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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

DVD Review: What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name? is a wonderful and surprising film about several friends who get together for dinner, and end up learning a lot about each other and themselves after one of them reveals the name he and his wife have chosen for their son.

The film begins, however, with a man named Jean-Jacques on a motorcycle. The opening narration tells us that “Jean-Jacques is lucky. He isn’t superstitious.” The narrator tells us of the deaths of the French writers for whom are named the streets by which Jean-Jacques must travel. It’s hilarious, intercut with illustrations of those people. It’s delightful in sort of the same way much of Wes Anderson’s work is delightful. I was reminded of The Royal Tenenbaums, particularly.

Jean-Jacques is delivering some pizzas, but knocks on the wrong door. And that’s how we’re introduced to Pierre and Elisabeth. The narrator tells us that Elisabeth Garaud-Larchet (Valerie Benguigui) is a middle school French teacher who directs the school plays. Her husband, Pierre (Charles Berling), is a literature professor. “Corduroy is like his second skin.” When Elisabeth’s mother, Francoise, calls, the voice over tells us a bit about her also: “She has a beautiful alto voice, but she’s a bit talkative.” Claude (Guillaume De Tonquedec) arrives, and we’re told that he is a Libra, and also Libra rising, and that he and Elisabeth have been friends since childhood. And when Vincent (Patrick Bruel) arrives, we learn that he’s Elisabeth’s brother, Pierre’s best friend, and Claude’s childhood friend. A real estate agent, he’s “Merciless but extremely courteous.” He met Anna when they almost collided in their cars. “And soon Anna will be expecting Vincent’s child.”

I know that many people are of the opinion that voice over should not be used in films. And while there is a lot of awful and pointless voice over in movies, it also can be used extremely well. It might seem like an easy way to get across a lot of information about characters, but in this film it’s done in such a creative and humorous way that it’s totally enjoyable. And so when the film gets underway, we do already have a good idea about who these people are. We already like them.

RAWR(for more)

Monday, July 21, 2014

@AchorBayEnt and @Scream_Factory's Halloween Complete Set Extras Revealed! #MichaelisComingHome

We finally have the full details of the extras included in the EPIC upcoming Halloween Complete Collection which is coming in a 10 disc and deluxe 15 disc set on September 23.

I for one cannot wait for this. I've supremely excited and hope it's a monster success so we can get more releases like this.

Highlights include a high def transfer for the holy grail of Halloween lore, the Producer's Cut of Halloween 6!

Check out the full specs by clicking the RAWR!

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DVD Review: The Perfect House

The Perfect House is a horror anthology, with several stories that all take place at various times in one house. It opens with a close-up shot of a closed door. The door opens, and a family comes out, the father telling the daughter, “Get off the phone.” They walk next door to Mr. Sullivan’s house for dinner, and it’s a quiet, creepy scene. Mr. Sullivan is hung up on getting his weed whacker back. When the father admits he tossed it, the screen goes black. It’s a good, sufficiently unsettling opening, which also has just the right amount of humor (and the right kind of humor).

We then go to a young married couple, Marisol and Mike, who are looking to buy their first house. It’s a sunny day on a suburban street, in contrast to dark events of the film, and Marisol is determined to get this house. It’s revealed in the dialogue that the price has dropped enough that it’s come into their price range. And when they arrive at the house, Mike comments that the house next door is for sale too.

The real estate agent (Monique Parent) is delightfully quirky. She says, “You two are just the cutest couple,” which you might expect any real estate agent to say. But she follows it with “I just want to jump right in the sack with the both of you,” which you probably wouldn’t expect a real estate agent to say. (She’s a hot redhead, so I wouldn’t be opposed were I in Mike’s position.) When she indicates that all the furniture is include, Marisol whispers to Mike, “If we buy this place, all this stuff goes.” It’s interesting that Marisol has already gone from definitely wanting the house, to using the word “if.” It’s subtle, but shows that she already, perhaps subconsciously, knows that something is wrong. Mike immediately finds a red stain on a chair, which stretches believability a bit. The real estate agent flirts some more in the bedroom. Mike’s reactions and facial expressions are a bit much; there is nothing subtle about his performance here.

As they go into the basement, we have a flashback to earlier tenants down there during a big storm, and this is essentially the first of three short stories that all take place in the house, and particularly in the basement. (And there are flashbacks within the flashback.) We return to Marisol and Mike briefly before going into the next story.

RAWR(for more)

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy (Spoiler Free)

Will Marvel's latest film (and possibly biggest gamble) cause you to get Hooked on a Feelin' or will it bring about the destruction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Click RAWR below to find out!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blu-ray Review: @Criterion Collection's Scanners

One of the most eagerly anticipated blu-ray releases has arrived as David Cronenberg's sci-fi/horror classic Scanners has finally hit in glorious high def thanks to the folks at Criterion Collection

Scanners is one of those holy grail titles that fans have been chomping at the bit to see on blu-ray since the format launched. Until now, all that was available was sub par imports from overseas. Demand hit a fever pitch last year when Scream Factory released their double feature set of Scanners 2 and Scanners 3 and a lot of fans were expecting Scream Factory to drop the bombshell that they were going to release it. Instead, months later, thanks to one of Criterion's teaser images, word broke that the much loved label was releasing Scanners. 

And here we are, at long last, with a high def release that this classic film deserves.

Click the RAWR for the full review.

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Actor James Garner dead at 86

Best known for his work in film and television, actor James Garner died yesterday at the age of 86. According to the Los Angeles Times:

"Garner died Saturday at his home, his publicist Jennifer Allen told The Times. Garner, who lived in Los Angeles, underwent quintuple bypass heart surgery in 1988 and suffered a stroke in 2008. He had been in poor health for some time but the cause of his death was not immediately known."

Garner, as Bret Maverick

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

@fantasiafest Fantasia International Film Festival Reviewed! - Animosity!, Live!

By Adam Ruhl

It's that time of year again! Better than Christmas, it's Genre Film Festival season and Montreal's Fantasia International Film Festival is in full swing. We're right on top of it to highlight some of the great films that are playing this year!

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Theater Review: Once Live at the Hollywood Pantages

Hollywood Pantages
July 15 - August 10

Now open at the legendary Hollywood Pantages is the 8 time Tony Award winning musical Once, featuring a stellar cast of musicians, singers, and dancers.

The official synopsis is as follows:

Once tells the story of an Irish musician and a Czech immigrant drawn together by their shared love of music.
 Over the course of one fateful week, their unexpected friendship and collaboration evolves into a powerful but complicated romance, heightened by the raw emotion of the songs they create together. Brought to the stage by an award-winning team of visionary artists and featuring an ensemble cast of gifted actor/musicians, Once is a musical celebration of life and love: thrilling in its originality, daring in its honesty... and unforgettable in every way.

And it truly is an unforgettable show, in pretty much every way.

Click the RAWR for the full review.

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Friday, July 18, 2014

DVD Review: Le Week-End

Le Week-End is an absolutely wonderful film starring Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan as Nick and Meg, a married couple spending a weekend in Paris on their thirtieth anniversary. The film opens on a train. We move down the aisle and settle on the couple. They’re clearly not the happiest folks, and he is looking through his pockets for their euros. Nick says, “You never lose anything.” And Meg responds, “I’ll lose you in a minute.” It’s a cute moment, but works on a much deeper level as well, setting up their perspectives and perhaps their desires. Nick then gets up and goes to another car for a cup of coffee. And there he sits by himself, and it is over that image of him alone, looking out the window, that the film’s title appears. Perfect.

Their room in Paris leaves a bit to be desired. “It’s beige,” Meg points out. And so she leaves, and he follows her to an expensive hotel. These two actors are so good, that their relationship – their history and current state – is almost immediately understood. When Meg goes to the hotel min-bar, Nick tries to stop her, saying “So far this city is a brilliantly designed machine for extracting all our money.”

There is something sweet and loving about their relationship, but also something sad, something lost. As when Nick asks, “Can I touch you,” and Meg responds, “What for?” Yes, it's delightfully funny but also quite sad too. As they’re leaving the hotel Meg says, “I might do it for you later.” Nick asks, “Really?” She says, “If you stay awake.” That line is inherently funny, but not played up or stressed at all, which is great.

There is a wonderful scene where they visit a famous cemetery. Nick says, “I have to say I am amazed by how mediocre I’ve turned out to be.” He reveals he’s been forced into early retirement. Meg says, “It’s not too late for you to find another direction.” And it feels that that is in some ways at the heart of the film. Is it too late? Can people change? What direction will their lives take? Nick says, “People don’t change.” Meg responds: “They do. They get worse.” And at a restaurant, Meg talks about starting again. She later tells Nick, “The other day, I’ll have you know, a young man, not entirely retarded, tried to pick me up.”

RAWR(for more)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

DVD Review: Peter Brook: The Tightrope

If you’re someone who is at all interested in theater, then you’re well aware of Peter Brook. He has an impressive list of accomplishments, including directing productions of Measure For Measure, King Lear, Marat/Sade and the incredibly influential 1970 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the Royal Shakespeare Company (the last two of which earned him Tony Awards for directing).  And he’s had a career in film too, directing the excellent 1963 film version of Lord Of The Flies, as well as the film version of Marat/Sade. He’s the kind of person you want to learn from. And you can learn a certain amount by studying footage of his productions. And now, with the release of Peter Brook: The Tightrope, you can almost sit in on a class that he teaches.

The film, which was directed by his son Simon Brook, is mostly footage of the class, but it opens with a bit from an interview. Peter Brook says: “There’s always this terrible moment at the beginning of everything when people come together and all of them are saying, ‘What the hell is it about? What are we doing here? Why are we here?’ And here it’s to explore something that very few people really see…making theatre that is real, that is alive, that is alive at every moment, that touches one, and in which once held doesn’t let one go.” It’s a perfect opening, and it shows the joy and focus and determination with which he works.

He also talks a bit about receiving requests to sit in on rehearsals and requests to demonstrate his exercises. This film then can function in part as a fulfillment of some of those requests, focusing on the tightrope exercise.  And it really is like sitting in on the class. The film is not rushed, but allows itself the natural pauses and reactions of both teacher and students.

RAWR(for more)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

DVD Review: Gangster

Gangster is based on the true story of Paul Ferris, a famous criminal in Glasgow. Also known as The Wee Man, this film stars Martin Compston (Piggy) as Paul Ferris, John Hannah as Tam McGraw, Patrick Bergin as Arthur Thompson, and Denis Lawson as Willie Ferris. The bulk of this film takes place in the 1980s, but it also uses flashbacks to the 1970s to show key moments from his youth that might account for the course his life took.

It opens with Paul Ferris in jail. We hear the sounds of someone being beaten. The film then cuts to Paul as a child, hearing similar sounds coming from a van outside his window. His father, Willie (Denis Lawson), agrees that the sounds are from monsters, and he gives Paul three rules to surviving in the harsh world outside their home: beware of strangers, be loyal, and be a lion. Young Paul then sees that it was in fact the police doing the beating.

Life is tough for young Paul, as he is bullied by some older boys, the Banks brothers, who early on are shown smacking him and kicking his dog. Six years later, Paul is going a date, but is still harassed by the Banks brothers. There is a nice moment where his father walks out with him, and tells him he knows he’s carrying a knife. He tells him to give it to him because if Paul has it he’ll end up using it and regretting it. But when the Banks brothers show up at the party, Paul goes back to retrieve the knife and ends up stabbing two guys. Because one of them was in the process of raping a woman, we figure, screw it, those guys deserve what they got. But so we don’t align ourselves too strongly with Paul Ferris, that scene is followed by a good, intense, quiet scene in which he reveals that he enjoyed stabbing those men.

RAWR(for more)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Great Moments In Pop Culture Uncoolness: SHAWTY

by Kari Tervo

So there's this concept called the mondegreen, when you mis-hear a song lyric as another word. I've done that a bunch, and here's one I cringe at. I love hip-hop, but I'm not always. . .hip. 

2003: In Da Club by 50 Cent is released. Kari rocks out to the song every time it comes on, and one day looks to her friend and says, "I love this song! But who's Charlotte?" Friend says, "What are you talking about?" Kari replies, "You know, he says, 'Go Charlotte, it's your birthday!'" Friend smacks her forehead and says, "Shawty. It's go SHAWTY."
2004: Kari is standing in the coffee cart line at work, and a guy standing behind her looks her up and down and says, Daaaamn, shawty! And Kari thinks he is remarking on her height and chipperly responds, "I know, I am really short. I'm only 5 feet tall!" Guy looks at her in utter disbelief and shakes his head.

Go! Go! Go! Go Charlotte! It's your birthday!

RAWR(for more)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Comedy review: Jimmy Pardo live in Rosemont

Jimmy Pardo at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont, IL.

The moment I noticed the two guys wearing ridiculous hats take their seats in the front row at the 8 p.m. show on July 12 was the moment I knew that this was going to be a hilarious Jimmy Pardo set. A guy in flip flops and a green and white checkered fedora sitting near another guy who was all-too-confidently sporting a lederhosen hat that was decked out in buttons as if he is some sort of weird German punk rocker in the 90's; I couldn't wait to hear Mr. Pardo tear into these guys.

The show also featured the hilarious Mike Toomey, whose opening set included an array of brilliant bits, some of which suited the Chicago-area crowd particularly well. He reminded us of the comedic annoyances of winter weather and went on a brilliant rant about how today's weathermen need to cut through the bull shit. There's really only two types of weather, he argued, hat weather and no-hat weather. The set featured plenty of other highlights, including a hysterical vocal impersonation of a voice over guy from an old timey anti-drug movie. His quick wit, hilarious bits and local credit made Toomey a fantastic opener for the crowd-work master, Jimmy Pardo.

Mr. Pardo's set began with exactly what I was hoping for, a hilarious back-and-forth between him and the aforementioned crazy-hat-guys. I know the other two comics already talked about the hats, Jimmy said, "but, seriously what the fuck is going on?" These were just two of a handful of audience members to experience the hysterically funny wrath of Jimmy Pardo. Others included a guy in flip-flops who couldn't hear "past the fungus on his bare feet," a fan who was laughing so hard that Jimmy asked him if he was recording a laugh track for a sitcom, and an audience member whose English was so indecipherable that it caused Pardo to launch into his classic Cajun Jimmy character, who told a hilarious story that ended with (spoiler alert) a gator on the second floor.

The set also featured a classic tirade about Ted Nugent, after which Jimmy told the audience that if they don't like his comedy they can go across the street to Toby Keith's bar & grill and get themselves a "racist burger." He also discussed the Godzilla Convention going on at the hotel he was staying at, as well as the porn convention going on at the hotel across the street, and pointed out that there's pretty much the same people at both events.

Other Pardo highlights included one of his classic comedic recitations of "Bad Bad Leroy Brown." Laugh-track-guy was laughing so hard and audibly at this bit, that at one point Jimmy said he's not going to stop reciting the lyrics until that guy stops laughing. "I'll do the whole Jim Croce songbook if I have to," he said. Jimmy's beloved Shreveport-guy character also came into the mix on several occasions. He discussed going to see Transformers with Mike Toomey, a story that wound up being one long and hysterical dick joke, and closed with a classic story about taking his son to see Brave.

If you're interested in seeing one of the quickest minds in comedy live, I would highly recommend seeing Jimmy Pardo, as well as Mike Toomey, any chance you get.

10/10 Shreveports!

RAWR(for more)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

DVD Review: Aloha, Bobby And Rose

The best decade for film was the 1970s. No question about it. And yes, that’s even with taking into consideration such awful films as The Duchess And The Dirtwater Fox, Harper Valley PTA and The Bad News Bears Go To Japan. A really good film from that decade that I had somehow missed until now is Aloha, Bobby And Rose, starring Paul Le Mat and Dianne Hull. It is being issued on DVD through Timeless Media Group and Shout! Factory.

It opens with a woman reminiscing about the 1940s. She tells her daughter: “Oh, honey, you should have seen Hollywood in the forties. Things were more romantic then.” She talks to her daughter about how she quit her job, and about a good-looking man that she met. “The good ones don’t come along every day, but when they do…” And you might expect that the film would then go back to the 1940s. But Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets” plays during the opening credits. This is no flashback film.

We’re introduced to Bobby (Paul Le Mat), who is losing money in a pool hall, money he doesn’t have. After promising to deliver the money the next night, Bobby goes cruising while an Emerson, Lake And Palmer song plays. (There is a lot of great music in this film, including several songs from Elton John.) Seeing Paul Le Mat cruising of course makes me think of American Graffiti, which had come out only two years earlier. And as in that film, Paul Le Mat is pulled over by the cops. And as in that movie, Paul Le Mat does a little road racing. And that’s all in the first ten minutes of the film. (And like that film, this one takes place over a short period of time.)

Bobby works as a mechanic in a garage, along with his friend Moxey (played by a young Robert Carradine – this was nearly a decade before Revenge Of The Nerds), who is applying to go to transmission school so that he can make more money. While working, Bobby meets Rose, and the two are almost immediately attracted to one another. Perhaps part of Rose’s willingness to follow her heart is due to the speech her mother gave her at the beginning of the film.

RAWR(for more)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

DVD Review: My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: “Keys Of Friendship”

Keys Of Friendship, the new My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic DVD is a collection of five episodes from the fourth season of the show. It features what for me is one of the best episodes of the entire series, “Pinkie Apple Pie.”

“Rarity Takes Manehattan”

In the first episode, “Rarity Takes Manehattan,” Rarity goes to Manehattan for fashion week, and all the ponies are excited to join her, especially as she bought them tickets to a big musical. Pinkie Pie, of course, is especially excited. “I love jumping up and down,” she exclaims. And there’s a nice moment when Rainbow Dash pokes fun at the idea of musicals, leading of course directly into a song about generosity sung by Rarity. But when she helps out an old acquaintance, that pony rips off her designs, and the city’s harsh side affects Rarity. Rarity sings a second song later. This episode features some sweet messages, including being able to see your friends at their worst without letting that affect your friendship. There is also a funny play on the title of the series.

“Pinkie Apple Pie”

Pinkie Pie is my favorite character. She is the best, no matter what my eight-year-old niece says. The opening moment of “Pinkie Apple Pie” is so funny with Pinkie Pie imitating Twilight Sparkle’s startled scream. And then her delighted and excited reaction to learning about genealogy is absolutely wonderful. She reads she’s related to Applejack. To find out if it’s true, Applejack and her family visit a distant relative. Pinkie Pie joins them on their road trip, leading to a musical number about family. This episode is a total joy, with lots of funny moments, especially related to Pinkie Pie’s scrapbook. The cave scene is particularly hilarious (“Best scary unidentifiable creature ever!”). This is one of my personal favorite episodes of the entire series.

RAWR(for more)