Recently by Mat Brewster

Silence (2016) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a Martin Scorsese film about faith, some fantastic beasts, our own planet in HD, and much more.
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In my very first Five Cool Things article, I was excited about the trailer for Martin Scorsese's Silence. I also noted that I had really enjoyed the book. What I didn’t mention was that my copy of the book had a bunch of pages missing. For the last 20 pages or so, every other pages was blank. It was a horrible way to finish what was really a very good novel right at its conclusion. I learned what happened at the end in my class and always meant to buy another copy, but never did. As I’ve surely mentioned numerous

Five Cool Things and My Birthday

Cool things this week include Legion, Alfred Hitchock, Better Call Saul, Cinema Paradiso, and Van Morrison.
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I’m running out of interesting things to say in the intro to these things so lets just get to it. Here’s five cool things I consumed this week. Van Morrison - Moondance I’m very much a fan of Van Morrison’s music. I’d easily put him in my top 10 artists of all time list. Earlier this week, I realized that I’ve actually spend a lot more time with his bootlegs than I have with this actual studio work. This needs to be remedied so I’ve spent the last few days working my way through his discography. Released in January of

Dig Two Graves Movie Review: Gothic Horror Disappoints

Supernatural mystery looks beautiful but loses itself in an unimaginative script.
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Standing on a cliff above an old quarry two men, Proctor (Gabriel Cain) and Waterhouse (Ted Levine), pull two corpses out of their car and throw them over the edge. When the deed is done, Waterhouse points a gun at Proctor and tells him he’s no longer sheriff. Thirty years later, Sean (Ben Schneider) and sister Jake (Samantha Isler) stand on the same cliff daring each other to jump into the lake below. They agree to do it together but at the last moment Jake chickens out letting Sean fall alone. He never comes back up. Dig Two Graves links

Romanzo Criminale: Season 1 & 2 DVD Review: Excellent Italian Crime Series

The violent rise and horrible fall of an Italian crime family.
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Contrary to what you might think having watched dozens of films and television series about the mafia, Rome was not controlled by the mob in the early 1970s. There were many small groups, or batteries as they were called, which committed low-level crimes, but no larger organization controlling it all. Romanzo Criminale, the Italian TV series that was a huge hit in its homeland and now makes its way to American home video via Kino Lorber, takes a fictionalized look at the real Magliana Gang that took control of Rome and ruled it for most of the '70s and '80s.

Live By Night is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a gangster flick from Ben Affleck, a disgusting one from John Waters, singing animals, and much more.
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I’m a sucker for gangster stories. There is something utterly fascinating about people who push aside all of society's rules and take what they want for themselves. Gangsters are often not the smartest, strongest, or the best but rather they are the most willing to use violence for their own means. Most of us avoid trouble whenever we can so when someone comes along willing to openly commit violence the vast majority of people shirk away. Those who don’t get a beating. In real life, I find that sort of thing appealing, but on film it's really interesting. Dennis Lehane

Cinema Paradiso (Arrow Academy) Blu-ray Review: A Love Letter to the Cinema

A beautiful, loving tribute to the magic of movies.
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Every year during the Oscars, my social media feed fills up with jokes about how often they are going to talk about how movies are magic. Every year the answer is “a lot.” You could make a drinking game of it. In the same way, awards shows, Hollywood in general and, honestly, cinema the world over, love movies about the movies. It can get a bit self-congratulatory as its basically people who make movies making a movie about how wonderful movies are. Yet, as a cinenephile, as a man who loves watching movies I kind of love it. Movies are

Five Cool Things and St. Patrick's Day

Cool things this week include Howl's Moving Castle, Snotgirl, the Hulk, and more.
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It seems like every time I write one of these I’m making excuses. Someone in my family was sick, or I was busy at work, or I was sick, or I only watched bad movies, or my cat was sick. Sometimes, I’ve had to elicit help from my fellow Sentries. Sometimes, I’ve scoured the Internet the night before posting looking for something, anything cool. Well, this week we were all healthy, work was busy but not tragically so and I consumed lots of really cool things. So let's get started. Planet Hulk I’ve always thought Hulk was an uninteresting character.

The Lovers On The Bridge Blu-ray Review: A Realistic Portrait of Homelessness and Love

One of those films that many people seem to love or hate.
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Cinematic portrayals of the homeless tend to be unrealistic if not downright demeaning. When they are not brought out for cheap scares or cheaper laughs, they are all too often seen as depraved degenerates who need a white knight to save them. Or they are unheralded geniuses in need of someone to take their hand and guide them to proper society where they will find great success. Worst of all is when they are seen as the happy poor, noble savages who really have better lives than all of us because they don’t need so much “stuff.” Lovers on the

Fences is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Denzel Washington in a critically praised drama, Will Smith in a critically hated one, a sci-fi adventure with Chris Pratt and much more.
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During that ridiculous let's-bring-in-a-tour-bus-full-of-common-folk-to-the-Oscars bit a few weeks ago, host Jimmy Kimmel asked one of the tourists who her favorite actor was. She pointed and simply said “him.” I turned to my wife and said, “It's Denzel Washington.” Of course it was. Everybody loves Denzel Washington. He’s one of the greatest living actors we have. He’s won all the awards. He’s beloved by just about everyone - men, women, African Americans, Caucasians, liberals, and conservatives alike. He happily mixes it up by playing in straight-up action flicks and small dramatic films. Last year, he was in both The Magnificent Seven

Shut In Blu-ray Review: Naomi Watts Deserves Better

Good cast, terrible movie.
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A good thriller can be a great many things: exciting, scary, gruesome, erotic, and even funny. The one thing they should never be is boring. Shut In is none of the things on that list, but it is boring. It spends the first hour or so developing characters and setting up its story in such a lazy, hodgepodge way that by the time something even remotely thrilling happens, I’d long since stopped caring enough to be scared. Mary Portman (Naomi Watts), a child psychologist, lives with her invalid son Stephen (Charlie Heaton) in an isolated house in rural Maine. As

Ghost in the Shell (1995) Limited Steelbook Blu-ray Review: Philosophical Animated Noir with Boobs

Terrifically stylized anime asks deep questions about technology we're still trying to answer today.
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In the near future, humans beings augment their bodies with mechanical and computerized parts. You can get hardened shells, robotic arms, infrared vision, and a computerized brain. These computers connect everyone to a vast electronic network. Some people forego human bodies at all and have their souls, or ghosts, connected to completely robotic bodies. Major Motoko Kusangi is one such creature. She works for Public Security Section 9, some kind of intelligence operation for an unnamed, probably Japanese, city. Initially, her team is after a vaguely evil foreign operative who is seeking political asylum but the film drops that plot

Five Cool Things and Robert Osborne

This week in cool brings us a Deadpool 2 teaser, Ghost in the Shell, All About Eve, and more.
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I’ve been writing this column for a little while now so I’m getting pretty good at making little lists of the cool things I read, watch, and listen to, which makes this a lot easier to write. It's certainly easier than waking up Friday morning only to realize I’ve got a column to write and no memory of what I’ve consumed over the last seven days. Even with the little lists, there are times, like right now, where I look at all the pop culture I’ve engaged with in the last week only to realize I found very little of

Fathom Events and TCM Present 'All About Eve'

The Bette Davis classic gets a run on the big screen thanks to TCM and Fathom Events.
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All About Eve was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, a record that has not been beaten to this day (Titanic and La La Land both tied it). It won six Oscars including Best Picture and Best Actor for George Sanders. Today, many critics feel that Bette Davis would have won had Anne Baxter not lobbied so hard to be included in the Best Actress category (instead of Best Supporting Actress), thus splitting the votes between them and causing Judy Holiday to win for Born Yesterday. It is generally considered one of the greatest backstage movies of all time and regularly

Moana is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the best Disney music in a decade, a critically praised biopic, a Criterion drama, a creepy flick from Portugal, and Japanese animation.
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I’ve always liked Disney movies. but for the most part I’ve waited until they’ve reached home video (and have gained a favorable critical consensus) before watching them. Well, that’s the way things went until I had a daughter. Now, I pretty much see them in the theater, or at the very least as soon as they come out on Blu-ray, no matter the critical or popular opinion. So it was with Moana. It came out this summer while we were visiting the wife’s family in Kentucky so we took the in-laws along for the ride. I was a little worried

We Are the Flesh Blu-ray Review: Grotesquely Beautiful

Mexican horror film aims for something high, falls short into extreme violence and sex.
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In We Are The Flesh, first-time director Emiliano Rocha Minter gleefully crosses every boundary of good taste and morality he can think of - incest, necrophilia, cannibalism, extremely long close-ups of genitalia. It's a gore-filled, sexually explicit horror show with art-house pretensions that wants you to believe it's saying something meaningful about the state of things in Mexico. In it, two siblings, Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (María Evoli), find there way into an abandoned apartment complex. There they find Mariano (Noé Hernández), a crazed, possibly psychotic, but certainly disturbed man seeking out a solitary existence. He offers them food

Five Cool Things and Logan

Batman, Battlestar Galactica, Bruce Springsteen, and more are all cool things I discovered this week.
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It's been a busy week in the Brewster home. Work has been absolutely insane. keeping my days mostly pop-culture free. The wife and I have also been trying to reduce the amount of screen time my daughter gets so we’ve been filling our evenings more with games and craft projects rather than TV shows and movies. Still, I found some cools things to talk about so lets get started. Bruce Springsteen - Passaic, NJ (09/20/78) Bruce Springsteen is a monster in concert. His shows with the famed E-Street Band are legendary for their length and intensity. Springsteen has always understood

Cameraperson Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Beautiful, Sad, Wonderful

Cameraperson tells the story of one filmmaker through the dozens of movies she's shot.
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Sometimes when I can’t sleep, I’ll lie in bed at night and think about all the different houses and apartments I’ve lived in. I’ll mentally walk through each room, picturing what it looked like and describing them as if to a friend. Sometimes the rooms are very clear to me - I can picture it as if I'm there. Sometimes they are more fuzzy and I have to think really hard about what they looked like. Sometimes I can’t remember them at all. There is one house I briefly lived in on Grand Lake whose guest bedrooms are a mystery

Moonlight is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an Oscar upset,
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We cut the cord year ago and our cheap antenna doesn’t really work in our new house. We pick up a few channels but not ABC which carried the Oscars last night. I had all but resigned myself to not watching the ceremony this year and in fact wrote out several paragraphs for this article about how I wasn’t going to get to watch. Then my genius wife moved the antennae upstairs to our bedroom TV and got all the channels. I missed the first twenty minutes or so and then another twenty minutes or so in the middle putting

Five Cool Things and an Early Spring

Everyday is a new battle with sickness around here, but there's plenty of cool things to find as well.
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I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but once again sickness found its way into the Brewster house this week. I really think it was the remnants of the previous week’s nastiness, but my daughter spent the weekend with a low fever and I spent most of the week feeling completely and utterly exhausted. I was in bed by 9:30 every night like I’ve turned into my parents. Still, some cool things came around and here’s five of them. Grateful Dead: May 1977: Get Shown the Light Barton Hall, Ithaca, NY, May 8, 1977. Those words mean a great

Nocturnal Animals is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us another Amy Adams pick, a couple of Criterions, Mel Gibson's return, a Doctor Who Christmas special, and more.
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As I sit down to write out why Nocturnal Animals is my pick of this week, I realize I know next to nothing about the film. I know it stars Amy Adams and that it's gotten some critical buzz. I also really like its title. But other than that - nothing. Yet here I am ready to make it my pick. It's not like one of those weeks where there is nothing else coming out either. There’s a Doctor Who Christmas special, an Oscar-nominated Mel Gibson flick, and a couple of wonderful Criterion releases. Yet here I am, picking something

Book Review: Walt Disney's Silly Symphonies Vol. 2 (1935-1939)

A beautiful collection of historically important comics.
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From 1929 to 1939, the Walt Disney company created 75 original animated short films under its Silly Symphonies line. As opposed to the Micky Mouse short films Disney was producing at the same time the Symphonies were designed to be whimsical pieces devoid of continuity or the need to feature regular characters (though several characters quickly stood out and became regulars in the films). In many ways, these shorts were a means by which Disney could experiment with the animation without fear of hurting his brand. The films helped dramatically improve what could be done with animation in terms of

Five Cool Things and George 'The Animal' Steele

Prince is now available on all streaming services - if that's not cool, I don't know what is.
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A great big thanks to Gordon and Shawn for helping out last week. A couple of weeks ago I noted that my family and I had been passing around The Crud for awhile, well last week it turned into full-blown sickness. There’s been a nasty stomach virus being passed around these parts - my daughter got it over the weekend, then I got it, and then my wife. I won’t go into the details except to say it was an awful experience and I was in no shape to write. But now I’m back and healthy and have plenty to

Arrival is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Amy Adams' language skills, a new Cinemax show, an Ang Lee Iraq War movie, a PBS Civil War show, and a gay porn crime drama starring James Franco.
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My wife is a language nerd. Technically, she’s a master linguist having received her degree from Indiana University many years ago. As such, she has many language-nerd friends. Which means I have many language-nerd friends. Arrival is a film in which Amy Adams plays a linguist who saves the world from an alien invasion using her language-nerd powers. All of those aforementioned friends were terribly excited by this film. I am not a language nerd. I’m not particularly interested in grammatical intricacies as one can easily tell by constant abuse of the rules in these weekly picks. I do however

Howards End Blu-ray Review: Luxuriously Lush

A magnificent presentations of a wonderful period drama
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Upon watching the new 4K restoration of Howards End by the Cohen Film Collection, I come to realize it was my very first time watching a Merchant-Ivory Production. This surprises me as I feel like I know exactly the sort of films they made. Founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, the film production company became well known in the '80s and '90s for their beautifully made period films that often adapted literary works set in Edwardian England. Working with modest budget (often adapting books from the likes of Henry James and E.M. Forster that were

Loving is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an Oscar nominee, another release of Dirty Dancing, Trolls, psychedelic horror, and much more.
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I first noticed Ruth Negga on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where she played Raina, a villain who was working for the mysterious Centipede Group before becoming a spiky headed Inhuman. She was a striking presence but honestly didn’t make that much of an impression on me. After watching her in Preacher, I realize just how poorly used in S.H.I.E.L.D. as she is magnetic in that show. After watching the first season, I put a mental peg in her name as someone to always watch. It seems I wasn’t the only one as she’s getting all kind of accolades for her performance

Five Cool Things and Frederick Douglass

Sometimes, even during sickness, one can find cool things.
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For the last couple of months, my wife and I have been passing The Crud back and forth between each other. She’ll get sick one week - coughing, sneezing, head full of mucus - then just as she gets better, I’ll get it. We routinely either blame our daughter, who is very likely bringing new germs home from her classmates, or our house and its potential for mold and who knows else what. It's been pretty miserable experience. This week it was my turn. I felt it coming on last Saturday and should have stayed in bed all day Sunday

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us generic action from Tom Cruise, a queen from England, a Nazi love camp, and more.
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Tom Cruise, the human, seems like a pretty awful dude. He’s a high-ranking member of a terrible cult/religion that uses brainwashing, blackmail, and mob-like intimidation techniques. He’s publicly made damaging comments about psychiatry, that if taken seriously, could do untold harm to millions of patients who desperately need the medical practice and their prescribed medication. I also don’t think he’s that great of an actor. He gets the job done, sometimes very well, but there’s never been a moment in which I found his performance in any film to be elevated into the level of greatness. Despite all this, I

Fathom Events Presents Dirty Dancing

For its 30th anniversary, Fathom Events put Baby back in the corner for a couple of viewings on the big screen.
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I grew up attending the Churches of Christ - a conservative evangelical Christian sect most know for our aversion to instrumental music and, like John Lithgow’s minister in Footloose, our declarations against pre-marital dancing. While watching Dirty Dancing on the big screen for its 30th anniversary care of Fathom Events, my wife turned to me and said, “this is why we couldn’t go to dances.” It's true the film is filled with, as its name suggests, plenty of dirty, sensual, sexy dancing that would put prurient thoughts into the most wholesome of minds. Made on a tiny budget of $5

Pinocchio: The Signature Collection Blu-ray Review: Delightful For All Ages

The classic Disney film gets a new release with a little bit new and a whole lot of old supplementals.
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By 1937, Walt Disney Studios had been making animated shorts for over a decade. They’d become very successful but were still seen as a silly kids studio by most of Hollywood. With the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that changed. The film made over $8 million dollars in its initial run, garnered lots of critical praise, and won an honorary Oscar. With all that success, Disney quickly moved into making his second full-length animated feature, Pinocchio. Based upon an Italian children’s novel, Pinocchio tells the story of a wooden puppet that is given life by a

The Handmaiden DVD Review: A Twisting, Turning Korean Thriller

South Korean director Park Chan-wook takes a break from his usual shocking ultra violence and makes a magnificently beautiful period drama.
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Park Chan-wook is best known for what is now known as his Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy and Lady Vengeance), three films that are unrelated in plot but share deep thematic ties and the director’s perchance for extreme violence and a dark, often perverse sense of humor. His latest film, The Handmaiden gives up the violence (mostly) and exchanges it for a lush, tightly plotted period romance (albeit one with some fairly graphic lesbian sex and tentacle porn). Set in Japanese-occupied Korea in the 1930s, the film tells the story of Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) a pick-pocket and con

Five Cool Things and Mary Tyler Moore

This week I struggled to find five cool things so I brought in a friend.
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It has been a long, weird week in the Mat Brewster home, culturally speaking. Work has been busy, keeping me from listening to things as often, or as intently as I might want. Evenings too have been a little weird. I’ve started several movies but for differing reasons have not finished them. Likely I’ll write about at least one of them next week as I do plan to finish them soon. What I did finish, I didn’t like all that much. [*cough* X-Men: Apocalypse *cough*] So what’s a guy to do when he wants to bring forth five cool things

The Handmaiden is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a new film from Park Chan-wook, Robert Langdun solving more clues, a story from Jaws coming to life and much more.
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There is a scene in Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy that just might be the greatest fight ever put in a movie. It immediately made me a fan of the South Korean director. Oldboy is the middle part of the director’s Vengeance Trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance are the other two). All three ensconce themselves in perverse violence that will please even the most hardcore action fan, but that violence is never the point. Chan-Wook uses the unrelenting and incredibly crafted brutality to dig deeper into the soul’s of his characters and ponder man’s insatiable need to destroy. He’s

Five Cool Things and Moe Howard

Give this a read, you numbskulls.
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To let you in on a little behind-the-scenes action here at Cinema Sentries, me and boss-man Gordon spent some time tossing around ideas on what to call this new series. The idea for the series sprang from the NPR podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour. At the end of each show, everyone in that week’s panel talks about something from pop culture that’s been making them happy. It's always my favorite segment and I love the concept of finding things both big and small that bring you joy and sharing that with whoever will listen. The idea of doing something similar

Girl on the Train is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a girl on a train, a fox and his friends, plus Aaron Paul, Jon Hamm, and many others.
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I was never much of a reader growing up. I would read whatever was assigned to me at school but I much preferred to watch TV or play video games than read. I was about 15 when Silence of the Lambs hit theaters. My brother and his then-girlfriend saw it on a date and raved about it. With their nudging, and promises that it wasn’t too graphic, my mother allowed me to see it. I loved it. I must have talked about it nonstop because that Christmas my mother bought me the book. I loved it too and with it

TCM and Fathom Events Present Singin' In the Rain

Oh, what a feeling to watch it on the big screen.
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On December 28 of last year, at the age of 84 actress Debbie Reynolds died, just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher passed. In honor of Ms. Reynolds, TCM in conjunction with Fathom Events has brought one of the world’s great musicals, Singing’ in the Rain, back to the big screen. My wife and I were able to go to a screening on Sunday and it was as wonderful as expected. In the early '50s, MGM assigned producer Arthur Freed and writers Betty Comdon and Adolph Green to make a film featuring a bunch of songs the studio already

Five Cool Things and a Larch

No matter what the news tells you, there's lots of awesome things happening all around.
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It is universally acknowledged that 2016 sucked. The world of entertainment and art lost an unimaginable number of talented creators. Early in the year, we lost Prince and near its end our Princess. Star Wars lost its lovable Droid, the rebooted Star Trek its Chekov. Our favorite TV mom from the '70s passed and soon there after went the best dad of the '80s. Ziggy Stardust fell from Earth and with him Leonard Cohen, too. Professor Snape will never cast a spell again and Willy Wonka’s chocolates are all gone. The list goes on and on. The width and breadth

His Girl Friday (Criterion Collection) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a comedy classic, a classic of the French New Wave, a holistic detective, and much more.
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I can’t even remember the first time I saw His Girl Friday. It was high school, probably, or maybe on a trip home from college. I watched it with with my mother I’m pretty sure. Whenever, wherever it was, I immediately loved it. I’ve seen it a good dozen times since then and love it even more now. It gives me great pleasure to show the film off to those who haven’t seen it and watch them discover one of the great comedies of all time. The film stars Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as two hard-nosed reporters who were

Blair Witch is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a sequel no one was asking for, a trip into outer space, Holocaust deniers getting their day in court, and some girls.
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It's difficult now to imagine a time when every movie didn’t have its own social media team. Or when there weren’t dozens of websites dedicated to promoting every single aspect of a film months before it made it to a movie screen. But in 1999, that was very much the case. The World Wide Web had been around for a little while, it was becoming a huge force in our daily lives. It had grown out of its infancy and was now into its adolescence trying to figure out what it was going to be. Movie studios didn’t know what

The Driller Killer Blu-ray Review: All Driller, No Thriller

The Driller Killer plays like a Taxi Driver knock-off whose arthouse ambitions are overcome by its need to fill grindhouse seats.
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The Driller Killer is known mostly for being Abel Ferrara’s directorial debut (if one discounts 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, the hard-core porno he helmed three years prior) and for being one of first films put on England’s notorious Video Nasties list. I first came across it in a bootleg DVD shop in Shanghai. It was one of the few places I’d found in that city that carried art-house, classics, and other oddball films. The title alone had me curious and that scandalous cover featuring a blood-soaked face being punctured by an electric drill made me want to watch

Snowden is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Oliver Stone's take on a whistleblower, Ethan Hawke committing violence, teenagers cruising around the country and more
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Turn on the news and you are bound to hear any number of stories about computer hacking of some sort. Whether it's Hillary Clinton’s e-mails (and Russia’s potential involvement) or some celebrity having their private photos released publicly, there is no escaping that we live in a world governed by our technological devices and increasingly made vulnerable by them. It used to be easy to write off those who lived in fear of what technology might bring. Back in the '80s, we used to laugh at my grandfather who would rant about how the government was spying on us through

American Honey Blu-ray Review: Director Andrea Arnold Takes Kids on the Road

A cross-country road movie that will either be held up as a treatise to the restlessness of youth or tossed off as pointlessly boring.
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The space between being a child and an adult - youthfulness - is full of manic energy, enormous emotions, nervous lust, and restlessness. It is a time of experimentation, of being able to let go and run off, of figuring out who we are, who we are going to be. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey captures that moment in life perfectly. First-time actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost child who left her meth-addicted mother in Texas to live with a family in Oklahoma and raise their two kids. The mother prefers spending time at the local bar line-dancing and the

Creepshow 2 Blu-ray Review: Stick to the Original

I'd been better off not remembering this thing exists.
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In 1982, director George Romero teamed with writer Stephen King to make Creepshow, a comedy/horror anthology film designed to wax nostalgic about the old DC and EC horror comics of their youth. It was a surprise hit and remains a classic among horror hounds to this day. Five years later, they made a sequel. Romero took over writing duties (though it was still based on King stories) and Michael Gornick directed. Arrow Video has released a newly restored Blu-ray of the sequel filled with more extras than it deserves. I have very vague memories of seeing the first one on

The Autopsy of Jane Doe Movie Review: Contains a Lot to Recommend

Terrifically thrilling first half is marred by too many genre cliches in its back end.
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A family is brutally murdered inside their home. We follow the local sheriff (Michael McElhatton) through the blood-soaked house down to the basement. There, they discover a beautiful, dead, naked woman half buried in the dirt. She is not a member of the family, she has no identification on her, and no one seems to know who she is. Though it is late, they take her to the Tilden house where Tommy Tilden (Brian Cox), the county coroner, and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) can perform an autopsy and discover the cause of death. Sheriff says the press will be

Hitchcock/Truffaut is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us documentary about an influential book, a true life film about a pilot, some horror films, a remake, and more.
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In 1961, François Truffaut sat down in a Hollywood hotel room with Alfred Hitchcock for a week-long chat about Hitchcock’s films. That series of interviews became the landmark book Hitchcock/Truffaut. It came out at a time when American critics dismissed Hitchcock as a genre director, nothing more. He could make a very good suspense picture, but those type of things were beneath people who took cinema seriously as an art form. The French New Wave, led by Truffaut, saw Hitchcock for what he was - a true auteur. That book went a long way to convincing everybody else of that

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children is the Pick of the Week

This week features Tim Burton's latest, Ridley Scott's son, zombies, never-before-seen Star Trek, and more.
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My wife and I bought a house a few months back. We are first-time home buyers. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but we got a good deal on it. I’ve enjoyed making improvements on it. There really is something special about owning your own home. Even mowing the yard isn’t so bad because it's my yard I’m mowing. We live in what I’d call a lower middle-class neighborhood. It's filled with renters, those who have moved up a notch from renting, and first time buyers like us. The neighbors are nice if a little more redneck than I’m used

Jason Bourne is the Pick of the Week

This week bring us a new Bourne movie, a couple of Criterions, Mad Max in black and white and more.
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My wife and I lived in Strasbourg, France for about ten months back in 2004. We sublet a tiny studio apartment from a university student who was spending a year living in England. There was hardly any furniture - a small desk, a coffee table, and a couple of half-broken chairs. She’d taken the bed out as it was only a single. A friend of ours let us borrow a blow-up mattress, but it had a tiny hole in it so as the night crept on we got lower and lower to the floor. After about a week of that,

Frank & Lola Movie Review: Not Your Average Love Story

First-time director Matthew Ross proves he's someone to keep watching.
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Michael Shannon is such an intense actor I don’t know that I could ever see him as a romantic lead. Even when he’s whispering sweet nothings, I’d always feel like there was something sinister happening underneath. So it is with Frank & Lola, the new film starring Shannon and Imogen Poots as the titular characters. He’s a respected Las Vegas chef and she’s a fashion designer-hopeful just out of school. First-time director Matthew Ross shows us the beginnings of their relationship in fits and starts. He strings together snippets of scenes, flashing both backwards and forward, giving us snapshots of

Fathom Events and TCM Present: Breakfast at Tiffany's

A light-hearted romantic comedy with a buoyant Harry Mancini score and Audrey Hepburn at her most chic.
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In 1995, the alternative rock band Deep Blue Something released their only hit song, "Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I was in college at the time in Montgomery, Alabama, and it was all over the city. Playing on the radio, in all the restaurants, and all over the campus. One day, my friend Jenifer and I were singing along to the song and we came to the realization that neither of us had seen the Audrey Hepburn film of the song’s title. We scooted on over to the local video shop and rented up the VHS tape (wow, how anachronistic is that

Don't Breathe is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some thrilling horrors, some weird anime, and at least two friendly monsters.
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It's strange this writing things that get published on the internet. You never really know who is reading what your wrote, if anyone actually is at all. This afternoon I went to see a Fathom screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's. When I got to the theater, I tweeted about it and shared my location on Facebook. Then later this afternoon, in real life, no fewer than three people asked me how the movie was. That always throws me. It took me a minute to realize how they knew I’d gone to the movies. It makes perfect sense that people I

Hell or High Water is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a modern western, and old horror flick, a couple of Criterions, Marlon Brando directing and much more.
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I’m much too young to have grown up during the heyday of westerns. As a kid I didn’t like them. They were too old, too old-fashioned for me to take any interest in. When I’d complain about my uncle watching them, he’d laugh and say I really did like westerns I just didn’t know it. Star Wars, he’d explain, was really just a western in outer space, so maybe I should give John Wayne a try. I’d make a face and go play with my Han Solo figure. It was Young Guns that turned me around. That 1988 film about

Finding Dory is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a forgetful fish, a killer king (or two), several Criterions, and lots of Buster Keaton.
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I have lamented numerous times in these pages about how my young daughter has kept me from seeing a great many movies. For years it was inappropriate to take her to the theatre and babysitters were hard to come by. Many movies that I want to watch at home should surely not be viewed with toddlers by my side. Thing is she’s five and a half now. She loves going to the movies. She has a greater attention span so she can watch longer and more complicated plot lines with at least some comprehension. I'm also pretty liberal in what

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Blu-ray Review: Gritty, Dirty, Bloody Fun

Wes Craven's second film is decidedly low budget and grim, but it shows the early promise of a true master of horror.
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Born in 1939, Wes Craven was raised in a strict Baptist family, attended very conservative religious schools, and received a masters degree in philosophy and writing from Johns Hopkins University. He got his start in filmmaking by directing numerous pornographic films before making his break-out horror classic The Last House on the Left. In the 1980s, he created one of the greatest icons in horror history with Freddy Krueger then subverted the very slasher genre he helped popularize with the Scream franchise, which turned slasher films into a satirical exercise of meta-filmmaking. Both of those film series inject humor into

The Night Of Blu-ray Review: Terrific TV

HBO's limited series takes a hard look at the American criminal justice system.
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Sometimes, I think Richard Price should write all of our television. At heart, Price is a novelist. He’s written some of the greatest crime stories of modern times (including Lush Life and Clockers). While his books fall under the crime genre, they are so much more than that. He researches deep into the ways in which cops really work and what life on the street is really like. His novels pry into urban life and shine a light into places most other novels do not dare show. As such, his writing finds a truth so often missing from genre fiction.

Taxi Driver (40th Anniversary Edition) Is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a blind crime fighter, a killer taxi driver, raunchy sausages, and more.
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If The Avengers are all about saving the world from alien annihilation, then the Defenders have far less loftier goals - they protect the dirty neighborhood streets of New York City from thugs and gangsters (and the occasional ninja). Four seasons in (two of Daredevil and one each of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage) and I am totally on board with Marvel’s street level superheroes. With these Netflix series, Marvel is proving yet again that their aim is to take over every possible entertainment venue we have as puny humans. They’ve ruled the comics market for decades and every few

Vamp Blu-ray Review: Fun, but Forgettable

Stylish '80s vampire flick has little bite, but doesn't suck too much.
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Legends of vampires are as old as recorded history. There are stories of vampire-like creatures from every corner of the Earth. The modern vampire has its origins in Southern Europe dating from around the early 18th century. Bram Stoker got his idea for Dracula from those parts and it is from him that most of our preconceived notions about vampires come. F.W. Murnau illegally stole Stoker’s story for his landmark 1922 film Nosferatu (Stoker sued for copyright infringement, and won, causing nearly all the prints of Nosferatu to be destroyed. It is only by the grace of the cinematic gods

Slugs Blu-ray Review: Delightfully Terrible

Mutated mollusks wreak havoc in a small town, and awesomeness on our small screens.
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I can’t believe this is about to happen. You are about to read, from me, a positive review for a movie about a bunch of murderous, mutant mollusks. Slugs is a delight. It's well made, funny, gross, and an immensely entertaining movie. I mean it's still a really bad movie, but in the most satisfying of ways. Made in 1988, Slugs follows in the footsteps of all those mutant animal/nature vs. animal flicks that gained popularity in the '70s (which tells you something about the development of this film being made nearly a decade after the genre basically died out).

Batman: The Return of the Caped Crusaders is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an animated Caped Crusader, a sea of trees, bad moms and more.
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As a teenager living in the '80s I developed a great fondness for old '50s, '60s, and '70s television shows. A lot of fledgling cable channels found it valuable (and no doubt cheap) to rerun old shows rather than create original programming. I’d sit every afternoon watching that old stuff. I loved just about all of it from the cheesy shows of the '50s like Donna Reed and Father Knows Best to more urban and socially conscious '70s series such as Good Times and The Jeffersons. It was during these classic TV afternoons that I discovered two of my all-time

The Herschell Gordon Lewis Feast is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an enormous gore feast, Norman Lear, Bob Dylan, Viggo Mortensen in the woods, and much more.
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Halloween is really sneaking up on me this year. October is normally one of my favorite months of the year as it is the beginning of cooler weather, hot drinks, the smell of burning wood, and beautiful colors. It's also the only month of the year when everybody wants to watch scary movies. I don’t know if it's the warm weather, or the fact that we bought a house and have been spending all our excess time and energy fixing it up or what, but I just haven’t been feeling October this year. We had our annual pumpkin-carving party a

Wizard World Tulsa 2016: A Quick Visit

Due to some personal matters, I only stayed at this year's con for a couple of hours, but still had tons of fun.
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During this, my third Wizard Con experience I came to realize there is a certain sameness to these things. You get a lot of the same vendors, see a lot of the same cosplayers, listen to a lot of the same celebrities who say a lot of the same things. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and I think there are enough different experiences to be had to keep it interesting, but it is starting to make me wonder if it's worth the cost to attend every year. Or, rather, since I get comped press passes, whether its worth it

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray Review: Essential Comedy

The first five films from the comedy legends get a nice Blu-ray set.
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When I wrote about watching the original Ghostbusters at a Fathom Event, I talked about how my sense of humor has been refined into a very specific concoction that prefers comedy that comes from a sense of story, flowing naturally from well-written characters. I don’t tend to like being bombarded with jokes when they aren’t grounded in something more realistic. Watching the films in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection really put that theory to the test. Story is completely irrelevant in a Marx Brothers movie. Their films have some semblance of a plot, but it only exists as a

Cafe Society is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a new Woody Allen, lots of old Marx Brothers comedies, a couple of Criterions, an Independence Day sequel nobody really wanted, and much more.
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There are a handful of directors that will get me to the theatre sight unseen. Martin Scorsese, The Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson, and a few others make films that I know I want to see even if I know nothing going in. Even if the critical evaluations have been poor. I don’t always love their movies and on occasion I've even come close to outright loathing them, but I am never disappointed in having seen them. Directors with a true vision can be a rare thing in Hollywood, and I’m always ready to see what they can do with it.

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection Blu-ray Review: Two Great Films, One Nice Package

A nice set, just in time for the holidays.
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That Gregory Peck was one of the greatest film actors to ever exist there is no denying. Had he only appeared as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and never made another movie, he’d still be considered one of the greats (much like Harper Lee is considered a great American author though she never wrote another book - I cannot count Go Set a Watchmen as hers as I don’t believe she ever intended it to be released). Of course, Peck did make other movies including the classics Roman Holiday, The Yearling, Twelve O’Clock High, Cape Fear, and so

The Hills Have Eyes (Arrow Video Edition) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us nuclear mutants, Mel Gibson, Tarzan, the music of Jerry Garcia, lady ghostbusters, and much more.
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This weekend I gave away the vast majority of my CD collection. I am a collector of things, especially entertainment media things, so this was a very difficult thing to do. I love physical objects. Books line my walls, my DVD shelves are overflowing, and CDs stack up everywhere. At least they used to. Truth is, most of my CDs have been sitting in boxes for several years because I’ve not had room in my homes to put them anywhere. Truth is, I really haven’t minded. I’ve long since had all my music ripped to my hard drive and I

The Excellent French Spy Series 'The Bureau' Is Now Streaming on Doc Club

Densely plotted French spy series hits a new streaming network.
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French intelligence officer Guillaume Debailly (Matthieu Kassovitz) has spent six years in Damascus under deep cover. When he left France, he severed all connections to his former life. He could not speak to his old companions, friends, or even his daughter. His only connection to home was his handler whom he spoke with via video chat. He had a completely new identity and had to forge a new life, making new connections, new friends, and new even a lover all the while secretly spying for his home country. At the beginning of The Bureau, Guillaume is, without warning, brought in

Preacher: Season One is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us comic books brought to screens both big and small, an election year purge, lots of TV and more.
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In this new Golden Age of Television, it's easy to feel a bit like King Midas where every show you turn to is beautiful. Yet much like the legend, this can be as much of a curse as it is a blessing. There is just too much great TV available and not enough time to watch it. I now not only have a list of shows I want to watch but I now have to keep another list of shows I’ve started, really loved, but have not yet caught up with because I keep getting distracted with all the other

The Neon Demon is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us sinister models, shark attacks, goofy horror flicks, critically acclaimed Polish films and so much more.
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I used to say that the best part of going to the movies was watching the movie trailers before the show started. That wasn’t really true of course (unless the film was bad), but in those days that was about the only place I could find out what movies were coming up. It wasn’t like today where there are a hundred million sites dedicated to giving us every scrap of information about every upcoming movie from here to eternity. Truth be told, I don’t really pay that much attention to those things anyway. My Facebook and Twitter feeds get filled

Dead-End Drive-In Blu-ray Review: Post-Apocalypse, '80s Style

It's like a b-grade version of Mad Max, but it's still a lot of fun.
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The synopsis for Dead-End Drive-In on IMDB reads as follows: “In the near future, a teenage couple is trapped in a drive-in theater which has become a concentration camp for social outcasts. The inmates are treated to drugs, exploitation films, junk food, and new wave music.” That sounds a bit like paradise for me so if that’s the post-apocalyptic future we have to look forward to, sign me up. An opening crawl details the recent economic collapse of every major economy and the violence that ensues. The camera moves through an unnamed Australian city and we see broken windows, burning

The Little Murders of Agatha Christie DVD Review: Old Stories Get a French Twist

Numerous classic Christie stories get a new telling for French television.
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The Little Murders of Agatha Christie (Les Petit Meurtres d’Agatha Christie) is a French television series that began in 2009. The MHZ network has picked it up for English-speaking audiences and now the first season is available on DVD in the U.S. The most interesting thing about the series is that while it adapts stories featuring both of Christie’s most famous sleuths (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple), the main investigators in the show are entirely new inventions. For those of you who are not familiar with Christie’s writing, Poirot is an eccentric Belgian detective who is often hired by Scotland

Beauty and the Beast (25th Anniversary Edition) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a Disney classic, David Bowie with crazy hair, an early Coen Brothers film, teenaged turtles and more.
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Memory is a funny thing. It changes and mutates along the way as we get older. My memory says I was a great fan of the Disney Renaissance of the 1990s, but looking back at those films it seems I really wasn’t. The Little Mermaid kicked things off in 1989. I was 13. I love that film. I think I saw it in theaters upon first release, but honestly, it's become such a part of my cinematic DNA, I can no longer remember the first time I saw it. Beauty and the Beast was released two years later, and I’m

Fathom Events Presents 'Snowden Live'

With Snowden, Oliver Stone proves he's still got stories to tell.
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Of course Oliver Stone made a movie about Edward Snowden. If the former CIA operative/NSA contractor turned whistleblower/leaker of thousands of documents that prove our government has been spying on its citizens on a massive scale didn’t actually exist, he’s exactly the sort of character a guy like Stone would have invented. Likely, we critics would have complained that he was being too paranoid if he did. This fictionalized biopic is framed by the non-fictional film Citizenfour, which won the Academy Award in 2015 for best documentary feature. Snowden begins with Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) meeting with Citizenfour’s director Laura

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Early Masterwork

A wonderful tale of love and loss at the Kabuki theater.
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Kiku (Shotaro Hanyagi) is the adopted son of Kabuki royalty in Tokyo. As the presumed heir to this theatrical throne, he is constantly lavished with acclaim. The mouths that herald his praises come with two faces and out of the other, they spit ridicule. Even Kiku’s father-in-law cannot bring himself to tell him how poorly he acts. Late one night, he walks with Otoku (Kakuko Mori), nursemaid to Kiku’s brother's son, who finally tells him the truth - he stinks! Instead of lashing out in anger, Kiku’s is filled with gratitude that someone is finally willing to speak to him

Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a special anniversary, a ghost story sequel, a comic book nerd's dream come true, and lots of classic films getting nice upgrades.
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I can’t remember when I first saw Aliens. It was definitely the plural and not the singular (it would be years later than I’d finally sit down with the original Ridley Scott film). I vaguely remember seeing it with my cousins. I certainly discussed it with them and we quoted it regularly. But the details fade. My strongest memory of the actual film is the scene in which two of the marines are caught in a tunnel and one decides to take out as many aliens as she can by letting them come in close and exploding a grenade. As

The Night Manager (Uncensored Version) Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Spies

Mysterious characters, beautiful scenery, loads of intrigue, The Night Manager has everything you want in a spy story.
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I made the mistake of watching Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation just before I started The Night Manager. I really rather enjoyed Mission: Impossible; it's probably my favorite of the series in fact. It's a non-stop ride of thrills and magnificent set-pieces. No, the mistake wasn’t watching another Mission: Impossible film, it was the juxtaposition between that and The Night Manager that was difficult to adjust to. Calling The Night Manager slow would be an affront to snails. Its intentional languid, methodical pacing creeps across the screen. I do not in anyway mean this as a critique but coming off

Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: These Aint Your Father's Women-in-Prison Films

A terrific collection of some really wonderful genre films is maligned by less than stellar video quality.
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Leave it to the Japanese to perfect the Women-in-Prison subgenre. First time director Shunya Itō took all of the sleazy elements of the genre - rampant nudity, rape, gratuitous violence, and lesbianism - and turned it into real cinema. Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion and its sequel Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 aren’t just good examples of the genre but honest-to-god great movies. The subsequent sequels (Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable and Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song don’t fare quite as well but there are still some really nice moments in each. Arrow Video has recently combined the four films

Money Monster is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a World War II film from Carol Reed, Bryan Cranston as a president, Salma Hayek in an Italian fairy tale, and George Clooney's charm.
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My wife and I have never, nor will we ever make a freebie list - a list of five celebrities whom we can sleep with without the other getting upset over it - but if we did, George Clooney would be at the top of hers. Hell, he’d be pretty close to the top of mine, and I don’t begin to even swing that way. But he’s just so damn handsome and he just bathes in charm, and push come to shove, I don’t think I’d be able to help myself. He’s one of my all-time favorite movie stars, which

Fathom Events Presents The NeverEnding Story

Watching my daughter fall in love with these characters as I did when I was a child is well worth the price of admission.
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I was maybe eight years old when The NeverEnding Story came to movie theaters. It immediately became my favorite movie ever. I developed my first crush, screen or otherwise, on Tami Stronach and her portrayal of The Childlike Empress. I thought she was so beautiful and exotic that she lingered in my prepubescent mind for months after seeing her. I thought she was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. Watching it now, I realize that part of this love I felt for her comes from the character. At the end of the film, she speaks to Bastian (Barret Oliver),

The Jungle Book (2016) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a Disney remake, a couple of Orson Welles' Criterion releases, a hotel manager, and more.
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I suppose it's not all that strange that in this world of constant remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels and cinematic universes that Disney would be reimagining their classic animated catalog as (more or less) live-action films. No that seems perfectly normal to me. What is sort-of amazing to my mind is just how many terrific people they are getting to perform in them, and in the case of The Jungle Book, just how rather good the final product is. This new version of The Jungle Book was directed by Jon Favreau and stars Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o,

Microwave Massacre Blu-ray Review: This Comedy is Overcooked

Who knew a comedy about a cannibalistic serial killer could be this unfunny?
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I used to have a roommate named Bobby. He was a nice guy, but not very culturally sophisticated. He was the kind of guy who, even though we were working 10-hour shifts and there was a 45-minute commute to and from the job would come home and immediately spend an hour at the gym. He was the kind of guy who, after a night at the club, would see a cute girl on her way out, roll down his window, and ask, “Are you hot or not?” He was the kind of guy who was attractive enough to make that

Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the return of the Evil Dead, more zombies, the devil living in L.A., and much more.
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I turned 18 in 1994. So though I consider myself a child of the '80s, it was really the early '90s that informed who I am culturally. I have a great fondness for much of the TV, movies, and music that came from the '80s but when I really break it down, it was that period from 1990 to 1994 that I began to take the culture’s artistic mediums seriously. I may reach a nostalgic sort of glee when I hear Tiffany sing “I Think We’re Alone Now” or I catch Gremlins running amok, but its not until I hear

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Movie Ever Made is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us fan films, angry birds, murders by appliances, Elvis, and more.
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Movies were a huge part of my childhood. I have all sorts of fond memories of going to the cinema and watching them on TV. My parents were early adopters to the Beta and VHS home-movie formats and nearly every weekend we’d wind up at the rental place finding something to watch. As a teenager, I thought my parents were completely lame and I didn’t get along with them most of the time, but I still went with them to the movies regularly. It was the one way in which we could enjoy each others company. But I never went

Crimes of Passion Blu-ray Review: Kathleen Turner Gets Kinky

Not enough crime, too little passion, far too much Anthony Perkins with a giant vibrator.
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Crimes of Passion is a psychosexual drama from Ken Russell (Tommy, Altered States). It works best when you think of it as a moral satire but mostly it's just a hot (but not that kind of hot) mess. Kathleen Turner’s performance would be considered brave if it were not so over the top that it veers into the ridiculous. She plays Joanna Crane, a respected fashion designer who lives a double life as prostitute China Blue, who fulfills various men’s kinkiest desires. John Laughlin plays Bobby Grady, an investigator stuck in a sexless marriage, who is asked to spy on

11.22.63 is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us time travel, holograms, superheroes, and more.
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The assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 looms large in our American identity. Hell, it looms over my own identity and I wasn’t born until 13 years later. The 1960s as a whole were greatly influential upon our culture. It gave us the Beatles, the Stones, Dr. Strangelove, Lawrence of Arabia, hippies, free love, Woodstock, Altamont, the Civil Rights Movement and the murder of a President. In the years since that decade died, countless amount of words have been written, documentaries filmed, and art created praising those ten years as monumental. Sometimes, it feels like that from the very

The Knick: The Complete Second Season Review: The Best Show On Television

Take that, Game of Thrones.
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Were you to only catch certain scenes of The Knick - such as when a patient has the top of his skull removed, his brain exposed while Dr. Thackery (Clive Owen) prods it with electricity as well dressed, bespectacled old men watch in bemusement - then you might think it is a horror anthology rather than the beautifully shot, carefully crafted, highly original hospital drama that it is. Set in the early 1900s at a fictional Manhattan hospital, The Knick details the lives of the surgeons, nurses, administrators, and sundry workers as they attempt to save lives, keep the hospital

The Girlfriend Experience: Season 1 Blu-ray Review: Beautiful but Shallow

Who knew a show about beautiful people having sex could struggle so much with keeping our attention?
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Steven Soderbergh is one of the more interesting directors of the last thirty years. Starting in 1989 with Sex, Lies and Videotape he not only proved himself one of the more inventive directors of that year but helped launch the Independent Film movement of the 1990s. Since then he’s made films in genres as diverse as period dramas (King of the Hill), crime capers (Out of Sight), science fiction (Solaris), action (Haywire) plus many more. He shifts back and forth from big budget, crowd-pleasers like the Oceans films and Erin Brokovich to more idiosyncratic independent films like Full Frontal and

Pioneers of African-American Cinema is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a huge collection of African-American films, several revenge style flicks, Pocahontas. and much more.
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I consider myself an amateur cinephile. By which I mean I take films seriously - I watch with a critical eye, I attempt to understand the artistry and craftsmanship of cinema, and I do my best to dig into the history of the medium. But I also have a life, a job, a family, and not nearly the time I need to dedicate myself full-time to watching movies. This means there are large gaps in both genre and history of movies that I’ve never seen. There is a very long list of movies I really ought to watch before I

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys: Vol 2 Blu-ray Review: The Sillier Side of Japan

Three movies from the 1960s show the Japanese made more than just deeply felt dramas and samurai flicks.
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The Nikkatsu Corporation was formed in 1912 when several smaller production companies and theatre chains consolidated. They had some success in those years, but struggled in the early post war era. By the 1950s, they hit their stride, producing hundreds of movies in every conceivable genre that drew in the youth crowd by the truckload weekend after weekend. Arrow Video has been mining the Nikkatsu vaults during this “Golden Era” for a number of excellent video releases. Much like the Hollywood system of this era, Nikkatsu began contracting its directors and stars locking them into multi-film deals which created something

O.J.: Made In America is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us O.J., Elvis meeting Nixon, three films from Criterion, and much more.
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In the summer of 1994, I was 18, had just graduated high school, and was doing my best to have "The Best Summer Ever" while college loomed just over my shoulder. I was looking forward to that experience, but I had signed on to University in Alabama - a good 800 miles away from my home in Oklahoma - so I was a little nervous about leaving everything I knew for something new. At the same time, the entire world became obsessed with a football player turned actor and the lurid murder of his wife and her friend. Somehow, I

The Swinging Cheerleaders Blu-ray Review: These Girls Do More Than Swing

An exploitation flick with a message.
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Quentin Tarantino once called director Jack Hill the “Howard Hawks of exploitation filmmaking.” I don’t know that I’d go quite that far but certainly Hill made some of the most memorable films in the genre. Working with minuscule budgets and, shall we politely say colorful plots, Hill still put our a fairly large number of very well-made and quite enjoyable films. One of the more interesting things to me is how, though working in the various exploitation genres, Hill still managed to make somewhat thoughtful films that dealt with racism, sexism, and other cultural ills. Certainly he’s still being exploitive,

Green Room is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a green room, a carnival of souls, passionate crimes and much more.
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Last week I wrote about buying a house and noted that we would be moving in on Tuesday. We did exactly that and then moved right back out. The very evening we moved in the wife and I both took showers. Upon exiting, I noted that the tub was very slow to drain. An hour or so later my wife asked me if I had made a mess getting out of the tub as the towel I had put down was sopping wet. Further investigation noted large amounts of water filling in around the toilet. Our lines were clogged and

Blood and Black Lace is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some Italian horror, Studio Ghibli animation, a '90s indie, some sorority babes, and much more.
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The wife and I recently bought a house. It's the first time we’ve ever done that. We talked about it for years but had never been stable enough in our jobs or location that we felt it was possible. When we moved back to my hometown a couple of years ago, we started talking about it seriously. A little over a year ago we started looking. Got pre-approved from the bank, connected with a realtor, and visited every house within our price range within a 50-mile radius. Turns out it's really quite difficult to choose a place that you are

Suture Blu-ray Review: Standard Plot, Fascinating Presentation

Fairly uninteresting neo-noir pumped up by a really interesting central conceit.
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Two men, half brothers, meet at a bus station and ride back to one of their houses. They have only recently just met, at their father’s funeral, and decide to spend the weekend together getting to know one other. One of them, Vincent Towers (Michael Harris), is obviously rich - he drives a nice car, wears an expensive suit, and lives in a house that makes the word “fancy” feel small and embarrassed. The other, Clay Arlington (Dennis Haysbert), is obviously poor - he arrives by bus, comes from a tiny desert town, and dresses in jeans and an old,

Return of the Killer Tomatoes! Blu-ray Review: Less Killing, More Silliness

The Killer Tomatoes are back and this time it's personal.
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We have Jim Henson to thank for this. During Muppets Take Manhattan, there was a fantasy sequence in which Miss Piggy fantasized about growing up with Kermit. In it, we see baby versions of Rowlf, Fozzie, Scooter, and Gonzo. This inspired Henson to create The Muppet Babies animated series for CBS (and inspired that odd-ball late '80s to early '90s genre of making baby/little kid versions of already popular adult characters). During the third season in an episode entitled “The Weirdo Zone,” the babies try to get in touch with their inner weirdness in order to understand Gonzo. Fozzie Bear

Ray Harryhausen: Special Effects Titan is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a nuclear comedy, killer tomatoes, a special effects wizard and much more.
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If you’ve watched a movie with any sort of special-effects-laden creature in the last century, you’ve watched a film influenced by Ray Harryhausen. Inspired by watching King Kong (1933), Harryhausen went on to pioneer the use of stop motion effects and created what he called Dynamation in which he super imposed his stop-motion effects onto a previously shot scene, enabling real life actors to interact with his puppets. His films often fall into the science-fiction/fantasy gutter of the 1960s era, and I’ve honestly not seen the majority of them, but just seeing clips of those effects is jaw-dropping. Knowing that

Fathom Events and TCM Present Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Grab some chocolate (and a bag of popcorn) and strap yourself in for this delightful movie playing once again on the big screen.
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As any cinephile with children can tell you, it's a challenge deciding what movies are appropriate for them to watch. There is violence to consider, plus language, sex, moral lessons, and a whole host of things to ruminate over before letting your wee one’s little brain get bombarded with stimulating images. Honestly, I tend to lean towards letting my daughter watch just about anything she wants as I truly believe young minds are able to digest and work through a whole lot more than we give them credit for. I rarely put this to the test though, as she’s just

Knight of Cups is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a bunch of Shakespearean adaptations, a fun-looking sci-fi thriller, a Norwegian disaster flick, and the award for worst titled film to ever get my pick.
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I hope someone was fired over this. Knight of Cups is a terrible name for a film. Terrence Malick has a difficult enough time selling his films to an audience in the first place so there is no need to give it the worst title possible. I mean, I’m rooting for the guy. I’ve loved the films of his that I’ve seen and I want him to make many more, but even I totally cringed at this title and stayed away from it in the theatre. It doesn’t help that his movies are becoming more and more experimental. Knight of

La Chienne Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Early Renoir is a Delight

Criterion does a masterful job of bringing an early sound picture to live.
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Life has not gone well for Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon). He works as a cashier for a hosiery company and is generally despised by his colleagues. In an opening scene, they openly mock and scorn him for being a wet blanket and for having to run home to his wife instead of going out on the town with them. The wife, too, rather deplores Maurice and spends nearly every moment of her time on screen berating him. The only pleasure the poor fellow gets from life is painting and even that is spat upon by his wife who declares he

Blood Bath Blu-ray Review: Bloody Interesting

Sometimes the behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting than the actual films.
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Roger Corman’s name is synonymous with low-budget, independently financed b-pictures. He’s produced over 400 films in his career, most of which come with titles like Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda or Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. They almost always made money because he knows the basics of filmmaking and he has his finger on the pulse of what's going to sell. He also gave a great many A-list directors and actors their start in the business including folks like James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Jack Nicholson. A famous bit of spurious trivia says that he filmed Little

The X-Files: Event Series is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us new X-Files, a couple of sequels, a couple of Criterions, a young Jesus, and much more.
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For one reason or another, I never got into The X-Files when it first ran. Truth be known, I’m not even sure how aware I was of its existence. Surely I’d seen some adverts for it, but I didn’t know anybody who watched it and it just wasn’t part of my cultural consciousness. Late in my college career, this would be around 1997-98, some friends dropped in for a weekend and they were fans so we watched that week’s episode. I was not impressed. The effects looked cheap, the monsters were silly, and I was completely lost in terms of

Fathom Events Presents Ghostbusters (1984) on the Big Screen

Who you gonna call?
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From the moment it was announced that they were remaking Ghostbusters with women as the leads, the Internet lost its collective minds. Thousands of people have gone insane with hatred towards a movie they’ve not yet seen. As with any passionate internet wave, the backlash was as intense as it was inevitable. Cries of sexism came fast and furious as if anyone who wasn’t completely in love with the idea of this reboot hated all women. Now of course, if you spend any amount of time on the various internet boards in which this film is discussed, you’ll find a

A French Village: Season Three DVD Review: Très Bon

Excellent French series gets better and better with each season.
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A French Village is a French television series set in the fictional, Nazi-occupied town of Villeneuve in the Eastern part of France. The series details how various aspects of French society dealt with the occupation. From collaborators who followed German orders directly to the resistance and every space in-between, it is a fascinating, if fictional, look inside one of the darkest periods of French history. Each season roughly takes place over the course of a single year. Season Three is set in 1942. For those of you who need a history refresher, this is the year when the “Jewish Problem”

Hail, Caesar! is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the Coen Brothers playing with old Hollywood, U2 performing live in Paris, Michael Bay exploding things in Benghazi, and more.
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The Coen Brothers last took on Hollywood in 1991 with Barton Fink. That movie was a dark, cynical, symbolic look at the motion-picture business (and a whole lot of other things) that was rather relentless in its black comedy. Their newest Hail, Caesar! is a much breezier, lighter (if no less brilliant) affair that indicates, perhaps, a brighter view of Hollywood. Or maybe it's just the Coens being zany again. The plot (what little there is) follows Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) as he oversees various projects for Capitol Pictures and mostly “fixes” a multitude of problems created by the stars

Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us three films from Wim Wenders, a human tornado, a city of women, a blood bath and much more.
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I’ve seen exactly one Wim Wenders film (Until the End of the World - I think - or it could have been Faraway, So Close. It was definitely a U2 song title, and I don’t remember any angels so I’m pretty sure it was Until the End of the World). Obviously, I don’t remember much of the film, but I do remember not liking it. Or rather I liked the first part of the film, which felt like (and had the run time of) a full movie, but then it just kept going and became a different film entirely. By

Killer Dames - Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio Miraglia Blu-ray Review

Arrow Video creates another fantastic set featuring two Italian giallo films.
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Emilio Miraglia rose through the ranks of Italian cinema in the early '60s, making his bones as an assistant director on over 15 films before taking the reins as director. After a couple of mostly forgotten action flicks and a heist picture, he made two well regarded (at least among genre fans) giallos before turning to the Spaghetti Western genre. He directed six films between 1967 and 1972 and then completely disappeared from cinema all together. It's the giallos he is remembered for and Arrow Video has put the pair together in another of their fantastic, limited edition releases. A

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a couple of Italian horrors, Jesus, a midwife, and Scott Baio using magic to look up girls skirts.
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I have somewhat eclectic cinematic tastes. I’m just as thrilled to see classic American films like Casablanca or To Kill a Mockingbird as I am modern blockbusters such as the Marvel movies or the new Star Wars. I can sit contemplatively through even the densest Bergman or Godard arthouse films and fist pump at creative kills in an '80s slasher flick or the sadomasochistic weirdness that is Takashi Miike movies. As such, I am perpetually feeling guilty about not watching one sort of film or another. If I start watching a bunch of big budget, smashy-smashy, exploding movies, then I

Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: It Don't Feel Good To Be a Gangster

Obscure Japanese films from the 1960s get an excellent release.
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In May of 1968, Japan's oldest movie studio, Nikkatsu, released a little Yakuza drama called Outlaw Gangster VIP. It proved rather popular and profitable, and so they released a remarkable five sequels to it in just under two years. It is rather understandable then that these films get a little repetitive plot-wise. Testy Watari plays Goro Fujisawa, a Yakuza warrior who has (rightfully) earned the nickname Goro the Assassin but has grown tired of the gangster lifestyle and hypocritical honor codes. In each film he tries to escape the gangs to live a normal life, meets a girl (always played

The Witch is the Pick of the Week

This week bring us an acclaimed horror, some women in prison, a dirty grandpa and much more.
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Last Friday was the 13th of May, my brother’s birthday, but more importantly a traditional day of horror. Normally, I’d watch the slasher series with the hockey-masked killer, but my family was having none of that. Instead, we watched one of the newest incarnations of Scooby-Doo (which strangely features a lot of heart-throbbing between the characters - yuck,) an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and part of The Mummy Returns. There wasn’t enough gore-filled stabbing in either of those for my taste, but one has to deal with all sorts of compromises when one has a family. What this

Macbeth (2015) Blu-ray Review: Heavy On Visuals, Light On Poetry

A new take on the Scottish Play is visually stunning, but skips a few too many of the Bard's words.
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Directors of both stage and screen love fiddling with the settings, periods, and sometimes even the words of William Shakespeare. His plays have been transplanted from Shakespeare’s own 16th Century to modern times and every period in between. The play's settings regularly gets moved around to suit the director’s whims and his words have been translated and modified time and time again. This speaks to how well his dramas speak to every person in every age. It also says something about how director’s attempt to mold great works under their own visions. In one of the features on the Blu-ray

Deadpool is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an R-rated superhero, a classic Bogart, a miniseries take on Tolstoy, and much more.
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For the foreseeable future, it is a blockbuster world and we’re just living in it. Marvel has been churning out massive, gigantic, skyscraper busting mega-hits since 2008 and they show no sign of slowing down anytime soon. With the huge success of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars universe will be joining in with at least a couple of lightsaber flicks every year. Then you’ve got Michael Bay, those furiously fast folks, and a horde of others all who will ensure that pretty much anytime you go to your local megaplex you will be seeing a film that contains no

Bandits (2001) Blu-ray Review: Not As Bad As You've Heard

Come sleep around with the sleepover bandits.
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Even if you didn’t know Bandits was made in 2001, you’d automatically know it was made in the late '90s to early oughts. There’s just something about the film that screams that time period. It’s not so much the period aspect of it - the clothes, cars, etc - but rather I think it stems from both Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis having the lead roles in a Barry Levinson film. Those two actors have had long, storied careers and certainly have made plenty of films since Bandits, but there’s a certain something about those years that pits them

Independence Day 20th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us invasions, counterculture icons, Holocaust survivors, and a fancy mop.
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Twenty years ago, I was a sophomore in college. That was the first summer where I didn’t go home for break and instead stayed at school and got a few more credits. I went to a small, private university and it was absolutely dead in the summer. Almost everybody took off, leaving only a hundred of us or so staying on campus. We formed a strange bond, those of us that stayed, hanging out though we weren’t really friends in the normal school months. My roommate stayed too and we mostly just hung out watching TV when we weren’t in

Jane Got a Gun Blu-ray Review: Troubled Production, Decent Results

Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.
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Plagued by production difficulties, it's a wonder Jane Got a Gun ever saw the light of day. In 2011, the film made the Black List, an annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays. By May of 2012, Natalie Portman had signed on to star in the film alongside Michael Fassbender with Lynne Ramsey to direct. By the next year, Fassbender was out due to scheduling conflicts and Jude Law was in. Then Ramsey quit over artistic conflicts and out went her cinematographer with her. And Jude Law. Bradley Cooper came and went just as fast. Eventually they did make the film

Brief Encounter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Small but Poignant

A far cry from David Lean's big epics, but sometimes small is just as beautiful.
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Christ, David Lean knew how to compose a shot. I swear you could take all of his movies, put them in a pile, shuffle them up, and no matter what scene came up, you could make a stunning poster out of the image. We tend to think of his later, grand pictures like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Doctor Zhivago when we think about David Lean’s stunning images, but Brief Encounter proves he could create something epic out of little things as well. Filmed in 1945 in the final vestiges of the European stage of

Son of Saul is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two movies about the Holocaust, three films from Criterion, Natalie Portman with a gun, a Christmas horror story, and more.
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The Holocaust has been milked and bilked of every possible dramatic meaning for decades on screens both big and small. One would think you couldn’t possible find another way to tell its story. Apparently one would be wrong. Son of Saul tells the story of a Hungarian member of the Sonderkommando - Jewish concentration camp prisoners forced to help with disposing of their comrades' corpses or be killed themselves. I’d heard of these people before, and imagined how horrible that experience must have been, but this is the first time I’ve heard of it being presented dramatically. A fresh story

The Zero Boys Blu-ray Review: Totally '80s Cheese

An odd-ball action/horror hybrid that will surely scratch that bad '80s flick itch.
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Oh the '80s! Was there a better decade for watching bad movies? The advent of home video not only meant you could watch bad movies from the comfort of your own home, but it also ushered in the era of direct-to-video productions and thousands of more bad movies coming out every year. The action and horror genres probably got the biggest boost as you could make those films on the cheap and genre fans would eat them up without necessarily caring if the production quality was all that good. Cashing in on this concept, director Nico Masorakis smashed the two

Fathom Events and TCM Present On the Waterfront

You'll believe he coulda been a contender when you see it on the big screen.
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Director Elia Kazan named names. He at first refused to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities but when push came to shove, he gave them the names of eight people who had been Communists. Though it angered a great many in the more liberal Hollywood circles, it saved his career. He was not blacklisted and went on to make a great many more wonderful films including On the Waterfront. That film was his own personal statement as to why he testified. It's hard to watch the film today without that baggage seeping through. Harder still is to watch

Death Walks Twice Blu-ray Review: Two Times the Horror, Two Times the Fun

Two Italian giallos get the Arrow treatment.
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After the success of his first film as a director, Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Luciano Ercoli directed two more giallos before moving on to other genres. These two films, Death Walks on High Heels, and Death Walks at Midnight have been lovingly restored and upgraded by Arrow Video into a very nice boxed set. Besides sharing similar titles, Ercoli also used the same actress, Nieves Navarro - here going by the stage name Susan Scott (his then girlfriend, later turned wife) as the lead in both films as well as using the same writer, similar themes, and

The Revenant is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Leonardo DiCaprio getting torture porned, Maggie Smith living in a van, Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing politics, and much more.
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If you relentlessly abuse your no-name actors, then your film gets called torture porn, but if you treat Leonardo DiCaprio in the same manner, then you win Oscars. Or something. There’s a lot of nonsense politics involved in the Academy Awards and with critical evaluations of genres, and just general movie watchng. Just read the message boards on IMDB on any given film and you’ll see nothing but nonsense. Personally, I can dig a little low-brow torture porn alongside my high-minded films where big named stars get mauled viciously by bears. The Revenant certainly does abuse Leonardo DiCaprio over and

Bride of Re-Animator Blu-ray Review: A Gallows Worth of Fun

All the gore (and humor) you want from the franchise.
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Brian Yuzna’s sequel to the cult classic Re-Animator is the very definition of a film that is not for everyone. For your humble reviewer, it was about the point when the re-animated dismembered fingers, which have been attached to an eyeball, escape the lab and are accidentally squished by the police lieutenant that I knew Bride of Re-Animator was a film totally for me. Bride strips the original of its - well I don’t want to say import as Re-Animator isn’t much more than a hilariously gory zombie romp - so let's say artistic meaning and gleefully reproduces its blood-splattered

Bride of Re-Animator is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us reanimated corpses getting married, Cray Grant as a fly-boy, DC comic heroes fighting, other Heroes being reborn and much more.
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When I was a young teen, I used to daydream about the day when I’d turn 16 and could take myself to see R-rated movies (or rent them at the video store). My parents were not ridiculously strict with these things. I’d seen plenty of R-rated movies but those were mostly action movies. In my family, like many American families, violence on the screen was okay for us young ones to watch. We could get away with a certain amount of cursing in movies, but sex and nudity were big no-nos. On the occasions my mother was out of town,

The Forest (2016) Blu-ray Review: Beautiful, but Dull

Not even Natalie Dormer can save this dud.
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At the base of Mt. Fuji, Japan, lies the Aokigahara forest. With its large rocky ice caverns, it is a popular tourist destination. With its densely packed trees and vegetation, all visitors are warned to stay on the trails or get lost. In Japanese mythology, the forest is populated with angry ghosts called Yūrei. For decades now, it has also been a popular site for suicides. Despondent men and women wander into the forest, hang themselves, overdose, or sometimes intentionally get lost and starve to death. That’s a terrific set-up for a great horror movie. Unfortunately The Forest isn’t it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Star Wars! And some other stuff.
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From the moment George Lucas announced the sale of his Star Wars franchise to Disney and that there would then be more movies, the hype has been astronomical. Every day there were dispatches from TV, radio, podcasts, and more websites than one can imagine. We learned about each cast member as they got hired, about the crew, the caterers, about the shooting locations, the title, the posters, the trailers, the teaser posters for the trailer, and when J.J. Abrams sneezed on his way home. They hype was colossal. It was absolutely insane. I totally loved it. Well, that's not entirely

Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean Blu-ray Review: The Acting and Directing Elevate the Writing

Robert Altman and his cast turn a second-tier script into something worth watching.
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Based upon a stage play of the same name this movie was written by the playwright (Ed Graczyk) and directed by Robert Altman (who also directed it on the stage). It tells the story of six women who come together for a twenty-year reunion of a James Dean fan club inside an old Woolworths in a tiny town in Texas. There they laugh, reminisce, open up old wounds, and reveal secrets long since buried. The story itself is nothing special, old friends coming together to drudge up the past is pretty boilerplate storytelling, and the script adds nothing new. The

The Hateful Eight is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us new Tarantino, old foreign classics, cyborgs, Will Smith, and more.
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Last Friday, I loaded the family into the car and we spent Easter weekend in our old stomping grounds in Tennessee. Good Friday was also my 40th birthday and we celebrated with multiple parties, tons of food, and lots of laughs with some old friends. On several occasions, various friends came up to me to ask what movies I had seen lately, or what my top films of 2015 were, etc. This isn’t surprising as I’m a big pop-culture nerd and film buff and as such that tends to be what me and my friends talk about. The thing is,

Black Mama, White Mama is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a classic comedy, a not-so classic exploitation drama, the conclusion of the Hunger Games and more.
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Every once in awhile you have to ask yourself whether you want the much beloved, critically acclaimed, and highly influential classic comedy or the ridiculously sexist and exploitative women-in-prison flick to be the pick of the week. And if the person asking is me, you go for the exploitation flick. Every time. In the 1970s, Pam Grier was the queen of the exploitation flick. Between 1970 and 1973, she made such classics as The Big Doll House, Women in Cages, The Big Bird Cage, and this week’s pick, Black Mama, White Mama. All that before her 25th birthday and before

Black Mama, White Mama Blu-ray Reivew: Now This Is How You Do Exploitation!

Pam Grier escapes prison, kicks butt and bares her...(heart?) in this classic exploitation flick.
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Last week I complained that the new release of an old Pam Grier exploitation film, Sheba, Baby forgot to actually exploit anybody. Well, this week’s release of Black Mama, White Mama remedies all that. And how! Within the first five minutes half the cast has stripped down naked for an extended, soapy shower scene while the prison guard peeps through a small hole Porky’s style and pleasures herself. From there we get scantily clad cat fights, attempted rapes, machine-gun battles, nun attacks, loads of naked breasts and more dick jokes than any one man can handle. Now that’s how you

Brooklyn is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us several award-wining dramas and a ridiculous martial-arts flick.
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Though it was nominated for a slew of awards (including Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Actress at the Academy Awards), I’d probably not given it much thought to Brooklyn were it not for one man - screenwriter Nick Hornby. I first discovered Hornby via the John Cusack movie adaptation of his novel High Fidelity. I fell in love with that movie pretty much immediately and recognized quite a bit of myself in the music-obsessed, bad-at-relationships main character (as well as his friend’s obsessive need to constantly make top five lists). From that film, I sought out the book and loved

Sheba, Baby Blu-ray Review: Blacksploitation, Family Style

In Pam Grier's last exploitation film they forgot to exploit anybody or anything.
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After a string of low-budget, b-grade exploitation flicks in which she kicked ass, cracked wise, and stripped down, Pam Grier became, not exactly a star, but a real sensation among people who like a certain type of movie. By 1975, she was ready to move onto other types of films and with Sheba, Baby she made her very last blacksploitation flick. Now that I've seen, all I have to ask is this: what exactly were they exploiting? It certainly is filled with plenty of black actors and comes with a plot straight out of the genre - Grier plays Sheba

Macbeth (2015) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a new Shakespearean adaptation, a reworking of Moby Dick and Frankenstein, plus three films from the French New Wave, and much more.
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What’s left to say about Shakespeare? What could I possible write that would convey his brilliance? Nothing of course. He was undoubtedly the greatest writer that the English language has ever (or likely will ever) know. His words have been read by millions of people in a myriad of languages for hundreds of years. The thing is, though, they really ought to be heard rather than read. As anybody taking high-school English can tell you, Shakespeare on the page can be rough going. His words are ancient and arcane lying dead in a book. Ah, but on the stage (or

Creed and Room are the Picks of the Week

This week brings us three Oscar contenders, Tom Hardy playing twins, a classic sci-fi novel turned into a miniseries by the Syfy network, and much more.
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The Oscars will be airing in a few of hours from when I’m writing this (and likely a few hours before this gets posted, and possibly days before you read it). I can easily say I don’t care a thing about who wins what, or who’s gotten snubbed, etc. Yet, as per usual, I’ll be watching the ceremony, reading various commentaries on the awards and hotly debating it on Twitter. Thing is, pretty much everyone recognizes the Oscars are fairly meaningless. All my film-buff friends love to talk about how pointless it all is, how it has no bearing on

Pray For Death Blu-ray Review: Not Enough Ninja

Cheese-ball '80s flick is light on action until the last 20 minutes.
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When I was a kid, one of the local television stations used to run a show called Kung Fu Theater late at night on the weekends. My cousins and I loved it. I have many fond memories of staying over at my grandmother’s house with them and staying up late (well, late for a nine-year-old boy which probably means about 10:30-11) and watching all those old chopsocky films. Even then we knew the films weren’t particularly good and during the boring talking parts, we’d sit around doing whatever nine-year-old boys do when they are spending the night at their grandmothers

Fargo: Season Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us another excellent season of a Coen Brothers spin-off, another Christmas for Doctor Who, fake moon landings, Catholic covers-ups, and much more.
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When they announced they were making a TV show out of the excellent Coen Brothers films, Fargo, I was skeptical. It is such a precise, idiosyncratic, self-contained film I couldn’t figure out how they could do anything else with it. Happily, I was very wrong. The first season was brilliant. It's not so much a sequel, a prequel. or any other kind of -quel you can think of as it is a tonally similar, barely existing in the same universe but just as wonderful kind of thing. With one minor exception, there aren’t any connections to the film other than

A French Village: Season 2 DVD Review: A Series Full of Some Really Wonderful Stories

An enormous cast tells an interweaving tale of a German-occupied French city.
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A French Village is a French television drama set in the made-up town of Villeneuve in Eastern France that is occupied by the Germans during World War II. It ran for six seasons in France (with a seventh and final one set to air later this year) but has never had much presence in the U.S. Season Two has just been released by MHZ (Season One came out last year). It deals with a multitude of characters and for the most part humanizes them and allows us to understand where they are coming from. There are resistance fighters consisting of

Spotlight Blu-ray Review: A Great Film Documenting Terrible Things

A film so good I'll never watch it again.
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When I received my copy of Spotlight in the mail, I told my wife I’d be staying up late to watch it and that I recommended her going to bed early. She is a great fan of good dramas, and this one is garnering all sorts of awards, but I knew the very nature of this film with its deeply disturbing story would keep her up afterwards. And many nights after that. I like to think of myself as a hardened film veteran. I’ve watched all sorts of horror films where terrible things happen to its characters. I’ve watched real-life

Black Mass Is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Johnny Depp as a ganster, 33 Chilean miners, the Hollywood Blacklist, Steve Jobs, Girls and more.
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For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to watch gangster movies. There is just something about the mafia that is - while completely and utterly deplorable - really quite fascinating. It's not that they are the best at what they do, or the smartest, or even the toughest; it's that they know what they want and they just take it. And you’d better give it to them or you’ll wind up with both your legs broken. If you are lucky. While most of us shirk from everyday confrontation, gangsters thrive on it. They are willing to risk

Spiral: Season 5 DVD Review: French Crime Drama Continues to Thrill

Go watch it. Now.
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Police Captain Laure Berthaud (Caroline Proust) is drinking alone in a bar. She eyes a handsome lad across the way and smiles. He smiles back. Cut to the two of them going at in Berthaud’s car. Hot and heavy are the words. Clothes are removed. Her pants are pulled down. There’s blood. Lots of it. On her panties and thighs. She freaks, he hasn’t noticed. She kicks him out of the car and speeds away. We cut to the next morning where Berthaud is called to the marina where a woman’s corpse has been found tied up and entangled in

Trumbo Blu-ray Review: Bryan Cranston's Tour de Force

Its a shame a film about one of the greatest screenwriters is written so poorly.
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The only thing Hollywood likes more than making movies portraying themselves as heroes is making movies portraying themselves as martyrs fighting against oppressive forces. I’ve lost count at how many movies have been made about the Hollywood Blacklist. If all you knew of history was what came from Hollywood, you’d think Joseph McCarthy was worse than Stalin and Hitler combined. You’d never know that the House Un-American Activities Committee ruined the lives of thousands of people from all stripes of life across the country rather than just the artists in and around Hollywood. Trumbo is yet another Hollywood movie portraying

Spectre is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some Bond, a haunted house, a grandma, Leftovers, and much more.
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I have many fond memories of watching James Bond. I remember my dad taking me to see him in the theatre. I remember catching Octopussy as a pubescent teen on cable in the back bedroom of my grandparents' house. Then they started releasing the films on VHS, and I watched them all over again. I remember being so mad at Timothy Dalton when he got the gig as Bond as I’d heard rumors Pierce Brosnan was going to get the role and I’d loved him on Remington Steele. Then I remember being disappointed when Brosnan did get the role as

Bridge of Spies is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us three period dramas, a witch hunter and some zombies playing Tyler Durden.
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We’re less than a month away from the Oscars and I’ve seen exactly three of the nominated films - four if you count the animated feature nominees (and five more if you add in the animated shorts). This isn’t unusual for me as I rarely get to watch more than a couple of the nominees before the ceremony airs. I’ve noted many times before how difficult it is for me to get to the theatre to see new films and I won’t rehash that here. I do appreciate that many of the films now get released to home video just

2016 Oscar-nominated Animated Short Films Review: An Excellent Group

Short films, big emotional punch.
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If the Oscars have any real meaning (and let’s be honest, they mostly don’t outside of very rich, very famous people congratulating themselves), it's that they bring to the masses films that we would otherwise overlook. The Oscars have long since brought to me lists of great films I might have never heard were they not given a very large spotlight. The awards ceremony also means these films will garner more money than they might normally which in turn means more award-caliber films will get made. This is especially true when it comes to non-mainstream genres like documentaries and short

Doctor Who: Series Nine, Part Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Doctor Who split apart, Spike Lee modernizing the ancient Greeks, Jack Black fighting children's monsters, and Bradley Cooper playing with food.
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I have very vague memories of watching Doctor Who as a kid. This was the '80s when the long=scarfed Tom Baker was the titular character and the series ran late-night Saturdays on my local PBS station. I wasn’t really a fan of the series and I only watched it a few times, but I remember the Daleks. I remember being old enough to be embarrassed to ask my mother to lay down next to me afterwards but young (and terrified) enough to ask her anyways. When the new series came on, those memories weren’t enough to make me raise even

Kung Fu Panda 1 & 2 Ultimate Edition of Awesomness DVD Reviews: Not Awesome, But A Lot of Fun

Average animated stories made good by good performances and some stunning animation.
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If it's funny for a fat guy to show athletic nimbleness, then I suppose a panda being an expert at kung fu is hilarious. At least that’s the basic premise of the Kung Fu Panda series of movies. Luckily, the films are chock full of terrific actors and some really stunning animation that raises them above such ridiculous ideas. In Kung Fu Panda we find that our illustrious hero Po (Jack Black) is a big, fat, lazy panda who has a goose for a father (James Hong), and idolizes the Furious Five - Tigress (Angelina Jolie), Monkey (Jackie Chan), Mantis

Criterion's Inside Llewyn Davis is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us one of the Coen Brothers' best films, some influential hip hop, a deadly mountain climb, a deadlier internship, and much more.
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Many times in these pages I’ve mentioned my extraordinary love for both the Criterion Collection and the Coen Brothers. When you put them together, you pretty much have a guaranteed Pick of the Week. Surprisingly, Inside Llewyn Davis is the first time the two have met. You’d think the Coens' films would get the Criterion treatment every time like Wes Anderson films do. Seemingly, their films fit the Criterion niche perfectly. They are quirky, arty, funny and often strangely violent . They are well loved by critics and maintain a relatively small but highly devoted fanbase. I suspect there is

Tenderness of The Wolves Blu-ray Review: Not What You Expect, But Better

Rainer Werner Fassbinder's company make a surprisingly gentle serial killer movie.
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Ever since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by serial killers. There is something so uniquely interesting about someone who murders not for money, revenge, jealousy, rage, or any other understandable motive but for the pure pleasure or murdering itself. It is of course horrendously horrible, but terribly fascinating as well. One such person I’d not heard of until I watched this film was Fritz Haarmann who lived and killed in Hanover, Germany in the period between the World Wars. He sexually assaulted, mutilated, dismembered, possibly ate, and almost certainly sold for meat a minimum of 24 boys all while

The Martian is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two Criterions, a Victorian Sherlock, a hacking Robot, and Ridley Scott once again making great films.
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I subscribed to the auteur theory before I even knew what that was. That is to say as I began to take films seriously, I naturally gravitated towards directors moreso than genres, stories and actors. There are certain directors whose films get me excited by the mere fact that it was directed by them whether or not anything else about the pictures is interesting to me at all. I’ll see anything by people like Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, and the Coen Brothers no matter if the stories or actors or anything else excites me about it. So much more is

Sicario is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some cool sounding action, high-wire acts, zombies, detectives, Quentin Tarantino inspirations' and much more.
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A great big thanks to Davy for helping me out last week. Extra credit since I gave him about a day's notice. At least it was an easy week for him to cover. The last week of the year always brings out very little as the studios have all shot their wads for the Christmas shoppers and they’ve not yet had time to recharge for the new year. This week brings us quite a few things I’m finding interesting though most of it was found to be disappointing by critics and audiences alike. Still there’s a lot of it and

Pan is the Pick of the Week

A rather dull week brings us another take on Peter Pan, another take on Bobby Fischer's life, a two very different takes on religion.
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If the weeks leading up to Christmas are a bonanza for home-video collectors, then the actual week of Christmas is something like the day after a party when there’s nothing left but junk nobody wanted. I guess the people who decide which Blu-rays get released when figure everybody has already purchased all their presents so there isn’t any reason to put anything out that anybody wants. There’s never more than a handful of releases at this point in the year, most of which is absolute junk. But then again there is always a release or two that could have been

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a couple of Italian horrors, some early Hitchcock, impossible missions, and more.
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It's easy to get cynical and annoyed with all the remakes, reimaginings, rehashes, and sequels that seem to come out every other day. Most of them really are terrible and it's difficult not to think that Hollywood has lost its imagination. At the same time, there are some remakes and sequels worth paying attention to. Almost two decades ago, Tom Cruise dusted off the old Mission: Impossible television series and has made a long lasting, continually interesting film franchise out of it. The secret has been its use of very different directors. Through five films, the series has hired out

What Have You Done To Solange? Blu-ray Review: Giallo at Its Finest

Sex, violence, and style, or everything you want in an Italian horror film.
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In the 1930s, the Mondadori company began producing a series of paperback books in Italy. They were usually translations of English-language murder mysteries and they came in a distinctive yellow cover. Italian directors took note and began making films loosely based on those books. By the 1960s, a distinctive horror sub-genre emerged from this - giallo, the Italian word for yellow became the nickname for the books and subsequently the films that came out of them. Quickly, the films moved away from direct adaptations of the earlier novels and adopted their own characteristics. Known for their distinctive cinematography, their black-gloved

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Two is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a couple of obscure Criterions, a hungry serial killer, silly little yellow creatures and lots of super heroes.
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When I picked Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as my Pick of the Week back in April of 2013, I noted that I wasn’t really a comic-book movie fan. That’s changed in the interim. I've since read many of the books upon which the films are based, which has given me a much greater understanding of the characters and their motivations. I’ve also learned to put aside my art-house critic hat and engage in the terrific fun these movies are having. That’s the thing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they are not always really great films, but they

Fathom Events and TCM Present Roman Holiday

Once again Fathom Events and TCM have put a wonderful classic on the big screen.
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In my last discussion of a Fathom/TCM event, I praised my local Cinemark for being a very excellent cinema. This time, I must complain. Whenever I have passes to these events, the teenagers behind the ticket booth never know what to do. Management is always called and usually they are very congenial and happy to have someone there to give them a little buzz. This time management took their time coming down and looked at us like we were keeping them from all the joy in their lives. I don’t expect the royal treatment, but a little polite customer service

Cooties is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an ice-skiing Robert Redford, an inside look at Amy Winehouse, Roger Water's performing The Wall, and lots of zombies.
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I don’t know about you, but I had a mighty fine Thanksgiving. The weather outside was frightful, but inside was nice and warm, cozy and delicious. With that behind us, everybody turns to Christmas. The trees and lights go up, the holiday music plays on repeat, and everybody has a certain kind of cheerfulness. I really do love the season, even if so much of it is artificial. I used to be quite the grinch, but marriage and perhaps age has led me to enjoy all things Christmas. We buy a real tree every year and decorate it with our

Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist

Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
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By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point

Criterion's Ikiru is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a couple of classics from Criterion, some not-so-classics from Arrow, some disturbing looking stop-motion shorts, Doctor Who at Christmas, and much more.
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Not long ago my aunt was diagnosed with cancer. They initially thought it was in her lungs, which made for a very grim prognosis. For days friends and family gathered in various small groups and talked, and cried. I hugged my aunt and told her I loved her. She began making preparations for her eventual death. She gave me a ring that her father had made for her and told me to give it to my daughter when she got older. It was all so very sad. The one sliver of hope was that all of her tests had not

The Collected Works of Hayao Miyazaki is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a big box of awesome Japanese animated films, some early silent films, a couple of Criterions, another Hobbit, and much more.
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I remember distinctly the first time I ever watched a Hayao Miyazaki film. I was still single, but heavily into the girl who would become my wife. I was a film buff who was interested in foreign films but who had not yet seen all that many, certainly not any foreign animation outside of a Robotech series or two. I’d started hearing really good things about Princess Mononoke, and the English language cast for it was pretty awesome (Billy Crudup, Claire Danes, Billy Bob Thornton, Minnie Driver, and Gillian Anderson to name a few) so I went out and rented

Mr. Holmes is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us yet more adaptations of Conan Doyle's detective, a Kurt Cobain documentary, a french sci-fi flick, Terminators, con men and much more.
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By my count, there have been over 800 kajillion filmic adaptations of Sherlock Holmes. Within the last few years we’ve had two films from Guy Richie, a BBC series, and a separate CBS series. There has hardly been a time in the last century when someone hasn’t been adapting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's sleuth to screens either big or small. When you start counting all the derivatives, pastiches, and out-right stolen works that use similar characters then one has to start wondering if theirs anything produced in the last century that hasn’t been influenced by Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

Pixar's Inside Out is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some big emotions and little toys from Pixar, half a season of Doctor Who, dark pirates, final girls and much more.
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It was a tough October. I got strep throat and followed it with a nasty virus that turned into an eternal coughing session. A friend of mine - actually an ex-girlfriend from college who I stay in touch with via Facebook - her three-year-old son was diagnosed with brain cancer. Ms. Roberta, a lady I don’t know but who I have associations with, ran an orphanage and food shelter in poverty-stricken Haiti. She was recently murdered while getting gasoline and her young son was kidnapped and presumably sold into slavery. Another friend of mine went to the hospital thinking he

Black Cats Blu-ray Review: Same Story, Massively Different Films

Two Italian horror masters tackle the Edgar Allan Poe tale.
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There have been well over 300 films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe - that’s more than three times the number of tales he actually penned. That means filmmakers and television producers have been dipping into the well of Poe over and over again. That’s not bad for a guy who died before moving pictures were even invented. Even more astounding is the fact that most of Poe’s stories are relatively short (he only published one novel in his life) and his style is more concerned with mood than plot. Which is perhaps why so many films based

Wizard World Tulsa 2015: Too Legit (And Sick) To Quit

My second Con experience found me with wife in tow and sick as a dog.
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Last year, I attended my very first Con (Wizard World Tulsa, you can read all about it here). I had a great time then so I was quite excited when I learned they were coming back this year. The lineup wasn’t nearly as interesting as the last one, but this time did come with Bruce freakin’ Campbell, who I figured was worth the price of admission all by his own bad self. I even talked my wife into buying a ticket. I had hoped to actually dress up this year. I think I could make a pretty stellar Doctor (the

Black Cats is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us two takes on an Edgar Allan Poe story, Jake Gyllenhall in the boxing ring, a fair lady, a Mulholland drive, an invasion by classic arcade games, and The Rolling Stones in Japan.
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Autumn is by far my favorite season. The dog days of summer slip into the cool, crisp nights of fall. The leaves turn from dull brown to bright oranges, reds, and yellows. The air smells of fire, of warmth, of cider and home. Jackets are put on, marshmallows are roasted, and all is well with the world. Even football can’t bring down this perfect of all seasons. Best of all is Halloween, a holiday that lets us dress up, turn into other people, eat loads of sugary sweets, and scare the dickens out of each other. I’ve written in these

Jurassic World is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us dinosaurs on the loose, British mysteries starring Doctor Who alum, Vincent Price and Christopher Lee in a crazy horror flick, Japanese ghosts, and much more.
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I was 17 when Jurassic Park came out in 1993. Even then, I knew it wasn’t a great film, artistically speaking. It was too silly to be taken seriously. But I didn’t care. Don’t care now. It was great fun. Terrifically entertaining and exciting. It's hard to remember now - when seemingly every effect, special or not is rendered in CGI - but Jurassic Park was revolutionary in its use of computer-generated effects mixed with real puppets and effects by Stan Winston. It was a technological marvel. The culmination of Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster powers. It's fascinating to think that while

Album Review: The String Cheese Incident: Rhythm of the Road: Volume 2, Live in Las Vegas

Three hours of rock and roll jam for your listening pleasure.
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Arguably the first live rock and roll record was Got Live If You Want It! by The Rolling Stones. Released in England in 1965, it contained just six songs (interestingly all covers, no originals). Its sound is raw and ragged (it is said to have been recorded from a microphone hanging from the balcony though some overdubs were apparently added at some unknown point). Live music had been recorded before this of course, most famously by John Lomax in the 1930s who roamed the countryside recording local musicians. Fans were secretly recording rock concerts from pretty much the beginning and

Nakatomi Plaza Die Hard Collection is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a bunch of double dipping special editions, complete sets of two excellent shows, early Cronenberg and more.
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Forgive me if I begin this Pick of the Week with a bit of a rant. In all forms of media, the companies who make media have a tendency to double, triple, and even quadruple dip. What I mean is a company will release a movie onto a new format - we’ll say Blu-ray since that’s what I tend to talk about - and it will either come pretty bare bones, just the movie and a minimal of extras, or maybe they’ll tack on some extras from some previous DVD edition. Then a few months later they’ll come out with

Tremors 5: Bloodlines is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a documentary about Tom Cruise's religion, another dying teenager, Gus Van Sant's best film, greased-up naked dudes, possibly the last Ghibli, a nostalgic sequel, and so much more.
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I was 14 when the original Tremors came out. I loved it. We all did, my family and me. It was the perfect mix of action, adventure, comedy, and horror. It had Kevin Bacon at the height of his powers, Michael Gross just off of his long run in Family Ties, Reba McEntire in her first acting role, and Finn Carter in her underwear (oh man, my 14-year-old self memorized every frame of the scene where she gets caught in barbed wire and has to take off her pants, but I digress.) I caught it again not too long ago

Immoral Tales and The Beast Blu-ray Reviews: 1970's French Erotica

In which our hero has to ask himself, how much fake semen can one person handle?
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In my review of La Grande Bouffe, I noted that Arrow Films is second only to Criterion in creating masterful productions of interesting and obscure films. With their release of Immoral Tales and The Beast, I could easily add "obscene" and "pornographic" to that description. Or perhaps, "erotic arthouse" would be more suiting. I’m being intentionally flippant here which isn’t fair to the films (especially Immoral Tales which has its moments of artistic flair and depth of meaning behind its sex and rampant nudity) but after seeing two films back to back featuring enormous fake ejaculating penises, I can't help

Cop Car Blu-ray Review: All Thriller, No Filler

A tight, lean little flick that entertains then leaves just as quick.
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Two boys walk through a giant expanse of space in New Mexico. They engage in call-and-response cursing. The first boy, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), calls out a bad word and the second, Harrison (Hays Wellford), repeats it. They come upon a barbed-wire fence. Travis pulls apart the wires and quickly moves through it with ease. Harrison approaches slowly, gingerly prying the throned wires and tentatively slipping through. In these few moments, director Jon Watts gives us a clear idea who these boys are - Travis is the leader while Harrison follows unsure of their plan. The boys have run away for

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a bunch of dudes in costumes, a pregnant virgin, ghosts rebooted, killers, addicts and plenty more.
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Tuesday morning of last week, I woke up feeling fine. I turned off the alarm, got out of bed, got dressed and went to work. It was a perfectly average morning. Came home for lunch, drove out to a job site to finish cleaning it up. Worked about an hour and left the boys to finish. On my way back to the office, I started feeling a little off - slightly nauseated, kind of achy, and really tired. I decided to stop off at home for a minute to use the restroom, have a big glass of water, and rest

Jane the Virgin: The Complete First Season DVD Review: A Show that Delights in the Ludicrous

A clever, satirical telenovela that will make you laugh, cry, and break your neck it moves so fast.
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Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez) is a 24-year-old Latina who works hard, studies hard, and takes her religion very seriously. She is the virgin of the title because of her Catholicism and the fact that her grandmother (Ivonne Coll) scared the bejesus out of her as a young girl by using a flower to illustrate the delicate value of her budding sexuality. During a routine OB/GYN visit, Jane is accidentally inseminated by Dr. Luisa Alver (Yara Martinez) with Rafael Solano’s (Justin Baldoni) seed, which was supposed to impregnate his wife Petra (Yael Grobglas.) Rafael also happens to own the hotel where

Fathom Events and TCM Present Psycho on the Big Screen

I won't be able to shower again for weeks.
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The famous shower scene took seven days to film (of an 11-week shoot,) contained at least 70 camera setups with as many different cuts and only lasts three minutes. Three of the most original, terrifying, and famous minutes in all of film history that is. Psycho is an iconic film. It is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous and well loved films. It's also a terrific little thriller. Interestingly, Paramount, who had a contract with Hitchock for one more film, did not want anything to do with the film and refused to give him his regular budget. Hitchcock then independently

Pitch Perfect 2 Is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some a capella pitches, a lesser Wes Anderson, two more Criterions, a couple of superheroes from the CW and Gumby.
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I grew up attending the Churches of Christ. One of the things that distinguishes us from the million other churches around is that we sing a cappella - that is to say without musical instruments. While I can’t sing particularly well myself, I think sitting through all those services helped give me a great appreciation of the human voice. Growing up, I can remember various vocal groups coming to the church to perform for us. They’d usually do a set of Christian songs during the service and then afterwards they’d throw down with some secular pop numbers to keep us

Happy Valley: Season One DVD Review: Terrific Crime Drama from Across the Atlantic

Who says there's nothing good on Netflix?
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If you listen closely to the screaming hoards, you’ll hear plenty of complaints about the lack of content on Netflix. The loudest are usually bemoaning the lack of the latest Transformers, superheroes, or other bright, shiny, and exploding blockbuster. Those people have a point as Netflix is rather terrible at keeping up with the highest-grossing new releases. They aren’t particular good at grabbing the lower-tiered new releases either. If you are the sort of person who wants to watch a movie the moment it is available on home video, then Netflix is not the streaming service your looking for. But

Doctor Who: Dark Water / Death in Heaven in 3D Review

Watching Doctor Who on the big screen is always a treat.
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We’re kind of in love with Fathom Events here at Cinema Sentries. We constantly promote their shows, many of us have written reviews of them (I myself have written two, not including this one). At some point you have to wonder where we cross the line from critics into shills. Thing is they really do put on fantastic events. From advanced showing of upcoming films to putting the classics back on the big screen, plus opera, world class theatre and more special events than you can imagine - often packed with behind-the-scenes peeks, interviews and commentaries - Fathom is creating

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst is the Pick of the Week

Sometimes true life makes for more compelling TV than fiction.
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There have been a lot of discussions of late about the injustices of our justice system. About how if you are rich and white, you can literally get away with murder, but if you are poor and of color, you will more than likely find yourself staring at the wrong end of the system no matter your guilt or innocence. Though not its primary intent The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst goes a long way in proving just how far rich white dudes can get away with. Durst is the eldest son of Seymour Durst, who formed

Van Morrison: Another Glorious Decade DVD Review: For Dedicated Fans Only

An informative, yet rather dull documentary about an transitive period in his career.
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In the summer of 1973 after a grueling tour and an emotionally devastating divorce, Van Morrison took a several-weeks vacation to Ireland. Living in America for the better part of the preceding decade, he’d not been to his homeland in about six years. Due to the Troubles, he was not even able to go to his actual home in Northern Ireland during the visit. It was during this emotionally distraught time that he wrote Veedon Fleece, his eighth studio album. Though it was an intensely personal album, it was critically panned at the time and sold quite poorly. Afterwards he

Gotham: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some not-quite superhero origins, a lady who doesn't age, a thriller that's more than a pair of legs. and a TV show trying to be relevant again.
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Steven Spielberg recently predicted that the superhero movie (and presumably the superhero TV show) will eventually go the way of the Western, by which he means it will almost completely disappear. He is, of course, completely correct as we will inevitably get tired of dudes in costumes saving the world, but judging by their popularity (and massive box-office receipts) I think that day is a long, long ways in the future. We are completely, utterly over-saturated in superheroes. From the Avengers (and all of their solo films) to X-Men, Batman and about 15 different versions of Spider-Man you can hardly

Two Days, One Night Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Devastatingly Beautiful

Marion Cotillard gives an intense, subtle performance in this moving drama.
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In the industrial town of Seraing, Belgium, Sandra (Marion Cotillard) has been on sick leave from her manufacturing job after a nervous breakdown. In her absence, her coworkers realize they can cover her shift by collectively working slightly longer hours. Just as Sandra is ready to return to work, she finds out that the bosses have given her coworkers a choice - they can either return to their normal shifts and have Sandra come back to work, or they can continue working the longer shifts and receive a €1,000 bonus. By accepting the bonus, Sandra will no longer be employed.

Mad Max: Fury Road is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us more Mad Max, Robin Williams final film, a war film, a dumb comedy and the creepy world of H.R. Giger.
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My parents were early adapters to the home-video market. They were given a Betamax sometime in the early '80s, but for reasons that were never quite clear to me, they switched to the VHS format fairly quickly thereafter. In the early days, there weren’t very many places around in which to rent videos. I recall only two places in our area. I remember very clearly that our favorite one, Silver Screens, on the outskirts of town, displayed the movies they had on shelves with little hooks holding these little tags on them. Each movie had two hooks under it, one

Criterion's Release of Two Days, One Night is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a timely drama from Belgium, a terribly reviewed comedy from Hawaii, a serious documentary, and a gory zombie show.
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My DVD/Blu-ray collection is divided up into a few different categories. There are TV shows, foreign films, my main collection, and then the Criterions. I mention this because over the last week I’ve had two different sets of people over to the house admiring my collection who had no idea what the Criterion Collection was. They were both movies lovers with decent collections themselves, not some noobs with only a couple of Disney flicks in their home library. It was shocking to me that they hadn’t heard of Criterion. In the small, nerdy world in which I tend to live,

La Grande Bouffe Blu-ray Review: A Feast For The Senses That Leaves One Overstuffed

Marco Ferreri's controversial film gets a grand treatment from Arrow Video, but leaves one filling a bit sick to the stomach.
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They say Catherine Deneuve refused to speak to her then lover Marcello Mastroianni for a week after seeing his performance in La Grande Bouffe. It created a huge stir at the Cannes Film Festival. It was rated X in America, banned outright in Italy, and became part of a censorship legal battle in Britain. It is surprising, then, just how tame the film seems from a modern angle. You’ll see more nudity and sex on a typical episode of Game of Thrones, more abandoned gluttony on any number of reality-television programs, and more scatological humor on any given night of

Day For Night is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Francois Truffaut's film about filmmaking, a Spaghetti Western, a French-Italian film about eating yourself to death, and some Disney shorts.
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As someone who has never made a film but absolutely loves watching them, I’m completely fascinated by movies about making movies. Through the history of film, there have been a surprisingly number of them, many of which are great films in their own right. From the Coen Brothers making one of the greatest movies about writer’s block (Barton Fink) while trying to work through their own writer’s block (they were stuck in the middle of Miller’s Crossing) to Tim Burton’s glorious take on Ed Wood making one of the worst films ever made (Plan 9 From Outer Space), filmmakers have

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an adult version of Harry Potter, a TV show from a film director, a classic film that was later made into an even more classic film and much more.
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I have a good friend who is probably the smartest guy I’ve ever met. I like to joke that he’s like a human version of Wikipedia. He knows stuff about everything. It's embarrassing how smart he is sometimes because he’ll casually start talking about the minutest details of some obscure something or other and I have to pretend I have the foggiest idea I know what he’s talking about. Or I just admit I’m completely lost, and as a testament to how cool he is, he never lets on how dumb I really am and just moves on to something

Orphan Black: Season Three is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us crazy clones, casual vacancies, a couple of film noirs and lots of TV.
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I have this completely random rule that I have to watch at least 10 movies every month. Now to all you movie buffs out there in Cinema Sentry-land that’s probably nothing. You probably watch 10 movies a week. But to this "self-employed, works weird hours, and has a wife and a four-year-old daughter" dude, 10 movies is hard to achieve. I usually get home sometime after 4pm to find the wife exhausted from dealing with the endlessly energetic child. So it becomes my duty to play with her while supper is cooked. Then there is eating, after which we take

Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: An Obscure French Western Gets Its Day

The Good, The Bad, and the Boring.
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About the time the western genre was growing stale in America, European filmmakers picked it right back up. More than 600 different Westerns were made in Europe between 1960 and 1980. While they were made in just about every country on that continent, the majority came from Italians. The most famous and arguably best examples of European Westerns come from the Italian Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy. While the Spaghetti Western may have ruled they day, a great many other European countries got into the western game as well. Cemetery Without Crosses is one such film. Made in 1969

Wonderfully Perfect: Fathom Events and TCM Present Double Indemnity

It's a great pleasure seeing classic films on the big screen.
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In college I had one of those special, "make an inspirational movie about him" kind of professors. He was also the theatre director, and for most of my collegiate life, I did work study under him. He was a brilliant teacher, capable of making even the dullest plays seem utterly fascinating, and a great director. It was a small college and he had a minuscule budget but he somehow managed to put up productions that rivaled the nearby million-dollar Shakespeare Festival. He helped further my academic education and schooled me in life. He was also a good friend. Sadly, he

What We Do In The Shadows is the Pick of the Week

Its a great week to be a horror fan.
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It's a good week to be a horror fan. I’ve no doubt complained in these pages before how I rarely get to watch horror films anymore. The wife doesn’t like them; the daughter is too young for them. I only get a slight sliver of time between the family going to bed and me not knocking off myself to watch the sort of things only I want to watch. There is a long list of those things and most of them beat out horror in the desire department so it is a real rarity that I actually watch any sort

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review: Not As Exotic As the First, but Still Charming

Were it not for those remarkable actors even Liftime would be embarrassed by this.
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God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for

Ex Machina is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us sexy artificial intelligence, sexually transmitted haunting, boys with horses, exotic sequels and more.
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At work today, I was listening to the Invisibilia podcast, specifically the one entitled “Our Computers, Ourselves.” It was all about how computers and technology have changed us as a society, culturally, and individually. I was especially fascinated with the segment on Thad Starner who has essentially been wearing a computer (kind of a prototype of Google Glass - which he helped invent actually) for the last couple of decades. He swears it has been nothing but helpful, with no downside at all. He constantly types information into his hard drive about what he’s thinking, what he’s doing, and the

Sesame Street: Count On Elmo DVD Review: That's One Ah-Ah-Ah Great Family DVD

Don't be a grump, a grouch or a Trump, and fall in love with Sesame Street again.
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I grew up watching Sesame Street. My now four-year-old daughter continues to grow up watching Sesame Street. My mother swears that my brother learned to read watching Sesame Street. Some 77 million other Americans grew up watching Sesame Street. Millions more found Sesame Street (or International versions of Sesame Street) in their home countries all over the world. I love Sesame Street. My family loves Sesame Street. Everybody loves Sesame Street. Well, that’s not true. Some people don’t like Sesame Street. But those people are grumps, grouches, and Donald Trumps. Luckily for everybody but the grouches, we can watch Sesame

Criterion Re-releases The Big Chill and It Is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some nostalgia via the Criterion Collection, Mick Jagger as an outlaw, two versions of a Hemingway story, the Governator battling zombies, and much more.
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I've been writing about new DVDs and Blu-rays for a few years now. You'd think this would give me some special insight into release cycles and that I might possess a long memory of what's hit the home video market over the years. You might think that, but you'd be wrong. I have no real idea of how or why various movies get released when they do. I also have a terrible memory which makes me forget what's been released moments after I write about it. This week I totally forgot that Criterion had released The Big Chill almost exactly

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe Blu-ray Review: Forgettable but Fun French Farce

A spy comedy that's silly but never ridiculous.
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The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is a '70s French spy comedy that never ventures into spoof or even too far into ridiculousness. It's not hilariously funny, nor so brilliant that it will replace anything on any of your top-ten lists. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable film with some hearty laughs and enough je ne sais quoi to keep you feeling happy the rest of the day. Like all good spy stories, the plot is as complicated as it is convoluted. France’s #2 man in counter-espionage, Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier), wants to discredit his chief, Louis Toulouse

The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some live rock and roll, classic Jack Nicholson, weird Czechoslovakians and Will Ferrell in corn rows.
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It's Summer. It's hot. School’s out. Vacations are on. Everybody is busy. I have to yell at my wife every now and again just to keep us from doing something. Every. Single. Weekend. It gets a bit ridiculous how busy we are. Everybody else is too it seems, if the state of traffic has anything to do with it. It's so stinking hot outside and yet nobody is staying in doors where it's cool. Where the AC runs. I don’t know what we’re all doing, but apparently its not sitting inside watching DVDs. This week's pickings are once again very

The Fisher King from Criterion is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us some classic Terry Gilliam, live Rolling Stones, resurrected British Crime TV, John Travolta forging Monet, and much more.
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At some point during my early teens, we had Showtime or HBO or some such pay-cable channel. Whatever it was, they played Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits over and over again. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. It was so weird and unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Its hero was a little boy and a bunch of little people and the story was full of fantasy so it seemed like it was made for children. Yet it was also very dark, weird, and adult feeling. Everyone talked really funny too, and I remember very specifically how strange the police sirens

Ripper Street: Season Three DVD Review: Risen From Cancellation

A social media campaign brought it back and it was well worth the fight.
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The BBC’s Ripper Street takes place in Whitechapel of London’s East End. This is the same area that Jack the Ripper did his terrible deeds back in 1888. Season One of the show takes place six months after those horrible murders and all of its characters are haunted by those crimes. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastado and Kristen Lopez). Season Two takes place about a year after season one, and while the Ripper has faded mostly from memory there’s still plenty of crime to contend with in the neighborhood. (Previously reviewed by Luigi Bastardo.) Season Three almost didn’t happen. Citing

Insider Access to Disney•Pixar's Inside Out Review: Inside and Out of Site!

An early preview of Pixar's newest film with special guests, behind-the-scenes goodness, and an enormously good time.
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Old media has been struggling with how modern audiences consume their movies, books, and music for quite some time. With broadband internet allowing us to quickly and cheaply bring all the media directly into our homes, there is less and less reasons to purchase them as physical objects. It's fascinating to me to see the different methods media producers come up with in order to get us to pay for the things we consume. As televisions increase in size and definition and home theatre sound systems become more affordable for the average consumer, there is less reason for anyone to

Chappie is the Pick of the Week

This week features some critically panned sci-fi, some critically adored art-house, some wonderful animation and much more.
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It's always amazing to see a new and interesting director come onto the scene, and then utterly disappointing to see them crash and burn. I was as excited as anyone to see what M. Night Shyamalan would do after The Sixth Sense and maintained that excitement through Unbreakable (under appreciated in my opinion and holds up way better than Sense in repeat viewings). But I have slowly gone from great anticipation over what he’s doing next to complete ambivalence as he continues to make the same movie over and over (in increasingly disappointingly fashion again and again). In a similar

Rio Bravo Blu-ray Review: A Western Classic Restored

Howard Hawks' classic Western gets a nice upgrade with some new extras, what else is there to say?
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In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann made High Noon with Gary Cooper, who plays a small-town marshal whose being threatened by a man he once put away and his gang of thugs. Throughout the film, Cooper tries to find others to help him fight the gang, but one by one everyone either refuses or leaves town. In the end, it is only the marshal’s wife who brings forth any assistance. Howard Hawks and John Wayne, tough guys that they were, thought this plot was phony. No man worth his salt would go around asking for help in such a situation. And

Kingsman: The Secret Service is the Pick of the Week

Slim pickings this week my friends
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As I’m browsing through the new releases each week and putting all the interesting ones in new tabs, I make a little mental checklist. There are things that sound interesting, things that are interesting, things that will almost certainly be picked, and others that most assuredly will not be but that I think are important enough to at least mention. Every once in a while those last things get bumped up and I actually wind up picking them. We now find ourselves in one of those weeks. Living now in close proximity to my parents means that me and the

Parks and Recreation: Season Seven is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the conclusions of two great shows, the high definition upgrade of a better one, plus Kevin Costner, loads of cannibals and a naked Helen Mirren.
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Like a lot of people, it seems, I at first dismissed Parks and Recreation as another The Office clone and didn’t much bother with it. I remember seeing the first couple of episodes, thought it was pretty funny but I’d seen enough of that schtick with The Office and put it down thinking I’d never come back. And I didn’t for a good two, maybe three more seasons. Then I started hearing some good buzz about it. When a friend commented about it on Netflix, I made my The Office dismissal, and she countered with I should skip season one

The Confession and State of Siege are the Picks of the Week

This week brings us some interesting Criterions, Bob Dylan in the Basement and lots of TV collections.
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My freshman year of college I started collecting movies on VHS tape. I think I realized that with the parents no longer renting me films every weekend it was cheaper on my minuscule budget to buy them periodically and build a collection that I could watch over and over again. I quickly decided that I was going to build a world-class collection of only the best movies. I’d buy classics and modern masterpieces with some cool art-house numbers thrown in for good measure. I’d stay away from big, dumb blockbusters with their ridiculous plot and giant explosions. This concept lasted

Murder in the First: The Complete First Season DVD Review: Boring in the Second

Steven Bochco seems to have forgotten what decade it is and made a TV show from the late '80s.
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Even as a kid I knew the name Steven Bochco. I was too young to watch most of his shows (though Doogie Howser, M.D. was a personal favorite), and I certainly didn’t care about TV producers at the time but I still knew his name. Dude was the superstar of television dramas in the '80s. With Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue he nearly single-handedly created the template for modern adult dramas on broadcast TV. In 1995, well ahead of its time, he created Murder One, which was one of the very first crime shows to solve one

The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us Larry Sanders, Cybermen, women in prison, midwives, Charlie Chaplin, Bette Midler playing Janis Joplin, and more.
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“This is the theme to Garry’s show / the theme to Garry’s show / Garry called me up and asked me if I would write his theme song.” That’s the opening lines to the theme song to The Garry Shandling Show. It goes on like that, referencing itself and describing how the singer came to write the song. The show does that too, references itself, the characters seem to know they are on a television show and often bring the audience in on the gag. It was a great show. Or at least I think it was. I watched it

Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season DVD Review: Weak Story, Emotionally Wrecking

Season Two is more confined by its genres, but delivers the goods with its characters.
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When I heard they were making a second season of Broadchurch, I was both excited and a bit trepidatious. The first season was such a perfect little drama that I was afraid adding to it would ruin the entire thing. One of the central themes to season one was how this terrible crime deeply and tragically effected the small community of Broadchurch. My fear was that a second season would necessitate another murder occurring that would undermine the entire thing. This sort of thing happens all the time. A murder story is set in some unusual location so that we

Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the wonderful David Tennant, cyber hackers, Alzheimer's dramas, cartoon burgers, lesbian vampires, and more.
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A big thanks goes out to Gordon for finishing last week’s pick for me. I had actually written an entire article and submitted it with Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season as my pick. I was then informed that despite what Amazon said the release date had been pushed back a week. No problem, I thought I’ll just pick something else, write on it, and use what I’d said for Broadchurch the next week, and all would be well. Then my computer died. Gordon was kind enough to step in, chose a new pick, and all was right with the plan.

Inherent Vice is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a P.T. Anderson film that isn't as popular as I expected, a talking Bear that is, plus Mark Wahlberg, King Henry VII, and some bloody good bloody TV.
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For a moment I thought Inherent Vice was some kind of cheap knock-off film. Let me explain (no, no, there is too much, let me sum up), I was scanning through the new releases on Amazon as I do before writing this column. It is naturally sorted by best sellers. Inherent Vice was way down towards the bottom of the first page. I couldn’t believe that the real Inherent Vice - the one directed by P.T. Anderson and starring Joaquin Phoenix, Josh Brolin, Owen Wilson, and Reese Witherspoon would not be #1 on Amazon. Well, maybe it would be behind

Ghost Story: Turn of the Screw DVD Review: Should Have Turned It Off

A completely forgettable adaptation of a novel I'll never read.
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I don’t believe I have ever read a single word written by Henry James. I have a BA in English so presumably have read something, but if that is true, it made absolutely no impression on me. Sadly, this adaptation of James’ story The Turn of the Screw is likely to reach the same fate. It is utterly unremarkable in every way. It stars Michelle Dickery and Dan Stevens and came out about a year before both became huge stars in Downton Abbey. Retroactively, the film suffers from their stardom because I expect so much more from both of them.

Book Review: Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I by Shinobu Hashimoto

The screenwriter for some of Kurosawa's best films discusses their collaboration and more.
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Shinobu Hashimoto wrote the screenplays to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, Ikiru and The Seven Samurai. If you are keeping score, that’s three of the greatest films in the history of films. He wrote several more films with Kurosawa including Throne of Blood and The Hidden Fortress plus dozens more for other directors. Originally published in 2006, Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I is finally being made available in English by Vertical Inc. Having not heard of the book (or to be honest, the writer though I’m a great lover of Kurosawa) until about a week ago, I can’t say it was

Fortitude is the Pick of the Week

This week's new releases include a murder in the arctic, a sad Jennifer Aniston, Iranian vampires, Liam Neeson getting taken (again), and some arty foreign flicks.
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One of the best parts of writing this column every week is learning about all the movies and shows that are coming out that I’d somehow missed the first go round. I try to stay pretty well keyed in to what’s hitting the movie theaters each week and what’s showing on the TV, but there is just so much stuff coming out each and every day that it's impossible to know about it all. With this column I get to browse everything that’s coming out in a given week on DVD and Blu-ray and not a week goes by that

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not DVD Review: A Movie So Nice You'll Watch It Twice

A fun take on both the romantic comedy and femme fatale genres and so cleverly constructed that I never minded its flaws.
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Halfway through He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not the film literally rewinds itself and starts at the beginning. Only this time we see things through the eyes of another character and the events take on a wildly different feel. I would warn you of spoilers here but that little plot device is literally on the back of the DVD cover. It's on the Amazon description too. And IMDB. Unless you come to this movie completely blind - catch it while flipping through the channels or something - you are going to know the trick. It's a clever trick at

The Immigrant DVD Review: Finding Grace In the Worst of Times

If this is the American dream, why would anyone come here?
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Fleeing war torn Poland sisters Ewa (Marion Cotillard) and Magda (Angela Sarafyan) endure hardships and humiliations during the long boat ride to (hopefully) newfound freedom in America. It is not until later that we will get details of those horrors, but we catch a glimpse on Ellis Island when Magda is diagnosed with tuberculosis and Ewa is put into holding due to her “low morals.” Magda is put into the sick ward and Ewa is threatened with deportation until Bruno (Joaquin Phoenix) dashes in to claim and (hopefully) save her.Though Bruno is exceedingly kind at first and offers Ewa a

Maps to the Stars is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us new films by David Croneberg, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Tim Burton plus old films by Carol Reed and Preston Sturges and much more.
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Since I first started watching films, or at least taking them seriously, I’ve consumed them for their directors more than anything else. Writers develop the building blocks of a movie, actors add the color, producers build the scaffolding, but it's the directors who really make the movie what it is. I guess I was a fan of the auteur theory long before I even knew what that was. Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to watch some of my favorite directors' entire oeuvres. I started with the Coen Brothers, then moved onto Martin Scorsese, and am about to

A Most Violent Year is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us the Netflix rabbit hole, the Fighters of Foo, The Immigrant and some TV boxed sets.
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One of the best things about Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the other streaming services is finding something you’d never know about if not for them. I love browsing through the various suggestions on Netflix, clicking on something, then looking at what they suggest if I like that movie, then clicking on an actor from that film to see what else they have by him, etc, etc, and so forth. Down the rabbit hole, we go until something pops and I click play, often having never heard of the film before. I discovered Margin Call that way. That’s the 2011 drama

The Imitation Game is the Pick of the Week

It's a big week for interesting new releases including an Alan Turing biopic, a big outer-space epic, Reese Witherspoon getting real, Hugh Grant being Hugh Grant and much more.
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Whenever a film based upon real events comes out, there is always a lot of discussion over how historically accurate it is. There are always loud swaths of people who claim the film is nonsense or rubbish because it got one detail or another completely wrong. But then when the film is praised for its accuracy, the other swaths wind up calling it boring, or unnervingly slow. Between these two extremes lies the difficulties of making a "based upon a true story" movie. No matter how an exciting a life one might live, there are still going to be large

Into the Woods Blu-ray Review: Bringing Out My Inner Theatre Geek

Making me believe in big, bold musicals once again.
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When choosing Into the Woods as my pick of the week, I noted that I’m not as big of a theatre geek as I once imagined. Sometimes I get bored in the theatre and I’m finally in a place where I can not only admit that, but also be perfectly okay with it as well. I came to Rob Marshall’s movie version of Stephen Sondheim’s much-beloved musical with a lot of hopefulness, but also a touch of trepidation. What if I didn’t like it, or worse, what if I didn’t get it? I’m able to now say I’m not the

Into the Woods is the Pick of the Week

This week brings a big Hollywood musical, a bigger battle for Middle Earth, a collection of documentaries, neatly packaged fury, and Angelina Jolie as a director.
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A funny thing happened on the way to posting this week’s pick. Yesterday, I wrote the words you will read below, which is all about how I’ve developed mix feelings for the theatre. I was hopeful over Into the Woods, but was afraid that I wouldn’t like it and be forced to turn in my theatre-geek card. But before I could post it I had to put my daughter to bed, and when I returned, my wife had stolen the computer and refused to relinquish it until way past my bed time. A day has since passed and in that

The Soft Skin is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us early Truffaut, new Chris Rock, classic film noir, a silly sequel, and more.
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Before she became a stay-at-home mom (and forced me to get a real job, le sigh) my wife taught French at university. A small university. In Tennessee. She was the French department. Like all of it. The only person on campus that spoke French, I think. She made a real go of it, offering as many classes as she could but also hosting regular crepe days, celebrating French holidays, and inviting the kids to our house for the viewing of French films. My wife is a francophile and she lives to share that passion. Especially with me. I like to

The Sound of Music (50th Anniversary Edition) is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a Bible story, a silly remake, a sillier b-movie, and hills coming alive.
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My sophomore year in college I started working for the university dinner theatre via the work study program. The previous semester I’d worked for the library and found it extraordinarily dull. I wasn’t all that interested in the theatre at that point, but I was happy to no longer be staring at book spines all day. Turns out, I absolutely adored the theatre work and stayed there the rest of my academic career. It was a small school and an even smaller theatre so I was often called upon to help out with the various productions we put on. I

Foxcatcher is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a very serious Steve Carell, a not so humble Al Pacino, an old Robin Hood, and a gruff sheriff.
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Wrestling (real wrestling - not that soap-opera stuff you see on cable TV) is an odd sort of sport. You basically dress two people in tights, toss them on a rubber mat, and watch while they try to roll each other on the ground. I know there is more to it than that and I don’t mean to belittle the sport’s rich history, its athleticism, or the skill involved, but really it is pretty silly. Which probably helps explain why it never really took off professionally (aside from the even more silly aforementioned soap-opera stuff) and why there aren’t a

Lillies DVD Review: A Bittersweet Post-war Drama

With but one season in existence, Lillies makes a nice snack between larger Television meals.
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Lillies is a costume drama that ran on the BBC for one season in 2007. It was set in Liverpool in 1920. The story revolved around three sisters: Iris (Catherine Tyldesley), Ruby (Kerrie Hayes), and May (Leanne Rowe.) Plus their father (Brian McCardie), brother Billy (Daniel Rigby), and various friends and potential lovers. It is loosely based on the stories creator Heidi Thomas' grandmother used to tell of her life in the early 1920s. The girls all dream of bigger and better lives but are held back by their loving, but often hard, harsh, and drunk father. He can’t bare

Whiplash is the Pick of the Week

This week features two Oscar winners, two Criterions, and a quaint historical drama.
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Out of all the winners (and even nominees) of last night’s Oscars, I’ve seen exactly one (The Grand Budapest Hotel). That’s low by even my standards. I’ve lamented in these pages before how I rarely get out to the movies anymore, but this year it was even worse. This is mainly due to me losing my privileges as a stay-at-home dad and having to go out and get a job. Employment means being away from the house for many hours at a time which means less time to take in a film (though I must add being a stay-at-home dad

Serangoon Road DVD Review: It Might Be HBO but It Plays Like Broadcast TV

HBO Asia's first foray into original programming brings forth an entertaining, but ultimately disappointing crime drama.
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HBO has been making must-see TV for a couple of decades now. Its original programming is consistently not only the best in its time-slot but often the best that’s ever aired in the history of television. A brief glance at the shows its created - from The Larry Sanders Show to The Sopranos, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Band of Brothers - and you wind up with a handful of the best TV the world has ever produced. It's not just a marketing gimmick to say that’s it's not just TV, it's HBO, for the cable channel really has pushed

Crime Scene Cleaner DVD Review: A Job Ripe With Comedy

Seriously, Hollywood, take a cue from the Germans and make more shows like this.
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If you listed out jobs that seem terribly unpleasant to perform, you’d likely hit upon things like garbage man, porta-potty maintenance, and road-kill remover. I’m not sure you’d think of crime scene cleaner. I’m not even sure that’s a real job. It makes a certain amount of sense as I don’t see that the police are going to clean up after your murders and homeowners aren’t likely to fee like mopping up after Aunt Betty’s decomposed on the living-room couch. But it's not exactly the sort of job you see listed on or the local classifieds all too often.

Birdman is the Pick of the Week

This week has us talking about has-been super-heroes, Japanese folk-tales, dumb comedies, and life itself.
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Last year, I moved from a teeny tiny little town in Tennessee to a slightly larger one in Oklahoma. The benefit of the slightly larger one is that it's fairly close to a much larger city, namely Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now, Tulsa isn’t the most cosmopolitan of metropolises. It isn’t the biggest and brightest of places in the universe. It's not even the largest city in Oklahoma, and lord knows Oklahoma rarely shows up on anybody’s places you want to be. But it has its appeal. It has some nice shopping, some big parks, a couple of museums (and while they

Nicolas Le Floch Volume Two DVD Review: Sword Fights and Laughter

A silly French historical crime drama delivers good mysteries and some hearty laughs.
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Nicolas Le Floch is a French crime series that began in France in October of 2008. Each series contains two episodic short films (lasting roughly 90 minutes each.) It is being brought to the US market by MHZ Mysteries. Volume Two contains episodes 7-10. It stars Jérôme Robart as Nicholas Le Floch, Marquis of Ranreuil, Commissaire of the Châtelet which is the flowery French way of saying detective. He solves crimes in 18th century Paris. It is based upon a series of novels by Jean-François Parot. I had not seen any previous episodes before coming to this set, but jumping

Marie's Mind For Murder Set One DVD Review: The German Mr. Monk

For detective genre fans, Marie's Mind for Murder is a nice bit of diversionary television.
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If you took Mr. Monk with all his eccentricities, but dialed back the OCD then mixed him with Dr. House without the anger issues, you’d have something approaching Marie Brand. She’s a bit eccentric but she’s got a brilliant mind. She’s retired from the police force but is unexpectedly brought back to solve a murder. She works best alone, but is teamed up with her exact opposite. Still, they are good at what they do and compliment each other superbly. Marie’s Mind For Murder takes the classic police procedural cliches and runs with it. It stars a mix-matched pair of

The Story of Adele H DVD Review: Of Love and Madness

The tragic true story of Victor Hugo's daughter.
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Though Americans often think of his novels (and the musical based upon one novel), Victor Hugo is better known in his native France as a poet. During his lifetime, he was also a politician and his writings against the death penalty helped abolish the act in many places. His politics also got him into a great deal of trouble as he became exiled from France after Napoleon III seized power and declared himself emperor. Hugo had five children - one died in infancy, the second drowned at 19, his two boys were both well-loved artists, and his daughter, Adèle, like

Nightcrawler is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us social commentaries, based-on true stories, foreign horror, and a drugged-up nurse.
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In Nightcrawler, Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a seedy young man who makes a name for himself filming crime scenes and selling them to a local Los Angeles news station which in turn uses it to draw larger and larger viewers to their screens. They come, of course, in droves, leading Lou to make more videos with more lurid crimes and eventually pushes him to manipulate the scenes. That’s an interesting set up and one rife with social commentary. It is almost cliche to talk about the media-saturated world in which we live, and yet here we are. The standard

International Settlement DVD Review: A Forgotten, Forgettable Film That Has Its Pleasures

A minor and forgotten B-picture winds up being surprisingly entertaining.
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Fox Cinema Archives continues to release nearly everything from their extensive vault whether or not anyone actually cares for them to, or if the films are even worth the effort. Case in point is the 1938 film International Settlement. I can’t imagine anyone really pushing for it to come out on DVD. I did a little searching for information about the film and found very little. Most of the websites that come up are various stores wanting to sell it to you, with little information about the film itself or even the DVD. Leonard Maltin dedicates two sentences to it

Agatha Christie's Poirot: Series 13 DVD Review: The Very End of Poirot

With these five movies David Suchet has now played the detective in every Poirot story Agatha Christie ever wrote.
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All good things must eventually end. And so it it with Poirot. After 22 years, 13 series, and 65 films Agatha Christie’s Poirot has come to its conclusion. With Curtain: Poirot's Last Case, David Suchet has played Hercule Poirot in every story Agatha Christie wrote about the famed detective.That is quite a spectacular achievement when you think about it. Now anytime you read a Poirot story you can sit back and watch the movie too. Students everywhere studying the Belgian sleuth can now literally watch all the movies before they read the stories. That’s quite wonderful, really. This last season

John Wick is the Pick of the Week

After missing a week I'm back talking about Keanu Reeves, the search for happiness, Australian nurses and more.
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My computer crashed last week. Well, no, that is not exactly true, my computer got very sick so I reformatted it. It had been running very slow for a few months. Strangely, it got ridiculously slow whenever I ran iTunes. Like every 90 seconds or so, it would just lock up for a minute or two, then run fine only to freak out again after a little while. This would be exasperating to anyone but it was hopeless to someone like me who spends inordinate amounts of time listening to and manipulating music. I looked around a bit online to

ANZAC Girls DVD Review: Ladies at War and in Love

The exciting true story of Australian nurses serving in WWI.
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The Australian & New Zealand Army Corps (or ANZAC for short) nurses played an extremely important and nearly untold part of World War I. They were often extremely close to the front lines and thus saw the very face of war while trying to heal the horrifically wounded men in sordid and sometimes terrible conditions. Peter Rees’ book “The Other ANZACS” tells the story of five of those nurses and the Australian Broadcasting Network has brought it to television. Now Acorn Media has brought it to America via a wonderful DVD collection. The five girls are Sisters Olive Haynes (Anna

Above Suspicion: Complete Collection DVD Review: It's No Prime Suspect, but It Aint Half Bad

It's impossible not to compare it to La Plante's other series, but it is well worth watching.
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It is nearly impossible for the reviewer not to compare Above Suspicion with Prime Suspect. Both shows were created and largely written by Lynda La Plante, their protagonists are both young, inexperienced but intuitive and very ambitious police women tackling high-profile murder cases. Both protagonists likewise have to battle sexism, incompetence, and politics on the job. Both series are also very enjoyable though it must be said Above Suspicion (and its lead character and the actress who plays her) are no Prime Suspect (nor Jane Tennyson, nor Helen Mirren) in terms of quality, ambition, and cultural influence. Prime Suspect is

The Drop (2014) is the Pick of the Week

Rest in peace, James Gandolfini.
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It was a rough year to be a celebrity in 2014. It seems like we lost a lot of greats. There were some such as Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, and Shirley Temple whose deaths, while very sad, were not a shock to hear about. But then there were others, Harold Ramis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Robin Williams - whose deaths were like a blow to the head. A great bit punch in our collective guts. Hoffman and Williams especially, their deaths made more tragic by the means in which they happened. I want to include James Gandolfini in that list,

Gone Girl is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us David Fincher's latest thriller, an empires final boardwalk, a Hendrix biopic, a space documentary and The Facts of Life.
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I very much like to read, I’m just not very good at it. Or rather I’m not very good at making the time to read more than a few pages at a time. Between movies, TV, games, Facebook, music, work, and family I rarely make myself sit down for long stretches with a good book. Honestly, I do most of my reading on the toilet, or sometimes at the dinner table (when my wife doesn’t let out that groaning sigh that tells me she’d like a little attention rather than the pages in front of me). Now and again I’ll

Boyhood is the Pick of the Week

After a week off I'm looking for movies about boys, girls, a former wizard growing horns, and Nick Cage in his most inexplicable role ever.
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I took last week off to spend some time with my wife’s family. Her clan are a bit spread out with the parents living in Kentucky, one brother in North Carolina, the other in Nashville. We now live in Oklahoma, all of which makes it rather difficult for us all to see each other at the same time. We always try to meet up over the Christmas break, and if the star align properly, we might all of us gather sometime in the summer. The brothers have three boys amongst them, two born months apart some 13 years ago and

The Night Porter Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Nazi Love Story

Its a thin line between exploitation and art.
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Normally I’d say that the space between True Art and exploitation is wide and wandering, but if The Night Porter teaches us anything, it's that the line is actually pretty thin. It's story is pure sleaze - A Nazi SS officer reunites with his former concentration-camp prisoner thirteen years after the war. A sadomasochistic love affair ensues. But in the hands of director Liliana Cavani, it becomes something more - a meditation on love, guilt, and redemption. It reminds me a bit of Boxcar Bertha, a typical Roger Corman B-Grade flick elevated by the talents and artistic brilliance of a

Pride (2014) is the Pick of the Week

It's a slow week and I'm using that as an excuse to say very little.
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When I’m not writing about movies and televisions shows, I run The Midnight Cafe, a little blog that deals in unofficially released concert recordings, or "bootlegs" as they are sometimes called. I own thousands upon thousands of hours of live music that was kindly recorded by untold fans just wanting to share their passion. I lovingly upload these shows into the cloud and share them freely with whoever wants them. Mostly, I just post the shows with the pertinent information included and leave the discussion to the comment section. But I’m a writer at heart and sometimes I like to

Arrested Development: Season Four is the Pick of the Week

Another banner week of releases as Christmas comes near.
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So often when writing this series I have to admit that I haven’t seen the things that I pick, or even the ones I highlight. I rarely make it to the movie theater anymore and since I cut the cord at home, I inevitably have to wait until TV series come out on DVD before I get a chance to watch them. Sadly, I now have to admit that even though Arrested Development: Season 4 has been out for some time and that I’ve had a subscription to Netflix on which I could watch it and that I’m a huge

Intruders DVD Review: Moody Paranormal Thriller Looks Good but Lacks Depth

An interesting premise that's well executed but not entirely thought through.
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To review something is, at least in some ways, to spoil it. You simply cannot talk about the quality of Art without at least giving away part of its secrets. There is pretty much constant debate over how much a reviewer should spoil, and at which point the review needs to add in the dreaded "spoiler alert." We’ve been arguing over spoilers since there was art. Somewhere some caveman got his head split in because he gave away the ending to the newest wall painting. As a great consumer of visual art and a reviewer. I try to stay as

Book Review: Popeye: Classic Newspaper Comics, Volume Two 1989-1998: A Surprisingly Modern and Adult Take On The Classic Character

If you think Popeye is some silly kids comic from a bygone era, think again.
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Popeye is not something I’ve ever cared about. No wait, scratch that, I loved the Robert Altman movie starring Robin Williams as the Sailor Man. But all the other incarnations were nothing I was ever really interested in. I do remember watching the cartoon at my grandmother's as a kid. I don't remember seeing it at home which means it must have been on a cable channel we didn’t get and that I only watched it because it was boring at Grandma's. We used to pretend to be Popeye every now and again but there is really only so many

Guardians of the Galaxy is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us several Criterions, more Woody Allens, three TV collections, a talking, space traveling raccoon and so much more.
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My recent visit to Wizard World solidified the fact that while I like geeky things I am not in anyway a full-fledged geek. This is especially true when it comes to comic-book movies. News will come out that some new superhero is hitting the big screen and the Internet goes wild. Speculation starts on who they should cast, cyber wars are waged when the cast lists are actually announced. Web sites are broken from the massive spikes in traffic whenever the posters, images, trailers, and other media are released. We collectively go crazy. I used to get caught up in

The Strange Color Of Your Body's Tears Blu-ray Review: Bizarre, Incomprehensible, and Mesmerizing

A hallucinatory fever dream of a film that is surprising, strange and wonderful.
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After watching The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears, you’ll probably have a lengthy discussion with your viewing partner about style versus substance. That is if your partner hasn’t fallen asleep or left the theatre in a rage. It's the sort of film that will likely sharply divide its audiences. It's either a beautifully poetic, deeply intellectual masterpiece or pretentious trash depending on who you ask. The story for what there is (and what there is is very little) concerns a man, Dan (Klaus Tange), who comes home from a business trip to find his apartment door locked from the

Austin City Limits Celebrates 40 Years is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us an excellent concert series, some damn, dirty apes, short journeys, vampires, and more.
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I’ve been blogging now for a little over ten years. I started back in 2004 when my wife and I spent a year living in Strasbourg, France. Initially it was solely a journal of my experience abroad. I invited a few friends and family that I thought might enjoy reading about my adventures, but mostly kept it private. Eventually I got bored writing about baguettes and started writing pop culture reviews. At first that was just for fun, a way to kill some time while my wife was at work, but over time I got serious about it. If you

Drunk History: Seasons 1 & 2 Are the Picks of the Week

I'm taking a chance that an odd comedy will actually tickle my funny bone.
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I have an unusual sense of humor. I generally don’t find the things that the apparent majority of people find hilarious to be in the least bit amusing. I’ve never enjoyed a Farrelly Brothers' film or any movie associated with Judd Apatow. I’ve got no use for Hangovers or elderly Virgins. I stare at the Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men dumbfoundedly wondering how anybody could find any ounce of humor in any of it. Broad comedy almost always falls flat to my ears and even more esoteric and odd comic film like Borat or Archer barely

The Rolling Stones: From the Vault - L.A. Forum (Live in 1975) DVD Review: It's Only a Concert Video, But I Like It

The band shows why they remain the very definition of rock and roll.
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In a thousand years, at universities all over the world, in classes titled "Rock N Roll 101," professors will lay a needle on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and that’s all they’ll need to say. When aliens land on our planet and ask us what this rock thing is all about, we’ll take them to a Rolling Stones concert and they’ll hold off the invasion. For more than fifty years The Rolling Stones have been the very definition of rock and roll. Early rockers like Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly blended the blues with folk and country creating something new

It Happened One Night is the Pick of the Week

The Christmas season keeps bringing all sorts of great stuff.
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When I bought my first DVD player back in 1999 I vowed that I would only buy really great movies - the classics, interesting indies, fantastic foreign flicks, etc. I wanted to develop a collection of the world’s best movies with no fluff. That died out with in a few months. At the time DVDs were still really rather expensive, running about $20 or more per film. Every now and again, I’d find a used sale at Blockbuster or some such place and you could grab something for ten or sometimes even five dollars. Such a bargain price often made

Borgen: The Complete Series DVD Review: Danish Politics Fit For Americans

Borgen makes the incomprehensible Danish political system not only understandable but lots of fun to watch.
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Borgen is a Danish political drama that ran for three seasons from 2010 to 2014. It tells the story of Brigitte Nyborg (Sidse Babett Knudsen) who through a series extraordinary events becomes Prime Minister. The show follows Nyborg - a charismatic, idealistic, and sometime naive politician - as she tries to lead a very divided government, maintain some semblance of a personal life, and take care of her husband and children. The show also follows a group of political journalists who follow Nyborg's career, with a focus on an ambitious anchor, Katrine Fønsmark (Birgitte Hjort Sørensen.) Danish politics are much

Lots of TV Series Sets are the Pick of the Week

Halloween is over so its time for the Christmas season and with it lots of big TV collections.
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You’ve got to love the (extended) Christmas season. It seems like every year it gets pushed farther and farther up the calendar. I’ve barely taken down my Halloween stuff and already the stores are flooded with Christmas decorations and the radio is playing non-stop carols. There’s plenty of reasons to get annoyed with that - the crass commercialism, the lack of decent music, the spoiling of any specialness the season actually has, etc., but as a collector I gotta say I love it. From now until the end of the year there are going to be sales and deals on

Saturday at Wizard World Tulsa: My First Con Experience

My first ever Con found me checking out cosplayers and listening to James Marsters and William Shatner.
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When I learned I’d be going to Wizard World's Tulsa Comic Con this past weekend, I was excited and a little nervous. I’d never been to a Con before, and while I have certain dorky tendencies, I don’t consider myself a full-blown geek. I’ve read a few graphic novels and manga, but I don’t haunt the comic book store. I’ve seen almost all of the superhero movies, but rarely have they been caught in the theatre. I like science fiction movies and stories but not more so than any other genre. And while I play a lot of games, they

Book Review: Puck: What Fools These Mortals Be!: Political Cartooning at its Finest

A collection of historic, important, and just a little bit esoteric political cartoons from a bygone era
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Political cartoons have been around since the early 1700s though they didn’t really come into their own until the later part of the 18th Century with the advent of the French Revolution. It took Punch, a weekly British magazine to firmly establish the medium as something that could have a real impact on the culture and political landscape. Now at the beginning of the 21st with newspapers, editorials, and the comics pages disappearing all together it's difficult to understand what great influence the political cartoonist wielded. But wield it, they did. In 1884, at the height of its power, Puck

Stanley Kubrick: Masterpiece Collection is the Pick of the Week

Christmas is coming and with it comes big boxed sets and lots of TV collections.
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For nearly as long as I can remember and certainly for as long as I’ve taken cinema seriously ,I’ve been a follower of the auteur theory. Even at a young age, I realized how influential a director was to the overall development and final artistic vision of a film. To this day, I tend to refer to films by their director rather than their stars or plot lines. The best directors leave their stamp on a movie no matter the genre. Stanley Kubrick was truly an auteur in every meaning of the word. You can tell its one of his

Earth to Echo Blu-ray Review: Steven Spielberg's Lawyers Ought to Be Happy

A nostalgic family film that wants to remind you of classic '80s adventure movies, but instead made me chuck things at my TV.
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I recently wrote about how I’ve become obsessed with the idea of watching all the old movies I loved as a kid with my own child. There is something really wonderful about the sharing of films that meant a great deal to yourself as you grew up with your own offspring as they grow older. Along with this, I’ve began to wonder what new films my daughter will love. What films will she take with her to college and get all nostalgia-eyed with her suite mates and girlfriends? What will be her Karate Kid? Her Gremlins? At three, she’s really

Album Review: Dr. Katz Live: The Classic Animated Comedy Live and on Stage

There's no squigglevision, but the laughs are as strong as they ever were.
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For my first three years of college I didn’t have a TV. I had a radio but never listened to it, and I stopped subscribing to music magazines. I did watch a lot of movies but for the most part I was living in a pop-culture void. I didn’t really miss it and I can't say that I missed much. Although I still sometimes find myself wondering what the deal with Friends was. My senior year I moved into an apartment with three other guys and one of them had a TV. I started trying to catch up with all

Deliver Us from Evil (2014) is the Pick of the Week

Surprisingly its a weak week for scary movies, but a good one for everything else.
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In case you’ve been stuck inside without any form of media (or a calendar) over the last month, Halloween is this Friday. I love this holiday more than just about any other day. I love the weather, the candy, the scary movies and dressing my kid up in some ridiculous costume. I just love every little bit of it. For years now, my wife and I have hosted a pumpkin-carving party. We invite all of our friends over, decorate the house, dress up the kids, fill every bowl with candy, put Thriller on the stereo, and carve little orange vegetables
Hollywood has been remaking movies for nearly as long as its been making them. It does seem that the last few years, going back as far as maybe a decade, that the movie machine has been churning out remakes at a faster and faster speed. As subset of the remakes are prequels and reimaginings, which I seem to be seeing more and more as the days roll on. More recently we’ve got the post-Wicked retellings of old stories from the villains point of view. This has been popular in fiction for awhile coming on fast ever since Wicked, Gregory Maguire’s

Book Review: Lit Up Inside: Selected Lyrics by Van Morrison: You've Heard the Songs, Now Read the Lyrics

Have I told you lately that I love Van Morrison?
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That Van Morrison is one of the greatest singer-songwriters in the whole of pop music there is no doubt. That he is also an old soul Irish poet few would argue against. He is a true legend. One of the most unique and brilliant voices of rock and roll the world has ever known. Don’t you know, he’s got soul? And heart. And pure genius. For over 50 years he’s been making some of the most remarkable music in just about any genre. From rock to jazz, blues to gospel, skiffle to Celtic - Van Morrison has played them all.

Book Review: Percy Crosby's Skippy: Daily Comics 1931-1933: Long-forgotten Magic

With any luck this collection will bring Skippy back to the public consciousness - it certainly deserves it.
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Skippy was created by Percy Crosby and ran from 1923 to 1945. In its time it was hugely popular, highly acclaimed, and adapted into movies, novels, radio shows, and even got its very own postage stamp. Crosby got fabulously rich off of syndication rights and merchandise (though Skippy peanut butter never paid him a dime even though they completely ripped off the name and his art work). They say he made more money than the President of the United States in his prime, which was apparently a popular metric at the time. The comic is widely considered one of the

Snowpiercer is the Pick of the Week

This week's releases include a highly acclaimed science fiction movie, several complete television collections, an HBO special, and more.
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My in-laws have been spending the week with us. Mostly this is just swell as they are wonderful people who have been very kind to me in the 14 years that I’ve been involved with their daughter. They make great sitters for my daughter as well. It really is nice to have them around, but it does wreak havoc on parts of my life. This is especially true of my entertainment consumption. There are lots of things I cannot watch when they are around. Part of this is simply that I’m in the middle of a series and they won’t

Book Review: Owsley and Me by Rhoney Gissen Stanley: An Insider's Guide to the '60s

Making music, love, and enough LSD to get the whole world high.
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Owsley Stanley is not a household name, but he probably should be. He was financier and soundman of the Grateful Dead in their early, transformative years. As a sound engineer he was revolutionary. In the primal days of rock 'n' roll, bands tended to plug into whatever crappy sound system the venue had and just made do. Usually, these places weren’t intended for rock concerts and the sound sucked. There weren’t even monitors on stage so the band could hear themselves play. Owsley changed all that. He invented systems that are still in use in concert venues all over the

The Honorable Woman DVD Review: A Slow, Dense and Immensely Entertaining Thriller

A densely plotted drama that loses none of its depth while remaining thrilling to watch.
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Awhile back I made a pact with myself to not get involved in internet discussions of politics. There were many reasons for this but the main one was that nobody’s mind is ever changed via Facebook. A big part of the why this is comes from the lack of nuance one typically gets with an internet argument. We speak in gifs and memes and argue in soundbites. Big ideas, important topics, and certainly national politics are much too complicated to be settled in 140 characters. This is true not only in our social media, but in our TV, radio, and

X-Men: Days of Future Past is the Pick of the Week

The film matched all of the promise of the concept.
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I like the idea of X-Men more than I usually like the execution. The mutant concept with all of the different and interesting powers coming from genetics is really neat. I also love that the ideas behind the mutants can be connected philosophically to our fights against racism and homophobia, but can also connect to anyone, individually, who doesn’t fit in. It's comic book heroes with an important message that’s also super cool. Unfortunately, the execution of this concept hasn’t always paid off for me. I’ve seen all the Hollywood movies and while I’ve enjoyed them as big blockbuster summer-type

Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition is the Pick of the Week

I can't wait for my little girl to grow up with me and movies.
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There is a fairly constant discussion in my home over the television. Or rather how much of it my child should be watching. There are lots of studies, blogs, and opinions on the matter with a great many who will tell you that she shouldn’t watch any. TV is the opiate of the masses, the boob-tube, a bad babysitter, etc. It rots the brain. My wife and I sometimes side with those thoughts and try to not let her watch any. Except when we do. Which is often. Sometimes you just have to. Like when you are trying to clean

Chef is the Pick of the Week

I'm not at all a foodie, but I'd like to be.
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In college, I had a friend who majored in theater. One day he hit me up to help him out with a project. It was for his directing class and I was to be his actor. It was no big deal, he assured me, as I wasn’t meant to really act. This assignment was all about staging - where to place bodies to create an interesting picture from the audience. I didn’t need to memorize lines or nothing. I agreed and my friend Kellie and I spent a couple of days with Charlie learning where to stand when we said

The Exorcist: The Complete Anthology and Halloween: The Complete Collection Are the Picks of the Week

As Halloween creeps near its time to start bringing out the big horror collections.
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A couple of years back I decided to finally sit down and watch the notoriously graphic horror movie A Serbian Film. My wife was at work so she couldn’t complain and my daughter was maybe 9 or 10 months old and also unable to protest. I like horror movies. I have since I was a teen. I even dig some of the really gory stuff. Or at least I like to be able to say I've watched the grossest of the gross. So it was with A Serbian Film. Its reputation as one of the nastiest films ever made only

Criterion's Eraserhead is the Pick of the Week

David Lynch's bizarre, brilliant masterpiece gets the Criterion make-over.
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People always carry on about how wonderful children are - how amazing and beautiful they can be, how they change your life and show you what love truly is. Mostly I find all that crap to be B.S., but there is some truth in how they change your life. Before I had a kid I actually had a life. Now I spend every waking moment feeding, cleaning up after, bathing, changing, and otherwise taking care of the little rugrat. I love my daughter more than anything in this entire universe, but I’d be lying if I said there weren’t days

Line of Duty Series 2 DVD Review: A Tired Genre Made Good

Series Two doesn't stray too far from the premise it set up in Series One, but that's not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
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When we talk about this new golden age of television, we seem to always be talking about American TV. Certainly there has been a wealth of great American TV to enter our households over the last many years, but it seems a shame that British television is so often neglected in those discussions. I’d argue that the Brits have not yet created a show with the scope and depth of something like The Wire or Breaking Bad (though Life on Mars gets close) but they are really great at taking a classic genre and making it as good as it

A Long Way Down is the Pick of the Week

Despite not liking a good number of his books, I can't help but love Nick Hornby.
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I first heard of Nick Hornby through the movie version of his musically obsessed book High Fidelity. The film stars John Cusack as Rob, a down-on-his-luck, record-store owner whose entire life has been influenced by pop songs and who tends to spend his day making mix tapes for pretty girls and Top Five lists of favorite every things. After watching that film, pretty much all of my friends turned to me and mentioned that it must have been based on my life. That’s not true, of course, but it could have been. Certainly large chunks of my life have been

Book Review: Alfred Hitchcock's America by Murray Pomerance: Not for the Faint of Heart

My suspicion is unless you are a frenzied scholar this book might notoriously turn you psycho.
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In 1939, at the age of 40, Alfred Hitchcock moved to America. He’d had huge success as a filmmaker in Britain, but Hollywood was calling, and as so many others before him and after, Hitchcock answered that call. As scholar Murray Pomerance writes in Alfred Hitchcock’s America, the famed director loved America and was both highly influenced by and greatly influenced it himself. Certainly he made his greatest films while living in America, many of which have come to represent the very ideals of this country. Pomerance comes to these films from a cultural and political standpoint and this book

Line of Duty Series 2 is the Pick of the Week

This week brings some good TV and some classic monsters.
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It seems like forever since I’ve had a really challenging pick of the week. Hardly at all this summer have I had to really choose between two or three items that I was really interested in. More than once the picks have been between something kind of interesting and something else that might be ok. It not that there hasn’t been anything that I think will be good, and looking back on the things I did pick I recognize there’s been some really nice releases. But I don’t recall a week where I was blown away by all the great

Blandings, Series 2 is the Pick of the Week

P.G. Wodehouse's wonderful characters make it to the small screen.
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I can’t remember when I first heard of P.G. Wodehouse. He seems to just always exist in my memory. I do remember the first time I read one of his books - I wasn’t particularly impressed. His writing was good and there were lots of funny parts, but nothing very much really happened. The plot was as light as a puff pastry just out of the oven. This threw me at first, but after reading a couple more I learned to just let go and enjoy the wonderfulness of his prose. The thing to me about Wodehouse is that he’s

A Young Doctor's Notebook DVD Review: And You Thought Don Draper Was A Dark Character

Dead babies, botched amputations, and lots of laughs.
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It must be a difficult experience for an actor to try and move beyond starring in a successful series. You work so hard to find success and then when it comes you can be overshadowed by it. There are examples after examples after examples of actors finding success in a movie or television series only to either get caught playing the same sorts of characters for the rest of their careers or to sink into obscurity. Both Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe know all about this struggle. Radcliffe having starred as Harry Potter in eight hugely successful films and Hamm

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! is the Pick of the Week

This week sees two foreign releases from Criterion and some excellent television.
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Some folks wax nostalgic about the days when MTV actually played music videos; I get all teary eyed thinking about the days when Bravo showed independent and foreign films commercial free. It was there, on this channel that is now full of Top Chefs and Real Housewives, where I got my first taste of world cinema. As a teenager who had grown up watching family-oriented blockbusters like The Goonies, The Karate Kid, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, seeing art-house films from places like Italy, France, and Sweden was an exotic revelation. I don’t know that I really understood what

Batman: Assault on Arkham Blu-ray Review: Better than Its Straight to Video Release Implies

Who needs Batman when you've got the Suicide Squad?
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A title that should have more appropriately been called Suicide Squad: Assault on Arkham is never-the-less an enjoyable entry into the DC animated universe. Batman is nothing more than a secondary character here used mainly to move some plotting along. No doubt the marketing people had a play in the title knowing that Batman is a much more marketable name than Suicide Squad. I can’t say it doesn’t work as I never would have been interested in reviewing it as until now I’d never heard of the Suicide Squad. To catch up those not in the know, the Suicide Squad

The Railway Man is the Pick of the Week

I’m always interested in seeing the films Colin Firth is in because even if the film's rubbish, you can count on his performance.
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My wife, like all red-blooded women (and more than a few red-blooded men) loves Colin Firth. She practically drools anytime his name gets mentioned and goes weak in the knees when he appears on screen. This is mostly due to his appearance as Mr. Darcy in an old A&E miniseries adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. I’ve tried to watch that thing several times myself, but can never get more than half an hour in before I’m digging my eyes out with a salad spoon out of sheer boredom. But I can see what she means about old Colin. He has

Community: The Complete Fifth Season is the Pick of the Week

It's a reasonable bet that I’ll be buying it on DVD sooner or later.
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We finally get high speed internet last Wednesday. It is a little ridiculous how excited I am about it. I spent a good chunk of this evening resubscribing to Netflix and adding new stuff to my queue. Thing is, because I’m still with terrible internet, this process took me a couple of hours. I got to the home page, clicked on "sign in" and waited, and waited. And waited some more. I’d refresh and wait. Close out and start again. And wait. Then it let me sign in except I couldn’t remember my password. I’d ask it for a new

Noah (2014) is the Pick of the Week

Darren Aronofsky used nearly all the tricks in his arsenal to create a visually stunning and well-crafted movie.
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I went to see Noah with a group of friends on opening weekend. We were a pretty diverse bunch in terms of politics, education, and cinematic interest (one guy can count on one hand the number of movies he's seen since he got married five years ago.) But we all shared an interest in religion and were interested in seeing this Biblical tale told on the big screen. Our reactions were about as diverse as who we vote for. The Biblical literalist hated it for taking liberties with the text. The Republican hated it for pushing what he thought was

Chiller: The Complete Television Series DVD Review: Not Worth Your Time

Mostly, it's completely forgettable.
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Horror seems uniquely suited for an anthology series. Since horror, unlike many other genres, relies heavily on big reveals at the end it becomes difficult to keep up the thrills and chills for more than an hour or two. An anthology allows you to tell lots of different stories and (potentially) scare the hell out of everyone time and time again while likewise retaining a certain amount of name recognition under one title. It makes sense then that TV and film producers would be interested in telling unrelated tales underneath a single banner. Certainly this bares itself out with numerous

The Essential Jacques Demy is the Pick of the Week

What I have seen looks like pure joy.
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Living with my parents is beginning to take its toll. After much looking and consideration, we decided to move into an apartment while we start the process of building our own home. It's much smaller than the rental houses we looked at but the money saved makes it worth the irritation. However, the apartment we wanted is not available until August 5, which is why we’re still living with my parents. My parents are lovely people and incredibly kind. While their house is rather large, it’s still pretty cramped when you put both of our families (and all of our

Persona (1966) Criterion Collection Review: An Absolute Must-have

A great film that should be watched and revered by any serious cinephile
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Everyone agrees that Ingmar Bergman is one of the greatest director’s of world cinema. Almost no one disagrees that his films can be difficult to watch and even more so to understand. I’ve long held the theory than when Americans say that they do no like foreign language films they really just don’t like Bergman. Even if they’ve never heard his name or watched his films, his style of intellectual, arty, often-incomprehensible cinema is exactly the sort of thing that turns people off from non-Hollywood movies. I’ll admit that while I do hold the director in the highest esteem, and

Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th DVD Review: Jason, Jason, and More Jason

If you love this series, then this will no doubt get your slasher-juices flowing.
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Looking to cash in on the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween, Paramount Pictures hired Sean S. Cunningham to produce and direct a new horror film. That movie was 1980's Friday the 13th. It was not the first slasher film ever nor anything close to the best but something about it spoke to audiences all over the world to the tune of nearly $40 million. It spawned nine sequels, a television series, a Nightmare on Elm Street crossover film, a 2009 reboot, and numerous novels and comic books. Jason Voorhees and his hockey-mask-wearing, machete-yielding self has become a horror icon. The

Under the Skin is the Pick of the Week

I pray that it becomes more than another footnote on the Mr. Skin webpage.
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Random story: my father recently got on my mother’s computer which is set up slightly different than his own device. Mom’s homepage is set to Google, whereas my father prefers Yahoo. Dad actually googled “yahoo” then clicked on the link and searched for whatever it was he was actually looking for. Thing is, my dad is actually relatively computer literate. He’s had a computer since the early '90s, been online since 1996, was an early adapter to digital photography and can draw house plans on his CAD program like a master. Yet somehow search engines still elude him. I frackin’

Nymphomaniac Volume 1 & Volume 2 is the Pick of the Week

I've been meaning to check out Lars von Trier's films for a long time. This week's pick just might get me there.
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I suppose every film lover keeps some sort of list of films they feel they should watch at some point. Mine is an ever increasingly growing and perpetually changing list. The films I watch from that list are chosen from a variety of factors ranging from free time to accessibility to mood. There are quite a few films that I very much want to watch but that I feel like I have to be in a certain head space to really appreciate. There are some directors whose work often falls into this category. I generally love the films of Ingmar

Cannibal Holocaust is the Pick of the Week

It is absolutely not a film for everyone, but it is an essential viewing for horror fanatics.
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In the small town in Oklahoma where I grew up, we had a surprisingly big video store. They had taken over a Burger King that had gone out of business (and that tells you right there how "small town" we were) so the floor space was rather large and they had a really wonderful and eclectic selection of odd-ball movies. I especially enjoyed their horror section. They had the usual collection of psycho killers slashing at sexy teens (this was the '80s after all) but they also had more unusual stuff like the Faces of Death series, Shocking Asia, Vampyros

A Hard Day's Night is the Pick of the Week

A thing of everlasting beauty.
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A few weeks after we got married my wife and I caught a showing of A Hard Day's Night at the local cineplex. That summer they were running all sorts of old films and as neither of us had seen that Beatles classic. we figured it would be fun. It turned out to be one of the most perfect, happiest moments of my life. We were still basking in the glow of being newly married, filled with so much love and potential. The theatre was one of those big, new, stadium-seating jobs with giant plush seats that you could get

Book Review: Little Orphan Annie, Volume Ten: The Junior Commandos by Harold Gray

It comes most highly recommended to anyone with an interest in comics.
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Little Orphan Annie was a daily comic strip created, written, and drawn by Harold Gray. It began in August 1924 and was finally cancelled in June 2010. Gray wrote every strip until his death in 1968 after which it was taken over by a variety of artists. At its peak, it was read by millions and in 1937 it was ranked number one in popularity by a Fortune poll. It has been adapted into a variety of other mediums, including comic books, a radio show, a broadway musical, and a popular movie based upon the theatrical production. Though ostensibly for

The Grand Budapest Hotel is the Pick of the Week

It is a ludicrously beautiful film full of mirth and wonder.
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Over the last few years, I’ve regularly complained that the local cineplexes all show the same overblown blockbusters and none of them pay any attention to smaller, independent, or art-house films. Well, I moved and now there are multiple theaters that play all sorts of films you won’t be seeing at the top of the box-office lists. Hallelujah. We have a locally owned cinema that plays all sorts of interesting independent fare. They do lots of cool things like show relatively locally made movies with the filmmakers coming to the showing. Or sometimes they have scholars come to give a

An Adventure in Space and Time Blu-ray Review: A Must-have for any Whovian

A loving remembrance of how Doctor Who got its start.
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In 1963, the BBC had a space to fill in its Saturday time slot. Legendary producer and head of drama Sydney Newman had an idea for an educational science fiction show to fill it. He promoted Verity Lambert to produce the show (creating the first female producer of a dramatic program at the network). She hired character actor William Hartnell as the lead. It had a minuscule budget, a tiny studio, and got off to a rough start (the pilot aired the day of the JFK assassination) but went on to become the stuff of legend. The show, of course

Classic Drama Collection DVD Review: Five Films Full of Drama, Comedy, Romance, and Costumes Galore

A package of five films that are really rather good, and well worth the buy.
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There is a moment whenever I’m browsing through the movie section of Wal-Mart, Target, or whatever dumb, big-box store I’m at that I get really excited to see a big bunch of movies bundled up tightly into a cheap package. “Five movies for ten dollars,” I think. “How awesome is that?” Then I actually look at the movie titles and am always disappointed. It is a nice marketing gimmick, of course, and they usually throw three movies in that are really rather good, but then they slip a couple of other real stinkers into the mix so that the actual

True Detective is the Pick of the Week

It is a brilliant show, the sort of thing that cable TV has gotten so good at lately.
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A big thanks to Gordon for handling this column last week while I was away. As he noted I’ve moved. Again. We don’t actually move once a year as he joked, but he wasn’t that far off the mark. In the 12 years my wife and I have been married we’ve moved approximately eight times through four different countries, three states, and five cities. It's an exhausting way to live, but at least we never get bored. For the last 15 months or so, we’ve lived in a little house way out in the country. It was a lovely bit

Jack Taylor: Set 2 DVD Review: Iain Glen (and His Fans) Deserve Better Than This

Iain Glen's performance keeps the series afloat.
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Jack Taylor (Iain Glen) is a bit of a lost soul. He wants to do good in this world but his big mouth and love for the drink keep getting in the way. He was in the Gardaí (a sort of Irish National Police) but was kicked out after he assaulted a politician he caught speeding. Now he works as a private detective and while he’s good at catching the bad guys, he’s close to useless on the business side of things. He’s partnered with Cody Farraher (Killian Scott), a much younger and less experienced lad who idolizes Jack and

Agatha Christie: Poirot, Series 12 Blu-ray Review: Ridiculously Unrealistic Plots, Tons of Fun

Sometimes all you want at the end of a long day is a good, old-fashioned murder and some Belgian gray cells to solve them.
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When it comes to Agatha Christie’s writing I tend to agree with Raymond Chandler who wrote about her type of writing: “they do not really come off intellectually as problems, and they do not come off artistically as fiction.” That is to say her crimes are completely unrealistic and her prose not particularly good. Yet, while I’ll always prefer Chandler and his contemporary Dashiell Hammett to the likes of Christie and her ilk, dear Agatha sure did know how to keep the pages turning and sometimes that’s all you want in life. Christie’s Poirot stories tend to always involve murders

An Adventure in Space and Time is the Pick of the Week

I do very much enjoy Doctor Who in all of its incarnations and am very interested in how it began.
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Though I do remember watching some Tom Baker-era Doctor Who as a kid, one probably needs to call me a new Whovian. As I didn’t start watching the new series until Matt Smith took over, I’m even a late new Whovian at that. I actually didn’t watch any of the Smith episodes but started the new series at the beginning with Christopher Eccleston and worked my way through until I eventually caught up a couple of years back. Though I may be relatively new to fandom, I fully embrace the Classic Who series. Back when I had Netfli,x me and

Cardinal Richelieu / Scudda Hoo! Scudda Hay! DVD Reviews: There's a Reason They've Been Forgotten

It's brilliant that these sorts of films are finding their way to DVD but...
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The world has been making movies for roughly 220-plus years, producing approximately 300,000 films. That doesn’t include made-for-tv movies, featured videos, short films, documentaries, and anything not found in the IMDb database. That’s a lot of movies by any standard of measure. While the studios (both major and independent) do a good job of putting their new and catalog films to DVD, there’s still thousands of movies that have never made it to the home video market (and an even larger number that have not gone beyond VHS.) What a treat it is then for cinephiles all over that so

Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World DVD Review: A True Gem Dug Up In Africa

We're really quite lucky to have it, and ultimately, it is quite enjoyable.
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It really is quite astonishing that they are finding various Doctor Who serials after literally believing them to be lost forever. Here at Cinema Sentries headquarters we threw quite a party when it was announced last year that all but one episode of The Web of Fear and the entire serial of The Enemy of the World had been found in Nigeria. They've only recently started to seriously scour the Earth for missing episode so who knows what they'll find next. The Enemy of the World is the fourth serial of the fifth season of Doctor Who. It originally aired

The Monuments Men is the Pick of the Week

A darn good cast and a fascinating story is enough for me to make it this week's pick.
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It occurs to me that the Classic Hollywood Star no longer exists. Stars like Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, and Audrey Hepburn had fame, fortune, style, class, and a certain glamorous mystery about them that you rarely find anymore. With TMZ and a million other celebrity blogs out there, we know everything there is to know about our stars - where they are, what they are doing at any given moment, and how they look when the evening gown comes off and the worn-out gym shorts go on. With Twitter and Instagram, these celebrities can give us their own inside glimpses

Her is the Pick of the Week

It's just the sort of story that Spike Jonze does well.
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Spike Jonze is an immensely talented, eternally creative, and absolutely brilliant artist. Yet I can’t say that I really like him. Well, that’s not exactly true I do like him, but I find I don’t want to watch his films more than once. When Being John Malkovich came out, I thought it was just about the most imaginative thing I’d seen in a long, long time. It still is, actually, but over the years whenever I’ve tried to watch it again I can never make it all the way through. Its just not that enjoyable to watch. Ditto Adaptation. Wonderful

The Deep End Blu-Ray Review: An Excellent, Realistic Thriller

Well worth watching.
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Having children changes you. I’m not talking about the sentimental Hallmark-card emotionalism that goes something like, “I didn’t know what love was until I had kids.” From my perspective that’s mostly BS. No, I’m speaking about how children completely wreck your day-to-day activities. We didn’t have our daughter until I was 35. I had a good life, full of good things. I’d watch movies, go to concerts, read graphic novels in their entirety at the book store, stay up late binging on TV, surfing the web, and blogging. That might not be the most exciting life, but it was mine

The Veronica Mars Movie is the Pick of the Week

I'm kind of excited that they were able to publicly fund a movie so many years after cancellation.
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There has been so much great TV playing over the last decade that its really impossible to keep up with it all. Sure, Netflix and Hulu make it easier than ever to catch up, and what you can’t find through streaming methods, you can buy fairly cheaply via full seasons of DVD collections. Still, there is just so much that's been produced and is continuing to air that unless you do nothing but watch television all day, every day you are going to be behind somewhere. I have a constantly updated list of shows I need to catch up on

Book Review: Superman: The Silver Age Newspaper Dailies, Volume 2: 1961-1963: Super-Ridiculous, Super-Fun

A terrific collection of strips that would otherwise be lost to the world.
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Created in 1933, Superman has gone on to become one of the most popular and successful comic-book characters in the world. He has appeared in countless comics, newspapers strips, radio shows, and movies. In 1939, the character began appearing in daily newspapers where he remained a fixture of the comics page until 1966. The Library of American Comics in conjunction with DC Comics has binded together and printed for the first time a comprehensive collection of those newspaper strips. This book covers the years between 1961-1963 and contains over 700 individual strips. This era of the strip is notable for

Master of the House Criterion Collection DVD Review: As Boring as it is Important

For film buffs and those interested in movie history, it is essential.
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As a self-confessed film buff, I have to admit that my knowledge is severely lacking when it comes to silent films. I’ve seen a couple of Charlie Chaplin movies, some Buster Keaton shorts, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and Nosferatu. That’s about it. I’ve tried a few others like The Birth of a Nation and about half of Metropolis. The thing is, I generally find silent films difficult to watch. Like various kinds of great art, silent films take a certain amount of education and practice to appreciate. Decades of fast-paced, dialog-driven movies have led me to expect a

Mr. Selfridge: The Complete Second Season is the Pick of the Week

I defer to the excellent quality Masterpiece has given us all in the past and hope they can pull this off.
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I'll probably be labeled a terrible dad for admitting this, but there has been a lot of television watching in my daughter's three years of life. I know you aren’t supposed to watch TV with your children - you’ll rot their brains and all that. I know you are supposed to spend your days playing and educating and showing them the love of nature and all that. We do those things, too. On nice days we go outside, take walks, climb trees, trundle down slides, and explore the woods next to our house. On rainy, cold days we read, color

Master of the House is the Pick of the Week

Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection.
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You know its a slow week for new releases when a friggin’ Tyler Perry movie is the number-one seller on Amazon. Thank goodness for the Criterion Collection. Week after week, those guys present art-house, foreign, obscure, and fascinating films in the highest of qualities with terrific extras at a decent price. We love Criterion here at Cinema Sentries, and I want to always be talking about them in my Picks of the Week. I won’t always pick them, but never will I not give them a shout. Carl Theodor Dreyer is considered one of the masters of early cinema. He

Philomena is the Pick of the Week

There is lots of humor threaded through a story that is also filled with sadness.
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My wife tends to avoid sad films, sad songs, sad everything. She says life is tough enough on its own without having to wallow through somebody else’s horrible story. I’m exactly the opposite. I love sad bastard tales. There is something cathartic about living vicariously for a time through another life full of heartbreak, death, and bleakness. Somehow knowing there are others out there suffering helps me sort through my own miserable existence. Or at least it makes me realize I’ve not got it that bad. Not at all. Philomena Lee had a hard life. At a young age, she

Maverick: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons Review: Pappy Says Save This For the Old Folks

A nice set compiling two seasons of this classic show with really good video and audio quality.
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Full confession right at the top: I’ve never, before this review, seen an episode of Maverick. I’m too young to have watched it on first run, and I’ve never been interested enough to sit down with reruns. I have however seen the 1994 Mel Gibson/Jodie Foster movie a dozen times or so, though only once intentionally. For reasons that probably have to do with the charisma of its stars, the PG rating, my age at its release date, and the age of various chaperones, I unintentionally caught the movie numerous times on youth retreats, college registrations, and miscellaneous other events

August: Osage County is the Pick of the Week

I’m looking forward to seeing this one very much.
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I was born and raised in Oklahoma. This isn’t necessarily something I’m proud of. I mean I didn’t really do anything to be born nor raised there, but it is home. Or was. And is about to be again. I left as soon as I could for college in Alabama. That was plenty far enough away from home, and lovely. Though kind of the same, when you consider politics, religion, and general redneckedness. Then I came back to Oklahoma for a time. Left again. Got married, travelled the world, and came back. Left again for Tennessee, which is more of

Fargo (Remastered Edition) Blu-ray Review: Such a Super Film (but Not so Super an Edition)

An essential movie for any film fan to own. I won’t say the same for this particular release.
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When you think about the Coen Brothers' 1996 masterpiece Fargo you likely think of it as a Frances McDormand movie. No doubt she created one of the more memorable roles of any film with Marge Gunderson (and won an Oscar for it), yet she doesn’t actually appear in the film until about 30 minutes in. No, if you are going by screen time or who the plot revolves around, then we must turn to Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy.) It is his incessant bungling of pretty much everything that moves the story from start to finish (with Marge cleaning it

Philomena Blu-ray Review: A Simple Story Told Really Well

We need more of these kinds of movies.
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Philomena Lee had a child out of wedlock. This was in Ireland in 1951 so her father sent her to Sean Ross Abbey where the nuns gave her food and shelter and worked her to the bone. For three years they also raised her child (allowing Philomena to see her son only one hour a day.) Then they sold the boy for adoption to some rich Americans. Philomena never saw her son again. Philomena’s story is not unusual. Similar ones were played out hundreds of times all over Ireland. But she told her story to journalist Martin Sixsmith who made

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

An honor I’m sure Mr. Tennant will wear with pride.
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It is a little embarrassing to say now, but I came to Doctor Who a bit late in the game. I knew the show as a kid, and I used to watch it from time to time through the Tom Baker years. But it was never something I sought out, or geeked about. When news came of the reboot in 2005, I more or less shrugged and went back to watching The West Wing, or The Wire, or whatever I was loving at the time. My wife was a much bigger fan as a kid and so she was a

Mapp & Lucia: The Complete Collection DVD Review: Slow and Delightful British Comedy

For those who enjoy jolly good British comedies and something a little more slow paced, this is a rare delight.
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Every couple of years or so, our representatives engage in egregious debates over public media. One Republican or another shouts that NPR is too liberal, that Sesame Street makes enough money on its own, and that we surely do not have the kind of funds to be blowing on radio and television programs when the world is drowning in too many programs already. It never goes anywhere of consequence, but stirs up the bases and brings up the hit counts of various blogs and websites. I admit to engaging in a Facebook debate or two on the subject, always standing

The Wolf of Wall Street is the Pick of the Week

I’ll soon be adding it to my collection, where it will stand proud with all the other Martin Scorsese films and even prouder amongst all the Picks of the Week.
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About this time every year when we get our tax refund back, the wife and I give ourselves a hundred bucks to blow and then tuck the rest away into some sort of savings fund. I always have enormous amounts of fun choosing things to buy with my wad of cash. The initial debate is whether to spend it on one relatively expensive item or to purchase many much cheaper things. Cheap usually wins as I really like getting lots of packages in the mail. Amazon is the place that tends to get my money. I have a wish list

American Hustle is the Pick of the Week

I’m ready to put on a leisure suite, hang the disco ball, and live with this movie for a month, much less a week.
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My mother often says I was born in the wrong decade - that I should have grown up in the '60s. She says this because of my affinity to the music and movies of that decade and for my politics and my rather hippy idealism. Sometimes I think she’s right. When I think about all the great music - from the Beatles to the Stones, the Grateful Dead to Bob Dylan - I wish I could have been there. Sometimes I dream of attending Woodstock or political rallies, of growing my hair long, smoking pot and tuning in, turning on,

Inside Llewyn Davis is the Pick of the Week

You’ll likely never see me not pick a Coen Brothers' movie as my Pick of the Week.
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If I were to remove my critic’s hat when you asked me to name my favorite director, I’d likely go with the Coen Brothers. Not that they don’t make critically acclaimed movies (for even the slightest perusal at their award nominations and wins will paint you a bright picture in that regard) but that without having to think too hard about a director’s artistry and allowing myself to simply bask in the sheer enjoyment of their films, the Coens tend to come out on top. It wasn’t always so. I can’t remember when I first saw their second movie, Raising

Bob Dylan: The 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration (Deluxe Edition) DVD Review: Star-studded, Jam-packed, Mid-career Celebration of One of Rock's Greats

Only Dylan could get so many talented artists to come together and create such incredible music together.
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The 1980s were not particularly kind to Bob Dylan. There were a few highlights including successful tours with Tom Petty and the Grateful Dead (though that grouping has plenty of detractors, the recordings present plenty of great grooves) and 1988 saw the beginning of what is now known as the Never Ending Tour, which has produced many of Dylan’s greatest performances ever. His work with the Traveling Willburys was good and Oh Mercy is a stand-out. But mostly it was a tough decade with rambling, incoherent albums and a great decline in relevancy in popular culture. The beginning of the
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned only four novels and 56 short stories about Sherlock Holmes, the last of which appeared in 1927. In the not-quite hundred years since, the detective with the amazing deductive skills has permeated our collective imaginations, created his own archetype, and has been recreated on radio, television, comic books, the stage, and movies thousands of times over. He is one of the world’s most enduring and popular characters ever created. There is a dizzying array of adaptations and retellings of the stories out there. The classic stories and new inventions have been told and retold over

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor Blu-ray Review: An Overstuffed, but Still Yummy Christmas Turkey

A nice send-off to the Eleventh Doctor, just not a great one.
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The Time of the Doctor has all the tell tale signs of a Doctor Who episode under the tutelage of show runner Steven Moffat. It's thrilling, clever, funny, and very entertaining, yet crammed with too much stuff, overly referential, and ultimately rather shallow. On a small, isolated planet a mysterious message is being beamed across all of time and space. Outside the planet are hundreds of alien ships (including most of the Doctor’s enemies) all desperately trying to determine what the message says. The Papal Mainframe, led by Tasha Lem - an old friend of the Doctor - is protecting

12 Years a Slave is the Pick of the Week

It's the kind of thing Academy voters eat up as they obviously did last night.
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The 86th Academy Awards show was on last night. It was watched by a lot of people. Usually I’m one of them. But this time I did my taxes. Or rather my friend who used to be an accountant did them. We’ve been trying to find a time that we could get together and get them done for weeks now. But bad weather, busy schedules, and sick kids have caused us to reschedule and reschedule again. So last night, even though I really do love the Oscars, I turned off the TV and set about my civic duty. The upside

Elmo's World: All About Animals DVD Review: Great For Toddlers, Obnoxious For Everybody Else

Pretty much any toddler will no doubt love it.
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It may surprise some, but Elmo the muppet has existed since the early 1970s. In those days he was nothing more than a background character on Sesame Street. Various puppeteers picked him up and tried to create a character, but nothing materialized. It wasn’t until 1984 that Kevin Clash raised him up and created the beloved character we know today. Since then, Elmo has become one of the most popular puppets in the world. In 1996 a plush toy, Tickle Me Elmo, was introduced and quickly became the Toy of the Christmas season causing near riots in malls when supplies

Gravity is the Pick of the Week

The trailers look stunning.
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I’m really not a Sandra Bullock fan. She’s attractive and certainly charming, and I really can’t knock her acting chops, but there’s just something about her that makes me not like her. Perhaps its that she spent so many years making so many bad movies. Unlike Matthew McConaughey, who also made a slew of bad movies (some with Bullock), she didn’t start her career with interesting choices before going for the easy dollar. Both stars are now making interesting and critically acclaimed films, but while I’m quick to forgive McConaughey (and make his films my Pick of the Week), I

Beware the Batman: Shadows of Gotham, Season 1 Part 1 DVD Review: A New Take On An Old Character

They decided to make some pretty big changes in order to set themselves apart.
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By my count there have been no fewer than 12 movies, 16 television series, several radio shows, and countless comic books featuring Batman. With many more in the works. The character remains one of the most popular in the superhero universe. It is no surprise then that the Cartoon Network opted to make a new series, Beware the Batman, and that they decided to make some pretty big changes in order to set themselves apart from the very crowded Batman adaptation arena. It is the first Batman series to be completely CG animated. This creates a unique style for the

The Fantastic Mr. Fox Criterion Collection Review: It is Quote-Unquote Fantastic

It's absolutely worth upgrading to this Criterion disk.
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Like most great directors, Wes Anderson has created a very distinctive style for his films. They live in a world that is not quite real. It's a world filled with pastel colors and 1960s rock and roll. Where quirky characters do things that aren’t quite realistic, but neither are they unbelievable. Where every child has parental issues, and every parent is funny, adventurous, and sad. It is a world in which every scene, no matter how small or short, is filled with the tiniest of details, all distinctive to the director’s style. Wes Anderson films are like retro live-action cartoons

Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season is the Pick of the Week

They do an amazing job of bringing these characters and the huge scope of their stories to the screen.
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In the months after my daughter was born, I watched an enormous amount of movies and television. As anyone who has children can tell you, there simply isn’t much that you can do in those early days. The child, of course, cannot do anything on her own, relying on you to do everything from feed to change diapers to make increasingly silly faces in order to keep her from crying. We tried to take her out as little as possible to avoid all of the germs floating around public spaces, but also because taking a baby anywhere is an enormous

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness Blu-ray Review: Ingrid Bergman Saves China

A lovely film though overly long and slightly racist to modern eyes.
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Christian missionary Gladys Aylward was a diminutive, unattractive, uneducated, utterly British woman. So of course they got the tall, glamorous, immensely beautiful, and completely Swedish Ingrid Bergman to portray her in the movie version of her life. The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is in the historical epic tradition from the 1950s which was the decade of grand historical epics. It is a lovely film though overly long and slightly racist to modern eyes. Like most films based on real events, the movie plays pretty fast and loose with the facts, changing details where it sees fit, condensing time, and

Ender's Game is the Pick of the Week

The Internet has got me excited about something and that excitement gets passed around and shared.
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In the world of science fiction I consider myself a fan, but not a fan-boy. By which I mean that while I do love many of the films in the genre - from 2001 to Alien, Close Encounters to Moon - I do not obsess over them. I don’t relentlessly watch every movie in the genre, nor endlessly debate the realities and potential realities of the films in online forums. I watch the films I hear good things about, sometimes like them (sometimes not), and move on to other films in other genres. I’ve also read very few books that

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1981) Blu-ray Review: The Adaptations Keep Ringing and Ringing

The Blu-ray has its flaws, but this is likely the best version we’re ever going to see of it.
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People like to complain these days about the death of Hollywood, about how the studios have no original ideas, and everything is a sequel, a reimagining or a remake. But it seems to me that this has always been the case, at least to some degree. Even the most precursory glance through film history will show you that Hollywood has been adapting and remaking their movies since they started making pictures in the first place. James M. Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice is as good an example as any. Written in 1934, the classic crime noir was adapted into
After making The Sword in the Stone, story man Bill Peet came to Walt Disney claiming that they could do more interesting animal characters and suggested adapting Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Disney agreed, but took a more hands-on approach than he had during the last several pictures because The Sword in the Stone had received a rather negative reaction. In fact, Disney threw out most of the original version of the screenplay and fired Peet and composer Terry Gilkyson due to it taking on a darker and more sinister tone. Disney wanted something lighter and more fun. It is

Vera, Set 3 DVD Review: Great Scenery, Plenty of Murders

Vera, Set 3 is a well-made, well-drawn series that would make an excellent part of anyone's mystery set.
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Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope reminds me of Miss Marple (though that might just be her age and her sex) and Paddington Bear (though that might just be her hat.) Much like Miss Marple (and Paddington Bear, for all I know), she uses her gentile outward appearance and kind manners to hide a deep intellect and cunning insight, which throws off the people she questions and criminals she’s chasing. Vera, Set 3 contains all four made-for-television movies from Series 3 of the British series. It stars Brenda Blethyn as DCI Stanhope and David Leon as her Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth.

Dallas Buyers Club is the Pick of the Week

A recipe for my Pick of the Week.
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I believe I first saw Matthew McConaughey as "past his prime, but still picking up high school girls" David Wooderson in Richard Linklater’s wonderful Dazed and Confused. But I didn’t really recognize him as someone to watch until A Time to Kill. That movie was supposed to make him a star, but it failed to make it big with audiences and the buzz around McConaughey kind of died with it. He made a few other critically acclaimed films but mostly sank into romantic comedy schlock that undoubtedly made him plenty of bank and lots of women fans, but lost his

Top of the Lake DVD Review: Top of My Best of 2014 List

A well-made, atmospheric, beautiful series from Jane Campion.
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A young girl, all of 12 years old and pregnant, wades into a lake at the top of a mountain on the bottom of the world. We are unsure if she is trying to induce a miscarriage or kill herself. Before either can occur, she is rescued. When her pregnancy is determined, the police investigate, but she is either incapable or unwilling to cooperate and within a couple of days, she has vanished completely. Suspicions fall on her father, Matt (Peter Mullan) the local drug lord and his clan of sons. Maybe one of them got her pregnant and killed

Blue Jasmine is the Pick of the Week

I pretty much make all of his new releases my Pick of the Week.
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When I was a pubescent teenager I used to stay up late on Friday and Saturday nights watching the USA channel and their Up All Night programming. It was hosted by Rhonda Shear and Gilbert Gottfried who would make jokes and do skits during commercial breaks. They showed mostly bad b-movies (and Friday the 13th marathons if the calendar matched) into the wee hours of the morning. I watched religiously. I learned to love low-budget horror flicks and ridiculous Porky’s rip-offs (and Rhonda Shears' legs) during those years, and it's all stuck with me decades later (especially those legs, yowza!)

Enough Said Blu-ray Review: A Sweet, Realistic Romantic Comedy

A lovely portrait of real characters with real problems played realistically.
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Few actors are able to fully ensconce themselves inside a character as James Gandolfini did with Tony Soprano. He simply was that character and that character was him. For six seasons, Gandolfini became Tony Soprano and gave one of the most nuanced, heartfelt, incredible performances ever seen. So much so that public perception of the man tends to lend itself to feeling that Gandolfini must be the dangerous, angry mobster he portrayed so realistically. Yet to talk to his fellow actors and real-life friends is to hear that he was nothing of the sort. He is often described as a

Sesame Street: Be a Good Sport DVD Review: Fun and Education for Babies (and Adults Too)

Over two hours worth of sketches that are sure to keep any ankle biter enthralled.
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I do not have cable or satellite, but I do have a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter. This combination means there is a lot of PBS Kids programming going on in my house. One of my favorites and hers is Sesame Street. I have very fond memories of watching it as a child and now as a dad it's a really wonderful thing to watch her get excited over the adventures of all those furry little monsters. Of course, the show has changed a great deal since I was a kid. They hardly show any of my favorite characters anymore. Big Bird, Snuffaluffagus,

Rififi is the Pick of the Week

Because it features one of the most tense, carefully crafted scenes in all of cinema.
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In the middle of Jules Dassin’s 1954 film noir Rififi, which is the father of all heist movies, lies a 28 minute safe-cracking sequence. It is so spectacular in its execution I am surprised anyone has ever tried anything similar since. But of course many others have tried, but none have come even remotely close. This robbery takes up nearly a fourth of the films running time, is shot without a bit of dialog or background music, and yet is one of the most tense, carefully crafted scenes in all of cinema. The fact that the rest of the film

Top of the Lake is the Pick of the Week

Apologies for those who love their rednecked water-fowl, and foul-mouthed animated spies.
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Some weeks you gotta ignore the masses and pick what you want. Okay, admittedly I pretty much do that every week, but this week I'm doing it more than usual. Duck Dynasty is a cultural phenomenon. They say it' s the biggest reality show to appear on basic cable ever, and judging by Facebook chatter and t-shirts for sale at Wal-Mart, I believe them. It's also become very controversial. One of the Robertson clan recently said something ugly about gay people and was suspended by A&E until he wasn’t. Social media lit up over the affair and I had to

Don Jon Blu-ray Review: How Porn is Better Than Scarlett Johansson

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how fantasy worlds collide with our real ones, causing untold problems and unhappiness.
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Our entertainment culture creates fantasy worlds that can never live up to reality. Pornography brings us beautiful women with perfect bodies who are willing to satisfy our every sexual urge - no matter how perverse or degrading - with no strings attached. They don’t ask you to pick up the check, do the laundry, or even cuddle afterwards. Similarly, Hollywood creates romantic movies in which opposites always attract, everybody changes for the betters and the endings are always happy. In Don Jon, writer, actor, and director Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempts to deal with how these fantasy worlds collide with our real

Don Jon is the Pick of the Week

I like Gordon-Levitt a good deal, and it's impossible not to watch Scarlett Johansson in anything she does.
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Welcome back. I decided to take last week off because me, the wife and the wee one were off visiting the wife’s folks in Kentucky along with all her siblings and assorted others. My little one brought with her a nasty bit of a head cold and she kindly passed it around to pretty much everyone under the roof. Including me. Especially me. My cold turned into sinusitis with an especially nasty ear infection. Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas, and welcome to the health clinic on Christmas Eve. So I was in no mood or shape to write a column

Call of the Wild (1935) Blu-ray Review: A Fun but Forgettable Adventure

The movie is good and representative of this classic period of Hollywood filmmaking.
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The most interesting part of The Call of the Wild didn’t actually take place on screen. It seems the very married Clark Gable had a torrid love affair with costar Loretta Young and impregnated her. Young decided to keep it, but due to the strict moral code at the time had to disappear to Europe through most of the pregnancy and later pretended to adopt what was in fact her very own child. Though often rumored, this story was not confirmed until 1999. This has nothing to do with the actual film, of course, but its a fun bit of

East West 101: Seasons 2 & 3 DVD Review: An Exciting Australian Crime Drama with a Social Message

It's compelling stuff that's both fun thrilling and meaningful.
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Detective Zane Malik (Don Hany) is a tough, smart, and sometimes difficult detective working in the elite Major Crime Squad on the police force of Sydney, Australia. He’s also a Muslim living in the racially divided country in a post-9/11 world. Like all detectives, he must live with the daily grind of dealing with some of the worst, most hardened criminals around. Drug dealers, gangsters, murderers are all faced down, fought, and captured on a regular basis. There is also the balance of family to contend with in a schedule that isn’t exactly 9-5. But unlike most cops, Malik must

Prisoners is the Pick of the Week

It looks to be an intense, violent, really good bit of cinema.
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While I am very much a fan of horror, gore, violence, and bloody, anger-filled cinema, my wife is most certainly not. This means I do not get to watch them in her presence. She doesn’t mind if I watch them on my own; she just doesn’t want to to be involved. This was no problem as I’d just watch them when she was off to work or had gone to bed. Even for the first couple of years of our daughter's life, this was no biggie as I could throw it on while the girl was napping or playing with

Jesse James (1939) Blu-ray Review: History Be Damned, This Is Too Much Fun

Though a bit dated and terribly inaccurate, it is a joy to watch and is immensely entertaining.
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Jesse James was a notorious outlaw, bank and train robber and murderer. Historically speaking, he was nothing but a violent and horrible human being. Yet while he was alive, he was celebrated as a Robin Hood-type character and since his death, his legend has continued to grow. As it so often happens, the mythological person has turned into a much better person than the actual human ever was. There have been untold number of stories and books written about him, songs have been sung since just about the moment the “coward” Robert Ford shot him down. There have been more

Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project is the Pick of the Week

A recommendation from Scorsese and the Criterion people makes this collection an easy choice.
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With some regularity we invite various people, usually university students, over to the house to watch films. Several of them come regularly and we’ve developed something of a disorganized film-studies class. Not that I am qualified to teach such a class but we have great fun, and learn a great deal, watching these films and then discussing them together. Usually these films are of the foreign variety. I’m rather proud of my foreign-film collection actually. We own over 200 foreign films and are constantly buying more. Again, I don’t consider myself an expert but rather an ever-learning student. One of
Walt Disney pursued the rights to P.L. Traver’s Mary Poppins books for decades before she finally relented. Even then, she retained script approval and was apparently a pain in everyone’s chim chim-in-ey throughout the entire process of making the movie. She rather hated the final product and bad-mouthed it until the day she died. One can understand how a writer might be protective of their work and might be hesitant to allow movie-makers (even one as beloved as Walt Disney) to have their way with the writings. But in this case one has to wonder if there wasn’t something terribly

Blood on the Docks, Vol. 1 DVD Review: Murders and Mysteries in Northern France

What makes it watchable, even rather enjoyable, is the two main actors.
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You could say that I’ve been a fan of crime dramas, police procedurals, mystery shows, or whatever you want to call them most of my life. From Remington Steele and Moonlighting to Law and Order and The Closer to The Shield and The Wire, I’ve watched thousands of hours of people committing crimes (usually murders) and cops, private eyes, journalists, priests, and little old ladies solving them. The best shows tend to subvert or break out of the confines of the genre and show us what its like to be a cop, or the humanity of a criminal, and say

Dead Like Me: The Complete Series is the Pick of the Week

A very nicely priced set of a really wonderful show.
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I really thought that the first week of December would find us with loads of great new releases. I really thought wrong. I guess with Black Friday and Cyber Monday over by the release date they figure our wallets are empty and they needn’t bother much with this week. Looking over the next few weeks of releases as we inch towards Christmas, I see there are some much bigger releases coming so I guess they are hoping our wallets get a little fuller as the month goes on. This week’’s pick is a boxed set of a short-lived Showtime series

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series is the Pick of the Week

A pick to be thankful for.
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Who knew a show about an average, normal guy turned very, very bad (or as show creator/runner Vince Gilligan used to say Mr. Chips becoming Scarface) could be so popular, culturally significant, and so very, very good? On paper, a television show about a regular, boring chemistry teacher slowly becoming the biggest, baddest meth dealer in the Southwest sounds like a long shot. Two decades ago, it would have been laughed out of the drawing board. But in this new era of television, one ripe with anti-heroes like Tony Soprano and Don Draper, a show like Breaking Bad can not

Doctor Who: The Terror of the Zygons DVD Review: The Doctor and the Loch Ness Monster

A straight-up classic Tom Baker-era Who.
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Like a lot of Americans of a certain age - that is to say old enough to remember Doctor Who before the modern series - Tom Baker is my Doctor. From my understanding, the show didn’t really air in America until Baker’s run in the late '70s. His incarnation as the Fourth Doctor was certainly the one that got the most mileage in reruns being shown over and over again on PBS. In fact, it wasn’t until I started watching the modern series that I realized there were other Doctors besides him. As such, he is my favorite of the

Poirot Series 9 Blu-ray Review: Well-made Mysteries

A pretty grand thing when you get down to it.
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Agatha Christie was as prolific a writer as she was popular. According to Guinness, she is the best-selling novelist of all time. She has sold some four billion novels and her works have been translated into at least 103 languages. At her death, she had written 66 mystery novels, six romance novels (under the pen name Mary Westmacott), 153 short stories, 22 plays/radio plays/teleplays, and a handful of other works. Hercule Poirot is, perhaps, her most famous and long-lived characters, and possibly her best. She wrote 33 novels featuring the Belgian detective and more than 50 short stories. He has

The World's End is the Pick of the Week

To say that when it came out on DVD it would be my Pick of the Week would be putting it exactly.
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The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is not so much a trilogy as it is three films made by the same people with the loose theme of satirizing a very specific genre. In fact, the entire trilogy is named after a joke. Cornetto’s are a type of ice cream snack in England and after characters ate some in both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz an interviewer pointed out the connection and director Edgar Wright joked that it would be a trilogy in the vein of Krystof Kieslowki’s Three Colours Trilogy (with a different colored Cornetto representing different themes in

The Secret of Crickley Hall DVD Review: Two Interesting Stories Marred by Their Own Connections

It's good, but not nearly good enough.
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There is something about ghosts, and ghost stories that I just can’t buy into. I have no problem with other supernatural beings. I’m cool with demons and vampires, werewolves and zombies. I love me some creature features. But for some reason I can only rarely suspend my disbelief for ghosts and spirits. One might think that ghosts would be easier to accept than the others as many people across the world believe in their actual existence and they are not far from the spirits that religions of all types believe are real. Perhaps this is the reason I find fiction

Line of Duty: Series 1 DVD Review: The Thin Gray Line

A terrific bit of television.
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In television and in the movies, Internal Affairs officers are often seen as out of touch with real police work, bullies, and even masters of corruption themselves. Often they are the antagonists going after our heroes (or anti-heroes) and trying to stop them from performing their duties. Almost always Internal Affairs is the enemy. In reality, we ought to be very thankful for Internal Affairs as they are what stand between us and corrupt cops. It should also be said that the line between good cops making mistakes and true corruption is a thin one and can be very difficult

Nosferatu (1922): Deluxe Remastered Edition is the Pick of the Week

It stands right up there with my all-time favorites.
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My transition from a kid who really liked going to the movies to a full-blown cineaste was long and slow. In junior high the opening credits of To Kill a Mockingbird showed me how beautiful a movie could be. The rest of the film was both beautiful and extraordinarily moving. A little later, Night of the Living Dead proved to me that even a horror movie could be artful. Over time, movies became more than just an entertaining diversion, but genuine Art with a capitol A. Late in high school. I caught the last ten minutes or so of Nosferatu.

The Three Faces of Eve Blu-ray Review: Dated, but Fun

Quite charming in its own way.
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By my count, The Three Faces of Eve is only the second movie ever to deal with Multiple Personality Disorder (or Dissociative Identity Disorder as they now call it.) The first was Lizzie which was released but a few months before Eve and it didn’t do nearly as well critically or commercially as Eve. In 1957 when these films were released, the general public knew very little about the disorder (and in truth it is still controversial and widely misunderstood.) In the fifty-odd years since then, there have been countless movies, television shows, and books involving multiple personalities both realistic

Spiral: Season 2 DVD Review: A Superb, Layered French Crime Drama

Spiral Season 2 is fantastic television.
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The original title for this French crime drama is Engrenages which literally translates to "gears." That’s fitting as the show is comprised of many smaller parts that sometimes fit (and sometimes grind) together to create a larger machine. The English translation of Spiral works better if you add on spiral of violence as it concentrates on the ever-downward spiral that crime and corruption causes. I have not watched any of season one so I must admit up front that there may be intricacies of plot and nuances of character that I have completely missed within season two. This season is

The Right Stuff: 30th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

A classic American film about classic Americans gets the nod.
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Halloween has just ended. Thanksgiving is still weeks away. Is it too early to start thinking about Christmas? The makers of home video apparently think not for they sure have released a bunch of nice looking Blu-rays and DVDs that are sure to go on my Santa’s wish list. It was difficult to choose just one thing as my Pick of the Week, and likely I’ll change my mind if I think about it some more, but for now I’m going with the 30th anniversary of Phillip Kaufman’s masterful telling of the early days of the Space Race in The
There’s a moment in the middle of Move Me Brightly where David Hidalgo talks about the time Jerry Garcia showed up back stage just before Los Lobos was about to perform. He says they chatted for a bit and then he invited Garcia to join them onstage for a few songs. Garcia then flashed his tickets with a smile and said he was there to enjoy the show. In a great many ways that sums up Jerry Garcia perfectly. He was first and foremost a fan of music. By all accounts, he was a living, breathing encyclopedia of music history.
B-movie producer Roger Corman somewhat famously used to tell his directors that they could make his movies anyway they wanted but they had to have either a scene of violence or of sex every fifteen minutes. The producers of the Johan Falk Trilogy must come from the Corman school of movies, though they tend to focus more on the action than the sex. Within the opening scenes of the first film, Zero Tolerance we find Johan Falk (Jakob Eklund) in a post-coital glow with one of his coworkers quickly followed by a bloody shoot-out and car chase. It hardly slows

Monsters University is the Pick of the Week

This is certainly not my most glowing Pick ever.
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Pixar. Its name is associated with quality. The company almost single-handedly ushered in a new era of brilliant animation that is both kid friendly and cherished by adults. In 18 years they have made 14 feature films and almost every one of them have been golden. For most of that time, you could go to a film with Pixar's name attached to it and know nothing else about it and know that you were getting a quality picture. Then with Cars 2, their first non-Toy Story sequel things began to slide. That film was a critical bomb and when announcements
In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Chile. Writer/director Nicolás López was there and one of the things that struck him was not only the terrible destruction that the quake caused but how ordinary citizens suddenly threw away all the bounds of conventional society. Looting was rampant as well as sexual assaults, rape, violence, and murder. In discussions with Eli Roth, they decided to make a movie about that very thing. I'm right there with them, that sounds like an excellent concept for a movie. Unfortunately neither of them were able to create something interesting from that initial idea. It is

Love Actually: Tenth Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

It's probably my favorite Christmas movie ever.
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For much of my life I was a hum-bug. I hated Christmas and all its crass commercialism. I do like my family, and spending time with them is always enjoyable, but the rest of it I'd just assume throw out. Oh sure, I like to get presents but the whole "I bought you something so you have to buy me" exchange we do at Christmas makes it less than special. I hated the crazy people at the post-Thanksgiving sales. I hated the overcrowded malls. I hated the tacky sweaters, the ridiculous ornaments, the bad movies, television specials, and music. Oh,

Embrace of the Vampire (2013) Blu-ray Review: Better Than the Original, Which Isn't Saying Much

If you like b-grade vampire movies, this one's pretty well done.
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When I heard there was a remake of the 1995 erotic vampire flick, Embrace of the Vampire, I had but one response which was - and I think I speak for the entire Internet here - why? The original is really rather terrible. The only reason anyone saw or remembers it was because Alyssa Milano, fresh off of her Who's the Boss fame, got naked in it. She isn't in the remake so it seems ridiculous that they'd make it again. I suppose they figured they'd get a little press - albeit likely scornful - for it and as they

Embrace of the Vampire (1995) Blu-ray Review: Would Be Forgotten Were It Not For Alyssa Milano's Assets

This isn't a show-off disk, unless by showing off one means presenting high-definition celebrity nudity.
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Pardon me while I get pervy. In my day if one wanted to see celebrity nudity one had to work at it. There was no Google, there was no TMZ, no Mr. Skin, no Celebrity Nude Database where one could look up a celebrity and find out exactly which movie she was naked in, how much skin she showed, and exactly what part of the movie to fast forward to in order to see the skin. No, if we wanted to see naked celebrities we had to go to the theatre, or rent the video and hope for the best.

Eyes Without a Face Criterion Blu-ray Review: A Mesmerizing, Poetic Film

While it embraces the horror genre, it manages to rise above it as well and present itself as a masterful work of art.
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In the 1950s French critics and cultural purveyors thought that horror films were beneath them. Monsters and gore were not the sort of thing French filmmakers should bother with nor the cultured filmgoer should watch. The filmmakers mostly agreed but the public was becoming enamored with such British horror films as The Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula. Producer Jules Borkon decided the critics could stuff it and embarked upon making a new French horror film. He enlisted director Georges Franju (a documentary filmmaker who was just then making his first fictional film, Head Against the Wall) to help

Much Ado About Nothing is the Pick of the Week

Despite my inability to fall in love with all things Joss, I'm very excited about his take on this Shakespearian comedy.
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I have a geek confession to make. I'm not really a fan of Joss Whedon. I don't hate him. He's made some enjoyable things. I like Buffy the Vampire Slayer - it's a very fun show with some brilliant episodes but with far too many just decent ones to elevate the entire show into more than just a good category. I've tried to get into Firefly a few times but can never get past about the third episode. The Avengers was a good superhero movie, but nothing more. Etc. I admit that Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog was brilliant, but he's

Detective Montalbano: Episodes 23-26 DVD Review: Murder and Fun in the Sicilian Sun

I'd put it in league with something like Monk or Moonlighting.
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Inspector Montalbano (Il commissario Montalbano) is a popular Italian crime drama based upon the detective novels of Andrea Camilleri. It stars Luca Zingaretti as Detective Salvo Montalbano (though he acts more like a police chief or at least a detective supervisor and in fact there is some internet debate over whether or not the title is mis-translated and should instead be something like Commissioner Montalbano, but I digress) who solves crime in the fictional town of Vigata, Sicility. Assisting him are his deputy Mimi (Cesare Bocci), Detective Fazio (Peppino Mazzotta) and the bumbling assistant Catarella (Angelo Russo.) Like most European

The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

There's no picks like double-dips.
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I want to say that it is impossible to hate The Wizard of Oz, but if the internet has taught us anything it is that there is always someone around who hates everything. If you browse the message boards of IMDB at all, you'll quickly see detractors calling whatever movie you are looking at stupid, boring, pointless, plotless, and without merit. Of course there are then always fans of said film who will call the detractor things like neanderthal, brutish, stupid, and will make suggestions that this moron go back to the message boards of lesser films like Transformers. I

Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series DVD Review: Lots of Changes Make For a Less Than Steller Doctor

I liked the first half of Series 7 much more than the latter half.
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The seventh series of Doctor Who was unusual for several reasons. It was broken in half with the first part airing in the fall of 2012 and the second part not airing until the spring of 2013. We said goodbye to the Ponds and hello to Clara, who turned out to be the ongoing mystery of the second half of the series.. It was the final season for Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. All of these changes took its toll on the series, making it not quite as good as many of the ones before it. While it is

Doctor Who The Complete Seventh Series is the Pick of the Week

How could it not be?
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I watched Doctor Who periodically as a kid. It wasn't a show I loved, or made sure I was home to watch, but if it was on and nothing else was, I'd sit still for it. This was during the Tom Baker years and honestly I have very few memories of the show except for his long scarf and one episode that I caught late at night that spooked me enough to wake up my parents though I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I was late catching on to the new series as well. My wife used to

Homeland: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: Falling Short of Greatness

To be sure, Homeland: Season 2 is good television.
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The line between a great show and a really good one is a thin one. For me it is all about resonance - the ability of a show to stick with you long after it's gone. That and a show's ability to say something about the world outside of its fictional space. Shows like The Sopranos, The Wire' and The West Wing not only were immensely entertaining, but also shone a light on our own culture and who we are as a people. Really good shows can be very well made, and entertaining but fail in either their ability to

The Bling Ring is the Pick of the Week

Sofia Coppola has proven herself to be a true auteur, a director with a clear and concise vision.
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Sofia Coppola has only directed five films in her entire career. I've only seen three of them, and I wasn't all that fond of The Virgin Suicides. And yet, I still consider her to be one of the more interesting directors making films today. This is largely based on how much I love Lost in Translation. It is a near perfect film for me. It is funny, sad, lyrical, poetic, moving, and wonderfully made. It contains both Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson's best work. Coppola shows she learned a lot from her famous daddy and imbues the film with a

Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka DVD Review: A Cartoon Doctor For the 40th Anniversary

A fascinating bit of Who history.
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In 1989 after 26 seasons, Doctor Who was cancelled. There continued to be various radio programs and novels, but the television series was effectively dead. In 1996, a television movie was produced by an American studio but the ratings were not good enough to turn it into a regular series again. The series was so dead that as the 40th anniversary of the program began to creep closer the BBC had no desire to celebrate the still-very-popular series. The Doctor Who website, at this time, was very popular and the managers of the site had previously created some very rudimentary

Autumn Sonata Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Utterly Sad and Nearly Perfect

A wonderful portrayal of these characters and of life.
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Our monthly Foreign Film Night is typically very sparsely attended. This is not unexpected as one cannot plan for a lot of people in small-town West Tennessee to come to a showing of a very old, expressionist German film about a child murderer, or b-grade Norwegian ninja flick. I think about it a lot though, and how we might get more attendees. One problem is that I think when most Americans think of foreign cinema they think of European art-house fare, which is to say they think the films are difficult, intellectual, arty, and incomprehensible. That isn't fair, of course

Friday the 13th: The Complete Collection is the Pick of the Week

Now and again, I like to throw on some goofy slasher flicks and relive memories through hundreds of pointless, over-the-top violence.
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I grew up in the late '80s/early '90s and slasher flicks informed my early film life. Sort-of. My parents wouldn't let me go see those movies in the theater and with few exceptions they wouldn't let me rent them either. But thanks to the USA Network and there tendency to show bad horror movies on Friday and Saturday night (and there was always a Friday the 13th marathon any weekend that included that unlucky number) I got to see lots of Freddie, Jason, Mike Meyers, and the rest. At least in edited form. A great deal of that early love

Five Dolls For an August Moon is the Pick of the Week

Whatever the reason, there is a ton of stuff coming out for lovers of all things boob tube.
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It is a weird week for releases. There is a ton of television coming out - both old and new plus several boxed sets of previously released seasons, but very little in the way of interesting films coming out. I've pondered in these pages numerous times before how they decide on what to release and when, and I'm doing it again. Was it purposeful that we have so many television sets out this week and so few big movie releases? It makes perfect sense to release the previous seasons set just before the new season airs on television. Likewise, I

The Great Gatsby (2013) is the Pick of the Week

Critical reception has been mostly poor and it didn't fair any better at the box office, but I'm still willing to give it a shot.
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I read The Great Gatsby when I was in high school, or possibly early in college. Whenever it was, I knew that it was often considered to be The Great American Novel, but not enough to understand why. I wasn't particularly impressed with what I read. Later, I began to read essays and reviews that explained why it had been critically acclaimed for so long and I developed an appreciation for, well if not for the actual book, for what it stands for, its deeper meaning. I had a similar experience with the film Citizen Kane. Upon first watching it,

Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: An Excellent Series

Ought to be seen by anyone who is interested in what the medium can do and certainly is a must-see for all mystery fans.
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At the time Prime Suspect first aired In 1991, there were only four female DCIs (Detective Chief Inspector) working in London. Jackie Malton was one of them and it is her story that show creator Lynda La Plante took as inspiration for the series.The fictional Jane Tennison (played to perfection by Helen Mirren) is a fierce, driven, hard-nosed, hard-boiled police officer who has clawed, scraped, and bloodied her way to the rank of DCI and spends the rest of the series fighting against sexism, politics, institutionalized racism, and her own personality to stay there and eventually rank even higher. The

Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space Blu-ray Review: New Doctor, New Everything Really

A great introduction to Pertwee's Doctor.
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There is a lot of trivia connected to Spearhead from Space but it is not at all a trivial episode. It was the first serial of the seventh season. The first to star Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Caroline John as his companion Dr. Liz Shaw. It was also the first Who to be shot in color. That last bit combined with the fact that a strike caused the series to be shot entirely on film (usually at least part of an episode would be shot on cheaper-looking video) makes this the first Classic Doctor Who to be released

Amour is the Pick of the Week

Amour seems much more accessible than the rest of Haneke's work and I suspect I'll be watching it soon
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I rarely go to the theatre anymore - too much trouble, too expensive, and audiences are way too obnoxious. Even when I do, it is rarely to see a small, critically acclaimed drama. The nearest city is still a small one, and while they have three movie theaters, they all play the same movies and they are always the biggest, shiniest, most expensive films out and never anything you'd consider small, art-house or critically acclaimed. I don't tend to read a lot of movie reviews either, and accepting the occasional Movie Recon on these pages, I don't really pay that

The Mindy Project is the Pick of the Week

The Mindy Project is very silly and has not a inch of real depth but it's tons of fun.
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I have an odd relationship with the American version of The Office. For the first few seasons I loved it. Though my wife found it obnoxious, every Thursday evening I'd kick her out of the living room so I could sit and watch it in peace. It was awkward and funny and sweet and really one of the best comedies on television at the time. Somewhere around season five I tuned out. It wasn't that I no longer enjoyed the show, or didn't find it funny it was just one of those weird life things. Where before I was home

The Sapphires is the Pick of the Week

Thanks, Technology, for making me interested in films like The Sapphires.
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Sometimes it pisses me off knowing that I'm gonna die before so much cool stuff is invented. Every day I am amazed at how many incredible things already exists and I know even more mind-boggling stuff is coming. The fact that I won't be around for all of it depresses me to no end. My mother used to joke about how we were so privileged as kids. Like many of her generation, she would tell me stories of how she had to walk ten miles to school (uphill both ways in the snow, of course) and she did her homework

Detective Inspector Irene Huss, Episodes 7-9 & 10-12 DVD Review: Cliched Plots, Excellent Execution

You could call it the Swedish "The Closer" if you wanted.
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In my recent review of Annika Bengtzon, I noted that there are many crime dramas able to push through the clichés of the genre and still create good television. With great writing and good characters, the plots can still be contrived and I'll still be riveted. Detective Inspector Irene Huss is one such show. Irene Huss (Angela Kovacs) is the lead detective for the Violent Crimes Unit in Gothenburg, Sweden. She has a curmudgeon-y old-man boss who cringes at her no-nonsense methods; a group of eclectic, wise-cracking police on her team; and a loving family at home. You could call

Banshee: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

I'm ready to let Cinemax show me they can make good quality original programming just like their sister channel.
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There is so much good, interesting TV on these days I can hardly keep track. At the beginning of this year, I intentionally slowed down my movie watching just so I could keep up with the various television series that I've wanted to see for a long time. Still, I find myself way behind on all the shows I'd like to watch. HBO used to be the best player in the game but now we've got AMC, Showtime, PBS, FX, and many others creating innovative, interesting, top-notch television. Recently, Cinemax entered the game trying to thrust off their softcore pornography

Annika Bengtzon, Crime Reporter: Episodes 1-3 & 4-6: By-the-Book Swedish Crime Drama Needs a New Author

I found myself wishing each episode was done by about the halfway point.
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If you are a TV producer looking to make a new, popular, and successful new show, the logical choice is to do some sort of crime drama. Historically, those things make buckets of money all over the world. If you don't want to have your primary characters be actual police detectives - because that would be too cliche - you still have a myriad of ideas to choose from. Your protagonists could be medieval monks who happen to solve mysteries, or Catholic Priests, or medical examiners. Or maybe you could go with a private detective or a little old lady.

Twixt Blu-ray Review: Imagined in a Dream, Should Have Stayed in Bed

Coppola still knows how to shoot a beautiful film; it's just too bad he's forgotten how to write one.
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It should probably tell the viewer something that Twixt - a film written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, and Bruce Dern - was only shown in theaters at festivals before going straight to video. Yeah, a movie with those names behind it that can't get a nationwide release is not going to be any good. Still, this reviewer couldn't help but get his hopes up.Coppola says the idea for the film came to him in a drunken dream in Istanbul. Before the dream could end, the call to prayer woke him and he

Trance is the Pick of the Week

I'm totally on board and looking forward to seeing what Boyle has in store.
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I don't always love Danny Boyle's movies, but they are always interesting. From the pounding music and jump-cuts of Trainspotting to the more meditative 127 Hours, Boyle has proved himself over and over as a director who knows exactly what he is doing. Even when his films miss (The Beach, Sunshine), I'm never bored and never feel like I've wasted my time. His newest film, Trance, reviewed by Sentry Lorna Miller, is a psychological thriller that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality, it also blurred the lines between critically acclaimed and critically trashed. Earning a 68% fresh on Rotten

Laura (1944) Blu-ray Revew: The Sum is Better than Its Parts

An odd film that never really should have worked, and yet it does.
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Laura is a murder mystery in which it really doesn't matter who actually committed the murder. It is a love triangle that generates about as much heat as my refrigerator on the lowest setting. It is a film noir without many of aspects one generally associate with such films. It is a movie in which the titular character is the least interesting of the cast. Yet despite all that it is really a marvelous bit of cinema. The film begins with narration by Waldo Lydercker (a delightful Clifton Webb) who explains how much he cares for Laura (Gene Tierney) and

Babette's Feast Criterion Collection DVD Review: Eye- and Mouth-Watering Delights

An absolute must-have for any lover of film.
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About once a month, we host a Foreign Film Night at our house. We invite a few friends over, we munch on some grub, imbibe some drinks, enjoy a film, and then sit around talking about it. Always, it is a great time. Normally we don't pick out the film beforehand. Sometimes, there will be a specific genre planned or maybe we'll grab a few choices but then we let whoever is coming take a vote. This past March we held a bonus film night, a special Easter presentation, and I specifically chose Babette's Feast for us to watch.It is

Evil Dead is the Pick of the Week

Word is director Fede Alvarez took the basic story ramped up the adrenaline and gore and made a terrific, no-frill horror flick. That's enough to get me on board.
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People love to slag on sequels and especially remakes. Whenever one is announced, the Internet explodes with righteous anger calling the remake stupid, ridiculous, a complete failure, and a slew of other words not fit to print. This is especially true with remakes of beloved genre pictures. Technology has made the world small and now fans of obscure movies in various genres be it sci-fi, horror, or rainbow ponies can bond together with other like-minded folks across the planet. We love to geek out at the good and raise our collective middle fingers to the bad, even if we've not

Spring Breakers is the Pick of the Week

I don't expect to really like the results, but I'm definitely interested.
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It makes a certain amount of sense that actresses who have spent their childhoods on squeaky clean television shows to want to break free from that image whether in their careers (Elizabeth Berkeley in Showgirls) or their personal lives (Lindsay Lohan battle with the law and drugs.) These women have grown up in front of millions of people yet no doubt their real lives are much different than the made-for-children characters they play every day on the small screen. Who wouldn't want to show the world they are mature adults after that? It makes a certain amount of sense that

The House I Live In is the Pick of the Week

It features David Simon a great deal and I've never been disappointed in anything he's ever been involved with.
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Several months ago I made a very deliberate decision to avoid the news in general and politics in specific. It isn't that those things aren't important, but that my obsessions with them were driving me crazy. I would spend entirely too much time debating politics on Facebook and Google+ and any of the various other social sites out there. I'd pace the house in a fury coming up with just the right wordage to put my opponent in his place. I'd Google for hours making sure all my points and beliefs were just exactly perfectly correct. I'd get mad, I'd

Wilfred: The Complete Season 2 Blu-ray Review: Disgustingly Funny

The show is crass, rude, disgusting, and very, very funny.
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Based upon an Australian show of the same name (which itself was based on an award-winning short film) Wilfred is a comedy about a man named Ryan (Elijah Wood) and his dog Wilfred, (Jason Gann) who happens to talk (and curse, and drink, and smoke pot, and hump everything in sight.) Or at least he appears to do those things in Ryan's eyes, but appears as a normal dog to everyone else. The reasons for this duplexity are as yet unexplained and the mystery is one of the central points to many plot points. At the end of Season 1,

Upside Down is the Pick of the Week

How did I let this slip through?
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Every week as I write this column I am amazed at just now many movies are released each week. Hundreds of titles enter the vast ocean of DVDs and Blu-rays already in existence, all asking to be bought, to be watched. Admittedly many of them are low-grade, low-budget Z-movies being released in the cheapest of ways, or films in the public domain getting cheaply reproduced to make a quick buck and then there is the Girls Gone Wild-style of pornography that seems to reproduce like bunnies. Still, after taking away all that garbage, there are still dozens upon dozens of

Beck: Vol. 7 & 8 DVD Review: He's Not a Loser, Baby, And He'll Catch Your Killer

The more you watch the more you want to see.
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Based on a series of 10 novels by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö, Beck is a Swedish crime drama that revolves around a group of murder police in the city of Stockholm. The MHZ Networks have been showing the series via their television stations and continue to release it on DVD.Volume 7 and 8 contains three episodes a piece (Vol. 7 contains episodes 19-21 and 8 has 22-24.) Like many European crime dramas, each episode is really a movie - with a run time of 1 hour 30 - which allows it more time to develop its story than the

Stoker is the Pick of the Week

If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's releases.
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It is a great week to be a movie fan. This week's DVD/Blu-ray releases have a little something for everyone. There is a big-budget 3-D action adventure flick, a couple of British dramas, and a couple more '80s horror flicks getting collector's editions. A cult Korean filmmakers debuts his first English language thriller, a huge cast of stars make a daring comedy that was quickly panned by everybody, and there is a huge collection of classic films getting some nice treatments from Criterion and Kino. If you like films at all, you'll likely find something to enjoy from this week's
From time to time in this weekly series I like to discuss the ways and means to which I choose my Pick of the Week. I've previously mentioned how I like to pretend that some kind soul is giving me one DVD or Blu-ray from the week's releases. And so my pick is simply what I would choose to receive on any given week. Well, this week I really was given a copy of my choice. Criterion has kindly allowed me to review their Blu-ray upgrade of Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries. I have seen the film before and absolutely adore

Wild Strawberries Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful, Complex, Symbolic Film

A fully rewarding film with great emotional wealth and intellectual grace.
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I am 37 years old. With luck, I'll live another 37 before I die. At the middle of my life, I try not to partake of the crisis that effects so many at this age, but I do admit to periodic bursts of looking back - at the things I've done, the places I've seen, the accomplishments I've achieved, and the people I've known - and comparing them to where I thought I'd be when I first began. The man I dreamed I would be as a child is many fathoms away from the man I became.I do not possess

Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season is the Pick of the Week

Walt finally sets the pieces in place to be the kingpin he was born to be but it never seems enough.
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With but a half season to go Breaking Bad is very near to completely proving itself to be one of the all-time greatest shows to have ever existed. The rise (or fall depending on how you look at it) of Walter White over five seasons has been some of the most riviting dramas on television. Despite being labled as "The Fifth Season," this DVD set contains only the first half - eight episodes - of season five. But what a half season it was. I'll not spoil anything except to say Walt finally sets the pieces in place to be

The Grass is Greener is the Pick of the Week

This is the sort of week where the Pick of the Week is less a real decision and more of a "yeah, this will do."
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I guess Memorial Day weekend doesn't really rate in the DVD-seller's handbook. There is a whole lot of not-much coming out this week. There's a few bare-bones oldies, a bunch of random TV, and a mess of stuff I can't imagine anyone caring about. Seemingly for a guy like me, Doctor Who would be the easy choice, but poor packaging has made me not give it the gold star and pass it over for something else. Anything else. And with that I've chosen an oldie I've never heard of - The Grass is Greener. The description - a befuddled English

Rick Steves Europe: All 100 Shows (2000-2014) is the Pick of the Week

I prefer the middle-aged comforts of Rick Steves.
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My wife and I love to travel. At last count we have visited 21 other countries. That isn't a brag, by the way, as one thing that happens when you start to travel is that you meet others who have travelled a great deal more than you. There is a Facebook app that allows you to input all the places you've been and then it tells you how much of the world you've seen. I think I'm at 5% so there is a lot more for me to discover. But I digress, as much as I love to travel it

Detective De Luca DVD Review: He's Not a Fascist, He's Just a Cop

For fans of crime dramas, detective shows, or just really good television.
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Set amidst the back-drop of Mussolini's Fascist Italy, Detective De Luca comes with a much more interesting setting than your typical television crime procedural. Amidst a gluttony of crime and detective shows, De Luca manages to keep my attention through well-written characters and stories that surpass time and date while remaining current and real. De Luca, the character, is a policeman first and everything else falls a distant second. He is constantly butting heads against his bosses and whatever governmental figure is in power because he cares little for politics, but only wants to solve his case. His only friend

Cloud Atlas is the Pick of the Week

I'm probably not going to like it, but it just looks too damned interesting to not at least try to like it.
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Sometimes you gotta go with your gut. I tend to take this Pick of the Week thing a little too seriously. I spend entirely too much time debating which title I should bestow my little honor upon. I contemplate the type of film or TV show I want to highlight. I look over the extras and read reviews online. I ponder the reaction of picking one thing over another. Etc, etc, etc. I recognize that none of this really matters and yet each week I debate the merits of my choices like I was choosing which child is my favorite.

Doctor Who: The Visitation Special Edition Review: Rubber Reptiles and Disco Androids Bring the Plague

A visit to London with the Fifth Doctor and his companions.
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The Visitation is the fourth serial of the 19th season of Doctor Who. Though it was fourth one aired, it was actually the second one produced, and thus only the second time Peter Davison played the titular character (he briefly appeared in the final episode of the 18th season but only at the end so that viewers could get a hint of what the new Doctor looked like). The episode was written by Eric Saward and this was his first time writing for the series. Given the newness for both actor and writer The Visitation has something of an unfinished
During the 1950s a number of film critics began to criticize French cinema. It was too traditional, too literal, too confined to seemingly arbitrary rules. These critics (including Jean Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut) felt that movies should relate to their youth more, should be more free, and should deal with more current social issues. True to their word, many of these critics became filmmakers themselves and created the French New Wave. Unlike more recent movements like Dogme 95, the New Wave did not have a set of official rules, rather the filmmakers involved worked around a set of general

Ender's Game Teaser Trailer and Screen Shots

The book made me contemplate big concepts like how humanity can only be brought together by an outside force bent on our destruction.
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I'm not much for science fiction, actually. I know and have seen most of the classic films of the genre. And liked them. But I'm quite deficient in the category of books. A couple of years ago I decided to try and remedy this and started looking for the classic sci-fi books. Time and time again, I heard the title Ender's Game, and eventually got down and read it. I was not too impressed, initially. Orson Scott Card is a decent writer, but his prose is a bit staid, provoking very little emotion or beauty from his words. The story,

Criterion's Band of Outsiders is the Pick of the Week

I've seen more movies in French than your average American filmgoer.
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I can't remember the first time I watched a foreign language film. I remember watching some on Bravo (back when Bravo actually showed movies - and commercial free ones at that - instead of a relentless onslaught of reality housewives and newlyweds) in junior high. But that was more because I realized arty foreign flicks often showed bits of naked flesh rather than any calling to pay attention to the filmmaking. I suppose it was college when I actually started paying attention to real cinema and foreign flicks. On the weekends we got IFC in the dorms, and I saw

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country Review: Retirement is Truly the Final Frontier

A perfectly good send off for the classic characters.
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After the abysmal critical and fan reception of Star Trek V, they had originally planned for the next film in the series to be a prequel (which makes one wonder what JJ Abrams would have done with his recent prequel reboot), but after objections from the cast and fans (and finding new pressure from fans to have new movies be about the crew from Star Trek: The Next Generation) producers decided to make a finale film of sorts with the crew of the original series set to retire making way for the new characters. Taking themes from the front pages

Star Trek: The Next Generation Seasons 1-3 (Blu-ray) are the Picks of the Week

Mat lets you know why he'd be happy to have it on his shelf.
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I am not what one would consider to be a trekkie (or a trekker or if you want to get technical.) I have fond memories of watching the original series as a kid and as a teenager arguing with my sister about how much better it was than The Next Generation (while simultaneously watching every new episode.) I've seen most of the movies in the theatre, and all of them more than once. But no, I wouldn't consider myself a true fan. I stopped watching the TV franchise after TNG, having never seen a moment of any of the subsequent

The Impossible (2012) is the Pick of the Week

What's worth watching this week.
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Sometimes it seems that we are constantly engulfed in tragedy. If it isn't a school shooting, it is an earthquake in China; if someone isn't bombing Boston, then God is washing away half of Asia in an enormous tsunami. Sometimes it is all too much. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity and regularity of so much tragedy. This is especially true of big natural disasters. They wreak so much damage it is difficult to really grasp what has happened . This is why news shows so often tell the story of one business, family, or person.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Teaser Trailer and Photos

Cacth these Catching Fire promotional materials.
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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire the sequel to 2012's The Hunger Games, and second part of The Hunger Games Quadrilogy (the third and final book The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is set to be released as two films), is set to be released in IMAX and regular theaters on Nobember 22, 2013. Taking the reins from Gary Ross, Francis Lawrence is set to direct this film and its susequent sequels. Joining the cast will be Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Lynn Cohen, Meta Golding, Amanda Plummer and Jeffrey Wright. The plot starts up shortly after the ending of The

Maigret Set 7 & 8 DVD Review: Well Made Dullness

Maigret is perfectly serviceable television.
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I recently read a discussion on Reddit where a guy was lamenting the fact that his girlfriend preferred Michael Bublé's version of "Moondance" over the Van Morrison original. The poor fellow was so distraught over the news he was thinking of breaking up with the girl. Many comments ensued. Some said that Bublé had a technically better voice than Morrison (though others counter Van's got soul!). Different folks noted that Bublé's version was more modern and that maybe the original sounded a bit dated. But the consensus was that she had heard the Bublé version first, fell in love with

Django Unchained is the Pick of the Week

Ready to grab it up and give it a go.
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The very last scene of Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill: Volume 2 shows Uma Thurman's character cuddling with her daughter. It is meant to be poignant as she had thought her daughter to be dead and after a long struggle she has been reunited with her. Many critics called the movie his most mature work to date in part because of that scene and ones like it.It totally didn't work for me. My problem was that over the course of several hours and two movies we saw Thurman's The Bride fight, chop, and slice her way through scenes, we saw mountains

Hyde Park On Hudson is the Pick of the Week

The transmogrification of Bill Murray from the crazed goofball to the wonderfully dramatic actor has been nothing short of a thespian miracle.
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Who would have thought that Dr. Peter Venkman could be so poignantly fragile as Herman Blume in Rushmore? Who in their right mind would hire the guy who played Carl Spackler as the subtly sad lead in Lost in Translation? The transmogrification of Bill Murray from the crazed goofball to the wonderfully dramatic actor has been nothing short of a thespian miracle. Like some sort of magic phoenix Murray's career went from Spacejam and The Man Who Knew Too Little to a series of roles that have nabbed him a long list of acting nominations and awards. That the voice

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One: Avengers Assembled is the Pick of the Week

Mat has assembled his latest column for your reading pleasure.
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I am not much for comic book movies. This is likely due to me not having read many of the superhero comic books. This causes me to not get many of the fanboy details, which in turn makes the films not much more that big action flicks with dudes wearing tights. I was however very impressed with the way Marvel developed Phase One of its Cinematic Universe. By making separate films for the individual characters before assembling them all into an Avengers movie they not only continually built up hype for the franchise but they were able to develop each

Lincoln is the Pick of the Week

Daniel Day-Lewis simply lived, breathed, and embodied the very soul of the 16th President.
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Time and time again Daniel Day-Lewis proves himself to be our greatest living actor. He doesn't make a lot of films, but when he does they are ones to watch. He has won an unprecedented three Academy Awards and the list of other awards he has won or been nominated for is pages long. His films aren't always good, but you can lay your money down that he'll pull out an incredible performance. This is certainly true for his most recent movie, Lincoln. While very good, I found the film to be somewhat flawed, but Day-Lewis' performance was the stuff
It is summer in Southern France. The sun is beating down on everything. You are at the tail end of a long road trip. Your baby is crying - screaming at the top of her lungs. Nothing consoles her. Your middle child is screaming for the baby to stop, ordering your oldest to leave her alone, and generally making demands that no one is listening to. Your first born is kicking the back of your seat complaining about the heat, how uncomfortable her seat belt is, and whatever else comes to mind. You are snipping at your wife and she

Les Miserables is the Pick of the Week

This week is full of Oscar nominees and award winners.
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For a large part of my life I've been a theatre geek by accident. In high school, I took several years of drama mostly because, at my school, that's what all the cool kids were doing. I wanted to be a cool kid so I took the class. It never did make me cool and eventually I just took wood shop, but hey, I tried. During my freshman year at college, I dated a girl who wanted to be in one of the plays the university was doing and she talked me into auditioning. She got a part. I didn't.

Doctor Who: The Aztecs Special Edition DVD Review: The First Doctor Can't Change History

A very entertaining series of episodes.
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The Aztecs is the sixth serial of Doctor Who and was first broadcast from May 23 - June 13 1964. Initially the series was meant as an educational family show with some episodes set in the future which would discuss various scientific ideas, and other episodes set in a realistic, Earthly past that would educate children (and adults alike) about our own history. This episode is set in 15th Century Mexico and gives us information on the Atzec nation.The episode begins with the TARDIS landing inside an Aztec tomb. The Doctor and his companions (Susan, Barbara, and Ian) leave the

Life of Pi is the Pick of the Week

So many good choices this week.
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It is good to see that in this post-Oscar season we're finally getting large crops of interesting DVD releases. This week has so many things in it that I'd like to see that I had to actually debate a bit on which one I would actually pick. In the end I went back to good old Oscar (and much critical praise) and picked Life of Pi. To tell the truth, the trailers for the film did not in any way make me want to see it. There's too much CGI tiger and not enough story. Or so it seemed. I

Wreck-It Ralph is the Pick of the Week

I've heard nothing but good things, and the arcade nostalgia love has done nothing but grown on me.
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Like a million other boys I grew up playing video games. I cannot begin to fathom how many countless hours (and quarters) I spent walking to the local convenience store to play the new stand-up arcade game, or at home after school and on weekends (and all summer long) plugged into whatever game I was addicted to at the moment. I'm old enough to remember Pong, though they are fuzzy memories, and cut my teeth on Pac-Man, Asteroids, Centipede, and the like - first on the arcade versions and then on my Atari 2600. Later I fell in love with

The Master (2012) is the Pick of Last Week

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Though I had only seen but one of the nominated films, I sat with my wife and watched the entirety of the 2013 Oscars. I do that every year though I'm not entirely sure why. The awards are meaningless and the ceremony itself is usually tiresome (this year's was brutally unfunny and mean spirited). And who wants to watch rich, beautiful, and famous people give each other gold statues anyways? I do, I guess. Mostly I think I enjoy seeing clips of movies that I haven't seen or often even heard of that are supposed to be the very best
I have very recently decided to become a full-blown Francophile. My wife is one. and while I've stuck my toes in the culture and language of France, I've always balked at diving right in. Until recently. A few days back my wife had a meeting at the house for students who are interested in world travel and learning about cultures outside of their own. The speaker at this meeting was a man who has spent the last twenty years traveling the world visiting many different French-speaking countries and being involved in various works there. Something about the way he talked

Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season is the Pick of the Week

Season Two ventures a bit away from the source material but remains an excellent bit of fantasy television.
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I came to George RR Martin's epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice through the TV show Game of Thrones. I knew noting about the show except that it was on HBO (which almost always does excellent TV) and that it was getting some pretty big nerdy Internet hype. I watched the first few episodes and quickly realized I was missing a great deal of what was going on. It didn't help that at the time my daughter was but a few weeks old and needed constant attention, but the show is grand in scale with a myriad

Maigret (1992) Complete Collection DVD Review: Does What You Expect and with Great Satisfaction

The French detective is played by an Englishman and filmed in Budapest.
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I quite literally discovered Maigret by stumbling over him. Let me explain: for a couple of semesters my wife and I led two separate groups of university students though a study-abroad program in Europe. Our base of operations was in a small town in Belgium. For our first full day on the continent we'd day-trip to the city of Liege where they held festivities for the holiday of Assumption. A very Catholic town, they went all out for the holiday including food that filled the streets, beer that flowed like gushing rivers, music on every street corner, and a huge

Skyfall is the Pick of the Week

I might not be able to stream it, but I'm definitely watching Skyfall soon.
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The conclusion of the whole internet debacle is that I now have satellite internet. The commercials all hype the high speeds and they are pretty fast, but they keep the (very) limited bandwidth to the small print. I currently have the lowest option (10 gigs of upload/download bits a month) and I'm quickly running through them. My first two days online saw me hit the 1 gig mark and I didn't do any of the normal large file downloading/uploading I normally do. In a word, I'm screwed. Like mobile-phone deals I get free bandwidth hours late at night (midnight to

Picks of the Last Three Weeks

Due to a series of unfortunate events I was unable to write about new releases for a few weeks, so I'm catching up.
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Cinema Sentries has been without a Pick of the Week, where we comment on the new DVD/Blu-ray releases, for the last three weeks. It is entirely my fault. Or perhaps AT&Ts. I moved, you see, to the country. Even more to the country than I was, which was a teenie tiny town in rural Tennessee. Before we moved, one of the questions I asked the previous occupants was whether or not we could get internet out there. They said they had DSL with AT&T so I assumed I could get it too. How wrong a person can be. A few

To Rome with Love is the Pick of the Week

I always go with Woody.
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Woody Allen is New York City. The celebrated director set the majority of his films in the city, and often, as in the case of Manhattan, they can be seen as sort-of love letters to the Big Apple. Lately though, he has found his way out of the City that Never Sleeps and has been wondering around Europe. He started in London for a few films (Match Point, Scoop, and Cassandra's Dream) then moved to Barcelona (Vicky Christina Barcelona.) He spent the night in Paris (Midnight in Paris) and lastly he visited the Eternal City of Rome (To Rome with

The Hour 2 DVD Review: Some of the Best Drama From Either Side of the Pond

This Cold War drama keeps getting better and better.
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In my Pick of the Week I called The Hour “Mad Men who tell the news,” and that is an apt enough description. You could also call it Broadcast News in the ‘50s. With Hector Madden (Dominick West) as William Hurt's beautiful face of the news, Bel Rowley (Ramola Garai) as Holly Hunter, and Freddie Lyon (Ben Whishaw) as the Albert Brooks’ character with his hard-hitting, investigative journalist, smartest-man-in-the-room, but completely forgettable public persona existence. But The Hour is all that and more. Series 2 even more so than the first. With the first season of The Hour the show

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) Criterion Collection DVD Review: See the Master of Suspense Invent Himself

An early Hitchcock classic gets cleaned up and looks better than ever.
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In 1934 Alfred Hitchcock was not considered the great director we know him as today. Nor was he the Master of Suspense. He wasn’t even particularly well known outside of Britain and was hardly a household name there. He’d had a couple of successes as a director but was having trouble finding a home studio and kept being forced to make pictures like Waltzes from Vienna that were completely uninteresting to both the director and audiences alike. While making that film, producer Michael Balcon (who had originally discovered Hitchock and allowed him to make his first completed film as director,

The Hour 2 is the Pick of the Week

More than just a Mad Men clone.
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With the huge success of Mad Men there have been a number of shows who have tried to capture a similar retro vibe. Pan Am is about the workers for the fabled airline in the '60s while Playboy was Mad Men with less clothes. Neither was able to really capture the heart of Mad Men itself nor its critical claim. Nor its audience. The English have climbed on the same train with The Hour which you might call Mad Men Tell the News. Ah, but the British have been able to do something those other shows haven't. While it too

Cosmopolis is the Pick of the Week

An acclaimed director takes on an acclaimed writer's book, and critics be damned, I'm gonna watch it.
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You might have noticed the absence of The Pick of the Week here at Cinema Sentries last week. The reason for this was quite simple: there weren't any DVDs or Blu-rays released last week. Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year I guess they figured no stores would be open or nobody would be interested in purchasing new videos on Christmas so they sat last week out. To make up for it they are doing new releases twice this week with some things coming out on Monday and other on Tuesday. Not that it will make much of a difference

Masters of the Universe: 30th Anniversary Limited Edition is the Pick of the Week

By the power of Grayskull, I have the coolest He-Man boxed set ever.
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With essentially every television show and movie ever made now available at the click of a button, nostalgia is taking a glorious beating. On a fairly regular basis, I go back and watch things that I used to love as a kid. Sometimes it turns out that particular show is even better than I remembered, but more often than not I have to wonder what in the world I was thinking. Was I force-fed paint chips growing up? Did I sniff glue as a recreational activity? Surely I was smoking something wacky to ever consider that to be good. This

The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection is the Pick of the Week

A big box of silent goodness just in time for Christmas.
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One of the more liberating things about college was to find people just as passionate about movies as I was. Sure I used to go to the movies with my parents on a regular basis, and me and my buddies would rent flicks about every weekend, but to everyone else it seemed as if films were just a way to pass time - mere entertainment - while to my mind they were so much more. They were Art, they were Life, they had Meaning and Import. At university, I was able to find likeminded folks who took these things seriously

The Dark Knight Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

Christopher Nolan's Batman films get a nice boxed set.
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With his Dark Knight Trilogy, Christopher Nolan not only created one of the greatest comic-book adaptations but one of the all-time best trilogies in movie history. He elevated a genre movie into the realm of brilliant filmmaking. Batman has always been a dark character but Christian Bale turned him into a brooding, morose, bleak, and spoiled hero for the modern age. The films are not perfect by any means but they turned what is generally a superficial genre and made it into Art. The final installment of the trilogy - The Dark Knight Rises - comes out this week and

Jack the Giant Slayer & Broken City [Movie Recon]

Posters, trailers, and more on two upcoming movies.
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The Sentries have been out scouting for new movies again. This time they found a retelling of the Jack and the Beanstalk tale and a Mark Wahlberg/Russell Crowe thriller. Jack the Giant Slayer The Story: The classic fairytale gets a full-length feature film reboot. This time around Jack the Farmboy inadvertantly rekindles the centuries old war between the giants and regular-sized people by creating the beanstalk that reconnects the two people's worlds. The giants climb down and are ready to fight again. The Filmmakers: Directed by Bryan Singer and stars Nicholas Hoult, Ewar McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Bill Nighy, and

Luck: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

David Milch's series proved to be not so lucky, but we are for getting a new chance to watch it.
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You would think that the Tuesday after the big Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday madness that we'd have a week full of tremendous video releases. You would think that, but you would be wrong. This week is, in fact, pretty lame. I suppose they did all their big releases and boxed sets in the build-up to the big shopping weekend and now are expecting most folks to be flat busted. Browsing ahead, I see they've got some major releases in the weeks before us (and Christmas) so we'll just consider this a week of rest before the shenanigans begin again.

Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set is the Pick of the Week

A nicely priced boxed set just in time for Christmas.
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Just the other day I was complaining to my wife that the new Doctor Who series is incredibly expensive here in America. For a single season you have to pay about $70-80 a pop, whereas in the UK (using the site as a reference) a single season goes for about 15 British pounds or around $23. I could get the first six seasons of the show via the British Amazon site including the exchange rate and shipping costs for less than the price of just two seasons if I bought it stateside. How ridiculous is that? What's particularly strange

Lawrence of Arabia (50th Anniversary Collector's Edition) is the Pick of the Week

David Lean's masterpiece gets a massive boxed set and a restored look.
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The phrase "They don't make them like they used to" is trite, banal, and way over-used, yet sometimes, it's also perfectly true. This is the case with David Lean's 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia. To use another cliche - it is epic, in every sense of that word. I only recently watched it and I was blown away by its scope, beauty, cinematogrpaphy, drama, action, and sense of wonder. Upon its release, it won seven Academy Awards and four BAFTAs. It continually makes its way onto lists of the best films ever released including reaching #5 on the AFI Top

Rashomon is the Pick of the Week

The Kurosawa classic gets the Criterion Blu-ray treatment.
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Not to get too philosophical for a post about upcoming DVD releases, but as I've gotten older the nature of Truth has become more allusive. I grew up in a very conservative Christian household and as such was taught that Truth was something concrete, and it was discoverable. There was a Right and there was a Wrong and I was supposed to choose the Right path. As I've aged, travelled, and talked with more people from many different backgrounds, I've come to realize that these things are more in flux. That Truth for me may be different than Truth for

Alfred Hitchock The Masterpiece Collection is the Pick of the Week

The Master of Suspense gets a big boxed set on Blu-ray.
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Halloween is quite possibly my favorite holiday. I love all the decorations, the excitement of all the little children (and some not so little) dressing up as their favorite characters and monsters. I love the weather changing into fall; the chill in the air; the smell of spiced, hot liquids. I love the candy. Every year my wife and I throw a great big party where we gut large, orange vegetables and carve them into interesting images that glow in the dark. And yes, I love to be scared. I love horror movies at any time of the year, but

Blade Runner 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition is the Pick of the Week

I'm not a huge fan of the film but this is a tremendous boxed set.
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There comes a time in every movie fan and critics life when he must make certain admissions. Perhaps it is a secret love for big, dumb action films, or a soft spot for something like Showgirls or Zombie Cheerleaders From Outer Space, but we have have affectionate feelings for films that any lover of serious film really shouldn't care for at all. Even more damning is when the movie fan just can't get into a piece of cinema that rests in the pantheon of critically acclaimed masterpieces. Admitting that Citizen Kane does nothing for you or that you think Casablanca

Casino Royale (2006) Movie Review: James Bond Gets a Reboot in a Remake and It's Remarkable

After a long slump, everybody's favorite super spy comes back in style.
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We were very big Remington Steele fans, my family and I. So much so that we still tell this story to this very day. Our television was on the fritz; its picture was fuzzy and it kept doing that that thing where the screen would rotate around and around like TVs did back then. My father, in his infinite wisdom, decided that he was going to fix it by doing what he called "degmagnitzing it" which meant in actuality that he was going to rub a big speaker magnet all over the screen. This, of course, did not at

Mad Men: Season Five is the Pick of the Week

Not my favorite season of the show, but still a darn good one.
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I came late to the Mad Men game, not watching an episode until about a year and a half ago, but once I started I couldn't quit. Marathoninig through the first four seasons in a couple of weeks and then waiting with baited breath for Season Five to come out I was easily, and quickly addicted. It isn't a perfect show - I've always found Don's mysterious past to be at best a distraction and at worse a total bore - but when it's good it's bottled magic. The fifth season slumped a little in the begining but eventually found

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Movie Recon]

Posters, wallpapers, other images and videos for the upcoming Hobbit film.
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With the Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson recreated writer J.R.R. Tolkein's fantasy world of Middle Earth to perfection. The films satisfied critics and the general public, die-hard fans and those new to the world of hobbits and wizards, orcs and dwarves. Now, after much debate and deal-making, Jackson is back to bring to life the prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies, The Hobbit. He is breaking the book into three separate movies which, like the original trilogy will come out in consecutive years. The first movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters December

Prometheus is the Pick of the Week

I've avoided the spoilers and now I'm ready to watch Ridley Scott's prequel to Alien.
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Used to be people gathered around the water cooler to chat about television, movies, and music They'd get a refreshment and this discuss the show that aired last night or the movie they saw over the weekend. I suppose they still do that, but now the Internet is the world's water cooler and there is always someone to talk about whatever you want whenever you want. As a stay-at-home dad, this is both extraordinarily cool and somewhat exasperating.I love that I have easy access to reviews, trailers, and all the buzz of upcoming and recently released films. Yet, as someone

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection is the Pick of the Week

All the classic Universal monster movies in one box.
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Halloween has become one of my favorite holidays. In the 10 years we've been married, the wife and I have thrown an annual pumpkin-carving party. Generally speaking, we're kind of homebodies and as such don't go out all that much nor do we have lots of people over all that often but for the pumpkin bash we go all out. The house gets decorated with ghouls, ghosts, and monsters. I spend hours upon hours creating the perfect mix of scary songs, horror movie scores, and all those goofy Halloween-themed ditties like "The Witchdoctor" into a great blend of music for

Elysium, Tales of the Night, Oz the Great and Powerful [Movie Recon]

Images, trailers, and more from three upcoming films.
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Elysium The Plot: Set in the year 2159, where the very wealthy lives on a man-made space station while the rest of population reside on a ruined Earth, a man takes on a mission that could bring equality to the polarized worlds. The Filmmakers: Directed and written by Neil Blomkamp, starring Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and William Fichtner. The Status: Locked on Target. While I thought District 9 was not nearly as good as most everyone else did, I still found it to be an intelligent piece of science fiction by and very capable filmmaker. Elysium appears to be

Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection is the Pick of the Week

The super spy gets a super box.
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I've always had something of an odd relationship with James Bond. My parents were never huge fans of the franchise so I didn't necessarily grow up watching him. I think I discovered the films during my pubescence at say 12 or 13 years of age but at that pont I mostly watched for the girls. I can remember staring longingly at the opening sequences with their naked silhouettes and strategically placed lettering, but then the actual films tended to bore me. Well at least until some Bond girl showed up in a bikini and then I was all eyes again.

Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures is the Pick of the Week

All four films are in one big Blu-ray package, loaded with extras.
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Through four films and a television series, Indiana Jones has become one of the great heroic icons of all time. In 1980, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg wanted to create an episodic adventure story that harkened back to the seriels of the 1930s. With Raiders of the Lost Ark, they not only bested their source material but made one of the greatest films in the history of cinema. It was followed relatively quickly with two sequels (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom & Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) neither of which lived up to the original, but both

Octopussy Movie Review: Can't Live Up To Its Name

Don't tell my mom but Octopussy doesn't live up to my pubescent imagination.
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When I was a kid, my family and I would spend a couple of weeks with my dad's clan in eastern Tennessee. One particular summer TBS was showing a bunch of James Bond films (actually I think this was their habit several summers in a row, but anyways.) On this particular week while we were in Tennesseee they were showing Octopussy on the coming weekend. They ran pretty constant promos for the film which as a pubescent teenage boy this was both titilating and completely awkward. With every promo my brother and I would get excited and pledge to

Cloud Atlas, Wreck-It Ralph, and On the Road [Movie Recon]

Posters, stills and trailers from three new movies.
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Cloud Atlas The Plot: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present, and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. The Filmmakers: Based on a book by David Mitchell, written and directed by the Wachowskis (with directorial assistance by Tom Tykwer.) Starring Tom Hanks, Hugo Weaving, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant. The Status: Locked on Target. If you think that plot synopsis is confusing, just watch the trailer. It won't make anything

30 Rock: Season Six is the Pick of the Week

It took me awhile to get on board, but I now love 30 Rock
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In 2006, network television released two separate series about the behind-the-scenes shenanigans of Saturday Night Live -esque sketch comedies. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was an hour-long drama created by Aaron Sorkin and 30 Rock was a half-hour comedy developed by former SNL alumni Tina Fey. Initially I wasn't interested in either having not watched SNL since the mid-'90s and never being much of a sketch comedy fan. On a whim I caught an episode of Studio 60 about four or five episodes into the series and loved it. At that point I had never seen anything of Aaron

Dredd, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Trouble With the Curve [Movie Recon]

View posters and trailers for upcoming films.
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Dredd The Plot: In a violent, futuristic city where the police have the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner, a cop teams with a trainee to take down a gang that deals the reality-altering drug, SLO-MO.The Filmmakers: Directed by Pete Travis and starring Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, and Lena Headey The Status: On the Radar. I've never read the comic but I remember all too well the atrocity that was the Sylvester Stallone version. Comic book movies have changed a lot since then and it looks like they've gone to great lengths to make this one more

The Harry Potter Wizard's Collection is the Pick of the Week

I can't wait to watch these films with my daughter.
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I'm a child of the '80s therefore I am a Star Wars man. As a kid, I watched the original trilogy a million times, I collected all the toy figures, playing cards, etc., and in my imagination I played out the saga of Luke Skywalker over and over and over again. I was in college when they released the special editions of the original trilogy and I was first in line to see them. Ditto the prequels, nearly wetting myself at their very announcement. As an adult film-lover, I recognize that as a series the films don't really hold up

Homeland: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

Television might mostly be a wasteland of reality shows, but Homeland proves its also got some real art as well.
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A few weeks back my family and I took a vacation in Florida. We surfed, we swam, we walked, we talked, we ate, and we watched TV. Lots and lots of TV. All that activity wore us out by sun's end and there wasn't much else to do of an evening but watch television. I cut the cable cord several years ago so it was pretty excited to see all those channels. For about five minutes anyways. Then I realized there was nothing on. When did TV get so crappy? It seems like everybody has their own reality show now.

Bernie is the Pick of the Week

In a slow week, something I've never heard of gets picked.
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There are times when I feel really clued in. On those days I'm caught up with and can talk intelligently about current events: politics, news of the day, pop culture, and even sports (well okay, I can never talk intelligently about sports but sometimes I actually know what season it is and who is in the playoffs.)Other times I'm completely oblivious. With the ability to download TV shows and movies or stream them on Netflix and Hulu I cut the cord. Which means I don't have cable. Which means I only get a few channels. Which means I don't watch

Community: Season 3 is the Pick of the Week

This quirky meta comedy makes me laugh.
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It took me awhile to catch onto Dan Harmon's smart, quirky, meta-comedy Community, but now that I have, I have done so in a big, big way. He's taken a very generic situation comedy plot-line (a group of students from a wide variety of backgrounds, and ages/sexes/races start a study group to help get them through college) and made something genuinely unique. The show is not afraid to do something completely different, reaching for new heights in what can be done in a half-hour comedy even if that means they sometimes fail. There have been episodes done completely in claymation,

Marley is the Pick of the Week

A new documentary on Bob Marley might just teach me it's about the music not the posturing.
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In my mind there is a connection between Bob Marley and Che Guevera. I doubt the two ever met and I have no idea if the musician and the revolutionary contained any shared political views, but I can't shake the feeling that they are connected in some way. I supsect that, in reality, this comes from their tendency to have their likeness worn by college students everywhere who neither know Marley's music beyond Legend, his greatest-hits package, nor Guevera beyond the fighting-the-man posturing. Perhaps that's what they have in common - their fans tendency to annoy me. Which is likely

La Grand Illusion is the Pick of the Week

Jean Renoir's classic war film gets a digital makeover.
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Jean Renoir's classic film, La Grand Illusion, has had a long, strange journey since its release in 1937. The German's dubbed it "cinematic public enemy #1" and the French banned it fearing a negative influence on the fighting morale, while it garnered praise in America and other European countries. For decades the original print was thought to have been lost in an air raid in 1942. In reality it was seized by the Germans and sent to Berlin where it sat in their film archives until the Russians found it and sent it to Moscow. In the 1960s it was

The Last Days of Disco is the Pick of the Week

I'm hoping my memory of this movie holds up after ten years.
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The original GI Joe animated series is currently streaming on Netflix. I loved that show as a kid. I have many fond memories returning home from school every afternoon and watching the Joes fight COBRA, save the day, and learn something that made knowing worth half the battle. While a part of me wants to bring in the nostalgia and watch it all again, I suspect that would wind up being completely disappointing as my 36-year-old self might find what my 12-year-old self thought was awesome to be utterly cheesy and stupid. Murdering nostalgia sucks so I have yet to

Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones: Live At The Checkerboard Lounge, Chicago 1981 is the Pick of the Week

The great bluesman and the popular rock 'n' rollers played one memorable night together.
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Legendary rock band The Rolling Stones were steeped in the early Chicago blues style (in fact their name comes from the Muddy Waters song "Rollin' Stone"). The Stones' massive popularity internationally helped gain their blues style an audience outside of America. In 1981 amidst their gigantic American tour the Rolling Stones arrived in Chicago for a three-night stint playing at the Rosemont Horizon. While in the city they stopped off at Muddy Water's Checkerboard Lounge to watch the legend in action. It didn't take long for Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood, and Ian Stewart to wind up on stage

The Pirate Movie is the Pick of the Week

In an incredibly lackluster week, nostalgia wins.
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I was recently reading an article about how It's a Wonderful Life would never have been a much beloved classic had it not been for a clerical error. It seems someone forgot to renew its copyright which allowed television stations to broadcast it for free (whcih is what they did being the cheap bastards that they are) and it was the countless repeat viewings every Christmas that made it a classic. That got me thinking about other films that are now considered to be classics, or that are at least brimmed with nostalgia simply because they got a lot of

To Rome With Love, Savages, V/H/S [Movie Recon]

Get info, posters, and video from the latest upcoming movies.
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The Sentries have been out scouting again and this time they've brought you posters, pictures, and trailers from new movies by Woody Allen and Oliver Stone plus a scary looking horror flick. To Rome With Love The Story: Woody Allen's newest is about a number of people in Italy, some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors, and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into. The Filmmakers: Written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penélope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Ellen Page. The Status: Locked on Target.

Hinoshi Inagaki's The Samurai Trilogy is the Pick of the Week

Why have I never watched these movies?
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Sometimes when I look at the new releases one blaring question comes straight to my mind: why haven't I watched this movie before? Sometimes there are films that are so highly rated, so obviously classic, so high on my list of things to watch that I'm completely surprised I've never actually sat down with them. This week it is the Samurai Trilogy. I freaking love me some samurai and Toshiro Mifune is one of my all-time favorite actors. I even own some Chinese bootlegs of the films yet I've never managed to sit myself down and watch them. Based on

Lina Wertmuller Collection (Love & Anarchy, The Seduction of Mimi, All Screwed Up) is the Pick of the Week

Fond, if fuzzy, memories from college and critical acclaim make me want to see these films.
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After my sophmore year in college I took some summer classes. Summer at this college was intensely boring as the vast majority of the students went home and all extra-curricular activities disappeared. This was especially true during the two weeks between the end of the spring semester and the begining of the summer courses. I lived too far away from the school to go home, and I was virtually alone until classes started up again. I didn't own a television at the time so I spent most of my time in the dorm lobby watching TV in there. At night

LAFF 2012: Red Flag, Pincus, Sun Kissed, Call Me Kuchu [Movie Recon]

We've got info on four new movies premiering at the LA Film Festival.
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Since 1995 the LA Film Festival has showcased some of the world's best films. While the festival has premiered some bigger-named titles (this year's festival will have premiered Brave, To Rome with Love (North American), and Magic Mike,) its primary focus is on smaller, independent features, short films, docmentaries, and music videos. It is a 10-day event that started this year on June 14 and will last until the 24th. We decided to host a special edition of Movie Recon today to highlight just a few of the many films selected to screen at the festival. Red Flag The

Harold and Maude is the Pick of the Week

It was a hard choice this week but I had to go with my heart.
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There are a few really interesting titles coming out this week, and I had a hard time deciding which one to pick, but in the end I had to go with my heart. Harold and Maude is a film that I had heard about for a long, long time before ever getting around to watching. When I did watch it, it was more of a whim than a conscious decision. Due to complicated circumstances, my wife and I were living with my parents when my aunt and uncle let us house sit for them while they went on holiday. We

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Django Unchained, and Brave [Movie Recon]

We've got assets for three new movies coming soon to your local cineplex.
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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey The Story: Prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy The Hobbit follows Bilbo Baggins on a journey to the Lonely Mountain to steal treasure from Smaug, a dragon. Along the way he finds the One Ring and uses it to his advantage. The Filmmakers: Directed by Peter Jackson and starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Luke Evans, Hugo Weaving and Cate Blanchet.The Status: Locked on Target. With most of the people involved with The Lord of the Rings trilogy still involved I am very excited to see what

Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season is the Pick of the Week

One of the most exciting series on television has its fourth season come to DVD.
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Whenever I hear people grumble about how bad television is these days, I just roll my eyes and mutter under my breath how they don't know what they are talking about. Sure, there's plenty of crap on, and with the 800 channels available there is perhaps more than ever, but if you know where to look, there are tons of great shows out there. In fact I'd argue that the last 20 years has seen some of the best television prgramming since the invention of the cathode ray tubes. Breaking Bad comes very near the top of any list you

View Posters, Stills and Trailers for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Red Lights, and Branded [Movie Recon]

We've got the lowdown on new movies with samurais, blind psychics and alien advertisers.
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Once again our scouts have been scouring the movie landscape for upcoming films. This time we found posters, images, and trailers for Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai, Red Lights, and Branded. Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai The Story: A reimagining of a 1962 Japanese film, this one tells the story of revenge, honor, and disgrace, centering on a poverty-stricken samurai who discovers the fate of his ronin son-in-law, setting in motion a tense showdown of vengeance against the house of a feudal lord. The Filmmakers: Directed by Takashi Miike and stars Ebizô Ichikawa Kôji Yakusho. The Status: Locked on

Summer Interlude and Summer With Monika Are the Picks of the Week

Two Bergman flicks get the Criterion treatment.
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I've barely made a dent in the 64 films that director Ingmar Bergman made in his lifetime, but the handful I have managed to watch have been masterful, and nearly perfect. His films are often difficult, dark, deep, and intellectual, which means I don't watch them nearly as often as I'd like as I all too often prefer something more lighter, more easy to digest, but when I do make the effort I am always rewarded greatly. Criterion is releasing two of his earlier period works (Summer with Monika and Summer Interlude) and though I have never seen them, nor

View Posters, Stills, and Trailers From The Master, Skyfall, and Men In Black III [Movie Recon]

We've got the goods from Paul Thomas Anderson, Sam Mendes, and the Men in Black traveling in time.
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Welcome back to another round of Movie Recon. This time our movie spies have got posters, stills, and trailers for upcoming movies by PT Anderson, Sam Mendes, and Barry Sonnefeld. The Master (2012) The Plot: Set in the 1950s The Master focuses on a young drifter who gets involved with a charismatic intellectual and his cult-like religion.The Filmmakers: Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Joaquin Phoenix.The Status: Locked on Target. I've liked every movie Anderson has ever directed and am a big, big fan of Hoffman. Throw in Amy Adams and Joaquin's

Sherlock: Season Two is the Pick of the Week

The master detective does it again in another season of the update on a classic.
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I have a very mixed relationship with Sherlock Holmes - I am both utterly fascinated with the character, and more than slightly annoyed at his God-like abilities. He's an interesting character, well drawn and utterly sunk into our culture, and yet all too often he seems to solve crimes by doing nothing more than looking intently at something. I realize that's the point, that he uses his big brain and skills of observation and deduction but it often feels like a writer's trick rather than real detecting. Still, I do enjoy reading the stories and am always ready to catch

Get a Sneak Peak at Moonrise Kingdom, Snow White & the Huntsman, A Cat In Paris [Movie Recon]

View trailers, images, and plot summaries for three upcoming movies.
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After a long break our reconnaissance team is back in action. This time we've got a new Wes Anderson film, another take on the Snow White story, and a Parisian cartoon about a secret cat. Stay tuned for pictures, trailers, and more! Moonrise Kingdom The Story: A pair of 12-year-olds fall in love and flee their New England home. A rag-tag, quirky team of rescuers attempt to find them and bring them home. The Filmmakers: Directed by Wes Anderson and starring Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Frances McDorman, and Jason Schwartzman. The Status: Locked

Being John Malkovich is the Pick of the Week

With his first film, Charlie Kaufman proves he is a writer worth watching.
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I suppose it is fair to say that the majority of filmgoers primarily see films based on who is in it. Actors are the most visible aspect of a movie - they are quite literally the stars of the show. We are a celebrity-obsessed culture and there are not bigger celebrities than movie stars. When people talk about movies, the actors are generally talked about. Directors probably come second on that list. People like Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, and Ron Howard are household names. Writers, however, are much farther down. With few exceptions. I'd guess that most of us don't

La Haine is the Pick of the Week

A choice between a arty French flick and bad horror has me pretending to be more cultured than I am.
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My wife teaches French at university while I stay at home and raise our one-year-old daughter. It is an unconventional set-up I suppose, but for the most part I rather like it. This semester has been tough though. She is teaching seven different classes where she normally teaches about four or five. The extra work load means that she stays longer at work and when she comes home she normally has tests to write or papers to grade. All of which puts extra work on me, managing the house and taking care of the kid. This week is finals week,

George Harrison: Living in a Material World is the Pick of the Week

The quiet Beatles gets the Scorcese treatment.
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One of my dark, secret musical confessions is that I don't particularly like George Harrison's album All Things Must Pass. There are some great songs on it no doubt, but as a whole I find it overlong, tedious, and just a bit boring. I know that it is a critical darling of an album. I know that it is Harrison's triumph over the Beatles who kept his songwriting talents down to one or two songs an album, but I really wish he'd had some of their editing talents there. That being confessed George was a Beatle and for that I

The Organizer is the Pick of the Week

When in doubt, go with Criterion.
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A couple of weeks ago I talked about how, in choosing each week's pick, I pretend someone gives me a bunch of money and I have fun spending it. Most weeks that's an easy task. Some weeks, though, I think I'd save my money. There is absolutely nothing that really jumps out at me this week. Nothing that's been on my list of things I simply must buy, nor anything that looks so terribly intriguing that I'm ready to dish out my own hard-earned cash. I suppose if i was really given money each week I could find some things

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol is the Pick of the Week

I can't say no to Tom Cruise.
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Say what you will about Tom Cruise's personal life, his weird religion, or his lack of real acting chops, but the man has made some terrific adventure movies. His Mission: Impossible reboots have consistently gotten better with each sequel, and though I haven't yet seen it Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, the fourth in the series has gotten some darn good buzz, including from Sentry Max Naylor. Add in director Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Iron Giant, Ratatouille) and you've got the makings of a pick of the week. This go-round finds Cruise's Ethan Hunt and his band of IMF agents

The Iron Lady is the Pick of the Week

She's so tough she beat out a classic French film for the pick.
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I've been doing these Pick of the Week posts for awhile now and so I've developed a sort-of rule system to go with my decision making. I like to pretend that at first someone gives me just enough money to purchase one DVD a week. That purchase then becomes my pick, and then I imagine that person relents and gives me more money to buy anything that sounds interesting. With that first purchase I think about what would I like to have in my collection. Sometimes it's an upgrade to something I might already own - a high-definition transfer, or

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey is the Pick of the Week

The too-cute fuzzy red guy gets his own movie.
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Since nearly the moment she was born my daughter has loved Sesame Street. She's entranced by it. For the longest time I could turn on any other show or movie and she wouldn't pay any attention to it at all. She'd keep playing with her toys or study the ceiling or do whatever else babies do which often meant get fussy and cry. Especially if I got out of eyesight. Which meant I had to stay close. All the time. Except when Sesame Street came on. For about an hour a day (and sometimes more as it streams on Netflix)

David Lean Directs Noel Coward Criterion Box Set is the Pick of the Week

Four films by the legendary writer and director get the royal treatment.
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This week Criterion is releasing a boxed set of four films written by playright Noel Coward and directed by David Lean. Of the four films (In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit, Brief Encounter) I've seen exactly none. In fact I've only seen two Lean directed films at all (Oliver Twist and The Bridge on the River Kwai) but that won't keep the set from being my Pick of the Week. Lean's reputation simply preceeds him. Not to mention those two films of his I have seen are two of my favorite films of all time. The four

The Muppets is the Pick of the Week

Jim Henson's marvelous creation is back and as boisterous as ever.
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Like millions of other kids I grew up watching many of Jim Henson's creations including Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, the monsters of Labyrinth, and, of course, the Muppets. I have many fond memories of watching Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie the Bear, and all the rest having zany adventures and always making me laugh. When I heard they were coming out with a new movie, I was excited. When I heard it was going to star the always delightful Amy Adams, I was thrilled. When it started getting enthusiastic reviews that noted it didn't mess with the old

The Adventures of Tintin (2011) is the Pick of the Week

Steven Spielberg's take on the classic comic looks brilliant.
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My wife is a nerdy Francophile - she adores everything French especially its arts. I didn't know it before we got married but both France and Belgium have a long and storied history of creating comics and graphic novels. Over there they actually come in these really lovely hardback books that are both more durable and larger than their American counterparts. But that's neither here nor there, what is there and now here is Tintin, perhaps the French-speaking world's greatest gift to the comic-book world. Created by Belgian artist Hergé in 1929, the series is one of the most popular

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

HBO creates another winning series.
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I got about half-way through Game of Thrones when it first came out before tuning out. This was not long after my daughter was born so I was a bit distracted and so there were large chunks of the series that I wasn't quite grasping. Also my wife was on maternity leave and the gratuitous nudity, violence, and general HBO adultness was a bit much for her. I did like the show and vowed to return to it sometime later. In fact I went and bought the book, promptly devouring it. I'm normally the sort of person who prefers to

Hugo is the Pick of the Week

Martin Scorcese's gorgeous love letter to the movies comes out this week.
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I think I mentioned before in this series that I haven't seen very many films in the theatre this year. My daughter was born last April and I fully blame her for my lack of theatre experience. The wife and I barely get any time to ourselves anymore and when we do we're usually way too exhausted to sit in a dark theatre, on comfortable chairs without falling asleep. As such I've only seen one of the pictures that were nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards. As it turns out that picture is out on DVD/Blu-ray this week

J. Edgar is the Pick of the Week

Clint Eastwood's biography of the enigmatic FBI director gets my pick this week.
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There's an old Seinfeld joke where Jerry and George are talking about bringing a date to a party. Jerry insists its a bad idea because at a party you want to mingle and not be stuck talking to one person. He says you could take J. Edgar Hoover as your date but you'd still want to excuse yourself from his conversation. When George asks why he picked Hoover for the example, Jerry replies, "Well I would think, with the law enforcement and the cross dressing. Seems like an interesting guy." That probably sums up what most of us know about

The Rum Diary is the Pick of the Week

Johnny Depp plays Hunter S. Thompson again to mixed reviews.
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For the last week my wife and I have both had terrifically terrible head colds. We create create quite the modern symphony with our constant cacophany of coughing, and have the modern art equivilant with our mountains of filthy tissues piled up in each room. I continue to buy various over-the-counter medications and continue to take them in various amounts and combinations which leave me in various states of mental capabilities. It is absolutely awful. Getting no sleep, being in constant pain, continously coughing and being regularly drugged out of my mind is ridiculously not at all fun. I won't

Downton Abbey Series Two is the Pick of the Week

Simple a marvelous show which includes the Christmas special.
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In the first few weeks after my daughter was born my wife, my mother-in-law, and myself spent a great deal of time inside the house with nothing to do but manage the girl and watch television. With the mother-in-law in-tow I was greatly limited in my viewing opportunities - I tend to watch a lot of violence, sex, zombies, and cursing, none of which my mother-in-law approves of and so I had to find tamer fare for the three of us to indulge in. I have lots of classic films as well on DVD and we watched many of them,

The Pick of the Week is The Magnificent Ambersons

Orson Welles does it again.
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Years ago when I was just out of high school (or possibly just out of college - who can remember these things when they happened so long ago?) my mother and I were at the local video rental place looking for something to watch on a lazy Saturday. As those things go, we spent way too longer looking and debating with neither of us willing to make the final decision. Eventaully we went with Citizen Kane. Neither of us had seen it but the critics were always carrying on about it and the AFI had just declared it the greatest

U2: From the Sky Down is the Pick of the Week

Once again Bono saves us.
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You know it is a heck of a week for movie releases when the top seller on Amazon is a workout video. The second release is a futuristic tale about giant boxing robots. Some weeks it just doesn't pay to get out of bed in the morning. But just as the prophet Bono spoke once again an Irish band has arisen to save us from this boring, abysmal release week. U2: From the Sky Down finds the band returning to the studio in Berlin to discuss the making of their seminal album Actung Baby. That's probably my favorite album from

Belle de Jour is the Pick of the Week

A French classic gets me all excited.
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My wife is a Francophile, that is to say she is a great lover of all things French. She learned to speak the language when she was a teenager, has been taking classes in it ever since (she's a dissertation away from earning her PhD in French linguistics.) She's lived in French-speaking Quebec twice, in France for a year, and spent some time in the French-speaking part of Belgium a couple of times. She also collects anything she can find in the language or having to do with the culture. She has a bunch of little Eiffel Towers, replicas of

Boardwalk Empire: The Complete First Season is the Pick of the Week

It took me awhile to latch on my this new HBO series now has me hooked.
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I'm generally terribly behind on my TV watching. I am, what they call now, a cord cutter. I don't have cable or satellite or any other form of pay TV. Because I live in small-town Tennessee, my antennae can only pick up ABC, three PBS stations, and only just recently a generic form of CBS (which has zero local programming.) I do watch Hulu over the Internet and have the Netflix streaming service, but very rarely use it to watch new programming. Generally speaking I wait until a season (or sometimes two or three seasons or even the complete series)

Justified: The Complete Second Season is the Pick of the Week

Timothy Olyphant and Elmore Leonard create a fun, entertaining, if not exactly perfect series.
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This first week of January has already picked up some steam from the dismal choices we had in the last. There are a few fairly interesting releases to choose from, though I wouldn't quite call anything an absolute must-have. Timothy Olyphant's choice of movies to act in has never quite been my cup of tea and as such as an actor he's never really become someone that I seek out. In the realm of television though he was quite memorable as Seth Bullock in the outstanding Deadwood. Based on that information plus it being produced by Elmore Leonard I was

The Borgias - Season One is the Pick of the Week

A show about a Pope take this pick in a very slow week.
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If I was in charge of releasing movies each week I don't suspect I would put my big pictures out the week between Christmas and New Years either. The wallets are bare from purchasing too many presents and loads of people are off work and too busy with family gatherings to do much shopping anyways. Then there are New Years Eve party plans to make. No, if I was in charge I might just leave this week completely alone. Which is pretty much what those who actually are in charge of putting out new releases have done. The pickings are

Midnight in Paris is the Pick of the Week

Woody Allen's newest movies tops out a very small list of releases this week before Christmas.
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My brother is four years older than me so when I was just a kid he was a lusty teenager who always went out on the weekends with a girl or his friends or whatever. My father would usually stay up and wait for him to come home and I'd usually stay up with him. Back then the USA network was still in its infancy and as such had very little original programming but rather mostly showed reruns of random TV shows and lots of dumb old movies. Friday and Saturday night they ran what they called Up All Night,

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the Pick of the Week

CG monkeys might just win an Oscar.
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If it isn't already distinctly clear from reading my weekly picks, let me state it directly now: I rarely get to the cinema anymore. I have a seven-month-old daughter and its rather difficult to find a sitter that will allow me and the wife to go out for a few hours. Although honestly, we weren't going much before we had her. It is too expensive to go often and whenever we would go all too often the theatre would be filled with all sorts of obnoxiousness from chatty teenager to bratty kids to adults talking and texting on their mobile

The Lady Vanishes (1938) from Criterion is the Pick of the Week

An early Hitchcock classic gets the Criterion treatment on Blu-ray.
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With Christmas right around the corner one would imagine the movie studios would be releasing a slew of awesome movies to fill our collective stockings. Apparently, one imagines wrong. Or perhaps, I'm simply the wrong person to fill stockings as the types of movies that fill movie studios' pockets are not always the types of films I'm interested in. There are several big name releases this week and we'll get to them in a moment, but for my choice we have to go back 73 years to an Alfred Hitchcock classic. The Lady Vanishes is getting the Criterion treatment on

30 Rock: Season 5 is the Pick of the Week

30 Rock boosts a pretty slow week for new releases.
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If it were up to Mat Brewster the regular guy, the non-writer, the man with the statuesque physique but ever shrinking wallet due to a wife who likes to shop and baby who needs larger and larger clothes on average of about every 3.7 seconds - if it were up to that guy, he'd give this week a pass. There just isn't anything coming out this week that's gonna make him spend his already tiny Christmas budget on. But since this column isn't written by that guy but rather the Mat Brewster who has to write a weekly column about

12 Angry Men is the Pick of the Week

Sidney Lumet's classic court-room drama gets the Criterion treatment.
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There are several interesting films coming out on Blu-ray this week and it was hard to just pick one of them as the best, but its my job to make the hard choices and I'm ready to make them for you. Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men is a classic in every conceivable way. It is superbly written, directed, shot, and acted. It is the standard for courtroom dramas. It is truly a masterpiece of cinema. And now it is available in high definition Blu-ray in what looks like a tremendous edition from Criterion. It is presented with a new high

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is the Pick of the Week

The end comes to the fantasy-film franchise.
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I came to the Harry Potter universe a little late. I didn't see the first movie until the fourth one came out and didn't start reading the books until the sixth one was released. Honestly the first two films didn't really do anything for me. They were cute enough, and they remained fairly faithful to the books, but for someone just stepping into the universe they weren't able to capture my imagination fully and make me understand the massive appeal the stories had. Still, I bought the books for my wife and took them up for something to do. Pretty

Cars Collector's Edition is the Pick of the Week

A less than stellar sequel gets the full treatment.
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For the longest time it seemed that Pixar could do no wrong. Over the last 16 years they have consistently made some of the finest family films this side of Studio Ghibli. While certainly some films were better than others all of them have been highly enjoyable and walked that line where both kids and adults can find something to enjoy. When they announced a sequel to their 2006 film Cars I was at first a little disappointed. While filled with some amazing animation and some fun moments I find that film to my least favorite Pixar film to date,

Movie Recon: Angels Crest, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, The Woman in Black

Another recon full of posters, trailers and still of upcoming films.
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This edition of Movie Recon looks at three very different films, including a one blockbuster sequel that's been on the horizon for quite a while. Angels Crest Story: In the small, working class community of Angels Crest, nestled in a valley deep in the Rocky Mountains, Ethan, a young father of a three-year-old boy faces an unexpected tragedy and is then pursued by a prosecutor facing his own demons. Filmmakers: Directed by Gaby Dellal, written by newcomer Catherine Trieschmann (based on the novel by Leslie Schwartz), and starring Thomas Decker, Elizabeth McGovern, Jeremy Piven, and Mina Sorvino. Status: On

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection is the Pick of the Week

The classic comedy duo get the big box treatment.
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I'm not entirely sure I've ever seen a Laurel and Hardy film. In fact the only Laurel and Hardy anything I'm quite certain I've seen is that Scooby Doo episode that featured the comedy duo and that was actually voiced by other actors. It's possible I've seen a short film here or there, but I cannot actually recall them. Why then am I so anxious to see the new boxed set, Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, that I am making it my Pick of the Week? Reputation, my dear friends, reputation. Laurel & Hardy have one of the best-respected,

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 40th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

Willy Wonka gets a big box set for its anniversary.
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Roald Dahl wrote children's books that are full of dark, sardonic humor, mean and nasty villains, and a complete lack of over emotional sentiment which makes them absoluely marvelous for children and adults alike. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was no exception as it is filled with bratty children, the treacherously eccentric Willy Wonka and the utterly bizarre Oompa-Loompas. The 1971 film version of the book took some notable excursions from the source material but is still considered a brilliant classic. Gene Wilder is fantastic as Wonka and the brightly colored Oompa-Loompas with their imaginative songs will leave you in

The Tree of Life is the Pick of the Week

Terrence Malick's new flick comes out this week and I'm ready to buy.
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Terrence Malick has only directed five feature films in his nearly 40-year career. I'd say he lacked ambition except that all of those films were hugely ambitious in scope and meaning. I've only actually seen two of those five (Badlands and The Thin Red Line), but both of those were beautiful, artistic measure, and his other films are very much on my list of things to see. For me Malick is a bit like Kurosawa and Bergman in that I've loved everything I've seen by them, but their films are often so dense, so full of meaning that I know

Movie Recon: War Horse, The Help

Steven's Spielberg's new flick and a DVD/Blu-ray release of The Help.
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Today's Recon brings information about two films from the history pages. On Christmas day Steven Spielberg's movie about a horse making its mark on WWI comes out, and earlier in December The Help comes to DVD/Blu-ray. We've got images, trailers, and bonus material waiting for you below. War Horse Story: A horse is taken from his master in rural England to help with the war effort during WWI. The horse finds himself experiencing all angles of the war from the British calvary to German soldiers, from the idylic countryside to No Man's Land. Along the way he touches the

Movie Recon: The Lie, I Melt With You, & The Rum Diary

Today's recon brings you posters, trailers, and stills from The Lie, I Melt with You, and The Rum Diary.
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Today's recon has information on three upcoming movies. First up is The Lie, an independent film about two idealists who find themselves conforming and a great big lie that may change it all. Next is I Melt with You about some college buddies getting together and finding more than they bargained for. Lastly, we've got the The Rum Diary based on a Hunter S. Thompson novel and starring Johnny Depp. The Lie Story: Based on a short story by T.C. Boyle, The Lie tells the story of two young idealists whose lives get derailed by a pregnancy and then the

Ken Burns' Prohibition is the Pick of the Week

Lots of good releases this week, but my vote goes to the ever impressive Ken Burns.
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It is a great big week for Blu-ray releases, but I've got to give the edge to a regular DVD release from Ken Burns because one can never really go wrong with a Ken Burns series. Prohibition is a three-part, six-hour documentary about the 18th Amendment - what brought it on, the consequences it created, and its ultimate repeal. The three-disc set includes interviews and bonus scenes not seen in the television airing, plus original music by Wynton Marsalis.Also coming out this week that sounds interesting to me:Bored to Death, Season 2: I haven't watched an episode of this HBO

Movie Recon: Oranges and Sunshine, The Raven, Thunder Soul

We've got your posters, stills and trailers of three upcoming films.
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In today's Recon we've got two fictionalizations of real people from the past, and a documentary that captures both the past and the present of a mroup of students and their teacher. I will report on whether its status has me Locked on Target (highly interested), if is On the Radar (mildly interested), or if is is still Under Surveillance (not yet interested). Oranges and Sunshine The Story: For over 100 years some 100,000 childen were sent to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and South Africa from the United Kingdom. Most of them were orphans, but many were sent without their

Movie Recon: The Human Centipede Part 2 (Full Sequence), Inside Out, and Margin Call

We've scouted out more movie posters, trailers, and info for your viewing pleasure.
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Today's recon features the guaranteed to churn your stomach (and your sense of artistic merit in film) The Human Centipede Part 2 (Full Sequence), an action vehicle for WWE star Triple H that doesn't make me want to vomit called Inside Out and a fictional take on the 2008 financial crisis starring a slew of A-list actors titled Margin Call. Read on to learn more. The Human Centipede Part 2 (Full Sequence) I like horror films. I even like ridiculously stupid horror films that are nothing more than an excuse to pile one blood-soaked body on top of another

Movie Recon: A Bird of the Air & Johnny English Reborn

Get the lowdown on two upcoming films.
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For today's recon we've got a quirky romance and a parrot in A Bird of the Air, plus Rowan Atkinson acting like, well like Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Reborn. For posters, trailers, stills and more, please continue reading. A Bird of the Air We should all be just a wee bit suspicious of movies with one of its stars being neither human or animated. Whether it's Clint Eastwood with an orangutan or Bill Murray and an elephant, movies about animals are regularly terrible. The plot synopsis of A Bird of the Air - "A sassy parrot and free-spirited

Movie Recon: The Immortals, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

This installment contains two different takes on some ancient myths.
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Today's installment of Movie Recon consists of two fantasies. Immortals is the tale of Greek gods and kings as told by the producers of 300 and the director of the Fall; the second is a four-part motion comic based upon Norse mythology. Learn more, see the poster art, and watch some trailers below. The Immortals Tarsem Singh has made a couple of movies (The Cell, The Fall) neither was very good, but both were visually amazing. This time around he's got a story that sounds interesting - a brutal Greecian king (Mickey Rourke) wreaks havoc across the country in

Movie Recon: The Thing (2011), The Woman, Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings

Three new horror movie posters and trailers.
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With Halloween fast approaching this report is all about upcoming horror movies. The Thing is a prelude to John Carpenter's classic film, though the premise looks pretty much exactly the same. The Woman is a controversial film about a woman who is captured and tortured by a family, and Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginings is another sequel to the long-running franchise. Keep reading for more details. The Thing (2011) Calling itself a prelude to the classic 1982 John Carpenter film with the same name, The Thing concerns itself with a group of researchers who discover an unknown creature in

Movie Recon: The Debt, The Entitled, Killer Elite

More trailers, clips, and images from Cinema Sentries.
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This report focuses on three upcoming releases. Appearing in a theatre near you, The Debt and Killer Elite star Oscar-winning actors in two different type of spy stories with what looks like more action in the latter. The Entitled is a straight-to-video crime thriller. More details below. The Debt Helen Mirren can do no wrong in my book. She is as lovely as she is talented. In The Debt, she stars alongside Tom Wilkinson and Ciarán Hinds as Mossad secret agents who helped track down a Nazi war criminal in 1966. But all is not as it seems and

Movie Recon: Drive, Machine Gun Preacher, Seven Days in Utopia

We bring you more posters and trailers from upcoming flicks.
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Drive If the Fast and the Furious franchise didn't bring enough big car chases to the screen for you, Drive promises to bring you a few more this September. Ryan Gosling plays a stunt man who moonlights as a wheel-man for criminals. After what should be his last heist, he finds himself instead being trailed by heavies who won't quit until they get what they want. It's got a great cast (with Christina Hendricks as the love interest, Ron Perlman and Albert Brooks as the bad guys) and a Cannes pedigree so hopefully it will prove to be more