Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 15th, 2020
“I hear if you’re looking for a miracle, now’s the time to ask.”
When Michael Weatherly left NCIS it was like losing an old friend, both for the cast and crew of the franchise and for the millions of fans who had invited him into their living rooms for almost 15 years. But he returned to both. His presence was very much alive in the last season of NCIS. He was discussed, shown in flashbacks, and somehow continued to carry on his teasing war with McGee. But he wouldn’t return in person. That’s because he was busy with the second season of his own show Bull. And while Bull is reportedly based on the early career of Dr. Phil, nothing could be farther from the reality that Bull is 100% Michael Weatherly. I’m not sure if the shows exist in the same television universe, but they continue to be somewhat entangled. Both shows aired an episode with the exact same title on the exact same day. The shows were called Keep Your Friends Close, and there’s obviously a message to the fans in there that however successful Bull turns out to be, we’re not completely done with Tony, and there’s an effort to keep the family bonds close.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 11th, 2020
“I’m a consulting detective of some repute. Perhaps you’ve heard of me? My name is Sherlock Holmes.”
In 1887, readers of the popular periodical Beeton’s Christmas Annual were to receive quite a special treat. There wasn’t much fanfare or hype to the event. Inside the pages of the magazine was a story called A Study In Scarlet. It was a detective story, perhaps like many published before, except for the detective himself, a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Together with his faithful companion and chronicler Dr. Watson, Holmes would win the hearts of those holiday readers. It might have been an ordinary day, but the world was about to change. Sherlock Holmes would become the most famous detective in the world. His stories would remain in print nearly 130 years later. Over 100 films would be made featuring the character. There would be television shows and cartoon spoofs. No other character has appeared in more productions.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on September 11th, 2020
“Mr. Holmes, you must widen your gaze. I’m concerned you underestimate the gravity of coming events. You and I are bound on a journey that will twist the very fabric of nature. But beneath your mask of logic, I sense a fragility. That worries me. Steel your mind. Holmes. I need you.
This was quite possibly my favorite scene from the movie, as it perfectly exemplified the journey that the character was about to embark on. This monolog was perfectly delivered by the film’s villain played by Mark Strong and could be seen as the battle cry for Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes. With an original story from Producer Lionel Wignam, this reimagining of the beloved characters thrust us into the action right away with Holmes hot on the trail of a killer. Hired to find a kidnapped girl, Holmes locates her and prevents her from being sacrificed for a dark arts ritual. Capturing the mastermind, Lord Henry Blackwood (Mark Strong), Holmes forgoes the credit as per usual.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 10th, 2020
“How do you guys change so fast?”
Welcome to what has become known as The Arrowverse. It’s the common name used to describe the DC Universe as it is presented and maintained on television, primarily those shows featured on the CW. It’s named after the first of those shows to hit the air: Arrow. That world has been steadily expanding to the point where it began to include each of the shows as they arrived on the network. On The Flash that expansion went on to include older television shows that featured DC characters, in that case the 1990’s series The Flash. Now that universe is growing to include the films both past and present and was reaching a point where it might all collapse under its own weight. It might have just been too much to handle as the comic-friendly concept of a multi-verse is used to explain these various incarnations of characters and events. It could get confusing, and that’s exactly what started to happen in the DC comics in the 1980’s.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 9th, 2020
“Hey, You Guys!”
It was the summer of 1985 when my mom took me to see The Goonies, I remember standing in front of the movie theater and staring at the poster on display with a little nervousness and wonder. I was only five, and I simply had no concept about what I was about to watch. I remember this day fondly, because this was the day I fell in love with cinema, though it would take me a few more years to wrap my head around these emotions. I had seen movies before this, but the experience of seeing The Goonies simply floored my imagination, and it inspired me to want to know more about pirates, lost treasure, and all the possible adventures one could have. As I’ve gotten older, despite how many movies I’ve seen, this is one that will always remain as one of my all-time favorite films. For those 30 or older who still haven’t seen The Goonies, well, I feel bad for you; you’ve missed out on a cinematic treasure that stands among the other classic films of the 80’s like Back to the Future, ET, Gremlins, and Ghostbusters (sure, there are others I’m not listing, but I think you get the point). When Super 8 came along, then a little later Netflix put out Stranger Things, it started a small revival of the children-in-peril genre that flourished in the 80’s. Despite how good some of these nostalgic revivals have been, they still can’t capture the magic of The Goonies.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on September 9th, 2020
“We live in perilous times.”
He has been called the Father of our Country. Every American history class is replete with his characteristics and important biographic details. In the upheaval of 2020, the name George Washington has taken on a somewhat different tone with populations across the country. A lot of this “cancel culture” movement is a movement of ignorance. I recently read a survey that some of the folks out there trying to bring down statues couldn’t pass a rudimentary quiz on who the person even was. It’s a disturbing situation. We’ve all heard the axiom that those who refuse to learn history are doomed to repeat it. But let’s not reduce this to oversimplistic catch phrases. History doesn’t repeat itself, but as Mark Twain cleverly observed, “It rhymes.” As a history teacher myself, I don’t often point toward a television production for a history education, and I won’t start here.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on September 3rd, 2020
Before Michael Keaton put on the cowl to become the dark knight of Gotham City, he and director Tim Burton came together to create a film that helped launch a career and a trademark “gothic” style that would catapult Burton’s career. Sure, Tim Burton has made a name for himself doing CGI-bloated films lately, and though they’ve made money at the box office, they don’t quite have the same magic that his films had in the 80’s and 90’s, though I’ll make an exception with Big Fish (2003). It’s impossible for me not bring a little bias to the table when discussing Beetlejuice. I loved the film as a kid and rewatched my VHS copy of it a ridiculous amount of times, and as I watched it again, I still continue to have giddy joy at seeing this film. If for some reason this film has managed to escape you over the years, or perhaps it’s been a while since you’ve dusted off this classic, allow me a moment to reminisce.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 31st, 2020
“I was wonderin’ if you were going to come to say goodbye.”
The world said goodbye to Gunsmoke in 1975 after 635 episodes and 20 seasons. But it wasn’t to be quite forever. While most of the cast would never again don the characters that made up the show’s iconic ensemble, James Arness would show up for three films that would carry his story forward. Now that CBS has already released the series in individual sets as well as an impressive full series box that delivers all 635 of those episodes, there remained just one more task to perform in order to make the collection complete. There were three television movies released between 1987 and 1992. Arness would be the only star to return for all three. Deaths and other commitments made a true collection of reunion films impossible. Even Amanda Blake as Miss Kitty would return only for the first film before becoming deceased. Two of the prominent returns were characters who were basically part of a single episode or actors who played other parts along the way. But the center of gravity for Gunsmoke has always been Marshall Dillon, and these films certainly do not disappoint on that front.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 31st, 2020
“18 years of sustained combat. I learned a long time ago to remain calm in the chaos, so that the fighting doesn’t bother me. But when things go quiet, I hear Father Time coming for me. A new battle on the horizon, and for the first time in my life I’m feeling an enemy I don’t know how to fight.”
What David Boreanaz does is create iconic television characters. He has had no trouble getting work over the years. He has had the ability to jump from one successful series to another and enjoy longevity in those roles. Unlike many actors who have had big television roles, he doesn’t get at all pigeonholed or typecast. In Buffy The Vampire Slayer he originated the role of the vampire Angel, who spun off to his own series for several years. Immediately after that he took on the role of an FBI agent and partner to the title character on Bones. That job lasted a decade. Before the remains of Bones could be laid to rest, he was already working on his next new series. Now he’s the field leader of a Navy SEAL team, and if the first three seasons of SEAL Team is any indication, he’s going to be dodging bullets and RPG’s for the foreseeable future. CBS has a big tradition of long-running shows, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a decade from now I’m talking to you about the 13th season of SEAL Team.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on August 27th, 2020
“What’s more important, Frederick? Freedom for one man, or freedom for all men?”
Inspired by a true legend. Emphasis on “inspired”, as this film does quite a bit of deviating from the historical data. Then again, I like to look at from the perspective of the main character: when recounting whether or not the legend that he is descended from kings is true, “It’s true to me.” Emperor is the tale of Shields Green, an outlaw slave in pre-Civil War South who went on to take part in the Harper’s Ferry raid, which is one of the events that sparked the Civil War. Dayo Okeniyi (Shades of Blue) has the momentous task of bringing this little-known historical figure to life. It is a challenge, but I do believe that Okeniyi was up to the task. While the story does have spurts of intrigue, for the most part it is told in a matter-of-fact tone, giving it the feel of reading it from a history book, minus the areas of deviation that is, which do come off as fantastical at times. Okeniyi is joined by Naturi Naughton (Power), Kat Graham (The Vampire Diaries), Harry Lennix (The Blacklist) as Frederick Douglass, and James Cromwell as John Brown.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 26th, 2020
“Events have been set into motion that you couldn’t possibly understand.”
If you’re thinking of joining The Flash for the first time in season six, that’s not going to work out so well for you. Hopefully you’re a speed watcher, because you have five seasons to catch up on before you start in on this release. In fact, it’s not just The Flash you might want to check out. The Arrowverse DC shows will become more interconnected in this season than they ever have before. It’s all leading to the end of Arrow, the beginning of Batwoman, and a five-part crossover that will blow your mind. This is without question the best show in the Arrowverse television family and has been since the day it aired. You’re going to love what this series has cooking, but you need to start with getting yourself caught up in order to fully appreciate what is in store for you here. In addition to Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and Batwoman, you can find out what we’ve had to say about The Flash. Check out our reviews of the previous five years here.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 21st, 2020
“Trust me. This isn’t the story I expected to be telling. But you know as well as I that stories, like the people who tell them, aren’t always what they seem to be. I suppose I should start here, in Gotham. Three years ago when Batman mysteriously disappeared, it divided the city. Some hoped he’d be back; others figured he was dead. I thought he abandoned Gotham for the same reason he abandoned my family. Because he didn’t care.”
The Arrowverse is losing its founding member. The shortened 8th season of Arrow was its last. It was certainly time. The series was starting to literally fold back on itself, and it was time to move on. But that doesn’t mean the universe it created is getting smaller. It’s expanding. Batwoman joined the universe, and the huge crossover this season and Superman & Lois is about to join next season. There are no empty spaces around this table, at least not for long. Enter Kate Kane, played by Ruby Rose. It’s a character almost as old as the Batman himself.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on August 21st, 2020
This film would probably work as a student film production. In its present form as a home media release, it falls short. The Barge People does its best to come off as a suspenseful addition to the horror genre, but in my opinion, it does not accomplish the needed goal: the suspense. The film follows two couples on holiday. It is very clear that each pairing has different ideals: one couple as been together for a while, but is living in the moment not really planning for the future, while the other has their minds set directly in the future. The only thing linking these couples together are the women, who happen to be sisters. It is evident that the men have nothing in common, and that if it were not for their significant others, they would prefer to not know that each other existed. Throw some inbred cannibalistic killers on top of that, and you basically have your movie. Timing was a big reason for me that this movie missed its mark. Perhaps with a few subtle changes, I would have enjoyed it more.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 21st, 2020
t’s a bold move when a film wants to compare itself to an 80’s classic like The Goonies. If anything, it more closely resembles the 2007 film Disturbia, and that film borrowed heavily from Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. Had this film stuck closer to the Hitchcock formula, I feel The Wretched could have easily been a stronger film, but the biggest problem the film has is that it tried to be too clever for its own good, and as a result it comes off a bit sloppy and contrived. That doesn’t mean that this is a bad film; in fact it’s a fun late-night romp, but what’s frustrating is seeing how it could have been so much more. While I know there was some buzz for this film earlier in the year, I’m kind of wondering if this buzz was generated by those who had actually seen the film or those who had only seen trailers? The film opens up with a young girl arriving at a house to babysit. It doesn’t take long for her to see that something is wrong at the home, and of course something is definitely going on in the basement. This is our first introduction to the skin-walking, body-modifying witch.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 20th, 2020
“It’s a family show with cops, not a cop show with a family.”
For ten years Blue Bloods has been a staple on CBS, giving Tom Selleck a chance to completely redefine his television career. The once cocky and carefree Magnum P.I. now has established himself as the wise patriarch. It’s a transition that a 1970’s audience would never have bought. But now he’s become a new kind of airwaves icon. The show has also managed to make it through a decade with very little change in the cast, and most of that coming from additions. This season is no exception, as we discover there’s been a long-lost member of the Reagan family out there for many years. But there are big changes coming to Blue Bloods. In the real world the police have been villainized by some, and it’s becoming an increasingly tougher job to do. For a family so steeped in law enforcement, the show will absolutely have to address these new realities. The second of course is the arrival of a pandemic the likes of which this country or the world has never seen. Productions were shut down and are now only beginning to ramp back up.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 19th, 2020
“You’re not failing. You just haven’t succeeded yet.”
If you are at all familiar with the NCIS franchise, you know that the show tends to follow a bit of a formula. Each spinoff has some unique style aspects, but the episodes tend to be relatively self-contained. That means you can start with Season 6 of NCIS: New Orleans and still be able to appreciate most of what’s going on. You’ll get to know and understand the characters pretty quickly. That’s more true of this particular member of the NCIS family than the others. It has had the most cast turnover. By the end of this season there will only be three characters who have been there since the beginning. Compare that to the L.A. version where you’ll find over a decade of no lost cast members, and you’ll find this one is the easiest to drop in and out of. Unfortunately, that also contributes to the fact it is my least favorite entry in the franchise. And all of that is in spite of the fact that I’m a rather big Scott Bakula fan, having been impressed by both Quantum Leap and his tenure as a Star Trek captain in Enterprise. So while you could certainly enjoy this release on its own, I still recommend you go back and catch up on the first five seasons just to get caught up and maximize your enjoyment. The good news is that we can help you with that. You don’t have to wade through 10 years of JAG, 18 years of NCIS, and 11 years of NCIS: L.A., although that might be one heck of a fun binge. Just catch up on the first five seasons of this show and you’ll be ready to go. You can check out those reviews here.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Jeremy Butler on August 17th, 2020
I remember this was the one show that I didn’t want to watch growing up. Ironies of ironies, I was not big on scary things when I was younger. Now it is one of my favorite genres. In reference to the original series, there was just something that really scared me about the show growing up. Of course, all it took was a dare from my family to force me to try to overcome that fear. Not sure I ever really overcame the obstacle, as once this revival miniseries came across my docket, I was hit with some of the old feelings that I experienced while watching the original show. It only took the opening sequence to send my daughter out of the room, so I was forced to overcome my childhood fears on my own, while opting to not scar my child. To that end, I must say that age has definitely made me braver, but it may also have more to do with the revitalization of the series, which I found to be more in-depth and intriguing than its original incarnation. This three-part miniseries may have been limited in how far it could go as far as goriness (given that it is a Nickelodeon production), but the storyline more than makes up for that, managing to weave a creative and entertaining web that also includes slight comedy and unique characters.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on August 12th, 2020
I remember when The Golden Compass came to theaters. I know I saw it because I was a projectionist and had to screen the print, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember anything about the film. Perhaps that’s why that when I first heard about HBO doing a TV series adaption of the beloved book series His Dark Materials that I wasn’t all that thrilled. I’d never read the young adult series, and considering the amount of awful YA film and TV adaptations that have bombarded us for nearly two decades, it too played a role in squashing any excitement I may have had in different circumstances. To be fair, when presented the offer to review the series, the odds were stacked against it, though I do attempt to always give a show or film an unbiased chance when I sit down with it. I feel it’s important I say all this because I want to express just how blindsided I was by this show and its story. Although its target audience with its books may be young adult, by the time the credits of the last episode rolled for its first season I found myself not just engaged with the story, but I had quickly grown attached to these characters and their story in a way I haven’t experienced since perhaps the first season of Stranger Things.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 11th, 2020
“Life just got complicated.”
It sure has. With the world still in the throes of pandemic, it’s nice to spend some time catching up on familiar characters and compelling stories. Very few television franchises are as familiar by now as NCIS. CBS brings us the 11th season of the NCIS spin-off: NCIS; Los Angeles to DVD. The series has become one of the most successful spin-off shows in the history of television. Only CSI and the Law & Order franchises have brought more episodes to our television screens, and next season the NCIS franchise will have passed CSI. The truth is, if you go all the way back to the original JAG series, this is hands down the most prolific one-hour series in television history. What is even more amazing is that the NCIS shows continue to be the most-watched franchise in the entire world, a position they have held for over a decade. No one has come close to this kind of television domination. If this collection of episodes is any indication, the ride isn’t anywhere near reaching the end. All three shows have been renewed, with NCIS getting a new two-year commitment at CBS. If you haven’t already caught up on all of those earlier episodes, you don’t necessarily need to do that, but why wouldn’t you? You might want to get acquainted with the cast and other aspects of the series. You can at least catch up with the first 10 seasons of NCIS: L.A. Here.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 7th, 2020
“At least attempt to hide the bias.”
Witness the birth of — actually make that rebirth of –one of the most popular action heroes in literature. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan has been a character of many jobs and many faces over the years. Baldwin, Ford, Pine, and Affleck have all stepped into the role of the man who has been a soldier, an analyst, an operative, and a president. What might appear as a clear advantage for this Amazon Prime streaming television show can be just as much a liability. When you throw in the Tom Clancy novels, comic books, and fan fiction, there is a ton of Jack Ryan history that pretty much gives us a story arc from his humble beginnings to extraordinary exploits and wearing the faces of a few good performers. It’s a tall order for the series and perhaps an even taller order for actor John Krasinski, who has created a nice little horror franchise with wife Emily Blunt on the side. I don’t really have the time or energy to watch streaming shows and films. There’s always a backlog here of discs that need to be watched and reviewed, and I’ve created a rather comfortable viewing experience with my home theatre I call The Reel World. Our motto: Here there be monsters. So last year I had my first experience with this series when Paramount sent the first season on Blu-ray. It was far more of a captivating and compelling series than I expected. Now the second season has reached the Blu-ray home platform format, and while I certainly detect a sophomore slump here, there’s still enough interesting drama to keep a fan engaged for another year.
Posted in No Huddle Reviews by Gino Sassani on August 1st, 2020
“You like when I do the whole cryptic thing.”
The 17th season of NCIS certainly ended with just that kind of vibe. The showrunners did a great job of keeping secret that Ziva would show up in the very last frame of the season. Everyone was sure she was dead, and while that’s often no reason not to bring back a character in the fantasy genre, it doesn’t often work in something like this. It brings up a lot of questions that were not going to be answered for several months. How is she still alive? Why is she here? Is she now a good guy or a bad guy? I’m sure you spent the summer with plenty of questions that didn’t get answered for a long time. But it’s finally aired, and now the whole story is out for home video as CBS releases the 17th season of NCIS. The team has changed faces over the years. Few of the original members remain, but as long as Mark Harmon remains in the starring role of Gibbs, there’s life in this show yet. This season sees no real change in the characters of the show, but it does allow for even more growth for those still on the train. NCIS is about to enter into its 18th season in just a short time. That in itself is a remarkable accomplishment in the days of short attention spans and hundreds of shows to keep that attention.
Posted in No Huddle Reviews by Gino Sassani on July 30th, 2020
“It’s crazy the things that happen at work.”
The beginning of 2020 certainly created some crazy things everywhere in the world. A pandemic arrived and shut down productions all over the globe. Films are missing long-anticipated release dates, and most network television shows were forced to close down early to protect their casts and crews. Seasons have been called with whatever episodes were already finished. Most of those shows will continue to shoot those episodes as part of their next season when they are finally able to get back to work. That won’t be the case for Hawaii Five-O. Late in this 10th season it was decided the show would wrap it up for good. We got 22 episodes, and they even managed to get out a series finale. If it all feels a little rushed, that’s because it was. This wasn’t the best year to have to say goodbye, and it certainly adds to the sadness for the show’s participants and fans. Now CBS is offering those final episodes before we all say aloha.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on July 28th, 2020
James Cameron is easily one of the most recognizable names in the Hollywood industry. Every time he makes a movie, it manages to break box office records. As many of us have been waiting patiently for his sequel to Avatar, it seems he was busy working on a small project that takes an intimate look into science fiction. This isn’t a boring history lesson, though; instead he’s gathered some of the biggest actors and directors of the genre and has a discussion about the various ideas that science fiction presents its viewers and readers. Whether you’re a science fiction novice or a self-proclaimed expert in the field, there’s at least something for everyone in this six-part, four-hour-plus series. The series is broken up into six episodes. Each episode covers a specific theme in the science fiction genre, so it allows you to watch it in any order you’d like. For me, I have to be honest; it’s hard to be impartial and not let my inner geek get excited over this series. When you have James Cameron and Steven Spielberg discussing how Close Encounters of the Third Kind came to be or see Cameron and Christopher Nolan discuss time travel, this is some engaging material. The closest thing I’ve seen recently where we get to see talented filmmakers sit down and talk is The Director’s Chair that Robert Rodriguez hosts, but what makes Story of Science Fiction stand out is seeing these filmmakers express their appreciation of the genre and what inspired them.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Michael Durr on July 21st, 2020
Despite my dad being away a lot on business as I grew up, he would often make the most of his time spent with me and leave lasting impressions on my mannerisms and character to this very day. We would play baseball (even though I wasn’t very good); he would teach me about money and how to be financially sound (which for the most part I think I do OK). He would also introduce me to the things he enjoyed, like root beer floats and Abbott & Costello. Even though these days I can’t have many root beers, I can enjoy an Abbott and Costello movie almost any time I like. One of those movies I remember watching with my dad was Africa Screams. It was my distinct pleasure to watch that movie again and bring my review to you today.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Brent Lorentson on July 16th, 2020
After enjoying Shudder’s revival of Creepshow, I’ve been looking forward to seeing what else they’d be bringing to their streaming service. When Belzebuth came along, I’ll admit I wasn’t exactly excited about the title. At first glance it seems like yet another possession/exorcism movie. Maybe it’s because I went into this with lowered expectations that this film managed to make an impact on me, but one thing is for certain, nothing about this film is “typical”. Recently I has reviewed Season 1 of Evil, and I’m glad that show is still simmering in the back of my mind, because Belzebuth is a nice companion to the show with one big exception. Belzebuth doesn’t pull its punches, and I’ll say this right now: it’s not for everyone, and it’s a film that will get under your skin. Grab your crucifix and keep a bottle of holy water nearby, because this little film out of Mexico isn’t afraid to show us what evil may really look like.