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The Sheik (1921) / The Son of the Sheik (1926) Blu-ray Review: Happy Valentino's Day

Kino Lorber unleashes two of the greatest works from legendary Silent Film heartthrob Rudolph Valentino.
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One of the civilized world's first heartthrobs and cultural icons returns in two of his most famous works, now available on Blu-ray for the first time from the folks at Kino Lorber. Although the sands [terribly pun possibly intentional] of time may have obliterated the name of Rudolph Valentino from the limited lexicons of today's youth (especially his full name at birth: Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguella!), the impression the Silent Era film legend left behind ‒ as well as the universal vogue his raw sex appeal launched ‒ are the sort of things which shall

Long Strange Trip Movie Review: All a Dream They Dreamed One Afternoon Long Ago

Ladies and gentlemen, the Grateful Dead...
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Like America itself, the Grateful Dead were a great melting pot of cultures, genres, and styles. Take a close look at the songs they chose to cover in their 30 years of existence and you’ll see nearly every brand of American music of the last century. From Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Cannon’s Jug Stompers, the Reverend Gary Davis to Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Marley, Blind Willie Johnson, Leiber and Stoller, Martha and the Vanillas?, the Dead played jazz, folk, blues, rock and roll, Appalachian folk music, reggae, and everything in between. They took all those styles and more, blended

The Yakuza (1974) Blu-ray Review: That Time Robert Mitchum Went to Japan

Like a trusty katana, the Warner Archive Collection whips out this neglected, gritty, emotional '70s cult classic with much grace and dignity.
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What can you say about a Japanese-American co-production from the director of Three Days of the Condor as written by the beautifully dark minds who penned Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Kiss of the Spider Woman? Well, if said film also happens to star the great Robert Mitchum alongside Japanese icon Ken Takakura, and features an eclectic funky score by Dave Grusin, then the one and only official answer to that query is a heartfelt "Plenty!" ‒ as Sidney Pollack's 1974 cult classic The Yakuza should prove to even the most jaded classic movie buff beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Bells Are Ringing (1960) Blu-ray Review: You Found Me Just in Time

The irreplaceable Judy Holliday teams with the one and only Dean Martin for a musical extravaganza which has received a dynamic makeover from the Warner Archive.
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The history of the American musical is indeed a fascinating one, particularly once the genre was introduced to the ever-changing world of the 1960s. Far removed from filmed vaudeville acts and Broadway show adaptations from the dawn of the Sound Era in the late '20s, the once-harmless naïvety of the movie musical of yesteryear was about to be shown the door by an increasingly cynical society which would soon be surrounded by great shifts in both cultural and political trends. And the beginning of those changes are quite noticeable in the classic 1960 musical Bells Are Ringing, which is now

Brain Damage (1988) Blu-ray Review: Schlock That Loves Being Shlock

Cheerfully sleazy exploitation movie about a singing brain parasite is charmingly repellent.
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There's a certain genius to Brain Damage (1989). Thousands of horror movies are made which simply copy the last popular one, doing the bare minimum to get a (in the past) theatrical release or (more recently) a DVD distributor. These movies feel like somebody is filling out a checklist. "Creative" kills, check. Some nudity, okay. Jump scares, gore shots, blah blah blah. Brain Damage is no less puerile, in a sense, but it is knowingly puerile. It isn't copying somebody else's bad ideas, it has a sackful of its own (and some good ones, to boot.) Brain Damage tells the

The Commune (2017) Movie Review: Uneasy Living

Quirky characters are wasted in Thomas Vinterberg's latest.
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The Commune is a film that should be praised for its realistic depictions of a relationship growing stale and the difficulties of living with life-long friends and/or total strangers. I can imagine quite a few people will find some relation to this film in one way or another; I certainly did. But, at the same time, I also found myself wanting to be with characters that had more to them. For a good portion of the movie, I felt like I was watching something in which the script was written, but there were some glaring moments that felt like they

The Climber (1975) Blu-ray Review: The Stuff Scarfaces Are Made Of

An all-growed-up Joe Dallesandro stars in this nifty (and violent) little Italian crime drama, recently rescued from obscurity by Arrow Video.
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Fresh from appearing in several collaborations for Paul Morrissey and the legendary Andy Warhol ‒ a union which culminated with two of the most notorious horror-comedies ever made, Flesh for Frankenstein and Blood for Dracula ‒ model-turned-actor Joe Dallesandro found himself alone in Europe. Much to his surprise, his underground popularity as a Warhol factory superstar in the US was synonymous with that of "famous" abroad. And it wasn't long before he was being asked (or conned) into making a handful of motion pictures in the continent. One such film was Pasquale (I Am the Law) Squitieri's L'ambizioso, aka The

Good Morning (1959) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Japanese Master's Flatulent Comedy

One of the great filmmakers of the 20th century fills his domestic comedy with wistfulness, charm...and fart jokes.
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Comedy doesn't tend to get the respect of drama in movie writing. Like horror, its effectiveness depends on whether or not the audience laughs - it demands, when done right, an immediate physical response. It's hard to write oneself out of having laughed at a comedy a writer doesn't want to enjoy for whatever reason, or to write oneself into praising a comedy that didn't raise a yuck. Dramas have more stuff for writers to write about, and writers are the ones who make the lists of what's important in cinema and what isn't. I've seen reviews of 1959's Good

Alien: Covenant Movie Review: Ridley Scott Returns to the Bloody Basics

Although it recycles a lot from the previous films, Alien: Covenant is still a gorgeously shot, thrilling sci-fi feature.
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More than 30 years after he terrified us with Alien, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise with Prometheus, a film that proved to be more ambitious than fans of the sci-fi franchise were expecting. Sure, it had the origins aspect that fans were expecting, but a lot of the Alien prequel side of the film felt subtle to the exploration of life and creation of man on which Scott ended up focusing. The result was a film that was divisive amongst the Alien fan base, and even Scott admitted recently that he was going in the wrong direction with Prometheus.

Kiss of Death (1947) / Edge of Eternity (1959) Blu-ray Reviews: Homicidal Tendencies

Twilight Time brings us two remarkable, unforgettable, trend-setting thrillers from yesteryear in two equally beautifully transfers.
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Kiss of Death (1947) One of the most quintessential titles to ever emerge from the annals of film noir, Henry Hathaway's Kiss of Death still packs quite a punch today, long after a bastardized 1995 remake from the same studio left many with a foul aftertaste. Here, however, the flavor from the fatal lips administering the eponymous smooch is both robust and plentiful. This is particularly true whenever the movie's most famous character ‒ a giggling psychopathic killer sporting the time-honored moniker of Tommy Udo, as played in a groundbreaking debut by a young Richard Widmark ‒ livens up the

Ludwig (1973) Blu-ray Review: The Historical Epic Wherein Nothing Really Happens

Love it or hate it, Arrow Academy has unveiled an undeniably beautiful box set for one of Luchino Visconti's final films.
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I would only be slightly remiss were I to openly admit history was never my strongest subject in school. Truth be told, when I wasn't having assorted slurs shouted at me in the hallways or eluding those who wanted to stuff me in a locker, I was safe in my room at home watching movies most people had forgotten about. And the truly beautiful part about those otherwise terrible years was my ability to sit through even the longest, most boring film known to man and still be able to focus on it. Sadly, enduring great strides of monotony is

L'assassino (The Assassin) Blu-ray Review: The Lady-Killer of Rome Returns

Elio Petri's forgotten, strange, and very dark satire makes a long-overdue debut in the US from the newly launched Arrow Academy.
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The first feature film from Property Is No Longer a Theft director Elio Petri, The Assassin (L'assassino) is an interesting, early test run for the filmmaker's later (and better known) 1970 hit Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion by way of Franz Kafka's The Trial. Albeit a very Elio Petri fashion, of course. Interestingly, some Italo movie aficionados around the globe see The Assassin as something of a proto-giallo, as many elements would later become staples in the gialli movement. It also, coincidentally enough, features a character similar to legendary TV detective Columbo, a year after the character first appeared

Kiju Yoshida: Love + Anarchism Blu-ray Review: Radical Politics and Radical Filmmaking

Thematic trilogy from a Japanese master, these three films are designed to be as beautiful, and baffling, as possible.
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Some movies offer formal challenges as part of their appeal. They might have sequences of the narrative where the viewer doesn't know exactly what's going on or in what sequences they're shown. They might have elliptical stories that really require an interpretation rather than just unfolding the narrative directly for the viewer, like a David Lynch film. Or they might have a different way of showing images on screen that is unconventional. Entire film movements are built around recognizing the "rules" by which films are made, and then subverting or even ignoring them. And then there's Kiju Yoshida's Japanese New

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review: Eh-Calibur

Guy Ritchie's King Arthur re-telling is flashy but dull.
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The one question I had after the screening of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was, “Why does this exist?” I’m still trying to find an answer for it. Granted, this is a different take on the King Arthur story that we’ve all known to grow and love. And by different, I mean, there are gigantic elephants getting ready to destroy Camelot in the opening sequence. Not only that, but there are strange, octopus mermaids led by one that looks like a cross between The Little Mermaid’s Ursula and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June. But my

Dead or Alive Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Literally Explosive Cinematic Madness

Yakuza blow up the world, and that's just first film of this loose trilogy starring Show Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi.
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The opening six minutes of Dead or Alive, one of the first films of Takashi Miike to get international attention, are some of the most energetic, aggressive, and propulsive filmmaking of the '90s (or, hell, of any era.) Several characters are introduced and plots are put into motion, interwoven with quick cuts of various people engaged in various debaucheries: stealing drugs, sex in bathrooms, stripping, a man doing a six-foot line of cocaine off an enormous ramp, and a man shoveling in bowl after bowl of ramen (which then memorably gets blown out of his stomach in a shotgun blast).

Buena Vista Social Club Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Cuban Musicians Get the Recognition They Deserve

A landmark and infectious documentary about the joy of Cuban music and the great individuals who brought it to life.
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When it comes to music, there are many styles and cultures: Mexican, Spanish, Portugese, etc. However, Cuban music seems to be for only certain tastes, and even sadder, the singular individuals who created it have become virtually forgotten. Thankfully, Wim Wenders' 1999 influential documentary, Buena Vista Social Club, gives new life to these all-but-ancient musical talents and gives the recognition they extremely deserve. It is also a documentary of how music, in general, can be a lifelong desire and reason for living. Wenders' camera and the legendary Ry Cooper, along with his son Joachim, travel to Cuba to find and

The Dismembered (1962) Blu-ray Review: I'd Rather Be in Philadelphia

Garagehouse Pictures digs up one of the goofiest ‒ and yet, strangely intriguing ‒ lost regional horror comedies ever.
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Picture, if you can, what might have happened had a very bored Charles Addams sat down for a few hours one sunny afternoon to jot down the general outline for a lighthearted episode of The Twilight Zone. But rather than seeing his little side project achieve fruition via its intended nationally broadcast television medium, the story wound up in the hands of amateur filmmakers instead. Expanding his original story into something that would still pass for "feature-length" by cinematic standards in 1962, an indie filmmaker in Philadelphia subsequently gathered together a few friends, even fewer dollars, and said "What the

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review: A Solid Start to the Summer Movie Season

This sequel to the 2014 smash hit is entertaining, but doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor.
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Superhero movies are going to be coming down the cinematic pipeline for many years to come. The same can be said for superhero sequels. It’s inevitable, but, when they bring in the big bucks, it’s also understandable. And yet, for many reviewers out there, who sit through more than 100 movies each year, it also becomes wearisome to see another origins story and another sequel to said origins story. You have to watch so many different movies to figure out who or what fits where in the timeline that, at a certain point, there comes a level of fatigue. Mine

Interiors (1978) / Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979) Blu-ray Reviews: Suicidal Tendencies

Twilight Time unveils the HD debuts of two distinctly different dramas featuring Mary Beth Hurt.
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Interiors (1978) As anyone who has ever straddled a bicycle, slipped into something made out of lamé, or walked into a brothel full well knows, there's a first time for everything. In the case of Interiors, we witness comedian/filmmaker Woody Allen's first uncompromising move into the world of motion picture drama. Following his unparalleled triumph at the Academy Awards the following year with the Oscar-winning Annie Hall ‒ something die-hard Star Wars fans still haven't forgiven him for ‒ the Woodster decided it was time to tell a different kind of story: one that didn't have to rely on elements

Property Is No Longer a Theft Blu-ray Review: More Political Treatise than Film

It will steal your valuable time.
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Elio Petri’s 1973 film Property is No Longer a Theft is a political film (barely) disguised as a comedic thriller. Its messaging is so heavy-handed it nearly pummels you with ideology while neglecting to tell an interesting story. Total (Flavio Bucci) is a bank clerk who is (and the symbolism will escape no one) literally allergic to money - he has to wear gloves and is constantly scratching himself. Though he sees customers, such as the rich butcher (Ugo Tognazzi), come into the bank every day with loads of cash, he, himself, has none. Obsessed with the idea that property

The Valley of Gwangi / When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth Blu-ray Reviews: More Animated than Ever

The Warner Archive Collection shows off two showcases of animators Ray Harryhausen and Jim Danforth in these splendid catalog releases.
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Decades before civilized man would figure out new and inventive ways to suck the life out of that good ol' fashioned movie magic previous generations grew up looking up to, a species of gifted animators roamed the great halls of special effects studios near and far. Out of all the long-leggedy beasties, none were as revered and respected as the Hausenusharrius Rayus ‒ better known as Ray Harryhausen to us laymen ‒ whose magnificence and might effectively crowned him King of the Stop-Motion Animators. And it is with one of his tales that we begin this peek at two recent

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Blu-ray Review: An Impressive and Immersive High-def Experience

A delightful space fantasy with enough action to entertain the casual viewer and enough story elements and links to other works to please the Star Wars aficionado.
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While the Star Wars universe had previously been expanded over the years into multiple mediums, Rogue One was the first time the film franchise focused on a story that didn't primarily involve the Skywalker family, and they chose a great idea. As revealed in the prologue crawl of Star Wars (1977), the Rebel Alliance obtained the Death Star plans. Rogue One tells the story of how. Watching the film a second time, what worked for me and what didn't, as stated in my movie review, remain the same. It's an impressive blockbuster in terms of its action and almost all

Dead or Alive Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Typical Takashi Miike, Atypical Arrow Video Release

Miike's wild, wooly action trilogy gets a disappointing release from Arrow Video.
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Takashi Miike is an insanely prolific (and possibly just straight up insane) Japanese director. He has 102 directorial credits on IMDB since 1991. That’s nearly four film/TV credits per year. While he is mostly known for his extreme horror in the U.S. with secondary acclaim for his Yakuza films, he’s actually an incredibly diverse filmmaker having made comedies, dramas, science fiction, historical epics, and even a family film or two. His best films are both widely loved and criticized for their use of graphic violence and perverse, often extraordinarily sexual sense of humor. Just to demonstrate how many films Miike

Vitaphone Varieties, Volume Three: 1928-1929 DVD Review: Utterly Amazing

The Warner Archive Collection unleashes 16 more lost novelty acts from the days of vaudeville and burlesque shows.
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After nearly five years since the last installment in the intermittent series, the Warner Archive Collection has assembled another amazing assortment of forgotten, filmed novelty acts with Vitaphone Varieties, Volume Three: 1928-1929. Back in the mid 1920s, just a short few years before the various pioneers in the motion picture industry dreamt up a reliable way to record and print sound on to film, the folks at Warner Bros. and First National figured out a different method of providing sound to moving images: a mechanically synced-up record player. And though it may seem completely archaic and downright hipster today, the

Shadowman Movie Review: A Beautiful Mind Fraught By Invisibility

The story of tortured artist Richard Hambleton is short of depth but long on intrigue.
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Since Van Gogh cut his ear off it's well-known that the mind of the artist is a tortured one. This isn't a new assertion nor does director Oren Jacoby's new documentary, Shadowman, do anything to debunk it. What Jacoby does capture is the story of a man whose tortured mind allowed him to create amazing works of art while simultaneously destroying his chances for success. Jacoby's subject is one of the last few artists out there, one uninterested in commerce, but who needs to rely on it nonetheless. Peppered with ironic asides that would be comical if they weren't so
Neil Young Journeys is director Jonathan Demme’s third film starring the musician, the previous two being Neil Young: Heart of Gold and Neil Young Trunk Show. Journeys is predominantly a concert film recorded at Toronto’s Massey Hall where Young performed solo two nights in support of Le Noise. In addition, Demme shot footage of Young driving to the show behind his brother Bob from their hometown Omemee. He describes it as “a town in North Ontario,” bringing to mind his song “Helpless,” which plays over the closing credits.. Along the way, Young reminisces about growing up, giving the film the

Mifune: The Last Samurai DVD Review: Japan's Greatest Actor Profiled

Informative, engaging overview of the actor's life and work, both with Akira Kurosawa and beyond.
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Toshiro Mifune is one of the most dynamic actors who's ever played on the big screen. He was an animal presence that made it difficult to look away. Even in one of Akira Kurosawa's more staid productions, the stagy and fairly drab The Lower Depths, comes to life when his character comes on screen for an unfortunate few times. In combination with Akira Kurosawa, he made one of the definitive actor/director teams who shaped the future of Japanese cinema, helping to bring it to international attention for the first time in 1950’s Rashomon. Mifune: The Last Samurai, a feature-length documentary

Wait Until Dark (1967) / Love in the Afternoon (1957) Blu-ray Reviews: An Audrey Two-fer

The Warner Archive Collection brings us two remarkably different ‒ but nevertheless essential ‒ offerings from the inimitable Audrey Hepburn.
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In case you missed it, 2017 is already a great year for Audrey Hepburn fans. Twilight Time recently unveiled a gorgeous transfer of Stanley Donen's Two for the Road, wherein cinema's most beloved beauty co-starred with Albert Finney. And now the Warner Archive Collection ‒ who have been unveiling more classic catalogue releases on Blu-ray for film lovers to cherish ‒ presents us with two more for the road in what I can only call an "Audrey Two-fer" (yes, Little Shop of Horrors fans, that may have been a reference). The first title being perhaps the most popular of the

Twilight Time Presents: Odd Men Out (and the Women Who Drive Them)

Vindictive villains, stereoscopic Stooges, speculative spouses, heroic horsemen, and illiterate inventors highlight this quartet of New-to-Blu releases.
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At one point or another, every one of us falls under the jurisdiction of being that which they once called the "odd man out." Maybe you're that unathletic movie nerd who finds himself amidst a group of people talking about sports. Or you're the jock who can't seem to communicate with all of the people talking about a popular television series you've never heard of. I'm sure you get the idea ‒ as do the various protagonists of this batch of Blu-ray releases from Twilight Time, which features a wide array of odd men who are a bit out of

House: Two Stories Blu-ray Review: Come on in for Some Goofy '80s Horror

A couple of not-so-classic comedy-horror films from the 80s get a magnificent release from Arrow Video.
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Picture me: a pubescent boy, somewhere in the late '80s, wandering about the local video store aisles. A burgeoning horror fan, I’m checking out the cover art for all the films in the genre section. My mother was much more strict than my father when it came to renting films, so if I’m with her, I’m liking gonna have to move over to the comedies soon, but if it's just me and dad, I can talk him into the scary stuff. One weekend, me and the old man grabbed House, a movie whose cover features a totally rad-looking severed hand

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