During the the last half of the '90s, I devoted the bulk of my meager existence to the video store I worked at. One day, the owner's wife brought in a lovely terrarium to sit on the large spacious corner of the checkout counter. It sat there for a long time, being admired by the occasional customer, such as an instance when a gentleman commented on its beauty and simplicity. "Yeah," I said, "now throw in a bunch of little humans and watch it go to shit." He nodded in agreement, and for good reason: we're bastards like that. No,
Recently in Blu-ray
The '70s Australian eco-horror classic finally gets the treatment it deserves from Synapse Films.
A tale as old as recorded time. The script isn't that fresh, either.
The year 1959. It was a time of luscious, extravagant widescreen productions - fueled by luscious, extravagant budgets beget by big men who were in-turn fueled by luscious, extravagant proportions of booze. As television lured audiences away from the cinemas in large droves, studios made sure to promise them the moon in exchange for their hard-earned money. And, as anyone who has ever been to the moon knows, the best way to deliver it is to not deliver it, and instead remind mankind that God really doesn't want him toying around out there in the vacuum of space like that.
Yep, it's a happy kind of picture, kids. But at least you'll be able to see sultry Valerie Perrine in the buff!
In this day and age, it seems highly laughable that the very sort of individuals we pay to openly laugh at would run afoul with the law for doing what the do best. I refer to stand-up comedians, of course, and not politicians - although, to a less intentional degree, we wind up doing the same with the latter. In fact, it was the very latter who made both the life and career of a comic in the 1960s become particularly troublesome, thus whipping up a tendentious media circus that finally wrapped up a good forty years later with a
DC's latest animated film is a dark but engaging adaptation of Batman's Court of Owls storyline.
The title of DC’s latest animated film is catchy, but it’s also a bait and switch. Sure, Robin briefly toys with the idea of aligning himself against Batman, but he’s not the enemy here. That honor instead goes to Talon, the head assassin of the Court of Owls. The film also serves as a superior sequel to previous entry Son of Batman. If you haven’t kept up on recent Bat history, the Court of Owls was revealed in 2011 in an instant classic comic book run by writer Scott Snyder and artist Greg Capullo. The Court is a secret criminal
The 25th Midsomer Murders set celebrates such events as the birth of Betty Barnaby, and the 100th episode of the series.
Before I begin, let me just say how nice it is to have Midsomer Murders available on the Blu-ray format. Coupled with a high-def television, it is a sumptuous feast for the eyes. The show has been that way for the seventeen seasons it has been on the air, shot in the most beautiful and bucolic areas in Britain, as a backdrop for some very sinister murders. Set 25 is the most recent, and it contains five episodes that originally aired in the 2013-14 season, including the 100th installment. Most television shows record upwards of 20 episodes per season, and
If you avoid certain NFL-oriented video games, does that mean you're Far from the Madden Crowd?
Having never been a very literary-minded lad, I must confess that I did not devote quite as much of my time as a youth to that which was printed. Well, there were those issues of Psychotronic, European Trash Cinema, Filmfax, and, of course, my father's old Playboy and Penthouse magazines. I even buried my nose in the occasional movie reference item, such as several of the late great Phil Hardy's encyclopedias. Needless to say, Phil Hardy was about as close as I ever got to Thomas Hardy when it came to published materials. On film, I had seen the works
Shania: Still the One Live from Vegas captures the complete stage performance of Shania Twain from her two-year residency at the Colosseum at Caesars Palace that ended in December 2014. The 90-minute concert features 25 songs covering her biggest hits, country songs, and crossover favorites. I have always been a big fan of Shania with several of her CDs adorning my shelves but for some reason I've never considered seeing her live. Watching this has me very disappointed about that, especially missing this show in Las Vegas. The concert is visually stunning and would have been even better to experience
An extremely overlooked masterpiece of personal and spiritual redemption.
There have been many films about personal and conflicted crisis of conscience, such as American Beauty (1999), The Apostle (1997), and Magnolia (1999). However, as wonderful as these films are, I think that director Carol Reed's unjustly overlooked masterpiece Odd Man Out, easily outdoes them all, especially because of its subtle and sensitive depiction of ordinary people caught up in a web of troubles. This was one of Reed's breakthrough films, not just for its deft and thrilling storytelling, but it was also one of the first to address the circumstances of terrorism in human terms. It was adapted for
One of 2014's best films hopes to discover new eyes on Blu.
It still stings a bit knowing J.C. Chandor's A Most Violent Year was all but ignored by the Academy last year. After Chandor's win for his screenplay on the equally exemplary Margin Call, it seemed all but expected that the film would nab an award or two. Unfortunately, outside of securing the National Board of Review's distinction as Best Film of the Year, it sailed under the radar. Thankfully, its reputation, blistering performances, and multilayered narrative can be rectified with the fantastic Blu-ray out now. 1981, New York, the "most violent year" in the city's history. Enmeshed within it all
Sidney Poitier's students have a bad reputation. What they need is a little adult education.
By today's standards, the classic movie motif of a determined teacher reaching a group of tough, underprivileged kids in an urban school is hardly anything new. Granted, it isn't commonly seen in cinematic outings as much as it used to be, as evidenced by viral Facebook videos of inner-city youths finding out firsthand the perils of applying a fully functional taser to an article of golden jewelry (or "bling", as I believe they call it). Indeed, were Sidney Poitier's Mark Thackeray - or even Mr. Wizard, for that matter - around in this day and age to teach kids a
Twilight Time brings an early precursor to the blaxploitation subgenre (seriously, it is!) to Blu-ray.
Having essentially gone through the growing up part of my wasted youth engaging in the fine art of bad film, I have encountered many different exploitation genres. Some movies were made solely to sell the element of sex. Others devised to gather a crowd of a different kind of deviants altogether, who flocked in like sheep to see just how gruesome and gory things could get at the drive-in. But of all the notable subgenres that have hailed from the annals of exploitation filmmaking, there is perhaps no greater pleasure - or perhaps guiltier pleasure - to be had than
It is an inspiring, thought-provoking film, with every moment to be savored.
The death of her mom Bobbi (Laura Dern), a divorce from her husband (Thomas Sadoski), and years of self-destructive choices cause Cheryl Strayed (Reese Witherspoon) to rashly decide on a trek from the Mexican border to Canada. The audience sees flashbacks illustrating the painful memories that brought Cheryl to this drastic measure as she encounters people along the way that help her heal. Through the hike, which Strayed wrote about in her best-selling book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl is able to rediscover who she is, shed the past, and learn how to move
The film that takes the expression "Years in the Making" to a whole new level finally gets a chance to be seen by all.
If Massacre Mafia Style was Duke Mitchell's antithesis to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, the late Southern California Italian/American crooning personality's final (known) work, Gone with the Pope could very well be his own flip side to the entire world of filmmaking in general. Massacre Mafia Style was a delirious - and highly enjoyable - assault on the senses, made in the wake of the famous gangster picture, with plenty of oomph and random bits of lunacy thrown in for good measure. Gone with the Pope, on the other hand, is pretty much a feature-length film full of random bits
Errol Morris changes the documentary game in 102 minutes.
Rarely do you watch a film and actually pinpoint where a genre actually changes. You watch Clerks or Pulp Fiction and see where the genre is being moved forward. You can see in Batman and then again in Iron Man where a genre is being reinvigorated. But in 1988, Errol Morris made The Thin Blue Line and the field of documentaries would radically change. I was surprised that it had taken this long for the Criterion Collection to release this important film on Blu-ray. Documentary. The definition for years was simply to "document reality". The popular documentaries were often nature
The characters Errol Morris speaks to in his first two films are living embodiments of the old maxim that truth is stranger than fiction.
“I love the absurd,” says Errol Morris in one of the extras on the new Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition of Gates of Heaven (1978) / Vernon, Florida (1981). These are the first two films from the director of such notable documentaries as The Thin Blue Line (1988), A Brief History of Time (1991), and the Academy Award-winning The Fog of War: Eleven Lesson from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003), among others. To call the people he interviews in both of these pictures “absurd” is probably an understatement, but it will do. The characters Morris speaks to are true
Angelina Jolie brings us an all too run-of-the-mill biography of WWII POW Louis Zamperini.
Despite having seen the trailer for the film at the cinema prior to its release, it wasn't until I saw the teaser/standee artwork for the WWII/POW movie Unbroken that it stood out to me. And that was because once I saw a man standing with his back to us, holding a heavy wood beam over his head, a golden-colored and familiar-looking font spelling out the name of the film, I instantly thought of Rocky Balboa. I had every reason to, too, as the promotional artwork damn near plagiarized the cover of the more popular 2006 Sylvester Stallone sequel. When
Making me believe in big, bold musicals once again.
When choosing Into the Woods as my pick of the week, I noted that I’m not as big of a theatre geek as I once imagined. Sometimes I get bored in the theatre and I’m finally in a place where I can not only admit that, but also be perfectly okay with it as well. I came to Rob Marshall’s movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s much-beloved musical with a lot of hopefulness, but also a touch of trepidation. What if I didn’t like it, or worse, what if I didn’t get it? I’m able to now say I’m not the
A kitchen sink of Japanese genre elements from Japanese exploitation expert Teruo Ishii.
Blind Woman's Curse, directed by Teruo Ishii and due out on Blu-ray on April 21 from Arrow Video, is a fine example of the kind of leeway that was allowed in Japanese studio films. As long as the movie had enough elements that looked like it belonged to a genre, Japanese exploitation movies of the '60s and '70s would go to surprising artistic places, and most often with extremely professional technical results. This movie, on the surface a mix of a Yakuza story about a female boss of an early 20th century Japanese gang and a ghost story with a
Ridley Scott falls far from the grace of God and anyone who has ever worshipped either of the two.
According to His faithful flock and their respective independently-produced movies, God is not dead. The concept of the Hollywood biblical epic, on the other hand, is a critically endangered species. The days of lavish productions loaded with dazzling special effects and all-star casts of white folk playing Egyptians performing in big-budget productions interlaced with a strong belief in the Christian theology throughout are long gone, having been replaced by low-budget, poorly acted, and usually mind-numbing films produced by people who are either just exploiting the faithful (see: Left Behind), or who are a few hundred thousand Hebrewites short of an
John Wayne tries to tame Maureen O'Hara.
Made by his own Batjac Productions, John Wayne stars as the titular McLintock! in a variation of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew with Maureen O'Hara, the fourth time they shared the silver screen together. Set in the Old West, G.W. (named after the country's first President) McLintock is a major cattle rancher in the Oklahoma Territory and his estranged wife Katherine (O'Hara) returns to town after two years, wanting a divorce and custody of their daughter Rebecca (Stefanie Powers), herself returning from school with a suitor in tow, Matt Douglas, Jr. (Jerry Van Dyke). However, G.W., who never wanted her
It’s great to add this final chapter to the collection.
After previously working together in various configurations at university and on such television shows like The Frost Report and Do Not Adjust Your Set, (the late) Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin formed what is arguably the funniest and most influential comedy troupe ever. Known as Monty Python, they came together to create the legendary TV series Monty Python's Flying Circus, which debuted October 5, 1969 on the BBC. Their humor was a great mix of high brow and low brow, both of which are typified in the "Summarize Proust Competition" where each
A beguiling, wonderful film about first love and infatuation.
There have been many coming-of-age movies, such as The Yearling (1946), The 400 Blows (1959), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Breaking Away (1979), The Breakfast Club (1985), Stand By Me (1986), and Dazed and Confused (1993), that have made a really big impression on me, in terms of accurately depicting the trials and tribulations with growing up, peer pressure and parental dysfunction, and buddling love. And speaking of buddling love, Daniel Ribeiro's 2014 charmer The Way He Looks (Hoje Eu Quero Voltar Sozinho) gets it absolutely right. It takes the premise of newfound love and takes it to such new
Universal re-releases John Hughes' quintessential teen dramedy just in time for a two-night theatrical re-offering.
One of the few filmmakers who made movies about teenagers while actually having an understanding about the awkward, spotty-faced years of adolescence itself, John Hughes' second film as writer and director (and his first as a producer) is one that has successfully managed to withstand the test of time. Indeed, it is probably the quintessential American motion picture to center on high school students (from the '80s or otherwise) who are coming to grips with themselves, peer groups, and the pressures allotted to and from both. With a minimal budget, single location setting, and nothing but character development to offer,
The movie that left its mark on the annals of exploitation advertising history inaugurates Arrow Video's new North American label.
Nothing delights me more than seeing a new cult video label emerge in the USA. After the collapse of the (global) economy nearly a decade ago, a number of niche companies who specialized in movies I grew up only reading about or drooling over the lurid VHS labels of in mom and pop video stores as a kid disappeared. Many of them were on a winning streak at the time, too, which makes it all the more regrettable. Since then, several outfits have surfaced - with some becoming hugely popular, while others were literally the home video equivalent of a
"Sometimes, life doesn't go the way you planned." - Hiro
When the Walt Disney Company bought Marvel Entertainment in 2009, there was much speculation about what would be the first Disney animated film to spring forth from the pages of Marvel Comics. The annoucement that it would be Big Hero 6, a Japanese superhero team from the late '90s that appeared in only a few books and is so obsure that not even Marvel.com has an entry for them, many questioned the choice. But after earning over half a billion at the box office worldwide and the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, it looks like the the folks at Disney
The ultra-violent cult classic from a very ambitious cabaret entertainer returns to entertain and shock once more.
It is sometimes interesting - well, to me, that is - how many of the articles I request or wind up for review can often be "connected" to one another like a really outrageous game of Six Degrees of Separation. Not too terribly far back, I found myself diving into the Warner Archive Collection re-releases of the Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Collections. Just last week, I was viewing Twilight Time's new Blu-ray issue of Roger Corman's neglected Prohibition Era gangster picture, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre. Believe it or not, there's more than one common denominator at play between
While there are some laughs, it suffers like many sequels do from not being as good as the original and covering similar ground.
It's no surprise that the directing team of Bobby and Peter Farrelly would write, produce, and direct The Three Stooges, the 2012 modern-day update with new actors playing Moe, Larry, and Curly. The Stooges' brand of dim-witted lunacy and aggressive slapstick is seen throughout the Farrelly Brothers' work, including their feature-film debut, Dumb and Dumber. Starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels as Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne, who are perfectly described by the film's title, Dumb and Dumber was a smash hit, turning a $17 million budget into $247 million at the box office. It led to an animated series
The Woody Allen film that even Woody Allen likes gets the High-Def treatment.
Though some people out there would just assume never hear his name ever again, there is ultimately no denying the contributions Woody Allen has made to the worlds of both comedy and cinema alike since he first starting writing gags for television in the late 1950s. Since then, he has directed 50 (count 'em, fifty) projects in addition to writing, producing, and/or starring in several dozen others. Heck, some of the classic comedians who would become the filmmaker's inspirations growing up did not have such a filmic output (even when combined in some instances). But it wasn't just the witty
The movie that almost put gangsters films back on the map returns for another round (of ammunition).
While movies like Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde generally get the most credit for being the movies that really introduced gritty onscreen violence into the movies (the former was released just months after the MPAA rating system was introduced in 1968), they weren't the first to do so. Not by a long shot. In fact, copious amounts of blood were being spilled by Herschell Gordon Lewis in his outrageous horror movies that made a real killing at drive-ins for jaded teen and rural audiences during the early '60s. The occasional big-budget Cinemascope war film
Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes.
Before he died of cancer on his 60th birthday in 1963, Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes. The twilight work of many filmmakers often lends itself better to footnotes than introductions, but the remarkably consistent Ozu has a career filled with potential jumping-off points, and his last film is also an excellent first one for Ozu neophytes. I should know — An Autumn Afternoon was my gateway into Ozu’s exquisite cinematic worlds. Frequent collaborator Chishu Ryu stars as Shuhei Hirayama, a widower who comes to accept