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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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    Capital (Blu-ray)

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

    “People believe money is a tool. Money is the master; the better you serve it, the better it treats you.”

    That mantra — spouted by a ruthless hedge fund manager in Capital — may not be as succinct or as elegant in its simplicity as “Greed is good,” but the message remains the same. Most people see money as a means to an end, but to the financial masters of the universe in this French financial thriller, money is the end.
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    Journey to the West (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 2nd, 2014

    When Stephen Chow came out with Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle he delivered martial arts in a way like we never had seen before.  It’s not just that he blended humor with his action but it was that he was able to manage to make his characters function as you would imagine cartoon characters would in the real world.  The road runneresque chase scenes from Kung Fu Hustle are the first visuals that come to mind any time I think of the name Stephen Chow.  Now that he has Journey to the West making its way to Blu-ray, does he still have what it takes to make a hit or has he simply returned to the well already?
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    The Color of Lies (Blu-ray)

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

    On the surface, The Color of Lies resembles many other murder mysteries set in a close-knit community. The 1999 film, however, is a late-career effort from Claude Chabrol, the French New Wave director who first gained acclaim alongside contemporaries like Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut in the late 1950s. So it’s not surprising to learn The Color of Lies is really a subtle, stylish exploration of the various ways people deceive each other.
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    Big Bad Wolves (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 28th, 2014

    It’s movies like Big Bad Wolves that keep me excited about cinema.  After all, who would guess that Israel would produce this savagely dark fairy tale revenge film that is also one of the darkest comedies I’ve seen in some time with a visual aesthetic you’d expect from a Coen brothers film, but the violence and humor you’d expect from a film by Tarantino.  My first time viewing this film was via On Demand a few months ago; more and more I feel the cable companies are onto something by acquiring these little films and releasing them pay-per-view so that those not in New York and Los Angeles can experience these films before having to wait months longer for their DVD or Blu-ray release.
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    Mobius (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on April 17th, 2014

    “I’d have loved to be a spy, but it’s a dangerous game and it pays s—.”

    For a lot of moviegoers, the word “spy” evokes tuxedos, gadgets, and exotic accents. Möbius — a French/Russian production from French filmmaker Eric Rochant — only employs the last of those tropes while falling in line with more low-key espionage adventures like Three Days of the Condor and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that this film gets up to some subterfuge of its own; Möbius is a love story posing as a spy thriller.
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    Kingdom of Conquerors

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 20th, 2014

    “So long as my enemies are alive, I will not die.”

    During his lifetime, Genghis Khan reigned over one of the biggest empires the world has ever seen. There are literally dozens of action-packed epics that could be made about his various battles as head of the Mongol Empire, which included portions of China, Russia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. But Kingdom of Conquerors curiously focuses on the one adversary Khan couldn’t vanquish: death.
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    Commitment (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 18th, 2014

    OK, in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a sucker for South Korean action cinema.  Sure, the 90’s were ruled by Hong Kong, but for about a decade South Korea has been killing it by putting out some of the most visually stunning action films in years.  For a quick crash course in how simply bad-ass and epic their cinema is, I highly recommend checking out The Chaser and A Bittersweet Life.  With Commitment we get a new entry in the spy genre that hasn’t been explored stateside.
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    Beyond Outrage (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 13th, 2014

    Takeshi Kitano is to yakuza films as Robert DeNiro is to American gangster films.  Whether it is in front of or behind the camera, Beat (his stage name) Takeshi has had a long, fruitful career, with many of his successful films like Sonatine. Fireworks, Brother and Outrage delving into the Japanese criminal underworld.  His talents don’t only fall between acting and directing; he’s also worked as editor and writer for many of his films.  He’s an artist whose films have found their way onto US shores, and for those that are fans of yakuza cinema, when a new film by Beat Takeshi comes along, it’s something you simply have to check out.
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    You Will Be My Son (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 27th, 2014

    They say you can’t choose your family, but apparently that well-known phrase never made its way to France. At the very least, no one bothered to tell Paul de Marseul, the legacy-obsessed vineyard owner at the center of You Will Be My Son (Tu Seras Mon Fils.) Cohen Media Group gave this tasty 2011 French offering a theatrical release last year, and now the film — which alternates between being a picturesque delight, a tense family drama, and a thriller — arrives on Blu-ray.
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    The Prey (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 24th, 2014

    In the 1990s, the French action films of Luc Besson (La Femme Nikita, Leon: The Professional) and Euro-centric offerings like John Frankenheimer’s Ronin provided a sleeker, more exotic alternative to the outsize, muscle-bound exploits of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Van Damme. Besides movies with the words “Fast” or “Furious” in their title, American action flicks have mostly moved away from lo-fi, knucklehead thrills and turned to PG-13 heroes in CGI adventures. Meanwhile, European filmmakers have stayed in their stylish, car/foot-chase-loving lane. The result is entertaining yarns like The Prey/La Proie, which stands out thanks to its thuddingly simple action movie pleasures.
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    The Hunt (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 16th, 2013

    “People always work from the assumption that children are telling the truth.”

    Kids really do say the darndest things! Popular kindergarten teacher Lucas finds this out the hard way after his life is shattered in The Hunt, an outstanding and indelible Danish drama that will almost surely pick up a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nomination when the nods are announced in about a month. The film tackles a touchy (no pun intended) subject with great care. It also raises a number of provocative points about perception versus reality.
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    Starbuck

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 9th, 2013

    High concepts don’t come much loftier than the one behind Starbuck. An underachieving slacker learns he has fathered 533 children thanks to frequent deposits at a sperm bank 20 years earlier. In fact, the premise was so nice, writer/director Ken Scott decided to do it twice. Vince Vaughn will star in an American remake later this year called Delivery Man. Whether you’re excited for the new film or you think it looks stupid, I highly recommend you give the funny and touching French-Canadian original a look.
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    23:59

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 24th, 2013

    “Midnight is the most evil part of the night. If someone dies at 23:59 hours, his soul will not rest in peace and will return to the mortal world.”

    Every culture has its own set of ghost stories. They’re usually passed around very late at night by a group of very impressionable young people. That’s precisely where 23:59 — an atmospheric and thoroughly effective Malaysian/Singaporean horror flick — picks up, with a group of army recruits on an island training camp sitting around telling spooky tales. The only thing missing was the campfire.
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    This Girl Is Badass (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on June 11th, 2013

    When it comes to martial artists out of Thailand, the big go-to name people seem to know is Tony Jaa (Ong-Bak).  But Thailand has another martial arts star, and after finishing This Girl is Badass I’m convinced Jeeja Yanin is going to be the bigger star.  Most may recognize Jeeja from the 2008 film Chocolate; after the last thirty minutes of that film I was ready to see her in more action.  Though she’s had other titles released since Chocolate, This Girl is Badass gets to be the follow-up film since her 2008 release.
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    Escape (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on May 15th, 2013

    In 1363, the Black Plague had done its damage, leaving most infected areas uninhabitable. Escape — known in Norway as Flukt — is the story of a family that sets out into the countryside to get away from the plague and hopefully find a new place to rebuild their lives. But just as I’m thinking this is going to be a movie about sticking together and fighting to survive the elements, it shifts gears to something far darker but not all that original.
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    Dragon (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 22nd, 2013

    Donnie Yen continues to deliver one great martial arts film after the other, easily making him the most entertaining martial arts star for quite some time.  Sure, there are those who cling to the idea of Bruce Lee being “the best” or perhaps mentioning Jackie Chan or Jet Li for more modern viewers.  But for me it’s Yen, and I have no problem saying he may be the best martial arts star of all time.  His work with Ip Man, Seven Swords, and Flash Point are staples in a career that has been going since 1984.
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    The Big Picture (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 16th, 2013

    Sometimes a movie comes along that rises above simple entertainment and actually has something to say.  The Big Picture is the kind of movie that has profound ideas about love, family, and the pursuit of your dreams.  Is it possible to really have it all?  The perfect spouse, the perfect family and live out your lifelong passion and dream?  Many who have families, especially when starting young, can understand the idea of sacrifice for their families; it doesn’t mean they just cast their hopes and dreams aside, but once marriage and children are involved the direction your life may take was never the direction you had planned at all.
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    That Obscure Object of Desire (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 3rd, 2013

    “I’ve changed a lot. I’m not the same woman.”

    Early on in Luis Buñuel’s surrealist gem, a mild-mannered older gentleman named Mathieu douses a beautiful, battered woman with a bucket of water as she desperately attempts to board the train he’s riding. His fellow passengers are stunned, but also understandably intrigued. What possible sequence of events could’ve led Mathieu to this cold and cartoonish gesture? It’s an irresistible hook, and Mathieu proceeds to regale the other travelers —
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    Kiss Me

    Posted in Disc Reviews by William O'Donnell on November 26th, 2012

    Mia is a successful architect who has recently become engaged to her boyfriend Tim. While attending her father’s own engagement party she starts a flirtation with her soon-to-be sister in law. From there, a full on romance blossoms that looks to tear apart all she had established with her fiancée, and the rest of her family.
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    Legendary Amazons (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 13th, 2012

    Ever wonder what a martial arts epic directed by Baz “Moulin Rouge” Luhrmann would look like? Me neither. But that’s pretty much what we get with Legendary Amazons, (loosely) based on the exploits of the Yang family during the Song Dynasty. The story has an intriguing hook — the men of the Yang clan are massacred in battle, leaving their women to throw on armor and take to the battlefield — but is ultimately bogged down by its cartoonish tone and embarrassingly bad production values.
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    White Vengeance (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 3rd, 2012

    “A military mystery that lasted 2,000 years.”

    White Vengeance assumes a certain level of knowledge about ancient Chinese history that, except for all you ancient Chinese history scholars reading this review, most of us don’t have. As a result, the film’s disorienting opening act had me constantly backtracking to figure out who was who, and why they were betraying or trying to assassinate each other. In other words, I started to feel like getting to the end of this ambitious movie might take a little under 2,000 years.
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    The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (Special Edition) (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by M. W. Phillips on August 29th, 2012

    “We decided to tour round Serbia. We’ll go to villages. It will be interesting to see farmers’ reactions to our sexual provocations. Sexual education for Serbs. Widening the horizons. This is our guerilla mission.”

    I like to think I am not a prude. My taste in film runs to the controversial, and I don’t shy away from extreme cinema. I think Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom and Caligula are masterpieces; A Serbian Film impressed and affected me, although I have no intention of watching it again
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    My Way (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 21st, 2012

    “An Asian man wearing a German uniform was discovered by the U.S. military at Normandy on D-Day. Upon questioning, he was identified as a Korean.”

    My Way cannily opens with this bit of real-life information. As the movie reaches its heartbreaking conclusion, we know only one of a pair of lifelong rivals-turned-friends — one Korean, one Japanese — will make it to the end.
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    Casa de mi Padre (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 17th, 2012

    All funny ideas are not created equal. A concept that may have audiences laughing their heads off for a few minutes could wind up being absolutely torturous when stretched to feature film length. Few people know this better than Will Ferrell, one of the most popular and successful Saturday Night Live alumni of all time. He’s cracked people up on the small-screen and in multiple comedic blockbusters.
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