BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Oct 23, 2012 0 comments
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Four Atlanta businessmen set out in two canoes down the fictional Cahulawassee River before a dam is built to generate electricity for the growing population of Atlanta. Their adventure starts normal enough, but you get the impression that something isn’t right with the inbred people of the backcountry—and their enjoyable river ride turns into a horrific life-changing experience.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 17, 2012 12 comments
Going back a few years, the arrival of high definition in general and Blu-ray specifically signaled a new era of entertainment. While home theater has long promised a movie-watching experience that we could enjoy in our pajamas—without getting arrested—the reign of the 1080p optical disc promised us DVD convenience combined with superior cinematic quality. Delivering on that promise wasn’t always so easy, however. Owing to a variety of variables, such as poor film storage, tight budgets, and the simple fact that some studios are more dedicated to the preservation of their libraries than others, many of the most anticipated Blu-ray debuts have been lackluster, frequently mere ports of existing standard-def masters.
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Shane Buettner Posted: Oct 16, 2012 0 comments
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1971’s Harold and Maude, a cult classic before there was such a thing, undoubtedly remains the weirdest rom-com of all times (classifying this movie as such has me laughing out loud as I type!). Harold (Bud Cort) is an odd young man who lives with his wealthy, high-society widow of a mother and gets his kicks (and much-needed attention) from elaborately acting out his own death. Over and over. While Harold’s mom’s ideas for straightening him out are to put him in the military or marry him off, another of Harold’s hobbies, attending strangers’ funerals, leads him to Maude (Ruth Gordon), a daring older woman and the freest spirit you’ve ever seen. She lives in a renovated boxcar, fights the system in her own inimitable ways, ruffles a lot of feathers, and steals a hell of a lot of cars. She’s a gas and is absolutely as obsessed with life as weird Harold is with death. They fall in love.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 10, 2012 11 comments
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Adaptations of old TV shows are a mixed bag, especially when filmmakers take the risky step of amping up the comedy factor of the original. The new gold standard of this bawdy-yet-reverent approach is 21 Jump Street, with much of the credit belonging to star/executive producer/co-writer Jonah Hill. He plays a brainy high school loser who, years later, winds up enrolling in the police academy at the same time as his brawny erstwhile tormentor (Channing Tatum).
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Oct 10, 2012 2 comments
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Last year’s Best Picture, The Artist, embodies a simple enough idea: a silent movie about silent movies, told in the classic style. Set in the waning days of the era, the story introduces us to aging matinee idol George Valentin (Oscar winner Jean Dujardin) who meets the wide-eyed ingénue Peppy Miller (nominee Bérénice Bejo) outside one of his premieres. Seldom does the screen see such an intoxicatingly attractive couple, and yet their relationship is a complicated smolder of admiration and respect that has its share of ups and downs across years of drastic change.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 01, 2012 1 comments
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Zeus, king of the gods, enlists the help of his half-human son Perseus in defeating Perseus’ brother Ares, who has allied with Hades in an effort to release Kronos, the leader of the Titans and the father of Zeus and the other gods. But Perseus just wants to be left alone to live as a human with his son.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Sep 25, 2012 0 comments
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The old adage “trust no one” is dramatically reinforced in the adrenaline-pumping thriller Safe House. Government-run safe houses are supposedly secure areas where people of interest can be kept in quarantine for purposes of questioning or until safe transport can be arranged. Ryan Reynolds is a “housekeeper” stationed at a CIA safe house in Capetown, South Africa. His daily regimen consists of total isolation and staring at the walls. One night, however, covert operatives arrive with a high-profile renegade agent to be interrogated. Shortly after his arrival, all hell breaks loose and pretty much stays on the loose until the end of the movie. Denzel Washington stars as the rogue agent carrying some extremely volatile and valuable information.
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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 24, 2012 2 comments
The buddy movie has been a staple in Hollywood going back to the days of Abbott and Costello. The 1980s revived it with films such as 48 Hours and Lethal Weapon, and there have been quite a few copycats over the years that have made their mark. Like most successful films, sequels are a surety, and this is where the Mel Gibson–fueled franchise proved its worth with nearly $500 million in box-office receipts for the four films.
Thomas J. Norton Posted: Sep 17, 2012 1 comments
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As Marvel’s comic characters go, Ghost Rider is hellishly hard to categorize. From what I can gather from the character’s two films, 2007’s Ghost Rider and this sequel (I’m not a fan of the comics), Johnny Blaze is a motorcycle stunt rider who sells his soul to the devil to save his father’s life. In exchange, he periodically turns into an ancient, fiery demon that searches out evil to suck out its soul. A bummer for sure, but everybody needs a hobby. His motorcycle has apparently sold its carburetor and tires to Beelzebub as well, since whenever Johnny goes all flames and stuff, he’s also treated to one hell of a ride. Talk about sitting on the hot seat.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Sep 10, 2012 0 comments
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Long before Batman had the Joker, the world’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes, had an evil nemesis who was every bit his equal in intelligence and powers of perception; the yin to his yang, so to speak. Professor James Moriarty was a precursor to the Bond villain and a blueprint for every criminal mastermind to come. In the previous Sherlock Holmes film, he was a mysterious and sinister presence concealed in darkness. For A Game of Shadows, he comes to the forefront to challenge the master detective to a game to the death and is played with relish by Jared Harris.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Sep 04, 2012 3 comments
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An old adage (OK, I just made it up) says that if you’re going to make a movie in 3D, you’d better give the audience something interesting to look at. The Mysterious Island does just that, dazzling the eyes with nonstop wonders held together by a wholly adequate plot. Young Sean (Josh Hutcherson) is having trouble living the suburban life of a normal teen after the excitement of his journey to the center of the earth. And soon enough, a cryptic message from his missing grandfather sets him off on a new adventure halfway around the globe, this time chaperoned by his supercool stepdad (Dwayne Johnson).
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Shane Buettner Posted: Aug 28, 2012 0 comments
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Chinatown is an impossibly perfect movie from the glory years of the 1970s, when great filmmakers were routinely working within the Hollywood system. Consider that Chinatown’s 1974 Oscar competition was Coppola’s The Godfather: Part II and The Conversation, and you get the idea. Robert Towne’s complex but tightly woven screenplay, set amid L.A.’s 1930s water wars, is a clinic on screenwriting. Every detail is of great consequence as the misdirection peels away and the baser, more painful truths are revealed, culminating in a haunting, unforgettable ending that starkly reveals the cynicism of the film’s title.
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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 20, 2012 0 comments
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Losing your spouse has to be one of the most heart-wrenching experiences anyone could ever face. Throw in a couple of young kids who must also cope with the loss, and the surviving parent is in store for a very rough ride. When we meet Benjamin Mee, it’s been six months since his wife passed. His two kids, 14-year-old Dylan and 7-year-old Rosie, are trying to adjust but aren’t faring well. The widowed dad is reminded of his wife wherever he goes in town, and Dylan gets expelled from school due to his unique art and a theft problem. It’s definitely time for a change of scenery.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 14, 2012 0 comments
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There are few more enduring classics of American theater than Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, an over-the-top, sweaty steam bath of a play that straddles Greek tragedy and Gothic camp yet still commands attention, even astonishes, 65 years after its creation. The show ran on Broadway for two years; the film adaptation was shot two years after that; both were directed by Elia Kazan and starred Marlon Brando. This was only Brando’s second film. He was 27 years old. And despite all the subsequent parodies of his sultry pout and his mumblecore rage (“Stella! Stel-l-l-laaa!”), he was a blazing-hot actor. It’s a natural heat that he radiates, and he modulates it seamlessly, from simmer to boil and all shades in between. Brando’s amazing to watch: The acting is all there on the surface, yet he’s so immersed in his character, it seems completely uncontrived. You see the moves and attitude that countless actors later copied, but none of them ever matched this. (That said, his performance in Kazan’s On the Waterfront three years later was even better, subtler.)
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Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 13, 2012 2 comments
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When I was a wee lad, I was taken to a movie about a boy and his dog. It was a Lassie movie, I believe, although I was too young for that to mean anything. According to my mother, however, I cried so hard they could hear me in the back of the balcony. (All theaters had balconies in olden times.)

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