In the mid 1970s, producer Ely Landau created a subscription-based film series that attempted to recreate a theater experience at the movies. He called it "The American Film Theater." He used 500 or so movie theaters to sell subscriptions to a series of films, all of which were cinematic adaptations of renowned plays. They were to be translated to film but with a complete faithfulness to the original play script. He hired critically acclaimed directors and actors to make the films, which were only shown four times in the specific theaters. Subscriptions for each season were sold by mail-order. It
Recently in Blu-ray
A cinematic adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning play performed by award-winning actors shouldn't be this dull.
In addition to the laughs, the story has heart and works for the whole family.
I try to be open-minded about movies before I see them, but like Osgood Fielding III said in Some Like It Hot, “nobody's perfect,” so in the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I was a huge skeptic when I first heard that a LEGO movie was being made. It just seemed like a calculated corporate decision by the studio to maximize merchandising by bringing a two-hour toy catalog to life. And while there was certainly merchandising to be had, it turned out that the filmmakers had created an entertaining, inventive comedy with impressive visuals and a story with
A great example of late-'70s urban cinema, Eyes of Laura Mars is an involving thriller, taking advantage of its New York City and New Jersey locations.
In 1978 hairdresser-turned movie mogul Jon Peters bought a murder-mystery screenplay, Eyes of Laura Mars, for his then-girlfriend, Barbra Streisand. She turned it down. She thought the screenplay about a photographer who stages controversial, sexy, violent fashion shoots (a la Helmut Newton) was a bit much for her, but she did agree to sing the film's theme song, "Prisoner." The elaborate photo sessions in the film featuring lingerie- and evening dress-clad models (including Darlanne Fluegel) staged in front of car wrecks in the middle of Columbus Circle that are attributed to Laura were taken by Newton and commercial director Rebecca
Younger movie goers will like that most of the action and story focuses on its young actors.
The Kid Who Would Be King is a modern take on the King Arthur legend. Directed by Joe Cornish (Attack the Block), based on an idea that he had as a kid, the film wants to have fun with its source material, and be sure that you will, too. Fans of Arthurian legend will appreciate all the references to the original story: Excalibur, the Sword in the Stone; the Lady of the Lake, the rivalry between Merlin and Morgana, etc. Younger moviegoers will like that most of the action and story focuses on its young actors. Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis,
This rote sci-fi horror thriller from a former master has some good ideas that it does nothing with.
The hero of John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars is introduced asleep and handcuffed to a train. It seems like an apt metaphor for the entire film itself - tired, uninspired, and forced to move forward on a rail. Unsurprisingly, it was while making this film that John Carpenter decided he had better things to do than make movies he didn't like, and he mostly turned his back on the film industry since, with only three projects directed by him in the nine years following, and none since 2011's The Ward. John Carpenter's films have always had firm grasps on the
The legendary anime director emerges from retirement once again, with a documentary crew in tow exploring whether he's still the master or just chasing an old man's folly.
Workaholic anime legend Hayao Miyazaki has “retired” so many times after completing difficult films that each announcement is met with a great deal of public bemusement. However, after the completion of his last feature film in 2013, The Wind Rises, and the virtual shuttering of his Studio Ghibli production offices, it appeared like his retirement might have a better-than-average chance of success. This documentary opens in that fallow period after his latest retirement, as he whiles away his days puttering around his house and bemoaning his increasing age. It’s an odd choice of timeframe for a documentary, until Miyazaki suddenly
A musical biopic that avoids the typical beats of the genre.
You may not know the name Blaze Foley, and that’s OK. A lot of other people - myself included - had never heard of the late singer-songwriter until Ethan Hawke decided to bring his story to the big screen. And while he may not have the same name recognition as someone like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard, some popular songs by those artists and others were initially sung and/or written by Foley. It’s doubtful that Foley will become a household name now with this movie, but those unaware of his musical prowess can now experience the true story of the
Not only as entertaining as the previous films in the series, it's arguably the most entertaining.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has added to their roster Special Edition Blu-ray releases of the first four Road pictures starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, making the first six of the seven movies now available from them. Road to Morocco (1943) is the third in the series and not only sees the return of the acting trio but screenwriters Frank Butler and Don Hartman with an original screenplay and Anthony Quinn back playing their nemesis. Director David Butler joins them for his only time as the franchise returns to the African continent. A freighter explodes off the coast
Although the collection sees a higher rate of recycling ideas with the end of the original production run near, the cartoons presented still provide a lot of laughs.
As mentioned in my past reviews of past volumes, Friz Freleng was an instrumental figure in animation history because of his work on Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. He and producer David H. DePatie went on to form DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Kino Lorber Animation has been releasing that company's work on Blu-ray. After a few years of creating theatrical Pink Panther cartoons, DePatie-Freleng brought them to television with The Pink Panther Show, which premiered on NBC on September 6, 1969. DePatie-Freleng resumed producing theatrical shorts again in 1971. The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Volume 5 presents 22 cartoons, including
This giallo/poliziotteschi has too much confusing plot and not enough style to be interesting to anyone but fans of the genres.
Following the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Italian cinema was awash in lurid crime stories with baroque titles featuring one animal or another. The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire came out about one year after Argento’s quintessential giallo, and it's clearly aping some of that films tropes while also blending in Poliziotteschi crime elements. It has a masked killer, graphic violence, and lurid sexuality, but it's told in a much more conventional way without the typical giallo camera flourishes and wild color schemes. It is much more centered on the crime, catching the killer,
Takashi Miike's sci-fi adventure on Mars should have stayed on Earth a little longer.
Japanese director Takashi Miike is probably best known for his ultra-violent splatter films like Ichi the Killer and Audition. Or perhaps for his deviant, bizarre films such as Visitor Q (featuring incest, rape, and something known as lactation sex) or MPD Psycho (about a detective with multiple-personality disorder working on a case in which the killer makes flower pots out of severed heads). But with over 100 films to his name, he’s made films in nearly every genre including westerns, samurai flicks, and even a family film or two. Not all of them are great, in fact quite a few
Salacious 1970s giallo is quite dull despite being packed full of sex and violence.
There are certain expectations that come with genre films. What is a genre except a set of criteria that help define different types of films? Once in a while, a film will come along that is so inventive, so creative that it breaks free of a genre’s expectations which then sets the standard for all films in that genre that come after it. When a film is so inventive, it sometimes creates its own subgenre. Afterwards, many subsequent films try to imitate the first film's success with diminishing returns. Eventually what was inventive becomes cliche and films can slip into
Trilogy of very silly spy films from France features one of the country's most famous characters.
Fantômas was originally first created in 1911 by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre. He appeared in some 43 stories over a period of about 50 years. He is one of the most famous fictional characters in France. He’s appeared in multiple movie, television, and comic-book adaptations and has influenced countless works in the century since he first appeared on the page. In the 1960s, a trilogy of films was released starring Jean Marais as Fantômas and directed by André Hunebelle. They were France’s answer to the success of the James Bond films. Kino Lorber has just released the trilogy in
Low-budget 1980s horror flick waits until the end to get interesting, but by then it is too late.
A little free critical advice to anyone planning to make a low-budget horror film: don’t put all of your money, your scares, and inventiveness into the last twenty minutes of the movie. You might think you need to have a grand finale so that your audience leaves the theatre with a bang, but if they are bored for the first half, they might not stick around to see what crazy stuff you can throw at them in the end. Richard Friedman (the auteur behind such classics as Doom Asylum and various episodes of Silk Stalkings and Baywatch Nights) did not
An intimate look at Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's return from retirement to make a short CGI film.
Hayao Miyazaki has announced his retirement several times throughout his career, but in 2013 it looked like he meant it. Studio Ghibli, the anime studio formed by Hayao and his mentor/producer/competitor Isao Takahata, where he made classics like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, closed the doors of its production office, and disbanded the staff. Miyazaki was apparently done, leaving behind him a legacy of quality that's unrivaled in most of filmmaking, let alone animated films. But the recent announcement that both Hayao and his son Goro Miyazaki are producing feature films with the studio has made it
A ridiculous, fun '80s horror sci-fi flick about a man-eating alien brain with hypnotic powers.
There are levels to shlock. And inside many a terrible movie, there are seeds of interest and enjoyment. The Brain is, by most metrics, a terrible movie. Mediocre acting, a rather inert story, a screenplay that does not add up. But it has, at least for its first hour before it runs out of ideas, an assured craziness that makes it worth a watch. It is not a subtle film - we see the titular Brain in the first couple of shots, sitting in a vat of unidentifiable goo. Then we get the traditional horror movie opener: the shock death
S. Craig Zahler's latest film is loaded with controversy, designed to trigger pretty much everyone, but it's also really good.
Director S. Craig Zahler is a provocateur who loves both ‘70s genre conventions and pissing off at least half his intended audience. In interview after interview, he’ll tell you that isn’t true, that he just writes interesting characters and lets them say and do what they will, but with three films under his belt (Bone Tomahawk, Brawl in Cell Block 99, and this one) and everyone one of them courting controversies, it is hard to take him at his word. With Dragged Across Concrete, he’s mixing racism and misogyny with his usual brand of extreme violence. Add to that mix
Franco Nero stars in this later-period spaghetti western that's got a lot of style, and little else.
With his Dollars trilogy, Sergio Leone revived the failing western genre, infused it with European sensibilities, and created his own subgenre, the Spaghetti Western. With their scruffy, loner heroes, off-kilter visual design, and unusual scores, Leone’s films gave the western a new and distinctive style. Their worldwide success created a numerous imitators, some more successful than others. By 1970, the genre had slipped into parody or outright slapstick. By 1976 it had all but died out. With Keomo, director Enzo G. Castellari along with star Fraco Nero gave it one last gasp, but by then we had all moved on.
Definitely not just for the birds.
While computer-generated animation moves closer and closer to photorealism, it is always nice to see an animated film that revels in its unrealistic form. When the camera was invented, some painters felt free to move away from realism and made impressionistic art. In a similar way, it is interesting to see how some animators are choosing to create painting-like films as CGI becomes more realistic. Tito and the Birds, the recent Brazilian animated film brought to Blu-ray by Shout! Factory!, looks like a thickly brushed oil painting come to life. As a young boy, Tito’s father (voiced Matheus Nachtergaele) taught
Road to Zanzibar (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Welcome to the Jungle, Hope and Crosby Got Fun and Games
The movie succeeds as a sequel because it repeats what "...Singapore" did well and offers enough new things to make the picture stand on its own.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has added to their roster Special Edition Blu-ray releases of the first four Road pictures starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, making the first six of the seven movies now available from them. Road to Zanzibar (1941) is the second in the series and not only sees the return of the acting trio but screenwriters Frank Butler and Don Hartman and director Victor Schertinger as well. Set in Zanzibar, Africa, the premise is basically the same. Hope and Crosby, who gets three songs, are up to their usual wacky shenanigans and rapid-fire banter, and
Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff star in this Robert Louis Stevenson adaptation that's slight but entertaining.
Very loosely based upon the Robert Louis Stevenson story, The Sire de Maletroit's Door, The Strange Door stars Charles Laughton as Sire Alain de Maletroit, a rich aristocrat with devious plans. He sets up a drunken cad named Denis de Beaulieu (Richard Stapley) by making him believe he has murdered someone. In a bar, one of Maletroit’s men starts a fight with Beaulieu and fires his pistol at him. Beaulieu then grabs a planted gun filled with blanks from the bar and shoots back. The man pretends to be dead, forcing Beaulieu to run away from the angry mob. They
Three horror legends barely star in a ridiculously confusing early 1970s British horror.
In London, a jogger runs toward the camera and collapses. He wakes up in a hospital bed while a nurse tends to him. When she leaves, he pulls down the sheet to discover one of his legs has been amputated. In some unnamed fascist county, a soldier named Konartz (Marshall Jones) gives the old death grip to what appears to be his superior officer. Back in London, DS Bellaver (Alfred Marks) investigates a series of brutal sex murders where women are being killed and drained of their blood. One of the girls worked for Dr. Browning (Vincent Price), a mad
Seven gables, two deaths, one curse, and lots of melodrama.
Throughout the 1920s and early 1930s, Universal Studios was known for their horror films. They unleashed into cinemas a string of successful monsters such as Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, the Mummy, and the Wolfman. Countless sequels and imitators followed. In 1935, they released The Raven with two of their biggest stars, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. They expected a huge hit. They got a dud that stirred controversy for its use of torture, disfigurement, and revenge, which ultimately led to horror films being briefly banned in England and stopped all production of the genre at Universal. But within a few years,
Harold Lloyd's slapstick masterpiece gets a fantastic upgrade from the folks at Criterion.
I’m not too familiar with the work of Harold Lloyd, and The Kid Brother is actually the first film of his that I’ve seen in its entirety. Of course, now that I’ve finally experienced one of his films, it makes me want to go and seek out what else he has done. The Kid Brother is a hysterical comedy from the silent era, and also one that has a strong emotional core and a few exciting action scenes. It’s the perfect genre blend of a movie, one that is hard to come by in modern Hollywood. Lloyd plays Harold Hickory,
A forgotten film about lost world that really ought to be remembered.
We live in a world without mystery. We have the collective knowledge of humanity at our fingertips. We have explored every inch of the Earth’s surface, and plunged its depths. We have sent probes into the outer reaches of the solar system and mapped our own DNA. It is hard to imagine a time when we really didn’t know what was just over the horizon. When we truly thought monsters might lie in the dark places. To be sure, the 1950s were not that time. We didn’t know what we do know now, but we definitely knew there weren’t dinosaurs
It sets forth the template for these entertaining, musical romantic comedies wherein Hope and Crosby compete for the affections of Dorothy Lamour in exotic locations.
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has added to their roster Special Edition Blu-ray releases of the first four Roadpictures starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, making the first six of the seven movies now available from them. Road to Singapore (1940) is the first in the series and sets forth the template for these entertaining, musical romantic comedies wherein Hope and Crosby compete for the affections of Lamour in exotic locations. Originally a project planned for others, including Burns and Allen, Paramount struck box-office gold when ... Singapore became a vehicle for Hope and Crosby, whose ad-libs and writing
The movie that started a softcore franchise.
The 1970s were a fascinating time for American cinema. The studio system that dominated the Golden Age of Hollywood was dying by the end of the 1960s and with it, the Hays Code and its internal censorship. The '70s saw a new wave in movies with fresh new directors like Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Altman, and host of others. They created films like never before seen in Hollywood. Their films often tackled themes that just a few years prior had been taboo. They were often pessimistic, dark films that didn’t hold back, graphically using violence, sex, and language
Once again, Adam McKay proves he can't direct true stories.
In a perfect world, the cast of Vice would be in a movie that is compelling and maybe doesn’t play to the beat of every other biopic out there. But this is not a perfect world, and, while the film is certainly different from others that are based on true events, it's far from being a compelling feature. Instead, what we are given is Adam McKay’s tonally inconsistent, self-indulgent satire that wastes its cast and spends too much time trying to determine if it wants to mock all of its characters or be serious and try to earn some brownie
The movie covers familiar territory in a thrilling manner.
After appearing in Justice League, Aquaman (Jason Momoa) gets his own solo outing in the sixth installment of the DC Extended Universe. The movie is a stuffed-to-the-gills blockbuster, more in line with the successful Wonder Woman than the franchise's previous misfires as it covers familiar territory in a thrilling manner. Aquaman opens with the meeting of his parents, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), lighthouse keeper of Maine, and Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), queen of Atlantis. He found her unconscious and injured along the rocks near his home. She recovers, falling for Thomas and having Arthur, a child who she says one day
Clint Eastwood makes a strong return to acting and also directs a solidly crafted film.
At this point, it’s hard to take an actor seriously when he or she announces retirement from being in front of the camera. Recently, there was news going around that Robert Redford won’t star in another movie after The Old Man and the Gun. While that may be true for the time being, there was another person who claimed to be retiring from acting, only to reemerge years after making that statement. In 2008, Clint Eastwood said he would no longer star in a movie after Gran Torino. And while more of his time is now dedicated to working behind