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    Lethal Weapon: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 22nd, 2017

    When I first heard that the Lethal Weapon franchise was moving to television, I had very mixed reactions. Like most fans of the films, I remained hungry for more. My hopes of future films were dashed around the time Mel Gibson began his career as a Hollywood pariah and was abandoned by many in the industry. I guessed almost immediately that the films were over, at least for a very long time. You go through the usual stages of grief, and about the time I reached the acceptance stage, Matthew Miller comes along and decides to revive the franchise for the small screen. At first I was thinking, yes, this is great.
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    The Moderns (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 18th, 2017

    Seems like a new boatload of expatriates gets dumped here every day.”

    In The Moderns, “here” happens to be 1926 Paris, a time and place that immediately conjures joie de vivre images of lavish parties and complete artistic freedom. And while both of those things are technically on display in filmmaker Alan Rudolph’s 1988 drama, the movie turns down the volume on the Roaring Twenties to explore the tricky and transactional connection between art and commerce…and how it can extend to personal relationships.
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    The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 15th, 2017

    What can you tell me about African Americans and science?”

    Anyone who even halfway paid attention in their high school science class knows that a polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s. And if you were especially attentive, you even know the vaccine was developed by American researcher Jonas Salk. Unfortunately, the story that is far less commonly told in classrooms is that of Henrietta Lacks, the poor black woman whose “immortalized” HeLa cell line gave birth to the biomedical industry. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks takes a curious approach: instead of merely shining a light on its worthy subject, this powerful (and overstuffed) HBO film is about *the quest* to bring Henrietta back to life.
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    Red (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 7th, 2017

    “This used to be a gentleman’s game.”

    I must confess that I had not even heard of the comic book titles created by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. I think that might have been one of the best things that could have happened to me as I sat down to watch the film Red. With a cast this strong, there was little doubt that they would provide a powerful stamp on these characters. No insult intended toward the graphic novels, but I can’t imagine these characters any other way now.
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    Red 2 (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on September 6th, 2017

    “It’s important to enjoy life while you still can.” 

    My word, Bruce Willis must be exhausted, helming three movies this year so far and six last year alone; jeez, I know I’d be in need of a serious break. Luckily in RED 2, Willis doesn’t have to hold down the fort alone. Not when you have Malkovich, Mirren, and Parker available to help pick up the slack. That’s right, like Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman’s character from RED) said in the original, The band is getting back together.”  And this time they are picking up some new members as Catherine Zeta-Jones and Anthony Hopkins join the cast. RED was great, but RED 2 is epic.
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    Megan Leavey (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 5th, 2017

    Armies have been using dogs in battle for thousands of years. The Romans would turn the dogs on their enemy as a signal of the approaching legions, hence the expression “let loose the dogs of war”. But in recent decades dogs have found a new, perhaps more noble calling during wartime. Dogs have been used to search for lost soldiers. They have been trained to assist wounded soldiers. They have also learned to sniff out explosives, helping to clear mines and saving the lives of their handlers and hundreds of soldiers and civilians. That’s the kind of dog Rex is. And you’ll fall in love with him just as the titular character Megan Leavey did. The movie Megan Leavey is a bit of a character study, and one of those characters is a German Shepherd.
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    Chuck (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 21st, 2017

    My name is Chuck Wepner. You don’t know me…well, you do know me, but you don’t know you know me.”

    Unless you’re a hardcore boxing fan (or a Jersey boy/girl), chances are you don’t know the name Chuck Wepner. On the other hand, you don’t have to be a sports buff or a movie buff to know the name Rocky Balboa. Wepner is a former heavyweight boxer, and his 1975 title bout with Muhammad Ali served as the inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar-winning classic. Originally titled The Bleeder (my two cents…they should’ve stuck with that title), Chuck is the story of “The Real Rocky.”
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    The Lincoln Lawyer (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Delia on August 15th, 2017

    Suspenseful, intriguing, and exciting, The Lincoln Lawyer makes the legal system entertaining.  With all the TV attorney shows pushing for top ratings, this film comes at the right time.  A strong cast, excellent direction, and a riveting storyline make The Lincoln Lawyer a must-see. Mick Haller (Matthew McConaughey) keeps his legal business close to him, in his car.  Defending the lowlifes or whoever desperately needs legal assistance, Mick turns down very few clients.  While working on a questionable case, his confidant Val Valenzuela (John Leguizamo) gives him the name of Beverly Hills playboy Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillippe).
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    Big Little Lies (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 10th, 2017

    Big Little Lies — HBO’s star-studded and (deservedly) Emmy-nominated limited series — is structured like a typical murder mystery. We know someone has been killed, but we don’t know the perpetrator or even identity of the victim. On top of that, the limited series format promises that we’ll actually have an answer by time these episodes wrap up (**cough** The Killing). But the reason Big Little Lies shines— other than top-notch performances and stellar direction — is because beneath the murder-mystery veneer lies a darkly funny drama about all manner of adult relationships: husband/wife, ex-husband/ex-wife, mother/daughter, mother/fellow-mother, and so on.
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    Gifted (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 8th, 2017

    Extraordinary people come with singular issues and needs.”

    On the surface, being blessed with a genius-level intellect seems like good thing, right? So it’s interesting that movies about uncommonly smart people (Good Will Hunting, A Beautiful Mind, and The Imitation Game to name a few) tend to focus on the extreme isolation and inevitable exploitation of these individuals. Gifted is about a potential “one-in-a-billion” math prodigy and her weary, protective uncle, who carries himself like someone who’s seen too many movies about exploited geniuses and knows full well that “nobody likes a smart-ass.”
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    Unforgettable (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 26th, 2017

    I’m done with crazy.”

    When it comes to movies about psychotically wronged women, the crazier things get, the better. Unfortunately, the makers of Unforgettable — a dull domestic drama/wannabe thriller — never got the memo. It’s a shame because the movie had some of the ingredients to be a deliciously pulpy thriller, including an amusingly unhinged turn from one of its stars. But in the end, this comes off as a Lifetime movie that slipped through the cracks, fell upwards, and was accidentally released in theaters.
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    Prison Break: Event Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 14th, 2017

    “Freedom has a price. I died 7 years ago. Left behind a brother, a wife, a son, but the dead talk if you listen. They’re there with you. Reaching out. Trying to tell us something. Because not all deaths are the same. Some are real. Some are a story. Question is: do you believe the story? Was the man who died who you thought he was? The dead talk. If you listen…”

    The same can be said for dead series. Fox has been riding a wave of series revivals that have brought shows back from the dead in a limited-run event series format, and it has actually been doing well for the network
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    The Zookeeper’s Wife (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 3rd, 2017

    “What have you been up to in your little zoo?”

    It appears that we have been due for one of those untold stories amid the many tales of courage and bravery both fact and fiction, real and imagined, that have been told of the World War II era. There have been plenty of the battlefield hero films that include last year’s exceptional Hacksaw Ridge from Mel Gibson. Then there are the quiet and unlikely heroes. These are people who did incredible things that were often unknown during the war and often even after it was all over. Schindler’s List has become the gold standard for these kinds of emotional war movies. The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in the mold of that kind of a film, telling essentially that very kind of tale.
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    T2 Trainspotting (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 28th, 2017

    “First, there is an opportunity.  Then…there’s a betrayal.”

    It’s been 20 years since the release of Trainspotting, and it’s fair to say a lot has changed in the past two decades.  I remember going out to the United Artists Mission Bell Cinemas to see Trainspotting the weekend it came out.  I was with my best friend at the time, and neither of us was old enough to buy tickets for the film, so we ended up having to sneak into the film.  We’d seen the trailers, and in a time before the internet there just wasn’t much we could find out about it aside from reading articles in the entertainment magazines.
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    A United Kingdom (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 21st, 2017

    “We should not be fighting for segregation, we should be fighting for equality.”

    That’s the sort of rousing statement any random politician on the campaign trail might use to rile up a crowd of supporters at a pep rally. And even though those words are spoken here by a man in the midst of heavy political turmoil, the beauty of A United Kingdom — a straightforward but nevertheless impactful fact-based drama about forbidden love — is that they are actually born out of an intensely personal conflict.
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    Kill ’em All (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 16th, 2017

    It used to be when you had a straight-to-DVD release, you knew better than to set the bar too high.  From time to time you would find that occasional gem that slipped through the cracks and turned out to be something awesome, but this was a rare occurrence. With the way films are released now, the talent you are seeing in straight-to-DVD releases has improved, as have the budgets, since getting a film on the big screen has become a greater financial challenge.  I mention this only because I look at a title like Kill’em All and wonder if they even cared. The actors are here and doing their job, but it’s the figures behind the scenes that I’m calling out here.
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    The Young Pope (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 15th, 2017

    “Have you ever seen two priests wearing tracksuits?”

    The highest praise I can offer for The Young Pope — the staggeringly extravagant and deeply strange co-production between Sky Atlantic, Canal+, and HBO — is that I can guarantee you will see something you have never seen before. (A pair of priests in tracksuits is the least of it.) The show is bold in both its style and storytelling, although it only unequivocally succeeds in one of those two areas. Given all the Vatican-centric politics and power plays, it’s easy to see why this show was dubbed “House of Cardinals.”
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    Heat: Director’s Definitive Edition

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Archive Authors on May 16th, 2017

    There was a 20th anniversary edition of Michael Mann’s Heat planned a couple of years ago by the folks at Warner Brothers. There was hope of a 4K restoration and more. The rights ended up reverting to 20th Century Fox before any of that could happen. Now Fox has released something they are calling The Director’s Definitive Edition, but it is the same cut and print of the film as used in the last Warner Brothers’ Blu-ray release. So I really can’t tell you what is definitive except for a couple of new and more recent bonus features.
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    Fifty Shades Darker – Unrated Edition (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on May 11th, 2017

    From the suggestion of the title, you would think that we would be diving deeper into the world of BDSM, but after watching, the only thing that I can say about Fifty Shades Darker is that it’s a love story. Yes, I know that it was always a love story, but the first film possessed an edge and intensity which no longer exist in the sequel. Disappointing is too pale a word for the film. From its failure to properly capture the essence of the source material, less than engaging performance of the leads, and the vanilla nature of the sex scenes, the movie does not live up to the hype. If 50 Shades of Grey pushed the envelope with its sexuality, 50 Shades Darker embraces the commercialism of a sequel for profit rather than effect.
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    The Godfather & The Godfather Part II: 45th Anniversary (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 9th, 2017

    It’s hard to believe that it has been 45 years since The Godfather first graced theater screens. The Godfather films changed storytelling forever. Films before that time, mobster or otherwise, had some very simple but unshakable rules. There was always a fairly clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys always win in the end, and the bad guys always succumb to justice before the final credits. For perhaps the very first time, we were given characters that we knew in our souls were evil men. They killed. They broke laws. They manipulated everyone around them through fear and terrorism to bend to their wills.
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    The Affair: Season Three

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

    I thought it was dull…unless it was supposed to be a satire.”

    Television has been trending toward shorter, more self-contained stories. Successful shows like American Horror Story, Fargo, American Crime, and others reboot themselves every year with new characters and storylines in an attempt to offer viewers something fresh each season. The Affair seemed ready-made for that formula: each season could’ve followed different adulterous encounters in a wide variety of settings. Instead, the perspective-shifting Showtime drama is determined to chronicle the far-reaching effects of a single Long Island dalliance. So while the show brushes up against some interesting relationship dynamics, it feels like it has stretched a thin concept beyond its breaking point.
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    Saturday Night Fever: Director’s Cut (Blu-Ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on May 1st, 2017

    Even though I was born in 1975, I don’t remember a thing until I was about 5 years old, therefore I missed most of the “Disco” era. My dad would play music from the 70’s, but that consisted of Led Zeppelin, Queen and Black Sabbath among other bands; no disco in sight. But one faithful day in my middle school years, I did find my mother’s record and 8-track collection. There was some Barry Manilow, Julio Iglesias, and something called the Bee-Gees. I wouldn’t say anything crazy like it turned my life around, but after listening, I clearly understood. I clearly understood that my mother was crazy and I was much better off listening to Whole Lotta Love. Anyway, we have a movie to review, let’s continue with Saturday Night Fever.

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    Animal Kingdom: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 28th, 2017

    “Everyone outside the family is a mark. Family comes first.”

    Meet the most dysfunctional crime family since The Sopranos. Not quite at the same level either on-screen or in quality, but once again we’re drawn toward another dangerous clan with criminal intent. I guess we could call them The Baritones. Actually Animal Kingdom is an apt description for television’s latest baddies. They’re about to head into their second season of mayhem on TNT where the series was the network’s top ratings winner during its run. Now that first season is out on Blu-ray from Warner Brothers, and it’s one crazy ride, of that you can be certain.
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    Mars (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 21st, 2017

    I was eight years old when Armstrong first stepped on the moon in July of 1969. Like every kid my age, it filled me with a feeling that I was lucky enough to get in on the ground floor of humanity’s grand exploration of space. By the time I was 15, we had landed the first probes on Mars. We were certainly on our way. The sky literally wasn’t the limit anymore. But then it all stopped. By the 80’s we had shifted our focus to low Earth orbit, and we haven’t explored the limits of space with a manned mission in nearly 50 years. Even the Space Shuttle is gone, and we don’t even have the capability to send Americans to the space station that we mostly paid for without hitching a ride with the Russians. And if you’ve been following world events at all, that ride isn’t a sure thing anymore. That 8-year-old with the mile-wide grin would never have believed we’d be so earthbound by the time he reached his mid-50’s.
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    Daughters of the Dust (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 12th, 2017

    “At the turn of the century, Sea Island Gullahs, descendants of African Captives, remained isolated from the mainland of South Carolina and Georgia. As a result of their isolation, the Gullah created and maintained a distinct, imaginative, and original African American culture.”

    Prior to watching Daughters of the Dust, I was completely unfamiliar with Sea Island Gullahs. To tell their story, the film (intentionally) deviates from the traditional narrative playbook, which doesn’t necessarily make for the most pleasurable movie-watching experience. However, the three key adjectives used in the opening text — “distinct,” “imaginative,” and “original” — absolutely apply here.
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