RoboCop 2 (1990)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The original RoboCop is one of my all time favorite films. RoboCop 3 and the TV series are total crap. RoboCop 2 however is a pretty damn entertaining movie actually. It has all the important cast that survived the first film, the OG Red Dragon from Manhunter (Tom Noonan), and was directed by… Irvin Kershner. Who? Well he was the director of a little film called The Empire Strikes Back. Yep, he was obviously somewhat co-directed by George Lucas, but still, facts are facts. He also did the flawed but entertaining final Sean Connery James Bond flick Never Say Never Again (which was weirdly released the same year as Roger Moore’s Bond in Octopussy). One major bonus here is that FX master Phil Tippett was allowed almost total creative freedom, even to the extent where he directed the visual effects heavy scenes himself. So if you’ve never seen this, or it’s been a while, you’re in for a treat.

Available on Blu-ray from Shout Factory.

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The Hunter (2011)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

A gun for hire is sent to find the last Tasmanian Tiger. I love Willem Dafoe, and this is one of the better films where he is the lead actor. This is beautifully shot in unbelievable Tasmanian locations, very well cast, and has a great melancholy feel throughout. There’s a tiny bit of CG that does not look great, but the movie is so good it doesn’t matter. I still give The Hunter a perfect score.

Available on Blu-ray from Magnolia

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Capote (2005)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

As I’ve said in the past, I really try to avoid recommending Academy Award winners. I really love this film though, and have not heard it mentioned in years. Capote is the story behind the writing of the grandaddy of all True Crime books “In Cold Blood”, and it’s pretty much a perfect film. This is also my favorite Philip Seymour Hoffman performance (RIP). This is one dark, beautifully filmed, emotional movie, that I give a 10/10. Also, if you’ve never read “In Cold Blood” before, do yourself a favor and do so immediately. It really is one of the very best works of American non-fiction.

Available on Blu-ray from MGM.

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Things to Come (1936)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I avoided this film for a while, but damn it’s really something special. The story is the unfolding of a century from war and chaos, to utopian innovation. I was already a fan of H.G. Welles adaptations since I was a kid, I’ve read some of his books as an adult, but I never really understood the breadth of his imagination until seeing this movie. Welles wrote The Shape of Things to Come in 1933. If it’s anything like The War of the Worlds, the book is FAR better than the film. In spite of that, to SEE how ‘30s filmmakers applied Welles’ ideas is truly stunning. Things to Come has a far more spectacular look than I would have thought was possible before WW2. In the beginning of the film everything appears like you would expect. As the story moves forward in time, it all becomes more and more wonderfully bizarre, and just keeps getting weirder. The grim war years are particularly something to behold. Bottom line, if you are a science fiction fan, this is essential viewing.

Available on Blu-ray from Criterion Collection.

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I Know What I Saw (2009)

No high resolution image was available, so I improvised – ha ha.

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Most shows and movies about UFO / AEP sightings are unwatchable cheese. They use spooky music, melodramatic narration, and very little actual evidence. Well, this is the polar opposite, in fact I Know What I Saw is a very convincing documentary. The quality could be a little better, but honestly the information is so compelling it doesn’t matter. This film focuses on intelligently presented details from reputable sources. I’m not going into further detail, but if you want to remain a UFO skeptic, do not watch this movie.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Haunted Palace (1963)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

I somehow missed this excellent Vincent Price horror flick until recently. The title is inspired by Poe, but the story is actually a loose version H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” In fact, this marks the first ever Lovecraft screen adaptation. If you’re a fan of any of the Roger Corman Poe flicks, you’re going to enjoy The Haunted Palace. This is creepy, classic, atmospheric horror.

MILD SPOILER ALERT: There is a brief monster reveal that is honestly laughable (think Star Trek – The Original Series), but that little blemish does not ruin an otherwise awesome movie.

Available on Blu-ray as part of The Vincent Price Collection from Scream Factory.

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Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

This is an excellent doc on the man behind so much amazing creature / FX design and stop motion animation, including the OG Star Wars trilogy, RoboCop 1 and 2, Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park and much more. I had no clue the depth of his career until seeing this film. It also covers a bit of his recently released movie Mad God (recommended – currently streaming on AMC+ and Shudder).

Bonus: Many short films mentioned in the doc, including the fantastic Prehistoric Beast, plus tons of behind the scenes videos, are on Phil Tippett’s YouTube channel.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Yes, I’m finally getting around to an Argento movie. This is his first film, and among his best. I wouldn’t recommend Dario newbies start with this one, as it is honestly very slow, and almost bloodless. It’s definitely a giallo, but far more thriller than horror. However this movie is as creepy as can be, beautifully filmed, has a very good cast, and the Morricone score is phenomenal. Most people see Suspiria first, and are a little disappointed by Argento’s other great films. Then they go on to be downright depressed by the rest of his output (I gave up after sitting through Giallo). Sadly he has not made a decent movie since Sleepless, but he was excellent acting in Gaspar Noe’s Vortex. Besides Suspiria, my personal favorites are Tenebrae and The Cat o Nine Tails (honorable mentions for Deep Red, Inferno, and DA’s edit of Dawn of the Dead). Did you hear that? It was the sound of dozens of horror nerds yelling out What about (fill in the blank)?!?!?!

Available on Blu-ray from Arrow.

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Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The Z Channel was an early pay cable network that was very much like the current Criterion Channel (but began years before Criterion was even releasing laser discs). The story of it’s rise and fall, plus the channel’s influence is fascinating. You also get the tragic story of programming chief Jerry Harvey. I first saw this back when the movie was originally shown on the IFC cable channel. I never would have thought this doc would get remastered and made available again, but I’m glad it was. The filmmakers managed to get so many great interview subjects it’s amazing. The segments with Tarantino are particularly interesting. I didn’t understand the depth and range of his cinema obsession before seeing this movie. If you love independent and arthouse cinema, this documentary is essential viewing. I recall chasing down titles I hadn’t seen for years after.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Black Dynamite (2009) 

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have the second-best Black Action Hero parody next to I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (and it’s an extremely close second). This was my favorite comedy to come out in 2009, and just as funny on a recent second viewing. Star Michael Jai White is best known for action films, but really shows his comedy and acting talent here (he even co-wrote the screenplay). I just wish he’d get offered better roles. Black Dynamite was spun off into an animated series that I personally couldn’t get into, but give it a try if you like the film.

Available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures.

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