Themed DVD collections have been Nick Jr.'s bread and butter for almost a decade now: they've all but abandoned chronological season sets, so the recent appearance of A Very Nick Jr. Christmas on store shelves is hardly surprising at this point. Six episodes are included on this one-disc release: Blaze and the Monster Machines' "A Monster Machine Christmas", Shimmer and Shine's "Santa's Little Genies", Dora & Friends' "Shiver the Snowman", Bubble...Read the entire review
Director: Mark Elijah Rosenberg Starring: Mark Strong, Luke Wilson Year: 2016
It's not that Approaching the Unknown is bad, it's that it's a knockoff. Most recently of The Martian, but of many other films as well. Sci-fi is a difficult genre to create original content in, since so many ideas have been broached already, but it's up to the director/writer to imagine something new that will astound audiences. Rosenberg is a complete first-timer, this being his only attempt at writing, directing, or, well, anything. And you could tell, if only in the way that amateurs always fall back on what they've seen done before when they run out of things to say...Read the entire review
(image) Note: The latest of a continuing series, where my wife Nicole steps up to offer her thoughts.
By Nicole Rizzo
In 10 Words or Less It's not Grey's Anatomy, but it's worth watching.
Reviewer's Bias* Loves: Medical dramas, the Natalie/Will dynamic, Oliver Platt Likes: Budding romances, ride-or-die friendships Dislikes: Over-dramatized situations Hates:
The Show First there was St. Elsewhere, then ER and my all-time favorite, Grey's Anatomy. Medical dramas have come and gone with few having the ability to capture the viewer and not let go. As a first season newbie to the medical community, Chicago Med has done a fantastic job of setting itself...Read the entire review
(image) Tom (Michael Shannon) is supposed to be celebrating his birthday, but he's got too much on his mind to truly relax. His wife, Ramina (Azita Ghanizada) has just scored a really rare two-year academic opportunity across the country in California, which would be great if Tom and his co-worker Clyde (Michael Chernus) weren't on the verge of a minor legal triumph in their low-end government office. More importantly, he's just spotted the woman (Rachel Weisz) Clyde has brought to his party, who is introduced as Alice, a woman who studied frogs in Tasmania and now works across the street from Tom and Clyde, and eats in their cafeteria. She is beautiful, but what's distracting Tom is that he knew her, years before, as an entirely different person.
Complete Unknown is a fascinating movie, one which remains engaging even as it struggles to transform thematic or conceptual ideas into a film that is als...Read the entire review
There are two perceptions of Pele, one is widely known, the other perhaps less so. There is the one we know, the ebullient soccer star who exploded on the world stage in the 1958 World Cup, winning the first of three trophies for Brazil. The guy who was one of the icons as part of the North American Soccer League for the New York Cosmos and is at the top (or just before it) of every list of the top soccer players in history. There is another Pele, a little lesser known, who I'll elaborate on in a bit, but it seems strange that a movie hadn't been made about Pele's life, or one that I know of at least.
Pele: Birth of a Legend was written and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, who directed the excellent The Two Escobars documentary on Colombian soccer player Andres Escobar a...Read the entire review
(image) Over the past couple of decades, vampire cinema has dedicated a lot of energy to breaking away from stereotypes, warding off the garlic and crucifixes while telling innovative stories about immortal beings who, y'know, so happen to have to drink blood on a regular basis. Often, this results in the filmmakers focusing on the more introspective and existential aspects of living such long-lasting yet morbid lives, delving into the conflicts involved with feeding, maintaining their longevity, and existing among humans. With that, they always risk rubbing horror fans the wrong way, dodging claims that vampires who aren't bloodthirsty monsters can't be "real vampires" and so on. German import Therapy for a Vampire attempts to channel both c...Read the entire review
The sixth and final season of The Wonder Years brings to a close the story of Kevin Arnold and his family, friends and other assorted characters from his to this point. Those new to the series are best to start with the first season, as obviously a lot of the storylines here have played out to a certain degree in the five seasons prior. The twenty-two episodes that make up this series are spread across four DVDs and are presented unedited (not that there was all that much to censor but certain TV channels have shown these in syndication with the odd mild cuss bleeped).
When this last season starts, Kevin is starting eleventh grade. With Paul (Josh Saviano) now class president and things getting kind of hum-drum for Kevin, he starts hanging out with Jeff Billings (Giovanni Ribisi) more often. He and Winnie (Danica McKellar) are still an item but when Kevin takes a j...Read the entire review
(image) It's generally pretty easy to write off the modern obsession with the pop culture of the 1980s as shallow. For one thing, that passion is frequently co-opted by corporations looking for something to remake, reboot, or sequelize that audiences are already familiar with, and it's also omnipresent, a go-to that seems to take up every bit of space, especially in movies, not currently being occupied by superheroes. Another factor, however, is just that some of the films that people tend to love -- sorry, not sorry -- are still popular for nostalgic reasons rather than artistic merit.
With those concerns in mind, I had my reservations as I sat down to watch Highlander for the first time. Although the franchise was a legitimate phenomenon, spanning six films, 10 novels, two comic books, three television series, and several games, video and otherwise, and yet I'd managed to miss out on it. Thankful...Read the entire review
I'll admit that, despite living just over 100 miles from Philadelphia, I've never followed the 76ers or one of their most memorable players of the modern era, Allen Iverson...but unless you've been consciously avoiding basketball during the last 20 years, chances are good that you've at least heard of him. At less than six feet and well under 200 pounds during his entire 15-year career, Iverson never looked your typical NBA player, let alone a highly decorated superstar who was ind...Read the entire review
Through the exposure to it by my wife, I have a strange affinity for the CBS show The Good Wife, so much so that I've reviewed the last three seasons of it for DVD Talk, with varying degrees of anticipation. And after a strangely bizarre end to Season Six, the show creators Robert and Michelle King declared Season Seven to be the last, so the question became whether it went out with a bang or a whimper.
When last we left the show, the proverbial good wife, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies, ER) had recently been ousted from a campaign for State's Attorney in Illinois, and was in the beginning phase of looking to start her own firm. Making this decision doubly tou...Read the entire review
The 1939 Edward G. Robinson vehicle Blackmail is a totally entertaining drama, spiced with moments of action, that plays out sort of like three or four different movies pasted onto each other. Oddly, none of these various movies have all that much to do with blackmail, but who wants to nitpick, huh?
We start off with a terribly exciting movie about fighting oil-well fires, with Robinson as John Ingram, the head of the finest firm to tackle these fires in all of Oklahoma. John's sidekick Moose (Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) is bit of a klutz, but he and John never screw up on the job. In fact, John and his pretty wife, Helen (The Philadelphia Story's Ruth Hussey), have a cute good-luck ritual, where she gives him an egg to put in...Read the entire review
(image) The Neon Dead: Horror-comedy is harder than it looks. Both genres require a strong underpinning in reality to work correctly. The two together need a foundation twice as strong in order to support viewer's belief, and concern for our heroes. The Neon Dead unfortunately lacks solid ground to stand on. It's a case of a movie with strong visual style and a simple conceit, set up to deliver laughs and scares. Without decent footing, director Torey Haas' treats miss the mark.
Paranormal Investigators Desmond (Greg Garrison) and Jake (Dylan Schettina) bide their time working in a video shop, in Haas' debut feature. Meantime recent college graduate Allison (Marie Barker) sweats an upcoming job interview when she notices an irritating, bloody ghost in her newly inherited home. Brushing it off, Allison answers the door to a pushy girl scout, who conveniently recommends Desmond and Jake as a ...Read the entire review
(image) Of the many stylistic and structural tricks a movie can use to create a unique experience for the viewer, one of the most common -- and least effective -- has to be the anthology film. The most common division is a three-parter, consisting of topically connected but otherwise unrelated shorts. Puzzled Love breaks from the beaten path in both instances, offering up thirteen short chapters in the story of the same couple, with more freedom allotted to style than story. Unfortunately, with such a limited amount of space in which to make a mark, the majority of the filmmakers spend more time trying to make their bits memorable than crafting something that feels like part of a whole.
Sun (Saras Gil) and Lucas (Marcel Borras) have both arrived in Barcelona as part of an exchange student program, and are staying in the same building. The only problem is, thanks to a bit of confusion in the back off...Read the entire review
(image) When a movie has a title like The Meddler, one might assume they know what they're in for: a sitcom-funny story about a mom and a daughter struggling not to strangle each other. Instead, The Meddler, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend For the End of the World) is a surprisingly heartfelt love letter by a daughter to a mother that reads more like an apology, or at least an outpouring of sympathy, looking back over an emotionally turbulent time.
Susan Sarandon plays Marnie Minervini, who has just moved to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), a screenwriter currently working on a television pilot. It's coming up on the two-year anniversary of the death of Marnie's husband and Lori's father, and Lori is taking it extremely hard. Marnie's idea of a solution is to make herself completely, possibly overly available to Lori, popping up...Read the entire review
The 1930 gangster flick The Widow from Chicago is an odd little drama whose legacy is that of being the film that featured Edward G. Robinson two short months before his star-making role in Little Caesar. Robinson is hands-down the best thing about the film, although overall, it has a certain awkward charm.
Originally intended as a musical vehicle for lightweight leading lady Alice White, the film was reportedly trimmed of all music to play up its more commercial gangster elements. That's probably for the best, since White has a cutie-pie charm, but isn't a particularly good actress. The story revolves around ...Read the entire review
Director: Justin Lerner Starring: Joseph Cross, Adelaide Clemens, Richard Schiff Year: 2015
Rarely does an imperfect indie film develop enough steam as it rolls along to pull in audiences who may not have been jumping on the train right away, but who will be glad of the ride once it's over. A cliche analogy perhaps, but sometimes it takes something typical to explain something atypical, and The Automatic Hate is definitely an unusual film. For a small project, and for one that won't blow you away by any means, it does slide into a very specific pocket with a very specific mood, and what's more doesn't veer away from its chosen path. It's a consistent movie, one that refuses to change or become overly artistic or beg y...Read the entire review
Reviewer's Bias* Loves: Modern Family, good sitcoms Likes: The vast majority of the cast Dislikes: sitcom babies Hates: Change for change's sake
The Story So Far... Telling the story of three generations of the Pritchett clan, centered around Jay (Ed O'Neill) and his kids Claire (Julie Bowen) and Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), and their respective families, Modern Family was, for all intents and purposes, an instant hit with critics and viewers (earning five Best Comedy Emmys in its first five seasons.) A single-camera sitcom without a laugh track, this mockumentary series (complete with talking head interviews with the family) blends together three types of rela...Read the entire review
Director: Taika Waititi Starring: Julian Dennison, Sam Neill, Rachel House Year: 2016
It has been well documented, proven, verified, and stamped with numerous seals of approval, but I'll mention it one more time just in case you didn't get the memo; Taika Waititi is a genius. This Kiwi King of Comedy hails from northeast New Zealand, has a Maori father, a Jewish mother, and has produced two of the island nation's highest grossing films of all time. He is an actor, producer, writer, and has directed an impressive if not widely-known list: Eagle vs Shark, Flight of the Conchords, Boy, What We Do in ...Read the entire review
Another 20th Century Fox movie not seen since the studio's "Key Video" sub-label in the mid-80s now gets a DVD-R release from their Cinema Archives. Joshua Then and Now stars James Woods as the title character, a Jew from Canada who becomes a famous writer. As the film begins he's pondering how he "got from there to here" as his wife has been hospitalized in an undisclosed location, thus starting a narrated flashback that consumes about three quarters of the movie's running time. We get a look at his younger days in Montreal with father Reuben (Alan Arkin), a small-time con artist and former boxer. His mother Esther (Linda Sorensen) is an exotic dancer, and provides one of the movie's funniest moments as she performs a striptease act for Joshua's friends after his Bar M...Read the entire review
Director: Michael Grandage Starring: Colin Firth, Jude Law, Nicole Kidman Year: 2016
Michael Grandage has never directed before, not a short, a TV episode, nothing, which makes this 54-year-old 90s television series actor a very unique sort of amateur. It's fairly late for Grandage to get his start, but instead of taking a shot with an indie flick and hoping it gets noticed, he swings for the fences with Genius, a film that, on the surface, has Oscar potential. Looking at the cast, you can only give Grandage credit for picking up such savvy veterans, for putting his movie into their more-capable hands. Firth, Law, Kidman, not to mention Laura Linney, Guy Pearce, and Dominic West; this is a group who can carry a film c...Read the entire review
Scholastic and Weston Woods Studios have co-produced hundreds of lightly animated and live-action short features based on popular kids' books during the last few decades, and chances are good that your children have seen one or more at school, home, or online at some point. From well-known classics like Curious George (not the PBS series), Where the Wild Things Are...Read the entire review
Director: Terence Davies Starring: Agyness Deyn, Peter Mullan, Kevin Guthrie Year: 2015
Being a movie guy rather than a TV guy, I've always been a little behind the trend when it comes to hit shows. I don't mean the old brand of sitcoms or hospital dramas, I mean the new wave of high-quality, well-acted, adult-themed original series that seem to force audiences into weekend binges. Mad Men, Game of Thrones, Orange Is the New Black; shows that like, and although I accept that they are good, I'm always too busy watching movies to get on board. I was one of the first on the Stranger Things train though, I am all caught up with OITNB, and recently I've been falling in love with Downton Abbey, a series...Read the entire review
Those hoping Jason Voorhees will show up to slice and dice some nubile campers will be sorely disappointed in this dated, campy television series. Although they share a name, Friday the 13th: The Series has little in common with the horror films or their machete-wielding killer. This American-Canadian television show ran from October 1987 to May 1990, and each week offered a new adventure for Michelle "Micki" Foster (Louise Robey) and Ryan Dallion (John D. LeMay), cousins by marriage who inherit an antiques shop from their uncle, Lewis Vendredi (R. G. Armstrong). Uncle Lewis made a deal with the devil for wealth and power, and in return sold cursed antiques in his store. Micki and Ryan join magician Jack Marshak (Chris Wiggins) to retrieve each item before its evil p...Read the entire review
(image) The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes Ultimate Collection:
Clearly these episodes weren't entirely lost, but whether they would in some way end up in syndication is another matter, so we must say thanks and give a big Tarzan yell to Time Life for packing them together in this box set. And packed together they are, 22 discs worth of previously released material, and therefore really not all that lost after all. Whether you are willing to pony up two hundred-fifty dollars for this collection is down to the depth of your pockets and your love of Burnett. (Or someone you love's love of Burnett, as this would obviously make a stunning gift and is quite likely meant as just that.) All things being equal and despite the steep price tag it's hard to call this collection anything less than highly recommended. This is historical TV at its absolute zenith, manna for comedy fans, and what amounts to ...Read the entire review
"1968. I was 12 years old. A lot happened that year. Denny McLain won 31 games, "The Mod Squad" hit the air, and I graduated from Hillcrest Elementary and entered junior high school. But we'll get to that." So begins the present-day narration from Daniel Stern as Kevin Arnold in present-day 1988, looking back on his life 20 years before as played by Fred Savage. "The Wonder Years" was one of the best shows of its time, providing a nostalgic look at the past as well as a funny and sentimental portrayal of growing up which kids of the present time could still relate to. The show's format mainly transported viewers to 20 years ago, but present-day Kevin would always chime in with voiceovers either explaining a few things in context or sometimes trying to give better advice to his...Read the entire review
(image) It should be most satisfying moment of his professional career: Garza (Omar Chapparo) is a police officer who has just captured the ruthless crime lord he's been pursuing, Santos (Erick Elias). Unfortunately, before Garza got the cuffs on Santos, Santos murdered his partner. Three months later, Garza has managed keep it together, having met a beautiful bartender, Maria (Aislinn Derbez), but things take a turn for the worse when Santos arranges for her to be kidnapped, forcing Garza to help him escape prison, then framing him as an accomplice. Garza breaks out of police custody in the hopes of clearing his name, but to do so he'll need the help of a young hacker named Vic (Joey Morgan), who was remotely involved in Santos' books.
It's a little ironic that the appeal of Compadres for American audiences will probably be a desire to see something a bit different or more adventurous than an Amer...Read the entire review
Any fan of not just old school R&B, but of music in general, has to acknowledge the immense influence that Motown Records had on pop music history. Without Motown, it's hard to imagine every type of band and music that changed the world, from The Beatles, all the way to Beyonce. In 1983, the legendary Motown label reached its 25th anniversary, and a two-hour televised show was put together in order to celebrate this milestone while also giving a portion of the proceeds to charity.
Impeccably hosted by the god of comedy Richard Pryor (Any objections to that?), the show contained who's who of great Motown musicians; Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Supremes, Four Tops, etc, performing at the height of their talent. The performances were intercut with brief informational segments about the history of the label. I admire how th...Read the entire review
(image) In 10 Words or Less The rise and fall of Tower Records
Reviewer's Bias* Loves: Documentaries, Tower Records, music Likes: Colin Hanks Dislikes: Tales of failure Hates: Missing the past, standard editions
The Movie For most of my life, there was no Tower Records. Of course, the chain existed, but it didn't exist in my world, where I was shut off from such wonder in the suburbs of the east coast. Eventually, in my young adulthood, I discovered the New York City versions, and we got a few of our own on Long Island, noteable for the long lines waiting outside for Ticketmaster sales. Making up for lost time, I spent several n...Read the entire review
The depiction of intense hostage situations in movies, especially ones from Hollywood, tend to heighten the drama with poetic license, up to a point where there isn't much of a difference in style and tone between a hostage thriller and a run off the mill action flick. Real hostage situations are terrifying and wholly unpredictable, forcing the victims as well as the perpetrators to act in awkward and eccentric ways. Any research into a police event where people are taken hostage will show that there's nothing "cool" or "badass" about it. It's usually not much more than a tense nightmare that everyone's stuck in.
Director Rodrigo Pla's admirably raw thriller A Monster with a Thousand Heads strives to bring a realistic take on a suspenseful hostage situation, staying as far away from the Hollywood pizzazz of this sub-genre as possible. Adapted by Laura Santullo fr...Read the entire review
The 1944 romantic drama In Our Time is an unusual but entertaining slice of wartime propaganda with a clear lefty bent. Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid are lovers from different classes who pair up in Poland, in the weeks leading up to Germany's WW2 invasion of the country.
She is Jennifer, a working class English girl, traveling as the assistant to an amusingly haughty interior decorator (Mary Boland). He is Stefan, a titled Polish count and man about town. His relatives disapprove of her status as a commoner, but her forward-thinking ideas might help save the family from financial ruin. When Germany finally attacks, the characters must decide whether they would rather save their skin or save their country. Our two heroes are patriots t...Read the entire review
As Jesus is probably the most significant figure in the history of Western civilization, whether you believe he was real or not, whether you believe he was the son of God or not, it's no surprise that we can't stop ourselves from becoming fascinated with his life, not only that which was written about in the Bible, but also all we can imagine to fill in the gaps between. Last Days in the Desert is fiction focused on what some believe to be fiction itself, while others believe it to be true, making the story that much more complicated & interesting. It's great movie fodder, is what it is, regardless of religious context, and aids...Read the entire review
(image) Note: The latest of a continuing series, where my wife Nicole steps up to offer her thoughts.
By Nicole Rizzo
In 10 Words or Less When it's so good, you can't stop watching.
Reviewer's Bias* Loves: Criminal dramas, Joe Mantegna, Shemar Moore, Aisha Tyler Likes: Thomas Gibson, Penelope Garcia Dislikes: Hates: The unknown of serial killers
The Story So Far... My heart skips a beat each season when I know Criminal Minds will be back on the air come September. I relish in the fact that I have season upon season to watch during the summer hiatus to prepare myself for what's to come. The journey has been long and winding since the series first began in 2005. T...Read the entire review
(image) It probably sounds like a bad joke, but the only real question that hovers over Jane Wants a Boyfriend, a movie about a young woman with Asperger's (Louisa Krause) who becomes interested in a romantic relationship, is how to parse director William Sullivan or writer Jarret Kerr's emotional sincerity or intent with the project. It's a sweet movie, with the air of sensitivity and understanding when it comes to depicting Jane's social struggles, and yet there's that lingering question of whether or not the movie is actually a sincere attempt to explore her arc, or if it's more for people without Asperger's who may or may not feel good in merely being willing to relate to her struggles.
That said, without being one of those filmmakers, there's no way to answer that question, and I'd hate to think that bringing it up implies that I actually suspect any exploitative reasoning on the part...Read the entire review
(image) In Hard Labor, the first feature-length effort by the filmmaking team of Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra, there are three key aspects the filmmakers are attempting to juggle: the movie's two individual stories, about a husband and wife dealing with individual professional struggles, and the film's ability to intertwine their threads into a cohesive point. What's interesting is that they never quite manage to keep at least two of them in the air at any given moment, but the third is compelling enough that it almost makes up for it. At the very least, the movie is an admirably unique horror-drama hybrid.
Helena (Helena Albergaria) is less than 24 hours away from the first step of her dream to open and manage a small local grocery store when she gets the bad news: her husband, Otavio (Marat Descartes) has just been fired from his stable white-collar job despite ten years of loyal service. Althoug...Read the entire review
Released in 1982, Five Days One Summer is the final film from legendary director Fred Zinnemann (A Man for All Seasons, High Noon). It was a passion project that took Zinnemann decades to get produced, and knowing that bit of trivia makes the film's overall blandness all the more puzzling.
Set in the Swiss Alps, where graying doctor Douglas Meredith (Sean Connery) has taken his young bride Kate (Betsy Brantley, Schizopolis) to go rock climbing,...Read the entire review