Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on May 17th, 2021
Just when you thought the Saw franchise had finally claimed its final victim in Jigsaw, Lionsgate has decided to keep the gruesome franchise going with Spiral. I know it seemed like the character of Jigsaw had finally been milked (or bled) for all its worth, what more can they do with this franchise? Honestly when I first heard about this film I groaned, I love horror and I love gore but even I was feeling the franchise had gotten a bit stale. As it turns out there does seem to be more story to be juiced from this franchise and I’ll say it right now, this film was the game changer the franchise needed and it helps pave the way for plenty of pain, revenge and justice down the road. This is a film that was long overdue to the franchise and I’ll go so far as to say it’s perhaps my favorite film of the series since the release of the first film.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on May 17th, 2021
“Creeks lead to rivers. Rivers lead to towns.”
With a little more character development, Those Who Wish Me Dead would have been a really intriguing story. The film had a winning recipe: A script written by the man who gave us Hell Or High Water/Sicario (Taylor Sheridan), a cast that include talent like Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, and Aidan Gillen, as well as a rifle-toting pregnant woman on horseback. What more could you ask for? If only adequate time had been spent flushing the characters out and answering some of the question that were posed during the film’s runtime. As it stands, the film never gets past the initial intrigue phase because despite all the things the film did have, it’s what the film was missing that defines it.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 13th, 2021
After filming Cold Pursuit in 2019, Liam Neeson announced he was done with his flirtation with action films. They had opened a new genre to the actor starting with Taken and created a nice boost to his career as an unlikely action star. He said he had some reservations about the genre. It didn’t help that he revealed at the same time that he once roamed the streets looking for a black man to kill over the rape of a friend. It looked like it wasn’t just action films that were over for the actor. I honestly expected there to be more trouble than there was, given the current climate. Somehow he kind of got a pass after apologizing for the remark. But he wasn’t being offered the kind of high drama roles he was expected. So in less than a year he was back as an action figure, and that appears to be something he won’t really be quitting in a long time. I get it. I was about to attend my fourth Elton John farewell concert since the first one back in the early 70’s. There’s something about getting the bug deep in your bones that makes it hard to let go.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 23rd, 2021
The Italian film industry has been setting trends since Edison first released his wonderful moving picture cameras. Names like Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Lamberto Bava delivered what would be known as Spaghetti Nightmares. These are the films that gave birth to the American splatter craze that began in the 1970’s. Then there was Sergio Leone and his Spaghetti Westerns that propelled Clint Eastwood to instant stardom with his Man With No Name films. Most film fans know these filmmakers and the history that spawned. What is less known is that decades before these trends Italian filmmakers were created, a genre often called sword and sandal films that featured a lot of ancient buff guys with swords saving cities, and of course beautiful damsels in distress. While many were low-budget affairs, they soon evolved into epic spectacles while still on somewhat limited funds. Among these films the Greek semi-god Hercules would become one of the more famous and successful. Hey, Greek mythology is in public domain, so you can develop a franchise that has high name recognition without having to pay royalties. Writers were a dime a dozen and could be paid with a six-pack and a TV dinner. In Europe at the time there were no unions to make sure everyone shared in the wealth.
Posted in Super Round Up by Jeremy Butler on April 23rd, 2021
I’m happy to report that I found something enjoyable about all four of these films. Granted each one did have some tidbits that I could do without, but all in all each film helped me to expand my horizons. I was also grateful to have variety with each film actually being of a different genre; there was action, there was suspense, some tenderheartedness, and even a little education. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on April 21st, 2021
“There is a doorway in the universe. Beyond it is the promise of truth. It demands we question everything we have ever been taught. The evidence is all around us. We are not alone. We have never been alone.”
Ever since Eric von Daniken released his speculative book and its subsequent 1970 film Chariots of the Gods, there has been an entire field of study created around something commonly called Ancient Astronaut Theory, the idea is that extraterrestrials have visited many of our ancient civilizations. The theory continues that these visitors had a hand in shaping our development, whether it be through technology or even manipulation of our very DNA.
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.