Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 13th, 2021
“We bring you the circus, pied piper whose magic tunes greet children of all ages, from six to 60, into a tinsel and spun-candy world of reckless beauty and mounting laughter and whirling thrills; of rhythm, excitement and grace; of blaring and daring and dance; of high-stepping horses and high-flying stars. But behind all this, the circus is a massive machine whose very life depends on discipline and motion and speed. A mechanized army on wheels that rolls over any obstacle in its path, that meets calamity again and again, but always comes up smiling. A place where disaster and tragedy stalk the big top, haunt the back yard, and ride the circus train. Where death is constantly watching for one frayed rope, one weak link, or one trace of fear. A fierce, primitive fighting force that smashes relentlessly forward against impossible odds. That is the circus. And this is the story of the biggest of the big tops, and of the men and women who fight to make it The Greatest Show on Earth.”
It was 1952 and four years before Cecil B. DeMille would deliver his Biblical epic release of The Ten Commandments.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 12th, 2021
“This bird you’ll never change.”
That seems to be the case with the Southern Rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Few bands have experienced the level of tragedy this one has. It’s somewhat of a miracle that any version of the band would still be standing. But they are thriving and doing their best to keep their particular sound alive. And what better place to demonstrate that nearly 50 years after they were formed than back home in Jacksonville, Florida where the band’s original members were formed. (No, they didn’t come from Alabama.) I was never a huge fan of the band, but like most music lovers, I was drawn to hits like Free Bird. In my high school band we played Free Bird, Gimme Three Steps, and … of course, Sweet Home Alabama.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on April 12th, 2021
Cute show, at least as far as I was concerned. My daughter is a bit of a different animal; then, of course, if it doesn’t show on Netflix or YouTube, she tends not to be all that interested. Unfortunately for my daughter, Victor & Valentino is a Cartoon Network show, so her interest in the series was nonexistent in the beginning. On the plus side, she was coming off a long punishment that included the loss of her TV privileges, so given an opportunity to watch any form of entertainment, she jumped at the chance. As I said, she wasn’t really about the show at first, but over the course of the 18 episodes, I think she started to enjoy it. Don’t let that number scare you. Each episode tends to run between 11 and 12 minutes, so you can watch the entire thing in the same span that it would take to watch a movie and a half. More on the subject: the series follows two half-brothers who are polar opposites; Victor “Vic” Calavera (who is voiced by show creator Diego Molano), an easily bored, hyperactive kid with a penchant for mischief and disregarding rules.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 7th, 2021
“Welcome to the future. Life is good! But it can be better. And why shouldn’t it be? All you need is to want it. Think about finally having everything you always wanted.”
In 1917 Patty Jenkins teamed up with Israeli actress Gal Gadot to create one of the best comic book movies of all time. Wonder Woman had everything. It sported a really good lead actress surrounded by a really good supporting cast. It had a grand scope but still gave us characters at the core with wonderful chemistry and heart. We got plenty of action and huge set pieces without giving up anything in the trenches. It was easily the best superhero film of the decade and the best DC/Warner hero film since the 1978 Donner Superman movie. But the trouble here is that Jenkins already had an incredible formula going here but couldn’t resist the temptation to want everything.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 2nd, 2021
“The theme of this picture is whether man ought to be ruled by God’s law, or whether they are to be ruled by the whims of a dictator, like Rameses. Are men the property of the state, or are they free souls under God? This same battle continues throughout the world today. Our intention was not to create a story, but to be worthy of a divinely inspired story, created 3,000 years ago, the five books of Moses. The story takes three hours and 39 minutes to unfold. There will be an intermission. Thank you for your attention.”
A sure sign that Easter is just around the corner is yet another home video release of perennial seasonal favorite The Ten Commandments. In years past, we got the multi-disc edition, complete with original silent version of the film. This particular version is rather more stripped down, as far as features go, but it does mark the film’s debut release on UHD Blu-ray and in 4K. Unlike previous editions, this one takes full advantage of the superior source material. The film was shot on 70 mm film, and that gives us an equivalent of 8K in today’s resolution terms.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 31st, 2021
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, and I’m here tonight to bring y’all the news from across this great world of ours. Now, I know how life is in these parts, working a trade sunup to sundown. No time for reading newspapers. Am I correct?”
How about reading a review for Universal’s News Of The World? If you spare a few minutes, I’ll tell you a little something about the film, and you might just end up with a copy of the film on UHD Blu-ray in 4K on your home video shelves. I’m certainly glad there’s a copy on mine. The film is based on the novel by Paulette Jiles with a screenplay by Luke Davies and director Paul Greengrass.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on March 29th, 2021
A year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to review a limited edition of Spirited Away, which was one of the pinnacles of Studio Ghibli animation, a film where the animation, story, and music were so well done that it warranted repeat viewings in appreciation. So, when I received today’s movie for reviewing and it boasted the same production house as Spirited Away, well, then my curiosity is certainly awakened. But if I learned anything from other famous franchises, production is nothing without a good story and direction. Let’s see how Earwig and the Witch turns out.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 26th, 2021
In the HBO limited series The Undoing, we get a scandal and murder that affects the high society of New York’s elite. I’ll admit at first glance this doesn’t seem all that original, but then when you see it stars Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman, it was enough to give this a closer look. Then I notice the six-episode series is penned by David E. Kelley (The Practice, Ally McBeal, and Big Little Lies), and this really grabs my attention. Helming the project behind the lens is Susanne Bier, who directed the Netflix hit Birdbox (though I wasn’t impressed) but also the limited series The Night Manager (which was pretty great). With all these combined along with the backing of HBO, this seemed like it had more potential than I first thought, and for the most part this series didn’t disappoint, but is it worth sitting through six episodes to get answers in this whodunit?
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 24th, 2021
“It’s not the end of the world.”
Just in time for the delayed release of Godzilla vs. Kong, we get a look back to the very beginning of this particular string of films. Of course it all really started back in 1954, but for our purposes this was the beginning of the current Warner Brothers/Legendary Pictures franchise featuring the true king of the monsters. Now Warner has released the film on UHD Blu-ray and in glorious 4K. So before you head to the cinemas or (God forbid) your phone screens for the latest battle, check in here to relive round one.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 19th, 2021
Promising Young Woman is a revenge film that takes what we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in the sub-genre and manages to give the audience something that is unique and fresh. It’s a film with a moral compass that is aiming to reflect an attitude towards “rape culture” where males have gotten away with inappropriate and vile behavior under the guise of being drunk and taking advantage of women who are in various stages of intoxication. It’s something that should disgust people because it continues to happen to this day, where privileged males seem to get a pass because they are young and come from prestigious schools. Despite the subject matter, the film doesn’t come off as a cautionary tale or a PSA; instead, it’s definitely an entertaining film that manages to prompt a discussion among its viewers. Now the film has several Oscar nominations; are they deserved?
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on March 19th, 2021
“I believe that every fascist should be swindled.”
The Last Vermeer truly was a worthwhile film experience for me, worthy of the silver screen. Granted, I doubt it would have been big at the box office domestically, but I don’t question that critics would have enjoyed just as I did. The film is based on the 2008 book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez, and tells the story of Dutch folk hero Han van Meegeren (played by Guy Pearce), an art forger who swindles millions of dollars from the Nazis. Following World War II, van Meegeren become widely known as one of the most ingenious art forgers of the 20th century, when it was revealed that he had sold a forged painting to Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. These events were revealed after a sensational trial in which he was being charged as officials believed that he had sold Dutch cultural property to the Nazis, a capital offense. Facing potential death by firing squad, Van Meegeren confessed to the less serious charge of forgery. It is estimated that Van Meegeren swindled buyers out of the equivalent of more than US $30 million, including the government of the Netherlands. But that is enough with the history lesson; let’s talk about the film.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 15th, 2021
It’s been a while since Jackie Chan has put out a film I’ve gotten excited about. Vanguard seemed like it could be the movie that would change that, since it had Chan reteaming with Stanley Tong (Rumble in the Bronx and First Strike among many others), but alas, this isn’t the case. Despite his age I know the man still has some gas in the tank. He’s simply an amazing performer who needs the right script to come along with the right director behind the camera. Vanguard is an action thriller that definitely feels like a throwback to the late 80’s and early 90’s action films, but unfortunately there is too much bad CGI that gets in the way of the fun along with political undertones that just seem forced.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on March 14th, 2021
Road films are something of a passion when it comes to movies for me. It could be a movie on a ten-lane highway guaranteed to have multiple car crashes, a two-lane cross country expedition, or a one-lane dirt road going into darkness where the passengers might never return. Nothing gets me going more than films like The Hitcher, Road Games, Two-Lane Blacktop, or The Duel. It is the idea of not knowing exactly where the next turn is going to take you or what lies beyond the next hill. Characters, environments, situations all can change once you get to the next town or cross another state line. Today’s road film is the 1997 thriller, Breakdown, with Kurt Russell and J.T. Walsh, where we explore what a man must do in order to find his missing wife. As one might guess, it is one of my favorites, as it delivers one nail-biting scene after another. Let’s take a look.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on March 9th, 2021
They say that timing is everything. When Dreamworks released The Croods back in 2013, it performed rather nicely both at the box office and on home video. The combined take brought the studio over a billion dollars and a bit of a comeback for their animated studio branch. It appeared to be the anchor for a new franchise that could hold its own against such juggernauts as Ice Age, Shrek, and pretty much anything Pixar puts out. I expected there to be a follow-up, but I didn’t expect it to take over seven years. Kids have relatively short attention spans, and sequels really need to strike while the box-office iron is hot. That wasn’t the case here. I’m not sure what the holdup might have been. The project was quickly greenlit by Dreamworks, and we should have seen something in a couple of years at the longest. Instead it took the better part of a decade, and the film faced a double whammy when it finally was ready for release.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on March 4th, 2021
“Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
This quote is one of two featured at the end of the film, the other coming from another prominent civil rights leader, Malcolm X. In his quote speaks about how though there are good people in the world, there are also a good many bad, and those bad people tend to be in positions of power that grant them protections from their misdeeds.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on March 4th, 2021
For a while now it has been accepted that cartoons are no longer for kids, and it can be argued that most of the popular animated shows now are more geared towards adults rather than kids these days. I’ve grown up with The Simpsons, and I’ve enjoyed the run that Family Guy has had, but really these have been the only animated shows I’d consider myself loyal to. Upon seeing some ads promoting Rick and Morty as well as hearing my friends talk about the show, I couldn’t help but think perhaps this could possibly be a new animated series I could get excited about. At first glance Rick and Morty seems like the perfected animated blend of Family Guy and The Simpsons, and for the other-worldly locations even Futurama. The comparisons are hard to look past; after all, the family dynamic is just about the same, and the shows both are filled with their pop-culture references throughout, so what is that makes Rick and Morty stand out from the other shows?
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 19th, 2021
The argument about violence in entertainment has been going on for decades. Groups have always wanted to point the finger at music, television, books, and movies for being the cause of violence or inciting crime, and typically the creators of this art are the ones being blamed. In the 90’s I remember the uproar about how Natural Born Killers was going to create a generation of serial killers but had people been paying attention to the film and how the violence of real life was being exploited, but by the media. Then even Metallica and Marilyn Manson were thrown under the bus for “creating” murderers in regards to the infamous West Memphis 3, who were accused of murder simply because of the music they listened to. Then there were the Columbine shooters, who were guilty because of the music they listened to and the movies they watched. Only recently does it seem that the finger-pointing has gone the direction where it’s deserved — towards mental illness. That’s not to say that life doesn’t ever imitate art.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on February 19th, 2021
Ammonite was a very hard movie to stay interested in. In its defense, I don’t believe that I was the target audience for the film; I’m not really interested in period dramas, and the only things I know about paleontology I learned from Ross on Friends. There is also the fact that as a film it is very slow and dry, and the most interesting angle was the relationship that developed between characters Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison. Granted this was an intriguing development, but before we are treated to this, we have to survive an hour of poignant silences broken up with very little dialog. There is also the fact that my research has shown that their historical accuracy of the characters’ relationship in the film has been called into question. So now as a audience member I am forced to question the only truly interesting thing about the film. Kate Winslet and Saiorse Ronan are top-level talents, but I fear that even they weren’t enough to make the film worthwhile for me. Essentially, Ammonite is only for those who enjoy slow-building period dramas.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on February 19th, 2021
Gerard Butler vs. Comets. Well, I suppose Butler has been making a habit of overcoming insurmountable odds in recent years. I mean, he has managed to save two different presidents in three movies, and it’s not like this is his first time facing down a natural disaster (remember Geostorm), but even with that said, this is quite the thing to have to overcome. Greenland tells the story of the Garrity family as they try to make it to an underground bunker in Greenland before an extinction-level event. While this premise does have some intrigue, I’m pretty sure that most of us would have been trying to find a place to survive a little closer to home. Needless to say, that wouldn’t make for a very good movie, so here we are. Normally we watch Butler face adversity alone, but this time he has help in the form of Deadpool’s Morena Baccarin, as they both have odds to face separately as well as together. While I did struggle with the overall concept of the movie quite a bit as well it mainly just feeling like a rehash of former disaster movies, I was never bored, as the special effects go a long way to creating a realistic and intense experience.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 19th, 2021
When it comes to Elizabethtown, I feel this is one of Cameron Crowe’s most divisive films. Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, and Almost Famous tend to be at the top of people’s lists when they discuss their favorite films by the filmmaker. Personally, Almost Famous is my favorite film by him, but Elizabethtown isn’t too far behind. When it came out in 2005, the film seemed to get trashed by a lot of critics, but oddly enough, I didn’t care much about what they thought, Crowe at the time had a great track record for good films, and there was nothing that could sway me from seeing the film, except it was in and out of theaters pretty fast, so I had to see it on DVD. It’s become one of my go-to films over the years, and I’ve found myself connecting to it more as I’ve been able to relate to various situations in the film (definitely not the near-billion-dollar fiasco Drew got himself in, thankfully). Despite my love for the film, I can acknowledge it’s not without its flaws, so I’ll be as objective as I can be.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 12th, 2021
Despite the pandemic going on, 2020 managed to deliver when it came to the horror genre. The Invisible Man and The Dark and the Wicked were definitely some of the highlights, and then there was Freaky, a horror comedy that was delivering a twist on the body-swap story. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant with embracing this idea, but when I saw it was being helmed by Christopher Landon, who brought us the Happy Death Day films; well, it gave me a little more confidence. This is one of the few films that managed to get a theatrical release, but I’m still a bit hesitant on actually returning to the theaters. Now that I’ve seen the film, I have to admit I’m a little bummed I didn’t get too see this with an audience. This is definitely one of those films that is a little more fun when you see it with an enthusiastic audience. It’s pretty much Freaky Friday meets Friday the 13th, and, well, slashers always tend to play better with crowds.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on February 11th, 2021
Come Play is the most recent film to be expanded to feature length following a successful short project. With the moderate success of Lights Out, it’s no big surprise that a studio would want to take a chance on Come Play, whose short film, “Larry”, worked as a prototype for the feature it would become. This kind of thing happens quite often with genre projects, but sometimes you have to wonder is there really enough story to expand a 5-minute short into a 90-minute feature. Using the addiction to technology and its ever-expanding AI features, there is plenty of story to be mined from this. Recently there was the update to Child’s Play that had AI technology seeking a new best friend it would kill to have, and in that film, Chucky was able to manipulate the technology around him. Come Play somewhat takes the same approach but instead creates a boogeyman for the age of modern tech. Then factor in that it’s a film under the Amblin umbrella, a company that is responsible for Poltergeist, ET, and numerous 80’s and 90’s genre classics … well, it’s hard to not have some raised expectations.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 30th, 2021
When it comes to the DC universe on television, I feel like Warner Bros. knows exactly what they are doing and truly understands the comics as well as their audience. Now that WB has merged with HBO, I was worried about whether some of the DC TV shows would continue on, since I’ve been impressed with the first two seasons of Titans and the first season of Doom Patrol. I was even more curious about whether Doom Patrol could continue to deliver it’s WHAT THE F*** moments that were sprinkled throughout the first season. Now that I’ve come to the abrupt end that Season 2 delivered, I’m happy to say the show has managed to outdo itself. One thing I want to get out of the way before I delve into this review: the season is only nine episodes long due to the pandemic, so the show does end with many story threads left wide open.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on January 29th, 2021
“The door to destiny is always open, for those who are brave enough. Now shut the door before you let the heat out!”
Cartoons are now called animated features, and just like the comic books that provide the source material for these DC Universe animated features, they haven’t been for children since the 1970’s. The latest and 40th entry into this animated series is Batman: Soul Of The Dragon. It’s rated R, which means some pretty rough language and a few surprisingly chilling scenes. So while the film itself will bring you back to the 1970’s in so many ways, this is strictly a modern-day animated film inspired by more modern-day comics. Most of these features are based on established comic story arcs, but this one is completely original, even if it borrows heavily from many sources including more recent Batman adventures. If you are old enough to remember many of the iconic elements of the 70’s, this film is for you. And that means you ain’t no stinkin’ child.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on January 28th, 2021
I’ll come out from the start and say how much I love the film Snowpiercer (2013). I was already a fan of Bong Joon Ho since I had seen The Host at a film festival, and I just thought his career would have exploded after the release of Snowpiercer. The tension created in that film as you see the tail section carefully move their way to the front of the train and the horrors they encounter along the way is engaging, and it speaks volumes. The stories about cannibalism are heart-wrenching, and the violence is intense. You definitely feel the desperation and are rooting for the tail section from start to finish. Sure, there was plenty of class warfare on display, but in the film it was very clear who was “good” and who was “bad”. Now we have a TV series inspired by both the graphic novels and the film, and this time those lines of good and bad are not so clear as it spins a new tale for us. This isn’t simply a TV show version of the movie, which is something I’m thankful for, but instead this is another version of events that could have happened on this epic train that is essential to mankind’s survival.