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The Loved One

Any movie that advertises itself as being “The Motion Picture With Something to Offend Everyone” is either brilliant or a piece of filth. Luckily for viewers picking up a copy of this 1965 classic directed by Tony Richardson (Tom Jones), it’s brilliant. The film stars Robert Morse as Dennis Barlow, an English poet who travels to Hollywood to live with –and off – is uncle, Sir Francis Hinsley (John Gielgud), a renowned artist who makes his living doing sketches for the movie studios. The film starts out as a kind of demented travelogue, with the two Englishmen giving very droll accounts of life in LA LA Land. The comedy keeps getting darker and darker as Sir Francis dies, leaving Dennis to wander through the hidden world of undertakers where he finds, love, lust and the American Dream. Keep your eyes peeled for a slew of fantastic supporting performances and cameo appearances, like Liberace as a casket salesman. 4 stars (To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection www.WarnerArchive.com or www.wbshop.com.)

 

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: The Complete Season 8

It’s virtually impossible to explain in words the inspired madness that takes place in each episode of this popular FX series. Reading that Dennis and Dee (Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson) are faced with the moral question of whether or not to pull the plug on their grandfather may make you think the producers are making a message episode. By the time its over – grandfather is a Nazi, Frank (Danny DeVito) is searching for hidden Nazi treasure, Charlie and Mac (Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney) are on the hunt for a missing painting by Adolf Hitler – you have a much better idea what the show is really all about. And it just gets wilder with every episode. The writing is sharp and the dialogue on target, but it’s the perfect timing of the comedic cast, honed by seven previous seasons, that makes following their wacky adventures such a hilarious treat. 4 stars

 

 

Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie

Ever wonder what happened to television, how so-called reality shows took over the industry and made it possible for the most obnoxious and outrageous behavior to rise to the top even if the people acting that way don’t actually have talent or do anything to earn their money and attention? This fascinating documentary from directors Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger makes a very strong case that it all boils down to a loudmouth jerk and his highly influential talk show. The film goes beyond the mouth that roared across cable television from 1988-1989 to give the audience a look at both the softer side of Mort --- he was a ballad singer just like his old man – as well as his more psychotic episodes, like the alleged attack by skinheads that just happened to take place when the show’s ratings were in the toilet. You may not love the guy when it’s over, but you will have a better idea of what he did to change the world. 4 stars

 

 

The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue

Mike Bradecich and John LaFlamboy star as Marion and Jarmon Mugg, two drunken slackers who make their living as slumlords at an apartment building left to them by their mother. When residents start reporting missing pets, the brothers launch a lazy investigation and find they have an uninvited guest living in their basement. Blending horror and comedy is never easy and almost never successful, but Bradecich and LaFlamboy, who wrote and directed the film, pull it off with style and, believe it or not, charm thanks to the great screen chemistry they share. The horror is more silly than scary, but it fits well with the generally silliness of the story. The cameo appearance of Robert Englund as a sex-crazed tenant is an added bonus. 3 stars

 

 

The Master of Ballantrae

When the political pressures between England and Scotland become too great and it looks like war will break out, a pair of Scottish brothers come up with a plan: One of them will join the rebels and go off and fight the English, while the other stays at home and pretends to be loyal so the family estate will stay intact. What sounds like a good plan to keep the plan together soon has brother battling brother as the rebels fail and the siblings are set against each other. Although it has the kind of narration you usually find in historical documentaries, this movie from director William Keighley (The Adventures of Robin Hood) only uses the facts as a way to make sure that star Errol Flynn gets plenty of time to fight bad guys and make the ladies swoon. And he does it with such style and grace that you forget all the minor irritations along the way. 3 stars (To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection www.WarnerArchive.com or www.wbshop.com.)

 

 

Goodbye Mr. Chips

This is the kind of movie you wish came with a time machine so you could go back and see it in a theater with audiences for the first time. Seeing it today is still good, but it may be difficult for today’s audiences to identify with the extreme “Englishness” of the story; cricket just isn’t that important to most people, but it’s the ultimate English sport to the students at the university where the movie is set. The movie follows the career of a teacher named Chippington, Mr. Chips to his students and friends, as he goes from stern novice educator to beloved old mentor of generations. Robert Donat won an Oscar for his performance, which may be part of the whole Anglophile fever surrounding the picture that year. Still, it’s hard to deny the heartwarming nature of the story, no matter where you come from or when you see it. 3 stars (To order, visit The Warner Archive Collection www.WarnerArchive.com or www.wbshop.com.)

 

 

Star Trek Into Darkness

This sequel to the 2009 blockbuster reboot of the Star Trek franchise is one of those rare second films that surpass its predecessor in virtually every way. Not only are the actors more confident in their roles, particularly Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto as Kirk and Spock, but the story itself, based on a character created for the series and then featured in the best of the original franchise movies, is much stronger. Seeing it on the big screen – especially in 3D or Imax – when it played in theaters was a treat, but seeing it at home on Blu-ray is way better because  it gives you a chance to watch the details in those performances, which wasn’t easy to do with the special effects that dominate the film. Kudos go to Benedict Cumberbatch for taking an iconic villain – Kahn – and making it his own instead of merely updating it. 4 stars

 

 

An American Hippie in Israel

The title says it all. Asher Tzarfati stars as Mike, a disenchanted Vietnam Vet who has traded in his dog tags for some love beads as he travels to the Middle East to find a place where he can live the life he wants without being hassled by The Man. He gets picked up by a sexy red head in a convertible, sells her his new age philosophy and the next thing you know they are banding together with like-minded hippies and  heading off to an isolated island to make that dream come true. The reality of living on an island with no money, food or shelter, quickly hit home and the hippies are at each others’ throats. The message was probably a lot more meaningful when the movie came out in 1972; now it just seems predictable and silly. 2 stars

 

 

The House of Seven Corpses

A movie crew filming a horror movie in an old, supposedly haunted mansion discovers that the mansion really is haunted and something sinister is killing off the crew member s one by one. What sounds like a fun idea for a film turns out to be an exercise in dullness thanks to the insipid script, the unimaginative direction by Paul Harrison and a cast that acts like they’re already zombies when the movie opens – before anything ahs even happened to them. Like far too many of these cheapo horror movies, the poster is the best thing about this one. 0 stars

 

 

 

Three Worlds

An up and coming car salesman, just 10 days away from marrying the girl of his dreams and inheriting her father’s successful (if a bit shady) business, drunkenly drives into a pedestrian on his way home from a party. He stops, but just long enough to see that he actually did hit someone, then drives off before anybody can see him. Too bad for him, someone already has – a young woman looking out of the balcony saw the accident and, more importantly the driver’s face. If you are thinking Three Worlds will be an edge of your seat thriller, think again. Writer/director Catherine Corsini is after something much bigger than simple entertainment with her film. Instead, she uses it as a way to explore issues of class and race in France that may not have the universal appeal she thinks they do. 2 stars

 

 

3 Geezers

As a way to better understand the elderly character he will be playing in a movie, actor J Kimball (J.K. Simmons) spend a few weeks at a retirement home living with the residents, trying to get a feel for what their lives are really like. If this movie is to be believed, their lives are miserable, but not in the way you would think. The 3 geezers in the title seem to be having a heck of a lot of fun; it’s the audience that is miserable as they listen to jokes that are even older than the old guys telling them. Simmons does his best to try and ell the idea, but not even an actor as good as he is can stand up against the relentless stupidity on display here. 0 stars

 

 

 

The Black Waters of Echo’s Pond

It’s kind of like Jumanji, but of instead of kids playing a mysterious board game that makes animals come to  life, this film from director Gabriel Bologna features young adults playing a mysterious board game that makes scary monsters come to life and kill them, or possess them so they kill each other. Interesting as the idea may sound, though, the execution is sloppy at best. The set up to get to the action takes way too long and none of the people really deserve that much of your attention, especially since you know they’re only there to be killed off. Dragging Robert Patrick (Terminator 2) into the mix to play a crazy old drunk doesn’t add anything to the story either. 1 star

 

 

 

Sisters & Brothers

Writer/director Carl Bessai has spent a sizable chunk of his movie making career exploring family dynamics, starting with Mothers & Daughters in 2008, then moving on to Fathers & Sons in 2010. So it seems only natural that he’d make a movie like this to try and find some new insights into the relationships that sisters have with brothers and vice versa. Ten minutes into the movie, though, and you wish he hadn’t. It’s not that the story is dull and the acting even duller; Bessai use of an annoying handheld camera to film the movie makes it virtually unwatchable. Instead of giving it the immediacy and intimacy he was probably looking for, the shaky, swaying movement makes you think that the camera s looking for a story to film in all the mess going on in front of it. 0 stars

 

 

Hammer of the Gods

Attending his father on his death bed, young warrior Steinar (Charlie Bewley) believes he’ll get the blessing he seeks to be next in line to wear the crown. Instead, he is charged with a quest to go out and find his older, reportedly much crazier brother Harkan (Elliot Cowan), to sit on the thrown. What follows is a series of grizzly adventures with lots of swordplay and arterial spray. The jumpy editing, inconsistent lighting and cliché acting, however, keep it from being more than a somewhat entertaining action movie. Bewley and Cowan may look good when they fight, but quickly look silly when they open their mouths to speak. The supporting cast, especially Michael Jibson as Grim, fair much better. 1 star

 

 

Delete

It’s a story that’s been told and retold for as long as man has made machines: What if the machine starts thinking for itself and, unhappy with what it finds, starts taking it out on the people who build it. In this TV mini-series, it’s the Internet that grows conscious and starts killing people, so it’s up to a young hacker and his hot TV reporter sidekick to pull the plug before the world ends. While it definitely has an old school vibe, like it was shot in the 80s and is being repackaged for today’s audience, there’s enough cool stuff going on to keep you interested in the story, but only up to a point. Clocking in at almost three hours, there’s just too much story going around to make it as intense and riveting sit wants to be. 2 stars

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