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Shazam! (2019) Blu-ray Review: DC Makes a Marvelous Movie

Currently my favorite of the DCEU, it is an absolute treat and a refreshing take on the genre.
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Although it's the seventh movie in Warner Brothers' DC Extended Universe series, David F. Sandberg's Shazam! comes across like it is from a parallel universe. Amidst the origin story of a hero whose name is never decided upon, this lighthearted coming-of-age comedy is a lot different in terms of tone and production design than its grim predecessors. Shazam! opens in 1974 when a young boy named Thad is tested by Shazam (Djimon Hounsou), the last member of the Council of Wizards, who is seeking a champion to inherit his magic and take over his role. The champion must be pure

The Old Man and the Sea (1990) DVD Review: Anthony Quinn Gives an Excellent Performance

Translating the 127-page novel into a film turns out to be a tough proposition, no matter who helms it.
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Anthony Quinn gives a riveting performance as the elderly fisherman Santiago, who has gone 84 days without catching a fish, in this 1990 made-for-TV movie based on Ernest Hemingway’s novel. Once a great fisherman, Santiago is now reduced to struggling and worrying about losing his skills and his luck. Manolin (Alexis Cruz), his young, self-appointed apprentice, visits him at night to give him pep talks and help him prepare for the next day’s fishing expedition. They talk about how Santiago’s favorite baseball team, the Yankees, is playing, to break the monotony of their daily routine. Translating the 127-page novel into

High Life (2019) Blu-ray Review: Out of This World

Claire Denis's newest film is an absorbing, incredible sci-fi feature.
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If 2001: A Space Odyssey had more of a horror aspect and were to get slapped with an R rating, it might look something like Claire Denis’s High Life, one of the most puzzling and intriguing films to be released in 2019. From the opening shot, the viewer is left astonished by Yorick Le Saux’s beautiful cinematography. A shot of nature in an intergalactic atmosphere has never looked so stunning, and Le Saux doesn’t let up once the story focuses on the people within the ship in which the film takes place. It’s a beautiful and terrifying exploration of how

Pretenders: With Friends Blu-ray Review: A Hits-Heavy, Star-Studded Concert

It is highly recommend for fans of the band and also makes a great introduction for those new to them.
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Decades Rock Live! was a VH1 Classic television series that gathered bands and guests to play a concert at Trump Taj Mahal’s in Atlantic City. Pretenders with Friends is an episode taken from that series recorded on August 11, 2006, and thankfully, the folks at Cleopatra Records and Rock Fuel Media have released the performance on a three-disc set (Blu-ray, DVD, CD). The 16-song set runs about 65 minutes. Led by Chrissie Hynde, the Pretenders at this time were original drummer Martin Chambers, guitarist Adam Seymour, and bassist Nick Wilkinson. They deliver a set mainly comprised of their greatest hits

Resurrecting the Champ Blu-ray Review: The Story of the Fight Many of Us Face for Acceptance

I jumped at the chance to get the Blu-ray and so should you.
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I love those evenings when you come home late, plop down in front of the TV, start clicking around, and stumble upon a movie you’ve never heard of. Sometimes, you find hidden treasure. Sometimes, you find immediate explanation as to the anonymity of the film. On one night, I not only found gold, but gold which led me down a path of irony. Unfolding on my screen this night is the story of Erik Kernan Jr. (Josh Hartnett), a struggling Denver sports reporter living in the shadow of his deceased legendary sports broadcasting father. While striving to forge a career,

Earthquake (1974) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

The crew members creating the special effects are the real stars who make the movie worth viewing.
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Producer/director Mark Robson's Earthquake was a star-studded disaster movie that the '70s was known for. Unfortunately, the famous folks go to waste because the screenplay by George Fox and Mario Puzo is a bit of a disaster too. The crew members creating the special effects are the real stars who make the movie worth viewing. One morning, a minor 3.1 earthquake hits Los Angeles. City workers investigate if any damage has been done to the Hollywood reservoir dam, leading to a man drowning at the bottom of an elevator shaft. A graduate assistant interning at the California Seismological Institute has

Midsommar Movie Review: A Luminous Hellscape

Beautifully nightmarish and insidious with a tremendous Florence Pugh performance.
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When Ari Aster made his feature film debut with Hereditary, it was a demented portrait of grief and anxiety covered in near darkness. His follow-up film, Midsommar, is an equally demented demonstration of mental illness that is drenched in sunlight instead of darkness. As a result of its sunny disposition, it ends up being more unsettling than Hereditary and is proof that Aster is a potential horror master. The film’s opening sequence is one of the few points where our main characters are in the shadows. Dani (Florence Pugh), the main protagonist, is having a meltdown over her bipolar sister

The Illusionist (2006) Blu-ray Review: Full of Tricks and Treats

Neil Burger's 2006 film gets a new Blu-ray release that, unfortunately, lacks any new features.
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There was a time in which both Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Neil Burger’s The Illusionist played at the theater at which I worked. They were only released within a month of each other, but, as I recall, Nolan’s film seemed to have attracted more of a crowd based on cast and the fact that he made Batman great again. Burger’s film started off small and then slowly found its audience based more on word of mouth than pre-release buzz. And while both are centered on magicians, they are both very different in terms of plot and direction. They both

Matinee (1993) Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Joe Dante's Love Letter to B-movies

Dante's Matinee is a sweet tribute to the monster movies of his youth and the men behind them.
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Matinee opens with Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman), a William Castle-type producer in a trailer for Mant, a movie about a man and an ant “exposed to radiation simultaneously” as the title suggests. It's an outstanding homage to films/trailers of the time. Set in 1962, Woolsey and actress/girlfriend Ruth (Cathy Moriarty) come to Key West, Florida to screen Mant, which is augmented for audiences through Atomovision and Rumblerama, his technical creation that maximize the screening for audiences. Two protesters (Dick Miller and John Sayles) make it known they aren't happy with the movie being shown. Gene (Simon Fenton) and his younger

Spider-Man: Far From Home Movie Review: Living in a Post-Endgame World

Our friendly neighborhood webslinger goes international in this slick, smart sequel.
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Serving as an epilogue to Avengers: Endgame, and also the final installment of Marvel’s Phase Three set of feature films, Spider-Man: Far From Home is successful in both wrapping things up and setting forth a new direction for the young Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Far From Home is nowhere near the dark territory of Endgame. It takes a lighter, more fun approach, but also deals with some deep, thematic elements impressively well. Thanos is gone, and “The Blip,” as Far From Home calls it, has been reversed. Those who vanished five years ago have returned the same they were then,

Dances with Wolves Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: An Enjoyable, Albeit Unsurprising, Western

Fans and Oscar completists can now add the version of Dances with Wolves that won Best Picture to their library thanks to Shout Factory.
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Thanks to Shout Factory, the theatrical cut of Dances with Wolves finally made its debut on Blu-ray as part of a three-disc Steelbook Collector’s Edition that also offered previosuly available Extended Cut and extras. Winner of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Kevin Costner, the film is a three-hour Western epic that tells the story of John Dunbar (Costner), a Union soldier in the Civil War who forsakes the life he knows and becomes an honorary member of the Sioux tribe. Based on the novel by James Blake, who won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, Dances

Yesterday (2019) Movie Review: Oh-Blah-Di, Oh-Blah-Da

A movie in which the Beatles never existed should be much more interesting than what we’re given.
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Danny Boyle’s Yesterday imagines a world in which all the people, living all around the world, had never heard of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. That is, all except for struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), as he wakes up from a coma one day to find out songs such as “Hey Jude,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” and others were never conceived. At this point, you would expect Rod Serling to pop around the corner and tell the audience that Jack has been transported into The Twilight Zone. Now that might have made Yesterday

Gone To Earth / The Wild Heart Blu-ray Review: One Story Cut Twice

Powell and Pressburger's melodrama is beautiful to look at but a bit old-fashioned to watch.
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Throughout the 1940s, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger made a series of films that are considered some of the greatest British movies of all time. Their films, full of lush photography that blended realism and expressionistic fantasy, stood out in a country that tended to make socially conscious, terribly realistic, kitchen-sink dramas, or dry, literate, and cynical comedies. Films like A Canterbury Tale, Black Narcissus, and The Red Shoes were like fairy tales seeped in British history and their very singular culture. But by 1950, their favor amongst critics and audiences was waning. Their type of movie was going out

Universal Horror Collection, Vol. 1 Blu-ray Review: Bela Lugosi Versus Boris Karloff

A nice collection of four films starring the Universal Horror icons.
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The year 1931 saw the release of both Dracula and Frankenstein. Both became absolute classics of the horror genre, cornerstones for the long-lasting Universal Monsters series, and made their stars, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, into cultural icons. If you’ve seen Tim Burton’s film Ed Wood, then you might be under the impression that the two stars were big rivals and rather hated each other. Certainly, the publicity departments surrounding their films gave off that impression as a means to sell more tickets. But family members of both actors have always stated that the two held no animosity towards one

Swing Time Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Fine Film

A charming film that gets so many things right it's easy to overlook its flaws and just enjoy it.
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Swing Time is the sixth of ten films that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers appeared in together. It has great songs by composer Jerome Kern and lyricist Dorothy Fields, great dance performances by Astaire and Rogers, and a plot that will make you tell others the film has great songs and great dance performances. Swing Time opens with John "Lucky" Garnett (Astaire) about to get married and leave show business for a hometown sweetheart Margaret (Betty Furness), but manager Pop (Victor Moore) and the other fellas in his dance act are against it. They distract Lucky long enough so the

The Chambermaid (2019) Movie Review: A Wonderfully Facile Character Study

Lila Aviles's directorial debut is incredibly thematic without being overtly so.
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On the surface, it doesn’t seem like The Chambermaid is about much. It’s about a maid named Eve (Gabriela Cartol) who works at a high-end hotel and follows her day-to-day routine. In addition, the entire film takes place in the hotel. That being said, it is rather simplistic as it seems to make a statement without explicitly saying anything at all. By presenting Eve’s mundane routine, The Chambermaid appears to say something about class and the nature of working with the public. As Eve is going from room to room on her assigned floor, she’s flustered with the way the

Hedwig and the Angry Inch Criterion Collection Review: Visually Stunning and Aesthetically Engaging

A beautifully curated addition to the Criterion Collection.
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In 2001, writer, director, and star John Cameron-Mitchell and composer and lyricist Stephen Trask took their cutting-edge musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch and adapted it for the big screen. The musical which began its journey in the ballroom of the Jane Hotel in New York is now a part of the Criterion Collection. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the story of Hedwig, who is born Hansel and raised as a boy in Berlin, Germany. After Hansel begins a romantic relationship with American, Sgt. Luther Robinson, Hansel starts to see a way to escape the confines of Eastern Germany.

Double Face Blu-ray Review: Could Have Used a Face Lift

A subdued Klaus Kinski stars in this krimi/giallo mashup that is never thrilling but often quite dull.
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I am officially on the record (more than once as anyone who has actually followed my writing in these pages can tell you) as being an enormous fan of what are sometimes called "boutique Blu-ray labels." Companies like Arrow Video, Severin, and Kino Lorber are putting out really nice sets of odd, obscure, low-budget, and forgotten films. As someone who spent great swaths of his teenaged years staying up all night with USA’s Up All Night, and renting ridiculously bad movies from my local VHS shop, I appreciate that so many of these types of films are getting new lives

BAMcinemaFest 2019: 'De Lo Mio' is a Sincere Directorial Debut

An impressive directorial debut from Diana Peralta done with such profundity.
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There’s always that old saying about home being where the heart is. The family drama De Lo Mio revolves around that traditional motto while offering a storyline about letting go of the past and facing the demons of your past home in order to build a better future. While it may be too short with a runtime of 74 minutes, it still remains effective thanks to its earnest story and exemplary performances. Rita (Sasha Merci) and Carolina (Darlene Demorizi) are two sisters from New York who visit their estranged brother Dante (Hector Anibal) in the Dominican Republic. Dante plans on

Frankenstein Created Woman (Collector's Edition) Blu-ray Review: Hammer Created a Gothic Tale of Revenge

Scream Factory created a Blu-ray for fans to enjoy and study.
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Frankenstein Created Woman is the fourth film in Hammer Films Frankenstein series and has been released on Blu-ray by Scream Factory. Instead of Hammer's version of Bride of Frankenstein, this is a gender reversal of the story, but don't let on to the internet monsters who are overly sensitive to that kind of thing. The film opens as a young boy named Hans sees his father guillotined. Cut to years later, he (Robert Morris) assists Dr. Hertz (Thorley Walters) and together they revive Baron von Frankenstein (Peter Cushing), who had been dead an hour in a deep freeze, leading Frankenstein

Night of the Creeps Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Blood, Guts, and Laughs

This 1980s horror comedy borrows from 1950s sci-fi to create the perfect late night cable movie.
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It is fascinating to me when artists incoporate the culture of their formative years into their current work. Think about how Stephen King often sets his books in the 1950s and early 1960s, the period in which he was growing up. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas transformed their love of the serials from the 1940s into the Indiana Jones franchise. A great many of the things I loved as a kid in the 1980s and ‘90s from The Wonder Years to Stand By Me were made by artists who had a nostalgic love for things in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Mississippi Burning Blu-ray Review: How Can We Sleep When Our State Is Burning

A problematic but powerful look at racism in 1960s America.
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I gotta tell you, dear reader, that I wasn’t real excited sitting down to watch this new Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of Mississippi Burning. I can’t remember the first time I watched it, must have been a few years after it came out in 1988 for I can’t see 12-year-old me being interested in it. Whenever it was, I quite liked it. Enough so that I bought it on VHS sometime in the mid-'90s. But I haven’t watched it in at least a decade and I was afraid it wasn’t going to hold up. I was worried that it would

Under the Silver Lake DVD Review: A Mind-Bending Ode to Hollywood and the Noir Genre

David Robert Mitchell’s latest is kind of a mess, but it’s also kind of fascinating.
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David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake had been pushed back so many times before A24 decided to quietly release it in limited theaters and VOD earlier this year. On one hand, it’s pretty clear why they did it. The film kind of overstays its welcome with a 139-minute runtime, and several shots appear onscreen that make you question the motive for showing something that was not needed. It’s a bit of a self-indulgent tribute to the Hollywood nightlife and to the noir genre under which it’s categorized. But after sitting on it for a few days, there’s something about

The Girl Most Likely To... Blu-ray Review: Very Dark, Very Funny

Stockard Channing is great in her first starring role as an ugly ducking in this dark, funny comedy from Joan Rivers.
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They sure knew how to make TV-movies back in the day. In The Girl Most Likely To… Stockard Channing (Grease, Six Degrees of Separation) appears in her first major role as Miriam Knight, an awkward "ugly duckling" bullied and excluded by her college peers. No matter how many times Miriam has switched schools, she just can't get a date. She is brilliant and funny, but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone who meets her, as they only superficially react to her outward appearance. Despite the constant put-downs, Miriam is ever hopeful of finding her true love. After a wellness

She-Devils on Wheels Blu-ray Review: I Just Don't Get It

She-Devils on Wheels has nothing going for it.
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So, when She-Devils on Wheels came across my desk for a potential review, I will admit that the title had me somewhat intrigued. I had never heard of Herschel Gordon Lewis and was not familiar with his other work, but I enjoy a good B-movie now and then, and the promo material certainly did its job: “Have you ever heard the saying it's a man's world? Well don't dare repeat that to The Man-Eaters, a raucous, rowdy, and randy gang of female bikers who ride their men just as viciously as they do their motorcycles. When they’re not racing each

The Quiet One Movie Review: Explores Ex-Rolling Stone Bill Wyman's Life Through His Media Archives

Wyman's story is told through his extensive archive of film, photos, audio recordings and memorabilia.
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It’s been 26 years since Bill Wyman quit the Rolling Stones for civilian life in 1993, and the documentary The Quiet One fills us in on what Wyman has been doing since then. Wyman kept detailed archives of his time with the band, and the film begins with him sitting at his computer in an archive room filled with audio, film and other memorabilia. Director Oliver Murray takes a linear approach to Wyman’s life story with the archive as the crux, and doesn’t dig too deeply into any whys or what ifs of Wyman’s life. Original footage and photos from

Yakuza Law Blu-ray Review: Gory Fun Yakuza Anthology

Three fun but gory short stories of the Yakuza taking the law into their own hands, filled with bloody torture.
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Yakuza Law is not even in the top-five craziest movies made by Teruo Ishii, and in it, a man rips out his own eyeball and throws it as his former boss, a thief is tortured by being dragged on the road by a helicopter, and a Yakuza is punished by his friends for stealing is tied to a tree, urinated on, and practically eaten alive by mosquitos. These are just a small sampling of the various horrible goings on in this anthology of short Yakuza stories, each about how the crime syndicates employ their own seedy form of justice. Teruo

Men in Black: International Movie Review: A Neuralyzing Experience

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. That is all.
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To quote Emma Thompson’s character, Men in Black: International feels like a case of deja vu dismissed just as quickly. It features the traditional premise of suited agents in shades taking down evil extraterrestrials. However, it still acts as a neuralyzer because it’s sadly quite forgetful. It should provide the same entertainment value as the other Men in Black films but doesn’t have the same spark and not necessarily because of the absence of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, this sequel/spinoff focuses on Molly (Tessa Thompson), a woman whose parents whose memories were erased with a neuralyzer by

Us Blu-ray Review: A Stunning Second Effort by Jordan Peele

The writer/director crafts a horrifying portrait of humanity forced to look at itself, definite flaws and all.
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When comedy icon and new horror master Jordan Peele made his 2017 smash, Get Out, he created a new type of horror, a horror that reflects the social bleakness of the world we live in today, especially in terms of racism. With his fantastically scary 2019 follow-up, Us, he goes even deeper and darker to depict how we have totally lost our identities to excess and privilege. In this case, he gives us a glimpse of something far more sinister and personal underneath the false comfort we have subjected to. The film starts in 1986, where young Adelaide 'Addy' Thomas

Road to Utopia (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Striking Comedy Gold

Though the film plays with the story formula of the previous installments, this one works well because they stuck with what worked before.
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Kino Lorber Studio Classics has added to their roster Special Edition Blu-ray releases of the first four Road pictures starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour, making the first six of the seven movies now available from them. Road to Utopia (1945) is the fourth in the series. After releasing the first three films over three years, the franchise took a three-year break before audiences saw the return of the lead-acting trio. Hal Walker moved into the director's chair having previously been an assistant director on Zanzibar and Morocco. New to the creative team are screenwriters Melvin Frank and

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