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    Exodus: Gods & Kings (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 23rd, 2015

    When it comes to the modern epic, director Ridley Scott is the go-to guy to pull off the sprawling and mega-budget storylines.  From Gladiator to Kingdom of Heaven, Scott has constantly proven himself behind the camera in executing tales with lavish sets and battles involving hundreds to even thousands of extras.  With the release of Exodus: Gods and Kings, a retelling of the Bible story where Moses frees the slaves of Egypt, Ridley Scott would seem the perfect choice for this film.  Unfortunately, this is a Bible story that is sure to anger religious scholars and put some general audiences to sleep.
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    Pioneer (Blu-ray)

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

    The Norwegian oil boom of the early 1980s isn’t the most obvious setting for a thriller, but director Erik Skjoldbjærg manages to squeeze plenty of intrigue out of what seems like a pretty dry subject. Of course, Pioneer could never be described as “dry” in the literal sense since the film follows a group of commercial divers in Norway as they try to establish the country’s first petroleum pipeline 500 meters underwater.
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    Son of a Gun (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 20th, 2015

    From the moment Son of a Gun opens up taking you behind bars as JR (Brenton Thwaites) is being processed into an Australian prison, it is the start of a journey that throws everything at its audience till the final credits roll.  I have a hard time figuring out just how to classify Son of a Gun; it is everything from being a film about self-discovery, a guys-behind-bars film, to being a heist film and so much more. The title refers to JR as he goes about serving his time behind bars and captures the attention of an infamous thief Brendan (Ewan McGregor).
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    Revelation: The End of Days

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

    2,000 years ago, the Bible prophesied the return of Christ…but only after God inflicts seven years of torment on the world to test the faith of mankind.”

    It’s not quite seven years long, but this two-part, three-hour TV movie — History’s latest foray into original filmmaking — is likely to test the faith (and patience) of anyone who watches it. Revelation: The End of Days is intentionally less glossy than previous network offerings like Bonnie & Clyde and Houdini because it takes a ground-level look at the apocalypse. But in scaling back to achieve that aesthetic, the result is both frustrating and amateurish.
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    The Red Tent

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

    When you think about the biblical stories that have made it onto the big (or small) screen, they tend to focus on names like Jesus, Moses and Noah. (And Moses again, just for good measure.) To be honest, I didn’t even realize how few Bible adaptations focus on women until I popped in The Red Tent, a Lifetime miniseries based on Anita Diamant’s best-selling novel of the same name. While The Red Tent certainly shouldn’t be taken as gospel, it deserves credit for exploring biblical events from a different perspective.
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    Da Vinci’s Demons Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 11th, 2015

    “I’m Leonardo da Vinci. Revolutionary painter, artist and visionary, of the Republic of Florence.”

    The term “Renaissance man” is often used to describe a person who has a very wide range of interests in which they have become quite skilled. It’s taken from the traits of the many artists, innovators and writers of the 15th century. And while the term might well apply to any number of such historical figures, there is none for whom it is more apt than Leonardo DaVinci. 
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    Captive (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 10th, 2015

    I’m starting to wonder if it is time we officially made a sub-genre for kidnapping films.  It’s a storyline that has been played out for decades but continues to offer up some engaging and oftentimes heart-wrenching tales that for the most part have happy endings but that seems to be a far stretch from reality, though I doubt audiences are looking for these bleak realistic endings and mostly prefer the Hollywood ending where everyone is rescued in just the nick of time.  When Prisoners came out, I had hopes that it would be a film that wouldn’t shy away from the harsh realities, and for the most part it succeeded, but I still felt it held back.
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    The Red Road: The Complete First Season

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

    Even though one of the main characters in The Red Road is a police officer, the show’s six-episode first season plays less like your typical cop drama and more like an extended profile of two strained communities. There’s the fictional town of Walpole, N.J. and the Lenape tribe that lives in the neighboring Ramapo Mountains. While the show certainly touches on the tension between the two communities, too much time here is devoted to multi-generational family drama that we’ve seen before. In other words, the show too often neglects the things that make it unique.
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    Outlander: Season One, Volume One

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 5th, 2015

    “There’s no place on Earth with more magic and superstition mixed into its daily life than the Scottish Highlands.”

    To build its slate of original programming, Starz has largely decided to look to the past. In recent years, the premium cable network has produced shows like Da Vinci’s Demons, The White Queen, and Black Sails, each of them (loosely) historical dramas with varying amounts of nudity sprinkled in. But it took a trip to the Scottish Highlands — and to the 18th century — for the channel to find its biggest hit to date.
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    Sons of Anarchy: Season 7 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 3rd, 2015

    “Remember when our biggest problem was which Mayan to kill?”

    All good things come to an end, and all rides eventually reach their destination. It’s all come home for the gang at Sons of Anarchy, and you can believe that if anyone is left standing when it’s over, there will be scars. Kurt Sutter has taken the culture of the motorcycle club, don’t call them a gang, and made it accessible to a regular audience. He did that not by attempting to overwhelm us with the iconography of the genre.
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    Beyond the Lights (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 3rd, 2015

    The cop here thinks he’s The Bodyguard.”

    At first glance, Beyond the Lights could easily be dismissed as an updated, less starry version of the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston romantic blockbuster. Both feature a glamorous pop star falling in love with her strait-laced protector. But while The Bodyguard became a bona fide pop culture phenomenon, Beyond the Lights had a much less dazzling run in theaters, grossing just over $14 million. It’s a shame because the flawed newer film has some interesting ideas about celebrity, artistic integrity, and…black women’s hair.
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    The Homesman (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 25th, 2015

    “There’s been some trouble with the women hereabouts…it’s bad.” 

    What exactly is a Western? That’s the question that the cast and crew of The Homesman struggle with here. They appear to be divided on the subject, and the same sentiment will likely make this one a little harder to pigeonhole. That’s not necessarily important except when it comes to marketing a film. An audience wants some kind of an idea what they’re getting when they see it on the shelf of their local video store. Tommy Lee Jones wrote, directed and stared in this period piece, and he’d rather you not call it a Western. Others connected with the film are on board with the genre label.
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    Dying of the Light (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 23rd, 2015

    Sometimes in film the drama behind the scenes can be more interesting than the actual film we see up on the big screen. For writer/director Paul Schrader, having drama behind the scenes that effects the final project that we get to see is something he is more familiar with than he’d care to admit to.  The firestorm that occurred with the release of 2005’s Dominion: The Prequel to the Exorcist became so intense that the studio insisted upon a new director to come in and do extensive reshoots that subsequently led to the release of a separate film directed by Renny Harlin
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 19th, 2015

    “All men must die.”

    The official tagline for Season 4 of HBO’s Game of Thrones also doubles as a helpful reminder of author George R.R. Martin’s no-character-is-safe philosophy. But even plastering that quote all over posters, promos, and the cover of this exemplary-in-every-way Blu-ray set isn’t likely to prepare you for the most devastating and thrilling season of a show that specializes in “devastating and thrilling.”
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    Olive Kitteridge (Blu-ray)

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

    Why are you so hateful, Olive?”

    Olive Kitteridge — Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel —has been adapted into a four-hour HBO miniseries. It’s probably the best possible outcome for Strout’s story, which deals with the legacy of depression, along with several other box office-unfriendly themes that would almost certainly prevent any proper Kitteridge adaptation from sniffing a multiplex. The miniseries is well-made, and the acting is top-notch. The problem for me was that, even with that four-hour running time, we don’t get a ton of insight into why the title character is so hateful.
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    Marie’s Mind for Murder

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

    I see the crime a bit differently.”

    American television hasn’t quite cornered the worldwide market on unconventional, endearingly quirky investigators. MHz Networks has just released a hearty helping of German cop drama in the form of Marie’s Mind for Murder. Despite the violent crimes being investigated, the show would’ve fit snugly alongside lighthearted whodunnits like USA Network’s Monk or Psych. You get to sample plenty of Murder with this DVD set, considering there are 10 episodes that each clock in at a shade under 90 minutes.
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    The Best of Me: Tears of Joy Edition (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 5th, 2015

    “You want me to fall back in love with you? How do I do that if I never stopped?”

    Or, in my case, how do I do that if I never started? Nicholas Sparks’ fans love the author as passionately and unabashedly as the lead characters in his best-selling books fawn over each other. But even though I think The Notebook is the ideal sappy romantic drama, I’ve never been part of that club. In fact, his stories — and the movie adaptations they spawn — seem to be getting worse. And yet I was somewhat intrigued by The Best of Me…at least until the movie’s monumentally dopey conclusion, which likely inspired the release of this “Tears of Joy” mea culpa Edition.
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    Maison Close: Season One (Blu-ray)

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

    No woman dreams of entering this profession. But it is a real profession…”

    In fact, it’s commonly referred to as “the world’s oldest profession.” We’re talking, of course, about practice prostitution. The profession also happens to be the focus of the soapy, serialized Maison Close, which is set in a 19th century Parisian brothel. And thanks to Music Box Films, Season 1 of the French prostitution drama is now making its U.S. Blu-ray debut.
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    Open Windows (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 3rd, 2015

    “You like that stuff, but it’s kind of a tease.”

    Give Elijah credit for taking some interesting chances with his acting choices since his long and successful run with the Lord Of The Rings trilogy and his subsequent cameos in the Hobbit films as well. No one can accuse the actor of resting on his laurels. His roles have been outside the mainstream.
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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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    The Judge (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 28th, 2015

    “Did that just happen?” 

    I have to confess that I entered The Judge expecting a different kind of film than I actually saw. After seeing the trailer, I was reminded of some of the classic courtroom dramas I’d seen over the years, from 12 Angry Men through …And Justice For All. On the ride to the screening I found my mind was swimming with the “closing arguments” Al Pacino delivered in …And Justice For All and was trying to image how Robert Downey, Jr. was going to try to top that.
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    Boardwalk Empire: Season 5 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 22nd, 2015

    “If we’re good today, we’ll be better tomorrow.”

    The final season of Boardwalk Empire breaks the mold of what the show has been for the first four years. The action jumps ahead several years to 1931. It’s a necessary plot point if we’re going to be ending the popular series in the fifth season. I understand the jump and why it works. I guess my only real question is: why are we jumping ahead to end what is one of the best shows on television?
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    Boyhood (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on January 20th, 2015

    Boyhood is all the rage right now. With all the hoopla surrounding the film, it should be noted that it is ordinary. It is just about people living their lives. One could even call it boring. One can say that because life is boring. It is not as exciting as it is in the movies. Life is about small moments that add up to memories and then it is over. Boyhood doesn’t make grand statements about boyhood, or about motherhood or fatherhood for that matter. It is just about a few people and what happens to them.
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    Viktor

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 20th, 2015

    We can blame thank Liam Neeson — or “Liam Neesons” — for this recent run of action movies about men of a certain age who tear their way through some part of Europe in the name of their missing or dead children. Viktor — a French/Russian production starring Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley — is one of these latest Taken take-offs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more inert revenge films you’re likely to see.
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    The Identical (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 19th, 2015

    What if Elvis Presley had an identical twin brother no one ever knew about? (It would certainly help explain all those Elvis sightings years after the King’s death.) That’s the kooky conceit at the center of The Identical. Unfortunately, rather than embracing the absurdity of its premise, the movie is an amateurish, uninspiring combination of “by-the-numbers musical biopic” and “painfully-earnest family drama.”
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