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The Irishman (2019) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Welcome Addition to Martin Scorsese's Filmography

It's what it is: a fitting bookend to his gangster films.
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Martin Scorsese's epic The Irishman makes a fitting bookend to his gangster films as one mobster tells his story while living out his twilight days at a retirement home, alone because of the life chosen and the decisions made. The film is also poignant because it's likely the last fans will get to see the trio of Scorsese and actors Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci together telling a story of such scale and scope, if not the last story they tell as Pesci had to be coaxed out of retirement. The titular character is Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a

The Pirate Blu-ray Review: Choppy Seas Lead to Treasure

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland struggle to right this listing ship
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On paper, this classic musical has everything going for it. Headlined by the top-tier star pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, with songs by Cole Porter and direction by Vincente Minnelli, it’s a dream team of talent that seems like a guaranteed hit. So why is it barely known today? Well, to the creators' credit, they tried to do something unique with the pirate theme, but to their detriment, it doesn’t really work out. Still, it’s a glorious, over-the-top mess stuffed with superb production numbers and a mercilessly mugging Kelly setting the standard for flamboyant screen pirates decades before

Happiest Season Movie Review: A Vital Holiday Rom-Com

A suitable comedy for this particular holiday season that's both humorous and incredibly emotive.
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One way to describe co-writer/director Clea DuVall's Happiest Season is that it serves as a heartfelt holiday gem as satisfying as a Christmas cookie served with bitter gingerbread coffee that has dabs of cream and sugar. Although audiences sadly won’t get the experience of watching it in a crowded theater, it’s still the kind of solid piece of escapism this holiday season needs with enough poignancy to strike a chord with viewers. Queer viewers, in particular, will be moved by it due to its handling of the “coming out” experience and how even life after coming out of the closet

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind DVD Review: Something Very Special

If you aren't already a fan, this documentary makes the case for what an immense talent he is.
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Named after Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot's 1970 breakout hit in the United States, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni's biographical documentary makes mind reading unnecessary because what his songs don't tell you about the man, he and the other interviewees fill in the rest. Right from the start, it's clear that the man from Orilla, Ottawa remains a perfectionist about his work, as revealed by other musicians later in the film. “For Lovin' Me” was released on his debut album in 1966, but it had already been recorded by folk artists Peter, Paul, and Mary and Ian & Sylvia and would

Jungleland Movie Review: Packs a Nearly Rigorous Punch

As Jungleland gets hit with convention, the three leading performers still serve as its strong emotional center.
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The newest fighting drama Jungleland feels like a cross between The Fighter and Of Mice and Men. Like the former film, it emphasizes on the tempestuous nature of siblinghood to the point where there’s little high-octane fighting sequences. As for how Jungleland compares to the latter, it follows two men going across the country in pursuit of the American Dream, dealing with the complications of going on such a venture. Stanley Kaminski (Charlie Hunnam) serves as the “George Milton” of the brotherly duo as he’s quick-witted and uses his brother Lion (Jack O’Connell) as an opportunity to build a better

I Spit on Your Grave Box Set Review: Mainly for Hardcore Fans of Cult/Horror Films

Ronix Flix pulls out all the stops for a still notorious 1978 cult classic with a collection that may be a must-have, depending on your tastes.
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If you discuss some of the most controversial films ever made, Meir Zarchi's 1978 still-divisive, cult-classic I Spit on Your Grave (aka Day of the Woman) should always come up at some point. It's one of those definitive love-it-or-hate-it movies that refuses to lay down and die. Whatever your viewpoint is about its merits (which it actually has), it continues to have a life, even after 42 years. Because of its eventual resurgence, especially as a feminist statement, it has spawned a franchise, which includes a 2010 remake (that has its own sequels, from 2013 & 2015) and its own

Daughters of Darkness (1971) 4K Ultra HD Review: Mysterious, Sensuous Vampire Story

A mysterious and sumptuously produced film about a newlywed woman finding monsters on her honeymoon, supernatural and otherwise.
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On the first level, Daughters of Darkness is a film about a newly married couple who encounter an intriguing, if overly familiar and insistent, traveling royal on the Continent, who tries to seduce them into her strange and ultimately deadly web. The husband and wife are tempted, spied upon, and ultimately driven to desperation. But they might have already been desperate before the Countess Bathory crossed their path. Stefan and Valerie, played John Karlen and Danielle Ouimet, respectively, begin their story on a train, where they make passionate (and fairly graphic) love. Afterwards, she asks him if he loves her,

Dating Amber Movie Review: Well-Acted and Painfully Frank

A queer coming-of-age story as jarring as it is nonchalant.
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Dating Amber is easily the first coming-of-age queer story I’ve seen to give me such severe PTSD. Seeing the two central characters, Eddie (Fionn O’Shea) and Amber (Lola Petticrew), be subjected to such ridicule to the point where they pretend to be a couple despite being a gay and a lesbian, respectively, brought back painful memories of similar ridicule when I was in eighth grade. During a time where I was unsure of my own sexuality, I had to deal with classmates always badgering me about who I had a crush on and because I tried keeping mum about that

Where She Lies Movie Review: 'It Was a Different Time'

A heartbreaking story about searching for the truth that lies between reunion and grief.
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There is a point in the new documentary, Where She Lies, where one of the interviewees uses the phrase, “It was a different time.” This is a phrase that gets tacked onto horrendous stories from decades past. For many people, it serves as a way to excuse things like abuse, assault, and manipulation. But this flippant phrase does more than that, it also silences the stories and the humanity of the victims who experienced these horrendous things. While researching another project, filmmaker Zach Marion read a short article about a woman named Peggy Williams who was raised in these “different

5-Movie Collection from the Written Works of Stephen King Blu-ray Review

Most of the high-def presentations will satisfy fans of the modern-day King of horror.
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This collection packages five Paramount movies based on the writing of Stephen King. They are David Cronenberg's The Dead Zone (1983) based on the 1979 novel, Dan Attias's Silver Bullet (1985) based on the 1983 novella Cycle of the Werewolf, Mary Lambert's Pet Sematary (1989) and Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer's 2019 remake based on the 1983 novel, and Mick Garris' The Stand (1994) TV miniseries based on the 1978 novel. In addition, King wrote the screenplays for Silver Bullet, Pet Sematary (1989), and The Stand. I haven't read any of the original stories so can't comment on their adaptation

The Hit Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Gem of Film by Stephen Frears

A highly overlooked crime drama full of delicious slow burns and ideas.
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The action film always comes with cliches, meaning that they usually contain car chases, explosions, and non-stop action. Sometimes these elements can taint and drag films of the crime drama category into the realm of familiarity and unoriginality. Thankfully, this is not the case with acclaimed director Stephen Frears' early 1984 effort The Hit, which relies more on character drive and often offbeat palpability. Inspired by a true story of an armed robber turned stool pigeon, the film stars Terence Stamp as Willie Parker, a gangster's henchman turned "supergrass" (informer) who rats out his fellow mobsters. Ten years later, while

Kindred Movie Review: A Nearly Surface-Level Chiller

Tamara Lawrance carries this viable paranoid thriller with ease and articulacy.
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This year, we have a clear trend of eerily similar horror films about women dealing with gaslighting and fighting for their autonomy against their more affluent partners. Earlier this year, Swallow and the remake of The Invisible Man depicted women in such peril and now, we have the British psychological thriller Kindred. However, instead of depicting Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) being antagonized by her partner, she’s instead at odds with her partner’s relatives. Those whom one always hopes not to fear because once they enter a relationship with someone, they inevitably enter that person’s family life. Both Charlotte and her lover

Cold Light of Day (1989) Blu-ray Review: Portrait of a British Serial Killer

Obscure British serial killer film details the grubby life of a real life (if slightly fictionalized) murderer.
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Obscure, cheap, short, and brutal, Cold Light of Day is a surprising discovery of British cinema. Shot on 16mm, the occasionally extremely grainy footage matches the grubbiness of the sets, the characters, and the entire sordid story. Inspired by real life British serial killer Dennis Nilsen, who may have murdered as many as 17 young men, chopping up their bodies and keeping various pieces of them on his property, Cold Light of Day opens with the murderer, here called Jorden March, being caught by the police. There's no struggle or fight - they knock on his door, he comes with.

Parasite (2019) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Rich Fam, Poor Fam

Bong Joon-ho's Oscar-winning drama gets the Criterion treatment.
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One of the hardest things for a filmmaker to do is blend multiple genres together and do it so seamlessly. The balance of tone and mood can drastically shift once it makes its way from one focus to another, and that tends to lead some films on a downward spiral. But the way Bong Joon-ho handles his latest film, Parasite, is so unique. The blending of dark satire and tense drama is masterful. Bong takes a topic with which he’s familiar (class inequality) and turns it into something that is wonderfully helmed and feels like new territory. Parasite tells the

The Deeper You Dig Blu-ray Review: A Terrific Low-budget Horror

A perfect addition to your Halloween viewing schedule.
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In a small, dark bar, in a small New York hamlet, Kurt (John Adams) eats a grubby little dinner and has a few too many beers. It is snowing and pitch-black when he drives home. He swerves to miss a few deer, running across the road and then hears a bump bump. He's hit something. That something turns out to be 14-year-old Echo (Zelda Adams), who was out sledding. Kurt is visually upset, he's not a psychopath after all, but he's also been around. He knows the score. If he calls the cops, they'll give him a drunk test and

The Gunfighter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Price of Fame

A film deserving of recognition thanks to a story that could be told in any genre and a great leading performance by Gregory Peck.
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Set in the Southwest Territory of the 1880s, a Texan named Jimmy Ringo (Gregory Peck) was known the fastest gun. While this designation has earned him respect, it also causes some to fear him and others to test the legend, a burden that The Gunfighter carries in Henry King's taut western. While en route to Cayenne, Ringo stops off at a saloon. A kid named Eddie (Richard Jaeckel) starts running his mouth. Ringo tries to avoid a confrontation but is forced to kill him. Even though he was in the right, it is suggested he leave town because the kid

AFI Fest 2020 Review: Belushi

A wonderful remembrance yet also a great frustration.
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Set to air November 22 on Showtime, R.J. Cutler's Belushi is a standard biographical documentary that tells the regrettably all-too-familiar tale of the rise of a talented individual who succumbs to personal demons. In case the title isn't enough to go on, the subject is John Belushi, who became a household name in the latter half of the '70s as an original member of Saturday Night Live's Not Ready for Prime Time Players. He went on to have a successful career in movies and music as well. In 1978 at only 30 years old, he added a #1 album with

The Mothman Legacy Movie Review: For an Audience New to the Legend

If you are well-versed on this red-eyed harbinger of doom, you may not gain a lot of new insight.
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If you grew up in a town that has local legends, you no doubt grew up hearing the stories that shaped your town's history. The residents of Point Pleasant, West Virginia know about these kinds of legends all too well. On December 15, 1967, 46 people were killed when the Silver Bridge in Point Pleasant, West Virginia collapsed during rush hour. But before the tragedy, people around Point Pleasant reported seeing a large winged creature with glowing red eyes. This creature came to be known as the Mothman. This legendary creature is seen by many as warning of impending doom.

Graveyards of Honor Blu-ray Review: Grim Yakuza Renegade Dramas

Two adaptations of the same novel, made decades apart, about a yakuza too violent and self-destructive even for gang-life.
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Both Kinji Fukasaku and Takashi Miike were unlikely survivors in their different eras of Japanese cinema. They both were highly prolific, and rare among their peers when the fortunes of the Japanese film industry turned for the worse, they kept working, pivoting into different genres and styles. Fukasaku worked steadily through the '70s and '80s when many of his peers fell by the wayside, and though Miike by all rights ought to have burned out with his amazing productivity (over 100 feature films in three decades of filmmaking, sometimes more than five in a single year) he's still going strong.

AFI Fest 2020 Review: Wolfwalkers

A classic film animation fans will revisit and future generations will continually discover.
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Made by the Irish animation studio Cartoon Saloon, Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart’s Wolfwalkers is the third in Moore's Irish folklore trilogy, following The Secret of Kells (2009) Song of the Sea (2014). However, this film is so good audiences won't want him to stop at three entries. Set in Kilkenny, Ireland, 1650, the inhabitants of the walled city are troubled by wolves in the surrounding woods. Arriving from England, Bill Goodfellowe (Sean Bean) is a hunter tasked with remedying the situation. His young daughter, Robin (Honor Kneafsey), wants to assist her father and take part in the hunt, rather

Seat 20D Movie Review: Suse Lowenstein Shines a Light with Her Sculpture 'Dark Elegy'

A documentary how art can give tangible context to our grief and how it can help those left behind.
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Do you remember where you were when you learned that your life had just changed forever? Perhaps it was when you were offered that job you had been hoping for. Or when the love of your life walked into the room. Those are good moments we never want to forget. But what do you remember about the moment when your life changed forever due to tragedy? ​Were you at home? Were you at work? Did someone else tell you? Did you see it on the news? As you think about those moments, can you remember how your body felt? Did

The Forty-Year-Old Version Movie Review: A Winningly Profound Directorial Debut

A manifold crowd-pleaser from multi-hyphenate talent Radha Blank.
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The benefit of artistic expression is that it allows artists to vent their frustrations. Whether it’s through a script, a poem, or in the case of our main character, music, art serves as a way for people to make their voice heard and bare out their emotions they keep bottled up. Much like how multi-hyphenate talent Radha Blank commands our attention as she announces her arrival, the central protagonist of The Forty-Year-Old Version is one that’ll surely make her voice heard. Radha, played by Blank herself, is a struggling playwright living in NYC who makes ends meet by teaching an

Warning from Space Blu-ray Review: Starmen Waiting in the Sky

The first Japanese science fiction film shot in color is as surprisingly stylishly made as it is old-fashioned.
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All science fiction is dated. Even the most up-to-the-minute, forward-looking piece of work is still a work of its time, and time passes. An old science fiction movie is going to look old. The special effects aren't going to look contemporary. The science will not be up to date. The way things work in the story are not the way things actually happen. So how, in the spirit of open-hearted appreciation, can a modern viewer approach something like Warning from Space, released in 1956? The premise isn't going to be new to anyone with a cursory knowledge of even the

Claudine Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Ahead of Its Time

An excellent and truthful depiction of African American life and love that still feels all-too modern.
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In the 1970s, the blaxploitation genre of film exploded, and it was usually centered on stories of masculine black men, fighting against 'The Man', where women were always the side pieces or sexual playthings who were just along for the ride. However, there was a gender reversal where strong black women got revenge against the higher powers that be. This all changed with once-blacklisted director John Barry's marvelous Claudine, a remarkable 1974 portrait of society on hard times, which was one of the very first films to depict, with honesty, the way life treated people, especially African Americans, with a

Totally Under Control Movie Review: Timely and Timeless

A conscientiously infuriating and trepidatious documentation of a systemic failure.
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The obligation while reviewing documentaries that has always challenged and fascinated me is to create a clear distinction between the film's subject matter and filmmaking craft. Totally Under Control is no exception, and is, perhaps, a bigger challenge as compared to other documentaries ascribed to its germane nature with which it addresses the prevailing COVID-19 situation. One certainly cannot - and should not - overlook its relevance. After all, the film’s fundamental motive is evolving as you read this. Probably the most felicitous film you can get your hands on at the present, Totally Under Control is a conscientiously infuriating

Pierrot le Fou Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Still Feels Modern and Fresh

Jean-Luc Godard's violent and unpredictable 1965 road movie comes back to Criterion.
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The legendary and unclassifiable filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard is reaching his 90th birthday this year (in just two months from now), and I think that this is a good time to celebrate early by reviewing a film from his past. Although some of the premises of his film are relatively thin, there is enough style, visuality, and of course, politics, to make you forget how unmemorable they actually are. This is the case for his 1965 satirical landmark, Pierrot le Fou, which not only remains one of his most accessible, but also one of the most influential films of the now-bygone

A Rainy Day in New York Movie Review: Woody Allen Covers Overly Familiar Ground

Elle Fanning and Selena Gomez are comedic standouts among the talented cast.
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A Rainy Day in New York is Woody Allen's 48th feature film as writer/director and is finally making its way to theaters in the United States after being dropped by its distributor Amazon in 2018 and an international rollout that began last year. It finds him yet again covering overly familiar ground as two twenty-something upper-class kids run around Manhattan for a day in this romantic farce. Our two main characters are Gatsby Welles(Timothée Chalamet) and Ashleigh Enright (Elle Fanning). who met and started dating at a New York liberal arts college. This is his second college because he's disinterested

Ivansxtc Blu-ray Review: Extremely Modern and Dead-on

A difficult, disturbing, but creepily accurate depiction of the perils of Hollywood.
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Obviously, I don't have any experience of Hollywood, but seeing films and tv shows about it through my ordinary eyes, it's safe to say that it seems to be an unsettling world full of malaise, decadence, and cutthroat darkness. This dark side of success, fame, and fortune is a subject matter that has been told time and time again, but never in such a bleak and unforgiving way as director Bernard Rose and co-writer/producer/co-star Lisa Enos' tough 2000 masterwork Ivansxtc, which is also a stark tribute to the power of art house/indie film. Shot on high-defintion video and based on

Momma's Man Blu-ray Review: A True American Independent Original

A quietly sublime and unassuming portrait of desperate adulthood and hard lessons.
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We all have moments of reflections and uncertanity, whether we are so eager to grow up into adults, or when we are adults sometimes we see that maybe being so is not exactly what we thought or hoped for. We think that when we get older we have more freedom and decisions to make ourselves. However, we can get discouraged about the many responsibilites that we have to deal with when getting to a certain age. And I think that director Azazel Jacobs' beautifully subtle 2008 indie Momma's Man definitely and successfully defines that subject. Mikey (Matt Boren) is a

Focus Features 10-Movie Spotlight Collection Blu-ray Review

A fine collection of films from one of my favorite studios.
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Last week I reviewed a 10-film collection from Blumhouse Productions, a relatively young studio that specializes in low budget films. This week I'm reviewing a 10-film collection from another relatively young studio that also specializes in relatively low-budget films. But where Blumhouse tends to make genre films with mostly unknown actors and directors, Focus Features leans more towards prestige pictures with well-known filmmakers. Blumhouse's reason for existence seems to be making as much money as possible with as little risk as they can afford, quality and artistic merit be damned. While Focus Features aims for awards season with high-quality Oscar

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