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    Insecure: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 24th, 2017

    “Black women aren’t bitter. We’re just tired of being expected to settle for less.”

    When people talk about racial and gender equality, they typically point to notions like everyone having the right to vote or the same opportunity to pursue their personal or professional passion without fear of discrimination. The premise of Insecure — HBO’s funny and insightful comedy series about modern relationships — is not quite that lofty, but no less worthy: black women reserve the right to be just as neurotic and lead love lives that are every bit as messy as their white counterparts.
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    Vice Principals: The Complete First Season

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 10th, 2017

    Danny McBride managed to inhabit the role of Kenny Powers to such an extent that I do appear to have trouble keeping them separate. I thought that the arrival of a new series would finally put that issue to rest. I’m discovering there was a reason I had trouble telling them apart. They are indeed the same person. Add to the situation that Vice Principals uses the same writing and production team headed by McBride and Jody Hill, and there are moments when you will think that you’re still watching Eastbound And Out. The wild card that changes things up enough happens to be Walter Goggins. Goggins came to notice as the cold Shane in The Shield and the quirky Boyd Crowder in Justified.
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    Justice League Dark (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on February 7th, 2017

    To put things mildly, Warner Bros. still has a bit of a ways to go before its stable of DC Comics superheroes catches up to Disney’s dominant Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, Warner and DC have long had the upper hand on both the small screen (Smallville, Arrow, The Flash) and with their animated, direct-to-video offerings. The latest in that latter category is Justice League Dark, which mostly sidelines DC’s best-known heroes in favor of a team of mystical outcasts led by a charming, abrasive rogue.


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    Ballers: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 2nd, 2017

    American football has been making the news of late, and not just in the sports pages. For the last couple of years there has been an increasing concern for players’ safety. From our former president declaring he wouldn’t let his fictional son play the game to the hard-hitting Will Smith film Concussion, football has taken some heat over its violent nature. Players are retiring early, and the subject of life after football becomes more of a social question than ever before. That’s where HBO’s Ballers comes in. It’s a half-hour look at the NFL from the player perspective, both current and retired. It’s intended as a light bit of dramedy, and it certainly is that. Even so, the series doesn’t hide from some of the brutal realities of the sport, from the trappings of fame and fortune to the realities of its eventual end.
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    Girls: The Complete Fifth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 11th, 2017

    “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore, and I don’t know how to get out.”

    A TV show’s fifth season is around the time it starts to feel like you have to see things through to the bitter end. I mean, it seems downright irresponsible to ditch a series after five years of investing in its characters’ lives, no matter how flawed and frustrating they are. And there’s no doubt the self-absorbed millennials on HBO’s Girls are among the most flawed and frustrating people on TV; so I was delighted to find that the series produced one of its strongest seasons as it nears its conclusion.
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    Never Open The Door (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 2nd, 2017

    Since we are knee-deep into the holidays, it would only be fitting to discuss the independent horror film Never Open the Door; after all it takes place on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a shame we don’t have more horror films to watch during turkey day, but for some this new title may be a nice fit to change all that.  When I picked up the title I hadn’t heard a peep about it, but I’m a sucker for horror, and seeing that it was shot in B&W just made it all the more enticing.  Now, when I watch a title like this, one thing has to work. It has to have a story that engages me; story is what matters with these smaller films, because the budgets tend to not have room for big makeup FX or big-name actors.  The limitations placed upon the filmmakers seem to force their hand and have them get more creative with the execution of scenes, whether this means creative camera work or unique storytelling.
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    Greenleaf Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 14th, 2016

    relatively out of the spotlight as she has worked on making her cable network channel, OWN, a success.  While I wouldn’t ever say I was a fan of Oprah’s work on the screen, I could appreciate what she did in The Color Purple and Beloved. This being said, I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to take a title that at first glance seemed to be a show that would be heavy-handed with its subject matter centered around the church.  Despite my concerns, I’m glad I picked up this title, because despite how it handles some very familiar topics, it’s presented in a manner that not only feels fresh but is truly an engrossing show that manages to suck the viewer in and kept me wanting to see what would happen next.
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    Looking: The Complete Series and The Movie (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on December 1st, 2016

    The most remarkable thing about Looking might have been how thoroughly unremarkable it was. The HBO dramedy — which followed the love lives of three gay friends in San Francisco — sidestepped any sort of headline-grabbing sensationalism. However, Looking was often low-key to the point that it bypassed being funny or particularly entertaining. The latter point was a bigger issue early on since the show’s naturalistic tone made Looking more engrossing as the series progressed and deepened its roster of characters. You can see for yourself how the show got better as it went along now that HBO has released the entire Looking saga — two seasons and a movie — in one handy Blu-ray set.
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    Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 18th, 2016

    Does death only come for the wicked and leave the decent behind?”

    Throughout its first five seasons, Game of Thrones has been relentlessly cruel to its viewers heroes in a way that shocked audiences and upended genre expectations. But as Thrones edges toward its conclusion — and as the TV adaptation becomes more unmoored than ever from the George R.R. Martin novels that inspired it — certain storytelling conventions seem to be inevitably taking over. I seriously doubt this saga will have a traditional “happy ending,” but season 6 is as close as the show has ever come to being a full-blown crowd-pleaser.
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    Billions: Season One (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 14th, 2016

    “What we do has consequences, intended and unintended. The decisions we make, the actions we bring have weight.” 

    When upcoming heavyweight contenders like Brian Koppelman, David Levien, and Andrew Ross Sorkin get together, you have reason to expect big things. And Billions is very much about heavyweights. The entire show is one big metaphor for a heavyweight prizefight. In one corner you have U.S Attorney Chuck “The Scholar” Rhodes, played by Paul Giamatti. He’s the reigning world champion with a record of 80+ to 0. In the other corner is Bobby “Axe” Axelrod, played by Damian Lewis; he could also be considered undefeated.
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    Hell on Wheels: The Final Episodes (Blu-ray)

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

    “This train don’t stop.” That’s what we’re told in an Elton John ballad. But it doesn’t matter if it’s that Midnight Train to Georgia or a freight train, you can bet the farm that it’s going to run out of track.  That’s for sure, and you can expect more than a little crying over it all. The saddest news, however, is 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 fifth season is a rather nice journey to witness. So saddle up for the first four. You can find the reviews for other seasons here.
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    The Night Of (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 21st, 2016

    You know, I miss James Gandolfini. I know that HBO misses him as well. When The Sopranos finished, Gandolfini signed a development deal with HBO. He would not only work in front of the camera but help find and produce material for the network. We all know what happened next. Gandolfini passed suddenly, just when it seems he was breaking out of his Tony Soprano typecast, and one gets the feeling that he was going to do great things. One solid indication of that promise comes in the HBO series The Night Of… which was one of those passion projects that the man never got to see through.
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    “31 Nights Of Terror” Penny Dreadful: The Final Season (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on October 12th, 2016

    “…And then all light will end, and the world will live in darkness. The very air will be pestilence to mankind. And our brethren, the night creatures, will emerge and feed.”

    We could be talking about the end of the world. We could also be talking about the untimely demise of Penny Dreadful with just its third season at Showtime. It came with a suddenness, and not without controversy. John Logan originally planned for the series to go 6-7 years.
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    Banshee: The Complete Fourth Season (Blu-ray)

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

    “Did I miss anything while I was gone?”

    Did you ever. Banshee came to an end with this, the fourth season, and it did not go quietly, to be sure. But it’s not how it ends, but how this final season begins that’s a bit of a mystery. There is a time jump of a little over 18 months that will cause you to feel like you might have missed something. If that doesn’t confuse you, the season’s constant tripping around in time will turn this season into a show very different from the Banshee we’ve come to know and love.
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    Wonders Of The Arctic (UHD Bluray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 20th, 2016

    Victor Garber appears to me a man of extremes, at least in his climate preferences. Of course, the actor was aboard James Cameron’s ill-fated Titanic when it struck an iceberg before Leonardo DiCaprio dies because he was too stupid to climb aboard a huge floating door. On television recently, Garber jumps to nuclear fire as one half of the superhero Firestorm in the DC television universe. For this release, actually filmed a few years ago he heads back to the ice, and not just any ice. This time Victor Garber narrates an IMAX documentary called Wonders Of The Arctic. Shout Factory has released the documentary as part of their impressive IMAX titles in 4K on UHD Blu-ray.
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    The Last Reef: Cities Beneath The Sea (UHD Blu-ray) (4K)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 16th, 2016

    Scuba diving is the closest thing I’ve ever experienced to being on an alien world. Everything around you looks and feels totally different from what we see on land. Even our relationship to gravity changes. There’s nothing like it on this Earth. The ocean is a diverse place and quite resilient. The Last Reef makes this point rather dramatically in the opening minutes of the documentary. It begins with a newsreel that takes us to the nuclear explosion experiments that were conducted off the Bikini Islands in 1946. Yes, that’s where the swimsuit got its name. The Islands were making the newsreels because of the tests.
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    Supernatural: Season 11 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 15th, 2016

    “This is encouraging.”

    For the first time in a long while, the Winchester Brothers end and begin a season together. Dean’s just had the Sign of Cain removed, and the cost is the approaching darkness. I’m not talking a little storm blowing through. Here in Florida we know all about that kind of darkness. No. This is The Darkness, and it’s the big bad for season 11 of Supernatural. You heard that correctly. We’re talking 11 years with number 12 arriving any day now. Once again it’s “end of days” kind of stakes, and we have another season to save the universe.
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    South Park: Season 19 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 15th, 2016

    “Going on down to South Park and meet some friends of mine.”

    After 20 years or more, they really do feel like friends. I’ve known Cartman, Stan, Kyle, and Kenny longer than most real people in my life. Only the Simpsons have been around longer these days. Over those years South Park has always been a series of stories that rarely connect with each other in any significant way. There have been multi-part episodes, and certain experiences have come back up over the years. Still, we’re talking about a universe where killing Kenny had become a running joke and happened pretty much in every episode.
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    All The Way (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on September 14th, 2016

    Accidental president…that’s what they’ll say.”

    Lyndon Baines Johnson became the 36th President of the United States under the most tumultuous circumstances imaginable. Besides being thrust into office after the shattering assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Johnson had to immediately contend with multiple political crises. Most notably, LBJ faced pressure from several different fronts as he worked to pass what eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All The Way, buoyed by a funny and ferocious lead performance, offers a thought-provoking and entertaining look at a truly complex figure.
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    The Flash: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 12th, 2016

    “My name is Barry Allen, and I am the fastest man alive. When I was a child, I saw my mother killed by something impossible. My father went to prison for her murder. Then an accident made me the impossible, and I became the Flash. I used my powers to find the man responsible for my mother’s death. I thought I would finally get justice for my family, but I failed. It’s been six months since the Singularity. I’m on my own now. Decided it’s better that way. Keeps the people I care about safe. There’s only one thing I can do now. I run…” 

    The Flash is CSI with a twist. Barry Allen (Gustin) is a police scientist working in the CSI lab of Central City.
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    Live At The Orleans Arena Las Vegas (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 12th, 2016

    It all started back in the early 1960’s when Chuck and the late John Panozzo got together with another kid on their Chicago block named Dennis DeYoung and started to play a little music. By 1970 guitarist James “JY” Young joined the band, and they recorded a few minor albums. In 1975 their first hit Lady would put the band on the map, and when Tommy Shaw joined as a singer/writer/guitarist for the Crystal Ball album, the top of the pop charts would be the band’s new neighborhood for the better part of a decade. There’s little doubt that the band peaked in the late 1970’s with The Grand Illusion and Pieces Of Eight. It’s amazing how many hit singles came from just two LP’s
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    Arrow: Season 4 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 8th, 2016

    “Six months ago The Arrow died. But what he stood for didn’t. It lived on in the heroes who took up his mantle. People who believe that this city should never descend into hopelessness. Who believe although life is full of darkness, that darkness can be defeated by light. And tonight I am declaring my intention to fight with them for this city. To be a symbol of hope that The Arrow never was. I am the Green Arrow.”

    The first three seasons of Arrow have to almost be considered one large origin story. Oliver Queen finally takes the name that he’s used in the comics for decades… The Green Arrow. Not to be confused with the same-colored Hornet or Lantern. Who the heck is this Green Arrow of whom you speak?
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    The Night Manager – Uncensored Edition (Blu-ray)

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

    “Anyone can betray anyone.”

    The word “spy” tends to conjure images of international intrigue and attractive people getting into exotic adventures. But don’t blame John le Carre. Despite being one of the most successful and prolific spy novelists of the past century, le Carre’s stories tend to be aggressively un-sexy, morally murky tales that focus on the psychological toll of intelligence work. That’s why it’s interesting to find that The Night Manager — a British miniseries that also aired on AMC — manages to straddle both sides of the spy fiction fence.
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    DC’s Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 1st, 2016

    “In 2166 an immortal tyrant named Vandal Savage conquered the world and murdered my wife and child. I’ve assembled an elite team to hunt him throughout time and stop his rise to power. Unfortunately, my plan was opposed by the body I had sworn my allegiance to: The Time Masters. In the future my friends might not be heroes, but if we succeed, they will be remembered as legends.” 

    Marvel may have beaten DC to the superhero team-up film. But while Marvel continues to blow away the DC filmatic universe, DC has had its best and most brilliant successes here on television. DC Legends of Tomorrow is pretty much the first television comic book team-up, and it’s a direct spinoff from both Arrow and The Flash shows.
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    Gotham: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 31st, 2016

    “The bad guys in this town are changing. They’re not playing by the old rules, or any rules. We need every measure at our disposal, and I’m not just talking more guns…”

    The first season of Gotham was pretty much a straight criminal story told in a film noir environment where just a hint of the future comic book heroics is uncovered. The bad guys were pretty much standard mob guys. Were they eccentric? Yes. There were really no meta-humans or gadgets to speak of. This season we get a flood of the more familiar kinds of villains you know so well from this universe.
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