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    The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 11th, 2016

    Thanks to The Sound of Music, millions of people around the world are familiar with the von Trapp family saga. (They probably have the second most popular Austrian name among movie fans, behind some guy named Schwarzenegger.) Given that The Sound of Music is one of the most popular movies of all time, any filmmaker would be wise to offer a fresh perspective in telling a von Trapp story. Enter The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music, which puts eldest von Trapp daughter Liesl Agathe in the center of the action.
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    Mojave (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 8th, 2016

    Look at where the world is because of solitary dudes going mental in the desert.”

    Depressed, deplorable artist Tom heads to the Mojave Desert, where he unexpectedly meets his match in crazed, charismatic drifter Jack. The fact that their tense encounter results in a death is one of the least surprising things about Mojave. What initially appears to be a cat-and-mouse game set in the desert turns out to be an interesting, uneven meditation on perception vs. reality that spills over into the vapid world of Hollywood.
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    Banshee: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

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

    “There’s always room for improvement.”

    Banshee is one of those improbable plots that finds a way to pull us into the action all the while ignoring how unlikely any of this might really be. Of course, we do that all the time. It’s certainly unlikely we’re going to face a zombie apocalypse or run into a super-powered hero. That’s a different kind of unlikely. This kind of real-world fantastic is usually a bit harder to accept. Credit folks like Allan Ball for keeping us engaged with some of the most entertaining sleight of hand on television.
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    Exposed (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 3rd, 2016

    Keanu Reeves is a guy who I don’t think anyone would be crazy enough to say is a “great actor”, but instead he’s a guy who has been in some pretty great films.  For me he’s an actor I grew up with from his days doing the Bill and Ted movies and Point Break. (Seriously, how dare they attempt to remake that gem?)  Between Speed and The Matrix, those are the two movies I’ve held onto for so long as his career took a more interesting turn; that is until John Wick came along and blew my mind with all the insane coolness that was up on the screen.  Finally it seemed I was on track to getting the Keanu Reeves that I grew up watching.  I know, so what’s the point of all this?  Well, until now, none of the Reeves films that I’ve liked could I really say it was because of his performance, and Exposed is finally the film he’s needed where he can show he’s more than just a brooding action star.
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    The Hateful Eight (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 30th, 2016

    The name Quentin Tarantino carries the weight of legacy as such directors as Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, and more recently Christopher Nolan.  I’m not saying one is better than the other, but simply by name recognition alone Tarantino is in the company of directors that when you hear that his name is attached there will be a loyal fan base flocking to the theaters to see what they have to dazzle us with.  This time around Tarantino returns to the cinema in his biggest release to date; in glorious 70mm we have The Hateful Eight
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    Room (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 17th, 2016

    “When I was small, I only knew small things. But now I’m five, I know everything!”

    Room opens on the day that Jack, the movie’s relentlessly curious young protagonist, turns five. Jack is our entry point and guide through this story, but there’s at least one important thing he doesn’t know. In Room, we see how a mother and her son cope with one of the most harrowing circumstances imaginable. It should make for a grim experience, but this wonderfully-crafted film winds up being a moving story about resilience and how parents and their children can draw strength from one another.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 16th, 2016

    “Perhaps we’ve grown so used to horror, we assume there’s no other way.”

    Given the quantity and quality of death and destruction we’ve witnessed over the previous four years, the most shocking thing Game of Thrones could do in its fifth season was offer a tiny glimmer of hope. After all, optimism in Westeros and Essos is an even rarer commodity than dragons. Yet this batch of episodes probably gives us the clearest glimpse at the endgame of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” saga. (Even as the author’s deliberate pace continues to drive book readers mad.) That being said, don’t think for a second the show has gone soft in its old middle age: Thrones still has the unmatched ability to dazzle and devastate in equal measure.
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    Manhattan: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 14th, 2016

    “There’s always some variable you didn’t account for.”

    Manhattan is one of those variables. It’s one of those dramatic stories where mankind is altered forever. If it weren’t absolutely true, someone would have had to make it up. Every child in schools around the world knows about the atomic bombs that ended World War II. We’ve all seen the terrible destruction that exceeded even the expectations of the scientists and engineers who designed and built these bombs. We all live in the aftermath of these events.
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    In The Heart of the Sea (Blu-ray 3D)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on March 9th, 2016

    “It will be a work of fiction, inspired by truth.”

    That one line best summarizes the entire movie, in my opinion. In In The Heart of the Sea, we are treated to the insight of how Herman Melville was inspired to write what may be considered one of American literature’s biggest epics, Moby Dick. As this is a film based on a true story, naturally we recognize that certain liberties were taken with the specific goal of maintaining the audience’s attention; however, as you watch, I am confident that you will find yourself wanting to believe in the legitimacy of the tale. I know I did.
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    The Americans: The Complete Third Season

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

    They are hard to get…”

    Naturally, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings — the Soviet spies next door at the center of FX’s The Americans — have proven to be exceedingly elusive. Over the course of three seasons and 39 episodes, they’ve dodged numerous close calls from the federal government, enemy agents, and from within their own household. But while various parties have tried to catch the main characters in the act, the thing that makes The Americans one of the very best shows on TV is that it’s actually incredibly easy to “get” Elizabeth and Philip; their efforts to keep their (unconventional) family together are universal.
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    Strike Back : The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 4th, 2016

    “One last mission.” 

    That’s exactly what we’re talking about here. It’s the last mission for our brave Section 20 team. Strike Back follows the exploits that elite and secret British military team called Section 20. On paper they do not exist, but they’ve got all the best new high-tech toys, and they’re going to need every one of them. But after this season they will no longer exist. This is the fourth and final season of Strike Back. It’s time to say goodbye, but there’s a farewell party planned, and this release is it. Let me assure you that Strike Back is going out with a bang… literally.
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    Creed (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 2nd, 2016

    The last time we checked in on Rocky Balboa was 2006. It was a bittersweet coda to a franchise that provided 30 years and six films of the life and times of Rocky Balboa. Some were truly great films. I’d count the first and last as in that category. Some were near misses like the third and fourth films, while the fifth was pretty much a total disaster. In those years and films we watched Rocky go from a hungry Philadelphia wannabe boxer to the champion several times over. Like the franchise, the character had his own highs and lows. There’s no question that the Rocky franchise has gone the distance. And while it might have been a split decision, the Rocky films still stand as the champion of the film genre.
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    Criminal Activities (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on February 22nd, 2016

    My, my, my, it is always interesting to watch established actor leave their comfortable circumstances and explore other areas. I imagine it is easy to be complacent with your work and very difficult to find roles that continuously challenge you, so why not seek out new titles? In the case of Criminal Activities, the actor I am referring to is Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), who makes his director debut with this tale about four men who end up way over their heads. In my experience, actors either hit or miss when they step into the big chair; you can either end up with soul-crushing reviews or an Academy Award. Although this film is unlikely to reach such meteoric heights, I would still call it a success by a large margin.
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    Black Mass (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 17th, 2016

    Before we start, I want you to know something…I’m not a rat.”

    I could get into *a lot* of trouble if anybody found out I was talking to you. After all, there is absolutely, positively nothing worse than a rat, a point that is made crystal clear in Black Mass. But I’m putting my neck on the line here because I figured you’d want to know this fact-based crime drama marks the welcome return of Johnny Depp, who has spent the better part of the past decade in the Magic Kingdom loony wilderness.
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    MI – 5 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 17th, 2016

    On the surface MI-5 looks to be a mundane direct-to-video film attempting to cash in on a couple of things. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is the fifth in the series and often referred to as MI:5. The new James Bond film has a plot involving the head of MI-5 attempting to take down the MI-6 department and our beloved 007. None of these would contribute to the fortuitous name. Rather it’s the difference in racial sensitivity between Britain and the United States. MI-5 is actually a feature-film version of the long-running British series Spooks. The film’s original title happens to be Spooks: The Greater Good.
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    The 33 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on February 16th, 2016

    The Martian, which is about an astronaut stranded on Mars, is one of the biggest hit movies of the summer. By the end of the movie, the entire world is united in their hope that the astronaut will be saved. The Martian is not a true story. The 33 is. It is the true story of 33 miners trapped underground for 69 days in a Chilean gold mine in 2010. The world really does come together in their hopes and prayers for the trapped miners. Even though it is a true story, it also functions as a good old-fashioned disaster flick in the tradition of The Poseidon Adventure or The Towering Inferno. It also showcases Latino actors primarily, but some other big-name actors round out the cast as well.
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    Steve Jobs (Blu-ray)

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

    It’s like five minutes before every launch, everyone goes to a bar, gets drunk, and tells me what they really think of me.”

    During the final act of Steve Jobs — which is less of a biopic and more of a three-act performance piece inspired by the visionary Apple co-founder — the movie winks at its own gimmicky premise. The cheeky reference to the film’s rigid, laser-focused structure is appropriate given that Jobs obsessively measured the design his own products down to the millimeter. The result is a movie that wonderfully mirrors its protagonist: Steve Jobs is enthralling, endlessly imaginative, and kind of exhausting.
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    Spectre (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 13th, 2016

    “You have got a tricky day ahead of you.”

    It’s safe to say that Daniel Craig peaked as James Bond with Skyfall. Sam Mendes was the man who figured out how to make Craig work in the part. The secret wasn’t in the classic images of Bond’s past, but in the future. Instead of trying to mold Craig into Bond, Mendes molded Bond into Craig. It was the right thing to do as long as Daniel Craig was going to continue in the role. With Mendes repeating as director and John Logan from Gladiator and Penny Dreadful fame handling the script, expectations were through the roof for this one.
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    Freeheld (Blu-ray)

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

    The story is the star in Freeheld, which chronicles a same-sex couple’s fight for equality. The film is based on the Oscar-winning documentary short of the same name and follows Laurel Hester, a New Jersey cop with terminal lung cancer, as she attempts to pass her pension benefits to domestic partner Stacie Andree. Despite being a modest production, Freeheld was able to enlist some top-drawer acting talent. Unfortunately, it also attracted a risk-averse team of filmmakers who tell Laurel and Stacie’s story in a thoroughly rote and uninspired manner.
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    Falling Skies: The Complete Fifth Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 5th, 2016

    Our final fight didn’t go as planned. But one thing was clear…this would be the bloodiest battle yet.”

    TNT’s post-apocalyptic, alien invasion war drama has never been short on casualties. So hearing that the last episodes in the show’s run would result in even more losses — human and otherwise — wasn’t exactly a shock. Following a fairly ludicrous cliffhanger, the final season starts off quite promisingly before falling back on some bad habits. Unfortunately, it all culminates with a semi-disastrous series finale.
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    Da Vinci’s Demons: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 4th, 2016

    “It all begins with seeing. So what do you see?” 

    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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    Show Me a Hero (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 4th, 2016

    “Justice is not about popularity…”

    “…but politics is.”

    The title of Show Me a Hero is taken from an F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: “Show me a hero, and I’ll write you a tragedy.”  So it’s not a surprise that in the hands of David Simon — creator of an all-time great drama with The Wire — this HBO miniseries is short on conventional heroics and long on personal, political, and institutional tragedy.
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    Bridge of Spies (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on February 1st, 2016

    Steven Spielberg. Tom Hanks. The Coen Brothers. 1957. The Cold War. Mark Rylance. There are a lot of elements to the stew that is Bridge of Spies. Let’s start with the most important ingredient. Steven Spielberg has been a household name for decades now as the most reliable producer/director of movie entertainment we may have ever seen. His name is so synonymous with big-screen entertainment that he needs no introduction from me. But he has been trying to get away from pure entertainment for a long while now, often with great success.
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    Jack’s Back (Blu-ray)

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

    The 100-year anniversary of the Jack the Ripper murders is quickly approaching, and a copycat serial killer is looking to make his mark in Los Angeles.  With only one murder left, the LAPD is in a rush to prevent this madman from completing his across-the-pond murder masterpiece, and the prostitutes of LA are shaking in their heels and miniskirts.  It’s a great way to start off a film, and I’ll admit I was hooked early on with this film, but if you were hoping for a true modern tale of Jack the Ripper, I’m sorry to say you’ll feel more than a little hoodwinked by this film.
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    The New Girlfriend (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 27th, 2016

    Being a woman’s hard work.”

    Femininity — the quality and essence of being a woman — is at the forefront of The New Girlfriend, a gender-bending and genre-bending offering from French director Francois Ozon. The film is a curious mix of farce, rom-com hijinks, frank sexuality, and serious drama about loss. The formula isn’t always cohesive, but it makes for an intriguing twist on the old “boy meets girl” story.
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