Recently by Jack Cormack

The Rolling Stones: Steel Wheels Live (Live From Atlantic City, NJ, 1989) DVD Review: Sucking in the '80s

In 1989, the Rolling Stones played New Jersey. It was a night to forget.
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In 1989, the Rolling Stones returned to the stage from a seven-year touring hiatus. They needn’t have bothered. Ok, so before we go any further, a word on my loyalty to the Stones. I’ve never seen them live; I’ve only seen video clips. I’m a millennial but traveled through the Stones discography at an early age. Cassette-tape-recording a radio broadcast of their 1972 double LP, Exile on Main St., I felt I’d stumbled onto a different band, a weirder band, than the one I’d heard on FM. Exile blew me away. It led me to each of their albums from

Book Review: Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director by Peter Tonguette

Bogdanovich was lucky, but he was also terribly unlucky.
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Director Peter Bogdanovich is neither misunderstood nor unappreciated, I think. His claim to fame as a movie brat (though he might wince at that description) is secure. His early ‘70s trifecta—The Last Picture Show, What’s Up Doc?, and Paper Moon—cements the legend. Those films endure. And they do so, because---as Picturing Peter Bogdanovich: My Conversations with the New Hollywood Director (Peter Tonguette; publisher: the University Press of Kentucky) makes clear—he had the talent and the ambition to direct films that could have sat alongside the classics of the old studio system of the '30s and '40s, but films imbued with

Murder by Decree (Special Edition) Blu-ray Review: Fogbound

A bland Sherlock Holmes seeks to unmask Jack the Ripper, in Bob Clark's sluggish and tame (but still fun) ensemble mystery.
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Murder by Decree is one of the better Sherlock Holmes movies. Directed by Bob Clark, it features an all-star cast. Christopher Plummer plays Sherlock Holmes and James Mason plays Dr. John H. Watson. As they become embroiled in the Jack the Ripper slayings, they follow the trail of blood to the highest echelons of political power. Along the way, Robert Lees (Donald Sutherland in perhaps the film's most effective supporting role) offers psychic counsel, and Holmes and Watson brush up against bureaucratic figures (Frank Finlay, David Hemmings, and Anthony Quayle) and folks from the London slums (Susan Clark plays Mary

Urban Cowboy Blu-ray Review: The Devil Should Have Gone Down to Texas Instead

This 1980 cash-in on the country pop craze has little to say, and isn't much fun.
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Urban Cowboy (1980) is one of those faddish films that has aged poorly. John Travolta plays Bud Davis, a country boy from Spur, Texas, who goes to Houston to work in an oil refinery. After hours, he frequents Gilley’s, a honkey-tonk the size of a football field, with a dance floor and mechanical bull. Bud’s day job is just a means to his nightlife. At Gilley’s, he gets his girl, Sissy (Debra Winger, in her breakout performance), loses her to an ex-convict stud in a mesh shirt, Wes (Scott Glenn), and fights to win her back. Love and strife among

Lonely Are the Brave Blu-ray Review: The Last Cowboy

Kirk Douglas gives one of his best performances in this 1962 neo-Western lament.
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Based on Edward Abbey’s novel, The Brave Cowboy, Lonely Are the Brave (1962) came and went without a fuss. Now known as Kirk Douglas’s favorite of his own films, it has gained a following as a neo-Western classic, and deservedly so. It gives the man-out-of-place element a wistful touch. Douglas plays Jack Burns, a ranch hand just off the grid. On horseback, he rides from the desert to get arrested so he can visit a friend in jail. He then escapes and flees the police as he high-tails it to Mexico. Along the way, he meets an unrequited love (Gena

Cattle Annie and Little Britches Blu-ray Review: Outlaw Groupies with True Grit

Amanda Plummer amazes in this unjustly neglected Western charmer.
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Ripe for rediscovery, Cattle Annie and Little Britches follows the exploits of the real-life titular characters, two teenage girls in love with Ned Buntline’s stories about western outlaws. Having loused up their jobs at a cantina, they soon fall in with the tired Doolin-Dalton gang, and get more than they bargained for. Shot mostly in Durango, Mexico, the movie looks great. Colors pop. The rocky landscapes (and in one striking sequence, a dry lakebed) add texture, but not in a distracting, postcard-pretty way. Designed with care, the sets for the towns hail from Calle Howard and La Jova, Old West

Cruising Blu-ray Review: Hardcore in Blue

A frustrating dive into gay hell, starring a deer-in-the-headlights Al Pacino.
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Nightmarishly vivid, director William Friedkin’s Cruising, a divisive film about an undercover New York cop (Al Pacino, miscast) who cruises gay S&M bars in search of a killer, is a time capsule without a center. For decades, critics of the film complained that it painted this segment of the gay community in a less than flattering light; but Friedkin’s sweaty, neorealist you-are-there approach (using actors and locals, shooting on location) reserves judgment. I’m not sure what the fuss was. I’ve frequented places like The Anvil, The Hellfire Club (where he shot certain sequences), and the Mineshaft. They are as the

Bones (2001) Blu-ray Review: Unleash the Blunt

That's it! Payback! Revenge! Snoop is mad!
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Bones bores. Director Ernest Dickerson, Spike Lee's former DP, pulls off a few nifty visual tricks. Chief among them are a black dog that projectile-vomits maggots, and a bulging wall of flesh that embodies a nightmarish depiction of hell. But we spend the first hour waiting for something to happen, for someone to root for. An enterprising, multi-racial group of young adults renovates a gothic brownstone in the hood. Their plan is to turn it into a nightclub. Little do they know the building once belonged to Jimmy Bones (Snoop Dogg), a murdered pimp who refused to sell crack to

Canyon Passage Blu-ray Review: Where the Scalps Fly Like Toupees...Only Not Quite

A moody, colorful western from a director who changed horror movie history.
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If you were to say I would love to see a Technicolor noir western directed by Jacques Tourneur, set in Oregon, I would say you are darn tootin.’ I would love to see it and see it I did. Canyon Passage (1946) is that rarest of things: a good art western disguised as a B-movie, buckling at the seams to beat the revisionist wave of westerns by about twenty cool years. But of course—no such motive existed. Rather, Tourneur delivered a crisp, 92-minute oater that combines several genre elements. Rape, poker, murder, lust for gold, love triangles, Indian attacks, cabin-raisings,

IT Chapter Two Blu-ray Review: We All Bloat Down Here

In which Pennywise, the shapeshifting killer clown, strikes back! And scares no one.
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IT is back. The Losers Club, a tight-knit group of kids—good kids—with chips on their shoulders, humiliated Pennywise the dancing (and shapeshifting) killer clown (Bill Skarsgard), forcing him to hide in his hole. Now, 27 years later, Pennywise (he, she, “IT”) wakes from its slumber, hungry for flesh. Loser flesh. As conceived by director Andy Muschietti, Pennywise always looks and sounds demonic. But IT Chapter Two and its 2017 predecessor over-telegraph the evil. IT’s mouth drools. The head is bulbous, spider-like. The blood-tear makeup is sinister. Skarsgard goes all in to give us all kinds of creep. By comparison, the

Road Games (1981) Blu-ray Review: Today's Roadkill, Tomorrow's Bacon

Fans of this 1981 Ozploitation nailbiter claim it is worthy of Hitchcock's best. They are not wrong.
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From scene one of Road Games, the film grabs us. There is an extended moment, however, when we realize we are in the hands of a director who knows exactly what he wants and has the chops to pull it off, and it comes several minutes into the picture: Stopping at a diner in the Australian outback to fuel up and stretch his legs—but most importantly call the cops—a well-read trucker, Quid (Stacy Keach), tries in vain to be heard over the other customers. Reception on the line is bad. Shifty-looking dudes play a loud tune on the jukebox, and

Prophecy Blu-ray Review: Bear Loaf

John Frankenheimer's creature feature is not easily forgotten. For possibly the wrong reasons.
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It was not supposed to turn out like this. For years, the Pitney lumber mill in Maine soaked its river-borne logs in mercury, poisoning the water and wreaking havoc on the ecosystem. Tadpoles are now as big as boots, the salmon even bigger. Then there are the bears—oh God, the bears! They tower. They look like the skinned offspring of a boar and a 20-foot muskrat. And they move like the wind. On a pushcart. Told of disputes the mill has had with a local tribe of Native-Americans, Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) steps in to mediate. This is a

Shampoo Movie Review: Long Hair Don't Care

Hal Ashby teams up with Warren Beatty & Robert Towne in this ineffectual look back at 1968 L.A.
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Few films capture the mood of late '60s Los Angeles quite like Shampoo does; and few films of the '70s—that hallowed, so-called final golden age of cinema—carry so much pedigree but do not hit the bull's-eye. I think that to love, let alone like, Shampoo, you must share its filmmakers' sense of affection—for Southern California, for gorgeous bodies caught up in the tail spin of the free-love era, and for characters who are way in over their heads. But Shampoo is not a love letter so much as it is a fond, only mildly funny look back at a collective

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