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    Falling Skies: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 5th, 2014

    “Our planet, our war.”

    Those four words neatly summarize the overriding theme for the third season of Falling Skies, TNT’s earnest alien invasion drama. While the show still takes its broad thematic cues from the American Revolutionary War, this batch of episodes directly references some of the uneasy alliances formed during World War II. So in between the numerous instances of human characters shooting at aliens — and at each other — the show explored the question of whether the enemy of my enemy really is my friend.
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    In the Blood (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 4th, 2014

    Following in the footsteps of Taken Gina Carano (Haywire) goes on a revenge rampage in order to discover what has happened to her injured and missing husband in a foreign land.  It’s not the most original jumping off point for a revenge film, but as is the case with most revenge films, the motivation is usually always the same, but it’s the journey to the fulfillment of their blood-lust that keeps us in our seats.  Coming off of the latest installment in the Fast and the Furious series, Carano has started to make a name for herself ever since she emerged in Steven Soderbergh’s action/thriller Haywire.
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    True Blood: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 3rd, 2014

    I don’t know why death still surprises me.”

    As someone who’s seen every single episode of True Blood, I suppose nothing should surprise me by now. HBO’s vampire drama has given us more than its share of head-turning sex scenes and a hearty helping of over-the-top violence. However, the further the series ventured from Bon Temps and its core group of characters, the more it seemed to lose its way, even as a satisfying guilty pleasure. This penultimate season still relied on an overly-crowded cast of supernaturals. But it was ultimately an encouraging sign that the show might get back to basics as it prepares to end its run this summer.
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    Beyond the Trophy

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 2nd, 2014

    The tagline for Beyond the Trophy definitively states that “Power is the only thing that matters.” Well, having watched this low-budget cops and kingpins crime drama, I humbly disagree. The film strives to tell a story about the violent perils of all-consuming power. Unfortunately, Beyond the Trophy forgot to include some of the stuff that matters to movie-watchers: things like “focused storytelling”, “coherent action sequences”, and “fresh characters.”
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    The Color of Lies (Blu-ray)

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

    On the surface, The Color of Lies resembles many other murder mysteries set in a close-knit community. The 1999 film, however, is a late-career effort from Claude Chabrol, the French New Wave director who first gained acclaim alongside contemporaries like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in the late 1950s. So it’s not surprising to learn The Color of Lies is really a subtle, stylish exploration of the various ways people deceive each other.
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    Way of the Wicked (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on May 26th, 2014

    Christian Slater has managed to make a decent career lately by simply appearing in numerous direct-to-DVD productions for several years now.  It seems as though every month the former 80s-90s heartthrob is slumming his way through productions as though he never once looked at the script and instead was just adding another lackluster credit to his IMDB profile.  As a longtime fan of the actor from the days of Heathers, True Romance, and Pump Up the Volume, I can’t help but hope the guy will make a resurgence (though appearing in Lars Von Triers Nymphomaniac is a good start to that career revival).
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    Grand Piano (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on May 21st, 2014

    Ever since Elijah Wood completed filming Lord of the Rings, it would seem that he has done everything in his power to not be locked down with the label of simply being Frodo.  From playing a mute psychopath in Sin City, to voice work in Happy Feet, a suicidal pot-head that is best friends with a talking dog in Wilfred, and even the killer role in Maniac, it’s clear that he’s an actor that likes to challenge himself.  With Grand Piano Wood delivers his most dynamic performance as the brilliant concert pianist Tom Selznick who suffers from stage fright.
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    3 Days to Kill (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on May 21st, 2014

    Most action pictures have an aura of super-seriousness, or they are filmed as comedies and everything is meant to be ridiculous. It definitely is a difficult task to mix the two effectively. On some level most action pictures are ridiculous, since most of us will never experience the close proximity to death and danger that is depicted on the screen. Also, life and death are often cheapened with high body counts but little consequence for our hero. In 3 Days To Kill, all sorts of elements are brought to bear in order to reinforce the average everyday family experience and not the lone killer.
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    Generation Iron

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

    Bodybuilders present a series of fascinating contradictions. They objectively embody the ideal physical form, but there are also people who can’t even stand looking at them. They’re in tip-top shape, but instead of running, jumping or hitting each other, their competitions involve…posing. Pumping Iron, the 1977 documentary that turned Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno into stars, was the first film to shine a light on the world of bodybuilding. Generation Iron stylishly and thoughtfully explores how the sport — and its participants — have grown immensely in the ensuing decades despite remaining a somewhat peculiar part of popular culture.
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    Amistad (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 13th, 2014

    “Whoever tells the best story wins.”

    This bit of lawyerly wisdom is given by John Quincy Adams in Amistad, Steven Spielberg’s account of a real-life 19th century slave revolt. President Adams is offering advice on how to mount the most effective case on the slaves’ behalf, but his words ring true well beyond the courtroom. Spielberg has been telling some of the best stories since the 1970s. Amistad may not be top-tier Spielberg, but the film — making its Blu-ray debut — is an absorbing historical drama in its own right.
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    Her (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on May 13th, 2014

    Her is someone you could fall in love with. Her is full of wonderful qualities. Her is elusive and unattainable as well as enticing and satisfying. Her is the awkward title of the new Spike Jonze film starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson (though not all of her), Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde and Chris Pratt. It does not star Samantha Morton, Carey Mulligan or Chris Cooper. It might have, but the project evolved so much that they dropped by the wayside. It grew out of the third collaboration between Jonze and Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) but Charlie Kaufman also dropped out, and this became a written-by-Spike Jonze project.
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    The Terminal (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 12th, 2014

    You are not to leave this building. America is closed.”

    That’s certainly a far cry from “give me your tired, your poor…your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It’s also the predicament faced by Viktor Navorski, an accidental refugee who falls through a proverbial crack in the system and winds up trapped at JFK International Airport. The harsh, sobering command comes early on in The Terminal, a large-scale, feel-good parable. Even 10 years ago, a tonally-tricky studio movie like this one could only find its way to multiplexes if someone with the clout of a Steven Spielberg or Tom Hanks decided to make it.
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    Godfather Part III (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 11th, 2014

    If anything, the third part of the Godfather series of films is symbolic of when too many sequels are greenlighted, and consequently, the film is doomed to fail. More often than not, the reason why these films crash and burn is because of major studios acting like Adelphia executives and wanting more money, and in using the previous films’ successes as leverage, they lose sight of things like quality. It’s happened to other trilogies. And if you put together previous films with the reputation that the first two Godfather films have, the only question left to answer is whether or not the third film would be a minor or major letdown.
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    The Veronica Mars Movie (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on May 7th, 2014

    It was 2007 when Veronica Mars concluded its three-season run on the CW.  The door was left open for more seasons, and the season three set came with a bonus that showed us the direction things could have gone.  But after one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns and seven years later, fans of the show will finally get to see their favorite little marshmallow, Veronica Mars, on one last investigation.  I’m going to come out and say it; I was a big fan of the show. The high school noir series was more than just your standard teen melodrama
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    Still Mine (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 7th, 2014

    Craig Morrison was in his late 80’s the first time he got in trouble with the law. Still Mine tells the real-life story of the Canadian octogenarian who found himself in court facing the prospect of jail time. In case you’re wondering, Morrison didn’t rob a bank or cheat on his taxes. He merely wanted to build a modest house on his own property that could better accommodate his ailing wife. And he insisted on doing it himself.
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    Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Neighbors From Hell

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 7th, 2014

    Following the live performance of Madea’s Neighbors From Hell captured on this DVD, Tyler Perry joins his fellow cast members on stage after they’ve all taken their bows. Perry has ditched his Madea drag and takes to the microphone to thank his fervent, loyal fans for their support. You probably know Perry because of the phenomenal success he has enjoyed in TV and movies. (And because he puts his name on practically everything he does.) However, Perry is quick to remind his audience that it all started on the stage.
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    Great Expectations (2012) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 5th, 2014

    I do wish I could be content, but…”

    You cannot.”

    There’s a reason “Great Expectations” continues to be adapted for the stage and screen more than 150 years after its publication. Charles Dickens wrote — and set — his novel during Britain’s Victorian era, but the classic coming-of-age story is thick with ideas about social status and all-consuming ambition that easily transcend its original time and place. So how does this new version, first released in the U.K. in 2012, stack up?
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    Escape From Tomorrow (Blu-ray)

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

    It’s been a while since a movie has been released that broke the rules on how we expected a film to be made.  Avatar was the last game changer, I would say, considering it gave audiences a new way to see films in 3D.  Sure, hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in that film, and the reward for bringing audiences something different is it being the highest box office grosser ever.  Escape From Tomorrow goes in the opposite direction, and to be matter of fact about it, the film shouldn’t even exist.  But writer/director Randy Moore pulled off something that is an achievement that deserves praise for filming his sci-fi satire on location at Disney, without their permission.
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    Labor Day (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on April 29th, 2014

    There have been complaints that there are not enough films that have decent lead roles for women. There are those that say that Hollywood does not make enough movies for women. Then when they do, critics tend to dismiss them as “Lifetime” movies (a term that is dismissive because of the cable channel that churns out generic movies for women). It seems far easier to accept excessive violence or male-oriented films with sexual content. If a movie tries to legitimately capture real situations from a woman’s point of view, it can be patronizingly categorized as pap and schmaltz.
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    The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 21st, 2014

    “Have you done anything noteworthy or mentionable?”

    It’s the sort of question that can easily apply to either your workday or your life as a whole. It’s also the question actor/producer/director Ben Stiller chose as the basis of his inspirational adaptation of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The original short story by James Thurber is less than five pages long, so a filmmaker has the option of going to any number of fascinating places in bringing Thurber’s tale to the big screen. Stiller, in essence, decided to take the scenic route.
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    Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded (Blu-ray)

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

    Today, Miami is considered one of the most glamorous cities in the world. But long before it became the place where some of the biggest stars in sports and entertainment took their talents, Miami was dubbed the drug, murder, and cash capital of the United States. (Resulting in a drastically different “Big 3” than what locals are accustomed to these days.) Cocaine Cowboys already chronicled this shockingly violent stretch of the city’s history and featured recollections from some of the people who helped Miami achieve its dubious status. Now an extended version of Billy Corben’s 2006 documentary arrives on Blu-ray.
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    Broadchurch: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 7th, 2014

    The majority of murders committed on television are presented from the perspective of the people trying to solve them. It’s a smart, gratifying strategy because it allows us viewers to play detective from the safety of our couches one hour at a time. Far fewer shows are interested in doing the more difficult/less glamorous work of dramatizing the way a death can shatter a family, along with an entire community. Broadchurch is one of the most outstanding cop dramas I’ve seen in a long time because it’s willing to do that difficult work while also delivering the goods as a satisfying whodunnit.
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    Norma Rae (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 3rd, 2014

    “I’m Norma Rae. You know me.”

    Chances are you’ve at least heard of Norma Rae, even if you haven’t actually seen the Oscar-winning film that bears her name. You might know it as the granddaddymomma of underdog stories centered on feisty female crusaders; Norma Rae begat Silkwood, Erin Brockovich, North Country and others. Or you might know it as the movie that made Sally Field a serious movie star, although it’d be another five years until she really believed that people liked her.
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    At Middleton (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 2nd, 2014

    “Sometimes a day can be an eternity.”

    It’s hard to tell a convincing love story, period. It’s even harder to tell a convincing love story when we’re supposed to believe the two characters fall for each other within the space of a single day. The good news is At Middleton somewhat manages to pull this off in a little over an hour. The bad news is the film is actually 1 hour and 40 minutes long.
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    The Wolf of Wall Street (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 25th, 2014

    Besides the fact that it stars Leonardo DiCaprio and that it’s essentially a white collar gloss on Goodfellas, you’d be forgiven for thinking somebody other than Martin Scorsese directed The Wolf of Wall Street. I don’t mean to suggest Scorsese has lost his masterful touch or his passion for filmmaking, both of which were on display as recently as two years ago in the wonderful Hugo. It’s more that after spending the better part of the 21st century making strong, serious dramas, I didn’t necessarily expect Scorsese to make his funniest, loosest and most audacious picture in decades.
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