BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Feb 26, 2015 0 comments
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Post-war Belleville, New Jersey—an impoverished suburb of the impoverished city of Newark—offered few opportunities for upward mobility. The hottest tickets to the middle class were joining the army or joining the mob—either of which could get one killed—or becoming an entertainer. Francis Castelluccio (John Lloyd Young) and his friends were fortunate and talented enough to choose the latter. Adapted from the wildly successful Broadway play, Jersey Boys is the mildly embellished story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the most popular rock group until The Beatles, who thrived despite the personal tragedies, prison sentences, and personal excesses that attended stardom. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t translate well to the big screen. The carefully calculated dramatic scale that works so well as a stage play is disproportionate here, as both dialogue (especially the jokes) and acting seem bloated and forced.
Corey Gunnestad Posted: Feb 19, 2015 0 comments
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Life isn’t easy when you’re the bastard child of Zeus, father of all Gods, and your name happens to be Hercules. In ancient Greece, it was commonplace for the Gods to descend from Mount Olympus to fornicate with humans and leave mortal offspring in their wake. But Zeus’ infidelity incurred the vengeful wrath of his wife, Hera, who wanted to destroy his illegitimate progeny. When killing Hercules proved problematic, she instead did the next best thing and drove him to madness and the murder of his own wife and children. Remorse then prompted him to undertake his twelve impossible labors to purge himself of his crime.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Feb 09, 2015 0 comments
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Son of a corrupt Russian general, suspected Chechen terrorist Issa Karpov (Grigoriy Dobrygin) illegally sneaks into Hamburg and, with the help of his lawyer (Rachel McAdams), seeks to recover his father’s ill-gotten fortune from banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe). American counterterrorism spies led by Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) plan to seize him, but German intelligence agent Günther Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his team have other ideas, hoping to use Karpov’s inheritance to help catch a prominent Muslim who, Bachmann believes, is secretly funneling money to terrorists. Inspired acting and insightful direction flatter John le Carré’s espionage thriller.
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Josef Krebs Posted: Feb 09, 2015 0 comments
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In this family affair—both in subject and moviemaking— Zach Braff directs and stars while co-writing and co-producing with his brother Adam. Together they’ve created a gently comic, small, oddball drama that, like Braff’s Garden State, often feels lightweight and silly but somehow manages to deal profoundly with the biggest questions and challenges of people’s lives in a resonating and moving manner. The family is that of Aidan Bloom, an immature, 35-year-old, out-of-work L.A. actor trying to live his passionate dream while holding his family together. The crisis comes to a head when he must remove his two children from their school because Aidan’s unforgivingly judgmental, sarcastically (and funnily) scathing father Gabe (Mandy Patinkin)—who was staking the kids’ education so long as it was in a Yeshiva school—needs the money for experimental cancer treatment, forcing Aidan to half-assedly home-teach his kids.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Feb 04, 2015 0 comments
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Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) have lost the spark. The couple’s college sexcapades are a distant memory, as marriage and children have snuffed their sex drive… until, fueled by tequila shots, they decide to make a three-hour porno wherein they attempt every position in the classic handbook, The Joy of Sex. When Jay saves their video to his iPad, however, he mistakenly sends it to friends and family, then spends the remainder of the film trying to reverse his mistake. Jake Kasdan, who directed Diaz and Segel in Bad Teacher, completes the Power Trio here.
David Vaughn Posted: Feb 04, 2015 5 comments
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Although he’s never seen combat, Major William Cage crosses the wrong general and finds himself on the front lines of a D-Day-like battle in France where he stands no chance of survival against an onslaught of ridiculously superior alien invaders. Within minutes of landing on the beach, he’s killed by one of those aliens, but instead of heading toward a white light, he instantly wakes up the day before the attack, and now he is destined to live that day over and over. In lieu of becoming alien fodder again, he hooks up with a heroic Special Forces warrior, and they hatch a plan to get Cage trained for battle and embark on a journey to rid the planet of the aliens for good.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 29, 2015 0 comments
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After the apparent suicide of a key player at a major investment firm, up-and-coming financier Jane Porter (Sarah Butler, 2010’s remake of I Spit on Your Grave) is racked by grief but also struck by the strange behavior of her bosses. They seem to be increasingly interested in some recent high-level investments, but also in who might know about them. Were more sinister forces at work? And if so, will she be the next employee to meet a sudden end? Tensions mount with the after-hours arrival of the company crisis manager (D.B. Sweeney, looking like Chris Cooper), whose friendly interrogation grows more insistent. The building is locked down for the night with almost no one else inside; Sarah finds herself on the run for her life but is soon trapped inside the elevator, and a twisty game of cat-and-mouse ensues.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 29, 2015 0 comments
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Has the iconic villainess of Sleeping Beauty gotten a bum rap all these years? In this grand live-action reimagining of the classic tale, we learn of the longstanding hatred between a human kingdom and a nearby realm of magical beings. Maleficent, the most powerful fairy and their de facto leader, begins life full of wonder, but after she is bitterly betrayed by the only human she ever cared for, she becomes the angry, formidable opponent we thought we knew.
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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Jan 22, 2015 1 comments
When American radio announcer Herbert Morrison stood watching the Hindenburg disaster unfold before his eyes, he tearfully exclaimed, “Oh, the humanity!” I coincidentally had the exact same thought while watching Ghost in the Shell again for the first time in 20 years—but for a much different reason. I saw this film when it first came out, and I remember having a difficult time identifying with it. I finally figured out why: There’s no humanity in it.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 21, 2015 0 comments
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You’d think that the unique power to control metal, or the weather, or other people’s minds would be awesome, but no. In the world of the X-Men, mutated superhumans with such gifts are feared and hated and—in one possible future—will be hunted to the brink of extinction by an army of killer robots. Even worse, these deadly machines will also begin targeting us ordinary human beings, and the world we know now appears doomed.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Jan 15, 2015 0 comments
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Mac (Seth Rogen) and Kelly Radner (Rose Byrne) have a new baby, a new house, and, unfortunately, new neighbors. When a hard-partying fraternity moves in next door, the Radners’ blood pressure skyrockets as their property value plummets and they become locked in a contest of wits and wills with frat president Teddy Sanders (Zac Efron). Funny yet forgettable, Neighbors falls short of Nicholas Stoller’s previous directorial efforts (Get Him to the Greek, Forgetting Sarah Marshall), a consequence of the threadbare script and nonexistent chemistry between the male leads.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Jan 15, 2015 0 comments
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La Dolce Vita was Federico Fellini’s breakout hit: a critical and commercial sensation, even in America, where foreign films till then were strictly art house fare. It’s the winding tale of a litterateur-turned-gossip columnist wandering the streets, bars, and parties of newly decadent modern Rome, seeking love, meaning, and value but finally realizing their futility and wallowing in the miasma. The film coined archetypes of the era: a character named Paparazzo, a tabloid photographer who chases after sensational shots, spawned the word paparazzi; another, Steiner, a refined man of culture who commits a gruesome crime, became the prototype of the modern ineffectual intellectual.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Jan 15, 2015 0 comments
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Million Dollar Arm thankfully falls into that welcome category of sports movies that don’t demand a love of sports in order to click with audiences. Based on a true story, it introduces us to J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), partner at a small sports agency in desperate need of a break, lest their doors close forever. He decides to think globally and soon cooks up The Big Idea: to hold a well-publicized contest in India with the intention of converting a cricket bowler into a baseball pitcher, with a seven-figure prize at stake. J.B. will secure some undiscovered talent, bring his winners home, and teach them the good old American pastime. Simple, right?
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David Vaughn Posted: Dec 31, 2014 1 comments
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After pulling off a blockbuster trade, general manager of the Cleveland Browns, Sonny Weaver, Jr. (Kevin Costner) now controls the number-one pick in the draft. The expectations of the fans are through the roof, and the ambitious owner of the team (Frank Langella) and new head coach (Denis Leary) are putting pressure on him to take the consensus first pick, but his gut is telling him to go in a completely different direction. Should he risk his job by following the instincts that got him to the top in the first place, or should he bow to the immense peer pressure?
David Vaughn Posted: Dec 22, 2014 1 comments
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In the 1940s and ’50s, the South Pacific was the testing ground for nuclear weapons as the Cold War was beginning to heat up. But were there actually tests, or was there another reason? Could the super powers actually have been waging battle with some creature of unknown origin? What would Nature’s reaction be to all of the nuclear fallout in the region?

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