Recently by Mat Brewster

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 amazon.co.uk 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

Movie Recon: Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, Finding Joe, Tales from the Golden Age

Preview three new documentaries with posters, still images, and trailers.
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Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace Before Wikileaks made turning political secrets into headlines hip, there were all sorts of sly, underground ways of learning the innermost workings of other countries doings. Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace is a documentary about the media blacked-out, super secret meetings and dealings that brought about the 1979 Camp David Peace Accord and Treaty between Egypt and Israel. Featuring nearly everyone involved in the treaty from Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, and Wolf Blitzer to Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Arye Naor former Secretary to the Cabinet of Israel the film gives insight

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