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Spider Baby Blu-ray / DVD Review: An Extremely Offbeat but Amazing Movie

This really is the most maddening story every told, but in a good way.
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In this 1960s, the independent film boom was well under way of becoming the next big thing in cinema. The indie films of the '60s, included 'nudie cuties', drive-in flicks, rebel-youth outings, and most importantly, horror movies. These horror movies were a mixture of blood, gore, cheesy but method acting, and dated production values. However, for better or worse, they changed the way that underground films would be made since then. In this case, director Jack Hill's 1963 cult masterpiece, Spider Baby, remains one of the best of the bunch. Yes, it's not as serious as George Romero's 1968 revolutionary

Planet Ant DVD Review: Tiny Social Wonders

They're not so different from us.
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Planet Ant acts as part of a special season of BBC Four programs that originally aired starting in 2013, and are centered around taking a close-up look at the insect world. If you had an ant farm growing up, you might think you know a thing or two about ants. Expand that to the size of an entire room, build it out with cameras, radio tracking, tunnels, an ample food source, and a migrated colony of thousands of leafcutter ants, and now you're really cooking. This is exactly the challenge taken on by entomologist Dr. George McGavin and leafcutter expert

Contamination (1980) Blu-ray Review: On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream 'Rip-Off!'

The cycloptic grandpappy of ALIEN clones makes its chest-bursting, worldwide High-Definition Blu-ray debut courtesy Arrow Video.
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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - it's certainly the least-creative - but there are relatively few individuals out there with enough gall to market a movie of their own as a sequel to somebody else's production. Nevertheless, the annals of exploitation movie history could quite literally be lined with one-sheet movie posters of low-budget movies shamelessly retitled in an attempt to lure unsuspecting filmgoers into thinking they were follow-ups to other (better known) movies. The lengths some of these shady distributors would go to were admirable, to say the least - with my personal favorite being the

Smokey and the Hotwire Gang DVD Review: Anthony Cardoza Strikes Again!

Witness an unforgettably forgettable failure from one of low budget cinema's most notable underachievers.
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This may sound pretty odd coming from an individual such as myself, but z-grade exploitation filmmaker Anthony Cardoza is quite a bit of queer duck. While his stint with the U.S. Army during the Korean War earned him many a medal for his distinguished service to his country - including one for marksmanship - his subsequent, longer engagement in the motion-picture industry has resulted in each and every one of his projects completely failing to hit their mark, with nary an award to be seen from any direction. His brief association with cult auteur Coleman Francis, wherein Mr. Cardoza produced

R.E.M. by MTV Blu-ray Review: Fables of the R.E.M. Construction

This should satisfy fans, most of whom likely already know the story, but it's great to hear it directly from the band members.
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Previously a part of the REMTV boxed set, the documentary R.E.M. by MTV is now available as a separate release on Blu-ray and DVD. It presents the history of the band through archival interviews and clips of news and performances, much of it, but not limited to, material from MTV. The band (Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and Bill Berry) and associates tell the story chronologically through interviews conducted over their decades-long run. The viewer witnesses R.E.M.'s career arc going from a cult favorite and critical darling to a force on the pop charts with hit songs and albums

Pit Stop Blu-ray/DVD Review: One of Jack Hill's Very Best Films

An unusually exciting story of wild youth and fast cars.
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When the 1960s arrived, there started a new type of film: the independent film. Films under this label were made outside the Hollywood system. They had limited to no budgets, unconventional or method actors, and sometimes cheesy production values. However, director Jack Hill's 1969 cult classic Pit Stop isn't the case. Although the film had a limited run, a next to no budget, and a radical story, it really rises above that to tell the story of rebellious youth with something to prove, obsession with fast cars, and pretty girls along for the ride. Hill's unique eye for detail, his

Welcome To Me Blu-ray Review: Kristen Wiig Is Amazing, but This Movie Is Far from Perfect

Kristen Wiig's magnum opus, or sort of.
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We know that Kristen Wiig has proven herself to be actress of extreme range and talent, as she has demonstrated in comedies such as Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids. In just in few years after her Emmy-nominated stint on Saturday Night Live, she established herself as an actress worthy in dramas, and my personal favorite one is The Skeleton Twins. In director Shira Piven's Welcome To Me, an uncomfortably flawed, but quirky depiction of mental illness, TV obsession, and fame, she handles both comedy and drama with flair, even if the film can be mostly beneath her genius. She plays

Sol Madrid DVD Review: The Nutty NCIS Kojak Batman Star Trek 007 Affair

David McCallum's solo venture into the '60s spy genre is odd, compelling, and worth a look.
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As I had iterated in my ealier review of The Scorpio Letters, the latter half of the '60s were big on spy movies. The Britons essentially set the stage for a newly-revamped genre with their James Bond series, and everybody else was soon competing to create their own various fields of cinematic espionage. The craze became an all-out phenomenon in Europe, giving birth to what we call the Eurospy film today. In a way, it was a blessing. Sure, there were a lot of forgettable movies made during this time thanks to ol' supply and demand model of economics, but

Gerontophilia DVD Review: A Perverse, but Tenderly Made Turning Point in LGBT Cinema

A great film with moments of pure hilarity and emotional intensity.
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When Harold and Maude premiered in 1971, it wasn't a box-office hit, but it did break new ground of how certain relationships are viewed. It also became one of the greatest cult films of all-time, not just because of its taboo subject matter, but because it was just so damn funny. Forty-three years later, director Bruce LaBruce decided to take the subject a step further in his controversial romantic comedy, Geronotophilia, a refreshing and frank depiction of generational conflict, race, sexuality, and aging. LaBruce is no stranger to controversy, making films of rebellious eroticism, with such cult movies as Huster

TCM Presents: Jaws 40th Anniversary Movie Review: I Love Movies Because of Jaws

It brings back memories from opening night.
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TCM Presents and Fathom Events have teamed up to bring Jaws to movie theaters for its 40th Anniversary. I attended a showing on Sunday night jokingly saying it was my 75th time seeing the film. Not having a way to really know, I thought about it a little more and that number is probably shooting a little low. I was there in theaters as a seven-year-old on June 20, 1975. If you want to argue that it did or didn't change the movie industry you can, but you can't argue that it changed the interest in movies and filmmaking for

Survivor (2015) Blu-ray Review: A Little Action, A Lot of Filler

This movie should have been Brosnan and Jovovich running around trying to kill each other.
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You look at the Blu-ray cover for Survivor and you see Pierce Brosnan and Milla Jovovich holding guns, with a tagline letting you know that Brosnan’s latest target is now chasing him. It looks like it could be a solid cat-and-mouse thriller. Indeed, there are parts of the movie where that is true, but the issue is that it makes up far too little of the movie. Jovovich plays a woman named Kate Abbott, a Foreign Services Officer from America who has been brought to London to try and thwart terrorist attacks. Brosnan plays an assassin who is brought in

Insider Access to Disney•Pixar's Inside Out Review: Inside and Out of Site!

An early preview of Pixar's newest film with special guests, behind-the-scenes goodness, and an enormously good time.
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Old media has been struggling with how modern audiences consume their movies, books, and music for quite some time. With broadband internet allowing us to quickly and cheaply bring all the media directly into our homes, there is less and less reasons to purchase them as physical objects. It's fascinating to me to see the different methods media producers come up with in order to get us to pay for the things we consume. As televisions increase in size and definition and home theatre sound systems become more affordable for the average consumer, there is less reason for anyone to

The Pillow Book Blu-ray Review: Peter Greenaway's Idiosyncratic Collage

Eroticism and revenge mingle as aspect ratios shift.
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Peter Greenaway’s 1996 film The Pillow Book is alternately a sensual exploration of memory and a hot-blooded revenge fantasy, but it never fully embraces either, its eroticism often aloof and its violence almost completely suggestive. No one should expect otherwise from the idiosyncratic British director, who indulges his love for stagy compositions and florid production design while only half-committing to a traditional narrative, the film’s tableau-like scenes functioning more as standalone setpieces than components of a fluid story. Greenaway trains the viewer to expect this by plunging almost immediately into a dense collage of images — academy frames, widescreen frames,

Valley of the Cycle Sluts DVD Review: Sluts Rule!

Weird retro Cycle Slut fun from MVD Visual.
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The Cycle Sluts are back, and boy are they pissed. In Valley of the Cycle Sluts (1992) we find seven members of the women’s biker gang The Sisters of Mercy bent on revenge against crooked undercover officer Wade Olson (Jason Williams). Before he was fired, Olson had taken out each of the ladies' men, one by one to get to a big pile of loot. The gals lure him to Death Valley to spring their trap. This being a gang of Cycle Sluts however, it will not be a simple execution. The honor of shooting him will go to the

Jurassic World Movie Review: A Sequel 22 Years in the Making

The fourth film in the popular series is everything that the previous sequels should have been, but never could have.
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Sequels have always been a tough market. Even as far back as the classic Universal Monster movies, filmmakers were struggling to come up with new and inventive concepts in order to keep franchises alive and kickin'. Once a World War had ended and the Atomic Age came to pass, man-made legends such as vampires or the Frankenstein monster took a backseat to reawakened prehistoric beasts. One such devil was the Gill Man from The Creature from the Black Lagoon, whose brief trilogy of films went through as diverse of a storytelling process as could be, having been discovered in the

The Searchers Blu-ray Review: Revisionist Western Before There Were Revisionist Westerns

John Ford's justly praised western classic explores the contradictions of glory and brutality in the settling of the West.
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Taking a highly praised classic on is a tricky business for any film reviewer. A movie as celebrated and revered as The Searchers has been picked over, analyzed, and revised up and down in critical estimation since it was dubbed a classic. It can be hard to just sit down and watch The Searchers like any movie. Not for nothing, the first time I saw it was in film school, surrounded by people who, even if like me they hadn't seen it before, had already had drummed into them what was "important" about it. The Searchers was not an instant

Rio Bravo Blu-ray Review: A Western Classic Restored

Howard Hawks' classic Western gets a nice upgrade with some new extras, what else is there to say?
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In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann made High Noon with Gary Cooper, who plays a small-town marshal whose being threatened by a man he once put away and his gang of thugs. Throughout the film, Cooper tries to find others to help him fight the gang, but one by one everyone either refuses or leaves town. In the end, it is only the marshal’s wife who brings forth any assistance. Howard Hawks and John Wayne, tough guys that they were, thought this plot was phony. No man worth his salt would go around asking for help in such a situation. And

John J. Malone Mystery Double Feature DVD Review: Pat O'Brien vs. James Whitmore

The Warner Archive Collection rescues two forgotten comedies featuring the less-than-celebrated fictional sleuth.
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The list of female mystery writers in history isn't a terribly long one. Even today, the only mysteries set in the literary world as written by women are the unexplained successes of poorly-worded tripe such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. No, that's not my chauvinistic side poking out of my trousers. That's something anyone with even a little common sense (or taste!) can attest to. Of course, the relatively short list of lady crime writers can mostly be blamed on good ol' fashioned chauvinism itself - as it wasn't until the last century that women finally began to

McFarland, USA Blu-ray Review: Deserves to be Running in Your Home on a Regular Basis

Harkens back to the old days of Disney filmmaking when the stories were simple yet powerful and poignant.
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Disney has done quite well with underdog sports movies such as The Mighty Ducks, Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Invincible, Miracle, but there have been some failures along the “Glory Road”, so it is tough to figure out what to make of McFarland, USA. There appeared to be little marketing behind a movie starring Kevin Costner, and a February release date generally does not bode well for a film. Luckily, McFarland, USA does not need the marketing or a prime summer release date to put itself amongst the best of Disney’s underdog sports-themed movies. Though some may struggle with the

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Miss Osbourne / Island of Death Blu-ray Reviews

Much like The Damned before them, the folks at Arrow Video USA have fallen in love with some genuine video nasties.
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In Great Britain, they were banned from being made available to the public outright. In the United States of America, they usually wound up being released in a heavily altered form. And sometimes, even in their native countries, they wound up being the subjects of much controversy. I refer, of course, to those magical motion pictures that the former powers of the UK so unknowingly assigned the lovable nickname of "Video Nasties" to. Those various cannibal and/or zombie holocausts those of us who grew up without the Interwebs had to track down from mail-order companies advertised in the back of

Arrow in the Dust DVD Review: This is More Like Dust in the Wind

The Warner Archive does its best to preserve a flick where Sterling Hayden punches Lee Van Cleef, and l'il wooden Indian figures are set aflame and thrown off a ledge. And that's about it.
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Try and try as we may, that which we wish to do in the world is often limited by what we can do. Just like an old saying that implies we should stack all of that which we covet into one hand as opposed to our own human waste, the reality of our dreams isn't always as glamorous (or as sanitary). Actor Sterling Hayden was certainly one of those individuals who expected slightly more than the universe had intended of him. While he loathed acting in the moving pictures, Mr. Hayden nevertheless had to keep the dough rolling in so

Dawn Patrol Movie Review: Surf, Sand, and Stupidity

MTV-esque white trash masquerading as a surf movie.
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I went into Dawn Patrol with low expectations considering it's a surf movie slammed alongside a tale of murder and revenge. Really, I watched this for Scott Eastwood, the hottest thing since sliced bread - although, with that body, I doubt the man eats carbs. Unfortunately, not even Eastwood's visage can save this from being a downright terrible experience. Imagine if Point Break came without the camp, a hefty dose of race and sexism, and a total absence of 1980s Presidential masks. In the town of Venice Beach people are losing their homes to bank foreclosures. All they have to

Kid Glove Killer DVD Review: Van Heflin Shines in Unsuccessful Film Pilot

Is it a film noir? A political corruption yarn? A forensics investigatory piece? A rom-com? It's all these things, and more!
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Since the mid 1990s, American television airwaves (where applicable) have been periodically tuning audiences into two tremendously popular forms of drama: that of the political corruption story, and the umpteen bajillion different forensic investigation shows that have filled out a weekly broadcast schedule since 2001 alone. Prior to those years, however, we only ever saw the occasional unscrupulous administrative yarn in theaters (almost all of which starred Al Pacino, for some unknown reason); the complex science of crime solving being reserved primarily for pulp fiction books, as cinema (and later, television) patrons apparently found them to be complex, or perhaps

Welcome to Me Movie Review: Alice Doesn't Live off of TV Anymore

Kristen Wiig made a bold venture in doing this film.
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When Welcome to Me was making the festival rounds, I read a piece wherein the writer said they had mentioned UHF, in a positive fashion, to Kristen Wiig as a comparison for this movie, and Wiig then blanched at that comment. At the time, my presumption was that Wiig was blanching at this because UHF was a box-office flop. However, after seeing Welcome to Me, I feel like Wiig may have just been alarmed that anybody could be reminded of UHF while watching this movie. UHF is a goofy, ridiculous comedy that uses the notion of somebody taking over a

The Scorpio Letters DVD Review: Amusing Z-Grade Eurospy Fodder

The only thing poisonous about these letters was found in the Nielsen ratings.
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Quite often, all it takes in order to get the writing ball rolling is an idea. Just one single silly concept that can be molded and reshaped into something substantial. I know that all too well. Why, I can be standing in front of the mirror, brushing my teeth, and suddenly think of a (what I think is) great way to begin an article, and from the second I put it to virtual paper, it's all downhill from there. Of course, there is that occasional motion picture offering that many people would probably prefer the sight of someone (not necessarily

Black Patch (1957) DVD Review: A Genuinely Magnificent, Forgotten B Western

Imagine if David Lynch traveled back in time to the '50s, made a TV show, then re-edited it into a feature film to create the Spaghetti Western movement.
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Every now and then, something or someone comes along that simply surpasses all of your expectations and prompts you to ask "Where have you been all of my life?" Usually, one begs such a rhetorical inquiry of a person. Or a pet, perhaps (hey, it's possible). But in the case of the average cinephile, that sort of a question is occasionally reserved for the (re-)discovery of one of yesteryear's forgotten motion picture offerings. Being an old B movie aficionado, this means I have to wade through a lot of movies in order to find something that truly makes me want

Twilight Time Presents European Dramas, American Musicals, and Zardoz

Caution: Musicals, intense British drama, and '70s cinematic hallucinogens lie ahead.
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In addition to re-releasing two previously sold out titles to Blu-ray in brand new 4K transfers, Twilight Time has also been unleashing a lot of drama on us lately. And I don't mean that in a "fanboys are heating up on forum and Facebook posts about Night of the Living Dead again" sense, mind you; I am referring to the fact that the ever-expanding niche label has picked up pound of positively sterling drama flicks - many of which hail from that world of pound sterling itself, the United Kingdom. Of course, no good deed is left unpunished, so there

Spellbound (2002) Movie Review: C-A-P-T-I-V-A-T-I-N-G

A wonderful change of pace to see the glorification of being smart in a society where so many are trying to dumb things down.
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The filmmakers of this Academy Award-nominated documentary present us with the stories of eight contestants participating in the 1999 Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. They are Harry, Angela, Ted, April, Neil, Nupur, Emily and Ashley. The aggregation we’re presented is a good sampling of the participants. They come from all parts of the nation, Southern California, the Midwest, and even Washington D.C. where the contest is held. Most are eighth-graders, the final year of eligibility, which affixes extra pressure since there can be no “better luck next year.” They are returning contestants yet to be the last speller standing and

Escape from East Berlin DVD Review: Don Murray Flees Communist Oppression!

The Warner Archive Collection digs up the fictionalized account of a famous digging out co-starring Colonel Klink himself.
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It's little more than a footnote to today's generation, who has an entire world of information at their fingertips, but uses their power to post shaming videos and offensive memes. But once upon a time, the Berlin Wall was the tangible equivalent of Net Neutrality, with the government on the side of East Germany taking the place of Internet censorship. Only much, much worse. From 1961 to 1989, even trying to get across to the West side of the wall without going through proper checkpoints and channels would get you a one-way ticket to the great gig in the sky

The Velvet Touch (1948) DVD Review: Shades of Columbo in the Shadow of Birdman

The Warner Archive Collection dusts off the charming, well-made film noir howcatchem starring Rosalind Russell and Sydney Greenstreet.
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Primarily, there are two types of murder mysteries. The first and foremost variety is that of the whodunit, wherein audiences are just as in the dark as to who committed whatever heinous crime is afoot, and attempt to match wits with the story's writers. Then there is that less-traveled road, that of the howcatchem drama, wherein we know who did it - because we always see them do it in the beginning of the tale - and then watch as a (usually) seasoned detective puts the pieces together. And, despite its seeming as simplistic as can be, this type of

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