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    High-Rise (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 9th, 2016

    “High Rise,” the novel written by the late English author J.G. Ballard, was published in 1975. The story follows a diverse group of characters who live in a luxurious skyscraper that features every amenity imaginable. Things are so convenient, in fact, that the tenants gradually become less interested in the outside world. The idea of people becoming increasingly uninterested in the outside world is obviously still relevant more than 40 years later, since many of us prefer to order everything online and only venture outdoors if there’s a rare Pokemon to be caught. But while this movie adaptation has its moments of inspired lunacy, it’s ultimately too slight and scattershot to leave a lasting impact.
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    The Night Manager – Uncensored Edition (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 7th, 2016

    “Anyone can betray anyone.”

    The word “spy” tends to conjure images of international intrigue and attractive people getting into exotic adventures. But don’t blame John le Carre. Despite being one of the most successful and prolific spy novelists of the past century, le Carre’s stories tend to be aggressively un-sexy, morally murky tales that focus on the psychological toll of intelligence work. That’s why it’s interesting to find that The Night Manager — a British miniseries that also aired on AMC — manages to straddle both sides of the spy fiction fence.
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    The Duel (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 30th, 2016

    You’re about to witness a Helena duel…a most noble affair of character and honor.”

    A “Helena duel” is also a brutal, bloody ritual where two combatants are joined at the wrist before engaging in a knife fight to the death. That combination of genteelness and barbarity is at the heart of The Duel, a Texas-set Western that reaches for grandiosity and doesn’t quite get there, but is nevertheless thoroughly entertaining.
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    The Jungle Book (2016) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 29th, 2016

    “This is the law of the jungle…”

    Disney appears to have a law that all of its classic cartoon features must now be made into live-action films. As I’ve mentioned in my review of the original classic The Jungle Book, the animated feature was the end of an important era at Walt Disney Studios. It was released about a year after Walt’s death and was the last film he supervised from beginning to end. In the wake of Walt’s death the studio experienced a sharp turnover and complete retooling of the animation department. With only the nine old men to carry the traditions of Walt into the future, The Jungle Book would forever mark a distinct milestone in the history of animated feature films.
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    The Affair: Season Two

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 26th, 2016

    Your memory’s very impressive.”

    The first season of The Affair — Showtime’s sensual, POV-shifting drama — was built on the notion that there are two sides to every story. The show’s hook was that it depicted the beginnings of the same adulterous relationship from two different perspectives. Season 2 doubles down on that idea by offering four different viewpoints. So what this sophomore season lacks in sizzle compared to its predecessor, it makes up for by offering a more expansive view at complicated, messy relationship dynamics.
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    Jack Irish: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 19th, 2016

    He’s just got a knack for being in the wrong spot at exactly the right time.”

    Jack Irish, the disheveled former lawyer-turned-debt collector with a nose for trouble, is at it again. The character is the creation of novelist Peter Temple, but Australian TV audiences got to know Jack thanks to a trio of TV movies starring the great Guy Pearce. The movies were successful enough that Jack Irish returned as a six-episode series that brings the entire gang back together.
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    The Knick: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 16th, 2016

    There has been no shortage of medical dramas dating back to the infancy of television. Many have become classics. Most have dealt with the use of modern (at least for that time) advances and cutting-edge science. That’s exactly what you get with The Knick. You get cutting-edge medical advancement… for 1902. The Knick is the fictional Knickerbocker hotel in 1900’s New York. The hospital exists in a poverty-stricken neighborhood where few of the patients can pay for their care. This has been a problem the board has been trying to turn around. Now ground is being broken on a new location in a much more affluent part of New York City. It’ll be an opportunity to finally turn a profit and also one of corruption for the man handling the new construction. But what of Dr. Thackery, played by Clive Owens?
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    Jack Irish: The Movies (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 15th, 2016

    Who do you think I am? Miss Marple?”

    Despite his knack for becoming entangled in byzantine plots and conspiracies, no one would confuse Jack Irish for an Agatha Christie character. Instead, Jack is the creation of novelist Peter Temple, and the character’s rumpled charm and general aversion to violence means he has more in common with Jim Rockford than Hercule Poirot. The character has been adapted for Australian television and brought to life thanks to a winning performance by the great Guy Pearce. You can now get to know Jack yourself since Acorn Media was nice enough to put three Jack Irish TV movies on Blu-ray.
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    The Blacklist: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 12th, 2016

    James Spader is Raymond “Red” Reddington. If you have not yet watched an episode of The Blacklist I will tell you from the beginning that you just can’t start here. Season 3 hits the ground running as the consequences of some major storylines from the previous year start to play out. I found myself having to take the time and catch up on Season 2 because we didn’t get that year to review. It was clear to me from the start that there was no way to truly enjoy this release if I wasn’t caught up. The trouble I go through to keep you guys informed. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. So, if you’re not up to speed this is your chance to pick up all three seasons and do some serious binge watching.
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    Blindspot: Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 9th, 2016

    “Everything just feels so out of control. I don’t remember who I am. Who I was. Whatever life I had is gone. Shattered into a million tiny pieces. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe.”

    I have to credit Blindspot’s creator Martin Gero with providing one of the more memorable moments on television with the opening minutes of the series. Unfortunately, by the time we saw the pilot that image was already ruined by the countless spots used to promote the show’s premiere. We see a police officer in Times Square approach a bag with a sign on it that asks the FBI be alerted. The cop approaches the bag a bit frightened it might be a bomb and blow up on him at any time.
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    I Am Wrath (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 1st, 2016

    Don’t let the artwork scare you off. Yes, the cover design for this disc may be the worst I’ve seen this year, but the movie actually isn’t half bad.  John Travolta has hit a bump in his career, and it seems the big blockbuster projects just don’t seem to want to reach out to him.  Sure, he has a habit of going over the top in roles, but for the most part he’s still one of the few personalities I still enjoy seeing on the screen who’s been around since before I was a kid.  Then you’ve got Chuck Russell (Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Warriors and The Blob remake) dusting off his director’s chair to helm a film again, and, well, I Am Wrath quickly starts to become a film I can be excited about.
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    The Dark Horse

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 25th, 2016

    You talk dreams to those kids, you better follow through.”

    There’s a (not-so) grand cinematic tradition of white knights riding into rough neighborhoods and inspiring the disadvantaged kids who are seemingly stuck there. We’ve seen this plot applied in everything from Hardball and McFarland USA to Sister Act 2. (Hey…no one said the white knight *has* to be white). For the most part, these movies are as formulaic as they are enjoyable. So one of the many wonderful things about New Zealand chess drama The Dark Horse is that its white knight hero is a complex, damaged, well-meaning figure who’s actually in worse shape than the kids he’s trying to help.
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    My Golden Days

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 19th, 2016

    I remember…”

    On the surface, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about Paul Dedalus, the French anthropologist at the center of My Golden Days. As he prepares to return to France after an extended work stint in Tajikstan, Paul reflects on a trio of key moments from his childhood and young adulthood. Much of what Paul recalls — the death of a parent, his first love, and the aching of a long-distance relationship — is completely relatable. Yet filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin aims to present Paul’s life as the most romantic, tragic story ever told.
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    Green Room (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on July 15th, 2016

    Ever since writer/director Jeremy Saulnier came out with his gripping revenge film Blue Ruin, fans have been patiently waiting to see what he’d do next.  If you have not had the chance to see Blue Ruin and you are a fan of the revenge genre, it’s a film that is certainly a must see and is one of the few films that lives up to the hype that surrounds it.  The problem with doing such a strong and powerful film so early in your career is that expectations seem to just skyrocket, and it seems there is just no way you can make everyone happy.  As a fan first and critic second, I know I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past, and it’s almost impossible to not get excited, and at the screening for this film, I know I was not the only one with high expectations.
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    Eddie The Eagle (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 9th, 2016

    When I was a kid in the 1970’s there was a weekend sports show on ABC called The Wide World Of Sports. It was a catch-all for those sports that don’t have the kind of national branding of football or baseball. It was the kind of show for boxing, gymnastics, or skiing. I don’t remember a single episode that I saw. What I do remember along with anyone who has ever watched it is the opening sequence. We were promised the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat. With that last line we saw the image of a ski jumper taking a horrible wreck as he comes off the jump. In the 40 years since I still often wonder about the guy whose legacy will always be the very definition of unmitigated failure, and painful failure at that.
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    Vigilante Diaries (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 7th, 2016

    “That’s me, Mike Hanover, and I just killed a man in a taco shop bathroom. Hey, he started it. I been hiding near the border looking for The Vigilante…” 

    You’ve found him. Anchor Bay’s The Vigilante actually started life as a web series. The web episodes followed the exploits of The Vigilante, played by Paul Sloan and his sidekick The Kid, played by Kevin L. Walker. It was pretty much a hyper-superhero kind of series with ramped-up action on a limited budget. Now we have a feature film version that is quite the mixture of genre films. You get a little grindhouse mixed with some Leone Spaghetti Western with extra sauce
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    Knight of Cups (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 29th, 2016

    After a tidy, 20-year gap between making 1978’s Days of Heaven and 1998’s The Thin Red Line, director Terrence Malick has morphed into a regular workaholic. Since 2005, the enigmatic filmmaker has cranked out a whopping (for him) four movies, including 2015’s Knight of Cups. Malick’s most recent effort strikes many of the same lyrical, dazzling, and confounding notes as Tree of Life, which is the best-received film from the director’s surprisingly prolific recent run. But while Knight of Cups undeniably has glimmers of grand beauty and ambition, it mostly plays as if someone made a spot-on parody of a Terrence Malick film.
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    The Wave (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 22nd, 2016

    Disaster films are something that for me screams American cinema of the 90’s.  I know there were films before that had come out, but a good portion of my teen years of the 90’s were of the mega-blockbuster variety like Twister, Dante’s Peak, The Perfect Storm, and so forth.  Now we have The Wave, the first disaster film to come out of Norway, and from the looks of the trailers they were going for something BIG.  This is a film that comes out with so much potential and is a film that could even possibly find an American audience that could look past the fact that subtitles may be involved.  With the way technology has come along over the years, smaller countries have been able to produce films as big as anything released in our cinemas here in the states.  Now here’s the question: is it any good, though?
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    A War (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 15th, 2016

    It’s ok to be upset. We’re all upset.”

    A War is about a Danish commander and his weary, overwhelmed young soldiers fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. But besides finding a fresh angle to explore a conflict that has essentially been going on for the entire 21st century — Denmark sent nearly 10,000 military personnel to Afghanistan between 2002 and 2013 — this morally complex movie succeeds because it fully explores the toll war takes on everyone involved. In this case, that also includes the unfortunate civilians caught in between the gunfire and at least one weary, overwhelmed wife/mother back home with three young children.
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    The Martian: Extended Edition (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 13th, 2016

    In 1979, Ridley Scott taught us that in space no one can hear you scream. More than 35 years after Alien established him as a top directorial talent, Scott has slightly amended that statement to read “in space no one can hear you…blast disco music and binge watch Happy Days.” These lighthearted coping mechanisms — used here to deal with a truly horrifying and hopeless situation — are strong indicators of what you’re in for with The Martian, which is both brainier and much funnier than your average space epic. Now the sci-fi blockbuster returns to home video with an Extended Edition.
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    The Confirmation (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 10th, 2016

    I don’t know what kind of trouble he can get into in a day.”

    At first glance, those words — spoken by a father in the midst of a particularly eventful weekend with his estranged son — sound like a filmmaker giving himself permission to put his characters in the most outrageous situations possible. But The Confirmation actually shines by keeping things simple. The movie is a low-key, thoroughly affecting story of a father and son forging an unexpected connection.
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    Roots: The Complete Original Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 8th, 2016

    “Roots: The Saga of an American Family literally blazed across this nation’s screens.”

    In 1977 the entire country became Africans for eight consecutive nights. The name Kunta Kinte would become a household name. It was unprecedented on so many levels that even the ABC executives that made the decision to air it believed it was going to be a ratings disaster. The decision to run it on so many consecutive nights was made to avoid the ratings collapse from lasting more than a week. But by the time the final episode aired, Roots had become the most-watched television mini-series of all time.
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    Vinyl: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 8th, 2016

    “I started at the bottom working every club in New York City. I mopped floors. Swabbed ashtrays. Hauled kegs. You think you work hard? Try scraping Chubby Checker’s vomit off the inside of a toilet stall.” 

    Martin Scorsese is a man who has worked very hard over the years. His list of film accomplishments is too big to list here. On television his recent teaming with Terrance Winter produced Boardwalk Empire. It’s not much of a surprise the two would team up again for another HBO series.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fourth Season — Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 6th, 2016

    “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 and promos isn’t likely to prepare you for the most devastating and thrilling season of a show that specializes in “devastating and thrilling.” Those thrills have now been given an extra kick: Game of Thrones is the first TV show to be offered in all-encompassing Dolby Atmos. After re-releasing seasons 1 and 2 in a pair of handsome Steelbook cases late last year, HBO has given the next two chapters in Martin’s saga the same treatment.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Third Season — Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 6th, 2016

    Even if Game of Thrones had inexplicably wrapped its run after two stellar seasons, the fantasy series would’ve gone down as a landmark in television history because of its unprecedented scale and audacious storytelling. Those qualities have been brought to thrilling life in each of the show’s Blu-ray releases, but HBO still decided to kick it up a notch. Game of Thrones is the first TV show to be offered in all-encompassing Dolby Atmos. After re-releasing seasons 1 and 2 in a pair of handsome Steelbook cases late last year, HBO has given the next two chapters in George R.R. Martin’s saga the same treatment.
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