

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