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Who? (aka Robo Man, 1974) Blu-ray Review: Wait, What?

An offbeat, seldom-seen British spy-fi offering goes HD courtesy the efforts of Kino Lorber.
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Apart from farfetched clones and spoofs of the James Bond films, or television shows ranging from animation to puppets to live-action girls with nice bouncy boobies about, there aren't a whole heck of a lot of noticeable titles falling under the heading of "spy-fy" in the world. We can fathom the sight of 007 driving an invisible car, or kids and talking animals preventing world domination. We are also able to accept comic book superheroes and space travelers in galaxies far, far away embarking on dangerous missions of intrigue with a straight face ‒ as such titles tend to be

Doubt Blu-ray Review: One of the Best Modern Acting Ensembles

Without a doubt, I highly recommend seeing this movie,
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In a Bronx Catholic church, a year after Kennedy’s assassination, recently arrived Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gives a sermon about doubt. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), principal of the church’s school, is intrigued by the sermon’s origin, because it comes from somewhere, and she suggests to her fellow Sisters of Charity to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Sister James (Amy Adams) notices a seemingly unusual closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school’s only black student. During her class, Donald is called to the rectory to meet Father Flynn. Upon his return, Donald

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler Blu-ray Review: A Captivating Crime Thriller

A safe bet for silent-film fans.
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Based on the novel Dr Mabuse by Norbert Jacques, Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler is a two-part crime epic by legendary German film director Fritz Lang, and is the first in a trilogy that includes The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) and The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). Running 270 minutes, the film, which was originally released in two parts, comes across nowadays like a TV miniseries, as the villainous Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) attempts to stay ahead of state prosecutor Norbert von Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke) in this captivating thriller. The Kino Classics Blu-ray presents the film on two discs. The

TCM and Fathom Events Present Singin' In the Rain

Oh, what a feeling to watch it on the big screen.
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On December 28 of last year, at the age of 84 actress Debbie Reynolds died, just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed. In honor of Ms. Reynolds, TCM in conjunction with Fathom Events has brought one of the world’s great musicals, Singing’ in the Rain, back to the big screen. My wife and I were able to go to a screening on Sunday and it was as wonderful as expected. In the early '50s, MGM assigned producer Arthur Freed and writers Betty Comdon and Adolph Green to make a film featuring a bunch of songs the studio already

Fathom Events Presents Rush: Time Stand Still

Rush says a farewell to fans.
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When Rush was preparing and touring for R40, their 40th anniversary tour, it was frequently suggested in the press that it might be their last. The band members didn't come out and say so directly, but they responded to the possibility in interviews. It turns out they knew more than they let on as made clear in Time Stand Still, a documentary about what is now revealed to be their final tour. The film was screened in theaters in conjunction with Fathom Events, a second date was added because of the huge demand, and is available in different home-video formats.

The Night of the Grizzly (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review: An Enjoyable, Classic Western

Clint Walker is a commanding, comforting presence on screen.
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The Night of the Grizzly tells the story of "Big Jim" Cole (Clint Walker), a former lawman, who along with his family plan to make a new life for themselves in Wyoming on ranch land Jim has inherited. Not only does he have to contend with wealthy rancher Jed Curry (Keenan Wynn), who used to own the property and wants it back, but also a bear named Satan that is terrorizing the area by killing animals. The bear causes so much damage Curry puts up a reward. Jim desparately needs the money but the bounty brings to town Cass (Leo

Blair Witch Blu-ray Review: Murky Modern Updating Misses Mark

The 2016 sequel to the '99 shock hit tries to update the original's formula, but to much diminished effect.
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Ambiguity is a central attribute to satisfying horror movies (I write "satisfying" because, if the box office is any indication, playing really loud noises every couple of minutes is the key to a successful horror movie). For a horror movie to get under your skin, you have to engage with it and that means, on some level, trying to figure out just what the heck is really going on. The Blair Witch Project, for all it did to foist the found-footage filmmaking style upon us, had ambiguity in spades. What this (comparatively) big-budget sequel, titled simply Blair Witch, demonstrates is

New Orleans Music in Exile Blu-ray Review: After the Hurricane

Documentary filmmaker Robert Mugge chronicles the devastation leveled on New Orleans and its musical community after Hurricane Katrina.
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Unless you live in New Orleans or know someone who does, you might not have paid much attention to its reconstruction after Hurricane Katrina. Robert Mugge’s documentary, New Orleans Music in Exile, focuses on the lives of the city’s musicians in the aftermath of the hurricane, and how they dealt with the destruction of their homes, clubs, and livelihoods. Filmed by Mugge in 2005 and 2006, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Music in Exile chronicles the devastation leveled on New Orleans and its musical community firsthand. Musicians give the filmmaker a tour of their ravaged homes and businesses. Irma

Snowden DVD Review: Joseph Gordon Levitt's Performance is a Fun Thing to Watch

Oliver Stone plays it straight with the surprisingly subtle, subdued, and nuanced docu-drama Snowden.
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Oliver Stone has a well-documented history of adapting real-life historical events into films that often thread a finely woven, but shadowy web of conspiracy and paranoia that dares the audience to question what is actually real and what is more likely theatrically imagined. In movies like JFK and Nixon, Stone has also occasionally displayed a tendency to play somewhat loose with the factual record, perhaps most notably with his - how shall we say? - "interesting" recounting of the Jim Morrison story in The Doors, parts of which were openly disputed by the surviving band members themselves. With Edward Snowden,

Man Of The World: The Peter Green Story DVD Review

An often fascinating, but equally frustrating study of the guitarist and songwriter, once spoken of in the same breath as guitar-Gods like Clapton, Page, and Hendrix.
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If you know your rock history, you know that before there was the soft-rock hit machine of Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac, there was "the other Fleetwood Mac," a much different sounding animal (and then some) than the one you most likely remember now. During a brief, three-year stretch that ran from roughly 1968 through about 1970, the British blues-rock band known first as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac (before dropping the Green name at his own request), recorded three well-received albums, including the classic Then Play On. But then, just as they seemed on the threshold of a Led Zeppelin sized breakthrough

Twilight Time Presents: A Quartet of Quirky Killers

Susan Hayward, Anthony Perkins, Tony Curtis, and Shelley Winters commit killer performances in this assortment of murderous movies.
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As it has been stated time and time again, the only two things we can be certain of in life are death and taxes. Onscreen, however, within the magical realms of cinematic art (where applicable), the subject of taxation ‒ with the notable exception of various legends hailing from Loxley and perhaps a song by The Beatles ‒ is one of the dullest subjects to spend your money on. Death, on the other hand, is a timeless and bankable topic. Few people would take note of a newspaper headline reading "Taxes Paid" (unless it's a politician or religious leader), but

Moby Dick (1956) Blu-ray Review: A Newly Restored Whale of a Tale

Twilight Time brings us the most famous filmic Melville adaptation of all, lovingly restored to match the original theatrical presentation.
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Obsession seems to abound every aspect of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, from its initial published parable right down to its most famous film adaptation, right down to John Huston's 1956 cinematic version, wherein most of the obsession was to be found on the other side of the camera. With as feverish of a desire to capture the legendary white whale as was Melville's main antagonist, Mr. Huston tried (unsuccessfully) to acquire financial backing for his little pet project over the course of several years before finally finding a source of salvation in Pink Panther producer Walter Mirisch and his brothers. Thus,

American Masters: By Sidney Lumet Review: See the Master in a New Light

An engrossing and thoughtfully revealing portrait of an American cinema master.
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The great Sidney Lumet (1924-2011) was an American original, a genius storyteller, and a quintessential New York filmmaker whose versatile gifts created some of the greatest films ever made, including 12 Angry Men, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Network among others. However, as amazing as he was, he is still highly underrated in film circles today. Award-winning filmmaker Nancy Buirski's enlightening documentary, By Sidney Lumet, gives viewers a chance to see the master himself in a new light, a light that should continue to shine over film history. This portrait with Lumet himself, which was filmed three years before his

American Honey Blu-ray Review: Director Andrea Arnold Takes Kids on the Road

A cross-country road movie that will either be held up as a treatise to the restlessness of youth or tossed off as pointlessly boring.
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The space between being a child and an adult - youthfulness - is full of manic energy, enormous emotions, nervous lust, and restlessness. It is a time of experimentation, of being able to let go and run off, of figuring out who we are, who we are going to be. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey captures that moment in life perfectly. First-time actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost child who left her meth-addicted mother in Texas to live with a family in Oklahoma and raise their two kids. The mother prefers spending time at the local bar line-dancing and the

Heart of a Dog Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Moving Meditation from a Singular Artist

Laurie Anderson's essay film sees her moving comfortably between abstractions and personal revelations.
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Can a film permeated with thoughts on death be playful? Can it be uplifting? Can it be equally cerebral and emotional, its two sides not merely coexisting but helping to inform the other? Can a film in which a person is almost wholly absent tell us innumerable amounts about the filmmaker’s relationship with that figure? In Heart of a Dog, the wondrous second feature film from multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson, the answer to all of the above is a resounding "yes." A deeply personal essay film narrated by Anderson in the kind of bemused monotone that features in spoken-word pieces

Creepshow 2 Blu-ray Review: Stick to the Original

I'd been better off not remembering this thing exists.
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In 1982, director George Romero teamed with writer Stephen King to make Creepshow, a comedy/horror anthology film designed to wax nostalgic about the old DC and EC horror comics of their youth. It was a surprise hit and remains a classic among horror hounds to this day. Five years later, they made a sequel. Romero took over writing duties (though it was still based on King stories) and Michael Gornick directed. Arrow Video has released a newly restored Blu-ray of the sequel filled with more extras than it deserves. I have very vague memories of seeing the first one on

Finding Dory Blu-ray Combo Review: You Will Believe an Octopus Can Drive

An entertaining film though it suffers from similarities to its predecessor.
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Thirteen years after the smash-hit Finding Nemo, Disney/Pixar returns to the ocean for the sequel Finding Dory, an entertaining film that suffers from similarities to its predecessor. More accurately titled Finding Dory's Parents, the film tells the story of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a regal blue tang that suffers from severe short-term loss, remembering and seeking out her parents, whom she hasn't seen in years. After a prologue featuring an overwhelmingly adorable, tiny younger version of herself, Dory remembers her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) and seeks them out with the help of her friends, the clownfish Nemo (Hayden Rolence)

The Autopsy of Jane Doe Movie Review: Contains a Lot to Recommend

Terrifically thrilling first half is marred by too many genre cliches in its back end.
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A family is brutally murdered inside their home. We follow the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton) through the blood-soaked house down to the basement. There, they discover a beautiful, dead, naked woman half buried in the dirt. She is not a member of the family, she has no identification on her, and no one seems to know who she is. Though it is late, they take her to the Tilden house where Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox), the county coroner, and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) can perform an autopsy and discover the cause of death. Sheriff says the press will be

Moby Dick (1930) DVD Review: The Version You Never Thought Possible

For those of you who think they know Dick, the WAC salutes you.
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Anyone who has seen a single Hollywood adaptation of a classic (or even contemporary) work of literature knows full well how much Tinseltown can change even the most simple of premises. Sometimes, liberties are taken in the scriptwriting and/or filmmaking processes because of budgetary restraints or per the request of certain thespians who probably never had a very good grip on the subject matter to begin with. In other instances, time-honored tales are completely rewritten in the bold attempt at making them seem "fresh" ‒ a move which usually culminates in widely distributed box office debuts that would fare far

The Search for Weng Weng DVD Review: The Height of the World's Shortest Star

Filipino cinema's least-likely leading man was only 2-foot 9-inches tall, but his appeal to cult cinema aficionados is immeasurable.
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For anyone who has only experienced the mainstream world of cinema, venturing into the output of the Filipino film industry ‒ particularly its numerous exploitation movies made during the '70s and '80s ‒ can seem akin to jumping head first into a swimming pool with very little water in it. I still vividly recall the first time I sat down to cast my disbelieving orbs on Bobby A. Suarez's The One Armed Executioner, wherein Franco Guerrero and his giant pompadour sought vengeance against the evil men who killed his bride and left him minus an extremity. It was the closest

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Movie Review: The Rebels Strike Back

A special-effects wonder filled with good action; however, the plot is not well thought out.
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Rogue One is the latest entry in the ever-expanding Star Wars cinematic universe. Reminscent of war movies like The Dirty Dozen, it tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance obtained the plans for the Galatic Empire's Death Star, which they put to good use, as those familar with Star Wars: A New Hope can attest. Rogue One is a special-effects wonder filled with good action; however, the plot, specifically character choices and motivations, is not well thought out, and at times the film gets a little too inside baseball for those not part of the cult. As a young

Strange and Unusual Christmas Films DVD Review: I Am in Hell, Help Me

Alpha Video compiles a selection of creepy shorts guaranteed to leave your mattress well soiled.
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A longstanding idiom states "'Tis better to give than to receive" ‒ and that theory definitely holds true with Alpha Video's nightmarish gathering of vintage Christmas shorts, newly compiled and released to DVD-R. From live-action horror to unsettling animation and even bed-wetting puppet play, Strange and Unusual Christmas Films is quite possibly the greatest gift you could give to someone this season, whether they're into the whole holiday thing or not. The assortment of oddities begins with a condensed Castle Films version of the 1945 Czech treat, A Christmas Dream, which actually won an award once upon a time. The

Fathom Events Presents Spirited Away: 15th Anniversary

The rerelease of the Miyazaki classic just breathes on the big screen.
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The people at Fathom Events are the ones that bring me out to Rifftrax events a few times a year. They're also responsible for bringing some of my most favorite classic films back to theaters like Rear Window, From Here To Eternity, Jaws, and Animal House. The most recent release brings back a more recent film from the brilliant talent, Hayao Miyazaki's 2001 film Spirited Away. I have been a huge fan of this film since its release and ones like these are perfect because few people saw it in theaters when it was released. This has been the highest-grossing

Time After Time (1979) Blu-ray Review: And Now for Something Completely Different

Nicholas Meyer's quirky sci-fi classic ‒ wherein Jack the Ripper and H.G. Wells travel through time ‒ gets a much-needed makeover from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Imagine, if you will, Jack the Ripper ‒ having just committed his final murder in Victorian London ‒ hopping into a time machine built by H.G. Wells and venturing forth to modern-day (1979) San Francisco, leaving the latter famous figure no choice but to follow him. It's the sort of premise to a motion picture which definitely falls under the category of "something completely different" ‒ so much so, one might theorize the entire concept had been taken from an unfilmed Monty Python sketch. After the success of writer/director Nicholas Meyer's previous movie mashup ‒ the combination of Sherlock Holmes

The Quiet Earth Blu-ray Review: A Brilliant Take on the Last-Man-on-Earth Scenario

One of the most beautifully ambiguous science fiction masterworks of the 1980s.
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When it comes to science fiction films dealing with the apocalypse, sometimes bad CGI and special effects overshadow characters and their emotions. Filmmakers today seem to forget the intelligence and accuracy that can elavate stories of survivors dealing with isolation and anxiety of being the last people on earth. There are only a few films that really capture the intimacy of the end of the world, including Threads (1984), The Road (2009), and On The Beach (1959). However, if there is one that may outshine them all in my opinion, it is Geoff Murphy's 1985 classic, The Quiet Earth. It

The Secret Life of Pets Blu-ray Review: Too Simple?

It fails to rise above the barrier separating the good from the iconic.
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Illumination Entertainment’s chuckle-inducing new animated feature film, The Secret Life of Pets, is an exhilarating journey through urban-domestic-animal life. From class struggles to gang culture, this film tackles many of the most critical issues facing this under-represented faction of world society. Max, the spoiled protagonist, represents the animalistic and inherent qualities that we humans share. He is prone to becoming habitual, he likes things to stay the same, and he is wary of newcomers and what threats they may bring. Louis C.K.’s seamless voice performance brings life to this character in a not-so-powerful, but satisfying way. There are some great

Jennifer Lopez: Dance Again DVD Review: An Interesting Glimpse into Life on the Road

If you’re a fan of Jennifer Lopez, then this is a DVD worth having.
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In 2012 Jennifer Lopez set off on her first ever world tour. For six months, she traveled across five continents and performed in 65 cities, starting in South America and finishing in Puerto Rico. While you might expect this to be a concert DVD, it was really a documentary about all the behind-the-scenes interactions that happened during the tour. There was some concert footage, but only to illustrate what was being discussed during the interviews and to show the different venues and crowds that they encountered. Even then, none of the songs were performed in their entirety or without considerable

Body Snatchers (1993) Blu-ray Review: Uneven, But Not Unnecessary

The Warner Archive Collection dusts off filmdom's oddest pod people Invasion yet.
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Imagine a science fiction parable ‒ one for Communism, paranoia, conformity, or whatever ‒ where, should you fall asleep, you will be replaced by an unemotional clone grown from a pod. Sound familiar? Well, of course it does: we've been seeing such shenanigans on-screen since the mid '50s, when the first official adaptation of Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers hit theaters and sent chills up our spines. Since then, we have witnessed a number of bad imitations and three big-screen remakes ‒ the last of which, 2007's big-budgeted dud The Invasion starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, failed to garner

Little Men (2016) DVD Review: An Amazing Film About People and Their Lives

A minimalist but sharply observed depiction of friendship and family turmoil in modern New York.
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Personally, I prefer the smaller films, films that tell stories about humanity and its complexities. I feel that they make more impact than the overblown, big budgeted extravaganzas that we are faced with. Smaller films focus more on actually plot rather than special effects; they deal with people, places, and things on more realistic terms. Director Ira Sachs' beautifully realized Little Men is a prime example of how to make an amazing film about people and their lives. It is also a tribute to the complex beauty of New York, and how it can bring out the best in human

Michael Collins / Man in the Wilderness Blu-ray Reviews: Super Heroes

The Warner Archive Collection brings us both a legendary man and a man of legend in these two High-Def offerings.
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Some things simply go well together, hands down. Things like chocolate and peanut butter, Burt and Loni, and ‒ of course ‒ the fine art of combining totally true stories with complete and utter bullshit. And apart from politics and people on social media who should not be permitted to access the Internet, there is no great force behind blending fact with fiction than Hollywood. And for those of you who can't handle a little truth without a bit of falsehoods being thrown into the fray, these two "true stories" ‒ recently released to Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection

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