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    The Condemned 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on January 21st, 2016

    Here comes another in the long line of movies featuring a WWE superstar. Boy, I tell you, the floodgates open after The Rock (although now he goes by Dwayne Johnson) proved it was possible to move from wrestling stardom to silver screen stardom. That said, none them have really made the leap successfully since him; however, that is not from a lack of trying. This time around, Randy “The Viper” Orton looks to try his luck in the sequel to a WWE sponsored film in The Condemned 2.
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    The Giant King

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 13th, 2016

    Yak: The Giant King is a 2012 animated offering from Thailand. It is based on Ramakien, the country’s version of a famous Hindu epic poem. Neither of those facts is readily apparent in the packaging and presentation of The Giant King, an American adaptation that was recently released on DVD. On the one hand, it helps explain why the dialogue here hardly ever matches the characters’ lip movements. But knowing that this crude, chintzy offering is actually based on something rather substantial makes it even more of a letdown.
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    Heist (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 31st, 2015

    “Stealing from the Pope is suicide.” 

    We’re not talking about that pope. We’re talking about Robert DeNiro in his latest direct-to-video feature film Heist. It’s true that DeNiro hasn’t exactly been picky lately with his parts. He commands a big paycheck, often for just showing up on the credits. It’s common among actors particularly those like DeNiro who have made quite a name for themselves and find themselves in the back nine of their career.
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    12 Rounds 3: Lockdown (Blu-ray)

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

    With their impossibly beefy frames, larger-than-life personas, and familiarity with staged combat (sorry, buddy), pro wrestlers fit the old-school action star mold perfectly. Unfortunately for them, Hollywood isn’t nearly as interested in action flicks that don’t have superheroes, dinosaurs, or Liam Neeson. And while interconnected cinematic universes are all the rage at the moment, Lionsgate and World Wrestling Entertainment have a pretty interesting partnership themselves. Their latest offering is the dopey, compulsively watchable 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown, which is considerably more entertaining than it has any right to be.
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    Dragon Blade (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on December 25th, 2015

    Whenever I read the caption that says the story is inspired by true events, the first thing I wonder is how much of film is actually truth and how much is poetic license. Am I the only one who wonders that? I’m guessing I’m not. In the case of Dragon Blade, I’m thinking that the opening featuring Jackie Chan’s trademark clumsy marital arts style is likely the latter, a tale that falls short of war epic status due to sentimental tendency. Held my attention in the beginning; however, I felt my interest wane in the middle, and by the conclusion it had lost me completely. Sad, because I was excited for this film when I originally heard about it.
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    Knock Knock (Blu-ray)

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

    I have to admit that I’m not much of a Keanu Reeves fan. However, I’m a huge fan of Keanu Reeves movies. Let’s face it, Keanu can be quite wooden with as much screen presence as a test pattern. OK, I’m showing my age with that line. But one thing he knows how to do well is pick great films to star in. From The Matrix and the recent very hit John Wick to the underrated The Devil’s Advocate, Reeves can sure pick ’em. The worse case scenario here would be Keanu in an uninteresting movie. Well…Knock Knock. Who’s there? An uninteresting Keanu Reeves film.
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    Cooties (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on December 9th, 2015

    “I’m under some medication for a medical condition so I may not be seeing this correctly. But I’m pretty sure I might be seeing some of your students possibly eating Mr. Peterson. Again it could be the medication.” 

    Cooties starts out with the grossest sequence in the entire film. You might not want to start this film if you’re eating, particularly if you’re eating chicken nuggets. Ben Franklin once warned us that there were two things one should never see made: laws and sausages. He might just as well have been talking chicken nuggets.
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    Some Kind of Beautiful (Blu-ray)

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

    “Why are the Romantics relevant today?”

    Some Kind of Beautiful shamelessly embraces every rom-com cliché in the book. The utterly nonsensical title, the main characters’ impossibly-posh digs, and the film’s exceedingly contrived and predictable plotting are probably enough to send jaded moviegoers running to the airport exit. So why am I not kicking this film to the curb? Well it helps that this particular group of attractive stars shares a relaxed, mature chemistry that carries the story through its more outlandish shenanigans.
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    Mississippi Grind (Blu-ray)

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

    I don’t care about winning. I just like to play, I really do.”

    In Mississippi Grind, a pair of damaged gamblers hustle their way through the American South so they can buy into a high-stakes card game in New Orleans. That’s technically the “plot” of the movie, but it’s not really the point…nor is it where the film’s true charms lie. Instead, this well-made, low-key character dramedy feels like a welcome throwback to the sort of buddy/road films that have mostly been pushed out of multiplexes.
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    Amy (Blu-ray)

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

    I don’t think I’m going to be at all famous. I don’t think I could handle it. I’d probably go mad.”

    Amy Winehouse — the troubled English soul singer who died of alcohol poisoning at age 27 — says these sadly prophetic words early on in Amy. Hearing them almost five years after her 2011 death only adds to the powerfully haunting quality of this documentary. At its core, Amy is like every Behind the Music episode you’ve ever seen…except it is also a masterfully told story with thrillingly original flourishes.
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    American Ultra (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 30th, 2015

    Why are people trying to stab you?”

    People in action movies aren’t usually inclined to stop and ask that question out loud. In American Ultra, a small army of CIA operatives repeatedly try to stab, shoot, gas, and blow up an underachieving slacker and his girlfriend. Seems like a lot of trouble for a panic attack-prone convenience store clerk who sketches a goofy graphic novel about an adventurous ape on his downtime. American Ultra is funny, violent, and tonally-jarring at times. However, it’s also a fun subversion of the action genre and (more specifically) “supersoldier” movies.
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    Mr. Holmes (Blu-ray)

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

    “Different, entirely.” 

    I have been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since I was a kid. Mixed amidst those Universal horror films I watched with my Pop on weekend chiller shows was an occasional Universal Holmes film with Basil Rathbone as the master of deduction. Soon followed the Doyle books, and a new world was opened for me forever. Since those days we have seen every kind of incarnation of the character possible, or so I thought. I’ve seen Holmes as a child in Spielberg’s Young Sherlock Holmes. There have been several comedies and even a musical or two. Robert Downey Jr. has turned him into an action hero, and Benedict Cumberbatch has brought him into the modern world.
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    The End of the Tour (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on November 11th, 2015

    I don’t think there has ever really been a great film about a great writer. We naturally compare their lives to works of great fiction. Great fiction tends to distill the tedium and awkwardness out of real life. Real life can be exhausting in the day-to-day disappointments that can sometimes be wrapped in small victories. David Foster Wallace was a great writer. This is almost universally acknowledged. David Foster Wallace no longer is because he hung himself in 2008 at age 46.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” The Vatican Tapes (Blu-ray)

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

    “Dark forces are rising. The frequency of possession is increasing all over the world.”

    Must be Global Warming…check that ,Climate Change. It seems the whole warming thing wasn’t exactly working out for these guys. So like a business with a bad reputation you change the name and pretend that’s what it’s been like all along. There is an alarming increase in the frequency of movie possessions all over the world. But it’s not Global Warming or Climate Change that’s to blame. Hell, it isn’t even Bush’s fault. It’s got to do with the color green.
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    Z for Zachariah (Blu-ray)

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

    Between Judgment Day, zombie apocalypses, and various other doomsday scenarios, we’ve gotten a pretty good look at what the end of the world is supposed to look like. One of the most striking things about Z for Zachariah — an otherwise straightforward and deliberate drama that takes its story from a 1974 novel of the same name by Robert C. O’Brien — is that, for the most part, the end of the world looks an awful lot like paradise.
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    Mad Men: The Final Season — Part 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 20th, 2015

    This is the beginning of something, not the end.”

    There weren’t any Lost-style mysteries to be resolved here. And unlike The Sopranos or Breaking Bad, this particular series never really hinged on whether the lead character lived or died. (Although a moment in Ep. 5/“Lost Horizon” seems to nod toward fan speculation that Don Draper would take a tumble similar to the silhouette from the show’s iconic opening credits.) Instead, the final season of Mad Men — more than any other all-time great show I can remember — is directly about the end of things.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” Dark Places (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on October 16th, 2015

    People have short attention spans. And there’s always another murder.”

    Barely a year after Gone Girl became a mid-range blockbuster, we’re already getting our second big-screen adaptation of a Gillian Flynn novel. To be fair, both Gone Girl and Dark Places went into production around the same time in the fall of 2013. But that just means someone anticipated that a single shot of Flynn’s twisted brand of Midwest murder/mystery mayhem wouldn’t be enough to satisfy movie audiences.
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    Chain of Command (Blu-ray)

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

    “Man, they killed my brother…you think I’m gonna let that slide?”

    Even if you haven’t sat through a ton of revenge-minded pulp, you won’t be surprised to hear the answer to the above question is a resounding, “No!” The good(ish) news is that Chain of Command manages to stand out from a pretty crowded straight-to-DVD action pack. The disastrous news is that this laughably bad, shoddily-made debacle is likely to stick in your memory for all the wrong reasons.
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    The Age Of Adaline (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on September 14th, 2015

    “All these years you’ve lived, but you’ve never had a life.”

    Every woman’s fantasy: to remain young and beautiful forever. That is the fantasy, if I am not mistaken, correct? Well, women will be treated to the cost of said fantasy in The Age of Adaline, which shows the other side of the coin of the coveted fantasy. In my experience there are two fantasies that are popular among young ladies. The one mentioned above, and the opportunity to love, marry, and grow old with someone who loves them unconditionally. The Age of Adaline shows the latter is not possible with the former.
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    American Heist (Blu-ray)

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

    American Heist is an independent action flick that eventually nods to Michael Mann’s Heat and Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon. (Along with Ben Affleck’s The Town, if you’re interested in a 21st century doppelganger.) However, the movie’s action-packed finale can’t completely disguise the fact that this is actually a dour family tragedy masquerading as a heist film. But if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, at least the makers of American Heist know who to rip off flatter.
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    Where Hope Grows (Blu-ray)

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

    I guess I could use some of that magical happiness you always seem to have.”

    David DeSanctis, the novice performer with Down syndrome making his feature film debut here, is easily the best thing about Where Hope Grows. Both the actor and the character he plays radiate genuine warmth and irrepressible positivity. Those qualities help boost this well-meaning redemption drama, which suffers from one too many storylines and an unintentionally appalling ending.
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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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    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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    Ex Machina (Blu-ray)

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

    “You wanna see something cool?”

    If you’re old enough to remember audio tape, you might be old enough to remember Memorex. If you remember Memorex, you should recall their popular slogan: “Is it live or is it Memorex?”. Of course, the idea was that the tape quality was so good you couldn’t distinguish it from the real thing. What if robotics and artificial intelligence reached that same plateau? The point where you could not tell the difference between an actual human being and an artificial one.
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    Absolution (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 13th, 2015

    I wanna tell you something. I’ve been a bad man…I’ve been a very bad man most of my life. So, I decided I want to do one thing in my life. One good thing in my life before I die.”

    Those words are spoken by elite contract killer John Alexander at the start of Absolution, a straight-to-DVD offering that is largely cobbled together from the spare parts of other junky action flicks. The film stars Steven Seagal, who was a very bad man on-screen during his early ’90s heyday. John wants to do one good thing before his time is up; coincidentally, all I want is for Seagal to make one action movie that at least comes close to recapturing the spark that made him a star. Absolution is not that film.
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