Recently by Mark Buckingham

James Cameron's Deepsea Challenge 3D Blu-ray Review: What Goes Down Goes Waaay Down

Dive into a wet and wild ride to the bottom of the world's oceans.
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I watched Deepsea Challenge 3D a few nights ago (though decidedly in 2D as I lack the necessary equipment for that elusive third dimension), but it wasn't until last night that I really developed an appreciation for what James Cameron endured to make this piece of work. He crammed himself into a steel sphere only a few feet in diameter and plummeted to the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean for the sake of curiosity and scientific discovery. What could I have possibly done to compare to this task? I crammed myself into the tiny space under my

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre 40th Anniversary Edition DVD Review: The Best It's Ever Been

It has dulled a bit over time with other movies building on its formula, but the legacy and impact live on.
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I've seen The Texas Chain Saw Massacre twice in my life now. The first was sometime in the 1990s, as I was watching a slew of horror movies with friends at the time. It was okay, nothing special, and certainly didn't seem to warrant the hype surrounding it. I simply watched it and moved on. The second viewing was of the new 40th Anniversary Edition a couple of days ago, and while my opinion remains that about two-thirds of the movie is cheesy, trite, and even at times boring, the last 15 or 20 minutes is still a serious head

Hugh Hefner DVD Review: He's Just Doing What He Loves

In case you weren't sure whether Hef's life was awesome, here he is to tell you how awesome it is.
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Tony Palmer's 1973 Film About Hugh Hefner, the Founder and Editor of Playboy -- henceforth known as Hugh Hefner -- seems to be something of a cultural enigma. It was originally recorded in 1972 and presumably screened (at least in some limited capacity) in 1973, yet has no IMDB listing that I can find. This new DVD isn't being billed as a remaster or an anniversary edition or anything, which also makes it sound like it never saw the light of day before, yet there are quotes from the likes of Mary Whitehouse, The Times, and The Daily Express lambasting

Good People Blu-ray Review: Good People, So-So Movie

Not as good as its cast might imply.
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Good People treads the rather well worn theme of greed making good people turn bad, greed specifically in this case being money. The story starts out with a drug deal double-cross gone bad, and the double-crosser turns up dead of an overdose a couple days later in his London flat. When the landlords Tom (James Franco) and Anna (Kate Hudson) venture into their tenant's apartment to ask him to turn down his blaring television, they find the corpse as well as about 300,000 pounds in cash. Unlike the tiresome Come Morning, Good People is slightly more deserving of being compared
Come Morning has been compared to A Simple Plan, which was a movie I enjoyed a great deal. Simple Plan's characters were engaging, smart, and constantly trying to stay one step ahead of each other. Both movies are about the lengths to which people will go to keep a secret and conceal evidence. However, where A Simple Plan kept me on the edge of my seat and kept the stakes rising throughout, Come Morning hints at more backstory than it actually tells and is fraught with a slow, dull plot and a bunch of lukewarm character archetypes. Nothing interesting happens

42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection, Volume 1 DVD Review: Show Some Respect For Your Elders

Frisky frolicking from forty years ago, or a glimpse at sexual revolution history? You decide.
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When I first spun this disc up, I wasn't sure what to expect. I always had this impression of a "peep show" as being opposing urges separated by a pane of glass -- someone stripping while the other watches and gets off on it. Instead, this DVD acts as a snapshot of scenes of '70s porn, featuring stars like Annie Sprinkle, Susan Nero, and Lisa DeLeeuw. Admittedly, I didn't recognize them, but I'm probably not quite old enough to be expected to. All the stereotypes you would expect are here -- feathery 'dos and man-perms, bold moustaches, torpedo boobs (all

Seven Psychopaths DVD Review: It's Like Adaptation Meets Fight Club

A killer cast of outright maniacs.
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Seven Psychopaths centers around Marty (Colin Farrell), a struggling Hollywood screenwriter overdue to finalize his next project which he has barely begun. His girlfriend Kaya (Abbie Cornish) quarrels with him over his tendencies to drink too much and sleep too late. His friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) means well, but often catalyzes chaos that upends Marty's life and his relationships with others. Once Billy learns about Marty's pending project -- conveniently also titled Seven Psychopaths -- Billy starts out just trying to help get the story rolling so his friend can write it down. Little does Marty know, between Billy's complicated

RiffTrax Live!: Godzilla (1998) Review: Catastrophic Laughs

RiffTrax makes lousy movies so much better.
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The RiffTrax boys are at it again. This time, Kevin Murphy, Bill Corbett, and Mike Nelson have chosen to skewer Roland Emmerich's 1998 take on iconic city-destroyer Godzilla. Not that Godzilla movies have been known for their gripping and detailed stories, but this iteration seems to have earned black-sheep status among fans for its departure from some series conventions and just how unlikely many of the characters prove to be. Of course, this just gives the Riffers even more to work with. The worse the film, the better they get, and this event was no exception. Godzilla's first appearance in

Alive Inside Movie Review: Where There Is Music, There Is Life

Instead of pills, try music.
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"They're very musical people, aren't they?" quips Randolph in 1983's Trading Places. While he intended it as a racial and/or economic generalization against the poor African-American man being given temporary wealthy status as a social experiment, this statement could be applied honestly and objectively to the whole human race. Such is the drive behind Michael Rossato-Bennett's documentary Alive Inside. However, this isn't a catalogue of musical genres and dance styles throughout the ages. Instead, it examines the reaction that occurs when music is given to people the world has forgotten -- nursing home residents and patients without family or visitors,

GMO OMG Movie Review: What Are You Putting in Your Mouth?

Before you take another bite, watch this.
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Jeremy Seifert is your every-man American. Wife, kids, and concerned about the well being of his family. He tries to help them all make healthy eating choices, going so far as to grow their own food whenever possible. One of his sons has taken a particular interest in planting and harvesting seeds. When talk of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) started coming up and that they appeared to have made their way into the food supply, he decided to take a closer look. The results of this investigation are chronicled in Seifert's documentary GMO OMG. Genetically modified seeds have grown in

Underwater Dreams Movie Review: Good in Spite of Its Marketing

There's more to this story than mere robots that go splish splash.
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The synopses for the documentary Underwater Dreams talk about undocumented Mexican high school students building an underwater robot for a competition with the likes of MIT's best and brightest. They also talk of "lasting effects" and "inspiration" and "activism." What none of them mention is that the last third of the documentary is essentially a mouthpiece for the benefits of the DREAM Act legislation and immigration reform. That's a perfectly good and relevant topic to discuss, but it threw off the film's pacing and my expectations going in. Act One is all about the unlikely Davids from Carl Hayden Community

RiffTrax Live!: Sharknado Review: Wisecracks That Cut Deeper Than Shark Bites

If you're not watching RiffTrax, you should be.
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RiffTrax was borne out of the '90s cult hit show Mystery Science Theater 3000 where three smart-alecks would snipe witty, snarky, and above all else funny comments during terrible movies for the viewer's amusement. After 11 years on the air, the gang wanted to see if they could bring their wit to more movies by producing play-along audio tracks that would rib the movies while you watched them at home. Now the format has grown to hosting live shows broadcast to movie theaters around the country by Fathom Events, and works just as well (or in some cases, better) as

uRexsoft DVD Ripper Platinum v7.1 Software Review: What It Lacks In Polish, It Makes Up For In Results

Reasonably priced tool with a balance interface.
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There are many reasons DVD and Blu-ray ripping has gotten popular, ranging from backing up scratch-prone discs, easing concerns about decay or decline of the medium, compressing movies for easy viewing on a tablet or phone on the go, or the less legal act of distributing of content to others. The task has gotten harder and harder to do over the years as publishers have learned to encrypt and lock away the disc's contents more and more, preventing the end user from shrinking the files or playing back on unapproved devices. In a crowded field with other contenders like DVDFab,

RoboCop (2014) Blu-ray Review: Let's Hope They Don't Remake RoboCop 2

Doesn't live up to the original, barely can stand on its own.
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The original RoboCop had an interesting mix of satirical social commentary, snarky jabs at the bigger-is-better consumerism of its era, brutal violence, and comically bad '80s haircuts. It was great when it came out and it's still great today. The 2014 remake of the same name features political commentary, media-spin bashing, and an existential dilemma that would feel more at home on the Lifetime Network than SpikeTV. The flick opens with Samuel L. Jackson barking at the screen as Pat Novak, political-pundit extraordinaire, hosting a show that wouldn't be a millimeter out of place on Fox News. Novak boasts about

13 Sins Blu-ray Review: Borrowing From the Best

What would you do be willing to do for six million dollars?
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The Game. A Simple Plan. Fight Club. Eagle Eye. Saw. If you liked any or all of these movies, there's a good chance you'll like 13 Sins. It pleasantly surprised me with its cathartic take on what people do to escape increasingly desperate situations. Elliot (Mark Webber) is like many of us -- he's got more responsibilities and obligations than his time or bank account will allow for. Things get worse when he's unexpectedly let go from his job with a wedding to plan with his fiancee Shelby (Rutina Wesley), a disabled brother Michael (Devon Graye) to look after, and

Death Spa Blu-ray Review: Light on Creativity, Heavy on Cringe-Worthy Acting

I'd rather work out than watch it again.
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Some horror movies take themselves seriously and deliver the goods in dramatic and spectacular fashion, whether that be something like Se7en or the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Others don't take themselves seriously at all and go for creativity and nonsense -- I'm looking at you, Hatchet, ThanksKilling, and Zombie A-Hole. Then there are those that straddle the fence, being a little too serious to be campy, but missing the creativity to compensate (cough Sharknado cough). This is the sort of Twilight Zone of badness that movies like Death Spa occupy. The plot in a nutshell is that the deceased

3 Days to Kill (2014) Blu-ray Review: Not As Advertised

It's an okay flick as long as you know what you're getting.
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The first hurdle I had to clear when spinning up 3 Days to Kill was reminding myself that it has nothing to do with either Three Days to a Kill or The Next Three Days. Having finished watching it now, I'd have to plop them all into the "meh" category. 3 Days to Kill is about contract killer Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) finding out he has a terminal illness and, with the few months he has left to live, wants to reconnect with his estranged wife Christine (Connie Nielsen) and daughter Zooey (Hailee Steinfeld). No sooner than his heels having

Trust Me Movie Review: Jerry Maguire With an Unfortunate Ending

It's so good until it suddenly isn't.
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To review the story of Trust Me without addressing the ending is to overlook perhaps the most glaring issue in the entire film, so buckle up for some spoilers. I've been watching a lot of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and while I'm a fan of Clark Gregg, I wasn't sure what he was capable of outside the Marvel sphere, or if he'd be able to get inside another character persona well enough to make me forget he spends most of his screen time as Agent Coulson. Taking the roles of writer, director, and lead actor on Trust Me, I thought this

An Unreal Dream - The Michael Morton Story DVD Review: Justice Prevails

A powerful story of determination and redemption, and how sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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An Unreal Dream recounts the story of Michael Morton, a man who kissed his wife and son goodbye before heading to work one morning in 1986, and returned to find his wife beaten to death, his son headed for alternative custody, and himself the prime suspect. He was convicted of murdering his wife despite the fact that he wasn't in the same place as her when it happened, and spent 25 years of a life sentence in a Texas penitentiary before justice saw its due. How could this happen in this age of endless crime shows where the bad guys

Knights of Badassdom Blu-ray Review: Verily Indeed

It's a fun horror comedy shout-out to nerds, with a modicum of cheesy moments.
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Knights of Badassdom is a horror comedy in the vein of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil or ThanksKilling. It never takes itself quite seriously enough to be a satirical play on the genre like Scream or Cabin in the Woods, but is more like Fanboys with a horrific demon killing everyone. It kicks off with a group of nerds (which I use to relate, not denigrate, as I myself am a nerd) LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) in the woods, performing a ritual sacrifice as part of a larger game they're playing. Their debate over the validity of the act

Monsters: The Complete Series DVD Review: Another Great Horror Anthology

A time warp back to the late '80s for a cheesy horror romp with the stars of yesteryear.
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I've always been a fan of horror, suspense, thrills, and clever plot twists, but have always found it more satisfying when the focus is on the story and the characters rather than the special effects. Classic Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and Are You Afraid of the Dark? have long been favorites of mine. I still appreciated Tales From the Crypt even if it went more for literal shock factor and earning its R-rated equivalent presence on cable-only HBO. Somewhere in the middle of all that debuted a quiet little series called simply Monsters, running from 1988 to 1991. It's replete

After the Dark Movie Review: This is What "Trying Too Hard" Looks Like

A good idea spoiled with pretentiousness.
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I feel like I was just lied to. The pitch for After the Dark started with, "Faced with an impending nuclear apocalypse, a group of twenty college students must determine which ten of them would take shelter underground and reboot the human race" when in reality it should have read "Faced with the last day of high school, a group of seniors enter a bad episode of Dawson's Creek masquerading as a philosophy class." This film is the very definition of decent idea but flawed execution. Bear in mind there are going to be spoilers below because I'd rather save

Alien: Out of the Shadows Book Review: That Old Familiar Feeling

Doesn't take many risks or push the boundaries of established canon, but for franchise fans, it's still worth picking up.
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Tim Lebbon's Alien: Out of the Shadows kicks off a trilogy of books set around the events of the Alien and Aliens films. This one kicks off 37 years after Ellen Ripley detonated the engines on the Nostromo in the hopes of frying a creature that wiped out her entire crew. Her nearly four-decade hypersleep is interrupted when her shuttle docks unexpectedly with the Marion, a mining vessel that's recently experienced its own set of xenomorph problems. Why is she here? What lies ahead for her and the crew of the Marion? Most importantly, how the heck will they get

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy Blu-ray Review: A Must-Own for Any Nightmare Fan

The definitive behind-the-scenes for the Nightmare franchise gets the HD treatment.
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Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy was originally released on DVD back in 2010. It's received a proper HD treatment in the jump to Blu-ray, sporting the expected 1080p picture and audio clear as a bell (even if Wes Craven's reserved way of speaking had me turning up the volume a little to hear him). It's a collection of extras so big, it still requires two discs on this expanded format. The first disc contains the main documentary, a four-hour trip through every Freddy movie from the first through Freddy's Dead and Freddy Vs. Jason. I read somewhere that

Runner Runner Blu-ray Review: I Fold

The smart bet is not to watch.
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Runner Runner isn't a poker movie. You'll think it's a poker movie from the trailers and the synopsis and the marketing, but there's no actual poker to be found. It's not about gambling, strategy, or the actual struggles of gambling addiction. It's not a movie about proper organized crime, clever deception, a decent plot twist...at 91 minutes, it's not long enough to flesh out anything into more than a one-dimensional tale where you're told everything and shown nothing. They sure did make a pretty trailer for it though, didn't they? Justin Timberlake plays college math wiz Richie Furst, in a
Maidentrip is director Jillian Schlesinger's documentary/compilation of the story of Laura Dekker, the teenage adventurer who sought to become the youngest person to sail alone around the world without any assistance or follow boats. However, Laura's journey isn't just about guiding a boat around the globe -- it's one of developing a sense of maturity, independence, responsibility, identity, family, and belonging. After being born on a boat in New Zealand and living on the water for the first five years of her life, her family relocated to Holland, and her parents separated. She stayed with her boat-builder father to pursue

La Notte Criterion Collection DVD Review: They Don't Make 'Em Like This Anymore

A slow-burn Italian relationship drama that leaves you hanging.
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La Notte is definitely a film from a different era where plots were not entirely clear until the third act, stories were primarily driven by dialogue and characterization, and the one-line pitch/synopsis of the movie makes it sound positively dull. It examines people and relationships and raw humanity, without special effects or hyperbole -- just unsettling honesty. This is a cerebral kind of film on which viewer opinions tend to be very divided between being touching and engaging or outright boring. I also realized while watching this Italian-dialogue English-subtitled story that most of the movies I watch with subtitles are

Murder University DVD Review: Cyanide Capsule Sold Separately, Unfortunately

I sat through this whole ungodly atrocity so you don't have to.
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Murder University wasn't satisfied with just being bad. Oh no. It strove to be so horrendous that I'm still a day later stoically incredulous to how terrible it actually was. It's really a toss up between this and last year's Mark of the Beast for the crown of worst thing I've watched in the last decade or so. I went in with tempered but optimistic hopes. After all, this is the same Richard Griffin who brought us the raunchy, campy, riotous The Disco Exorcist. That movie did so much right, nailing the time period and cracking ridiculous, funny dialogue left

The Fly (1958) Blu-ray Review: A Classic Reborn in HD

A truly classic Vincent Price creature feature.
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Between The Fly (1958) and The Fly (1986), you couldn't have two films that take more different approaches to the same story, yet both achieve their aim admirably. The former is from a time when special effects were in their infancy, and the story had to carry the audience and hold their attention. The latter emphasizes suspense, but the build-up is to a gory climax that puts the unmasking of Andre Delambre to shame. If you somehow have missed both of these films and their numerous sequels, well, get ready for a big spoiler -- they're about scientists (David Hedison,

ThanksKilling 3 DVD Review: What the Hell Did I Just Watch?

It's like a cross between Team America: World Police and Legend or The Neverending Story.
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When a friend asked what I thought of ThanksKilling 3, after unscrewing the puzzled look off my face, I said, "Well, I didn't NOT enjoy it." He jokingly said that's all the endorsement he needed. I suspect you, dear reader, will need more. Something happened between the original ThanksKilling and ThanksKilling 3. No, not a sequel, though the mythical "never-released" sequel is the McGuffin for this flick. The original movie was an extremely low budget (about $3500), campy, yet genuine attempt at a horror flick about a cursed zombie turkey summoned by a Native American shaman to punish the Pilgrims.
After reviewing the nigh unwatchable War of the Dead, you'd think me a fool to want to watch another World War II movie where a small squad of soldiers faces off with a zombie horde, right? Richard Raaphorst's Frankenstein's Army taps a legendary literary character and the trailer is teeming with creative creature designs, but was it enough to make it tolerable? There are a few things this flick does better than others of its ilk. The found-footage style in which it's filmed lends a claustrophobic feel to the events, never quite giving you the view you want of the

Hatchet III Blu-ray Review: The Proper End to a Trilogy

A buckets-of-blood throwback to classic horror.
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Back in 2006, Adam Green set out with Hatchet to recapture the 1980's campy gory horror vibe established by iconic slashers like Freddy Kruger and Jason Vorhees. In some ways, he succeeded -- there's certainly no shortage of blood, guts, and nudity in the original. On the other hand, there was no lingering sense of dread when the movie was over due to everything being so comically ridiculous. It didn't feel like it could happen to you. This was not nightmare fuel; I doubt anyone lost sleep over visions of Victor Crowley dancing in (or maybe on) their heads. However,

From the Head Movie Review: What Happens in the Bathroom Stays in the Bathroom

Spend a little while with the unusual yet familiar psyches of strip club patrons and the man who gives them soap.
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If you want to see truly raw, unadulterated portrait of humanity, you don’t go to a church or a library. You go to the haunts of the seedier, more colorful elements in society. In what I consider to be an excellent companion piece to Diablo Cody’s autobiographical Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, George Griffith wrote, directed, and stars in From the Head, the story of a few hours in the life of a strip club bathroom attendant whose anecdotes are based on Griffith’s real-life experiences doing that very job. Shoes (Griffith) is working a

The Life After Death Project DVD Review: An Academic Approach to the Afterlife

Your doubts will be challenged.
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Paul Davids’ Life After Death Project has had an interesting stay in my house. Hearing it was a SyFy project had me wondering if it would be good or out-there, as I’ve seen more than a couple unfortunate SyFy original movies. It’s based almost entirely on anecdotal recollections -- no spooks or spectres caught on camera here. I spun it up, hoping for the best, and found myself dozing off about 20 minutes in. However, these are all unfair criticisms and biases. If a viewer goes in with a truly open mind, what separately look like a bunch of utter

Hitchcock (2012) Blu-ray Review: A Legend Plays a Legend

Hopkins shines as the master of suspense.
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Make no mistake: Anthony Hopkins has some acting chops. He’s brought to life some of the most memorable, likeable, and sinister characters in film, sometimes all at the same time. When faced with the prospect of Hopkins playing the iconic Alfred Hitchcock in a mini-biopic centered around the production of the genre-defining horror flick Psycho, and being a fan of Hitchcock myself, it’s understandable to have some reservations, but fear not -- Hopkins lives and breathes the master of suspense from the opening shot to the closing credits. From the plodding gait to the bulbous posture, the pouty mouth to

Pawn (2013) Blu-ray Review: Intensity That Just Won't Quit

An enjoyable but flawed thriller.
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Few movies can tie up an ending as neatly and shockingly as Se7en did, with everything coming to a head, the entire plot unfolding exactly the way John Doe had planned, leaving the protagonists with an impossible dilemma. Or how about how at the end of The Usual Suspects when viewers learned who Keyser Soze really was and had to immediately re-watch the entire movie with that in mind? What about how Memento told a story in reverse, but somehow managed to make it make more sense the closer you got to the beginning? Those films stand as well regarded

Tai Chi Hero Movie Review: A Worthy Successor

A solid kung fu coming-of-age flick.
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I almost made a big mistake going into watching Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi Hero -- I nearly disregarded the prequel, Tai Chi Zero, assuming this was just loosely or not-at-all related. It’s important to note that, similar to Kill Bill, these are two parts of one story, or one movie broken into two (possibly more) parts, if you prefer (this Facebook page hints at a three-quel named Summit and this IMDB page seems to confirm, but it’s in its developmental infancy at best). The brief recap at the beginning of Hero is not nearly enough to bring you up to

Great Barrier Reef Blu-ray Review: Keeping the Streak Alive

BBC Earth's tradition of excellence continues with this closer look at one of the world's greatest natural marvels.
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BBC Earth has been on a roll lately. Among others, they’ve hit us with Africa, One Life, and The Blue Planet. In keeping with their tradition of masterfully shot, well narrated and informative documentaries on the flora and fauna of this planet we call home, they’ve now tackled the largest living structure in the world -- Great Barrier Reef. Monty Halls leads viewers along on a journey all around the reef itself, its formation, the surrounding and interconnected ecosystems, wildlife, and weather that all go into making the reef what it is, a 2000km long natural marvel that can be

Broken City DHD Review: Taut Noir Thriller Debuts in a New Format

This unlikely character-driven noir flick delivers a solid cast and production, and in an all new format.
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Broken City became available for purchase last week, even though the Blu-ray and DVD aren’t due out until closer to the end of the month. No, it’s not an “available to pre-order” situation, but rather in a new format -- Digital HD (DHD). Before you start groaning about having to rebuy all the movies you just replaced in moving from DVD to Blu-ray (or HD-DVD for those unlucky souls who banked on the loser of that fight), lets take a look at the pros and cons of this new medium to see if it’s right for you. The DHD Format

Woochi: The Demon Slayer Blu-ray Review: Rebranding Gone Awry

Nice whimsical fantasy that trips on its shoelaces a bit trying to figure out what it wants to be.
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The 2009 Korean-folklore-inspired box office hit Jeon Woochi: The Taoist Wizard has been retitled Woochi: The Demon Slayer and landed stateside on Blu-ray on April 9, 2013. It follows an apprentice Taoist through being framed for the murder of his master, spending 500 years banished within a scroll painting, then being loosed in modern-day Seoul to continue the fight started with goblins and other wayward Taoists five centuries prior. However, the movie is missing two main components of its subtitle: demons and slaying. This rebranding from “Taoist Wizard” to “Demon Slayer” set the wrong expectations for me going in, and

Stitches Blu-ray Review: An Irish Horror Spoof That Needs Some Polish

A valiant effort at a tricky sub-genre, but doesn't quite hit all the right notes.
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After the titular Stitches the Clown (Ross Noble) shows up late for a routine kids’ birthday party, he ends up leaving in the hands of the coroner due to a prank gone awry. Six years later, he rises from the grave to get his revenge on the kids who inadvertently killed him. Conveniently, on the anniversary of the party where he died, there just so happens to be another party for him to crash with the same attendees. Clowns have a varied history in scary movies. At one end you have Pennywise from Stephen King’s It, a face that still

This is 40 Blu-ray Review: An Endearing Look at Middle Age

Apatow continues the Knocked Up saga with a funny and touching look at life at the end of your 30s.
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Some have lambasted This is 40 for not having a strong central storyline. Guess what? Neither does real life. Some of the greatest challenges both in this movie and life in general are themes rather than objectives. The problems depicted here -- parental abandonment, teenage anxiety, financial problems, cyber-bullying, compromising one’s dreams, the emotional see-saw of any relationship, while bluntly avoiding cliche, overdone topics like infidelity and jealousy -- speak to a wide audience, and we aren’t led along by the hand to a tidy, gift-wrapped happily-ever-after ending 90 minutes later. Real life is messy, and so is This is

Spiders (2013) DVD Review: It's Only Bad If You Watch It

It could have at least been funny. Instead it just ended up being bad.
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I realize the irony (and possibly the hypocrisy) in bashing a sci-fi horror movie for being unrealistic or inconsistent, but I have to do it. Tibor Takacs' Spiders starts with a kernel of tolerable nonsense, but derails along the way by doing things that should be hilarious, but are not meant in jest. We kick off here with a blend of monsters from space, Arachnophobia, and Volcano, as a chunk of Russian satellite is broken off by passing space rock, and plummets to Earth. It streaks across the New York City skyline and bores a nice hole in the street

The Blob (1958) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Oldie But Goodie Returns in High Def

Still stands as one of the classics.
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Watching The Blob (1958) and then watching The Blob (1988) reveals much about how American culture changed over three decades. In the '58 edition, melodramatic overacting ruled the day; movie tickets were 80 cents; women were little more than helpless, whimpering, babbling, hysterical scenery; musical accompaniment is unabashedly schmoozy; teenage shenanigans consisted of racing cars backwards; and getting a stern lecture from the police at worst. Fast-forward 30 years, and we've got screaming tension, movie tickets have quadrupled in price, women have become kick-ass protagonists, the music is piercing and scary, and shenanigans have evolved to jumping motorcycles over chasms

Africa (2013) Blu-ray Review: Remarkable, Vast, Deadly Wilderness, Now in High Definition

One of the most untamed parts of the world, revealed in all its fury and tenderness.
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Sir David Attenborough and the BBC Earth team are at it again, capturing some unbelievable footage in high definition and bringing it home to you. After the inspiring Planet Earth series, I had high expectations going into Africa: Eye to Eye With the Unknown, and was not disappointed. This four-year endeavor has captured some amazing feats of adaptation, as animals continue their rock-paper-scissors tug of war within the food chain. I learned a lot along the way. Armored ground crickets can spray their stinky blood at their predators as if it were pepper spray, but one wrong move and a

Deadfall (2012) Blu-ray Review: Nothing New Here, and Not Especially Well Recycled

Despite a strong cast, the intertwining stories are thin and uninteresting.
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Deadfall reminded me of a few other movies: The Ref (1994) for its hostage situation over the holidays, A Simple Plan (1998) for how to get away with a bunch of money in the dead of winter, and The Fugitive (1993) for relentless cops hot on the trail of a man on the run. However, it lacks any of the humor or wit found in The Ref, is devoid of the intricate storyline or raw humanity put on display in A Simple Plan, and the oafish cops act more like the lazy local guys Deputy Gerard told off in The

Sushi Girl Blu-ray Review: Reservoir Dogs' and The Usual Suspects' Slightly Underdeveloped Lovechild

Great ensemble cast -- if only they had a little more of a story to tell.
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How's this for a pitch: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Candyman (Tony Todd), Atreyu (Noah Hathaway), Donnie Darko's Frank the Demonic Rabbit (James Duval), "Ugly Toenails Hood" from Shoot 'Em Up (Andy Mackenzie), and one of the Joker's thugs from The Dark Knight (David Dastmalchian) decide to steal some diamonds from Machete Cortez (Danny Trejo), Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), and the Lawnmower Man (Jeff Fahey), but the whole thing goes Reservoir Dogs when a chance car accident sees newish-comer Cortney Palm turning Keyser Soze and enlisting the aid of martial arts legend Sonny Chiba to exact revenge. Yeah, that just happened

Bath Salt Zombies DVD Review: This Is Not the Dustin Mills Flick You're Looking For

I watched it so you wouldn't have to.
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As you might remember, I found much to like about Dustin Mills' Zombie A-Hole, so I went into his flick Bath Salt Zombies with an open mind at the very least. Sure, the real bath salts' 15 minutes of fame ran out as soon as the ink was dry on the first reports of real-life junkies eating people's faces, but that's no reason not to make a very loosely related movie well after media has stopped talking about it. However, despite having almost twice the budget, it falls far short of A-Hole in pretty much every way.If you paid any

Compliance DVD Review: It'd Be Awful If It Weren't True

This prank call goes horribly wrong.
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Compliance chronicles a day in the life of Becky (Dreama Walker), who went to work at her fast-food job like any other day. As business ramps up in the afternoon, a phone call comes into the restaurant from an Officer Daniels (Pat Healy) to Sandra (Ann Dowd), the manager of the eatery. Daniels claims to be conducting a police investigation of a theft that happened in the restaurant earlier that day, the supposed witness accusing Becky of the theft. From there, Daniels requests Sandra to isolate and detain Becky, which leads to further requests, escalated behaviors, and ultimately the rape

End of Watch Blu-ray Review: Or, Training Day 2

Gritty and tense, it does almost everything I want a cop drama to do.
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At its core, End of Watch is a gritty buddy cop movie. Lots of buzzwords leap out of the packaging like “Great” and “Powerful” and “Gripping,” and it is definitely all of these things. Personally, there were a few details that were overlooked to tie the whole package together, though. It’s a good flick, don’t get me wrong, but for the pretense it builds, in a couple areas it doesn’t fully measure up. Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are LAPD partners assigned to one of the worst, most gang-violence ridden parts of south central Los Angeles.

House at the End of the Street Blu-ray Review: Not Befitting of the Talent It Attracted

If I wanted pointless twists, I’d have eaten a plate of rotini pasta.
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House at the End of the Street starts out strong. You witness the murder of two parents by their deranged young daughter, who then flees into the woods behind the house, presumably never to be seen again. Four years go by, and new neighbors move in next door, knowing what transpired in the Jacobson house, but capitalizing on the ensuing diminished real estate values in the wake of the murders. The Jacobson house is said to be empty. The first night in their new house, mother Sarah (Elisabeth Shue) looks out a window across the yard at the Jacobson house

War of the Dead Blu-ray Review: It Forgot to Make Me Care

Follows the formulas and cliches of action and horror, but never gives any reason to stick with it.
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When a marketer finds it necessary to promote a movie based on the fact that it is “the most expensive movie ever shot in Lithuania,” you can’t help but lower your expectations. I didn’t think Marko Mäkilaakso’s War of the Dead would amount to much more than 90 minutes of popcorn ridiculousness, but thought it could at least give me a reason to keep watching. We begin with some prisoners being escorted into a Nazi facility of some sort, and the scene ends with one of the prisoners being injected with something that makes him into something approximating a zombie.

The Good Doctor Blu-ray Review: I Cannot "Understate" How Unexciting This Is

The story doesn't warrant the cast it garnered.
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The Good Doctor tells the story of Martin Blake (Orlando Bloom) who seeks to be the titular good doctor, but for all the wrong reasons. When prompted, he explains that he chose this career to feed his need for affirmation and respect, that helping his patients fell secondary to being liked by them. Sounds a bit like Dr. Gregory House, but without the confidence or wit. He quarrels with a nurse (Taraji P. Henson) and an orderly (Michael Peña), and brown-noses toward his superior Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow), when along comes Diane (Riley Keough), seeking treatment for a kidney/urinary tract

The Night of the Devils (1972) Blu-ray Review: Still Good, 40 Years Later

Serves as an example of what a horror movie can be if you replace gore and fancy effects with tension and storytelling.
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If there’s one thing that scary movies have taught us, it’s that if someone’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, asking the locals for help is a recipe for horrible things happening to the driver. Apparently this horror cliche transcends generations and borders, as this is the pivotal beginning of Giorgio Ferroni’s Italian horror cult classic The Night of the Devils, a film inspired by the tale The Wurdulac by Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy. But let’s jump back for a moment, since the movie does as well. It starts with a man named Nicola (Gianni Garko) staggering beaten and

Osombie DVD Review: Good Dumb Fun

It's an amusing, offensive, complete waste of time with a ridiculous premise -- everything that cheesy action/zombie movies are supposed to be.
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Remember that time a dumb action movie got a great metascore on Metacritic or average review on IMDB? Yeah, me neither. Some of the best action movies don’t take themselves very seriously, and that’s exactly what you get with Osombie, a re-imagining if you will of the events surrounding Bin Laden’s takedown in Afghanistan. Instead of the S.E.A.L. team popping a cap and carrying him out, Bin Laden shoots himself up with a modified toxic agent and turns into -- you guessed it -- a zombie. The impression I got from the box art and synopsis on the back was

The Adventures of Mark Twain Collector's Edition DVD Review: Still Good for Fans; an Intro to Twain for Newbies

A person who won't watch this movie has no advantage over one who can't watch it.
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I’m pretty sure that at some point growing up, I saw 1985’s The Adventures of Mark Twain, but I don’t remember much of it. Part of the Claymation craze of its day, it seeks to weave some of Twain’s life story with his own tales of adventure and mystery. Having been born in 1835 -- the year of Halley’s Comet -- Twain believed he and the oddity were inextricably linked, and that he would leave the world on Halley’s next visit in 1910. Strangely enough, he passed away that same year, as predicted. The events of Adventures are set in

Rudyard Kipling's Mark of the Beast (2012) DVD Review: It'll Make a Nice Coaster

I'm pretty sure nobody involved with this project knew what they were doing.
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There are two kinds of good horror movies. The first is the one that offers genuine scares, relying on excellent use of pacing, cinematography, soundtrack, and acting to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. The other kind is so comically bad, it never takes itself seriously and the audience laughs along with it. The movie can mock established themes, play up to embellished cliches, or pride itself on having zero budget for special effects. Rudyard Kipling's Mark of the Beast manages to be neither of these. It tries desperately hard to be a serious horror film, but

The Ice House (1997) DVD Review: A Twisty Mystery Sporting a Young James Bond

What’s that, guv’nah? A good British mystery movie? I say!
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In the U.S., it wouldn’t surprise me to hear that people only know Daniel Craig as James Bond and possibly “that guy from Dragon Tattoo.” But, lo and behold, he started working his way up the ranks in 1992 in bit parts in American films and British TV series, and five years into his budding acting career, landed the part of Andy McLoughlin in BBC’s television adaptation of Minette Walters’ novel The Ice House. It also features other stars of stage and screen (Penny Downie, Frances Barber, Kitty Aldridge, and Corin Redgrave), but while the old cover sports all five

G.I. Joe: Renegades: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: It Seems You Can, In Fact, Go Home Again

This take on the franchise atones for the sins of the live-action movie, takes a nomadic approach to character introduction, and tells a much-needed mature and interesting story along the way.
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Reviving 1980s cartoon franchises continues to be all the rage. Transformers managed to garner interest and ticket sales at the box office (though beyond the tolerable first entry, I can’t understand how), and despite personally being deeply annoyed by the creative liberties taken in 2009’s live-action G.I. Joe movie, others apparently found enough value in it to warrant a sequel. Neither franchise has been perfect since their heyday in the mid-’80s -- for every Beast Wars there’s a Sigma 6 to race it to the bottom -- but it’s always possible to still get a reboot right. The all-too-brief 2009

Tight DVD Review: Can Porn Stars Become Rock Stars?

Just as shallow as porn, but with far fewer sexy bits.
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Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give instruments to four girls who bang on camera for a living and try to turn them from porn stars into rock stars? Tight strives to give viewers that experience, reality-TV-show-style, but the whole experience comes off as more confusing than interesting. Watching Tight is a strange experience. Is it wrong to berate porn stars for their lack of creativity or utter inability to act in a convincing manner? Typically this is tolerated because it makes up about 5% of the experience, the other 95% being about her and the

The Babymakers Blu-ray Review: Finally, A Lifetime Movie Made for Men

Broken Lizard antics mixed with what would otherwise be another typical chick flick? I’m in.
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The guys behind the comedy team Broken Lizard (Jay Chandrasekhar, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Kevin Heffernan, Paul Soter) have a knack for irreverent humor. Those who dig it, dig it hard. Many of their movies are very BL-centric (Super Troopers, Beerfest, Club Dread) while others see them joining in as ride-alongs on someone else’s adventure. Such was the case with the recent Dukes of Hazzard remake, and such is the case with The Babymakers. Tommy and Audrey Macklin (Paul Schneider and Olivia Munn, respectively) have been together for a couple of years now, and decide it’s time to start a

Surviving Progress DVD Review: How to Temper a Double-Edged Sword

Human progress has given us some fantastic tools and technology, but that same development threatens our continued existence on this planet.
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Surviving Progress takes a look at the advancements human beings have made over the last few thousand years, what our current situation of balancing progress and resource consumption against what Earth can reasonably support, and the steps needed to correct our path to attain a sustainable future. The good news is that all is not lost, but some things need to change. We as a species need to become more cognizant of our impact on the world we live in -- on both a small and large scale -- and what each one of us can do to rise to

Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray Review: A Visual Spectacle, But Not Quite a Classic Reborn

Convincing effects can’t cover up a thin story with some judicious liberties taken, but it’s still a fun ride.
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It’s been many years since I saw the Disney incarnation of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so the first thing I did after viewing Snow White and the Huntsman was to dust off that classic and freshen up on what has changed in the last 75 years. It seems this retelling borrows some elements from both the 1937 classic and the original Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale. Let’s get a few basics out of the way. First, Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart) stepmother queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. Along the way, there are

Total Recall (2012) Movie Review: Get Your Ass To, Well, Britain, I Guess

Despite some inconsistencies with the previous movie and original short story, this holds up admirably as a fun action romp.
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There are a few iconic things that come to mind when someone mentions Total Recall (1990) -- Mars, over-the-top effects, explosions, false-memory implantation, and the mutant prostitute with three boobs. One of these is noticeably absent from the 2012 reboot of the movie of the same name based on Philip K. Dick’s short story We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. Can you guess which one? You might be surprised, and then surprised again to learn that it was never really featured in the original short story, either. For those who are just joining us, Total Recall is the story

Zombie A-Hole DVD Review: A Worthwhile Throwback to Less-Than-Serious Horror Movies of Yore

Boobs and blood, exploitation and gratuity...what more could you want?
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Having recently reviewed Richard Griffin’s The Disco Exorcist, I initially mistook Dustin Mills’ Zombie A-Hole as having been a creation of the same team. They’re both firmly in the vein of low-budget (try $1000) ridiculous cheesy horror comedy, use the same dirty filter to make the film appear much older than it really is, feature over-the-top death sequences and characters, and the most gratuitous nudity you’re likely to find this side of proper pornography. Despite these similarities, where Disco Exorcist never took itself seriously with laugh-out-loud moments at every turn, Zombie A-Hole sets a somewhat more grim backdrop for the

Jay and Silent Bob Get Old: Tea Bagging in the UK DVD Review: Adding Sights to the Clerks' Podcast's Sounds

If you enjoy watching a radio show being taped, this is the Smith/Mewes project you've been waiting for.
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What happens when Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith take their podcast on the road to the United Kingdom?  You hear enough about their personal sex lives to keep their wives blushing for a century.  They do touch on a smattering of personal experiences, both ridiculous (Jay versus security when they find him carrying a lock-knife when attempting to board the London Eye) and a bit heartfelt (anecdotes about the last few months of life for one of Kevin’s dogs), but it’s a very different animal from the Q&A sessions the team has become known for (An Evening With Kevin Smith

Scalene Movie Review: Crazy Women Desperately Seeking Justification

One character starts with a mental handicap; the other two strive to prove theirs.
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When the credits rolled on Scalene, groans could be heard throughout my living room. Why? Because it took us on a journey of extreme measures, but along the way forgot to justify any of them and trips over its own shoelaces of pretentiously telling the story in an inconsistently convoluted manner. Be warned, spoilers are incoming. The movie was billed as a "perceptual thriller that revolves around a mother's revenge after her mentally-challenged son is accused of sexual assault by his student caretaker." So I go in thinking Vantage Point but where the pivotal event is a rape instead of

The Disco Exorcist Movie Review: A Strangely Entertaining Highlight Reel of '70s Cliches

Not for everyone, but fans of cheesy horror comedy should give it a chance.
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Fade in on lava lamp and reel to reel, plenty of dust and lines tarnishing the film print, scratchy audio track rife with pops and cracks as if playing off vinyl. A topless girl films a guy snorting blow off another girl's bare ass. The Disco Exorcist strives to capture '70s sleaze vibe and does an admirable job of it. The disco and occasionally moody soundtrack is spot on for the theme. The setting, the costuming, and set design seemingly on the money. And the drug-addled, sex-addicted attitudes consistent with why we remember '70s sexploitation films so well. It's not

A Necessary Death DVD Review: How Do You Film Someone Who Wants to Kill Themselves?

Well presented with likable characters, not quite as shocking as expected, but with welcome twists along the way.
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"Recovered Footage" movies -- ones shot with consumer-grade cameras made to look like home movies, films like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity -- can't rely on lots of CGI or fancy special effects and still stay true to the look of the film. The world feels more real, more personal, less scripted, like it could happen to you. With less glitz to distract you, the actors' performances have to be their best. If there are holes in the writing or dialogue, they quickly become apparent and distracting; worse yet, if it starts to feel deliberately plotted or scripted,

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