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Mary Poppins Returns Blu-ray Review: Entertaining for the Whole Family

My expectation was that the movie would be magical, musical fun, and it did not disappoint.
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When I first heard that there would be a Mary Poppins sequel, I was extremely skeptical. How could anything possibly compare to Julie Andrews’ performance along with those songs? As further information was announced, I changed my tune. Learning that Rob Marshall would be directing was the main reason for piquing my interest. I consider his adaptation of Chicago one of the best films of a Broadway musical ever made. Finding out that Emily Blunt would play the iconic character, with supporting roles by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Mortimer, guaranteed that I would be watching. My expectation was that, if

The Wedding Guest Movie Review: Dev Patel Brilliantly Carries This Deceptive Thriller

A solid reminder that Dev Patel is a definite leading man.
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When The Wedding Guest first begins, it seems like it’s going to go in a dark direction. Our main character Jay (Dev Patel) is traveling to Pakistan and buys items like a gun and some duct tape. It’s clear he’s up to no good and little is known about him. But we’re still wondering what his plan is and why he even has a gun. But after his purpose becomes revealed and he kidnaps Samira (Radhika Apte), a bride to be, the tone slowly turns on a dime. At first, the ominous score and the restraint of Dev Patel’s performance

The Deadly Mantis (1957) Blu-ray Review: It's Not Great, but There's Entertainment to Be Had

Editor Chester Schaeffer does a masterful job piecing together a visual narrative.
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Combining/stealing ideas from previous atomic-monster movies, The Deadly Mantis was unleashed upon the world in 1957. Scream Factory is responsible for the creature feature resurfacing on Blu-ray. It's not great, but there's entertainment to be had from this cheaply made production and the disc's extras. On an island in the South Seas, explosions from the testing of atomic bombs trigger the melting of glaciers near Greenland because the world is interconnected. An iceberg topples over, revealing to the audience (dun dun dun) a giant mantis frozen inside it. The characters take a while longer to discover what's happening. After an

Gloria Bell Movie Review: Julianne Moore Is Utterly Captivating

A stylistically crafted acting showcase for the marvelous Julianne Moore.
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One trademark from director Sebastian Lelio is that he makes vivid, complex movies about women. He made his breakthrough with the 2013 film Gloria which depicts a middle-aged woman trying to find herself. In addition, A Fantastic Woman starring trans actress Daniela Vega won the Foreign Language Film Oscar. Also, just last year, he did the immensely overlooked lesbian drama Disobedience. Now, he has recreated the film that put him on the map with the remake Gloria Bell starring Julianne Moore in the role previously occupied by Paulina Garcia. It goes without saying that Julianne Moore is terrific as the

Foreigner: Live at the Rainbow '78 Blu-ray Review: On Their Way to Becoming Juke Box Heroes

The setlist is "Foreigner" in its entirety, out of sequence, and two songs from "Double Vision."
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Foreigner began as vocalist Lou Gramm, guitarist Mick Jones, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald, drummer Dennis Elliott, keyboardist Al Greenwood and bassist Ed Gagliardi. Recorded on April 27, a year after their smash self-titled debut and about six weeks before the release of their second album, Live at the Rainbow '78 is a 75-minute concert film that spotlights a talented band on the rise. The setlist is Foreigner in its entirety, out of sequence, and two songs from Double Vision. The band opens with a boisterous “Long, Long Way from Home” getting fans enthused right from the start. At song's end, the

Unknown Soldier (2017) Blu-ray Review: A Gripping World War II Drama

Finland's most expensive film comes to Blu-ray in the U.S. thanks to the folks at Kino Lorber.
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One of the great things about the Finnish war drama, Unknown Soldier, is that it doesn’t rely on copious amounts of blood and carnage to make an impact on the viewer, nor does it ramp up the score to trigger some kind of emotional nerve. All too often, war films - especially those coming out of Hollywood - are plagued by cliches that involve the director increasing these departments to 11 as a way to elicit some type of response from the audience, and they fail to capture the human element of the story, which is what matters the most.

Second Act Blu-ray Review: Not Exactly Working Girl

Lying about one's (or one's child's) accomplishments are all over the news lately, which points out another unpleasant aspect of the film and Maya's character that is never fully addressed.
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Second Act features Jennifer Lopez as Maya, a 40-year-old assistant manager at a Walmart-like chain store full of big ideas, but who is hampered in her desire to move forward with her career because she lacks a college degree. Cue the fairy godmother, in the form of her best buddy Joan's (Leah Remini) internet-savvy son, who overnight creates a brilliant, completely false college-plus-plus online existence for Maya. But wait, there's more - he also has submitted her faux resume to a bunch of companies, and believe it or not, one of the firms, which just so happens to also be

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Blu-ray Review: A Crime Itself

David Yates's second venture into the Harry Potter prequel series is a dull, tedious effort.
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Maybe five films is a bit too much to look at everything in the pre-Harry Potter universe. Or, maybe it’s not enough. It depends on how you view it. There’s quite a bit of information unloaded on the viewer in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald that it feels like there should be 10 movies just to explore everything J.K. Rowling has in mind. But there’s also this feeling, after sitting through The Crimes of Grindelwald, of how much of a chore it will be to get through the already-planned three future films. Picking up where Fantastic Beasts and Where

Kolobos Blu-ray Review: Terrible Name, Even Worse Movie

A '90s slasher has plenty of violence and little else.
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If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cross MTV’s seminal reality TV series The Real World with a trapped house horror film on an extremely low budget and a totally late '90s aesthetic then look no further than Kolobos. It is all those things and more. Now with an Arrow Video release, you can see it in all its restored glory with plenty of extras to fill you in on all the behind the scenes trivia. Answering a classified ad, a group of attractive, young, obnoxious people show up at a house filled with video cameras to

The Prisoner (1955) Blu-ray Review: A Forgotten Gem

Not quite a classic, this mostly forgotten Alec Guinness drama gets a much needed spotlight shined on it from Arrow Academy.
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Despite starring Alec Guinness, being nominated for numerous BAFTAs, and being banned in several countries (as either being too pro-communist or too anti-communist depending on which way the country leaned), Peter Glenville’s 1965 film The Prisoner has mostly been forgotten today. With a new HD transfer and numerous extras, Arrow Academy makes a pretty good case on why we ought to start remembering it. In an unnamed European country, the communist government wants to bring down the Church. They plan to do so by having a well-respected Cardinal (Alec Guinness) confess to treason which will cause the people to lose

Far From Heaven Blu-ray Review: Subtle and Graceful Filmmaking

A remarkable and impeccably acted portrait of 1950s suburban malaise from the early 2000s.
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The partnership of acclaimed director Todd Haynes and actress Julianne Moore should be ranked up there with the collaborative works of Scorsese/De Niro, Allen/Keaton, and Burton/Depp, among others. Haynes and Moore have crafted some major and incredible films in the past two decades, such as Safe (1995), I'm Not There (2007), and Wonderstruck (2017). However, 2002's Far From Heaven, is where they both hit their stride. With this film, you truly get the essence of how brilliantly they work together. The story (an obvious tribute to Douglas Sirk's melodramas, especially All That Heaven Allows) is set in 1950s Connecticut, where

The Magnificent Ambersons Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Flawed Masterpiece, but Still a Worthwhile Film

The Criterion Collection has stacked this beautiful release of Welles's troubled second production with a plethora of extras.
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Before getting into the history of the film: the mangling by the studio, the likely deliberately destroyed edited footage, and all of that intrigue, first we have to see the movie itself: The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles's follow-up to his explosive debut Citizen Kane. Based on a novel by Booth Tarkington about the downfall of a noveau riche mid-Western family, The Magnificent Ambersons has elements of drama and comedy and some sense of tragedy, but most of all it is the portrait of a changing country, and world. George Amberson, the only son of Isabel and heir to the fortune,

Captain Marvel Movie Review: Traditional with Supernova Levels of Fun

Brie Larson goes full movie star in this familiar yet adrenaline-fueled thrill ride.
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It goes without saying that Captain Marvel is a pretty big deal. It’s the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have a female superhero at the center. Also, it is co-directed by a woman, Anna Boden. However, it still possesses similar storytelling beats to other origin films in the MCU. But that doesn't mean Captain Marvel is forgettable or interchangeable. In fact, it manages to surpass other origin films like Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger thanks to its supernova levels of fun. It may not go overboard with gender politics or anything like that despite depicting

Creed II Blu-ray Review: A Worthy Addition to the Rocky Franchise

Although it contains familiar plot points from other films in the series, the filmmakers do a good job of blending engaging characters with thrilling fight sequences.
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Creed II opens with two boxers on the rise: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Both young men have complicated relationships with their fathers, each of whom made a name for themselves in the ring. In Rocky IV, Apollo (Carl Weathers) and Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) battled in an exhibition fight, which led to Apollo's death, so after Adonis becomes the WBC Heavyweight Champion and Viktor has won a number of matches, a savvy promoter wants the sons to fight. Ivan relishes the idea, seeking a return to glory through his son because after his loss to

Greta Movie Review: Isabelle Huppert is Deliciously Sinister

Isabelle Huppert easily elevates this old school schlocky thriller.
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Greta may fall under traditional trappings of the stalker genre. However, it does attempt to distinct itself from other films within that genre by heavily focusing on the female gaze. Typically, these films involve a crazy woman in pursuit of a male protagonist with the only exceptions that come to mind being Single White Female and its clone, The Roommate. But Greta, which involves an older woman terrorizing a younger woman, proves to be another exception. In addition, it boasts a killer leading performance as Isabelle Huppert. As the titular antagonist, Isabelle Huppert is insanely chilly with a touch of

Sorry Angel Movie Review: A Sensible Depiction of a Doomed Romance

A profound, well-acted love story that is a whirlwind of emotion.
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It’s 1993. Jacques (Pierre Deladonchamps) is a writer battling AIDS and coming to grips with his impending doom. He still lives with his child and has his friend Matthieu (Denis Podalydes) as a form of support. However, he develops a slight new outlook on life when he meets the youthful Arthur (Vincent Lacoste), a student and camp counselor. Once they fall in love, complications begin to emerge. Meanwhile, Arthur slowly discovers his own perspective on sexual activity. When Jacques and Arthur first meet, it is at a screening of The Piano. They immediately become smitten with each other and after

Starfish (2019) Movie Review: A Gorgeous, Moving Portrayal of Grief

A.T. White's debut feature is visually stunning and may require more than one viewing to fully understand.
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When the phrase “Based on a true story” pops on the screen, that is usually a signal that the following feature may be formulaic in its approach to recounting the events that took place. That is certainly not the case with A.T. White’s directorial debut, Starfish, which is based on a personal story and goes far beyond any conventional trappings. Yet, White’s film, while daring and visually striking, has a big problem with being cohesive. Maybe those are just the initial reactions and upon further exploration, the film will flow more smoothly and whatever questions I had will be answered.

Liz and the Blue Bird Blu-ray Review: Take a Flyer on This Moving Anime Film

Close friends face the end of high school and differing plans for the future
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High school life is a favorite topic of anime productions, but this one differentiates itself by having a very narrow focus on the unresolved relationship between two senior girls as they near graduation. Mizore and Nozomi are close friends destined for different paths after high school, but still going about their daily school routines, including intensive orchestra rehearsals, as they try to ignore their future. In order to ease their upcoming transition, Nozomi encourages Mizore to study the story behind the orchestral work they’re rehearsing, a tale of a human who keeps a wild bird as a pet before setting

The Craft Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Witches be Crazy!

A definitive '90s movie and also not nearly as good as I remember.
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It’s a funny thing, really, to revisit films that defined your adolescent years. Sometimes, they can be just as good as you remember. Other times, they aren’t, and you are left questioning why you thought it was a good film in the first place. I think, when I first saw The Craft, it had just premiered on HBO and I had heard some positive chatter from the people at my school. Therefore, I was eager to check it out myself. I didn’t have cable, but a relative did, so I watched it with her and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Soldier of War (2019) Movie Review: A Total Bore

John Rhys-Davies helps police find a killer in this low-budgeted, schlocky horror film.
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Every now and then, a well-known actor will appear in a low-budget effort for a brief period of time. But, since this person is the only recognizable name in the film, they are given top billing. Take, for example, Danny Trejo. The Machete star’s name was placed at the front of all the marketing for Voodoo Possession, a direct-to-DVD effort that only gave him about 10 minutes of screen time. Then again, none of the other actors in Voodoo Possession had the same amount of star power as Trejo and, therefore, they weren’t given top billing. The same can kind

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Blu-ray Review: A Delightfully Goofy Sequel

Rather than simply repeating the story from the original film, returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon offer audiences something different with this sequel.
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The 26th Century utopia based on the music of Wyld Stallyns is threatened when Rufus's (George Carlin) former teacher, the villainous De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), sends look-alike robots back to the past to kill Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) after the events of their Excellent Adventure, so and alter the future. Rather than simply repeating the story from the original film, returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon offer audiences something different with this sequel. Instead of more time-traveling silliness, Bill and Ted have a metaphysical adventure as the robots are successful in killing them early on. The

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Blu-ray Review: Anime at Its Finest

Veteren scriptwriter Mari Okada makes a dazzling directorial debut
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Although Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms didn’t make as much of a splash in the U.S. as the Oscar-nominated Mirai, it’s just as worthy of acclaim. It’s also somewhat of a rarity, as it was directed by a woman, a refreshing departure from the traditional boys club of the anime world. Mari Okada has a lengthy resume as a successful screenwriter for her production studio P.A. Works, and takes full advantage of the opportunity to wholly express her vision with this directorial debut. Maquia is a 15-year-old member of a blonde, fair-skinned, nearly eternal race called the Iorph, content

Shame Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Harrowing, Nightmarish Bergman Masterpiece

As unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get.
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War is Hell. They're have been many films that tackled the often difficult subject of war, and its effects on humanity. And arguably none come more terrifying and brutal than Ingmar Bergman 1968's stunner, Shame. Although less remembered than some of his other films, such as The Seventh Seal, Persona, and Cries and Whispers, it's no less harsh and bleak, as well as unflinchingly honest and unforgiving as a film can ever get. Bergman mainstays and film legends Liv Ullmann and Max Von Sydow star as Eva and Jon Rosenberg, former musicians who escape the city engulfed in a civil

The Little Mermaid (1989) Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Another Disney Dip Under the Sea

The Little Mermaid is a wonderful animated film on par with many of the Disney classics of the past, and the Blu-ray offers a top-notch high-def experience.
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Based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Little Mermaid began a period in the studio's history known as the Disney Renaissance, which saw a resurgence of critical and commercial success that lasted a decade. The tale appealed to Walt also and it almost appeared in an anthology of Andersen stories, although that film never got passed the development stage. Tying into the its 30th anniversary, The Little Mermaid is being re-released as part of Walt Disney's Signature Collection, reusing the same HD transfer from the Diamond Edition and bringing over bonus material from past editions. Sixteen-year-old Princess Ariel (Jodi Benson),

A Star Is Born (2018) Blu-ray Review: An Engaging Tale of Addiction, Fame, Partnership, and Family

For his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper has done a wonderful job with this film.
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Confession time. I have not seen any other version of A Star Is Born. I have not seen the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version, the Judy Garland and James Mason version, nor the Janet Gaynor and Fredric March version. I have not even seen What Price Hollywood? which is viewed by some to be the predecessor to all of the versions of A Star Is Born. I have only seen this version of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, so I will not be making comparisons to those other films. I am solely reviewing this

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray Review: Manic Dream Pixie Mermaid

The story is a bit simple, but the animation really shines.
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With Lu Over the Wall, GKIDS continues to prove there is a place in the animation film world beyond Hollywood and Studio Ghibli. There are so many great films being released year after year and it's amazing to find more and more companies filling in the cracks to allow American audiences a chance to view movies they'd otherwise miss. In the sleepy seaside town of Hinashi lives a shy young boy named Kai Ashimoto (Kanon Tani). He makes electronic music on his computer and posts them anonymously online. When local girl Yuho (Minako Kotobuki) recognizes his phone (and thus him)
Ah, Valentine’s Day. Love is in the air. Excitement and anticipation for what the day will bring. Like any other day, for some it will bring love, for some marriage, and sadly, an occasional funeral. For this single guy, Shout Factory! came through with the 25th Anniversary edition of Four Weddings and a Funeral and there are a lot worse ways to spend the evening on February 14. In 1994, few of us had been exposed to the talents of Hugh Grant. Yup, could follow that up with 37 jokes but I’m just moving on. Andie MacDowell was coming off

Desert Fury Blu-ray Review: More Like Desert Melodramatic

Western noir is a weird blend of genres, settings, and sexuality, but never amounts to much.
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The credits roll over a vast desert, much like the type you’d see in an old Western starring John Wayne. Except here a long highway stretches across the screen letting us know that this isn’t an old western but a contemporary film. To highlight this, a modern automobile (well, modern for 1947 when the film was made) comes rolling in across the highway. Inside are two strangers coming into town, again like they do in those old westerns, except these aren’t black-cladded cowboys but rather two gangsters in matching suits. They stop at a bridge and speak of it in

Alita: Battle Angel Movie Review: A Modest Visual Spectacle

Despite some flawed storytelling, it is a visually ambitious stunner.
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Robert Rodriguez is a master at doing films that are either a stunning visual experience like Sin City or a thrilling pastiche of classic genre fare like Planet Terror and From Dusk Till Dawn. As it turns out, his latest venture, Alita: Battle Angel, is a mixture of the two. Its story is rather old school and it is a visual feast for the eyes of the imagination. Even if the film’s screenplay ends up succumbing to tired machinations, it is still a thrilling theatrical experience that should be seen on the big screen. Based on the Japanese manga by

The Real McCoy (1993) Blu-ray Review: Dammit, Kim!

Kino Lorber places Russell Mulcahy's heist stinker starring Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer on display for you to give or take.
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Like Kino Lorber's recent release of 1974's The Midnight Man, 1993's The Real McCoy is another Universal production filmed in the South about an ex-con who finds it isn't easy to change their stripes (so to speak). Of course, comparing The Midnight Man to The Real McCoy is like juxtaposing Highlander with Highlander 2: The Quickening. The subtle film reference joke there being that the latter three titles were all manufactured by a filmmaker one either loves or hates (or both, if they're a Highlander fan): one-time pop music video director Russell Mulcahy. Here, former Vicki Vale Kim Basinger stars

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