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Monday, February 28, 2011

All-Star Superman

Given the fact that he’s virtually indestructable, not to mention uncorruptable, it’s always been hard for writers to come up with a new and interesting adventure for the Man of Steel. The fact that this DC Universe animated original movie radically reinvents the mythos of Superman in a single 75 minute movie is an outstanding achievement. On top of that, the film perfectly captures the look of the Grant Morrison story it’s based on. Hardcore fans and those who haven’t picked up a comic in decades will both be thrilled.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Leaving

Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing. There are not many actresses who can light up the screen with joy or plunge an audience to despair the way she can; the fact that the English-born actress is doing it all in French boggles the mind. In the movie, she plays a housewife trying to redefine who she is by going back to work as a physical therapist. Her plans for changing her life take a crazy detour when she falls in love wth the burly construction guy hired to work on her new office. The lesson of the film that love really doesn’t conquer all hits like a hammer to the heart.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Jeff Beck: Rock N Roll Party Honoring Les Paul

As a way of paying tribute to one of the most influential guitarists in the world, legendary musican Jeff Beck gathered together a few friends and played a night of rockabilly at the famous Iridium Jazz Club in New York City. The disc gives you an extreme close-up of Beck’s fingers as they glide up and down the fret board making sounds that few other guitarist could ever come close to, but the night only really takes off when the sultry Imelda May gets behind the microphone to sing. Her version of Walking in the Sand will give you goosebumps.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

More than 50 years after it first hit theaters this movie still cuts like a knife. The acting is superb, particlarly Tony Curtis’ performance as the slimy PR man who is willing to do anything — to anybody — to get his client’s name in the paper. Burt Lancaster matches him beat for beat with his chilling portrayal of a powerful columnist who uses his clout to create and kill careers. From the score to the cinematograhy, it’s a near-perfect movie experience, and there are plenty of extras included to enrich the experience.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Around the World in 80 Days

While it was probably a big budget extravaganza when it was first broadcast on television back in 1989, this mini-series looks pretty dated today. All of he exotic locations that Phileas Fogg and his devoted man-servant, Passepartout travel though all look like they were shot on a Hollywood back-lot, but the fake look of it all somehow grows on you as the hours pass. The same goes for most of the performances. Pierce Brosnan makes for a perfect Fogg, and he has a nice chemistry with Eric Idle, who plays his servant with an absolutely awful French accent. Peter Ustinov is annoying as the detective on Fogg’s heel, and the list of guests stars is hit or miss mix of once- famous celebrities

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Lady Hermit

This kung fu classic from the Shaw Brothers Studio is a departure from their usualmartial arts mayhem because it stars twowomen as the protagonists. that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to see Pei-pei Cheng and Lieh Lo prove that you don’t have to be a guy to kick butt in an action movie, but director Meng Hua Ho is far less successful in proving that a story starring women doesn’t have to have a cheesy romantic subplot to make it ‘feminine.” All is forgiven, however, once the women take their final stand against the bad guys.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Jefferson

A slave owner who wrote the immortal lines in the Declaration of Independence that ‘almen are create equal. A fiscalconservative who was always in debt. A devoted family man who fathered a number of children out of wedlock. It’s clear that Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t stand a chance in today’s scandal hungry world, but, as this intriguing documentary shows, its also clear that he was the perfect man for the his time. Although the story of hislife could have been treated like a Fox News scandal, the presentation in this HistoryChannel special is fair, yet still provocative

Monday, February 21, 2011

Summer Wars

A young math nerd gets asked by the prettiest girl in school to do him a favor and accompany her to her family’s country home for her grandmother’s 90th birthday. While there, he gets a mysterious math problem emailed to him. He solves it and quickly discovers the answer set off a computer virus that could literally destroy the world. Directed by Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time), the story is filled withaction, adventure and awesome animation. Watching the nerd and his adopted family fight back to ave the planet is a thrill ride, but what make the move special is watching the emotional connection between he characters deepen with each new challenge.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

William S Burroughs: A Man Within

Unlike a lot of authors, William S. Burroughs is not the kind of writer you can learn about by reading his work, at least not to the degree he’s dissected in this fascinating film. Like the man it focuses on, the documentary doesn’t shy away from the more lurid details of Burrough’s life, from his descent into drug addiction to the details surrounding the shooting of his wife. What saves it from being a total abloid experience is the way the film also makes sure it puts the spotlight n the mans work and the way it changed modern literature forever.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Johnny Test: Seasons One and Two

Sure, it’s a kids cartoon, but there is a subversive streak in this Cartoon Network series that any adult with a sense of humor will enjoy. The story follows the adventures of a young boy and his faithful companion — a talking dog — as he serves as a human guinea pig for his older sisters’ science experiments. The plot leaves the writers plenty of room to imagine almost anything, and the animators make it pop with eye-popping detail. It’s a blast for everyone.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu

Don’t spend too much time trying to figure out the story to this low budget monster movie; too much thinking will only spoil the fun. A distant relative of author H. P. Lovecraft is given the task of saving the world from total destruction. All he has to do is keep a monstrous fish-man from finding the missing half of an ancient medallion and using it to release the monstrous Cthulhu. Sure, it’s a loving tribute to nerds wo worship Lovecraft, but it’s also fun for those who can’t even pronounce Cthulu.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kansas City Confidential

An ex-con trying to straighten out his life gets framed for an armored car robbery. When the case against him is dismissed for lack of evidence, he starts an investigation of his own to find the guys who set him up. John Payne is a bit of a stiff as the hero, but the band of bad guys he goes after, including Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam, give this moody mystery a sharp edge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Shopping

Even if it wasn’t the first film made by director Paul. W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil) and actor Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes) there would be plenty to recommend this action packed story of bored British teenagers looking for cheap thrills to past their time. They steal cars, crash them into exclusive shops and steal everything they can get their hands on before the cops arrive. Then they race the cops until they lose them or die trying. The nihilism the kids spout feels fake and dated, but the style that Anderson brings to the screen is thrilling to watch. Law is almost too pretty to be taken seriously as the tough guy Billy, but his charm makes up for a lot of his weaknesses, as does his sexy costar Sadie Frost.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Chrome Shelled Regios

Like a lot of good anime, Chrome Shelled Regios is a layered experience. On the surface it’s the story of an elite military shool where students train to save their cities from the Contamnoids, gigantic bugs with an appetite for destruction. The layers begin piling up when young Layfon shows up at the school and starts exhibiting special powers that none of the other students can achieve. Why he has such powers, and why he’s hiding out at the military school to begin with is just the tip of the mystery iceberg

Monday, February 14, 2011

How I Married My High School Crush

Katee Sackhoff was just so damn good playing Starbuck in the popular Battlestar Galactica series that it’s hard to imagine her playing anything else. Maybe that’s why this Lifetime movie is just so much damn fun to watch. In it, Sakhoff plays Sara, a nerdy high school senior with a secret crush on the star quarterback (Sage Brocklebank). A bit of Hollywood magic during an eclipse whisks them to their lives together in the future, their married life, and Sara quickly learns the price of growing up too fast. OK, it’s a bit saccharine, but Sackhoff makes it work.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Single Handed Set 1

It’s almost lke you get two movies for the price of one with each episode of this crime drama. The first movie is a travelogue showing the raw natural beauty of the windswept west of Ireland. The second movie is an almost Gothic police drama that peels back the tightly knit layers of the people who live in that rugged landscape to reveal the ugliness inside. Owen McDonnell is great as the Garda Sargent who movies back home after his big city career implodes, and the supporting cast matches him every step of the way. It’s a fascinating, chilling series.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Giulia Doesn’t Date at Night

While taking swimming lessons at the local pool, author Guido Montani (Valerio Mastandrea) meets a sexy instructor (Valeria Golino) and while sparks don’t immediately fly, especially for her, there’s still enough of a smolder for him to see what will happen next. When she tells him she doesn’t date at night, he thinks he’s being blown off. Then he discovers the reason why she doesn’t and his life is changed forever. It’s a fascinating story, brought to life by some incredible performances, particularly from Golino.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Beauty and the Briefcase

After years playing Lizzie McGuire for Disney, Hillary Duff has been struggling to make the break into good material better suited for a woman her age (23). This made-for-TV move is a step in the right direction. In it, she plays a New York freelance writer assigned by Cosmo to go undercover into the business world to find true love. It may sound awful, but Duff shows off that her years making kids laugh has taught her a thing or two about comedy, and she’s pretty funny in the film.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

John Wayne: Bigger Than Life

This clever box set is perfect for John Wayne fans  and for people who don’t really know that much about him or his movies. It contains one full feature, the 1963 classic McClintock!, and a series of documentaries with Wayne and other actors and directors of his era explaining why the western was such an important film genre. There are a few TV shows showing Wayne’s lighter side, too. And then there’s the fascinating (and disturbing) No Substitute for Victory, a pro-Vietnam war special Wayne made in response to the ant-war protesters of the 1970s. It alone is worth the price of the set.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Sleepy Eyes of Death Vol. 2

He’s part James Dean and part Clint Eastwood, with a big dose of Steve McQueen thrown in for good measure. And he lets his killer samurai sword do the talking. If you are unfamiliar with the legend of the nihilistic ronin Nemuri Kyoshiro, payed by Raizo Ichikawa, then do your self a favor and pick up a copy of Sleepy Eyes of Death Volume 1 and watch it before you settle in for Volume 2. Although each of the movies in either set stand on their own as great samurai adventures, the real joy of watching any of the Sleep Eyes films is watching Ichikawa’s ultimate cool character as he wanders around feudal Japan reluctantly getting involved in fights that he wins using his signature style, the Full-Moon-Cut, while delivering some of the best action hero dialog ever written in any language.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Gantz: The Complete Series

When you die, according to this series from director Ichiro Itano, there’s a chance that instead of going to heaven or hell you will end up in a vacant Tokyo apartment where a giant black ball will order you to put on a high tech battle suit, pick up a gun and go out and kill aliens. If you do what the big ball asks you get a chance to go back and lead a normal, if alternative, life among the living, at least until the ball calls you back for another assignment. If you don’t complete the mission you will die, again and for the last time. It sounds weird and, to be honest, it is. But the series is also addictive, thanks to some amazing artwork and a rotating cast of characters who make each episode play on its own unique level.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Alice in Wonderland

It’s hard to realize how groundbreaking this classic Disney cartoon was when it was released to theaters 60 years ago. After years of pulling at peoples’ heart strings with animated tear-jerkers like Bambi and Dumbo, Walk Disney and his animators decide to just have fun bringing the classic Lewis Carroll story to life. The result was — and is — a delight. Some of the scenes, like the Queen of Hearts playing croquet, have become classics that you will enjoy seeing again. Some of them, like the animated version of the Walrus and the Carpenter, will be a joy to rediscover.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Skin

If this movie had gotten the attention it deserved when it was originally released, then Sophie Okonedo would be busy today picking out a dress to wear on the red carpet for the Oscar ceremony. This heartbreaking tale tells the story of a young girl growing up in South Africa and the trouble she faces because although her parents are White, she ‘looks’ Black. The suggestion (and scientific fact)  that her dark skin and African features are a result of the same Black ancestry that most of White South Africa shares only infuriates the White people of her world. So she flees to the Black community where her sense of belonging is soon challenged in ways that will absolutely appall you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Garrow's Law

Set in a time before those accused of a crime had any real rights before the court, this fascinating BBC series features some terrific performances, lead by Andrew Buchan (looking like a young Russell Crowe) as the barrister who helped pave the way for the modern legal system. It takes good acting and even better writing to make a courtroom drama work, and the people who created this series do a fantastic job. The dialog in the courts and in the jails crackles with intensity. The romance between Garrow and the wife of a young MP is less effective, but at least the wife, as played by Lyndsey Marshall, has some good scenes of her own to make her stand out as more than the barrister’s plaything.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Blue Murder: The Complete Collection

Janine Lewis (Caroline Quentin) has a lot on her plate. Already the mother of three, she’s pregnant again and officially separated from her cheating husband. The fact that her day job is being a Chief Inspector for the Manchester Police Force is, on  bad day, the least of her worries. Over the course of 19 episodes, the series does a good job of balancing Lewis’ personal and professional lives. Sure, there are times you feel frustrated when the Chief Inspector’s investigation gets put on hold so she can sort out the kids, but there are also times you feel that way when a domestic problem in the Lewis home gets shelved so mom can go out and catch a killer. Luckily, Quentin holds it together with a tremendous performance.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Hatchet II

Directed by Adam Green, Hatchet 2 caused a bit of a fury when it was release in theaters because it was yanked out of circulation only a few days later, probably because some over-reactive mom caught her kids sneaking in to see it. So if horror movies aren’t your thing, stay away. But if you enjoy movies that don’t shy away from splattering the screen with fake blood, then Hatchet 2 is bound to become one of your favorites. Watching a band of yokels go back into the Louisiana swamps to find — and hopefully kill — the monster known as Victor Crowley is a hell of a lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Abbott and Costello Show: Who’s on First

Anyone who is not already a fan of this legendary comedy team should add this disc to their collection immediately. And so should those who can repeat the immortal “Who’s on First” routine by heart if they don’t already own it. The disc highlights a half-dozen of the best episodes from The Abbott and Costello TV show from the early 1950s, and while some of the material may be a bit dated, the polished delivery of these two master comedians makes even jokes you’ve heard a dozen times shine like they were new.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Man in a Suitcase: Set 1

As ‘Mac’ McGill, an American ex-spy trying to live an undetected life in swinging 60′s London, Ricard Bradford set a new level of cool for TV when this series was first broadcast in 1968. It’s a high water mark that few have even come close to since. The cases he gets involved in – always reluctantly — are intriguing, especially when you forgive them for the Cold War angles that just haven’t aged very well. The sets are retro-chic cool and the acting is, for the most part, excellent. Its Bradford’s performance, however, that makes the series so addictive.