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    Bad Santa 2

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 27th, 2016

    “Santa ain’t no arms dealer?”

    OK, maybe he’s not selling arms to the Middle East, but when Billy Bob Thornton puts on the Santa suit, there’s no telling what kind of dirty dealing might be going on. Bad Santa was a kind of surprise hit back in 2003. It made a respectable $60 million at the box office and pretty much disappeared from most people’s holiday film radar. Let’s be honest here. Bad Santa wasn’t going to make the list for traditional family gatherings in quite the same way as It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street, or even among the irreverent favorites like A Christmas Story. I just can’t see the grandkids on granddad’s knee watching Santa tell some kid to go f#%@ himself.
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    Allied

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 25th, 2016

    Brad Pitt appears to be making this World War II thing a bit of a niche. In recent years he went from Inglourious Basterds to the superior Fury and now to Allied. I wish I could say that he’s getting better, but Allied marks a step backwards for the actor in more ways than just the performance. It’s an unfortunate aspect of Hollywood that sexy rumors and scandals sell more theater tickets than a good movie. Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have called it quits, and the scuttlebutt is that it was Pitt’s fling with Allied co-star Marion Cotillard that caused the split. I don’t know if any of that is true and honestly wouldn’t care a hill of beans if it were. I only bring it up because if Pitt was having some kind of on-set torrid romance, it’s a shame that none of that passion ever made it to the screen. These two have about as much romantic chemistry as Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (Too soon?) If only that were all there was to sink this period drama.
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    Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

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

    In the summer of 1974 The Paper Lace released a song called Billy Don’t Be A Hero. It has the distinction of being the first and perhaps only hit record to top the charts twice in a year by different bands. The second release in 1974 was by Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods. For some reason the song was playing over in my head as I watched Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. I’m not sure if it was because the title characters share the same name or because both deal with war. The song was written about the Civil War but was thought by most to be about Vietnam, likely because of the release dates. Vietnam was an unpopular war, and the same can be said for the war in Iraq. The similarities continue. The song ended up fading as summer candy pop music, and the same is likely to be the fate of this film.
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    Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 19th, 2016

    I’m writing a book about magical creatures.”

    The wizarding world J.K. Rowling conjured for her “Harry Potter” series captured the imaginations of children (and many, many adults) throughout the globe because it was precisely that…a fully realized, living and breathing world with its own lingo and lore. So while spinning off a corner of that universe might seem like a blatant cash grab, Rowling’s imagination has provided particularly fertile ground for new franchise opportunities. (OK, OK…the part where Warner Bros. agreed to make five of these before the first one even came out *does* feel like a cash grab.) For example, this latest crowd-pleasing stab at a billion-dollar series is based on…a fictional textbook mentioned in Rowling’s “Potter” saga.
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    Rules Don’t Apply

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on November 18th, 2016

    Howard Hughes used to be a very big deal for a very long time. Warren Beatty was a big deal for a long time as well, and they have a lot in common. They were both renowned horndogs. Hughes was not only extremely rich, but enormously famous. The Hughes Tool Company, which was instrumental to the oil industry, was the original source of his wealth, but Howard Hughes became better known for his forays into the movie business and aviation industry. There has already been a movie about Hughes called The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but Warren Beatty has been working on a Hughes movie since the 1970’s when he frequented the Beverly Hills Hotel where Hughes had multiple bungalows.
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    Arrival

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on November 13th, 2016

    “There are days that define your story beyond your life. Like the day they arrived…”

    The problem is that this starts out with the kind of story we’ve seen a thousand times before. The alien invasion theme is nothing new. H.G. Wells was describing it back in the 19th Century with War Of The Worlds. Unrelated Orson Welles scared the crap out of a depression-era radio audience with the same story. Independence Day gave us a brilliantly visual story that also begins the same way: alien ships begin to take strategic positions around the world. Here we go again, right? Wrong.
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    Doctor Strange

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on November 5th, 2016

    Heroes like the Avengers protect the world from physical dangers. We safeguard it against more mystical threats.”

    Back in 2008, Iron Man was entrusted with kicking off Phase One of Marvel’s Global Takeover Cinematic Universe. The film centered around an arrogant hero brought low who builds his own costume — and essentially creates his own superpowers — by scraping together spare parts in a cave. As the years have gone by and Marvel’s brand of superheroism has proven to be infinitely more bulletproof than comic book characters who are actually impervious to gunfire, the studio has earned the right to get a little Strange.
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    Hacksaw Ridge

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on November 4th, 2016

    Just when you thought you’ve seen it all when it comes to films about World War II, Mel Gibson helms a film that hits you with such an emotional wallop that I’ll say it right now: just hand the man the Oscar for this film.  It’s only November; how can I be so sure of this? Well, of course there are some titles to keep an eye on as we enter award season, but I honestly can’t imagine a title coming out that can achieve what Gibson did.    I’m sure by now you’ve seen the ads for the film that draw comparisons to Saving Private Ryan.  It’s a bold statement, but I’m writing this to say that Hacksaw Ridge isn’t the best war film since Saving Private Ryan, it is a superior film to it as well.
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    Inferno

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on October 29th, 2016

    “Mankind is the cancer of its own body. Do you love humanity enough to save it?”

    I remember when I was first introduced to the character of Robert Langdon. I was a late bloomer to the story, not having read the book. My first introduction came from the film. I had just graduated high school, and instead of engaging in the customary family dinner that usually precedes the event, I opted in favor of going to the see The Da Vinci Code. That is a decision that I have never regretted. Fortunately, I didn’t need to skip anything important to see Angels and Demons, and it is a good thing, as the film missed the mark with me. Now here we find ourselves on the cusp of Langdon’s redemption with Inferno.  Will the third film in the trilogy be enough to make people forget about the second one? Is Tom Hanks still convincing in what is becoming one of his most recognizable roles?
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    Jack Reacher Never Go Back

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on October 21st, 2016

    Forbes magazine called Jack Reacher and author Lee Childs as the strongest brand in publishing as much for his over 100,000,000 in sales and billion dollar imprint as for the strong loyalty of fans and favorable ratings of the readers. The 21st Jack Reacher novel, Night School, is coming out in a couple of weeks (which I’m sure Simon & Shuster would thank me for mentioning, but they don’t need my help), and Reacher fans will buying in droves. The second Reacher movie will be out on November 21.
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    Denial

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on October 18th, 2016

    David Hare is an extremely prolific and ambitious playwright. He has written over 30 plays, but he has also done television and screenplays as well as directing in all three mediums. One of his first screenplays was an adaptation of his play, Plenty, which starred Meryl Streep, in 1985. He also wrote the screenplay for an adaptation Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours, which starred Meryl Streep as well. He also wrote the screenplay for The Reader, which was nominated for numerous awards and was about a woman guard in a German concentration camp and starred Kate Winslet.
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    The Accountant

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

    It would seem as though Ben Affleck is finally starting to shed the stigma of doing bad films.  He’s been on a roll since he took on the role of George Reeves in Hollywoodland and has also in the process become an accomplished director.  When the trailer first dropped for The Accountant, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as you look at the laundry list of talent that fills the cast, it quickly became a film I had my eye on.  What is surprising is despite their being franchises that seem to cover the same territory ie: Jack Reacher and the Jason Bourne films, is there room for another lone-wolf-killing-machine film?
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    The Girl on the Train

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

    My husband used to tell me I have an overactive imagination…”

    The idea at the core of The Girl on the Train is equal parts provocative and relatable: a lonely commuter observes an attractive couple from a distance and imagines what their seemingly perfect lives must be like. Anyone who’s ever done any people-watching will recognize the appeal of inventing a backstory for a stranger, and the story is a healthy reminder that things are never quite what they seem from the outside. But despite a powerhouse lead performance, this Train is ultimately derailed by an unsatisfying mystery and a lack of flair that causes this potentially juicy story to lose steam as it chugs along.
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    Deepwater Horizon

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

    It really doesn’t seem so long ago that all the major news networks were showing footage of the destroyed oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico that was pumping out gallons upon gallons of oil into the ocean.  The BP oil rig disaster was all we could talk about in April of 2010, and all of us at home were left wondering if they’d ever plug up that hole and stop the leakage of oil that would go on to destroy hundreds of miles of beach coast property as well as cause long-lasting effects on the fishing industry.  Everyone was looking for someone to blame, and plenty of it went to BP.  While this made for engaging news for a while, it never seemed like a story that Hollywood would want to invest in and make a film about.
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    Masterminds

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on October 1st, 2016

    In 1997, $17.3 million dollars (or $25.5 million adjusted for inflation) was stolen from Loomis, Fargo & Co in Charlotte, N.C. It was the second largest cash robbery on U.S. soil after a Loomis Fargo armored car robbery by the driver earlier in the same year for $18.8 million in Jacksonville, Florida. The facts of the robbery and subsequent events are pretty ridiculous, and now Hollywood has made an out-and-out silly farce out of something that in reality was a silly farce. After having seen the movie, I tried to compare actual events with the insane stupidity that happened in the movie. That was actually my biggest problem with the movie. If they had tried to adhere closely to reality, it might have played funnier.
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    The Magnificent Seven (2016)

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

    Great, just what we need, another remake of a film that is not only a classic, but the film which it was inspired by is also a highly-praised classic.  I’ll admit I’ve grown tired of Hollywood going to the well and remaking films that simply don’t need to be messed with.  It’s one thing to see Seven Samurai (1954) translated for American audiences to go from a black & white martial arts spectacle to seeing a colorized star-studded western, The Magnificent Seven (1960).  When I first heard about the remake, I had hopes that the film would be modernized yet again, but unfortunately the studios decided to keep the setting in the Wild West, and even when Denzel Washington was hired on to head the film with Antoine Fuqua (Training Day & The Equalizer) in the director’s chair, I still wasn’t convinced.
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    Snowden

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 16th, 2016

    It’s been just about four years since Savages (2012) hit the big screen.  For me Savages was Oliver Stone simply having a blast, shooting an over-the-top action film fueled by sex, drugs, and violence.  Now it seems Stone has stepped back into the paranoid, government conspiracy form that he seems to be best known for with Snowden.  Whether you view him as a traitor to the United States or a self-sacrificing lamb to expose the government and its illegal wiretapping, it’s a choice that is up to you going into this film.  Personally, while I feel his intentions were good, still he did betray his government and committed treason.  What I had hoped with this film is that Oliver Stone would capture both sides of the coin, but as the title would suggest, Edward Snowden (Joesph Gordon-Levitt) is front and center on this ride, and that’s not my only problem here.
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    Sully

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on September 11th, 2016

    Clint Eastwood is 86 years old. He is also one of the best film directors working today. His latest film shows no signs of a man winding down his life, let alone his career. I obviously hinted that most other actors (or directors) his age have long ago died or checked into a nursing home. Eastwood looks lean and mean and still directs that way. Eastwood is interesting, as well, because he tends to pick projects that are outside the Hollywood studio corporate thinking. In other words, Eastwood is his own man and does pretty much anything he wants. His films as an actor and director have courted controversy way back to the days of Dirty Harry and A Fistful of Dollars.
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    Ben-Hur

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 20th, 2016

    In 1959 when Ben-Hur came out, it was a massive undertaking that nearly closed the gates for MGM after nearly bankrupting the studio.  It was a huge risk in producing such a large scale epic that fortunately paid off and became one of the studio’s cornerstone successes.  The story of Judah Ben-Hur and his fall from being a prince, to becoming a slave, to eventually becoming a hero to the people in the arena is such a familiar story it’s hard to not feel you’ve seen this before without even entering the theater.  In some parts I look at Gladiator and see somewhat the same film, only being set in a separate time and place.  But really the story of betrayal at the highest levels, and seeing great figures fall only to pull themselves up again is a theme Hollywood seems to relish, and it seems to attract many viewers in the process.
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    Hell or High Water

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on August 20th, 2016

    Taylor Sheridan is an actor. Let’s change that. Taylor Sheridan was an actor, and now he’s a writer. He’s a terrific writer. He’s the kind of writer that actors are going to be seeking out and critics are going to love. But he’s also made hard-boiled genre action pieces. He’s coming out of nowhere and getting everything right. He was a series regular on Sons of Anarchy and Veronica Mars, but he’s going to be in much greater demand as a screenwriter. His first film, Sicario, was one of the top ten films of last year, due in large part to his brilliant script (and also to everyone else involved with the movie, like director Dennis Villeneuve and cinematographer Roger Deakins).
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    Suicide Squad

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 8th, 2016

    In the days leading up to the release of Suicide Squad, over the internet there has been one of the most vicious attacks on a film before its release that I can remember.  Sure, we had all the negative talk about Ghostbusters,but that was before anyone had ever seen the film, and as screenings came along, opinions seemed to sway.  Now I was lucky enough to attend a screening Monday for Suicide Squad, and there were up to 150 people turned away at the door because the auditorium was filled to capacity. I mean, the buzz for this was high, and we DC fans were giddy, because this film was our hope that WB would be turning things around.  I mention all this because now this has managed to become one of the worst-reviewed films of the year, and I’m just sitting here like WTF happened, did they see some other cut of the film?
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    Jason Bourne

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 29th, 2016

    Moviegoers tend to have better memories than amnesiac assassins, but I think it’s fair to say we’ve mostly put The Bourne Legacy out of our minds. Universal’s underwhelming, half-hearted attempt to spin off one of its more lucrative franchises all but guaranteed the eventual return of original star Matt Damon and two-time director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy, The Bourne Ultimatum). The duo has re-teamed for the entertaining yet inessential Jason Bourne, which — for better and worse — will feel extremely familiar for fans of the trilogy.
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    Lights Out

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on July 24th, 2016

    Everyone is afraid of the dark…and that’s what she feeds on.”

    Despite rumors to the contrary, I am a full-grown adult. That means I can’t in good conscience admit to being afraid of the dark. The most I’ll concede is a sense of uneasiness if I’m in a dark space because I might bump into something. And if I hear a strange noise in the middle of the night, my mind might start creating sinister shapes out of shadows. (Hold on…am I afraid of the dark?!) Either way, that primal and unshakable fear of what could be hiding just out of sight is what powers Lights Out, one of the leaner, nimbler, and flat-out most enjoyable low-budget horror flicks in recent years.
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    Star Trek: Beyond

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 23rd, 2016

    “Space… The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission, to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

    Every Star Trek fan knows the words by heart. For 50 years they’ve heralded the promise of something special. From the television show that couldn’t but did anyway to 12 feature films. Would #13 be the lucky one? The trailers left many of us worried that it would more than likely be unlucky. And we needed so much for this one to be great. Since the last film we lost Leonard Nimoy, who was most certainly the heart of the franchise on the screen.
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    Captain Fantastic

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Paul O'Callaghan on July 23rd, 2016

    Captain Fantastic has nothing to do with Elton John. (It turns out that’s not entirely true, because director/writer/actor Matt Ross (Big Love, Silicon Valley) found out his mother played Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy all the time, and it must have imbedded itself in his subconscious). The story in the movie starts in a very Lord of the Flies way, with camouflaged faces hidden amongst the leaves of the woods. They are children, and one of them leaps from the bush with a knife and cuts a deer’s neck. There are seven children and they all belong to Ben (Viggo Mortensen, Lord of the Rings).
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