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    Come What May (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 10th, 2017

    Don’t call it a comeback, but World War II movies are having a bit of a renaissance. (Seriously, don’t call it a comeback…they’ve been here for years.) There are seemingly endless ways to approach a WWII story — Hacksaw Ridge and Allied were in theatres recently, while the next few months will bring The Zookeeper’s Wife and Dunkirk — but the majority of movies that actually get made skew toward the American/British perspective. That’s the main reason Come What May — a somewhat sappy, intensely personal film from France — stands out from the pack.
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    In Order of Disappearance (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 21st, 2016

    Coming out of Norway we have In Order of Disappearance, a film I knew nothing about aside from the cover art. To be , it pretty much reminded me of any of the numerous revenge films we’ve seen Liam Neeson in.  Stellan Skarsgard instead stars in this revenge romp that I feel got lost in translation with me.  It’s not that I couldn’t understand the base of the film being a revenge tale; this is very much clear as day, but it is the film’s sense of humor that borders on being dry and black, to other points I feel it’s just a Norwegian thing.  Usually one of the first things I do with a foreign film is I make sure everything is set to the original language track and use the subtitles to follow along (never been a fan of dubbing).
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    Skiptrace (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 3rd, 2016

    You’re no spring chicken anymore.”

    It’s been more than four years since Jackie Chan — the legendary Hong Kong superstar who has been kicking butt and scoring scoring laughs on screen since the 1970s — announced he was retiring from action movies. Sure, Chan quickly backpedaled, but I don’t know that anyone would’ve held it against the actor (who is now 62) if he’d stuck to his word. After decades of grueling injuries, Chan has noticeably slowed down. That being said, the old man still has a few tricks up his sleeve in Skiptrace.
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    The Last King (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 14th, 2016

    Imagine if Three Men and a Baby was remade with just two guys, a baby, a battle axe, and a bunch of arrows. Despite its exceedingly generic Americanized title, The Last King has a little something different to offer action-weary movie watchers. The story is set in a time and place — 13th century Norway during the country’s civil war — that is probably unfamiliar to U.S. audiences. And while much of the hand-to-hand combat and royal treachery will prove cliched to some, they are presented with some fun tweaks and an occasionally sentimental tone that doesn’t always mesh with the hard-hitting action.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” Masks (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on October 8th, 2016

    After the release of The Editor on Blu-ray last year and with the remake of Susperia in the works, it would seem that there is a slow revival of the Giallo film.  For those unaware of the term or style, it’s basically a horror/ mystery film that tended to have slasher elements that emerged out of Italy.  These were beautiful and stylish films that directors like Dario Argento, Mario Bava, and Lucio Fulci were the ambassadors of.  While The Editor was more of a spoof of the genre, though well done, it is Masks that has really gotten my attention.  Though it comes out of Germany, the love and attention to detail in adding so many of the familiar hallmarks of the Giallo film makes Masks more than just a simple homage, but it’s so well executed I could have believed this was a lost Dario Argento film.
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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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    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 Taviani Brothers Collection (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 1st, 2016

    Even though I like to think I’ve seen more movies than the average bear, I’ll admit to having somewhat of a blind spot when it comes to world cinema. So I’m a little ashamed to say I hadn’t even heard of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani — the Italian filmmaking brothers who have worked together all their lives and started making movies in the 1950s — before I picked up this handy three-pack from the Cohen Media Group. The Taviani Brothers Collection features three of the siblings’ most acclaimed work: Padre Padrone, The Night of the Shooting Stars, and Kaos.
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    Paulette (Blu-ray)

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

    I earn money…I meet people…I can pay my debts…I can buy nice things for myself.”

    Taken at face value, all of those pursuits sound totally admirable, especially when you consider that the person earning that money, meeting those new people, and buying those nice things is a bitter old woman who slowly comes out of her caustic shell. I mean, the only minor hiccup here is that Paulette — the title character in this wacky, soufflé-light French comedy — turns her miserable life around by selling drugs.
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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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    Two Men in Town (Blu-ray)

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

    There’s the legal system…procedure…the almost-theatrical aspect of the law. And behind all that…”

    Those words are wearily spoken (in voiceover) by Germain Cazeneuve before we even realize the character is a social worker/passionate prisoner advocate. They also hang in the air until the conclusion of Two Men in Town/Deux Hommes dans la Ville, a blistering takedown of the French judicial system and capital punishment. (France used the guillotine to execute prisoners up until 1981, which is the year the country abolished the death penalty.)
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    The Benoit Jacquot Collection (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 29th, 2015

    Un, deux, trois! Cohen Media Group has given us an engrossing triple dose of French director Benoit Jacquot. The films —The Disenchanted, A Single Girl, and Keep It Quiet — span a decade and coincide with the moment when the post-New Wave filmmaker started gaining international acclaim. Each of the titles makes its HD debut with this release, and they all offer an intriguing look at Parisian life. The movies also feature some enchanting performances from their leading ladies.
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    Welcome to New York (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 27th, 2015

    “This film was inspired by a court case, the public stages of which have been filmed, broadcast, reported and commented on throughout the media worldwide. Nonetheless, the characters portrayed in the film and all sequences depicting their private lives remain entirely fictional.”

    The disclaimer that appears at the top of Welcome to New York is only the first indication that this flawed, unflinching drama — based on the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair — seeks to blur the line between fact and fiction.
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    White God (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 27th, 2015

    At this risk of going all 30 for 30 on you, what if I told you one of the most layered, soulful performances I’ve seen all year comes courtesy of a canine? White God is a hypnotic, Hungarian parable about a girl and her dog. Sounds simple enough, but director Kornel Mundruczo places an unprecedented amount of storytelling responsibility on non-CGI, four-legged performers. The results are occasionally uneven, but frequently spellbinding.
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    Timbuktu (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 25th, 2015

    “Jihadists are people too!” That’s probably the big, blinking takeaway from Timbuktu, director Abderrahmane Sissako’s Oscar-nominated drama about the occupation of the titular city by extreme Islamists. But it’s also the most reductive possible interpretation of a film that doesn’t shy away from portraying some of the beauty in thoroughly ugly circumstances. More importantly, Timbuktu tells a volatile story with tremendous grace.
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    Welcome to Sweden: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on May 25th, 2015

    You move to Sweden…you have no friends, you don’t speak the language, and you don’t have a job.”

    If you think that potentially disastrous scenario sounds like the set up for a sitcom…you’re mostly right. On one hand, that is indeed the exact logline for Welcome to Sweden, a comedy set and produced in the titular country that eventually found its way to NBC. However, the impulsive move to Sweden also happens to be based on the real-life experiences of creator/star Greg Poehler.
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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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    Marie’s Mind for Murder

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 11th, 2015

    I see the crime a bit differently.”

    American television hasn’t quite cornered the worldwide market on unconventional, endearingly quirky investigators. MHz Networks has just released a hearty helping of German cop drama in the form of Marie’s Mind for Murder. Despite the violent crimes being investigated, the show would’ve fit snugly alongside lighthearted whodunnits like USA Network’s Monk or Psych. You get to sample plenty of Murder with this DVD set, considering there are 10 episodes that each clock in at a shade under 90 minutes.
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    Maison Close: Season One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 4th, 2015

    No woman dreams of entering this profession. But it is a real profession…”

    In fact, it’s commonly referred to as “the world’s oldest profession.” We’re talking, of course, about practice prostitution. The profession also happens to be the focus of the soapy, serialized Maison Close, which is set in a 19th century Parisian brothel. And thanks to Music Box Films, Season 1 of the French prostitution drama is now making its U.S. Blu-ray debut.
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    May in the Summer (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 29th, 2015

    Love is an endless act of forgiveness.”

    May Brennan is the best-selling author of a successful book centered around Arabic proverbs. She is played by Cherien Dabis, who is also the writer/director/producer of May in the Summer. Both Dabis and her fictional counterpart use short, pithy phrases like the one above as the basis for exploring familial and romantic relationships. But while May encounters rousing success with her (fictitious, unseen) book, Dabis’ picturesque, breezy, ultimately disposable film is a little bit more of a mixed bag.
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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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    Welcome to the Space Show (Blu-ray)

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

    Welcome to the Space Show looks like what would happen if you combined Steven Spielberg’s E.T. — or the openly-Spielbergian Super 8 and Earth to Echo — with the boundless imagination and quirky charms of anime. The result here is intermittently dazzling, but this particular kid-friendly alien adventure is ultimately less than the sum of its parts.
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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 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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