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My Pal Wolf DVD Review: Dog Gone Girl

Child actress Sharyn Moffett has to learn how to cut one's wolf loose in this forgotten RKO ditty, now available from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Sometimes, you never know what the true premise of a motion picture may turn out to be. This can be particularly relevant when it comes to old B movies ‒ wherein even a man taking a leisurely stroll down to the corner market for a pack of cigarettes can end with an overzealous example of religious superiority, all but demanding viewers go to church that Sunday. Why, even a simple family movie about a little girl and her pet dog can begin as one kind of tale before it ultimately transforms into something wholly other. And wouldn't you just know

The Emigrants / The New Land Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Profound Cinematic Experience Like No Other

Jan Troell's masterful epic saga receives the deluxe Blu-ray treatment.
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There have been many films about the dangerous journey of immigrants to America, the land of prosperity and new beginnings, such as El Norte (1983) and Sin Nombre (2009). However, I think none of them really possess the devastating and stark power as Director Jan Troell's epic masterpieces, The Emigrants (1971) / The New Land (1972), which were praised unanimously by critics and worldwide. It isn't difficult to see why; the entire saga is beautiful, authetic, and a profound cinematic experience like no other. Adapted from a novel by Vilhelm Moberg, it stars film legends Max von Sydow and Liv

Steve Jobs DVD Review: A Good Choice For Best Picture

It’s a wonderful blend of acting, writing, and directing.
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Steve Jobs is one of the more integral folks in this modern technological era of ours. Thus, a biopic was inevitable. While a couple of films were able to beat Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs to the punch, this was the Jobs movie people were waiting for. The one with the legitimately talented cast, the one that didn’t have Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, and the one written by Aaron Sorkin. Of course, pedigree does not guarantee success. Fortunately, this particular film was knocked out of the park. As you may have heard by now, this is not a traditional biopic.

Bridge of Spies Blu-ray Review: Spielberg's History Tour Reaches the Cold War

In Steven Spielberg's latest history lesson, our professor/director tackles the Cold War.
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For the last decade, Steven Spielberg has been stuck in the past as a director, churning out one historical film after another. Even his only fictional films, Indiana Jones and Tintin, tread retro themes and times, making it clear that at this stage of his storied career he’s looking back rather than forward. That gaze to the past has now landed on the Cold War, and finds him reteamed with frequent collaborator Tom Hanks. When a suspected Soviet spy is captured in New York, the authorities realize that he must be offered legal representation and call in esteemed attorney James

It Follows Movie Review: A Horror Movie to Think About

Our own mortality is the most scariest creature of all.
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It Follows has the most terrifying premise when you stop to really think about it. Many people will mock and laugh at the concept of a girl who is slowly being hunted by an ominous being after having sex. Yet, this is the same concept used in countless other horror movies. What happens to most kids when they have sex in these kinds of films? They end up getting killed by some guy in a mask swinging a machete. Now what if you take this same concept of being stalked by a thing whose sole purpose is to kill you,

The Diary of a Teenage Girl Blu-ray Review: A Remarkably Forthright Film

The plot might remind one of Andrea Arnold's 'Fish Tank,' but the tone is decidedly different
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Marielle Heller’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl isn’t particularly groundbreaking from a visual or formal standpoint; its burnished digital photography and lilting camerawork could belong to any number of Sundance entries. But this adaptation of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel is certainly distinctive among American film for its forthright, completely nonjudgmental approach to female sexuality. The plot — in which a teenage girl starts sleeping with her mother’s boyfriend — bears at least passing similarity to Andrea Arnold’s Fish Tank, but The Diary of a Teenage Girl is nearly a tonal opposite, fraught nerviness replaced with a pleasant inquisitiveness. Diary’s

Grandma Blu-ray Review: A Common Story with Uncommon Grace

The legendary Ms. Tomlin delivers her career best performance in one of the very best films of 2015.
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You would think that a road trip movie about a girl and grandmother bonding would be another one of those meandering chick flicks that you see nowadays far too much. However, Director Paul Weitz's 2015 refreshing gem of a film, Grandma, is not that type of film and that's a very good thing. It's a devilishly funny, smart, and wonderfully real piece of indie filmmaking that doesn't come around too often. It's also a showcase for the legendary Lily Tomlin to do what she does best, which is to knock it out of the park. And she does. Tomlin stars

The Devil Wears Prada 10th Anniversary DVD Review: One of the Best Films of the Last Ten Years

These Prada boots are made for walking...but all over you, literally.
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In the fashion world, which can be very intimidating, it is literally a dog-eat-dog world where only the strong (and stylish) survives. You either have what it takes, or you might as well as look for another profession. Many have tried and succeeded, while others have failed miserably. The Devil Wears Prada, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, is semi-realistic, but it is pretty close to being an accurate depiction of that world. Based on the best-selling novel by Lauren Weisberger, the film stars Anne Hathaway as Andrea "Andy" Sachs, a naively perky but aspiring journalist living in New York

The Finest Hours Movie Review: Fine For About an Hour

Disney's latest has great effects but squanders a decent plot in a contrived love story.
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You know the year's just begun when Disney debuts their latest inspiriational drama. Usually geared towards the sports world (Miracle, McFarland USA), this year's feature is a water-logged mix of The Perfect Storm meets Kevin Costner's The Guardian set in Stephen King's Castle Rock. The lobster roll they form is The Finest Hours, a film whose B-plot should be the film's main focus but instead looks at an A-plot so cutesy and generic you'll get a cavity just watching. 1952, Chatham, Massachusetts. An oil tanker named the Pendleton gets caught in a horrific storm that leaves the boat broken in

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1 Blu-ray Review: Action Heroes '50s Japanese Style

Three action/crime films from Nikkatsu studios that showcase their popular leading me of the late 50s.
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The Nikkatsu Diamond Guys title comes from a marketing scheme from nearly 60 years ago. Nikkatsu is a studio in Japan, and they were looking for a new way to promote their movie stars in the late 50s, so they created the Nikkatsu Action Series, with the "Diamond Line" of "Mighty Guys". Arrow has put three of these pictures into a Blu-ray and DVD release, Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 1. Unrelated in story, theme, or director, (though they all involve crime stories) what connects them is the studio, and the era in which they were shot. The three movies are

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault: Live at the Tokyo Dome 1990 Blu-ray Review

This entertaining performance proves all the naysayers wrong.
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The Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle stadium tour ran for nearly a year. The North American leg started in Philadelphia on Aug 31, 1989, and the European leg ended in London on Aug 25, 1990. The tour is notable for many reasons. The 10 nights they played at the Tokyo Dome in February 1990, from which the material on this live album comes, was the first time they ever performed in Japan. It was the band's first tour since their 1982 European Tour. It was their first tour without touring pianist Ian Stewart. It would be bassist Bill Wyman's last tour before

Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 Ultimate Edition of Awesomness DVD Reviews: Not Awesome, But A Lot of Fun

Average animated stories made good by good performances and some stunning animation.
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If it's funny for a fat guy to show athletic nimbleness, then I suppose a panda being an expert at kung fu is hilarious. At least that’s the basic premise of the Kung Fu Panda series of movies. Luckily, the films are chock full of terrific actors and some really stunning animation that raises them above such ridiculous ideas. In Kung Fu Panda we find that our illustrious hero Po (Jack Black) is a big, fat, lazy panda who has a goose for a father (James Hong), and idolizes the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis

Bitter Rice Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Beauty of the Downtrodden

1940s Italian film marries social commentary about the lower class with rewarding drama and romance.
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Long before Dino De Laurentiis was a noted Hollywood producer, he produced Italian films such as this 1949 drama. Interestingly, his director on this film, Giuseppe De Santis, also had a deep appreciation of U.S. culture and Hollywood film techniques, although he maintained strong convictions about how his films should stake their own Italian identity both thematically and visually. His subject matter for Bitter Rice fully expresses those ideas as he wrings beautiful scenes out of a story set amongst poor farm workers. As the film reveals, every year scores of Italian women would leave home to find temporary work

Shadows and Fog Blu-ray Review: or, Smoke and Mirrors

Even with an unmistakable style and fine supporting cast, Woody Allen's final Orion Pictures production is a bittersweet one indeed.
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In several respects, the release of Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy in 1982 marked the beginning of two pivotal points in the career of Woody Allen. Not only was it the year he began releasing a new motion picture each and every year ‒ a tradition (or obsession, perhaps) that continues to this day ‒ but it was also his first film with Orion Pictures, a company with which he would find backing and distribution for his next eleven projects. It was during his Orion constellation that Allen made a number of homages to classic film genres (and

Ip Man 3 Movie Review: Love, Redemption, and Mike Tyson

Some of the best action sequences in years are on display in Wilson Yip's latest martial-arts romp!
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Wilson Yip’s newest addition to his Ip Man film series, Ip Man 3, is a wildly entertaining and surprisingly poignant feature effort that lacks only in plot structure and character development: two completely unimportant aspects of any film. Of course, in the case of a martial-arts film so brilliantly choreographed and shot as this one, that last part really is true. Ip Man 3 suffers from its lack of story-arc dynamics only when isolated from its excellent displays of Wing Chun (Ip Man’s martial art of choice). Otherwise, the story gets lost in the action in a way that contradicts

The Doughgirls DVD Review: When Girl Comedies Didn't Need Fart Jokes

The Warner Archive Collection unveils a vastly underrated WWII comedy about three groomless brides, with scene-chewing support from Eve Arden and Charles Ruggles.
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In those glorious, long gone days before female-driven movies like Pitch Perfect and Bridesmaids (to say nothing of the forthcoming Ghostbusters spin-off, I'm sure) began infecting cineplexes near and far with stories that relied too heavily on such surefire ticket-selling gimmicks such as fart jokes, an assembly of some of American cinema's finest actresses was something worth taking note of. Particularly when said actresses weren't necessarily "comediennes" per se (and didn't "let one" for the sake of a laugh). Such a formula can be seen at work in the Warner Bros. 1944 comedy The Doughgirls: a tale for the ladies

Scorpio (1973) Blu-ray Review: A Different Kind of Zodiac Killer

Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon shoot the breeze ‒ and just about everything else in sight ‒ in Michael Winner's oft-criticized (but still enjoyable) espionage flick.
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Following on the heels of his previous action film, 1972's The Mechanic with Charles Bronson and Jan-Michael Vincent, British filmmaker Michael (Death Wish) Winner reunited with the star of his first American project ‒ the one and only Burt Lancaster ‒ for a similarly-themed tale of espionage, double-crossin' secret agents, paid assassins, and looped dialogue. The result was 1973's Scorpio: a title that may have been carefully chosen to subtly associate audiences with yet another action film ‒ 1971's Dirty Harry, wherein Clint Eastwood matched wits (and barrel sizes) with a Zodiac-patterned serial killer named "Scorpio." And while Scorpio's limitations

Jaco DVD Review: Tribute to a Jazz Legend

Jaco is a balanced and compassionate look at the legendary jazz bassist.
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“It’s not about bass playing, it’s about being a storyteller.” The documentary Jaco traces the life of iconic jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, from his childhood in Florida and first gigs as a teenager to his innovative style of bass playing, work with Weather Report, and his untimely death at age 35. Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, the documentary’s producer, saw Weather Report in 1979, and the experience helped mould his own musical journey. Jaco compiles archival footage, home movies, personal photos and interviews to form a balanced and compassionate look at the groundbreaking musician’s life. Directed by Paul Marchand and Stephen

Never a Dull Moment (1950) DVD Review: Why You Never Say Never

Irene Dunne and Fred MacMurray do their best with subpar situational comedy material in this recent obscurity from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Based on the 1943 book Who Could Ask for Anything More? by composer Kay Swift ‒ best known to today's "classic" music enthusiasts (read: people who hang out in jazz bars) as the composer of the timeless standard "Can't We Be Friends?" ‒ 1950's Never a Dull Moment finds Irene Dunne as Kay Kingsley: a fictionalized variation of her real-life counterpart, who, as our story opens, is a popular singer/songwriter in bustling New York City. During a charity rodeo event (in NYC) she helped to organize, she catches the eye of a simple, widowed father of two cowboy/rancher named Chris

Beasts of No Nation Movie Review: Beautiful Brutality

Not my favorite film of the year, but a bold and unbridled effort nonetheless.
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“I am thinking that the only way not to be fighting is to be dying.” Cary Joji Fukunaga’s most recent directorial effort, Beasts of No Nation is a colorful triumph of cinematic storytelling. Fukunaga’s bold insistence to be party to every aspect of filmmaking (director, screenwriter, cinematographer, producer) clearly benefits his ability to share his vision with an audience; and displays his art as something perhaps more complete than what would have been created had he worn only his director’s hat. Fukunaga’s latest work tells the story of Agu (Abraham Attah), a young boy thrust into the role of soldier

Broken Lance Blu-ray Review: The Open Range (Robert) Wagnerian Opera

Twilight Time presents the Oscar-winning western remake that inspired even more movies.
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While it isn't entirely uncommon for a contemporary film to be remade into a western (it's much more common to see a western remade into something modern, or sometimes, even futuristic), it's extremely rare to see different filmed versions of the same story from the same screenwriter. The second of four adaptations (three being cinematic, the other made for TV) based on Pulitzer Prize winner Jerome Weidman's I'll Never Go Home Any More (1949), 1954's Broken Lance was the second time the original story had been transformed for the silver screen by Philip Yordan (King of Kings, El Cid) ‒

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny Deliver the Gift of the Rifftrax Experience

And treat yo'self to some Rifftrax this month.
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Someone wiser than me said, "Pay for experiences not things." I love movies. But I love the experience of going to the theater just as much, if not more. I think there's a communal experience to watching in the dark with friends and strangers. Plus, the lack of temptations to look at other screens, flip to another channel, check on the game, or even just get up and go get another beer goes towards a greater enjoyment of the film. I like the laser focus I can get in a theater compared to my movie ADD at home. For years,

Tenderness of The Wolves Blu-ray Review: Not What You Expect, But Better

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's company make a surprisingly gentle serial killer movie.
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Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by serial killers. There is something so uniquely interesting about someone who murders not for money, revenge, jealousy, rage, or any other understandable motive but for the pure pleasure or murdering itself. It is of course horrendously horrible, but terribly fascinating as well. One such person I’d not heard of until I watched this film was Fritz Haarmann who lived and killed in Hanover, Germany in the period between the World Wars. He sexually assaulted, mutilated, dismembered, possibly ate, and almost certainly sold for meat a minimum of 24 boys all while

Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 9 DVD Review: Bogart's Face and Bette Davis Eyes

The Warner Archive Collection ups the ante with their latest release of Pre-Code rarities, adding a fifth bonus flick into the fray.
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While the bulk of the Warner Archive Collection's output varies on the whole, there are numerous riches lurking within the corners of the Warner/MGM vaults that hail from a time before classic Hollywood censorship took hold. As such, every time another Forbidden Hollywood set rears its head from the dusty confines of our filmic past (read my assessment of the previous set here), I can't help but wonder what sort of treasures lie in store for classic movie enthusiasts. For their late 2015 release of Forbidden Hollywood, Volume 9, the folks at the WAC decided to not only treat us

It's in the Air (1935) DVD Review: Benny and the Debts

The Warner Archive Collection unties a rare Jack Benny comedy featuring the even rarer sight of Ted Healy playing the stooge.
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A melting pot of old vaudevillians and rising wisecrackers from all over the map, MGM's 1935 comedy It's in the Air finds inspiration from several forms of thieves within the confines of civilized society: advertisers, confidence tricksters, and the IRS. Here, the great Jack Benny stars as a con man in the big city who dreams of retiring from what he calls a living and reuniting with his beautiful estranged wife, but who is actuality stuck with that jestful sally of a fraudster Ted Healy as his running mate. And run, they do ‒ especially once Internal Revenue Service agent

Mojave Movie Review: Death and Pretension in the Desert

Despite its talent, Mojave trades on incomprehension as opposed to tension.
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Nothing good ever happens in the desert, or at least that's the ultimate message in director/screenwriter William Monahan's latest film, Mojave. Well-regarded as the screenwriter of Martin Scorsese's gritty crime drama, The Departed, Monahan takes a shot at his own gritty crime drama, eschewing bullets and F-bombs for grand soliloquies about life and a scenery-chewing performance from Oscar Isaac. Hollywood screenwriter Thomas (Garrett Hedlund) finds himself disillusioned and adrift. A trip to the Mojave desert is hoped to clear his mind until he meets the mysterious Jack (Isaac), a shiftless drifter with devious intentions. A moment involving murder places Thomas

Man-Proof DVD Review: Pidegon Shoots Down Tone Deaf Loy

The Warner Archive Collection unveils an uneven war of the sexes dramedy featuring an unbeatable cast.
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We all know the story: boy finds girl, boy finds another girl to run off and marry, first girl gets drunk at boy's wedding. And that's just the beginning of Richard (Jailhouse Rock, The Scorpio Letters) Thorpe's 1938 B-romance (no, I did not say "bromance," brahs), Man-Proof. Here, the one and only Myrna Loy ‒ diving into her work in order to fight the still-fresh pain of losing her friend, legendary sex symbol Jean Harlow ‒ stars as a surprisingly headstrong for the late 1930s lass named Mimi Swift, daughter of prominent American romance novelist Meg Swift (Nana Bryant), who

The Mad Genius / The Great Man Votes DVD Reviews: Unburiedmore

The Warner Archive Collection digs up two forgotten starring vehicles of cinematic titan, John Barrymore.
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What's in a name? These days, not a whole heck of a lot. We've witnessed the offspring, the grandchildren, and various poor relations try to follow in the footprints of their much more famous ancestors. The result? Filmic outputs that have, more often than nought, wound up as experiments on Mystery Science Theater 3000 or lampooned in equally lamentable Hollywood in-jokes such as Bowfinger. And while the bulk of modern actress Drew Barrymore's nominations are mostly in association with her unforgivable multiple appearances in movies starring Adam Sandler (and which are commonly limited to MTV Music Awards and Golden Razzies),

Murder in the Private Car DVD Review: A Pre-Code Mulligan Stew

Wisecracking Charles Ruggles and Una Merkel highlight this odd comedy-romance-mystery that is as outdated as rail travel itself.
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An out of control railroad car inhabited by a loose gorilla and runaway madman, and crazy madcap comedy are the ingredients that make up the mulligan stew of early cinema that is known as Murder in the Private Car, now available for the first time on home video from the Warner Archive Collection. An oddity from engine to caboose, the 1934 Pre-Code offering from MGM finds one of America's premium forgotten comediennes, Una Merkel, as its leading wisecracking lady, who is joined on-screen by another unremembered great of the silver screen, Mr. Charles Ruggles. The weird part about that, of

The Green Inferno Blu-ray Review: A Truly Visceral Experience

Human savagery is the name of the game in Roth's gripping throwback to Italian cannibal flicks.
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As we know, Eli Roth is one of those directors who is kind of a "love him or hate him" filmmaker, making movies that have been reviled and crucified by critics since his cult film Cabin Fever grossed out moviegoers back in 2002. As for me, I absolutely love him because his films successfully assault the audience and refuse to hold back. I have to say that they have the energy of Sam Raimi and the unapologetic gore of Lucio Fulci; they also have actual depths of intelligence that most of those pesky critics fail to realize. So case in

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