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    Silicon Valley: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 20th, 2016

    Billionaires are people too.”

    HBO’s Silicon Valley, which takes merciless aim at the tech capital of the U.S., was impressive right out of the gate. The series struck comedy gold in its debut season by making fun of both self-important, aggressively eccentric billionaires and the bumbling “guys in a garage” who are trying to get to their level. Season 2 is both nerdier and more confident in its skewering of corporate soullessness and the scrappy underdogs who often can’t get out of their own way. (I’m not sure there’s another show on TV that would use a SWOT analysis to decide whether a douche-y stuntman lives or dies.) The result is a very funny sitcom that has gotten even better.
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    Grace and Frankie: Season One

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

    Am I irrelevant? I refuse to be irrelevant.”

    Outside of The Golden Girls, there haven’t been too many TV shows where the entire main cast is eligible for social security. Then again, chasing the 18-49 demo that advertisers covet isn’t much of a concern for a subscription-based service like Netflix, which debuted Grace and Frankie last year. Naturally, the series — whose four main actors are each 75 and older — has its share of geriatric humor. (Although the broken hip doesn’t occur till Ep. 5/“The Fall”.) More importantly, it also has some genuinely funny things to say about companionship and reinvention.
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    Sisters (Blu-ray)

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

    Between their stints on Saturday Night Live and their subsequent sitcom hits, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are two of the most successful comedic voices of the new millennium. (I happen to think Fey’s 30 Rock and Poehler’s Parks and Recreation are both among the five best comedies to debut in the last 10 years.) The longtime friends — dating back to their Chicago improv days in the early ‘90s — have also proven to be funny together, most notably during their well-received gigs hosting the Golden Globes. I’m telling you all of that to tell you this…I can’t believe how bad their new movie is.
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    The Big Short (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 14th, 2016

    I’m guessing most of you still don’t really know what happened.”

    There is absolutely nothing funny about the financial crisis of 2008. Besides the fact that the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble led to the failure of countless businesses and a disastrous decline in consumer wealth, the crisis involved key phrases like “credit default swap” and “collateralized debt obligation.” Those terms are much more likely to make your eyes glaze over in boredom or confusion than they are to inspire laughs. The Big Short cannily recognizes this challenge and crafts a farcical, incisive narrative about a small group of outcasts who saw the whole thing coming.
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    Entertainment (Blu-ray)

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

    Life on the road as a comic always seemed like it would be the bachelors dream lifestyle: a new town every other night, getting to meet new people and see new sites while getting paid to tell jokes. Well, for the most part I still think it’s a pretty sweet deal, but in the new existential comedy Entertainment, we get a glimpse into what the road life would be if you just happened to be one of the worst comedians to take the stage.  This slow, depressing look at The (unnamed) Comedian (Gregg Turkington) as he attempts to mend his relationship with his daughter doesn’t go for laughs but instead attempts to take an introspective look at its star, and just seems to go nowhere.
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    Girls: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 24th, 2016

    Taking the next step in a series of random steps.”

    Those words are part of a toast near the start of this season, as chronically neurotic and self-absorbed writer Hannah Horvath prepares to embark on a mini-adventure that will temporarily take her away from her natural habitat of New York City. They also double as a tidy summary of the entertaining (and appropriately messy) fourth season of HBO’s Girls, while simultaneously capturing what it’s like to progress through your 20’s.
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    Togetherness: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 19th, 2016

    “…Be like we were when we were 28. I think that would be awesome, right?”

    It certainly seems awesome to the four main characters in Togetherness, who are each dealing with their own set of anxieties as they hover around 40. If that previous sentence doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for laugh-out-loud comedy, then you’re on the same wavelength as this impressive HBO dramedy. Togetherness takes a bittersweet, refreshingly humane approach to portraying marriage and friendship.
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    Grandma (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 18th, 2016

    I was a little hesitant with picking up this film.  I wasn’t sure if a film about a grandmother spending the day raising money to pay for her granddaughter’s abortion was a film I could find the humor in.  Well, I’m glad I took a chance on this film; not only does this film have so many layers beneath its overall plot, but it never once attempts to have an agenda towards its audience.  Considering the potentially heavy subject matter, the film instead keeps its attention on what matters most, the people who come in and out of our lives whether they are friends or family; in the end it’s how we treat them that make us who we are.
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    Paulette (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 17th, 2016

    I earn money…I meet people…I can pay my debts…I can buy nice things for myself.”

    Taken at face value, all of those pursuits sound totally admirable, especially when you consider that the person earning that money, meeting those new people, and buying those nice things is a bitter old woman who slowly comes out of her caustic shell. I mean, the only minor hiccup here is that Paulette — the title character in this wacky, soufflé-light French comedy — turns her miserable life around by selling drugs.
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    Love the Coopers (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on February 11th, 2016

    “Ah, the holidays. The most wonderful time of the year. And so begins my tale…” 

    Love the Coopers seems to be a holiday title that arrived a little later than expected at the Upcoming Discs hub. Within the first five to ten minutes, you come to realize that it is a family-oriented holiday film with a rather impressive A-list cast, consisting of Steve Martin, John Goodman, Diane Keaton, Alan Arkin, Ed Helms, and Olivia Wilde. If you aren’t already a fan of any of these actors and actresses, the film’s story is endearing, as are most holiday films. However, what sets this film apart from other holiday titles (for me, anyway) is the hauntingly accurate idea of a “family” being a bleak entity, as well as atmosphere, that we all must learn to love in our own ways.
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    The New Girlfriend (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 27th, 2016

    Being a woman’s hard work.”

    Femininity — the quality and essence of being a woman — is at the forefront of The New Girlfriend, a gender-bending and genre-bending offering from French director Francois Ozon. The film is a curious mix of farce, rom-com hijinks, frank sexuality, and serious drama about loss. The formula isn’t always cohesive, but it makes for an intriguing twist on the old “boy meets girl” story.
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    The Intern (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul on January 19th, 2016

    The Intern tackles a pretty important issue. Age gaps are the elephant in the room that no one wants to acknowledge. The issue is confusing to address, because a lot of people don’t even know what age group they belong to or don’t care. But the differences are very real, and they cause enormous alienation and division. Baby Boomers and Millennials are two examples which are represented here by Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, who has a daughter starting the first grade, so another age group is represented. To be clearer, Baby Boomers are born between 1946 to 1964, Generation X 1965 to 1980, Generation Y/Millennial 1981 to 2000 and Generation Z/Boomlets after 2001.
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    Cooties (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 9th, 2016

    “I’m under some medication for a medical condition so I may not be seeing this correctly. But I’m pretty sure I might be seeing some of your students possibly eating Mr. Peterson. Again it could be the medication.” 

    Cooties starts out with the grossest sequence in the entire film. You might not want to start this film if you’re eating, particularly if you’re eating chicken nuggets. Ben Franklin once warned us that there were two things one should never see made: laws and sausages. He might just as well have been talking chicken nuggets.
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    Some Kind of Beautiful (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 9th, 2015

    “Why are the Romantics relevant today?”

    Some Kind of Beautiful shamelessly embraces every rom-com cliché in the book. The utterly nonsensical title, the main characters’ impossibly-posh digs, and the film’s exceedingly contrived and predictable plotting are probably enough to send jaded moviegoers running to the airport exit. So why am I not kicking this film to the curb? Well it helps that this particular group of attractive stars shares a relaxed, mature chemistry that carries the story through its more outlandish shenanigans.
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    American Ultra (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 30th, 2015

    Why are people trying to stab you?”

    People in action movies aren’t usually inclined to stop and ask that question out loud. In American Ultra, a small army of CIA operatives repeatedly try to stab, shoot, gas, and blow up an underachieving slacker and his girlfriend. Seems like a lot of trouble for a panic attack-prone convenience store clerk who sketches a goofy graphic novel about an adventurous ape on his downtime. American Ultra is funny, violent, and tonally-jarring at times. However, it’s also a fun subversion of the action genre and (more specifically) “supersoldier” movies.
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    Getting On: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 16th, 2015

    The geriatric care wing of a hospital — where the employees are undermanned and overworked, and many of the patients are in a near-catatonic state — is not the most obvious sitcom setting. That’s partly the reason it took me a while to warm up to the first season of HBO’s Getting On, an adaptation of the British series of the same name. The biggest drawback, however, was that those initial episodes didn’t seem very interested in shaking the grim specter of the original show. But what a difference a year makes!
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    Batman: The Complete Third Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 9th, 2015

    Why, this is getting more farcical by the moment!”

    It’s easy to point at the 1960s Batman TV series and laugh. For Dark Knight loyalists who insist their hero be gritty and tortured, the show is (at best) a campy amusement. At worst, it’s an embarrassing atrocity. The two most important things to note are 1.) the show is very much a product of the Swinging Sixties time period in which it was made, and 2.) the series is *supposed* to be funny. (Batman picked up an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nomination during its run.) Keeping those two factors in mind is crucial to enjoying this entertaining, monumentally bizarre run of episodes.
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    The Little Death (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 21st, 2015

    “Whatever happened to good old-fashioned, run-of-the-mill sex?”

    On its surface, The Little Death looks and sounds like the glossy, crowd-pleasing romantic comedies Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail) used to make. But it becomes apparent rather quickly that no one in this funny, insightful, uneven Australian comedy is having “run-of-the-mill sex.” The movie’s jazzy, jukebox-y score also made me occasionally think of Woody Allen films, which is fitting because Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) easily could’ve been an alternate title for The Little Death.
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    “31 Nights of Terror” Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 17th, 2015

    Oh Hell No! is the cheeky subtitle for the latest entry in SyFy’s made-for-TV Twitter Sharknado franchise. Coincidentally, “Oh hell no!” was also the response the creators of the first film got from everyone they approached about starring in it a few years ago. Flash forward to 2015, and things have changed dramatically. Now Sharknado auteur Anthony C. Ferrante needs a stick to beat away the washed-up actors, reality stars, and politicians(?!) angling to serve as chum for some comically unconvincing sharks.
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    South Park: Season 18 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 8th, 2015

    “Listen, my friend. This is going to be very hard to comprehend, but none of what you are seeing is real.”

    Of course it’s not real. It’s not really that hard to comprehend at all. This is an animated show, after all. And the figures look like cut-out pieces of construction paper. Of course, we’re talking about South Park. What is hard to comprehend, however, is that we’re talking about the 18th season of South Park. Few television shows last this long, and only The Simpsons has been around longer when it comes to scripted animated shows running today. That’s rare air, indeed
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    Spy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul on October 6th, 2015

    I don’t enjoy writing negative reviews. It’s a struggle when the film experience was joyless and then to have to go back and relive that. I also don’t enjoy reading reviews by other critics that get everything completely wrong. It’s even worse when almost all the critics get it wrong. Even worse than that is when I see critics dumping on a film that’s actually good, but that’s a story for a different day. How can I say Spy is so bad? Because I had to sit through the movie. I can get some enjoyment out of even the worst movies, and that’s true here, but I would not recommend it to unsuspecting viewers.
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    Jane the Virgin: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 1st, 2015

    “Jane’s life was now the stuff of telenovelas.”

    As someone who grew up in a Spanish-speaking household, I have a love-hate relationship with telenovelas. Most of the time, I can appreciate — and heartily laugh at — their inspired, over-the-top campiness. But sometimes I honestly feel a little embarrassed that this broad, ridiculous junk easily represents the most visible outlet for stories featuring Hispanic actors/characters. I’m also insulted by the implication that Hispanic audiences don’t want more nuanced TV options. The great thing about The CW’s Jane the Virgin is that it works both as an outrageous nighttime soap and a sharp, good-hearted satire.
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    The Last Man on Earth: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 28th, 2015

    I just realized that having other people around is what makes life worth living.”

    This lesson doesn’t come easily — or quickly — for Phil Miller, the Last Man on Earth. On the other hand, having other people around doesn’t do a heck of a lot for The Last Man on Earth, the dementedly inventive Fox comedy that becomes considerably less interesting the more people start to show up. That being said there’s plenty to like and admire here, starting with the show’s comedic, refreshingly non-bleak look at post-apocalyptic life.
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    Big Bang Theory: Season 8 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 23rd, 2015

    Finally a situation comedy for geeks. Ever since Urkel went from being a one-off character on Family Matters to the star of the show, the geeks have been looking for their own series. With The Big Bang Theory you get plenty of geek factor with a healthy dose of laughter. I honestly haven’t laughed this much at a situation comedy in decades. Meet Sheldon Cooper (Parsons). He’s a brilliant young scientist working at a Pasadena university. His field was string theory but now he’s shifted to dark matter.
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    The D Train (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 4th, 2015

    The D Train was not what I expected…and thank goodness for that. The film boasts that it’s from the “comedic geniuses who brought you Nacho Libre and Wayne’s World,” although the only thing those two movies have in common is that they’re both comedies with, um, people in them. Meanwhile, the glossy poster makes it look like an inspirational drama, which doesn’t exactly mesh with the phallic-sounding title. In other words, there’s nothing about The D Train that hints at the intriguing dramedy lurking underneath.
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