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The Rolling Stones: Steel Wheels Live (Live From Atlantic City, NJ, 1989) DVD Review: Sucking in the '80s

In 1989, the Rolling Stones played New Jersey. It was a night to forget.
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In 1989, the Rolling Stones returned to the stage from a seven-year touring hiatus. They needn’t have bothered. Ok, so before we go any further, a word on my loyalty to the Stones. I’ve never seen them live; I’ve only seen video clips. I’m a millennial but traveled through the Stones discography at an early age. Cassette-tape-recording a radio broadcast of their 1972 double LP, Exile on Main St., I felt I’d stumbled onto a different band, a weirder band, than the one I’d heard on FM. Exile blew me away. It led me to each of their albums from

Flash Gordon (1980) 4K Ultra HD Review: Garish and Spirited Comic Action

Whether it's too camp or in the proper comic spirit, Flash Gordon's elaborately colorful production bursts onto 4K.
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George Lucas's inspirations for Star Wars were many. He was a voracious reader of golden age science fiction, and picked elements he liked from several different stories: lightsabers were borrowed from Lensman, Tatooine's moisture farming and the spice mines of Kessel were liberated from Dune. But the form of the story, and the real heart of Lucas' ambition was to recreate the thrills of Flash Gordon: the long running comic strip, and the Buster G. Crabbe starring serials that were adapted from it. But the license for Flash Gordon was expensive, and mid-1970s George Lucas was not a billionaire. He

Variety (1983) Blu-ray Review: A Revealing Character Study of a Woman Rediscovering Herself

A moody and very provocative depiction of female obsession and sexuality.
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Usually, films about female sexual awakening and newfound sexuality are often told from the point-of-view of male directors. I'm not knocking this, but they can sometimes feel a little exploitative, salacious, and misogynistic. They can include more female nudity than male nudity, especially for the wrong reasons or it's there just to be there. Meanwhile, it's refreshing to see this type of subject matter from a woman's point-of-view, and Bette Gordon's 1983 stunning neo-noir Variety does just that while also providing a revealing character study of a woman rediscovering herself. The film tells the story of Christine (Sandy McLeod), a

TIFF 2020 Review: 'Get the Hell Out' Is an Incredibly Bonkers Zombie Comedy

An overly stylized yet incredibly energetic feature debut from I-Fan Wang.
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To put it bluntly, Get the Hell Out is a lot. A lot of storyline and thematic material rolled into one adrenaline-fueled package. It’s an admirably abrasive attempt at diverging away from the rinse-and-repeat zombie movie formula since it acts as a blood-soaked political dark comedy with a romantic twist that occasionally feels like it's ripped from a fighting video game. While a zombie virus does hit and forces a group of survivors to fight for their lives while avoiding turning into a zombie themselves, Get the Hell Out is more insightful and bold than the familiar plot may suggest.

Shivers Blu-ray Review: My Favorite Horror Film Ever

David Cronenberg's controversial and super underrated 1975 feature debut celebrates its 45th anniversary.
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Cronenberg, the master of "Body Horror", has more than any other director in the history of cinema, expertly showcased, through film, how we have completely lost control of our bodies, and they can turn on us at any minute. When you think about his legendary oevure, you always hear discussions of Videodrome, The Dead Zone, The Fly, and even his later (non-horror) works, including A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises. However, you rarely hear about his shocking 1975 cult classics Shivers (aka The Came From Within), which was the one that started it all. The film takes place at

TIFF 2020 Review: 'Violation' Mixes Heavy-Handed Symbolism with Harrowing Trauma

One of this year's TIFF Midnight Madness selections offers a searing look at sexual violence and trauma.
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When Violation first opens, it shows a wolf observing its dying prey. Accompanied by an ominous score, the opening sequence provides a heavy indication of the horrors that will follow while acting as an example of the picture’s ham-fisted symbolism. Even the title acts as another key reminder that the audience is not in for an easy sit. The story follows Miriam, played by star/co-director/co-writer/producer Madeleine Sims-Fewer, as she and her boyfriend Caleb (Obi Abili) take part in a weekend reunion with her sister Greta (Anna Maguire) and Greta's husband Dylan (Jesse LaVercombe) at a secluded cabin. As the getaway

Black Test Car + The Black Report Blu-ray Review: Japanese Businessman Noir

Two '60s crime thrillers by director Yasuzo Masumura that explore the dark side of post-war industrialized Japan.
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One of the enduring images of contemporary Japanese culture is the salaryman. The rather anonymous guy in the suit who devotes his life to the company. He might be married and have kids (usually he is: what else would he need to dedicate so much time to work for, if not to keep his family?) but his number one priority is the company. Work 10 hours a day, then go off to drink with your boss, go home to sleep, and come back the next day, six days a week. It's soul deadening, and not the obvious setting for a

Ronnie Wood: Somebody Up There Likes Me Movie Review

The documentary reviews Stones' guitarist Ronnie Wood' musical career, his triumph over addiction, and his second career as a visual artist.
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“I never got beyond 29 in my head,” Ronnie Wood says at the beginning of the documentary Somebody Up There Likes Me. “So to be 70, it’s just so weird. It’s like being in a Dali painting. It’s very surreal.” Directed by Academy Award nominee Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas), Somebody Up There is not your bombastic, run-of-the-mill, rock-star documentary. It’s mostly quiet and introspective, (but not boring). Wood, the exuberant guitarist for the Rolling Stones and Faces, talks about his newfound sobriety and maturity, and a musical career that’s spanned more than half a century, in this low-key film.

Christ Stopped at Eboli Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Emotionally Captivating

A beautiful film about living in exile and discovering an unknown way of life.
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Listed as one of the 1,001 movies you need to see before you die, Christ Stopped at Eboli is a film of which I wasn’t aware prior to the Criterion Collection announcing it being one of the latest releases they were adding to their catalogue. And that’s a miss on my end, because this is a truly mesmerizing achievement. Apparently, this original, 220-minute television version had been hard to come across for some time, and the only option to watch the movie was to go for the 150-minute cut. It’s a good thing I waited to see the movie as

Pitch Black 4K Ultra HD Review: Riddick Starts Here

The first film in what became a sci-fi trilogy is a fun throwback action thriller, now in 4K UHD.
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Pitch Black was released in 2000, and it feels very much like the last science fiction action film of the '90s. This was a time when digital effects weren't cheap enough to make the generic movies that clogged the schedule at SyFy, back when it used to show science fiction movies. It comes from a time before the massive cultural influence of The Matrix was fully absorbed. Pitch Black began shooting a couple of weeks before The Matrix was released, but in style and tone it feels like the older film. The setting is distant future movie space opera -

His Dark Materials: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Lyra and Daemons and Bears, Oh My!

It has an interesting premise, but the weakness in the scripts overshadows the strong moments of the eight episodes
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Based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy book trilogy of the same name, His Dark Materials opens with graphics that explain the story begins in a parallel world where a human soul takes the physical form of an animal known as a Daemon. This world has been controlled for centuries by the all-powerful Magisterium, except in the wilderness of the north, where witches whisper of a prophecy of a child with a great destiny. The north is cold and distant, which is the same feeling given off by the series, causing me to have trouble connecting to the story and its characters.

Roman Holiday Blu-ray Review: Audrey Hepburn Epitomizes Charm in Italian Locations

It's one of the best and most memorable romantic comedies of all time.
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Paramount Home Entertainment has released the 1953 Hollywood classic film Roman Holiday for the first time on Blu-ray and it's about time. But the firsts don't stop there. Roman Holiday was the American debut of iconic actress Audrey Hepburn, who won the Best Actress Oscar for her role as the runaway European princess Ann. She is so poised and lovely it is hard to believe this is her first Hollywood starring role - she easily steals every scene she is in with veteran actors Gregory Peck and Eddie Albert. It's one of the best and most memorable romantic comedies of

Weathering with You Blu-ray Review: Anime Girls Make the Rain Stop

The new blockbuster anime film by Your Name director Makoto Shinkai again pits teenage love against supernatural disaster.
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In a 2021 Tokyo that is drenched with constant rainfall, there's a rumor going around about a so-called Sunshine girl: a successor to an ancient tribal shamanic figure, the Weather maiden, the Sunshine girl can use the powers of her prayers to part the clouds in the skies and allow the sun to shine through. It's something that anyone would want, when weeks of rain with no end in sight practically drown the city. The story is being followed by a pair of reporters from a little yellow journal of the occult. One is a pretty girl, Natsumi, who listens

Beau Travail Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Mysterious, Haunting, and Transformative

Claire Denis' 1999 masterpiece of jealousy, erotic/repressed desire, and personal destruction makes it's long-awaited debut to the Criterion Collection.
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The great and visionary director Claire Denis is one the greatest cinematic poets of our time. She's a provocative and original filmmaker who has crafted an extraordinary oervue of films that offer richly observed and perfectly tuned portraits of cultural alientation and emotional/physical tension. Whether contemplating a father/daughter relationship (35 Shots of Run), the harmful awakenings of women (White Material, Let the Sunshine In), or erotic body horror (Trouble Every Day), she continues to be a singular voice of not just for female filmmakers, but for cinema as a whole. However, her second film, 1999's Beau Travail, is considered to

The Devil All the Time Movie Review: Actors Elevate Excessively Grim Crime Drama

Sebastian Stan and Riley Keough stand out in this distended indictment of toxic masculinity and religious hypocrisy.
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As William Shakespeare famously wrote in his play The Tempest, “Hell is empty. And all the devils are here.” Words that the aptly titled The Devil All the Time greatly stresses as it portrays people either tapping into their worst instincts or embracing their inner demons. Even if the picture delves into the grim nature of humanity to the point where it becomes detrimental, The Devil All the Time still isn’t a piece of cinematic Hell. Based on the novel of the same name by Donald Ray Pollock, The Devil All the Time follows the life of Arvin Russell (Tom

Pizza, A Love Story Movie Review: A Loving Tribute to New Haven's Tomato Pie

The only drawback is that it will undoubtedly leave you hungry for some tomato pie, and wondering how soon you can book a trip to New Haven, long lines or not.
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Pizza wasn't invented in New Haven. It was perfected there. That's the tagline to MVD Entertainment Group's Pizza, A Love Story, now available September 29 on DVD. While die-hard fans of their local pizzerias may initially object to New Haven's claims to the very best of all American pizzas, by the end of the film director, writer, and cinematographer Gorman Bechard has made a pretty good case for the famous Connecticut tomato pies. Helping Bechard tell his story are lots of faithful local patrons as well as celebrity pizza fans such as Lyle Lovett, Henry Winkler, Michael Bolton, and Connecticut

Superman: Man of Tomorrow Blu-ray Review: A Hero Grows in Metropolis

Although as a longtime Superman fan I could do without yet another origin story, this iteration by screenwriter Tim Sheridan is an interesting take on the material.
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Superman: Man of Tomorrow presents viewers a young Clark Kent (Darren Criss) as he heads from Smallville to Metropolis, knowing little of his history and getting a job as as an intern at the Daily Planet. One of his first assignments is assisting reporters at a press conference where Lex Luthor (Zachary Quinto) presents an orbital telescope intended to make contact with lifeforms in space. Clark has no red and blue costume nor a name, but people are starting to take notice of someone doing superhuman things, including a shadowy figure who trails him. Lois Lane (Alexandra Daddario), a grad

The Alfred Hitchcock Classics Collection 4K Ultra HD Review: Four Masterworks of Suspense

Four of the Master of Suspense's most popular films make the leap onto 4K UHD.
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Alfred Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense, but that's too limited a title for him. Where his talents primarily lie as a storyteller is in the manipulation of audiences. He liked to say, "I enjoy playing the audience like a piano" and he does so with masterful skill, using subtle tricks to shift the audience's sympathies, sometimes from scene to scene from one character to the next. In this way his films, while always intended as popular entertainments and always aimed for box office success (and usually achieving it), have layers of complexity that one rarely finds in

Beyond the Visible - Hilma af Klint Blu-ray Review: An Artist for the Ages

Through this documentary and hopefully, more exhibitions of her work in the future, we will watch, in real time, as art history is rewritten.
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The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke. - Hilma af Klint Hilma af Klint is (finally) having a moment. The Guggenheim Museum in New York featured her abstract work, some paintings exhibited for the first time, in 2018. The brilliant, reclusive artist, who had been unknown by many throughout her life and through art history, is now being heralded as the first Western abstract artist. Art history, like

Brute Force & The Naked City Criterion Collection Blu-ray Reviews: A Jules Dassin Double Feature

Two classics film noirs from Jules Dassin get the Criterion treatment.
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There are over 1,000 movies in the Criterion Collection, these are two of them. Jules Dassin has five films thus far in the collection with Brute Force and The Naked City receiving a Blu-ray upgrade this week. Between 1947 and 1950, Dassin made four film noirs, three of which are considered some of the best in the genre. These two are on that list. I came to Jules Dassin via Rififi his classic heist film (also in the Criterion Collection) from 1956. It is one of the greatest robbery films ever put to celluloid. It was made in France and

We Bare Bears: The Movie DVD Review: A Satisfying Send-Off

Join Panda, Grizz, and Ice Bear as the brothers take on one final journey.
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Warner Bros Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions shared are his own. For those unfamiliar with We Bare Bears, the Cartoon Network animated series that ran from 2015 to 2019, it was a show about three brothers, who are bears, and their various adventures or misadventures. The episodes ran for about 15 minutes apiece and two were shown together in a half-hour span on the air. On Netflix and other streaming services, the episodes are shown individually in their short-run format. Sure, the bears aren’t biologically related.

A Stranger Among Us Blu-ray Review: A Shiksa Cop Out of Water

The viewer, like Emily, may feel like a fish out of water watching the rules and customs of the Brooklyn Hasidim, but they will be captivated in the neighborhood and the character of Ariel as well.
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A Stranger Among Us is a strange film. At times a crime thriller, a romance, a fish-out-of-water story, and a golden-toned New York story about a little-known or filmed community. It didn't get very good reviews when it was originally released in 1992, with many reviewers feeling that the story was weak and its star, Melanie Griffith, was woefully miscast as a hard-boiled New York cop. Has anything changed since then? Well, yes and no. Melanie Griffith's best films (Body Double, Stormy Monday, Something Wild) contrast her kewpie doll voice with the brains behind the bod, as she told Harrison

Entwined Movie Review: An Ingenious yet Underdeveloped Horror Pic

An atmosphere creepy woods picture with masterful ideas that often become tangled up.
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When our main protagonist Panos (Prometheus Aleiferopoulos) enters the ominous town of Alyti, he’s informed that he’s the only and first ever doctor to reside there. Right off the bat, it’s clear that Entwined aims to weave us into its eerie trap. A “creepy town” horror film that transcends into “creepy woods” subgenre territory, Entwined often spins an intriguing web even if at times it gets caught up in it. As Panos spends his time in Alyti, he collides with the townspeople who don’t rely on the familial medical procedures that Panos practices and instead prefer more spiritual healing processes.

Mr. Soul! Movie Review: There Has Never Been Another Show Like It

A documentary that explores the history of the ground-breaking show Soul! and its creator Ellis Haizlip.
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There is the old adage that history repeats itself. And if we look to the streets and look to our televisions, we see large numbers of protestors taking up the fight for the equality and protection of Black lives. These images mirror many of the images we would have seen of Black political action during the height of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s. This was also the era when color came to television, but people of color were only portrayed as negative stereotypes or strange anomalies. While representation has made some progress in regard to

The B-52s: Live at US Festival DVD Review: Will Make You Feel a Whole Lot Better

A fantastic snapshot of the band's original line-up at their peak and it serves as a very good entry point for those new to the band.
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In 1982, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, with the help of concert impresario Bill Graham, spearheaded the US Festival, a three-day music festival held in San Bernadino, CA on September 3-5. Although it had an impressive roster of bands, it reportedly lost $12 million. On the opening day, the line-up of New Wave bands featured Gang of Four, the Ramones, the English Beat, Oingo Boingo, the B-52's, Talking Heads, and The Police. Shout Factory! is releasing the B-52's 13-song set on DVD, the first concert DVD from the band's classic era. Like many in 1979, the B-52s' first single “Rock Lobster”

I'm Thinking of Ending Things Movie Review: Charlie Kaufman's Eccentric Foray into Horror

A slow-burn melancholic horror romance only someone like Charlie Kaufman can pull off.
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I’m Thinking of Ending Things has a seemingly straightforward plot. Woman goes on a road trip with her partner to meet his parents. Seems pretty simple. However, because it is in the hands of the wonderfully bizarre Charlie Kaufman, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is anything but straightforward. Kaufman is a master at the weird and the melancholic and this film proves to be no different. When the film begins, a nameless woman (Jessie Buckley), known simply as the Young Woman, and Jake (Jesse Plemons) begin their journey to meet Jake’s parents. At that point is when the picture

The New York Ripper 4K Ultra HD Review: Sleazy Exploitation American Giallo

A beautiful, terrible slasher film is a document of early '80s New York and its director's grotesque, murderous obsessions.
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The New York Ripper is sleazy. It contains sleaze. It is about sleaze. In its semi-coherent narrative, it indulges in the ugliness that its story decries. This is an ugly, gross film. It's also a weirdly beautiful document of late 20th century New York. The New York Ripper was directed by Lucio Fulci, who made many interesting, intriguing horror films, though I would be hard pressed to say he ever actually made a good one, a movie that could be enjoyed without reservations. He has a knack for crafting devious scenes, that start out relatively benign then become uncomfortable, and

The House by the Cemetery 4K Ultra HD Review: 'Damn Tombstones!'

Lucio Fulci's atmospheric, if baffling horror film arrives in a premium, beautiful 4k video release.
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It's probably not accurate to say Lucio Fulci is an acquired taste. It's more accurate to say, of all the directors of weird Italian horror movie genre, save perhaps Dario Argento, Fulci was the one most likely to create something you might remember after watching. His films have generally simplistic, and barely coherent plots - in fact, The House by the Cemetery with its bare thread of coherent narrative is one of his more complex stories. The power of Fulci's cinema is not in the overall effect but in the moment to moment. The House by The Cemetery has plenty

Bill & Ted Face the Music Movie Review: A Welcome Respite During These Tough Times

This third installment is a worthy addition to the franchise.
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The Bill & Ted film franchise has now become a trilogy with the long awaited Face the Music unleashed 29 years after they took their Bogus Journey. It's a worthy addition because the property and its fans are treated with respect as screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon created a story worth telling about the characters and the time we live in. In the future, the Great Leader (Holland Taylor), Rufus' widow, is concerned because William "Bill" Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Theodore "Ted" Logan (Keanu Reeves) have yet to fulfill the prophecy about writing a song that would unite

The Balcony Blu-ray Review: Cinematic Satire, I Guess

This adaptation of a French satire failed to make me laugh or think very deeply.
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The Balcony (1963) is a cinematic adaptation of the French play by the same name from writer Jean Genet. It almost entirely takes place inside a most peculiar brothel overseen by Madame Irma (Shelley Winters). Peculiar because it is set up like a soundstage. The girls sit inside a warehouse filled with props and costumes and the like. When needed, they move inside smaller rooms equipped with backdrops, lighting, and even a movie camera. They enact odd little dramas. One man pretends to be a Catholic Bishop overseeing a confession where the girl admits to all sorts of depravity. Another

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