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    Army Of One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 23rd, 2016

    It’s been a while since Nicolas Cage has been in a big studio-released film.  It doesn’t mean he’s doing bad movies; it just means he’s not doing any tent-pole releases that flood the multiplex.  Seeing Nicolas Cage in a film like Army of One is simply a snapshot of how modern cinema has to evolve for better or for worse.  Really, I don’t mean to come off as though this is a bad film or inferior to any other films past or present, but ten years ago this is a film that would have had a much wider release and would easily have gotten more attention.  After all, who could resist Nicolas Cage in a film helmed by the director of Borat?
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    Clown (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 1st, 2016

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I have a fear of clowns, but more of the people beneath the paint. I’m not sure if anyone has recently seen in the news, but there are reports of people dressing up as clowns behind an apartment complex in South Carolina attempting to lure children into the woods.  First off I immediately think this is a prank, but also there is the side of me that is curious as to there being something more sinister at play; after all, it seems like a good start to a horror film. Going back through my childhood, I can’t think of any one moment that caused me to despise clowns, but I do remember a trip to Circus World that left me convinced all the clowns there were bad.
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    Ash vs Evil Dead – The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 24th, 2016

    For years (at this point we can say decades), fans have been holding out hope for a new installment in the Evil Dead franchise. Over the years there have been rumors of a fourth film, even talks of doing a crossover involving Ash (Bruce Campbell) taking on various horror icons.  In the end these talks seemed to be nothing more than pipe dreams, but then in 2013 something special happened.  A remake/sequel occurred for the series that actually was pretty awesome and gory while also being a financial success…but it was the stinger at the end of the credits that got people excited, the brief appearance of the man with the chainsaw hand himself.
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    Viral

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 7th, 2016

    The setup for Viral is promising enough. Throughout the early part of the film, we get subtle yet effective hints at the escalating catastrophe that is about to infect the story. (We hear about someone’s mom coughing uncontrollably, plus a video of a bloody, unexplained elevator attack goes, well, “viral.”) So it’s a shame that this sci-fi/horror thriller is limited by both its micro-budget and (more importantly) a filmmaking team that only sporadically delivers the goods.
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    Vigilante Diaries (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 7th, 2016

    “That’s me, Mike Hanover, and I just killed a man in a taco shop bathroom. Hey, he started it. I been hiding near the border looking for The Vigilante…” 

    You’ve found him. Anchor Bay’s The Vigilante actually started life as a web series. The web episodes followed the exploits of The Vigilante, played by Paul Sloan and his sidekick The Kid, played by Kevin L. Walker. It was pretty much a hyper-superhero kind of series with ramped-up action on a limited budget. Now we have a feature film version that is quite the mixture of genre films. You get a little grindhouse mixed with some Leone Spaghetti Western with extra sauce
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    Da Vinci’s Demons: Season 3 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 4th, 2016

    “It all begins with seeing. So what do you see?” 

    The term “Renaissance man” is often used to describe a person who has a very wide range of interests in which they have become quite skilled. It’s taken from the traits of the many artists, innovators, and writers of the 15th century. And while the term might well apply to any number of such historical figures, there is none for whom it is more apt than Leonardo DaVinci.
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    Flesh and Bone (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 7th, 2016

    “Ballet is the ultimate optical illusion. We make effort appear effortless.”

    If ballet dancers make the seemingly impossible look graceful and elegant, then Flesh and Bone similarly soars when it doesn’t try quite so hard to conjure drama. The best version of this provocative Starz miniseries explores the psychological toll that ambition, competition, and the (impossible?) quest for creative perfection can take. Unfortunately, the series also introduces way too many subplots and distractions during its 8-episode run.
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    Black Sails Season 2 (Blu-ray)

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

    “My father told me about these men, about their natures. All I knew were the stories I was told of monsters and the valiant men sworn to slay them. I fear the stories I’ve heard may have been clouded, the truth more than clouded. It would seem these monsters are men, sons, brothers, fathers. And it would seem these men face their own monsters…”

    Move over, Captain Jack Sparrow. There are some new pirates on the block, and they sail into our living rooms on a regular basis in the Starz sophomore series Black Sails. The high seas adventure series combines historical people and places with the fictional characters of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island.
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    The Red Road: The Complete Second Season

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

    Season 2 of The Red Road, SundanceTV’s tense drama about warring communities, opens with a foreboding shot of blood being spilled on the ground. It’s a conspicuously symbolic image when you consider that the show follows the lives of the (seemingly all-white) residents of fictional Walpole, N.J. and their strained relationship with the Lenape tribe that resides in the neighboring Ramapo Mountains. (You don’t even have to squint to see several centuries’ worth of wounded feelings in this scenario.) It’s also no major spoiler to say that opening shot isn’t the last instance of bloodshed in this batch of episodes.
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    The Curse of Downers Grove (Blu-ray)

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

    If nothing else, The Curse of Downers Grove lives up (or rather down) to its morose title. It’s too bad because this (non-)thriller actually has a promising premise: every year, a supposed curse in the titular suburban Illinois town kills a senior at the local high school. The movie could’ve gone for darkly comic thrills or tried to construct a mystery around who the latest victim might be, to name just a couple of examples. Instead, this shoddy, inert flick squanders a variety of opportunities on the way to its preposterous conclusion.
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    Lost After Dark (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on August 31st, 2015

    And you thought the ’80s were dead.”

    The tongue-in-cheek tagline for this film is the first of many signs that this throwback slasher flick doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve always thought the best parodies are the ones that show genuine affection, rather than superiority, toward the genre they’re mocking. Lost After Dark sometimes wobbles as it walks the tricky tightrope between homage and legit horror movie, but there’s no doubt the filmmakers enjoyed their many sleepless nights with the likes of Michael Myers, Jason Vorhees, Leatherface, and more.
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    The Walking Dead: Season 5 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 28th, 2015

    So what will you be doing when the zombie apocalypse finally hits? Will you be fighting endlessly to survive? Will you be hoarding food and supplies? Will you be seeking out other survivors and band together? Maybe you’ll just hole up somewhere and try and wait it out. Me? I’m going to find a solid generator, a high-definition television, an Oppo Blu-ray player, and all of The Walking Dead season sets I can get my hands on. You could consider it survival training, but I’m going to binge-watch one of the most unique shows in television history.
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    Survivor’s Remorse: The Complete First Season

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

    People you knew — people you forgot you knew — all ready to spend your money. And we got to be careful. We got to be smart.”

    We look at professional athletes who’ve hit the genetic jackpot and make unseemly amounts of money, and we assume that they’ll be financially set for the rest of their lives. Survivor’s Remorse, a Starz sitcom that follows a young basketball star who’s just signed his first big-money deal, gives us a frequently funny, consistently crass glimpse into why that isn’t necessarily the case.
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    Rectify: The Complete Second Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on June 9th, 2015

    “You look at life like it’s a burden. Life is a gift.”

    The best thing about Rectify — SundanceTV’s excellent, thoughtful slow-burn of a Southern drama — is that it gives equal weight to each of those viewpoints. Daniel Holden has spent more time as death row inmate than he has as a free man. As an 18 year old, he was convicted of the rape and murder of a teenage girl and spent the next 19 years in prison awaiting his execution. Daniel was suddenly freed after DNA evidence vacated his sentence, and season 1 showed him struggling mightily to adapt to life on the outside. (It also showed the outside world struggling mightily to adapt to him.)
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    Halt and Catch Fire (Blu-ray)

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

    “An early computer command that sent the machine into a race condition, forcing all instructions to compete for superiority at once. Control of the computer could not be regained.”

    That command? It’s Halt And Catch Fire. Television is very much like that. So many shows out there are competing for your attention. Even on the same network there’s often competition for the resources of the studios and the sponsors who provide the paydays. Now AMC has added another original series to compete for your attention…and precious time. You guessed it. Halt And Catch Fire. Does it work? Let’s find out. 
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    Echoes (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 20th, 2015

    Imagine the horror of being asleep and then suddenly you wake up, paralyzed.  Your eyes flutter frantically about as you struggle to move, but nothing will budge.  From the corner of your eye you see movement.  You’re not alone, and the person who is in the room with you is ready to kill you. This is the hook Echoes attempts to use to suck the viewers in.  As a psychological thriller about sleep paralysis, it’s unfortunate that the only suspense the film manages to deliver on is just when the film will finally come to its painfully boring conclusion.
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    The Missing (Blu-ray)

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

    The longest-running crime dramas tend to be “case of the week” mysteries where the perp is comfortably caught within the hour. It’s a formula for sure, but it’s one that’s easy to replicate and works quite well if you have the right talent and personalities involved. In reality, of course, there are many cases when the crook isn’t captured before the end credits…or ever. The accompanying anger and uncertainty is much trickier (and messier) to convey dramatically. The Missing — a limited series from England that aired on Starz — isn’t the first show to tackle that territory, but it’s certainly a compelling recent example.
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    L.A. Apocalypse

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

    The recent earthquakes in Los Angeles: facts of life or foreshadowing the big one?”

    I’m not saying the makers of L.A. Apocalypse — a SyFy-level TV movie centered on catastrophic earthquakes in California — timed the release of their low-budget action flick so it premiered well ahead of San Andreas, the would-be summer blockbuster starring Dwayne Johnson about catastrophic earthquakes in California. It’s just funny how things often work out that way. L.A. Apocalypse doesn’t have The Rock (or anyone you’ve likely heard of) and is working with a very small fraction of San Andreas‘ budget. The result is as underwhelming as you’d expect.
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    The Red Road: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 9th, 2015

    Even though one of the main characters in The Red Road is a police officer, the show’s six-episode first season plays less like your typical cop drama and more like an extended profile of two strained communities. There’s the fictional town of Walpole, N.J. and the Lenape tribe that lives in the neighboring Ramapo Mountains. While the show certainly touches on the tension between the two communities, too much time here is devoted to multi-generational family drama that we’ve seen before. In other words, the show too often neglects the things that make it unique.
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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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    The Dead 2: India (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 22nd, 2014

    Sibling filmmakers Howard J. and Jonathan Ford seem to be huge believers in the “Location, location, location” real estate adage. The duo — collectively known as The Ford Brothers — previously made The Dead, which was billed as “the first zombie road movie set against the spectacular scenery of Africa.” I actually wasn’t a fan of that flick, but saw enough technical skill and enough potential in the concept to make me curious about a follow-up. With The Dead 2: India, the Ford Brothers have once again transplanted old-fashioned zombie thrills to an exotic, under-explored location. Only this time, they brought a story and more engaging performers along for the trip.
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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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    14 Blades (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 3rd, 2014

    Right now in the martial arts world I don’t believe there is a bigger star than Donnie Yen.  From his work in Iron Monkey to his modern classic Ip Man, Yen shows he is nearly an unstoppable force in the martial arts world, and when his name is involved with a project, you should be ready for a spectacle.  His fight choreography is stunning to say the least, and despite the genre of film, he’s able to keep his fight scenes grounded in reality.  Now teamed with director Daniel Lee who brought us Black Mask, 14 Blades is on first glance the kind of movie martial arts fans should get excited about.
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    The Walking Dead: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 29th, 2014

    The first thing you should know about The Walking Dead is that it’s unlike any television series you have ever seen before. The images here are intense, and the crew has been given a blank check to create this vision without the burden of censors looking over their shoulders. There are plenty of blood-and-gore effects that rival any of the Hollywood zombie films you’ve seen in the last few years. The makeup effects are handled by the very capable hands of KNB and supervised personally by Greg Nicotero (the N from KNB).
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    The Possession of Michael King (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 27th, 2014

    Here is a film that delves into a subject not many people care to openly discuss but poses a question that everyone who’s lost someone they love can relate to.  When prayer and faith don’t seem to deliver the answers you want for those that need closure that therapy can’t seem to provide, where does one turn?  It’s this hopeless feeling of loss that seems to be what attracts Michael King (Shane Johnson) to investigate the possibility of the supernatural.
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