Beauty and the Beast (2017)

It’s surprising how well Disney adapts their own version of the shockingly beloved fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast.” While their Oscar winning animated version reigns supreme, Bill Condon manages to deliver his own interpretation that tweaks the tale here and there for new audiences with a great effect. I was quite stunned at how enjoyable “Beauty and the Beast” ended up being. While it has the familiarity of the 1991 movie, it’s also a unique experience that allows for a new angle on songs that are now deemed legendary. Condon approaches the live action remake/adaptation with a well balanced tone of whimsy and dread, allowing for a very subtle romance between Belle and the Beast.

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Wonder Woman (2017)

It’s a thing of beauty to see DC Comics and Warner finally embrace what’s so awe-inspiring about their characters. I’ve been a very vocal critic about DC’s output of live action films, and “Wonder Woman” is thankfully a remarkable jumping point for the new direction of the cinematic universe for DC and Warner. Patty Jenkins’ film presents Wonder Woman at a turning point at the very end of her own movie and is one of the most socially relevant superhero films made in the last fifteen years. “Wonder Woman” arrives in an age where worldwide, efforts are being made by various political and corrupt powers to silence women. Out of the darkness comes Diana Prince, a woman who will not be silenced or put in to the background.

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Wonder Woman (2017)

Diana grew up to become an Amazon warrior.  Little did she know, she was much more than that and when the time comes, she heads to war with a man who crashed near the island she lives on with only women.  There she discovers her full potential as much more than a warrior, but also a hero.

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Ben (1972) [Blu-Ray/DVD]

There aren’t many movies out there that offer audiences a sequel that is so drastically different in tone. The biggest comparison I can draw is the original horror thriller “Cat People” and dramatic “The Curse of the Cat People.” While “Willard” was basically a twisted thriller involving a dysfunctional young man’s self destructive relationship with rats, “Ben” is a more dramatic family film with elements of horror thrown in. It’s a very tonally confused and muddled melodrama that doesn’t do much to make Ben in to an interesting horror villain. To prove how utterly confused the movie is in terms of intentions, watch the final scene in which Ben stares in to the camera menacingly in the vein of the climax of “Willard” while the sappy “Ben’s Song” from Michael Jackson plays as the credits roll. So—what are we supposed to feel by this?

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Willard (1971) [Blu-Ray/DVD]

You have to give Shout Factory credit for at least trying to connect “Willard” to “Ben” for audiences. In the original 1971 movie, Willard Stiles is dysfunctional man whose rat of choice is white and named Socrates. For some reason he harbors an adversarial relationship with Ben, first scolding him like an embarrassed parent and then lashing out at him violently time and time again. Ben is always a mysterious element in the tale of Willard Stiles, an animal that has a lot more to him than simply being a rodent. He’s sometimes a sentient and very clever animal that feeds Willard’s own sense of need for family. “Willard” is kind of a demented thriller that’s always been considered a horror classic. And though it’s not scary at all, it does bear elements of horror with an EC Comic bent in rare moments.

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A Selection of the Shorts from Stranger With My Face 2017 [Stranger With My Face International Film Festival 2017]

Stanger With My Face International Film Festival is a festival that concentrates on female-make film, with a definite penchant to horror and life explorations.  Each edition brings current films and issues as well as older films and a bunch of shorts to their audience while also pushing them to think about some of the issues women face in life as well as in moviemaking.

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Dearest Sister (2016) [Stranger With My Face International Film Festival 2017]

A young woman leaves home to go work for her cousin the city as this one is gradually going blind.  As the cousin’s sight leaves her, she get a gift of being able to see and communicate with the dead.  Her newly arrived cousin has difficulty adapting and may not be going about things the best way.

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Payback Time – Triple Feature [Blu-Ray]

Mill Creek Entertainment is looking to make your summer as action packed as possible with a three bill economy blu-ray of some pretty nifty action pictures. Allowing a bang for your bucks, “Payback Time Triple Feature” garners action movie essentials that should allow for a great afternoon with popcorn and some beer. First up there’s the very good (and my personal favorite) “Blind Fury,” a solid remake of a classic “Zatoichi” movie starring Rutger Hauer as a blind Vietnam Veteran Nick Parker, who is taught the art of the sword after being rendered disabled.

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