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Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation Movie Review: The Best of the Series

Rogue Nation delivers great thrills, if you choose to accept it.
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Tom Cruise and the Impossible team, both in front of and behind the camera, have done the seemingly impossible by making the fifth Mission: Impossible film the best of the series, although to be fair, I didn’t think much of the first three. Teased at the end of Ghost Protocol, Rogue Nation finds Ethan Hunt pursuing the mysterious, international organization known as the Syndicate, a group of highly trained agents from around the globe that are working to destabilize civilization. When Congress cuts off funding and support, at the request of CIA Director Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), Ethan becomes a

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Blu-ray Review: A Lot of Sizzle Without a Lot at Stake

A dark and gritty alternative to the bleak and dreary comics.
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Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the all-new original movie that marks the return of Bruce Timm to the DC animated universe and features a version of the Justice League vastly different from the one we know. Imagine a brutal and violent Superman, an even more brutal and violent Batman who isn't Bruce Wayne, and a brutally violent Wonder Woman who wasn't forged from clay and you've got... well hey now, that actually doesn't sound all that different from the bleak and joyless characters currently being featured in DC films and comics, does it? Come to think of it, the

Every Secret Thing DVD Review: Chilling Crimes and Very Bad Parenting

Twisty tale of monstrous mother love wastes talents of Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, and Dakota Fanning in downbeat police procedural.
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Straining for psychological depth and taut suspense but reaching only a few notches higher than a Lifetime TV movie, Every Secret Thing squanders the talents of several excellent actresses - Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks, Dakota Fanning, and a relative newcomer, Danielle Macdonald. This downbeat police procedural involves the kidnapping of a three-year-old girl in the economically depressed upstate New York town of Orangeburg. The crime eerily echoes a horrific baby-snatching and murder that took place there seven years before, committed by two 11-year-old girls who, tried as juveniles, were sent up the river. Anyone who has watched more than one

I Am FEMEN DVD Review: Sex Sells Everything, Perhaps Even Revolutions

"Naked bodies and politics is an explosive combination."
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The first time I heard of the half-naked female activism group FEMEN back in 2013, it was largely by accident, a link in a comment on some loosely related Reddit post or something like that. I assumed it was a flash in a pan, something that stopped almost as soon as it started, given the hostile reception the girls received outside the Georgian embassy in July 2011. Sitting comfortably behind a desk (and the First Amendment) here in the United States, it's strange to think that protestors can just be assaulted in broad daylight for trying to spread a message.

Cannibal Ferox Blu-ray Review: Umberto Lenzi's Unforgiving Subgenre Swan Song

The notorious cash-in of a craze beget by the cash-in of a cash-in makes its much-needed (?) High-Definition debut courtesy the finely deranged folks at Grindhouse Releasing.
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In 1970, with the entire world in a state of change, Elliot Silverstein's A Man Called Horse was released to cinemas. Like the environment that spawned it, the film was about a transformation: a white man named John Morgan (as played by the late Richard Harris) - captured and enslaved by a group of Native Americans - soon becomes one with the very tribe that had previously seized and humiliated him. Of course, no groundbreaking work of art goes unnoticed abroad - especially in Italy, where filmmakers were keen to cash-in on anything that generated so much as a dollar-fifty

Burying the Ex DVD Review: Joe Dante Tries to Bring His Sensibilities Back From the Dead

If you are the kind of person who watches a Dante movie waiting for the Dick Miller appearance, and then get excited when you see him, this is for you.
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Joe Dante is an American treasure. He’s made some tremendous films that are iconic pieces of pop culture. He’s one of the foremost pop-culture commenters and recontexualizers in cinema. Beloved modern filmmakers such as Edgar Wright are following in Dante’s footsteps. However, while he was a major cinematic contributor in the '80s and '90s, his presence in filmmaking these days is marginal at best. After Looney Tunes: Back in Action flopped in 2003, that was about it for him. He’s made one film since then, and it was called The Hole, and it came out in 2009, and you haven’t

Once a Thief (1965) DVD Review: Post-Beat America Meets the French New Wave

The Warner Archive Collection releases an excellent, atmospheric, innovative, and gritty crime drama from yesteryear. A definite must-see.
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Filmmaker Ralph Nelson was always up for something different. While the late director is best known today for bringing the world acclaimed (and often groundbreaking) classics such as Requiem for a Heavyweight, Charly, tick... tick... tick…, and Lilies of the Field, it's some of the movies he's not known for today that perhaps deserve the most attention. And one such motion picture outing is his 1965 masterpiece Once a Thief: a spectacularly gritty black-and-white crime drama written by an actual ex-convict set in San Francisco during that precariously precocious period that bridged the gap between the beatnik era and the

Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: An Obscure French Western Gets Its Day

The Good, The Bad, and the Boring.
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About the time the western genre was growing stale in America, European filmmakers picked it right back up. More than 600 different Westerns were made in Europe between 1960 and 1980. While they were made in just about every country on that continent, the majority came from Italians. The most famous and arguably best examples of European Westerns come from the Italian Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy. While the Spaghetti Western may have ruled they day, a great many other European countries got into the western game as well. Cemetery Without Crosses is one such film. Made in 1969

Signpost to Murder DVD Review: Stuart Whitman Goes Loco for Joanne Woodward

The Warner Archive Collection brings us a seldom seen psychological thriller that has trouble finding its own direction.
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In Hollywood, it doesn't take long to become typecast. Take, for example, the early career of one Stuart Whitman. Following a breakout performance as a recently released child molester attempting to exorcise his personal demons in 1961's The Mark, the recently new to the limelight Mr. Whitman found himself earning an Oscar nomination and a few meaty parts alongside John Wayne in big studio productions. But the shadow of his most famous role (of the time) remained, and in 1962, Whitman was a supporting cast member in a prison drama entitled Convicts 4. In 1964, Stuart appeared in a psychological

Slow West Blu-ray Review: Like Death, Westerns Are Universal

German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender stars and co-produces this New Zealand-made tale from the American West, which features many a Scotsman and Aussie. How's that for diversity?
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With the American western genre all but dead, this is as good of a time as any for filmmakers from other corners of the globe to try their hand at something the Italians once perfected in the 1960s: revamping it. In 2005, Australian musician Nick Cave (our deepest of condolences to you and yours, good sir) penned a screenplay for The Proposition. In 2010, the Aussies brought us a great contemporary western entitled Red Hill. Sadly, neither film really garnered enough attention stateside in order to reignite the flame of passion for the cowboy movie. Well, here we are in

42nd Street / Ladyhawke / Wolfen Blu-ray Reviews: The Musical, Magical, and Mythical

The Warner Archive Collection brings us three classic catalogue titles out of the Standard and into the realms of High-Definition.
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In continuing their fine tradition of reviving the occasional catalogue title for today's HD-savvy generations, the Warner Archive Collection has been releasing more vintage titles to Blu-ray than ever before. Recently, three classic titles from one end of yesteryear or another - the 1933 musical 42nd Street, the oddball 1986 magical fantasy/comedy/adventure Ladyhawke, and the mythical 1981 urban horror flick Wolfen - landed on my doorstep; each as far removed from the other as can be. My trio of diversity begins with the 1933 musical 42nd Street, as choreographed by the great Busby Berkeley and directed by the one and

Wonderfully Perfect: Fathom Events and TCM Present Double Indemnity

It's a great pleasure seeing classic films on the big screen.
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In college I had one of those special, "make an inspirational movie about him" kind of professors. He was also the theatre director, and for most of my collegiate life, I did work study under him. He was a brilliant teacher, capable of making even the dullest plays seem utterly fascinating, and a great director. It was a small college and he had a minuscule budget but he somehow managed to put up productions that rivaled the nearby million-dollar Shakespeare Festival. He helped further my academic education and schooled me in life. He was also a good friend. Sadly, he

My Beautiful Laundrette Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Film Stands the Test of Time

A groundbreakingly potent depiction of bleak social commentary
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When discussing some of the most influential LGBT films, Stephen Frears' 1985 modern classic My Beautiful Laundrette usually is one of the most talked about, because it doesn't just address the unforunate issues of homophobia, but also the brutal, sometimes tragic aspects of racism, social status, and cultural differences. One of the reasons why it remains such an influential film is because it showcases a same-sex relationship that is both tender and unusual. It is no wonder why this is considered, along side The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, one of his very best cinematic creations. The story centers on Omar

Limelight Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Chaplin's Coda

Age must pass as youth enters.
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My Chaplin journey hasn't been linear. I didn't start with the silent shorts and work my way through The Kid (1921) and onto A Countess From Hong Kong (1967). It was a rambling journey that went forwards and backwards through highlights of his spectacular career with Criterion including Modern Times, The Great Dictator, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. In many ways the other films were reflections and parables of the times Chaplin was living in. The newest Criterion Blu-ray release is Limelight from 1952. It's subtitled "in his human drama" and this film is his most personal story. The

Here is Your Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Engrossing and Enervating Debut

The first feature film from Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell has its visual merits, but it's bogged down by a leaden narrative.
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A film that’s both engrossing and enervating at turns, Here is Your Life kicked off the feature-film career of Swedish director Jan Troell, an art house sensation in the ’70s with breakthrough duo The Emigrants and The New Land. The multi-talented Troell directed, shot, edited, and co-wrote the screenplay for Here is Your Life, based on one of a series of semi-autobiographical novels by Eyvind Johnson, and though Troell’s camerawork and editing are often inventive, the film never really breaks free from its novelistic shackles. After his father falls ill, teenager Olof (Eddie Axberg) is forced to leave his sickness-ridden

Can't Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police DVD Review: An Inside Look at a Legendary Band

Based on Andy Summers' memoir, the documentary reveals the rise and demise of the defining 1980s band.
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When the Police ceased recording in 1984, rumors swirled as to the cause. Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland became infamous for their constant fighting, sometimes ending up in fisticuffs (such as during a 1983 MTV interview with Martha Quinn). Summers and Copeland’s intense jealousy of Sting’s notoriety was cited as another factor. The new documentary Can’t Stand Losing You: Surviving the Police presents Summers’ side of the story, suggesting that the Police’s dissolution resulted from a multitude of complicated reasons. As hard on himself as on the other band members, Summers provides narration while archival footage as well as

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review: Not As Exotic As the First, but Still Charming

Were it not for those remarkable actors even Liftime would be embarrassed by this.
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God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for

'71 DVD Review: A Winning Depiction of a Losing Battle

In tackling the divisive topic of The Troubles in Northern Ireland director Yann Demange blurs the boundaries of loyalty and highlights humanity.
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On Monday, rioting broke out amid a Protestant Orange Order parade in Belfast after it reached a stretch of road inhabited mostly by Catholics, republicans, and nationalists; at least eight people were injured. This, nearly 44 years after the Ballymurphy Massacre, which occurred in Belfast in early August 1971 and today remains a dark spot in the hearts of the Irish. At surface level, it can be easy to pick sides when reviewing history or current resurgences of turmoil. But what director Yann Demange asks in the extremely gripping and often gut-wrenching ’71 is: Can you always trust your loyalties?

Stray Cat Rock Blu-ray Review: Motorcycle Girl Gangs and Hippy Crime Sprees

Five loosely connected Japanese exploitation movies capture the spirit, and looseness of their age.
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On an interview on this disc, director Yasuharu Hasebe talks about how ephemeral the movies he made were. “I expected it to last a week,” he says about one of the three movies he made on this box set. They were not made with posterity in mind, but were very much of their time and in their time. This is true of any movie, of course - however carefully constructed or intentionally contrived, a movie cannot help but be made in the time when it is made and by the people who make it. And there are movements and trends

A Newly Widened Screen, Part II: Alibis and Those Who Sympathize

The Warner Archive Collection brings us two more titles from the early days of DVD in widescreen for the first time.
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As they had done in the latter part of 2014 with several titles that truly deserved it, the folks at the Warner Archive Collection have once more taken two completely different catalog titles from the earliest days of DVD and given them the widescreen treatment they should have had back in 1998. Alas, these two titles are not on the same level as The Black Scorpion or a couple of classic Steve Martin comedies. Instead, this batch of newly widened screenings consists of movies that even I didn't rent on video when I was a teenager. And mind you, I

The Maltese Bippy DVD Review: Rowan and Martin Comedy is No 'Laugh-In' Matter

The first and only post-fame feature-length film from the classic sketch comedy hosts is a mostly dreadful horror spoof.
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During a time when five crazy Britons and one expatriate American were producing bizarre sketch comedy for the BBC, two US-born contemporaries on the other side of The Pond were running amok on national television. Thus, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (complete with a soon-to-be-dated title about the hippie revolution) amassed a huge following, launching its hosts, comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, to success status for a brief period. Naturally, no one in the motion picture business was about to let a hot commodity like Rowan and Martin slip past them; because, as anyone who has ever seen any Saturday

Twilight Time Presents: Rebellion! Turmoil! Endless Talking!

From the hormonally-charged historical wrongdoings of King Henry VIII to David Mamet's acclaimed verbal diarrhea, this batch of flicks has all bases covered.
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Once more, the folks at Twilight Time have resurrected five photoplays from yesteryear - and this time, they're not holding back on the dramatics one bit. We begin our line-up with perhaps the most epic motion pictures of epic motion pictures ever; the fact that A Man for All Seasons features a supporting performance by the one and only Orson Welles himself doesn't even enter into it, believe it or not! Rather, Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons focuses on the charisma and talents of the late Paul Scofield, cast here as Sir Thomas More. Now, for my fellow

Rifftrax Live: Sharknado 2 Review - The Second One is Still Funny!

While not as raunchy as The Room, Sharknado 2 has the Rifftrax guys doing what they do best.
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The Rifftrax gang is back with the second of four films set to receive the live riff treatment in 2014. Dubbed "The Crappening," Rifftrax Live recently did the first of two shows around the Syfy "masterpiece," Sharknado 2, a continuation of the magical story of a tornado with sharks taking over New York City. As a standalone movie, Sharknado 2 lacks the campy humor of the first film, acknowleding its self-awareness and loading the film with cameos, and the Riff guys aren't as sharp as they were with the R-rated The Room, but it's hard not to love being seduced

Enter the Ninja Blu-ray Review: It Is Awesome

For fans of '80's action / exploitation / genre films, this disc is a must-have.
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If, in 1981, you had the chance to invest in throwing stars or something else, and you chose something else, Enter The Ninja is most likely the reason you lost everything and curse your life to this very day. The absolute obsession with ninjas that this film instilled in teenage boys lasted for years. Some would call it a craze while others just shook their heads and went on with their maskless and nunchuck-free lives; never to know the joys of spelling the word "assassin" without looking it up. Would moms worry? Maybe. But at least you weren't playing Dungeons

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) Blu-ray Review: Anarchy, Sentiment, Family, Karaoke

Takashi Miike's surrealist musical comedy finds its way to Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video.
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Director Takashi Miike is credited with seven or eight films in the year 2001 alone, depending on who you ask. One of the most energetic and life-affirming of these pictures is The Happiness of the Katakuris. This is an absolutely joyful and bizarre flick, a musical comedy complete with stop-motion sequences, a pile of dead bodies and the ever-looming presence of Mount Fuji. The Happiness of the Katakuris is an unabashed remake of Kim Jee-woon’s 1998 film The Quiet Ones, with Miike paying direct homage to several of the shots and scenes in the Korean movie. He certainly strays at

Do I Sound Gay? Movie Review: Not Your Typical LGBT Documentary

An often hilarious, but very timely depiction of the 'gay voice'.
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There have been many documentaries about the depiction of the gay stereotype, such as The Celluoid Closet and Word Is Out. They showcased not just how the LGBT community was depicted since the 1920s, but how gays and lesbians live and continue to do so. Some are very funny (Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy), but there are others that are really serious and often tragic (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Case Against 8). However, David Thorpe's Do I Sound Gay? is a mixture of the two, in which he explores the the history of the "gay voice". After breaking up

Society Blu-ray Review: Glorious Mess of an '80s Horror Movie

Brian Yuzna's bizarre directorial debut is wildly uneven, but never less than fascinating.
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Horror movies are often critiqued as metaphors, largely in an attempt to approach them in terms that distance critics from the act of watching the horror movie. I'm not watching a guy with a knife stab some poor, mostly undressed girl, and enjoying it! I'm watching a metaphor! And filmmakers, who sometimes make the mistake of listening to critics, have built metaphorical aspects of their stories into genre codes (all skewered in Scream and its imitators) so the filmmaker is not filming mock-rape scenarios that end in violence for titillation's sake - they're filming a metaphor! Except it's always the

The Killers (1946) / (1964) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Intriguing Double Feature

A great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results.
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Like taking a comparative literature class, The Killers from the Criterion Collection offers a great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results. In this instance, the source is Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Killers," which first appeared in a 1927 issue of Scribner's Magazine. An audio version of the story read by Stacy Keach is available as an extra and it tells of two hitmen who go to a diner looking to kill Ole Andreson, a Swedish boxer who frequents the place. When Ole doesn’t show, the men leave. Frequent Hemingway character

Five Easy Pieces Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: One Easy Role to Nicholson's Stardom

Nicholson breaks out in this early headlining role.
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A year removed from his breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson moved to headliner status in this 1970 character study. Filmed during a time when character studies weren’t exactly prevalent in Hollywood, director Bob Rafelson’s film helped to lead a shift in the industry that paved the way for subsequent ‘70s greats. That’s not to say it holds up well, as it now seems to be a dated relic of a bygone era. Nicholson’s character Bobby Dupea is introduced as a lackadaisical oil-field worker, content to toil away in his job during the day and blow his pay

Magic Mike XXL Movie Review: Flesh and Fantasy

The relaxed, sexy vibe of this ode to the male body beautiful almost makes up for its lack of narrative momentum.
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Well, I know why I wanted to see Magic Mike XXL: hunky guys taking their clothes off at regular intervals is a de facto winning formula for this middle-aged gay guy. Also, I’d liked the first Magic Mike movie, from 2012, as more than just a Playgirl calendar come to life: that film’s director Steven Soderbergh has the knack of making entertaining genre pictures seem deep, and making deep, arty pictures entertaining. (Soderbergh executive-produced this sequel and, under pseudonyms, did the cinematography and editing; Gregory Jacobs directed.) But sequels are often a tough balancing act, as filmmakers seek to create

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