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James White Movie Review: Formally Oppressive, Thematically Thin

There are moments when Josh Mond's directorial debut is bracing and direct, but it trades heavily in cliches about self-destructive behavior.
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For the first 20 minutes or so, James White is an oppressive experience. In its first quarter, nearly every shot of Josh Mond’s feature directorial debut is a close-up or closer, with just a couple medium shots sprinkled in here and there, and in most of them, it’s Christopher Abbott’s bleary visage that dominates the frame. Abbott stars as the titular James, a guy whose shitty run of luck is matched only by his self-destructive impulses. His estranged dad has just died, and when he’s not forcibly ejecting guests out of his mother’s (Cynthia Nixon) Upper West Side apartment during

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist

Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
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By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point

Creed Movie Review: Blood, Sweat, and Boxing

Creed ranks as one of the top films in the Rocky franchise while creating a beautiful new road to travel.
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I may not have seen all the Star Wars films, but I've watched all the films in the Rocky franchise. That counts for something, right? Having gone through the entire saga of small-time boxer turned superstar, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), the series ran its course after the 2006 "farewell," Rocky Balboa. Since then, the Rocky series has opened itself up to parody and critique - remember when Rocky singlehandedly ended the Cold War? Personally, I always found the story of Rocky's long-standing opponent, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) to have the more interesting plot. Creed was a superstar boxer unable to

Please Believe Me (1950) DVD Review: A Romantic Comedy from Val Lewton?

The famous horror visionary's penultimate film ‒ which stars Deborah Kerr, Robert Walker, Mark Stevens, and Peter Lawford ‒ finally hits home video thanks to the Warner Archive Collection.
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Sooner or later in life, everyone encounters a seemingly inescapable element of disappointment. And I should know, as it happens to me every damn day, usually around the time I wake up. Ultimately however, there is always a bit of good to come out of every let down ‒ depending on one's perception, of course. For me, it's the satisfaction of knowing I'll be able to return to bed at the end of the day. For Deborah Kerr in the 1950 MGM rom-com Please Believe Me, it's the prospect of true love following a seemingly life-changing inheritance. After an aging

Twilight Time Presents: Hard Pills to Swallow and Hard Acts to Follow

From tales of vengeance to yarns of violence, this quintet of feature films shows some great men who are truly down on their luck.
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At some point or another in life, we've experienced something that can be best summed up as being that of a hard pill to swallow. Likewise, we have seen at least one thing within our own lifespans that we can safely label as being a hard act to follow. Well, for their September 2015 line-up of Blu-ray exclusives, Twilight Time has somehow managed to wrangle up films that fall under both of those two categories, be it one or the other separately, or ‒ in the rare instance ‒ both. Here, we bear witness to both life and death (but

Twilight Time Presents: Five Selections of Summer

From Peter Gallagher's superfluous face and body hair to the bloody waters of a Samuel Fuller bathhouse, this quintet has it all.
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Once again, a seemingly brief period of time has passed by, leaving in its wake a stack of movies on my proverbial workbench that is almost as long as summer itself. So it's only fitting I start my analysis of this quintet off ‒ which was made available to the public during the summer ‒ examining the titles that blatantly exploit said season. Speaking of "exploit," the term "exploitation" certainly comes to mind for many whenever Randal Kleiser's 1982 flick Summer Lovers is brought up. That, and the occasional "had me a blast" joke when people realize Kleiser also directed

Trainwreck Blu-ray Review: Apatow Wrecks the Comedy

Schumer gets some laughs, but Apatow seems determined to be a drama director.
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Judd Apatow’s latest directorial effort has its problems, but first-time leading lady Amy Schumer isn’t one of them. Working from Schumer’s script, Apatow largely reins in the outspoken star, turning what should have been an outrageous raunchfest into a melancholy rumination on coming to turns with adulthood. The film’s somber tone continues the path of Apatow’s most recent feature film directorial efforts, This is 40 and Funny People, and even to some extent Knocked Up, reaching all the way back to 2007. In all of these cases and again in Trainwreck, the focus is on growing up and accepting adult

Frank Zappa's Roxy: The Movie DVD Review: A Necessary Purchase for Any Zappa Fan

The Wait is Over: Frank Zappa and the Mothers legendary Roxy shows revisited.
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The concert film Roxy:The Movie starring Frank Zappa and the Mothers, filmed in 1973 during a three-night engagement at Sunset Strip’s 500-seat Roxy Theatre, captures Zappa at a pivotal point - post-hippiedom and pre-mainstream media attention for Valley Girl and the PMRC hearings. We’ve heard bits and pieces of these concerts before, in Roxy and Elsewhere and You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, but an entire concert film escaped release due to a technical glitch at the time of recording. Forty-two years later, Roxy: The Movie has been released by Eagle Rock Entertainment, after some intense film and audio

Before We Go Blu-ray Review: A Quaint Little Film

The relationship between the main characters ends up feeling so natural it overshadows the film's initial flaws.
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Nick (Chris Evans) is sitting on the floor of Grand Central Station thinking about something important in his life when suddenly Brooke (Alice Eve) rushes by, dropping her cell phone, shattering at his feet. Without a moment’s thought, he picks up the phone and sets off after the obviously distraught woman. As the station is closing for the night, he returns the phone only to find that not only has she missed the last train of the evening, but her purse with all of her money and identification has been stolen. Knowing Brooke has no way to take care of

Mr. Holmes Blu-ray Review: A Study in Relationships

Not a thrilling mystery, but a lovely tale about growing older.
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It is hard to believe that the fictional character Sherlock Homes first appeared in print in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created what would become one of the most well-known, iconic characters that is still intriguing to people today. Not only is he the basis for two current televisions shows in Elementary and Sherlock, but many films since he was originally introduced. One of the most unique tellings of this famous detective is Mr. Holmes. Based on Mitch Cullin's novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, it tells the story of Holmes seeking to solve his final case.At age 93,

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words Movie Review: Here's Looking at You, Kid

Sharp insights and touching reminiscence about a Hollywood icon struggle to shine through a mountain of repetitive filler.
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One of the best moments in Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words is one of the quietest. It’s just a makeup test for the young actress - maybe 45 seconds of her ravishing yet approachable face. She doesn’t speak, doesn’t really do anything, but she runs through an entire gamut of emotional states, from happiness to fear, pride, anger, infatuation, coy flirtiness and sadness. Like her fellow Swede Greta Garbo, and even this early in her career, she had that camera-ready communicative power that seems to be equal parts magic and mental telepathy. The documentary also includes personal insights into

SPECTRE Movie Review: The Story That Baffled Me

SPECTRE works best when it delivers action, but stumbles when it slows down to tell its story.
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SPECTRE is Eon Productions' 24th James Bond film and the fourth starring Daniel Craig. The title is the name of a villainous global organization revealed to have been working behind the scenes of all Craig’s films, but it turns out the real nemesis is modern Hollywood. While past films with other actors playing 007 have had loose connections to one another, the stories stood on their own, allowing audiences easy entry into the series. However, being made in this era when people bingewatch because some TV series are serialized and multiple superhero titles are set within a single cinematic universe,

The Beginning or the End (1947) DVD Review: Are You Gonna Drop the Bomb or Not?

Hollywood's first depiction of the Manhattan Project ‒ itself a bomb at the box office ‒ hits home video at last thanks to the Warner Archive Collection.
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"First was your firecracker, a harmless explosive. Then your hand grenade: you began to kill your own people, a few at a time. Then, the bomb. Then, a larger bomb: many people are killed at one time. Then your scientists stumbled upon the atom bomb, split the atom." ‒Eros (Dudley Manlove), in Plan 9 from Outer Space While the words of Edward D. Wood, Jr. are usually laughed at, the above passage from the late B-movie auteur's best-known messterpiece is almost as pithy as Wood intended it to be when it comes to describing Hollywood's first (and perhaps least-known) attempt

The Hoodlum Saint DVD Review: When Nick Charles Met Jessica Fletcher

William Powell, Esther Williams, and Angela Lansbury star in a forgotten footnote of film history, newly available to DVD via the Warner Archive Collection.
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Many actors often own, or are generally known as, their most famous roles. During his memorable screen time in Wim Wender's Wings of Desire, the late Peter Falk ‒ playing a fictionalized personification of his self ‒ is sometimes referred to as Lt. Columbo. Likewise, Sean Connery was hard-pressed to walk into any room without someone calling him James Bond. Whilst watching the 1946 MGM drama The Hoodlum Saint recently, it dawned on me when two of the film's three major characters shared the frame together that I was witnessing the one and only time in film history in which

Black Cats Blu-ray Review: Same Story, Massively Different Films

Two Italian horror masters tackle the Edgar Allan Poe tale.
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There have been well over 300 films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe - that’s more than three times the number of tales he actually penned. That means filmmakers and television producers have been dipping into the well of Poe over and over again. That’s not bad for a guy who died before moving pictures were even invented. Even more astounding is the fact that most of Poe’s stories are relatively short (he only published one novel in his life) and his style is more concerned with mood than plot. Which is perhaps why so many films based

Jeff Lynne's ELO: Live in Hyde Park Blu-ray Review: So Good You Won't Get It out of Your Head

Highly recommend for ELO fans and the greatest-hits setlist would make a good introduction to those new to the band.
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Founding member Jeff Lynne was such an essential component to the massive success of Electric Light Orchestra throughout the '70s and '80s as the band's sole writer, arranger, and producer after fellow founder Roy Wood left during the making of their second album, ELO 2, it seems a tad redundant for him to be leading a band called Jeff Lynne's ELO. But setting aside whatever legal and/or ego entanglements may have been involved in that decision, Jeff Lynne's ELO headlined BBC Radio 2’s Festival in a Day in Hyde Park on September 14, 2014. Joined by keyboardist Richard Tandy, an

The Intern Movie Review: Candy-Coated Faux Feminism at Its Worst

It seems to be a harmless, charming little trifle, but this Nancy Meyers movie's antiquated attitudes got my blood boiling.
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I realize that criticizing a Nancy Meyers movie for being unrealistic is rather like criticizing maple syrup for being sticky. But The Intern goes far beyond the pleasant fantasies propagated in the Jack Nicholson-Diane Keaton romance Something’s Gotta Give and the Meryl Streep/Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin love triangle It’s Complicated. The new movie, starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway, is selling a version of “feminist” “empowerment” that would be laughable if it weren’t such a toxically attractive fantasy. First let me get out of the way the counter-argument: that I am being a politically correct curmudgeon, using a sledgehammer to whack

Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Once More Around the Clock

As good as it gets. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean lying around and were planning on joining me at the theater back in 1985.
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The theory of time travel is a tricky one indeed ‒ especially within the confines of the filmmaking world. While some of the greatest minds on Earth may lose most (if not all) of their marbles attempting to figure out just how to achieve the much-used science fiction element of jumping from one point in time to another in real life, some of the the world's most active imaginations have figured out a way of doing it on-screen. But it can still be a very hazardous journey, as Robert Zemeckis and his writing partner Bob Gale ‒ affectionately known as

A Special Day Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Special Performances from Italian Screen Legends

Italian stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni play against type in this beguiling drama.
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The setup for this Italian film is deceptively simple, but belies the impact of the performances by its two stars, screen legends Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Playing against type, their characters meet by chance in their otherwise vacant apartment building and spend the entirety of the film and their day getting to know each other. Loren is a resigned and harried housewife, tired of the grind of caring for her oaf of a husband and ungrateful brood of kids but unable to find any escape. Mastroianni plays a persecuted journalist about to be shipped off for both his liberal

Aladdin: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: Disney Ain't Never Had A Film Like This Before

Fans that have wanted to see Aladdin in high definition will be happy to learn their wish has finally been granted.
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Aladdin is the fourth title released during the era known as the Disney Renaissance when the famed animation studio had an artistic and financial resurgence at the close of the Twentieth Century. It stands apart from the other titles on the slate because of star Robin Williams, whose manic performance as the Genie made the character seem better suited for a Looney Tunes cartoon. Based on the Arab fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin tells the story of the Genie of the Lamp, sought after by the power-hungry Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), Grand Vizier to the Sultan (Douglas Seale)

Ballet Boys DVD Review: Transitioning Into Early Manhood—In Tights

This is the story of three boys whose destiny depends on their strength, grace, and determination.
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Yet another wonderful dance documentary from First Run Features, Ballet Boys (2014) takes balletomanes to Norway, where we meet young teenagers Lukas, Syvert and Torgeir. They’re a tightly knit trio because unlike other young guys their age, the majority of their days and evenings revolve around stretching, perfecting their double tours and performing. Pre-professionals in their respective dance careers, each has reached that proverbial fork in the road: carry on dancing for another several years only to be faced with the possibility of not securing a spot in a company—or hit the books in all earnestness to build the foundation

Attack On Titan: The Movies: Part 1 & Part 2 Review: Anime-Inspired Cinematic Insanity

A two-part adaptation of the anime series, these movies deviate from the original, but keep the crazy spirit intact.
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Of the various pleasures of Japanese cinema, for me one of the greatest is to see stuff on screen that is absolutely 100 percent crazy. Not pseudo-Lynchian surrealism, necessarily, but images that are the logical endpoint of a plot that gets nuttier and nuttier as it goes along. To wit, in Attack On Titan: Part 1, there is a scene where the hero, Eren, after having held open the mouth of an enormous monster, and pulled his friend Armin out of it, gets chomped on (losing an arm), slides down the creature's throat, and ends up inside its stomach. There,

Eaten Alive Blu-ray Review: Not Nearly As Good As the Movies From Which It Draws Its Inspiration

Existing fans will love it, but newcomers may be disappointed.
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Back in 1975, the world was introduced to Spielberg's screen adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. Mardi Rustam, Tobe Hooper, and a handful of others hoped to capitalize on its success by making a flick about a man-eating gator, fed prey by the mentally unstable innkeeper next door. It wanted to blend the creature monster aspect of Jaws with the "You check in but don't check out" vibe of Psycho, and the "Backwater folks is crazy and homicidal" flavor of Hooper's own Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Eaten Alive was the product of this gruesome threesome, though it stands as less

Trader Horn (1931) / Eskimo (1933) DVD Reviews: A Pair of Van Dykes

W.S. Van Dyke's early Pre-Code adventures shot in Africa and the Arctic make their digital media debuts thanks to the Warner Archive Collection.
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In today's Internet-obsessed society, wherein anything ‒ from photos of far-off exotic places to the torturing of helpless animals ‒ is just a scroll down your Facebook feed away, it is sometimes hard to imagine there existed a time when we had hardly any access to such sights. And while unpleasantries such as the latter are truly better left unseen by anyone with a sliver of a soul, there was a time when Hollywood filmmakers gladly included them in their filmed treks off to distant lands. Usually, these daring men were documentary crews, who recorded parts of the world that

Tomorrowland Blu-ray Review: Although the Pacing is Uneven, the Film Entertains and Inspires

It's got enough heart and good intention to almost make you overlook its flaws.
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When an optimistic teen girl stumbles upon a doorway to a fantastic world of science and invention, she finds herself embarking on a journey toward a better tomorrow. Aided by a cynical, former boy genius and a mysterious young girl, Casey Newton sets forth to uncover the secrets of Tomorrowland and the explanation for its disappearance. If I was writing copy for the back of the Blu-ray, that’s what I’d say about Tomorrowland. It’s concise and accurate, without giving away anything about the film. But of course, a movie is so much more than a blurb on the back of

PS Dance! DVD Review: Public Schools Going One Step Beyond for Education

This brief but insightful documentary reveals how dance education can transform students' public school experience one plié at a time.
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Now that stringent Common Core standards, piles of homework, and hyper-competitive college admission have become the academic norm in the United States, circumventing widespread bouts of anxiety and despair that result from such expectations has become an urgent mission for child advocates around the country. PS Dance!, which aired on PBS in May, demonstrates how integrating dance into a curriculum helps kids better internalize their studies, but even more importantly, creates an opportunity for them to find a center between body and mind. Hosted by journalist and news anchor Paula Zahn, this short documentary has a news special feel that

Dick Foran Western Collection DVD Review: The Singing Cowboy Who Could Actually Sing

The Warner Archive Collection wants you to know Dick. And what better way is there than this?
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If the all of the westerns from early 20th Century America were to be enshrined in a museum ‒ presented in such a way that each title had its own three foot wide partition exhibiting its original theatrical movie poster directly above a small 12-inch television set that presented the corresponding motion picture in a perpetual loop ‒ the black and white B westerns (usually referred to as "oaters" by anyone with a sliver of a passion for the subgenre) would fill up a building the size of the once wild west itself. And it would be there, down one

Experimenter Movie Review: We're All Just Lab Rats in this Maze

The Milgram obedience experiments haunt this strange movie, overstuffed with interesting ideas and a compelling but cold performance by Peter Sarsgaard.
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The Inquisition. The Terror of the French Revolution. The Soviet gulags. The Nazi death camps. Murdered civil rights workers. Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. ISIS. Cruelty, and the ability of presumably moral human beings to inflict pain and death on others, acknowledges no boundaries nor respects any pretensions to the advancement of “civilization.” And yet each time we hear about the latest outrage we are shocked, shocked, to find that torture is going on here. People’s ability to reject the possibility that any of us actually could, and would, inflict pain on another person were called into serious question by the (in)famous

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: Don't Dream It, Buy It

Celebrating 40 years of absolute madness and mythic pleasure.
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What else can I say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show that hasn't already been said before. It is the greatest midnight movie ever made, the greatest cult film of all-time, and one of the most exhiliateringly strange cinematic experiences I've certainly ever had. However, this classic film does go much deeper than just its weirdness and uniqueness. It is a film that means a great deal to not just me, but the entire LGBT community. The film taught us that being different doesn't make us second-class citizens, it makes us stronger and more human. It was a statement on

Tremors 5: Bloodlines Blu-ray Review: There's Nothing New Under the Ground

Michael Gross returns for another direct-to-video sequel about giant killer worms that, sadly, doesn't so much as scratch beneath the surface.
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I was but a mere fresh teenager when my curiosity was first piqued by Universal Studios' Tremors ‒ starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward ‒ back in 1990. As I recall it, I was wandering through the mall in Medford, Oregon, where a large cardboard display of the film's familiar Jaws-inspired artwork ‒ along with the memorable tagline "They say there's nothing new under the sun. But under the ground..." ‒ sat out in front of the in-house theater (this is back when there was a tiny cinema located inside the mall itself). Being a huge fan of horror and

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