Cinema

Obscure thriller lives again on Blu-ray

December 22nd, 2015

Obscure thriller lives again on Blu-ray

By Christopher P. Jacobs

It is not all that unusual to find some good acting and talented craftsmanship hidden away in otherwise forgettable movies that were made primarily to fill a movie screen for a week until the next release came out. Such a film is the moderately diverting crime thriller “Hell’s Five Hours” (1958), released to Blu-ray this past summer.

The low budget often shows through in this production from Allied Artists, which…

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Lee’s “Chi-Raq” Looks to Increase the Peace

December 18th, 2015

Following the honorary Oscar he received last month at the Governors Awards (along with the blistering truth-to-power acceptance speech he made), Spike Lee doesn’t seem likely to pick up many competitive Academy Award nominations for “Chi-Raq,” even though he should.

Co-written with Kevin Willmott, whose diabolically good “C.S.A.: Confederate States of America” is an inspiration to every college professor who dreams of making it in the movies, “Chi-Raq” bears all the…

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Cult star Louise Brooks: classic late German silent now on Blu-ray

December 12th, 2015

American film actress Louise Brooks had a fairly minor career in Hollywood and is best remembered today for two films she made in Germany for noted director Georg Wilhelm Pabst, “Pandora’s Box” and “Diary of a Lost Girl,” both from 1929. Pabst also made “The White Hell of Pitz Palu” with Leni Riefenstahl the same year, and he is noted for “The Joyless Street” (1925) and “Secrets of a Soul” (1926), among others.

These films have been available on DVD for some time,…

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Two countries, one heart

December 10th, 2015

Ronan goes to “Brooklyn”

John Crowley’s film of Colm Toibin’s popular novel “Brooklyn” features a tremendous Saoirse Ronan – whose thoughtful and inviting presence is more than enough to recommend the movie, despite some of its easy calculations.

As Eilis Lacey, a young woman who leaves her home and family in Enniscorthy, Ireland for the promise of a bigger life in America, Ronan adds another noteworthy performance to her already impressive filmography.

Set in the early…

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Thoughtful, artistic approach to filming reality seen in early documentary now on Blu-ray

December 9th, 2015

It may not yet seem like a North Dakota winter, but as winter weather sets in with its cold and snow it will be easier to relate to the incidents depicted in films like the 1924 British documentary “The Epic of Everest.”

Various cable TV channels these days frequently broadcast stories of mountain climbers in their “extreme sports” coverage, typically with lots of quick hand-held closeups and helicopter shots over a soundtrack of loud, edgy rock music and an excited narrator.…

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Xenomorph from Switzerland

December 4th, 2015

Belinda Sallin’s documentary “Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World” captures the Swiss artist near the end of his interesting life. Giger, who rocketed to international fame and Oscar glory for the iconic designs he contributed to Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” died in 2014 at the age of 74.

Sallin, given full access to her subject, capitalizes on the privilege to prowl through the cluttered rooms of Giger’s home, a shabby heap teeming with macabre curiosities and enough specialized…

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The Ballad of Uncle One-Tooth

November 24th, 2015

Like hapless novelty salesmen Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nisse Vestblom), filmmaker Roy Andersson clearly just wants to help people have fun. Completing his “Living” trilogy – which also contains the brilliant pair “Songs from the Second Floor” (2000) and “You, the Living” (2007) – “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” is the set’s piece de resistance and one of the best films of the year. Revisiting Andersson’s ambitious themes, which…

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Indie noir new to Blu-ray

November 24th, 2015



Film noir fans can be thankful this weekend that more and more noir titles have been showing up on Blu-ray over the past few months. Independent films (past and present) can be strong personal cinematic visions or slick packages designed to sell tickets and fill a particular bill. On November 17 Kino Video came out with great-looking Blu-ray editions of movies from the 1940s and 50s that demonstrate both approaches, each film fitting to various degrees into the “film noir” category…

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New Blu-ray expands HD availability of John Ford film canon

November 20th, 2015


Kino’s Blu-ray release of “The Hurricane” the Tuesday before Thanksgiving helps round out the variety of genres handled by prolific filmmaker John Ford now available in high-definition. Ford is best remembered for his westerns, especially those starring John Wayne, such as “Stagecoach,” “Fort Apache,” “Rio Grande,” “The Searchers,” etc., and for iconic classics like “The Grapes Of Wrath,” “The Informer,” “How Green Was My Valley” and “The Quiet…

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“Back in Time” obsesses

November 19th, 2015



Celebrating the 30th anniversary of “Back to the Future,” Jason Aron’s crowdfunded documentary “Back in Time” tries unsuccessfully to capitalize on the blockbuster’s enduring appeal. Released online for “Back to the Future Day,” Oct. 21, 2015 – the date selected in the sequel by Marty McFly to go and save his yet-to-be-born children – “Back in Time” is earnest to a fault. While the movie intends to be the last word on the highest grossing film of 1985, “Back in…

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