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Versus (2000) Blu-ray Review: Samurai Zombie Yakuza Action

More than 20 years after its initial release, this wildly energetic Japanese action-horror film gets an extras packed release.
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Japanese cinema at the beginning of the 21st century was fun. There was an explosion of cinematic talent coming from the V-cinema scene (direct to video genre movies) and making a mark on the rest of the movie world, and it seems every week there was some new crazy trend or wildly prolific director that was coming suddenly to the fore. In those days before the great geek leveling of the mid-'00s to the '10s, where everything that used to be a geek concern suddenly stormed into the mainstream, it was wild to have genre mashups and crossovers. So while

Tourist Trap (VHS Retro Big Box Collection) Review: A Solid, Offbeat Flick

A late '70s cult horror gem with ideas, even if those ideas are not entirely successful.
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When it comes to the horror genre, there's always going to be the usual movies steeped in typical cliches, such as possessions, creepy children, zombies, etc. However, once in awhile, there are others that come out of nowhere and contain such originality, that they can get sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Tourist Trap (1979), directed by David Schmoeller, which is for better and/or worse, one of those films. As with most slasher films, the film starts off with a group of fun-loving youths (including Jocelyn Jones and the late Tanya Roberts) making one of the biggest mistakes characters usually

Cinema Paradiso Blu-ray Review: Heaven-Sent

Giuseppe Tornatore's wonderful tribute to cinema gets a terrific treatment from Arrow Academy.
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The winner for Best Foreign Language Film at the 1989 Golden Globes and Academy Awards ceremonies, and deservedly so, Cinema Paradiso is a terrific reminder as to why people go to the movies. It’s not just to see the latest from their favorite actor or director; it’s also to get the experience of watching it with others around you on the biggest screen possible with the best sound available. Granted, there are those who don’t have respect for others in the cinema and rain on their parade. But that doesn’t stop people from getting out and enjoying the latest release.

Three Films by Luis Buñuel Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Don's Swan Songs

Legendary director wraps up a five decade career with three impressive films
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As Luis Buñuel neared the end of his life, he swore each time he made a film that it would be his last, not because he wanted to quit, but because he feared dying before completion. Known as Don Luis to his crews and cast members, he reportedly made his sets welcoming, joyous environments, even as he grappled with his own mortality. Death factors into the plots of each of the films included in this new Criterion box set, but Buñuel’s wry comedic sensibilities ensure that the films never seem morbid, instead seemingly implying that life is but a farce.

Lupin III: The First Blu-ray Review: Lots of Fun

Lupin III's first foray into digital animation is a lovely looking, fun adventure for the family.
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Arsène Lupin the great master of disguise and gentleman thief was created by Maurice Leblanc in 1905. The character originally came to life through a series of short stories within a French magazine. Popularity pushed him into novels and over the last century or so he has been found in various manga series, television programs, movies, games, and more. In 1967, Japanese artist Monkey Punch created Lupin III, grandson of Arsène Lupin for a series of mangas. This character became hugely popular in its own right spawning its own multi-media empire. I first discovered the character via The Castle of

Honest Thief Blu-ray Review: Comfort Food for Crime Fans

If all one wants is to see Liam Neeson once again using his wits and his fists to come out on top, this will satisfy that urge.
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Honest Thief is a simple crime drama with a plot that resolves unsurprisingly as one who has viewed any of the recent spate of Liam Neeson-led action films, or most movies for that matter, would expect. But for those who like to see good guys triumph over bad guys, the script by director Mark Williams and Steve Allrich presents a satisfactory story. Tom Dolan (Neeson) has been dubbed the “In-and-Out Bandit,” a nickname he hates, because he is a successful bank robber, having stolen over $9 million in cash from 12 banks across 7 states. After dating Annie (Kate Walsh)

Crash (1996) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Anti-Erotic Film

Perhaps David Cronenberg's most controversial film, it details the progressively more dangerous world of car-crash fetishists.
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"Prophecy is dirty and ragged", says Vaughan, while complaining about the cleanliness of the tattoo he gets on his chest. It's of a steering wheel, part of his attempt connect himself, as much as possible, to the object of his sexual gratification, and obsession. He loves cars, but not when they drive. He loves them when they, as the film's title says so simply, Crash. Where Vaughan and his obsessions come from is obscure, but he becomes the central figure in the life James Ballard (James Spader) after he survives a car crash. The driver of the other car does

The Curse of Frankenstein (Two-Disc Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: A Landmark in Horror Is Reborn

The film that launched a horror franchise has been restored and remastered.
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As mentioned in the extras and as horror-film fans may be aware, the dominance of the Universal Monsters on the silver screen came to an end in the 1950s. The final entries in the long-running franchise were a Creature from the Black Lagoon trilogy and a couple of team-ups with Abbott Costello. Replacing them were a new wave of monsters that arrived from space or derived from atomic energy. The UK company Hammer Film Productions picked up the mantle that same decade, first with the science fiction horror film, The Quatermass Xperiment, then launching their Gothic horror franchise, starting with
Directed by William Wellman, this second film adaptation of P.C. Wren's 1924 adventure novel of the same name stars Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, Robert Preston as the three Geste brothers, Michael aka “Beau”, John, and Digby. The story's theme is revealed at the outset as the film opens with an Arabian proverb: “The love of a man for a woman waxes and wanes like the moon...but the love of brother for brother is steadfast as the stars and endures like the word of the prophet.” News of a large Arab attack on Fort Zinderneuf leads a column of French Foreign

The 2020 World Series Blu-ray Review: It's Time for Dodgers Baseball

Narrated by the legendary Vin Scully, the documentary presents highlights of the six games of the Fall Classic between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays.
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Major League Baseball presents The 2020 World Series, the official 85-minute documentary of the six-game series played between the Los Angeles Dodgers, who had won six of the previous 23 times that they played in the World Series, and the Tampa Bay Rays, who didn't win in their single previous appearance. Narrated by former Los Angeles Dodgers broadcaster, the legendary Vin Scully, who retired after 67 seasons in 2016, the documentary presents highlights of the six games of the Fall Classic held at Globe Life Field, home of the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, which opened in 2020. The neutral

The Harvey Girls Blu-ray Review: MGM Misses the Bullseye

The musical misses the mark, but is worth viewing for key contributions from Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Angela Lansbury
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Despite the top billing of mega-star Judy Garland and some pricey-looking location shooting and hundreds of extras, The Harvey Girls feels like a lesser MGM musical. Maybe it’s the Wild West setting, maybe it’s the lackluster story, or possibly it’s the poor fit of the unappealing leading man, John Hodiak, but for whatever reason the film just never really clicks, leaving a bunch of mostly appealing songs by Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren searching for a compelling reason to exist. That’s not to say the film is bad, it’s probably just best viewed as a musical revue rather than a

Tex Avery Screwball Classics Volume 2 Blu-ray Review: A Second Helping of Silliness

As with the previous volume, this is a must-own for animation fans.
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The Warner Archive Collection has released the second volume of their Tex Avery Screwball Classics line, bringing the total number of cartoons in this series up to 40 out of the 67 Avery directed during his time at MGM As mentioned in my review of Volume 1, “Avery first made a significant impact on the [animation] medium during his time at Warner Brothers” before he “signed on at MGM in 1941.” After a disclaimer about the ethnic and racial depictions contained within that were unfortunately common for the era, the 21 cartoons, are divided into four categories. It begins with

Popeye (1980) Blu-ray Review: A Strange Little Miracle

It is amazing this film ever got made and that it is actually good.
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That Popeye got made at all is a small wonder. That it is really quite wonderful is nothing short of miraculous. This was 1980, a time when comic book movies were barely a blip in anyone's radar. Superman had been a huge success in 1978 but that's pretty much it. Director Robert Altman had big successes with M*A*S*H and Nashville but most of his movies were critically acclaimed and box-office duds. His Hollywood outsider status and unusual directing style would presumably not make anyone automatically think of him as the guy to direct a musical based upon a comic strip

The Shop Around the Corner Blu-ray Review: An Example of Ernst Lubitsch's Genius

A still enchanting and emotionally grounded romantic comedy gem from one of the greatest directors of all-time.
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I don't have to tell you that legendary director Ernst Lubitsch remains one of the pioneers of the romantic-comedy genre of cinema. He always added his signature style and charm to every film he ever made. There is a reason why you still hear the phrase "the Lubitsch touch," especially in film circles. With his trademark humor, delicacy, and masterful way with words/dialogue, he was acclaimed to be a sheer influence by the likes of many iconic filmmakers, including Hitchcock, Welles, Truffaut, among others. He also wasn't afraid to bring some much-needed humanity and a sense of emotional realism to

Young Man with a Horn Blu-ray Review: Birth of the Cool

Kirk Douglas helps to start a sea change in the Hollywood status quo with this ultra-cool performance
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Kirk Douglas was a force in Hollywood for so many decades that it’s easy to forget that he was a struggling young actor at one point. Only a few years into his career, he landed his second top-billed role in this stirring drama, bringing effortless cool to the story of a rising jazz musician. With massive assists from legendary leading ladies Doris Day and Lauren Bacall, along with direction by Casablanca helmer Michael Curtiz, Douglas ushered in the 1950s with this genre-defying film, helping to move Hollywood from the era of formulaic musicals and superficial, slick actors to something with

Trading Places Blu-ray Review: A Comedic Look at Nature vs. Nurture

Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy team in this funny role-reversal story that's a throwback to the screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s.
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Paramount has recently released John Landis' Trading Places, a funny role-reversal story that's a throwback to the screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s, along with The Golden Child and 4K Ultra editions of Coming to America and Beverly Hills Cop. The Duke brothers, Randolph and Mortimer (Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche), are wealthy commodity brokers and terrible people. After disagreeing about whether heredity or environment is a prevailing factor in a person's life, they wager on trading the places of Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd), an esteemed employee at the Dukes' brokerage firm, and street hustler Billy Ray Valentine

The Golden Child Blu-ray Review: A Classic Callback to When Films Were Fun

A perfect blend of comedy and action staring Eddie Murphy.
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Once upon a time, in a century past, during a decade called the Eighties, there was a legendary man who was no mere mortal. He was loved by millions for his edgy comedic style. But not only was he known for his standup comedy, but he also starred in some of the most famous sketches on a television show called Saturday Night Live. As he blossomed into stardom a small television show could no longer contain his immense talents and the silver screen beckoned him away. In that magical place his celebrity intensified as he became the biggest box-office star

The Irishman (2019) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Welcome Addition to Martin Scorsese's Filmography

It's what it is: a fitting bookend to his gangster films.
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Martin Scorsese's epic The Irishman makes a fitting bookend to his gangster films as one mobster tells his story while living out his twilight days at a retirement home, alone because of the life chosen and the decisions made. The film is also poignant because it's likely the last fans will get to see the trio of Scorsese and actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together telling a story of such scale and scope, if not the last story they tell as Pesci had to be coaxed out of retirement. The titular character is Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a

The Pirate Blu-ray Review: Choppy Seas Lead to Treasure

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland struggle to right this listing ship
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On paper, this classic musical has everything going for it. Headlined by the top-tier star pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, with songs by Cole Porter and direction by Vincente Minnelli, it’s a dream team of talent that seems like a guaranteed hit. So why is it barely known today? Well, to the creators' credit, they tried to do something unique with the pirate theme, but to their detriment, it doesn’t really work out. Still, it’s a glorious, over-the-top mess stuffed with superb production numbers and a mercilessly mugging Kelly setting the standard for flamboyant screen pirates decades before

I Spit on Your Grave Box Set Review: Mainly for Hardcore Fans of Cult/Horror Films

Ronix Flix pulls out all the stops for a still notorious 1978 cult classic with a collection that may be a must-have, depending on your tastes.
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If you discuss some of the most controversial films ever made, Meir Zarchi's 1978 still-divisive, cult-classic I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) should always come up at some point. It's one of those definitive love-it-or-hate-it movies that refuses to lay down and die. Whatever your viewpoint is about its merits (which it actually has), it continues to have a life, even after 42 years. Because of its eventual resurgence, especially as a feminist statement, it has spawned a franchise, which includes a 2010 remake (that has its own sequels, from 2013 & 2015) and its own

Jonny Quest: The Complete Original Series Blu-ray Review: 26 Thrilling, Boys' Adventures

The Blu-ray from Warner Archive delivers satisfying high-definition video that will please long-time fans and should help attract new ones.
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Originally running from September 18, 1964-March 11, 1965, Jonny Quest is an animated, science fiction/adventure series from Hanna-Barbera Productions. It was created by artist Douglas S. Wildey at the behest of the studio when they couldn't get the rights to create an adaptation of the popular radio drama, Jack Armstrong, the All-American Boy. The TV series presents 26 thrilling boys' adventures set around the world in the (then) near future. In the first episode, “The Mystery of the Lizard Men,” the main characters are introduced: the 11-year-old titular character (Tim Matheson); his widowed father, scientist Dr. Benton Quest (voiced by

Stargirl: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: A Stellar Season

Although there's been a glut of superhero TV shows the past few years, Stargirl feels fresh and is executed so well on all fronts.
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. Based on the comic book character created by writer Geoff Johns and artist Lee Moder, the Stargirl gang made their first appearance, briefly, in the Arrowverse crossover event, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," before the debut of their stellar 13-episode season, which aired on the DC Universe streaming service and the CW. The series opens with a flashback to ten years ago when the Justice Society lost a major defeat at the hands

5-Movie Collection from the Written Works of Stephen King Blu-ray Review

Most of the high-def presentations will satisfy fans of the modern-day King of horror.
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This collection packages five Paramount movies based on the writing of Stephen King. They are David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983) based on the 1979 novel, Dan Attias's Silver Bullet (1985) based on the 1983 novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Mary Lambert's Pet Sematary (1989) and Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer's 2019 remake based on the 1983 novel, and Mick Garris' The Stand (1994) TV miniseries based on the 1978 novel. In addition, King wrote the screenplays for Silver Bullet, Pet Sematary (1989), and The Stand. I haven't read any of the original stories so can't comment on their adaptation

The Hit Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Gem of Film by Stephen Frears

A highly overlooked crime drama full of delicious slow burns and ideas.
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The action film always comes with cliches, meaning that they usually contain car chases, explosions, and non-stop action. Sometimes these elements can taint and drag films of the crime drama category into the realm of familiarity and unoriginality. Thankfully, this is not the case with acclaimed director Stephen Frears' early 1984 effort The Hit, which relies more on character drive and often offbeat palpability. Inspired by a true story of an armed robber turned stool pigeon, the film stars Terence Stamp as Willie Parker, a gangster's henchman turned "supergrass" (informer) who rats out his fellow mobsters. Ten years later, while

Cold Light of Day (1989) Blu-ray Review: Portrait of a British Serial Killer

Obscure British serial killer film details the grubby life of a real life (if slightly fictionalized) murderer.
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Obscure, cheap, short, and brutal, Cold Light of Day is a surprising discovery of British cinema. Shot on 16mm, the occasionally extremely grainy footage matches the grubbiness of the sets, the characters, and the entire sordid story. Inspired by real life British serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who may have murdered as many as 17 young men, chopping up their bodies and keeping various pieces of them on his property, Cold Light of Day opens with the murderer, here called Jorden March, being caught by the police. There's no struggle or fight - they knock on his door, he comes with.

Parasite (2019) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Rich Fam, Poor Fam

Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning drama gets the Criterion treatment.
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One of the hardest things for a filmmaker to do is blend multiple genres together and do it so seamlessly. The balance of tone and mood can drastically shift once it makes its way from one focus to another, and that tends to lead some films on a downward spiral. But the way Bong Joon-ho handles his latest film, Parasite, is so unique. The blending of dark satire and tense drama is masterful. Bong takes a topic with which he’s familiar (class inequality) and turns it into something that is wonderfully helmed and feels like new territory. Parasite tells the

The Deeper You Dig Blu-ray Review: A Terrific Low-budget Horror

A perfect addition to your Halloween viewing schedule.
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In a small, dark bar, in a small New York hamlet, Kurt (John Adams) eats a grubby little dinner and has a few too many beers. It is snowing and pitch-black when he drives home. He swerves to miss a few deer, running across the road and then hears a bump bump. He's hit something. That something turns out to be 14-year-old Echo (Zelda Adams), who was out sledding. Kurt is visually upset, he's not a psychopath after all, but he's also been around. He knows the score. If he calls the cops, they'll give him a drunk test and

The Gunfighter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Price of Fame

A film deserving of recognition thanks to a story that could be told in any genre and a great leading performance by Gregory Peck.
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Set in the Southwest Territory of the 1880s, a Texan named Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) was known the fastest gun. While this designation has earned him respect, it also causes some to fear him and others to test the legend, a burden that The Gunfighter carries in Henry King's taut western. While en route to Cayenne, Ringo stops off at a saloon. A kid named Eddie (Richard Jaeckel) starts running his mouth. Ringo tries to avoid a confrontation but is forced to kill him. Even though he was in the right, it is suggested he leave town because the kid

Graveyards of Honor Blu-ray Review: Grim Yakuza Renegade Dramas

Two adaptations of the same novel, made decades apart, about a yakuza too violent and self-destructive even for gang-life.
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Both Kinji Fukasaku and Takashi Miike were unlikely survivors in their different eras of Japanese cinema. They both were highly prolific, and rare among their peers when the fortunes of the Japanese film industry turned for the worse, they kept working, pivoting into different genres and styles. Fukasaku worked steadily through the '70s and '80s when many of his peers fell by the wayside, and though Miike by all rights ought to have burned out with his amazing productivity (over 100 feature films in three decades of filmmaking, sometimes more than five in a single year) he's still going strong.

The Captains Collection Blu-ray Review: Exploring Star Trek with William Shatner

These films take viewers behind the scenes and also puts them in the spotlight as the original Captain Kirk examines the cultural phenomenon.
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The Captains Collection is a four-disc set from Shout Factory! that presents four Star Trek-related documentaries written and directed by William Shatner for the EPIX cable channel. These films take viewers behind the scenes and also puts them in the spotlight as the original Captain Kirk examines the cultural phenomenon. The Captains (2011) finds Shatner interviewing actors who followed in his footsteps portraying starship captains in the Star Trek franchise: Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard, The Next Generation), Avery Brooks (Benjamin Sisko, Deep Space Nine), Kate Mulgrew (Catherine Janeway, Voyager), Scott Bakula (Jonathan Archer, Enterprise), and Chris Pine (James Kirk, Star

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