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    Boardwalk Empire The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 19th, 2015

    “As you know, in less than two hours liquor will be declared illegal by decree of the distinguished gentlemen of our nation’s Congress. To those beautiful, ignorant bastards. Rest assured that, dry though the country may be, I am in the midst of concluding arrangements that will keep Atlantic City wet…”

    HBO has finally released a full series set of Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray. This is an HBO trend that has gone full tilt in the last year, seeing such hits as The Sopranos, True Blood and soon The Wire all coming in wonderful full-series releases. They look great on your video shelf. Together they create a tremendous number of hours of quality television. I love having it all in one place. If you’re new to the show, what better time to climb on board?
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    Broadchurch: The Complete Second Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 18th, 2015

    “Nobody’s innocent. Everyone’s hiding things.”

    The citizens of Broadchurch — the fictional seaside town that was rocked by the murder of a young boy in this superlative British crime drama — learned the above lesson the hard way. In fact, I felt pretty strongly that every compelling secret the series had to offer had surfaced during the show’s outstanding first season. So I was pretty dubious when I heard creator/head writer Chris Chibnall had gotten the band back together for an encore. Having now finished season 2, I’m thoroughly delighted to be proven wrong.
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    The Cobbler (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 14th, 2015

    “To truly know a man, you must walk in his shoes.”

    On the lone special feature of any substance included on this Blu-ray, director/co-writer Thomas McCarthy admits The Cobbler was inspired by the well-known idiom listed above. I’m all for getting as many original ideas on the big screen as possible. But even if you don’t think basing a feature film on a popular saying is a shaky proposition, The Cobbler severely underwhelms because it totally fails to capitalize on its high-concept premise in an intriguing way.
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    Lost River (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 13th, 2015

    Lost River is the showy, laborious, mystifying feature filmmaking debut of actor/meme machine Ryan Gosling. Unfortunately, you’re more likely to have heard about the intensely negative reaction the movie received when it premiered at Cannes last year, than you are to have actually seen the film. Lost River now arrives on a bare bones Blu-ray that does little to clear up — or enhance — Gosling’s first foray into directing. So we’re left to assume he simply decided to make a movie out of his dream journal.
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    Black Or White (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on May 12th, 2015

    There are certain things that are obvious to some of us, and nobody wants to talk about them. All people are full of weaknesses that they then try to deny exist. People are people, but some people think they are better than other people. It seems obvious that we should all try to get over our hatred and be more accepting of all our differences and see how much alike we all are. Black or White is an important movie that comes in the form of a fun and heartwarming melodrama. The movie navigates through very murky and unexplored waters and comes out the other side triumphantly.
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    The Book of Negroes

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 6th, 2015

    Prior to picking up this title from UpcomingDiscs headquarters, The Book of Negroes was a complete unknown to me on several levels. I wasn’t aware of the six-episode miniseries that aired on BET earlier this year, nor had I ever heard of the book of the same name by Canadian novelist Lawrence Hill. Even worse, I was completely unaware of the real-life historical document that served as the inspiration for Hill’s book and this miniseries. So while The Book of Negroes is buoyed by solid storytelling and capable performances, my favorite thing about it is that it shone a light on a part of history that hasn’t totally gotten its due in pop culture.
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    The Gambler (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 30th, 2015

    “I need to know what you are worth when I leave you nothing.”

    These are the parting words that Jim Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is left with from his dying grandfather.  At first these words may seem a bit harsh, but the more time we spend with Bennett we start to understand the grandfather’s intentions.  The Gambler, a remake of the 1974 film with same title, follows Bennett along his downward spiral as his gambling addiction drags him down to the point where death is imminent, yet death seems to be the escape Bennett so desperately craves.  In other words, this is not exactly the film you watch to get into the holly jolly spirit of the holidays. 
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    Inherent Vice (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on April 29th, 2015

    Inherent Vice is the kind of movie I personally love to watch over and over again, partly because it is always tantalizing you with content that you can’t quite get your head wrapped around. Almost anyone would want to see this more than once, even if only to make sure they weren’t stupid for not connecting all the dots. The film has a classy, fun pedigree combing the talents of Paul Thomas Anderson and Thomas Pynchon. Paul is the beloved director of modern classics like Boogie Nights, Magnolia, and There Will Be Blood. Thomas is the novelist of unfathomable masterpieces
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    Cake (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 28th, 2015

    Despite being one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood for the better part of 20 years — Friends premiered in 1994 — it’s been all too easy to dismiss Jennifer Aniston’s big screen resume. Until recent sexpot roles in broad comedies (We’re The Millers, the Horrible Bosses two-logy), most of her hits (Bruce Almighty, Along Came Polly, The Break-Up, Marley and Me) were girlfriend/wife roles that didn’t stray too far from the Rachel Green mold. Cake made less than $2 million at the box office, but it’s also the first movie that made me excited about Aniston’s movie career.
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    John Doe: Vigilante

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 22nd, 2015

    “A vigilante is simply somebody who violates the law in order to punish a criminal for what they believe is right, for what they believe is justice.”

    It’s easy to understand the appeal of big screen vigilante justice. We’ve all gotten tangled up in red tape, which is why it’s so gratifying to watch somebody tear through it. (And often spray some red elsewhere.) John Doe: Vigilante ends up being as ludicrous as any of the 17 Death Wish movies, but it also goes beyond putting the entire blame on “the system.” There are some interesting ideas at play here, including the notion that there’s a little Vigilante in all of us.
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    The Missing (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 14th, 2015

    The longest-running crime dramas tend to be “case of the week” mysteries where the perp is comfortably caught within the hour. It’s a formula for sure, but it’s one that’s easy to replicate and works quite well if you have the right talent and personalities involved. In reality, of course, there are many cases when the crook isn’t captured before the end credits…or ever. The accompanying anger and uncertainty is much trickier (and messier) to convey dramatically. The Missing — a limited series from England that aired on Starz — isn’t the first show to tackle that territory, but it’s certainly a compelling recent example.
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    Manhattan: Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 10th, 2015

    “There’s something I need to tell you. We’re building a weapon. It’s not like any weapon the world’s ever seen. It draws its energy from a fast-neutron chain reaction. It releases the power of an ancient star. If it works, and it’s going to work, it will be the more destructive than all the bombs dropped in all the wars in history put together. It’ll bring armies to their knees. Cities will disappear in the blink of an eye. The world will be united in peace by the most just and noble country in the history of mankind or it will burn to the ground. Whoever builds it first, there’s the endgame. So it has to be us, whatever it costs.”

    It’s one of those dramatic stories where mankind is altered forever.
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    Wild (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 10th, 2015

    “Finish that sentence…why do I have to walk a thousand miles?”

    The answer to that question probably won’t satisfy everyone who watches Wild, which is based on Cheryl Strayed’s first-person chronicle of her 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to Oregon. To some, there simply isn’t a compelling enough excuse to ditch your responsibilities and go on an extended journey of self-discovery. The reason Wild works — besides career-best work from its Oscar-nominated star — is because the ultimate explanation is something simple that most people can relate to: Strayed walked more than 1,000 miles to prove she could do it.
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    Wild Card (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 7th, 2015

    When it comes to screenwriters in the industry, William Goldman is virtually the king of the written word.  From writing such hits as Marathon Man and All The President’s Men to The Princess Bride, Goldman will always be a legend in Hollywood even if it has been a while since his last successful original work.  Wild Card is a remake of the Burt Reynolds version of Heat back in 1986.  It’s been a few decades since watching the film, so instead of trying to remember anything from it how about I just stick to this stylized version?
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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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