DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Take the Money and Run

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Technically, 1969's "Take the Money and Run" isn't Woody Allen's directorial debut. That distinction belongs to the dubbed farce, "What's Up, Tiger Lilly?" However, what the second effort in a long, decorated career represents is Allen's initial offering of pure silliness, taking his interests and timing as a comedian and film performer, and funneling it into a faux documentary about the life and times of a terrible crook. It's the first shot fired in an early career what would go on to introduce several comedy classics, but with "Take the Money and Run," Allen provides a raw form of cheekiness to come, showcasing early instincts to offer as many jokes as possible, fueling the endeavor on pure goofiness. It's a joy to watch at times, even at its most exhausting, delivering a hungrier Allen at the start of his helming career, eager to please with this zany snapshot of criminal stupidity.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Opera

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Dario Argento certainly doesn't have the career today that he once had in the past, and the line of quality tends to be drawn at 1987's "Opera," which represents a final push of youthful exuberance when it comes to staging ghastly acts of violence as stylishly and surreal-like as possible. "Opera" is one of Argento's better pictures, partially because it plays directly to his artistic interests, mixing the theatricality of stage performance with the grim appetites of giallo filmmaking, coming up with a slightly deflated but fascinating horror endeavor that comes alive whenever the helmer frees himself from narrative rule and explodes with evil and animal wrangling. Perhaps in the grand scheme of a career that produced "Suspiria," "Deep Red," and "Tenebrae," Argento's push to make a winded tale of insanity isn't going to penetrate deep enough, but visual delights remain, with Argento working up the energy to supply a proper jolt of the macabre and the exaggerated.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Red Line 7000

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The aching hearts of stock car racers and the women who love them are explored in 1965's "Red Line 7000." Director Howard Hawks clearly has a lot of respect for the sport, but his ability to find something interesting to do once the action steps away from the track is iffy at best. "Red Line 7000" aims to be a butch overview of dented masculinity, but it's surprisingly sudsy and a little protracted, though Hawks does well with his cast, putting together an ensemble of disparate talent who lend the feature the little excitement it provides. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Score: A Film Music Documentary

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Movies wouldn't be movies without music. However, film scoring is often an unheralded art, left as something for the senses, difficult to separate from the overall viewing experience. Writer/director Matt Schrader hopes to achieve a level of appreciation with "Score: A Film Music Documentary," which examines the history of composing and performing as it's developed over the last century. It's not an easy task to cover such an enormous time period in just 90 minutes, and Schrader certainly speeds around the subject like the Tasmanian Devil, but the effort is there to spotlight dozens of creative people who painstakingly put together what often becomes the heart and soul of cinema, creating music that inspires emotion and, sometimes, life itself, offered clear identification in this wonderfully vibrant and insightful documentary. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com 


Blu-ray Review - Custer of the West

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1967's "Custer of the West" is built for size, not accuracy. It's a weird mix of Western mythology and revisionism, trying to compete in the race of Hollywood spectacles, but unsure if it wants to commit to the legend of George Armstrong Custer in full. It has its heart in the right place, exposing the darker side of the pioneer spirit, but a few steps in the enlightened direction throw the whole cinematic dance off, threatening to confuse viewers confronted with a committed military man known for slaughtering Native Americans, but spent most of his career trying to protect them from harm. At least the movie looks beautiful. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Cyborg 2087

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In the future, old men will be robots, and they will all wear ascots. That's the promise made by "Cyborg 2087," a 1966 time travel adventure directed by Franklin Adreon, who attempts to stretch roughly 30 minutes of story into an 86-minute-long film. He's not exactly a miraculous architect of suspense, with the feature enduring incredible padding just to make it to a release-worthy length, but there's a certain tone of super-serious no- budget sci-fi that keeps the effort entertaining, even when it isn't doing anything onscreen. "Cyborg 2087" isn't a genre classic, that's for sure, but it retains some appeal due to committed performances and Adreon's B-movie hustle, often doing anything he can to keep the picture on the move.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

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On the Mount Rushmore of glitter-thwacked, cocaine-dusted cinematic camp from the late 1970s and early '80s, there's "Xanadu," "Can't Stop the Music," "The Apple," and 1978's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." I'm sure the production marched into battle with a sincerity, striving to redefine an iconic album from The Beatles for a new generation, offering a loose narrative and legendary tunes to The Bee Gees, Peter Frampton, Aerosmith, Billy Preston, Alice Cooper, Steve Martin, and a host of additional musicians and comedians. Assuming the jukebox musical form, "Sgt. Pepper" means to be a good time with familiar music, but producer Robert Stigwood can't help himself, with the feature bizarre and excessive; it's an iffy idea that's out of control, endeavoring to define classics, but ending up a garish curiosity. However, it's no trainwreck, boasting many fine production achievements during its presumptuous run time. It's an easy film to dismiss, and perhaps it should be, but director Michael Schultz is after something memorable, doing his best to marry classic Hollywood spectacle to the soft rock sounds of the 1970s.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Vietnam War

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Hubris. If there's a single word that defines The Vietnam War, it's hubris. It's a conflict that's been covered from a thousand different angles, depicted in all forms of media over the last 50 years, with film being a particularly evocative meditation on an era of political folly, innocence lost, and a various nations thrown into chaos. Think "Coming Home," "Platoon," and "Born on the Fourth of July" -- vivid tales of psychological erosion, but personal ones as well, using the particulars of combat and self-destruction to inspire riveting drama. Directors Ken Burns and Lynn Novick elect to forgo corners of the conflict to wrap their arms around the whole event, creating "The Vietnam War," a ten-part documentary that endeavors to make sense of almost everything connected to the shocking experience, from origin to aftermath. Coming from a creative team that's already dissected The Civil War, World War I, and World War II, there's expected greatness with "The Vietnam War," an assurance of quality. And yet, Burns and Novick manage to surprise with their balance between detail and expanse, capturing finer points of mental illness and shame as they track the progress of global horror, born from sheer political arrogance.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Baby Bump

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There's no way to accurately describe "Baby Bump," which takes an experimental art look at the pains of puberty from the perspective of a particularly confused boy. It's a scattergun effort from writer/director Kuba Czekaj, who gives the endeavor his all on a visual level, playing with editing, split-screen, animation, and abstraction to make his comedy(?) aggressively playful. Whatever this is, it handles itself with remarkable attention to detail, giving underground cinema cowboys a true bucking bronco viewing experience.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Love with the Proper Stranger

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The real question of 1963's "Love with the Proper Stranger" isn't a will they/won't they situation concerning marriage, but are the filmmakers capable of making a feature that highlights extended conversations about abortion seem warm and cuddly by the end credits? The answer is no, but there's plenty of charm to enjoy and two strong lead performances from Steve McQueen and Natalie Wood, who supply vivid takes on young opposites forced to make critical decisions about their lives when a one-night stand makes plans to bond them forever. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tobor the Great

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Atomic Age cinema offers one for the kiddies with 1954's "Tobor the Great." It's a giant robot picture, but instead of inducing paranoia and posing a threat, the titular creation is more of a pal to all, especially to a special boy who needs a mechanical buddy. Dropping an intimidation factor, "Tobor the Great" is mischief in a minor key, gradually softening period fears of metal destruction to play a lukewarm spy game with mediocre characters and plenty of padding.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Krakatoa: East of Java

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As many publications have already mentioned, the volcanic island of Krakatoa is actually west of Java. Oops. It's the first of many mistakes encountered during "Krakatoa: East of Java," a strangely titled disaster effort from 1969 that was reportedly built backwards, with producers completing work on special effects before they had a script, requiring the writing to fit the needs of spectacle. The strain of such creative madness shows throughout the feature, which is incredibly dull when it isn't blowing things up, unable to connect as a melodrama despite a fine cast trying their best to look vaguely interested in their characters.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Adventures of Captain Marvel

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These days, it's impossible to go a season without the release of a comic book movie. They're big business these days, perhaps the one sure thing in Hollywood right now, and the industry shows no signs of slowing down the productions, endeavoring to dazzle fans with big-budgeted, snugly costumed fury, often scripted with plans to generate entire "universes" to fully milk source materials for everything they've got. In this day and age of three "Spider-Man" franchises created and released in 15 years, it's hard to consider a time when moguls had no idea what to do with the heroic antics of ink and paint titans. 1941's "Adventures of Captain Marvel" is largely credited as the first big screen attempt to do something significant with a comic book creation, using the serial format (12 chapters in total) to detail feats of strength, survival, and sleuthing, with emphasis on broad fantasy to supply proper weekly escapism and trigger ongoing interest in the fate of a beefy superhero in a tiny cape.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Birthday Party

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"The Birthday Party" is the play that reportedly changed the career of writer Harold Pinter, who finally found his voice in this particularly strange offering of kitchen sink abstraction. In the hands of director William Friedkin, the 1968 picture is pulled from the stage to the claustrophobia of cinema, finding the helmer respectful of the source material, but working to make it come alive on the screen, delivering a lively version of an impenetrable play. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

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In the long and distinguished career of director Sydney Pollack, a few classics emerged. Think "Three Days of the Condor," "Tootsie," and "Jeremiah Johnson." Perhaps his most interesting effort is 1969's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?", which immerses viewers into the world of a marathon dance contest during the Great Depression, delivering a vivid depiction of personal need and exhaustion as a simple game for a cash prize turns into a gladiatorial battle among desperate people. An adaptation of Horace McCoy's 1935 novel, "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" is a commanding, harrowing movie, showcasing Pollack's gifts with actors and his ability to visually communicate the physical toil of the contest, which carries on for months, and the helmer is prepared to make the audience feel every single hour of every single day, generating a frightfully precise viewing experience.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Visit to a Small Planet

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1960 was a big year for Jerry Lewis, welcoming the release of "Cinderfella" and "The Bellboy," which was the comedian's directorial debut, inspiring greater control over his movies. Arriving earlier in the year was "Visit to a Small Planet," which has the distinction of being a silly Jerry Lewis comedy that originated as a Gore Vidal play. The Vidal-ness of it all has been scrubbed away, but the theatrical presentation remains, with the sci-fi comedy very static and exaggerated. The production itself wants to compete with Lewis's rubbery performance, making this oddball romp with a literally untouchable alien more loud than funny, though the star can always be counted on to make a satisfying mess of scenes.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Snapshot

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In the legacy of Ozploitation, it's difficult to understand what "Snapshot" represents to the cinematic tradition. Coming from the makers of "Patrick," which went far to establish the popularity of Australian chillers, "Snapshot" doesn't register with the same level of creepiness, emerging as more of a character drama than something intending to rile up audiences. It's an unusually reserved effort which trusts in the possibilities of patience, never really pursuing a defined plot until most of the movie is already over. Director Simon Wincer and screenwriters Everett and Chris De Roche trust in quieter, conversational moments, and it gives the feature a different approach to unsettling behavior. It lacks most overt surprises, but the nightmare summoned here appears to be psychological in design, tracking the ruin of a young woman who only wanted quick cash and a little taste of independence. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Tenement

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Exploitation goes pure and uncut for 1985's "Tenement," a film that takes great pleasure in being incredibly violent, with particular attention to the massacre of its characters. The effort comes from Roberta Findlay, a practiced helmer of sleaze, and she's in a particular mood to deliver a truly uneasy viewing experience detailing the horrors of urban living, taking on the nightmare of the Bronx with full attention to B-movie suffering, sold under the guise of a siege picture. Because of its '80s creation date, some of this aggression hasn't aged particularly well, but sections of "Tenement" still manage to summon their intended noise, with Findlay making sure to linger on unsavory business for as long as she can -- a fixation that inspired the MPAA to slap the endeavor with an X rating for its initial theatrical release, making it even more irresistible to admirers of low-budget hellraising.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Duel in the Sun

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After creating a moviegoing phenomenon with 1939's "Gone with the Wind," producer David O. Selznick understandably craved a return to such cultural domination. It took him seven years, but Selznick reunited with epic filmmaking for "Duel in the Sun," an adaptation of novel by Niven Busch, getting him out of the south and into the west, finding a cowboy tale that brimming with volatile personalities and boiling emotions. Sadly, "Duel in the Sun" is not as patient as "Gone with the Wind" when it comes to heated confrontations and tangled relationships, with this need to revive the alchemy of the earlier effort screwing with the timing and emphasis of the new production.  Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Prizzi's Honor

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As a director, John Huston has enjoyed an incredible career, dating back to his very first outing, 1941's "The Maltese Falcon." 1985's "Prizzi's Honor" is Huston's penultimate picture, but more importantly, it was the last work that connected with a large audience, becoming a sleeper hit during the "Rambo: First Blood Part II"/"Back to the Future" summer, and eventually going on to collect numerous awards, including an Oscar for co-star Anjelica Huston, his very own daughter. Certainly the movie charmed audiences unprepared for a twisty mafia endeavor with a sly sense of humor, but "Prizzi's Honor" also acquired attention due to Huston's participation, acting as sort of a career capper for a helmer who had a little trouble navigating the late 1970s and early '80s. On its own, the film is mostly just fine, never remarkable, coasting on the abilities of its tremendously talented ensemble, which is teeming with character actors and toplined by then-titans, Kathleen Turner and Jack Nicholson. The Huston touch is there with cultural details and bluntness, but the feature falls a little flat when it gets caught up in plot mechanics. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com