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The Executioner Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Introduction to a Spanish Filmmaking Giant

Criterion shines a light on a filmmaker not so well-known in the English-speaking world.
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Even among dedicated English-speaking cinephiles, the name Luis García Berlanga might not immediately spark a glimmer of recognition. The great Pedro Almodóvar, who ranks Berlanga up there with Luis Buñuel among Spanish filmmakers, offers a few theories why in his brief appreciation on the Criterion Collection’s newly released disc of The Executioner (El Verdugo). One possibility: Berlanga’s films often feature extended scenes of overlapping dialogue — some have likened him to proto-Robert Altman — which can be tricky to subtitle. Whatever the reason, Berlanga’s films have had basically no representation on Region 1/A home video up to this point, so

The Thing (1982) / Tenebrae / Basket Case 2 & 3 on Blu-ray: Horror, Redefined

The groundbreaking madness of John Carpenter. The murderous manifestations of Dario Argento. The deranged imagination of Frank Henenlotter. On boy, here we go!
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While none of the titles covered in this article are necessarily new to the world of home video by any means, it is with a certain amount of pride I announce these four offerings have received what could very well be their definitive editions. And that's not an accomplishment which is easily accomplished, given the various histories of each flick. John Carpenter's The Thing ‒ now considered one of the finest science fiction/horror hybrids ever made ‒ was initially met with a great amount of disdain upon its debut in 1982, when timid audiences would have much rather consumed the

From Horrifying to Horrible: Back in Print from the Warner Archive

From a magnificent assembling of classic horror of the '30s, to the various sorts of silliness the whole of the '90s had to offer, these four releases will have you screaming.
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While the Warner Archive mostly brings us new and previously unreleased goodies to DVD, they also bring us the odd re-release of titles which have become out of print. Or possibly new and improved versions of old catalog releases which were unfortunate enough to have been pressed to disc when DVD was still new. This lot falls under both categories, sporting two new widescreen offerings of titles which were only ever seen in early (read: unmastered) releases, as well as the reawakening of two cult gems, the first of which has been on many a classic horror movie lover's wish

Front Cover DVD Review: A Funny, Charming Take on the Asian Gay Experience

The premise has been done repeatedly many times before, but never in such a broad and bold way.
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Obviously as most of us know, there are many people who think that gay cinema is just a way of getting one's rocks off, which means that cinema of this type can be regarded as cheesy, one-note, and stereotypical. In my opinion, they are wrong because gay cinema is more than risky sex scenes, campy dialogue; and annoying characters; it can come from a place of pure cultural reality. This is the case with director Ray Yeung's 2016 film, Front Cover, a witty and romantic story of being gay and falling in love from an Asian perspective. The film centers

Nerve Blu-ray Review: Candid Camera 2016

The concept is fascinating, but it would have worked better in the late '90s than it does here.
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We live in an age where everyone can record anything and with a good wifi connection, be seen by everyone. There is this strange urge to post everything we do in hopes it will get more "like"s and more followers because that has become our currency today. It no longer matters how much money you make or what your career is. It's how many Facebook friends and Twitter followers you have. Why do we feel that it's important to post everything that we do? I think it's mainly because we are scared of being forgotten. We only have a short

Burial Ground (1981) Blu-ray Review: Still Smelling of Death After All These Years

Severin Films unburies one of the most notorious titles from the Italian zombie apocalypse of the '80s, fully restored and just as empty-headed as ever.
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There really isn't a movie like Burial Ground. My first encounter with this notorious Italian gut-muncher from 1981 probably occurred a good seven years after the film first hit home video in the US, by which time the movie had already become a regular dust collector in rental stores across the nation. And one of the reasons why this was so is attributable to the fine craftsmanship which can be seen in every single frame of the picture: it stinks. Good God, how this movie stinks! But of course, when you're a teen-aged boy with nothing short of an addiction

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray Review: Essential Comedy

The first five films from the comedy legends get a nice Blu-ray set.
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When I wrote about watching the original Ghostbusters at a Fathom Event, I talked about how my sense of humor has been refined into a very specific concoction that prefers comedy that comes from a sense of story, flowing naturally from well-written characters. I don’t tend to like being bombarded with jokes when they aren’t grounded in something more realistic. Watching the films in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection really put that theory to the test. Story is completely irrelevant in a Marx Brothers movie. Their films have some semblance of a plot, but it only exists as a

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection Blu-ray Review: Two Great Films, One Nice Package

A nice set, just in time for the holidays.
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That Gregory Peck was one of the greatest film actors to ever exist there is no denying. Had he only appeared as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and never made another movie, he’d still be considered one of the greats (much like Harper Lee is considered a great American author though she never wrote another book - I cannot count Go Set a Watchmen as hers as I don’t believe she ever intended it to be released). Of course, Peck did make other movies including the classics Roman Holiday, The Yearling, Twelve O’Clock High, Cape Fear, and so

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Blu-ray Review: One of the Funniest Movies in a Long Time

A hilarious movie that delivers laugh after laugh.
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After a series of unfortunate events at important family events, Mike (Adam Devine) and Dave’s (Zac Efron) parents (Stephen Root and Stephanie Faracy), along with their sister Jeanie (Sugar Lyn Beard) and her fiancé Eric (Sam Richardson), hold and intervention to convince Mike and Dave that they cannot attend Jeanie’s destination wedding, stag. The group gives the brother’s an ultimatum that they either bring dates to the wedding or stay home. And not only do they need to bring dates, but the dates need to be nice girls. Since Mike and Dave love their sister so much, they agree to

Stablemates / Lord Jeff DVD Reviews: A Double Dose of Rooney

The Warner Archive Collection slips us a couple of Mickeys (with plenty of Wood) in these two rarely-seen gems.
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The late Mickey Rooney made a sizeable impact on classic cinema, leaving behind a list of motion picture and television appearances tallying well over 300. With a résumé like that, it may be quite some time before all titles are present and accounted for on home video (and even then, it's unlikely we'll see everything). Nevertheless, the Warner Archive Collection and it's many Mickey Rooney fans working there have been doing their best to fill in the gaps to their abilities. Two recent releases from the WAC marked the home video debuts of MGM's Stablemates and Lord Jeff, both released

George O'Brien Western Collection DVD Review: 9 Oats and a Lot of Grain

The Warner Archive Collection presents some of the final starring roles from one of B western cinema's most charismatic naturals.
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Generally, the star of vintage cowboy pictures ‒ or "oaters," as they are commonly referred to as ‒ tended to be a big hulking lunk of a feller who was quicker with his fists and side irons than he was with his grey matter. And I say that referring to the actual actor, not the character he would portray. In the case of George O'Brien, however, there was something more than a big dumb oaf: a personality. The son of a San Francisco police officer set out for Hollywood at an early age to be a cameraman, only to find

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Blu-ray Review: Wes Craven's Masterpiece

The late Wes Craven's gritty 1977 all-time cult classic gets a stellar upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
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When legendary horror master Wes Craven passed away last year, it really shocked the world. Here was a man whose storytelling gifts knew no bounds. He didn't make your typical horror movies; every film he made had something truly relevant to say about the flaws and the dark, nasty side of society. Whether it was his very controversial and rather crude Last House on the Left (1972); his ultimate horror classic of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), that changed the face of horror for that decade; or his groundbreaking 1996 spoof Scream, which also redefined horror for

Stakeout on Dope Street (1958) DVD Review: Kershner. Corman. Coleman. Oh, My!

This forgotten gem from the Warner Archive Collection offers just the facts, and more than a little strange movie history.
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Best known by today's various subcultures for bringing us that which is often cited as the best Star Wars film of the entire expanding film universe (The Empire Strikes Back, in case you missed that one), the late Irvin Kershner (The Return of a Man Called Horse, The Flim-Flam Man) started out directing episodes of another nature ‒ television shows completely forgotten by history ‒ before landing his first big screen gig with Stakeout on Dope Street. No doubt inspired by another television series (and one which has withstood the test of time), Dragnet, this late '50s crime drama from

Daughter of Dracula (1972) Blu-ray Review: Oh, the Horror

Another one of the late Jess Franco's many bad movies has made its way to Blu-ray. And I have caught up on a lot of sleep. Coincidence?
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Prior to his departure from this world in early 2013, the late Jesús Franco had left an impressive looking resume behind in which his services as a film director totaled over 200. This did not include his work as a screenwriter, producer, composer, editor, cinematographer, or any of the other jobs Franco often handled himself for productions belonging to either he or another. Put simply: Franco kept himself very busy, right up until the end. His work has become the subject of many obsessed individuals around the world, and the bulk of his career has been printed in at least

Being Canadian DVD Review: Is Canada the Best Country in the World?

I hope anyone that watches it will gain a little more of an appreciation for this beautiful amazing country.
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People often tell me when my Canadian side is showing. This is a huge compliment as everyone seems to think of Canadians as the nicest people. Being Canadian delightfully tries to educate the world on the misconceptions about Canada, such as why Canadians are always saying sorry, while highlighting all of the things that do make the country great. Calgary native Rob Cohen decided it was time to answer some questions about his beloved homeland after moving to Hollywood to be a writer and seeing how uninformed people were on Canada. He starts his adventure in Nova Scotia and traveled

Slugs: The Movie (1988) Blu-ray Review: A Marvelously Muddled Mess

One of horror filmdom's most enjoyable atrocities rises up from the sewers once more in a stellar new HD transfer from Arrow Video.
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As a feller who spent entirely too much of his teenaged years in the horror sections of local video stores, there were two things I learned to keep a watchful eye out for when it came to satisfying my never-ending urge to keep myself amused. One item the look out for was any horror movie which proudly sported the subtitle "The Movie" ‒ something anyone who had the misfortune of seeing Mexican trash cinema maestro René Cardona Jr's Beaks: The Movie undoubtedly also made a mental note of. The other thing wasn't one I mastered immediately, however, for there was

Twilight Time Presents: Party Poopers, Poor Sports, Sore Losers, and Bad Romances

From pubescent tweens and nightmarish games to pornographers and people who love to shoot things up, there's an awful lot of foul play afoot here.
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Despite all of society's best attempts at grooming us to be normal, well-behaved, completely functional human beings, there are just some people who, as Linda Ronstadt once repeatedly declared, are no good. And this wave of releases from Twilight Time ‒ initially unleashed unto collectors in June ‒ certainly highlights many peculiar elements from various walks of life, who all seem to fit the bill(s) for party poopers, poor sports, sorry losers, and bad romances. We begin with one of the grandest party poopers of all, Frankie Addams: a socially inept and unfetteringly awkward twelve-year-old tomboy in the Deep South,

Vamp Blu-ray Review: Belongs in the Pantheon of Great Comic Horror

A surprisingly clever '80s movie with lots of "bite."
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Usually, horror comedies are a one-in-a-million, meaning that some work (the Evil Dead trilogy, Slither), and others don't (976-Evil, Vampires Suck), but fortunately for Richard Wenk's 1986 underrated romp Vamp, the horror and comedy actually mix very well, while adding a little satire that helps elevate the film to cult-like status. With esteemed actors like Chris Makepeace, Robert Rustler, and Dedee Pfeiffer, and amazing make-up/special effects by four-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannon, this film can surely add itself to the pantheon of great comic horror. Makepeace and Rustler play Keith and AJ, two Los Angeles college roommates and best friends who

Queen of Katwe Movie Review: In Praise of Smart Women

Mira Nair's touching tribute to women the world over.
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Disney's banked on sports films for the last decads, relying on stories of athletic prowess anchored by men. Their latest foray into the inspirational drama praises intellectual altheticism anchored by women; Queen of Katwe looks to slip undetected by audiences this week due to a hackneyed, and unexplainable, series of limited releases by the studio. Unfortunately, this threatens to bury one of the brightest, warmest and all-around best acted films of the year! Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) is a young Ugandan struggling to make ends meet for her put-upon mother (Lupita Nyong'o) and siblings. The one joy in Phiona's life

Kamikaze '89 Blu-ray Review: Captures the Vision of a Pre-Internet World

A brilliantly bizarre and slightly kinky farewell from Fassbinder.
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Rainer Werner Fassbinder remains one of the greatest directors in the history of cinema. The way he filmed actors, especially women and their characters' emotions, was incredible. His close-ups revealed the inner torments of his characters' existences. However, he wasn't just a legendary director; he was also a gifted actor, albeit unorthodox one at that. Director Wolf Gremm's 1982 long-lost cyberpunk thriller Kamikaze '89 showed how much Fassbinder actually knew the skills of an actor. Unforunately, this was his final acting role before his untimely death from a drug overdose, which ended what could have been a very promising acting

Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review: Tamer Wilder

Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and a dragged-out Dom DeLuise star in one frighteningly unfunny feature.
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I was perhaps all of ten years old when I first saw a trailer advertising the Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner comedy Haunted Honeymoon. It was in the (singular) local movie house of the small(minded) town I grew up in, and I recall being more confused by it than intrigued. Why was Dom DeLuise dressed as a woman? And, most importantly of all, why wasn't anyone laughing at the preview ‒ my easily amused ten-year-old self included? The immediate theory my preadolescent brain formed was, based on the evidence at hand (i.e. the startlingly unfunny trailer and the lack of a reaction

Valley of the Dolls Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Laughter, Tears, and a Mountain of Dolls!

The Criterion Collection releases the best camp melodrama out there!
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America was a bit of a mess in the 1960s, not just on the national stage but at the local cineplex as well. By the time the decade was over, the Hollywood studio system as audiences knew it was dead - killed by a man who could “talk to the animals” of all things. But Hollywood limped to the finish line with the tortured tale of three lovely ladies and their struggles with fame and addiction in Valley of the Dolls. Dolls, as campy then as it is now, receives a shot of respectability this week with its premiere on

An American Werewolf in London (Full Moon Edition) Blu-ray Review: Its Cult-classic Status Is Certainly Warranted

Required by law to state "You'll howl with laughter."
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After a string of comedic box-office successes (Kentucky Fried Movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and The Blues Brothers), director John Landis had the clout to pick his next project. He veered away from comedy to a screenplay he first worked on in 1969 while a production assistant on Kelly’s Heroes in Yugoslavia. An American Werewolf in London was Landis’ take on the Wolfman. David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking their way through Europe. The film opens with them traversing through the moors of Northern England, but all Jack can think of is hooking up with a woman

A Town Called Panic: Double Fun Movie Review: The Bad Boys Are Back

Celebrate Art House Theater Day with Cowboy, Indian, and Horse.
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In a world that seems to be growing increasingly insane, it's wonderful to have some controlled lunacy that is Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s A Town Called Panic, which features that antics of toy figures Cowboy and Indian, brought to life in stop-motion animation. As part of Art House Theater Day on September 24, two new specials will be showing in select theaters along with the Panic shorts, "Lisa & Jan" and "Cow-Hulk." In "The Christmas Log," Cowboy and Indian's horseplay on Christmas Eve ends up potentially ruining the dinner their roommate Horse has planned. Horse is so angry he

Twilight Time Presents: Something I Can Never Have

From the unconditional (or unwanted) affection of one's parental unit, to the ever-classic pursuit of maximum financial units, these five flicks have more to offer than just a nude Ornella Muti (although that's just fine on its own!).
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At one point or another in life, we have experienced the passion, turmoil, and frustration that comes from not being able to possess something ‒ sometimes, anything ‒ we wanted more than life itself. For some, it is a material obsession; the desire to acquire great wealth to control others with, or to even take charge of an individual. For others, it is simply the allure of being able to step out of the proverbial limelight for once and lead what they perceive to be a life of normality. And it is in this marvelous line-up of May 2016 releases

L.A. Confidential (Two-Disc Special Edition) DVD Review: A Masterful Film Noir

A classic film that will long be remembered and appreciated.
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Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, based on the novel of the same name by James Ellroy from his L.A. Quartet series, is a masterful film noir. Set in 1950s Los Angeles, the film uses the city as a canvas to paint an expansive story about crime, corruption, sex, and murder. In the special features Ellroy describes the film as well as anyone can: “Three cops on a collision with their own horrifying demons and as the centerpiece the slaughter of six people in a coffee shop meat locker.” Officer Wendell “Bud” White (Russell Crowe) does whatever he has to in the

Warcraft Blu-ray Review: In My Entire Life, I Have Never Felt as Much Pain as I Do Now

Devoid of any originality, credibility, or explanation whatsoever, the big-screen adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment's massively successful strategy game is a giant, predictable bore.
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Contrary to popular belief, the oft-repeated phrase "Hollywood has run out of ideas" has been popping up for quite sometime now. During the '60s and '70s, television producers would take two-part TV shows or standalone TV movies and release them theatrically abroad, luring (mostly) European filmgoers into cinemas to see an extended episode of something like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in order to take advantage of an outrageously gigantic demand for all things James Bondian at the time. It would have been foolish not to take the chance, right? It was a most cunning strategy on their part. In the

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) Blu-ray Review: Truth in Advertising?

23 years after my first attempt at watching it, this Riccardo Freda/Barbara Steele gothic horror movie about a necrophiliac surgeon still can't raise the dead to save its life.
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For Italian filmmakers, the 1960s were as versatile of a period as ever, especially for the ever-expanding realms of fantasy. It was a time when sword and sandal peplums, space operas, James Bond-ian espionage adventures, Poliziotteschi crime dramas, stylish giallo thrillers, and one of the country's best-known cinematic exports ‒ the spaghetti western ‒ ruled the screens. The decade also epitomized another unique motion picture subgenre: that of the gothic horror flick. From the late '50s to the late '60s, Italy's gothic movement brought forth a number of memorable, atmospheric titles from the likes of Mario Bava, Antonio Margheriti, and

Fathom Events Presents 'Snowden Live'

With Snowden, Oliver Stone proves he's still got stories to tell.
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Of course Oliver Stone made a movie about Edward Snowden. If the former CIA operative/NSA contractor turned whistleblower/leaker of thousands of documents that prove our government has been spying on its citizens on a massive scale didn’t actually exist, he’s exactly the sort of character a guy like Stone would have invented. Likely, we critics would have complained that he was being too paranoid if he did. This fictionalized biopic is framed by the non-fictional film Citizenfour, which won the Academy Award in 2015 for best documentary feature. Snowden begins with Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting with Citizenfour’s director Laura

Dead-End Drive-In Blu-ray Review: The Australian Escape From New York

This ozploitation feature could have been a spinoff in the Mad Max universe.
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It's difficult to decipher what will become a cult classic and what will end up being a major dud in this age of social-media marketing. Any film that gets released has the potential to be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. Technically speaking, Sharknado is considered by many to be a cult favorite and I would both agree and disagree with that statement. I agree that audiences are the ones who get to choose what movies will eventually be part of this category. Where I disagree is that cult films are not instant, they just don't happen over night. Sometimes

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