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The Addams Family (2019) Blu-ray Review: Not Creepy or Kooky

Animated take on the famous family is so bland it practically vanishes from sight.
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The Addams Family is the very definition of Hollywood product, a project so completely lacking any creative spark or reason for existence that it feels like everyone involved had to be convinced to participate. The character designs are so over-exaggerated and super-deformed one can almost sense the pixels threatening to revolt in protest, while the story is so obvious it could have written itself. And yet, in spite of its many shortcomings, it isn’t an altogether unpleasant family film, especially because it largely sidesteps the rude humor one typically expects from lower-tier animated fare. For this iteration of the famous

Zombi Child Movie Review: A Slow Exploration of Voodoo and Adolescence

A meditative zombie flick that revitalizes the genre while simultaneously exploring its origins.
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With Zombi Child, director Bertrand Bonello pulls off both a reinvigoration of the zombie genre and a reclaiming of its origins. Over the years, people have associated zombies with their hunger for human flesh and loss of morality and consciousness once they become zombified. But Bonello aims to make a meditative horror drama about colonialism and adolescence. Zombi Child follows two different storylines. One set in Haiti 1962 involving Clairvius Narcisse (Mackenson Bijou), the most famous victim of the practice called zombieism who was drugged and sold into slavery while in a susceptible mind set. The other storyline is set

'Brotherhood' Live Action Short Review: Family & the Cruel World

The sorrowful story takes center stage despite the masterful cinematic craft at display.
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Brotherhood could have been a minimalistic tale of a family confronting a circumstance, which although it appears to bring joy, has a severe flip side to it, both repercussions in contrariety to each other. When the eldest son of the family, Malek returns home after spending a year in Syria, should the family exult the recrudesce of their son, or bemoan the veracity and cower from the possible consequences? Without restricting to this question, which evidently facade the narrative, the film goes deeper and beyond. It's the father's internal turmoil as he thwarts being rived between his family and his

Brewster's Millions Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Maybe Worth a Hundred

A movie I loved as a kid as depreciated a great deal over the years.
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In 1902, George Barr McCutcheon, writing under the pseudonym of Richard Graves, wrote a novel entitled Brewster’s Millions. In it, a young man named Montgomery Brewster learns of a large inheritance of $7 million due to him after his uncle died. The stipulations of the will are strange - he can only earn the $7 million is he spends $1 million within one year's time and manages to not own any assets at the end of it. The novel was turned into a Broadway play in 1906, a radio play in 1937, and has been adapted into no less than

Sliding Doors Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Let Them Close

A unique concept that stretches itself way too thin.
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The idea behind Sliding Doors is one that is rather original and intriguing. Imagine someone living two separate but shared storylines. One focuses on what happens if she were to miss the train she’s supposed to catch to go back home. The other focuses on what happens if she got on the train in time. They have the same people, but differ in terms of certain character actions and landmark events. It’s something that might have worked in The Twilight Zone. As a feature film, and one that relies on so many rom-com cliches, not so much. Gwyneth Paltrow plays

Jexi Blu-ray Review: Mindless, Silly Fun with a Hint of Possibility

Overall, the movie is enjoyable.
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Phil (Adam Devine) has led a lone and solitary life. He has no real friends, spends the majority of his time at home, and is completely obsessed with his cellphone. So much so, that his two co-workers, Craig (Ron Funches) and Elaine (Charlyne Yi), who have sat next to him at work for the last three years don’t even know one another’s names. Even though Phil aspires to be a real journalist, his social anxiety keeps him from reaching that goal and instead, his job consists of him writing top-ten lists that usually includes cute animals with the sole purpose

Fathom Events and TCM Present An American in Paris

Watching "An American in Paris" on the big screen was an exceptional experience and one I fully recommend.
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In the late 1940s, MGM executive Arthur Freed attended a production of George Gershwin classics and became inspired by the orchestral composition An American in Paris. Not so much because of the music, which he felt was great, but by the title. He felt you could really make a movie out of something like that. He hired Alan Jay Lerner to come up with a story. Gene Kelley was quickly hired to star and choreograph the many dance sequences. Gershwin's friend and grand pianist Oscar Levant was hired as Gene Kelly's friend and newcomer Leslie Caron was eventually signed to

Color Out of Space (2020) Movie Review: A Campy and Gorgeous Lovecraft Adaptation

Not on the same level of nuttiness as Mandy, but a thrilling, B-grade invasion film overall.
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One of the great things about Nicolas Cage’s decisions to appear in practically anything that crosses his desk is, every now and then, we’ll get a movie that is just as wild and as over-the-top as his performance. In 2018, the Oscar-winning actor partnered with Panos Cosmatos for the phantasmagoric Mandy, which equally balanced its bonkers and campy approach with Cage’s typical moments of shouting and wide-eyed gazes. Most of the time, Cage does his own thing while the script and direction do something entirely different. In most cases, the result is something conventional with some meme-able moments provided by

Corpus Christi (2019) Movie Review: A Drama of Mistaken Identities

The journey of a juvenile in reformatory who becomes a reformer himself.
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Nominated for the Academy Awards' Best International Feature Film, this Polish drama opens with an "Inspired by real-life events" tag, instantly drawing us towards it. Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia) is in a detention center for a second-degree crime. We are introduced to the horrors of the place moments after his fellow detainees strip and beat a weakling, and Daniel helps these men. In a contrasting follow-up scene, he is seen arranging chairs for the prayer sermon followed by singing the hymns of the Lord like a good Christian. We get to know that he will soon get out on parole. He

Water and Sugar: Carlo Di Palma - The Colours of Life DVD Review

An affectionate, if not entirely in-depth document on a truly influential cinematographer.
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Next to the director, the cinematographer is one of the most essential components to making great art. Cinematography can capture emotion and depth with vision, almost always better than words can ever do. Many of film history's greatest masters of light, including Roger Deakins, Karl Struss, Gordon Willis, Gregg Toland, Sven Nykvist, and Haskell Wexler, among others, have successfully demonstrated how images can truly increase the impact of any film, even if certain movies themselves, are not particulary meaningful. However, if there was one who somehow continues to be forgotten in the annals of the history of the medium, it

'Saria' Live Action Short Review: Agonizing and Heartbreaking

A potent work that emphatically proves the effectiveness of short-form cinema.
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Bryan Buckley's Saria is based on 2017's tragedy when 41 girls orphan girls lost their lives to fire in Virgen de La Asuncion Safe Home in Guatemala, the very same orphanage they were housed in, or I may say, jailed. The first and last shots of the film have a spider crawling in the hallway of the orphanage, and the spider appears at three different junctures. First, the spider crawls into a closed room. Second, Saria, the titular character, saves the insect trapped in soap foam and lets it go out of the orphanage. Third, the spider crawls out of

All the Freckles in the World Movie Review: Suffused with Simplicity, Innocence, and Lively Moments

YibrĂ¡n Asuad's film is suffused with simplicity and innocence.
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Is it necessary that a film set in the '90s resemble a movie from the '90s? All the Freckles in the World had me asking that question over and over, scene by scene. And my answer to it, it's not an issue if done well and even better if it mirrors the time. It wouldn't take thought to strike the film off by disregarding the simplicity of proceedings to the shallowness, the light-hearted nature to the absolute lack of stakes, and self-absorption to the absence of motivation in writing. The moments aren't underlined; no musical score guides you on how

1917 Movie Review: A Visually Bold Look at the Heart of War

1917 is a terrific war epic with masterful technical aesthetics.
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After reinvigorating the Bond franchise with Skyfall and ending his run on a whimper with Spectre, director Sam Mendes makes a leap into the war genre with 1917, a technically bold look at an often undiscussed period within history. Although it hardly goes beyond being technically bold, it still is quite admirable in its ambition. The whole film is structured as if it’s a continuous take and takes place over a couple days. Two soldiers, Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean Charles-Chapman), are assigned to deliver a message to the second battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to prevent

PSIFF 2020 Review: Adventures of a Mathematician

The story piqued my interest about the scientists involved, making me want to learn more about them and their projects.
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Based on the autobiography of the same name, writer/director Thor Klein's Adventures of a Mathematiciantells the story of Stanislaw Ulam's time working for the United States government on the Manhattan Project, which produced the first nuclear weapons. Covering about a decade in his life during the 1940s, we meet an intelligent man who deals with matters at a distance, both personal and professional. In 1941, Stanislaw (Philippe Tlokinski), or “Stan” by those close to him, is a Polish mathematician teaching in the United States at Harvard. His younger brother Adam (Mateusz Wieclawek). They are both concerned about their family back

The Lighthouse Blu-ray Review: A Shining Beacon of Excellence

A two-hander where your two hands will be firmly embedded in your armrests.
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I wasn’t at all familiar with director and co-writer Robert Eggers until this masterful sophomore effort, but immediately added his debut, The Witch, to my must-see queue after falling under the spell of The Lighthouse. The film really shouldn’t work, and yet it’s about as close to perfection as I encountered in last year’s film slate. It’s a dialogue-rich two-hander that is so stage-ready it’s just missing spotlights, it’s a twisted cerebral thriller with some insane freak-out moments, and it’s filmed on actual film in black and white in a nearly-square 1.19:1 aspect ratio that legitimately makes it seem like

Like A Boss Movie Review: A Middling Investment

Rose Byrne and Tiffany Haddish are the strong center of this amusing yet manufactured comedy.
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The new comedy Like A Boss is like a cone of vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. It does its job at being satisfactory the way one would expect but with some added touches. It’s firmly aware that it isn’t meant to change the face of comedy even if it doesn’t offer “laugh a minute”-type humor. Yet, it admirably adds some slight heft with its handling of lifelong friendships. Mia Carter (Tiffany Haddish) and Mel Paige (Rose Byrne) have been together through thick and thin. Despite them having different personalities, they still have remained close friends who live together and run

The Sonata Movie Review: Safe, Self-aware, and Focussed

It marries the physical and mental facets of horror.
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A little question strikes me every time I watch a horror movie. Do horror movies exist in the universe of other horror movies? Isn't it quite apparent that an old mansion in the woods is a set up for the upcoming horror? The person entering it should be aware of it or at the least, shed little doubt, provided he/she has seen at least one horror movie in their life. Andrew Desmond's The Sonata has a quite interesting treatment. The evident intent of horror films would be to scare the living shit out of the audience. Some choose jump scares,

Joker Blu-ray Review: A Gritty Origin Story for Batman's Most Iconic Villain

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a strong performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.
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Numerous actors have depicted Batman’s most famous villain, the Joker, over the years, all with different takes on the evil clown. Joaquin Phoenix is the latest in a long line of actors that includes Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, and Heath Ledger. Phoenix’s Joker is an emaciated, mentally ill, very psychotic, yet somewhat sympathetic character. His performance highlights the strong, yet controversial Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker, the highest-grossing Rated-R movie of all time, is set in early '80s Gotham City, where a garbage strike has led to an infestation of super rats. Gotham’s prognosis is bleak and

PSIFF 2020 Review: Antigone (2019)

An ancient Greek tragedy re-imagined in the living conditions and troubles faced by an immigrant family in Montreal.
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Antigone directed by Sophie Deraspe is Canada’s official entry to Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. The film is an adaptation of a Greek tragedy of the same name written by Sophocles in 441BCE. The play is about the Thebes civil war, which leads to the death of Antigone’s brother Polynices, and how she will fight the ruler and the state for the proper burial of her brother. It plays around the complex themes like civil disobedience, natural law vs. law of the state. The film doesn’t adapt the exact plot of the play but its focus

Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll Blu-ray Review: It's Good to Be the King

Hail! Hail! tells an important, albeit incomplete, story of an American music legend.
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Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll pays tribute to the man many consider the King of Rock 'n' Roll, through testimonials from peers and famous fans, from a drunken Jerry Lee Lewis, who makes the claim for he and his mama, to John Lennon appearing through archival footage on The Michael Douglas Show. The film also documents the 60th birthday celebration concert held in his honor, which takes up the last half of the film. Unfortunately, it doesn't paint a complete picture of Berry's life as he cuts interviews short when touchy subjects are broached. In 1986, Berry was

PSIFF 2020 Review: 'Free Color' Replicates Its Master's Art Form

Alberto Arevalo's documentary follows Carlos Cruz-Diez, Venezuelan-born artist, who at 94, sets out to achieve something unseen and unheard of in the artist community.
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I've always wondered how individuals feel after reaching a peak of success in their respective fields, I mean, don't the tremendous achievements create a sense of satisfaction leading to fulfilment? If not, then I have to change the way I look at success and its fruits. It takes some time to get familiar with the vibe it creates, but after its opening moments, Free Color profoundly replicates the art form, which the film's subject and artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez, dreams to create. Now, we have only seen color being a part of an art form. In painting, color decorates, creates a

Blue Collar Blu-ray Review: Workingman's Blues

Paul Schrader's directorial debut gets a nice new release from Kino Lorber.
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After finding great success as a screenwriter on such movies as The Yakuza (directed by Sydney Pollack), Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese) and Obsession (Brian De Palma), Paul Schrader had the clout to demand the ability to direct his own scripts. His first film as director was Blue Collar, a down and dirty drama about three guys working on an assembly line at an auto plant who decide to rob their own union and find themselves over their heads. It is a realistic portrayal of the lower middle class and how big business and big unions can grind a person down

Best of 2019 Film Lists

The best of movie lists of 2019 for movies I saw and ones I should have seen. And a stab at 2020.
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From 2005 through 2012, I pretty consistently wrote my Sunday Morning Tuneage blog. It continued inconsistently through 2013 before being abandoned. Each year was punctuated with a series of best-of lists. While the blog still remains retired, I'm revived it last year for a Best of 2017 and 2018. The feedback was enough for me to compile it again this year. BEST OF FILM 2019 No other blogger is brave enough to pick their favorites before they see them. Here's what I boldly thought I'd be writing about in December 2019. PREDICTED BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (Dec. 2018) 1. AVENGERS:

The Magic Sword Blu-ray Review: Dragons, Princesses, and Basil Rathbone

A film so bad the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 called it "pretty good."
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Poor Basil Rathbone. After finding great success on stage and the screen, after becoming a huge star playing Robin Hood, after being nominated for two Oscars, and portraying the definitive Sherlock Holmes (at least until a certain Mr. Cumberbatch came along), he ended his career mostly hamming it out in drek. In the last decade of his life, he made films like Hillbillys in a Haunted House, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, and this rather silly sword and sandals fantasy. The Magic Sword is probably best known today as one of the many films ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater

Trapped (1949) Blu-ray Review: Great Restoration of a B-movie

Previously only available in murky, ugly prints, pretty good crime thriller Trapped has been beautifully restored in HD.
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Film noir are crime movies, but not all crime movies are film noir. There has to be an element of tragedy to the film noir - of a normal person (criminal or not) who takes an opportunity to do indulge their worse nature, and their world falls apart around them because of it. A real film noir needs to be about a failing of moral choice. There has to be some chance that the main character could have acted in a different way, may have wanted to, really, but they had their moment of weakness. An itch they just had

Very Bad Things Blu-ray Review: What Happens in Vegas Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas

A difficult, but hilariously dark morality tale about men behaving really, really badly.
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After Pulp Fiction (arguably the film that defined the 1990s) came out, it changed the dynamic of how violence was depicted in the movies back then. It kind of signaled a genre that could be called the "Violent New Wave," where some films used violence just as a selling point, while others used it as an important piece of the puzzle to show how far society has fallen. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg's polarizing 1998 black comedy, Very Bad Things, can be placed in between the two. On one side, it's about how masculinity can take some really unsavory turns; the other,

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 2 Blu-ray Review: The Love Triangle Continues

The impressive work put into making these cartoons available in high definition should be commended and make one hopeful for future animated releases from Warner Archive.
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After a disclaimer about the unfortunate ethnic and racial depictions that occur in a few shorts, Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 2 presents the next 15 titles released in chronological order, which debuted during the years 1946 and 1947. For those who don't know the cartoon series, the stories make frequent use of a basic template. Popeye has a girlfriend named Olive Oyl, or at least that's what he thinks the nature of their relationship is. Bluto (or his stand-in) catches her eye and she runs off with him, but then when he gets sexually aggressive with her, she

Lucy in the Sky Movie Review: No Diamonds Here

Noah Hawley's feature film directorial debut fails to launch
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Hey, did you hear about the new astronaut movie starring Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm directed by Noah Hawley, the guy who made the excellent Fargo and Legion TV shows? No, I didn’t either, until I happened to stumble across a mention of it by chance last month. It’s tempting to believe this Fox Searchlight film is yet another casualty of the Fox buyout by Disney, but at least in this case, the reality is that it almost certainly would have been buried even without the studio merger. So how did a film with such stellar talent fail to achieve

IT Chapter Two Blu-ray Review: We All Bloat Down Here

In which Pennywise, the shapeshifting killer clown, strikes back! And scares no one.
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IT is back. The Losers Club, a tight-knit group of kids—good kids—with chips on their shoulders, humiliated Pennywise the dancing (and shapeshifting) killer clown (Bill Skarsgard), forcing him to hide in his hole. Now, 27 years later, Pennywise (he, she, “IT”) wakes from its slumber, hungry for flesh. Loser flesh. As conceived by director Andy Muschietti, Pennywise always looks and sounds demonic. But IT Chapter Two and its 2017 predecessor over-telegraph the evil. IT’s mouth drools. The head is bulbous, spider-like. The blood-tear makeup is sinister. Skarsgard goes all in to give us all kinds of creep. By contrast, the

Stick Blu-ray Review: Burt Reynolds Should Have Stuck to Acting

A sluggish, limp and completely uninteresting Elmore Leonard adaptation.
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More than half of Elmore Leonard’s novels have been turned into movies (and more than a few were adapted twice, not to mention television shows based on his work). It is easy to see why. Leonard writes like he’s got a movie in mind. His books are full of actions, his characters well-drawn, and he’s got an ear for dialogue. Sometimes, he’ll break long sections of dialogue down like a script with the character's name written out at the beginning of each line followed by what they say. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on a character’s inner dialogue

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