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Annihilation Blu-ray Review: Alex Garland Annihilates the Sophomore Slump

Garland follows up his impressive directorial debut on Ex Machina with another unsettling sci-fi tale.
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Annihilation gained notoriety during its U.S. theatrical release earlier this year when it was revealed that Paramount had decided to skip theatrical release in many other major worldwide markets, instead sending the film directly to Netflix. While this was widely viewed as a vote of no confidence in the film, the finished project proves that it has nothing to do with the film’s quality and everything to do with market dynamics. Screenwriter/director Alex Garland’s cerebral take on horror sci fi simply doesn’t fit into the Hollywood blockbuster formula, so while Paramount’s bottom line may have been protected by their unusual

Fireman, Save My Child (1932) DVD Review: Old Hatter Up

It would prove to be the first of a "baseball trilogy" starring iconic comedian Joe E. Brown.
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Admittedly, a movie from the early '30s is bound to feel more than just a tad bit outdated when viewed today. That said, Lloyd Bacon's Fireman, Save My Child ‒ a First National Pictures comedy starring the mouth himself, Joe E. Brown ‒ was already old hat (or old fire helmet, as it were) when it was released by Warner Bros. in late February of 1932, as it had already been made twice before during the Silent Era. The first film to carry the title was Hal Roach's one-reel short from 1918 with the great Harold Lloyd in the lead,

Solo: A Star Wars Story Movie Review: A Fun Addition to the Franchise

An entertaining space adventure that is best when it's not spending time covering obvious connective plot points.
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Set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Solo tells how Han Solo began his journey towards becoming the character met at a Tatooine cantina in the original film. It's an entertaining space adventure that is best when it's not spending time covering obvious, connective plot points. Han (Alden Ehrenreich) is young thief on the streets Corellia working for Lady Proxima (Linda Hunt), a variation on Oliver Twist and Fagin. He dreams of becoming a pilot and leaving the planet. His only option to accomplish both is joining the Empire. While on an Imperial mission to conquer a

Alexander Hamilton (1931) DVD Review: I Never Expect to See a Perfect Work Anyway

An entirely-too-old George Arliss portrays a much younger Hamilton in this early pre-Code biopic from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Far removed from the musical stage sensation of today, the 1917 Broadway production of Hamilton presented audiences with a condensed version of the first Secretary of the Treasury's battle to pass his Assumption Bill funding act in the years following the end of the Revolutionary War. With very little else in-between. But that didn't seem to matter much to the public, who were probably more excited to see recent Academy Award winner George Arliss ‒ the first (and youngest) English-born actor to earn such an honor in the US ‒ parading about amid a compelling human drama he himself had

The Hanging Tree (1959) Blu-ray Review: Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

The Warner Archive Collection knots it up with this captivating western starring Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Karl Malden, and first-timer George C. Scott.
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Several years before a more somber wave of performers rode into town, Gary Cooper was ‒ as he had done so eloquently before ‒ pioneering a unique protagonist who would fit right at home in a '70s revisionist western. In Delmer Daves' The Hanging Tree, released two years before one of the genre's quintessential heroes passed away, we witness the stalwart High Noon icon delivering his final lead performance in a cowboy picture. This time, however, Cooper does not play a man haunted by what he must do. Rather, he's tormented over what he has done. Set in the tiny

The Gay Bride (1934) DVD Review: Married to the Flop

Carole Lombard and Chester Morris unite for a well-aged gangster screwball comedy, now available from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Some marriages just need a little time to get things right. Crafted at the tail-end of Hollywood's golden age of gangster pictures, MGM's classic screwball comedy The Gay Bride failed to wed audiences upon its initial release in 1934. But when I first witnessed this union betwixt Carole Lombard (My Man Godfrey, To Be or Not to Be) and future Boston Blackie star Chester Morris (Five Came Back, The She-Creature) 84 years later in 2018, I found this once-dejected Bride to be quite worthy of a suitor ‒ Gayor otherwise. Set in New York (but clearly filmed in Los Angeles),

The Ship from Shanghai (1930) DVD Review: Slippery When Whet

The Warner Archive Collection raises an early Sound Era seafaring thriller featuring Kay Johnson and Louis Wolheim.
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Were you to examine the wake of just about every cinematic maritime thriller pitting a random assortment of passengers against an onboard maniac, the trail will more than likely trace back to 1930's The Ship from Shanghai. As the title may indicate, the story opens in Shanghai. Well, it's technically an assortment of stock footage from the Orient and a Hollywood nightclub set ‒ complete with an all-too lively gweilo playing the drums in yellowface while an otherwise Asian band plays "Singin' in the Rain" in Chinese. Fear not, though, for the film shifts into an entirely different gear soon

Seijun Suzuki: Early Years Vol.2 Border Crossings: The Crime and Action Movies Blu-ray Review: Nikkatsu Noir

Five early films by Seijun Suzuki spotlight Nikkatsu's early 60s trends and the director's growing ambition.
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Seijun Suzuki is one of the more famous Japanese directors of the '60s, when younger filmmakers were taking the rein from the older masters like Ozu and Mizoguchi and Japanese domestic cinema was seeing both its high point as a commercial medium, and heading toward a crash in the late '60s when television would finally saturate Japanese markets. Suzuki worked at Nikkatsu, strangely the oldest and newest Japanese film studio at the time (it was the first film studio in Japan but had been disbanded by the Imperial government in 1941 and reformed 10 years later) whose bread and butter

On Chesil Beach Movie Review: Saoirse Ronan Keeps Afloat

Saoirse Ronan easily saves what ends up being a jumbled depiction of marriage and sexuality.
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The last time Saoirse Ronan starred in a film based on an Ian McEwan novel was Atonement back in 2007. Atonement was her big break and she landed an Oscar nomination in Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Since then, she’s ascended to leading-lady status and has now transported back to the literary world of Ian McEwan by starring in a film adaptation of his novel On Chesil Beach. Saoirse Ronan delivers a luminous and quietly commanding performance as a newly conflicted bride. However, she manages to be the only reason to watch On Chesil Beach which has a thoughtful

TCM and Fathom Events Present Sunset Boulevard

Get ready for your close-up.
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A down-on-his-luck screenwriter (William Holden) goes on the run from some pretty nasty creditors. He flees in the very car they are trying to repossess. When it blows a tire, the screenwriter, Joe Gillis, stashes the vehicle inside the garage of a large, dilapidated mansion on Sunset Boulevard. Mistaken for a man bringing a coffin for a pet monkey, he is called inside the mansion by Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), an old, silent-film star who was swept aside by the movie industry when sound entered the pictures and nearly forgotten by her once adoring public. She is now accompanied only

Schlock (1973) Blu-ray Review: The Dawn of Landis

John Landis' campy homage to classic monster movies surfaces in High-Definition for a limited time from Turbine Media Group.
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The first feature film of cult filmmaker John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood) Schlock serves as a exemplary reminder we all have to start somewhere. Shot over the course of 12 days on a measly $60,000 budget in one of the many suburbs of Los Angeles, Schlock is a campy homage to horror and science fiction movies of the past, as seen through the eyes of one very eager 21-year-old filmmaker. A small community is besieged by a wave of baffling, unsolved murders, committed by an entity whom authorities and the media alike have dubbed "The Banana

Saving Brinton Movie Review: One's Trash is a Treasure for Many

This charming documentary looks at how an avid collector in Iowa comes across some of the first moving pictures that were believed to have been extinct.
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Michael Zahs, a retired history teacher and the subject of the new documentary Saving Brinton, is the very definition of someone who is a gentle giant. His large stature and lengthy beard give him a rather intimidating appearance, but when you hear him speak and get an insight into his life, he’s a lovable teddy bear. He’s the kind of person from whom you could learn a lot, and not just because he once taught history in high school. As we get a look inside his home in Ainsworth, Iowa, we see that he loves to collect things. It has

Schlock DVD Review: 'Appropriately Named'

The commentary by John Landis and Rick Baker makes for a much more entertaining experience than the movie itself.
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Released by Turbine Media Group, Schlock is now available as an exclusive limited 2000-copy Blu-ray/DVD combo mediabook edition that contains the main feature in full HD sourced from an all-new, detailed 4K frame-by-frame restoration on Region Code-Free Blu-ray for worldwide playback, and an NTSC SD 4:3 full-frame open-matte DVD version. The DVD was made available for this review. After an apology from writer/director/star John Landis for those about to view his debut feature, Schlock opens with 239 dead bodies strewn across a park. Turns out the killer is a prehistoric ape man in this spoof of '50s monster movies that

MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy (1964) DVD Review: When Compilations Were String

For whatever reason, the Warner Archive Collection releases Robert Youngson's effortless cut-and-paste documentary to DVD-R.
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One would expect a collection of clips featuring some of cinema's greatest comedians and comediennes to be a laugh-a-minute mini-fest; a cinematic party tape devoted entirely to some of the biggest names in comedy during their best moments on-screen. And, while such compilation movies surely exist somewhere, you will not find anything remotely resembling such in MGM's The Big Parade of Comedy ‒ a dreadful cut-and-paste wonder from the once-respected mind of documentary filmmaker Robert Youngson. Beginning his career at Warner Bros. in the late 1940s as the director of documentary shorts ‒ two of which won Academy Awards ‒

Phantom Thread Blu-ray Review: Paul Thomas Anderson Makes It Work

An impeccably made, sometimes difficult and now entirely emotionally satisfying film.
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Sometimes a film comes along that just knocks me out with its filmmaking, but never quite comes across on an emotional level. Paul Thomas Anderson films have that way about them and his latest, Phantom Thread, falls directly into that category. It is a meticulously made film in every possible way. It is gorgeously designed and stunning to look at. The script is a puzzle where every piece falls into place exactly when Anderson wants them to and the acting is exquisite. But there is something about the story and the characters that just didn’t quite connect with me. Yet,

A Lost Lady (1934) DVD Review: A Lost Cause

The Warner Archive Collection finds a rare Barbara Stanwyck flick co-starring the famous Emerald City Wizard himself, Frank Morgan.
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After witnessing the man she is due to marry (in just two days) get gunned down in front of her by a jealous husband (the cad!), poor Marian (Barbara Stanwyck, Double Indemnity) becomes a bitter, dejected, clinically depressed recluse. Months later, her family, completely uncertain what to do with her now that she's so very sad and boring, pack up her belongings and ship her off to the Canadian Rockies so she can mope in peace there. And indeed she does, until she decides to run off into the woods after nearly experiencing an emotion, wherein she promptly falls off

Bruce's Deadly Fingers (1976) Blu-ray Review: How Low Can You Go?

VCI keeps the memory of Bruceploitation alive and kicking by cloning a German Blu-ray release for this one.
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Though contributions to what has since become known as the "Bruceploitation era" were numerous, those who dare consider themselves loyal to the less-than-esteemed subgenre of ripoff filmmaking generally tend to hold three particular titles high above all others. Amazingly managing to reach a zenith within a cataclysmic cinematic nadir such as this, Bruce Lee Fights Back from the Grave, The Clones of Bruce Lee, and Bruce's Deadly Fingers have become as holy to bad kung fu movie lovers as has Clint Eastwood's The Man with No Name Trilogy has with Spaghetti Western enthusiasts. Apart from the occasional music cue shamelessly

Andrei Tarkovsky's The Sacrifice Blu-ray Review: Slowly Rewarding

Tarkovsky's last film is a gorgeous meditation on life, God and what we are willing to give up.
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In literature classes, you learn that in short stories every paragraph, every sentence, every comma counts. Because of the short length, you cannot have any fluff. You have to weed out everything that isn’t important. Whereas in a novel you can sometimes let a sentence or two (or if you are Stephen King, entire chapters) slide. In a similar way with slow cinema - films that are more contemplative in nature and that utilize long shots with fewer cuts that normal cinema - one has to make each shot really count. Andrei Tarkovsky was a master of slow cinema. Though

The Chastity Belt (1967) DVD Review: As Uncomfortable As You'd Expect

Tony Curtis and Monica Vitti are more than a bit rusty in this appallingly unfunny Italian sex comedy from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Every once in a while, a film critic encounters a difficult obstacle to overcome. The late '60s, Italian-made sex comedy The Chastity Belt ‒ originally given the very late '60s title of On My Way to the Crusades, I Met a Girl Who… ‒ proved to be one such challenge. Starring Tony Curtis and Italian bombshell Monica Vitti, this 1967 medieval "farce" incredibly credits A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum writer Larry Gelbart, the same man who would later turn Robert Altman's hit M*A*S*H into an even bigger television sensation. After making it into the film

Phantom Thread Review: Anderson and Day-Lewis Can't Recapture 'There Will Be Blood' Magic

I couldn't hook into the movie, despite all it had going for it.
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When Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis joined forces previously, they created There Will Be Blood. That film is a stone-cold masterpiece, one of the best of this millennium. There was no way that Phantom Thread was going to equal There Will Be Blood, but every Anderson movie is worth getting excited over. Plus, with the murmurings that this would be Day-Lewis' final film, how could movie lovers not be intrigued? One of our greatest directors and perhaps our greatest living actor making his potential curtain call? Sign me up. However, I will admit that when I saw the trailer

The New Centurions (1972) Blu-ray Review: Blue Lives Shatter

Twilight Time books a classic, slow burning cop drama starring George C. Scott and Stacy Keach.
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Columbia Pictures' The New Centurions was filmed and released during a particularly interesting era: a time when the lives and actions of police officers was present in just about every form of media, be they negative, positive, or somewhere in-between. In the instance of this 1972 cop drama, we find ourselves planted directly in the epicenter of the two, where moments of lighthearted comedy can give way to heartbreaking tragedy at any moment. The film was adapted for the screen by the prolific Stirling Silliphant (Village of the Damned, The Killer Elite), as taken from former law enforcement officer and

Killer Klowns From Outer Space Blu-ray Review: Because Killer Klowns Not From Outer Space Simply Wouldn't Sell

Thirty years later, I still get excited by how absurd it is.
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Cream pies that melt the flesh off a person. Balloon animal hunting dogs. Locust popcorn. Cotton candy cocoons. Monster marionettes. A circus tent spaceship. Ludicrous inflatable balloon boobs. Killer Klowns From Outer Space is as creative as it is ridiculous. It's not a parody or a satire and everyone in the film takes the events very seriously, making it that much funnier. Mike (Grant Cramer) and Debbie (Suzanne Snyder) are visiting a remote make-out spot when they see what appears to be a shooting star passing nearby overhead. They chase after it and find a circus tent oddly erected in

The Seven-Ups (1973) Blu-ray Review: This One Gets Seven Thumbs Up

Twilight Time proudly unleashes the intense, unofficial sequel to "The French Connection". And it's nothing short of awesome.
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Off the record, there were two sequels to William Friedkin's 1971 action-packed Oscar-winning cop thriller The French Connection. Officially, only John Frankenheimer's 1975 follow-up French Connection II ‒ a film which has always failed to live up to its predecessor in my opinion ‒ falls into that category. From a decidedly less official point of view, however, Philip D'Antoni's 1973 action classic The Seven-Ups is a motion picture that many feel is entirely more deserving of the honor. Though neither film shares the same director, the late Mr. D'Antoni was nevertheless one of the most significant denominators (or, "connections", if

Batman Ninja Blu-ray Review: East Meets West

Japanese anime creators play in the DC sandbox.
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Batman Ninja is truly unique in the DC animated universe, not only because of its radical premise, but because it was actually conceived and created in Japan. Rather than being overseen by the usual U.S. production crew, Warner Bros. hired authentic anime greats and left them alone to craft this inspired interpretation of the Batman mythos, apparently only stepping in afterwards to graft on a U.S. reworking of the script for its American vocal cast recording and home-video release. The resulting product is distinctly Japanese, and yet still entirely familiar thanks to the classic cast of characters. The far-fetched but

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Steelbook Edition Blu-ray Review: Giddyup for Some Sci-Fi Fun

Shout! Factory repackages a previously released collector's edition of W.D. Richter's cult classic for the steelbook fans.
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With one of the longest movie titles in cinematic history, and one of the most unique heroes to ever grace the silver screen, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (hereafter Buckaroo Banzai) is a film that has so much going for it, but initially didn’t find the same audience that many other science fiction features of the '80s did, namely the Star Wars sequels. Its failure led to the shuttering of Sherwood Films and the proposed sequel, which is mentioned at the movie’s end, never came to fruition. Years later, however, the film developed a cult following,

Kind Lady Double Feature DVD Review: Team Sherlock Holmes or Team Dr. Zaius?

The Warner Archive Collection pairs two different versions of the same story ‒ with Basil Rathbone and Maurice Evans taking turns playing the bad guy ‒ on one disc.
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In today's world of cinema, a remake, reboot, preboot, prequel, or sequel is about as easy to find as a pregnant lady in a maternity ward. Ultimately, it's all about branding: a title (or character) studios can mercilessly milk the money of consumers out of until even the most die-hard Transformers fans say "Enough already!", less the studios lose their limited rights to the property in question. And, while it may come as something of a surprise to younger generations, Hollywood has never been terribly shy about remaking a movie in order to keep up with the times. Or at

The L-Shaped Room (1962) Blu-ray Review: The Misplaced Misfits

Twilight Time releases the forgotten, award-winning "kitchen sink" drama from Bryan Forbes, which all fans of Morrissey and The Smiths should probably see.
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Long before Hollywood tried to appeal to everyone by adding various "token" characters from all walks of life, postwar British filmmakers were trying something much more subtle and less transparent. One stellar example is the 1962 domestic drama The L-Shaped Room from director Bryan Forbes (The Stepford Wives). Adapted for the screen by Forbes from the best-selling novel by Lynne Reid Banks (The Indian in the Cupboard), this solid little "kitchen sink" drama finds former musical icon Leslie Caron (An American in Paris, Gigi, Lili) as one of many tenants in a boarding house full of characters who would be

Phantom Thread Blu-ray Review: Woven Together Rather Wonderfully

If this is truly Daniel Day-Lewis' final film, he goes out on a high note.
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In 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis announced that he would be retiring from acting - which makes Phantom Thread, the eighth film from Paul Thomas Anderson, his final performance. Although Lewis has not graced the silver screen as often as many other actors do, the times he did have certainly been amongst the most memorable. Save for a few misses (Nine, for example), Lewis always brought an extreme amount of dedication and talent to each role. It’s helped him land three Oscar wins, along with three other nominations, and countless acclaim from multiple organizations. Phantom Thread is no different. It’s a tremendous

Forever Amber (1947) Blu-ray Review: It Never Seems That Long Until You're Grown

By hook or crook, Linda Darnell climbs her way to the top in the once-controversial drama, now available from Twilight Time.
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A full decade before its hugely successful Peyton Place managed to poke a few holes in the brick walls of alleged decency, 20th Century Fox was already turning a controversial bestseller into a major ‒ however sanitized ‒ motion picture. Previously in history, Kathleen Winsor's 1944 novel Forever Amber had been condemned by the Hays Office, but that hardly stopped top Fox man Darryl F. Zanuck from securing the movie rights for the book immediately after its publication and turning something racy into a big-budgeted epic. Three years later, Fox's Forever Amber premiered. It would prove to be the biggest

Don't Bother to Knock (1952) Blu-ray Review: Marilyn Monoir

Twilight Time releases the odd real-time film noir cult classic starring Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft.
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Though modest in budget and undoubtedly filmed in a relatively short period of time, 20th Century Fox's Don't Bother to Knock from 1952 is the sort of movie which just about any variety of film aficionado should take a look at. Based on Mischief from the previous year by mystery novelist Charlotte Armstrong, this cult film noir piece from Julian Blaustein (The Day the Earth Stood Still, Khartoum), Don't Bother to Knock features many significant firsts in the fabulous history of film. The first American movie by famed British director Roy Ward Baker (A Night to Remember), the production also

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