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    Merchants of Doubt (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 8th, 2015

    “I’m not a scientist, although I do play one on TV occasionally. Ok…hell, more than occasionally.”

    The “I’m not a _____, but I play one on TV” catchphrase transcended its humble origins to become the go-to, jokey line for anybody who feels empowered to speak outside their area of expertise. Merchants of Doubt, however, isn’t concerned with soap opera actors trying to sell Vicks on television. Instead, this flashy, funny, well-researched documentary examines the select group of people who present themselves as scientific authorities to the public. It also argues that they purposefully create confusion with the goal of maintaining a very lucrative status quo.
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    Gangland Undercover

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 7th, 2015

    “When I first took the deal to become an undercover informant in a biker gang, I did it to save my own skin. But over the next three years, putting bad guys away became my personal mission. I saw it as a chance to make amends for my past mistakes, but I paid a heavy price. I’m Charles Falco, and this is my story.” 

    So, who the heck is Charles Falco? For a while he was a rather successful meth cook who was pulling in 100 g’s a month. He appeared to have it all: fast cars, big house, and a trophy wife. The problem is that he got hooked on his own product. That leads to mistakes
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    Encore of Tony Duran

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dustin P. Anderson on July 7th, 2015

    We follow Tony Duran, a washed up performer who was never a big name to anyone, and whose life is starting to fall apart. He has become an obese alcoholic who stacks lies on top of lies in order to not seem like the bad guy to the people who still care about him (all two of them). After one last attempt to get some money so he can pay off some of his increasing debt, his son turns away from him. In the aftermath of this, Tony’s friend Jerry challenges him to become a better person. He gets Tony to sing in front of people (like he once did), and Tony’s eyes finally open to the truth. He sets off to lose some weight, stop drinking, and prepare for a show that Jerry has lined up for him.
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    Awaken

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on July 7th, 2015

    Awaken is a fantastic example of the idea that less is more. The film has a great deal going for it: an intriguing story, a rather noteworthy cast, and a strong leading actress, among other things. But at what point do filmmakers decide to say, “when”? Each of the film’s strengths I have listed end up overflowing, causing a rather disappointing mess that could have been avoided with just a little less of everything. Beginning with the interesting concept, the basic plot is as follows: Billie Kope (Natalie Burn) wakes up on an island with no recollection of how she got there.
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    Maggie (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 7th, 2015

    Maggie is a slow zombie movie. You might assume I’m describing where this film falls on the fast zombie vs. slow zombie spectrum. (For the record, the monsters in Maggie do move at a decidedly deliberate pace.) However, the deliberate pace also applies to the way first-time director Henry Hobson unfurls his story in this bleak zombie drama. Everybody in this film — including a playing-against-type Arnold Schwarzenegger — shuffles and lumbers their way through their lives, whether or not they’ve been infected with a lethal virus. In other words, this is pretty much the last thing you’d expect from a movie that has both Schwarzenegger and zombies…and that’s a big reason of why I dig it.
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    Last Knights (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 6th, 2015

    “During the long, dark period of the Great Wars, an elite class of soldier rose from battle. Their unbreakable code was simple: possess a noble heart of courage, right conduct, and absolute devotion to one’s master. From out of those years of bloodshed an empire would emerge. Its power would assimilate persons of every color, creed, and faith. This uncontested rule eroded the traditions of the great knights… but not for all.”

    Last Knights is an ambitious direct-to-video production. It sports a rather elite class of actors headed by Morgan Freeman, who adds a ton of gravitas to any role he plays.
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    I Am Evel Knievel (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 2nd, 2015

    Anybody can jump a motorcycle. The trouble begins when you try to land it.”

    There’s a segment in I Am Evel Knievel that features some of Knievel’s contemporaries — along with a few of the younger extreme sports athletes he inspired — breaking down just how difficult it is to jump a motorcycle across vast distances. (Especially when you’re using relatively primitive equipment the way Knievel was.) Long story short, the crucial components are guts and a mental makeup that doesn’t allow you to overthink or dwell on the insanity of what you’re about to do. This entertaining documentary succeeds in illustrating how Knievel had both of those qualities in spades.
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    The Who: Live At Shea Stadium (1982)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 1st, 2015

    What young 1970’s pup, learning to play a guitar for the first time, didn’t, at one time or another, attempt to imitate Pete Townsend’s windmill power chord strum? I count myself in that group. While I was not a very dedicated Who fan, I had an appreciation for the musicianship. There were still songs like Pinball Wizard and Behind Blue Eyes that I would embrace as if they were my own anthems in those days. It would be hard to deny that The Who is one of the most successful rock bands in history. Part of the original British Invasion of the 1960’s, there are few such acts that are even still around, let alone able to fill the huge stadiums and halls of Rock’s yesteryears.
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    We Are Monster

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on July 1st, 2015

    Interpretation, that’s pretty much all a true crime story is. The thing about interpretation is it does not guarantee an accurate account of the facts, just one person’s perspective of transpired events, meaning what you see could either be true, partially true, or a complete fabrication.  When it comes to We are Monsters, what you believe will be entirely up to you, because it definitely doesn’t pull any punches whatsoever. Told from the perspective of the killer, the story shows his decline into madness as well as a multitude of flashbacks that simply left me questioning how this guy wasn’t locked away sooner and why the key wasn’t encased in a concrete slab.
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    Soldate Jeanette

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on July 1st, 2015

    It is always a privilege to watch an Official Selection of the Sundance Film Festival.  I have had the pleasure to screen a few films from Sundance 2013, and I have not been disappointed. Soldate Jeanette (‘Soldier Jane’ translated to English) is not the most captivating I have seen from Sundance, but with its digital camera aesthetics and visually striking images, it definitely carries a certain charm. Director Daniel Hoesl’s first feature-length film focuses on Fanni, an aging woman who is faced with eviction from her apartment. Fanni considers rent an unnecessary expense after twenty long years of living in her home, so she has refused to pay rent for the last three.
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    Lazarus Effect (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 29th, 2015

    “There’s always a consequence for breaking the rules.”

    Maybe that’s why the crew from The Lazarus Effect decided to use all of the rules and conventions in the book without daring to really break any new ground of its own. By the time I was finished with the film, I felt like I had watched several horror movies at the same time. It’s most intentionally Frankenstein meets Flatliners meets insert-your-favorite-ghost/possession-movie meets every-Stephen-King-film-ever-made. With all of that at its fingertips and a pretty bright cast, all The Lazarus Effect could do was raise itself to mediocrity.
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    The Forger (Blu-ray)

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

    It honestly took me a while to get over the opening shot of The Forger. The shot itself is rather unremarkable: it’s a simple close-up of star John Travolta sitting in a small room by himself and staring straight ahead. But between his ridiculously obvious wig and the waxy texture of his face — the actor now looks like he’s wearing a Michael Myers-style “John Travolta” mask — I knew it was going to be pretty difficult to take him seriously, no matter who or what was playing. It’s a shame because there’s actually a pretty decent family drama to be found within The Forger.
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    Pandas: The Journey Home (Blu-ray-3D)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 26th, 2015

    “In these mountains roams one of the rarest species on our planet. A shy, elusive, and gentle creature: the giant panda.”

    If you are old enough you will remember President Richard Nixon’s famous trip the China. He was the first President to make the voyage, and it was heralded as a foreign policy breakthrough for the nation. Long after, the hoopla had died down and the only time it seemed Nixon was in the news was for Watergate. But even amid the scandal, one bright legacy of that trip remained for years to come. That was, of course, the Chinese gift to the United States to celebrate the event. We received two pandas named Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing that would capture the hearts of a nation even as Nixon was losing them
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    Country Bucks Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 25th, 2015

    “We’re just a typical American family that just happens to run a multimillion dollar outdoor empire. We create, test and sell the world’s coolest products for the modern outdoorsman, and we find our inspiration on a little slice of Heaven called the Busbice Family Ranch in Louisiana.”

    Sounds like an infomercial, doesn’t it? It’s actually the intro to A&E’s latest in their collection of redneck families who happen to be in the dough. If you like Duck Dynasty, this show was made for you. It’s another one of those eccentric families in the outdoors business. With names like Uncle Hard Luck, these guys fit right in with the Robertson family over at Duck Dynasty.
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    Lost For Words

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Deborah Bostock-Kelley on June 25th, 2015

    Right off the bat, the first 10-minute flashback in Lost for Words that repeats verbatim at the end could have been left on the cutting room floor. If you’re looking for an in-your-face, action-packed summer blockbuster, this isn’t for you. If you have more sophisticated tastes and are seeking a slow to medium-paced love story that transcends country and race, Lost for Words tells the beautiful bilingual tale of American ex-Marine-now-IT-guru Michael and Chinese modern dance ballerina Anna.
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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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    If You Build It

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dustin P. Anderson on June 23rd, 2015

    Design activists Matt and Emily come to a small town in North Carolina which is struggling to get by. Their goal is to start Project H, a design class for high school students, to help get kids interested in school and lift the town out of a recessive period. The students start by building things as simple as a cornhole game, to designing a real building for a farmers market to help the town. Matt and Emily must work against incredible odds, like not getting a salary for their work and an oppressive school board, in order to see this dream come to reality.
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    Gunslingers: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on June 23rd, 2015

    “My name is – . This is my true story like it’s never been told before.” 

    You can fill in that blank with any one of six names or groups for the first season of Gunslingers. Each episode picks up the story of a legendary icon of the West. We’re not talking about the fictionalized characters from the long run of television westerns. These are the real infamous gunfighters whose history has become the stuff of mythology over the years. The episodes are told from the point of view of that week’s subject, as played by an actor, of course. Other parts are also played out, but the focus is the point of view of that gunslinger.
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    7 Cases

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dustin P. Anderson on June 23rd, 2015

    Floyd is a down-on-his-luck ex-bank robber who has had enough of his current life and wishes to pull one last heist with his old partner Mitch. The two plan the robbery, quit their meaningless jobs, and complete the job, getting five hundred thousand dollars in cash split between seven cases. After their success, they go to a remote hideout to wait out the authorities and celebrate. The next day, they discover their money is gone and has been replaced with a cassette tape. A voice on the cassette tape tells them that there are torture devices attached to seven people the duo knows, and their cases of money are with them
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    The Wrecking Crew (Blu-ray)

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

    What do Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, The Monkees, and Nat King Cole have in common? (Besides, of course, their undisputed status as musical icons and the adoration of millions of fans.) Well at various points in their illustrious careers, they were each backed by The Wrecking Crew, a tight-knit group of session musicians responsible for cranking out some of the most familiar hits of all time. This documentary is a lively love letter to that incredibly charismatic and cohesive group, whose contributions remained largely anonymous for decades.
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    Side Piece

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on June 19th, 2015

    This was one of the best documentaries that I have seen in a long time. Very engaging, and it covers subject matter that everyone already has an opinion on: infidelity. Of course you can tell from the appropriately coined title that it focuses on the idea of individuals in a committed relationship who seek additional gratification outside their relationship. This documentary does a good job of addressing all expects of this topic including how media outlets such as poplar television series and reality portray the stigma. Broken down into multiple sections, we are even treated to hearing from celebrities as well as the public about their opinions of having or being a side piece. It was a truly illuminating experience.
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    The Newsroom: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

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

    “We’re not in the middle of the third act. We just got to the end of the first.”

    Aaron Sorkin almost definitely knew The Newsroom had been simultaneously renewed for a third season and canceled when he wrote those words, which come at the end of the season 3 premiere. It’s a winking and bittersweet bit of writing for a show that seemingly infuriated as many more people than it delighted over the course of 25 episodes. (Which apparently amounts to a single season of Pretty Little Liars.) So how else would you expect The Newsroom to go out than with moments of singular brilliance mixed in with a few controversial bangs?
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    Time Lapse

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dustin P. Anderson on June 18th, 2015

    We find three roommates, all not living up to their potential: a starving artist, a struggling writer, and a desperate gambler. While their dreams fall to the wayside, they work for the apartment complex they live in, performing maintenance and checking on tenants. One day the landlord calls for them to check on someone who is behind on their rent. They find that the man who lives there is dead, and seems to have been taking photos of them without their knowledge; however, these are photos set a day in the future taken by a strange machine.
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    Run All Night (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on June 17th, 2015

    “Tell everyone to get ready.  Jimmy is coming.” 

    If someone were to tell me while walking out of Schindler’s List that 20 years later Liam Neeson would be an action star, I would have thought they were out of their mind.  Between the trio of Taken films and numerous films that seem to be cut from the same ilk, Liam Neeson seems to be walking in the same footsteps as Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood as being the go-to everyman who just so happens to be a badass with or without a gun.
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    Beyond the Reach (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 17th, 2015

    I’m hard pressed to think of a movie star who is better at playing rich a-holes than Michael Douglas. He’s played a Murderous Rich A-Hole, a Rich A-Hole Who Gets Put In His Place, and a Self-Destructive Rich A-Hole, to name just a few. And that’s not even counting his Oscar-winning turn as Gordon “Greed is Good” Gekko, the Definitive Rich A-Hole. It’s tempting to tidily sum up Beyond the Reach as “Gekko’s Got a Gun.” Unfortunately, what starts out as a picturesque two-hander becomes more preposterous as it goes along before completely flying off the rails in the final act.
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