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Lone Wolf and Cub Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Manga Comes to Life

Chanbara film series is aided by the screenwriting of the manga series creator, Kazuo Koike.
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As the shogun executioner, Ogami Itto has a comfortable gig until he falls from grace and endures the death of his beloved wife. Facing almost certain death at the hands of his enemies, the dreaded Yagyu clan, he’s forced to flee and gives his toddler son a choice: die at his hand or join him in a life of hardship on the “demon road”. With no home, no money, and no seeming future, the father becomes an assassin for hire and stays on the move, pushing his son around the countryside in a rickety cart from one misadventure to the

Mifune: The Last Samurai Movie Review: A Wonderful Remembrance

A straightforward biography that reveals little more than the story of the man's life.
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Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazak's documentary tells the story of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune, who together with director Akira Kurosawa became worldwide sensations because of their work together on 16 films, from Drunken Angel (1948) to Red Beard (1965). Narrator Reeves says they were "some of the greatest movies ever made...Together, they influenced filmmaking and popular culture around the world." Their partnership was such an integral part of their lives, it's not a surprise it's an integral part of this documentary as well. Because film was such an important part of what he became, the story of Mifune: The Last Samurai

Frank & Lola Movie Review: Not Your Average Love Story

First-time director Matthew Ross proves he's someone to keep watching.
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Michael Shannon is such an intense actor I don’t know that I could ever see him as a romantic lead. Even when he’s whispering sweet nothings, I’d always feel like there was something sinister happening underneath. So it is with Frank & Lola, the new film starring Shannon and Imogen Poots as the titular characters. He’s a respected Las Vegas chef and she’s a fashion designer-hopeful just out of school. First-time director Matthew Ross shows us the beginnings of their relationship in fits and starts. He strings together snippets of scenes, flashing both backwards and forward, giving us snapshots of

Pete's Dragon (2016) Blu-ray Review: A Fine Film If You Simply Change the Name

I would recommend ignoring the title and viewing it as a completely new movie featuring a dragon.
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The original Pete's Dragon (1977) is one of my all-time favorite Disney films. When I heard a remake was in process, I couldn't wait to see it. Unfortunately, the people behind the new film had no idea what made the original so special. Rather than creating a new version of a beloved film, they ended up with something completely unconnected to the original. Five-year-old Pete (Oakes Fegley) is on a road trip with his parents when, in an effort to avoid a deer, they crash the car. His parents are instantly killed and wolves force Pete into the woods where

C.H.U.D. (1984) Blu-ray Review: The A-List B-Grade Latchkey Monster Flick

Arrow Video's two-disc Limited Edition release of this '80s horror flick is worth crawling through a mutant-infested sewer for.
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Like many of the "classic" horror flicks I tend to review, C.H.U.D. first crawled its way out of the manhole and into my life via videocassette. Even then, during that awkward span of existence known as my teenaged years, I couldn't help but shake the feeling there was something equally thorny about the film ‒ and it had absolutely nothing to do with the titular flesh-eating creatures within the picture itself. Rather, the peculiar odor C.H.U.D. emitted was of an entirely different variety of cumbersome: it was almost as if it was simultaneously trying to be something it ultimately wasn't

Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: An Underwhelming Celebration of Cinema History

Welles' legendary masterwork gets yet another Blu-ray release, courtesy of Warner Bros.
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What can you say about Citizen Kane that hasn't already been said? Director/actor/writer/producer Orson Welles' controversial landmark film has been dissected, acclaimed, and talked about for over 75 years. Its innovative flashback structure, piercing cinematography, amazing performances, and overall production have been forever integrated into the popular culture lexicon since its 1941 release. It's also a very ambitious depiction of a man's epic rise and fall that remains accurate to this day. Everyone knows the plot to the classic film: the study of Charles Foster Kane, a powerful newspaper magnate who eventually becomes undone by his own ambition and wealth.

Fathom Events and TCM Present: Breakfast at Tiffany's

A light-hearted romantic comedy with a buoyant Harry Mancini score and Audrey Hepburn at her most chic.
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In 1995, the alternative rock band Deep Blue Something released their only hit song, "Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I was in college at the time in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was all over the city. Playing on the radio, in all the restaurants, and all over the campus. One day, my friend Jenifer and I were singing along to the song and we came to the realization that neither of us had seen the Audrey Hepburn film of the song’s title. We scooted on over to the local video shop and rented up the VHS tape (wow, how anachronistic is that

They Were Expendable / She Wore a Yellow Ribbon Blu-ray Reviews: The WAC Duke

Two of the most famous John Ford/John Wayne collaborations make their HD home video debut courtesy the Warner Archive Collection.
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While both names carry around their own amount of (significant) weight, it's almost hard to imagine a John Ford movie without John "The Duke" Wayne ‒ and vice versa. Thankfully, the Warner Archive Collection has been gracious enough to help fans of both classic motion picture greats fill two voids in their High-Definition libraries with new Blu-ray releases of two of their best-known collaborations, They Were Expendable and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. Both films showcase The Duke doing what he did best ‒ giving 'em hell ‒ but is in the first of these individually released titles, MGM's They

Citizen Kane 75th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: One of the Medium's Most Visually Compelling Films

Caveat emptor, it's a reissue of the 70th Anniversary release.
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After a restored DCP master of Citizen Kane played at the 2016 AFI Fest, followed by an AFI Master Class, featuring Peter Bogdanovich and Orson Welles' daughter, Beatrice Welles, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment released a new Blu-ray and DVD to commemorate the film's 75th Anniversary. However, this release has not been struck from the new master, but instead is a reissue of the 70th Anniversary release. Citizen Kane tells the story of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles), a newspaper tycoon who “helped to change the world” though his detractors declared him a yellow journalist. He became one of the wealthiest

Hell Or High Water Review: All Hail West Texas

It is a fine western, and a fine crime film, but it doesn’t really ascend to the level of wondrous drama.
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Fittingly, I watched an episode of Columbo recently wherein William Shatner plays a TV detective who murders his producer, a woman who was also blackmailing him. He reflects upon his crime, and also upon an episode of his show that was seemingly in part an inspiration for his crime. Shatner’s character talks about how he felt the killer was sympathetic in the way things unfolded. The reason I take this aside before discussing the movie Hell or High Water is because that idea certainly feels thematically relevant. Hell or High Water is both a western and a heist movie, although

C.H.U.D. Blu-ray Review: Cheesy Happenings, Underwhelming Direction

C.H.U.D. strands a fun premise and surprisingly great cast in a meandering story with few thrills.
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What’s weird about C.H.U.D. is how much it’s like a real movie. An '80s horror flick, it has the feel of one of those '70s movies shockers that doled out the horror pretty sparingly, but spent a lot of time building characters and solidifying its premise. Partly this is because of the New York location shooting. Partly it is because the actors, particularly David Stern and Christopher Curry, rewrote large swatches of the script to turn their cut-outs into real characters. The title is an acronym meaning Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. And it’s not a surprise these C.H.U.D.s are working

Blindman (1971) DVD Review: Don't Let This One Out of Your Sight

The seldom-seen Spaghetti Western outing starring Tony Anthony and a recently disbanded Ringo Starr finally hits DVD.
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It was only 1971, but a lot had changed in the entertainment world since the '60s ended. First, and perhaps most importantly, The Beatles had disbanded. Secondly, the phenomenon of the Spaghetti Western was on the decline; the cruel victim of oversaturation and repetition on the behalf of the very countrymen who accidentally created the subgenre. One ex-Beatle in particular, Ringo Starr, attempted to launch a solo career in music, but was not experiencing much success [insert joke about Starr's drumming abilities here]. Across the Channel, American-born filmmaker Tony Anthony ‒ no "stranger" to the Euro western field, having created

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast Blu-ray Review: Extensive, Exhausting Exploitation Experience

With 14 movies and hour of extras, this set is all a fan could want (and more than most need.)
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Enormous multi-movie box sets (especially expensive ones) have two real audiences: already devoted fans, and movie buffs who want to get into a director, so they take the plunge all at once. There is, to my mind, no one who will casually purchase a 17-disc, 14-movie set with copious (almost endless) extras, particularly one that retails for a couple hundred bucks. The question, then, for Arrow Video’s extensive (if not entirely exhaustive) Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast is, what is in it, and will it satisfy both the dedicated and the curious? Being curious myself, and not a follower of the

Macbeth (1948) Olive Signature Blu-ray Review: Something Welles This Way Comes

A haunting and noirish adaptation of one of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
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Orson Welles was always a man of very electic tastes and certain cinematic desires. He wasn't just a dominating, and towering actor. He was also a director, producer, and writer whose many gifts became legendary in the history of cinema, especially with his 1941 breakthrough masterpiece Citizen Kane, which is often regarded by many critics as the greatest film ever made. However, his personality could be a little too larger-than-life, where his manic and perfectionist attitude took over many of his most iconic projects. His 1948 effort and adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth represents just that. It took the words and

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze Blu-ray Review: A Hero? Yes. Super? Hell, No.

One of the pulp world's first heroes makes for one of film world's worst zeroes.
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Lately, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has been threatening all of mankind by announcing he is slated to star in one remake after another, including a short-lived, fleeting fantasy of a new version of Big Trouble in Little China and ‒ more recently ‒ the reboot of a footnote in the revised American Superhero book, the Doc Savage franchise. And though no such crimes have been perpetrated as of this writing, I almost think a re-envisioning of Doc Savage is in order. Not necessarily because I would support it (I wouldn't), but because it couldn't possibly be any worse than the

Joshy Blu-ray Review: A Darkly Funny Film about Loss and Friendship

This film not only deals with the themes of grief and loss but with the themes of recapturing youth and spontaneity.
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A few months after his fiancé Rachel (Alison Brie) commits suicide on his birthday, Joshy (Thomas Middleditch) decides he still wants to go away with his friends for the weekend that was supposed to be his bachelor party. Not all of Joshy’s friends are as keen on the idea as he is, and many of the friends abandon the plans. Not wanting Joshy to be alone, Ari (Adam Pally), Adam (Alex Ross Perry), Eric (Nick Kroll), and Eric’s friend Greg (Brett Gelman), all decide to join Joshy out at the weekend house in Ojai. Once the group comes together, it

Twilight Time Presents: The Southern Pacific Training Montage

Runaway locomotives, trainspotting hoboes, rail-hopping escapees, and deep-rooted Deep South prides and prejudices highlight this delivery of Blu-ray goods.
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Generally, my attempts at finding a common link between Twilight Time's monthly releases leaves me a lot of room to improvise. In the instance of the label's October 2016 releases, however, I didn't have to delve in too terribly far beneath the surface, especially with titles like Runaway Train, The Train, and Boxcar Bertha staring me right in the face. Combine that with the fact there is an awful lot of Southern drama involved in a large portion of the mix ‒ specifically in The Chase and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte ‒ and, well, I'm sure you get the idea

Universal Studios Home Entertainment Holiday Gift Guide 2016

From classic tear-jerkers to vintage knee-slappers, these goodies are sure to warm the hearts and tickle the funnybones of movie buffs.
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It's that time of the year once again, videophiles. And with all of the crazy mixed-up offerings 2016 has been pulling on us from the very beginning, there is some considerable comfort to be found in what Universal Studios Home Entertainment has put together for the holiday season. First and foremost is the prospect of you and yours spending a very Marxist Christmas (or perhaps Hanukkah would be more appropriate) with one of the most eagerly awaited Blu-ray box sets for classic comedy lovers everywhere. I speak, of course, of The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection: a three-disc High-Def item
The new Olive Signature line of releases includes Nicholas Ray's compelling Johnny Guitar, mastered on Blu-ray from a new 4K restoration. In addition to be a thrilling adventure, the film is the rare Western where strong, interesting female characters are the leads of the story while the men take a backseat. Passing explosive excavations by a train company and witnessing from a distance the end of a stagecoach robbery, Johnny Guitar (Sterling Hayden) rides into an Arizona town as a dust storm blows. Those scenes foreshadow the volatile, chaotic events to come. Johnny goes to Vienna's, a saloon named after

Vamp (1986) Blu-ray Review: From Dusk Till... Hey, Wait a Minute!

Though the extras for this Arrow Video release are a bit on the anemic side, I can still sink my teeth in this fun '80s vampire cult classic.
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While the cinematic equilibrium of horror and comedy had been teeter-totting off and on for many years prior, it really wasn't until the 1980s rolled around that people started to get the balance right (that may or may not have been a Depeche Mode reference, for those of you playing at home). Indeed, the monstrous success of Ghostbusters in 1984 (you know, the good one) all but blew the doors off of the previously sealed gateway to the otherworldly. Within the boundaries of films we weren't supposed to take very seriously, that is. In a way, this permitted the horror

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Blu-ray Review: Gritty, Dirty, Bloody Fun

Wes Craven's second film is decidedly low budget and grim, but it shows the early promise of a true master of horror.
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Born in 1939, Wes Craven was raised in a strict Baptist family, attended very conservative religious schools, and received a masters degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University. He got his start in filmmaking by directing numerous pornographic films before making his break-out horror classic The Last House on the Left. In the 1980s, he created one of the greatest icons in horror history with Freddy Krueger then subverted the very slasher genre he helped popularize with the Scream franchise, which turned slasher films into a satirical exercise of meta-filmmaking. Both of those film series inject humor into

The Love Witch Review: A Loving Tribute to a Bygone Era

Anna Biller's meticulous tribute to the world Russ Meyer and '60s/'70s melodramas.
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This has been a year of studio era homages in cinema, with Hail, Caesar! and this week's Rules Don't Apply the more prominent ones. But those two pay tribute to a bygone era in surface presentation or via random references. If you want a film that lives, eats and breathes the dazzling, soap-bubble world of a time gone by then you can't do any better than The Love Witch. Too niche for its own good at times, The Love Witch is a jaw-droppingly meticulous recreation of the Russ Meyer and studio melodramas of the 1960s (a combination of Peyton Place

The Initiation (1984) Blu-ray Review: Old School's Out Forever

Arrow Video brings us a new HD transfer of the sorority slasher many of us kids ditched out on the first time around.
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If there was one lesson to be learned from the entire run of the slasher film subgenre, it is that no school-themed event, national holiday, or generalized superstition was safe from the prying eyes of bloodthirsty, homicidal maniacs. Indeed, after the first session of class began with John Carpenter's Halloween in 1978, no one ever thought to offer up "Nothing Lasts Forever" as part of the curriculum for the uninitiated. Instead, one applicant after another ‒ originating from actual graduates of filmmaking schools to drop-outs from other ends of the camera ‒ signed up for a refresher course, culminating in

Twilight Time Presents: Sense and Sensitivities

From insensitive employers to less-than-sensible debates about mayonnaise, this assortment of odds and ends is sure to inspire those of you who feel like humanity has lost all common sense.
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Like certain recent events in world history have proved, the elements of both sense and sensitivity are not always in full force: people don't always make the best decisions. This is particularly true ‒ to say nothing of acceptable ‒ in the less depressing field of fiction. And no matter how realistic of a course this sextet from Twilight Time may have become, these magical realms of fantasy nevertheless provide a great escape to scurry off to, particularly when the gravity of reality becomes almost too improbable to properly process ‒ especially since most of the protagonists of these six

Arrival Movie Review: You May Have to Sit Through It Twice to Get It

I couldn't wait to depart!
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At hearing the title of the new science fiction film from director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Enemy), my first thought was that one of the Sheen boys had made such a film years ago. Indeed, Charlie Sheen did star in The Arrival (1996), which was a B science fiction movie at best, and failed miserably at the box office. The synopsis for Arrival [After extraterrestrial spacecraft plant themselves at various locations around the globe, a linguist (Amy Adams) and a theoretical physicist (Jeremy Renner) must find a way to communicate with the mysterious visitors in order to learn what they want

Morris From America Blu-ray Review: A Coming-of-Age Story Without the B.S.

Chad Hartigan writes and directs another film with instincts for the low-key.
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Midway through Morris From America, Chad Hartigan’s winning if decidedly minor coming-of-age comedy, 13-year-old Morris (Markees Christmas) is forced to perform a rap he wrote when it’s discovered by his single dad, Curtis (Craig Robinson). Reluctantly, he obliges: “Fuckin’ all the bitches, two at a time / All you can take, for just $10.99 / Mom’s on the pipe and Pop’s on death row / So who gives a shit if I fuck all these hoes.” Curtis is incredulous. “Why are you mad? You curse all the time,” Morris pleads. “I ain’t mad at you for writing those rhymes because

Bad Moms Blu-ray Review: Factory-made Comedy

A quick tour of how movies for a general audience are made.
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Hello, everyone, and welcome to the movie factory. I am your tour guide, The Vern, and on this journey, I will be describing how movies are made for a general audience. It's important when you make one of these features to reach the widest demographic possible. If anyone says your film was original or even daring, you will have failed as a filmmaker for this particular niche market. The movie that we are going to be exploring while in this building is the 2016 comedy Bad Moms. It was made for a budget of $20 Million and ranked in close

TCFF 2016 Review: Funeral Day

If you are selfish and only think of yourself, good things will happen to you.
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All of us deal with the notion of death in different ways. When someone close to us dies, we begin thinking about our own lives and what we can do to better ourselves. When my friend Mike died from an unexpected heart attack, I was devastated. It was at that moment our carefree, fun-loving partying days were over and our adulthood was starting. I know this is a thing that is suppose to happen when we get older. Yet, this is something I wanted to experience more in my late 40s rather than my mid 30's. As much as I

Private Property Blu-ray Review: Sizzling Hot Forgotten Noir

This lost noir is a steamy mix of sex-crime, repression, voyeurism, and all other sorts of ugly things, beautifully done.
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Made just on the cusp of the broadening of censorship rules in Hollywood, Private Property was probably too much, too soon. Unable to secure an MPAA seal of approval, the movie never opened wide, and quickly disappeared. This is a shame because Private Property is a brimming pot of noir nastiness, a near classic in a genre that's too often associated with gangsters and organized criminality, but at its heart is really about human frailty, obsession, and madness. Corey Allen and Warren Oates star as Duke and Boots, a pair of drifters who wander up from the beach looking for

Beauty and the Beast 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: New Features for the Old Classic

The tale as old as time gets some brand new bonus features for its 25th anniversary release.
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It’s only been six years since the last time this Disney princess was allowed out of the video vault, but this year’s 25th anniversary and an impending live action remake served as ample incentive for another cash grab. Thankfully, the Disney marketing folks saw fit to include an ample selection of brand new bonus features for this release, although the technical specifications of the film’s video/audio presentation are exactly the same. The Blu-ray package also includes a digital copy, another perk absent in the prior release. Finally, viewers again get the option of watching three different versions of the film,

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