Recently by Chad Derdowski

Wizard World Chicago 2017 Review: A Pretty Good Show

I came, I saw, and in the grand geek tradition, I had a great time but still complained about it online.
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Another summer has come and gone. School buses once again prowl the streets in the early light of day and leaves threaten to change their hue and coat the yard, leading to long weekends worth of raking and sore backs. Along with these recognizable signs of an impending Fall comes another, perhaps less famous but no less important occurrence - Wizard World returned yet again to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in beautiful Rosemont, Illinois and once again, I was there. I came, I saw, and in my own fashion, I conquered. And by “conquered”, I mean that I

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Art and Making of the Film by Sharon Gosling

Like the film, this book is warm and inviting, strong and bold, and pretty damn awesome.
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With a history dating back to 1941 and a variety of interpretations in comics, prose, and television, Wonder Woman is something of a big deal. And when you’re a big deal, they eventually get around to making movies about you. Although, in the case of Wonder Woman, it took a whole lot longer than it probably should’ve. The good news though is that the collective patience of a devoted fanbase paid off in the form of a pretty damn awesome movie. And when you’re a big deal and they’ve made an awesome movie about you, it’s inevitable that there will

Book Review: Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1953-1956)

An important and worthwhile historical artifact, even if it is my least favorite one so far.
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Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays, Volume 2 (1953-1956) is the fourth collection of classic Superman Sunday comic strips from IDW and the Library of American Comics and the third volume that I’ve had the opportunity to check out. I’ll do my best to avoid rehashing too much of the same ground I already covered in my reviews of The Golden Age Sundays (1946-1949) or the prior volume of The Atomic Age Sundays (1949-1953), but for those who don’t care to read my other reviews (that’s fine, I’m totally not offended), here’s the deal: these comic strips are sort of a

Wizard World Chicago 2016: Kids Day at the Con

A little kindness goes a long way in making a good convention great.
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If you’ve been reading my Wizard World columns for the past few years (2014, 2015), you’ve probably already steeled yourself for yet another barrage of nostalgia and reminiscing about conventions of days gone by. There’s a fair chance you’re already sick and tired of reading saccharine-soaked stories of how much I enjoy taking my children to conventions instead of taking shots before and after the show (full disclosure: I totally did a shot of whiskey after the show, but after being on my feet for that long with an eight-year-old in tow, I’m pretty sure I’d earned it). But there

Book Review The Art of Mad Max: Fury Road by Abbie Bernstein

Every bit as vivid, eye-popping, and gut-punching as the film, but slowed down enough that it can sit on your coffee table.
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Having spent the better part of the year revisiting a familiar galaxy far, far away and allowing it to consume our hearts and minds as well as nearly every waking moment of our lives, it’s easy to forget that it was just last summer we paid a trip to another landscape quite reminiscent of one we had spent a great deal of time in during our youth. Of course, the trips we took to the post-apocalyptic wasteland George Miller created weren’t nearly as idyllic as our jaunts to Hoth or the Death Star; if the Star Wars universe which sprung

Book Review: The Twilight Zone FAQ by Dave Thompson

An uneven, yet informative look into a dimension of sight and sound.
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The Twilight Zone… a dimension of sound. A dimension of sight. A dimension of mind. A land of shadow and substance; of things and ideas. Also, a pretty great television show that ran for a total of five groundbreaking seasons and left an indelible mark on popular culture. In The Twilight Zone FAQ, author Dave Thompson takes a look back on this thought-provoking series, reflecting on its birth and creation in the mind of the then-unknown Rod Serling, and following along as it went on to become a cultural touchstone and the blueprint for so many fantasy television series, movies,

Fred Claus Review: A Simple Movie the Entire Family Can Enjoy

If you're a fan of Christmas movies, you'll definitely enjoy it.
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Growing up in the shadow a seemingly perfect sibling can be tough. Constant comparisons from parents will generally lead to feelings of resentment and anger. It’s hard when parents seem to find fault in everything you do and treat your brother as though he was a saint. Imagine how hard it would be if your brother actually was a saint: St. Nick. This is the premise behind Fred Claus, which reunites director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) with Vince Vaughn, who stars as the title character. The basic gist of the film is fairly predictable, but as the saying goes, it

Book Review: Beyond Mars: The Complete Series by Jack Williamson and Lee Elias

Beyond Mars is beyond awesome.
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If you’ve never heard of Beyond Mars, don’t feel too bad; the strip was only featured in one newspaper, the New York Sunday News, and it only ran for three years (1952-1955). So there are probably a whole lot of fans that have overlooked the strip and some of them might even be pretty knowledgeable folks. But what it might lack in notoriety, Beyond Mars certainly made up for with pedigree. How many Sunday comic strips can boast one of the architects of the Golden Age of comic books and a Grand Master of Science Fiction as its creative team?

Tomorrowland Blu-ray Review: Although the Pacing is Uneven, the Film Entertains and Inspires

It's got enough heart and good intention to almost make you overlook its flaws.
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When an optimistic teen girl stumbles upon a doorway to a fantastic world of science and invention, she finds herself embarking on a journey toward a better tomorrow. Aided by a cynical, former boy genius and a mysterious young girl, Casey Newton sets forth to uncover the secrets of Tomorrowland and the explanation for its disappearance. If I was writing copy for the back of the Blu-ray, that’s what I’d say about Tomorrowland. It’s concise and accurate, without giving away anything about the film. But of course, a movie is so much more than a blurb on the back of

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! Review: A Surefire Success for Your Household

LEGOs + Superheroes = the Best of All Possible Worlds.
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Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom! is the latest original LEGO movie to feature the stalwart heroes of the DC Universe, now updated to reflect their current New 52 status. Which pretty much just means that Superman wears his underwear on the inside now and Cyborg has been promoted to being a full-fledged member of the League, just like in the Super Powers cartoons from 30 years ago. I guess comic books and their animated counterparts really are cyclical, huh? Speaking of the Super Powers show, Attack of the Legion of Doom! is chock full of references to

Wizard World Chicago 2015 Review: It Was a Good Show

The convention was, in a word, insane.
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So I went to Wizard World yesterday (August 22, 2015) at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, where the event has been held for… I’m not really sure how long, but it's been there as long as I can remember and probably even before that. That said, my memory is a little hazy these days, due in no small part to some of the activities I participated in whilst attending Wizard World events of days gone by with the variety of n’er-do-wells and miscreants that I call my friends. Anyway, after a fairly long stretch of attending the event and

Book Review: Superman: The Atomic Age Sundays 1949-1953

Super shenanigans, madcap hijinks and tomfoolery... they sure don't make Men of Steel like this anymore.
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At the risk of sounding like that old guy down the street wearing black socks with sandals and shaking a rake at those darn neighbor kids who just won’t get off the lawn, today’s comic readers just don’t know how good they’ve got it. In my day, if you wanted to take part in the classic adventures of your favorite superheroes, you had to embark on a quest to find the old issues and pay an exorbitant price, then live the rest of your life in fear that this highly priced item would become ruined and useless and your investment

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Blu-ray Review: A Lot of Sizzle Without a Lot at Stake

A dark and gritty alternative to the bleak and dreary comics.
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Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the all-new original movie that marks the return of Bruce Timm to the DC animated universe and features a version of the Justice League vastly different from the one we know. Imagine a brutal and violent Superman, an even more brutal and violent Batman who isn't Bruce Wayne, and a brutally violent Wonder Woman who wasn't forged from clay and you've got... well hey now, that actually doesn't sound all that different from the bleak and joyless characters currently being featured in DC films and comics, does it? Come to think of it, the

Book Review: Bravo For Adventure by Alex Toth

Bravo for Alex Toth!
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Legendary artist and noted curmudgeon Alex Toth never made a secret of his continued frustrations with editorial interference, bad scripts, and the continued trend toward gritty anti-heroes in mainstream comics. So when given the opportunity to create his own comic series, he took a look back in time to the halcyon days when dashing film heroes like Errol Flynn and comic adventurers such as Terry and the Pirates buckled swash and took part in all manner of high adventure and derring-do. The end result was Bravo for Adventure, a throwback adventure that many consider to be Toth's seminal work -

Book Review: Secret Agent X-9: 1934-1936 by Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Sometimes a "Dream Team" is better left to the imagination.
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Everyone loves a dream team. Who can forget Hulk Hogan and “Macho Man” Randy Savage joining forces to form the Mega-Powers or Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, and George Harrison coming together as the musical Voltron known as The Traveling Wilburys? Much like the magical combination of chocolate and peanut butter, a dream team represents a union of the good, the great, and the totally sweet, and not only lays to rest the question of “What If?” that lurks inside the hearts and minds of all fans, but also threatens to tear the very fabric of the

Book Review: Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do!

Expand your mind and let your creativity run wild with games, puzzles, and inter-dimensional activities.
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I wasn’t really familiar with Emmy Award-winning creator Pendleton Ward’s Bravest Warriors when I requested a copy of Bravest Warriors: Things to Doodle and Do! (published by Viz Media’s Perfect Square imprint) for review. Sure, I knew Ward was the guy behind Adventure Time and I had a vague notion that Bravest Warriors was something sci-fi related; but neither I nor my children knew anything about the premise or the characters. What we did know, however, is that doodle books are awesome and Adventure Time is awesome so by extension, this doodle book was likely pretty awesome. And indeed, what

Book Review: Chappie: The Art of the Movie by Peter E. Aperlo

Gritty, realistic sci-fi doesn't exactly translate to stunning pre-production design.
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A few weeks ago, Chappie, writer/director Neill Blomkamp’s latest film, arrived in theaters to mixed reviews. A few days ago, Chappie: The Art of the Movie arrived on my doorstep in a similar fashion. Taking inspiration from the creator’s short film "Tetra Vaal," Chappie contains all the typical elements of a Blomkamp film: gritty science fiction grounded in a hard reality, ultra-violent action, and a sharp satirical wit. Oh yeah, and Sharlto Copley too. Anyway, on to the book. Big hardcover coffee-table art books are pretty much a no-brainer, especially when they deal with robots, and if you’re reading this

Wizard World Chicago Fan Fest, March 7-8, 2015

New fans, lapsed fans, fair-weather fans, broke fans and folks whose kids have been begging them to go to a convention - rejoice! Wizard World has heard your cries!
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Spring hasn't exactly sprung, but even though there's still a chill in the air and frost on the tree branches, it's never too early to kick off convention season. This year, pop-culture fans in Chicago were treated to something a little bit different - while Wizard World usually rolls into the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois sometime in August, a smaller Fan Fest was held in the same location on March 7-8. Fans who purchased either VIP or 4-Day tickets for the August show would receive free admission (which I guess is what makes it a fan

Book Review: Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Strips 1944-1945 by William Moulton Marston & Harry G. Peters

IDW and the Library of American Comics give us a wonderful collection from the Golden Age.
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Superheroes had only been in existence for a handful of years when Wonder Woman burst on the scene in 1940 with the one-two punch of All Star Comics #8 and Sensation Comics #1. She wasn’t the first female superhero, but she was definitely the most notable and it was only a matter of time before the Amazon Princess followed her male counterparts Superman and Batman from the four-color world of comic books to the hallowed halls of the daily newspaper strip. Thanks to the backing of the powerful Hearst publishing empire, the Wonder Woman strip reached a much larger audience

Book Review: Superman: The Golden Age Sundays 1946-1949

Sometimes goofy, occasionally deadly, and always exciting, it's Superman as you may not have seen him before.
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It wasn’t long after his 1938 debut in Action Comics #1 that Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s most famous creation began appearing in his own daily newspaper strip, followed shortly thereafter by a separate Sunday strip. Back in those days, funny books were a stepping stone to the big money and prestige found in the funny papers. Curiously, a large number of these Sunday strips have never been reprinted, a wrong that The Library of American Comics valiantly continues to set right with the second volume of their Superman Sundays series. Collecting over 170 sequential Sunday pages from August 11,

Book Review: Voltron: From Days of Long Ago, A 30th Anniversary Celebration by Brian Smith

If you love Voltron, you'll love this book.
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I struggled for what felt like an eternity with the opening to this review. It would've been easy to paraphrase the press release that accompanied this book and simply state that Viz Media, the largest distributor and licensor of anime and manga in North America, is marking the 30th anniversary of one of the most memorable animated series of all time with a fancy hardcover commemorative coffee table book. But that just felt sort of flat and given the subject matter, I felt that I needed an opening that was majestic and legendary in its grandeur. Something that would really

My Little Pony Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks Blu-ray Review: Entertainment for the Entire Family

Equestria Girls proves that friendship and music really is magic.
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In fall of 2013, the world was introduced to My Little Pony Equestria Girls, an alternate reality in which the four-legged friends from Canterlot were re-imagined as teenage girls. At first glance, it seemed like little more than a cash grab - a way for the popular characters to horn in turf previously occupied by the likes of Barbie and Monster High. And maybe it was; after all, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is little more than a series of 22-minute commercials for a toy line, right? Except that it isn't. Any parent who watches the show with their

Rip Kirby: The First Modern Detective: Complete Comic Strips: 1962-1964 by John Prentice

The first modern detective meets a master of modern storytelling and finds a convert in this reviewer.
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I can’t remember a time when sequential art didn’t play a huge role in my life. Whether it was riding my bike to the local 7-11 to pick up comic books filled with colorful superheroes or tearing apart the Sunday paper to get to “the funny section” before my siblings, I’ve always been enamored of this unique form of storytelling. As time has gone by, my appreciation for the medium has led me down many avenues and I’ve done my best to educate myself on various styles, genres, and methods of telling stories through pictures. But there was always one

Wizard World Chicago 2014: You Can Go Home Again

Chad Derdowski returns to Wizard World after a long hiatus... but is there any magic left?
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Once upon a time, I couldn’t have imagined missing a Wizard World event in Chicago. Even though I lived in Michigan, and more often than not, found myself taking the affordable, but not exactly enjoyable Mega Bus in order to make the long journey to the Windy City, it was always worth it. Greeted by old friends, aged whiskey, and the promise of scads of sequential art, the idea of missing this grand event was as impossible to imagine as a blockbuster film featuring Rocket Raccoon. But “once upon a time” was a long time ago, in what often feels

Book Review: Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth by Dean Mullaney & Bruce Canwell

Never has the word "genius" been so apt.
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Genius, Animated: The Cartoon Art of Alex Toth is the third and final chapter in the Library of American Comics' in-depth look at the life of legendary artist Alex Toth, accompanying 2011's Genius, Isolated and 2013's Genius, Illustrated. This volume focuses in on what is arguably Toth's best known contribution to the art world: his work in the field of animation. Standing 13.2 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches and weighing in at 5.4 pounds, this 328-page behemoth presents a definite challenge when attempting to write a review. You see, not long after receiving my copy, I remarked to a friend

The History of WWE: 50 Years of Sports Entertainment Blu-ray Review: Absolutely Worth Watching

A comprehensive catalogue of counterfeit combat.
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This year, World Wrestling Entertainment reaches the half-century mark and celebrates in pretty much exactly the same fashion my family did when we honored our parents 50th wedding anniversary: with a documentary. But where our version consisted of an elegantly 45-minute video montage of old photographs set to old pop songs that my niece whipped up over the course of a weekend, the WWE has chosen to go a slightly more extensive route and has released a two-disc Blu-ray set complete with a two-hour documentary chronicling the rich history of this global entertainment phenomenon and a handful of important matches

Lawless Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: Rarely Reaches Above the Conventions of its Genre

A fair piece of Sunday afternoon “there’s not really anything else on” fare.
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Inspired by Matt Bondurant’s 2008 biographical novel The Wettest County In the World, musician and composer Nick Cave wrote the screenplay for Lawless. With John Hillcoat directing and a cast including Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce andShia LaBouf, Lawless seemed poised to be the “moonshiner’s Goodfellas” and clearly went out of its way in an attempt to do so. They even got Willie Nelson to be on the soundtrack! Unfortunately, what was promised and what was delivered are two totally different things and Lawless turned out to be long stretches of pretty scenery punctuated by vivid and horrific violence

Ted Blu-ray Combo Review: Pretty Damn Funny

There are a lot worse things you could do while sitting on the couch smoking pot.
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Do you enjoy programs featuring anthropomorphic animals hanging out with their loser best friends, drinking and doing drugs while making crude jokes and discussing semi-obscure pop culture references? Well Seth MacFarlane certainly does, and with Ted, he combines his passions with the Judd Apatow “man-child grows up in order to get the girl” formula to create an uneven and painfully predictable, yet quite often incredibly hilarious film. Through the magic of love and the power of a wish, John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) saw his dream come true when his cherished teddy bear came to life. After a brief fling with

The Doors: Live at the Bowl '68 DVD Review: It Sounds Amazing

Should manage to light the fire of every music aficionado.
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The Doors’ 1968 show at the Hollywood Bowl has long been considered one of the band’s finest performances. Sadly, there were a variety of audio problems that evening, and though the concert has been available for quite some time, it has been incomplete. Thanks to the marvels of modern science, this legendary show has been restored and remastered from original camera negatives and remixed using original multi-track tapes to create the definitive version for home consumption. Speaking of consumption, legend has it that Jim Morrison may have ingested some LSD before stepping on stage. Judging by the faraway look in

Transformers Prime Season Two Blu-ray Review: A More Mature Series

The horrors of a centuries-old mechanized war displayed in stunning high definition.
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What feels like the 5,000th animated iteration of one of Hasbro’s most successful toy lines will see its second season arrive on both DVD and Blu-ray this month. The Emmy Award-winning Transformers Prime offers stunning computer animation and a tremendous voice cast featuring Ernie Hudson alongside longtime Transformers mainstays Peter Cullen and Frank Welker and was created by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writing team that brought us the shockingly terrible Transformers feature films. Unlike the movies however, Transformers Prime gives us an intelligent and somber look at the centuries-old battle between the Autobots and Decepticons while giving the

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series DVD Review: Everything but the Zord

Die-hard fans will not be disappointed.
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It seems almost impossible to believe that it’s been nearly two decades since the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers took the world by storm. An overnight success and seemingly unstoppable engine of popularity, the series has morphed into a variety of spin-offs over the years and while it may no longer be the sales and ratings behemoth it was in the early days, it still manages to maintain a sizable and fiercely dedicated fanbase. One of the more inexplicable phenomenon of the late 20th century, the Power Rangers are set to celebrate their anniversary with the release of a 19-DVD box

With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story DVD Review: Despite My Complaints, I Still Recommend It

As fake and one-sided as Stan's toupee, but also just as entertaining.
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There is a moment during With Great Power…The Stan Lee Story in which Stan, retreading a well-worn adage regarding the history of Marvel Comics, remarks, “I’ve said this so often and in so many places that it might even be true…” Perhaps no other statement so succinctly sums up both the documentary and the man. An entertaining, if unbalanced film, With Great Power… offers a superficial and often sycophantic look at one of the true legends of the comic book industry. The film traces Stan’s roots in the business, from his days as an impoverished youth to his job working

Comic Book Review: Bob Howard, Plumber of the Unknown #4 by Rafael Nieves and Dan Dougherty

An homage to classic horror, pulp, and supernatural tales that's absolutely worth your time.
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Released in August of 2012 to coincide with the annual Wizard World Chicago Comic Convention, the fourth issue of Bob Howard, Plumber of the Unknown serves a dual purpose. For those unfamiliar with the character, created by writer Rafael Nieves and artist Dan Dougherty, this issue serves as one of those perfect jumping on points, where everything you need to know about the character is encapsulated in one story. For those of us who’ve been following Bob’s exploits for a while now, this issue is the proverbial “one you’ve been waiting for”. It’s the big origin issue in which everything

Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story Movie Review: An Enlightening Documentary

A look at the legacy of a man and his music.
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While I’ve been familiar with their name for some time, most often hearing it spoken with reverence, I can’t say that I’m all too familiar with the music of Morphine. I wasn’t even aware of the fact that their lead singer, Mark Sandman, had passed away in 1999. Needless to say, I found Cure for Pain: The Mark Sandman Story, which takes its name from the band’s 1993 album, to be quite an enlightening documentary and through watching it, I learned more than a thing or two about the music Mark Sandman and his band mates created as well as

Chernobyl Diaries Blu-ray Review: A Radioactive Turd

What may have sounded like an interesting premise on paper ended up as an absolute mess by the time it hit the screen.
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What’s the worst that could happen when a group of vacationing teens decide to embark on a bit of “extreme vacationing” in the abandoned town of Prypiat, which sits in the shadow of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant? If the first thing that came to your mind was “a horrific and lifelong battle with cancer, ultimately ending in death”, or perhaps even “two harrowing days filled with mutated cannibals and feral dogs”, you’d definitely be awarded a gold star or some sort of medal of honor for doing your best but ultimately falling short of the mark. No, the worst

The Sorcerers DVD Review: Old Folks Supply Old School Horror

If films like this are your sort of thing, it will make a great addition to your collection.
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Despite what the title may suggest, The Sorcerers does not feature Boris Karloff as a magician, warlock, mage or other such magical being. In fact, there isn’t really any magic at all, unless you count the magic of science and psychedelic swingin’ London of the 1960’s. But oh, what a magical time it was when an aged hypnotist, long since disgraced and discredited by his peers, finally sees his life’s work come to fruition in the form of a machine that can control the minds of others. After finding a suitable test subject, Dr. Monserret (Karloff) hopes to use his

American Horror Story: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Incredibly Watchable and Well Crafted

The Shining meets Peyton Place in a combination of creativity and cliche.
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The mash-up is all the rage these days, isn’t it? With books like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies topping the charts and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter being adapted for the big screen, it was only a matter of time before someone had the good sense to combine The Shining with Peyton Place and come up with the torrid, tawdry, and occasionally even terrifying American Horror Story. Buoyed by a fantastic cast and compelling storyline, AHS pushed the envelope of television for 12 episodes while combining elements of daytime soap operas and Marilyn Manson videos to create a combination of creativity

Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender Blu-ray Review: Queen's Frontman Gets the Royal Treatment

A respectable look at a man and his talent.
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One of the most unique voices in rock music and arguably the greatest front man to grace the stage, Freddie Mercury has been hailed as a showman beyond compare and a decadent party animal, but beneath the glitz and glamour was a very guarded and enigmatic man. Unearthing previously unseen footage and vintage interviews, a new documentary from Eagle Rock Entertainment, appropriately titled Freddie Mercury: The Great Pretender, gives fans an opportunity to peer beneath the flamboyant stage presence and charismatic public persona of a rock legend and see the very private man who dwelt inside. It’s inevitable that any

Sky Commanders: The Complete Animated Series DVD Review: Easy to See Why It Didn't Work

Which came first: The toyline or the cartoon?
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The KISS principle states that most systems work best whenthey are kept simple and straightforward rather than overly complex. Perhaps this theory has never proven more true than during the 1980s animated toy line boom. Robots that turn into cars and jets, specialized branches of the armed forces fighting a faceless terrorist organization and a barbarian battling an evil wizard with a skeleton face in a world filled with science and sorcery were simple and easy formulas for success. But if a team of scientists utilizing zip-lines in their quest to obtain an unstable new element that can only be

Pac-Man The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Worse Than You Imagine

There are not enough power pellets in the world to make this show watchable.
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Remember all those years ago, when it seemed like the whole world was in love with a roly-poly, compulsive eater caught in the throes of a prescription drug addiction? Haunted by ghostly manifestations of his paranoia, this poor soul was trapped like a rat in a cage as he attempted to maneuver the metaphorical maze of life. The existentialist nightmare of Pac-Man was popular enough to spawn several sequel games and even an animated series, which lasted two miserable seasons. Now, thanks to Warner Archives’ Manufacture-on-Demand program, both seasons of the atrocity known as Pac-Man: The Animated Series are available

Understanding Art: Impressionism DVD Review: An Enjoyable Look at an Important Movement

An entertaining, accessible, and occasionally annoying observation of art.
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I didn’t take any art history or art appreciation classes in college. Actually, I didn’t even go to college, but if I had, I imagine I might’ve enjoyed that kind of thing. Luckily, the DVD release of documentaries such as Understanding Art: Impressionism ensures that I’ll never have to regret my lack of education. Completely accessible and incredibly in-depth, this four-part program was a lot more interesting and entertaining than sitting in a classroom taking notes. Even better, this review is the only homework I’ll have to do. These days, the work of Impressionists can be found everywhere. Postcards, t-shirts,

The Complete Hammer House of Horror DVD Review: A Mixture of the Macabre and Mediocre

An odd mix of satisfying and disappointing.
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To horror film buffs, the name Hammer is synonymous with gothic tales of the macabre. For years, Hammer Film Productions was responsible for some of the high watermark films of the genre. And even when they missed the mark, the studio still managed to turn out a fair number of stylish and entertaining films (I’m looking at you, Dracula A.D. 1972). In 1980, the fine folks at Hammer turned their attention to the small screen and created the Hammer House of Horror, an anthology series which ran for less than four months and produced a scant 13 episodes (quite fitting,

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters Movie Review: The Pieces Fall Perfectly into Place

I could’ve watched an entire movie about Thor Aackerlund and been perfectly happy.
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Originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris is one of the most popular video games ever created. Since its initial release in 1984, some variation of the game has been released on pretty much every video-game console, operating system, graphing calculator, PDA and mobile phone in existence. So it stands to reason that you’ve probably wasted more than a few hours on the game and maybe you’ve even referred to yourself as a “master” at some point. It’s easy to throw the term around, but have you ever really wondered who the real Tetris Masters are? Who are the

Occupation: Fighter Movie Review: The Story of a Contender

An inspirational, though not completely objective, look at one man's dedication to mixed martial arts.
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Occupation: Fighter chronicles eight months in the life of Chad “Savage” George, a veteran in the world of mixed martial arts, as he embarks on a journey filled with both mental and physical hardships while training in preparation for an upcoming fight. Featuring interviews with friends, family, and fellow combatants, the film seeks to shed light on the domain of full-contact sports by dismantling stereotypes and emphasizing the sacrifice and dedication required to survive and thrive as a fighter. When Chad George moved to California, it was in the hopes of becoming a successful artist. After a few sessions with

Six Pack Annie DVD Review: Southern Fried and Scantily Clad

More double entendres than in the entire eight-year run of Three’s Company.
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Too young to care and too fast to catch, the smallest thing about Six Pack Annie is the town she came from. At least, that’s what the advertisements for this hicksploitation classic touted when it was released in 1975. Featuring Lindsay Bloom as the titular heroine, a pop-top princess with a recyclable can, Six Pack Annie is a film filled with fast trucks, even faster women, and too many amazing taglines for me to possibly work into the first paragraph of this review. But I gave it my best shot. Also giving it her best shot is Annie Bodine, a

Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand DVD Review: The Good Outweighs the Mediocre

Not a strong thumbs-up, but it is definitely a solid one.
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“One Shall Stand” was originally presented as a massive, seven-episode story arc during the first two seasons of the popular Transformers Prime animated series, currently airing on the Hub. This summer, SHOUT! Factory, in conjunction with Hasbro Studios, brings the universe-shattering epic to DVD as a seamlessly edited, uninterrupted movie. Featuring the legendary voice talents of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker along with Adam Baldwin, Gina Torres, and Ernie Hudson, Transformers Prime: One Shall Stand delves deep into the back story of Optimus Prime and the history of Cybertron while delivering the ultimate adventure for fans of the series. Anyone

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Series 2, Season 2 DVD Review: No, Joe!

This cartoon broke my heart
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In 1989, three years after the Sunbow-produced G.I. Joe animated series had run its course, DIC Entertainment procured the contract from Hasbro to create new episodes of the series. Lasting a scant two seasons, this incarnation of G.I. Joe picked up where the old series left off, introducing new characters, new vehicles, and astonishing new ways to suck. Now maybe you’re the type of reader who just scans the first paragraph or two and skips the rest of the review. In that case, I’ll be completely up front with you here, folks: this cartoon is terrible and more painful to

Doctor Who: The Seeds of Death Special Edition DVD Review: Delightful, Yet Dull

I have mixed feelings about it.
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In the late 21st century, humankind has given up on its dreams of one day traversing the stars in glorious rocket propelled ships, largely due to the ease of life provided by T-Mat. Similar to the transporters made famous on Star Trek, T-Mat is an instantaneous form of matter transference which enables people and objects to go anywhere they want to on the planet. But when the T-Mat relay station on the moon breaks down, the folks in charge depend on a curmudgeonly old scientist (who has secretly been building a rocket in the hopes of rekindling interest in the

Teen Wolf: The Complete Season One DVD Review: Color Me Surprised and Count Me as a Fan

It's not simply the shiniest turd in the punchbowl of MTV Original Programming; it's a quality show!
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It was virtually impossible to not be skeptical when MTV decided to launch a new television series called Teen Wolf last year. Loosely based on the 1985 Michael J. Fox film, Teen Wolf seemed to be an obvious attempt by the former Music Television at snagging a piece of the Twilight pie. And who could blame them? Sharing similar demographics as well as a passion for stories spotlighting females with poor acting skills making poor choices, the marriage of Twilight and MTV seemed like a match made in heaven - or at the very least, gym class. But a funny

Doctor Who: Dragonfire DVD Review: Trapped in the 1980s

It didn't light any fires for this reviewer.
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My continuing journey into the world of Doctor Who continues with the fourth and final serial of the 24th season of Doctor Who, entitled Dragonfire (Story #151). Originally broadcast from November 23 - December 7 of 1987, Dragonfire features Sylvester McCoy as the seventh incarnation of the Doctor and introduces us to Ace, who would replace Mel as the Doctor's new companion. Viewing it also marked my personal introduction to McCoy's interpretation of the character and a very '80s interpretation of the series as a whole. The story takes place on Iceworld, a wretched space-trading colony rife with scum and

Chronicle (2012) DVD Review: Rebel Without a Costume

Like a 1960's Spider-Man comic with all of the angst and none of the spandex.
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When Andrew (Dane DeHaan) decided to start videotaping his life, he had no idea what was in store. Bullied at school and at home by an alcoholic father, Andrew is watching his mother die from the cancer that is eating away at her. His social life is practically nonexistent and the camera serves as not only a tool of documentation, but also another barrier between Andrew and everyone else. All that changes when he and his cousin Matt (Alex Russell), along with the popular Steve (Michael B. Jordan) discover a mysterious glowing artifact at a party. As so often happens

Doctor Who: Nightmare of Eden DVD Review: Drugs Are Bad, M'Kay

If CSI: Pigs in Space was an actual television program, it might look a bit like this.
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When an interstellar cruise ship emerges from hyperspace at the exact same coordinates as a trade ship, the two become fused, creating an unstable zone between ships and a multitude of problems for the crew of both ships. Arriving just in time to solve said problems are the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), his companion Romana (Lalla Ward) and their little pal K-9. But when a crewmember is injured by a mysterious animal and the Doctor discovers a stash of rare drugs, things go from bad to worse in this, the fourth serial of the 17th season of the long running

G.I. Joe: Renegades: Season One, Volume One DVD Review: All Set Up with No Payoff

Knowing is half the battle, but not knowing is a far greater victory.
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In 2011, a team of military specialists were branded as traitors to their country for a crime they didn’t commit. Promptly escaping to the underground and still wanted by both the elite military team known as the Falcons and the evil organization known as Cobra, they are known as both heroes and outlaws but consider themselves “ordinary Joes”. This, in a nutshell, is the premise of G.I. Joe: Renegades, the latest animated incarnation of a toy line that has become an American institution. Using the 1980s Real American Hero version of the Joe team as a template and borrowing liberally

Immortals Blu-ray Review: Both a Must-See and Not Worth the Price of a Rental

Remember when the Blonde Ambition tour made a pitstop in Bosch's depiction of Hell?
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When I saw previews for Immortals last year, I was on the fence. Visually, it looked quite appealing but it felt like an obvious attempt to ride the coattails of the Clash of the Titans remake. I certainly didn’t expect a quality film, but figured I’d get some awesome special effects and cool scenery. Here we are, nearly six months later - I’ve finally had the chance to view the film and it completely lived up to my expectations. It also managed to put to rest an old saying I’ve been using for years. You see, Immortals has proven beyond

Conan Volume 11: Road of Kings Trade Paperback Review: By Crom! Roy Thomas Delivers

A solidly crafted and accessible entry point for those unfamiliar with Robert E. Howard's most famous creation.
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The 11th volume in Dark Horse’s Conan series finds Robert E. Howard’s most famous creation commanding a crew of sailors as he pillages the Vilayet Sea. But when the pirate’s life proves unmanageable, Conan and his travelling companion Olivia set out on the fabled Road of Kings. Spurred onward by nocturnal visions of her father, Olivia wishes to return home. The journey is marked by treachery, thieves, monsters, slavery, and even a bit of royal intrigue. Pretty much your standard Conan story, right? Conan: Road of Kings collects the first six issues of Dark Horse’s series of the same name.

Sesame Street: Singing with the Stars DVD Review: Sure to Capture the Hearts of Both Parents and Children

A star-studded songfest. And if you're not careful, you might just learn something.
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If there’s two things I love, it’s a good parody song and a celebrity guest appearance. And if there are three things I love, the last one would have to be Muppets. On May 1, 2012, Warner Home Video and Sesame Workshop bring these loves together like chocolate and peanut butter and… well, I guess honey or something equally sweet like that. No, it isn’t a lost recording of Weird Al Yankovic on Fantasy Island; it’s Singing with the Stars, a celebrity-filled songfest featuring musical numbers from the past decade or so of Sesame Street. R.E.M., Feist, Alicia Keys, Jason

Shazzan: The Complete Series DVD Review: Rather Repetitive

If Mystery Science Theater ever featured cartoons, Shazzan would be a perfect pick.
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I never really got into Shazzan as a kid. This is probably due in large part to the fact that the show aired from 1967-69, nearly a decade before I was even born. And maybe it had to do with the fact that unlike many other classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons, reruns weren’t continuously on the air for decades after the show was first broadcast. But they can’t all be The Flintstones, can they? Anyway, the real reason I never gave Shazzan a fair shake, despite the fact that the show always seemed to have at least a somewhat loyal fan base,

Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo 2012: Something for Everyone

Sorry Wizard World, your reign is over.
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April 13-15, 2012 marked the third annual Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.  Held at McCormick Place in Chicago, this year’s C2E2 featured props and costumes from the Captain America movie; a variety of publishers including Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse; local celebrity John Cusack, Star Wars’ own Anthony Daniels; and The Walking Dead’s Lauren Cohan and Steven Yeun.  And honestly, folks, that’s barely scratching the surface of the event.  Let’s just cut to the chase: Sorry Wizard World, your reign is over.  With attendance skyrocketing and a variety of well-respected creators in attendance, it’s safe to say that C2E2

Book Review: Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Volume 5

Not the best Flash Gordon collection, but worthy of its place on a collector's bookshelf.
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Dark Horse continues to re-release pretty much every Flash Gordon comic ever published with Flash Gordon Comic Book Archives Volume 5. Released in December of 2011, this hardcover collection includes Whitman Comics’ Flash Gordon #28-#37 (originally published 1980-1982) and features the three-part adaptation of the 1980 cult classic film with stunning artwork by legendary Flash Gordon artist Al Williamson. Beginning with the Filmation animated series and the previously mentioned 1980 film, I’ve been a fan of Flash Gordon for nearly my entire life. I’ve enjoyed the original Alex Raymond strips as well as later works by brilliant artists such as

Pray for Death DVD Review: Recalls the Heyday of the Ninja

Sho Kosugi redefines revenge in this martial arts classic!
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Pray for Death stars Shô Kosugi as Akira Saito, a humble businessman living in Tokyo and moving up the ranks in his field. His family life is a happy one, with loving sons and a beautiful and dedicated wife. When the family has an opportunity to relocate to America to start a new life and a new, family-owned business, Saito is hesitant: he’s heard how violent American cities can be. But his wife, whose father was American, urges Akira to take a chance on a new life as it presents a chance for their sons to learn about the other

Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass DVD Review: Occasionally Impressive but Ultimately Uneven and Boring

There always seemed to either be something missing or an abundance of effects and tricks intended to cover up a sparse plot.
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Hellacious Acres: The Case of John Glass tells the story of John Glass, a man who awakens from a cryogenic slumber an unspecified number of years after not only World War III, but also an electromagnetic storm which wiped out all historical records, and an alien invasion or two. Actually, I don’t think they specify how many Alien Wars there were, but since they made reference to “Alien War I”, we’re assuming there were at least two. Earth has been ravaged by these wars and John Glass is given the task of kickstarting a new life for humanity by establishing
Having recently dipped my toe into the world of Doctor Who with The Face of Evil and The Robots of Death , I determined that it was time to delve into the exploits of earlier Doctors. As such, my next choice was Story No. 59, The Dæmons, featuring Jon Pertwee, the Doctor from 1970-1974. It certainly didn't hurt that this also happened to be the only Doctor Who DVD assigned to me, prohibiting any actual choice in the matter. Nevertheless, my lot had been cast and the hands of fate had determined that I would follow The Doctor, his companion

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Blu-ray Review: A Scintillating Espionage Thriller

Paranoia, insecurity and Cold War espionage, all wrapped up in a beautifully drab 1970's package.
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Based on John le Carré’s 1974 spy novel of the same name, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was released in 2011 to much acclaim, eventually earning three Academy Award nominations. Directed by Tomas Alfredson, the film weaves a tangled web of intrigue, deceit, dirty-dealing, treachery, smoke and mirrors, and a variety of other similar words and phrases we looked up in our thesaurus. In the end, it all adds up to a scintillating espionage thriller featuring an incredible cast of characters and performances. During the height of the Cold War, a British Intelligence agent is sent to Hungary on a mission

Doctor Who: The Robots of Death Special Edition DVD Review: Highly Recommended

It's like Clue. In space. With Twiki.
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Imagine, if you will, a world in which face-painted men with "Flock of Seagulls"-style haircuts comingle with folks resembling Frank Zappa in Ming the Merciless attire and women dressed in the finest glittery robes dug out of the trash bin behind Studio 54 whilst relaxing on silky-cushioned, oval-shaped beds. Now imagine all of these folks are part of a mining expedition on a desolate world, utilizing an enormous vehicle reminiscent of the sandcrawler the Jawas travelled in. Oh, and there's robots: creepy, creepy robots with molded hair that looks like Louis XIV, and a murder mystery that makes everyone a

Tom and Jerry In the Dog House DVD Review: Out with the New and In with the Old

Just the right blend of sadism and violence that every child should be brought up on.
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Tom and Jerry, the ever-battling animated cat and mouse duo, have been at odds with each other since 1940 and don’t show any signs of stopping. Odds are, both you and your parents grew up watching their antics, whether on the big or small screen. And thanks to Warner Brothers’ constant repackaging of the series, your children and likely your children’s children will continue to enjoy that grey cat and brown mouse beat the living hell out of each other for years to come. The latest effort that will eventually end up in the $5 bin at your local Target

Doctor Who: The Face of Evil DVD Review: Immensely Satisfying

Excellent writing and terrible special effects pay a house call.
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Tom Baker is the Doctor. At least, or my money he is. And while it might sound blasphemous to die-hards, I don't say that as a dyed-in-the-wool lifelong fan of the series or any type of expert on Time Lords or the TARDIS. As a matter of fact, reviewing this DVD is my first real exposure to the series and the character. Sure, I saw it as a kid, but most of the time I couldn't bring myself to watch it - it appeared as though it was filmed in my parent's backyard using cast-off equipment from a Soviet research

The Three Musketeers (2011) Blu-ray Review: Definitely Worth Watching

A Swashbuckling Surprise or The Very Best "Meh" that Cinema Has to Offer.
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Have you ever watched a film that was obviously intended to be seen in 3D on your regular old 2D television? Maybe it's just a scene or two that stands out, but sooner or later you're bound to notice a shot in which the actor appears to be painted into the scenery or perhaps stands poised to jump out of your screen but ultimately does nothing of the sort. Something just seems to be... missing. It doesn't look terrible, but it's quite clear that something is out of place. It isn't horribly fake looking, but you are well aware that

Iron Monster and Sesame Heroes DVD Review: A Crossover Recommended for Kids and Their Parents

Sesame Street and superheroes meet to educate and entertain.
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Sesame Street has a longstanding tradition of poking fun at popular culture, including television programs, game shows and film. And with superhero films being all the rage these days, it was only a matter of time before the folks at Sesame Workshop got around to using these familiar archetypes to their advantage - and to the advantage of millions of children around the world. Iron Monster and Sesame Heroes, the latest DVD release from Sesame Workshop and Warner Home Video, features four tales of the spandex and cape variety and as usual, they find a way to educate while entertaining.

Mr. Popper's Penguins Blu-ray Review: Painfully Predictable, yet Perfectly Passable Family Fare

Good for the kids and you won't mind watching it with them.
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Penguins are all the rage these days, so it was only a matter of time before Richard and Florence Atwater's classic children's novel about a man and his penguins was adapted for the big screen. Now, Mr. Popper's Penguins is available for viewing on your small(er) screen and with the holiday season upon us, it's only a matter of time before your local discount retailer is offering you copies of this film on DVD or Blu-ray (or perhaps a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack). Is it worth buying? That's what we're here to discuss. Diverging quite a bit from the original novel

Captain America (1992) DVD Review: Less Than Tolerable

Red, White and BLECH!
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If you are a die-hard fan of superhero cinema who simply can't wait for this summers' hit film Captain America: The First Avenger to hit the shelves on DVD and Blu-Ray, then MGM has got quite an offer to tide you over. Currently available through their Manufacturing on Demand program is this largely unseen and with any luck, forgotten, gem. I'm sorry, did I say "gem"? I meant "turd." Captain America was scheduled to be released in 1990 to coincide with the title character's 50th anniversary. Trailers were cut and promotional posters featuring Cap's iconic shield were seen in theaters

Piranha (2010) DVD Review: A Gore-Filled Breastravaganza!

A beautiful, terrible mess, and dammit, I loved every single second of it.
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Every year, the population in the quiet town of Lake Victoria explodes in a drunken orgy of sex and sunscreen known as Spring Break. This year is special though, as an underwater tremor unleashes a terror far more horrifying than roofie-carrying frat boys or obnoxious bimbos brandishing brand new tramp stamps: scores of prehistoric man-eating piranha. As you might expect with such a film, a motley crew of friends and strangers must band together in a desperate attempt to save the town from becoming dinner for these flesh-eating denizens of the deep. Steven R. McQueen plays... oh look, I'll

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