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    Free Fire

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 22nd, 2017

    One of the hardest things to pull off in a movie is the minimalist “ship in a bottle” trick. Television shows do it often to try to save money on their seasons. Most of the time it doesn’t work. There are notable exceptions. The same is true for a movie. You have to limit your running time. You have to quickly set up a small group of characters, and you can’t waste any time getting to the point. Ben Wheatley hits all of the right buttons in Free Fire, and he’s promising to take you on a hell of a ride without ever changing locations. It looks so simple. You figure anybody can do it…and they can. But few can do it well. The entire action in the 85-minute film could have easily been a throwaway scene in another feature film.
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    The Lost City Of Z

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on April 21st, 2017

    The best way to describe this film is epic; they really don’t make films like this anymore, and leave it to Amazon Studios to present us with such an ambitious film.  At one time Brad Pitt was set to star in the film, and then the lead role was offered up to Benedict Cumberbatch. Due to his conflicting schedule with Doctor Strange, he too had to drop out. Eventually Charlie Hunnam (Crimson Peak, Sons of Anarchy) was given the role, and to be honest, I don’t think there is another actor who is more suited for the role. Percy Fawcett (Hunnam) was a loyal soldier in the British army who seemed to never get the recognition that he deserved, and frankly this is something I feel Hunnam can relate to. He’s been in some great roles over the years, but somehow he’s a guy who’s been overlooked and hasn’t quite gotten the spotlight that he deserves.
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    The Fate Of The Furious

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on April 14th, 2017

    Family is everything to Dominic Toretto. He has said as much in Furious 7, “I don’t have friends, I have family.” Over the course of seven films, we have seen him undertake impossible task including driving a car off a plane or through a building in order to rescue or avenge a member of said family. So what would make him make him betray that very family? In The Fate of the Furious, the team will face the biggest challenge they have ever faced when they find themselves working against their very leader. The long-running film franchise continues to up the ante with the action, producing its most action-packed film to date. Every time I think that there is no way the series can top itself, they add a tank or drive off a plane. This time, they got a submarine, y’all.
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    The Zookeeper’s Wife

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 3rd, 2017

    “What have you been up to in your little zoo?”

    It appears that we have been due for one of those untold stories amid the many tales of courage and bravery both fact and fiction, real and imagined, that have been told of the World War II era. There have been plenty of the battlefield hero films that include last year’s exceptional Hacksaw Ridge from Mel Gibson. Then there are the quiet and unlikely heroes. These are people who did incredible things that were often unknown during the war and often even after it was all over. Schindler’s List has become the gold standard for these kinds of emotional war movies. The Zookeeper’s Wife is set in the mold of that kind of a film, telling essentially that very kind of tale.
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    Life

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 1st, 2017

    “In space no one can hear you scream”

    Yes, Life is very much a knockoff on the basic premise of 1979’s Alien. That’s not so much of a problem for me. It’s become increasingly true that there are few truly original ideas remaining, at least in Hollywood. And while it’s trendy to complain that this is the unique state of affairs of our time, that isn’t really true either. Alien itself was pretty much a knockoff of the 1958 classic It The Terror From Beyond Space, where a vicious life-form is a stowaway on a ship sent to rescue the lone survivor of a Martian expedition. In all three films we are treated to a claustrophobic rendition of Agatha Christi’s Ten Little Indians as an alien creature picks off the confined astronauts one at a time.
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    Trainspotting 2

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 31st, 2017

    “First, there is an opportunity.  Then…there’s a betrayal.”

    It’s been 20 years since the release of Trainspotting, and it’s fair to say a lot has changed in the past two decades.  I remember going out to the United Artists Mission Bell Cinemas to see Trainspotting the weekend it came out.  I was with my best friend at the time, and neither of us was old enough to buy tickets for the film, so we ended up having to sneak into the film.  We’d seen the trailers, and in a time before the internet, there just wasn’t much we could find out about it aside from reading articles in the entertainment magazines.  To this day, I remember walking out of the auditorium simply floored by the film.
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    Wilson

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 25th, 2017

    Daniel Clowes  is one of a handful of writers in the industry that when I see his name attached to a project I can’t help but be curious to see what he’s up to.  In 2001 he wrote Ghost World, which was based on the comic he created. It was an independent film smash, and I’d consider it a cult sensation.  Then he had Art School Confidential that had the same humor and a great cast, but it just didn’t seem to connect as well with audiences.  I love the odd little characters Clowes manages to bring to life, despite many being so over-the-top, he manages to somehow keep them grounded in reality.  So when the offer came along to review Wilson, the new film he’s written based off his graphic novel, it was an offer I couldn’t pass up.
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    Power Rangers

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on March 24th, 2017

    “Did you just slap me?”

    “Yeah….weird, right?”

    Well, to steal the most popular catch phrase of the television series: “It’s Morphin Time!” That’s right, folks; the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are once again coming to the silver screen.  Personally, after experiencing several remakes as well as more television reboots than I can even count, I found myself highly skeptical about this undertaking. Childhood nostalgia is the only thing that motivated me to see this movie, and even then I went into the screening expecting a cheesy and cliché film that was going to tarnish the memory of the show that I once loved. I am proud to say that I have never been so wrong.  Not only was this action movie great, it is going into the top five of movies that I have seen this year.
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    Beauty and the Beast (2017)

    Posted in Disc Reviews by John Ceballos on March 17th, 2017

    “Who could ever learn to love a beast?”

    Although it’s not quite a tale as old as time, people around the world have been enchanted by the story of “Beauty and the Beast” for centuries. The French fairytale was first published in 1740 and has subsequently spawned everything from a classic 1946 big-screen romance to Ron Perlman. Still, the most popular iteration of this story is Disney’s beloved 1991 animated musical, which helped solidify the Mouse House’s cartoon revival and serves as the most direct inspiration for this dazzling live-action adaptation. Then again, the fact that this new version is essentially a pretty close copy of a copy takes some of the bloom off this particular rose.
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    Kong: Skull Island

    Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 10th, 2017

    Every year it seems the “summer” movie season starts sooner than the year before.  Here we are, the second Friday of March, and already we’ve seen the huge box office weekend for Logan, and now this weekend we have the release of Kong: Skull Island.  Ever since Kong first graced the big screen back in 1933, every film that followed was a mega-event. Personally it wasn’t till 2005 that theatergoers got to fully experience the massive beast in all his glory as he became worthy of the title “the 8th wonder of the world”.  Now we have Legendary Entertainment playing in the giant monster movie sandbox with plans to set up a series of monster films.  All this leads up to the inevitable clash of the kaiju monsters where we will finally see the showdown of Godzilla vs. King Kong.  Before we begin to get too excited, how does our current trip to Skull Island fare?
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    Logan

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

    “I always know who you are. It’s just that sometimes I don’t recognize you.”

    Logan is perhaps one of the most interesting, endearing and popular characters in the Marvel universe. Wolverine has the distinction of having been created by someone other than Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While they invented the X-Men team from which the adamantium-clawed warrior was born, he was actually created by the team of Len Wein and John Romita, Sr. in the mid 1970’s. Since that time the character has taken on a life of his own, a life that is as much owed to actor Hugh Jackman as anyone else.
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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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