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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night Movie Review: Vampires of Iran

Evocative and intriguing, and worth checking out.
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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night billed itself as the “first Iranian vampire Western.” It oversells itself as a Western, and, frankly, as Iranian. While the movie’s setting is, indeed, in Iran, and the film is in Persian, the film was shot in Southern California, made by the descendants of native Iranians. While this doesn’t have anything to do with the final quality of the film, it does puncture the mystique surrounding the film. However, if you set that aside, you can ask yourself other questions about A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. Questions such as, “Did we

Mad Max: Fury Road Movie Review: Everyone Who Enters Will Lose

The Max we have come to know and love is nowhere to be found.
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In this latest incarnation of Mad Max, director and co-writer (along with Brendan McCarthy and Nick Lathouris) George Miller manages to take all the elements that made the first three films starring Mel Gibson as Max successful, and completely ignore them. This is unacceptable and someone needs to let George know. Dear George, We were certainly happy to hear that you were bringing back Max. We love him. We love how smart and resourceful he is. We appreciate his humor and humanity. We enjoy rooting for him. So you can imagine how disappointed we were to take a trip down

Society (1989) Blu-ray Review: Nice Buildup to the Impressively Grotesque

Smart and slightly cheesy, but you cannot unsee that finale.
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Having never seen it, I read the synopsis for 1989's Society and thought, "Yeah, that could be interesting." Then I saw the trailer and started to second guess it. Fortunately, the combination of '80s cheese, atmospheric tension, and a completely insane third act delivered on the promise of the premise. See, Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has never quite felt at home with his family or their social circle. He gets weird vibes from his sister Jenny (Patrice Jennings), conformist advice from his psychiatrist, and is always treated as lacking something by his parents. He sometimes catches glimpses of distortions or

Hot Pursuit (2015) Movie Review: In the Race for Worst Film of the Year

It will eventually be on DVD and television, but Hot Pursuit is going to be awful in any format.
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In this 87-minute outing, that seems much longer and ends as if the production company ran out of money, Reese Witherspoon plays the overzealous, by-the-book, underutilized and undersized police officer who is trying to protect the wife (Sofia Vergara) of a drug boss who was set to testify against the cartel until something went wrong, and now the two are on the lamb. With this much talent and your standard Odd Couple premise; this film should have been a Midnight Run in more ways than one. It’s not. The comedic gags are horribly contrived and the performances are one dimensional.

Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: A Forgettable Adventure

Might be best for younger kids who are mainly interested in watching lots of different heroes and villains fighting it out.
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Batman (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) isn’t the only hero in Gotham City. The Flash, Green Arrow, and NIghtwing join forces to back up the Caped Crusader when he finds himself up against the Animilitia, a group of super villains featuring Killer Croc, Cheetah, Man-Bat, and Silverback. But our heroes are up against more than just this group of animal-themed ne’er-do-wells. There’s also a group of mechanical animals, a wolf, a tiger, and a bat that always seem to thwart their efforts to vanquish the criminals. After several run-ins with the Animilitia only to have them escape from their grasp,

One Cut, One Life Movie Review: A Metaphor Only Goes So Far

A documentary that does not leave a lasting legacy for Ed Pincus.
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From an early age most people are taught not to speak ill of the dead, but is it okay to speak ill of the work of the dead? One Cut, One Life is the final collaboration between filmmakers Ed Pincus and Lucia Small before Ed’s death in November 2013. Known for his documentary films Diaries, Black Natchez, and Life and Other Anxieties, he was also the co-author of The Filmmaker’s Handbook which almost every film student I know has read and used in both the classroom and the field. Pincus had left filmmaking behind and taken up wholesale flower farming

The Stranger Collection DVD Review: The Man with No Shame Trilogy

The Warner Archive Collection dusts off a trio of strange spaghetti westerns starring the even stranger Tony Anthony.
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With the exception of those sick individuals who mimic the patterns of serial killers, most copycats can be incredibly amusing. If you've ever walked through a crowded urban marketplace to discover a suspiciously underpriced and slightly odd-looking designer handbag or watch - and you weren't dumb enough to buy whatever it was under the belief it was the real deal - you know what I mean. And how 'bout those epically awful Turkish Star Wars action figures? Or perhaps you recall that one glorious instance in recent history wherein China earnestly attempted to convince Americans of their superior Air Force

Retaliation Blu-ray review: Japanese Gangster Exploitation Mayhem

Another fine Arrow release of a late-'60s era Japanese exploitation picture.
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One of the joys of watching old exploitation movies like Retaliation is that the inexpensive filmmaking meant that a documentary approach had to be used to keep things cheap. Much of the movie is not on standing sets, but in real locations, with very shaky hand-held shots. The action can't be over-choreographed (no time, no money) so the action is stylistically obscured, moving too swiftly and brutally for any of it to be seen clearly. Having things move in and out of frame and be obscured in camera is significantly more arresting, to my mind, than the shaky cam fake-handheld

Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World Movie Review: Engaging, Affecting, Poignant

"He feels at home in places we would flee from and lives his life among the very things we fear."
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The late Hans Rudolf "Ruedi" Giger. Creator of the eponymous alien from Alien. Master of biomechanical macabre artwork. He seemed an odd fellow, and I've been a fan of his work for decades, so when I had a chance to preview the documentary Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World, I jumped at it. What I found within was astounding, inspiring, disturbing, and heartbreaking. The man had a collection of human skulls starting when he was a child. He would tie a string around one and drag it down the street behind him like a toy. Probably not the most typical behavior,

Bad Men of Tombstone DVD Review: The First of the Last of the Badmen

Barry Sullivan and Broderick Crawford team up for a fabulous, forgotten B western of high grade ore.
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Throughout both the cinematic and literary realms of the western, a common thread/title tends to appear: "the Last of the Badmen." In fact, there have been about a half a dozen movies and novels released during the last century or so to have used those very same words as their title, most of which were re-titlings of other projects, given a new name to help sell the goods. Interestingly, the first film to actually be based on a book called Last of the Badmen (as penned by Jay Monaghan) wound up receiving a new title for its theatrical release. And

The D Train Movie Review: Star-Struck Straight Guy Goes Off the Rails

Confusing, cringe-inducing Jack Black comedy offers moments of poignance and insight along with a few laughs.
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As sociologists, psychologists, and watchers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer well know, high school is a time of acute status anxiety. Your clique or cliques (jock, nerd, stoner, music/drama geek, brain, goth, emo, etc.) can almost totally define your standing within an invisible but powerful hierarchy. It can be horrible to be bullied and picked on, but it can be an even worse fate to simply be ignored. There are no flashbacks to high school days in the new Jack Black comedy The D Train, but its plot is powered by an impending 20th reunion, and for some people high

Cake Blu-ray Review: Learning to Live Again

A film about how grief stalls our lives and how we can learn to get unstuck
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Cake is the story of Claire Bennett (Jennifer Aniston), a woman living with chronic pain after a tragic accident. She is in the midst of a divorce from her husband Jason (Chris Messina), addicted to pain pills, and often suicidal. After Nina (Anna Kendrick), a member of her pain support group commits suicide, Claire begins to see her as a drug- and pain-induced hallucination. Although Claire and Nina were not close or involved with one another’s lives, Claire begins to learn what she can about Nina’s life and death. With the help of her housekeeper turned caretaker Silvana (Adriana Barraza),

Tabloid Movie Review: The Legend May Be as Insane as the Truth

Errol Morris looks at obsession, sex, and media in Tabloid.
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Director Errol Morris has interviewed serious subjects like Robert S. MacNamara and delved deep into harsh topics like the justice system and the history of time itself. So it can only look like he's run out of ideas with the frothy, utterly ridiculous documentary, Tabloid. And you'd be wrong in that summation because Tabloid takes a crazy story, told by someone who seems to define the world, and opens it up into an examination of gender, the media culture, and the power of religion. At time's hilarious and ridiculous, Tabloid sounds like a fun documentary, but indicates that we haven't

Rifftrax Live: The Room Review - The Funniest Riff of a Terrible Movie

Rifftrax gets down and dirtier than normal with Tommy Wiseau's magnum opus of ridiculousness.
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Rifftrax Live has always played it safe with their movies. Back in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 days, audiences expected PG movies and broad, pop-culture tinged humor because of the sharp strictures of television censorship. And when Rifftrax went live, their movies were generally limited to PG-13 or unrated films, with the jokes being clean and broad. Their latest Riff is a gamechanger, both in content and humor, and it's something I hope they keep up with because Rifftrack Live's attack of Tommy Wiseau's schlock masterpiece The Room is their wittiest and funniest work to date. A brief synopsis of

Mad Max: Fury Road Movie Review: George Miller Gets it Spectacularly Right

If you loved The Road Warrior, you will love Fury Road.
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When I hear the term “re-boot” it is usually code for “We made it suck.” The second Star Wars trilogy is a good example, as are the J.J. Abrams Star Trek flicks. When it comes to the Mad Max franchise, I was disappointed with Beyond Thunderdome (1985), which came out well before the word "re-boot" had entered the language. While a good trailer can sell any movie at first, word gets out pretty quickly. I was excited to see Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), but my expectations were low. So with these inherent prejudices in mind, it is my delight

Face of Fire (1959) DVD Review: Slow But Poignant Human Horror

Filmmaker Albert Band manages to pave the way for every other sci-fi and horror series ever with one simple drama now available (at last) from the Warner Archive Collection.
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Anyone not familiar with the family name of Band within the halls of the B movie archives probably shouldn't be perusing such a vault in the first place. For today's trash lovers, the formidable Band forename is Charles. If you still don't make the connection, Charles Band is a feller who not became a major player back in the early days of home video sleaze (see: Wizard Video), but who has been cranking out one cheap 'n' cheesy exploitation movie after another in recent years. But long ago, when Charles was but a wee lad, his filmmaker father Albert was

Journey to the Center of the Earth / First Men in the Moon Blu-ray Reviews: In & Out

Twilight Time explores the various space in-between the minds of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.
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Previously at Cinema Sentries, I had touched upon the subject of people bad trips, courtesy of two recent Blu-ray releases from Twilight Time, Roger Donaldson's The Bounty (1984) and Oliver Stone's U Turn (1997). Here, I am continuing that thread, albeit with two adventures of a much more pleasant nature. Like my earlier article, wherein one film was set at sea and the other on land, this cinematic coupling presents viewers with a contrast: that of the exploration of inner-space and the conquest of outer space. Additionally, this pairing of moving pictures presents a similarly dissimilar echoing of science fiction

Day of Anger Blu-ray Review: The Rules of the Game

Fans of spaghetti westerns and Lee Van Cleef shouldn't experience any anger if they add this to their collection.
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Day of Anger on Blu-ray includes the Italian and English dubs of the original I giorni dell'ira and the shorter, international version titled Day of Anger, also known as Gunlaw in the UK. It's a gritty spaghetti western starring Lee Van Cleef as Frank Talby, a tough gunslinger who is both a hero and a villian in this story. Set in Clifton, AZ, where Butch Cassidy was killed by Dan Parker on 7/12/82, a young man named Scott (Giuliano Gemma) is looked down upon and ridiculed by many of the town elders because he's the bastard son of a whore,

Always Woodstock DVD Review: Predictability, Love, and Music

Girl leaves soulless music industry job to rediscover her sonic mojo in the legendary town of Woodstock. Bet you can’t guess what happens next.
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If you’ve seen last year’s Song One or Begin Again, then you’re well acquainted with the notion that sometimes music can flourish from fateful moments—death, job loss, a breakup—sometimes a couple of those on one truly crummy day. If you’re keen on that tried-and-true recipe, go ahead and give Always Woodstock a whirl, but just don’t expect a change of consciousness when fate and music intersect. Although Rita Merson’s debut feature has its endearing moments, thanks to likeable actress Allison Miller (Terra Nova, Selfie), it struggles to find its groove, keep the time, and make any sort of real impact.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Movie Review: Plenty of Bang for Your Buck, but Too Much Bunk

Joss Whedon simply tries to give us too much and ends up getting in the Avengers way.
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As the 2015 summer movie season kicks off, there are indications that some films will drift off into obscurity immediately following their opening weekend with nothing more than a whimper (Pixels). Luckily, Avengers: Age of Ultron starts things off with not just one bang, but hundreds of them. Age of Ultron opens with us finding our heroes already in a battle as they search for Loki's staff, which has somehow fallen into the hands of HYDRA. The staff is retrieved, but then Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unwittingly releases an evil computer program (Ultron) set on destroying the Avengers. The

Avengers: Age of Ultron: Marvel Rests on Their Laurels with Lumbering Popcorn Film

The bloated runtime leaves little time for characterization, but a whole lot of time for things to go BOOM!
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If you've been one of the Marvel true believers for years then they've never made a bad movie. And, for the most part, I'd agree. There's just as many mediocre Marvel films out there as genuinely great ones, but Avengers: Age of Ultron stings the most because of how much it rests on what works and the fact that they're Marvel. It almost seems that that sentiment is acknowledged in director Joss Whedon's sequel, when a villainous henchman says nothing can defeat the Avengers because "They're the Avengers," and too often that adage is utilized to keep the plot rolling

Screaming Eagles (1956) DVD Review: The Allied Artists Invasion of Normandy

The Warner Archive Collection preserves a seldom seen (but highly enjoyable) WWII quickie ripe with B movie and TV veterans.
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With every war that breaks out on Earth, whether it be global or regional, a high amount of controversy emerges with it. While today's highly cynical civilization usually prefers to silently and passive-aggressively protest about deadly conflict online via shared Facebook memes, the generations of the past - being far less bitter and much more patriotic about their country - simply found the current war they were involved in to be too sacred to talk about. Thus, during the decade that brought us the Korean War, filmmakers in Hollywood were cranking out a whole heck of a lot of World

The Friends of Eddie Coyle Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Crime, Lowkey, and Unsentimental

Peter Yates' 1973 Crime Drama explores how important, and how expendable, "Friends" can be in Boston's working-class criminal underground.
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Released about a year after Coppola's crime epic, The Godfather, The Friends of Eddie Coyle was seen by some critics as a kind of anti-Godfather when it was released. Both films are about the criminal world and how it suffuses the lives of those in it, but while The Godfather had a sepia-toned romanticism, Peter Yates' film, an adaptation of a George V. Higgins novel, has no room for sentimentality, or glamor. There's not much in the way of violence in the movie, either. It's a crime story, and it's about criminals, and while there's bank robberies, home invasions, gun

Our Mother's House DVD Review: The Illegitimate Dawn of an Unofficial New Wave

Seven kids raised on religion, a dead mother, and a deadbeat dad. You do the math.
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Though it has never been "officially" classified in the annals of genre-specific filmdom, British cinema inducted a New Wave of horror that shyly boomed in the '70s. It was then that filmmakers such as Pete Walker and Norman J. Warren began to ditch the older, romantic, gothic offerings from the former empire's glory days of what many would gently describe as "terror films" in lieu of a much more sinister menace: man. Michael Armstrong's joint-continental horror classic Mark of the Devil is often cited as being one of the first features in this unofficial New Wave to emphasise man's inhumanity

Ghost Story: Turn of the Screw DVD Review: Should Have Turned It Off

A completely forgettable adaptation of a novel I'll never read.
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I don’t believe I have ever read a single word written by Henry James. I have a BA in English so presumably have read something, but if that is true, it made absolutely no impression on me. Sadly, this adaptation of James’ story The Turn of the Screw is likely to reach the same fate. It is utterly unremarkable in every way. It stars Michelle Dickery and Dan Stevens and came out about a year before both became huge stars in Downton Abbey. Retroactively, the film suffers from their stardom because I expect so much more from both of them.

The Bounty (1984) / U Turn (1997) Blu-ray Reviews: Twilight Time Goes South

The two best bad trips you can possibly book this season.
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Everyone has that proverbial journey in their lifetime that can only later be described as a bad trip. My second and final visit to the allegedly magical theme park of Disneyland - committed when I was but a mere '90s adolescent, and probably against my will - resulted in a four-hour search for a corndog across the vast, bastard-riddled arena for people who probably should have been sterilized at birth, along with their spoiled rotten offspring. And you might think that a corndog would be an easily obtainable article of "confectionery with added meat of dubious origin" at a place

Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Dirty Weekend: What Happens in Albuquerque Stays in Albuquerque

Matthew Broderick timidly takes a walk on the wild side in Neil LaBute's funny but ultimately flaccid satirical fable.
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Since his 1997 filmmaking debut with In the Company of Men, the rap on writer/director Neil LaBute is that he’s misogynistic - or to be less judgmental, that he’s rather too comfortable portraying misogyny and other forms of “bad” behavior in his various films and plays. These have come to include the frequently nasty but often compelling Your Friends & Neighbors, Nurse Betty, The Shape of Things, the remake of The Wicker Man, and most recently Dirty Weekend, which LaBute both wrote and directed. Certainly LaBute’s view of human nature is far from rosy, but judging by Dirty Weekend I’d

All at Sea [aka Barnacle Bill] DVD Review: Alec Guinness in Full (Multiple) Form

The Warner Archive Collection brings us the last genuine Ealing Comedy, which also features a young (and already bald) Donald Pleasance.
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Television shows notwithstanding, the bulk of British filmmaking - that is to say, actual feature length films made especially for the cinema - have been unfairly lumped into two categories by American audiences: long, drawn-out, boring dramas, and comedies that only made viewers long for a Benny Hill rerun. And the bulk of the unfairness lies within the world of British comedy, as most of us have only ever been subjected to latter-day Carry On entries and, well, Benny Hill reruns. In fact, there have been many excellent British comedies manufactured since World War II that, thankfully, didn't feature Rowan

One Foot in Heaven DVD Review: Ass-Kickers, Shit-Kickers, and Methodists

Fredric March stars as Minister William Spence in this forgotten (but enjoyable) biopic.
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Sometimes, the whole "forgive and forget" thing just doesn't cut it. One of the more novel aspects of the seven-kajillion European westerns made during the '60s and '70s involved men of the cloth - those who had devoted their lives to preaching the word of God - flat out seeking revenge vengeance after having been wronged by their fellow man. It's plausible - even possible - given the right set of circumstances. Likewise, in the classic 1974 Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles - the film that admirably spoofed the classic style of western film that would eventually (unknowingly) give birth

Tribeca Film Festival 2015: Grandma: Lily Tomlin's Tour de Force

Tomlin inhabits a tailor-made role in this funny, touching gem; strong cast saves the film from sentimentality and plot's too-convenient construction.
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It’s easy to forget just how great a film actress/screen presence Lily Tomlin can be. In part, she’s a victim of her own versatility and staying power as a multi-platform performer. She’s been making us both laugh and think on TV, stage and screen since the 1960s; she first impinged on my baby boomer consciousness on Laugh-In, iconic as Ernestine the telephone operator and six-year-old Edith Ann, blowing raspberries at the audience from her oversize rocking chair. She’s in almost every frame of Paul Weitz’s film Grandma in the tailor-made role of Elle, a minor poet still mourning the loss

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