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    Boardwalk Empire: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 27th, 2014

    “It’s like Prohibition never happened but for one thing. Prices will increase twenty-fold. We got a product a fellah’s gotta have. Even better is that, we got a product he ain’t allowed to have.”

    The fourth season of Boardwalk Empire began pretty much the only way it could have after the bloodbath that ended the previous season. It was an explosive season that delivered the best gangland war in television history. Now there has to be some kind of peace or at least status quo after the end of the violence. Nucky is making his peace with Arnold Rothstein and his people. He also owes Chalky White for saving his behind when war broke out.
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    The Normal Heart (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 26th, 2014

    “Could you please reduce your level of hysteria?”

    There is a lot of yelling and a lot of outrage in The Normal Heart. The film chronicles the confusing, terrifying onset of the HIV-AIDS crisis in the early 1980s and how a group of gay men (and one intrepid doctor) in New York fought to draw attention to the deadly disease. Their efforts are alternately frustrating and futile, which leads to a higher decibel level for much of the movie’s second half. Thankfully, The Normal Heart is shrewd enough to note that there’s more than one way to make a point.
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    Locke (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on August 12th, 2014

    Experimental film can mean lots of different things. Usually it means chaos and disorientation as we are plunged into worlds we have never seen before, but experimental can merely mean doing something that has never really been done before. In this case, it is taking a simple idea and seeing if you can make it work. Can you make something interesting that seems too simple and too basic? Anything can work if you apply discipline and intelligence to a project.
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    Ironclad: Battle for Blood (Blu-ray)

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

    In the wake of the success of Game of Thrones, many companies are trying to ride on that bandwagon and produce films that will hopefully capture the same audience. Unfortunately, it would seem so few come close to capturing the magic that the HBO series brings to the small screen. To be upfront, I haven’t seen the first Ironclad film, though upon looking it up on IMDB I see that it boasts a solid cast. (And after watching a trailer for the film, it is something I’d like to check out.) Fortunately in the case of Ironclad: Battle For Blood, it is a sequel that stands alone from its predecessor.
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    Hell on Wheels: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 31st, 2014

    “Make no mistake. Blood will be spilled. Lives will be lost. Fortunes will be made. Men will be ruined. There will be betrayal and scandal and perfidy of epic proportions.”

    With a statement like that, how can you not want to check out AMC’s newest drama series Hell On Wheels? I’ve been told the title sounds like it’s about motorcycle gangs, and I couldn’t agree more. The term refers to the mobile tent city that housed the workers on the Union Pacific Railroad and the support entourage the camp attracted. It was a virtual tent city that had all of the essentials: a church, bar, and whorehouse.
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    Lullaby

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 31st, 2014

    The impending death of a loved one tends to dredge up a complex mix of emotions. (Unfortunately, I speak from relatively recent personal experience.) In addition to the obvious sadness, there can be guilt, resentment, anger, relief, and other sentiments that combine to create a messy stew of feelings. Putting those feelings on the page or on a screen is an emotional minefield, since you risk veering jarringly from one tone to the next. The task becomes even trickier when you attempt to introduce humor into the equation. Lullaby stumbles over a few of those mines, but is otherwise a well-acted, modestly-affecting dramedy.
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    Noah (Blu-ray)

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

    No matter how far removed you may be from Sunday school — or even if you never attended in the first place — chances are you know that God spoke to Noah. You also know He told him to build an ark in anticipation of a catastrophic flood meant to wipe out mankind. What you may not have realized (or remembered) is that, in the Bible, Noah himself doesn’t speak at all until well after that rain starts. So in adapting the famous Book of Genesis story to the screen, any filmmaker is going to have to take a certain amount of liberties. And when that filmmaker is Darren Aronofsky, the result is a strange, uncommonly thoughtful blockbuster that is as flawed as the hero it presents.
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    The Legend of Billie Jean: Special “Fair is Fair” Edition (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 29th, 2014

    Don’t you ever get tired of vanilla?”

    There’s a special breed of ’80s movie that appears hopelessly dated on the surface yet remains impulsively watchable. (Insert your own, “So you mean *every* ’80s movie?!” joke.) The Legend of Billie Jean — with its hilarious-in-hindsight fashion and Pat Benatar theme song — certainly fits the “trapped in the ’80s” bill. However, the 1985 film — now making its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Mill Creek Entertainment — still manages to entertain by tapping into the timeless spirit of teenage rebellion.
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    Cesar Chavez (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 23rd, 2014

    The fact that we haven’t gotten a movie about Cesar Chavez until now is both surprising and not all that shocking. It’s surprising because the Mexican American labor leader was arguably as big of a civil rights icon to Latino workers as Martin Luther King, Jr. was to the country’s black community in the 1960s. On the other hand, the extended wait for a Chavez movie isn’t all that shocking when you consider his efforts took place in the largely un-cinematic realm of grape boycotts. The bland, well-meaning Cesar Chavez makes the case for his impactful deeds, even if it doesn’t totally present him as a vibrant, complex man worthy of the biopic treatment.
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    Gridiron Gang (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 22nd, 2014

    “There are over 120,000 juveniles incarcerated in detection centers across the United States. Upon release 75% will either return to prison or die in the street. What follows is based on the true story of Camp Kilpatrick and the people there who tried to make a difference.”

    The Rock — sorry, Dwayne Johnson, sure has come a long way from his melodramatic days as a WWE superstar.
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    Donnie Brasco (Theatrical Cut) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 21st, 2014

    Pacino and Depp in a mob drama about an undercover fed and his unknowing Mafioso mentor? Fuggedaboudit. Donnie Brasco is based on the true story of F.B.I. agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp, Blow), who spent six successful years undercover in the New York Mafia, as one Donnie Brasco. The film opens with Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino, Heat), an aging made man, connecting with Donnie about a diamond ring. Donnie’s cover is he’s in the jewelry “business”, and Lefty wants to unload a ring some guy …gave him as payment for a debt.
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    Nymphomanic Vol 1 & Vol 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on July 14th, 2014

    Nymphomaniac I and II are 117 and 124 minutes, respectively. There is a longer cut that may be released next year closer to 5 and ½ hours. The story is simple. It chronicles a conversation between two people. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is found bloody and beaten in an alley by an older man, Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard). He takes her to his sparse flat to care for her and help her. What takes place is a long conversation full of intellectual digressions about Joe. It slowly reveals what led to her downfall. Seligman is a sheltered bookworm who has a detached curiosity about her story.
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    Blood Ties (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 30th, 2014

    It’s a sad state of affairs. The road that Blood Ties has taken to get to this Blu-ray release is far more interesting than the film itself. It all starts with a French film Les liens du sang that was itself a reflection on the American cop drams genre. One of the original French screenwriters collaborated to bring the idea full circle to become an American cop drama. The film made the film festival circuit with mixed reviews and results. For some reason Director Guilaume Canet decided to go back to the editing room and remove nearly a half hour of the original film’s running time.
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    Masters of Sex: Season One

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 24th, 2014

    In 1956, a nationally-renowned fertility specialist met a former nightclub singer. Ten years later, they published a scientific study, which revolutionized our understanding of human sexuality.”

    You can’t call your TV show Masters of Sex and not expect to elicit a few chuckles. (You also can’t be surprised if people go looking for it on Cinemax rather than Showtime.) Titillating title aside, Masters of Sex is actually an engaging, often-excellent period drama that shines when it’s conveying the thrill of discovery and exploration. Also, it turns out there’s a fair amount of sex.
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    Enemy (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 23rd, 2014

    What would you do if you spotted your exact duplicate? Would you take a closer look so that your brain could try to confirm what your eyes were seeing? Check with your parents to make sure you didn’t have a long-lost twin they never told you about? And how long before you pinched yourself to ensure you weren’t dreaming? These were the sorts of questions that popped in my head as I watched Enemy, a stylish and mind-bending psychological drama.
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    Klondike (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 19th, 2014

    “You’re either gettin’ or gettin’ got”.

    It’s very tricky to make an historical drama. Writers and directors have to carefully balance the needs of entertainment over facts and authenticity. There comes the inevitable moment when they will be in conflict, and a decision must be made as to which direction will have priority in the telling of the tale. It might have been an unfair expectation on my part, but when an historical drama mini-series comes to a place like The Discovery Channel I tend to look for any conflict to be resolved in the favor of historical accuracy
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    Louie: Season 3

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

    “I got kids and I work, and it’s hard sometimes. But, you know, boilerplate misery…alone in the world…might as well be a maggot sucking a dead cat’s face. What’s the point?”

    That’s how Louis C.K. describes his life during a season 3 episode of Louie. And since the FX comedy series — that is only nominally a comedy series — stubbornly and brilliantly defies any sort of easy categorization, the sad-sack declaration is also the best description you’re likely to get of what the show is about.
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    Joe (Blu-ray)

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

    I hope everyone had a fantastic Father’s Day! I’ve actually been lucky enough to have two strong paternal figures in my life (my dad and stepdad), which is much more than I can say for the young protagonist in Joe. The latest Southern Gothic drama from director David Gordon Green — adapted from the Larry Brown novel of the same name — features one of the very worst dads you’ll ever see. To balance things out, the title character is one of the unlikeliest father figures in recent memory.
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    Ray Donovan: Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 13th, 2014

    “It’s a different world out there.”

    You can say that again. The television landscape is changing, at least on cable. Ray Donovan is the latest in the string of new shows that are attracting talent once thought out of reach for television. A show starring Liev Schreiber and Jon Voight, this Showtime series looked to be something very special… and it almost is.
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    Amen. (Blu-ray)

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

    “It is neither understandable nor excusable that a devout Christian such as himself did not do everything in his power to avoid being involved in such a criminal system.”

    In this case, the “criminal system” refers to the unfathomable killing of millions of Jews (and other groups) by the German military during World War II. We all know hindsight is 20/20, but you figure perfect vision shouldn’t be required for anyone to see what an atrocity the Holocaust was at the time, and put a stop to it. Amen. powerfully — and controversially— portrays why the solution wasn’t quite so clear.
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    True Detective (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 12th, 2014

    “You got a chapter in one of those books on jumping to conclusions?”

    It’s easy to jump to conclusions with a name like True Detective. The moniker conjures up images of the true crime pulp magazines of the 40′s and 50′s. You might get a sense that this is one of those “based on a true story” type of shows. There was even a second when I expected we might have our first “found footage” television shows. Whatever ideas you have going in, expect your perceptions to change.
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    Capital (Blu-ray)

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

    “People believe money is a tool. Money is the master; the better you serve it, the better it treats you.”

    That mantra — spouted by a ruthless hedge fund manager in Capital — may not be as succinct or as elegant in its simplicity as “Greed is good,” but the message remains the same. Most people see money as a means to an end, but to the financial masters of the universe in this French financial thriller, money is the end.
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    Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on June 11th, 2014

    “You’re not just an analyst anymore. You’re operational now.”

    Witness the birth of — actually make that rebirth of –one of the most popular action heroes in literature. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has been a character of many jobs and many faces over the years. Baldwin, Ford, and Affleck have all stepped into the role of the man who has been a soldier, an analyst, an operative, and a president. Now Chris Pine looks to fill the shoes left behind by some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters
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    Resurrection: The Complete First Season

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

    “Maybe you’re missing the real question: do you want to believe?”

    Talk about a loaded question. If you apply it to the plot of Resurrection, it obviously refers to the formerly-deceased residents of Arcadia, Missouri who suddenly and inexplicably return home many years after their respective deaths. But I think the question also applies to the attitude modern TV viewers have toward any new network series. Before they decide to invest their time, those viewers “want to believe”…that an intriguing drama like Resurrection won’t get canceled after five episodes.
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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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