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Night School (1981) Blu-ray Review: Maybe Some of It Will Rub Off on You

The Warner Archive Collection cordially invites you to attend the premiere of Rachel Ward's slasher movie debut in High-Definition.
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One of several kajillion slasher movies manufactured in the early '80s alone, the American-made Night School sports an oddly Canadian aura about it throughout ‒ from the British director (Ken Hughes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Internecine Project) and starlet Rachel Ward (in her film debut) to the vaguely familiar, mostly nocturnal urban New England location photography by Scanners cinematographer Mark Irwin, right down to the finale which honors the horror sub-genre's giallo roots. When viewed in this erroneous light, Night School feels like some sort of underrated cult classic. Amusing enough, however, if you stare directly into the big

TCM and Fathom Events Present Vertigo

Don't miss your chance to see this Alfred Hitchcock classic on the big screen.
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I started collecting movies sometime in college. Initially, I swore to only purchase really interesting movies - stone-cold classics and interesting arthouse films - but soon enough I was buying all sorts of horrible things if they were cheap enough (somewhere I still have a copy of To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, bought unseen from the used Blockbuster bin for less money than it would have cost to rent it). Whenever I had some extra money, I’d head to the mall to browse the aisles at the Suncoast Motion Picture Company. On one of those visits, I came across

Walking Out Blu-ray Review: A Father-Son Hunting Trip That Fails to Deliver in Many Ways

While the film had a lot of potential in being a survival film with a heartfelt story, it failed to capture the elements I was looking for.
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David (Josh Wiggins) is a child of divorce. He lives with his mother in a big city in Texas while his father, Cal (Matt Bomer), lives out in a remote area of Montana. The father and son have had a difficult time connecting over the years, and when 14-year-old David comes for a visit, their relationship is still as strained and awkward as it has always been. But Cal looks to change this by getting his son away from the technological entrapments of his phone and taking him deep into the wilderness to hunt for moose. Hunting was something that

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno Blu-ray Review: Lost Masterpiece or Dodged Bullet?

Documentary details Clouzot's experimental Inferno, using recently discovered footage from the failed production, to mixed results.
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There's a little cottage industry of documentaries about movies that didn't get made. Every few years one of them pops up - Lost in La Mancha about Terry Gilliam's early, disastrous attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote or Jodorowsky's Dune. Implicit in the premise is that the world of cinema is missing out on a masterpiece - that a world of perhaps game-changing potential is lost to us because of some unfortunate timing, a couple of bad days on a set, or a miscalculation that metastasizes into a disaster. Honestly, whenever I see or read these stories,

Justice League Blu-ray Review: The DC Cinematic Universe Is Heading in the Right Direction

Will leave fans looking forward to the next film in the DC franchise.
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It’s been some time since the last film Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice where the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) gave his life fighting Doomsday. The loss of the world’s most powerful superhero affected the entire planet, leaving most without hope. Even Batman (Ben Affleck) feels the loss as he takes responsibility for the death of Superman. But there isn’t time for everyone to grieve. The Dark Knight is still patrolling the streets and has stumbled upon a new threat. Some strange insect-like creatures have been appearing around the world attracted by the scent of fear. After defeating one,

Tomb Raider Movie Review: Dead on Arrival

There's a tomb and some raiding, but weak direction and scripting doom this one to an early grave.
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Alicia Vikander is an inspired choice to play legendary adventurer Lara Croft. She’s a close physical match to the current youthful videogame incarnation of the character, especially after getting in peak shape for the role. She brings Oscar-winning acting chops to the role, ensuring that the character carries dramatic weight. Her attempt at an English accent is mostly laughable, alternating between posh, street, and outright American, but it’s forgivable and almost endearing. Unfortunately, the film’s inspiration begins and ends with the casting of Vikander. Unlike the prior two movies starring fellow Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie as an already formidable adventurer, this

Allure (2018) Movie Review: Only Mildly Alluring

Some strong performances can't elevate the film's dour tone.
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Bearing witness to a toxic relationship unfolding in front of you is not a pleasing task, and brothers Carlos and Jason Sanchez are well aware of that. Their feature film debut, Allure, is a realistic portrayal of someone who’s gone off the deep end and redemption seems to be nowhere in reach. You can’t exactly feel sympathy for her, as she destroys her life and damages those around her. Unfortunately, that’s also a major problem with the film. Our main character’s actions are irredeemable, and the movie’s focus is way too serious to get fully engaged. No matter how displeasing

Robert Altman's Images Blu-ray Review: Nothing Like Altman

A surrealistic horror film that feels more like Ingmar Bergman than Robert Altman.
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Made in the middle of his incredible 1970s run of films that includes M*A*S*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye ,and Nashville, Robert Altman’s Images is unlike any of those films and in fact is different from pretty much anything in his long, storied career. There is none of the overlapping dialogue that Altman pioneered and his camera, which he typically inserts into a scene letting it rummage around for a story, is more beautiful, constructed, and poetic. Made in 1972, Images premiered at the Cannes film festival where it won Susannah York the award for Best Actress. It

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) Blu-ray Review: Friendship in the Face of Evil

Heartfelt if slight documentary about a rock band's return to Paris in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
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Until the Paris Terrorist attack on November 13, 2015 where their concert at the Bataclan was targeted leaving 89 dead, for non-fans Eagles of Death Metal, if they had heard of them at all, were mostly thought of as Josh Homme's other band. Queens of the Stone Age, Homme's central musical outlet, has been a staple of the American hard rock scene for two decades, while Eagles of Death Metal was the weird side project where he co-wrote the songs, was the rhythm section, and hardly ever toured with the band. If the first third of Eagles of Death Metal:

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children Blu-ray Review: Definitely Not For Kids

Animated film from Spain tells a dark, sad tale that retains a hint of hope.
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In a post-apocalyptic landscape, three friends, a mouse, a piglet, and a little fox, dream of escaping their horrible little island and moving to the city where they might breath the clean air, drink the clean water, and live their lives out prosperously. But they neither have the ability or the means to leave. Dinky the mouse steals “happy pills” from her fundamentalist parents, who constantly berate her and use a baby Jesus doll that literally cries blood to fill her with guilt. Zachariah the piglet lives with his drug-addicted mother who turns into a giant spider when she gets

Allure Movie Review: A Troubled Depiction of a Troubled Romance

Allure is hard to watch at times and is rather troubled but its leading actresses, Evan Rachel Wood and Julia Sarah Stone, still give it their all.
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Allure follows the story of Laura (Evan Rachel Wood), a troubled 30-year-old woman who works as a house cleaner for her father’s company. She’s someone who lives a life in solitude and has had trouble finding love. But that all changes once she meets a teenage girl named Eva (Julia Sarah Stone), a pianist who is dissatisfied with her privileged life with her overbearing mother. Once Laura persuades Eva to stay at her house and inadvertently kidnaps her, both women end up in a relationship fueled by manipulation and obsession. The best way to describe Allure is that despite its

Ichi the Killer Blu-ray Review: Blood-soaked Fun

Well Go USA's new 4K transfer of Takashi Miike's splatter classic gives you all the gore you can handle in pristine high definition.
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While watching Well Go USA’s new 4K transfer of Takashi Miike’s classic splatter flick Ichi the Killer, you may ask yourself whether or not one needs to see all that gore in super high-definition. Is it necessary, you may ponder, to see the insides of a man cut straight down the middle, or the viscera of a dozen nameless foes sloshed across the floor, blood dripping from the ceiling, or even the title cards rising from a puddle of semen in all its digitally restored, detailed resolution? For fans of the highly influential, totally disgusting, and surprisingly funny film, the

Eaten Alive! (1980) Blu-ray Review: Lenzi Frenzy from the Cannibal Craze

Severin Films sinks its teeth into Umberto Lenzi's hilariously tasteless cult flick. Break out the ketchup.
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Though Ruggero Deodato is perhaps Italy's (if not the world's) most "famous" director of gory cannibal movies, the entire bloody movie subgenre can be attributed to the late great Umberto Lenzi (Eyeball, Cannibal Ferox). Eight years after accidentally forming the concept with his 1972 shocker The Man from Deep River ‒ a strange "mondo" take on A Man Called Horse ‒ Lenzi returned to the jungle for something even stranger. Fusing the cannibal flick with a literal cult movie, Eaten Alive! (Mangiati vivi!) manages to exploit the real-life horrors of Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre. It also serves as

Midnighters Movie Review: Small Scale Horror

Even if they don't quite stick the landing, the Ramsay Brothers establish themselves as a duo to watch out for.
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People are screaming, kissing, and hugging. They don silly garments and hats as they celebrate the New Year. Standing in the middle of the throng is Lindsey (Alex Essoe), as she scans the crowd in search of her husband, Jeff (Dylan McTee). She finds him outside, smoking a cigarette and avoiding Lindsey’s work friends. Their marriage is clearly fraught with tension and unspoken resentment for one another. Lindsey is the breadwinner; working at a bank to support Jeff, a failed athlete. Their language is clipped and strained. They appear to be in a marital rut. What doesn’t help matters is

A Wrinkle in Time Movie Review: Wondrous Yet Muddled

While it reaches for the stars with its jaw-dropping visuals, it still is bogged down by its storytelling and short length.
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After delivering the powerful Best Picture nominee Selma and helming the gripping, Oscar-nominated documentary 13th, director Ava DuVernay jumps into the big leagues with the $100 million blockbuster A Wrinkle in Time. However, while the film does reach for the stars with its jaw-dropping visuals mixed with emotional thematic material, it still is nearly bogged down by its predictable and hastily written story. Based on the children’s novel by Madeleine L’Engle, A Wrinkle in Time follows the story of a girl named Meg Murry (Storm Reid) whose physicist father (Chris Pine) has gone missing for four years, leaving her withdrawn.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Blu-ray Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Holiday Special

Chris Hemsworth lets his hair down (and sleeps with one eye open) in this highly enjoyable change of pace from director Taika Waititi.
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Admittedly, I am not the biggest contemporary superhero movie enthusiast. At one point in time, I would have fallen somewhere in the vicinity of such a category, but I essentially dropped out around the same time the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as we know it came into existence in 2008. Sure, I catch the occasional superhero flick here and there (including the occasional new DC abomination, which usually only helps me appreciate Marvel's contributions all the more), but I generally remain indifferent to what I see. And then there is Thor: Ragnarok ‒ a film which proves even a

Darkest Hour Blu-ray Review: Gary Oldman Gives a Riveting Portrayal as Winston Churchill

A compelling historical drama about standing up for one's beliefs in the face of great adversity.
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Joe Wright's Darkest Hour tells the story of Winston Churchill's first few weeks in office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a tumultuous time as World War II raged in Europe and the leaders of Parliament couldn't agree on the direction to take. Gary Oldman gives a riveting portrayal of Churchill that will long be remembered, It was helped realized by the outstanding make-up work of Kazuhiro Tsuji and his team. On May 9, 1940, the Labour Party in the British Parliament wants to replace Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) as Prime Minister because of his capitulation to

Murder on the Orient Express Blu-ray Review: Kenneth Branagh Dunnit (Pulled Off Poirot, That Is)

Branagh is in his element here and whether one is previously familiar with the great Belgian detective or not, there is a lot to enjoy in Murder on the Orient Express.
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As an avid fan of Agatha Christie mysteries on book and screen - especially David Suchet's excellent portrayal of her most famous detective, Hercule Poirot - I had to admit that the preview images of Kenneth Branagh and his take on Poirot's inimitable moustache put me off. What was he thinking? It was simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. But I am happy to report that Branagh not only pulls off the Belgian sleuth, but he approaches the character and Christie's most famous puzzle with originality and enthusiasm. Branagh is not only the lead actor in the film, but

Crossing the Bridge / Indian Summer Blu-ray Review

Kino Lorber Studio Classics releases a double feature from writer-director Mike Binder.
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I first became aware of Mike Binder when he was a talented young stand-up comedian in the late '70s. I truly started to appreciate the range of his talent when he showed up in the low-budget 1980 American Graffiti rip-off The Hollywood Knights which also featured Tony Danza and Robert Wuhl, and which I enjoyed far more than I should have. I continued to see Binder doing stand-up on numerous shows throughout the '80s, but then I lost track of him. While sitting in a theatre in 1993 watching what I described at the time as “The Big Chill goes

Gate II (1990) Blu-ray Review: Fun, But for Big Fans Only at Best

Scream Factory re-opens the door to the hotspot below with a stunningly clear 2K scan.
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My first viewing of Gate II was when the film first came to my hometown's dinky second-run theater (which was our only theater) in 1992, several months after the low-budget B-movie had already opened. It was the very kind of film our local cinema proudly shelled out for: something they could pick up on the cheap and pair with another "affordable" feature from the era for a barely-advertised double-bill ‒ which my best friend and I would see at the sparsely-occupied Sunday matinee for a whopping five bucks, per our weekly movie-going ritual. While we were well accustomed to seeing

Battle Cry (1955) Blu-ray Review: Former A-List Hit with Future B-Grade Stars

The Warner Archive Collection digs up another wartime relic with a nice cast of cult favorites.
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Battle Cry's cast is enough to send shivers up the spine of any classic B-movie enthusiast from sheer excitement. The film itself, on the other hand, may cause one to shudder from entirely different reasons. For, despite the impressive gathering of actors who would later gain fame (or perhaps, infamy) from appearing in some of the greatest cult movies of all time (as well as a heap of television work), there simply isn't enough to keep the average viewer's attention throughout the bulk of this equally bulky World War II drama. And, frankly, that says an awful lot ‒ especially

Fathom Events and GKIDS Present Mary and the Witch's Flower

Studio Ponoc, heir apparent to Studio Ghibli, proves they have taken the animated torch and ran with it.
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In September 2013, famed director and Studio Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki announced his retirement. He had made such proclamations before but this time he promised he was serious. A few months later, the studio announced there would be a brief pause in production in order to re-evaluate where the company would go without their founder and creative leader. Speculation was that they would never produce a new movie but might venture into releasing films made by other companies. Amongst all of this, Yoshiaki Nishimura, a lead producer for Ghibli, started a new company, Studio Ponoc. Soon after, many animators from

Big Business / Scenes from a Mall Blu-ray Review: An Interesting Combination

Two disappointing Bette Midler films from 1988 and 1991 are teamed up in a not-so-funny double feature.
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Kino Lorber recently teamed up two late-'80s / early-'90s films for a Blu-ray release that seem to share little in common other than both being comedies that star Bette Midler. Movies linked by actors instead of directors don't always pair well together and this is an interesting combination. Big Business is a 1988 teaming of Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin in a Jim Abrahams (Airplane) directed film. The "body change" and "split up twins" scenarios were a popular trope of films of this era. Most people go back to the Freaky Friday reference from the '70s but the idea of

Annihilation Movie Review: A Beautifully Horrific Piece of Science Fiction

Annihilation is a brilliant mix of sci-fi and horror that is cringe-inducing yet inviting.
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After making his directorial debut with Ex Machina, writer/director Alex Garland brings us his latest opus that is Annihilation, a sci-fi gem that is destined to become a modern-day classic. Because I won't go into full detail about the story to avoid potential spoilers, the best way to describe Annihilation is that it is a web of sci-fi, horror, and intrigue that is puzzling in the best possible ways. It’s one of those movies that has you asking a handful of questions by the time it’s over yet the fact that it is so visually entrancing and features strong performances

The Concert for George: A Deeply Moving Tribute to a Multifacted Artist

To celebrate what would have been George Harrison's 75th birthday, the 2002 film is being screened in theaters and receiving a re-release in various configurations.
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George Harrison’s life and career may seem impossible to capture in just an hour and a half. Yet his friends and family managed to accomplished such a feat on November 29, 2002. Just a year after Harrison’s untimely death, Eric Clapton organized a concert at London’s Royal Albert Music Hall to celebrate his singer/songwriter friend’s life. “What I wanted to do was...just share our love for George and his music with the people,” says Clapton. Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and Jeff Lynne are among the numerous performers who turn in emotional renditions of Harrison’s best known Beatles and solo compositions.

The Sea Wolf (1941) Blu-ray Review: Another Major Discovery from the WAC

Formerly lost at sea, the original 100-min cut of this classic sails in to home video thanks to the Warner Archive.
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The discovery of any classic film in its original uncut form brings with it an opportunity to rejoice. Recently, the Warner Archive Collection uncovered an uncut 35mm nitrate print of Michael Curtiz's classic 1941 film adaptation of Jack London's The Sea Wolf. Buried away for decades in the Museum of Modern Art's storage facility in New York, the unveiling of such a print was a significant find ‒ as the film had only been available in a heavily-shortened version since its first theatrical re-release in 1947. Naturally, much like the WAC's recent re-discovery of the three-hour TV cut of Richard

The Emperor in August / Sayonara / The Yellow Handkerchief Blu-ray Reviews: Three for Japan

All is fair (great, in fact!) in love, war, and on the road in this trio of classics from Twilight Time.
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American and Japanese. Remakes and originals. Love and war. Though they may all appear to be starkly different on the outside, this trio of Twilight Time releases from (or at least filmed in) Japan evinces we're only human on the inside. The Emperor in August (2015, Shochiku Company) Remaking a classic historical war film is never an easy task. Especially when the story focuses on internal political strife as opposed to the always bankable sight of what SCTV's Farm Film Report would likely refer to as "stuff gettin' blowed up real good." It's an ever harder chore to pull off

Elevator to the Gallows Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Ruthless People

French director Louis Malle launched his award-winning career with this spellbinding crime thriller.
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Louis Malle’s directorial debut is notable for numerous reasons. He was only 24 years old at the time, fresh off a three-year stint working at sea with famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau where he only had to “direct fish”, as he was frequently fond of recounting. He had no real pull in the film industry, and yet was able to land the already established actress Jeanne Moreau to star, as well as jazz titan Miles Davis to contribute a totally improvised score. His best accomplishment: the resulting film is a resounding success, largely thanks to his sure-handed direction of its mesmerizing

An Actor's Revenge Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Kabuki Costumes in Modernist Cinema

Kon Ichikawa's remake of a '30s movie dresses a stagey plot in innovative cinematic stylings.
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Yukinojo, the kabuki female impersonator who gets the titular vengeance in Kon Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge (1963), is a tough sell for a cinematic character. Heavily made up both onstage and off, never once dropping his female gestures and high-pitched voice, Kazuo Hasegawa's performance is definitely deeply committed. This, which according to the title card early in the film was his 300th film performance, is also a remake of a popular film from the '30s, also starring Kazuo Hasegawa. A Kazuo Hasegawa in his early 20s playing a female impersonator so mesmerizing that the most beautiful woman in Edo (Tokyo

Half Magic Movie Review: A Brash Take on Sex Positivity

Heather Graham's debut is certainly relevant, but still feels like there is another story waiting to be told.
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Honey (Heather Graham) was raised to believe that her sexuality should never be addressed. As a child, she grew up being told by her father and her priest that having sex would ruin her life and remove the hope of ever finding true love. Years later, and she is working in Hollywood as an assistant to a sleazy, sexist actor - but she has dreams of becoming a writer. Undervalued and denigrated by her boss, she turns to an all woman’s seminar that focuses on the reclamation of her body as a source of empowerment, rather than of shame. She

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