Category Archives: DVD Blu-ray Reviews

DVD review: CANDY

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968's "Candy"

Ewa Aulin and Marlon Brando in 1968’s “Candy”

“Candy” was a notorious novel from 1958 by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. It had sex, satire, and more sex. By 1968, director Christian Marquand brought to the screen something which was equally notorious and it had sex, satire, and more sex. There’s a story that Buck Henry, the screenwriter, tells in a bonus feature on the DVD. Marquand, Henry, and a producer, Peter Zoref, would routinely go to lunch during the filming. Zoref was regularly verbally abused by Marquand but, on that day, Marquand took to slapping Zoref. Henry admonished Marquand to stop. When Marquand ignored Henry and resumed his abuse, Henry threatened to use his knife on Marquand–which he ultimately did! With a knife impaled into his hand, Marquand began to maniacally laugh. He just kept on laughing and laughing. To this, Buck Henry conceded some form of greatness on the part of Marquand! And, with that said, it gives you a taste of “Candy.”

1968 was a long time ago, no two ways about it. So, we take that into consideration when viewing such a work as this. It is not an unequivocally classic piece like, say, Stanley Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove.” No, no, no. It is not that. However, a case can be made for it being a misunderstood gem. There are some interesting things going on that raise it above a typical Sixties exploitation movie. In fact, there are plenty of entertaining scenes to make this worthwhile and a lot of that rests on the stellar cast of actors. Everyone on board seems okay with the premise and play it to the hilt: a young woman, a veritable ingenue/sex object wanders about as various middle-aged men ogle her and dare to fondle her. Candy, on the other hand, does not find the potential suitors to be repulsive. She is mostly concerned with being given a decent reason to take her clothes off. Silly. Surreal. Disturbing. Check all of the above.

We begin with Richard Burton as Candy’s first suitor. That turns out to be quite impressive. And the list of suitors goes on from there: Ringo Starr, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, and Marlon Brando. At one point, I sort of started to think that director Marquand had set up a cynical trap for all these A-listers putting them in a situation that would leave them looking ludicrous. But, no, that does not really happen. Everyone survives, if not excels. Burton is brilliant as MacPhisto, a latter-day Lord Byron with a throng of young women in a frenzy over him. With any woman at his disposal, MacPhisto becomes transfixed by Candy, played to spaced-out perfection by Ewa Aulin. The only problem is that MacPhisto is all thumbs, like most of the men depicted in this movie, when it comes to actually having sex. Candy is all for it but MacPhisto proves to be trapped within a bubble of his own self-delusion. Fast forward to Marlon Brandon, as Grindl, the charismatic guru, who proves to be a capable seducer. While all the rest of the men marvel over Candy the sex object, Grindl has no problem firmly placing hand over mons and proceeding. Whether true zeitgeist or more kitsch, “Candy” has a certain colorful quality to it that makes it hard to resist. It is a masterpiece train wreck.

“Candy” has been released on DVD from Kino Lorber. You can find “Candy” at various outlets including Amazon right here.


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Paul Dano becomes Brian Wilson in "Love & Mercy"

Paul Dano becomes Brian Wilson in “Love & Mercy”

The two cello players had been rapidly playing to the direction of Brian Wilson (played by Paul Dano). He had wanted them to evoke the sound of propellers. Each time, they got closer. But, after three hours, Brian’s brother Dennis (played by Kenny Wormald) had had enough. What was Brian trying to prove anyway? Moments later, we hear that iconic perfectly rendered propeller sound. There it is, for all eternity, an essential part of one of the greatest songs of the ’60s and of all time, “Good Vibrations,” and it was worth it! Not to confuse you, this is not a documentary, but, just for fun, here’s a studio session that is beautifully evoked in this film:

How could Brian Wilson have known it was going to be worth it? He had been getting resistance from all sides by his own family. It wasn’t just his backward-thinking brother, Dennis. It was also coming from his own father. The chasm between father and son had grown so large that Brian was forced to fire his dad (played by Bill Camp) from his role as manager. Murry Wilson wasn’t fazed by it and simply managed another band. It was all just business to him. But rigid adherence to the bottom line is anathema to creativity. What it requires is continuous leaps of faith. This is what Brian Wilson is all about and what this film is all about. Ah, here’s our trailer right below:

Paul Dano, as Brian Wilson, is profoundly good. I can only imagine how inspiring it was for him to be, in a sense, taking direction from Brian Wilson. The script is based on Wilson’s 1996 autobiography, “Wouldn’t it be Nice: My Own Story.” Well, Dano was certainly in good hands with the film’s director, Bill Pohlad (12 Years a Slave and The Tree of Life). As we come to find, Wilson was truly up against it and yet remained open to experimentation. Imagine those two cello players, pretty much out of their element and yet they were open to experimentation. And it would lead them to greatness: zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda, zuba-da-da-buda…faster and faster…until they got it just right.

But there’s so much more. John Cusack is equally miraculous as Brian Wilson in later years. We see hints of a downward spiral as the young Wilson courts disaster but we can’t help but think the eccentricity is too important. By the time we fast forward to the ’80s, we see Cusack portray only a shell of a man. On one particularly good day, he manages to muster up enough strength to flirt with a Cadillac salesperson, Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks). It is in her eyes, that Brian Wilson sees a possible way back to a meaningful life.

Love and Mercy-Brian Wilson.jpg

And so begins a romance, a way back, and a way out. No sooner has Brian made contact with the outside world, than Dr. Eugene Landy (played by Paul Giamatti) has swooped down to control the situation. Giamatti does have a tendency to chew up the scenery but, in this case, his overacting seems to be spot on. It would take a larger-than-life character like Landy to try to hold back the likes of Brian Wilson. Cusack, who is usually quite good at striking a balance, gives us a portrayal of a man who genuinely, and quite humbly, feels in touch with great artistic ability.

There’s a wonderful scene during his courtship of Melinda where he plays a little tune for her. She says it’s beautiful. He responds that he wrote it for her. “And what happens to it now?” Melinda asks. Brian responds without even a hint of irony, “Nothing. It was just meant to be for that moment.” It is a scene like that one that just adds to the belief in a man who would have cello players repeat the same passage of music for over three hours.

Visit the official “Love & Mercy” website right here.


Filed under DVD Blu-ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, movies, Music, pop culture

DVD Review: FOREV, starring Noël Wells

Noël Wells and Matt Mider in "Forev"

Noël Wells and Matt Mider in “Forev”

The whole idea behind the film, “Forev,” is wasted youth, or youth wasting away and just waiting to be rolled over and swept away. That’s pretty much how the characters in this movie often feel like. Not always, but it’s a tendency. When you’re right in the thick of being young, you can feel quite lost and that can bring on some loopy choices. Why not marry your next door neighbor since he’s just as lonely as you are and he seems pretty cool? Life has brought Sophie (played by Noël Wells) to this conclusion. And, oddly enough, her neighbor, Pete (played by Matt Mider) is into it.

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Warner Bros. continues to bring out gems from its archives with the second season of “Superboy.” The plot that launches the season provides us with a Lex Luthor that rivals the Joker in twisted evil. That alone is worth the price of admission as we see Luthor, played by Sherman Howard, chew up the scenery. He dares to force Lana Lang into marrying him and to put Superboy in hospital, at least temporarily.



There is something strangely edgy about this particular Lex Luthor story that will appeal to any Superman fan, or Batman fan for that matter. Among other things, you also get a rather odd take on Metallo and even a face-off with Dracula, which would have fitted in with some of the weird things going on at DC Comics at the time. And, yes, we like weird things. Season 2 of “Superboy” is available now and you can find it here.

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DVD Review: Cathy Lee Crosby as WONDER WOMAN

Cathy Lee Crosby Wonder Woman 1974

Just before Lynda Carter, there was Cathy Lee Crosby. It all began in 1974, when ABC aired a “Wonder Woman” movie. It starred Crosby and the script, written by John D.F. Black (“Star Trek,” “Shaft”), was faithful to a new direction the Wonder Woman character had taken in the DC comics title. She was far more grounded and less invincible. And Crosby definitely had what it took. She was a natural athlete, with stunning good looks, and a wholesome quality. Looking back, she would have made a great Wonder Woman for a television series. That role would go to Carter and the rest is history. Still, we have the pilot movie to appreciate that just happens to have released on DVD as of December 11. So, let’s take a look.





The best part of this movie is that it can’t help but be full of shaggy ’70s goodness. Every young, or youngish, guy has billowy long feathered hair if they can manage it or some shaggy quality going on. The pickup lines are all cheesy. The crime and violence is campy. And the villain is a mysterious lothario all dressed in white. Hey, that’s Ricardo Montalban, prior to finding his destiny on “Fantasy Island!”


The plot is simple but fun. A criminal mastermind has stolen all the code books holding the identities of 39 American spies. He wants 15 million dollars within 72 hours or he sells the information to the highest bidder. We find that Wonder Woman has settled in nicely as a secretary for Steve Trevor, who leads various military operations. With a wink and a nod, Steve authorizes Wonder Woman into action. And she soon finds that one of her biggest challenges will be to fend off the advances of the creepy henchman in charge.


Along the way, we see how Wonder Woman improvises when she’s hot on the trail.


And we learn of a new nemesis, Angela, who promised to knock Wonder Woman’s lights out.


For a light and fun look at what the 1970s almost launched for Wonder Woman, this is priceless. But it won’t cost you much to get your own DVD here.

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Movie Review: THE DAY

“THE DAY,” is a surprisingly good horror movie that makes the most of its bleak environment. Stripped down to the essentials, this post-Apoc B-movie-style film presents us with a group of ragtag survivors who are on the run. It’s only later that we find out what it is that they’re running from. The group is made up of just enough members to give us a Scooby gang. There are two women and three men. At first, you really can’t tell them much apart since none of the actors stand out. Two of the actors may as well be twins: two mellow young guys with beards. It’s not until we get some sense of conflict that one actor emerges from the pack. It’s a scene early on in the movie, after the group has found the usual horror movie abandoned farmhouse to camp out in.

The two women have been sent out to forage. While they’re out in the woods, one woman turns on the other. She complains to her companion that she had better learn to socialize, that she had better start speaking up, say anything, since they are all family now. The woman just stares back. And that is our rising star, Ashley Bell, who made her mark as the possessed Nell Sweetzer in “The Last Exorcism.” In an impressive cast of actors, it’s Ashley Bell by a mile. It’s on her shoulders that this whole movie pivots. Bell knows how to brood and to build up tension. Before you know it, when she finally speaks, you are hanging on her every word. That, my friends, is not what usually happens in something that’s just a B-movie.

Another point of distinction: Luke Passmore’s script. There are plenty of clever twists in this film to keep any horror and film buff content. It is also noteworthy in how we are lulled into believing in these characters. The dialogue is earthy and what you’d expect from a group of young people, especially a group in a crisis. Director Doug Aarniokoski has created a musky and creepy world with little, if no hope, for survival with the light only coming from what the characters may still do to make sense out of it all. Because, remember, this group was running away from something and that something is determined to find them.

Shot in black and white, with muted colors (along with some full color flashbacks), “The Day” has the look and feel of an old scary movie as well as the intelligence to know how to take things further. It does push limits. There are some scenes where the violence is raised to a fever pitch. In lesser hands, that could easily have become too much but this movie strikes a good balance. If you stick with it, brave through the blood and gore, you’ll see just what a gem it really is.

“The Day” enjoyed a successful world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released in theaters earlier this year.

“The Day,” from WWE Studios and Anchor Bay Films, is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.

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