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Unbroken (2014) Blu-ray Review: Look, if It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It!

Angelina Jolie brings us an all too run-of-the-mill biography of WWII POW Louis Zamperini.
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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

Into the Woods Blu-ray Review: Bringing Out My Inner Theatre Geek

Making me believe in big, bold musicals once again.
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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

Blind Woman's Curse Blu-ray Review: Gory Japanese Ghosts and Yakuza Fun

A kitchen sink of Japanese genre elements from Japanese exploitation expert Teruo Ishii.
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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

Exodus: Gods and Kings Blu-ray Review: Cecil B. Diminished

Ridley Scott falls far from the grace of God and anyone who has ever worshipped either of the two.
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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

Memory Lane (2012) DVD Review: Ambitious, but Lacks Polish

Its 70-minute length is both its saving grace and its biggest weakness.
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The promotional material for Memory Lane called down the thunder by comparing itself to the likes of Primer and Memento. It's no secret that I thoroughly enjoyed Primer. Memento I've seen a couple of times now, and it's always a crazy ride even though I know what happens. The former had a budget of $7,000 and the latter $9M. Writer/director Shawn Holmes must have been trying to set a record with a budget of $300. There's just one problem...it feels like a $300 movie. That's not to say that expensive effects or elaborate locations or A-list talent are needed for

McLintock! (Authentic Collector's Edition) Blu-ray Review: An Entertaining Escape

John Wayne tries to tame Maureen O'Hara.
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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

The Wrecking Crew Movie Review: A Musical History and a Labor of Love

Denny Tedesco's loving tribute to his father and the talented musicians who made up The Wrecking Crew.
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A few months back Marc Maron released an episode of his podcast, WTF, where he sat down with Denny Tedesco to talk about his project The Wrecking Crew. I listened to him talk to Maron about this documentary and I was intrigued and excited to see this film when it came out. I am happy to say I was not let down. The Wrecking Crew is not just a film about the group of ultra-talented musicians whose work you have heard over and over on some the biggest albums of all time, but it is Denny’s loving tribute to his

The Way He Looks Blu-ray Review: An Instant Classic

A beguiling, wonderful film about first love and infatuation.
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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

The Breakfast Club: 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Kids Can Be So Cool

Universal re-releases John Hughes' quintessential teen dramedy just in time for a two-night theatrical re-offering.
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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,

Come Together: A Beatles Tribute Documentary Review: Meet the Faux Beatles!

A Beatles documentary with a twist, the film pays homage to international tribute bands.
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At this very moment, a Beatles tribute band is likely playing a concert somewhere throughout the world. Over 8,000 groups worldwide regularly recreate the music and, occasionally, the exact image and accents of the Beatles. Come Together: A Beatles Tribute Documentary examines these tribute bands, which range geographically and even in gender. Hosted by John Lennon’s half-sister Julia Baird, the film interviews several musicians who earn a living imitating their idols. While interesting, Come Together provides little insight as to the benefits and pitfalls of such a career. Baird often appears in various locations throughout Liverpool, from the recreated Cavern

Mark of the Devil Blu-ray Review: Say Hello to Arrow Video USA, Kids!

The movie that left its mark on the annals of exploitation advertising history inaugurates Arrow Video's new North American label.
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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

Big Hero 6 Blu-ray Review: This Movie Will Make You Feel Better

"Sometimes, life doesn't go the way you planned." - Hiro
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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

WolfCop DVD Review: Bloody, Sexy, Crazy, and Furry

It even has a gangsta rap theme song.
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A movie like WolfCop doesn't need a lot of explanation -- the title kind of tells you everything you need to know going in. When I first heard about it, I thought of Full Eclipse (1993) starring Mario Van Peebles as part of a team of werewolf cops out to clean up the crime-ridden streets of Los Angeles. With all the recycling of ideas in Hollywood, I guess 21 years is a reasonable amount of time to pass between movies about werewolf cops. First thing you'll notice is that this isn't a big city, big budget action thriller. It was

Massacre Mafia Style Blu-ray Review: Duke Mitchell's Godfather Antithesis

The ultra-violent cult classic from a very ambitious cabaret entertainer returns to entertain and shock once more.
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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

Dumber and Dumber To Blu-ray Review: Still Dumb After All These Years

While there are some laughs, it suffers like many sequels do from not being as good as the original and covering similar ground.
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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

Love and Death (1975) Blu-ray Review: Dying is Easy. Loving is Hard.

The Woody Allen film that even Woody Allen likes gets the High-Def treatment.
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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

American Sniper Movie Review: Eastwood Hits His Target

Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper unite their considerable talents in what may well be the best Eastwood film yet.
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I really didn't know what to expect when I decided to see American Sniper. I had resolved not to read anything about it that might predispose my mind to the film and the experience of seeing it. I thought in terms of “seeing it” because, as a Vietnam veteran, I had refrained from seeing all but a couple of the plethora of films about that conflict. In fact, the number of movies which attempt to deal with the ambiguities and puzzles produced as a result of America's participation in Vietnam is staggering - so many that they collectively can (and

The St. Valentine's Day Massacre (1967) Blu-ray Review: Corman Slays 'Em

The movie that almost put gangsters films back on the map returns for another round (of ammunition).
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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

An Autumn Afternoon Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Master's Final Masterpiece

Yasujiro Ozu left us with one final masterpiece in An Autumn Afternoon, a culmination of many of his favorite themes.
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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

Fright Night (1985) 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Brewster's Thirties

Yes, it's "Still a better love story than Twilight" time.
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If someone would have told me three years ago that I would be repeating myself, well, I probably would have believed them. Indeed, when I initially sat down to work on a review for Twilight Time's 30th Anniversary Edition of the 1985 vampire horror classic, Fright Night, I nearly found myself writing the exact same words I had jotted down for my original article for the company's initial release of the film. Not wanting to repeat myself - and with little else to say on the title, I must sadly confess - I figured, since I greedily ignored my editor's

The Best of Me (2014) Blu-ray Review: Another Dopey Romance from Nicholas Sparks

As big a tearjerker as I have ever seen, but my tears are from having spent four hours of my life watching it.
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One thing is certain, Nicholas Sparks is the king of romance. Guys, if you are rolling your eyes, you should be. Sparks writes the most manipulative and frankly ludicrous plots I have ever seen. And to continue my crass generalizations, chicks eat this stuff up like candy. The author of such weepers as Message in a Bottle (1999) and The Notebook (2004) is back with The Best of Me (2014). With the new Blu-ray “Tears of Joy” edition, we actually get two movies for the price of one. The disc includes both the theatrical version (1:57) and the "Tears of

The Godfather LIVE Review: An Event You Shouldn't Refuse to See

With a live orchestra playing, it draws attention to Nino Rota's amazing soundtrack.
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While any chance to see the Francis Ford Coppola's award-winning masterpiece is a great treat, this LIVE presentation of The Godfather by CineConcerts was delightfully augmented by Nino Rota's classic score being performed on stage by the Hollywood Studio Symphony. The Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE was buzzing with excitement. Many attendees had their pictures taken in front of the stage before most the musicians were seated. I had a front row seat off to the left side of the theater. As it was set below the stage, my view was limited to a small porton of the orchestra and its

Maps to the Stars Movie Review: Monsters Incorporated

Julianne Moore, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska in David Cronenberg's dark Hollywood satire/ghost story that's both unsettling and compelling.
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Unsettling and often unpleasant, Maps to the Stars teeters between dark (albeit funny) satire of Hollywood and luridly over-baked melodrama. Director David Cronenberg presents Bruce Wagner’s screenplay, full of greed, ambition, and multiple flavors of bad behavior, simultaneously as a ghost story, a modern-day Greek tragedy, and a peek behind the curtain at the lives of the rich, famous, and ridiculously over-privileged. (Confused yet? Don’t think seeing the movie will straighten things out for you; it’s only likely to raise more questions.) Maps’ multiple intersecting plots follow Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore, incredible as always), a famous but fortysomething movie star

Speed (1936) DVD Review: James Stewart Returns to Reclaim His Title

The Warner Archive Collection unburies the famous late actor's first starring role, wherein he is paired with Ted Healy as a sidekick!
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In-between the vast unnecessary space taken up within the confines of the virtual world by loving tributes to reality-TV celebrities and the hateful comments left behind by internet users who are an entirely different waste of space, there are a few really cool things on the web. One thing I occasionally grin with delight at are the sight of re-imagined artwork for movies - such as the fan-made poster artwork for Ghostbusters starring iconic British horror legends Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, and Vincent Price (with Woody Strode jokingly tossed in as the token black guy) - and even records (a

The Murder Man (1935) DVD Review: When Spencer Met Stewart

Spencer Tracy's first starring role for MGM is supported by the feature film debut by James Stewart in this unconventional murder mystery.
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It was 1935. The Hays Office had recently begun to enforce their code of morals in film. Meanwhile, film itself was finally getting used to the whole sound thing. Projects were practically bursting from the seems of studios all around town, be it over on Poverty Row or on the lot of the more prestigious outlets. And one such outlet was MGM, where a modest murder mystery was being manufactured under the direction the man who would later bring us The Thief of Bagdad - Tim Whelan - with a script written by he and future Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Hot Tub Time Machine (Unrated) Blu-ray Review: Round up Your Friends and Your Favorite Adult Beverages

Sure to become a cult classic among the “let’s get wasted and laugh our asses off” set.
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Hot Tub Time Machine is rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use, and pervasive language, which are pluses in the right company when done right, and director Steve Pink and his team most certainly do it right. While certainly not a movie for everyone to be sure, HTTM is wildly over-the-top, filled with so much raunchy silliness (or silly raunchiness) it is sure to become a cult classic among the “let’s get wasted and laugh our asses off” set. After Lou (Rob Corddry) ends up in the hospital, he is reunited with former friends Nick (Craig Robinson) and Adam

Born Reckless (1958) DVD Review: My Long Hard Ride with Mamie Van Doren

A delightfully dumb ditty that is bursting with equestrian euphemisms and great B-grade bombshells.
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Though the notion of an actor or actress being a "sex symbol" had been in existence well before the someone coined the phrase in the '50s, it wasn't until that glamorous decade itself rolled around that things really started busting out all over. Quite literally in some cases - so much so that the concept of "skill" was often regarded as secondary when it came to some of America's "biggest" sex symbols, such as a legendary trio of lasses who would become known as The Three Ms in some circles: Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Mamie Van Doren. They were

Crazy Bitches Movie Review: Women Behaving Badly, And Paying For It

It's like Lena Dunham's 'Girls,' but for guys.
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Jane Clark's Crazy Bitches describes itself as a "horror comedy sex romp." It's definitely at least two of those things. We kick off with a group of former sorority sisters and their gay best friend (Andy Gala) reuniting for a weekend in a cabin off the beaten path. Each of the characters represents an obvious stereotype common to the genre, be it the good girl (Liz McGeever), the innocent virgin (Samantha Colburn), the athletic dyke (Cathy DeBuono), the fashionista (Guinevere Turner), the bombshell slut (Candis Cayne), the homely nerd (Mary Jane Wells), the quiet voice of reason (Nayo Wallace), or

Bandit Queen Blu-ray Review: A Brutal, Boring, Bolly-less Biopic

Twilight Time gives the controversial Phoolan Devi biography an upgrade. But is that really a good thing?
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As sad as this may sound to you, my earliest memories of childhood revolve around watching movies. My parents, for whatever reason, decided to take my three-year-old self to a showing of Alien when it was making its initial rounds in theaters back in '79. Eddie Parker's sorry-looking monster in Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy stands out prominently in my singular image visual databank due to a very early encounter with late night television. I had carte blanche from my guardians to rent virtually anything I wanted to at the local video stores (barring X-rated films, of course, which

The Story of Adele H DVD Review: Of Love and Madness

The tragic true story of Victor Hugo's daughter.
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Though Americans often think of his novels (and the musical based upon one novel), Victor Hugo is better known in his native France as a poet. During his lifetime, he was also a politician and his writings against the death penalty helped abolish the act in many places. His politics also got him into a great deal of trouble as he became exiled from France after Napoleon III seized power and declared himself emperor. Hugo had five children - one died in infancy, the second drowned at 19, his two boys were both well-loved artists, and his daughter, Adèle, like

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