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BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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David Vaughn Posted: Sep 04, 2011 0 comments
Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a young Cuban immigrant, lands in Miami in search of the American dream. There he meets Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), who mentors the young man on how to succeed in a life of crime, and Montana eventually becomes one of Miami's most feared drug kingpins. Staying at the top isn't easy, especially if you're mentally unstable, and when Montana neglects the two most important pieces of advice from Lopez, his empire begins to unravel and all that's left is his "little friend."

Written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma, Scarface is a gritty tale filled with violence, foul language, and a fantastic performance by Pacino. That being said, this isn't one of my favorite gangster films. While I enjoy the mesmerizing cinematography, I find the screenplay to be a tad shallow, and at 170 minutes, it's much too long.

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Ken Korman Posted: Sep 01, 2011 0 comments

Clinical depression isn’t exactly the stuff of Hollywood dreams. And in 2011, neither is Mel Gibson. His real-life drunken tirades have cost him dearly — and they make him an unlikely candidate for the necessarily sympathetic movie role of a severely depressed man who takes to talking through a beaver hand-puppet just to survive.

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Fred Kaplan Posted: Aug 30, 2011 0 comments
John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King is one of those great films the likes of which “they don’t make anymore” (and, in fact, they rarely did), a grand tale of adventure and greed set against the great outdoors and the judgment of Nature. It’s based on Rudyard Kipling’s novel, but in many ways, it’s a throwback to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, which Huston also directed, nearly 30 years earlier. This movie’s prospectors are former soldiers in Britain’s colonial army, seeking power and fortune by conquering tribal warlords in the mountains of Afghanistan, rather than American ne’er-do-wells panning for gold in the foothills of Mexico. But the outcome is the same: Our (anti-) heroes win everything then lose it all through avarice and arrogance. In Treasure, they dig up more gold than they can carry (or their capacity for mutual trust can endure); in King, they stumble into a cavern of riches, but one of them starts believing he really is a god (as they’ve tricked the natives into thinking), until the act is exposed.
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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 26, 2011 0 comments
Bored with his perennial role as Halloween Town's frightening Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington discovers the cheerful village of Christmas Town. Determined to shake things up in Halloween Town, he schemes to kidnap Santa Clause and takes over the job of delivering gifts to the children himself. When his plan goes awry, Jack attempts to restore Santa to his rightful place, but he must first rescue him from the evil clutches of Oogie Boogie.

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is an unusual film that improves with multiple viewings. Burton cleverly mixes Halloween and Christmas with fabulous set designs and stop-motion photography, creating a whimsical world in which to tell his story. The film was rereleased to theaters in 2008 with a 3D conversion utilizing the talents of Don Hahn and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). As explained on Mouseclubhouse.com, they used the original film for the left eye and they projected it onto a featureless piece of geometry that looks like a coffee cup. Then the camera was moved to the right three inches and re-photographed. Any gaps are then filled in via Photoshop and the resulting image is outstanding. I loved the original 2D release of the film for its fine visuals and enveloping soundtrack, but this 3D version takes it to a whole new level.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 25, 2011 0 comments
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1949, John Belushi was the offspring of Albanian immigrants. Both he and his younger brother Jim would find success in Hollywood, but on March 5, 1982, John was found dead in his hotel room in West Hollywood from a drug overdose.

Although his career was short-lived, he had a great foundation to become a comedic force in Hollywood. At the age of 22, Belushi hooked up with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago and eventually found his way to New York as a cast member in the off-Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. The show was originally slated to run six weeks, but it entertained packed houses for almost ten months. From there, the comedian worked as a writer for two years for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. His big break came in 1975 when he joined the original cast of Saturday Night Live, where he showcased the humor he’d honed while he was with Second City.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 24, 2011 0 comments
Mike McDermott (Matt Damon) is trying to leave his poker playing days behind him while he attempts to earn his law degree and prove to his girlfriend that he can hold a "real job." Bu when his best friend, "Worm" Murphy (Edward Norton), is released from prison, he coaxes Mike back to the tables. "Worm" gets himself into serious trouble with a local mobster/poker legend, Teddy KGB (John Malkovich), and Mike's rear-end ends up on the hook since he mistakenly vouched for his friend and he needs to come up with a boatload of cash in short order. Look out poker world, here he comes.

For the record, I love playing poker—specifically Texas Hold'em—so it's only natural that this is one of my favorite movies. While I limit my gaming to tournaments and avoid cash games like the plague, I've witness many people who constantly chase the big score and get in way over their head and lose their entire bankroll. One of the biggest thrills of my life was winning a seat to the 2010 World Series of Poker Main Event, but sadly my dream of winning the title went down in flames when my set of queens was beat when an ace hit on the river giving my competitor a higher set—that's poker!

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Joshua Zyber Posted: Aug 23, 2011 1 comments
Is it OK to sympathize with Nazis? That’s a thorny question, and not just for American viewers who’ve been raised on a diet of rah-rah patriotic war films about freedom-loving Yanks kicking the butts of dastardly Nazi scum. Germany itself has a very complicated and uncomfortable relationship with its past and rarely broaches the topic on film. Wolfgang Petersen’s superlative submarine thriller Das Boot takes us inside a World War II U-boat patrolling the Atlantic in 1941. Technically, its crew members are Nazis. Yet few are ideologues, and none are jackbooted villains. Mostly, they’re young boys who know nothing of politics but hunger for the adventure of war and believe themselves to be serving their country.

The film depicts the camaraderie of these men, their conflicts, their boredom, their excitement, their terror, and their growing disillusionment. In its most profound scene, the crew cheers at having destroyed a British cargo ship and then watches in horror as the sailors from that ship leap off its flaming deck and desperately try to swim to the submarine for help they will not get. It’s a sobering moment, both beautiful and haunting.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Aug 15, 2011 0 comments

You don’t watch Fast Times at Ridgemont High for any home theater glories. More likely, it’s a favorite movie to get stoned to — er, a series of memorable vignettes of high-school teenagers attempting to lose their virginity while surviving soul-destroying service-industry jobs.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 14, 2011 0 comments
Nine-year-old Milo (motion-capture performer Seth Green and voice actor Seth Dusky) stows away on a Mars-bound alien spaceship as it races away with his mom (Joan Cusack), who has been abducted so the Martians can steal her mom-ness in order to raise their young. Once he arrives on the Red Planet, he's befriended by Gribbler (Dan Fogler), an immature young adult whose mother was also stolen by the Martians when he was a boy. It's a race against time as Milo struggles to save his mother from imminent doom at the hands of the aliens.

This is a decent family film that starts off pretty slow but picks up steam in the second act as you get to know the main characters. The motion-capture techniques developed by producer Robert Zemeckis in The Polar Express have improved over the years, especially with adult faces, but the children come across a little creepy. Despite the shortcomings in the story, both the 3D and 2D presentations are outstanding, and the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack is definitely demo-worthy.

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David Vaughn Posted: Aug 11, 2011 1 comments
The Dude (Jeff Bridges) gets involved in a case of mistaken identity when some thugs show up at his place to collect a debt owed by another man who shares his last name—Lebowski. To add insult to injury, the goons pee on his favorite rug and he seeks out compensation from the other Lebowski, a well-healed wheelchair-bound millionaire who's willing to help The Due as long as he does one little favor.

The Coen Brother's have a unique perspective on the world and they definitely don't "go with the flow." While I don't consider this to be one of their best films, it does contain their most interesting character—The Dude. At the time of its release in 1998, it wasn't as critically acclaimed as Fargo or O Brother, Where Art Thou? but over the years it has obtained cult-like status with its fans and Bridge's portrayal of the iconic character set his career on an upward path.

Michael Berk Posted: Aug 10, 2011 0 comments

VUDU debuts on the iPad today, though not quite in the way you'd expect. You won't find a VUDU app in the App Store - and for good reason.

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David Vaughn Posted: Jul 25, 2011 0 comments
When soldier Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up in the body of an unknown man, he discovers he's part of an experimental government program called the "Source Code" that enables him to assume another man's identify in the last eight minutes of his life. Armed with the task of identifying the bomber of a Chicago-bound commuter train, Colter must re-live the incident over and over until he can solve the mystery and prevent an even deadlier second terrorist attack.

I was eagerly looking forward to giving this one a spin, and it more than met my expectations. It's nonstop action from start to finish, and Gyllenhaal has great screen presence as the troubled hero. Not only was I wildly entertained, but the DTS-HD MA audio track is outstanding and worth the price of admission all by itself. But don't get your hopes too high for the video encode, which isn't anything to write home about.

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David Vaughn Posted: Jul 24, 2011 0 comments

South central Los Angeles wasn't an ideal neighborhood to come of age in the early 1990s given the rampant drug problems and gang violence. John Singleton's debut as a director captures the scene perfectly, following the lives of Doughboy (Ice Cube), Chris (Redge Green), Ricky (Morris Chestnut), and Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) as they try and navigate the mean streets of the 'hood.

Even 20 years after its powerful debut, Boyz n The Hood is one of the most realistic depictions of urban life in America. It portrays the hazards that inner-city youth constantly battle—poverty, rampant drug and alcohol use, broken families, and gang violence. Each of the main characters face their own personal struggles, and Lawrence Fishburne delivers a career-defining performance as Furious, Tre's wise father who dishes out advice on life and survival.

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Josef Krebs Posted: Jul 22, 2011 0 comments

La Belle et la Bête, Jean Cocteau’s modernist and poetic interpretation of Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont’s story, is full of symbol and metaphor but uses the simplest cinematic tricks to enchant and deceive. And now, it continues to work its magic on Blu-ray.

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Rad Bennett Posted: Jul 15, 2011 0 comments

The first animated movie by Pirates of the Caribbean auteur Gore Verbinski, Rango isn’t your average cartoon. Above all else, it’s a western, having so many references, tributes, and in-jokes about the old American frontier that you expect Frankie Laine to come in on the soundtrack, singing his theme song from Tim Conway’s 1967 sitcom of the same name.

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