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    Shark Week: Dominating the Deep

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

    Discovery Channel’s annual Shark Week extravaganza is billed as “cable’s longest-running programming event.” The summertime ritual premiered in 1988, and its longevity is a testament to viewers’ enduring fascination with the majestic, sharp-toothed creatures. Of course, the flip side of that longevity is that coming up with new material each year is increasingly difficult. As a result, this new Dominating the Deep DVD set features some legitimately thrilling moments alongside a few too many episodes that rely on flimsy science, and myth-making sensationalism to entertain audiences.
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    Last Days of the Nazis

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

    “It’s 1945 and World War II is over. Hitler is defeated. But over eight million Nazis remain. Now Allies must conduct interrogations to identify Nazi offenders, from war criminals to the girl next door. What emerges is a startling history of the rise and fall of the Third Reich from a unique perspective: the Nazis themselves. What you are about to see and hear is based on their real interrogations. This is what they told us.” 

    It’s always been true that history is written by the victors.
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    The Knick: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 17th, 2015

    “Welcome to The Knick.”

    The Knick is the fictional Knickerbocker hotel in 1900 New York. It’s a hospital that was once part of an affluent neighborhood but now finds itself in an area falling to poverty. Still it’s a place where innovations are being made on a daily basis, thanks to an inspired group of doctors led by Dr. J.M. Christiansen (Frewer) and his relentless search to find ways to decrease the mortality rate in surgery patients.
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    Person of Interest: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 17th, 2015

    “We are being watched. The government has a secret system. A machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people. The government considers these people irrelevant. We don’t. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us. But victim or perpetrator, if your number is up, we’ll find you.” 

    The premise of Person Of Interest was turned on its head in season 3. If you are new to the show, don’t even think about starting here.
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    The Killing: The Complete Fourth Season

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

    The Killing will leave behind two lasting legacies: it’s the show that wouldn’t die, and it could never quite stick the landing. The bleak crime drama drew intense criticism after failing to resolve its central mystery at the end of season 1, and was canceled by AMC after wrapping up the Rosie Larsen case in the season 2 finale. The show got a last-minute reprieve when AMC ordered a third season that I personally considered to be show’s strongest. But instead of leaving well enough alone, The Killing returned for a six-episode fourth season on Netflix.
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    2 Broke Girls: The Complete Fourth Season

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

    Everyone on TV has nicer clothes and a bigger home than you do. And I’m not just talking about fictional doctors or lawyers. Even small-screen characters with relatively modest incomes manage to live in palatial apartments. Need proof? The 2 Broke Girls in CBS’s hit sitcom have an apartment that is literally big enough to fit a horse. (Hi, Chestnut.) Season 4 even manages to squeeze in a gaggle of Victoria’s Secret models (Ep. 6/“And the Model Apartment”), and the girls’ building gets a new tenant when lewd line cook Oleg (Jonathan Kite) moves in with larger-than-life upstairs neighbor Sophie (Jennifer Coolidge), leading to the one-liner “the booty call is coming from inside the house.”
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    The Dovekeepers (Blu-ray)

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

    You will remain my prisoners until you’ve told me what really happened in Masada.”

    Those words are spoken by Flavius Josephus, the real-life historian for the Romans who chronicled the Siege of Masada. In The Dovekeepers, Josephus is talking to two iron-willed female prisoners who also happen to be among the few people who survived the attack. Their story is told in flashback, and this two-part miniseries brushes up against some interesting points about who gets to write humanity’s history. But in telling the story from a female perspective — an admirable, out-of-the-box idea — this miniseries reduces a complex, fascinating historical event into a stiff, protracted soap opera.
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    Northmen – A Viking Saga

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on August 14th, 2015

    There are an awful lot of people online who do not approve of Northmen: A Viking Saga, and they base their opinion in one of two things: either it’s a “ripoff” of the popular television series Vikings, or they criticize the film’s historical inaccuracies. I can’t defend the film’s creation being linked to the television show, nor will I pretend to know much about Viking history. However, I can provide an interesting question that will, with out a doubt, provoke some thought about the matter: so what? Through this review, I hope to nullify some of the current dismissive reviews and provide the fair review the film deserves.
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    Sgt. Bilko – The Phil Silvers Show: Season 3

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 13th, 2015

    Phil Silvers was aptly named. If anyone in show business had a silver tongue, it was Phil. He started, like most comedians of the era, in Burlesque and Vaudeville. There he honed the natural talent that would make him one of the first true television stars in the industry. With The Phil Silvers Show he introduced us to the character of Sergeant Bilko. From 1955 to 1959 Silvers and his Bilko character would take the television landscape by storm. In 1956 the show became the very first series in television history to win three Emmy Awards in a single year. That year the wins came in the Best Comedy Series, Best Actor (Silvers) and Best Director. The last honor went to the show’s creator, Nat Hiken. 
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    Mythbusters Collection 13

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 13th, 2015

    “Who are the Mythbusters?” 

    You know who the Mythbusters are, don’t you? They’ve been a staple on the Discovery Channel for over 12 years now. We’re now looking at Collection #13 on DVD. If you really don’t know who the Mythbusters are by now, I can’t think of a better way to get acquainted than to pick up these collections.
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    Hell on Wheels: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 11th, 2015

    “Milk will be spilled.”

    That’s for sure, and you can expect more than a little crying over it all. The saddest news, however, is the coming fifth season will be the show’s final year. You really should not even think about joining the series from this point. I suspect it will still be quite entertaining, but for the full experience you do have to start from the beginning. The evolution of the Cullen character from Civil War veteran out for vengeance to the man who we see in the fourth season is a rather nice journey to witness. So saddle up for the first three. You can find the reviews for other seasons here.
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    I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story

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

    “Everybody in the world knows who Big Bird is.”

    This documentary exists because many fewer people know Caroll Spinney, the man who has inhabited the iconic Sesame Street character for 46 years and counting. (Spinney is also the man behind my personal favorite Sesame Street character, Oscar the Grouch, but working that into the movie’s title would’ve made it truly unwieldy.) The film takes us behind the feathers and works best as a loving tribute to a man who has entertained millions of children across the globe.
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    When Calls The Heart: Heart Of The Family

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on August 11th, 2015

    I’ve heard whispers about this series for quite some time but never really knew much about it. Given that Hallmark is not really a channel I frequent, I suppose not being knowledgeable about it is understandable. I was slightly confused when this disc came across my desk; I was sure if it was a television series or if it was a made-for-television special. Turns out it’s a series which follows a city girl from a prominent family that relocates to a small town and accepts a position as a schoolteacher. Upon her relocation, she catches the eye of a young Mountie. Now given that I’m coming in at the middle of the story, I’m going to ask the readers to bear with me as I get my bearings with this series.
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    Hot Pursuit (Blu-ray)

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

    I realized Hot Pursuit was in big trouble during the sequence when intensely by-the-book Officer Cooper (Reese Witherspoon) accidentally ingests cocaine. The joke is supposed to be that the drug sends Cooper into a comically manic, frenzied state; the problem is the way Witherspoon behaves during this sequence isn’t all that different from the way she’s played Cooper up to that point. And that’s the problem with Hot Pursuit: it’s the movie equivalent of someone who types in ALL CAPS all the time. Even worse, it’s an unholy (and unfunny) mash-up of Midnight Run and Thelma & Louise that shines a blazing spotlight on its leading ladies’ worst qualities.
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    The Comeback: Seasons 1 & 2

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

    What’s this? The Comeback comeback?”

    The most unlikely program to air on HBO over the last year didn’t feature dragons or detectives…it was the story of a diva. Obviously, The Comeback — the rare HBO show that wasn’t granted a second season — isn’t as lavish as Game of Thrones or as ambitious as True Detective. But even for a network with a sterling reputation for taking chances and thinking outside the box, the return of The Comeback as an 8-episode “limited series” was somewhat of a shock.
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    True Story (Blu-ray)

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

    Sometimes the truth isn’t believable. That doesn’t mean that it’s not true.”

    Talk about truth being stranger than fiction! That proverb absolutely applies to the real-life story of Mike Finkel and Christian Longo, two men from seemingly disparate backgrounds who were thrust together by extraordinary circumstances. Their relationship is the basis for True Story, a drama about duality and deception. But while the truth is often stranger than fiction, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more entertaining.
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    Child 44 (Blu-ray)

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

    “There can be no murder in paradise.”

    That was the stand of the Soviet Union’s ruling party during the Cold War. They believed that murder was a capitalist crime. So what happens when a serial killer is killing young boys up and down the railway? That’s the premise of Lionsgate’s Child 44. It’s based on the Tom Rob Smith novel which is part of a trilogy based on the character Leo Demidov. The story itself was based on an actual Soviet Union serial killer named Andrei Chikatilo, who is suspected of killing over 50 children in the 1970’s.
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    Phantom Halo

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on August 7th, 2015

    Petty crime and literature: makes you wonder how often the two coexist. In the case of Phantom Halo, the two coexist quite often and very successfully. The introduction of the literature through the guise of street theater sets the stage for the criminal activity and provides elegance to what would possible been a dull story. However, in my opinion, the two need one another to provide a compelling story. Though admittedly there are times when one aspect seems farfetched or pulls focus from the other, in the long run it is these two themes together that make the overall film exceptional.
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    Appetites

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

    I am a huge fan of the horror genre. Very rarely will I turn a horror film down, no matter how bad it is. This commitment begs the question: what exactly makes a horror film bad? (Although my aim for that question is to be rhetorical, I hope to answer that question through this review of Appetites.) As a horror fan, you typically read the cover of the DVD and already know what you are getting into (for the most part). You decide to lend your time to the film, knowing full well that the odds of watching the next Halloween or The Shining are not in your favor. Regardless, you pop the disc into the player and begin your journey into the unknown, hoping to watch something worth your time. Enter Appetites.
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    Strike Back: The Complete Third Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 5th, 2015

    “This ain’t no place for a hero.” 

    Strike Back follows the exploits of an elite and secret British military team called Section 20. On paper they do not exist, but they’ve got all the best new high-tech toys, and they’re going to need every one of them. They’re going after the top terrorist threats. They combine the intelligence-gathering network of a CIA-type organization with the precision strike force impact of a top Navy Seals team.
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    The Affair: Season One

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 5th, 2015

    The notion that there are two sides to every story is at the center of The Affair. Almost every episode depicts the same events related to the titular adulterous relationship from two different perspectives. It’s an ingenious and inclusive storytelling tool because TV viewers are encouraged to spot the differences in each character’s account of events. (Along with inconsistencies in hairstyles, wardrobe, wallpaper, etc.) That’s why I was somewhat disheartened by the latter portion of the season veering away from what made the show great.
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    Blackbird

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Dan Holland on August 5th, 2015

    Blackbird follows high school senior Randy Rousseau (Julian Walker) as he comes to terms with his sexuality growing up in a small, conservative, Southern Baptist town. To make matters worse, his mother, Claire (Mo’Nique), never quite recovered from the kidnapping of her daughter six years prior; causing her husband (Isaiah Washington) to leave the family. In an effort to make a rather loaded story accessible in a brief synopsis, several other dramas unfold within Randy’s circle of friends: Randy experiments with his sexuality, his secret crush is dating the town pastor’s daughter, and he joins a group of college filmmakers in an effort to find comfort in his true sexuality.
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    I Love Lucy: The Ultimate Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 4th, 2015

    I Love Lucy changed the fledgling television industry in the 1950’s. This was a time when network television was less than a decade old. Most folks had never heard of television just 15 years earlier. I Love Lucy defined the concept of a sitcom. The show was driven by the very strong personalities of the cast. Desi Arnaz was considered a charismatic Latin lover by American women. Lucy played the perfect foil and found a mountain of gold to mine in strong physical comedy. So many modern shows owe their roots to this classic that it would be impossible to mention them all here. Now CBS and Paramount are bringing the show back in brand-new high-definition restored image that will delight even the pickiest fans of the show.
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    The Man from U.N.C.L.E: Season 1

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 4th, 2015

    “In New York City on a street in the East Forties there is an ordinary tailor shop. Or is it ordinary? We enter through the agents’ entrance, and we are now in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. U.N.C.L.E. is an international organization consisting of agents of all nationalities. It’s involved in maintaining political and legal order anywhere in the world.”

    Say Uncle. That’s U.N.C.L.E., otherwise known as the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. Starting in 1964, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was one of a flurry of shows to take advantage of the new James Bond craze. It featured many of the same elements as the super-spy films.
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    Barely Lethal (Blu-ray)

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

    “Who would ever suspect a kid?”

    When I glanced at the Blu-ray cover for Barely Lethal — with its groan-worthy pun of a title, girl power, and generous splashes of hot pink — I didn’t really expect it to be my thing. (Ok, fine…groan-worthy puns are *totally* my thing.) So while I may not be the intended audience for this independent action/comedy, I have to admit its charms snuck up on me the same way one of the film’s disarming young killers might catch a target by surprise.
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