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Darker Shades of Blu: Film Noir from the Warner Archive

From Humphrey Bogart to Alfred Hitchcock, the WAC offers up some of the best mysteries ever available now on Blu-ray.
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Along with the many wonderful Standard-Definition releases of films that have slipped through the cracks of time, the Warner Archive has also been releasing a limited assortment of classics on Blu-ray. During the last few months alone, the Manufactured-on-Demand outfit ‒ which only issues a handful of titles per week ‒ has unveiled an unbeatable selection of movies hailing from the dark side of classic motion pictures, including many film noir titles from the '40s and '50s. For this modest capsuling of features, I have chosen four Humphrey Bogart films, including one of his most famous characterizations; an alternate (first)

Fathom Events and TCM Bring Back National Lampoon's Animal House

A chaotic classic worth seeing again.
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In association with Fathom Events, the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which brings classic films to theaters, is even more important than ever. The latest release of National Lampoon's Animal House from 1978 isn't exactly a "lost classic". This is a film that is in the general pop-culture reference library. It's not hard to find, it plays on TV, it's readily available on home video, and is referenced in other current releases. What's missing is the theater experience. No matter how we improve the home experience, it's not the same as sitting in the dark for two hours with strangers

Microwave Massacre Blu-ray Review: This Comedy is Overcooked

Who knew a comedy about a cannibalistic serial killer could be this unfunny?
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I used to have a roommate named Bobby. He was a nice guy, but not very culturally sophisticated. He was the kind of guy who, even though we were working 10-hour shifts and there was a 45-minute commute to and from the job would come home and immediately spend an hour at the gym. He was the kind of guy who, after a night at the club, would see a cute girl on her way out, roll down his window, and ask, “Are you hot or not?” He was the kind of guy who was attractive enough to make that

A Taste of Honey Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Taste of Adolescence

Tony Richardson's tale of the sweet and sour gifts life delivers to us.
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A renaissance in British cinema erupted in the 1960s; known as the Free Cinema and instigated by directors Tony Richardson, Lindsay Anderson, and Karel Reisz, British cinema of the era espoused fantasy for gritty realism. These "kitchen sink dramas" dealt with the uncertainty and futility of living poor in England. Richardson's own A Taste of Honey, out today on DVD and Blu via Criterion, depicts these issues with the faintest glimmer of a silver lining. Jo (Rita Tushingham) is a young teen struggling to find some stability with her flight, man-obsessed mother (Dora Bryan). Jo soon falls for a kind

The Bloodstained Butterfly Blu-ray Review: A Giallo Version of Zodiac

Arrow Video releases Duccio Tessari's classic giallo film in a stunning new Blu-ray edition.
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I must start off this review with a confession. The only giallo (supernatual/mystey films that were usually made in Italy) movies I have ever seen were Suspiria and this one. There was a foreign film section at the video store when I was younger. But they never had such original titles like A Suitcase for a Corpse, The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave ,or my favorite, Kill the Fatted Calf and Roast It. I'm not sure if they come up with the title first and then write the script, but these titles are awesome. Even the name of

Microwave Massacre Blu-ray Review: Surely Someone Will Enjoy This

Not really horror, not really funny, but definitely dark, and definitely takes too long.
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Microwave Massacre tells the tale of Donald (Jackie Vernon), a construction worker with simple tastes driven mad by his wife's obsession with fancy cuisine and constant nagging about his lack of sophistication. One night he snaps, kills his wife, and, a short time later, accidentally eats some of her remains as a midnight snack. Turns out he has a taste for human flesh, and he sets about town, luring prostitutes back to his place for sex and dinner, in that order. There's enough there to make some sort of movie out of, but I was left wanting. Vernon plays the

American Ninja / American Ninja 2: The Confrontation Blu-ray Reviews: The Dawn of Dudikoff

Olive Films unleash one of the Cannon Group's greatest franchises in High-Definition via releases fans are sure to get a high-flying kick out of.
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There are a number of things that made the 1980s the 1980s. New Wave music. Big hair. Video game consoles. Outrageous fashions. Odd expressions. Even the film industry pertaining to that particular decade offered up a variety of awesome flicks from every genre possible, from westerns to comedies, and from horror to action. But it is the latter category to wit we owe an eternal debt of gratitude, thanks largely in part to an amazing slew of low-budget wonders from Golan-Globus Productions, and their now-infamous distribution company, the Cannon Group. The men behind this outfit, Yorum Globus and Menahem Golan,

Woman in the Dunes Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Digging out a Life in Sand

Hiroshi Teshigahara's enigmatic, hypnotic tale of a man trapped is equal parts Twilight Zone and Kafka, and completely absorbing.
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Every night, the woman shovels sand from the bottom of a hole, which gets carted up by a rope pulley, and hauled away. She lives at the bottom of a deep pit, and every night the sand builds up. If she leaves off for more than a couple of days, the sand will get everywhere, and eventually the house will collapse, and she will die. Her husband and daughter were killed by the sand. So she digs, each night, for most of the night. She sleeps during the day, nude, sometimes not even under a blanket, since sleeping with the

Speedy Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The End of an Era

Harold Lloyd hits a comedy home run in his last silent film.
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Not only is "Speedy" the title character played by Harold Lloyd in his last silent film and last appearance as his The Boy/Glasses Character, but it also describes the fast-paced lifestyle that was overtaking New York City at the end of the Roaring '20s. Railroad businessmen want to buy out Pops (Bert Woodruff), the grandfather of Speedy's girlfriend's Jane (Ann Christy), so they can make use of the track on which his horse-drawn streetcar runs. Naturally, it will fall onto to Speedy to save the day. He is a clever fellow, but only seems to put his mind to making

War Dogs Movie Review: It's a Dog Alright!

Todd Phillips hopes lightning strikes with his aggressive tale of bros, guns and international arms dealing
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War Dogs ads have glommed on to the recent trend of lampooning Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan as a means of illustrating American deceifulness. But War Dogs dips a toe into the water, excoriating the "dude-bro" mentality inherent in Trump's acolytes while simultaneously condemning his, and America's, actions. Hangover director Todd Phillips' desperation to follow in fellow comedic director Adam McKay's footsteps clings to this film like Jonah Hill's flopsweat as he liberally borrows from every Wall Street movie, from The Big Short to Boiler Room. Aided by two of Hollywood's most divisive actors with regards to disingenousness,

Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: She'd Have Killed Bill in the First Movie

Meiko Kaji and her incredible cheekbones star in four Japanese women's prison movies with varying levels of insanity.
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Despite all the blood, boobs, torture, cruelty, crazy lighting schemes, and wild camera angles, the most indelible image in these four women's prison movies is Meiko Kaji's face. In particular, her big-eyed, vengeful glare. Her hair is jet black, and in some memorable shots her pale, beautiful face is the only thing lit in frame. In an almost silent role as Nami Matsushima (a.k.a Scorpion), her large, staring eyes and why she's glaring so intently frame the central theme of the movies: the victimization of women by men, and by extension, themselves. Of course, to deliver this theme, these movies

Twilight Time Presents: Breaking the Rules of a Lovelorn, War-torn World

From bitter one-armed, one-legged, one-eyed veteran vigilantes in Santa Barbara to faithful female Jewish writers smuggling money into Nazi Germany, this lot of features proves all is indeed fair in love and war.
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In a previously penned piece, I published my admiration of Michael Winner's Chato's Land (1972), which saw a recent Blu-ray debut via Twilight Time. It was just one of six titles from the label released in April of 2016, along with five more motion pictures, each sporting their own similar feelings towards not only love and war, but the rules we break in order to win one or the other. In Chato's Land ‒ an allegory to the Vietnam War ‒ Charles Bronson's halfbreed huntsman only takes to killing once his adversaries take their little cat and mouse game off

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made Review: An Incredibly Involving Documentary

A wonderful and inspiring look at fandom, friendship, and childhood dreams come true, no matter what the cost.
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The power of film has its perks: you're able to collect anything and everything about film, you find and make friends with people who feel the same way about film as you do, and you become apart of a very special community that is passionate about this ongoing medium. Fandom can take a whole new life of its own, whether you're a trekkie, star wars fan, or comic book lover. If you're Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, you go even further and you make a shot-by-shot remake of an all-time classic film, Steven Spielberg's 1981 masterpiece, Raiders of

The Immortal Story Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Marvel of Deep Emotion and Haunting Spareness

A minimalist, but soulful depiction of lost souls in the 19th century.
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We all knew that Orson Welles was mad, but we also knew that he had the ability to make cinematic works of art that transcend any genre. After his legendary 1941 masterpiece, Citizen Kane, he felt that he could do anything, but after he changed film history with Kane, he started to feel the slump of Hollywood. This is definitely no apparent more than when he made 1948's flop, The Lady from Shanghai, that kind of signaled the beginning of the end of his gifts as director/writer/actor extraordinaire. However, he made a comeback, a sort-of experimental one, as he started

After the Fox Blu-ray Review: An Unremarkable Collaboration

Vittorio De Sica, Neil Simon and Peter Sellers are a comedy dream team, right?
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So, you’ve got one of the greatest Italian film directors of all time in Vittorio De Sica, one of the most beloved of all American playwrights in Neil Simon, and one of the chief members of the British comedy pantheon in Peter Sellers. This collaboration must be a surefire classic, or at the very least, a notable misstep among three sterling careers. Except, it’s not. About the only thing remarkable about 1966’s After the Fox is how unremarkable the film is, despite the array of talent on hand. Did I mention it features a (maddening) theme song by Burt Bacharach

Crimes of Passion Blu-ray Review: Kathleen Turner Gets Kinky

Not enough crime, too little passion, far too much Anthony Perkins with a giant vibrator.
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Crimes of Passion is a psychosexual drama from Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States). It works best when you think of it as a moral satire but mostly it's just a hot (but not that kind of hot) mess. Kathleen Turner’s performance would be considered brave if it were not so over the top that it veers into the ridiculous. She plays Joanna Crane, a respected fashion designer who lives a double life as prostitute China Blue, who fulfills various men’s kinkiest desires. John Laughlin plays Bobby Grady, an investigator stuck in a sexless marriage, who is asked to spy on

Florence Foster Jenkins Movie Review: Glittering British Banality

One woman's mediocre rise to fame looks good, if nothing else.
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Best known to 30-somethings as the director of High Fidelity (or for one of my favorite crime dramas, The Grifters), Stephen Frears' output over the last ten years has clung fast to the tea and crumpet set. Between the Academy Award-winning The Queen and the Academy Award-nominee Philomena, you can see Frears hopes third time's a charm with Florence Foster Jenkins. The presence of Meryl Streep alone could make this a walk to the Oscars, but Frears suffers from diminishing returns in this take on the braveries of mediocrity reminiscent of this year's Eddie the Eagle. Florence Foster Jenkins (Streep)

Suicide Squad Movie Review: I Didn't Care for It

Will Smith being fatherly is always kind of hot, so that gave me a few moments of happiness.
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Even though the critics said it was a horrible movie, I took my favorite tween to see Suicide Squad this past Friday. I convinced my friend to come along by promising him the fabulous burgers across the street afterwards. So I’ve seen it. I’ve made my own decisions. I have opinions about the movie and I feel that I really need to share them with both of you who read this. I should point out that part of my enjoyment of any movie is the giant vat of popcorn we generally plow through. Although this particular theater had the "butter

'Neath the Arizona Skies Blu-ray Review: A Satisfying, Inconsequential Western

John Wayne takes on bad guys. What more do you need?
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Offering little in the way of complexity when it comes to story or characterization, 'Neath the Arizona Skies stars John Wayne taking on bad guys, and if that's enough to be entertaining, this is a movie for you. Oil is found on Indian land and members of the Osage, Seminole, Iowa, Cheyenne, Siouz, Pawnee, and Kiowa tribes are entitled to payment, which I have a sneaking suspicion was not fair-market value. Chris Murrell (John Wayne) is guardian to Nina (Shirley Jane Rickert), a young biracial girl whose Indian mother is dead. She is entitled to $50,000 if Chris can find

Suicide Squad Movie Review: DC Commits Suicide With Latest Blunder

DC's latest superhero film is heavy on action, woefully undercooked everywhere else
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After the massive blunder called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad was primed to represent the funky cool cousin who sets the reset button on the grimdark world DC set up for itself. Unfortunately, what audiences ended up with was the equivalent of the cool cousin O.D.ing on shrooms who tries to hide it by acting like their older relative. And by that I mean Suicide Squad is the same drab, lifeless, convoluted continuation of what we saw in BvS (and, based on the recent Hollywood Reporter article detailing production troubles and an alternate studio cut explains the

Gun the Man Down (1956) Blu-ray Review: Fleeting Oater Fodder, But Still Fun

Producer John Wayne gives newbies James Arness, Angie Dickinson, and Andrew V. McLaglen a chance to strut their stuff.
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When it comes to following in the footsteps of a larger-than-life actor, it can be pretty darn hard to get a foothold ‒ especially when the actor is none other than John Wayne. But when someone like John Wayne has already taken a liking to you, well then you're a shoe-in for sure. A year after Wayne had recommended his equally gargantuan western counterpart to star in a new television series entitled Gunsmoke, James Arness apparently found himself at that awkward "You owe me one, pilgrim!" moment when The Duke's production company needed a star for their forthcoming theatrical cowboy

The Invitation (2016) Movie Review: Paranoia, Isolation, and a Good Wine Party

Karyn Kusama's creepy little thriller finds it scares in strained manners and social tension rather than loud noises.
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Writing about a movie like The Invitation is a delicate business, because much of its effectiveness depends on the surprise twists in the narrative. Even mentioning that there are surprise twists in effect telegraphs what they can be. From any story premise, there are only so many possibilities that can happen. In a story about a man who thinks people are out to get him, he either needs to be vindicated, or shown definitively to be paranoid. A middle road essentially means there's no story. It's a testament to the craftsmanship that went into The Invitation that, even though the

The Twilight Time Roundup for July

Twilight Time delivers another solid spate of titles in July
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A trio of amazing Twilight Time releases arrive, worthy of your hard-earned money. Romeo is Bleeding(1993) When they say "love is blind," I doubt it extends to the utter blindness exhibited by small-time crooked cop Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) in Peter Medak's 1993 neo-noir. The story of a cop's attempt to kill a vicious Russian assassin, Mona Demarkov, (played by a scantily clad Lena Olin) has an ironic sensibility to it in today's day and age. Upon first glance Olin's sexually aggressive assassin isn't the best depiction of femininity, especially when coupled with the camera's need to showcase her backside,

The Rolling Stones: Totally Stripped Review: Totally Enjoyable

Live from 1995, it's the Rolling Stones.
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During 1994/1995, the Rolling Stones (Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood) toured the world behind Voodoo Lounge, which not only found them playing stadiums, but also three small European venues: The Paradiso in Amsterdam in May 1995, and L’Olympia in Paris and Brixton Academy in London in July 1995. Performances from those intimate concerts along with acoustic studio sessions recorded in Tokyo and Lisbon resulted in Stripped, a different type of live album from the band. Twenty-one years later, Totally Stripped revisits Stripped in updated and expanded versions. The CD delivers 14 tracks, with only one performance,

The Boss (Unrated) Blu-ray Review: Filled with Brilliant, Comedic Performances

While the unrated version had some extra scenes and funny moments, the theatrical version is tighter.
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Michelle Darnell (Melissa McCarthy) is an orphan, rejected by numerous families, who bucks the ideals of traditional family in order to become the celebrity tycoon of her own financial life-coaching empire. After she tells her former-lover-turned-arch-enemy Renault (Peter Dinklage) about her recent insider trading deal, he turns her into the FCC causing Darnell's assets to be frozen, her properties seized, and a prison sentence. After Darnell is released, she ends up on the doorstep of her former assistant Claire (Kristen Bell), who lives in a small apartment with her young daughter Rachel (Ella Anderson). While Claire is in a hurry

Crimes of Passion Blu-ray Review: The Double Life of a Working Girl

Ken Russell's controversial sexual thriller gets a new life in this Arrow re-release.
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The name Ken Russell usually doesn't get mentioned along the ranks of other stylized filmmakers like Kubrick, Cronenberg, Anderson, and Lynch, yet his somewhat trippy-looking films have been an influence for many fellow film buffs so that when you watch one of his movies you start to think you've seen the shots used before but don't remember where. The prolific director has made such films as The Who's Tommy (musical), Altered States (sci-fi/horror), and The Music Lovers (comedy/drama). His 1984 feature Crimes of Passion can fit into many subgenres. It's an erotic drama, a tense psycho sexual thriller, and also

Indian Point Movie Review: Never Goes Nuclear

A lack of punch smothers a truly terrifying premise.
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No matter the environmental documentary, from global warming to fast food production, most emphasize the negativity that arises from complacency and how it is up to humanity to get off the couch and change things. Ivy Meerpool's Indian Point espouses similar messages regarding nuclear power, but it too often keeps cutting off the ever sprouting tentacles of the octopus found in discussions of nuclear power. In the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster Americans have become increasingly concerned about their own nuclear power stability, with many plants located near major metropolitan areas. One such plant is Indian

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

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

Lights Out Movie Review: You Can Keep the Lights On

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

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

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

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