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The Man Who Cheated Himself Blu-ray Review: You Can't Trust Anyone

Don't cheat yourself, film noir fans. Pick up a copy.
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Produced by the Film Noir Foundation, restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and presented by Flicker Factory, The Man Who Cheated Himself is much more interesting than its generic title implies since many a film noir lead character cheats himself in some form or another. The film opens with Howard (Harlan Warde) and Lois (Jane Wyatt) Frazer heading towards a divorce after three years of marriage, and both having people on the side. When Lois (Jane Wyatt) finds a receipt for a gun sale Howard made recently, she calls her paramour, homicide detective Lt. Ed Cullen (Lee J.

The Pyjama Girl Case Blu-ray Review: Fact Is More Interesting Than Fiction

Put your PJs on, this giallo will put you to sleep.
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In 1934, the corpse of a woman clad in exotic silk pajamas was found lying in a culvert in New South Wales, Australia. She had been beaten, shot, and partially burned, leaving her identity a mystery. Police were perplexed. The media made it a sensation and the crime enthralled the country. Especially after the body became a public spectacle when she was laid in a formaldehyde bath for display in Sydney. In 1977, Flavio Mogherini turned the story into a movie. It is an odd, often-salacious, rather-dull police procedural that for some reason gets lumped into the giallo genre (Arrow

Horrors of Malformed Men Blu-ray Review: Complete Malformed Japanese Madness

Teruo Ishii's strangest film of murder, doppelgangers, and the titular malformed men finally makes it to Blu-ray.
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Escaped asylum inmates, mistaken identity, resurrection from the grave, bizarre biological experiments, murder, incest, and a plot for world domination via freaks - the barest bones of a plot outline makes Horrors of Malformed Men, directed by Teruo Ishii, sound itself malformed - overstuffed with ingredients that can’t cohere. Surprisingly, the film maintains an integrity to its own oddity and perversity, never pausing for a moment to let a hint of self-awareness turn the proceedings into farce. We meet our protagonist, Hirosuke Hitomi, in a woman’s cell of an insane asylum, where half-naked women dance around him and try to

Colette Movie Review: Keira Knightley Successfully Anchors an Impactful Biopic

In a career-best turn, Keira Knightley amazingly brings a famed novelist's story to life.
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As an actress, Keira Knightley has become rather synonymous with period dramas. In fact, her two Oscar nominations were for period pieces: Pride and Prejudice and The Imitation Game. But here’s hoping that she can be in the running for a third nomination with Colette, a biopic on the life of a famed novelist who slowly found the courage to speak up after being silenced for so long. Knightley manages to do some of the best work of her career, portraying a complex woman who is vulnerable, sexually liberate, and tenacious. The titular novelist whom the film is based on

Tea with the Dames Movie Review: An Absolute Delight

A must-see for anyone who is a fan of these four legendary thespians.
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The documentary Tea with the Dames is exactly as it is advertised: A quartet of legendary British dames having a long conversation about their lengthy careers while sipping tea. As a result, we might not see it compete in the Oscar race for Best Documentary since films in that category tend to deal with heftier subject matter. But Tea with the Dames is still a worthwhile experience regardless. It’s an insightful look into the lives of legendary performers that also works as a piece of pure escapism. Seeing Dame Maggie Smith discuss becoming a mainstay in pop culture thanks to

Tucker: The Man and His Dream (30th Anniversary) Blu-ray Review: This One Still Deserves Attention

Francis Ford Coppola weaves an interesting story of a car, a man, and a Dream.
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Under the hands of a lesser director, the story of a man obsessed with bringing out the car of his dreams in the 1940s, could have been quite a sel- absorbed mess. With Francis Ford Coppola at the helm, Tucker: The Man and His Dream turned into an inspiring and fascinating bio-pic. The 1988 movie has a 30th Anniversary release from Liongate on Blu-ray that brings the oft-forgotten film back for deserved recognition. The year 1988 was not great for film releases. The comedy was broad and the drama and action often revolved around war like Rambo III or Die

The Land of Steady Habits Movie Review: A Compelling, Humanistic Character Drama

Ben Mendelsohn is the strong center of the naturalistic ensemble dramedy by writer/director Nicole Holofcener.
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Much like Enough Said, director Nicole Holofcener’s last film, The Land Of Steady Habits is a poignant telling of a person going through a midlife crisis. However, while Enough Said was a romantic comedy, The Land Of Steady Habits is a seriocomical ensemble piece about how growing up is different from growing old. At the center of the film’s ensemble is Anders Hill (Ben Mendelsohn), a divorced financier who decides to leave behind his career that he’s become disillusioned with and try to restart his life. In the meantime, he tries to maintain his relationship with his college graduate son

Lost Child Movie Review: Solid but Something's Still Missing

An admirably unconventional depiction of PTSD anchored by a strong performance by Leven Rambin.
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When Lost Child first opens, our main character Fern (Leven Rambin of The Hunger Games fame) is sitting on a bus heading home after fighting in the Army. When we hear the sound of gunshots while she’s resting, it seems to set the tone for the movie. Right off the bat, it looks like we’re in for a PTSD character study. In a way, the film is that but it also turns out to be an interesting genre bender as a way to avoid being a typical story about an Army soldier readjusting to home life. As Fern returns home,

Bel Canto (2018) Movie Review: Out of Tune

Clumsy lip-syncing and silly scenarios drag down Paul Weitz's latest effort.
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Is it too much to ask for someone who can both act and sing exceptionally well? Apparently so. In last year’s The Greatest Showman, Rebecca Ferguson portrayed opera singer Jenny Lind. But while it looked like she was the one singing “Never Enough,” it was actually Loren Allred’s voice that people heard while Ferguson lip-synced. As for the song itself, it sounded less like opera and more like a '90s pop ballad, but that’s beside the point. The reason I bring this up is because Paul Weitz’s adaptation of Ann Patchett’s bestselling book, Bel Canto, does the same exact thing

Tag Blu-ray Review: Chase This Down

Although Tag seemed to get overlooked in this summer’s box office competition, it’s well worth chasing down on Blu-ray this fall.
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Tag is based on the remarkably true story of a group of men who have kept their same childhood game of tag going for decades, risking their safety and careers in pursuit of pulling one over on their friends. It’s a ridiculous concept for a feature film that could have resulted in a real dud, but thanks to some solid casting and a hilarious script, it works so well that it’s easily my favorite comedy of the year. Each year for a month, the men play tag wherever they are, resorting to costumes and tomfoolery to track down their targets

Scooby-Doo! and the Gourmet Ghost DVD Review: I Appreciate the Return to a Classic Mystery

If you don't like food jokes, then this movie will not be for you.
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. The Scooby-Doo franchise is releasing their 28th direct-to-video feature this month. Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost continues the crossovers the franchise has attempted in this format - WWE, Batman, KISS, etc. and returns to a more traditional story of haunted old mansions and food-related jokes. I've been on record lately as the resident Professor of Scooby Studies here as claiming the franchise is at an all-time low right now. The most recent

Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji Blu-ray Review: Low on Blood, High on Social Commentary

Despite the lurid title, Tomu Uchida’s most famous work is more social commentary road movie than samurai action film.
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Director Tomu Uchida was an esteemed contemporary of Japan’s most internationally well-known directors, Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu, and yet his work is barely known in the U.S. Arrow Academy aims to correct that oversight by presenting this remastered Blu-ray of his most famous film. The film follows a samurai and his entourage as they venture toward Edo (modern-day Tokyo), but rather than focus on swordplay action scenes one might expect from the title, it instead spends time on ancillary commoners they meet along the way, such as a poor orphan boy and shady man who seems to have gained

Tideland (2005) Blu-ray Review: Childhood, Love, and Necrophilia

Terry Gilliam's controversial tale of an innocent in a grotesque world is four parts beautiful, six parts repulsive.
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In a recorded introduction to Tideland, director Terry Gilliam states flat out, "Many of you are not going to like this film." And "Don't forget to laugh." I didn't find a whole lot to laugh about in Tideland, which earned Gilliam the worst reviews of his career and scared up very little in the way of box-office returns. Gilliam has never been a commercial filmmaker, though. A challenging vision coming from him isn't a surprise. And Tideland is not some routine carnival of shock and gore. It is more thoughtful in its repulsive elements, and more likely to get under

Searching Movie Review: Brilliantly Deceitful and Ingenious

Director Aneesh Chaganty delivers what is easily the most immersive and innovative film of the year.
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It’s hard to know where to begin when describing the sheer brilliance of Searching. For one, it handles a really interesting gimmick of having the entire film shot on smartphones and computer webcams. Not only that, but the gimmick never overshadows the emotional storyline which deals with a father who will go to great lengths to save his missing daughter. The film’s ability to let the story and technical aesthetics go hand in hand smoothly is thanks in large part to writer/director Aneesh Chaganty. Along with leading man John Cho and co-writer Sev Ohanian, he has easily created one of

Smithereens Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Indie Filmmaking at Its Most Raw and Unpolished

A grainy, authentic look at New York youth during the dying days of Punk.
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Films about women by women are pretty rare these days. These are stories about women taking control of their lives and reinventing themselves. Most filmgoers miss out of the opportunity to see and relate to characters who turn out to be just like them; characters who are just as self-absorbed, rebellious, and determined just like everyone else. Thankfully, there is director Susan Seidelman's landmark 1982 grassroots classic, Smithereens, which shows us what we're missing in film: the feminist touch. It also paints a low-key, but documentary-like portrait of the grim, desparate side of underground New York in the early '80s.

Mind Game (2004) Blu-ray Review: Endlessly Confusing, Endlessly Fascinating

Masaaki Yuasa's debut animated feature is a kaleidoscope of images and scenes that, miraculously, make a coherent (if confusing) film.
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The first couple minutes of Mind Game contains, after a brief scene of a girl being chased onto a subway train and getting her leg caught in the door, a montage. It lasts a couple of minutes, and contains scenes from various lives, put together without context, without any real sense of which character is which, who is who or when or where. Segments from TV shows are interspersed with scenes from daily life, and memories that are later shown to be incomplete. A similar segment plays at the end of the film, and while most of the context for

Beast (2018) Blu-ray Review: It's a Beauty

Jessie Buckley makes a name for herself in Michael Pearce’s directorial debut.
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While Jessie Buckley has made several notable appearances on television, Beast marks the first time she’s taken on a role in a feature-length project. And, boy, does she make a strong first impression. In Michael Pearce’s directorial debut, she’s placed at the front and center of the story, and there’s not a moment in which it seems like she has issues with taking the lead. There is a bright future for the young actress, and Beast shows that she is a force to reckon with. Set in an isolated community on the Channel Island of Jersey, Beast is loosely inspired

Deadpool 2 Super Duper $@%!#& Cut Blu-ray Review: It's a Family Film, Sorta

An entertaining mix of action and comedy for those with a high tolerance for vulgarity (like myself).
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Given the success of the first Deadpool, it wasn't a surprise a sequel was made. The foul-mouthed, wise-cracking mutant (or do I need to write “Merc with a Mouth” to help with Google searches and to look like I am in the know?) was featured in a movie that brought different sensibilities to the superhero genre earned its R rating with bloody action, filthy language, and meta humor. Plus, it was a vast improvement of the character that appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Deadpool 2 opens with Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) trying to kill himself because of the responsibility he feels

Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat Movie Review: A Look at the Creative Development of an Art Icon

Sara Driver's documentary uses archival footage and interviews with friends to retrace the artist's creative origins on the Lower East Side.
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An untitled painting of a skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110 million in 2017, making it one of the priciest artworks ever auctioned. That astronomical sum is light years away from anything in the New York City portrayed in Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Director Sara Driver’s documentary traces Basquiat’s creative origins through interviews and archival footage. To set the stage, Driver begins the film with audio of President Gerald Ford essentially telling the broke New York City to “drop dead” over clips of the grimy, abandoned Lower East Side. A Polish bar blared

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938) Blu-ray Review: Plenty of Audacious Mischief

The adventures are thrilling for kids and those who remember being a kid.
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Kino Lorber Studio Classics has released The Adventures of Tom Sawyer in both its 1938 91-minute cut and its 77-minute cut when it was reissued in 1954. When released in 1938, it was the fourth adaptation of Mark Twain's 1876 novel and the first shot in Technicolor. Although the simplicity of the 19th century bucolic Midwestern town the story is set in and that of a 1930s family film may grow increasingly unfamiliar, Tom's adventures retain their appeal. Tom (Tommy Kelly) lives with his Aunt Polly (May Robson), her daughter Mary (Marcia Mae Jones), and Tom's annoying half-brother Sid, who

The Wife Movie Review: Glenn Close Does Career-Best Work

Glenn Close is a quiet force of nature in a masterfully written and well-acted gem.
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There’s no denying that Glenn Close is one of our greatest living actresses. Her career spans 30 years and she’s been a mainstay on the silver screen, the small screen, and the stage. Also, after losing at the Oscars a staggering six times, it feels like her moment may finally arise with The Wife. Much like how her character demands people to hear her voice, Glenn Close shall make voters finally take notice of her genius talent this time around. In The Wife, Glenn Close plays Joan, the wife of a famed writer named Joseph Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). When Joseph

Deep Rising Blu-ray Review: Schlocky, B-Movie Fun

Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives Stephen Sommers’ silly monster movie a solid Blu-ray upgrade.
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Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising was one of those movies I wanted to see when it initially released, but I never got around to it until now. I was in seventh grade, and, like most people in that age range, horror movies were something that we rushed out to see. We wanted to see something that was going to make us jump in our seats and entertain us. But, for some reason, I never saw it. It may be because I didn’t hear great things about it and decided to skip. That’s usually what I did and - to some degree

First Reformed Blu-ray Review: Praise Paul Schrader and Ethan Hawke

Ethan Hawke gives a stunning performance in Paul Schrader’s latest effort.
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It’s a subject in which Paul Schrader is very familiar, and also the one from which some of his best work comes: the focus on an individual whose life begins to spiral out of control for various reasons. It began with Taxi Driver in 1976 and has been explored in others such as 1980’s Raging Bull and 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead. All of them are terrific and haunting works of art that Schrader penned and, at least in those three examples, had Martin Scorsese direct. For First Reformed, Schrader tackles the subject as both writer and director. Borrowing mostly

Color of Night (1994) Blu-ray Review: Color Me Bad for Enjoying It So

Kino Lorber reminds us how great bad '90s erotic thrillers were with this two-disc Special Edition set featuring both the Theatrical and Director's Cuts.
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Much like director Richard Rush's 1980 cult classic The Stunt Man has never been the sort of film one could easily classify under just one genre, his following feature Color of Night isn't a movie anyone can describe as being merely "good" or "bad." For it is both of these things, and yet, neither. As unforgivably '90s as you could possibly ever hope to get, Color of Night is an unbelievably goofy psychological thriller with a heavy focus on sex ‒ and very little else. Making little to no sense throughout the bulk of its two-hour-plus runtime, Color of Night

Crazy Rich Asians Movie Review: An Incredibly Winning Rom-Com

It succeeds thanks to its cultural significance and crowd-pleasing nature.
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It is quite admirable to see a film like Crazy Rich Asians being greenlit so that Asian-American audiences can see themselves reflected in a positive manner. I know in 2018, it shouldn’t seem like a big deal. But even though it is 2018, the tired practice of Caucasian actors playing whitewashed Asian roles is still being practiced. So, to have a film with a cast solely made up of Asian actors is quite a big deal. Crazy Rich Asians is a key cultural touchstone and also, a great movie. It is a fun movie going experience that manages to have

Avengers: Infinity War Blu-ray Review: A Marvelous (pun intended) Superhero Movie

It was fun seeing so many characters interact, which helped distract from the plot issues.
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Starting with Iron Man (2008), the Marvel Cinematic Universe has gone onto to become a multimedia behemoth. It's been so successful that other movie studios have tried to create their own shared universes, but none have matched what Marvel has created. The 19th film in the franchise, Avengers: Infinity War, keeps that streak alive with over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. This was due in part to fans' anticipation of seeing what was billed as the biggest crossover event ever, and it was fun seeing so many characters interact, which helped distract from the plot issues. With the

The Rider (2018) DVD Review: Beautiful and Poignant

A cast of non-actors leads one of the most realistic and powerful portrayals of those who risk their lives in the rodeo circuit.
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Chloe Zhao’s The Rider is a film that begins with our lead character, Brady Blackburn, removing staples from his head. His days of riding in the rodeo circuit are no more, and, as he looks in the mirror, he contemplates on what he’s going to do from here. The person who portrays the title character is Brady Jandreau, a non-actor who was once a cowboy in the rodeo circuit but had to resign following a horrific head injury. The Rider is not a documentary, but there’s never a moment where it feels like the viewer is watching something that has

What Have They Done to Your Daughters? Blu-ray Review: I Hope They're Not with Solange

The second part of Massimo Dallamano's "schoolgirl's in peril" trilogy gets an excellent release from Arrow Video.
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Two years after he directed the excellent giallo What Have You Done to Solange?, Massimo Dallamano helmed this giallo/poliziotteschi hybrid. It has some interesting moments but definitely feels like a step down in quality. It contains many of characteristics of a giallo - gruesome murders by a black clad; knife-wielding (or in this case, butcher’s-cleaver-wielding) killer; odd, off-kilter camera angles; a unique score; and a bold use of color - but in many ways the plot is closer to a poliziotteschi. It spends most of its run time following the police, detailing their procedures as they try to solve the

BlacKkKlansman Movie Review: Haunting, Hilarious, and Thought Provoking

BlacKkKlansman is a powerful and razor sharp yet timely effort from director Spike Lee.
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The best way to describe Spike Lee’s latest joint, BlacKkKlansman, is that it is haunting, humorous, and thought provoking in equal measure. It works as an acerbic buddy comedy that delves into the horrors of white supremacy which is still prevalent in today’s society. BlacKkKlansman may be based on a true story, yet it also feels like a documentation of the bigotry that the Trump presidency is currently demonstrating and not just because it features footage of last year’s Charlottesville riots. BlacKkKlansman is based on the story of Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the first African-American detective to serve in

Dragon Inn Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Villains Check In but They Don't Check Out

Fans of the genre will do themselves a favor if they plan a stop at Dragon Inn.
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King Hu's second entry into the Criterion Collection is Dragon Inn (1967), his first film after leaving the Shaw Brothers Studios in Hong King and moving to seek greater artistic liberties as a director in Taiwan. Set against a backdrop of political intrigue, writer/director Hu does very well with both job duties, creating visually interesting action sequences that blend into an entertaining story. Set in 1457 A.D. during China's Ming Dynasty, eunuchs led by Cao Shao-qin (Bai Ying), who is “unsurpassed in the martial arts,” seize power. This gives them control over two espionage agencies, the Eastern Depot and the

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