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A Kiss Before Dying (1956) DVD Review: Just Skip the Kiss and Kill Me Already

A tepid, presumably rushed adaptation of the Ira Levin novel that is mostly notable for being a great gathering of future B movie and television actors.
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Some things simply look better on paper. Like that time I was a kid when my friend and I worked out how to cryogenically freeze a frog and later re-animate it. It all made perfect sense in our heads, and played out quite well on the board. The reality of the situation, however - involving a Ziploc bag full of water, the upper freezer half of an old brown Frigidaire refrigerator, and the open ends of a severed electrical cord from an even older lamp - only succeeded in a bit of a mess and a story that would regularly

The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness DVD Review: The Glorious End of an Era

Documentary shines a spotlight on the legendary animation Studio Ghibli and its visionary co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki.
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Studio Ghibli has long garnered acclaim as an animation powerhouse, and yet very little is known about its inner workings and the creative process of its primary director, Hayao Miyazaki. That all changes here, with documentary filmmaker Mami Sunada granted exclusive access to the studio over the course of an eventful year. That year found the tiny studio producing not one but two new features, The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, both of which went on to earn Oscar nominations. Even during the hectic animation timeframe, there’s a heavy air of melancholy over the studio as

My Old Lady Blu-ray Review: or, Secrets & Lies: The Previous Generations

Aging author/playwright Israel Horovitz finally makes his feature film directorial debut. But is he too late in doing so?
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In this great big muddled world of ours, we seem to be divided into large groups of individuals. On the one side, you have picky people who will dispiritingly say that you cannot teach an old dog a brand new trick. And then there are those seemingly rare factions of folks who will encouragingly state that it is never too late to learn. My Old Lady, the indie feature from 2014 starring Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Maggie Smith, seems to fall somewhere in the middle of that. For here, author/playwright Israel Horovitz (creator of both Author! Author! and

The Bride Wore Black (1968) Blu-ray Review: The Roots of '70s Grindhouse Cinema

Fran├žois Truffaut's homage to Hitchcock makes a stunning Blu-ray debut from Twilight Time.
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While it is frequently reiterated that we are unable to take it with us, it should be noted that we do manage to take some of it along into the next life. No, I'm not attempting to wax some fruity spiritualism on you here (that's a job for those weird people handing out pamphlets in parking lots to tackle), I'm actually referring to things such as fashion and entertainment. As each craze fades out, it carries a little bit with it over into the new (usually worse) fad. In the world of music, we witnessed punk music (the real kind,

A Walk Among The Tombstones Blu-ray review: Somber, Slow Detective Throwback

This adaptation of Lawrence Block's alcoholic detective series is true to the character, maybe to a fault.
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Looking at the trailer for A Walk Among The Tombstones, one would be forgiven for assuming it is a Liam Neeson movie. That is, about man with a particular set of skills. Terrorists (or just murderers, here) being killed. Action mayhem, a hero who will stop at nothing. But this movie, an adaptation of Lawrence Block's novel, the tenth in his series featuring recovering alcoholic and recovering police detective Matt Scudder, is by no means an action movie. It involves no revenge (at least not for the main character). It involves no obession. Central to Scudder's character in his work

Stay Hungry DVD Review: A Special Peculiarity as Sports Films Go

An oddly interesting mix of socialism and bodybuilding politics.
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Usually, when discussing movies of the 1970s, even the bad ones, there are some films that continue to get lost in the shuffle, and that includes director Bob Rafelson's 1976 bizarre comedy drama, Stay Hungry, adapted from a novel by Charles Gaines, who co-wrote the screenplay with Rafelson. I guess because of its weird story, a movie like this doesn't come around too often, and that is unfortunate, since the film is actually pretty good, once you get past its almost laughable premise. Future Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges stars as Craig Blake, the sole-surviving part of an affluent Birmingham, Alabama family.

Atlas Shrugged Part III Blu-ray Review: Fool's Gold

Producer John Aglialoro completes his quixotic quest to adapt Ayn Rand's epic novel to the screen.
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The final act of this unlikely trilogy spotlights a strong-willed individual who ignores public opinion and forges ahead with his own vision. That’s John Galt, the messianic character of the work, but also John Aglialoro, the financier behind the entire endeavor. Operating far outside of the studio system and critical approval, Aglialoro here completes the daunting task of bringing author Ayn Rand’s magnum opus to the screen. That in itself is a measure of success, albeit the only success the film is likely to experience. If you’ve been following along with the prior installments (Part I and Part II), it

Breaking Away (1979) Blu-ray Review: How Kids Grew Up Before the Internet

Quite possibly the only movie in history to partly focus on cycling and not suck in the process.
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Following the near collapse of the American film industry somewhere between the end of the '60s and the beginning of the '70s - a semi-catastrophe brought on (mostly) thanks to lavishly over-budget and egotistical studio productions, a war in Vietnam, and something the history books refer to as the "Hippie Movement" - the few folks who were still going to the picture show seemed to demand more realism. That, or the once lavish budgets that used to be handed out to filmmakers at the drop of a hat, and which were now being frequently slashed by some now very nervous

The Purple Rose of Cairo Blu-ray Review: When Worlds Collide

Twilight Time continues its legacy of giving a damn about Woody Allen's classic, truly good movies.
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As a reasonably mature adult male who has been involved in an unending war with depression and mood swings since he was but a wee lad, I know how easy it is to seek solace from the cinema. To find a sense of purpose within the imaginary realms as designed by far-greater dreamers. I have danced the same steps as timeless American icons Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. I have romantically wooed the jaw-dropping charms of international B movie actresses like Barbara Bouchet and Margaret Lee. Espionage? Exploration? Elimination? I've done it all just by becoming immersed in a movie,

The Party (1968) Blu-ray Review: Psychedelic Comedy of Errors

Blake Edwards and Peter Sellers team up for a subversive, slightly racist classic.
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We open on a desert film set, the high-strung director—played with ‘look at me, Ma’ gusto by eternal character actor Herb Ellis—appears over budget and out of time in constructing his latest, Gunga-Din style epic. There’s elaborate sets and high priced explosives, an expanse of extras to coordinate and Hrundi V. Bakshi, a bumbling Indian character actor hot off the Bollywood Express. He’s here to goof it all up, infuriating the extras until they turn their guns on him on like a prop armored firing squad. Bakshi manages to make it through the shoot, pun intended, until the last day

The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power Blu-ray Review: "The Search for More Money"

Thoroughly mindless entertainment. Minus the whole "entertainment" part.
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A few years ago, I had the misfortune of seeing the last movie in Universal's Scorpion King legacy (which was itself a secondary subsidiary to the studio's ongoing attempt at burying Stephen Sommers' career, and was something that officially started immediately after he made his debut film with 1989's Catch Me If You Can). Fortunately, I don't remember a single solitary frame of the previous entry. In fact, I had to look up an old review of mine (published elsewhere) just to make sure that I actually did see it; it was that memorable. Well, once more, the powers that

Wetlands (2013) Blu-ray Review: Filth Presented as Frankness

German director David Wnendt's misguided and NSFW tale of filthy femininity finds its on to Blu-ray.
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I’ve seen plenty of repugnant films, the kind that shock for the sake of shocking. I’m not just talking Death the Ultimate Horror either, an hour-long collage of real-life murders, mishaps, and violent pratfalls set to the unrelenting pummel of speed metal. They bore a morbid fascination for me at seventeen, the same sick and twisted attraction driving teenagers into the arms of GG Allin or to the midnight cinema for Spike & Mike’s. No, I’m thinking more of Catherine Breillat’s stark explorations on female sexuality, or a certain coming-of-age pie-screwer, or Jackass, or Harmony Korine’s Gummo—easily one of the

The Wizard of Oz Movie Review: TCM and Fathom Events Lovingly Present a Timeless Classic

Run, don't walk, to the merry ole land of Oz with TCM and Fathom Events!
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It's such a cliche adage but it holds true nonetheless: There's something about seeing certain movies in a theater. I've watched The Wizard of Oz countless times on television, but I've never had the opportunity to experience the Judy Garland classic on a big screen. After making it their closing night film at the TCM Classic Film Festival last year - an event I missed! - Turner Classic Movies, Warner Bros. and Fathom Events worked together to bring the movie back into theaters in honor of its 75th anniversary. With another showing scheduled for this Wednesday stop what you're doing

Still Alice Movie Review: Going, Going, Gone, Girl

A luminous Julianne Moore takes us inside the horror of Alzheimer’s by disappearing while in plain sight.
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There are a lot of poignant moments in Still Alice, the new movie about the slow but inexorable disappearance of the title character played by Julianne Moore. Stricken with early onset Alzheimer’s disease that robs her of memory, language, her sense of herself, her place in the world and within her family, the luminous, emotionally transparent Moore says, in a voice that combines matter-of-fact acceptance with desperation, “I don’t know what I’m going to lose next.” In essence, Still Alice is a horror movie, but instead of Jason or Freddy Kreuger the villain is a terrifying, incurable disease. This sensitive

Left Behind (2014) Blu-ray Review: Ungodly in Every Sense of the Word

A movie about people who are lost made by people who couldn't find their asses with both hands and flashlights.
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Reaching out to a target audience with a speciality motion picture is never an easy task, particularly when said target audience is intelligent or - at the very least - has expectations that scale only slightly above "public access TV production values." First, let's turn back the clock a bit to the original filmic adaptation of Left Behind (subtitled The Movie, in case its target audience was unable to distinguish the difference between a paperback book and a videocassette - which certainly wasn't insulting to their intelligence in any way) from 2000 starring former teen heartthrob-turned-evangelist Kirk Cameron. Based on

Taken Movie Review: A Fun-tastic Action Revenge Flick

A good old-fashioned bad-guys-getting-their-butts-handed-to-them kinda movie.
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Written by DW Smith Was he Secret Service? Was he FBI? Was he CIA? To be honest, I can't really remember, but he could snap your clavicle before you could say, "is that accent Irish or Scottish?" Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a highly skilled, but now retired, "preventer" as he refers to himself, in the fun-tastic action revenge flick Taken. Okay, so it's a fairly well-worn plot: the good guy retires from his dangerous, highly skilled job; wants to spend more time with his daughter (Maggie Grace); strained relationship with the bitter and snotty ex-wife (Famke Janssen) who has

A Will for the Woods DVD Review: A Documentary That Deserves to Be Seen

The story of Clark Wang and his journey to have a green burial.
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“Honor the dead, heal the living, and invite in the divine.” These are the words of Joe Sehee, founder and program officer for the Green Burial Council. Sehee is one of the people the audience meets in the story of doctor, musician, and folk dancer Clark Wang and his journey to have a green burial in the documentary, A Will for the Woods. I requested to review this documentary not only because it looked interesting, but also for personal reasons. Since my father passed in 2013, I have looked for ways to help those who are entering the end of

The Vanishing (1988) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Thriller as Character Study

A woman's disappearance creates a terrible bond between the man who took her, and the one who lost her.
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The missing person is the greatest motif of the mystery story. Even if the murder story is more common (and perhaps the majority of missing-person stories become murder stories in the fullness of time) the missing-person story contains more questions: not just who did it, but what did they do? What really happened? Is the missing person dead, captured, tortured, or did they even just leave of their own accord? The relationship between the missing and those looking for them can be complicated and fascinating. In one line of The Vanishing, Rex Hofman, after years of looking for the long-missing

"Rebel, Rebel": Six Tales of Defiance from Twilight Time

From Streisand to Stone, controversies to conniving, this sextet offers it all.
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Since the dawn of mankind itself, there have been notable examples of individuals willing to break any rules that have been established, question whatever authority may be in command, and just try to have a good time in general - especially when it's all-but forbidden to do so. And that motif of rebellious folk is in fine form in the latest collection of movies from Twilight Time. Released in late December, this batch of six films ranges from highly acclaimed classics to somewhat forgotten features from yesteryear, as directed by the likes of Stanley Kramer, Oliver Stone, Mike Nichols, and

Rye Coalition: The Story of the Hard Luck Five DVD Review: A Band of Brothers Bound Together

New Jersey underground rockers take a look back at a career unknown.
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There’s an old essay by Sarah Vowell, “These Little Town Blues,” it’s in the Take the Cannoli collection from a few years back. The piece talks about why New Jersey turns out great musicians. She’s talking mostly about how Sinatra, and Springsteen for that matter, embody the essential elements of punk. She writes “Punk is rhythm, style, poetry, comedy…Punk means moral indignation,” referring to Sinatra forming Reprise Records on his own, referring to Springsteen’s early endless desire to bust loose. Vowell taps into the desire for change or transformation that punk rock facilitates. That being from Nowhere, New Jersey—and believe

Tusk (2014) DVD Review: A Black Comedy with Humor So Dark, You Can't See It

After seeing this, I can see why Kevin Smith has never been allowed to make a Batman or Superman movie.
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There was once a point in history where many of us, myself included, felt Kevin Smith had potential. After hopping aboard the underground film movement of the '90s, the New Jersey-born comic book geek-turned-filmmaker made a big splash with Clerks (1994), next alienated critics while delighting audiences with the very crude comedy hit Mallrats the following year. But hey, that was 1995, and genuinely monumental motion pictures were few and far in-between. Next, Smith made a compromise: he delighted his critics as he alienated his audience with the not-so-romantic dramedy Chasing Amy (1997); a title that has since become the

Matt Shepard Is a Friend of Mine Movie Review: A Deserving, Wonderful Tribute

A devastating and heartbreaking document.
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Matthew Shepard was an innocent human being. A human being who was taken from this world all too suddenly. A human being who was viciously murdered, because he was gay. Murdered in 1998, in the prime of his life, by two inhuman, homophobic men whose names will not be mentioned in this review, mainly because they don't deserve to be recognized. Matt Shepard was a remarkable guy, who was a people person. He was smart, talented, and very articulate. Michele Josue's film debut tells us just that, and why he was such a beloved person. It also shows us why

Horns Blu-ray Review: Daniel Radcliffe Can Still Talk to Snakes

The real reason to see Horns, of course, is for Daniel Radcliffe, who is quite good as Ig, American accent, horns, and all.
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Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) met the love of his life, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), when they were just children, and the two fell in love and shared everything together. Their romance seems idyllic, until one night when Merrin is found dead, the victim of a brutal rape and murder. Ig finds himself the prime suspect, his town, friends, and even most of his family shunning him. The heartbroken Ig maintains his innocence, to deaf ears. And then, as the opening line of the novel by Joe Hill states, after he "spent the night drunk and doing terrible things," Ig wakes

The Skeleton Twins Blu-ray Review: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Are Fantastic Centerpieces

Twins are reunited after ten years of estrangement and begin down a road that changes them both forever.
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The Skeleton Twins stars Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as twin siblings, Milo and Maggie, who have not spoken to one another in 10 years. The two are reunited after Milo attempts suicide and the phone call from the hospital interrupts Maggie's own attempt. She flies from New York to Los Angeles to be by his bedside, but he asks her to return home and tries to downplay the attempt. Sensing that Milo is not being honest with himself or with her, Maggie stays and convinces him to come to New York to stay with her and her husband Lance

The Doors: Feast of Friends Blu-ray Review: Strange Days Revisited

A good meal for new fans; a familiar one for long-timers.
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Hitting the vaults once again, The Doors and Eagle Rock Entertainment have re-teamed for Feast of Friends, a short film the band self-produced about their life on the road while touring in the summer of 1968. Having only played at a few film festivals previously, this first official release of Feast of Friends (HD, 39 min) has been "restored from the original negative...color-corrected and cleaned in high definition with the soundtrack totally remixed and remastered by Bruce Botnick." The band's music has been paired with visuals of them in concert and between gigs, creating a longform document of those moments

Waking Sleeping Beauty DVD Review: How Disney Animation Got Its Groove Back

A fascinating documentary about the renaissance of Disney animation that occurred during the 1980s and ’90s.
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Waking Sleeping Beauty is a fascinating documentary about the renaissance of Disney animation that occurred during the 1980s and ’90s. Director Don Hahn, who has been involved with the studio in various capacities since the ’70s, tells the story through audio interviews from the people who experienced, which he paired with archival footage. Rather than present a glossed-over business biography, Hahn doesn’t shy away from the struggles and conflicts that occurred during the transition and presents a rich, compelling story. After years of mediocrity that saw the studio nearly taken over by corporate raiders and lose talented artists like Don

Invasion of Astro-Monster DVD Review: The End of an Era

Thankfully, the plot holes don’t take away from the fun.
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Invasion of Astro-Monster, known in the United States as Godzilla vs. Monster Zero, is a sequel to Ghidorah. The film was released in 1965 in Japan and in the U.S. five years later. It is notable because it is the last Godzilla film to feature the creative team of director Ishiro Honda, screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa, and special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya. The film opens with a rocket ship heading toward Planet X, “a mysterious planet…discovered beyond Jupiter.” The crewmembers are Japanese astronaut Fuji and American astronaut Glen. When they get to the planet, they discover aliens who live underground because

Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster DVD Review: Admittedly Goofy but a Lot of Fun

The film where Godzilla turned from villain to hero.
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Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster was the fifth in the series, premiering in Japan in 1964 and the U.S. in 1965. This was the last Godzilla film that received major edits before crossing the Pacific, eight minutes were cut and scenes were altered. It also forever changed the character of Godzilla who, like many great characters of fiction, turns from villain to hero. Classic Media released both versions of the film on one DVD, and they each tell the same basic story. A strange gigantic meteor crashes in the wilderness of a Japanese mountain range. During a plane trip to Japan,

The Night Porter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Nazi Love Story

Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
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Normally I’d say that the space between True Art and exploitation is wide and wandering, but if The Night Porter teaches us anything, it's that the line is actually pretty thin. It's story is pure sleaze - A Nazi SS officer reunites with his former concentration-camp prisoner thirteen years after the war. A sadomasochistic love affair ensues. But in the hands of director Liliana Cavani, it becomes something more - a meditation on love, guilt, and redemption. It reminds me a bit of Boxcar Bertha, a typical Roger Corman B-Grade flick elevated by the talents and artistic brilliance of a

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 8 DVD Review: Four Films That Broke the Code

The Warner Archive Collection presents a quartet of Pre-Code classics that delve into vice with very little virtue.
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Once more, the guys and gals at the Warner Archive - along with the folks at the Turner Entertainment Corp. - have assembled another collection of rarities from the early '30s, made at a time before the Hays Office established its moralistic Production Code upon the film industry. Prior to when the Code was fully enforced in 1934, filmmakers were able to get away with quite a bit more than they would in later decades. Skin, sin, and a frequently-seen seductive grin lured audiences into theaters as easily as the various elements of vice (often without a whole heck of

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