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Immoral Tales and The Beast Blu-ray Reviews: 1970's French Erotica

In which our hero has to ask himself, how much fake semen can one person handle?
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In my review of La Grande Bouffe, I noted that Arrow Films is second only to Criterion in creating masterful productions of interesting and obscure films. With their release of Immoral Tales and The Beast, I could easily add "obscene" and "pornographic" to that description. Or perhaps, "erotic arthouse" would be more suiting. I’m being intentionally flippant here which isn’t fair to the films (especially Immoral Tales which has its moments of artistic flair and depth of meaning behind its sex and rampant nudity) but after seeing two films back to back featuring enormous fake ejaculating penises, I can't help

Big House, U.S.A. Blu-ray Review: Lean, Tough '50s Crime

This surprisingly grim, unsentimental crime film with great character actor cast is a tough-minded winner.
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This was an unexpected treasure. Big House, U.S.A. (which is a completely undescriptive, absolutely terrible title for this grim thriller) is as close as movies came in the '50s to being like the crime-fiction novels of the era. It's a lumpy narrative that follows our antagonist from bad end to bad end, getting into one horrible scrape from which he can't escape to another, without ever making him sympathetic or likeable. Doesn't sound like a fun time at the movies, but Big House, U.S.A. is consistently engaging, taut, and interesting, and doesn't always go just where I expected it to.

White Shadow DVD Review: A Work of Unflinching Beauty and Harsh Reality

A stunning depiction of the human condition.
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When it comes to humanist dramas, most moviegoers don't usually take the time to see these films because of the lack of special effects, explosions, and dangerous stunts. They mostly stay away from films with challenging subject matter and character-driven narratives. These films tell stories about real people with real predicaments, sometimes with hopeful results, while others don't exactly end well. However, in director Noaz Deshe's 2013 harrowing White Shadow, narratives can be both tragic and hopeful. This is a really difficult film to watch, but with moments of extremely sublime beauty. This is a story of Alias, an albino

We Are Still Here Blu-ray Review: A Modern Horror Masterpiece

An inventive and chilling breath of fresh air for the horror genre.
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The horror genre is kind of a dying genre, a literally tried-and-true category of cinema, where filmmakers are constantly trying to think up new ways of scaring moviegoers. The haunted-house group obviously qualifies as an attempt to revitalize horror cinema. There are films that have successfully taken us by surprise, including Ti West's The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, and James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious; while others such as Courtney Solomon's An American Haunting, have almost destroyed the entire landscape with half-baked attempts at supernatural hauntings and possessed victims. Fortunately, Director Ted Geoghegan 2015's modern masterpiece We

Manos: The Hands of Fate Blu-ray Review: As Close to Perfect as It Will Ever Be

The infamous, long-standing contender of The Worst Movie Ever Made is ready to recruit new followers in this eagerly awaited release from Synapse Films.
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The manufacturing of a cult film is not something someone may intentionally set out to do. Sure, you can wrangle a few college kids together, get the coeds to show their boobs, and shoot a shot-on-video z-grade shitfest under the delusion you are making the next greatest midnight movie ever, but you will be sorely mistaken. Much like a great work or (real) art, making a cult movie requires more than an idea and a chisel. So much more. A deranged, rushed form of feverish perseverance. A complete lack of technical know-how that is superseded by sheer determination. But most

People, Places, Things DVD Review: This Generation's Annie Hall with Refreshing Modernity

Films like this deserve to be watched and talked about for years to come.
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When Annie Hall was released in 1977, it was a gamechanger in depicting complicated adult relationships. It was smart, witty, and intelligently modern. Thiry-eight years later, director Jim Strouse's charming and brilliant People Places Things takes it a step further while giving a fresh and funny look at flawed people just trying to find love in their own ways, no matter how awkward their journeys become. Jemaine Clement (We Live in the Shadows) gives a marvelous performance as Will, a New York graphic artist and intellect, who finds his world turned upside down after he finds the mother of his

Cop Car Blu-ray Review: All Thriller, No Filler

A tight, lean little flick that entertains then leaves just as quick.
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Two boys walk through a giant expanse of space in New Mexico. They engage in call-and-response cursing. The first boy, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), calls out a bad word and the second, Harrison (Hays Wellford), repeats it. They come upon a barbed-wire fence. Travis pulls apart the wires and quickly moves through it with ease. Harrison approaches slowly, gingerly prying the throned wires and tentatively slipping through. In these few moments, director Jon Watts gives us a clear idea who these boys are - Travis is the leader while Harrison follows unsure of their plan. The boys have run away for

Kirby Grant and Chinook Adventure Triple Feature, Volume 3 (1949-1953) DVD Review: Chinook of the North?

The Warner Archive Collection takes off to the Great White North (eh!) for another trio of Northern adventures of RCMP Corporal Rod Webb.
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Latch your pistol to a lanyard and put your best boot forward, boys and girls, because Corporal Rod Webb is back for more adventure in the Great White North. Well, most of the time, it's Rod Webb. At first, he's named Bob McDonald, but that doesn't change the fact that he is still portrayed by Kirby Grant and is accompanied in his dangerous missions by the one and only Chinook, the Wonder Dog. As to why Grant's character was randomly changed like that is anyone's guess. But then, these were films made by the now legendary Poverty Row studio, Monogram

The Invisible Monster (1950) Blu-ray Review: What Are They, Nuts?

The very first Saturday matinee cliffhanger serial hits Blu-ray, and it's THIS? I'll take it!
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Having been raised by my grandparents - proud members of the Greatest Generation - I was privileged in a way my peers were not: I learned to know of and love a variety of films (as well as television shows and radio programs) that had become nothing more than footnotes in the entertainment history books before I was even born. Fortunately for me, I was growing up within the great boom of the analog video era - when thousands of motion picture titles were finding their way to videocassette for the older generations to rediscover, hopefully gaining a new audience

Eaten Alive Blu-ray Combo Review: A Strangely Entertaining Cult Film Worthy of Rediscovery

Another bizarre, sweaty, and dread-filled tale of Southern madness, courtesy of Tobe Hooper.
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Horror films are like the misunderstood stepchildren of cinema, and when you talk about them, one of the best examples that always seem to come into conversation is Tobe Hooper's 1974 nightmarish masterpiece, The Texas ChainSaw Massacre, which remains one of the greatest and most traumatizing movies of all-time. However, as for his 1977 underrated follow-up, Eaten Alive (aka Starlight Slaughter and Death Trap), that movie continues to get lost in the underground shuffle; mainly since it's so bizarre, campy, and not for all tastes. This is unfortunate, because it is a strangely entertaining cult film that deserves to be

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Friendship Games DVD Review: Ponies No More

The third full-length movie starring alternate universe human versions of My Little Pony characters.
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You know how kids are good for exposing you to stuff you otherwise never would have touched? This film is a prime example. Hasbro’s burgeoning My Little Pony empire has expanded its screen presence from its long-running TV series to this third film which is set in an alternate universe populated with human-like characters, not horses. Sure, it’s still a blatant marketing ploy to allow the pony franchise to compete with the older-skewing Bratz/Monster High/Ever After High doll lines, but it’s also wildly entertaining for both kids and their reluctant parents. When last we left the Girls, temporary arrival Twilight

Gentleman's Fate / The Phantom of Paris DVD Reviews: John Gilbert, Cinema's Forgotten Heartthrob

The Warner Archive Collection unburies several talkies from one of the Golden Age of Hollywood's many fallen stars.
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It is a sad inevitability that every era - each generation that passes - will feature a high point doomed to be forgotten come the next wave. As we move further away from the foundations of cinema, plastering over the multi-acre art deco sets of the past with small green screens in the process, more of our motion picture past is being swept under the rug. And it is here, now, as members of the Millennial generation struggle to figure out who Stan and Ollie are, that we should look back perhaps even further; to those artists that even the

Twilight Time Presents: Five Features from the Escalator of Life

"The Best Country Places in the Fabulous World," or "The Month Henry Baker Hearts Everything."
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As if they were taking a cue from the late '80s new wave musician Robert Hazard himself, Twilight Time has lassoed up another wave of feature films from yesteryear that presents civilized human beings at various stages upon what he called the "Escalator of Life." From that awkward moment in our barely-pubescent years when we first begin to obsess over people we perceive ourselves to be in love with, to that moment in adulthood when we realize things just aren't the same as they used to be. You know, like a "Change Reaction." (Yes, that was a Robert Hazard song,

Pitch Perfect 2 Blu-ray Review: Re-Introducing Hailee Steinfeld

Steinfeld shines, Banks makes a fine director, but the returning characters tread water due to Kay Cannon's subpar script.
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The Barden Bellas are in trouble. After winning the hearts of a cappella aficionados and casual fans everywhere, both within the movie and through its surprising box office success, the singing sensations of Barden University are now faced with the daunting proposition of how to continue their success. After a disastrous performance in front of the U.S. President, they promptly find themselves on the outs with their college and each other, knocking them right back to square one as they search for redemption. Enter teenager Hailee Steinfeld as new Bella recruit Emily, and seemingly the only member legitimately of college

Finding Neighbors DVD Review: A Rare, Charmingly Adult Take on Unlikely Relationships

It remarkably delves into human connection and understanding that is needed in cinema.
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In the midst of the overbaked summer blockbuster season, which means having to hear endlessly about big moneymakers such as The Avengers, it's very nice to settle down with complex character studies, films that focus on people and their limitless hangups. Unfortunately, most filmgoers steer clear from these types of films because of the lack of special effects and spectacle that makes most movies look way overdone. They do not want to relate to the characters; they just want to check their brains at the door. They miss out on the reality, emotion, and humanity/ Finding Neighbors (2013) successfully finds

Love & Mercy Blu-ray Review: It's What You Need Tonight!

Excellent performances abound in this simultaneously bouncy and somber biopic.
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There's an uncategorized subgenre in the biopic world - geniuses struggling through mental illness. It's been well documented that the smartest people in the world were often marred, and aided, by their "madness." Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys was one such genius desperate to recreate the symphony in his head and turning out an album considered one of the best ever made, Pet Sounds. Director Bill Pohlad presents that with Love & Mercy, the story of Wilson's return from the brink, particularly after the Beach Boys broke up. Not breaking any new ground narratively, Love & Mercy is a

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine Movie Review: Steve Jobs iSummarized

Director Alex Gibney's book report on Walter Isaacson's more impressive exploration of the Apple founder.
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Steve Jobs has always been a hot commodity, but no more so than right now when not one but two films are casting an eye on the tech genius. Danny Boyle's upcoming narrative on the Apple founder, starring Michael Fassbender, won't hit theaters till October, but in the meantime there's Alex Gibney's documentary, Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine. Touted as showing the "real" Steve Jobs, Gibney's documentary is woefully underwhelming, particularly to anyone who's read Walter Isaacson's exhaustive, 656 page biography on the man. Having just finished that book not two days ago, 90% of Gibney's doc simply

Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade DVD Review: For Dedicated Fans Only

An informative, yet rather dull documentary about an transitive period in his career.
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In the summer of 1973 after a grueling tour and an emotionally devastating divorce, Van Morrison took a several-weeks vacation to Ireland. Living in America for the better part of the preceding decade, he’d not been to his homeland in about six years. Due to the Troubles, he was not even able to go to his actual home in Northern Ireland during the visit. It was during this emotionally distraught time that he wrote Veedon Fleece, his eighth studio album. Though it was an intensely personal album, it was critically panned at the time and sold quite poorly. Afterwards he

The Hunger (1983) Blu-ray Review: The Longest Anti-Smoking PSA Ever

Bowie. Babes. Blood. Bauhaus. Carcinogens. That is all.
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For the most part, the world's most famous forms of monsters - epitomized by Universal's Classic Horror films as the Frankenstein Monster, The Wolf-Man, Dracula, and The Mummy - represent different stages of human development. We start out as awkward man-made creatures, only to transform into hairy beasts with a ravenous appetite as we mature. Soon comes the vampire stage - where our very innocence is lost in a (sometimes) bloody act of penetration, only to become a dreaded creature of the night (or, "experienced," if you will). Finally - and there is much ground left uncovered here - we

Two Days, One Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Devastatingly Beautiful

Marion Cotillard gives an intense, subtle performance in this moving drama.
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In the industrial town of Seraing, Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on sick leave from her manufacturing job after a nervous breakdown. In her absence, her coworkers realize they can cover her shift by collectively working slightly longer hours. Just as Sandra is ready to return to work, she finds out that the bosses have given her coworkers a choice - they can either return to their normal shifts and have Sandra come back to work, or they can continue working the longer shifts and receive a €1,000 bonus. By accepting the bonus, Sandra will no longer be employed.

Stray Cat Rock Blu-ray/DVD Review: Bento Box of '70s Delights

Box set compiles five groovy '70s Japanese films.
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Starting in 1970, Japan’s Nikkatsu studio produced the five films presented here, labelling them all under the Stray Cat Rock umbrella even though they aren’t really related. Although they have different characters and mostly different actors, their one common thread is their examination of Japan’s counterculture of the time. Characters are young, brash, and cool, existing in an underground of dance clubs, biker gangs, and vice, with nary a salaryman or authority figure in sight. The films are all about shaking up the status quo, but they also never venture too far out into leftfield like the works of earlier

Showdown in Little Tokyo Blu-ray Review: The Ultimate Guilty Pleasure of the 90s

"We're so far outside on this one, it's not even funny." Oh, but it is, Dolph. It is.
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In Hollywood, all it takes is one strike before you're tossed out of the game. And it usually doesn't actually have to be your own fault. Just ask Mark L. Lester, the man who brought us several '80s classics including the cult classic Firestarter, the guilty pleasure Armed and Dangerous, and even Arnold Schwarzenegger's guilty pleasure of a cult classic, Commando. The latter film almost seemed to pave the way for Lester's next foray into the world of outrageous violent action films filled to the brim with snappy lines most fifth graders cringe with disbelief: the almost legendary 1991 motion

Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: Franco-Spanish Spaghetti Western

Robert Hossein's Euro-Western is long on style and brooding, short on story and character.
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Filmed in Spain, with a mostly French cast directed by (and starring) the French Robert Hossein and with a screenplay co-credited to the Italian Dario Argento, Cemetery Without Crosses is, of course, a Western set in Texas. It’s interesting to consider how the Western, which had captured the imagination of the world enough that a cottage industry of European Westerns existed for decades, has now almost completely disappeared. Genres come and go (the screwball comedy has never been really successfully revived, and whenever a modern musical comes around to “revive the genre” is does so by not looking, or feeling

The French Lieutenant's Woman Criterion Collection Review: Parallel Tales Rooted in Forbidden Passions

The dual roles played by Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons provide each of them the opportunity to portray desperation, longing, and tortured vulnerability.
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Based on the John Fowles novel, The French Lieutenant's Woman tells parallel tales rooted in forbidden passions and the complexity of human emotions.Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons play the central characters in both narratives. The foundational story is set in the Victorian-era where Charles (Irons) is an upper-class English gentleman engaged to Ernestina (Lynsey Baxter). Soon after their engagement, they see a woman, Sarah (Streep), at the end of a jetty in danger of being thrown into the water due to a storm that is brewing. When Charles makes efforts to go help Sarah, Ernestina stops him by explaining that

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: The Joker is Back to Take Over the World

...and give Batman another exciting adventure.
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Batman is back for another film in the Unlimited series that is based on a toy line in a semi-futuristic universe. Once again, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin come along for the ride but this time a new hero has been added to the mix, Cyborg. And while in the previous film they found themselves up against a group of animal-themed villains, in this latest incarnation they are fighting Silver Banshee, Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, and Clayface with The Joker as their leader. The villanous group is collecting random pieces of electronic equipment to allow them to upload a laughing

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! Review: A Surefire Success for Your Household

LEGOs + Superheroes = the Best of All Possible Worlds.
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Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! is the latest original LEGO movie to feature the stalwart heroes of the DC Universe, now updated to reflect their current New 52 status. Which pretty much just means that Superman wears his underwear on the inside now and Cyborg has been promoted to being a full-fledged member of the League, just like in the Super Powers cartoons from 30 years ago. I guess comic books and their animated counterparts really are cyclical, huh? Speaking of the Super Powers show, Attack of the Legion of Doom! is chock full of references to

He Ran All The Way Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Cinematography Elevates Standard Noir

A small thriller (John Garfield's last film) draped in spectacular black and white imagery by cinematographer James Wong Howe.
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He Ran All The Way was written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by John Berry, both just before they were blacklisted in Hollywood as Community Sympathizers after the HUAC hearings. Try as I might, I couldn’t find much Red propaganda in the film. What I did find was a taut, beautifully shot little thriller about a guy who terrorizes and invades the home of a girl who, had he met her just the day before, he would have probably dated her for a while, maybe even got married. It was a mess of circumstance and bad habits and pretending to

Count Your Blessings (1959) DVD Review: More of a Curse, Really

Deborah Kerr, Rossano Brazzi, and Maurice Chevalier sink in a dreary comedy set across the English Channel.
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Anyone who has ever given online dating a shot knows full well how truly horrible a romance can go if you dive into it head first. Here, in the 1959 MGM flick Count Your Blessings, we witness the horrors of not only a rushed romance in a time before computer dating, but we also see what happens when people rush a film into production as well. From the get-go, Count Your Blessings had this certain je ne sais quoi to it that translated to my gut as "Yeah, there's a reason you've never heard of this one before." Sadly, I

Callaway Went Thataway DVD Review: Mad Men and a Drunken Hopalong Cassidy

Fred MacMurray, Dorothy McGuire, and multiple Howard Keels shine in this delightful MGM comedy.
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As the American motion picture industry first began to boom in the first half of the 20th Century, Hollywood moviemakers found it was quite profitable to go up into the hills for weeks on end - years, perhaps - and shoot one low-budget western after another. In fact, so many of these cowboy quickies - "oaters," as they are affectionately known as today - were produced, that most of them didn't even get traditional movie posters in some circuits. Instead, bijou owners near and far would display generic movie posters advertising the Tim McCoy, Tex Ritter, or Tom Mix (or

Run of the Arrow DVD Review: Samuel Fuller's Dances with Wolves

A blaring Rod Steiger and a bronzed Charles Bronson highlight a forgotten feature with an still-relevant social commentary.
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A simple surf through the today's news channels should painfully remind you human beings don't see eye to eye on a great number of things. This, of course, can lead to war and an unending hatred and fear of people whose cultures are dissimilar to our own. But if there's one thing most film aficionados and historians will agree on, it was filmmaker Samuel Fuller's ability to pen a great story - especially when it came to depicting man's inhumanity to man. With Run of the Arrow, 1957 western produced by RKO Radio Pictures (hey, check it out: it's the

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