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    Get Out

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

    Sometimes…if there’s too many white people, I get nervous.”

    Some of the very best horror films/psychological thrillers succeed by taking a relatable source of anxiety and cranking it to 11. For example, The Exorcist can be viewed as the worst-case scenario for anyone suffering a crisis of faith, while The Shining taps into the madness of being cooped up with your family for too long. Get Out works because it uses the nerve-wracking experience of meeting your significant other’s parents for the first time as a jumping-off point to tell a subversive, insightful, and entertaining story that mashes together Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives.
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    The Great Wall

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 20th, 2017

    It’s kind of a big deal when discussing the film The Great Wall to mention that it is the most expensive Chinese film made to date.  With an estimated budget of a $150 million, I can understand the stunt casting of putting Matt Damon in the film that takes place during the Great Wall’s construction.  It’s quite simple; Matt Damon is an international star, and he puts people in seats.  What’s more surprising is that at one time Edward Zwick was on board to direct, but eventually that position would be passed on to  Yimou Zhang. For those unfamiliar with Zhang, he’s responsible for such martial arts epics Hero and House of Flying Daggers, and for Zhang this would be his first Hollywood feature.
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    John Wick: Chapter 2

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 13th, 2017

    “You wanted me back. I’m back.”

    Keanu Reeves has enjoyed somewhat of a career renaissance thanks in no small part to the success of John Wick in 2014. There he teamed up with some stunt friends of his going back to The Matrix, and together they brought a new action hero to the screen that was as much graphic novel as it was action film. It would become the directing debut of the stunt team of Stahelsky and David Leitch. Along with their action star, everyone stuck to what they knew and refused to overcomplicate the whole thing.
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    The Lego Batman Movie

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

    Black…all important movies start with a black screen…”

    I completely understand if you’re Batman-ed out by now. The Caped Crusader barely had a chance to catch his breath since the end of Christopher Nolan’s landmark superhero trilogy in 2012 and being pressed back into duty to help kickstart Warner Bros.’ budding superhero universe last year. But between those two iterations, we got a glimpse at a fresh, knowingly funny version of a hero that takes himself entirely too seriously. Batman was a scene-stealing supporting player in 2014’s block-buster The Lego Movie, and now he once again takes center stage in a sharp, hilarious, irreverent adventure that celebrates practically every version of the beloved character.
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    Fifty Shades Darker

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on February 10th, 2017

    From the suggestion of the title, you would think that we would be diving deeper into the world of BDSM, but after watching, the only thing that I can say about Fifty Shades Darker is that it’s a love story. Yes, I know that it was always a love story, but the first film possessed an edge and intensity, which no longer exist in the sequel. Disappointing is too pale a word for the film. From its failure to properly capture the essence of the source material, less than engaging performance of the leads, and the vanilla nature of the sex scenes, the movie does not live up to the hype. If 50 Shades of Grey pushed the envelope with its sexuality, 50 Shades Darker embraces the commercialism of a sequel for profit rather than effect.
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    The Comedian

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on February 5th, 2017

    Robert De Niro is arguably one of the most talented actors living today. There’s little doubt that he’ll long be remembered as a legendary force in motion picture history. But there has long been a downside to the iconic actor. He hasn’t had a good starring role in over a decade. It looks too often as if he’s been more interested in chasing a likely unneeded paycheck than adding to his already established legacy. For every Godfather Part 2 or Deer Hunter, there’s a Dirty Grandpa or Fockers sequel. For each Good Fellas or Raging Bull, there’s a Stone. And since the turn of the millennium, De Niro has gravitated more and more to comedy.
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    Rings

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 5th, 2017

    When The Ring (2002) first came out, if you looked hard enough you could still find movies on VHS, so the thought of a mysterious tape that kills you seven days after watching it wasn’t so entirely farfetched.  Now that we are in 2017, if someone were to find a mysterious VHS tape, well, they’d be out of luck for the most part, since I’d wager most of the US population no longer has a VCR.  But Hollywood won’t let this stop their successful franchise from moving forward, even though it’s been 12 years since The Ring Two, this weekend is the release of the third film in the series, and quite frankly, I have to wonder if anyone really wanted this. 
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    The Founder

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 23rd, 2017

    “I know what you’re thinking: How the heck does a 52-year old milkshake machine salesman build a fast food empire with over 1600

    restaurants and an annual income over $700 million? One word:” The Founder.

    When I was very young, my mother dressed up as Ronald McDonald for a McDonalds block party for a charity benefit. In those days McDonalds helped organize these things, including the provision of said Ronald McDonald outfit. I was just a kid, but seeing my mother put on the costume kind of killed the last of the childhood fantasies. I guess we all thought Ronald was the guy who invented McDonalds. We thought he was the founder. I figured that was the big reveal. That was until I saw The Founder,
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    XXX Return Of Xander Cage

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on January 20th, 2017

    I’ll say this for Vin Diesel, he always returns to a franchise. It doesn’t matter how long has passed between his introduction and his exit; you can always count on him returning and stepping back into a role regardless of how many years it’s been, like nothing has ever changed. Doesn’t matter what it is; Fast and Furious, Riddick, and now XXX: the Return of Xander Cage. For those not familiar with the franchise (though I’m sure there few people who don’t already know about the original), XXX was an action film that was released in 2002 featuring Diesel as Xander Cage, an extreme sports enthusiast who is recruited by the NSA to foil a terrorist plot, which he accomplishes with such flair that an idea is born: create a program for a group of rebels who can get close to the criminals that the government can only dream of.
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    Patriots Day

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on January 13th, 2017

    Too soon? That’s a question filmmakers looking to tackle a real-life tragedy from the recent past must ask themselves. The past several months have nevertheless brought us a mini-run of movies based on true calamities. Clint Eastwood’s Sully used the “Miracle on the Hudson” to explore the nature (and context) of heroism. Peter Berg’s Deepwater Horizon painstakingly chronicled the events that led to the famous oil rig disaster on the Gulf of Mexico. But the best movie of that bunch is Patriots Day, Berg’s visceral, all-encompassing, and thrilling account of the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
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    La La Land

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 28th, 2016

    When the closing credits rolled the first time I saw this, I was stuck in my seat paying some attention to members of the cast and crew, but mostly I was sitting there in awe.  I’m honestly struggling to think of a film that has affected me on the screen so deeply, and the closest I can get is The Shawshank Redemption. While I’ve certainly seen many good films over the years, and I’ve seen some I would even call great, La La Land is something more, something special that came along that achieved what few would even dare to believe.  It is an achievement that writer and director Damien Chazelle deserves the many accolades that he will soon be showered with as we enter into the award season as 2016 comes to a close.  Just what is it that he managed to capture?  In my most humble opinion, he captured all that was and is great from the Golden Age of Hollywood.
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    Passengers

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

    With talks going on about setting up colonies on Mars, long distance space travel is quickly moving away from the pages of science fiction to the next step in space exploration. Passengers is a film that taps into the possibilities of what this could mean for us as a species but also takes a look at the great risk that we would be facing. At a glance it would seem like a surefire Hollywood blockbuster to end the year, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that is a sure thing.  Despite the great effects and set designs, two bankable stars, and a more than capable director, Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game and Headhunters), what you still need is a story that will not only fill those seats but keep people wanting to come back for more.
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    Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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

    “You have to start somewhere.”

    I could sense a great disturbance in the Force. I could not quite put my finger on the reason, but there appeared to be much to worry about with the debut of the first ever Star Wars film that was not one of the driving episodes in the epic story of the Skywalker family and friends. There was worry that Disney might have been pushing their luck with these sidetrack stories. The Force Awakens was very good, but should the Mouse House really be tempting fate with such “filler” material? Then there were the disturbing reports that the film required so many rewrites that as much as $5 million had been spent on the services of Tony Gilroy to provide those touch-ups
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    Nocturnal Animals

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on December 15th, 2016

    In 2009 Tom Ford, the famed fashion designer, came into the Hollywood scene with his stunning first-time writing/directing effort, A Single Man.  It was a somber film that garnered numerous accolades and left many of us wondering what he would be doing next.  It’s been seven years, but we finally get the follow-up film we’ve been waiting for.  Nocturnal Animals is clearly a film that cries out for award attention with its December release and a cast that for better or worse could make a dramatic reading of a telephone book an engaging experience.  When the trailer dropped for the film, I was sold on its stunning visuals and its ambiguity that had me hooked and curious about what Ford would have in store for us.
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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 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 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 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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