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Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 Blu-ray Review: The Sillier Side of Japan

Three movies from the 1960s show the Japanese made more than just deeply felt dramas and samurai flicks.
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The Nikkatsu Corporation was formed in 1912 when several smaller production companies and theatre chains consolidated. They had some success in those years, but struggled in the early post war era. By the 1950s, they hit their stride, producing hundreds of movies in every conceivable genre that drew in the youth crowd by the truckload weekend after weekend. Arrow Video has been mining the Nikkatsu vaults during this “Golden Era” for a number of excellent video releases. Much like the Hollywood system of this era, Nikkatsu began contracting its directors and stars locking them into multi-film deals which created something

Lights Out Movie Review: You Can Keep the Lights On

An interesting premise gets lost in a rushed narrative and overused jump scares.
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What's the first thing people do when the power goes out? Search for light. Whether it's for safety or a genuine fear, no one likes the dark, and the new horror film Lights Out will tell you no one likes it before there's something lurking within it. Lights Out was one of my most anticipated films this year and I hate to say it didn't do anything for me. This could due to a fatigue that's setting in around the films James Wan - who still solid as a horror director - is producing that verges on the Marvel-esque, or

Doctor Butcher M.D. Blu-ray Review: Ready to Make House Calls Once Again

Severin Films presents a spectacular two-disc, two-movie version of one of 42nd Street's most legendarily notorious offerings.
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If you were one of the lucky lads or lasses who "matured" amid the days of VHS rental outlets, you know how exciting it could be to hunt for something truly extraordinary on the shelves of your local mom and pop store. Sure, the big time stores carried their own fair share of fun flicks, but those corporate suits almost always folded when it came to stocking their boutiques with more controversial filmic offerings. And when it came to being controversial, there was perhaps no greater ground to cover than that which was located in the horror section. Why, even

Twilight Time Presents: Sprawling Epics, Sidney Poitier, and a Serial Killer?

Five films from both film and real life history alike make their High-Definition debuts.
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From the rise and fall of great lands to the genesis of new ones, and a few odd points in-between, Twilight Time has all bases of great storytelling covered in this assortment of features from their March 2016 lineup. Here, we pay our respects to filmic adaptations of true historical accounts of the lives (and sometimes deaths) of the grandiose, the humble, and the downright dangerous. We being in a time and place far removed from contemporary society (though the political situation hasn't changed all that much, when you think about it), with a tale of some minor footnote of

Return of the Killer Tomatoes Blu-ray Review: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Vegetables and George Clooney's Mullet

This is comedy at most silliest, but it is quite smart and very entertaining, while being self-aware and mocking.
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Once in a while, there is a classic comedy, a comedy so funny and so legendary that it sets the standard for every other comedy that comes after it. The 1988 sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes, is not that movie. It is the ridiciously fun follow-up to sheerly absurd 1978 cult film, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, which was a spoof of horror-monster movies directed in the style of the Zuckers Brothers' films that redefined parody. While that movie did receive its fair share of love from a certain demographic, Return is actually the better film (yes I said

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan Blu-ray Review: Master of Monsters Revealed

This feature-length doc on the special effects master reveals the artistry behind his creature features.
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The advent of DVD extras has, I think, cost a toll on entertainment documentaries. I've seen reviews that refer to serious documentaries on movies, like Man of La Mancha, as "extended DVD extras." At the same time, this overrates most DVD extra documentaries and underrates the hard work documentarians can put into crafting a real film on an entertainment industry subject. Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is a movie about the stop-motion and general special effects pioneer behind numerous beloved creature features of the '50s, '60s, and '70s. It's also a film that has a point of view, both on

The Swinging Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review: These Girls Do More Than Swing

An exploitation flick with a message.
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Quentin Tarantino once called director Jack Hill the “Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking.” I don’t know that I’d go quite that far but certainly Hill made some of the most memorable films in the genre. Working with minuscule budgets and, shall we politely say colorful plots, Hill still put our a fairly large number of very well-made and quite enjoyable films. One of the more interesting things to me is how, though working in the various exploitation genres, Hill still managed to make somewhat thoughtful films that dealt with racism, sexism, and other cultural ills. Certainly he’s still being exploitive,

Ghostbusters (2016) Movie Review: These Gals Ain't Afraid of No Ghosts

Paul Feig and crew make a rollicking comedy on par with the original.
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To say that a Ghostbusters reboot courts controversy is like saying water is wet. It took, for lack of a better word, balls. Is the hate warranted? Considering the animosity stems from the film putting women in male roles, hell no. "No self-respecting scientist believes in the paranormal," Kristen Wiig's Erin Gilbert says and I'd have to chime in with "or the idea of women playing Ghosbusters" in spite of all the cosplay to the contrary. Ghostbusters is a fun summer movie that may try too hard to justify its own existence and feminist impulses, but there is plenty of

The Angry Hills (1959) DVD Review: The Precursor to the 007 Franchise?

Ever wonder what might have happened had James Bond been born an American and started out in World War II? The Warner Archive Collection may have the answer.
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The late great production designer Ken Adam left behind a legacy which no mere mortal could ever live up to. The immaculate lairs he designed and constructed for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb as well as several monumentally iconic James Bond movies ‒ whether they were in outer space, underwater, or inside of a dormant volcano ‒ have since gone on to astonish and inspire, with plenty of room left over for parody to boot. But shortly before the German-born award winner started designing his first 007 set on Dr.

Tickled Movie Review: Twisted and Terrific!

The year's best (and strangest) documentary will leave you 'tickled'.
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Tickling is a dangerous business; just ask the directing duo of David Farrier and Dylan Reeve whose documentary debut, Tickled proves just that. Tickled is a deliciously watchable mystery with the intrigue and guilty pleasure personality of a Law and Order: SVU/To Catch a Predator marathon. The story Farrier and Reeve set out to expose is so deliriously weird it makes up for any amateurishness in the directing duo's presentation. Tickled is one of the year's weirdest (and downright) best films of the year! David Farrier is a New Zealand-based journalist who one day comes upon a site advertising "competitive

The Whip Hand (1951) DVD Review: RKO Sets its Sights to Start Seeing Red

The Warner Archive Collection uncovers a fun little flick about reeling in one big Commie plot.
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There are many ways a film can become outdated. Our increasingly advancing world of technological wonders has made countless science fiction films archaic. Obsessions with keeping fit have resulted in reanimated individuals with rigor mortis able to run in zombie movies. Shifting political and economic winds have turned allies into enemies in stories of war. But of all the things which date a motion picture, none has the ability to alienate quite as much as employing a current trend or popular saying in a feature. Mullets may have been "in" at one fashionably challenged point in time (see: hipsters) ‒

Edge of Doom (1950) DVD Review: Can Dana Andrews Save Farley Granger's Soul?

Samuel Goldwyn's one and only film noir is also the bleakest irreligious religious movies in history.
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Prolific filmmaker Samuel Goldwyn left this world in 1974 to start issuing malapropisms in the world beyond, he had personally produced no less than 139 films, to say nothing of the motion pictures he had distributed, presented, or even lent his assistance to for other filmmakers around the world. And yet, with titles such as Wuthering Heights, The Best Years of Our Lives, and These Three under his belt, Mr. Goldwyn only ever made one film noir. And just like many of his other successes, the seldom-seen 1950 noir Edge of Doom, has the distinction of being one of the

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You Movie Review: A Sensitive Portrait of a Socially Conscious Mind

The creator of All in the Family looks at his life, career, and the family ghosts that still haunt him.
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"Each of us is responsible for our own happiness," says television producer and impresario Norman Lear. And Lear, 90 years young, has found plenty of happiness in his own life that it's hard to fathom all the additional happiness he brought to others with his television shows, capturing hearts and opening up minds. It's said there was a time "before Norman" and "after Norman," and in Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You audiences see what the world was like, both before and after Lear's ground-breaking television shows asked audiences to think and act. His socially critical and controversial television

The In-Laws (1979) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: So Funny It Never Wears out Its Welcome

Run in a serpentine pattern to get yourself a copy.
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While there's a lot of hand-wringing and pearl-clutching that goes on whenever a sequel or remake is announced in Hollywood, it's rather surprising anyone bothers since it's long been a business model, and not just with movies, to try and replicate a success. What's even more surprising is when a winning formula is found that isn't repeated, such as the pairing of Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in Arthur Hiller's The In-Laws (1979), a recent addiction to the Criterion Collection. Rather than the typical clashing of families with different personality types, Andrew Bergman's very funny script turns that idea on

These Three (1936) DVD Review: Kids Say the Darndest Things

The Warner Archive Collection outs Lillian Hellman's first filmic adaptation of a once-controversial play.
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Even before the Hays Office began enforcing the content of motion pictures in 1934, certain things just weren't permitted to be said aloud in public. One such topic was that of homosexuality (the more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?), which was completely illegal to mention in public when playwright/screenwriter/activist Lillian Hellman's play The Children's Hour first debuted on Broadway in 1934. Due to the critical success of the stageplay, however, local authorities in New York City decided to be lax regarding their own law (again, some things never really change, do they?). Alas, the story's subject

Elstree 1976 DVD Review: Meet the People Behind the Star Wars Masks

Bit characters get their story about their roles in one of the biggest stories ever.
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I love documentaries. True stories are irresistible Maybe it's the story of an product or invention or behind the scenes of a movie or historical event. Often, it's a biography of an important person or group of people. The stories work best when there is a little history between the film and the event. Even if it's your favorite movie ever, I don't want to hear a commentary or see a documentary on Transformers: Age of Extinction. There's just not enough perspective on how important that film is historically yet. That's part of what is wrong with putting all the

Too Late for Tears / Woman on the Run Blu-ray Reviews: At Long Last, Lost Noir

Two forgotten mysteries, each with their own dark histories, get definitive makeovers in these must-have releases from Flicker Alley.
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There is nothing quite so overwhelming as being utterly unable to control one's situation. Despite all of our best efforts, we remain powerless to stop the unseen forces of time and fate. All over the planet, archaeologists have discovered the remains of vast cities and civilizations which have either been buried away by the sands of time or destroyed by cruel acts of fate. For those of us who like to refer to ourselves as film buffs, similar disasters and overall bad bits of luck have obscured many a motion picture. And while the ultimate uncovering of a previously lost

The Family Fang DVD Review: A Beautiful Mix of Sharp Comedy and Poignant Drama

What is Art? And if you are an artist, what do you sacrifice for your art?
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Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang use public disruption to create their art. Once they become parents they include their children "A" (for Annie) and "B" (for Baxter) in their antics as well. From pretending they are homeless street children who are jeered by adult onlookers to an elaborate bank-robbery stunt, art becomes the family pastime for all of the Fangs. Their performance art divides the art world but garners devoted fans along the way. Annie grows up to be a talented but troubled actress, and Baxter becomes a best-selling author who self-medicates. However both of them have moved far

Blood and Black Lace Blu-ray Review: Astonishingly Beautiful Depiction of Ugliness

Mario Bava's seminal Giallo film couples a gleeful disregard for good taste with incredibly artful imagery.
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Blood and Black Lace, a lurid proto-slasher movie with gruesome and copious violence, is one of the most visually beautiful movies ever made. Bathing his shots in ostentatious colors with little concern for sourcing the light, Mario Bava’s seminal Giallo film has only a glancing connection to realism (Giallo being the particularly Italian style of murder mystery, de-emphasizing the investigation and focusing on the murders themselves.) It’s more like a fever dream, too sensuous to be a nightmare but too bloody and malign to be a pleasant fantasy. It’s one hell of a movie. The story is hardly the point

Louder Than Love - The Grande Ballroom Story DVD Review: It Was Quite a Place to Be

A key player in the birth of rock and roll as we know it, you just didn't know about it until now.
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When most people think of live music in the late '60s, they probably think of Haight-Ashbury, The Fillmore East and West, "Summer of Love"-type things. The new documentary Louder Than Love tells the story of The Grande Ballroom in Detroit and the musical revolution that happened in its hallowed halls. In the midst of economic and racial struggles that led to riots, fires, and other unrest, there was a haven of peace downtown where local bands were blossoming and the top British acts were making their debuts. The venue may have been peaceful but the music was anything but. The

Suture Blu-ray Review: Standard Plot, Fascinating Presentation

Fairly uninteresting neo-noir pumped up by a really interesting central conceit.
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Two men, half brothers, meet at a bus station and ride back to one of their houses. They have only recently just met, at their father’s funeral, and decide to spend the weekend together getting to know one other. One of them, Vincent Towers (Michael Harris), is obviously rich - he drives a nice car, wears an expensive suit, and lives in a house that makes the word “fancy” feel small and embarrassed. The other, Clay Arlington (Dennis Haysbert), is obviously poor - he arrives by bus, comes from a tiny desert town, and dresses in jeans and an old,

Kung Fu Panda 3 Awesome Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: Another Awesomely Bodacious Panda Adventure for the Entire Family

It's fun, silly, has exciting storylines, good action, and most importantly a heart.
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Once again, DreamWorks has brought everyone’s favorite animated panda to his biggest adventure yet as he tries to save the world from another powerful Kung Fu warrior. Many years ago, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) banished his best friend, Kai (J.K. Simmons), to the spirit realm after they had stumbled upon a village of pandas who had the extraordinary gift to manipulate chi and could tap into the power of the universe that flows through everything. While Oogway was content to learn the skills they could teach, Kai thought it was better to take what he wanted and ultimately caused

The Legend of Tarzan Movie Review: Nothing to Stoke the Legend of Greystoke

Abs and a short runtime turn this 'legend' into a short story.
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Tarzan of the Apes, the first novel in Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan series, was published in 1912 and critical analysis has written numerous times on how the novels did their part to perpetuate white-male superiority in colonial Africa. Numerous feature films and television shows have done their best since then to change Tarzan with the times. Director David Yates of Harry Potter (and the upcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them) takes his shot at a new incarnation of the loincloth-wearing superman of the jungle with The Legend of Tarzan. John Clayton (Alexander Skarsgard), Viscount Greystoke and formerly Tarzan

The BFG (2016) Movie Review: Delightful for Children, Mediocre for Adults

Steven Spielberg makes a sweet, if slight fairy tale.
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Seven years have passed Wes Anderson's fantastic Fantastic Mr. Fox, the last time a work by author Roald Dahl was adapted for cinemas. And even more time has passed since director Steven Spielberg created works for children. Dahl and Spielberg should equal success, so then why is The BFG so paint-by-numbers? Held up alongside past Dahl adaptations, Spielberg's formulaic presentation loses the novel's sense of quirk. Though the source material doesn't yield itself up to an utterly terrifying feature, a la The Witches, the entire affair will appeal to young children, and young children alone. Sophie (Ruby Barnhill) is a

The Return of a Man Called Horse Blu-ray Review: Harris Whispers. He Screams. He ACTS!

The oft-ignored sequel from one of cinema's lesser-explored trilogies gets a High-Definition makeover.
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In 1970, a simple tale of A Man Called Horse galloped its way onto the silver screen to shock audiences across near and far. With the Hays Production Code demolished and the MPAA now in full effect, filmmakers were at last able to make sprawling western adventure epics replete with gore and nudity. Because, well, after all, that's what made the Wild West so darn wild. Alas, Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch had beaten the film to the screen (and fared much better at the box office), so copious amounts of violence (by the standards of the time) weren't entirely

The Arrow Roundup for June

What's on tap from Arrow Video this month.
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What the best from Arrow in June? The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (1971) Italian giallo films are an acquired taste that I'm unsure I've acquired. The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave is one of the more fast-paced and cinematic of the those I've watched, but it's logic remains ill-defined and as messy as the blood-spattered walls at the end. Divided into two halves, things start out with a slash - introducing Lord Alan Cunningham (Anthony Steffen) as a sadistic murderer with a penchant for torturing women with red hair. Alan hopes to purge the inner

A Woman, A Part Movie Review: Ladies on Edge and on the Edge

Elisabeth Subrin's directorial debut zeroes in on women in entertainment.
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Whether it be directing or writing features, or just leading movies of substance, audiences are frustrated about how women are faring in the world of entertainment. Director Elisabeth Subrin's debut, A Woman, A Part explores the different facets of the female personality with an aim towards demanding added nuance regarding women in cinema, creating a "women's picture" without the perjoratives associated with the term. As the title implies, women are more than parts trotted out for a token bit of estrogen on a poster, and though Subrin's assertions are life-changing, the presentation will please indie fans. Anna (Maggie Siff) is

Appointment with Crime Blu-ray Review: Tell Crime You'll Need to Reschedule

A stylish opening sequence is not a harbinger of things to come.
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A relatively obscure British crime thriller, John Harlow’s noirish Appointment with Crime (1947) nabs a few style points early on before settling in as a dull programmer that doesn’t so much twist and turn as it does lazily bend around a couple of easily navigable corners. William Hartnell, best known as the first incarnation of the Doctor in Doctor Who, stars as Leo Martin, a professional thief who gets caught when a jewelry smash-and-grab goes wrong, his wrists shattered by a security grate that comes abruptly crashing down. Despite assurances from boss Gus Loman (Raymond Lovell) that he won’t abandon

Private Property (1960) Movie Review: Seamy and Sexy in Equal Measure

This underseen 1960s noir is a precursor to the 1990s erotic thriller.
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It's an average day in sunny Los Angeles. Two men - you wouldn't immediately avoid them but they definitely possess an agenda - come out of the haze with crime on their mind. So begins Leslie Stevens' little seen noir, Private Property. The low-budget film, shot in ten days, recently premiered at the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival, bringing to light a twisted, sexually charged noir that ties in to today's gender dynamics. Duke and Boots (Corey Allen and Warren Oates) are two small-time hoods. Boots is a virgin intent on proving his virility to Duke, and a random encounter

Fathom Events and TCM Present Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Grab some chocolate (and a bag of popcorn) and strap yourself in for this delightful movie playing once again on the big screen.
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As any cinephile with children can tell you, it's a challenge deciding what movies are appropriate for them to watch. There is violence to consider, plus language, sex, moral lessons, and a whole host of things to ruminate over before letting your wee one’s little brain get bombarded with stimulating images. Honestly, I tend to lean towards letting my daughter watch just about anything she wants as I truly believe young minds are able to digest and work through a whole lot more than we give them credit for. I rarely put this to the test though, as she’s just

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