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Fathom Events Presents My Neighbor Totoro

My Neighbor Totoro kicks off Studio Ghibli Fest and it's as delightful as I remember.
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There are no villains in My Neighbor Totoro. No violence either. There are monsters of a kind, but when Mei the precocious four-year-old meets the largest and scariest looking one, King Totoro, she laughs then bounces on his belly and takes a nap. The adults are all generous and good. The father is neither a bumbling fool, nor hateful and sarcastic like so many fathers in feature films these days, but rather thoughtful and kind. When his children tell him they saw strange little black things crawling around his house or a giant owl-like magical creature in the forest, he

John Wick: Chapter 2 Blu-ray Review: I'm Thinking He's Back and That's Great News

Expect to see this on "Best Blu-rays of 2017" lists.
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Not for the faint of heart, John Wick returns in another action-packed, stylish shoot-'em-up that sees our "hero" leave audiences breathless as he leaves behind another massive body count in his wake. Picking up shortly after the first film, the prologue finds retired assassin John Wick in hot pursuit of his stolen 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, which has been stored in the chop shop of Russian mobster Abram Tarasov (Peter Stormare), uncle of Iosef, who brought John back into action by stealing his car and killing his dog. It's clearly the principle of the matter to John as he

Spotlight on a Murderer (1961) Blu-ray Review: Illuminating French Proto-Slasher

A most unique mystery/black comedy from Georges Franju receives a long-overdue opportunity to shine in the US thanks to Arrow Academy.
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To the trained eye of an advanced mystery movie sleuth, spotting the writing team of Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac as the authors of the film you're about to experience is a darn good indication you're in for a treat. Sure enough, Georges Franju's 1961's mystery, Pleins feux sur l'assassin ‒ which shall be referred to henceforth by its English title, Spotlight on a Murderer ‒ is such a treat. While it may have only been the third feature film for the late visionary filmmaker, Spotlight on a Murderer should serve as an inarguable example of just how far one

The Future of Work and Death DVD Review: Raises More Questions Than Answers

A somewhat interesting but skewed documentary about the future of jobs and mortality
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The Future of Work and Death is a documentary narrated by British actor Dudley Sutton. The film is broken into two parts: work and death, and discusses the issues tied to the rapid progress of technology and what this means for human beings in regards to these areas of life. This film that features a bunch of "experts" whose credentials are not quite clear and still aren't clear to me after trying to look up their credentials. While we are a culture that loves our experts, it is always important to understand where their supposed expertise comes from. A number

LAFF 2017 Review: MOSS

A coming-of-age film with events you can see coming from a mile away.
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MOSS takes place over a 36-hour period in a small riverside town in rural North Carolina. The film opens with Moss (Mitchell Slaggert) waking up on his 18th birthday. The day not only marks his birthday but the 18th anniversary of his mother's death since she died giving birth to him. He lives with his dad (Billy Ray Suggs), a driftwood artist, who has never gotten over the death of his wife. The two are at odds and Moss believes his dad now blames him for his mother's death. After Moss returns from shooting some fish for breakfast, his dad

Caltiki The Immortal Monster (1959) Blu-ray Review: Bava's First Horror Bash

Fun, fast paced, and unexpectedly grisly for a late '50s movie, cult favorite Caltiki gets a lavish Blu-ray treatment.
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Every era gets the horror monsters it deserves, I think. In the '30s and '40s old literary monsters were brought to cinema in the form of the Universal classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, and movies beyond, with one foot in the present and one in the past. The time periods of the movies were always vague - main characters dressed relatively contemporaneously, but somehow lived in ambiguously ethnic European villages. The lord of the manor may wear a modern suit, but the peasants next door had lederhosen, torches, and pitchforks always at the ready. Modern horror revolves around zombies or haunted houses

Twilight Time Presents: Go Big, But Don't Go Home!

Four classic titles ranging from suffocating small town drama to the wonderful world of corporate corruption highlight this must-see wave of new Blu-ray releases.
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Even if you're just now joining us here on Planet Earth, there's a fair chance you've already heard someone utter that annoying catchphrase people who post nothing but inspirational memes on their Facebook page tend to use: "Go big or go home." In all honesty, however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with heading off someplace other than one's former place of residence if things don't go as "big" as you had hoped. Indeed, the protagonists of this quartet of Twilight Time releases certainly have no intention of returning home in the unlikely event of failure. But then, with an assortment

Ride the High Country Blu-ray Review: A Captivating Western

The Blu-ray's video shines as bright as the film's two lead actors.
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Sam Peckinpah's second film, Ride the High Country, is a captivating Western about two old gunslingers who reunite for a dangerous job. With limited resources and futures, their relationship is tested, as is each man's character, along the journey. Former marshal Steven Judd (Joel McCrea) is hired by a bank to transport gold from the mining town of Coarse Gold. Six miners have been killed trying to make the trip, but he needs the work. Steve runs into his old deputy Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott), who is working as a hustler with a young man named Heck Longtree (Ron Starr),

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage Blu-ray Review: Brought Italian Horror to the World

This Arrow Video set is the Blu-ray with excellent packaging.
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While walking down the street late one night, Sam (Tony Musante), an American freelance writer living in Rome, spies a man and a woman struggling inside a modern art gallery. The woman is stabbed and the man, dressed in a black trench coat, black hat, and black leather gloves slips out the back. Sam rushes in to help her but is trapped between two automated sliding doors and is thus forced to watch helplessly as the woman, bloody and dying, screams for help. A passerby calls the police and they are able to resuscitate the woman before she dies. Sam

The Jacques Rivette Collection Blu-ray Review: New Wave, Old Hat

Arrow Academy releases a trio of lengthy, esoteric, and surreal offerings which quickly turn into a case of 'mise-en-seen it.'
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Sooner or later in life, everyone reaches a point where personal obsessions and rather weird views seem to overtake either their private or professional output. Indeed, Arrow Academy's box set of The Jacques Rivette Collection presents one such unique phase from one of the men most commonly associated with the French New Wave period. By the time he made the movies included in this six-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo ‒ Duelle (Une quarantaine), Noroît (Une vengeance) (both 1976), and Merry-Go-Round (1981) ‒ Jacques Rivette had veered off of the road less traveled he and his contemporaries had become so famous for frequenting.

House: Two Stories Blu-ray Review: '80s Horror Done Weird

The very '80s horror/fantasy movie series gets a lavish box-set Blu-ray release.
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House II is one of the few movies I can remember seeing ads for on TV when I was watching cartoons in the afternoon. The ad would come on again and again, and it looked like everything I could want in a movie - monsters, human sacrifice, John Ratzenberger. However, it was also a horror movie (kind of) so no one in my family would take me to see it in the theater. When I eventually got to see it on VHS it didn't become a favorite, but there was so much strange content in there, so many weird little

High Noon (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review: One is the Loneliest Number

Another impressive high-definition presentation in the Olive Signature line.
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Created during the period in United States history when the House Un-American Activities Committee was destroying lives under the pretense of protecting the country from Communism, Fred Zimmerman's High Noon is a classic tale about an individual who must stand up alone for what he believes against seemingly insurmountable odds. Its theme is applicable to many situations where the just path can leave a person isolated because of dangerous consequences. Three men ride into Hadleyville in the New Mexico Territory and head to the train station. Dimitri Tiomkin's score and the reactions of those they pass by indicate trouble is

World Without End (1956) Blu-ray Review: Make Dystopia Great Again

The Warner Archive Collection travels through time and space to bring us one of cinema's first ‒ and strangely optimistic ‒ views of a post-apocalyptic future.
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While the notion of living in a world ravaged by nuclear war may be a regular staple in motion pictures today, it was just as much of a newfangled concept in the 1950s as was the very thought of a post-apocalyptic society itself. Of course, when it's an era where the basic "science" behind surviving an atomic blast suggested hiding under your school desk would do the trick, you have to expect a fair bit of silliness from the few movies that dared to tackle the subject. Certainly, Edward Bernds' World Without End ‒ a lavish Technicolor CinemaScope production from

From Hell It Came (1957) Blu-ray Review: This Is More Like 'Heaven-Sent'

One of the most amusingly bad drive-in monster movies ever conceived receives a beautiful new HD transfer from the Warner Archive Collection.
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What can you say about a monster movie featuring a walking, stalking, murderous tree on a wooden rampage? In the instance of From Hell It Came, you can say a whole heck of a lot just by saying very little. In fact, the most commonly referenced review of the movie was a six-word piece which read nothing more than "And to Hell it can go!" But ne'er fear, kiddies ‒ From Hell It Came has managed to uproot itself and terrorize unsuspecting filmgoers once again. This time, however, bad movie aficionados 'round the world will be able to fully immerse

Bambi: Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Walt Disney at His Best

There is just too much stuff here to pass up.
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Can you sit down with three children ages seven, nine, and eleven, and watch a 75-year-old animated film without them getting restless? Yes, and no one was more surprised than I. Surprised simply because I had forgotten just how good, and ahead of its time, Bambi was. All of the children found the film “sad”, “cute”, and “fun”, with the ending being their favorite part, and all would definitely watch it again. I can’t recall the last time I saw the brilliant telling of the life, loves, and losses, of the Prince of the Forest and his friends, but I

Inquisition (1976) Blu-ray Review: 'Let's Face It, You Can't Torquemada Anything!'

Spanish horror legend Paul Naschy's directorial debut gets the full treatment in this shocking, sleazy, and sinful release now available from Mondo Macabro.
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As a small child, Jacinto Molina became heavily captivated and inspired by the classic Universal horror movies of the '30s and '40s. So much so, in fact, that he would later craft his own series of bloody horror outings in his native Spain under his better-known alias, Paul Naschy. All but begetting the Spanish horror boom of the late '60s and '70s, Naschy's more celebrated character would be that of a tormented lycanthrope named Waldemar Daninsky, whom his creator (and portrayer) continued to torture onscreen more than a dozen times over a span of 36 years in-between his many varied

The Blood of Fu Manchu / The Castle of Fu Manchu Blu-ray Review: Toppling Towers

The world hears from Christopher Lee's most infamous character again in Blue Underground's HD double feature of two cult collaborations from Jesus Franco and Harry Alan Towers.
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Even though nearly everyone involved in the creation of Harry Alan Towers' legendary film series have since passed on, the world has nevertheless heard from Fu Manchu again thanks to the efforts of Blue Underground. To the uninitiated (or at least overly-sensitive), Towers' Fu Manchu franchise started out in 1965 with The Face of Fu Manchu ‒ effectively reviving the long-absent (and nowhere near politically correct) villain from Sax Rohmer's legendary master of "yellow peril" thanks largely to the late great horror icon Christopher Lee and his effortless ability to play a baddie. Even when the 6' 5" British actor

Spotlight on a Murderer Blu-ray Review: Shine the Light a Little Brighter

Georges Franju's follow-up to Eyes Without a Face is more atmospheric than actually scary.
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Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur) is told he won’t live through the night. Before he expires, he slips into a hidden room deep within his castle. The next day, his seven cousins show up at the estate to claim their inheritance only to be told they will have to wait five years. While the doctors are sure he died during the night, no one can find his body so the law considers him only missing. The cousins cannot afford the upkeep on the castle and its many lands for that long so they launch a desperate search for the

Where the Buffalo Roam Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Its Appeal Is Likely Limited to Hunter S. Thompson Fans

An enjoyable excursion, but the film never gets weird enough for me.
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Billed as “a movie based on the twisted legend of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” and inspired by his Rolling Stone article "The Banshee Screams for Buffalo Meat" about attorney, activist, and author Oscar Acosta, Where the Buffalo Roam tells of their friendship and how their paths diverged, with Bill Murray starring as the good doctor and Peter Coyle playing Acosta stand-in, Carl Lazlo. The 1980 cult film is being released by Shout Select (#21), but its audience will likely continue to be limited to Thompson fans. Where the Buffalo Roam opens with Hunter typing away in his snow-covered Aspen, Colorado

Fight for Your Lady (1937) DVD Review: The Ultimate Showdown of Goofy Faces

The Warner Archive Collection dusts off an odd comic rarity with Ida Lupino and an epic battle of dirty looks between Jack Oakie and Billy Gilbert.
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If the Academy ever opted to include a category for the goofiest faces made on film, RKO's 1937 production of Fight for Your Lady would have to win one of the first posthumous awards. One of three movies director Benjamin Stoloff made with a young unknown actress by the name of Ida Lupino (a few years away from becoming the film noir femme fatale and pioneering producer/director she is best remembered for today), this charming little lighthearted ditty from yesteryear finds John Boles (the third wheel of James Whale's love triangle in 1931's Frankenstein) as a famous singer with a

A United Kingdom (2017) Blu-ray Review: Strong Performances Lift Film Above Biopic Cliches

David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike shine in this true story of a forbidden love.
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Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom has the feel of something that just missed the window for Oscar consideration and was dropped into limited release in February of this year, since the studio couldn’t think of any other month to put it in. It’s a pristine-looking picture that carries the textbook moments of a historical biopic, and never misses a beat in making sure it has all the things it needs in order to make a successful, crowd-pleasing feature. A grandiose score, beautiful scenery, and big speeches are all featured here. By now, the formula is overdone, and, in most cases,

TCM and Fathom Events Present the 40th Anniversary of The Godfather

The Godfather on the big screen - an offer you shouldn't refuse.
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Some movies become so iconic they become transcendent. How many people have quoted lines like “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” or “…sleeps with the fishes,” or “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” and have never even seen the movie? Marlon Brando in his tuxedo, or with an orange in his mouth. A horse head in the bed and the gun behind the toilet. There are so many lines, so many scenes and images in The Godfather that everyone knows it regardless of whether or not they’ve seen the film. It's a movie that has seeped into

The Hero (2017) Movie Review: A Familiar but Moving Story

Sam Elliott gives one of the best performances of his career.
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For the past nine years, several actors have played similar performances to that of Sam Elliott’s in The Hero, and have gone on to obtain Oscar recognition. It happened for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, and, to an extent, Michael Keaton in Birdman. All three played a once-famous icon that has lost his way and attempts to make a comeback while, at the same time, starting a new relationship and trying to reconnect with estranged family members. Rourke and Keaton received nods for their performances, while Bridges won for his. You could say that the

Get Out Blu-ray Review: Get In

Writer Jordan Peele makes a winning theatrical debut as director.
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Get Out was a surprise critical and commercial box-office success earlier this year, seemingly coming out of nowhere to make a lasting impression. Although its themes borrow liberally from disparate film predecessors, primarily Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives, the movie as a whole is a welcome breath of fresh air in the overwhelmingly formulaic U.S. film industry. It’s principally marketed as a horror film, and while it certainly has its share of thrills, it’s more of a Black Mirror alternate-universe mindgame than a typical gory, blood-soaked horror flick. The movie follows an eventful weekend for a

Aftermath (2017) Blu-ray Review: A Serious Arnold Schwarzenegger Can't Save This Melodramatic Misfire

Arnold Schwarzenegger trades in his guns and one-liners for a role that is unlike anything else he's done in his career, but the movie lacks in telling an engaging story.
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For most of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been known as the tough guy, the guy that can kick butt and take names. His career launched when people saw him in the body-building documentary, Pumping Iron, and then really took off with films like the Terminator series, the Conan films, Predator, and Total Recall. But as the actor and former governor of California is getting ready to turn 70 this year, he’s taking on roles that are unlike anything he’s done before. Of course, he hasn’t completely given up on doing another Terminator, even though the world didn’t need one,

Evil Ed Blu-ray Review: Not Evil Dead, But Evil Ed

Still looking for that beaver-rape scene.
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Similar to the Hays Code in the United States but officially state-sponsored, Sweden created a censorship board in 1911. Designed to keep anything offensive from perverting the young minds of moviegoers, it banned movies as diverse as Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Mad Max from being played in Swedish theaters. With the rise of home video, an influx of illegal bootleg VHS tapes began finding its way to film fans across the country. By the 1990s, a growing number of filmmakers and movie lovers began protesting this censorship by demanding that the law be thrown out. Writer

Cops vs. Thugs (1975) Blu-ray Review: Kon'nichiwa, Dirty Harry-san!

Arrow Video busts Kinji Fukasaku's gritty, offbeat crime drama out of the Toei vaults.
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A full quarter of a century before he would stun filmgoers around the world with Battle Royale in 2000, the late Kinji Fukasaku was already blowing his own established cinematic perimeters out of alignment with violent and gritty crime dramas. Certainly, 1975's Kenkei tai soshiki bōryoku ‒ which shall be known henceforth by its international English moniker, Cops vs Thugs ‒ is no exception. It is, however, quite a bit different than the many similarly-themed yakuza flicks of the time, inasmuch as its main protagonist is a cop this time around; one who has learned an effective (though highly questionable)

Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Masterpiece of Control

Chantal Akerman's 200-minute epic of the mundane flies by like a thriller.
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Who’s in the mood for meatloaf with a side of existential dread? OK, I’m only so glib because writing about Chantal Akerman’s landmark Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles is a daunting proposition. This 200-minute masterpiece, which largely takes place within the confines of a middle-aged widow’s modest Brussels apartment, isn’t merely a slow-cinema progenitor, and it’s certainly not anything resembling an endurance test. Any film that runs past three hours, particularly one so resistant to narrative norms, is bound to be called “challenging,” but that label just doesn’t apply here. Jeanne Dielman unfolds like a thriller in

Cops vs Thugs (1975) Blu-ray Review: Corrupt Cops Combat Corporatization

A vintage Yakuza story by Fukasaku in his prime about the corrupt links between cops and gangs.
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Of the spate of Japanese movies that infiltrated the American consciousness at the beginning of the 21st century, when the industry was in a sadly short-lived renaissance, most, like The Ring and The Grudge were by relatively young filmmakers. One, however, was the surprise swan song of a septuagenarian who had been making movies all his life: Battle Royale, directed by Kinji Fukasaku. That's the movie where naughty schoolkids are sent to an island to do televised battle to the death. It was also the last film that Fukasaku would make (he died in the middle of directing the sequel,

The Girl and the General (1967) DVD Review: All Give Some, None Give All

A shockingly subdued Rod Steiger stars in this Italian-made WWI dramedy from Pasquale Festa Campanile.
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From a screenwriting perspective, Pasquale Festa Campanile was a fairly active fellow. Beginning in the 1950s, Campanile would go on to pen nearly 60 motion pictures, including a heap of melodramas and sex comedies, most notably the Senta Berger guilty pleasure When Women Had Tails. During the early '60s, he would collaborate with both Elio Petri and Luchiano Visconti on The Assassin (1961) and The Leopard (1963). He was also the fellow responsible for writing and directing the gritty cult 1977 thriller Hitch-Hike with Franco Nero and the late David Hess, proving the late Italian filmmaker knew how to choose

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