Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Streaming on Netflix and Hulu | imdb | trailer

This is Sergio Leone’s flawed, but still amazing, final film. Once Upon a Time in America is a wide-ranging epic about a prohibition-era Jewish gangster in New York City. I will spare you all the gory details about what went wrong in the cutting and release (you can read all about it over here). I saw this in whatever the hell version was on DVD around 2005 and loved it. Yes, this film is slow. However it tops Goodfellas in the level of violence and scope. To keep it simple, if you are a fan gangster movies and TV series, you need to see this. The amazing cast is reason enough. Just go in knowing it’s a long slow ride with some seriously bloody sections. Maybe even break it up into two or more viewings for maximum enjoyment (that’s my plan for a re-watch soon).

The domestic Blu-ray is currently Out of Print.

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Clan of the the White Lotus (1980)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Aka Fists of the the White Lotus. “Deadly Needle Kung Fu Against the Invincible Armor of The White Lotus!” Right out of the gate this Shaw Brothers flick will grab you (with it’s crotch). White Lotus features crazy-complex fight choreography, and a good sense of humor too (not in that goofy Jackie Chan / Sammo Hung way either). If you’re not sold before the opening credits are done, then hit stop and go watch a superhero movie. I gave this film a 9 out of 10 rating on imdb.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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Benedetta (2021)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer

If you would’ve told me back in my cult VHS tape trading days that Paul Verhoeven was going to make a Nunspoitation film in 2021, I would never have believed you. The first movie I saw in the genre was Joe D’Amato’s Images in a Convent. Benedetta is definitely better than that film, but it’s not nearly as good as Flavia the Heretic. My suggestion is to keep your expectations low, and indulge in your go-to psychoactive substance while you watch. Under those conditions, you will likely enjoy this sleazy big budget ride. Well, perhaps enjoy isn’t the right word. Let’s say you might agree with me that Verhoeven is still a crazy bastard, and still making admirably challenging films.

Coming soon on Blu-ray from IFC Films.

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Zana (2019)

Streaming on Amazon Prime (and Kanopy) | imdb | trailer

Zana is an excellent, dark drama from Kosovo. The film reminded me a bit of Tarkovsky’s work, but the pace is a little faster, and it’s only 97 minutes long. The cinematography is fantastic, and all the actors pull off top-notch performances. One word of warning, this movie is very sad. It maintains that tone from start to finish, minus a few moments. If you’re not in the mood for a downer, then maybe pick something perky from the Netflix Top 10 (you wimp).

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

The mighty Christopher Lee plays a murderous Count, who is back from the dead, and out for revenge. Sounds similar to the plot for Mario Bava’s Black Sunday right? That’s ok, because part of why I enjoyed this movie so much is that it reminded me of Bava’s work, and early Hammer Horror. It also is an extremely loose adaptation of “The Pit and the Pendulum,” so we get additional reminders of Roger Corman’s Poe horrors. All that may sound like this isn’t worth your time. Not true. The film has been lovingly restored and looks absolutely beautiful. The saturated color and deep shadows sold it for me. Torture Chamber… is an old fashioned horror film, and is not particularly smart, but I highly recommended classic horror fans see it. If you enjoyed the young and handsome Christopher Lee acting like a creep, make sure to check out Bava’s The Whip and the Body. This director made an earlier creepy horror movie called The Strangler of Blackmoore Castle, which is also worth watching.

Not available on domestic Blu-ray.

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The Siege of Jadotville (2016)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

Here’s a solid, history-based war movie. I had never heard of this battle, so this was all news to me. The film features good performances, a fast-pace, and it gets pretty graphic here and there too. This is the first time I realized that Jamie Dornan was a skilled actor. I despised anything to do with Fifty Shades of Grey, but he is truly talented in spite of being involved in a garbage franchise. I recommend checking out Anthopoid and My Dinner With Herve as well. The Siege of Jadotville is not going to move you like say, The Thin Red Line, but if you want some entertaining battle action, it’s a good pick.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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The Forgotten Battle (2020)

Streaming on Netflix | imdb | trailer

The first Dutch Netflix feature is a very good, fact-based, WW2 drama. It is beautifully shot, and a lot of care was taken on the sound design. This has been compared to Dunkirk, but I honestly enjoyed The Forgotten Battle more. Here we are not spared from the ugly details of war. The drama felt more real to me as well.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Riders of Justice (2020)

Streaming on Hulu | imdb | trailer 

This is a surprisingly good, big-budget, action comedy from Denmark. I actually laughed out loud a few times, AND things got pretty gory on occasion. The violence is more extreme than I would have expected from a Scandinavian blockbuster. I love Mads Mikkelsen, but he’s not always in good films. Luckily this turned out to be a perfect choice for him, and a very entertaining movie too.

Blu-ray available on Magnolia.

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The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (2021)

Streaming on Amazon Prime | imdb | trailer

Here we have an excellent biopic on the artist Louis Wain. You may be familiar with his fanciful to psychotic feline creations. Do you love cats? Are you ready to cry? Well then this movie is for you. It may seem cutsie at first glance, but things get weird and dark later on. I really enjoyed it in spite of my heartstrings being ripped out of my body.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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Mars at Sunrise (2014)

Streaming on Netflix (also available for free on YouTube) | imdb | trailer

This is a challenging, darkly surrealistic, feature based on the experiences of Palestinian artist Hani Zurob. Critics did not really care for it, but I thought it was quite good. Mars at Sunrise is not unlike a full-length video art piece. It’s jarring and confusing, but beautiful. I will admit that I have an unusually high tolerance for more free-form, artistic expression that doesn’t concern itself with narrative. This film is only 75 minutes long, so just check it out if I haven’t scared you off already.

Not available on Blu-ray.

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