Posted in No Huddle by Gino Sassani on May 25th, 2021
“Space… the funniest frontier?”
Star Trek: The Animated Series first aired in September of 1973, four years after the three seasons of what is now referred to Star Trek: The Original Series. It was a straight sequel that continued the five-year mission of the starship Enterprise. All of the original cast lent their voices to the characters they played in the live-action series with the notable exception of Walter Koenig. Chekov was replaced with an alien that had three arms and legs named Arex, who was voiced by James Doohan, as were many of the other guest characters throughout the two years the series ran. There were episodes that served as direct sequels, and so we were treated to the likes of Harry Mudd, tribbles, and the Guardian of Forever once again. Now Paramount and CBS have brought us a second animated series, and the first season of 10 episodes arrives on DVD straight from its running on the network’s streaming service.
Posted in No Huddle by Gino Sassani on May 25th, 2021
It’s been a while since a CSI episode has crossed our paths. For nearly 20 years the franchise would be one of the top-rated dramas on television. It all started with the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. This Las Vegas show became an instant hit, and three years later we found ourselves in Miami for a spin-off. Two years after basking in the Florida sunshine, Jerry Bruckheimer caught lightning a third time; this time out New York would serve as the setting. While there are ties that bind the three shows to the CSI franchise, each show has a unique style. The cases also serve to distinguish the shows from one another. The leads for the three shows likely give the most character to the series. Gary Sinise as Detective Mac Taylor brings a strength that establishes this show’s credibility from episode one.
Posted in No Huddle by Archive Authors on May 25th, 2021
Ah, good old 1990’s, such important years in our history. The Soviet Union was in a state of social and political upheaval, David Robinson had just taken the professional basketball world by storm, and I was hatching plans for my first double-digits birthday. Oh yeah, and Beverly Hills, 90210 hit the airwaves for its inaugural season. Obviously, at the time I was a bit young to have been interested in this teen soap opera, so watching the DVD set has not be full of reminiscence for me. Instead, it’s been like discovering for the first time what 1990 could have been like, had I been a beautiful, spoiled-rich teen living in Beverly Hills. My three biggest regrets about missing out on 90210? I could have looked back now and laughed about the bad hair, bad clothes and bad music that I thought were so cool back in the day. Actually, I did laugh at that stuff, but surely not as heartily as I would have, had I been an old-school 90210 fan.
Posted in No Huddle by Gino Sassani on May 20th, 2021
“Well, you think about it, Ethan, it was inevitable. No more cold war. No more secrets you keep from yourself. Answer to no one but yourself. Then, you wake up one morning and find out the President is running the country without your permission. The son of a bitch, how dare he. Then you realize, it’s over. You are an obsolete piece of hardware, not worth upgrading, you got a lousy marriage, and 62 grand a year.”
The more things change, the more they tend to remain the same. In 1996 Paramount was nearing the end of a run of feature films that started with a 1960’s Desilu Studios television series called Star Trek. That same year the studio was beginning a run of feature films based on a 1960’s Desilu Studios television series that at one time shared an actor with Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy. That series was Mission Impossible. The show starred Peter Graves as the leader of a cold war covert government group called the IMF or Impossible Mission Force.
Posted in No Huddle by Gino Sassani on May 20th, 2021
“In the 19th century, persons suffering from mental illness were thought to be alienated from their own true natures. Experts who studied them were therefore known as alienists.”
The Alienist was drama airing on TNT for two seasons and is the latest in the recent trend of period-piece dramas to populate the television series market. Like many of these kinds of shows, The Alienist relies as much on atmosphere as it does on the actual story being told. The series is intended to attack the senses and obviously elicit some kind of a reaction. Filmed in Budapest, the show takes us back to New York City in the 1890’s and truly builds a rather deep and dark environment that you will likely remember far longer than any other element of the show. The series also utilizes a tremendous amount of computer-generated images for set extensions and sometimes complete environments. It’s an ambitious undertaking and might well have been the crowning achievement of the series.
Posted in Disc Reviews by Gino Sassani on May 18th, 2021
It started in 2013 with Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. DC decided to follow the Marvel MCU model and release a series of DC property films in a 16-film phase that ended last year with Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. After 16 films with a couple of branch-offs, that phase/story has come to a close, and a new phase begins with Justice Society: World War II. The stories were pretty much based on the New 52 reboot of the DC comics universe. There have been some exceptional films in the series and a couple of duds. The animation styles varied and conformed to the type of story being told. With the release of Justice Society: World War II we enter a new phase, and so far the theme or source of the new films hasn’t been revealed. We know the next two films will be based on the Batman: The Long Halloween comic. After that it appears the DC folks’ lips are sealed. While that two-part adventure looks quite enticing, the new series of films opens with a very average entry.
Posted in The Reel World 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 The Reel World 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 No Huddle 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 No Huddle 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 No Huddle 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 No Huddle 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 No Huddle 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 No Huddle 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.