Get "Mad" All Over Again Review

It’s both fitting and convenient that the first major history of the golden age of television was titled Difficult Men. The dominant narrative of this era has been one of masculine antiheroes getting their just comeuppance (but not before five or so seasons of vicariously thrilling alpha male posturing), and, if this latest set of episodes is any indication, Mad Men will not be breaking this trend. Don Draper's chosen profession may not be illegal in nature, but it's no less treacherous than Tony Soprano's mafia or Walter White's drug trade, and perhaps no more beneficial to society as a whole. But Mad Men has never been only about Don, and even if his professional life ends, it's not the end of the world that the show has created. Showrunner Matthew Weiner is smart enough to know this, and luckily, it seems as though Don does too. The forward march of history may be a difficult, alienating process, but as Mad Men winds up for its finish, it has the potential to be a healing one as well.

Nov
20
2014
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"The Vanishing" Makes An Appearance On Blu-ray Review

Even in 1988, there wasn't anything terribly original about The Vanishing. Its central image, of a victimized woman who had disappeared without rational explanation, goes back at least as far as The Lady Vanishes, while its central character, a man whose pursuit of truth has boiled over into obsession, was already a subject of parody. Even its famous shocker of an ending shouldn't have surprised anyone familiar with the noir genre that it draws from so heavily at times. But clichés, whether grounded in truth or not, become clichés for a reason, and The Vanishing serves as both a potent evocation and charged refutation of that principle. Moviegoers may like their men doomed and their women dead, but rare is the film that makes explicit a hero's (an ambiguous term in this film) need to control women even in their death. The Vanishing might not be telling us anything we don't already know, but it's something that a culture fed by (and by equal measure feeds) Law & Order: SVU would just as soon forget. To be sure, there are some spoilers ahead.

Nov
20
2014
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Imagine The World Without "America" Review

Sometimes, it's hard to know exactly what conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza actually believes. He frames his latest film, America: Imagine The World Without Her (his follow up to 2016: Obama's America), as an introspective personal journey to determine whether or not the arguments of the 'shame America' crowd carry any weight, but manages to frame our nation's ongoing spirit of debate as nothing less than a war between those who love this country and those believe that it should be destroyed, and potentially an existential threat in and of itself. To do this, he selectively investigates, infers, and outright falsifies his way through history, presenting two sides to an argument that bears little connection to political reality. As an exercise in cynicism, it's spectacularly misjudged; as an intellectual argument, the less said the better. One never doubts D'Souza's love for the country that has made him famous, but after America, it's hard to believe that he has much respect for Americans.

Nov
20
2014
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"Gingerclown" Combines Whole World's Two Favorite Things Review

In one of my all-time favorite films, Ghost World, there is an exchange between the two lead characters at the lame party celebrating their recent high school graduation that I think is an apt description of the two ways I tend to feel about low-budget horror:

“This is so bad, it’s almost good.”

“This is so bad, it’s gone all the way past good and back to bad again.”

Goofy, gory B-movie horror tends to fall into one of those two buckets. It is either so fantastically, over-the-top bad that it becomes almost good (or at least entertaining), or it goes so far that it passes that very fine line by and becomes just bad. Gingerclown, alas, is one of the latter. A shame, given that it boasts a cast that includes cult all-stars like Tim Curry and Brad Dourif, not to mention some of the most outrageous animatronic creatures I have seen in a movie since CGI took hold of Hollywood. 

Nov
20
2014
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"Chemical Peel" Gives Schaudenfreude A Good Name Review

I generally assume that the reason horror movies are often populated with distasteful and unlikable characters is so that we, the audience, can feel less terrible when we watch horrible things happen to them onscreen. After all, it is far more fun to watch people vomit up buckets of blood and then collapse to the floor, wheezing, with all of their skin peeling off, if said people weren’t very nice in the first place, right? Such is the appeal of Chemical Peel, a low-budget horror flick that chronicles what happens when a group of rather annoying women end up trapped in a remote house in the woods after a train carrying some kind of chemical crashes nearby and fills the air with highly deadly contaminants.

Nov
20
2014
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Keep "Collar" On A Leash Review

There’s a homeless serial killer (named “Massive” because he’s a massive guy) with a dark past. There’s a lesbian cop with a pregnant partner at home. There’s a pimp with a simple-minded buddy/bodyguard/whatever—a modern day George and Lennie. There are even some bros who like to film bums beat each other to death. And that’s just the first ten minutes of the no-holds-barred independent horror film Collar.

Nov
19
2014
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"Skinless" Isn't Brainless Review

As far as gross things are concerned, skinless-ness is pretty up there. And the film Skinless has some pretty gross skinless sequences (and even one scene that involves a character cutting their skin off their own face—a scene that I had to fast-forward through). But while this horror film lives up to its terrifying DVD cover, there is actually a pretty decent story buried somewhere within the movie.

Eccentric young and handsome Dr. Peter Peele (Brandon Salkil) has discovered the cure for cancer—at least of the melanoma variety. The cure lies within the enzymes produced by a very gross (and very fake) looking worm from some exotic location. Peter eagerly shares the news with the woman he loves but who does not love him back, Dr. Alice Cross (Erin R. Ryan). Unfortunately, the duo is fairly broke and needs some outstanding evidence of the cure’s abilities for funding. Fortuitously, Peter has just discovered he has melanoma and uses the serum on himself. Unfortunately, it is against Alice’s wishes.

Nov
19
2014
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"Hot in Cleveland", Fresh On Nick At Nite Review

Hot in Cleveland is a show about older women, for older women. Both of these things are such a rarity in Hollywood that its no wonder the TV Land sitcom has made it through five seasons and getting renewed for a sixth--there is not much else out there aimed at that demographic, and something needs to fill the void. The show chronicles the misadventures of three longtime residents of Hollywood after they relocate to Cleveland and move in with a cantankerous elderly caretaker named Elka, played in a scene-stealing turn by the legendary Betty White. Hot in Cleveland does not attempt to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the art of the sitcom. Rather, it thrives on its old fashionedness, and packs each episode with kooky double entendres, menopause jokes, and a (loud) live studio audience.

Nov
19
2014
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The "Most Wanted Man" That Nobody Wanted Review

There is a strange phenomenon that follows the untimely death of a great artist; not honest criticism as a testament to their purity, but instead unconditional positive regard of their posthumous work. In some cases, this wave of adulation coincides with decidedly great work; Heath Ledger earned his Oscar as The Dark Knight’s maniacal Joker. Occasionally, a final performance is an unfortunate capstone on a far greater career. More often than not, however, a final performance is simply another role in a career that had ups and downs, as they all do. A Most Wanted Man shamelessly toted its lead’s last performance, as all film marketers do when they have the bittersweet opportunity to. Unfortunately, Philip Seymour Hoffman is good, not great, and the movie is a tedious, hapless waste of its potential.

Nov
13
2014
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This Series Is Well Worth Your "Penny Dreadful" Review

When reading classic 19th century novels like Dracula, Frankenstein and The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school English class, did you ever yawn and think, “Gee, this is all fine and well, but I would enjoy this story so much more with a healthy dose of sex, demonic possession and Eva Green?” Well, then I have the show for you! In fact, even if you enjoyed those stories on their own merits, with no wish for additional otherworldly and R-rated shenanigans, then you’ll still likely enjoy Showtime’s Penny Dreadful, the first season of which is now available on Blu-ray. Created by John Logan, who previously delved into this genre when he adapted Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street for Tim Burton, Penny Dreadful is a dark, disturbing and visually stunning take on Victorian supernatural horror. It combines classic characters from the aforementioned novels with a set of compelling original characters to tell a story of the London underworld and the monstrous creatures that lurk there.

Nov
13
2014
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