BLU-RAY MOVIE REVIEWS

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Corey Gunnestad Posted: Mar 11, 2015 0 comments
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In the utopian community of The Giver, citizens have been relieved of the burden of having memories beyond their own lives. Human history has been erased. The logic being that if you have no memory of the past, you won’t be doomed to repeat it. Daily mandatory injections chemically stifle personal ambition, curiosity, and primordial urges, and Big Brother is ever watchful. The established rules are these: Use assigned language, wear the approved clothing, take your daily medication, obey the curfew, and never lie.
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Chris Chiarella Posted: Mar 11, 2015 0 comments
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Surely Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are two of the more interesting people working in Hollywood right now. With his diverse mile-long résumé and her Oscar nomination (for co-writing Bridesmaids) and indie cred, plus their shared Saturday Night Live pedigree, we never know quite what we’ll get next from them. The Skeleton Twins is not their first big-screen pairing, but it’s their most significant, as they play same-age sibs Maggie and Milo, estranged for the past 10 years and now suddenly reunited as they grapple with their own issues.
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Fred Kaplan Posted: Mar 04, 2015 1 comments
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A charmer of a film, deeper, even grittier than its Capra-corn romantic populism might suggest, It Happened One Night swept the 1934 Oscars—winning Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Screenplay, and Director—and if it hadn’t edged out The Thin Man in doing so, I’d say, Bravo, well deserved. The story is a classic class-crossing fable: A spoiled rich girl runs away from her father to join the king she wants to marry; a hardscrabble newspaperman finds her, blackmails her into letting him come along to write a story; they take to the road, by bus, foot, thumb, and jalopy, squabbling, scolding, and, of course, falling in love with each other.
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Anthony Chiarella Posted: Mar 04, 2015 0 comments
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In 1999, Sports Illustrated voted Muhammad Ali its “Sportsman of the Century.” Ali unquestionably deserves this honor, but it doesn’t begin to convey his importance. Political martyr, civil rights activist, religious zealot, and all-around hero, Ali was one of the 20th century’s greatest figures and, during the ’70s, the most recognizable person on earth. Ali has been the subject of countless films including the brilliant When We Were Kings, 1997 Oscar-winner for Best Documentary.
Chris Chiarella Posted: Feb 26, 2015 0 comments
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Sin City: You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. In A Dame to Kill For, the second big-screen adaptation of the works of writer/artist/director Frank Miller, we find that stripper Nancy (Jessica Alba) has been driven cuckoo-bananas by the events surrounding the death of her hero and one true love a few years ago. She now finds herself shadowed by the ghost of Bruce Willis (where have I seen that before?)
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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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