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    Boardwalk Empire: Season 5 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 22nd, 2015

    “If we’re good today, we’ll be better tomorrow.”

    The final season of Boardwalk Empire breaks the mold of what the show has been for the first four years. The action jumps ahead several years to 1931. It’s a necessary plot point if we’re going to be ending the popular series in the fifth season. I understand the jump and why it works. I guess my only real question is: why are we jumping ahead to end what is one of the best shows on television?
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    Boyhood (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on January 20th, 2015

    Boyhood is all the rage right now. With all the hoopla surrounding the film, it should be noted that it is ordinary. It is just about people living their lives. One could even call it boring. One can say that because life is boring. It is not as exciting as it is in the movies. Life is about small moments that add up to memories and then it is over. Boyhood doesn’t make grand statements about boyhood, or about motherhood or fatherhood for that matter. It is just about a few people and what happens to them.
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    Viktor

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 20th, 2015

    We can blame thank Liam Neeson — or “Liam Neesons” — for this recent run of action movies about men of a certain age who tear their way through some part of Europe in the name of their missing or dead children. Viktor — a French/Russian production starring Gerard Depardieu and Elizabeth Hurley — is one of these latest Taken take-offs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the more inert revenge films you’re likely to see.
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    The Identical (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 19th, 2015

    What if Elvis Presley had an identical twin brother no one ever knew about? (It would certainly help explain all those Elvis sightings years after the King’s death.) That’s the kooky conceit at the center of The Identical. Unfortunately, rather than embracing the absurdity of its premise, the movie is an amateurish, uninspiring combination of “by-the-numbers musical biopic” and “painfully-earnest family drama.”
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    Bad Turn Worse

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 15th, 2015

    There are 32 ways to tell a story, but there’s only ever one plot…that things are not what they seem.”

    Early on in Bad Turn Worse, a character mentions this maxim credited to writer Jim Thompson (“The Grifters”, “The Killer Inside Me”) apropos of almost nothing. It’s kind of a clunky, inauthentic interjection, but the message is clear and crafty: directors Simon and Zeke Hawkins know they’re not re-inventing the wheel in terms of plot, so where they really hope to grab your attention is in how they present their stylish, well-acted feature film debut.
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    Banshee: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 14th, 2015

    “There will be casualties”

    Alan Ball got my attention in 2001 with HBO’s black comedy Six Feet Under. It was one of the most original shows I had ever seen, and to this day I find it hard to characterize the series when asked to do so. It was there that he also introduced me to Michael C. Hall, who continues to amaze me in the role of Dexter over at Showtime. When Six Feet Under left the airwaves, Ball didn’t waste very much time in bringing his quirky style back, this time to the horror genre
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    Tyrant: The Complete First Season

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

    “Those who are feared make peace. Those who are kind get killed.”

    Both temperaments are well represented throughout the first season of Tyrant, FX’s Middle East-set family drama. I say “family drama” because even though the show features plenty of political power plays and double-crosses, Tyrant is at its best when it focuses on the rotting and crumbling of the central Al-Fayeed clan. Call it Godfather-lite.
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    Men, Women & Children (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on January 13th, 2015

    The internet is destroying everything. It seems crazy, but it’s true, and most people know it. I mean that so many businesses have been destroyed by the tremendous growth of the internet and its insidious and unchecked influence. The newspaper business, music business, broadcast business and probably the movie business have been fundamentally and permanently altered. Men, Women and Children addresses how it affects each and every one of us on a daily basis. We’re all aware of this. It’s our lives now, and it wasn’t 10 years ago.
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    Looking: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

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

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might be how thoroughly unremarkable it is. This is a double-edged sword for HBO’s dramedy, which follows the love lives of three gay friends living in modern-day San Francisco. The series sidesteps the headline-grabbing sensationalism that accompanies many other shows that prominently feature gay characters. (Looking at you, Ryan Murphy.) On the other hand, Looking is often low-key to the point that it bypasses being funny or particularly entertaining. What the series does have on its side is a naturalistic tone that makes the show more engrossing and immersive as the first season progresses.
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    This Is Where I Leave You (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 18th, 2014

    Everybody’s sad or angry or lying or cheating.”

    That seems to be the state of the four adult Altman children even before they are thrust back together following the death of the family patriarch. This Is Where I Leave You has all the makings of a great dysfunctional dramedy. It has a terrific cast and is based on the very popular book by Jonathan Tropper, who wrote the screenplay. Yet the movie comes up well short of delivering on its promise. Despite some strong acting, a handful of funny beats, and a passing similarity to another ensemble movie where characters who were formerly close are brought back together by a funeral, this movie is less Big Chill and more “Big Shrill.”
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    The Skeleton Twins (Blu-ray)

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

    “You know what the sad thing is? We’re a good team.”

    Up until they teamed up to star in The Skeleton Twins, there was nothing sad about the team of Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. Regardless of how you feel about the quality of Saturday Night Live in recent years, Wiig (the only cast member to earn an Oscar nomination — for co-writing Bridesmaids — while still appearing on the show) and Hader (with “Stefon” and a laundry list of impressions that ranged from Alan Alda to Al Pacino) were clear standouts. So you’d expect their first post-SNL big-screen team up to be a laugh riot. That’s not exactly the case.
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    The Newsroom: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)

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

    “We don’t have the trust of the public anymore.”

    - “Get it back!”

    The Newsroom took a pretty decent beating during its first season. Sure, plenty of people praised the show’s exceptional acting and ambition, but too much of the conversation seemed to revolve around its flaws and its polarizing creator. In this Blu-ray set’s bonus material, Aaron Sorkin cops to being “overly earnest” and “aggressively uncool” in his work.
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    Step Up: All In (Blu-ray)

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

    Does it always have to end up in a big giant dance battle?”

    If you’ve ever sat through a dance movie, then you know the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Dance flicks are a somewhat different beast than movie musicals; they are less whimsical and tend to take themselves more seriously, which invariably makes them seem even sillier. Some of the movies in this genre — Dirty Dancing and Footloose — are beloved guilty pleasures. (And many people who love them don’t even bother feeling guilty.) In recent years, the “dance flick” itch for moviegoers has been scratched by the Step Up franchise.
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    “31 Nights of Terror” A Letter to Momo (Blu-ray)

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

    As the spookiest holiday of the year draws closer, we’re all probably a little more sensitive to anything that goes bump in the night. Almost every creature associated with Halloween is meant to terrify us, but what if some of those horrific-looking monsters were actually tasked with watching over us? In the Japanese animated drama A Letter to Momo, a young girl encounters a trio of mischievous spirits that only she can see and hear. The monster shenanigans, however, were merely one aspect in what turned out to be one of the more affecting family films I’ve seen this year.
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    The Prince (Blu-ray)

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

    “That man brings hell with him wherever he goes.”

    The “man” is supposed to be Paul Brennan (Jason Patric), a retired mob enforcer-turned-unassuming auto mechanic who reluctantly returns to his violent ways after his daughter goes missing. But the real culprit might be director Brian A. Miller. With The Prince and this year’s The Outsider, the director has made two consecutive sub-Taken crime dramas that lack the cohesion, refinement or energy to work even as satisfyingly junky action movies.
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    The Last Supper (Blu-ray)

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

    “Kings are made, not born.”

    It’s a provocative thesis for any story, especially since the same debate about kings has played out over centuries’ worth of world history. Unfortunately, filmmaker Lu Chuan largely decided to take a “tell, don’t show” approach with The Last Supper, which depicts the last gasp of China’s Qin dynasty and the rise of the Han dynasty and its commoner-turned-emperor.
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    Nashville: The Complete Second Season

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

    If you’ve ever asked someone, “What kind of music do you listen to?”, chances are you’ve heard the phrase, “I like everything…except country.” By that logic, a significant portion of TV viewers automatically dismissed ABC’s Nashville when it premiered two years ago. The flawed, entertaining musical drama has deservedly made it to a third season, which kicked off a few weeks ago. However, I think it’s useful to revisit Nashville‘s sophomore season. This set of episodes significantly re-calibrated the series — not always for the better — and marked the start of a shift toward the version of the show that is currently on the air.
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    Reign: The Complete First Season

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

    Politics, backstabbing, murder…just another day at French court.”

    The creators of Reign — the CW’s campy, compulsively-watchable adaptation of the Mary, Queen of Scots saga — seem to be perfectly aware of their audience. I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say no one turns to the CW — home of DC heroes, vampires, and other Supernatural beings — for gritty realism or historical accuracy. So it really shouldn’t be a surprise to find the monarch’s life has been turned into a handsome, soapy, frequently ridiculous drama that will nevertheless make European History teachers around the world facepalm in unison.
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    Revenge: The Complete Third Season

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

    - “Let’s never say the words ‘Carrion’ or ‘Initiative’ ever again.”

    - “Amen to that.”

    “Carrion” was a tedious MacGuffin of a computer program. “The Initiative” was the shadowy, faceless organization responsible for the terrorist attack pinned on the father of Revenge heroine Emily Thorne. Together, they combined to make the sophomore season of ABC’s formerly scorching-hot nighttime soap a tiresome chore.
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    The Rover (Bluray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 23rd, 2014

    “You should never stop thinking about a life you’ve taken.  That’s the price you pay for taking it.”

    In 2010 David Michod directed his first full-length feature Animal Kingdom. It was a critical success, and he went on to pick up a Best Director award with the Australian Directors’ Guild.  Now Michod has completed his sophomore effort, The Rover, which does explore some familiar ground with criminal families, but the film takes a more introspective approach to life and what matters most in the world when you believe you have nothing left to lose.
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    Spartacus: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 17th, 2014

    “Spartacus’ mongrel horde has swelled with each passing victory since Glaber’s defeat at Vesuvius. They added thousands to rank liberating the mines of Lucania. Slaves across the Republic, humble and grateful to their masters for so many years, have broken to treachery in the wake of the ever-expanding legend of Spartacus.”

    Starz has had a pretty good run with their Spartacus series. Coming off the style of blood and violence that was popularized with Zach Snyder’s 300, Spartacus brought that comic book/graphic novel intensity to television.
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    Richard Lewis: Bundle of Nerves

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

    Some of the most iconic stand-up comics of all time have famously wrestled with personal demons while simultaneously mining them for material on stage. Few have done so more successfully — and for a longer period of time — than Richard Lewis. His neurotic, self-flagellating act earned Lewis his “Prince of Pain” nickname, but his longevity is just as impressive. The fact is a lot of great comics don’t last as long as Lewis because they lose that battle with their demons too soon. So it’s great to see that, at age 67, Lewis finally gets his due with a DVD set that covers some of his most seminal work.
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    Born to Race: Fast Track (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 9th, 2014

    Drag racing is for fast cars. Road racing…that’s for fast drivers.”

    I imagine that distinction — along with one character scolding another for pulling a “Vin Diesel stunt” — is meant to set this straight-to-DVD racing drama apart from the Fast & Furious franchise. That separation is an interesting choice for a couple of reasons. On one hand, I assume it’s been easier to finance any car-centric flick ever since a certain high-octane film series proved there’s an audience for the genre. Then again, the increasingly staggering success of the Fast movies seems to be directly proportional to how ludicrous they’ve become.
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    Night Moves

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

    There are movies that can be described as slow burns, and then there’s Night Moves. Director Kelly Reichardt frames much of her 112-minute thriller in a way that invites you to pay an inordinate amount of attention to the lush greenery, winding trails, and tranquil water the film’s three protagonists go to dangerous lengths to preserve. The extended, quiet sequences and exceedingly simple plot also encourage viewers to fill in spaces in the story that seem to have been intentionally left blank. This deliberate approach will undoubtedly infuriate and bore some people, but I personally found it absorbing enough to recommend as an unconventionally tense drama.
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    High School Confidential! (Blu-ray)

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

    “You have just seen an authentic disclosure of conditions which unfortunately exist in some of our high schools today. The job of policemen will not be finished until this insidious menace to the schools of our country is exposed and destroyed.”

    “Authentic” is probably a stretch, but High School Confidential! is certainly fascinating for a variety of reasons. Every generation has an alleged scourge that invades high schools and threatens to rip apart the very fabric of society. (Cue masterpiece eye roll.) In 1958, that menace went by the name “Mary Jane.”
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