It was doomed from the beginning. Before making its debut on the DC Universe streaming service, Swamp Thing had its initial 13-episode first season cut to 10 episodes. Then, once it finally premiered, the show was cancelled after the airing of the pilot episode. The series was able to play out the remaining nine episodes, as the show aired weekly and didn’t release all at once. But the fate of the series was already determined, and those who stuck with it to the end, hoping to get at least some kind of closure, were left gravely disappointed. It’s a pity,
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Swamp Thing (2019): The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: What Is and What (Unfortunately) Will Never Be
The complete first and only season of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing shows what could have potentially been a great series.
Trey Edward Shults' latest is ambitious and also aggravatingly flawed.
The use of popular music can make or break certain scenes in movies. Martin Scorsese knows this, even though he uses the same Rolling Stones song (“Gimme Shelter,” for example) or variations of it in a lot of his movies. But no matter the song, its placement is practically perfect. Others, like David O. Russell, struggle in this department. The Fighter went for the obvious with Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” Silver Linings Playbook had a terrible use of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” during an argument
Though mildly hampered by biopic cliches, the film succeeds with a strong performance by Cynthia Ervio.
One of the most surprising things about Harriet is the fact that, prior to it, there hadn’t been a single feature film made about Harriet Tubman, the American abolitionist breaking free from slavery and leading numerous missions to free others. Her life story had been the subject of many television miniseries/single episodes, but Hollywood had never made a movie about it. And what we are given is your average biopic that was mostly made to garner some attention from Oscar voters. That’s not to say that Harriet is a particularly bad movie; it’s actually a good one. But it has
A unique concept that stretches itself way too thin.
The idea behind Sliding Doors is one that is rather original and intriguing. Imagine someone living two separate but shared storylines. One focuses on what happens if she were to miss the train she’s supposed to catch to go back home. The other focuses on what happens if she got on the train in time. They have the same people, but differ in terms of certain character actions and landmark events. It’s something that might have worked in The Twilight Zone. As a feature film, and one that relies on so many rom-com cliches, not so much. Gwyneth Paltrow plays
Not on the same level of nuttiness as Mandy, but a thrilling, B-grade invasion film overall.
One of the great things about Nicolas Cage’s decisions to appear in practically anything that crosses his desk is, every now and then, we’ll get a movie that is just as wild and as over-the-top as his performance. In 2018, the Oscar-winning actor partnered with Panos Cosmatos for the phantasmagoric Mandy, which equally balanced its bonkers and campy approach with Cage’s typical moments of shouting and wide-eyed gazes. Most of the time, Cage does his own thing while the script and direction do something entirely different. In most cases, the result is something conventional with some meme-able moments provided by
Renee Zellweger's outstanding performance is the sole reason to see this otherwise formulaic biopic.
There is no denying that all of the praise and awards attention that Renee Zellweger has been receiving for her performance as Judy Garland is justified. Zellweger disappears into the role of the troubled star in her final days when her acting career was behind her and she turned to performing at various venues to try to get by. It’s a devastating performance, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she took home all of the awards. I just wish the movie surrounding her performance was as captivating as she is. Director Rupert Goold brushes through so many aspects of
Awkwafina excels in her first dramatic role in Lulu Wang's semi-autobiographical feature.
When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, the automatic assumption is that the person should know what they have and how much time they have left to live. At least, that’s how the American culture would perceive it. For Asian culture, they traditionally withhold the information from that person so it doesn’t cloud their mind and have them live their last days in fear and with depression - knowing they are going to die. For Billi (Awkwafina), an Asian American living in New York, she has trouble understanding how her family is able to follow a traditional method such
A strongly acted and skillfully directed examination of a recently-closed case.
It wasn’t that long ago that Tom McCarthy released Spotlight, the Best Picture-winning biopic that showcased a team of Boston Globe reporters investigating and, eventually, exposing the allegations that a Catholic priest in the area had molested more than 80 boys. That was mostly seen from the perspective of the journalists and the struggles they experienced in a pre-9/11 world - as well as what happened when that infamous day struck. With By the Grace of God, François Ozon takes a similar story, also based on true events, that is set a decade after the events of Spotlight and in
A beautifully crafted anthology and one worthy of an Oscar nomination in the animated short films category.
At just 44 minutes, This Magnificent Cake! zooms by, but it also leaves the viewer speechless. An exploration of 1800s Belgian history told through stop-motion animation that uses felt, wool, and cloth for its characters and settings, this is one of the most ground-breaking films to ever be made. And despite its heavy themes, the beautiful craftwork left me wanting to be in the world more than what we’re allowed. The title derives from King Leopold II’s statement, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” Five stories showcase
A darkly funny and scathing examination on how Hollywood treats disability.
As history has proven time and time again, Hollywood is not always the kindest place for certain people. All of those who want to pursue acting can give it their all and still come up short. And the answer to why they can’t make it simply lies in the fact that they don’t fit the Hollywood mold. Or a certain something about them can only limit them to playing one type. And yet, the big executives are too afraid to really say the truth and simply resort to the usual “You aren’t what we’re seeking” excuse. Even going back into
Despite its familiarity, Zara Hayes's feature-film debut is a surprisingly delightful comedy.
Based on the trailers alone, Zara Hayes’ Poms could easily be dismissed as something that we’ve seen numerous times and won’t try to break any new ground. And you wouldn’t be wrong with that criticism. Nearly every single moment of the movie is a rehash of others in the genre and not done better either. But, surprisingly enough, the movie comes with a great amount of charm and heart to make it a light, entertaining comedy. It starts off with Martha (Diane Keaton) hosting an estate sale. Through some rather unnecessary voice-over narration, she tells the viewers how she’s lived
One of Steve Martin's most hilarious and heartwarming films gets a new Blu-ray release from Mill Creek Entertainment.
Fred Schepisi’s Roxanne is a film that, at first glance, may seem too contrived and too formulaic to differentiate itself from the standard rom-com genre. But it gives the viewer something that a lot of comedies seem to lack nowadays, and that is a strong heart. While it derives its story loosely from Edmond Rostand’s play, Cyrano de Bergerac, Roxanne is still able to carve its own path and leaves the viewer with a warm, happy feeling all over. It’s a great reminder that comedies don’t need to be crude to be funny, and romance films don’t need to crank
Jeff Goldblum and Tye Sheridan excel in Rick Alverson's intriguing period piece.
I’m not familiar with any of Rick Alverson’s previous efforts, such as The Comedy and Entertainment. But if there’s something to be learned from The Mountain, in regards to Alverson’s directorial prowess, it’s that he’s polarizing and has a lot to say about a particular subject. He’s also unconventional and allows for interpretation on whatever he has crafted. Again, this is all coming from his latest film, and the only one of his I’ve seen. The Mountain is certainly not going to be for everyone, but there is something about it that makes it feel like it’s going to be
Edward Zwick’s Civil War epic is still a masterful achievement.
In recent years, the war genre has mostly shown viewers the events of what happened during World War II or modern-day conflicts; Hacksaw Ridge and Dunkirk are two recent examples of terrific films in the genre. But I’m always amazed by the fact that there are so few films about the Civil War. Like World War II, it’s such an intriguing part of history and one that has countless stories that are worthy of a big-screen telling. Granted, some of the more recent releases haven’t been that great, such as Free State of Jones and Field of Lost Shoes. But,
Claire Denis's newest film is an absorbing, incredible sci-fi feature.
If 2001: A Space Odyssey had more of a horror aspect and were to get slapped with an R rating, it might look something like Claire Denis’s High Life, one of the most puzzling and intriguing films to be released in 2019. From the opening shot, the viewer is left astonished by Yorick Le Saux’s beautiful cinematography. A shot of nature in an intergalactic atmosphere has never looked so stunning, and Le Saux doesn’t let up once the story focuses on the people within the ship in which the film takes place. It’s a beautiful and terrifying exploration of how
Neil Burger's 2006 film gets a new Blu-ray release that, unfortunately, lacks any new features.
There was a time in which both Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Neil Burger’s The Illusionist played at the theater at which I worked. They were only released within a month of each other, but, as I recall, Nolan’s film seemed to have attracted more of a crowd based on cast and the fact that he made Batman great again. Burger’s film started off small and then slowly found its audience based more on word of mouth than pre-release buzz. And while both are centered on magicians, they are both very different in terms of plot and direction. They both
Our friendly neighborhood webslinger goes international in this slick, smart sequel.
Serving as an epilogue to Avengers: Endgame, and also the final installment of Marvel’s Phase Three set of feature films, Spider-Man: Far From Home is successful in both wrapping things up and setting forth a new direction for the young Peter Parker (Tom Holland). Far From Home is nowhere near the dark territory of Endgame. It takes a lighter, more fun approach, but also deals with some deep, thematic elements impressively well. Thanos is gone, and “The Blip,” as Far From Home calls it, has been reversed. Those who vanished five years ago have returned the same they were then,
A movie in which the Beatles never existed should be much more interesting than what we’re given.
Danny Boyle’s Yesterday imagines a world in which all the people, living all around the world, had never heard of John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and George Harrison. That is, all except for struggling musician Jack Malik (Himesh Patel), as he wakes up from a coma one day to find out songs such as “Hey Jude,” “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” and others were never conceived. At this point, you would expect Rod Serling to pop around the corner and tell the audience that Jack has been transported into The Twilight Zone. Now that might have made Yesterday
David Robert Mitchell’s latest is kind of a mess, but it’s also kind of fascinating.
David Robert Mitchell’s Under the Silver Lake had been pushed back so many times before A24 decided to quietly release it in limited theaters and VOD earlier this year. On one hand, it’s pretty clear why they did it. The film kind of overstays its welcome with a 139-minute runtime, and several shots appear onscreen that make you question the motive for showing something that was not needed. It’s a bit of a self-indulgent tribute to the Hollywood nightlife and to the noir genre under which it’s categorized. But after sitting on it for a few days, there’s something about
Ron Howard's new documentary on Luciano Pavarotti is informative, but also has viewers begging for more.
Luciano Pavarotti was one of the best opera singers to have lived, and his memory will live on forever in the music he sang. But, like all other beloved figures, there’s more to him than what is seen in the public atmosphere. If you’re expecting Ron Howard to simply give viewers a glimpse into the life of the late tenor and how he rose to fame, Pavarotti will not disappoint. It’s insightful and is especially a good starting point for those unfamiliar with Pavarotti’s music. But for those who are lifelong fans - or even those who are simply aware
An additional 12 minutes of footage and a new song are added into this special edition.
Bradley Cooper showed his prowess for directing with his debut, the 2018 version of A Star is Born. In some aspects, the way the camera moved - and the way the story flowed - makes it seem like Cooper is a veteran in the field. The musical performances immediately immerse the viewer, making it seem like they are witnessing the songs from firsthand experience. Outside of the magnificently captured concert sequences, there’s a deeply affectionate love story about a man whose fame has gotten to his head - and the young lady he falls for, who ignites the audience once
A musical biopic that avoids the typical beats of the genre.
You may not know the name Blaze Foley, and that’s OK. A lot of other people - myself included - had never heard of the late singer-songwriter until Ethan Hawke decided to bring his story to the big screen. And while he may not have the same name recognition as someone like Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard, some popular songs by those artists and others were initially sung and/or written by Foley. It’s doubtful that Foley will become a household name now with this movie, but those unaware of his musical prowess can now experience the true story of the
Harold Lloyd's slapstick masterpiece gets a fantastic upgrade from the folks at Criterion.
I’m not too familiar with the work of Harold Lloyd, and The Kid Brother is actually the first film of his that I’ve seen in its entirety. Of course, now that I’ve finally experienced one of his films, it makes me want to go and seek out what else he has done. The Kid Brother is a hysterical comedy from the silent era, and also one that has a strong emotional core and a few exciting action scenes. It’s the perfect genre blend of a movie, one that is hard to come by in modern Hollywood. Lloyd plays Harold Hickory,
A gorgeous documentary that makes you want to spend your whole day with panda bears.
One of the things about animal/nature documentaries is that a lot of them aim to be overly cutesy in their narration and stylistic approach as a way to keep the attention of the young ones. Disney’s Born in China did that quite a bit in 2017, and, while it was cute and gorgeous in its imagery, the narration came across as pandering to only a certain demographic and not being informational enough for everyone else. IMAX’s Pandas kind of does that, but it’s not as cloying and off-putting. In the 40 minutes we get to witness the pandas in action,
Once again, Adam McKay proves he can't direct true stories.
In a perfect world, the cast of Vice would be in a movie that is compelling and maybe doesn’t play to the beat of every other biopic out there. But this is not a perfect world, and, while the film is certainly different from others that are based on true events, it's far from being a compelling feature. Instead, what we are given is Adam McKay’s tonally inconsistent, self-indulgent satire that wastes its cast and spends too much time trying to determine if it wants to mock all of its characters or be serious and try to earn some brownie
Clint Eastwood makes a strong return to acting and also directs a solidly crafted film.
At this point, it’s hard to take an actor seriously when he or she announces retirement from being in front of the camera. Recently, there was news going around that Robert Redford won’t star in another movie after The Old Man and the Gun. While that may be true for the time being, there was another person who claimed to be retiring from acting, only to reemerge years after making that statement. In 2008, Clint Eastwood said he would no longer star in a movie after Gran Torino. And while more of his time is now dedicated to working behind
Warner Archive gives a solid Blu-ray upgrade to Michael Cimino’s edgy crime thriller.
Michael Cimino may have never had another critical and/or commercial success after The Deer Hunter, but that doesn’t mean he, at least, made some films that are still worthy of a conversation piece. Heaven’s Gate was a giant bomb in 1980, but it is still talked about and gets new restored versions of it every so often - with the most recent being a 2012 release from The Criterion Collection of the film in all its three hours-plus glory. Year of the Dragon may not have the same reputation as Heaven’s Gate does of being a costly, box office failure
Finland's most expensive film comes to Blu-ray in the U.S. thanks to the folks at Kino Lorber.
One of the great things about the Finnish war drama, Unknown Soldier, is that it doesn’t rely on copious amounts of blood and carnage to make an impact on the viewer, nor does it ramp up the score to trigger some kind of emotional nerve. All too often, war films - especially those coming out of Hollywood - are plagued by cliches that involve the director increasing these departments to 11 as a way to elicit some type of response from the audience, and they fail to capture the human element of the story, which is what matters the most.
David Yates's second venture into the Harry Potter prequel series is a dull, tedious effort.
Maybe five films is a bit too much to look at everything in the pre-Harry Potter universe. Or, maybe it’s not enough. It depends on how you view it. There’s quite a bit of information unloaded on the viewer in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald that it feels like there should be 10 movies just to explore everything J.K. Rowling has in mind. But there’s also this feeling, after sitting through The Crimes of Grindelwald, of how much of a chore it will be to get through the already-planned three future films. Picking up where Fantastic Beasts and Where
A.T. White's debut feature is visually stunning and may require more than one viewing to fully understand.
When the phrase “Based on a true story” pops on the screen, that is usually a signal that the following feature may be formulaic in its approach to recounting the events that took place. That is certainly not the case with A.T. White’s directorial debut, Starfish, which is based on a personal story and goes far beyond any conventional trappings. Yet, White’s film, while daring and visually striking, has a big problem with being cohesive. Maybe those are just the initial reactions and upon further exploration, the film will flow more smoothly and whatever questions I had will be answered.
A definitive '90s movie and also not nearly as good as I remember.
It’s a funny thing, really, to revisit films that defined your adolescent years. Sometimes, they can be just as good as you remember. Other times, they aren’t, and you are left questioning why you thought it was a good film in the first place. I think, when I first saw The Craft, it had just premiered on HBO and I had heard some positive chatter from the people at my school. Therefore, I was eager to check it out myself. I didn’t have cable, but a relative did, so I watched it with her and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.
John Rhys-Davies helps police find a killer in this low-budgeted, schlocky horror film.
Every now and then, a well-known actor will appear in a low-budget effort for a brief period of time. But, since this person is the only recognizable name in the film, they are given top billing. Take, for example, Danny Trejo. The Machete star’s name was placed at the front of all the marketing for Voodoo Possession, a direct-to-DVD effort that only gave him about 10 minutes of screen time. Then again, none of the other actors in Voodoo Possession had the same amount of star power as Trejo and, therefore, they weren’t given top billing. The same can kind
Willem Dafoe excels in unconventional biopic of Vincent Van Gogh.
Yes, we just had a semi-biopic on Vincent van Gogh not too long ago with Loving Vincent; the trippy, experimental effort that saw well-known actors turned into water color figures. And, hey, in the end, that worked out rather well. Now, we get another film about the famous painter with At Eternity’s Gate, which has the wonderful Willem Dafoe headlining as van Gogh. Surprisingly, though, this is not the familiar, Oscar-bait type of feature that one expects around late November (the time of its theatrical release). It’s a rather deep, philosophical exploration at the late painter’s last days. Dafoe narrates
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot Movie Review: Not Exactly What You Expect, and That's a Good Thing
Sam Elliott plays a man who kills Hitler and then hunts Bigfoot in this surprisingly moving film.
What a name for a movie! One could easily suspect The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot would be the latest in grindhouse genre tributes and might be shown as a double feature with something like Hobo with a Shotgun. Alas, despite the lengthy and creative title, Robert D. Krzykowski’s debut is less of an all-out bloodfest and more of a character study on a man who once made an impact on American society - and yet few know about it. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of revisionist history being put into play here, and Kryzkowski has some
Maisie Williams is the only shining light in this standard coming-of-age story.
Coming-of-age films in which cancer-stricken teens are at the forefront have become a dime-a-dozen concept, and after Then Came You, there needs to be a hold on them for a long period of time. Sure, the young-adult crowd might gobble them up, and some may win the hearts of indie-film lovers at festivals. But when your film practically tells its audience that having cancer means you can get away with anything - and I mean anything - there’s a problem. That is just one of the many reasons why Peter Hutchings’ film is one of the most dreadful experiences so
Bruce Thierry Cheung's new film is a beautiful, poetic approach to the importance of fatherhood.
Although I have yet to experience fatherhood, I do know from close friends and family members that any type of parenting is a challenge. At the same time, though, many say it is a blessing. In some cases, however, there have been people that could no longer handle it, and, unfortunately, walked away - leaving their child and significant other behind in an attempt to find something that they feel is more suited for them. That’s essentially the premise of Bruce Thierry Cheung’s Don’t Come Back from the Moon, which is based on Dean Bakopoulos’ novel, Please Don’t Come Back
Emily Blunt steals the show in Rob Marshall's sequel to the 1964 classic.
It’s not like the world needed a sequel to Mary Poppins, but we got one anyway. And you know what? It’s actually quite fun. Mary Poppins Returns doesn’t deviate itself too much from its 1964 predecessor, but director Rob Marshall is able to convey something that is magical and cheerful and the perfect movie to take the family to see over the busy holiday season. This time, it’s Emily Blunt taking over the iconic role made famous by Julie Andrews (she won her only Oscar so far for the performance). Really, if there was an actress who is the practically
Nicolas Cage gives his most bonkers performance to date in Panos Cosmatos’ psychedelic revenge thriller.
For every disposable, straight-to-VOD picture that Nicolas Cage does, he’ll usually come up with something that surprises and shocks even his most stern critics. Oddly enough, Mandy ended up falling into the same category as Rage, 211, and so many other features starring the Oscar-winning actor in that they run in an extremely limited amount of theaters while also being available to purchase or rent on streaming services. But, unlike those aforementioned titles, Mandy doesn’t come across as yet another throwaway effort from Cage and whomever he happens to bring along with him. Sure, the revenge plot is formulaic, but
Peter Jackson's groundbreaking WWI documentary is required viewing for history and cinema buffs alike.
Taking old black and white footage and adding color to it is nothing particularly new. Some documentaries have already done so to footage from World War II and other historical events, making it appear as it was mostly seen through the eyes of those that experienced it. Peter Jackson’s latest effort, They Shall Not Grow Old, does the same thing for World War I but to a much different, more gut-wrenching effect than any other documentary on the subject. The war footage used is 100 years old, meaning that the frame rate makes it look like each individual person is
The robots are out for revenge, but it's hard to care for most of the season.
Warner Bros.Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in the Blog Post. The opinions shared are his own. I was a bit lukewarm on the first season of HBO’s Westworld. I didn’t feel that it really brought about anything new in regards to the theory of artificial intelligence rebelling against its creator(s), but there was plenty in which I got invested. It was mainly the star power - most notably Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, and Thandie Newton - that kept me tuning in, and I was interested in seeing where it was
Although there aren't too many characters to grow attached to, the subject material of the film is what keeps it going.
I’m a sucker for films based on historical events, especially those that don’t get told often or have yet to be told at all. And if it revolves around World War II or afterward, you can guarantee I’ll be watching it sometime soon. Operation Finale is exactly the type of movie that piques my interest. After having so many movies focus on Adolf Hitler and other stories that we were told countless times in history classes, director Chris Weitz gives us one that isn’t as well known but is as important to learn about. The funny thing is, this is
The second of the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan-starring films is a delightful and witty romantic comedy.
A few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were watching a movie when a trailer for Fathom Events’ presentation of Sleepless in Seattle came on. She smiled and stated how much she loved the movie. I ashamedly admitted that I had never seen it. To be honest, when I was growing up, I didn’t find myself getting attached to romantic comedies that much - or even romantic dramas. I think I had watched some here and there, but I always dismissed them as cheesy, sentimental goo. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve come to appreciate a lot of them more
Jon M. Chu's box-office success is a wickedly smart romantic comedy.
By now, it’s already very well known that Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians marked a milestone for Hollywood as the first major motion picture in 25 years to feature a predominantly Asian cast. It’s something definitely worth celebrating. It’s also a good thing that the movie itself takes the rom-com formula and doesn’t exactly reinvent it, but makes it worthwhile again. Some of the familiar beats are just that, but there’s hardly a moment that doesn’t make you grin ear to ear. The plot is familiar, but Jon M. Chu injects a lot of fervor into Crazy Rich Asians,
An uneven, sci-fi mess, but the Blu-ray is handled quite nicely.
Jonathan and Josh Baker’s directorial debut, Kin, is just further proof that not all short films deserve the feature-length treatment. The inspiration comes from the brothers’ 14-minute short called Bag Man, which is available in the Special Features section of the Kin Blu-ray. Bag Man tells the story of a troubled boy living at home with his widowed mother. He carries around a bag, which, it later reveals, contains a high-powered weapon that can destroy vehicles and incinerate any individual that comes within its path. By the short film’s end, the viewer is left with intrigue and craving more. This
Jason Statham squares off against a giant shark in Jon Turteltaub's fun action thriller.
The Meg is almost exactly the type of movie one would expect if you told them the basic premise is Jason Statham and a crew of people go after a giant, prehistoric shark. I say almost because there’s this hint that director Jon Turteltaub wanted to make the movie more extreme, more over-the-top, and more graphic than it is, as far as a PG-13 rating can go. Turteltaub and Statham have both expressed how that was the initial plan, but the studio told them that they had to make it appeal to a mass audience. An R-rating, obviously, wouldn’t attract
The sporadically funny spoof of the classic TV show gets released to Blu-ray for the first time.
There’s this feeling that lingers throughout Tom Mankiewicz’s satirical approach to the hit television series, Dragnet. The feeling is that there should be more laughs. With Dan Aykroyd playing a straight-edged police officer unable to fit into the modern society, and Tom Hanks as his hip, loose-living partner, this has the capability to be comedic dynamite. But the end result comes up way short of being great. There are some laughs, but they are few and far between. The bright spot of this rather dull comedy is Aykroyd’s performance as Sergeant Joe Friday, the nephew of the original show’s character.
Barry Sonnenfeld's satire on Hollywood and the mob gets the 4K treatment from Shout! Factory.
Back in 1977, Saturday Night Fever became a box-office sensation, garnering $237 million worldwide and putting its star, John Travolta, on the map. This role led to an Oscar nomination for Travolta, who then would continue showing off his dancing skills and musical talent in 1978’s Grease. With back-to-back hits, Travolta became one of the most talked about actors of that decade, and with those two films, he was, in addition, also recognized for his talented dancing skills and singing voice. After a decline in the '80s, Travolta found himself with another Oscar nomination for 1994’s Pulp Fiction, in which
The comedy classic gets a 4K upgrade from Shout! Factory.
During my youth, City Slickers had been a film that I watched with my parents only a few times. It was never something we watched annually or every few years. In fact, it had been so long since I last watched it that, during the recent re-watching, I couldn’t remember a single line or moment in it. Oddly enough, I remember one particular scene in its sequel, The Legend of Curly’s Gold, more than I did almost anything in the original. Save for the cartoonish opening credits, which I did remember, watching the original City Slickers recently felt like I
It rightfully deserved the whacking it received from critics.
Despite the colossal amount of negative press it received during its theatrical run, I half-expected Gotti to at least have some entertainment value in how terrible it is. At certain parts of the movie, there is this feeling of glee when something so outrageously, horribly executed appears on the screen. It starts right at the beginning of the film when an establishing shot shows John Gotti (John Travolta) looking up to the stars and then turns to the camera and breaks the fourth wall as he begins to explain his story. He starts off by spouting generic, gangster lines such
Clumsy lip-syncing and silly scenarios drag down Paul Weitz's latest effort.
Is it too much to ask for someone who can both act and sing exceptionally well? Apparently so. In last year’s The Greatest Showman, Rebecca Ferguson portrayed opera singer Jenny Lind. But while it looked like she was the one singing “Never Enough,” it was actually Loren Allred’s voice that people heard while Ferguson lip-synced. As for the song itself, it sounded less like opera and more like a '90s pop ballad, but that’s beside the point. The reason I bring this up is because Paul Weitz’s adaptation of Ann Patchett’s bestselling book, Bel Canto, does the same exact thing
Jessie Buckley makes a name for herself in Michael Pearce’s directorial debut.
While Jessie Buckley has made several notable appearances on television, Beast marks the first time she’s taken on a role in a feature-length project. And, boy, does she make a strong first impression. In Michael Pearce’s directorial debut, she’s placed at the front and center of the story, and there’s not a moment in which it seems like she has issues with taking the lead. There is a bright future for the young actress, and Beast shows that she is a force to reckon with. Set in an isolated community on the Channel Island of Jersey, Beast is loosely inspired
Kino Lorber Studio Classics gives Stephen Sommers’ silly monster movie a solid Blu-ray upgrade.
Stephen Sommers’ Deep Rising was one of those movies I wanted to see when it initially released, but I never got around to it until now. I was in seventh grade, and, like most people in that age range, horror movies were something that we rushed out to see. We wanted to see something that was going to make us jump in our seats and entertain us. But, for some reason, I never saw it. It may be because I didn’t hear great things about it and decided to skip. That’s usually what I did and - to some degree
Ethan Hawke gives a stunning performance in Paul Schrader’s latest effort.
It’s a subject in which Paul Schrader is very familiar, and also the one from which some of his best work comes: the focus on an individual whose life begins to spiral out of control for various reasons. It began with Taxi Driver in 1976 and has been explored in others such as 1980’s Raging Bull and 1999’s Bringing Out the Dead. All of them are terrific and haunting works of art that Schrader penned and, at least in those three examples, had Martin Scorsese direct. For First Reformed, Schrader tackles the subject as both writer and director. Borrowing mostly
A cast of non-actors leads one of the most realistic and powerful portrayals of those who risk their lives in the rodeo circuit.
Chloe Zhao’s The Rider is a film that begins with our lead character, Brady Blackburn, removing staples from his head. His days of riding in the rodeo circuit are no more, and, as he looks in the mirror, he contemplates on what he’s going to do from here. The person who portrays the title character is Brady Jandreau, a non-actor who was once a cowboy in the rodeo circuit but had to resign following a horrific head injury. The Rider is not a documentary, but there’s never a moment where it feels like the viewer is watching something that has
A talented young cast and impressive production pieces can't save this meandering debut from Sergio G. Sánchez.
Based on its trailer, its look, and the fact that it has Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Split) and Mia Goth (A Cure for Wellness), one could easily mistake Sergio G. Sánchez’s directorial debut, Marrowbone, for a horror movie. And while there are certainly horror elements that appear throughout, Marrowbone plays more like a drama about a family trying to stick together than it does a terrifying, haunted-house thrill ride. It’s especially frustrating because there are moments within the movie where Sanchez implements the tacky jump scare method and then retreats to focus on the issues the family faces - which
A blatant E.T. rip-off that is also the longest advertisement for both McDonald's and Coca Cola.
It’s one thing to pay homage to a certain film. It’s another to do an almost beat-for-beat replica and try to pass it off as something original. Stewart Raffill’s 1988 flop, Mac and Me, certainly falls in the latter category. It’s a movie that so desperately tries to be like Steven Spielberg’s box-office hit, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it painfully shows with every passing scene and is heard with every note of Alan Silvestri’s musical score. It’s amazing that a lawsuit was never filed. Then again, the movie disappeared from theaters after two weeks due to low attendance. The damage
Although there are some laughs to be had, most of it feels recycled.
One of my main concerns about a sequel to a film being released more than a decade later is the amount of callbacks that are going to be littered throughout. I remember watching one of the trailers for Jurassic World and - while listening to the slow, piano version of the original theme song - thinking that it was going to be filled with key moments that make the viewer remember how much they love the first one and also try to trick them in thinking the sequel is a good movie. In reality, it’s a terrible movie, filled with
Joaquin Phoenix gives one of the best performances of his career.
Prior to watching Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here, I came across one short comment on Letterboxd in which the person noted that it was like an artistic version of Pierre Morel’s Taken. To an extent, that is true. Yes, Joaquin Phoenix’s character, Joe, has a particular set of skills, and, yes, his character tries to rescue young girls from sex traffickers. But as I was watching You Were Never Really Here, I came to the realization that it is more of a hybrid between Taken and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. It’s a slow-burning thriller that intrigues its audience
This is not just another saccharine horse drama.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I expected Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete to fall in the same league as Seabiscuit, Hidalgo, Secretariat, and so many other films about horses and horse racing. Sure, I knew this was going to be more for adults, since it is rated R, and it is an A24 release. The latter usually means we’re in for something different, and that certainly is the case here. Charley (Charlie Plummer) is a 16-year-old boy living with his out-of-control father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), who struggles to make ends meet, but is always up for
Three people involved with the new military drama speak about how it's more than just a movie, it's a movement.
During the inaugural Fandemic Tour Sacramento weekend, I found myself coming across a variety of things. At nearly every vendor, there was something I was interested in purchasing or picking up, or there was something at which I just wanted to stop and take a look. While I wandered the main floor, I came across a booth for a movie called Warfighter. I had never heard of the movie prior to Fandemic, but, having a love for military-related history and cinema, my interest was immediately piqued. I had briefly chatted with Jerry G. Angelo - the film’s star, producer, writer,
Despite some last-minute cancellations, there was still plenty of fun to be had here.
One of the most disappointing things about this year is that, for the first time since it expanded to the Sacramento area in 2014, I, unfortunately, have to miss the annual Wizard World convention. Granted, there was some restructuring going on with the organization, and they initially announced that they had no plans to return for a fifth straight year. But then, it was later announced that Wizard World would, indeed, be coming back, and it is currently scheduled to take place at a venue not too far from my house. However, it also happens to fall on the same
Jason David Frank talks about the upcoming Fandemic Tour and his work on the Power Rangers franchise.
This weekend marks the start of a new type of comic convention hitting the national market. Fandemic Tour, which was started by former Wizard World CEO John Macaluso, is set to kick off its inaugural show in Sacramento, CA, on Friday, June 22 and will run until Sunday, June 24. Pop-culture fans will have the opportunity to meet many actors from a variety of their favorite television shows and movies, as well as numerous artists and, of course, some incredible cosplayers. One of the actors who will be attending all three days of the event is Jason David Frank of
These are the panels in which you will find me.
Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the first day of the inaugural Fandemic Tour due to getting off work late. But I will be making the second day, which is Saturday, June 23, at the Sacramento Convention Center. Here are the panels I plan on attending. This is subject to change, as is the case with all conventions. Click here for a full programming list. 12:00 p.m. Building Star Wars with the 501st LegionLocation: Stage Two The 501st Legion is an all-volunteer organization formed for the express purpose of bringing together costume enthusiasts under a collective identity within which
This charming documentary looks at how an avid collector in Iowa comes across some of the first moving pictures that were believed to have been extinct.
Michael Zahs, a retired history teacher and the subject of the new documentary Saving Brinton, is the very definition of someone who is a gentle giant. His large stature and lengthy beard give him a rather intimidating appearance, but when you hear him speak and get an insight into his life, he’s a lovable teddy bear. He’s the kind of person from whom you could learn a lot, and not just because he once taught history in high school. As we get a look inside his home in Ainsworth, Iowa, we see that he loves to collect things. It has
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension Steelbook Edition Blu-ray Review: Giddyup for Some Sci-Fi Fun
Shout! Factory repackages a previously released collector's edition of W.D. Richter's cult classic for the steelbook fans.
With one of the longest movie titles in cinematic history, and one of the most unique heroes to ever grace the silver screen, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (hereafter Buckaroo Banzai) is a film that has so much going for it, but initially didn’t find the same audience that many other science fiction features of the '80s did, namely the Star Wars sequels. Its failure led to the shuttering of Sherwood Films and the proposed sequel, which is mentioned at the movie’s end, never came to fruition. Years later, however, the film developed a cult following,
If this is truly Daniel Day-Lewis' final film, he goes out on a high note.
In 2017, Daniel Day-Lewis announced that he would be retiring from acting - which makes Phantom Thread, the eighth film from Paul Thomas Anderson, his final performance. Although Lewis has not graced the silver screen as often as many other actors do, the times he did have certainly been amongst the most memorable. Save for a few misses (Nine, for example), Lewis always brought an extreme amount of dedication and talent to each role. It’s helped him land three Oscar wins, along with three other nominations, and countless acclaim from multiple organizations. Phantom Thread is no different. It’s a tremendous
Dakota Fanning gives a fine performance, but she can’t carry this mess of a film.
I could make a number of bad Star Trek references and puns throughout this review, but others have already done so. Please Stand By does that, too. Yes, it’s quite obvious that it was going to make numerous mentions to the show based on the premise of the film (and play on which it is based). That’s totally fine and acceptable. I can dig it when a movie or television show uses nostalgia as a tool and does it well. What I absolutely hate is when some form of medium does it so lazily by simply name-dropping as a way
Liu Jian's animated feature is a gritty and thrilling neo-noir.
There have been two Chinese animated features released this year that are polar opposites in terms of style and genre, but have had a pretty big impact on me as a viewer. The first was Big Fish & Begonia, which has issues but is visually stunning to behold. The second is Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day, which is nowhere near as pretty as the former film, but makes a strong statement on humanity’s obsession with consumerism. It’s a pity that neither received much exposure here in the U.S., but I’m sure in the years to come, they will both
Take a ride on the nightmare merry-go-round with Arrow Video’s excellent restoration of the Chiodo brothers’ cult classic.
During the 1990s, my father and I had an annual tradition on or near Halloween. Whenever Killer Klowns from Outer Space came on the television, we would stop whatever we were doing and watch it. We didn’t have cable back then, and my parents still don’t to this day. Oddly enough, we also never owned the movie on VHS or DVD. But one of the local stations (CBS, I believe) would air it each year as Halloween drew closer. I think it was always being shown during the middle of the day on a weekend, when the network had no
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is a slick and entertaining fact-based feature.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is known for having his characters spout out lines of dialogue as fast as a typewriter in constant motion. They speak intellectually and, for the most part, have some intense conversation laced with a moment of humor for levity. After his departure from The West Wing in 2003 (he still received credit for being the show’s creator until its ending in 2006), and a flop in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Sorkin has put most of his focus on recounting true stories of flawed people taking giant risks in their industries. Whether it’s Mark Zuckerberg
Despite its issues with its story, this is a stunningly animated feature from China.
It took 12 years for directors Xuan Liang and Chun Zhang to bring their animated feature film, Big Fish & Begonia, to the big screen. For the most part, the long wait was well worth it. It’s a gorgeously animated feature that seems heavily inspired by the likes of filmmakers such as Hayao Miyazaki, but it doesn’t borrow too much from his work to seem like a complete imitation. On the negative side, though, the story is bogged down heavily by exposition and a muddled storyline that tries to incorporate as much about Chinese mythology as it can while weaving
Warwick Thornton's new feature is a gritty, brilliant take on the genre.
As I watched Warwick Thornton’s wonderful new film, Sweet Country, there were many thoughts going through my mind. One was how Thornton decided to let the story play out as it is, without any accompanying music. All too often, certain things can take the viewer out of a movie, and one of those can be its score. Sometimes, in the case of something like Mad Max: Fury Road, it’s a necessity, and it works extremely well. But in the case of Sweet Country, a dark and brutal western that explores a particular moment in the country’s history, there’s no need.
Burt Reynolds plays an actor coming to grips with his past in this underwhelming meta-drama.
The message behind Adam Rifkin’s The Last Movie Star is too on the nose and too undercooked to be effectively earnest. As Rifkin explains in one of the Blu-ray’s special features, he’s a massive fan of Burt Reynolds, and he always thought the once-popular actor, who is facing health and financial woes, has never had the recognition he deserves. So what does he do? Well, he makes a movie about a once-popular actor, who is facing health and financial woes, getting recognition from the fans that think he deserves it. The Last Movie Star, as Rifkin described it, was written
The final episode of the TNT miniseries ends with some questions still remaining.
Although The Alienist has always been proposed as a miniseries, and its main story comes to an end in “Castle in the Sky,” there are still some subplots that go unanswered, and it’s as if TNT hopes they can continue the show as a full-fledged television series, as opposed to just one run of 10 episodes. “Castle in the Sky” has its characters facing something, whether it is from their past or some decision or decisions that have cost them in their present situation. It’s a moment for each of them to self-reflect before diving back into the investigation and
Sara and John continue the investigation, while Lazlo spends this episode in mourning.
For a miniseries called The Alienist, the second-to-last episode took some chances by making its titular character not the main focus, and instead devoted more time to its supporting cast. It’s a rather bold move, especially since Daniel Brühl has been the show’s best character since the beginning. Both Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans have been intriguing to watch, too, although the latter’s stumbling into trouble has become an unnecessary gag. At the same time, though, neither of them has the same intensity as Brühl, nor do their characters have the same amount of intellect. It’s been interesting watching the
Some strong performances can't elevate the film's dour tone.
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
John and Lazlo head to Washington, D.C. to further investigate the case, while Sara goes rogue to uncover more clues.
At the end of last week’s The Alienist, Mary and Lazlo shared a kiss. It was a moment for both of them, when they felt like the whole world didn’t understand them and who they were, only to have them both come together and realize they are what the other needs. This week’s episode begins with both characters looking forward to being together. Mary had an upgrade in her wardrobe and a smile on her face, while Lazlo was smiling as he was on a train to Washington D.C. But “Psychopathia Sexualis” doesn’t really put all of its focus on
No matter your political affiliation, there are plenty of great stories to read about the former president and First Lady and their love of the movies.
During their eight years in office, Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, watched a total of 363 movies during their weekends at Camp David. Not only were they the big box-office hits of that time (1980-1988), but they also consisted of the classics before that era, as well as what Ronald Reagan referred to as the “golden oldies,” which were the films in which he starred. In Movie Nights with the Reagans, Mark Weinberg, a former spokesperson, adviser, and speechwriter to President Reagan, focuses primarily on the films of the 1980s that made the biggest impressions on the couple and
The latest death brings rising tension not just amongst the crew, but also the general public.
Last week, The Alienist ended with the death of another boy prostitute, but unlike the others, this victim had just one missing eye (instead of two), a severed hand, and a scalped head. It’s as if the killer was in the middle of leaving his signature trademark and was interrupted by something. That is also something noted by the crew as they try to find the killer. As Stevie is still traumatized by the fact that he could have possibly been the killer’s next victim, he tries to recall to John what the person looked like. Lazlo accuses John of
The gang set up a sting operation to catch the killer, while Lazlo's past reveals a particular clue that could harm his friendship with others.
The sixth episode of The Alienist, “Ascension,” begins with a rather long glimpse at a dead horse lying in the streets of New York. It also ends with a death, but this time, it is that of another boy prostitute near the Statue of Liberty. The first death shown has no ties to the story of The Alienist, other than it maybe serves more as a symbol that the genre with which the miniseries is affiliated may in fact be that of a dead horse, but the writers keep finding ways to get around it rather than continuously beat it.
The gang discovers more clues in the halfway point of the miniseries.
For most of The Alienist, Lazlo has had this feeling like he is the superior of the three when it comes to understanding the clues given to them. It is most likely due to his high education and work as a doctor that has driven him to that belief. It appears that the more he works with people who don’t quite have the same level of expertise that he does, the more frustrated he becomes. That’s certainly present in the miniseries’ fifth episode, “Hildebrandt’s Starling,” but it also appears that he might be easing back a little and understanding how
The John Hughes-penned comedy starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr gets a new, albeit lackluster, Blu-ray update from Shout Select.
Stan Dragoti’s Mr. Mom is what happens when someone decides that a sitcom with its premise might not have much shelf life on television networks and is probably better suited for the big screen with a 90-minute runtime. Its theme music even has that feel like we’re watching the opening credits for something that would air during the Thursday night comedy lineup on one of the big networks. In reality, it doesn’t even really work as a feature film. Granted, this John Hughes-penned comedy is essentially what launched Michael Keaton into stardom and proved that he is both quick on
There's a possibility that the killer's identity may have been revealed in this latest episode of the TNT miniseries.
When it comes to these whodunit type of mysteries, the killer ends up being someone whom the audience already knows, and then all of the clues found by other characters that lead them to the person who kept their other identity a secret for the duration of the story. I’m not sure if The Alienist is going to go that route. Granted, we’re already four episodes into the TNT miniseries, but we may have just met the person who is responsible for the killings based on some clues that have been given to the characters - and the viewers -
It seems more formulaic in the third episode, but there is enough to keep me invested in the show as a whole.
In this third episode of TNT’s The Alienist, the opening credits sequence switches from being just a quick glimpse at the series’ title with a still image of a silhouette in a foggy evening in New York City to fully introducing all of the actors involved in the series with a slideshow of different images playing in the background. The new introduction is very reminiscent of HBO’s True Detective in terms of style and tone. It’s fitting, since it is a grim miniseries so far, but it almost seems like TNT wants to continue it beyond this one season, and
It's easy to see a lot of inspiration for future filmmakers drew from this B-movie spoof, but it doesn't quite stick the landing as well as others in its genre.
Before David and Jerry Zucker teamed up with Jim Abrahams to deliver one of the zaniest and funniest spoofs ever created, Airplane!, there was John De Bello’s Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, a satire on the low budget B-movies of the '50s - most of which wound up getting criticized on Mystery Science Theater 3000 during its initial run. The reason why I bring up Airplane! here is because it, too, went the zany, slapstick route when spoofing a particular genre. In that case, it was disaster movies such as Zero Hour! and the Airport franchise. Both Airplane! and Attack
The investigation continues in the second episode of TNT's miniseries.
In some ways, it’s appropriate to have a show like The Alienist airing in today’s climate to illustrate what was considered unacceptable then and how new changes have shown how far we as a society have progressed. In the opening of the second episode, “A Fruitful Partnership,” Lazlo is looking into a nearby morgue and questions on whether children are ever brought in. The mortician’s response is that they “only get the poor ones.” When Lazlo inquires about the Giorgio Santorelli, the boy found dead in the pilot episode, and asks if his business ever gets corpses that have the
TNT's new miniseries, based on Caleb Carr's novel, gets off to a strong start.
TNT’s adaptation of Caleb Carr’s The Alienist comes across as something bold and daring for the network. It has the feel of something that would make it seem like it’s a strong competitor against other cable networks such as AMC or FX, both of which have featured shows that can be graphic in detail but also rich in production values and have a tendency to showcase some strong, award-worthy performances. Mostly known for its procedural and science fiction programming, The Alienist proves that TNT is willing to take risks, especially on something that has been in the process for a
Kino Lorber gives the Blu-ray treatment to Republic's most popular serial.
Although the format went extinct long before I was born, I’ve always been fascinated by serials. They’re short-formatted adventures that leave you wanting to come back for more. In the age of Netflix and binge-watching, we don’t really get the same thrill of heading to the local multiplex and seeing the latest chapter that shows us what happened to the hero(es) after the previous week’s cliffhanger. It’s easy to take for granted that we have full seasons available to watch at home and on demand. Back when something like Adventures of Captain Marvel was released, that wasn’t the case. It
Arrow releases a superb restoration of Billy Wilder's Oscar-winning classic.
I’m amazed that I’ve gone this long without having seen Billy Wilder’s Best Picture-winning The Apartment. After falling in love with Some Like it Hot, and introducing it to many people who lose it (like I initially did) at that film’s last line, for some reason, I never got around to watching Wilder’s follow-up until Arrow’s new restoration of the film. It’s just as brilliant, edgy, and hilarious as Some Like It Hot, maybe even more so. And just like the aforementioned film, for all the incredible one-liners, there’s another side to The Apartment that is a little bit darker
Jake Gyllenhaal and Tatiana Maslany soar in this so-so biopic.
Shortly after its opening scenes, David Gordon Green’s Stronger has the look and feel of what appears to be a made-for-television movie. The lighting and cinematography looks almost exactly like something that would appear on the Hallmark Channel, and the subject matter revolving around a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing is appropriate for that station. But the difference between a typical made-for-TV movie and Stronger is that Green’s film doesn’t go straight for the idolization aspect of its main character. This is good, because it’s exactly what the main character is like. He doesn’t see himself as a hero,
Season 3 of the acclaimed FX series is just as quirky and brilliant as the previous two seasons.
It may be a while until Fargo returns to television screens, since there has been no news of a fourth season, and showrunner Noah Hawley has his hands filled with Legion and other projects. Heck, this might even be the last time the series is on the air. It was already brutal for fans such as myself to wait a year for a whole new season, when they had to delay it in order to film in the correct weather climates. But now, we won’t even know if the show is coming back again. Thankfully, each season is a new
The feature film debut from fashion designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy is a hypnotic mess.
Sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy may have established themselves well in the fashion world with their brand, Rodarte. But when it comes to trying to get noticed in the world of film, they need some work. Okay, a lot of work. Although the duo helped create some gorgeous outfits for Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, their directorial debut, Woodshock, is the result of someone (in this case, two people) with an eye for visuals and nothing else. It looks pretty in both the wardrobe and cinematography departments, but it’s so self-indulgent that it forgets to make the viewer care for the
Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are excellent in this tense, deeply affecting thriller.
There’s a sudden chill that makes its way down the viewer’s back after the opening scene of Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River. The film is a murder mystery set in an Indian reservation in Wyoming. The murder itself is not the reason why a sudden shock hits the person’s nervous system in the beginning. The reasoning for that is Ben Richardson’s lovely cinematography, which exquisitely captures a chilly Wyoming winter so well that we’re suddenly immersed into the film’s setting. The multiple feet of snow crunching under the characters’ feet and the constant blowing of the cold air bring us that
HBO's new series is light on AI theories, but has an exceptional cast and storyline to keep it chugging along.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. Much like Jurassic Park did with people’s fascination of living in the time of the dinosaurs, Westworld focuses on a theme park in which people can experience what it was like living in the Old West. The robots, a.k.a. hosts, of this theme park are so life-like in their speech and reaction, the setting so impeccably crafted, that people are immersed into the scenario the minute they step foot in the park.
It's as if Jean-Luc Picard wrote it himself.
Following the success of The Autobiography of James T. Kirk, David A. Goodman explores the background of another well-known and well-respected captain in the Star Trek franchise with The Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard. The funny thing about it is, from page one until the end, there is a sinking suspicion that Picard is, in fact, a real person, and he wrote the book himself. Or it could have been Patrick Stewart who went under the radar and penned the book while Goodman provided the editing. Alas, neither are true, but Goodman does capture the voice of Picard pretty well, thus
Hayao Miyazaki's Oscar-winning animated classic is a delight on the big screen.
Spirited Away was my first exploration into the world of Hayao Miyazaki, and it was also the first time I was able to fully appreciate an anime feature. Before then, I had always been kind of hesitant when it came to the genre, since my first exposure was to shows such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Dragon Ball Z, and Sailor Moon, none of which captured my interest. It wasn’t until watching Spirited Away in a film class that I saw how anime can be as captivating as many of the great American animated features, and, in some cases, have more depth
A must own for any fans of David Lynch.
I remember my first encounter with a David Lynch film was in 2004 during my Introduction to Film class at Butte Community College in Oroville, CA. As part of the curriculum, we were required to watch Lynch’s debut film, Eraserhead, of which I wasn’t aware until then. I remember being disturbed by the movie, and a lot of my classmates walked out shortly after the film had started. I stayed, and I ended up falling for this odd film, even though I had trouble eating chicken afterward because of one particular scene. I swore I wouldn’t watch the film again,
This grim, post-apocalyptic thriller follows a familiar beat and then completely collapses in the third act.
The best thing to say about Stephen Fingleton’s feature film debut, The Survivalist, is that it completely strips away a lot of what many expect from your average movie. Here, we’re given a film with very little dialogue, almost no score, and characters that are mostly nameless. We witness as one man continues his life in a world where food is scarce, and the remaining humans will fight for the necessities to live another day. In the first 18 minutes of its 104-minute runtime, we see as the lead character, known only as Survivalist (Martin McCann) tends to his garden,
David Lowery's latest is one of the year's very best films.
Despite its October Blu-ray release, David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is not a horror movie. It’s actually the furthest thing from the genre. Yes, there is a ghost, but it doesn’t sneak up on people and try to frighten them. The ghost in this film is one that watches as time passes by on the things he held close to his heart while he was alive. It’s heartbreaking for him, and for us, to see as there are so many changes taking place, and the only thing he can do is stand there and watch. Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara
The world's first film to be made entirely with oil painting is a visually stunning work of art.
At the end of each Laika Studios feature film (Coraline, Kubo & the Two Strings, etc.), we get a time-lapsed, behind-the-scenes look into how the preceding movie was made, and we’re shown how much detail and hard work was put into crafting one particular scene. I kind of wish there was something like that at the end of Loving Vincent, a new biopic about the late Vincent van Gogh that was made entirely with oil paintings on canvas. Granted, you can find clips online, but having it readily available for viewing during the credits, especially after something as experimental and
AGFA gives Dusty Nelson's directorial debut a nice Blu-ray upgrade.
Dusty Nelson’s Effects has had quite the unexpected ride ever since its completed stages back in the late 1970s. What was slated to have a theatrical release in presumably 1980, if IMDb is to be trusted, ended up being something that only played at a few festivals and then practically vanished. It wasn’t until 2005 that it was available for the public to view, when Synapse Films got a hold of it for a DVD release. Now, the people at the American Genre Film Archive (AGFA) have come together to give the film a proper Blu-ray release. Effects is a
A boy obsessed with vampires starts to act like one in this grim coming-of-age drama.
Michael O’Shea’s feature film debut, The Transfiguration, is less of a movie about an actual vampire that stalks its prey, and more of a movie about a socially awkward boy who finds his escape from reality in stories about vampires. Of course, his obsession with vampires goes beyond just talking about them and debating with his new girlfriend about how things like Twilight and True Blood are not “realistic” portrayals of the vampire lore. Granted, he hasn’t even read Twilight, he tells her, but he doesn’t think vampires would ever really sparkle. He’s essentially the crazed fanboy, while she’s the
Jessica Chastain can't even save this underwhelming World War II drama.
Even in movies that aren’t good, such as last year’s Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain has proven to be a major highlight. She can give a commanding performance that deserves to be in something better. But what The Zookeeper’s Wife proves is that she can’t always be the movie’s brightest spot. Chastain doesn’t give an all-around bad performance in The Zookeeper’s Wife; there are moments where she does exceptionally well. But the biggest flaw with her performance is her attempt at a Polish accent. She slips in and out of it for the duration of the movie, and it doesn’t even
Dario Argento's first feature film is given a lovely 4k transfer, and the set is filled with an incredible amount of extras.
Dario Argento has been referred to as the “Italian Hitchcock,” and when you see his debut feature, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, you’ll understand why people called him that. Argento’s first film is a stylishly edited slasher flick that dishes out the blood in such a unique way that’s not overly grotesque. Those of you who have seen other Argento films, but have not seen this one, are probably chuckling at that last comment, but it’s true. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage contains some rather disturbing moments, but Argento doesn’t show the knife going into the person’s body,
This year's con proved to be a better experience for pop-culture fans than the previous year.
Ever since making its way to Sacramento in 2014, I’ve had the pleasure of covering each Wizard World convention. That was actually the first time I had attended an event of its kind, and I was completely blown away by how much of a nerd nirvana it turned out to be. Whether you are into movies, television shows, comic books, or anything pop-culture related, there was something for everyone at the event. I’ve always looked forward to each one, but, to be honest, I was a little let down by the 2016 convention. I’m not saying it was an entirely
The Oscar-winning film from Denmark celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new 2K digital restoration.
You hear stories about people wanting to migrate from their home country to a new area all the time. All of them want to start a new life in a new location because their current residence is no longer fitting for them for a multitude of reasons. Many have dreams of how their new life will be once they move, and they are mostly positive. But, upon their arrival, the harsh reality sets in, and the dreams and goals they had are pushed to the wayside as they embrace their new life. That’s the basis for many films about immigration,
Sorbo also talks about playing an exaggerated version of himself in a movie and some of the future projects he has lined up.
I first interviewed Kevin Sorbo back in 2013, when he was doing a promotion for a little film called Storm Rider. But, back then, I was talking to him over the phone while on my lunch break at the day job I had at the time. This year, I was able to speak to him in person for five minutes. Sure, that’s not a lot of time for an interview, but it’s enough to get in some questions while he’s on a break from signing autographs and taking pictures. Sorbo is one of the many guests lined up for the
The live-action adaptation of the Disney classic comes to Blu-ray with a lot of great special features.
Walt Disney is continually proving its efforts at adapting every animated classic in its vault is financially successful, and, because of that, there will be more coming down the pipeline. The Lion King, Mulan, and Dumbo are currently in pre-production, and there are plenty of others that have already been announced. Don’t be shocked if they announce live-action adaptations of Aladdin, The Aristocats, or anything else for that matter. The formula works, and people will flock to see whatever Disney puts out. That being said, Bill Condon’s update of Beauty and the Beast is practically an exact replica of the
David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike shine in this true story of a forbidden love.
Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom has the feel of something that just missed the window for Oscar consideration and was dropped into limited release in February of this year, since the studio couldn’t think of any other month to put it in. It’s a pristine-looking picture that carries the textbook moments of a historical biopic, and never misses a beat in making sure it has all the things it needs in order to make a successful, crowd-pleasing feature. A grandiose score, beautiful scenery, and big speeches are all featured here. By now, the formula is overdone, and, in most cases,
Sam Elliott gives one of the best performances of his career.
For the past nine years, several actors have played similar performances to that of Sam Elliott’s in The Hero, and have gone on to obtain Oscar recognition. It happened for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart, and, to an extent, Michael Keaton in Birdman. All three played a once-famous icon that has lost his way and attempts to make a comeback while, at the same time, starting a new relationship and trying to reconnect with estranged family members. Rourke and Keaton received nods for their performances, while Bridges won for his. You could say that the
Aftermath (2017) Blu-ray Review: A Serious Arnold Schwarzenegger Can't Save This Melodramatic Misfire
Arnold Schwarzenegger trades in his guns and one-liners for a role that is unlike anything else he's done in his career, but the movie lacks in telling an engaging story.
For most of his career, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been known as the tough guy, the guy that can kick butt and take names. His career launched when people saw him in the body-building documentary, Pumping Iron, and then really took off with films like the Terminator series, the Conan films, Predator, and Total Recall. But as the actor and former governor of California is getting ready to turn 70 this year, he’s taking on roles that are unlike anything he’s done before. Of course, he hasn’t completely given up on doing another Terminator, even though the world didn’t need one,
Federico Fellini's fever dream exploration of Rome gets the Criterion Collection treatment, and it's lovely.
In the opening text prior to the start of Roma, we get a detailed explanation of how the original version of Federico Fellini’s movie had scenes that were shortened for international release by him, producer Turi Vasile, and screenwriter Bernardo Zapponi. Some footage never made it past the production documentation phase, and, therefore, has never been seen by the general public. I kind of wish there was a way for us to see everything that Fellini had captured, because Roma is a gorgeous look at Rome and the people living in it during a certain period of time. Fellini doesn’t
Quirky characters are wasted in Thomas Vinterberg's latest.
The Commune is a film that should be praised for its realistic depictions of a relationship growing stale and the difficulties of living with life-long friends and/or total strangers. I can imagine quite a few people will find some relation to this film in one way or another; I certainly did. But, at the same time, I also found myself wanting to be with characters that had more to them. For a good portion of the movie, I felt like I was watching something in which the script was written, but there were some glaring moments that felt like they
Although it recycles a lot from the previous films, Alien: Covenant is still a gorgeously shot, thrilling sci-fi feature.
More than 30 years after he terrified us with Alien, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise with Prometheus, a film that proved to be more ambitious than fans of the sci-fi franchise were expecting. Sure, it had the origins aspect that fans were expecting, but a lot of the Alien prequel side of the film felt subtle to the exploration of life and creation of man on which Scott ended up focusing. The result was a film that was divisive amongst the Alien fan base, and even Scott admitted recently that he was going in the wrong direction with Prometheus.
Guy Ritchie's King Arthur re-telling is flashy but dull.
The one question I had after the screening of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was, “Why does this exist?” I’m still trying to find an answer for it. Granted, this is a different take on the King Arthur story that we’ve all known to grow and love. And by different, I mean, there are gigantic elephants getting ready to destroy Camelot in the opening sequence. Not only that, but there are strange, octopus mermaids led by one that looks like a cross between The Little Mermaid’s Ursula and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s Mama June. But my
This sequel to the 2014 smash hit is entertaining, but doesn't quite live up to its predecessor.
Superhero movies are going to be coming down the cinematic pipeline for many years to come. The same can be said for superhero sequels. It’s inevitable, but, when they bring in the big bucks, it’s also understandable. And yet, for many reviewers out there, who sit through more than 100 movies each year, it also becomes wearisome to see another origins story and another sequel to said origins story. You have to watch so many different movies to figure out who or what fits where in the timeline that, at a certain point, there comes a level of fatigue. Mine
Terence Hill takes over the Django role in this unofficial prequel.
Following the success of Sergio Corbucci’s 1966 spaghetti western, Django, dozens of films were released that bore the name but only served as a means to capitalize from it. A lot of them had nothing to do with the character, and neither Corbucci nor the film’s original star, Franco Nero, had any involvement in the making of them. It wasn’t until 1987 that fans got an official sequel with Django Strikes Again, in which Nero reprised the role and Corbucci had a credit for being the character’s creator, but didn’t have a hand in the screenplay and didn’t return to
Katherine Heigl plays a crazy ex-wife in this by-the-numbers thriller.
It’s as if, for her directorial debut, longtime Hollywood producer Denise Di Novi followed every single rule in the How to Make a Lifetime Movie for Big Studios handbook. Heck, how did this even get approved by someone at Warner Brothers to be a theatrical release? Everything in Unforgettable is recycled from so many movies like it, namely Fatal Attraction. There isn’t a shred of originality in it, and there’s not really much of a reason to see it. Because you’ve seen it all before, and it’s been done better before. With her wedding around the corner, Julia Banks (Rosario
A documentary that is insightful, beautifully shot, and fun to watch.
The Creeping Garden opens with a 1973 newscast that reports on some “blobs” being found in the backyards of some people’s households in Texas. This makes it seem like something had leapt from the horror-movie genre and made its way to reality. The fact of the matter is, these so-called blobs that were found in people’s backyards are called slime molds, and they’ve been around for quite some time. Unfortunately, not many people know about it, and, for a while, it was considered to be another type of fungus based on its look. But the difference between fungus and a
During this special event, audiences will also get a sneak peek at Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.
Get your multipasses ready, The Fifth Element fans. Fathom Events and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment are bringing Luc Besson’s cult classic back to the big screen for two days in May to celebrate its 20th anniversary. In addition to this special 4K restoration of the film, all attendees will get a pre-recorded introduction from Besson himself about the film’s anniversary, and there will also be an exclusive look at his next feature, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. That film, which stars Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne, is scheduled for release on July 21. The 20th anniversary rerelease