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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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    Easy Money / Men at Work (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 24th, 2015

    Today, the term “blue collar comedy” is likely to conjure images of rednecks and Larry the Cable Guy. However, this new double feature from Shout! Factory reminds us that wasn’t always the case. The heroes of Easy Money and Men at Work are, respectively, a sleazy children’s photographer and a pair of rebellious garbage men, so the label certainly applies. Let’s see how these two blue collar comedies hold up in their Blu-ray debuts.
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    2 Broke Girls: The Complete Fourth Season

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

    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 4 even manages to squeeze in a gaggle of Victoria’s Secret models (Ep. 6/“And the Model Apartment”), and the girls’ building gets a new tenant when lewd line cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) moves in with larger-than-life upstairs neighbor Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge), leading to the one-liner “the booty call is coming from inside the house.”
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    Hot Pursuit (Blu-ray)

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

    I realized Hot Pursuit was in big trouble during the sequence when intensely by-the-book Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) accidentally ingests cocaine. The joke is supposed to be that the drug sends Cooper into a comically manic, frenzied state; the problem is the way Witherspoon behaves during this sequence isn’t all that different from the way she’s played Cooper up to that point. And that’s the problem with Hot Pursuit: it’s the movie equivalent of someone who types in ALL CAPS all the time. Even worse, it’s an unholy (and unfunny) mash-up of Midnight Run and Thelma & Louise that shines a blazing spotlight on its leading ladies’ worst qualities.
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    The Comeback: Seasons 1 & 2

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 10th, 2015

    What’s this? The Comeback comeback?”

    The most unlikely program to air on HBO over the last year didn’t feature dragons or detectives…it was the story of a diva. Obviously, The Comeback — the rare HBO show that wasn’t granted a second season — isn’t as lavish as Game of Thrones or as ambitious as True Detective. But even for a network with a sterling reputation for taking chances and thinking outside the box, the return of The Comeback as an 8-episode “limited series” was somewhat of a shock.
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    I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season 2 (Blu-ray)

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

    I Love Lucy changed the fledgling television industry in the 1950’s. This was a time when network television was less than a decade old. Most folks had never heard of television just 15 years earlier. I Love Lucy defined the concept of a sitcom. The show was driven by the very strong personalities of the cast. Desi Arnaz was considered a charismatic Latin lover by American women. Lucy played the perfect foil and found a mountain of gold to mine in strong physical comedy. So many modern shows owe their roots to this classic that it would be impossible to mention them all here. Now CBS and Paramount are bringing the show back in brand-new high-definition restored image that will delight even the pickiest fans of the show.
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    Barely Lethal (Blu-ray)

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

    “Who would ever suspect a kid?”

    When I glanced at the Blu-ray cover for Barely Lethal — with its groan-worthy pun of a title, girl power, and generous splashes of hot pink — I didn’t really expect it to be my thing. (Ok, fine…groan-worthy puns are *totally* my thing.) So while I may not be the intended audience for this independent action/comedy, I have to admit its charms snuck up on me the same way one of the film’s disarming young killers might catch a target by surprise.
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    Burying the Ex (Blu-ray)

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

    Feel like your girlfriend can be a little clingy? You’ve got nothing on Max, the slacker at the center of Burying the Ex. The movie operates in a genre — mixing broad comedy and horror — that has been largely (and sadly) missing from the big screen for the better part of two decades. That’s why I was delighted to see that the man at the helm here is none other than Joe Dante (1978’s Piranha, Gremlins 1 and 2), who has made some of the best horror comedies of all time. Burying the Ex isn’t near that level, but it’s still a fun and welcome diversion.
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    What We Do in the Shadows (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 23rd, 2015

    “When you get four vampires in a flat, obviously there’s going to be a lot of tension.”

    The set-up for What We Do in the Shadows makes it sound less like your typical vampire movie and more like some kind of twisted season of The Real World. (Well…slightly more twisted than usual.) But besides finding a funny way to skewer bratty roommates and the mundaneness of everyday life, the movie works as a cheeky celebration of the classical cinematic bloodsucker.
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    Kill Me Three Times (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 14th, 2015

    “What you’re talking about is a one-way street, you understand? Once you start there is no going back.”

    Ah, but there is going back if you’re watching Kill Me Three Times. I don’t necessarily mean that you’ll want to watch the film over again (you might). Kill Me Three Times is a bit of a collection of vignettes that continue to circle back upon each other. Each time you get a different perspective or a bit of new information is unveiled. For those of you who insist on a linear logic to your films, this one’s not for you. In fact, those of you who insist on logic at all might not quite get this one.
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    Survivor’s Remorse: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 15th, 2015

    People you knew — people you forgot you knew — all ready to spend your money. And we got to be careful. We got to be smart.”

    We look at professional athletes who’ve hit the genetic jackpot and make unseemly amounts of money, and we assume that they’ll be financially set for the rest of their lives. Survivor’s Remorse, a Starz sitcom that follows a young basketball star who’s just signed his first big-money deal, gives us a frequently funny, consistently crass glimpse into why that isn’t necessarily the case.
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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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