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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Evening Primrose

After watching the way he treats his mother in Psycho, it’s difficult to imagine Anthony Perkins playing anything but Norman Bates. This classic ABC Stage 76 musical should help balance the scales in Perkin’s favor. In it, he plays a poet who hides out in a department store after closing to find a quiet place to write. He soon discovers a world of other people who live in the store after closing hours, people who are very strict about the rules of department store life. It’s a Broadway show set in The Twilight Zone, featuring the wonderful music of Stephen Sondheim.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Aaah! Zombies

Just when you think there’s absolutely nothing new to be added to the zombie genre along comes Matthew and Sean Kohnen to prove you wrong. It starts out with a basic idea of a bunch of innocent young adults being exposed to a toxic experimental drug, but instead of turning them into zombies it makes them super soldiers. Well, not exactly. They think they’re super soldiers destined to save the world from an unknown infection, but everybody else knows they are the walking dead. It’s a nice twist, even if it does get stretched a bit too thin at times.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

AD Police

In the not too distant future, mankind has managed to create a race of humanoid robots to do their dirty work. Unfortunately, there are times when the mechanical slaves go a bit crazy and start slaughtering their owners. That’s when the AS Police get called in to protect the general population and kick a little robot ass. If you think this is a cartoon for kids, then think again. It extremely violent, but what makes it work for mature audiences are the well-written stories, any one of which makes the pabulum passing for cop shows on TV these days pale in comparison.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Charles Bukowski: One Tough Mother

Sooner or later, anybody with any serious interest in great writing finds his way to the novels and poetry of Charles Bukowski. Here’s a chance for them to watch and listen to the master at work in a combined rerelease of a pair of rare filmed poetry readings. The poems, as you might expect, are terrific and hearing the author read them in his weathered voice is a treat. What makes watching the readings so addictive is the interacting between the writer and his devoted fans. Who knew a poetry reading could be so feisty?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gamera

Unlike other kaiju monsters like Godzilla, Gamera isn’t out to destroy the earth. He’s actually here to save it, even if the Japanese people who get accidentally crushed in the debris he causes whenever he fights another monster may disagree. This delightful double disc features two of the best of the popular film series: Gamera: Guardian of Universe & Gamera: Attack of the Legion. In the first one, Gamera (a giant turtle with the ability to fly and shoot fire balls out of its mouth) battles a bunch of flying reptiles called Gyaos. In the second film, our cold blooded hero goes up against some insects from outer space. It’s fun for the whole family.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Crimson Wing

Say the words Pink Flamingos and people usually think of two things: giant plastic lawn ornaments or the John Waters movie. This delightful nature film will change all that. It details the life cycle of a flock of Pink Flamingos living at Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania, from the mating dance to the birth of a new generation to the time when that generation learns to fly on its own. The photography is amazing, particularly on Blu-ray, but it’s the emotional impact of the story that makes the film work. Get out your handkerchiefs, because you will come to care very deeply for these amazing birds.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Black Rain

There have been a lot of movies about the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, but few of them have the emotional impact that director Shôhei Imamura found in this amazing movie. The scenes of the immediate aftermath of the bombing will haunt you forever, but it’s the way the director follows the aftermath of live as lived by the survivors caught in the black rain of nuclear fallout that give the film its true power. Beautifully filmed in black and white, Black Rain takes a global tragedy and whittles it down to human scale in the story of a village family trying to find a way to pass their traditions to a new generation before it’s too late.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl

Wow. It’s hard to begin to describe what you see in this latest film from director Yoshihiro Nishimura because words just won’t do it justice. The story centers in a young transfer student whose gift of a blood-filled chocolate to a hot guy on Valentine’s Day sets off a chain of events that lead to one of the most insane monster battles ever captured on film. The film is so over-the-top that it’s hard to take anything seriously, which is just the way Nishimura wants it because just as you start laughing it off as unbelievable, he hits you with a scene so real you’ll be thankful for a strong gag reflex. Forget all those silly ghost movies that promise you lots of action and end up showing you nothing but crappy camera angles. This is the cutting edge of horror, delivered with buckets of blood and loads of laughs.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Doghouse

To try and lift the spirits of a friend going through a divorce, a group of guys plan a bachelor getaway in a rural village hidden deep in the woods. Their plans to get blind drunk and hit on the local women get derailed when they discover that the females of the village have all been exposed to a virus that turns them into man-hating zombies with a thirst for blood. It would probably be a lot more enjoyable of you haven’t already seen the ultimate British zombie comedy, Shawn of the Dead, but there are still enough guts and guffaws to please its target audience.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Arn: The Knight Templar

When clan leaders find out that the romance between the son of a nobleman and a maid who has been promised to another has gone beyond the platonic stage, the young man is banished to fight in The Crusades and the maid is shut up in a convent. The film, directed by Peer Flinth, follows the 20 year adventure they go through trying to get back to each other. The scale is epic, with plenty of bloody battle scenes, but Flinth never loses sight of the fact that it is the love of two people at the center of it all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Trailer Park Boys: The Complete First Season

Canadians have been following the crazy adventures of The Trailer Park Boys for years; now it’s our turn. This hilarious pseudo-documentary chronicles the lives of Ricky and Julien, two ex-cons who are trying to regain control of the trailer park they left behind when they got sent away. Things have changed while they were in jail, however, and the pair soon discovers that the other residents of Sunnyvale Trailer Park aren’t that keen to having them return. It’s bizarre, it’s smart and, above all, it’s funny.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen the Rolling Stones

Watching the aged old rockers they are today, it can be hard to think of Mick, Keith and the rest of The Rolling Stones as the world’s greatest rock and roll band. This concert film, shot over the course of four nights in Texas during the Exile on Main Street tour in 1972 will fix that. Gone are the massive stage sets, the pyrotechnics and the entourage of backup singers and musicians the band uses today. What’s left is just The Stones and their music and they quickly prove that nobody does it better. What’s more, they look like they’re having a hell of a lot of fun doing it too, something you don’t see much in footage of them today.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rumpole of the Bailey Collection

There has never been a more perfect match of actor and character than actor Leo McKern and the cigar smoking, wine drinking London Barrister Horace Rumpole. The cases that Rumpole takes on in this 14-disc megaset are all interesting (if a bit dated at times, like the time he defends hippies on a pot charge), but the cases are secondary to the joy of watching McKern make Rumpole come alive. He’s a shark in the courtroom, a bit of a fool in chambers and slave to She Who Must Be Obeyed at home. Rumpole is one of the most complete characters ever developed in a series, and this set lets you watch McKern build it from the beginning.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Benny Hill the Complete Megaset: The Thames Years

One of the world’s great entertainers, Benny Hill is often put down for being too childish, too silly and (at least after the women’s movement took hold) too sexist. Well, so what? He may be all those things at various times in his shows, but he’s also very funny. And he’s never mean spirited, which is just about all comedy tries to be these days. Even if he is silly, one look at Hills mischievous eyes as he’s performing lets you now he thinks it’s all a bit silly, too, but it’s also funny so why not take the stick out of your backside, relax and enjoy it. With more than 600 sketches packed into the 18 DVDs in this set, there is bound to be something that makes you laugh out loud, even if it’s just in appreciation of the lengths that Hill and his company of comics will go to to make you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Phineas & Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas

If you are looking for a silly way to start feeling the Christmas spirit, then look no further that this Yuletide episode of the popular Disney Channel show. It’s the story of two brothers who come up with a plan to let Santa know how much they appreciate his hard work, a plan that is nearly foiled when their arch nemesis Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz develops a ray that makes Santa think they have been naughty. Will their pet platypus (and super secret agent) Perry save the day? Of course he will, but the way he does it is cool.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Runaways

You can tell from the opening shot of a drop of menstrual blood hitting the seedy LA Sidewalk between the platform shoes of a 14-year-old Cheri Currie that director Floria Sigismondi has a very strong vision about women, about rock and roll and about the band of teenage girls who combined the two to break through the glass ceiling of music during the early 70s.  The fact that she opens the movie with such a graphic image may offend some, or it may just confuse them (especially the men) trying to figure out what it has to do with the rest of the story, but those who surrender to it and just enjoy what the director and her cast have created will have a hell of a time watching a musical revolution rise and fall before their eyes. Even if you don’t remember who The Runaways were, or think you won’t be interested in watching a movie to find out, Sigismondi’s film is still entertaining thanks to the great performances of the leads, Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, along with an intensely hilarious bit of acting from Michael Shannon as the band’s manager/master manipulator Kim Fowley.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Karate Kid

Twenty six years ago, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita became an unlike pair of heroes in the original Karate Kid movie, the story of an underdog and an old man who join forces to beat the bullies and bad guys at their own game, namely martial arts. It wasn’t a great movie, but it was entertaining as hell and successful enough to spawn two sequels and make the phrase “Wax on. Wax off. “ a part of the cultural lexicon (at least in the 80s). The new Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith as the kid and Jackie Chan as the old man, isn’t a great film either, but, like its source material, it sure is a lot of fun to watch and is almost certain to be the start of a new movie franchise. Whether “Coat on. Coat off.” ends up on T-shirts remains to be seen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Exorcist Director’s Cut

Nearly 40 years after it was first released the story of young Regan and her battle with the devil is still pretty scary. The scenes you remember – the pea soup, the crucifix, the spinning head – are still there, but they won’t scare you the way they once did because the effects just look so dated. That’s the bad news. The good news is that while the effects haven’t aged well, the performances from the film’s topnotch cast have, particularly the work of Jason Miller as the troubled Father Karras and Lee J. Cobb as Detective Kinderman.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

He’s Your Dog Charlie Brown

The Christmas and Halloween specials may get all the attention, but this funny DVD is a reminder that Charlie Brown’s adventures didn’t just begin and end with the holidays. His life was a comic adventure every day thanks to his pet, a big-nosed beagle with a vivid imagination named Snoopy. When Snoopy’s antics become too disruptive to the neighborhood, Charlie Brown sends him off to obedience camp. The beagle only makes it as far as Peppermint Patti’s house, though, where he lets his imagination run wild, which is always entertaining when you’re a dog who likes to pretend he’s a World War I flying ace.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Cleveland Show Season 1

After years of being a secondary character on Family Guy, Cleveland Brown finally gets a show of his own and it’s hilarious. Since it’s from the same creative team who make Family Guy and American Dad, the look of the Cleveland Show will be familiar, but the stories – and the humor – easily stands on their own as we watch Cleveland build a new life with a new family in his hometown of Stoolbend. It’s funky, thanks to some great musical number sprinkled throughout the series, and its fresh, thanks to the well written Afro-centric comedy. There’s even a bear.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Human Centipede

Do yourself a favor, before you consider watching this movie – or start ranting about how disgusting movies like this should never be made in the first place -- go online and watch the trailer. If it looks interesting – or just plain terrifying, but in a good way – then watch it. The film, particularly the “100 percent medically accurate” unrated cut, will not disappoint you. If, on the other hand, what you see in the trailer disgusts you, then don’t watch the movie, even on a dare.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Queen

There is any number of reasons why this ambitions BBC series shouldn’t work. It’s tough enough to blend archival footage and modern recreations without looking silly, but when you are using footage of the British Royal Family and trying to weave it into footage featuring five different actresses playing the same role in different phases of her life, then the challenges seem insurmountable. Somehow, though, it all works. The archival footage is fascinating to see, but it’s the way the actors bring the more intimate moments of the Royals’ personal lives alive that gives the series its soul. Each of the actresses who play Elizabeth II in the series does a fantastic job. They do so well, in fact, that you can only marvel at the different nuances they bring to the character in each of the episodes they star in. You just get the feeling you are watching the same woman in a different stage of her life, and that’s a tremendous achievement.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Suck

A hardworking indie band just can’t get the break it needs until one night when their kinda-hot bass player gets bitten by a vampire and becomes the ultimate rock babe. Fans start to flock to their shows, and the fan base only increases as the other band members take the plunge to the dark side. It’s a fresh take on an overdone genre, buoyed by strong performances from the actors in the band and quirky guest appearances from the likes of Alice Cooper and Iggy Pop. Malcolm McDowell is a hoot as the vampire killer Eddie Van Helsing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse

An asteroid from outer space lands in Gotham Harbor, and it’s soon discovered that it contained more than a few glowing green chips of kryptonite from its planet of origin. There’s a spaceship inside and its lone passenger turns out to be the second survivor from Superman’s home planet. But whether she’ll turn out to be a friend or a foe remains a mystery. Like all DC animated movies, the art in this one is first rate, but it’s the voice talent that really makes the cartoon characters come alive, especially Tim Daly who does a fantastic job making the Man of Steel sound more like a real character and less like a cliché.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Alien Autopsy

Don’t panic. This is not a DVD of the low-budget footage that was sold to the world back in 1995 as being the real dissection of a being from another planet. It’s actually a film about the two men behind the original movie and it’s a hoot. The scenes of Ray and Gary (Declan Donnelly and Anthony McPartlin) filming the fake autopsy in a borrowed flat are hilarious, but watching the way the world, desperate for proof of intelligent life in outer space, latched on to their hoax is both funny and fascinating.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Top Gear 13

If you aren’t familiar with Top Gear, it will be impossible to understand why there’s such uproar in the first episode of season 13 over some guy in a racing suit taking off his helmet, but fans know that finally seeing the face of the show’s hired racer, The Stig, is part of television history. The rest of season 13 ranks among the best that Jeremy Clarkson and his co-hosts have ever put together, especially the race between a car, a motorcycle and a steam locomotive from London to Edinburgh. Here’s hoping that Top Gear 13 inspires newcomers to start looking back at the 12 preceding seasons.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Magic and Bird: A Courtship of Rivals

You don’t have to live in LA or Boston to know the story of what Magic Johnson and Larry Bird did to save professional basketball from becoming a total joke. While this excellent documentary does a god job of recapping the facts, its real strength lies in letting us get a close up and personal look at the men and the friendship they developed over the years. The footage of Magic is good, but it’s clear form the first interview that he loves the camera and has no problem telling anybody anything about himself. The big surprise here is that HBO got the usually press shy Bird to open up, too.