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    The DUFF (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 11th, 2015

    “That’s your job as The DUFF…Designated Ugly Fat Friend.”

    Let’s just get this out of the way right at the top. The idea that Mae Whitman — or any other actress cast as the lead in a mainstream Hollywood movie — is “Ugly” and “Fat” is absurd. (Not to mention entirely subjective.) So it’s tempting to dismiss The DUFF as the latest bit of evidence that there’s no truth in advertising. But then you’d be missing out on a charming teen comedy that grabs the snarky underdog baton previously held by the likes of Mean Girls and Easy A.
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    Welcome to Sweden: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 25th, 2015

    You move to Sweden…you have no friends, you don’t speak the language, and you don’t have a job.”

    If you think that potentially disastrous scenario sounds like the set up for a sitcom…you’re mostly right. On one hand, that is indeed the exact logline for Welcome to Sweden, a comedy set and produced in the titular country that eventually found its way to NBC. However, the impulsive move to Sweden also happens to be based on the real-life experiences of creator/star Greg Poehler.
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    Mortdecai (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 18th, 2015

    “A man of your age has no excuse for looking or behaving like a fugitive from a home for alcoholic music hall artistes.”

    Sound like anyone you know? Johnny Depp is one hell of a talented actor. There are few in the industry than can so completely inhabit a character. He has an uncanny ability to make you forget Johnny Depp the actor and lose yourself in his performance. He is a chameleon physically and expressively. Unfortunately, Johnny has had trouble finding box office gold lately. You see, he’s having a lot of fun at our expense. But it’s not just we who are footing the bill for his tomfoolery. The studios are handing out hundreds of millions of dollars for box office misses
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    The Cobbler (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 14th, 2015

    “To truly know a man, you must walk in his shoes.”

    On the lone special feature of any substance included on this Blu-ray, director/co-writer Thomas McCarthy admits The Cobbler was inspired by the well-known idiom listed above. I’m all for getting as many original ideas on the big screen as possible. But even if you don’t think basing a feature film on a popular saying is a shaky proposition, The Cobbler severely underwhelms because it totally fails to capitalize on its high-concept premise in an intriguing way.
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    The Rewrite (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 4th, 2015

    “It’s a comedy…hopefully.”

    It’s been six years since Hugh Grant teamed up with director Marc Lawrence. It’s their fourth collaboration. It doesn’t appear that Lawrence is willing to direct a film that doesn’t feature Hugh Grant, because he hasn’t. Let’s just say the fourth time wasn’t the charm. In fact, it wasn’t even all that charming. And the problem is that Grant and Lawrence have attempted to build careers out of making Grant charming. By now they’re just trying too hard, and the result is a poor showing that was in desperate need of a Rewrite.
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    Veep: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 2nd, 2015

    For the first time in four years, I can say what I really think.”

    It may have taken four years for fictional U.S. Vice President Selina Meyer to make her boldest political move yet, but Veep was finally able to achieve all-around greatness in just three. I know there are fans of HBO’s caustic comedy series who would argue the show was already great, and I agree there have absolutely been many flashes of foul-mouthed brilliance throughout its run. But it wasn’t until Veep had Selina Meyer try to outgrow the show’s title in season 3 that the series itself ascended to another level.
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    Silicon Valley: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

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

    There’s money flying all over Silicon Valley, but none of it ever seems to hit us.”

    There’s a lot to like about HBO’s Silicon Valley, which debuted last year with a confident, clever freshman season that took merciless aim the tech capital of the U.S. My favorite thing about the show — besides hyper-specific jokes aimed at geeky targets like the many endings of “Mass Effect 3” — is that it portrays (and makes fun of) each aspect of the cutthroat tech industry, from the self-important, aggressively eccentric billionaires to the scrappy, proverbial guys in a garage.
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    Horrible Bosses 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 26th, 2015

    Despite being a fan of just about everyone involved with Horrible Bosses, I was more than a little disappointed by the first film.  It wasn’t awful or unwatchable by any stretch of the imagination, but I felt with a cast like Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, and Jason Sudeikis, it just should have been better.  But the movie gods have spoken and decided that the first film performed well enough that it deserved a sequel.  What worked for the first film was the idea behind finally having enough of your bosses and being pushed to the point where murder seems like a viable option.
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    May in the Summer (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 29th, 2015

    Love is an endless act of forgiveness.”

    May Brennan is the best-selling author of a successful book centered around Arabic proverbs. She is played by Cherien Dabis, who is also the writer/director/producer of May in the Summer. Both Dabis and her fictional counterpart use short, pithy phrases like the one above as the basis for exploring familial and romantic relationships. But while May encounters rousing success with her (fictitious, unseen) book, Dabis’ picturesque, breezy, ultimately disposable film is a little bit more of a mixed bag.
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    Girls: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 12th, 2015

    Writers are a ridiculous class of people who make everything about themselves.”

    For many, the current face — and oft-naked body — of “writers who make everything about themselves” is Lena Dunham, the creator/star/writer/director of HBO’s Girls. The equal-parts brilliant and maddening quarter-life crisis comedy became one of the most polarizing shows on TV over its first two seasons, as self-involved heroine Hannah Horvath sought love and a career as a writer in NYC. At the start of season 3, Hannah has both of those things…which is why I’m astounded — and, frankly, pretty impressed — that she remains as egotistical as ever.
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    Looking: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 6th, 2015

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might be how thoroughly unremarkable it is. This is a double-edged sword for HBO’s dramedy, which follows the love lives of three gay friends living in modern-day San Francisco. The series sidesteps the headline-grabbing sensationalism that accompanies many other shows that prominently feature gay characters. (Looking at you, Ryan Murphy.) On the other hand, Looking is often low-key to the point that it bypasses being funny or particularly entertaining. What the series does have on its side is a naturalistic tone that makes the show more engrossing and immersive as the first season progresses.
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    This Is Where I Leave You (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 18th, 2014

    Everybody’s sad or angry or lying or cheating.”

    That seems to be the state of the four adult Altman children even before they are thrust back together following the death of the family patriarch. This Is Where I Leave You has all the makings of a great dysfunctional dramedy. It has a terrific cast and is based on the very popular book by Jonathan Tropper, who wrote the screenplay. Yet the movie comes up well short of delivering on its promise. Despite some strong acting, a handful of funny beats, and a passing similarity to another ensemble movie where characters who were formerly close are brought back together by a funeral, this movie is less Big Chill and more “Big Shrill.”
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    The Skeleton Twins (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 16th, 2014

    “You know what the sad thing is? We’re a good team.”

    Up until they teamed up to star in The Skeleton Twins, there was nothing sad about the team of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Regardless of how you feel about the quality of Saturday Night Live in recent years, Wiig (the only cast member to earn an Oscar nomination — for co-writing Bridesmaids — while still appearing on the show) and Hader (with “Stefon” and a laundry list of impressions that ranged from Alan Alda to Al Pacino) were clear standouts. So you’d expect their first post-SNL big-screen team up to be a laugh riot. That’s not exactly the case.
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    Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas Special

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 15th, 2014

    Screw you, it’s ‘Merry Christmas!’”

    A decent chunk of Jeff Dunham’s Very Special Christmas Special is devoted to taking back the most wonderful time of the year from anyone who insists on saying “Happy Holidays” instead of daring to utter the C-word. The wildly successful comic certainly knows his audience, and the live crowd here eats up Dunham’s assault on rampant political correctness. My feelings on this particular DVD release, on the other hand, are closer to “Bah, humbug!
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    Broad City: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 11th, 2014

    Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: single gal(s) looking for love — among other things — in the big city. On television, the trope dates back to the days of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Laverne & Shirley and continues with more contemporary entries like Sex and the City and Girls. It’s an effective, well-worn story hook that has now gotten a funny, tremendously weird spin thanks to Comedy Central’s Broad City.
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    Jeff Dunham: All Over the Map (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 28th, 2014

    “How the hell did this happen? I mean, I’m on the other side of the planet, and people know who I am and they’re laughing at my jokes.”

    Despite his status as one of the biggest draws in stand-up comedy, Jeff Dunham really does seem taken aback by his success. On one hand, you wouldn’t necessarily expect a ventriloquist to be one of the hottest names in comedy in 2014. Then again, the hard work and precision he has put into his act is evident every time he takes the stage. For his latest comedy special, Dunham packed up his puppets and took his show on the road like never before.
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    Housebound (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 19th, 2014

    Laughing out loud and getting startled out of your wits are two of the most visceral reactions you can have as a moviegoer. For a director to elicit either reaction is challenging enough, which is why I was so delighted to be feeling both during the thrilling, funny finale of Housebound. It’s an even more impressive feat when you consider it was accomplished by a first-time filmmaker working on a shoestring budget.
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    Hot in Cleveland: Season Five

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 14th, 2014

    I had never seen a single episode of Hot in Cleveland before I sat down to review this season 5 DVD set. So why did it feel like I’d been watching this show my entire life? Turns out, it’s entirely by design. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like I’m the target audience for Hot in Cleveland: I’m under 50 years old, and I’m a man. But if you look beyond the plastic surgery jokes and geriatric humor, you’ll find a show that aggressively channels — and ultimately appeals to fans of — many of the classic, multi-camera sitcoms of the past. In other words, Hot in Cleveland feels like you’re watching re-runs of a show you’ve already seen…and still enjoy plenty.
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    Getting On: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 10th, 2014

    It’s noble work. It is useful. You are angels of mercy…I just never thought that I would end up here.”

    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. As a result, HBO’s comedy series Getting On isn’t exactly what I’d call a gut buster. But even though much of the humor seems hyper-specific to this particular circle of workplace hell, anybody who has ever been underpaid to do a hard, crappy job should be able to relate.
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    Life of Crime (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 5th, 2014

    This has been a review that has taken me a while to get to, not because it’s something I was dreading, but instead it had me revisiting some other Elmore Leonard adaptations to the screen.  There have been countless adaptions of Leonard’s work on the big screen as well as television.  Whether it’s his westerns 3:10 to Yuma, Justified or Hombre or his work on crime Jackie Brown, Out of Sight, and Get Shorty, there is a good chance at some point you’ve seen Elmore’s work, and those were just a handful of titles I mentioned.  I was a teenager when I first discovered Elmore Leonard
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    Behaving Badly

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 30th, 2014

    “Everyone in this story is guilty of something.”

    With the exception of bland do-gooder/ dream girl Nina Pennington (Selena Gomez), all of the characters in Behaving Badly seem desperate to live up to — or rather down to — the movie’s title. The plot revolves around strippers, nuns, dead Latin teachers, and Lithuanian mobsters, so it’s clear the filmmakers were going for mindless raunch. But instead of a gleefully debauched 97 minutes, we get “comedy” that lacks wit and laughs that feel totally uninspired.
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    “31 Days Of Terror” Life After Beth (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on October 23rd, 2014

    Imagine if you had a second chance to tell that loved one you lost how much you loved them, or were able to do the things you wished you had done the first time, but you hesitated because you didn’t take into account the fragility of life.   Life After Beth shows us the joys that can come with when getting that second chance while at the same time revealing the dark consequences that may come with this new opportunity.  There are numerous zombie films and series out in the market, but Life After Beth may be the most unique take on the genre in some time.
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    Billy Crystal: 700 Sundays

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 22nd, 2014

    Billy Crystal has built a legendary career as one of the most multi-faceted entertainers in all of showbiz. He’s a successful actor, comedian, writer, producer and director. At various points, Crystal has been a major star on television, on stage, and at the movies. He’s entertained everyone from musicians to movie stars, thanks to his gigs as a three-time Grammy host and nine-time Academy Awards emcee. But what works best about his return to the stage in 700 Sundays — Crystal’s Tony-winning one-man show — is how it illustrates the idea that virtually every entertainer gets his or her first round of applause in the family living room.
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    2 Broke Girls: The Complete Third Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 14th, 2014

    Everyone on TV has nicer clothes and a bigger home than you do. And I’m not just talking about fictional doctors or lawyers. Even small-screen characters with relatively modest incomes manage to live in palatial apartments. Need proof? The 2 Broke Girls in CBS’s hit sitcom have an apartment that is literally big enough to fit a horse. (Hi, Chestnut.) Season 3 brings a new pet (Ep. 3/“And the Kitty Kitty Spank Spank”) and briefly threatens to remove Max and Caroline from their home (Ep. 22/“And the New Lease on Life”). I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying things work out in the end. By now, the show’s crass predictability has become oddly comforting.
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    “31 Nights of Terror” Sharknado 2: The Second One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 9th, 2014

    “You know what you just did, don’t you? You jumped the shark.”

    People have been mocking SyFy original films since the days when the network spelled its own name properly. But staying home on a Saturday night to “MST3K” your way through flicks with D-list actors and Z-grade visual effects has been replaced by Twitter, which practically blew up when the impossibly campy Sharknado premiered last year. SyFy recognized that social media has made it possible for anyone with Internet access to trade yuks and one-liners on a global scale; more importantly, it has allowed the network to be in on the joke in an unprecedented way.
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