Blu-ray Today: If You're out Buying Blu-rays Today, It May Be Too Late

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

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Today is not a good day for Blu-ray releases, which is just as well, because walking into any store that actually sells them today is going to be a nightmare, and unless you're a die-hard fan of Otto Preminger films (not really our purview here, since he isn't playing Mr. Freeze in any of them), it isn't really worth it.

So this will probably be the shortest Blu-ray Today column ever. Because the only stuff worth releasing two days before Christmas should either be (a) an impulse-buy item nobody in a shoulder-to-shoulder Walmart crowd can resist; or (b) a set aimed only at hardcore fans who'll buy it whenever, whatever. Most of today's picks fall into the (b) category, and they all fall in the (c) category of "stuff I haven't seen, and maybe will someday, but there really isn't anything compelling me to do so any time soon"

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The 12 Messed-Up Days of Christmas

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 at 6:00 am

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Despite the assurances of Andy Williams to the contrary, this is not, for everyone, the most wonderful time of the year. The non-religious, or those of other religions, or strict interpreters of the First Amendment of any faith, may be offended by its feeling of overbearing Christianity. On the other hand, some Christians may be troubled by the even more overbearing consumerism and vulgarization of the holiday.

But even in its most secular form, Christmas can get on some people's last nerve. Even people who like Christmas most of the time can have a rough season or two. In short, for some people most of the time, and for most people some of the time, Christmas can suck. Fortunately (for some), pop culture affords plenty of Christmas entertainment options, ranging from the horrific to the merely snarky, even in these cases. Here, in honor of the Twelve Days of Christmas, are twelve of them. So, on the First Messed-up Day of Christmas, in addition to a stocking stuffed with heartache, anxiety and bitterness, my true love gave to me...

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10 Movie or TV Insults to North Korea You Could Watch Instead of The Interview

Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 6:00 am

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In one of the stranger showbiz stories of recent years, it appears that the government of North Korea has been able to shut down a big-studio America movie release. Sony has decided to indefinitely shelve The Interview, previously slated to open December 25, because of emails from hackers implying that theaters showing the film might be the target of terrorist activity.

Thus Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen's wacky comedy in the Hangover vein, about two numbskull TV entertainment journalists who are pressed into service to assassinate North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, could end up as a legendary inaccessible movie. It could take its place with the likes of The Day the Clown Cried by Jerry Lewis or The Other Side of the Wind by Orson Welles.

But if you resent the hack, there are still movie and TV choices you can make which mock Kim Jong-Un or his father Kim Jong-Il - two of the more easily mock-able world leaders, especially since the departure of George W. Bush - and/or reflect badly on their regime. Here are a few examples:

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Blu-ray Today: Cowboys vs. Ninjas

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

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Cowboy Bebop: The Complete Series - Whether or not you're an anime fan this is a must-have. Cowboy Bebop is the quintessential sci-fi action series of all-time. Seriously, Firefly wishes it was this good. Go ahead, fight me.

If you're unfamiliar with Spike, Jet, Faye, Ed, and Ein then leave your house, right now, and go to Best Buy. If there ever was a series that transcends its genre, this is it. The opening theme and animation is rivaled only by ThunderCats, but this is no kids series. If you're looking for something with outstanding storytelling, action, style, and music that you can sit back and soak in over and over, with a glass of Johnny Blue or a rich glass of 2008 Barone Ricasoli then watch the series that challenged every convention of its time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - I'm obliged to include this because it exists. But you'd be better off with pretty much any version of the animated series, the films from the '90s or the 2007 CG TMNT.

Maze Runner - The smash hit YA series comes to the screen starring MTV's Teen Wolf's Dylan O'Brien to mixed reviews. Fans of the books seem to almost universally love the film, and O'Brien is good in everything he's in, so if you're looking for a teenage sci-fi love story, this is one of them. I think. I haven't seen it.

Batman: The Complete Series - There are many ways we like our Batman but none so much as bright and campy! As amazing as TAS, Gotham, Batman 1989, and The Dark Knight all are, none hold up to a pot-bellied Adam West and the greatest portrayals of his rouge's gallery ever put on screen. The only miss here is that the set doesn't come in a Shakespeare bust or red Bat Phone.

Lord Of Illusions (Collector's Edition) - One of the best of Clive Barker's string of '90s supernatural/horror films, stars Scott Bakula and is notable as Famke Janssen's first big screen appearance.

The Love Bug - Included here because it was my first film in a theater. And it's awesome. And I'm dating myself.

9 Nerd-Insulting and/or Generally Annoying Things About Birdman

Friday, December 12, 2014 at 6:00 am

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One of the critical hits of this year's movie award season has been Birdman: or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance). It's about a movie star best known for playing a superhero called Birdman back in the '90s. Two decades later, this guy, played by Michael Keaton, is struggling to mount his own stage adaptation of Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, at Broadway's St. James Theatre.

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the talented Mexican behind Amores Perros, 21 Grams and others, Birdman is an impressive piece of filmmaking. It also has its "meta" aspect, in its loose parallels with the career of Keaton, who more than two decades later is still associated with his starring role in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman and its sequel Batman Returns (1992). Although Keaton has worked prolifically, often to critical acclaim, in the years since, he is, perhaps, perceived as never quite having fully shaken off the cowl and cape.

Birdman has changed that; this week it racked up the SAG and Golden Globe nominations, and it will almost certainly land Keaton an Oscar nomination, and his won't be the only one. But for all the movie's undeniable merit, I find myself lagging behind the critical bandwagon; I can't bring myself to jump all the way on. Certain aspects of Birdman have been irritating me since I saw it, and more than a couple of them are nerd-relevant.

Examples...

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Blu-ray Today: Guardians of the Galaxy, Time Bandits and Multiple Nerd-a-versaries

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 at 8:00 am

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Time Bandits: The Criterion Collection - If you don't own Time Bandits in some form, I'm just going to say it: you are a terrible person. Terrible to yourself, mostly, for depriving yourself of one of the most amazing fantasy films of all time, about a group of little people who used to work for God (Ralph Richardson), but then stole his map of time and used it to become robbers, kidnapping a boy from the present day while on the run from both their former employer and the embodiment of Evil incarnate (David Warner). An early Terry Gilliam feature, it was thought of as a mini-Monty Python reunion at the time, with John Cleese as Robin Hood and Michael Palin as half of a dorky couple who keep reoccurring throughout history. As a kid, however, I had no knowledge of that - just that it was an epic time travel adventure culminating in the time of legends with a spectacularly dark and downbeat ending. But of course you know all this. If you didn't, you'd be a bad person.

Bonus features include an audio commentary with Gilliam, Palin, Cleese, Warner and fully grown former child star Craig Warnock, new featurettes and set photos, plus a brand new transfer of the film itself. Jolly good. Thank you very much. Thank you very, very much.

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8 Reasons You're Completely Wrong About the Star Wars Prequels

Friday, December 5, 2014 at 6:00 am

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Normally, I don't think it's necessary to write about or deeply examine the kind of enjoyment ones gets out of movies like Star Wars. It rarely pays. But I'm fascinated and a little horrified by the general response to George Lucas's prequel trilogy these days. The Internet has deputized (or militarized or radicalized) a strange breed of I/O fruitcakes who, at least in public, believe that expressing one's feelings with the least possible nuance is the best way to go every time. In truth, anywhere in America it's hard to find sixty people who will agree about anything except about how much they hate something. And yet check out any AICN talkback to hear an unexamined criticism savagely confirmed, dissent level zero: "The Hobbit movies are just cash grabs! The English Patient is boring! I would not sleep with that famously beautiful actress if she begged me! Hurrah!"

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A Talking Monkey Trains a Dog to Be a Pro-Wrestler in Russell Madness Trailer

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm

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Madness, indeed. Wait for the part where they actually say, "The strongest tag team is family!" Presumably, they're trying to make a Russell/wrestle pun, but considering that I've never heard the phrase "Wrestle Madness: uttered before in all my years of fandom, they kinda blew it.

I'm actually starting to feel bad for John Morrison, who now seems to be every cheap-ass movie's go-to pro wrestler. Dude had real talent that just isn't much in evidence any more, and now he's beating up a dog and playing third-fiddle to a monkey. The best part is that the talking animals aren't even the least realistic thing about the movie, which also features a wrestling mummy and apparently the concept that the fights are entirely real.

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Ask Luke's Mother-in-Law: A Mom Review of Jason Momoa's Road to Paloma

Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 8:00 am

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A veteran of the LAPD, widow of a Green Beret and self-described crazy cat lady, Martha Boyd fears no questions. Ask her anything in the comments section - no issue is too big, too trivial or too weird for her to tackle, but if you get out of line, she will let you know!

All questions and answers are real.

Hello and after-Thanksgiving greetings. I hope you all survived the massive day of gluttony. I was on an airplane to Mexico. Yep, another trip down south of the border. So it was airport food until we landed and got to the hotel. Well, not really all airport food. We got coffee, but as we were picked up at 5 am for a 10 am flight I had packed some nice muffins in a lunch bag and then brought munchies for the airplane. The dollar store is a great place for this, as you can get things in small packages. The coffee, soda and juice are still free on the plane and it is only about a 3 hr flight. So we had cookies, crackers with cream cheese and breakfast bars for the plane. We went to dinner early the first night - right at 5 when they start serving. Here is what I have almost every day at the resort for lunch by the pool: California roll, chips with salsa, soup and salad. They have a really good soup station and the salad bar is well stocked. Then back to the pool for more swimming and a couple of more margaritas. This place is totally eat, drink, swim, sun, repeat. Weather was in the 80's and very nice. A bit warmer then what I left in So Cal. LYT gave me Thanksgiving off as he was taking the day off too and thus I was missing last week. But now I'M BACK and you can't escape.


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Blu-ray Today: Apes Get Heady, Star Trek Ends Again, and Some Things Nobody Asked for

Tuesday, December 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - So why was Caesar wearing that wacky skull facepaint, anyway? It's not great camouflage, he thought there were no humans left to scare, and it's doubtful the deer gave a crap one way or the other. Obviously, then, he just thought it looked cool. What a dork.

And that's why we relate to the guy, even though he's going to end up making us all extinct whether he wants to or not. If you haven't already, find out which of his conflciting urges wins out...for now...in the latest Apes movie that may or may not be considered part of the original canon, depending where they go from here and whether you think Cornelius and Zira created a tangent universe, Abrams-Trek style, in Escape.

You can buy the deluxe version above stored in Caesar's head, which seems awfully, uncomfortably reminiscent of the dessert course at Pankhot Palace, or just a regular Blu, or a 3D version. Unlike future man and evolved ape, we will not force you to pick a side.

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