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    Blair Witch (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 10th, 2017

    In 1999 The Blair Witch Project was released, and it was a horror film that created a stir like I had never seen before.  I remember going to Tampa Theatre to see it opening week.  The line was wrapped around the building for the sold-out screening.  Discussions were going on in the line about the film actually being real, some even talking about how they heard the bodies of the three filmmakers were never found.  It’s this kind of mindset going into the film that made it such an impact as I walked out of that first showing.  At the time I knew I had seen something unique, but I never would have expected it to spawn an entire style of genre filmmaking that would be copied over and over again.
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    31 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 9th, 2017

    There is something about a Rob Zombie film that will always be a draw, and it is always the realism that he brings to the screen.  Whether it’s The Devil’s Rejects or his version of Halloween, he always presents it in a way that I feel is grounded in reality.  Perhaps it’s also because I live in Florida, and there are some small towns that you don’t want to break down in at night for fear of crossing some crazed backwoods types.  To put it out there, I was a fan of Rob Zombie before he was putting out movies, and I have all of his albums; he’s just a guy who does stuff that I really dig.  That being said, I can be objective in saying his films have been a bit all over the place, but Lords of Salem was a piece of work that I simply loved, and I felt it showed a lot of growth from his previous films and worked well as a slow burn.
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    The Killing of America (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 4th, 2017

    “America is the only industrialized nation with a higher murder rate than countries at civil war.”

    2016 might technically be in the rearview mirror, but it feels like last year left an indelible mark on the psyche of the United States. In addition to the most polarizing presidential election in a very long time, last year was marked by the deadliest shooting in U.S. history about an hour away from where I’m currently sitting, along with other highly-publicized instances of gun violence. So it feels like an appropriate time to revisit The Killing of America, a 1981 documentary that was never granted a commercial U.S. release after being deemed too exploitative.
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    Snowden (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 30th, 2016

    It’s been just about four years since Savages (2012) hit the big screen.  For me Savages was Oliver Stone simply having a blast, shooting an over-the-top action film fueled by sex, drugs, and violence.  Now it seems Stone has stepped back into the paranoid, government-conspiracy form that he seems to be best known for with Snowden.  Whether you view him as a traitor to the United States or a self-sacrificing lamb to expose the government and its illegal wiretapping, it’s a choice that is up to you going into this film.  Personally, while I feel his intentions were good, still, he did betray his government and committed treason.  What I had hoped with this film is that Oliver Stone would capture both sides of the coin, but as the title would suggest, Edward Snowden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is front and center on this ride, and that’s not my only problem here.
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    Dog Eat Dog (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 28th, 2016

    Writer/director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver and Auto Focus) has been a guy I can’t help but root for.  His films are filled with the kind of raw grit that I like to see in films.  His knack for shining a light onto the outlaws of society is something I don’t feel anyone does as well. Usually we see these characters celebrated, or simply put, they get the Hollywood treatment.  Schrader seems to always go the other direction and depict them with an unflinching eye that captures the character with honesty and dignity, even as their lives tailspin into darkness.  Dog Eat Dog may not be an original work by Schrader, but the film certainly carries many of the staples that embrace his celebration of the anti-hero while filming the manic insanity of the reality they live in.
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    Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 23rd, 2016

    There’s a man comin’, and he aims to bury you.”

    That sort of threat — especially when it’s made within the trigger-happy Western genre — usually refers to a wronged hero looking to rain vengeance upon some dastardly villain who wronged him in an extremely personal way. The only most interesting thing about Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story is that our presumed hero is the one being hunted…and the “bad guy” has a legitimate gripe.
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    In Order of Disappearance (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 21st, 2016

    Coming out of Norway we have In Order of Disappearance, a film I knew nothing about aside from the cover art. To be , it pretty much reminded me of any of the numerous revenge films we’ve seen Liam Neeson in.  Stellan Skarsgard instead stars in this revenge romp that I feel got lost in translation with me.  It’s not that I couldn’t understand the base of the film being a revenge tale; this is very much clear as day, but it is the film’s sense of humor that borders on being dry and black, to other points I feel it’s just a Norwegian thing.  Usually one of the first things I do with a foreign film is I make sure everything is set to the original language track and use the subtitles to follow along (never been a fan of dubbing).
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    Ben-Hur (2016) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 15th, 2016

    In 1959 when Ben-Hur came out, it was a massive undertaking that nearly closed the gates for MGM after nearly bankrupting the studio.  It was a huge risk in producing such a large-scale epic that fortunately paid off and became one of the studio’s cornerstone successes.  The story of Judah Ben-Hur and his fall from being a prince, to becoming a slave, to eventually becoming a hero to the people in the arena is such a familiar story that it’s hard to not feel you’ve seen this before without even entering the theater.  In some parts I look at Gladiator and see somewhat the same film, only being set in a separate time and place.  But really, the story of betrayal at the highest levels, and seeing great figures fall only to pull themselves up again is a theme Hollywood seems to relish, and it seems to attract many viewers in the process
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    Howards End: 25th Anniversary (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 15th, 2016

    Word of advice: don’t take up a sentimental attitude over the poor.”

    That bit of wisdom is offered by Henry Wilcox, the scheming, obliviously shameless wealthy capitalist in Howards End. The 1992 Merchant-Ivory film — which gets a spiffy, 25th Anniversary Blu-ray release courtesy of Cohen Media Group — is based on an E.M. Forster novel that was published in 1910. However, Henry’s philosophy towards the less fortunate members of society strikes a chord more than 100 years since the character made his debut. And that’s just one reason Howards End is worth another look as we prepare to turn the calendar to 2017.
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    Greenleaf Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 14th, 2016

    relatively out of the spotlight as she has worked on making her cable network channel, OWN, a success.  While I wouldn’t ever say I was a fan of Oprah’s work on the screen, I could appreciate what she did in The Color Purple and Beloved. This being said, I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to take a title that at first glance seemed to be a show that would be heavy-handed with its subject matter centered around the church.  Despite my concerns, I’m glad I picked up this title, because despite how it handles some very familiar topics, it’s presented in a manner that not only feels fresh but is truly an engrossing show that manages to suck the viewer in and kept me wanting to see what would happen next.
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    Mad Max: Fury Road Black & Chrome (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on December 8th, 2016

    It was rumored from the very beginning that George Miller was considering a black & white format for the film. There are box office risks associated with such a brave choice. We’re hearing some of the same thoughts coming out of the Logan shoot. The nice thing about the sophistication of home video today is that there is now an outlet for those kinds of artistic choices, and this is a pretty solid example of it. It’s hoped more of these kinds of alternate ideas can make it to home video giving filmmakers the chance to unleash things that might just be too risky at the box office. You still get the original film as part of of this combo so you’re not giving anything up.
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    Looking: The Complete Series and The Movie (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 1st, 2016

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might have been how thoroughly unremarkable it was. The HBO dramedy — which followed the love lives of three gay friends in San Francisco — sidestepped any sort of headline-grabbing sensationalism. However, Looking was often low-key to the point that it bypassed being funny or particularly entertaining. The latter point was a bigger issue early on since the show’s naturalistic tone made Looking more engrossing as the series progressed and deepened its roster of characters. You can see for yourself how the show got better as it went along now that HBO has released the entire Looking saga — two seasons and a movie — in one handy Blu-ray set.
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    Pete’s Dragon (2016) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 1st, 2016

    “Sometimes a dragon gets lost…and winds up far from his home.” 

    It appears to be the intention at Walt Disney Studios that each of its animated classics is to be remade as a live-action film. You can certainly understand the why that might be so. Computer-generated images have passed into the realm of photo-realistic presentations. Today there isn’t anything you can’t bring into the “real” world to interact with actual flesh and blood actors. The concept brought us the brilliant Jon Favreau version of The Jungle Book. Not all of these attempts have been or will be quite so successful. I count Pete’s Dragon among one of those lesser-than films.
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    Return Of The Living Dead 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 29th, 2016

    Fresh out of the vaults comes another cult classic. Vestron Video has decided to unleash Return of the Living Dead 3 for horror fans to snatch up this holiday season.  Considering the titles that Vestron has already released, for some this might be a title that will leave fans scratching their heads about there being an urge to re-master this film, much less crank out a Blu-ray with so many features.  Well, the simple answer is that the person in charge of acquiring and releasing these titles knows that there are fanboys like me out there who will shell out the money for a product that’s given this kind of attention.  Return of the Living Dead is a cult classic and is mostly responsible for casual moviegoers making the connection with zombies and brain eating
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    I.T. (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 24th, 2016

    There is a way this film could have been great if not a little amusing. Imagine if James Bond was being stalked by Q; what would Bond do?  Sure, I’ll admit it’s a silly notion, but it’s all I could think about as I watched this film about a millionaire and his family being stalked by a disgruntled I.T. worker.  In general, it’s a story we see a couple of times a year, the seemingly charming figure that comes into a person’s life that turns out to be crazy and throws everyone’s life into chaos.  Films like Cape Fear and One Hour Photo are just a couple of examples of films that tackled the stalker sub-genre; even last year’s overlooked gem The Gift showed you can still be terrifying with a little creativity.
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    Star Trek: The Animated Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 24th, 2016

    “Space…the final frontier. These are the continuing voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one man gone before!”

    Of course, we never did get five years from that original show when it ended after just three years in 1969. The new film series has tried to fix that for us. The latest film picks up the five-year mission just after three years have gone by. It’s a double homage to the original show.
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    Army Of One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 23rd, 2016

    It’s been a while since Nicolas Cage has been in a big studio-released film.  It doesn’t mean he’s doing bad movies; it just means he’s not doing any tent-pole releases that flood the multiplex.  Seeing Nicolas Cage in a film like Army of One is simply a snapshot of how modern cinema has to evolve for better or for worse.  Really, I don’t mean to come off as though this is a bad film or inferior to any other films past or present, but ten years ago this is a film that would have had a much wider release and would easily have gotten more attention.  After all, who could resist Nicolas Cage in a film helmed by the director of Borat?
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 18th, 2016

    Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?”

    Throughout its first five seasons, Game of Thrones has been relentlessly cruel to its viewers heroes in a way that shocked audiences and upended genre expectations. But as Thrones edges toward its conclusion — and as the TV adaptation becomes more unmoored than ever from the George R.R. Martin novels that inspired it — certain storytelling conventions seem to be inevitably taking over. I seriously doubt this saga will have a traditional “happy ending,” but season 6 is as close as the show has ever come to being a full-blown crowd-pleaser.
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    Billions: Season One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 14th, 2016

    “What we do has consequences, intended and unintended. The decisions we make, the actions we bring have weight.” 

    When upcoming heavyweight contenders like Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin get together, you have reason to expect big things. And Billions is very much about heavyweights. The entire show is one big metaphor for a heavyweight prizefight. In one corner you have U.S Attorney Chuck “The Scholar” Rhodes, played by Paul Giamatti. He’s the reigning world champion with a record of 80+ to 0. In the other corner is Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis; he could also be considered undefeated.
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    Kickboxer: Vengeance (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 10th, 2016

    No rules, no ref. Just your wit and skill to keep you alive.”

    Last year, Creed became a critical and audience favorite by reviving a beloved dormant franchise and re-casting its brawny original star in a supporting role as a mentor. I’m not going to pretend that 1989’s Kickboxer (starring Jean-Claude Van Damme) is anywhere near as beloved — or as good — as Rocky. But Kickboxer: Vengeance, a reboot/remake of Van Damme’s campy action favorite, hits some of the same notes as Creed…except for the part where it’s a critical and audience favorite.
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    Hell on Wheels: The Final Episodes (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 4th, 2016

    “This train don’t stop.” That’s what we’re told in an Elton John ballad. But it doesn’t matter if it’s that Midnight Train to Georgia or a freight train, you can bet the farm that it’s going to run out of track.  That’s for sure, and you can expect more than a little crying over it all. The saddest news, however, is the show’s final year. You really should not even think about joining the series from this point. I suspect it will still be quite entertaining, but for the full experience you do have to start from the beginning. The evolution of the Cullen character from Civil War veteran out for vengeance to the man who we see in the fifth season is a rather nice journey to witness. So saddle up for the first four. You can find the reviews for other seasons here.
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    Skiptrace (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 3rd, 2016

    You’re no spring chicken anymore.”

    It’s been more than four years since Jackie Chan — the legendary Hong Kong superstar who has been kicking butt and scoring scoring laughs on screen since the 1970s — announced he was retiring from action movies. Sure, Chan quickly backpedaled, but I don’t know that anyone would’ve held it against the actor (who is now 62) if he’d stuck to his word. After decades of grueling injuries, Chan has noticeably slowed down. That being said, the old man still has a few tricks up his sleeve in Skiptrace.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” The Id (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on October 30th, 2016

    This is one of those titles that came along where I had no idea what to expect.  I knew it was a horror title, and really that is about it.  The problem with doing films in a single location, though it may save you money when it comes to the actual production, is that in return you put an added pressure on your performers and the story to not be boring and keeping the story moving.  It can be done; after all, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of my favorite films of the year, and most of it takes place in a bunker.  When it comes to The Id, how did the film turn out? Well, I feel it was a victim of its own design.
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    Mr. Church (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 28th, 2016

    There’s a black man in our kitchen cooking eggs!”

    The kitchen-bound black man in this case is Eddie Murphy in Mr. Church, which on the surface appears to be the latest in a sneakily long line of movies (Driving Miss Daisy, The Help, The Butler) where saintly, subservient African Americans enlighten their white counterparts. Those movies can be cloying at best and downright insulting at worst if placed in the wrong hands. But if done right, they can really resonate with audiences. (As evidenced by the fact that the movies I mentioned earlier were pretty big hits.) Mr. Church falls somewhere in between.
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    Our Kind Of Traitor

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on October 28th, 2016

    When it comes to spy novelist John le Carre (Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, The Night Manager), his books seem to produce great films and mini-series but are far from being box-office darlings. Each production of one of his novels seems to be filled with talent in front of and behind the camera.  When it comes to the release of Our Kind of Traitor, despite the impressive cast it’s a film that managed to slip through the cracks and seems to have limped its way to a DVD/Blu-ray release when really it’s a film that deserves to be appreciated more on the big screen.  While it may not be filled with the spectacle of special effects and explosions, it’s a film that garners some impressive performances throughout and has a story that quickly pulls the viewer in.
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